glasslogic: (Fortress)
[personal profile] glasslogic

Section IV

Sam’s dreams were easier after Dean left. He slept deeply until sunlight beaming through the blinds roused him mid-morning. He thought about the Carl problem while he sat and yawned on the edge of the bed, through a leisurely shower, and as he headed down the stairs to dig up something for breakfast.

Dean had polished off all the cereal during his binge the previous day, so Sam made do with canned vegetable soup for breakfast. He was washing his bowl when a casual glance out the kitchen window made him pause.

Dean was gone.

The low mound of earth over the grave still looked intact, and there was nothing else out of place either in the yard or the house that Sam noticed, but Dean was definitely not in his usual spot in the field. It was an unexpected development, but not immediately alarming. Bobby was gone too, and the truck. Most likely Bobby had dragged him off on same errand.

It was a little odd though; Dean still had work to do and time away from that was time running down on a very short clock. Plus, Deborah May could only attract attention in town, and any attention was bad attention. There wasn’t much point in bringing someone along on errands who would have to hide if they went anywhere populated… Sam reached out tentatively, but Dean ignored him.

Well, Sam had asked for space. It wasn’t really fair to expect it to run only one way.

He was just patting his pockets for a cell phone when Bobby’s old truck turned down the long gravel drive. Relieved, Sam headed out to meet it. His relief turned to deeper concern when only Bobby climbed out.

“Where’s Dean?” Sam asked.

Bobby frowned. “He’s not back yet?”

“Back from where? He’s supposed to be finishing up today. I thought he was with you!”

“Nope.” Bobby swung a sack of groceries out of the back and handed it to Sam. “He came inside when I was making coffee this morning. Said he needed to stretch his legs out and was going for a walk.”

“And you just let him?”

“And how exactly was I going to stop him?” Bobby demanded as he stomped up the steps with his own bag. Sam trailed him into the kitchen. “Tackling demons isn’t a way to extend one’s life expectancy, and I didn’t have a pentagram handy. I reminded him to stay out of sight and went off on my own errands. Keeping your brother on a leash isn’t in my job description.”

“He just went for a walk?”

“Yeah.” Bobby glanced at the wall clock. “About three hours ago.”

Sam closed his eyes and reached out. More forcefully this time. Space was one thing; mysterious unexplained disappearances were something else. Dean reacted this time, but only to rebuff Sam’s touch. His concentration was obviously elsewhere. Sam projected his irritation, not impressed with Dean’s preoccupation or the faint hint of smugness radiating between them. Dean blew him off again and then withdrew. Sam opened his eyes and scowled.

“Should I ask?”

Sam met Bobby’s eyes across the room and shrugged. “He’s okay, I think; just focusing on something.”

“Like what he’s been doing all week?”

“No,” Sam said slowly, thinking about that brief contact again. “Almost like he’s… I don’t know, waiting for something. Anticipating it.”

“Waiting,” Bobby mused “Like on a hunt?”

“Exactly like that,” Sam agreed grimly.

“What the hell is your brother, the demon, stalking out here in the middle of nowhere?” Bobby demanded.

“Like you said, it’s been three hours. He’s probably not in the middle of nowhere anymore.”

Bobby’s eyes widened. “You don’t think--”

Sam swore. “I told him not to do this. I’ve gotta go, Bobby.” Sam shoved his feet into his boots and grabbed his jacket off the hook. The gun he’d left in the pocket was a reassuring weight.

“Gimme a sec--” Bobby began.

Sam cut him off. “No. You can’t come. If he’s doing what I think he’s doing, you can’t be anywhere near there. In fact, why don’t you go visit Sheriff Mills and have a nice, long, conspicuous conversation that gives you a solid alibi for whatever mess Dean’s about to create?”


“Dean’s the problem, Bobby, and there’s nothing you can do to help me handle him. I’ve just got to go try and head him off before-- I don’t even know what the hell he’s got planned.” Sam grabbed the Impala’s keys off the counter.

“Do you know where he is?”

“If he’s waiting for Carl, it’s probably at his house. Deborah May’s house.” Images flickered through his mind. The yard, the swing set, the stream, the road in front and the long, grassy expanse of the bank that led to a rambling country driveway. Sam was almost certain he would recognize the place if he could get close enough-- something, something… Sheriff Mill’s voice echoed his memory. “Do you know where Blaylock Road is?”


Bobby did know where Blaylock Road was. His hand-drawn map was easy to read, letting Sam spend most of his concentration on trying to force a better link on Dean while Dean did the equivalent of putting his hands over his ears and humming. It wasn’t doing anything to improve Sam’s mood. He and Dean’s understanding about casual murder had been one of the very first things they’d agreed on when forging their unorthodox partnership.

Right after the handcuffs had come off.

Finding the house was more difficult than finding the road had been, but like he had expected, once he saw the place, Sam just knew. He drove the same stretch of road Deborah May had died along until he could see Carl’s truck parked in front of a low, rambling single-story house. Dean was there too, Sam had no doubt about that. He could feel the demon from half a mile away.

Sam parked in the grass behind a ramshackle shed to keep the Impala out of sight and crept closer to the house, trying to stay out of the direct line of any window. Sam could only be grateful it was mid-morning on a Thursday and the kids were safely in school.

He hoped they were, that Dean had enough decency to not pull whatever the hell he was up to with the kids in the house.

And whatever he was up to was loud enough that Sam could hear raised voices ten feet from the door. The words were indistinct, but Carl’s booming voice was coming from deeper inside the house than the front rooms, so Sam cautiously opened the unlocked door and entered.

The foyer and living area were a cluttered mess; beer cans and discarded clothing littered the furniture and any flat surfaces, and the distinct odor of cat pee perfumed the air. A pair of roller skates and some scattered building blocks near the doorway were an easily-avoided hazard as Sam moved slowly through the home, Carl’s voice growing louder but still almost as incoherent. It seemed to be mostly an uncomplimentary slur of aspersions against Deborah May’s character, and suggestions on how he would do a better job getting rid of her this time. Carl’s only talent Sam had seen any sign of seemed to be in vulgarities and ugly threats. He tucked himself in tight against the wall and used a mirror in the hallway to get a look into the situation in the kitchen.

It was not encouraging.

Carl’s back was to the hall. His sweat-stained t-shirt and jeans had seen better days, but most of Sam’s attention was drawn to the sawed-off he had gripped in his right hand. Carl gesticulated with it wildly to punctuate his rant, but refrained from actually pointing it at the woman facing him. For the moment.

Dean, for his part, must have raided Bobby’s stash of Karen’s old clothing, because the white sandals and delicate blue sundress had absolutely not been part of the thrift store collection. It wasn’t particularly seasonal either, but it suited Deborah May well. Dean had even brushed out her long, dark hair, and it gleamed a warm chestnut where sunlight filtering through the kitchen windows touched it. Sam thought she looked lovely, and very, very vulnerable in the face of the madman waving his gun and practically foaming at the mouth. He started to step forward, intending to grab Carl and wrestle the gun away, but Sam hadn’t even managed the first step before Dean was there in his mind, and the force of his warning to stay out of it was strong enough to make Sam stagger.

Sam was internally debating if he should see how things played out, or ignore Dean and go for the gun anyway, when Dean broke up Carl’s rant by the simple expedient of holding a cell phone up for Carl to see.

“What the hell is that?!” Carl demanded, almost breathless after his tirade.

“You know what it is. I just wanted to try and patch up our relationship. For the kid’s sake. I thought we could be together again. I missed you.” Dean gave a half sob. Sam didn’t find it very convincing, but imagined it would play well to whoever was on the other end of the line. “But what you said… that was you, that night? With the car? Why would you do that to me, Carl? Why?”

“What the fuck are you doing, Deborah May?” Carl asked anxiously, voice tightening nervously.

“When you started talking about killing me, about how you should have backed up and hit me again, I called 911. The operator’s recorded it, Carl. It’s all on tape now. What you did to me, what you want to do to me… You'll never get your hands on the money! Even if you kill me now, people will know what you've done!” Dean took a couple of steps forward.

“You bitch! I should have fucking hit you again!” Carl snarled. He raised the shotgun. It was so close now that the end of the barrel almost brushed the front of Dean’s dress. Sam tensed, but feared the moment for intervention had passed. Carl’s finger was white on the trigger, and Sam didn’t know if making his presence known would defuse the moment or send them all over the cliff.

In the mirror, Dean caught his eye. And winked.

“It’s over, Carl! The cops heard everything!” Dean yelled as he stepped forward again, almost menacingly. Carl, as nervous as he was enraged, backed up a half step, but the shotgun was now pressed into Dean’s skin through the thin fabric of the dress. Into Deborah May’s skin. “You know what they do in prison to abusive cowards like you? You’re going to--” but whatever it was Dean was predicting Carl was going to do was lost in the thunderous boom of a shotgun being fired at close range. Carl looked as shocked as Sam felt. The gun fell from his nerveless hands and hit the floor beside Deborah May’s crumpled body. Her dark eyes were wide and empty, whatever spirit that had inhabited her fled. The spreading scarlet pool of her blood soaked into Carl’s jeans as he fell to his knees beside her lifeless flesh. He touched her shoulder tentatively, shaking it a little.

“Deborah May?” He shook her a little harder. “Honey?” Her shining hair slid limply off her shoulder into the blood, and suddenly Sam knew what the fancy dress-up had been about. The crime scene photos would be damning, one more twist of the knife at trial.

The cell phone had fallen several feet away, close to Sam’s feet. In the deafening silence, he could hear a frantic, distant voice demanding to know if she was okay.

There was nothing else Sam could do, not for Deborah May, and sure as hell not for Carl. He made his way hastily back to the Impala, and was vanishing around the bend just as the first flashing light appeared over the hill.

He didn’t reach for Dean on the way home, just let the easy rhythm of the back-country roads calm his nerves and wished for a simpler life.


Dean was waiting for him on Bobby’s steps. His hair was still damp from a hasty shower to rinse off the dirt and whatever else remained from his time underground and hasty resurrection. The only visual reminders of the circus of the past few weeks were the shadows under his eyes and a strange mottled tone to his skin, like fading bruises or early decay. But Dean’s eyes were clear, the green as sharp and bright as Sam had ever seen it. Alive or dead.

“That was your solution?” Sam demanded as he slid out from the driver’s side of the Impala. Dean held up his hand and Sam tossed him the keys.

“It solved all our problems,” Dean shrugged. “Unless the cops are frighteningly incompetent, Carl’s going to jail for a few decades-- on the murder charge the jackass deserved in the first place no less. Deborah May’s kids might not end up in the wonderland they deserve, but just about anything beats Carl’s tender care, and I think Sheriff Jody will try and keep an eye out for them. Bobby should be off the hook for anything involving the murder, and no one’s going to care she was hanging out here before it happened. You don’t even get to angst about her family wondering where she went-- she’s dead. She’s been dead, and now everyone will know it. They can get her a headstone and move on with their lives. I would have brought you in on it,” Dean added, “but I figured we’d be arguing about it until the press showed up and there didn’t seem to be a lot to argue about.”

Sam sat on the steps next to him. “It would have killed you to discuss it a little? I almost had a panic attack when I woke up and you were gone again!”

“Admit it,” Dean said with a grating edge of smugness, “you’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first.”

“It was certainly...” Sam looked for the right word and finally settled on, “unconventional.”

“That’s another word for ‘awesome,’ right?”

“I don’t think getting a woman gunned down in her own kitchen is awesome, Dean.”

“I practically put a bow on this, I tied it up so neat!”

“You look like hell,” Sam changed the subject, unwilling to admit to a tiny bit of admiration for the elegant simplicity of Dean’s solution. He hadn’t really killed anyone, justice had been delivered, and all the loose ends seemed accounted for. It was brutally efficient, didn’t cross any of Sam’s lines, and achieved all of their goals. He would have come up with it himself if he’d been able to view Deborah May’s questionable state of existence as prosaically as Dean had.

Dean held out one hand and examined it. “Detail work. I’ll clear it up over the next day or so. Everything’s mostly fine, just some surface work on circulation, a few other things. Still fighting that little Order problem, but it’s almost cleared up.”

“Sorry about that.”

“I was starting to think you’d forgotten those words.”

Sam gave him an irritated look. “They don’t seem to be tripping off your tongue either.”

“What am I supposed to be apologizing for again?”

“Just tell me that wasn’t your cell phone you called 911 with.”

Dean snorted. “What part of this masterfully executed plan says that I’m completely stupid?”

“Well it wasn’t her phone; you didn’t get any of her things from the hospital.”

“It was Carl’s. He was home when I got there, drunk off his ass and snoring in the living room, so I scouted around. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was wide awake, though; I can be stealthy as hell when I want to be.” Sam knew that was certainly true. “I found the shotgun in the laundry room and left it on the kitchen table for convenience, then picked his pocket for the cell. When I was ready, I started yelling at him and…. You pretty much saw the rest.”

“You couldn’t be sure you could get him to shoot you.”

Dean’s smile had edges of ice. “Carl was going to shoot Deborah May today if I had to pull the trigger myself. And I really don’t want to hear any of your bullshit about it. As it happened, he was more than happy to do the deed without my interference. There’s a nice confession on tape, the gruesome murder of a woman who just miraculously fought her way back from the brink of death, her pretty corpse, two orphans, and a drunk, abusive jackass with his prints all over the weapon and trigger. If he doesn’t go to prison, it won’t be because we didn’t try.”

“I’m not arguing with you, Dean.”

“Well… good.” Dean sounded suspicious at his good fortune, but was more than happy to change the topic. “Did you clean out my trunk?”

“Kind of,” Sam said vaguely.

Dean’s eyes narrowed. “What does ‘kind of’ mean?”

Sam stood up and brushed gravel dust off his jeans. “I got rid of the smell.”

“With a steam cleaner and some good elbow grease?”

“I don’t remember you making any demands on the ‘how’ part last time we discussed it.”

“What did you do to my car, Sam?” Dean demanded.

Sam fished his cell phone out of his pocket. “Why don’t you go find out while I call Bobby,” he suggested. “Unless you want to do the honors?”

Dean gave him a dark look but beat a hasty retreat.

Sam didn’t really want to be immediately available after Dean inspected the Impala, so he took his phone up to the bedroom to make his call to Bobby.

“I found Dean at Carl’s place--”

“Did he do this on purpose?” Bobby demanded to know.

“I take it you heard the news.”

“I was sitting in Jody’s office when the call came in. You’ll be thrilled to know how much she’s dying to talk to you,” Bobby snapped.

“Are you still with her?”

“No. She’s at the scene. I’m almost back to the house.”

“It’s for the best, Bobby. For everyone.”

Bobby didn’t say anything for a minute and Sam could hear a long exhale of breath.

“Yeah,” he finally said, sounding as tired as Sam felt. “I know. How’s Dean? Above ground?”

“He was waiting for me when I got home.”

“Just tell me no one saw you or that damn neon light of a car you guys drive.”

“No one, not even Carl.”

“Good. If you’re away clean, then we can all just claim she was missing when we woke up. She’s got a habit of taking long walks in the woods, and we didn’t know anything was wrong until Jody got the call.”

“When do you think Jody will be by?”

“Not until tomorrow, I’d imagine. She’s got her hands full with this, plus some kind of bus accident on the other side of the county. Unless you think you can work up some tears and want to spend an hour undergoing the third degree, I suggest that you and that undead menace be out of town before then.”

“Is that going to cause you problems?”

“It might take some time to sooth her temper, but as long as the case is open and shut and you’ve managed not to implicate yourself in anything, I think I’ll manage.”


When Sam headed downstairs, Bobby was just walking in, escorted by Dean, who was complaining about the various, mostly imaginary, abuses his car had suffered.

“I didn’t maim the Impala,” Sam defended himself as he walked into the kitchen.

“I said clean the car, not mutilate her!”

“I cut out the carpet! It was old, it was smelly, it was bleached out in places from the time you decided hauling goblin carcasses in the trunk was an okay thing to do. What do you want from me?”

“It’s wasn’t old, it was classic.”

“Carpet doesn’t get classic, Dean, it gets replaced.”

“Well sure, it does now.”

“Haven’t you people darkened my doorstep long enough?” Bobby demanded.

“It’s like you don’t love us anymore, Bobby.”

“I ran your daddy off with a shotgun more than once, Dean. Don’t make me get it back out.”

Sam plugged his cell phone into the charger on the counter. “I thought we’d leave after dinner, if you can put up with us that long. Help you eat that mystery casserole.”

“Were you going to discuss that with me?” Dean asked.

“Leaving, or the casserole?”

Bobby rolled his eyes. He started to say something, but was cut off when the kitchen door swung in with enough force to dent the wall. Sheriff Mills was standing in the entrance way, eyes hard and mouth set.

“You and I,” she pointed at Sam, “are going to talk. Now.” Jody glanced at Bobby and Dean. “You two can get out until we’re done.”


“Can it, Singer. Who’s your other friend?”

“Oh, don’t mind me.” Dean flashed a winning smile. “I’m just here for the… what is that crap we’re supposed to eat again?”

“It’s fine, Jody” Bobby said, giving Dean a warning look. “We’ll be outside.”

“It’s your house, why are we leaving?” Dean protested as Bobby grabbed his arm.

Jody crossed her arms. “Because if you don’t, Sam and I will be having this private conversation downtown.”

Dean glanced at Sam, who just shrugged. He didn’t look happy, but he didn’t look especially concerned either. He didn’t feel concerned about it either, which was more telling for Dean.

Sheriff Mills closed the door firmly in their wake, leaving Dean and Bobby alone on the porch.

“I thought you said she was tied up in some bus crash and we were clear until tomorrow?”

“I thought you had some kind of super senses so that people couldn’t sneak up on the house?” Bobby growled.

Dean shrugged. “I was distracted. No one’s perfect all the time. Bus crash?”

Bobby shrugged back. “She works fast.”

Dean snorted and headed across the gravel driveway toward the barn. Bobby, lacking anything better to do, trailed along. “You mean she sized Sam up and decided to get over here before he skipped town.”

“She’s a smart lady.”

“Yeah.” Dean crouched down by a rusted shelf holding some motor oils and started poking through bottles. “I hope she likes whatever he has to say, because she’s not taking him to jail.”

“He didn’t do anything; she’s got no reason to arrest him.”

Dean picked up one bottle and shook it, frowning. He set it back down. “And law enforcement is always so reasonable about things like that.”

“She’s a friend, Dean.”

“She’s not our friend, and there’s still warrants in the system for us. I make fun of Sam for worrying about them, but a federal manhunt would be seriously annoying.”

Bobby reached over Dean’s head and grabbed a bottle, which he then held out. Dean took it and stood back up.

“Thanks. Have any more?”

“Check that box in the corner. She’s good people.”

“Considering what we’re wanted for, good people would put a bullet between our eyes without blinking. I’m not arguing about whether she’s good people or not, I’m just telling you-- she’s not taking him to jail.”

“How about we worry about that if it happens.”

“It’s not going to happen, that’s my point. This is just a friendly heads up.”

Bobby scowled. “Dean, you aren’t--”

Whatever he was going to say was cut off by the bang of the kitchen door. Sheriff Jody had her two-way radio unclipped from her belt and was speaking into it. She waved towards Bobby and slid into her car. Sam, arms crossed, trailed her down the steps and watched as she turned her cruiser around and headed down the driveway. He drifted over to stand by them and they watched until the tail lights vanished down the highway.

“That was fast,” Bobby ventured.

Sam shrugged. “I just told her that Deborah mostly just seemed to need someone to talk to, and lately she’d been talking about her kids and getting back with Carl. She was gone when I woke up and… whatever happened, happened. She asked if I would come down and give a statement, I said no. She asked me to stay in town, I smiled politely. Then she was paged on the radio and had to head out.”

“Sounds promising,” Bobby mused.

“Sounds like time to go,” Dean said firmly. “Now.”

“I’m packed,” Sam agreed.

“Great. Grab your bag and get in the car. Bobby, it was fun.”

“For who?” Bobby asked skeptically.

“Exciting then.”

Bobby snorted. “Can’t argue with that. Where are you boys headed next?”

Sam and Dean glanced at each other.

“Kansas?” Sam ventured. "It's been a while, maybe I can get some new exercises to work on."

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Missouri’s never really that happy to see me. You want to call and see if she minds us stopping by first?”

Sam shrugged. “She doesn’t mind me stopping by. You can stay somewhere else.”

“Fine, but if she’s pissed and turns you into a frog or something, I’m going to spend a lot of time saying I told you so.”

“She’s not a witch, Dean.”

“Uh huh. I’ll remember you said that when your fishbowl’s riding shotgun.”

Sam ignored that. “’Bye, Bobby. We’ll be in touch.”

“No rush on that,” Bobby said dryly. “It’s going to take awhile for this visit to wear off.”


It was late at night and hundreds of miles away before they stopped for more than gas.

It was also cold, but that was an effect of altitude and season. Sam preferred freezing to possible arrest. Jody had seemed more angry at the entire situation than serious about running him in for interrogation, but Sam wasn’t interested in spending any more time around law enforcement than he had to. His fake I.D.s might not hold up to a real inquiry, and a police department interested in digging deeper might send out his picture and get back more than they bargained for. It wasn’t that he was afraid of prison, but he was afraid of what Dean might do if someone tried to lock either of them up. Especially if he wasn’t on hand to squash any of Dean’s more ‘creative’ ideas.

By the time he and Dean had come to a mutual decision to stop for a few hours, the only choices were a motel that seemed to be hosting some kind of book burning in the parking lot, or some mountain vacation rentals. The sign at the entrance had been marked “closed for season,” but it had only taken a moment to pick the gate lock and then they were cruising under dense canopy as they wound their way higher onto the mountainside in the pitch black. Not even the Impala’s lights were on in case there were inhabited houses in the surrounding forest; Dean’s vision was clear enough to keep them on the narrow, winding path.

They chose the cabin furthest from the main road. With the engine no longer running, the only sounds in the midnight forest were the whisper of moving water and the call of the occasional owl. Sam’s own eyesight had adjusted enough that he was able to vaguely make out trees, and the difference between rough ground and the deeper darkness of the rushing stream they had parked alongside. He turned his flashlight on with the beam trained low to the ground while Dean rummaged in the trunk.

Dean emerged with a couple of sleeping bags and some assorted gear, then led the way over the uneven path to the cabin. Sam was pleased to see a supply of firewood on the low porch, especially after they got the door open and discovered that the electricity wasn’t turned on.

It was a very rustic cabin, and only took Sam a moment to explore. Only two real rooms, with a pantry and bathroom tucked in by the kitchenette and the tiny bedroom with a full bed and barely enough room for the nightstand in the back. Two rough, oversized pine-carved couches dominated the living room with its huge fireplace, and Sam immediately made the decision to sleep on one. The thought of curling up in the cold, dark bedroom when there was a perfectly good couch by the fire was ridiculous.

Dean dumped the sleeping bags on one of the couches. “I’m going to scout around.”

“For what?”

“Neighbors, bigfoot, vengeful gods. Whatever might be loitering in the woods. It would be irritating if the owners show up in an hour and chase us off. Risk assessment.”

“Suit yourself,” Sam shrugged. “You want dinner?”

Dean gave the kitchenette a skeptical look. “If you can find something.”

Sam got the fire going and rummaged through the cabinets. There wasn’t much, but whoever had cleaned the place last had overlooked a few cans of ravioli and some crackers tucked back on a top shelf. The crackers had already been worked over pretty well by mice, but the ravioli had potential.

“Just like mom used to make,” Dean mumbled around a mouthful half an hour later. The cabin had started to warm up appreciably and Sam had finally shed his heavy jacket in favor of wrapping up in sleeping bags. He could have done without Dean’s commentary, though; the pasta was almost more unappealing than hunger had been. The granola bars and other emergency food they kept in the Impala didn’t sound appetizing either.

Sam finally set his can down. “I want a hamburger.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Back where there were hamburgers, all you wanted was a place to sleep. Now that you have a place to sleep, all you want is a hamburger. You’re a hard man to please, Sam.”

“I didn’t say it was all I wanted.”

“I’m not apologizing for cremating your library again,” Dean said firmly.

Sam scowled. “Thanks for reminding me.”

The crackling fire was the only sound in the room as Dean finished his share of the food and Sam picked disinterestedly at his.

“So,” Dean set his empty can down on the table by the couch, “if you didn’t want to whine about your library again, what did you want?”

“I think we should talk about what happened.”

Dean groaned. “No, we really shouldn’t. We got a little sloppy and screwed up, I picked up a new suit for a week, I got the old one back from the cleaners, and the world just keeps on spinning.”


“Really?” Dean asked suspiciously. Sam was more a hash and rehash kind of guy. It wasn’t like him to be so reasonable about things.

“Really.” Sam shrugged. “I’m okay with it if you’re okay with it.”

“Fantastic. I hid a Snickers under the seat in the car. Why don’t you eat that for dinner so I don’t have to listen to you complain about being hungry all night?”

“I’m barely thawed out. I’m not freezing my ass off for some candy.”

“Such a baby, Sam. It’s at least twenty degrees outside.” Dean stood up and headed for the door.

“Get some more wood while you’re out there!” Sam yelled after him.

Dean reentered a few minutes later with a blast of icy air. He tossed the Snickers onto Sam’s lap and dropped the wood by the fireplace.

“Okay, so why don’t you want to talk about it?”

Sam looked up, surprised. “You never want to talk about things. I agree with you and that’s a problem?”

“I’m happy you agree! Thrilled, even. But the ‘why’ part is freaking me out. You’ve never let anything go.”

“Maybe I just think you’re right, there’s nothing to discuss.”

“Are you still upset about the girl?”

“She wasn’t a girl, and no. Like you said, she was dead weeks before we showed up. I think we did the best we could for her family under the circumstances, and we didn’t hurt anyone to do it.”

“We hurt Carl,” Dean said with grim satisfaction.

That was an interesting point. Sam frowned. “He was a creep, but considering everything we’re involved with, I don’t understand what it was about him that made you hate him so much.”

“I don’t hate him,” Dean shrugged.

“Right, that’s why when he showed up that day, it was enough to not only get you out of your trance but make you so angry I thought you were going to vaporize him on the spot. I could taste entropy, Dean. Almost like last year again.”

“Okay, so I hate Carl a little. He deserves it! I was seeing her life from the inside, and then he showed up, and you were upset, and-- why does this make you happy?” Dean asked suspiciously.

“I’m not happy.”

“If you aren’t going to make the effort on the inside, why bother lying on the outside?”

“You’re not supposed to be eavesdropping on the inside,” Sam said pointedly.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t project so clearly. Back to why my desire to crush Carl like a tin can fills you with joy?”

“It doesn’t…” Sam considered the merits of denial and decided just to come clean. “You were upset because Carl was a creep, not just because of the situation with us, but because of what he did to her.”

“So?” Dean asked, unimpressed.

“It mattered to you,” Sam insisted. “That he hurt her. You were angry because of what he did to someone else. You cared.”

“I care about a lot of things. This quest. Where we’re getting breakfast. You. Oh, and the ultimate fate of millions of souls going to Hell.”

“Yeah, but not about people. Not individuals. I mean, the only reason you even bother tolerating Bobby is for my sake, and he’s probably the person you have the most attachment to other than me. We both know it.”

“I wouldn’t hurt Bobby,” Dean said, miffed.

“But you wouldn’t go out of your way not to either. Not if he was between you and a goal. You care because I care and because you’re supposed to care, not because you feel it. But this thing… You were really angry, Dean.”

“He was really annoying, Sam.”

Sam shrugged, willing to let he matter drop. He would take his encouragement where he found it and Dean could argue and disagree all he liked. Sam knew what he had felt.

“Have we discussed things enough?” Dean asked hopefully.

“I was fine not to discuss things at all.”

“Good then.”

The conversation lapsed. Sam licked the last of the chocolate off his fingers and gave serious thought to the granola in the car. Dean sprawled out on the couch beside him and watched the fire crackling as it ate steadily through the wood.

Sam wondered if it reminded him of Hell.

Which reminded Sam that there was one other thing he needed to make clear.

“You know it was you, right?” he said abruptly. “When you were her, the person I wanted was still you.”

“I know how the curse works, Sam,” Dean said, still gazing into the flames.

Sam watched them too, not wanting to look at Dean while he struggled to get out what he was trying to say. “I’m not talking about the curse. It’s always there, but it’s not the only thing that’s there. The change of pace made some things… easier, for me. But that was just in the moment. It doesn’t change who you are. That matters more than what you look like or whatever issues I still have with everything. It’s always you. And me.”

“And the fate of the entire world. And a pack of angry angels. And gazillions of Hell-bound souls.”

“Just to keep things in perspective,” Sam agreed, smiling despite himself. Their situation hadn’t changed, but things between them had. Just a bit, a miniscule shifting as things slid into easier places. Enough sliding and Sam could almost envision a place where he was genuinely comfortable with their relationship. He wasn’t there yet, but maybe one day. Whatever Dean’s change of form had made easier in passing moments of sex, the rest of the time Sam just… really wanted to see his brother’s face. And he really wanted Dean to see his own face. To have that reminder, that anchor. One more tie to the life he’d given up.

For Sam.

And the world.

Dean’s voice broke into Sam’s introspective musings. “Does this mean I can top tonight?”

Sam glanced at him, eyes narrowed. “It’s twenty degrees outside, and only a little bit warmer in here. I’m wrapped in two sleeping bags and half my clothes. You see me in a hurry to get undressed?”

“What about if I built the fire up more and we dragged all this stuff onto the floor?”

Sam hesitated; he recognized a test when he saw one. But Dean was still a blank wall on his mental landscape and there was nothing on his face to give Sam any clues.

“Not tonight,” Sam finally said.

Dean shrugged and turned back to the flames.

“Maybe tomorrow,” Sam continued, still watching Dean. “If we can find some place with a heater and actual insulation.”

A flash of surprise showed on Dean’s face for an instant before his expression fell back into inscrutable lines. He glanced at Sam. “Tomorrow we’ll be at Missouri’s. Or you will,” he pointed out.

“We don’t have to go straight there. There’s a guy outside of Carmargo who’s supposed to have some interesting material we haven’t seen. He also doesn’t seem to like answering his phone. We could swing by there and stop at that bar you like off 283 afterwards?”

Dean crossed his arms and leaned back into the cushions.”I thought that hermit out in West Oklahoma was supposed to have died.”

Sam shrugged. “Someone has to have his stuff. We’ll knock politely and find out who lives there now.”

“Seems like kind of a long shot. Odds are good his crap is either in unmarked storage somewhere or packed off or donated. You don’t want to just keep calling around and asking?”

“Easier to go in person.”

“Uh huh.”

Sam elbowed him. “I’m just saying… we have time. For other things.”

“Carmargo then,” Dean said, watching him.


“And then Missouri’s.”

Sam nodded.

“And then?”

“Whatever comes next over the horizon.”

“Better remind me to change the oil, then; chasing the horizon puts a lotta miles on an engine.”

“It puts a lot of miles on everything.” Sam slumped back against the couch. With his and Dean’s problems momentarily ironed out, the weight of the larger problem seemed overwhelming again. The adventure at Bobby’s had been diverting, if stressful, but now they were back on track, and the track was grueling and unrewarded.

“We’ll find an end to this, Sam,” Dean promised quietly. “This quest, this angel bullshit. Everything. The answer is out there. And we’re going to hunt it down.”


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February 2015

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