Characters: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester
Summary: "She doesn't say anything. She never does. How can she?"
Warnings: Character Death, sort of
Word Count: 2200
Spoilers: AU from the Season two Episode "Nightshifter"
Title, Author and URL of Original Story: Ripping out all our Epilogues, by maharetr.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Kripke and the CW and such own them. Just borrowing them!
Feedback: Please! It makes me do a happy dance.
Author's Notes: I was fairly sure that this was a weird concept that I wasn't certain would work at all. And then I showed it to my beta, and she said "I feel like I've read it somewhere before," which makes me wonder if I have unknowingly ripped off the idea. If so - FORGIVE ME UNNAMED AUTHOR, IT WASN'T INTENTIONAL. If you wish to take it as such, there might be a slight crossover that the original had nothing to do with. She just snuck in. Thanks to maleficently for the early beta, any remaining errors are my own.
“When all's said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it's not so much which road you take, as how you take it.”
- Charles Lint
In the seedy hotel next to them, Sam is stretched out on a hard hotel mattress, staring sightlessly at the stained ceiling above him. His eyes were carefully watching anything and everything save the window and the sheen of black metal he can see parked outside through its dingy glass.
Dean leans hard against the curve of the wheel-well, the metal painting bruises onto the skin of his hip and the sun slicing its rays through the clouds to pound relentlessly on the flat black matte of the paint. Dean's leather jacket a victim of fallout, baking in the reflected heat, though he doesn't move away. He just stands there, his hand on a heated metal hood and his head bent toward the ground beneath them both. "I'm so tired of this, baby," he murmurs, quiet and rough-voiced, heartsick in ways he'd never have let himself sink to if his father were here. It's a timeless scene, now, because of how often it has happened. Sam knows, but it's another silent secret they carry, a truth only she sees both sides of because she's seen Sam when he's alone and forgets to mourn for himself because he wants so badly to set things right for his brother.
She wants to say she knows, that she's known for months and that she feels the ache in metal bones because he put them together, but he didn't have enough heart to fill the spaces between them up and make her whole again. She wants to say she loves him, that it will be okay, that he still has Sam and he has her, and that nothing is ever lost so deep and so hard that you can't roll rubber over road and find it again, or at least peace in its absence. It's the religion of the road - drive hard enough and far enough and everything comes full circle and you'll find your faith right back where you lost it again. Dean used to know that, and because he did, so did she.
She doesn't say anything. She never does. How can she?
She's just a car.
Mary liked curving, meandering old country highways where the road brushed up against houses and lives and a slow drive was like a peek into the backyards of America, an up-close vision of lives they didn't live. John liked long stretches of old roads where the earth was flat and the cornfields stretched out for miles on either side of cracked asphalt and he could press pedal to metal and drive without seeing.
Sam drives like his father, all his focus bent on destination instead of journey. Dean likes the roads that curve and twine, like his mother did, and she loves the times when they're in no hurry and he takes them down the ways most people forget ever existed, before overpass highways and toll bridges. He always takes her just a little too fast around the corners, and she worries that one day her tires will be a little too bare and let them slip-slide over into one of those stranger's backyards, pour rock salt and horror into their lives while they watch primetime TV and do their homework. But it never happens, and some part of her knows it never would. Dean takes care of her, and he takes care of those nameless souls he'll never meet by keeping himself free of their lives until the horror finds them on its own, and he and Sam have to come and save them from it.
She likes the curves too. She thinks that's why they're her favorites, Mary and Dean. She loves all of her Winchesters, but those are the two closest to her metal heart, and Dean closer than anyone, because he loves her the best.
She remembers still the first time he sat behind the wheel. John's lap was beneath him, his broad feet on the pedals and Dean's small, sturdy hands turning the wheel with reverent care. John had revved her engines and Dean laughed and switched on the radio, and he'd never looked back - and neither had she. It was years before John handed over the keys, but she'd been Dean's since that first turn of her wheel.
She remembers all the firsts, even the ones they've long since forgotten. The first drink spilled across her upholstery by small hands that were used to stopping somewhere to eat, not John's new life of hunting and motion. The first time Sam pushed open her doors and stumbled out, running on short child-chubby legs for all he was worth back the way he'd come, as if he could change the path they'd taken. Remembers the first time Dean buckled Sam into his car seat instead of John. Remembers the first time they sat in her backseat, helping Sam learn to read while Sam wailed he'd never learn, because Sam always gave up before he tried, and then never let up once he'd started.
She remembers everything. Metal holds every dent, every scratch. Paint over it, pound it out, wash off the dirt, and somewhere, it remembers, still. She and the small diary of John's are the history of the Winchesters, the only legacies they have, the only traditions they keep. She knows her boys. She always has. She's the witness to their lives.
She remembers the first time Dean climbed behind her wheel alone, John vanishing down the road behind him, his big truck churning up dust until all they could see was dust, and then nothing at all. Remembers the roads Dean drove alone, with the music off and his eyes on the road ahead, corn-lined highway to wheat-edged highway, all of his curves and meanders pulled straight and lonely by solitude.
She was just a car. She couldn't tell him to call his brother. Couldn't tell John to get his ass back where he belonged. Couldn't turn up the Zeppelin and slow down, take the curving side streets and remind Dean that there was life outside the hunt. But Dean wasn't a lost cause. Eventually, he found Sam again on his own. She remembers how much easier the roads balanced with one on each side. How much more right the distance felt.
She remembers, too, the semi and the impact and the flash of loss and ruin and the feel of blood dripping onto her seats. She has no nerves, no skin - no touch. But still, she feels, somehow. Most cars don't. They roll by her on the highways, shiny and new and soulless. She thinks you have to be loved to be alive, and she's been loved enough that even when she's caved in and shattered, she could still come back to life, bit by bit.
But she thinks she knew, even then and ever since, as Dean's hands pieced and prodded and pounded, that it wasn't the same. That something was missing, or maybe that what's dead should stay dead, even when it didn't really die.
They've been running on fumes for a while now, her and Dean. And the miles are running out.
She knows as soon as they stride away, leaving her in the nearby garage to cool her tires. It's a bad idea, this bank. The time drags on and on and police sirens squeal around the corner, flashing her black paint in dull red and blue before they vanish again. Hours stretch on and on and she starts to wonder if this is where the tank runs out, sitting alone in a garage, never knowing what happened. It's fitting, she supposes. She's never been able to understand why it is she knows anything at all to begin with, why should she know how it all ends when she doesn't know how it began?
When they're finally back, familiar weight behind her dash and familiar feet pressed to her pedals, her engine takes a moment to start, and at the same moment, Dean can't make himself move to put her in gear.
She hears the conversation, but she doesn't have to. She wants to be angry, wants her engines to flare and her gauges to run wild. She wants a moment of power through her pistons before the end, to be able to say "I was here", before she's gone.
She wonders if she could be happy with someone else behind the wheel, if they changed their minds and let her go.
She wonders what it would feel like, being taken apart, sold for scrap. Wonders if she would feel all the little spaces and the distance between each piece of herself.
By the time they've decided, so has she.
She'd rather make an end of it.
She thinks she never really thought differently - she just wanted a moment to be angry about it.
She's never minded silence. Everything she's ever really wanted to say boils down to I'm here, and she says that without words, every time her engine catches and her wheels roll. Every day she's there when nothing else is solid in their world.
But today she wishes for a mouth and a voice.
She wishes she could tell him she hopes he gets stuck in a damn mini-van.
She wishes she could tell him she didn't really mean that.
She wishes she could tell him to find a nice Mustang, or maybe a Trans Am. Something beautiful but needy that he can fix and keep running and love until it wakes up and lives and loves him back.
He lies across her hood, back to her windshield, her engine block cooling slowly beneath him, and she thinks of all the things she's wished she could say, over the years, and how it's always worked out even though she was kept in silence. They'll be fine, her boys. They can lose all their legacies and still have themselves, and they'll be fine, as long as they're together. Dean isn't meant for alone, and maybe Sam isn't either, he just doesn't know that as well as Dean does.
The car Sam brings is soulless and silent, and she wants to be sorry for that, but they won't keep it, and for now - it's nice to be the only living, unliving thing there for the end.
Dean talks to her as he slides under, pulling all the secrets hidden under her fenders out to take with him, their little cache of lies that make the truth possible. She'd hidden them the same way she'd hidden the reality of what they were, rolling them in and out of danger, away from the bad days and toward the promise of better days. She'd taken care of them without them ever knowing. She wonders if it ever made a difference.
Her doors creak as they shut for the last time, and the raw heat of the fire would have hurt, if she could feel. Instead, it just lights Dean's face in an eerie glow as he collapses in his brother's arm. She's always wondered how she was able to see. Now, she just wishes she didn't have to.
The fire burn burn burns, and she explodes, remnants in her tank making a small bonfire as metal warps and seats evaporate. Nothing left. One moment she's burning - the next she's watching herself burn.
A slight figure, all dark hair and pale skin, leans against her hood. The firelight dances, reflected from the heavy silver necklace around the girl's throat, and she watches the reflection instead of the reality. She's not burning, and she's not alive. She's not anything. She never even was alive. But somehow, she still knows this is what happens when you stop living.
The girl smiles, kind and warm, and she thinks of Mary. "It's okay. You know, you don't have to be breathing or born to be alive. And half the things that are, they don't do that great a job of the living thing anyway."
She still can't speak, and she wishes this was a story with last words and profound meaning, but she's still silent. Still can't say goodbye, or that she tried, or that she wants them to miss her, but not mourn her. That she wants them to know that it's not their fault, and that she's proud to have been part of what they are.
"It's okay. They know," the girl answers, and she smiles again, laying a cool hand flat on her hood before pulling her door open, sliding behind the wheel. "They always know the big stuff. Most people, they talk so much it's just noise. When you can't say anything, everything means something."
It sounds like nonsense, but it's a comfort, anyway. Cool hands close around her wheel, and the soft, cheerful voice asks. "So - want to go for a ride?"
She can't answer, but she thinks it, and her engines gun and a new road, all rich, round curves and rolling meadows dotted with houses and lives and memories stretches half-seen in front of her. Her wheels turn, and she moves, and all around her is the beating sound of mighty wings. And somewhere beneath it - ACDC and a warm, loved laugh.