Title: Hear No Evil
Characters: Dean, Sam, GEN
Disclaimer/Spoilers: Ownership is a fantasy we have about the corners of our lives that sustain us. The muse belongs to no one but its creator. Which is certainly not me. More's the pity. Season 2, set after 2.15, Tall Tales and before 2.16, Roadkill. Anything prior to the first appearance of that darn Trickster is fair game.
Summary: The trickster left the brothers in need of a clean hunt. An explosion turns a routine spirit hunt into anything but clean. Dean must deal with the ramifications, while Sam tries to finish the job and help his brother pick up the pieces.
Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.
Henri Louis Bergson
"That seem weird to you?"
Ozone hung thick and tangible in the air, teasing Sam's lips with the acrid taste of lightning as he swiveled his head on his shoulders, his hair rustling against the unyielding stone of the grave marker, and looked with incredulity at his brother. Another flash of light revealed Dean with his back pressed flush against an imposing monument to the dead, his lower body hidden by the wide base of the obelisk. His strong, calloused hands were sliding down the barrel of his empty shotgun, his lower lip caught between his teeth, his eyes narrowed against the sudden brilliance.
"You're gonna have to narrow it down," Sam called back.
Dean's hasty fingers slid another shell into his sawed-off shotgun and he darted green eyes Sam's way. "Lightning. But no thunder."
"We have an ala on our asses, Dean."
Sam checked his clip. Empty. He shoved the useless weapon into his jacket pocket, shifting its cold weight deep into the hollow of material with a lift of his shoulders, and tightly gripped the bow in his left hand.
"What's your point?"
He heard Dean chamber a round, ignoring his brother's sarcasm. Night lay like a blanket over the small cemetery, peppering the leaf-cluttered ground with intermittent streams of moonlight as clouds scuttled across the wide expanse of sky, making Sam feel insignificant. The ala's deep-throated groan rolling toward them from the other side of the cemetery made him feel too big. The grave marker he crouched behind was clearly insufficient as cover.
"Storm demon, man," Sam continued, pulling his lanky body close to the minimal protection of the tombstone, his heavy boots dragging tufts of grass along in his wake. "Lightning is like… its Impala."
Dean looked over at Sam, an eyebrow raised in appreciative amusement. His eyes were narrowed, his face pale in the quick flashes of electric light, but his lips were cornered in a grin.
"Guess we have to shoot the tires, then," Dean almost cackled.
Sam slid long fingers along the ground searching for the arrows. The arrows they needed to defeat the ala. The arrows he 'd had them moments before. He'd had them before the ala tossed Dean away from him with a howl of frigid air. He'd had them as he'd rolled for cover behind the tombstone, eyes frantically seeking the familiar shape of his brother in the dark. He'd had them until the lightning started, dazzling his vision with white-hot light, slamming pain to the back of his skull like a ricocheting bullet, causing him to cower.
His fingers brushed pine needles, mulched leaves, minuscule twigs.
"Shit," Sam craned his neck to shoot a look over the top of the tombstone. A bolt of lightning cracked five feet from him, drawing an inadvertent cry from his throat and sending him forward, body curled instinctively in projection.
"Keep your fuckin' head down, Sammy!" Dean's growl was audible over the cacophony of the sudden wind.
Sam gaped momentarily at the shadowed figure now hovering above the scorched earth the lightning had just seared.
"I lost the arrows!" Sam screamed at him, hoping his renegade of a brother was grounded enough to remember that they needed the blood-tipped weapons to take down the Serbian demon.
"I know!" Dean yelled back. "I found them!"
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?!" Sam twisted around to try to get a look at the figure pelting them with wind and energy.
Dean stuck his arm around the protection of the stone monument erected to honor the life of a man they didn't know, firing their last two rounds of salt into the human-shaped black cloud. The utterly inhuman shriek canceled the wind and left the brothers panting in the vacuum. Sam reached up and pushed a tangle of hair from his eyes, watching carefully as Dean pressed the back of his hand to his mouth, both working to steady their breathing.
"Here it comes," Dean whispered in the sudden quiet of the night.
Sam nodded, though he knew his brother's eyes were not on him. Not anymore. They were watching the sky as the shadow of the earth slowly ate the luminous silver of the full moon in an unnatural eclipse.
Twilight spread quickly over the surrounding land, and a creaking, stretching groan began to build from the belly of the shadow-like beast positioned on the other side of Sam. It was growing, stretching, lengthening, drawing power from the eclipse, feeding on the night.
Sam heard it draw breath.
"Sam. Come here." Dean's order was as compelling as if his brother had reached out and pulled him close.
Sam gripped the bow and crab-crawled through the ground debris to crouch next to Dean, not taking his eyes from the imposing figure of the ala.
"Give me the bow."
"I'm closer," Sam shot back. "Give me the arrows."
"Sam! Give. Me. The. Bow!"
"Dean! Stop trying to—" A sudden infusion of fetid air halted his argument.
He looked over at his brother's face, pale in the oddly shimmering blue light save the scruff of beard that edged Dean's jaw and framed his tightly-drawn lips. Dean's wide eyes filled the hollows of his face with horror as he looked toward Sam's feet. His stomach tightening in a nameless fear, Sam followed Dean's gaze.
The ground was crawling.
"Holy shit," Sam breathed. "What the—"
Staring in awe at the unreal sight, Sam felt Dean's hand on his arm, fingers curling in the fabric of his jacket, desperation yanking Sam as his brother shot upright from his crouched position.
"Climb!" Dean ordered, pulling Sam up the side of the wide base of the obelisk as if he weighed nothing.
Sam shook off his shocked horror and dug the fingertips of his left hand into the grooves of the letters etching the name Martin Victor into the stone, climbing quickly to the narrow part of the obelisk behind his brother so that they both clung several feet above the now shuddering earth.
"What the hell!" Sam gripped the stone that jutted between himself and Dean, parting them and protecting them. He darted his eyes around the base of the monument, staring as the earth came alive with the dead. "Ale don't create… zombies!"
"It's not," Dean said, slapping at his pockets with one hand while clinging to the narrowing point of the obelisk with the other. "It's bringing up the roots and stuff—look!"
Sam peered into the gloom and saw that Dean was right: the storm demon was using its power over the birth and destruction of earth-bound life to jump start the root system of the trees throughout the cemetery, shoving the caskets and coffins up through the dirt and into the night air.
Sam gagged as coffins fell open, spilling their contents onto the ground.
Never seems this bad when we're burning them…
"Where the hell is my lighter!?" Dean exclaimed.
Sam couldn't pull his eyes from the image of the earth spewing her dead at the bidding of a shadow. "Rear left pocket," he called back.
"Son of a bitch," Dean breathed. "How'd you—"
"You always put it there," Sam replied, eyes on the nearly-perfect mummified face of a teenaged girl
"Huh," Dean commented, his voice muffled as he gripped an arrow between his teeth, flicking his lighter and holding on. "Yeah, okay, this is gonna be interesting."
"We could… climb down," Sam suggested, eyeing Dean warily. That last place he wanted to be was on the ground surrounded by decomposing bodies as the ala harnessed the power of the moon.
"And have a grave open up and swallow us whole? No thanks." Dean lit the tip of the arrow he had gripped between his teeth.
Without prelude, without remorse, rain fell in a suffocating sheet of water. The fire at the tip of the arrow was extinguished and Sam's hair was instantly plastered to his skull, the deluge making even blinking difficult.
He was breathing rain.
Flooding torrents ran with murderous intent along the ground, around their tenuous position of safety, blinding Sam and cloaking Dean. The only way he knew his brother was still balanced on the other side of the obelisk was by the feel of Dean's fingers pinned between Sam's chest and the monument where they both clung.
Sam felt his own grip slipping on the wet stone and wrapped a leg around the obelisk, catching Dean's leg between his and the stone as he did so. He felt Dean shift as his brother used that anchor to his advantage and released the obelisk with his arm, clutching the pillar with his knees, and lit another arrow, his body curved over the struggling flame.
"Bow!" Dean called, reaching for Sam, the tips of his fingers parting the curtain of rain that separated them.
Sam handed the bow over without argument, knowing the fire needed to burn away the blood before it pierced the cloud of the ala. Roots broke through the muddy earth. The ala groaned in heady anticipation.
They didn't have time to screw around. He could feel Dean's leg shaking from tension and effort beneath his.
"Shoot it!" Sam yelled through the torrent of water. He could barely make out Dean's face as his brother protected the weapon with his body. "Shoot it, Dean!"
Dean didn't answer and Sam felt his brother's muscles spasm again. He gripped the obelisk with his left hand and thrust out his right to grasp the edge of Dean's wet shirt, trying to balance him. The stench of the blood burning away from the metal tip of the arrow could be detected through the wet air.
"Shoot the son of a bitch!" Sam pleaded, choking on rain.
Dean's shoulders rolled back as he straightened, his eyes blinking through the rain, jaw set, determined. One arm extended, the other drew back. Sam focused on his brother's hands, fingers curved and holding the notched arrow steady.
"C'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon…" Sam chanted.
"C'mon c'mon c'mon…" Dean echoed, and let the arrow fly.
The rain stopped with the sound of a scream shaking through the air like a heat wave. Dean's arrow buried itself deep in the heart of the ala, the effect rolling the earth, sending the tree roots into retreat, sliding the shadow free of the moon, and tumbling the brothers from the obelisk to the saturated cemetery floor.
For a moment they sat in silence, sputtering as the water abated in its flow, sinking slowly from around their waists to splash against their thighs. They stared as one at the empty space the Serbian storm demon had occupied.
"Now that's what I'm talking about!" Dean suddenly exploded. He pounded a wet fist into a puddle of muddy rainwater and whooped. "Mess with the bull you get the horns, baby!"
Sam shoved his wet hair from his eyes, looking over at his brother in wry amusement. "You done?"
"Dude," Dean blinked water from his lashes. Moonlight illuminated his eyes and reflected off the water running in crooked lines down his face. "We just took down an ancient storm demon. It's okay to celebrate a little!"
"Hooray," Sam intoned.
"You're hopeless, Sammy," Dean shook his head, water skipping from the tips of his short hair to splash into Sam's eyes. He pressed his hands into the suctioning mud and struggled clumsily to his feet, reaching down toward Sam.
"You okay?" Sam asked, reaching up to grip his brother's mud-covered hand.
"Need to get me another Thigh Master if we do this again," Dean grimaced, rubbing at the inside seam of his soaked jeans.
"Another Thigh Master?" Sam asked, bending over to pick up the discarded bow and arrow.
Dean smirked. "It's not all about exercise, Sammy."
"I'm sorry I asked."
Dean limped forward, snatching his shotgun from where it came to rest against Molly Fitzpatrick's tombstone. "Thanks, Molly."
"What are we gonna do about…" Sam looked around the dark, muddy cemetery, gaping graves like wounds in the earth, the bodies strewn and tangled like hap-hazard stitches.
Dean sniffed, shaking himself roughly, then tipped his head to the side, tapping water from his ears. "Nothing."
Dean lifted an eyebrow. "You want to re-bury them all?"
"Uh… no, not really," Sam confessed. "But, Dean—"
"We leave, Sam. Same as we always do," Dean started forward, away from Sam, rotating his left shoulder as if to work out a kink. "Somebody'll write it up as a freak storm and flash flood. Tide came in. Something."
"Tide?" Sam followed as the white in Dean's wet flannel shirt began to fade from his sight. "Dude, we're like…a hundred miles from shore."
"So," Dean glanced back at him. "No tide then?"
"Well, they'll think of something," Dean sighed as the Impala came into view, ensconced safely in a copse of trees well away from the ala and any prying eyes. "They always do."
They removed the branch coverings from the trunk of the car, then Dean unlocked and lifted the lid, dropping his shotgun and the bow next to their two green duffels.
"Hey, I never asked you," Sam said, pulling his pistol from his jacket and setting it inside carefully. "Where the hell did you find dragon blood in Delaware?"
Dean chuckled, a low rumble from his chest that said more to Sam than the usual torrent of words his brother often used to cover emotion. Slowly shrugging out of his sopping flannel shirt, Dean glanced sideways at Sam with a, "Who said it was dragon blood?"
Sam paused in his attempt to wring out his jacket, peering at his brother through clumps of wet hair hanging like beaded curtains before his eyes. "Thought Dad's journal said—"
"That the dragon was the enemy of the ala, yeah," Dean nodded. "But that's not what Dad used."
Sam propped his foot on the bumper of the Chevy, mirroring his brother as he worked the tight, wet knot loose on his boot. "Dad fought an ala?"
"Man," Dean shook his head. "For all your studying you sure did miss stuff."
"Wait… you're telling me Dad fought an ala when we were kids?" Sam asked, wringing his socks out and grimacing at his long, pale feet shining in the moonlight. He'd always hated the sight of his feet. His habit was to keep them covered at all times, but stepping mud-covered and drenched into the Impala was not an option. This much he knew without Dean saying a word.
He paused in his disrobing to wait for Dean's answer. He watched his brother reach over his head, a grimace of pain skirting the edges of his face, and grab his wet T-shirt between his shoulder blades, pulling it over his head and balling it up in his fists.
Sam frowned at the long scuff and bruise that ran along the length of Dean's left side.
"You remember that houseboat we stayed at for awhile in South Carolina?" Dean started, shaking the T-shirt out and hanging it on the raised trunk lid. He started in on the button-fly of his jeans, glancing askance at Sam.
Sam peeled his wet shirt from his body, feeling his flesh raise in ripples as the cool night air slid across his bare skin. He mimicked Dean's motions to the smallest gesture as they squeezed rainwater from their sparse collection of clothing.
"Yeah," Sam nodded, the wet tendrils of hair sticking to his cheek. He brushed them away impatiently and shoved the wet denim of his jeans down past his knees. "I remember being pissed because it was a dump and reeked like dead fish."
"Well," Dean flicked his wrist, twisting his wet boxers into a coiled rope and letting the water run over his bare, muddy feet. "That's because we were squatting there, dummy. No one had lived there for awhile."
Sam shook his head, his eye-roll lost to the night. He reached into this duffel and grabbed a dry pair of jeans, pulling them on sans boxers. They would be stopping soon, anyway.
"Yeah, that sounds about right," he muttered.
Dean shifted his dry jeans over his hips with a small hop and grabbed a gray Henley from his bag, pulling it over his head. "You want to hear this or not?"
"Sorry," Sam tapped the air in surrender. "Go on."
He wiggled his shoulders into a black hooded sweatshirt, enjoying the feel of the soft, dry cotton as it fell across his chilled shoulders. Perching on the opened trunk to dry his feet and don clean socks and his sneakers, Sam watched Dean gently probe the bruise on his side, fingers skirting his exposed ribcage like a piano player.
"You were, what? Ten, eleven maybe?" Dean said, sitting next to his brother in the opened trunk and shoving his arms into the sleeves of his shirt, having apparently decided he'd survive the wound on his side. "As usual, he didn't tell us why we were there…"
South Carolina, 1994
I run the blade of the Bowie across the whetstone in the slow rhythm Dad has shown me without realizing he's showing me. It's hypnotic, this marriage of motion and sound. I fall into it, centering my attention on the curve of my fingers, the steady shink of metal against the coarse, gray rock, the soft whoosh of air against the fine hairs on my arm.
It is a moment of peace I don't often get and I soak it in, knowing that any minute—
"Dean! Where the hell is he?"
"Told you. On a job."
"Not a job if you don't get paid."
"Heroes don't care about money."
"Yeah, well, my stomach does."
I lift my eyes and meet his sullen hazel gaze. His chin is propped on the backs of his folded hands, pressing his lips together in a significant pout. His hair brushes the edges of his lashes, needing a trim. But Sammy is not a high and tight kid. His hair is a rebellion he would not soon give up, of that I am sure.
"Duh," he mumbles.
"There's a Long John Silvers down the street," I suggest, mostly for his reaction. He hasn't stopped complaining about the houseboat since we arrived.
"Gag! No way, man. No fish."
"Fine," I sigh, sheathing the knife reluctantly.
I stand, intending to cross to what passes for a kitchen in the dilapidated interior when a sudden wave rocks the house, slamming it against the pier with a harsh howl of wind and sending me tumbling against Sam's small body.
"What the fu—"
"Boys!" Dad's bellow is frightening and welcome. I feel the surge of relief and energy that always floods my senses at the sound of my father's voice.
"Get out here! On the double—MOVE!"
I stumble as the boat house rocks again, my arms swinging instinctively for purchase, and feel Sam's hands grab my wrist, small fingers clinging tightly.
"Dean, what's goin' on?"
Hurricane, I think. Has to be.
"SAM! DEAN! NOW!"
I hadn't noticed the darkness closing in, warning of the approaching storm. I hadn't noticed the build-up of wind. I hadn't noticed the growing ferocity of rain. But all were now pelting the fragile houseboat with tenacious anger, and my brother was in the middle of it.
"C'mon, Sammy," I yell at him over the storm rocking my eardrums like Angus Young.
I twist my hand around so that I am holding his wrist now and tug him close to me. He is small enough to fit beneath my arm, his head tucked into my chest as we stagger toward the door and Dad's voice.
I turn the knob, pushing the door slightly into the void, and gasp as the wind rips it from my hand, narrowly missing decapitating Dad as it flies into the slate-black sky. Rain rushes in, pelting us with viciously cold splats of water, soaking us. I cling to the frame, bracing my legs apart for balance.
"Get your brother outside and get to the car," Dad orders me, his dark eyes hot with panic and purpose. I take in his disheveled clothes, the blood on his hands, and an old-school bow and arrow clutched in his grip. I realize in that moment that this is no hurricane.
"Don't argue with me, Dean!"
"Dean, what's happening?" Sam asks me. Always me. Looks at me. Hair wet and clinging, eyes large and scared, face pale.
"We're getting the hell outta here, that's what's happening," I answer him, pulling his fisted hands from my shirt, and thrusting him forward.
Into the gap of water between the house and the pier. Into the empty space between places of safety.
I stare stupidly at the churning surface of the water closing over Sam's head as the houseboat rocks again, slamming against the pier and tossing me to the wooden slats on my ineffective ass. I land hard, air vacating my body in a speedy exodus.
"Where's Sam!" Dad yells at me, his eyes tearing from a vaguely human-like shape standing on the water to me, then back.
I stare, trying to breathe. It is as if the air has become blades, slicing my mouth, cutting my throat, shredding my lungs.
Dad grips my wet shirt in one strong fist and with minimal effort pulls me to my feet.
"Where's your brother?!"
"He f-fell…" I stutter, shame at my trembling lips turning my stomach into a block of ice. "I got it," I promise. "I got him."
Dad releases me and turns to face the water. And the…thing. I scramble to the edge of the pier—away from the missile-like houseboat—and with one final glance at Dad, I dive into the churning water, an image of him curled over a flaming arrow burned into my brain.
I surface into a maelstrom, calling for my brother. The waves slam me, water climbing into my nose, my eyes, filling my ears. I somehow hear his voice, a small, tinny echo of sound that cuts into the heart of me. I instinctively follow the sound. Sam is beneath the pier, clinging to a support beam, his face lifted to the wood, sobbing my name.
"I'm here," I gasp, swimming up to him. "I'm here, Sammy."
"Gotta get out, Dean, gotta get out."
"We're out," I assure him, wrapping one arm around his waist, the other around the beam, and hold on. "We're out."
"Of the w-water," he chatters. "Get out of the water."
"Wait, Sam," I say, clutching him tighter against me. His body is small and trembling and I am the idiot who lost him to the water. "We wait for Dad."
Teeth chattering, Sam nods quickly and blends his body with mine, holding onto me as I hold on to the pier. I feel my legs slowly turn to lead, my bones freezing in their flesh casing. I feel my fingers become brittle. I feel my brother trembling.
I hear an odd, guttural groan, my father's curses, the shriek of the wind, but the only sound that matters to me is Sam's softly whispered chant of "We wait for Dad, we wait for Dad, we wait for Dad."
The sudden silence above us actually terrifies me. I want to call out Dad's name, to search for reassurance, but I wait. I wait for Dad.
"Here!" I call, my numb hands going slack with relief as his heavy boots rumble down the pier above us, toward us. I hear his ragged breathing as he lies down on the wood, hanging over the edge, reaching for Sam, pulling him up and away from me.
My arms feel oddly empty and I realize that I am letting go, unable to hold on to the pier with nothing to anchor me to a reason. I feel the water creeping up my neck, over my chin, filling my ears, and then, muffled as though calling me through sleep, Dad's voice is in my head.
"Atta boy, Dean."
Arms are around me, pulling me into the air, setting me on the pier, rubbing life back into my chilled body.
"You did good, you did good," Dad is saying.
"We w-waited for you, D-Dad," Sam chatters.
"You did good," Dad says and pulls me upright and into his chest, my nose pressing closed against his shoulder. I feel the unmistakable form of Sam's body at my back as Dad grips us both tightly to him, his voice rolling across the fear slamming his heart against his ribs and into my cheek.
"You did good."
"That was an ala?" Sam asked, standing with his left thigh resting against the Impala's taillight where he'd ended his pace as Dean's voice died away.
Dean kept his eyes down, shielding Sam from the force of his recollection, and studied his hands, stroking his thumb lightly over his callused palm, centering on the rough spot directly beneath his silver ring. He'd pinched his hand there a good many times when he first started wearing the ring.
"Yeah," he nodded. "Found out later when we were leaving."
Sam ran a finger over his upper lip. "I don't remember the storm."
Dean nodded. "You were… a little messed up by that whole thing." He blinked his eyes up at Sam, studying the set jaw line of his brother, remembering a much younger face, much larger eyes.
Sam pushed away from the car, his eyes tracking back to the small cemetery and, Dean knew, the after-image of the dispossessed bodies. "Was it like this one?"
Dean followed Sam's glance, nodding. "Yeah. Sudden and crazy."
"Did he, uh… y'know, tell you about it?" Sam looked back toward Dean, not quite at his eyes.
Dean heard what Sam wasn't asking. Did he trust you, did he open up to you, did he include you… like he never did with me? It had become Sam's way of saying that he wanted to know as much as he could about the mystery that was their father, but was afraid of the answers he might get.
Dean shook his head, lightly rubbing the backs of his fingers along the scruff at his jawline. "I found the arrows when we were clearing out the houseboat. They had dried blood on them. I just… waited." He pushed away from his position on the trunk, turned, and closed the lid, moving stiffly around to the driver's side. He was chilled and sore, but they were both in one piece. Successful hunt. "Couple of nights later, I saw him writing in the journal. When I saw the word dragon, I laughed."
Sam opened the passenger door, pulling up short. "You laughed?"
Dean dropped into the driver's seat with a punched-out breath. "Well, yeah. I mean, dude, dragons? They were Disney cartoons and storybook creatures as far as I knew."
Sam smirked. "Dad set you straight?"
Darting his tongue across his bottom lip and drawing it into his mouth, Dean nodded as the memory of his father's low rumble, like fingers plucking the strings of a bass guitar, slid through his ears.
"Boy, there are things in this world that we might never see, but that doesn't mean they aren't real. You remember that, if you don't remember anything else. It's what we can't see that we need to be ready for."
"He caught me looking, said I should know why we'd been there, told me about the ala." He shoved the keys into the ignition, pausing before turning them to catch the engine. "He said that evolution worked in our favor."
Dean twisted the keys; Bad Company's Crazy Circles echoed through the interior of the car.
"Come again?" Sam shifted sideways in the seat, his long legs filling the space beneath the glove box, his slim fingers spreading across his knees in a position Dean recognized as relaxed in the Book of Sam.
Dean shifted the gear to drive and glanced at his brother. "Komodo, Sam. Komodo Dragon."
"Komodo… Are you kidding me?"
"Nope. Snuck into a zoo, got what he needed."
"Tell me you didn't break into a zoo for this hunt," Sam groaned.
"What do think I am?" Dean replied, purposely not answering his uptight brother. He pressed the accelerator and the screech that greeted his ears drowned out Sam's bark of a laugh.
"Son of a bitch," Dean snarled, pulling the car free from the cover of trees. "I swear to God, Sam, if you messed with more than just her tires…"
"How many times do I have to remind you that it wasn't me?" Sam snapped, shaking his head and rolling his window down, propping his elbow on the open frame.
"Right, right," Dean growled. "Trickster. Sly son of a bitch… not enough to send us on a wild goose chase, slam me against some chairs, and let the air out of her tires… Fucker had to go and mess with the fan belt."
"Maybe it's just broken," Sam grumbled.
Dean spared him an incensed glance as he pulled out onto the empty road. "It's not broken. I rebuilt her myself."
"Things break, Dean," Sam huffed, turning his face to the night air.
"Not things that I fix," Dean returned, flicking the volume of the radio to the maximum level, drowning out the sound of the slipping fan belt.
Paul Rogers' silky voice declared, Life is like a carousel… you aim for heaven, and you wind up in hell. To all the world you're livin' like a king, but you're just a puppet on a broken string.
Dean curled his fingers around the steering wheel, drawing the bass beat of the music into him, letting his body rock with the feel of the drums, the caress of the night wind teasing his cheek from Sam's open window. His eyes took in the reflecting staccato of the yellow road dashes, guiding them into the night and into nowhere.
"You have any idea where we're going?" Sam yelled at him over the music.
Dean allowed himself a rueful smile that Sam wasn't complaining about the decibel of the sound, simply allowing Dean his temper tantrum that things were not right with the Impala.
"Think we should have some idea?"
"'Cause—" Sam stopped, mouth parted, lips working to form a word, a reason, any explanation as to why they had to have a plan.
"'Cause, uh, you're going to want to get that fan belt fixed." Sam's shoulders visibly relaxed.
"I'll just stop at the next town," Dean shrugged.
When the DJ came on, Dean reached down and grabbed a scaled-down box of cassettes, having started to slowly replace his music collection after the accident. With one hand on the base of the steering wheel, his eyes darted between the dark road and the scrawled names on the spine of the cassettes.
Dean fingered the plastic, sensing more than hearing the click of the casings as he looked for something to draw his attention from the now, and from his memories. Glancing up, he saw the hood of the Impala eat the edge of the yellow line.
"I got it."
"For cryin' out loud. Let me." Sam reached for the box of tapes.
"I said I got it!" Dean snapped, jerking the car slightly. The wheels crossed back over the yellow line, into the safety of their lane. "Just need something else to—"
"What?" Dean muttered, irritated that Sam read him, that Sam knew how to see through the mask, that he could hear discovery in his brother's voice.
"What else happened?"
Dean straightened up, grabbing the wheel with his free hand as Sam rifled through the sparse collection of cassette tapes.
"What are you taking about?" Dean kept his voice purposefully even, tightening his jaw as he pressed his lips closed on the end of his words.
"Did something else happen back then—when Dad fought off the ala?"
"No," Dean answered, too quickly. He winced inwardly as Sam pounced on that tell.
"Put in some music, Sam."
"Tell me." Sam sat back, letting the radio commercials poke through the air like the sharp end of an ice-pick at the base of Dean's skull. He crossed his arms, leaning against the door, staring at Dean with a dead-eyed, stubborn look that said I can do this all night.
"Dammit, just put in some music!"
"You were there."
"I was ten."
"Not my fault you didn't pay attention."
"Yes, it was," Sam threw back at him, his words reverberating through the sudden, quick silence as the commercials ended and Staind's Please beat out the quiet.
"What?" Dean looked over at him quickly, then back to the road. The quick flash of Sam's hazel eyes in the glow of the dashboard lights tightened Dean's heart, setting him on an edge of dread. "What are you talking about?"
"I don't remember because you made sure I was kept out of it."
"I was protecting you, Sam."
"I know," Sam shifted, turning away from Dean, his voice softer as Aaron Lewis pleaded, Tell me please, who the fuck did you want me to be? Was it something that I couldn't see? Never knew this would be so political...
"It's not important, Sam," Dean relented, remembering the way his brother shook, the fear in his large eyes, the confusion on his father's face. "It was a long time ago."
"It's important enough to get you all…edgy."
"I'm not edgy."
"The hell you aren't."
"What makes you think I'm edgy?"
"Maybe the fact that I can't hear myself breathe over this freakin' music?!" Sam yelled, finally giving in and turning the radio off. "Jeeze, Dean."
Dean worked his jaw, his ears hissing, the squeal of the loose fan belt happy to fill the silence. He sighed, knowing that he wasn't going to be able to handle that sound for very long.
"What's the nearest town?"
"What do I look like, Rand McNally?" Sam returned.
Dean lifted a brow, glancing to the side. "You look like someone about to be walking, that's what you look like."
"Fine," Sam huffed, opening the glove box and pulling out a crumpled map.
Dean reached up and flicked on the dome light, darting his attention from the road to Sam and back.
"Looks like the nearest place is… uh… Lynch Heights. 'Bout ten miles up," Sam's long finger followed the thin green line on the map. "Looks big enough to have a garage or something."
"Okay," Dean nodded, turning off the light.
He suppressed a shiver of weakened muscles. They hadn't stopped moving since dropping Bobby off after they took out the Trickster. Sleeping in the car, washing up at rest stops, eating at gas station diners, the road had become their home and the job the cover that kept them from growling too loudly at each other.
The Trickster may have amplified annoyances, but it didn't fabricate them from thin air. There was nothing like living in his brother's pocket to make him see the things in himself that he hated the most. Dean heard Sam's sigh as he re-folded the map, felt the weariness roll from his brother and slide across the Impala to seep into him, joining with aches begging to be recognized.
They couldn't keep this up forever.
"You can pick the music."
Sam clicked the glove box shut, tossing him a surprised glance. "You feeling okay?"
"What happened to driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole?"
Dean's mouth relaxed into a genuine grin. "So, you do pay attention."
"When it matters," Sam nodded. "I do when it matters."
Always matters, Dean's inner voice whispered as Sam reached for the radio tuner. He shifted stiffly in his seat, the muscles stretching along his ribs stiffening with stillness, the bruises offered a chance to deepen, digging dark purple blood into the thin shield of his skin, rolling discomfort—he'd not yet call it pain—through his system that he resolutely ignored.
The subtly sexy, melancholy beat of Soundgarden's Overfloater traded silence in for distraction as Dean watched the roadside for the Lynch Heights exit. Sam drummed his fingers against his thigh, his face turned away, eyes on the blurred terrain invisible in the night. Dean settled against the seat, falling into the backbeat as his memories took over.
South Carolina, 1994
"Easy, Sammy," I rush in a shaky, whispered gasp. "Hey, it's okay."
"Gotta get out, Dean, gotta get out."
His arms are so thin. My hands seem to shrink them as I grab hold and pull him back into the room. I look over my shoulder, fear a lump at the base of my throat as I see Dad's tired eyes reflecting the blue light from the muted TV as he stands in the doorway of the adjoining room, staring at us with confusion.
"C'mon, Sam," I encourage, pulling him close to me so that he stumbles over his feet, tripping on mine, falling into me. I close the door, still holding him with one hand, and slide the chain lock into its notch. "Back to bed."
"Gotta get out, Dean…"
He is trembling, his eyes young, wide, and unseeing. I know he's still asleep, but he seems so aware that I question myself.
"Can't wait for Dad… gotta get out."
"We're out, Sammy," I reassure him. "We're okay. Dad got us out."
Sam is staring past me, not at me. I turn him, guide him to the bed furthest from the motel room door. My bed. It had been our habit to allow him to sleep close to the bathroom as he is an early riser. No more. I decide in that moment that regardless of the layout of our motel room, I will sleep between him and whatever waits for us on the outside.
"We're okay?" He asks me, cloudy eyes starting to come around, starting to wake.
"We're okay," I repeat, easing him back against the pillow, rolling him to his side, pulling the blankets up, tucking them around him. "Go back to sleep."
His eyes shut obediently, and I stand still, staring down at him, waiting.
"What was that about?" Dad's voice is a soft accusation. I don't hear curiosity. I hear how did you let him get outside? I hear I trusted you with him, Dean.
"Nothing," I say. "He was just sleepwalking. I got it."
I turn, meet Dad's eyes, watch as confusion drains and a measure is taken. A measure of me. I am fourteen years old and no longer a child.
"I got it, Dad," I assure him. He holds my eyes a moment longer, then blinks slowly, turning in the doorway and heading back to his room, his bed.
I take a breath, feeling a new weight in the air. Sam had always been mine. My job. But I feel it differently now. I feel responsibility chasing the heels of obligation. I feel duty frame the love I'd always known. I feel a future slip away and another slide smoothly into place.
I roll my neck, working to release sudden tension, aware that it is now a permanent part of who I am. I sink slowly down on the outside bed, roll to my hip and wrap the blankets around me.
The pillow smells like Sam.
Part 1B can be found here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/14222.html