One-shot. Set in Season 2, Sam remembers a tradition.
Inspired by the first snowfall of the year.
Tendrils of exhaust curl up from the rear of the Impala as it moves along an empty stretch of road; visual confirmation to the coolness of the air that surrounds it.
It's during this strange time, between dusk and the onset of nightfall, that the first flakes begin their descent from above to lightly dust and dampen the car's ebony skin.
Inside, Sam smirks as he tracks his brother's movements through his peripheral vision; disgust littering Dean's features as his neck cranes upward towards the window, as if that vantage point will somehow enable him a better view.
"Sam..." he huffs out.
"Yeah, I'm on it."
The younger man quickly boots up his never far from reach laptop and after a few fluid taps on the screen accesses the weather forecast, its display illuminating the darkened interior of the car.
Sam casts a sideways glance at his brother, the sudden flow of memories crashing into him like a tidal wave. His mind flashes back to another time in the Impala; their dad at the wheel, he and Dean delegated to the back seat. It's a bit foggy, this memory, figures he was probably only two or three years old, but he clearly recalls Dean's excited voice in his ear about the first snow's arrival and their dad turning to the backseat and smiling wide, ruffling Dean's hair with affection.
"Earth to Sam. Still waiting for the verdict, dude."
Sam blinks, the remnants of the scene dissolving as his focus turns back to the screen.
"Yeah, okay. Umm, looks like their calling for up to five inches by morning."
Sam hears a tinge of sadness interwoven in his brother's voice and feels a heaviness in his heart; wonders if Dean is facing memories of his own. Grabbing the map off the seat Sam assesses their current location.
"Well, we're about twenty minutes away from the next town."
Dean sighs, melts back into the familiar fit of the driver's seat and Sam is struck by the vision of John Winchester doing the exact same thing; tugging his jacket around him, running a hand through his hair and ending the production with a scrape of his chin with his hand.
Shadows of the past are strange things, like dreams that catapult you from one moment to the next, and Sam's mind fast forwards to reminisce of a time not that long ago; how he thought about his brother that first winter they were apart, as the first heavy snow of that season began to blanket the earth. He remembers how he had stood outside in it, had closed his eyes and imagined Dean right there beside him, both brothers relishing the pure, untarnished moisture that gathered to coat the ground and nestle in their hair, their skin frosted by its icy touch. How he wished he'd of had that chance.
As he breathed in the brisk air and watched the exhale mist around him he had wondered what his big brother was doing, whether life had afforded him the same, simple pleasure, or if he was in the thick of a hunt, chasing after their prey while the beauty of nature was ignored; flattened without thought underneath his boots.
As he reflects he wonders if Dean kept up the tradition after he had left for Stanford. Although it wasn't something that Sam had taken direct part in, he had developed his own matching tradition in tandem with his brother's; Dean none the wiser to him knowing about it at all.
He hopes he will be able to witness it again; maybe, finally, become an official part of it.
But, things are so very different now. Sure, he and Dean are back together again, kicking ass and taking names, but their reunion has been marred by unspeakable tragedy. Jessica's death has cut out a piece of Sam's heart he may never replace, and then there's dad; gone, and with him the devilish spark of life that had twinkled brightly has dimmed from his brother's eyes, slowly being extinguished by sorrow, guilt, and loss.
He sighs quietly in the passenger seat as he looks to this present version of his older brother. Once having prided himself for seeing past Dean's many facades Sam finds himself unable to decipher the older man's current expression and mood. Sam hates that the cards they have been dealt; the blows that keep on coming have led to him seeming so closed off from the one person who has always been there for him; has always put Sam's needs and safety in front of his own.
Sam starts to bristle and simmer in his seat at the sheer unfairness of it all. Dean; he is the one who has given him the few cherished memories of childhood that seem to be opening up in front of him again, yet here Sam sits, unsure if they are something that his brother would gladly reminisce about or whether it would lead to him regressing even further into himself, the fact that Sam knew about it be enough to shut him down completely.
"Better find a place to hold up for the night. Damn it...stupid snow."
Sam doesn't comment; once confident in calling Dean on his feigned aversion to the white stuff he remains quiet, the uncertainty he feels towards his still grieving brother now utterly apparent.
As they travel along, the snow now thick enough for the wipers to spring into action, Sam yearns to ask his older sibling if he remembers, too.
By the time the Impala parks at the one and only motel in the small town, pockets of white are covering the body of the car and massing on everything in sight. Dean leaves the vehicle abruptly, muttering something about no reason for both of them to get frostbite, and Sam is left alone to his thoughts.
Being so young when their mother was taken, Sam can only speculate on how those first few years were for his brother, torn away in a heartbeat from any semblance of a normal childhood and thrust into a new life; his sense of responsibility for his younger sibling soon to become his reason for being.
Sam's gaze drifts to the window of the motel office and the sight of his brother, his hands perched on the countertop, their fingertips tapping out a rhythm that he figures is a rock song, and Sam's mouth curves into a reflective smile.
There is a glimmer of hope in those movements; that the true essence of Dean, the one that laughs and jokes and makes smartass comments just to get a rise out of him is still in there, lurking just under the surface among the layers of loss and pain; searching for a reason and the right moment to break free.
The snowflakes seem to morph suddenly as Dean steps out from the building, key gripped in his hand; from tiny and multiple formations to large, light and fluffy ones, transforming the air into a cloud of white. Sam sees his brother, for just a split second, lift his face to the sky and close his eyes.
Dean remembers, Sam is sure of it now.
Soon the brothers are parked in front of their temporary home and Sam can't help but smile tenderly as the past once again drifts in; the three Winchesters stopping for the night as the snow accumulated and fell all around them.
"Home sweet home, hey Sam?"
Sam chuckles and looks at his brother, Dean's hair damp from his time outside and a peaceful look on his features. "Yeah."
Dean announces his need for a shower soon after they enter the room and as the bathroom door closes and moments later the sound of water filters through, Sam slowly pads his way to the front of the room and peers out the window to catch sight of the Impala, its body having been covered almost completely in a thick layer of snow.
He grips the countertop and closes his eyes; willingly taking his mind back to the past but looking at it with the maturity and clarity that age affords.
The first time he can recall having witnessed it he was probably four or five years old; the weather had turned bad and their father had grumbled about having to stop for the night. Sam had whined, loudly, as his sibling and dad told him he had to go to bed because he was a little kid and couldn't stay up as late as them. He'd feigned sleep and listened in as the two of them talked and laughed; remembers his dad asking Dean if he was ready and his brother's excited voice declaring he was. As soon as he heard their voices trail away and the door close behind them, Sam had defiantly leapt out of his bed and quickly rushed to the window, anxious to see what they were leaving him out of. Sam laughs at the memory, of him having to climb up on a chair when he realized he was too short to see outside.
He hadn't understood it then, the sight his young eyes gazed upon having no meaning in the moment it happened; the joyful lilt in Dean's voice that told him he was smiling brightly as they walked outside made it seem they were heading out to the greatest thing ever. Sam had watched, from a window not unlike the one he stands in front of now, and looked on at his brother and father as they leaned against the Impala; eyes closed and cast towards the heavens, the snow landing all around and on them, their dad's arm resting gently around the shoulder of his young son.
It had continued on like that, year after year, the two of them waiting until he was asleep before heading out to do the exact same thing. They seemed to bond without either saying a word, and although Sam had been tempted to crash the party on numerous occasions something held him back; seeing the two most important people in his life together in such a peaceful moment had kept him silent, left him to enjoy the moment with them without either of them even knowing he had.
Sorrow pangs at his chest as his memories take him further along; as he and Dean grew older and their father left more frequently and for longer periods of time. The time that used to bring Dean such joy; his one chance to be alone with his dad, not in the arena of a supernatura battle but as a son, soon left him altogether and his smile faded more and more each time that the first snow fell. He had still gone outside when he thought Sam was asleep, and Sam still watched from his vantage point, but it broke the younger man's heart as Dean was forced too use the motel wall as a faux Impala, his face no longer turned towards the sky but rather keeping watch on the road silently wishing his father would somehow arrive in time to share the moment with him.
Sam sniffles slightly at the scene paying out in his mind, and the knowledge that the moment would never happen again.
He flinches out of the memory as Dean's voice invades his senses and disrupts his most recent trip to the past.
"All done, Sam. And dude, no offense but you better take a turn, you are ripe."
Sam scoffs at that as he inconspicuously wipes a hand across his face, not able to really look at his brother as he grabs some clothes from his duffel and heads to the small room at the back; fearful that his brother will notice the tears that hover in his eyes. "Nice. Did you at least leave any hot water this time?"
"You know me, Sam."
There's a hint of humour in Dean's words but Sam senses something else intertwined in them, but can't place the emotion that lingers there.
"So...limited hot water then, right?"
Dean chuckles as Sam walks into the room and pulls the door closed behind him, leaning against it for support. His eyes drift closed and he allows silent tears to track down his face. As he starts up the shower, steps inside and allows the water to cascade across him Sam makes his decision; he wants, needs to talk to Dean about the memories he has and hopes that his brother won't shut him out but will feel safe enough to share his own.
There is a soft knock on the door once he shuts the water off and grabs a towel from the rack. "Hey, Sam?"
Drying himself off rapidly he wonders how he's going to start off with his speech. "Yeah man, I'll be right out."
There is another small knock on the door and Sam sighs in frustration, Dean's actions only serving to tense him up more and distracting him from his thoughts.
"Sammy? You do know it's snowing outside, right?"
A knot forms in his stomach at not only the nickname but the softness in his brother's voice at the mention of the snow. "Uh, yeah, I did noticed that, Dean."
Sam waits patiently for his brother to finish, the younger man leaning further and further towards the closed bathroom door. "Dean?"
"Okay, well, you know where I'll be."
Wrapping the towel around his waist Sam opens the bathroom door just in time to see the one to the motel room close. Dressing quickly he heads to the window once more and sucks in a breath at the sight that greets him; Dean, leaning against the Impala, his eyes closed and his face lifted towards the sky. It takes Sam's breath away and he just stands there, unable to move; fixated on his brother and bouncing Dean's words around in his head.
Okay, well, you know where I'll be.
It's an invitation, or at least Sam hopes it is. He pulls on his boots and jacket and heads for the door to the outside, his hand hovering slightly above the doorknob before gripping it with purpose and stepping out to face the whitened world and, more importantly, his brother.
Dean tilts his head slightly as the sound of Sam's footsteps crunching in the snow fills the silence of the night, but he doesn't move so Sam slowly makes his way beside him; positions himself against the body of the car.
The two Winchester sons stay there side by side, a comfortable silence encasing them and Sam matches his brother's position, eyes shut and snow finding purchase on the flesh of his face.
Sam gasps as his peace is interrupted, Dean's hand scrubbing his hair and a laugh booming in his ears. "Really need to get the shag cut, Samantha."
He turns to his brother and soaks in the sight of him; cheeks rosy from the cold and his hair stuck to his skin. All those years Sam had looked out and saw Dean just like this run like a movie in his head and he feels closer to him right now than he ever has.
"Glad you finally decided to join me, Sammy. Took you long enough."
Sam's mouth opens up in surprise, the 'what' question forming quickly on the tip of his tongue.
Dean chuckles. "C'mon, man, you weren't exactly stealthy; saw the curtains move every time, dude."
Sam stares at him in shock, the realization that Dean knew all along slowly seeping in.
"You knew? But...but why didn't you..."
"Relax, Sam. It was just as much fun to guess how long it would take until your little face showed up in the window; we... um, I kept waiting for you to come out, but you never did, and that was okay, you were still there with me, Sammy; always. And now..."
Dean's face turns solemn then, not just moisture courtesy of Mother Nature brimming in his eyes. The fact that this is the first snowfall since their father died hits Sam directly in the chest and knocks the wind out of him. Resigned to the notion that he would have to of fought his way into this exact chat with his brother, the opportunity presents itself so easily that Sam finds himself speechless in front of the guarded anguish he sees in his Dean's face.
Dean clears his throat as he continues. "Things are different now, Sam, for both of us. So, what do ya say we renew an old Winchester tradition, together this time? Deal?"
Sam's throat chokes up at what his brother is offering, to be there with him like this, remembering their father without saying a word. His mouth turns and forms a gleaming smile, its whiteness a match for the swirling snow. "Deal."
"Good. That's good, Sammy."
Dean's head turns back to the sky and Sam follows suit, treasuring this peaceful time with his brother and feeling a spread of warmth break through the chill in the air at the sensation; of Dean's arm, as it comes to rest gently around his shoulder.
The End. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed.