K Hanna Korossy
It wasn't exactly what he'd planned to do the first day after they'd scattered their dad's ashes.
Sam glanced up at the sun baking overhead—shouldn't fall in South Dakota be colder?—then back to the trunk of the car, where he could hear his brother even if he couldn't see him. Dean's name rested on the tip of his tongue a minute for no other reason than that having him out of his sight too long still scared Sam—memories of crash blood demon dying—but Dean didn't seem to feel the same way. He'd never once looked up or paused since he'd started cleaning out the wrecked Impala's trunk, and Sam left him to his work, returning to his own.
He'd really thought the sight of the twisted remains of the car might finally break Dean. After the cabin and the coma and…and Dad and the funeral pyre, Dean had retreated, quiet and still, into himself, eyes flat, face expressionless. It was only when Sam followed him out to the car that morning that he'd seen those stiff shoulders bow, the blond head sag. Dean was finally leaning on something, and it was the mangled frame of his beloved car. Sam stood back feeling equal parts empathy and jealousy and grief, until Dean had slowly straightened, turned to look at him.
"I've got the trunk."
Sam knew an order when he heard one, but also an apology because Dean had to have seen the blood in the front seat. But Sam just swallowed and nodded. Dean had helped him wrench the passenger's side door open and then vanished behind the crooked lid of the trunk. Sam dropped into the seat their dad had last occupied, trying to clear his throat of its sudden lumps. When he finally heard Dean start emptying the trunk, Sam opened the glove compartment—that at least hadn't been damaged—and began his assigned task.
The box of fake IDs was a little dented but mostly intact, and Sam dropped it outside the car with a moment's disgust. Dean's Colt was next, handled with more care. A bag of chips that made Sam's mouth twist in something that might have been amusement another time. A map, some long-forgotten location in Kentucky circled on it.
A cardboard box was suddenly shoved against his legs, and even as Sam looked up, Dean was already out of sight again. Sam quickly packed the removed items into the box, and kept going.
He'd sifted through the contents of the glove compartment before when he was bored, waiting on Dean at gas stations or bars. Once or twice even on cases when he was recovering from injury and had stayed in the car while Dean did leg work. But there were things compacted in the back he'd never gotten to, and Sam hauled the past into the light now with weary curiosity.
A stack of business cards held together by a rubber band that was gummy with age. Sam flipped through a few: psychoanalyst, stock broker, doctor, cable repairmen. People the Winchesters had crossed paths with over the years? People they'd saved? Huh. He half considered asking Dean, and shelved the thought almost immediately. Not now.
More maps, and Sam almost tossed them into the box before he noticed the handwriting in the margins. His childish scrawl, practicing letters and numbers, spilling out a rambling story along the edges of Connecticut, careful Latin scrolling up the Pacific Northwest. Sam added them to the box with greater reverence, wondering briefly if they were saved for their tangible worth or their intangible, and knowing the answer.
He almost missed what was slid down between them, something hard and metal. Sam pulled it out, turning the tarnished, soot-blackened silver in his hands…and felt his throat close again. This one he couldn't not ask about.
His brother's head appeared past the edge of the trunk.
Sam looked up from his seat half-in, half-out of the car, and raised the silver clip. "Where…?"
Dean blinked, but the sun was behind him and it was impossible to see what was in his eyes. "I found it. After the fire." A shrug. "I figured you'd want it, but you weren't…" A pause, then Dean vanished again.
Ready, Sam finished silently. There was a lot of that going around. He rubbed a thumb against the silver money clip, remembering Jess's joy in giving it to him. It was one of the most extravagantly useless things he'd ever owned, and Dean had saved it for him. Gritting his teeth through all kinds of pain, Sam slid the clip into his pocket and went back to work.
A paperback he vaguely remembered Dean reading over and over one summer when they were teens. Directions written in their father's hand that made Sam's eyes water. A nearly empty box of .45 ammo. The remains of a very ancient pack of Wrigley's. Wedged into a corner, a stuffed tiger Dean had picked up for Sam as a joke after a stay in the hospital, he couldn't even remember now for what. That had been fairly recent; it shouldn't have made it this far down into the strata of the car's history, unless it had been wedged there for safekeeping. And behind it…
Sam pulled out the old wallet in disbelief. "Winchester" was tooled into the worn leather just as he remembered, uneven but proud. He'd put so much effort into that thing in seventh grade workshop class, flinching when his father's reaction had been irritation at having something with their name—their real name on it—to potentially give them away. Sam's mouth tugged up tiredly; John wouldn't have approved of Jess's engraved money clip. It had been Dean who'd jumped in and quickly pointed out that Winchester could just as well be the rifle and didn't mean anything. Their dad had reluctantly agreed with that, and Sam had used the wallet from then on, until…until he'd gotten to Palo Alto and realized he'd lost it someplace. Not that it held that much, and buying another one was just another fresh start, but he'd always been sorry he'd lost it.
But maybe he hadn't.
He opened the wallet, unsurprised to find it exactly as he'd left it: a few singles in the billfold, a picture of him and Dean in the windowed first pocket. Several IDs in different names stuffed into the rest. Preserved with care.
Sam considered asking his brother. Contemplated that maybe he had just left it behind, and Dean had absentmindedly stuck it in the glove compartment. Remembered Dean's cracked and often-fixed watch that had accidentally ended up in Sam's bag and made the trip with him to California, only to be destroyed in the fire. And decided some things didn't need to be asked. He put the wallet in the box. He could find a way to slip it into Dean's bag later.
A few receipts dated years back, one more map with their father's heavy print next to an "x," all packed reverently away. The glove compartment was empty, and Sam took a breath as he closed it and looked around the front seat, trying to ignore the dried blood and bent metal. The scattered and broken cassette tapes were next, he decided. At least that much he could replace for Dean. Sam reached down for the closest one.
"You boys hungry yet?"
Bobby's voice surprised him, and Sam sat up, mustering a weak smile for their friend. For all his gruff manner, Bobby knew how hard this was for them. He'd alternated between quiet support and giving them space with a tactfulness that Sam would always be grateful for and that he knew Dean needed.
Now, the older man stood casually with sandwiches and a pair of beers, squinting against the sun as he looked at Dean. Who wasn't saying a word. Sam stood up as family representative—he'd been doing a lot of that lately—and, brushing his hands off on his jeans, took the plate. The beers were an awkward fit in his still bruised and stiff fingers, but he managed to juggle.
He got a curt nod for that, then the older hunter unexpectedly hesitated. "There's something else."
Sam raised an eyebrow. He could hear Dean stop working again.
Bobby's gaze shifted between them, then he pulled an envelope out from the inside of his vest. "Just got it in the mail—guess it took a little while to track you two down."
Sam frowned, uncomprehending, and tried to shift plate and bottles to accept the offering. Just as he was about to drop something, a hand as battered as his own reached into his line of sight to take the envelope.
Bobby turned and walked away. Sam swiveled to his right to look at his brother, but Dean was bent over the piece of mail. His gaze betrayed nothing when he looked up.
Puzzlement deepening, Sam retreated to the side of the car and settled on the ground. After a moment, Dean joined him, crouched instead of sitting, like he might take off at any moment. He hooked one of the beers Sam held out, ignored the sandwiches, and passed over the envelope as soon as Sam's hands were free. Not even a crack about being "lawboy," although Sam wasn't surprised even as he missed it, missed Dean. But if he was reeling and numb, he could just imagine how…
The envelope was sealed. Sam tore it open and pulled the sheaf of papers from it, beginning to read.
Drawing an unsteady breath as he realized what it said.
"What?" Dean asked, subdued but not as emotionless as Sam would have expected. There was dread there, and caution, and…worry. For him.
"It's, uh… it's about Jim's will."
"I thought Jefferson cleaned out his collection."
Another time, he might have appreciated that this was the longest sentence Dean had spoken since leaving the hospital. Now, Sam's mind was elsewhere. "He did."
A pause. "The church owns the rest, right?" Dean said a little impatiently. "What's left?"
Sam kept reading. "A lot, apparently. The rectory—it was his, Dean." He glanced up. "He left it to you."
His brother reeled back as if struck. "Come again?"
"The house and land and everything on it."
"But…" The branch under Dean had been sawed out too many times of late. He looked stuck, uncomprehending. "What about you?" he finally recovered enough to demand.
Sam's mouth quirked. Trust Dean to think about him even in this. "Stipend. For school. Enough for law school, too, if I wanted to go."
I want you to go to school, I want Dean to have a home…
Apparently, their dad hadn't been the only one to share those dreams.
"Huh." Dean dropped back against the Impala and slid down to sit. Then snorted. "I can't inherit, Sam. I'm dead, remember?"
"It was left to me in your name," Sam said softly. "He thought of everything."
The silence stretched over them, loaded as it always was now. They'd barely even had a chance to think about Jim Murphy, no time to grieve the man they'd both cared about. It had been too much. Sam's eyes pricked, not overflowing only because there was too much, too many deaths and too much grief to be vented through tears anymore.
Dean softly cleared his throat. "To one of the good guys." He tipped his bottle.
Sam swallowed, clinked his beer gently against Dean's. "To Pastor Jim."
The sandwiches forgotten, they nursed their beers and remembrances.
Sam took a deep breath, the money clip shifting in his pocket, the car frame against his back. "We're not alone, Dean. Bobby, Missouri, Jefferson—we still have a lot of people who care about us." And a lot of memories, some of which only ached instead of hurt now.
"We're in this alone, Sam," Dean said dully.
It hurt, it hurt, and Dean was usually the one who made it better, but he was the one who needed his brother this time. Sam leaned a little into him, steadied his voice until he could say firmly, "You're not alone, Dean."
Dean didn't answer, didn't lean back, didn't do more than eventually take another sip of his beer. But he didn't pull away, either.
It was an answer.