A/N: This story is unBeta'd so any mistakes are purely my own.
Disclaimer: Sam, Dean, Bobby and everything else in Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke and the folks at WB/CW or whatever else they may be calling themselves now.
Summary: Tag scene to 'Everybody Loves A Clown.' Minor spoilers for ELAC, IMTOD, and Phantom Traveler.
Truth, Trust and Heartache
"I'm not alright, not at all. But neither are you."
Stoic mask safely back in place, Dean Winchester stared down at the gapping hole and the irregular rows of dents he had just beaten into his beloved Impala. That was gonna be a bitch to hammer out. The rational part of his mind was glad that Sam hadn't stuck around to witness Dean's little temper fit; the more animalistic, irrational part wished that he had. That it was Sam's broken body lying in front of him, the younger man's physical wounds a match to those gouged deep into Dean's soul. 'Damn him,' he thought. 'Damn him to hell. Why couldn't he just keep his frigging mouth shut? I was fine 'til he started that touchy-feely, whiny . . . crap!'
The young hunter tried to concentrate on piecing his pride and joy back together, but couldn't seem to get Sam's soft-spoken words out of his mind. Hours later he decided to call it a day, about the third time the socket wrench rapped his knuckles. He suddenly felt the need for a long, hot shower. The trouble was, he would probably run into Sam the moment he stepped through the door.
Letting his breath out in an irritated huff, Dean strode purposely for the back door, silently daring his little brother to get in his way. Kicking his dirty shoes off in the mud room, his hand was already on the inner door handle when he finally noticed.
There was no junk on the floor. Or in the utility sink where Bobby usually had at least one or two engine parts waiting to be cleaned or refurbished. The battered steel sink gleamed brightly even in the dim light. The grimy carburetor that had occupied that sink since the day Dean was released from the hospital now lay on a worn but relatively clean shop towel, each part scrubbed clean and glistening with a fine oily sheen. Even the cleaning utensils were neatly tucked away in their proper spaces.
Hesitantly, Dean opened the door leading into Bobby's small kitchen, unsure what to expect.
It wasn't the sight of their host sitting at his own table, enjoying a steaming cup of coffee that had Dean's jaw dragging the floor, or the fact that Bobby was seemingly engrossed in the newspaper. The spirit of June Cleaver had apparently attacked this room as well. Every flat surface had been scrubbed to a shine. Not even the rustic paneling, cabinets and trim had been spared. Peering closer at the gleaming panels above the sink, Dean concluded that this demon also did windows; and an excellent job at that.
"You . . . um, you expecting company, Bobby?"
The older man favored him with a raised eyebrow, which Dean took as a request for enlightenment.
"The house," Dean elaborated. "A little early for spring cleaning, isn't it?"
"Ask your brother," Bobby shrugged. "He's the one suddenly possessed by Martha Stewart."
"Come again?" Dean was sure he had misheard the man. "Sammy?"
"You got any other brothers I don't know about?"
"Well, he must've put a burr up your butt, too," the young hunter mumbled. "That carb's been in that sink for a month."
Bobby snorted indelicately as he turned back to his tabloid. "Woulda still been there if Sam hadn't found my tool kit," he grumbled. "Kid's been mopin' around like a kicked pup, lookin' for stuff to do ever since John . . ."
"Whoa! Back up!" Dean pleaded, even as Bobby's voice tapered into thoughtful silence. Feeling a sudden need to sit down, he dropped into a seat across from Bobby. "Sam stripped that carburetor? My Sam? The guy with Triple A on speed dial? Did he put it back together, too?"
The older man fixed Dean with a baleful glare as he finally set his paper aside.
"You don't have a hell of a lot of respect for your brother," Bobby growled. "Do you?"
Stunned by the sudden shift in his friend's demeanor, Dean paused, struggling for an answer.
"Of course I respect him," Dean finally grumbled in protest. "He's my brother!"
"Then why are you treating him like something you just stepped in?"
Dean's hazel eyes blinked reflexively as he tried to wrap his befuddled mind around Bobby's heated words. He was sure he had a retort buried in his brain somewhere. He just had to find it.
"While your gears are spinnin'," Bobby added, standing up and tucking the paper under his arm, "I want you to think on somethin'. Think about why that precious car of yours isn't sitting at the top of some scrap heap. Your dad was in the hospital, you were in a coma. Who do you think decided that hunk o' junk was worth a second chance? It sure as hell wasn't me." Shoving his chair against the table, the disgruntled mechanic stormed from the room, muttering under his breath something that sounded like, "My Sam, my ass." Pausing at the door, he delivered one last volley. "You know, to Sam, giving up on that car was the same as giving up on you. He just couldn't do it. Too bad you don't feel the same about him," he added as the door swung shut behind him.
Dean's brain was officially vapor locked.
It took a hot shower and a good look at the results of Sam's 'moping' before Dean began to get some idea of what Bobby had been trying to tell him. Expecting to have to scavenge for clean clothes, he had been pleasantly surprised to find everything freshly laundered and neatly rolled before being packed in his duffel. Even his favorite leather jacket had been carefully wiped clean. Both beds had been neatly made with fresh linens. Under the beds, no dust bunny had been spared. Living room, study, even Bobby's 'junk' room smelled of pine cleaner and linseed oil. The only things missing were lace doilies and ruffled curtains.
Even the Seal of Solomon on Bobby's ceiling had been retouched.
Standing in the middle of the living room, Dean gazed around in amazement. "How the hell did I miss this?" he wondered. "This didn't just happen overnight."
"Not all of it." Dean turned to find Bobby leaning against the door frame. "He waited 'til you were workin' on the car before he started on the bedrooms and laundry. He's been redoing the walls one room a day."
Leaning in to get a closer look at the walls, Dean ran a cautious finger over the chinking between the logs.
"Wasn't there a wad of newspaper here last night?" he mused. "The draft was so cold I had to move half a dozen times."
"I noticed," Bobby admitted, the corners of his mouth turned up in a grim smile. "So did Sam. He finished up around, oh, two thirty."
"In the morning?"
"No, dumb ass," Bobby snorted. "He whammied that shit so's it'd dry in no time. Of course in the morning! You got some left over brain damage or somethin'? You don't hear your brother prowlin' around all hours of the night, lookin' for somethin', anything, to keep from thinkin'? To stop the damned dreams?"
To make amends.
'Too little, too late.' His own spiteful words repeated in that soft, sorrowful voice. A sudden image of Sam, sitting on the edge of his bed, leafing frantically through their father's journal, pleading with Dean to hang on, to keep fighting. The flash of anger because John Winchester had disappeared when Sam felt that Dean had needed him. The devastated look on Sam's face as he told of finding their father's lifeless body. The sudden need to get back into the hunt, trying to mend a rift that could never be mended.
To try to be the son he thought John Winchester had always wanted him to be.
"Yeah," Bobby nodded, and Dean realized he had spoken out loud. "That boy hasn't slept the night through since the wreck. The only time he left your side was to check on your daddy or run errands for him."
The air suddenly felt too thick to breathe. Dean flopped down in the nearest chair as his knees failed him. What the hell had he been thinking? That it was all just for show? That Sam was trying to 'one-up' Dean in the grief department? How could he expect Sam to just suck it up and go on as if their father had been some faceless stranger when Dean felt like a powder keg ready to explode? The same man who still bore an open wound in his heart with Jessica's name on it? The man was a walking, talking chick flick, for crying out loud!
Drowning, not waving.
Trying to stifle his own pain and anger, unnerved more than he wanted to admit by John Winchester's parting words, Dean had closed himself off so tightly that he had ignored what was right in front of his eyes; what Sam had been pleading with him to see.
Sam was barely treading water and Dean had been too wrapped up in himself to even wave back.
Trust Sam to find the only patch of beauty in an otherwise dreary landscape. Dean found his brother sitting with his back against an ancient oak tree, near the banks of a wide, shallow pond. A family of wood ducks seemed to have captured his attention, weaving in and out among the cattails and reeds. Easing down so that he sat with their shoulders almost, but not quite touching, Dean wordlessly handed over one of the cold beers he had been carrying.
"So, how bad's the damage?" Sam murmured softly, never taking his eyes from the pond.
Dean shot Sam a startled look. "Pardon?"
"To the car," the younger man elaborated. "Sounded like you beat the crap out of it."
"Dude! You think for one minute that I . . .?" The look Sam gave him said he wasn't buying it. With a shrug, Dean owned up. "The trunk looks like hell, but Bobby thinks we can fix it."
"Good," Sam nodded, his solemn gaze finally returning to the book in his lap. It was a leather bound journal disturbingly similar to the battered volume their dad had written in for so many years.
"You keeping a diary, now?"
Sam shot him a startled look. "What? Oh, no," he quickly explained. "This," he held up the book, "um, well, apparently Dad started a second one when he . . ."
"When he ditched me," Dean finished, his voice curious with only a faint undertone of the bitterness those words invoked. "So, where'd you find it? It wasn't in his things at the hospital."
"Bobby and I hauled back what was left of his truck this morning," the younger hunter replied in that same soft tone from before. "There wasn't much left. The weapons locker had been broken open and emptied, the engine stripped right down to the mountings, even the brakes and shocks were gone."
"Aw, man!" Dean moaned in frustration. "That truck was . . . Crap! That sucks!"
"Yeah," was Sam's dry response. "No more 'Mom mobiles' if we'd found it sooner."
"Damned straight," Dean muttered, his mind filling with appropriate punishments for the kind of low-life that would so vandalize a man's ride. Pulling his mind back to the present with an almost visible effort, he waved his bottle at the book. "So he must've hid that pretty good."
"A false panel under the passenger seat," Sam explained. "I almost missed it. This and about four thousand in cash."
"Awesome! We eat steak tonight!"
Dean decided he needed to bottle that look. If Sam could learn to harness it, they wouldn't need the Colt, or anything else to kill the demon. A little more 'oomph' and that bitch would be orbiting Pluto. Wisely deciding it was time to get back on track, the older brother gestured at the journal again.
"A few charms and exorcisms," Sam replied, evidently deciding to let his big brother live. He ran one hand almost reverently over the worn cover. "Information on some nasties we haven't met yet. Mostly he . . . he wrote about how he hated to leave you behind, how he needed to keep you, us, safe from the demon. A-and there's a little bit in here about . . . me, and the others like me. Nothing specific, just . . . how many died with their mothers, how many survived and what became of them. Apparently, Max wasn't the only one with a sociopath for a father. Some ended up in foster care, some weren't as lucky as Max. I just wish he'd mentioned some names, what kind of powers they were manifesting or something, anything to give me an idea what to expect! I mean, how many of them turned out like Max? Was he afraid that I . . .?"
"No," Dean hastened to stop that train of thought before it had a chance to pull out of the station. "We've been over this before, Sam. You are not gonna turn into some kind of monster! Not on my watch!"
Sam favored him with a hesitant smile that couldn't quite mask the pain and fear in his expressive brown eyes.
"Dad kept track of us," he continued quietly. "From the Lady in White in Jericho right up to about a week before we ran up against Luther and his nest."
"He did?" Dean wasn't sure how he should feel about that. "What, was he critiquing us or somethin'?"
"Don't worry," Sam told him with a rueful chuckle. "You got high marks across the board. He was especially impressed with you getting on that airplane."
Dean couldn't hide his self-satisfied smirk. "What can I say? I rock," he boasted, taking a swig of his beer. "What'd he have to say about you?" The silence was broken only by the sounds of a gentle breeze rustling the leaves above them and a distant splash from one of the ducks. "Sam?"
Sam looked out at the pond, down at his hands, anywhere that wouldn't meet his brother's concerned gaze.
"The, um, the only time he mentions me," Sam finally answered, "is in connection with . . . with the others like me; the ones that the demon didn't kill. Apparently, he was worried about . . . about what it might mean for me, and how, if the worst happened, how you would handle it." He turned to face Dean with suspiciously bright eyes and a forced smile. "Apparently, I was just along as your cheering section," he shrugged. "Hey, at least he worried about me. That's something, isn't it?"
"Sammy . . ."
"No, it's okay," Sam hastened to assure his brother. "At least he took pride in one of his sons. I just wish you could've heard him say it in person, you know? To hear him say, just one time, how much you really meant to him."
This time, it was Dean who had to look away, afraid that Sam would see the truth in his eyes. He should have known that his little brother was perceptive enough to figure it out.
"He did, didn't he?" Sam murmured. "When he sent me out of the room for that damned coffee. It was s-so he could tell you things he couldn't, or wouldn't tell me." The prolonged silence that followed was all the answer the younger Winchester needed, the earlier lie exposed. "Good. I'm . . . I'm glad you have that." He stood abrutly, brushing at the dried grass clinging to his clothes, dropping the journal into Dean's lap. "You should keep that," he said with just a shade too much enthusiasm, "give your ego a boost once in a while."
Dean got up to head his brother off, his forgotten beer spilling out onto the scraggly lawn, some of the amber liquid seeping under the journal. He was met by upraised hands as Sam slowly backed away.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam continued in a tight, shaky voice, face split in a smile way too cheerful for this conversation. "Really. I already knew that demon was full of crap. Anyone who knew Dad at all had to know which son he'd give his life for," he added with a shrug. "So, um, y-you must be tired, working on the car all day a-and all, so I'll just go see what Bobby has in mind for dinner and we . . . we can talk later . . . if you want to."
And Dean found himself struggling to come up with answers as his little brother, the one he had promised his father over and over again that he would look after, practically ran for his life. Sam was already out of sight before Dean could come up with a suitable wisecrack. 'Oh, great,' he fumed to himself. 'I'm going gangbusters on the witty comebacks.' Rubbing at his throbbing temples with the heels of both hands, Dean spun on his heel, as if the answers he needed were right behind him. All he saw was his empty bottle and that cursed book.
With an inarticulate cry, Dean kicked the bottle hard enough to shatter it against the tree. Not satisfied with that small display of anger, he picked up the largest piece and flung it at the pond, causing the ducks to scatter with a barrage of indignant quacks. He then began pacing in a tight path between the tree and the bank, muttering the vilest imprecations in his vast vocabulary as he glared at the offending book. Why? Why did his father do this? John Winchester had loved both of his sons, hadn't he? How many times had he drilled it into Dean to watch over his little brother? How often had he reamed the young hunter for letting his guard down for even a second? Hadn't he repeatedly heard John Winchester express his concerns over his absent child after Sam had escaped to Stanford? The older hunter never had any problem telling others, like Jerry Panowski, how proud he was of Sam, how much he had loved his absent son; so why, in the name of all that he considered holy, couldn't the man just once tell his youngest that to his face?
"Damn it, Dad!" he screamed. "If you wanted to rip his heart out, why couldn't you do it your f---ing self!"
To say that supper was a strained affair would be an understatement of heroic proportions. Bobby wasn't sure if he should be worried or just plain scared. Dean was attacking his fried chicken as if the deceased poultry was personally responsible for his lousy mood, and shooting the occasional scathing look across the table at his brother. Sam . . . the astute mechanic had yet to see one bite enter the boy's mouth. All the young hunter had done was to push his food around in a random manner, not even paying attention to what was on his plate. Aside from a murmured 'thanks, Bobby, this looks great,' ironically from Sam, not a word had been spoken by either boy.
Bobby wondered if shooting one of them would at least get their attention.
With a murmured apology and the excuse of 'needing some air,' Sam quickly fled the table. Crap. Had he said that out loud?
Dean set down his fork, leaning back with a heavy sigh.
"You boys have to settle this," Bobby advised his young friend. "You can't have feelings like this hanging between you on a hunt."
"IF we ever hunt again," Dean grumbled, shooting a heated glare toward the empty doorway. "I don't know if I can trust him anymore. And you have to be able to trust the person watching your back."
Without knowing where the problem started, Bobby was having a hard time sorting things out. "What has Sam done to lose your trust?" he asked. "Or was it something he said?" When Dean refused to meet his eyes, the older man tried a different tack. "Was it something your father said?"
That 'deer in the headlights' look told Bobby that he had finally scored a hit. "Dean?"
"Leave it alone, Bobby," Dean warned in a husky rasp.
"Was it something about the other children?" the older hunter countered. "About his fears for Sam?"
Dean was starting to look a little green as he began to regret his earlier eating frenzy. His hand shook slightly as he brought the beer up for a quick gulp. "Let it go," he pleaded.
"Not if what he said has you doubting your brother," Bobby persisted. "You don't have to tell me, but you do need to talk it out with Sam."
"I tried!" Dean snapped irritably, waving at Sam's empty chair. "Can't you see how well we've bonded? He knows, okay? He knows Dad talked to me just before . . ." His voice trailed off, unable to finish.
"He knows John talked," the older man conceded. "But does he know what was said?"
"No," Dean sighed, running a shaky hand through his hair. "And I don't know if I can tell him."
"Then tell him enough that he can at least defend himself," Bobby urged. "Otherwise, you're gonna lose him, and in a way that you can't ever get him back."
For some reason, Sam found solace sitting in the shell of his father's truck, a lot, more than he had found in the journal. He knew that John Winchester had loved both of his sons; rather that was what he chose to believe. Of course, it had surprised the hell out him when that Panowski fellow had said as much during that hunt in Pennsylvania, but it had been nice to hear. So what if he loved one son more than the other? Wasn't that true in most families? Still, would it have killed the man to say it just once? To have at least left a single entry alluding to some positive emotion where his youngest son was concerned?
To top it off, Dean seemed to have inherited that same attitude. First there was the lie; as if Sam hadn't seen through it from the start. He figured that Dean was entitled to his secrets. After all, if their father had wanted Sam to hear, the coffee subterfuge would have been unnecessary.
And what was the deal with the Impala? Sam knew that he was nowhere near the mechanic that his older brother was; still, he knew how to hold a freaking wrench! And he did know a sparkplug from a lug nut! It was just another example of how much faith his family didn't have in him.
It also made the young hunter feel incredibly, hopelessly alone.
It took a while, but Dean finally found his brother. To his surprise, the younger man was staring at the gapping hole Dean had pounded into the trunk of the Impala, a guilty look on his face. Dean eased close enough to clap a hand on his brother's shoulder, eliciting a startled gasp from his sibling.
"Geez, Sammy!" he snorted, unable to conceal his amusement. "Chill out, dude. You're not usually this jumpy."
"Sorry," Sam mumbled, turning to hide his rising color. "I've, ah, I've had a lot on my mind."
"Yeah," Dean sighed, suddenly serious. "I've noticed." That earned him a rueful grin.
"I guess I made it pretty hard not to," he responded with a dry chuckle.
"Kinda," Dean agree, trying to hide his relief. If the younger Winchester could joke about it, then he must have made peace within himself; at least Dean hoped so. Waving a hand at the damaged trunk, he tried for a new topic. "Looks a lot worse than it is," he ventured. "Bobby thinks we can hammer it back, smooth it out," he gave a dismissive shrug. "It'll look showroom new in no time."
Sam blinked rapidly, trying to swallow past the huge lump that had just lodged in his throat.
"That'll have to wait 'til we get that engine rebuilt, of course," Dean continued thoughtfully, as if he hadn't noticed Sam's pained expression. "Y'know, Bobby's been awfully busy and this job would go a lot faster if I just had an extra pair of hands." Dean gave his brother's shoulder a gentle nudge. "You up to the challenge?"
It took a moment for the words to sink in. "Wh-what?"
"I was asking if you could lend me a hand," Dean patiently explained. "You know, get down and dirty with it?"
"W-wait a minute," Sam pleaded, shaking his head in bemusement. "Aren't you the one that didn't trust me under the hood just a few days ago?"
Dean had the good grace to look discomfited by this reminder of how shabby he had been treating the younger man. Meeting his brother's confused gaze with more sincerity than he had ever thought possible, Dean nodded. "That was before I was reminded how often you've been there for me, Sam. Even when we were totally pissed at each other, you've always had my back."
It was almost too much. Sam had to look away as he felt the tears welling up, threatening to spill over. He, no, they could do this. With a little effort they could, if not regain what they had lost, at least build a new foundation for moving forward. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he tried to force that lump down long enough to give his brother a tentative smile and a nod.
"Back at ya," he managed with only a slight cough. "Um, maybe you could teach me as we go. A kind of . . . apprenticeship, maybe?"
"No maybe about it, baby brother," Dean assured him. Taking the younger man by the elbow, he began to lead him back to the house. "Buy the time we're finished, you'll be able to name each and every piece. In Latin. Blindfolded."
"Oh, God," Sam moaned in mock horror. "Kill me now!"
"While we're at it, you've been keeping secrets from me." Sam gave him a look that fairly shouted, 'Hi, Pot. My name is Kettle, not Black.' "Where the hell did you learn how to rebuild a carburetor like that? I know it wasn't me or Dad who taught you."
"Like you two were gonna let me touch your precious wheels," Sam snorted, falling into step as natural as breathing. "Besides, it wasn't any harder than restoring that old Garand Dad picked up at that garage sale in Athens when I was ten."
"Man, I still can't believe that dude didn't know what he had," Dean muttered with a shake of his head. "Dad paid fifty bucks for that rifle. What did that collector pay for it when you were finished? Five grand, wasn't it?"
"It was worth a lot more," Sam shrugged. "But we needed the money."
"Gas and ammo, of course," Sam chuckled.
"Ah! Of course. What was I thinking?"
"Hey, do you think Bobby saved any leftovers? I'm starving."
Dean chuckled as he gave his brother a one armed hug. "I think we can find something."
A/N: There you have it. I wrote this because I hated the way Dean treated Sam throughout that whole episode. Yes, Dean had a lot on his shoulders, especially having to lie to Sam when asked if John had said anything before he died. That was no excuse, in my mind, for ripping Sam apart like he did, or for shutting him out. I can't help but think that Sam knew Dean was lying to him as they tended John's funeral pyre. He just didn't want to fight about it. Plus, I just can't see Sam sitting around and twiddling his thumbs while Dean sweats it out fixing the car. That left the question of John's truck and why they weren't driving it instead of that decrepit piece of junk. 'Bloodlust', showed more of the rift John's death has created, but it also gave hope that we'll see the boys start to heal, becoming once more the awesome team we saw in season one. Plus, the Impala is reborn!