The last time Dean can remember seeing his dad this proud, is when he graduated boot camp and came home in his Marine dress uniform. Sam isn't going the way of the military, but he is going to be gone on a four year hitch at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. And to top it all off, it's not going to cost mom and dad an arm and a leg because Sammy is smart enough to qualify for some grant that pays for it all.
Dean takes one of his brother's bags and walks with him to the trunk of the old Ford Mustang dad fixed up for him to take to school, and tosses it in without much care immediately drawing protest from the younger Winchester.
"It's just clothes Sammy," Dean jokes, jabbing him softly in the ribs. "Or could you not live without your porcelain ballerina collection?"
Sam laughs and slams the trunk closed and for a second they just stand there. It's a familiar feeling because this is the same kind of awkward 'don't know how to say goodbye' stance they had when Dean left to report to Ft. Williams.
Dean scratches the back of his head and Sam stares off down the street and finally Sam just says "I'll call you."
That's good enough for Dean who nods and walks back up to the porch to stand with his parents. They all wave at Sam as he pulls out the drive and Dean rolls his eyes because it feels too much like a postcard moment to him.
Sam makes his first call home two weeks later.
The drive was good, and the dorm is okay, and he feels so damn awkward because the people here don't seem to grow like they do in Kansas. He's so much taller than practically everyone except for the freshman basketball player he has in his American History class.
Dean tells him to quit being such a fourteen-year-old girl for once and, "why not for a change, actually try and meet a girl or two? Or is the sudden proximity to San Francisco making you question yourself already?"
Sam laughs and tells Dean to shut his cakehole and that he'll call again whenever he has time.
That's how it goes for the brothers' Winchester, at least for that first year anyway. Sam calls home once a week, or every two weeks depending on his work load. He's acing most of his classes, but it's their mother who tells Dean this because Sam is never one to brag.
Criminal justice in particular, which he took on a whim, is actually challenging him in a way no other subject has before. The whole idea of Sam as a cop, lawyer, or judge just flies right over Dean's head because it's hard to imagine him in a position of authority when there are so many memories of noogies, wedgies, and pantsings inflicted upon him.
"Girls Sammy," Dean tells him after the umpteenth time he drolls on about class. "This school stuff is boring me to tears. I want to hear about some girls gone wild stuff due to too much drinking. Best years of your life right? I mean, live a little man."
Two years into college Sam finally has a girl to call home about.
"That's good to hear Sam," Dean replies to the info. "Mom and Dad were really starting to worry about you."
"Ha, ha, very funny," Sam shoots back, and Dean can practically hear him roll his eyes over the phone.
Her name is Jessica but everyone calls her Jess. She's tall for a girl, though Sam notes that he still does tower over her. She's pretty and kind, and smarter than he is. Dean listens politely but still fiddles with his fingers because this mushy crap his brother likes to go on about is about as entertaining to him as an Oprah marathon.
"You get any yet?" He asks. To which Sam just says 'Dean' in such a way it reminds him of his third grade teacher. "Fine whatever, don't answer. Just do me a favor and make sure she's not just living out some quasi-lesbian fantasy with you ya big girl."
A few days after the Jess conversation Dean drives down to some place called Cape Girardeau in Missouri, because there's a car dealership that has a part dad has been searching all over the mid-west for.
The second he meets Cassie, who is home visiting from college, all of Sam's mushy gunk comes flooding into the forefront of his mind. He's stunned by her because she doesn't seem to take a shine to any of his one-liners, and actually calls him a pig for even trying to pick up on her like that. Still, there is fire in her eyes as she says it, and she is smiling the whole time.
When Dean calls his brother later that day, he tells him that he's still a sissy when it comes to the ladies, but maybe, just a little, he might get what he's talking about.
That Thanksgiving Sam brings Jess home, and Dean brings Cassie and the whole holiday is a Norman Rockwell painting for a modern age. John and Mary instantly take a liking to their boys' choice in women, and John actually pulls them aside to tell them so.
Jess and Cassie get along easily enough, and Sam takes a shine to Cassie quickly because she's not afraid to verbally bitch slap his brother whenever the need be. And with Dean it's a need that never tires.
At dinner Dean and Cassie announce their engagement, their whirlwind relationship just continuing at a dizzying pace, and that her father has offered Dean a mechanic position at his dealership. He's going to take it if it won't put dad too far out at the shop, to which John says he'll make do.
They all toast to family, and just then the future looks so bright.
The next two years pass like clockwork. Sam continues his journey into academia with Jess by his side. Dean and Cassie get married at a small church in her hometown with everyone in their families in attendance.
They call, and talk, and visit on holidays and everything is as bright as it seemed that Thanksgiving Day.
That is, until the day before Sam's big law school interview.
Dean's ring tone, Back in Black, pulls him and Cassie from a sound sleep. The clock on his nightstand tells him it's a little past midnight.
"Sam," he mumbles into the phone once he checks the call ID. "You do remember we're two hours ahead of you right?
There's a long pause on the other end, and it's enough to make Dean open his eyes a little more and sit up in the bed.
"Sam?" He asks again, and this time it catches Cassie's attention. She moves closer to him and rests her chin on his shoulder.
"What's going on?" She asks sleepily.
"Sammy if this is a prank call it's kinda tame, the least you can do is breathe heavy or something."
They aren't any words, but he catches the faintest sound through the earpiece. Dean hasn't heard his brother cry since he was twelve and Sam was eight, and Dean had pushed him too hard on the tire swing out back and he flew off and broke his leg. It's the same broken little gasps he hears now as he had all those years ago.
"Dean," Sam finally says in a whisper. "Something's happened. There was a fire… Jess is dead."
No one hears from Sam after that. No calls, no letters, no nothing. He skipped out on the interview, but under the circumstances it was understandable. What Dean and his parents didn't understand was how completely he would fall off the map. Jess' parents even called to ask why he never showed up to the funeral.
A missing person report was filed with the Palo Alto police when they finally made the trip out to California to check he and Jess' apartment, only to find it bare. Of course his car was long gone but no APB's on it pulled any results. A check on his credit cards and bank accounts came up empty as well.
The first few weeks had been the worst because the police casually asked them to allow the possibility for a grief induced suicide. Dean was with his parents when the officer made the mistake of suggesting such a thing, and Dean practically had to keep his dad from punching the cop and spending the night in jail.
Mary could only cry and Dean felt pretty useless just listening to the boys in blue and their severe lack of options. He suggests to his father that they put some of the old military training to use and try to track him down. John agrees to the idea, but after three weeks and thousands of miles, they come up just as empty as the police.
Sad fact they had to come to accept is that, as smart as Sam is, he won't be found if he doesn't want to be.
What really kills Dean is that with such tragic news being shared the last time they were on the phone, he never got the chance to tell Sam that Cassie was two months pregnant. He was going to be an uncle.
Its six months later when Dean gets another phone call just past midnight. It's a number he doesn't recognize, but he picks it up as the habit it has become, always hoping one time it will be Sam on the other end instead of the various telemarketers and evangelical charities looking for donations.
"I dreamt about it," comes quietly through the receiver.
Dean sits up quickly, almost pulling the phone away to look at it in disbelief.
"Sam?" He yells into it. "Where are you? Where the hell have you been?"
"Before she died," Sam goes on as if his brother hadn't said a word. "I saw it. I didn't want to believe it because things like that just don't happen. But it did. It does. She was pinned up against the ceiling exactly how I saw it. God Dean there was so much blood."
"Blood?" Dean questions. "She died in a fire Sammy, a freak accident."
"The fire was after," Sam admits quietly. "I don't know how long she was dead before. It wasn't that late, I was just coming home. She made cookies…"
He trails off into a broken laugh and Dean feels his jaw clench in worry. He's never been scared for Sam because he knew he'd done a good enough job at being big brother so that he could take care of himself. This wasn't a school bully though. This wasn't getting over the fear of having to change in the locker room for gym class. He has no idea what to do here because dreaming about something before it happens? It's just crazy talk.
He wants to tell Sam that maybe he's had one too many, or that he might have made a few unnecessary calls to Dionne Warwick and her psychic friends, but for now he holds back the sarcasm and waits for Sam to speak again.
When he doesn't, Dean tells him how worried their parents have been. Doesn't he have any idea what this is doing to mom? How could he just keep away like this?
Sam replies, but doesn't answer any of the questions Dean wants to know. Instead he just says more weird cryptic crap that Dean doesn't understand.
"There's all kinds of scary shit out there man," Sam warns firmly. "Keep your eyes open."
Cassie helps Dean track down the number from the payphone Sam called from with the computer in her office at the newspaper. A place she still insisted on pulling eight hours in despite the fact that by now she was nearly bursting at the seams.
The call came from some dive bar in a town called Lake Manitoc in Wisconsin. Cassie tells him that Mapquest says he can be there in eight hours if he hurries. It is tempting to just hop in the old Impala and floor it all the way up there, but Dean gets the feeling that Sam took off just as soon as he hung up the phone.
Still at the computer Cassie tells him that there has been a rash of unexplained deaths in that town. All water related and pretty brutal the reports say. Cassie wonders if Sam, well maybe he was there for a reason.
Dean doesn't answer her inquiry, but agrees to himself that she has a point. All he can think about is what Sam said about scary shit being out there. He reads over Cassie's shoulder with his eyes wide open.
It's another few weeks before Dean gets another late night call, but this time he knows automatically that it's Sam. There's the same long pause that's been a part of his calls since he reinitiated contact, before his voice finally carries over.
"Hey Dean," he says, the sadness still carrying like a torch in his voice. "What happens when you say 'bloody Mary' three times in front of the mirror?"
Dean rolls out of bed and wanders down the hallway, not wanting to wake Cassie. She's due any day now and disturbing her rest only results in physical violence on his person.
"I don't know Sam," he replies, trying his best to remember that old myth he hasn't thought about since he was a kid. "She's supposed to come get you or something, right?"
"Oh she gets you alright," Sam says grimly. "You bleed out your eyes and choke to death on your own blood."
"Jesus Sammy," Dean shoots back. "What kind of company are you keeping huh?"
"The only kind that makes sense these days."
Dean doesn't know what to say to that. None of what Sam tells him lately seems to make any sense, even in the loosest definition of the term.
"You're not going around telling anyone about any of this are you?" Dean asks. "I think the last thing Mom wants is one of her boys ending up in the loony bin."
"Too bad, that was my next stop."
When he doesn't laugh it off, Dean looks at the phone incredulously as if the stare could be carried to wherever Sam was this time.
"I think there's something really wrong with me Dean," Sam says quietly.
No shit, Dean thinks. "Then come back Sam," he says instead. "Go home to Lawrence. Let mom and dad help you and I promise I'll be there."
"I saw Jess today," Sam continues as if Dean hadn't said anything at all. "She was on a corner staring, waiting for me, but I couldn't slow down."
"Sammy," Dean tries to interrupt.
"I haven't told you everything," Sam says. "I tasted her blood. When she was on the ceiling, it dripped right onto my face, in my mouth."
"That's kind of gross man," Dean says.
"Dean," Sam says flatly. "It tasted like honey."
A week after Sam's call Dean is standing in front of the giant display window in the hospital nursery, nervously chewing on his thumbnail, and staring at the bassinet marked: Winchester, Girl.
Cassie is sleeping back in her room, and Dean is here because she can't rest if he's in there pacing back and forth. He's still in awe over the little bundle moving restlessly in front of him.
I did that, he thinks. I made that.
The night nurse walks past him smiling, and he notes that she might have been his type once upon a time. He's still not sure how this happened. How he's suddenly the family man with all the responsibilities while Sam is off god knows where doing who knows what.
His phone rings, and his eyes shoot to the end of the hall where a clock is perched and reads a little past midnight, just like always. He places his hand on the glass briefly right above the head of his little girl, and moves away to finally answer the phone.
That irritating pause, he thinks. Like he's frickin' Elvis or something.
"I guess congratulations are in order," Sam says. "I can't believe you didn't tell me."
Dean stops dead in the middle of the hall, his heart pulsing just a second faster. He knows Sam hasn't been in contact with their parents, because Mom still won't stop hounding him to get Sam to talk to them, and he hasn't been in contact with any of their old acquaintances since he left home the first time.
So the question is, how the hell does Sam know?
"When was I going to do that huh?" Dean fires back at him. "When you disappeared for all that time? When you finally call again and talk about the weirdest shit over and over? How the fuck did you find out anyway?"
There's a long pause again and Dean is suddenly so mad he nearly smashes the phone against the wall.
"I dreamed it," Sam replies finally. "A little girl huh? Aw, daddy's little angel."
The anger fades as quickly as it came and he finds a chair suddenly feeling the need to sit down. Something about Sam knowing, something about the way he knows, is forming about a cold dark hole is his stomach.
"You're not going to win in the name game," Sam informs him.
"What are you talking about?"
"Come on Dean, Joan?"
"What wrong with it?" Dean asks. "Joan Jett rocks."
"Somehow I don't think Cassie will agree with you on that. She has one she really wants, but she hasn't told you yet has she?"
Well no, he thinks. She hasn't done anything other than hint that she might have something in mind.
"Where do you get this stuff Sammy?"
"You're going to argue about it a little, but she's going to win."
"Yeah well, she knows more words than me," Dean shoots back. "Arguing is kind of pointless."
"Congratulations Dean," Sam says sincerely. "Give them both my best."
"Hey wait! What's the name? Sam? Sammy?"
There's nothing but dead air and Dean is left to wonder what exactly his brother's best is these days.
Two weeks later Dean is leaning over Mirabelle's crib. Sam had been right in telling him Cassie had a name she really liked, and about him not winning with his, but he's really not that upset about it.
She's sleeping soundly, her little chest rising and falling, and Dean smiles with relief. He finds it very difficult to sleep himself unless he knows that she is safe and sound.
His phone vibrates in his pocket, Sam still doesn't seem to be keeping daylight hours, and he backs slowly out of the room.
"What do you know about Norse mythology?" Sam asks.
The first thing that comes to Dean's mind is all the Thor comics he read as a kid. Thor, Loki, and Odin are pretty much where his knowledge starts and stops, and who knows if any of that was accurate.
"There's this little town in Indiana," Sam says. "Where they sure love their apples. Got themselves a nice little god brought over from the old country, watching all the crops. All it asks for is a yearly sacrifice in exchange for a bountiful harvest. Can you believe that? A human life, or lives, just for apples?"
Dean's eyebrow lifts when he hears Sam laugh. The subject matter doesn't seem all that humorous, in fact it's more than a little creepy, however there's a small feeling of relief to hear it. So far all his calls have been morose, macabre, or depressing.
"What's got you smiling Sammy?" Dean asks. "Sounds like you've got a spring in your step."
"I've met someone," Sam replies.
Thatta boy, Dean thinks. Guess he wasn't going to carry to that torch to the grave like he thought.
"Someone?" He says into the phone. "Like a girl someone?"
"Yeah Dean, it's a girl. She's kind of like me in a way. Sort of a match made in… Wherever."
"Like you? What does that mean?"
"Can't really elaborate on that right now, it'd be kind of rude."
"Whatever man, guess I'm just glad some chick is crazy enough to keep you company."
"Yeah, we're having a swell time, here say hello."
He hears some kind of shuffling, and guesses it's the phone getting passed around. There's something distinctly odd in the way Sam is talking. Swell? That's a little too leave it to beaver even for him. In fact it, on top of so many other things, is just freaking weird. Weirder than the usual horror movie junk he keeps insisting is real.
There's just something more there. A confidence? A coldness? Dean can't figure it out.
"Hi Dean," a smooth female voice says over the phone. "I've heard so much about you."
"Who is this?"
"Well Meg," Dean carries on. "I wish I could say the same, but my brother isn't exactly coughing up the details."
"Oh I'm no one special."
Well you kind of have to be, Dean doesn't say. Sam always did have the most ridiculous standards.
"Where'd you crazy kids meet then?"
"You could say we just kind of found each other."
Dean can't help but roll his eyes. Could this possibly get any more vague?
"Do me a favor Meg, and tell me what Sam meant by you were like him. Are you traveling around the country looking for crazy unexplainable crap too?"
"Something like that," She answers with a chuckle, the sound of it instantly raising the hairs on the back of his neck. "Don't worry about your little brother," Meg continues. "I'm taking extra good care of him."
Martin Robinson is dead.
Cassie's father, Mirabelle's grandfather, his father-in-law.
Dean has seen plenty of wrecked cars working in his dad's garage his whole life, but never has he seen one that looked like it was smashed in from behind, by nothing but thin air.
If that isn't tragic enough, it makes Dean think of Sam.
There were no tracks around the car despite the obvious impact on the rear end. No paint flecks scraped off during the hit. The cops are filing it away as just an accident, but there's a pattern that's obvious to everyone but them. Clayton Solmes, one of Martin's oldest friends died on the same road, in the same way, only weeks ago. It sounds like the kind of thing his brother has been chasing for months now.
Dean sits on one of the couches in Cassie's parent's house watching over Mirabelle while Cassie is upstairs trying her best to console her mother. His daughter coos at him softly, and it's enough to bring a small smile to his face, though not enough to make it go as deep as it should.
It's late, a lot later than she should be up, but it seems that she too wants to keep odd hours.
His phone feels heavy in his pocket and he silently wills it to ring.
Come on Sammy, he thinks. Just call.
Of course it doesn't work that way. Life doesn't work that way. He's starting to think that maybe all of Sam's tales to astonish are getting to him more than he should let them. He's about to pick up Mirabelle and take her for a little stroll on the porch when his phone rings. His eyes immediately shoot to the clock.
"Sammy?" He asks, when he answers.
"You wanted me to call?" Sam replies after his pause.
Dean swallows loudly. All he has to do is think real hard and Sam comes running? It seems when it comes to his brother, normal just takes a flying leap out the window.
"Yeah, I guess I did."
"I'm sorry about Cassie's dad," Sam says.
"Come on Dean," Sam sighs. "You should get this by now. I just know things."
"Tell me you didn't dream this before it happened," Dean says, suddenly defensive. "Tell me you couldn't have warned us."
"No, I couldn't have."
"I don't believe you."
"What else is new?"
Sometimes Dean misses his brother in the sense that he's no longer close enough to smack him upside the head when need be.
"Two car accidents with the same M.O., on the same stretch of road, with the same result hardly sound like accidents at all," Sam says.
"What does it sound like then Mr. Wizard?"
"Sounds like something wants them dead."
"Something? Not someone?"
"You wanted me to call Dean, and I don't think I would have heard it had this been something you could explain, so can the skepticism."
"Fine, alright, carry on wayward son."
"A vengeful spirit is most likely what you're looking for. I've seen a few of those around. I'm guessing the Robinson's got a few skeletons in their closet they don't want found."
"Watch it there Sam," Dean warns. "They're good people."
"I'm not saying anything to the contrary. But things like this don't just happen for no reason. So go digging Dean. Because this thing, whatever it is, isn't going to stop until every one it wants is dead."
"And how do I stop it?"
"That I can't tell you."
"Can't or won't?"
Sam doesn't answer and Dean wonders just what exactly his brother does with all these supernatural incidents he follows around.
"Sammy?" He asks. "All these things you tell me, all this shit you see? You help these people right?"
"No," Sam replies finally in a voice that doesn't sound entirely like the one Dean has heard his whole life. "I don't help them Dean. I just want to see."
Almost a month later, Dean is sitting in the living room of a rented house a few blocks away from his parent's in Lawrence. Boxes surround him like a little fort and he hasn't made the trek upstairs to Cassie and their bed because he just can't find the energy.
After it, the truck, the spirit of Cyrus Dorian, whatever, got Jimmy Anderson, after it got her mother, Cassie just couldn't stay in Cape Girardeau anymore. Not that he could blame her. Having your entire family wiped out by some mysterious thing in the dark doesn't exactly invite hometown pride.
He hasn't heard from his brother again in all this time, though after Sam's refusal to help him, he's not sure if he'd actually answer the phone for him again anyway. He's about to pass out on the bare carpet of his new living room when, speak of the devil, the phone rings.
He stares at it longer than usual, finding the temptation just a little too hard to resist. Flipping it open he sees yet another number he doesn't recognize and contemplates just sending it straight to voicemail.
Cursing himself he answers it, and mutters something under his breath about Sam and his dramatic pauses.
"Dean," Sam says quietly. "I've been a bad, bad boy."
The cackling howl causes Dean to rip the phone away from his ear. That laugh, it sends chills down his spine even though it's (presumably) thousands of miles away.
"Sammy?" Dean asks once the laughter dies down. "You didn't fall into a vat of chemicals or something did you?"
"He killed his whole family. He tried to kill me. He was just like me Dean. His mother died the same way Jess did. But his father, well his father blamed him for it. It was ugly Dean. His whole life was ugly. I kept thinking that, I don't know, if that had happened to our mother it could have been me like that. I could have been that kid."
Dean has no idea who he's rambling about, but Sam thinking that this kid's problem could have been his is a load of bull.
"That's crap Sam," Dean says. "Dad would have never treated you, us, like that. No matter what happened."
Sam says nothing.
"So what happened with this kid then? He along for the ride now with you and your girlfriend? You hanging out with murderers now?"
"No, he… Well he didn't see along the same lines as us. He was all twisted around inside. We tried to tell him there was a purpose, a reason for it, but he wouldn't listen."
Reason? Dean wonders. There's a reason for all of this now?
"He tried to kill me," Sam continues. "He could move things, with his mind, that's how he killed his family. Made them all look like suicides. He tried to… He floated a gun right in front of my face, almost pulled the trigger too. But he wasn't strong enough. He wasn't a match for me."
"Sam," Dean says cautiously, catching on to what his brother is hinting at. "What did you do?"
"Meg wants me to meet her father," Sam says, ignoring the question. "She says he has plans, big plans, and they both want me involved."
"Sammy what did you do?"
"I told you I was bad Dean," Sam says softly, a small cold chuckle following his words. "He wasn't strong enough for me. That gun, it just turned right around on him, and when the trigger pulled he couldn't stop it."
The phone line goes silent, and suddenly Dean isn't so tired anymore.
He sits out in his front porch trying his best to rock a fussy little Mirabelle back to sleep, when the phone rings.
"…So Bram Stoker got it wrong."
Another month without a word from his brother, thirty red X's on the calendar since he flat out admitted he'd killed someone. Thirty days Dean has been wrestling with his conscious, thinking that maybe he should call someone about what his brother had done. Their dad had always told them you never rat on family, no matter what. But Dean really has to wonder if there are limitations to that stigma.
Thirty days of thinking about all of that non-stop and when Sam finally calls he talks about some horror writer Dean knows in name only. He has seen the movie at least, and in his opinion it was some of Gary Oldman's finest work, though knowing his brother, that isn't what he's talking about.
"You're not in school anymore Sam," he replies to the cryptic comment. "What's with the book report?"
"Oh, what I'm talking about isn't fiction," Sam replies with a small hint of humor. "Just found a, hey Meg what do you call a group of vampires? Right, a nest of them in Colorado. They're real Dean, who would have thought?"
Mirabelle shrieks her discomfort in Dean's arms, and he tries to shift her and the phone at the same time, but it isn't the best way to go about it.
"Sounds like you've hit pay dirt in crazy horror land Sammy, I'm happy for you."
There's a lengthy pause on the other end.
"You don't sound happy," Sam finally replies.
Oh really? Dean thinks. All that physic mojo you got working for you, and you just pick up on the obvious.
"Well I got a fussy four-month-old baby in my arms that refuses to sleep, I have to get up in about five hours for work, and I got my crazy brother on the phone telling me that vampires are real. So sorry Sammy, if I'm not giving you the full attention your latest tale from the crypt deserves."
Another long pause, so long Dean thinks that Sam may have actually hung up. Mirabelle's little head falls against Dean's shoulder, her crying silenced by finally nodding off.
"They travel and hunt almost like animals," Sam continues, to which Dean can't help but feel Mirabelle's falling asleep is exactly what Sam was waiting for. "And if they're betrothed it's for life. The teeth, well they're normal until they feed. The actual pointed variety are hidden just underneath the regular ones and come out the second they smell blood."
"That's interesting and all Sam," Dean replies. "But maybe ol' Bram thought some of those details could have used a little spicing up. The real thing kind of lacks a punch."
"The real thing knows how to punch pretty well," Sam tosses back. "Pretty sure I got a black eye from one of them."
"Sorry to hear that man. Listen I got to put the little one down, so if where done with the campfire tales?"
"Of course, do me a favor? Give Mirabelle a kiss from her Uncle Sam."
He hangs up first, and Dean stands there frozen. Sam showing affection for his daughter just makes his blood run cold.
Dean thinks that Sam's adventures must be getting bigger and longer because this is the third call in a row he's waited a month to make. He moves out of bed shrugging an apology to Cassie, who can't believe he still tries to talk to his brother. He shuffles out the bedroom door before Sam finally speaks.
"I thought you might like to know there are people out there who try and do good in this world."
"A little dramatic Sam," Dean says as he makes his way down the stairs. "Even for you."
Sam laughs in reply and to Dean it just sounds empty.
"I remember you getting pissed at me because I couldn't help you."
Wouldn't, Dean thinks.
"That I don't try to help everyone else."
"We were raised better than that Sam," Dean interjects.
"Things change," Sam replies in a whisper.
"They call themselves Hunters," Sam picks back up in his normal informative tone. "And it fits because most of them actually treat it like a sport. Ghosts, demons, shape-shifters, you name it they hunt it."
"That include whatever you are Sammy?"
"Cute. And yes, maybe, but they can't even tell half the time. There's this bar called the Roadhouse owned by this family of hunters, Dad, Mom, and a daughter about my age. This place, it caters mainly to this communal cliental. It was full of stories and warnings. Told me and Meg that if we didn't know what we were doing, the best option was just staying away. These people are supposed to be experts in the field, and there we were, and they didn't even notice."
"You didn't hurt them did you?"
"No Dean, we didn't. Despite what you may think I'm not a monster."
"Jury's still out on that one Sam."
Another cold empty laugh, and oddly it makes Dean a little sick to his stomach.
"I've been on the road a long time," Sam says. "In fact I'm getting a little homesick and could really use a break."
Oh shit, Dean thinks. He's wanted his brother to come home since the day Jess died, but that was then. So much has happened in the meantime, Sam has seriously fallen off the deep end, and he really wouldn't know how to deal with him.
"Now's not really the best time," Dean says, grabbing at straws for excuses. "It's kind of busy down at the garage with Dad, and Cassie's doing all this freelance work for the Journal-World. Mirabelle is a handful on her own without company around."
"I think it's about time I met my niece don't you? She's almost what, six months old now? They grow up so fast."
"Sammy it's not like I don't want you around…"
"That's what it sounds like to me," Sam says coldly. "Don't be scared big brother. I'd never hurt you.
Three weeks later Dean feels himself jumping at every ringing phone, finds that he just can't answer the door without hiding a bat behind his back, and continuously looks over his shoulder for that familiar shaggy mop of hair perched atop that freakishly tall head.
The last call Sam made came from Duluth, just outside that bar he'd been talking about. He could have come home anytime he wanted after that but Dean gets the feeling that his brother is purposely biding his time just to screw with him.
He finds that at the end of each work day he's rushing home to his parent's house to collect Mirabelle, not wanting to leave her out of his protective grasp for too long. He calls Cassie throughout the day making sure she's alright.
This is ridiculous, Dean thinks. What kind of pansy was he turning into, to be scared of his little brother like this?
Still, with all that Sam has told him, all that he's done, Dean knows there are very good reasons to be scared.
He can hardly sleep a wink anytime just before or after midnight, always wondering if Sam is going to make a call. Cassie has started asking him to just stay out of the bed until it's safe to assume Sam wouldn't be calling that night.
Tonight is no different. He'd actually fallen asleep just after ten, but as soon as the clock edged closer to midnight his eyes snapped open, and he started to shift, and feel restless and Cassie mumbled something that sounded like he should go get a drink of water or whatever. Crawling out of bed, his kisses his wife gently on the forehead before making his way out into the hall.
He's so tired. Even when he sleeps it's never very well or very long. He makes a quick left turn into Mirabelle's room and leans the slightest bit over her crib. She's sleeping soundly, her little head turned in his direction. He leans down to kiss her just as he had Cassie, before finally making his way to the stairs.
He chooses chocolate milk over water, and sits in the old recliner he'd talked his mom into giving him instead of throwing it out. Leaning back and taking a healthy chug of his milk, he clicks on the TV scans the channels for anything boring enough to put him to sleep. He checks his phone out of habit, before slipping it back into the pocket of his pajama pants. He doesn't make it through the last half of Sportscenter before he falls asleep.
Cassie calling his name shakes the dream from his eyes, but when he turns around she isn't there. The TV is still bathing him in a blue glow and he yawns as he throws the chair back into an upright position.
"Cassie?" He calls once he hits the foot of the stairs, but there is no reply. He knows her heard her.
Sam, he thinks suddenly and tears up the stairs calling after her again. He runs into Mirabelle's room first, hearing her little moans of alertness. She's there, she's awake and safe, and the sigh of relief is so big.
He must have been dreamed Cassie calling him.
He's about to pick Mirabelle up to try and rock her back to sleep when he notices the little wet stain on her onesie. Reaching for her spit up cloth he dabs gently at his daughter's cheek and mouth, when a drop of wetness lands on the back of his hand.
Examining it closely, that hand starts trembling when he sees that it's not the remains of Mirabelle's dinner coming back up. It's too dark and heavy and his stomach drops when he recognizes just what it is.
Another drop hits his hand and he looks up to find the source.
"Cassie!" He shouts.
She's pinned to the ceiling, her hair and limbs spread out like a fan, a bright red stain stretched across her abdomen. There is no expression on her face. There is no light in her eyes.
"Cassie!" He shouts again. "No!"
The flames burst from beneath her and he's forced to his knees by the heat.
He jumps quickly to his feet and grabs his little girl from her crib, her screams magnifying the darkness suddenly taking hold of his heart. Wrapping her tightly in his arms he runs for the door as the flames spread downward, consuming the room in blinding hellfire. He pivots on his foot to take one last look inside, Cassie's form no longer visible, and finally moves back to the stairs and out the front door.
Flames explode out the window once he's out the door and running across the lawn, and he waits until he's hit the sidewalk until he finally turns around. The fire doesn't seem to be spreading to the rest of the house rather; it seems content on just burning through Mirabelle's room.
He can't stop shaking, Mirabelle cries in his arms, but he can't make them move enough to calm her down.
Things like this don't happen, he thinks. Things like this aren't supposed to be real.
His phone rings in his pocket, and he stops shaking instantly.
"Don't leave me waiting for your dramatic pause," he yells into the receiver. "Godammit Sam you talk to me."
"Good, you made it out," Sam replies.
The bile rises up in Dean's throat faster than he can fight it and it brings him to his knees. He heaves onto the grass, still careful to keep his daughter out of the way.
"No," Dean cries into the phone once he recovers. "You didn't do this Sammy. Tell me you didn't do this to me."
"There are big plans in the works Dean," Sam replies in a neutral tone. "Much bigger than you or I could ever imagine."
"Fuck you and your plans!" Dean shouts. "You said you'd never hurt me and you killed Cassie!"
"No," Sam says calmly. "I didn't."
Then you know who did Dean thinks. You know because you're one of them. He has never felt such anger clenching its way into his fists. If he didn't have Mirabelle in his arms, he doesn't know what they'd do. Tears run hotly down his cheeks, burning the skin as they fall.
For Cassie and the life suddenly ripped away from her. For Mirabelle who is now motherless.
For Sammy. His little brother now nothing more than a cold blooded… He doesn't even know what to call him.
"Jury's in Dean, I'm sorry you had to find out this way."
"No you're not," Dean bites back in an angry whisper.
"Take care of yourself big brother, and your little girl. I'm sure we'll see each other real soon."
The line goes dead and this time Dean finally smashes his phone against the ground.
His mind is awhirl of everything Sam has told him the past few months. It's real. The stories of monsters in your closet, of terror hiding in shadows just around the bend, and the things you fear in the dark. All of it is real.
Mirabelle cries against him, and he finally finds the strength in his legs to stand up again.
There's scary shit out there, he thinks echoing his brother's words. Realizing now they couldn't be truer.
He looks down at his little girl's face, sets his jaw in grim determination, and thinks of something else Sam told him.
A bar called the Roadhouse.
There are people out there who try and do good in this world too.