Someday Never Comes
Sam quietly stepped back into the room, his eyes resting on the prone form of his brother, still buried under the warmth of the down comforter. Dean was lying on his side, one arm under the pillow, the other attached to the comforter pulled up to his chin. He looked pale, but he was breathing deeply and steadily and Sam was pretty sure that the fever he had been suffering from since the warehouse in Illinois was finally on it's way out. He had carefully felt Dean's forehead and cheek when he'd risen mid-afternoon and had been pleased to note that his brother felt cooler than the previous night. They had both slept through the morning and part of the afternoon, but the rest had done them both good. Sam was still a bit chilled from his impromptu dip in the lake, and he could only imagine how Dean had felt considering the older man had been sick and feverish even before his second trip into the cold dark water. It wasn't normal for Dean to allow himself to sleep through most of a day, but it was obvious he needed it and Sam was intent on allowing him to sleep as long as he wanted if it helped him heal.
He'd started a pot of coffee and poured a large mug before grabbing his jacket and phone, retreating to the relative privacy of the Impala to make his calls. He'd found out exactly what he'd suspected he would. Gary Corrigan, the honeymooner, had lost his father a month before his wedding. The nuptials had actually been postponed due to the death, so when he'd drowned, his bereavement had been dulled, but the loss was still there. The other calls to families of previous victims netted similar information – the loss of a loved one within a few months of their disappearances. After three calls, Sam decided he had enough information and that it gave credence to his theory about the La llorana connecting with people who were in emotional pain. Sam concluded that the theory was probably accurate.
So what did that say about him?
He'd lost Jessica. And more recently he'd lost Dad. So why wasn't he able to see or hear the spirit?
Maybe because Dean's current pain overshadowed his. Jess had been years ago, and while he still missed her and felt a pain in his heart every time he thought of her, the loss was something that he'd learned to deal with. With a sigh of regret he realized he'd managed to move on.
He still loved her. He always would. But that love was now more of a warm glow than the intense heat it had once been. She was gone. He was still here. He'd had to adapt to that reality and as much as it hurt him to admit it, he'd accepted her death.
And Dad… Sam still didn't know what to feel about Dad. On one hand, he missed him terribly. He still felt guilty about the last thing he'd said to the man, but there was nothing he could do about it now. Dean had assured him Dad had loved him. That he had always wanted what was best for him. And he'd allowed himself to believe it because… hell, because he wanted to. He wanted to believe that his father had truly cared about him. He'd spent a lifetime being angry with the man about one thing or another, but in his heart, he did believe Dad loved him.
After all, he'd given him the greatest gift anyone could.
Because of Dad, Sam still had his brother. No matter what shortcomings John Winchester may have had as a father, his last act was to shelve his revenge and put his sons first. How could a man ask for anything more?
But Dean had figured out what Dad had done, and Sam couldn't imagine the guilt that would heap upon those already weighted shoulders. How Dean could handle the knowledge that their father had sold his soul for him was beyond Sam's ability to comprehend. It was an impossible burden and Sam could only respect and admire his brother for his ability to bear it, selfishly grateful that it wasn't him in such an unenviable position. He was indebted to his father for having the courage to make such a sacrifice, and that one act made believing in his love for them effortless.
Which brought him back to Dean and his recent loss -- Mom.
From the few facts Dean had shared about the djinn's fantasy, Mom had been… happy. The other Sam had been with Jess, living his 'normal' life like Dean had believed he'd wanted. Even Dean had had a girl and a regular job and a life that didn't involve monsters and evil and shotguns and rock salt. He'd been normal.
And, Sam had been surprised to find out, he'd wanted to stay.
But, he couldn't. He was, after all, a Winchester – even if that didn't mean the same thing in that world, it still meant something to Dean. He had a mission… a purpose. He was a hunter and he saved people. He saved Sam. And that had always been more important than his own happiness. So he'd given it all up – Mom, the girl, the normal, 'safe' life… all because he knew he had a job to do, and the job was the only choice he'd ever really had. And by making that choice, he'd made himself a target for this damn spirit.
Sometimes the world had a really suck-ass sense of humor.
Sam slipped back into the room, just as the sun was beginning to dip beyond the horizon. He shrugged out of his jacket and sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes unconsciously falling on his brother. He wished like hell he knew of some way to make this better. Hell, he'd settle for a way to get rid of the freakin' spirit and give Dean the break he so rightly deserved. But the records had turned up nothing and he had no idea where to turn next. If they couldn't identify the spirit, they couldn't find it's remains and they could salt and burn it into… wherever the hell salted spirits went after they burned.
He leaned forward and sighed, jumping slightly at the low, gravely voice from the other bed.
Sam frowned, noticing the one half-opened green eye watching him sleepily. "You okay?"
Dean sighed and slowly rolled onto his back. "Yeah," he said after a moment. "I'm fine. I was talking about that sour lemon look of yours. That's gotta hurt, dude – scrunching up your face like that. Is it as painful as it looks from this side?"
"Not as much as it must hurt you to look in the mirror everyday."
Dean grunted what could pass as a laugh. "Nice try, Sammy, but you and I both know the mirror loves me."
Sam grinned and shook his head in fond exasperation. "I guess someone has to."
Dean pulled a hand from under the comforter and pointed at his brother. "Jealousy is an ugly thing, little brother."
Sam chuckled as he raised his own hand to swat at Dean's. He was relieved to see some color back in Dean's face and a long missing spark back in his eyes. After a few seconds, he decided the worst was over and let himself drop backwards onto the mattress with a heavy sigh.
"That doesn't inspire me with confidence," Dean mumbled as he stretched lazily under the comforter. "That is definitely not an 'I think I've solved the case' sigh, Sammy."
Sam managed a slight grin, shaking his head slowly back and forth along the mattress. "Afraid not. Have no idea who she could be and worse, got no idea where to look." He shrugged against the soft blanket. "I got nothing, man. "
"What time is it?"
"Night time." Sam pulled himself up and leaned forward, elbows braced on his thighs. "You managed to pull a Van Winkle and sleep through the day."
Dean's eyebrows rose as he checked the clock on the stand between the two beds. "Huh," he grunted in surprise. "Guess I was a little tired."
Sam's eyes widened to match his brother's. "Ya think?" He watched as Dean pushed himself up on the mattress, wedging himself into a reclining position against the headboard. He showed no inclination to actually crawl out from beneath the warm comforter and Sam found himself longing to climb back under his own. "You hungry?"
Dean rubbed a hand across his stomach and nodded thoughtfully. "I could eat."
"You feel like going out? Or you want me to bring something back?"
"I am kind of warm and comfy right here."
"You do know you smell, right?"
Dean tried to look insulted, but one whiff from his raised arm confirmed Sam's observation. "Fine, you get food. I'll take a shower."
Sam hesitated, reconsidering the standard offer of a food run. Despite Dean's obvious improvement, he was decidedly uncomfortable leaving his still vulnerable brother alone especially with the La llorana still haunting the lake.
"Or," Dean slowly amended, reading his brother's expression and quickly deducing it's source. "How about I take a shower, then you take a shower then we both get food?"
"Why do you get the shower first?"
"'Cause I'm the awesome big brother, Sammy." Dean quipped. "And I still make the rules."
The shower had felt good and, considering that for the first time in a long time, he actually felt good, he even decided to be generous and save Sam a bit of hot water. He still opted for a couple extra layers, his body not yet recovered from the unnatural chill his two unexpected trips into the lake had produced.
Shrugging into his jacket as the shower turned on behind the bathroom door, Dean quietly made his way outside, stopping at the top of the steps to gaze out across the water. The sun was just beginning to set, the fiery reds and oranges of the sun reflecting across the water like a painting. The sky above was already dark, emphasizing the glow from the reflection that danced across the waves.
He wasn't really sure what to do. The La llorana had given him back his brother – he was convinced of that. He had promised to help her if she spared Sam, and she had kept her end of the bargain. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to keep his.
At the time, he had been desperate enough to offer up his life instead, and he had meant it with all his heart. He would gladly trade his life for his brother's. It was his responsibility. Always had been. But he wouldn't just give himself up without trying to find another way.
Sam had admitted that his research had come up with a big fat zero. No name, no grave, not even a hint as to where to look. They were at an impasse. With little information about the immigrants who had come north so long ago, there was really no way of finding out for sure who she was. Even Carlos had not been able to give them anything to go on. As far as he knew, the La llorana had been there for as long as he could remember. She was part of the myth of his people and the local population had come to accept her as just another part of their legacy. They respected what she represented, and they didn't fear her, but they had no more idea who she was than the Winchesters.
As the last of the sun faded from view, the stars became brighter against the night sky, twinkling like jewels, reflecting in waves of the dark water like a string of Christmas lights twinkling from afar.
Slowly he made his way down the steps, shoving his hands into his pockets and pulling his leather jacket closed across his torso. He stopped on the edge of the dock, his eyes sightlessly staring into the shadowy water below his feet.
With a sigh, he raised his head and let his eyes roam across the vast openness of the lake.
"I don't know how to help you," he whispered. He let a breath out slowly through his nose, his chin dropping to his chest as his eyes closed against the feelings of remorse beating through his chest. "I'm sorry. You gave him back to me and I promised you I would help you find what you're looking for but…" he shrugged and raised his head, his face showing how much he regretted not being able to keep his promise. "We tried. We wanted to be able to put your soul to rest, it's what we do, but… we can't. EW tried and there's just no way for us to find you.
"I'm sorry. I know I owe you… everything. That's what Sam is to me. He's everything good in my life. He's the reason I… the reason I am who I am. I've spent my entire life looking out for him and I don't know… I just can't …" he took a deep breath and swiped a hand at the moisture that had appeared on his cheek.
"Thank you. For giving him back to me. I know you understand why I can't let him go. Just like I understand why you need to find whoever it is you lost. You've been waiting for the day… that someday… when you'll be with them again, but… that someday will never come. Not here. They're not here. They've moved on and they're waiting for you. You have to move on, too."
Dean kicked at a small pebble on the dock, watching as it plopped into the water and sank into the darkness. "I don't know if you can hear me, but the only way I can help you is to promise you that if you let go, if you let yourself move on, you'll be able to find them."
He had no idea if anything he'd said had gotten through, and he had no proof that it was even true. But he believed it. He'd seen the ghost, Molly, finally move on when she realized she was no longer alive and that her husband, whom she had been trying to get back to, had been able to find a new life for himself. When she discovered that he was happy and no longer mourning her, she was able to let go and Dean had been able to watch her walk into a sunrise and go to… wherever it was a spirit at rest went once they realized they no longer belonged in this world.
He'd hoped he could help this spirit make that same choice.
He held his breath as the mist began to coalesce on the top of the water, his eyes glued to the surface of the lake. He held himself very still as the mist rose, enveloping him in a warm moistness, almost like a caress. A tendril slid across his cheek and he closed his eyes, suddenly afraid that the La llorana intended to hold him to his bargain.
Dean felt the words more than heard them, and he released his breath when he felt no threat in the spirits presence. He opened his eyes as he felt the warm mist draw back, shivering lightly as the cool night air once again touched his skin. The mist slowly moved back across the water, not so much dispersing as vanishing into the dark waves below.
After a few moments he remembered to breathe again and felt the familiar presence of his brother standing behind him on the dock.
Dean nodded and cleared his throat, wondering how much of his plea to the spirit his sibling had overheard. "How long?"
Sam dipped his head and took a few steps, coming abreast of his brother at the end of the dock. "Long enough."
Dean breathed deeply and closed his eyes, praying that Sam would let it drop and not turn this into a bigger chick flick moment than it already was.
"Think it will work?"
Dean shrugged. "I don't know. I hope so. She wasn't gonna find what she was looking for. She just needed someone to tell her that."
It was Sam's turn to nod. "So… are you really okay?"
Dean snorted a soft laugh, one side of his lips coming up at his brother's predictable behavior. He opened his mouth to reassure the younger man that he was fine, but hesitated, knowing Sam deserved more than empty reassurances. He deserved the truth. "No," he admitted softly. "Not really. I miss 'em. Mom and Dad. I guess I thought it would get easier but…."
Dean shook his head sadly. "No. It doesn't."
Sam took a deep breath and nodded slowly. "It will, Dean. Someday."
Dean gave a quiet laugh as he let his eyes roam across the dark, lapping waves. "Sure, Sammy. Someday."
First of all, I want to thank everyone who read this fic – whether you reviewed or not – the response was wonderful and I hope you all enjoyed my little angstfest.
I sat on this final chapter for a few days because I really did consider expanding the case and dragging it out a bit more, but decided to go with my original outline. This was never supposed to be about the spirit or even the hunt, it was more an attempt to get inside Dean's head and drag out the part of him he keeps hidden so well. I hope it worked and I sincerely hope nobody was disappointed in that respect.
That being said, thanks so much for all the encouragement. Writing for this fandom is always a pleasure and I appreciate you guys more than I can say!! I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! See you in 2009!