Title: Happy Birthday
Category: General, Action, Horror/Ghost
Warnings: Winchester whumpage. Set between the Season 3 episodes The Magnificent Seven and The Kids Are Alright
Tagline: Tension mounts between the brothers – is it just Dean’s deal or is something more sinister at work...
Total Word Count: 52,583
Total Chapters: 9
Chapter 2 word count: 6233
Story Banner: Chasidern
A burst of music drowned out the tall hunter’s grumbled cursing as he dumped his duffle on the dusky pink bedspread. Snatching the phone from his pocket, he flipped it open without looking at the caller ID. “You over your pissy mood?”
A startled grunt came over the phone. “Didn’t know I was in one,” Bobby’s gravelly voice muttered wryly.
Dean could feel the heat of an embarrassed flush creep into his cheeks. “Bobby – uh…”
“Let me guess – you and Sam are at it again?”
“No…” Chewing on his lip, Dean winced at the disbelieving huff that came through the phone.
Sighing, the young hunter ran a hand through his hair. “Look, Bobby – it’s nothin’, okay? We’re all right.”
“Except for the fact that Sam’s so pissed that he’s gone off somewhere on his own.”
“Well, yeah – except for that part.” Dean shrugged, even though the elder hunter couldn’t see him.
“What was it this time?”
“Same thing as last time.”
“The deal.” Bobby drew in a deep breath. “Dean – you can’t expect the kid to be happy about this.”
“I don’t. It’s just – there’s nothin’ he can do about it, right? It’s done. So let’s just enjoy the time I have left, and…”
“And? And what? Just let you go at the end of it? Like you could let Sam go when the demon took him? Or when that kid stabbed him?”
Dean swallowed nervously. “That was different.”
“Not to Sam.”
Sinking down onto the edge of the bed, Dean felt his shoulders slump in defeat. Not to Sam. The words hit him like a punch to the solar plexus, and for a moment he couldn’t catch his breath.
“I’m okay.” Pressing his free hand to his sternum, Dean blew out a shaky sigh. “Look – the last hunt was a bitch – this thought form got into his head before we could destroy it – told him everyone he cares about is gonna burn. Sam got pretty freaked, and now he’s – well, he’s – you know. Tired.”
“Tired. As in…”
“As in – tired. As in he needs a break kind of tired.”
“Are you sure that’s all it is? That thing didn’t hurt him, did it?”
“No, he’s fine – it just messed with his head a little. So we’re gonna take a couple of days off. Well, we have to now – the Impala broke down on the way into town, so we’re kinda stuck here for a few days until she’s fixed.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
Dean grinned, but bit back the comment that rose to his lips at the demon hunter’s words. Bobby had referred to the Impala as ‘her’. Everyone loved his baby. “Torque converter bearing. Well, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. We’ll know in the morning when we get her up on the hoist.”
“We? You don’t mean you and Sam?”
“Bobby, give me a break. Sam under a hood? No, the local mechanic – he’s a good guy. Got a sixty-five T-bird.”
“Uh-huh. Well, while this new best friend of yours is helping fix the Impala, don’t forget you’d better fix your brother, too.”
Dean winced at the chiding tone in his old friend’s voice. “I won’t.”
“Call me if anything comes up.”
“I will. Thanks, Bobby.” Dean flipped the phone closed and tapped it against his chin, staring at the room without seeing it as he thought of his sibling’s behaviour over the last few hours. He had to fix things with Sam. There was no way he wanted to spend his last year fighting with his only family. Glancing at his watch, Dean decided he would grab a shower and let his little brother cool off for a bit longer. Hopefully Sam might even be back from his walk by the time Dean was finished, and they could go get a beer, talk to Dave, and kick back for a few hours. Getting to his feet, he pulled off his button up shirt as he walked toward the bathroom.
Dean stopped in the doorway, eyeing the shower curtain in dismay. “Ahh, come on – seriously? Freakin’ pink roses??”
* * * * *
Sam had walked for almost two miles due south before he’d calmed down enough to think rationally. He worried at his lower lip and thrust his fists deep into the pockets of his jacket as he strode along, looking like a thundercloud. The few people he’d passed had given the tall stranger a cautious glance and a wide berth. Slowing his rapid pace, he finally blew out a gusty sigh and rolled his shoulders, trying to ease the tension that had knotted his muscles as soon as his brother had turned up.
It seemed that every thing Dean did these days pissed Sam off, and he thought he knew why. He’d seen it coming in the days immediately following the yellow-eyed demon’s death – a kind of desperate euphoria had taken over his brother. He lived for the moment, not caring what the next day would bring, because as far as Dean was concerned, there was no tomorrow. At first Sam had been tolerant, even going so far as to wait in the car while his big brother got some Doublemint action in their motel room. But the attitude had quickly worn Sam down as the reality of his brother’s situation came crashing in on him, like a huge weight on his shoulders. And Dean just didn’t seem to care.
They’d driven away from Tamara’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska in tense silence – in Sam’s case, anyway. Dean had just pushed a tape into the stereo and began to sing at the top of his lungs, tossing the occasional concerned glance at his brother while Sam sat brooding in the passenger seat, mulling over what Dean had just revealed about the terms of the deal. He couldn’t believe Dean had agreed to a deal like that. But at the same time, Sam cringed when he thought of the harsh words he had flung at his brother. Dean might have been selfish in not wanting to be alone, but he’d committed a completely selfless act in giving up his very soul to bring Sam back from the dead.
Coming to a halt near the outskirts of town, Sam leaned one shoulder against the corner post of a sagging wooden fence and ran a hand over his face. There had to be a way to get Dean out of the deal, Sam thought desperately. There had to be some loophole – something the crossroads demon might have overlooked or not told Dean, in her eagerness to get her sulphurous hands on the elder Winchester’s soul. And Sam was determined to find it, no matter what it took. He grinned mirthlessly at the bitter irony of that thought – that he was just as willing to do anything to save Dean’s life, as Dean was to save his.
“Maybe this won’t end well,” Sam mused darkly. “But if it ends with Dean alive and out of that contract, then I don’t care what the cost is.”
With renewed determination, he pushed off the post and glanced idly at the run-down house behind the fence as he continued his walk. And slammed to a halt as his mind registered the blood-spattered front door sagging half off its hinges.
“Holy crap!” Sam stared at the blood, bright red against the peeling white paint. He stepped to the fence, his hands curling around the tops of the pickets while he searched the overgrown yard for any signs of life. Turning his gaze back to the door, he blinked in confusion – the blood was gone. “What the hell…”
“That’s one way of putting it,” a reedy voice observed wryly.
Sam spun around, startled, staring in shock at the slightly built old man standing a few feet away under the spreading branches of a gnarled elm tree on the sidewalk. The tall hunter mentally berated himself for letting someone get that close to him without his noticing. “Huh.”
The man smiled, his seamed face creasing into a network of wrinkles. “Place is haunted, folks say.”
Recovering his composure, Sam gave the man a wan smile. “Do they?” He glanced over his shoulder at the sagging front door. The blood had gone as though it had never existed.
“They do. Folks hear some pretty strange noises comin’ from in there at times.” Cocking his head to one side, the old man studied Sam, his eyes bright with curiosity, reminding the tall hunter of a bird. “You didn’t hear anything, now did you, son?”
“What? No.” Sam fought down a smile. “No – didn’t hear a thing. Have you ever…?”
“Me? Nah, not really. Well, nothin’ that I wouldn’t be willing to bet was just the wind.”
“You don’t believe the place is haunted, then?”
“Well now, son – I didn’t rightly say that. I just said I haven’t really heard much. Seen somethin’, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah?” Sam found himself becoming intrigued despite the crushing pressure of his brother’s deal and the looming demon war. He moved a few steps closer to the skinny old man. “What was it?”
Parchment lips split into a grin. “You really want to know? Young fella like you wastin’ your time with an old man’s ramblings?”
Sam shrugged one broad shoulder. “I’m kinda interested in stuff like that.”
“What – ghosts and stuff?”
“Yeah, I guess. Weird stuff, you know?”
The elderly man rubbed a hand over his lined face and through his thinning white hair, studying the young man with shrewd eyes. “What’s your name, son?”
“Well, Sam – I’m pleased to meet you. I’m Jedediah. Call me Jed.”
The young hunter shook the old man’s hand, surprised at the remarkably strong grip from the cold paper-dry fingers.
“So, you want to know about the Larsen house?”
Grinning, Jedediah patted Sam’s shoulder. “Just plain ole Jed. Well, you better come on inside.” He gestured over his shoulder, and Sam looked across the street to a small, neatly kept whitewashed bungalow nestled under a huge oak tree.
Sam hesitated, glancing at his watch, surprised to find he had been away from the motel for almost an hour. And he hadn’t told Dean where he was going. After Sam’s three disappearing acts in the last two years, his elder brother was understandably twitchy when his younger sibling failed to report in after a reasonable amount of time. Especially since they hadn’t exactly parted on amicable terms. Reluctantly he shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jed, I can’t – I gotta get back to town – my brother’s waiting for me. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Ahh.” Nodding sagely, Jed stepped back. “Well, tomorrow then. Just come on up to the house – I’ll be around. I don’t go far these days. Rheumatism.” He slapped a gnarled hand softly against his thigh. “Gets me bad on damp nights like this.”
“I will. Thanks, Jed.” Sam watched the little old man amble across the street, cast another glance at the supposedly haunted house and turned back toward the motel, striding along at his usual mile-eating gait. He grinned wryly at the thought of stumbling onto a hunt when all he wanted to do was get away from hunting evil for a few days. “I can just imagine what Dean’s gonna say,” he chuckled softly. The smile abruptly fled from his handsome face. “If he’s even talking to me.”
Sam plunged a hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out his cell phone, calling up Dean’s number on speed dial. He held the phone in his hand for a long moment, thumb poised over the call button. Shaking his head ruefully, he stabbed at the button and held the phone to his ear. It rang twice before being picked up.
"Where the hell are you?"
The young hunter’s lips tightened in annoyance. “About a mile and a half away.”
“Fine – just – wanted to know, that’s all.” Dean drew in a deep breath. “So…”
"Look, Sam - are we gonna do this crap all night?"
A heavy sigh came through the phone. “Forget it. Look – Dave said he’d be down at the local bar, so…”
“The guy who’s gonna help me fix the Impala. The mechanic dude. So I was thinkin’ –”
“Oh – right.” Sam huffed, and shook his head. Dean was ditching him – again. “Fine. Don’t let me stop you.”
“I’ll get a spare room key from the office.”
“Look asshat – no, on second thought, you know what? Screw you and your pissy attitude, Sam! You want to spend your time sulking like some freakin’ four year old? Fine. Don’t expect me to hang around.”
“Not like you’re going to anyway!” Sam spat back, stung by his brother’s words.
The phone went silent, and for a moment Sam thought his brother had hung up. His anger evaporated, leaving shame in its place. “Dean, I –”
There was a soft click, and the line went dead. Sam stood on the darkened street, the cell phone in his hand, wishing he could just cut his tongue out. Dean had sounded hurt under the brittle anger, and Sam cursed himself for wounding his brother yet again. It was all he seemed capable of doing lately. Briefly he thought of calling Dean back, but he decided it was better to let his brother cool off. Let Dean go and have a few beers, shoot some pool, fleece some poor sucker out of his hard-earned money, maybe even get lucky for the night. Maybe a night away from each other would do them both good.
Sighing heavily, Sam slid the phone back into his pocket and stared into the darkness, deep in thought. Since he didn’t have to hurry back to the motel, perhaps he could put his time to good use. And perhaps he could prove to his brother that he wasn’t quite the kid Dean obviously still thought him to be. Squaring his shoulders, Sam turned around and headed for Jedediah’s neatly kept little bungalow.
* * * * *
The low murmur of voices greeted the tall hunter when he pushed open the door of Ernie’s Bar. Searching the crowd, Dean grinned weakly as a hand shot up from a booth at the rear. He raised two fingers in a mock salute before winding his way gracefully through the milling crowd at the bar.
“Dean!” Dave greeted enthusiastically, waving at the bartender and waiting for the harried man’s jerky nod. “Have a seat, dude! Where’s your brother?”
“Ahh – he kinda wasn’t in the mood.”
Dave abruptly sobered. “Oh.”
The hunter shook his head. “It’s okay. It’s not you. It’s me, I guess. And – stuff.” Dean shrugged ruefully. “It’s okay. Maybe a night away from each other will do us both good, huh?”
Nodding, the mechanic glanced up as a pretty waitress placed two bottles of beer on the table. He dug a hand in his pocket, waving away Dean’s silent offer to pay for the round, and dropped some notes on the tray. “You guys travellin’?” he ventured when the girl walked away.
“Road trip.” Dean took a long pull of his beer.
“Guess you would get in each other’s faces every once in a while, huh?”
“Yeah, sometimes.” Shrugging, the hunter turned the bottle idly between his fingers. “The last couple of weeks have been – tough. Some stuff happened…” Dean shrugged again. “Anyway, Sam – he kinda takes everything to heart, you know? He’s just gotta brood about everything. I wish – I wish he could just – let things go.”
“Yeah,” Dave murmured in sympathy. “Got a cousin in Little Rock who could be his twin. She worries about every little thing. I told her it’s gonna be the death of her one of these days.”
“Yeah, I hear you.” The hunter tried not to think of Cold Oak, and his brother dying in his arms.
“Well,” Dave raised his bottle and clinked it against Dean’s. “Here’s to letting things go – and a good night.”
Dean grinned, forcing the dark memories deep into the recesses of his mind. “Sweet.”
* * * * *
Jedediah smiled gratefully as Sam took the laden tray from his gnarled hands. “Thank you, son.”
“No problem.” Sitting back down on the sagging couch, Sam placed the tray on the scuffed and pitted coffee table. Grabbing the steaming pot, he poured out the coffee, handing one of the cups to his elderly host. Sam leaned forward, cradling his cup between his hands; his hazel eyes alight with curiosity. “So – the Larsens.”
Chuckling softly, Jed took a sip of his coffee before answering. “What’s the rush, son?” He waved a hand as the young hunter flushed with embarrassment. “Aww, don’t worry about it. I’m just joshin’ ya.”
“That’s okay, son. Now – the Larsens. Well, from what I recall, the family moved here around…” Jed tapped a stick-thin finger against his chin. “Let me see – it must have been around nineteen forty-three. I was a young man then – about your age – maybe a bit younger. Just got back from the big one.”
“The big one?” Sam’s brow furrowed in a puzzled frown.
“The war, son. World War Two.” Jed rubbed his left thigh. “Caught a piece of shrapnel that damned near took my leg off – the docs patched me up and sent me home.”
“So, this…” Sam waved a hand at the neat but worn little home. “This is where you grew up? This house?”
“Sure is. My daddy bought it for my momma the year before I was born. But it was just him and me, mostly – my momma, God rest her, died when I was about six months old.”
“Really?” His interest piqued, Sam inched a little closer to the old man. “Wow – I mean – that’s sad, but…”
“Well – it’s just that – my mom died when I was six months old, too. My dad raised my brother and me on his own.”
Jed smiled, reached over and patted the young hunter’s knee. “Well, then – we got something in common.”
Sam smiled back, and drank a mouthful of coffee. “So – the Larsens?”
“You have a one-track mind, son – anyone ever tell you that?”
“Only a thousand times,” Sam replied wryly. He shrugged at the old man’s curious look. “My brother. He says I think too much.”
“Well, sure beats not thinkin’ at all.”
The hunter’s lips twisted into a bitter smile. “Yeah.”
“So – the Larsens.” Jed settled back in the worn recliner, resting the coffee cup on the threadbare arm. “There was just the old man, and his son – kinda like my daddy and me. The son was around my age, too. We kinda struck up a friendship of sorts – but he wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with. Kinda dark – moody. Brooded about everything. Wouldn’t let things go – know what I mean?”
Sam squirmed uncomfortably on the sofa. “Yeah, I think I do.”
“Well, one day the old man just ups and dies in his sleep. No one thought anything of it – the guy had been sick from the time they moved in. Not sure what ailed him, but I remember he used to cough a bit. Emphysema maybe. Anyway, the local doc signed the death certificate, and the old man was put to rest in the local cemetery.” Jed cleared his throat, sipped at his coffee and eyed the eager young man sitting opposite him. “That’s when things started to change.”
“What things?” Sam forgot his rapidly cooling coffee as he listened to the old man’s thin scratchy voice.
“A few of the neighbours said they saw the old man lookin’ out an upstairs window. And we used to hear things – like the wind moanin’ through the trees when there weren’t no wind. And the son – he got so bad no one would have anything to do with him. He shunned everyone, including the reverend who tried to call and talk to him. Threatened to toss the man head first through the gate. He even started getting his supplies from the next town over.”
“So – what happened to him?”
Jed chuckled, waving a hand at the coffee pot. He leaned forward as Sam picked it up, holding out his cup to be refilled. “Gotcha hooked, haven’t I?”
Sam ducked his head, a shy smile gracing his tanned features. “Yeah, guess so. Nothin’ like a good ghost story on a dark night, right?”
“All we need is a campfire,” the old man agreed. He cleared his throat before going on with his story. “Well, one day out of the blue, like, the son turns up with this woman in tow. Turns out she’s his wife.”
“His wife?” Sam’s jaw dropped.
“Sure as I’m sittin’ here. He was courtin’ this little girl in the next town – they got married there, and then he brought her back to that house where his daddy’s ghost was s’posed to be roamin’ around. I tell you, young fella, that wasn’t no home for a God-fearin’ young lady.”
Nodding, the hunter took a sip of his coffee. “So, were they happy, or…”
Jed shrugged one thin shoulder. “At first, yeah. But then he started showin’ his true colours – wouldn’t let her talk to the neighbours, chased the reverend down the street. In the end she wasn’t even allowed to go outside. No one saw her for months. And then the smell started.”
Sam’s face twisted into an expression of disgust. “The smell?”
“Deputy went and busted down the door after the neighbours complained – found her inside. Or what was left of her. Poor girl had been hacked to pieces – bits of her scattered all over the living room. Blood up the walls…” Jedediah shuddered, almost spilling his coffee. “The deputy – he just got the hell out of there – fell down the steps and puked all the way to the front gate. Even the county coroner looked green when he came to get the girl’s remains and give them a decent burial.”
“God…” Swallowing convulsively, Sam put his half empty cup on the tray. “What happened? Did they get the guy?”
“Nope. He’d disappeared. But that wasn’t the end of the story – not by a long shot. One night, about a month after the deputy found his poor wife, he came back. I thought I heard a gunshot – went over to check it out. I found him in the living room. He’d blown his face off with an army issue handgun. It was still in his hand.”
“Yeah. I beat it out of there – called the sheriff’s office. And then I packed my bag – got out of town for awhile.”
“Too many memories, young fella. War was too close for me. I’d seen guys in my unit with faces, limbs blown off – never expected to see it in my home town.” Jed sighed heavily and ran a trembling hand across his face. “I was away for around six months – just travellin’. What I didn’t know was that my daddy had himself a stroke the night I left - the letter didn’t find me until I was almost ready to come home. I got back just in time to bury him.”
Sam’s eyes were alight with sympathy. “I’m so sorry, Jed.”
Shrugging, the old man wiped his eyes and sniffled. “Thank you, son. Anyway, time I got back, all the neighbours had gone – seems the house was haunted. People claimed to have seen the old man and the son flittin’ around the place. There’d be smells, odd noises – my daddy was the only one left in the street. The only one living, that is.”
Frowning, the young hunter recalled the quiet street outside the white painted door. He’d only seen two other houses besides the Larsen’s and Jedediah’s. Sam couldn’t remember if they had shown signs of occupation – he’d been too distracted to notice at the time. “And what about now?”
“Now? Now there’s only me. Me and my memories.” Jed smiled softly and patted Sam’s knee. “And the occasional visitor – like you.”
The old man yawned suddenly, and Sam glanced at his watch in concern. “God, I’m sorry – I’ve kept you up. I’d better go – it’s late.”
Jed rose with the tall hunter and walked him to the door. “That’s quite all right, son. I was glad of the company.”
Sam stepped through the door, turning to shake the old man’s hand. “Thank you.”
“You come back any time, Sam, you hear? Maybe bring that brother of yours back with you.”
“I’ll try.” Smiling warmly, the young hunter strode down the path to the front gate, waving a hand as he shut it behind him. The wispy little man waved back before shutting the door, and Sam walked swiftly along the dark street, deep in thought.
He reached the motel about twenty minutes later and stopped by the office for the spare room key. Extricating himself with difficulty from the garrulous manager, he ruffled his petted down hair and hurried to the relative safety of the room, closing the door firmly behind him.
Sam glanced around their room as he dropped the key on the nightstand between the two beds. Dean’s duffle had been upended all over his bed, and the young hunter gave an exasperated sigh as he neatly repacked the bag, placing it against the wall near the door. The housekeeping done, Sam sat on the end of his bed, dug his cell from his pocket and stared at the screen.
“Don’t be such a girl, Sam – call him.” Moving his thumb over the buttons, Sam pulled up Dean’s number, hesitated, and finally made the call.
* * * * *
“So anyway – there I am – buck freakin’ naked, hanging out the bedroom window by my fingertips, when I hear this whistle. I look down, and there’s the Sasquatch, tryin’ so hard not to laugh he almost busted somethin’.” Dean shook his head and took a swig of his beer. “I could hear the husband yelling his head off about finding her all hot and horny and him not home. He was shouting ‘Where is he?’ and ‘I’ll kill the bastard!’ and looking everywhere for this guy who’d been banging his wife. And there’s me hanging outside, prayin’ that he didn’t decide to come anywhere near the damned window. She was screamin’ and tryin’ to come up with some excuse – which he wasn’t buying for a second.”
Dave was holding his sides, tears of mirth streaming down his face. “And – and Sam?” he finally gasped.
“Sammy – he climbed up the drain pipe and onto the window ledge below the one I was hanging from – grabbed me just as my hand slipped, and got me down. He gave me his jacket and we booked – he had the Impala parked around the corner. Fastest I’ve ever run – well, from a woman anyway.”
“Oh, Lordy!” The mechanic threw back his head and laughed, startling the couple at a nearby table. He wiped his streaming eyes and grasped his beer bottle like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver. “What about your clothes, dude?”
Dean grinned. “Sammy busted in the next morning while they were at work – got my clothes for me.”
“Oh, man.” Dave took a long swallow of his beer and called for another round. “Guess the moral of the story is – if you ever find yourself in Tampa…”
“Stay away from the waitresses,” both young men chorused. The next round arrived, and they clinked their bottles together in a toast.
“Oh, man,” Dave repeated. “Dude – seriously – you didn’t know she was married?”
“No clue – not until he threw open the front door and yelled ‘honey, I’m home’.” Chuckling, Dean raised the bottle to his lips. Faint music drifted from his pocket, and he grimaced as he pulled his cell phone free. Glancing at the screen, he pressed his lips together, letting the call go to voicemail. He shot an apologetic look at his companion. “’Scuse me for a moment.”
Stepping outside into the cool night air, Dean moved away from the front door to replay the message.
“Uh – hey – it’s me. I’m uh – back – you know – at the motel. Anyway – just wanted to let you know. And – I’m uh – I’m sorry I was an ass.”
Dean smiled faintly, shaking his head in amusement, his earlier anger melting away at the sound of his brother’s voice. Only Sam could sound like a kid and a grown man at the same time, he mused. He quickly tapped out a text message and sent it, waiting outside for the answer. It came within a few seconds – just one word, but that was all he needed to know that everything was all right between them again.
As he returned to the bar, he winked at the waitress before sitting down. “Sorry – that was Sam.”
“Yeah, we’re good.” Dean rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. “So – Dave – what time do you open up in the morning?”
Dave glanced at his watch, and shot to his feet. “Aww, hell! I open at seven – got a customer coming in to drop off his Taurus for a major overhaul. I gotta go!” He stuck out his hand. “Hey – see you in the morning. Have a good time, dude.”
“I will.” Grinning, Dean watched the mechanic weave his unsteady path through the thinning crowd. The waitress caught his eye, and the grin morphed into a sweet smile as she sauntered over to his table. “Hey.”
“Hey, yourself.” The pretty blonde made a show of gathering the empty bottles from the table, leaning down and showing the appreciative hunter a tantalising glimpse of cleavage. “Staying around long?”
“Depends.” Flicking his gaze up and down her petite frame, Dean turned the bottle between his fingers.
The girl smiled, glanced around, and stepped to his side. “My shift finishes in a half hour.”
Dean nodded. “Okay.”
The hunter watched her walk away, his gaze on her gently swinging hips. “Awesome.”
* * * * *
Sam sighed heavily, flipping his phone closed and tossing it onto the bed. Dean was obviously still pissed at him – or he hadn’t heard the phone ring. Sam felt sure it was the former. And then his cell beeped, signalling a text message. Curious, Sam picked it up to read the message.
‘You’re not an ass – but you’re still a bitch.’
Grinning, the young hunter tapped out ‘Jerk’ and sent it, breathing a sigh of relief. Laying the phone on the nightstand, Sam got to his feet, stretched and walked over to the small table. Pulling the laptop from its leather satchel, he opened it up and called up a search engine, aiming to get in some research on demon deals before his brother came back. He figured he’d have enough time between Dean inserting the key and actually getting the door open to shut down the sites so his brother wouldn’t have a clue what Sam had been up to. He called up and minimised a local site on the history of the town as his decoy page. Listening for the sound of a key in the door, Sam set to work.
* * * * *
“Man, what a night.” Dean fumbled with the key, dropped it, and almost toppled head first into the motel room door as he bent to retrieve it. Picking it up, he managed to wedge it into the lock and turn it, pushing the door open. “Sammy?”
There was no answer and Dean frowned, his gaze searching the room as he stepped inside. The frown melted away when he spotted the tall figure slumped over the table, one hand resting across the laptop keyboard.
Dean smiled fondly and halted at his brother’s side, gazing down at the tousled chestnut head pillowed on the sinewy forearm. He reached out and gently grasped Sam’s wrist, easing his hand away from the laptop. The long fingers brushed over the surface of the touch pad and the screen sprang to life, bathing Sam’s face in a bluish-white glow. He drew in a deep breath, mumbled softly and turned his face into the crook of his arm to block the light.
The green-eyed hunter winced and laid his brother’s hand on the table. Turning the computer toward him, he reached for the top of the screen to shut it down, when his gaze fell on the web page that was displayed. Dean’s brows drew together in a frown as he studied the page, his body knotting with tension the further he read.
Slapping his palm against the back of the screen, Dean closed the laptop down and stood stiffly, his hands curled into fists by his sides while he glared in mounting fury at his sleeping sibling. A muscle jumped in his cheek as he ground his teeth together. “Sam, wake up.”
Sam’s shoulders twitched, and he turned his head toward the sound of his brother’s voice.
The young hunter jerked awake, blinking blearily up at his sibling. “Wha…”
“You son of a bitch!” Dean’s voice throbbed with anger. “I can’t trust you for one second.”
“Wha…” Sam’s sleep-fogged brain tried to catch up. “Who…”
Bending down until he was eye-level with his brother, Dean grasped the front of Sam’s shirt in an iron grip. “You waited till my back was turned, and you did what I told you not to do!”
“I…” Wrapping his hand around his brother’s wrist, Sam tried to pull the hand away from his shirt. “I don’t…”
“What the hell were you doing on the laptop, Sam, huh? I saw that web page! I told you not to do anything about the deal, didn’t I!” Dean gave his brother a sharp shake. “Didn’t I!”
“Let me g…” Sam’s tall frame tensed, his eyes sliding guiltily to the shut down computer. “What…”
“You stupid son of a bitch! I told you what would happen if we try to weasel out of this! And you still went behind my back and started researching this freakin’ deal!” Dragging his brother up from the chair, Dean slammed Sam against the wall in a fit of fury.
Sam’s chest heaved, his wide eyes never leaving his brother’s reddened face. A tremor rippled through his tall frame and he raised his fist, knocking Dean’s hand away with a sweep of his arm. “Let go of me!”
“I told you I’d stop you! And I freakin’ will!” Darting out a hand, Dean grabbed the laptop from the table and tossed it onto his bed. “That’s the first step. You can have that back when you convince me you can be freakin’ trusted!”
“I’m not some friggin’ kid that you can take away my privileges and send me to my room!”
“Then stop acting like one!”
The young hunter visibly trembled; clenching his teeth so hard Dean could almost hear Sam’s jaw creaking under the strain. His eyes suspiciously bright, he wrenched himself away from his furious older brother and retreated to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. Dean heard the lock click seconds later and slumped, staggering backwards to drop onto the end of his bed as if boned. Neutral territory, he thought wryly, gazing at the closed bathroom door. The bathroom had always been a place of retreat – especially for Sam. Mostly after Jess, when they had first hit the road, especially when the nightmares got too much and he needed to be alone to get his head straight.
Dean ran a shaking hand across his face, the burst of anger leaving him drained. Reaching out, he slipped the laptop under the pillows and turned out the main lights, leaving the bedside lamp on so his brother could see when he finally came out of the bathroom. If he does, Dean mused. Jeez, this is so screwed.
Stripping down to his boxers and tee shirt, he climbed into bed and lay on his back staring at the ceiling. The bathroom door remained closed, no sound issuing from behind the flimsy wood barrier. Dean sighed and rolled onto his side facing the door. Sleep was a long time coming.
* * * * *
Sam groaned softly, blinked and knuckled the sleep from his eyes. He stared foggily around the tiled room, wondering for a moment what he was doing in the bathroom. The memory of the night before came flooding back and he winced, dropping his head into his hands. Dean – the laptop – the fight. Sam groaned again, and pushed himself up from the floor where he’d fallen asleep with his head pillowed on a towel pulled from the rack.
Stretching the kinks from his tall frame, he relieved himself, splashed his face with cold water, and finally turned to face the locked door. Drawing in a deep, shaky breath, Sam flipped the lock and opened the door, stepping gingerly out into the main room.
“Dean?” Sam called softly. He glanced toward the beds, and stiffened in shock.
The bed closest to the door was empty, the covers straightened haphazardly over the mattress. The empty laptop satchel was lying on Sam’s bed, alongside his duffle. There was no sign of Dean’s duffle, or the weapons bag.
Sam’s heart felt like it was being squeezed inside his chest. “Oh, no…”
Dean had gone.
* * * * *