Chapter 1: The Ground Thaws
Sam had always seen Dean carrying his precious Walkman with him everywhere they went. It was a beaten up, old, yellow and black thing that had once acted as an unfortunate victim for Dean’s practices on making the perfect EMF meter.
Now all that it was good for was making a faint buzzing sound around restless spirits, listening to Metallica, and recording tapes, which was only useful when they had to act like FBI agents. It was also the only thing that he didn’t let Sam go anywhere near or, god forbid, touch it, or the tapes which had slowly increased in numbers over time.
Sam would admit that he too had some stuff that he’d forbidden Dean to ever come near, like his journal. Dean teased him enough, and Sam needed to confide his thoughts and feelings to a small notebook without feeling judged. Although, he prevented Dean from reading his precious ‘diary’, as Dean took on calling it, it was more because he didn’t want to be ridiculed for acting ‘girly’. Sam was sure that Dean kept him away from his stupid music player just to trigger some unknown nosy little brother feeling in Sam. Well it wasn’t going to work, no sir.
For years, Sam had accepted that the Walkman was off limits and he’d been fine with it, really. His brother was allowed to keep some things from him. And anyway, it was just a little thing he saw appear every once in a while and then got buried in Dean’s duffel bag again in no time. But, when Dean started nesting in the bunker, the Walkman and some unlabeled tapes around it occupied a special place in the top shelf. That was when it became a slow torture.
So, it was only rational that he’d look at its way more often or glance at it every time he entered Dean’s room. He wouldn’t give in to the temptation of invading his brother’s privacy, of course. He was just curious.
That day, Dean had gone on a grocery trip after finding out that the Men of the Letters had a huge oven in one of the dungeons. ‘Do you know how many pies I can bake in this monster at the same time?’ he’d told Sam excitedly. They weren’t fooled that the former residents of this foxhole used the oven for something even resembling baking a pie, but it was nice to pretend that their lives were normal every once in a while. Sam had decided to stay back while Dean headed out. His brother was a real pain in the ass to shop with, and he wouldn’t listen to all the nutrition facts that Sam tried to explain.
Unfortunately, staying back in the bunker also meant that an hour later, Sam was bored out of his mind. It wasn’t the same without Dean there. He usually had someone to share the huge space with, but now the silence was driving Sam crazy. It was making it impossible for him to concentrate on the book he had chosen to read that day.
The Men of Letters certainly didn’t bother getting any more technology in there than was absolutely necessary, much less a decent source of entertainment. Sam was getting this close to pulling his phone and start playing some childish game or following Dean’s advice and watching something interesting or funny. A cat video, maybe? Although Dean was obviously suggesting porn, Sam decided to ignore that little tidbit.
A guilty thought began gnawing at a dark corner of his mind. He could use Dean’s rare absence to get in his room and maybe, just maybe, listen to one of those tapes that seemed to matter to him so much.
Dean doesn’t even have to know. I’ll make sure to make it look exactly like it was before.
He headed to Dean’s room, unable to contain himself any longer.
Just one tape.
He’d had so many theories over the years on what the contents would be. Sam’s best guess was a secret mixed tape from a lover. It explained the forlorn look on Dean’s face every time Sam caught him with the headphones on.
He carefully picked up the Walkman and chose the first tape, clearly marked ‘One’, and sat on Dean’s bed. Sam didn’t know why, but suddenly a memory flashed in his mind. Many years ago, he’d faced a similar dilemma of knowing the truth or invading the privacy of his loved ones. But in the end, curiosity had gotten the best of him and he’d decided to read John’s journal that led to him finding out all about the monsters.
He sat up again and grabbed Dean’s headphones from his desk, a crushed up poor thing, almost as old as the Walkman itself, frayed wires wrapped around it. He chose to use those instead of playing the tape out loud in case Dean decided to come home early. It made him feel disgusted with himself, going behind his brother’s back like this. But, he was almost there. He was this close to finding out the mystery of the hidden tapes he’d always seen but never been allowed to touch.
He popped the headphones in and, before he could change his mind, pressed play.
At first it was complete silence. It took a few moments and some wheezing sounds that made Sam shake the player angrily. Then he heard his brother’s voice, much younger.
“Hello, this is Dean…Dean Winchester. And today, I’m going to tell you all of the reasons that made me give up. I don’t know if you’re Dad, Sammy or just some random dude. But, I wanted to let somebody know why I’m not there with you, kicking ass and taking names. It’s my last wish. They have that, dead people, don’t they?”
The tape fell silent, and Sam realized he’d just hit the pause button. He threw the Walkman on the bed and flinched away from it, as if it had bitten him.What the hell was that?