"If we get a move on, we could probably be halfway to Blackwater Ridge before dark," Dean said. "Then we could find someplace to crash and get going again early."
Sam nodded only half listening. He loosened his tie, his brother having already divested himself of his and now busy unbuttoning his collar. Dean's jacket was draped over the chair by the door, the first thing to go. Sam sat on the edge of his bed and stared at the dark green carpeted floor. "Why did you tell them about Dad?"
"Uh, it seemed the easiest way to get you out of there?"
Sam shook his head not sure he deserved the mercy. He rubbed his hands over his face. Lord he felt tired. Just so damn tired. The numbness of the last few days was ebbing, but it just made his loss that much sharper, made him miss Jessica that much more.
What he'd give to be able to smell her lush scent again, to brush her saucy lips with his own, to hear her laugh, to hear her voice, to have her back.
"We don't have to today though, if you don't want…" Dean's tone was guarded, probing. Sam supposed he hadn't given his brother much to work with of late. He just wasn't all that sure what was right, what they should be doing -- if anything at all.
His cell phone rang. It was on the dresser, plugged into the charger. He was debating whether to get it or not, when Dean took the decision from him. He unplugged the charger and answered the cell.
Sam could feel a frown forming on his face, dreading the call might be more condolences from people he might not even know.
"Oh, sergeant! Nice hearing from you again." Dean's whole posture relaxed even though the caller couldn't possibly see him. It had to be a woman. "Yeah, he's hanging in there. Funeral was this morning."
Sam tried to think on why the cops would be calling him but his mind came up blank.
"Oh, okay. Thanks." Dean started pacing, but he still looked very laid back. "Appreciate you letting us know. I'll pass it on." His brother closed the cell phone and turned to face him, leaning on the dresser. His expression looked oddly cautious. "Sergeant Morales called. She wanted to let you know the apartment is no longer sealed off."
Sam felt his frown deepening. There was nothing for him there anymore. Jessica was gone.
"Guess we should stick around another day or two? See what you want to do with your stuff? Put it in storage or whatever. Maybe find a memento or two to take with us?"
Sam squeezed his eyes shut, the thought of seeing their place again, of having the fact thrown in his face once more of how empty of life it was, of having images of Jessica haunting every room yet knowing she would never step within them again, it was more than he could cope with. Just the thought of doing it sent an echoing ache through his head and heart, cold spurting through him as if wanting to eat him alive. He didn't want this.
"No." He shot to his feet. "I don't care about any of that stuff, all right? It means nothing to me anymore." He grabbed his duffle from the floor by the table rather than try to grab something from the dresser -- it would keep him from getting too close to his brother. His next words were clipped. "I'm going to change."
"Sammy, come on, what the hell?"
He rushed into the bathroom, slamming the door closed before his brother could say anything else. He stared at the knob for a moment, and though he would normally not have bothered, he locked it.
He half threw the duffle onto the toilet seat then opened it up, not really seeing the contents. He wouldn't go back, couldn't go back. Every last thing in that place would be a reminder of everything he'd lost – his future, his love, his hopes for a normal life.
Sam rummaged inside the bag looking for clothes by feel, not sure what was still in there and caring even less, when his hand ran across something hard. Pulling it out, he realized it was his Taurus PT99. He thought he'd put that back into the hidden compartment of the Impala's trunk when they were leaving Jericho. He shook his head. Dean must have snuck it back out and shoved it in his duffle. Guess his brother had suspected all along he might decide not to go with him to Blackridge when they finished off the Woman in White. It would be like Dean to make sure he didn't leave Sam without some form of protection.
His vision sharpened as he pulled out the gun and unwrapped it, every detail of the weapon jumping to his awareness. 9mm bullets in a seventeen capacity clip, five-inch barrel, shining stainless steel finish, six grooves, black rubber grips – death dealing beauty manufactured for your pleasure directly from Miami, Florida.
Sam set the Taurus down on the back of the toilet and sighed. The time for grieving was over. He needed to make decisions. He needed to figure out what he was going to do now.
Staying at Stanford and pretending everything was like it had always been was out of the question. He'd first come here for himself, to grow, to learn to be normal, to create a life outside of the supernatural. But Jess, Jess had changed everything. She had shown him how to live -- how to love. She'd made everything so much more than he ever imagined it could be.
Now she was gone. And all that could have been had gone with her.
So what was left? What could he turn to? Spending his life trying to track down whatever had killed her?
What would be the point of doing that really? Their father had been looking for what killed his mother for the last twenty-two years, and what did he have to show for it? Absolutely nothing. So why should he expect to get any farther? Worse, did he really even want to? Two people connected to him had been killed in a horrid, grisly manner -- before his very eyes. Was it a ritual? Or a message, like he suspected? Could this second time maybe have been a trap instead? A message for his father instead of him. Perhaps he was supposed to have died in his bedroom, consumed by the fire, which if his brother hadn't interfered and pulled him out, would have more than likely been the result. So what was the point?
His gaze returned to the gun on the toilet and he found himself studying it with sudden intensity -- every bump, every grove imprinting itself in his mind.
If what was done to Jessica was a message, one for him, could he handle the knowledge of whatever it was trying to say? He'd been singled out. He didn't know why or for what. But if something from the supernatural world was involved, it couldn't be good. Yet it made no sense! There was nothing all that special about him. So what could some thing possibly want from him? And if he didn't come to understand the cryptic message, would it try sending it again? Next time using his father, or worse, Dean for the ritual death? Would he be forced to watch as each member of his family was murdered as he struggled to understand a cipher for which he had no key?
Sam picked up the gun, the weight feeling intimately familiar in his hand though it'd been years since he'd handled one. It was scary really, how easily it had all come back to him. Being with Dean, doing the job, becoming part of that life again. The Winchesters lived outside the law – killed malevolent sentient beings without remorse or pity. Their duty was to save people, to protect them from the things in the dark. Yet he was inadvertently getting people killed too. Didn't that make him as evil and needing of eradication as any of those things out there? How many lives would be saved if he wasn't around to fulfill whatever reason or purpose these things had happened to him? He wouldn't hurt anymore… He wouldn't feel as if he'd been torn in two, not knowing if he was responsible for his mother's and lover's death or not. It would keep his brother and father out of whatever this was. There would be no more questions, no more doubts. And it would be so very easy…
Not thinking about it, Sam brought his hand up and placed the tip of the Taurus against his temple. A shiver ran through him as the cold metal touched his skin.
A minimal amount of pressure from his finger and it would be over. His brains would splatter all over the walls of the bathroom, creating a gruesome portrait of his agony, one that everyone could see, expressing everything he was unable to say or admit to.
A loud banging on the door made him jump, almost twitching his finger on the trigger.
"Hey, slowpoke! I gotta go. Hurry up in there, will you, Sammy?"
Dean… Sam's chest tightened as he turned toward the door, his breath rasping quickly in and out. He'd forgotten about Dean… He would hear the shot. He would kick the door in and find him dead -- without a word, without explanation, betraying his brother again for his own needs like he had two years before.
A single tear gathered and dropped down his cheek as his right eye twitched. The hand with the gun slowly lowered.
He couldn't do that to his brother again. He couldn't leave him the gift of bitter grief and guilt Sam was contending with now. His brother would blame himself; Sam knew he would. Just like he had about everything that had ever gone wrong in Sam's life before, whether it was truly his fault or not. He just couldn't do that to his brother – not to Dean -- not again.
Sam shoved the Taurus back into the duffle, the sight of it after what he'd almost done making his stomach churn. When had he lost so much control? He sat down on the edge of the tub feeling feverish, then moved the hair away from his face no longer sure of who he was.
What would Dean do? Would his brother risk giving whatever killed their mother the satisfaction of just giving up and ending it all? Like hell he would! If there was one thing his brother was was stubborn. So why should he do any less than his brother? Problem was he had no idea what was right, what was wrong. He didn't know. But Dean, Dean always knew. He fixated on one idea, one goal and threw all the passion in him at it. Maybe that was what Sam needed -- direction, focus, a goal. But what?
His gaze raked over the open duffel as if it might supply him with an answer and caught a glint of something else inside that didn't look like it should be there. He reached for it, his mind seeking any distraction from his problems. He frowned, for a moment doubting what he'd found. It was the family picture, the one of his father and mother. The one Dean had given him on that horrid day four years ago, when he left home. The single tie to his family he'd allowed himself for the last two. It had been in the apartment, in the front room where he always kept it. Dean must have grabbed it when they were there, knowing he'd want it or need it again.
Then something new occurred to him -- something about his brother, something that suddenly made him stare in wonder at the closed door and the man he knew stood beyond it, waiting for him -- the one who never needed help, who could do anything alone, yet who'd come to him anyway to ask for his help, help in finding their father.
Sam looked down at the picture in his hands again and caressed his mother's face, then stared at his Dad's. They hadn't found their father in Jericho. All they'd come across was a possible lead on where he might have gone. Yet his own troubles had kept Dean from following up on it. Hell, his desires had almost forced his brother to go at it alone, despite the fact he'd come and asked Sam for his aid, whether he really needed it or not. But the Winchesters took care of their own, didn't they? And right now Dean needed him, his father needed him. He couldn't let them down, not like he had Jessica.
And it was just possible his father might have answers, too. Answers Sam needed desperately -- for if all this was somehow connected to him, someone had to have made it be that way. And that was the monster who was at fault for everything. That was the one who should be made to pay. Not his brother, not his father, not him.
Sparks of anger and hate welled within him, feelings that for the first time that week weren't directed at himself. He grabbed hold of them, fanned them, and kept them close.
If anyone could make anything out of this mess, it would be their father. He was a hunter through and through. It was very possible that Jessica's murder would shed some light on the madness of these last twenty years once they were able to tell him about it. Her death needed meaning. Sam didn't want hers to be just some random, senseless death like hundreds or thousands of others. He would find out the truth, he owed her that much. So he would help Dean, he would help their father. He would deal with his guilt and everything else only once he got that far.
Sam stood up, for the first time in the last five days feeling some semblance of balance, of direction. He placed the picture back inside the duffel and changed. When he was done, he yanked the bathroom door open only to catch Dean about to knock on it again. His brother took a step back in surprise, his gaze roaming over him, his growing worry written all over his face. Dean had already changed to jeans and a grey shirt, his broken in leather jacket on.
Sam's chest tightened some more and he swallowed hard, seeing his concerned brother standing there affirming in his heart that he was doing the right thing. Keeping his gaze averted as his eyes prickled with tears, he grabbed Dean by the jacket as he walked by, pulling his brother after him. "Come on. Let's get that stuff done so we can blow this town and go find Dad."
He saw Dean's expression clear of worry from the corner of his eye, a half grin tugging at his lips. "Yeah, let's!"
Sam felt his own concerns diminishing as well. Together they were stronger. Together they would get through this. Just as they'd always done before.
The hunt was on.
Notes: Thanks tons to Kaz2y567i for beta'ing this story for consistency and whatnot, but especially for helping brainstorm Chapter 13, which was the hardest of the lot. (And hopefully came out okay in the end! Eek!)
If you enjoyed this fic, tell ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS:P Lol. With 12K stories for Supernatural alone, this sucker will be buried deeper than a pirate's treasure in no time. (Just kidding though, please don't feel you have to do anything! I am just grateful you spent the time to read it in the first place!)
So my hat off to you…and…