After the People Lights Have Gone Off
Honestly, Dean's glad they haven't jumped into each other's arms yet. He's glad they're almost through Nebraska traffic--almost to 36, straight and empty. He's glad the only thing Sam's said in the last four hours is his incredulous "Nebraska traffic? You're kidding me, right?"
But Sam should have added, "We need to get you back on the grid," or something a little punchier. Something Dean could have drowned out with music, or riffed--or brought up later, when all is said and done, and everyone's nursing a beer, and they have nowhere to be but in each other's home.
They're running out of reasons not to, what with Cas off playing black-white Power Rangers and Mary in the wind. They're running out of places to focus, besides each other.
But then, three days ago they'd woken up, eaten corn flakes, done morning together for the nth day in a row, and still hadn't said a thing worth saying.
Sam still hasn't asked him why he's not dead.
Dean still hasn't tried to explain.
"Here's your pit stop, Ricky Rudd," he says instead, as he pulls off the freeway and into an empty parking lot.
"Thanks," Sam replies, without looking up from his phone. He doesn't make any move to leave.
Dean spies a vending machine, thinks booze, then reminds himself that they don't stash beer in vending machines, and also, he is driving. He's still driving.
Sam might raise an eyebrow if Dean told him they needed to switch, because Dean needed to get sloshed right here, right now.
But maybe not. Dean had been ready to shoot a Wiccan Millenial on hazy evidence and no real hunches, and Sam hadn't seemed too put out by that. And besides, Sam stopped putting himself between Dean and the bottle a long damn time ago.
You could call this trust--but then, you can call it whatever you want.
Dean traces the headlights of a double-decker bus as they wend through the windows of the Impala, stop like spotlights on the bathroom.
He thinks of Magda--her bus would have taken 80, the way he should have taken 80; but he didn't--and tells himself Sam's fine. And Dean's sanity should not be Sam's responsibility, anyway.
Clearly, Sam just wants some space. Apparently everyone just wants some space.
"Gonna beat the line," Dean says, half-gesturing toward the bus and half just tumbling out of his seat as quickly as possible. Sam says something, but he loses it in the car door's slam.
He ends up pissing in a sea of Cub Scouts (there's so many of them they buddy up on the urinals, and their adult supervision is either too tired or too impressed with their teamwork to object). Dean tries not to look dangerous. He can't keep from looking like a whole lot of shit, though, and that's probably dangerous enough.
He'd wanted to leave her--Mary. It'd been what, maybe four hours tops before he realized that now he was her parent, too. And that was just--
He's not in any position to be that. Not for his own damn mother. So he'd wanted to leave. To go find Sam on his own.
Then he'd wanted to leave Sam and her to their own devices. He'd taken the time to shake Sam's tail, absent himself from every room Sam looked for him until Sam went for Mary instead--and then to his own room, alone, door locked. Dean on the kitchen floor, circling the drain.
He'd wanted to leave until he got drunk enough he didn't.
The next day, he woke up, wanted to leave, but didn't. Then Mary did. Today, he'd wanted to leave more than he wanted to kill a witch, and Sam let him.
When Magda left, California-bound, her leaving was escape. It was freedom. Mary, same thing. And Dean can't even fault her, really, because he knows what it feels like to stay.
Even now, he still wants to leave.
He can imagine slipping down the embankment into some trash ditch, sidecar to this bullshit Nebraska highway. Finding all the deepest shadows because the weeds aren't high enough cover. Sam doesn't know this, or doesn't believe it (never mind the summer he spent not finding Dean--or Dean's inner demon, or whatever), but if Dean were to try, he knows he could make it so Sam could never find him again. Believe him--because there was that other summer, the one with Sam also not finding him--not actually looking. Back then, there were plenty other things that did. Believe this: Dean knows how to run.
But he doesn't, and he doesn't, and he doesn't. If he does, he's not free--he's lost. He loses.
But then he doesn't, and he loses anyway. And if he wants to leave, there may not be any more lines of defense.
Dean feels Sam's hand brush the small of his back, leap away like he's brushed hot iron, then settle back again.
"Are you okay?" Sam asks. "Those Cub Scouts were acting kind of-- They just started using the women's bathroom instead."
Sam's hand pulls away again. He doesn't know what he should be doing. He leans past Dean to shut the sink off. It's been gushing faster than the drain can handle, making a dusty brown lagoon of its bowl.
"Are you okay?" Sam asks again.
Dean wipes his hands on his jeans, but they're dry. Well, fuck it.
"We covered this before we got in the car," he says.
"Yeah, but I'm asking if you're okay. Like, right now."
"Are you?" Dean volleys.
"No," says Sam.
Dean wants to drop to the bathroom floor, which he's pretty sure he's never wanted. At least not sober. Not uninjured. Not when he's "okay."
Maybe Mary would have stayed, if she'd seen what kind of family they were. What him and Sam meant to each other. Who they even were.
That didn't seem like such a tall order. Just be a fucking person and love your fucking brother, right? Maybe that's all she needed. Maybe that's all she would have needed.
"I looked up Ricky Rudd, by the way."
Dean thinks Who?, revises to Why?, and then his mouth says nothing at all.
Sam reads his body and realizes Ricky hadn't mattered, anyway.
"I was trying to figure out what you were telling me," Sam explains, sort of. "If you were-- I'm just-- I dunno."
They haven't told each other anything.
"I dunno," Sam repeats.
"Sounds about right."
And honestly, Dean thinks about it. Is it time to hug this out? Is that what makes this better? But the answer's so clearly fucking not, it's not even worth the joke.
They're almost to 36. It's dark enough they can pretend it leads somewhere.