Dean is still pissed that Bobby let Sam get so far off track, but he's honest enough to know that he's pissed at himself more than anything. As far as he's concerned, Sam's disappearing act is, once again, his own damn fault. For a brief moment, he wonders if this is punishment for the last ten years in Hell, and then he buries that thought as deep as he can. He's already carrying a load of guilt when it comes to Sam, and Dean doesn't need to add to it.
He dials the number from memory, and waits through an automated message to get to someone in customer service. "Hi, this is Jason with Arc Mobile. Please be advised that your phone call may be monitored for quality assurance. How can I help you today?"
"Yeah, hi, I have a cell phone account with you guys, and uh, I lost my phone. I was wondering if you could turn the GPS on for me."
"Sure thing. Name on the account?"
As impatient as Dean is to track down Sam, he still dies a little inside when he answers, "Yeah. Name's Wedge Antilles."
"And the last four digits of your social security number?"
"Social is 2-4-7-4.
"Alright, Mr. —" Jason pauses long enough to let Dean know he recognizes the name. "— Antilles. The phone is on, and I was able to activate the GPS. Please log on to your account at to see the exact location. While I have you on the phone, have you considered —"
Dean breaks in with, "Thank you," and hangs up before Jason can try to upgrade him to a new phone.
He's already getting to the website when Bobby asks, "How'd you know he'd use that name?"
Intent on getting Sam's location, Dean answers, "You kiddin' me? What don't I know about that kid?"
Dearborn, Michigan — 1997
Dean finally pulled up to Fordson High to pick up Sam at just past 3:30. He'd have been there sooner, but Ford Road had turned into a goddamn parking lot thanks to a snowstorm earlier in the day. Considering he hadn't scraped together enough cash yet o put decent snow tires on the Impala, it was probably just as well. Still, he was deeply regretting his decision to skip the last two periods of the day. He should have been back a lot sooner than this, and he hoped it wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass.
The front door opened, and Sam came out of the school faster than he should have, considering the way he was trying to keep his balance while sliding toward the car. By the time he reached the door, Dean was laughing hard enough to make breathing a problem.
Sam, as sunny as ever, muttered, "Shut up."
"Oh, hell no. If I'd had a camera, that would have been family gold."
Sam's face was bright red by then, and he didn't answer. Just glared out the window.
"Come on, Sammy. It was funny," he said, cautiously pulling away from the curb. The lot had been cleared once already, but enough new snow had fallen that he couldn't see the icy patches anymore.
Dean let the car coast to a stop — not a problem when he was only going a couple of miles an hour to begin with — and stared at Sam for a long moment. Sam didn't take the bait, though, so Dean said, "Fine," and pressed the gas just enough to get the car moving again. He swung left in a large arc and made his way to the back of the lot. It wasn't until he turned right on Schaefer that Sam figured out something was up.
"You could have turned right on Ford," he said.
"This time of day? In this weather? I do that, we'll be lucky to get back to the apartment by April."
"This isn't much better."
Sam had a point — it really wasn't much better — but Dean had gotten a feel for Dearborn traffic and knew which side streets were likely to get them where they were going faster than if he chanced Ford Road again. And in any case, the fight he was about to start was best had with less traffic around.
As soon as he turned right on Ruby, he said, "I'm guessing by your cheerful demeanor that school was absolutely awesome for you today."
"God, just shut up already!"
"Let me guess — you nailed the head cheerleader in the locker room, am I right?"
"Oh, I know — you were voted most likely to geek out over a new dictionary."
"Hey, let me guess — your classmates voted you hall monitor of the month."
With that, Sam started yelling at the top of his lungs. It took concentration, but eventually, Dean made out, "...they hate me because I'm white."
They reached Orchard, and Dean spared a glance for him before turning left. "Excuse me?"
Sam slumped back into his seat and mumbled, "You heard me."
"I heard you, but I don't know what the fuck you're saying."
He sighed heavily before answering, "You know what I mean. The student population is mostly Arab. There aren't many of us white kids and even fewer black kids."
"So you're upset because we're in the minority, huh?"
"Yeah," Sam said, his voice stalling out a little at the end.
Dean pursed his lips as he considered whether or not to kick Sam's ass for sounding like a jerk. In the end, he decided to back off, figuring that at least part of Sam's frustration stemmed from worry at being left to sit for too long at the end of the day.
"Sucks, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," Sam said. He wasn't as aggressive as he was earlier, but there was still some anger simmering, and Dean had lost his taste for dealing with it just then. There would be time enough later.
On the other hand, he wasn't sure what he could say. Dad might be perfectly willing to haul their asses from town to town, but when he could, he always made sure they ended up in the best school in the district. Didn't do much for Dean one way or the other, and he was seriously considering dropping out, but Sam usually drank that shit up like it was mother's milk. It was too bad that Sam felt so uncomfortable at Fordson, but hell, maybe his time there would do him some good down the road.
He left Sammy to stew in his own juices and continued south.
A few blocks down, Dean found that Michigan Ave wasn't much better than Ford, but the traffic was moving, and that was probably as much as he could hope for. At least the road was clean enough that he felt comfortable edging the Impala up to thirty, and he thought they might get to Fairlane in time to catch the last matinee. Even if they didn't, he had enough cash on him to spring for food and a full-price show. He kissed the idea of snow tires goodbye without much of a second thought. Spring was close enough that trying to swap out the all-season tires would be a waste of time, whereas cheering Sam up meant he might not get as much shit over the weekend as he would otherwise.
They were nearly to the turn-off when Sam roused himself enough to ask, "Why aren't we going back to the apartment?"
"It's Valentine's Day, sweetheart," Dean said as he reached over to ruffle Sam's hair. "Gotta take my best girl out for dinner and a movie, right?"
"God, you're an ass."
"Yeah, but you love me, baby."
A quick look out of the corner of his eye told him Sam was fighting a smile even as he tried to keep the surly attitude going.
"Whatever. What are we going to see?"
Dean intoned, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
"For real? Jesus. Haven't you seen that like five thousand times already?"
"Sure, but never in a theater." Dean followed the long curve around the mall to park near the movie entrance. "Talked to Dad at lunch, and he said we should make sure to catch it while we could."
Outraged, Sam said, "Why didn't you tell me you talked to Dad?"
"Just did, squirt. And anyway, would you have cared? You were pretty pissed off when you came out."
Sam got quiet again.
"You ready to talk about it yet?"
He didn't answer until Dean pulled into a parking spot. "It's nothing. Not really, anyway."
"Nothing, huh? Didn't sound like that earlier," Dean said as he got out of the car. "Door locked?"
Sam tugged on it and said, "Yeah," before walking around the back to join Dean.
"Seriously, it didn't sound like nothing."
"It's just — they're close, you know? The kids there have known each other their whole life. If they don't go to the same mosque, they live in the same neighborhood or go to the same stores."
"And you don't think you fit in," Dean said, because what was a big brother for, if not to state the obvious?
"They have homes, Dean," Sam said quietly. "Not motel rooms or apartments, and not a car they grew up in. They have homes, and they have history. Three months from now, they'll all be talking about what they're going to do this summer, and not one of them is going to remember some kid with floppy hair who didn't even last halfway through the semester."
"Sure they will. They'll be saying, 'Hey, remember that kid with the awesome Impala? Didn't he have a squirt of a brother?'"
Sam sounded distressed enough that Dean backed off and tried a different approach. "You know what we do is —"
"I will pay you not to tell me what we do is important. I get it, okay?" Sam skidded on a patch of ice, and Dean caught his elbow to stabilize him. "Thanks. Anyway, I get it. I know this is important, but home is important, too."
Dean's gut clenched a little. "You think you don't have a home?"
"Yes. No! It's not — Look, you and Dad, you're family. But we don't have a place to call our own. Not really. When we leave a town, there's only a couple of people who might remember us. And when we —" Sam swallowed hard, and Dean really hoped that he wouldn't finish that thought. "— And when we die, when the last one of us dies, who's going to remember us then?"
It was a hell of a question — one that Dean couldn't answer. They stepped inside the mall, and Dean took the coward's way out as soon as he saw the time. "Come on. We can still make the 4:30 show."
Sam didn't say anything more, and Dean was both grateful and pissed that he was letting it go so easy. He'd asked a good question, and he deserved a good answer, but Dean didn't have one for him. Fact was, when they died, they'd be lucky to get planted, let alone salted and burned. He knew there were other hunters out there, but Dad mostly kept him and Sam from meeting them. That was starting to change some for Dean, now that he was close to getting out of school for good, but he only knew a couple of guys outside of Bobby and Pastor Jim, so unless he died before Sam and Dad, there was a damn good chance he'd end up in an unmarked pauper's grave somewhere, and wasn't that a pleasant thought to have?
There wasn't much of a line at the concession stand, so Dean handed Sam a ten and told him to get something for the two of them. Sam would eat the lion's share, but he'd still be hungry after the movie, because he'd hit a growth spurt in the last month or so. Dean took a quick glance at the kid's jeans and added a trip to Goodwill to the next day's schedule. Chances were that part of his problem was because the hems of his jeans were riding about an inch over his ankles, and there was no way in hell the other kids would let that kind of shit go. Not with Sam being the new face and kind of scrawny on top of that.
The theater wasn't as packed as Dean thought it would be, and he wondered if he had the storm to thank for that. He followed Sam to a row midway down the aisle, and they settled in to watch the previews. Dean watched the screen, but he was too caught up in his own thoughts to pay much attention. Normally, he'd leave it alone, but Sam's question hit a nerve earlier, and Dean was uncomfortable with the idea of not giving him an answer.
Sam had this crazy idea that home was a place, that he could put his finger on a map and point to where it was. It confused the hell out of Dean, because after nearly fourteen years on the road, it seemed like Sam should have figured it out already: home was people. As long as the three of them were together, they would always be home — and maybe that's why Sam's question got under Dean's skin. Sam was thinking ahead to the day when a monster got the jump on the rest of them.
It wasn't like Dean was under any illusions that he'd die an old man. He'd dressed a few too many of his father's wounds to believe that he'd go out peacefully while surrounded by a bunch of fat and happy grandkids. But he hadn't really stopped to think about what that meant in terms of who might be left behind. As much as it galled him to think of leaving Sammy alone, Dean was fully prepared to own up to the selfish hope that he wouldn't have to do last rites for his brother. The thought of Sam dying first was enough to ratchet his anxiety up higher than he would have expected, and the only way he could deal with it was to start watching the movie. And huh. Turned out Dad was right about seeing this on the big screen.
Toward the end, when the rebels were getting ready to make their last stand, Dean started thinking about Sam's question again and realized there wasn't any answer he could give that would make sense, not to a kid who had such crazy ideas about what home was. What he really needed to do was try to get Sam to look at their life from a different direction. Clearly, the idea that they were helping people wasn't cutting it these days, but if Sam could get a better idea of what they were to each other, maybe that would do the trick.
They stayed through the end of the credits, and as Sam started wrapping up again, Dean asked, "Coney Island good for you?"
"Sure. Can we get chili cheese fries, too?"
Dean nodded and wondered if he could slip some Beano in Sam's water beforehand.
Sam polished off three chili cheese dogs and most of the chili cheese fries before he started slowing down, and Dean admitted to himself that he was impressed. He wondered if the size of Sam's stomach was an indicator of how big he'd get, and then Dean put that thought away. There was no sense getting his hopes up, but at the same time, he needed Sam to understand how much Dean expected to count on him one day.
"You asked me a question before the show," Dean said, his voice rougher than he liked.
Sam ducked his head and put a great deal of concentration into dipping a fry into the remaining chili. He shrugged and said, "Don't worry about it."
"Yeah, not happening." Dean took a deep breath and said, "Look, I'll be honest here. I don't get what you see in those kids that's so great. Sure, they've known each other since they were in diapers, but do you think there's a single one of them that could count on any of the others to back them up when push comes to shove?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "It's not like they have to."
"You're right. It's not like they have to. Now. But what are they gonna do if shit goes down for them the way it did for us? Will their family back them up and go to the wall for them? Will their friends do what it takes to keep them alive?"
"Sam, home isn't a house, and it isn't a neighborhood. It's not a mosque or a church or any kind of place."
"Right," Sam said on a huff of breath. "Home is where the heart is."
"You're damn straight," Dean said, as aggressively as anything, and his vehemence startled Sam. "You and Dad, the two of you are home for me, just like me and Dad are home for you."
Sam made a show of looking around the diner before saying, "I don't exactly see Dad around, do you?"
Dean threw a fry at him. "Dad's like General Ackbar. He's got shit to do somewhere else, but he's keeping an ear out for us."
"And who are you? Han Solo?"
"I'm Luke Skywalker."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "You? Luke? Not seeing it."
"It's because I'm an awesome shot," Dean said. He held his hands around an imaginary wheel and started making shooting sounds.
"Ah. So that makes me Han, right?"
"Fuck no. You're Wedge Antilles."
"Red Two, you dork."
"His last name isn't even said in the movie, and I'm the dork?"
"Whatever. The point is, you're Wedge, because you've got my back. You don't go running off the way Han did. You stick to me and shoot the fuckers on my ass to get me clear, got it?"
Sam looked at Dean for a long time before saying, "I don't know why you keep calling me a geek when you're the one who lives for this crap."
"Oh, fuck you," Dean said, and Sam cracked up laughing. He wanted to take this as a good sign, but he could hear the stress in Sam's laughter, and he wasn't sure he'd solved much of anything. On the other hand, Sam, at least, seemed like he was willing to let it go for a while, and maybe that was the best Dean could hope for.
He caught a glimpse of the clock and said, "Come on, finish up. Gotta get you back to the apartment."
"Hot date tonight?"
"You know it. Shelly Freeman is off work at nine, and the two of us have plans."
With a perfect deadpan face, Sam said, "I can't believe you're cheating on me."
"Aw, baby. It's not like that. Don't hate me for spreading my love around."
While he waits for the map to come up, Dean has a bad feeling about what it's going to tell him. He reaches for a bottle to ease some of his tension and sees that it's empty. As he looks around, he takes stock of the sheer number of empties and says, "Hey, Bobby? What's the deal with the liquor store? What, are your parents out of town or something?"
Bobby has the grace to look ashamed as he says, "Like I said. Last few months ain't been easy."
Dean bites back his immediate response, which is to point out just how "not easy" it was for him. He could write an encyclopedia on the subject, and it still won't get him back to Sam to find out what the fuck he did. Instead, he says, "Right," just to drop the subject.
And when the map comes up on the screen, Dean's bad feeling blooms into full-blown horror at how Sam must have gotten him out of Hell.