Sam gunned the Impala down the highway, putting Pine House firmly in the rear view. He was heading back to Rising Sun since they’d left most of their stuff in the motel room and didn’t have the funds to replace it. Dean was subdued and quiet, slumped against the passenger door as he watched the high beams skate across the blacktop. He hadn’t protested when Sam took the wheel and didn’t respond when Sam filled him in on Dennis Yates and the wine scam. He wasn’t sure Dean was even listening but kept going anyway; his own voice was better than brooding silence.
“All those newspaper reports we read, that whole Joolz McGuire deal had one purpose. Lure us to Indiana and offer us to Dionysus like pigs on a platter. Thank god for Cas, right? He really saved our bacon.”
He laughed at the unintentional pun. Dean was silent and Sam glanced across. “You okay?”
Dean didn’t take his eyes off the road. “You know me; rubber ball.”
Sam wasn’t buying it. He knew Dean’s recent ordeal was eating him up; his body language was telegraphing it on all frequencies. He also knew his brother would never share willingly; not without the belly full of booze which would also make him hostile and incoherent. Sam gave it a shot anyway.
“What did they do to you back there? I mean, I got some of it from Joolz and it sounded pretty nasty.”
Dean shrugged. “Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“What?” Sam’s jaw dropped with incredulity. “When I saw you chained to that pillar you looked half dead. That was before they stuck you with a friggin’ butcher’s knife.”
“Dying’s not such a big deal these days.” Dean sounded bone weary.
“Only for the ones left behind, remember?”
Sam just about managed to keep the accusation from his voice. When Dean didn’t respond he fought down a pang of irritation. He wasn’t going to fight; not when his brother’s presence in the car was, quite literally, a gift from heaven. Anger he could handle; guilt was another matter entirely.
“If you’d died tonight it would’ve been on me.”
Dean frowned at him, uncomprehending. “What?”
“I couldn’t find you, Dean. All the knowledge we’ve built up; the books, technology, Dad’s journal, Bobby, the last six years… Even with all that I couldn’t find you. Do we really need an angel to guide us through every hairpin ‘cause it sure as hell feels like it these days...”
Dean put a hand on his shoulder, his emotionally-retarded way of showing support. “You found me. Cut it little fine but…”
“I walked into a trap.” Anxiety and self-doubt made Sam’s voice uneven. “We’re so used to tangling with demons, angels, all the monster crap; we forget how friggin’ conniving ordinary people can get. We need to be better than that.”
“They full on Wicker Man’d us, Sammy. Don’t beat yourself up.”
They drove in silence for a while. Sam thought Dean was sleeping and was surprised when he picked up the conversation ten miles later.
“That Joolz kid’s on the level?”
“It was Joolz made your twenty.” Sam’s stomach twisted; his indecision there had helped to extend Dean’s suffering. “I wish to God I’d just talked to him in the first place.”
“Can we use him again?”
Sam snorted. “We’ve got a friend for life there, though he thinks he’s working for the Marshals Service.”
Dean sighed heavily. “If that’s off the To Do list, how about we blow this state? Keep driving…”
The sentence tailed off and the silence stretched out. Sam glanced over. “To where, dude?”
Dean was gazing up at the clear night sky. “Second star to the right, straight on till morning.”
Sam was concerned; he wasn’t used to seeing his brother so beaten down. Dean should be spitting mad and looking for payback. “You don’t want to find those bastards who jumped you in the parking lot? I sure as hell do.”
Dean shook his head. “I’m tired, Sammy. This crap’s wearing down, a piece at a time. Is a little shore leave too much to ask for?”
Sam knew it was but kept it to himself. It was another three miles before Dean spoke again.
“What happened to Cas?”
“He took off; said something about finding Dionysus after he’d checked out the Indiana hay situation.”
Dean raised an eyebrow, almost cracked a smile but his only response was a non-committal grunt. He was in a bleak place and Sam didn’t know how to reach him; not without a bottle of Jim Beam…
“I know it gets dark, Dean; believe me, I know. I’m here for you, man; any time you need to talk…”
He pulled up short; he was only treading ground they’d been over a hundred times before and it was futile. Dean would never open up about his feelings and right now he wasn’t even listening. Sam tried a more direct approach.
“It should have been me who died tonight.”
It got the required reaction. Dean looked over sharply and his voice was a low, pissed off growl. “Don’t say that. Don’t you ever say that...”
Sam glared right back. “Why not? Why does your life have to be worth less than everyone else’s? You need to start giving a crap about yourself, man, or I swear to God I’ll…”
Dean interrupted; sounding bored. “Save the sermons for Sunday.”
“Fuck you, Dean.” Sam was frustrated, angry and he didn’t care if it showed. “I’d offer my life for yours; every damned time. You might as well accept it because it’s the truth and it isn’t going anywhere.”
Dean glowered at him, his expression stony. “Not on my watch.”
Sam had plenty more to say but the Impala chose that moment to misfire. He eyed Dean expectantly, waiting for the meltdown but his brother barely seemed to notice. He lay is head against the window and closed his eyes.
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