The tinny strains of 'Only Yesterday' echoed quietly around the brothers as they wheeled their cart, complete with squeaky wheel, around Wal-Mart's crowded aisles.
If a shopping cart could tell a story, this one would have screamed … 'we're going on a vacation, and we're as stark crazy as a bucket of frogs about it."
The big, dark blue suitcase with a 'special offer' label stamped all over it, trundling along on tiny black wheels behind Dean was also a bit of a giveaway.
The cart was gradually filling up with cheerfully coloured shirts, beige chinos, cotton three-quarter length pants; or in Sam's case knee length pants; and several pairs of swimming shorts ranging in colour and pattern from tastefully sober plain blue through plaid, sunflowers, star spangled banner and, in a moment of excited madness, Garfield.
Two pairs of green and yellow flip-flops joined the pile, closely followed by two pairs of brown cotton loafers, three Stephen King novels together with the latest Dan Brown offering, a beach ball and three orange towels.
As the Winchesters continued their enthusiastic exploration of Wal-mart's treasures, Dean's head suddenly swivelled and his face lit up with delight.
"Back in a sec," he muttered, and disappeared off down another aisle, returning seconds later with a huge grin and an alarmingly bug-eyed inflatable dolphin under his arm.
He thrust it out towards Sam, green eyes pleading wordlessly, and the grin broadened.
Sam stifled a laugh; for all the weights of responsibility and disillusionment that his brother continuously bore on his weary shoulders, he still had the endearing quality of sometimes being able to see the world with a childlike wonder; "Dude? Really?" Sam shook his head in affectionate resignation, he would defy anyone to say no to that face.
"It looks like it's been smokin' pot or somethin'," he sniggered at the latex dolphin's boggling blue eyes.
"Don' care, I like it!" Dean almost pouted.
"We're gonna have to let it down to get it in the case;" Sam sighed, shaking his head with a chuckle.
Dean's grin wavered. "I know that, smartass. I'm not a friggin' infant!"
Sam rubbed his forehead and tried to ignore the irony of the thirty year old man standing in front of him clutching an inflatable dolphin and announcing that he wasn't an infant.
Dean's enthusiasm was infectious. "Put it in the cart with the rest of the stuff then, Jerk," Sam grinned.
Gleefully placing his dolphin in the cart, Dean slapped Sam's shoulder in thanks and the brothers continued their wanderings.
Eventually they came to the toiletries aisle and began a systematic smash and grab of necessities such as shower gel, shaving foam, disposable razors and toothpaste. A few steps further on and they found themselves at the meds section.
"We'll need plenty of this;" Sam picked up a few bottles of sunscreen, "and this," he added a bottle of after-sun lotion.
A bottle of insect repellent was next to find it's way into the cart, rapidly followed by an antihistamine spray for insect bites.
"D'y reckon we'll need any of this?" Dean grinned as he rattled a box of Imodium tablets.
Sam chuckled; "I sure hope not, but guess we'd better take 'em along."
Into the cart they went.
Then Sam spotted something else.
He was very aware that although their trip had been discussed at length and in depth; Dean, as dizzy with excitement as a five-year-old on Christmas Eve, had barely been able to think or talk about anything else. However, the one aspect of the vacation that had not been discussed at all, not a single word, was the journey there or back.
The silence on that subject had been deafening.
Sam had been prepared to remain silent on the subject if that was Dean's preferred way of dealing with something that was, no doubt filling him with dread, but now they had reached a point where the subject had to be broached.
"What about these," Sam asked casually, holding up the pack of Dramamine travel sickness pills.
For the first time Dean's face tightened. "Uh – okay." He grunted economically.
Scanning the shelves, Sam found something else he was looking for. "What about you take one of these for the journey;" he tried to keep his voice light, "might make things a bit easier for you."
Dean looked at the box Sam held in his hand. Sominex sleeping tablets.
His lips tightened into a grimace and he nodded slowly; "okay," his voice was barely a whisper.
Sam was overcome with a need to help his brother and, unable to hold back any longer, the words tumbled out of his mouth.
"Dude, why don't we take you to a doctor, see if we can't get you some kind of stronger sedative for the flight?"
Dean stared in silence at his brother for a moment, his expression blank.
"No" he answered with a brief shake of the head; "are we done here now?"
The whole mood of the shopping trip had suddenly tilted; Sam's amusement at Dean's infectious enhusiasm and the bug-eyed inflatable dolphin lying upside-down in his cart long since forgotten, replaced by heartbreaking concern for his brother.
"But Dean; why suffer like this when you could take a couple of pills and then be out like a light both ways?" Sam pleaded, "surely, you don't want to spend the whole vacation brooding about the trip home."
Dean turned abruptly, his expression darkening. "I'm not having this conversation in the middle of friggin' Wal-Mart; now lets pay for this crap and get it back to the room so we can get it sorted out an' packed."
Sam stood helplessly watching his brother snatch up the cart and stomp off, squeaky wheel and all, toward the checkout. "don' forget the suitcase;" Dean snorted after him.
Sam sighed as he watched Dean's back recede into the distance; that would be why the subject of the flight hadn't been discussed then.