Summary: Sam and Dean take an unexpected break that leads them into uncharted territory.
A/N: This fic has been the bane of my existence for the past month now, so I figured I better start posting it before I seriously lose my mind. This will be a LONG fic, which is always a scary thing, considering my aversion to writing things with a plot. Therefore, it starts off a bit slow, in my opinion, but there is a conflict that will eventually mount hopefully, maybe. The idea, however, is not my own, so much thanks to Lauren, who gave me the idea and let me run with it. Hopefully it doesn't hit too far from the mark you were envisioning. And, always, always, always, thanks to geminigrl11. I can't even express what she's done for me and this fic. Gem, next time I get it in my head to write a long fic, will you please talk me out of it? PLEASE! By the way, uoy kcor ym ecaf ffo!
Disclaimer: I just like to play, I really do.
"O! what a noble mind is here o'erthrown"
-from William Shakespeare's Hamlet
There were two things that Dean knew better than anything else.
The first was his brother. He knew Sam inside and out, could read him like a book, or at least he thought he could. He knew when Sam was lying to him, even if he didn't know what he was lying about or why he was lying at all. He knew when his brother was happy, really happy, which was a rare thing anymore. He knew when his brother was upset, not just annoyed in the petulant, little-brother sort of way, but truly bothered, which thankfully wasn't as often as most people would think, Sam's masterful brooding aside.
After all, he had practically raised Sam. He'd changed his diapers, fed him, put on his Band-Aids, and even told him about the birds and the bees. There was very little Dean didn't know about his brother, his proximity as older brother nearly guaranteeing such.
The other thing Dean knew better than anything else was his car. He'd known that car even longer than he'd known Sammy, and a car was far less averse to exposing its imperfections than a little brother was. He'd learned to drive in it, learned to kiss in it, learned to make a nearly reckless escape in it. He'd seen it through a few minor fender benders and a host of costly repairs that grieved him almost as much as anything possibly could.
Sam was more important than the car in all the ways that mattered, but they were both giving him fits right now.
He'd first noticed the problem with Sam when they'd finished their last hunt. It had been a haunting in southern California, which had started and ended normally enough, and neither of them had been any worse for wear when they set out. But as soon as they set out on the road, Sam had been different, been off. At first, Dean let it slide, hoping that Sam would normalize on his own, but last night he'd caught his brother surfing the web at 3 AM with nothing more than a feeble excuse of not being tired.
He'd cursed at Sam and guilted him back into bed, where Sam awoke a mere hour later from a nightmare. A nightmare, Sam assured him, not a vision, but it was bad enough. He'd been hoping that the nightmares were behind them--they had tapered off ever since their trip back to Lawrence--because Sam was irritable when he didn't sleep, and Dean got tired of cracking jokes no one laughed at.
But while the lack of sleep on Sam's part concerned him, it was the car that was garnering his attention at the moment.
Dean first noticed the noise an hour outside of California. It was small, nearly imperceptible, but he could hear the unusual timbre of the humming engine just below the sound of the highway.
He listened to it with a scowl, and considered pulling over, but the highway was lonely and barren and the day was hot. He spared a glance at Sam, who was staring out into the countryside.
"Do you hear that?"
Sam squinted at him. "What?"
"That noise," he said, nodding toward the front end of the car.
Sam listened for a moment. "No. Why?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "You're paranoid."
"Just careful, Sammy," Dean said. "You've got to be aware of the little things, keep track of the signs, or they become big things."
Sam was slumped down in the seat, arms across his chest, his face set in its typical brood. It was a familiar enough sight, but Dean could see that there was still something off, something more off than the uncertain twinge of the engine.
"You get any sleep today?"
Sam simply kept his eyes out his window.
"Not really tired," Sam mumbled.
Dean snorted. In the afternoon sun he could clearly see the dark circles that were entrenched under Sam's eyes. "You look worse that she sounds," he commented with another nod to the car.
"Right." Dean turned his eyes in exapseration back out to the highway. "You're always fine."
A moment passed between them with nothing but the sounds of the road filling the car. Sam offered no further explanation and Dean ventured no further concerns.
When it was clear Sam didn't plan on discussing his problem any time soon, Dean considered another tactic to lure Sam out of his funk. Humor, especially at the expense of his kid brother, never failed to make things seem normal, and sometimes acting normal was the first step in attaining it. "I think you need to apologize for your unkind words."
"About me being paranoid."
"Oh, come on."
"You can never be too careful about these things. If not for this car, how would we get anywhere?"
"You're a freak."
"Go to sleep," Dean ordered with a grin.
With a frustrated sigh, Sam sunk farther down in his seat, turning his head away from his brother. "I'm not tired."
"Aw, does Sammy need a lullaby?"
"Shut up," Sam grumbled and closed his eyes.
Dean snickered and pressed down on the gas, heading into the Utah desert.
It was only a half hour later when Dean stopped for gas. As he pulled into the station, he noticed the clinking sound seemed to become more vigorous as the engine whined to a stop.
He glanced at Sam, who was doing a pathetic job of pretending to sleep. "You need anything while we're stopped?"
"I'm going to run to the bathroom," he said, sitting up. "You want me to get you anything?"
Dean peered at the road stretching beyond the gas station. "Nope. I think I'll wait for someplace a little more interesting to stop for real."
Sam just rolled his eyes and got out.
Climbing out after him, Dean moved around to the far side, readying the pump to fill the car up. Putting the nozzle in, he started filling, and leaned back on the car, taking in the surroundings.
The town was nondescript enough to be any of the nameless places they had passed through in their lifetime on the road. The gas station was just on the edge of town, and he could see that the road went straight through, impeded only by a single stop sign up the road.
Sam returned just as the car was filled. "You want me to drive?" Sam asked.
"You haven't slept."
"Yes, I did."
"You're a bad liar, Sam."
Sam relented. "I rested."
"And I'm driving," Dean insisted.
"You need to rest, too, Dean."
"I can rest while driving. Besides, I'd never get any sleep worrying about your tired ass behind the wheel."
Sam patience with his brother's concern was waning. "You need to let this go."
"Just get in the car," Dean ordered.
"You've been driving all day. And all day yesterday. Give me the keys."
Dean stared hard at his brother, noting the defiance in his stance, and considered. Sam could function under remarkably little sleep, and he'd never known his brother to nod off at any time that wasn't appropriate. His own eyes were weary, and suddenly he craved some rest. "Fine. But I swear—"
"I'm not going to hurt your stupid car."
Dean threw the keys at him and slid into the passenger's seat.
Sam plopped down behind the wheel, turning the key into the ignition.
The engine rumbled, spluttered cacophonously, and then died with a series of intermittent clanks.
They both stared ahead in the silence that followed.
"You hurt my car."
"Shut up," Sam said curtly, trying the key again.
The engine didn't turn this time, only offered a few pathetic grumbling clinks, before stilling.
"You still think I'm paranoid?"
Dean generally didn't trust mechanics, especially not with his baby, but beggars couldn't be choosers in rural Utah.
Sam said it was fortunate that the gas station had a body shop. Dean didn't think anything about the Impala breaking down in the middle of the desert was fortunate.
The mechanic on duty was a greasy-haired kid who looked younger than Sam. He was skinny like Sam too, but Dean could tell there was little muscle under the kid's stained jumpsuit. He had stuffed himself under the car right in the parking lot, and when he came scooting out, his nose was wrinkled thoughtfully.
Dean tried to be patient. Sam had already disappeared after buying a paper, to see what was up in the town, leaving Dean alone with his angst over his car. "So what's wrong with her?"
The mechanic looked pensive. "Hard to say. I'm going to have to do a full inspection to be sure."
"We're kind of on a tight schedule," Dean began.
The kid seemed unfazed by Dean's subtle urgency. "We'll be working on her. But it may take awhile."
"You want a thorough job, right? I mean, I could guess and say it's the transmission right now, but do you really want to pay for all the parts and labor for it to be something else?" the kid asked, in a clearly rhetorical tone of voice. Dean detected a hint of sass in his youthful voice and cringed as the kid tried to smooth over his anxieties. "You let us do our job. Your baby's safe with us."
"We're just passing through—"
"There's a nice little motel up the way," the kid said with a nod down the street. "Other end of town. Across from the pizza place."
Dean struggled to maintain his cool, to not go off on some kid for being greasy and annoying. He forced a smile. "When are you going to know?"
The kid shrugged. "Boss'll be in after lunch. I'll get her towed into the shop and get her up. We'll see. You can call us tonight before 8 and we'll tell you what we know."
Dean glanced at the car, then back to the kid, then back at the car again, and grumbled his acquiescence.
Taking a business card and leaving a fake name, he emptied the trunk of their meager travel necessities, checked to be sure the weapons were locked and concealed, and left the parking lot on foot and headed toward the heart of town.
It wasn't hard to find Sam. His kid brother was lounging on a park bench in the quaint town square, flipping absently through his newspaper.
He sauntered up to his brother, dropping the bags at his feet. "Well, Sam, how would you like a little time off?"
Sam raised his eyebrows, glancing at Dean from behind the paper. "Time off?"
"Sure," he replied easily. There were few things that could improve his mood without fail. Tormenting his younger brother was one of them. "We can take in the sights and action in wonderful New Junction, Utah." He flicked at the newspaper.
"Here?" Sam lowered the paper.
Sam glanced around, taking in the two block long main drag of town. Gazing to the left, they could easily see where the road dwindled into open land, mountains in the distance. "Dean, the main attraction in this town is probably karaoke night. Not exactly your ideal vacation spot."
Dean grinned. "We know how good you are at karaoke."
Sam rolled his eyes. "The car's that bad off?"
"They're not sure what's wrong with her," Dean replied with a sigh, plopping down next to Sam on the bench.
"You know, the car has been breaking down a lot lately."
"Sam." Dean's voice carried a warning.
"I'm just saying." Sam tried to sound innocent.
"Well don't," Dean said, grabbing Sam's duffel and tossing it at him. "Not if you value your life and your ability to have children in the future."
True to the greasy mechanic's word, there was a rather decrepit looking motel on the far edge of town. The paint was peeling on the doors and three cars were parked in the lot. The VACANCY sign flickered, clearly on its last legs, and Sam figured that the NO had never seen any action whatsoever.
Dean had gone in to secure a room, and left Sam in the sweltering afternoon.
Leaning against the outer wall of the motel, Sam took in the surroundings. The motel was on the way out of town, on the left side of the road next to a café and a Laundromat.
He glanced inside. Dean was leaning over the corner, smiling widely at the young woman behind the counter. She was leaning into him provocatively, and Sam could see her seductive upward glances at his brother.
With a snort, Sam turned his attention back out to the scenery. He took in the wooded area just behind the sparsely populated motel parking lot.
His eyes wandered across the road, where a rundown pizza joint was standing, its grimy sign boasting the name "Ricky's Pizzeria."
No, New Junction wasn't exactly the ideal place of a vacation, but Sam couldn't deny that he was looking forward to some time away from the hunt. The continual travel was wearing, and recently he had found himself uncomfortable on motel room beds--he was so used to sleeping in the car that the roar of the engine and the trembling of the car over the pavement had become soothing. He could no longer remember where he was half the time, always someplace in between it seemed, always just passing through. The names and faces of countless waitresses and motel clerks were blurry, and he craved a semblance of stability, if only for a while.
With another quick look at Dean, he could see that his older brother fully intended to enjoy his stay in New Junction any way he could. The girl was laughing, and her chest buoyed up nearly into Dean's face as she bit her lower lip suggestively.
Sam could not stop from rolling his eyes. This could take awhile.
With nothing better to do, he pulled the newspaper he had bought at the gas station from his back pocket. He had already scanned the front page, and now opened to the middle, instinctively looking for something noteworthy. After all, even if they slotted a vacation into their schedule, Sam knew from experience that evil didn't take holidays, didn't even believe in a day off, much less a prolonged hiatus. You could never be too prepared, and part of preparedness meant staking out the territory.
A light breeze suddenly came from nowhere, rustling the pages. Sam looked up. The day had been still and hot up to this point.
The breeze came again, and this time he heard it.
A distant whisper, barely louder than the crinkling of the paper in the breeze.
His eyes narrowed and the wind stopped again. Hesitantly he turned his eyes back to the paper.
This time it was undeniable and made him forget about the lackluster headlines for next week's town meeting. Stuffing the paper back into his pocket, he pushed away from the wall, following the direction of the breathless sound.
Instinctively, Sam made his way toward the woods, and the murmur seemed to swell. As he cleared the edge, a shudder raced through him and his heart rate increased.
There were more sounds, overlapping and of varying intensity, and he could feel them pulsing throughout his body, alerting every synapse.
The world seemed to skew and the foliage began to blur as he tried to sort through the whispers.
He blinked, his world refocusing suddenly. He realized he had forgotten to breathe and inhaled a deep breath. He recognized Dean's presence without looking. "I…I thought I heard something."
"Right. Well, if you're done with your little nature walk, let's get settled in."
Sam nodded distantly as Dean made his way back toward the motel. Sam gave one last look into the still woods before following.