Subject: On the Road Again
I've been cleared for take-off. See you in a few days.
Subject: re: On the Road Again
Dean was actually mowing the lawn when an old Ford Taurus with a bad muffler pulled up to the curb in front of the house. Between the loud roar of the mower and hearing damaged by a lifetime of using guns, he hadn't heard the car approaching; although every neighbor within a three block radius did. It wasn't until a long, dark shadow crossed his path and he was nose-to-bottlecap with a six-pack of really extraordinarily cheap beer, did Dean realize he had company.
He stopped and turned off the mower.
It had been six months since he'd seen his brother, after leaving him in Bobby's hands a few days after the death of Sam's "evil twin." Sam had spent twenty-four hours in the hospital getting his chest sewn up, and then Dean and Bobby took him home and locked him up again. Dean had wanted to stay. Bobby and Sam insisted he didn't. Sam, in fact, begged him to go.
"I don't want you to see this."
"Sammy…I'm your brother."
"Exactly. Go. Go home, please."
Dean called Bobby three weeks later.
"How is he?"
"Bad," Bobby said, and added. "Do not come here, Dean. I mean it. I ran your old man off once, and I will run you off too if you set one foot on this property."
"Bobby, if he dies…"
"He wants to, believe me, but he ain't. I won't let him. So go power-wash the deck or something and don't call again."
After another grueling two months passed, Dean finally got a text message from Sam. All it said was:
Now Sam himself stood in front of him holding a six-pack of cheap beer and grinning sheepishly. Dean ignored the beer and nearly bowled him over with the fierceness of his sudden embrace.
The neighbors be damned, his Sammy was home.
Sam managed to stay on his feet, and save the beer. "I like breathing, Dean."
Dean pulled back, examining him carefully. He looked – like Sam – clean shaven, hair washed, clothes neat and tidy. The ragged monster he'd been six months ago was completely gone, at least to the naked eye. "You okay?" he asked cautiously.
"Yeah, uh…clean. Cleaned up, obviously." Nodding, Sam gave him another wry grin. "I'm good, Dean."
"How's the head?"
The smile faltered just slightly. "Head's….still a little foggy."
"Still a few gaps in the memory banks, huh?"
"Yeah, and I'm thinking…maybe that's a good thing?" Sam looked away briefly. "I remember enough, enough to know I've got a lot to pay for if I want to get back on Santa's 'Nice' list."
"It wasn't your fault, Sam."
There was a haunted look in Sam's eyes, one that Dean had seen before – in the mirror. Hell had left its mark.
"Doesn't matter," Sam whispered. He cleared his throat. "Anyway, I've sorted through what I do remember. We were dealing with a golem. Lucifer suspected God would yank me out - he told me once, 'Dad is a sucker for self-sacrifice,' so he planted his 'bug.' The golem rode out with me, and split off as soon as I got back. That's where things start getting fuzzy."
"That's when it started screwing with your head."
Sam rolled his shoulders, sighing deeply. "It wasn't hard. All it took was one slip, Dean. One taste and I was gone. God gave me another chance, and I blew that too." He worried at his lip with his teeth. Dean recognized reluctance, and thought he wouldn't continue, but he did. "It wasn't forty years, Dean. It was only four."
"That's more than enough."
"Yeah, I know. It….isn't the same Hell you experienced, you were right about that."
"It was worse."
"It was different," Sam corrected. "It was a prison. Cold, dark, confining, and what you saw locked up in that room at Bobby's – that was what I'd become there too. What the golem told you was exactly the opposite of the truth. He wasn't the demon, I was. He was made from the last bit of humanity I had left." The haunted look returned briefly. "Even Satan had given up on me. How screwed up is that?"
Sam, you don't have to…."
"No, I don't, and I won't. I just….you need to know….I'm not cured, Dean. I can still slip up, but I'll fight it with everything I've got because I already owe a buttload of retribution, and I don't want to go back there again, I can't." He met Dean's eye. "I'll be gone for good if I do."
Dean squeezed the handle of the mower, anticipating what would come next. "Sam, you just got here, don't do this to me."
"It's important, Dean."
"You're going to ask me to kill you."
"I am, because it won't be me anymore, and I won't be able to come back if it happens again. I've played all my cards. How many times can God look the other way?" Sam's expression hardened. "Promise me, Dean, and this time mean it."
"Promise me!" A brief flash of anger made Dean flinch, which in turn brought tears to Sam's eyes. "I don't want it to be Bobby, or some idiot like Roy or Walt. I need it to be you, Dean. Please."
Dean shook his head, tears in his own eyes and a lump in his throat. "You and your damn promises," he said hoarsely. His ability to speak failed him then, and all he could do was nod. "Just….don't let it happen, Sammy."
Sam inhaled a deep breath, and let it out with a sigh. "I wish I could give you my promise it won't. I can't, but like I said, I'm going to try damn hard to make sure it doesn't come down to that."
That was all Dean could ask for, but he still felt a chill deep in his heart. After all they'd been through, after all he'd seen Sam go through, he knew what would happen if his brother fell victim to the demon taint again. There would be no other option. If it happened again, Dean would kill him.
Sam stayed for dinner. Afterward, when Lisa, the baby and Ben went to bed, the brothers Winchester retreated to the front porch to have a drink of that really cheap beer. The mundane conversation held in the presence of the family, gave way to subject matter more honest and less appropriate for "civilians."
"I wish it were true," Sam said quietly. "That the demon blood was gone, that God cared enough to get rid of it for good, but it's still there. I can feel it."
Dean, leaning on the porch railing, stared off across the unfinished lawn. "I don't think even God could pull that out of you, Sammy. If he did, you wouldn't be you anymore. You were six months old when the demon came. What he did to you, as bad as it sounds, helped make you who you are."
Sam smiled ruefully. "Thanks for that." He sighed deeply. "I almost gave up you know, more than once. Getting clean this time was – rough."
"Glad you didn't," Dean replied softly.
"You know what kept me going?"
"It was after a really bad spell. I'd ripped out some of the sutures in my chest. Bobby hauled me in to the emergency room coughing up blood and still convulsing. I don't know how he got me out of the basement."
"Bobby's pretty resourceful, and he's a tough old bird." Dean raised an eyebrow and whispered conspiratorially. "I think he moonlights as Batman." He cocked his head, frowning. "But he looks more like a garden gnome."
"So anyway…." Dean prompted.
"So anyway, the hospital sewed me back up, pumped me full of sedatives – which didn't work, by the way – and strapped me to a bed for almost a week on complete life support. I was laying there twitching and moaning and wishing to hell I'd just freakin' die already, when Bobby shows up. He just goes on about this and that for a while, and then says, 'Oh, by the way, Dean called. That girl he's with is pregnant.'"
Dean smiled slightly, recalling his return home, when once again he'd showed up on Lisa's doorstep looking like a dog that had been kicked to the curb. His whole left arm and shoulder had been wrapped up in bandages and confined by a sling, there were still bruises on his face, and he'd lost all the weight he'd gained during the time he'd stopped Hunting. Lisa later likened him not to a dog, but a battered old Tom-cat with only one eye. Then she told him she'd missed her "monthly" two months in a row, and it had gone completely over Dean's road-weary head.
"Your monthly what?" he'd asked.
Lisa had looked at him with a worried expression. "My….are you okay?"
"No. Not really."
"I hate when you say that."
"Then why do you ask the question?"
"I'm always hoping for a better answer."
It was then that he'd broken down and told her what happened, and not just during the time he was away, but everything, starting with Sam's death in Cold Oak through their dealings with Lucifer and the Apocalypse, and ending with their most recent ordeal. He told her details he'd never revealed before during some of his sketchier confessions. He told her the truth. He told her everything.
"You think I'm nuts, but I swear, it's true. Every word is true," he'd said. "And now….I don't know if Sammy's going to make it. I'm going to lose him again, Lise. I can't….I can't go through that again. I can't"
He was such a wreck afterward it had been three more days before she finally told him what she'd been trying to get across before. She was pregnant, and this time, without question, the child was Dean's. His life with Lisa and Ben suddenly had a greater purpose, and if he'd had any doubts before about being needed, they fled the first time he held his new daughter.
Just a few weeks before Sam's email telling Dean he was coming, Lisa had given birth to a healthy, robust baby who came into the world kicking and screaming, and big for a little girl. Big, loud and stubborn – Dean promptly dubbed her Samantha, which both flattered and annoyed her uncle.
But, as they stood on the porch drinking beer in the moonlight, Sam confessed it was the baby who had saved his life.
"I thought, 'crap, now I have to pull through this.'"
"Again, I'm glad you did, but why did that make a difference?"
Sam looked at him like he was an idiot.
Dean stared back, uncomprehending. "What?"
"The way I figure it," Sam explained. "I've got a reputation to maintain." He met Dean's gaze. "As long as I'm out there, I swear, nothing is going to bother you or your family, not ever."
"You're going to keep Hunting." Dean resisted the urge to moan. "Sammy…"
"It's not going to be easy. The temptation will always be there, but I don't need to be out there killing demons to get the job done, you know? Fear is mostly psychological. If the things out there just think I've got big mojo, that's all I need." With a shrug, Sam concluded. "I'm not the two point one kids and a dog type anyway, Dean. I don't think I ever was."
"You just haven't met the right girl."
"No, you're wrong, Dean." Sam's voice softened. "I did, once, a long time ago." He paused. "And they took that from me too. I'll always wonder what she knew, if she just wasn't another one of them sent to keep an eye on me."
"Sam, don't. She was just another victim."
"Like Mom? Look what we never knew about her. She made a deal, and she died. What kind of deal did Jess make?"
"You don't know…."
"That's right. I don't." Sam's voice grew rough. "All my life, through all this crap that's happened to me, to us, there's only been one person I could trust, who stuck with me when god knows he should have smothered me in my crib."
"Oh, come on…." Dean hid his own emotion behind a large swallow of beer. "I wouldn't have smothered you. I would have sold you on the black market."
"So am I. You know how much money you can get for a cute little imp like you were as a baby? It's like twenty grand per dimple. Anyway…." Digging into his pocket, Dean produced a set of keys and handed them to Sam. "Here."
Dean tipped the neck of his beer bottle toward the Taurus at the curb. "If you think I'm letting you go out on the road in that piece of crap, you're out of your mind."
"It runs okay."
"It's a Ford, Sam." Dean snorted. "No brother of mine is going to be driving around the country in a freakin' Ford."
Sam stared down at the keys in his hand. "Thanks, Dean I…." His brow creased. "Dean. These aren't the keys to the Impala."
"I said you weren't driving a Ford, I didn't say you were driving my Chevy." With a tilt of his head, Dean indicated the driveway. "See that import over there…."
"Uh….the pink one?"
Dean grinned. "No, Sammy, it's Champagne." He clapped Sam on the shoulder with much affection. "And she's all yours. Oh, except for one thing."
"I get to keep the baby's car seat."
They looked at each other, quietly savoring the moment. It was obvious to both of them this would be the last time they'd see each other for a very long time, if ever again. Sam would stay on the road, and away from Dean. Anything else would put Dean, and his family, in danger. They both knew it, and both chose to accept it, a fact which surprised both of them as well.
After a moment Sam closed his hand around the keys. His smile was a bittersweet echo of Dean's own. "Okay," he said softly. "You've got yourself a deal."
If you've gotten to the end of this fic and are wondering to yourself, "What in the hell kind of title is Cranberry Sauce for this story?" then keep reading. There is a method to my madness.
In 1969 a rumor/hoax/theory surfaced regarding one of the most influential bands in music history – the Beatles. According to this myth, Paul McCartney was killed in a car accident in 1966, and rather than reveal this to the public and their fans, the Beatles secretly replaced him with the winner of a look-a-like contest. Supposedly "clues" to prove this was true could be found in the Beatles music itself. One of the most famous of these clues came at the end of the song Strawberry Fields Forever where John Lennon could be heard, quite clearly it's said, uttering the words, "I buried Paul."
When they heard of this rumor, the Beatles of course tried to set the record straight, and when asked, both Lennon and McCartney both claimed John had not said "I buried Paul." What he'd really said was – yep, you guessed it –
As always, thanks for reading.