Sam heaved the duffle bag into the Impala's back seat and closed the door. He wiped a drop of sweat from his temple and looked back to the old house one more time, squinting in the sunlight. Missouri and his father stood on the porch, talking quietly. Bear lay in front of the rear tire, panting softly.
A body came to rest beside his, elbow to elbow and shoulder to shoulder. "Kinda a nice old house, for a bed and breakfast in southern Georgia."
Sam nodded, swallowing. "Missouri get a hold of Linda's kids?"
"Yeah, they're flying down this weekend to go through the stuff. They're going to sell the house."
Sam blinked when he felt Bear's head settle on his foot. "What about the dog?"
Dean shrugged. "He'll get a nice home."
This was a nice home, Sam wanted to say. "He's old- he deserves a nice family."
They stood in silence for a few moments, watching the adults. At last, Dean spoke up.
Sam shrugged half-heartedly. "I will be." In time.
"I'm sorry. I know you liked her-"
"She was a good person," Sam said firmly. "She didn't want any of it." She had died protecting him, as had his mother and maybe even Jess.
Dean looked at the ground. "She was a good person," he repeated softly, respect in his voice. "But we gotta move on."
The words twisted Sam's heart even more and he could swear it would split apart any moment. "I know."
He looked at Dean, who offered a cocky smile as if it would cure the pain Sam felt inside. This had been a battle not easily won. There was no celebration to be had here. Both Dean and their father had been sewn up late last night, once they'd returned to the house. Missouri had been waiting anxiously, even going so far as to have a first aid kit out on the kitchen table. But time had always been the best healer of Winchester wounds, and now that the wraith was gone, they had plenty of it.
They had made up some bullshit story about a campfire accident, and Linda's children, although shaken by the loss, bought it. In the darkness before dawn, Sam had marked her deathbed with a simple wooden cross and a handful of Linda's own roses. The loss weighed heavily in his heart, reawakening the pain of loosing Jessica. Tears had been threatening to spill all morning and a hard lump in his throat made talking painful. The house had been quiet all morning, the sense of loss overwhelming and oppressive. Even the dog was lethargic.
At last, John and Missouri stepped off the porch and approached the brothers. "Everything's set," John announced. "A neighbor will be by tonight to feed the dog and check on things."
This was the part where they left, got into their cars and drove away, never looking back. Sam swallowed.
"I got a call this morning- there's a job for me in Houston. Missouri's coming with me." He stopped, looking between both boys. "You guys gonna be okay?"
Dean nodded. "Yes sir. I'm taking Sam back to California."
"Sam? You okay, son?"
Sam was too depressed to express his sadness at their family's separation, too depressed to get angry at his father's announcement. Suddenly he felt exhausted of it all, of the hunting and the driving and the wanting something better… he was tired of this life. But they were looking at him, hope flickering in their eyes, waiting for his response. He managed to give them a flash of his smallest smile. "I'll be fine."
And maybe, in time, he would be.
As they drove away, Sam rested his forehead against window as quiet, classic rock filled the silence. Outside, a large hawk glided through the air, the first animal to approach the forest in eleven years. It swooped down, coming to rest on a blackened branch just inside the tree line, its wings fluttering experimentally. The bird quickly settled down and remained where it was, turning its head to survey its new territory.