Home she carries

Summary: A brief history of Sam and the one Winchester that has never let anyone down. Because, even if he's not so open about it, we all know Sam loves that car.

Sticky leather, sweaty shirts, black metal that attracts too much heat for his liking; it's the first of Sam's memories. He sits in the back with Dean, fingers greasy from some forgotten roadside food, hair plastered to his forehead. They sing along to whatever's playing in the background, pulling weird faces at passing drivers and waving at other sweaty kids in the back seats of other sweaty cars.

"Don't stand in the car, Dean," comes Dad's exasperated voice from up front, "You know that's dangerous."

Sam and Dean sit down quickly, exchange a cheeky glance and giggle when Dad makes a show of shaking his head at them in the rear view mirror. A smile curves the edges of the man's lips, his fake frown almost fond.

Slowly, Sam brings his knees up to the bench and whispers to Dean just before settling high on his haunches, "He didn't say no knees."

Dean's smile is wider than his face. Dad pretends not to hear or see what's happening.

It's a good memory.

::: :::

The motel parking lot is so deserted that Sam half expects tumbleweed to blow by. And why shouldn't it be? It's Christmas day; everyone is at home, celebrating. Not Sam, though. Never Sam. He doesn't have a home and his Christmas is nothing more than an evening in a freezing car.

Sam writes two facts on the fogged up window.

1.They lied to me for years.

2.Monsters are real.

The first is by far the scarier of the two. Dad and Dean are inside waiting for him because he ran out during the fight. He just doesn't get it. Dad didn't even apologise. He didn't say everything was going to be okay, or that he would stop now that Sam asked.

When Sam told him he knew, he just said, "Good, now we can start teaching you how to kill them." and Sam ran out the door.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't much of a fight. But Sam is scared. He's really, really scared. What if the monsters come for him, what if they kill Dean and Dad? What if the two of them are keeping an even bigger secret?

What if Sam turns out to be a monster, and they just never told him? He shivers and pulls one of the blankets from the ground to keep warm, burrowing deep. He's the living filling of his burrito blanket.

There's a knock on the far side window, and Sam wipes the glass to see who's on the other side. It's Dean. Of course it's Dean. He motions; can I come in? Sam deliberates for a few seconds, then creaks open the door. It's not like his brother would take no for an answer anyway.

Dean shuffles in next to him, closing the door with a bang. He blows to warm his hands and Sam can't help it, he offers part of his blanket. Just because Dean lied doesn't mean he needs to get sick from the cold. They lean close together, their breaths turning the black car into a misty white.

"Sammy?" Dean asks carefully. Sam looks away. He's still angry. Dean continues anyway, "Dude, I'm sorry… I didn't want to lie to you but I didn't want you to be scared either, y'know?"

"I'm not scared," Sam whispers in defiance.

Dean snorts, head shaking to and fro, "Sure you are. I know I was when I first heard about it all."

The Impala rocks slightly when Sam turns violently towards his brother. There's a look of utter disbelief on his face.

"You were scared?" Sam asks, "You're never scared of anything!"

"Of course I am," Dean intones, "It's all pretty scary stuff and I think it's probably better to be scared and prepared than scared and not knowing at all. Dad can teach us how to kill them, and he'll never let anything happen to us."

Sam still looks sceptical, frown on his forehead and mouth twisted in such a way that his dimples manage to look sad. Unconsciously, Dean's fingers float to his neck, where the new pendant hangs. He's only had it for a day but he's pretty sure he's in love with it.

"'Sides," Dean says, "I've got this to protect me now."

The smile on Sam's face is soft now, dimples more wistful than sad. He nods. Of course that will protect his brother. Bobby would know. For a second Dean hesitates, fingers on the golden amulet tensing.

"If- if it makes you feel safer, you can have it instead…" Dean says, but Sam can tell from the look on his face that he would much rather keep it himself.

"No," says Sam, "You can't give back a present. Anyway, necklaces are for girls like you…"

Dean cuffs him over the head teasingly, then quickly brings his arm back into the warm folds of the blanket. He thinks longingly of the warm motel room where Dad is waiting with hot chocolate and pea soup.

"You think we could go back inside now?" Dean says, "S kinda cold out here."

"Just a little longer?" Sam asks, puppy-dog eyes in full power mode.

With a sigh, Dean relents. It's not like he can ever deny his brother anything.

"Fine… Bitch."

Sam smiles and leans back against Dean. For a few seconds it's quiet, then he whispers into the gloom, white breath hiding his face.

"Jerk."

Tucked in the back of the car with Dean, it looks like he's home for Christmas after all.

::: :::

On his sixteenth birthday, Dean gets the Impala. Sam doesn't think he's ever seen his brother happier. He spends the entire day cruising the five mile stretch of road this town offers, windows open, music blaring with his little brother at his side.

John Winchester sits by the window of the apartment they're squatting, every time he hears the familiar rumble of the car, he looks out to see his sons. Each time, he grins. He'll be the first to admit he hasn't always done right by Dean, hasn't always been the best father. This present redeems him just a little bit, he hopes.

The entire day is spent laughing and when it's time for dinner, the three Winchesters pile into their car. Dean drives, Dad sits in the passenger seat, and Sam sits in the back, leaning over the bench. They pick up food at a drive through and spend the night on the shoulder of some random road, looking up at the stars.

Of course, Dad being Dad, he gives them a lesson on navigating the stars and the different meanings of the constellations. Neither of his sons mind, they're just happy to spend a day without research and shotguns. When they get back to their apartment early in the morning, ready to catch a few hours of sleep, Sam hears his brother whispering the car.

"Don't worry, Baby, I'mma take good care of you." Dean pets the hood gently and Sam pretends he doesn't see it.

If he had known that the name would stick, he would've laughed it out of the way right there and then. But he doesn't, and the Impala becomes Dean's 'Baby'.

It's the best birthday the Winchesters have ever had.

::: :::

When Sam slides into the passenger side next to Dean after four years of Stanford, he almost sighs with relief. The leather under him, the slight cramping of his legs; it's all wonderfully familiar. When Dean goes to get gas, he lets his fingers slide over the dashboard and the wheel. He feels for the blankets under the bench and leans against the window in that position he used to love.

The glove compartment in front of him beckons, and he opens it with a soft click. It's exactly how Sam remembers it; Glock in the right corner; where Dean can reach it if he needs it, a set of lock-picks, and a large box of cassettes and fake IDs to fill up the rest.

Dean comes back and Sam can't help but fall back into their old routine. He mocks the tapes because he knows that's one of two things that will always wind Dean up. Don't touch his Baby and don't touch his music.

"It's the greatest hits of mullet rock." Sam teases.

Nimbly, Dean snatches an AC/DC tape from Sam and holds it up for Sam to see.

"Well house rules, Sammy," he says as he sticks it into the player, "Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole."

Really, the grin on Dean's face as he drops the empty box back between the rest of the cassette tapes screams to be punched off. Sam shakes his head.

"You know, Sammy is a chubby twelve-year-old. It's Sam, okay?" he tries, but the music has started playing. As Back in Black roars through the car, Sam knows his argument is futile. Dean fiddles with the volume dial and the music plays louder.

"Sorry I can't hear you, the music is too loud," he yells, before driving off.

Sam looks out the window and shakes his head with a smile. Same old, same old.

He is home.

::: :::

Sometimes Sam wonders if it's possible for a car to become sentient. He knows, of course, that naming something is a powerful thing. Even if it's just a name like 'Baby'. Maybe if you say it often enough, the car will start to hear it. Start to understand. Sam wonders sometimes if the car can hear Dean when he says it, if all the powerful, magical things in its trunks have leached into the motor and the wheels.

Sometimes, when Dean whispers to the car, Sam swears the motor growls a little louder and the tires spin a little faster. Sometimes, when he lays down on the hood at night, he marvels at how perfectly he fits, as if the car were built for him, as if he grew just enough to fit snugly on the front.

Sometimes, he wonders how Dean can always find parts to fix her up. She's been broken so many times, declared total loss too many times to count. Every time, she makes it through. It's almost like magic.

Sometimes, when they come back from a bad hunt and blood obscures their vision, and their knees can't really hold down the gas, Sam wonders how they make it home. At times, he sees the gas dial slide slowly towards nothing, but they keep going, keep driving until they're somewhere safe. It's like she feels that something is wrong, that she needs to take care of them.

Sometimes, her soft leather bench is the only place he feels truly safe.

It takes years to realise that in his mind, Sam calls the Impala 'she'. Really, it's only when Lucifer is tearing his insides apart and he feels his fist pummel his brother's face over and over, that he sees her for what she is.

A reflection of light. An onslaught of memories. And, as Sam dives down a hole in the ground, he swears one of the lights blinks on and off like a wink, a soft promise.

Don't worry, I'll take care of him.

And she does.

::: :::

Every time Sam stops to think, images dance before his eyes. Soulless fingers pull at triggers that should not be pulled. Lucifer rips his limbs from his body one by bloody one. The takes a bus as close as he can get to the address Dean left him. He smiles at the driver, and hides his flinches and his screams.

No need for everyone to know he's crazy.

Unfortunately, he bus only takes him about half way. He still has an hour drive to go. Problem is; he's not exactly fit to drive right now. An old station wagon at the end of the parking lot looks sturdy enough. He can probably fit in there. He smashes the window and kneels down to hotwire the car.

His fingers burn before the cables even connect. Lucifer runs ice-cold fingers up his spine and he flinches, falls backwards and sits on the ground for a few seconds. Breathe, just breathe and everything will be fine.

Again, the wires touch, this time with success. Sam sits behind the wheel and wishes desperately that this car will magically turn into the Impala. He drives all the way to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. And if he has to stop eight times because all he can see is the past, well, no one ever has to know.

Their car lies upside down in the grass, windows shattered and roof caved in. Sam stumbles on his way over, sees himself talking to Dean over the roof. Lying. The world tilts and catches fire. Lucifer laughs in the background and Sam reaches out on instinct.

Rough metal under his fingers. '67 Chevy Impala. She saved the world once, she can save Sam now. For a second it helps and he just leans against the broken skeleton of his home. Then he steels himself and walks to the warehouse.

Fleetingly, he looks back, eyes scanning the car. Dean will fix her. And then Dean will fix him.

Everything will be fine.

::: :::

The sky is black. The road is worn. There's no one for miles. Sam made sure of that, didn't dare to get drunk before he was sure he was alone. Wouldn't accidentally want to kill someone else, too.

In Dean's flask, the booze has gone sour. Bobby's flask was better, before they burned it. Sam tilts his head back and lets the drink slide down his throat with ease. It burns on its way down, but he doesn't care. He's been burned much worse than this.

(Mmmh, yeah. I never really liked the burning, that was more Michael's thing. You used to break so much better with a little touch of ice…)

Lucifer is still a whisper in his mind, an echo of an echo of an echo. The insanity may be gone; but the memories cling like ash – like the Leviathan goo that won't ever wash out of his clothes. But Sam has control over it now, he can lock it behind endless motel room doors in his mind. It's a corridor straight from The Shining.

Sam flips an old tape full of country songs into the player. Bobby would have liked that, he thinks, and takes a large sip from the flask. He has never felt so alone. By the time the tape is done, Sam is well into his second bottle, and he spills more than he manages to drink.

Slowly, he sorts through the other cassettes. Tears burn hot behind his eyes. Metallica, Motorhead, Black Sabbath… Where's that fucking tape? He finds it at the bottom, worn worse than the rest, Dean's untidy scrawl signalling the band name and the album.

Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin II. Sam used to laugh at the album name (not really original, is it?) now it makes him cry.

Song number seven. Ramble On.

Leaves are falling all around, it's time I was on my way.

Very true, that. Booze splashes again as Sam grips the wheel. His feet search for the pedals and slip once, twice, until they're steady. Gas goes all the way down, cliff looms up ahead. The window is open, wind whipping through his hair and for the first time in days he laughs.

Everyone Sam has ever cared about is gone. Mom and Dad are long dead; Ellen, Ash and Jo weren't far behind. Then Bobby. Cas.

Dean.

Now it's just Sam and the Impala, the last two Winchesters and they're going out together. She'll carry him home. She always does. Hell yes, Sam laughs, because there aren't any tears left to cry.

And to our health we drank a thousand times –

Something flits across the road. Sam brakes, and she listens, of course she listens, but she stops just a little bit too late and –

- Sam hits a dog.

It's time to Ramble On.

The End.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Not Supernatural. Not Led Zeppelin. And yes, I stole a few lines from both. Sorry not sorry.