faege: classic boys in a classic car (i can't stay)
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On Sunday morning, when the rest of the world goes to church, Dean gets up, slings his duffel over his shoulder, and goes to the woods to hunt an angel. It doesn't take long to pinpoint the place he sensed it last time, and when he gets there he turns and faces the back of the house, jaw tightening at the clear view he has. Then he gets to work.

Trapping an angel in holy oil is risky. Trapping an angel in holy oil on snow-covered ground when you have no idea from what direction they'll be coming is even riskier, but Dean figures that even coming out here for a friendly conversation mano a mano is a sign that he's a few cards short of a deck. He doesn't even know if holy oil will hold this thing. He's seen angel wings before and has always held the impression that they're essentially shadows, but this thing's wings he's actually touched, reached up and pulled down a handful of feathers. Even if it is mostly angel, it's not like the rest, which means it might not play by the same rules.

Dean caps the holy oil and surveys what he can see of the circle, reviewing the little he knows. Essentially he's trapping a maybe-probably angel with wings and who knows what else that are unlike anything Dean's seen. Sam would call him an idiot. Dean shrugs, pulls out his angel blade, and settles on the edge of a stump. And waits.

--

He waits an hour and a half. A breeze kicks up halfway through, bringing him to his feet, angel blade ready, but nothing comes. He sits back down, thumb resting on the edge of his lighter, for another forty-five minutes before he throws caution to the wind. He stands up, stamping feeling back into his numb feet, and tosses the angel blade into the duffel at his feet.

"All right. You got me," Dean calls, spreading his arms. "I'm sick of waiting here and I figure if you're hanging around it's because you know who I am, which means you know I'm not real patient and I want answers." He waits, listening. "Guess I'm going to be doing all the talking. Fine. Here's the thing: A couple weeks ago something showed up on my roof. I get the feeling you know something about that because since then I keep finding these feathers everywhere, which either means you're sloppy or you want me to find you. Now, I figure you're an angel or something close because angels are the only stuck up pricks I know who are pompous enough to have feathers that practically electrocute whoever they touch. So, listen up.

"My brother Sam made a deal with Castiel. I'll bet you were briefed on that because getting him as Heaven's holy Terminator was pretty high on the angelic to-do list, so I'm gonna tell you how this is going to go. I want information--I want to know where Sam is and what the hell he's doing--and I want to talk to Cas. You make that happen and I don't hunt you. You don't and all bets are off."

He waits, looking up at the branches of the pine trees, hoping for some sign that whatever was out there is listening. A squirrel leaps from one branch to another, chittering. A bird calls faintly in the distance. No voice answers. Despair sinks over Dean, dragging at his chest, and he bows his head, closing his eyes. "Come on. I've lasted this long. I just want to know what the hell happened to my brother. Please."

The breeze picks up again, dying almost as quickly, and Dean shakes his head. If he wanted words, he's not getting them.
He figures he should be used to it by now.

--

Sam is quiet, hands folded and elbows propped on his thighs. Dean drags a hand down his face and settles next to him wearily, the porch creaking underneath him like it's years old instead of a few months. Snow is scattered in patches on the ground and Dean is cold, breath fogging out of him like it always does.

"So how was your week?" he asks, not looking over at Sam. "Mine was awesome. Super great. Seriously, you're missing out."

Sam's foot scuffs along the ground and he shifts, curling his hair behind his ears. He looks drawn, Dean realizes, shadows forming under his eyes the way they did in the very beginning, just after they moved to Pooles. He doesn't say anything, doesn't glance at Dean, and Dean swallows thickly.

"I miss you, man. I don't know what the hell's going on these days, but it'd be a lot easier to handle if it wasn't just me, I know that."

Sam sits up, abruptly enough that Dean sucks in a breath, but instead of looking at Dean, he gets to his feet, eyes fixed on the dark line of trees ahead of them.

"Sam?"

Dean follows Sam’s gaze, trying to see what Sam’s looking at, and is mildly surprised to see that the snow has gone from sparse patches to rolling drifts, blue and violet in the falling dusk. Sam takes a step forward, then another, pausing long enough for Dean to clamber to his feet. Then Sam takes off, long legs eating up the distance from the house to the woods. The snow doesn’t melt beneath his feet but somehow he’s clearing a path faster than Dean can see. In a few seconds they’ve reached the border of the woods, silent and ominous. Dean’s out of breath, heart squeezing painfully in his chest. Sam’s never done this, never done anything like this before. As painful as they are, Dean has gotten used to these dreams, even looked forward to them. To have them change now…

Hope rattles in the back of his mind, demanding to come out of the box he locked it in.

"Sam?" Dean says again.

Before Sam can do anything, Dean wakes up.

--

His mind is absolutely clear when he jerks awake, like he's simply been transported from one world to another instead of waking up from a dream into reality. His cell phone is buzzing and he glances at the time before answering it. 4:46 pm.

"'Lo?"

"Dean? It's Carol."

Dean sits up abruptly and pats down his pockets. His fingers close over the truck keys and he stands, grabbing his jacket from the hallway. "Hey, I'm driving you to the airport."

Carol laughs. "Well, that was the plan. Does that still work for you?"

"Yeah, sorry, sleeping on the job. I'm coming over right now. Don't mess with your suitcase, I'll get it for you."

"All right."

Dean shakes some food out into Sparrow's bowl, then locks the door behind him. He drives the truck to Carol's and leaves it idling as he jogs to the door. Carol opens it before he can knock, dwarfed by the suitcase she's trying to maneuver down the steps.

"I got it," Dean says. He rolls it down the walkway and slides it into the bed of the truck, then closes the door behind Carol.

"You locked up?"


"Checked and double-checked," Carol affirms as they drive away. "But if you could collect my mail..."

"Done," Dean agrees. "I'll send Sparrow over."

Carol laughs. "That dog could do it, you know. Smart as a whip."

"Too smart for me." Dean shakes his head. "Maybe I could put her on the plane with you, let Libby and Ron take her."

"I don't know about that. Libby has her hands full."

"Right, I forgot. What's the new baby's name?"

"Katherine June." A fond smile crosses Carol's face. "She'll be five months now."

"That's right. Well, I bet they're gonna be excited to have you for the holiday."

"It'll be good to see them," Carol agrees. "The house has been so empty since Dale... I guess Ron offered to move them down, but Libby still has a year left on her teaching contract and it'll take that long for Ron to transfer. But who knows? Maybe they'll move down sooner. A lot can happen in a year."

Dean barks a humorless laugh and gives a small shake of his head. "No arguments there."

As if sensing his turned mood, Carol twists in her seat so she can look him head on. "I heard you're going to the Huberts' for Thanksgiving."

"Yeah," Dean grimaces, "kind of got roped into that one."

"I'm glad," Carol says firmly. "If Joanne didn't twist your arm, I was going to."

"You know, some people like spending the holidays alone."

"But not you," Carol says knowingly, seeing Dean more clearly than he would like. "And with your brother gone... I wouldn't have agreed to fly to Maine if I knew you were spending the day by yourself."

"Well, I'm glad you're going to Maine. And Joanne was nice to invite me."

"You will go, though, Dean," Carol says, a half-question. "I'll call Joanne in the middle of dinner, you know I will."

Dean gives a long-suffering sigh. "I solemnly swear to go to the Huberts' and eat them out of house and home."

"Good." Carol pats his leg and turns back around. "That's what I wanted to hear. Make sure you do."

"Yes, ma'am."

--

Thanksgiving isn't as painful as he expects. Javier, the cook at Stairway, joins them for dinner. So does Ashley, one of Kara's friends from the high school who apparently knew Sam and is more than a little awed by the idea of talking to Sam's brother. At first Dean thinks her shyness is because of him, but over pie and ice cream it becomes clear that Sam Campbell was more than a man to the high schoolers of Pooles. He was a mystery--the guy who left Stanford to road trip with his brother, who knew more about guns and knives than any deer hunter, who had apparently been fighting cancer but still managed to do a kick-ass demonstration for the martial arts club (and isn't Dean upset that this is the first time he's heard about that one).

It startles Dean at first, but after a minute of thought it makes sense. It's kind of fitting, after all--Sam as a legend. Dean just never thought it'd be because Sam disappeared instead of all the other things he'd done that counted far more: defeating Lucifer, saving countless lives, hell, earning a free ride to Stanford in the middle of John Winchester's training regime. There were so many other things Sam was legendary for.

Dean takes another bite of pie and shakes his head at Joanne's worried look. It doesn't hurt, not like he thought it would. Stings a little, in the petty way that comes from not wanting to share something with someone else, but more than that it soothes, to know that there are other pieces of Sam out there that other people hold close. And if Sam lives on as a legend in Pooles, who is he to stop it? Dean can't count the number of times that he and Sam have gone looking for ghosts, only to find that they've underestimated the power of the human mind to make myths out of the mundane. It's just ironic that, for once, they've got it right. Sam was more than met the eye, just not in the way they're guessing.

When the evening is over and the dishes have been cleared, Dean bends down behind the bar and pulls Sam's bundled coat from off one of the shelves. It smells like Sam, still--like the bar and beer and the tiniest bit like Sam's deodorant, but underneath all that it smells like Sam. Dean tucks it under his arm, picks up his plate of leftovers, and makes sure to give Joanne a hug on his way out. "Thank you," he says, "this was nice." She gives him a searching look, then squeezes his shoulders and lets him go. "It's good," he says with a firm nod, and he thinks she understands that he isn't talking about the meal.

--

Of course, Sparrow is a hyper mess when he gets back, tearing up and down the stairs and through the rest of the house until Dean opens the back door and puts her out. She rolls around in the snow, barking and growling at the soft flurries beginning to fall, and does a couple laps around the yard until she comes back to the porch where Dean is standing, her tongue lolling out. "You're a menace," Dean says, but leans down to scratch her head anyway.

That's when he sees the feather.

Long and sleek, it's resting in the outline of a footprint in the snow, somehow untouched despite Sparrow's escapade. Dean's eyes snap to the woods, searching for movement as he steps off the porch and bends to pick up the feather. He's almost used to the electric feeling that zings up his arm at the first touch. He turns to look for Sparrow and is surprised to see her turn to go into the house, leaving him standing outside alone.

"Sparrow?" he calls. When she doesn't return, he whistles, a high piercing note, and waits.

The only thing that moves is a shadow across the field, half hidden by the trees.

Dean looks back at the footprint, then at the feather in his hand, and mutters a curse. Sam would call it a trap. John would call it stupid. Dean just thinks it's polite. After all, he did ask for information and he's holding the angel's calling card. The only wrong choice here is to ignore it.

--

The air tastes clean when Dean steps under the branches of the trees, and although there's no sign of the creature, he knows he's on the right trail. It continues deeper in the woods than he expected, past the clearing where he set the trap the other day. To anyone else it would be almost invisible, the disturbed branches and fresh scent he follows difficult even for him to read. He wasn't raised by John Winchester for nothing, though, and a few minutes later he lifts his eyes from a track in the snow and swallows through a throat that's suddenly dry.

A figure is crouched at the foot of a pine, a dark feather in its hand identical to the ones mantled over its back. At Dean's shouted, "Hey!" it stands, stretching tall, taller than Dean is ready for. A wind sweeps up, sending icy fingers up Dean's shirt, and the angel turns. The moon is pale, its light muffled by the falling snow, but Dean catches sight of dark hair, a sloped nose, the sharp jut of cheekbone. The air tastes bright on his tongue, and Dean blinks, stunned.

"Sam?" Dean whispers.

"You can't," Sam had said, his warm palm covering Dean's eyes. "Not at me."

The wings snap out, filling Dean's gaze with midnight blue. He takes a startled step back, and then the figure and the woods are gone, replaced by the gray light of dawn coming through his bedroom curtains.

--

Bobby picks up the second time Dean calls, his voice scratchy and slow. "Singer."

"Bobby." Dean's voice sounds wrecked even to his own ears.

There's the creak of bed springs, then Bobby's voice sounds clearer. "Dean? What's wrong?"

Dean laughs, the kind of laugh you hear from crazy people, people in over their heads. "Bobby." I wanted to see, he thinks. "Bobby, something's messing with Sam's field."

"Son," Bobby says, "how much you been drinking?"

"Nothing," Dean says quickly, "not a damn thing. Something's out there, Bobby, Sam-- Sam's out there."

There's the rasp of stubble, then Bobby's weary voice says, "Dean," like he's the one broken, alone.

"Bobby, I swear." Dean's voice breaks and he swallows, staring out in the dim light at his footprints in the snow. "I swear."

"Why don't you come to Sioux Falls, son? Come to the house, you can make it in two days. You get here safe, we'll get you a good night's sleep, and we can sit down and talk about this."

"No, you don't get it, Bobby, I'm... I'm not going anywhere."

Bobby sighs and Dean knows what he's going to ask because he's heard it a hundred times already. "Why do you stay out there, kid? Why won't you come home?"

Dean blinks back the unexpected tears and shakes his head, even though Bobby can't see. "I can't. I'm not leaving Sam out here. I'm not going to leave him."

--

The sky is clear in Dean's dream that night, the setting sun casting violet shadows over the snow. Dean sits down next to Sam like always and feels something inside him unclench at the familiar sound of Sam breathing, the porch creaking under his weight. They're drinking coffee this evening, Dean's hot and a little sweet, the way Sam always makes it for him. Sam has his wrapped in his hands, his thumb rubbing around the rim of the mug, and Dean watches him take a sip and then nod to something in the field.

"I'm glad you have her," Sam says. Dean turns to look and sees Sparrow sitting in the snow, a solemn white statue with ice blue eyes. She lays down on her belly when Sam nods to her and Dean shakes his head in wry amusement. Sparrow's well-behaved but she's far from perfect--any version of her that lays down and stays without a command is one that only exists in his dreams.

Then it hits him.

"Sam," Dean says through numb lips. He stares at his brother, resisting the urge to wave a hand an inch in front of Sam's face to see if he'll react. "Can you hear me?"

Sam turns his head and looks Dean in the eye. "Sparrow," he says, as if he's always been able to talk to Dean, as if Dean has always been there.

Dean coughs a laugh, rubs his face with shaking hands, and looks at Sam again. Sam, who is looking back. "Yeah. Her name's Sparrow. Couldn't think of anything else so I named the poor dog after a bird."

Sam tips his head, a smile quirking his mouth. "C'mon, Dean. You know better than that."

"What?" Dean says. "What do you mean?" Sam waits, his eyes fixed on Dean, gaze warming him from the inside out. I'll wake up, Dean thinks and his stomach clenches in fear at the thought. Sam is looking at him, Sam can see him--going back to a world where Sam isn't there to look at him sounds unbearable. The fear pushes honesty up his throat, and Dean swallows before saying, "Spero. It's Latin."

Sam looks pleased, content, like Dean has done something really hard and Sam is proud of him.

"Spero," Sam echoes. "That's right."

--

Dulles is busy. The baggage claim is packed with people either returning from holiday trips or picking up others who are, and Dean is hard-pressed to find five-foot-four of elderly neighbor in the throng. Luckily, Carol finds him, red scarf tucked under her chin, and she fills him in on the details of her Thanksgiving while they wait for her luggage, then walk to the truck.

"So Maine was good," Dean says as they pull onto the highway, bumping up the heater and pointing the vents toward her.

"Maine," Carol says decidedly, "was far colder than anywhere I would like to live. I didn't venture outside much and I left the Black Friday shopping to Libby and Ron, but I did get to stay in and take care of the little ones. And that I enjoyed very much."

"The little rug rats weren't too much for you?"

Carol swats his arm. "You watch your manners, Dean Campbell. And tell me what you've been doing while I've been away."

"Oh, the usual," Dean says easily. "Chasing Sparrow around the house. Eating leftovers. Resigning myself to the Christmas music that has taken over every radio station." Dean glares at the radio where Burl Ives is singing about having a Holly Jolly Christmas.

"Did you go to the Huberts' for Thanksgiving, then?"

"I promised I would."

"And?"

Dean slows down as he takes the exit for Pooles. "It was good. Really nice. Joanne made these sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top." He puts a hand on his chest like he's taking a pledge. "Don't tell anyone else, but it was almost--almost--better than pie."

"Well, good," Carol says warmly. "I'm glad to hear it. I was worried you'd chicken out at the last minute." At Dean's affronted look, she continues, "I only say that because I know Dale hated any type of social obligation around the holidays. He never wanted to go anywhere he didn't decide on himself. He was stubborn as all get out." Fondness colors Carol's words. She sits for a moment in silence, staring out the window as they pass through town. Then she shakes herself out of her reverie and says, "Well. It'll be nice to be home. So nothing exciting happened while I was gone?"

Dean folds his lips and shakes his head, thinking fleetingly of the woods. "Quiet as a graveyard," he says. "It's good to have you back."

--

It starts to snow when Dean pulls down their street, flurries eddying down like the weather's been holding out for them. Dean pulls Carol's suitcase out of the truck bed and stands with an outstretched hand while Carol unlocks the front door. Snowflakes thread through his fingers, delicate as lace, and Dean swallows back the tightness in his throat.

--

The next week Dean waits in the woods every evening after work, sitting on a stump in the same clearing where he'd seen the figure--where he'd seen Sam--and watching for any sign that he was right, that he hasn't finally lost it after all. Sparrow goes with him, and after the first couple of nights it becomes routine for her to settle at his feet, either dozing or chewing on a branch.

Sam doesn't show. Dean doesn't dream.

--

Until, he does.

They're not on the porch, this time. They're not even in the woods. Instead, they're standing under the maple in the front yard, its dark branches limned with that eerie light Sam let him see last year, reflecting the tracery of that same light in the snow. Sam is watching Dean, eyebrows lifted like he's waiting for Dean to answer a question.

Dean wants to make a joke, something about taking a picture because it'll last longer, but instead what comes out is, "I didn't think you were coming back."

"I don't always get a choice," Sam says, that earnest look on his face that always breaks Dean's heart. He lifts his shoulders, up and back, and looks at the sky, at the moon shining down on them, like he's bracing himself to do something hard. "I don't regret it, though. I want you to know that."

"Regret what?" Dean says automatically. He tries to take a step forward and finds himself rooted to the spot. Panic settles in his stomach and he reaches a hand out to catch Sam's sleeve only to find that he can't. Sam is standing there, his hair falling in his eyes, solid and sure and just beyond Dean's reach. "Sam. What are you doing? Don't do it."

"I already did, Dean," Sam says. He takes a step back. "It's already done, remember?"

"Hey, no. Wait."

"You let me go. You did what I needed you to."

"Yeah, but now you're back. You came back." Keep him talking, Dean thinks manically, as if Sam's losing consciousness and they're waiting for the paramedics to show. Keep him talking. He can't leave if he's talking.

"Dean," Sam says in a quiet whisper. "Not to stay."

"No, but..." Refusing is a knee-jerk response. Dean's mouth works as he searches his mind, looking for anything he can do to convince Sam. "But could you? Stay?"

Sam's mouth twists, the same way it used to when he was holding back tears. "I'm not even really here, Dean. Not really. Not completely." He lifts a hand and Dean closes his eyes, waiting for the touch. His eyelids flutter open when it doesn't come. Instead, he's alone with something soft and delicate clenched in his closed fist. Dean swallows. He doesn't have to look to know what it is, but he looks anyway, blinks the welling tears back so he can see.

A feather, dark blue. One of Sam's.

One | Two | AO3
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