"It's not like that," Sam says.
what’s it like, Dean says, and Sam can see him working, no--watch him work, it's like that, after all these years, like watching him stroke Baby or bang on Baby or fix her, knowing him so well that his mind's manifold, gear, gloss; hood up and open to the sky.
the habit of evasiveness is hard to shed for creatures like
me, Sam thinks, because that's his safe and his danger. That’s it.
It's that there are things that need fixing, Sam says, leans on the table with a slippery elbow. War room in the post-dinnerhour; maybe a whiskey.
Dean gives him the no, duh, but it isn't hard, isn't liable to crack, end in Dean bailing for the headphones and the memory.
So this--healing, Dean says, it’s like angel business?
Not so high-level. Smaller and more—grounded, you know, Sam says. Dean made hunter’s kitchensink for dinner, with buttered-up cornbread and greens. It was good.
It's witch stuff, Dean says, with less distaste than he once might have. And then:
And the rest of it?
Sam says nothing so--
I know there's a rest of it, Dean says.
Oh, Sam says, that.
First: the case with the demons and the woman in white, sort of. Dean was sick, so he didn't go. Then: the werewolves. Sam and Max and Alicia, up in Canada. Sam helped out and there was blood and sugar and magic.
How'd I get left out of the witch sandwich, he can hear Dean say, and he’d say you're never left out, Dean, not really, because you're always right here, and Dean would hear: you don’t need me, or no, he’s older now, so he’d hear: you don’t need me exclusively, so—
Tell me about the case, Dean says.
You were sick, Sam says, and Dean was, hacking and sweating and shiny as silt at the table. Sam had to put his brother to bed. He put the cover up and everything, patting it down, sat for awhile ‘til Dean's rough breath evened out. Worried, actually. Even in the scheme of things. Sat with a hand on his brother’s back ‘til he cooled down and rested easy.
Then Max called and Dean was better but not better enough to get out in the air, so Sam climbed in the car and drove to Canada, and when he got back he practically had to hold his brother down, get him to drink the homegrown Alicia sent on.
Witch stuff, Dean said.
Tastes like ass, Dean said, but he drank it.
First there were demons with a faux ghost on a string, and that Dean knows; Sam told him when he got back, because it was truly weird, but now he wants the story again and Sam tells it, tells it with the empty trunk roads and the truckers and the RCMP and Alicia’s knife and the way the twins leaned on his shoulders after. Way he felt at first, letting that little bit of their magic cross—from their fields into his. It’s hard to say what it was--
like, he says to Dean, sort of like a--
witch sandwich, Dean says, and gives him brows.
Then: the werewolves.
There were three of them.
Dean had his hands full, Sam thinks, letting him go north knowing it wasn’t just the case, but also--
Max with his strange eyes. Alicia making him up a bed. Homelike place under the northern stars, up in Canada.
They sat around, fire in the fireplace, warded boards, sofa, some kind of herbal pizza, homemade.
With foxes, Alicia mused, legs curled under, it’s called a skulk. Licked her fingers.
Or an earth, Max said, you want another beer?
Yeah, they don’t pack up like wolves, Sam said, watched them make the twinhands, the twin faces with their twitches. One more wouldn’t hurt.
But two or three is OK, Max said, winked, beer or foxes.
The werewolves, though: were sucking the hearts out of clerks, gas stations, an Esso along 75, stopping to buy themselves donuts for cover. (Heart-filled, Sam joked, felt like his brother. Freaking… frosted, eh, whatever, Max said, giggling, and Alicia rolled her eyes hard, spun the wheel of the twin rig and parked them.)
These guys turn at will, she said, but—only two of ‘em have been heart-eaters long.
So the third? Sam said. He’s telling Dean this now, watching his brother lean in for the story, watching him watch them: Sam, twin witches, three wolves, Canada prairie, cold sky.
You’ll see, Max said.
The third was thirteen, tops, retro-Mohawk, Docs, some kinda not-skinny jean things. Sweet-kid freckle-licked cheekblades and eyes like feldspar.
Jesus, Sam said, the other two his parents?
Not exactly, Alicia, said, we think they—
Took him when he was a baby, said Max, maybe from another pack that, well, it’s probably complicated.
Sam watches his brother watch them: three hunters in another country, the silver, the blades, the deep cherrycoke-spill outside the gas mart, the heart-eaten clerk, the wide-eyed kid, the quick kills (lick of blood across Max’s left cheek; Sam leaves that out.)
What happened to--Dean says, and he doesn’t need to finish.
The last one, the kid, took off for the high country, looked like, Sam says, it was like--
He wouldn’t come with, let the witches…witch him up, Dean asks, stay with them or--
No, Sam says, he—
Turned and lit out for the high country, so to speak, long way off, like he knew where he was going.
Let him go, Alicia said, he won’t—
Last long? Kill again? Alicia didn’t say.
He’ll be OK, Max said, squeezed Sam’s sore arm. Said it like a spell, or a fact.
They watched him run.
And after: Max laid on the hands. Fix this, that, just a little; past hurts, one new contusion, yellow-edged. Sam let him, lay with him. Alicia burnt sweetgrass.
That was the rest of it.
Sex, Dean’s saying and it’s a question, but not exactly the question Sam thought he’d ask.
Well yeah, Sam says, but --
Not exactly. Just the light of it, the sage-smelling bed. Alicia outside and leaves and sky. He just felt cleaner.
That’s what he says, out loud, but it’s hard to say, with all the aftermath in here. Torture and mom and bombs that weren’t; this life, these souls, this brother. The highway in his hands all the way back home; how he sat on the witch-porch and thought of Dean, tried out fox-words to stay awake: kit and yip and vixen. Hard to say aloud. Lonely. Teen wolf running for the hills.
You’re tired, Dean says, sudden, pushes the cut-glass back, the bottle aside, you should get some rest. (Doesn’t say: psychic witch-boy, and leave it open which one he means.)
Yeah, Sam says, rubs his eyes.
On the way out though, in the hall--
Dean takes his elbows, kisses him on the back of the neck, quick and hard as a mark.
Yeah, Sam says, I know.
Leans back into it.
There are miles and miles of burrows under Kansas— prairie dog, coyote, badger, fox; things they know but don’t want to. Their underground; tonight one den.