Apparently, resurrection from the dead—or whatever you wanted to call what happened to Sam—left the guy hungry. Hungry and tired.
Bobby flipped the omelet, the third one he’d made for Sam this morning alone. He wasn’t sure what the most amazing part was: the amount of food Sam stuffed into his stomach or the fact Dean would leave the kid alone with Bobby. Ever since Wyoming Dean barely let Sam out of his sight, not that Bobby really blamed him. Alongside that, Dean wouldn’t leave Sam alone with anyone, especially other hunters.
Not that Bobby could blame Dean about that either. Sam had been somewhat of a target ever since he’d been possessed and now? Suffice to say that once word got out about Sam dying—being murdered—and reappearing alive and mostly well a few days later, his safety was going to be questionable at best. Bobby considered it a huge sign of faith and trust from both boys that Sam was alone with him now. He had no delusions, however. As much as he knew both boys loved him, if something happened to Sam on Bobby’s watch, Dean was likely to string him up by his toenails and cut him into tiny bite-sized pieces. Then Dean would get mean.
Dean was wound so tightly he’d likely snap at the smallest strain. Sam wasn’t any better, simply quieter about it.
The kid, like his big brother, had never been a slouch when it came to food. The only difference was Sam didn’t make eating the religious experience Dean did. What he did do, however, was pack away as much as Dean. These days, it was more.
Since Cold Oak, the boys—his boys—had landed at Bobby’s showing no sign of leaving, other than the brief trip not so long ago for a hunt. Bobby certainly didn’t mind, but Sam seemed to have two speeds these days, eat and sleep. Maybe the kid was part hound after all. One thing was for sure: either they were going to get back out on the road hunting, or whatever the hell they did when they weren’t parked at Bobby’s, or they were going to get jobs.
At least Dean was making himself useful helping with the car repairs and the junking business. Sam had become a giant, hungry, throw rug.
Pulling the last loaf of bread out of the refrigerator, Bobby sighed and shook his head. Today’s paper with the job listings was going to find its way next to Sam’s plate.
To make it all worse, Dean was barely sleeping at all, making him cranky. Cranky Dean was not a nice houseguest. Bobby didn’t argue at all when Dean would announce he was heading out to the salvage yard. Sam would look hurt and lost, but Bobby couldn’t find it in him to be very concerned. Dealing with one out-of-sorts Winchester at a time was more than enough for any mere mortal—or immortal for that matter—thank you very much.
Bobby didn’t stop Sam from trailing after Dean when he chose, but he didn’t encourage Sam to do so either. So far, he was letting them set their own pace and go about getting themselves together in whatever way they needed. The idea that he might have to change tactics and do it soon, though, formed a few days ago and was growing bigger and stronger.
So, that morning, off Dean had gone, travel mug full of hot coffee, outside after barely eating at all and grumbling and growling with every step. Sam inhaled everything on the table and Bobby was damn glad he’d gotten his hand out of the way before Sam snarfed that up too. The kid had showered, napped and was now prowling through the refrigerator for more food.
“Here.” Bobby dropped the plate laden with omelet, toast and ham onto the table. Then, he slapped the newspaper down beside it.
Scratching the back of his head, Sam eased into the chair and peered up at Bobby, sheepish expression all over his face. “Where’s—”
“Outside, where else?”
“Oh, do you mind if I—” Sam waved in the direction of the coffee pot.
“You know how it works.”
“Thanks. Uh, Bobby, we’ll…I mean I’ll…I mean I know this costs…”
Bobby saw how Sam eyed the paper before lumbering to the other side of the kitchen to make a new pot of coffee.
“Can it, kid.” Boy, he’d stuck to his guns on Sam getting a job. “Besides, I’m getting twice as many cars fixed and work done with your brother around to help out here and there, so, just…you get better, back to yourself.”
“I’m not sick, Bobby.” Sam wasn’t facing him, but Bobby could tell by the sound of his voice and the way his shoulders slumped, his face had fallen too.
“You and Dean act like I’m going to break. On top of that, Dean acts like I’m going to vanish into thin air.”
“Sam,” Bobby needed to sit down. “You know, it’s been confusing. For us all.” He braced his elbows on the table and scooted the chair closer to the table. “Sit down, Sam.”
“I said sit.” Grabbing the back of the chair beside him Bobby gave it a hard enough shake the legs scraped across the floor.
Sam huffed, ambled across the room and threw himself into the chair with a second, louder huff. Bobby ignored it just like he’d ignored Sam’s other range of put-out noises and snarly expressions since he’d been a small child. This was probably exactly why Dean even considered walking out the door to the salvage yard earlier, leaving Sam inside. Bobby didn’t cut them any slack and whether they wanted to believe it or not, they listened to him.
The omelet, ham and coffee mug were very interesting. At least that’s where Sam’s gaze was stuck.
“What do you remember?”
A forkful of eggs made it to Sam’s mouth, his fingers clenched white around the utensil handle and his eyes shifted to Bobby though he didn’t turn his head and his bangs hung over his face, blocking his expression. Sam shrugged, his back and shoulders were tense and awkward.
It was all Bobby really needed for an answer. He reached out and let his fingers curl gently around Sam’s forearm. A shiver rippled through the kid.
The fork was carefully laid beside the plate. The fingers of Sam’s free hand swiped through his hair. “I remember being afraid and alone. There was cold and dark. Mostly, I remember thinking how much I needed Dean and I wanted to go home. Those are all nothing but vague feelings, though. I’m not even sure they’re memories.”
Bobby nodded, taking a few minutes to gather his thoughts and decide how he was going to do this. He didn’t miss the fact Sam equated Dean with home. “Sam,” he started slowly, wanting to use the right words. “It’s got to be frustrating, being treated like you’re sick when you aren’t, but neither of us thinks you’re going to break, or that there is something wrong with you, not really. You’re obviously more tired than normal; I suppose that’ll go away. You have some vague idea of what happened, but nothing clear cut, feelings of being alone, scary feelings but not anything concrete, right?”
“Now put yourself in Dean’s spot. Imagine what it would be like to see him knifed in the back, watch the life go out of his eyes right in front of you, feel his body get cold and stiff while you held him. How would you feel preparing Dean’s body for a funeral pyre and then lighting that pyre? You died, Sam, but you weren’t the only casualty.”
Rubbing thumb and forefinger over his forehead Sam looked up quickly then focused on the plate in front of him again. The quick glance Bobby was offered was enough. Sam’s terror wasn’t gone, not by a long shot. He was simply covering it well. His confusion consumed him and the need for help he probably couldn’t even identify radiated off him in monstrous waves.
These boys needed to heal, find their way and the only path there Bobby could see was for them to pick up the pieces of each other together.
“Sam, you were ready to give Azazel anything to spare Dean. You need to be as prepared to give Dean and yourself anything to get through this.” He gave Sam’s arm a squeeze. “You understand me, boy?”
Sam nodded and wiped the back of his hand over his nose, “I think so. Swallow some pride and make it easier for us to take care of one another.” He finally looked up at Bobby. “But I don’t know much about fixing cars.”
Sitting back, Bobby nodded and sighed. “You know more about your brother than anyone.”
Pushing back from the table, Sam stood up slowly and drew in a deep breath, rolling his shoulders. Patting Bobby’s shoulder, Sam managed a small smile, “Thanks.”
For the first time since coming back from Wyoming, Bobby felt maybe, just maybe they’d be okay.
Dean finished with the car, the third one he’d fixed that morning; shutting the hood and wiping grease first off it and then his hands. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply, enjoying the scent of oil, gas, dirt and sun-heated metal.
It was nice out here. The sun warmed the air around him as well as his bare arms. Needing to wear nothing but t-shirt and jeans was pleasant. Dean tipped his head back and let the sun shine down on him. It wasn’t so hot yet to be uncomfortable, not like it would be in a few months at the height of summer.
He liked it out here, even if Sam was sprouting roots in the house somewhere. Dean smiled with the fleeting thought. He hoped Bobby didn’t water his brother; the boy was big enough as it was. Most importantly, it was peaceful and quiet outside the house. He could almost forget the less than restful sleep he’d gotten the past few nights.
The way voices whispered just loud enough for him to hear this morning while fixing his coffee or how he’d looked for a turned on radio or TV and found none…he could almost forget those too.
He could almost convince himself he hadn’t heard those things, almost forget they’d ever happened.
Almost, but not quite. What was with his head anyway? It seemed hell bent on knowing he’d heard the voices and remembering them. It also seemed determined to torture him at night, reliving over and over the image of a knife sinking into Sam’s body, watching him drop to his knees, feeling the life and breath leave him in a quiet sigh.
The worst was Sam’s eyes. All his life Dean had watched Sam, studied him, and his brother’s eyes were so full of emotion, curiosity…life. In those last few moments, they hadn’t been Sam’s eyes anymore. Life and spark, the kindness and expression had seeped away even as Sam struggled in his last lucid moments to focus on the sound of Dean’s voice or his face; there was no way to know. The light had literally left Sam’s eyes and gone out leaving them flat, void, dead, nothing but sunken holes inside Sam’s face.
Dean shuddered and rubbed his arms, no longer warm from the late spring sun, but now covered with goosebumps.
When he’d finally given up and gotten up, stumbling to the kitchen to make coffee, he’d heard a voice soft and breathy, odd for someone on a radio show. What was said Dean barely grasped, and he wasn’t completely sure he’d heard right. Two uttered words—inside you—or something similar sounding.
He’d wondered for a minute what was inside him besides gas.
Naturally, he’d gone on a small, quiet hunt through Bobby’s first floor, turning up no intruder, no left on radio or TV, nothing to account for whispers behind him other than the way the hair at the back of his neck stood on end and the skin behind his ear tingled from air flowing across it.
Dean didn’t think any spirit would dare think about haunting Bobby’s house, let alone do it. No matter, Dean planned to casually plant the necessary herb bags and maybe do a cleansing. A haunting was the only explanation Dean was willing to accept right now. It was the only thing that could account for how his ears rebelled against him.
Sighing, he bent down to latch the tool chest, his fingers winding over not solid, cool metal, but softer, warmer flesh. Sucking in a harsh, fast breath, Dean jerked away and spun on his heels, nearly falling into Sam and knocking them both down. “S-sammy?”
Sam grinned sheepishly and picked up the tool chest, “Sorry. I thought you’d heard me.” He eyed Dean curiously—eyes full of life, curiosity, kindness, not flat, cold, dead—nodded once as if he understood Dean’s thoughts and stepped away.
The oddest sensation swept over Dean for a few seconds, as if he was given an insight into Sam’s head, or maybe Sam was given one into his—inside you.
Maybe Sam did see his thoughts. Dean really hoped not.
Sam stood quietly watching him, eyes warm and kind blinking patiently, the barest hint of dimples forming. Some sort of understanding passed between them, Dean felt it as if he’d been doused with a bucket of cold water. Sam didn’t see his thoughts, but he sure did know how to read Dean’s emotions, just as Dean read his.
Make the funeral pyre perfect for Sam. No, don’t hurt Dean, I’ll do anything, I need—
Rubbing the back of his neck, Dean met his brother’s gaze. “You okay?” The words slipped out before Dean could stop them. Instead of a sharp blown-out breath and eye roll, he was pleasantly surprised when Sam’s smile widened a bit and he nodded.
“Yeah, I’m good.” Sam waved his free hand at the car, “You done here? If there’s more I can help.”
“No—naaa…I’m good here, done for now I think.” Dean reached for the tool chest, but Sam’s fingers visibly tightened around the handle. He stood gazing, wide-eyed at Dean. Straightening, Dean let his hand drop to his side. “What were you up to while I was out here?”
Sam shrugged, “Nothing much. I got sort of lonely so decided to come out and keep you company, even if I don’t help.”
Dean’s eyes suddenly stung, making him look away. Sam was never that open, not for a long time and he rarely admitted wanting Dean’s company for anything deeper than a night out, even if Dean did know better. “Damn dust around here.” He twisted on his heels and walked ahead of Sam by a few steps as they made their way to the garage.
“Bobby made an omelet and ham. I put on some fresh coffee.” Sam jogged a few steps to catch up.
Glancing sideways for a few seconds, Dean got another glimpse of Sam’s face, unmasked and honest. Grinning, Dean let his hand rest on Sam’s shoulder for a few steps. “Sweet.”
Bobby was nowhere to be seen, so they loaded up plates, got their fresh coffee and padded quietly into the living room to watch some TV while they ate. There wasn’t much on, but Sam seemed content with wherever Dean’s finger stopped on the remote. For now it was news. By the time Sam’s plate was nearly empty he was yawning more than chewing or eating so Dean moved off the couch and settled in a recliner. Two minutes later, Sam was sprawled along the couch, feet hanging over the end, eyelids shut, breathing light and steady.
Dean took both plates and dumped them in the sink; they’d wash dishes later. Grabbing Sam’s laptop from the kitchen table, he opened it and booted it up, setting it on the seat of the recliner. He walked soundlessly across the room, pulled a blanket off the back of the couch and tucked it around Sam. Satisfied his brother would stay asleep for at least an hour or two, Dean pulled the recliner close enough to the couch he could prop his feet on it and rest them against Sam’s shins.
Trading places with the laptop, Dean settled in the chair, computer on his lap, and started surfing. Search after search with keywords like hearing voices and insomnia lead to other searches with titles like psychosis, mental illness and schizophrenia.
He was not going crazy. He simply was not.
Tilting his head to one side Dean tried to conjure up the voices, tried to hear them. Nada, zip, zilch, nothing. Even voices in his head couldn’t be dependable.
He was stressed, that was all. There was also the very real possibility something had gotten into Bobby’s house and was messing with him. Dean was tending toward the stress, cause geez, he watched his kid brother, his only true family, the brother he’d raised, get knifed in the back. Held him while he died—isn’t that my job, taking care of my pain-in-the-ass little brother?—then saw him come back from the dead, the dead and burned. Sam wasn’t a hallucination, he was real. Bobby saw him, Ellen, Jo: they’d all seen and touched Sam. Sam was real and solid, alive and here.
Not so long ago Sam had been cold and dead, then a pile of smoking ashes. That was enough to mess with anyone. Of course, there was the extra added attraction of Dad and his funky new eyes. Sam was back from the dead, and Dad was sporting demonic power, so naturally Dean might be a tad off his game. It was a good, logical explanation for voices that weren’t there.
Didn’t crazy people always think they weren’t the crazy ones?
Powering down the laptop and closing it, Dean carefully set it on a nearby table, stood and stretched. He couldn’t see the TV very well from where he was and the computer had lost its allure. Wiggling one finger over the bottoms of Sam’s feet a few times, Dean grinned when he got the expected response. Bending his knees, Sam retracted his feet enough for Dean to scrunch in at the end of the couch. It’d been a tried and true method since Sam was maybe two.
Right now he was bored and wanted something to do, but was reluctant to leave his snoozing brother alone and unguarded. Never mind Sam didn’t much need guarding these days, not like when he really was two. The truth was Dean needed to and Sam seemed less jumpy when Dean was around. At least that’s what Bobby had said a day or two ago.
Using the recliner as a footstool, Dean snagged the end of the blanket covering Sam and pulled it over his own legs. Sam shifted and halfway turned on his side, stretching out far enough the balls of his feet hit Dean’s thigh, but didn’t go farther. Warm feelings spreading through him, Dean lifted Sam’s feet and plopped them down on his lap. With one hand resting across Sam’s ankles and the other draped against the end of the couch, Dean held the remote loosely and flicked through stations.
There was Dr. Splatz, another station had Dr. Futz, and then there was Dr. Spuzzy…sheesh there were more TV psychiatrists than there were evangelists and infomercial guys put together. One show caught his attention, though, the topic of confusing possessions with mental illness. The corner of Dean’s mouth turned up a fraction when some girl in the audience stood up and asked Dr. Splatz if maybe demons and possessions should at least be considered, after all wasn’t anything possible?
Dean leaned back and yawned, watching the TV. The girl had an open mind and more importantly a low cut, snuggly fitting blouse and a pretty face. Voices droned on, the show switching to a commercial Dean barely paid attention to…Sam’s chest rose and fell, alive, he was alive and well.
Strongest is murdered in righteousness.
Dean sat up so fast the remote tumbled to the floor. He blinked at the TV, rubbed his eyes and looked around. Chills ran down his spine making him reluctant to leave his brother asleep and undefended. He knew he should go look for the source of the voice, yet Dean stayed rooted to the couch. He wasn’t moving unless he woke Sam up and made him come along, which would mean explaining to Sam why Dean wanted to check through the house.
Coughing and clearing his throat loud enough anyone in the house would hear him, Dean scanned the room. Nothing out of place, nothing moved. It must have been something on the TV, or that pesky ghost Bobby obviously had. Really, the man should learn to ward his house better.
Eyelids getting heavy again, Dean relaxed back against the couch. Nothing was in here other than him, Sam, possibly an annoying poltergeist and an old TV. Voices from the TV blended with the sounds of the old house and what filtered through the windows from outside. Dean gave in, slipped farther down on the couch and let his eyelids do what they wanted.
“Sam! Look out. Saauumy!” Dean shouted, running, lungs burning, heart lurching when he saw the smile on Sam’s face wiped away not by the rain but by the expression of confusion and pain. Back arching as he pitched forward a few more steps, Sam crashed to his knees. Dean barely caught Sam before he went face first into cold mud.
Sam’s head bobbed forward then jerked upright only to tip forward again. His eyes searched out Dean’s face, lips worked, but nothing came out. Dean’s hand pulled away from Sam’s back covered with blood and flesh. He knew without even looking, Sam’s spine was ripped apart by the knife.
“You’ll be okay, Sammy, I got you, I’ll take care of you.” Even as Dean said the words, he knew Sam couldn’t hear him. He rocked Sam away from him far enough to look directly at his face. It was slack. The sight of Sam’s eyes wrenched Dean’s gut viciously. They weren’t Sam’s eyes; there was no spark of life, easy twinkle of kindness, no passion, nothing at all.
Without warning Sam’s body—his dead body—was yanked away, arms and legs flapping in the wake of movement like some grotesque rag doll. Azazel stood behind Sam. He snapped his fingers and Sam’s mouth jerked open in a silent scream, eyes opened wide, his face was a mixture of shock and pain. He wasn’t dead anymore. “He’s all mine now.”
“Actually, he’s mine.” John appeared from nowhere and Dean silently cheered. Dad wouldn’t let Sam die or be taken by Yellow Eyes. Grasping Sam’s shoulder, John spun him around and shoved him over backwards to the ground, pouring gasoline all over him.
“Nooo.” Dean stumbled to his feet only to be shoved back down by some invisible hand. “He’s not evil, Dad no.”
John shook his head sadly and flung one hand forward, sending sparks of fire to ignite Sam. Screaming filled Dean’s ears, Sam’s screaming for him to come and help him, to keep him from burning alive. No matter how Dean struggled, he simply fell farther down into the mud. The rancid odor of burning flesh hit his nostrils and turned his stomach. Skin and flesh bubbled over Sam’s features and fell away.
Without a word, John tilted his head back and pointed up. Sam’s body slid skyward. Dean didn’t want to look, but he was powerless to not. It wasn’t Sam above him, but a woman, pale golden hair hung down, her white nightgown twisting and flowing around her legs and her arms held out to the sides like an angel.
“Mom?” Dean didn’t even try to stop the sob. “Not…no…Mom!”
The woman burst into flames, screaming. She morphed into another blonde woman, Jessica. Her blood dripped from above, splattering over the ground at Dean’s feet, coalescing and twisting to first become Sam then cover him.
Without warning, Dean was freed. He staggered forward, falling beside Sam. Two deep breaths and he was pushing off the ground, hauling Sam with him and away from the fire, shouting and kicking. Holding Sam against him with both arms around his brother’s waist, Dean spun around and shoved him away from the fire…straight into the waiting blade of their father.
Shuddering so hard his teeth rattled and his vision blurred Dean tried pulling Sam away, but it was too late, Sam dropped to his knees, the life bleeding out of his eyes once again. His mouth opened, his throat worked but no voice came out other than the wheeze from the rush of air leaving his lungs.
Spears of pain gouged through Dean’s thighs, shooting up to his hips and down to his feet. For the briefest instant, Sam was standing before him, tall, strong, alive. He held out one hand, shouting at Dean.
Through the cotton that seemed to be plugging his ears Dean heard Sam’s voice, “DEAN!”
Ignoring how his legs blazed with a deep ache, Dean lurched forward and grasped Sam’s outstretched hand. Gripping tight, Sam threw his weight back and jerked Dean toward him.
Jackknifing away from the back of the couch, Dean at once realized the horrid pain in his legs was from Sam’s heels digging into his muscles as he sat up and pulled at Dean. Looking around, Dean couldn’t figure out where he was. The only real sensation that got through was the fact Sam’s heels were pressed into his legs and Sam’s hands were on his shoulders, shaking him with a grip so tight it hurt.
“Dean! Dean, wake up. What’s wrong with you?” Sam sounded desperate, young and terrified. He was shaking Dean with such ferocity Dean thought his teeth and eyes would fly right out of his head.
Holding onto Sam’s arms, Dean mumbled, “Sam, I’m…stop…off…” he shoved Sam’s feet away from his legs and panted out a few breaths, the pain vanishing the second Sam’s feet were on the floor.
“So-sor-sorry.” Sam’s fingers gripped harder on Dean’s shoulders. “Are you okay? Jesus, Dean, I thought you were dying, being torn apart from the inside out.” The poor kid was shaking so badly his bangs shimmied side to side.
He needed room, right the hell now. Pushing off the couch, Dean backed away. “I’m…I was dreaming…I…gimme some space, Sam.”
“What the hell kind of dream was that?” Sam’s voice rose with every word, he sounded angry, but his eyes were saucer-wide, his skin was pale and he trembled head to foot.
The same odd feeling as before washed over Dean and trickled down his back. Quirking an eyebrow, his gaze met Sam’s. His kid brother’s eyebrows pulled together and he sucked in a deep breath, going completely still. Plainly he felt the same thing as Dean.
Shaking his head to clear the ringing deep inside his ears, Dean backed away a few steps. “I need air, or—” clenching and unclenching his fists he glanced around the room before settling his gaze on Sam. “I just…I need some air…I’m sorry.”
Before Sam could comment or argue, Dean was running out of the room, not stopping until he was on Bobby’s back steps. Sinking to the hard wood, he braced his elbows on his knees and dropped his face into his palms. He was vaguely aware of footsteps behind him stepping down each stair cautiously. The step Dean sat on creaked when Sam eased down beside him. Sam’s hand rested on Dean’s shoulder.
It was probably five minutes, maybe more, before Dean could quiet his shaking insides and convince his mouth and brain to work together to talk coherently. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay.” Sam huffed a short laugh, “Not like I haven’t scared you plenty with my nightmares and visions.”
“Yeah, well, that’s different.”
Sam leaned to the side, bumping hard into Dean with his shoulder. “No, it’s not.”
Sitting straighter and turning to face his brother, Dean took the plunge, “Sam, were you inside my dream?”
Nodding slowly, Sam said quietly, “I think so.”