Summary: After an accident, the brothers are separated. During a long night apart, their perspectives change.
A/N: With immense gratitude (and giddiness) to the wonderful and talented Faye, my friend, beta, and all-around partner-in-crime, without whom I probably wouldn't be writing at all anymore. (So I'll let you decide if you want to thank her or beg her to stop encouraging me).
Warning: Just a little language. I'm sure you've all heard worse, but don't tell our moms.
Disclaimer: I dress them up, but I swear, I don't take them anywhere.
They'd been on the road since Sam had been dismissed from school, hoping to ride out the daylight for as long as possible. It was a long drive from Centerville and Colorado Springs, and their father wanted them there before daybreak.
The weather had been uncooperative at best, with sporadic snow and sleet that clogged the wheel wells and streaked the windows with a sooty combination of salt, sand, and ice. The roads had been uncooperative as well, as they drove sometimes far ahead of the snow plows, and sometimes long after bared ground had been left to turn to ice. Dean had to concentrate more than usual on his driving, and the radio was at a normal volume for once.
Their conversation had been sporadic. Sam had been on one of his "why is the world the way it is" kicks and Dean had been playing his "I'm the older brother and therefore much smarter than you" card with equal fervor. It was fair to say that the teenager and his only-just-past-being-a-teenager brother were a little worn with each other's company. The uneven thump of tires over re-patched asphalt made the perfect backdrop for their oft-repeated, forever-unresolved argument.
"All I'm saying is that there has to be more to life than this, some other way to make peace and still help people that doesn't involve us moving every couple of months and putting our lives in danger."
"Sure, Sam. We'll just stick our heads in the sand and pretend none of this exists, pretend that everything is fine out there in the dark - no monsters, no ghosts, nothing for people to be scared of."
"You're not listening to me -"
"All I do is listen to you!" Suddenly, Dean was shouting. "You and your complaints about Dad, how we were raised, everything we do . . ."
Sam opened his mouth to speak, but Dean ignored him. "You want me to see your side, Sam, and I don't. I've heard it, every word, over and over again. And what it sounds like to me is you bailing on everything Dad taught us. It sounds selfish and immature and I swear to God, if I ever hear the word 'normal' again . . ." He left the phrase unfinished, but it was obvious the consequences he envisioned were not pretty.
A tense silence closed over them. Things had finally gone too far, and now both brothers were angry.
Sam stewed in the silence, refusing to even look at his brother. A dozen arguments crossed his mind, but they were all useless. Dean had told the truth. He didn't see things Sam's way; and he never would. And if that hurt far more than his father's lack of understanding, Sam didn't plan on revealing it any time soon. I just wish he'd . . . Sam consciously blocked out that thought. Any way it ended, it made him feel like the immature, selfish teenager Dean already thought he was.
Dean turned up the radio, blasting Black Sabbath through the uncomfortable quiet. Sam just didn't get it. After all this time, in spite of the fact that they were closing in on what had killed their mother, not to mention all the people they had helped along the way, Sam still didn't believe in the cause - not wholeheartedly, the way he should - and nothing he or their father said convinced him. Dean was sick of talking about it. Maybe he'd been a little harsh, but it was late and he was tired and he couldn't bear the thought of continuing the conversation over the next three hundred miles.
He glanced at Sam, who was staring out at the completely blackened landscape as though it held all the answers. His brother had shot up over the past few months, his features sharpening as he took on the appearance of adulthood. But in spite of his appearance and his almost freakish intelligence, he was still a kid. A kid with a lot to learn. Dean sighed, wishing he had some magic words to make everything better. It had been so much simpler when Sam was younger and believed everything Dean told him. But those days were long behind them.
They drove on through the cold, starless night, both too angry and tired to talk anymore.
They hadn't gone significantly further when the Impala suddenly started to skid. Dean fought for control, but there was no traction. All he could do was hang on.
The car slammed into the guardrail with a screech of tires and a long string of curses. The impact threw Sam against the window, head smacking against the glass with a sharp crack.
Dean had a death grip on the steering wheel that kept him in place, even as the rest of the car's contents ricocheted off the nearest surface.
"Shit, shit, shit!"
Through a burst of white, Sam heard his brother's expletives. Their cause hadn't yet registered. His ears were ringing, and although he wasn't unconscious, he felt disconnected, head throbbing somewhere apart from his body. As though through mud, he lifted an unsteady hand to his temple, trying to find the source of the pain.
"Are you alright?" Dean's voice cut through the haze, and Sam had to think for a moment before he realized that Dean must be talking to him.
He nodded without thinking about it. He didn't really know if he was okay, but Dean seemed to expect a positive response. His mouth suddenly dry, he tried to speak. "What . . . happened?"
"We hit a patch of ice. Damn it!" Dean banged his fist against the dashboard. "I can't believe this!"
Sam's brain processed this news slowly, scrunching his forehead as he tried to think through the pain in his skull.
Dean pressed a hand to his sore neck, which had borne the brunt of the crash. He peered again at his brother, seeking signs of injury. "You sure you're okay?"
Sam somehow managed to breathe out a "yes."
"Good," Dean said with a nod. At least there was one positive for this decidedly unpleasant night. "Stay here. I'm going to check the damage."
Dean was up and out of the car before Sam could answer. He watched Dean cross in front of the headlights, eyes on the passenger side of the car. He disappeared from view, bending to check the tires.
Sam shook his head slowly, trying to quell the ringing in his ears, but it only made it worse. He felt a little dizzy, and decided the best course of action was to try to stay as still as possible. Maybe then, the car would stop spinning.
The screech of the door and another round of curses brought the world back into focus. Dean shoved the headlight switch off and then groped in the back seat for his coat.
"I'm going to walk into town and get a tow truck. I can't get a signal out here." He threw his cell phone onto the seat disgustedly. "You stay with the car. We've got too much stuff in here to leave it."
When Sam didn't answer, Dean glanced at him sharply. "Are you listening to me?"
Sam nodded slowly and Dean stood.
"I'll be back. Don't go anywhere." With that, he was gone.
Dean disappeared into the darkness. As Sam watched him, the dull throbbing in his head grew to something more akin to a spike being driven through his skull. He leaned forward, cradling his head on his arms where they rested against the dash. Distantly, he thought maybe sleeping wasn't the best option, but it felt so good to just relax, to try to ease the pain away. His eyes drifted shut, and darkness surrounded him.