Every Mile Is Two, PG-13
Warnings: Implied character deaths.
Notes: Written for a ficathon. The prompt I chose was - Situation 2: Dean and Sam are temporarily separated and miss each other. Or, if you want to be evil, they don't miss each other, but it has to be believable and include an explanation.
Disclaimer: Don't own the boys or the show. The end.
It's three in the morning when he stumbles into the hotel room, soaked to the bone and beaten to hell. It's all there, right where he left it: the newspaper clippings, his dad's journal, empty food wrappers. There's only one thing missing, but it's been gone for weeks now.
Moonlight filters in through the half-closed blinds and bathes the room in stripes of shadow and light. He flips the switch by the door and flinches in the harsh light. He gets the rooms with the single bed now because he doesn't like to roll over and be reminded by an empty bed that Sam is gone.
Dean looks for his bag and starts stuffing clothes inside. He's leaving town tomorrow, today actually, and he wants to be ready to go by daybreak. He doesn't care if that's three hours away; he's just got to leave. Maybe go west to the middle of nowhere and get lost on some back roads. Or maybe down to the border where he can get lost in the back corner of a bar with a drink in his hand.
He's got one bag and only enough clothes to fit in that bag. He learned early to travel light - how much of a hassle it was to pack up a suitcase every other day.
Don't take what you don't need. Unpack only what you have to. Keep everything in one place and you'll never lose it.
His heart is the same way - packing up t-shirts and jeans is a hell of a lot easier than putting his heart back where it belongs so he never takes it out. Not anymore, at least.
He reaches into his jeans' pocket and fishes out his phone. Sam called – but it must have been between Dean bluffing his way through that poker game and him to getting his ass kicked out back because there were five of them and one of him. And because they just could.
He absently dials Sam's number, zipping up his bag and tossing it beside the door with a dull thud.
Sam picks up on the fifth ring, his voice heavy with sleep.
"Hello?" Sam says groggily on the other end.
"Hey man. Sorry I missed your call…I was out."
There's a pause on the other end and Dean can hear Sam shifting in bed. "Dean, it's three in the morning."
Dean glances at the clock and squeezes his eyes shut. Time isn't exactly something he keeps up with anymore. "Jesus, Sammy, I'm sorry," he says, dropping wearily to the bed and resting his head on his hand.
"It's okay," Sam replies softly, "you alright?"
"Yeah, yeah," Dean answers quickly. Too quickly. "Everything good there?"
"Yeah, everything's fine, Dean." Sam says after a moment, worry evident in his voice. "Are you sure you're…"
"I'm fine," Dean interrupts, his voice faltering. "I'll call you tomorrow, Sam. Sorry to wake you."
Dean flips his phone shut before Sam can get another word in. He buries his face in his hands and breathes deeply.
It's been four weeks, five if you count the one he can't remember (for various reasons he doesn't care to disclose) since Sam left. In a bar in Philly, Sam told him he was leaving in the morning so Dean ordered another drink.
Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love.
Of all the places to leave him in, Sam picks that one. Dean just marks it off his lists of places he never wants to go to again. That list is getting pretty damn long, as a matter of fact.
Dean is mad at Sam. He's hurt and lonely and back where he started when Dad left. It's like that stupid dance where you take one step forward and two steps back. Yeah, Dean's doing that.
He hates Sam for leaving. He hates Sam for being selfish and normal and strong.
But most of all, he just hates Sam because he misses him.
Sam stumbles out of class into the sunshine, dead on his feet from having a late night with some friends. Spending the night at the bar takes him back to when he and Dean would lounge at some dingy joint into the early morning. Sam would pour over their dad's journal and try to figure out anything about the gig they were working. Dean would throw darts at the wall and suggestive glances at the waitress.
Sam runs his fingers through his hair and pushes it out of his eyes – it's getting too long. The days are getting longer too, and he's sweating through his thin cotton t-shirt.
There's sunshine and heat in California, and it all reminds Sam of Dean. Dean was warm, his smiles bright, his temper hot.
Sam thinks that wherever Dean is, he's doing okay, because Sam has always tried to convince himself that Dean can function alone – that he doesn't need him. Sam won't admit it, but he knows that's a lie.
He won't admit this either, but maybe he idolizes Dean.
At least just a little.
The trees that line the road in New Jersey are bare, stretching their crooked branches across an empty sky. The winter sun is weak and fading and Dean wonders how it came to this. He wonders why he's alone even though he's always done exactly what he was supposed to his entire life.
Take your brother outside. Don't let the demon out of your sight. Cover your brother's back. Let me go to California.
He doesn't have Sam's charisma. He's got charm, of course, but Sam's got something that makes people trust him. It's in his eyes and his voice – his soft brown eyes and quiet voice that make you want to believe everything he says.
Dean doesn't have the same fire inside of him that Sam does. Sam wants out and Dean wants in. Sam searches for everything but the monsters and finds a life that is normal and safe and accepted.
Dean wants to see this world – just once – but he could never stay there because he wouldn't know what to do in it.
Sam always did.
It's five in the morning and Dean still hasn't found a decent motel, or at least what he considers to be decent. Sam thinks Dean's idea of a suitable place to crash for a night or two leaves a lot to be desired so he doesn't get his hopes up.
Sam needs a haircut (it's even longer now) and Dean needs a shave and they both need something they'll never find in this lifetime – like a place where they can sleep for longer than a few days.
That's called a home, right? But maybe home isn't a house and a mom and a dad. Maybe it's a brother and a car and an endless stretch of road. Maybe.
So for now, they're content. It only took Sam a few months to wander back, and it took even less time for Dean to take him back.
Dean says I wish Dad were here, expect that he doesn't say it - he just thinks it. But Sam knows - knows by the way Dean's fingers ghost over the pages of John's journal and trace the soft edges of that picture.
And because Sam's been thinking it too.
From a pay phone in Wisconsin, Dean dials John's number and curses into the phone. Damn it, Dad, pick up. John answers on the fifth ring and Dean almost sobs.
"Dad, he's gone," Dean whispers, leaning his head against the smooth glass of the phone booth, his fingers leaving smudges down the dirty pane.
"You said he went back to school," John responds, his voice soothing and gentle. He's had this conversation with Dean before.
"No, I mean…" Dean clutches the phone tighter and steadies his voice, "I mean, he's gone. He's dead."
There's silence on the other end and Dean almost wishes he'd gotten his father's voicemail.
His knees give out so he sinks to the floor of the booth and pulls his legs to his chest, letting the phone dangle from its cord. Dean doesn't hear anything John says in response.
All he can think about is how if he had never picked up that newspaper and opened to that story and traveled to that town - none of this would have happened.
Dean, listen to me. Dean drops his forehead to his knees. Dean, stay there. Stay in town. Dean cries, silent and broken. Dean, son, please. I'm coming.
The sun sinks below the horizon and Dean is cold. He just hopes he has a little bit of fire left because Sam didn't die for nothing.
Dean. He says, cradling his son's head. Dean, you can stop now. Sam is waiting for you. Go take care of your brother, son.
Dean says Yes, sir like he always does and his eyes flutter close.
John crosses the state line in the Impala and pushes a tape into the cassette player.
Dean and Sam left a lot of things behind: their extra clothes in the backseat, their weapons in the trunk, and his journal on the dash.
They left maps in the glove box and trash on the floorboards.
They left their childhood in Kansas and their memories - they scattered those across the country.
Sometimes, they left each other.
Dean never told him what took Sam, but John just doesn't have the strength to go on another crusade. He doesn't think his boys would want that anyway.
John leaves them both in Kansas.