They're in California on a hunt. While Sam holes up to do research in the evening, Dean decides to kill some time at the strip mall nearest to their motel. He wanders in and out of random stores, looking at clothes he and Sam can't afford at retail price and other crap they don't need, and eventually, he finds himself in a Hollister. He crinkles his nose at the overpowering scent of B-grade cologne and smirks with his eyes at the terrible music and the general atmosphere of the place. He only gives the briefest of flirtatious glances at the too-thin, too-young-for-him girls as he thinks to himself that they make 'em good in California, he and Sam should spend more time here. He browses through the men's section, most of which strikes him as near the realm of his personal taste but not quite within it, and wonders if his brother ever shopped here in college. Before and after, in the hunting life, the Winchesters made a habit of buying their clothes in second hand shops, and most of Sam's college clothing is now long gone, thrown away for being too small or too worn or too bloodstained. Dean tries to remember specifics, as he looks and touches the folded shirts and pants and sweaters stacked on the tables in the store. He doesn't remember the bird logo or the Hollister name, but he thinks that this is the kind of stuff College Sam would wear.
He walks out of the store with a bag.
Sam looks up at his brother when Dean returns to their room, as he leans on the two back legs of his chair with his laptop in front of him on the table.
"Got you something," Dean says. Sam draws his eyebrows together and thumps his chair back down on all fours. Dean brings the bag over to the table, not waiting for a response before shedding his jacket and throwing it on the bed. Sam gets up, raises his eyebrows.
"Hollister? Really? What were you doing in a Hollister?"
Sam reaches into the bag and pulls out Dean's gift: a zip-up hoodie, navy blue with "SOCAL 22" stitched over the left breast and "HOLLISTER" in big letters down the left sleeve.
"Do you like it?" says Dean, sitting at the foot of the bed. Sam considers the hoodie.
"Yeah. I guess."
He pulls it on, adjusts it over his body, and looks for Dean's feedback.
Sam looks down at himself.
"Is it comfortable?"
Sam nods, hands already shoved in the pockets. The hoodie is surprisingly soft, softer than anything either one of them owns. It reminds Sam of the last hoodie he owned, which he had to throw out before he'd even been back a year with Dean after Jessica's death because the thing was so ratty. He loved that damn hoodie, wore the hell out of it in Stanford; Jess loved it too. He never thought to buy a new one.
"Thanks," he says.
A week after Dean buys Sam The Hoodie, they're in Redwood Valley, California and Dean comes back to their motel room after spending a couple hours talking to people in the area about their case. He greets his brother, and Sam gets up from where he was sitting on the bed with his laptop and wraps Dean in his arms without saying a word. Dean's only caught off guard for a few seconds, hugging now an ordinary part of the Winchester vocabulary. He circles his own arms around Sam's torso and they stand there hugging silently. Eventually, Dean realizes that Sam is wearing The Hoodie—and my God, is it soft. Dean can't remember any other hug feeling this soft. The Hoodie turns his humongous, tall, broad, ripped little brother into a warm, soft mass. Dean leans into Sam more, softens his own body around Sam's, rests his face into Sam's shoulder. The Hoodie's starting to smell like his brother.
"Love you," Sam says. He starts running his hand up and down Dean's back between his brother's shoulder blades. Dean closes his eyes and feels loved. He doesn't know why Sam gets like this from time to time—suddenly motivated to give him affection for no reason, even more than usual—but he's not arguing because the truth is, Dean really, really likes it.
"Dean," Sam says. Dean doesn't reply, keeps his eyes shut and lets himself feel full of love. Sam pauses, begins to pull away, but Dean tugs him back again. Sam doesn't move again, allowing Dean to decide when he's satisfied.
Dean vaguely thinks, as he holds onto Sam, that his brother should wear The Hoodie more often.
In the first week of December, they're somewhere in Connecticut hunting a poltergeist, and Dean starts coming down with a cold. He does the usual: denies he's getting sick and hopes it goes away by itself. By the fourth day, he's got a full-blown head cold, and he doesn't even want to get out of bed. Sam's surprised because usually, Dean will force himself to function until he can barely keep himself on his feet; this time, he surrenders fast. Sam goes to the local drug store and picks up some over-the-counter medicine, a box of Kleenex, Gatorade, bottled water, and a bunch of those microwaveable soup bowls. When he returns, Dean's already entered the stage of massively pathetic self-pity, and Sam just shakes his head at the sight of his 33-year-old brother looking about the same as he did when he was sick at age 10. Sam gives him the first dose of medicine right away, puts the Kleenex on the nightstand to the left of the bed, and hands Dean a water bottle.
Sam amuses himself for the rest of the day with his computer and the television on low volume, besides catering to Dean's every need. Luckily, Dean spends most of his time sleeping or lying awake in bed resting. Sam heats up the soup for him and supplies a never ending stream of water and Gatorade.
"You feeling any better?" he says around nine o'clock at night. Dean just gives him a miserable glance, and Sam quirks his lips in sympathy.
Dean complies, leaving barely enough room on his side of the bed for his brother to sit. Sam pulls backs the comforter and the sheet, and the cool air feels good against Dean's body. Sam runs his hand down Dean's spine, and Dean closes his eyes. Sam begins to massage Dean's back, using only light pressure, almost petting. His brother's body is hotter than it should be, but Sam's pretty sure Dean doesn't have a fever. They checked earlier. Sam rubs Dean's back until he gets tired of doing it, which takes him a pretty long time. The TV is still on behind him, and Sam isn't even paying attention.
Dean's asleep by the time Sam gets up from the bed and heads into the bathroom for a shower. When he comes back out and dries off, he pauses without slipping on the old t-shirt he planned on wearing to sleep. Instead, he zips up The Hoodie and lies down next to Dean, who would tell Sam not to get too close for fear of contamination but fuck that. Sam knows his brother well enough by now that he's confident a generous amount of loving touch will restore Dean's health faster than meds alone.
Sam turns out the light and throws back the covers because he knows they'd make Dean too hot overnight. He gently spoons up behind his brother, tucks his arm around Dean's waist, and goes to sleep.
Technically, it isn't Sam's fault. Some asshole driving an SUV decides to cut him off on the highway. For once, Sam's driving the Impala, and the only reason Dean isn't with him is because they decided to split for the afternoon, handling different aspects of their investigation. Sam was on his way to pick Dean up when it happened. The rain was coming down relentless and Sam didn't have enough time or enough room to stop. He swerved, hydroplaned, rolled once, and crashed into the concrete overpass.
Dean only finds out what happened because someone at the hospital answers Sam's phone when Dean calls for the fiftieth time. Dean hasn't even hung up yet before he's bolting outside to get in the car, then realizes Sam had the car, and he almost begins to hyperventilate right there in the street because he needs to get to Sam, how the fuck is he supposed to get to Sam?
Once he ends the call with the nurse, he collects himself enough to ask somebody for a ride. He's silent the whole way to the hospital, his pulse too fast and his face already covered in a thin sheen of sweat. He's so overcome with terror, he almost wants to throw up or burst into tears, but he does neither. The friendly stranger barely brings the car to a stop in front of the ER before Dean is swinging out and through the doors, forgetting to say thanks for the ride.
One of the on-duty ER nurses tells him the doctors are with his brother now, that Sam was lucky because it could've been a lot worse, that they're just concerned about head trauma and internal injuries so they're running tests but that Sam's "probably" going to be okay.
"We're holding some of his things for him. Would you like to take them back now or later?"
She brings Dean around to the ER reception desk, pulls out a plastic bag containing Sam's money clip and the car keys, his gun in a separate bag.
"We had to undress him," the nurse says, as she sets out the folded pair of jeans, t shirt, button-up shirt…. And The Hoodie.
Dean just stares for a moment. He reaches out and takes it.
"We'll get the rest when we check out," he says, not even hearing himself.
He flees into the men's bathroom at the end of the hall, pausing inside to make sure he's alone, then clutches The Hoodie in both his hands and begins to cry. The only sound is his breath hitching, the tears coming quick and heavy. He holds The Hoodie to his chest, feeling how it's become even softer in the months since he gave it to Sam, the color a little faded. Dean can smell his brother in it, and his whole being aches in a way he's never felt before. This isn't the first time he's come close to losing Sam—but it is the first time since they openly agreed to live like soulmates, the first time since Sam got his soul back, the first time since the brothers met soul to soul. They've never been as connected as they are now, have never loved each other as openly and freely as they do now, and the thought of living without Sam makes him feel an agony so much deeper than he's ever known.
When they finally tell him he's allowed to see his brother, his face is dry but his eyes are pink and swollen. He's still holding The Hoodie in both hands. Sam's awake in his bed and offers Dean a weak smile when his brother comes in and approaches.
"Hey," Sam says.
Dean's voice sounds gravelly and raw. He stands by the bed and tries to look okay, but Sam can tell he's been crying.
"You all right?" Dean says.
"I think so. A little shaken up. Sore. They couldn't find anything wrong with me."
Sam looks down into his lap, rubbing the blanket between his thumbs and forefingers.
"Dean—I'm really sorry. I'm not sure how bad I screwed up the Impala… but I think it's pretty bad."
Dean scoffs and shakes his head, runs his hand down over his mouth and sits on the bed next to Sam's thigh.
"You stupid fuck," he says. "I don't care about the car. I mean, I do, but…. Jesus, Sam. You could've—"
Sam watches his brother, reaches out and lays his hand over Dean's arm.
"I'm fine. Promise."
Dean gives him a look: his eyes glassy, his mouth tight, his expression a prism of emotions and none of them good.
"I'm fine," Sam says again, softer. He leans forward, off his pillows, and Dean meets him, their arms circling around each other. Dean still clutches The Hoodie in his left hand, swallows a painful lump in his throat, and sheds a few more tears. Sam closes his eyes, breathes in his brother's scent, rubs his hand up and down Dean's back, and Dean almost feels guilty for needing comfort when Sam's the one who almost died.
"I won't leave you," Sam says, quiet and sure, as if his own death really is completely under his control. "Never again."
Dean's eyes burn and he nods into Sam's shoulder. He squeezes The Hoodie tight in his fist, his other hand flat on Sam's back.
It takes Dean three weeks of working through every hour of daylight to restore the Impala back to her pre-accident condition. Once he finishes, he even cheerfully tells Sam that she's better off now than she was before, but Sam's not so sure about that. They hang out at Bobby's while he fixes her, naturally, and Sam welcomes the downtime.
It's mid-April and still chilly in South Dakota, no snow but it rains a lot. Hoodie Weather. Sam wanders around wearing it all the time, hood up over his head and hands in the pockets. He looks younger than he is when he wears it like that, Dean observes affectionately. He only takes it off to shower, sleep, work out, and wash the thing. Dean doesn't try to deny to himself the warmth he feels in his chest because of that.
Once he declares the Impala ready, they only stick around a day more, pack up their stuff, say their goodbyes to Bobby, and head out. They don't have a case yet, but they'll worry about that later. They decide to go West.
They get a room with a kitchenette at a roadside inn for the night, once they cross into Nevada. They stop by a grocery store so that Sam can make spaghetti—because even after three weeks of cooked meals in Bobby's kitchen, they're still not yet in the mood for road food—and he cooks it in one of the pots they keep shoved in the trunk. Even makes garlic bread, which Dean heartily appreciates.
They watch TV in silence for a bit, after they've cleared their plates, but Sam's in the mood for fresh air, so Dean follows him outside to the parking lot. There's a thin mist in the air, the Impala damp with it. They lean against her, looking at the stars, and Sam's wearing The Hoodie.
"Why do you only wear your hoodie on our downtime?"
Sam glances at him and then back up at the sky.
"Don't wanna ruin it."
Their arms touch as they stand side by side, and Dean smiles.
"If you did—I'd just get you a new one."
Sam looks at him then and smiles back.