Walk in the Park
Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Author's Note: Spoilers up to Family Matters. This is no way solves any of the issues of sixth season, that requires a craftier mind than mine. But I just needed to take out some of the distance between Sam and Dean. So there will be angst, sap and maybe I'm giving Sam more emotions than the season has portrayed but honestly, he's shown anger, he's shown a spark of pride at being a great hunter, I think they quality as feelings so I'm taking that as a leave to slip in a few of mankind's lesser emotional responses (aka feelings).
Summary: It takes a not so nice walk in the park for Dean to realize that he's not as alone as he thought he was. Set in 6th season. No slash.
It was just a small click, barely discernable between the other sounds in the forest. He might have even dismissed it, had something not shifted beneath his foot. It was nearly impossible to go from a full out run to a stand still, even for someone as lithe as Dean Winchester. As it was, he nearly stumbled to his knees but his innate physical prowess once again saved the day.
Heart thudding, he dropped his eyes to his right boot, could see the leaves, the dirt under his sole. And he just about had himself convinced he was wrong when he saw it: a glimmer of grey metal. "Son of …" he cursed, couldn't believe that he had been stupid enough to step on a friggin' landmine, of all things. Looking up at the forest that surrounded him, what he heard was the lack of other footfalls. Sam and Samuel, they were hauling butt to his east and west after what the two "professional" hunters thought was a woodwose. "Just a pissed off human," Dean grumbled, some part of him, some very small part of him felt vindicated that he was right, that master hunter Samuel and robo Sam were wrong. "And what's my friggin' reward…getting my foot blown off or worse. Sounds like my crappy luck."
Scanning his immediate vicinity, he prayed for a nice rock or even a tree branch or stick to use as a leverage on the pressure plate. But the area was all leaves and dirt, was a trail that the park service decided to actually keep up. 'Yeah we wouldn't want the commando wacko out here killing people to trip over a downed tree limb when he's carrying around landmines,' he sardonically thought, heaping curses on the park personnel.
Feeling his chest tighten, he ordered himself, "Ok, ok, calm down!" Closing his eyes, he forced a steady exhale and inhale before he opened his eyes, sighted on the bomb under his favorite pair of shoes. Sam and Samuel…they weren't going to come back unto they caught their prey, he knew that. There would be no consideration for the missing man in their hunting party, which for the record, was absolutely the suckiest use of the word party Dean had ever heard of. Because lately, hunting with Sam, living with Sam, it was no party. It was like someone made a clone of Sam and swapped the real one for this one, and he was just supposed to be satisfied he got to have a version of Sam at his side, and yeah, sometimes he was…and sometimes…it was worse than being alone, generated an aloneness that ripped a crater through his own soul. Because, ok it was Sam in the passenger seat of the Impala and yet it wasn't the part of Sam that he loved…that loved him. This Sam was just a mockery of what was once between them, of the powerful love they had wielded that had stopped the end of the world.
And some nights, waking up to see Sam sitting at his computer, not needing sleep, Dean wondered if this was his payback, to be robbed of the very thing that had been his greatest strength, he and Sam's greatest strength. Their love for each other. He had to roll over, had to turn his back on Sam, did it before Sam looked, before he saw the ….void in the eyes he once sought out.
So yeah, Sam wouldn't miss him, wouldn't abandon the hunt to come find out where he was. Sam wouldn't even know he wasn't there…hadn't noticed for a year, in fact. And Samuel, he might mock John Winchester but he was cut out of the same cloth as his father. They talked a good game about protecting family but it all faded away under the adrenaline of pursuit. He would probably ream him out like his Dad did whenever he was sidelined during a hunt.
He was alone. Just him and a nice bomb. He consoled himself with the knowledge that even his infallible father had once tripped a landmine in Vietnam. Cowardly, his platoon leader had ordered the other men in his unit to leave him where he was, to not risk more casualties on a lost cause. It was Deacon that had stanchly refused to leave his father to die, who had gotten down on the jungle floor, got belly up to the bomb and defused it.
It had sounded so heroic, had made 10 year old Dean almost envious of the loyalty among soldiers. And he had thought he would have that one day. And he did, once. With Sam. The part of Sam that hell wasn't giving back.
Now, loyalty? Sam didn't understand the concept and Samuel's was dependent on whether or not it helped him get a step closer to finding purgatory. Them risking their lives for his…he didn't see that happening. Them risking getting what they thought was an alpha to save him…yeah, no one would place that bet.
He thought, for a fleeting moment, of calling Cas but dismissed it. Cas was a angel, for pete sake. Regardless of what Cas thought, he didn't call him for the petty stuff, knew that, you didn't bother an angel to undo your screw ups. His father had taught him that, you screw up, you have to deal with the consequences, all of them.
Slowly, Dean crouched down, careful to not lighten the pressure on the plate under his foot. With measured motion, he withdrew his knife from his boot. He knew how to disarm a landmine, his father's training had been nothing but extensive, regardless of the probability of their type of warfare ever ending up including booby traps. But disarming a bomb that he was standing on, that would be one for the Guinness World Records.
His free hand was steady as he reached down, gently brushed off the leaves concealing the mine. Seeing the size of the mine, he re-evaluated his early prediction. He wasn't going to lose a foot, or a leg, was going to be in as many pieces as Cas was after his first encounter with Raphael. Squirrels would be picking his molars out of their homes for the next couple of months, maybe use them for stools around the ole homestead.
Defeat settled over Dean and he rested his chin on his knee and let his eyes slip closed. For the life of him, he didn't know why he was even bothering to fight this. What was so great about his life that he should make the effort to save it? So he could save Sam? Sam who probably didn't even want his soul back, not when it would compromise his 'greatest hunter that walked the earth' status. And Samuel, he was more interested in finding purgatory than keeping family members alive, could tell that the way he dismissed Christian and Mark's death as collateral damage. It was so familiar that it hurt. How long had he felt like he was collateral damage in his father's revenge craze? How long had he been too naïve to see that was what he was? But he wasn't naïve anymore, was done with hero worship that left him disillusioned and broken.
And the life he had greedily clung to as tightly as he could for the past year, the family that actually loved him back, had done everything in their power to heal him instead of shatter him, that was gone too. Lisa had finally seen him for what he was, a monster, someone she should have never entrusted Ben's life with.
Bobby, he was out of his deal, had done it in less than a year, made it look like child's play. Made Dean's own failures to get out of his own deal seem…well like greater failures than they already were. But the man didn't need him anymore, was up and walking and had more or less made it clear that he wasn't offering him a shoulder to cry on anymore.
That left his responsibility slate free and clear, as clear as it had ever been. No Dad needing him to watch his back, no Mom to avenge, no brother to keep on the straight and narrow so his conscience would remain pure, no fellow hunters counting on his backup, no imploding world expecting him to right all his wrongs by saving it. He was alone…and not needed. He could let go and, for the first time ever, he wouldn't be letting anyone down.
Dean's head snapped up at the bellow of his name that echoed through the forest. Instantly he wondered if the killer had circled back and Sam was calling for him to head him off. 'Not likely unless the guy's stupid enough to cross over his own booby traps.'
"Dean? Where are you?"
Dean stilled at the shouted question. Though no concern carried in Sam's words, his brother was seeking him out. On purpose. Opening his mouth to return Sam's call, Dean paused, wondered if Sam would feel anything if he came upon his corpse, if there was even a glimmer of his brother's heart intact, if not his soul.
Then Sam came running out of the woods to his left, came to a halt almost as quickly as Dean had after stepping on the mine. "Dean, what…"
"Landmine. Stay back," Dean ordered, was still big brother enough to want to protect his little brother, what stood in for his brother, anyway.
But, like Sam of old, this Sam didn't heed his warning, came forward, steps cautious but undeterred.
"I said stay back!" Dean barked, didn't want his last sight to be Sam getting blown apart, loved his brother enough to never want him dead again.
"No," Sam shot back with something akin to his usual stubbornness as he came forward to crouch down by Dean's immobile stance.
"What part of landmine don't you understand? You lose your commonsense along with your soul, Sam!"
This earned him what he would have sworn was an honest to goodness real glare from Sam. "I'm not the one who stepped on a landmine."
"Bite me," Dean growled but he thought there was a hint of a smirk on Sam's lips for a fleeting second.
Dropping his eyes from his brother's heated gaze, Sam lightly reached out to the bomb, his hands rock-steady but something inside him felt….off kilter. Something he couldn't name.
"Don't touch it, Sam! I got this," Dean briskly stated, tightening his grip on his knife. He wasn't prepared for Sam to arrest his motion, for his brother's hand to capture his wrist, for that…skin on skin connection to be made. He inhaled sharply, had somehow convinced himself that Sam wouldn't feel like Sam, that he would be cold, would be hard like stone, would be a reflection outside of what he was inside, a vast cold nothingness.
"What?" Sam asked, again there was no concern in the eyes that held Dean's, no real concern only feigned concern. However, there was curiosity.
Swallowing, Dean denied, "Nothing. Stand back and let me disarm this thing."
"By yourself?" Sam shot back, a bit of sarcasm and reprimand carrying in the words.
"Yeah, why not!" Dean railed back, regardless that he knew how impossible it was.
Sam stilled but didn't release his grip on his brother's wrist, had felt the warmth of his brother's skin, could feel the beat of his brother's heartbeat under his finger pads, knew that, what he had been missing since his return was a lot more than his emotions, his soul, was this, being able to be close to Dean, thisclose, to try to feel, to want to feel. And he wanted to, wanted Dean to know that he wanted his soul back, wanted the part of him that Dean didn't hate, the part of him that Dean didn't recoil from.
Letting his grip on Dean's wrist turn from restrictive to nearly a caress, Sam met Dean's eyes, hoped that there was something in him, something salvageable enough to connect with Dean, that Dean would recognize as him, really him, even if it was just an unloved part of him. "Because when I finally get me back I'ld really like it if there was a you around to appreciate it."
The words blindsided Dean, had him coming up short for a comeback, for even a breath. It was the closest Sam statement that soulless Sam had ever made.
"I mean, I've been hanging around Bobby and Samuel and everyone for a year and they didn't suspect a thing. But you…you looked at me differently from the moment you woke up in Samuel's safe house after the Djinn attack. You knew something wasn't right with me." He gave a bitter laugh. "Apparently you're the only one who minds that I don't have a soul. So, if you blow yourself to kingdom come, I might as well tell Crowley where he can stuff his alpha hunt because I won't need what he's selling."
"Sam…" Dean interrupted, because, though he knew not to take his brother's words at face value, if Sam kept talking, if he kept sounding like…well Sam, it was going to undo every logical resolve he had to not treat Sam like his Sam.
But Sam didn't heed Dean's wave off, wanted to forge ahead with his declaration, with the words that he had stapled together since Cas' declaration of what he was missing, since Dean had landed punch after punch to his face and he didn't do one thing to stop him, knew he didn't want to hurt Dean, not even to stop his own physical pain. And that, it had to mean something, maybe he didn't know what it meant to him, but he knew what it should tell Dean. "I want my soul back, Dean, I do. But for you more than for me. As horrible as it probably sounds…is, I don't….miss it. But what I do… miss…is you, the way you used to be around me."
At Sam's words, Dean looked away from him and Sam thought his painstaking reach for a bridge between himself and Dean had failed, spectacularly. He was searching his memories for instances of when he and Dean had been at odds before, thought to rehash some of the dialogue of what he had said, what Dean had said to him, wanted to unearth some sound bite that would be what Dean needed to hear.
"Have you been watching Lifetime and Hallmark channel when I'm sleeping, studying up on how to pretend to have feelings?" Dean countered, his voice raw, his eyes, when they met with Sam's, offered up a challenge, a dare.
Sam's shoulders slumped because failure he understood. "Yeah. Guess I'm flunking out of the actor's studio. How about I would just like to get back to you not "wanting to kill me in my sleep."
Dean cringed at the repeat of his confession under Veritas' influence. "Sam, I didn't mean…I thought you weren't…"
"Me? I'm not," Sam bluntly stated, but then he gentled his voice as he continued, "But with your help, I might be me again."
Dean's eyes sharpened as if they were a lie detector, had proven themselves more than up to the task on many occasions. Whatever Dean saw in Sam or didn't see there, it made him relent. "Well, I'm all for that."
Sam gave a nod, didn't bother forcing a smile because he had seen Dean flinch every single time he dispensed one out anyways. "Then stay still and let me defuse the bomb." Releasing his grip on Dean's wrist, he pried the knife from Dean's grip and then lowered himself flat against the ground, his unflinchingly intense gaze fixed on the weapon under his big brother's foot.
Dean knew Sam shouldn't risk his life to save his but Sam's words…they affected him, even if he pretended they didn't. Sam had had his chance to leave him behind, to side with Samuel and he hadn't taken it. But more than that, Sam had told him that he was stuck with the soulless guy, had made no bid for his freedom, had instead implied that he was staying with Dean regardless of whether Dean wanted him to or not. Some might even call that being fiercely, even irrationally loyal.
Watching as Sam slid the knife under the pressure plate, Dean levelly asked, "Why did you come looking for me?"
Without shifting his focus from his task, Sam answered matter-of-factly, "Because I didn't know where you were."
"And you thought I might have found the Woodwose before you did. It's not a Woodwose, by the way."
"Yeah, I've never heard of one that was into modern welfare tactics."
"So you lost the guy's trail. Guess we'll find out if Samuel's skills work on human prey."
"I didn't lose the guy's trail," Sam refuted without an ounce of his usual cocky displeasure.
"I'm pretty sure he didn't double back my way."
"I never thought he did."
"But you turned around…"
"Yeah, because I didn't know where you were," Sam restated, had a trace of what could have been impatience in his tone as he lifted his eyes to Dean as if that would ensure his brother understood his words.
Dean's brow creased, "Wait. So you're running after this …supposed alpha and you what? All of a sudden decided you weren't going up against it without backup?" he incredulously posed, wondered how far Sam thought he could get with more lies to him
"I had backup. Samuel." Sliding the knife further into the bomb, Sam heard the click and knew that he was either close to saving Dean or killing his brother. "Don't suppose you have a paperclip on you?"
"I never leave home without it," Dean glibly quoted as he slid his hand in his pocket, retrieved the paperclip and handed it down to Sam. Again there was that touch, Sam's fingers twisting around his own in the pass off.
For a moment, Dean felt jealousy rip into him at the continued evidence that Sam welcomed Samuel's backup, that for Sam, their Grandfather, who lied and used them, was a better hunting partner than he was. Tightening the reign on his emotions, Dean couldn't help that his tone was low as he dug for his answers, maybe the last answers he would ever get if Sam miscalculated his bomb disposal skills. "So you did take the guy down, you and Samuel."
"Dean, maybe you haven't noticed but I'm trying to save your life. A little less interrogation and a little more praying is in order."
Dean's eyebrows jumped at the word praying coming from Sam's lips. "Praying. Interesting choice of words…"
"From what? The soulless guy?" Sam volleyed back, an edge of anger to his tone even as he maneuvered the bent paperclip under the pressure plate.
"Well…yeah. I didn't think…."
But Sam cut off his words, his tone quiet, reverent, "You told me to keep praying…for you."
"What? When? I never…"
"In your letter. Your suicide letter you wrote to me and Bobby when you were going off to say yes to Michael. Your box made it to Bobby's a month after I was out of hell."
Dean felt sucker punched. That was something he didn't think would come back to bite him on the butt. "Well I was…."
"Thinking you were dying to save the world and that we would never see each other again. I'm familiar with the feeling…well I'm not but …I've been there. Now hold still," Sam ordered.
"Like I'm going to break into the electric slide," Dean grumbled at his brother's ridiculous warning.
Slowly, cautiously Sam pulled his hands back from the landmine and met Dean's eyes. "You can step off now."
"Maybe you should take a few steps back…" Dean hesitated, found he was willing to put his life in Sam's abilities but not Sam's own life.
"It's safe to move Dean," Sam coldly insisted.
"Oh, right, I forgot I'm dealing with hunter of the decade…." Dean sniped but Sam's next words cut him down more brutally than any bomb blast ever could.
"No, you're dealing with someone who you taught how to disarm a landmine. If you don't trust me at least trust what you taught me."
Their eyes held as if they both knew a gauntlet had been thrown down between them. So it was with a step of faith that Dean lifted his foot from the mine, took a step back and then another. To his relief, he didn't become forest confetti. "Sam I…"
Coming to his feet, Sam cut off his brother's words, "Come on, we better find Samuel." And he started to head back the way he had come.
Feeling like a heel for doubting Sam, Dean followed silently in Sam's wake. But after a few minutes, his curiosity got the better of him. "So bring me up to speed. You and Samuel did or did not catch this guy?"
"Did not," Sam gruffly replied, easily outpacing Dean's stride.
"Because you figured out he was no alpha."
"Not until I found you vying for a cameo role in the Hurt Locker," Sam shot back, gave a look over his shoulder and saw Dean's eyeroll at his movie reference. Felt…satisfaction at having gotten a less than pissy reaction from his brother for his efforts.
"So Samuel's still on the trail, thinks he's after a Woodwose alpha…."
"Actually I'm not," came Samuel's voice from behind Dean.
Turning to face his grandfather, Dean was surprised the man wasn't hoisting a corpse over his shoulder, albeit a human one. He was even more surprised at Samuel's next statement.
"You want to tell me where you got to? One minute you're pacing me and the next Sam's cutting me off, demanding if I know where you are. We probably lost it's trail since we split up to find you …" Samuel's tone turning more judgmental and harsh the longer he talked, figured out what his loyalty to his grandson might have cost him.
"He stepped on a landmine," Sam bluntly announced as he came to a stop in front of Samuel, unconsciously became a barrier between his grandfather and his brother. "Dean was right, a human did the killings, not a woodwose."
"Human but…" Samuel began to protest until his words stuck in his throat, "did you say landmine?" his eyes circumventing Sam and landing on Dean. "You Ok, Son?" And he took a step to the side, was not prepared to have Sam block his passageway to his elder grandson. He nearly shivered at the cold expression in Sam's gaze.
"He's fine. No thanks to your research..or mine."
Dean almost retreated a step when Sam swung around, settled his intense gaze on him, sought his guidance.
"So what's our next move? Track this guy or give a tip to the cops?" And there was an earnestness in Sam's features, as if he was honestly clueless on what to do next, needed Dean's guidance, wanted it.
Dean rubbed his hand over his mouth in indecision. "The guy needs to be stopped…"
"Does it have to be us that stops him?" Again there was almost an innocence to the question, almost a plea in the eyes that held Dean's. Or, at the very least, there was a good impression of imploring need.
"Someone has to and we've got a trail to follow…"
"Yeah and who knows how many booby traps we could come across," Samuel put in his two cents, felt Sam's focus shift to him but had no luck deciphering his youngest grandson's expression.
"You two got pretty far without running into trouble," Dean couldn't help point out, though it only reinforced Samuel's belief that he was rusty, had been out of the life too long.
"Yeah, Sam always said that you could find trouble walking in a park…" Samuel couldn't help reveal with a smirk. He watched as Dean sent Sam a mocking glare.
Sam quietly refuted, "Dean, you stepped on a landmine in a state park. You may not know me right now, but I still know you," the words almost an oath, a pledge, a vow.
And for a moment, Samuel held his breath, wondered if this would be the keg that would set Dean off, if their family had survived one bomb shell only to be undone by an emotional one. But to his relief, Dean snorted and ruefully shook his head.
"Yeah, knowing my luck, I'll trigger some poison darts to come sailing my way. Screw it. We'll let the friggin' Marshal service track this guy …after we close the gate on this trail and call in an anonymous tip," Dean allowed as he began trudging back to the car. However, he was keeping a much sharper eye on the ground under foot.
Turning to see if Sam agreed, Samuel realized that he was standing alone, that Sam had bound forward to pace his brother, was seemingly purposefully letting his shoulder brush against Dean's. Knowing his vote wasn't going to count, Samuel began to trudge behind his grandsons, wondered when he had been demoted to private. And he couldn't help but envision what his grandsons were like before, when there had been trust between them, when the love between them had been stronger than the greatest evil in the world.
It must have been something awe-inspiring, because even now with Sam being…well not so much the Sam that Dean knew and Dean fighting to not recoil from his own brother's presence…they were still …brothers. It made Samuel wish that he had some Winchester blood in his veins, because hunting was a Campbell thing but standing by your family, being a family no matter the shape you were in, that was clearly a Winchester trait. And yet there was no denying that part of that strength, part of that enduring love, it came from his sweet baby girl, that part of her lived on in his two grandsons, maybe the best parts of her.
To Dean, it felt almost like old times, Sam pacing him, their shoulders bumping together and for a moment. He almost swore that he saw contentment on Sam's face. Dismissing his delusions, he cleared his throat, "So…back there…thanks."
"Don't mention it," Sam replied back, his standard response to his big brother's gratitude for saving his life, which truthfully, was as much for him as it was for Dean. Suddenly he decided that it couldn't hurt to say it aloud this time, that he had no ego to bruise, felt no worry at what Dean's reaction might be. "I did it as much for my sake as for yours."
Dean stared at Sam a moment before he remembered the threat of landmines and returned to scanning the foliage ahead of his feet. "Ok."
"Apparently I still know how to be selfish when it comes to something I want," Sam tacked on, wondered if Dean would meet him halfway with where he was going.
"Good to know," Dean noncommittally returned.
And Sam wondered if Dean thought about his piss poor plan to let him get turned into a vampire, to use him as a means to find the alpha. But before he could try again to defend what was obviously unpardonable in Dean's eyes, his brother spoke.
"What you said before, about how I've been acting around you…I know it isn't fair, that you didn't do this…didn't choose it. That you did the right thing, saved the friggin' world and you don't deserve this, the whole MIA soul or me…threatening to kill you in your sleep," Dean rambled on, chanced a look and saw that Sam seemed to be hanging on his every word. "I'm going to try to do better, Sam. I'll stop treating you like someone I hate when…I don't. Alright? You might not be all…you but today you came back for me, abandoned the hunt to find me, risked your life to save mine. It's what my brother Sam would do."
"He sounds like an awesome brother," Sam deadpanned but there was a lightness in his eyes.
"Shut up," Dean snarked lightly and nudged his shoulder against Sam's. He broke into true laughter when Sam retaliated with a harder shoulder bump that would have had him stumbling off the trail if a strong, familiar, trusted hand hadn't coiled around his elbow, hadn't steadied him like it had done for twenty some years.
"Boys, do I need to separate you two?" Samuel jokingly called from behind his grandsons as he witnessed their playfulness.
In perfect harmony, Sam and Dean replied an emphatic, "No!" Because they had been separated often enough and long enough to know, that even when they were down one soul, it was a thousand times better being together than apart.
Thanks for reading! And a special thanks to anyone who decides to honor me with a kind word for my efforts.
Have a great day!
For those in America, Happy Veteran's Day! I pray for the safety of our service men and woman around the world, today and every day.