Title: From Yesterday
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.Author's Note: Thanks for indulging me another off week. Holidays, man. They can be as tough as they are wonderful. Some of you have asked about the excerpts from the memoir "Roadtrip With My Brother" that appeared at the start of Part 1 and Part 2 – they are not from a published book/story. I created those excerpts for this fic and you'll see more of this memoir and the reason behind it when we reach the Epilogue. So stay tuned! Now we shift things a bit – location, focus, and OCs. But everything the brothers went through in Part 1 affects their choices in Part 2. After all, you can't outrun your past….
One final note: I don't actually have a beta for my stories, but my dear friend Thru Terry's Eyes gives each chapter a 'sanity check' to make sure I haven't gone too far off the rails. She had (successful) hip surgery this week and has been out of pocket. To keep on-schedule, I'm posting this chapter without her once-over, so try not to judge too harshly. *hides*
Hope you enjoy!Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10
art by thruterryseyes
"I should have told you."
Dean wasn't looking at him. Wouldn't look at him. And hadn't said a word to him since Sam insisted they leave Mason's garage.
Without offering Dean anything in the way of explanation, Sam had headed out to the Impala after declaring they needed to talk, forcing Dean to scramble and gather his clothes, following close behind. Sam had driven to a clearing near the Kansas River, north of town, turned off the engine, and exited the car, sitting on the hood, waiting for Dean to join him. The warmth from the black metal had seeped through his running pants, making it difficult to sit still as he waited.
When Dean had finally stepped out of the car, evidently overcoming his annoyance at Sam's mysterious behavior, Sam hadn't waited until his brother sat next to him. He'd simply started talking the moment he saw Dean, needing to complete his confession about the letter he'd found months ago before Dean said anything.
Right now, though, he was wishing he'd let Dean speak first.
Dean had turned away from him, his left hand hanging on the back of his neck, his thumb working a knot near his spine. His shoulders were square, tense, and his right hand moved along his pant leg as if he were trying to dry it.
Or clean it.
"Listen, man, I'm sorry—"
"Do you still have it?"
Sam startled at the deep rumble of Dean's voice; it sounded as if it were emanating from his belly.
"Yeah," Sam nodded, though Dean hadn't turned to face him. "Not with me, but…yeah."
"I want it back."
"Sure, of course." Sam slid from the hood of the Impala. He saw Dean flinch slightly at the sound of his shoes hitting the dirt. "What do you want to do about Virge?"
Dean turned then, and Sam frowned at the unreadable expression in his brother's eyes.
"What do you mean?"
Sam's frown deepened. "I mean…I don't think he would've called me if it weren't our kind of thing."
At that, Dean's eyebrow rose. "Our kind of thing?"
The tone of his brother's voice turned the air around Sam brittle. He rolled his lips against his teeth, feeling as if were suddenly standing on ice. He shifted his weight, trying to find the right words to offer in reply that wouldn't light Dean's very short fuse.
"I just meant…he said there was no one else he could call."
"We don't have a thing anymore, Sam," Dean snapped. There was a dead expression in his eyes that bothered Sam more than the heat of anger he'd expected.
Sam swallowed, resting his hands on his hips as he searched for balance. "Dean—"
"No." Dean shook his head once, decisively. "Gimme the keys."
Sam pulled his head back, puzzled. "What? No." They weren't done talking as far as he was concerned.
"Sam." Dean took a step forward. "Gimme the damn keys."
"Not until you tell me what you want to do about Virgil."
Dean dropped his chin, dangerous eyes meeting Sam's. "Nothing."
Sam's eyebrows went up. "Nothing?"
"You heard me. Now give. me. the. keys."
"But, Dean," Sam dropped his hands, opening them at his sides in a plea for understanding. "He said it was about Brenna. I thought you would want to at least—"
Dean surged forward, grabbing Sam's shirt in a fist and shoving him back against the Impala's hood. His right arm came up and Sam saw him try – as if on instinct, working from blind fury only – to curl his hand into a fist. The pain derived from that motion was a visible blow: Sam saw the color drain from Dean's face as he bit off a gasp, releasing Sam and stepping back as he grabbed his right hand in his left, the pressure of the grip seeming to alleviate some of the agony sluicing through his damaged nerve endings.
"Forget it," Dean muttered, his voice trembling slightly from the after-shocks of trying to close his hand.
He turned and began to make his way back to the gravel road Sam had followed to the clearing. Sam pushed himself away from the Impala, staring after his brother.
"Wait! Where the hell are you going?!"
Dean's answer filtered back toward him, the muggy air capturing the word and holding it prisoner as Dean's angry, marching steps kicked up dust from the gravel. Sam watched his brother for a few moments, sweat gathering at the base of his neck and along his hairline. Dean didn't pause, didn't turn around.
"Dammit," Sam muttered, stomping to the driver's door, climbing inside, and starting the engine. He pulled out onto the road and quickly caught up with his brother. "Dean. Get in the car."
Dean didn't reply. He simply continued walking, his jaw line tense.
"Dude, it's like…ninety out here. Get in the damn car before you melt."
"Just go, Sam."
Frustrated, Sam slammed the flat of his hand against the steering wheel. "What the hell is the matter with you?!"
At that, Dean rotated on his heel and faced the opened window, causing Sam to slam on the brakes.
"You planted us here, man," Dean all-but growled. He leaned both hands on the opened window ledge. "You asked me to promise you – to promise you – that I'd try to have a normal life. And, dammit," he dropped his head, hanging it low between his braced arms, "I've tried. Every fucking day."
Sam opened his mouth to reply, but Dean lifted his head, cutting him off with the heat in his eyes.
"So when you tell me that you found my letter and say we gotta talk to an old friend about our kind of thing," he spat the words, "you're gonna have to give me a minute before I grab the rock salt and head out."
"I didn't say we had to go."
Dean pushed away from the car, his stone-faced expression leaving Sam scrambling for solid ground. Shaking his head at Sam as if he couldn't believe Sam would dare say such a thing, Dean looked down the road, a novel of unspoken words saturating the air between them.
"Dean, c'mon, man."
Dean started walking once more. "Get outta here, Sam."
Frustrated, Sam flattened the accelerator, not really caring that he most likely sprayed his brother with a shower of gravel as he pulled away. It wasn't like he'd asked Virgil to call them. Dean was acting like he'd purposely set up a situation for them to get roped back into hunting.
Let him walk home, the jerk, Sam thought sullenly. This transition into a non-hunting life hadn't been exactly easy for Sam, either. Dean wasn't the only one struggling.
Sam took the turn back onto the main road a bit fast, the rear of the Impala squirreling sideways. Correcting the vehicle, Sam considered their options. He didn't even know if he wanted to go on this hunt – or if it even was a hunt. Though, he was really pretty sure it was.
They hadn't heard from Virgil or Brenna in almost four years; he had to assume the only reason the former EMT called him now was because a hunt had come their way, one they weren't equipped to deal with even after they'd spent countless hours learning from Dean and Sam.
He pulled along the curb in front of their house, shoving the gear into park and sitting silently in the idling Chevy. He should have told Dean about the letter months ago. It had honestly slipped his mind, but he knew it didn't appear that way to Dean.
To his brother, Sam had been holding out, keeping it secret. Keeping it away from Dean and not letting him decide for himself how he wanted to handle it now that he was no longer a hunter.
Sam dragged a hand down his face. No longer a hunter….
His brother would always be a hunter. It was simply a matter of if he were actively hunting something or laying low. A part of Sam knew that – the part he'd been actively ignoring for the past six months.
Even after Dean had taken care to keep Tommy safe and distracted months after the incident in his grandmother's house...even after he broke apart in Mason's garage...even after he'd saved Sam from the possessed doll in Stella's mother's house, Dean had kept his promise. But it had only been a matter of time.
Sam didn't want it to be true, but what he wanted and what simply was didn't really mesh up this time.
He turned off the Impala and made his way inside, feeling suddenly weighted with guilt he didn't think should be his, but he shouldered just the same. He stepped inside their house, standing still and listening to the quiet for a moment. As if on auto-pilot, he headed to his bedroom and opened the top drawer of his dresser where he kept their father's journal, a leather bracelet Jessica had given him, his mother's wedding ring, and Dean's letter to Brenna.
Pulling the letter out, he headed back to the main room of the house, strode to the refrigerator and grabbed a six-pack of beer. He pulled out one bottle, twisted off the top and gulped down half in one breath.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he headed outside once more – the pack of beer and the letter in his hand – and sat on the steps, waiting for Dean. The afternoon air had grown thick, the humidity forcing his lungs to work harder just sitting on the steps outside their small house. Sam could hear the intermittent traffic from Sixth Street to his right, the voices of kids calling to one another at the ball fields to his left.
As he waited, his temper cooled, his irritation at Dean's reaction becoming less prevalent. It wasn't the phone call or the possible hunt that had unnerved Dean, Sam reasoned. It was the reminder of that letter and the state of mind he'd been in when he'd written it. Sam was sure that was the reason for Dean's rather visceral reaction.
On that thinking, Sam pulled out his cell phone and hit 'connect' off of the voice mail from Virgil. He may as well find out what the man had called about. Dean would have to deal with his issues about the letter no matter what Virgil needed.
Sam swallowed, suddenly, inexplicably anxious. He started to hang up.
Sam blinked. "Y-Yeah. Hey, Virge. How'd you know it was me?"
"Looked at the number."
"Right," Sam laughed weakly, his nervousness trickling through the word. "Hey, so, uh…you called?"
"Gimme a sec."
Sam heard rustling and some muted voices before Virgil was back on the line.
"Been awhile," Sam commented, thinking how the man's voice sounded exactly as he remembered - rough, like he'd been screaming himself hoarse - and remembered back to the last time he'd seen Virge, the way the man had helped him fight to save Dean…because saving Dean meant saving Brenna.
The South Boston accent that had initially caught Sam's attention when he'd first met Virgil was still present, though tempered a bit by time. Sam leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his beer hanging from loose fingers.
"'M okay," he replied. "Hanging in there."
"Yeah…," Virge said softly. "Imagine it's not been easy."
The inference to his losing Dean all those years ago was left in Virgil's exhale. And Sam heard sympathy in the man's words, even though Virgil didn't come out and directly confront the issue.
He could tell him now, Sam knew. Could tell him that Dean wasn't dead, that he wasn't alone. But something stopped him, held his tongue. The reason Virgil had left with Brenna had been because Dean was facing a death sentence in Hell. Sam wasn't sure how the man might react if he found out Dean was still alive. And, for Dean's sake, Sam needed to find out what was going on and how it affected Brenna.
"So, what's going on, Virge?"
Sam heard Virgil sigh, a ragged sound that told him the man may not be at the end of is rope, but he could feel the cords fraying.
"I need your help, Sam," Virgil said, as if admitting to one of his greatest sins. "I'm in over my head, here."
Sam set his beer down, then parted his hair with his fingers, supporting his suddenly heavy head in the palm of his hand. "Why don't you start at the beginning?"
In halting sentences, Virgil tossed Sam the details of events that had transpired over the last several months in the small town of Argo, Colorado. After a few moments, though, Sam realized that Virgil hadn't experienced what he was sharing himself. The lack of emotion, the hazy facts, and the way Virge repeated, it seemed like, as he spoke had Sam frowning into the phone.
"Wait, hold up," Sam interrupted. "How do you know you're dealing with a coven?"
"I just…I just do."
Sam chewed on the inside of his bottom lip. "Where are you right now, Virge?"
"How far away is Argo?"
"An hour or so up the mountain."
"You living in Argo?"
Sam paused a moment, hazarding a guess. "Is Brenna?"
He heard the sound of whiskers against the mouthpiece of the phone and Virgil paused long enough for Sam to straighten his back with worry.
"You two aren't together anymore, I take it?"
"Can't say we ever were," Virgil muttered. "Not really."
"But, you're…," Sam let his eyes wander along the tree line across from their house as he searched for the right words, "keeping tabs on her?"
"I watch out for her," Virgil retaliated. "Just like always."
"'Kay," Sam bobbed his head in a nod. "And I'm guessing Brenna's the one who told you about the coven in Argo."
"Well…," Virgil hedged. "She didn't say coven exactly."
"What did she say?"
"She called it a…draíocht."
Sam pulled his brows together. "What the hell is that?"
"Near as I can tell…it's a witch. A druid witch."
"Thought druids were all about…the earth and white magic," Sam countered, frowning. He hoped Virgil was wrong; their encounters with witches in the past had not been easy or pain-free.
"Yeah, well," Virgil cleared his throat, "there's three dead people up in Argo who'd probably argue differently. If they could."
"So, how does this involve you?"
"I'm working at a station in Littleton – just outside of Denver. EMT."
Sam nodded, remembering it was Virgil's job as an EMT that brought him to them in the first place, several years ago.
"We get called up to the mountains when they're short. Argo has a working gold mine and needs about as much coverage as the ski resorts; I head up that way at least once a month to work their station."
Sam finished his beer and opened another while he listened, watching the road for signs of Dean.
"A week ago, we get called up to help the locals and when we get there…," Virgil paused and Sam swallowed his beer with a gulp, waiting. "It's two men and a woman. All in their fifties. I think. One was drowned, one had been stoned to death, and the woman had been…," Virgil cleared his throat again, "impaled."
"'Course they didn't know any of that when they called us. We were just supposed to help look for the first guy; he'd gone missing and they were asking for help to search the mine, the forest, that sort of thing. We didn't know…well, anything. And then it kinda…snowballed. Found the one guy in a shallow river, the other outside the mine, and the woman…," Virgil tapered off. "She was in front of the church. On a fence."
Sam winced. "And this was a week ago?"
"I'd've just written it off as some whackjob. Left it to the cops. But…, well, then Brenna called."
"She suspected this…what was it?"
It sounded as if he were saying dry-earth. Sam was sure it sounded differently coming from Brenna.
"Not exactly," Virgil said. "At first she just told me she was in trouble. Someone else had gone missing and people were starting to talk human sacrifices and witches and someone vandalized her place."
"What for?" Sam frowned, puzzled.
"She moved to the mountains a couple years back for two reasons: to keep Aislinn away from the city and to study druidism. She opened some kind of…herb store. Grows 'em herself."
"Wait, back up," Sam raised a hand in an instinctive gesture to cease. "Who is Aislinn?"
At that question, Virgil paused. The silence was heavy enough that Sam found himself leaning forward.
"Holy shit, you've got a kid?" Sam exclaimed.
"We're not together," Virgil reminded him. "Aislinn lives with her mother up in Argo; I work in the city."
"What, you don't even see her?"
"I see her," Virgil hastened to correct Sam, his voice carrying an edge that confused Sam. "That little girl is like air to me. Brenna knows that; she would never stop me from seeing her."
"Okay, okay!" Sam placated.
"It just…after everything with Declan and that damn wizard and you guys…," Virgil sighed. "Brenna needed something simple. She needed basics. And I…I was suffocating up there."
"So you left."
"I did what I had to do," Virgil snapped.
Sam said nothing, recognizing that he was scraping at a wound not yet scarred over.
"She sells her herbs and she teaches Aislinn Gaelic and she just…," Virgil's voice tapered off.
"Hides," Sam guessed.
"Because of her powers?" Sam asked, looking down at his left hand.
"So, she's still got them," Sam concluded, remembering how the grief over her grandfather, Declan's, death at the hands of a wraith had stolen Brenna's unique druid sight for a time. Until she'd encountered Dean once more, that is. Sam had to wonder if she'd been affected as greatly by Dean's death, as transient as it had been.
"She doesn't really advertise it, but yeah…they're still there."
"So…if she doesn't advertise it, why were people vandalizing her place when all the witch talk started?"
"That's where it gets…weird."
"You have a warped definition of weird," Sam commented mildly.
"Yeah, well," Virgil chuckled softly. "I blame you and your brother for that." He stopped, as if afraid he'd said too much by mentioning Dean, and cleared his throat. "Most people buy herbs from Brenna like her place is some natural food supplier. All…mother earth and that shit. But some know she's a druid and they…I don't know…come to her for…stuff."
Sam narrowed his eyes, switching his phone from one ear to the other as he sipped his second beer. "Stuff. Like…?"
"Look, I don't know, okay? But it pays the bills, whatever she does. I don't ask, long as she and Aislinn are safe. Never understood all that druid shit anyway," Virgil's voice faded from the phone for a moment before returning. "Anyway, the woman…the third victim?"
"Impaled," Sam recounted.
"Right. She was one of the ones who knew Brenna's druid connections. And somehow, that got out and spun up and suddenly Brenna's got windows broken out and someone's spray-painting the word witch on her door…." The tension in Virgil's voice grew as he spoke.
"Is Brenna okay?"
"Pissed as hell. But yeah, she's okay." Virgil paused a moment. "When she called to tell me about this…draíocht…she kinda sounded like the old Brenna. That fire was there again."
"She took Aislinn to stay at my Aunt's in Boulder."
"You've…you've got family out there?" It surprised Sam to discover this.
"That was one of the reasons we headed west when we left you guys," Virgil revealed. "Neither of us had anyone back in Blackroot, and Boston wasn't hiring at the time, so we ended up in Colorado."
"So, how'd you get coven out of all this?"
"No way one person – witch or not – killed those three people. And if Brenna thinks it's this Celtic bad guy, then I say there's more than one. So I started looking into witches," Virgil's voice began to increase in intensity as he finally got to what he'd needed Sam to know from the moment he'd left his voice mail, "and everything I can find says that human sacrifices are done to increase their power."
"Yeah, well," Sam set his empty beer bottle down and rubbed the back of his neck, "if it is a coven, it's nothing you – or Brenna – should be messing with."
"No shit," Virgil commented dryly. "Which is why I called you."
Sam dragged a hand down his face. "Listen…things are a little complicated here."
"Sam , I wouldn't have called you at all – even after the three deaths – but…someone else went missing yesterday. And if they turn up dead…I'm afraid of what this town will do to Brenna."
"Can't you get her out of there?"
"Don't think I haven't tried," Virgil all-but growled. "But she's digging in her heels. Says she can't run every time something tries to kill her." He sighed. "Aislinn's safe and Brenna's…spoiling for a fight."
Sam supported his forehead on the heel of his hand. He felt Virgil waiting for his answer. But he didn't know what one to give him. There was no way he could promise to come and help without talking to Dean. This was more than just a taking out a spirit in his girlfriend's house.
This was the type of thing he should call Rufus about, see who was in the area, send in another hunter. It was exactly what he'd argued with Dean about in January – it didn't have to be them. They'd had it easy over the last six months. There hadn't been anything – save the fluke with Stella's mom – that had drawn them back into the fray. Nothing they had to take a stand against and decide to hand over to someone else in order to stay retired.
Why did it have to be her, Sam mentally groaned.
Of all the people who could have needed help, it had to be the one person Dean had been willing to give it all up for. How could he ask his brother to not go?
"Sam?" Virgil asked into the silence. "Can you help me?"
Sam sighed. "It's not that I don't want to…."
He lifted his head, peering down the road, finally seeing the slowly lumbering figure of his brother approaching. "Listen. Get salt. Lots of it. Line the doors and windows. If you get in a bind, make a circle of salt around you or anyone you are trying to protect. Check for hex bags – they could be anywhere. If you find one, burn it."
"How will I know—"
"You'll know," Sam interrupted, talking fast to get the words out before Dean got too close. "Little pouch filled with fun things like razor blades and cat bones."
"Get Brenna to make protection charms and wear them."
"Out of what?"
"Silver or consecrated iron – or, hell, she should know what druids use for protection."
"And get an alarm system on her place." Dean was closer now. Within earshot. Sam dropped his voice. "I'll call you when I can."
"Wait—are you heading out here, or—"
"I'll let you know."
Sam hung up, not saying goodbye. He set his phone down next to the box holding the four remaining beers, and waited for Dean to walk up the short drive to stand in front of him. Silently, he stared at his brother's sweaty face and waited.
"So, I was an asshole," Dean said by way of apology.
Dean didn't say anything else and Sam realized that was better than he probably would have gotten six months ago. He pulled out one of the sweating bottles and twisted off the top, handing the beer to Dean. His brother took it and moved to sit next to Sam on the narrow front steps, their hips nearly touching.
Sam waited until Dean had taken a few drinks, then handed his brother the envelope. Dean stared at it a moment, and Sam watched the muscle along his scarred jaw jump as he contemplated taking it. Not wanting to push, Sam sat patiently, arm extended, letter trembling in the slight breeze that wrapped around the afternoon.
Dean took another drink, then grabbed the envelope. To Sam's surprise, he didn't open it. He just stared at the paper, his thumb flicking one of the torn edges rhythmically.
"When did you find it?" Dean asked.
"Like a week after you got out of the hospital," Sam reminded him. "I'd planned on just leaving it in your room, not saying anything about it, but then you came home all gung-ho about Tommy and I…kinda forgot about it."
Dean nodded, understanding plain on his face. They sat quietly for a few more minutes as Dean finished his beer and reached for another. Sam watched him surreptitiously, trying to determine if now was a good time to tell him about the phone call with Virgil.
Dean had seemed to be doing fine with their new routine; he was even looking healthier. If it wasn't for the occasional limp after a tough workout, or the nightmares that were now such a constant Sam almost didn't register them, Sam might be able to move past what had happened to them. He didn't even really notice the scars around Dean's eye anymore; it was just part of who his brother was now.
But he couldn't miss the way his brother's right hand had trembled, the way he even now rubbed it along the edge of his pant leg as if trying to rid himself of something, trying to clean it off. Dean had started that, Sam remembered, back in February when a dead deer had snapped his control. Watching Dean drain his second beer, Sam realized he simply hadn't been looking closely enough these past six months.
Or maybe he just hadn't wanted to see.
There were shadows beneath Dean's eyes, evidence of his sleepless nights. And though stronger, toned from Mason's rigorous workouts, he was thin. His face lined with the strain of one constantly on alert. Sam had seen this carefully masked haunted expression on his brother's face before: in the days after they'd lost their father.
Sam had been working through his own grief at the time; he hadn't recognized Dean's until he'd come outside to Bobby's junkyard one morning to see the Impala's trunk annihilated and Dean passed-out drunk on the ground by the rear wheels. Sam's only excuse for missing it this time was that he had happily retreated into a world where everything was shiny and nothing hurt.
Dean's grumble caused Sam to blink dry eyes.
"You're creeping me out, staring like that."
Sam looked down and realized that Dean was on his third beer. He opened another up for himself and took a drink.
"Sorry. Just thinking."
"I bet I can guess what you're thinking," Dean muttered.
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Is that right?"
Dean finished the beer in three large swallows and set the bottle down. Sam didn't think they had enough alcohol in the house for what Dean wanted to do with the rest of his night. And that was probably a good thing.
"I know what I wrote, man," Dean reached for another beer only to frown when he realized Sam had taken the last one.
"There's more in the house," Sam offered.
Dean pushed himself stiffly to his feet. Sam was willing to bet his hip was cursing at him right about now after that long walk.
"There'd better be," Dean grumbled. "Or you're driving to Alvin's to get more."
"Because you got the damn keys," Dean jerked the screen door open and headed inside.
Sam grabbed his phone, dropping it into the pocket of his sweat pants, and followed. He watched as Dean set his letter on the table and then grabbed their second six pack of bottles from the fridge and set it on the counter before systematically opening the cabinets in search of the whiskey Sam had stashed weeks ago. Mason had been adamant that Dean keep the drinking to a minimum and his brother had respected that, willing as ever to follow orders from a man he trusted.
But apparently rules were out the window tonight. Dean set a full bottle of Jack Daniels on the counter next to the beer, then reached above the fridge to pull down a bottle of Jose Cuervo that Sam hadn't even realized they owned.
"Guess I'm saved a trip to the liquor store," he commented dryly, closing the door behind him. He felt and heard the air conditioner kick on and stood under the vent for a moment, the sweat running down the valley of his spine drying with the cool air.
"You're thinking," Dean picked up where he'd left off, a beer in his hand, "that I told her I'd stay with her, so why the hell did I give you so much trouble about staying here."
Sam tilted his head in concession; that was shockingly close to the truth. He made his way across to the make-shift bar and grabbed his fourth beer. It had been a long time since he'd consumed this much alcohol this fast. Not since his birthday, at least. And Dean had been sober then. This was going to be an interesting night.
"Okay, so…why did you?" Sam asked, leaning against the back of the couch, opposite his brother, and watching Dean drain the bottle impressively quickly.
"I thought I was going to die, Sam," Dean offered finally. "I thought it was over. I was just thinking what if…."
"I call bullshit on that, man," Sam shook his head. "You almost died here and you never thought what if."
Dean lifted a shoulder. "Don't know what to tell you."
"How about the truth? Wanna give that a test drive?"
"When have I lied to you?" At Sam's incredulous double take, Dean amended, "Recently."
"Why can't you just say you have feelings for this girl?"
Dean scoffed, shaking his head and grabbing another beer. After this, it was on to the hard stuff, Sam realized. He needed to back off, he knew. But something about the loose feeling in his body, the cloud in his head, the way he kinda didn't care about what he said next was so enticing, he decided to finish his beer and grab two glasses from the cabinet.
Standing so close to his brother, Sam thought he could feel something tremble through the air, like the weird force that surrounded a magnet or the pull right before he was shocked by static. He took a step back and the sensation dissipated, but a glance at Dean's tight expression showed him that he wasn't the only one who'd felt it.
"You do, don't you?" Sam pressed.
"I might've," Dean conceded, pouring three fingers of whiskey into the glass Sam had set next to him. "Once. A long time ago."
"I know you loved her," Sam said. "You told me you did."
"That was years ago, Sam," Dean shook his head. "None of that matters anymore."
Dean shrugged, pouring more whiskey. "Just doesn't. I'm not that same person. She probably isn't either."
Sam shook his head, pouring himself more whiskey and then heading back to lean on the couch once more as he spoke. "You're a son of a bitch, man."
"Easy, now," Dean teased. "That's our mom you're talking about."
Sam wouldn't be distracted, though. The alcohol had greased the wheels in his brain, erasing the filters he normally kept firmly in place. He pointed toward Dean with a wavering finger.
"You do everything you can to help me keep Stella around…keep me happy…live this life that you fucking hate—"
"I don't hate it," Dean interjected.
"You do! You do." Sam nodded, hearing his words slurring and not caring. "I know you do. You're a…a damn faker."
"Well, so what? What do you care if I'm faking?" Dean challenged, his voice oddly clear, words unaffected by the alcohol he'd consumed.
Or maybe Sam's ears were too numb to notice.
"So what?" Sam echoed, finishing his whiskey and holding his glass out for more. Dean obliged, apparently completely comfortable with the idea of both of them being shitfaced by the end of the evening. "What the hell's gonna happen when you get tired of it, huh? When you…when you finally decide you want…s'thing real?"
"What are you really afraid of, Sammy?"
"Afraid? I'm not afraid."
"Then why do you keep trying to make me live your life?"
Sam frowned. Is that what he was doing? Trying to force Dean's hand?
"'Cause I don't want you to die," he admitted. "Again."
Dean was quiet. Sam watched him swallow the last of the whiskey in his glass like a shot, then pour himself more. He looked down at his own glass, still half-full, and set it carefully down on the table, not trusting his wavering vision. He needed to be done. The world was more than soft edges; the edges had been completely obliterated.
"But…you kinda already are, aren't you?" Sam asked as the haze in his brain provided an unusual sense of clarity.
"I am what?" Dean asked, so softly Sam almost didn't hear him.
"Dying. A little bit. Every day."
Dean looked at him then and Sam saw the mask fall away, the truth – raw and real and so painful it made him gasp – sitting heavy in Dean's eyes. He stepped forward, closing the gap between them too quickly for his unsteady balance and he wavered, bouncing against the kitchen chair. The sound caused Dean to blink and the mask was back.
"Okay, no more Oprah for you," Dean muttered, swallowing the rest of his whiskey.
But Sam wasn't anywhere close to sober and he was now on a mission. He stepped into Dean's personal space, feeling that strange snap of energy once more. He felt like he could touch it, the sensation was so strong. He lifted his hand pushing gently against the air.
"Dude," Dean drew his head back, as far away from Sam as he could make himself with the counter right behind him, "what the hell are you doing?"
"You feel that? Like a magnet," Sam said, pressing once more.
Dean set down his empty glass next to the – now half-full – bottle.
"Back up, Sam."
"Seriously, you don't feel that?" Sam asked again, missing the look of panic that crossed Dean's face. "I remember feeling it before, just not this strong."
He reached for Dean, thinking only to touch his shoulder, when a surge of heat filled the space between them, and he stepped back, surprised.
"Whoa." Sam blinked at his brother. "Did you do that?"
"Do what?" Dean asked, confused, but Sam saw a sheen of sweat on his face.
"That…that heat – like a flash of it, really quick."
"I didn't do anything," Dean muttered, grabbing the whiskey bottle by the neck and moving away from the counter.
"Where are you going?"
"Wait, Dean!" Sam stumbled forward, grabbing for Dean's shirt. "We're not done talking."
"I am." Dean shrugged Sam's hand off and side-stepped the kitchen furniture as he headed for the hallway.
"Well, I'm not!"
Sam stumbled forward again, his limbs clumsy and uncoordinated, and tripped over the chair Dean had dodged, going down in a heap, legs tangled. He tried to kick the chair away, but the laces from one of his running shoes had gotten tangled around one of the chair legs and he ended up cracking the back of the chair against his opposite leg, crying out in surprise from the impact.
"All right, all right, all right, Jesus!" Sam suddenly became aware that Dean was crouching next to him, trying to help get him untangled. "Quit thrashing, you damn colt. Let me get you free first."
Sam watched, vision wavering slightly, as Dean untangled his laces, pulling the chair away, and setting it upright. Once his legs were free, Sam pushed himself upright, leaning back against the couch, his head tipped forward, fingers carded through his hair. He was so drunk.
"I am so drunk."
"Yeah, I got that." Dean's voice was close, next to him.
"How come you're not?" Sam asked toward the floor.
"Just had more practice than you, I guess."
"Guess everybody has to have a skill."
"Don't you dare puke in here, man."
"Not gonna puke."
"You gonna cry?" Dean asked, but his voice was gentle.
"Maybe." Sam confessed, his voice wavering around the knot of emotion at the base of his throat.
"You always were a sappy drunk."
"I don't know what to do, Dean," Sam confessed.
He heard Dean sigh. "You don't have to do anything about me, Sam."
Sam shook his head, lifting his face and letting the air cool his heated skin. "Yeah, I do. I made you change who you are."
"I'm still me," Dean argued.
"You're dying inside."
"There you go with the drama again," Dean chuckled, though there was little mirth in it.
"I see it when I look," Sam argued.
"So stop looking," Dean said quiet.
"No, and would you shut up a minute?"
Sam looked over at his brother, seeing that Dean still held the bottle of whiskey by the neck as if it had personally affronted him. His right hand moved restlessly against his leg and his head was back, his throat exposed so that Sam could see him swallow convulsively.
"I'm trying to say something here," Sam continued.
Dean pressed his lips out with a slight nod.
"I'm happy here. I like our life. I like my friends. I like not having to worry about where we're going to sleep or if we're going to eat. I like not having to hustle money. I like earning a paycheck. I like being around Stella. I like having sex with her. I like—"
"I get the picture, Sam," Dean interrupted.
"I like this town," Sam continued. "I like Kansas. I like everything about this place." He swallowed, staring with bleary eyes at his brother's profile. "But none of that matters if you don't."
Frowning Dean looked over at him. "What?"
"If you don't like it here…if you don't like this life…, then none of it matters."
"That's not right, Sam."
Sam shrugged. "Doesn't have to be right. It just is."
Dean looked down. He lifted the whiskey bottle and regarded the amber liquid. "I don't…not like it here."
"Then why does it feel like you can't breathe sometimes?"
"Because," Dean paused, took a drink, then sighed. "Because I can't. Because…I feel like something inside of me is…burning. I just…," Dean struggled, unable to share what he meant, "I hate that I can't help anyone like this. What I did used to matter. Even if no one knew it."
"It still matters," Sam argued. "Only now it matters and you're safe."
Dean didn't say anything for awhile and Sam felt his body relaxing against the couch, slipping sideways until his shoulder touched Dean's. He was sleepy and warm and perfectly happy to stay right where he was forever.
"Too bad we can't have both," Dean mused.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean…too bad we can't live here…and be hunters."
Sam was quiet a moment, trying to reform the thread of thought that had led him to this part of the conversation. He yawned, then shrugged.
"Well," he sighed, closing his eyes, "that's prolly what we're gonna hafta do to help Brenna wi' the witches."
Sam missed Dean's look and the jerk of his brother's shoulder as he started at those words. He relaxed into his alcohol-infused haze, letting his head tip forward, chin to his chest, and fell asleep. He dreamed of nothing. It was always quiet in Sam's head when he slept. There was no urge to move, no anxious twitch of his nerves, no rush of blood through his body compelling him into action. It was just darkness and peace.
Which was why the incessant vibration against his hip had him frowning irritably as he opened his eyes to a dark, chilly house. It took him a moment to orient himself; he wasn't in his room, but he was no longer on the floor, either. Lying still, he breathed carefully, taking stock.
Somehow, Dean had managed to manhandle him onto the couch – which meant he'd probably woken up for a bit at some point because he had no idea how his brother had managed that without making skin contact. He was still in his running pants and T-shirt, but his shoes were off. And while his stomach lurched a bit as he sat up, he didn't feel too ill, which meant that he was either still drunk, or the luckiest guy in the world after the amount and mixture of alcohol he'd put in his body.
His hip vibrated again and he frowned, reaching into his pocket for his phone. Blinking against the harsh light from his screen he focused in on the text messages – eight of them – that he'd missed from Stella.
"Aw, dammit," he muttered.
He'd completely forgotten that he had made plans to meet up with her that night. He peered at the digital time at the top of the phone. 11:34pm. He was supposed to have met her two hours ago.
The tone of her last text had shifted from irritation to worry and Sam realized she also left a voice mail. Clearing his throat, he dialed her number. With as many messages as she'd left him, he fully expected to hear her answer on the first ring and was surprised when he got her voice mail.
"Hey," he said, clearing his throat again as the word caught against his teeth. "I'm sorry. Dean, uh…got some news today and…well, it wasn't good—"
A scream ripped through the quiet house, startling Sam into dropping his phone. It was Dean, he knew, but that sound... He picked up his phone and stood.
"I gotta go. We're okay, but I gotta go. I'll call you in the morning."
He hung up and hurried back to Dean's room, moving through the small house instinctively. Dean's door was shut, which surprised him. His brother always left the door open to hear the music. Sam winced inwardly as he turned the handle. The music hadn't been on tonight.
Sam hurried into the bedroom, the moonlight spilling in from Dean's uncovered window illuminating his brother's bed. Sam's sock-covered toes knocked the now-empty bottle of Jack Daniels over. He heard it roll under Dean's bed as he made his way across the room.
"Dean! Hey," Sam reached the bed, trying to find some place he could safely grab his brother and pull him out of his nightmare.
But Dean was writhing, twisting on the bed like he was caught in a massive grip and trying desperately to escape. Sam could hear his teeth grinding together as his brother fought to keep his scream inside. Reaching out a hand, Sam laid his fingers on Dean's T-shirt covered chest and the contact triggered something in the nightmare – something that completely unhinged Dean.
His brother surged up, both hands – Sam would later realize – grabbing Sam's T-shirt in tight fists as he shoved back and away, propelling them from the bed and to the floor. Dean crouched over Sam like a Ninja, his fisted hands so near Sam's throat he was dangerously close to cutting off Sam's air. His face was a contorted mix of pain, fear, and rage and Sam saw that his eyes were tightly closed.
"D-Dean—" Sam choked out, pushing at Dean's center, trying to shove his brother away without touching his skin. "H-hey, man, it's me."
"Nnnnnrrrrrgg," Dean growled uncomprehendingly. "No!" He shook Sam once, hard enough that the back of Sam's head cracked dully against the floor. "STOP!"
His voice seemed to bleed; Sam grunted at the sound of it, wanting desperately to wake his brother, to stop that sound from ever breaking free again.
Desperate, out of options, Sam reached up and grabbed Dean's wrists, hoping to get enough leverage to push him away before he wasn't able to see anything but Dean's nightmare. The moment his fingers found Dean's skin, however, his brother opened his eyes and Sam saw a flash of light before he felt himself tumble into darkness.
Sam felt his skin tear as hooks dug in at his shoulders and at his hips, recognizing the breath-stealing pain he'd come to associate with Hell. He heard his brother scream for him, calling for help in a fearful, pleading voice that broke Sam's heart every time. He saw a face he didn't know leer close to him, heard words he couldn't understand wrap around him and Sam knew that Dean was in deep.
Music wouldn't have helped this nightmare right itself.
He tried to turn the flickering darkness into light, but it wavered and crashed against the black. He wasn't strong enough this time to climb into Dean's mind and force him out. If he didn't do something quickly, Sam was afraid he was going to be lost.
So he let go.
He lay still, panting, sweating, trembling with remembered pain that wasn't his own. His hands had fallen to his chest, his heartbeat slamming against his fingertips. He sensed Dean next to him, still not conscious, but at least he was no longer screaming.
Groaning slightly, Sam turned to his side, trying to get a better view of Dean. His brother was shaking with the after-effects of the connection and nightmare, sweat covering him, causing his shirt to stick to the plains of his torso, his short hair matted to his head. His breath rasped out through parted lips and his eyes moved rapidly behind closed lids.
Pulling himself upright, Sam stumbled into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, then turned on the radio, cranking the volume to be sure Dean would hear it when he woke. He headed back to Dean's room and pulled up short when he saw Dean roll to his back, brow puckered as he forced heavy-lidded eyes open.
"Easy there," Sam soothed, crouching down next to Dean, the water bottle hanging between his knees. "You're okay."
Dean peered up at him, eyes cloudy from alcohol and bad dreams. "The hell?"
"So, turns out," Sam said softly, waiting for Dean to come fully around, "maybe a bottle of Jack between the two of us wasn't the greatest idea we ever had."
Sam saw Dean blink fully aware, the panic in his eyes slowly making way for recognition. He was glad he'd turned on the music; he could almost see Dean mentally search for that grounding.
"Nightmare?" Dean groaned in question, pushing himself up to a sluggish seated position.
Sam handed him the uncapped bottle of water. "Nightmare."
Dean took a drink and then his face folded in a look of genuine discomfort as he handed the bottle back to Sam and gripped his right hand with his left. "You tossed me off the bed?"
"Dude," Sam shook his head tiredly. "I tried the usual stuff to wake you up first. It wasn't working. And I didn't toss you; you jumped."
"Ahh," Dean groaned in pain, curling over his hand. "What'd you do to my hand?"
Sam tilted his head as he remembered Dean using that hand, curling it into a fist without hesitation. "Nothing. You tried to strangle me."
Dean blinked up at him owlishly. "I…I did?"
Sam rubbed at his chest. "Yeah," he said, clambering to his feet. "You did. Think you can go back to sleep now?"
Dean was still staring at him, face pale in the moonlight. Sam didn't blame him. These nightmares rattled him; they had to be Hell on Dean.
"C'mon, man," Sam waved a loose hand at him. "We both need the sleep."
Dean looked down, then rubbed the back of his head. "I think I might've been drunk tonight," he confessed quietly.
"I think you still are," Sam yawned. "C'mon. On your feet."
Dean used his bed and the wall to get upright, only to climb back into his bed, burying himself face-first into his pillow.
"Drink some more of this water," Sam ordered.
"M'fine," Dean replied, muffled.
"You're gonna have a helluva hangover tomorrow."
"Hair of the dog," Dean retorted.
Sighing, Sam walked out of the room, leaving the door open. He pulled his sweaty T-shirt off and fell into bed, burrowing into his pillow with a tired sigh.
Definitely no more whiskey.Part Two: Chapter 11 continued here in post 12-B.