caranfindel (caranfindel) wrote,

Fic: Refrain

Length: About 1450 words
Rating: PG for language
Characters: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester
Spoilers: through season 8; takes place during the trials
Synopsis: During the trials, Sam has food issues. Companion piece to Coda, which you might want to read first but don't necessarily have to. Fills the run-on sentences square on my spnspiration bingo card.


Bitter tastes like ashes, hot and dry and acidic on the back of his tongue, like smoke curling into his nostrils, the continual surprise of things Sam never considered bitter, like tea, which is tolerable if it's sweetened enough to mask the bitterness, but not enough to make it actually taste sweet; a fine line, but he toes that line because tea is important; he needs the caffeine (coffee is a lost cause) and it helps warm him.

Sam is cold, he's always cold.

Salty and tart both taste like his tongue being stabbed, or maybe not stabbed, more like stapled hundreds of times, a difference most people haven't experienced and wouldn't understand, but of course Sam has and does; tiny pricks of pain and the metallic taste of blood and no matter how hard he tries, he can't spit it all out; the inescapable feeling of blood coating his mouth; the heavy taste lingering until it's replaced by something else.

(most people think the devil burns hot, but they're wrong)

Sweet tastes like vomit, makes bile rise to the back of his throat, and even the smell of something sweet makes him want to brush his teeth, brings back memories of kneeling at the side of the road or crouching over toilets, or sweating and heaving his way through detox, locked in the panic room, and he wonders what Dean would say if he knew he still had nightmares about it.

(i'm sorry, you did what you had to do, i'm sorry)

He doesn't care that he can't eat. He does care that Dean is trying his damnedest to solve it, wasting energy and resources that should be used elsewhere, since it's going to resolve itself eventually, one way or another (spoiler alert: probably another), so let's just work around it and get shit done, okay?

(i'm sorry. i know you want to fix this, but you can't, and i'm sorry)

But Dean keeps trying anyway, because that's just Dean. Sam is a responsibility and a puzzle and something Dean has to manage. He puts rice in Sam's tomato soup, and Sam can't bear to tell him how much rice reminds him of maggots now. He offers peanut butter for Sam's toast, and if he's never noticed how similar it is in consistency to dog shit, Sam's not going to ruin it for him by pointing that out. He offers to cook quinoa, for fuck's sake, he can't even pronounce quinoa, but he thinks it sounds like something weird and Californian that Sam might like, and maybe he would if he didn't remember that cooked quinoa gets a little dot that makes it look like an eyeball.

(that sounds ungrateful. sorry, sorry)

Sam stares wearily at whatever food Dean puts in front of him and pulls his blanket closer around his shoulders, shivers, he is cold; he's always cold.

(the devil burns cold)

At one time Sam thought he had done his penance. He thought he was paid in full. But he understands now that no time in Hell, no amount of torture, could pay for a single human life that was lost because of him. And it's not just a single life - he's responsible for dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands - how many people died in Carthage alone? Could anything ever done to Sam bring any of them back? Could anything done to Sam undo what he did to Dean, letting him down in a million different ways?

(i'm sorry. i'm sorry)

But this, the trials. This is different. This will make up for it. Instead of looking back at an infinitely long line of people who are dead because of him (with Mary and Jess leading the way, pale and bloody and flame-kissed)

(sorry, i'm sorry, it's my fault, i'm sorry)

he'll be able to look forward to people who are alive because of what he did.

All he has to do is stay alive long enough to finish it. The trials might be purifying him, but once they burn away everything tainted, everything evil, everything inside of him that needs to be destroyed, there might be nothing left. Maybe the cold is a good thing, because if he's dying on the inside, maybe the cold will preserve his walking, talking corpse. Just long enough.

There's still a light at the end of the tunnel.

(it's hellfire)

He tries to distract himself while he's eating. If he's on the laptop while he eats his toast he can get it down, maybe even sneak some soup

(no rice please, i appreciate it, i know you're trying, i'm sorry, i'm sorry, i know it makes you anxious when i apologize, i'll try to stop, but i can't help it, i'm so goddamn sorry)

past his tastebuds. If he doesn't think about it, if he tries to act as normal as possible, joke with Dean, immerse himself in research, not think about the eating part of it, he can get through this.

(don't let Dean know)

(don't let Dean down)

Then Dean slides a chunk of steak in front of him. It's burnt and bloody and the Devil may run cold, but never assume he doesn't appreciate what you can do with fire

(spoiler alert: he does, he really fucking does)

(the devil appreciates and lovingly embraces all forms of fire and burning and maybe that's why meat is the worst of all, because any form of meat smells like rotting, smoldering flesh, not like your mom's pot roast but maybe your mom as a pot roast, maybe it's the indelible smell of blood, so much blood from your brother's shredded body, maybe that chunk of steak is impossible to differentiate from jessica's corpse or your own bloody charred flesh, maybe it smells like the smell of your own skin and hair burning, because you know exactly what that smells like, don't you, and the stench of all of it soaks into your pores and your hair and your clothes and your bones and it never ever goes away)

(and maybe it shouldn't go away, because it was all your fault, everything is your fault, and you need to not forget)

(i'm sorry, i'm so fucking sorry)

and Sam hasn't even looked a steak in the face since Castiel gave Hell back to him

(thanks a lot for that, cas)

(i'm sorry, that was uncalled for, i'm sorry)

and he can't, he can't do this any more, he's got to tell Dean to just stop trying to fix him, stop wasting time and energy helping him, just concentrate on the task at hand so it can all be done, so everything, all of it, can be done.

But god, Dean's trying, he's trying so hard, and Sam wants him to feel good about what he's doing, wants him to think he's helping, wants him to believe, at the end, however it ends,

(spoiler alert: we know how it's probably going to end)

that he did everything he could, that there's nothing he should have done differently, that there's no reason to blame himself. And so Sam finds himself requesting chicken.

Don't go into the light just yet, Carol Anne.


Dean takes a bite of his own chicken and dumplings, makes a face, and douses it with salt and pepper. He offers the shakers to Sam, mumbling an apology for the lack of seasoning. Sam shakes his head. "I'm good," he says. "This is good."

(when you douse a ghost with salt, does it feel like a million tiny stab wounds, is that how you know you're a ghost?)

Sam stirs his food and moves it around on the plate and by the time he takes a bite, it's lukewarm, soft and bland and slipping past his tongue, sliding down his throat almost without chewing, like an oyster. He finishes half a plateful and Dean beams at him like it's all going to be okay now and you know, he's right. It is. It won't necessarily be the definition of okay that Dean is looking for (i'm sorry); it will be a different version, some alternate value of okay. And Sam won't have to be sorry any more.

Tags: fic: dean winchester, fic: h/c, fic: hell trauma, fic: hurt!sam, fic: sam winchester, my fic, season 8, supernatural

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