Dean sighed. Again. He sighed and shifted in his seat. He sighed, shifted in his seat and glanced in the rearview mirror for the umpteenth time.
“Do you need to pee?” Sam turned toward his brother. He couldn’t take it anymore.
“It was on the news again this morning.” Dean glanced at Sam, then sighed, shifting he went back to staring out the front windshield.
Now was Sam’s turn to sigh. “What happened in the hotel? In that storm while I was out? Which brings me to ask, why was I out cold?”
“It’s on the front page of that paper you’re holding.” Dean’s right hand left the steering wheel, two fingers tapping the paper Sam held in his lap but wasn’t reading. Then he moved it to Sam’s knee for a brief second gave a squeeze and took hold of the steering wheel with both hands again.
Sam scratched at his jaw and nodded. He understood Dean’s deflection techniques when he saw them. It didn’t mean he wouldn’t get answers; the opposite in fact. What it did mean was he was going to have to clamp down on his questions, be patient and let Dean work things out in his head. Only then would Sam get answers.
He studied the newspaper resting across his legs, “We have seen a lot of reports, haven’t we?” Unable to disagree even a little bit with Dean on this one, he couldn’t help how his lips twitched into a smile,
“Dude,” Dean smacked his arm, “it’s Mothman. Legendary.”
“And you call me a geek.”
Dean snorted, “Come on, Sammy, admit it. This is cool no matter what.”
Sam stopped resisting the urge to crack a full-on smile. “Yeah, it is.” He looked up from the newspaper and made a conscious effort to ignore the way Dean glanced in the rearview mirror, arched an eyebrow and gave the back seat a clear don’t-mess-with-me glare. “Do you find it odd that everywhere we look, every TV we see, every place we stop to eat, someone is talking about it, everywhere we turn we see a report and it’s all from the same town?”
“Set up.” Dean didn’t really ask. He just put the words out there between them.
Shrugging, Sam picked at a spot on the car seat until Dean reached out and flicked at the back of his hand. “It’s something we’d both be really interested in. Mothman only appears in one place at a time and is linked to prophecy and disaster.”
“And, we’d both really want to look into it.” Dean added.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting that someone is sending us there feeling.” Sam said.
Dean nodded, “maybe even several someones.”
“Oh, that cheers me up. Are we anywhere near there?”
“We’re in the Northern Hemisphere, so I’d say so.” Dean turned to Sam long enough to let a slow smile spread over his face. “We are heading west.”
The simple fact was, Dean was right. Mothman was one of those things that if they ever ran across, it there’d be no discussion or even thinking about it. This was something they’d pack up and drive any distance for.
Something about the town’s name, though, niggled at the back of Sam’s brain; he made a mental note to remember to check into it when they stopped for the night. “Need me to look up a route?” Sam held up his GPS.
Dean blew out a quick laugh, “Naaa…got it covered already.”
“Are you thinking it’s someone who knows us as well as we know ourselves?”
“I don’t know, Sammy. I’d like to think we’re not that transparent. Besides, Dad never thought much of Mothman, I guess because it never hurt anyone, just signaled something happening and really had nothing to do with the types of things he hunted.”
Dean signaled and guided the car to an off ramp. “We need gas,” he said in response to the question Sam drew in a breath to ask, but didn’t actually articulate. When he pulled into a small gas station, Dean cut the engine and turned to face Sam, pulling his knee up to rest on the seat between them, just barely pressing against Sam’s leg. “Sammy.” When Sam said nothing Dean’s voice came out more sternly, “Sam. Look at me.”
Sam looked up.
Dean’s hand wound around the back of Sam’s neck and squeezed then patted his shoulder. “He won’t hurt you, not again, I promise. No one…” Dean heaved a sigh, “To do that someone needs to go through me first, and no one will…ever.” In the next second Dean was out of the car, popping the Impala’s hood and disappearing underneath.
Sam watched through the space between the open hood and the car body as Dean went through the all-too-familiar motions of pulling out the oil dipstick, checking it, and putting it back, hands—strong, sure, steady—moving on to other parts of the car. Leaning against the door, Sam opened it slowly and unfolded his legs to the ground, stretching as he stood straight. He drew in a deep breath of fresh air and rapped on the side of the car to get Dean’s attention. “I’m going to head inside,” he nodded at the store. “You want anything?”
“The usual. Oh, and two quarts of oil.”
“Okay.” Sam knocked his knee into the back of Dean’s as he walked by, snickering when Dean stumbled sideways to keep his balance.
“Get the good stuff,” Dean called after him.
“Yeah, yeah, damn machine eats better than I do,” Sam grumbled under his breath.
The gas station store was like every other gas station store in the continental United States, and Canada too, Sam supposed. Snacks, beer, pop, iced tea, juice, coffee and hot cocoa dispensers, sandwiches…nothing new and nothing special. Sam grabbed the required two quarts of oil—the good stuff—then loaded up with bags of munchies, a few drinks, and some bottles of water while thinking they really should make more of an effort to stop in the bigger grocery stores when they could to stock up on these things. They’d get more stuff for—as Dean was always reminding him—his hard-earned poker winnings.
Sam paid for their goods, wincing inwardly at how much it all cost, took his bags and headed back to the car. Dean was already waiting inside for him. “Hey, you know we need to hit a real city and a Target or somewhere and buy stuff, it’s cheaper.”
Sam’s words died away as he got nearer the car. Dean wasn’t looking for him as usual, or even paying attention to the fact that Sam was talking to him while still ten feet from the car.
Dean was turned around, one arm thrown over the seat back, staring into the back seat. It wasn’t the fact that Dean was staring at the back seat as much as it was the fact Dean was talking—no arguing—with it.
“No, you listen to me,” Dean snapped and pointed one finger in the vicinity of the passenger half of the back seat. “I don’t have to do squat for you or your bros, so you want me, you get us.”
Sam tossed the bags into the front floor well and climbed into the car, carefully putting his feet on either side of the bags.
“Oh, and stop with the itch. There is no itch. You’d better not even think of an itch and if you so much as want to think of scratching I’ll cut your damn hands off.” Dean blew out a breath, “Oh, don’t pull that crap, you heard me.”
Sam flipped open the newspaper, and dug into one of the bags extracting a family-sized bag of Cheetos. He wondered if the back seat wanted any, or if he would seem rude for not offering.
“No, no, no, you don’t get it. Listen up, it’s Dean and Sam. Both of us, we’re sort of a package deal. There’re no buts about it and if you don’t quit badmouthing my kid brother you’ll get a mouthful of this.” Dean held up one fist and shook it at the back seat, face going from angry to something even worse.
Popping a few Cheetos into his mouth and chewing, Sam scanned the newspaper, glancing sideways at Dean every few seconds. Delighted as he was Dean was sticking up for him, Sam would have been happier if he’d been doing so to an actual person and if Sam actually knew why Dean felt the need to stick up for him. It was unsettling on a very base level to see and hear his brother like this. Sam didn’t like it, he didn’t like it at all.
Sam doubted the Impala had anything against him: well maybe other than the few times Sam had bled or vomited on the upholstery. Then, again, Dean had, too, and the car didn’t hate him. Okay, so Sam had been driving when they’d been run down by a semi-truck, but that wasn’t Sam’s fault and if the car was pissed at that, well it was a long time ago, why bring it up now? The Impala needed to get over herself…itself, itself, the car was an it not a she.
Crap, now Dean had Sam doing it too. The only difference being he was keeping his thoughts in his head and not spewing them out of his mouth.
A woman and two small children walked by on their way to a SUV. The woman’s eyes widened and she hustled the two kids along. Sam offered her an anemic smile and waved three fingers at her.
“Look, isn’t the Apocalypse coming, no matter what? The seals are like mile markers, right?” Dean was silent for a few seconds before his face fell. “Well, I guess, demons lie, mostly, but this was…yeah, demons lie.”
An elderly man walked by, staring into the car. When Sam frowned, the man looked away quickly and sidestepped farther around the car than was really necessary. If they didn’t drive away soon, they were going to attract much unwanted attention, not that they weren’t attracting some now. Sam had two choices: shove his brother out of the car and drive away, or get Dean to do the driving. Since Dean was pretty adamant with the back seat that he and Sam were a team and Dean had no intention of breaking that team up or leaving Sam somewhere, Sam decided he couldn’t dump Dean, either. Getting him to drive was the only option.
Reaching out, about to grab his brother’s shoulder and get his attention, Sam’s thoughts were suddenly and powerfully pulled to the road. Turning around without even thinking about it, he cranked down the window, hung half his upper body out of it and shouted, “Hey, look out!” He wasn’t even sure who he was yelling to or why until he heard the squeal of tires and horns blaring.
Sam sat motionless, staring at the scene across the street. A couple pulling a sled with two toddlers bundled on it stood in the middle of a small crowd. A bus was stopped just feet from them, half on one street and half on another.
Dean stopped talking. He scooted closer to Sam, leaned over and stared out the window. “Wow.” He drew the word out on one long breath. “They must have been in the driver’s blind spot.”
“Yeah,” Sam whispered, barely looking back at his brother. “I don’t know why I knew to yell and then look.”
“The important thing is, they’re not squished into grease spots.” Dean clapped Sam’s shoulder a few times, shoved back behind the wheel and started the car, pulling out of the gas station and heading west again. “We need to find somewhere to stop for the night. Keep an eye out for somewhere with WiFi, or see if you can find somewhere on the GPS.”
“We need to dig up everything we can on Mothman and Seven Trumpets, Washington and the meaning of the name of the town. There’s a connection and we need to check it out. It’s important.”
“Exactly.” Dean gave him an annoyed look. “Sam—”
Sam launched himself across the seat, grabbed the steering wheel and yanked it toward him at the same time shouting, “Dean, look out!”
“What the hell, Sam, there’s nothing—holy crap!”
Dean’s right arm shot out and stretched completely across Sam’s chest to grab his right shoulder. With his left hand, he frantically spun the wheel. Sam felt the grip of tires on the pavement when Dean pumped the brakes. Sam’s own hands shot out, his left holding Dean’s jacket and his right braced against the dash.
A delivery truck blasted through the intersection where the Impala clearly had the green light. Dean gave the wheel a final twist and pressed down steadily on the brakes, making the car slide sideways to a stop.
Sam sat staring at the road and the receding back end of the truck. He wondered if he should stress to the Impala this wasn’t his fault either and he’d saved her—it…IT—another collection of dents. As if it weren’t bad enough with his father a demon and his brother apparently having his brains turned into Fruit Loops, now Sam was worried about what the damn car thought.
“You okay, Sam?” Dean shook Sam. “Sammy!”
Jerking his head around to face Dean, Sam sat there, trying to force his suddenly out of control breathing back to normal.
“SAM!” Dean barked at him.
“I’m…yeah…I’m…I don’t know how I did that.”
Dean sat blinking at him for a minute. “That is the second time in ten minutes that’s happened. A little creepy there, little bro.”
Relaxing, Sam straightened in his seat and leveled a glare at Dean. “’Cause debating the Apocalypse and seals and me with a forty-year-old-car, which granted has seen a lot of hunts, but is it really that helpful, that isn’t a bit…oh…I don’t know? Odd?”
Attention suddenly drawn to the rearview mirror, Dean pointed at it, gave it a menacing glare and said, “Can it. I don’t care what your say and the only thing making your ass look fat is your fat ass, not the pants.”
Sam turned and leaned over the seat, thoroughly searching the back of the car. “Dean, seriously, there is nothing back here other than two bottles of water, a first aid kit, blanket and three empty M&M bags.”
“Keep up, will you, Sam? I keep telling you we have a guardian angel.” Dean motioned between himself and Sam.
“In the back seat? Like an imaginary friend?”
“Sam, trust me, please?”
“Trust you like when I was seven and you told me I really was invisible and I tried to go to school in my just my socks? Trust you like that? You know, winter is Idaho in flipping cold.”
Dean’s lips pressed together, his hands gripping the steering wheel with enough pressure his knuckles went white. He took in a deep breath and used a tone of voice that was soft and persistent. “No. Trust me as in I’m your brother, I love you more than anyone in the freaking universe and I was willing to sell my soul for you trust me.” He glanced over at Sam. “Besides, I was eleven, what did you honestly expect?”
Well, didn’t that just make Sam feel about six inches tall?
Turning to face the front of the car, Sam sat staring at his hands feeling very ashamed. “I’m sorry.”
“He’s there.” Another vile glare tossed at the rearview mirror. “He’s our guardian angel. Both of us, dickhead.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“Not you, you’re not the dickhead, he’s the dickhead.” Dean started the car, putting it into gear. Ten miles down the road, Dean glowered at the rearview mirror again, pointed to it and snapped out, “Shut it. Now!”
Sam resigned himself to sitting quietly, chewing on his lip. He almost wished Dean hadn’t admitted to him about the voices. He wasn’t entirely sure he believed the voices belonged to an angel, but he was willing to bet they at least were real and belonged to something. Something plaguing—haunting—his brother. The only other explanation was one Sam refused to believe and didn’t even want to entertain: that his brother was certifiable.
That simply wasn’t the case, now or ever.
An hour later, they found a fairly cheap motel advertising free WiFi, Sam’s favorite kind. Across the parking lot was a diner that actually had good smells wafting out. Sam’s stomach rumbled its approval. They deposited their duffels in the motel room, grabbed quick showers and walked across to the diner, and not a moment too soon. Both their stomachs had passed by rumbling and were onto more vicious sounds.
Thankfully, Dean didn’t see the need to discuss anything with the closet, shower or any of the furniture in their room or parts of the diner.
While Dean sat thumping his fingers on the table, Sam opened his laptop, getting online. He barely took notice when the waitress put his food beside him. The sounds of Dean’s chewing reached his ears but were tuned out. He was sucked into his research almost at once, which was why the loud crack in front of him made him jump so much he nearly fell off the chair.
“Sam, stop that.” Dean’s hand hit the table. “I mean it, enough is enough.”
Looking up from his laptop, Sam glanced at the plate of half-eaten food, the French fry in his hand halfway to his mouth then around the diner. “Stop…eating? Reading?” What the heck had he done now? Or maybe it was the coat rack behind him Dean was upset with.
“You’re being a jerk. I wish I’d never told you about hearing—you’re being a real ass about this and it’s not funny! Any other day of the week you’d want to talk this to death, and now you don’t say a word about all this bullshit?”
Sam stuffed the fry into his mouth more to buy time than because he wanted it. Sighing, he tried to lighten the moment and ease Dean’s mood. “The voices. What do they say? You’re not talking to someone’s dog whose telling you to kill people, I hope.”
Dean glared then growled. Growled! Picking up his plate, he shoved the chair back and stalked across the room to another empty table.
Yeah, that made Sam feel even smaller. He sucked.
Sam really had to work on his Dean mood-lightening skills. Heaving a sigh, Sam gathered his plate and laptop and followed his brother. “Dean, I’m sorry.” Glancing around to be sure no one was listening, Sam leaned forward. “But come on, you’re hearing voices. If it was me, you’d totally love the Son of Sam thing.” Waving one hand up and down his chest, “You know—me…a talking dog…Dean? I’m sorry.”
“I’m not crazy,” Dean snapped.
“I don’t think—” Sam’s words were cut off by some bum dropping into the empty chair between them. “Excuse me?”
“Of course Dean isn’t crazy, Sam,” the bum announced happily.
“Who the hell are you? How the hell do you know my name and what the hell do you want?” Sam’s hand hit flat on the table as he started rising out of the chair.
“Oh, oh, oh, language, please.” The bum covered his ears and scrunched his eyes shut. “I thought you’d be happy to see me as well as hear me.”
Dean opened his mouth and closed it again, hovering half in and half out of his chair. Sam choked and coughed, staring at his brother who stared back.
Opening his eyes and leaning back in his chair the bum proudly announced, “I’m Bob Marvin, pleased to meet you!” Then he crashed to the floor when the chair inched back too far.
Pulling his eyes from the bum—angel—trying to untangle his limbs from the chair and get off the floor, Dean stared at Sam. Then he pointed to the bum—angel. “Everyone else gets some guy with a glowing chest plate and shiny sword and we get this!”
Sam opened his mouth then bit his lip, shrugging. He felt slightly sick. They were all so going to Hell if Dean thought this was their guardian angel.
“You know, I’m getting some coffee to go. I think it’s time we all go.” Dean had one hand on Sam’s back and one on the bum-who-thought-he-was-an-angel’s back, nudging them both toward the door.
Sam huffed an irritable sigh when Dean stopped at the counter and nodded for Sam to keep going, shoving him out the door into the parking lot.
“Can I get one to go, darlin’?” the sound of Dean’s voice followed him. Sam rounded on the man—bum—following him as soon as the diner door swung closed. “So, Astro-boy, you think you’re an angel?” Sam crossed both arms over his chest and straightened his spine, hulking over the guy by a good six inches.
“It’s Bob,” the guy snorted. “What is it with you two and cartoon characters? Must be genetic.” Reaching out he fingered the hem of Sam’s shirt, “Nice shirt, where’d you get it?” He looked down at himself and chuckled. “As you can see, I’m in need of a better wardrobe.”
Dean exited the diner and stood quietly a few feet away, sipping his coffee, gaze going from Sam to Bob and back again.
“So, you think you’re an angel and you’ve been talking to my brother, making him and me think he’s nuts and hearing things?”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
Chewing on a cookie that he must have gotten with the coffee, Dean took another sip.
“The fact that my brother seems to act nuts once in a while is funny to you?” Sam took a step toward Bob, who backed up the same distance. “You followed us from the gas station, didn’t you? What sort of con are you trying to pull?”
“No. Well kind of...follow you…I guess, technically.”
“Wanna know what I think?” Sam’s arms dropped to his sides, hands bunched to fists.
“Ah, Sammy, maybe that’s not…” Dean took a step toward them.
Sam shrugged, “Okay, then.” He turned away then swung back at the bum, fist coming up and connecting squarely with the man’s jaw.
“Aww...geez.” Dean stuck the rest of the cookie into his mouth and scratched at the side of his neck, eyes tracking Bob as he stumbled backwards fell, and slid a few feet along the ground. Ambling over, he grinned down at Bob. “I taught him that.”
“Nice job.” Bob pushed off the ground with both elbows.
“Dean what are you—?”
Bob brushed Dean’s proffered hand away and with something that sounded like the flapping of wings was standing in front of Sam without Sam actually seeing him get off the ground…or move. The man who’d, a few minutes before, been at least a half foot shorter than Sam was now looking down at him and his feet weren’t touching the ground.
“Sammy, he’s really an angel.”
“He’s a what!?” Sam’s voice shot straight through girly cracking and went right to panicked five-year-old. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’ve been telling you all across the country!” Dean shouted.
Backpedaling, Sam slid behind Dean. Turning to glance over his shoulder, his brother took a step to the side. “Oh, no, you’re not hiding behind me. I’m not getting caught in a smiting crossfire.”
Grabbing Dean’s sleeve and trying to drag him back, Sam hissed, “Whatever happened to protect Sammy?”
“That was before you decked an angel, dude.” Dean stepped away again. “Maybe make nice.”
“Oh, my God, I’m so…no, I mean I’m really, really sorry.”
Bob settled his feet back onto the ground. “You got my shirt dirty. Now I have to change.”
Moving to Bob’s side, Dean brushed gravel and dust from him and grinned. “There, all better.” Giving Bob a shove toward the motel, Dean grumbled, “It’s not bad enough I have a pain in the ass little brother to take care of, now I have a fashion conscious, smart-mouthed angel too.”
He turned and looked at Sam, waving two fingers, “Come on. The worst thing he’s going to do to you is borrow a shirt.” Shoving Bob again, Dean growled, “No scratching, dude. I’m serious about that or I’ll show you a few more moves I taught him.”
Sam followed somewhat reluctantly into the motel, closing the door softly behind him. “Look, I’m…I didn’t think…why would I think or believe you’re—”
“Sam, it’s okay. I can’t really fault a man who looks out for his brother, even if he is misguided.” Bob rubbed his jaw and looked over at Dean, “You taught him that, huh?”
Dean sipped his coffee and nodded. Sam opened his mouth, thought better of it, choked back his words and smacked his lips shut.
“He always like this?” Bob’s thumb jerked in Sam’s direction, but he was still talking to Dean.
“Pretty much. Get used to it and deal.” Dean leaned back against the dresser, gaze bouncing between Sam and Bob. “Sammy, meet Bob, our guardian angel. Maybe don’t hit him again. Bob, Sam. I’m the only one who calls him Sammy and definitely don’t ever hit him. Now, what do you want?”
“Why couldn’t I see you before?” Sam skirted around Bob and sat on the bed nearest to where Dean stood.
Bob looked down, smug smile dropping off his face. “You and Dean are brothers. You share a genetic ability and you’re every bit as important as he is.”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that. Why could Dean hear and see you at first and not me?”
“I had to do some…shall we say tweaking. At first, it didn’t work very well for Dean either. But in your case, it was a little more difficult because—”
“No.” Dean’s voice was pure warning; Sam recognized the change immediately. Pushing away from the dresser, he crossed the room and stood between Sam and Bob, staring Bob down.
“Dean,” Sam reached out and put a hand on Dean’s arm. “I want to hear what he says.”
The tortured expression Dean wore told Sam pretty much what he needed to know, but he wanted to hear all the details. “Please?”
Wiping his hand over his face, Dean nodded and swallowed, but kept his position between Sam and the angel, as if his presence alone could shield Sam from any hurtful words.
“Normally, yes, both of you would be able to hear us and communicate and neither of you would create an almost physical irritant. I don’t mean that to be an insult, simply a statement of fact. In your case, Sam, things were…changed. The entity you call Yellow Eyes, Azazel, he touched you. It’s not your fault and—”
“You know what, I get it.” Sam was up and moving, pacing around the room, trying and failing to ignore how his eyes stung. “I’m wrong, a freak, evil, and I shouldn’t be here. I’m not helping and I should just—”
“Sit down and shut up!” Dean shouted, making Sam stop and stare at him. “You’re not going anywhere.” He turned to Bob. “I’m saying this one more time and it’s the last time. Us, we, Sam and me, we’re a package deal. You don’t get me without him, got it?”
Sam walked silently to the bed and sat on one corner.
Bob nodded. “Sam, I tried explaining this to your brother, maybe you’ll grasp the finer points. Azazel is responsible for you standing here right now, he brought you back after your very untimely death—but that’s all.”
“Isn’t that an awful lot?” Sam choked out.
With a steady voice, Bob said, “No. In the grand scheme of things, no, not really. Just because someone is touched by an unwanted evil, it does not make them evil. What you choose to do with your life, it’s your choice. You have just as much good as you do evil and what part you use, no one can decide that other than you, Sam.”
“That’s what Dean says.” Sam mumbled, staring at the carpeting.
“He is correct. I wouldn’t have taken the time or the trouble to work out how to communicate with you, too, if I thought you were something bad or unworthy. It’s not that my brothers and sisters don’t want to communicate with you also, they simply can not. At least not easily. We decided having one of us concentrate on you both made more sense. We can,” Bob grinned, “get to know one another. And the others won’t be wasting their time.”
Sam tilted his head to one side, not sure if that was a positive or negative remark. “Huh?”
“You know what?” Dean moved to Bob’s side, took his arm and started shoving him to the door. “Go away.”
“I don’t care. Wherever you go when you’re not pestering me.” Dean shoved Bob out the door and slammed it shut, turned and leaned against it. “You’re not evil, so stop pouting.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. Anyone who says otherwise is an idiot.”
“I know you, Sam. You’ve lived your entire life with me. If you were evil, I’d have known long before now.” Wasn’t that just like Dean, he said it was so, and therefore, it was. “And you get any stupid, stubborn-assed ideas that I’d be better off without you, well think again. Without you, I…I’m not doing this or anything without you. The great heavenly choir will have to cope.” Crossing the room and closing the distance between them, Dean put a hand on either side of Sam’s neck. “I mean it, Sam. There is no point in any of this for me without my brother.”
Sam nodded. There wasn’t anything more he could really do other than agree.