"They already leave?" Sam asks Bobby as he comes into the study, laptop in hand, and takes a seat opposite him in a chair facing the desk. He realized how suddenly quiet the house got and assumed that they were off for the night like Dean warned him they would.
"Soon as dinner was cleaned up." Bobby marks the page he'd been reading through to give his full attention to the kid he hasn't seen in what feels like far too long.
"Say where they were going?"
"Knowing them, anywhere people ain't." He pours another glass of whiskey and looks at Sam, his expression silently asking if he'd like some too. Sam nods and Bobby makes him his own drink. "I gotta say, Sam, Liz sure came in here a busted up version of usual herself."
"Yeah, that gypsy curse really did a number on her," Sam returns as he takes a sip, making the same reactionary face he normally does after registering the first taste of the strong, bottom shelf stuff Bobby always bought. Lizzy got them onto the actual, name brand booze so now the stuff in plastic bottles just doesn't hold up.
"It's not just the curse and I think you know that."
Sam doesn't answer as he stares down at his glass. He knows where Bobby is going with this conversation already and he prepares for the fatherly guilt trip.
"I wondered if you two were gonna get your heads outta each other's asses in order to see it. Guess not." Bobby shakes his head with the sad truth. "The real reason Lizzy's an emotional jumble right now ain't because of some curse. It's because of you and your brother."
Sam makes a very hurt face as he hears the blame being put partially on himself for the first time.
"You two expect so much out of her but you forget that she's just one woman, a woman who didn't grow up in this like you did. She may be damn good at hunting and dealing with you two and your endless shit, but she's only been in this for a few years in comparison to us. The burden of you and Dean at odds with each other, the worry that you'll fall off the demonic wagon, the stress of Dean just bein' his pain in the ass self, the concern over me bein' laid up, the angel link… that's every day for her, Sam. It's a lot to handle and I think she's doing it pretty silently. And that's not even counting the Apocalypse, the threat on Dean's head…"
"And Lou," Sam speaks up. "I know she's still hurting over that. A lot."
"We all are." They both take a pause to drink down some hunter's helper in order to manage the pain they all still feel over that.
"You're right. She has a lot on her plate… maybe more than any of us." What a realization. Sam's guilt is now huge. He never wanted to put Lizzy through anything more than she already had to handle, but that's exactly what he and Dean did. It's too much and a large portion of that stress is from him. It's unfair and since he and Dean are masters at coping without talking they never talk to her much about things other than hunts. The only time they speak emotionally is when she yanks it out of them somehow. No one ever really asks how she's managing, if she is at all that is.
"I'm just asking that you two don't lose sight of her as a person. She makes a hell of a therapist but who does she have to talk to?"
"As of lately… shit, no one." They've been so self-centered, so completely absorbed into their own selves that she's seriously fallen by the wayside. Lizzy certainly doesn't deserve the back burner. How did he not see this?
"Liz has always been the caregiver first and foremost. She needs to know the people around her are ok and many times she neglects her own mental sanity for that."
"You're totally right, Bobby." Sam looks at the man with sadness. "She does that a lot now that I think of it. That why Dean came back from the yard with a shiner?"
"Maybe," Bobby huffs a quick laugh. "I told her she should take her frustrations out physically after we had a little talk. She was about to crack…"
"So instead she cracked Dean in the face," Sam laughs quietly, Bobby doing the same. "Knew I liked her."
"Me too, kid," Bobby says at the tail end of his laugh. "And I am certain he probably deserved it for something. He usually does."
Sam keeps quiet and nods his head.
"Sam, the best thing you could do to help Lizzy right now is to just be ok, for her sake." Bobby looks the younger hunter straight in the eye. "Are you ok?"
Sam makes a decision for sure right then and there. He will make sure that he's ok, and that Lizzy in turn is ok too, and he knows just how to do it.
"I will be."
"I gotta say, you look good all up on my car, L," Dean tells her with a contented smile as he lays across the Impala, his back resting on the windshield and legs stretched out down the hood. "You got moves."
Lizzy turns her head to look at him while lying next to him, smile wide also. Once they got dressed they decided to stay out for a bit, enjoy their rare time together alone.
"Yeah, I know."
"Should have gotten my ladies together sooner. That was fucking… awesome."
"You totally should have brought a camera by the way," Lizzy smirks as she pulls the blanket from the backseat over them a little more to keep the cold night away. She cuddles into his side slightly closer and Dean's arm instinctively tightens around her shoulders.
"Seriously? You would've let me get photographic evidence that you're a little freak?"
"Don't you mean evidence that I'm the most amazing chick ever?"
"Yeah, why not? Life is short. We need to have fun with it while we can."
"How's that eye feeling now?" Lizzy wonders as she reaches a hand to his face, her fingers running down the side of his eye while avoiding the dark and swollen bruising.
"Much better." Dean grins at her with an eyebrow lift, immediately followed by a wince with the movement.
"Dean, I'm really sorry about that," she tells him, the honesty coming clearly through her voice. "I know it seems super fucked up that I wanted to fight you…"
"Not normal relationship kinda stuff there, I'll admit."
"Since when are we normal?" Lizzy grumbles right back. "But I've been stressed to high hell lately and didn't know how else to let it out. Bobby suggested I spar a little with you to find some kind of relief but I never expected that I'd be that way… that bad."
"For the first time ever, you actually scared me." Dean looks away from the stars and looks over to her, the mental image of her serious and quite terrifying face still clear as day. "Should I be worried here?"
"Don't you worry enough?" Lizzy rolls her eyes.
"No, not if you need help."
Peering into his eyes, Lizzy shares a sad smile. She should talk to him, let it all out finally, but she just can't. He doesn't need to hear her bitch about life when his was just as fucked and awful. They both are stressed beyond reasonable levels and she doesn't have the heart to add any more than she has to for him.
"I'm ok," Lizzy assures with a quick kiss to his lips.
"You sure?" Dean asks once more, not really believing her.
"Honestly, I'll be fine. I just want to sit out here with you for a little longer before we go back if that's ok."
Knowing now for sure that she's lying, Dean lets her have her way. "Yeah. I'd love to do that." He really would. There's always something so perfect about being alone with her, feeling her next to him, that made him calm and content like nothing else has ever been able to do. If this was the moment he was meant to die for good, he'd do it with a smile on his face, that's for sure.
Her arm running around his waist under his shirt, Lizzy rests her head on his shoulder and looks up into the night. "I like being out here, under the stars. For once I feel small, like I don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Like I'm just another speck of dust that God doesn't look at or the angels don't really know exists. It feels good to not be important, even if it's just for a couple fleeting seconds."
"Insignificance." It's more of an understanding than a question. He did get exactly what she was talking about.
"Anonymity," she tacks on, running with the train of thought. "Comes complete with mundane problems like what color to paint the living room and who's driving to baseball practice. Boring, common, unimportant living. When I look up at the stars, that's what they feel like to me."
Pulling her tighter, Dean couldn't agree with her more.
"Spit it out, Sam," Dean impatiently asks of his brother while sitting at the random rest stop picnic table. They left Bobby's at the crack of dawn to investigate some missing people out in Ohio but once the two of them sat down and Lizzy was away from them, Sam's been rambling on about how he can't live the way they have been, about how he needs to figure out his own life and learn how to deal with the longing for his power back. Now Dean just wants the point.
"I'm leaving," Sam admits. "I need to get out for a bit, for myself and for you too."
Sitting quietly for a beat, Dean thinks about it.
"This whole thing isn't good for Lizzy either," Sam further explains. "We put so much on her with our dysfunctional crap that she's falling apart. There's so much she has to deal with and we shouldn't be adding to it. She needs the break as much as we do. I just … I really think it's best I go elsewhere."
Dean nods silently at first before finally saying, "Well, I think you're right."
"I was expecting a fight," Sam says with surprise.
"The truth is, I spend more time worrying about you than about doing the job right," Dean tells Sam truthfully. "And I just, I can't afford that, you know? Not now."
Sam nods his understanding. "I'm sorry, Dean."
"I know you are, Sam." He does. He knows Sam is remorseful for everything.
"Um, make sure you take care of Lizzy," Sam asks of his brother.
"I always do," Dean answers with a little confusion. He never assumed anyone would have to tell him to do that.
"I mean, ask her how she's doing every now and then," Sam explains lightly, remembering the conversation he has with Bobby just yesterday. "She gets so concerned with us that sometimes she puts herself on the backburner. We need to check on her now and then. Make sure she's doing alright."
"She's doing alright," Dean assures, thinking it to be true.
"You're black eye proves that she isn't."
"Yeah.…" Dean's left to think that one over as his brother goes to stand up and Dean stops him, not as ready to let go as he thought he was.
"Hey," he blurts, hoping to get more time. "Do you, uh, wanna take the Impala?"
With a half-smile, Sam refuses. "It's okay." There's no way that was ever going to happen. He stands up all the way and heads towards the car. He turns back once. "Take care of yourself, Dean."
"Yeah, you too, Sammy." Dean's words nearly die on his tongue. This is it. They have to be apart just to live. This whole story seems to be all too familiar as he thinks about the month he spent away from Lizzy. That was necessary as wrong as it felt so maybe this was too. Or maybe this is how it needs to be now….
He watches as Sam grabs his bag out of the open window of their car. Just then Lizzy jogs up to him, having been in the bathroom before now. He can tell by the expression on her face that she already knows what's going on. Sam tells her something and she shakes her head no. He explains a little more to her and Lizzy dives onto him, hugging him tightly and looking so sad. She pulls him down and kisses his cheek before backing away. She wags her finger at him and Dean knows she's threatening him somehow. Probably to make sure he answers his phone when she calls to check on him. Sam smiles and laughs a bit but Lizzy doesn't return that grin. She hugs him one last time, her cheek pressed to his jacket and she looks over at Dean, pleading with her expression, asking him to make it stop. Instead he looks away and avoids her. He only looks back when he hears a tuck drive off to see Lizzy standing alone.
Once Sam's gone, Dean takes a deep breath. It's freeing in an odd way to no longer have Sam around him. He won't worry every second now. They won't fight or disagree about everything. He can focus on his work, his hunts, and never worry about if his brother will take a dark path instead of stay in the light. This is good.
Lizzy sits down at the table next to Dean and leans into him, her head on his shoulder.
"Don't say it, ok?" Dean asks of her in a light tone, more sad than anything else.
"Wasn't gonna say anything," Lizzy tells him truthfully.
"Then that's a first."
Instead of respond to his joke, Lizzy sighs. Sam's gone and it hurts already. And doesn't it figure; like she needed another reason to be worried every damn day of her life.
"You want to just head out?" Dean asks her, leaning forward to see her eyes and make sure the waterworks weren't flowing.
She looks at him, his green eyes actually looking bright for the first time in a long time. Maybe this was good for him after all. "Yeah. Let's go."
Standing first, Dean takes her hand and helps her up. They walk together hand-in-hand to the Impala. They're by themselves now and it's a little weird. At least he still has a partner even if Sam had always been his primary one. She'll do just fine, she always has, but it'll just be different.
Once in the car the new situation feels even stranger. Dean in the driver's seat and Lizzy in the passenger's, it's quiet at first. Grabbing the all-important shoebox, Lizzy fishes out 'Master of Puppets' and pops it in knowingly.
"Shit," Lizzy complains when something dawns on her.
"What?" Dean wonders, thumbs already drumming along to 'Battery'.
"Who the fuck is gonna do all the research now?"
"Oh, that's all you." This is of course followed by a joking punch in the arm from her. It makes him think of how she punched him in the face just yesterday. Maybe she isn't doing so hot on the inside now that he thinks of it, now that Sam pointed that out to him. "Hey, uh… how are you doing?"
"What do you mean?" she asks with confusion.
"Like, you know," Dean points to her head. "Up there, how are you?"
Lizzy's expression starts at shocked and quickly melts into a relieved smile.
"What? I care," Dean pretends to be slightly offended, even if he knows he shouldn't be at all. He's been selfish. "I want to know how you're holding up through all this. Tell me."
"I was just starting to think you'd never ask, Hot Shot," Lizzy responds with thankful love as they drive off while she lets out her fears, her burdens, and her sadness to him for the first time in a very long time.
Late at night, his first night away from Dean and Lizzy, really his first night away from his life in general, Sam stirs in bed. It wasn't the most comfortable bed by any means and he never expected it to be. Judging by the condition of the Great Plains Motel sign out front, it'd be old and lumpy. No surprise there. But something makes him wake up. He isn't sure what, but he opens his eyes, sighs with his awake state, and rolls over. That's when he sees her.
"Hey, Iron Giant."
Sam sits up and looks her over. Her long, straight blond hair framing her face and shoulders, she smiles slightly at him. She looks beautiful in the white nightgown she has on as her blue eyes search him over.
"I missed you," she tells him.
"Lou. I'm dreaming." He can't stop looking at her. He's seen her in his dreams so many times, but this time is different. She isn't all over him yet and he's getting a different vibe from her than he normally does. She's patient and sweet.
"Or you're not. What's the difference? I'm here aren't I?" Lou widens her smile.
"I miss you so much," Sam admits as he feels all the progress he made talking to Rina fall away. God damn, she's perfect and just so wonderfully her. He'll never get away from her.
"I know," she sadly returns while reaching over the small space between them to weave her fingers into his. "I miss you too." She sighs loudly while looking in his tired eyes. "What are you doing, Sam?"
"What do you mean?"
"Running away," Lou answers quickly. "Haven't you been down this road before? Running from the life you know that has to be yours."
"No. It's different now."
"Oh really?" Lou smirks expectantly at him.
"Yes, really. Last time I wanted to be normal, when I went to Stamford," Sam tries to explain. "This time I know I'm a freak."
"I've told you before and I'll tell you again, dumb-dumb," Lou scolds him for his outlook. "You are not a freak."
"Even after all I've done?" Sam's painful expression makes Lou's face soften again.
"You were doing what you thought was right," she answers, reaching out and pressing her hand onto his chest over her ring that hangs there. "I'm very proud of you."
"No you're not."
"Have I ever lied to you, ever?" Lou asks, looking hurt to see that he won't accept what she tells him.
"Not once," Sam agrees.
"Then trust me. Sam, you've always known you were different. You knew there was something dark inside of you all along. It was deep down, maybe, but you knew it well."
"Come on, Sam. Be honest with yourself, please. You felt it years before you knew for sure, when you had those nightmares about Jessica on the ceiling. Sam, she was dead from the minute you said hello to her and you knew it."
"Don't say that," Sam nearly snaps when he looks up at her, shocked by her words.
"Hell, you knew I was going to die, didn't you?"
"What!?" Sam asks, eyes wide.
"You never told me, but you had a dream back when your psychic stuff was showing you visions. I know about that now, about what you saw."
Sam feels a tightening in his chest with what Lou says to him. He recalls the weekend they met, how the last night before Lou and Lizzy left he had a bizarre nightmare with flashes of different scenes. He saw Lou's mouth covered in blood, Lizzy beaten to a pulp at a motel doorstep, and then finally the back of a woman crying over a pit a fire. He knew once it all happened a year later what he'd seen that day, but he kept it to himself. He barely knew those girls and couldn't risk scaring them like that. Also, if Dean knew something was going to happen big like that in Lizzy's life, he would have gone insane and followed them around the country. They didn't have time for that back then. They had their own shit to figure out.
"Don't you get it? This will always keep happening. You can't find love, Sam. You don't get happiness in the way everyone else does. It's somewhere else for you. And you can't keep running from yourself. Why are you running now?"
"Why are you here, Lou?" Sam desperately needs to know. This has not been one of the good dream visits he normally gets from her. This has been awful.
"Would you believe I'm actually trying to protect you?"
"Youself, dummy. Sooner or later the past is going to catch up to you like it always does. You know what happens then?" Sam looks down and Lou places her hand on the side of his face to show her love and support. "People die. Giant, the people closest to you die."
"Don't worry because I won't make that mistake again."
"Same shit, different day. Things are never gonna change with you. Ever."
Sam looks down away from her again, just for a moment of reprieve, and when he looks up, she's gone.