It's almost too easy, getting used to waking up in a real bed, eating real food, not having to stop in the middle of nowhere to piss and having a place to come back to at the end of the day: Dean tries to fight it, the natural instinct inside him kicking in and warning him, using his father's voice, making up dangers everywhere, in the smallest details, in the tiniest comforts, at the point that everything starts to look bad in his eyes.
But in the end he can't help it: it has been too long, his body is tired, broken and Dean finds himself indulging in the small comforts a steady life has.
They have been there for three days and they already go in and out Cas's house like it's their own: the other man doesn't seems to mind, he almost looks happy to have people around even though he keeps much to himself, staying locked in his room most of the time, showing up pretty much only for meals.
Dean understands him: after been alone for so long, he's probably torn between giving in their company and keeping his distance from everything like he's used to; but he watches them, Dean can feel his eyes on him, on Sam, like he's studying them, trying to decide if losing most of his privacy is worthy or not.
Anna is friendly and warm, always smiling and taking care of them like an older sister would and even though she's not much older than Dean, she has a wise and mature look in her eyes that makes it almost too easy to trust her; Sam does so almost instantly, starts to help her at the shop and spends a big part oh his time talking to her.
Dean does his best to be nice, but keeps his distance, looks at them from a far, not even trying to get to know her any better than the faint first impression he had of her: he doesn't even know why, maybe he should try flirting with her, using his charm to win her over, but there's something in Anna that keeps him away, that builds a shield between them.
Maybe it's because she's too bright, too shiny, too alive; or maybe it's just because he's too tired even for that.
They see Gabriel only once during those first days: he briefly stops to give something to Cas, a small package that the other quickly hides from Anna disapproving gaze.
Cas gives Dean a knowing smirk while doing so, taking for granted that he would understand, that they have a secret and he smiles back even though he knows he shouldn't, that he shouldn’t share so much, that he should create bonds that have no reason to exist.
Before going away, Gabriel smiles to Sam, only to Sam and Dean is surprised when his brother smiles back.
The Winchesters have been living in Spring Creek for less than a week and it feels like the whole town already adopted Sam.
And after all, why they shouldn't?
He's nice to people, smiles at the old ladies, helps them with their groceries shopping, the children like him, he has that good kid look that after a while just wins people over as easily as Cas drinks a bottle of beer and slowly, slowly they start accepting him.
People still look at them suspiciously, always keeping a closer eye on them especially when they wander on their own without Cas, who barely leaves the house anyway, or Anna.
They have a small, but relaxed talk with the local sheriff, Victor Henriksen, where they're kindly informed that they better don't screw up or he could have to show them their way out of town.
But Sam in the ends wins him over too, the man clearly doesn't trust either of them, but is inclined to give them a chance.
- Miss Milton apparently thinks you two are worthy of her trust, I strongly suggest you don't betray it. She's... very important for the community. -
- Miss Milton? You mean Anna?-
- You live in her brother's house and didn't even bother asking them their last name?!-
- We have been busy. -
- I'm sure you have been. Well, have a nice day, gentlemen. -
The two brothers look at each other and then start laughing as soon as the sheriff is far enough not to hear them.
- Well that's new, considering how many times we broke the law with dad, it's certainly a change when the local sheriff is all friendly with you. -
- I know, right? Damn, they must really love Anna. -
- Well, she's very nice... -
- Oh, Sammy. I hope you're not crushing on her, loverboy. -
Sam laugh it off with an ease that almost makes Dean believe him.
- Don't worry, I'm not. -
- Whatever you say, Sammy, whatever you say. -
- It's true! I'm really not interested, Dean. I know, it sounds shocking but it's true. -
- Sure, Sammy. If you say you ain't interested, I believe you. -
Sam rolls his eyes and keeps laughing.
- No, you don't. You're a terrible liar, Dean. And I could detect your sarcasm even if I was deaf and blind! But it's true, really. I mean she's nice and sweet and everything, but... it's not for me. Plus, I'm pretty sure she's already seeing someone, but I think it's supposed to be a secret or something. -
- Really? How you know that?-
- She... kinda said something. But I didn't ask cause I felt she didn't want to talk about it. -
Dean nods, suddenly loosing interest in the matter as soon as it stopped being a way to harass his brother.
- Well, who would have said that even the angelic Anna Milton has her secrets. -
Sam starts working at the gas station more and more frequently, leaving Dean almost always on his own, bored and increasingly restless.
So one morning he wakes up earlier than everyone and goes washing the Impala, taking care of emptying the weapons stash the night before when he's sure everybody is asleep and hiding them carefully in the wardrobe.
It takes almost a whole day, because Dean is careful, methodical and takes his time polishing it until it's so clean and shiny it almost hurts to look at it in the still burning hot sun of these last days of September.
He washes it until it's restored to the pristine state his father kept it into.
During the first part of his mission, Cas stares at him for a while from inside the house, obviously enjoying seeing him sweating and working like a mad man and, in the end, even helps him, in the measure where changing the dirty water and giving him clean sponges when he needs them it's considered helping.
They don't really talk, Dean only tells him what to do and Cas obeys in his lazy and slow way, taking long pauses to smoke a cigarette or drink some beer.
But Dean doesn't mind: he likes it like this, washing the Impala was always something he liked doing alone even when John was alive: it's his private moment, something he keeps for himself, that treasure and protects from everyone, even from the ones who are closer to him.
When they stop for a few hours to eat something and rest, Cas doesn't even try to talk: it's like he understands, like he can read inside him and can see how much this means to him and that it's already something that he's allowed to help even so little.
And the weirdest thing is that Dean doesn't know why he's allowing him to, why doing things with Cas feels so natural and simple.
Cas smiles happily at him when they're done, like he feels accomplished and satisfied with himself, even though e didn't really do anything.
- Well, that was fun... I hope I wasn't in your way too much, I'm a mess in these things.-
- You were ok. -
- I'm glad my performance was satisfying you, mister. -
Dean can't help but laughing, when Cas theatrically bows to him.
- Feeling lonely? I hope so, cause I feel like that too and your brother and my sister are too lost in their own small little world to listen and it's pissing me off. -
Dean is sitting on the stairs at the back of Cas's house, looking at the garden at sunset, the wild grass and the trees looking softer and dream like in the orange light; Cas sits next to him, smocking a cigarette and looking relaxed and almost happy, something that doesn't really happens at this time of the day.
- I'm not feeling in any particular way, honestly. -
- Nice, you're bored, I'm bored, it's just perfect. -
Cas offers him a cigarette and Dean takes it just to keep his hands and his mind busy for a while: they smoke in silence for a few minutes, looking at the sun slowly disappearing from their sight; there isn't much space on the stairs and they're sitting so close to each other that their shoulders and their knees are touching, but Dean doesn't mind.
It's fine, it feels fine, he can dig this: the silence, the quiet sounds that Cas makes, the light feeling of his body next to his own; it feels fine.
- So, you like it here?-
- It's ok, I guess. -
Cas nods, a small smile appearing on his chapped lips.
- The people here are a bit cold at first, but it'll get better once they get used to you. -
- There's no reason why they should, thought. -
- Why is that?-
- We weren't supposed to stop here, I just... it wasn't planned, I don't think there's any reason why we should get used to this place or this place to us. We are going to leave anyway. -
Cas doesn't say anything, but when he looks at him, Dean sees that the smiles is gone, replaced by that melancholic look that makes him look like even worst than he usually is, brings out all those small wrinkles in his face, takes away that residual sparkle and makes Cas look like a complete wreck.
And it makes Dean feel guilty for no reasons, because dammit, he shouldn't worry so much about the way his words affect the other man, shouldn't care about him at all, but he does, in a weird, twisted way and it's making him feel like shit.
- You're right. I forgot. Sometimes I forget things, important things. Well, I don't really forget them, I just don't like remembering or thinking about them. Memories can cut inside you deeper than any sword, they can hurt you so damn much if you let them. -
Dean stares at him, wide eyed and surprised, because... because that's exactly how his life has been in the past few months, a constant battle between memories he just wants to forget but that won't go away.
- And how you stop them from hurting you?-
Cas smiles at him, but it's a sad, broken smile.
- You drown them in a bathtub of whiskey. -
They stay like that in silence until the sun doesn't go away completely.
- Morning, Sammy. Slept well?-
Sam finds his brother already in the kitchen, even though it's just half past eight and normally Dean is the one who sleeps in, especially since they have been there: there's no sign of Cas, but that's not surprising; he's already used not to see the house owner until midday.
- Yeah, fine. You?-
- Like a baby!-
His brother is happily eating a bowl of cereal, smiling and making jokes with his usual ease; but Sam can tell something is off, that something has been off since their father died, that Dean is different.
He wants to know what happened while he was away, what made him change so much, what made the brother he remembered into the one he's staring at now: but he never does, because talking to Dean is never easy, it's like walking on broken glasses and it takes all the care in the world not to get cut.
Sam pours himself some coffee and keeps staring at him, at his face that brings the signs of the time that passes and still a memory of his youth: sometimes he forgets his brother is thirty, that he's a man now, he still sees the twenty-something boy he left behind years ago.
Sometimes Dean is like a stranger to him, like they have just met and Sam has no clue what to say or what to do; and then there are times when it feels like he never left.
When Dean makes the same old jokes he used to make when they were younger, when Dean laughs and his laugh is still just the same as he remembers it.
They're still brothers, they're still family: but Dean isn't the old Dean anymore and there are times Sam feels lonely, misses how things were and feels that pinch of regret that he tries so much to bury return at full force.
- What's that look? Cheer up, Sammy! You're ruining my breakfast!-
He tries to smile.
- Sorry, I was just thinking. -
- That's your problem, you think too much. -
- Yeah... I know. -
They sit in silence for a while, eating breakfast.
- Dean... -
- You're ok, right?-
Dean stops eating and looks at him, his green eyes fixed in his, examining his face: nothing changes in his expression, apparently, but his body goes stiff.
- Of course, I'm totally fine. -
- You sure? You know you can tell me if... if you need to tell me something. You can tell me anything, really. I'm always here for you. -
- What the hell, Sammy?! What's wrong with you this morning? You gulped some chick lit novel or something?!-
- I just... I just wanted you to know. -
- Well, now I do, happy? Can I finish eating this in peace, please?-
- Yeah... sure. Go ahead. I'm going to the shop. -
Dean nods and keeps eating, like nothing happened, like Sam didn't really say anything.
He sighs and leaves without another word.
Anna is waiting for him in front of the gas station, but the shop is closed: the girl is smiling at him.
- Hey, everything ok?-
- Morning, Sam. And yeah, it's fine!-
- Why is the shop still closed?-
- Oh, I was thinking about taking a day off. To show you something. -
- Something? What?-
The smile on Anna's face beams.
- Your brother said you like to read. So I'm taking you to the public library!-
Sam is speechless.
- You have a public library?-
- It's nothing, really, nothing big or fancy, but I thought you make want to go take a look at it... -
- Of course! Yeah! That'd be great!-
Sam smiles, happy and grateful, he small discussion with Dean already forgotten.
- Well, let's go then!-
The library is not big, but is stashed with books literally on every surface available: it's located in an old Victorian house, obviously kept in a pristine state; Sam almost cannot believe it, he can't believe that in the broken world he lives in, something like that can still exist.
But it does and it's right in front of him: books and books almost shining on the shelves, looking at him like they were waiting just for him.
There are other people in the library, mostly old people that look at him with a faint suspicious look, before noticing Anna.
- Wow, this place is... amazing! Where did you get all these books?!-
Anna shrugs, looking around like she knows the place by heart, caressing the back of the books as they make their ways through the dept if the library.
- From abandoned towns library mostly. Some were donated by the people who moves here. -
- I see, well, it's good that these books didn't get lost, it'd be a real shame. -
- I agree. Memories are important, memories help you remember who you are and where you come from. Even if they hurt, you should keep them and treasure them. And books are the memory of this world, right?-
Sam nods, not sure he understands the point Anna is trying to make, but obviously it means something to her, because her face becomes serious and loses the freshness of her smile a little bit.
- You ok?-
- Yes, yes, I'm fine. I was just remembering something. -
- Something about where you come from?-
Anna suddenly turns to face him, her face losing color like he said something she was not expecting and that is making her feel uncomfortable; there's almost a panicky look in her eyes and Sam wonder what the hell is going on with her and, most importantly, what she's hiding.
Because you don't usual react to a simple question like his was that way.
- What? What did you say?-
- You... you didn't live here, right? I thought maybe you were remembering something from your past... -
The girl sighs in relief and takes a deep breath, smiling at him and trying to shake off and hide again what she let slip through.
- Yeah! Yes, that's right... I was thinking about... the place we come from. -
- And where you guy come from?-
She actually needs a few seconds to answer.
- Pointiac. Pontiac, Illinois. -
- And why you moved here?-
She sits on one if the little couches, her hands sliding on her legs nervously.
- We wanted a fresh start, we had nothing left there anyway, our whole family was... dead. -
- But... Cas said you had other siblings and that they were just... gone. -
- Oh... yeah, a couple of them were living abroad. We know nothing about them, it hurts less to just think they're gone forever. -
She tries to smile, but her smile is strained and forced, so Sam decides to change subject and starts asking her about books and other things: Anna visibly relaxes and her usual smile comes back on her face.
But Sam can't stop thinking about what just happened, about they way Anna reacted, about the way her whole body seemed to be fighting to hide something, to bury it deeper and deeper inside herself and keep it away for his sight and from his questions.
Sam sensed that something was off from the start: maybe it was just his hunter instinct kicking in, maybe it was just a feelings, but he knew it, deep in his heart.
Something about the three Milton siblings buggered him from the moment he met them: maybe it's the way Cas buries himself in drugs and alcohol, like he's so broken he can't possibly put himself back together no matter how hard he tries, like something terrible happened to him.
Maybe it's how much Anna tries to fit in, to make them all fit in, the way she takes care of Cas almost like a mother would.
Maybe it's the hunted look in Gabriel's eyes, that looks he tries to hide behind a facade of bravado and wit, but that you can't help to notice if you look hard enough.
Maybe it's just a feeling and it actually nothing, it could be just his imagination, his tendency to see mysteries and secret everywhere, a remain of his father's paranoia.
But his guts tell him that he's right, that there's something under the surface, something big.
The question is: does he want do dig?
He briefly considers telling Dean about his suspects, but almost instantly decides against it: he doesn't want to bother him, wants him to rest, to recover, to leave behind some of that pain that Dean takes with him everywhere and that is an enemy big enough.
He doesn't need more worries, more enemies, more battles.
Sam will get over it.
- Hey, Sam, are you ok? You're so quiet... -
Anna gently shakes him and Sam comes back to his senses.
- Yeah! Of course, I was just... just wondering what books I could get, do you think they'd trust me with them or I need to ask permission directly to the sheriff?-
- Don't worry, I'll vouch for you!-
Sam returns the smiles, pushing all his doubts and question in the back of his mind.
- Great! Let's go pick something up, then!-
- Right, let's! Actually I think I'll choose some books too, I feel like reading something new. -
- We could start a reading club!-
- We should, we totally should. -
The two of them smile at each other, everything else forgotten for the moment.
The idea comes to him one morning, when for the third time in two days, Cas's shower suddenly stops working.
- Oh, are you fucking kidding me?!-
Dean stares at it, rage mounting inside him, naked, dripping and still covered in soap: it's ironical how this actually resembles his old lives, made of crappy motel where shit never worked and where everything was ten time worst than it looked.
He can't help but laugh at the irony of the whole thing and keeps laughing until his jaw hurts, like this is the funniest joke he ever heard and this is the best time to let out all the bottles tension he has inside.
The sound echoes in the empty room and makes it looks like the only sound that exists is his laugh.
- I'm gonna fix this damn place you live in. -
Cas is laying on the couch, two empty beer bottles on the table, an arm on his face and he's pretending to be asleep.
He doesn't even bother looking at him, he just keeps laying there, barely acknowledging Dean's presence.
- Your damn house needs maintenance, like serious shit. I'm gonna do what I can, cause there's no way I'm gonna stay here with the chance that the roof could fall on my head any time the wind blows a little bit harder. -
Cas finally gets up and there's an offended and almost shocked expression on his face, like he can't believe what Dean is telling him.
- Oh shut up! This place isn't so bad! I'm sorry if you're used to king size beds and suites, but this ain't the Ritz. -
- Please, I've seen more fourth class motels in a month than you have in your entire life. But my point still stands. You need to fix this place, I'm willing to do what I can. -
- Oh? And why would you? Out of the goodness of your heart?-
- You're gonna pay me, of course. -
- Wait a second: you and your brother live in my house, for free, you eat my food, use my things and I should pay you to repair the house you live in because I'm a kind and generous soul?-
Dean laughs and sits next to him, trying to be serious even though the expression on Cas's face is fucking hilarious, all eyebrows frowning and eyes glaring at him: he looks as scary as a pissed off hamster.
- Point one: we paid for most of the food ourselves. Point two: you're gonna get these works done anyway sooner or later unless you wanna go live on the streets once winter comes, cause this place ain't gonna handle the rain and the snow and the cold unless you do something about it. I'll do what I can and charge you an honest price. -
- Honest price... you should be a salesman. Are you a salesman? I don't even know what you two do for a living actually. -
- No, I'm not a salesman. And yes, I'd be honest! Unlike other people. Plus, Sam is getting paid for working with Anna... -
- Anna is Anna, I'm not her, she's a saint, I'm a broke drunkard. -
- A broke drunkard with an house on the verge of falling on his head. If I were you, I'd stop drinking and start saving. -
Cas looks at him for a while, his face slowly changing into a small smile that gets bigger and bigger, until he's laughing, an expression of genuine amusement and almost happiness on it.
- You... you're really something, you know that? I knew it since I saw you the first time, you just had a sparkle in you that... that got me. You are really something, Dean Winchester -
Dean smiles back, legitimately amused by the whole situation.
- So? What you say?-
The other takes a deep breath and lights a cigarette, abandoning himself against the couch, looking at him with half closed eyes through the smoke.
- Why would you do this? You'll be gone soon, if things go the way you hope. Why would you even care about what happens to me or to my house?-
Dean doesn't answer right away, takes some time to think about it because, truth is, he doesn't really know why he wants to do this, why he wants to help Cas: yeah, he's bored, inactivity doesn't suit him and he's craving action of any kind; he also wouldn't say no to some extra and legally earned for once money.
But that's not really why he's willing to do this: maybe it's because Cas welcomed him, because he never asked questions that he knew Dean wouldn't answer; maybe because there's something in those blue, haunted and sad eyes that just makes him want to do something for him.
Maybe it's because helping people is pretty much the only thing he can do, the only thing he was raised to do.
- I... I really don't know. I just think it's right. You helped us, I wanna help you. -
- But you still wanna get paid. -
Dean rolls his eyes.
- Ok, ok. Fine. I guess you're right. Well, what can I say? Thank you?-
- You don't have to thank me... pay me for my work and we'll be even. -
- Fine. -
Then, suddenly, so fast Dean is actually startled, Cas gets closer to him and puts an hand on his shoulder.
Dean's body goes completely still, frozen in that moment, with Cas's body pressing slightly next to his, making him feel at the same time good and scared: his eyes look bigger from up close, slightly unfocused but beautiful, absolutely stunning and Dean can't help but staring at them, can't help sinking into them.
They stay like this just for a few seconds, staring at each other, their body closer than they've ever been, so close Dean can see all the small wrinkles on the others face, smell his scent, feel his breath on his face.
And then, after that, Cas just backs away, smiling.
- Still, thank you, Dean. -
Then he gets up and leaves the room, leaving Dean there on the couch, confused, not really sure that it really happened.
He starts with the two bathrooms, fixes the leaks and the showers, repairs the shaking mirror, patches the best he can the chipped tiles: that part is easy and doesn't require that much work.
Cas follows him around, like he's suddenly interested in the welfare of his house, asks him stupid questions, annoys him in every way he can think about until Dean is forced to send him away before he punches him.
Sam is surprised at first and can't help but teasing him about it.
- Wow, you're putting so much effort in this!-
- It's a job, you do your job seriously or you better don't even start. -
- Yeah, yeah, ok. But... I mean... you... Dean Winchester the handyman? Didn't see that coming at all. -
- You have your little summer job and I can't have mine?-
- Calm down, Dean! I'm not saying anything! Actually, I'm happy you're doing this. Moping around with nothing to do ain't your thing for sure, I'm glad you found something to do. Really!-
- Well thanks, Sammy. Can you hand me that wrench?-
- Cas was annoyed though, said you sent him away. -
Dean smiles a bit.
- Well, he was being annoying ok?-
Sam is staring at him, a funny smile on his face, a funny smile Dean isn't sure he likes.
- What? What you smiling about?-
- Nothing. Just... you two get along, I wasn't really expecting this. -
- Why not?-
- He just... actually I'm not surprised at all. You two are very much alike!-
- Piss off, bitch!-
Cas is allowed to follow him around again when he starts working outside.
The days are still hot enough to make him sweat and suffer under the sun, but there's a pleasant breeze that caresses his body and his face, making it slightly more bearable that it'd be otherwise.
- Nice tattoo you have there. What is it? Does it mean something?-
Dean had to take his drenched shirt off, exposing his chest and the anti possession tattoo he has; he didn't even think about it until Cas pointed it out, forcing him to find a good excuse for it.
- It's just a thing I liked. When I turned eighteen I decided I wanted to get a tattoo and that looked cool and manly!-
Cas laugh, while sitting on the stairs, smoking.
- It certainly looks nice, not gonna lie... -
He can tell Cas is staring at him, at his half naked body, but tries to ignore the feeling of those eyes on him, almost caressing his whole figure, and focuses on the window he's repairing.
But after a few minutes, he finds out that it's harder than he thought it would be, trying to ignore Cas's piercing eyes.
When he turns to face him, he catches him licking his lips: there a sort of hunger in his eyes, something hidden under the smile, a desire, a want that makes his skin crawl in a familiar way; the one that usually precedes a night of hot sex.
- Cas, not for nothing, but last person who looked at me like that... I got laud... -
The other man licks his lips again, obviously amused about the whole thing.
- Are you proposing?-
- Are you interested?-
They look at each other for a while, Cas's eyes almost trying to eat his whole body with their look, until he laughs, breaking the tension.
- I just like to leave all the doors open... -
- You got nothing better to do then sitting there and teasing honest workers?-
- You mean like getting drunk or smoking some pot? Yeah, I could, but... you know... I like the view. -
Dean stops working for a moment.
- The house getting better, I care about her a lot, you know. She's my best friend actually, I call her Francine. -
They both burst into an hard and loud laugh, looking at each other like old mates, the previous exachange put aside again, for now: until the next time one of them will hint something and they'll find each other in the same situation again.
- Yeah, right, Cas, right. -
- I'm serious! Ask her if you don't believe me. -
- Oh, I will. I will. -
Silence falls again between them, a soft, comforting and easy silence, one that doesn't need to be filled with useless words because it's perfectly fine to stay like this, they don't need anything else; what they both need is that peace, that quiet feeling.
- I'm starting to get used to have you two around. -
Dean stops working and turns to face him, his face almost sad to hear that.
- You shouldn't. -
- I know. But making good decisions was never something I was good at, you know?. I'm actually a pro at making shitty ones. I fucked up pretty much my whole life just like that. -
- What you did?-
Cas doesn't answer, of course and Dean doesn't even know why he bothered asking: he knew he wasn't going to know anything, but still he tried, like Sam does.
There's something inside them that just makes them keep trying no matter how useless it is.
- Another story for another time, Dean Winchester. -
He gets up and disappears inside the house.
Dean keeps working in complete silence.
John's hand is on his neck, stroking it roughly and gently at the same time, his scent, combined with the leathery smell of the Impala, fills his nose and Dean can barely breath without feeling dizzy.
John is so close, his face pressed against the curve of his neck, his lips murmuring something against his skin, sending shivers across his body.
Dean wishes he could hear what his father is saying, the secrets he's whispering, but the pumping on his own blood fills his ears and every other sound is erased completely; John presses him harder against the backseat of the car, using his whole body weight to keep him there, but Dean has no intention to run.
He can barely move, because he's shaking in his father's arms, overcome by the feelings that are running under his skin, through his veins, filling his body with longing and desperate desire.
Because they're so close, so pressed together and Dean is surrounded by a suffocating heat: his heart is racing, his breath is ragged and uneven, his whole being tries to touch more, to feel more, even thought these sensations are already pushing his boundaries and making everything hurt with need.
It's too much and not enough at the same time; Dean feels like he's drowning, drowning in his father's arms, in the way his hands run across his body, in the way his lips caress his neck, in his low, raspy voice.
- Dad... -
Even whispering that small words seems to take too much effort, to break his heart and his spirit, because it reminds of how wrong what they're doing is, how immoral, depraved and sinful it is but that part of his mind that is shouting and swearing at him is silenced when John kisses his, a rough, hard kiss that turns his brain off, erases the last glimpses of doubt...
Everything changes incredibly fast: now they're no longer in the back of the Impala, but Dean is looking at his father laying on the same motel bed he died into.
John is staring at him, his eyes bloodshot and angry, looking almost yellowish and sick in that light, filled with a wild and dangerous hatred he never thought he could see in them.
And when he smiles, it gets worst, because his face assumes an almost feral look that makes Dean want to run out of there, just get out of the room and keep running until his heart will stop, until his body will crash and he'll just lay there on the road dead.
But, like he could hear his thoughts, his father suddenly grabs his wrist, hard, so hard it hurts like a bitch, so hard Dean fears he'll break it: the pain grows and grows and John keeps smiling like a mad man, like he's enjoying it.
And the worst part is that he probably really is.
- Where do you think you're doing Dean? You wanted to run away from me? From your old man? Like that other little shit did?-
- No... no... I wasn't... -
- Don't lie to me! Don't... don't you dare lying to me, Dean. I can tell if you are. I know you, I know you better than anyone... -
Still holding his wrist in his iron grip, John starts caressing Dean's chest with his other hand.
Dean is sure you'll be sick, because that touch is repulsing and disgusting, feels nothing like John's: because the person in front of him is not John anymore.
It has his face, his voice, his body but it's not him, he can't be him: his father would never do this, not to him, not like this.
- What's wrong, my little slut isn't enjoying this? Weird, I thought you'd do anyting to get my hands on you again, whore... isn't this what you wanted? Mh? Answer me! Isn't it?-
Dean tries to break free, but the thing that is not John anymore doesn't let go, tightens the grip and he can feels his bones starting to give up to the pressure: the pain is terrible, but he desperately tries to stay focused, to find a way out.
That's when he spots the gun on the bedside.
- It should have been you, you should have died, not your mother, we would have been so happy without you, me, Mary and Sam. No one needs you, Dean, you're a waste of space on this world. A pathetic, sick, disgusting waste of space... -
Dean knows he'll only get one chance, so, when John is distracted by his own ramblings, he launches for the gun.
- Dean... -
He can feel the cool metal under his hands, cold and terrifying...
- Dean... -
He doesn't remember pulling the trigger...
Dean wakes up, drenched in sweat, on the verge of throwing up, his head heavy and in pain, his body rigid: he can't breath at first, his lungs refuse to work, then air is filling them and it hurts so bad at first, feels like he's breathing liquid fire that burns his body from the inside.
He doesn't dare closing his eyes, he fears the nightmare will come back to hunt him down, to kill him, to destroy him to the point that there'll be nothing left of him.
That soft whisper startles him, making him almost jump off the bed and reaching for the gun in the drawer: there's someone on the door, a clouded figure that he struggles to see in the darkness around them and Dean almost wants to scream.
The figure steps forward and Dean finally recognize Cas: the man doesn't do anything, he just stays there, looking at him, his blue eyes the only part of his face he can clearly see; the rest his confused into the shadows.
Dean wants to say something, anything, but his voice is stuck in his throat and he can't get it out, so he just stares at Cas, waiting, not even daring to breath too loudly.
The man comes closer enough to leave something on his bedside, but says nothing, doesn't try to touch him or do anything; Dean's eyes follow him.
A smiles appears on Cas's lips, one of those smiles you let coming out when you don't know what else to do.
Then he simply turns his back and leaves.
Leaving a bottle of absinthe behind him.
Dean takes it, pressed it against his forehead, the cold glass feeling refreshing and pleasant against his heated skin.
Then opens the bottle and takes one, long sip.
Morning doesn't come fast enough: Dean spends the rest of the night in the living room, curled on the couch like a sick child, unable to sleep, unable to do anything that is not staring at the emptyness around him.
At some point, he turn on the radio, because the silence is almost so deafening it hurts and scared him more than anything: a young girl is singing about blue jeans, white shirts and men who look like James Dean, in a sultry and seductive voice that manages to distract him from his thoughts for a while.
He considers going looking for Cas, at least he won't be alone, but can't even find the strength to move and doesn't want to go back upstairs while it's still dark.
He feels like shit: he dreamed about his father's illness before, but never like this: the dreams where never that real, that strong, that terrible and cruel; it felt so real, so... he doesn't even know how it felt, because his brain refuses to allow him to think about it, to even consider the idea of exploring the feelings it left on him.
He tries to remind himself that that's not how his father died, that it didn't go that way, but the memory of the dream is stronger than him, than his will and he can't clearly separate the two, not right now.
Suddenly he feels someone walking down the stairs and stopping midway: he knows it's Cas and knows he's sitting down on the stairs and looking at the back of the couch; he can almost feel the unspoken words he's thinking.
- I know how you feel... -
Cas's voice is a soft and sad whisper; Dean keeps laying there, doesn't move, doesn't do anything but listening.
- I'm sorry, I wish i could do something... anything... -
- Why... why would you... -
- I heard you trashing and talking in your sleep... no one deserves that. -
- What you heard, what the fuck do you think you know? You know fucking nothing... -
- Maybe I don't and honestly I don't want to, it's none of my business. But I know pain, that bitch and I are long time friends, believe me. I know everything about guilt, about mourning... I fucking know that shit, Dean. -
- Are you here to tell me that it gets better?-
- No, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't at first, it only gets worst. But... but you're alive. You're still alive, still breathing. That is something, it'll always be something. No matter how beaten and hurt and destroyed you are, as long as you're breathing, you have something. -
Dean lets out a bitter and harsh laugh.
- That's the whole problem, Cas: I'm still breathing. And sometimes, most of the times, I feel like I shouldn't be. -
This time, it's Cas's turn to laugh.
- Yeah. I know, right?-
Sam is suspiciously happy that morning, a bright smile on his face and Dean wishes he could care, but between his nightmare and the chat with Cas, he has no strength, no will power.
Can't even eat because the food repulses his stomach and his head hurts terribly, pulsing and throbbing with pain.
Everything looks blurred and confused, still tainted by the memory of the night before: the world looks colorless, empty, so far away from him he feels completely alone, even though he's sitting with Sam in the kitchen, eating lunch.
- Dean? Are you listening to me?-
He didn't even realize he was talking. -
- No, sorry. I wasn't. -
- Well, I was saying that Anna wants to do something for the children, like reading them stories and things like that and...-
Something inside him breaks.
- Stop. Please, stop. -
Sam's smile freezes on his face, confusion taking over.
- Shut up about this crap! Who cares about Anna, the children, this whole damn town! We'll leave soon Sammy, no point in getting involved in shit you'll not finish! No point is making friends who will forget you exist as soon as we'll be gone! Can't you fucking get it?!-
Dean takes is head between his hands and rubs his eyes: they hurt, everything hurts.
And what hurts the most is Sam wounded expression.
- Wow. You're really a damn son of a bitch, Dean... You are the one that got us stuck here, if you hadn't been so damn stubborn about the car, we'd be on the road right now! And now you blame me because I'm trying to fit in?!-
- There's no damn point, Sam! We don't need friends! We don't need anything! This will only be another problem, your playing house and shit! This is not our place! We don't belong here!-
Sam is angry, angrier than Dean has ever seen him.
- Maybe you don't and don't want to, but you're not me, Dean! For God's sake! You're so selfish you don't give a shit about anyone else! You just sit there and judge me like you're fucking God! Who the fuck gave you that right?!-
- How the fuck dare you talking to me like this?! You're the one who left! You're the one who ran away and abandoned us!-
It's a twisted pleasure that he'll regret far too soon, to see the color completely drain from Sam's face, to see his eyes filled with a desperate hurt, with guilt and regret and at the same time, with rage.
Sam takes a deep breath.
- That's the point, isn't it? That I left, that in yours and dad's mind I abandoned you two... well, you know what, Dean? I don't have to explain or justify myself to you. It's my life, not yours. I hope one day you'll learn that. -
Dean wants to say something, but Sam doesn't wait: he takes his jacket and leaves him alone in the empty kitchen without looking back.
At first, Dean doesn't do anything.
He just stays there, sitting in the empty and messy room, his eyes unfocused, his mind blank: there's only silence around him and he's alone.
He screwed up really badly: he always screws up, one way or another, but this time... this time is probably the worst.
Because he just hurt the person who matters the most for him.
He loves his brother more than anything in this world, cares about him more than he cares about himself, would do pretty much everything for him, to keep him safe, to protect him, to make sure he's ok: Dean sacrificed so many parts of his life for him out of love, because Sam came first, Sam meant more to him than a girl, a boy, a job, school, more than everything.
He thought Sam would do the same for him.
But Sam left him, left his father, left what remained of their family: and for what?
A normal life? A life without monsters, without responsibilities? Without their father's pain, without his suffocating guilt, his expectations, his rules?
He turned his back on them and this is something that burns inside him, that never stops hurting.
A memory that, no matter how hard he tries to push it in the back of his mind, to get over it, always comes back to haunt his thoughts, a small voice that won't shut up and that comes to whisper filth and venom into his ears.
- He doesn't need you, not really. He wants to leave you behind again, wants to go back to his old life without you. He was happier without you. He will abandon you again if he has the chance and you know it, Dean. Deep down in that black heart of yours, you know it... -
Dean loves his brother, spent his whole life taking care of him: but there's a small part inside him that, maybe, will never forgive him for leaving him behind, for turning his back to him.
That almost hates him for it.
For leaving him alone, for not being there for him, when he was always there for Sam since they were kids, even when Dean couldn’t do anything for him, but still tried and tried and tried...
And this feeling scares him, this realization is terrible, because it just proves Sam's point: that he is selfish, unforgiven and hard inside.
Cas is sitting on the couch, when he goes looking for him: not drinking, or smoking, or sleeping.
Just sitting there like he was waiting for Dean, like he knew he would come, that he would need him.
Dean sits down next to him and Cas changes position so he can face him, his legs pressed against his chest, the tip of his feet almost touching Dean's leg.
- You heard me and Sam fighting?-
- Kinda hard not to. You guys were really loud. -
Dean just nods, takes a deep breath and rests his head against the couch's back.
- Dammit. Damn everything. It's so fucking hard, everything is. -
- I know. It's called life. -
- Life is a whore. -
- Of course it is, why it shouldn't?-
- Yeah... why?-
- But you will go on. One way or another, you will. It's called being human, I think. You fight, you fall, you get up, you fall again, you keep fighting... that's it. Until you die and you can finally rest in the garden of the Lord. -
- Encouraging, Cas. -
- What you want me to say? That everything's gonna be ok?-
Dean snorts, but a very, very small smile creeps on his lips.
- Yeah, why not? "Cheer up, son, the sun is still shining, the birds are still singing, time will heal every wound" and shit like that. -
Cas laughs, shaking his head, hiding his eyes behind his hand.
- I'm sorry, Dean, but I'm a terrible liar, literally the worst ever. But I'd lie to you if I thought it's make you feel better, I really would. -
Dean looks at him, into his eyes and they are so clear, so sincere and honest and filled with something that looks care, like he really, really wants to help him, but doesn't know how.
And this makes him sad.
- I don't know. I really don't. And I try not to ask myself why I do or don't do things, because if I did... well, I'm not sure I'd be able to stay as sane as I am right now. And yes, I know, how can an alcoholic, addicted to painkillers loser be considered sane? Well, I'd be much, much worst than I am right now. So I don't complain, I don't ask myself stupid questions and I don't look back. -
His voice lowers, his eyes are fixed on the coffee table, like it's the source of an hidden and secret truth he's trying to unveil.
- Because what's behind you... sometimes you really don't want to see it. You just want to forget it ever happened. -
Dean takes a deep breath: his head doesn't hurt anymore, but he feels tired, depressed and just wants to sleep, sleep for a whole month without thinking about anything, just laying on a bed and rest.
But nightmares won't leave him alone, he knows that, they'd only get worst and worst until he'll go mad, until he'll lose his mind and become just a broken, empty shell.
Cas's eyes are back on him.
- You lost someone important, didn't you?-
He attempts a smile, but can't manage it, no matter how hard he tries: not this time.
- What makes you think I did?-
- The way you talk about... this. You know how it feels, you know what's like. -
- Yeah... I do. -
- So, who?-
Cas remains silent for a while, like he's looking for the way to talk about it that will hurt less.
- I had a family. A nice family: a good wife, a daughter... I... I was different man back then, very, very different. And then they died. They died, I didn't and everything changed. -
- I'm sorry. -
- Yeah, I'm sorry too. And for you? -
Dean swallows loudly, looking away from him, because he's scared those blue eyes will keep looking inside him and discover all his secrets.
- My father. -
- I'm sorry. -
- But you still have Anna and Gabriel. You still have a family. I... -
- You have Sam. No matter what happens or happened, no matter how full of shit this life is, no matter how much it hurts to breath, to live... you still have your brother and this means something, it means a lot, Dean. -
Dean shakes his head, but Cas reaches out for him, puts and hand of his leg and squeezes it gently.
- Don't. You know I'm right. You're not alone, dammit, you have a brother that loves you. And that is a love bigger than any other. Trust me, I know: I'd literally be dead if it hadn't been for Anna and Gabriel. -
- I screwed up, Cas. I really did. -
- Then find a way to fix it, you dumbass. -
Dean laughs softly.
- Wow, are we that close already, that you feel like you can go all judgmental on me and shit?-
Cas squeezes his leg a little harder, smiling.
- I think we can say that we are. -
Dean nods and puts his own hand on Cas's: his skin is pleasant under his, warm, soft, alive.
It makes him think and feel things he hadn't feel in a long time.
- Yeah, I think we can. Cas?-
- You're not that bad for being an alcoholic, addicted to painkillers loser. -
His laugh sweetly fills the room.
- And you're not that bad for being... well.. you. -
Sam is walking, walking and walking, but doesn't know where to go or what to do.
He's angry, hurt and tired, because fighting with Dean is always bad, always makes him feel like complete crap, drains him of all his energies and leaves him broken and in a terrible and desperate pain and guilt.
He knows his brother is suffering, that he's still trying to put the pieces of his life back together after their father's dead, but he doesn't deserve this: doesn't deserve to be the scapegoat, the dummy where Dean can vomit all his resentment and his bottled pain.
It'd like he doesn't realize that Sam is suffering too, that he's desperate and sad and angry at everything just like he is, that he's not the only one who lost a father he loved no matter how screwed up he was.
Dean is good at blaming others, at making them feel like shit; sometimes Sam thinks that he and John are just the same.
He considers going to find Anna, but that'd be the first place Dead would go to look for him and he really doesn't want that to happen.
So he keeps walking, until a voice stops him.
- Hello there, Sammy. -
Gabriel is looking at him from his porch, smiling.
- Hey. -
- What happened to you? You look like hell... -
- Nothing, really. I was just... taking a walk. -
The man approaches him, looking intensely at him, exploring his face and it's like he can easily read the lies written on his face.
- Yeah, right. Nothing. Come on, tell me. -
- Really, Gabriel it's... -
- Yeah, yeah. Skip the lies please, do both of us a favor. -
Sam takes a deep breath.
- I just... had a fight with Dean. -
- What that shithead told you to make you look like this?-
He can't help but smile at the outraged look on Gabriel's face.
- I... I don't really wanna talk about it. -
- Fair enough. I wouldn't either. Come in, I'll make some coffee and we can talk about anything you want. -
- Gabriel... -
- Gabe, please. I hate Gabriel. -
- Gabe. Thank you but you don't have to do this, really. -
- I know. But I want to. -
- I'm bored. And you need a place to stay for a few hours, right?. -
Sam doesn't know what to say.
So he just nods.
- Ok, fine. I'll take that coffee. -
- Great. Let's go. -
Sam follows him.