Not Talking
K Hanna Korossy

He almost missed the piece of paper, folded as it was into fourths, tucked into the crease between bench seat and back. Dean frowned, forgetting about getting the bags from the car—trying to kill each other and then leaving a siren's body behind had inevitably meant another move—and picked it up. He glanced around before easing his bruised body into the car and slowly unfolding the sheet.

It was a note, unsigned but unmistakable in its source.

I'm not the same little brother you left behind—dude, you DIED. For months. I had to change to survive. But doesn't mean I'm not still me.

He sat staring at it a long time, absently rubbing his aching shoulder, before folding the paper back up and carefully tucking it into his jacket pocket.

00000

The kid was cute, swinging his legs as he sat on the restaurant bench and waited for his mom, clearly unhappy. Sam wasn't too surprised when Dean paused, then crouched down to talk to the rugrat.

"Hey, kiddo, what's wrong?"

The boy—four? five?—gave him an uncertain look before misery apparently won. "Micah's at school."

"Micah? He your big brother?"

A glum nod.

Dean shifted a little, head tilting, hand resting on his knee. Sam wished he could see his face. "Yeah, well, you know, I bet Micah misses you, too. Big brothers miss being big brothers when you little guys aren't around."

Micah listened solemnly.

Sam, as he was surely meant to, did too.

00000

Dean wasn't sure if he should laugh or roll his eyes when the pillow crinkled beneath his head. With a glance at the still-closed bathroom door, he reached under to fish out the envelope—pink—from under his knife.

It was a Hallmark card; apparently, Sam cared enough to send the very best. Somehow Dean didn't think they made Sorry you were in Hell and I rubbed it in your face cards, though, so he pried the envelope open with reluctant curiosity.

The card showed a doghouse, eyes peering out of it. Dean's brow rose as he opened the card and looked inside.

"Having a horrible time, wish I wasn't here," it said. And, under it, in Sam's careful script:

Okay, yeah, it's hard to hear about it and it kinda kills me you were there because of me, but the siren got it wrong, man: I want to know. And at the risk of inflating your ego even more, I respect you more every time, Dean. Seriously.

The bathroom doorknob rattled, and Dean hastily shoved the card and the girly envelope back under his pillow and closed his eyes. Stupid things were starting to burn with fatigue, anyway.

00000

Sam started at the vibration of the phone in his pocket. Dean knew he was at the library and wouldn't be able to answer; why didn't he just text? Scowling, Sam abandoned the scatter of books, folded his notes carefully out of sight, and walked out of the library, stopping just outside the doors.

His phone was already in his hand, and he looked at it, puzzled. It had been Dean, just as he'd thought, but also a new voice mail. He played it back and rubbed absently at the healing cut on his throat as he listened.

"Hey. Sammy. Listen, uh… I liked Madison. A lot. She was a victim, not a monster, and she was a class act. I'm glad you two had that much, at least. So…I just wanted you to know that. Okay. I'm goin' for coffee now."

Sam stared at the phone a minute. Blinked a few times. Carefully saved the message before putting it away. Then stared at nothing for a while before heading back into the library, both hands shoved into his hoodie's pockets.

00000

"I think Dad's got a ritual for a summoning," Sam said as he got up. "I'm gonna get the stuff for it out of the car."

Dean nodded, catching the leather-bound book as Sam tossed it to him before walking out of the room. Didn't even need to ask where to look; they both had the book half-memorized. Dean flipped through the pages, suddenly slowing as he hit one he hadn't seen before. Just a piece of paper, actually, stuck inside, Sam's writing the only thing on it.

I know all of this, the demons and the angels and what I can do, scares the crap out of you—I understand that, and I'm sorry. But I can't just sit around and wait for them to bring the fight to us, man. That's what scares me. I need to figure this out, not just wait like sitting ducks and hope for the best. So just…don't ask me and I won't lie to you anymore, all right?

Dean grit his teeth, balled up the note…then smoothed it out again. He chewed on his lip a moment before sticking it back into the journal where he'd found it and continuing past it in search of the ritual.

00000

Bobby's spare room was dark and quiet, soft cricket sounds coming from outside. Sam would've thought it too early for crickets, or too cold, but what did he know? What did he know about anything, really?

"Dude, I can hear you thinking from over here," came the cranky voice out of the darkness.

Sam smiled soberly at the ceiling. "Hey, you remember what you told me when I was, like, five? About how I could say anything in the dark and it wouldn't count?"

There was a pause, then Dean's voice again, a little wary. "You were scared sharks could crawl out of the ocean and come after you, Sam—it wasn't exactly something Dad needed to know."

He turned on his side, facing the dim lump of his brother on the other bed. "Still applies."

"I don't want to hear this, do I." Dean sighed, and this time there was just weariness. "What, Sam?"

"You're still my big brother."

Another pause. "O-kay, that's not exactly—"

"And I'm always gonna look up to you…but I have to do what I think is right, Dean."

The silence dragged on this time. It was different from the heavy quiet in the car as they'd brought Pamela's body back for burial. This time at least it felt like they were connected, like Dean was listening and thinking instead of avoiding him.

Dean finally cleared his throat, and his silhouette shifted. When he spoke again, Sam knew Dean was also facing him.

"Me, too, Sammy" he said roughly.

So much in those three words. Sam slowly nodded and closed his eyes.

They didn't need to say good-night.

The End