They are two hours into the road, going back to Palo Alto, and they haven't uttered a word to each other yet. Sam's heart is on fire.
He didn't have breakfast. He didn't get the coffee Pastor Jim offered after commenting about how Sam stayed up all night. He just followed Dean blindly and silently when his brother started to motion out of the door the next morning and found himself at his seat in the Impala.
He caught sight of his cell phone on the dash when he entered. He forgot about it. There were over 50 missed calls. Sam didn't check who they were from. There were probably a lot from Jess, he figures as much. But he couldn't bring himself to utter any word out loud. He knows he should call her, he knows she must be worried, but does he even have a voice?
He has no voice.
His father is dead. His brother resents him.
Sam has no voice.
He turned the phone into silent mode and shoved it into his jacket pocket.
Dean turned on the engine, but killed the radio the moment ACDC started on the speaker. Sam was glad. He couldn't handle the memory.
They drive in silence for miles and Sam can't bring himself to look at his brother. His guilt is eating his insides.
Dean is right.
What he feels… it is too little. And it is too late.
But the thought of separating from his brother now… it's too much. Dean's grieving and hurting and scared. And Dean lashes on to the hunt when he's hurting. He's reckless when he's scared. Sam has to be there. He know he'll never in a million years convice Dean to stay with him, even if it is for a few days, so he has to join him. He has to watch his back.
Dean speaks so softly, Sam is afraid he's imagining it. But then his brother turns his head around to watch him from the corner of his eye and he knows it's real. "What?", Sam whispers.
And there it is.
Sam doesn't know what to do with that. He just… stares.
Dean is sorry? For what? Dean was right.
But Dean's talking again.
"I shouldn't have said those things… I was out of line", his jaw is set and Sam recognizes Dean's game face on. His brother is pulling himself together.
"You were right", is all Sam has to offer.
"Yeah, well, doesn't mean I had the right to say it… I mean, he was your dad too. You're hurting too. I… I shouldn't have".
"I'm not leaving you, Dean", Sam cuts him, because that's all that matters: he's not leaving Dean.
"Yeah, you are."
"No. I'm not", two can work the game face. "I know it's too little and it's too late, you're right, and maybe if I had stayed before we wouldn't be here and dad would be alive, but I'm not leaving you, Dean. I'm not. How can I go back to college and sit on class…", Sam only realizes he's babbling when Dean barks. "You're going back to college. You're sitting on that class".
It's an order, straight out of John Winchester's book of menacing tones. But then Dean softens it. "You're going back to college and you're sitting on that class and you're having that normal life, Sam. That's what you're doing, that's what I want you to do."
And… what? Since… when? Dean wants him to have a normal life?
"Look, I know… things are screwed to hell. But… you were right when you left. You've earned your right to a normal life". Dean's staring at the road ahead, Sam is staring at Dean in disbelief. "You got it. You did good. I'm proud of you. You're not going to give it all up now just because your jackass brother scared the crap out of you trying to eat his Colt in your living room", Dean tries to smile.
"It's not funny".
"I know"; Dean exhales. "Look, Sam. I was thinking about this before… before we fought on the way here". Sam flinches from the memory. "We can make this work, okay? I can go do my stuff and you can do your stuff and we don't have to cut our ties because of it."
Sam's heart… still hurts like hell, really. But he recognizes his brother's effort.
"I can come around Palo Alto every once in awhile. I can even take my shit from Pastor Jim's to your place if it'll make you feel like my home base is there…", Dean offers with a nod. "And we can call each other. Hell, you can help with the research part, I'm pretty sure that fancy college has one hell of an occult session…"
Dean's trying. His smiles don't reach his eyes, but he's trying. Sam offers a small smile that doesn't reach his eyes either.
He doesn't want this. He wants to go with Dean. But it's a middle ground. It's something Sam can work with… for now.
"'Sides, dude… that Jessica girl is way out of your league. You shouldn't be so eager to leave her there to come chasing me around. You know I don't hang out with classy chicks like that…"
"Get some sleep, twerp, you stayed up all night", Dean punches him lightly on the arm and turns on the radio, lowers the volume.
Dean's concern. The Impala. ACDC on the speakers.
They get lunch on a small diner and don't talk much. Dean gets pie. Sam never thought he'd want to be on the road with his pie-junkie of a brother so bad. But he's afraid to ruin this feeble truce, so he doesn't let the "I'm not leaving you Dean" roll out of his tongue anymore.
They park on his driveway when evening falls. The lights are out, Jess must not be home.
They sit in silence for a long while before Dean offers an "it's okay, Sammy". It's not okay. It's so far from okay… it hurts.
"I'll call you first thing tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay", Sam breathes against his will like he's twelve again. He doesn't care.
"I can come by in the weekend, how's that sound? And you know… holidays are not far. We can go someplace. I bet I can score some fake passports and we can go to Mexico."
"Yeah, Dean. We can go".
Sam gets his duffel from the back seat and fights the urge to hug his brother. It's okay. It's okay. He'll be here next weekend. They'll talk everyday. Sam will know if he's in trouble. He can work with this. He can work with this.
He closes the car door and walks back to his place, fighting every fiber of his being that wants to turn around.
He gets inside and rests his head against the door. He's home, he tries to convince himself. He finds a plate of cookies on the kitchen table. Jess.
Way, way out of his league.
He doesn't deserve her. It wouldn't be fair to leave her.
And, honestly, he doesn't want to leave her. He loves her. He wants to marry her. He wants to marry her and have Dean as best man. He wants to marry her and keep his brother safe. He wants to be in Stanford and at the road. He's… he's so screwed.
He drags himself up the stairs and when he sees his bed he just collapses.
He's so tired.
He feels something dropping on his forehead.
There's blood and then there's fire and Jess is on the ceiling.
Jess is on the ceiling bleeding and burning.
Jess is on his ceiling, his bedroom's ceiling, blond, beautiful, bleeding, burning.
Jess is dead and then there's Dean.
Dean's arms force him up and drag him out and Sam can't hear anything because he's screaming.
He's screaming and trashing and fighting and Jess is still in there.
He's on the sidewalk and he has to go back.
He's on the sidewalk and he has to go back and he can't move.
He can't move because Dean's holding him, arms locked, feet planted, an unmoving rock. "No, Sammy, no, no", his brother repeats and repeats while Sam's world crashes. All he has room to for is to crush his face against his brother's jacket and scream.
Later, maybe a minute, maybe a century, fire trucks come. Police lights follow. Sam knows it's useless. He doesn't remember the first time this happened, but he's heard about it so many times it's like he does.
He lets go of Dean by then because his brother has to talk to the cops, lie his way out of any suspicion, like it's his second nature. Sam doesn't care if he's a suspect.
He's sitting by himself on the sidewalk. He shrugs neighbors off wordlessly, one after the other. After awhile, his friends show up. First Zak, then Brady, then Karen. They all leave after he politely asks them to. But Jenny comes, crying and sobbing and she just won't take no. She throws her arms around Sam and he shoves her off, gruffing out his best impression of his father to tells them all to leave him the hell alone.
He crosses and goes back down the street and he knows his brother is following him without even looking. He goes to the Impala and opens the trunk with the keys Dean left him with.
Dean reaches him just as he pulls out his shotgun from its place. Its place beside Dean's. It feels as right in his hands as his brother does at his side.
His brother is at his side.
His brother is alive.
His father is dead, Jess is dead, but his brother is alive.
"We got work to do."
First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you for all your lovely reviews and support.
Second, sorry for taking so long with this update. Prophet Chuck was right, endings are a pain in the ass.
So, as some of you noticed in the beginning, this was never supposed to be a multi-chaptered fic. I had one scene (the first chapter) in my head bugging me to be written and I did. It was supposed to be a one-shot. But then I started imagining what happened next and you guys with your lovely reviews just pushed me to write the rest. I hope I did your expectations justice.
I never wrote a multi-chaptered fic before ('Shotgun' doesn't count, it's just a lot of one-shots put together), so this was a little harder than I expected. And a nice exercise.
Also, I'm not an English native speaker so I apologize for any typos or inconsistencies you found.
Anyway, thank you for your support. You guys are great.
And let's enjoy our boys back this week. I really can't wait to be Friday already!