It was palpable. Something he could almost see hanging in the air around his brother's body. The guilt that Dean carried this time was immense and Sam knew- he knew- that the small bit of satisfaction he was finding in it was wrong. But at the moment, it wasn't something he could help. He was finally getting things off his chest and Dean was finally shutting up long enough to hear him. Hurting Dean was the only way to get his point across. It wouldn't be forever, just until it sunk in.
AC/DC blared on the radio as the Impala pulled up in front of their room at the Holly Motel off of a desolate highway in New Jersey. Sam had found them a possible hunt. Probably just a salt and burn, but he was trying to keep things simple while they worked through their other issues. They'd worked the case involving Garth and the werewolves, and the Pishtaco case had gotten wrapped up, but Sam made sure he kept their situation in the forefront of Dean's thoughts. Every time he sensed Dean starting to get even slightly comfortable, he made sure to remind him that this wasn't going to get swept under the carpet and forgotten about. He was serious. And the last real conversation they had had been pretty harsh. It had really knocked the wind out of Dean. Sam had caught the look of complete and utter devastation on Dean's face when he'd left the room. If he was being honest with himself, Sam had to admit that he did feel a little guilty about how he'd left things that night. But he also felt that was the talk that really drove his point home, so he wasn't quite ready to do or say anything just yet that would ease the sting he knew his brother was feeling.
Dean wasn't sleeping much, Sam could tell, and he probably wouldn't until the situation was resolved. If the situation was resolved, Sam reminded himself. So for the time being, Sam figured simple was safer. Dean had started to argue that they could handle something much bigger than what Sam had found, but Sam just looked at him and Dean had shut up.
The sky had been getting darker and darker for the past hour and finally, the clouds had just opened up. Sam rushed out of the car and unlocked the door as quickly as he could, trying to avoid getting too wet. He noticed that Dean didn't move any differently than he would have on a normal day. He just let the rain soak him as he gathered his things from the car and walked to the already opened door.
Dean shed his rain soaked jacket and flopped down on one of the beds and pulled the phonebook out of the drawer of the nightstand. Thunder rumbled angrily in the distance. "I'm gonna order some food. You want anything?" His voice was monotone and he didn't look at Sam when he spoke.
"It's only like 4 o'clock. You're hungry already?" Sam asked, but then remembered he hadn't seen Dean actually eat anything all day.
Dean didn't answer him.
Sam sighed. His own guilt was finally starting to eat away at some of his anger. He truly didn't want to hurt his brother. He was just so frustrated. No, he was far beyond frustrated. But looking at the forlorn expression on Dean's face..."You wanna just get a pizza?" Sam asked.
"Yeah." Dean phoned in their order, threw on a dry flannel and went into the bathroom for a towel.
Sam turned on the TV and sat at the foot of his bed. A moment later, Dean poked his head out of the bathroom door and looked at Sam.
"Were you calling me?" he asked.
"No, I didn't say anything," Sam replied. "I just turned on the TV."
Dean stared at him for a moment. "Huh, I could have sworn... whatever." He tossed the keys to Sam. "Pizza place was pick up only. That place we passed about 7 or 8 miles back that way." He gestured vaguely towards the parking lot.
Sam glared at him. The guilt that had started to find its way into his heart was suddenly retreating. "Why do I have to go pick it up?"
Dean just turned back towards the bathroom, rubbing the towel over his hair. But Sam didn't miss the defeated posture, the downcast eyes... Ok, no. I'm done feeling guilty about this, Sam told himself insistently. Plus, he had worked hard on getting into the mindset that he would pick his battles and make them count. This didn't seem big enough to warrant anything more than a sigh.
He threw his wet coat back on and went out into the deluge. He was about to make a dash for the driver's side door of the car when something caught his eye. He moved cautiously around to the passenger side and was shocked to see a little boy sitting on the ground, shivering and pressed up against the wheel of the Impala, one hand on the door handle.
"Hey," Sam called out softly. "Are you lost?"
The little boy stood quickly and backed away from Sam.
"Hey, it's ok-" Sam put his hands out and squatted down. "I'm not gonna hurt you..."
The kid stepped forward again and tried to open the door of the car. It was locked and he looked desperately back at Sam. "I want my dad," he said tearfully.
"Ok, ok... Come on... I'll help you find your dad, ok? Why don't you come on inside and get out of the rain for a bit, huh? Then you can tell me where your dad is."
The kid looked about 5 years old, terrified, freezing and strangely familiar. He appeared to be considering Sam's offer.
Sam stood slowly and backed up towards the door. "C'mon, it's ok..."
God- this is awful, Sam thought, desperately hoping that no one was watching him lure a lost little boy into his motel room. And the kid looked like he knew darn well he shouldn't be going anywhere with a stranger, but he was so cold and so scared, he didn't know what else to do.
Dean looked up from the laptop as Sam opened the door and continued to cajole the little boy inside.
Sam glanced at him over his shoulder. "Lost kid in the parking lot," he said.
Dean shook his head and looked back down at the screen. "Well, take him to the front desk."
"Dean, it's pouring out there. He's soaking wet and- c'mon, buddy, it's ok... I'll bring him there after I get him dried off a little... there you go, kiddo... that's it, c'mon, I'll get you a towel, ok?"
Dean could see the kid standing by the door out of the corner of his eye. As he moved the cursor to bookmark the page he was looking at so he could help out, the kid let out a soft whimper. Dean's stomach turned to ice and every hair on the back of his neck raised at the sound. He looked up just as Sam crossed his line of vision with a towel. He tried to shake off the sudden rush of emotions he was feeling.
"Here you go, let's get you dried off, ok?" Sam said gently, still blocking Dean's view.
Dean just stared at the back of Sam's head, waiting for him to move. A feeling washed over him of such familiarity, and a protectiveness so intense, so fierce it took his breath away. He had a sudden and overwhelming urge to shove Sam out of the way and take care of this kid himself.
"There, that feel a little better?" Sam asked softly.
There was a sniffle and a gasp. "I... want my brother..."
Thunder crashed outside and Dean stood up so suddenly that he knocked over the chair. It clattered to the floor with a bang and the kid scurried across the room and pressed himself up against the wall between the couch and the small side table, sobbing.
"Hey! Hey, c'mon, it's ok-" Sam called after him, restraining himself from chasing the kid. He shot a look at Dean who was standing frozen at the table staring after the little boy with a look on his face that Sam couldn't identify, but it didn't look good.
"What-" Sam frowned at him, confused.
And suddenly both boys' jaws dropped as the kid beside the couch started crying out at the top of his lungs, "DEEAANN!"
Sam stared at the kid, shocked. "How does he know-"
Sam turned to look at Dean when he heard his name.
But Dean wasn't talking to him. He was talking to the kid.