Spoilers: are random and encompass the season up to Scarecrow.
Author: is random in her behavior and craves a Twinkie .
While there was enough light left, Dean left Sam in the room and walked over to the mini-mart to get a large container of talcum powder and get out of Sam's immediate space for a minute.
Sam had always liked time to himself, where Dean would have preferred to chew glass rather than be alone. He knew he had to give Sam space occasionally to keep him from going completely nuts but he'd always been so bad at it. They'd been breathing the same air 24/7 since he'd gone to get Sam from Stanford, and if that wasn't bad enough, now the encroachment was more than physical.
Where was Sam supposed to run?
Had his heart given out like it was meant to, his brother and father would have been hurt but would have gone on, similarly determined to do whatever was necessary. They didn't get along with each other because they were just alike . Dean was odd man out in that equation and had known it the moment Sam and John had first really clashed.
Leaving Sam behind had occurred to Dean, leaving before he accidentally killed - or was left some other way by - the only thing he'd ever done right. That was crazy bullshit, and he knew it, but he couldn't think of another way to save Sam from himself. Sam wasn't going to hesitate to try and hide Dean from whatever came knocking. And there was a sudden, high price for that hiding that was Sam's only to pay. What did Sam get, for saving him?
More of the same.
He hated himself for not being able to do without Sam.
Before they left the motel, Dean coated parts of the floor - particularly just inside the door - and several surfaces with talcum powder and left the 'do not disturb' sign on the outside of the door. They'd done it a couple of times to see if anything interesting would leave messages - but they'd only done it in places where they knew something was getting in and had something to say. Never one of their own motel rooms. What Dean didn't tell Sam was that ashes worked better for getting results from the dead and that he and John had experimented with just that a few times while Sam was away. Not with fireplace ashes, either.
Ah, the things he'd wanted to tell Sam but hadn't.
If they kept moving, maybe he wouldn't pool in one place in constantly spreading circles. Maybe he would just keep leaving a trail the stupid thing had to follow, and maybe he'd get it out in the open and step on it. Maybe Sam wouldn't have to try and shield him. Maybe monkeys would fly out of his ass.
Flashlights: check. EMF meter, guns, salt, lighter fluid just in case, map of the blast sites. Dean locked the door of the motel room and didn't look back, but Sam paused to draw a pentacle in holy water and say something Dean didn't need to hear.
It was fully dark by the time they'd decided on a route.
"It's brilliant, trying to find these places in the dark," Sam said.
"I know," Dean said with the same amount of sarcasm. "I thought of it myself."
They were hyperalert, waiting on two fronts. Something ahead and something behind, both unknown and threatening.
Dean knew if the damn frogs would shut up, he could think better. Only one other spot had been an asphalt hit; the other two they'd seen so far were open, grassy areas. A park, a field. And still, the same thing: glass. The soil and rock beneath the scorched and blasted vegetation had melted to glass, angular and uneven, thrown into chunks around the point of impact. Dean dug a thumb sized piece out of the site in the field and tucked it away. They shone their flashlights on it and checked the area immediately around. Sam kept checking the uniformly cloudy sky and swiveling his entire body around to keep track of their surroundings. Their attention was not entirely on what they were doing, and Dean knew it was going to cause them to miss something.
"Cut it out," Dean said.
"The intrepid thing," Dean said, eyes still on the ground. "Just chill."
Sam had a brief and violent mental image of whacking Dean with his flashlight. Not a vision, thankfully, but it might as well have been. He couldn't beat sense into him, though, so he settled for scolding. "You know, it's not like there's much out here to warn us if that thing catches up," Sam said. "It's got nothing to unlock out here but you."
"You're not gonna see it, either," Dean said, continuing to train his flashlight on the ground. "So, help me look for evidence and quit waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"You have to start taking this seriously," Sam said.
"You're doing it for both of us," Dean said, walking further away. "I got news for you, Sam. We could bite it in a really stupid, random car accident tomorrow. Ironic, but possible. We don't have seatbelts."
"I'm not talking about the lights, or the thing that chased us out last night," Sam said, clicking his flashlight off. "And you know it. Before it was just regular people staring at you because you were kind of open. Now it's everything else."
"Good," Dean said. "Then we can just sit around and wait for shit to come find us, instead of having to hunt for it. Sit on a porch somewhere and pick things off as they come into the yard."
"Aren't you curious?" Sam said, remaining in place as Dean moved further away. "About how it really happened in the first place, about how it works?"
"No," Dean said, and the flat finality to his voice told Sam he really was listening. He was still examining the ground, sweeping the faint cone of light in even strokes in front of himself and holding the EMF meter loosely in his other hand.
"We're not gonna get to the bottom of it or keep it from doing us in if we don't get the facts out," Sam said, not sure why he was pushing it right then. "This isn't one of the times you need to be a hardass, Dean."
"Shut up," Dean said, voice lowered to a defensive growl in response to being told what this was a time for. "Like any of this is fixable. I don't have words for this, Sam."
"Then just show me," Sam said.
Dean stopped cold.
Sam stared at Dean's back and felt an abstract moment of horror at how the words had come out, because he'd meant to say something like them but nothing like them at all. It was a bigger line to cross than the one he'd crossed in the car that night in Ellensburg, because this was benevolence aforethought rather than a reaction to circumstance. It was one thing to do something out of necessity and another to ask to do it again. He was more horrified at what angle of motivation the words stemmed from than what reaction they might get. He wanted something back that no one was ever meant to have.
He was saved by an audible snap and the sight of a fist-sized whirl of faint green light popping into existence at face height hundreds of yards off to their right. The EMF meter didn't react because it was too far away. They tracked it with their eyes as it wavered in place for several seconds and winked out. Before either could speak, it popped up again, closer, leaving a dim trail like a giant firefly. A second snapped on in a smear of washed-out orange, and the two passed each other and winked out again.
Dean clicked his flashlight off, and Sam was left with pinpoints of distant sodium vapor streetlights and the green-red-yellow flash of the EMF meter to occupy his dark-adapted eyes. The frogs had stopped singing, and there was nothing but his own breathing and the barking of a dog miles away. He thought about the incredibly untrue adage about lightning not striking twice and then realized there was no way they should hang around if an actual gathering was underway. It was possible they were drawing the gathering just by being who they were. The EMF meter began to squeal when something the color and size of a robin's egg flashed briefly above their heads, only yards off to the left. Dean walked backwards until he was even with Sam. It was silent and dark for several seconds. Then they both felt the hair on the napes of their necks rise, and the snap was louder and closer when numerous lights popped on directly above them, throwing their shadows back across the scorched grass and reflecting off the glass crater.
"Sonofabitch!" Dean shouted, and shoved Sam back toward the road. They sprinted without looking back, waiting for the sudden rush of heat they imagined might come with having the water content of their bodies turned to steam. Dean was thinking about how much electrocution sucked .
They stopped at the car and turned, waiting. The lights were gone. In any case, they could get in the car and the tires would ground them if the sky decided to shake hands with the ground, as Dean had put it.
"They're generating a charge," Sam said, out of breath, turning his flashlight back on and balancing it on the roof of the car. "They're just trying to get attention, from anyone they can, whether they're seen or not."
"Bullshit," Dean said, beginning to shift from foot to foot. "If it's those people, they're getting revenge for the way things went down. That's a lot more than a cry for help, Sam."
"Stuff might not look or feel the same after you're dead," Sam said, tone caustic. "Not everything knows what it's doing. They probably don't even realize - "
"Where the fuck is all this pacifist, namby-pamby, 'look on the bright side' crap coming from?" Dean said, cutting him off. "Where the hell did you ever get the idea that anything is ever good, Sam?"
"From you," Sam said softly.
Dean froze the same way he had earlier, startled into staring at him with a baffled severity. Sam just stood there, unassuming, hands in jacket pockets, looking older than Dean liked in the white half-light. Perfectly easy to look at, no longer his binary or stuck with the soulstuff he cast off. At least, not for the moment.
"I've only had the chance to look at things like that because you've never let anything pull me down," Sam said. "You've always taken the brunt of everything. Me and dad fighting, or whatever we were hunting, or some of the stupid shit I could have learned the hard way."
"Now you're accusing me of sheltering you," Dean said, defaulting to gruffness in the absence of anything else he could dredge up.
Rather than fall back on one of his standard reactions, Sam leaned forward and grabbed Dean with one hand, forcing him to hold still. "Do I look sheltered to you?" he said, voice lowered to a challenge. "I only have the luxury of being who and how I want to be because of you. So if you don't like it, you only have yourself to blame."
Dean didn't shake him off, but he didn't look at him, either. "Just because we've found them doesn't mean we don't have to look at the rest of the sites," he said finally, his voice so low that Sam had to lean in to hear the words.
There it was: the house from the article he'd been folding and unfolding for the last couple of days. It was slightly offset from the rest of the neighborhood, likely one of the first homes built before a housing boom had brought the surrounding development. It was an unassuming, standard ranch style house, frame siding painted an off white, sporting the same composition shingle roof the rest of the neighborhood did. Its vacancy was obvious even from a distance. They sat in the car and looked at the dark, curtainless windows and the 'for sale' sign.
"It's the first one," Sam said. "The first incident. Family was home, sitting around the table, boom. No witnesses. Every appliance in the place blew, the wiring all burned, and nothing else was scorched but the doors and windows."
"So, no one to tell us what really happened in there," Dean said. "Convenient."
"Just the neighbors seeing the flash and hearing the explosion," Sam said. "And calling in the fire." He gestured toward the trees to the north, where lights from the next nearest house could be seen, amber and warm, promising someone that they were home and safe .
"Anybody related to the tea partiers at the crematorium?" Dean said.
"Not that I could find," Sam said.
"I love weird, random shit," Dean said. "House looks...completely abandoned."
Dean had that look on his face again, that weird-thoughtful half-conscious thing he did when something interested him to the point where he forgot to keep his front up. Sam had taken careful note because they weren't the same as they had been before he'd left for school. Back then there were two versions of Dean-without-the-mask. The first was sparkling, giddy joy and the second was mischief. The second had morphed into a predatory gleam sometime in the last four years. He was wearing the second then, and Sam knew they were going in and that Dean was going to burn this one. He found that he didn't mind because it would give Dean something to do that belonged just to him.
Dean turned the Impala around and parked a block down, and they walked, keeping an eye out for late strollers. Not that there would be any; no one seemed hot on walking around this place anymore. But it wouldn't do to be arrested over this.
It was a long, straight gravel drive up to the house, and they cut across the wide expanse of front lawn to stand on the patio by the front door. There were enough trees between them and the road to make them brave enough to ignore the back door. Three cement steps with a handrail led up to the unadorned door. Someone had left a handful of carnations that had long since dried on the steps. They cupped their hands around their faces to look in the front windows and see that there was nothing left but newspapers and bubble wrap from the removal of the estate.
Dean jimmied the lock easily - there was no deadbolt - and swung the door open to go in. He paused, foot still raised. He could keep going if he really wanted to, but it didn't seem like a good idea.
"Dean," Sam said from behind him. There was no question in it, just a statement left open for any response.
Dean stepped back and ushered Sam ahead of him. Sam looked at him appraisingly for a moment, letting him know he could see something was going on, but he stepped past.
"It doesn't want me," Dean said.
Sam turned back to look at him with open alarm on his face. Rather than just making some excuse to wander around the yard or grouching that he didn't want to go inside, Dean was coming right out with what he knew. He couldn't pretend to not understand what Dean meant. He'd never doubted that houses had souls; Dean had convinced him of that in a million small unspoken ways over the years in the same way that Sam had taught Dean that trees did too. Not once had he had a problem with walking into anything, anywhere, so whatever it was that was stopping him now wasn't some sort of apprehension about what was inside.
The house in Lawrence had wanted them both back so badly, but Dean had not wanted to go, and Sam thought he finally kind of understood why. Dean might have long since burned the house in Lawrence and listened to it scream in silent anguish as he did, had it not been for the families it continued to house. Even though their mother had finally left it for good, Sam doubted Dean would have the heart to eradicate the last - first and last, for Sam - place they'd seen that face in person.
"Go on in," Dean said, nodding Sam forward, and he looked a little chagrined.
Sam let it pass and stepped into the house, looking around. He glanced back at Dean.
"It's nothing," Dean said. "Let me know if you find anything."
Sam watched him jump from the stairs and head around to the side of the house. He shook his head a little, thinking they'd spent some weird evenings together but that this one was beating all. He walked from room to room, trying not to focus on whose room each might have been. Butterflies painted around the window of the smaller room in the back screamed little girl lived here and he cringed. There was no sign of scorching except around the frames of the doors and windows, which was just damn odd, like something had been trying for a way out. No sulfur, no ash, no panic in the air. It had all happened so fast that no one had even left an imprint behind. Sam no longer questioned himself about the fact that he felt imprints from whatever emotion had last been in a room. Nothing evil had been there, just some sort of tragic mistake. Explaining how he knew it, even to himself, was a waste of time anymore.
Sam's ears were suddenly ringing so loudly that he couldn't understand how what he was hearing wasn't externally audible. There was a buildup of something, and it sounded much like when you first turn on a really old TV set; that high-whine, almost inaudible warming up of electricity and glass and electronics. He stared around, trying to pinpoint the direction it was coming from, but he couldn't.
"Hey, Dean!" he called.
When Dean didn't answer, he took off for the back door, knowing and knowing and knowing he had to get to Dean before the pitch either rose or whatever was making his skin crawl with energy snapped to life all the way. The pressure was settling in his sinuses and humming along the bridge of his nose, and all the fine hairs along his arms and the nape of his neck rose in response.
One block over, a couple looked up from their TV to watch the top left corner of their livingroom picture window crack at the pressure. A single thin shard of cold light glinted from the new angle of the glass.
Sam felt every step across the linoleum, frantic hands unlocking the solid wood door, and had he slammed it open any harder he could have taken it off its hinges. He nearly skidded to a stop on the back patio at what he saw.
There was a ring of lights, almost Christmas-like in their variation, surrounding Dean.
Dean stood in the center, looking trapped, hands held up at shoulder height, palms out.
Sam thought, we should have known better and we drew them .
Drawn by what should never be: a mortal throwing off the surly bonds of life and limb to show what spun beneath. They were all meant to be wrapped and held down. Dean was still just open enough to be a scream in a library and fireworks at a funeral. Here I am, look at me, lose your mind. A soul held in check was the same as any candle, purposeful and welcome and contained; let loose, there was a forest fire, and nothing to stop the escalation as long as there was something to consume.
"Dean," Sam said, taking a step toward Dean and then reeling backwards when something that felt like an electric-fence level of shock hit him. The pressure was insane and he had one crazy moment of wondering if they'd get the bends from trying to remain in an atmosphere that was almost too heavy to breathe. Something familiar was building behind his eyes, and as he tried to get his balance again by grabbing the doorway behind him, he realized what it was, too late, something fraying and snapping, something of himself giving in the form of...stitches. Dean was sinking to his knees on the grass with a stunned look of disbelief on his face and it was the last clear thing Sam was able to see when something threw him against the side of the house.
His eyes were closed, but it was there all the same. When he opened his eyes again, it wasn't sight, not the way he knew it, but he couldn't see anything else. He was blind with light that would never have been visible to anyone but him.
His soul was singing itself , blunt and brilliant, overwhelming and overwhelmed as he ascended yet stayed the same, both earthbound and divine by definition. He was burning without flame, and Sam finally realized that souls burned away just the same as flesh did; anyone he'd loved or wanted to love that suffered an oxygen-borne conflagration had still passed on once the threads holding them to life were severed, once they'd reached a limit. Dean was nothing but white flame that couldn't truly burn in the common sense. And there was nothing to stop him.
"No!" Sam screamed, pinned in place like a butterfly in any collection and trying to reach and already too late. He hadn't been there the first time Dean had forcibly taken his own hinges off, but he knew he was looking at it then, Dean with his hinges prying off because he couldn't stop it, because the pressure from whatever was surrounding him was reacting with whatever he was still giving off by accident.
There would be no lightning.
Dean was the lightning.
When everything gave this time there was nothing to contain it. The shockwave spun out unseen, shattering windows, knocking Sam the rest of the way to the ground.
Sam's last conscious thought was that Dean was everywhere and nowhere and he would never be able to fold him up again.