When Sam gets Dean out of Hell, it's big. So big, apparently, that the human mind can't process the details, because he doesn't remember a single damn thing between the funeral pyre and a week later. Blinding sun in the middle of an empty field, with Dean bloody and unconscious beside him.
Sam moves in to check the extent of his brother's injuries, and he doesn't even notice the creep of moisture wicking up his knees from the damp grass. Steady heartbeat, easy rise and fall of breath, and when Sam pulls the bloodstained gray t-shirt aside he realizes his brother is uninjured. All this blood and not a mark on him, and Sam silently realizes 'I did this' before his brain shies away from the knowledge.
Dean is just sleeping, and Sam lets him stay that way for hours. Watches his brother's pale pallor change under the fading light as the sun sets. He marvels at the stillness, the lack of nightmares wracking his brother's sleep. 'I did that, too' he thinks, and again stops thinking it just as quickly.
He waits and watches his brother breathe.
— // — || — \\ —
When Dean blinks awake, Sam smiles so wide he's afraid his face will crack in two. His brother smiles back, expression marred by confusion. Dean moves gingerly when he sits up, but it doesn't look like pain. More like he sees the blood and doesn't quite know what to make of it. Sam puts on his own best confused face.
"You okay, man?" he asks, and Dean blinks at him with wide, startled eyes.
"The hell are we doing in the middle of Rural Ass Nowhere?" Dean asks, "And why am I covered in blood?"
Sam's not quite surprised his brother doesn't remember, but it leaves him in a rough spot. Sam doesn't know how much to tell him, doesn't know if too much information will undo all this awesome amnesia. He doesn't know how much time he's missing for himself, but it's been months since the deal came due.
Sam doesn't want to see what those months did to his brother. He wants them like this. Soft, easy, forgetful.
He knows he'll have to tread carefully, because Dean's not going to walk away without information. He knows all Sam's tells.
"How much do you remember?" Sam asks, cautious but not enough to rouse Dean's suspicions.
"The clock was running down," says Dean. His body shakes, just a little. "We were trying to find Lilith."
"We found her," says Sam, complete honesty before the lie. "I don't remember much past that. But Bobby was there. And we must've broken your deal, or you wouldn't be breathing right now."
Dean nods, shakes his head as if to clear it. Sam watches him stand and brush the wet grass from his palms.
"So the bitch is dead?"
Sam inhales sharply and stands beside him. Cautious movement. He says, "No. Lilith got away. I remember that much."
"Fuck," says Dean, but it's quiet. Too much relief setting his limbs shaking, his whole frame unsteady, and Sam can't help it. He scoops Dean into his arms, strong protective embrace because it's been too damn long, and suddenly Sam is shaking, too.
"It's okay," he says. Sure of it. "It's fine, we'll kick her ass, just like every other demon that's tried to take us out."
"Yeah," Dean agrees, and hugs him back.
— // — || — \\ —
Sam finds a campground stub in his pocket, and directions to a small lot between trees. There's a water pump sticking out of the ground, and Dean uses it to wash away the blood. A cooler full of beer hides in the bushes, and behind it a fresh change of clothes for both of them, and Sam's glad as hell that he apparently planned ahead.
They stop at a gas station on their way out of town, and Sam calls Bobby to warn him they're coming. He deliberately times it to leave a voicemail, then turns his phone to silent. It's enough Bobby knows Dean is alive, and knows to keep his mouth shut about the details. Sam only has a moment before his brother gets back, gas paid for and Twizzlers in hand.
With a full tank and seven hours of driving between them and Bobby's scrap yard, Sam dozes against the passenger window. Drowning contentedly in how right the world is again after months on its head. Dean is behind the wheel, mumbling along to Metallica without even realizing he's doing it, and three days on the road wouldn't be enough for Sam to absorb everything. Dean's not going anywhere, and Sam doesn't stop smiling.
Not until they climb out of the car and see Bobby already waiting for them. His eyes drill sharp, but he hugs Dean hard. Says, "Good to see you, boys," as he ushers them inside.
"So," he says, carefully neutral. "Where do you go from here?"
"To ground for awhile," says Sam, even though he hasn't consulted with Dean. "Lilith is off our radar again. We need to lay low, regroup."
Bobby nods agreement, elbows propped on the small kitchen table. He's got loads of other questions, Sam can tell, but he seems to like the plan.
"You should stay here for a couple weeks," says Bobby. Sam gets a hint of just how exhausted Dean is when his brother immediately agrees.
They drink three beers apiece then bid Bobby goodnight, and it's pure relief heading upstairs to the two narrow beds that have somehow become theirs.
— // — || — \\ —
It's three days before Bobby manages to corner him alone, and by then Sam is ready for this conversation. Dean is off running errands, and Sam plants himself on the front step. Waiting to be found.
"What did you do, boy?" Bobby asks, and for a moment he sounds so much like their father that Sam flinches.
"I don't know," he admits. Might as well start with the truth. "I was sort of hoping you could tell me."
"You don't remember?" Bobby looks skeptical.
Sam shakes his head. "I'm missing about a week. Dean's missing more. Months. But if I didn't tell you what I was planning…"
"Christ," Bobby mutters. "Well it worked, whatever it was. Best count your blessings and leave it alone."
It's a tough call, but Sam has to agree. If he made a deal, they need to know about it. But it was bigger than that. Sam can feel it in his bones. Can feel it in the background hum of power that he's pretty sure wasn't there before, and he knows better than to mess with now.
Whatever he pulled, he's got an inkling it was big and dark. That shit's better left untouched.
"You gonna tell him?" Bobby asks, and Sam shakes his head.
"He knows what he has to. I'm worried if I tell him more it'll all start coming back to him." He doesn't need to explain why he can't let that happen.
"You just be careful," says Bobby, standing with a sigh. "And if you start getting the urge to kick puppies or cast blood magic, you call me. Pronto."
"Yes, sir," says Sam, small smirk on his face and a new calm creeping into his chest.
That night he watches Dean sleep and wishes the beds were wider. He'd feel better if he could crawl in behind Dean and hold him close. Just to protect him.
Just so he never has to let go.
— // — || — \\ —
They stay with Bobby for exactly two weeks, and by then they're both going stir crazy. Sam thinks he might be going crazy in other ways, too, because he can't stop staring at Dean. Sunup to sundown, so long as his brother is in sight Sam's eyes are glued.
Dean's either willfully ignoring him or blessedly oblivious. Bobby keeps throwing him these sympathetic looks, like it's all totally understandable. Like it will get better with time.
Sam is pretty sure it's getting worse instead.
They drive out in the morning, with fresh laundry in their bags and Bobby watching from the front porch. He doesn't wave, but Sam can feel his eyes hold locked on the back of the car until they're all the way down the lane and out of sight.
"So," says Dean, behind the wheel where he belongs. "Where to?"
"How about Oregon?"
"Oregon? Why Oregon?"
"We've never hunted anything in Oregon. I bet there's evil shit to take out."
Dean shrugs, silent agreement, and aims for the nearest interstate.
Sam watches him drive and wonders what the hollow at the base of his brother's throat tastes like.
— // — || — \\ —
Portland's got spirits and poltergeists to spare, and Sam and Dean have their hands full moving case to case with barely a break between. They're lucky local law enforcement hasn't already taken them down, and when the last house ends up burning to the ground instead of purified according to plan, the Winchesters book it out of town. They leave the city in their wake and pull off at a random motel about 90 miles later.
Ectoplasm doesn't wash easily out of hair, Sam has long since discovered, and by the time he steps out of the shower the water has run cold. Dean is gone, and it gives Sam's heart a stutter-quick edge. Either the count of ten or the time it takes him to get dressed, and then he's going to panic.
Dean walks back in just as Sam yanks his t-shirt over his head, and suddenly the surge of off-balance energy has nowhere to go.
He barely gives his brother time to set aside the newly purchased beer and pizza before crossing the room to wrap him in a hug that's tighter than it should be. Panicked and possessive, and Sam doesn't goddamn care. He's too busy holding on.
When he finally steps back, his expression slips to sheepish. He knows his responses are out of proportion where Dean is concerned, he just has no idea how to fix it.
Dean eyes him up and down, the look on his face curious. Considering.
Sam doesn't expect his brother to step forward and kiss him.
He really doesn't expect the quick sweep of tongue past his lips as Dean leans up and in, mouth an insistent press of breathy heat against his own.
It's over in a heartbeat, and Sam realizes his eyes have closed. Opens them again to see that same considering look in his brother's eyes, up close and personal.
"Huh," says Dean. Then takes a step back. He goes straight for the pizza, cracks a beer open with the ring on his right hand. Sits on one of the beds to watch TV, like nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Sam stands frozen through three commercials before his startled limbs can move. When he finally eats a slice of pizza, he doesn't really taste it.
— // — || — \\ —
They aim south to find their next hunt in California, and neither of them says a word about what happened in Oregon.
It's not an uncomfortable silence surrounding the topic. It's not even an awkward one. It's just… quiet. They're watching each other between discussions of devil's traps and holy water. Waiting for something, but Sam's not sure what.
They exorcise the demon fast and get the unfortunate host to the hospital. In rough shape, but she'll live. That's not a victory they get every day, and Dean immediately declares they're going out for shots.
With Lilith still out there they shouldn't let their guard down, but they skirt the line past tipsy anyway. It's a warm night by the time they stumble home.
"It's your turn, you know," says Dean, leaning back against the doorframe while Sam fumbles with the keys.
"Huh?" He can't read his brother in the dark, and suddenly the keys are on the ground instead of in Sam's hand where they belong.
"You. Your move. I can't figure out what's taking you so goddamn long."
"Dean, what are you talking about?" Sam asks, because his brother can't mean what it sounds like. It's just wishful thinking, and Sam's not about to make that misstep for himself.
"Christ," Dean mutters, "You always this much work? I'm not good with high maintenance."
Sam's about to quip back that Dean should stop talking nonsense, or at least explain what the hell he means, but he doesn't get a chance to say any of those things. Not through the distraction of Dean grabbing him by the corners of his collar and dragging him in close.
Sam nearly loses his footing as he's pulled off balance, but he steadies himself against his brother. Barely manages a "what?" before Dean's mouth is on his, setting everything crystal clear.
Sam might not be great at taking a hint, but this he can figure out. He refuses to let confusion freeze him up this time, and he kisses Dean back with everything he has. Not much finesse between them, not when they're just this side of drunk, but Dean's lips feel soft and perfect beneath his own, Dean's skin furnace-hot beneath his hands.
They rub and kiss and groan against each other until their neighbor in the next room sticks his head out the door and yells at them to take it inside already. Sam sees the open window all of two feet away and snickers, completely unsympathetic.
Dean drops out of sight for a moment, quick clink of keys, and then a hand on Sam's arm pulls until he follows inside. Ready for more.
But Dean just hands him a glass of water from the tap. Smiles. Shucks his shoes and coat and climbs into bed with all his clothes on.
"G'night, Sammy," he mumbles into the pillow.
Sam's head spins, partly Dean and partly the alcohol, but he downs the whole glass and drops asleep in his own bed. Alone.
— // — || — \\ —
Sam lets it ride in limbo for another three days, just to make sure they're really okay. He can't find a hunt, no matter how many dinky-ass towns they stop in, but that doesn't matter. If the next move is his to make, he needs to be sure Dean is still with him.
His brother's attitude doesn't shift in the days that follow. No new tension beyond the obvious. If anything, Dean looks happier than Sam has seen him in years.
It's been pouring rain, still drizzling when they pull off a middle-of-nowhere road for a break. The air is cool, the hood of the car warm and slippery when he sits on it. He watches his brother stretch the kinks out of his back and neck, catches the smirk when his brother notices the scrutiny.
There's nothing but trees and horizon for miles around them, the sun probably setting behind thick, wet clouds, and Sam says, "C'mere."
Dean obeys, instant and easy, and steps right into the inviting space between Sam's knees.
"About time," says Dean, warm smirk on his face as the drizzle seeps into his hair to destroy the perfect spikes.
"Shut up," says Sam, as he pulls Dean in for a kiss.
It's a different angle, doing this from the hood of the car. He has to tilt his head back to meet Dean's mouth, slick of rainwater warm on their lips. Sam wraps his arms around his brother at the waist, feels Dean's hands at his neck, in his hair, over his chest. Slow intimations by touch as their tongues meet and explore, and Sam never wants this moment to end.
It does, inevitably. The last hints of rain finally fade, and Dean draws back. Sam loosens his hold to allow it, but his instinct is to grasp so tight he never has to let go.
"So what do you think?" Dean asks, uncertainty in his voice for the first time since Oregon. "We doing this or not?"
"Hell yes," says Sam, because what else is there if he can't have this? It occurs to him fleetingly that it shouldn't be this easy. That they're crossing all sorts of lines here, and every one of them should feel a whole lot bigger.
But Dean is solid in his arms, under his hands, and Sam can't bring himself to wonder about those things. His brother isn't asking him for forever, but Sam wants to give it to him anyway. Crushes him close for another kiss, quick and deep.
"Okay," says Dean, brushing damp bangs out of Sam's eyes. "Okay. Good."
Sam finds his arms suddenly empty as Dean drops to his knees right there, one leg in the mud and the other on damp gravel. It puts him right in line with Sam's fly, and suddenly Sam can't even breathe, because Dean's hands are at his zipper.
It's too sudden—too perfect, too much—Dean's mouth hot and skilled, and Sam knows. Even before the fireworks start exploding in his brain, Sam knows he won't last long.
— // — || — \\ —
They hit town the next morning, and Dean kicks him under the diner table and steals half his breakfast potatoes. Familiar smile behind his straw as he slurps up the last of his soda.
"We should start looking for Lilith," he says, and Sam blinks in surprise.
"Yeah," Sam agrees, suddenly reluctant. It's hard to think about getting back to business when all he wants is a bed with a naked Dean on it so he can try to repay yesterday's favor. Feels like they have a lot of lost time to make up for.
But they can't rest easy until she's gone. Sam knows it, and so does Dean. Once they take her down, maybe they can have a while.
It's not realistic to hope that Lilith is the only thing standing between the Winchesters and Happily-Ever-After. It's a big world full of nasty things, and Lilith is just one of them. But Sam sort of hopes it anyway. He has to.
And when he looks at it like that, the bitch doesn't stand a chance.