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Breath of Life

Title: Breath of Life
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating/Pairing: PG/gen
Summary: "We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). Written for the spnflashfic "mail call" prompt.




He almost misses the first postcard, amid the slew of credit card applications and other junk mail. It's a rather nondescript postcard from Oregon, and it's blank; the only writing is the address. Sammy Winchester, PO Box 13489, Stanford, CA 94305.

Sam stops dead in his tracks when he realizes who it has to be from. He can feel his whole body tightening. Deliberately, he rips the postcard up, in half, and half again, and again, and again, and again; and he takes the pieces and almost drops them in the nearest trash, but then his fist won't release from being clenched around them.

He takes it back to his dorm room, instead, and uses scotch tape to fix it, fitting it back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

#

He'd been riding, for the first month or so, on an elating combination of anger towards his whole family (Mom for dying, Dad for bringing them up the way he did, Dean for being Dean) and excitement at being normal for once. College was newfound freedom; his friends, some of them, felt the same way, but they didn't understand, /couldn't/ understand, what it meant for Sam. So he kept his anger to himself, like a security blanket, and held tight to it.

He'd had to, because if he didn't, he would find himself remembering, and /missing/, what it was he'd walked away from.

The postcards weren't helping him forget.

#

The second one followed quickly. It was blank also, because the main message was on the front, which had a cheesy-ass cartoon drawing of a ghost, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN in blood-dripping letters.

"Jerk," Sam said aloud, grinning, but it felt incomplete without Dean there to provide the retort.

#

The third one, a month later, was from Florida, scantily clad women on a beach. This one wasn't blank.

Mermaids, dude. Mermaids.


The last word was underlined three times, and Sam could practically hear Dean's voice, splitting with a wide grin, saying the words to him.

#

He almost wrote back. Started a letter, even.

Dean--

How on earth did you find my PO Box number?


...no, he thought, and started over.

Dean--

So, uh, hey. This is me, writing from college. How are you? How's dad? How's hunting?


Not that either. Frowning, he started over a third time, got as far as writing his brother's name, and stared at the mostly-blank piece of paper, chewing on the end of his pen. He wanted to say a hundred things, but most of them he couldn't find words for, and most of the rest sounded stupid, and the last -- I miss hunting, miss you, miss being home -- he wouldn't admit in a thousand years.

With a scowl, he crumpled up all three sheets of paper and tossed them in his trash can. It didn't matter. And besides, he realized, he couldn't send anything to Dean without Dad seeing it too, and given the way things had been left between them...

"Yeah," Sam said softly to the empty room, "no."

#

The next postcard was from Nebraska.

Did you know there can be zombie gophers?

...yeah, me neither.

(don't worry though, I didn't get chewed up too badly)


Sam brushed his fingers over the scrawling ink and then filed the postcard with the others.

#

In May, there was one from Colorado:

Happy birthday. Say hi to your girlfriend for me. (Sammy, please tell me you have a girlfriend. You don't, do you? Dude, what do you think college is for?

Also, I am totally not telling you to go get drunk, because you're underage and that would be illegal and we can't have you doing illegal things now, can we?


Between the lines, Sam thought he read: I miss you.

#

When his apartment burns (when Jessica--), some of Sam's things burn along with it (with her), and a lot of the rest is too tainted with smoke or with memories for him to take along; but the rubber-banded bundle of twenty-odd postcards he does take, shoved to the bottom of his duffel where Dean won't find it and mock him for it.

He doesn't really need them, because he's with Dean now, but just knowing they're there is enough.

Three and a half years later, he takes them out and burns them, one by one, and scatters the ashes to the wind.

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