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the island of conclusions

Another Hug Coda: "Coming Untied" (spoilers for 4.22)

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Another Hug Coda: "Coming Untied" (spoilers for 4.22)

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Impala
I posted a few prompts to thehighwaywoman's wonderful "Hug-It-Out" meme, and I got some lovely stories in response, here , here , and here . But then I was dogged by my own prompts, as one is, I guess, and I ended up writing my own hugging coda to 4.22.


Title: Coming Untied
Rating: PG-13, no pairing (gen)
Word count: @1,100
Warning: spoilers for 4.22; and schmoop, because, you know, it's a hugging coda.
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit.
Summary: for my own prompts: "a sudden, unexpected, burst of tears"; and "Dean freaks out a little, maybe a lot, when he realizes Sam really is done with sneaking out at night."

They drive as long as they can, trading off—twelve hours? twenty-four? thirty-six? Sam looses track. When they can’t drive any more they find a nondescript motel and collapse, too tired to do anything more than get their shoes off before they’re asleep.

It doesn’t feel like very long, however, before a noise startles Sam awake. A ragged, gasping kind of noise, like someone in pain. He pulls himself up and flicks on the bedside light, but the bed next to his is empty. He listens for a moment, and the noises seem to be coming from the bathroom, though the door is closed, and no light shines under it.

“Dean?” He calls, crossing the room and rapping softly on the door, “you alright in there, man?”

No answer, but the gasping turns into more of a harsh keening, as if Dean is pressing his lips tight against whatever wants to come out. The door isn’t locked, and Sam figures all pretense of politeness got stripped away from them in that Maryland convent, so he just pushes through and turns on the light. But even after everything, he pauses for a moment when he sees Dean.

Dean is crying. And that’s not what’s shocking, 'cause goodness knows he’s seen a lot of it in the past year. But usually Dean is annoyingly dignified when he cries: his face just pales out, and a tear or two wells over—-maybe his chin trembles, maybe not. Sam finds it simultaneously exasperating and heart-breaking every time it happens. But this, this is different.

Dean’s sitting on the toilet, hunched over, curled into himself. He’s got one hand pressed over his eyes, and the other wrapped around his ribs, like the sobs coming out of him are wrenching the muscles there. The part of his face Sam can see is bright red, and streaked with an indistinguishable mess of tears and snot. His mouth seems frozen into an awkward, painful grimace He looks as far from dignified as possible—caught in the impossible pain of childhood, the anguish children give way to over a skinned knee or a lost toy, but that adults learn to hide.

“Dean!” Sam means to be gentle, but the words come out sharp with worry. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Sick? “

Dean unwraps the hand from his chest and waves it at Sam, in a gesture Sam interprets as no, nothing like that. “Nightmare?” More hand waving.

Biting back his concern, Sam crouches in front of Dean, unrolls some toilet paper and presses it into Dean’s free hand. Dean takes the hint and blows his nose, loudly and wetly, once, twice, three times. Sam hands him some more toilet paper, and Dean scrubs ineffectually at his face. Sam can see his eyes now—they’re red-rimmed and nothing at all like a child’s. Sam can’t put a name to the emotion there, but he can tell it’s not physical pain, and he breathes a sigh of relief.

“Dean, seriously, what’s up?” he says.

Sam half expects Dean to put him off, or to abruptly pull himself together and stalk away, but he doesn’t do either. Maybe he's made some kind of vow of forthrightness after all their mutual evasions landed them in so much trouble. He draws in a halting breath, seems to steel himself to speak, and gives it a try.

“I woke up,” he starts, “and you—“ but his face contorts again, rigid against the sob welling out of him.

“Dean—“ Sam’s about to tell him it’s okay, he doesn’t have to go on, but Dean waves a hand at him again, telling him to be quiet, Sam thinks.

“I woke up, and you were there, really there, fast asleep, really there--” Dean says, words rushed. “and all year, all those nights, I’d wake up—“ Then Dean loses it again, one hand back over his eyes, the back of the other one pressed tight against his mouth.

But Sam knows what’s going on now, though the knowledge twists his stomach so hard he thinks for a minute he might throw up. All year, all those nights , when Dean would wake from nightmares—memories —of Hell to find a worse nightmare come true, to find Sam gone, with no word as to where or why, no assurance he would come back. All year, all those nights , of Dean tamping down the terror that absence stirred in him with sarcasm, belligerence, alcohol. He must have wrapped all those feelings into a tight ball, tied them up tight. But something about recent events—the horror of what had been set free, the relief of coming together again—had snapped those ties, loosed a year’s worth of fear in a paroxysm of relief.

Sam shudders through a stab of self-hatred. “Dean,” he says, pleading to his brother’s shuttered, tear-streaked face, “I’m sorry, I’ve been cruel, I know that now, but I’m not going anywhere, I’m here-- “

He senses the movement rather than seeing it. Dean’s about to clock him one. It’s what Dean does. What Dean does when he's past words and wants Sam to shut the fuck up too, wants to drag him to the other side of articulation where only physical contact, physical impact, counts. Sam gets it, goodness knows he’s been them himself only too recently. But Dean is a little slow this time, maybe from the crying, maybe because his heart isn’t really in it, and Sam is able to catch his wrist on the downswing.

He uses the momentum to pull Dean into a fierce embrace. It’s awkward, crouched in front of the toilet, his brother’s weight leaning into him now, but to Sam’s immense relief Dean goes along with it, digging his fingers into Sam’s arms, pressing his face against Sam’s collarbone. Sam can smell ash and traces of sulfuric residue, old sweat and unwashed clothes, feel Dean’s tears and snot soaking into his shirt.

“Desperate, sloppy, needy Dean.” The Crossroad Demon’s insidious words from more than a year ago come back to Sam unbidden. He thinks about all those months with Ruby and her smooth impassivity, her tiny smiles and carefully calculated taunts. She never gave away too much—even when they…even when…That last, short-lived triumphant outburst in the convent may have been more emotion that he’d seen from her than in the preceding two years put together.

They aren’t children, Sam knows that, for all that they’ve ended up on the bathroom floor clutching each other like five-year-olds. And one hug isn’t going to fix things, permanently soothe the aches left by the brutal events of the past year, repair the damage they’ve inflicted on each other. Nevertheless, Sam pulls Dean closer, holding onto the messy, smelly weight and heat and humanity of his brother, and ducks his head under a wave of pure gratitude.

  • (no subject) - ex_calamity172
    • You are so sweet to read this! I don't really write fic, and I don't really believe in hugging it out, but something about the idea of a big, sloppy Dean breakdown just grabbed me...
  • God, this just made me well up like crazy. DEAN. ::swallows really, really hard:: Oh Sam, thank you for that hug.

    ::wibbles quite a bit more::
    • Thanks for reading--though I'm sorry (I guess?) it make you cry! I don't know how much one hug can help, but I was taken with the idea of barriers just falling away, and at least in that one moment, they're together...
  • I really, really loved: Nevertheless, Sam pulls Dean closer, holding onto the messy, smelly weight and heat and humanity of his brother, and ducks his head under a wave of pure gratitude.

    Emphasizing their humanity in all its ingloriousness really gives this fic a punch of juxtaposition to the events of the season that makes it really ring true. Great!!
  • *Sob* Oh Dean ;_;
    • oh, I know! but Dean's kinda crying in happiness, too--or at least letting go of some pent up unhappiness--or...no, you're right ::sob::
  • Oh. My. Boys.

    You handled that with such care and eloquence. The boys are so human here, so awkward and fragile.

    He looks as far from dignified as possible—caught in the impossible pain of childhood, the anguish children give way to over a skinned knee or a lost toy, but that adults learn to hide.

    Great description. Love the idea of being "caught" in the pain, and the reference to the way adults and kids express pain differently. It is visually so very different.



    Maybe he's made some kind of vow of forthrightness after all their mutual evasions landed them in so much trouble.

    Oh, please. I do hope so, with all my heart. This is the foot they need to start out on next season.

    Lovely ficlet. Just lovely.
    • Thank you so much for this comment--you made my day! That awkwardness and fragility is exactly what I was trying to describe, and the sense of a childlike breakdown in the face of a completely un-childlike pain (though I guess Dean's grief over Sam abandoning him is really the re-activation of a not very deeply buried childhood fear).

      And yeah, I hope some barriers between them come down next season!
  • Dean really needs something like this to happen--just lower the barriers and let the poison start to wash away. Being a Winchester, being Dean, he probably won't, but if he did, it would be like this, I think. Nothing pretty or delicate about it. Real pain, complete with all the physical and emotional mess it creates. I love the final moment, Sam's feeling of gratitude. That Dean doesn't rebuff him when Sam reaches out to Dean is a sign that Sam may be able to regain his brother's trust, and that he never lost Dean's love to begin with. Beautifully done.
    • Thanks so much for reading, and for this lovely comment! No, I don't think Dean could ever stop loving Sam, even when he doesn't trust him (and he may be able to start trusting him again...I don't know). But somehow I think it would be easier for them to reconnect physically than through words (and since I don't write slash...). Glad the messiness of it all rang true!
  • Oh, they need this. Oh, Dean. And you're right, he doesn't cry all sloppy and goopy, like Sam. He just ... sort of overflows, springs a leak in his heart once in a while. But this? Yeah, in these circumstances, Dean's just plain spilling out hurt all over.

    Good characterization and it makes my heart ache in all the best ways. Thank you for sharing.
    • Thanks for reading--I'm really glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, sometimes I think if you've been steeling yourself against something, the relief of finding it won't happen is its own kind of violent emotion. And kind of messy...
  • Sam finds it simultaneously exasperating and heart-breaking every time it happens.

    Me too! =)

    Loved this. Really loved it <3
    • me too, too! I'm glad you liked that line--thinking that there must be another way that Dean would cry was really the kernel of the story. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • wow this is really really beautiful!
  • Followed a link from... somewhere :). I have avoided 4.22 codas, most of them I just had to abandon after a couple of paragraph because there's hugging it out and there's hugging it out and this is the right way to do it.

    There's the raw pain Dean sometimes seems incapable of expressing. I imagine it surprised him, the sudden flood of it. I love this description:
    He’s got one hand pressed over his eyes, and the other wrapped around his ribs, like the sobs coming out of him are wrenching the muscles there. I imagined Dean trying to just stop it with his bare hands.

    And there's Sam who maybe, finally, gets it. I love this coda, really! Lovely job.
    • I imagined Dean trying to just stop it with his bare hands.
      Oh, that's a great way of putting it! I'm glad the hugging didn't seem to falsely consoling to you. I wanted more a sense that they had gone past the point where words would do any good, where the familarity and heft of bodies was the only reassurance left. And yeah, I think Dean was probably surprised at what was let loose when he relaxed his guard even a fraction!

      Thanks so much for reading and for the lovely comment!
  • (no subject) - cream_fudge
  • Hey, just wanted to let you know that this has been recced here at hoodie_time. ;)

    I especially love the last line; it's so incredibly beautiful!
    • Thanks so much! I'm so flattered to be included in one of your awesome rec lists (there are some I haven't read on this one--saving it for the weekend!).

      So glad you enjoyed the fic!
  • Oh, this is a killer! Your description is perfect!
  • Just read this thanks to a hoodie time rec...
    It was awesomely powerful and emotional. Wish I read this after the episode originally aired.
    • Yeah, I feel like it does read kind of differently after everything that's happened in S5...Glad you enjoyed it anyway--thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • This fic did not in any way at all make me make small involuntary whimpering noises. Not one bit. It was the cat. Yeah.

    *koff*

    ;-)
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