The sun poured in the picture window scattering dust in its bright beams and brushing against the top of Sam's head as he slept on the sofa. A soft snore caught in this throat and shocked him from his sleep, taking a deep yawn to jump start his lungs. His head lolled to the side and he found Dean still sleeping, curled on his side facing into the sofa, one hand draped behind his back and off towards the floor. Sam carefully lifted Dean's socked feet from his lap and slid off the sofa as quietly as possible, but immediately regretted it when a wave of blood poured into his lower extremities setting painful pin pricks all up and down both legs and feet. He limped silently down the hallway toward the bathroom.
Bobby wasn't surprised to see that Sam was the first to roll out, he'd always been the early riser, even if early this morning meant after seven. He was however surprised to see what a difference a soul makes. Instead of the stiff, always ready hunter, the boy looked haggard, like he hadn't slept in weeks and had been drug behind a vehicle to boot. His hair stood up at odd angles in the back, dark circles under his eyes and the over shirt he'd forgotten to take off before falling asleep looked like it had fought a hard battle and lost, wrinkled beyond recognition. He looked…like Sam and Bobby smiled affectionately at him.
"Coffee?" Bobby offered, taking a second cup down out of the cupboard and filling it three quarters full, leaving room for all the rest of the crap the kid felt was necessary to add to his cup. What a waste of good coffee.
"Thanks." Sam reached into the fridge and grasped around without looking for the carton he knew was there and then for the sugar jar above the sink.
Bobby had long ago used a sharpie to put Sam's name on the jar seeing as he was the only one to use it. What good is a home if you haven't got something in it of your own? Plus it was safer to mark containers like that around the house. It wouldn't be a good day if Sam accidentally dosed himself with three tablespoons of any one of several spell ingredients lying about, a few of which were nearly identical in composition to sugar but would all cause varying degrees of odd hallucinations. There had already been one particular instance in which it had taken Bobby and Sam the better part of two days to convince Dean that gnomes were in fact not raiding the house in an attempt to collect ear wax. Sam's accidentally ruptured eardrum and the resulting broken nose on Dean were the last straws. Bobby systematically went through the entire house labeling every box, jar or hex bag, determined never to have that type of chaos rein in his home again.
"So, what's next?" Bobby asked from behind his mug.
"A shower." Sam reeled in disgust at the quick check of his hygienic status. "Wouldn't hurt to do a load of laundry too. Mind if I use your machine?"
"Don't know why you even bother asking, but you know that's not what I meant."
"Yea, I know. Just haven't gotten that far. Samuel, I suppose. I've let it go on for way too long, should've told Dean from the get-go.
"Yep, but what's done is done."
"That doesn't really make me feel any better about it." Sam threw back the last dregs of his coffee and set the mug down in the sink. "Gonna go clear my head in the shower. Thanks for the coffee."
The steam rolled out from behind the curtain when he pulled it back and stepped carefully onto the bare vinyl. One towel wrapped around his waist, another in hand shaking the water from his hair, Sam swiped at the steamed mirror and gasped in surprise at his reflected appearance. Holy Crap he looked like Hell. He ran a hand up his rough jaw through nearly two days of beard growth and pulled lightly at his eyes, observing how bloodshot they were.
Sam pulled a pair of jeans up, fastening them loosely about his hips and then dug his kit free of the duffle and set about shaving. He momentarily contemplated leaving a bit of growth around his mouth; then he thought better of it, remembering the brother sleeping in the next room that would torment him about it for weeks. After a quick search of Bobby's medicine cabinet, Sam came up with just enough Visine to take care of his red eyes and still leave the bottle not quite empty.
Sam's back groaned in protest when he stretched up to pull a navy t-shirt over his head. He smoothed the shirt out and down his long torso and then went about looping a belt through his jeans. When he looked back up into the mirror he was much happier to greet a man he could recognize, maybe for the first time in well over a year.
He tossed his wet towels and yesterday's clothes into the empty washer and then remembered the far too ripe bag of clothing Dean had stashed in the trunk. Sam set off through the house with Dean's carefully snatched keys and was almost out the door when Bobby poked his head out of the kitchen.
"Lookin' better, Kid." Bobby gave the young hunter a quick once over and then his gaze followed Sam's intended path. "I'll trust you're not going far? Not dressed like that anyways."
Sam glanced down at his long, bare feet, wiggled his toes and then grinned back up at Bobby. "Not far. Just have to wrestle the undead creature in Dean's laundry bag out of the car." And he was out the door, hopping his way down the frostbit November pavement towards the Impala.
Dean woke with a deep, awakening breath, groaned softly and then turned over on his stomach, burying himself deeper into the sofa cushions. Then abruptly, he turned to sit straight up, over adjusted and tumbled onto the floor. It took him a moment to remember where he was and why he had just woken up on the sofa and then it all came flooding back to him.
Sam, without a soul, long drive to Bobby's, meeting with Crowley and then the fight on the lawn; it all came so quickly that it made Dean dizzy and he was grateful to already be seated on the floor. Sam, with his soul back; happy, smiling and joking. God, he'd missed that. Speaking of, where was Sam?
He padded down the hallway towards the kitchen, returning from the bathroom after his 'morning duties', and found Bobby sitting at the kitchen table, feet up, reading the paper and sipping coffee.
"Mornin'," Dean yawned, rubbing absently at his sleep coated eyes. "Coffee still hot?"
"Of course. You sleep okay?"
"Like a baby." Dean set a firm hand on Bobby's left shoulder, giving it a good squeeze while reaching over his right to snag the last half slice of toast off Bobby's plate.
"Not sure how that's possible," Bobby stated, tossing a dirty look at Dean as he watched his toast disappear in one bite. "You sleep at the most God awful angles I've ever seen." Dean shrugged the comment off.
"You seen my brother this morning?" Dean pulled Sam's discarded mug from the sink, rinsed it and toweled it dry before filling it for himself.
"Went outside about half an hour ago and before you go giving me that look, relax. He wasn't goin' nowhere. Hell, he wasn't even wearin' shoes. Said something about a creature and then scooted out to the car."
Dean hadn't realized he'd been pulling his own version of a classic Sam bitchface, until Bobby cleared his throat.
"Dean, he's fine. You can back off of the red alert there, Son."
"Sorry, habit." He released a breath that he hadn't been aware that he was holding and ran a quick hand up and through the front of his hair. "Just been a long few months, ya know."
"I know, but he looks better today. Even got the stink off, which you might wanna do yourself," Bobby ribbed, giving Dean an unpleasant grimace.
"That bad, huh?" Dean asked. When Bobby gave him a further disgusted look, Dean laughed out right. "Okay, I'm going." He left the kitchen to collect his duffle but found himself being drawn to the front of the house. Dean stopped just shy of the front door. "I'm not gonna do it. I'm not checking up on him. I'm just…aw, screw it. I am checking up on him." He peered out the window and spotted his brother at the car. Sam was bent over at the waist, his entire upper body lying against the hood, not moving, arms spread wide to either side, face turned away to where Dean was unable to see.
"Sam," he breathed and in that instant, panic flooded Dean's chest, seizing his heart and he was barreling out the door, clearing the steps in one leap and was tearing down the walk. The door banged closed behind him and he watched as Sam lifted his head and turned to look toward the house. Dean pulled up short at the confusion on his brother's face and then a new thought entered Dean's mind.
"What the Hell are you doing to my car?"
The air was so crisp and clear that it escaped in clouds of fine mist from Sam's nostrils & tickled goose bumps up and down the length of his bare arms, but Sam didn't mind. It was the absolute best that he could remember feeling in a long time, maybe even years. The last few years had been such a chaotic rollercoaster of emotions anchored down by mind numbing terror, but for the first time in as long as Sam could remember, he could truly breathe freely and it felt amazing. Speaking of breathing…
"Ugh, good God, Dean. This is terrible." Sam pulled the draw string bag of dirty laundry from the trunk of the car, careful to keep it as far away from him and his nose as possible. He set the bag on the ground and pulled the keys free and sliding them into his pocket before closing the lid of the trunk, his hands resting for a moment on the smooth black metal. Without losing the connection of hand to metal, Sam rounded the vehicle, coming to a stop at the front passenger door. He lifted the handle and was met with the familiar metal on metal squeal as the door opened. Sam leaned over into the door and took a long deep breath, inhaling the unique scent; a combination of leather, fast food, gun oil and Dean. It was the scent of home and it pulled Sam in.
He climbed into the car and took his permanent place, the seat so well worn to his form that it cradled him perfectly. Sam's left hand found its rightful spot along the back of the bench seat as he slouched down into position. He knew every inch of this classic beauty, every worn or scratched patch of leather, every aged bubble in the chrome. His head knew exactly where to rest against the door so as not to wake up with a crook in his neck and the window glass wore a permanent smear of oil transferred from either or both Sam and Dean's hair. Sam reached up and rested his right hand against the dash of Dean's Baby.
"So…yeah. I can't believe I'm gonna do this." He closed his eyes, gathering his courage. "Okay, well, I'll never get a chance to say this with Dean around, so here goes. I've been thinking about this all morning and I feel like I owe you an apology. We'll call this 'making amends' in my twelve step program to being soulful. Lame, I know, but hear me out." Sam glanced out the window to be sure no one was watching him from inside the house.
"There's a possibility that I, eh…tried," he pushed a shaky breath through pursed lips and then began again. "That I tried to replace you with tricked out piece of plastic." Sam finished quickly, squeezing his eyes shut, flinching away from the bolt of lightning that he truly expected to strike him dead. When nothing happened, he peeked out at the dash and was irrationally surprised. He decided that it may be safe for him to continue.
"Yea, I don't know what I was thinking either and I wouldn't blame you if you never forgave me. God knows Dean won't, but I just felt like it needed to be said. And I know now, that there will never be anything that can replace you and I am very ashamed of myself for even trying." Sam's voice lowered into a hush.
"Truth be told, she didn't hold a candle to you. I could probably sit here all day and list off the reasons she wasn't you, but that wouldn't make either of us feel any better. I just wanted to say…that I was sorry." Sam felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he sat back once again, pressing his head and back into the seat and closed his eyes. After a moment, he continued quietly.
"You saved him, ya know…Dean. Bringing me out, stopping Lucifer." Sam's voice, low and harsh, caught in his throat for a moment. After such a long time without the sensation of high emotions, this little bit of sentimentality was really sending Sam reeling. He took a breath and swallowed down the lump of emotion he suddenly felt. "I know it wasn't me, but if felt like me and Lucifer would have used me to kill him. Almost did. I don't know what I would have done. I'd never have forgiven myself that's for sure. But then, we have you. Our entire lives we've had you there, protecting us, sheltering us. Our own metallic version of home, of Mom. God, this is so corny," Sam wiped absently at his eyes. "I just felt like I needed to say something, so you'd know how much I really do appreciate you being here for him and for me." Sam laughed at himself, "I'm pouring my heart out to a car. I really am becoming more like Dean."
He stepped out of the car, carefully shutting the door and stepped around to the front, grazing a hand down the windshield where a year ago there had been a spider web impression of his brother shattered into the glass. There was no evidence of it now and Sam was reminded of what delicate care Dean had always shown this vehicle. Sam's hands fell onto the hood, warmed by the morning sun and soon he found himself lying fully against the hood, soaking in the heat even as the cool air chilled his back. And he lay that way for a few moments in a simulated hug, finding pure peace there against the black metal.
The bang of the front door brought Sam back to the real world and he looked up to find Dean sprinting down the pavement. 'Where's the fire?' he wondered and then Dean pulled up short.
"What the Hell are you doing to my car?"
"What?" Sam stood up, suddenly very aware of how awkward he might have just then appeared. "Nothing! What?"
Dean approached him apprehensively, eyeing him with suspicion. "Have you, have you been crying?"
"No. Well," Sam shook his head repeatedly in denial, rubbing the side of his neck nervously. "No. What are, uh. Were you, uh…looking for me? What's…"
"You were crying. What the hell? Stay away from my car, Sam. I don't want to ever see you violating my Baby like that again."
"Dude. You don't cry on another man's car! " He grabbed Sam by the crook of the arm and pulled him forcefully out and away from the front end of the Impala. "There, there, Baby. It's alright. The big, bad giant's gone away now. He won't scare you anymore," Dean soothed, rubbing his hand up and down her side. Sam rolled his eyes at his brother and turned back towards the house leaving Dean behind to console his Baby.