Author: victoria p. [musesfool]
Summary: It's just the way things are--the sky is blue, water is wet, and Dean always finds Sam.
Characters: Sam and Dean
Notes: Many thanks to laurificus for the beta. AU for 4.17.
Word count: 3,720 words
Original story: It's Only Easy if You Know the Answer by wanttobeatree
No One Said It Would Be This Hard (The Find You in the Dark Remix)
Dean sheds the jacket, tie, and suspenders on his walk to the elevator, ignoring the stares and the questioning voice of his secretary floating after him. He's not Dean Smith anymore, and he can't leave the guy behind fast enough.
He needs to find Sam and the car and a place to eat, preferably a place that will serve him caffeine and fried grease in multiple large helpings.
Sam's not in the parking lot and neither is the Impala. Dean Smith's Prius is, though, and as much as Dean would like to take a crowbar to it, he knows he's a good fifteen miles at least from the last motel he remembers, and he doesn't feel like walking it. If the angels have fucked with his car--his real car--he is so making them pay.
The car is where they'd left it, contents intact, and their stuff is still in the room. Sam's not back yet, and Dean wonders how far he got on his own, how long it'll take for him to come back. (He doesn't wonder if Sam will come back. He doesn't wonder that at all.) He changes into his own clothes and finds his phone--his real phone--and gives Sam a call.
The jacket thrown over the desk chair begins to ring.
He picks up Dean Smith's Blackberry, scrolls through the contacts, and calls Sam Wesson. He holds his breath as it rings once, and then he hears, "You have reached a non-working number." Click.
He tosses the phone back into his duffle and shakes his head, muttering, "Fucking angels." His stomach rumbles and he roots through their stuff and finds half a Hershey bar and bag of barbecue potato chips that have been crushed nearly beyond recognition. Still edible though, and he scarfs the crumbs down, choking on the dusty red barbecue flavoring.
Thirty seconds later, they come right back up, and as he's bent over the bowl, hurling, he wonders what two weeks of eating like an anorexic model has done to his stomach.
He brushes his teeth and then starts packing the car. After another twenty minutes and still no Sam in sight, he calls Sandover Bridge and Iron and discovers that no one named Sam Wesson has ever worked there.
Somehow, he's not surprised.
He doesn't know where Sam Wesson was living--they went back to Dean Smith's condo that first night, so he packs up their stuff and goes there now.
Sam's not there, so Dean leaves him a note, or as good as--he carves a symbol into the front door with his pocketknife, same thing Gandalf carved on Bilbo's door in The Hobbit. It was one of the first signals Sam ever came up with on his own, and Dean had teased him for weeks (still teases him about it, will tease him about it again as soon as he shows up, the fucker).
He heads to Sandover, just in case. It looks exactly the same as it did an hour ago. There's no sign of Sam at all.
He gets out of the car, talks to the security guard, the one he'd waved good night to every night for two weeks, the one he saw an hour ago when he'd blown this joint the first time, and the guy acts like he's never seen Dean before.
"Big guy, six-four, shaggy hair? He was a tech here, wore that stupid yellow shirt."
The security guard shakes his head. "No, sir, sorry. Haven't seen him."
And the thing is, Dean knows the guy believes what he's saying is true.
He stands in the parking lot for a minute, knowing he has to go back to the motel again, but not sure what to do if Sam doesn't come back.
"He left, you know."
Dean whirls to see that smug fuck Zachariah standing beside his car.
"Sam. When you didn't agree to go with him, he left."
And yeah, okay, that does sound like Sam; once he'd made the decision to hunt, he'd have thrown himself into it, regardless of whether or not he actually knew what he was doing.
"But now that he knows who he is--" Zachariah's furry eyebrows rise like curious caterpillars. "You fuck, you motherfucking son of a bitch," Dean yells. "You bring him back now, you fucker, or I will end you." But Zachariah is gone. Dean's only surprised his eyebrows didn't linger, like some kind of fucking Cheshire cat.
Dean slams his fist down on the hood of the nearest car that's not his--once, twice, three times. Pain shoots up his arm, but it's nothing to the fear and anger filling him at the idea of Sam out there, alone and unprotected.
The security guard comes out, apologetic look on his face, and Dean gets back into the Impala, cradling his sore hand.
He's got work to do.
Dean goes back to the motel room, just in case, and then swings by the condo again, but there's no sign of Sam.
He's coming out of the quickie mart at the gas station when Castiel appears.
"I didn't know this was planned."
"Of course you didn't." Dean bites the words off angrily. "Can you fix it?"
Dean nods, unsurprised, and forces himself to unclench his fists. "What do we do now?"
Castiel cocks his head and says nothing.
"It's safer for Sam this way."
Dean stares at him incredulously. "Safer? Are you fucking kidding me?" Maybe, once, Dean might have believed Sam would be better off away from the hunting life, but that was before the yellow-eyed demon came for Jess, before he knew about the demon blood in Sam's veins, before hell burnt the hope of a different future out of him altogether. "The kid is a demon magnet and he's getting his info from the fucking Ghostfacers." They'd taught the Ghostfacers a few things, so he's getting some good information, at least, but it's not enough. Not nearly enough. "Not to mention Lilith is still gunning for him. How is that safer?"
"He's been removed from Ruby's influence, and is not aware of his...powers."
Dean's pretty certain that nothing good can come of mojo based on the yellow-eyed demon's blood (and he knows nothing good can come of Sam's association with Ruby, whatever Sam might think), but it's not the angels' job to keep Sam safe--it's his, and he does not fucking appreciate being removed from the position again.
"What is it with you guys and ignorance? 'Cause I gotta tell you, it ain't bliss. It's a death sentence. And if you think Sam's not going to get his research on, you're dumber than I thought. You took his memories, not his personality." He doesn't mention that Sam was already remembering things he wasn't supposed to--that he'd dreamed about Dean, about hunting. He doesn't want them to take that away, too. "So unless you're here to help..."
"You have other things to worry about, Dean. The apocalypse--"
"You think I'm gonna help you stop the apocalypse now?" Dean shakes his head and barks out a harsh laugh. "Not until I've got Sam back, safe and sound."
"Don't come back unless you can help with that." He opens the door to the car and waits, but Castiel just stands there, watching. "Thanks for nothing, man."
As he drives off, he can still see Castiel in the rearview, looking lost and bewildered. He decides he doesn't care.
"He's all alone? Without his memories?"
"Are you gonna repeat everything I say, Bobby? Yeah, he's all alone, without his memories." Like Dean doesn't feel bad enough already, now he's got Bobby sounding concerned and fatherly on the other end of the line.
"Damn. You're gonna get him back, Dean."
"Damn right I am." Dean believes that--he has to believe it--but it's good to hear Bobby say it like it's not even a question. "I just wanted you to know--I don't know," Dean pauses, and, steering with his knees, takes a sip of his coffee. "I don't know how much he knows yet, but he's been hunting like he's on fire. If he runs into anybody--" Dean's trying not to think about him running into any of Gordon's friends, people who might be looking for revenge, or who believe that he's the Anti-Christ. "If they send him to you, try to keep him there, all right?"
"I'll do what I can."
"Bobby." Dean hears Bobby grunt in agreement as he drops the empty coffee cup on the seat beside him, where it rolls around before settling against the seatback. "And can you tell Ellen and Jo?" God, he hopes Sam doesn't run into Jo. That would be weird for both of them.
"I will. Let me know when you find him. And Dean, if you need anything--"
"I've got your number, Bobby."
Dean hangs up and tosses the phone next to the empty coffee cup. He scrubs the sleep out of his eyes and keeps driving. He's got a lot of ground to cover.
As a baby, Sam had loved playing peek-a-boo. Dean remembers entertaining him for what felt like hours with nothing more than his hands over his eyes, or a blanket over his head, asking, "Where's Sammy? Where'd Sammy go?" He would pull the blanket off Sam's head, or as Sam got wise to the game, he'd shove it off himself, giggling and clapping while Dean said, "There he is," just like Mom used to.
He'd loved hide-and-seek, as well, once he was old enough to play. He hadn't been very good at it as a little kid, always giggling or calling out to Dean when he should have been quiet, but as he'd gotten older, he'd gotten better at it, using it as time to escape with a book and a flashlight. Dean always found him, though. It was just the way things were--the sky was blue, water was wet, and Dean always found Sam.
Later, Dad had used it as a training exercise, letting them loose in Bobby's junkyard or Pastor Jim's rambly old parish house to hide while he tracked them, and later still, making them track each other, until they'd both outgrown the boltholes and hiding places of their childhood.
The summer Sam was thirteen, he ran away from home. Dad had left them behind in Muskegon while he was hunting a succubus, and Sam had hated everything about it, everything about their lives, and was not shy about letting Dean know it. It had taken Dean a few hours to track him and his secondhand bike down, but he'd done it then, and he'll do it now.
Dean knows the difference between Sam leaving and Sam being taken. He'd learned to live with the former those long years when Sam was at Stanford. He refuses to learn to live with the latter.
He calls Missouri, who assures him Sam's alive.
"He's not the boy you knew," she warns him.
"He's still Sam," Dean answers. He believes that. He has to believe it.
"If he doesn't remember--"
"It doesn't matter," Dean says, and he means it. They'd worked together when they didn't remember each other, and it was better than it had been in a long time. He's sure they can do it again, if they have to. Just having Sam back will be enough. "The angels need me to stop the apocalypse. They'll change him back." He ignores the fact that they haven't done it yet, despite his repeated threats. Some people pray every night before they go to sleep. Dean threatens the heavenly host with every ounce of bravado he's got left.
"Oh, honey," she says, and he hangs up before either of them starts crying.
He knows how Sam thinks, how he hides, how he hunts. Sam might not have his memories anymore, but he's still Sam, still the same kid who'd hid in the closet under the stairs to read Lord of the Rings when he was nine, and he's not hiding now. He just doesn't know he needs to be found.
Sam is hunting with determination and success; rumors of his presence flood the whisper-stream: Kansas City, Austin, Tulsa; demons, vampires, revenants. Dean's given up hunting to track Sam. He knows how his brother's mind works, knows which hunts will strike him and how he'll approach them when he arrives. Dean's close, he knows he is, but somehow, even with all he knows, he's always a day or two behind. He's beginning to suspect interference--angelic or demonic or both--in the way he always seems to miss Sam, be on the way into town as Sam's on the way out.
It doesn't matter, though. As much as Dean hates to admit it, Zachariah was right about one thing, and it's the one thing that keeps Dean going after every near miss and lost chance. Even in the dark, Dean will always find Sam.
Three weeks into the chase, three weeks of living on caffeine and desperation, Ruby shows up in Dean's motel room.
Dean's proud he doesn't shoot her on sight. "Not returning your calls anymore?" he says. "Maybe he's just not that into you." He forces his mouth to curve into the smirk that he knows makes people want to deck him. He hopes it looks real. "Maybe you should take a hint. He doesn't dig clingy chicks."
"It's not fucking funny, Dean."
"Do I look like I'm laughing?"
She makes a frustrated noise, small hands clenching into fists, but he's pretty sure she won't take a swing. Not yet, anyway. "Rumor has it you two have broken up, and he's hunting on his own now."
"Well, you know rumor. Can't believe a word that bitch says." He gives her another grin, this one more genuine, because this is an unexpected piece of good luck, that she hasn't found Sam yet, that Sam's still free of her influence.
She slams him up against the wall and his head bounces off it hard enough to make him see stars. He raises his chin and keeps grinning at her. He's not going to let her use him as a stalking horse. Hell, maybe he can play this off like it was planned, like they meant to do this to throw the demons off their trail, instead of yet another clusterfuck on the Winchester permanent record. She holds his gaze for a long time before she shoves away, disgusted, and disappears.
He feels a chill shiver down his spine and knows he has to find Sam before she does.
Six weeks into the chase, and Sam keeps circling back to Kansas--Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City. Dean grits his teeth and follows, used to the queasy feeling in his gut now. He's not sure if he's following Sam or the demons on Sam's trail, but he tracks the lightning storms and cattle mutilations, and the dead bodies, salted and burned and buried in shallow graves.
He's so close he can taste it, or maybe that's the sulfur and ozone he can smell in the air.
The sky's dark with heavy thunderclouds, unusual for early May, and he's been driving all night, circling the streets of Lawrence like a shark after someone's chummed the water.
The rain starts, fat, heavy drops that splat against the windshield like bullets, visibility down to a few feet even with the high beams on, and Dean's ready to resign himself to another lost morning. He starts looking for an out of the way parking spot, someplace he can pull the car into and sleep without getting out, when he sees him, long body illuminated by the flash of lightning.
He pulls up alongside and rolls down the window. "What am I gonna do with you, Sammy? You don't even have the sense to come in out of the rain," he says, voice thick with affection and relief.
Sam looks up, startled, wariness on his face melting into shock. "Dean?"
"The one and only." He stops, leans over and opens the passenger door. "Get in the car."
Sam runs a hand--wide palm, long fingers, strong wrist, so familiar Dean's heart nearly stops--over the door and then slides into the passenger seat, right where he belongs. He turns to Dean and says, "I dreamt about this car."
"Of course you did," Dean says, grinning so wide he feels like his face might freeze that way. "She's fucking awesome."
"Dean," Sam says, turning towards him, brushing wet hair off his forehead. "Man, I am so glad to see you. You wouldn't believe the shit I've been hunting. Vampires and ghouls and demons." He stops, eyes going dark and far away. "They say things, the demons. I don't--"
"Demons lie, Sam. You know that." Except he doesn't. Shit. Fuck. Dean had thought maybe Sam's memories would come back if they were together again.
"I--That's what the Ghostfacers said, but I don't know how reliable those guys are. They're kind of bush league, man."
Dean laughs and pulls out into traffic. Rolls to a stop at a red light and turns to gaze at Sam, drink in the shaggy mess of his hair, the familiar tilt of his eyes, the wet flannel and denim smell of him. He looks more like the Sam Dean dragged off to Jericho, clean-cut and hopeful, than the hard-eyed man Sam had become after Dean went to hell. Sam Wesson hasn't had to deal with that. Maybe on some level, the angels are right. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.
"Seriously. They're pretty good with ghosts, but I don't think they've ever dealt with a demon." Sam looks down at his hands. "I don't think they can do what I can do."
Dean freezes, feels his heart give that awful stutter again, and says, "What can you do?"
"I can--I don't know how to explain it, but I can--"
The light changes and the cars behind them honk. Dean puts his foot on the gas and says, "Kill things with your brain." He reaches out, lets his hand land on Sam's knee. Gives it a small squeeze, and sees Sam's reflexive answering smile from the corner of his eye, glad he's still comfortable with Dean touching him. "I know, Sam. I mean, I don't know how you do it, but I know you can."
"How--How do you know, I mean. What are you even doing here? I thought you weren't ready to go on the road."
"It's...complicated." Dean rubs his chin and wonders how much to say. "See, we were under this spell, Sam. And it got broken for me, but you're still--you still think you're Sam Wesson, but you're really Sam Winchester." His voice breaks on the name and he has to clear his throat. "You're my brother."
Something shifts in Sam's face--hope or knowledge--and Dean wonders if he's remembering, but then he says, "The demons asked about you."
Alastair's gone, but Dean still feels the prickle of sweat on his upper lip and a sick roil in his belly. His hands tighten on the steering wheel. "Yeah?"
"Yeah, but I said," and here Sam looks down at his hands again, like he can't say what he needs to say and meet Dean's gaze at the same time, "I said I was an only child."
Dean breathes through the ache of that, forces air in through his nose and out through his mouth. "It's okay, Sammy. Better for you that way, maybe."
Sam looks up, then, gives him a weak grin. "Wait, the Winchesters? The assholes the Ghostfacers learned all that stuff from?"
"Yes. No. I mean, yes, but they're the assholes, not us." Sam looks skeptical. "Okay, maybe you're an asshole, but I am a ray of sunshine brightening the lives of everyone I meet."
"You're totally an asshole."
Dean laughs. "Yeah."
Sam laughs with him, and it feels so right that Dean can almost forget that Sam can't remember.
"We're really brothers?"
"Yeah. Look," Dean rubs his chin again, scratches the back of his head, trying to settle on something Sam will believe without going into all the gory details he doesn't need to know, "long story short, there's some kind of apocalypse on the horizon, and we have to stop it. Someone doesn't want it stopped, so they took you out of the picture." Even as he says it, he knows it sounds ridiculous. What kind of egotistical freak believes they're the key to stopping the apocalypse?
He glances sharply at Sam. "Okay? That's all you have to say?"
"What do you want me to say? What would I have said if I were him?"
"You are him."
Dean has to swallow hard past the tightness in his chest and throat at that tone in Sam's voice. "Most people would freak out."
Sam huffs a laugh. "Most people haven't been hunting demons for the past six weeks."
"We've been hunting our whole lives, Sam. That's why we're so good at it."
"So you've changed your mind?" Sam asks, and he sounds shy, unsure.
"I don't--Oh, you mean about going on the road? Saving people, hunting things?" He moves into the right lane, following the signs for US-40 East. They can take it to I-70, head north towards Bobby's. Get the hell out of Kansas, anyway.
It's Dean's turn to laugh. "Yeah. It's, uh, it's the family business."
"I'm sorry," Sam says helplessly, holding up his hands and then dropping them to his lap. "I don't remember."
Sam looks at him and Dean can see the giggling little boy hiding in the closet, the sullen teenager who walked away, the little brother he'd sold his soul for. Dean remembers Sam's first step, his first word, his first day of school, the endless questions about where Mom was and what Dad did and the nonstop litany of why? about everything else.
He blinks back the sudden sting of tears, too close to the surface now that the search is over, and says, "You're my brother. I don't care."
Maybe it's better this way, he thinks.
He can remember for the both of them.