A/N: Thank you Ruth for the awesome beta.
This was first posted on livejournal, in case you should find it familiar.
Long Way Down, Long Way Home
"If the entire house is cursed," Sam said, screwing the cap back on on the gasoline can, "Then we need to burn down the entire house. And I'd feel much more comfortable if you..." he glanced over to Dean, whose face had brightened up a little with anticipation at the words 'burn down' , "...weren't enjoying this so much, pyro," Sam completed the sentence.
"Don't be such a spoil-sport, Samwise," Dean replied. He let the lighter in his hand snap open and close, knowing just how much Sam hated it when he did that. Open and close. Open and close. "As long as I don't light up houses that are actually still inhabited..."
"Yeah, but who knows what's next," Sam snatched the lighter from Dean's hand and put it in his pants pocket.
"Hey, what the...? "
Dean's half horror-stricken, half surprised expression was priceless. He looked exactly like a five year-old who'd just been deprived of his favourite toy.
"Confiscated," Sam informed him with a shrug. He hoisted one of the cans filled with gas into the trunk of the Impala.
Dean walked around his car, opened the door and placed himself behind the steering wheel. Once Sam had closed the trunk, Dean started the engine. His foot sank down on the gas pedal slowly. The Impala rolled forwards, from outside Dean heard Sam exclaim some rather impolite things. Dean laughed, put his right arm over the back of the front seat and turned around a little so he could see Sam. His brother was desperately trying to catch up, appeared next to the passenger side's window, knocked against it, fell back a little, caught up again, fell back and shouted something even less polite. Finally he managed to open the door. He flung himself into the car and pulled the door shut.
"Asshole," he said, out of breath, and sat up straight. His hair lay matted against his forehead with sweat, and he was glaring at his brother furiously.
"Well, well, well Sammy..." Dean's voice had the fatherly reproachful sound to it that Sam hated so much, "We need to work on our shape, eh? I remember the days when it didn't take you that long to catch up with me. But back then, Dad was still training with us. Guess you lost your drive in college, Sammy. Really, one should think you would have, uhm, kept yourself in shape with other things..."
"Don't, Dean..." Sam warned his brother, but Dean was on a roll.
"I mean, don't tell me you were actually faithful..."
Dean stopped when he realised what he'd just said, but it was too late.
Later he would regret these words. Later he'd keep playing the scene over and over again in his mind; if just a word had been different or the way he'd said it, maybe if he'd used his brains just this once before opening his big mouth...
Sam stared into the distance, onto the road before them. He didn't say anything, but his eyes had darkened and his lips were pressed into two thin lines. Dean even thought he could hear Sam's teeth grinding. The grim look on Sam's face could even have chased away the Boogeyman, Dean mused.
Later Dean would regret he didn't even try to apologise to Sam and make things right between them. Later he'd ask himself why the hell he had been just as stubborn as their father.
It would be the question that always returned: why?
Sam remained quiet, he didn't even bother to complain when Dean put the oldest music cassette he owned (and the one that always grated on Sam's nerves the most) into the player. It was an act of blatant provocation, he knew that as soon as he'd get Sam to talk again they'd make up without actually apologising to each other. It had worked this way all their lives and there was no doubt that it always would. Dean turned up the volume as much as he could, and then, on top, he started to sing along to the "Immigrant Song" at the top of his lungs. Knowing, of course, that there was possibly no song on earth Sam hated more. Out the corner of his eye Dean watched his brother closely, but Sam didn't react in the least. Eventually Dean gave up trying. When they reached the house ten minutes later, Sam's expression was as stony as ever.
Dean parked the Impala at a safe distance and leaned a little forward so he could view the building better.
There, in the middle of nowhere, stood an old house that wasn't much different from any other old, haunted house. Fifty years ago a man had had kidnapped, molested and finally murdered several young girls. Ever since the spirits of the girls had killed every man who'd dared to enter the building.
The brothers had tried to salt and burn the bones but it hadn't done any good. Apparently when you murdered innocent children you were playing in a whole different league, even in the world of the abominable and vengeance-worthy. Eventually Sam and Dean had had only one option left – to burn the house itself down.
"Ready?" Dean asked. Sam didn't reply. Wordlessly he opened the door and got out of the car.
"O-kay," Dean sighed, pulling off the ignition key, and followed his brother.
It was warm outside, it hadn't been raining in weeks and dust rose from beneath their feet as they walked to the back of the car. Dean opened the trunk and heaved out the cans. Sam grabbed one.
Come on. Tell him you didn't mean it.
His brother turned around. It was plain that he was still angry, he was gripping the can so hard his knuckles had turned white.
"What?" he snapped.
Come on. Tell him. You hate it when you fight.
There was a silence that reminded Dean of the quiet in a western movie, before the cowboys duelled with each other. The fingers dodging around the gun, both waiting for the other to draw, he was half expecting some tumble-weed to go rolling by, but nothing happened.
"Forget it..." Dean finally said, shaking his head a little. His voice sounded more like their father's than he'd intended to when he added: "Come on."
They walked the short distance up to the house. Sam shuffled after Dean with eyes cast down on the ground, and despite his almost gigantic size he looked more like a petulant toddler rather than a mid-twenties ex-college student. The brothers stopped when they reached the porch and surveyed the building. It was the middle of the day and unlikely that they were in any danger just being here. Lost and blood-thirsty souls usually never appeared before dusk – but these here were exceptionally lost and bloody-thirsty spirits.
"Come on, Sammy..."
"It's Sam..." Sam snarled. He didn't even bother to look at Dean. His eyes were fixed on the front door.
"Please yourself," Dean shrugged. He knew his brother, he'd come around sooner or later. He'd possibly walk around with a gloomy expression for an evening or two, play the lonesome wanderer and then his anger would evaporate.
Of course Sam could be stubborn, too – but usually only when the opposing party chose to be unforgiving, as well.
For years Sam had ignored his family and not talked to them, Dean hadn't forgotten – how could he? After all it had been him who'd been stuck in the middle when Sam had his big fight with Dad. And it was him who Sam had blamed afterwards for always taking their father's side. It had been Sam who'd decided not to talk to Dean any more as well. To pretend he didn't have a brother, because in his anger Dean and their Dad had melted together into one person. One person who'd accused Sam of being selfish. One person who'd told him he needn't bother to come back. One person who'd tried to deny him what he wanted so badly.
Dean opened the can and spread the gasoline all around the house. He went around the building, throwing the gas up the walls, while Sam took care of the porch. Neither went into the house itself. If those spirits couldn't be destroyed by usual means than perhaps they didn't stick to the rules of "No ghosts in daylight" either.
The gasoline pooled on the porch, and from the look of it the acrid smell almost made Sam retch – Dean knew how much his brother hated that smell. When they got home, to the motel, Sam would probably take a shower first thing.
There was a rustle and a thud from inside the house, and an uneasy feeling crept all the way through Dean's body. One of those uneasy feelings that made him get up at night and check whether the doors and windows were locked. Dean watched Sam forrow his brows in concentration, "Something wrong?" he yelled across the site. Sam only shook his head,
"No." Aha. Still pissed off.
Dean shrugged, and threw the can high through the air. It landed in some distance with a bang.
"Fancy a bonfire?" Dean asked. Sam pulled the lighter from his pocket. "Remember, throw it in and run away."
"I'm not an idiot," Sam rolled his eyes and flicked the lighter open, a small flame appeared.
Dean saw the cold hands grabbing his brother from behind far too late. Before he'd realised what was happening they'd pulled Sam into the house and neither of them could do anything about it. Sam fell to the ground with a pained cry, and was dragged through the door across the dusty floor. He'd let go of the lighter, and the moment it hit the wooden porch the house went up in flames.
The blaze feasted greedily on the rotten, dry wood and everything that was inside the building was engulfed by the flames. The fire went up into the sky, thankful for the heat and wind, encircling the house.
For minutes Dean did nothing but stare, trying to grasp what was happening. He'd seen Sam tumble and after he'd been dragged into the house, the door had shut. Then, suddenly, everything had been on fire. How lovely the flames looked. Yellow and red against the blue sky. How warm it had grown. Sam didn't like it when it got too warm.
When Dean finally dialled the number of the fire department, hypnotised by the sight of the fire, he was completely calm. He heard his voice telling the lady on the other end of the line the address of the house, and when the firemen arrived he was still standing where he'd stood all the time, watching the fire motionlessly. He barely heard their cries as they rolled out the hose and told him to stand back.
How fast fire could destroy, he thought. It was amazing, really. He remembered Lawrence, their old home. It had burned down just as fast back then, but their father had made it out in time and so would Sam.
He didn't respond when the firemen tried to pull him aside, away from the fire, and asked him whether there was someone still inside the house. He couldn't avert his eyes from the sparks and flames bouncing happily into the sky.
Water fell onto the fire, Don't! the voice in his head screamed, it sounded sad, You're killing it! It was much too beautiful to be murdered in such an undignified way; it was so glad to be alive after all...
Dean tilted his head and marvelled at the play of colours, the wave of heat that hit his body made him shiver...where was Sam? It was about high time he turned up here and made one of his terribly clever remarks.
When only smoke was still coming up from the house and the ruins stood out against the night sky as black shadows, Dean wasn't standing in front of the building any longer but was perched on the back of an ambulance. A woman shone a small torch into his eyes, asking him questions but he couldn't hear her voice so he just smiled. Her lips kept on moving. He grew impatient. Sammy was late. Well, he'd have a word or two with his brother when he returned.
"Was anybody in there?"
Suddenly he could hear the voice of the paramedic loud and clear. It was like surfacing from under water. He turned his head so he could look her in the eye, she appeared to be worried. He didn't reply, but images were coming back now. Sam and the lighter. Sam being dragged into the house. The house that burned down to the ground. Sam being late.
"My brother," Dean said. He didn't recognise the ring of his own voice. It was alien to him, someone else was talking, not him.
And for a short moment he realised he'd lost Sammy.