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In an unremarkable house on a nondescript suburban street, Chuck Shurley woke with the mother of all hangovers. It was nothing new. The bad taste in his mouth, the searingly painful headache and a stomach that would protest at anything but the greasiest of food were regular occurrences. When inspiration struck like a kick to the head, nothing helped but drinking himself into oblivion and writing out everything that came to him. He could churn the equivalent of a book out in a handful of days, but it took longer to recover from the experience every time.
He opened his eyes a crack, afraid that any stray light sneaking in through the curtains would make his head hurt more. An unpleasant smell hung in the air and he sighed. He stank. He hadn't had a shower for days, not since he’d started writing again. The bathrobe and pajamas he wore should be destined for the trash, not his long neglected laundry pile. The alcohol that seeped from his pores wasn’t helping.
He stumbled to the bathroom, taking some small relief from the release of pressure in his bladder. Once he was done, he studied his face in the small mirror above the sink. Dark, dark circles ringed his eyes, as purple as bruises. His skin was sallow and his hair, despite the way it valiantly curled, was lank and greasy.
He hadn't always been like this, Chuck mused. Once, he'd been bright eyed and articulate but that was before he began to write about the Winchesters.
He grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen and a couple of pain pills to take the edge off, then shuffled back to the couch. His hand shook as he reached out to flip open the laptop that lay amongst the debris of bottles and pizza boxes on the low table.
There was a document open already. He let out a long sigh and began to type, more than ready to finish this chapter in the lives of Sam and Dean.
The siren watched, his eyes gleaming, as the brothers raged at each other.
"You're weak!" Sam accused.
"You're not my brother anymore." Dean countered.
Chuck typed in the rest of the fight scene, wondering at the things he imagined the brothers saying to one another.
Dean raised the axe, intent on killing Sam where he lay on top of the wreckage of the door, but a sharp pain in his shoulder distracted him, and then a knife swept past his face, hitting Nick. The siren dropped to the floor, dead. Dean looked at the axe in his hands, then down at Sam.
Chuck wrote Bobby saving them, his fingers flying over the keys and then, as always, the Winchesters pretended like nothing had happened, like they hadn’t just verbally torn each other apart.
Sam and Dean climbed into the car, leaving what should have been said behind on the side of the road as they drove off towards their next case.
Chuck sat back and re-read the last page. He was concerned about the direction the story was headed in. As it stood, it would take a lot to get Sam and Dean past this point and back to being brothers again. He only hoped he was a good enough writer to pull it off.
Weeks later, prophecy came to pass.
Sam and Dean Winchester did what they did best. Pretended to each other that they hadn’t both been devastated by the words that the siren had helped loosen.
“Dean, you know I didn’t mean the things I said back there, right? That it was just the siren’s spell talking?”
“Course, me too.”
“Okay, so ... so we’re good?”
“Yeah, we’re good.”
Dean didn’t know who lying came easier to, him or Sam, because they weren’t good. They were far from being good.
They drove off without another word, but being on the road wasn’t the same anymore. If Dean was truthful with himself, it hadn’t been the same since he’d gotten back from Hell. Used to be that the road stretched out in front of them, urging them forwards, on to another case, another place. The growl of the Impala as she powered on down the highway was a sound he looked forward to, relished, even. But not anymore. Now there were too many unpredictable twists and turns. Too many possibilities to have to face up to his own demons, in every way possible. Too many heart aching moments when he knew Sam was looking him in the eye and point blank lying to him.
Dean’s jaw was set. He stared ahead resolutely, not wanting to even acknowledge Sam was in the car with him. When the silence finally got too much, he slammed a Metallica tape in and let the abrasive chords fill the aching emptiness inside. But even the music grinding out of the speakers, harsh and dark and perfectly suiting Dean’s mood, did nothing to fill the silence between them. It was heavy and claustrophobic, a weight that threatened to crush them both. Dean had never been happier when he finally spotted somewhere for them to spend the night.
It was a chain motel. Dean hated them, and not just because they were pricier than the ones they normally stayed in. For one thing, they kept better records than the dives he was used to but he needed to be out of the car and away from Sam, and that was killing him. To need to be without his brother was such an alien concept that Dean didn’t know how to handle it.
He threw the Impala’s keys at Sam, leaving him to get their stuff while he checked them in. He asked for two rooms, hoping that by the time Sam caught up with him he’d be able to pass it off as being the motel’s fault for only having two singles left, but the damned place was packed out and they only had a twin. The perky receptionist was apologizing to Dean for them having to share when Sam came up behind him. Dean nodded, thanking her. He took the key and turned to face what he knew would be annoyance on Sam’s face. Only that wasn’t what he saw.
He saw hurt and panic and fear, all coming together to make his wide shouldered, well built brother look thirteen again, an age when John’s habit of leaving them alone to fend for themselves had left Sam with abandonment issues of his own. Dean had an overwhelming urge to sling an arm around his shoulder, hug him tight and tell him to lighten up, everything would be okay. But Sam wasn’t 13 anymore, that was the whole point. The days when he trusted in Dean enough to think he could always fix things, could always make things right, were long gone and this time, Dean really didn’t think things would ever be okay again.
Their room was too small. The walls pressed in on Dean, forcing him to be too close to the brother that didn’t need him anymore. Dean wanted to scream at Sam but he kept everything inside. He’d tried letting it out, tried doing it Sam’s way and talked about it and where had that got him?
“You’re too busy feeling sorry for yourself ...”
“Whining about all the souls you tortured in hell ...”
Dean put himself on autopilot. He went out to the Impala and took some of the weapons out of the trunk, tucking them out of sight into a bag and carrying them back to the room where he began to methodically clean them.
“Do you want a hand with that?” Sam tentatively asked.
“Dean, I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean what I said.”
Dean didn’t reply, just got on with stripping down a rarely used pistol. He knew he didn’t need to remind Sam that the other victims had known exactly what they were doing when they were under the influence of the siren.
Sam sighed and tried again. “Don’t you think we should ...”
Dean whipped round to face his brother.
“We should what, Sam? I swear to God that if the next words out of your mouth are “talk about this”, I will fucking end you.”
Sam stared back at him and swallowed, nodding slightly. Dean went back to his guns and knives while Sam sorted out his laundry. He reached for Dean’s bag to do the same for him.
Sam picked his laundry bag up, and slunk out of the room, shoulders hunched, leaving his brother alone.
Dean’s hands moved over the weapons as he worked, the cool, solid metal familiar and comforting. He’d seen the look on Sam’s face as he’d tried to get Dean to believe he hadn’t meant what he’d said. So different from the resignation and veiled frustration he’d seen so many times when he’d looked at Sam lately. There’d been real fear that he’d gone too far, and much as Dean would have loved to lie to him and tell him they were really okay, laugh it off with a self-depreciating quip or two, Sam was right. It wasn’t something they could pretend hadn’t happened and Dean doubted there was a way back.
The thing was, Dean knew Sam had been telling the truth. They both had. Nothing had been the same since he’d returned from hell. The secrets and lies they’d both been carrying around had turned them into strangers and Dean’s heart ached at how much he wanted his little brother back. He hated how easy it must have been for the siren to pick up on that, and it had nearly cost him everything he had left.
Dean grabbed a beer from the cooler he’d brought in from the trunk and slugged half of it back in one go, memories of standing over Sam with the axe raised assailing him.
Almost as soon as the spell was broken, he had stared at Sam, wanting to puke right there in the hall at the thought of what he’d been about to do. The axe lay discarded on the floor and Dean looked down at it, the pain in his shoulder forgotten. If Bobby had got there a minute later, Sam would be dead, the axe embedded in his chest.
When it came to killing Sam, Dean had been given orders by their Dad that he never intended to follow, and he’d made promises to Sam himself that he had no intention of keeping, but one fucking spell, and he was ready to waste Sam. Not for turning evil, going darkside, but for not being the person Dean wanted him to be.
He wasn’t who Sam wanted him to be either. When Sam had rounded on him, everything Dean had been trying to ignore about himself had come pouring out of Sam’s mouth. Dean was fighting wounded, he knew that. It was something he tried hard to ignore, but it was something he didn’t know how to fix and Sam definitely had no idea how to mend.
“You’re too weak ...”
“You’re holding me back ...”
Sam was right, he was the stronger, better hunter now. He had a power at his disposal that scared the living crap out of Dean, and now Dean understood it wasn’t something that Sam could forget about.
“You’re not standing in my way anymore ...”
He just wished that Sam had trusted him enough to be straight with him from the outset, told him how he was using his powers instead of waiting until he was caught red handed. The look on Sam’s face, as if he’d been discovered doing something dirty, was enough to show Dean that Sam knew he was doing something wrong. He’d even asked him, outright asked him when he’d first got back from hell, and Sam had lied to his face.
“No, Dean. It was practically your dying wish. So no, I haven’t.”
He guessed that all that pretending to be something he wasn’t while they were growing up, lying to teachers and anyone else who asked about what Dad really did, why they moved around so much, had turned Sam into a better liar than either he or Dad had ever been.
Dean wondered if Sam had forgotten the promise he’d forced him to make in the cold light of day. The promise that echoed John’s orders. Well screw them, screw them both. What gave either of them the right to expect Dean to kill the person that meant most to him in the whole world?
Dean’s hands stilled on the long, clean blade he was working on and he stared ahead, not really seeing the worn cabinets in the corner that passed for a kitchen in the small room.
When John had whispered in his ear as he lay in hospital, he’d been shocked to the core, and knew without a doubt that it would never come to that. He could keep Sammy from going darkside. He had to believe it because no way could he kill his brother. Not for anything.
He’d promised Sam to shut him up, never thinking that it would ever be even close to a possibility. But now Sam was back to hanging around with demons and using the power inside him that came from the darkness they’d always fought against.
The knife in Dean’s hands clattered to the table. He couldn’t do it, couldn’t watch from the sidelines as Sam continued down the path he was determined to follow.
Dean walked out to the Impala, night air cool around him. He opened the trunk and his eyes flicked from weapon to weapon, deciding what he wanted. He took out a couple of knives and a shotgun and headed back to the room.
He laid it all on the table and reached for Sam’s knife. He hesitated, and brushed his fingers over the engraving on the blade, following the sweeping curve of it. It felt like several lifetimes ago that Sam had spotted it on one of their stops for ammo.
“Sam, leave that, it’s time to go. Come and help your brother.” John snapped at his youngest son.
Sam scowled at him and continued running his fingers over the carving on the curved blade of a knife on the display stand.
Dean looked up as his father approached the counter of the weapons store.
“Go get your brother, Dean, before he hurts himself.”
“Sammy knows what he’s doing, Dad, you know that. He likes knives.”
“Just ... go get him.” John sighed.
“Yes sir.” Dean wandered back to where Sam was standing. He was holding the hilt of the knife and as Dean watched, he moved, slicing it through the air in one of the katas Caleb had taught them.
“Nice knife.” Dean commented.
“Yeah, it is.” Sam’s eyes shone as he moved but as soon as he stopped, his face clouded. “But he’s not gonna let me have it, is he?”
“Nah Sammy, not this time. You know how tight things are.”
“Not this time, not ever.” Sam put the knife back in the stand, longing in his eyes, but he hunched his shoulders and brushed past Dean, ignoring John on the way out.
Dean sighed. Just once, would it kill either of them to give a little? Sam rarely showed an interest in any part of hunting, so his interest in the knife seemed like reason enough to Dean to buy it for him, but his Dad was just as stubborn as Sam.
“Dean!” John barked and nodded in the direction of the door. “Grab the rest on your way out.”
“Yes sir.” Dean took a step towards the door, but turned back impulsively and nodded in the direction of the knife.
“How much, Coop?” He asked the small bald man behind the counter.
“It’s pricy, Dean.”
Dean shrugged and Coop consulted his list. When he found it, Dean did his best not to flinch.
“If I pay half, will you keep it til the next time I come by?” Dean pulled out his wallet and counted out nearly a whole month’s pool hustling money.
“Sure thing, Dean. It’ll be waiting for you.”
Dean handed over the cash, nodded his thanks and picked up the supplies John had left on the counter.
Six weeks later with a pocket full of money, Dean stopped by Coop’s place on his way back from a hunt with Caleb.
When he got back to the small apartment they were staying at while Sam finished up the school year, Dean couldn’t help grinning smugly to himself. He dropped off his stuff then drove by the school Sam was attending to pick him up.
“Dean!” Sam yelled happily at the sight of his brother leaning against the Impala.
“Hey Sammy, how was school?”
Sam scrambled into the car as he chattered on about his favourite teacher, his favourite class and a girl called Emma.
He finally quieted as they arrived home and he opened the door to the apartment as Dean got the package from the trunk.
Sam was already halfway through a glass of juice when Dean laid it on the table. Sam looked at the box, eyes narrowing as Dean grinned at him and pushed it across the table.
“It’s for you.”
“Really?” Sam wasn’t used to presents that looked like they didn’t come from a gas station or mini mart.
“Yeah. Open it.”
Sam tore the brown paper away from the wooden box and his eyes widened as he opened it and saw the knife.
“Dean! How did you ... you didn’t ...”
“Nah, Sammy, I paid for it.” Dean didn’t take offence. They both knew how it was. “Took a lot of pool games and I sort of got run out of town once, but you wanted it so ...ooof!”
Sam collided with Dean, hugging him tightly.
“Thanks! It’s awesome ... it’s ...”
“Hey, no need to get sappy, right?”
Sam grinned as he let go, and ducked his head.
“Get changed and you can show me what you can do with it.”
Sam nodded excitedly and rushed off to change out of his school clothes.
Dean had been so caught up in Sam’s happiness that he hadn’t heard the truck pull up and realized too late that the knife was still on the table. He guessed John had to find out at some point.
John frowned when he spotted the open box and the knife lying beside it on the table.
“You bought it for him?”
John picked it up and examined it.
“He has to learn that he can’t have everything he wants, Dean.” John sighed.
Dean had to bite his lip to stop himself from yelling at his Father. That was one lesson Sam got every day and Dean wasn’t going to feel guilty over giving him something that he really wanted this one time.
“I bought it with money I worked for and if I want Sammy to have it, that’s up to me.”
Sam skidded to a halt, over hearing what Dean had said to John and hoping that Dean wouldn’t be punished for talking back to him. But John just eyed his oldest son thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded.
“You boys get a good training session in and I’ll order pizza when you get back.”
“Thanks Dad.” Dean said gratefully. “C’mon Sammy.”
Sam stayed in the little Laundromat for as long as he could, trying to think of a way out of this. Dean was right. He’d kept too many secrets, but then he always had. Growing up, none of the friends he’d made in schools along the way had ever known him because there were always lies between them.
“What does your Dad do?”
“He’s a salesman. So we have to move around a lot.”
“What does he sell?”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Computer stuff.” Sam pulled out of thin air.
After a friend’s Mom had turned up on their doorstep one evening wondering if Sam’s Dad could take a look at her computer, Sam learned not to be too specific.
Stanford had been hard for him in the beginning, but then he’d learned that he wasn’t the only one with a dysfunctional family. Granted, he was the only one with a Dad and brother that routinely banished spirits and knew that zombies weren’t restricted to George Romero flicks. But there were others at college who saw it as a way out of their fucked up family lives too.
So if people got the impression through the small hints Sam deliberately dropped that his Dad was an alcoholic and his brother was a drifter, Sam wasn’t going to say otherwise. It was an acceptable explanation as to why he didn’t keep in touch with his family.
Then came Jess, and Sam remembered what it felt like to hate lying. In the small moments he let his guard down, usually when he’d had too much to drink, he let slip enough for Jess to realize that despite everything, Sam missed the brother he never talked about more than he’d ever admit to sober.
The washer dinged, and Sam got to his feet to pull the clean damp clothes out. He threw them in a vacant drier and sat down on the bench opposite, stretching his legs out and watching his life go round in circles.
“Sam, wake up.”
Sam started awake, the flames that consumed Jess still crackling in his head.
“I take it I was having a nightmare?”
“Yeah, another one.” Dean eyed his brother pensively.
“Hey, at least I got some sleep.”
Dean didn’t even flicker a smile as Sam tried to lighten the mood, take the focus off the horror that still raged every time he closed his eyes.
“You know, sooner or later we’re gonna have to talk about this.” Dean was fast reaching the conclusion that it might take cuffing Sam to a chair to get him to talk about Jess’s death.
“Are we here?”
“Yup, welcome to Toledo, Ohio.” Dean sighed and let the change of subject go. Again.
Back on the road with Dean, Sam had done everything to avoid talking about the nightmares, and the secret he held close to his chest, despite Dean asking and prodding him to say something, say anything. Sam blocked him at every turn.
“Why’d you let me fall asleep?”
“Because I’m an awesome brother. What did you dream about?”
“Lollipops and candy canes.”
He’d put off telling Dean about the visions until he had no choice, until he knew that if he didn’t tell the truth, people would die. And Dean hadn’t pushed him away. He’d been freaked, sure. Sam could see that he had a hard time dealing with it, but he did, and he still looked out for him. And he’d stood by Sam’s side when they told Dad. He missed that, missed it being the two of them against the world, but then the world had gotten in the way.
Sam missed Dean, missed the physical closeness they’d gone back to sharing after Dean had arrived in Palo Alto to ask for Sam’s help. He missed Dean’s mouth on his neck, making goose bumps prickle down his spine as he growled obscenities into Sam’s ear as he stroked Sam’s cock. Missed Dean’s hands around his wrists, holding him down as he fucked him. Missed sleeping wrapped up in Dean, limbs tangling, Dean’s hands gentle on his skin as he whispered soft words into his hair that Sam knew never to mention in daylight.
After Dean’s deal, there’d been an added desperation, a need to mark, claim, own as his days counted down and after Broward County ... Sam knew he’d left a sliver of sanity in Florida that he would never get back and Dean became his obsession. His annoyance over dean refusing to see the possibilities in immortality or Sam tapping into his latent power, warred with a need to make Dean his every time they were alone, to keep him for as long as he could. Dean had gone to hell wearing Sam’s marks on is skin and it hadn’t made a damned bit of difference.
Back in the motel room, Dean dug a bottle of Jack out of his bag, still wrapped in brown paper. He unscrewed the cap and drank straight from the bottle, welcoming the burn as it slipped down his throat. He sat back down at the table, looking over the weapons that had been part of his life for as long as he could remember. He’d been a hunter since he was old enough to pick up a gun, but now he didn’t feel worthy of the title. He swallowed another shot of liquor, admitting only to himself that Sam had been right.
He’d been holding it together, enough to hunt with a little help from Jack and Jose, but then he broke.
“Be careful what you wish for.”
Dean had warned Sam as he pushed him to talk, to share, to spill his guts all over the floor to be poked at, analyzed.
Later, Sam stood in front of the wishing well and told Dean his heart’s desire, the look on his face so like John’s had been that something in Dean cracked.
“Lilith’s head on a plate, bloody.”
After that, it had been inevitable, and the truth spewed from Dean’s mouth in fits and starts. He tried to keep it back, keep it inside, but some gates, once opened, are almost impossible to close.
It had taken the truth, venomously spat from Sam’s lips to slam it shut, and Dean swore to himself that’s the way it would stay.
When Sam got back, the weapons had been tidied away and Dean was already asleep in bed, the covers pulled up to his chin. His bag sat at the foot of his bed, neatly packed for the next day.
Exhausted, Sam lay down on the other bed and fell into a heavy sleep.
At 4am, Dean’s cell vibrated silently against his skin and he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He turned off the alarm and slipped out of bed still fully clothed from the day before. He moved silently, feet slipping into his boots, fingers lacing them up. He resolutely didn’t look over at Sam. Dean pulled on his jacket and reached into his bag.
The curved knife glinted in a sliver of moonlight creeping through the curtains and Dean steeled himself to do what he knew had to be done.
There’d been so many heated words before Stanford that Sam was drained, wrung out, so sick and tired of fighting.
Dean pushed open the door and slunk inside the room, watching Sam pack.
“You got everything?”
“I’ll give you a ride to the bus station in the morning.”
Sam pulled the zipper on his bag closed.
“Dude, you forgot your knife.” Dean picked it up from the dresser.
“I can’t take a knife to college, Dean.”
“Sure you can. Put it at the bottom of your bag then find somewhere safe for it in your room.”
He held the blade out towards Sam, and the metal glinted in a ray of sunshine slanting through the window.
Sam stared at him, about to refuse, when Dean continued in a rush.
“It would make me feel better, okay? If I know you’ve got this with you, I know you’ll be able to take care of yourself. Please, Sammy?” Dean looked down at the knife then back up at Sam. “I’m not gonna be there to watch your back anymore and I need to know you’re safe.”
Sam looked at the blade in Dean’s hands, the gift that had meant so much to him, to both of them. Every time he used it, he remembered that Dean had given it to him, trusted him enough to wield such a deadly weapon, had faith in him, and that alone was reason to keep it with him.
“Okay.” Sam took it from Dean’s hands.
Dean dug out the box it had come in from under Sam’s bed. Sam unzipped his bag and made room for the box at the bottom, covering it with the few clothes he was taking. Once the bag was zipped shut again, they looked at each other, not quite knowing what to say. Dean gave Sam a small smile and pulled the door open. Sam’s words stopped him before he could leave.
“I’ve gotta do this. If I don’t, I’ll always wonder what would have happened if I did. I wish you could come with me, but it’s something I’ve gotta do on my own.”
“I know, Sammy.” Dean said sadly.
“But you’ll always be my brother, Dean, no matter what.”
“Backatcha.” Dean’s voice was rough with unwanted tears, and he left without another word.
Dean sighed and laid the knife on the pillow he’d been sleeping on where Sam couldn’t fail to see it when he woke up.
Only now did he look at his brother. Sam looked younger in his sleep, more like the boy he’d dragged from college not so many years ago. That boy had needed Dean, but the man in the bed didn’t and Dean’s heart ached at the loss of something he could never get back.
He almost reached out a hand to touch Sam, push the bangs back from his face, but he didn’t. Couldn’t risk him waking up, not now.
Silently, Dean slipped out of the door, pulling it closed behind him. The lock slipped into place with a soft click and Dean walked away.
He slung his bag on the passenger seat of the Impala, Sam’s seat, and slipped the key in the ignition. He didn’t hesitate. He started the engine and pulled away into the growing dawn, away from Sam, unacknowledged tears tracking down his cheeks.
When Sam woke up, he instinctively knew Dean wasn’t in the room, but wasn’t concerned. His brother often went out to find coffee or breakfast for them, not that he’d be bringing any back for Sam this time, Sam guessed. He scrubbed his eyes. As soon as Dean got back, he would sit him down and tell him everything. Explain it all, the powers, the exorcisms, the ongoing hunt for Lilith, the need for revenge. If he had to tie Dean’s stubborn ass to the chair and gag him to get him to listen, he’d do it. Then he’d start earning his trust back.
Sam swung his legs out of bed and saw the curved knife lying where Dean had been sleeping the night before. Sam’s eyes darted round the room. Dean’s bag was gone as well as his jacket. Sam stumbled to the window and pulled the curtains open roughly. Where the Impala had sat, off to one side of their room, there was only empty space.
“No, no ...”
He grabbed his cell and called Dean. It went straight to voice mail and Sam left a short message.
“Dean, call me when you get this. Please, man, just call, okay?”
Twenty minutes later, he’d left six more messages without getting anything back. Sam called Bobby.
“Have you heard from Dean?”
“No, isn’t he with you?” Bobby sounded puzzled.
“He’s gone, Bobby. I said some terrible things to him and now he’s gone.”
“He’ll be back, Sam, once he cools down.”
“No he won’t.” Sam’s voice dropped to a whisper. “If you hear from him, tell him ... tell him to call me.”
“Will do. But he’ll be back. This is Dean we’re talking about.”
Sam hung up and sat on Dean’s bed. He ran his fingers along the carving on the cold metal blade, remembering vividly the day Dean had given it to him, and the conversation they’d had about it before he left for Stanford.
“If I know you’ve got this with you, I know you’ll be able to take care of yourself. Please, Sammy. I’m not gonna be there to watch your back anymore and I need to know you’re safe.”
Sam’s shoulders slumped as the implications sunk in. This was worse than losing Dean to hell. Then, Dean had been snatched away from him, taken against his will but now? Dean had chosen to walk away. Sam held the knife in his hands, tight enough that the spur dug into his palm. A fat drop of blood dripped from his fist onto the worn carpet. He’d never felt more alone.
Dean drove, only stopping for gas. Somewhere along the way he smashed his cell and ditched what remained of it by the side of the road. He headed north, up through the Dakotas then west through Montana, the long, straight almost empty road suiting his mood. He didn’t have a plan, didn’t have a destination in mind, he just knew he had to keep going to put as much distance as he could between them.
Days later, fuelled on nothing but coffee and gas station fast food, Dean pulled over onto the side of the road halfway between Clallum and Neah Bays, right on the edge of a rocky promontory overlooking the ocean. He got out and stretched, tasting the salt on the air.
He opened the Impala’s trunk and picked up his Dad’s journal, stopping dead still when he felt a presence behind him.
“Don’t you hurt him.” Dean’s voice was as broken as he felt, but he didn’t turn around not even when a hand laid on his shoulder.
“I will do what I can to keep him from harm.” The angel offered no firm reassurances, but it would have to be enough.
Dean’s fingers traced the worn edges of the journal that had been his father’s holy book. Dean didn’t trust the angels anymore than he trusted Sam, but when Castiel looked at him, it wasn’t with pity or disguised contempt. He was worth something to the angel. Castiel looked at him as if he knew Dean was up to the challenges he would face, even if Dean had no idea what they were yet. Castiel had faith in him, even if Dean thought it was misplaced.
Sam was making his choices and it was time for Dean to make some of his own. Wherever they might lead.
He looked back over his shoulder at Castiel.
“Now, we have work to do.”
Dean nodded, putting the book back where he’d found it. He let the trunk close, locking John’s journal in the dark.
“Where do we start?”
On to Fractured