Characters: Dean, Sam
Rating: PG-13 for language
Spoilers: Set in Season 2 dove-tailing the end of Episode 2.12, Nightshifter. If you're just joining the fun, spoilers up to then.
Summary: On the run from the FBI, the brothers are sidelined by a snowstorm and find themselves at the mercy of a sheltered town filled with secrets. Staying alive means staying together as they fight to stay on the surface.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
...continued from Part 1A...
Snow had begun to accumulate on the ground and along the front grill of the Impala. Sam watched it dust his brother's short hair and collect on his lashes in the short time it took to walk from the car to the diner's entrance. They walked in, stomping their boots clear of snow and ruffling it from their hair with a quick swipe of fingers.
Dean flashed two fingers at a hostess who looked as if time had pulled the skin of her face loose and neglected to fold it back up again. The weight of it dragged the corners of her mouth down into a bored frown, though her brown eyes were bright as they raked over Dean and tracked down the length of Sam's body.
He felt his face heat up under her sharp gaze. She grabbed two menus and led them to a booth. Dean tipped his head toward the restrooms and Sam nodded back, sliding into the booth as Dean continued past. He ordered two coffees and picked up the menu, his mouth practically watering as he contemplated the sparse offerings.
"Hey, George," called a smoke-ravaged voice sitting at the coffee bar. Sam instinctively looked over, eyes catching on a gray-haired man in overalls with a green John Deer hat shoved to the back of his head. The man was looking at the small TV situated over the coffee makers. "Turn that up, will yas?"
"Since when d'ja care about the news, Charlie?" George, Sam presumed, replied, reaching up and cranking a tiny knob to the right.
"Yous all see that crazy shit—er, 'scuse me—stuff last night in Milwaukee?" Charlie asked him.
Sam's fingers went numb. The menu slapped against the Formica table top as he stared at the news report. On TV, a woman stood in front of the City Bank of Milwaukee, pale daylight surrounding her and causing her to squint as the wind and snow slapped her styled hair against her cheek. He couldn't make out what she was saying over the sound of the men at the counter.
"Some lunatic took a buncha hostages at that bank yesterday; killed three they said," Charlie continued.
"You don't say," George replied, turning the volume up more.
Sam zeroed in on the report, watching as the shot faded from the female news reporter and "Bank Robber: Milwaukee, WI" appeared in the lower left corner, "Recorded Earlier" in the upper right. Unconsciously, Sam rubbed his forehead, his eyes burning with denial.
The female reporter's voice was tinny through the speakers, but it didn't matter: the effect was sufficient.
"We're here downtown in front of the City Bank of Milwaukee, and though a short exchange of weapons fire occurred just minutes ago, police and S.W.A.T. teams maintain position as we enter the third hour of this intense standoff."
The camera bounced slightly as the news team became aware of action at the front of the bank. Sam could hear the voice of the security guard Dean had been leading out to get medical help call out to the myriad of police.
"No, don't shoot, don't shoot!"
And then he saw him. Dean's face was tight with fear—fear like Sam had not seen on his brother's face since they found out that Meg was holding John captive. He saw then the realization of how much trouble they were in settling against Dean's shoulders, crashing down on his brother like a judge's gavel.
"No, no, no, don't even think about it! Get the hell back!" Dean shouted at the cops, pushing the security guard in front of him with one hand, a rifle clutched in his other.
Sam hadn't been there—he'd been heading back into the bank, searching for the shifter. He trembled slightly inside, unable to tear his eyes away as the image returned to daylight and the freezing reporter outside the scene of the crime. She continued speaking, but Sam could barely register the words.
Dean's smart-assed, lip-puckered mug shot flashed up on the screen followed by images of an African American male, the female shifter, and Ronald. Sam rubbed his face. All of them—they were blaming all three deaths on Dean.
"The suspect was last seen fleeing the scene dressed as a S.W.A.T. officer. He is considered armed and extremely dangerous."
The image of Dean emerging from the bank behind the security guard returned, the frame freezing on his profile. Where Sam saw only fear in that expression, others, he knew, would see danger.
"If you have any information on this man, call the number you see on your screen here."
George tsked, his tongue clicking against his teeth loudly. "That boy's gonna have all of Wisconsin on his ass," he muttered.
"Yeah," Charlie nodded as George turned down the volume. "He ain't got nowhere to run."
It took until that moment for Sam to register one key fact: they hadn't once mentioned him. Dean had told him Hendrickson knew about both of them, but the news report had focused only on Dean. Rubbing his face, Sam looked back up at the TV, but the news had moved on to other stories. His eyes caught those of the hostess, though, and he felt his heart trip slightly.
She was watching him, sliding her gaze carefully from their booth back toward the restroom.
She knows, Sam thought desperately.
As casually as possible, he stood, smiled innocently at the keen-eyed woman, and ambled back to the restroom. Once in the alcove, he slapped his hand against the door, hissing is brother's name in a stage whisper.
A toilet flushed.
"Jesus, Sammy, what the hell?"
Dean's voice drifted toward him from the back of the row of stalls. Passing the urinals and the carefully averted eyes of the truckers standing there, Sam followed the sound.
"We gotta go. Now."
Dean exited a stall, his eyes worried, his gaze shooting up and over Sam's shoulder.
"What is it?"
"Now." Sam stressed.
Nodding, Dean moved past him, heading for the restroom door. Pushing it open, he snuck his head around the edge, looking toward the front.
"You see a back door?" he asked Sam.
"No." Sam was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet from anxiety.
"Hey," said a man standing at the sink.
Dean and Sam turned to look at him.
"Thataway," the man informed them, jerking his head to the side. "Past the coolers."
"Thanks," Dean replied, then led the way, Sam close on his heels.
They didn't question the help; they simply took it and the escape it offered. Leaving hefty tracks in the snow as they jogged toward the Impala, they pulled out of the parking lot with Iron Maiden's scream loud enough to cover their fear-laced heartbeats.
Dean's hands flexed on the steering wheel; he tried to calm his racing pulse. The daylight was weak; watered-down sunshine giving way to the darkness of the growing storm. He'd turned northwest when they left the diner, picking up I-94 in hopes that the Interstate would be clearer from the apparently state-wide snowstorm.
The music beat against his skull, distracting him, but Dean didn't want to release the wheel long enough to turn it down. Snow coated the windshield between swishes of the wiper blade and the wind, that had nearly knocked Sam off his feet as they ran to the car, beat against the Impala from all sides, turning her into a giant zamboni.
From the corner of his eyes, he could see Sam dividing his attention between the mirrors and the road ahead, his body leaning forward in an unconscious indication of how badly he wanted to keep moving, get away, turn invisible. It shook Dean how vulnerable he felt; after all they'd done, all they'd survived it seemed unfair that they would be in danger of getting caught like this.
Correction, he was in danger of getting caught. His face, his name was plastered all over Channel 8 news as a murderer. Not Sam's.
"Friggin' cops killed Ron," Dean muttered, unable to help himself. "Even a rookie in ballistics should be able to tell that."
"Hendrickson wants people to catch you, not sympathize with you," Sam pointed out.
"Dick." Dean shook his head slightly, remembering the look of relief and gratitude on Ronald's face when Dean confirmed that, while not a Mandroid, what they were after was indeed unnatural. "This wrong place, wrong time stuff sucks ass. Hendrickson sucks ass."
"You said he knew about me," Sam said once more.
"Bonnie to my Clyde," Dean said by way of answer.
"So how come they didn't show my pic—"
"Because this bastard's got a hard on for me, man," Dean muttered. "Said he's made it his business to know all about me."
"He only knows the lies, Dean," Sam replied, his resistance automatic.
"He knows enough," Dean muttered.
"What do we do now?" Sam asked, his voice losing years as it slipped between the tracks of music and finding a home in Dean's heart.
Dean didn't answer. He couldn't.
There had always been somewhere to go next; a mission, a job, a hunt. There had always been a way to avoid detection. But before…there had also been someone to lead the way, to bark the orders, to focus them. Sam was right; they'd been lucky in Baltimore. If it hadn't been for Ballard seeing the truth, if it hadn't been for her sympathy and understanding, Sheridan would have killed him and Sam would be in prison.
Taking a breath, and releasing it a heartbeat at a time, Dean was finally able to unclench his hands and turn down the music. It was his turn to lead the way; Sam needed a beacon now just as surely as Dean had needed it all those years before.
"We go to ground," he said. "Just like before. You remember Utah?"
Sam frowned. "Utah?"
"Dude, I was twelve."
"Old enough," Dean informed him. "We get out of Wisconsin, stock up, find some place and hole up for a week or two. Just like in Utah."
"What about going to Bobby's?"
"We'll call him when we surface," Dean decided. "We need to be gone long enough that they start looking farther away. Mexico. Canada."
"But we aren't going farther away?"
"In this weather? We're gonna be lucky to get to Minnesota."
"So, no hunts," Sam said, as if needing to establish parameters in his mind. "No looking for the demon."
"Not until we've shaken Hendrickson loose, man," Dean said. "We can't risk it…right?"
"I know. But…kinda seems like sometimes…hunts just find us."
"Be hard to find us in the middle of nowhere," Dean muttered grimly.
They drove on, taking an exit for Highway 10 after passing a cop. The road was all-but deserted; people having more sense than to get out in the middle of a snowstorm.
Dean pulled out of a slight skid and narrowed his eyes at an almost snow-covered sign. "Look—20 miles to someplace called Lethe, Minnesota."
"Christ, it's windy," Sam muttered.
Dean gripped the wheel once more, working to see through the increasing snow. By the time he saw a red and blue neon sign through the blur, it was almost completely dark.
"Looks like a…Quick Shop? Maybe?" Sam replied, eyes narrowed as he peered through the weather.
Dean pulled over, stopping outside the brick building, peering at the blinking lights in the window advertising milk, beer, and lotto tickets.
"I'll go," Sam offered.
"'S okay, I got this," Dean replied, reaching over the back of the seat to the floor behind him. He grabbed the gloves and ski mask he'd tossed back there, pulling them on and covering his entire face, save his eyes.
Sam folded his lips down in appreciation. Dean grinned behind the mask.
"Be right back."
He stumbled from the car, bending slightly to keep from being knocked over by the wind. Grasping the entry bar, he pulled the door toward him, using it to leverage himself inside.
"Damn," he muttered, shaking the snow from his eyelashes.
"You nuts? What the hell you doin' on the road in this?" exclaimed the clerk from his perch behind the counter.
Dean looked over taking note of the man's white hair and wide shoulders before he saw the paper in the man's hands. His picture graced the front page.
You gotta be kidding me.
"Just trying to get a few things before we find a place to pull over," Dean said, lifting a gloved hand in a dismissive, don't mind me gesture. "Be out of your hair in a minute."
Keeping the ski mask in place, he grabbed as many random supplies as he could as quickly as he could and headed to the counter. It wouldn't last them long; he'd have to find another place to stock up before they fell off the grid completely.
"You better get off the road soon, kid," the clerk informed him. "Looks to be going from bad to worse."
"Thanks," Dean nodded at him, gathering the sacks by the plastic handles and heading back out of the door. The wind pushed at him, knocking him against the hood of the Impala before he was able to push his way to the door and safely inside.
"Son of a bitch!" He exclaimed, closing the door behind him and thrusting the bags into Sam's lap. "It's like Hoth out there."
Sam dropped the bags over the back seat and obligingly turned the heat up. "Let's just make sure one of us doesn't get stuffed into the belly of a Ton-ton."
Dean yanked the ski mask from his face and tossed it to the floor at Sam's feet. "Funny," he said, rubbing his short hair and dragging his hands down his cold face.
"What'd you get?" Sam asked, peering into the plastic bags.
"Not enough," Dean complained, sliding the gear to Reverse and pulling out. He told Sam about the newspaper.
"Dude works fast, I'll give him that," Sam muttered, slouching low in the seat.
"I got a bad feeling about this guy, Sammy. This isn't the last we've seen of him."
"Yeah, well," Sam grumbled, his fingers pulling at his lower lip. "Next time let's make sure it's on our terms."
They drove into the storm, Dean's arms and back aching from the effort of keeping the big Chevy on the road. Sam called out when they crossed the state line, but Dean drove on. He could feel the agent's breath on his neck, his words teasing like a lure on a fishing line. Dean knew it served no purpose, letting the man's arrogance trigger him. But the smug attitude of assumption wrapped around each of Hendrickson's words had Dean's jaw line tight, his muscles there coiling beneath his skin.
"Whoa!" Dean cried as the Chevy slipped on the slicked road, her headlights bouncing off of the blowing snow rather than cutting through it.
"Hang on to something, Sammy."
"Think we should pull over?"
"No, no. I got this."
He turned into the skid, trying to correct the Impala's spin, but the elements worked against him. It felt as if the blizzard reached out, grabbed his car, and tossed her off the main road. They bounced across the embankment, the Impala's headlights picking up the hulking shape of what could only be trees.
Dean stood on the brake pedal with both feet, turning the wheel to the left as hard as he could, his will a living thing that sprang from his chest and flung itself between the metal of the car and the improbable fate of a wooden death. They rocked to an abrupt, harsh stop, Dean's chest crashing against the steering wheel as the resounding crack of Sam's head against the dash filled the interior of the car.
For a moment neither of them moved.
The radio played on, the engine hummed, heat wrapped around them.
"Sam?" Dean whispered. He pushed gingerly away from the steering wheel with a grunt of pain, his chest whimpering from the impact. "Sammy, you okay?"
He heard Sam's groan and reached over to tentatively ease his brother back away from the dash. Wincing, he turned Sam's face toward him.
"When I said…we should pull over…," Sam muttered, the wan light from the dash illuminating his tight features, "I really thought…it would hurt less."
"Lemme see," Dean ordered, shifting a knee up on the seat to leverage himself for a better look at Sam's head. He hissed. "You got yourself a goose egg there, kiddo."
"And a headache to match it."
"I got ibuprofen at the Quick Shop," Dean informed him brightly.
Sighing, Dean wiped condensation from the interior of the window. "We didn't hit the trees."
Squaring his shoulders, Dean shifted the gear into Reverse, pressing on the gas. The sound of spinning tires filled the interior of the car. He tried Drive. No luck.
"Would it help if I got out and pushed?" Sam asked, the palm of his hand against his eyebrow.
"It might," Dean replied, shooting his brother a look. "Use the gloves and ski mask."
"I was kinda kidding," Sam pouted, pulling the protective covering on.
"Yeah, well, I wasn't."
Sam muttered something under his breath, exiting the car in a flurry of frenzied snow. Dean opened his door a crack to be able to hear his brother call out. Dimly, he heard Sam shout go and he pressed on the gas. Sam's cries of stop, stop, stop were audible over the spinning tires and Dean shoved the gear into Park.
Gasping for breath over the sound of the wind, Sam went to his knees in the doorway of the driver's side.
"We're wedged against a snow bank, man," he informed Dean. "We're not getting out until we can move that snow."
Dean nodded. "Get in here and warm up," he ordered. "I'll get the spare blankets from the trunk."
Sam nodded wearily and staggered around the front of the car. Dean saw Sam climb into the back seat as he blindly made his way to the trunk, grabbing the extra blankets, coats, and towels from the duffels, his hands shaking from cold, his body aching.
He climbed back behind the wheel, tossing Sam some blankets. "We're not going to be able to keep the car running all night, so bundle up."
"When you said go to ground," Sam grunted as he wrapped the blankets around his chilled body, "I had something totally different in mind."
Dean pulled on a third jacket, tucking the towels around his cold legs. "Look at it this way," he said, cranking the heat for a moment, "no way Hendrickson is gonna find us in the middle of blizzard in BFE Minnesota."
"Buried in snow off the side of the road."
Putting his back to the driver's side door, Dean looked over the back of the seat and met Sam's eyes staring back from the opposite direction. The bruise on Sam's forehead was going to be impressive, but his brother's eyes were bright and aware. Dean pressed a hand against his own chest, willing the ache to ease. Instead, it simply rolled into the other aches and twinges his abused body was working to combat thanks to the ninja skills of a now-dead shapeshifter.
"You still sore?" Sam asked after a moment.
Dean rubbed his chest. "I'll live."
Sam dug into the plastic bags, pulling out the ibuprofen first. Handing Dean four, he dug deeper into the bags. "Water, good. Jerky, okay. Dude, Hostess pie? Really?"
"I was in a hurry." Dean held his hand out for the pie.
"Beer, of course. Corn chips? We are gonna have some awesome breath."
"Hey, I also got toilet paper and toothpaste."
"What else is there in life?"
Sam popped a tab from a beer and handed one to Dean, taking another for himself. Turning the radio up, Dean finished the pie and motioned for Sam to hand him some jerky.
"Twenty minutes and I gotta shut her off. Need to make sure we got enough juice to get out of this in the morning."
Sam nodded, his eyes far away. Dean could tell his brother was listening to the music still rolling from the Impala's speakers. Dean tapped his fingers along with Iron Maiden as the band worked their way across the chords.
"Just for a second a glimpse of my father I see, and in a movement he beckons to me. And in a moment the memories are all that remain, and all the wounds are reopening again…."
"Hey," Sam said suddenly. "Did you mean what you said about Dad?"
Dean finished his beer and reached for another. "Which time?"
"When you said he was an ass," Sam replied. "I've never heard you call him that before."
Dean blinked, surprised. "You remember that? You were three sheets, dude."
"I remember," Sam said, starting his second beer. "I remember your promise, too."
"So you've told me."
"But did you mean it? What you called him?"
Dean sighed. "I meant it at the time. Did I mean it forever? No."
"You were mad at him, though."
Dean looked at his brother. "Yeah, I was mad at him."
"Why?" Sam folded his brows together. Dean watched him tap out three pills from the bottle of ibuprofen and swallow it with his beer.
"What do you mean, 'why'? I told you what he said to me."
"I mean…he was always asking you to do stuff you didn't want to, but you still always did it."
Dean crumpled his second can and reached for a third. "Like what?"
Sam shrugged. "Well…like…taking care of me."
Dean arched a brow. "How hard'd you hit your head anyway?"
"I'm serious, Dean."
"So am I. I wanted to take care of you, Sam. I was never mad at Dad for asking me to do that."
Sam looked away, quiet for a moment. "I guess…I just always figured I was…a weight on you."
"Sammy…you dumbass." Dean shook his head. "Why'd you think I came back to get you when Dad disappeared, huh?"
Sam lifted a shoulder, not answering.
"Taking care of you, watching out for you…man, that's never been the problem. The problem was Dad knowing something and pulling that 'need to know' bullshit and then giving me just enough information to scare the shit out of me before he…," Dean clenched his jaw at the memory, "traded himself to a demon in exchange for me. He was an ass for putting that on me—on us—without giving us anything else to go on."
"Yeah, I guess," Sam muttered, eyes still on the white world outside.
They were quiet for a moment. Dean kept his eyes on Sam, waiting. When his brother didn't reveal what else was obviously twisting him up inside, Dean took a breath.
"What are you really asking, Sam?"
"Why are you staying with me, Dean?" Sam looked at him then, his eyes like wounds in a face too young to have lived through as much as he had. "I mean…why don't you just…leave?"
"Leave?" Dean felt the weight of that word like an anvil on his heart, pressing down to the point of rupturing it. "Why the hell would I leave?"
"I'm like some…ticking bomb, man. We don't know what's going to happen to me, we don't know when." Sam's face was hollowed out with the worry that had been haunting him, Dean realized, since he'd been told the truth. "All we know is that it's gonna be bad—bad enough Dad made you promise to kill me rather than let me…go there. And now…on top of all that, we've got this Federal Agent after us—"
"—after me," Dean corrected.
"Exactly my point. After you. And if you didn't have me to worry about, you could disappear." Sam pressed his lips together for a moment, shaking his head. "I know you, man. Just like Dad, you could turn into a ghost and Hendrickson would never find you. If you were alone."
"Listen to me." Dean held his brother's eyes, his voice low, his tone as serious as he could make it without sounding angry. "You're my brother. We're all we've got. No deathbed prediction is going to shake me loose, you get me? Not after…," Dean looked down at the beer can in his hand.
Glancing out through the snow-blind window, Dean let his mind scroll back, opening boxes in his memory that had been categorized and closed. Remembering was one of the most painful things he ever had to do.
"We've been through too much, man." Dean said softly. "So much worse than this. So much more than some…some piss-ant Federal Agent and his…agenda. You think Hendrickson could have handled Gordon? How about staking Angela in her grave before she zombiefied anyone else? Think he could have handled that?"
"No," Sam replied.
"No. No he couldn't. He couldn't have handled Constance Welch or the striga. He'd have pissed his pants if he'd gone up against that freaky-assed scarecrow or the hookman. And don't get me started on that yellow-eyed bastard."
Sam nodded when Dean paused to take a breath.
"We have a job to do, Sam. Don't lose that. That demon bastard…he's our job. He took out our family. And he's still out there."
"Yeah," Sam whispered, somewhat reluctantly.
"We do this together, Sam. It's always been us, okay? I'm not going to let a little glitch in the system keep me from doing my job. And…," he sighed, rubbing his sore chest and burrowing deeper into the layers of coats. "And I made a promise."
"To kill me," Sam whispered.
"To save you," Dean countered, his eyebrows up, his gaze unwavering.
Sam rubbed his forehead gingerly. Dean sighed, allowing exhaustion to expose a level of vulnerability that rarely—if ever—saw the light of day.
"Shoot, Sammy," Dean said softly, letting his eyes slide away from Sam to rest on nothing. "Who else can I talk to except you?"
"You don't really talk to me," Sam replied, his tone matching Dean's.
Dean looked back at him. "Yeah. I do."
Sam's chin trembled slightly and he glanced away.
"What about you, Sam?"
"What do you mean, what about me?"
"Well," Dean tossed the third can down to the floor with the others. "You're saddled with a big brother who is a wanted fugitive. You could walk away clean. Can't pick our family, right? Isn't that what Ballard told you?"
"She was just—"
"Why are you staying, Sam?" Dean interrupted, holding his eyes steady.
Sam shrugged, his smile sad. "You're my brother, Dean."
"And that's a good enough reason?"
Sam took a breath; Dean instinctively braced for Sam's honesty. "It is for now."
Dean looked down, not willing to let Sam see his instinctive reaction. Sam never blurted anything out; he always thought about how the person he spoke to would hear his words. His brother's honesty had a unique way of cutting into Dean, leaving a mark that took awhile to seal up.
"Well, then. There you go. We're stuck with each other."
He reached over and turned off the engine. The storm outside immediately filled the ensuing quiet with a high-pitched whistle of wind and the tap tap tap of snow pellets against the windows. They sat in the dark, the unspoken worries too numerous to push aside.
And then Sam began to hum. Dean's brows pulled together as he listened; his brother didn't have the greatest ear for music. After a moment, though, Dean heard Sam pick up the words.
"When you think that we've used all our chances, and the chance to make everything right…." Sam's singing voice was soft and unsure, never really committing to the tune, but making the effort, Dean knew, because it was a way to say I'm still here with you.
Smiling appreciatively, Dean joined in. "Keep on making the same old mistakes. Makes untipping the balance so easy. When we're living our lives on the edge, say a prayer on the book of the dead."
He quieted then, listening as Sam sang softly, "We're blood brothers…we're blood brothers…."
When Sam trailed off, Dean shrugged lower in his jackets. "Get some sleep, Sam."
Sam didn't reply for a moment, but then he heard a soft, "Night, Dean."
He'd been dreaming about vampires.
He could still feel the strength in the grip that had held him fast—as if the creature's muscles had been strung over bars of iron. He could still see the look in his father's eyes as he'd used a precious bullet to save Sam's life. It wasn't unusual, having dreams about monsters. But it always rattled him and it left him feeling young and exposed when he finally pulled free of the dream, disoriented, sweaty, and afraid.
Sam didn't know what woke him. It was as if he caught the dying edge of a shout or heard someone call his name. It took him almost a full minute to remember why he was bent sideways in the back seat of the Impala. The sun was almost too bright as it cut through the rear window, as if it was being somehow amplified. Realization seeped in, tempering the suffocating remnants of the dream.
Pushing up to his elbow, he realized that he'd been covered in more than just the blankets from last night: the extra towels that had been wrapped around Dean's legs were tucked around his shoulders.
When no response—grumpy or otherwise—greeted him, Sam sat all the way up, discovering quickly that he was alone in the car. The rest of the food was spread out on the front seat and Sam saw that the toothpaste had been opened. Pushing the blankets from his shoulders, Sam exhaled in the frigid car, his breath creating a tiny cloud in the air in front of his face.
He started to open the back door, surprised when he couldn't budge it. Knowing Dean got out somehow, he flipped carefully over the back of the seat, pushing the driver's side door open. He was able to get it wide enough to slip sideways through the crack into the cold morning, the sun's reflection on the snow dazzling his eyes.
"Mornin', sunshine," his brother's voice echoed in the eerie, snow-dampened silence.
Rotating, Sam looked around, unable to find the source of Dean's voice at first. As he did, his heart fell inside of him, bouncing off the toes of his boots and landing somewhere around his belt. Everywhere he looked was blanketed by snow. Trees were bent with the weight of it, branches meeting drifts like catapults just before launch.
The road was gone—the definition of asphalt and earth smoothed out by snow. Drifts sloped upwards like miniature ski jumps, the crystallized flakes winking at him brilliantly. Sam turned, hooking one arm on the barely opened door and the roof of the Impala and gaped: their car was nearly buried.
Snow drifted up to the middle of the passenger door, covering the hood and flowed just about even from the opposite side of the car to the ground in one large swoop.
We are so screwed.
He whipped his head around, finding Dean's voice as he called from the trunk of the Impala.
"Could use some help here."
Sam slogged through the drift, shutting the door behind him. Snow tumbled into the top of his boots, pressing against his jeans, and chilling his legs almost instantly.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Dean straightened, his face red from exertion and cold, his gloved hands caked with snow. He put one hand on the trunk, the other on his chest as he caught his breath.
"Makin' a fort!" he called back sarcastically. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
Sam shrugged. "Looks like you're…makin' a fort."
"Gotta dig out the exhaust if I'm going to try to get her started," Dean explained. "Unless you want to asphyxiate."
"Get her started?" Sam repeated, looking around. Stuck solid against a snow bank, half buried in drifts, they were going nowhere fast.
"Don't know about you, man, but I'm freezing my bruised nuts off out here. I want to turn the heat on."
"Oh," Sam nodded, understanding.
"Get the other pair of gloves and clear a path at the front—gotta be able to pull air into the engine."
"Got it," Sam nodded, trying to narrow his thinking to one task and not be knocked flat by the fear of what the hell are we gonna do now.
It took him nearly an hour to clear out a pocket of space in front of the Impala's grill using his hands. By the time he was done, he was shaking from exertion, his hands crimped and frozen, his lungs screaming from breathing in the frigid air. He pushed himself upright, his lower back protesting with a kidney punch, and looked for Dean.
His brother had managed to unbury the rear of the car enough to open the trunk. He could hear Dean's harsh gasps and grunts of effort as he gathered supplies. Ordering himself to move, Sam made his way around the side of the car, snow still thigh-high, and joined Dean at the trunk.
"Take this," Dean said, shoving a duffel into his arms.
"What is it?"
"Just take it and get inside. Gotta warm up."
Sam blinked at his brother; Dean's nose and cheeks were sunburned, his lips chaffed and cracking and sweat rolled down the side of his face.
"How long were you out here before I woke up?" Sam asked.
Dean shrugged. "Dunno. An hour maybe?"
Sam shook his head, then made his way back to the driver's door, wedging the duffel into the opening, then following it inside. Dean was at his heels. The moment he was behind the wheel, he turned the key in the ignition. Sam found himself whispering a prayer.
The car started, cold air pouring from the vent.
"Give her a minute," Dean said, turning the radio off and the fan down to low. "She's cold, too."
Sam stomped his snow-covered feet, trying to get some feeling back into his toes.
"Eat something," Dean ordered.
Sam obligingly opened a stick of beef jerky and a bottle of water. The core of the bottle had turned to ice and the water made his teeth ache, it was so cold.
"You feeling okay?" Sam asked. "How're your ribs?"
"Peachy," Dean grumbled. "How about your head, Goose Egg?"
"Ibuprofen's in the glove box."
"I'll be okay," Sam replied. He was starting to feel the creeping warmth as the heater began to work. "You're not going to try to power us out of this drift are you?"
Dean shot him a look.
"Right. Of course. What was I thinking?" Sam turned away, tugging off a piece of jerky.
"Gotta figure out how to get her out of this," Dean muttered, rubbing his cold-reddened hands together in front of a vent. "We've got half a tank of gas."
"Well," Sam sighed. "We can't exactly call Triple A. Bobby's too far away."
"We could hike to the nearest town," Dean said. "Talk someone into hauling us out. Or…buy a shovel and a bunch of sand."
Sam looked at him, incredulous.
"What?" Dean asked, eyebrows pulled together over the bridge of his nose. "The last sign we passed said that Lethe was like…five miles. We can make five miles."
"Dude, did you forget? You're wanted by the Feds."
"So! You can't just go…wandering into some town ten miles over the Wisconsin state line. Hendrickson is gonna have that covered, you know he is."
"I'll wear the ski mask," Dean argued.
"That'll only get you so far," Sam shook his head. "No."
"What do you suggest, Sam? Stay here and wait for it to warm up?"
Sam swallowed more water. "I'll go."
"By yourself?" Dean pulled his head back.
"Sure, why not?"
Dean looked out through the front windshield, narrowing his eyes against the glare of the sun. Sam could see him searching the filing cabinet in his mind for a reason good enough that Sam would stay. He knew his brother; knew that having Sam walk away into the snowy wilderness toward a town they'd never been to in order to get help while Dean sat back and simply waited was worse than asking Dean to walk willingly into Hell.
"I don't like it," Dean said finally. "Too many things could go wrong."
"We have our cells," Sam pointed out. "We'd keep tabs on each other."
Dean rubbed the back of his neck, his main tell as far as anxiety was concerned. "You could get hypothermia."
"I'll wear extra clothes."
"You could get picked up by the cops."
"They don't have my picture, just yours. And I've got an innocent face."
"You could…get attacked by a bear, fall down a hole…not come back."
Sam had been a hairs breadth from grinning at Dean's worried tirade until the last words sank in.
"I'm not going to leave you here, Dean." His tone held the shocked surprise he honestly felt.
He looked hard at his brother's profile, waiting until Dean couldn't take the silence and turned back to face him.
"You know that…right?"
Dean looked away. "I just…I don't like it."
"We gotta do something, man. We can't just sit here."
"We'll just go together." Dean continued resisting. "I'll…hide outside why you go in for help."
Sam shook his head. "How're we gonna explain you when we both need the ride back to the car, then?"
"We'll think of something."
"This is the only way, Dean. You know it is."
Dean was quiet.
"I go, I get help, I get back," Sam pressed. "Simple as that. No law, no hunts, no mess."
Dean rubbed his face roughly, running his fingers up through his hair. "Okay," he finally relented. "But if we're gonna do this, we do it smart."
An hour later, Sam stood where the road had been the night before, facing the direction they'd been heading. He was dressed in two layers of jeans and long underwear—a feat of flexibility and dexterity he was in no hurry to repeat—long sleeved shirts, a hoodie, and a faded, brown Carhartt jacket stained with sweat, grease and something else neither of them could identify. He wore the S.W.A.T. team ski mask and gloves and Dean's sunglasses to protect his eyes from the blinding glare of sun on snow. He was armed with Dean's spare throwing knife—since Ronald had tossed his favorite one down the mail slot at the bank—and Dean's Beretta.
Dean had wanted him to carry the sawed-off shotgun as well, but relented when Sam pointed out that it would weigh him down and wasn't the best first impression to make when asking strangers for help.
"Would be if you didn't get far by asking," Dean had pointed out, sullenly.
"I'll be back before it gets dark," Sam called back to his brother, who was standing in the slightly-opened door of the Impala.
"That's in about seven hours, dude," Dean shook his head. "I wouldn't count on it."
"Stay warm," Sam said.
"You too," Dean replied.
Sam saw him shiver; he knew Dean wouldn't climb back into the car until he could no longer see Sam on the road, so he started walking toward Lethe.
"Please let this be a town that doesn't get Wisconsin news," Sam muttered to himself. He glanced back over his shoulder to see Dean duck back into the temporary warmth of the Impala. "Just a normal town with normal people. Who drive pick-up trucks. With winches."
The snow on the road wasn't as deep as the drifts to the side, and Sam found himself soon beginning to sweat as he walked rapidly, blanking his mind to any other possibility except getting help and getting the Impala back on the road before his brother froze to death waiting for him. He paused to drink some water, shoving one of the apple pies into his mouth and wiping the icing from his fingers with snow.
Continuing on, he lost track of time, his whole existence reduced to moving forward, one foot in front of the other, breathe in, breathe out. His feet were cold, but motion kept the rest of his body too warm to shiver. Motion, and the multiple layers of clothes Dean had insisted upon. He wouldn't have agreed if Dean hadn't been willing to keep the blankets back in the Impala for himself.
Sam's real fear wasn't in being caught or attacked as Dean had enumerated while they were getting ready. It was being too late—too late to save Dean from freezing to death, too late to get them out of the snow before Hendrickson caught up to them.
Two hours passed before he saw another soul on the road. He'd started to run scenarios of post apocalyptic times through his head—blaming too many late-night movies subjected upon him by an insomniac brother. With the snow dampening any and all sound—even that of his own rough breathing—it was easy to imagine he was the last person on Earth.
He called Dean's phone, getting voicemail. He doubted there was coverage where the Impala lay buried. He barely had any bars where he stood.
"Hey, Dean," he said to the recording. "Just wanted you to know I'm making good time. Should be in Lethe in about an hour. Stay warm."
The vehicle that approached him startled him so greatly he slipped, going to one knee on the side of the road. He pushed to his feet, keeping his head down as the vehicle passed. It was a news van, Sam saw, frowning. Nothing he recognized, though. He had one fleeting thought of the van passing Dean, his brother flagging it down for help, but two facts dispelled that hope: there were at least six turn-offs between Sam and the Impala, and there was no way Dean would willingly seek the attention of a news van.
He pushed on, the cold feeling of dread in his gut chilling him faster than the post-winter-storm air. He passed a snow-framed, wooden sign, brightly painted with a large lake and pine trees surrounding it.
"New Lethe," he read aloud. "Population 512. The Hampton's of the North."
Licking his dry lips and adjusting his shoulders, he continued on. "Doesn't sound so bad," he mused. "Small town…news van was probably just…covering an ice fishing competition…or a quilting contest…." He took a shallow breath, trying to ease the ache of dread in his chest. "One news van is nothing…doesn't have anything to do with us."
He entered a sheltering cluster of pine trees, all tall enough he had to lean back to see their tops. The snow was less here, though the cold seemed to collect and still. The wind was blocked by the trees, and as he continued forward, the snow virtually disappeared. Pockets and puddles of ice lay frozen across the road, but he was at last able to walk without snow weighing down his boots.
Picking up speed, Sam followed the curve of the road, pulling the sunglasses off and tucking them into a breast pocket as the trees shadowed the surface of the road. He could see a building in the distance with several cars parked out front. As he drew closer, he saw the name New Lethe CoffeeHaus painted in red letters on a large white sign fixed to the side of the building.
Above that sign, however, Sam saw the faded outline from letters spelling out Sanderson's Bar and Grill. Eyes seeking the warmth of the light from within, he nearly missed the words painted on the side of two vehicles parked on the far end of the lot. Two news vans, both affiliates he'd heard of back in Milwaukee, and three police cruisers, local law.
He balked for a moment, swallowing. Instinctively, though he was over five miles back, Sam looked over his shoulder, thinking of Dean. He could move on, look for help somewhere else. But he had no idea how long that might take, and he knew the warmth in the Impala would only last so long.
"They don't know you," he told himself sternly. "This has nothing to do with us. Whatever reason they're here, it doesn't matter to you. Get in, ask for help, get out."
Nodding to himself, Sam pulled the ski mask from his head, shoving his hair from his cold, sweaty face, and entered the coffee shop.
a/n: Thank you for reading. I'm going to (try) do what I did before—update every two weeks or sooner, real life willing. Hope to see you in the next chapter!
Playlist: Caroline, I hope these worked for you.
These Colors Don't Run by Iron Maiden
Blood Brothers by Iron MaidenContinued in Part 2, here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/107616.html