Fic Master Post

Dean settled into his diner seat and relaxed. Sam was sleeping off the near-gutting by the water horse, but he would live to see another hunt, which was enough for Dean. Dean had spent the wee hours of the morning sewing up his brother and forcing him to swallow morphine pills with the end of their rot gut whiskey. A relaxing morning at the local diner with endless cups of coffee and their fried heart attack special was just what Dean needed to calm his frayed nerves and Sam could use a quiet motel room to recuperate.

It didn’t hurt, Dean thought, that he wanted the peace and quiet to finish S. Wesson’s critically acclaimed first novel, Life in Winter. So far, Dean had successfully kept the book hidden from Sam and Dean intended to keep it that way. Sam always seemed vaguely embarrassed by the amount of money he was making off his books, but he always made the time to drop hunting for book signings and had even flown across the country several times to meet with his agent - once leaving Dean to track a wendigo through northern Minnesota on his own and once dropping everything and letting Dean take on a pair of particularly vicious chupacabras in the desert of west Texas by himself.

Dean wasn’t totally sure how he felt about Sam’s burgeoning new career. He knew it was shitty, being jealous of his brother’s books, of his fans, of Sam finally getting that little slice of normal he always wanted, but Dean couldn’t help it. After everything they’d been through together, after Heaven and Hell and death and hellfire and facing off against Heaven’s personal Gestapo and Hell’s generals, Dean didn’t want to let Sam go. He’d gotten better than he had been; he was good about letting Sam out of his sight now.

But he knew that Sam hadn’t told his agent about Dean. As far as Sam’s stuffy New York agent knew, Sam was Sam Wesson, itinerant traveler of the US, only son of Susan and Harry Wesson, formerly of San Francisco. He’d effectively erased Dean from his life, as far as the rest of the world was concerned and that wounded Dean.

“You like that Wesson guy?” the middle aged waitress asked as she poured Dean his coffee.

Dean’s eyes flicker to Sam’s book on the formica table. It had a tasteful cover, as far as cheap paperbacks went, just a full moon with the shadow of a single tree across it and the title. “I figured it’d be good to pick up,” Dean told her with a flirtatious smile. “I travel a lot and the days get long.”

The waitress considered the book for a moment, giving Dean a change to read her name tag: Esperanza. “That one was a bit popular around here, especially after he talked about passing through here in that interview. I read it myself.”

“It’s good stuff,” Dean agreed, smiling genuinely. “I can see the stuff like I was there. And that childhood… Boy, growing up killing things? The things people will write.”

The waitress made a noise low in her throat. “Yeah, well, I’d stick to Life in Winter if I were you. He made a mistake in writing Nobody’s Death.” She looked at Dean for a moment, a frown marring her face, making her look older. “You don’t look like the sort that would like that nonsense. You figure out your order yet?”

“The Hungry Man: eggs over hard, Canadian bacon, wheat toast, with the buttermilk pancakes and a side of hash browns.”

“Coming right up,” Esperanza told him and head back toward the kitcehn.

Dean eyed Nobody’s Death warily where it was lying in the booth next to him. Its cover was similar to Life in Winter’s: a brown hangman’s noose and a bloodied knife. He’d picked it up at a used bookstore two cases back while Sam was off questioning the bereaved and saving kittens from trees. The clerk had grinned at him, waggling a pierced eyebrow, and told Dean that it was great controversial literature and that the local college student union was organizing a protest to keep it in the public libraries in the county.

Dean shrugged it off. People get strange about violence and religion and their life was full of both. He opened Life in Winter to the next chapter and started reading. Sal was starting to believe that his miraculous visions were really demonic omens and a side effect from the demonic rituals that had been performed on him as a child. He begged his brother, Ray, to kill him or to purify him with salt and fire, but Ray refused and left, presumably to destroy their little ragtag family by going on a drinking binge or finding something else for Sal to give his attention.

When Esperanza dropped off Dean’s massive meal, he ate distractedly while reading. He knew that Sal was based on Sam; it was obvious and, besides, Sam had told him as much when he was first sending off the manuscripts. Dean never knew that Sam felt this way, that he was tainted and ruined because of what Azazel did to him. It was heartbreaking to read Sal’s pain at learning the origin of his gift. It grew more intense when Sal found the others like him, others who were less than human, some of whom had given in to their deadly demonic nature.

Even though Dean knew what happened, having the advantage of being present for the actual events when they occurred, he was as tense as a bowstring.

*

Sal opened his eyes. The world was as flat and colorless as the screen of a cheap fifties television set. He remembered something: a bright sharp pain, the wailing cries of someone, maybe more than one person, and then darkness. Sal treasured darkness. It was in the darkness of the endless motels that he could pretend that Beth wasn’t dead. He could pretend that he hadn’t come home to find her severed limbs in their bed, hadn’t tried desperately, for days, to wash the blood stained sheets clean.

In the darkness, the welcoming warm darkness, Sal could tell himself he was still nineteen. His half-mad brother hadn’t needed to rescue him from himself. Their father had never abandoned them for the bottom of a bottle and God only knew what else. Ray had never shown up at his apartment, larger than life and more frightening than the Devil himself, to rescue him from his own mind.

And then, as the world developed color, slowly like it didn’t want to become real, Sal remembered. Ray was gone. Sweet, mad Ray who only ever wanted to save him, protect him from their father and their life and even Mad Jack himself, was gone. The pain and the cries were probably his own, from when he tried to drown himself in a bottle. He couldn’t even respect Ray’s memory, following in their father’s footsteps like that. At least he didn’t have any children.

He wanted to go back to the bottle. It wasn’t safe or dark or warm or anything like college, but it could take away the pain of losing Ray. The alcohol made it hurt less. It was his fault Ray was gone. It was his fault he didn’t know where Ray was or if Ray was alive or dead. For all that Ray had done for him, for all that Ray had taken their father’s beatings and skipped meals and even sent him away when he turned eighteen, Sal had let him down when it was most important.

Sal was an idiot. He knew that. It was a simple fact of life. He couldn’t save Beth. He as good as threw Ray into the fire. Sal didn’t deserve what little he had.

That Sal had sent Ray into the arms of the man who killed their mother, the man who had killed and raped Beth in their bed, was an unforgiveable sin. No matter how many times Sal washed himself; no matter how many times he knelt in a fresh, anonymous confessional; no matter how many times he drank himself to oblivion and cried out in the night, he would never be clean. Whatever happened to Ray was on his soul and in his skin.

There was a gentle knock on the door, the simple rhythm that Sal knew only came from Abbie. Letting Abbie into his bed was just another betrayal of Ray, but what did it matter? He was already damned, body and soul. Abbie was a sweet piece of comfort in a world that spun so far away from him. Nothing mattered, not really, not with Beth and Ray dead and his father in some shallow, unmarked grave.

He answered the door without bothering to even put on boxers, the cold motel air forcing sharp goosebumps on the pale skin of his ass. He did not know where his clothes were, whether they were strewn about the street like confetti from a broken mind or whether, in his stupor, he had thought to put them in his bag, the way Ray always told him to. He did not know how he had made it from the bar back to his room. The previous night was nothing but a swirl of darkness, scented with cheap perfume and burning whiskey, in Sal’s mind and he knew enough to keep it that way. Sal knew better than to want to keep his memories.

Abbie was as beautiful as a spring day on the other side of the motel room door, completely out of place in the shabby hallway. As always, her gold curls were pinned and her lips were a luscious fruit that would have tempted Eve all over again. She sighed when she saw Sal.

“Sweetie,” she told him, her voice as smooth as honey. “You were a mess last night.”

Sal shrugged and allowed her into the room, allowed light and air into the darkness. “You didn’t join me.” He said nothing more. Abbie never wanted Sal’s words, never pulled the emotions and needs from him like pulling fish from the sea. She never took more than what he gave her and he was running out of things to give.

“I was busy getting you a gift,” she said, unzipping her dress and letting it pool around her feet, shaking her head so that her hair spilled down around her shoulders like sunlight. “Two gifts, really. While you were sleeping it off, I was making your life better.”

Sal didn’t say anything, didn’t make her an offering from the sea of himself, as she bent down to pull something from the silken fabric running over the dirty carpet. When she stood and offered him an innocuous pair of pills, her pale hair spilling down over her high breasts, like Eve offering Adam that damning fruit, Sal hesitated. He knew what Ray would have said, what Beth would have said. He knew that his father would have beat him black and blue, no matter how Ray tried to protect him.

Abbie’s blue eyes were sympathetic when she saw his hesitation for all that it was. Abbie always knew what Sal never offered. “I sit by your side while you drink yourself to death, Sal. You think I don’t know what you’re doing? I’ve seen it too many times, lost too many people. Your brother may not have liked me, but I’m only helping you. They’ll just help you get on your feet again, that’s all. He would want you to take it.”

Sal snatched the pills from her and swallowed them dry, too afraid to say anything, afraid of his brother’s vengeful ghost, afraid of his own pain, afraid, in the end, of Abbie herself. The strength of the drug nearly knocked him to his knees, just as he was tasting Abbie’s lips and wrapping his hands so tightly in her hair.

The sensation of it all, the dulling of his pain and fears, was almost enough to drown him. Sal wondered if he could drown on dry land, if he could get lost inside him, if Abbie would let him float away on the wind. It was so much that he almost missed it when Abbie, glowing with an unholy light, whispered in his ear, “Your second gift, sweet Sal, since you were so kind to take the first: Ray lives.”

*

Dean took a deep, calming breath as he put the book down. He was alive and safe and sitting in a half empty dinner off an empty stretch of road in southern Illinois. Sam was probably still sleeping in his narrow, lumpy motel bed, totally unaware of the passing daylight and equally alive and safe. They were both safe and alive and were no longer the pawns of Heaven and Hell.

“You okay?” Esperanza asked, coming by his table with a steaming pot of fresh coffee.

Instinctively, Dean looked to check her eyes, to check if she were human. He relaxed minutely when he only saw brown human eyes. “I’m fine,” he reassured her. He frowned for a moment, holding his copy of Life in Winter tightly in his hands. “You know? Could I have an order of the strawberry pancakes to go?”

“Sure thing,” she told him, still sounding concerned. “You still hungry after all that?”

“No, no. My brother’s back at the motel. I’ve just been letting him sleep off his hangover, but I figure he’ll be hungry by the time I get back.” Dean sent her off back to the kitchen with a wide grin that he didn’t feel. He toyed with Sam’s books while he waited for the to-go box. He didn’t know how Sam could write this stuff. Dean could barely read it. He loved some of it, the great memories of Dad, remembering what it had been like in that first year back on the road with Sam. But it was beyond hard to read the other things, Dad dying, Sam dying, all of the death and pain.

When Esperanza brought Sam’s pancakes out in a box, Dean paid his bill with cash from a pool game he won outside Scranton. He drove back to their motel with Metallica on low, soothing his frayed nerves. Sam was still asleep, wrapped up in a cocoon of thin motel blankets, so Dean stashed his books at the bottom of his duffel, in with his dirty laundry and spare skin magazines. After checking to make sure that Sam wasn’t bleeding out and that the salt lines were secure, he booted up the laptop to check for new cases.

*

They were halfway across Iowa, getting ready to check out a possible haunting on a college campus in Omaha, when Sam got the cell phone call from his agent. Dean figured it was Sam’s agent when his phone rang; no one else ever bothered to call them at 8 am. While Sam was talking, Dean pulled into a gas station off of Rte 80 and grabbed them breakfasts of pop-tarts and coffee.

Dean handed Sam the food as he slid into the car.

“You think you could drop me off at the Des Moines airport?” Sam asked, not opening his po p-tart.

“Today? Isn’t that a little bit of short notice?” Dean asked, testily. He knew he had no right, but he just didn’t like how Sam would drop everything for his agent and his books.

“Palmer said arrangements would be made by the time I got there.” Sam took a sip of his coffee and watched Dean warily. “You don’t mind, do you? It looks like this hunt will be a bust.”

Dean pulled back onto the highway and kept his eyes on the road. “I’ll stop by the roadhouse. We haven’t seen them in a while and they’ll have any information I need on Creighton.”

Silence reigned in the Impala as Dean took the exit for the airport and began to navigate through the suddenly congested traffic. Sam pulled his duffel and the laptop from the backseat and finished off his coffee.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be in New York,” Sam said at last. “Where should I fly back to?”

“This shouldn’t take more than a couple days,” Dean told him. “I’ll head up and stay with Bobby. He could use some help with his junkers and I could use the down time. Call me before your flight and I’ll pick you up.” He pulled the Impala into the drop-off lane outside the airport. He looked at Sam and wanted to say, don’t go, don’t leave me to hunt on my own. Instead, he said, “Stay safe. Pick up a knife when you leave the airport. And don’t forget to salt your hotel room.”

Sam stepped out of the Impala, throwing his duffel over his shoulder, but he turned back, meeting Dean’s eyes. “The same goes for you. Even if this is just nothing, or if it’s a salt and burn… don’t get hurt.”

Dean idled for a moment, watching Sam disappear into the crowd of harried travelers. He didn’t want to eat his pop-tart anymore. When an angry looking middle aged man driving a mini-van started honking at him, Dean took off, heading back onto Route 80 West.

The highway was a long, flat expanse of brown and green fields, interspersed with the occasional dull gray city. Around one, he thought briefly about stopping for lunch, but he just grabbed a bag of Doritos from under his seat and fished out an old Coke that had been rolling around the back seat for a couple of months. Dean figured that since no one had opened it, it’d be fine, even if it was warm. It wasn’t like Coke went bad.

Dean drove on through, only stopping for gas and another cup of coffee when he crossed the border into Nebraska. He pulled up by the roadhouse a little before sunset. The dirt lot around the old building was empty, except for Tamara’s old truck, but he could hear noise from behind the roadhouse. After parking, he pulled a bag out of the trunk and went out to find them.



He paused when he came around the corner of the building. Lisa was aiming her gun at the cans lined up on the top of the post fence. She was older than she had been when he first met her in that nameless bar in Florida. He was sure, as he watched her sweater ride up her back, that she was just as flexible, but he also knew better than to ask. The time for that kind of comment was long past.

She shot them down. She wasn’t gun expert or a certified sharp shooter but she was more than good enough. When Lisa lowered the gun and brushed her hair away from her face, Dean gave her a quiet clap.

Lisa turned sharply, her gun aimed straight at him for a moment. “Dean! Are you looking to get shot?”

Dean grinned. “You wouldn’t have the heart to kill me, not after everything we’ve shared. Come on. You love me.”

“Do I?” Lisa asked, rolling her eyes. She crossed the field and began to collect the tin cans. There was gray in her hair now, mostly at her temples, and she had lines around her eyes, same as Dean did. She knew her weapons as well as any hunter and now, in her black boots and plain shirt, she reminded him more of Ellen Harvelle than the innocent - or not-so-innocent as the case turned out to be - yoga instructor he seduced more than twenty years earlier.

“Are those the Winchester boys I hear?” Tamara asked, coming out of the backdoor of the roadhouse, a dishcloth still in her hands. If Lisa was changed, weathered and stronger than she had been back in 1999, Tamara hadn’t changed a bit. She was still the fierce, harsh hunter he’d met in Illinois.

“Just one Winchester boy, I’m afraid,” Dean told her, still watching Lisa.

“Somehow I think just one of you will get into less trouble than the pair,” Lisa said, shaking her head. “But I didn’t think I’d ever see you two apart again.”

Dean smiled easily, even though he didn’t feel it and he expected that Lisa and Tamara could tell. “You know how Sam gets about his books. His agent called this morning and before I knew it, I was dropping him off at the airport in Des Moines.”

Tamara frowned a little, lines creasing her delicate features. “His books, mmm?”

Dean shrugged. “I was headed up toward Omaha anyway and I told him I’d come pay you all a visit since I’d be in the area.”

“And you just figured we’d be available and have a spare room?” Tamara asked sharply. Dean didn’t take offense to it; he was used to Tamara at this point. She was good for Lisa, better than Dean could have been, and better for Ben, besides. Dean wouldn’t complain.

“I don’t know about a spare room. I figure the Motel Six out on the highway is calling my name…”

“Shut up,” Lisa told him, holstering her gun and giving Tamara a gentle hug. “You know you’ve got a place if you need, both you and Sam do. But you shouldn’t really be needing it.”

Dean shrugged uncomfortably. “Yeah, well, you know how it goes. It’s just the hunitng life.”

“So what have you been up to this year?” Lisa asked. “Vampires? Werewolves? Ghouls? You know I won’t forgive you if you lie.”

“Well, I don’t know about werewolves and ghouls,” Dean said, before Tamara could say anything. “But Sam and I did some pretty good traveling. We took out a couple of nasty ghosts out in Buffalo and managed to finally see Niagara Falls.” He grinned suddenly at the happy memory, remembering enjoying the day with Sam before they sped off to Michigan to waste an ifrit on the upper peninsula. “I managed to get the Braeden-Rye household a whole set of t-shirts.”

Tamara actually laughed. Dean liked her laugh, not because it made her beautiful, even though it did, but because it always, without fail, made Lisa smile in a way he never could. “T-shirts? You two live like a pair of nomads and you end up getting us t-shirts from Niagara Falls?”

“Hey, don’t mess with an American tradition,” Dean told her sharply. “Or maybe I’ll just keep yours and give it to the next pretty girl I meet in Omaha.”

Both Lisa and Tamara laughed at that and took the shirts Dean handed them, a matched pair that were nearly too touristy to wear. Dean figured they would be stored with the rest of the souvenirs he and Sam had given them over the years -everything from miniature St Louis arches to t-shirts advertising Bibleland. They were fun and they meant that when the Winchesters finally died, there would be more than a string of unexplained grave robberies to remember them by.

“It’s sweet, Dean,” Lisa said. She hugged him and gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek, before heading into the roadhouse. The sun was sinking toward the west and their first customers would be arriving soon. She needed to set up and hide her gun away. There was no need to make their customers edgier than they already were.

Tamara eyed Dean carefully with her big brown eyes before watching Lisa disappear inside. “Something tells me you didn’t come all this way just to drive Lisa nuts and give us awful t-shirts.”

“That’s the truth,” Dean admitted, “but it’s definitely a perk of visiting.”

Tamara sighed. “Come on inside. Lisa will open up, but I’ve got myself on the early shift at the bar. Lisa will get you a burger after Ben gets home and you can tell me what you’re doing here and where the hell Sam is.”

Dean followed her into the bar, taking a seat on one of the bar stools, as she opened up the roadhouse. Dean didn’t know why or how or when Lisa and Tamara came by the place or when it became the new roadhouse to the hunters of the midwest; it was some time when he and Sam were caught up in other things, twisted all up with Heaven and Hell. It barely reminded him of the old place. For one, it had a full grill in back and for another, there was no Ash and no Harvelles. The roadhouse run by Lisa and Tamara Braeden-Rye was a world away from Harvelle’s and Dean was always grateful for that.

Hunters still frequented it. The Roadhouse was known among them as a safe place, as a place for information and a place where you wouldn’t be seen if you didn’t want. Dean didn’t know how they stayed under the radar, how it was that the cops and FBI and god damned CIA didn’t swarm the place, but hunters knew it. For all Dean knew, Tamara had hired some hoodoo man to spell up the place and hide it from the law. Or maybe Lisa did. He wouldn’t put it past either of them, but he did know that it was never a problem. The new Roadhouse was a safe house.

Tamara put a beer in front of him and leaned forward, her elbows on the bar. “So, are you going to tell me what’s got you here without your brother or do I have to interrogate you before my wife gets out here and does it for me?”

“It looks like there’s a possible haunting up at Creighton,” Dean told her, not touching the beer. “It could just be rumors among the college kids or, hell, even just some dumb freshman prank, but it could be something. People are talking about a girl appearing in one of the dorms, but without her head.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Tamara said sharply. Her dark eyes were as cold as ice and Dean knew from experience that she was like a dog with a bone. It was probably what Lisa like about her. That and she was probably a wildcat in bed. “Where’s your brother?”

“I told you. He’s in New York City by now. I dropped him off in Des Moines this morning before we even had breakfast.”

Tamara frowned at him, clearly displeased by his answer. “So, Sam’s off living the high life with his books and money and just leaving you to go hunt college ghosts?”

Dean shrugged. He could admit to himself that he’d been thinking the same thing ever since the first time this happened, when Dean dropped Sam off at the half-empty airport in Idaho and went back for the pack of Tailypos alone, but it burned to hear Tamara say it. Everyone had talked about how they were inseparable, how the only way they had pulled through was with each other. Hell, when everything was done, when it was finally over, Bobby had gone all out with the twenty-four year scotch, toasting them and telling them that he’d never thought they’d make it through in one piece, but that it did his heart good to see them together. “Sam deserves it. He’s worked hard and it’s what he’s always wanted. Ever since we were kids, he just wanted a normal life. He never meant to come back to hunting forever, not like me.”

“You really believe that?” Lisa asked, coming into the bar and dropping a fresh whiskey in front of him.

“It’s true,” Dean told her. “It’s just the truth.”

Lisa shook her head at him, but didn’t say anything. She went behind the bar and pulled out a manila folder stuffed with a couple of newspaper clippings and computer print-outs. “Ben should be getting some more information from the back right now. He pulled this up on my computer this afternoon when I was ready to pull my hair out dealing with our suppliers.”

Dean flipped through the notes in the folder, reading everything carefully. He sipped his whiskey carefully as some others began to trickle into the roadhouse, eyeing them for potential enemies and known allies. “How’d you know what I was looking for?”

“Sam called last night,” Lisa said. “He told us you’d be heading our way and that he wanted any information we could get on the Creighton haunting.”

“He called you last night?”

“Fucking woke both of us up when he called,” Tamara said from behind Dean, clamping a hand down on his shoulder.

“Hey, baby,” Lisa said, leaning across the bar to kiss her on the cheek.

Lisa handed Dean some more computer print outs as Ben came in from the back. His dark hair was shaved close to his head and he reminded Dean a bit of Caleb, in a way that disturbed him. He was all wiry muscle and big guns, a hunter to the bone. He took one look at Dean and asked, “I take it Sam’s off on his own again?”

Dean nodded, trying not to remember the little boy he taught how to fight in Cicero. “I don’t mind hunting solo, anyway. He’s got business out in New York.”

“There ain’t much there. There was a suicide a couple years back in that dorm, but her parents had her cremated.” Ben shrugged apologetically. “I got you a contact at the college, though. One of the professors has seen her; she showed up in his classroom. He says he knew her when she was alive.”

“Thanks, Ben. I can call him in the morning when head out.”

“It’s my business, Dean. I don’t like seeing hunters getting blindsided,” Ben told him.

Dean shrugged, but the motioned was lost on Ben as he headed back toward the grille behind the half partition separating the kitchen from the roadhouse. They normally did regular business, even as off the beaten highway as they were. It wasn’t just hunters, either. Plenty of local civilians liked to shoot pool and eat burgers at Rye Roadhouse.

Lisa watched Ben leave and then left Dean alone to get some beers and a couple whiskeys for some of the customers. Dean realised that he didn’t recognise anyone, not even the young men in corner who were watching everyone else with the sort of paranoia that told him they were either hunters or preparing to go on a killing spree. And Lisa, in her black t-shirt and boots, wasn’t that far from Ellen, when Dean met her all those years ago. Dean didn’t know when she met Tamara, if it was when Tamara was on a hunt or in just another small town bar or if she’d been waiting tables, but she was good for her. She was good for Tamara and Tamara was good for Lisa and Ben. Between Lisa and their friends around the roadhouse, Tamara and Ben could go on hunts if they wanted to. They could all protect themselves. Lisa knew her way around weaponry more than the average yoga instructor.

It didn’t have to turn out the way it had with Isaac. It didn’t have to end the way it had between Dean and Lisa. Dean was pretty sure than it had messed Ben up for a while, Dean disappearing and reappearing in their lives the way he had. Looking back on it, Dean had his regrets and he could see them etched out in the younger hunter’s life. But it was what it was and if that was what brought Lisa and Tamara together, it was for the greater good.

Maybe someday Sam would find his own Lisa or Tamara, have his own kids. He could meet her at some New York City function, with Palmer in the wings. She would be really pretty, maybe all blond hair and mile long legs like Jess had been or doe eyed and smart like Sarah, but perfect and wonderful for Sam. They could move out to the suburbs and have beautiful, brilliant, writerly children. Maybe sometimes Dean could swing by and take Sam on a couple local hunts, maybe upstate, maybe in Connecticut or Jersey.

“I’m not letting you drink yourself stupid this time,” Tamara told him. “You look too damned depressed and you’re going to make the regulars all miserable if you get drunk.”

“Your wife said you’d make me a burger,” Dean told her dully, already feeling the beer and whiskey on his empty stomach. “Haven’t really eaten all day.”

Tamara shook her head. “She’s already firing up the grill for Eddie; your burger’s probably on its way.”

Dean looked at her carefully. “Do you think Sam’s happy, being in New York, meeting pretty girls and making money?” He laughed a little at himself. “Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he?”

Tamara sighed and wiped up some spilled whiskey on the bar. She smiled a little at Dean, but left him alone, making her way to the other end of the bar. She laughed and talked with the other customers, a couple of young women with dark hair and bright eyes. Dean watched her and regretted, just a little bit, everything that had happened. He remembered her broken grief over Isaac, remembered her burning her husband on his pyre. And he remembered running into her on a hunt, not to long after the world ended, when he was still living with Lisa. She was as wild and worn as he was. At least she found her Lisa. Dean didn’t think there was anyone out there for him, not like that.

He was a little startled when Lisa dropped his burger in front of him. “Thanks,” he said weakly, his mouth watering a little at the smell of the seared beef.

“You look like the living dead,” Lisa told him flatly. “Ben should have the spare room set up by now.” When Dean didn’t respond, she continued, “You can finish looking after my information in the morning. I won’t have your brother calling me up in a rage if you get yourself in some bar brawl.”

Dean didn’t have the energy to fight off Lisa’s unwanted maternal instructions and, anyway, after the apocalypse and his thirty third birthday, smoky bars and almost-underaged women had slowly lost their bewitching appeal. Being on the other side of forty just meant that the bar conversations hadn’t changed in more than twenty years and he was too old and too tired to pick up the pretty young things looking for a fun time. He didn’t really mind heading into the kitchen and then upstairs. Ben was just on his computer and had, indeed, made up one of the beds in the spare room for Dean. Dean curled up under the LL Bean plaid blanket and dreamed of Sam dancing with a beautiful brunette who could give him a world Dean never even knew.





Part Two
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