Disclaimer: I do not own "Supernatural" or any of its characters – they own me. This story is based on the Season 1 episode "Asylum."
Author's Note: Massive thanks to Lembas7 who went through each chapter of this story and beta'd it for me. Thank you so much for helping me make it better. :D Any remaining errors are all me.
Story Summary: Dean tries to bail on the bachelor party. Sam isn't having it.
The phone rang just as she finally became engrossed in her reading. With a groan, Jess got up and started following the sound. It was anyone's guess where the handset was. It led her to kitchen, to sink, to the dish rack.
"Hello?" she said on a sigh.
The words were quiet, but she recognized the voice. "Dean?" she asked, frowning a little. He sounded decidedly un-Dean-like.
"Yeah, it's me."
"Hey! What's up?" She smiled as she made her way back to the living room, "Are you stopping by?"
She'd given up asking where he was.
She'd given up asking where he was going.
It only caused tension – and she had a lifetime to figure it out.
There was a pause after her question, then, "No, no . . . I'm trying to reach Sam . . . he's not picking up . . ." he trailed off. The words made her smile falter; there was definitely a very un-Dean-like tone to his voice.
"He's at some lecture – about torts, I think," she offered. "Legal stuff."
He was silent after that and she started feeling anxious, "Is everything okay?" she asked softly.
"Yeah, yeah – just . . ." His quick reassurance trailed off. She heard him take a breath. "Could you tell him I can't make the bachelor party?"
Her instinct was to scream WHAT?! at the top of her lungs, but the un-Dean-ness of this conversation made her reign that impulse in.
Dean had stayed for five days straight planning the bachelor party for Sam –which was really more like a bachelor triathlon than a party. It involved a map and a highlighted route, with bars and diners picked out, and it culminated at the concert of some band.
It was the longest stretch Dean had spent with them to date and Sam had been ecstatic the entire time – even those moments when bloodshed had seemed imminent.
There was no question that the events held some sort of significance to the brothers. Everyone could see it, though no one asked. Why bother when any explanation given left you with more questions than before? Why bother when the more you heard the more you wondered what had caused the separation between them? The more you wondered how they could have been separated at all . . .
"Tell him I'm sorry and that I'll call -" Dean continued.
His voice was soft, quiet almost, and he sounded hesitant; like he wasn't sure this was what he wanted.
"Dean," she interrupted. "Are you sure everything is okay? Why don't you wait till Sam gets back and talk to him . . ."
"Everything's fine. Tell him that. Tell him everything's fine. I just . . . I'm kinda far and I'm not gonna make it tomorrow. That's all."
The sentences weren't stuttered exactly, but it was close enough that she felt the hairs on her neck stand up. There was really something wrong.
"You put a lot of work into this weekend, Dean," she said instead, digging for her cell phone among the papers scattered on the coffee table.
"Yeah, I know, but . . . as long as Sam enjoys it -"
"He'd enjoy it more if you were here," she interrupted again, texting Sam with one hand.
WHERE R U?
"I wish I could be, Jess . . . really, I do," he said quietly, and she heard the truth in that.
"Then make it happen."
ON MY WAY HOME
"It's not that easy . . ."
"Where are you exactly?"
CHECK UR MESSAGES. DEAN CALL U?
There was a pause, then, "Illinois." His voice was low and she felt another shiver.
"Take a flight," Jess offered. "On us. Just tell us what town you're in and -"
He cut her off. "No. I can't."
"Just park the car at the airport, Dean," she huffed. "It'll be fine."
Dean had lied. Dean was lying now.
Dean - for whatever reason - didn't want to talk to Sam.
"I can't, Jess. Just . . . apologize to Sam for me . . . I hafta go . . ."
GET HOME FAST!
"Wait!" she cried. "Come on Dean, do you think Sam is gonna be able to handle this weekend without you?" she asked, standing up to pace the room. God, how long could she stall him?
"Sure, yeah . . . it'll be fine. They're his friends."
"Yes, but this was all your idea . . ." she drawled. "And now you're gonna hang Sam out to dry?"
"It's just a little road trip. The entire route is mapped. All the bars are marked, all the diners are selected, the motels are reserved, and Sam has the tickets for the concert. Everything will be fine."
Dammit, it did sound like everything would be fine. Jess grimaced. "Okay, but..."
"Don't worry 'bout it. I really have to go now. I'll see you -"
Inspiration struck. "At the rehearsal dinner, right?" she asked, interrupting him.
There was a loaded pause, then, "Do I have to dress up for that?"
The question almost made her smile, but there was just something so off about his tone. Something subdued that made her want to see him, to make sure he was as okay as he was trying to make her think he was.
"Not unless you want to, Fonzi," she teased, gunning for a chuckle or a joke; anything more Dean-like. She heard the chuckle a moment later, but it stopped abruptly and the line was silent. "You're the best man; you gotta come," she continued. When the silence stretched she added, "To make sure you know what to do."
A moment later, he said, "I stand next to Sam."
She opened her mouth to answer, but another voice came through the line; so deep and throaty it practically made her phone vibrate.
"M'goin' out - be back later."
And she knew she'd just heard the voice of The Dad.
The One That Shall Not Be Named Nor Mentioned Nor Even Vaguely Referred To.
The phone was silent and for a moment and she thought he'd hung up on her. Then Dean's voice came over the line. "I really have to go..."
She was gripping the phone and her heart was starting to race. "Dean, you should really talk to Sam . . ."
"Jess, please . . ." he said, and god where the HELL was Sam!
. . . Because Dean sounded sort of desperate? And that made no sense!
He was asking her for something, saying please for something and she had no idea what because it was coded in that Sam-Dean language that she'd never received the translator for!
"Tell Sam that I can't make it tomorrow; tell him everything's fine . . . just do that for me," he stated.
"Dean, you should tell him yourself. He'll want to hear it from you . . ."
"No, he won't. I can't talk to him -"
She heard keys at the front door then and raced towards it. Sam opened it just as she reached it and she released an audible sigh of relief; then quite literally shoved the phone into Sam's hands.
Dean, she mouthed silently.
Sam's pinched expression tightened and he brought the phone to his ear. "Dean?"
There was a pause, then, "Well hell . . . I should'a seen that one coming."
Sam mouthed a quick thank you to Jess and then headed to the study; closing the door firmly behind him. "Where are you? What happened?" he asked, in quick succession.
There was silence on the line.
"Dean! Where are you?"
"Pissed off spirit, Sammy, nothing new."
"Something's wrong," Sam stated, and the fact that Dean didn't jump in to contradict sent his heart rate up.
"I can't make the bachelor party," Dean finally said.
And that was bad. Any other time and Sam would have hit the roof over that. Because this bachelor party was for them. It hadn't been discussed, hadn't been planned, but when Dean had suggested a small road trip, Sam had suggested diners and motels . . . this trip was theirs. The bars had been added as an afterthought – for the others.
So Dean not coming was not a minor thing. It decimated the plans – but it was not what was wrong.
He knew that all the way down to his soul. Dean never confessed what was actually wrong. Never that easily. Never that quickly. Usually never, period.
Sam swallowed hard. "Dean, tell me what's wrong."
"I just did."
"I will fly to Illinois."
"I mean it, Dean."
There was a long pause and Sam was pacing the study so fast it was a wonder tread marks didn't show up.
"I screwed up."
The admission was quiet and Sam felt himself still. He stopped pacing and gripped the phone a little tighter. "I doubt that," he responded, because he truly did.
There was a bitter chuckle and that flight to Illinois was looking better and better. "Don't," Dean grated out.
"It . . . caught me off guard."
Again that bitter chuckle. "I fucked up bad, Sammy . . ."
"Are you hurt?"
"I hurt Dad."
Sam dropped onto the sofa, his breath coming a little faster. There was something unidentifiable in his brother's voice; something deep and dark, something that had come into being while Sam was away . . . something Sam couldn't hope to understand. "What happened?"
There was an explanation. A really good one. He knew that. Dean would never hurt their Dad on purpose. Never.
"I could have killed him."
The recrimination was patently obvious and it redoubled Sam's efforts to get the rest of the story. "How? What happened?"
"It caught me off guard."
"The spirit? It possessed you?"
A quiet snort. "Yeah, if only..."
Sam held back the urge to ask again, to scream that that wasn't an answer. He was silent. He waited.
"I remember everything. I wasn't possessed."
Sam still waited.
"I was angry. Furious. I couldn't see straight, think straight . . . I – I screwed up."
"Did you kill it?"
"Is he okay?"
"Then stop blaming yourself. Jobs get screwed up sometimes. It happens."
"Not like this. I – said things . . ."
"God, Sam . . . I – God, I just – I was so angry and I . . . couldn't stop it – I said -"
"It's okay, Dean." Sam didn't know what it was, what had happened, all he knew was that his brother sounded closer to tears than he could remember in a long time.
"No, Sammy. It's not . . . I said - God, the things I said . . ." Dean's voice dropped, "I couldn't breathe, I was so furious . . ."
"The spirit made you angry?"
"Yeah . . . kinda. But – it didn't . . . they were my – I would never had said – I fucked up."
His brother was torturing himself over something that he'd had no control over. "Dean, listen to me," he said steadily. "Jobs get fucked up sometimes, it's the nature of the beast. You can't help that."
"You don't understand -"
"Whatever it was, whatever you said, it's okay." Dad probably deserved it. The thought slithered through his mind, but it wouldn't help Dean to say it, so he didn't.
"No, Sam -"
"You said he was fine."
"He is -"
"Then it's okay, Dean."
"No, it isn't." The words were whispered and Sam's heart clenched.
"I was – I was cruel, Sam," his brother continued, in that quiet, raspy tone that was breaking Sam's heart. "I was – so angry, the words wouldn't stop. I couldn't stop – I – I shot him, Sam."
The bottom dropped out of Sam's stomach. The line was silent. "You said he was okay?" he finally whispered.
"He is . . . it wasn't – it was rock salt."
Sam winced a little. That would hurt. "But he's okay?" he asked again.
He heard Dean swallow, "Yeah. Bruised, but – okay."
Sam nodded to himself, releasing a long breath. They were silent for a long moment. "Shit happens, Dean." Sam began again.
"I should have been more careful," his brother countered immediately, like he'd been repeating that phrase to himself for hours. "I should – I shouldn't have been so angry. He doesn't deserve me to be -"
Yes, he does, again the words flitted through Sam's mind, but he kept silent. Dean wouldn't want to hear that. Not now. Not ever. "Remember that time he almost drowned us in Michigan." Sam pointed out instead, "We were what? Fifteen and eleven?"
Dean was silent for a long moment, then he corrected, "Fourteen and ten." Another pause, "And that was different, he was possessed by a ghost . . ."
"No less fucked up, though," Sam interrupted, his voice unyielding. "There was that time he left us up in that light house with the poltergeist and no supplies for an entire night; we were . . . nine and thirteen?"
"Eight and twelve," Dean corrected again. "And he didn't know -"
"It practically impaled you. You nearly bled to death."
"Sam, Dad -"
"It hasn't always been Dad; what about that time his trusted friend locked us in that boiler room, when the thing was about to explode? The steam nearly killed us both."
Dean was silent again, then, "Dad almost killed him for that," he said softly.
"But he didn't. Because he remembered it hadn't been his fault, that the man had been -"
"I wasn't -"
"You were under supernatural influence," Sam insisted.
The line was silent for a long moment. Then Dean's voice filtered through, so soft Sam could barely hear it.
"The things I said, Sam – about – him and – us – and . . ." he heard his brother's breath catch. "About Mom . . . he's never going to – he won't ever . . ."
"He will, Dean." Sam comforted. He'd better, he thought furiously, clenching his empty hand into a fist, digging his nails into the palm of his hand. With everything Dean had done for their father, his entire life laid at the man's feet-- their Dad better sure as hell forgive Dean for something that was out of his control.
"I don't think -"
"What if it'd been me?" Sam asked, and was met with silence. "What if it had happened to me? What if I'd said something cruel or hurt you that way? Wouldn't you forgive me?"
"Of course." The answer was quick and steady and a small smile tugged at Sam's mouth.
"Because it wouldn't have been my fault? Because it would have been out of my control?"
There was no answer to this and Sam's smile faded, anxiety suddenly sweeping over him. He was about to say more when Dean spoke.
"I would forgive you."
The words were steady, but they didn't ease Sam's concern. Dean hadn't answered the questions, not really.
Still, this wasn't about him.
"Dad forgives you, Dean," he whispered. And screw him if he doesn't, Sam thought viciously. "He does."
"I – I have to go, Sam."
Panic exploded in him without warning. "Dean -"
"Have – have a good time tomorrow -"
"No! You can't – don't -"
"I'll see ya, Sammy."
"Dean, don't hang -"
His answer was a dial tone. It took every ounce of self control he possessed to not launch the cell phone into a wall. "Dammit!" Sam growled.
He left his study, slamming the door behind him; Jess startled when he strode into the living room. "Where's my computer?" he asked.
She was wide-eyed and he realized he might have bellowed that.
"What's wrong?" she asked tentatively, eyeing him the way you did a wild animal set loose.
"Dean's a fuckin' MORON, that's what's wrong! And Dad is – a JERK! That's what he is, a FUCKIN' JERK! Where's my computer?" he snarled, stalking around the living room.
"Kitchen," she answered quickly, frowning. He was freaking out and he couldn't help it, didn't have the time to even try.
He shoved the kitchen door open, found the laptop on the kitchen table and was headed towards his study again when he heard her.
"Sam." His name was deceptively soft on her lips and he froze.
"What's going on?" she asked him, her gaze was fastened on him steadily. Her pointed tone telling him talk now or she'd ask and ask and ask until his brain bled.
He took a deep breath and released in slowly, feeling his heart thudding as he gripped the laptop with one hand. "Dean, he – and – Dad – they had an argument," he almost chuckled at the understatement, but Jess was nodding and he forced himself to continue. "Dean's taking it hard."
Her head tilted to one side. "Oh," she whispered after a long moment.
"I'm going to Illinois for the weekend." He added and then almost cringed, that had come out wrong, he thought immediately. Too much I and not enough we, Jess bristled at things like that. Decisions that affected their life made with only I in mind. He waited for the explosion, he'd take it, handle it; but he wasn't backing down.
He was going to Illinois and he didn't care that Dad was there – in fact he hoped Dad would be there so that he could give the man a piece of his mind for letting Dean doubt his forgiveness.
Forgiveness that John Winchester sure as hell better not be withholding from his son. Because if there was anyone, anyone, on God's green Earth who had absolutely no right to hold a grudge against Dean, it would be their father.
"Want me to do that so you can pack?" she asked, motioning towards the computer.
He blinked at her, she was watching him closely her gaze softer than what he'd expected.
"Um – yeah, okay. Sure." He handed it over.
Blonde curls nodded and she moved back to the sofa. "What city?" she asked a few seconds later.
He was silent. That was it? No lecture?
"Uh – Rockford."
"'Kay. Start packing, dude."
He stared at the back of her head for a moment, not knowing exactly what to say.
"There's a flight leaving for Chicago in an hour. I can call ahead and have a car rented for you that you can pick up at the airport," she murmured, clicking a few buttons. He was still staring.
"Sam?" she asked, turning around to look at him. "Is that okay?"
He blinked. "Yeah, yeah, that's great, actually. Thanks."
She offered him a small smile, "No problem."
He nodded, yeah – packing.
On some level Sam knew it should bother him that he'd been able to so perfectly track his Dad and brother. It should bother him that rifling through random news reports centered in Rockford, Illinois had landed him three possible supernatural events in the past two months; that he'd easily been able to decide which his Dad would deem necessary to deal with. It should bother him that he figured out fairly easily what kind of motel they'd stop at and that he'd been able to obtain verification of this with a simple phone call – and lying that had come more easily and naturally than it really should.
It should bother him that he could slip into Dad's training so easily he barely noticed it.
It all should bother him.
At the moment, though, it didn't.
At the moment, he was just glad to see the Impala parked in the lot of the Rest Easy Motel.
He didn't give himself a chance to think about it. If he thought about he'd back out – and he'd come all this way. Sam parked the rental car and headed for the room number he'd obtained from the clerk.
Sam knocked hard and quick and didn't let himself think of what he'd say if he came face-to-face with his dad.
Dean opened the door.
"Holy shit," he hissed, all hesitancy vanishing as he stared at his brother.
"Sam? What -"
"What the hell happened to your face!?" Sam interrupted, staring at Dean.
The entire left side of his brother's face was swollen; a dark, angry bruise starting at his jaw, spreading upwards and out.
Dean scowled. "What are you doing here?" he asked, stepping aside.
Sam walked in and looked around the small room, "Where's Dad?"
"He went out. What. Are. You. Doing. Here?"
"So he's not that hurt, then, is he?"
"What?" Dean was blinking at him blankly and Sam felt pin pricks of concern.
"Do you have a concussion or something?" he asked, reaching to grasp Dean's chin.
Dean pulled away, turning away from Sam, "You shouldn't have come here. I don't want you here."
The words stung and Sam drew back. "Dude – you just . . . you sounded -"
"I didn't ask you to come, Sam. You shouldn't be here. Your bachelor party starts tomorrow."
Dean wasn't facing him and the words were rushed, forced. His brother was really upset; Sam could sense it, feel it in the air as easily as he knew when Dean was excited. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay," he offered. Sometimes the truth was easiest.
"I told you I was."
"And I told you I'd come to Illinois if I had to."
Dean whirled on him. "What do you want me to say, Sam?! I shot Dad! I told him that he'd done a piss-poor job of raising us! That he drove you away! That Mom – that Mom . . ." he trailed off and Sam's heart constricted at how close to tears Dean sounded.
If it had to do with Mom . . . Mom was a button Dean had no defense against.
He moved around Dean, stood in front of him, reached out and grabbed his brother's shoulders. "Jobs get fucked up," he repeated, shaking him gently. "It happens."
Dean wasn't hearing him.
"Dean," Sam called, gripping his brother's shoulders a bit tighter. "Listen to me. You know it happens."
"I know, Sam, I know. I just . . ." he shook his head, refusing to meet Sam's gaze. "It was bad," he said softly after a long moment, "It was bad."
Dean pulled himself away after that.
The room was silent. Sam wracked his brain for something to say, for a way to make this better. "Where'd he go?" came out instead.
Dean shrugged, still not facing Sam. "I dunno. We – I was on the phone with Jess when he left . . . and we haven't – I mean we've talked . . . but we haven't . . . I don't know where he went." Dean paused, took a deep breath, then continued. "He's on a hunt now though. So you can sit if you want. He won't be back."
Sam stared at him, trying to grasp exactly what Dean was saying. Their father had left and had just . . . not come back . . . and he'd what? Called Dean from the road? It was very likely that the man deserved every word Dean had said. Dean wouldn't appreciate hearing that, though – so Sam moved and sat on one of the beds.
"He tell you what? Or where?" Sam asked, feeling like he should drop the subject, but unable to.
Dean shook his head, "Naw, said he'd call when he had something for me."
Dean's voice was still quiet and Sam wouldn't mind having his own loaded salt gun aimed at his father right now.
"Dad's never been good with sharing plans," he offered instead.
Dean nodded; he still wasn't facing Sam. Sam studied his profile. The small room was silent and Sam let it stretch, let it enfold them – together. As long as Dean knew that Sam was there, right there, it would be okay.
"I'm fine, Sam," Dean said after several minutes.
Sam nodded, "I know." Dean was always fine.
"Then what are you doing here?" his brother asked, finally turning towards him. The answer to this question was the difference between Dean throwing him out on his ass or accepting his company, he knew that.
He had to handle it carefully. You sounded so fuckin' freaked out that I thought you were having a breakdown of some kind probably wouldn't go over that well.
He smirked instead, "You are so totally not getting out of the bachelor party, dude," he drawled. "You're the best man – and you talked me into a concert."
Dean sent a wan smirk back at him. "You'll have fun."
"We'll have fun," Sam corrected, standing. "Dad's gone anyway... what's to stop you?"
He saw Dean swallow. Saw the small shrug, the way his eyes dropped again. Guilt. Guilt was stopping him.
Sam took a deep breath. Time to take the gamble. "Stop being a big girl," he teased. "You gonna stay here all weekend and cry about it?"
Dean's head shot up. Sam grinned at him, "Or you gonna be a Winchester about it and pretend it never happened?"
Dean stared at him for a long moment and Sam held his breath.
"You can be a real shit sometimes, you know that, Sam?" Dean growled, eyes dark and narrowed.
Sam's breath left him on a rush and he winced. Gamble lost, then. "Dean -"
"Why don't you leave. I didn't ask you to come out here. Hell, I told you I was fine. I am fine."
"If you were fine, you'd come back with me. If you were fine you wouldn't be acting like this! So you got possessed -"
"I WASN'T POSSESSED!"
The words might have shaken the small room – they certainly shook Sam. The anger, the recrimination in that tone shook him. He took a step forward. Dean took a step back.
"I wasn't," his brother repeated. "They were my thoughts. Mine. And Dad knows that. And -" he cut himself off, running a hand through short hair. Dean looked miserable and Sam's heart constricted.
"No. No way. Do not do this to yourself," Sam scowled. "I'm not letting you do this to yourself. It was supernatural, it made you say those things, it was beyond your control -"
"I screwed up and Dad got hurt!"
"You're human! That's OKAY! He screws up all the time! He got us hurt all the time! Or don't you remember that?!" he yelled. "Did you hear a single word I said to you on the phone?!"
"I told him Mom would be horrified at what he'd become, that he'd let her down." He confessed it quietly, wide eyes fastened on Sam, waiting for his brother's reaction.
For a moment Sam was breathless; for a moment he heard those words as his father would have, felt the sucker punch knock the air out of his lungs. He heard them as Dean heard them, torn from the deepest, darkest corner of his soul and flung at the person he admired the most; Sam cringed.
He met his brother's gaze and let the wince show. "Ouch," he whispered softly.
Dean stared at him a moment longer and then he released a small rush of air, a tilt to his lips almost looking like a smirk. "Yeah."
Sam released a breath of his own and wondered if Dean really believed that; he knew he'd never ask.
Instead he offered another smile, "Come on, man. I have the tickets . . . let's just – you and me."
A smirk touched Dean's lips. "Dude. Jake'll have kittens."
Sam shrugged, smiling. "So? I'm the groom. It's my party and all that . . ." he let the words trail off.
Dean shook his head, but he was looking more relaxed and Sam felt the tension leak out of him too.
"You didn't need to come out here, Sam."
"I know – you just . . . I knew you were gonna . . . mope and I wanted a front row seat."
Dean's eyebrows shot to his hair and Sam grinned.
"Mope? I do NOT mope!" he defended.
"If it'd been me you wouldn't let me mope," Sam insisted, ignoring the protest. "And . . . just you and me on a little road-trip? I can think of worse ways to spend a weekend," he finished, ducking his head and shrugging a little; feeling sheepish even before he stopped talking.
The motel room was silent and he was starting to wonder if maybe Dean was still dwelling on this when an arm wrapped around his shoulders. "Aw, Samantha, are you asking me out on a date?"
It was a perfectly Dean thing to say and Sam laughed, relived-- happy. "Oh yeah, that shiner on your face has me in palpitations. What the hell happened?" He asked.
Dean shrugged. "Figured I'd at least give you a chance with the ladies this weekend."
Sam eyed him for a moment. Then let it go; after all, that was what he wanted Dean to do, to just let his case go. "Have you seen yourself?"
"Better'n you on your best day, Sammy-girl," Dean drawled, moving around him to start packing. "Speakin' of girls – how's Jessy?"
Sam rolled his eyes as he picked up a t-shirt from the floor and tossed it at Dean. "Jess is fine," he answered.
"Surprised she okay'd this little field trip."
Sam smiled. Dean was still packing, but his focus was on Sam, Sam could feel it. "You completely freaked her out by sounding normal on the phone," he answered.
Dean looked up and scowled. "I'm always normal on the phone!"
"You recite Zeppelin lyrics to her."
"Why's that not normal?"
Sam rolled his eyes, "Ready to go?"
Dean zipped his bag up and straightened. "Always ready."
Sam smirked and turned towards the door. "Then let's get a move on. We've got half a day to get on schedule."
"The guys are gonna kill you."
"S'a good thing I have you to protect me then, huh?" The words slipped out and Sam pretended not to notice the way Dean paused in following him from the room.
He wasn't at all surprised when his brother's hand dropped on his shoulder and squeezed. Or a moment later when Dean remarked, "Wuss," in a teasing tone.