Title: Two Hawks on the Prairie
Author: Dhvana
Rating: PG
Pairing: No pairing--gen
Summary: Sam and Dean explore what their home state means to them.
A/N: My first Supernatural fic, so please be kind.


"You know this is dangerous territory for us, right? We're in Wildcat country here."

Sam looked over at his brother and snorted. "Since when do you have any loyalties to school teams?"

"Hey, I grew up a Jayhawk. If things had been different, I probably would have gone to school at KU, maybe even gotten a football scholarship."

"Not basketball?"

Dean looked at him and smirked. "With your height, you'd have been the basketball star. That way, we'd have all our major sports covered."

"I don't play basketball," Sam said and turned to gaze out over the rolling plains in front of him, at the beauty of being surrounded by nothing but swaying grasses and open sky.

When he'd realized they'd be passing by the Konza Prairie on their way to Colorado, Sam had suddenly remembered the stories their dad told about this magical place, this land untouched by humanity except for a dirt trail along the top of the hills. When he was drunk enough but still sober enough to sound wistful, he would tell of his encounters with the Kansas wildlife while following this trail, of red-tailed hawks and flocks of wild turkeys, of herds of deer and the occasional buffalo, of rabbits and meadowlarks and once, even, a coyote. He would describe the prairie at the onset of spring when the plains were covered with wildflowers and on early mornings in late fall when the frosts made the grasses glitter with the light of a million crystals. It was, as John called it, a little slice of heaven.

It had taken some convincing to get Dean to turn off the highway and drive to the Konza's entrance, but his brother had finally relented. It had taken even more patience to endure Dean's bitching and moaning as they hiked past the fields and through the woods over the stream and, finally, up the steep incline of the hill that led to the prairie proper. The hike would have been easier on him if Dean had just worn decent shoes instead of cowboy boots, but almost nothing could convince his brother that boots were not the ideal footwear for every occasion.

Even though he'd never been there, it was a place Sam had often dreamt of, an escape for his mind to a place of peace where nothing bad ever happened, and the prairie really was everything he'd imagined. It was as if the rest of the world didn't exist. The air was pure and fresh, smelling of dried grasses and sun-baked dirt instead of exhaust and litter. There were no buildings to mar the horizon, no power lines or telephone poles. The only sounds were the wind blowing across the plains, and the heavy breathing of his brother beside him.

"You wouldn't have lasted long in football if you can't even make it up one tiny hill without getting winded," Sam said, unable to resist smiling smugly as his brother immediately tried to make it seem like he really wasn't breathing that hard.

"First, that was no tiny hill--that was the monster of all hills. It was the Big Bertha of hills. Second, I'm in excellent shape, and you damn well know it. Third, have you seen KU play football? I could be lying flat out on the ground and it wouldn't make a difference."

"Way to support the team. Maybe you should have gone here to K-State instead."

Dean shook his head. "No way, dude. I grew up a Jayhawk, I'm gonna die a Jayhawk."

"But you haven't lived in Lawrence for almost two decades. Why do you still care?"

"Why did you want to stop here even though you've never been?" he countered.

Sam shrugged. "I don't know. I suppose that, even after all these years, I still feel some sort of affinity towards this place. I wanted to see what it was about the prairie dad loved so much."

"And have you figured it out?"

"Yeah, I think I have," he said softly, looking around them and seeing nothing for miles but the waving grasses of the plains. Like his mother's touch or his father's laugh, it was another thing he'd lost before he could ever discover it, but their dad had remembered enough to pass it on to him in words, and he'd had to see for himself if it was real. The prairie was one of the few things his father had given him that he'd never learned to resent.

"This land is part of us, Dean. This is where we were born. This is where our ancestors are buried--our grandparents, their parents, our mother. We've spent so much of our lives on the road, wandering from place to place, that it's hard to remember we have an anchor here in Kansas."

"This is not a place I want for an anchor," Dean said roughly. "To you, this might be some mystical land containing a past and a home you can't remember, roots that I know you want to have, but it's not the same for me. I can remember what our life was like here, but I can also remember how our life here ended, and I want nothing to do with it."

"But you just said you'd be a Jayhawk until the day you died. Tell me that's not an anchor."

"Sammy, the first toy I remember having as a child is a little stuffed Jayhawk. I remember dressing in crimson and blue and getting my face painted during Homecoming. I remember sitting on the cold metal of the bleachers screaming my head off during a football game even though I didn't have a damn clue what was going on. I remember putting your first stuffed Jayhawk next to you in your crib. For these reasons, yeah, I am a Jayhawk, but that's it. It isn't the place that means anything to me. Lawrence is just another city, Kansas is just another state, but I could live anywhere and I will always be a Jayhawk."

Sam stared incredulously at his brother, and started to laugh. "Dean, that is the biggest bunch of bullshit I've heard come out of your mouth in a long time, which says a lot considering the things you say are ninety-nice percent bullshit. Deny it all you want. The college, the city it's in, the state it's in, you're anchored to all of them because you are, as you say, a Jayhawk. This is your home, Dean. Accept it, reject it, do what you will, but until you're no longer a Jayhawk, you will always be tied to this place."

"Whatever," Dean mumbled, though his eyes were troubled. Sam thought it strange that his brother could have such strong feelings for a place and still want to completely disassociate himself from it. Yeah, terrible things had happened here, but clearly Dean still had enough good memories that they'd become an integral part of who he was.

"So," Sam began, veering the conversation in a different if similar direction, "your first toy was a stuffed Jayhawk, huh?"

A smile crossed his brother's face unlike any he'd ever seen before. It was sad and sweet and a little regretful, and it nearly broke Sam's heart.

"Don't knock it--that Jayhawk was one of the best toys I ever had. I carried that thing around with me until its little felt wings came off. Yours. . . I wish we could have saved yours."

In other words, it burned with the house and their mother.

"My second favorite toy was a little plastic blue and red football. Dad said I was born with a grip on that thing and that he had a helluva time prying it out of my hands, which was why he knew I was destined to be a football player. He was going to get you a basketball--you know, hedge our bets--but after. . . well, it just didn't seem important."

Sam was tempted to say 'it's important to you', but he didn't want to have that argument with Dean, and he was sure that's how it would end up.

Sensing that things were getting a little too emotional, Dean reached over and dug into Sam's pocket, pulling out the little pamphlet that he'd picked up at the trailhead.

"Hey!" he protested. "You could have asked."

"More annoying this way," Dean grinned and unfolded the paper. "So how much longer are we going to be out here, Nature Boy?"

"Well, the nature trail itself is only about a mile long. I was thinking we could do the one that lasts two miles. Well, two point six, according to the measurements here," he said, looking over his brother's shoulder at the guide.

"Two point six? That's almost three miles!" his brother protested and Sam gave him a stern look.

"I could make us do the six mile hike."

"I'd like to see you try and make me," he scoffed. "You can drag your ass over this field all you want. I'll go sit in the car."

"Two miles. That's all I ask, and considering your performance so far, the exercise will be good for you."

"Yeah yeah," Dean grumbled, folding up the pamphlet and sticking it in his own pocket. "All right, we'll do the three mile one, but there will be no dragging our heels to play tag with Thumper and Bambi. I want to make it to Hays before nightfall."

"Do you have something against enjoying the outdoors?" Sam asked as they began following the trail across the tops of the hills.

"I see enough of the outdoors as it passes by the windows, or when we're tromping through it looking for things that are trying to kill us, or--worse--when we're broke and have to camp in it."

"You have no appreciation for anything, do you?" Sam asked as he stumbled over a rock, his brother reaching out to steady him.

"Sure I do. A pretty woman. Good music. A comfortable bed. A steady hand. I appreciate the things that matter."

"And none of this matters?" Sam asked, looking out over the undulating plains and unable to understand how anyone could fail to be awed by it.

"Does it matter to you?"

"It's one of my favorite places in the world," he said softly, and Dean nodded, then gave his brother a quizzical stare.

"You know that makes no sense, right?"

"It does to me."

"Yeah, I think all this fresh air is getting to your brain. We need to get you back to the car, get some Metallica blasting, get some exhaust in your blood, and you'll be fine."

"No way," Sam said, taking a few quick steps forward so he'd be in the lead as the trail narrowed. "When we get back to the car, the windows are staying down, the stereo's staying off, and we're going to make this last as long as we possibly can."

"Sure we are, Nature Boy," Dean said, reaching out to give his brother a little push--not hard enough to knock him off balance, but enough to make him tense. Sam turned his head to glare at him.

"Maybe you should go sit in the car."

"No, no. We're here. Let's take in all of nature's glory and all that crap and I promise to stop complaining. For five minutes."

Sam clasped his hands together and said dreamily, "It's more than I ever hoped for."

Dean shoved him again, and Sam chuckled, forging on ahead.

With his brother in the front, Dean could actually take the time to look around them without having to keep the careful expression of disinterest on his face. Unlike Sam, he'd been to the prairie with their father. It was one of his first memories.

It had been the middle of summer, but a storm had been blowing in from the west so the air was cool and dry. The distant rumbles of thunder had made him nervous, but his father had just chuckled and told him it would be all right. He'd had to be carried up that first monster hill, but he remembered the feeling when they'd reached the top. He'd stood alone, looking out over the prairie, and seeing nothing but land and sky, he realized just how large the world was and how tiny he was in comparison. That had scared him more than the thunder and he'd clutched his father's hand, afraid the sky was going to swallow him. John had chuckled, lifting him up into his arms.

"It's magnificent, isn't it, Dean? You can work hard all week but then you come out here and all your worries just fade away. Makes all the bad stuff seem insignificant and you realize just what in your life matters."

Of course, being only four years old, Dean hadn't had a whole lot of worries beyond hitting the ball at his next t-ball game, and he found the prairie to be more daunting than awe-inspiring, but he never forgot the look on his father's face. Sam was right--their dad had loved the plains, but Dean couldn't bring himself to care for it. To him, the whole place was just. . . empty.

And, now that he knew better, most likely covered with the spirits of thousands of pissed off Indians and settlers.

But Sam seemed quite taken with it. And, yeah, he supposed it was kind of pretty, and he guessed it was nice not to have his ears constantly assaulted by cars and voices and the roar of eighteen wheelers. And, all right, if someone put a gun to his head, he would honestly be able to say that all this nature crap wasn't too bad, but he'd still drive away from the prairie without giving it a second thought.

Yet he wouldn't hesitate to return if Sam asked him. It had worked for their father, and it was working for his brother. Just being out here was enough to make all his worries fade away, and Dean couldn't remember the last time Sam had seemed so at ease. If a little shuffle through the grass was all it took to make Sammy happy, well then they could drive here every month for all he cared. It was the least he could do.

"Hey, Dean," Sam hissed and he looked up to find his brother had stopped.


"Look over there," he said, pointing to the foot of the hill.


Sam sighed. "The deer, you moron. Look, there's--" he muttered as he counted, "--two three four five six. There's six of them."

Dean looked down the hill and spotted the animals chewing on the grass, each one with their ears twitching at the slightest sound, ready to bolt at any second.

"Nice to see them not lying on the side of the road for a change."

Sam glared at him. "For gods sakes, Dean, do you have to be so damn cynical about everything?"

"Yes," he said, but at the expression on his brother's face, he caved. "All right, they're cute. Are you happy now?"

"Yes," Sam chuckled and continued on down the trail, Dean following after with a smile on his face. It didn't matter how he felt about the prairie or Kansas or being a Jayhawk or any of it. He'd take a stroll through the grass and sightseeing with a bunch of deer over demon hunting any day, so long as it brought a little life back to Sam's eyes.