Dance with the Devil
By Spectral Scribe
The night was still, quiet, and dark.
The first thing Sam checked for when he returned to the motel parking lot was the Impala; sure enough, the classic muscle car stuck out proudly next to a 2004 BMW and a snazzy green Toyota Camry. He wasn't sure what made him think Dean wouldn't be there when he got back.
He hadn't gotten far; he'd practically sprinted three whole blocks before slowing to a trot, and then to a sluggish trudge, and it wasn't until he reached an empty gas station that he wondered what the hell he was doing and turned back.
Striding up to the motel room, he took a breath—not sure he wanted to face anything, not sure he wanted to open the door, not sure about anything, really, anymore… but he turned the handle and pushed the door gently until it creaked open, squealing softly on its hinges. What Sam didn't expect to see when he stepped into the room was the dark, like the clear, navy night outside.
"Dean?" His voice was a hoarse whisper in the silence, and this wasn't right, because he was the one that went on lonely walks; whenever Dean needed to get out, he took the car. It was a given. So, present Impala and missing Dean… that wasn't good, that wasn't good at all, he really didn't need to deal with this right now. Not ever.
Cautiously, as though waiting for something to pop out of the dark, Sam fully entered the room and crept blindly to the mini bar. They'd had the sombrero light on, but that was all the way across the room; there was another by the mini bar, which was much closer, and which he could probably get to without tripping over himself and his big-ass feet.
His outstretched hands brushed something cold, and, eureka, he found it. Grasping at the switch, he flicked on the light, spreading a dull glow about the brightly-decorated room.
Turning around, he nearly jumped out of his skin.
Dean sat on the edge of his bed, his elbows on his knees and his hands loosely holding his favorite hunting knife, which dangled precariously between his shins. His head was down, pointed so far towards the floor that Sam could barely see his forehead. Taking a tentative step closer, he saw the sombrero lamp, just behind him.
Glass was scattered haphazardly over the floor, the lamp tilted at an angle so that it caught the wall, halfway between standing upright and collapsing completely to the floor. The papery sombrero lampshade lay on the floor, a long gash down the middle.
"I leave for half an hour, and you demolish a lamp?" Sam choked out, managing to keep his voice even as his heart pounded in his chest. He cracked a pathetic smile. "I knew you weren't a fan of sombreros, but man… I'm going to have to get you a babysitter."
His humor was lame, and it fluttered limply to the floor like the deflated balloon that it was.
Dean didn't look up.
Sam licked his dry lips, tried again. "Sorry I ran out on you there," he mumbled, his voice low. Sorry I left you alone in the motel room. Sorry I left you to be sacrificed to a Pagan god in Burkitsville. Sorry I left you to go to Stanford. "I just… needed some air. You know." I'm claustrophobic, and this room was just too damn small. You know.
"I know," Dean spoke at last, softly, to the carpet. He twirled the handle of the knife in his hands, rolling it in his palms so the blade whipped around in a neat 360 degrees, glinting in the dim light of the boring, non-Mexican lamplight.
"Yeah." Sam felt a prickle of nervous energy run through him, the kind he felt when trying to make small talk with a stranger who just didn't click. He didn't want to feel that way. Swallowing, he opened his mouth. "So…" He paused, not sure what to say. "I'm turning into a demon."
Dean remained silent, but he stopped twirling the knife.
Sam snorted. He'd been thinking about it for the last half hour, and now finally he spoke it, letting the tightness in his chest fly off into the air. "Man, that's fucked up. Even for our whacked-out lives." He snorted again, suddenly unable to contain himself. And before he could even take a breath, insane, hysteric laughter was bubbling within him, rising like an inflating balloon, manic, and he couldn't stop himself as it escaped his lips in a rush of air. Just like that, he was cracking up, the laughter of a mental patient, tears streaming down his face, because it was just the goddamn fucking funniest thing he'd ever heard, now that he thought about it.
He could barely see through the tears, but Dean lifted his head and looked at him, a shocked expression marring his otherwise frighteningly stoic countenance.
But Sam just couldn't stop laughing. It was kind of starting to scare him, a little.
His stomach hurt, so he stumbled over to his bed and collapsed on top of it, giggling madly into his pillow, tears pouring onto the rainbow cover as he grasped the pillow, clutching it under him like a life preserver. He was cramping up from laughing, but god, he just couldn't stop, he couldn't stop.
A hesitant hand lay itself on Sam's shoulder, and suddenly it wasn't funny anymore.
It took a him a moment to suck in enough air to stop the hitch in his breath as the excess adrenaline whooshed out of him like a tidal wave—nice to see you, here's a psychotic burst of energy, now I'll be on my merry way. He was left feeling entirely drained and somewhat shaken. At long last, he had gathered up enough dregs of the vanishing energy to push back his fatigue, sit up, and turn around.
Dean was sitting on Sam's bed now, looking slightly wary of his younger brother, as though half-expecting him to burst into another bout of wild cackling. Sam took a breath and swallowed, settling back against the headboard, trying to show that he'd gotten himself under control and that Dean didn't need to worry. Well, didn't need to worry about his brother going crazy, at any rate.
It took Dean a minute, as he worked his jaw and kept opening his mouth as if preparing a speech, to finally say something. "I won't let anything happen to you," he got out at last.
"You can't promise that." Sam wiped at his face, the tears of his laughter drying on his cold skin.
Dean shook his head, stood up, and walked over to where he'd set his knife down on the mini bar. Lifting it up, he examined it for a moment. "No. You're right." As though finding the knife acceptable, he walked back over to his duffel bag, not looking at Sam, and bent to place the knife inside, but then straightened as though thinking better of it. "I can't make any of this better," he continued, going over to his bed and tucking the knife under the pillow. "I wish to god I could, but I can't."
Sam felt a sudden pang inside him as he watched his brother's movements, a deep ache that wouldn't go away, the same kind of ache his father had left in his wake. He gazed with tired eyes as Dean rounded up a pile of guns lying on his bed, gathered them in his arms, and carefully replaced them in the duffel bag. Each gun glistened like new, and Sam was reminded forcibly of John's clean gun rule.
"What else did he tell you?" he asked before he could stop himself.
Dean's back stiffened as he finished laying the guns in the duffel. Slowly, he stood up and turned around to face Sam, his eyes darting around the room while his face remained impassive.
"He told me…" Dean cleared his throat, which he only ever did when he was stalling for time coming up with a lie, or stalling for time when he didn't want to tell the truth. So Sam didn't really know what to expect when Dean's eyes finally locked onto him, piercing through him like that knife sliced through the stupid sombrero lamp. "He told me to tell you that he loves you."
The pang in his chest intensified, even though Sam knew it wasn't true, and he hastily pressed down the rising bubble of anguish before it could burst forth in the form of hysterical sobs.
Dean sat down on his bed, finding the remote and turning on the TV. The fuzzy picture crackled to life. As Dean settled back into a comfortable position, Sam followed suit, leaning against the pillow pressed between his back and the headboard of the bed.
"I could have helped you clean the guns, you know," Sam commented after a few minutes of blindly watching whatever the hell was on TV.
"It's okay," Dean replied. "Next time."
Because there will be a next time. Sam blinked sleepily, wrung out, wanting nothing more than to turn off his brain. You're going to have to battle darkness in a whole new way. This is only the beginning. The demon will be back to claim what is his.
"I can't believe you killed a lamp," Sam mumbled.
Dean grunted. "It was an ugly lamp, anyway."
His mouth quirking up into a half-grin, Sam reached into his pocket and pulled out the bag of M&Ms he'd gotten at the nearly deserted gas station. There was an ash tray on the mini bar; picking up a red one, he squinted one eye, aimed and lightly tossed the little candy across the room. The chocolate landed a good distance from the tray, bouncing onto the floor. He tried again, the blue M&M getting slightly closer but skidding on the mini bar and rolling to a halt.
"Shoddy aim," Dean muttered.
A brown one this time; Sam held it between his forefinger and thumb, lining up his shot, and flicked it. The M&M hit the side of the ash tray and careened in another direction.
Out of nowhere, Dean reached over and grabbed a handful of candy out of the bag. At first Sam thought he was going to eat them, but then he selected a green one and tossed it towards the ash tray, missing by several inches.
Sam shot again, missed. Dean grabbed a brown one and let it fly; the M&M soared in a graceful arc through the air before landing in the ash tray, bouncing around a bit before settling. Dean gave a satisfied smirk and popped one into his mouth.
Not ready to give up without a fight, Sam tossed another and another. After a handful of scattered M&Ms, he finally landed one in the ash tray. Dean grabbed some more from the bag, pelting them towards the ash tray with a deft flick of his wrist, only managing to get one more in out of the whole pile.
It was war. They threw them as fast an accurately as they could, and Sam lost count of the score as he chucked the M&Ms across the room, glancing over at Dean every so often to see how he was faring with his remaining ammo. It wasn't long before the bag was empty and the room covered with a distribution of colorful M&Ms that nicely matched the rainbow décor. They blended evenly with the happy cacti and rainbow maracas sprinkled over the mini bar.
Neither asked who won. Sam settled back against the headboard once more, letting the empty M&M bag float to the floor. "Who's gonna clean the room tomorrow?"
"You are," Dean answered automatically.
"Because I cleaned the guns."
"You also demolished the lamp."
"You started throwing the M&Ms."
There was an easy pause as the static-filled TV whispered muted dialogue into the quiet air. Sam sighed. "It was an ugly lamp anyway," he conceded. Then another thought came to him. "Next time we're near the border, I'm buying you a sombrero."
Dean chuckled, and Sam breathed. It was a start.