Dean leaned across the seat, his arm resting where his brother had just sat. "You know, we made a hell of a team back there."
Sam nodded his head for a moment. He knew what Dean wanted him to say. Yeah, Dean, you're right. You know what, screw the interview! Screw Stanford and all of my hard work. Forget Jessica, the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. Forget my one chance of leading a normal life. Please, take me away from my ordinary safe world and thrust me back in the world of darkness and terror.
He would do anything for his brother…anything except that. Sure he was concerned for his father's wellbeing, although he doubted his father felt the same way about him. But he just couldn't get sucked back into that life. Not when he scraped and clawed his way out.
Sam blinked and gave an almost wistful, "Yeah." How ironic that the one time Dean tried to reach out emotionally Sam couldn't reach back. They were each other's weaknesses. Just as Sam knew exactly how to manipulate Dean to get his way, Dean could bend Sam's will to his own. A part of Sam wanted to run back into his brother's car, and back into his life. But he just couldn't. The time had come for Sam to put his own needs before that of his family's. It was time to concentrate on the life he planned to build with Jessica.
Yeah. The hint of regret in Sam's voice as he uttered that one simple word failed to overshadow the determined posture in his stance. Sam wasn't coming. Dean held back the sigh that had built as he turned away from his younger brother. His last ditch effort had failed, as deep down he supposed he knew it would. He fought the urge to leap out of the car and drag Sam back by his shaggy hair. A couple extra inches isn't the only growth Sam had apparently experienced over the last few years; the kid had also developed quite a backbone. He'd always stood up to their father, a trait Dean was a bit envious of, but now he was able to stand up to Dean. He'd been lucky to drag Sam away for the few days he had, although he knew it was more out of loyalty to Dean than concern for their father. Without another look back he put the car in gear and drove away.
Well, the trip out to California hadn't been a total loss. He'd found his dad's journal and now had a solid lead. 35-111. He just hoped his father would be at the end of the mysterious coordinates.
The car gave a small shudder, and Dean instinctively tightened his hands around the steering wheel. "Easy, baby, easy." Dean ran his right hand across the seat in a soothing manner. The cool leather began to feel warm under his palm as he reached over to where Sam had sat just minutes ago. Dean's green eyes darkened as he recalled seeing his precious car careening full force towards the old dilapidated house, then crashing through…, he pushed the memory away. That damn kid had almost killed the car and himself. Sam did save the day by forcing Constance back into her house, he grudgingly admitted to himself. Dean honestly didn't know if he could have done the same thing.
Dean let his hand rest on the passenger seat. Although it had been mostly empty for the past few years, the occasional young hot thing and his father its only occupants, it had never felt as empty as it did now. Dean clenched his hand into a fist and slammed it against the back of the seat. Damn it, Sam! He'd left his beautiful car a one-lighted cyclops, and left Dean to find their father on his own. Dean was mildly taken aback when he realized the ruling emotion he felt was sadness, not anger.
That was how it had been their whole lives. There was no rationality when it came to the emotions he felt towards his baby brother. Whatever joy he would receive from picking on Sam would be fleeting as guilt would inevitably steal away the victory. All Sam would have to do was flash those hazel puppy dog eyes and Dean would melt. The few times the tables turned and Sam was able to get in a few good ones, Dean found it hard to stay mad at him. Dean always felt a weird sense of pride once the anger faded; maybe there was some hope in corrupting the little goody-two shoes yet. When Sam and his father fought Dean felt torn in two. One side of him felt obligated to stick up for his father, yet his heart went out to Sam. It was harder on him than Dean. Although they were both born into the life of hunters, only Dean felt a true sense of purpose. Dean had four years of memories of a normal life, had known the comfort and love of a mother, and had felt that security melt away in the fire that took his mother away. Sam had only pictures to tie him to the woman who had died above his crib.
Dean sat at a red light as his thoughts strayed back to their fight on the bridge the other night. Mom's gone, and she isn't coming back. Sam's words hadn't lost their edge as once again he felt as if a jagged knife had been ripped through his heart. What right did Sam have to say those words? His whole life Dean had felt pity on Sam. In a sense, Sam had not only been denied a mother, but also a father. Dean had been his dad's "little man," his "quarterback." They had spent hours tossing the football around, going fishing, and just simply laughing. His dad once had an outrageous sense of humor, could find the absurdity in almost any situation. Dean could still see the look on his mom's face as she tried to scold him after he made some juvenile crack that would leave a young Dean in stitches. But on that fateful day when the love of his life died, so did his laughter. John Winchester had been transformed into a soldier on a mission. There was no time for football anymore, or sitting around watching Tom the cat get bested by Jerry the mouse for the hundredth time.
The beep of a horn brought Dean out of his reverie, and he flipped the bird to the truck behind him before peeling under the green traffic light. Dean took his hands off the wheel long enough to rub his face wearily. He knew he was feeling sorry for himself, but he didn't care. He had a right to, damn it! His father was who-knows-where, and the one ally he had left in the world was too wrapped up in his own life to give a damn. His normal picket fences life.
He supposed he should be happy for Sam; he finally had the life he'd always sought. But Dean found himself more upset than glad. What right did Sam have to turn his back on his family? How could he give up the fight so easily? Dean had always known that Sam hated the life he was forced to live. Hell, anyone who had been within earshot of the father/son fights was privy to that fact. Dean supposed deep down, real deep down there was a part of him that secretly sought the normal life Sam was always harping about. But he knew he could never have it, even if they killed the bastard that destroyed their family. How could he possibly when he knew the evils that were in the world? He couldn't live with himself if another family suffered because of his inaction.
The black Chevy Impala slowed to a stop in front of another signal. Dean's anger grew as the red light seemed to grow brighter the longer he stared at it. His whole life he'd considered himself the lucky one. He'd actually gotten a small taste of a normal happy life, unlike his younger brother. Now he realized that Sam was the lucky one. Not having the strong emotional ties allowed him to walk away from the fight. Dean had suffered the tragic loss of his mother, his stable life, his childhood, and most important, his innocence. He wanted, no he needed the creature to suffer as he had, and until he could get his hands on it, he would take his rage out on every monster he could find. Yet to Sam their ongoing quest was just a part of their family, like the weekend hunting trips and after school training sessions.
Yeah. In uttering that one small word, Sam had shut the door on Dean, on the dad, their family, and their mission. "I don't think so, Sammy boy." he muttered. Dean slammed his foot on the gas and turned the car into a squealing u-turn. Interviews could be rescheduled, dates with girlfriends could be postponed, classes could be skipped. Dead fathers could not be brought back. Sure, Dean might be able to track down his dad on his own, but the old cliché was very true in this case…two heads are always better than one. Especially when one of them was smart enough to land a full ride at Stanford.
He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, then changed his mind. He stood a better chance of grabbing Sam if he ambushed him. He felt a twinge of guilt, but brushed it aside. He was just helping Sam fulfill his duty as a son, as a Winchester. No matter what had gone down between them four years ago, Dean knew the love between Sam and his dad was unbreakable. He just had to find the right words to convince his brother of that.
As he pulled in front of Sam's apartment building, he began to run his script through his mind. He'd try to finesse Sam into going, butter him up with "I can't do this without your help." Then move onto a bit of guilt, throw in a little obligation, and then finish him off with what was sure to be the fight to end all fights. Sammy thought he was the stubborn one of the family, well, he ain't seen nothing yet.
Taking a deep breath, he pounded on the front door of Sam's apartment. His frustration grew as no one came to the door. If that little shit's ignoring me, he thought to himself as he raised his hand for another strike. But right before it fell he heard a loud cry, followed by a thunderous explosion. Without another thought Dean kicked open the door and rushed inside.
"Sam!" he shouted as he searched frantically for his brother. A bright orange light streamed out of the bedroom. Just before he got to the door Sam's anguished cry reached his ears. Reaching the doorway he was stunned to see his brother lying on the bed, trying to ward off the heat from above him. He called Sam's name twice, but he didn't respond. Dean glanced towards the ceiling, shocked as he saw Jessica pinned to the ceiling engulfed in flames.
Warning bells screamed in his head, but he focused all his thoughts on Sam. Racing forward, he hauled Sam out of bed and pushed him towards the door. "We gotta get outta here!"
"No! No! Jess!" Sam's words tore at Dean's heart as he forced Sam into the living room.They had just gotten clear of the doorway when a fireball flew out of the bedroom, as if trying a last ditch effort to claim more lives. Seeing the fire scorch the wall beside him seemed to force Sam out of his shock, and Dean was able to head him back outside without too much effort.
The two brothers staggered out to the Impala and leaned heavily on it, coughing. Dean grabbed Sam's arm hard, as if to reassure himself that Sam was really safe. "Are you ok?" he gasped.
Sam turned his wide eyes onto his brother, but kept silent. The look in eyes was eerily reminiscent of the look Dean had seen in his father's eyes all those years ago. The scream of sirens came closer, and Dean turned to see the rest of the building's occupants staggering out into the street. He desperately wanted to go back in and make sure everyone got out safe, but he had Sam to worry about. He'd pulled the fire alarm as they'd left, hopefully everyone would be ok.
Dean grabbed Sam's other arm, and spoke forcefully. "Do not move. You hear me?"
Sam nodded absently. Dean's legs shook as he moved a few steps away from his brother. He made it look as if he were watching the firemen do their job, but really he needed a moment to collect his thoughts. What the hell had just happened? For a brief moment he'd seen his mother's sweet face superimposed over Jessica's. Was that how his mother had looked? That look of terror and pain? He shuddered and pulled his coat tighter.
The thoughts he'd had on his drive back haunted him as he watched the smoke rise. He'd actually been jealous that Sam hadn't had to suffer the tragic loss of a loved one; that he hadn't had to go through the grief and helplessness of one left behind. Now Sam would feel that pain, that agony. That evil thing had taken another innocent loved one away from his family. Two decades later the effects were as strong as they were on that horrid day. Dean's need for his father was overwhelming. This thing had come after his family again, had it already killed his father? He couldn't deal with that now. Right now his focus was Sam….had to be Sam.
Dean turned back to where he'd left Sam, but all he could see was the raised lid of the trunk. He came around the back of the car to find Sam loading a shotgun. Dean stared at him, stunned at the man he saw before him. Just as their father had walked out of their house a hollow man 22 years ago, Sam's eyes now reflected that same emptiness. Sammy Winchester was no more. A single tear fell as he took in a deep breath and spoke his first real words as Sam Winchester. "We've got work to do."
Author's note: Well, I hope that wasn't too terrible. I debated writing this for weeks; I was scared to death to try it. I apologize for any inaccuracies that may have occurred…I'm not used to getting that in depth with a character's thoughts and emotions. Ok, I'm done making excuses. Thanks for reading! -----Susan