A/N this is set between the end of Red Sky At Morning and the beginning of Fresh Blood. Just in case anyone was wondering…
"You wanna stop at the next town for something to eat?"
Dean glanced at Sam as he spoke, taking in the hunched shoulders and the determined way his brother's gaze was glued to the scenery passing by outside the window. There was no indication Sam had heard him so he tried again.
"Hey, Sam – I said do you wanna stop for food soon?"
"Oh for god sake." muttered Dean under his breath.
Reaching out he whacked Sam none too lightly on the shoulder, which not only got his attention this time but also earned Dean a glare.
Dean shook his head.
"Exactly how long are you planning on sulking for? Just so I can plan the rest of my day."
The glare darkened before Sam turned back to the apparently fascinating view.
"I am not sulking."
"Oh, sure you're not, Sammy. That's why you look like someone took away your favourite toy."
Sam turned back to look at him.
"Great analogy, Dean. I'm upset that you won't actually give a crap you're gonna die and you compare it to me loosing a favourite toy. Got any more pearls of wisdom you wanna get out there, Yoda?"
Dean raised an eyebrow.
"Ok, before you start having a hissy fit it's not my fault you tend to regress when you're in a bad mood. And secondly? We are not having this conversation again, Sam! I don't know about you but I'm getting tired of banging my head against a brick wall."
"We wouldn't be banging our heads against a brick wall if you'd actually start taking this seriously."
Now it was Dean's turn to glare.
"You think I'm not taking this seriously? I'm going to hell in less than twelve months, it's kinda hard to forget about something like that! What's not helping is you bringing it up every damn second of the day – what's done is done and keep having the same argument over and over is not gonna change that!"
"I'm not asking you to have the same argument over and over, I'm asking you to let me try and save you! You might not care if you die, but I do!"
Dean brought one hand up to rub his temples, feeling a headache building. It wasn't that he didn't understand Sam's desperate need to try and save him but the truth was he knew it was unlikely there really was any way out of this deal.
Demons weren't known for putting in little things like escape clauses.
It was hard enough knowing what was gonna happen, however much he didn't regret bringing Sam back, and fighting with his brother about it wasn't really what he wanted to spend his last few months doing. Taking a deep breath and forcing himself to calm things down he tried a more reasonable approach.
"I understand why you're pissed, Sam, and I get it ok? Like I said, I'd probably be doing the same thing in your place. But do you really wanna keep doing this? Cos if there is no way out of this then I personally don't want to have spent our last few months yelling at each other."
"It's not gonna be your last few months."
The words were spoken so quietly Dean had to strain to hear them but the tone was pure Winchester stubbornness. A sudden image flashed into his head of a seven year old Sam, standing in front of him with his arms folded and a determined look on his face. He couldn't even remember what that particular fight had been about but the expression his brother was wearing at that moment hadn't changed a bit. Biting his lip, since grinning right now probably wasn't going to improve Sam's mood any, he decided it might be easier to just concede the point on this one and try to change the subject.
"Fine. Either way can we just not fight? Please?"
Sam shifted in his seat. Part of him wanted to stay mad, to force Dean to actually confront this whole thing and start fighting with him instead of against him. But the other part of him could hear the plea in his brother's words and could see how much this whole thing was wearing him down. And truth was, he hated arguing as much as Dean did.
It was hardly a resounding endorsement but right now Dean would take what he could get.
"So. Food?" he said and Sam shrugged.
Dean bit back a sigh and started looking for the exit sign. Not arguing was a good thing but he wasn't entirely sure one word answers were that much of an improvement.
For once the town they stopped in had a fairly decent Diner and Dean could feel his mouth watering at the delicious smells coming from the kitchen while they waited. He glanced across at Sam and, realising he was being watched, Sam looked up and managed a brief smile. Dean leant back in the seat and looked around, taking in the other people who were sitting eating their food and making small talk. He envied them suddenly, knowing that for most of them their lives would be untouched by the kind of dilemmas he and Sam faced every day. Why couldn't they be the ones sitting there with nothing more important to worry about than a boss they didn't like or whether the Cowboys were gonna win the Superbowl? Why did their lives have to be such a struggle? Even getting revenge on the demon that killed their Mom and Jess hadn't been allowed to be a moment of happiness. Instead it had been overshadowed, by Sam's death and by what Dean had had to do to fix that.
The word, quietly spoken, registered at the same time as the gentle nudge from Sam's knee under the table. Dean looked up to see Sam watching him with a concerned gaze.
He managed a slight smile, feeling some of the black mood lift simply from the fact Sam had not only noticed something was bothering him – and so fast – but also by the genuine concern in his brother's voice.
"Yeah. Just thinking." he said and Sam shook his head.
"I thought we agreed that never ends well?" he said dryly.
"Bite me." Dean retorted but he found himself grinning. It was amazing sometimes just how easily things seemed to slide back into their normal rhythm.
Well, normal for them anyway.
Further conversation was put aside as their food arrived and Sam found he was actually quite hungry now he thought about it. He kept a subtle eye on Dean as they ate, relieved to see that whatever had been bothering him had apparently been put aside reasonably easily. Of course where his brother was concerned that didn't necessarily mean it wasn't bothering him anymore, just that he was trying not to think about it or trying not to let it show. Either way there wasn't much Sam could do about it right now, so he simply vowed to watch out for it happening again.
Seeing Dean was practically finished and already eyeing the desert menu, Sam quickly swallowed the piece of food he'd been chewing.
"So were you actually serious about Atlantic City?" he said and Dean looked up at him.
"I dunno. Tempting as it is, we probably should be a little more practical about it. It's not like we come across that kind of cash every day."
Sam snorted. "Not unless we keep encountering Bela, which is definitely something I could live without."
"You and me both. I still think you should have let me shoot her."
"Like I said, it was too public. Anyway, I agree we should keep hold of the cash. It saves having to keep using the cards which isn't a bad thing, given our situation."
Dean couldn't really argue that point. They both knew their names were still plastered all over the Most Wanted list and after their little escape from jail Agent Hendrickson was probably even more determined to catch up with them than he had been before.
Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn't just be easier to change their names and head for Hawaai.
"Ok, so we're both agreed no trip to the Casino just yet." he said, aloud. "We should probably divide it up though, make sure it's not all in one place. Last thing we need is to end up losing the lot like we did before."
Sam grimaced. The issue of the lottery tickets Bela had stolen before was still a sore point and her recent trick of getting the Impala towed had only rubbed salt in the wound.
There were certain drawbacks sometimes to carrying your entire life around with you.
"Sounds good to me. Since we're not heading that way then, where did you want to go instead?" he asked and Dean shrugged, slightly distracted as he tried to get the waitress's attention with a killer smile. She came over, blushing slightly and tucking her hair behind her ear.
"Can I get you boys something else?"
Before Dean could answer Sam quickly stepped in.
"Yeah, could we have two pieces of pie please. And some more coffee."
"Sure." she said, still glancing at Dean as she refilled their mugs. With a final shy smile she went back to the counter to place their order and Dean raised his eyebrows at Sam, who looked innocent.
"I coulda done that." he said and Sam rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, but it would have meant I had to listen to you putting on the moves to get her number along with the pie, and I didn't really feel like seeing my dinner for a second time."
"Spoilsport. You could always take notes, get a few tips."
"Whatever. We were deciding where to go next, remember?" he said, before Dean could really get going.
"I could give Bobby a call, see if he's heard anything lately."
Sam nodded. "Might as well. You gonna tell him we met Bela again?"
"No. He's probably supposed to watch his blood pressure at his age."
Sam grinned. "I wouldn't let him hear you say that, unless you wanna be picking buckshot outta your ass for the next month."
Dean smirked, digging his cell phone out of his pocket as he slid out of the booth. Stepping outside he leant against the wall of the Diner as he dialled Bobby's number, able to still keep an eye on Sam from where he was standing.
It paid to be careful these days.
By the time he was done the pie had arrived and he looked pleased as he sat down, noting that his portion was slightly bigger than Sam's. Maybe he'd be getting that number after all.
"So did he have anything?" asked Sam as Dean dug into the pie.
Putting a large forkful in his mouth Dean shook his head, waiting till he'd finished chewing before answering. He'd had enough lectures from Sam about talking with his mouth full.
"Not off the top of his head but he's gonna check it out for us, see if there's anything nearby."
Sam nodded. "So what do you wanna do in the meantime?"
Before Dean could answer, his phone rang. Picking it up he glanced at the caller id and relaxed.
"Bobby." he said, in answer to Sam's questioning look, flipping the phone open.
Sam carried on eating as Dean listened to what the older hunter had to say.
"So how far is that from here?" he said after a minute, waving a hand in Sam's direction.
Putting down his fork Sam reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen, pushing it across the table along with a napkin.
Dean picked them up and scribbled something down, nodding even though Bobby couldn't see him.
"Right, ok. We'll check it out. Shouldn't take us more than an hour to get there so we'll book in somewhere and start digging around tomorrow. Yeah, we will. Uh, no nothing much. Little thing with a dead man's hand but we took care of it, no big deal."
Sam choked on his pie, coughing and spluttering at Dean's blatant understatement, and his brother kicked him under the table.
"What? No, that's just Sam. Seems he still hasn't mastered the art of eating yet."
Glaring as Sam kicked him back for that one, Dean wrapped up the call before Bobby could ask anymore questions.
"Ok, we'll call and let you know how we get on. Yeah, I know. We will. Seriously, we will. Ok, talk to you later."
As he hung up Dean reached down and rubbed his leg.
"What the hell was that for?"
"How about cos you kicked me first?" said Sam and Dean shook his head.
"What are you, six? You're just lucky Bobby didn't pick up on that little coughing fit of yours."
"Hey, he couldn't see me and anyway you were the one who caught me off guard with the whole 'no big deal' thing."
"You'd have preferred it if I told him what really happened? I didn't know you liked getting called an idiot quite so much, Sam. I can call him back if you like, I'm sure he could manage a good few hours of lecturing before the morning."
Sam winced. Bobby tended to be even more vocal than John when he thought they'd got in over their heads or done something stupid. His ears were still ringing from the last time.
"No, I think we can pass on that. What did he have for us anyway?" he said, changing the subject, and Dean wolfed down the rest of his dessert before he answered.
"Could be nothing but there's been a spate of drownings about 100 miles from here. Mostly hikers out using the forest trails, but it seems concentrated on one stretch of river. Cops haven't flagged it as more than a series of accidents but Bobby says it seems to follow a pattern going back about twenty years or so. He's gonna email us the info and carry on looking from his end – we might as well take a look as we're so close."
"What is it with us and drownings lately?" he said and Dean grimaced.
"No idea. What I wanna know is why all these people have to get themselves killed in the middle of freaking nowhere. What's the fascination with dragging your ass through the forest anyway? It's trees. Seriously, just how excited can you get about a bunch of trees? Damn hikers." he muttered, scowling as he drank the last of his coffee.
Sam covered his smirk by taking a sip from his own mug, knowing that baiting Dean about his dislike of the great outdoors wouldn't be the smartest move. Especially since he was the one who was gonna have to put up with the bitching when they got there anyway.
"Some people like nature." was all he said and Dean shook his head.
"Yeah, and some people deserve to get themselves ripped to shreds."
"I thought you said they were drowning?"
"Whatever. You know what I mean. Anyway, come on – we should get moving unless you want to sleep in the car tonight."
Sam slid out of the booth, waiting by the door as Dean went and paid their bill. He rolled his eyes as he watched his brother spend an extra few minutes flirting with their waitress, coughing loudly in the end to get Dean's attention. Dean shot him an irritated look but wrapped up his conversation and made his way back over to Sam.
"You should really get that cough seen to, Sammy." he said as he walked through the door Sam was holding open.
Sam had long since given up on correcting him on that one so he settled for light shove as they walked over to the Impala, quickly moving out of range before Dean could retaliate.
"You were the one who said we should get a move on."
Narrowing his gaze Dean noted the move for retribution later and unlocked the car.
"Just get in."
As they pulled out of the parking lot Sam opened John's journal and started skimming through for lore on drowning. He winced when 'Unforgiven' started blaring out of the speakers a few minutes later but, aside from a quick glare, he didn't push it.
They still had an hour to go stuck in the car after all.
As Dean started singing along with James Hetfield, Sam turned his attention back to the journal. Given their last few cases, not to mention Bela's recent escapades, he found himself hoping that maybe it was just a series of unfortunate accidents they were about to investigate.
Which of course was probably about as likely as them hitting the jackpot in Atlantic City. He sighed to himself.
He just hoped they didn't end up wishing they'd gone with Dean's first idea after all.