It was cold, so cold Sam thought he could be in Siberia and be warmer. It was nerves, and he knew it, but that didn't change just how empty he felt. It was like a huge black void had taken the place of his heart.
Losing a mother and a lover had been bad enough, but now, as he stood in the small Lawrence cemetery, he realized that losing a sibling was the worst thing a person could endure. Dean had been not just a brother, but a friend, a confidant and so much more. No one would ever know the adventures they had shared, or the heartache on their little road trips.
Sam shivered, but not from the cold. His muscles were trembling with the sudden realization that life would never be the same. Dean was gone, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't bring him back. He sniffed, trying not to cry as moisture filled his eyes. Dean wouldn't want any chick flick moments, not even here at his funeral service.
Sam tried to focus on that thought, and how Dean would handle the situation, but it did little to stop his body from quaking as the casket was gradually lowered into its final resting place.
The priest was talking at the graveside- offering words of comfort for family and friends, but Sam simply blanked out the words, clenching and unclenching his fists as he struggled to control his devastated emotions. Dean wasn't religious. He wouldn't have wanted this.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't Dean's time. When Roy LeGrange had summoned him out of the crowd it should have been the end of it, but Dean wouldn't leave it there. Oh no, he had to have the truth of how he had been healed, and once he knew, it changed things irrevocably. From that moment on, Dean had had every intention of giving back what he had taken somehow.
Sam dared to look up, stealing a glance at the person who had cost Dean Winchester his life.
Layla stood at the edge of the small crowd, emotionless, but obviously praying. Dean had allowed himself to be taken by the 'reaper' to save her life, although she would never know it.
Sam didn't blame Layla, but looking upon her right now was like looking at a heart transplant patient who had just gotten his brother's organ. It wasn't the time, or the place.
Sam screwed his eyes closed, knowing he could take no more. The thought even occurred to him that maybe he shouldn't go on living either, and he finally cracked, each nerve and thought pushing him to leave this place of death.
Before the white clad priest could finish his words of wisdom, Sam shook his head in despair and jogged away from his brother's service in total desolation. Tears streamed from his eyes, and he didn't attempt to wipe them away.
There would be no more hunts, no more Dean 'words of wisdom', no more LIFE. He gulped, choking back a coughing fit, and when he finally looked up realized he had inadvertently strode straight across to the Impala.
Sam balked at the sight of it. It was Dean's baby, and despite his brother's pleas for him to look after it after his death, he wasn't sure if he could touch the Chevy ever again.
He looked at the ground, pushing the gravel at the base of his feet to and fro with his shoe as if it would somehow alleviate his pain. The Impala's keys seemed to burn a hole in his pocket even now as he tried not to think of it.
Somewhere, he heard the thundering tones of AC/DC's 'Who made who' and it forced him to look up. Who would play rock music in a place like this?
Realization hit like a brick to the head. The music was coming from inside the Chevy, even though Sam knew he hadn't left the stereo on. After Dean's death, he had vowed never to listen to mullet rock every again.
Sam gaped and then shook his head. He must have caught the button somehow…
"Are you going to get in and drive or stand ogling it? Hell, I'd drive her myself but that might be a little conspicuous…"
Sam almost choked for the second time in one day, and he spun around with his eyes almost popping from his head. "Dean?"
Dean Winchester was leaning on a nearby Oak's trunk, clad in his usual dark blue jacket, jeans, and scuffed boots. He smirked at his brother's amazed expression. "Of course, an Impala driving down Main Street with no one behind the wheel might look a little freakin odd. Not to mention, I haven't exactly got all this moving physical objects crap down yet…"
Sam's mouth opened, but it was a few seconds before he could manage any words. "I'm imagining things…the stress must be getting to me…" His brow furrowed and he wanted to look away, but he couldn't.
"Maybe I didn't pick the greatest of times to have this chat." Dean moved forward slightly and let his left arm waft through the oak tree's dense body. "Man, if you think this stuff is creeping you out, think how I feel! I can tell you, dying is not all its cracked up to be." He looked skyward.
Sam tugged at his tie, loosening it, and then began to peel his jacket off while heading for the Impala's trunk. As he popped the lid, Dean backed off.
"You wouldn't be thinking of shooting your own bro with rock salt now would you?" His mischievous smile said he was teasing, but Sam still couldn't accept what he was seeing.
"I'm just stowing my jacket…" He thought about what was happening. Ghosts were real, so maybe Dean was. "I thought people only manifested like this if they couldn't pass over properly. How come you're still um…here?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Geez, it's nice to know my own brother doesn't want me around!" He winked, and continued, "I guess I still have work to do. Or maybe I should say, we have work to do."
Sam slammed the trunk down, and couldn't help but stare at the apparition before him. Dean looked just like…well Dean. "You want to carry on hunting? Are you nuts? How can you hunt your own kind?"
"Dude, don't you class me with those guys! Besides, Sammy, just think of the edge we'd have with your psychic crap and my um, inside info! We'd never need an EMF again." Dean was on a roll. "You know what they say about it takes one to find one…"
Sam wasn't buying it. In fact, he was considering checking himself into the nearest psychiatric hospital for evaluation. Then again, to have Dean back, even this way…
Dean grinned and pointed to the Impala. "You might want to continue this conversation inside the car. Folks are starting to think you're a candidate for Roosevelt asylum." He jerked a semi- transparent thumb at the funeral crowd who were now all gawking at Sam as he chatted to thin air.
Sam turned and smiled wanly at them, then climbed into the Chevy. As he took the seat behind the wheel, Dean materialized next to him. "I'd be laughing my ass off at you right now if this wasn't my funeral."
"Well you did say after we killed the shapeshifter you were sad you missed your own funeral," Sam countered. "Seriously, though, Dean, how can you come back like this? Shouldn't you be with mom and Jess?"
Dean's expression became a little sullen. "Mom says Hi, but I haven't seen Jess…" He looked out as the crowds began to file away from his graveside. "I came back because you need me, Sammy. We're a team, and just because my corporeal form is gone it doesn't mean we still can't be one. I have unfinished business here, just like Roy said after he healed me."
"I can't believe this is happening." Sam moved his hand out, attempting to touch his brother, but Dean flinched away not wanting him to feel the odd sensation of his hand moving through nothing. Sam sighed. "You really want to carry on hunting, like this?"
Dean nodded and grinned. "Why the hell not? It beats hanging around with the rest of the creeps in this joint." He glanced around, apparently seeing some netherworld that Sam could not. "So, what say we head out to our first gig? Just be careful where you aim the rock salt these days, okay?"
Sam started up the Impala. It was good to have Dean back, even like this. "Where to? Dad hasn't sent me any co ordinates since…since…" His voice trailed. John Winchester hadn't made any contact at all since Dean's death. Just what that meant, Sam didn't know.
Dean's expression became annoyed and he touched a cut surrounded by a bruise on his forehead. Sam inspected it, wondering how he'd not noticed it before. It hadn't been there the day Dean had given his life for Layla. "Fort Worth…head for Fort Worth. There's a cowboy there and I seriously need to kick his ass…"
Sam gaped. "You've been brawling with another ghost already?" He smirked. "And you lost?"
Dean pulled a face. "Hey, there was a whole gang of them! Besides, we need to do this gig. These freaks are haunting a family of six who just happen to live on the same stretch of land were our bad guys died." He was convincing himself that was the only reason he wanted this particular hunt, but Sam knew different.
The old, gung ho Dean Winchester had returned, and he wanted payback after his ethereal pride had been hurt. Sam could deal with that, especially if it meant helping a family in the process. He wanted to hug Dean and tell him how much he'd missed his sorry butt, but he knew it was impossible.
Instead, he headed the Impala onto the freeway towards Fort Worth, and with a flick of his wrist he pushed in yet another mullet rock cassette. The good times were back, and so were the Winchesters…