Disclaimer: I do not own "Supernatural" nor sadly the boys.
Author's Note: So it's time to start posting some of my more of my Beer 'verse stuff. :P I have a couple stories in the works; this one is will be set throughout the month of November.
Thank you SO much to all have reviewed my stories in this AU. Your reviews are like chocolate and coffee all at once. :D
And thank you much, muchly to Lembas7 who favors me with her beta'ing skills:) Any remaining errors are all mine.
The sun was already peeling the skin off of his nose.
He should put sunblock on or wear a hat. Something. He didn't want to move, though, didn't want to go anywhere, especially to a place with fluorescent lighting and aisles full of crap that cost more than his entire wardrobe. Granted that didn't mean much, but still, if Wal-Mart was Satan, and it was, then pharmacies in general were its hell-spawned minions. He didn't need sunblock, even if he did. He was good sitting right here, ass glued, maybe welded, to the metal bleacher, eyes tracking the progress of the baseball game.
There were only a few people watching. It was too hot to sit out here and bake. The players were covered in sweat, coaches kept funneling water into all of them and Dean could see the Referee was seriously considering calling the game. Damned if he knew the name of either team or, hell, the town.
Dean knew one thing – Dad was missing; doesn't-answer-won't-return-calls, not-one-contact-has-heard-from-him, no-visible-hunts, dropped-off-the-face-earth missing. He'd found coordinates in the journal, and that had slowed the panic.
He'd told Sam, when Sam had called. Sam had called a lot in the days after his wedding . . . more than usual. At least twice a day, until finally Dean had confessed what was going on. Predictably, Sam had been angry, said that this was just Dad being Dad and that had pissed the hell out of Dean, because when the hell had John Winchester ever, ever, shirked responsibility? Sam had laughed, a condescending, know-it-all laugh that made Dean want to smash something.
"Right, yeah, 'cause his kids sure as hell were never his responsibility, right?"
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!"
"It means exactly what it sounds like! Dad disappeared on us all the time when we were kids, Dean! And for you to get all pissy and freak the fuck out because he doesn't return calls NOW makes no sense! He's never returned calls!"
"Yes. Dean. He did. He left us on our own and never picked up the phone--"
"Only when he was on a hunt and he always left us someone to contact if--"
"Stop defending him!"
"Then stop talking like he didn't care about us! He did! He does! And when we were kids, he did the best he could with us, with what he had to do! The life we had to -"
"We didn't have -"
"Yeah, we did. People need help, Sam. Those people at Black Ridge woulda died if we hadn't been there. And Dad knows that. He did the best he could. He always kept us safe. He tried, Sam. I don't know, maybe you were too little, you don't remember but he -"
"I remember, Dean. I remember you."
The conversation had ended abruptly, had left scratches – thoughts and memories that neither really wanted to contemplate.
Dean didn't want talk about it and he made that clear to Sam.
"You remember what you want to remember, you remember through the eyes of little kid. You have no idea what Dad went through, no idea how impossible it all was. And maybe you don't care that something's wrong, maybe you think he's earned it or that he's been looking for it all this time, but I care. He's my family, Sam, and I'm going to find him."
He needed to do something, to find Dad – something was wrong. Dad wouldn't do this for no reason, he wouldn't leave him – wouldn't leave like this – even Sam had had a reason.
"Where? Where are you going to find him?! Huh?! You said yourself that you had no idea where he could have gone! You just gonna drive around the country till you see'm?!"
He'd told Sam about the coordinates. Sam had wanted to come with him, had insisted, pleaded even – and Dean had listened, in silence, baffled by the way his little brother's mind worked. One minute, he wanted to leave their old man out to the wolves and the next he was begging to come along?
"What if something's wrong? You have to wait for me, Dean. I want to come. Please – just wait for me. I can be there in two hours, maybe one and a half if I break a speed limit or two. Then we'll go up to Colorado together. Please. What if . . . if something's wrong? You can't go up there alone."
And he hadn't, of course. Sammy had met him and they'd gone together. They'd saved people, they hadn't found Dad though.
Dean had dropped Sam off home and headed to the Southeast. They had a contact near Death Valley.
But no one had heard from him or of him in almost a month... and now, today.
Someone hit a home-run and a few people cheered. Everyone was busy pretending that the game wouldn't be called, that these strikes and runs meant something.
"Anyone you know out there?"
Dean blinked, eyes staring straight ahead at the diamond shaped field. "No," he answered flatly, refusing to wonder why Sam had just slid onto the bench next to him.
"You sounded off on the phone."
"You plannin' to fly somewhere every time I sound off on the phone?" Sarcasm colored the words.
"How'd you know where?"
"GPS on your phone."
"Didn't come alone."
He did turn to look at Sam then. His little brother needed a freakin' hair cut and wasn't even sweating yet; must've just parked the car. He didn't ask, didn't say one word. Maybe if it weren't so fuckin' hot he'd ask, but really... today, he just didn't care.
"Everybody came along," Sam continued. "Road trip. My friends are fascinated by road trips," he said dryly and Dean almost smirked.
"They think it's an awesome way to spend a weekend, that's it's fun and adventurous; makes them feel like they're really living..."
Dean turned back to the game. There was some kind of huddle going on, the two coaches and the referee. The players looked about ready to drop and the few people in the stands were starting to gather their things.
"I'm pretty sure we decided you'd be at the house today."
One of the coaches was looking pissed. He was motioning towards the dugout, his team was watching closely.
"It's a really nice day, we could have gone to the beach. It's been awhile since you met up with the guys. It's why they came. Jake says he forgetting what you looked like – that was great. Then the girls all described you . . . yeah, it was awesome."
Sam sounded as flat and empty as Dean felt.
The referee was shaking his head, a determined look on his face.
"We drove two cars to get here. I lied, told them you were expecting us. So don't," a pause and Dean knew Sam was trying to find something neutral to say, "Be upset with them."
The decision was made and the referee moved to the middle of the field.
"I left them at the Bed & Breakfast, where we're staying. The girls picked it-- and Mike, Mike liked it. I saw the motel though and figured that's where you were-- since there's only one. So I went to there and that's where I found out where you were. The clerk saw you head towards the park. It's nice town, small, but nice. It's really hot out here."
Sam's gift for the obvious-- and the babbling.
The game was over.
"Can we go somewhere? I want to talk to you."
There was a lot Dean could have said to that. That they'd done enough talking, that there was nothing to talk about, that they'd already said enough... that today just wasn't the kind of day they talked about anything; that today was the kind of day you bought of bottle of Jack and closed the blinds in the motel room.
All he said was, "No."
And then there was silence. Sam was regrouping, so this would be a spectacular time to un-weld himself from the bleachers.
He stood up and Sam matched his movements. Hell, his little brother matched his steps as soon as they left the stands. He ignored it, him. They made it all the way to the motel without one word being said. Sam would follow him right into the room too, Dean knew that.
"Go home," he ordered, stopping in the parking lot.
Dean knew Sam was facing him, knew he was being studied.
"I'm sorry that you aren't with him today."
It was hard to snap at Sam when he spoke like that, when he was trying so hard to understand, to help.
He shifted to look at his brother and found exactly what he'd known would be there, wide eyes brimming with understanding and sympathy. If there was one thing Sam Winchester knew, it was to be understanding on November 2nd. Even in the midst of 'becoming his own person', at the height of his 'betrayal', Sam had always understood on that day. Sometimes, in the earlier years, he'd understand for the entire week.
Dean wanted to wipe that understanding from his brother's face. Wished he could be that ruthless, the way Dad could. Today Dad could destroy them all and not regret it for a moment – today Sam understood that. It had a been free pass, early November, a time when Dad could be as uncommunicative as he wanted, could move them to wherever he pleased, could disappear for days and hear no recriminations.
Dean had felt almost guilty in the later years, for wanting so hard for November to come.
"It's not the first time," he answered.
They were standing on the hot asphalt, the sun high in the sky beating down on them. Sam was sweating now too, Dean noted, wished his brother would get back in the car and drive away.
"I know it's been a hard time lately."
Dean didn't move, didn't even blink. Idly he wondered how long Sam could go if he didn't say anything, how many things his little brother could speculate over and apologize for and try to explain.
"Black Ridge was . . . hard. I know that. I thought he would be there too."
"He wasn't. End of story."
He really wasn't in the mood to find the answer to his musing; he figured it was probably a lot.
Sam nodded, "Okay. So can we... you're mad. I know I said things..."
Dean started walking, away from the motel. The last thing he wanted was to be confined in a small space with Sam right now. Sam matched his steps again. They made it all the way back to the park, past the bleachers, past the baseball field, past a couple basket-ball courts and tennis courts, past the children's play equipment, they were entering a small grassy area with benches when Dean stopped.
"What makes you think it's a good idea to do this today?" he asked, making sure to meet Sam's eyes because he really did want to know.
Sam blinked at him and then smiled, small and deprecating, but real. "Were you expecting logic behind this?"
And this was why he always, always ended up giving in, because Sam never failed to sucker punch him; to deliver the last thing Dean was thinking of. He looked away, refusing the thread of humor Sam was holding out to him. He couldn't do it, not today.
"I'm tired of this thing between us. I know that I said things that you didn't..." he trailed off, probably realizing that that wasn't a neutral statement. Without looking Dean knew Sam's brows were furrowed, his eyes distant, searching for the right words. "I know that we don't always agree, but we're brothers, and I... don't like it when there's a – a thing."
Dean turned his head then. "I can agree with that."
Sam tilted his head, "But you're still mad at me?"
He caught himself before rolling his eyes. "No, Sam. I'm not mad you," he answered, forcing himself to stay calm.
"You're in a bad mood and I know it's because of what I -"
"No, Sam. It's not," he interrupted, speaking slowly, irritation mixing with disbelief and something darker that was pulsing strong inside him. "Today is the anniversary of Mom's horrific death, Dad is MIA, and I didn't toast the fuckin' ghost hauntin' this place in time to stop another poor bastard from taking a nosedive into a ravine. So as shocking as this is, my mood has nothing to do with you."
Sam's lips puckered and his eyes dropped. Dean got that slightly nauseous feeling he'd always felt as a kid when he'd made Sammy cry.
"I didn't know you were hunting..." Sam offered after a beat, eyes lifting.
"I wasn't," Dean's chuckle was bitter and he saw Sam wince a little, "Bastard found me."
"Don't I look it?"
"Stop acting like a jackass."
"Stop showing up every time I sound off on the phone. It's fuckin' annoying – like a Sasquatchian fairy godmother."
"Asshole," Sammy snarled the word, eyes narrowed. It gave Dean immense satisfaction to not find one thread of understanding in the tight features glaring at him.
"Go back to your friends and tell them that you just missed me. I'm not in the mood to play nice." He turned away and when Sam grabbed his arm, he reacted more violently than he'd meant to.
Sam staggered backwards from the defensive move and scowled darkly. "What the hell?" he growled.
Dean glared back, but said nothing. He should apologize, he hadn't meant to do that... he said nothing.
"Fine. I'll go." The words were clipped and hard.
"Good." Dean matched his brothers' tone.
"I wanted to do something nice for you." Sam grit out, just as Dean was going to turn away, the words held him in place. "It's not your fault some poor bastard took a nosedive off some rocks, Dean. It's not your responsibility to save everyone. You can't save everybody."
It was true. The kind of true that burned and set every atom alight inside you with repugnance. Dean felt himself lashing out even before he recognized his intent.
"That's your answer to everything about the Hunt, isn't it Sam?!" he hissed, walking forward, getting too close. "Why even try when you can't save everyone, you can't fix everything, you can't be everywhere – why even bother, right?! Why sacrifice my time and effort for something that isn't going get me a shiny piece of paper and a pin at the end of the day?!"
Sam's eyes flashed and he took a step back, but Dean kept going.
"Why look for Dad when he's the one that left, right? Why even fuckin' try? It's not worth it, right? If he's in trouble, if something's wrong, what the hell does it matter?! We can't save everyone!"
"He is the one that left!" Sam yelled back, standing his ground now, eyes flashing. "I'm not going to apologize for saying it! He chose it! People make their own decisions about -"
"Then let me make mine!" Dean cut in. "Stop fighting me about every little thing!"
"You do! You can never accept--"
"You endanger your life for no reason! I can't just stand back and watch that!"
Dean knew if he didn't get away right now this was going to end badly.
His mouth had other ideas, "It's a reason for me! I choose to do it, Sam! It's my choice and I want you to fuck off about it!"
He turned away then, getaway-getaway-getaway, drumming through him as strongly as the fury he could feel flowing in his veins.
When a hand clasped around his arm, his reaction was purely instinct, drilled in during exhaustion-filled hours of training and midnight recon missions. When you were grabbed like that, you reacted like this.
The problem was, Sam's reaction was purely instinct too – drilled in despite petulant pouting and heated arguments. When someone reacted like that, you countered like this.
In a manner of seconds both brothers were staggering away from each other, Sam with a hand to his jaw, Dean with one to his cheek. Any other time, any other day one of them, if not both, would have broken the tension with a joke, a smile. Today, right now, they glared at each, eyes dark with rage.
"Is that what you want, Sammy?" Dean drawled, the nickname patronizing. "You want to beat some sense into me? S'that it?"
He knew that wasn't it. He knew that if anything, Sam wanted to talk and hug and hell, cry on each others shoulders. Sam didn't want to fight. Sam hadn't tracked him down for that.
Sam had wanted to be with him today, because Dean couldn't be with Dad. Sam was trying to do something nice for him.
And suddenly, Dean wanted nothing more than a fight.
Sam glowered, "Don't be a moron." His little brother spit out, but he looked anxious, like maybe he saw want Dean wanted; and the satisfaction he got from that was dark and made him feel nauseous again.
He dropped his arms to his side and started circling Sam, steps slow and careful. Sam watched him with wary eyes, but Dean saw the way his arms dropped too, the way he leaned back into a fighting stance.
Dean moved lightly, just testing, arms shooting out in quick, simple attacks, before falling back again. Sam blocked them easily, rounded to face where Dean had fallen back.
"This is stupid, Dean." Sam hissed, but his eyes were watching Dean. His movements mirroring his brothers', it might be stupid, but Sam wasn't going to be caught unprepared.
"'Fraid you're gonna end up on your ass, Samantha?"
Sam didn't reply, but he set his jaw and that was all the encouragement Dean needed. He moved again, faster this time, not moving back, forcing Sam to move too. Sam blocked and when Dean left him an opening, he took it; jabbing his older brother with a quick shot to solar plexus.
Dean fell back, arms and stance in a defensive position. "Aw, Dad would be so proud," he observed.
"Shut-up," Sam snapped. "This is stupid. I hate this... I always hated this."
"Not true," Dean replied, moving in again. "When you were seven you begged to spar with me."
Sam moved this time, drawing away from the area they'd unwittingly claimed; moving away from familiar territory. Dean almost smirked, instead he landed a solid blow to Sam's ribcage, grabbed his right arm when Sam bent forward, twisted it a little, and flung him back in the direction they'd started.
Sam staggered and Dean held back until he'd reclaimed his balance, then moved in again. His blows were blocked with the effectiveness he'd instilled in a little Sammy a million summers ago. Two boys in an abandoned garage, flinging each other around until one gave.
Sam was flushed, sweat trickling down his face and Dean felt the same on his face. They were in the shade now, but it was still ridiculously hot.
They backed away from each other, not exactly breathing hard, but not actually breathing easy either.
"Stop this," Sam ordered, glaring. "It's stupid and it's not going to solve anything."
"Speak for yourself, I'm starting to feel solved already," he countered.
"You're a jackass."
The response was instantaneous and a moment later Sam moved in on the offensive. All thoughts vanished as Dean concentrated on parrying his brother's blows. They did end up moving, Sam's long legs made that a necessity and when he started to fall back, Dean moved in. He managed to land two blows, before Sam landed his first.
They fell back gasping this time, sweat in their eyes, and knuckles starting to get raw. Sparring session would usually end about now.
"Give?" Dean asked again.
They weren't talking about the match. Dean wasn't sure what they were talking about anymore – Dad, Mom, the fire, hunting, normal, life in general...
It wasn't the match, though.
Sam had reach; even if he was rusty, with those arms he could be in a different state and still deck Dean. But Dean had learned how to compensate for that a long time ago. And he wasn't rusty.
Sam was trying to land a blow, when Dean finally sensed them. Watching, murmuring – he cut his eyes to them for a second and felt Sam's knuckles land on his cheekbone.
The momentary distraction was enough for Sam to take the lead and for several moments Dean forgot the world existed – and then, for one instant, he forgot who he was fighting.
He took Sam to the ground, hard.
He heard the air whoosh out of his little brother as he landed on top of him, one hand on Sam's throat, his knee in Sam's stomach. He heard the gasp of fear and surprise from their little audience. Their audience who could have been standing there the whole time for all Dean knew. They'd been on the other side; the one Sam had led them too.
Sam was looking up at him with those dark green eyes, jaw clenched, one hand gripping the wrist of the hand Dean had at his neck.
"Give," Dean demanded.
He should have known better, should have remembered. The freakishly long reach didn't end with Sam's arms. He felt himself being flipped by those legs and in the next instant, he was slammed hard into the ground, Sam landing on top of him.
This wasn't two boys on a sun dappled evening roughhousing; this was two men fighting for control of something neither one could identify.
There was yelling in the background now. Dean caught snatches of it.
"... cut it out..."
"... what the hell..."
"... not fooling around..."
"... get hurt..."
There were two ways to get out of this.
He had to find Dad.
He moved fast, viciously. Sam flew off of him, landing on his back, hand flying up to his face to staunch the blood. Dean sat up quickly. He met Sam's gaze; surprise and hurt, not just physical, bloomed there and Dean felt like upchucking right there on the grassy knoll.
He scrambled to his feet, and then everyone descended on them.
"What the fuck, Dean!? Sam are you okay?"
"What the hell was that?!"
"Are you crazy?!"
"Holy shit man, that was serious!"
"Don't tell me that is what the two of you do for fun?"
"Was that for fun?"
"Sam? Are you okay? Let me see? Here hold this here..."
Jess was kneeling next to Sam, Lacey standing just beside her. Kerrie was glaring at him. The guys kept looking back and forth between the two of them.
"Where the hell did you learn that? I mean, seriously! Where did that come from?" Mike was frowning; they were all frowning, all worried and upset.
He met Sam's gaze again. The surprise and hurt were gone, replaced by something else-- by understanding and wasn't that just fuckin' fantastic.
He shifted his gaze to Jess. She was glaring at him, furious-- no understanding there. She'd tear him a new one if he stuck around long enough. Too bad he wouldn't be.
"It's not broken," he offered her, because it wasn't. He wouldn't do that.
And then moved away, it was time to leave.
"Dean!" she called.
"Hey man, wait!"
The calls stopped abruptly and he knew that Sam had said something, made them stop.
He got all the way back to the motel room before he threw up; heaved into the porcelain god for a good five minutes, vomiting until there nothing left in him.
He leaned back against the tub, closing his eyes, waiting for the world to stop spinning.
It was okay. This was normal, expected even, it had nothing to do with it being... today, nothing to do Dad being gone or that poor, bastard thinking he was going swimming instead of plunging to his messy death; it had nothing to do with Sam still not really seeing their Dad, nothing to do with his little brother's blood staining his hands.
It was just heat stroke.