Summary: Sam and Dean try to help a woman who's lost nearly everything, but being Good Samaritans might cost them even more…
And now you know the reason I apologized at the top of last chapter. Surprised a bit? Well… There's no need to draw this out. This is Supernatural after all, not General Hospital. It's been a pleasure.
Two steps and Dean was opening the duffel bag full of weapons and supplies.
"I have to go now," he heard Paul say. "Hannah and the baby, they need me."
Dean turned, Marigold in hand, and leveled her at the ghost. He pulled the trigger, but Paul was already gone and the salt dispersed in a useless cloud.
He let the gun fall to his side. He'd thought Kane was the dangerous one. He'd been certain. He'd left Hannah in the care of her loving husband.
Sam was looking at him, pleading with him with those eyes of his to somehow fix this. But how was Dean supposed to fix it. He'd helped kill her through pure negligent stupidity.
"Sam." He had to clear his throat. "Sam, go get our bags from upstairs."
"Dean?" his brother asked uncertainly.
"Please," he said, not even caring that he was perilously close to begging, "Just go get the bags."
Sam stood, and, as if afraid he might hurt her, carefully brushed a hand over Hannah's hair, smoothing it back from her face. He then left silently, his face ashen, unable to look at Dean as he passed him.
Once he was gone, Dean couldn't stop his traitorous feet as they took him closer to Hannah. What was it the waitress had said? If the poor girl didn't have bad luck, she'd have no luck at all. Hannah was lying on her side, looking comfortably relaxed. She'd simply fallen asleep and now would never wake up. Dean hoped with everything he had that there was something waiting for her and her child, because all that was left behind was the obscenely empty husk. He stayed where he was, the image burning itself into his brain. He allowed it, refused to turn away from the glaring, abject failure. He could never let himself forget why he hunted things like Paul.
Dean heard Sam coming back down the stairs, but still remained where he was. He felt numb and was grateful for it, knowing that the crushing feeling around his heart was only going to get worse.
"We need to get out of the house," Sam said.
"Right," Dean answered distantly, his eyes still on Hannah.
"Now, Dean," Sam said. Dean felt a hand on his shoulder and finally looked up. "Kane's here."
"Right," Dean said again. He mechanically picked up the bag of weapons and he and Sam walked out the front door and down the steps. The Impala was parked away from the house. They walked out into the darkness and threw the bags in the back. Dean moved to the driver's side, but couldn't make his fingers open the door. Instead he sank down, landing heavily on the ground his back against the car. He felt Sam sit on the ground beside him and together they watched as Kane circled the house, gas can in hand, walking across the wooden porch, liberally splashing the planks. Finally, he struck a match. In mere minutes the old farmhouse was in flames. It took ten or fifteen minutes after that for the fire trucks to arrive.
Kane, who had remained standing in front of the house, gas can in hand, mesmerized by his handiwork, was led away in handcuffs. Dean supposed they couldn't prove he'd purposely killed Hannah's family in the accident, but this was a slam-dunk and once they recovered Hannah's remains he'd be blamed for that too.
So Dean guessed they'd found a way to stick it to Kane after all. Wasn't he proud.
The sheer noise of a fire never ceased to amaze Sam. It was an actual roar, drowning out the other sounds around them. The light cast a glow over everything, the fire trucks, the police cars, the emergency workers, the fields, the trees. But for some reason the most appalling thing was Hannah's beat up old car. After all the effort Dean had put into it to make sure Hannah would have a reliable way to get where she needed to go, to take her child with her without having to worry about whether the car would make it or not, the car had been pushed to one side, abandoned.
Sam anxiously looked at Dean as his brother blindly watched the burning house. One of the emergency workers had draped a blanket over him and Dean had barely seemed to notice. The blanket had fallen to his lap and Sam briefly considered pulling it back up, but discarded the idea. Dean wouldn't appreciate anyone fussing over him. Not right now.
Guilt. Failure. Shame.
Sam could practically see the weight of it bearing down on Dean's shoulders. Felt it himself. They'd screwed up. Screwed up royally. And Hannah had died because of it. The baby had died. They'd known that Paul wanted to protect his wife and child. They just hadn't known how far the ghost was willing to go to ensure it. The ghost had defined safe as dead with him.
Deputy Timmons suddenly appeared in front of them. He squatted down and his exhausted eyes traveled from one of them to the other.
"You wanna tell me what happened?"
"Kane set the house on fire." Sam's voice cracked and he was surprised to feel tears running down his face. He hadn't realized they were there and he couldn't seem to find the energy to brush them away. "We got out. Hannah didn't."
Timmons sighed and nodded. "We're gonna need you to come in and talk to us."
Sam nodded in response. They'd be gone, disappear like they always did, but the cop didn't need to know that. They'd caught Kane red-handed. They didn't really need them.
Timmons nodded toward Dean. "He ok?"
Sam frowned. "He's-"
"He's had a really crappy day and doesn't feel like talking," Dean said roughly. He still wasn't looking at them, his eyes on the house that the firemen were still uselessly pouring water onto.
"Dean?" Sam had thought him nearly catatonic, but he should have known better. Dean wouldn't allow himself the luxury of shutting down.
"Yeah, Sammy." His voice was a ragged whisper. In one swift movement he stood, the blanket falling to the ground, forgotten. Sam and the deputy followed suit. Dean opened the car door and got in, already fishing in his pocket for the keys. Sam had the uncomfortable feeling that if he didn't get in the car fast Dean was going to leave without him.
Timmons grabbed Sam's elbow. "Watch him," he said simply. Sam only nodded. "This wasn't your fault. Either of you," he said more loudly for Dean's sake. Sam saw Dean's jaw tick and knew he'd heard. "Not much you can do when someone's that determined to hurt you."
Dean's eyes met Sam's, bleak and stricken. Certainly nothing they could do about it now.
"I guess it's like Paul always said," Timmons said thoughtfully.
"The meek shall inherit the earth." The deputy turned slightly, looking out over the fields in the now early morning light.
Understanding dawned on Sam. "Paul didn't have any family left. This will all go to Hannah's relatives."
"Shame about the house," the policeman said, "but her family, they're good builders. The whole community will come in. They'll put up a nice sturdy home to replace this one. Only take a few days."
"Sam," Dean said loudly, clearly impatient.
"Yeah," Sam said. He held out his hand to Timmons who shook it.
"We'll need to talk to you shortly," the officer reminded him again.
"I know." Sam turned to look at Dean who had gone back to his unseeing staring at the fire. "I… I need to see to him first." This had come at exactly the wrong time. After their father's death Dean had been so… off. Dangerously off. But it had passed. Dean had found some sort of equilibrium again. And then came the djinn to screw it all up again. No harem pants, no funny hats, just tattoos and the power to break a man's heart, rip it right out of his chest and crush it while he looked on. For Dean to come back, it must have been like choosing between heaven and hell. And then Sam had died in Dean's arms. Those vague memories, those few seconds after the pain had passed, he knew them for what they were now. His death. Dean's frightened voice. The knowledge that it was over… And then Dean had chosen Hell again.
"Sam, get in the freaking car!" Dean yelled.
Apparently Dean had moved from denial to anger. What was the next step? Bargaining. The Winchesters certainly knew how that turned out. Yeah, bargaining had done wonders for them.
"Sam, if you don't get your ass in the car, I swear…"
Sam nodded to Timmons one last time and hurried into the passenger seat. Dean already had the car in gear and moving before the door was even shut. Weaving through the emergency vehicles, he roared down the gravel drive ignoring the car's paint job. Pulling out onto the road, he floored it, not bothering to hide that he needed to put as much distance as he could between them and the house, and Hannah.
They drove and drove and the silence was deafening. Sam had no idea where they were going. He doubted Dean did either. It was just away.
Dean didn't turn on any music and for once Sam wished he would, just to drown out the accusing voices in his head. Of all people they should have been able to help Hannah. Instead, they'd practically handed her over tied up with ribbon.
"We should have known." Dean's voice cut through the silence, low and rough.
"There was no way we could have known he would do that," Sam countered.
"We should have taken care of Paul first," Dean said angrily.
"He wasn't the greater danger," Sam answered just as angrily. The anger wasn't helpful, but it was unavoidable.
"Hannah's dead body says differently."
"We didn't know!"
"We should have!" Dean shouted. "This is our job! We're supposed to know what we're doing. It's pretty simple. Ghosts bad. That the rule!"
"He was her husband. He… he shouldn't have hurt her," Sam said.
Dean's anger deflated just as quickly as it had arisen. "That's the problem. We were thinking of him like a person," he sighed. "Ghosts aren't people. They don't think like people."
Sam matched his sigh. "Yeah." What else was there to say really? The road stretched on and they fell silent again, each lost in their own thoughts. Hannah was gone and there was nothing they could do about it. They'd known her for all of a day, just one day, and now she was gone.
"Do you…" Dean cleared his throat nervously. "Do you think…"
Dean glanced over at him, an odd expression on his face, almost wary. "You think Hannah's… ok?"
Sam was very careful not to react before he considered what he was going to say. That Dean was even asking was… unusual. As his brother liked to say, that question was above their pay grade.
"You heard her yourself, Dean. It's not good. It's painful, but for a person with faith, it's all right."
Dean looked out the window so that Sam couldn't see his face, but he saw Dean's hands tighten on the steering wheel. "She's still… gone."
"We can hope she's at peace," Sam said.
"What about Paul?" Dean turned back slightly so that Sam could just see his profile. Sam could still tell how carefully he was guarding his expression. "Do you think… Do you think it cost him? When it comes down do it, he killed his wife and kid."
"Not…" Sam swallowed heavily, "Not my place to answer that. It was him, but it wasn't really him and he was trying to save her."
"If he saved her… but he couldn't be with her… if he had to be alone…" Dean trailed off, unable to continue.
"That would be unbearable," Sam said, but he wasn't talking about Hannah anymore and he let it show in his voice. "Dean…"
"Don't, Sammy," he said, his voice hushed, pain-filled.
"It's not gonna be a year from now. I will fix that."
"I hope so," Dean said simply. Just hearing Sam say it seemed to help him though and Sam saw him pry his fingers from the white-knuckled grip he'd had on the wheel.
Sam cleared his suddenly tight throat. "But when we do die… and let's face it, one of these days, something bigger and meaner is gonna take us out-"
"You mean again?" Dean said, a touch of amusement in his tone.
"When that happens, we're still gonna be together. I believe that." Sam put all the conviction he could muster into his tone.
Dean finally turned to look at Sam and his eyes were smiling. "You do, huh?"
"Yeah. So don't screw it up."
"You mean again?" Dean repeated, this time the amusement unmistakable.
Sam glared at him. "Yeah, again."
"Do you think He'll let me keep the car?" Dean asked.
Sam grinned inwardly, but didn't let it show. "Maybe He'll give you a better one."
Dean blinked, his eyes wide, then gently patted the steering wheel. "Don't listen to him, baby. Sam doesn't know what he's talking about."
"Dean, I'm trying to comfort your sorry ass. Stop worrying about the car!" Sam said in exasperation.
"All cars go to heaven," Dean said. "Well, maybe not Yugos, or Pintos. They were fireballs of death anyway. Or Probes!" Dean gave a mock shudder. "Who buys a car called a Probe? Sounds like something from a proctologist's office. Worse yet a used Probe. That's wrong on so many levels. I mean-"
"Dean!" Sam half-yelled to stop the flow of words.
"It's gonna be a better place, car or not."
Dean was silent for several moments then finally let out a slow breath. "It's a nice thought."
"That when we… go… we'll still be together."
"Yeah, it is," Sam said. He gave Dean a sidelong glace. "It'll make what the djinn did for you look like crap in comparison."
Dean nodded and Sam wished like anything he knew what his brother was thinking. Dean was so concretely grounded in the here and now. For all the craziness and the unbelievable things they'd seen, Dean's ability to accept that there was good out there as well as evil was stunted, cut off at the knees. That was partially why Dean had been so frantic when Sam died. He just couldn't bring himself to believe that if Sam wasn't with him, beside him and breathing, that he was ok. Sam just added it to the list of things to do. Dean, dying, faith.
Dean grinned suddenly. "The djinn let me keep the car."
Sam just shook his head and sighed.
"It's a car, Dean. I think He's got bigger things to worry about."
"You trying to tell me He doesn't appreciate a classic muscle car? He's omniscient right?"
Sam moved closer to the door, leaning away from Dean.
"What are you doing?"
"Getting out of the way in case lightning strikes."
Dean smiled. "Don't worry, Sammy. He has to have a sense of humor. He made you 8 feet tall."
"Just shut up and drive, Dean." Sam shook his head. "And don't blame me if He doesn't give you anything better than a golf cart."
Thus ends this little quintet of shape themed stories. A sincere thank you to everyone who's stuck with them. Even to those of you who threw things after the last chapter.