Disclaimer: I don't own or lay claim to Sam and Dean Winchester, or Roy LeGrange, or some of the familiar dialogue near the end.
A/N: So… what did the boys talk about on the long drive to Nebraska? Well, here's the answer. Or, my version at least.
Every added second made the silence harder and harder to break.
Dean sat slightly hunched over in the passenger seat of the car, the side of his forehead leaning against the cool glass of the window. His hazel eyes were turned determinedly away from his brother, staring blindly into the scenery that rolled by. A part of him wanted to sit up straight, flash a grin, and turn on some Metallica; but another part of him felt like crap and was afraid his head would explode from the sound that he usually enjoyed so much.
The car slowed to a halt at a red light, and Dean could hear his little brother tapping his fingers on the wheel with pent-up nervous energy. When that didn't seem to be enough of a release, a soft yet heavy sound filled the car as Sam let out a sigh. Normally, at this point Dean would grin and offer up some smart-ass remark. But not today. Somehow, he just couldn't muster the energy to tease his brother. He couldn't even gather up the willpower to look at him.
The light flashed green, and with a rumble like a lethargic lion's sleepy purr, the Impala pulled forward once again.
There was something broken within him, and it wasn't simply the scar tissue on his heart. Or maybe it was. A hollow, empty void seemed to be burning a hole right through him, stifling any hope he might have had to see his father again… to sit in the left seat of the Impala and just drive and drive… to see the death of the thing that had killed Mom… to ever have a real relationship with someone… to – but he had to stop the train of thought before the list came pouring into his brain, a hopeless, empty list of things to do that would get tossed to the bottom of a drawer and left to gather dust. He was painfully aware of the fact that what could have been would never be, and there was still so much that could have been.
And Sam. He couldn't look at him because he was afraid if he did, he'd never be able to look away.
He cleared his throat to dislodge the lump that had formed, forcing his mind blank, trying to make light of the situation. He couldn't let Sammy down… if he suddenly decided to spill his guts and regrets right here and now, he was positive that Sam, who had been holding together so well, would snap in half. And he couldn't have that. Sam would have to hunt alone from now on, and without Dean there to watch his back, he'd have to be strong and focused and… no, he couldn't go down that train of thought either, the thought of Sam all alone.
The silence pressed on his ears. Oh god, why did silence have to be so mind-numbingly loud?
Sam sighed again as he made a left-hand turn, following the map he had memorized. That was something Dean had missed about Sam when he was at Stanford. Dean drove around and around until he found what he was looking for, usually not consulting anyone for aid. It had made life somewhat more difficult when that clashed with John's pigheadedness, making them two stubborn jackasses refusing to ask for directions. But Sam could take one look at a map and memorize it in a flash, an ability that Dean had always admired. He wondered if he'd ever get a chance to tell Sam that, to tell him what a good ability that was. God, there were so many things he still wanted to tell him, but he didn't know how to voice it…
And now he could feel Sam's eyes burning into the side of his head, as if he had somehow gained that trait of Superman's where he could shoot fire out of his eyes. Dean could always tell when Sam was looking at him. That was a skill he had somehow picked up somewhere along the way. Sam had a certain intensity in his eyes, something so strong that you didn't have to be looking at them to see it. He wondered if he'd ever get the chance to tell that to Sam.
"Uh… you wanna stop for a while? Get something to eat?" he asked cautiously, and Dean knew that his brother had reached his breaking point amid the silence, which had been steadily building since the start of the car ride when neither had turned on any music. Dean thought for a moment, wondering if perhaps now would be a good time to sit face to face with his brother and tell him all those things he'd wanted to say before it was too late… but he couldn't. There was too much to say, and he didn't know how to say it. So he merely shook his head, knowing that Sam would see the movement.
There was a pause. "You sure? 'Cause we've been driving for a while, and I think it'll be about another half an hour at least, according to the map. So if you wanna stretch your legs or something, I dunno, or we could… talk… or… you know, whatever…" Sam was rambling, and it made Dean want to smile. Sam could be so introverted and quiet when he wanted to, but when the mood struck him, he could ramble for days. That was one quality he and Dean shared. If Sam needed cheering up, Dean would likewise just start talking about anything, usually something crudely humorous… He wondered if he'd ever get the chance to tell—
Oh, stop it.
"Nah," he replied quietly to Sam's offer, aware that he was blowing his chance. "What do I need rest for? I'll be resting soon enough."
Ouch. That was not the smartest thing to say, and Dean knew it. But it had just sort of slipped out. He knew… he didn't want to get Sam's hopes up or anything that he wouldn't… so he was blunt about it, tried to make it as easy to joke about as spirits and demons, which had become such a regular part of their lives… Clearly, however, Sam didn't feel the same way.
"That's not funny, Dean," Sam whispered, and Dean could almost feel the white-knuckled grip that his brother had on the wheel even though his eyes were still gazing blankly at the passing trees and gray sky.
"Ah, come on, Sam, lighten up," Dean muttered. That's it. Keep it light. Keep it light and then maybe Sam won't get his hopes up. Think of Sam.
"Lighten up?" Sam asked, his voice incredulous. "How can you say that?"
Dean turned his head away from the window, gazing over at his brother. Just as he'd predicted, Sam's knuckles were white and his lips were pursed, his shining eyes staring straight ahead through the windshield.
"I can say it because it's true. Sam, look, you know what's gonna happen. You know I'm gonna d—"
But Dean was cut off as Sam veered sharply to the left of the barren Nebraska road, slamming on the breaks as the engine grumbled unappreciatively. He finally turned to him, and Dean could see the repressed fear and panic and worry practically pouring out of his eyes. Oh god, he couldn't stand it, but he couldn't look away.
"What's wrong with you?"
The words were unexpectedly harsh and trembling slightly. Dean blinked, uncomprehending. "Me? What's wrong with you?"
Sam took in a deep breath and let it out, but it didn't appear to help much. "How can you be so accepting of all this? It's like you don't even understand the gravity of the situation, like you don't even care!"
Dean felt that hollowness inside of him burn and writhe painfully, and when he spoke, he managed to make his raspy voice a bit sterner. "You think I don't care? Damn it, Sam," he grumbled, trying to figure out a way to voice the darkness in the pit of his stomach. But in the end he couldn't, and after clearing his throat he spoke in a softer voice. "You heard what the doctors said. I'm gonna die. There's no way to stop it. We can't salt and burn this, we can't run away if we drive far and fast enough… I'm gonna die. And I know you want this guy to help… but he can't."
Swallowing, Dean found himself once again unable to look Sam in the eye. That was probably the most honest he'd been in a while. He heard Sam take in a shaky breath. "But maybe he can. You don't know that for sure. I won't lose hope, Dean… I can't. Why won't you at least give it a try?"
He could hear the pleading note in Sam's voice, and it was killing him faster than whatever was wrong with his heart. "Because I don't want to get… I don't want you to get your hopes up. That'll just make it harder."
There was a long moment of silence, and for a while, Dean was positive that Sam was going to put the car back in drive, accepting Dean's answer. But Sam's hands were lying limply in his lap, and his eyes were cast down on them, his jaw twitching slightly. Dean watched him out of the corner of his eye as Sam looked up, staring through the windshield as if searching for answers in the dirty road ahead. "I can't lose you, Dean," he said at last, his voice low but steady. The determination in his voice made Dean's chest twinge with pain unrelated to his condition. "I can't do this alone."
One side of Dean's mouth quirked up in a smirk. "Sure you can."
Sam shook his head. Dean figured he was going to tell him, 'Well, I don't want to,' but Sam didn't speak. The half-hearted grin on Dean's face fell into a frown. At last, Sam seemed to have figured out what he was going to say. "Dean, I know you don't want to believe that this guy can help… but I have to. I have to believe in something. Once there's no hope left, that's it. Game over. You've got to have faith in something."
I have faith in you.
"I know, Sam," Dean replied, leaning his head against the window once again and turning his eyes to the muddy puddles lining the road. There was so much to say, so much he wanted to tell Sam… "We gonna sit here all day, or have you given up this whole saving people thing?"
Dean could feel the smile that Sam smothered and cracked a grin himself. He continued to stare out the glass as the car pulled away and the scenery rolled away behind him. The silence was somehow less burdensome now, less dense, but he couldn't explain it any better than he could explain the dull ache in the pit of his stomach.
"You know, I get that from you."
"What?" Dean asked, casting a curious glance over at his brother, who seemed to have relaxed tenfold since he had put the car in park.
Sam smiled, but Dean could see the sadness in his eyes. "The whole saving people thing. I think you've rubbed off on me."
"I know," Dean replied with a hint of his usual boastful joking. "I'm an awesome brother."
Still slightly smiling, Sam whispered so quietly that Dean wasn't quiet sure he'd heard him correctly. "You are."
And just like that, Sam reached for the cassette player and hit 'play.' The tape that was already in there churned out a chunky guitar riff, and Dean settled himself into a more comfortable position against the window. Something seemed lighter. He wasn't sure what. But the more he thought about what Sam had said, the more he thought about what he had faith in. And there was never any question that he trusted his brother… Sam wouldn't take him somewhere if he didn't truly think Dean could be helped. And, after all they'd seen…
But we've never seen anything like this before.
And it was true. But how many times had he said that in the past six months? They'd found a way to beat down everything else. Just because this happened to be something they couldn't see, couldn't sense, couldn't smell… that didn't mean it couldn't be killed. In Dean's opinion, everything could be killed. It was just a matter of how and with what.
"Am I gonna have to buy you a Metallica shirt when this is all over?" Dean asked with a smirk as his eyes fell on Sam, who was tapping his fingers on the wheel to the beat of the music. The taller Winchester seemed to catch himself and shook his head with a grin.
"Hey, I never said I hated your music," Sam replied playfully.
"There may be hope for you yet."
Dean could hear what Sam refused to voice by the glint in his brother's eyes. And you, too.
The trees and fields outside continued to slide away behind them as they drove, the music still pumping out of the speakers. After a good twenty minutes, Dean spoke again. "So this…"
Sam quirked an eyebrow. "Specialist."
"Right. This specialist guy… You really think he can help?" Dean held his breath as he waited for the answer. Think of Sam. Don't get his hopes up.
"I guess we'll see. This is the place," Sam replied, and Dean hastily reached up and turned down the volume all the way as he peered through the windshield. Something wasn't sitting well with him… why was there a large tent set up in this little spit of nowhere? Where was the place Sam was talking about? This was just a parking lot filled with old sick people and a guy passing out flyers.
The car pulled to a stop, and Sam hopped out as if his seat had been lit on fire and raced around to the other side as Dean pushed open his door and looked out. Sam grabbed him to help him up, but that horrible despairing feeling was settling again in his stomach, and he groaned and shrugged Sam off. "I got it," he grumbled as he looked up to the tent.
Hanging before him was a sign. He was sure it was a sign from the devil.
"The Church of Roy LeGrange. Faith Healer."
As Dean's eyes came across those two words, his stomach bottomed out completely. Everything Sam had told him had been a lie. A faith healer? As it all crashed down on him, the betrayal and the hopelessness and the pain, Dean allowed his face to crumble momentarily, all hope dashed. Faith? What the fuck was Sam thinking, talking as if faith alone could save him? Bringing him to a faith healer? Fuck faith! Fuck everything! How dare Sam allow Dean to get his hopes up like that, to actually believe something could be done? Dean had seen what people get when they rely on faith alone. The evil always gets them.
It was like being told he was going to die all over again.
Pushing his face back to normal and standing up, he followed Sam in the direction of the tent, trying not to let his emotions get the best of him. "Man, you're a lying bastard. I thought you said we were going to see a doctor?" he accused, unable to do anything but lash out.
Sam looked pained for a moment but answered steadily. "I believe I said specialist. Look, Dean, this guy's supposed to be the real deal."
Dean pushed away the overwhelming urge to throttle his brother as he shuffled forward through the mud, wishing that Death would come and take him now and get it over with. He'd never been one to put off until tomorrow what one could do today. Oh god, he wished Sam could see what this was doing to him. He wished Sam would turn around and just see that he couldn't face this guy, all these people with their faith, when he knew he had almost nothing to believe in himself. And it scared the shit out of him. But he couldn't tell that to Sam. There were so many things to say… but he couldn't say them. He wished that Sam could understand what he really meant when he did speak.
"I can't believe you brought me here to see some guy who heals people out of a tent."
I know you want to believe in all this, but I just can't have that kind of faith. It hurts too much to believe in something and then get disappointed by it.
I have faith in you, Sammy.
Isn't that enough?