“You’re not serious, are you?”
Sam is standing in the middle of the busy parking lot, arms crossed and looking so put-upon that Dean has to laugh. The dust from the hard-packed earth swirls around their legs, making lazy circles like vultures over a dying man.
Jesus. Dean runs a hand over his face, hiding a grin he knows is bound to look even more unhinged than usual. He’s right, they both need a break. Vultures? Christ, he’s a hair’s breadth away from shooting at shadows, and that’s something they simply can’t afford. Seeing things that aren’t there gets in the way of seeing the things that are.
Something that on anyone else would be described as a hysterical giggle bubbles at the back of his throat and tries to force its way out. Dean stomps down hard on the urge to double over and kneel right there amongst the rusty pick-ups and corn-fed all-American families. He thinks the dirt looks gritty and welcoming like an open grave and… That’s it. Determinedly he shakes the thoughts off before grabbing his brother by the elbow and propelling them both toward the gates.
“Oh my God, you are serious! A county fair?” A deep frown has taken residence between Sam’s eyebrows, and his mouth is pursed into a thin line of disapproval. At times like these, Sam looks very much like their father, and Dean is afraid of saying so. He has to bite his lip hard not make that mistake, though he’s already made it countless times before and will no doubt do so again. There is a perverse pride in never learning some lessons.
“Ice-cream, Sammy. Popcorn. Hot Dogs. Cotton candy.”
As per usual, the promise of refined sugar clinches the deal. There is a smile forming on Sam’s face that Dean remembers from a decade ago, when they were nothing but snot-nosed brats with too much time on their hands and the skills to make it interesting, and God, even then…
He could never say no. Sam got them into trouble, and Dean got them out of it, and while the scales may have balanced slightly over the years, that’s still the basic truth of their relationship.
It’s a scorching day, tempered by a brisk wind that hints of autumn storms waiting just around the corner. The Ferris wheel creaks and sways under them, making Sam whoop and point at things in the distance that neither of them recognizes. Dean nods and looks, all the while fighting to control the nausea with slow even breaths.
They catch an amateur stand-up routine, sitting side by side at the very back of the outdoor auditorium. Dean almost chokes on popcorn – not because jokes about cows and farmers’ daughters are funny but because Sam keeps acting them out with the two yellow teddy bears he won at the pop-a-duck.
After that, Dean buys ice-cream (vanilla for him and some disgusting cherry-toffee-banana mess for Sam) just to stop the whining. The rollercoaster is pretty cool because, although it’s high, at least it goes fast, which is something Dean can always get into.
They ride the rides, and eat junk food and Dean can’t remember the last time he had this much fun. Probably never. Not like this, anyway. They skid to a halt in front of a rickety looking front, carefully painted to look derelict and menacing.
“Come on, Dean. We have to. The day won’t be complete without a visit to the…” Sam squints his eyes, reading the sign with an exaggerated solemnity. “…Ghost Train of Unspeakable Terror.”
The shrill sound of shouting children echoes around them, and for a moment Dean tenses, his body slow to tell the difference between good screams and bad screams.
“Yeah, okay.” Could be fun, right? And they deserve a day that is as complete as Dean can make it.
The railcars are small and decorated with glow-in-the-dark skulls. They sit down, ignoring the attendant’s condescending stare, and choo choo goes the Ghost Train.
The roar of recorded thunder makes him half-deaf, and he almost jumps when Sam cups the back of his neck, directing his gaze towards a plastic zombie slowly rising from its coffin. It’s really, really ugly with runny eyeballs and peeling skin, and Dean has to give grudging respect to the artist, even though it looks nothing like the real thing.
The sheer weirdness of that makes him snort, and soon Sammy too is shaking with hilarity, his long fingers making helpless little clutching motions at Dean’s collar. And maybe it’s relief that they’re alive and together, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s drunk on sun and home-made apple cider and his goddamn baby brother – Hell, maybe it’s even happiness. What would he know about it? – but when Sam pulls him closer, Dean just tilts his head and grins back.
Fake lightning flashes around them, bathing everything in white-blue. Sam’s wearing that smile again, the one that makes his insides dissolve with fear and anticipation, and yes, even still, after all this time…
There are a lot of broken rules in their past already. What’s one more going to matter?
Sam’s lips look shiny and sticky, and Dean knows they would taste like spun sugar melting against his. He shifts and aligns and smells the warm skin so much like his own. Sam sighs, eyes stuttering shut, and oh how he wants--
But Dean can’t forget about tomorrow and next month and five minutes from now, when the ride is over and they have to get out and away and on with their fucked-up lives. The car needs an oil-change, and they haven’t found a motel yet. There is a poltergeist in Alabama and a suspected werewolf sighting in St. Louis. The money is low, so he’ll have to do some pick-pocketing before they leave the grounds, but for now he does nothing.
The cart crashes through the final set of doors, bursting out into the noise and tourists, families with all their secrets untouched.
Sam is the first one out, heading straight to the gates without a backwards glance. Dean follows at a more sedate pace, bumping into as many jolly breadwinners as he can. Angry or not, they still need to eat.
His brother will get it eventually, and when he does, he won’t dare Dean again. Because this is one type of trouble they may not want to get out of.