Title: Ripple Effect
Season: 2 – set between the episodes Simon Says and No Exit
Category: General, Action
Tagline: ...and the effect spreads outwards, like ripples on a pond when a stone is dropped...
Total Word Count: 43,131
Total Chapters: 7
Chapter 7 Word Count: 5734
Story Banner: Chasidern
Bobby watched the play of the early afternoon sunlight through the trees while he waited for the coffee to brew. Hearing the soft thump of feet on the stairs, he turned, grinning in sympathy as the tall young psychic stepped into the kitchen.
Sam nodded briefly at his friend before sinking wearily onto a chair. He ran his good hand through his mussed hair and across his stubbled face, grimacing at the feel of the three-day growth darkening his cheeks and chin.
“How is he?”
Giving Bobby the thumbs-up, Sam rested his tired gaze on the slowly filling coffee pot.
“Fever broke?” Waiting for the slow nod, Bobby pursed his lips and reached into a cupboard near the fridge. He pulled out a can of soup, opened it and dumped the contents into a saucepan before placing it on the stove to heat slowly. “You look all in. Did you get any sleep?”
Sam mouthed ‘no’, his lips curling into a wry grin. He rested his chin on his cupped hand while the soup heated, and let his eyes drift closed.
Bobby poured the soup into a bowl, grabbed a spoon and slid it in front of the exhausted hunter. “Sam.”
The blood-shot hazel eyes snapped open, taking a few seconds to focus.
“Eat that, then get some sleep. I’ll watch over Dean.”
“Thanks, Bobby,” Sam whispered.
“Guess you better stop talking now, huh?” Bobby knew the youngest Winchester had done nothing but talk to his fever-wracked sibling for the whole morning. Sam’s throat had to be hurting like hell, he mused. “And take some of those painkillers Saul gave you. I know you’re hurting – I can see it in your face.”
Sam favoured the hunter with an astonished glance, running his fingers over the dark stubble as if to say, you can see past this?
“That’s not a real beard, son. I can still see your face.”
Grinning faintly, Sam finished his soup, refused the coffee in favour of a glass of water, and headed upstairs.
* * * * *
The tantalising smell of beef stew wafted up the stairs, pulling the hunter from sleep, and Dean breathed deeply in appreciation. Rolling his head to the side, he checked the bed nearest the window, his heart speeding up a little until he made out the tall form under the covers. Getting to his feet, he stretched carefully, pressed a hand to his ribcage and limped across the floor. Settling on the edge of Sam’s bed, he gently pulled the covers down to the sleeping hunter’s waist. His fingers ghosted over his brother’s plastered arm, throat and lower back, checking – reassuring himself that Sam was patched up and healing. Finally, Dean was satisfied, and pulled the blankets up under Sam’s bristled chin.
He ran a hand over his own stubbled face, grinning a little. It didn’t annoy him as much as he knew it would bug his normally clean-shaven brother. Dean wondered idly how long it would take Sam to reach for his razor and shave the stubble off.
Dean got up and headed for the bathroom. Glancing wistfully at the shower, he grabbed a washcloth and filled the sink with warm water, settling for a quick wash until he could get Bobby or Sam to help him unstrap his ribs. Finishing off his ablutions, he tugged on a pair of jeans and a clean tee shirt and limped downstairs.
He found the demon hunter in the kitchen, scowling into a bubbling pot. “You tryin’ to cook it or scare it to death?”
Bobby glanced up, the scowl still firmly in place. “See you’re feeling better.”
Smirking, Dean dropped carefully onto a chair and scratched his chin while he watched the elder man move about the room. “Need a hand?”
“Nope.” Bobby glanced toward the stairs. “Sam still asleep?”
“Yeah. Guess he was pretty beat, huh?” Dean vaguely remembered his brother’s scratchy voice talking to him through the weird dreams he’d been having.
“He was. Sat up with you all morning, till your fever broke.”
“Hasn’t got much of a voice left.”
“Well, he can shut it down for a few days.” A soft footfall made them turn, and Dean gazed up at the exhausted face of his sibling. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Sam whispered, swallowing painfully.
“Guess that no talking rule better start now, huh? At least we’ll get some peace and quiet for a couple of days.”
Extending his middle finger, Sam made his way to the table, knuckling the sleep from his eyes as he sat down. He arched an eyebrow at his sibling in a silent query that Dean knew all too well.
Nodding, the psychic fell to studying the tabletop, his lean face drawn and pale under its bristles.
“What about you? You look like crap, dude.”
Sam raised his head, his lips pressed together. Arching both eyebrows, he looked his brother up and down. So do you.
“I do not.”
Bobby muttered under his breath before ladling the stew onto three plates. “Are we gonna keep having these one-sided conversations for the next two days?”
Dean pursed his lips and eyed his sibling challengingly. “No. ‘Cause I’m gonna shut up, too.”
“You’re what?” Bobby scrunched his face in disbelief. Sam’s jaw dropped.
“What’s good for Sammy is good for me, unless it’s that green crap he calls food. No talking rule starts now for me, too.” Giving a smug grin, Dean attacked his stew with gusto.
Sam closed his mouth with a snap. He rolled his eyes at the bearded hunter and pulled a face. He won’t last.
Dean nudged Sam’s foot under the table, drawing the taller man’s gaze. Holding out his hand palm up, he slapped the other one down on top of it and pointed at Sam. Want to put money on that, little brother?
A faint dimpled grin flashed across the table, and Sam nodded. You’re on.
Bobby groaned and hid his face in his hands.
* * * * *
Breakfast the next morning was a silent affair, the conversation between the brothers carried out entirely in hand gestures and facial expressions. Lunch and dinner was the same. By mid-afternoon of the second day, Bobby was praying for a visitor, just to break the silence. He tossed aside the oily rag he’d been using to wipe out the barrel of the shotgun lying in pieces on the kitchen table and glanced into the living room, where the youngest Winchester was happily curled on the couch with a book. Bobby grinned when he noticed the cover – one of his many tomes on demons and exorcism.
Sam raised his head and stared into space, his lips moving soundlessly. Dropping his gaze back to the book, he studied the page intently, and then closed his eyes while his lips moved again.
Intrigued, Bobby wiped his hands on his jeans and moved to stand in the doorway. He watched the young hunter go through the strange ritual one more time before announcing his presence. “Sam? Whatcha doin’?”
Glancing up, the psychic smiled a greeting and turned the book around, tapping his finger on the page he’d been reading.
Bobby moved closer, his gaze dropping to the book. “An exorcism? I don’t get it.”
Sam tapped the book, and then his temple.
“You’re memorising it? Why?”
The young hunter raised his brows and pursed his lips, then shrugged one shoulder. You never know when you’ll need it.
“Okay.” Nodding, Bobby pushed his cap back on his head. He was getting fairly good at working out what the boys meant. Not as good as the Winchesters – they had been doing their whole silent communication thing all their lives, he mused. He glanced up when the front door banged, stifling a groan as the elder Winchester made his appearance.
Dean walked into the room, his limp almost gone, and grinned as he flicked his fingers across the back of his brother’s head. What are you doing with your head buried in a book?
Sam rolled his eyes and made a point of smoothing down his mussed up hair. He looked up at his brother and clicked his teeth together. Bite me.
The elder Winchester pointed to his sibling, shook his head and wagged a finger, and pantomimed lying down. No wonder you never get laid.
Sam’s jaw clenched. He gestured to the front door, made a circle with his left thumb and forefinger, jabbed his right forefinger through the circle twice, and pointed at his brother. Go screw yourself.
Pointing first to his butt, Dean grinned and steepled his hands above his head. Asshat.
Bobby threw up his hands in annoyance and stomped back into the kitchen.
Dean watched him go, a puzzled frown on his face. He turned back to his brother, arched one eyebrow and inclined his head toward the departing demon hunter’s back. What’s with him?
Sam shrugged, held out his left hand, fingers pressed together and thumb curled underneath. He tapped his fingers against his thumb, and pointed to himself, then his brother. Something we said?
Settling on the arm of the couch, the green-eyed hunter wrinkled his nose. Dunno. He waved a hand at his sibling. Must have been you.
Rolling his eyes, the younger hunter slapped his forehead, made a circling motion above his head as if describing a halo, and pointed to his brother. Yeah, right, ‘cause it’s never you – you’re an angel.
Dean smirked and nodded. Yes, I am.
Sam’s hazel eyes narrowed. He curled his left hand into a fist, and snapped it sharply downward. Jerk. He laughed silently while he watched his brother try to come up with a hand signal for ‘bitch’.
Scowling, the elder hunter scratched the back of his head. The phone rang, shattering the silence, causing him to glance up in curiosity.
Bobby grabbed the shrilling instrument. “What! What? Oh – no, sorry – it – look, it’s a long story. Yeah? Oh, God, yeah. When do you want to go? Wait a minute…” Bobby put a hand over the speaker as he looked at Dean. “It’s Joshua – he needs me on a hunt. You boys be okay for awhile?”
“Sure, Bobby. We’ll be fine,” Dean replied, sharing a confirming glance with his sibling.
“Josh? It’s fine – when can you pick me up? Okay, I’ll be ready. No, the boys are here. They’re fine. Okay, I’ll see you in two hours.” Bobby hung up the phone and turned around, to see Dean curve his hands over his chest and hips and point to his grinning brother. He shook his head in exasperation. “I don’t even want to know…”
* * * * *
Two hours later, Dean sat on the front steps watching Joshua and Bobby head down the drive. He shaded his eyes with one hand as the truck disappeared, and a few moments later he heard the faint sound of its engine revving as Joshua hit the main road. By mutual consent, he and Sam had ended their self-imposed silence, much to Bobby’s relief. He snickered quietly to himself as he remembered the pained look on the demon hunter’s face.
A steaming cup dropped into his line of vision, and Dean grinned as he reached up to take it. “Thanks, Sammy.”
“Don’t mention it.” Sam’s soft tone was still slightly raspy from his throat injury, but at least he could finally speak above a whisper. He settled on the step beside his brother, his shoulder just brushing Dean’s as he cradled his own cup of coffee. “So.”
“So – guess we can kick back here for another day or two, then we’d better hit the road.” Dean sipped at his coffee as he gazed out across the wrecking yard.
The elder hunter glanced at his sibling in concern. “What is it? You still hurting?”
“No – well, a little. I just – thought you might want to rest up a bit, that’s all.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “’Cause you got banged up too, Dean. Two cracked ribs, concussion and a twisted knee, remember?”
Snorting impatiently, Dean took another gulp of coffee. “Dude, I’m fine. I’m more than fine.”
“So, okay – you want to tell me what’s been bugging you since we left the Roadhouse the other day?”
“Nothin’s bugging me, Sam. I’m perfectly okay.” Dean’s blunt tone held a note of warning. His good mood of the last couple of days started to evaporate. “Quit asking me.”
Sam sighed, letting his gaze wander across the yard to Bobby’s truck. He shivered a little, raising a hand to his almost healed throat when he saw the broken engine hoist pushed against the shed wall.
Dean put down his empty coffee cup and glanced at his brother, noting the shiver. “You okay?”
“Not really.” The young psychic felt as if he and his brother had become as broken as the hoist. Dean had been more like himself the last two days, but Sam couldn’t help wondering how long it was going to last. Maybe it was time to try and have that talk, he decided, whether Dean wanted it or not. He had to get to the bottom of what was bothering his brother. “What’s happened to us, Dean?”
“What do you mean, what’s happened to us? Nothin’s happened to us.” Dean frowned, clasping his hands together. “What kind of crap talk is that?”
Sam sighed quietly. “Yes, it has. Ever since – ever since Dad died – it’s like…”
“It’s like – sometimes it’s like we’re not really brothers any more. You keep pushing me away – you close yourself off – there’s somethin’ eating at you, and you won’t tell me what it is…”
The elder brother held up a hand, anger masking the fear that his brother’s words invoked. “Enough, Sam! We’re not having this conversation.”
“I said no! What part of that didn’t compute for you, College Boy?”
Sam drew in a sharp breath, his hurt-filled eyes fastened on his brother. After a tense few seconds his gaze dropped and he pushed himself to his feet, walking down the steps without another word.
Dean cursed under his breath as he watched his brother walk away, anger and hurt in every line of his tall frame. Sam headed deeper into the wrecking yard and was soon gone from sight, his long legs carrying him swiftly away from his stubborn sibling.
The green-eyed hunter stared at his hands, his lips trembling a little as he pictured the wounded look in Sam’s hazel eyes. Dean had seen that look all too often in the weeks since their father’s death at the hands of the yellow-eyed demon. He’d seen it first in the hospital when he’d shut Sam out, trying to come to grips with John’s death and the secret he’d revealed before he died. And he’d seen it again on that deserted roadway, when he’d torn Sam apart with his words, accusing the young psychic’s efforts as being too little, too late.
The third time had been the worst – when he’d struck his little brother during the argument over Gordon Walker and the hunt for the nest of vampires. He’d seen a glimmer of the look in the motel room while they were on the hunt for the zombie, when Sam had asked if Dean wanted to hit him again to make himself feel better. Dean’s stomach clenched as he remembered how he’d had to get out of the room fast, his carefully built-up defences beginning to crumble under his brother’s confused and worried gaze. And he’d seen that same look so many times in the last week; he’d actually lost count.
Groaning, Dean put his head in his hands. Just like that, he’d gone from brother back to ass. And Sam had borne the brunt of Dean’s uncontrolled anger once more.
It amazed Dean that no matter what he did, or how much of an ass he was, Sam still tried to reach out to him, tried to understand and help. Dean slowly shook his head, recalling his brother’s dimpled smile as he’d told his big brother he’d take a raincheck on a return shot when they left Gordon tied to a chair in the vampire’s abandoned nest. Sam had tried to reach out to him time and time again. But he just kept pushing the kid away. Even in the midst of his fever, Sam had been there, uncomplaining, waiting on his brother like he didn’t have hurts and needs of his own – just because Dean needed him. After all Dean had put him through, Sam still stuck by his side.
Dean knew what Sam wanted – he knew his emotional little brother wanted to have that chick-flick moment he thought his older brother needed, to help get through the grief at losing their father. But he couldn’t do it – he couldn’t let his guard down – not to Sam, not to anyone. The risk was just too great that he’d crumble completely, and the secret would come out. And that would destroy Sam as surely as a bullet to the heart.
The eldest Winchester scrubbed his hands over his face, and stared off across the yard, his eyes unfocussed. I can’t tell you, Sammy. How can I? It’s got nothin’ to do with my promise to Dad not to tell you about this. It’s – hell… Dean’s eyes burned, and he angrily wiped away a traitorous tear that escaped to trickle down his cheek. You always were such an innocent soul, Sammy. It shines through those damned puppy dog eyes of yours. Jeez, kiddo, if I tell you that Dad said I might have to kill you – I’ll see the last of that innocence die right out of you, and I’ll know that I’m the one who took it away. How the hell am I supposed to live with that, huh? And how will you feel, knowing the greatest immediate threat to your life isn’t the demon, but your own brother – the same brother who you’ve always trusted to protect you – keep you safe?
Dean swallowed, and pressed his hand to his forehead. I’ll see that trusting look turn to horror and fear, and then I’ll lose you. ‘Cause I know what’ll happen next – you’ll run. You’ll take off, thinkin’ I don’t know what. Maybe you’ll think that you’re doin’ it to protect me in some way. Or maybe you’ll be scared of me – scared of what will happen. Or maybe that Winchester stubbornness will take over and you’ll want to tackle the thing yourself – go find answers, and then go hunt the thing down on your own. I don’t know. But you’ll run. And then you’ll be unprotected – vulnerable – alone – easy prey for the damned demon. And then you’ll die, ‘cause it’ll kill you, or turn you. Either way, you’ll die. And it’ll be my fault. And I can’t face that, Sammy. You’re all I have left in this world. I can’t let anything happen to you – I just can’t. I’d rather have you pissed at me and keep the secret, than tell you and risk losing you to the demon.
Sighing loudly, the troubled young hunter ran a hand through his short brown hair. Guess I have to do some damage control in the meantime, ‘cause I don’t want you so pissed at me that I make you take off anyway.
A burst of music shattered Dean’s train of thought, and he jumped, his hand flying to his pocket to pull out the offending cell phone. Frowning at the caller ID, he pressed the button. “What?”
“Don’t sound so damned happy, Dean.”
“Jo? What’s up?”
“Not much. I might have a hunt for you guys. You got anything going at the moment?”
Dean pursed his lips as he glanced in the direction his brother had taken. “No, not yet. Where’s this hunt?”
“I’ll give you the details when you get here…hold on.” Dean could hear the murmur of voices in the background. “Mom says that offer of a room’s still open, if you want to come by tonight. And dinner’s on the house.”
“Huh.” The hunter glanced at his watch, then at the sun. “Look – Sam’s kinda banged up – he had an accident at Bobby’s – we won’t be able to hit the road for another day or two.”
“Okay, great. See you in a few. Call me when you’re on the road.”
“Okay.” Dean ended the call and tapped the phone against his chin as he stared into space for a moment. “Guess I better go find Sammy and tell him we gotta go to work.” Getting to his feet, he headed down the steps, turning on his heel as soon as his feet hit the ground to follow the path of his younger sibling.
Late afternoon sunlight slanted across the yard as Dean tracked Sam’s boot prints in the dust of the wrecking yard. Threading his way through the piles of crushed automobile bodies, he glanced up occasionally, grimacing at the wrecks. Damned car boneyard. Wonder if I should get Bobby to torch these corpses – can’t be too careful. Don’t want another Christine revvin’ up at all hours of the night and chasing his ass around the house. Shaking his head at the craziness of the thought, Dean strode past the last stack and frowned slightly, glancing around in curiosity. The tracks of his brother’s boots continued on down a tiny, faint trail that wound through the trees at the back of Bobby’s property.
Dean shrugged, pursed his lips and followed the trail, gazing around as he walked. The air was cooler under the trees; a faint breeze caressing his face, as he got deeper into the small wood. Dappled sunlight lanced through the trunks of pine and birch trees, and somewhere a bird trilled happily. Nodding slightly, Dean allowed a faint grin to spread across his face. This was typical of Sam to find such a peaceful place. Where Dean would crawl under a car, turn up the music and make some noise, Sam would head for solitude and peace to calm his troubled mind.
His brisk walk slowed to a stroll as he let the calm of the place seep into his soul. A faint plop reached his ears and he paused, his eyes narrowing as they tried to pierce the screen of tree trunks. Edging forward cautiously, Dean spotted a splash of white through the soft greens and browns. Another step brought him to a gap in the trees, and he could make out part of his brother’s shoulder about ten yards away. Dean chewed on his lower lip as he moved forward, coming to a bigger gap a minute later. He could see Sam more clearly now, the pale pink and white patterned shirt standing out starkly under the shadows of a gnarled willow. Resting a shoulder against the trunk of a birch tree, Dean studied his sibling.
Sam was sitting on a fallen tree trunk, at the edge of a stream. He’d slipped off his boots and socks, rolled up the legs of his jeans and let his feet trail in the shallows while he gazed across the water. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up as well, exposing his tanned, muscular left forearm and the new cast on his right wrist. As Dean looked on undetected, Sam bent over and picked up a flattish stone from a small pile at his side, rolling it between the fingers of his left hand.
Dean smiled as he watched the long fingers toy with the stone, remembering a much smaller hand toying with a smaller stone, on the banks of the same stream.
“Now, hold it like this, Sammy, and hold your hand like this,” young Dean demonstrated, smiling proudly as his six year old brother duplicated his move almost exactly. “Okay, now, toss it!” Dean let his stone skim over the water, yelling with delight as it bounced three times before turning sideways and slicing into a tiny wave to disappear from sight.
Sammy flung out his hand, letting his stone go, and it splashed into the water with a soft plop. Soft hazel eyes turned toward his big brother, brimming with disappointment. “What did I do wrong, Dean? My stone didn’t skim.”
Dean reached out, resting his hand against the back of Sam’s dark head. “Hey, it’s okay, Sammy – you just need more practice. Come on; let’s try again, huh? You’ll get the hang of it, you’ll see.”
Dean’s smile became a full-blown grin as he stepped between the trees and quietly approached his brother’s position. “You need another lesson, or are you gonna toss that thing already?”
Sam jumped, startled at Dean’s sudden appearance. His head snapped around, soft hazel eyes widening, and then he glanced down at the stone in his hand. The young psychic remained silent, his shoulders tensing as his big brother settled onto the log next to him.
Falling automatically into teaching mode, Dean reached out and gently adjusted the grip of Sam’s forefinger around the stone. “That’s better. Now turn your hand a little more.”
Frowning slightly, the younger hunter did as he was instructed, his gaze fixed on the stone in his hand.
“Okay, now, toss it!”
Sam shot a lightning glance at his sibling and then snapped his hand forward, sending the stone skimming across the water. It skipped twice before disappearing with a soft splash. The years rolled away as he felt Dean’s hand on the back of his neck.
“See? Told you you’d get the hang of it.” Dean let his hand drop, and rested his elbows on his knees as he gazed at the rippling water, his shoulder brushing against his brother’s.
Sam picked up another stone, rolling it between his fingers as before. He shot another glance at his brother, wondering at the rapid changes of mood that his sibling was capable of experiencing. Sometimes Dean switched tacks so quickly that it made Sam’s head spin – especially over the last few days.
Dean scratched the underside of his jaw as he felt his brother’s gaze on him. He turned his head, encountering the puzzled doe eyes, and his grin returned full force. Sam still hadn’t spoken one word to him, so he figured it was button-pushing time. “Hey, I’m looking for my brother – have you seen him? Freakishly tall, dark and geeky, emo as hell, would talk your ear off if you’d let him. I mean, that kid never shuts up. Did he come by here?”
The younger man’s lips twitched in annoyance, and his dark brows drew together in a frown. “Jerk.”
“Bitch.” Dean rolled his eyes and picked up a stone, holding it between his fingers. He cast a glance at his scowling sibling and chuckled softly. Sam could communicate more with just one frown than most people could do with a shouted speech. That was why he never let Sam play poker. Dean guessed that right now his little brother was trying to decide whether to call him on the emo tag, or the charge that he talked too much. He tossed the stone, watching as it skipped three times before splashing into the middle of the stream, mentally tossing a coin as to which one Sam would pick.
“I don’t talk all the time. And I’m not emo as hell.”
Huh. Didn’t expect him to go for both. Dean searched the ground for more skimming stones as he fought down another chuckle. Maybe I’ll let him play poker after all – but only with me.
“And I’m not freakishly tall, Dean. You’re just jealous ‘cause you’re shorter.”
“Okay, well, three out of five isn’t a bad average.”
Sam’s frown deepened, and he flicked the stone rapidly between his fingers, a sure sign of his growing agitation. Dean waited for the inevitable fallout, quietly preparing his counter-defence.
“Sam, I know what you’re gonna say.” Dean held up a hand as his brother half-turned to face him. “Look, man, just listen for a minute, okay? Just hear me out.”
“You’re actually gonna talk to me? Who are you, and what have you done with my brother?” Sam raised a sceptical eyebrow, ducking as his brother’s hand swung out to swat him over the back of the head. He winced a little, his hand moving to his throat as he straightened up.
“Funny.” Drawing a deep breath, the elder hunter quietened, his gaze turning sombre. “Look, Sammy, I know I haven’t handled Dad’s death very well. And I know I’ve been an ass. Especially over the last few days. But – you can’t help me with this, okay? There are some things I just need to work through on my own.”
“No, Dean, you don’t have to. I told you before; you’re the only one who thinks you have to go it alone. Why won’t you let me help you? Why won’t you just tell me what’s wrong?”
Dean fell silent, tossing another stone between his hands as he turned his gaze toward the sunlit water rippling past their feet. After a few moments, he smiled gently. “Remember Toledo?”
Sam frowned, and his hand moved to pull at his ear in confusion. “Ohio? Bloody Mary? Sure. What the hell does –”
“You remember what you said to me when we were leaving?” Dean cut his brother’s question short. “After we dropped what’s-her-name off at her house?”
“Charlie. Her name was Charlie.”
“Whatever. Do you remember what you said to me in the car? When I asked you to tell me what your dirty little secret was?”
“I remember,” Sam replied softly. “I told you that you’re my brother, and I’d die for you, but there were some things that I just had to keep to myself.” He chewed his lower lip, his troubled gaze locked on his brother’s wide green eyes. A blush spread across the young psychic’s cheeks as he realised he was about to be hoisted on his own petard. “Dean, that was –”
“Did we stop being brothers because you wouldn’t tell me about your visions?”
“No, but –”
“Did I push you to tell me?”
“Not then, but –”
“Sammy, we haven’t stopped being brothers.” Dean sighed, and threw the stone across the stream. It landed with a soft plop in the shallows near the other bank, and he watched the ripples spread outward from the point of impact. Kinda like real life – what you say or do ripples out and touches others. What Dad told me before he died has affected Sammy and me, even though Sammy doesn’t know what was said. And everything that’s happened lately – it just caused one ripple after another… “Ripple effect.”
“What? Dean, what the hell are you talking about now?”
“It’s a ripple effect.” Dean turned to face his brother, warming to his subject. “Look, Dad dying when he did, and me trying to figure out the reason he died…”
And blaming yourself for it, Sam added silently.
“…it created a ripple. And then that last hunt, and finding out about Andy and his brother – that was another ripple. And then Ellen giving us the third degree created another ripple.”
“Which pissed you off.” Sam pressed his lips together, thinking back over the events of the past few days. “And then I got hurt, which led to us going to the hospital, and then that ass of a doctor…”
“Exactly. Another ripple. I’ve been caught in the ripples.” The green-eyed hunter spread his hands. “And that ripple led to the car accident.”
Sam rubbed a hand along his jaw. “Yeah, I guess. But, Dean, you could have just talked to me –”
“Sam, I can’t deal with stuff the way you do. I’m not wired that way, you know that.” Dean picked up another stone, and rolled it between his palms. “We may be different, but we’re still a team, man. No matter what’s been thrown at us. Nothing’s gonna change that. You just gotta give me some time to deal with all this, okay?”
Sam nodded reluctantly. “I just –”
“Want to help me – I get it, I do. And look, I appreciate it. But –”
“I just don’t want anything to happen to you, Dean. You’re all I have left,” Sam whispered softly, his eyes glistening in the dappled shade. “Back in those woods, after the accident, when I couldn’t find you – I…”
Dean glanced up, groaning inwardly when he met his brother’s gaze. The puppy dog eyes were working overtime. How the hell could someone with eyes like that ever become evil? “Man, those things should be registered as lethal weapons,” he muttered under his breath.
“What did you say?”
“What? Uh, nothin’. Look, Sammy – nothin’s gonna happen to me, okay? I promise.” Dean bumped Sam’s shoulder with his own, and nodded to the stone forgotten in his brother’s hand. “You gonna throw that thing, or adopt it?”
Sam huffed, rolling his eyes, knowing from past experience that the subject of Dean’s dealing was now officially closed. He spun the stone between his fingers, and then let it rest on his thumb and forefinger. “I’ve always wanted a pet rock.”
“It better be car-trained, or it’s not coming with us.”
Laughing softly, Sam gripped the stone and flicked it across the water. The stone caught the last rays of the sun, flashing briefly as it dropped, to hit the water with a faint splash. “Damn.” Sam picked up another stone, shaking his head ruefully. He was finding it hard to get the correct angle with his left hand.
“No, no, no – hold it like this.” Dean wrapped his hand around his brother’s, adjusting Sam’s grip on the stone. He turned Sam’s wrist slightly. “And hold your hand like that. Okay, now, toss that sucker!”
The stone flashed across the stream, bouncing once, twice, and a third time. Dean held his breath as the stone dipped once more, skimming off the top of a tiny wave before hitting the water for a final time. He grinned, slapping his sibling across the back. “Four hits – not bad for an amateur.”
Sam grinned back. “Amateur? All right, let’s see you get five.”
“Five, huh?” Dean rubbed his jaw. “Okay, you’re on, little brother.”
Two sinewy hands reached for stones, and soft, deep laughter floated out on the late afternoon air.End.