Fee, I know you've already seen the first scene of this a long time ago, but hopefully it's okay that I'm giving it to you as a birthday present despite this fact.
Genre: Gen, character study
Word Count: 1,780
Characters: Sam n' Dean
Season/Spoilers: Through S4, mentions of specific events in "Dead Man's Blood" and "Metamorphosis."
Warnings: Sam POV, angst, and head-shrinking. But a repeat myself.
Beta: sarcasticval is a delight to be around, leaves hilarious voicemails, and gives good beta.
Dean has this knack for getting the most amazing amount of stuff into the car. Sam's no slouch when it comes to packing--he's had a lot of practice, after all--but even on his best day he can't duplicate Dean's trick of getting more crap into the Impala's trunk than should be physically possible. It's like there's an alternate dimension in there that only Dean can access. It's not a skill he has to use very often now, but Sam can remember when "Pack your crap, we're leaving," meant more than closing his laptop and tossing a few shirts back into his duffel bag, when Dean's freak packing abilities were a boon.
Once, when he was fifteen, Sam got into a shouting match with his dad over a bike. He'd bought the thing for ten bucks at the beginning of the school year, and it had been his transportation to and from the junior high for the past six months. It was ancient and heavy, and not really big enough for him, but Dean had fixed the back wheel and replaced the chain, it was Sam's, and he didn't see why they had to move again so soon anyway. So when neither Dad nor Sam could fit it into the trunk on top of the rest of their earthly possessions and Dad said the bike would have to stay, Sam...well, he's not proud of having thrown a hissy-fit at the age of fifteen, but at the age of twenty-six he's man enough to admit that that's what it was.
Sam and Dad were so busy shouting at each other that neither of them really noticed when Dean started methodically taking things out of the trunk and putting them back in according to some order that made sense only to him. When he was done, it took him three repetitions of Sam's name to make them both look around. When they did, it was to find the bike wedged tightly but completely into the trunk, the boxes and trash bags of clothes and ammunition that had crowded it out before rearranged to allow it room.
Of course, by then the bike had become more than just two wheels and a frame that Sam bought and Dean fixed: it was Sam's unwillingness to take orders, to accept their life, to make even the smallest of sacrifices. It was Dad's disregard for normalcy, for valid questions, for what Sam wanted. So when they both glanced at the Impala's trunk and found the object of their argument packed neatly into it, they stopped shouting, but the air between them still crackled, and neither of them stopped glaring. Dean, after a moment of looking from one of them to the other, gave a defeated sigh and went to take his seat in shotgun, opening and closing the car door with more force than strictly necessary.
"Get in." Dad turned away giving the order, and didn't look at Sam again as he sank into the driver's seat and started the car. Sam entertained the notion of not getting in the car for no other reason than because he knew exactly how much that would piss Dad off. But Dean turned to glance out the back window at him, looking tired, and Sam huffed a sigh and climbed in.
Dad put the car in gear, but kept his foot on the break as he turned to Dean and asked, "What'd you leave behind of yours to make room for the bike?"
Dean looked mildly surprised by the question. "Nothin', Dad, I just moved some stuff around."
Evidently satisfied, Dad backed the car out of the driveway that had been theirs until a few hours ago. Dean punched buttons on the radio until "Ozone Baby" came on, and they were in the next state before anybody talked again.
A few weeks later, Dean was helping Sam with his pre-algebra (the math program at his new school was almost a semester ahead of the one at his last school, and they were trying to get him caught up). In the middle of a demonstration of how parenthetical expressions worked, Sam looked up and asked, "Did you have to ditch something in Pickford to make my bike fit in the trunk?"
Dean blinked as if he couldn't remember what Sam was talking about for a second, then shook his head.
"No, like I said, I just moved some stuff around."
"Dad and I couldn't get it to fit. Not with everything else in the trunk," Sam objected.
"Well, Sammy," Dean flashed a grin at him, "I guess I'm just that good."
"You seriously have no idea what you're doing, do you?"
"I'm putting these in the trunk like you said, Dean."
"Yeah, but you're never gonna get 'em all in there like that."
"We're never going to get them all in at once period. We'll make two trips."
"We don't have time for two trips, you said they needed to be burned by midnight."
"That was when I thought there was only one, Dean, I hadn't counted on there being a whole antique shop crawling with cursed music boxes."
"We're not making two trips, give me those."
"What are you--? I just got those all in there!"
"Well, you got 'em in wrong. Go get the rest out of the store."
"Dean, there is no way you're getting all of these plus the ones back there--"
"Just go get 'em."
"How did you do that?"
"You just have to know how to shift everything around so it all fits."
"Wow, thanks for that pearl of wisdom there, Confucius."
"Oh, bite me, Sammy. Get in the car."
At the time, Sam's too preoccupied chasing down vampires, fighting demons, and squaring off with his dad at every opportunity to take much notice of the way his brother suddenly develops what Dad calls a "new tone." Later, after Dad's death but before Sam's, Sam thinks back to a small clearing just off the road in Colorado. He remembers Dean pulling himself up to his full height and then ruining the effect a little by shifting his weight and cutting his eyes away for a second before meeting Dad's gaze:
"All due respect, Dad, but that's a load of crap."
Looking back, Sam is distantly amazed that Dean "Always Got the Extra Cookie" Winchester--the dutiful oldest son who only recently admitted for the first time that his childhood upringing was "kind of jacked"--found it in himself to say it out loud at all, let alone to Dad's face. Sam looks up from his laptop and glances across the motel room of the night at his brother, who is industriously cleaning half the arsenal on Sam's bed.
"Hey Dean, you know how you used to be able to get, like, a scary amount of stuff into the car?"
"Huh?" Dean's only half listening, focused on the bore of a Glock they never use.
"You know, like that time you got that old bike into the trunk even though Dad and I couldn't?"
Dean gives a half-chuckle of recollection. "Man, that thing was such a lemon. Weighed more than you did but it was still too small for those ginormous legs of yours. Of course, if it had been the right size for you I probably wouldn't have been able to fit it in the car."
"Sure you would have," says Sam, wearing what he knows is dangerously close to a fond smile. "You would have just moved everything around until it fit. Like you always do."
Dean raises an eyebrow at Sam's tone. "What are you getting all dewy-eyed about, Francis?"
"I was just thinking...that's what you do, Dean. You make things work. You make them fit together even when they shouldn't. With me and Dad you were always..." Sam gives a small sigh. "We would've killed each other just because of who we were if it weren't for you always being who we needed you to be."
This is, of course, an egregious violation of the No Head-Shrinking On Company Time rule and Dean responds with the snort-eyeroll combo it deserves. "If you're not going to do any actual research over there, Sammy, then come help over here. These things don't clean themselves."
"Okay, so I figure we have a few hours before...what are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?"
"It looks like you're taking everything out of the trunk for no apparent reason."
"I am taking everything out of the trunk of my car so that I can put it all back in the way it's supposed to be."
"And you're doing this because...?"
"Because while I was in Hell, my OCD kid brother had to go and friggin' organize everything, and now I can't get the friggin' salt canisters back in, much less friggin' find anything when I want it. "
"It was kind a mess, Dean, I just tidied it up."
"What you did was not tidying, it was a blitzkrieg of compulsive neatness. You tossed half the arsenal, what's that about?"
"When did we ever use half the arsenal? We lug an absurdly large amount of stuff around in there and it's hard to make it all fit--"
"That's what she said."
"Shut up. I don't have your bizarrely advanced spatial awareness, so I was forced to resort to an organizational system that actually made sense."
"It's not rocket science, Sammy. Which is too bad because if it was you'd be able to get your enormous geek on about it. It's just making room for everything so that it all fits. 'Spatial awareness' my ass."
"It's a fancy term for 'Tetris Skills.'"
"And what's the fancy term for 'my brother is a huge dork'?"
"I'll have to get back to you on that one."
Sam tries to find some way to tell Dean about Ruby and the whole psychic demon powers thing that will at least minimize the inevitable fallout but in the end Dean finds out in the worst way possible. Of course. And of course Dean loses it and there follows shouting, recrimination, and violent outbursts.
"It's already gone too far, Sam." Dean's voice is all angry big brother but in his eyes Sam can see that he's hurt and scared underneath the righteous wrath.
"You were gone. I was here," is what Sam ends up saying in explanation, and he adds, "I had to keep on fighting without you," when what he means is I had to leave some things behind because you weren't there to make it all fit.
sarcasticval: I'm bored! Entertain me!
ME: *emails first scene of fic*
sarcasticval: So...basically what you've written here is a fic in which emotional baggage is represented by actual baggage. Oh, Marie.
ME: I...totally did that on purpose. Yes.
sarcasticval: I'm so awesome, I can see stuff in your fic that even you can't see!