Disclaimer: See Chapter One
A/N: Last dance, people. Again, if there's any similarities in the last couple of epis and this, just a coincidence. A side-note: I actually had been thinking about doing a story like this after watching AHBL#1. I was all curled up, watching it unfold and I noticed during the part where the YED takes Sam back to his nursery in the dream sequence that right after he feeds baby Sam his blood, the baby cries, looks away to the left and his eyes briefly – and I mean briefly – flash yellow. Of course, later in Yellow Fever, Dean sees Sam's eyes shine yellow and it is not clear whether this actually happened or if Dean is still a bit unsteady. Anyway, I do wonder if Sam's eyes quickly flash yellow throughout the series and we just haven't caught it.
Thanks to MAZ101. It's strange how the Internet works. We've never met, we've only typed. I adore your words to me and I think it's cool how although I've never seen you in the flesh, I still can feel your heart. Thanks for having my back. And my front.
Chapter Twelve: Rhythm and Booze
The world was slanting sideways.
Sam shook his head hard and tried to ground himself. The world was not slanting sideways. He just couldn't keep his vision in focus. The pain from his back traveled down his arms to his fingertips. His legs pushed up the muddy hill until the ache throbbed to his feet. Even his jaw hurt. The hill blurred again and Sam had to squeeze his eyes shut to bring it back. Still, the ground moved when he didn't.
Sam looked up. He'd fallen behind. Dean was waiting for him a couple of stones ahead. Even in the dark, he could see his brother. The outline was distinct against the black. They'd been drilled to look for one another, trained to sense each other. Sam pushed harder. "Yeah?"
Dean didn't say anything. He just waited against a slab of marble until Sam caught up.
Sam didn't make eye contact, just kept his feet plowed into the mud. His head hung low and he started to shove ahead.
"Hey." Dean's voice halted him. He tried to hide the shaking in his hands. He hoped Dean couldn't hear the harsh pants his breath released into the cold air.
There was a beat and then Dean asked, "Can we take a minute? My arm feels like it's on fire."
Sam walked the two steps back down and tried not to stumble. His eyes saw the tombstone across from Dean, flat and wide, and he hefted his rear end on top of it. Then Dean let him breathe and Sam didn't know how to thank him for that.
He could feel Dean's eyes on him and slowly raised his head to face his brother. He wasn't sure what to expect. Repulsion. Fear. Rejection. But it was too dark to really see and Sam found that looking at Dean wasn't so hard in the night.
"Are you okay?" Dean sounded tense. Sam could see his mouth moving, could see the whites of his eyes catching on lights from the town below. He knew he was scaring Dean but he wasn't sure how to reassure him anymore.
"Yeah. Sure." Sam scratched at his neck. He took in a couple of breaths and felt his body pull tight from the pain. "My back hurts a little." He dropped his hands and rotated his shoulders. "I think it's bleeding again." Sam licked his lips and tasted sweat mixed in with water. "I'm shaking. I, uh, think it's from the cold."
Dean waited. He leaned in further, his right hand resting on his knee, his left hand clamped on the handle of the shovel. His eyes found Sam's and he waited for more.
Sam's focus slid away for a few seconds and then back again. "What?"
"Are you okay?"
Sam had heard the tone before. It was a tone he obeyed and rebelled. It was a tone each of them learned from their father and Sam knew what Dean was asking. He knew what Dean wanted, what he needed.
Sam nodded. "Yeah."
He saw Dean's head drop and a lump swelled in Sam's throat. He remembered the siren before it had got to him. Dean's arm around him, knife to his throat, and the damned siren's words. Telling him, mocking him that he was willing to give Dean what he truly wanted. Not a bimbo in a G-string. Not a million dollars. Not a chance at normal.
And Sam knew it was true. No matter how much he denied it, the awful things he had said to his brother… he had meant them. He wouldn't admit it to his face, but he didn't think Dean had the sac anymore. Hell had weakened him, scalded a fear in him that he hadn't carried before. And if he meant the words he had spoken to Dean, then Dean must have meant the words he spoke to Sam.
"Well, let's do this." Dean's pitch had dropped and he pushed away from the marker he was resting on. He brought the spade up against his shoulder and started up the slope.
Sam watched him a few steps before he joined behind him. "Up a few rows and to the left," he said trying to be helpful but Dean answered him with a one fingered salute. Sam sighed and figured he probably deserved that one.
There it was. The little off-white tomb with the praying hands. It was easy to detect. The name almost glowed in the dark.
Angel Mondalvo Timmons b. May 2, 1983 d. October 17, 1989
Dean threw his gunnysack down and opened it up, taking out a battery-operated lantern and quickly set it up in the mud. "Get your lights," he reminded Sam as he stood, checking to be sure Sam's lantern was on and that he had his Maglite in hand.
Dean grabbed for the shovel and started to dig. Sam was walking on the other side of him laying the flashlight down and joining in the dig. It was a quiet effort. There were grunts and groans and the mud pulled on both their injuries but Dean refused to let up because of a burn to his shoulder. If Sam could do it, he could do it faster. If Sam wasn't saying anything, he could be quieter. It was childish, but he didn't care. If Sam thought he was calling the shots on this hunt, Dean was able to call him on it.
Sam's shovel was the first to scrape on something solid. He hit the surface hard enough with the spade to hear the clunk clunk. Dean's mouth twitched. "That didn't take too long," he muttered.
Sam cleared off the mud and dirt and Dean shifted to the back of the coffin as the cream lid was revealed. He glanced up into the sky and then slowly noticed something. "Hey, Sam, it stopped raining."
Sam's eyes glanced up. "Think it just stopped or you think something's coming?"
Dean shook his head. "Dunno. I can pull the lid open if you want to get everything ready."
Sam seemed to contemplate that for a few seconds. "Yeah, okay." He threw the shovel over the open site and reached up with his arms, grabbing hold of nothing but mud as he pulled himself out of the hole.
Dean waited until Sam was standing. He watched him reposition the lanterns closer to the opening and then his flashlight was gripped in his hand. Dean watched the halos of light illuminate the ground and Sam's feet. "See anything?" he called up.
Sam was swaying, the faint light catching on black. All Dean could see was his hair shaking a negative. "No."
Sam directed the beam down to Dean and let it hit on the lid of the casket, causing everything to light up around him. Sam nodded and Dean thought he saw him shrug. "I'm ready."
Dean sucked in a breath and reached across the lid, heaving it open. It didn't lift like an adult sized casket would. This one wasn't divided in two. It lifted in unison, exposing the entire contents of what was left of young Angel.
Dean startled, his back arched and he tried to look up the opening to where Sam was. He could see shadowy movements in the light and dark. Sam's hands were pushing through his hair and he was falling to the ground.
"Sam?" Dean called out, but he was answered in short breaths. Short breaths and heaving sounds and Dean turned as best as he could, finding his footing on the dirt wall. His hands landed on a large stick and he pulled himself over the grave until his chest hit the wet ground. He rolled his legs out and planted them into the mud. His eyes roved around the opening, landing tenderly on Sam's slumped body.
"Sam!" Dean yelled and he didn't know which was pumping faster, his heart or his feet. He rounded the gravesite and nearly slid into Sam's crumpled form. His head turned left and right, his periphery catching glimpses of light from the lanterns but there was nothing else there. No woman in blue, no small child. Nothing.
Sam's back was expanding with heavy breaths. His arms were folded stiffly around his stomach and his head was pulled almost to the ground. Dean's hands started to reach for him but he stopped.
You're too weak.
He wasn't sure what to do.
I'm a better hunter than you are.
He didn't know what Sam needed from him.
If he needed him at all.
Dean cleared his throat. "Sammy-"
Sam pushed forcefully off the ground and Dean found himself standing with him, his gaze staying with the back of Sam's head. Hands were pushing his hair back again and Dean could have sworn he saw Sam wipe at his eyes. He started to say something but Sam spun around and Dean forgot what it was.
"Did you see it?" Sam's voice trembled. His chin quivered and his eyes blinked wildly. Dean watched him closely. Something had scared his brother. And it wasn't a ghost.
"See what, Sam?"
Sam shifted the weight under him. His arm slowly extended and his finger pointed in the direction of the open grave.
Dean followed. "What? Angel?"
Sam nodded and looked down. There was so much wrapped in that too-tall form that reminded Dean of the days where Sam would come to him. Ask him for help. Ask him to protect. Sam didn't do that these days. He broke away. He walked away. He pushed away. But sometimes the point of a finger, without the use of words, was a plea for help. Was a request for protection.
Dean turned and walked toward the grave, his Maglite clicked on high. He felt Sam behind him, close enough that if he reached his hand out, he could grab him. He could tell him it was all okay. He was there and nothing… nothing bad was gonna happen to him as long as Dean was there.
He looked down. Angel Timmons' little body was put to sleep in a blue suit. His dark hair had been perfectly combed, parted on the side and feathered back. It had been almost twenty years since the boy had entered the ground but there were no bones. Dean was looking at a perfectly intact child. His skin looked as new as the day he died. Everything on him was immaculate. His cheeks were puffed with baby fat never lost, his hands were folded together, fingernails trimmed and polished. His lips were pencil thin and had morphed from pink to blue to black. His eyes were slit open and he was looking up to the sky. The beam from the light caught on the dead gaze. Even in the black of night, the dark eyes illuminated a yellow tinge.
Dean felt Sam's breath on the back of his neck. He flicked the light away so neither of them would have to see.
"They're yellow," Sam whispered.
Dean dipped his chin down, his eyes drifting to the dead body in the dark. He could still see the dull hue of yellow and he could feel the ripple of nausea in this pit of his stomach. "It was just the way the light hit him."
Sam was shaking his head. "No." His voice cracked. "No, it wasn't the light. It was him. It came from him. She was right." Dean heard unmistakable tears in Sam's voice and he turned toward him. "Val was right. He was… different."
Everything rushed Dean's body and mind. Dad laying a fevered Sam next to him in that crappy bed. Sam guessing song after song while Dean was laid up. Angel and Ramona playing and dancing. Val and her damned hand yanking Sam away. Ben and the booze. Jeff and his hair always in his eyes. And Dad staying. Staying and chasing yellow eyes. Never saying anything about it.
"Why're we here?"
Well, there was a big fucking reason why they were there. There was always a reason. Each time. There was a reason. And right now, that one reason was staring at Dean and his eyes were angry. They held a betrayal that Dean didn't understand and he wanted to make it right. He wanted all the trips to Chesterhill to mean something. To give some kind of closure. Dean wanted to be able to help Sam be okay. To not become something that even in death was still considered a freak.
The heat built inside Dean before he had a chance to register it. He took a step forward and gathered fists full of Sam's jacket. "That is not you!" He shook Sam hard and pulled him closer, their faces inches away from one other. "You hear me? He was not you!"
Sam's breathing was labored and coming too fast. Dean could see that nothing he was saying was sinking in. His brother's face pinched in pain and frustration as his whole body shook with a deep-seated hurt. Sam pulled in the opposite direction and his arms came between them severing Dean's hold.
Sam staggered backward, his feet slipping in the mud, almost taking him to the ground. Dean watched sympathetically, helpless as his eyes burned at not knowing what to do next. Sam was feral and confused, lost and fragile all tied into one dangerous knot. One pull, one scratch of Dean's fingernail and he knew he could break through the surface and make Sam bleed. The problem was, he didn't know how to stop the bleeding once it started. All his life he had slapped Band-aids on his little brother's wounds and now… well, now he had to find a new way to help Sam heal.
"We need to get this done, man." Dean looked behind his shoulder at the barren grave and then back again. "I can do it, okay? You just stay here and watch out for… anything."
Sam's lips curled. "No."
A fat drop of rain fell on Dean's head. "Christ, Sam, it's starting to rain again." He needed Sam to understand the urgency and took another step forward.
Sam backed away. "Don't. Don't touch me."
Dean stopped. His head started a small shake and his mouth quirked to the side. He counted beats in his head. "Okay." His foot moved back. "But we still gotta get this done."
Sam nodded. "I know."
"So you want to do it? I can keep look out and you can torch Eddie Munster."
He didn't mean it. It had just slipped out. It was just a cartoon word. And he didn't mean it. But there was spit in Sam's eye as he glared at Dean and his chest hitched with uneven breaths.
Sam started to shove past Dean, ignoring the excuse in his voice. Dean's hand came out and grabbed at Sam's sleeve.
"Wait." Dean yanked on him. He kept his eyes pinned on Sam's and never saw his fist coming. It was packed with power, cracking into Dean's jaw and sent him sprawling to the muddy ground. He opened his eyes to the dark sky above, his brother looming over him, his body seething with rage. Dean pulled his knees up and rolled to his side. He pushed off from the muddy floor and ticked his head to his brother. "I didn't mean it," he spat. "I've been trying to help you for months, Sam. I keep coming at you at a hundred miles per hour, but if you it makes you feel any better," Dean spread his arms away from his body, "here I am."
With a grunt caught in his throat, Sam charged Dean, propelling both their bodies into the mud as the rain started falling again. Sam pounded his fist into the side of Dean's face and pulled back for another when Dean's arm came up and blocked him. He pushed at Sam but didn't take a swing. He felt his arm being pulled away by Sam's hand and his jaw took another hit, this one with less force.
"Get off me," Dean growled as he worked his arm free and pressed his palm to Sam's chest. He tried to take a breath, but ended up swallowing more water than air.
"You're wrong!" Sam panted.
The fourth hit squared him across the eye, splitting the skin and Dean could feel the slight trickle of blood. "Sonuvabitch." His vision edged between gray and black, which was funny to him because they were already surrounded by the night. It was when the flashes of light sparkled behind Dean's lids that he started to get concerned. White, not so uncommon. Red, he'd seen that one a time or two. But the yellow made him shake his head back to the present.
Dean searched the dark through his swelling eye and stinging jaw. Sam was still hovering above him, but he wasn't throwing punches anymore. His weight was bearing down through his hands, holding Dean's arms in the mud. His right shoulder sent an electric shock wave of pain to his chest and for a second, Dean thought his heart was shattering to pieces.
"I know," Dean tried, "I know. I didn't mean it!" He twisted his arms back and forth, trying to loosen Sam's grip.
"I'm not… evil."
Dean stopped moving. His throat felt like it was closing up. "I know."
He could see Sam's face shiver in the wan light. He could see his brother looking at him, their eyes fastened on one another. Dean held strong to the connection.
"M-" Sam sucked in his bottom lip.
Dean frowned. His breathing was stifled under Sam's weight and he wanted to ask what he missed, but he couldn't because Sam's eyes were terrified and that shook Dean. Of all the things they hunted, of all the angels and demons they met, it was Sam's fear – Sam's fate – that scared Dean most of all.
Sam's fingers flexed around the small of Dean's wrists. His back curved in pain and, barely audible, he sighed, "Mom."
It took Dean a slow moment to put the puzzle together. Val and Angel. Mom and Sam. Azazel's special children and their special mothers. One following a fiery path, the other following an insane one. A fucked up circle of life from the cradle to the grave. And out of all of them, Sam was the chosen one. He was always the chosen one.
"No, Sam." Dean's voice was gravelly from lack of oxygen.
But Sam was quick to ignore him. "She could of-"
"You don't know," Dean wheezed. "You don't know… what she would have done."
Sam's eyes glared. "Neither do you."
Dean felt his throat work, raw and scratchy. He shook his head, but found himself agreeing. "I know."
A sound escaped Sam's lips that could have been a laugh or a sob. Dean couldn't be sure but his arms became his again. He drew in a lungful of air as Sam pulled back and sat on his haunches, his eyes looking away from Dean's bruised face to his bloodied knuckles.
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered and Dean knew he meant it. He felt the words, the timbre hit him harder than any of Sam's weedy attempts at a fight.
Dean rolled to his left and used his elbow for balance. He coughed harsh and wet and let the rain momentarily soothe his nicks and scratches. "You know, Sam, there are better ways of talking than using your fists."
Sam's jaw shook. "I'm-"
"If you say you're sorry again, I swear I'm taking you down."
"I just don't know what to say anymore."
Dean nodded. "About what?"
Sam was quiet.
"I know, Sam."
Sam's eyes lifted.
"I know you're in pain. Hell, I'm in pain." Dean hitched a shoulder and tried not to sound too casual. He needed Sam to know he counted. That his life mattered. "Everyone's in pain."
Sam pressed two fingers into his eyes sockets. Dean watched as his breaths filled Sam's lungs, his whole body taking in gulps of oxygen and water and tears.
Everyone has a breaking point.
"Doesn't mean I can't help. Doesn't mean you have to carry it all."
Dean wiped his lip with the back of his hand. It came back bloody but the rain swiftly washed it away. He blinked up at Sam and it happened so fast, he wasn't sure what it was at first.
A whirl of blue crossed their paths and Sam wasn't crouching down near him anymore. He was being dragged across the bone yard by his neck. Thick black hair was spinning in long tendrils as Val hauled his long body over small stones and mud. She stopped near the open grave and wrapped her hands around Sam's nose and mouth.
"Aw, fuck." Adrenaline kicked in and Dean started to move. His legs kicked forward and his right hand reached down with a flick of the wrist, grabbing the salt can. He twisted the cap off and poured white over Angel's body until the can was empty.
Val glared at him, using the only weapon she had – Sam – to gain leverage. In a heartbeat she was dragging him again, her dead fingers on his throat, not giving him a second to gasp in a breath.
Dean had the fuel in his hands and doused as much as he could over Angel. It smacked down on the cold corpse along with the rain and Dean prayed it would be enough to ignite. He pulled the matches out and plucked them from the Ziploc baggie. He could hear a gurgling sound a few feet ahead, but when he allowed himself a brief second to look, he couldn't see anything.
The match lit on the first try and he dropped it into the grave. Fire crackled under him and he let the burning body light his way. He struck another match and let it fall, this one closer to little Angel's neck. A direct hit. The gold color of the necklaces danced against the fire light.
Dean's eyes flittered across the cemetery. There, just a few rows away was Val, holding a death grip on Sam and behind her was the image of a little boy in blue. Dark hair, chubby cheeks, and a frigid hand extended to the ghost of his mother.
Val's head turned in his direction and her eyes softened at his sight. Her chest heaved once and the name hit the air in an accented whisper, "Ángel."
Small fingers curled in his palm, beckoning the woman to him. "Come, Mama."
Dean took a step towards the trio, watching carefully as Sam's neck was released and he was guppying in shallow breaths. Val stayed near him, though, her hands still on Sam's torso, her dark eyes following Angel as he took small steps to her.
"I'm sorry, baby," she murmured.
Angel's head nodded. "Come." He stopped within a couple of feet of Val, the hand he held out to her starting to glow with fire. "Hurry, Mama," he begged to her as the fire spread down his arm.
Val glanced down at her feet and noticed the fire that was burning underneath her. She stood up and extended her hand towards Angel's. Dean watched as fingers reached for one another, as Val's face smiled at her son. As the fire spread throughout their bodies and he knew it was going to be over with soon.
Sam rotated to his right and let his lungs fill with cold air. He groaned and opened his eyes, the images of the two ghosts coming into focus for him for the first time.
Val suddenly halted her movements, her head ruffling to Sam's squirming form. Dean watched on as her eyes darted from Angel back to Sam and in one breath her fiery leg kicked Sam in the side, sending him teetering to the rocky drop-off, his nails digging into the mud, barely keeping him on the edge. She knelt down near him, and she brought her cold lips to his ears, Dirty Bitch Red lipstick rubbing onto his lobes as she hissed, "Monstruo."
"No!" Dean screamed.
"No," Sam shook his head weakly as she pulled back, her left hand hanging on his shoulder. She smiled sweetly and reached her right hand into the burning flames that had engulfed Angel and in a horrific scream, Val lit ablaze in the night.
Her sudden absence left Sam cold and without a crutch. His body lost its fight with balance and it rolled off the side of the broken hill.
Dean was running and it was too late. He was running and Sam had already gone over. He reached the edge of the cliff on his knees. It was dark. Too dark and when he looked down into the drop-off, he couldn't see anything.
"Sam?" His eyes skimmed across the area. He couldn't see a body. He couldn't even see fingers hanging on the edge. It was just a black hole of nothingness. Dean reached back for his flashlight and he could feel his pulse throbbing on the button as he depressed it, sending a small beam of light down the rocky cavity.
"Sam!" Dean screamed. He crawled the perimeter and let the light guide him. The rain hit the back of his neck like icicles and he swore the temperature had dropped ten degrees. "Sam!" he called out again, hoping for an answer, a grunt, anything that gave him a sign of where Sam was. The small glow hit on a something that resembled a hand just as Dean heard his name being whispered.
Dean scurried to his right and leaned over the opening. There, about a foot down was Sam, his fingers grasping hold of a small tree root sticking out of the earth. He looked up with frantic eyes and Dean felt his heart slam into his lungs and wondered when it had stopped beating because this was why he was here. This was what it felt to be alive. This was why all of the shit they'd been put through was worth all the hassle.
"God, Sammy." Dean put the light down so it held some power in helping him see. He laid flat on his stomach and reached over the rocks to where Sam dangled. "Here," he ordered. "Take my hand."
He could see Sam's eyes staring up at his palm, calculating the distance and how much pull it was going to take from him to grab hold. "Can't," Sam puffed.
Dean scowled and pushed himself over the cliff more, his hand hanging closer. "I'm right here. Just reach up and…"
Sam's head bowed down and Dean could only see the outline of the top of this head.
"Hey!" he yelled down. "Hey, Sam! Look here!"
It felt like forever waiting on his brother. Dean's body broke out in a sweat and he felt the beat of his heart slam against his ribcage as he lay on the cold ground. He snapped a finger and slapped his palm against a rock.
Sam's head swung back up. "Dean-"
"Just reach up," Dean begged. "I'll catch you. I swear."
He could see Sam swallow and his eyes narrowed on Dean's waiting hand. He gave a slight nod and Dean involuntarily nodded back. There was no count down, just the lick of the lips and a blink of an eye as Sam thrust his body up, his right hand joining Dean's, followed quickly by his left.
Panic chased dread through Dean's veins as he felt his feet slide and slowly, his upper body started to lug over the drop-off. He pressed his toes into the mud and grabbed back with his left hand until his fingers wrapped around a small cluster of weeds. His vision blurred and ears rung, even though the only sound was the rain and Sam's gasps of exertion.
Dean blinked. He could feel Sam slipping away from his wrist, even as his brother tried to adjust his grip. Dean's shoulder pulled with strain and he felt a chatter start to beat out from his teeth.
"Dean-" Sam's voice was sharp and scared and Dean pretended not to hear it.
"I got you." He shook his head and started to pull. The muscles of his back bounced from the pressure, but his feet moved an inch and replanted in fresh mud. He could feel an aggravating tremble start tickling his cheeks and he shut his eyes and pulled back again.
Sam's hand slid down his thumb and Dean stopped. "Sam," he rasped. "H-hold on."
"Dean," Sam's voice was paper soft and just as fragile. "Please."
Dean looked down. Sam hung by the tips of his fingers. His body swayed between two large boulders and Dean could see the determination to let go behind his eyes. Dean looked beyond Sam's body into the dark. There was no way of telling how deep it was or how treacherous. He couldn't just let go. He didn't know what he'd be letting go to.
He felt Sam's grip slack and his thumb shifted out of Dean's hold. Another second. Another breath. Another heartbeat.
"No," Dean snarled. "Not in this lifetime." He released the weeds and felt his body lurch over the edge again. He quickly reached down and readjusted his grip with his brother.
"Dean." Sam's body rotated in the free air.
"Shut up, Sam." Dean dug his kneecaps into the ground as leverage. "Let me do this." He grabbed the weeds again and started to pull. Everything hurt. Everything stung. Everything lit on fire. Everything was resting on his shoulders and his entire world dangled from his hand and Dean knew right then – he knew he could do this.
"Stay…" Dean prayed as he felt Sam's body come forward. He didn't even realize it when Sam's elbow settled near his face and he didn't know when he had let go of the weeds and had his hand braided in Sam's jacket. His eyes were screwed shut and all he could do was keep pulling, keep moving back, keep his hand clutched with Sam's.
"I got you," Dean's voice shook with emotion, tears thick and foggy and ready to release.
Dean's eyes opened. He was on the ground again, his shoulders back in the mud and Sam was flopped on top of him, his hand clasped tightly in Dean's.
You don't need me…
There was a time when Sam would look up at Dean and he would see a Superhero. Dean was aware of it. Hell, he liked it. He liked the way it made him feel, big and powerful and like he could save Sam from anything. Then there were times like now. When Sam looked at Dean and he didn't see him with a child-eye wonder any longer. Those days were packed away in a suitcase and left behind in some nameless hotel room.
A stray tear melted its way down the side of Dean's face.
Sam's hand gripped his shoulder and the pain sparked down the length of his body. "Hey, Dean?"
He scrubbed a shaky hand down his face and tried to rid any evidence of the tears. "I'm okay, Sam," he lied. "Are you?" He blinked twice and waited for the sky to stop spinning.
Sam looked down at him and slowly shook his head.
Dean blinked again and waited.
Sam swallowed hard, but his eyes filled anyway. He shook his head more forcefully. "No, I'm not okay." Sam's hand released Dean's shoulder and his forehead fell forward onto his brother's chest.
Dean lay still for a few heartbeats. The rain was still coming down, but it didn't matter. He felt his face break at the sound of Sam's tearful sighs and small confession and he didn't mind the water falling down. It just blended in with his own. He threw his right hand gently over his brother's back and wondered how much damage had opened up on the surface. And vowed to be strong enough to get them through to the other side.
It's too big... I'm not a hero…
"I'm sorry." Sam was babbling. "I'm sorry."
"Shh." Dean hushed. His palm flattened out and he pressed it against the back of Sam's head. "It's okay. Just, don't talk."
Dean felt Sam's grip tighten on his side and in the cold and the dark, he felt briefly warm. He closed his eyes and pretended, for just that minute, that they had won.
Ben couldn't believe it.
It was over. He was standing in his bar with his family. Jeff, Ramona, and a very pregnant Gina. He insisted she meet the men who saved them all.
Sam and Dean were gracious. Modest. And ready to get back on the muddy road out of there. They had packed. Dean had re-patched Sam's back and had cleaned his face up, secured with a couple of butterfly bandages. When it came to his shoulder, Dean let Sam help.
Sam wouldn't admit it, but dressing Dean's shoulder, relaxed him. Made him feel important and needed. Keeping his hands busy kept his mind off the pang in his stomach. He taped the white gauze firmly to his brother's arm and sat back.
Dean pulled on a black T-shirt sporting the album cover off the Blue Oyster Cult's Tyranny and Mutation. Sam had picked it up for him for his birthday this year. A day he thought he'd spend drunk and angry. Instead he spent it with Dean.
"You feel okay?" Dean asked as he stood and zipped up his duffel.
Sam was broken. There wasn't enough gauze or tape or mending in the world to put him back together again. He nodded and faked a smile.
The Impala felt good. Warm and cozy. Just like home. Dean pulled out of the parking spot and shifted gears. The old tavern was alive with people. Rhythm and booze and laughter overflowed the four walls. Sam glanced inside and saw a stomach blocking part of the front window. His eyes met Ben's and the bartender stared back. He shook his head at Sam and raised an eyebrow.
Sam felt his stomach churn.
A well manicured hand landed on the big guy's shoulder and Ben turned away, smiling at Gina.
Dean steered the Chevy to the south and turned up the radio, settling his back against the leather seats. Sam watched the town speed by out the glass. The windshield wipers slapped to the time of the music. They were back where they started. Waiting on Heaven and Hell. Silence cementing between them.
And when your back's against the wall/Just turn around and you'll see
I will catch you, I will catch your fall/To have a little faith in me.
"We're never going back there again," Dean suddenly said and Sam turned his head, watching Dean's shoulders square with the wheel.
"Hey, if I remember right, I suggested a motel."
Dean smiled. "Yeah. Shoulda listened." He readjusted his grip, his silver ring bouncing with the beat of the song. Sam smiled. He had missed that. He had missed it over here in the passenger's seat. Sometimes it was nice to relinquish a little power.
"Think they'll be okay?" Sam asked, his eyes scanning the landscape, the rain tattooing the earth until everything wilted or dripped.
A shrug. "Sure they will. New wife, new baby. There's other ways to get a second chance in life than waking up after being dead."
Sam nodded. Made sense. He grinned across the seat. "Ben sure turned out to a real dick."
The radio played on and Dean kept tapping. Nothing got by him. "I don't know. I think he was just scared. Got old. People change, you know? I think keeping Val's secret so close to his vest all these years just ruined him."
Sam's eyes were studying Dean. Forty years of torture and torturing and Dean's only escape was what he carried in his soul. The songs he remembered. The jokes he recalled. Breasts he had cupped. Lips he had kissed.
"But, he has Jeff. He's always been a good guy. Real even keeled, quiet. He's always been there for him. They'll be okay."
And memories. Forty years of replaying his favorite hunts. Weapons he'd held in his hands. The first time dad had told him he'd done good. Mom's prayers. And Sam. Forty years of thinking about Sam. Wondering if he were even alive. If he was okay. If he had changed into something Dean had fought so hard for him not to.
Sam's stomach twisted and he turned to look out the window, willing the craving to pass.
They were curving around the old hill. His eyes snagged on the drop-off and caught the two boulders he had dangled between just a half a day before. He followed it down to the rocky bed below. There would have been no way he would have survived that fall.
"You know what I don't get, though?" Dean asked.
Saw swallowed, acid burned down this throat. "What?"
"What was up with the touch? Every time you touched me, or whatever, why did the spirits always go away?"
Forty years apart and Dean still knew him better than anyone. He remembered things Sam had forgotten. He put his life on the line because he believed Sam was worth it. And no one, no one, had ever believed in Sam as much as Dean.
He licked his lips nervously and felt the heavy weight of the silver flask press against his ribs. He'd need a drink when they stopped next. He needed to steady the wiggle that was building in his pinky. He shut his eyes and saw Ruby on the other side, small and dark. Her black gaze holding a smile that allowed Sam the ability to make dreams come true.
"Hey." Dean's hand was on his knee and Sam's eyes flew open. "You sure you're okay?"
Sam pushed himself up higher in the seat. "Yeah. I was just thinking about what you said."
Dean's hand stayed and Sam's pinky stopped twitching. He swallowed and everything reached his stomach without a hitch. "I just think maybe they knew."
Dean frowned. "Knew what?"
Sam watched as Dean retracted his hand and his world dizzied again. He felt his eyes burn with tears that had been building for a lifetime. He blinked past them, pushing them to the side and glanced at Dean.
"Sammy?" Dean's eyes were darting between the road and the seat. He was nervous, Sam could tell, but mostly he was hopeful.
"I think they knew that I was stronger with family."
A sigh was released and Dean shook his head. "Oh," he breathed. The music suddenly didn't seem to be a filler anymore. And the silence didn't seem to be cement. Sam heard Dean's neck crack in his direction. "You know… me, too, Sam."
Sam nodded and shut his eyes again. This time he just tried to see Dean. Not who he was before Hell. Neither one of them were those people anymore. He shifted, trying to find a comfortable spot for his back and kept his eyes closed. Behind his lids Dean started to walk away. Then he stopped and Sam knew he was waiting on him. Sometimes having a brother was better than a superhero.
"Look at that."
Sam's eyes slit open. Out the windshield, a sign zipped by reminding them to Come Again to Chesterhill.
And then the rain stopped.
Translations: Monstruo: Monster
Playlist: Have a Little Faith in Me performed by Joe Cocker
Rhythm and Booze performed by Corky Jones
A/N: (last one) Thanks again for all those who have left a review (especially my regulars), who've favorite'd the story and who've alerted to it. It's been a fun ride. It's cool the way a TV show can bond people. I've never experience that before and I find it to be pretty damn special.