Disclaimer: All things Supernatural belong to Kripke, not me (Rinse & Repeat).
A/N: Beta'd by kimonkey7 . Ta muchly, the Monkeys. This fic is loosely based on an actual conversation with Justin the rat. Written for foundficspn challenge # 23.
Sam's lost track of how long they have been sitting there. It feels like it might have been a long time, when he brushes the sand from the palm of his hand on his jeans and points to the sun on the horizon.
"Is that thing rising or setting?"
Dean's poking slow holes in the shore with his thumb. He stops, looks up across the water, and squints.
"I dunno." He sniffs, scratches his lip. "There someplace you gotta be?"
Sam's not really sure. He scratches in his hair near his temple. "No, I think I'm good for now."
He looks up and down the beach. It seems to go on forever, but Sam knows it can't. Won't. It'll end somewhere. Become a city or something. It can't just be the sand and the water pulling and pushing at each other forever.
"Which ocean is this?" Sam asks all of a sudden, and gets a surprised laugh out of Dean. Then he's chuckling, the shoulders of that faded checkered shirt shaking.
"What's so funny?" Sam wants to know, turns his own hesitant lips skyward because it feels good to make Dean laugh again. It seems like a decade since he last made Dean laugh.
Dean shakes his head, goes right on chuckling. "Nothin'," he says. "It's just a stupid fuckin' question. What does it matter?"
Sam shrugs. He guesses it doesn't. Not really. "I just thought this was the East coast, that's all."
Dean jabs a thumb down into the sand. "Well, sun sets in the West, Sammy…"
"So it's setting?"
"So…I got no clue, dude. This is your thing. I don't do this. It's all you"
"I know." Sam's sorry about that and he doesn't know why exactly. "I think it's setting," he decides finally.
Dean says: "How the fuck do you not know which coast we're on?"
It seems to amuse him, and that gets Sam's back up a little. He's not lost. There's a difference between not knowing where you are and being lost. And he's stumbled along enough back roads to know which is which now.
"Well, I thought I did," he tells Dean indignantly.
The sun is half sunk rising down below the horizon, and it's splashing the clouds with the kind of dark, rich blood and orange you only get when something's on fire somewhere. When you got a sky that pretty, someone's always paying for it someplace else. Sam knows this and it shifts his stomach.
"So are you gonna tell me about this case?" Dean leans his elbows on his knees, right hand gripping left wrist between them. He arches a perfect eyebrow, and it makes Sam want to walk into ocean; keep going until his lungs are full of sea salt.
"Is that what this is about?" And Sam doesn't mean it to be an accusation, but it sounds like one.
Dean shrugs, lip curling as though the world in general couldn't bore him more if it tried. "I dunno. Just…tell me about the case."
"I'm stuck in a fucking high school, man. It's been, like, four days. Two spirits messing with the computers." Sam can't help but laugh. "Oh, Christ, you'd hate it. Sending messages over and over on the mainframe, screen after screen of Oh, my God, what have we done wrong. But you know, spelled wrong. That internet spelling that cheeses you off."
Dean looks irritated just listening to it. "You're right. I'd hate it. Better I'm not there."
Sam's laugh dies away just like the hope did. Leaves him feeling just as empty. It feels like it left him sharply. Quick and unexpected. But Sam knows that's not really how it happened.
"I wouldn't say that," he replies. He'll never say that.
"So what'd they do wrong?"
Sam sniffs, shakes his head. "I really don't know. I have no idea where their bodies are, either. I could use some of that famous Dean Winchester More-Ass-Than-Class right about now."
Dean waggles his head a little, the corner of his lips twitching downward. "Well, you're smart. You'll figure it out."
Dean lifts an index finger, points out over the ocean to the black bulkhead of cloud in the distant South. He squints. "Storm's comin'," he tells Sam. Then his brow knits. "Didn't Bobby tell us that once?"
Sam feels like the sky is folding down on him. "He was right."
The sea's getting choppy, the waves building against the tugged-smooth slope of the pounded sand. Sam watches the water swell and break on itself and thinks about that night. How Dean's name rose and built inside him that same way. He looks at Dean now and thinks you'd never know it. That anyone had ever shouted – shattered - his name like that.
Dean watches the lazy flight of a seagull over their heads, tilts his face back to follow its path inland.
"How far you think a seagull's gotta get inland before it's just a gull?" he asks.
Sam's "What?" rides a confused huff of laughter from his lips.
Dean lets go of his wrist, flaps a hand lazily in front of his face. "You know, is it like... seagull, seagull, seagull, seagull, and then GULL, GULL, GULL after it gets twenty miles inland, or what?"
Sam twists on the sand and plants a splayed hand behind him. He watches the bird getting smaller, and the crimson fingers across the sky growing deeper, longer. Perspective sliding.
"It's still a seagull, Dean. I mean, I don't think it just stops being a seagull because it's not near the water anymore."
Dean winces, sucks in a breath at that. "You don't think a place changes you, Sammy?" He whistles low, tutts at Sam, head shaking. "Think you might be wrong about that, little brother."
Dean looks out over the ocean, and a flash of lightning splits the storm clouds to the South, lights the sky like an x-ray. Sam feels a thick coil of dread when Dean says it again, almost to himself. "Think you got that wrong, Sam."
There is something so unhurried and calm about his brother, Sam wants to grip the front of his shirt, shake and beat his fists against him. After everything that's happened, such blatant disregard for Time seems sacrilegious.
As though Dean has learned nothing.
But Sam. Hell, he could tell you a thing or two about Time. Speeding it up and slowing it down. Wrapping an hour in a minute. The elongated second that owns the silence before a scream. How you can never get back there, no matter how spry you think you are.
Time has shown Sam: There is nothing so ugly in this world as a welcomed violence.
Dean palms the sand beside his hip, rises up onto his feet with a groan. Yawns. He looks down at Sam, lips pursed and head cocked to one side, as if he is assessing him for some greater purpose. But Sam thinks he doesn't want one. Not after the last time. Not anymore.
His brother appears to arrive at a decision and rolls a hand encouragingly.
"All right. Come on. That's enough. Get up."
Sam wakes into the silence of the darkened motel room. Thinks for a second it's the sea he can taste on his lips.
Thanks for reading. Pdragon76 :-)