Dean's careful with the car, negotiating the slick and muddy roads while Sam fiddles with the radio. "You should be able to get something in Charleston, I think," Dean says as the windshield wipers work overtime, clearing away the mud the kicks up as they go. "It's pretty much a straight shot on 79 up to Pennsylvania, and then there's probably all sorts of buses and trains out of Pittsburgh."
He finds only one radio station coming in clearly, and the carpet installation jingle gives way to the insistent triple beat and wailing licks of "Foxey Lady" start up. Dean laughs. "I was gonna ask if you changed your mind, but I think that's a sign, Sammy."
He waits until the song's fading away. "What makes you so sure Sarah's even going to want to see me?"
"Um, because I have eyes, and therefore could see her ogling you every chance she got. Dude, she would've jumped you in a heartbeat if you'd just quit it with all the defensive body language."
Sam can feel his cheeks heating up a little, thinking back on his stubborn fear, remembering how much time Dean had spent coaxing him into enjoying life again. "Shut up," he says, rolling his eyes.
"With that kind of sweet talk, she'll be all over you for sure," Dean snarks. "Relax, man, you're going to see a hot girl, not a firing squad. Live a little. For me."
"Yeah, because you really need to live vicariously through me," he retorts, though now that he thinks about it, he can't remember the last time Dean took off with a girl from a bar or even went out on his own. Maybe all the hard living from the year of the deal got that out of his system, purged it, temporarily at least.
"Oh my God," Dean groans when a Maroon 5 song comes on next. "Blasphemy."
He's feeling kind, so he kills the radio rather than fighting over rock gods and getting another lecture on the history of what Dean deems to be great music. All he can hear is the rattle of the heater and the swish of the wipers, and the silence brings up a memory he didn't know he'd hung on to. "Do you remember the last time you drove me to a bus station?"
Dean just says, "Yeah," and leaves it at that, but Sam can remember the quiet stillness between them, the way he'd shivered even though it had been a warm September day, and the tension in Dean's hands on the steering wheel. College had been looming ahead of him, a grand adventure he should have been able to be excited about, or even take for granted, but instead it had been a trial by fire just to get there. He'd made the decision to go, but it had been his father who'd pushed him away. And it had been Dean who had taken him to the doorstep of that dream.
Dean clears his throat. "Hey, when you get there, tell Sarah I said hi."
The bus to Pittsburgh is mostly empty, only a few passengers rattling around like fireflies in a jar. There's a large group - an extended family, maybe - all clustered together at the back of the bus, taking up several rows. One small boy, two or three at the most, twirls happily in the narrow aisle, throwing himself with abandon on the nearest lap every few minutes, and he's always picked up and fed a morsel of something, then either noisily kissed or lightly spanked before being set down to run free in the aisle again. Sam watches them all, their voices never raising above a gentle hum, the lilt giving away their accents, passing food from one person to the next like they're sitting around a campfire and swapping stories.
His stomach growls a little and he ignores it, not hungry for the packaged crap at the bottom of his bag. He's got a long way to go, and while he has the room, he might as well sleep. He pushes the armrest out of the way, puts his jacket under his head and his bag under his knees, and stretches out as much as he can across the two seats.
Switching at Pittsburgh turns out to be not all that easy, and he ends up on a packed train instead, in a car that's saved from reeking of body odor only by the wind rushing through the broken window, lowering the temperature far below a comfortable level. The guys sprawled in the seats around him are all wearing bulky sweatshirts, shorts, and backwards baseball caps - what Jess had once called "the fratboy dress code" and dismissed as about as aesthetically unappealing as an outfit could be - and bragging loudly about their conquests on the athletic fields and in the sorority houses.
Sam's trying to tune them out, but their voices are insistent. There's got to be a better seat than this one in chilly Jackass Central, and he stands, pulls his bag down from the overhead rack, and walks to the next car. His phone buzzes and he flips it open. What you bitchin about now? is Dean's text message. He grins, finds an empty seat, and sits down to figure out how to draw a hand with its middle finger raised using only the keys on his phone.
No one has bothered shoveling a path out of the New Paltz station, so he picks his way as carefully as he can over to the taxi stand. His socks are soaked and the slice of pizza he grabbed is sitting like a greasy bowling ball in his stomach. The cab driver he gets is singularly unhelpful, refusing to open the trunk for his bag and unwilling to turn the heat up enough to reach the back seat.
At least he doesn't feel quite so guilty when he hands over a false credit card, and he keeps his wits about him enough to ask to be dropped a few houses down from Sarah's, in case the card ever gets traced back to him.
It's only when he's walking down the circular road that functions as the driveway to the Blake estate that he realizes the idiocy of what he's doing. He's got no reason to show up, wet and bedraggled, and expect a girl he hasn't seen in a few years to take him in. He slings his duffel across his other shoulder and does a swift about-face, only to hear Sarah call out his name. "Sam!" she shouts, and he turns to see her leaning out of a second-floor window, dark hair falling forward as if to aid the Rapunzel impression.
He can feel a grin stretching his face and he jogs toward the massive front doors. She's there, waiting, an answering smile on her face, holding her arms out for a warm hug. "How did you know?" he asks.
"Your brother," she says, looking up at him through her lashes, "is a remarkably pithy correspondent." She holds out her cell phone so that he can read Dean's text message: Sending very important package by special delivery. Home to accept? "I had a feeling that might be you."
His cheeks are getting hot - even if Sarah didn't pick up on Dean's double entendre, it's still mortifying - and she laughs. "Dean's got quite a way with words."
Okay, so she got it. "Don't hold it against me," he asks, and she pretends to look at him appraisingly, so he pastes on his most sincere face.
"Stop," she finally giggles. "Any more of that face and I'll be wondering where you keep your halo." She leans in, her flowery perfume sweet and warm in his nose, and kisses his cheek. "It's good to see you again, Sam."
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