Dawn Breaks

It was easy enough the first month. Dean kept them moving, one job to the next, and -- though he hated to see and feel his brother's grief, it did serve the purpose of preventing Sam from noticing anything. But the downside was Sam getting more focused -- obsessed with finding their dad making the hunter inside him emerge full-force. And a hunter -- especially one as well trained as John Winchester' had trained his boys -- could never fail to notice something like this once he was paying attention.

Dean was pretty sure he wasn't going to fool Sam this time. It didn't help that he was still jittery about having to get on a freaking airplane. He was seriously considering suggesting taking a break from the hunts, but after everything he'd said and done to get his brother interested, and with all their Dad's words Dean had been spouting, he was pretty sure any such suggestion would be brushed off.

Or it would convince Sam that Dean was a nutcase who needed a vacation to recover from being on an airplane.

It wouldn't help, really, because taking a break from the job would only make Sam more likely to notice there was something wrong. Dean figured his best bet was to find them a job and hope they had an excuse to spend a few days -- and nights - sitting in separate cemeteries waiting for some nasty ghoul or monster to appear.

At the moment Sammy was out, claiming to be on a grocery run but Dean suspected it was really an excuse to be alone. 'Mope' is what he would have called it to Sam's face, even though teasing his brother about it didn't actually appeal to him. So Dean just left him to it, and sat in the motel room, sorting through the clothes for clean-enough laundry. And didn't that part suck out loud, how his standards had had to change so freakin' much? All his spare change now went to laundry and the freakin' expensive fragrance-free laundry soap.

But Sammy... there was a change he hadn't really anticipated. Dean had always been tuned into his brother's moods. Crammed into a car or single room for their entire lives made a guy good at knowing what was going on in another guy's head. But now -- now, God, he could smell the sorrow roiling out of Sam's skin, pressed into everything he touched and seeped into their clothes, the car, and Dean's own body.

Dean was pretty sure that wasn't the part that sucked the worst. He ached for his brother's pain but knew there was nothing he could do. Grief was a part of the Winchesters' lifestyle, and Sammy would just have to learn to deal with death. It didn't mean that Dean didn't want to find the asshole demon that had killed Sam's girl, and tear him literally apart. Dean wasn't sure if it was possible -- but he was more than ready to try.

That didn't answer the question of what he was going to do tonight, though. And even if he somehow managed one night, the next two...

But it didn't really matter, after all. It wasn't like he had a choice.

He glanced at his watch and saw that Sam should be getting back soon. Still too early before nightfall, but likely his only chance. He stood beside the night table for a long moment, arguing with himself over leaving a note. There was nothing he could say that wouldn't send Sammy after him -- saying nothing at all would have the same result. But maybe if he just walked out he could get far enough ahead that Sam wouldn't find him.

Tomorrow night and the next would just have to take care of themselves. Maybe he could vanish for all three days and blame it on a will o' the wisp.

Dean left his keys, arguing with himself again over letting Sam have the car. He finally decided that Sam would just hot-wire her if he had to, so he dropped his key-ring. Save her from a little damage and humiliation, if nothing else. He wished he could leave everything -- knife, gun, boots -- but if he left unarmed his brother would completely flip out and start hunting for him the second he got back.

He'd have to find someplace safe to stash everything, was all. And he had to get going fast, get out of sight before Sam returned.

Dean had his hand on the doorknob and stopped. Glanced over the room. They'd only been here two days, but already he could smell his brother's scent overlaying all the others. The old, musty aroma of aging carpet and the sharp acid scent of chemical cleaners. There was the pool of dried blood in one corner, cleaned out of the top of the carpet but not all the way through. It was old, and normal -- human -- and nothing that had raised Dean's suspicions when they'd arrived.

All in all, not any worse than all the other pit holes of motel rooms he'd lived in, so Dean had stuffed himself with tacos, inhaling hot sauce deep as he could, or busied himself with cleaning his guns and letting the old familiar smell remind him of home and Dad, or buried his face in the crook of his arm to simply shut out the other smells.

Before he'd picked up Sam, he'd slept in his car every night, curled up against the backseat with his nose against the leather, dreaming of being young again with his Dad driving and his baby brother wailing in the car seat.

Dean paused one more second at the door, telling himself he should go already, cursing himself for wanting... something, he had no idea what. Had no idea why he had to force himself to open the door and step outside, then take the first few steps towards running away from his brother.

~~~

He walked down the sidewalk, away from any of the directions Sam could be returning by. Head down, walking quickly but trying not to arouse suspicion. All he needed was to get hauled in by the cops tonight and he'd be dead by morning. Dean didn't watch where he was going, listening to the sparse traffic around him to guide him across the streets.

Every step grew harder as he fought the sense of dread that made him want to turn around. Even the thought of it made him hesitate, foot raised in mid-air as if hearing him think turn around, like it knew better than him where he wanted to be. He scowled and walked on, aiming for the edge of town and beyond. Plenty of woods nearby, plenty of places to hunker down and hide. He'd gotten good at picking such towns, ones free of others like him and yet with places nearby that were safe. Or relatively safe -- more than once he'd had to kill something just to make a place to sleep. But hunting evil had already been his job, and now.... Now it was just sometimes easier.

His phone rang and Dean's fingers twitched. The ringtone was Sam's -- he had forgotten that Sam would call, asking where he'd gone and when the fuck would he be back. Sam would, no doubt, expect him to be at some bar, hustling the locals and ogling the girls.

He was tempted to fake it, hand touching the phone in his jacket pocket before yanking it away. Too risky, too much chance he wouldn't convince Sam and then he'd be after him instantly. Dean waited for the phone to stop ringing then turned it off.

He really should go back. He should, he knew it -- he couldn't even understand why, when he knew this was the only thing he could do. Hide from Sam, make up some bullshit story, claim he'd killed the evil beastie and tease his brother for not finding him sooner.

Dean wanted to go back, curl up on the motel bed that stank so bad he couldn't sleep, and watch his brother in the next bed. Listen to him sleep, smell when his dreams were of Jess. The happy dreams, when the contentment threatened to soothe Dean asleep. The dreams of her dying, when Sam's fear and anger yanked at Dean, practically dragging him over to clutch at his brother and try to make everything better.

It felt wrong, being here, walking away from where he knew Sam was. It felt horrible to think of abandoning him -- Dean shook his head sharply, laughing at himself for the soft-headed thoughts coursing through his brain. But he couldn't deny that every step he took was getting near impossible as he went from concrete to dirt, deeper into the trees that felt so much more like home than anything -- save his car, and his brother.

He pulled out his phone and turned it on, ignoring the missed calls message and dialing another number. He didn't have long to wait before he heard, "Hello?"

Dean forced himself to keep walking as he said, "It's me." Two more steps then he stopped beside a tree, leaning against it and closing his eyes. He wanted to scream.

"What's wrong? You stuck somewhere?"

"No. I'm good. We're in some little podunk place in Virginia. I'm heading out for the night, left Sam back at the motel room."

"So I'm guessing this means you didn't tell him?" The voice was amused, but understanding. Dean felt a little like punching his friend in the nose.

"I couldn't. But I can't--" leave him. He swallowed the words, because he wasn't leaving Sam. He was spending the night elsewhere, three nights, then it was back to his brother and the hunt and everything would be fine.

"You took off and left your brother behind?"

"It's not like that," Dean said quickly. "There's no job, nothing... nothing's going to happen to him. He's perfectly safe." Which didn't explain why Dean was convinced he needed to turn around.

There was a soft huff of laughter over the phone, and Dean scowled.

"You remember last year, when I told you, you were welcome to stay with us?"

"Yeah?"

"And you turned us down, said you didn't want to be a part of our pack because you already had one?"

Dean's scowl didn't fade as he grew more confused. "Yeah, but... I wasn't even working with my Dad any more, then. I just... It didn't feel right, you know? You guys... you're friends, and everything. But....."

"Didn't feel right, I know. Just like leaving your brother alone doesn't feel right?"

Dean didn't think he needed it spelled out, so he snapped, "I know he's my family, but that doesn't mean he isn't gonna accidently kill me before I can say 'hey, it's OK, I'm not really evil.'"

"Which is why you tell him ahead of time, moron." Brian laughed again. "All I'm saying, Dean, is that the reason you feel like your heart is being ripped in two because you're walking away from him is because he's your pack. And you're leaving him -- and every molecule in your werewolf's body is telling you there is nothing worse, not even death, than abandoning your pack."

Dean almost relaxed at finally understanding what was wrong. Brian's words sounded right -- except for one thing. "You guys leave each other all the time. You don't even work the same shift," Dean pointed out. He'd spent a few weeks with Brian and Maurice, right after he'd made one of the more embarrassing mistakes of his life as a hunter. He'd watched the guys as he learned new ways and he'd never seen them get upset at being separated.

"Yeah, but when I walk out the door I know I'm coming home."

Dean bit his lip. He'd known, when he'd made his decision. He'd told himself it was just for tonight, just for these three nights then everything would be normal.

But apparently he'd known, deep down, that it couldn't work like that. He thought about what he'd done -- left his car keys. Spent the past week hustling hard, building up a cash reserve that he'd left in his duffel bag. Found a place not too far away from Bobby so that Sam wouldn't be left alone. Picked a place with enough woods he could get lost in for a long, long time.

Left without leaving his brother a note, so that he wouldn't end up saying he was sorry.

He slumped to the ground, feeling his heart constrict. "I didn't--" But he was. He'd left his brother, his pack, and he hadn't seriously believed he would be coming back.

"Dean, just tell him. Call him and tell him, and if he throws you out, you come here. Whether or not you decide to stay, you come here. You know you're welcome." Brian's voice was soft and gentle, and Dean was reminded how hard it had been to say no. Their offer of home, and family, had been almost irresistible. But he'd known that he couldn't accept, because even if his irritating brat of a little brother was off earning a degree and making his own life, Dean had known where he belonged.

The fact that now, because of a tragedy he'd never have wished for, Sam was now his, didn't make it better. After tonight Sam wouldn't be his, and he didn't think that even Brian and Maurice could make him forget that.

But Brian was right about one thing. He had to tell Sam. If he was leaving... he had to let his heart and instincts know that it was for good, that it was because Sammy had told him to go.

"I'll let you know," he said to Brian, and hung up the phone. He waited, stared at his phone for a long moment, watching the '2 missed calls' blink at him. Then he dialed, and it took only one ring for Sam to answer.

"Hey, it's me," Dean said, forcing a smile he knew Sam could hear right through. "Look, I--"

"Where the hell are you?"

He could hear the worry in Sam's voice -- but normal, not frantic. His brother probably thought Dean was off having fun and hadn't heard the phone ring over the din of a bar.

Dean took a deep breath, and said, "Did I ever tell you about a hunt I did up in New York?"

~~~

"That's because you're a fucking moron," Maurice said, grabbing a second bottle of beer. He leaned back on the couch, resting his feet on Brian's lap. Brian raised an eyebrow at him. "We don't have a coffee table," Maurice explained, shrugging. Brian finger-flicked his ankle, but after a moment he rested his hand on Maurice's foot -- one step closer to getting his foot rubbed.

On the other side of the room, sitting uncomfortably in one of the chairs, Dean was hunched over his own beer. He'd drunk barely half of it, but Maurice couldn't blame him. He'd been tense as a tightrope ever since he'd shown up, and Brian had observed that it would take a dozen bottles of beer to get him to relax.

Maurice thought it would also take just one good fuck, but he'd kept the observation to himself. Good thing, he figured, since Dean's brother was still giving Maurice the evil eye, like he'd been the one responsible for Dean's transformation in the first place.

"I have to agree with you," Sam said, his attention back on Dean. Unlike his brother, Sam was more or less relaxed. Intense, for certain, but Maurice figured that was just because he was trying to process a hell of a lot of new information.

When the Winchesters had shown up on their doorstep, Dean had only managed to convey the bare minimum information to his brother that he could get away with. Enough to keep Sam from strangling him, was what Dean had said. And Sam had apparently witnessed three nights of Dean's change without anything to go by -- anything but his trust in his brother.

Sam hadn't shot Dean for being evil, and Dean had promised his brother to get all his questions answered. Which had brought them here, to the only experts Dean knew well enough to trust. They'd given Sam the basics right away, and were now finishing up the story of just how Dean had managed to get himself turned into a werewolf.

Dean was still scowling up at his brother who was standing beside the chair Dean was hiding in. As Maurice watched, Sam looked down at Dean and grinned. Dean's scowl didn't shift, and Maurice could smell the doubt and fear that had been underlying Dean's every word and action since they'd arrived.

Sam reached down and brushed his fingers along Dean's shoulder. Dean hesitated, then leaned almost imperceptibly towards him. "Jerk," Sam said, and suddenly all of Dean's fear vanished, replaced by the scent of home.

Maurice smiled into his beer.

the end