This Hour and What is Dead
By Ridley C. James, March 2010
A/N: Cannon. Tag to
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Slight spoilers. The title is borrowed from
a beautiful poem by Li Young Lee.
my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
Through bare rooms over
Opening and closing
What could he be
looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly
need there in heaven?
Does he remember his
earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels
like spilled water
Running back to its
At this hour, what is
dead is restless
And what is living is
Someone tell him he
should sleep now.
My brother is singing in the kitchen. Dust in the Wind by Kansas. It
seems appropriate, but I doubt he chose it for the irony. It's one of
his favorites. I rest my hand on one of the chairs by the table,
closing my eyes for just a moment. Listening, like Bobby had asked us
to do earlier with Karen's humming. Sliding the doors open from the
dining room, I slip inside. Dean's by the trash can, scraping crumbs
from a pie plate. He doesn't look up.
"I couldn't get Bobby to come in." I lean against the sink, noting the
growing mound of dishes besides the sudsy water.
"He'll come in when he's ready."
I understand Bobby's unwillingness to leave. Dean and I stayed with Dad
long after the flames died, the sun rose, the ashes grew cold. I sat by
Dean's grave for hours, maybe days.
"What are you doing?" It's not like my brother to tidy up. He's a slob.
Dean turns towards me. He has a yellow paisley dish towel tossed over
his shoulder, a smear of cherry on the side of his face. "I thought I'd
get rid of all the evidence, make it easier on Bobby."
"Tell me you didn't eat all those pies." I glance around the kitchen,
noting the missing pastries. The counters are bare of everything. There
is a strong chemical lemon scent in the air.
"I gave it the old Winchester try." Dean dumps the newest dish on the
pile and brings his hand to his stomach. "I'm out of practice. I've not
had pie that good since Pastor Jim died."
"Bobby will appreciate the effort." Or he'll be pissed. Dean has no
doubt taken the time to erase every other trace of Karen also. There
are a couple of heaping trash bags by the door. My brother might be
messy, but no one is as methodic as he is when he's determined. Nothing
brings out Dean's fierce determination like protecting his family.
"He'll want to kick my ass." Dean shrugs, plunging a couple of plates
into the water. "But if I left it up to him, we might find the whole
place covered in a new life form the next time we stop by."
I don't mention that there might not be a next time. We may no longer
be welcome. Bobby never did answer my question. The look on his face
said everything. I roll up my sleeves, grabbing the towel from Dean's
shoulder. "I'll dry."
"I know this whole gig was fucked up..." Dean scrubs one dish before
dunking it in the rinse water. He hands it off to me. "But you know
Bobby. He'll get through it; come off the bench swinging in a couple of
weeks, ready to kick Lucifer's ass."
"I hope so." Bobby doesn't bounce back the way he used to, not since
the wheel chair came along. This may be the last straw. I wonder if he
regrets the day Pastor Jim introduced him to Dad. He might finally
follow through on all those empty threats and wash his hands of us. I
wouldn't blame him. A part of me wants to tell him that's exactly what
he should do. Pamela Barnes, Jo, Ellen, and Jess- they all would no
doubt agree with me.
"Don't worry, Sammy. Bobby's not going to kick us to the curb." Dean
offers me another dripping plate and decent imitation of his cocky
grin. I think of other times as kids when he would whisper that to me
as we huddled on Bobby's doorstep while Bobby and Dad argued about one
hunt or another. "We might be a pain in his ass, but we're the only
family he's got."
For Dean it is just that simple. Family is worth whatever lumps and
hard knocks they bring. I have benefitted from that warped logic many
times. It is tragically sad that Dean has the town drunk and a demon
blood crack addict as his only kin. "Lucky him."
Dean stops scrubbing a pan, glances at me sideways. "At least he's not
I hadn't meant to start anything, but it's obvious I did. Sometimes I
can't help myself. I blame it on all the years I spent needling my
father. He deserved it; Dean doesn't. "Five days ago I might have said
that was a plus, but now I'm not so sure."
"What the hell does that mean?" Dean lets the pan slide back into the
water, snatching the dish towel from me to dry his hands.
"It means we're fucking hypocrites, Dean." I drop the dish I'm holding
into the empty side of the sink. It cracks into two jagged pieces.
"His dead wife shows up on his door step and we tell Bobby he has to
kill her." Surely he sees that Bobby should have called Pot and Kettle.
"For good reason! Did you forget the kid who ate his Dad's liver for
The little boy's face fills my mind, fuelling my anger, and even though
it is not my brother I am mad at, I turn my rage on him.
"Don't you fucking get it, Dean? I got what Bobby wanted, what all
those people wanted." I got what anyone who has ever lost someone they
loved has dared to hope for. I got Dean back. My brother was restored
to me, whole, perfect. He showed up on my doorstep, warm and solid,
real, after months of believing him lost forever, believing I would
never see him again and I still expected Bobby to do the one thing I
would have never been able to do myself.
"Sammy." Dean's voice softens, his eyes brighten with empathy. "You
know why that happened, man. It wasn't some miracle out of the blue. It
was calculated, just a part of this whole fucked up plan."
The same plan that caused all these poor people in South Dakota to rise
from the dead.
The impact of what we have caused steals my breath, putting out the
fire inside. I feel sick, the lemony scent of the room not helping.
"God, Dean. This is our fault." All these people suffered, Bobby
suffered, because of Heaven and Hell's sick twisted plans for us.
"We're trying to clean up our mess." Dean motions to the dirty plates
stacked in front of us. Suddenly his former choice of songs isn't the
only thing ironic. Dean has been cleaning up other people's messes
since he was four. "I don't know what else to do, man."
I hold his gaze for a long moment, waiting for my momentary
hopelessness to pass, taking the bout of nausea with it. For Dean it is
just that simple. I take the dish towel from him, returning to the
sink. "We can take out the garbage with us when we go."
Dean comes to stand beside me, his shoulder brushing mine. He plunges
his hands into the soapy water and pulls out the pan he had been
scrubbing. "Don't worry, Little Brother. We'll erase all traces of the
evidence, make it easier on everyone."
I carefully dry each place of the plate I broke, placing it back
together on the counter.
Dean starts singing, Kansas again. This time it's Carry on Wayward Son.
I close my eyes and just listen.
father keeps a light on by our bed
And readies for our
He mends ten holes in
Of five pairs of boy's
His love for me is like
Various colors and too
The stitching uneven.
But the needle pierces
Clean through with each
stroke of his hand.
At this hour, what is
dead is worried
And what is living is
Someone tell him he
should sleep now. –Li-Young Lee
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