“Dean are you ready to go?” Sam calls down the hallway towards Dean’s room. But there isn’t an answer, only the strains of a familiar Led Zeppelin song, and possibly Dean singing along. He sighs, and walks up to the mostly closed door knocking firmly. “Dean! Let’s go!”
Still no answer. Sam pushes open the door the rest of the way and finds Dean sitting at his desk, playing with his giant slinky of all things, staring off into space as he sings along with Robert Plant’s plaintive wail.
“Thought you were writing in your journal. What’re you fooling around with that thing for?” Sam asks.
Dean sets the rainbow slinky down next to his picture of their mom, closes his journal with a thud and turns to look up at Sam, a funny look on his face. “I’m just thinking. It helps me think.”
Sam grins at his brother, remembering that night and the way they’d laughed together, “Well alright then, glad I got it for you.”
“Me too. Whatever happened to your clown doll?” Dean asks, getting up from the chair, snagging his journal and turning off the desk lamp.
Sam looks at Dean, surprised that he even remembers giving him that awful thing, “Uh, left it behind.”
Dean clutches his chest in mock pain, “Dude, you wound me, rejecting my gifts like that.”
Sam whacks him on the shoulder, hard, “Dean, screw you, it was a clown. I’d just escaped from killer clowns that had almost succeeded.”
“Yeah, yeah, I remember, and oh god, there was all that glitter.” Dean can’t help the laugh that escapes, because that glittery Sam was one of the funniest things he’d ever seen.
Sam tries not to smile, because Dean laughing is something precious these days, and puts his hands on his hips, “Keep laughing, maybe I’ll just take that slinky back.”
Moving to stand protectively in front of his desk, Dean protests, “No way. Hands off bud.”
Sam blows out an exasperated breath, “So we goin’ anytime soon, or what?”
“Yeah, I’ll meet you up top in five.” Dean nods at Sam as he leaves the room, noticing how tensely coiled Sam’s shoulders seem. Better cut out the teasing a little unless I want to make this drive hard on both of us, he thinks to himself, switching off his room’s light and closing the door.
They reach their destination in a couple days of uneventful driving, Kansas to Maine is no quick trip. After a frustrating day of thrashing through the deep Maine woods in search of something called geocaches that Garth had sent them to find because they supposedly contain something that will help with the angel tablet; they give up, empty-handed. The GPS on Sam’s phone just isn’t working like it should.
When they finally get back to the motel, Sam researches it a little while Dean’s out getting them dinner, and finds out that the GPS signal could be impeded by something that would change local magnetism. But they’d have to have something crazy like rare earth magnets which they don’t. He narrows down the possibilities and has a possible solution before Dean comes back with their take-out. Sam makes a note of the current GPS coordinates from his spot at the surprisingly sturdy table.
A bare moment after Dean’s in the door and standing next to him opening up all the cartons of Chinese food, Sam hollers, “Aha!”
Dean looks down at him in surprise, “Aha what?”
“It is you, I knew it.” Sam crows in triumph.
Not knowing what the hell Sam’s going on about, Dean decides to mess with him, “Yes, I am your server tonight, would you like to start with Wor Won Ton soup, or perhaps some of these delicious spring rolls sir?”
“Shut up Dean, you’re why my GPS didn’t work. I’m pretty sure that it’s the Phoenix ash. Here look.”
“Oh come on, no way!” Dean protests loudly.
“Yeah it is.” Sam insists, “Look what I wrote, the reading I took for right here at this table before you walked in was 45.6572° N, 68.7103° W and now it’s reading 46.6572° N, 68.8103° W.”
“So?” Dean asks.
“So, you’re making the thing not work, so we can’t find the geocaches.”
Dean really doesn’t get the whole picture though, “How is it the Phoenix ash though?”
“Well I started looking up how GPS could be influenced, and one of the things was something like a rare earth magnet. The way I figure it, that’s the only difference between you and me, and the Phoenix was really sensitive to iron right?” Sam answers.
“So why am I not having metal things stickin’ to me all the time?” Dean asks, picking up his set of cheap wood chopsticks and breaking them apart with a flourish.
“I guess you’re not quite that magnetic. But you’re just enough that it affects the GPS to put our directions off a little to make it impossible to find the caches with you around.”
“So you’re walking the woods yourself tomorrow then huh?” Dean asks through a mouthful of spring roll.
Sam rolls his eyes at Dean’s consistently terrible manners and snags his own spring roll, “Looks like.”
“Good thing I got you a Chinese chicken salad with extra meat then. Eat up Sammy, you’re gonna need your strength out there without me and my magnetic personality.”
Dean sits in the Impala to wait out the morning, and listens to Sam’s iPod to save the car battery. He’s stuck listening to some of his brother’s music, and he’s surprised that a few things aren’t half bad. There’s one song, by Empire of the Sun, "We Are the People" that’s really catchy, especially the words in the chorus. They make him think about Sam and him, and he wishes he could say something like that to Sam. Dean wonders if it would help fix things between them if Sam knew he felt that way. Feeling a little frustrated that he can’t really do that, he takes out his journal and writes the chorus’ lyrics down along with some thoughts about how he could communicate that sentiment to Sam somehow without saying it outright.
Sam comes back with the stuff from the first geocache and sees Dean writing and bopping his head to the music on the iPod headphones. He can’t help but smile, thinking about how much Dean bitches about his “emo music” and here he is grooving to it when he thinks no one is looking.
Sam hits the driver’s side door abruptly, “Whatcha listenin’ to?”
Dean startles and recovers quickly, taking off the headphones, “Just hit shuffle on the thing, I dunno. Didn’t wanna waste the car battery while I was waitin’ on you.”
“So, I found the first one.” Sam pulls out a burlap-wrapped bundle from his backpack and hands it to Dean through the open window, “Here, you unwrap it while I go look for the second cache, according to the email from Garth, it should be on the other side of this road, about a half mile up that hill. So I won’t be gone too long hopefully.”
Dean waves, and starts unwrapping the dirt-encrusted cords tying the mysterious package together, “Have fun Meriwether.”
“Okay, sure William, you hold down the fort and call Sacajawea if you need help, okay.” Sam hits the roof of the car in a double good-bye thump and takes off walking.
Sam strides off up the thickly forested slope without another word, but Dean can see he is walking easily, without the tensed up shoulders he’d started the other day with. Searching in the woods would have been more fun together, instead of sitting around waiting for Sam to do it. Dean is bummed to miss out on the treasure hunting fun, but honestly he isn’t missing the tramping through the woods thing. That isn’t as much fun if there isn’t a monster to be chasing or something. This is more of a Sam thing anyways, him being Mr. Hippie Granola Hiker and all.
When Sam gets back a couple hours later, Dean’s gone, not in the car or anywhere around in yelling distance apparently, but luckily the car’s unlocked, so he can’t be too far. Someday they really ought to get a second set of car keys for just such occasions, he thinks to himself for the thousandth time. Sam gets in and rests, drinking his water and eating an energy bar out of his pack. He notices Dean’s journal, left on the driver’s seat, it’s open, and he just can’t help himself. He sees Dean’s messy scrawl, but there are some lines that are printed clearly and when he reads them he chuckles a little to himself thinking of Dean listening to that particular song. Obviously he had though, and the words must have made an impact if Dean had taken the time to write them down here.
"I can’t do well when I think you’re gonna leave me, but I know I try
Are you gonna leave me now
Can’t you be believing now"
Below the song lyrics is more of Dean’s messy scrawl, and Sam reads it hesitantly, because he sees immediately that it’s about one of those sore spot subjects that they usually avoid even getting near, the territory around those issues land-mined and booby-trapped with everything that’s ever gone wrong between them. But Dean’s words are surprising and considered and well-thought out, and of course filled with self-doubt and blaming himself. That’s not a shocker. But Sam thinks about how he could have written these exact words very easily himself. They always think they’re so different, but they really really aren’t. Each of them is so wound up in saving the world or their brother that they don’t think much of what they need.
Since that conversation they’d had after his disastrous wedding to Becky, he’d always thought that Dean had agreed with what he’d said, that it was time for Dean to take care of himself. Heck, Dean had even said that it was stupid to think that Sam needed him around all the time because he was a grownup. Seems like neither of them really meant what they said. Because Sam’s man enough to admit it, at least to himself, he does need Dean around, pretty much all the time. And from what he’s just read, it’s the same for Dean. So instead of wasting time and energy pushing against that co-dependence, maybe accepting it somehow and making it their strength is what he needs to work on. Not that he can say any of this to Dean out loud of course. And that’s kinda the problem isn’t it?
Dean makes a lot of noise coming back to the car, but not in time for Sam to put the journal back where he’d found it. Dean sees him placing it back on his seat but doesn’t say anything. Instead of yelling about invasion of privacy Dean thinks to himself, maybe it’s a good thing that Sam read what I just had been writing.
Sam’s worried that Dean’s going to be mad that he was sneaking a read, and when he’s not, even though he’s obviously seen the infraction, Sam starts thinking, maybe Dean wanted him to read that, especially that last part. Maybe he ought to do the same thing, leave out some personal writing in an irresistible way that Dean will just have to snoop. Then Dean will know too, without one of those embarrassing conversations. He’ll know that Sam still needs him just as much, if not more than he always has.
At the next location, after another hour of Dean waiting around, Sam’s found the last cache and they’re heading straight back home to the bunker. Their hope is that Kevin will be able to use these pieces of tablet to help with decoding the remainder of the angel tablet. Sam and Dean aren’t talking too much past discussing the possibilities of somehow solving the fallen angel problem, both thinking about what Dean had written down in his journal. But it’s an easy silence, not one of those interminable uncomfortable eight hour silent treatment things. When they stop for the night in London, Ontario, they’re both really glad they can sometimes be quiet, and not be mad at each other.
“Man I’m so ready to be outta the car.” Sam says as he gets out of the car in the motel parking lot, stretching his long arms out wide, shaking out his hands.
“Much as I love her, sometimes, these long days are tough.” Dean agrees, doing his own twisting stretches, trying to pop his lower back.
“We’re just getting’ old Dean.”
“Yeah, ain’t it just grand?” Dean grins at him over the top of the car, and takes off for the motel office.
Sam can’t think of anything to say to that, because, yeah it pretty much is, and both of them finally appreciate it now. Year after year of almost dying or actually dying will do that to a person.
Dean’s back with a key that has a pinecone dangling from it, and they’re in their room of the week in a few minutes, this one is a moose/forest theme. Which is of course to be expected in the great white north. But the mounted moose heads over each bed are a bit much.
Sam thinks the moose heads are really creepy and tries to ignore the staring glass eyes. He muses that they hardly ever stay long in Canada, but when they’re here, he knows what Dean will be going out to get, in 3-2-1.
“I’ll be back in a bit with some of Canada’s finest. Want any dinner?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, you know, the usual, please nothing too greasy.” Sam answers, hoping that Dean will listen for once and respect the “road-stomach” he sometimes gets.
“Sure princess, you got it.” Dean leaves with a wave and an evil grin back over his shoulder.
With at least a half an hour to himself, Sam situates himself to write in his own journal, he hasn’t stopped thinking about what he’d read in Dean’s earlier today. His reaction to it just spills itself easily onto the page, he writes non-stop for a solid thirty minutes, getting it all out there. How he’s been feeling since they stopped the third trial, what he remembers about what they’d said to each other in that church, and before that about why he made the choice to stay with Dean this time. Sam writes a little about how he loved reading what Dean wrote in his journal, although he feels bad for snooping. He finishes with some musings on why he could never imagine himself leaving like he used to, that having the home they’re making for themselves in the Men of Letters bunker is all the normal he’ll ever want and that he hopes that Dean will believe it and trust in it.
Then throwing fate to the winds, he leaves the journal open on the desk, and heads for a long well-deserved shower. With any luck, Dean will come back with their beer and food and hear the shower running and read what he’s just written.
Dean bustles through the door and dumps everything on the table, noticing the open journal instantly, he checks to make sure the shower he hears going is the one in their room and then sets himself down to start reading. Fair’s fair right? He knows Sam was reading his this morning. But it’s not what he’s expecting, which was maybe some pining for Amelia, or the normal life Sam’s left behind, guilt or anger about Dean stopping him from completing the third trial. None of that is in there. Instead it’s pretty much the opposite, and he’s stunned, almost as surprised as he was when Sam had told him what he’d confessed in that old church to purify himself.
It’s almost like all his worst fears have been directly answered and not how he’d ever thought they would be. He finds that reading Sam’s words on the page is as good a feeling as getting out onto the highway after driving back roads all day. Dean feels like he’s ten feet tall again, not because Sam’s still hero-worshipping him or anything. But it’s as if that mojo he’s been missing for a long time is back, all because he knows that they’re in sync, on the same page, all those clichés.
The door to the bathroom opens and Sam exits in a cloud of steam, toweling off his hair, he catches sight of Dean jumping up from the seat in front of his open journal. So that’s done, Sam thinks, schooling his face to not react at all, when all he wants to do is smile and ask if Dean’s read anything good lately.
“Got you something.” Dean says, and suddenly throws something at Sam.
Sam barely catches it, right in front of his face. It’s a small stuffed moose, with a clown-face and hat stitched on. He doesn’t know what to say, “Why?”
“It reminded me of you?” Dean answers with a question, because that seems like a good idea right now, the chances of him getting yelled at for reading Sam’s journal disappearing by each minute he can keep his brother distracted.
“What the clown or the moose part?” Sam asks, trying so hard not to grin, or say thank you, or unimaginably worse pull Dean into a hug so that he knows that all that he just read was the whole honest truth.
“Both. It’s to replace that clown doll you so cruelly abandoned.”
“I’ll treasure it forever.” Sam says sarcastically, trying to wind up for a good bitchface but not able to get there because he’s suddenly just too damn happy.
“You better.” Dean answers, smiling as he sees his all-time favorite Sam expression, which isn’t one of Sam’s many bitchfaces, but the one that tells him he’s said or done exactly the right thing.