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The Richness of Life

Title: The Richness of Life
Fandom: Supernatural
Summary: Dean forgets, and sometimes remembers; Sam remembers, and never forgets. Written for the spnflashfic souvenir challenge.

"We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten." - Cesare Pavese




Sometimes, he forgets.

...no, that isn't quite right. Always, he forgets. Moment after moment slips through his fingers, melting into nothingness like sugar into water. It's just that sometimes, he remembers.

It never lasts.

#

He wakes alone, in an unfamiliar room. Motel, probably. The door is unlocked, and he peers out into the pale blue sky and thinks, I am not a prisoner, then, and wonders why it even occurred to him in the first place.

He shuts the door. Tries to think. Tries to remember.

There are things scattered about the room, clothes and papers and a laptop and weapons. He wanders around, looking, and with the strong compulsion to touch. And sometimes, touching something brings a memory -- there and then gone, leaving hollowness in its wake.

His fingers linger on certain things:

A leather-bound book, battered and worn and overstuffed with paper. (He thinks, Dad, and closes his eyes, letting the flash flood surround him: a face, a voice, whiskey and guns; quiet strength behind him teaching him how to hold and fire a gun that seems too large for his hands; worry, hidden, for something missing; grief and guilt, and he doesn't remember more.)

A postcard, girl in a garishly-colored bikini, blurred postmark on the back, the words "THANK YOU" scrawled in block letters and underlined twice. (He thinks, hunt; infestation of ghosts, not so much evil as playful but destructive all the same; salt, and flames, and charred bone; gratitude, a kiss on the cheek, and a postcard in the mail a week later.)

A knife, shoved in one of the drawers under a pile of underwear, blade a handspan long and sharp, with a wicked look to it. (It's a gift from a friend, though he doesn't know how he knows that; it's saved his life, saved their lives, taken others; silver and iron and blood and security, and it feels like home in his hand.)

There are other things, other memories. It doesn't stay. None of it stays.

The mirror in the bathroom is low-quality and smudged, but he can see a reflection in it. Stares at himself, touches the unfamiliar face he sees, short hair and cheekbones and faint growth of beard on his jaw. He thinks, this is who I am, but that is all. No memories come.

He sits, and waits.

#

The door opens, and someone comes in, face he doesn't know, name he doesn't know, tall and tired-looking. "Hey, Dean," he says, voice low.

(Dean, he thinks, looking down at his hands where they rest on his thighs. It triggers nothing, not even the too-familiar feeling of something just out of reach.)

The other continues: "I didn't get anything new. I'm sorry." He sounds almost defeated. Dean stands, approaches him, and there's a startled flash in the other's eyes. "I'll keep looking, I will," he promises quickly. "I'm not giving up."

"I know." Dean wants to touch. Comes close, hesitates -- may I?, unspoken, and he gets a nod in response, a subtle dip of the head -- and then puts his hands to either side of the other's face. Gets another flash flood of memory (Sam and brother and home; fire and darkness, always the two, carrying him from fire into darkness, from darkness into light; trust, sheer and absolute; protecting him, even when he couldn't; a thousand memories, too much to take in, too much to hold on to) and for a moment he can't breathe.

"Shh." The other (Sam, he's Sam, he has a name, they both do, it's so important and he knows he won't be able to hang on to it) holds Dean up, leads them both to the bed where they can sit, side by side and still touching. "It's okay, Dean."

Most of the memories are gone again, as they always are. Dean feels hollow, empty, held to earth only by the arm around his shoulders, the leg pressed against his, the warm concerned gaze. "No," he says, "not really."

A corner of Sam's mouth quirks up wryly. "Dean, listen to me. Look, I know you won't remember this, but I'll say it again tomorrow, and the next day, and as many times as I have to. I'm not giving up. I'll find the thing that did this to you, find a way to reverse it, something. I promise."

"You don't have to do this," Dean says. "You could--" His mind goes blank; he can't think of anything, and he trails off.

"No." Sam's voice is sharp. "I do have to do this, Dean." He puts his hand to the side of Dean's face, warm and solid, and Dean closes his eyes and leans into the touch. "You know why."

"No," Dean says, muffled, "I don't." He's smiling, even though it isn't funny, and he can feel as much as hear the huff of laughter that follows.

"No, I guess not. But I do." Silence for a moment, and then, raw and uncertain: "I need you back, Dean. I need you."

They both know he won't remember this, in the morning, in an hour, even. He looks up and meets Sam's gaze for a moment. There's an intensity to it that makes him look away again.

"Yeah," is all he says, and the word feels thick, sluggish. He doesn't quite know what to say. "Hey," Dean says finally, "do you-- this is going to sound stupid," and there's a flash of a grin on Sam's face, "but do you have any stories you can tell me? Of, I don't know..." He trails off.

"Us?" Sam supplies. His voice is soft. "Yeah. I do."

And he tells them, one after another, words that filter through Dean's mind and leave nothing behind. He talks through dinner, Chinese takeout leftovers that Dean doesn't remember the first round of, punctuating his stories with jabs of his chopsticks; he keeps going even afterwards.

At one point he says, "Tell me if you want me to stop," and Dean just looks at him. The other (and oh, he's already forgotten the name; in a while, he knows, he won't remember that there was a name to forget) grins and keeps going. The words mean little, but the sound of them is comfort, is home, and Dean closes his eyes, and listens.

#

In the morning, he wakes, as ever, in an unfamiliar room.

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