Title: Soldier's Eyes
Characters: Dean, Sam, Benny - GEN
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title of the story comes from a song by Jack Savoretti by the same name. Also, Mumford, Iowa, is totally made up.
Summary: Post 8.07, A Little Slice of Kevin. There's only so long he can avoid the trap of memories, and he fears that when they catch him, they won't let him go.
Author's Note: This is total wish fulfillment.
It could be a tag, but it's not really a missing scene, and I have no fantasy that anything remotely close to this would ever happen in canon. But the idea hit me in the night and I literally could not write anything else until I got this out of my system. There's angst, some hurt, a little comfort, more angst…. So, improbable or not, I hope you enjoy.
Also, note – this is most definitely PG-13. Just…forewarned is all.
'Cause like the enemies that we are battling
I am nothing but a human alien
Left with nothing else but to keep wandering
Down this path whilst stopping my hands trembling
"Soldier's Eyes" by Jack Savoretti
50 miles outside Atlantic, Iowa
Dean was quiet.
Thinking back, Sam realized his brother had been quiet rather often since their reunion. The times he'd been the usual loquacious self had felt forced, almost manic. Quiet seemed to be the new norm for both of them.
But this…this was heavy.
He'd said he was fine. Sam figured he had reason to be – they'd found Kevin, had half the tablet, and Castiel was back. Sure, they didn't yet know how or why, but Cas wasn't in Purgatory any longer. A friend they'd lost was back, and Sam was relieved. But Dean was still guarded, his eyes wary.
Castiel had said they'd worked things out before he vanished with the soft sound of fluttering wings his only goodbye. But as the daylight thinned and the road to nowhere stretched on, Sam felt the weight of words unspoken between himself and Dean like an accusatory third person.
He knew Dean wasn't fine.
Sam had seen that hollow-eyed look before – Dean had carried it after Hell, Sam had carried it while Lucifer rode shotgun in his head, Dad had carried it…almost all Sam's life. Castiel's escape from Purgatory – coupled with whatever the angel had said to his brother – had taken Dean's feet out from under him and the gruff responses Sam attributed to the way their last hunt ended had melted into a silent plea for balance.
In the past, there were typically three things that could pull Dean from such a pensive quiet: getting drunk, getting laid, or getting to kill something.
Since they didn't have a hunt on the radar, Sam figured one of the other two would have to suffice. Because even though things between them had temporarily rattled back into place for a short while with Castiel's mysterious return, Sam wasn't really in the caring and sharing mood. Dean's specter-enhanced confession still burned hot and bright in Sam's heart; actually talking to his brother about the thoughts so obviously pin-balling around Dean's brain wasn't incredibly appealing.
Dean brought his chin up slightly at the sound of Sam's voice, his only indication that he'd tuned into something other than Styx.
"Feel like pulling over?"
"I'm hungry," Sam offered. It was true. He was hungry.
"We ate before we met with Soccer Mom."
"That was hours ago, Dean."
At this, Dean glanced at him. "You got a tapeworm or something?"
"No, just…." Sam sighed. Did everything with Dean have to take such an effort? "I'm tired. I don't want to be in the car. We don't even know where we're going. Can we just stop? Pick it back up tomorrow?"
Dean looked back out through the windshield and nodded slowly, his eyes scanning the side of the road. Sam watched, noticing not for the first time how Dean's face seemed thinner, the skin barely enough of a barrier to keep his whatever was churning below the surface in check.
Sam saw Dean's eyes catch on something and he glanced to the right, reading the sign as they passed.
"Sure, why not?" Sam replied. Population 320. Too small to get into much trouble.
Dean took the exit a little faster than he'd probably intended forcing Sam to splay his hand along the inside panel of the door to balance. It was clear his brother needed this break, and just as clear he wasn't going to admit it. Not after he'd rebuked Sam for taking a year off. Sam knew Dean would rather collapse from pure exhaustion than admit to needing a break when there was a hunt.
But there wasn't a hunt, not immediately. They were half-way to figuring out how to close the Hell Gates for good. They just needed to regroup and figure out next steps. And then….
"See a motel?" Dean asked.
Sam blinked, looking around and pulling himself out of thoughts of a future he wasn't supposed to want.
"How 'bout we stop there, first?" Sam pointed to a sprawling building with a neon sign fixed to the planks of the roof.
"Seriously? Joe's Bar?"
"Looks like a decent place."
"Looks like the only place."
"Sometimes we're beggars, man," Sam muttered.
Dean sighed. It sounded like it rolled up from his gut. "Fine."
The gravel covering the parking lot crunched under the Impala's tires as Dean pulled into a make-shift spot. They sat quietly for a few minutes, listening to the cooling engine and taking stock of the other cars in the parking lot. Sometimes knowing the cars outside helped them prepare for the people inside. Dean reached over Sam and opened the glove box.
"Really?" Sam asked as Dean pulled his Colt 1911 from the box and checked the clip.
Dean simply looked at him.
The fact that he didn't give Sam shit about calling him on weapons told Sam he'd been right. Dean was on the edge. He'd been there before, Sam remembered, though it felt like a lifetime ago. Memories of Hell had pushed him and gallons of alcohol had pulled him and he'd cried out in the night against torture Sam hadn't been able to imagine.
Until he'd lived it for himself.
Now, though, Sam couldn't just wake his brother from a troubled sleep, remind him that he was here. That it was okay.
He could barely bring himself to touch Dean outside of the occasional manly shoulder smack. He simply lay in the dark, listening to Dean struggle his way through a nightmare – when Dean actually slept, that is – and waited until his brother fought his way free.
He hated himself for it. But there was a wall between them – a wall built by time and war and separation and guilt and pain. And he didn't know how to climb it and he didn't know how to break it down. Truth be told, he just wanted to live on his side of the wall and not remember that there was any other reality.
They exited the car in unison and Sam drew in a breath. The crisp evening air buoyed his resolve and for a moment he felt good – better than he had since the moment Amelia had told him to leave. He'd been ready to go, but hearing it from her had cracked something inside of him that he still didn't know how to repair.
He glanced quickly at Dean; his brother, while never one to give in to the softness of life, had always listened to him. About Jess, about Dad, about the life he'd wanted after school, about his visions, about anything. He didn't always understand, Sam knew, but he'd always listened.
But the tense line of Dean's jaw seemed to unconsciously deflect even the thought of talking to him about Amelia. About anything that had happened to Sam in that scandalous year spent not hunting.
Without a word, Dean moved toward the entrance, his shoulders tight, his eyes sweeping the lot in that always-alert manner that made Sam crazy. He just wanted Dean to breathe. Relax for just a minute. And then maybe…maybe he might find it in his heart to understand anything Sam could tell him about his time in Texas.
Dean pulled the door wide and stepped back, letting Sam step in first, covering their back. In the entrance, Sam noticed the typical scents of cigarettes, beer, and fried foods mingled with the cool of the night air and the sweat of the people inside. He saw the seat yourself sign and nodded toward the bar, two seats on the far side. Dean tipped his chin in silent agreement then headed to the bathroom as Sam grabbed the stools.
A bald-headed man with the tattoo of an eagle across his throat asked Sam what he'd have. He ordered two pints and two shots of Jack, then asked for a menu. By the time Dean got back, his face slightly red from what Sam assumed was a vigorous towel drying, he'd ordered food for them, too. Dean wasn't a complicated guy when it came to a meal.
The complications came when Sam tried to justify a choice – any choice – Dean wouldn't have made himself.
"You all right?" Sam asked, noting his brother's blood-shot eyes.
"Fine," Dean replied with a quit asking me that tone.
"I got us some burgers and fries," Sam told him, watching as Dean drank his pint like water, then tossed back the Jack chaser, catching the bartender's eye and pointing at the empty glasses to order more.
"Thanks," Dean replied, giving him a small grin. It was something anyway, Sam knew.
They rotated as one, putting their backs to the counter and glancing around the bar. An unused pool table graced the far wall, a small dance floor spread out in front of an equally small stage. Instruments rested on stands indicating the band was on a break. Around the edge of the dance floor several small tables were clustered with a wide array of patrons.
Sam knew it would be easy to get Dean drunk if the way his brother had downed that beer was any indication. Getting him laid might be a little more of a challenge. Dean had always been good at getting women himself, but Sam hadn't seen him shown a flicker of interest since he got back.
If he wanted his brother to relax, he might have to get the ball rolling. Trouble was he had no idea where to start. He'd never been one to pick up a one-night-stand in a bar…at least not with his soul intact.
And the truth was he really wasn't over Amelia. She might've told him to go, he might've wanted to go, but she'd changed him. Changed what he looked for. Changed what he reacted to.
Sam turned back around when the plates of burgers were set in front of them, but as he started in on the fries, he realized that Dean hadn't moved. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw his brother watching a leggy brunette filling the triangle on the pool table with the balls from the return. Twisting a bit further he saw that she was flanked by two friends, but no men were around them.
She rolled the balls in the triangle against the felt of the table, then straightened up. Sam saw her pause a fraction of a second, her eyes finding Dean's, then she turned away to pull a cue from the wall, but the color in her cheeks told Sam she'd felt his brother's gaze.
Maybe he wouldn't have much work to do here after all.
Dean turned around and took his second shot before starting in on his hamburger. He ate carefully, but thoroughly. He breathed as he chewed, but didn't stop until the whole burger was gone. Even several weeks after his return, Sam still found himself blinking in astonishment watching his brother eat. He had to wonder what Dean had eaten in Purgatory…if he'd even needed to eat. All he could picture of the place was a large, blank, dark room filled with screams and fire.
Finishing his second beer, Dean didn't say a word when Sam slid the shot of Jack he'd ordered for himself toward his brother. He downed it and signaled for two more.
Sam shook his head at the bartender. "None for me, thanks."
Dean glanced at him.
"One of us has to be able to drive out of here."
"Civilian life make you soft, Sammy?"
Sam twisted his lips in a wry smile. "Just smart."
Dean dug the keys to the Impala from his pocket and dropped them on the bar next to Sam's plate. "You were always smart."
Sam pocketed the keys, lips flickering a smile at the compliment. "So, you gonna do something about that?"
Dean frowned. "'Bout what?"
"That." Sam tipped his head toward the pool table.
Dean's lascivious grin seemed to be almost a knee-jerk reaction. "We'll see."
The band took the stage behind them and started in on music just bluegrass enough Sam knew it would make Dean grimace. He finished his burger and drained his pint. "Maybe I should find us a motel room. Leave you to it."
"Not up for being my wingman?"
"When's the last time you needed a wingman?" Sam wrinkled his eyebrows, glancing at his brother. "Pretty sure you do just fine on your own."
Something dark and troubled crossed Dean's face so quickly that Sam knew had he not been staring right at his brother he wouldn't have seen it. It was almost a flinch of pain, of memory, and then it was gone.
"What?" Sam asked.
"Nothin'." Dean clapped Sam on the shoulder. "Go find a motel. I'll call you when I need to find you."
Sam watched him for a moment, suddenly uncertain. Since the moment he'd tackled Sam back at the cabin, Dean had been tense, focused. Having Cas suddenly back in their lives had rattled him, exposing a vulnerability Sam found wasn't accustomed to. He thought he knew his brother…but that was before. Lately, he wasn't sure if who he remembered and the person in front of him was the same guy.
Maybe leaving him right now wasn't such a great idea.
"Can I get a Newcastle?"
Sam shot his eyes over Dean's shoulder to the pretty brunette from the pool table now standing behind his brother, calling out an order to the bartender. She had an open smile and large, hazel eyes. Sam caught her eyes and smiled back, then nodded, tapping this fingers on the bar decisively before climbing from the stool.
"See ya," he said to his brother, heading to the door.
As he stepped out into the clean night air, he hoped he was doing the right thing.
"Looks like you just got ditched."
Dean arranged his expression in grin he knew would be both disarming and appealing before rotating around to face her. He remembered how to do this. It was like riding a bike.
Her eyes swept his face, landing for a moment on his mouth before bouncing back up to meet his eyes.
"You any good at pool?"
Dean's grin shifted from show to genuine. "It's been a real long time," he replied honestly.
"Want to see how rusty you are?" She invited.
Dropping some cash on the bar, Dean downed his shot, then gathered his remaining pint and followed her to the pool table. She told him her name and introduced her two friends. Dean nodded to each, letting his eyes linger long enough to assess if they might be a danger, but letting their names slide off of him. He wouldn't need to remember them. He wouldn't be seeing them again.
The trio talked to each other in that laughing language women had when they're uninhibited, feeling risky. He always thought women sounded tribal, as if there was a test he'd never pass when tangling with a group of them – which was why he always singled one out, caught her and kept her until she was done with him or he with her. The only moments in his life where the gentle feelings of true emotion with a woman had ever lasted, one of them had walked away in pain.
And he'd had enough pain.
He listened to them talk about the band, the military base nearby, and the soldiers who occasionally frequented the bar. He listened to them laugh about their billiard skills, invite some patrons to play, and send others packing. He kept his eyes on the brunette, appreciating her curves, her half-smile, the way her lips closed around the mouth of her bottle of beer.
His body operated on muscle memory – face smiling, voice responding, arms moving as he knew they should when in this game. And he tried not to think. Not about Cas escaping from that place without him, not about Cas wanting to stay there for his penance, not about that place at all.
There was too much that lingered on him from Purgatory anyway. It left him feeling spent, wasted, used up. It clung to him like a tangible shadow and poisoned everything he tried to do, even reconnecting with Sam.
And from the moment Cas came back – from the moment he knew that he was truly seeing his friend and not a phantom, not a puzzle piece of memory – Dean had felt off-balanced. Loose. Everything was so…loud inside his head. It echoed around him, pulling him out of here and sending him back there. He'd tried so hard to get everyone out. But Cas…he hadn't wanted to.
Somehow Dean was supposed to accept that it wasn't his responsibility to save his friend…and at the same time just roll with the fact that Cas had been plucked from that war zone and planted right in his path once more. How did he trust that? How did he trust anything anymore?
His own brother hadn't even looked for him. Had just…run away. Why did he fight so hard to keep everyone with him when all they really wanted to do was leave?
Dean accepted another pint, letting the music from the band and the laughter of the women wash over him, finding it easy to hide inside the noise. All that really mattered to him was figuring out how to get back to where he belonged. Saving people, hunting things, Sam by his side.
But that only worked if Sam stayed. And Sam sure as hell didn't want to stay.
After two games and three more rounds, Dean was toast. Whatever alcohol tolerance he'd built up before Purgatory was lost in that year of war. His fingertips were numb as were his lips and he found himself saying short, staccato sentences to avoid slurring. The brunette had had enough that she felt comfortable leaning into him, resting a small hand on his shoulder, smiling up into his eyes.
His gut stirred as she slid a hand to his lower back. He forced himself not to tense up, not to pull away. She spread her fingers wide and he knew if she slid them lower she'd discover his gun, so he shifted to the side, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and pulling her backside close to his front.
"It's your shot," he said into her ear, his lips brushing the delicate skin there.
She reached up and nervously tucked her hair behind her ear. "What do you think? Seven in the middle?"
Dean shook his head, splaying his hand across her middle. "Three to the corner."
"I can't make that shot," she half-laughed.
"Sure you can," he encouraged, wrapping his arms around her and lining his hands up with hers. He pressed her forward into the edge of the table, and felt rather than heard her slight gasp as he guided the cue through her fingers, hitting the cue ball with just enough force to send it rolling into the three.
It took the corner and she started to straighten up, pressing back against him. He resisted just enough to feel her shiver before pulling her upright with him. She half turned, looking up at him, and he let his lips curl up into a smile, trying to consciously temper the heat in his eyes.
Man, it had been awhile since he'd played this game. It had been awhile since he'd felt this loose, this reckless, this unprotected. She turned from him and spoke to her friends and for a moment a spike of fear shot through Dean.
He had no one with him. No one to check his six. He didn't know where Sam was and Sam had no idea where he was going.
"Want to get out of here?" she asked him, voice low, eyes lidded with lashes brushing the pale crescent of her cheeks.
"Hell, yeah," he replied, surprised that he meant it.
He let her take his hand, leading him through the growing crowd and out into the night. She drove a small Ford – too small to do anything other than sit tight and breathe slowly as she headed a few miles down the road to a place called the Blue Moon Motel. It could be the same place where Sam was for all he knew.
She had a room there. She was a local and she had a room. That told him all he needed to know about the way his night had progressed.
It didn't really matter, though, if his being with her tonight was due to her plans or his prowess. It had been a fucking long time since he'd touched anything as soft as the back of her arm, smelled anything as sweetly perfumed as the top of her head.
He let her unlock the motel room door and followed her inside, not allowing more than a breath of space between them. She tossed the key on the table and kicked her heels to the corner of the room, losing a good two inches when she turned to face him. He pressed her long hair against her cheeks as he cupped her face and brought her lips close.
He still remembered how to do this. It was natural. Riding a bike.
The moment her lips touched his, though, he shuddered. His body noticeably shook, sending his hands from her face to her shoulders and causing him to draw back.
"How long's it been?" Her whisper was husky.
"What?" He opened his eyes wide, trying to see through the dark, needing to find the corners of the room. There was too much unknown, too much space.
"Since you've been back?"
He blinked at her, confused. Had Sam…?
"I've been with a few guys who were in Iraq, Afghanistan. They," she shrugged, moving backward and drawing him with her, "couldn't relax. Not all the way."
The military base, he remembered. This must be her regular gig. He tried to let that comfort him, but all he wanted to do now that he was here with her was leave, get back to his car, his brother, the familiar confines that had kept him from sinking too far into the memories of Purgatory.
"Been back…," he cleared his throat, thinking, "a few weeks."
He'd told Benny that this was real. That it was all real. And he'd said it with the conviction he knew his friend had needed. He'd recognized that lost look that was swamping Benny's eyes – he'd seen it in Sam's too many times when Lucifer held sway. He'd known exactly what they'd each needed to hear. But he couldn't seem to make himself believe the same.
"How long were you gone?"
A lifetime. Forever. "A year."
He heard the tremor in his voice and tried to pull away again, ashamed that he couldn't keep it together any more than he was.
"It's okay," she whispered, her breath on his neck, ghosting his face. "It's okay."
"How…what made you think…?" He wasn't wearing dog tags, no uniform. Nothing about him sitting at a bar screamed soldier.
"You got that look in your eyes," she said quietly, her voice losing the seductive timbre, for just a moment being completely real with him. "I've seen it too many times before not to recognize it. Someone who's home, but not back."
He dropped his eyes from his constant search for the corners of the room to her face, seeing a strange level of understanding there. She knew nothing about him, nothing about what he'd been through, and yet he instinctively felt that in this moment, none of that mattered. She just wanted to hold him. Wanted to feel him.
And he wanted so desperately to connect with someone….
"It don't…," he started to pull away from her one last time. He was on his own in uncharted territory. "I can't…."
"Yeah, you can," she crooned, letting go of him and crossing her arms over her chest, grabbing the ends of her shirt and pulling it over her head. He realized she wasn't wearing a bra. His belly went liquid. "Yeah. You can."
"Goddamn," Dean growled, resting the flat of his hands on her ribcage, just below her breasts.
"Welcome home, soldier." Her smile projected a sense of assurance that said she knew exactly the affect her body was having on his.
The conscious part of his brain registered that this was, for all intents and purposes, a trap. She might even ask for payment after all was said and done for all he knew. But his body was responding in ways it hadn't in a long, long time. He thought that part of him had died in Purgatory – the natural, instinctive reaction to flesh, to heat, to want.
She threw back the covers on the bed, exposing white sheets to the ambient light in the room, then slid her hands beneath his shirt. He shivered at her touch. No one had touched him in so long. Sam and Cas had hugged him in that rough good to see you, man way. Benny had hauled him out of the path of danger.
But he hadn't felt such gentle, human contact in so long he felt his throat close with emotion. His eyes burned as he looked at her.
"You can do this," she encouraged him, her pupils large, eyes wide as she climbed onto the bed. "Here."
She took his hand and placed it on her breast, his calloused, scarred palm covering the soft flesh entirely. He took a breath, appalled to hear it shake. She reached for his shirt and he stepped back.
Something in his tone warned her to not push and she held herself still, watching as he toed off his boots, pulled off his jacket and shirt, then shimmied from his pants, dropping the Colt onto the top of his jeans. The serrated demon-killing knife he was never without these days was tucked safely into the interior pocket of his jacket.
He watched her eyes skip across his scars – scars he'd not let anyone see since returning to the World. He met her eyes, asking silently if she still thought this was a good idea and felt his body relax when she smiled, then dropped back to the bed to slide out of her jeans.
"C'mere," she coaxed, holding out a hand to him.
On a breath, Dean fell into her, shoving any fear, any doubt or distrust to the other side of the protective wall he'd built around himself the moment he'd fallen through the portal, alone and in pain. He willed himself to simply feel. To remember how to feel something that wasn't pain. That wasn't sharp-edged and cutting. That wouldn't bruise and break and crush those around him with the weight of its truth.
"I, uh…I don't…," he couldn't figure out which word to use.
He'd lost the smoothness that usually served him so well in these meaningless moments of physical release. He couldn't remember how to touch, how to speed up, when to slow down. He felt awkward, uncertain, like a high school kid on prom night.
"It's okay," she whispered again, as if she'd said it before, a thousand different times in a thousand different ways.
She guided his hands and he closed his eyes, focusing on the sensation of softness and heat. He let her mouth show him what she wanted and when. He let her protect them and talk him through an act that had always been so natural to him – from the first time to the latest time. He felt her take him in, slowly, his body consumed by silk, and he shook, uncertain. He rocked on instinct – pulling shallow, diving deep. He listened to her breath mix with his and he followed the path she laid out for him.
He felt himself heat up, turning liquid and rushing over an edge he'd forgotten even existed until this moment. The emotion he'd boxed up inside of him pressed out as his blood surged; his eyes went blind and he cried out, arching up and into her, feeling her fingers tighten on his, feeling her legs grip his waist.
As the rush abated, he sagged, his only true conscious thought simply not to crush her with his weight as he fought to calm his racing heart, tried to quiet his breathing. She was shushing him, her hand on his face, thumb stroking his cheek. He didn't realize that he was still shaking, that the sounds of distress he'd felt inside of him were audible.
He tried to quiet them, tried to silence them, wanting simply to ride out the wave of pleasure and sleep – maybe, finally sleep. But there was so much darkness on the other side of that wall, so much that threatened to rush in and swamp him. He could only swallow, eyes pressed closed, the tears on his face a shameful burn.
"It's okay," she whispered, over and over. "You're home. You're back."
He knew there was no way she'd understand, no way for her to realize she wasn't speaking to a soldier, but to a shell. Still, he clung to her words like a lifeline, just for the moment allowing himself a weakness he couldn't afford to show anyone he cared about. He rolled toward her and exhaled, his body relaxing into the bed, his mind ricocheting through memories seeking one – just one – that might offer him solace.
"Just sleep," she crooned. "It'll all be better after some sleep."
He was so tired, so empty. He let himself believe her. Even though he should have known better.
When his phone rang, Sam glanced from the TV to the clock. It wasn't quite midnight, but still late enough he figured Dean had closed the deal. It was about time, too. He was getting tired of waiting.
"So, where are you?" he said by way of greeting when he opened his phone.
The voice was female, and scared. Sam looked once more at the number on his digital display, then barked into the phone, a frown digging furrows into his brow, "Who is this?"
"Is…is this, uh…Sam?"
"Yeah, why are you calling me on my brother's phone?"
He heard her sob and his heart stopped, then jumped started at a dizzying rate. He was on his feet without remembering standing.
"Listen, he's in trouble."
"Where are you?" Sam demanded, grabbing his duffel, boots, jacket, and keys and heading for the door without even turning off the TV.
"We're at the Blue Moon. Off of Route 7."
"Dammit," Sam muttered. He'd almost stopped there, but they'd been full-up. He ended up about 30 miles away. "What room?"
"What's the matter with him?"
He heard her tears as her voice shook. "I don't…don't know. We had a good time and fell asleep and then he…I think it was a nightmare, but when I tried to wake him up he…."
"Is he hurt?"
"I don't know."
Sam tried to calm his voice; he could tell she was terrified. But his own fear was getting the better of him. He'd known Dean wasn't ready for this. He'd left him anyway.
"Can you help him?"
"No!" She practically shrieked. "I'm not going back in there. It's too much…I've dealt with messed up guys before but…this is too much."
"Can you at least tell me what's wrong?"
"I don't know what the fuck is wrong, okay?" she yelled. "He woke up and freaked the hell out and I grabbed my clothes and got out of there."
Sam was in the car, boots on, not tied, and was heading out of the parking lot. He could hear her opening a car door.
"I grabbed his phone on my way out. There were two numbers in his call list. I left a message at the first one, and then found you. If he's your brother, you can get the fuck over here yourself and help him. I'm gone."
The line went dead. Sam closed his phone, pressing his lips flat as he tried to focus his thoughts on what could have happened that scared the girl so bad. He pounded the flat of his hand on the steering wheel, cursing himself, Dean, this damn life that never gave them a chance.
He'd been out. He'd been free of it. He'd been lonely – even with Amelia, he'd felt the loss of Dean's understanding and companionship – but he'd been out. It had been so easy then, even with the thought of Dean being dead. Even with that. It had been so much easier than living this life of constant fear and pain and battling the ever-present unknown.
The Impala ate up the road as he pressed the accelerator to the floor. In roughly twenty minutes he saw the lights from the small town and scanned the road for the Blue Moon. Ten minutes later, he found it, pulling into the lot and shutting off the engine. He hurried to the trunk, grabbed the first aid kit, then ran down the cement sidewalk until he saw room 127. Dean's cell phone lay discarded on the path outside the door.
He pounded on the door. "Dean!"
The silence on the other side had his heart speeding up all over again. He rattled the handle, uselessly.
"Coulda left a key," he growled, thinking about the frightened girl.
He tried to peek into the window, but the curtains were pulled closed. Taking a breath he called his brother's name again. This time a crash from the interior had him breaking into a sweat. He fumbled with the pockets of his jacket, searching for the lock pick kit. He swore at himself when he realized it was back in the Impala. He hurried back to the trunk to retrieve it.
Sam had always been helplessly analytical, forever compelled to find the logic, the reason within each situation they faced – despite existing inside an illogical world. He knew the amount of fear he was feeling was disproportionate to the facts that had been presented to him, but he couldn't seem to rationalize any other reaction.
He'd lost Dean so many damn times – and even though each time he'd gotten him back, somehow, beyond all probability, he felt each loss like someone cut into his chest and yanked out his heart.
This last time…standing alone in that lab, his world spinning on the downside of an adrenaline rush, he'd felt it all over again. He'd been sure Dean had been killed. Ripped from him like every other time before. Only this time he'd known no deal would get him back. And the angels had turned their backs. He was left with nothing.
He'd not even been able to cry for him. He'd tried. He'd wanted to. But it was as if he'd been scooped out, empty, hollow. Amelia had replaced some of those emotions. She'd reminded him what it felt like to relate to someone. To connect with them. To simply get used to having someone else around. She'd reminded him what desire felt like. How the word comfort came into being.
Then Dean was there. He was just…there. Alive. Breathing. Real. Human.
And asking Sam if he'd looked for him.
The guilt dug into Sam so deep he didn't have a chance to feel the elation at seeing his brother alive that had edged onto his perception. The resentment for being made to feel guilty turned any apology sour in his mouth. From that moment he'd been unable to decide which he wanted more: to leave forever and never look back, or to never again let Dean out of his sight.
Crouching by the lock, a small flashlight gripped in his teeth, Sam worked on the lock, listening for more crashes on the inside. Sweat ran into the corners of his eyes, despite the chill of the night. Dean was always so…in control. Tense, coiled, on guard, yes – but in control. Even when he struggled through his nightmares he seemed to know exactly what he needed to do the moment he woke up.
But Dean slept so rarely Sam should have realized it would catch up with him. No one can be in control all the time. Sam knew that better than anyone. But it had just been so nice…so nice to have that year where he was not on the run, always afraid. To not have someone else in his head, to not feel himself coming apart just beneath the surface of his skin, to not be waiting for the next demon to pounce.
So he'd simply let his memories of Amelia – or, more accurately, his life without hunting and the appeal that peace still had for him – placate him into a sense of acceptance where Dean's tension, and his way of every so often staring into space, were concerned. He'd let himself believe that behavior was simply Dean's way of coping; there wasn't really anything wrong with his brother. Nothing time, some rock music, and some black coffee wouldn't fix.
The lock popped and Sam spit out the flashlight, pushing to his feet. He took a breath, turned the handle, and shoved the door – only to meet a fairly substantial resistance .The door opened a fraction of an inch and connected with something solid. If Sam had to guess, he'd say it was the dresser.
"Dean!" He pressed his face to the opening. "Dean, man, open up. It's me! It's Sam!"
Nothing. No sound. Not even a breath.
Real fear was starting to shake through Sam. He ran the girl's words over in his head. They'd had a good time…they'd fallen asleep…she thought it was a nightmare….
"Dean, wake up, man! Hey! It's okay, you're back, okay?"
The low growl that rolled out through the parted door had Sam drawing back in shock. It sounded inhuman…like a wolf, maybe. Not his brother.
He shoved on the door again. His shoulder twinged. Glancing up and down the row, making sure no one was peeking out of their room curiously, he slammed his shoulder against the door. Again. Another time. It barely budged.
"Dean, c'mon, man!"
He was sweating, his T-shirt and flannel shirt both clinging to the valley of his spine. He mentally cataloged the contents of the Impala's trunk, trying to figure out what he might have in there that could help him push the door open wide enough for him to get inside. When the gray pick up with a topper on the bed pulled up, he didn't really pay attention.
But when the tall, solidly-built man in a Navy pea coat stepped from the cab, Sam felt his body go cold, his fingers instinctively curling against his palm in a tightly clenched fist. He quickly calculated the distance between the motel room and his machete in the trunk of the Impala.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Sam demanded.
Benny pulled off his hat and tossed it into the cab of his truck before closing the door. Sam watched his eyes flick from Sam, to the Impala and back, then he dragged a hand down his face, scratching at his beard.
"I got a call. Said Dean was in trouble."
Sam narrowed his eyes, tilting his head in disbelief. "Dean called you?"
Benny shook his head, moving forward slowly. Sam was lucid enough to recognize the caution in the vampire's approach. His hands were out at his sides, palm up, in a universal sign of I come in peace.
"Naw, not from Dean. Some girl left a message for me. Called me from Dean's phone. Said he was in trouble and left an address."
Sam had to force himself to take a breath, remembering that the girl said Dean had two numbers and she'd called both.
"Well, I got this. You can go." Sam snarled at the vampire through clenched teeth.
Benny stopped moving and Sam felt the weight of his eyes. "Dean in there?"
"Yes," Sam growled, ramming his shoulder against the door.
"He not letting you in?"
"Sure he is." Sam paused and narrowed his eyes at Benny. "That's why I'm out here breaking my shoulder."
Benny nodded slowly, his blue eyes sweeping the door. "What happened?"
"Why do you care? You're a friggin' vampire." Sam felt his lips peel back in a snarl. "I could kill you right now, y'know. Right where you stand."
"You could try," Benny lifted a shoulder, no malice in his tone. "But that wouldn't get you any closer to gettin' into that room."
Sam mentally groaned, pressing his forehead against the door, flattening his sweaty palms on the frame. "I don't understand why he trusts you."
"Don't suppose you could," Benny offered. "That's something you two gotta work out. Once we figure out what the hell's wrong with your brother."
Sam swallowed. Logic was a bastard when it was presented to him wrapped in the package of a creature he hated on principle alone.
He glanced at the vampire. His brother's friend. Someone Dean trusted. Sam wanted the creature dead. It was a monster. What Dean claimed they hunted. And here it stood.
Benny was more of a brother to me in this last year than you ever were.
Dean's angry, pain-filled words echoed in Sam's head as he looked at Benny. No one had ever been more important to Dean than Sam. No one. Not Dad. Not Lisa. Not Bobby. And Sam counted on that. He depended on it. He needed to know that no matter what he did, no matter how many times he walked away, no matter how and where he searched for himself, he could always come back to Dean. His brother would always be there.
But not if there was a friend who somehow meant more to Dean than his own brother. Sam wanted Benny dead for that alone. Reason be damned.
"Hey, listen," Benny tried, apparently seeing that Sam was working up the head of steam necessary to take him out regardless of how he could help with Dean. "I ain't here to get in the middle of anything. Dean and me agreed to go our separate ways once we got free of that place."
"Is that right?" Sam snapped, his eyes narrowed in disbelief. "Then how come he stopped everything when you called him?"
Benny dropped his chin, his blue eyes taking Sam in with a calm that reminded Sam of Bobby. It set him off balance. "Because, man. Your brother, he," Benny lifted a shoulder, the side of his mouth pulling up in a rueful smile, "he don't know how not to take care of a friend. I needed help. That's all he needed to hear."
"So, that's why you're here?" The bitterness in his tone made Sam's words brittle. "'Cause Dean needs help?"
"Kinda, yeah," Benny nodded, his expression settling into something almost serious. Sam found it hard to read him. "That and curiosity. Had to know why some chick was calling me on his phone. He never talked about no woman. Just you and Cas."
Sam drew his head back. "He talked about me?"
Benny's eyebrows went up. "Hell yeah, he talked about you. Couldn't shut the guy up."
Sam looked back at the door, letting Benny's honey and whiskey accent seep into him, thinking. "She called me, too," he finally said. "Told me they'd had a good time."
"I'll just bet they did," Benny drawled, a grin apparent in his voice. Sam ignored him.
"Then said they went to sleep and she thought he was having a nightmare, but whatever it was scared her enough to get her out of there. Said he was hurt."
Benny was quiet a moment. "He have nightmares a lot since he's been back?"
Sam shrugged a shoulder. "No more than he had before." He pressed his ear to the door, but he couldn't hear anything from inside the room.
"Here's how it is," Benny said finally. "I'll get you inside, we figure out what's going on with him, and then I'm gone. I got no need to tangle up in your family business."
"You want me to say I won't kill you," Sam realized.
"That'd be advantageous, I'll admit."
Sam stepped away from the door, sweeping Benny's muscular build with his gaze. "How'd you get here so fast?"
"I was in the neighborhood."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "You following us?"
Benny scoffed. "Hell no, I ain't following you." He glanced toward the road, then looked back, meeting Sam's eyes. "I was meeting…an old friend here in Mumford."
Sam glanced down.
"Took care of business, and was restocking on…uh…supplies over at the medical wing of the military base."
Sam looked back at Benny. "Supplies."
"Want me to spell it out for you?"
"So you were just…here."
"Like I said." Benny lifted his chin. "You following me? You're the one all hot and heavy to fill my heart with splinters."
Sam looked back at the door, not interested in answering Benny's challenge. "Fine. We get Dean, you get the hell out." He looked back at Benny, his eyes hot. "But I can't make any promises after that."
Benny pressed his lips flat. "Fair enough."
Sam took a breath and rammed his shoulder against the door.
"Wait, there, hold up." Benny stepped up behind him.
Sam stiffened and turned. Benny held up a hand.
"Hang on, son, I ain't gonna shiv ya right after callin' truce. Lemme just lay into this here thing. Got me some extra strength ooomph, ya know what I mean?"
Sam frowned, but put his sore shoulder back against the door.
"One, two, three." Benny counted down and they rammed the door together, shoving the barricade aside and opening the door wide enough both could slip through.Continued in Part 2 here.