For a moment, fleetingly, insanely, Adam couldn't help but indulge himself: he wished he were home. And then the wish curdled in his head, and he wished he'd never wished in the first place. God—the irony.
"Come on," Dean said, turning to me, the motel door opening next to him. I swallowed nervously, hoping he didn't notice. He sort of squints at me. I think that means he caught my uncertainty—note to self: don't swallow around the Winchesters.
"Yeah, coming," I respond, nodding. With one arm I stiffly pick up my bags and begin to move forward, hoping I don't stumble. I do anyway, but it isn't too bad, and out of the corner of my eye, as I pass by him, I notice Dean barely frown. I don't know whether to be glad he didn't full-out cuff me in the back of my head, or indignant that he's frowning because I—me: a guy whose my mom just got killed and whose entire life has been effectively undone and re-molded into some ghetto X-Files—stumbled a bit. I settle for a little of both, and just as I'm turning my head back to (maybe) through Dean a mini, I run into a wall.
Great. First I stumble over my own two feet, and now I'm running into things. Wait…
It wasn't exactly "things" I'd run into. It was Sam—my new half-brother. (Well, half-big brother, I guess. But if we're being technical, he's really my half-big-little brother—except he's by far the tallest of any of us. Yeah, it's confusing.)
"Sorry," I mumble. Instead of just sliding right past, however, like I try to, Sam stops me, smiling.
"It's ok, Adam," he says. And his voice is full of sincerity, it is, but I also realize that his wide smile doesn't quite reach his eyes.
No, it's not okay.
"Sure it is," I say, nodding. It's a simple ploy to keep them both at bay, and I know Sam sees it for what it is. But I'm hoping he won't notice.
"Yeah, Adam, right." He looks at me as he lets me pass. Underneath his shaggy hair I can just tell he's inspecting me somehow—looking for something.
"That is the million-dollar question, isn't it?" I mutter to myself, cracking a smile as an image of Regis Philbin pops into my head.
"We should probably turn in early. We have some—" here Sam clears his throat, uncertain for a moment of how much he should fill me in on. "Things to do."
"Hunting things?" I ask. No use in tiptoeing around the pink elephant.
"No, kids: things like where we figure out just what to do with you." Oh, well, insert foot into mouth.
I look at Dean know with what I hope passes as a questioning look. I don't much care what he means, but I know I should probably stick with the Winchester brothers—my brothers. If playing dumb helps me fit in, so be it. What would be the use of opening up to them anyway?
"We're not used to being a threesome, ok, kid? It'll take a little adjusting to—"
"He means we'll need some new supplies, some new gear—"
"For me?" I couldn't quite help the question. I thought I didn't care. And yet just when I thought my chest was cold, a thump-thump-thumping starts right back up. Adrenaline will do that to a person.
"Excited about the idea of hunting?" Dean asks me.
I don't immediately answer. I'm not sure what response he's looking for. I'll just wait—
"Excited about scrounging around in the dark, trying to outsmart something bigger, smarter, and nastier than you are? Excited about risking other people's lives when you try to save them? Excited about never having enough sleep, or food, or energy, but always too much drive to stop?"
Ah: there we go: what he was really getting at. What I thought looked like interest hardened to a cold glint in my new-brother's eye.
"Dude: you've got issues."
"I'm sorry?" He looks a little offended, but not as angry as I thought. He talks the talk like a loose cannon, but a remark like that should have set him off. He should be at my throat right now.
"I said…" I stammer, my mouth drying. His gaze seems curious again, like before. But I know now that there is more to Dean Winchester than just what comes out of his mouth. He's a born liar. And he's scary as hell.
"You've got…issues," I finally mumble out, a little unnerved at my nervousness around him. I don't even know the guy!
He laughs. I try my hardest not to look shocked. Laughter? What the hell? I don't think I'll ever get a handle on these guys.
"No kid: I don't have issues." He pauses, his smile widening, like a shark's.
"Don't you know? Now that we're related, we both have issues."
Laughing and shaking his head, Dean walks by me to the bathroom, patting me roughly on the shoulder as he goes. I stand there a minute afterwards, alone. I'm pretty sure I'm not wearing my puzzlement on my face, but I have to work hard just in case. Everything about this—this—this—situation…I'm at a loss.
"He's rough on you. Sorry about that," Sam says. Apparently he's just as good as his brother at sneaking up on people.
I shake my head.
Stop asking me that.
"No," I say trying to clear the air of one pesky older brother.
"You can…I mean, I know you don't really know me but…"
"I can talk to you anytime I want—is that what you're going to say?"
He looks a bit caught in the headlights. I take it that Sam Winchester doesn't get much experience comforting surly teenagers.
I'm not a surly teenager.
"Sure I am," I say under my breath.
"Huh?" he asks, trying to reach me.
"Nothing, nothing. Look, Sam, I just…I'm glad to be here, I guess. I'm glad I'm not alone. But…"
He peers down at me, his mind working furiously as he tries to understand. And then suddenly he stops and nods once more, his face set blank again.
"But you feel like you're still alone."
How'd he know? How does he go from fish-out-of-water one moment to Mr. Empathy the next?
He stares intently at me for one more second before walking past me again toward the bed. Without waiting for me to move, he reaches over and turns off the lamp.
In the darkness I can hear the shuffle of Dean in the bathroom.
I can hear the honking of truckers on the freeway through the thin motel walls.
Better get used to that.
I can hear the running water in the sink—I guess Dean is brushing his teeth.
I can see the glint of the moonlight on the knife sitting on Dean's pillow.
I can feel my heart race momentarily, excitedly. The harder it pumps, the sadder I feel. The sadder I feel the angrier I get. The angrier I become the more excited I am to be here where I can do something.
And then I feel tired. And I see the floor between both beds, where one of them—Sam, I'm betting—has thrown down a pillow and two blankets.
I feel my feet begin to move and I feel my eyelids flutter and my heart slow.
I feel the aches all over my body, outside and in.
I feel my body being lowered to the ground and I feel myself stretched out on top of the blankets, too tired to move.
I can smell the greasiness of this place we're staying at.
I can smell something strange on the air—salty somehow—and it's coming from the windows and the door.
I hear the clink of a belt and the rustle of fabric as Sam strips out of his clothes. In the darkness I can faintly see his head, mostly just his tousled hair, as he turns and slides into his bed above me.
Finally the water stops running in the bathroom; the toilet flushes; and in the silence I close my eyes.
The darkness presses down upon me—double now—and I can feel it.
For a moment I feel completely alone, more so than I have since this all begin. And then I hear…
"But you're wrong Adam."
"You're not alone."
And even without the light on, for just a second, I hope he can see my smile.
I hope you're right.