SYNOPSIS: Battling a concussion-fuelled headache, Dean develops an irrational dislike for a town's name. One-shot. A (hopefully entertaining) bit of fluff featuring the two brothers and some stream-of-consciousness banter inside the Impala in the aftermath of a hunt. Oh, and all place names used in the story are real. Really.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Supernatural. I'm just playing with Sam and Dean in Kripke's sandbox. Will walk them home when we're done. Promise.
SPOILERS: Takes place post Season 2, before the start of Season 3. Minor references to Faith, Bloodlust, All Hell Breaks Loose I and II
First post. Deep breath. Here goes.
What's In a Name
"No. No way, Sam."
"Dean, come on …."
"I said No. I'm not staying here."
Sam raised his arms wide in frustration as he watched his brother's unsteady gait across the diner parking lot toward the Impala. "Dude! You're being irrational. It's just a name."
But Dean was hurting and in no mood to be reasonable. "Which part of 'No' is giving you trouble, Sam? We're leaving."
Dean yanked open the car door, his stubborn glare losing all impact when his knees buckled without warning. His left hand grabbed for the open door, only a white-knuckled grip on its frameless window preventing a fall. He swayed but remained upright. His right hand, clenched on the door frame, fisted as he regained his balance then slammed down in irritation on the roof of the Chevy.
Hearing the muttered curse, Sam reined in his instinct to run over and help his brother. He tensed as he watched Dean squeeze his eyes closed and swallow, Adam's apple bobbing convulsively, as he battled to reclaim control of a body pushed past its limits.
Dean exhaled slowly to steady himself before opening his eyes and realizing Sam was still watching him intently, making no effort to hide his worry.
"It's nothing," the elder Winchester mumbled, his attempt to reassure his brother failing miserably. Dropping the pretense, Dean motioned for Sam to hurry up and crumpled wearily inside the car.
The crease in Sam's brow deepened. Dean had been trying, and failing, all day to convince Sam he was well on the mend from a concussion suffered two days earlier when a pissed-off spirit tossed him down a flight of stairs. More than once, the injury had threatened to topple him but he repeatedly refused help, unfailingly barking out 'I'm fine' whenever Sam offered to drive or suggested he rest.
In the gospel according to Dean, he had a right and responsibility as big brother to fuss over an injured or ailing Sam. Little brothers, however, were not afforded the same right. Dean hated being fussed over when he was the one hurting. That, and his body's infuriating inability to heal itself instantly as Dean demanded, usually built into a frustration he'd take out on whatever, or whoever, was handy. On this day, that frustration surfaced as an over-the-top hostility toward the tiny hamlet they currently found themselves in. More specifically, its unusual name.
A couple of hours earlier, Dean had seemed ready to call it a day – but that was before he'd seen the town's name. As they'd driven past the illuminated roadside sign, he'd stared incredulously as the large, block letters came fully into focus. "Oh you have got to be friggin' kidding me?"
While Sam snorted with laughter at the improbable name, Dean's mood had soured quickly. Sam's lighthearted admonition to 'get over it' just intensified the elder Winchester's ill temper. Sam was convinced that if his brother hadn't been in dire need of a caffeine fix, he would have pulled a U-turn 20 feet past the sign on principle alone.
Dean had groused about the name for most of the past hour they'd spent in the diner. Sam had tried to get his brother to laugh it off but Dean was determined to be pissed about something and, right now, this was it.
It was late. Sam wanted to call it a night, head for the nearby B&B the waitress had just recommended. But Dean, Winchester stubborness now fully refuelled on caffeine, quickly shot down that plan. "Drink up, Sam. If your ass isn't in the car in five minutes, I'm leaving without you."
Sam shook his head, walking quickly toward the car, eyes fixed on his brother now slumped in the driver's seat.
"Thick-skull like his should make him concussion-proof," he muttered, reaching for the passenger door handle. The hinges creaked loudly as he yanked open the door and folded his lanky frame into the shotgun seat. Turning to face his brother as he slammed the door behind him, he saw Dean wince at the noise.
"Sorry." Dean's reaction made Sam even more determined to get his brother to see sense. "Dean, come on. You need sleep not time behind the wheel. Just one night. What does it matter what ….."
Dean cut him off. "No. We're leaving. Now."
He turned the key in the ignition and the throaty roar of the Impala's engine momentarily drowned out Zeppelin's Nobody's Fault But Mine as it blasted from the Chevy's speakers. Jimmy Page's guitar riffs once again filled the car as the engine settled back into a steady purr. Sam looked on in disbelief as Dean reached over and turned down the volume.
"Dude, you are so busted."
There was a touch of guilt in Dean's sideways glance. "What?"
Sam pointed at the stereo. "You play Zeppelin at two levels – loud and mind-blowing. If you're turning it down, no way should you be operating heavy machinery."
Sam was right, and they both knew it, but that didn't mean Dean was ready to admit it. "You don't like my driving, Sam, you can always walk. I'm fine." To emphasize the point, he cranked the volume back up. "Happy now?"
"No, Dean, I'm not. Look at yourself. You can barely stand up."
An edge crept into Dean's voice, warning Sam he was tiring of the argument. "I know you're the college boy in this family, Sammy, but driving's generally done sitting down."
"It's also generally done with your eyes open." Sam was fighting hard to rein in his temper. His brother could be infuriatingly cavalier when it came to his own health. "You almost passed out getting in the car, Dean. That's a long way from 'fine.'"
The only response he got was a glare before the rear wheels of the Impala kicked up gravel as Dean peeled his car out of the diner parking lot and back onto the county road that led to the highway.
Sam studied his brother's face. Dean's jaw was clenched, his eyes steely and fixed straight ahead. The dashboard lights picked up a light sheen of sweat across his forehead.
Sam took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. Butting heads with his brother never got either one of them anywhere. "Dean. Please. The B&B sounds great. You really wanna drive 40 miles down the highway, at this time of night, to find a place to stay just because you don't like the name of the town?"
Sam exhaled in exasperation, running his fingers through his shaggy hair. The intensity of Dean's dislike was over-the-top and they both knew it. Another day, he'd have seen the sign, made some smartass comment, and forgotten about it. But today the concussion turned the name into a red flag, waved directly at a very bull-headed Dean Winchester.
Sam sighed, thinking wistfully of the cozy little B&B the waitress had described. A good night's sleep and some good food was exactly what they both needed. Changing tactics, Sam appealed to one of Dean's few known soft spots.
"Come on, Dean. You've gotta admit, the name's pretty funny. It's like somebody let their kid name the town."
But Dean wasn't buying it. "Nice try, Sam. Next you'll be tellin' me Big Bird got elected mayor and they're renaming the main drag Sesame Street."
Sam quirked an eyebrow at Dean. "Wow. I'm impressed."
"That you remember anything from Sesame Street." Sam shuffled round in his seat to face his brother. "As a kid, your idea of educational TV was The A Team…. 'Pay attention, Sammy… watch how Face cons this guy, see how B.A. handles this car….When you're older, you'll need to know this stuff.'"
Dean frowned at Sam. "Was I wrong? No. But you, being you, wanted ABCs not B.A. Baracus. So, being the awesome big brother I am, I let you watch your Sesame Street - despite my reservations.
Sam's eyes widened. "Reservations? The A-Team was okay for a four-year-old but Sesame Street wasn't?"
"Damn straight." Dean shrugged. "Okay, the Count was cool. So was Oscar. But Ernie and Bert? Dude, there was something seriously wrong with those two. Bert's obsession with pigeons was just ……wrong."
He shuddered for effect, then turned toward Sam. "Now those two. THEY would live in a place like this."
"They're puppets, Dean."
Sam's incredulous smile, one that had steadily widened during their surreal exchange, slipped a bit when he saw Dean unconsciously rubbing his temple.
Sam snaked a long arm into the back seat and grabbed his computer bag. He pulled a bottle of painkillers from the front pocket and, as an afterthought, grabbed his laptop. Placing the computer on his knees, he twisted the lid off the pill bottle, dumped out three pills, and passed them to his brother.
Dean frowned but accepted the painkillers, the gratitude in his eyes belying the crease in his forehead. He dry swallowed the pills before Sam had a chance to twist off the lid from a bottle of water he'd pulled from the knapsack by his feet.
"What?" Dean glanced sideways as Sam offered him the bottle of water. "Oh. Thanks."
He took a swig from the bottle, washing down the pills after-the-fact. His features softened as he looked over at his brother who was now opening his laptop. "Look Sam, I know I'm being an ass about this….."
"Yeah, you are." Sam looked up from the computer, the set of his jaw fully illustrating his frustration. "You know, if you'd just let me help you once in a while, we could avoid this stupid game we play every time you're feeling like crap."
"Now where's the fun in that, Sammy," Dean smiled, shaking his head. The action caused him to wince and rub his temple again, but a hint of a smile stayed on his lips.
While the interior of the car was lit only by the soft amber light of the dash, Sam was sure he could see the lines of tension slowly melting from his brother's face. He considered trying again to get Dean to turn around and head for the B&B but when Dean sensed Sam looking at him, suspicion flashed across his green eyes. The younger Winchester gave his brother a disarming smile and turned back to his computer, deciding against pushing his luck. The last thing they needed right now was to go another round.
Sam fired up his computer and enabled the recently, and fraudulently, acquired satellite connection, pleasantly surprised the signal was as strong as it was.
Dean squinted at the bluish glow of the computer's LCD screen. "Itching for another hunt?"
Sam shook his head. "Nah, but your little rant about this town's name got me thinking about some of the other, uh, 'unique' places we've been to. Remember when we drove through Paradise, Kansas and it led straight to Garden of Eden?"
Dean smirked, tenting his eyebrows at Sam. "Yeah, but if I'm gonna find Paradise, I'm heading for Pennsylvania."
Dean's expression said he couldn't believe Sam had forgotten. "Because there you get to Paradise via Intercourse."
Sam rolled his eyes.
Dean didn't miss the reaction. "Hey, I didn't name'em. Or place them near each other. He shrugged. "If someone opens a door…."
Sam nodded, continuing to punch keys on his computer. "Yeah, you're gonna barge right in, most times with guns blazing."
Dean's smile widened. "Gotta like my style, dude - which is more wild west than Amish country anyway. Yeah, Texas knows how to name a town. If you're going to plant your family tree, it should be somewhere with a kick-ass name….. like Point-Blank…or Run-and-Shoot….. or, my personal favourite, Gun Barrel City."
Sam scrolled through a list of web pages, remembering their latest trek through the Lone Star state. "Don't forget Bugtussle, Possum Kingdom and, oh yeah, the appealing little town of Ding Dong."
Dean smiled. "Almost missed the joke there, Sammy. Ivy League humour may be a little subtle for the masses." He swatted his brother playfully to get his attention. "I wonder if they have a dead witch."
"You know…Ding Dong….. the witch is dead……."
Sam groaned. "Don't give up your day job, Dean. Your sense of humour is about a subtle as a sledgehammer."
Dean shrugged "Whatever. But one, we don't exactly have a 'day' job, and two, Bugtussle, that was Tennessee not Texas."
"No, it's Texas. We went past…."
"Sam, Bugtussle is the hometown of the Beverly Hillbillies and they came from Tennessee."
Sam's eyebrows peaked as he stared at his brother. "Dean, that show was on and off the air before you were even born. How do you remember that crap? Why do you remember that crap?"
Dean grinned. "Late-night re-runs – and Elly Mae Clampett."
Sam turned back to his computer, shaking his head. "Figures."
"Yeah, she had a great one."
"Come on, Sam. Elly Mae was one of the most influential women in TV."
"Oh, right." Sam stared at his brother incredulously. "And just how do figure that?"
Dean smiled. "She made form-fitting denim an art form, dude. And that blazed the trail for Daisy Duke and her oh-so short shorts. And oh how I loved those short-shorts."
"Oh, and all this time I thought you watched Dukes of Hazzard for the car," Sam deadpanned.
Dean shrugged. "The General was cool, but Daisy, man that's one flower I'd love to …."
"Way too much information, dude." Sam's eyes stayed glued to the computer.
Dean's comeback remained unspoken as realized his brother was once again engrossed in reading something on the computer screen. "What's caught your interest now, Poindexter?
Sam ignored the jibe. "Says here there's a town in Louisiana called Waterproof …."
Dean waited expectantly. "And….."
"And… apparently the local paper once ran a headline that said '4 Waterproof men drown.'"
Dean couldn't help himself. He smiled.
Sam returned the smile, reveling in the fact in brother was visibly relaxing, before turning back to his computer and scrolling to another entry. "Georgia has a town called Enigma – even the residents say it's a puzzle how that one got its name…."
Dean groaned at the pun.
Sam tapped a few more keys. "Here's a couple right up our alley: Goretown, South Carolina and Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.
Dean was intrigued. "We need to check those out, Sammy. Sound like just the kind of places demons would hole up in."
Sam nodded, scrolling down the list in front of him. "Hmmm. West Virginia has the winning trifecta of Looneyville, Big Ugly and Left-Hand."
Dean pursed his lips. "Man, I'd love to see Founders' Day celebrations in Big Ugly."
Sam smiled, continuing to scan through the web page. "Huh, Maryland has a town called Boring."
"Well, we're definitely not going there. No time for Boring people." Dean flashed his 100-watt smile. "Besides, if I showed up, they'd have to change the town's name."
Sam rolled his eyes again. "Sounds like you should check out the next town over - Cockeysville. Just try and avoid the town of Accident."
Dean nodded. "Check. No driving by Accident."
Now it was Sam's turn to groan.
Dean tapped his fingers against the steering wheel as he reached for a memory. "While you were in school, Dad and I were worked a job in Cali. We stayed in a place called Whiskeytown and, as I recall, it lived up to its name. For us, anyway."
His smile widened. "There were some great place names around it too – Weed…Hooker…Woody…." He chuckled. "That's California for you: All your guilty pleasures in one convenient area code."
Sam grinned. "Well, using that logic, I'm just glad Dad didn't pick Hooker as your base of operations."
Dean looked genuinely offended. "I don't pay for sex, Sam." His indignation morphed into a familiar smirk. "Now, if I was a goofy-looking as you……."
Sam pulled a face. "Oh, good comeback – if you were 12."
Clicking a few more keys, the corners of Sam's mouth quirked upwards at his latest find. "Ignoring for a moment our, uh, 'Most Wanted' status, we could cross the border into Canada and visit Dildo, Newfoundland.
Dean's smile broke into a wide grin. "You're kidding, right?"
Sam shook his head. "Nope. It's a fishing village. Apparently dildo is the traditional name given to pegs used to hold the oars in place on a row boat. Or, it might be a derivative of ……"
"Shut up, Sam. How many times do I have to threaten to beat that buzzkill out of you?" Dean tapped a finger on the side of his head for emphasis. "Sometimes you just have to let your imagination have its way with you."
Sam turned to his brother, raising his eyebrows. "And what exactly are you imagining, Dean?"
Dean opened his mouth to answer, thought better of it and cleared his throat. "What else you got there?"
Grinning, Sam focused on another entry. "In the province of Alberta, there's a place called Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump."
Dean looked at Sam in disbelief. "Now you're making shit up."
Sam shook his head. "Sorry dude, fact is stranger than fiction."
Dean's smile was genuine. "Awesome. I think I have a new favourite."
"It's even a World Heritage Site….." Sam's voice trailed off as he read more.
"Whatever that means," Dean mumbled, his brow furrowing as he reached for another memory. "What was that place in Kentucky….the one I thought would make a great home base for us?"
"Hell-for-Certain." The memory came easily but Sam flinched the moment the words left his lips. He mentally kicked himself. Nice one, genius. He turned to face his brother who flashed him a resigned smile.
"Not the one I was thinking of but, yeah, definitely headed in that direction. They've got citizenship papers all lined up for me."
"Not funny, Dean." Sam swallowed, feeling nauseous every time he thought about his brother's deal to save Sam's life at the cost of his own. As if on cue, his back twinged, a phantom pain from his 'fatal' stab wound.
"It's a little funny." It was the same line Dean had used in the hospital after being electrocuted. Sam wasn't laughing then and he wasn't laughing now.
Sam saw a flash of regret in Dean's eyes but he knew it wasn't self-sacrifice that put it there. Dean hated the guilt Sam felt as the cause of the deal. He hated that the deal was robbing Sam of sleep as he racked his brain for a way to get Dean out of it. He hated the worry and the fear it was causing his little brother. But if Dean was ever asked outright if he regretted the deal, Sam knew what the answer would be. "No. And I'd do it again if I had to."
But, typically, Dean refused to talk about it. Whenever Sam brought up the deal, Dean would just change the subject. During one attempt to pull more details from his brother, Sam had almost cashed in his 'clock me' raincheck from their vampire hunt with Gordon, the urge to deck Dean overwhelming when his brother suggested the deal was 'liberating.'
Unlike most people, Dean said, he knew how much time he had left and he was determined to enjoy himself. "Good times, Sammy. Good times."
The cocky smile had faded as his eyes met Sam's. He sighed. "Look Sam, I did what I had to. It's that simple. All I need now is to take out as many of these demonic sons of bitches as I can. Make the world a bit safer so you can live the life you've always wanted."
"The life I want is one with you in it," Sam replied quietly.
That had caught Dean's attention. Not just what he said, but how he said it. When Sam was angry, he got loud – the polar opposite of Dean. The fact he'd said the words quietly meant he was hurting.
It hadn't been a conscious choice on Sam's part, but he knew the point had hit home when he saw that familiar flash of regret appear briefly in his brother's green eyes. Then he had closed himself off yet again.
"Yeah, well you're alive, Sam. That's all that counts."
A playful smack on his arm pulled Sam from his memories. "Am I boring you there, Samantha?"
Sam cleared his throat. "Um, no, of course not."
"Where'd you zone out to?"
"What? Sam looked over at his brother, who glanced at him expectantly. "Oh. Nowhere. It's nothing. I'm good."
"Good." Dean looked far from convinced but chose to let it drop. "I remembered. The place I was thinking of was Knockemstiff."
Sam swallowed, then nodded, for once grateful for his brother's avoidance tactics. It had been a long day. He had no energy left for another fight about the deal. As soon as they found a place to stop for the night, he'd need whatever energy he could muster to keep researching for ways to get Dean out of it. There had to be a way, he just had to find it.
Sam pushed himself up in his seat and cleared his throat again. "Yeah, but Knockemstiff was Ohio, not Kentucky."
Dean shrugged. "Oh. Right. Whatever, dude - I still say it would make a cool address – Knockemstiff: Home of the Winchester Bros. It's where we are, it's what we do!"
Sam shook his head at the irony buried within his brother's lame joke. Yeah, the Winchesters were a team. They could bicker like an old married couple but when the roof caved in – as it did on an almost weekly basis for their family - they were there to pull each other out. Dean had made the ultimate sacrifice for Sam. Now it was Sam's turn, and he was going to do his damndest to see the deal undone.
Sam smiled as the Impala approached a faded wooden billboard on the side of the road, its simple message displayed in the same block letters as the town's welcome sign: 'Thank you for visiting Punkeydoodle's Corner. Please come again."
Dean scowled at the name that had unwittingly fuelled his ill temper, slamming his boot down on the accelerator to quickly open up space between them and the town limits.
Sam, eyes once again glued to the computer screen, sensed the car speed up but looked over at Dean when, just moments later, he felt the car slow down, pull to the right and slowly come to a stop at the side of the road. Dean shoved the Impala in park and left the engine idling.
Sam arched his eyebrows. "What's going on?"
As Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. Sam noticed a slight tremor in his hand and the exhausted slump of his shoulders. The elder Winchester glanced sideways at Sam before turning his gaze forward and staring off in the distance.
"I'm kinda beat, Sam. Wanna pull your weight and drive for a while?"
Sam bit back a smartass retort knowing it had taken a lot for Dean to ask for help. The painkillers were kicking in and whatever reserves Dean had been drawing on to keep going since they left the diner had apparently just run dry.
Sam turned off the laptop and snapped it shut. "Yeah, sure."
He reached behind him, placing the computer on the backseat, and watched as Dean pushed open the car door, swung his feet outside and slowly pulled himself upright. He swayed slightly before finding his balance, then began a slow trek to the passenger side.
Dean's fingers lightly brushed across the hood of the Impala as he walked around the front of the car, seemingly drawing strength from the contact with the only permanent home the Winchester boys had known since Dean was four years old.
Caught up in worriedly watching his brother, Sam didn't move until Dean was almost at the passenger door. As Dean met his worried glance with raised eyebrows, Sam quickly stepped out of the car and moved out of Dean's way
Dean flashed him a weary smirk, his eyes heavy lidded as he fought a losing battle to fend off the pull of sleep. "I catch you napping, Sammy? You sure you're awake enough to drive?"
"If I say no, can we turn around and go back to the B&B?"
Dean slid into the passenger seat, shaking his head before dropping it back onto the seat and allowing his eyes to fully close. "Uh-uh. If you're too tired, just shut off the engine. We'll crash in the car for a few hours."
Now it was Sam's turn to shake his head. "Thanks, but no thanks. The last time this car was a good fit for sleeping, I was still arguing with you over whether to watch A-Team or Sesame Street. We'll keep going."
Dean was smiling softly as Sam gently pushed the door closed and jogged around to the driver's side.
As he settled behind the wheel and closed the door after him, Sam glanced over at his brother. Dean's eyes were closed, his head tilted sideways facing Sam and his chest rising and falling slowly as he drew in even, relaxed breaths. Sam thought he was asleep until a grumpy voice told him otherwise. "The sooner you get both your ass and my car in gear Sam, the sooner we both get a real bed for the night."
For the second time in the last five minutes, Sam bit back a retort. He glanced in the rearview mirror, catching sight of the 'Welcome to Punkeydoodle's Corner' sign in the distance on the opposite side of the road
He sighed as he shoved the car in gear and pulled back onto the blacktop. He knew his brother better than anyone but didn't think he'd ever figure him out completely. He was a walking, talking contradiction; cocky yet insecure, a hardass and a teddy bear, wise beyond his years and yet, in some ways, incredibly naïve.
Sam would never forget the look Dean had given him after the Hell Gate had been opened and he'd first admitted making the deal. "Don't get mad at me. Don't you do that," he'd said, wrestling to keep tattered emotions in check. "I had to. I had to look out for you. That's my job."
"What do you think my job is?"
Dean had seemed genuinely surprised by Sam's response, like it had never occurred to him Sam also felt responsible for keeping Dean safe. Then Sam had seen both love and pride break through the surprise, sentiments that tore even deeper into the younger Winchester's already raw emotions.
They were well and truly entrenched in a chick-flick moment so he had done what any Winchester man did when emotions threatened to override him. He snarked. "I guess it's my turn to save your ass for a change."
Sam pressed his foot down on the gas pedal and looked over at Dean, now sound asleep. Snark or no snark, that was one pledge he had every intention of fulfilling.
A/N: No, I'm not punking you. All these wacky names are real places. I took some creative licence with geography, moving Punkeydoodle's Corner from one side of the 49th parallel to the other, but it really exists. Population: 12. As a certain snarky Winchester might say, "You can't make this stuff up." Oh, and on the Bugtussle disagreement, they're both right – there's a Bugtussle in Texas and Tennessee. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the ride. Reviews always welcome: they feed a writer's soul.
Dialogue in wake of Hell Gate opening written by Eric Kripke for All Hell Breaks Loose, Part II.