A/N: Okay, this will be the last you hear of me in the year 2012. I will be returning in 2013 with a new project. (It's my first ever attempt at Superwho, so this could either be fantastic or it could fail epicly.)
Disclaimer: As usual, I don't own any of the rights related to Supernatural. Or, for this chapter, Styx. Which is sad.
Sam woke up because Claire was shaking him.
"What happened?" he muttered. When he sat up, his head still hurt, but not nearly as much as it had when he was in Dean's body. He could practically taste his powers trying to fight their way to the surface and could not help wondering just how far Dean had gone to get them back in their right places.
"I set the puppet on fire," Claire said with a proud smile. She indicated the remnants of what must have been a devastating fire; Sam could see the foam from a fire extinguisher everywhere. Claire really wasn't half bad at this.
"Nicely done," Sam said. He pulled himself to his feet and was surprised to see that Claire was staring at him intently. "What?"
"Are y'all back in your proper places, or do y'all have more research to do?"
Sam looked down at himself, brought his hands up to feel his hair. Yep, it was longer, though not as conditioned anymore, because Dean just couldn't bring himself to do that. "I think so," he said.
Claire glanced around the aisle at the still-unconscious Dean. "Good." She pulled him to the back of the store and sat down in front of him with a look that clearly said she meant business. "Listen," she said, and the tone she took with him was enough to stop anyone in their tracks. "I don't know if you realize this, but there's something inside you. It kept your brother on his feet when he was in there, but it ain't good. Even I could see that, and I ain't magic or nothing."
Sam sighed. That was exactly what he needed—one more person telling him what he could and couldn't do. But it was hard to argue with wide, earnest eyes, so he just shrugged. "Yeah. I know. I've been that way since I was a baby."
Her eyes softened just the slightest bit when he said that, like she suddenly understood that she had stepped into something that had a lot more history than she was ready to deal with. But then she straightened up anyway. "And another thing," she said. "I already talked to your brother about this, and he turned me down, but—"
"You ain't even heard what I have to say!"
"The answer's still no," Sam said. He could already tell what it was that Claire wanted. He had seen the same look on Jo's face before, and he's seen that look on Dean's face his entire life. It was the excitement, the draw of the hunt, and it had her, and it wasn't about to let go. "You've got your entire life ahead of me, and trust me when I say that you don't want to get involved. It's hard to get out of this life once you're in it."
"What if I don't want out of it?" Claire countered.
"Trust me. You will."
"Trust me. I won't," Claire said. "I mean, look at what you do! You get to save people, be heroes. You're part of a world that most people can't even dream about!"
"And it's terrifying, and you lose everyone you love."
"You haven't lost Dean," Claire pointed out.
Sam frowned and looked away.
Claire leaned forward and put her hand on Sam's shoulder. "You haven't, have you?"
Sam just shrugged her off, but thankfully, Dean was starting to wake up now, and he groaned with terrible pain from being thrown around so much. "Aw man," Dean said from across the store. "I feel like I been run over by a truck."
Claire laughed. "You should go to your brother," she said.
"Thanks," Sam said. He stood up and offered Claire a hand up before he rushed to Dean's side.
Dean looked pretty awful—and the worst part was he'd only done this to himself, literally. He had been the one to throw his own body around. He groaned as he wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth, but when Sam tried to offer him a hand up, he just pushed him away, like usual. "Sammy," he moaned. "Sammy, I'm sorry."
There were a hundred things that Dean could be blaming himself for—things he could be apologizing for.
"I'm sorry," Dean said again. He leaned back against the fallen racks to try and pull himself together. "I couldn't control it like you could. I let it get in my head before I realized it was happening."
Oh. Sam understood now. He was talking about Sam's powers. Of course he was. That was what was always important. Not that Dean was dying, not that he was going to lose his soul to eternal torment. No, what was important was keeping Sam "pure" and clean and whatever else Dean wanted to call it. Sam frowned. He knew he had tasted the afterimages of his powers being used, but what had Dean done?
Dean took Sam's silence to mean that Sam was disappointed in him, which of course was not true, but that was how Dean usually took things. He sighed and leaned back even further, closing his eyes and rubbing the bridge of his nose. Finally, he said. "I'll make it up to you, Sam. I don't know how, but I will. I wish I was strong enough to keep it back, but there was this yellow light and then my whole head hurt and—"
"Dean." Sam held up his hand to stop his brother's explanation. Then, a little more quietly and with a small smile, he said, "Dean, I couldn't control it when I first felt my powers, so I wouldn't expect you to be able to, either. It's not your fault."
"I should have—"
"Shut up." Sam offered a hand to help his brother up, and this time, Dean took it. He pulled Dean to his feet, then looked around. "Where's Claire?"
"Wasn't she with me—you—whoever?" Dean asked. He rubbed his head. This whole switching bodies thing was really confusing.
"She was, and she was talking about wanting to learn more about . . . ." He trailed off when he realized where Claire must have run off to.
Dean realized it at the same time, and they both went busting out of the front doors. But Claire had already pulled out of the driveway in her little truck.
Dean swore and kicked the curb, while Sam was not sure whether to grin after her or humor Dean's anxiety attack. "I guess it's time to tell that old lady what happened to her shop," Sam said. He figured he should say something to keep Dean from jumping in the Impala and tailing the poor girl until one or both of them ran out of gas.
"Or we could just jump ship and get outta town before she wakes up," Dean said.
Sam nodded. He liked that option.
Dean was a little slower getting into the Impala, not only because he was hurting and sore but because he was still trying to get used to his old body. Sam was the same way; he was still struggling to remember to duck when he got in the car when he had finally gotten used to getting in normally. And Dean was ducking and scrunching like he was still four inches taller.
They drove fast out of that town and didn't stop until they hit a gas station that was far enough out of town that they could safely assume that no one was around to identify them.
"I'm gonna give that sheriff a call," Dean said. He handed the pump over to Sam—which he was doing more often, the closer they got to the end of his year. He said it was mostly to give Sam the experience he needed, but Sam figured he was also trying to distance himself from his life so it would be easier when it was time to go.
"Figure he did us a solid, and I hate leaving him in the lurch when he could've turned us over to the FBI."
So Sam found himself filling the car while Dean ducked around the corner, his fingers in the ear that wasn't pressed to his cell phone. Sam only heard the beginning of the conversation: "Hey, sheriff, listen. We found the thing that's been messing up your town, but there's a downside . . . ."
Sam frowned. He could feel his cell phone vibrating, probably Ruby calling to check in on him. He glanced around the corner, but Dean was facing him, keeping an eye on his little brother, as always. He couldn't talk to Ruby right then. Dean already hated her, and now he was blaming himself for "inflaming" the psychic powers problem. This was not the time to complicate things with Dean.
Sam waited in the car for Dean to get back and tried to smile his best reassuring smile. "What'd he say?"
"He was glad we got rid of the puppet, but he couldn't believe we torched half the toy shop to do it."
"He want to press charges?'
"Naw. I think he figures it's worth saving the lives in his town," Dean said with a shrug. "How ya' holding up, Sammy?"
"It's weird having to duck everywhere again," Sam said. "But it's nice being back in my own body."
"Is it?" Dean looked at him hard.
"Dean . . . ."
"No, really," Dean said. "I've been inside there, Sam. And it doesn't feel good. Are you really doing okay?"
"I'm fine," Sam said. He stared straight ahead. He hated that he had to have this conversation with his brother every time he even mentioned the psychic thing. Was it really so wrong that Sam had something inside him if he had a handle on it?
Dean pursed his lips. "Yeah. Of course you are."
Sam didn't say anything, and Dean wasn't going to elaborate, so he turned on the radio. It was Styx, "Fooling Yourself," and Dean leaned back. He wasn't going to change it.
"And you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it.
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it.
How can you be such an angry young man
When your future looks quite bright to me?
How can there be such a sinister plan
That could hide such a lamb, such a caring young man?"