-- I'm sorry this took so long and wasn't what I originally intended, but I hope I fulfilled your request that I make you cry!
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Copyright 2008, Bardicvoice
He squeezed the excess water out of the sponge with shaking hands and started at his brother’s neck and shoulders, slowly washing away the dark, dried blood. Bobby had helped him cut away the ruined clothes – the shredded, blood-stiffened shirt and t-shirt, and the blood, piss, and shit-stained boxers and ripped jeans – and had unlaced and pulled off the scarred boots, but this task Sam had reserved for himself.
He’d only ever done it once before, when he’d helped Dean compose Dad’s body for the pyre, but that hadn’t prepared him for this. Except for the scars of old violence, Dad’s body had been intact; Dean’s fresh wounds gaped obscenely, chalk-pale white skin split apart in long, ragged, parallel cuts to reveal the dull purple-red of muscle and white bone beneath. No illusion of life was possible, especially since no fresh blood welled up to replace the dried residues that he washed away. Just beneath the undamaged tattoo, Dean’s chest was slashed open right to the heart, and the invisible claws that had ripped deep down the inside of his left thigh and the back of his right shoulder had also severed arteries there. Sam remembered blood fountaining from Dean’s body as he’d struggled, driven by the pressure of his furiously pounding heart, and then subsiding into a bubbling pool and finally stillness as life and heartbeat fled with the blood. Dead bodies didn’t bleed, but Dean’s didn’t even have enough blood left in it to cause the lividity he remembered seeing on Dad’s back and the undersides of his arms and legs.
And Dean wasn’t with him to talk about it, to soothe and explain, to distract him with memories and stories to get him through the moment.
That was how he’d gotten through the task with Dad. They’d been silent when they started except for Dean telling him what to do, always in the fewest possible curt terms, terse with his own locked-up grief. Gradually, though, as if Sam’s growing distress had communicated itself without words, Dean had started to talk, and listening to him had made it bearable somehow to be washing Dad’s waxy skin and handling his flaccid limbs.
“Dad and I did this once for a friend of his from ‘Nam. It was while you were at college. He wasn’t a hunter, or anything; he was just a guy. Been living on the streets for years. No family, no friends; he’d come home from the war messed up, never made it right. Guess Dad always looked out for guys from his unit. Saw the newspaper story when his body was found. He knew the body wouldn’t be claimed, so he claimed it; said it wasn’t right a soldier should have a pauper’s funeral, with nobody even there. He said that family always used to do the laying out, back before most could afford to pay funeral homes to do it all out of sight. His grandpa – our great-grandad, I guess – hadn’t wanted strangers doing for him, so he’d made it part of his will that his family had to lay him out themselves if they wanted to inherit anything. There wasn’t much there to get anyway, but Dad and his dad still did what he wanted.
“Dad said it was respect, pure and simple. I mean, what happens to a body doesn’t matter to the guy who’s dead, but it matters to the living, doing things right. He said there was a ritual to it, and a meaning. Washing the body cleanses away suffering and pain. It’s a chance to do a last service for the dead, an opportunity both to remember everything good about them and to let them look the way they’d want to be remembered. You clean the body to reflect the cleansing of the soul, to show they’re starting the afterlife clean and refreshed and new. The whole time we were working – washing him, dressing him, laying him out, right up to burying him – Dad talked about the guy back when he’d known him. I learned more about Dad’s time in ‘Nam than I’d ever heard before. And the funny, eager guy he talked about didn’t look anything like the used-up old guy we were burying. I mean, man, he looked way older than Dad. He looked like his face would’ve cracked off if he’d ever smiled. But by the time we were finished, he looked different, somehow. It was like me knowing something about him changed the way he looked.”
It had changed the way Dad looked, too. To help Sam get past the awkwardness of stripping, handling, and washing their father’s body, Dean had talked nonstop for most of the time they had worked, up until Sam had finally started talking, too, sharing memories about Dad. It was mostly silly stuff from when they were kids, like the time they’d gone fishing when all Dad could pull in were little fingerlings, while Dean landed the trout that became their dinner; or the winter training session that had devolved into a snowball fight with both of them pelting Dad until he’d finally caught them in a massive bear hug and they’d all fallen together into a snowdrift. But Dean had also told him more about some of the times Dad had checked up on him at Stanford, and about hunts they’d been on without him when Dad had bragged about him to others, like Jerry, or had laughed about what he would have thought or said about something they’d done. And by the end of it, when he’d gotten past the embarrassed shame of having had more physical intimacy with his father’s body than he’d ever wanted, when John Winchester’s mortal shell was clean and wrapped decently in sheets in the absence of a proper change of clothes, he looked – different. It was as if he’d washed his own resentment and anger away with the hospital smells that had clung to the body, and Dad’s face had looked like – Dad, without the overlay of complex emotion that had colored that image dark for more years than he cared to remember. Dean had stopped talking then; had pretty much stopped talking at all, at least about anything that mattered.
It occurred to Sam for the first time that maybe Dean had needed the comfort of speech and shared memory as much as he had, in order to be able to deal with what they had been doing; that he’d been talking as much for his own sake as to help his brother.
And he couldn’t help now.
Dean looked different, too, but not the way Dad had. His face was unmarked, but its falsely serene, blank pallor was alien, and his always supple limbs were stiff with rigor. His joints had begun to lock up shortly after they’d arrived at the cabin. Bobby had hustled them out of New Harmony as fast as he could; there had been no question of trying to clean up anything there, not with at least five dead bodies in the neighborhood and no plausible cover story. He’d closed Dean’s staring eyes, wrapped his limp body in a blanket, and chivvied Sam into helping him load Dean into the back seat of the Impala, and then led the way in his Chevelle to a safe house he knew out in the middle of nowhere two hours’ hard drive from town. Dean’s body had still been flaccid when they’d carried him inside and laid him on a table, but the rigidity had set in soon after. Washing once strong, capable fingers that had pulled in to unnatural claws, Sam felt his gorge rise, and he had to stop, sit down, and put his head down to keep from throwing up.
Bobby’s hand was suddenly warm on his back, and unshed tears roughened the older hunter’s gruff whiskey voice as he crouched beside the chair, gently pulling the sponge from Sam’s fingers.
“Let me help, Sam. You shouldn’t do this alone. I loved him, too.”
He shook his head, and the tears he’d dammed up after Bobby had first found him sobbing helplessly with Dean’s body in his arms started leaking out again. Bobby pulled him close, holding him while he trembled with reaction and began to hiccough when the tears threatened to cut off his breathing.
“I’m so sorry, boy.”
Shame choked him, shame that he couldn’t do even this much for his brother, and he shook his head again.
“God, Bobby; he’s so – so stiff. I – I can’t …”
Bobby rocked him gently, patting his back.
“It’ll pass, but not for a while yet. He was fighting hard when he died; that’ll make the rigor last longer. But it’ll pass.”
“Dad wasn’t – like this.”
“It was two days before you boys got his body from the hospital, that’s all. It passes.” Bobby gently set him back, and he saw regret in the older man’s eyes. “But it likely won’t pass off before we bury him. I’m sorry.”
Bobby squeezed his shoulder and then stood, rinsing out the sponge and calmly picking up where Sam had left off. He handled Dean as gently as if he feared causing him pain, and Sam felt something inside himself unclench. He was still shaking, but he stood up, picked up a cloth, rinsed it, and moved to Dean’s other side, washing Dean’s right arm and hand as Bobby worked on the left.
“You and Dean didn’t – do this to me,” he said thickly. “When I – woke up, I was wearing the same clothes.” He didn’t dare try meeting Bobby’s eyes, but watched his hands instead. They faltered momentarily, but then continued. He heard Bobby sigh.
“When you – died, Sam, once we’d carried you into that house, Dean couldn’t bear to touch you. He wouldn’t let me touch you. He just watched you for two days. He didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, didn’t drink except for whiskey – and while he drank most of a bottle, he never got drunk. When I tried to persuade him that it was time to – bury you, he blew up. He told me to leave. Hell – he begged me to leave. And I’m ashamed to admit that I did.” Bobby’s hands stilled, and then his right hand moved away from its task to brush back Dean’s spiky hair. “I thought there was a better than even chance I’d never see him again, either. Truth to tell, I figured he was mighty close to setting the house on fire and eating his gun, doing for the both of you, and I didn’t think I could stop him. The minute you both showed up at my place, though, I knew what he’d done instead, and it broke my heart.” His voice firmed from regret into grim resolve. “I ain’t gonna make that same mistake with you, boy.”
Sam laughed once, clipped and hard, and even to his own ears, it sounded bitter and hollow.
“You don’t have to worry: that’s not even an option. I tried to make a deal with Lilith right there, for her to let him go, and she laughed at me. She said that to make a deal, I had to have something she wanted, and I didn’t. And then she set the hellhounds on him, and they ripped him to shreds. And I couldn’t stop it.”
“But she didn’t kill you. And she was gone when I got there.” At the time, he hadn’t said any more than that Lilith was gone, and Ruby too; he’d been too full of the emptiness of where Dean had been to bother with details. He knew that Bobby was fishing for the full story now, and couldn’t bring himself to care.
“I don’t know what happened, Bobby. Dean was dying, and she turned the light on me, and – nothing happened. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t say anything, but nothing happened. And then she was just looking down at me, and I picked up the knife and went for her and she – she ran away. Turned to smoke and just was gone. And Dean was dead.”
“I don’t know. Lilith replaced her, sometime. She was gone from the little girl by the time we found her. Dean recognized her inside Ruby, just before the end. Lilith said she’d sent Ruby far away; who knows what that means?”
Bobby moved on matter-of-factly to washing Dean’s belly and his privates, and Sam hastily averted his eyes. He was seeing a lot more of his brother’s body than he’d ever cared to, and the embarrassment was no less acute just because Dean was dead and wouldn’t tease him for looking. He took the cloth instead to Dean’s face, wiping away spattered blood and the salt trails of saliva and tears. Some of the tears, he knew, most of the tears, had been his own.
He’d never noticed how long and thick his brother’s eyelashes were until he brushed them with the cloth and saw them move. For that second, for that one brief, flashing instant, he almost did think that those eyes could open and come to life again. He had to close his own eyes and breathe deep to avoid the urge to scream and hurl, and his fingers closed hard on the edge of the table as he swayed. The room smelled mostly of the herbs Bobby had crushed and tossed into the warm wash water, unidentifiable things that were sharp and fresh rather than sweet, clean and pungent scents that cut across the rusty iron smell of blood, the sourness of sweat, and the fading reek of shit. By some small mercy, none of the hellhound wounds had punctured Dean’s gut, so no bowel stench remained after the surface dirt was cleansed away. He could smell himself, and realized that he smelled more like death now than Dean did, because his brother’s blood had dried in his shirt and stiffened the knees of his jeans. All he wanted to do was strip to the skin, like Dean, and wash it all away, the blood, the sweat, the grief, the loss, the blame.
“Sam? You okay?”
He didn’t open his eyes. He couldn’t, just yet. But he nodded reassurance. Questing blindly, one hand encountered Dean’s cheek. It was cooler than in life, but the skin was still resilient. He opened his eyes to see Dean’s still closed, and let out a shaky breath. He soaked the cloth and started working on Dean’s hair, wiping away the dried sweat that had matted it into spikes, feeling it soften.
“I know – I know Dad always said, burn and be safe, but – I don’t want to burn him, Bobby.” He still remembered Dad’s pyre, remembered standing beside Dean watching Dad’s body burn, and he couldn’t do it again. For all the bones they’d salted and burned, it was different when it was your own. He remembered the heat, and the smell; he hadn’t been able to stomach pork for a month, after, and Dean hadn’t, either. But it was more than that. When the fire was done, nothing was left – nothing but memories, and nowhere to keep them. They’d scattered his ashes to the wind and he’d left Dad’s dogtags at Mom’s headstone, but all he had left were memories and a handful of old, creased, faded photos that he sometimes caught Dean looking through. They didn’t really have anywhere to visit; even Mom’s headstone didn’t mark a grave, since there’d been nothing left of her, either. It was like they’d never even been, no evidence they’d ever really existed, except for him and Dean.
And now, just him.
“There’s no need I can see,” Bobby said gruffly, after a long beat. “He’s not going to be some restless angry spirit, and that tattoo on his chest’d keep out anything else might want to use his body.” He thought for a second, and added, “We can consecrate the ground we bury him in, too.”
They worked in silence for a while, then, even managing the awkwardness of rolling Dean’s stiff body on its side to be able to wash his back. Sam held him steady so Bobby could finish the cleaning, and if he closed his eyes and rested his own head once on Dean’s shoulder, Bobby didn’t remark on it. Bobby put down a clean tarp and more crushed herbs before they laid him back down on the table and Sam drew a blanket up over his breast, hiding the damage, but couldn’t bring himself to cover Dean’s face. The early morning sunlight coming through the dirty windows just emphasized its marble stillness.
“How long before the rigor passes off, Bobby? We can’t – dress him like this, and I’m not going to just wrap him up and dump him in the ground.”
“Sam. You’re talking another whole day, maybe two.”
“Fine. We can get started on figuring out how to get him back.”
“I can’t leave him down there, Bobby. I won’t. Dad made it out when the devil’s gate opened; there’s gotta be a way for Dean, too. There’s got to.” The rebel tears started to well up again, and he pushed them down by main force even though they thickened the voice in his throat. “Maybe we can’t get him back here, alive, but we can’t leave him in Hell, either.” Despite his best efforts, the tears won free, but he did his best to ignore the tracks they laid down his cheeks while he locked challenging eyes with Bobby. “He doesn’t belong there, and you know it.”
Bobby regarded him for a long beat, considering, and then finally nodded.
“Through tomorrow, then. We may as well get some lumber and build that coffin, too. But first, you go get yourself washed up and changed. And when I bring you food, you eat it, and when I tell you to sleep, you sleep. Or at least you lie down and shut your eyes and pretend.”
He sat in the room with Dean’s body and read by lantern light. There was no electricity and no hope of an internet connection, but Bobby was never without books. He hadn’t found anything yet. He hadn’t found anything to break Dean’s deal in a whole year of looking, but he wasn’t going to stop. He couldn’t.
Bobby was asleep in another room, exhausted. Rightly assuming the answer, he hadn’t even bothered asking Sam to leave the cabin, but had done all the errands himself, coming back with a rickety trailer rattling behind the Chevelle loaded with lumber, food, and more supplies he hadn’t explained. Cleaned up and smelling of soap instead of blood and sweat, Sam had kept his promise to eat and then helped nail together a simple pine box for a coffin, but the moment that was done, he’d retreated to Dean’s side and the books.
He was dead tired but sleep wasn’t in it, not when the lantern’s glow painted Dean’s nose, cheekbones, and jaw with warm gold that he could almost, almost believe was sleeping life. The fragrant herbs covered any slight hint of beginning decay. The room was too still with only his own breathing to hear. He’d never thought he’d miss his brother’s snoring, but he’d have given anything to hear that homely sound again. Loneliness ambushed him, and it felt wrong when Dean was still right there, close enough to touch – except that he wasn’t, because all he could touch was an empty shell.
No matter what he’d said, he hadn’t understood why Dean had done it, not really. Not until now, a whole midnight later, when he’d have done the same thing in a heartbeat if he could. He’d thought he’d been alone when he was at Stanford, with Dad’s words ringing in his ears – If you walk out that door, don’t come back! – but he knew now that he’d been wrong. Even then, Dean had always been there. Even if he hadn’t called, he’d still been there. One call, one text, one postcard, hell, one shout out his window, and the Impala would have been outside his door – and he’d always known it, down below the level of conscious thought.
His eyes kept tracking from the book to his brother’s face, searching for memories to keep. He knew, because he’d checked every hour, that the rigor was just starting to pass off; he’d been able to straighten Dean’s fingers from claws back into his familiar hands with gentle pressure. The silver ring on his finger was still the only thing Dean was wearing beneath the blanket, but Sam knew that by noon or a bit after, he and Bobby would be able to get him into the fresh clothes he’d pulled out of the duffle in the Impala’s trunk. And then there wouldn’t be any excuse not to put him in that box down in the earth, and he’d never see him again.
And until then, he was damned if he’d sleep and miss a minute of being able to still see his brother’s face.
He knew he was already missing details of Dad’s face, like the exact way the skin had crinkled around his eyes when he smiled. Dean’s face had always been so much more mobile, infinite in its variety of animated expressions; he couldn’t bear the thought of losing them, forgetting details. It already felt wrong that Dean’s expression hadn’t changed in over a day, when it had always changed so many times in a minute. And it was really wrong that he looked so at peace, when Sam knew the truth was horribly, hideously different.
“I’m going to get you out.” The sound of his own voice surprised him; he hadn’t meant to speak. It was soft enough that he figured it wouldn’t disturb Bobby. “I swear it. I’m going to get you out. I’m going to find and kill that bitch, and I’m going to set you free. I don’t care what it costs.” He smiled a little bitterly. “And this time, you won’t be able to tell me no.”
He looked down, and the amulet he’d given Dean when they were kids gleamed dully in the light against his own shirt. It looked wrong there, but Bobby had insisted. He’d lifted Dean’s head and slid the cord free before the rigor had set in, even before they’d stripped the body. He’d washed off the blood and slipped the cord around Sam’s neck, letting the amulet dangle against his chest. When Sam had protested that the amulet was Dean’s and belonged with him, Bobby had practically growled.
“Don’t you tell me my business, boy,” he’d said. “If that amulet is Dean’s, well, so are you, and a sight more than a corpse. He’d want you to wear it. It belongs to you now just as much as that car of his. You wear it, and you remember him. Not that you’d forget, but you remember him.”
He fingered the amulet. “Not that I’d forget,” he whispered.
He gave up on the books, turned his chair around so he could straddle it and rest his arms and his chin on the chair back, and just watched his brother for the rest of the night, right up until he heard Bobby stir. Then he stretched out on the floor and pretended to be asleep, raising bleary eyes when Bobby padded in on stockinged feet to lay a gentle hand on Dean’s head.
“You don’t fool me, boy,” Bobby said, not even turning around, but his tone was sad and resigned, not angry. “But it’s all right.” He stroked Dean’s hair lightly, and then he did turn. Sam was shocked to see him looking old. “I kinda hoped I’d dreamed it all, myself, even though I knew better. So – wanna see if we can find that bitch, Lilith?”
Bobby had brought his divining gear on the run to New Harmony, just in case Lilith might have moved on in the time it took them to drive down. He set it up in the second room while Sam divided his attention between impatience with the spell and stolen looks back at his motionless brother, but when Bobby set the pendulum to swinging, his eyes were riveted to the map, watching with leashed eagerness for the pointed bob to settle. Instead of locking on a single spot, however, the thing just ran down smoothly without a twitch until gravity brought it to a natural halt. Bobby tried twice more with no better success, and finally swore.
“Either she’s gone back to Hell, or she’s found a way to block the spell – or she meant for us to find her in the first place, and the whole damned thing was a trap. I’m sorry, Sam. I’ve got no clue where to go next.” He looked up with tired eyes red-rimmed with fatigue and grief. “What say you come home with me after we bury Dean? We can start fresh. Hit the books, make some calls – what do you say?”
He knew his answer the same way he knew that Bobby would make the offer. It was inevitable, all of it, like Dean’s deal. Like Dean’s death.
“No, Bobby. I can’t. I can’t hold still. I can’t just wait. I’ve gotta keep fighting.” He shrugged, Dean’s voice in his ears, and didn’t smile. “It’s all I have left.”
Bobby didn’t argue, just shook his head and looked sad. Sam went back to keeping vigil over Dean, not bothering any more even to pretend he was doing anything else. He ate what food Bobby put in front of him, but he couldn’t have said what it was five minutes later. The hours crawled and the hours flew, and then it was late afternoon and Bobby was helping him dress Dean’s limp body in all his usual kit, worn but clean jeans, t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, socks, boots. Sam even added his watch, cleaned of blood, and the Zippo lighter – a present once from Dad – rescued from the pocket of the ruined jeans he’d died in. When he would have taken off the amulet and put it back around Dean’s neck, though, Bobby stopped him with a hard hand slapping the amulet back against his own chest.
“That stays,” Bobby said. “Already told you that, ain’t gonna tell you again.” His voice had an echo of John Winchester, or maybe of Dean himself; the tone said he would brook no argument, and Sam was too tired to fight.
Laying Dean out in the pine box was hard. Putting on the lid and nailing it down with Dean inside was harder. Carrying the box out to the trailer with Bobby and covering it with a tarp to hide it both from any passing eyes and the threat of the gathering clouds just felt unreal. Bobby was mostly silent, whether respecting Sam’s grief or lost in his own, Sam couldn’t tell. Between them, they stripped all evidence of their tenure from the cabin, sorting which things went into which trunk. Bobby had made Dean’s ruined clothes disappear long before the packing started, and Sam didn’t ask. Bobby tossed a few of his own books in the Impala’s trunk before Sam slammed it closed.
“Found a good place while I was out,” Bobby said. “Far enough off the beaten trail not to be noticed, decent enough country road that the Chevys won’t bottom out. It’s only ten, fifteen minutes from here. Follow me.”
Sam knew the drill from any number of hunts – don’t leave new graves where they might be found. That meant off-road, with no buildings nearby, and no close cultivated fields. The spot where Bobby stopped at cloudy twilight was totally unremarkable, a flat, wild, weedy meadow indistinguishable in any way from the several miles they’d just driven through. Sam pulled out his phone, triggered the GPS, and recorded the coordinates to be certain of finding his way back, because there weren’t any landmarks to be seen.
There didn’t seem to be any need for words. Bobby pulled out a machete and laid out the dimensions of the grave, cutting and peeling back the turf in wide strips so the mingled grass and weeds could be laid back down to hide the fresh-turned earth when they were done. Sam tossed his shirt jacket aside, picked up a spade, and started digging. Digging a fresh grave was always harder than reopening an old one; undisturbed earth packed together more, while it seemed that a grave, no matter how old, somehow always remembered having been opened once. He got into the mindless rhythm of breaking clods and heaving dirt out of the deepening hole, and was surprised when Bobby’s hoarse voice called to him to stop and he came out of his trance to find the sky mostly dark and the hole finished. He smelled rain coming.
Outside the hole, he found that Bobby had been busy too, anchoring poles for two ropes on both sides of the grave so they could lay the box on the ropes and lower it down. He traced a protective circle around the grave with holy water, blessing the earth itself. If it was supposed to bring peace, Sam didn’t feel it. He didn’t feel anything. The numbness continued when they fetched the box, laid it across the ropes, and lowered it down. Nothing about any of it said “Dean.” Bobby coiled up one rope, so he coiled the other. When Bobby started yanking out a support pole, he went to work on the others. Even when Bobby stopped and looked at him, hesitating at tossing the first shovelful of dirt down on top of the box, nothing felt real. He had no words to say, and after a long moment, Bobby just nodded and tossed in the dirt. The dull, hollow thud it made when it landed on the pine meant nothing at all. They fell into a pattern, refilling the grave with alternate strokes, and it seemed only the blink of an eye before Bobby was laying the grass back down over the slight mound left behind.
Dry lightning flickered on the dark horizon, and somewhere in the distance, thunder boomed. A cool, damp breeze swept in from the west, chilling the sweat on his body, and Sam put his long-sleeved shirt back on with no regard for the dirt streaked across his arms and t-shirt. Bobby planted a simple, featureless white cross at the head of the grave, nothing different from ten thousand other little roadside shrines marking their anonymous tragedies, but his hand lingered on the wood the same way it had rested earlier on Dean’s hair, and he had to clear his throat before he could speak.
“I’m sorry, son,” he said simply. “You deserved better.”
He looked up at Sam and Sam looked back. Then Sam picked up the shovel and turned back toward the Impala.
“Sam!” Even the shock and anger in Bobby’s voice didn’t strike him as real. The gnarled hand that grabbed his sleeve and yanked him half around was a curiosity, nothing more. He looked at the hand and then at Bobby’s face, and still felt nothing. “Sam, aren’t you gonna say anything?”
He glanced at the cross and then back at Bobby’s face. They were both pale spots in the night, equally meaningless, equally empty. Sam shrugged.
“Why, Bobby? Dean can’t hear me. He’s not here, he’s in Hell. What’s there to say? That I’m not going to leave him there? Okay. I’m not going to leave him there. Nothing else matters.”
Bobby stared at him, and then shook his head, his voice raw with pain.
“You boys break my heart, son.”
Sam waited, but when he didn’t say anything else for a long moment, he started to turn away again, only to be stopped by Bobby’s voice.
“Sam. Come home with me, just for a while. Don’t throw yourself away.” Bobby drew in a hitching breath. “You’re like my own, you and Dean. I don’t want to lose you, too. Not again.”
The wind drew a curtain of cold rain across the sky. It pattered across the road and the Impala first, then reached him and continued on to Bobby and the grave. He looked back as the rain picked up, flattening his hair and pressing the turf back down into place on the ground over the grave. Bobby stood with empty hands and overfull eyes, but if there were tears on his face, they were lost in the rain. Sam tilted his head up and let the rain cry for him too, since he had no more tears of his own, and then he met Bobby’s eyes.
“I’m going to kill Lilith,” he said simply, a statement of fact without passion. “I’m going to kill every evil son of a bitch standing between me and Dean. I’m going to get him out of Hell if it’s the last thing I do. Nothing else matters, Bobby. Nothing.”
The rain was coming harder, making shapes indistinct, but he saw Bobby’s shoulders slump.
“Better take care of yourself, then, ‘cause you won’t be any good to him dead. Don’t you be a stranger, Sam. Don’t cut me off. And don’t you throw away what he gave you, neither, ‘cause it cost more’n anyone could afford. Especially him.”
Sam looked back for one moment longer, then he just nodded and turned back to the car. Unlocking the trunk, he tossed in the spade, then slammed and locked the trunk and walked around to the driver’s door. He slid in behind the wheel, his sodden hair and clothes dripping onto the seat, and made an automatic mental note to remember to mop it up later. Bobby still stood in the rain, just watching him. It was too dark for him to see any expression on Bobby’s face, but his bowed stillness was redolent of grief.
And it didn’t touch him at all.
Sam turned the key in the ignition, and the Impala’s engine growled to life. He paused before he put her in gear, listening the way Dean had always done, but if she had anything in particular to say, he didn’t hear it. He shifted into drive and pulled away, and he didn’t look back.
He hadn’t a clue where he was going, and it didn’t seem to matter. The road unspooled in front of him and he just followed his headlights. Rain drummed on the roof and hissed under the tires and the engine settled into a steady rhythm syncopated by the beat of the windshield wipers. He chose turns at random, and the highway carried him on. Out there in the middle of nowhere, he didn’t even see any other traffic.
He didn’t know how long he’d been running before he realized something was wrong, and it took more miles before he finally figured it out. Apart from the engine, the wipers, the road, and the rain, only silence filled the car, and he felt it reproach him. She’d been Dean’s for over ten years, and to Dean, silence was anathema. The box of tapes was out of reach under the passenger seat, but there was always something in the player; he stabbed the button to turn on the deck, and twanging guitar filled the cabin. He relaxed into it – and remembered too late that Bon Jovi’s “Crossroads” was still in the tape deck from the night Dean died, when the lyrics of the next song up stabbed him in the gut.
Well, they tell me that I’m wanted
Yeah, I’m a wanted man.
I’m a Colt in your stable,
I’m what Cain was to Able,
Mister, catch me if you can.
I’m going down in a blaze of glory …
Without even thinking, he pulled over onto the shoulder and slammed to a stop, throwing the gear into park and wrenching the door open barely in time to land on his hands and knees in the gravel and vomit as the song followed him.
You ask about my conscience
And I offer you my soul.
You ask if I’ll grow to be a wise man,
Well, I ask if I’ll grow old.
You ask me if I’ve known love
And what it’s like to sing songs in the rain?
Well I’ve seen love come,
I’ve seen it shot down,
I’ve seen it die in vain.
Shot down in a blaze of glory.
Take me now, but know the truth:
‘Cause I’m going down in a blaze of glory.
Lord, I never drew first
But I drew first blood;
I’m a devil’s son …
He reached back into the car and ejected the tape, flinging it viciously into the back seat. It landed in Dean’s leather jacket, glinting in accusation under the car’s dome light, and he slumped against the open door in the rain and screamed wordlessly at the night until he ran out of breath. And then threw up on the ground again.
By the time he finally crawled back into the car he was shaking cold and soaking wet. He slammed the door, put his head down on the wheel, wrapped his arms around the steering column, and cried.
When he finally drove off, his eyes were dry and his breathing was perfectly calm.
He went to find Lilith, and he went in silence and alone.
The music stayed as dead as Dean, wrapped in the trunk in his leather jacket.
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