The beads of time pass slow
The sky is so brightly blue it almost hurts to look at it and its flashing, stunning color makes the road look flatly gray in return and brings out the red and the green of the bushes on its sides, like there's a big flashlight pointed on them: the only sounds are the radio vomiting out the familiar notes of “In my time of dying” and the engine of the Impala, that is making that menacing labored noise again.
Dean taps on the steering wheel in time with the music, trying to ignore it, to keep his mind away from the thought that something very, very bad is going to happen: he looks around but there's nothing to see, because the road is as empty as a desert, no cars, no houses, not one thing to focus on.
Just the road, the bushes and the blinding blue sky.
It has been more than two hours since they passed through the last town, where they couldn't even tell if someone was still living there or not, because everything was so quiet, empty and desolated that they decided to just keep driving, even though they needed food and water: they didn't know what could be lurking behind the windows of the silent buildings that surrounded them.
These days not even a bright, sunny morning could guarantee safety.
- We are in the middle of the fucking nowhere!-
Sam turns to face him, his face straight and emotionless: he's tired as fuck, Dean can tell from the way his eyes look numb and indifferent to everything, from the way he barely moves when he talks to him.
- I'm surprised you're still surprised about it. It has been like this basically since day one!-
- I know, I know, dammit. Can you please at least check the damn map again? We need to find a place to stop as soon as we can, I think something is wrong with the car. Just what we need right now, fuck it. -
- I thought you had fixed it! You said everything was ok now. -
- Yeah, me too, but apparently I didn't, I'm not a mechanic, sue me! Come on, Sam, do something useful instead of bitching like a little girl. -
Sam falls silent again for a few minutes and Dean steals a few glances at him: he looks thinner and older than he was before they decided to start this probably useless trip, his hair are getting too long, his clothes are dusty and overused and there's a sort of vacancy in his eyes that Dean fears more than everything else.
- You can be on the road your whole life and be just fine, but then you settle down, you buy a nice house, marry a good girl, have kids: you think you done with that life. You get used to it, to the normal life, to the comforts... that's when the road gets you, when it crushes you if you start driving again, it doesn't matter if you have to or want to. It drains you, Dean, it takes everything away from you and leaves you broken and empty. So if you wanna stop, just stop forever or keep moving until you die on that fucking road. -
That's what his dad told him after Sammy left, his eyes bloodshot and angry, his voice rough and disappointed; Dean remembers feeling guilty even though he wasn't the one to blame: he was still there, with him, he was the good son.
It was Sammy the one who left, the one who gave up on them, on their life, on the family business.
Dean feels a stab of pain at the thought of John, sees his face again in his mind, can hear his voice as clear as if he was there with him and it takes all his willpower to make himself stop doing that, to take his mind away from those thoughts and focus on the present again.
- So? I didn't know reading a damn map could take so fucking long for a genius like you!-
He regrets those words and the angry sound they have as soon as they leave his lips; the pissed look on Sam's face just makes him feel worse than he already does.
Makes him want to punch things, scream and just let out all the bottled anger he carries within himself.
- There should be a town called Spring Creek, we should reach it on... an hour or so I think. -
- Should? I think? You're sure or you're not sure, Sammy, I can't take all this “maybe”, “I think” crap anymore!-
- It's on the map, but who knows if it still exist or if people still live there. After what happened, it could be another ghost town like the one we just passed or worse, I'm just trying to be realistic here, Dean. Calm the fuck down, ok? -
Dean doesn't reply, because he knows Sam is right: after the Killer Flu, lots and lots of towns were abandoned, becoming basically big graveyards; people tried to stick together as much as they could and at the same time tried to leave the past behind, he can understand that.
If your whole family dies, but you don't, would you want to stay when it happened?
So that's how it is now: a government that barely gives a shit about anything that isn't trying to stay afloat in this sea of shit, small, scattered communities and ghost cities.
- Well, I really hope this one is still there, cause I really don't like this noise Baby is doing. -
- Yeah, me neither. Plus we need supplies, some sleep and possibly a bath, I can't stand your smell anymore, man!-
They look at each other for a moment: then Sam quietly laughs and Dean follows, his outburst forgotten for the moment: even the zombie look leaves his brother's face and Sammy, the old Sammy, comes back.
- Oh fuck it, let's put something else on. -
- Dude, you love “Kashmir”!-
- I do, but “Kashmir” needs the right state of mind to be fully appreciated ok, and this is not its time. Ah, this'll work!-
“Black dog” starts playing and Sam laugh when Dean starts singing, imitating Plant's voice.
It feels good to be still able to see his brother smile like he means it, because Dean isn't sure he can do that anymore.
Spring Creek still exists, all dusty streets, a few decadent houses and a sad countryside look, but it feels alive: smells of meals getting cooked, of people, smells of a past that seemed to be long gone when they were far from everything, but that apparently still resists somewhere.
It's half past noon when they park in front of the small gas station: there's no one around, but Dean can feel they're being watched behind the apparently blind eyes of the houses around them.
A man comes out from one and stands on his porch staring at them for a moment, before turning his back and going back inside, without saying a single word to the brothers.
- Friendly, the people around here. -
- Can you blame them? I'd be scared shitless of any stranger coming to my town if I were them. -
- Yeah, you're right. Come on, let's go. -
The small shop is closed and a tiny sign says: “Be right back!”.
So they wait, moving around restlessly under the merciless sun, drinking what is left of their last two bottles of water and eating something in silence: sometimes Sam looks at him like he wants to talk, but he never does, because he doesn't know what to say or can't find the right words.
But Dean knows that one day, sooner than later, he will and he'll have to find more lies, more excuses, more walls to hide behind.
- Damn, how “right back” is that “be right back”?! We have been sitting here for ages... -
- Yeah, I noticed. -
- And of course no one gives a rat ass about us, no, they just keep hiding behind their nice doors!-
- Should we go and take a better look at the place?-
- I'm not sure we can do that without getting gunned down cause these people think we may be infected, I say we don't push it. -
- You're right, I guess... -
Sam gets up and goes taking another look at the door of the shop, covered is a layer of dusty fliers, while Dean opens a beer, but stops drinking it after the first sip cause it's hot and tastes like piss: he throws it away and the bottle hits a street lamp, shattering.
- Dude! What the hell?!-
- Sorry, it slipped... -
- Yeah, right, Dean. Calm down ok? And come here, I think I found something. -
Peeling through the layers of fliers glued on the shop's door, Sam finds another one that has the same handwriting of the other one.
- It says: “If I'm out, you need something and are in a hurry, go knock at the house in front of the shop: knock very, very loud. Cannot guarantee you'll get help, but you can try.” What the... -
- That makes no sense, who lives there? The owner's own Little Red Riding Hood deaf grandma?!-
- Should we go trying?-
- It's not like we have a choice!-
The house in front of the shop could use some serious maintenance: the painting is peeling off everywhere, the garden looks more like a small jungle and the stairs make menacing cracking sounds at every step.
Sam starts knocking, hard enough to wake up the whole town and possibly take the door down, but no one comes or even answers.
- This places is a fucking mess. -
- Yeah, I can see that. -
- Hello! Anybody home?-
- Hello! Can you hear us?-
- There's no one here, man. We should go knock at one of those pretty houses, not here at this rotting place!-
But Sam keeps knocking and calling, like he's trying to prove something to Dean and to himself, like making whoever lives in that damn place answer is his true life mission and finally, after at least ten minutes, the door opens.
And the guy that appears in front of them looks even more pitiful than the house.
He's about Dean's age, big, bright, blue eyes peaking and shining under a mess of dark and untamed hair.
He's barefoot and confused: from the look in his eyes, he was obviously sleeping and judging by the smell of booze that comes from him in seriously hangover.
- Oh dear God, what the hell, man?!-
Sam looks at him and Dean just shrugs: the guy is covering his face with one hand, trying to protect his eyes from the sunlight and at the same time to get a look of them.
- Hey, hi, sorry we bothered you but we found this on the gas station's door, it says to come knocking here if no one was there. -
- Oh God, you talk so fast, calm down, dude, ok? Give me a sec, I have the worst headache ever!-
Dean laugh bitterly.
- Yeah, I bet, what did you do? Found a liquor store and drank it?-
The man looks at him and laughs, his whole face coming alive while he does that, making him look younger and different from the broken shell he appears to be right now.
- Nice one, buddy, nice one. Ah, I need some water, be right back. -
He turns around without even bothering closing the door and Dean takes that as an invitation to come in: the house is surprisingly clean, something you wouldn’t expect from a guy in that shape, no left overs stashed everywhere, just a couple of empty beer bottles on the coffee table.
- Ah, much better. So, you were saying? And wow! You're tall! And you're not... but I guess you compensate with your good look. -
Sam looks confused, but decides to ignore the comment and so does Dean.
- We found this on the gas station's door, it says to come here if no one's there. -
- Oh, I see... Anna must be out, damn, she knows not to do that, I'm not exactly helpful. -
- My... sister, she minds the place, well we both own it, but she does that hard work. I'm Cas. -
Sam shakes his hand and Cas smiles at him, then turns to Dean with an even bigger smile; it's friendly in an almost creepy way, but he takes his hand anyway, his grip surprisingly strong and firm.
- I'm Dean and this is my brother Sam. -
- Nice to meet you, Dean and brother Sam.
The man keeps staring, his eyes shifting between them, like he's expecting something, but is not sure what exactly.
- So? You can help or not?-
Dean is surprised by sound of his voice, harsher and angrier than he wanted it to be; Cas, however, doesn't seem to notice it or if he does he just doesn't show it: his eyes focus on Dean, scanning his face with an amused light in them.
- Right, right. Of course! I'll go get the keys so I can open the place for you. Well, if I can find them. -
He starts climbing the stairs but stops midway.
- You're not infected or killer or robbers, right?-
Dean looks at him with an incredulous expression on his face.
- Don't you think it's a little bit late to ask that?!-
- Oh, yeah, probably. But... you're not, right?-
- Of course not!-
Cas nods, satisfied.
- Good, good. Be right back. -
And then he disappears up the stairs, leaving the brothers even more confused.
- Wow, that was weird... -
Sam tries to keep his voice down, like he was worried Cas could hear them.
- Yep, I agree, but if he can help us... -
- Yeah, it's not like we have any other option unless this Anna decides to come back right now. -
- And with the rest of these people ignoring us, I think he'll have to make due. -
- Yeah, he didn't even worry too much about the fact the we could be infected or something worst, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't even asked if it hadn't remembered... -
- Guess he's far too gone for that. -
Sam quietly chuckles.
- Got them! Let's go... -
The brothers follow Cas outside and Dean notices, with a weird sort of relief, that the man remembered to put shoes on.
- So, what are you guys doing in this fair town forgotten by God anyway?-
Cas is leaning against the counter, sipping a beer and looking at them as they go through the shelves of the shop.
- Just passing through, we're trying to reach a friend. -
- He lives around here?-
- South Dakota. -
- Wow... you have a long way to go!-
- You have a mechanic here? I think our car needs some fixing. -
Cas remains quiet for a moment and Dean takes a good look at him: his clothes are washed out and maybe a size or two too big, but they look clean and still in a decent shape, his cheeks are dark with stubble, his hair are far too messy and he has that used look that drinkers and addicts have, but in his eyes there's still a sort of sparkle of life, like the world can still be interesting for him no matter how screwed up it is.
It's the same sparkle that Sammy has, but while his brother seems to be full of it, he can only see a small and pale glimpse in Cas.
- My brother Gabriel can have a look at it, I guess. -
- He's a mechanic?-
- Not really, he's just good with his hands. -
- How many brothers and sisters you have?-
- Oh, more than you can imagine! But they're gone, it's just me, Anna and Gabe now. -
Dean lowers his gaze, feeling suddenly uncomfortable.
- Sorry, man. -
- Oh, don't worry, it's fine. They're not dead, they're just... gone. -
But judging by the look in his eyes, clouded and pained no matter how much he tries to smile and hide it, it's not ok at all and Dean feels bad, because he know how he feels, he has been there.
Hell, he's still there and tries not to think about it, tries to forget the empty hole he feels in his chest since his father died, tries to pretend he's fine, that nothing is wrong.
The door suddenly opens and a gorgeous redhead girl, obviously in a hurry, comes in slightly breathless and sweaty.
- What are you doing here? Isn't it far too early for you to be out of your hole, Count Orlok?-
- Hello to you too, sister! And I was just helping these two fine gentlemen while you were... well, wherever you were. -
The girl who is obviously Anna seems to notice the brothers just then, stares at them for a few seconds and then looks back at her brother.
- You opened the store for them?!-
- You were out. And they knocked very very hard! And you always say I should get more involved in... things. Don't worry, I asked if they were infected before letting them in. -
Anna rolls her eyes, but when she looks at the brothers again, she's smiling.
- Hi! I'm Anna, Cas's sister, nice to meet you, guys. -
Anna shakes their hands while they introduce and have some basic and uninteresting small talk; Dean can't help but thinking about how different she feels from Cas and that they don't look alike at all: she looks fresh, alive, while he has this haunted look that never leaves, that lurks behind his eyes and in the laziness of his gestures, like even breathing is too much effort for him sometimes.
Dean looks at Sam and wonder if when people look at them, they see the same thing: the sunshine boy and his broken brother.
Sam is talking to Anna like it's the easiest thing ever, like they have known each other their whole lives, while Dean just watches them in silence, not even trying to join the conversation: Cas is looking at him, all piercing blue eyes and faint smiles.
- Cas was telling us that your brother Gabriel can take a look at our car, there's something wrong with it and we need to know if it's bad. -
- Oh, of course. Gabe should be home right now, right?-
Cas shrugs, while opening his third beer.
- Don't know where else he could be. -
- Well, let's go then. I was going to close the place for today anyway. -
- Thank you so much, you two have no reason to help us so much, really. -
Anna briefly turns to look at Cas.
- Let's just say that helping people is kinda out mission. -
Gabriel's house is five minutes away from the station, an old place that somehow is still able to maintain its dignity intact no matter how battered it looks; and the famous Gabriel is just the same: a sarcastic smile on his lips and a look of aristocratic decadence on his face and in the way he moves and talks, like he doesn't care about anything, but still wants to make an impression.
And he does, even with his plain clothes and apparently mundane appearance: you can't help but staring at him.
- Look who comes visiting me: my delicious sister and my surprisingly still alive brother. And you two must be the new butlers, I'm disappointed though, where are the suits?!-
Gabriel lights a cigarette.
- Funny, Gabe. These are Sam and Dean, they need you to take a look at their car. -
Gabriel doesn't offer to shake their hands, instead he stares at them, like he's deciding if he's willing to give them the precious gift of his attention or not: Dean fights the impulse to punch him, when his eyes focus on Sam too long he thinks he's decent to.
- Will they pay in nature? I like the tall one, not so much the other, too serious business for my taste. I can leave him to you, Cas. -
Anna rolls her eyes, but she's smiling.
- Please, Gabriel?-
- How can I resist you, sis, when you ask so nicely? Come on, show me this beast. -
- You guys wanna go for a town tour?-
Anna is smiling softly, while they're sitting on the stairs of Gabriel's house, Cas and Dean drinking beer, Sam and the girl some iced tea while the man works on the car: her eyes focus on Cas, a worried and loving look on her face, a look that the man is obviously doing his best to ignore.
- No, I'm staying here, can't leave Baby alone. -
Sam rolls his eyes and sights.
- It's the car, she's his one true love. Just... ignore him, Anna. I'd like to take a look at this place. -
- Oh, I see, I see. Well, I can't argue with that. Great, let's go then, Sam! Cas, you coming?-
Cas looks at Dean then at Anna, thinks about it for a couple of seconds before shaking his head.
- Nah, I'm staying here, you two go and have fun. -
Sam and Anna leave and Dean observes them until they disappear from his sight: takes another sip of beer, enjoying the refreshing taste that cools his throat and sends shivers along his back.
- Your sister is very nice. -
- Mh, mh, a real angel. -
Cas is rolling himself a cigarette, lights it and then takes a deep, long breath, making a sound that is half a sight and half a moan when he breaths the smoke out; it sounds so weird and attractive and the way his face changes expression makes Dean feel uncomfortable, so he takes his eyes off him and focuses on Gabriel with his hands buried in the Impala's engine.
- Dude, is that weed?!-
- Yep, want some?-
- How the hell you manage to fine stuff like that these days?!
- Gabriel knows a lot of people. Who know other people, who apparently can get you pretty much everything you want. But I stick to booze and weed and sometimes painkillers. -
Dean laugh humorlessly.
- An healthy diet you have there. -
- I know right? Best way to have a long, happy life!-
- Somehow I think I would not like to meet the people your brother knows. -
Cas laughs out loud, throwing his head back.
- You really wouldn't. -
- Who is your brother, some sort of gangster?-
- Gabe is... a lot of things. And maybe a gangster is one of the few he isn't. I could tell you, but while spoil the mystery! -
Dean leaves it alone and the silence falls between them, only filled by Gabriel's work and by his small radio that is playing The Beatles “Run for your life”.
- I like this song, it's catchy not matter how fucked up the lyrics are, the beat is great. -
Cas smokes slowly, enjoying each breath like a convict, a pleased smile on his lips, his head moving following the beat of the song.
- You know, Lennon actually hated this song, he said it was his "least favorite Beatles song" . -
- Really? This makes me like it even more. -
- Yeah? Why?-
- Cause Lennon is pompous dick who thinks he's the best songwriter of all time. -
Dean looks at him confused for a couple of seconds, examining his face, trying to find that playful look again, but Cas face is actually serious, like he really means what he just said.
Like he knows it's true.
- Dude, you sound like you knew Lennon. -
Cas turns to face his, suddenly an almost worried expression on his face, like he let slip something he shouldn't have or said something incredibly stupid: he tries to laugh it off, but his laugh has the nervous ring of who tries to hard to make it sound genuine.
- Yeah, I did, yeah? Must be the weed, makes me confused, it has been a while since I last smoked one of these. Of course I didn't know him, he's been dead for a while, right?-
- Last time I checked he was pretty gone. -
- Exactly, right. Don't think about it. It was just me being stupid. -
Cas starts digging in his pockets and offers him a second joint, a wicked smile on his face.
- Ah man, I really shouldn't... -
- I'm not telling Sam, if you're not telling Anna. -
- What about Gabe there?-
- Ignore him, he won't talk. So, you want? -
Dean takes the joint and rolls it between its fingers for a while.
- How do I know you're not poisoning me or something? You could be some kind of freak for what I know. -
- I guess you have to trust me... -
- Man, I met you like... two hours ago at most!-
Cas laughs again, handing him his lighter.
- Come on, Dean Winchester, take a chance. -
Dean looks at him for a couple of seconds, before lightning the joint.
After he's too focused on smoking and talking to Cas to realize that he never told him his last name.
- So, buddy, I think we have a class A problem here. -
Gabriel emerges from the deeps of the Impala after an hour; Sam and Anna aren't back yet and Dean feels slightly light headed after smoking with Cas, but forces himself up and approaches him, followed by Cas, who is rubbing his eyes like he's about to fall asleep.
- What's wrong with her?-
- The head gasket is broken, you need a new one. The good thing is: I can fix it. The bad is that I don't have a replacement for this model so, in the end, I can't help. But I can tell you this: if you decide to just drive off into the sunset in these conditions, your car will eventually die, living you and your charming little brother in the middle of nowhere to die. -
Dean stares at him blankly, trying to grasp the meaning of what the man is telling him, to overcome the shock that reduced him to a gaping mess: the worst part of it is the little smile that Gabriel has on his lips, like he's happy about the whole thing.
- Wow, Gabe, way to be delicate! The poor thing here is on the verge of a stroke. -
Gabriel just shrugs it off, making it clear he doesn't care and Dean wants to punch him so hard to wipe that little smirk on his lips away from his face with his fists: before he does anything, Cas puts an hand on his shoulder and that touch seems to calm him down a little bit, even though the rage, the shock and the confusion are still making his blood burn like fire in his veins.
- Hey Dean, you ok?-
- What's wrong?-
Sam and Anna are back and when his brother sees the look on his face, he rushes at his side, possibly more worried about what he could do than about what happened.
- So? What's going on?-
- Oh, nothing, Sam. I was just explaining to your brother that your car is fucked. Pity, such a beautiful thing... -
- What? Are you sure?!-
Gabriel wipes his hands with a towel and takes a deep breath.
- Yes, I'm sure, but if you don't believe me, no one stops you from driving off and trying to find a real mechanic, I guess. But don't expect me to mourn your stupid asses when you two turn out dead somewhere. -
- Shut up, you bastard. -
- You better calm down, big boy. -
- Let's all calm down, ok? This solves nothing and certainly is not going to fix the car!-
Sam nods at Anna and is looking at Dean like he's scared he might just lose it and lash out at Gabriel; he notices that Cas hand is still on his shoulder and turn to face him, finding his deep, blue eyes staring at him.
Cas takes his hand off and backs off from him, like being caught staring is making him feeling suddenly self conscious.
- Gabe, can't you do something to help them?-
- I don't get why you two are putting so much effort in helping these two strangers! Why should I do that? Why should I care?-
Anna becomes suddenly serious, almost menacing.
- Because helping people is right, Gabriel, because that's... what we are supposed to do. -
They stare at each other, a battle of looks that only ends when Gabriel lowers his eyes and sights.
- I guess I could make a couple of calls tomorrow and see if someone I know can get a hold on the piece you need. -
- Tomorrow?! Why not tonight?!-
- Just... just ignore him, Gabriel, ok? Thank you so much, we appreciate it. -
Gabriel smiles a bit at Sam and nods, not even throwing one look at Dean.
- Yeah, you're welcome, I guess. I'm going to go take a shower now, you can leave the car here. See ya. -
- You two can stay over at Cas place tonight, he has a couple of spare bedrooms. -
Sam looks at him and Dean shrugs, feeling drained and tired by the events of the day: right now, even an half burnt barn would sound good as long as he can rest.
- Yeah, why not?-
Cas doesn't help them settling in his house, but follows them around like a lost puppy, watching them with an almost vacant look on his face: the place is big enough to easily fit a large family, but few rooms are used, the others, including the two the brother occupy, have the dusty smell of neglect and abandonment; they're actually clean, like the rest of the house, but they feel dull and empty.
The walls have been stripped of anything remotely personal and painted in neutral, boring colors, even though Dean's room still preserves traces of the old wallpaper: it was colorful and bright, possibly the room of a child and he can't help wondering what happened to him or her.
- It was already like this when I moved in, I didn't really touch anything, just repainted the walls. Well, I didn't, I asked someone to. -
- How long have you been living here?-
Cas sits on the bed while Dean empties his bag and puts his clothes in the big drawer.
- About five months, I think. -
- Why here?-
- Well, when we arrived... they weren't happy at first, the people here, they were suspicious, so we took this place: it was empty, big enough, far from the rest of the town, but not isolated. In the end they started to like us I guess, or at least Anna, she is good at making people like her. They allowed us to stay, Anna got her own place, Gabe the same, but I liked it here, this house, so I stayed. Anna said it was probably too big for me, but I don't really care, I like the silence, the peace. I like staying out of the spotlight as much as I can. -
- And who cleans it?-
Cas looks almost offended by the question.
- May sound impossible, but I'm not completely useless, you know? I can keep an house clean!-
Dean looks at him skeptically until the other starts to laugh softly.
- Just kidding, of course I can't do it, a very nice lady comes twice a week. -
- An housekeeper in times like these, incredible. -
- In times like these, people would do pretty much everything for some extra money. -
- And where you get yours?-
That wicked look returns on Cas face.
- Secret! You can't really expect me to tell you everything, can you? By the way, The bathroom is the last door on the left, in case you wanna take a shower, I'll put clean towels in there for you and your brother. -
Before Cas leave the room, Dean stops him.
- Hey, why you doing this? You don't even know us.-
Cas just smiles.
- And why not?-
Anna makes them dinner, but doesn't stay over with them, disappearing as soon as she's done cooking.
- I wish I could have dinner with you guys, but I already had plans, I'm sorry!-
- Don't worry, it's fine, we get it. -
Sam looks at ease, almost happy to be there and Dean has to admit that he looks like he belongs there.
- Be nice to them, keep them company, ok?-
- What am I, their babysitter? I'm sure they're tired of me. -
- Cas, come on, try at least!-
But Cas doesn't really try: he doesn't eat much, leaving his share to the brothers and then closes himself in a melancholic silence, curled on the couch with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pack of cigarettes, regular ones, in the other.
Sam tries to talk to him, but he barely answers: the day is over and as soon as the light disappears, what was left of Cas vitality seems to be gone with it; he looks numb, indifferent to everything and everyone around him, locked somewhere where apparently no one can touch him.
Dean knows that look: his father was just like that, one minute he was fine, the next he was clinging to a bottle like it was his own mother; it was horrible, pitiful, sad and almost disgusting, because it was Dean the one who had to help him back on his feet, the one who had to clean the vomit away from the motel's carpets and the one who had to lie to Sammy, telling him that their dad was just sick, not fucking wasted.
He loved his father more than he could tell, possibly more than it was right but those were times when, sometimes, he wished he was dead, so maybe Bobby would've take them him, give them a real home, a family.
John never touched them, never raised an hand on him or Sammy, but the state he was him sometimes was even worst, because maybe if he had been a violent bastard, Dean would have been able to hate him, instead of feeling guilty because he couldn't do anything to help him, to save him.
It was the worst feeling a young boy could feel and sometimes the pain was so strong, Dean thought he was going to choke on it and die in his sleep.
Things got better during the years, but those memories of their early years after their mom's death, are seared in Dean's brain.
Looking at Cas in this state just brings them back.
- I'm going to bed, I feel like shit. -
- Yeah, I'll go to sleep too. You think it's ok to just... you know... leave him here?-
Cas is staring at nothing, Dean is not even sure he can hear them in the state he's in.
- Yeah, he'll get over it eventually. -
- If you say so. -
- I know. -
The room feels foreign and unfamiliar, the bed is hard and not even the scent of the fresh sheets can cover the one of the dusty mattress, but Dean is so tired that he falls asleep almost as soon as his body touches the bed.
It was raining the day they burned their father's body: but they knew how to lit a fire even through the rain so that wasn't a problem.
Everything else was.
John was dead, their father was dead, the only family they had left was burning in front of them in a city in the middle of nowhere, too far from home, too far from everything that mattered to John and to them.
There was no one around, they were alone: Sam was crying, Dean wasn't, he was just staring at the flames consuming the body of the man who had been everything for him; his mentor, his role model, his hero, his...
Dean didn't want to think about that, it wasn't right and he wasn't supposed to remember, not now that he was gone forever, that everything was over.
Sam was crying, but Dean wasn't because he couldn't, he was the oldest son, he had to stay strong and watch out for Sammy, it was what his father kept telling him, over and over and over and over, until it became the only thing Dean could think about, the only thing that mattered for him.
But Sammy abandoned them, he ran away, leaving them behind and only came back when nothing could be done to set things right, when it was too late, when their father wasn't himself anymore, but was just a monster trapped in his body, who had his face, his body but that wasn't him.
- I never had the chance to say “I'm sorry”. -
Dean didn't say anything, didn't look away from the fire, didn't cry.
He suddenly remembered one of their happy days, when they were kids and their dad brought them to the beach somewhere on the east coast after a pretty hard job that took him away for almost two weeks.
- No hunting today, you kids enjoy yourself. -
Dean remembered the smell of the sea, the feeling of the sand under is feet, the wind on his face: remembered Sammy's laugh, his father's smile, remembered being happy.
He wakes up with that salty smell in his nose and in the back of his throat.
His cheeks are wet with tears.
Dean just wipes them off with the back of his hand are stares at the ceiling for the rest of the night, unable to sleep, unable to move, unable to do anything that is not laying there in silence.
Dean doesn't realize he fell asleep again, until he wakes up, the sun shining in his face through the window without curtains: for a moment, he can't even remember where he is, his head is numbed by the lack of sleep and the heaviness of his body, but then his brain catches up and he calms down.
He knows he should get up and go find Sam, but doesn't really want to right now, so he stays there, staring at the ceiling and letting his mind wander to the events of the previous day: this was supposed to be a quick stop before moving on, but now it doesn't look like it'll be that easy.
Dean takes a deep breath a massages his sore eyes with his palms, before getting up and heading to the bathroom: he takes a long, refreshing shower, feelings a lot better when he comes out of it.
It's half past nine and Sammy is still sleeping soundly, when Dean peaks in his room, his face buried in the pillow and snoring: he should wake him up, but, against his best judgment, doesn't and lets him sleep in; he can tell that he needs to.
Surprisingly, Cas is awake, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in his hands, looking outside the window: his face looks so peaceful, bathed in the morning sun, his blue eyes have a soft light in them, like something changed, like some of the weariness and sadness they had yesterday disappeared during the night.
- Good morning, Dean. -
Cas looks at him smiling, not that fake smile he sported the day before, but a genuine one, like he's really happy to see him.
- Hey, morning. -
- Coffee? Just made it. -
- Yeah, that sounds good. -
The man moves slowly in the kitchen, as quiet as a cat, then goes back at sitting in front of his, handing him a cup.
- Your brother's still sleeping?-
- Yeah, he needed to rest. -
- You didn't?-
- I'm fine. -
Cas nods, looking at him intently, exploring his face with his eyes, like there's some sort of mystery written all over it that he's trying to crack, while Dean drinks his coffee: there's a comfortable silence, one that doesn't need to be filled with unnecessary words and for the first time in a long time, he feels at ease with someone who is pretty much a total stranger; it's weird, but in a good way.
- Listen, I wanted to apologize. -
- What for?-
- Yesterday, during dinner, I... I was very rude with you and your brother. I'm sorry. -
- It's fine, man, really, no need to say anything. -
- No, I need to, so listen ok? Sometimes I... I have these moments. I'm sorry you two had to be there during one. I'm sure I looked like a total jerk, ignoring you two like that... -
- Cas, it's ok. Really. -
The man smiles and nods, sighting in relief.
- You drink a lot for being a nerdy, skinny guy. -
He laughs at the joke, that sound filling the room.
- Let's just say it's not really easy to get me drunk. I need a lot of booze if I want to. -
- What are you, a pro or something?-
- Nah, I'm just... very resistant. -
Dean nods and finishes his coffee.
- I should go wake up Sammy, so we can go to your brother. -
- I seriously doubt he's already awake. -
- And what are you doing awake so early when yesterday we almost has to knock your whole house down to get you up?-
- I didn't sleep at all. -
- Wow. -
Cas laugh, shaking his head like it's not a big deal at all.
- I'll go to the shop to see if Anna is there already, so she can try to get Gabe to do something helpful, feel free to eat something if you want. -
- Oh, ok, thanks. -
They look at each other for a while, silence filling the room again, their eyes locked to each other, until Cas lowers his gaze and leaves the room.
It's almost half past eleven when Anna, Cas and the brother arrive at Gabriel's house: the man is outside waiting for them, shaved and well dressed like he's meeting someone who matters and that he wants to impress.
- Hello, Sam. And hello... sorry your name was?-
- Cut it out, Gabe, please. -
- Uh, don't be so mean, sister. I was just saying hello to Sam and... Dean. You like when we are nice and polite, don't you?-
Anna rolls her eyes.
- Yeah, yeah, ok. You did good, now skip the pleasantries and go to the important things. -
Gabriel takes a deep breath.
- Right, so I spoke to a friend who lives in Virginia and who may be able to find the piece you need, if he's lucky. But it'll take time, at least three weeks and he's not even sure he can do it. My personal advice would be: just take another car, I'd pay good money for yours and you could leave in a couple of days... -
- No. -
- Dean... -
- I said no, Sam. We are not getting a new car, we are not selling this one. We will not do that, no matter how fucking desperate we are!-
No one says anything for a while, they just look at the two brother uncomfortably, like they found themselves in the middle of something they don't know and that is clearly hard to handle.
- Excuse us for a moment, ok?-
Anna smiles at them.
- Sure, no problem... -
Sam takes him away from the others.
- Are you out of your mind?! Do you want to stay stuck here for God knows how long?!-
- Of course I don't, Sammy, what the fuck are you saying?!-
- Then why?! Why are you being so damn difficult about it?-
Dean looks at him like he doesn't recognize the man in front of him.
- You just don't get it, do you?! That is dad's car, the only thing we have left of him. That car was his treasure, we grow up in that damn car, Sammy! We are not giving her away to the first motherfucker who asks just because we need to, ok?! We are not giving it away!-
Sam stares at him incredulous, confused and almost hurt by Dean's reaction.
- I know that! You think you're the only one who remembers? Well, you're not! But I thought you wanted to reach Bobby as soon as we could! I thought that was important too!-
Dean gets closer to him and grabs his collar, a scary and angry look in his eyes; Sam shivers under it, but remains still.
- We are not giving the Impala away. Not now, not never. I'll not hear another word about it, ok?-
Sam lowers his eyes and nods, but Dean can tell he's not happy about it: he doesn't care, Sam doesn't know what that car means, he will never know.
- Ok, Dean. Ok. We'll wait. -
He nods and let's him go.
- I... sorry. I knew you didn't mean it like that. It's just... that's all we have left. We can't lose that too. -
- I know, Dean, you're right. -
- Come on, let's go tell them they'll have to endure us for a while!-
Dean smiles at him.