"You need anything?" Sam asked, the night of his fourteenth birthday. San Diego May had been 85 when they drove in, was 60 now. They’d been out of gas but now were out of money. No motel tonight.
Dean didn't answer immediately. He was sewing stitches across his knee. He squinted in the bare white of the gas station phosphorescence. The suture thread kept sticking to his fingers, sticky with blood. "More light."
"I can't do better than a floodlight, Dean." Sam sighed. "Do you want anything to eat? I'm going to Denis's. You know, the shop across from that apartment we had here last year. With the pink roof."
"Don't have any cas--" Dean stifled a yelp as he pulled the thread through. "--ssshit."
"I got that covered. And, uh--do you want any Tylenol or something? I think we're kinda out of the good stuff."
Dean exhaled sharply as he came back around for another stitch. "Nah, just the whiskey's good. Get it out of the trunk?"
Sam did, and Sam left. Denis's was blocks away, if memory served, but the streets were empty, and the traffic was lean. He wove through a hodgepodge of industrial yards with small yardless houses perched between them, new homes built in tracts. Last year they'd just been signs promising houses. Sam saw two men smoking on the front porch of one of them. In the windows of others, people arguing. So they must really be homes now.
Denis's was settled on the commercial-residential gap, part of a smattering of small shops and groceries that sold anything from kimchee to scrapbooking materials. Before he turned inside, Sam looked up and up and up to the eighth floor of their old place at the end of the street. He couldn't see their apartment exactly, nestled as it was in the middle of the building, but he wondered who was living there now. If they kept a gun in their scrub brushes, if they noticed the carvings Dean had made under the carpet, above the door. They'd sanded them down before they left, but they never went away. Not entirely.
"Buenos noches," Sam said to the woman at the counter, and exhausted half the Spanish he even thought he knew. But the woman smiled, so Sam figured it had been worth something. "What do you have for birthdays?" he asked, as he bent to peruse the insides of the glass cases.
The woman didn't answer him. She'd dropped her smile. Now she was just waiting. Sam recognized the flan, dulce de leche, sweet delicious things now partially sunken under their own weight. Plain fat buns sold three to a bag for three dollars--'teleras'. Sam sighed. That was probably more their style. "I'll take these," he said.
"Three," said the woman, and Sam gave her three.
Sam unwrapped the first telera on his way back to the gas station. He hoped Dean hadn't driven off without him. Sam didn't think he'd do it on purpose, but you never knew. Dean's focus had been kind of fish-eyed ever since they’d hit the county line. With this in mind, Sam stepped up the pace.
The first telera tasted like anticlimax.
Dean was where Sam had left him, asleep in the front seat until Sam tapped on the window. Then Dean jumped, wild-alert, with his heart in his eyes. Seeing Sam, he wiped a hand down his face, kneaded the bridge of his nose with his still-bloody knuckles.
Unlock the door! Sam mouthed.
"Jesus, Sam. You scared the-- don't do that!" Sam could see Dean's chest heave as he spoke, too much adrenaline running through his everything.
"Sorry. Here. It's bread."
"I can see that. And no, Sam, we need to get outta here," Dean objected when Sam started rounding the front of the car. Telera in hand, Dean struggled out of the front seat. The knee he'd been working on was stiff and crooked as he limped around the car and took the door Sam had opened for himself. "You need to drive."
Sam closed the door. "But it's the city, Dean. Everyone will notice. Do I look sixteen to you?"
"It's all about the lighting. Come on, let's go."
They crossed old familiar roads, hilly strips of asphalt crumbled with age. Intersections with a patchwork of lights, knit close the way only the big cities were. The boldly colored billboards filling the skyline still promised everything.
"Do you remember the place at the end?" Sam asked, as they waited for a light behind a large white truck.
"What?" Dean was slumped against the window, looking out at the taillights in the next lane.
"The apartment we had here. You always called it that."
"Oh. Veronica's apartment."
"It was ours, too."
"Don't get nostalgic on me, Sammy. It's only been a year. Besides, there's nothing to be nostalgic about. Turn left."
Dean led them to Veronica's house. The rose bushes were bare now, dark twigs against the little house, which looked as though it was standing interrogation under the streetlights. The sidewalk still read GC 1983. The door was locked.
Sam looked up at Dean. "Time ya."
Dean frowned. "Whatever." He stepped back, kicked the door in. He reeled with the effort, grabbed at the knee with the stitches. If Sam hadn't caught it, the door would have hit him on the recoil.
"What kind of genius plan was that?"
"Faster," Dean pointed out.
"You've shaved four minutes off our day. Congratulations."
The house was empty. Not that Sam had expected anything more. The big tan computer in the back, piano decked with dolls and photos in frames, kitchen stuffed in unmatching chairs and foods Sam didn't know--these were all gone. Without them, it was just an empty building, like so many places they'd left before.
"Do you think you're ever going to go back to school?" Sam asked. He wasn't sure why he did; it was just the first thing that came to mind. He felt like he had to fill the room with something, anything at all, or it was going to swallow them whole.
"'Cause I did such a bang-up job the first time? I don't think so." Dean sat down against one of the walls and thumbed at his stitches. "Dad said there was some kind of test I could take instead. Figure I'll do that."
"But you could graduate, if you tried." Sam was thinking about college. He only had the vaguest notion of what it was, what it meant, but all the schools, and all the teachers--they were all speaking college, college, college. And Dean was talking about a test.
Dean shrugged. "Not anymore. I have to--"
"You don't have to do anything," Sam interrupted. "Look around you. Who's watching?"
"I am. Go get the salt." When Sam didn't move, Dean didn't bother repeating himself. He got up and limped down the steps, out to the car. Rock salt and weaponry. Sam watched as he stumbled through the darkened house, salting the doors and windows.
"You shouldn't keep walking on that. You'll pull the stitches."
"Well, thanks for the help, Sam."
"And you should be icing it. One of these days you're gonna screw it up for good."
"Again, Sam, thanks--"
"I would've got you ice if you'd asked me."
Dean folded his hands into the sleeves of his coat and crossed his arms. Tried to get as comfortable as possible on the living room floor. "I'm tired of asking you for things."
Never mind that he'd just asked Sam to salt the building. --Told. He'd told Sam. And maybe that was the difference.
After San Diego, Sam had joined a soccer team, played with them all summer. He'd been good. He only missed one tournament, and it was to hunt a nest of vampires. They'd wanted him back for the fall, and Dad had almost let him go. But soccer was money they didn't have and a tether they couldn't honor. That summer, Dean would have flunked out of his junior year if he'd attended enough classes to earn any grade. He took Incompletes in all subjects, like the year hadn't even existed, and dropped off the map.
He was part of the statistic Sam's teachers assured him he didn't want to be. More importantly, Dean was living out what seemed more like a sentence than a lifetime. And if it was a life, it was going to be a short one.
"The staring at me thing is kind of creeping me out, dude. You look like you're going to eat me."
Sam started. "I do not!" But he joined Dean on the floor, tried to arrange himself into a position that was comfortable and not too pathetic-looking. Dean jostled a boot at him, told him to find his own corner. He'd called dibs on this one. Because Dean was seven.
"I'm going to kick you if you don't go find your own spot. The entire house is empty, what the hell."
"No you're not," Sam retorted. "And you wanna know why? Because you didn't go get ice, so your stupid knee is probably too swollen to even move right now." Sam wanted to stick out his tongue, but he was older than seven. He had something called impulse control.
"Stop talking, I'm trying to sleep."
Dean could try, but Sam knew that whether he kept talking or not, Dean wasn't going to. Not the whole night through. He hadn't managed that in a long time. He took his days double time, and with every passing night, Sam swore he put a year between them. The thought made Sam reluctant to ever close his eyes. Maybe if he didn't need to sleep, he could keep the Dean he knew.
But Sam slept. And he dreamed them playing cards. They each had their hands, and they stacked the cards between them, one after the other. They built a wall. They built a wall made out of soccer balls and Winchester rifles and gauze and cleats and suture thread.
When he woke, Dean was on the phone. They'd acquired another one last March, when Dad stopped chaperoning them through entire cases. He'd work some while they researched, find new ones while they dug graves. Do whatever else he did when he disappeared, empty promises in his wake.
"Dad's at Graciela's new place," said Dean. "With her aunt or something, I dunno. But she won't talk to him. We need to go."
Sam didn't know what time it was, but he hazarded a wild guess. "It's three in the morning."
"It's four," said Dean. "Come on." Dean's limp was more pronounced now, stiff with cold, swelling, and overuse. Sam hadn't moved until Dean was well past the threshold of the front door--until he was sure Dean wasn't turning back--and Sam still beat him to the car.
Sam drove. Dean slept. Dean woke. Dean tried to sleep again.
This was the first time they'd ever come back to old stomping grounds. But it was the first time Sam had ever really been aware of their failures, so maybe that was why. They weren't supposed to ruin things. They were supposed to help.
But the house was empty, the city had taken no notice, and someone had to.
Or maybe it was just the chupacabra they'd hit in Santee, and it wasn't about memorials at all. That did seem more their style. All Sam knew was they'd helped ruin something good, and it had torn them apart.
"I don't want it to happen again," Sam said suddenly, as arcs of bright headlight streaked across the windshield.
Dean was asleep.
"Because now I'm losing you."
Veronica's body will never be found.
Dad was gone by the time they'd got there; apparently he'd left right after he'd called them. Graciela sat beside her aunt and didn't look at them. She was still round, and dark, and pretty. Her hair was longer. She'd been in an out of a hospital, and she had the bracelet to prove it. They were helping her there. She'd made a lot of progress in group so far, said her aunt--call me Tia Melissa, she'd added--but that didn't mean a hell of a lot to Dean. Sure, he'd seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but Graciela wasn't Jack Nicholson.
Veronica's body would never be found, and Dean couldn't understand why the hell that didn't seem to mean anything to Sam. Dean couldn't understand why, and he didn't know how, but he was losing his brother.
The door had barely shut behind them when Dean said, "You're missing the bigger picture, here, Sam."
Sam didn't dignify the argument with a response.
"You said you didn't want it to happen again. Well newsflash, Sam--it happens. And it's gonna keep happening. And it sucks. That's not why we do things. I know it's gonna happen again. It'll probably be our fault."
Sam kept walking toward the Impala, arrow straight.
"The dozen times it doesn't--"
"Just stop talking, Dean."
"This is how I--how we--"
"Notice how 'this' hasn't actually solved any of your problems." Sam got in the driver's seat and slammed the door behind him.
Dean shouted. Stop fucking with my car, get out 'cause I'm driving, fuck off Sam--the list didn't end; it just recirculated.
"Let me know when you sleep through the night--just once. Let me know when you stop freaking out every time someone taps you on the shoulder. When you're actually happy," Sam hissed though the window, which was open just a sliver.
This was ridiculous. "I am happy. I'm always happy. Except right now, 'cause I'm pissed, and I'm about to hit you."
"I can take you."
Fury. Fury so hot it stuck, twisted like burn scars inside him. Dean did his best to swallow it anyway. "You really wanna have this fight?"
Sam kicked the car door wide open, so quickly Dean didn't even see it coming. It caught him in the knees first. Dean felt something jarring and bone-deep. It might have been pain, but hell, it could have been anything.
The next thing he knew, he was supine on the concrete, feeling the fog wet seep into his pants. Condensation dripped onto his stomach from the car door, sharp and deadly black above him. Forget feeling agony--his legs from the knee down where made of it. His curses fell to the back of his throat, and he just moaned.
Sam stepped out of the car and over him. He looked appropriately stricken. "Oh my god, Dean, I didn't mean to--"
Like hell he didn't. Dean twisted onto his hands and stomach, pushed up. He clung to the Impala. When he had enough breath: "Yeah, whatever."
Sam had known exactly what he was doing. He just hadn't thought it through. That whole Big Picture thing.
"What exactly do you think the big picture is?" Sam was incredulous.
Dean hadn't realized he'd been talking out loud. Sam helped him around to the other side of the car, but he didn't open the door. He actually wanted a response. "I can't just--"
"Papi's Dog is dead."
They both turned. Graciela stood before them. "Papi's Dog is dead. So she's gone now, too."
"I'm sorry," said Sam.
That is. Dean nodded towards Graciela, without breaking eye contact. That's the big picture. But Dean wasn't even sure if he meant 'people' or 'failure.'
It wasn't a question, where they would go. What they would do. Dean supervised as Sam bent under one hundred pounds of limp black dog and carried it to the trunk of the car, and wrapped her in the shroud they kept--dark green instead of black, now moth-eaten and everything else imperfect.
Graciela took shotgun.
"How's your knee?" Sam asked him, as he crawled into the backseat.
"It feels like someone threw a car door at it. Hand me the whiskey, will you? Should be in the glove box; never put it back in the trunk."
Sam frowned. "Is this going to be a problem?"
Dean snorted. "Please. I know what I'm doing."
They drove the long highways, black at first and then white grey in the fog that swept from the west, and the sunlight from the east. Dean skated in and out of sleep, but in his waking moments Graciela didn't say a word. It was liking driving with a ghost. She didn't tell any stories about games her dad had played on the bridge or about how much her dad had loved her mother. It was just a highway, just a bridge.
By the time they got there, it was six o'clock again. Dean watched from the car as Sam and Graciela hauled the dog across the freeway, dumped her unceremoniously beneath the white bridge skeleton, in the tall brown rushes that swallowed the both of them whole.
It was just a bridge.
And see, that was what Dean meant about the bigger picture. He had no illusions. It wasn't some symbolic crusade--save everyone, save the world, whatever. He didn't think the world was going to be ending any time soon; they wouldn't need to bother saving it. And if it did, it'd die slow and sick and wretched, and then there would be no saving it.
It wasn't about what you deserved or what any other poor bastard deserved; it was about what you didn't. It was about what you still had, and what you made of that. Dean knew what was out there in the dark. And he was going to kill as many evil sons of bitches as he could, because maybe, maybe, it'd make up the difference.
He watched Graciela throw her cross to the ground outside Tia Melissa's house, watched catatonic indifference bleed into hurt, and anger, and he knew.
The big picture was pulling the trigger and knowing that you were as close to winning as anyone was ever going to get. When you were alone, and desperate, that was all you needed.
And that was all Dean needed.
♦ ¿te fijas cómo el viento previene a los que escuchamos? ♦
It always ended in an empty house.
Dean slept fitfully, but slept. Miracles, since Sam’s version of a makeshift bed was to spread a scratchy wool blanket he’d found in the trunk of his car across Bobby’s kitchen floor. Sam sat beside him cross-legged and waited.
The emptiness crept around him, in between Meg’s invisible hounds. (Those did not creep, but they skulked.)
The emptiness was louder.
Trying to get all that shit out and away, it was amazing what Sam had found. It was like the house was built out of cubic feet of memories, and not all good. But not all bad (or so he'd been trained to believe).
Sam was willing to believe in a lot of things. But right now, Sam mostly believed that the whole world could fit within the walls of this one house. The crooked two-story that rocked, that had steel plating on its basement door, and black magic carved into its ceiling. Nets of vervain in its chimney. This was the whole world. Because he’d seen a fair amount of it outside--all of America, one graveyard in Scotland--and contrary to popular belief, it was very small. There was a limit to what could be known, what could be had, or deserved. There was family. There was food. Bad movies. Noise some people thought was music. Bon Jovi.
Hell, after you stripped away the stories, the world could fit inside a fishbowl. Sam scratched at the ears of a Hellhound, was confronted with a muffled snorting and guttural moaning that was not entirely in opposition. The world could definitely be really fucking strange, he amended, but it was small. God knew where Meg was. Searching for the knife, probably. He didn’t have the heart to tell her she’d probably be searching forever. No one was gonna die like that. Not anymore.
“Dean,” he said. Dean moaned. Continued to dream. Of Hell, maybe--the ghost of Hell. Or of life, or of Heaven. ‘Nightmare’ was too generalized for Sam to properly know.
“Dean, wake up.” And he shook him.
Dean woke to pain, that much Sam could see. Would probably always wake to pain, because Dean was an idiot, and would always be one, and Sam would always be around to tell him so. And that pretty much assured that Dean would deny it forever. But whatever; Sam could accept that. Maybe.
“You can borrow the car if you want.”
What? Dean rasped blearily. He jolted upright, like he’d just realized he’d been lying down. He winced, rubbed at this shoulder. Goddamn.
“You can borrow the car. You can go to California. You can hunt your woman in white. Go be happy.”
“What?” Dean repeated. He looked around. Blanket on hard ground. Bobby’s ceiling above him. “Well, no wonder.” His face pinched. “Did you--give me? I feel kinda--”
“That’s called sleep,” Sam said. “You should try it on your own sometime.”
“Yeah, and fuck you too.” Dean shifted into as comfortable a position as he could manage.
“I want to show you this,” Sam said, and drew Ruby’s knife. It was snapped at the hilt.
Dean eyed him quizzically. “Is Meg--?”
“Meg’s fine.” She’s as fine as she’ll ever be. “I went to Wyoming to hunt something.”
Rage, at first. Then subsided rage. Then tiredness. “What was it.”
“I don’t know. Something Eve let out of purgatory. Biding its time all these years. The knife didn’t work, obviously.” Dean pitched forward and grabbed at Sam’s collar, brushed his hands down Sam’s torso. Sam stopped him. “This was weeks ago. I’m fine.”
“Why did you go?” --which really meant ‘why did you go without me?’ which wasn’t a real question. Not one Dean didn’t know the answer to.
“Because I thought it would help. It didn’t.” End of story. Sam lost his phone, gained a mild concussion, and re-sprained his bad wrist, but it didn’t matter, and it didn’t help.
“So how’d you end the thing?”
“But it didn’t help,” Sam repeated. He wasn’t going to let Dean turn this into some kind of campfire story. “You have people who can. You have Ben, and Lisa. Hell, Lisa’s-sister-Barb. Mark--”
Dean cut him off. “First of all, Mark isn’t even a doctor. He’s a physician’s assistant.”
Sam didn’t quite see the relevance.
“This is some kind of intervention, right? Go see a doctor, take something, write confessional poetry; it’ll all blow over?”
“You have people who can help.”
“Then that’s worse.”
Ah, right. Dean logic. Sam waited for Dean to continue. There was something sedative about the floor, the one blanket. Bobby’s walls, his jacked up ceiling. He breathed evenly.
“It’s worse,” Dean said. And Sam waited. “Because all those people give you a goddamn free pass, a thousand free passes, and you still can’t--”
Dean rubbed at his shoulder. Sam waited.
“Before you got there, Lisa came in. She missed her class. She missed Mark. She missed her appointments. Fuck, she missed a call from Ben. She missed it all because she had to sit there in the goddamn garage and remind me to breathe.”
“But she didn’t mind. And she knew what to do. And she helped you.”
Dean barked. One of the Hellhounds growled. “Yeah, she knew what to do. And you wanna know why? Because it happened to Ben. After that changeling thing, it happened to him, and for a year he'd get these-- And if I hadn’t-- and that's why--
“‘And if you hadn’t’, they’d both be dead. You didn’t sic a changeling on the neighborhood, Dean. As much as I know you want to be the apple in the garden, you didn’t.”
Dean glared a fuck you, Sam. “And she still let me in her front door. And for fourteen years, and she didn't tell me a damn thing. I don't even know what I'm still doing there.” Whatever Dean wanted to say fizzled out, and he left it.
“It doesn’t matter how you found them,” Sam said, after he was sure Dean was done. “You have people.” Dean looked like he was about to open his mouth again, so Sam spat out his last two cents. “I don’t.”
The shadows on the floor shifted as the breeze moved the trees outside.
“I have you.”
Sam can almost hear gears turning. “I don’t know what the hell I’ve been doing. I don’t know why it turned out that way, but that’s what I have. I have you.”
Dean frowned. “So, now that you’re...alone and desperate, you want me to come boss you around.”
“Well, when you put it like that.”
“Gee, thanks, Sam.”
“But that’s why you followed Dad around, isn’t it? That’s why you came and got me at school.”
Dean looked like he was about to punch him if he didn’t keep talking, come clean about this. Not that Sam was afraid of that. He was more afraid of the words than anything else. He hadn’t thought it possible until the world came apart at the seams in his hands. And then he knew. The words were the glue. It's okay; it's okay. “I’m-- I don’t know where we go from here. But I know we have to go. And we can’t die, not yet. Dying is easy. We have too much practice.” Then Sam swallowed his fear, sewed it behind a wry grin. “You used to believe that, remember?”
Dean had apparently had enough of his. He groaned, made an off-balance play at rising from the ground, favoring both his left shoulder and his right leg. He pushed off from one of the boxes remaining in the skeleton of Bobby’s house. Slow but steady success. Now level, he looked at Sam, tinged pink with the sore afterward of vivid pain. When Sam offered no rebuke, no I-told-you-so, he turned his gaze to the end of the long hallway.
He knew. Sam knew he knew. There was no going back. Those stories had been told. But he and Dean--they couldn't just lurk between the pages and call that living new; that wasn’t going to cut it. Death wouldn’t either; they were of the few who could actually say they’d tried that.
Sam could see the knowing wrapped up in choked breaths and slick muscle, caught at the back of Dean's throat. Dean fingered his shoulder tenderly and swallowed the reality he could not yet speak. But he knew.
"What’s in this box, anyway?" he said instead. “The thing’s a rock.”
"The Winchester Gospel," Sam said plainly and without emphasis. If he offered anything more he didn't think he could say it with a straight face. Still, he tried to clarify for Dean, staring at him dumbstruck. "You know, all those Supernatural books. Chuck's life's work, key to the universe, et al."
"No, I know," Dean snapped. "It's just--" He thought for a moment, and regarded the box with a petulant frown. "Oh god, no. No. That's--"
"--awkwardly fucking stupid. This is ridiculous. We are not taking these. We're not." Dean's eyes quested frantically around the shade-dark room, empty and unimparting. "We're gonna burn them. We're gonna burn them, Sam. Take 'em out back and burn them. I don't give a fuck what the sheriff says; these need to go. These need--"
Sam snorted. Following the break in Dean's miniature tirade, he said, "Did you know Becky picked the series up? Ghostwriting for the publishing company."
Deep breath. "She didn't-- She doesn't--?"
"One hundred percent outside of divine intervention."
Dean sighed relief. Then, "So what have we been doing instead?"
Sam shrugged. "Dunno. I only skimmed. More of the same, I guess?"
And then Dean looked inexplicably perturbed, offered a question in explanation. "You didn't skim through any, uh. Fiery, demonic..."
"Yeahhhhh, I think I did. Or I might have. Maybe." The words came out in a harried flush, so quick Sam could feel the heat they left on his cheeks. "If was very heartfelt, if that helps."
Dean's mouth froze, O O O. Then: "N-- no, not really."
“I saw your notes. The page from Dad’s journal.”
“Okay,” Dean allowed. “Listen, if this confession involves anyone taking it up the a--”
“They’re all dead, huh? All those hunters.” Sam pressed on. “They’re gone.”
Silence. Then, “Yeah, they’re gone.”
“Then we’re just stories.”
A tch. “Yeah, I’m good. You’re the one who needs a doctor. We’re people, Sam.”
“And these are ghosts.” Sam held up the file, a slim neat collection of a woman on a dark deserted highway, killing faithless passerby. Then the page from Dad’s journal. “They are ghosts.”
“They were people,” Dean insisted. “They were good--some of them were good--mostly all right--people.”
It’s just a legend, a story. A legend we happen to know is based on truth, Sam added before Dean could object. And that’s the important part. You kill the source, you kill the myth. And you have nothing.
“You don’t kill the, the-- not-myth, and the not-myth kills people.”
That was Dean’s bottom line: People die.
“And some live,” Sam reminded him. They believe in the myth, and they fear it, and they live. They guide themselves by hear-tell and implication, and they live. “What does that sound like to you?”
“It’s done, Dean. It’s over. We’re done. Let her go. Let all the ghosts go.”
“Yanni,” Dean repeated, though the wisecrack was gone from his voice.
“Some of us have to live on the loose ends. Let it go.”
For a moment, Dean looked absolutely lost. Desperately, terrifyingly lost. Then he got up. Groaned. He slapped Sam on the knee. “And some of us have to live in Indiana. Up and at ‘em, Sasquatch. Time to go chase the roaches out of your new place.
“Got you a nice corner lot, a place at the end of the street. There’s a balcony for your planter boxes, or gnome collection, or whatever. Hot water, actual legitimate rent. I didn’t skimp,” Dean assured him. Because this is it, isn’t it. This is as far as we get, said Dean’s eyes, and looked to Sam for their assurance.
Dean could say whatever he wanted, pretend to hide in whatever platitudes or fantasies he dreamed. All Sam could see behind them, all he could see in Dean, was truth. This is the end. This is our grave. Our grave has planter boxes and rent.
This was the end.
Sam turned away. “Let’s go to California,” he said. “After we move Bobby’s stuff to the new place. Let’s go to California.”
Dean’s brow furrowed. He licked his lips as though trying to taste for sarcasm, lies.
“Let’s go to California,” Sam said again. He wasn’t even sure why he said it, he hadn’t meant to, he didn’t know what to say now that he had. He took a deep breath.
“...For the woman in wh--?”
"Women," Sam corrected. He could do this. He could say this. He could run with all of this. "White sand, white bathing suits." Before Dean could reply-- "And a doctor."
Dean rolled his eyes but played along. "Yeah, Doc Hollywood. That entire state, man, I--"
"Pleasure reading," Sam insists. "You know, I've never read Slaughterhouse Five."
Dean made an amused, alveolar sound, then jabbed his finger at Sam insistently. "Bonfires."
"S'mores." Crooked smile. “Help me with this?” And he nudged the box of books with his boot.
Sam picked it up while Dean supervised, and followed Dean out the door, to the front porch. “Trash?”
“Nah, put it in the trunk.” Dean tried to close Bobby’s door, but true to form the damn thing wouldn’t stay shut. Dean left it. “We can burn them later.”
Sam stepped off the white porch and into the rushes, grown too high without people to trample them down. The afternoon glared full into his eyes, made everything white-hot and almost invisible.
Four o'clock was leaking into his clothes, and it felt good.