After a long, long time, I have once again committed fanfic. I began this just before Thanksgiving; I really felt the need to finish it, especially after the last few episodes. Me, I'm going to think this happened sometime after 7.06 and before 7.09 ...
Characters: Dean, Sam, Bobby, Lisa, Samuel, Campbell cousins, Jody Mills
Word Count: 6122
Summary: “And that's what this is all about: sharing Thanksgiving, being family, remembering why we hunt. Holidays put the family in the family business.”
“Four days ain't gonna mean spit in the ocean to Leviathan, and we've got no new leads anyway. You got two days to get here and two more days to stay. No excuses.” The cheap cellphone speaker made even Bobby's gravel voice sound tinny, but there was no mistaking its “snap-to-orders” tone. Behind the wheel of the nondescript Challenger, Dean glanced over at Sam, raising an eyebrow, and his brother, holding the phone open between them, just shrugged.
“We've never done this before, Bobby,” Dean ventured finally, and he heard Bobby snort.
“And I'm thinking that was a mistake. We're doing it now. So get your asses in gear and get over here, and I mean now. Idjits.” The call abruptly disconnected as Bobby hung up without waiting for a response.
Silence reigned in the car for a good minute, and then Dean shook his head.
“Never thought I'd hear Bobby ordering us home – or what passes for home these days, anyway – just for Thanksgiving dinner.”
“On the bright side, the new cabin's got power, water, and heat,” Sam offered. “At least we'll be comfortable.” Dean brightened up.
“And I can see my baby. I think it's about time we ditched this piece of crap and got her back on the road. It's been long enough since our doubles died no cops should be looking for her any more.”
Sam stayed prudently silent on that score, and Dean spent a couple of miles in happily humming contemplation before looking over again to see Sam massaging his scarred palm and gazing out the passenger window at boring Arizona desert scenery that didn't warrant the attention he was giving it. Dean deliberately cleared his throat noisily and Sam started, abruptly releasing his hand.
“I don't get why the sudden interest in Thanksgiving dinner, though,” Dean said. “It's not like we got much to celebrate.”
“I don't know,” Sam disagreed mildly. “Hey: we're both alive and out of Hell. Bobby's walking. World didn't end.”
“Cas is gone. Most of the people we've ever known are dead. We're on the run from monsters we still don't know how to kill for good, even if we can hurt 'em pretty bad.”
“Since when are you the 'glass-half-empty' guy?” Sam asked, honestly curious. “I used to be the family downer. You were always the one making the best of things, figuring on coming up with a plan even if you couldn't figure out how you'd do it.” He snorted gentle amusement. “Hell of it is, you usually manage to pull it off, too.”
“Maybe I finally grew up after I went to Hell,” Dean said bitterly. Sam studied him for a long moment, and then shook his head.
“That's not it. Even after Hell, you kept getting beaten down, but you always came back. But I think ... I think maybe you kept giving away all your hope to help everyone else – Dad, Bobby, me … especially me – and didn't keep any for yourself.”
“Well, thank you, Doctor Freud,” Dean said sarcastically, and Sam couldn't help but laugh.
“Freud would never have said anything like that,” he observed. “That was more a ... Hallmark card moment.”
“Glad you realized how stupid it sounded.” Dean flicked on the blinker and guided the car into the highway rest stop. “If we're hauling ass to De Smet in time for Thanksgiving, it's your turn to drive. I need a pit stop and some shut-eye.”
Bald deflection was an obvious play in an old game. Sam chose not to fight it this time.
By automatic agreement, they took turns hitting the rest room and vending machines; the hot-wired Dodge might not have been worth stealing, but needless risks would have been stupid ones to take. Claiming firstborn privilege, Dean went first. When Sam got back to the car, Dean already had his head against the passenger window with his eyes closed, and Sam took the blatant hint. He got behind the wheel without comment, tweaking the wires to restart the car, and swung back onto the road heading north and east, aiming toward Lake Thompson, just east of De Smet. Some miles down the road, he glanced over to see Dean truly asleep, twitching in dreams, and hoped they were good ones.
“Hey, Dean – you okay?”
Lisa’s soft voice broke him out of a fugue; Dean realized he was standing in front of the fridge with empty hands, his mission to fetch more beer forgotten. All the other sounds he’d blocked out came back to fill the background of the house. The football game blared on the living room TV with Lisa’s sister Diane and her husband Tom cheering on their team, while Ben played cars with his young cousin Derek. It was a house full of life, with only Diane’s currently sleeping baby girl not adding to the din.
It was utterly, totally, overwhelmingly alien.
“Honey?” Her gentle hand reached his shoulder only after his head had moved, reacting to the sound of her voice. Experience had taught Lisa not to touch him until it was clear he knew she was there, especially when he lost himself in thoughts or memories. A couple of times early on, he’d begun to react in combat mode when she startled him. He’d always caught himself and never hurt her, but the fear he’d make a mistake had finally prompted him to beg her to be careful and not take a chance. She dealt with it the way she dealt with everything else, acceptance and calm practicality underpinning genuine compassion. He wasn’t entirely sure what they had – it was different from any other relationship he’d ever known – but it was a comfortable thing.
Still, old habits were hard to break, and the lie came readily to his tongue.
“Yeah, Lis; I’m fine. It’s good.”
Tugging on his arm, she turned him to look at her, and the expression on her face was almost the same one he’d seen her use on Ben after an unsuccessful lie.
“Hey; this is me, remember?” When he didn't respond, she squeezed his shoulder gently. “Missing Sam?” she said quietly, more a statement than a question, and hearing the name aloud punched a chink through his wall. He closed his eyes, suddenly unable to look at her, but the words found their way out anyway.
“It's just – I guess, this is the kind of Thanksgiving Sammy always wanted, and I never even knew it.” She waited him out, saying nothing but keeping her hand warm on his shoulder, and he tried to figure out how to explain what had frozen him when he hadn't even thought it through. “Up until he went to college, it was always just the three of us – Sammy, Dad, and me – and it was good. I thought it was good. No school, no hunting – hell, you couldn't interview anybody, and libraries and offices were closed, so no research either – it was just us with a bucket of KFC, watching the game, joking around, being together. It was great.
“But when Sam was eleven, his school crush invited him to her family dinner instead. It wasn't until years later he told me that had been his first real Thanksgiving, like all the ones with Dad and me were nothing. He'd always wanted more, wanted … this … and never said it. And now I've got what he always wanted, and it doesn't feel right. And it sure as hell ain't fair.”
She put her arms around him and moved in for a hug, gently at first and then with fierce strength. Her voice carried utter conviction.
“It's so trite to say life isn't fair, but it isn't, and I'm sorry. I'm more sorry than you know, but I'll also always be grateful to Sam for doing what he did and for sending you to us. He'll always be a part of us, right here. This is his Thanksgiving, as much as it's ours.”
“Sam's in Hell.” His voice was clipped and brutally harsh. “I'm eating turkey and ham and drinking beer, and Sam's trapped in a cage in Hell. I remember Hell, Lis. I think – I think part of me is still there, and always will be. But I'm not where he is, and I can't help him. And it's killing me.”
She tightened he grip and just held him, unable to find any words that would make a difference. After a long count, he returned the hug and bent his head to drop a light kiss on her hair, but he still couldn't speak. She finally reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand.
“I thank God every day for Sam, and for you. And I hope someday you'll believe that.” She stood on tiptoe and gave him a quick kiss, then let him go and reached past him to the fridge. “Take all the time you need. I'll get the beer.”
A moment after she left, he vaguely heard Tom laugh, but he couldn't make out whatever she'd said to cover his absence from the family group, and he didn't really care. Closing his eyes didn't help because he couldn't block the image in his mind of Sam on the rack, helpless like all the other souls he'd tortured in Hell, bloodied and screaming.
And smelling like roast ham.
The road unspooled across featureless desert with nothing to break the monotony except the occasional car heading in the opposite direction. Sam wondered sometimes if the other cars were real or illusory, but his private bet favored reality; those little mundane details were the kinds of things his Hell-born hallucinations generally missed.
He'd figured that out over time, expanding on the basic anchor to reality Dean had given him. Physical pain was still the fastest, surest key, but he'd found it wasn't the only one. He concentrated now on the feel of the hard, smooth warmth of the sun-heated plastic steering wheel under his hands, the lingering stale-grease and salt odor of old french fries that permeated the car's upholstery, and the occasional hitches that broke the rhythm of Dean's breathing as his brother dreamed. Hell delivered vivid horror, unforgettable Lucifer, and heart-stopping moments of blood, torment, despair, and burning, but Dean had been right; it couldn't capture ordinary, normal things without leaving seams between the illusion and the reality. He remembered the momentary confusion of feeling and seeing Bobby's van keys in his own hand in the midst of his hallucination of Lucifer masquerading as Dean having supposedly driven him to the office that turned into an empty warehouse. That was how he tested everything he saw now to separate fantasy from reality; he probed the tiny details to assess their truth.
He wryly conceded it probably wasn't wise for him to be driving. Nobody in his right mind would give a driver's license to a madman who constantly saw things that weren't there and sometimes looked right through things that were, but that was one advantage to forged ID's: no exams or tests were required. And since Dean wasn't really in his right mind either, he didn't seem to bother to worry about whether it was safe to have someone seeing hallucinations driving the car. Sam's lip quirked in amusement as he idly wondered if Dean would act differently if the car were the Impala.
Staying anchored was hardest when he was alone, and worst of all in the moments after he first woke up. Continuity made things easier. When he could draw a straight, unbroken line in memory from event to event, he could reassure himself that the current moment was a seamless continuation of the past. When Dean was with him, or Bobby, or someone else he knew, he could concentrate on all the little things that built the three-dimensional reality of their existence – the distinctive smells and sounds and textures that went beyond just vision. But when he woke up – usually out of dreams of Hell, if he were ever to admit the truth – the disorientation of not being certain where or when he was always left him faintly nauseous until he managed to sort things out. He'd come to hate sleeping not just for the dreams, but for the stomach-cramping fear of waking up in Hell on earth and not finding his way back.
He glanced across at Dean, subtly reassured by the way his brother's breathing hesitated with his dreams. These days, Dean either passed out and slept dead as a sodden drunk, or tossed and twitched in nightmares; it wouldn't have been natural for him to be sleeping peacefully and breathing easy. His discomfort spoke of reality, and Sam felt vaguely guilty at being relieved about it. They'd both forgotten peace and lost the ability simply to live in it.
Almost as hard to deal with as the hallucinations of Hell were the memories he'd assimilated from his sojourn without a soul. Those memories felt as unreal as he knew the hallucinations to be, precisely because he didn't feel them. Oh, he remembered the physical sensations well enough; it was their dissociation from emotion that made them eerily flat. The things he remembered from that year and a half held a bizarre purity of precision. If anything, his memory for facts and events from that time was sharper and better than ever. After all he'd been through since, it was sometimes hard for him to remember having been in college or living with Jess, but he could pick any day from his soulless period and virtually relive it with an uncanny clarity brutal in its intensity. And what made it worse was that, while he looked back on everything he'd seen and done, he faced it now with all the weight of emotional understanding and reaction he'd been lacking at the time right along with his soul.
Take Thanksgiving. It had caught him by surprise – which he remembered/felt as a vague, slightly uncomfortable and mildly irritating disruption in the expected flow of events – when Samuel had pulled him off a case to attend a Campbell family dinner …
“I don't get you, Sam.”
When his grandfather had first turned up one day – some four months after Sam had emerged from Hell – with a couple of Campbell cousins in tow and explained who he was, Sam had been curious and intrigued by the puzzle of his existence. For his part, Samuel had seemed happy to meet his younger grandson, telling him stories about Mary and Deanna as if he could have brought them back through words. The memory made Sam ache now, though he'd felt no reaction at all at the time. And he felt guilty about still not having shared any of those stories with Dean. Dean would have laughed to hear about Mary dumping a canister of salt on her dad when she adamantly refused to go on a hunt so she could go to her prom with John instead ...
It was only as the days and weeks passed that Sam had seen doubts and unease growing in Samuel's eyes every time his grandfather looked at him. Confronting Samuel's veiled but growing suspicion and realizing it was disturbing the efficiency of the hunt, Sam began carefully analyzing every question, every comment, every situation, trying to give the responses Samuel obviously desired and expected, but with clearly imperfect results. This time, glancing across the van at Samuel's troubled face, he just opted to ask.
“What do you mean?”
“Kid, you're a hunting machine. You may be the best I've ever seen. But isn't there anything else in you at all? You've just gone from hunt to hunt from the day we met. Everybody needs some down time, some family support.”
“I don't.” When he'd said it, it had been the absolute truth. Hunting satisfied him in some way he didn't feel a need to define; it's what he'd been made for, what he was perfect at. He knew he was better than Christian, Mark, Dave, Gwen, or any of the other cousins, and the only edge Samuel had was his broader experience, the encyclopedic knowledge Sam simply hadn't yet lived long enough to acquire. But he would.
Samuel shook his head, the disquiet deep in his eyes beginning to shade into something else, something darker, before he turned his attention back to the sunlit suburban neighborhood street around them, lined with interchangeable houses. Sam looked for the right words to deflect his undesirable curiosity.
“Look, I get it. I do. But – I made it back from Hell for a reason, and this is it. I'm a hunter. It's what I do. What I'm meant to do. And I'm good at it.”
“You'll get no argument from me. But what are you hunting for? If it's just to kill, sooner or later, you're going to kill yourself, or someone who's relying on you.”
“That's not it.” The reassurance came readily to his lips because he knew the appropriate answer to this one. After all, how many times had Dean said it, nearly all their lives? “It's saving people that matters. Saving people, hunting things – the family business.”
He knew the words were right, but they didn't have the effect he'd wanted: hands flexing on the steering wheel, Samuel still looked unsatisfied, and Sam wondered if he'd missed some vocal inflection that would have persuaded his grandfather of his sincerity.
“The family business … got that right. But what does family mean to you, Sam?”
That was an easy one, too.
“Dean and Dad.” It occurred to him an instant too late that the list was a little short; he forced a laugh. “Sorry: force of habit. We never knew about Mom's side of the family until Dean got sent into the past; it was always just the three of us.” That still sounded a little too bald, and he hastened to fill it in. “Even before Dean got sent back, when I looked for Mom's relatives and friends, every one I found was already dead.”
“Yeah; I found that too. I had to go pretty far into the cousins before I found anyone still active, and they were all pretty green. Seemed like most of a generation had been hunted down and killed.” Samuel stole a sideways glance. “Know anything about that?”
“Probably what you already do.” Sam was tired of the tests, especially when they were this obvious. “Demons and angels both wanted to isolate Dean and me. Guess it worked.”
That bought a moment of silence.
“Guess it did,” Samuel agreed, finally. “Sorry. Anyway, I had an advantage, knowing about the family network. Dug up some of the caches, rebuilt the missing links – brought the whole family back together. Hell: that farm we're working from? It's been a Campbell property since the middle of the 1800's. And that's what this is all about: sharing Thanksgiving, being family, remembering why we hunt. Holidays put the family in the family business. I can't believe your daddy didn't spend at least Christmas and Thanksgiving with you boys, not hunting.”
Sam frowned absently in thought as he browsed back quickly through a flat sameness of memories of hotel rooms and cheap cabins lit by flickering TVs with occasional half-hearted attempts at decorations and cheer, and then shrugged.
“I guess – he tried, at least when we were little. But it was just the three of us even then, nothing much different from any other day.”
“Damn, son. I wouldn't have thought …” Samuel broke off, then shook his head again. “That could explain a lot. Hard to imagine John that way, though. He was … such a civilian.”
“Not after Mom died. Hunting was everything, after that.”
“Then it's past time you learned something different. Here we are.” Samuel pulled the van over to the curb in front of a two-story colonial house virtually identical to all the others they'd been driving past for the last twenty minutes. There were four cars already parked in the driveway and several more on the street. A few houses down, that same pattern was repeated; more families than the Campbells had gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. “Bring the beer.”
Christian opened the door when they rang the bell, wearing an easy smile.
“Thought you were going to be late. Arlene's about ready to take the turkey out of the oven; grab a chair.”
There were almost a dozen people already gathering around the dining room table, and five kids at their own smaller table in the kitchen. Sam had met Christian, Gwen, Mark, Dave, and Samuel, but all the others were new, and some of them were surprising. Christian's wife, Arlene, turned out to be a plump, pretty pharmacist at Walgreen's. Portly cousin Hank, visiting with his wife Geri and their two kids, ran a sporting goods store in Joplin, Missouri. David Braddock, an Illinois cousin by marriage, looked overdressed in a neatly tailored business suit, but it fit with his corporate lawyer image. Samuel laughed at Sam's discomfiture.
“All Campbells are hunters, boy – just not all the same way. Always been like that. When I married Deanna, we were both young, like Gwen and Mark, here; we loved the wandering life. We spent years on the road, hunting. When Deanna got pregnant, though, she insisted we settle down; we bought the place in Lawrence, and I took a job doing electronics repairs. We became part of the information network, feeding news to other active hunters. Once Mary got old enough, we started hunting again, but only on weekends, and close to home. And Deanna flat-out refused to have both of us hunting at the same time, just in case.”
“Good thing, too!” Arlene interjected, setting a bowl of stuffing on the table. “If Christian and I finally get lucky and have kids, we're going to take the time to raise them, not chance turning them into orphans. Hunting can wait.”
“There will always be monsters to hunt,” Christian agreed amiably. “And in between, you keep our first aid kits stocked.”
“I used to feel superfluous,” Hank said. “Then I realized how important it was for hunters to get specialty ammunition and supplies. Now – I still feel like the fat kid in gym class, but I also know that what I do matters.”
“Like getting hunters out of jail?” Braddock asked wryly. “When Debbie told me what her family did, I thought she was nuts. Then she took me along on a ghost hunt. Now, I don't know how many family hunters have my number in their Rolodexes.”
“We never knew about any of you,” Sam said, and Samuel chuckled.
“Campbells always kept it in the family.” His smile faded, and he shook his head. “From what I learned, Mary shut everybody out after her mom and I died; she refused every contact that had anything to do with hunting. She closed you off. When she died, I know from the family journals that at least one of her uncles tried to reach John. I don't know what happened, but whatever it was, he wound up dead and your daddy cut and ran with you boys.” He looked across the table at Sam, and his eyes were sad. “I regret that more than I can say, Sam.”
A quick glance around the table showed all too many eyes on him; Sam took a shot in the dark, hoping it would be good enough.
“I wish – Dad could have known about you.” He gauged their expressions quickly, and sensed he was on the right track. “It would have helped if he hadn't thought he was alone.”
“Well, you're not alone any more,” Gwen said and smiled, offering a plate. “Crescent rolls?”
Wearing an apron and drying his hands on a towel, Bobby opened the door to reveal Jody Mills standing on the stoop, carrying a foil-wrapped pie plate in her gloved hands and with an overnight bag slung over her shoulder. She flashed a lopsided smile and held out the pie.
“Thought I'd bring along dessert. Can I come in?”
“Seeing as you own the house, I'd be hard-put to say no.”
“Such good manners,” she teased, and slid past him as he quickly closed the door behind her, trying to keep the heat inside.
“Do us both a favor and hide the pie. I'm expecting the boys any time now, and pie has a very short lifespan in the vicinity of Dean Winchester.”
She laughed but vanished dutifully into the kitchen, and when she came back out, stripping off her jacket and gloves, the pie was nowhere to be seen. Bobby took her bag and held out a hangar for her coat; she took it and hung it up as smoothly as if all their moves had been rehearsed. Getting a full view of his apron, which bore the picture of a wine glass and bottle and the legend, “Mature, Robust, Spicy, and Full-Bodied (and the wine's not bad either),” she laughed out loud. He glanced down and then back up, looking abashed, and shook his head.
“Boys' idea of a joke,” he mumbled.
“I don't know,” she said teasingly. “Kind of works for me. Speaking of – got any wine handy? I could use a drink.”
“Right back where you were,” he said, and escorted her back into the kitchen. A bottle was already sitting open on the counter, and she moved without conscious thought to take down a glass from the cabinet and pour while Bobby fussed with the oven, rearranging foil-wrapped sweet potatoes around the big roasting pan holding a nicely browned turkey. Jody perched on a chair and watched him, smiling.
“I want to thank you for inviting me to Thanksgiving dinner, Bobby. I've been at loose ends the last couple of years; this feels … nice.”
“Thanks for loaning the house. Hard to find decent places the Leviathan don't already know about,” he answered, still gruff with embarrassment, and she shook her head as she looked around.
“It belonged to Sean's folks. Old family tradition out here, saving up to have a summer lake house. They gave it to us for our honeymoon cottage, 'cause we sure couldn't afford a trip anywhere! We used to bring Owen here every day off during the summer; he loved it. I haven't been back since ...”
Her voice trailed off and he carefully didn't look at her. They both had bad memories of zombies rising in Sioux Falls, and he silently conceded that her memories of her dead son killing and eating her husband were worse than his remembrance of having to kill Karen a second time.
“I'd probably just have sold the place if the bottom hadn't dropped out of the real estate market. Hell of a thing when it costs less to keep a house than to sell it. You've done a nice job fixing it up.”
“Can only research so many hours during the day,” he said disparagingly. “And if I hadn't insulated it, I'd have frozen my ass off.”
“Still – thanks. For everything.”
The sound of an engine grumbling outside and tires crunching on gravel broke the awkwardness.
“I'll get the door,” she said. “You just stick with feeding us.”
The expressions on the brothers' faces when she opened the door were good for another laugh; it was immediately clear Bobby hadn't told them to expect her. Sam just looked surprised. Dean's eyes tracked immediately to the sounds of Bobby puttering in the kitchen and then flitted back to her face; she could see him doing the math, and just for her own amusement, she winked at him. She didn't think all the pink in his ears came from the cold.
“Uhh, Sheriff ...”
“Jody,” she said firmly. “Just 'Jody.' Let's leave the 'Sheriff' bit well enough alone, shall we? I'd hate to have to arrest you.” When they still didn't move, she gave an exaggerated sigh and swung the door open wider. “So: are you going to come in, or are you really planning on trying to heat the plains with one little furnace?”
“No, ma'am,” Dean said piously, and they both hustled inside, hauling a duffel apiece and each with one hand toting half the weight of a loaded cooler. She saw the silent, urgent messages flickering between them as they obviously struggled to figure out where they should dump their stuff; the tiny lake cabin had only two bedrooms, and they clearly knew which room Bobby had been using. She enjoyed their embarrassed confusion for another moment before taking pity on them.
“Cooler in the kitchen, and why don't you drop your bags in the back bedroom?” She casually picked up her own weekender from the closet floor and carried it past them, staking out her own territory by dropping it inside the door of Bobby's room, then turning back to smile and take a sip of her wine. Dean swallowed and Sam nodded.
“And for goodness sakes, stop calling me 'ma'am!' I am not old enough to be your mother, and I'm certainly nobody's madam!” She shook her head, turned her back on them, and strode into the kitchen, catching the flabbergasted look on Bobby's face as he took it all in from his sentry post by the stove. She set the wineglass on the table and put her hands on her hips.
“I'm tired of waiting around, Bobby Singer. If I've learned one thing in the past couple of years, it's not to wait for right or perfect moments for good things to happen; it's to make them happen. Got any disagreement with that?”
Looking more than a trifle stunned, he shook his head.
“No, ma'am. I mean, Sheriff. Jody.”
“You'll get there.” She took the three requisite steps to cross the space between them, reached up with both hands to lace her fingers behind his head, and drew his head down while rising up on the balls of her feet to kiss him. She took her time, and when she finished, let him go, looking satisfied. “I've been wanting to do that for a while. No time like the present.”
Feet shuffled behind her and she heard an ostentatious cough. Sliding an arm deliberately around Bobby's waist, she turned casually to face the Winchesters, still awkwardly carrying the obviously forgotten cooler between them. She smiled sweetly, and then outright grinned as she felt Bobby's arm slip around her own waist.
“Why don't you just set that down in the corner over there? And then set the table? Dishes are in the second cabinet on the left, silverware in the middle drawer.”
“Might as well grab yourselves a beer while you're at it,” Bobby added.
Hunters were nothing if not adaptable. Jody had to grant the brothers full points for the speed with which they exchanged a single speaking look, then set down the cooler, opened it, took out a beer apiece, and moved in perfect concert with Dean heading automatically for the dishes while Sam dealt with the silverware. Neither made a single verbal comment. Dean smirked once, but Sam elbowed him in the ribs as he walked past and he looked suitably chastened. And with that, all the awkwardness passed.
By the time they sat down to eat, the conversation flowed easily. Dean cracked jokes about their “little house on the prairie,” Sam rolled his eyes and stole Dean's green beans, and Bobby smacked Dean's reaching fingers with a spoon when he made a grab for the last crescent roll, offering the plate to Jody instead. When Jody brought out the pumpkin pie she'd baked for dessert, she couldn't help but laugh at Dean's melodramatic reaction of appreciation, and grinned for the orgasmic expression on his face as he devoured twice as much pie as anyone else at the table.
After dinner, the brothers wound up in front of the television, shouting at football teams, while Bobby and Jody did dishes. Jody grinned to realize the brothers mirrored the big NFL contest: Dean was rooting for the Baltimore Ravens while Sam cheered on the losing San Francisco team, both aware the team coaches – like them – were older and younger brothers. All four of them were settled in front of the tube by the end of the game, when the brother coaches met and hugged in the middle of the field, and Bobby teasingly asked if Dean and Sam would hug out their competitive differences the same way. Dean threw popcorn at him and Sam just shook his head and poked his brother in the ribs, and Jody basked in the warmth and sense of family she hadn't felt in literal years, not since she'd watched the bodies of her husband and son burn after the dead had walked in Sioux Falls.
It felt like … Thanksgiving.
Neither of the brothers had made it to a bed. Dean was crashed out on the couch in a comfortable sprawl. Judging by his quiet, easy breathing, he was simply asleep rather than passed out for once. The bottle of whiskey on the table next to him was still nearly full, and Bobby counted that a win. Sam had fallen asleep where he'd been sitting on the thick sheepskin rug beside the couch, his back against the sofa and his head pillowed on one arm flung across the cushion. His scarred hand lay a scant inch from Dean's leg. That proximity whispered reassurance and security, as if, even asleep, the brothers were aware of each others' presence and drew comfort from it.
“Should we …?” Jody gestured toward the boys but kept her voice low, a sultry whisper he found irresistibly alluring, and he shook his head and answered in kind.
“Nah; not worth it. They're good where they are. Just – hand me that?”
Following his pointing finger, she tossed him one of the blankets folded over the back of the armchair, and he spread it gently over Sam's body and legs. When he turned back, he found her offering a second blanket, and he smiled silent thanks and used it to cover Dean. She led the way back into the cabin's little kitchen, and he turned off the TV and followed her.
He cut her off by the simple expedient of kissing her. When he pulled back, he framed her face with his hands.
“You taught me something today,” he said. “You taught me that, sometimes, we just have to make our own happiness, the same way we make our own family. Those boys are my family. We've got nothing in common but experience, but they're my boys for all that, as much as if I were their daddy. We hunt to protect each other, to save each other, because we're family. We need each other to be happy, because we're family.
“And you're my family, too. If you want to be, that is.”
For a long moment she just looked at him. He wondered what she saw – if she was seeing the years of drunk and disorderly arrests, the mail fraud cases, the allegations of grave desecration, the boarded-up, half-abandoned house that had become less and less a home after Karen's death – or if she was seeing something he could never perceive in his own mirror, any more than those two boys asleep in the living room could see themselves through his eyes, glory and grief and love and flaws and all.
And then she smiled, and he stopped wondering.
“I would like that very much, Bobby Singer,” she said, and laced her fingers through his. And she was the one who led the way to the bedroom and shut the door behind them.
And it was Thanksgiving.