A/N: Three short little stories connected by the music. :)
Like A Lead Zeppelin
"A bad gig."
Trying to move as little as possible, Sam turned his head on the pillow in order to see Dean on the adjacent bed. "What?"
"A bad gig," Dean repeated slowly, staring up at the ceiling, one arm across his belly, the other hanging off the edge of the bed. "That's where they got the name."
Sam frowned and then closed his eyes because even just frowning, even just blinking, took too much energy and he for sure wasn't up to listening to Dean ramble. "I should check your head," he said on an exhale, the words leaking from him like the last fumes of fuel.
"It's still attached."
"So are you."
Sam started to shrug, but the tug and pull of tendons across his shoulders fired up his neck and he froze. "Yeah." He groaned quietly, trying to relax without really moving. "Yeah. Don't remind me."
Taos, New Mexico was going to be one of those towns they would always remember, and not for any good reasons. A poltergeist had done a number on both of them, knocked their heads together, literally. The plan had gone to hell after that. Sam couldn't even quite remember how they'd gotten back to the motel, sprawled out identically on the two beds, itchy, Indian weave blankets beneath them.
The room was still, save for the radio playing quietly on the nightstand. Dean had said it would keep them awake for the two hours a concussion necessitated. From the way he was feeling though, Sam wasn't sure a herd of elephants, let alone a tiny radio, could do that.
"I think that's what it was," Dean said after a moment.
Sam opened his eyes. "What what was?"
"Where they got the name," Dean replied, picking at the gauze that had been haphazardly stuck to his forehead. He peeled it back slowly, fluffs of red cotton sticking to the wound. "Am I still bleedin', Sammy?"
"Yes. Not makin' much sense either."
Dean turned and blinked at him. "I make sense."
"You're so cranky. Take a nap already."
"Has it been two hours, yet?" Sam couldn't see the clock from where he lay and even thinking about moving, the sitting up and leaning over that would be necessary to see the time, hurt.
Sam groaned. Sleep would be so nice, too. No pain. No brother. Stupid concussion.
"I was talking about Zeppelin," Dean said, fingers waving vaguely in the direction of the radio.
Sam closed his eyes again and sighed loudly. "No, you weren't."
"That's where they got the name," Dean went on, undaunted. "Led Zeppelin. A bad gig. Crashed and burned. Went down like a lead balloon."
"Oh." Sam sank back into the pillow, considering what Dean had been trying to tell him. "I guess…I think this qualifies."
Dean grinned, a slow stretching of lips over teeth. "Exactly my point."
Truth be told, Sam did enjoy driving. There was something therapeutic and empowering about steering that big car, stepping on the gas and feeling the engine respond. He could see why Dean was so hesitant to give up the wheel sometimes.
As it was, Dean seemed wrapped up in his own little world in the passenger seat, bobbing his head and drumming his fingers along with one of Led Zeppelin's longer ballads.
They were following the rural roads that paralleled state route 87, headed toward Idalou, Texas and a supposed possession. The air was hot and dry as it whipped through open windows and Sam would swear he could feel the dirty rasp of dust in his lungs.
As they continued along the road, the radio crackled and fuzzed, breaking up into softer, pieces of voices.
Sam jumped and stomped on the brake. "What? What is it?"
"Back up!" Dean ordered, looking behind them to be sure the road was clear. "Back up. Hurry."
Sam did as he was told, eyes scanning the road for some source of danger.
A few yards back, the radio crackled to life again, clear as a blue sky.
Dean nodded and smiled.
Slowly, Sam looked from the radio to his brother. "Are you serious? Dean!"
"Don't 'shh' me. You yell like there's something important going on. I thought—I thought there was a cat in the road or…something." Sam took a huff of a breath and crossed his arms as the car idled. "Give me a heart attack all for the radio."
"Quiet, Sam. I'm trying to listen." Dean reached over to turn the volume up further.
"No…No, I won't be quiet. Remember a few days ago I was trying to watch that movie and you kept talking and talking and I asked you to be quiet and--"
"It was Toy Story, Sam."
"I wanted to watch it!"
"It's a cartoon!"
There was no response and it took Sam a second to realize that the song was coming to a close.
Dean fixed him with an angry stare. "Thanks a lot."
"Can we go now?"
Dean motioned him forward with more than a little attitude.
Sam pressed his lips together as he dropped the car back into drive. He would not feel bad about this. Yeah, music was one of the few things Dean really loved and yeah, it was only one song. They probably could have spared a few minutes.
Sam's brain was most constantly on a one-loop track from anger to guilt and back again and he'd only recently begun to realize it, let alone attempt to control it. He glanced over as Dean fiddled with the cassette deck. "What are you…"
Dean hit play.
Zeppelin blasted through the speakers. The tape picked up just seconds after the radio had left off and Dean resumed his head bobbing.
Not with quite the same enthusiasm though and his lips were curved downward.
"Shh." Dean put a finger to his lips and shook his head. No.
The moment had passed, Sam knew. A cassette didn't bring the same surprise and roar as the radio. An apology was always too late.
Junction City, KS
Dean drank too much coffee.
Yeah, it's possible.
Sam knew it because Dean had moved from the alert phase into the nervous, trembling, fidgeting, crawling-out-of-his-skin phase.
"Hey Dean," Sam asked calmly. "Want me to drive?"
At the sound of his voice, Dean jumped, eyes shifting over and back. "What?"
Sam repeated himself.
"No," Dean answered quickly "I got it."
"Just thought you could use a break."
"I'm good," Dean replied, though the twitch in his eye said differently.
They were running late, headed for a paying gig in Kentucky and Sam figured that was part of the reason why Dean was so keyed up. That, and the fact that, in order to get there on time they were cutting straight through Kansas. Interstate 70 sliced the state in half long ways and while they usually made an unspoken effort to take other routes, sometimes it was unavoidable.
Sam hadn't been paying the radio much attention, too focused on other things, until the music suddenly stopped and in the quiet of the car, the tape deck made an odd, whining noise. Dean growled, literally growled, and reached over to eject the tape.
He looked at it and shook it and then shoved it back in the deck. When it still wouldn't play, he exhaled loudly through his nose, and punched the FM dial.
Static crackled through the speakers, voices and notes wafting in and out as Dean spun the dial in one direction and then back in the other. He paused briefly on a country station, but moved on quickly when the whine of Dolly Parton crawled through the speakers. He paused again on the next clear station. One hand on the wheel, one hand on the radio dial, listening as the DJ introduced the next song.
Sam didn't pay much attention to that either, until the opening riffs of "Johnny B. Goode" filled the car.
Dean smiled, nodded, and leaned back in the driver's seat.
Sam watched him curiously. "Dean?"
In response, his brother bobbed his head along with the chorus.
"Dean?" Sam said again, and pointed to the radio with a smirk. "Chuck Berry?"
That got Dean's attention.
"Well, Sammy," he drawled. "Here I was thinking you didn't know anything beyond The Fray or…" He faked a shudder. "The All-American Retards."
Sam allowed himself a small smile. "Those aren't bad groups."
"What kind of a person would willingly call himself a retard?"
"It's rejects, Dean. Not retards."
"Same difference, Sam-o."
Sam shrugged. "Still better than fifty-year-old pop."
"Oh no, Sammy," Dean said, shaking his head. He raised one arm, as if calling for a moment of silence, and lowered his voice. "Chuck Berry invented rock and roll."
"Right." Sam nodded sarcastically. "And Al Gore invented the Internet."
Dean pointed at him. "Exactly."
Sam's mouth gaped open and he struggled to force it back into operation. "Dean," he stuttered. "Al Gore didn't really invent the Internet."
Dean tilted his head naively. "He didn't?"
"No." Sam scoffed, watching his brother for some sign that he was joking.
"You can't just invent something like that on your own. Just like one guy couldn't have invented rock music by himself."
"Well." Dean gave this a moment of consideration. "Chuck Berry came damn close. The man deserves some respect. Without him there wouldn't have been any such thing. No Led Zeppelin, no nothin'." Dean watched Sam with sharp eyes as the song came to a close. "You've got to know where you come from, Sammy. Your mentors, your roots, your…home. You can't ever forget that."
Sam smiled suspiciously. "Are we still talking about music?"
"What?" Dean smirked. "Was there something else?"