Set a few days after Lebanon, episode 14.13.
Ghosts walked the halls of the bunker.
Dean saw them everywhere.
He saw a ghost every time he saw his mother. She moved silently; drifting like the displaced spirit she truly was. She didn't belong here with them. Never really had. Whenever he saw her it was obvious she'd been crying. They'd tried to talk a few times, but neither had been able to find much to say.
When she finally left, Dean wasn't surprised. He didn't ask where she was going. Doubted she even knew. He didn't need to ask why she was leaving. She was leaving because of them.
Him and Sam.
They were painful reminders of all she had lost.
For one incredible moment in time, she'd been reunited with her husband. She'd had her family. They'd all been together for the first time since he'd been four years old.
And then the world had tilted itself right again and they'd all been left standing there, trying to process what they'd just experienced. They were still trying to process. None of them were handling it very well which was why, when she'd walked out of the bunker, he hadn't tried to stop her.
One ghost had left the bunker, but so many others remained.
In the wake of Mary's departure, John's ghost followed Dean wherever he went.
The sound of his voice. The warmth of his embrace. The words he'd said.
I'm proud of you.
His smile. His laughter.
Dean felt like he was eight years old again. Waiting for Dad to come home. Replaying his instructions over and over. Heart clenched in fear and not quite beating right as he tried to pretend everything was completely fine.
He longed to hear the front door open. Longed to see his dad walking down the stairs, a grin on his face and another successful hunt accomplished.
But John wasn't coming home ever again.
There was a chill in the air. A chill that enveloped his heart and left him gasping with the sucker punch of pain and loss. Pain and loss and so many other things.
So Dean busied himself in whatever distractions he could find. He'd cleaned the kitchen. Put away the table settings, the candles; those little bits of abnormal that had - for one brief evening - given the illusion of normal.
The ghosts of their conversations, their laughter, their tears, their joy and heartache haunted the room until he could barely stand to be in the library.
He'd helped Sam inventory the new items they'd retrieved from the pawn shop. It was another distraction and had worked for awhile.
After they'd finished with the pawn shop collection, Sam had thrown himself back into his tireless research for a solution to the Michael problem.
Michael was haunting them both, but Dean was the one who could hear - could feel - the pounding in his skull. Dean was the one who knew exactly how hard Michael was fighting. Dean was the one who knew how terrifyingly weak he was in comparison to the archangel.
They probably needed to talk about it.
All of it.
But he couldn't. Couldn't speak. Didn't want to. Especially since Sam hadn't looked him in the eye for two days. Their conversations had been stilted and uncomfortable ever since the evening Sam had found him with the pictures.
Dean had been in the garage, back pressed against the side of the Impala. A half-empty bottle in one hand, he'd been flipping through his stack of photographs. Lost in the memories, he'd been drunk and emotional and flat out crying.
Sam's appearance had been an unwelcome reminder that Dean wasn't the only one struggling.
Raw and torn, Dean had lashed out and Sam had backed off immediately. It had been difficult to ignore Sam's tear-filled eyes, but Dean had been just drunk enough to hold onto his own pain instead of following his brother.
Yet another ghost walking through the bunker.
Dean himself was as good as dead.
He had the irrational desire to find the salt.
Sighing heavily, he sat up on his bed, hands pressed to his throbbing temples. He winced as his fingers brushed the still-tender parts of his face. It had been days, but his body continued to ache from the beating not-Cas had given him.
A squinted glance at the clock showed that it was just after midnight. He debated looking for another bottle of whiskey. It didn't seem worth the effort. With Michael on board, he couldn't risk getting pass-out drunk. Finding something for the headache, though, was a motivation that got him to his feet.
Unsteadily, he made his way toward the kitchen; one hand braced against the cold cement wall and one blocking some of the light from his eyes. The pills didn't do much against Michael's tantrums, but anything was better than nothing at this point. He found the pills on the table where he'd left them earlier and shook out a small handful. Downing them with a gulp of cold coffee from one of the four mugs next to the sink, he considered washing them, but it didn't seem important.
There was no chance he'd be able to sleep; not for awhile anyway, so he headed for the car. Taking a drive seemed like a good way to outrun the ghosts. Clear his head. The Impala was still home in a way no other place ever would be and right now he wanted to go home.
His steps were slow as he walked, the weight of everything dragging him down as if gravity itself had increased threefold. There was no turning back, though. The desire to be on the open road was a clarion call he could not ignore.
When he got to the car, he found it was already occupied. Frowning, he reached the driver's side door. He pulled it open and leaned down, peering at his brother.
Sam was in the passenger seat, Dad's journal open in his lap. He didn't look up. Didn't move. Just sat slumped there; his fingers tracing the edges of the journal.
Dean took a breath, then got behind the wheel. They sat in silence for a long moment before he pulled the door closed. He waited, but Sam didn't say anything. His breathing was carefully controlled, but just shaky enough that Dean noticed. He glanced surreptitiously at his brother, but Sam continued staring down at the journal.
Running his hand over his face, Dean started the car. Sam didn't comment, but slowly lifted his head. His eyes were bloodshot and heavy, face shadowed with fading bruises. He looked old and heaven knew Dean felt old.
Ghosts. Both of them. Ghosts of who they once had been. Who they might have been.
Heartache expanded in his chest, tightening his lungs.
Then he blinked and - for a moment - fourteen years faded away and they were just starting out on the road together. Young and wildly inexperienced. Struggling to understand each other, to regain their balance after years apart. Smiling and laughing and crying and fighting and saving each other's lives over and over. Holding onto each other when no one else would. Supporting each other when there was no one else to turn to. No one else to rely on.
Staring at his brother, Dean's breath caught in his throat.
Sam was the reason he was still breathing. The reason he was still human. The reason he got up in the morning. The reason he fought. The reason he would always fight.
Fourteen years of memories, a lifetime of memories, flooded his mind, drowning out the screams of the archangel locked in the darkness.
Images flashed, one after another. The bad times. The really, really bad times. The good times. The amazing times. The times when everything had been so right, so perfect. The times he'd known without a doubt that he was as happy as he could ever hope to be. That he had everything he had ever wanted or ever could want.
Dean reached over and squeezed his brother's shoulder. Sam met his gaze this time, eyes uncertain and bright with unshed tears. Smiling a little, Dean didn't say anything, just tilted his head toward the road ahead. Sam nodded without hesitation, fighting to maintain his composure. Giving his shoulder another squeeze, Dean got them on the road.
They'd been driving for twenty minutes before Sam closed the journal. He remained silent, but settled into his seat more comfortably. The normalcy relaxed Dean better than the painkillers had and he rested his arm along the back of the seat.
Another twenty minutes and Sam was asleep, head resting against the door just like thousands of times before; the journal was cradled carefully in his arms. At the sight, the last bit of tension eased out of Dean's neck and shoulders and even the headache was finally muted. He smiled a little wider, his heart finally beating right. Finally at peace. Finally content.
I have a family, he'd told Dad and he'd meant it.
His family was sitting right here next to him, driving down crazy street, just like he had been for almost every single day of their lives.
Love walked the halls of the bunker.
Dean saw it everywhere.
"When Dad disappeared, Sam and I looked around, and something became very clear.
That the only thing we had in this world
– the only thing, aside from this car –
was each other."
Mamma Mia, episode 12.02
"I know where I'm at my best, and that is right here, driving down crazy street next to you."
Heartache, episode 8.03
Hope you enjoyed! I've been trying to get this posted since Lebanon originally aired. After rewatching it last night, I've been trying even harder.
For those of you waiting on the Christmas story (sorry for the neverending wait!)...It hasn't been forgotten I promise! I have barely written anything in the past four months and everything i have written has been a very huge undertaking. I've not felt right since November and writing has just been incredibly difficult. i've never gone so long without writing and with finding so little joy in it. But, I shall continue trying and one of these days, I promise i'll finish that Christmas story! :)