Leave. Regret. Repeat.
K Hanna Korossy
They'd stuck around long enough to watch Gordon be loaded into a police car and driven away, waiting in silent agreement to make sure that threat really was taken care of. Sam couldn't deny the sight also gave him some deep and abiding pleasure, and if Dean's grin was any indication, his brother felt the same. The thought of Gordon still made Sam see red: gaining and betraying Dean's trust, torturing Lenore, tying Dean up like some sort of friggin' animal, and, oh, yeah, trying to blow Sam up. Twice. Sam was the forgiving type, but he wouldn't mind if Gordon Walker didn't see the outside of a prison cell for a very long time.
"You ready?" Dean asked in a whisper next to him, and Sam jolted back to the present.
Taking another look at the red-and-blue-light-painted panorama in front of them, Sam nodded. The cops would be there for hours still, collecting evidence and, hopefully, the knife that had killed Scott Carey. It was time to go.
"How'd you get here?" Dean continued, hand ghosting over Sam's sleeve. Itching to check him over, because he probably looked as bruised as he felt.
Sam mustered up a real smile for him, knowing that would reassure more than anything he could say. "Stole a car," he said without the shame he once would have felt. Dean was being held at gunpoint and Sam needed to get to him. He made no apologies for anything he had to do as a result.
Dean's teeth shone white in the darkness for a second, then he hitched his head. "Lead the way, Kemosabe."
They slipped out of there crouched down to stay out of sight, but victorious.
Dean almost managed to hide his amused sneer at the Honda Sam had "borrowed," but refrained from comment as he slid into the passenger seat. He clearly had no interest in fighting to drive this time, at least. Sam didn't mind, although his head still hurt, and with the adrenaline starting to wear off, he just felt tired. Emotionally and physically. It had been a long last few days, from the vision that had sent them to Rivergrove, to sneaking out on Dean, to Gordon and his "hunt."
Dean also sobered as they drove, face drawn and weary. He rubbed one wrist absently. "The car's back at your motel."
Sam blinked, recovered himself. "What? Your car?"
"Uh, yeah, my car—what, did you plan on keeping this hunk of junk?"
"No, I just…" He frowned. "The Blue Rose? What's it doing…?" Realization dawned with all the subtlety of a two-by-four, and he turned to stare at Dean. "You stopped Gordon."
"He was shooting at you."
Pieces were snapping into place. "And then he got the drop on you."
A sullen "sneaky son of a bitch" nearly made Sam smile as he turned into the motel parking lot.
Dean had tracked him down, then come to his rescue. Apparently, there weren't many limits to big brotherly protectiveness…including keeping Dad's secret from him. Sam's momentary levity faded. That was too much to deal with right now, and he shut the thought away for later. His rescue had thankfully curtailed the lecture he knew Dean was just itching to give about walking out on him, although Sam's defense had lain just as hotly ready on his tongue. But they weren't there, weren't ready, weren't up for it, and so it would all just have to wait. Sometimes it was enough that they'd both survived and were together.
The thought made Sam wince as Dean climbed out of the car and Sam paused to wipe down the steering wheel and gear shift and pedals and door. He left the car exactly where he'd found it and hoped it hadn't been missed.
The Impala was around the corner. Just across the parking lot from Sam's motel room, he realized with surprise, and wondered how he could not have seen it or his brother before. Then again, he'd been fairly busy with Ava, then with being shot at, then hurrying to save Dean. It wasn't like he'd been looking for Dean to be there. Although, come to think of it, maybe he should have.
The car stood with its driver's side door ajar. As Sam caught up to his brother, he could see Dean's body language untense at finding the keys in the ignition where he'd apparently left them. Door open, keys in the car; Sam felt himself flush. Dean must have torn out of there in desperate haste to save Sam. Even if those tables had eventually been turned, the thought was quietly humbling.
"Your stuff still in there?" Dean nodded at the motel room.
The shattered glass door had already been boarded up, police probably having been through while Sam was gone. He shook his head, heading over instead to a soda machine a few doors down. Reaching behind it, he grimaced as he struggled to pull his backpack out, wrenching sore muscles. It finally slipped free, and Sam hoisted it, then headed back to the car.
Those old seat springs had rarely felt as good, and for a moment the comfort of home was blinding, making Sam wonder why he'd ever left. Dean was watching him closely as Sam closed his eyes and leaned it against the window. Oh, right. That was why.
The engine started up with a soothing rumble, and soon they were on their way to putting Indiana well behind them.
Once they hit the main road, Dean silently reached over some alcohol pads and Kleenex. Sam pushed himself up to take them. He wasn't still bleeding, but the tracks of dried scarlet on his face were itchy and stiff. Not to mention probably upsetting Dean. Sam cleaned his face without a word, then nodded at Dean's wrists.
A short shake of the head. In truth, the ropes had been so thick and tied so high that they didn't look like they'd cut into the skin. But Sam had seen hints of purple and black as he'd freed Dean, evidence of his brother's struggle to free himself. To save Sam. He'd have to make sure Dean iced those later.
The essentials taken care of, Sam pulled out his phone, calling Ava to tell her he was okay and asking her to call back. He got an answering machine, which was strange; Sam wasn't sure how far Peoria was, but he was pretty certain she should be home by now. Well, maybe she was sleeping, or busy with her fiance. Sam shrugged mentally, focusing on the ribbon of road ahead and the quiet screech of Dean's music.
Whether the phone had reminded him or he'd just reached some internal limit, Dean soon pulled off the road and said quietly, "I gotta call Ellen, let her know about Gordon." He climbed out of the car as Sam nodded.
He heard some of the phone call distantly, Dean's anger that Gordon knew about Sam. It was a valid point and one that should probably have worried him, but his head was crammed full of fears and concerns already. Gordon was taken care of, and that was enough for the moment.
For him, anyway. Dean got back into the car subdued but still fuming. Then again, Gordon had tried to kill Sam that night. Even Sam wasn't hypocrite enough to think his reaction would have been that much more blasé in Dean's shoes. His brother's anger for his sake relaxed Sam a little more into his seat. It was love Dean-style, the same reason he'd misguidedly kept Dad's secret, and that was the only reason Sam could live with what his brother had done.
Not that he was thinking about it, of course.
Sam's eyes cut sideways to his brother. "I don't think Ellen talked to Gordon, Dean."
"Yeah, I don't think so, either," Dean said mutedly. "I just…" He shook his head.
Needed to blame someone for Sam nearly getting killed. Sam got it. And was kinda glad the culpability wasn't turned toward him.
The conversation was light over heavy issues. Sam even managed a joke about Dad's order, and Dean repeated what he'd said in Rivergrove about being tired of the job, the life. But Sam couldn't stop, not now, and Dean relented just as he knew he would. Promising to try his best to save Sam. How could the same love that was sometimes so suffocating feel like oxygen a minute later?
Another call to Ava still netted no response, and a subtle warning throbbed at the back of Sam's mind. Something was wrong. Five minutes later, and after a few begrudging noises from Dean, they were on their way to Peoria.
Ava was gone. She left behind her dead fiancé, her wedding ring, a lot of sulphur…and Sam's despair.
"Sam, c'mon, we need to get out of here." He vaguely felt Dean pluck the ring out of his hand and drop it back to the carpet, then lift him to his feet. He wasn't exactly sure what came after that. Dean herded him back to the car and at some point stopped at a payphone to call the police. Somewhere along the way, Sam croaked a warning and Dean screeched over to the side of the road, but nothing came up even as Sam swung his legs out of the car, hunched over, and retched miserably. Nothing but a hot prickle in his eyes that also refused to overflow. Dean got him back in the car a second time, hands hurried and gentle and worried, but Sam only really paid attention to the last part. Dean was scared, too. They looked death in the eye every day, and what terrified them both? Sam himself. He would have laughed if his mouth hadn't been too dry.
They eventually pulled into a motel parking lot that could have been the Blue Rose or a thousand others. Dean checked them in while Sam unloaded the car. It was familiar, rote. Choking.
Inside the room, Dean nudged him toward the ochre-colored bed, but Sam shook his head, turning to the table instead, opening his laptop. He had to research, had to find her, had to do something.
"It took her, Dean. It took her, or she…she turned evil, and…" And, he didn't know what.
Dean dropped his duffel on the other bed and crossed to him, fingers digging hard into the clenched muscle of his arms. "Sam, you met her yesterday.You don't know what she's into, what her story is. This isn't about you."
Sam glared at him. "I told her to go home, Dean. I told her to go home so she'd be safe. And instead…"
"And we'll find her. But, dude, have you checked the mirror lately? You look like a guy who almost got blown up today. We'll start fresh after some sleep, I promise."
Sam wrenched free, anger spiking through his brother's logic. "No. I can't just go to sleep when she's out there, Dean. I can't…" Sam paced restlessly, glanced at the door. He should be out there, doing something. Dean stepped into his line of vision, and Sam frowned at his brother. "You go to bed. I'll stay up and work on this a while longer."
Dean looked at him a long moment, then finally said, "Fine. Just give me the keys back."
Sam had turned back to the computer, but now he swung around, eyes narrowed. "What?"
Dean made a gimmemotion with his fingers. "The keys, Sam. You still have 'em."
His anger cooled into something frozen and hard. Sam straightened to his full height, a rare deliberate intent to look down at his brother. "So now you don't trust me?" He laughed. "I go up against Gordon to get you out, and you can't even trust me with your keys? What, you think I'm just going to take off on you?"
"Right," Dean said nodding, eyes dark and opaque. "'Cause you wouldn't do that."
Sam stared at him a few beats, then shook his head in disbelief. He felt himself flush, and cursed sharply. "Fine." He yanked the keys out of his pocket and dropped them into Dean's hand. "I just want to point out here that I'm not the one who broke trust in the first place. Man, you lied to me, to my face, Dean, at Dad's funeral, about what he said to you." He took no pleasure in Dean's flinch. "So if we're talking about trust here, maybe you should take a good look at yourself first."
"At least I never walked out on you," Dean spat back. "But that's what you do, Sam, right? The going gets tough and you get going." A disbelieving snort. "Dad was the same way. You both just take off and leave—" His expression suddenly shifted, as if he were only now hearing what he was saying. Then it blanked, as distant as the space between them as Dean withdrew. "No, you know what? This time I'm leaving. I'll get my own room, and you can go anywhere, do anything you want. I trust you." He ground out that last.
Sam stared at him slack-jawed as his brother collected his duffel and turned toward the door. Because Dean was right, he never left. He was always the anchor, the home to come back to. No matter who was right here, and Sam had a feeling neither of them were completely, this was wrong."Dean, wait," Sam spilled out before he even thought about it. "I don't—"
"Sleep well, Sam," his brother said curtly, and slammed the door shut behind him.
Sam blinked, staring around the room as he saw it for the first time. Seeing the spaces, the emptiness and silence as he had in Indiana. He was free now to search for Ava, for his answers, for the demon.
And knew just as surely he didn't want any of it.
Sam swallowed, fingering the handles of his duffel with trembling hands. He had his liberty, and it tasted like dirt in his mouth.
He unpacked slowly, feeling old and husked out. This hadn't been what he wanted, how he'd meant for things to go. Sam had been right, for God's sake: Dean and their dad shouldn't have kept secret what they knew about him. He had a right to be angry hadn't trusted him with even that, especially Dean. Just when Sam had started feeling as his equal instead of his little brother… So if anyone had cause to walk out in anger, it was he.
But he'd already left earlier. When Dean had asked him for more time, the first thing Sam could ever remember him asking for himself, Sam had agreed, then left anyway. Snuck out, leaving most of his stuff behind as collateral for his return, but still gone. And while he might not have known the weight of that in Indiana a year before when he'd last walked out, he did now. He could see how heavy the weight of the secret had been on Dean, knew he was struggling to hold it together these days as it was, and that Sam was all he had left. Taking off after that, after Dean had decided on his own to spill, wasn't exactly one of Sam's most shining moments, either. Was it so shocking Dean didn't trust him not to take off again after that?
Sam sank down on the bed, running a hand shakily through his hair. He needed answers, and the confidence of choosing his own path instead of going along the one he'd been forced onto. It shouldn't have been too much to ask. It wasn't too much.
But when two dreams collided, one always had to give. And Dean had been giving nearly all his life. Maybe…maybe it wouldn't kill Sam to shelve his own fears and give a little back. At least until he wiped that dread of being alone from Dean's eyes. Not because Dean was right, but simply because he was Sam's brother, and Sam loved him.
That was the first thing that felt right since Oregon.
Sam glanced around the room, realized there was nothing he needed there. All he needed was in another room in that motel…or at least, he hoped so. Striding to the door, Sam threw it open.
The Impala sat right where Dean had parked it before, hood gleaming dully in the parking lot lights. A quick glance around showed nobody in sight, light shining in several windows. Sam sighed and headed for the manager's office.
Five minutes later, and his reputation a little tarnished—lovers' spat?? What did Dean tell the guy, anyway?—Sam strode back out, straight for room twelve. Right…huh. Next to his.
Well, wasn't that convenient.
At the door, Sam slowed, uncertainty crawling in. What if Dean truly didn't want him there? Yeah, after crossing half the country to find him. But what if he really did want some space? They each had their own ways of finding it: Sam took walks, Dean headed to the Impala. They'd never taken separate rooms before, not ever. There was no precedent for this.
But he knew Dean. Even angry, Sam hadn't been able to miss the fear in his brother's eyes of Sam being gone again, either by Gordon's actions or his own. Dean didn't want to be alone; that was his nightmare. If Sam just waited long enough, his brother would have caved to it, too, desperation overwhelming pride, and returned to Sam.
He just really didn't want to wait that long. And it was his turn to take the first step.
Sam raised his chin, cleared his throat, and knocked.
No answer. Come to think of it, the lights weren't on. Either Dean had immediately turned in, or he wasn't there.
Sam slipped his lockpick set out, glanced around the empty lot, and knelt at the door.
The room was, indeed, empty. The single duffel sat forlornly on the one bed, on its side as if it had been thrown there. Nothing else in the room was touched.
Sam pulled out his phone and stared at it a moment, chewing his lip. But no, he decided, putting it away again. It was too easy to be hung up on, and he needed Dean to hear him out. Besides, one more angry outburst and Sam was worried his own temper would flare again, sending them back to their respective corners. No, better to wait and do this in person. Dean was too upset and exhausted to be gone for long.
Sam climbed wearily onto the bed, shoving the duffel aside, and settled against the headboard. Tipping his head back and pulling his legs up, he tried to figure out just what he was going to say when Dean did get back. Sorry? But he didn't mean that exactly. Not unless it was being sorry that things had tanked that badly between them.I'm not leaving again? Yeah, that would do a lot of good. There were some things Dean only believed with seeing. You can trust me? Gag. Sam breathed in deeply, wincing at pulled bruises, and wondered when it had become so difficult just to talk to his brother.
He barely noticed it when his eyes slid shut.
Sam started awake, hands flattening against either side of the mattress. The very wide mattress: not a double. In a silent, dim room. When he'd gone back on the road with Dean, his brother had been careful to be quiet for Sam when he slept. Somewhere along the way, for Sam he'd stopped being careful and just been himself. So this quiet was unnerving.
Sam lifted his head, trying to get his bearings. The room was only semi-dark, light filtering in around the edges of the pulled blinds. Enough to see Dean sitting in the plush chair across the room, just taking a pull from a half-empty bottle of Jack while he watched Sam sleep.
Dean. Dean's room, Dean's bed. Sam flopped back with a grunt. Not exactly how he'd planned this, either.
"You know, I don't get you," his brother began, sounding completely sober. "You're gone when I expect you to be here, then you turn up when I don't. What's up with that, Sam?"
Sam turned on his side so he could see Dean better, realizing that at some point he'd slid down to lie flat on the bed and had been covered with a blanket. "I didn't want you to leave," he said simply, honestly.
"Oh, right. So, that's why you took off on me two days ago."
"I was…" Sam rolled back to look at the ceiling. "Dean, you'd just told me I might go evil and need to be put down—byyou—someday. I think I had the right to freak out a little."
Dean took another drink, stared at the shuttered window. "Yeah, maybe," he murmured.
"I wasn't leaving you, man, I just needed to find some answers. You know?"
He couldn't see Dean's face well in the dim light, but didn't need to to see Dean's intense stare. "Did you?" he finally asked.
Sam emptied his lungs. "Yeah, a few, maybe." He rubbed his face with both hands. "Not enough."
There was a long silence. Dean seemed to have forgotten about drinking. Sam stared at the ceiling and chewed on how much he was willing to lay bare here. But Dean's pleas were still fresh in his mind, and that decided him.
"I can't do this alone," he admitted in a whisper, still more from weakness than will.
Dean snorted. "You did all right."
Sam turned back to him. "Well, I don't want to."
Dean froze. Opened his mouth, then shut it again, looked back at the window. Cleared his throat and finally rubbed at his forehead. "I ever give you the impression I wanted you to go it alone?" he asked rough and low, just when Sam was sure he wouldn't respond.
"No," Sam said softly. "That was all me."
Dean set the Jack down on the floor beside his chair and leaned forward, scrubbing his face with his hands much as Sam had a few minutes before. "What do you want, Sam?"
Sam sat up and swung his legs off the bed. "To find Ava," he said. "I think…I don't know, maybe it'll mean finding out more about all this, too." He waved a hand vaguely. "I need this, Dean, but…I need you to do it with me, too. All right?" He said it hesitantly, knowing how much he was asking. But knowing also he could at least give Dean in turn what he knew his brother wanted most.
There was a pause, Dean gnawing briefly on his knuckle, then slowly straightening. "Your stuff still back in the room?"
Sam was already standing. "I'll get it."
But Sam was out the door, rushing in case Dean changed his mind. Feeling the complete and utter contentment of having given up something precious and gotten back even more.
He wasn't gone more than a few minutes, stuffing his things haphazardly back in his bag, then hurrying back the dozen steps to the room next door. But he jerked to a surprised halt at the sight that met his eyes inside, light from the parking lot streaming in through the door behind him.
Dean had relocated to the bed and was already fast asleep, stretched out on top of the covers along one side. The far side that was always Sam's. Leaving him an unobstructed path to the door.
Sam swallowed, wondering why he'd even thought he'd be the only one pushing past his fear and giving ground.
He moved in complete silence, shucking off his dirty jeans and jacket and dropping them on the floor with his duffel, then easing under the covers. Dean didn't move, unconscious to the world but doubtless aware at some level Sam was there, too. Those instincts ran deep.
Maybe as long as they ran toward his brother instead of away from him, Sam would be all right.
"G'night, Dean," he whispered. And thought maybe he heard a murmured echo from across the bed as sleep took him gently away.