Chapter 12. Unfinished Business
Chapter 12. Unfinished Business
As he screamed and fell to his knees, Sam let go of Missouri's hands to grab at his head. An excruciating pain made him see nothing but white, and he felt his body convulsing.
"Sam!" Missouri yelped.
The younger hunter groaned.
"Sam, let it go! You have to let it go now!"
Moaning in pain, Missouri took a step back as a wave of energy came out of the slumped form of the hunter like a punch and knocked the wind out of her. Beside them, the main door vibrated and suddenly snapped open.
"Oh my Gosh," Missouri wheezed, her eyes incredulously darting from Sam to the door.
Still trembling like a leaf, Sam had his knuckles buried in his forehead and was panting heavily.
"Sam…?" the psychic called, her voice laced with concern.
"Call 911," Sam growled.
His eyes were glazed even as he scrambled back to his feet. To Missouri, it didn't appear he had any idea that he had practically blown the door off of the house with just the power of his mind. She, on the contrary, was petrified.
"Call 911, Missouri!" Sam ordered anxiously, when the woman didn't react, "The house is on fire!"
Missouri jumped to her feet and nodded. That gesture was all the cue Sam needed to burst into the house.
Sam ran to the closed kitchen door ignoring the heat emanating from it and kicking it open. Immediately, he was blinded by a thick cloud of smoke but was quick enough to duck a blaze of fire drawn by the open door.
"Dean!" Sam called in between coughs. "Dean!"
Sam made his way through the fire, barely thinking, barely feeling. He was on autopilot, focused only on finding his brother. He finally saw Dean hunched in a corner and knelt next to him so that he could shake him by the shoulders.
"Hey, Dean!" Sam coaxed. "Talk to me!"
When Dean didn't show any reaction, Sam's throat constricted. Fearing the worst, he shook him harder. Fortunately just before Sam lost it completely Dean stirred, and the younger hunter felt a rush of relief wash over him.
"Sammy?" Dean asked weakly, struggling to focus on the man next to him.
"W-what are you d-doing in here?"
"Doesn't matter. We have to get out," Sam said, already hooking Dean's arm around himself to pull him up.
"No…y-you…dammit Sam, you shouldn't be here!" Dean protested.
Sam was still trying to make sense of the fear he noticed in his brother's eyes when something invisible pushed him against the opposite wall.
"Sam!" Dean jolted and tried to get up, but he also was restrained by an invisible force and couldn't get to his brother. "No! Leave him alone!"
Still pressed against the wall, Sam groaned and blinked furiously in an attempt to clear his vision in the hellhole of fire and smoke. It was then, after his sight resolved itself, that he saw her, untouched by the flames amidst the turmoil. The younger hunter's heart skipped a beat, and the pit of his stomach twisted into a tight knot. Suddenly, he forgot to fight back the tears welling in his eyes, and they rolled freely down his cheeks as he held his mother's gaze for the first time in his life.
"Mom?" he breathed.
Mary gaped at him so intently that Sam would have fidgeted under her stare like a nervous toddler had he been able to move. But then her features softened, turning her look into an affectionate one.
"Sam," she muttered in a tone thick with emotion.
Sam gulped. The amount of sheer love contained in that single word was stunning. Stunning, honest and real. Sam moved his mouth, as if he was trying to speak, but no words escaped from between his lips.
"Don't hurt him!" Dean's voice reached him.
Mary smiled tenderly at her firstborn, who was trying to stand.
"But I won't hurt him. I won't hurt either of you. Just relax. It'll be over in a minute, and finally the three of us…"
"No, let him go!" Dean insisted. Since his attempt to stand up had failed, he was now trying to retrieve the shotgun.
"Dean," Sam called, afraid of the dangerous shine their mother's eyes had taken at his brother's defiant attitude.
"You can't kill me with that, honey," she warned hollowly, taking a step towards Dean.
"Dean, don't…" Sam repeated.
"Nothing will kill me," she continued. "My place is here, and nothing will take me away from my children while they need me."
Dean pursed his trembling lips and swallowed a sob. His eyes searched Sam's almost unconsciously, and the latter tensed, knowing by Dean's expression that his brother was brazing himself for something and that he wouldn't be able to do it without that brief eye contact. Even not knowing what Dean had in mind, Sam's whole life of implicit trust on his brother kicked in, and he allowed Dean to borrow whatever strength he was able to find in his —unfortunately— not so calm stare. For a couple of seconds, the two of them were the only people existing in the world, until Dean took a deep breath and looked back to Mary's spirit with an ashen face.
"But I don't," the older Winchester's voice came out as a whisper that was practically engulfed by the roaring flames.
But it was strong enough to make Mary stop dead in her tracks.
"I miss you, Mom," Dean went on. "I wish you were alive, I…I think about that, about you every single day. And sometimes it…it h-hurts so bad I can't…You're the reason why I'm what I am, why I do what I do. You're my reason for everything."
Sam set his jaw, watching wordlessly as his brother spilled his heart to the edge of breaking.
"I owe that to you," Dean muttered, "I love you so much. I always will. But, I'm fine about it. I know that now. I'm not the child you knew. I'll be fine. So don't you worry, Mom."
And it was then that Sam understood. As soon as comprehension hit him, his heart shattered into pieces.
"I don't need you. Not anymore"
Dean's voice broke on the last sentence, but he kept his eyes fastened on Mary, whose face was pale and contorted in pain.
"Dean?" she begged frailly.
"No. Go now…y-you can go."
Mary took an unsteady step back as the walls around them began to shriek and shake. She glanced at Sam, who looked back at her in tears.
He swallowed wobbly, knowing what he had to do and wondering why he hadn't understood it sooner. Probably because it hurt too much.
"Go, Mom," he said, echoing his brother's words and almost choking on them. "Go."
Mary shook her head and stepped back again, looking at both her sons as she cried.
"No…" she said, weeping.
Suddenly her face twisted in surprise, and she looked down at the flames. They were crawling near her feet now and caught her gown on fire.
"NO!" she yelped.
The fire, which had previously been merciful to her, surrounded Mary voraciously and was unabashed by her cries of agony. The invisible forces that pinned Sam against the wall gave way, and the hunter's legs wobbled as, mystified, he watched the image before him. He was unable to tear his eyes from his mother until a groan from his brother made him turn his attention to Dean. The older Winchester's expression was so haunted that Sam ached to go to him. Since all his vows to protect Dean from this had so obviously fallen short, he felt like a failure. But at least now there was something he could do.
Because, of all of them, Dean was the only one who shouldn't have to live with the image of a woman he loved burning in front of him. And that, Sam could preserve for him.
In two strides, Sam was by his brother and grabbing his shoulders to press him harder in the corner so that he could interpose his body between Dean and the vision of Mary.
"No! What are you doing?" Dean raged and wrestled in a desperate attempt to keep watching. To take it all in. "Get off me! Sam. GET OFF ME!"
Sam held him strongly and ignored his brother's fury, although it was that very fury that was making Dean difficult to restrain. Determined to win the struggle this time no matter what it took, Sam clenched his teeth and endured the shoving. After what seemed an eternity, Mary's yelps diminished, and Dean stopped fighting his brother. Risking a glance over his shoulder, Sam saw that Mary had disappeared, and that the whole building had turned into an inferno.
"We have to go!" Sam yelled over the fire.
Without taking the time to see if Dean was listening to him, Sam gripped his brother's elbow and dragged him to the hall where both of them gasped for oxygen. Just as they were close to reaching the front door, Sam thought he heard a very weak voice behind them.
The younger hunter turned his head a couple of inches and was able to distinguish his mother's saddened face surrounded by flames and looking at them from the kitchen.
"I'm sorry," she sighed.
Sam held his breath as the kitchen's ceiling collapsed, and he could only manage to make it to the garden, taking his brother with him, before a blaze engulfed the rest of the first floor.
The street had been taken over by dozens of lights and sirens from police cars, ambulances and fire brigades. Sam and Dean were sitting on the hood of the Impala, each of them with a blanket over his shoulders. A couple of cars away, Jennifer was being put into an ambulance, and Missouri was with her, holding her hand. The young woman was coming around, and the first thing she asked about was the whereabouts of her children.
"They're fine, they're with my sister," Missouri said, comforting her. "And you're going to be fine too, okay?"
Sam overheard their conversation but was distracted by a police officer that approached them and asked for the umpteenth time what had happened. Sam sighed and sang their story again about how they were passing by, how they'd seen the house on fire, and fearing for the life of its inhabitants how they had gone in and managed to take Jennifer out. Dean remained silent while Sam spoke. He hadn't said a word since they had gotten out and kept staring at the building and the firemen who fought to put out the fire on the still burning second floor.
"I think that's enough, Malcolm," another cop said, stepping in. "I'll take it from here."
Sam recognized the man as Deputy Ted Jackson, the officer who had him called last night after Dean had gotten into his drunken fight. The deputy dismissed Malcolm with a pat on the shoulder and glanced intently at Sam and Dean. Dean didn't pay much attention to the newcomer —Sam wondered if his brother remembered him at all—whereas Sam looked up at him cautiously.
"You've got a funny way of staying out of trouble, you know that?" the cop asked without animosity.
Sam shrugged and looked down sheepishly. A moment later he felt a hand on his shoulder and a firm squeeze.
"You saved a woman's life there," Jackson stated gravely.
The younger hunter swallowed but said nothing.
"Good job, guys. Thank you."
Sam nodded, and Ted smiled. He also smiled at Dean, and Sam realized that his brother was now giving the cop a sideways glance.
"Can we leave now?" Sam asked Jackson.
"Yeah, I'll make sure you get clear on this," he assured. "Go get some rest."
Tilting his head in farewell, the deputy went to meet his fellow officers, who were interrogating the neighbors. Sam sighed and adjusted the blanket over his shoulders when the chilling air of the night caused a shiver to run down his spine. Dean was staring at the house again, and his quietness was starting to worry Sam. The younger Winchester climbed down the hood and paced to clear his mind but always remained hovering next to his brother.
"You should have stayed outside," Dean said, out of the blue.
Surprised to hear his voice, Sam startled and looked at him.
"You.Should.Have.Stayed.Outside," Dean hissed.
Sam flinched inwardly at the rage exuded by Dean's voice. And not only by his voice. Sam could sense the anger rushing through Dean's stance and knew it was of the worst kind: the pained, restrained, quiet fury that took over Dean very rarely, only when he had been seriously hurt.
"You know I couldn't do that," Sam replied softly, searching to placate him.
"Of course you could. Shit, Sam!" Dean retorted, clenching his fists.
"Okay, so then I didn't want to do it. I know you'd have done the same thing, man, and I can't believe you're mad at me for it."
Dean's eyes shot daggers at him until Sam was forced to bite his tongue and lower his head for both their sakes. They were worn out, physically and emotionally, and he was aware that the conversation wasn't going anywhere constructive. Trying to collect himself as well, Dean let out a strained breath. When his little brother sat next to him again, he averted his eyes but didn't protest or move away when their shoulders brushed warmly. In fact, Dean closed his eyes and seemed to relax a bit, although he kept his hands clasped tightly over his knees.
After the ambulance left with Jennifer, Missouri approached the Winchester brothers. Sam breathed in when she came closer, and he felt Dean subtly tense by him. If he hadn't been sure Dean would shake him off, he would have wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders.
"Are you okay, boys?" she asked gently.
Sam breathed out and allowed her to pat his knee, but Dean flinched away when she tried to do the same to him. Sam looked pointedly at Missouri and shook his head.
"We're alright," he offered conciliatorily. "How is she?"
"The paramedics said her condition isn't serious, but they want to run some tests. They'll probably keep her for observation the next couple of days, but she's going to be fine."
"Glad to hear that."
"Yeah…" Missouri trailed off, at a loss for what to say next. "Sam, Dean…I'm-I'm sorry. I mean it."
Sam nodded again and gave her a hint of an acknowledging smile. Right now, her compassion was of no use to him, for either of them, really. But there was no need to make her feel worse about it.
"You're 'sorry'?" Dean snapped at her.
Apparently his big brother didn't think the same way as Sam did in the matter.
"You were with Sam. You were with him, and you let him in! Do you realize he could have died?"
"Dean," Sam said, intervening. "It wasn't her decision."
"I shot her, Missouri!" he exclaimed, glaring at the woman. "I shot my own mother like you told me to do, and it didn't fucking work!"
"I thought it would, dear. I thought it would be enough."
"You thought?" Dean grunted. "I trusted you with my life, with my brother's life, and you thought?"
"Dean, it's enough," Sam said and grabbed his arm.
"You let go of me!"
Dean slapped his brother's hand away, stood angrily, and dropped the blanket around his shoulders to the ground. He stalked off to the driver's side of the Impala and slammed the car door closed after sitting behind the wheel. Sam stood too, hurt evident in his eyes as he ruefully looked at Missouri.
"It's okay, Sam," she said, advancing herself to the hunter's apology.
"He's upset. He had to…"
"I know what he had to do. What you had to do."
Sam chewed the inner part of his cheek uncomfortably.
"So…" he started. "It was always about us, then? We were what kept her here? Her…unfinished business?"
Missouri smiled sadly.
"Yes, I guess you were."
"Then, what happened to Marcia, in a way that was also…"
"No, child, c'mon," Missouri said by way of denial. "You've got a scary way of putting all kinds of things that you're not to blame for on yourself. None of that was your fault."
Sam didn't look too convinced, but he shrugged acceptingly. Missouri figured he was simply eager to get in the car with Dean before the older brother ran out of patience and took off without him.
"She was beautiful, you know?" he said softly.
"Yeah…Yeah, she was," Missouri croaked lovingly. "Listen, you should take it easy for a while, you hear? Take some time for yourselves. You can stay here if you want. My house is your house."
"I don't think that's such a good idea," Sam said, rejecting the offer.
And Missouri knew he wasn't only doing it for Dean's sake.
"But thank you, Missouri. Really, you've helped us a lot. Thank you."
"Don't mention it, honey," she reassured him, envisioning a goodbye. "You take care of your brother, okay?"
"I'll try," he said, then locked eyes with her, completing the unspoken farewell before heading to the passenger's door.
"Sam," Missouri said, stopping him.
Maybe it was the Winchester way to leave things unsaid, but it wasn't Missouri Mosley's. And maybe Sam didn't remember what he had done before, how his powers had manifested during his trance to let him open the door of the house. But she had witnessed it, and it had scared her.
The younger Winchester; however, took a deep breath at her call and refused to turn and face her.
"Don't," he pleaded.
Missouri sighed. He definitely remembered. But probably, he was telling himself it had been just a one-time thing. That it wouldn't happen again, so there was no need to think about it. If she had been scared, she didn't even want to start imagining how Sam must be feeling. The kid needed guidance, and she could provide it. But not until he was ready to accept it. Not until he could accept what he was.
"If you ever need anything, anything, Sam," she stressed. "You know how to find me."
Appearing a bit more relaxed now, Sam dared to look at her. He nodded.
"I know. Thanks."
"You take care of yourself."
"I will. You too."
The first minutes of their ride back to the motel were awkward at best, rather tense to be precise. Dean refused to talk to him, or to even look at him, and Sam was too tired to try to get through to his brother. Besides, trying to break into Dean's mood in a taut moment like this was an attempt doomed to ruin. And Sam knew Dean wasn't really angry with him, or at least that the part of the matter that involved Dean being mad at him was negligible compared to the other stuff going on inside his brother's mind.
After a while of simply letting Dean be, Sam felt the tension easing itself off, and the edgy silence turned into a weary quietness that was devoid of any bitterness. Welcoming the calm and the fact that, weirdly enough, Dean hadn't turned on the radio to escape his mind, Sam rested his head against the window. He toyed with the idea of closing his eyes since they were still itchy after the smoke bath. But when he was about to let them drift close, the car swerved slightly to the side of the road and slowed down before coming to a complete stop.
Sam glanced at Dean questioningly, but his older brother just kept his eyes fixed straight ahead. He hadn't taken his hands from the steering wheel, and, generally speaking, his expression was Dean's usual stoic mask. But then, with a second look, Sam realized Dean's eyes were moist with pooling tears, a condition which was probably making it pretty hard to see the road.
"Mind driving?" Dean asked simply, offering no more explanation and not bothering to make up an excuse.
Sam didn't need one.
"Sure," he whispered.
They traded places, no more words needed, and got to the motel about fifteen minutes later. Dean got out of the car first but waited for Sam to join him at the room door. He still wouldn't meet his eyes, and Sam didn't push it. But as he turned the key in the lock, he made a silence promise to himself.
I'm going to make it right, Dean. I swear.
Oblivious to his brother's inner dialogue, Dean entered the room as soon as it was open, and Sam followed him close behind. So close that he walked into him when, all of a sudden, Dean stopped just a few steps away from the door.
"Dean!" Sam grouched, "What the…?"
Sam looked over his brother's shoulder to find a man in the middle of the room, giving them his back.
"Who are you?" Dean growled warningly.
The man turned slowly, and both brothers gasped at the same time.
"What have you done?" John Winchester's voice was as pointed as a knife as he glared at his sons. "What.Have.You.Done?"
You thought it was the end? Well, don't worry, the end isn't far away, probably only two chapters (the last being an epilogue) to go! I guess I can say the action is pretty much spent by now, but hey…angst is definitely not! Ready for the aftermath? Thanks for reading! Please review!