A day later, and the brothers find themselves, once again, guests of their aunt and uncle, Angela intent on taking care of both of them in any way she can. The way she flutters around the house, bringing meals to Dean in the office-turned-bedroom and listening to Sam's stories from college, screams she's missing her own children and finds the addition of the brothers, no matter how short they claim their stay will be, refreshing.
Sam's moved into the empty room of a cousin away at school, preferring his own space, he says, though Dean knows he's still angry and is too stubborn to say anything.
Because he's too stubborn to say anything.
He lays on the bed in the office Sam once used, thankful the floral prints have been traded for a set of clean, soft solid blue ones, though the comforter still sports the sickly peach and blue assortment of flowers. He tries to ignore them, pouring his energy into the stack of books Angela's left at his bedside, a few magazines poking out at odd angles here and there.
With only one television in the house, he's forced to think. Really think, ponder, wonder, and with each hour, he goes over the nuances of his argument with Sam, letting his mind wander to those foreign memories when he's had enough.
Twiddles his thumbs -- literally. Tries a solitary spread atop the covers a few times until Angela takes pity on him and provides a tray. When that gets bored, he tries to play both sides in a game of war, but finds it's no fun when competing with yourself at cards.
After a day sequestered in the office-turned-bedroom, he picks up a copy of "Moby Dick" and gives it a try.
It's heavy reading, and when he takes breaks, he thinks about Thomas.
His brother's proposal -- that Thomas chose him for a reason -- puzzles him. Sam's the one with the new shiny powers, not him. Wouldn't, then, Thomas chose Sam for his abilities, and not Dean, the painfully normal one of the two of them?
Then there's his theory, which has been proven several times over by this point; that Sam's abilities were inherited from their mother. He tells himself that's why she apologized to Sam when they saw her; because she'd given him this gift that's turning out of be a curse, not because she felt more towards her younger son.
The bit about proving it, though, is where everything gets sticky. That Angela, too, would have the gift would mean it wasn't just passed from one to another, but from a parent to all their children.
Dean groans and doesn't want to think of himself as a mega-freak, so he picks the book up again and shuts his mind down for a few more hours.
He's reading when Alex walks by the room and leans against the doorframe. He has the same air about him as Dean's father, the kind that makes you look up right away when he's entered the room even if you're absorbed in something else. Just a glance as if to say, yeah, I see you.
Alex catches Dean's eye when he gives the acknowledging glance. "Still aren't talking, huh?"
"To who?" Dean asks.
"You know, your brother."
Dean flattens the pages of the book in his hands and flips it upside down on his stomach. "I guess. He's not exactly opening up, either."
"You're both as stubborn as your father." Alex accepts Dean's light conversation as an invitation to come in, and he sweeps through the room to take a seat on the couch.
Dean frowns at the mention of his father. There's no way he can stand up for anyone, now, and who knows where this conversation will go.
"Don't look like that," Alex comments. "I came to say I'm sorry for what I said about your dad."
"Really," Dean deadpans.
Alex sighs, leaning his elbows on his knees. "There are things between men that -- "
"Oh, spare me," Dean sighs. "Please. If you've got a problem with my dad, that's fine. It's not why I hit you."
"You're not talking to your brother, but you swing a good right hook for him?"
"Damn straight. He doesn't deserve it, okay? He was, what, one? Or whatever. Whenever you had this tiff."
"It wasn't a tiff, Dean," Alex says. "It was...more."
"Do I really want to know?"
Dean's not one for confessions of the heart, for spilling the past when there's nothing that can be done. Some things are better kept as secrets, locked far away from prying eyes, past where memory hides from the conscious.
"Your father's a more accepting man," Alex explains. He has the tone of a man heavy with the words of confession, and Dean curses his inability to get up and avoid the moment. "We fought because I was unable to accept Angela and her abilities; couldn't accept your mother. She warned me, you know, about my first heart attack. I was a bit angry and forceful with her."
"Yeah. I can guess my dad didn't take too well with that," scoffs Dean.
Alex smiles. "No, your old man gave me quite a scare and told me I was being a close-minded fool. Not with those exact words, though."
No. John Winchester wasn't the most eloquent speaker, but he had no problem getting his point across.
"Anyway," Alex says, standing. He gives Dean a pat on his good leg. "I think now I'm beginning to think he was right. I don't know how to even begin to explain this all, but if it weren't for Angela -- " Alex shakes his head. "I'm glad you boys are safe."
Alex leaves the room. Leaves Dean to contemplate the years of anger Alex held for his father just because he had more of an open mind. If Alex can finally change his mind, maybe it's not too late for Dean.
Spring ebbs away to summer, the spray coming off the ocean clean and fresh in small droplets of mist. It spatters onto Sam's face as he walks along the side of the ferry and climbs the stairs to the upper level, two cups in his hands. He makes no move to wipe it off; instead, he closes his eyes at the top of the stairs and lets it drop into his hair and down his nose.
The mist's inviting when it's coming off the bay instead of the wide open ocean on the south and west of the island. Here, it means returning to the mainland, going back to life as he knows it. Staying put for a month and a half has him itching to get moving, to feel the car humming around him, wide open possibility looming out the windshield. For all the times he's wished for a place to call home, he realizes he's past that, over that quest for normality.
Apparently, Dean has rubbed off on him. A bit.
Sam smiles -- he's never going to admit that to his brother -- and rounds the front gallery of seats to the back of the ship. Dean's sitting on a bench facing the island, left leg still encased in a long, white cast, crutches leaning against the railing next to him. He's doing that staring off into space thing Sam's caught him doing ever since waking up in the hospital, just looking off into the distance wistfully.
He walks up behind his brother and taps him lightly on the shoulder, pulling him back from wherever he's gone, and hands over the cup of coffee.
"What took you so long?" Dean asks. He takes a long sip and sighs, content. "Ahh, that hit the spot."
"You wouldn't need it if you hadn't insisted on leaving so early." Sam sits next to him and drinks his own mocha.
Dean slaps him on the shoulder. "C'mon, Sammy! Don't tell me you wanted to stay there."
"It was nice..."
"Nice? Nice? I was going to go crazy if I had to sit there a minute longer. Don't get me wrong, they're nice people, but I'm a movin' man."
"'Movin' Man?' What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know, not tied down. Always moving. Going where the wind blows, and all that crap."
Sam rolls his eyes. "Sure."
"Don't patronize me, college boy."
Sam holds his hands up in mock surrender, grinning. It took awhile, after their argument in Dean's hospital room, to fall back into their pattern of mutual teasing and cheap shots; Sam found himself uncomfortable with Dean's easy-going nature after realizing how scared his brother was for him, and always looked for a double-meaning.
He never found any. Dean revealed himself in bit and pieces hidden within his off the cuff remarks, as honest as Sam though not as direct. He takes what he can get, finally seeing his brother's strengths as clearly as his own. They stand on equal ground, now, those dark thoughts from before a distant memory, reminding him to always value what he has. A month later, they were better than before, at least Sam thought so, anticipating more than movement on a hunt.
Except for one thing.
"Where do you go?" Sam asks. His blood pulses through his veins, ringing in his ears; he's nervous, curious, wondering if Dean will even answer.
Sam waves his arm at the sky. "You know, when you space out."
"I don't space out."
"Dean, you just did before I walked up here," Sam laughs.
"I was thinking."
Dean furrows his brow. "Stuff. Why do you want to know?"
Why does he want to know? Isn't it possible for them to have separate lives, even though they follow the same wayward path? Maybe, this time, Sam has to let it go, trust his brother knows what he's doing, and leave it at that.
They sit in silence, watching the island grow smaller and smaller in the distance until it's a green and blue dot on the horizon, a small mark representing something much larger.
Dean speaks up first. "Thomas. He...left some stuff. I'd like to know exactly what."
"What kind of stuff."
A shrug. "Memories, stuff like that."
It should surprise Sam, send him into a tirade of questions, but it doesn't. There's something calming about the way Dean admits it, a deep layer of trust there that didn't exist before. Let it go.
"You think he's okay?"
"Yeah," Dean breaths, shifting on the bench. "I do."
Sam nods, and turns back to the sea. The island's gone now, and the voice on the loudspeaker's asking for people to return to their vehicles and prepare for disembarking. He swears, for a second, he can see a bright glint of sunlight swing by and catch on the railing, but the instant he sees it, it's gone, a momentary flash of light.
Beside him, Dean's struggling to stand, moving awkwardly until he finds his balances and grabs his crutches. "Hey," he says, "let's get out of here."
"Yeah," Sam replies absently, standing. He moves to help Dean find balance, but his brother waves him off.
"I'm good. Just catch me if I fall."
Sam thinks, I can do that.
He looks behind them, then turns away. Lets the past be the past. They're done here, finished with this case and this ghost and these memories. It's just him and Dean, the way it should be.
Dean clamors down the stairs, Sam behind him. "And if you think you're driving," Dean starts, but Sam, falling into their new habit, finishes for him.
"Yeah, yeah. Ass is grass. I get it."