Thank you to all who sent in titles for the challenge! The winner is, Don't Touch That: An Anthology, from sylvia37. Runner-ups: Heavy Rain and Comfort Food (Scarlett), Black Licorice and the Fall of Humanity (bagelcat1), and Workplace Romance (Noxbait). (I might still use one of those, too, if someone doesn't claim it first!) My hope is to have the story written and posted before the show returns October 8 (!). Thank you again. - KHK
Let's Not Talk About It
K Hanna Korossy
"Okay, I'm ready. Pocahontas—Pocahontas, really?—okay, yeah, Pocahontas, Missouri."
Dean glanced over at his brother in the passenger seat as Sam listened on the phone and scribbled details in his notebook.
"Yeah, okay, we're headed that way anyway….No, we can take care of it…I know, but she's, uh…" Sam cleared his throat. "She's not going anywhere….No, not that we know of. We'll make sure she gets a hunter's send-off." He rubbed his eyes. "I know, thanks….No, I'm good. And Dean's here."
Dean leaned toward him to yell, "Hey, Jody!"
Sam listened a moment, smiling briefly. "Yeah, you know it. Okay, thanks. We'll call you when it's done." He thumbed his phone off.
Dean gave it a few beats, then asked, "So, we making a pit stop?" They were on their way to South Carolina to identify and claim Eileen's body. He wouldn't have thought Sam would want to make a detour for a hunt, but Jody had called, and Sam hadn't hesitated to say yes.
Sam shook his head like he was clearing cobwebs. "Uh, yeah. Some town called Pocahontas in Missouri. Sounds like a pretty obvious ghoul infestation."
Dean digested that. "Ghouls can wait, you know. Not like they usually snack on the living—they're not taking meals to go, right?"
"No, but, uh, it's on the way." Sam was on his phone again. "Looks like, uh…oh! It's, uh, actually right by Cape Girardeau. You wanna see if—"
"No." Dean hadn't seen or heard from Cassie in over a decade and had no desire to reopen that old wound. The last thing they needed right now was another dead romance.
Sam nodded. "It's a small town, but it's got a bakery called The Pie Safe."
"Sammy…" Dean said quietly.
Sam sighed, putting the phone down. "I don't…I'm not trying to avoid seeing Eileen, Dean. It just makes sense to take care of this before the ghouls do start getting ideas about the living. And…okay, it'll give me a little more time to…process, I guess."
"Process, huh?" Dean had picked up enough of Jody's conversation with Sam to know she'd nudged him to talk about Eileen's death, and that he'd shut her down.
The silence spooled out, long enough that Dean thought that maybe that was the end of it. But something kept him from popping a tape in.
"She survived so much," Sam murmured finally. "Her parents dying by her crib, raised by a hunter… I mean, can you imagine hunting deaf, alone? But she not only did it, she was great at it."
"She was," Dean concurred.
"And she still had this sense of humor… You know how many deaf jokes she knew?"
Dean raised an eyebrow in mock outrage. "And she didn't tell me any of them?"
"It helped if you knew some ASL." Sam shrugged. "And she was smart, and…"
"…and you liked her." Dean was gentle; his brother was hurting.
A long pause. Sam sniffed. "Maybe. Eventually."
Dean was tempted to say I'm sorry, or, That sucks, or other stuff apparently normal people said when someone died. But they weren't normal, and Sam knew that anyway. So Dean just gave it a moment, then said, "Remember that time she ate, like, half the pot of spaghetti? That girl had an appetite."
"And then still had room for pie," Sam said with a small smile.
"Unfortunately." Dean smiled back at him, struck again by how grateful he was for what he still had.
"But then she brought you a bumbleberry pie from that little farm stand she found to make up for it."
"Oh, man, that was an awesome pie…"
Dean's phone rang while they were sitting at a picnic table somewhere in South Carolina. They'd burned Eileen's body the night before, and Sam just wanted to be home again. But it was lunchtime, and the roadside barbeque place had a giant plywood pig on the roof. Dean had a thing for giant animals on eating places. They'd stopped for admittedly really good ribs, even though the idea of grilled meat turned Sam's stomach if he thought about it too long.
Dean glanced at him, and Sam met his eyes. Phones ringing the last few days usually meant another hunter was dead. A killer was moving through their ranks with an efficiency that was disturbing. Worse, some of the dead were people they knew, trusted, had learned from and bartered and hunted with.
Dean grabbed a napkin and shoved to his feet, moving a few paces off as he answered his phone, near enough so Sam could hear but far enough away that none of the other diners around them did. "Hey, Lonnie."
He listened a few seconds while Sam watched his face. He saw it the moment the curtain of sorrow fell, Dean's jaw locking and his eyes squeezing shut. Sam's heart sank. Who did they lose this time? Not…Mom?
Dean was swallowing and nodding. "Yeah, okay. Thanks for that…What?…No, I'm okay. Yeah, Sam's here, too…Yeah, I'll call Bill later…Yeah, I know. You, too." He slowly lowered the phone.
Dean looked up at him, and his eyes were full of grief. "That was Lonnie. Jefferson's dead."
Sam's mouth drew in, and he gave a sharp nod of understanding.
The older hunter hadn't quite been a father figure for them even though he was of Bobby and John's generation. They hadn't been around him enough, for one thing. But when they had crossed paths, Jefferson had been solid and reliable. He'd saved their lives once or twice. And, most of all, he'd actually cared about them.
Dean pushed away the ribs and sat looking at his hands.
And Dean, who'd sought mentors like Sam had peers, had cared back. He'd gotten far closer than Sam ever had.
Sam drew furrows in his coleslaw with his fork. "Same way?" Murdered, not on a hunt.
"Looks like. That's, what, number seven?"
"Eight. That we know of."
Dean nodded. Sam pretended not to see as he knuckled his eyes.
"He lived a good life," Sam said gently. "He was, what, pushing seventy?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Dude, he was barely sixty."
"Seriously?" Hunting did age prematurely. "Huh. Well, he sure hunted a lot like Dad."
"Minus the yelling. And the orders." Dean snorted. "He was like the Ward Cleaver version of Dad."
Sam studied his brother. Dean never would have said that a decade before, any complaint about their dad a sacrilege. He also wouldn't have wanted to discuss it. "Remember that time the truck turned over?" Sam said carefully.
"And trapped me under it? Not the kind of thing you forget, Sam."
"And Jeff rigged up that tarp to keep us warm while he hiked for help. I wasn't sure he'd get back in time."
Dean shook his head. "Yeah, well, he always came through. Not just anyone I would've trusted to babysit you—"
"When I was twentysomething," Sam interjected dryly.
Dean grimaced. "I almost killed you—"
"—thanks to a Mad Gasser. And Jeff still took me to find you."
"Because you were being a stubborn little bitch."
"And Jefferson knew better than to keep me away from you. Jerk."
Dean blew out a breath, chewed his lip. "I think he got you an' me better than Dad did." He sat for a moment, staring past Sam in thought. "You know, when Ellen died, then Bobby, then Charlie, somewhere in my head I always thought, at least we still have Jeff."
Sam nodded. "Me, too."
They looked at each other in silent understanding. They had each other, too, but…their world was small, and getting smaller. Sam could be grateful for what he had and still mourn what he didn't. And that was what he'd always wished for Dean, too.
He hesitated, then Sam raised his beer bottle to tilt at his brother. "To Jefferson."
Dean clinked his bottle to Sam's. "To Jefferson." They both drank.
They tossed the rest of their lunch in silence, and Dean went to the bathroom. Sam took advantage of his absence to buy a pie to eat later. There would be more drinking and reminiscing that night.
And then the next day, Dean would be ready to help him track down a murderer.
"Mick was a good guy." Sam spoke out of the blue, not that Dean wasn't thinking about the little Cockney, too.
They both ignored the derisive snort in the back seat.
"He was getting there," Dean allowed. "He had a conscience. Not like most of your little club, Bellatrix." He addressed that to the sharp eyes of Toni Bevell watching them in the rear view mirror.
"He was weak and—"
"Shut up," Dean and Sam said in chorus.
"He didn't kill Eileen," Dean added quietly after a few beats.
"Yeah." Of course, she'd died anyway, and Dean was more and more sure it hadn't been a rogue hellhound that did it. "That's probably what got him killed."
"She deserved—" Toni began again, because apparently she did not pick up on social cues.
Dean slammed on the brakes. Even as the woman lurched forward in her seat, Dean twisted around and punched her. She fell to the seat, unconscious.
Sam took a breath. Dean gave him a defensive look. But all Sam said was, "Thanks."
"Anytime." Dean looked back again, shook his head, then turned and put the car back in gear.
"Claire's alive thanks to Mick."
Dean nodded silently. Who would've thought he'd ever be grateful to any of the British Invasion? "He was growing on me. Might've made a good hunter one day."
Sam sighed. "We just keep losin' people, man."
Dean gave him a look, then another. "Not everybody."
Sam looked back at him, and his face softened. "Not everybody."
Mom had betrayed them.
Some kind of brainwashing, Sam had quickly realized, because he was pretty sure it was really Mom and not some kind of double. Even if it was hard to tell from a distance while she held two guns on them.
But she saved Ketch, and then helped that monster lock them up in the bunker to suffocate.
Sam's eyes met his brother's, seeing the mirror to his devastation there.
A beat, then Dean raised his chin. "Toni, you're on research. Sam, go grab the blueprints to the bunker. I'm gonna go around and check the exits—maybe they missed something."
Sam took in a deep breath—the last for a while—and started to move.
As Toni Bevell headed into the library and Sam started to move past Dean, his brother grabbed his arm. Their faces were inches apart.
"We'll talk about this after, okay?"
He meant Mom. And he meant the offer.
Sam nodded. He was counting on it.