A/N: This story is based on a prompt by Merisha, who has made two incredible illustrations for this story, which can be found at (prepare for wacky 'cause f.f. doesn't allow urls): merisha dot deviantart dot com slash gallery. I would also include her prompt, but I don't want to spoil anything. Though you'll probably figure out soon enough what's happening ;)
This is the next installment in the Drive 'verse. Hope you enjoy, Merisha
ALSO! I am now for sale over at sweet-charity dot net slash auction slash for-sale. I am auctioning of one fic up to 10,000 words based on any prompt you can dream up, in the Drive 'verse or not in the 'verse, doesn't matter. So if there's anything you'd like to see me write, go over and bid for a good cause!
Okay, here's the thing: Sam is really not in the mood to get his ass kicked. Again.
But he just can't see any way to stop it from happening.
The right hook comes at his face too fast to block, so he ends up with a fist square across his jaw, slamming his head back so hard he can feel his molars rattle against one another.
He throws a half-hearted cross-jab, but it's deflected easily, and he's got another fist headed towards his eye. He ducks just in time and bobs back up, feels a trickle of blood from where he bit the inside of his lip. He tosses out a weak undercut that's knocked aside before it really gets anywhere at all, and he braces himself for the hit he knows is coming.
Except it doesn't come.
"Dude," Dean says, dropping his hands. "Swear to god. If you don't quit goin' easy on me, I'm gonna give you another black eye. Don't think I won't."
"I'm not going easy on you," Sam protests, lets his own fists drop.
Dean gives a loud, exasperated snort. "Right. Listen, if this were for real, you'd be mincemeat by now."
"No," Sam counters, temper flaring, "If this were for real, I'd kick you in the fuckin' knee, and that would be that."
"So how come you're not kicking, bitch?"
"'Cause I don't wanna hurt you!" Sam explodes before he can stop himself.
"So you are going easy on me."
Sam wipes one hand across his chin, takes a moment to examine the streak of red before palming it off against the thigh of his jeans. He takes a deep, measured breath and looks up at Dean, standing across from him in a come-and-get-me stance that would be a lot more effective if Sam couldn't see his crutches right behind him, propped up against the wall of the alley in which they've chosen to spar.
Or rather, in which Dean's chosen to spar. Sam just wants to get a fucking sandwich and get on their way, but Dean's insisted that they stop and throw a couple punches. Which really means that Dean throws punches and Sam takes them, because of course he's going easy on Dean. What the hell is he supposed to do, let loose and knock his crippled brother to the concrete ground? Yeah, not gonna happen, no matter how much Dean taunts him, no matter how many black eyes he gets. He'll take a couple shiners in lieu of landing his brother back in the hospital, thanks.
"Sam," Dean says, watching him, voice edging past fake-patience and straight into pissed-off. "You don't hit me, something else is gonna. And I'm not gonna know how to defend myself, because my little brother was too much of a wimp to suck it up and let me have it."
Sam doesn't say anything, and Dean presses on. "Dude, I used to beat you up all the time when we were training. I mean before you turned into a fuckin' Yeti, when I was still twice your size. You think that was fair?"
"No," Sam says sullenly.
"Right. It wasn't. But it taught you how to fight, didn't it?"
Long pause. "I guess."
"Okay. So. What the fuck are you waiting for?"
Sam sighs, resigned, puts his fists up, and knocks Dean on his ass.
Dean's been like this ever since leaving Texas a few weeks ago; full of a strange, almost manic energy that Sam knows is an improvement over his brother's previous dark listlessness, but there's something off about it. It's like Dean's an actor who's been recruited to play himself, and he's done all the research and has all the cues down pat, but still it's just not – quite – right.
But Sam tries to ignore the vague discomfort he feels, because the changes are good, for the most part. Dean's started training with renewed energy, doing push-ups and pull-ups every morning 'til his arms give out, and he's been religiously going through his PT exercises at night, even when his face goes white and his hands start to shake and Sam has to physically force him to quit it and go to bed. He's been eating more, too, determinedly pushes food into his mouth whenever Sam puts it in front of him, and Sam thinks he might have started gaining back some of the weight he's lost, which is great. And he really has been making an effort to cut back on his smoking, an effort which has been marginally successful – on a good day he'll smoke less than a pack, though on a bad day Sam still doesn't even want to count. But he's been chewing the gum, and he's started smoking Newport Menthols because he says they taste like shit, and Sam guesses that's a start.
So it's good, this stuff, and Sam has to admit that it's a relief not to feel as if he's got to monitor Dean's caloric intake at every moment, a relief to see his brother treating his body like maybe he does give a shit about it, after all, even though it makes Sam nervous to see how he's been pushing himself lately.
But he's getting pretty sick of being sneak-attacked whenever he comes back with their coffee, and he hates these back-alley sparring sessions Dean forces on him, because he's just not sure how to handle it.
He used to love sparring with his brother, even though he got his ass handed to him pretty much every time, because Dean is – was – a fucking master at hand-to-hand, and it was almost like meditation, just getting in the zone and doing his best to give as good as he got. And when he did manage to pin Dean, or get in a really good punch – the look of pride on Dean's face was worth the bruises and sore knuckles.
But now – now Dean is the one trying desperately to keep up, to not lose his balance on his good leg and fall over, and Sam's stomach feels like it's bottoming out every time he sees his brother lose yet another battle with his body.
"Okay," Sam says as he hauls Dean up for the fourth time. At least he's pretty much an expert at falling on his good left side, thank god. "Can we go eat, now?"
"Yeah," Dean says, pale-faced but attempting a grin as Sam hands him his crutches. "Maybe we should start doing this on grass, huh?"
Sam rolls his eyes, stuffs his hands in his pockets and slowly follows his brother back out into the street, which is empty and drab under the grey sky, the only spots of color coming from a tattered American flag waving out from a barber shop.
They're in some podunk Ohio town, on their way to Indiana. It's about one p.m., and they've been up since seven, Sam driving while Dean chainsmoked and dozed off-and-on in the passenger seat, zoned out on the muscle relaxants he took to get rid of a particularly nasty cramp that morning.
He seems pretty energized now, though, the slur gone from his voice, and best of all, he's stopped rambling on about flathead screwdrivers and hot-wiring Porsches and the wannabe-model waitress he'd picked up in Missouri a week ago.
"Weird tits," he'd mumbled, chewing on the filter of an unlit cigarette. "Both of 'em pointed left. And if you try and steal a car that way, you're out of your fucking mind, 'cause once the pin-locks are destroyed, you can start that shit with a fingernail."
It would have been kind of funny if it hadn't gone on for a solid hour with no let-up. Sam was half-tempted to pull the car over and shove Dean in the trunk with the weapons, at least until the meds wore off a little.
"Hey," Dean says now, and Sam looks up. "This seem good to you?"
He's stopped in front of a sandwich shop, and Sam scans the windows, surreptitiously trying to figure out if they sell alcohol or not. He's pretty sure they don't.
"Uh, this looks kind of pricey," Sam says. "Eight bucks for a BLT, check out the sign."
"That's fuckin' ridiculous," Dean says, like Sam knew he would. Dean is cheap as shit even when they have money, and they're pretty low on cash at the moment.
"How about that place?" Sam gestures across the street to something that looks more promising, kind of like a tavern, with neon ads for beer lighting up their windows. "I bet they have burgers."
Dean gives him the long, measuring look that Sam's come to recognize only too well, but he just says, "Sounds good," and follows Sam across the crosswalk.
The tavern is more restaurant-y than Sam would have thought, and there's a decent number of people inside, mostly families with miniature buckets of crayons set in front of their furiously scribbling kids.
A whip-thin middle-aged waiter with braces leads them to a booth by a window, and Dean widens his eyes at Sam as the guy walks away.
"Dude," he says. "Why the fuck… I mean, wouldn't you rather have shitty teeth than a mouthful of metal when you're pushing forty?"
"Maybe it's medical," Sam says, scanning the menu for the lowest-priced beer.
"You're medical," Dean says, digging around in his pockets and extracting his pack of nicorette, slivering his thumbnail through the foil and popping a piece into his mouth.
The waiter comes back again, flashes them a metallic smile and drops a canister of crayons onto their table with a wink. Sam sees Dean forgive him for the braces and grin back.
"Can I start you boys off with something to drink?" the waiter asks, cocking his head.
"I'll take a Pabst, please," Sam says, and the guy nods, turns to Dean.
"Just water for me, thanks," Dean says pointedly, glares at Sam over the top of his menu, like he does at least once a day. It doesn't seem fair that Dean can only watch the moments where Sam does drink, but can't see all the times where he stops himself. Like, he could have been drinking all day, but he's not, is he? No. He's having one beer with lunch, maybe two, but definitely no more than three.
"So we're headed where, again?" Sam asks, trying to distract his glowering brother. "What's the town called?"
"Burkitsville, Indiana," Dean says, puts his menu down and reaches for the crayons. "Dad says if we blink we'll miss it, so we gotta keep our eyes open. Should be there in a couple hours."
"I still don't get why he handed this case to us," Sam says, tapping a finger on the table and peering over Dean's head, wondering where the waiter is with his beer.
"I told you, he said that if we're gonna be hunting, he may as well feel like he's got some say in it."
"Control freak," Sam mutters. "So he's in California, huh?"
"Sacramento," Dean agrees, eyes on the placemat where he's drawing, inexplicably, a purple umbrella. "Lucky bastard. I could use a little fuckin' sunshine."
"Yeah," Sam says, and opens his mouth to say something else, but he's distracted by the return of the waiter. They both order cheeseburgers, and Dean gets onion rings instead of fries, which Sam is glad to see, since it means his brother's thinking about food and not just methodically forcing it down like he normally does.
Sam takes a long drink of his beer, resists the urge to chug it down, 'cause Dean's got an eagle eye fixed menacingly on him. "Don't you think…" Sam starts. "Don't you think it's kind of weird that he's in California?"
"Weird? Why is that weird?"
"I don't know, just… that's the last place we know for sure the demon was. We know it was in California." Killing my girlfriend.
"And… don't you think maybe he knows something he's not telling us? Maybe he gave us this case to get us off his back?"
Dean shifts uncomfortably in his seat. "No."
"You don't think—"
"I don't," Dean says curtly. "He said he's in California to talk to a guy about the freaky weather stuff, and I really don't have any reason to think he's lying."
Sam tightens his jaw, takes another sip of his beer. Decides it's okay if he finishes this and orders another one when the food comes. If Dean gives him the death stare, tough.
"I just…" Sam shakes his head. "I just want to find this fucking demon. I just want this to be over."
Dean's face softens a little. "Yeah. I know how you feel."
"No, you don't," Sam says, anger surging up and bubbling over. "You were four when mom died, Dean. Jess died six months ago. You have no fucking clue how I feel."
Dean opens his mouth, closes it, and Sam sees that he scored a hit, so he presses his advantage.
"If all three of us were on this case, it'd go a hell of a lot faster, and we'd be a hell of a lot stronger. I don't like it that Dad is in charge of all the information."
"He's not," Dean points out. "We do research, too."
"Yeah, based on tips he throws us," Sam says.
"He said he wouldn't lie, and I believe him," Dean says. "End of story."
"I just don't understand the blind faith you have in the man," Sam says. "After the shit he's pulled… you still don't even so much as question him. If he says jump, you just fucking jump."
"You see me jumping?" Dean asks, eyes flashing.
Okay, Sam admits. Bad metaphor. "Well," he presses. "If you're so sure, why don't we go to California and see for ourselves? He promised he wouldn't stop us if we wanted to step in."
"We're not going to California because we're going to Indiana," Dean says, flattens a palm on the tabletop in a controlled gesture that means he's doing his best not to pound a fist. "You saw the data. Couples have been dying in Burkitsville since the eighties, man. Always on the second week of April. And, oh hey, look at that. It's the second week of April. Someone's gonna die this week, Sam, unless we can stop whatever's been killing them. So I get that you want to go to California, but now? Really not good timing."
"Maybe I'll just go by myself, then," Sam says rashly.
"Fine by me," Dean says, but he swallows and his face goes pale. "Get the fuck out of here."
"I'm not going anywhere, you dick," Sam says grumpily, trying not to feel guilty about the stricken look on Dean's face. He wishes his brother knew it was an idle threat, because there's no fucking way he's leaving Dean to hunt alone. Dean's been left behind quite enough, and Sam's not going to be the one to do it. Not this time.
"Then shut the hell up," Dean snaps, and spits his nicorette into his napkin. "I need a cigarette," he says. "If the dude comes while I'm gone, get me a cup of coffee."
He hoists himself to his feet and crutches his way down the aisle, leaves Sam to slump dejectedly down in the booth.
The waiter appears over after a minute or two, puts down their order of buffalo wings. "You kids okay? Can I get you anything else?"
Sam hesitates, then holds up a just-a-minute hand and drains the rest of his beer as the waiter looks on, surprised.
"Yeah," he says when he's finished. "Another one of these, please."
"Coming right up," the guy nods, teeth glinting. "Anything else?"
"Nope," Sam says, smiling wide. "That'll be all."
Dean can order his own damn coffee.