Rating: T for language
Disclaimer: I don't own anything remotely related to Supernatural. It all belongs to WB.
Summary: After leaving Lawrence, the boys stop to regroup.
A/N. Un beta'd, since I know no one to beat Grandma for me, so all mistakes are mine alone.
In a riverside parking bay, on the edge of Lawrence.
The voice seemed to come from a distance; so distant Dean Winchester might have chosen to ignore it had it not been laced with concern. The voice was worried about something, and even in his state of melancholy it was something Dean was compelled to respond to.
He took a breath, surprised at how shaky it felt going into his lungs, and turned his head toward the source of intrusion.
His young brother, Sam.
Blue green eyes studied his face, making Dean awkward. Rising from the hood, he took a couple of steps away from his car.
"What?" he asked, a little more gruffly than he would have liked. Sam was never a stupid kid, and Dean knew that to reply to him in such a way would only make him more anxious.
"I asked if you were okay?"
"Sure." Dean replied a little too quickly, trying to hide behind his trademark cocky grin. "You? You're sure as hell going to black and blue tomorrow."
Sam gave a slight nod. "Yeah, but it's going to be gone in a couple of days. What about yours?"
"I wasn't the one slammed being against walls."
"I wasn't talking about physical bruises." Sam pushed gently.
Dean sighed. "Sammy, don't."
Sam scowled. "I'm just concerned, Dean. It's what people do when someone they care about is troubled by something."
Dean walked away from his brother to the rivers edge. Picking up a stone, he lobbed it as far up stream as he could.
"Dean." Sam pleaded, dogging his brother's steps.
When Dean turned again to look at him, Sam saw fire in his eyes.
"Sam, I said don't. I'm fine, so don't go all flick chick on me." He warned.
"I just thought…"
"Well don't. Don't think, okay Sam? The job is done. The poltergeist is gone. Jenny's fine. The kids are fine. The house is fine. Every Goddamn thing in Lawrence is FINE!" Dean cringed as the last word came out sounding like half a sob.
"Shit!" he hissed, and picking up another stone and threw it as hard as he could.
Angry with himself for allowing his front to slip, he knew it would take some fancy talking to get Sam to let it drop now. The problem was he felt too tired, both emotionally and physically, to fight.
A long silence stretched out between the boys, and for a while they watched the water cascading over rocks; bubbling and gurgling it's way toward the ocean.
"I'm sorry." Sam eventually said. "I saw how hard it was for you. I shouldn't have made you come."
Dean sighed and scrubbed at his tired face.
"Yes, you should. You were right. Jenny needed help. That thing would have killed her and her family if it hadn't been for your dream, vision – whatever you want to call it. This is what we do. No matter how hard it is. It's just….."
His voice trailed away.
Sam came and stood in front of him.
"It's just what?" he asked quietly.
For the longest moment, Dean hesitated, and just as Sam thought he wasn't going to answer.
"Sometimes." He started, eyes still fixed on the moving water. "Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can see her face so clearly."
Sam didn't have to ask to know whom he was talking about.
"All smiling and pretty." Dean went on. "I can sometimes hear her voice. Soft and gentle. Always calm. You were the last person she spoke to. Did you know that?"
Dean turned to his brother; his eyes brimming with unshed tears.
Sam shook his head mutely, shocked by what he saw.
Dean smiled sadly, causing a tear to escape. "Dad had taken me to my room and was tucking me in when she came to say goodnight to you. I could hear her voice from my room. I couldn't hear what she was saying; there was just the soft tone. Then she started to hum." Dean's face suddenly clouded with grief. "I remember noticing when it stopped. It wasn't until I was about eight that I realised, the moment she stopped humming was the moment the demon got her."
Sam closed his eyes for a moment as a new kind of understanding washed over him. Dean may not have seen their mother die, like he had seen Jess die, but he was still painfully aware of the precise second her life was taken away.
"Dean. I…" Sam didn't know what to say.
He watched for a second as his brother tried desperately to rein in his emotions. Then, despite knowing Dean would hate it, Sam wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into a solid embrace.
"I'm sorry, man. I didn't know."
Sam felt Dean stiffen and waited to be pushed away as normal, but the push didn't come. After halting moment Sam felt his brother's fingers gripping his jacket and his arms tighten as Dean returned the hug fiercely.
Dean held on until he was sure he could face his brother without falling apart, then pulled back.
"It's okay, Sammy." He said, patting his brother's cheek lightly and walking back up the car.
Why didn't you tell me?" Sam asked, following him.
"It wouldn't have solved anything, Sammy." He said, trying and failing miserably to fix a smile to his face. "Our own problems don't come into it. You know that. Busting ghostly butts is what we do. If that means sometimes doing stuff we'd rather not, then it's tough."
Once again, Sam was lost for words - something Dean was quick to take advantage of it by getting into the Impala. Sam watched his brother as he slid the keys into the ignition and gunned the engine. When he didn't join him straight away, Dean met his gaze with raised eyebrows and an expression that asked So, are you coming?
Sam shook his head slightly and slid into the passenger seat. Dean looked at him, his self-assured grin firmly back in place and playfully punched Sam in the shoulder.
"Come on, little bro. Let's get the hell out of Dodge." He said, guiding his beloved car out onto the highway.
As Lawrence melted away behind them, the boys fell into a comfortable silence. Sam looked out of the window, lost in thought as the fields whipped by.
Just about everyday now he learned something new about his brother, and mostly they were things to be proud of.
Today was no different.
Today Sam had found a new level of self-control in his brother that he had no idea was there. Hell, he thought, Dean probably didn't even know it was there.
And while it did make him proud, it also made him so very sad…