A/N: This is part of the Drive 'verse – timewise it is set somewhere between the end of Structurally Unsound and the beginning of The Good of the Few.
Written for ariadnes_string, who requested that I briefly bring back Claire.
Dean's in the parking lot of Target trying to remember where he parked the goddamn car when his phone rings, high and piercing and completely aggravating.
"What?" he barks into the mouthpiece, assumes it's Sam asking him why the hell it's taking him forty minutes to get band-aids, and fuck that, because Sam's not the one who tripped over his own crutches and accidentally knocked down an entire rack of Rock and Roll Barbies and then had to explain to a sniffling little girl that Barbies were tough shit and could take a little knocking-around. So yeah, Sam can stick it where the sun don't shine.
But it isn't Sam.
"Are you watching this?" a female voice demands, and Dean blinks for a couple seconds, checks the caller I.D. Can't stop the grin from breaking out across his face.
"Seriously, are you?"
"Sweetheart, I'm in a parking lot. The only thing I'm watching is bad drivers. That what you're talking about?"
"No, sweetheart. I'm talking about this show – this Unsolved Mysteries bullshit. I mean, you and Sam could get in there and solve this case in thirty minutes. I could probably solve this case in thirty minutes. Or fifty, or an hour and a half or whatever. It's clearly a spirit. Or a ghost. What's the difference again?"
"You're high," Dean guesses.
"Well." There's a pause, and then Claire says, "So I guess you're still alive."
"Alive and kickin'," Dean agrees, winces a little at his choice of words.
"How's your thing?"
"You mean Sam?"
"No, I mean – well, yeah, Sam too, but –"
"You mean my other thing?"
"Not that, Dean, god, come on. Your leg thing."
A bloated red minivan pulls out to reveal the Impala waiting patiently off in the distance, and Dean tucks the phone precariously between his shoulder and chin, wraps his plastic Target bag around his wrist again and adjusts his crutches, starts off towards the car.
"Everything's fine," Dean tells her. And it is – it's fine. Fine, besides the unceasing ache of his hip and the sharp pain in his knee and the fact that it's eleven a.m. and his little brother's back at the motel room finishing off a handle of Jack alone. "How's your thing? The art thing?"
"It's actually happening," Claire says blissfully, and Dean can hear the pride in her tone. "The first artists-in-residence show up next week. I'm so excited, you have no idea, they seem so cool – we've got a ceramicist, a printmaker, a few painters, and a playwright, even – and some weird dude who makes sculptures out of human hair, which I'm kind of on-the-fence about, but he's gotten some rave reviews and it's a risk, so, you know."
"It sounds great," Claire says firmly. "And it wouldn't be happening if it weren't for you and Sam. So you guys should come and stay."
"I'll put you on the bottom floor so you won't have to climb any stairs, and there's a really nice porch you can smoke on, and I'll cook for you and blow you in the printmaking studio."
Dean's reached the car by now, and he puts his bag on the hood, drops his crutches in the backseat and then leans on the door.
"That sounds pretty fuckin' tempting."
"It's really beautiful here. Warmer than when you came."
"Yeah." For half a second, Dean lets himself take the offer seriously. Imagines the cabin, snug and fixed-up in the Oregon woods. Imagines waking up next to Claire, her long hair spread out against his shoulder; imagines him and Sam just hanging out for a while, nothing to do – Sam could read or something, de-stress a little and maybe stop drinking so much, and Dean could work on the improved E.M.F design he's had in mind for a while.
"Someday," Dean tells her. "It's just, right now… we've got…"
"Places to go, people to save," Claire says. "Sure."
Dean snorts. "Right."
"Well, if you ever want to take a break and let the world fend for itself for a week or so… we're here. Copper Coppice Art Colony. Google it. It's gotten some press already."
"Thought you said that was a working title."
"Couldn't think of anything better."
"The fuck is a coppice, anyway?"
"Just take care of yourself, okay? Be safe. Be as safe as you can. Take it easy sometimes. Do some yoga. And come visit me. And tell Sam I said hello. And tell him I'll send him the vegan chocolate turtle cake recipe as soon as I can."
"Good." Claire sighs a little. "Every time I call you I'm worried you're not gonna pick up. How am I going to know if you die, huh? You guys are off the grid. I'd have no way of knowing. I'd just call, and… that would be it. I'd never really know."
"Jesus. You'll know, all right? I'll haunt you. I'll come back as a ghost and watch you take showers."
Dean laughs a little, but it isn't that funny. "Yeah, Claire, I promise."
"Okay. I'm gonna smoke another bowl and then I've got to buy a refrigerator."
"Sounds fun. Wish I could be there for that. Fridge shopping. Wow."
"I'm buying a violet one, it's huge."
"Be safe, Dean. You guys better be really, really, really fuckin' safe. With your guns and stuff. And all the ghosts."
"We will be. We are."
"You're not, but whatever. I'll send good vibes your way. That's gotta count for something."
And Claire hangs up.
Dean looks at his phone for a moment, then slips it back into his pocket, trades it for his cigarettes. He gets one lit and takes a drag, squints out at the busy parking lot and thinks about how much he hates the stupid Target bullseye, then climbs into the car.
He doesn't start the engine right away, just smokes for a minute and rubs his knee, tries to massage out a particularly nasty kink in the damaged muscle. He's got to get back to the motel, back to Sam, who's either going to be sullen and silent or over-bright and talkative, blurred by alcohol and exhaustion. He's not looking forward to it.
But it's nice. Nice to know there's a place for them – a place that's off-the-grid from hunters and from normal, meat-eating humans alike – a place where a pretty girl will cook him really disgusting pancakes and force granola down his throat.
Who knows. Maybe someday they will make it back up to Oregon.
But for now… places to go, people to save.
Dean flicks his cigarette out the window and starts his car.
Hits the road.