Disclaimer: I lay no claim to Supernatural or its characters.
Summary: After a year of increasingly desperate research, Sam finally accepts that there is no way to break Dean's deal. But that doesn't mean he's giving up.
Sam leaned against the car with his arms crossed over his chest, waiting for Dean. He'd already filled up the Impala, deliberately ignoring the rapidly spinning numbers on the old-style pump as he filled her up. There was no point in worrying about the completely ridiculous price of gas because a) Dean would kill him if he even hinted at throwing his baby over for a more environmentally sound, gas-efficient car, and b) it's not like they were paying for the gas, anyway, thanks to their stash of phony credit cards, so it didn't really matter.
By unspoken agreement, the Winchester brothers had decided to leave the demons alone for a while. Stay under the radar, as Bobby had suggested. But that didn't have to mean staying in one place. Dean needed the distraction, and, frankly, Sam wouldn't mind one himself. He hadn't spent as much time in Hell as Dean had, but what time he had had deeply disturbed him.
They were off to take care of a ghost outside of Charleston. It should be a standard salt and burn, but, of course, Sam had learned the hard way that nothing was standard for a Winchester. Expecting the unexpected had long ago become a way of life.
Dean was inside the small mini mart, getting some snacks for the road. He should've been back about ten minutes ago. Sam tried not to worry. His brother was a grown man and very capable of taking care of himself. He also knew to call for backup when he needed it.
Sam was sure there was a mundane reason for the delay. The clerk was probably some pretty girl that Dean was regaling with harmless lies while he checked her out; knowing Dean, he'd probably get her to give him her number without even asking for it. Sometimes, Sam didn't know how he did it.
Of course, he'd checked the EMF meter, just in case.
He was wary of letting Dean out of his sight, much like he'd been after the Trickster had put him through that damned time loop. He couldn't shake the feeling that he had to be there, every moment, in case something happened. Dean didn't like to be crowded, though, so he'd compromised and let Dean go in by himself--more like backed down after his brother had glared at him and insisted that Sam quit mother-henning him, but he liked to think of it as a compromise.
Sam felt different, since Hell.
It wasn't just the rediscovery of his powers, though that was pretty high up there on the list. Coming to the realization that you weren't some demon-spawned freak could definitely change your world view. He planned to explore his natural abilities out in the real world at some point, after things got back to normal… well, normal for them, anyway. There was no rush. Right now, his main concern was Dean.
Once Dean's soul had been transferred back into his own body, Sam felt as if something inside of him had changed, like some essential part of himself had been altered on the molecular level. He was different, but it wasn't bad different, just kind of… weird different. As if he wasn't weird enough already.
He seemed to have developed a sort of Dean radar--kind of an internal tug toward his brother. It was disconcerting at times, almost like he was in two places at once. He could tell where Dean was in a room, without even looking. The feeling was so strong at times, Sam was pretty sure that if they were separated, he could have found his brother with his eyes closed. It made it easier to let Dean out of his sight, knowing that he wouldn't need to see him to find him.
Sam wondered if Dean felt the same. He thought so; he'd caught Dean a couple of times giving him this look, like he was trying to figure something out. It could have been residual effects of the binding spell they'd done in Hell, but Sam didn't think so. He thought... maybe it was silly, but he believed that, somehow, a piece of his own soul now rest within Dean, and piece of Dean's soul had remained with him.
He kept this theory to himself. Dean would probably laugh his ass off if he told him about it, accuse him of being all touchy feely. No way was he dealing with Dr. Phil jokes for the next hundred miles.
Dean finally came out of the mini mart, a broad smile on his face. Sam could have gone right in there and kissed whatever pretty girl had put that smile on his brother's face. It was worth the wait.
As Dean walked back to the car, Sam rubbed his hand absently over his over his chest as something inside him shifted, eased. Like recognizing like. He was pretty sure his theory was right, that they each had become guardian to small piece of each other's souls.
Maybe that was the way it was supposed to be.
"You ready?" Dean asked, tossing Sam a candy bar, which he deftly snatched out of the air.
Was he ready? Ready for bad food and bad motels and bumpy back roads? Ready for late night grave digging and early morning exorcisms? Ready to be a different person in each town, and anyone but himself? Ready to face Ruby and Lilith and all the bad things that would surely be coming for them?
Sam gave his brother a crooked smile. "Absolutely."
They'd faced the horrors of Hell and made it out alive. As long as he had his brother there, fighting by his side, he was ready for anything.
Ten minutes later, they pulled out onto the highway with a tank full of gas and bellies full of sugar. Sam didn't even complain when Dean slipped his Led Zeppelin cassette into the player and gave the volume knob a hard twist to the right.
The road ahead was smooth and clear, with not a cloud on the horizon. It wouldn't stay that way. They both knew that they were marked men--that the hunters had become the hunted--but right now, that didn't matter. For now, they had the open road and the clear, blue sky, and all was right with the world.
A/N: Reviews are love.
For those of you who are interested… My next big project is a sequel to my Dark Angel fic "The Friggin' Cure." Before I start that, I plan to do a few DA oneshots to reboot and clear my head of all the Supernatural angst. SPN angst is a lot darker (okay, bloodier) than my normal flavor of angst.