It was a cold autumn day in the west of North Dakota. The city was small. So small, Sam wondered if it was still allowed to call itself a city. The bar-slash-diner, which they stopped by for something to eat –apparently, the city was even too small to keep these two things separate–, was accordingly pretty empty. A few locals sat on small tables. Sam guessed, that they most likely hadn’t changed places in twenty years. The people were old. The men, looking like lumberjacks, who still thought they were fit enough for the job, but should have retired years ago; and the women, the two that were there, looking like they wanted to carry on the soccer mom image, even though they were grandmas by now.
The only guy under 50 was the bartender. Then, again, who would want to stay in this slow, well-rehearsed environment? Not young people, that was for sure. The few hours since he and Dean arrived in this town were enough for Sam to pick up its vibe. New things did not happen here.
“You still wanna eat that?” Dean interrupted Sam’s thoughts by pointing at the plate underneath his face. His brother spoke with his mouth filled. The older was eating a burger and had just stuffed the last piece in his food-hole.
“No”, Sam answered dryly to his brother’s question. He pushed his plate with the half-eaten steak and sauce –which he had mainly ordered, because it was the only dish of four to have a salad with it– over to Dean, who’s eyes widened in appetite. Digging into it, Dean said:
“ ‘s such a waste Sammy. It’s good, why not eat it?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Sam didn’t even look in his brothers direction. Somehow, he felt annoyed and drained. He laid the blame on the boring vibe of the town, or the fact, that he hadn’t slept to well the last nights and just the thought of –once again– sleeping in the Impala made his neck hurt.
“Hey, somethin’ up?”, Dean asked after swallowing a piece of steak.
“No. Just tired I guess”, Sam expressed, not even lying, since he himself could only guess the reason of his bad mood.
Dean nodded slowly in response, not knowing what to respond.
“I’ll go take a piss”, Sam then said, leaving their table and heading for the small door at the other side of the bar. He crossed the room, passing the centrally set bar, next to which was a small elevation. It was maybe thought to be a stage for live music, since a lonely guitar and a chair had their place there, but it was barely enough for one person.
Reaching the only restroom, Sam pushed the door open and locked it after him. The actual cause of his excuse of having to pee was, that he needed ten minutes to calm down. Again, he asked himself why he was so tense. Sam used the time to wash his face and to think about more or less important things, until he decided it was enough. A look to his phone revealed he was running late anyway. Dean probably wondered where he was.
Drying his face one final time, Sam noticed faint music coming from the bar. Maybe, the host had speakers he had not noticed, or there was actually someone playing live in this no-name town with it’s no-name bar. Sighing Sam unlocked and opened the restroom door. The music grew louder. It didn’t even sound so bad. The guitar –it was most likely the one that had been standing on the stage– was a bit untuned. Not that Sam knew much about music –this area belonged to Dean–, but he was able to notice when an instrument sounded off.
The musician played the intro of Sweet Home Alabama. Sam was relieved that it was good music, or else he would have to hear Dean complain the whole night. On the other hand, if the person screwed it up, it would come to the same end.
Hoping a look on the musician would get him answers, Sam finally looked up. But, the person he saw, he wouldn’t even have expected in his wildest dreams.
There on this small wannabe stage sat his brother Dean, plucking strings, his focus only on the instrument and his fingers. Sam was so startled, he had to sit down on the next chair he found. Since freaking when could Dean play guitar? And not even that bad. Sure, sometimes he needed longer for some chords or he played a slightly false one, but the most musical talent Sam had expected from his brother was drumming to the beat on the vehicle of the Impala.
Some of the other guests raised their heads to a minimum as well. Maybe, it had been a while since someone had used the stage, which wasn’t surprising. But Sam didn’t have the time to wonder about that now. His head was filled with the realisation that Dean could play guitar. Sam, who thought he knew his brother to the core and out, never considered to make such a big discovery concerning the older’s character. He was baffled.
To add spice to the already unusual situation Sam found himself in, Dean began humming the lead. Not loud and probably too faint to be heard by the older guests, but Sam heard it all the louder. It wasn’t the usual bawling tone Dean used, when he sang along to the cassette tapes, he heard in the Impala, which had lead Sam to the believe, that his brother couldn’t sing for his life. It was soft, as if he was talking to the guitar, going with the melody, maybe not even noticing that he hummed. Which wasn’t a surprise, given that Sam was pretty sure Dean didn’t notice anything that happened outside of the guitar. Way too focused, his eyes followed every movement of his fingers, concentrated not to mess up too bad. Dean looked... happy. Truly happy. Sam hadn’t gotten this genuine feeling from him in a while. Given a look at their lives, this wasn’t surprising either. Or the fact that their relationship was a bit strained at the moment. But, right now, in this moment, Dean seemed to block out everything around him and just concentrated on the moment. So did Sam, as he watched the older play.
He swallowed. This was one big ass discovery. One, he couldn’t quite wrap his head around. But, as confused as he was, unknowingly, he smiled. His bad mood faded like dust in the wind, when he saw his brother playing guitar in this no-name bar, in this no-name town and suddenly, he was glad they had come here.
“Wow”, Sam smiled in a quite voice to himself and leaned back in the chair he was sitting on, to watch his big brother play the instrument.
Sam wasn’t easily surprised. His whole life was built around the unknown, the mystery and the undiscovered. There were few things that caught him off guard. But he never thought that Dean would be one of those things. He never thought Dean would, one day, be able to surprise him more than in this moment, or ever again. If Sam thought about it, he didn’t think that anything ever would be able to recreate this moment. Though, this was far more pleasant than most of the surprises he experienced. This one was happy. This one, Sam wanted to look back on. To have a better chance of doing that, Sam got his phone out of the pocket of his jacket and quickly snapped a photo of the play, that was happening in front of him. Dean would hate him for it, but he just had to.
Sam looked at the photo. It had come out good, captured the moment perfectly. He had to say, he was a bit proud.
Slowly, he let his phone glide back in his pocket. Dean was now getting more quite. Apparently, he had played trough the whole song in his head. The olders eyes lingered on the instrument in his lap a bit longer. Then, his gaze shot up and he clumsily put the guitar back in its place. Through constant tripping, the older nearly fell off the stage. Much to Sam’s amusement from afar.
“Heya Sammy.” Dean looked at him in a bashful manner, scratching the back of his head as he approached him. “You were away so long, I started to think the toilet monster may be real after all.”
“Dude”, Sam said, ignoring his brothers comment completely, “Since freaking when do you play guitar?”
Dean answered with an intelligent “Uhm.” Sam thought he probably needed time to think about the right explanation.
“You remember Sonny and the boys home a bit back?”, Dean started. Sam shook his head ironically.
“Of course, how could I forget?”
“Yeah well. The girl in the diner I spoke with. She gave me lessons the weeks I was there.” Dean licked his lips. His hand moved to the back of his head again.
“I practised a bit after that. But only so that dad wouldn’t notice.”
Sam frowned. When had Dean practised then?
“How could I not notice?”
“Because I was out when I did it, idiot. Or did you think I would be able to hide a guitar from dad in our motel room OR the Impala? No I was at bars ‘n stuff.”
Dean looked at him in a lack of understanding. Sam raised his hands in defense. Dean’s arguments made perfect sense. Though, Sam thought, dad would have been proud of him under that hard facade.
Instead of saying that out loud, Sam asked: “Why didn’t you carry on playing after dad left?”
“Played with the thought”, Dean said, “But, be honest Sam. Where would I have put the thing? Plus, I didn’t have the the money to take care of it. Would’ve been broken within a year.”
His brother walked past him to get to their table, where he picked up his jacket and slammed a couple of dollars on the surface.
“Also, I don’t have the slightest clue of notes and stuff anymore. I know the chords, but that’s it, nor do I know how to tune the thing“, Dean argued and shrugged as he put on his jacket. Sam had his hands in his pockets and waited for his brother to finish.
“Today is the first time I touched a thing like this in years. The only thing I remembered to do was barely a full tune of Sweet Home Alabama.”
With that, Dean moved to the door with a little false smirk. Sam knew that it mattered more as Dean wanted to convey to him. The moment on the stage had meant something to his big brother. The guitar meant something to him. Maybe it had functioned as a valve back in his teenage years. Music had always been important to Dean. Sam was stupid to think, that in his life, his brother didn’t take at least one chance of making melodies himself.
“Would you like to start playing again?”, Sam asked as he ran after Dean on the way to the Impala.
“With what Sam? An Ukulele?”, Dean answered laughing. Then he added:
“That was a one time thing. It’s okay Sam.”
Sam noticed that there was a longing in Deans voice. The older just didn’t want him to worry. Sam didn’t want that. Not again. This night had showed something to Sam he never thought he would see. Something good, something pure, a rarity in his life; and he would ensure that it remained.
For his brothers next Birthday, Sam got Dean a guitar and a tuner, and he was sure he hadn’t seen Dean this happy in a very long time. Even though, his brother tried to be as subtle about it, as he could be.
And every now and then, when Sam stayed up late, woke up early, even when they fought –which happened often at that time–, he heard a faint melody echo through the bunker. He didn’t know why, but it always seemed to cheer him up.