Two Tons of Detroit Steel
K Hanna Korossy
It was the third sigh that finally, reluctantly prompted him to speak.
"What's the matter, Gigantor, you don't like spending the night folded up like an accordion?"
"Shut up, Dean," came the petulant murmur from the back seat. "I'm trying to sleep."
"Uh-huh," Dean said dubiously, then counted down silently.
He made it to four before Sam burst out, "Dude, you need to fix the springs back here! They feel like they're older me."
"Well," Dean drawled, "that's probably because—"
"Just…don't say it, all right?" The whole car rocked as Sam threw himself onto his side.
Dean grinned into the darkness. The Impala had served as their motel many times over the years, but most of those were before Sam had become super-sized. "I told you, man, bar's just up the street. Give me half an hour and we've got motel money."
"No." Amazing how Sam managed to sound churlish and chastened at the same time. "It's fine. I'm just…"
When no just seemed forthcoming, Dean helpfully provided, "…cranky? Whiny? About two feet too tall?"
He could almost hear the bitchy look Sam had to be making. "Having trouble sleeping, okay? The car's just not helping."
Dean instantly sobered. Sam had been having "trouble sleeping" since the fire. That might have had something to do with the fact that whenever he did get some sleep, he woke in a panic, reliving the memory of Jessica burning to death over his head. Dean swallowed. "No ceiling in the car, Sam," he offered gently.
There was a long pause, and again he could imagine the emotions flitting over his brother's face: grief, shame, gratitude. But "Yeah" was all Sam finally whispered.
Dean stared up at the roof in the silence that followed, imagining Sam doing the same. As often as he'd dreamed of being back together with his brother, this was never how he'd imagined it: Sam hurting, on his own vengeance quest, with Dad somewhere in the wind. Dean had done everything he could to make things easier on the kid, not wanting Sam to regret the move or, please, leave again. He'd even taken the front seat for the night, the steering wheel digging into his side whenever he shifted. But it never felt like enough.
"I missed the car," Sam admitted quietly out of the blue.
Dean blinked. That was the first thing Sam had confessed to missing. Dean was pretty sure, however, that it wasn't the deluxe sleeping accommodations or forty-year-old springs or creaky vinyl he was really referring to.
"Yeah," he echoed his brother in a murmur. "She missed you, too."
Hunts were dangerous, of course; Sam was used to that. But he and his brother weren't usually in peril the moment they rolled into town.
Being shot at, no less. Sam grunted as he rolled out of the passenger seat, staying low, and scuttled back for cover. He ventured a moment of reconnaissance before ducking back to the safety of the Impala's solid body. "I think they're behind the garage," he called to Dean.
His brother didn't answer, no doubt intent on the double threat of bullets puncturing him and his baby. Even as the thought flitted through Sam's head, the car shuddered with another hit. Sam cursed, then spat out a "Cover me" and bobbed up, taking aim.
One of his bullets hit. A figure staggered out of the shelter of the garage, then collapsed into the driveway.
Sam rose by inches, remaining cautious. The house was long abandoned, so the dude wasn't just some innocent homeowner protecting his property. More likely they'd found the source of the strange deaths reported at the old manse. Not exactly how hunts usually went down, but not every evil they faced was supernatural.
Sam was half upright now, and still the guy in the driveway hadn't moved. Taking a breath, Sam finally risked a glance back at the car. "Hey, I—"
Dean, he suddenly realized, was still in the driver's seat, behind a spider-webbed windshield. And he wasn't moving, either.
Sam forgot all about making sure the threat was neutralized and scrambled into the car instead, his attention fully on his slumped brother. "Dean!"
The blood had already soaked through t-shirt and flannel shirt and the lightweight jacket. The fact that it was still spreading should probably have reassured him that Dean's heart was still pumping, just like the sheen of sweat coating his face and the bobbing Adam's apple and the flutter of his eyes. But all Sam felt was panic.
"Dean. Hey, hey." Sam laid a palm flat against the side of his brother's clammy face, the other pulling away sodden material. "Couldn't get out of the car in time, huh? Getting slow in your old age, man." He grimaced, not being able to see anything from all the blood, and used both hands to rip the t-shirt down the middle. "You're gonna be okay—it's not bad," he babbled, even as his throat went dry at the sight of the leaking hole low on Dean's ribs. "You'll be okay."
Dean's head rolled a little, eyes mere slivers of green. "Ghosts're…armed now?" he pushed out with obvious effort.
"Not a ghost." Sam let his mouth run while his hands got to work, grabbing a towel from the back and rolling it, pressing against the wound hard enough to pull an awful sound from Dean's throat. "You got taken down by an ordinary human with a gun, dude." Dean's hand scrabbled weakly at Sam's wrist, leaving streaks of red behind. Sam ruthlessly ignored it, tying off the makeshift pressure bandage. "Kinda slipping there, Dean."
Dean huffed a sound that could have been amusement or scorn or agony; Sam didn't know or want to know. He just kept going, tying another layer of pressure around Dean's torso, this time in the form of Sam's favorite hoodie, then tearing his own jacket off and draping it over his brother's body. The car had often been their hospital, but there was no way he could treat this here, not safely; who knew what damage that bullet had done inside? They had to get to a real hospital fast.
He started to ease Dean over toward him, wrapping arms around to shift his body with as little jostling as possible. "Hang in there, man. Not dying on me today." Sam wasn't lighting any more funeral pyres, not with Dad's still a too-recent memory. Dean's neck did a boneless slide onto Sam's shoulder, and Sam pressed his chin down on spiky hair to anchor Dean a little more to him. "You hear me, big brother? I still need you."
"M'here." Dean gasped the word. "M'not leavin'…"
"Good." He'd inched Dean over enough that there was room for Sam to fit behind the wheel. He clambered over with care, squashed between Dean and the driver's side door but still pulling Dean as close to him as possible. He needed to know if his brother stopped breathing or moving or…whatever. "Good. 'Cause the windshield's gonna need replacing and I think your baby took a couple hits in the side, and you know me and cars…" He wasn't gonna mention the hole he could feel in the seat behind his back, too, doubtless rimmed with blood.
"Sonofa…bitch," Dean wheezed into Sam's neck.
"I know," Sam agreed wholeheartedly as the car careened back down the driveway and headed toward help, Dean a heavy weight against his side, and heart. "I know."
There were some benefits to having a sasquatch for a brother. Like, you could tell from fifteen feet away that he was sitting in the car, fluffy halo of hair silhouetted in the parking lot lights. Motionless like a stone Buddha in the Impala's front seat, not having moved an inch since the last time Dean had checked.
He let go of the curtain with a sigh and settled listlessly back onto his bed to watch…whatever was on the TV, Dean wasn't even really sure. Some talking head droning on about an election Dean wouldn't be alive to see the outcome of. Maybe there were some perks to this whole deal thing, after all.
Dean snorted, unimpressed by his own macabre humor, and snapped the TV off. Seriously, five months left of his year, and he was drifting aimlessly around a skeevy motel room like he had all the time in the world. He should go out and get drunk, or laid, or rich, possibly even all three. Maybe throw a few cheeseburgers in there, too. Live it up while he was, well, alive. Why not, right?
Why not was sitting out in the car in front of their room, shivering in the winter air, already in mourning for a brother he hadn't even lost yet.
Dean sighed again, decided he was being a girl, and threw the remote across the room instead. The three pieces it hit the floor in weren't nearly as satisfying as Dean had hoped, however.
They'd never had their own rooms, or hangouts where everyone knew your name, or friends to go shoot the breeze with when things got intense. They could go hide in the bathroom if they wanted some breathing space, or the car, or take a walk, and that was about it. Not exactly a lot of options, but they usually respected the other's right to them when needed, no questions asked.
Except when your brother was hurting, because that wasn't protected by the whole unspoken Brother Bill of Rights. You were only allowed to lick your wounds in private for so long.
And Sam, Dean decided, had just reached that limit.
He had no idea what he was gonna say, but just the opportunity to act already made him feel better. Dean grabbed his jacket, then, after a moment's reflection, the blanket off the bed, and stomped outside.
Sam's face went from stricken to ticked off in a half-second flat as soon as he saw Dean marching toward his sanctuary. But he didn't move, just glared through the windshield at the intruder.
Dean ignored him. That was actually one of his biggest talents. He just opened the door and slid in behind the wheel, silently unfolded the blanket, and tossed it over both his and Sam's lap. Then he sank back into the chilled vinyl.
Dean peered out the windshield at the crumbling roof of the motel, then up at the chilly-clear sky to count stars. Beside him, he could feel Sam's glower slowly melting into bewilderment, then back into sorrow.
There were a lot of things he could say: I'm not dead yet, the thousand variations he'd already tried of You'll be okay without me, or another refrain of his favorite song: Let's go in and watch a movie/find a hunt/order a couple of pizzas and pretend for tonight that nothing's wrong. But Sam, in turn, was sparing him another replay of I can't lose you, too, so Dean wasn't about to start something.
Besides, talking was overrated. Deep down, Dean knew nothing he said was going to make this better. Any comfort he had to offer was also an in-your-face reminder of what Sam would soon be without.
Sam shivered again, and out of his peripheral vision, Dean saw his fingers clench in the edge of the blanket and pull it more snugly over his lap. Dean fed out a little more length, tucking his own end between himself and the door. Their breath was starting to fog the windshield, and with less and less to see outside, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
"You gonna sleep out here?" Sam finally asked, voice gruff with more than just disuse.
Dean shrugged. "Got nowhere else to be."
"Maybe I just want to be alone."
Sure, Sammy, tell me another. "So be alone over there," Dean said diffidently, eyes still closed.
Sam huffed. But he didn't make a move to get out of the car, to go hide in the bathroom or find some escape in town.
Dean wasn't sure how long they stayed there. He might even have dozed off at some point. He just hung out until Sam at long last climbed out of the car, then Dean followed him in and they wordlessly went to bed.
The next morning, Sam went out to get coffee. But he came in from the car to drink it and brought Dean some, too, and Dean figured maybe at this point that was the best they could get.
Sam waited until Dean was in the shower, then took the car.
A year ago, he would have left a note saying where he was going and when he was coming back. But he knew Dean wouldn't believe him now even if Sam told the truth, and his brother no longer worried about what might be happening to Sam, only what Sam was doing. So he just left.
And went to go wash the car.
Turned out even just sitting in a garage a few weeks while Dean forgot himself and drove a sacrilegious Prius, was enough to put a layer of grime on the Impala's slick black skin. Dean had fussed about it a little when they got their memories back, but while he once would've been out there first chance he had, washing and polishing her up, he wasn't the man he'd used to be since Hell. The car had remained neglected and dirty. Hence, Sam at the carwash.
"She's a beaut!" the operator said as Sam climbed out of the car and handed over the key. "Yours?"
"M'brother's," Sam quickly corrected. Always had been, even while Dean was in Hell.
"We'll take good care of her," the man promised.
Sam still watched until the car disappeared into the foamy spray and soft rollers, then set off around the building to meet her at the other end.
He knew it was lame; with seals breaking all around them and both angels and demons breathing down their necks and Dean not even able to look him in the eye anymore, cleaning the car seemed liked the least of their concerns. Sam could be out practicing with Ruby, or beating the bushes for the Colt, or, hey, even just keeping Dean from drowning in a bottle. Instead…
The old girl emerged sparkling and perfect, the one shiny thing either of them owned. Dean's sole possession, really. He'd lost just about everything else, and Sam knew even he was letting Dean down these days, too. So it wasn't a lot, but this much Sam could make sure he had. He wished he could fix the rest of his broken brother as easily as he could a dirty car.
"Your brother's a lucky guy," the operator said as he gave Sam back the key.
Sam snorted softly as he slid inside the car. "Uh-huh." The Winchesters had plenty of luck, all right, but all of it was bad.
Dad had given Dean the car as a bribe. Oh, it hadn't been said in so many words, but Sam left for school, and Dean got the car. Not that Sam begrudged him; not at all. Dean loved her and knew her better than anyone, and anyway, he was the one who'd given up his whole life for Dad's mission. But they all knew why Dad had done it, even if they never talked about it.
He and his dad had always been more alike than Sam was willing to admit.
Dean was outside when Sam pulled up, his face drawn into the permanent frown he wore those days. "Dude, where the he—?"
Sam, half out of the car, just swept a hand in the air like a magician revealing a trick.
Dean blinked. "Oh."
It didn't fix anything between them, of course. But when the lines around Dean's eyes relaxed fractionally at the sight of his gleaming girl, Sam figured it was the best deal he'd made in a long time.
Even after his dad become more his CO, one thing Dean still had bonded with his father over was the car. The tragedies of the past, the worries of the future, everything disappeared when it was just two of them under the hood, Dad teaching him and Dean soaking up every moment. Those times were still some of his favorite memories, and were an inseparable part of why he loved that car.
He'd been the one to teach Sammy how to drive. The kid had been terrified enough without having Corporal Winchester giving him a heart attack every time he made a mistake. Dean just took him out on empty country roads and cut him loose. Then made him wash the car after.
He knew Sam thought Dad had given him the car as some kind of twisted reward for not leaving like Sam had, or maybe as a bribe to stay, and Dean never tried to disavow him of the notion. He would rather Sam think that than know Dad's real motive: he saw that Dean's heart was broken and that he desperately needed something to take care of. It had been a gift of love.
That was the same reason Dean had offered it to Sam when they'd gone their separate ways.
It was their bedroom, hospital, retreat, olive branch, attic, neutral ground, base of operations, weapons locker, chick magnet, legacy, comfort, and shield. As well as, still, an expression of love.
Hey. You wanna drive?
And if Sam really wanted to be equal partners…well, he could just do his share of the driving.