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Top 40 Nightmare

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Dean comes to the end of You Light Up My Life and decides two things: one, he just sang a goddamn pop ballad from the seventies, so his life is officially over; and two, he’ll have to kill Sam, who just stood there staring while Dean sang his heart out to him and didn’t do a damn thing to stop it. Sam opens his mouth, and Dean shoves his hot dog straight in. There’s no way in hell he wants to hear what Sam has to say right now, and if his baby brother chokes on a piece of cheap meat they bought on sale at the Bag ‘N Save, then that’s too bad. Dean will shed a few tears and get over it, because Sam dying is nothing compared to what Dean just suffered. Metallica? Sure. Def Leppard? Absolutely. Debby Boone? He’s straight back in Hell again, only without the fun of getting gutted morning, noon and night.

Sam, the freak, just starts chewing and swallowing, because his mouth is as big as the rest of him, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him to eat a hotdog on a bun in something like two seconds flat. Dean wishes with all his heart that he had a second hotdog to shove into Sam’s mouth, but he doesn’t, so he’s going to have to figure out something else. Like maybe getting into the Impala and driving off. Fast.

He’s about to take a step when Sam finishes swallowing and says, “Gee, Dean. Really?”

“Shut up!”

He doesn’t know what the hell came over him just then, but he’s a Winchester, and if nothing else, Winchesters know how to deliver a smackdown to assholes who need it. And the asshole who made Dean sing Mary Winchester’s all-time favorite song in public to his brother is going down with extreme prejudice. Just as soon as Dean figures out who it is.

“I mean, it’s not like I couldn’t figure it out on my own, what with you selling your soul to bring me back to life and all, but —”

Dean whips around and grabs Sam by the collar to drag his face down. “Not another word, you hear me? Now, you’re going to shut your pie hole and get into the car, and then you’re going to start figuring out what just happened. And then you’re going to tell me which way to point the Impala so I can kill whoever laid a whammy on me. Got it?”

“Sure Dean,” Sam says with completely fake innocence. “But before we go, I just wanted to let you know that you’re the wind beneath my wings.”

Dean shoves Sam away from him and stalks back to the car, ignoring the way Sam is cackling hard enough to choke, because again, Sam falling over dead right now wouldn’t be the worst way to end his day.

*****

Three days later, Sam still doesn’t have an answer, but at least Dean hasn’t burst into song again. When Bobby calls about an infestation deep in the heart of Texas, he tells Sam to stop screwing around and start looking up everything he can find on garden gnomes.

*****

Four days after that, they’re in a farm supply store pricing out barbed wire to take down the garden gnomes, which can apparently laugh in the face of bullets and moon Dean and Sam in the face of salt rounds, but which turn into sniveling cowards in the face of galvanized steel. It’s a good thing something stops them, since the little fuckers are vicious. Unlike Sam, who’s crying about cruel and unusual punishment, Dean is more than happy to imagine their bleeding bodies ripped to shreds, especially after what they did to the Impala.

Some shit is unforgivable, especially when it’s literal, which is why Dean is currently lost in a pleasant haze of the revenge they’re going to take that night and, now that he thinks about it, the pure, uncomplicated pleasure of being on an ordinary, non-apocalyptic hunt with his brother. It’s been too long since they did this, and if Dean were anyone else, he might be willing to admit to feeling kind of giddy with the possibility of a straightforward hunt-and-kill. It’s good — hell, it’s wonderful — and he really wants to keep that happy-good-times vibe going. Unfortunately for Dean, it disappears when Sam trips over his own two feet and nearly takes out a farmer (an honest-to-God farmer, complete with bib overalls and a John Deere cap) in the process.

The farmer, who’s reasonably friendly despite the fact that Sam all but tackled him, says, “Hell, son, packing it in, ain’t you? I got a full-grown steer weighs less than you do.”

It’s nothing Dean hasn’t said a thousand times in a hundred different ways, but hearing it from a stranger kind of pisses him off. A lot. It’s one thing for Dean to give Sam crap, but some shitkicker in the sticks? Hell, no. Hard on the heels of Dean getting ready to step in and defend Sammy, he hears a harmonica and guitar, and the next thing he knows, he’s moaning out, “The road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where…”

Sam and the farmer turn at the same time and stare at Dean with identical expressions of disbelief. Dean can’t stop himself, and he can’t even raise his hands to claw at his throat and maybe choke himself into unconsciousness, because unlike the first time this happened, there’s some kind of weird choreography going on with his hands. Fucking choreography, and there’s not a damn thing Dean can do except ride it out and hope like hell they can find barbed wire somewhere else, since there’s no way they’re staying here any longer than it will take Dean to finish the damn song.

“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…”

At that point, Dean realizes he has a single teardrop rolling down his cheek, and his shame is complete. It’s bad enough that he cries in front of Sam sometimes, but to do it in broad daylight in the middle of ranch country is so much worse, he can’t think of words to describe just how bad it is. The only way to fix it at this point will be to burn down the town, but he’s pretty sure if he does that, he’ll get Cas’s disappointed face on top of Sam’s bitch face, both of which will suck almost as much as this moment in time does.

Maybe three quarters of the way through the song, he’s drawn a crowd, and one of the people staring at him is a store employee. At the bridge, Dean hears the guy ask Sam, “We don’t have a stereo system, so where’s the background music coming from?” Sam shrugs helplessly, and the guy looks kind of thoughtful and says, “You know, I never thought about having a live show in here, but he’s pretty good. You boys doing anything Saturday afternoon? We get the ranchers in then, and they’d probably enjoy it.”

As bad as it is, Dean is grateful — so, so grateful — when it’s time for him to sing again, because that way, he doesn’t have to listen to Sam make excuses about why a live show today is okay, but a problem on Saturday afternoon. Just to be on the safe side, Dean ramps up the volume a little, and apparently that’s fine with whoever’s running his vocal chords, because he’s belting it out pretty good, and the crowd is nodding and swaying in time to the music. A couple of girls — fourteen or fifteen years old at most — look like they’re about to start crying, and Dean thinks that’s about right. Someone should be crying for him, because Sam sure isn’t. Instead, he’s borrowed the farmer’s John Deere cap and is passing it around for donations, the fucker.

Really, Dean should have strangled him at birth. It would have saved everyone a hell of a lot of trouble, and it’s too bad he didn’t think of it before now.

Dean finally reaches the end, thank God, and he’s all for bolting out the door, but Sam grabs him by the arm and forces him to stay put to listen to the applause. When the clapping dies down (it’s a goddamn farm supply store — how many people can there be on a Tuesday morning?), Sam drags Dean forward and says, “My brother, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dean Hollie. We’re just passing through, but we want to thank you for your kind generosity.”

Everyone gets a little misty-eyed when Sam gives Dean a huge bear hug, and right after that, the store employee, who turns out to be the manager, walks up carrying two bails of barbed wire.

“Lana told me y’all were looking for barbed wire. These are twelve and a half gauge, four points. Best we got in stock.”

Sam digs the money out of the John Deere cap. “How much?”

“It’s on the house, boys,” he says.

“Are you sure we can’t pay you?” Sam asks, looking virtuous and earnest as he hands the cap back to the farmer. Dean decides at that moment that death is too easy, that he really needs to make Sam suffer as creatively as possible. In fact, he’s certain this has gone way beyond itching powder in Sam’s shorts. He’s not sure how far beyond, but he’ll think of something.

“Not too often folks around here get to see a live show like that, especially as much as tickets cost anymore, so I’m happy to help you out. You sure you don’t need anything else?”

Dean opens his mouth to ask for all the salt they can fit in the Impala, but Sam gets there first and says, “Thanks, but we’re good.” He starts dragging Dean to the door, saying, “Take care now, you hear?”

Sam dumps the barbed wire in the trunk and joins Dean in the front seat. Before Dean can say anything, Sam says, “We pulled in fifty bucks. Not great, but not bad, considering where we were.”

“Goddamn it —”

“Can’t forget the free barbed wire, either. That’s worth another hundred and fifty, easy.” Sam looks entirely too satisfied with himself.

“You —”

“And of course, this means you probably shouldn’t have told me to blow off my research a few days ago. Maybe if you hadn’t, we’d’ve figured this thing out by now, you think?”

Dean doesn’t say anything. He just hunkers down to start the Impala and then peels out of the parking lot before Sam says anything else.

*****

That night, they manage to kill most of the garden gnomes without Dean adding a soundtrack. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to get all of them, because the things are worse than cockroaches, but at least they got the queen, so Dean calls it good and minds only a little that they’re stuck in a dry county for the night. After all, it’s not like he doesn’t carry his own.

*****

They’re two hundred miles away from Dean’s solo when Sam decides he can’t hold it in any longer and continues the argument he started the night before.

“Dean.”

“No.”

“Dean.”

“No.”

“Dean —”

“Goddamn it, Sammy, I said no, and I mean no.”

“And what if it’s Gabriel?”

“It’s not,” Dean says, and he can practically hear Sam grinding his teeth.

“You don’t know that.”

“Yes, I do know that,” Dean says. “For one thing, if it was Gabriel doing this, it would be a hell of a lot flashier, and I’d have been stuck singing in front of ten thousand people instead of a bunch of hayseeds who happened to be there.”

“But —”

“And for another thing, he’d be there to gloat. There wasn’t anyone but you and me that first time, remember?”

“Okay. Fine. But I still think we should call Cas.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Dean —”

“No. This discussion is over.”

Dean says the last in his “Dad” voice, and it finally shuts Sam up, thank God. Granted, he has a point: Cas could probably figure this out in nothing flat. Except there’s something niggling at the back of Dean’s mind, dots he should be connecting, one-two-three, but he hasn’t yet, because he hasn’t found them all. It’s enough to convince him that having Cas get involved would be a really big mistake, a drink-the-blood-of-demons kind of mistake. On second thought, it’s worse than that. His gut is telling him that calling Cas about this thing will be the end of the world as Dean knows it, and since he trusts his gut more than Sam right now, it’s a no-brainer.

They don’t call Cas.

*****

Dean and Sam are in a mall outside Branson, Missouri, when they get into an argument over how they’re going to deal with a nest of harpies the next town over. They’re pretty sure the harpies are some kind of harbingers of Hell, so they’re not willing to hand it off to anyone else. On the other hand, neither of them has much — any — experience at dealing with harpies, so they’re mostly blowing hot air at each other. As far as Dean is concerned, it’s a pretty stupid argument, because the answer is obvious — they’re going to have to move pretty damn fast no matter what they decide. And right after he tells Sam that, Dean isn’t all that surprised to hear himself sing out, “Oooooooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo, do it,” complete with percussion, a bass and a goddamn xylophone in the background.

He’s never, ever going to admit it to Sam, but it’s pretty damn awesome, especially since he somehow manages to get everyone else in the food court to start dancing The Hustle right along with him. They’re all pretty bad at it, but it’s been so long since Dean had this much fun that he doesn’t care that people are tripping over their own feet along with everyone else’s. At the end, they all applaud Dean, and Sam is pretending he doesn’t know him, but it’s okay. The dance number cleared his head, and he’s come up with an actual plan on how to deal with the harpies. It has the added benefit that it might actually work, so when Sam starts in on him again about calling Cas to try to figure it out, Dean tells him they don’t need to, end of story, get in the goddamn car.

Sam gets a bitch face that lasts for the next three days, which Dean thinks might be a new personal best for him.

*****

In a small town midway between Denver and Boulder, Dean is outside their motel room, cleaning the dust off the Impala. He’s not thinking about too much of anything beyond just how fantastic the old girl is, so he’s kind of surprised to hear himself singing A Horse With No Name. Something bothers him about that, the fact of his singing just then, something he’s sure he should know but can’t quite shake loose yet. Dean just needs more time to sort through it, but then Sam comes out at the end of the song and asks, “Did you just sing a song to the car?”

“Shut up.”

“And the way you sang it, it sounded like a love song.”

“Shut up, okay?”

“But what’s really weird is that song’s about heroin. You knew that, right? That it’s not an actual horse.”

“Shut up, Sam.”

“Not only that, but —”

Dean does the only thing he can, which is to pick up the hose and spray Sam until he’s drenched. It’s totally worth dealing with the hemorrhoid cream in his toothpaste the next day.

*****

It’s been quiet for a few days. There’s nothing on the apocalypse, and there’s nothing new to hunt, and there’s sure as hell nothing new on figuring out why Dean’s turned into a one-man singing sensation. The lack of something to hunt and kill is starting to take its toll on both Sam and Dean, and because they don’t have anything better to discuss, Sam tries to apologize. Again.

“Just stop already. I know you’re sorry, and I know you don’t want to do it again,” Dean snaps, because seriously, how many more times will he have to listen to this shit? They’ve mostly been getting along okay, so Sam should just leave it alone.

Won’t do it again, Dean. Won’t.”

“Yeah, you say that now, and then something comes up, and the next thing you know, you’re chugging a jugular.” Dean, frustrated beyond belief that Sam is still yapping, wads up the fast-food bag and throws it hard at the wastebasket. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“That’s not fair!”

“Tell it to the brother you didn’t clock on the way out the door,” Dean says, the bitterness welling up unexpectedly.

Sam just stares at him for a long time before his shoulders slump and he turns away, defeated. “Fine. Got it.”

Dean swallows hard, because he’s finally heard what he just said, and it’s not exactly what he wanted Sam to hear. “Sammy —”

“Forget it. Message received, loud and clear.”

“It’s not like that. I swear,” Dean says.

Sam turns around and says, “Then what is it like? Because from where I’m standing, you hate me, and if that’s true, there’s no reason for me to still be here.”

“I don’t hate you!” And then, without any warning, Dean is singing, “No one in the world ever had a love as sweet as my love…”

The look of horror on Sam’s face has to be a pretty good match to the look on his own face, Dean thinks with spiteful satisfaction, even as he’s trying to figure out where the background music is coming from. Before he has a chance try to fight it, he’s halfway to Sam, and he doesn’t have a hope in hell of stopping himself. Sam stands there with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face when Dean gets close enough to put his hand on Sam’s cheek.

When he reaches the chorus and sings, “We go on hurting each other, we go on hurting each other, making each other cry, hurting each other,” Dean finally figures out what’s been bothering him. He understands now that the songs are somehow related to his emotions and what he’s thinking about, because the hell of it is, that the chorus is absolutely dead on target. They’re ripping each other apart half the time, and the other half, they’re circling around each other, wondering if there’s going to be another fight. It sucks, and he knows they need to fix it, but he really wishes his epiphany could have come by way of anything but The Carpenters.

Dean doesn’t even have the comfort of keeping that particular revelation to himself, because judging by the look on his face, Sam just figured it out on his own, and instead of laughing at Dean like he has been all along, Sam is doing something much worse. He’s sympathizing, and Christ, it hadn’t actually been a chick flick moment until then, but leave it to Sam to ruin it.

By the time Dean reaches the end of the song, Sam is standing up straight again and looking at Dean with determination. Before Dean can tell him to shut up and stay shut up, Sam says, “Okay. I get it. And one of these days, after we stop the musical numbers, you and I will have a long talk and get this thing sorted out and see where we can start building trust again.”

“Sam —”

“In the meantime, I’m calling Cas, because this? This has to stop. And trust me when I say it’s not the singing. Like Elwood said, you’re not half bad, and I don’t mind listening. But having your emotions hanging out like this is ripping you apart, and I can’t stand it. Not again.”

Dean’s mouth snaps shut, and he can’t even find it in himself to pitch a fit while Sam calls Cas, who shows up half a second after Sam finishes giving him the address.

“What’s wrong?” Cas asks as he takes a step forward into the room from wherever it is that he travels. Dean wonders if that extra step is anything like what a goose does when it lands, like maybe Cas is going so fast when he flies that he needs that extra step to slow down the momentum. It’s a stupid thought, but it keeps his mind from going to dangerous places that might get him to start singing again.

“It’s Dean,” Sam says. “He’s singing.”

Dean can all but see the question on the tip of Cas’s tongue — Why is that a problem? — when Cas blinks and realizes why that might be a problem.

“Dean doesn’t sing.”

“Right. But now he does, and it’s complete with orchestration.”

“And choreography,” Dean adds. “Fucking choreography.”

Cas looks at Dean, frowning. “He’s not singing now.”

“And he’s sitting right here,” Dean snaps. “Look, it’s not like that. It’s — it’s —”

Sam jumps in with, “It’s when he gets emotional about something. A couple of weeks ago, he belted out You Light Up My Life, and then it was He Ain’t Heavy… He’s My Brother, and then it was —”

“He doesn’t need to know the full catalogue,” Dean breaks in. As fun as singing The Hustle was, he figures he lost something like five thousand cool points, and there’s no reason for Cas to know that.

Cas looks at both of them a few times, waiting, and when it’s clear neither of them is going to volunteer additional information, he asks Dean, “What did you sing that made you call me tonight?”

Dean sighs heavily. “Hurting Each Other. Me and Sam were fighting, and the next thing I know, I’m singing him a song about breaking up, which is ridiculous. I don’t want to break up with my brother.”

Cas does that thing, that cocked-head thing, and asks, “Why didn’t you call before now?”

“You know what?” Dean stands up abruptly. “Never mind. Me and Sam, we’ll figure it out on our own. You can go back to hunting down God, okay?”

“You don’t want me here,” Cas says, his voice flat and inflectionless. Clearly, Dean is racking up the asshole points tonight, and he really wishes he could stop it, but if Cas doesn’t leave right now, Dean thinks he may —

Fuck. Fuck. He can already hear a Hammond B-3 organ playing in the background, and before he knows it, he’s singing to Cas, “I lost at love before, got mad and closed the door, but you said, try, just once more…”

What’s different, what’s really different, is that Dean stops singing on a dime, and Cas picks up with, “I chose you for the one, now we’re having so much fun. You treated me so kind I'm about to lose my mind.”

Dean joins him again on, “You’ve made me so very happy, I’m so glad you came into my life…”

The next three and a half minutes represent Dean’s new definition of Hell, and judging by the confusion on Cas’s face as they sing to each other, it might be his version, too. Sam once again does nothing, and Dean is bitter about that. It doesn’t matter that there isn’t a damn thing Sam can do, but he should at least look like he’s making an effort. Which he isn’t, the fucker.

At the end, Dean wants to leave, but Sam is in front of the door, his mouth hanging open as he stares at Dean and then Cas and then Dean and then Cas and then… Fuck it, thinks Dean. He points at Sam and says, “I told you calling Cas would be a bad idea. I told you.”

“That was disturbing,” Cas says.

“I know,” Dean says, his voice shaky with relief that Cas didn’t just take off and maybe another not-to-be-named emotion that bears no resemblance to anxiety. “Singing a love song like that. To each other, even. Freaky.”

“It’s not the duet that bothers me. It’s the fact that a spell was able to compel me to sing.” Cas stares at Dean, apparently takes note of his discomfort and asks, “Are you upset because you sang of your love for me?”

“What? No!” Panic curls in the pit of Dean’s stomach. “There’s no —”

“You didn’t honestly believe I was unaware of your feelings for me, did you?” Cas has that frown on his face, the one where Dean has, against all odds, managed to confuse the fuck out him once again. It’s the only thing that’s even vaguely comforting about this situation. Well. That and the fact that Sam is trying to sidle out the door so he doesn’t have to hear this conversation, which makes Dean’s love for him well up fierce and strong for the first time in a year and a half. It’s —

“Dean?”

Sam’s out the door finally, and Dean’s shoulders slump down in defeat. “Yeah. I kind of did.”

Cas stares at him for a moment longer. “When I found you in Hell, you had begun to fade.”

Dean sighs. “We’ve talked about this before. I know we have. When you’re talking to a human being, you have to talk in straight lines. No going off on tangents.”

Cas ignores him, no surprise there. “You were still bright in spots, but you were mostly tattered and torn.”

Confused, Dean says, “I don’t remember that. I thought my body was in good shape.”

“You had no body. I’m speaking of your soul, the essence of you.” Dean swallows hard and doesn’t say anything. “I couldn’t simply pick you up and whisk you out of Hell. It took time to gather you together tightly enough so that I could cradle you in my hands, and even then, I had to hold you close to make sure you would survive the trip out.”

“Jesus.” Dean really wishes Cas would get to the point, because he’s not really digging this trip down memory lane, though he thinks he would hate it more if he could remember any of what Cas is talking about.

“The trip out of Hell wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick. We grew very close during the journey, and a part of you remembers that.”

“So that’s all this is? Gratitude?” Dean thinks he might be sick.

“Of course not. It’s love, and it’s in its purest form.”

Dean doesn’t want to say anything. In fact, he would happily give up his left nut in exchange for his continued silence, but he has a feeling that if he doesn’t say anything, he’s going to start singing Love To Love You Baby. The thought of it turning into another duet with Cas is horrifying enough that he finds himself saying, “Uh, not exactly pure.”

Cas blinks. “What?”

He takes a deep breath. “What I’ve been thinking, it’s not exactly pure.”

Cas almost rolls his eyes. “I’m not talking about your sexual fantasies. I’m talking about the love we feel for one another, though I’m still having a hard time understanding how you could have deluded yourself into thinking I was unaware.”

“Okay, it wasn’t — wait. ‘The love we feel for one another?’” For the first time in weeks, Dean wonders if he has the upper hand. “Something you want to tell me?”

There’s a wealth of unspoken words crowded into the look Cas directs at him, and it’s clear that Cas is rethinking the fact that he professed his love for an apparent moron. That’s about the same time Dean’s panic attack starts, because he just admitted that he’s into Cas, and that still doesn’t exactly fit in Dean’s view of himself. Not that Dean has a problem with guys who are into each other, and especially not since meeting Damian and Barnes, no matter what they think about him and Sam. But up until the last year or so, he’d honestly never thought he’d count himself in that crowd, and even though he was kind of cagey about admitting it to himself, he’s sort of come to terms with it. He just never planned on doing anything about it, and it isn’t only because Cas is wearing a guy, no matter what the Sam-voice in his head says. It’s just — just —

Dean sits down hard. It’s luck, not planning, that there’s a bed under his ass when he lands, and when he starts hyperventilating, Cas sighs and reaches out to shove Dean’s head between his knees. Cas keeps his hand on the back of Dean’s head and says dryly, “It’s as well that my self-esteem isn’t reliant on your ability to admit out loud that you love me.”

He would object, but Cas has a point. Besides, he’s still breathing too fast, and he needs to slow the fuck down, in more ways than one. Just then, he hears the door open. He’d look up to see what Sam wants, but trying to lift his head against Cas’s hand is like trying to use his head to lift a building — it’s not happening.

“Yeah, hold on,” he hears Sam say. “Yes, Chuck, I get it. Just hold on a sec and let — yeah. Yes! Fine. Yeah. I — I’m sure he won’t — Look, just text me the user name, and I’ll track her down from here. Yeah. Yes. Yes! Fine. Good — good — goodbye, Chuck.”

Cas says, “I take it there’s an answer?”

“Yeah. Chuck just called. He said he wanted to a month ago, but he couldn’t.”

“Why not?” Dean asks his crotch. He’s kind of hoping Cas will take a hint and let him lift his head. He doesn’t.

“Becky wouldn’t let him.” Sam huffs out a breath. “Sometimes I wonder about those two.”

“I don’t,” Dean mutters. “The thought of them together creeps me out. Gives me nightmares, even.”

“Sam,” Cas says in his long-suffering voice — and when the hell did Dean start cataloging Cas’s voices? — “The call. What did Chuck have to say?”

“He says Becky got into a fight with another fan online.”

“Do I even want to know?” Dean asks. His breathing is a lot calmer, now that he’s not thinking about Cas and love and what the hell that means, which is probably why Cas lets him sit up straight again.

“Becky’s still convinced that you and I are soul mates destined to be together for all eternity.” Sam stops there, clearly trying to fight a smile.

Dean refuses to ask, but Cas hasn’t learned to stand his ground yet, so he says, “Yes? And?”

“And,” Sam says, dragging the word out, “this other fan thinks that you and Dean are destined to be together forever.”

He waits expectantly, but Sam doesn’t get the freak-out he’s hoping for. Instead, he gets Cas saying, “I don’t understand the relevance.”

Sam pouts — honest to God pouts — and says, “The other fan knew a spell. The way they set it up, Dean’s emotions were the trigger. Whoever was his true soul mate would sing right back at him.”

Cas nods thoughtfully. “Interesting. Chuck doesn’t know this other fan?”

“No, he’s —” Sam’s phone chirps, and he looks down at it. “The other fan’s LiveJournal name is Slayerboy03.” He looks at Dean and Cas and adds, “You know, the Laundromat down the road has free WiFi. I’ll, uh, go down there to research and let the two of you talk some more.”

Sam disappears faster than he did when he was headed for Stanford, and Cas looks at Dean for a long moment before sighing. “Don’t worry, Dean. I won’t make you talk about it.”

Dean knows he’s a perverse son of a bitch, but he didn’t realize just how bad it was until he says, “You knew? You knew all along how I felt and didn’t say anything?”

“I wasn’t allowed.”

Dean’s mouth drops open for a moment, and then he says in disbelief, “You weren’t allowed?”

“The potential for undue influence is too great.”

“‘Undue influence?’ What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Dean is starting to get that feeling again, the one that tells him he’s being dicked around.

“Exactly what it sounds like,” Cas says. He sounds a little impatient, and that’s fine with Dean.

“So — what? Humans are too brainless to figure shit out on their own? We’ll just believe whatever angels tell us?”

Cas sighs. “You’ve heard of the Nephilim?”

The question is so far out of left field that Dean’s anger is derailed for the moment. “Half angel, half human, right?”

“Yes. They’re the reason angels must remain silent.”

“Why? Can’t sully the gene pool with us mud monkeys?”

The look Cas gives him makes it very clear that Dean not only has the wrong end of the stick but that he’s shoving it up his own ass and is about to regret it. Deeply.

“The problem wasn’t the fact of the Nephilims’ existence. It was that they came into being because the angels in question used their grace to overwhelm the women. At the most basic level, the mothers of the Nephilim unable to exercise their God-given free will, so they had no chance to say no. Nephilim were born of rape, and to make matters worse, the polluted grace of the fathers warped them into an offense against God.”

Dean blinks. “Oh.”

“Yes. ‘Oh.’”

Dean waits a moment then clears his throat and asks, “So if you’re not allowed to say something, why did you?”

Exasperated, he tells Dean, “You said it first.”

“I did not!”

“Granted, you sang it, and it was against your will, but you still brought it up it first, and it gave me leave to speak.” Dean draws breath to object again, but Cas is faster. “Don’t worry, Dean. As I said earlier, I won’t make you talk about it. You’re clearly not comfortable with your feelings for me or this situation, and we do, in fact, have more important problems to worry about.”

Dean wants to say something to defend himself, to argue that he can handle this, but honestly, Cas has a point, and he’s given Dean an out he can live with. “Yeah. Okay.”

“Let me know when Sam finds out who the other fan is. I’ll need to talk to him.”

“What? Why?”

“The spell has done its work, but it continues to linger,” Cas says. “Slayerboy03 will have to remove it.”

“Why not get Becky to do it?”

Cas says, “Becky is completely unable to do magic.”

“Thank God,” Dean breathes out.

“Or me,” he says with a quiet smile that disappears almost immediately. “Call when you get the name.”

And then he’s gone, and Dean is left alone with his own thoughts. That’s never a good combination, so he grabs his jacket and heads out. He might not be able to get his shit together when it comes to Cas, but there’s always pool, and he’s in the mood to knock a few balls around.

*****

The next morning, Sam cracks his back in exactly the way Dean hates and says, “Got it.”

Dean doesn’t look away from the television — TNT is running a Dr. Sexy marathon, and this is an episode he hasn’t seen before — “Wait fifteen minutes before you call Cas.”

“Why?”

“Because Dr. Sexy is about to tell Nurse Plum that she’s dying of a rare disorder normally only seen in Brazil, but which she got because she ate too many Brazil nuts.”

Sam blinks. “What?”

“Just shut up and sit down already.”

By the end of the show, the story still doesn’t make sense, but Dean doesn’t care, because he’s never really watched it for the disease of the week so much as he’s watched it for Dr. Sexy. If he were a thoughtful man, he might think that should have been a clue. He’s not a thoughtful man, though, so he ignores the tingle Dr. Sexy gives him, and since he’s actually seen the next episode in the line-up, he tells Sam to knock himself out and call Cas.

A moment later, he hears a rustle of feathers, and Cas is stepping out of that other reality and into their motel room. He asks, “What’s the name?”

“Andrew Wells. He’s in London.”

“England?”

“Yeah, but —” Sam doesn’t talk fast enough, because Cas has already disappeared.

“What were you going to tell him?” Dean asks.

“To be careful. Wells has some pretty fancy security in place. A lot more than I’d expect from someone who’s on LiveJournal.”

“Doing a little profiling there, Sammy?”

“Think about it. Do you really expect Becky to know someone who has that kind of security?”

“I don’t like to think about who Becky does or doesn’t know. Most of the time, she freaks me out worse than Bobby in a suit and tie, and that’s saying something.”

Sam shudders, but before he can answer, Cas returns with company. Talkative company.

“Oh, wow!” The guy — Dean assumes it’s Andrew — looks at Cas like he’s the second coming and says, “I just never expected — I mean, Becky said you were pretty, but I had no idea. Oh, God. Your eyes — they’re so —”

Cas pushes the guy at Sam and says, “Deal with him,” and then he disappears, proving he’s just as big a fucker as Sam.

Andrew looks Sam up and down and says, “Wow. Becky said you were big, but she’s kind of a skank, so I didn’t — Hey!”

Dean doesn’t like Becky. She’s creepy in ways he’s still figuring out, and she’s way too obsessed with the idea of him and Sam fucking, but she’s helped them out a couple of times now, and he’s not really willing to listen to some twerp trash-talk her when she’s not around to defend herself, and she would. Dean is absolutely convinced that Becky would scare this guy shitless if he ever got the chance to meet her. He won’t get that chance, though, not if Dean has anything to say about it, because Andrew doesn’t deserve to meet Becky in person.

The fact that Dean is thinking of Becky the way he would think of a kid sister is probably why he’s giving Andrew the wedgie to end all wedgies.

“You might want to rephrase that.”

“Um,” Andrew squeaks. “What part?”

“The part about Becky,” Sam rumbles, looking meaner than cat shit. Dean knows for a fact that Sam doesn’t like Becky for the same reasons as his and for a few that have to do with how handsy she gets whenever she sees Sam, which is why he’s pretty proud of the way Sam steps up to defend her.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry.” Dean lets go of Andrew’s underwear, and Andrew tries — and fails — to pull his shorts out of his ass without anyone noticing what he’s doing. “I just thought you’d be more into not liking her, since she’s the one who started the More Than Brothers Web site. That’s all.”

“You thought wrong,” Dean says as forbiddingly as possible. “And speaking of thinking wrong, you’ve got a spell to end.”

“No I don’t,” Andrew says with a laugh that dies out as soon as he catches sight of Dean’s face. “I don’t! It ended as soon as you kissed.”

Sam rightly interprets the look on Dean’s face as homicidal rage and steps between him and Andrew as fast as he can, using a few chest bumps to get Dean to back up so he can’t reach out and strangle the guy.

Andrew cringes away from them and asks in a small voice, “You — you kissed, right?”

“No,” Dean answers through clenched teeth. “We didn’t kiss. We just sang to each other. You’re telling me that wasn’t enough?”

“Well, no!” Andrew says, as if Dean is the biggest idiot he’s ever met. When Dean tries to lunge at him from around Sam, Andrew backs up quickly. “It wasn’t me, it was Becky! She’s the one who made me add the kissing part to the spell. Only she wanted you and Sam to kiss, which ew! Brothers don’t kiss.”

Once again, Dean’s perversity rears its head, and he finds himself saying, “Brothers kiss. Trust me on this.”

Okay, he freely admits the last time he kissed Sam, he was thirteen, and Sam was nine, and Dad was three days late getting back from a hunt and two days late for Sam’s birthday, but it totally counted. Especially since there was some cuddling that went on, too. And yeah, having seen some of what Becky and her friends have written about them, Dean thinks it might sound pretty bad from the outside, but he’d shot up a good three inches that spring, and Sam was kind of small for his age, and kind of young, too. He still thought the world of Dad back then, and when Dad didn’t show up with a birthday cake in hand, it fell to Dean to clean up the mess.

The only thing that worked, that got Sam back to smiling, was letting him curl up close while they watched Xanadu on a local station. Dean held Sam for most of the night, and kissed him a few times on the head, when he was sure Sam was too preoccupied with the movie to notice. After Gene Kelly’s big number, Dean turned off the TV and put Sam to bed. Only before he could stand up straight, Sam wrapped his arms around Dean’s neck and planted a wet one on Dean’s lips. Gross as it was — and it was, because Dean caught a faint hint of snot on Sam’s lips — it was also one of the nicest things Sam ever did for him. The memory is probably the best one Dean has of their childhood, and he wouldn’t give it up for anything, especially not for a nerd who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

“Well, I have a brother, and Tucker and I never kiss.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Sam mutters as he continues to keep Dean from going after Andrew. “Dean — stop.”

“But —”

“I have to get Cas back here.”

“But —” Dean takes his own step back, because Cas returning means kissing, and Dean isn’t sure he’s ready for that, no matter that he’s been thinking about it for the better part of a year. It’s never been an overwhelming thought — he’s been able to put it away and concentrate on other, more important stuff — but it’s a thought that lives in the back of his mind and comes out often enough that Dean’s gotten used to it. More than that, he’s gotten used to thinking of it as something that’s never going to happen.

Sam just rolls his eyes and calls Cas, who comes back immediately. He stares hard at Dean before saying, “Andrew should have ended the spell by now. He promised he would as soon as he arrived.”

“Really,” Sam says, glaring at Andrew. “That’s funny, because he just told us the only way to end it was for you and Dean to kiss.”

Andrew tries to take another step back, but he’s already in a corner, so there’s no escaping Cas, who grips him by the jaw and stares into his eyes for a moment. “He’s telling the truth.”

“Great. Just great,” Dean says, not bothering to hide the bitterness in his voice. Cas turns those big blue eyes on him, and Dean tells him, “Don’t even start with me. You just got a good, hard look at his soul, so you know exactly what he’s hoping for, and I’m not doing it. Not in front of him, anyway.”

Andrew, who apparently has the survival instincts of a lemming, says, “You know, Cas, if Dean doesn’t work out, I could always —”

The steel guitar is playing before Andrew can finish that sentence, and then Dean is singing, “You’ve come to tell me something, you say I ought to know…” As Dean continues to sing, he finally recognizes the song and decides he’s totally looking forward to the chorus, which shows up a lot sooner than he expected. “…’Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.”

A good man would probably feel badly about the way Andrew’s face falls at that, but Dean’s long since accepted that he’s not a good man, particularly not with another minute or two to go in the song, which is country and therefore evil. Besides, it’s not like Andrew’s hat is all that white, either. He’s the one that put the whammy on him and, by extension, Cas, so he can just man up and take a dose of his own medicine.

At the end of the song, Cas is looking at Dean with a faint smile on his face, like maybe he knows more about what’s going on in Dean’s head than Dean does. He says, “I don’t believe we need witnesses for this.”

“Please, God, no,” Dean agrees with as much fervor as he can. “But I don’t —”

He speaks too late, because Cas has already taken him to someplace else, a place where the sun has gone down, and the stars are bright in the sky. It’s beautiful enough to make Dean stop worrying about what this trip will do to his bowels and start thinking about what it’s going to be like to kiss Cas for the first time and wondering if it will be like he’s imagined.

He steps a little closer, gets into Cas’s personal space, and he clears his throat.

Cas beats him to the punch and says, “I know this isn’t what you would have chosen on your own.”

“No. But — but it’s something I can live with.”

Cas takes a good long look at Dean before finally nodding and moving in to kiss Dean. It’s different, but only because Dean isn’t used to the scrape of stubble when he kisses. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same, and Dean’s always enjoyed kissing, which is why he wishes Cas hadn’t pulled away as quickly as he had.

“The spell is gone, Dean.”

“Yeah, but —”

“This isn’t who you are. Not now, and maybe not ever,” Cas says. There’s no drama in his voice, no angst, but for all that Cas speaks calmly and quietly, Dean feels like he got kicked in the nuts.

“Cas —”

“Maybe one day you’ll be prepared to deal with me in this form,” Cas says. “If that day comes, call me, and I’ll be there.”

“I’ve got a friend?”

Cas completely misses the reference and says, “Always.”

*****

Epilogue

The apocalypse sucks, and the year that follows isn’t any great shakes either, but the year after that, Dean starts to get his head together. It isn’t perfect, but he thinks he’s in a better place than he was even before he went to hell, so he counts it as a win.

He uses that next year to sort through the shit that’s stuck in his head, and he even spends time talking to a shrink he met when he was doing a salt-and-burn. The therapist is a nice lady who, it’s clear, really wants to believe Dean is a fruitcake and would much rather focus on his family and abandonment issues. But he saved her ass from a vengeful spirit, so she’s inclined to cut him some slack whenever he starts in on demons and angels and listens just as carefully when he explains that most of them are dicks as she does when he tells her how much Dad used to drink on a daily basis. It’s good, being able to talk about this to someone who knows how to help, but as far as Dean’s concerned, the best part is that she helps him get past that huge mental block labeled CAS.

Dean talks himself hoarse over the months he sees her, and at the end, he’s worn himself down enough that when she asks, “Do you love Castiel?” he says, “Yeah, I do,” with no fanfare and no gut-wrenching terror at the thought of exactly what that means.

By mutual agreement, that’s their last session, and Dean goes shopping. He finds what he wants, and then he tracks down a decent hotel. Once he gets to the room and sets up everything, he calls Cas and says, “Hey —”

Cas takes a step into the room, and Dean shuts off his phone. He’s about to reach for the karaoke machine, but Cas gets to him first. He clasps Dean’s face between gentle hands and draws him forward for a proper kiss, the kind of kiss Dean had hoped for two years ago.

It’s everything he’s ever wanted, and it’s filled with things he didn’t even know he needed. It’s him and Cas, and it’s all the shit they’ve never said to each other and maybe never will. It’s Dean telling Cas he’s sorry he’s such a dickwad that it took him this long to get here, and it’s Cas telling Dean he’s sorry he ever doubted him. It’s the whole of their history, together and apart, and it’s hints of their future, which is going to be a hell of a lot brighter than Dean ever thought it would or could be. It’s all of these things and more, but at the end, it’s two people kissing like they have nothing better to do.

And as far as Dean is concerned, they don’t.