It was bad and wrong, but as furious as Sam was at John for taking off on them and leaving Dean behind, there was a part of him -- a huge, loud, undeniable part of him -- that was glad. He was grateful to have Dean to himself, shamefully pleased that he wasn't going to have to share with their father. It was good to know that they wouldn't be clashing any more over things like Dean's hair and getting Dean back to training for hunting; which Sam was sure would have been the next step. And Sam wouldn't have to be careful to keep Dean at arm's length when John was around if he wasn't around.
It wasn't cool. It wasn't anything he could justify. But the feeling was definitely there. Not that he wasn't pissed as hell at their Dad. It had been an asshole thing to do, taking off in the middle of the night like that! But Sam thought about having to say "good-bye" to Dean, having to explain that he was leaving and why, and he knew that if their positions were reversed, he'd have been tempted to do the same thing.
Only their positions would never have been reversed, since there was no force on Earth that could have dragged Sam away from his brother. John was both stronger and weaker, and Sam was aware enough to recognize both levels of their father's reaction.
He sympathized, he supposed, but he still thought it was a shit thing to do.
Dean seemed to recover from the shock quickly and that worried Sam a little, since it might be a symptom of that terrible confusion that seemed to strike his brother at random intervals. It was possible that Dean didn't remember that John had left. Sam could only trust that Missouri was keeping an eye on his brother, watching out for his mental state. And that seemed to be her intent. Once Dean had calmed enough to be peeled away from Sam's side, Missouri whisked him away into her reading room, intent on teaching him to shield.
"I'm not certain it will help him with the nightmares," she confessed to Sam before she vanished with his brother. "Best case scenario, it will. And, well, worst case, it won't. But at least it'll help me to sleep, and that'll make sure that I feel well enough to help him during the day."
Sam just nodded, still a little stunned by John's departure, not to mention overly-full of a delicious breakfast. Missouri was feeding them a little too well; he really was going to have to start working out if he was going to keep eating like this.
"There's a man I gotta go see about a car," Bobby informed Sam as soon as Missouri and Dean had left the room. "At your Dad's old garage; the guy who owns it now. He's got a Chevelle he's willing to sell me for cheap, and I want to see if it's in good enough shape to get me home, if I'll need to work on it first, or if it's a complete junker."
Sam nodded. "Do you need a ride?" he asked, even though he didn't like the idea of driving the Impala without Dean.
Bobby shook his head. "Naw. It's not far. I can hoof it, and if the car's a go, I'll drive myself back."
Sam thought about Bobby going all the way home only to turn right around and drive back in the Impala, even though that had stranded him here in Kansas without a vehicle of his own. "Thank you again for bringing the Impala," he said earnestly, and Bobby's hand was warm and comforting where it clasped his shoulder.
"I keep telling you Winchesters, it's not a problem," he said, his voice a bit gruff, but he didn't sound irritated. "I gotta do what I can for your brother, since there's not much I can do."
"You've done so much," Sam protested, shaking his head. Bobby had dropped everything, killed humans -- though Sam still held that this appellation was debatable -- stepped between Sam and John while they were fighting, made the round trip from Kansas to South Dakota to bring the Impala back to them, not to mention offering Dean comfort both physical and verbal. And he was still here, for both of them, when their own father had taken off.
Bobby didn't reply, just gave Sam's shoulder a firm squeeze, then he left. Sam felt like he should have insisted on giving Bobby a ride, but the man had his pride, and, more importantly, Sam cringed at the thought of Dean in Missouri's reading room, hearing the Impala's engine roar, and finding out that his Sammy and his car had both gone, just like his Dad. Maybe that last was the real reason Bobby had refused. It was definitely the reason that Sam didn't insist.
Sam did some dishes, went upstairs and hefted their clothes down to the laundry room, washed what little there was, and then he found himself with no more distractions... and no more excuses.
Now that Dad was out and about, away from them, Sam finally had the motivation he needed to turn his phone on. Because if John found out anything, anything at all that could help Dean, Sam wanted to know about it immediately!
And Missouri had said that Jess wasn't angry at him.... He clung to that fact as he turned his phone back on, but his stomach was still tied in knots and his hands were actually trembling by the time he accessed his voice mail.
There were, as expected, a good two dozen messages from different people in differing stages of concern or anger. But contrary to his expectation, there was only one voice mail from Jess. And all she said was, "Sam, call me.... Please." It was her sad tone more than her words that had him obeying before he even thought.
He'd spoken to Jess three days before, when they'd stopped at that first rest stop in Kansas, but there hadn't been time to talk for long. And Jess deserved so much more of an explanation than Sam had been able to reasonably give her at that point.
It was even earlier in California than it was here, but Jess answered before the first ring had even completed.
"Hey," he offered weakly. All his emotions had risen, choking him, and he was lucky he was able to force that much out. He cleared his throat, then tried again. "Hi, Jess. I'm sorry I haven't called. I just... things have been...."
"Is everything okay?" she asked, and he could hear the sincere concern in her voice and it made his heart ache so much he thought he'd weep from that alone.
"Not really," he managed, swallowing the lump that threatened to cut off his words. "My brother's not...." He scrubbed at his eyes, refusing to acknowledge the tears that were already stinging them. "Well, it's not good. He needs me. So much, I can't even begin to explain--"
"That's all right, Sam. He's your brother; you don't need to explain."
He bit his lip so hard it hurt. God, Jess was wonderful! Why couldn't... why couldn't things have worked out for them?! It wasn't fair!
But then he thought of Dean, how the Melusine had broken him, stolen his memories and his free will, how those bastards who had gotten their hands on him next had used him, and he knew that "fair" was a foolish concept that had no place in their lives. Sacrificing Jess was the least he could do, when Dean had given up everything, everything that made him Dean, and endured two years of horrible torture for the sole purpose of saving his brother from a similar fate.
"Our Dad just took off this morning," he said, not even trying to hide his bitterness over this fact. "That means it's only me taking care of Dean." He sent a silent apology to Missouri and Bobby, but as generous and kind as the two of them were they didn't mean as much to Dean as his father and brother and all of them knew it. Besides, despite his selfish thoughts two days earlier, he honestly didn't expect Bobby to be sticking around much longer. And that was okay, because Bobby had his own life and the right to go and live it. The Winchester's already owed him through all the rest of this life and into the next.
"Oh, that's awful!" Jess gasped. "How... how did your brother take that?"
Sam hadn't told her specifically what was wrong with Dean. He'd vaguely alluded to temporary amnesia and hinted at mild brain damage, which wasn't quite true, but wasn't exactly untrue either. Jess had been sensitive enough not to push for concrete details. She was so sweetly concerned for a boy she'd never met, though, and Sam wished that she could meet Dean. That would probably never happen now. Not the way that things were.
"He's doing okay," Sam said slowly. "I'm not sure if he understands that Dad's not coming back. His sense of time is a little screwy."
"I'm sorry," Jess said simply, and Sam knew that she was. And that was why he needed to spell this out for both of them. Because she deserved honesty and closure.
"I'm.... Jess, I don't think that I'm coming back."
He held his breath, listening intently to the static hissing faintly over the many miles between them, waiting, suspended.
"Yeah." Jess sighed softly. "You know, I kinda figured that out when you didn't call me for three days, and then didn't call again for three more days after that."
She didn't sound angry, only sad, her voice thick with tears, and that made it even worse. He almost thought that he would have preferred rage to grief.
"I'm... SO sorry," he sobbed out, not quite crying, but pretty damned close to it. "God. So sorry, Jess...."
"It's okay, Sam," she assured him, sounding gentle and certain over the distance between them. "I mean, it's not okay, because it's horrible that something like this happened to your brother, and it's awful that your father left you both. I want you to come back to school... I miss you so much.... But there's nothing that can be changed. And it's not like any of it is your fault."
If only you knew, Sam thought bitterly, and to hell with Missouri telling him not to blame himself. If he hadn't left for school... if he hadn't gone on that trip to Half Moon Bay... if he hadn't stood there like an idiot under the Melusine's spell and forced Dean to jump in to rescue him....
"Sam?" Jess sounded so close and yet so far away, speaking directly into his ear but physically halfway across the United States, and Sam wondered if they were both already distancing themselves from a relationship that they knew would never go any further. "Sam, I love you, okay? You're a wonderful person and a good friend and we might've... well. But it's all right. It really is. You're going to be all right. I promise. You're strong and you'll be strong for your brother. And you said that there's hope that he might recover, right?"
"Yeah," he choked out, though it sounded more like a sob than an actual word. He snuffed back snot and tears and told himself to be a man. "He's already getting better and it's only been a few days."
"Well, that's great then!" She sounded enthusiastic and honestly pleased by this declaration. "And, Sam, I know you said you're probably never coming back, but if you do... I'd love to meet your brother and help you care for him...."
"I don't think--" Sam swallowed tightly. It was a nice thought, a tempting thought, but he knew that he had to face reality. With a brother who had been a Hunter and a sex slave, who didn't seem to have a verbal filter, who had a fixation on Sam's cock... well, there was just no way that he could introduce Dean to his friends at Stanford, no way he could just move back to Palo Alto and settle down and go back to school. He thought of Dean tagging along to all of his classes -- because no matter what school administration said, there wasn't anything that could separate them for any reason anymore -- groping him under the desks, and a bubble of hysterical laughter swelled up in his throat. Oh, God, that was the last thing anyone needed! Himself, Dean, Jess, or any of his friends.
"You're really not coming back, are you?" Jess said in a small voice, and Sam winced.
"No. I'm... I'm really not."
There was a long silence, filled up with the things that they were both thinking, thick with the things that they could have said but didn't. Sam felt choked with it, felt as though his world was ending, even though this was only one path his future could have taken closing on him. He regretted it, already missed Jess so much his heart physically ached, and yet he could let go, could release them both. Because someday Jess would find a wonderful man who would make her happy, who was free to devote his entire life to her the way she so deserved. The way that Sam couldn't any longer. Because Sam had Dean. And that was his entire life, his future, his everything. That was all that he needed, and it wouldn't have been fair to Jess to pretend otherwise. She deserved all or nothing.
"Please stay in touch, Sam?" Jess finally asked, and he could tell that she was crying, but she was trying not to let to show in her voice. He was crying a little too, a storm of tears that would pass. But it was only fitting, because Jess was worth shedding tears over, and he hated that he was hurting her as much as he hated that he'd be living the rest of his life without her. "Don't just drift away, okay? We all care about you here, I care about you, and I want to know how your brother is doing."
"I will," he promised, and he meant it. He'd made some good friends in school, good people with good hearts who really did care about him. They all deserved to know how he was doing. And maybe someday, when Dad had found out how to remove the Melusine's mark from Dean and his brother was more healed, he'd be able to visit and introduce Jess and Dean to one another.... Maybe.
"Thank you," Jess said quietly, and Sam could feel that they were done. He'd courted her, she'd returned his interest, but life had thrown something so huge in their way that the relationship they might have had was now an impossibility.
It might be because he was a little numb right now, but for some reason... Sam was okay with this. It wasn't Dean's fault -- oh, God, no! It wasn't Sam's fault, even if it was his fault that Dean had been taken and broken. It wasn't John's fault for raising them the way he had, even though he'd seemed inclined to take some of the blame. It couldn't by any stretch of the imagination be considered Jess' fault. It wasn't even Fate. Sam liked to believe in a higher power, but he refused to think that everything was preordained. Things had happened, just happened, and he couldn't be with Jess, but that was just the way that it had to be.
If anything, it was the Melusine's fault. But that she-monster was dead, shredded, destroyed, and blaming her wouldn't make Sam feel any better, so he didn't bother.
"Could you tell Becky and the others for me?" Sam requested, rubbing his eyes. They were stinging with the tears he had shed, but he was done with that now. He'd reached the bottom of the pit, and now he was ready to climb back up. He'd broken off his budding romance with Jess, but she still cared about him, still loved him. He'd gotten his brother back without his memories or any sense of self, but already Dean was coming back to Sam and to himself. Their Dad had deserted them, but he was off trying to find a way to fix Dean, not just running away. Things kind of sucked right now, but they were going to get better. They were going to get better. "I've got so many voice mails and no time to call everyone back. Dean needs me to be focused on him right now."
"Of course," Jess assured him almost before he was done with his request. "Of course I will, Sam. Don't worry about that. Concentrate on helping your brother, all right? Everyone will understand once I explain."
Sam wasn't sure about that, since he'd explicitly declared his intent not to return to Stanford, but it was nice to hear it even if it wasn't true.
"Thank you," he husked. And because she had said it, and because, even though they weren't ever going to be together as a couple now, it was still true, he said, "I love you too, Jess. Thank you. For everything."
"Remember that you promised," Jess prompted firmly, and Sam nodded, even though she couldn't see him.
"I did. I will. I'll stay in touch."
"I can't say that Becky won't call to bitch you out," Jess went on, sounding amused at the same time she was clearly sad, "But I'll tell everyone what's going on. They're gonna be really upset that you're not coming back, though."
"As long as you forgive me, I'll be okay."
"Oh, Sam." She sniffed wetly.
"I'm sorry," Sam apologized, knowing that he was the reason she'd be going to class with red eyes.
"Don't be sorry," she told him. "Be well. And take care of your brother. That's what's important now."
"It is," he agreed. "But that doesn't mean I'm not sorry for--"
"Don't," Jess interrupted. "Don't you dare make me bust out bawling, Sam Winchester, when I've made it this far only crying a little!" She drew in a long, shaky breath. "Actually, I need to go, or I'll be horribly late to my first class. But you promised to call me, right?"
"Okay, then." She swallowed audibly. "G-good-bye, Sam. I love you."
"Good-bye," he echoed, and he would have told her again that he loved her, but she had hung up already. And it was probably just as well, because he'd said it once, but more than that probably would have hurt her more than comforted her. He still whispered it into the silent phone, then hung up, feeling as though he was snipping a thread. And he was, in a way, but at least it was a clean cut. It was over, really over, and he was alive, he would survive, even though it hurt right now.
He looked up as Dean padded into the room, a little surprised to see his brother on the loose, not safely sequestered under Missouri's proverbial wing.
It was something of a shock to realize that it wasn't a shock to see Dean as he was now; fourteen years old and too slim, too pale yet, his face open and expressive, his green eyes wide with something that wasn't quite innocence, but a sort of purity of his soul that shone clearly. Dean was wearing a plain white teeshirt and a pair of jeans with bare feet, his pendant and the silver ring around his thumb the only accessories, his hair mussed in the front, falling into his eyes. He looked new and different, he didn't look like he had when they'd both been children, and yet he was the same brother that Sam had grown up with. Dean would always be Dean, even if he wasn't anymore. Sam was certain of that and he took comfort in it.
"What's up, Dean?" he asked, voice husky, setting aside his phone and sitting back. "Where's Missouri?"
"She said that you needed me," Dean told Sam earnestly, padding toward him with a focused expression that only made Sam a little bit nervous. He let this response dissolve away into appreciation and affection as Dean sank into his lap and folded him up in a warm hug. Sam held Dean in return, thinking about how much he'd gotten back instead of how much he'd lost. It wasn't much of an effort; especially not with Dean right here in his lap.
"Are you okay, Sammy?" Dean asked, his voice a little muffled where his face was buried in Sam's shoulder.
"I am now," Sam told his brother, and that was as honest a reply as any he'd given in a morning fraught with honesty.
Dad had taken off on them in the dead of night. Sam had broken things off with Jess and decided once and for all not to go back to school. But he was okay now. He really was.
As long as he had his Dean, he'd always be okay.
The inside of Dean Winchester's head was without a doubt the strangest place that Missouri had ever been. All jagged pieces and disconnected thoughts; she was honestly amazed that he was able to function in the real world at all, much less as well as he had been doing.
She wasn't sure how much of the damage was due to whatever the Melusine had done, and how much was a result of the physical, mental, and sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of the perverts who'd gotten a hold of him afterward. She suspected it was largely the former; the Melusine's touch undoubtedly making breaking Dean easier for the men. She was also fairly certain that there were parts of Dean's consciousness that had gone into hiding independently of the Melusine's influence and had yet to fully emerge. Delving into his mind was like trying to dig out a landslide; as soon as she got something uncovered, three more things tumbled in to take its place.
She wasn't trained to deal with any of this, so it was good that Dean seemed to be able to make some instinctive sense of what was going on in his own head. Missouri was used to reading people's minds; simply reading them, not actually entering them and rooting around. Surface thoughts, deep-seated emotions, even subconscious reactions were easy enough for her to sense, but actually going in and attempting to shift things around.... Well, it was like exercising muscles that she hadn't used in a long time, if ever. And she couldn't be sure she was doing it right, if there even was a right way.
At least she'd been able to teach him shielding. It had been something that Missouri had been forced to learn all by herself when she'd been younger, but she'd never been very good at it. It wasn't that her shields were weak, it was that her gift was too strong; she just wasn't able to entirely block anyone out.
Dean, however, seemed to grasp the concept immediately, and had managed to seal her out with very little prompting on her part. In fact, she'd had to verbally talk her way back in, later that afternoon, when she wanted to help him recover and reorder more of his shattered memories.
He'd probably raised instinctive shields against the Melusine, though it didn't seem to have done much good. When Missouri had tested the edges of his shields that morning, she'd felt as though she was prodding at scar tissue. And that made her sad and uncomfortable, even though Dean hadn't seemed to mind, or even to notice.
Dean was sitting before her now, crosslegged on the sofa, his eyes closed and his breathing even. He seemed to enter a calm, almost meditative state at the slightest touch of Missouri's powers, and she hoped that it was because he trusted her. It terrified her to think of him being so open, reacting so passively to just any psychic intrusion.
On the other hand, there were still plenty of walls inside his head, not shields, but dead-ends where she knew that he was keeping her out. She suspected that those were the worst of his memories, and that he had blocked them off even from himself. While she sympathized, she wondered if he could really begin to heal without breaking down the walls, acknowledging and confronting those memories barricaded behind them.
She was also worried that there could be other things, things that the Melusine had done, that were hidden from her that way. Not all the walls she encountered felt as though they had been erected by Dean. There were the psychic prints of a female presence all over his mind, ringing loud and clear to Missouri even after two years' passage, and she could only attribute that to the Melusine.
On the other hand, there were several things that Dean had absolutely no qualms about letting her read; his feelings for his brother being the strongest response he'd had yet. It was so powerful and so deep that Missouri had trouble separating her own reaction from Dean's and so she knew what it felt like to be in love with Sam Winchester.
That was a very bizarre and disconcerting sensation, since without Dean's emotions coloring hers all she felt for the boy was a motherly affection. She did love Sam, but not the way that Dean loved him. She'd only felt such deep and utter devotion a few times in her life, and she would have been worried by its intensity, except that she knew that Sam recognized and echoed the emotion perfectly in his own heart, loved Dean with as much force as Dean loved him.
Right now Sam was in the kitchen and though both Dean and Missouri had an awareness of him, Missouri was trying to guide Dean back to the memories of the day he'd been taken by the Melusine.
It wasn't an arbitrary decision. It wasn't something she wanted to do. But she really was concerned about Dean's ability to recover if he didn't face those memories. He'd come so far since that first morning in her reading room and yet she was afraid that he'd stagnate, wouldn't get any better if he didn't confront and overcome some of his more horrific memories. It wasn't as though she had the slightest desire to experience them with him, inside his head. But the boy needed to heal.
It was working, to a certain extent. Missouri was sitting in her own comfortable room, but there was the scent of ocean air in her nostrils and she could feel the anxiety and slight annoyance that Dean had evidently been feeling when he had tailed his brother to the coast.
It was a strange thing, a splitting of her senses like she had never experienced before, but Dean's emotion were so powerful that she'd been sucked in and she wondered if she'd even be able to remove herself if she tried.
She could see Sam, a little younger, a little less broad of shoulder but still a fine figure of a young man, standing outlined against the water and sand. For a moment he was the focus of Dean's world, and then his attention snapped to the creature standing before Sam. Not for a moment did he mistake the female form for a human; this was a monster, like any he had hunted, and she was after his Sammy!
Half of Missouri was aware that on her sofa, Dean's youthful face was no longer so serene, and the other half of her was caught up in his remembered panic as he shouted, feet flying over the sand, his shotgun hard in his hand and the sea wind wet in his face. Sammy was in danger! He had to keep his brother safe, at all costs!
The gun thundered in his hand and there was no time, the creature was still reaching for Sammy. Sammy was bigger now but Dean was still the older brother. He slung Sammy behind him, body checking the monster, and then there was sand, screaming, blood, and pain. Sharp fiery pain, striking at his heart and racing through his limbs, then there was only cold and darkness, striking him like a blow to the soul....
And then there was a wall, slamming in Missouri's face, almost like a physical slap.
"Dammit," she breathed, a sudden headache hitting her between the eyes like a spike. She should have been expecting that, should have pulled back, slowed before striking it, but she'd been so caught up in Dean's memories that her own consciousness had been overwhelmed. She was definitely going to need her migraine pills now.
"Sorry, Missouri," Dean quavered, leaning forward and placing a hand on Missouri's knee. His brows were twisted up in the middle, his expression concerned and repentant. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right, sweetie," Missouri said, speaking through the pain that was pulsing along with her heartbeat, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to deal with it, get it under control. "It wasn't your fault."
"My fault," he mumbled, climbing off the sofa and moving to hug Missouri around the neck and shoulders. "My fault. I hurt you."
"You didn't mean to," Missouri managed. Dean was awkwardly petting her head, and she wasn't sure if it was helping or making things worse. Really, the pain was so all-encompassing that there wasn't any such thing as better or worse; it just was.
"I'll go get Sammy," Dean said breathlessly, and Missouri didn't have the strength to nod or shake her head, even to open her eyes. She just waited silently, wincing at the pattering of Dean's bare feet and then at the harder, measured tread of his brother as Sam entered her reading room.
"Are you all right, Missouri?" Sam asked urgently, kneeling before her, his hands on her upper arms, his voice bleeding concern. Missouri kept her eyes closed, though.
"Just a headache," she said, trying not to sound short. "My own fault; I pushed too hard in a direction your brother's brain wasn't ready to go and hit a wall at top speed."
"I didn't mean to hurt you," Dean spoke up miserably from a little above his brother's shoulder.
"You didn't," Missouri assured him again as Sam helped her to her feet. She stood there shakily for a moment, the world reeling around her, her eyes still closed, but already the headache was getting a little better. Or, well, less bad. "It wasn't anything you did, Dean. I wasn't careful enough. And I'll be all right. I just need my migraine pills and a nap and I'll be right as rain. You'll see."
Dean was silent in response to this, his thoughts completely closed off to Missouri. She wasn't sure this was entirely a good thing, but the stillness in her head was a comfort right now.
Sam got her upstairs, into her own bed, got her medication, and Dean got her a glass of water. She took her pills, covered her eyes with the damp washcloth that Sam fetched, and sent them on their way.
"I'll make dinner, Missouri," Sam said in a quiet voice before he left the room with his brother. "You rest until you feel better again."
"Thank you, boys," Missouri murmured blindly, waving a hand in their direction. The darkness, the cool cloth, and the pain pills were beginning to help. Her head still pulsed, there was still a sharp needle of pain stabbing her around the general vicinity of her tear ducts, but it was already less fierce, less unbearable.
They departed quietly, and Missouri let out a long breath, sinking back into her comforter. She actually would let Sam cook dinner; for one thing it would help him to feel more useful, would fill the time, and for another, she didn't think she'd be completely recovered in time to do it herself.
This truly wasn't Dean's fault. She'd gotten pushy, had tried for too much too fast. She'd known the walls were there, but had been hoping to take the memories through that one, riding them to their natural conclusion. But there hadn't been any doors, any windows. The wall hadn't buckled or broken. She was going to have to figure out a different way to get through.
While she was thinking how to do that she drifted off into a half slumbering state. It was quiet inside her head, with Dean shielding and Sam puttering around, folding clean clothes and talking softly to Dean in the room they shared. She'd forgotten that the migraine meds made her sleepy. It was all right, though. The boys were in good hands together and the heavy afternoon air held the promise of rain. Her house was warm and safe, and Sam was going to make dinner.
Missouri felt no qualms about letting herself slip away into true sleep. After all, there was nothing like a little nap to rid one of a headache. The Winchester boys would still be here when she woke up.
Mike Guenther proved to be a good man who was true to his word. The Chevelle he'd agreed to sell Bobby for a remarkably reasonable price had needed a few repairs, but Mike had readily offered him the parts, tools, and space in his garage to work on it that very day. It had been slow at the garage, and Mike had hung around, talking to Bobby, shooting the breeze about this, that, and the other. Bobby hadn't felt comfortable telling Mike that he knew John Winchester, the former co-owner of the garage, or that the man's sons were back in town, but there'd been plenty of other things for them to converse about.
It wasn't until six that Bobby was satisfied with the Chevelle, but once he had it rumbling -- it didn't purr, it roared -- he bid Mike goodbye and headed back to Missouri's. He had a bad moment when the rain that had been threatening all afternoon began to beat against the windshield and he realized he'd forgotten to check the wipers, but they worked just fine and he had no trouble getting back to Missouri's house.
Parking next to the Impala, Bobby pulled his cap down lower and made a dash to the door. Missouri had given him a spare key that morning -- after the Richie incident, she wasn't going to leave the front door open -- and he let himself in.
After shedding his jacket and stamping his boots in the entryway, Bobby made his way back to the kitchen. There was a truly delicious odor that smelled like supper to him, and that was where the lights were on, the rest of the house dark.
"Hey, Bobby," Sam greeted, grinning wide and white at him from where he was standing in front of the oven, stirring something on the stovetop with a spatula. It wasn't the fact that Sam was cooking that gave Bobby pause, freezing him in the doorway. It wasn't that Dean was setting out the silverware, carefully and precisely. It was more that Dean was doing so in nothing but a pair of boxers and a yellow and white checked apron that was all too clearly Missouri's. The frilly white trim along the hem gave that fact away.
Bobby's mouth twitched as he fought the urge to chuckle. He wasn't sure that laughing at Dean right now was a good idea, but, damn, he wanted to!
"I made him wear that," Sam explained, his grin twisting ruefully as he noted where Bobby's eyes had gone. "He took off everything as soon as it started raining, and I didn't want to risk him getting splashed with grease or something. It was all I could find, and he wouldn't put his clothes back on."
Bobby nodded as though this was perfectly reasonable, and maybe it was, considering everything that had happened and Dean's apparent penchant for shedding his clothing at any opportunity. Evidently that hadn't changed with the return of his memories.
"So you think that his stripping was connected to the rain?" Bobby asked, entering the kitchen and getting himself a cup of coffee. It would have been a strange connection to make if Sam didn't think so -- otherwise he would have just said, "about ten minutes ago". Dean was paying them no mind as they discussed him, his attention completely focused on getting the table set with four places.
Sam nodded, something dark and pensive in his eyes. "I think so, this time." He looked as though he wanted to say something more, but then he just shook his head and returned his gaze to whatever he was cooking.
"Where's Missouri?" Bobby asked after a moment, when it became clear that Sam wasn't going to fill him in.
"Napping," Sam replied, shooting his brother a quick glance from under shaggy bangs. "She was working with Dean and said she hit a wall in his mind. She had to take some migraine medicine and lie down, but she said she'd be okay in time for dinner."
"Hm." Bobby sipped his coffee, tracking Dean as he circled the table, putting down the spoons, which looked to be the last of the settings. The boy seemed all right, and in fact his pale face was glowing. He looked more healthy than Bobby had seen since they'd rescued him.
"I'm making tacos," Sam told him, changing the subject and informing Bobby of just what smelled so good. "Missouri had all the fixings and Dean said they sounded good."
"Smells great already," Bobby declared. "You learned to cook at college?"
Sam shrugged. "I had to; Dean wasn't there to cook for me."
A thick silence fell over the kitchen, and Bobby knew that Sam was thinking about why Dean hadn't been there and where he had been instead, what had been being done to him. He fumbled for something to say, something to make Sam feel better, but he had nothing.
"Uncle Bobby!" Dean hit him, arms wrapped around his torso, and coffee sloshed on the floor. "You got back in time!"
"That I did," Bobby said, patting the boy's bare back gently. He wasn't used to being hugged by Dean Winchester, but the boy that Dean had become seemed to be far more physically affectionate than the young man he had known three years and more ago.
"We're having tacos," Dean informed him, stepping back and smiling up at him, his eyes bright. Bobby drew in a sharp breath when he realized that Dean was smiling, but Dean didn't seem to notice. "I helped Sammy make them. He let me shred the cheese and I was careful not to cut my fingers, and I found the packet of seasoning in the cupboard. Sammy found the shells, though, and he chopped up the tomatoes and lettuce. Oh, and the onions, because you can't have tacos without onions. He's cooking them into the hamburger with the seasoning."
Bobby was grinning like a madman, letting the words wash over him, thinking back to that silent boy he'd guided out into the hotel lot just four days ago. Now here Dean was, talking up a storm, actually smiling, and it was just so amazing when he'd thought he might never see Dean smile again.
Sam was smiling too, watching them closely but staying out of the conversation for the moment, seeming content to let Dean do the talking. His eyes were a little red and puffy, and since Bobby sincerely doubted he'd been crying over his father's departure, that meant that more than likely Sam had spoken to whoever he'd left behind in California. Bobby didn't know who it was, but he was certain there was a girl, and just as certain that Sam had broken things off. It didn't take a genius to see that Sam was going to be devoting all of his attention to Dean for a good long while. And since Sam was a Winchester and a Winchester never did things by halves.... Well, Bobby just hoped that the gal, whoever she was, wasn't too broken up.
"Where were you, Uncle Bobby?" Dean asked, tilting his head. "You were gone all day. I wasn't sure you were coming back, but Sammy said you were."
"I had to go and get myself a car," Bobby explained, grabbing a paper towel and mopping up the coffee he'd spilled. "Got a seventy-one Chevelle, spent some time fixing her up. She's not as pretty as your Impala, but she runs."
Dean nodded, wide-eyed. "You're not leaving yet, are you?" he asked, sounding anxious and breathless. He reached forward, locking a hand in Bobby's shirt, clinging tightly.
"Not yet," Bobby assured him, though he didn't think he'd be staying too much longer. Missouri would house him as long as he opted to hang around, he was sure, but he didn't belong here and they all knew it. Still, John had left so recently and so abruptly that Bobby figured he could stay for a few more days, until Dean was more settled.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam spoke up from the other side of the kitchen.
Dean's attention immediately gravitated in that direction, though he didn't loosen his hold on Bobby's shirt.
"Dinner's almost ready," Sam told his brother. "You think you can get your clothes back on and go fetch Missouri?"
Dean pulled a face. "Don't like the stairs," he said sulkily, though he obediently took off the apron and climbed back into his jeans. Bobby marveled at the strange combination of obedience and rebellion. He was happy to see that Dean was steady on his feet now -- so much different than it had been directly after they had found him.
"I'll go and rouse our hostess," Bobby offered, to spare Dean his fear of the staircase.
"No need," Missouri said softly from behind him as she entered the kitchen. She looked a little pale, her round face a little drawn, but she seemed to be mostly recovered. "I'm up."
"Missouri!" This time it was her turn to field a hug from Dean, though his embrace was more careful and less enthusiastic, in deference to her recent incapacitation. "I'm sorry I hurt you."
"I told you," Missouri patted his back, "That wasn't your doing, boy. Don't worry your pretty head about it. Now, you put your shirt on, and let's eat dinner."
Dean was a little more subdued as he moved to do as directed, but the mood in the kitchen was still of general good cheer. And considering that the boys' father had taken off on them the night before without a word, Missouri was recovering from a splitting headache, and it was pouring like a second Biblical flood outside, Bobby thought that this was quite fine enough.
They could use some good cheer after everything that they'd all been through. Especially Dean. The boy was mostly quiet during supper, but that might have had more to do with the tacos that he was stuffing in his mouth than anything else.
"Good?" Sam prompted at one point.
"Good," Dean nodded, before taking another gigantic bite.
Bobby could only agree; it was good. And so were the tacos.
The minute the bedroom door closed behind them for the night Dean was shed of everything, including his boxers, and Sam restrained a heavy sigh.
"You just said in front of Missouri and Dad," Dean informed him quickly, giving him a hard look. "You said that, Sammy."
"Dean, come on," Sam wheedled, trying to sound reasonable, trying to remain calm. "You have to wear something to bed. I'm wearing something to bed."
Dean was giving him a look that could only be described as skeptical, but at least he was listening.
"You wanna wear the Black Sabbath teeshirt?" Sam offered, plucking it up from where their laundry was still lying on the bed. "I washed it this morning."
Dean's mouth twisted, almost a frown, but he reached reluctantly for the shirt. "You want me to, Sammy?"
He nodded. "Please?"
Dean was undone by this and moved to do as he'd been asked. Sam vowed internally not to use this approach except in an emergency, like this situation. Now that he realized the power he held over his brother.... Well, he'd already known, but that simple request had underlined it for him.
Sam pulled off his own shirt as Dean silently tugged the teeshirt over his head. The rain was still striking the window, pattering against the glass like it was knocking to get in, and that was a fanciful image for Sam to have in his head. But then he remembered the water drops in the shower dancing around Dean's fingertips, the way the rain had several days earlier, and maybe it wasn't such a random thought.
Actually, he should probably call their Dad and tell him about Dean's apparent ability to manipulate water. It was something that John ought to know about; it might help him in his search for a way to remove the Melusine's mark from Dean's neck. But it was too late now, it was time for them to go to bed, and Sam didn't really want to talk to Dad while he was still so pissed at him. He'd make that call tomorrow and hope he got John's voice mail.
"Thank you, Dean," Sam said, smiling at his brother as Dean smoothed the worn material over his belly and hips. Dean slanted an unreadable look at him from under thick lashes and Sam felt his stomach clench. That had been a dark, sultry glance, and he couldn't help the jump of his libido in response. Evidently his hormones didn't differentiate between "brother" and "potential partner", no matter what Sam's head knew to be right and wrong.
Somehow he found himself sitting on the edge of the bed, still wearing his jeans and socks, with Dean clambering into his lap, arms locked around his neck. He hadn't had a chance yet to talk Dean into his boxers so his brother was still bare beneath the teeshirt. At least its hem fell down past mid-thigh... or, rather, it did when it wasn't riding up, the way it was now, with Dean straddling Sam's broader legs.
"Wha-? Dean?" Sam gasped, and it wasn't especially dignified or composed of him, and he'd have thought that he was past the point that Dean could ambush him like this, but evidently he wasn't. "Hang on a sec!"
This was such an intimate position for them, somehow. Even more than sleeping curled together. Even more than being nude in the shower and touching each other. Sam wasn't sure why; Dean's torso was draped in the oversized teeshirt where Sam's chest was bare, and Sam's thighs were covered in denim under Dean's naked legs... and yet Sam felt that the air between them was charged with more sensual tension than he'd yet experienced with his brother.
His brother. His brother. He had to keep that in mind. Even though the blood was leaping in his veins. Leaping somewhere else too; somewhere that it had no place being when this was his brother in his lap.
"Sammy, why were you sad today?" Dean asked, his face close enough that Sam could taste the toothpaste his brother had just used, stronger than the bitter tang of mouthwash on his own tongue.
While he was glad that Dean was talking and not trying to seduce him, this question was one he didn't want to answer. Dean already had enough to deal with; no way was Sam risking him feeling guilty over the fact that his brother had given up college and a potential lover for him. Not when it wasn't Dean's fault at all.
"Don't worry about that," he instructed firmly, and before he could stop to think why it was a bad idea, he leaned forward and kissed Dean's mouth. It was as much an apology for putting his brother off as it was a means of distracting him, and Sam didn't feel a moment of shame over doing it. Because the kiss wasn't misleading. They seemed to have left that particular taboo behind days ago, and Dean kissed Bobby on the mouth too. Sam wasn't taking advantage of Dean. He was simply responding to Dean the way that his brother preferred.
Well, the morals of it might be uncertain, but what was certain was that Dean responded enthusiastically, and his question was forgotten. Sam was disconcerted by the thrill that Dean's tongue in his mouth sent through him, zinging through his groin and sending a flush up from his shoulders to his temples. It was unmistakably the heat of arousal, and he was even more disturbed by the fact that it felt completely natural.
He briefly flashed on his friends at college, Becky and her brother Zach, and he tried to picture how they would react to being in a situation like this together. He could only imagine that a lot of screaming and flailing and running away from each other would ensue....
Certainly nothing like the hot rush that was flooding him, filling the blood between his knees and ears with little darts of excitement. His feet were warm, and his hands were warm, and that was a good thing since they were resting on Dean's hips underneath the material of the shirt he was wearing... and holy fuck, when had that happened?!
Dean's tongue tangled with Sam's, twining slick and wet, coaxing Sam to dip between those plump, luscious lips. It would have been easy. All too easy. And that was what finally made Sam drag their mouths apart.
"Dean, stop," he breathed, unable to raise his voice above a whisper. Dean was flushed as well, his eyes dark and yet sparkling, his lips plump, parted, pink and moist. "Dean, we can't."
"Can't what?" Dean whispered back, but his arms remained firmly locked around Sam's neck and it didn't seem that he'd be letting go any time soon.
"We can't...." Hm. Sam couldn't say "kiss", since that was what they'd just been doing, and he'd initiated it. And he didn't want to get any more graphic, because then Dean would know where Sam's mind had gone, and he didn't want Dean to think that he was even considering "that"... not that his body wasn't giving him away even now. "We can't...."
"Why not?" Dean challenged, settling himself down on Sam's lap and grinding a little. Sam gasped and gripped Dean's hips hard, to still him, trying to ignore how silky Dean's flesh was under his fingers, and his hands really shouldn't still be underneath his brother's shirt like that.
"Because we're in Missouri's house," Sam responded automatically, before he'd even thought. It was the right answer, though. He knew the instant the words left his lips.
"I can shield her out now," Dean said, almost sounding smug. And while Sam was glad to hear some of his brother's familiar attitude returning, this was not the situation he wanted to deal with it in.
"But I can't," he shot back. He gave Dean his best stern expression and hoped that it was convincing. "You don't want her to have to experience...." He faltered, again unwilling to actually articulate it. "Well. Um. Well, it would just be rude, Dean. We're her guests."
Dean stared at Sam for a long moment and he wondered what was going on in his brother's mixed-up head.
"Okay, Sammy," Dean finally said, and clambered off of Sam's lap.
"Okay?" Sam blinked up at him, thrown by this unexpected, painless capitulation. Well, mostly painless; his erection hadn't gotten any less urgent while Dean had been squirming on his lap. And it wasn't going to go down any if Dean didn't stop doing things like leaning down slightly and plastering his lips against Sam's in a wet, sloppy, extended good-night kiss.
"I'll be good, Sammy," Dean promised, and Sam could have sworn that there was something sly in Dean's angelic expression, but he couldn't call his brother on it.
Sam changed into his pajama bottoms, trying to ignore the gaze that he knew was fixed on him, and then he and Dean were curled up in bed together, no sleeping pills, no wandering hands. Dean did kiss him again, but then he settled quietly against Sam's chest, seeming ready to sleep.
And Sam only remembered as he was on the verge of falling asleep himself that Dean still wasn't wearing anything other than a teeshirt and he'd never put his tank on himself. But by then it was too late. And Dean was already asleep, breathing softly against Sam's bare chest.
If he didn't wake up with a hard-on, Sam would be very surprised.