It's dawn by the time Dean finally makes it into Heflin, Alabama. Dad hadn't specified a particular rendezvous, just: meet me 25.79 17.58 we're going 2 get sammy. That had got Dean moving, reaching for the car keys with one hand and 'return call' with the other.
Dean had known things were bad, however reassuring the news reports tried to be: the 'service could not be connected' to both Dad's phone and Sammy's last known number told him that, as did the armed guards at the Florida-Alabama state line. Even so, it's not until Dean pulls into the motel that the reality of just how fucked things really are start to sink in.
The door to reception's been smashed in and there's blood on the steps. Dean goes in warily, Beretta in hand. Paper is strewn everywhere, furniture overturned and there’s more blood. To Dean's relief, there are no bodies, and he's not at all surprised to not find a cashbox. There are room keys scattered through the debris, and he grabs one and goes to reconnoiter.
He scouts both levels of rooms, giving a periodic two-note whistle and knocking three sharp raps to the doors of room with intact windows. He doubles back to the room he has a key for before he lets himself admit that the motel's certifiably deserted. Getting through the checkpoints at the Florida border, finding gas and navigating his way around the clusterfucks of entire towns trying to relocate west had cost him close to a day. It’s more than a little worrying, considering Dad was supposed to be in Brenan, less than an hour east…
Dean wanders over to the fallen motel sign and heaves it up enough to read the name. Howard Johnson Motel. That'll have to do. Heflin seems like a one-motel sort of town, anyway. He lets the sign drop back into the grass and re-checks his phone again. Still no signal, and no new messages from Dad.
Dad might have given up and headed for Stanford without him. Dean tries to tell himself he's not clinging to that hope as he gathers his gear back at the car and takes a walk around town.
He makes his way east, checking almost entirely bare supermarkets, raiding houses' pantries for cans and finding absolutely no sign of John.
The guy is staggering down the other side of the street when Dean comes out of a house with a bag of cans over one shoulder. Dean freezes, but the guy keeps moving, staring blankly ahead, shoulders slumped in a way that speaks of walking for so long he can't remember how to stop. He's wearing Army greens, one sleeve soaked with blood, and has a rifle slung over his back.
"Hey," Dean calls, cautiously. The guy keeps stumbling, so Dean dumps his bag and moves forward, hands spread non-threateningly, but close enough to go for the Beretta under his shirt if he needs to.
He's close enough to read the guy's name patch, so he tries again.
"Talley," Dean says, and the guy flinches, swinging around and staring at Dean. Talley's eyes are bloodshot, but it's the normal red of a couple of sleepless nights, not hemorrhaging, and Dean breathes a little easier. Then the guy croaks:
"Oh. You're…" Talley swallows painfully. "You are here. I … I didn't know if you were really going to be real, you know?" He takes a step towards Dean, and Dean has just enough time to grab him before he slumps to the ground.
Dean checks the guy’s pulse, stuffs the guy’s empty cargo pants pockets with soup cans and drags him the couple of blocks back to the motel. Any of the houses are closer, sure, but Dad wouldn't be going to any of those first.
Talley stays out cold while Dean gets him onto a bed. His breathing is deep and even and there's no rattle of phlegm, so Dean cuts the bloody sleeve away and makes a cautious inspection. There's a makeshift bandage around a gash in his upper arm, caked solid with blood for all the good it's done to clot the wound. Talley mutters restlessly when Dean peels it away, but doesn't wake.
The gash is wide enough to be a graze from a bullet. It doesn't look or smell infected, so Dean soaks a cloth in the antiseptic and starts cleaning as best he can.
Talley comes round fast; Dean's head snaps back and he staggers. He sees the second punch coming, but still ducks a second too late and he's on the floor, getting his legs up to lash out, when Talley stops and blinks blankly around at the room.
"It's okay," Dean says, tasting warm copper from his split lip, touching his nose and cheek to check for damage. Talley stares at him, uncomprehending and terrified. "It's okay, you're fine."
That seems to work: Talley looks down at his hand, blood glistening on his knuckles. "Christ," he says hoarsely. "Sorry." He reaches out a hand to help Dean up.
"This is Heflin, isn't it?" Talley asks.
"Yeah. I'm Dean, by the way." Dean grabs more wipes and blots at his lip.
"Jake," Talley says. He sits gingerly on the edge of the bed, then says in a rush: "There's no one else here, is there?"
"Not that I've found." Dean tries for a tight smile. "Looks like we're it."
Jake squeezes his eyes closed, turning his face away, and Dean goes back to cleaning the gash in Jake's arm so they can pretend the tears are from that.
"We knew something was wrong pretty much from the start." Jake takes a careful swig of cold soup, then stares down into the can. Dean finds himself doing the same. "They called us up a couple of days before they went on TV with all that bed-rest crap, told us we were going to be needed to keep people calm." His mouth twists bitterly on the last word. "We knew that was bullshit, but if I'd known how…" Jake takes a deep breath, looks over at him. "Where'd you come from?"
"Florida," Dean says, and Jake raises an eyebrow at that.
"How'd you get through the check-points?"
The memory of shoving his FBI card under a guard's nose – and he still can't quite think of him as a guard, more like a kid who looked barely old enough to shave, let alone pretend he knew what we was dong with a rifle, who was short enough for Dean to loom over – snarling "Do I look like I'm joking?" flashes across Dean's mind. He shrugs.
"They were letting through the people who were clean," he hedges.
Jake shakes his head. "Florida's 'closed'," he says, inflection making the word ominous. "Georgia's closed, North Carolina's closed…" his voice hitches, and he takes a deep breath.
"What about California?" The words are out before Dean can think too hard, before he can tell himself that not knowing might mean it hasn't happened, but Jake shakes his head.
"I don't know. They only told us things that were...operationally important. Like, 'it's operationally important to tell us if you are displaying any symptoms so you can be treated'..." He looks up at Dean. "Do they have 'treatment' centers in Florida yet?"
"They were setting them up, talking about the vaccine…"
Jake hisses between his teeth. "It's crap, all crap." He pauses for so long that Dean shifts uncomfortably, is about to do something, anything, to break the silence, when Jake whispers:
"I started getting the headaches."
Dean freezes, staring at Jake's bloody knuckles, trying not to probe his own split lip, and thinks fuck….
"I'm not--," Jake says sharply. "I'm okay." And frankly, a person's word doesn't mean much when there's something melting people from the inside out, but Jake isn't hacking up his lungs, isn't bleeding from under his fingernails, so Dean dares to breathe.
"I thought that was it, you know? I was so scared, I couldn't tell anyone, couldn't get the words out, but then it... changed. I started having dreams."
"Dreams," Dean echoes, wondering if insanity is another one of those symptoms that the news reports failed to mention.
Jake nods. "People dying. I mean," he gives a broken little laugh that cracks around the edges, "that's kind of SOP, right? But this was people being murdered. Screaming and trying to run away and getting shot anyway. This went on every time I closed my fucking eyes, because I sure as hell wasn't sleeping. Then..." Jake swallows. "Then they tell us that some people haven't been responding to treatment. They take us into the next town and say we need to put these people out of their misery..." There are tears on Jake's face now, but his voice wavers only slightly. "They take us to the treatment centre, and there's plastic sheeting everywhere, and they make us put on biohazard suits, and I'm thinking this looks familiar, but they're standing behind us, they've got their weapons on us..." He chokes on a sob, breathing ragged.
"The people in there, some of them weren't sick. Most of them were fucking f-fine." He covers his face, sobs muffling as he tries to keep speaking.
"Jesus," Dean whispers, because everything and anything else is inadequate.
"They're setting up a containment line," Jake says. "From Florida all the way up to Pennsylvania, they're doing... dead zones. No one gets over the border going east, anyone trying to cross west gets shot. For the good of the country..."
Dean draws a mental line down a map of the country. "Two days ago," he says through numb lips, "you were in Brenan, in Georgia, weren't you?"
Jake nods, and Dean holds perfectly still while the world tilts around him. It might not be: John might have found a way out before the line came down, Jake might be crazy, and Dean might wake up any second...
"...legged it out of there," Jake was saying, and Dean forces himself to focus, to make sense of the words. "I went AWOL. I had more headaches, and wasn't going to trust those fuckers. I saw..." he raised his face to Dean's. "I dreamed of you. If this shit is right, there's a motel sign out there in the grass with 'Howard Johnson Motel' on it." He looks around the room, eyes bleak. "That's here, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Dean says, he's pretty sure his shock is leaking into his expression, but Jake doesn't seem to notice.
“I thought it meant something," Jake says. "I thought there'd be something here to help..." His voice fades out, gaze drifting to a middle point.
"Jake," Dean says sharply, leaning forward, and Jake jerks slightly and focuses. The despair in Jake's eyes makes the words catch in Dean's throat, but he forges on. "I'm going to California; I'm going to find my brother. Come with me; I could use your help."
Jake looks dully back at him. "Sure," he says. "Okay."
They spend the night in the motel room, wedging a chair under the door handle, and Jake doesn't ask as Dean salts the windows and the door.
When Dean wakes up to the cold, grey light of dawn the other bed is empty, neatly made. For a moment, just a moment, Dean lets himself imagine that Dad's just gone out for coffee. He pushes it just a little further: Sammy's in the bathroom and he's going to take forever, the little shit... but here is where it shatters: the bathroom is silent, open and empty, the world outside is silent, and the chair bracing the door closed is now sitting against the wall.
Dean stares at it, his brain helpfully ticking over the possibilities: Jake's walking out of town, he's stolen the car and is halfway across the country, something supernatural tiptoed in and stole him away...
He gets out of bed, sliding his feet into his boots on the way, and opens the door.
Jake is on the other side of the parking lot, hanging from an extension cord tied to the upper balcony railing. His head rests against his shoulder like he's sleeping.
Expecting it has nothing over actually seeing it; Dean gets maybe two steps across the lot before his legs give way. He crouches on the asphalt, hands pressed against his face until the tremors stop.
He cuts the body down, drags it a safe distance from the building, and salts and burns it in the parking lot. He tells himself he's doing it out of respect for the dead – sending a potential spirit on its way rather than adding to the cacophony of freaked out ghosts on this side of the country. That's true enough, but he still lingers longer than he needs to, listening for the rumble of a truck.
Eventually, he goes back into the room and digs out his knife. He etches the date, his initials, and the latitude and longitude for Stanford into the wall of room six because not doing it would be admitting the unthinkable. Then he gets into the car and drives west.
The radio gives up nothing but static, and the occasional burst of EVP. He keeps out of the towns, stays away from the major roads, and doesn't even pretend it's not fear that twists his guts until he's well into Mississippi, angling south to miss most of the built up areas.
He sticks to the back roads, giving his maps a workout. It's that and dumb luck that ensures he's on a straight, empty road in the middle of nowhere when the headache hits.
The pain sears from the base of Dean's skull to his forehead; he jams the breaks on, hands convulsing around the wheel as he slams his eyes closed, sucking in a breath then he's getting knocked in the back, hard enough to make him stagger and nearly go down: he skins the palm of on the hot asphalt before he can regain his balance.
There are people around him, yelling and panicking, bumping him as they run in all directions, but he holds his ground trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
"Sam!" A woman screams. "Sam!"
Dean pivots, looking for the source of the voice, looking for Sam. Dean can't see him, but there's a knot of four guys across the street, half tucked away by the corner of a building. They're yelling, but distinctly not part of the panicking crowd: they're too still for that, looking down…
Dean moves fast, shoving his way through the throng.
"Hey," he shouts. "Get off her!" But they haven't noticed him, so Dean grabs the nearest guy by the back of the shirt and jerks him around. The guy's still mid-smirk when Dean swings the punch, connecting with a solid, knuckle-numbing crunch that makes the guy stagger back holding his nose.
"Back off!" Dean roars it this time, and there's something weird about that, but it's got their attention: the standing guys are backing the hell up, the guy on the ground is scrambling away, even the woman is cringing, staring. Crap.
Before Dean can even think about saying, "It's okay, I'm not with them," the woman is stumbling towards him, reaching for him. Her blonde hair is streaked with blood, her pupils blown wide with adrenaline.
"Sam," she gasps, maybe half a minute away from a full-blown freak out.
Dean reaches for her, intending to take her by the shoulders, opening his mouth to say: "It's okay, I'm looking for him, too," but he grabs her in a hug instead, and what comes out of his mouth is: "It's okay, I've got you. It's okay, Jess, we gotta go…" and it's Sam's voice on his tongue.
She's shaking so hard she can't quite get a grip on his shirt, and whatever she tries to say is lost in a keening sob. She sinks her teeth through his thin shirt, trying to muffle her wails in his shoulder. He hisses, but they don't let go, and Dean's hands are aching. He squeezes his eyes closed, too, just for a moment, and when he opens them his fingers are clenched, white-knuckled, around the steering wheel and the only sound is the rumble of the engine and his ragged gasps of breath.
He stays that way for a long moment, experimenting with taking deep breaths and wondering how to unlock his hands from the wheel. The headache is only echoes of its former agony, but it had left its calling card in long black skid marks on the road. It's a miracle he hadn't stalled.
Dean opens his right hand, and uses it to peel his left off the wheel.
"Okay," he says experimentally, and it's reassuringly his voice even through the hoarse croak. "What the fuck have you been up to, Sammy?"
Silence: Sammy seems to be hundreds of mile away in a riot. Dean feels something approaching hysterical laughter bubbling up from this stomach, well mixed in with a dose of fear. "You don't call for a year and now this?"
He looks down at his chest, the sharp pain of the woman's teeth as real as the heat of the sun through the windshield.
"Does this mean you're still alive, then, huh?" There's no answer to that, either, but Dean guns the engine and drives like hell.
Dean drives until long after dark and cranks the music up enough to make his ears ache, until even with that he comes awake with a jerk and has to swerve to stay on the road.
You're no good to anyone if you're dead. It's Dad's voice in his head, and he has to pull over anyway, tears stinging, blurring the world outside the windscreen. He presses the heels of his hands against his eyes until he can breathe steadily.
He's got blankets enough to sleep in the car, but his skin is crawling with the memory of Jake's cold body. He wants a shower, and even more than that, he needs to talk to someone. He wants to be in the fucking passenger seat, Dad driving as they cross the country in that tense silence that enveloped their world after Sammy left, so much worse than the silence Sammy had been inflicting on them for the months beforehand. He wants to be anywhere but here, so he puts the car in gear and drives until there are lights on the horizon, and a sign announcing Leesville, Louisiana.
There's a motel, sign dead and cold, but with lights on in the reception, so he parks and goes in. The reception is small and cozy, and there's a woman standing in the curtained doorway behind the counter with a shotgun aimed at his chest.
Dean very slowly raises his hands.
"Hi," he says quietly, aware that he doesn't make the most trustworthy picture with his split lip. The woman stares right back, her face pinched with fear, however steadily she's holding the weapon.
"You infected?" she demands.
"No." Dean slowly turns his hands around, displaying his fingernails, then just as carefully lifts each eyelid, even though he's not sure she can see from behind the counter. "I just want somewhere to sleep."
"The TV said there was quarantine. Said it was under control, nothing to worry about..." her voice cracks. "I had a couple come in yesterday for a night, and when I went to clean the room this afternoon there was blood on the sheets. Were they infected?"
"I don't know," Dean says, his heart sinking, thinking of Jake, of all that pain for nothing.
There's the sound of a door opening, and the curtain shifts.
The woman turns slightly, and Dean catches sight of a boy, maybe eight, hair and pyjamas mussed, waking up fast at the sight of the shotgun. Jesus.
"Michael, go back to bed. I'm talking with a customer, okay?"
The kid backs off, and Dean waits until he hears the door close again before he speaks.
"Ma'am, if there's somewhere further west you can go, someone you can stay with, do it. I don't know how this is spreading, but if you didn't touch anything bloodstained, I think you're okay." He doesn't have a damn clue, but the woman is nodding, looking a little reassured, even as the facade starts to slip and her hands start to shake.
"I just need a couple of hours sleep, then I'll be gone," Dean says. And a yearlong shower, but that probably wouldn't go down so well. "I can pay you in cash." He points to his jeans' pocket, and when she nods, fishes out his wallet, digs past the fake credit cards to the emergency cash stash in the back. There's still an intact fifty there from the poker game back in Florida, and Dean stares at it for a moment: one last relic of a time before things went to shit. He kneels, puts the note on the carpet and steps away from it, even though she's not tracking him with the weapon anymore.
She moves sideways to the key rack, not even needing to look to find the key she wants. She tosses it at him, and he catches it. Room twelve. Okay. He's pretty sure that's the furthest room from reception, and he hopes it's not close to the room of the bleeding couple from last night.
"Thank you," Dean says. She shrugs tightly, eyeing the fifty on the floor, and Dean backs out of reception. The desire to follow her through the curtain: to have somewhere to ... rest, properly, somewhere safe and warm, is a physical ache in his chest. He goes in search of room twelve, instead.
The room is small and threadbare: one queen and a tiny bathroom, but it's scrupulously clean. Habit wins out, and he salts the door and windows before scrambling out of his clothes and getting himself under the shower. He scrubs until his skin stings with it, then he stands under the water, letting it pound his head and shoulders until he finds himself half slumped against the tiles, his body twitching him back into full consciousness.
Toweling off is almost painful, but he forces himself through the motions, and through putting on a change of clothes: shirt, socks, underwear, and leaves his clean-ish pair of jeans on a chair in case he has to get moving in a hurry.
Dean doesn't remember falling asleep, but it's the pain that wakes him: digging its claws into the back of his neck and dragging them through his skull to just above his eyes. He manages a breath, and then there's blonde hair brushing over his face, and someone's hands unbuttoning his jeans. He has one hand inside her shirt, squeezing her breast, running a thumb over her nipple.
She kisses him hard, their lips and tongues clashing, her hair in their mouths, and it's desperate and perfect and not anywhere near enough. His hips jerk when she pulls his jeans down to his thighs; they're rolling together, and Dean falls off the bed.
Dean's bare palms and knees are stinging from the impact with the rough carpet, and his hands are pushing up the woman's skirt, and it's the worst fucking vertigo he's ever had.
He drags his hands along the carpet, fighting to ground himself as the arousal wells up, threatening to sweep him away.
Dean groans, and it's his own voice coming out of his own mouth, alone in a motel room in Louisiana, but there's also Sam's voice, clear as if he were speaking into Dean's ear: "Oh, god, Jess, you…". A tiny sliver of coherency tells Dean it would be easier to resist it if he sits up, but Jess's legs are wrapping around Sam's waist, and Dean thrusts involuntarily. Pleasure jolts through him, and Dean closes his eyes and surrenders, goes under.
Christ, Sammy, he thinks. Sam's hips stutter, and Dean feels the moment of entirely different tension.
"Dean?" Sam says, and then orgasm takes over, sweeping away thought and Sam and any ability Dean has to remain upright.
He's aware of fragments, after: snatches of time and place his mind is too exhausted to separate into here or there: the ache of fatigued muscles as he hauls himself back into a cold bed; a concerned murmur in his ear...
I guess this means you're okay, huh? Dean thinks absently as thought drifts into unconsciousness.
We're fine, Dean. Where are you?
The urge to open his eyes, to show Sam where he is, nags at him, but there are legs between his and a warm arm around his chest. Dean sleeps.
The motel is empty when Dean goes to return the key the next morning. The door to reception is locked, the curtain behind the counter drawn, and the Impala is the only car in the lot. He leaves the key under the doormat and gets moving.
The local radio station says that a middle aged couple had died overnight in a hospital in Jasper, Texas, causes 'unspecified'. Dean scans the rest of the band, looking in vain for more details, and when he goes back the station is playing Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album. It reaches the end of Wild in the Streets and then there's only silence.
Dean checks his maps and takes the long way around Jasper. He stops at the next open gas station and fills up the tank, then without thinking about it too hard, fills up the gas can from the trunk, too.
Preparation's important, Dad's voice says in his head, and Dean nods absently to that as he goes into pay. He grabs a bag of chips and a couple of sandwiches on the way to the counter.
"Breakfast of champions?" the clerk grins as he rings it up.
"Yeah, something like that."
Dean swipes one of the credit cards, glancing at the signature to remember the shape of the name, and signs "D Harrison". He hands the receipt to the clerk. The clerk hasn’t stopped grinning. The guy raises an eyebrow: “You’re Winchester, right?"
Adrenaline kicks in hard. The clerk's eyes are blue, but the tilt of the head, the jut of the chin is all wrong. Jake flashes through Dean's mind: his head resting peacefully on his shoulder, neck broken.
"Yeah, a mighty shame, that," the thing in the clerk's body says. "He could have been real useful to us."
Dean's got holy water and a couple of rosaries, but they're in the car, all of them.
"Oh, hey, no, you're fine." The smile widens to an impossible stretch. "Don't worry about wasting that stuff on me, you're going to have much bigger things to deal with soon."
"Christo," Dean snarls. The demon flinches, eyes flaring black.
"That wasn't very nice," it chides, and pushes the paper bag across the counter towards Dean. "I gotta say, I would've thought you'd gone the way of your daddy – choking on your own blood."
Dean lunges out of pure reflex, going for the throat even as he starts the chant: "Exorcisámus te, omnis immú --". The demon hisses, flicking a hand, and the blow smacks into Dean's chest, slamming him against the wall hard enough to make his vision swim.
The demon wanders over as Dean wheezes for breath.
"Your daddy, he was tough, he would have fought possession every inch of the way. He had to go; if we're making Eden up here, we can't be having headache makers, now, can we? Do you feel insulted, Dean, that you're too weak to die? Unless…" He grabs Dean's jaw, squeezing, rubbing a thumb over his mouth to make it sting. Dean tries to bite, and gets a slap that makes his eyes water. "Jakey punched you, huh? Split his knuckles against your lip. Lucky you."
"Immúnde spí --"
The demon's faster: a finger twitch and Dean can't breathe at all. Terror twists his stomach.
"I could kill you now. It'd be a mercy, given what's to come…" Dean's vision is blackening at the edges, then suddenly he can breathe again, the pressure gone. "But there's no fun in that, and besides, you might want to watch the show. Whaddaya think?"
"Fuck. You," Dean rasps. The demon laughs.
"Very eloquent. Sammy's the little gold mine of your family, anyway. When he comes into his own, he's gonna be able to tell whole crowds of people lie down and take a nap while we wander in and take our pick. Wolves among some very placid sheep."
That, at least, is ridiculous. Dean musters up a sneer.
"Sammy would never help you."
"No? That boy's special, he's got demon blood running through his veins." The demon leans close, breath hot and stinking of sulphur. "It's calling to him…"
Demons lie. Dad's voice in his head again, but the demon shakes his head pityingly, and leans so close Dean thinks for one wild moment that it's going to kiss him. It runs a tongue over his ear instead, smirking at his shudder.
"Except when we're telling the truth…" it whispers, then the pressure is back, crushing Dean's throat, and the blackness swallows his vision whole.
Dean's first aware of the hunger-nausea when comes around. It takes a moment to orient himself. He's slumped against the wall of a convenience store, there's no one in sight and…. Sammy. He struggles to his feet, fighting a wave of dizziness.
The place is deserted, and it's not like he feels any compunction about grabbing the bag of food still on the counter and getting the hell out of there.
He fixes his gaze on the horizon and drives until he stops shaking. Then he works his way through everything in the bag, methodically pausing to make sure it was going to stay in his stomach.
The headache is different this time. It still fucking hurts, but he can see well enough to be able to brake and pull off the road. He sits, hands on the wheel, breathing steadily through the pain with his eyes closed.
Dean has time to be aware of the leather seat under him, and then there's also grass and gravel under his butt and he's facing a different road and the vertigo tilts the world again.
"Close your fucking eyes," he mutters to the confines of the car, but he can still see the road, and the woman – Jess – walks into his field of vision.
"Anything?" she asks quietly. Dean shakes – no, he realizes, he's feeling Sam shake his head.
"I don't think so," Dean feels Sam say. Dean hits the steering wheel in frustration, pain stinging the side of his hand, and Sam winces.
Oh. Dean has no idea which one of them thinks it, but he follows it up fast: close your eyes, moron.
The world goes dark, properly dark, and Dean's nausea steadies.
Dean! Jesus, you're – Fuck. Dean has no idea whose chest is aching, or who is swallowing past a lump in their throat, but he doubts it matters. I thought you might be dead. It comes out as a whisper.
Yeah, well, I wasn't too sure about you, either. Ever heard of a phone, dumbass? Where the hell are you?
Sam's laugh is shaky. Yeah, well, being able to find a working one's been a bit of an issue. We're in Arizona. There were cops all over the border. I... Sam hesitates.
Dean smiles grimly and offers up a memory of an FBI identity card and a good, threatening snarl. Sam shakes his head.
No – fuck, this is weird. – No, I did...something different. Dean has a jumbled impression of a polite smile on his -- Sam's -- face, of words coming deep from Sam's chest, and a guard nodding, waving them through while somewhere behind people started shouting. I can do ...things
A tiny tendril of fear starts curling its way up Dean's spine. What sort of things?
I can make people do things.
Uh-huh. Dean opens his eyes, opens the car door and gets out onto the road verge. He walks around and presses his hands to the hood of the car. It fucking burns, but the feeling of Sam recedes, and all of Dean's focus on is on the heat rather than (demon blood) anything else.
The hell? Sam says, but his voice faint in Dean's mind.
I think Dad’s dead. Dean says it fast, with Sam still distant because it was hard enough not keeling over without getting a front-row seat to Sam’s grief. He was in Georgia. He keeps still, grounding himself with the car while Sam’s pain washes over him, faint but enough to make Dean’s eyes sting all over again.
But you’re okay, right? Sam demands eventually, as if he’s trying to sound like he’s not clinging to the idea as much as Dean is.
Just fine. Dean replies, taking his hands off the hot metal and flexing his fingers. Have you been getting headaches? Without the dying in agony thing, I mean. He can feel the 'yes' under Sam's hesitation. Me too. Every time I see...bits of you. Things you're doing.
Like last night? Dean can feel the flush heating Sam's face, and offers up a grin.
Sam doesn’t exactly clear his throat, but Dean can feel him casting around for another topic.
You've...still got the Impala, obviously Sam says after a moment. We've....got transport Sam opens his eyes and turns his head, and Dean sees the white sedan parked to Sam's left, and with it comes a jumble of images.
Sam taps on the car's window, his voice deep in his chest, the driver's amicable smile as he gets out, even opening the passenger side door for Jess to climb in. Then there's the guy's shout as Sam's mojo wears off as they drive away, as the guy realizes, on some level, what just happened.
Dean chuckles but it sounds weak, even to him. You Obi-Woned someone's car? Less hassle than hot-wiring, hey?
Yeah… Sam's smile is equally as feeble. What's going on, Dean? he whispers, fear leaking through. What the hell's going on?
I don't know, but we're going to be okay. Okay?
They don't call each other on the lie, or on the fear that's slowly curdling in their stomachs.
Dean opens his eyes and digs around for his Texas maps, tracing roads with his fingertips.
I'm near here, he says, tapping the creased page. There are sick people here, I don't know what it's going to be like at the New Mexico border, but I've got gas to get me that far, maybe.
Dean closes his own eyes as Sam traces their route, skirting towns and doglegging to keep on the minor roads, until his finger taps over the same place Dean’s had.
See you soon, then, Sam says dryly.
You be goddamn careful, Dean snaps, anxiety flaring because Sam’s standing up and Dean can feel Sam … leaving, closing down whatever the hell this was as easily as he’d opened it.
You too… Sam says, fading, and then Dean’s alone on the side of the road.
The memory of the demon’s voice floods his mind: It’s calling to him…
“Fuck off,” Dean snarls aloud, jerking the car door open. “He’s my brother, you can keep your damn hands off him.”
Dean slams the car into gear and floors it.