Sam didn’t have a lot of time to argue or even question. Dean had a hold of his arm and was pulling him up and shoving him at his sleeping bag. “Pack up, seriously, we gotta go. Now.”
“Dean, wait, stop. Why now?”
“Because it’s not safe here. Because we need to be somewhere else and it’s important. I heard it.” Dean twirled one finger in a circle beside his head. “In here.”
Sam threw both hands in the air before running one through his hair and pushing it back. “It’s not safe anywhere, Dean! When are you going to get that?”
“We need to go to where we can make a stand. Please, Sam, trust me on this.” Dean wasn’t looking at him; he was grabbing their things off the floor, movements erratic and almost panicked.
Yanking the sleeping bag Dean held out of his hands, Sam threw it to the side, shouting, “I’m not running anymore. I’m finding John and facing him. I’m ending this. I don’t care what happens to me, but one way or another I want this done. He wants me, he wants my head on a plate or else, well he can goddamn have the or else. I hate him and I hope he burns in Hell forever. If I’m going to die I’m damn well taking as many of them, including John, as I can with me!”
Fists bunched at his sides, Dean glared at him. His voice came out low and even. “You’re not dying, so you can forget about your death wish, it’s not happening. I won’t let it. I’m not running, but we can fight back and win in Arizona. I don’t know what we can do about John, or even if we can do anything about him, but I do know the only chance there is for you to live through this is in Sedona, Arizona. So, you’re going there if I have to knock you out, hog tie you and force you to go there.”
Sam swallowed thickly. Dean would carry through on his threat, that wasn’t even questionable. Nodding, Sam turned and bent down; retrieving the sleeping bag he’d thrown to the side and quietly rolled it up.
“You didn’t really mean that, about Dad,” Dean said softly.
Barely glancing back over his shoulder before taking an armload of their supplies and heading back to the garage, Sam pressed his lips together and refused to answer. Dean wouldn’t like what he had to say anyway.
They were used to fast departures, and frankly, darn good at them. Sam had to admit, having the delivery truck to toss stuff into made it even more convenient. He’d have to find some shelving to put along the sides for more storage, maybe some sort of bins. He made a mental note to look whenever they stopped to search out more supplies to remember to gather more things to store whatever they collected.
Except that he wasn’t likely to be alive long enough to accomplish that task, so why was he bothering to make long term survival plans?
By the time they left the town’s limits the sky was light pink and gold. Sam sat staring out the passenger window, not ready yet to deal with his brother. He certainly wasn’t ready to deal with a father-turned-demon who wanted him dead if he didn’t get with the program. A program that involved Sam spending eternity in Hell.
Yeah, that was a fun program.
His confronting and distracting John was also a way to keep Dean safe and alive. If John, Yellow Eyes and whatever other demons were involved were busy with Sam they wouldn’t be chasing down Dean. In fact it was even possible they’d ignore him for a long enough time Dean could melt into the countryside and disappear. That move would give his brother time to find a way to put a stop to Lucifer and the Apocalypse.
Convincing himself Dean would do that worked, too—for a short while. He did a good job of ignoring the rather annoying voice in the back of his head that kept reminding him Dean would no sooner leave Sam and fade into the background than Sam would were their positions reversed.
Sam sat staring out at the craggy and ruined countryside, turning more deserted and barren with each mile, considering his very limited options. He could strike out on his own. Getting away from Dean would be difficult, but not impossible. Sam didn’t have the mechanical skills that were proving to be almost a necessity now, but he wasn’t without resources of his own. It wasn’t like he’d need any resources for very long, anyway.
On his own he could find John and confront him without worrying about his brother being hurt or worse. Sam bit down on his lower lip; the idea of confronting John was a difficult one. It was likely Sam would die, and do so at the hand of his father. A father who was a demon, but still his father. He stole a glance sideways at Dean. John was his father, but not his dad. John had trained him, Dean had loved and raised him. Dean’s safety over John’s was the choice Sam made and would stand by.
If Dean didn’t survive there was no purpose in saving the world as far as Sam was concerned. Dean could stop the Apocalypse, he had the angels to help him and even if he didn’t, Sam was sure his brother was the only one who could put a halt to the destruction. Demons might have a Lucifer to bring out, but humanity had Dean Winchester to stop them and send them back to where they belonged.
Priority one as far as Sam was concerned was making sure his brother survived. Everything depended on it. At least everything Sam cared about.
He stole another quick look at his brother. Both of Dean’s hands gripped the steering wheel, the very tip of his tongue stuck out from between his lips. He did that when he was really concentrating. Memories of another Dean flooded Sam’s brain without warning.
His friend, a hunter he’d always looked up to, stared back. “I want you to be careful. I don’t want you going off, half-cocked and loaded for bear. Sam wouldn’t want that.”
“Well, we don’t always get what we want, do we? I mean, Sam is dead. Do you think that’s what he wanted? I sure as hell didn’t want that. He should be here, Bobby. Sam should be here.” The words were growled in rage.
In front of the cottage, other-Dean sat in the Impala, rocking back and forth. Through the car’s open window, Sam could hear Dean muttering, “Never make me choose…wrong to choose…not fair…never make me choose…”
Shouldn’t have made me chose.
Dean rocking and babbling in the car. Dean sending a young man into his own bedroom as bait, knowing the instructions he’d given that man would surely result in a horrible, painful attack.
Other-Dean stumbled into the center of the cavern waving a handgun. Sam squinted at it, it wasn’t just any gun, it was a Colt, The Colt. Babbling, image-Dean staggered, taking as many steps sideways as he did forward. “Made me choose…should never have made me choose…can’t choose…can’t…can’t.” Dean putting a gun, the Colt, to Sam’s head and pulling the trigger and ending Sam’s life then wanting to shoot himself.
Shouldn’t have made me choose. Nasty, borderline insane Dean.
The Dean Sam had seen repeated over and over in his dreams lately. The Dean who would become reality if Sam went ahead with his plan, he knew that for sure now. Those simply hadn’t been flights of fancy dredged up by Sam’s subconscious. He realized what they were: an actual foretelling of the future. His brother’s future. Confronting John alone would probably end in Sam’s death which would condemn Dean to a lifetime, however short, of inner pain with no reprieve.
If Sam allowed that he’d be the monster he’d always feared becoming. He’d be torturing Dean without laying a hand on him or even being alive. Sam would be responsible for the demise of the one person he looked up to, worshipped and loved beyond all others.
He loved his brother too much to be responsible for Dean sinking to the gloomy depth of despair Sam had seen in his dreams. He couldn’t do that, he couldn’t.
“You know, it’ll take us a few days to get to Arizona. We’ll have time to come up with a plan,” Dean said quietly.
Sam glanced over at his brother. The man never quit. Dying alone and tortured wasn’t what Sam wanted, not at all. Being honest with himself, he never wanted to strike out on his own, fight John, or anything, without his brother at his side. Sam might only have a few short days left to live, but he wanted to spend them with his brother. He owed it to Dean to at least try whatever plan his brother was being fed via angel radio.
Leaving Dean suddenly wasn’t an option. Their most precious resource and strongest point were each other. Dean believed, truly believed, there was nothing he and Sam couldn’t do if they worked together. Sam decided to follow his big brother’s lead, have a little faith in them and believe.
He’d start by finding shelving material on their next stop. Focus on the little things and the big things would work themselves out. It was all Sam had to hang onto right now, that and his brother’s undying determination to win.
“I don’t want to die,” Sam confessed. “But if that’s what I have to do—”
“It’s not. You’re not. We’ll figure this out. Isn’t that what we’ve been told over and over, it’s up to us and we have what we need?”
“It’s kind of scary, thinking about what might happen if John gets his way.”
“Sam.” The warning was plain and clear.
Sam forged ahead anyway. “I have a hard time thinking of much else. Why me? What did I do? I’m not that special.”
“I don’t know.” Dean shrugged and slowed the truck, pulling it off the road when they approached a small store and gas station. He’d done this every time they saw some building, eased the truck to a stop so they could investigate.
As with every other building they’d come to, they each took a shotgun. Going slow and quiet, Dean went to the left around the building, Sam to the right, peering through open doors and any windows. When they determined the place was as empty and abandoned as it looked from the road they stood to either side of the back door.
Dean leaned over and gave the door a shove. It swung open. Sam rested his shotgun in the crook of his arm and took his flashlight from his jacket pocket; nodding to his brother he was ready.
Wheeling around and away from the building wall, Dean hit the door with one foot, making it bounce open fully. He moved quickly, filling the doorway, shotgun going through first. Sam stood behind him, shining the flashlight over Dean’s shoulder so he’d be able to see anything coming at them. Sam had to admit he never really tired of watching Dean do this stuff, his brother literally exploded into action like some sort of cartoon superhero come to life and it fascinated Sam. Dean was compact and muscular in a way Sam’s frame would never allow him to be. The thought drove home even more to Sam how they complimented one another and the team they comprised was far more than the sum of individual parts.
A team that if it were to have one part taken away would be less than one half of both. They were nothing without each other, Sam knew that. He needed to accept it and let it work for him, not keep working against it.
They spent a few minutes, as they’d gotten into the habit of doing, making a quick scan up and down the aisles to check for what they’d want to take with them. While Dean set about finding boxes to pack up what they were taking away, Sam headed to the storeroom and rummaged around, grabbing milk crates and large storage bins with covers.
“Whatcha doin’, Sammy?” Dean poked his head through the storeroom door, arms loaded with a stack of small cardboard boxes he’d already filled.
“I thought we could pull out some of the shelving and mount it to the inside of the truck. We can use these bins to store and organize stuff so it’s not flying all over the back and into the Impala. If we have a lot, we don’t want to lose stuff or have anything go bad because we forgot we had it.”
Dean straightened, rocking back on his heels and studied Sam until he looked down, thinking maybe he’d forgotten to put on jeans in their rush to leave. Glancing down at the floor then back up at Sam, Dean offered him a small smile and a tight nod. “Good thinking, Sam.” Another nod and the smile broadened when Sam’s message sunk in further. “Very good thinking.”
“Yeah,” Sam said softly, motioning around the storeroom, “we have to plan ahead and organize better I think. You get the gas and car parts, I’ll get the storage stuff.”
“Works for me.”
It hadn’t taken long, but in the short time since they’d left Devil’s Tower they’d gotten a routine going, get into a place, clear out what they needed and get going. It took them less than an hour to completely pack supplies and load them into the truck. Dean siphoned more gas from the underground tanks. Others obviously were doing the same thing, but not at every place. This one had been hit, however, the store was low, almost empty of supplies. That spurred them to move faster, knowing others could still be in the area with skills comparable to their own.
Sam wasn’t sure if that was a comfort or a concern. Either way they weren’t anxious to run into anyone.
Dean rigged up an adapter so Sam could use a power drill while they drove. He spent most of the hours they traveled anchoring shelving to the inside of the truck, sorting their belongs, making lists of supplies they had and what they’d likely need to find. It wasn’t the easiest task, the truck bounced over the roads more than it didn’t, but Sam was determined to see his project completed. When the truck rumbled to a halt, and Dean pulled up the back door of the truck Sam was surprised to see it was getting dark outside. His stomach rumbled almost as loudly as the truck’s engine had when they were driving.
“Wow.” Dean hopped into the truck and looked around. “Maybe after all this work we’ll keep this one. With those shelves and bins we can store three times as much.”
“We’ll probably need every single thing we can get, too.”
They were on what had been a local side road in the middle of the desert. “We should be in Arizona in another day, two tops. The roads here aren’t so bad.” Dean got a small fire going, making sure the truck was between them and the road. They’d see anyone coming for miles. The land was flat, open, and the darkening sky clear.
“They weren’t that great to begin with,” Sam pointed out.
Dean chuckled. “True.”
They reheated some pre-made burgers they’d scavenged from a service station, added fruit cups and candy bars to round out their meal. Night descended and by the time they were finished stars glittered across the sky.
Gathering up the food wrappers and containers, Dean tossed them at the fire. “You cooked, I’ll clean.”
Sam smiled softly, leaned forward, pulled his knees up and rested his elbows over them. “It scares me, thinking of what could happen to me, my soul if I—”
“We’ll beat this. Nothing to worry about.” Dean stood up and went to the cab of the truck. Pulling maps out he came back and settled down beside Sam. “We’re here, by midday tomorrow we’ll be here.” He pointed to a name on the map. “It’s a decent sized town; there should be at least one library big enough to find out all we can about Sedona. I don’t know why we’re being sent there, but there has to be some reason.”
Sam swallowed the thick, wet patch in his throat. “Yeah. Scares me more thinking of what could happen if we fail.”
“So, we don’t fail. First we hole up there and find out what we can for a few days before heading to Flagstaff, it’s the biggest town close to Sedona.” Dean replaced the map and retrieved blankets. “Let’s get some sleep so we can be on the road as soon as it’s light tomorrow.”
Exhausted, Sam didn’t argue. He took the offered blanket and stretched out on the ground, staring up at the black sky dotted with bright points. As he was drifting off to sleep he heard, then felt Dean moving around, getting settled on the ground a foot or so away. The last sensation Sam had that night was a solid weight resting for a few seconds on his head, fingers brushing through his hair, gone nearly as quickly as Sam’s brain could process the feeling.
Dean loved him and had raised him. Sam owed it to his brother to stand and fight with him.
The first thing to hit Sam when they pulled into the town was the stench. Rotting food, sewage waste left pooling, stagnate water, animal and human remains all combined together to permeate the air, a constant background odor. Dean rolled up his window, reached over and gave Sam’s forearm a quick squeeze. They both knew this was coming, but knowing and experiencing were two different things entirely.
This really was a different world than they’d grown up in and had lived in only a week ago.
As they’d done in the science center, Dean found the service entrance of the library, Sam picked the locks and they drove right inside. Sam was grateful there were no dead bodies to be cleared away before he could start combing the bookshelves for references he’d need.
The place was quiet, even more so when Dean disappeared for a few hours. The sudden clump, clump of boots on the roof startled Sam only for a few seconds. He’d recognize Dean’s footfalls anywhere. When his brother returned Sam had filled half the pages of a legal pad with notes on Sedona.
“What were you doing up there?”
Dean grinned and pulled off his shirt, using it to wipe his face off. “I rigged up a shortwave radio to transmit a message broadcasting that the next target for attack was Arizona. We’re not going to a tea party. I wanted the place as cleared out as possible. What did you find?”
“Sedona is an energy vortex. Some legends claim it’s an entrance to Hell, and maybe the door swings both ways, so Heaven, too.”
“Energy vortex? Huh.” Dean pulled the duffel they’d brought inside over and dug through it, yanking free a cleaner t-shirt. “Makes sense I guess. Maybe whatever we’re supposed to use can be super charged by the energy there?”
Sam nodded. “And maybe so can demons.”
“Oh that’s an ugly thought.” Dean pulled the clean shirt over his head. “Any clues as to what it is?”
Opening his mouth, Sam drew in a slow breath and squinted at Dean, or more exactly at Dean’s shirt.
Looking down, Dean swiped one hand across the cloth covering his chest. “What? I like this shirt. You got it for me and it’s cool.”
“Everything I know I learned from…” Sam lifted his gaze away from his brother’s chest and focused on his eyes. “…Star Trek. Dean, what if what we’re looking for isn’t a thing? What if this power, this weapon we have is inside us?” He reached out and skimmed two fingers down the words on Dean’s shirt. “What if it’s something we know or some talent we have? We’ve been looking for a relic or incantation. Maybe we should have been looking at ourselves?”
Dean stared at him for a few seconds before nodding slowly. “Sammy, I think you’re on to something.”