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.

Words: 1.387


Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking

Through bare rooms over my head,

Opening and closing doors.

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 vessel.

At this hour, what is dead is restless

And what is living is burning.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

-Li-Young Lee

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 alone."

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 dinner."

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.


My father keeps a light on by our bed

And readies for our journey.

He mends ten holes in the knees

Of five pairs of boy's pants.

His love for me is like his sewing:

Various colors and too much thread,

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 fugitive.

Someone tell him he should sleep now. –Li-Young Lee



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