Around about the fourth time he walked in on the Winchester boys with Dean's tongue lodged in the general vicinity of Sam's molars, Bobby decided it was time for him to head on home.
It wasn't that he had a huge problem with it; well, not as such. His morals were pretty flexible from years of being a Hunter. But this was incest, not to mention Dean was physically fourteen again and sometimes acted even younger. And, on top of all that, they were both boys. Now, it wasn't that Bobby was homophobic -- a man who had seen so much of the supernatural ugliness that stalked the human race couldn't very well be bigoted and still consider himself a decent person -- but it was one thing to be open minded about the concept, and another thing entirely to walk in on two boys in full make-out mode. Especially if they happened to be brothers.
That was just... well, he didn't need to be seeing that. He thought that he could understand now why John had taken off, even if he still didn't approve. Whether John had actually caught them or only suspected, no man should have to see his sons doing that together.
To his credit Sam didn't seem to be encouraging it. But what could he really do to stop it? He couldn't and shouldn't just shove Dean away. Bobby could remember rebuffing Dean as gently as possible, back before the boy had remembered who he was. He sort of wondered why Dean hadn't laid off of Sam once he remembered they were brothers, but it was beyond him to figure out the workings of the poor kid's broken mind. He was just grateful that Dean hadn't seemed inclined lately to kiss him on the mouth; not since that first evening after he'd come back with the Impala. Unfortunately for Sam, though, Dean seemed to be making up that lack with his brother.
Really, Bobby felt sympathy for Sam, having to fend off his brother's advances while avoiding outright rejection. That was the saving factor, as far as Bobby was concerned, the thing that kept him from speaking out, from expressing disapproval. He knew that Missouri was tolerant of it, since she was a mind reader and this was her house and she hadn't tried to stop it happening. And he knew that from her tolerance, the kissing and touching -- which latter he tried very hard not to notice, but Dean wasn't half so sneaky about it as he evidently thought he was being -- must be necessary.
That didn't mean Bobby wanted to see it, though.
Also encouraging Bobby in his decision to leave, was the fact that the boys really were doing okay. They'd been at Missouri's for nearly a week now, it had been three days since John had taken off on them, and Bobby didn't feel that they needed him there any longer. Dean had stopped asking where John was, he seemed to be doing better every day, getting lost in time or inside his head less often. He still spoke in that strange stilted fashion, but whole sentences in his former drawl occasionally crept in. He was, as noted, seeking out the wrong sort of physical affection from Sam, but he was at least being more restrained in front of Missouri and Bobby. Bobby wondered briefly how Sam was dealing with Dean behind closed doors, in the shower, and after they'd gone to bed, but quickly dragged his thoughts away from that because that wasn't any of his business, or anywhere that he wanted to go.
Sam seemed to be doing pretty well too, all things considered. He was cooking half of the meals and doing light housecleaning -- even though he wasn't really very good at it, Missouri was happy to having someone around who could dust the top shelves without needing to get out the stepstool -- and twice now he'd caught a ride from Bobby to the grocery store, to stock the larder and refrigerator. He raided the bookshelves or watched television while Dean was in the reading room with Missouri and generally seemed to be passing the time pleasantly enough.
Bobby took the Chevelle back to Mike's garage a couple more times, and while she would never run as smoothly as the Impala, she was doing all right. Unlike Sam, Bobby didn't have household chores or a brother to keep him busy, and that was another factor in his resolve that it was time to move on. Bobby never could abide being idle, and being bored was even worse.
Sam's face fell when Bobby informed him he'd be leaving the evening of the third day, but he seemed resigned enough to the fact.
"Thank you so much for everything that you've done for us," he said, spontaneously reaching forward and wrapping Bobby up in a warm hug. "I know you keep saying it's not a big deal, but to me it is."
"Family don't end with blood, Sam," Bobby gruffed, patting the young man's broad back. "Don't you and Dean ever think you ain't welcome at my place. Y'hear?"
Dean didn't take it quite as well, his eyes filling with ready tears, but he hugged Bobby just as his brother had done, only with a little more desperation.
"I don't want you to go, Uncle Bobby," he quavered into Bobby's shirt, but it wasn't a command or a request, only a statement of fact. Bobby rubbed his back gently.
"You know I have to, Dean."
Bobby was relieved that Dean didn't kiss him, simply giving him an extra hard squeeze before letting go and stepping back.
"You'll be staying for dinner," Missouri informed him, and Bobby wasn't going to argue with that. Not that he was inclined to; Missouri was cooking tonight, and while Sam's meals were decent enough, Missouri's were downright mouthwatering. Bobby'd have to be daft to prefer a restaurant supper to a home-cooked one.
As had become the norm, Dean set the table, this time with Sam's help. Bobby felt a little sad; he was ready to leave, but he was going to miss this. The Winchester boys, the excellent cooking, the warmth, the easy domesticity....
And then Dean reached out and grabbed Sam's crotch as the two brothers passed each other, and Bobby remembered why he was leaving. Sam twisted his hips adroitly and stepped out of danger, flushing slightly. Bobby pretended not to have seen. It would probably be as much of a relief for Sam as it was for Bobby when the older man wasn't around to witness Dean's unrestrained behavior.
"Dean, will you please get the milk out of the 'fridge?" Missouri requested, shrewdly distracting the boy. She sent Bobby a rueful smile, and he knew that she was more okay with the whole thing than he was, but she wasn't judging him for his squeamishness either. Which he supposed was just as it should be.
Dean did as he'd been asked without question or protest, and Bobby wondered if he really didn't have any idea that his pursuit of his brother was inappropriate. Probably not, or else he'd have laid off already. Dean had always been almost completely selfless when it came to his Sammy -- even if he'd hidden that fact well with childish gruffness in the past -- and if he'd thought for an instant that what he was doing was actually wrong he'd have stopped. Bobby wondered what Dean made of Sam's obvious discomfort and resistance. Perhaps he thought that it was feigned. Or maybe he honestly didn't notice.
Leaving off trying to guess Dean's motivations, since he wasn't the mind reader in the room, Bobby took his seat at the table. Dean was sitting crosslegged, barefoot but wearing his jeans and teeshirt properly, on his own chair, while Missouri and Sam were weaving around each other, setting out corningware pans and wide plates loaded with succulent, steaming dishes.
"Yer gonna keep in touch, ain't ya, Sam?" Bobby asked when they were all seated and digging in. "Keep me updated on how you boys are doing...." How Dean was doing, was the unspoken meaning of this request. Not that Bobby didn't care about how Sam as doing, of course, but he was less worried about Sam than he was about Dean. Even though he'd left behind college and a girl, a future in Law and all the potential success that entailed, Bobby thought that Sam was going to be all right. It was Dean and his scrambled brain, his memories of being beaten and raped, that Bobby was more concerned by.
"Of course," Sam assured him, stuffing his mouth, then chewing and swallowing before continuing. "And I'll call you right away if Dad turns anything up."
Bobby nodded, applying himself to his own plate. He'd been at the garage all day, finishing the final tune-ups to the Chevelle, bullshitting with Mike, getting greasy and sweaty before returning to Missouri's to shower, and was hungrier than he'd thought. He was a little sad that he'd be taking off after this meal, and he wasn't looking forward to driving until he hit a hotel instead of sleeping on the comfortable pull-out sofa-bed here, but it needed to be done.
"Daddy got me a phone too," Dean announced, his eyes gleaming as he met Bobby's gaze across the table. "I don't know how to work it right now, but when I know how I can call you... right, Uncle Bobby?"
"Sure thing, kiddo," Bobby replied, his voice a little thick. "Your brother has my number, okay?"
"Okay!" Dean nodded so enthusiastically that it almost seemed his head was in danger of coming off his neck. Bobby grinned, feeling a huge swell of affection fill him. Uncomfortable as Dean's easy, incestuous sexuality with Sam made Bobby, he was really going to miss this boy; he was going to miss both of them. "I don't want you to leave, but phones make invisible lines that keep us from being completely apart. Right?"
"Exactly," Bobby agreed. Dean might see and describe things a little differently than the norm, but he had the essence of things down pat. "And I'm only a couple of states over."
Dean nodded again, though not so vigorously this time, and his expression was steady and serious, an echo of the young man he had once been. "If anything happens with the Impala, I don't want anyone but you touching her. Is that okay, Bobby?"
Bobby nodded in return. "Absolutely. I'd be honored, Dean. I've kept her in good shape, though, so she shouldn't have any problems."
Dean nipped at his lower lip, his hands twisting together before him, fingers twining. "I know. But I can't remember how to fix her anymore. And Sammy doesn't even know how to change a tire."
"Hey!" Sam yelped as Bobby and Missouri burst into laughter. That last sentence had been delivered in tones that Bobby recognized. That had been the "old Dean", as he thought of the boy before he'd been broken. It gave him hope that Dean would heal yet, and while it never lasted long, it was always good to hear.
"Well, you don't," Dean pouted at Sam, his lower lip plumped and his lashes fluttering. "Do you?"
"No," Sam answered sulkily. He wasn't really out of sorts, though. More just playing along with Dean, the brotherly back-and-forth the Winchester boys had always excelled at. And that was glorious to hear too, when just a week ago Dean had cringed away from anything that even hinted at negativity.
"Well, call me if you need me," Bobby repeated. "Though she should be fine. She's in great shape for a car her age."
"She's older than me," Dean said dreamily, his gaze a little unfocused.
"We're all older than you now," Sam put in. Dean's gaze sharpened and he wrinkled his nose.
"You're still my little brother, Sammy," he informed Sam, green eyes not straying from his brother's face.
"You so sure about that?" Sam asked, grinning impishly and reaching a long arm to palm Dean's head. Dean squawked and flailed ineffectually for a moment, but then settled into his chair.
"I'm sure," he said with a quiet intensity and Bobby thought of all those years of Dean watching over his younger brother while they'd been growing up, of tiny Dean with a baby Sam thrust into his arms and entrusted to his care on that fateful night. There was so much there and Dean might not remember most of it, but he wasn't going to let it go.
Sam met his brother's clear gaze steadily, not saying anything in reply. Then, after a moment, Dean's face lighted up.
"But you're bigger now, Sammy." He eyed Sam's arms and chest in a manner that Bobby tried to convince himself wasn't lascivious. "You're bigger all over!"
Sam blushed and Missouri chuckled. Bobby got up to fetch himself some coffee, because he'd be up late driving, and because he really didn't need to be going where Dean sounded to be going. Behind him, Sam said something too low for him to hear. Dean uttered a discontented noise. Then Missouri broke in, asking Sam about one of her books that he was evidently reading, and by the time Bobby returned to the table with his steaming mug of caffeine, the conversation was back in the realm of safety. Dean was silent, but didn't look unhappy. He was concentrating on his food, eyes hidden behind thick lashes and tumbling gold-brown bangs, his expression relaxed and his mouth full.
Bobby felt another tug, regretted leaving. But there wasn't anything more he could do for either Sam or Dean. And his presence made both Sam and himself uncomfortable whenever Dean started getting too touchy-feely with his brother. Bobby would miss the boys, but they'd all be happier once he was gone, he knew. It was a little sad, but it was true.
They finished their supper all too soon, and then Bobby packed up the Chevelle and went back inside to hug Dean goodbye one last time. Dean clung to him, holding on so tightly that it hurt.
Bobby hugged Dean back, as firmly as he dared when the boy was still perilously close to skin and bones. Neither one said anything, because there wasn't anything left to be said. Bobby wasn't sure he could have said anything though the emotion clotting up at the base of his throat anyway. Again, Dean didn't kiss him, but he did stretch up on his toes to press the side of his face so tightly against Bobby's that Bobby could feel the imprint of Dean's sharp cheekbone slicing through the bristle of his beard. There was so much intensity in Dean that it was almost a relief to get out the door and away from him, even though Bobby still felt a little guilty for deserting the boy.
Missouri took charge of Dean, wishing Bobby a safe drive, and Sam followed him out to the car.
"We'll be okay, Bobby," Sam assured him, his deep voice a little husky, but his expression relatively calm and untroubled.
"I know you will," he rejoined, clapping a hand to Sam's upper arm, managing a weak smile. And they would be; he was certain of that.
"Don't think that I'm not grateful for everything, though," Sam continued earnestly. "We really needed you. You helped us more than I can articulate, more than I probably even realize." He huffed, running a hand through his shaggy hair. "And thanks for hanging around for a while after Dad left. That was important; so that Dean didn't feel he was being deserted all at once."
"I'm glad I could step in for your father--" Bobby started, but Sam was shaking his head.
"No, not that. Dean doesn't think of you as a father figure, and neither do I, Bobby. You're a friend, a good friend to all us Winchesters, better than we deserve sometimes. Well, better than Dad deserves, anyway. And me too, the way I take everyone and everything for granted. It's just... we're both just so glad to have you with us, me and Dean."
Bobby nodded, perfectly willing to take Sam at his word and not look for any further meaning, not reading anything into it that might not be there. "Don't mention it. And don't be so hard on yerself, Sam. Not many would give up everything you've given up for yer brother, whether they felt it was owed or not -- which it ain't, but I ain't gonna waste the breath tryin' to convince you'a that. Yer somethin' special. Don't ever fergit that."
Sam flushed a little, hanging his head, but he didn't argue. Bobby gave him another hug, then he figured it was time he got gone.
"You keep in touch, y'hear?" were his parting words as he folded himself into the driver's seat of the Chevelle. Sam raised a hand and gave a noise of assent, and then Bobby was on his way, leaving Lawrence and headed for home.
It was nice, to know that he hadn't just been filling a John-shaped hole for the boys, that he'd been of value in his own right. Not that he'd doubted this, but it was good to actually hear it from Sam's own lips.
Still, it was time for him to move on. If the Winchesters needed him in the future, he'd be there for them. He sincerely hoped that they wouldn't need him... but the realist in him knew demmed well that it was unlikely John would be able to stay out of trouble. Especially when that supernatural mark was firmly settled into Dean's flesh.
Still, Bobby did hope for a time of respite. He felt he'd earned that much. And he defied anyone to argue that fact.
The stark yellow and black police tape had fallen down in places and was already being claimed by weeds. The charred remains of the building were being swiftly written over by nature. It had only been eleven days, not even two weeks yet, and it might as well have been months.
Well, the place was way out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by hoary trees and waist-high fields of grass, a three mile long gravel drive back to the nearest paved road. No one around to hear Dean when he screamed, John thought with a cold shudder crawling over the surface of his skin. And no one to stop the other two Winchesters and Bobby Singer from shooting, killing, and burning all the bastards when they'd come to rescue Dean.
Once the authorities had discovered exactly what the men found dead in the burned out church had been doing, the investigation had cooled down considerably. Murder and arson notwithstanding, no one much cared that some perverts who had been selling an innocent teenage boy for sex had been killed.
According to Lao, the police were more concerned with finding Dean than they were with solving the murders. That suited John just fine. There wasn't much chance that they'd track down Dean, safe as he was at Missouri's, but Lao had promised to keep an ear to the ground. John appreciated that they wanted to find his boy, help him, but he'd already gotten him better help than the authorities could ever hope to. He was satisfied and now he only worried that Dean could be taken away from him.
So far, though, it seemed that they'd gotten away without a hitch. It was a little stupid of John to come back here, back to the church where he'd found one son a broken sex-slave and made his other son into a murderer, back to the scene of the crime like he was some green amateur, but he knew for a fact that the police were no longer watching the place, and he felt confident enough that he could get in and out without anyone being the wiser. Or else he'd never have risked it.
Why he was here... well, that was a little less definitive.
He'd gotten a voice mail from Sam the day after he'd left. He'd been surprised; expecting it to be a violent reaction to his desertion, expecting Sam to bitch him out, or worse, tell him quietly how disappointed he'd been.... But, instead, Sam had simply informed him about the power that Dean apparently had over water, and hadn't uttered a word about John leaving. "Be careful out there, Dad," was all he'd said.
John had already known about Dean's ability to manipulate water. He'd been panicked as all fuck when he'd lost his son and found him in the river, back the second day after they'd retrieved him, but that didn't mean that he hadn't noticed that the rain wasn't striking Dean at all while he'd been standing there in nothing but his boxers.
He'd attributed it at the time to the lingering effects of being held by the Melusine, but according to Sammy's voice mail Dean's ability was even greater than John had suspected and more specific. Making the water in the shower "dance" indicated a level of control, an awareness of what he was doing, though Sam had said that Dean hadn't been able to offer any explanation. Whether he didn't know or just couldn't articulate it, Sam wasn't sure, but at least he'd had the presence of mind to ask. John couldn't have expected anything more from his son, from either of his boys.
He didn't honestly think he'd find anything at the burned out church, but he'd come back to the Northwest, and it was as though he'd been drawn here. He and Bobby had salted the place thoroughly even before they'd charged in with their guns, salted it some more after killing the men, including the corpses, and then burned everything to the ground. As much as John would have liked the chance to put the men down a second time, their spirits would have been extremely malevolent and violent, so he wasn't taking any chances. Especially when they would have been just as likely to target his sons as they would have been John. He hadn't lived as long as he had as a Hunter by taking foolish chances.
He supposed what little remained of the four men they'd killed would be interred somewhere.... Whether the bastards had families or whether they'd been buried at the tax payers' expense in nameless graves, John didn't much care. They'd hurt his son, beaten and raped his boy, sold Dean's body as though he was a thing, and John just hoped that their souls -- if they even possessed something so human -- were writhing in agony in Hell right now.
If John could have rewritten the last three years, he would in a heartbeat. But even demons couldn't change the past. Not that he'd consider making a deal.... He'd have done anything for Dean, for both of his sons, but he thought that it was better to investigate the whole Melusine matter more thoroughly before he jumped to reckless solutions.
After all, he might have utterly destroyed the Yellow-Eyed Demon and its "children", as it had called them, with the Colt, but that didn't mean there weren't plenty of demons on Hell that he'd exorcised, insulted, or damaged in some way, all of whom would be very happy to see him.
Besides, John had the strong suspicion that there was an actual, honest-to-god... well, GOD involved. Or, rather, a goddess. Something had wrested Dean away from the Melusine, shredding that sea-bitch to pieces, before these human monsters had gotten their hands on Dean... and all signs had pointed to a deity that resided in the cradle of the Pacific Northwest. John would be stupid not to pursue that lead.
Well, either way, there was nothing here for him. No EMF, no clues, nothing but a low simmering sensation of morbid, wicked satisfaction. Because even if he hadn't found his son for two long years, even though he couldn't spare his boy the horrors that he'd suffered in those two years, at least John had taken those bastards and wiped them off the face of the Earth. Dead, salted, burned, and they might not have paid for their sins while alive, but they were completely gone, erased, and John might not have a lot of faith left after his Mary had been taken from him, but he had faith that those freaks were paying out their debts to Dean somewhere.
John Winchester might not believe in God, angels, or Heaven... but he definitely believed in Hell. It was hard to believe in something that you had to take on a faith that had been shattered. It was easy to believe in somewhere you'd seen with your own eyes.
Either way, there was nothing for him in Washington. Time to head south once again, down into Oregon. He was going on the second greatest Hunt of his life. He'd avenged his wife's death. Now it was time to do what he could to fix his broken son.
It had begun with the Melusine and ended with the three of them rescuing Dean from the humans who had been holding him... but that wasn't the whole story. John had done his research and he was certain that he wasn't mistaken. There had been another player in the drama, and he intended to find the answer to the huge question mark that loomed between the Melusine who had taken his boy and the dead men who had held him. There was nothing else for it.
John Winchester was going to have to track down a goddess.
It wasn't until they'd been at her place for over a week that Sam discovered Missouri owned a computer and was on the internet.
Not that he was bored; there were books, television, and there was always Dean, when he wasn't locked in Missouri's reading room with their hostess. But there were things that Sam could research on the 'net that weren't accessible any other way. Things like "PTSS"... and "incest"... and "rape victims".... Sam hoped that Missouri didn't mind her dial-up being used to look those last two up on the search engines. He didn't really feel that he learned anything useful, Dean's case being so bizarre and so specialized, but he'd had to at least try. Sam had yet to meet a subject he was interested in that he didn't want to learn everything he could about.
Well, it was something to do to fill the hours, and even though he didn't feel he was finding out anything helpful, he didn't feel he was completely wasting his time either.
Missouri had taken back her mornings to do readings, with the occasional late afternoon session. Sam didn't mind. Missouri had yet to find a way to dismantle the walls Dean had built around his more traumatic memories, and so she was limited in what she could do for him anyway.
While Missouri was occupied, since he didn't want to ignore Dean in favor of the internet, Sam would slouch in front of the television with his brother. Or he read while Dean rested with his head in his lap. Sometimes he'd read aloud, but most of the books Sam chose tended to put Dean right to sleep. Other times they would just curl up together on their bed with the door closed between them and the rest of the world. It was quiet and pleasant, and it was easy enough to see the lack of forward momentum as contentment rather than stagnation.
Okay, so Dean wasn't really getting any much better... but he wasn't getting worse either.
"I'm just not getting any closer to breaching those walls," Missouri confided to Sam as they worked on dinner together. Dean was standing at the back door, peering out into the falling dusk. He'd informed Sam solemnly the evening before that there were people out there getting hurt and he couldn't help them, the way he was now. Sam had nearly wept, wishing with all his heart that he could will his brother better, even if it meant that Dean would just go straight out Hunting... but he couldn't.
"You're doing all you can," Sam assured her, knowing that it was true.
"But that's not good enough," Missouri shot back, surprising Sam, since she usually tried to remain positive and certainly shouldn't be beating herself up for something she couldn't change. That was more Sam's style. "Your Daddy brought Dean to me so that I could help him, and I did, but now I'm stuck."
She sounded so frustrated, but Sam's gaze was fixed on his brother. Dean was a slim strip at the door, one hand pressed to the glass, the silver ring gleaming on his thumb. Sam's finger still felt bare without it, and Sam wondered if it'd be silly of him to buy a new one to replace it. It wouldn't have the same meaning that Dean's silver band had held for him, but....
Dean was wearing his own jeans, but one of Sam's shirts. That seemed to be his new thing. Not that Sam minded, but the way the teeshirt hung off of Dean's smaller frame only underscored how much weight and height his brother had yet to gain back. He was doing better, eating well here at Missouri's, but was still notably slender. His feet were bare, as he preferred, and his hair had grown out some already, the mark on his nape partially obscured by delicate curls. Sam felt that he'd be happier once it was completely covered, but he'd never be able to forget that it was there. Especially since it was more than likely what was responsible for Dean's continued confusion and his difficulty in holding his place in time.
"It's not your fault," Sam offered, mouthing the words because it was the right thing to say, even though he knew it wouldn't help. It was true, but Missouri was upset and disappointed. Sam could certainly understand both responses. He dealt with them every day himself.
Missouri might have answered, but at that moment Dean turned and met Sam's eyes, and the air between them was so charged that nothing else penetrated Sam's senses. It happened like this sometimes. Usually being with Dean was as comfortable and easy as it had always been; even more so, because now Dean was more mellow and inclined to cuddle than he had been as a child and teenager. But every once in a while, maybe due to Dean's intensity, maybe because there was so much emotion between them and it built up over time, Sam didn't know, but every once in a while there was just this electricity, this magnetism, and he just felt like he had to touch Dean, clutch at him, hold him close and never never let go.
Knowing that Missouri would understand, hoping that she wouldn't disapprove, Sam left his mostly complete salad -- it just needed the avocado diced and tossed into it -- and took the three long strides over to where Dean stood. Dean glanced up at him through thick lashes and gold-tipped bangs, and, dammit, there was that seductive look again, but for Sam this wasn't about sex, it was only about the need to be closer, to be together. That was all!
At least, he was pretty sure....
Dean moved easily into his arms and fit against his chest seamlessly. Sam was vaguely aware that behind him Missouri was completing the dinner preparations, letting them have their illusion of privacy in this little bubble by the kitchen door.
Dean laced his arms around Sam's waist, his sharp chin socking his brother almost painfully in the center of his chest. Sam was aware of the inches between them, aware that he could just bend down and kiss Dean, but he didn't. Because this was Missouri's house and it would be impolite to do so in front of her, not because he didn't want to.
Sam was half afraid that Dean's hands would start wandering and force him to separate them. But maybe Dean had learned from past experience, or -- more likely, since he had trouble remember what happened from hour to hour, much less day to day -- maybe he just didn't feel like groping his Sammy right now. He just squeezed his arms more tightly, turning his head to rest his cheek against Sam's shoulder, and sighed happily.
Sam sometimes wondered, the need was so powerful, to touch, to hold, to twine together, whether this was something external, something influencing them. But then he thought that Missouri would have sensed it and said something to him. And he also thought that it felt completely natural. It was just them. They were SamandDean. They'd always been close, growing up. Their Dad had kept them moving, they hadn't made friends easily or often, not real friends. They'd argued, fought, and occasionally convinced themselves that they hated each other, but at the heart of it they'd only ever had each other. Maybe this feeling was that emotion condensed. Distilled by the torture Dean had undergone, and Sam's awareness of that fact. Now they truly were each of them all that the other had. So, was it so odd that their hearts would sometimes urge them to get as close as they physically could?
"That's pretty near to the truth, Sam," Missouri said softly, at his elbow. Sam started. Maybe this was how Dean felt when he lost time. Sam knew that it had passed, but he'd been completely submerged inside his head. Sort of like when he got caught up in a good book, only more so.
"I'm sorry," Missouri apologized for the interruption. "But the noodles for the spaghetti are going to get cold if we don't sit down soon."
"Sorry," Sam apologized in turn. The intensity of emotion was faded to manageable levels and he loosed Dean, feeling both relieved and bereft when Dean pulled away and moved toward the table. "I left the salad--"
"I finished it for you." Missouri patted his upper arm lightly. "Don't worry about it, Sam. Dean, he needs your hugs more than I need you to make salad for us."
Sam smiled wanly, still feeling sheepish, but not feeling silly. The emotions had been so strong that their echoes were still resonating through him. They were real and impelling and he could no more deny them than he could make himself stop breathing.
"So you think it's okay?" he pursued as he and Missouri followed Dean to the table. "You don't think we're... I don't know... becoming too dependent on each other or something?"
Missouri snorted delicately, seating herself. "The only way you can be too dependent on someone is if you're in danger of being let down by them, Sam. You and Dean, you're never gonna let each other down. So there is no such thing as 'too' dependent."
Sam was quiet, processing that, as he dished up Dean's food then his own. Dean wrinkled his nose at the helping of salad Sam gave him, but he dug into it anyway, because Sam had put it on his plate. And once he discovered the avocados and kalamata olives in it, he munched happily away.
"I'm not sure I agree," Sam said finally. The spaghetti sauce was delicious, made from scratch with green and red peppers, mushrooms, and freshly diced garlic. "But I'm pretty sure that I don't disagree."
It shouldn't have made sense, but it did, and Missouri was nodding again, smiling at him.
"More bread?" Dean requested of Sam, fluttering his lashes.
"Say 'please'," Sam instructed.
Dean's brow crinkled. "Why?"
Sam cracked up, then slid the basket with the garlic toast to where Dean could get into it. "Never mind."
"Sammy, I'm broken, but you're weird sometimes," Dean informed him in all seriousness as he carefully plucked two pieces of bread out of the napkin keeping them warm. This only caused Sam to laugh harder, and when Missouri joined in, Dean just eyeballed them both, then turned his attention to his meal. He was concentrating so hard on twisting the spaghetti noodles around his fork tines that his tongue was sticking out the side of his mouth. His full lips were gleaming greasy with butter and his cheeks were faintly pink. Sam looked away before he could even begin to respond physically to the pretty picture that his brother made.
Every time that he started to think that it was all Dean's idea for them to be even mildly intimate -- never mind that anymore Sam kissed Dean just as often as Dean kissed Sam -- he felt this desire, this warmth, this arousal... and he knew that it wasn't all in Dean's head.
It was just so wrong. Just... just wrong. He shouldn't feel this way about his brother. Especially not after everything Dean had been through. And the fact that Dean wanted it... well, that made it worse, not better, right? Because Dean was a victim; of the men who had held him, of the strangers who had paid those men in order to rape him, even of the Melusine in the beginning.
"I think we're going to have to leave soon," Sam decided suddenly, blinking in surprise the moment the words left his mouth. He'd been thinking of something else entirely, after all, and had no idea where this resolution had come from. But it had come from somewhere, and he discovered after processing his words that they were true.
"You're right," Missouri unexpectedly agreed, her expression rueful. "I've tried and tried, Sam, and there's no way for me to get through those walls without hurting Dean and myself. And I'm not even sure I can." She shook her head. "As much as I love having you boys here, as much as I'll worry once you're gone, this isn't where you belong."
"She's ready to fly," Dean piped up, looking from Sam to Missouri, his eyes bright and tomato sauce smeared at the corner of his mouth. Sam thought that it looked like blood, even though it was thicker and more orange than red, and he reached over to thumb it away, his stomach knotting. Dean had healed from the bruises, bite marks, and other damages his body had been sporting when they'd rescued him, but his skin still bore the invisible traces in Sam's mind, and probably in Dean's as well.
Turning his attention to what Dean had said as his brother licked his lips thoughtfully, Sam had to cast back in time for a moment. But then he remembered Dean's declaration about the Impala the evening Bobby had brought her back to them, and he nodded. "I think you're right."
"Of course I'm right." Dean gave Sam a look that could only be interpreted as confused. "Why would I be not-right? I get confused sometimes, but I know my car, Sammy."
"Where do you think you're going to go?" Missouri asked, and just like that it became reality. They were going to leave the sanctuary of her home, striking out, just the two of them. Sam didn't know whether to feel elated or terrified. He thought that he felt more than a little of both.
"I don't know. Dean, is there anywhere you want to go?"
Dean's answer was muffled by the bread he had stuffed in his generous mouth, but Sam thought that he caught the words "-wif Fammy" in there, and he surmised that it was up to him to make the choice.
"How about the Grand Canyon?" he suggested. "We've been all over the U.S. with Dad while we were growing up, but we've never been there."
"Okay," Dean replied serenely. It wasn't enthusiastic, but Sam figured it was as good a response as he'd get.
"That sounds like a plan," Missouri nodded. "I think you boys need a change of scene. And as much as I've loved having you here, I really need to get back to my usual business."
"Thank you so much, Missouri," Sam said devoutly, reminded yet again of how much Missouri had done for them. For no reasons other than generosity and love, she'd opened her home and given up her time....
"Now don't you go thinking that I meant anything by that," Missouri chided Sam. "I was happy to do what I did for Dean, and I only wish that I could do more. But he's as healed as he's going to get with my help, and now I think it'd do both of you good to get out and explore the world together."
"The world goes forever and forever," Dean intoned dreamily. "But the ocean goes to the bottom and stops." He shuddered, then seemed to shake it off and applied himself with renewed focus to his food. "Let's not go to the beach, Sammy."
"Wasn't planning on it," Sam assured him, swallowing down the lump in his throat. He hated seeing Dean so tangled, and changed, and different, but it was all Dean still, and Sam had to come to grips with that. "No beaches near Arizona."
"Good." And with that, Dean seemed pleased and dismissed the subject completely. Sam wished he had that equanimity. His head was already buzzing with plans, maps, worries....
Dean was doing a lot better, it was true. After the incident with Richie Fuller, they'd been careful to keep Dean away from Missouri's clientele. But there had been a few run-ins, and they hadn't been complete disasters.
Around women, Dean clammed up, his eyes round, but he didn't appear terrified and didn't bolt. He did tend to hide behind whoever was available -- Sam or Missouri -- but didn't have any reaction that rated much stronger than severe shyness.
His response to males was still a little more violent, a lot more fearful, but he only ran away, he didn't go into a panicked fugue, as he had when Richie had burst in. Sam thought that as long as he was careful and reintroduced Dean to public places slowly and incrementally, they'd do all right on the trip. Keeping at first mainly to highways and drive-thru meals, but using rest stops. And maybe after a while they'd be able to actually go into restaurants to eat, go shopping at convenience stores, and maybe Sam would be able to show Dean how to pump gas into the Impala.
"That sounds good," Missouri murmured, favoring Sam with a warm smile. "But you won't be leaving for a couple more days, honey. So why don't you finish your dinner, and then we'll all settle down and watch a movie together before bedtime."
And Sam didn't think that there was anything that could have sounded better than that to him in this moment.
"Here's something; Bigfoot living in a town in Indiana. Indiana. In the town. Wanna check it out?"
Only silence greeted this sally.
"All right. Well, there've been more evil clown sightings in Maine.... That could be good for a laugh. Get it? Clown? Laugh?"
More silence. Danny shot a borderline irritated glance at his partner-in-crime. Rusty was sprawled on his stomach on the bed, only wearing boxers, a teeshirt, and one sock, watching tee vee. His sandy blonde hair fell in his eyes, and Danny mused that they were both overdue for a trim. His own dark hair, lightly dusted with silver -- never mind that Rusty declared it to be grey, it was silver -- at the temples was beginning to tickle the tips of his ears.
"Feeling picky tonight, then, I see. Hmm." Danny rubbed his mouth, staring at the computer screen.
The television continued to flicker quietly, an old black and white film with a woman who was turning into a wasp or some such nonsense. Droning, tinny conversation was punctuated by shrill screams, and Danny wondered why Rusty was watching that dreck. Considering that they Hunted the real monsters.
Well, maybe that was why, after all.
"This could be something; a whole lot of missing persons in Sandford, Gloucestershire, and the local constabulary -- that's British for 'police' -- don't seem to be doing anything about it."
Still no response. Rusty might as well have been a statue, except for his steady breathing and the faint flicker of his lashes, limned in the silvery illumination of the tee vee.
"Sandford's in England," Danny clarified. "You know, in case you were feeling like traveling. In case you wanted something exotic. You liked England last time we were there."
Rusty remained unmoving. Danny grimaced.
"No, then." He clicked a few links. "Something bigger? Well, speaking of disappearances, the entire population of Snowfield, Colorado is missing. I mean, the buildings are intact, but all the people are gone. There's been an official investigation, but it doesn't seem as though there's any explanation. That might be up our alley...."
"No?" Danny sighed, following a few more leads, navigating the World Wide Web. Really, Rusty was better at rustling up Hunts for them, but he seemed content tonight to lie on his belly on the bed, chin resting on his folded arms, watching his stupid old movie and shooting down every one of Danny's suggestions with his pointed silence. Normally, Danny would have just left it until Rusty felt like finding their next Hunt, but they'd been holed up in this hotel room for three days now while Danny recovered from a wrenched ankle, and he was beginning to suffer from some serious cabin fever. His ankle was mended and he was more than ready to get back on the road.
"Scraping the bottom of the barrel here," Danny announced, feeling piqued. Most of the Hunts he'd found had seemed exciting and interesting to him. But they wouldn't be going anywhere without Rusty's okay. "Hmph. Well, if you want something boring, there's a possible haunting in, um... Troutdale, Oreg--"
"That one." Rusty spoke up without turning his attention from the television. His blue eyes gleamed like crystals in the flickering light of the black-and-white film.
"Huh?" Danny blinked. Rusty didn't. "Don't you want to hear more about--"
Danny stared at his partner for a long while. Resentment threatened to well up in his chest, but he knew that Rusty was always right. And that fact was even more exasperating.
"You know that I hate it--"
"When I do that. Yeah, I know."
Danny grumbled, turning back to their laptop and bringing up driving directions to Troutdale, Oregon. It seemed like a dumb little Hunt, after all the big, intriguing ones he'd dug up, but if Rusty said "that one" then that was the one.
Because as much as Danny sometimes hated to admit it, Rusty had never been wrong.
"Troutdale, here we come," he muttered.
"Tomorrow," Rusty grunted.
"I know that." Danny rolled his eyes. He closed their laptop, done surfing for the night now that they had a set destination. They were in, of all places, Zeeland, Michigan, so it was going to take them several days to get to the Northwest, even if they took turns driving. Well, the potential ghost wasn't going to be going anywhere. "So, how much longer is this movie gonna be?"
Rusty shrugged. Danny settled down to watch the end of the movie with him, though he was laying the right way around, propped on both the pillows. He'd missed most of the set-up and plot, but it was a monster flick; those were always more about the climax, the blood and the screams, anyhow.
Kind of the opposite of real life, he mused. Though, objectively, how "real" was the life of a Hunter, ever?
"I really liked the idea of visiting England," he grouched, feeling thwarted and a little cranky.
"All I'm saying is that there'd better be something really big in Oregon, or I'm going to feel cheated."
One bright blue eye angled back to glare at Danny.
"All right, all right." He sighed heavily and waved a hand. "Watch your movie."
Because Rusty was nothing if not reliable. And Danny might actually find himself eating his words before this Hunt was over.
Despite this very real danger, Danny was asleep and softly snoring long before the movie ended. Rusty rolled his eyes and hit the power button on the remote, plunging their hotel room into darkness, before he snagged his pillow out from under Danny's head. Danny grunted and rolled over as Rusty settled in under the covers. Before five minutes had passed they were both sound asleep.
Tomorrow would be time enough for action.
[end chpt 15]
Author's Note: If you think you recognize Danny and Rusty... you do. ^_~ If you don't, I highly recommend watching "Ocean's Eleven", because it is an excellent film that can be watched over and over without finding plot holes, it's witty and full of awesome actors (with the unfortunate addition of Julia Roberts, the film's only flaw), and even my mother had to say about George Clooney's character, "now, he has a girlfriend, right?" *loves all over brad pitt and george clooney's chemistry* And even if you don't watch the movie, I hope that the "Dandelions" versions of Danny and Rusty grow on you. ^_^