Disclaimer: Not mine.

Set, oh, sometime between 2.03 Bloodlust and the end of Season


Dean had been in a foul mood ever since they'd gotten the call from Bobby about a hunt near Brownsville, OR. Dean had been reluctant to take it at all, asking if there was anyone else available, only grudgingly accepting that there wasn't.

"Is it witches?" Sam had asked. Not that he could imagine Dean avoiding a hunt that needed to be taken care of just because he hates witches, but he was grasping at straws, here.

"Nope. Just an ordinary salt and burn. Angry spirit, Bobby's pretty sure he even knows which cemetery the guy's buried in. This one's a gimme." " Dean's response came tense and tight-lipped.

Apparently the hunt itself wasn't the problem, then.

It hadn't been so bad at first. But after they'd stopped for fuel just on the Idaho side of the state line, it had all gone downhill from there.

With every mile Dean got more and more agitated, gripping the steering wheel as if his life depended on it. When the cassette he had absentmindedly shoved into the tape deck started playing Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Under Foot" he turned it off and Sam started to get a little nervous. Had he ticked off his big brother somehow? He didn't think so, but couldn't know for sure without asking, which seemed like a bad idea.

Meanwhile, Dean became increasingly agitated, shifting his attention back and forth between the dashboard and the road.

"Um, how fast are we going?" Sam ventured.

" 'Bout 55."

"Since when do you drive the speed limit?"

"I don't speed all the time, Sammy. Maybe I'm just tryin' to save gas."

"Actually, you do speed all the time, and you don't give a shit about saving gas." Sam considered the implications of this. "Is there something wrong with the car?"

"The car is fine" Dean ground out. "What is this, Twenty Questions?"

"Depends. You gonna spend the next hundred miles driving like an old lady, or are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?

"Dude, we are in Oregon."

Sam racked his brains, trying to remember what was wrong with Oregon. Sure, some bad things had happened to them here. But that was true of pretty much every place they'd ever stayed for more than a few hours.

"I give up. What's so terrible about Oregon?"

Dean made a pained sound. "They don't let you pump your own gas in Oregon."

"So? . . . . .oh. Oh."

Sam stifled a laugh, knowing it was in his best interest to do so. "It'll be fine, Dean.

Dean just scowled. "Those guys at the gas stations here, it's just a job to them, they touch a bunch of different cars all day and probably don't even wash their hands in between and . . . "

"Dean!" Sam almost told him to get a grip, before he realized that would be spectacularly the wrong thing to say.

A little glassy-eyed, Dean broke off his tirade and went back to staring fixedly at the road.

"Dean, the car'll be fine. It's been through a lot worse than whatever some gas station attendant is gonna do to it."

Sam thought he was being diplomatic and supportive, but all he earned from Dean was a glare. Sam was mystified. Sure, the Impala had gotten a few dings and scrapes along the way with the life they led, didn't everybody? It didn't change the fact that Dean took damned good care of the car. Well, except for that one time, and he'd taken a swing at Sam around then, too. Dean had apologized, and Sam had readily forgiven him. Unbeknownst to Dean, Sam had also overheard him apologizing to the car, although he hadn't stuck around to see if Dean was actually waiting for an answer.

Come to think of it, Sam mused, that hadn't been the first time he'd observed Dean treating himself and the 1967 Chevy pretty much the same way. Whenever Dean stopped for fuel for the car, he always got snacks for Sam, too. Dean always knew which of the nearly imperceptible knocks and pings signaled trouble for the Impala, just as surely as he diagnosed a hitching of breath or incipient sniffles in his brother. Dean took care of both of them, and trusted no one but his brother and his car to have his back. Dean had issued both of them their nicknames - and only Dean could pack as much affection into the word "bitch" as he did "baby."

Well of course Dean would see them the same way. Dad had consigned both to Dean's care and protection.

Oh god. Dean probably didn't make any distinction between them whatsoever. Either he thought of the Impala as another sibling, or else he thought of Sam as. . . no, not going there.

Anyway.

It's not as if they could avoid danger altogether. All Dean could do was ensure that everyone was prepared going in, and he fixed up whatever got hurt or broken coming out, regardless of whether that was fractured ribs or flat tires. Sam sure didn't hold Dean accountable for anything like that. And this wasn't even any real danger, it was just someone besides Dean touching his car, which was going to go over just as well with him as letting Sam get prodded by doctors or nurses. Sam sighed.

"It'd . . . she wouldn't blame you, you know."

Dean didn't say anything, just looked askance at his brother to see if he was being mocked.

Sam continued calmly. "Sometimes getting a little grubby or banged up is just part of the job. Nothing really bad is going to happen to her while you're around. She knows that."

Dean seemed to decide that he probably wasn't being mocked.

Sam went on. "You can't protect her from everything. If the gas station guy gets her dirty, you'll wash her, and if he scratches her, you'll buff it out, right?"

"Well, yeah, but... "

"But nothing, Dean. Don't worry about it. She trusts you to take care of her." Sam figured it was time to turn the tape player back on and maybe not think too much about the lyrics.

Dean didn't need a chick-flick moment to understand what Sam was saying.

Later, as soon as they were finished with the hunt and checked into a motel, Dean let Sam have the first shower while he took the Impala to the nearest car wash.


Author's Notes:

-For those of you who may not know, self-service gas stations are the norm in the United States - except for in Oregon and New Jersey. Those states, by statute, ban customers from pumping their own gas. I recently drove to Oregon with a friend of mine who was completely freaked out by this, and I started wondering how Dean would feel about it.

-This is probably as close as I will ever get to sis-fic.