Author's Note-I hate naming things, so forgive the complete lack of originality in the titles. Also, I edit these myself, so any problems are mine.
Disclaimer-No es mio...I think I said that right Anyways, they ain't mine.
Reviewers- Thanks for reviewing the first time the story was posted. Another reader caught some mistakes that I missed, so this repost has those taken care of. (I think).
"We need to stop at a laundry mat."
Sam Winchester's remark was met with a raised eyebrow from his older brother. "Can't you just re-wear a few shirts or something? We did laundry a couple weeks ago."
"I have re-worn my shirts." Sam said, then, under his breath " and moved on to wearing yours."
Dean jerked his head around to face him and suddenly noticed the gray Chevy t-shirt that Sam was wearing. The one that had "Like a Rock" across the back. "That's just not right."
They stopped at a laundry mat in Campsite, South Dakota. There were four sets of coin operated washers and dryers, standing side-by-side in a tiny room in the back of a Citgo station. After getting change from the old man working the counter, Sam divided the clothes into two loads, and started them through. Dean had disappeared to locate a car wash after dropping his brother and their laundry off. He hadn't been seen since and after forty-five minutes of silently staring at a yellowing George Strait poster on the opposite wall, Sam was thoroughly bored.
Deciding that his clothes were safe enough, Sam wandered out into the station. The clerk glanced up from his magazine-Super Chevy-and gave a brief smile. Sam was still wearing Dean's shirt.
Boredom overruled Sam's inherent shyness and he wandered to the counter. "Anything good?"
The man shook his head. "They've been repairing an Impala. Just reading up on it." He put the magazine down. "That boy that dropped you off, his was a good-looking car."
Sam smiled. "He's my brother. Unless you want to hear about the entire history of his car, you don't want to mention that to him."
"My brother loved cars. Had a fixation on his '65 Ford Mustang." He shook his head. "Never could get him to let me drive it, except once."
"I know! Dean let me drive the Impala once, and I…okay, I crashed it."
The man laughed. "I think I may understand his hesitation. By the way, I'm James."
Sam took his extended hand. "Sam."
"So, Sam, I haven't seen you around before."
"We're just passing through. Taking a road trip before school starts back." Sam suddenly hated how easily lying came to him.
James got a wistful look on his face. "Me and Darrell took a road trip when we were younger. Right after he got back from Vietnam. Drove all the way out to Los Angeles, went south came straight back across to Georgia, up through New York, then home. You two heading to California?"
Sam shrugged. "Going where the highway takes us."
"Good a plan as any. Darrell was the one that wanted to see the Pacific. Two boys from South Dakota, when we reached that ocean we played in the water for hours." James laughed. "Everyone else probably thought we were crazy, two grown men splashing and wrestling with each other."
"How old were you?"
"Darrell had just got out of the service, so he woulda been about 26, I was 22. It was the best thing we could have done, taking that trip. Darrell was really great when we were kids. He was my best friend, but when he came back home, he just wasn't himself. Had nightmares, had a nervous breakdown. Couldn't take everything he had seen. I suggested the trip to get him out of here, figured maybe a change of scenery would help heal him."
Sam heard the washer ding, his clothes were through spinning, but he didn't move from his spot at the counter. "Did it?"
"While we were on the road, yeah. He started back to how he used to be. The man had a hell of a sense of humor, used to could make me laugh harder than anything. Once we got home, the nightmares started again. As long as we were on the road, he could outrun the nightmares. If he got still, they caught up with him."
Sam had a sinking feeling he knew what was coming next.
James looked back down at his magazine, sadness coming from him. "He killed himself. Used his army issue handgun to kill himself in the driver's seat of that damned pony car."
A pick-up pulled up the pumps, saving Sam from having to make comment. While James was busy with the customer, Sam moved back to the laundry room and switched their clothes over to the dryer. With the second load washing, he came back into the main room as the other customer left.
James pulled a couple of cans of Coke from a mini fridge under the counter and held one out to Sam. His previous sadness gone, he smiled again. "They're something, aren't they?"
"Who?" Sam popped the tab in his drink.
"How'd you know Dean is older than me?" Sam hadn't told the man that.
James shrugged. "Differences in how you talk. If he were your younger brother, there would be something resembling exasperation. You talk as though he could walk on water. Me and Darrell were the same way."
Nodding now, Sam agreed. "Yeah, they are. Can't stand them one minute, then you'd die for them the next."
James tipped his drink to Sam. The next hour was spent talking about the various adventures of James and Darrell on the road, with the few interruptions of other customers. By the time the sun had started to go down, Sam had their laundry ready to go, and was getting rather impatient with Dean's absence.
The streetlights came on, and James counted the money and made his deposit. Sam took a broom and swept the small store, and helped James take out the trash.
Sam stood on the curb and looked up and down the main street. There was no sign of the Impala or Dean under the glow of the yellow lights. Sam wasn't worried about his brother, Dean could handle anything short of Armageddon, but he was beginning to get irritated.
"Leave a note on the door for him." James came out of store, locking the door behind him. "We can go up to Lucky's and grab a bite to eat."
Fifteen minutes later, Sam found himself in the corner booth of Lucky's. A home-made milk shake in front of him, the promise of a fresh burger and steak fries on the way.
James leaned forward, elbows resting on the table. "So, you've got my life story. Your turn."
Sam paused. You didn't come out and tell a man that you and your brother were on a cross-country trip searching for your lost father while battling demons from Hell. "We're from Kansas. Our mom died when we were kids. We moved a lot, Dad did what he could. I think Dean basically raised me."
Sam wasn't used to having someone really listen to him. Dean loved him, Sam knew that, but he didn't always listen to him. James was listening as if the words Sam were saying were the most important phrases ever uttered in history. Sam eagerly accepted the interest and continued talking.
"One time, when I was about eight, we were living in Georgia, and there was a field trip coming up. Dad had taken a job hauling chickens, he was supposed to be gone for two weeks and Dean forged his signature so I could go." In reality, their Dad had been trying to rid a small town of two vengeful Civil War soldiers, and had been gone for nearly a month. "Dean made sure I got to school, made sure we had food. Made me do my homework, always kept us in clean clothes."
"Dean was the one that took me to the emergency room when I broke my arm," Sam paused and laughed. "He was only thirteen, and we were renting a place ten miles from town. He hot-wired a neighbor's pick-up and took me in. He was always short, and he looked so funny trying to drive and see over the wheel. The doctor didn't want to treat me without Dad's permission, but we couldn't get a hold of him, so Dean came up with this story about Dad being overseas, and our grandmother who had drank herself into a stupor so that she couldn't come in. The doctor set my arm, called the cops, and Dean and I ended up living in foster care for a week until Dad could be contacted."
James didn't seem to see the merriment that the memory caused. "Your Dad left you all that time, when you were just children?"
Sam leaned back to let the waitress place their plates on the table. "Dean was going on thirty when he turned ten. We took care of each other. Sometimes it was unorthodox, but we stuck together."
"Speaking of Dean, where do you think he's got to?"
"There's no telling. Dean gets distracted easily. He would probably be diagnosed with ADHD if we had him tested."
Later, with the meal eaten and paid for, Sam found himself standing once again on the sidewalk, looking up and down the streets for signs of his brother. "Darrell ever decide to just leave you anywhere on that trip, did he?"
James laughed. "He pissed me off at a bar in Texas, I left his ass for about a day. Ended up feeling guilty and back tracked."
Sam imagined the near-death experience he would have if he did that to Dean. "What did he do?"
"Damn near beat me to death. Thought I was going to die in the parking lot of a honky-tonk bar in Dallas, but after he hit me, he pulled me up and went and found ice for my lip."
"Sounds like Dean-literally." Sam could hear the familiar sound of the Impala's engine rumbling up the road. Sam waved and caught Dean's attention.
"Where've you been?" He called as his brother approached.
"Sorry, Sammy. There was a slight problem with the transmission." Dean indicated the subject should be dropped in front of present company.
Sam ignored the nickname and introduced them. "Heard a lot about you." James greeted.
Dean mock glared at his little brother, "Don't believe a word of it." Dean grabbed the bag of laundry and headed back towards the car.
This got a hearty laugh out of James as he turned to Sam. "It was nice to meet you."
Sam shook his hand. "Yessir, it was pleasure to meet you."
"You two have fun on the rest of this trip." As Sam turned away, James stopped him. "Take care of him, don't ever let him stop moving."
"Always," Sam responded and slid into the passenger seat.
"What was that about?" Dean asked once they were on the highway.
"Just some road philosophy." Sam settled back into the familiar seat, allowing the sounds of the highway to drift over him. "So, what happened to you?"
As Dean launched into a tale about a street race with a Ford and a State Patrol officer, Sam watched the night roll on. It wasn't the destination, it was the journey that mattered, and Sam was content to ride with his brother until they reached the end.