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the quiet road to a distant city

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Outside of the car, sheets of rain blow past. The puddles on the road reflect their headlights, and occasionally those of cars that pass them. Most of the time, cars don't pass them, but when they do, Sam stares at them and tries to think of a story about the person (or people) inside- an old pastime from a childhood that seems both far away and like it was only yesterday. When there aren’t cars to look at, there is only grass- tall, scraggly grass, and weeds. Sometimes cows, or an orchard, but mainly grass, and in the dark, rainy night, it seems like it goes on forever. 

Inside of the car, it’s quiet. This is what Sam had expected, before deciding to hunt again, but honestly, it isn’t always like this. Dean talks a lot- nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s definitely a change from when they were younger, long car rides where he was (mostly) quiet, while Sam had sat in the back seat, chattering away until John had said to stop asking so many questions. Now, Sam leans against the window, taking in the feeling of cold glass against skin, and thinks, I could say it now. She could, but she won’t. She wants to. She hadn’t planned on telling him, thinking she would be back with Jess so soon that it wouldn’t even be worth bothering- at law school, living a more or less normal life. Somewhat ironically, she thinks that she could tell Dean about anything, if Jess was there with her. 

Dean puts a tape in the deck, and the car is filled with the opening notes of Chasing Shadows. She figures now is as good of a time to break the silence as any, so she searches for her voice and finds it lying somewhere at the bottom of her stomach (as though it had hidden there at the prospect of saying it out loud) and says teasingly, “Deep Purple? Do you listen to anything from before 1980?”

“Hey, Deep Purple’s amazing! Besides, I’ve said it before: driver picks-”

“Yeah, yeah. Jerk.”

“Bitch.”

She could tell him, but she won’t. She won’t, but she wants to. She wants to, but she can’t. She can’t, but she needs to, and because she needs to, she should. “You know, you’d probably like my music if you gave it a try.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

“I dunno,” Sam says. “Like Fall Out Boy, or-”

“See, it already sounds like some girly pop band. No offense, Sammy.”

“Whatever,” she says, but she shifts uncomfortably in her seat. “Not my fault you’re allergic to trying new things.”

“Guess that’s what college is all about,” Dean says, and beneath his joking tone there’s a bitterness that she can’t quite place. “You know….experimenting and all that.”

This is it. It’s basically a shitty gay joke, but this is her chance to bring it up while it’s relevant, and she has to take it. “Well, sure, I guess, but I went to classes too.”

Dean lets out a choked sort of laugh. “Wait, seriously?”

“Duh, I was a law student-”

“No, I mean- you and dudes. You’re, uh- not that I have a problem with it! Just, uh, didn’t expect it.”

“I don’t like guys, Dean. I experimented a bit with that but I was actually talking more about, um. Gender.” By the time she reaches the last word, her voice has practically dropped to a mumble. 

“Huh,” Dean says. He’s facing the road still, and Sam can’t quite make out his expression. He doesn’t follow it up with anything else, and once again the car is quiet save for the music and the sound of rain against the windshield. They sit like that for a while, until Sam finally says,

“Are you just not gonna respond to that?”

“What am I supposed to say? What do you mean, experimented with gender- you took a gender studies class or something?”

“No,” says Sam. “I mean, I did take a gender studies class, but that’s not- I’m not a man,” she finishes, somewhat lamely.

“Huh,” Dean says again, a bit more thoughtful this time. Then: “Care to, uh, elaborate on that a bit? Like, you think you’re a woman, or-”

She tries to study his face, and from what she can see, he doesn’t look upset. Not upset, or disgusted, or like he’s about to laugh at her, just a bit confused. She tries to think of the best way to explain it. This is Dean- thoughtful, intelligent, and reacting better than she expected- but he’s been with John practically his whole life. She thinks, somewhat bitterly, that maybe if he had gotten away sooner ( not sooner; he hasn’t gotten away yet. Neither of you have gotten away as long as he’s alive. ) it would be a lot easier to explain to him. Finally she says, “I’m not exactly a woman. I mean, I’m not not a woman, I guess? But I am, uh. I’m a lesbian.”

“Course you are,” Dean says.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“You dress like a lesbian.”

“You hang out with a lot of lesbians lately?” she asks, a grin beginning to spread across her face.

“No,” he says. “But still.” He taps along to the music on the steering wheel for a few seconds, and then says, “So basically, you’re not my little brother-”

“That’s always been debatable,” Sam interrupts. “I’m taller than you.”

“Shut up, I’m trying to process this! You’re my…sister?” 

“Well… yeah,” she says. 

“Okay,” Dean says. 

Sam stares out the windshield again. They’re approaching a city, and she can see the lights in the distance. She’s past the danger zone, and she feels like the world around her reflects that in some way she can’t put into words- as if God is telling her that it’s okay. She did the right thing, and soon she will be past the lonely unknown and into the warm, forgiving light of acceptance. Or something. Come to think of it, the lights only look warm from far away, and she knows that the actual city will seem far less welcoming. Still. Best not to imagine the worst when it’s already going well. Finally she says:

“So is that really all you’re gonna say about it?”

“Did you expect something else? ‘No, Sammy, you can’t be a lesbian because I say so,’ I mean, is that what you wanted me to say?” He laughs, but it sounds forced, and she forces a laugh as well. She can’t help but think back to other times when she was in this same car, of what John would say if he was there to hear her.

But he isn’t. And everything is okay. Better than okay. Dean says, “So, you wanna tell me more? I mean, I don’t know much about… all this stuff, you know. What, uh, made you realize, or whatever else you wanna talk about- I mean, the shifter. I know it took my thoughts, and it might've said some fucked up stuff. But I really am proud of you. You deserved to go to college, find yourself and all that. Sam smiles, and she begins to talk- about everything, about Stanford, about her friends, about Jess.

And for the first time since the fire, she thinks: Jess would be proud of me.