I rushed some of it, though, because I was getting tired. I shall revisit. You know. Someday. Maybe. Not.
The buildings were far apart in this neighborhood, with sometimes a stretch of field but usually one of trees keeping each establishment separate from the other. They varied from short stout garage-like buildings to taller things with cutely slanted roofs. Colors were muted but friendly, reflecting the attitude of the quieter but chummy breed of people that liked to frequent there. Their SUVs and larger boat-hauling trucks sat in community in the parking lots of churches, restaurants, and the occasional convenience store -- each of which seemed to advertise its grand variety of available bait more than its gas prices. Down this road powered a 1967 Impala, sheer black and moody, with its three passengers.
"Say hello to Crosslake, boys," said John Winchester rather conversationally as he adjusted his hand on the steering wheel and took a glance into the rearview mirror to watch his youngest son glance obediently out the window. His little boy lower-lip pulled out into a light sulk as he squinted into the terrain and attempted to find something that would keep a kid's interest out there in the great beyond of northern territory.
"It looks... nice." Sam offered by way of introduction after a couple seconds of concentrated staring.
"Looks like a..." The exact words that Dean used to describe the landscape were lost in the squeal of an especially determined run of his knife over the whet stone in his other hand but the way that their father smacked the instrument out of his hand let Sam know they weren't quite poetry.
The driving continued for another minute or so, this time in complete silence since Dean had chosen to stare straight ahead instead of duck down to retrieve the fallen instrument. Sam wasn't sure how his brother could sit so much like a statue like that, but he endeavored to do his best at it, too, for several tiring moments before he gave up and wiggled about in his seat instead. He was just about to burst and give into the young child need to ask one question for every pothole in the road when the car suddenly veered to one side, slowed, and then made a sharp left turn. Sam noticed that they were pulling into the quiet parking lot of one of the big buildings with the slanted roofs. Anticipating finally being able to get out and explore, he was disappointed when the doors remained locked and only their dad moved from his seat. He gathered up the keys, and a notebook shoved into the side compartment, and then braced his hand on the top of the car and leaned back in to the boys' level.
"Stay in the car. Dean..." John didn't finish the command but the brief dart of his eyes to Sam's oblivious form made his intentions clear. Dean gave a firm nod of understanding. He watched as his father shut and locked the door behind him and then trotted away down the street to their left. When he was out of sight behind a group of trees, Dean slid back on his seat and aimed to wait. It wasn't something he was particularly good at, and soon after dipping underneath him to find the whetstone he'd run out of things to do. Stricken with an inability to sit still, he was then stretching his legs along the dash-board and fiddling with everything he could reach and shifting about this way and that in uncomfortable boredom.
Noting every tiny bit of the other boy's movements, Sam soon gripped the back of Dean's seat and leaned towards him curiously, "Do you have to go to the bathroom?"
Dean blew out a tired breath, "No, Sam."
For a moment, Sam's brow creased with the concentration of these answers. But he was soon to lean forward once again with renewed curiosity, "Then where did he go?"
"He went out." Dean slid down even further in his seat, attempting somehow to hide behind it so that his brother would forget he was there or something. With a tired swipe of his hand under his eye, he took in a breath to prepare the snarkiest and most discouraging reply he could think of to stop Sam's next question in its tracks.
But instead of a question, there was only an innocent and perfectly matter-of-fact sounding observation from Sam, "That place has ice-cream."
Dean had no idea what the crap that had to do with going to the bathroom or where Dad was, but once the observation was made it was intriguing. They were parked in the lot of a cute white building with a steep dark roof and the kind of blue window shutters that are only there for decoration. Stamped in the middle of the triangle that formed the second story was a circular advertisement for some kind of gallery. Below that was an overhang shielding the front door from the worst of the sunlight. Dean rolled his window down and heaved the upper half of his body outside so that he could properly see the tall sign planted perpendicular to the road so that its cheerful "Lake Country Crafts & Cones" was visible to those driving. The top showed off two ice-creams cones connected by a rainbow but the most interesting part was surely where, below the name, it proclaimed "36 Flavors of Ice-Cream!"
"Yeah, you're right, it does," he announced to Sam as he slid back into the car and took a moment to contemplate. It wouldn't be staying in the car to go inside that building, but it would be watching Sammy to take him along. Sooo, really, he'd be covering the more important part of his assignment. They'd left the car alone before, but they were never supposed to leave Sammy alone. Plus, you know, ice-cream...
Determinedly, Dean unlocked his door and shoved it open. He jumped out and wiggled his arm back around inside to unlock Sam's door as well. The younger boy didn't get out of the car until Dean opened the back door for him. The kid was probably loathe to do it, himself, or incapable, but it also kept his hands entirely clean. This way, it was all Dean's fault and Sam hadn't even put a hand towards disobedience. His only crime was following his brother.
The white building didn't look at all imposing nor like it was a house of sin and the sun peeking out amongst clouds in the sky wasn't ominous in the least. They were always chasing things down dark country roads and tromping about for corpses at abandoned ridges. This place, right here, Dean was willing to bet every cent of some other kid's allowance that nothing would be happening here at Country Crafts & Cones. He couldn't imagine a more casual day to go and get some ice-cream, and he didn't see a lot of those anymore. So he was going for it. As he stomped across the lawn, Sam weaved through the little maze of bushes and flowers planted there.
Dean entered first and his gaze swooped across the entire room, scoping out where people, furniture, and exits were. As he was standing and surveying, Sam grew bored and ducked under his out-stretched arm and into the inside. On their left was the ice-cream counter and to the right a few tables were crammed in together. Near the back was a staircase and then what appeared to be a store of craft items, but that was hardly important. Sam turned to the clear display through which you could see all those promised flavors of ice-cream and he pressed both hands against the glass as he started to read all their titles. A girl in an apron and with a smart brown ponytail was watching him with amusement as Dean stepped up beside his brother.
The older boy shoved a thumb back towards the door, "What's that for?" Sam glanced and noticed that a large bulletin board was hanging there with a couple dozen polaroids on it. Each featured a smiling person holding a cone whose name was scrawled on the white bottom.
"That's the Triple Scoop Wall of Fame," the girl behind the counter grinned, "Anyone who gets three scoops and can finish it gets their picture up on that there board."
"Three?" Dean scoffed, leaning with one elbow against the glass and looking as if he was trying to trick her into thinking he was three times his actual age, "Bring it on, lady."
The serving girl asked into which flavors Dean wanted for his three scoops and as his brother was picking out the choices containing the highest amounts of chocolate and something licorice-y, Sam stared glumly at the bright blue wonder that was Cotton Candy. It looked so colorful and so tasty, he could almost imagine what it was like if he squinted and pressed against the glass a little hard--he was distracted by a insistent tapping on his shoulder and he straightened to see Dean eyeing him skeptically, but not cruelly.
"Is that what you want? The blue one?" Sam nodded, "Okay, but you're getting one scoop. You're not going to skip your dinner later and get me in trouble." He may've said that, but Sam knew that Dean was only looking out for him. Dean was so good at that.
So while Sam held onto his waffle cone with both hands and studiously licked away at his cotton candy -- delicious, by the way -- he was also staring mesmerized as Dean chowed down layer upon layer of lightly melting chocolate. He wasn't really sure how one could 'chow' ice-cream, but there must be a way because Dean was doing it. The sheer aggression with which his brother seemed to be attacking the treat suggested that this had ceased to be simply a snack a long time ago and had become some kind of bizarre duty. Dean was going to get his moment's fame, and Sam felt pleased to be standing there and witnessing it. Working at the amazing amount of sugar that even one scoop was, Sam smiled with muted glee. His brother could eat three scoops of ice-cream in one go.
Somehow, Sam was still biting off chunks of waffle when Dean's hands were already empty. The older boy turned to the server expectantly, giving his cheek a wipe with the back of his hand. Sam stared and contemplated informing his brother that the cheek wasn't his biggest problem - there was a huge smear of chocolate right underneath his chin instead. But the image amused Sam and he bit his lip and giggled inwardly, instead, that he wasn't going to tell Dean and Dean was just going to look funny in his picture.
"Well, congratulations!" the brown-haired girl's grin appeared from behind the camera as she lowered it, putting out one hand to catch the picture as it rolled out. Pinching the white end of the polaroid, she began to shake it gently in the air, "I didn't catch your--"
"Dean. Sam." The sound of their names being barked from the doorway rattled both boys' composures. Frightened glances gave them both the image of their father standing in the doorway, his broad shoulders blocking out the daylight of outside where he stood and creating an imposing shadow over a face already darkened by anger. Sam heard his brother swallow hard. Maybe it was even because of that tiny little noise of weakness, but their father's attention shifted to the eldest boy first, "Get in the car right now, Dean."
With his back stiffened militarily tight, Dean did an abrupt about-face and marched his way towards the door. As he came up even with his father, he risked a glance up but John Winchester wouldn't even spare a blink of reaction so Dean, with his shoulders slouched once he was out of the man's peripheral, hiked his unhappy way back to their vehicle. Sam had been watching this encounter and, as his brother vanished to the outside, he jerked forward and attempted to follow in that same path but a firm hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Sam." His name was more like an instruction and the young boy obediently turned to watch his father's face. "Whose idea was it to come in here?"
The briefest of hesitations stalled Sam's answer before he sounded off, "Mine, sir."
"Yours." The older man clarified, and challenged. The longer that his gruff tone hovered in the air over Sam's head, the more the young boy was positive he'd gotten something wrong. He began to doubt his own answer, even though he knew that the hesitation his dad was likely picking up on had only been because he hadn't wanted to get in trouble. But there was still this stifling silence into which Sam regretfully put forth,
"Well, Dean took me out of the car but--" A tightened grip on Sam's shoulder, guiding him out onto the front lawn, cut off his protestation and he drooped in the new quiet like a rock had just plummeted into his stomach. Him and his big mouth. Now Dean would probably never ever give him ice-cream ever again.
18 Years Later
The road stretched on for miles with the occasional building and, once in a while, a sign that told them they were still on County Road 66. Whatever novelty that had existed from being on Road "66" had long worn off and now they even drove in relative silence, with the last of Dean's tapes scattered onto the back-seat to be claimed again when the situation demanded. The directions they had gotten back at the gas station said this way would take them directly to the site of the accident; they apparently couldn't miss it. Probably right, Sam reasoned, in a little place like this any tragedies were treated far differently than in big cities. It was a huge deal, then, to lose someone and especially in such a dramatic and violent manner.
"What was the address again?" came Dean's voice from beside him as the older brother adjusted his fingers around the steering wheel and surveyed the seemingly endless sprawl of road and quaint little establishments in front of them.
Sam adjusted the wrinkled map that he had been keeping in his lap. Attached was a post-it note that he now raised for a reading confirmation, "Um, 36076 County Road 66..."
As they sped past the most recent building, Dean shot a glance out the window at it; the side read '36084'. "Shit, too far," he muttered.
Dean slapped the steering wheel with one hand and it spun wildly to the left. Sam was jerked ungraciously to one side of his seat as the Impala swerved across their lane of traffic, into the other one, and then directly into the nearest parking lot. Somehow in this dizzying rotation, Dean lined them up for a spot and successfully planted the car in between two strict white lines without even giving the wheel another twist. If he hadn't known any better, Sam might have wondered briefly if the car was somehow magic. Before a year ago, all he had to do was glance suspiciously out of the corner of his eye at his brother and suspect that Dean had, a couple of years back, sold his soul for unnatural driving abilities. Now, things were a little more complicated, with that previously loose soul wrapped up in a much more sinister bargain and the subject of something Sam could never bring himself to joke about.
Still, he was obviously giving his brother a bit of a sour look after that stunt because Dean noticed the gaze, furrowed his brows, and muttered, "That couple's still gonna be dead, pit-stop or not," before kicking his door open and pulling halfway out. He paused mid-move and glanced back, "Besides, this place's got ice-cream." He flashed a dashing grin to Sam who rolled his eyes but curiously looked to the large sign planted outside their chosen place of rest. There were two ice-cream cones on the top of it, connected by a rainbow, and the symbols seemed familiar to Sam. He hesitated as they walked down the pathway towards the front door,
"This looks familiar... does that look familiar to you?"
"Looks gay," Dean replied without even looking back at the sign as he tromped through a patch of garden grass and to the door. Sam shrugged and side-stepped a couple of flowers as he moved to follow his brother inside.
"Welcome to Lake Country Craft & Cones!" chirped an obligatorily cheerful voice from behind the counter. There was a young woman there with her obviously blonde-dyed hair tied into a tight ponytail near the top of her head. When she greeted them, she tilted her gaze and the hair tumbled away behind her shoulder in reaction. "Either of you boys up to our Three-Scoop challenge today?" even as she made the inquiry, Sam could see she was registering the two she was looking at. Her eyes slid from him to Dean, who was surveying the inside of the business first, and she rolled her lip into her mouth and bit it hesitatingly. Whatever employee optimism she was required to have, she had suddenly decided that might be a little too much in front of two older guys. Sam saw it. He knew that his brother would see it as soon as he looked. Anticipating some kind of silly mating ritual, Sam veered his way away from the counter, holding back. Dean, predictably, swaggered closer. He'd spotted his prey.
"What's this about a challenge?" He questioned, raising an eyebrow that made the girl sweep a hand up to brush any loose hair she could find behind her ear.
"It's a tradition, see," she explained, sounding less perky but no less excited about the prospect. Or some other prospect. "You can order three scoops of any flavors you want and if you manage to finish it then you get... the prize."
"Three doesn't sound like so much to me," Dean snorted as he shifted his weight in front of the clean clear glass that let him stare into the vats holding thirty-six different colorful ice-cream combinations. He seemed momentarily wrapped up in staring at those multi-colored flavors until the sound of the woman's voice brought his head back up.
"I don't know," The young woman dipped her head slightly, unsuccessfully hiding an inviting smile behind her embarrassment ( Sam wasn't sure she was trying all that hard anyway ), "it can get to be a lot. You don't realize till you get started..."
Seemingly unbidden, except to match the other's expression, Dean started to smirk. He leaned one elbow onto the counter and was so eloquent as to merely burst out with, "Oh yeah?"
Sam didn't have a clue what those two thought they were talking about now, but it certainly wasn't ice-cream anymore. He shook his head and, chuckling quietly to himself, turned away from the counter and wandered towards the tables, instead. There wasn't a lot of room to move around in but turning his back on the two at least gave them some semblance of privacy. His eyes wandered the paintings on the wooden walls and then he noticed the large bulletin next to the door. It was littered here and there with clumps of polaroids, each of a smiling ice-cream bearing person. With a jerk of recognition, Sam stepped up close to the board and pulled a hand out of his pocket to idly tap a few of the pictures to the right or left to see the ones underneath.
And then, just under three grinning girls triumphantly holding their own cones, there was a snapshot of a black t-shirt wearing boy with chocolate sauce smeared along his chin, which he was lifting defiantly. Glancing over his shoulder to make sure the others were still occupied, Sam leaned in and yanked the picture of the preteen Dean away from its pin. Usually, it was Dean that had the moments of reminiscence but, this time, Sam could feel himself falling back into a previous day when they'd come here -- couldn't have been older than eleven or something, either of them. Even then, he'd stuck by his brother, maybe wondering when, if ever, he'd be that cool. He'd never said as much, of course, and now the opportunity seemed long gone what with things being as screwed up as they were. So, what had happened with them back then? In the picture, Dean certainly looked like he didn't have a care in the world. Then again, he was a little boy with an empty ice-cream cone. Based on this polaroid, there wasn't a single other thing in this kid's life to harass him right then. No monsters, no dad, no.... no Sam. Shifting his weight, Sam's eyebrows creased vaguely in worry. What had brought that one on?
"Okay, thanks," filtered through the voice of his brother as he thumped a palm on the clear glass of the raised counters and then turned to get Sam's attention, "Come on, Sam, let's go." Assuming that he'd be promptly followed, Dean gave a last fleeting smile to the young woman working there and then exited through the quaint white door.
"Coming!" Sam called over his brother's steps, quickly steadying a pile of pictures with his palm so that he could remove their push-pin and use it to rehang the picture of Dean on top. He was just about to move away when, as an afterthought, he grabbed the permanent marker kept on a string nearby and scrawled out a name. Popping the cap back onto the marker, Sam leaned back and surveyed his handiwork. There. Dean Winchester; man of the chocolate sauce chin. Whatever happened, his brother's memory would be immortalized there on that bulletin board in this Minnesota ice-cream parlor. Not exactly the glory Dean might've been more partial to, but as far as Sam was concerned it was a perfectly beautiful trace to leave. But there was still something bothering him, like an itch he couldn't reach. There was something else here at this otherwise innocent looking ice-cream parlor that didn't want to let Sam go. He leaned forward a second time and squinted at the little polaroid, trying to remember exactly what had happened that day but there was just a smug young Dean and some ice-cream looking back at him.
"Sam!" The sound of his brother's voice from today ripped Sam's attention away from the image of his brother from the past. Shaking his head to clear it, Sam gave his own brief, and somewhat apologetic, smile to the woman worker and then yanked the door open to find Dean standing on the lawn with a creased forehead of concern. The older brother lifted both hands in a silent objecting question before starting to turn back towards their car.
"Dude, I'm right here, you don't have to burst a vein or anything," Sam complained, hunching his shoulders forward in a gesture of protest even as he trailed his brother on the path.
Dean made a noise of disappointment despite the claims and shot a glance to the side, "Well, I'm hunting a spirit, I don't know what you were doing."
Sam rolled his eyes, "Really? Cause it looked to me like you were chatting up the attendant."
"That was part of it," Dean insisted with a determination tainted by the beginnings of a smirk - an expression that reached its peak when he put a hand into his pocket and drew out a small piece of paper, "This, however, was purely recreational." The phone number was shoved back into its place, likely never to be used as anything but an ego booster, and Dean marched to his side of the vehicle with a lingering grin of remembrance for the conversation that just went down. As he reached the car and wrapped his fingers around the handle, he tilted his head with a light laugh before opening the door and sliding inside, "Minnesota freakin' nice."
He couldn't help it; Sam laughed. But the familiar feeling of before settled around him as he opened his car door and he gave the surroundings a last firm look. Trying to brush it off, he swung a leg inside the car and dipped inside. Dean was already gunning the acceleration and shifting into gear as Sam grabbed for his seat-belt, all the while watching his brother curiously. Without quite knowing why, Sam felt himself needing to say, "It was my idea to go inside."
Dean's gaze snapped distractedly to him and he barked, "What?" over the noise of the car reversing.
A careful happiness replaced Sam's previous unease and the shadow of a smile passed over his lips as he settled into his spot and let his brother take the car backwards and then away out of the parking lot before answering, "Oh, nothing."