Dean fucking hates the blues. If he could live his entire life without ever hearing another one of those slow moving down-home moans, played by a man with weathered hands and that huge southern grace, more's the better.

Because you wanna know something? The blues gets him down. It's in the way those sad fingers love those sad strings and the way those vocal chords clutch and groan like a heart; like those goddamn strings on those goddamn soulful guitars. They're dragging you in by those goddamn heartstrings. Janis Joplin had it right, anyone can sing the blues, and they want to, want to so bad. It's like a possession that leaves you clean afterwards.

Whitefolk like to think they're already clean. Dean, white as cotton, just doesn't like to lose control. Doesn't wanna open himself up to it.

He breathes the artificial charges of acidelectric-guitar. He uses the angry screams of bleeding throats as battle cries that keep him moving like adrenaline; like methadrine crystals in a baby bottle.

(The first time my heart was ever touched was the day I lost your love)

Missouri calls him on his phone one night. She sounds sick as a dog, her voice crying like she's got some blues to sing. She hasn't got much to say and Dean ain't interested overmuch.

He's just had some damn Foxey Lady and Sam'll be back with burgers and beer soon.

"I know what's up," she says, sings, groans. "Boy," she wails, "your soul is starving, boy. And ain't no one can help you but yourself."

Dean snorts and continues to absentmindedly flip through the porn channels. "Don't pull your cryptic mumbo-jumbo with me, just say what you gotta say."

Missouri makes a real dog bark noise and breathes deep against the receiver. "You got to throw your blues over the levee, chile, or pretty soon you won't know what to do. You'll be weeping and wailing with no end in sight."

Dean thanks her insincerely for the advice and tells her to call Sam for a heart-to-heart next time.

They hang up and Dean hangs out, just waiting.

Blues creeps: blues comes slowly up your spine and hides away in the nape of your neck. It makes you sleep bad, it makes your stomach turn and your fingers restless.

Rock'll keep you distracted; keep you drugged up and spaced out and angry at all the right people.

The dreams say they've been waiting and his voice sounds the same deep keyless mess it usually does in the shower and against the wind.

One day out of many, he and Sam stand on a beach, watching the low tide slip away from their bare feet. He's scoping ladies and Sam is staring out across the water, hunched against the wind.

It's too cold for this, but there are a few sun worshippers who have been out here since dawn, baking, soaking. Even they won't remain too many more summer-cum-autumn days longer. They're the last lonely roses clinging to the vine.

Dean wanders away to flirt and leaves Sam at the brink, barefoot and cold. Fair's fair, Sam thinks and bites his tongue.

Dad wasn't real in to music. He'd had ears deaf to all but the firings of cannons and a bloodbeat that coincided with nothing.

The blues, Janis or maybe Jimi once said, just gets into you.

The gravel voice and the talking guitar wail out of his stereo, "Even the grass on your grave will be—"

Dean flips the station and warns little Sammy not to touch his tunes.

Getty Lee or someone equally as nasal jams the heroine deep into Dean's veins.

Sam wanders the highway like a shadow, his mouth dry as dust and his fingers reading the air. Dean is in a motel somewhere with a girl who claims people tell her she looks like Blondie all the time. Sam'd left the car behind so Dean could drive her home. Sure, she's over-eighteen, but she's too young in all the ways that really matter.

The sunlight is sinking beneath a clovered knot of concrete and Sam sinks down into the tall grass. He unwraps the paper bag from his bottle of cheap wine and it glints cherry red in the strange concrete sunset. In his pocket he has a nearly-expired sandwich from a gas station.

He sits back and hears the cars above wheel and complain like birds.

He'd heard this song once, he doesn't sing it now, but he thinks of it. It was something about waiting for the coming of the lord. It was something about hearing all the stories and having your prayers ignored.

Sam is waiting in the wings, somewhere between ocean and shore.

"Leaving to stay…" He shakes his head, no, not yet.

Mary Winchester'd had an old album, a gift from a relative one birthday or Christmas. The only song she'd liked on it was Que Sera Sera done mournful and bluesy and strong.

Mary Winchester'd never sung it that way.

It finds you in the bars real easy. The stink of alcohol, the low-ness of the lights bringing you deep down into the cavern of your soul. Sam likes it, in that way he likes anything he can understand the motives behind. The blues, demons, vampires, and werewolves.

Demons… it makes Dean uncomfortable, the thought of feeling those sorts of claws on his flesh.

"Think Muddy Waters up there will be offended if I get that piece of shit jukebox playing?" he asks offhand.

Sam frowns. "Muddy Waters is dead, Dean."

Dead and still moaning with the sadness of the Windy City, crying out, drowning like the neck of a bottle with each sip.

Everyone but(and) Dean knows it ain't never gonna die.

When Sammy was eight, his favorite tape had been Dean's copy of Disraeli Gears. That was probably because it had been Dean's tape, but the point was, he'd known every song on it backwards and forwards. He'd been able to do a pretty damn good air guitar imitation of Clapton too.

When the tape had broken, Sam had forgotten all about it and hadn't remembered again until college.

He'd never been familiar with B.B. King, but he'd made friends with a guy who worshipped the very air he breathed.

So at a football party, a certain CD had been popped in and Sam had felt it in his gut who was playing and he'd heard it when King had started talking to his collaborator in that bluesman way that makes it seem as natural as the song.

"Eric…"

"That's Eric Clapton," Sam had noted, god, so surprised he even know.

His friend had beamed and displayed the CD case: two bluesmen in suits as black and white as they were.

"Riding with the King."

Dean doesn't even like the blues version of Satisfaction, which makes Sam stare at him funny and —

"So it's only okay when Jagger is slurring it out like a drunkard?" he asks, looking sulkily out the window.

"Hell yeah," Dean crows and then flips the stereo down the Led Mine for an early morning fix.

And the dreams are a sullen shade of aquamarine. His voice chokes in the air and he hears Sam or maybe Missouri or maybe Dad whisper, there's a kind of magic in it. A kind of possession in it that'll leave you clean.

Dean'd been with a lady once upon a time. She'd been older than him by at least seven years and a pack of cigarettes a day. She'd sung the blues like nobody knew, but she'd been small time, small town, hometown. Maybe that'd been part of her charm. You had to come, you had to leave the main roads, you had to get a little dust on your shoes.

Dean was all about it: those dark corners beyond the cracked edges of the highway, and Lady had joined the ranks of the few people Dean ever sat still for.

But she'd sung the blues, she'd sung it deep and she'd meant; reveled in it, let those demons come in and take away those parts of her.

Dean fucking hates the blues. No questions, it hadn't lasted.

If you told John Winchester a word of it, the combination of chords, the voice you can summon out the hallowed husk, he wouldn't believe it. Not a word: music's music, it's the people, he'd say.

Yeah, John, it's the people what bring it out, and don't they always.

And sometimes, Sam keens in the rain alone, too afraid of his own voice; too afraid of what might be hiding inside to let it out.

Sometimes the rain tastes like Jess and sometimes like sour wine.

His mouth opens wider.

He doesn't know any of the songs, just snippets and phrases and wails and groans.

"Wander this word, all alone…"

It might serve him; he shivers and wonders where it is Dean's gone away to. He's right there and he looks so hungry.

Jimi's as close as they get sometimes and sometimes that doesn't seem very close at all. His feelings are as strung out as anyone's. They're flaying his voice, keeping him angry at just the right people, but never setting him free.

There's a lot to be said about Jimi's smile. That unsure smile, worried about the marrow of his cheekbones and the ivory of his teeth. That expression in his eyes, that glass wall of separation and the withhold of his shoulders. A lot to be said.

And there are a lot of comparisons to make between Jimi's gone-away smile and the darkness around Dean's eye sockets; the guillotine shadow around Dean's neck.

Sometimes no one but Sammy sees that.

Blood's blue, on the inside, and inside's where it counts. It's where the treasure's kept, heart and lungs and soul and mind and self. All guarded by snapping blue beasts that howl at the moon.

(I've read it in the tealeaves and I've had that dream again)

It's almost never worth their time to talk to the local Goths. They're full of shit and delusions up to the gills, but Dean flirts and the girls talk and they get sent up a back alley to talk to a deadman.

The man isn't really dead, but there's no question the only think keeping him alive is the methadrine. He's really just a scrawny skeleton who's in town with a carnival and only Sam is chilled by how much this is starting to shape up like a Bradbury horror.

Dean wants to talk deaths and disappearances; Skeletor wants to talk spirits and hunger. His bloodshot eyes dance like corn snakes and he hums that nightmarish calliope music high up in his throat.

"Autumn people know better, boy. You've spoiled your appetite, missed dinner and gone to bed with nothing but an aching belly."

Sam hears the whispers in the tunnels better than Dean does. Sam isn't half-deaf from a war that started before the gate ever opened… That damage must be a trick Dean learned from Dad.

Sam hears; and what he hears unnerves him. It's like whispering children with blind sunken eyes. They speak in a hissing white noise Sam is frightened to understand.

They'll get him. They'll get him before Dean is gone. They'll bring him into the fold. Another wicked child with no rules to his name.

The song of goldfish is light and airy.

The water around them is cold and blue.

They breathe in and swim on.

And Dean tastes the way Sam's mind wanders. The bubble curls aren't quite right and as much chance as he has to fuck it all up, Sam is so helplessly in control.

Dean feels different, but he can't pin down if it's wasps or butterflies in his guts.

And the same old same old keeps him sane, as if his world is as perfectly destructive as sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

Dean's just not angry anymore. He's just so hungry.

"I have to do something, Bobby, or Dean's going to slip away before he's even died."

"Sam, there's no ritual for it. No exorcism, no quick fix. This ain't magic, just people."

Sam grits his teeth. It's more. It's less. It's worse. It is about magic. "It is about magic."

(I got a bad, bad feeling my baby don't live here no more)

The dreams break into blue-glass pieces. There's a laughing dog on its back, belly to the air. Its dark eyes glitter like gemstones.

"S-s-summertime, time, time. Chile, the living's easy…" it cackles like a mangy hyena.

The pollution seeps.

The forests are only halfway there.

The mountains a fourth.

The fields a third.

The city just isn't close enough to any man's heart to make it all the way.

Where they meet is where the magic is.

Stranded halfway between nowhere and infinity. The rain is madness at the horizontal slant and every car is outside that bar, everyone is inside.

Dean drinks and looks for women, Sam stares off into the whispering shadows and is afraid.

The old man the locals cheer to play sings like railroad tracks, his guitar crying water and air. The younger man who follows him is the forest and the lady he loves with the tips of his fingers is the early morning lightning. The woman who comes after is something secret and glittering deep beneath the cool Earth and it's only halfway through that Dean realizes they're gonna wail out the rain 'til it stops.

Sam is transfixed, but Dean feels it in his chest that he can't be dragged down, can't stop, can't slow.

He's up and out in seconds, going for his car, sacrificing himself to some fucking wicked rain and Sam is nipping at his heels.

Sam's curliques are plastered to his forehead by the time they shut the doors and he hisses, "Dean, just where are you? Where is your head, where are you at?"

And Dean sits in the driver's seat, rain slamming against the glass a few inches from his ear, it's a wonder he can hear.

"Right here, genius," he complains but then Sam's fingers are on his forearm, gripping vice tight.

"No, no, you're not. It's… it's like, like we're neighbors. You wave when you see me but you never open the door. Not anymore."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

And he doesn't and Sam makes a sound like a yip and is trembling, from cold or fear or anger or everything there is to tremble for.

"You're so set on dying you don't realize how dead you are," Sam accuses breathlessly. "You're so far away from me, you asshole. It's like same shit different day to you, like you think you can afford to kill time until you kick it."

Dean feels the grin break and realizes they've been standing at the same point in different worlds for months.

There's a fissure at his feet, something deeper than endless and the breeze coming up smells like screams.

"Yeah," he says. "Yeah…"

But the grass Sam's laying on isn't much greener. It's barely green at all and looks like it could use watering.

Dean gets out of the car, Sam follows. They stand against the torrent and stare for a while, Dean listening to the gravel-threads of music that come in over the squall, Sam listening to the sibilant whispers of what he doesn't know.

"Look," Dean says, but Sam can't hear over the rampage of teardrops. "Maybe it's time to do this."

The blues they wail is made of field and blood.

"It's still raining."

The morning rescues them, and they know better than to think time heals all wounds.

Howlin' Wolf's How Many More Years is crackling on the radio, Dean pushes in an Eric Clapton tape and Layla begins to play.


Standard Disclaimers. Lyrics by Jonny Lang, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Planet P Project.