So after a year and a half of my life, I'm finally done with this story. Thanks so much for reading and for all the awesome reviews! They've meant so much to me as I struggled to keep going on this really long story. bambers;)
Two Months Later . . . .
Dean saw the look in Sam's eyes the moment he realized the fiery creature stalking toward them was their mother. Within their hazel depths held a memory Dean was not privy to, although he was certain he soon would know everything that was on his little brother's mind. A churning mixture of dread and a strange sense of relief plagued him as Sam said his goodbyes to Missouri and silently trudged to the Impala.
Once inside the vehicle, Sam shifted his body in such a away that he didn't have to look at Dean, and instead stared out the window as they drove out of town. Nervously drumming his fingers against the steering wheel, Dean waited, wondering if that one memory of his mother had sparked all the others to come to light, and if so how to explain everything to him.
"Don't you find it a little bit odd?" Sam asked, breaking the silence quicker than Dean had expect, throwing him off guard.
"Find what odd?" Dean cast a glance in his brother's direction, and hastily retrained his sights on the road when Sam's eyes locked on him.
"That I knew it was Mom." He shrugged, playing it off as if it wasn't a big deal, but Dean understood he was giving him a chance to tell him everything. "Just kinda strange is all."
"I don't think it's that weird." Stomach flip-flopping, Dean struggled to find the right thing to say, and finally managed to utter, "It was our home after all and what with the way she died, there was always the chance she'd become a vengeful spirit."
"Hmmm . . . you're probably right." Biting pensively at his lower lip, Sam fell silent. Unfortunately for Dean, it was only temporary reprieve, Sam's brooding expression a clear warning that he was working things through in his mind.
Certain something bad had happened, Sam had questioned Dean about his missing memories several times over the past two months, and not wanting to outright lie to him, Dean had given sketchy details about Dominic and the cult. Yet to date, he had somehow managed to leave out the truly horrible parts, and things had been really good between them. Well, that might have been a stretch, but things were definitely as good as things got when your last name was Winchester.
As Dean purposely veered off the highway and onto backwoods road he inwardly cringed at the thought of once again seeing the look of fear and mistrust in his little brother's eyes when he finally strung all the bits and pieces of memories together. Yet for all his gnawing doubts, he realized the time had come to tell Sam everything.
Searching for an out of the way spot in which to stop, he noticed an old dirt road, slowed and took a left onto it. Scarcely visible beneath thick weeds and bramble, the tree-lined road winded a narrow path around a large pond that was set way back from the main road. On the far side of the water, he spied the remains of an old cottage. Ravaged by storms and time, the home still stood stalwart, seemingly refusing to give over to the encroaching forest, and in Dean's mind it made it the perfect place for them to confront and put the past to rest. His only hope was that the last few months would remain strong in Sam's mind, and he would know in his heart that Dean would never intentionally hurt him.
He pulled the Impala up alongside the cottage, and came to a stop. Snatching the key out of the ignition, he quietly slipped out of the car, and strode to the water's edge. With a look of unease, Sam followed at a much slower pace.
Sam hung back near the car, and called out to him. "Dean, why'd we stop here?"
Without turning to face him, Dean took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and said a silent prayer that Sam would understand. "Do you remember when we hunted Bloody Mary?" He paused, glanced back over his shoulder and when he saw Sam nod, he continued, "You asked why my eyes bled, and I never gave you an answer." Narrowing his eyes on the sun streaked ripples on the water's surface, he recalled Shannon's beautiful blue eyes shimmering with tears as she told him of her father. "While you were at Stanford, I met this girl. Her name was Shannon. She was so damn beautiful. An' she was really smart, Sammy." A sad, wistful smile played at the corners of his lips as he thought of how she'd challenged him to consider other options beside only having hunting in his life. "Definitely not the kind of girl you'd find hanging anywhere around me normally. But she trusted me with her life and I left her alone to die."
Dean swallowed hard, hearing the tall weeds swish as Sam pushed away from the car and edged closer to him. Within a matter of moments, Sam was standing at his side, resting an arm on his shoulder.
"Whatever happened to her, it wasn't your fault, Dean. I'm sure she knows that," Sam said in a low, comforting manner.
"Maybe it wasn't my fault, but covering up her death was definitely my doing." Casting a sideways glance in Sam's direction, he saw him give a curt nod of understanding, and then refocused his sights on the water. "I really thought I could protect her, Sam. An' you have to believe I would've never left her alone if I'd thought . . . if I'd known she was carrying my ch-child." Dean's voice cracked, recalling Dominic's taunts about his unborn child dying along with Shannon. Tears brimmed and blurred his vision as he unsuccessfully tried to push the unwanted memories deep inside.
"I'm so sorry, Dean," Sam uttered in a breathy whisper as he lightly squeezed Dean's shoulder. Through his tears, Dean smiled at the subtle gesture, knowing it was Sam's way of saying that he understood and was there to help shoulder whatever pain was ripping Dean apart inside. "Damn it, Dean, why the hell didn't you tell me before? I'm your brother, I should've been there for you."
"What was I suppose to do, Sammy, show up at your school with salt and gasoline, thrust a shovel into your hand, and ask you to help me hide the body?"
"Dude, don't give me that crap," Eyes narrowing, Sam's hand fell away from Dean's shoulder, and crossing his arms, he shifted to face Dean. "God, why do you always think that when your hurting it doesn't matter? If it had happened to me, you would've been right there for me every step of the way, so why don't you ever give me a chance to return the favor?"
Not able to meet his little brother's questioning gaze, Dean lowered his head, and instead focused his sights on a shiny black stone laying beside the water. Water repeatedly washed over it, threatening to carry it away into the darkened abyss, but like Sam it stubbornly refused to budge from its spot. Yet like the stone, there would be a point in which Sam could no longer hold on, and would drowned beneath all the horrible memories cascading over him. With the toe of his boot, Dean nudged the stone out of the water, and carefully pushed it into the safety of the tall grass.
"When I told you about Dominic and his cult, I didn't tell you the whole truth," Dean muttered, and worriedly bit at his lower lip as he waited for Sam's reaction.
Brushing a hand across his chest as if remembering the word that was now no longer etched into his skin, Sam raised a puzzled brow and asked, "So exactly how much did you leave out?"
"They almost killed you twice," Dean responded, a heartbroken frown slipping across his features as Sam turned his back on him before all the words had left his mouth.
"All those nightmares I had where I woke up shaking and screaming out your name," Sam's voice rose in anger as he swung to glare at Dean, "all the ones about some man drugging and beating the hell out of me . . . they weren't just nightmares were they, Dean?"
"The things that he did to you . . . the things you suffered through, they were so freakin' horrible, Sam, I wanted you to forget . . . I was so damn glad when you forgot." Dean swallowed hard against the painful lump forming in his throat and pushed forward, "An' I'm not sorry that I tried to keep you from reliving any of that pain, but I'll always be sorry that it happened because of me."
Scrunching his eyes as if he were remembering a particularly painful memory, Sam lowered his head, and fell silent for several agonizingly long moments. "You know, for the last few months, I've had this constant awful, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever you were out of my sight. It was like I'd lose you if I couldn't see you." Sam caught hold of Dean's arm as he made to turn away, and looked him square in the eyes. "I-I drove you away, didn't I?"
"It wasn't your fault, Sam," Dean argued, shrugging free of Sam's grasp as he saw a look of guilt spreading across his features. "You were so torn up and broken inside, an' my being around was only making matters worse, so I left in hopes that you'd get better if I wasn't around."
"An' that's exactly what makes it my fault, Dean." Raking a hand through his shaggy hair, Sam heaved an exasperated sigh. "The truth is that I only remember bits and pieces of what happened and most of those memories are cloudy at best, but there are two things I can recall with startling clarity. Care to take a stab as to what they are?"
Dean gave a curt shake of his head, fearing if he spoke and got those two things wrong, he would dredge up horribly painful memories.
"The first," Sam raised a finger, "was the night you rushed into my apartment when it was on fire, saving my life and being there afterward when I needed you the most." With tears filling his eyes, he raised a second finger, "And the second is when you bashed that stupid mirror, once again saving my life without any regard to your own safety." Brushing away a stray tear slipping down his cheek, Sam met and held Dean's gaze. "So if I made you ever feel like I'd be better off without you around . . . if I hurt you like that, then you can't even begin to know how sorry I am . . . cause I'm so damn sorry, Dean."
Struck momentarily speechless by Sam's admission, Dean searched for the right words to convey all he was feeling inside, but the words caught in his throat, and when he did finally manage to speak it was only to say, "Damn, I so hate these chick-flick moments."
"Not a big fan myself." Sam cast an awkward grin in Dean's direction, then nudged his head toward the Impala. "So where should we head next?"
"I was thinkin' maybe Illinois.
"You really think we might find dad there?" Sam asked, still completely unaware that it was their father who had saved them from Dominic.
It was on the tip of Dean's tongue to tell Sam about how John had rescued them, but recalling how he hadn't responded when Dean had called and begged him to come to Kansas, he shook his head. "It's as good as any place to search for him." Heading toward his car he called back over his shoulder, "Don't worry about it, Sammy, we'll find him."
Once inside the vehicle, Dean bent and reached beneath the passenger's seat, groping around until his fingertips landed on the cassette tape his mother had told him about. Carefully removing it from his spot, he gently ripped off the tape and slipped it into the cassette player.
Lifting a brow in puzzlement, Sam slid into the passenger's seat, and gestured toward the radio. "No sense taping your mullet rock under the seat, dude, it's not like anyone in their right mind would wanna steal it."
"I didn't tape it under there, little brother." Dean grinned as he turned the key in the ignition, music blaring through the speakers as they peeled out and headed back toward the highway.
"REO Speedwagon?" Sam's brow's knit in confusion. "You can't be serious?" His expression turned incredulous as Dean belted out the words to Roll With the Changes along with Kevin Cronin as if it were a normal everyday occurrence. "God, I hope they have a damn good mental institution in Illinois cause you've completely lost your mind," he added as he watched Dean tap his fingertips on the steering wheel as if it were a piano.
Not paying any attention to Sam's comments, Dean peered into his rearview mirror, the song briefly dying on his lips as he saw his mother's transparent image in the backseat. With a beautiful smile lighting up her delicate features, she silently mouthed the words, "I love you, Dean . . . ." With another radiant smile, she lightly caressed his cheek as she slowly faded away to nothingness.
Turning down the music for a moment, Dean glanced at Sam and grinned. "The tape's Mom's. An' apparently it was her favorite, so shut your cakehole about the music an' start singing before I have to kick your sorry ass." With that being said, he cranked the music up to full blast, and both Winchesters' belted out song after song until they were completely hoarse.