Disclaimer: Sad to say, I own nothing Supernatural.
Author's Note: Okay, i don't know why I decided this was a good idea, it's probably not, but I just did discover P. L. Wynter's challenges and I wanted to one but couldn't decide which. Anyway, I figured what would be a real challenge would be to put them all thus far into one story. Yeah, so we'll just how that works out. Anywho, takes place after the death of our most despised demon and is therefor somewhat AU, also because some of the challenges kind of require it to be AU, like having a childhood similar to Max's.
"No, I heard you. Stop what?"
Stop what? Stop what! Can he really be that clueless? I peel my eyes from the road just long enough to check, size him up and see if he's screwing with me. He's not. "Stop breathing through your nose."
He stares at me for a minute; I can feel his eyes on the side of my face. Then he bursts out laughing, the little bitch. "Oh my God," he says. The sound of his cackling grates even more than the nose whistle and I can feel all the blood rush to my head. I grit my teeth to keep from saying anything and tighten my grip on the wheel. Just focus on the car, Dean. She'll get you through. Feel it? Feel her strength? Feel her love? Who needs human interaction anyway? Well, some human interaction is a good thing, a necessary thing. Hey I love my car, but it's just not right to love your car. What the hell am I going on about? Damn it, Sam! Now you're literally driving me crazy!
"So, how much further?" He's still laughing, trying to hide it, ducking his head, but I know better. Lately, man, I never thought I'd say this, but I miss the good old moody hangdog Sam.
"Not far," I manage, even though my jaw still feels clenched. "Maybe an hour."
"And who are these people again?"
"Of yours?" Something about the way he says it – what's the word? – incredulous. Yeah, see, college boy, I know stuff.
"Yeah, friends of mine. What of it?"
"Nothing. Nothing. I just didn't realize that you actually had any friends, that's all." Okay, so maybe I can't blame him for thinking that, but come on, does everything have to be punctuated by Sammy giggles? Punk. "Come on, Dean, I'm just kidding." Yeah, right. "Dean?" See if I care. "Hey." I'm not listening. I'm not listening. "Dude! What is your problem?"
"My problem?" Ha, how's that for incredulous? "What's my problem?"
"Uh, yeah. I mean, seriously man, we're supposed to be on vacation here. Why don't you loosen up a little?"
You know those moments you have in life where someone says something and it's like a switch flips in your brain? And you start thinking about how ridiculous this all is? Sammy's telling me to loosen up, that's crazy. Yeah, well, this isn't one of those moments. "Loosen up?"
"Dean, we're on our way to Vegas for crying out loud. Las Vegas. And we're staying with your friends. And this was all your idea in the first place."
"You were totally psyched a few weeks ago."
"Why are you repeating everything I'm saying?"
I can't help it. I know that look, the sound of his voice, pure pissy Sammy. I feel my lips curl up a little. Just a little. And I can't help but piss him off some more. "Why are you repeating everything I'm saying?" I mumble it, but he hears, lets out an angry sigh.
"That doesn't even…never mind."
See, that's the Sam I know and love. He slumps down in his seat and I can tell, without even looking, that he's got his arms folded across his chest, his face in full pout mode. I laugh.
"Unbelievable," he grumbles.
"You're like freaking Bipolar."
"Yeah, whatever." I squint out at the road ahead of us. It's actually pretty cloudy, witch I don't get. I mean, this is the desert. Nothing but desert. Still, it's like the sand sucks up all the sunlight while it can and spits it back up when the clouds come out. There's a lovely image. Point is, it might be cloudy, but I have to squint like crazy anyway. And it's starting to give me a headache.
"I know what this is about, Dean." I just can't get a break. Maybe it's not the light that's making my head hurt. "It's not that bad. I mean, it won't be…you know…like last time."
Last time? Oh, you mean when you took off and left me alone with Dad for four years while you partied and studied and fell in love and had a life. Yeah, it won't be like that at all. So fucking clueless.
"Dean, I'm serious." I don't know if he's waiting for me to say something or not, but I'm sure as hell not gonna. He shifts in his seat, I hear the rustle of his jacket, the squeak of the leather, but everything else is quiet. The desert. Out here, even with the engine's hum and Sam's breathing, the buzz of the tape deck and whisper of music, there's still nothing but silence. It takes him awhile, but eventually he starts up again. "Look, we talked about this. After…everything…I told you I wanted to go back. Dad even said – "
"I don't care about what Dad said." It's amazing how much there's not out here, how much nothing there can be in one place.
"Things are finally better, Dean. With all of us. They might not be good, but…Dad's getting better…"
"Dad doesn't even know what better means, Sammy. Just because he said he'd clean up his act – "
"He's doing the whole rehab thing, that's something." Yeah, something. But it ain't much. Just because someone says they want to turn their life around doesn't mean they can, or will. Dad's been a drunk going on 20 years. A month in rehab's not gonna fix that. Giving up the booze…it's not gonna erase the last two decades. It won't help us get back those four years without Sammy, those years that were lost because in a drunken haze he knocked his son's head into a wall and told him if he ever came back he'd kill him. It won't heal that lovely little scar on my back from his belt buckle, or the one Sam's thigh from his cigarette butt.
It won't bring Mom back. And, let's face it, that's really the only thing he ever wanted anyway. The only reason he ever started hunting and training us to do the same. And a couple years into it all, when it finally seemed to click that even if he did find the thing that killed her, and killed it too, she would still be six feet under, well that's the only reason he started going on his pathetic little benders. So what, the demon's dead. Yea. But so's Mom, still. So what reason does he really have to stay sober?
"He loves us, Dean. He didn't always show it…hell, sometimes he showed the exact opposite. But he knows, and he feels bad, guilty. He's ready to change." Man, I hate when he does that. It's like he can read my mind. Gives me the creeps.
"I'm not saying we should forget about everything, or forgive…I don't know."
"Sam, I'm not talking about this." Case closed.
"Well, Dad's not even the point anyway."
"Oh, good." Why can't he ever just let things drop? "What is the point then?" Why can't I?
"In two weeks I'm moving back to California. I'm going to law school. I'm gonna talk to my friends and make new ones, and get on with my life."
"I'm going to be happy."
"I'm happy for you," I say, maybe a little bit too sarcastically.
"I wish you would be." Yeah, well, I wish I could be.
We hit the outskirts of Vegas around six and the sun, which finally came out, was starting that pre-sunset golden glowing thing it always does out here. I remember it well. In another hour it'll turn so orange it's almost red. Then, an hour after that the burning red will somehow shoot out layers of purple through the sky. Then it'll slowly sink away, leaving nothing but bitter cold black and a sprinkling of stars. Yeah, the desert. I wonder if it's kind of like this in Palo Alto.
We made it all the way here without bringing up anymore "uncomfortable" subjects, which, really, was all I could ask for. But still, Sam refused to sit still and keep quiet. I would have thought that after shutting him down about Dad he'd be all sulky, but no, apparently he just can't help but be giddy. Damn him.
"What about the Jackalope?"
"Jackalope." He says it like I'm supposed to know what the hell he's talking about, like I'm some kind of moron for not knowing what a jack-a-whatever is. When I look his way and he sees I'm serious, seriously out of the loop anyway, he shakes his head and laughs. "You know, a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope. A Jackalope."
How that could happen I have no idea, but the image of a rabbit and a deer, I just have a feeling, will be stuck in my head for a long time. "What about it?"
"You think they're real?"
God, I hope not. "Don't know. Hey," I turn to him, suddenly remembering something, "are you talking about those creepy-ass stuffed rabbits people have with antlers glued to their heads?"
Now it's my turn to shake my head and laugh. "Man, you're an idiot."
"What, stranger things have happened. It's possible."
"Yeah, well you just keep your eyes peeled for one. Let me know what you see. Maybe you should be on the lookout for Leprechauns too while you're at it."
"Actually, Leprechauns probably are real, well, as real as any other creatures from Celtic mythology anyway. You know, fairies, brownies, Lady of the Lake."
"Dude, you're so gay."
"Whatever man," he says, a lift in his voice. I pull into the long circular driveway, which I don't remember them having the last time I was here – of course that was, what, almost four years ago? – and put the car in park. "This is it?" He looks up at the big old house and I can tell what he's thinking.
"They remodeled. Did a bunch of renovations. Wanted something…different." A Victorian-looking house in the middle of the desert was definitely different. "When Sal decided to open a Bed and Breakfast, she said only this look would work."
"A good old fashioned Bed and Breakfast in the middle of nowhere just outside Las Vegas. Bet they get a ton of business."
"Enough that they can afford to comp our stay, little brother," I say, getting out of the car. As soon as I shut the door I hear a familiar voice saying hi, see a familiar girl raise her arm in a wave.
"That's Sal?" I wave back and look at Sam just in time to catch the smirk on his face. "And just how good of friends were you?"
Hey, I get it, it's not like I never thought about it, I mean, she's hot, and only a couple of years older than me. But still… "Dude, she's married."
"Dean," she says in that light Southern accent as she makes her way toward us. Everything about her is sweet and southern. Even after being out here for almost five years, she's kept her accent, her long soft, wavy hair, her impractical strappy heels and flowing skirts. She throws her arms around me and hugs me tight and I can even smell the south on her, Magnolia. "I'm so glad y'all could make it. Oh, I just feel like it's been forever since we've seen you!" she says before finally letting go. "And you must be Sam." She charges around the car and pulls him in for a hug too. Whatever she says to him is muffled when she leans into his neck, but I can make out something about feeling like she knows him already. "Come on," she says as she grabs the duffel from him, "Let's get you settled."
The house is nothing like I remembered it. Nothing. When I came here last it was a mess. They had just bought the place, Sally and Jake, and were getting started on all the renovations when weird things started happening. It was pretty typical haunting stuff, flickering lights, cold spots, sound of footsteps. Then they started seeing things, apparitions. Sal, being the gossip she is – and man, is that girl a gossip – told everyone about it. Some stupid little ghost web site thing ran a story about it, about how they might have to give up the house and their plans for a business, and all the money they already sunk in the place, because they were worried about the safety of their daughter. Turns out that was only partially true. Sally never thought they were in danger at all, but that's because she's a glass half-full kind of gal.
Anyway, I came, I saw, I exorcised or whatever. There were a few ghosts unliving in the house, a kid and his mom who were killed by some wannabe mobster back in the forties, and the mobster guy himself. Sal still probably thinks they were totally harmless, but once she found about what really happened, she was more than happy to see the killer get sent to Hell. At least that's where I assume he went, although I sometimes wonder.
"Where's Jake?" I ask, interrupting her tour. With Sal, if you don't step up and but in, you'll never be able to get a word in. I learned that while I stayed to help with all the construction. Three months. It was a long time to be any one place, but they paid me and gave me free room and board. And more than that, there was no trying to work with Dad, no trying not to miss Sammy.
"He ran out to get some groceries, should be back anytime." She turns to Sam. "My husband. He took our Callie with him, had to. She's quite a handful, sometimes you just have to get that girl out of the house and hope you can exhaust her enough that she'll finally just collapse and…stop." She laughs, a light almost high-pitched chuckle, and both Sam and I can't help but smile.
"Callie's your daughter?" he asks as we make our way upstairs. Again he reaches for the bag Sal's struggling with, but she won't let him have it.
"And owner of all this mess." On the landing she kicks a stuffed lion out of the way and down the hall. "Sorry about that."
"Not at all. It's been a while since we've been in a…home."
"Oh, well, it certainly is that. Lived in, we'll say." She opens a door and walks in, throws the duffel on the bed and smacks her hands together. "Well, Sam, this is your room. You've got a garden view. See." We move to the window and look down. They've built a little patio surrounded by some patches of grass and flowers, a few trees. They must have to water it like ten times a day out here. "And there's the hot tub. Just wait 'til it gets dark," she almost whispers to him, "it's heavenly."
"You just get yourself all settled in, Sweetheart. And you," she says as she grabs my arm, "let's see if we can't find some place to stash you."
"Do I get a garden view too?"
"Not a chance."
I didn't get a great view, but I did get my own bathroom, so who am I to complain? Sal left me to unpack, but not without first informing me that I looked like crap, which seemed, I guess because of her drawl, more concerned than insulting. But she didn't push, she just told me supper'd be ready in an hour and I should come on down then. So I did. And now I'm sitting here sandwiched between a six-year-old girl and Sam, who with his new upbeat outlook on life, kind of reminds of a six-year-old girl anyway.
"You need another beer?" I nod to Jake and hand him my empty bottle, wait for him to come back with a nice new cold one. Sam gives me a look, a do-you-really-think-you-should-be-having-another-drink kind of look. But I ignore him. Hey, he's the one who said this was supposed to be a vacation. He leans over me and talks to Callie, maybe because he likes kids – and she is a cute kid – or maybe just to get in my way and on my nerves. It's hard to tell.
"So is Callie short for anything?"
Before she can respond, Sal chimes in with, "Carolina. See, I'm from South Carolina originally, don't know if you could tell. So I wanted to name her after something that reminded me of home. Jake shot down Magnolia and Charlene, which was my grandmother's name – Charlene, not Magnolia – but he okayed Carolina, just as long as we didn't call her Carol. Why was that, dear?"
"Right, right, Carol was an old girlfriend. Didn't want to remind him of that. So, anyway, we dropped the South, obviously, and just started calling her Callie for short. Sometimes Cal."
"Like her mom," Sam says with a smile, even though his eyes are still on me. I look him straight in those damn puppy dog eyes and take a long swig of my fresh beer. He turns and shakes his head, so disapproving.
"I remember you," the kid next to me says. When I don't respond she pokes me in the side and almost makes me drop my bottle. I look at her. "I remember you."
"Oh yeah," I say, humoring her. She was practically a baby last time I saw her.
"You put bunnies on my wall." I cock my head toward her and smile; she's right, I did. How old do you have to be to remember stuff like that? Not too old, I guess, after all, I can still remember making cookies with my mom, and her pushing me on the swings. I can still remember my dad tucking me in, no trace of alcohol on his breath. I can still remember, though barely, a time when I wasn't terrified of the dark, when I knew that even if there was something in my closet, my mom and dad would protect me from it no matter what, always.
"Bunnies?" I hear Sam's voice and the images in my head, the memories, all disappear, gone completely. I wonder if they were really memories at all, maybe just wishful thinking.
"Oh yeah," Jake says trying not to laugh. "Dean put up all the wallpaper in the house." He covers his mouth with the back of his hand but the giggles – and there really is no other word for them but that, giggles – spill out. "He was such a shitty carpenter. Couldn't even drive a nail in straight."
"Hey, I wasn't that bad."
"Oh honey," Sal says looking at me, "you were using a nail gun." And everybody laughs. But to be fair, those aren't the kind of guns I was trained to use. I should just be glad they aren't mentioning the saw fiasco. "Oh, oh, remember when he sawed through the drywall?" And there it is.
"Yeah, how did you do that, man?"
"I got skills," I say and quickly down the rest of my beer.
There's a chance that this may just be the longest vacation of my life.