Obvious spoilers for season 2, with a small reference to Nightmare thrown in for good measure. Thanks for reading (and reviewing, if you so desire)!
The shot glass was cold beneath Sam's fingers as he contemplated downing the warm whiskey. To drink or not to drink, that truly was the question. Yet he couldn't come to a decision. It was one little choice; the world wouldn't end if he made the wrong one. Although the way his luck was running, Sam was loathe to take the risk.
"Better hurry and drink up, Sammy. You don't want it to get cold." Dean's voice dripped with sarcasm mixed with his own shot of room temperature whiskey.
Following orders Sam downed the shot, feeling the warm liquid burn a path to his empty stomach. He'd escaped that little problem. One down, a few million to go.
"It may be warm but it's free, so you bite your tongue." Jo admonished.
"Wish I could, but it's still numb from this ice cold whiskey. Is that your plan, piss of the patrons by serving them warm whiskey so they'll kill more demons?" Dean snapped back. Sam tuned out the rest of the conversation, looking up only when Jo poured him another round.
Sam pulled the glass up to his lips, whispering his thanks before swallowing the drink. The liquid fire stole the pain away from his head for a moment, making him want to grab the whole bottle. He was his father's son, after all. Now that he'd finally embraced the hunting legacy, he might as well incorporate the drinking.
"That girl'll drive any man to drink." Dean muttered under his breath, momentarily pulling Sam's attention away from the bottle.
"How 'bout another, Jo?" Sam said. The blonde girl glanced uneasily at her mother before filling the tiny glass. Sam downed his third shot, ignoring the judging eyes of his brother and their new friends.
"How 'bout you slow down a little, Sam?" Dean said, fiddling with his own empty glass.
Sam looked at each of his companions. The weight of their concern was overpowering. He had to get out of there before he suffocated. He stood up, holding onto the bar as a wave of dizziness hit him. Three shots of whiskey on an empty stomach was never a good thing, although he wondered if the dizziness could also be attributed to the conk on the head he'd received a few hours earlier.
Dean shot to his feet, reaching out to Sam but not touching him. "Hey, easy."
"I need some air." Sam said shortly. Turning away from Dean's assistance he slowly made his way outside.
Dean sighed as he watched Sam walk out of the bar. Something was bothering the kid, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what that was. Dean's own heart broke as he watched Sam deal with his own uncertain destiny just after losing their father. Now Dean had to figure out how he was supposed to put his little brother back together when he himself was barely holding on.
Dean sat back down, willing to give Sam a few moments to himself. "You might as well give me his shot, Jo."
Ellen came up behind her daughter and took the bottle from her hands. "Why don't you boys bunk here for the night?"
Dean shook his head. "Thanks, but no. We're gonna hit the road as soon as I know Sam won't be decorating the Impala with vomit. The kid never could hold his liquor."
"You should go check on him." Jo said.
"He's fine." Dean said.
"Sure didn't look fine to me."
"I know how to take care of my brother, Jo. I've been doing it since I was four." Dean spat angrily.
He instantly regretted his harsh tone, but if Jo was hurt by his words she didn't show it. Folding her arms across her chest, she looked almost as mad as her mother did.
Dean groaned as he rubbed his hand across his face. Pissing off Jo was bad enough, but having the mama bear angry was enough to scare even the most seasoned hunter.
"Sorry, it's been a long day. You're not gonna turn your gun on me again, are you?" Dean half-jokingly asked.
That drew a grin from Jo, but Ellen maintained her stern expression. "Only if you and Sam stay for a while, at least let me and Jo get a hot meal into you."
Real food. The very thought of unprocessed, unnuked food was enough to make Dean's mouth water. Dean quickly weighed his options. A hot meal and a good night's sleep far outweighed his desire to hit the road. He was running on fumes, exhaustion pulling on his shoulders like chain mail. Staying at the Roadhouse would give them the rest they needed, with plenty of hunters to watch their backs. They could also work with Ash, incorporating the new developments into their search for the demon. And regaining some brownie points from Ellen couldn't hurt.
"Fine, but just until tomorrow. We leave in the morning. Probably at the asscrack of dawn if Sam'll have anything to say about it."
Ellen continued her intense gaze, while Jo's jumped amusedly between Dean and her mother. He'd given in, yet he was still receiving the death glare. Dean racked his brain. He was obviously missing something. He had his answer as Jo mouthed a word to him.
Oh, Sam! "I think I'll go check on Sam." Dean finally said.
"I think you should." Ellen said.
"Yeah." Dean muttered as he slid off of the barstool.
Dean stood outside the bar, letting the cool breeze enter his lungs. Sam was leaning on the trunk of the Impala, his long hair blowing in the wind. Walking loudly as to not startle his brother, Dean met him at the back of the car.
Well, that went well. Dean joined his brother on the trunk, staring at the barren surroundings.
"I'm fine." Sam's standard answer to the often asked question. And as usual, Dean didn't buy it for a second.
"So I told Ellen we'd stay for a while; at least until tomorrow. I think I'm growing on her." he grinned at Sam.
Sam said nothing, just continued to stare straight ahead.
Dean's foot bumped into something on the ground. "What the...?" Sam's duffle bag lay in the dirt in between the two brothers.
"Oh, so you knew we were staying? Eavesdropping's not cool, little brother. I see you only bothered to get your stuff. Nice."
The lighthearted teasing wasn't doing the trick, so Dean tried another approach. "Hey, if you don't want to stay, we can go. Ellen'll be pissed, but I'll let you talk to her when she calls to rip me a new one. You can cover my ass for once."
At that final comment, Dean finally received a response, albeit certainly not the one he was expecting. Sam lurched off the trunk onto his wobbly legs. In one smooth motion he grabbed the duffel bag and hurled it across the dusty lot, punctuating the act with a primal yell. His follow-through left him off balance, and he had to grab onto the trunk to remain on his feet. His head bowed, he still would not meet Dean's shocked eyes.
Dean was taken aback at the sudden outburst, but even more disturbed as he finally realized Sam's real motive in his sudden departure from the Roadhouse.
"You were going to leave." Dean said, stunned. "That's why you came out here. And your bag…you were going to run off."
Sam's silence spoke volumes. His shoulders shook from either rage or fear. Or maybe both; Dean couldn't quite tell. With each second that passed, Dean could feel his own fury grow. "Dammit, say something!"
Sam finally brought his head up, his eyes filled with a hopelessness that shook Dean to the core. The tears brimming in Sam's eyes extinguished Dean's temper, but only increased his worry. Sam tried to speak, but the words died before they got to Dean's ear.
"Sam, I didn't hear you." Dean said gently.
"I said, 'I don't know!'" Sam yelled, his voice raw with emotion. "I don't know, I don't know, ok? I don't know what the hell to do!" He punctuated his last word with a kick to the Impala's back tire.
Dean closed his eyes and let out a long breath. Sam had just kicked his car. Normally he'd rush to his lady's aid and pummel her attacker, sibling or not. However, this time he'd give Sam a freebie due to emotional distress. After all, he wasn't the first Winchester to take out his emotions on the car. "First of all, you can refrain from kicking my car again."
After Sam's mumbled apology, Dean lovingly patted his car. "She forgives you. Now, what the hell is going on with you? Why were you running off like--" Dean broke off, ashamed of what he was about to say to his distraught brother.
"Like a coward?" Sam laughed bitterly. He thought about the word, then nodded. "That's certainly fits."
Dean said nothing, just waited in expectant silence. Then Sam spoke the admission Dean knew was coming. "Dean, I'm scared."
"Sam, I've told you a hundred times, as long as I'm here, nothing bad will happen to you. I'll take care of you."
"Yeah? And who'll take care of you?" Sam blurted out.
Dean blinked. He certainly wasn't expecting that. Before he could comment Sam continued his rant.
"Who'll protect you from the demon? Who's going to stop it when it comes after you? Who's going to save you from dying like the others?"
"It's out there, Dean. It's taken Mom…it's taken Jessica. Now Dad's gone. That leaves only one person. So, yeah, I was going to leave. If it meant saving your life, I was going to leave. But what if it still comes after you and I'm not there to kill it? Not that we know how to kill it since the damn Colt's gone!"
Sam took a breath. "I've been sitting out here trying to decide how to save your life, and I can't find the answers. Do I leave and hope that's enough to keep the demon away from you, or do I stay with you and hope that I don't turn evil and kill you myself?"
Sam's eyes were filled with tears that just refused to fall. God, he couldn't even cry right. "So you tell me, Dean. What should I do?"
"Sam, I'm not going to die." Dean began.
"Don't feed me that placating load of bull. You don't know that! It's only a matter of time before it comes after you, too. Or until it gets in my head like Webber."
"Oh and what are you going to do? Vision me to death? Come on, Sam. You see things. That's not exactly using the dark side of the force."
"What about my telekinesis?"
"What about it?" Dean threw his hands in the air. "It showed up once, and nothing's happened since. It's possible it wasn't even you that moved the cabinet. Maybe Max did it on accident."
Sam nearly laughed at the absurdity of that statement. "You don't really believe that." Sam scoffed. "You don't know anymore about my abilities than I do."
This time it was Dean who carefully averted his eyes. Damn you, Dad.
"Here's what I do know. You and I have faced some pretty nasty things, and we've always come out on top. The whole vision thing does add a twist to things, but it's nothing we can't handle. In case you haven't noticed, lives have been saved because of your visions. Tracey would be dead if not for you."
"Andy saved Tracey. Not me."
"Don't be stupid, Sam! You know what I mean!" Dean yelled.
Dean got off the Impala and circled around the car, trying to cool his temper. Getting angry at Sam would only push him farther away, the opposite of what Dean was trying to accomplish.
"Fine. I'll be straight with you. It's possible the demon could come after us. I don't know, I wasn't able to get hold of it's daily planner. But I do know you. You are a good person, and way too stubborn to let the demon control you. You don't have it in you. And yes, I know that you've killed things. But don't forget how many lives you have saved. How many times you've saved my life. As for the demon coming after me…let it come. There's no way that son of a bitch is taking down anymore Winchesters."
"We're all that's left, Sammy. Just us." Dean said softly. "I'm not going to tell you what to do. If you need to go, then go. I won't stop you. But we're a team, Sam. We're strongest together. There is nothing in this world that can break us if we stick by each other."
The tears had disappeared, but the haunted look in Sam's eyes still remained. "So now I suppose you're going to tell me it'll all be ok."
Dean shook his head. "No, I'm not. I won't insult you by promising something I don't know. I can't see the future, Sam. That's your gig."
Sam gave a rueful chuckle. Dean smiled briefly before continuing. "The only chance we have of finding the demon and killing it is by doing it together. You don't need special visions or a college degree to see that."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Sam sighed, leaning once more against the Impala.
Dean resumed his position at Sam's side. "Damn straight I'm right." After a few beats Dean voiced the burning question. "So, are you staying or going?"
To stay or to go. That was a much more important question than to drink or not to drink. Yet the answer seemed a lot simpler than it had a few minutes ago. He didn't know what the future held, didn't know if he could trust his new abilities, or even if he could trust himself. But there was one constant in his life, one person he could trust. And that one person was annoyingly poking Sam in the arm as he waited for an answer.
"Hey, Space Cadet! What's the deal?" Dean asked as he continued jabbing Sam in the arm.
"Will you stop! I'm staying, ok?"
Dean stopped his little game and folded his arms. "Good. That saves me the trouble of dragging your sorry ass back here if you tried to leave."
Sam laughed out loud, feeling the pressure on his chest blow away with the wind. Dean joined in, elbowing his kid brother in the ribs as he stood up.
"So, I hope you learned something from our little talk, Sammy." Dean said as he looked off into the distance.
"Oh, and what would that be?" Sam asked, a curious smile on his lips.
"The next time you decide to throw a hissy fit, make sure your duffle bag is closed before you toss it into the dirt."
"What are you talking about?"
Dean didn't answer, he simply pointed to where Sam's clothes lay strewn in a jagged line. The nearly empty bag sat overturned near the largest accumulation of shirts.
Dean laughed at the crestfallen look on Sam's face. "Better get going, Sam. Those clothes aren't going to pick themselves up."
Sam began to ask for help, but Dean seemed to have developed a sudden case of selective hearing. Sam's pleas went unheeded as the older man sauntered back towards the bar.
"Dean. Dean! Come on, man!"
Dean kept walking, grinning. "You'd better hope Ellen lets you use the washing machine, because you are not borrowing any of my stuff."
Sam gave one last ditch effort to get his Dean's attention. "Hey, Jackass!"
Dean stopped in his tracks. Sam's dimples came out of hiding as he flashed a grin towards his brother's back.
"Thanks." Sam said sincerely.
Dean turned around. "You're welcome." he answered solemnly. "But I'm still not helping clean up your clothes."
Dean chuckled to himself as he walked back into the bar. "Hey, Jo! Where's that whiskey?!"