In the end, it wasn’t Sam Winchester, in Topekia, via a suicide note. It wasn’t even Sam Winchester, in a motel room, with a head injury; either of which Sam would have put his money on.
They were on their way to Chattanooga, heading towards a Super 8 rumored to be haunted by a prostitute who was murdered there. The case was thin, but it hadn’t been too far out of the way, and it was near one of Dean’s top twenty favorite BBQ places, which Sam not-so-secretly suspected was the main reason he’d been so insistent they take this case on.
Not that Sam had resisted too much. Dean ate BBQ with all the finesse of a finger-painting five-year-old, napkin tucked into the collar of his shirt, hands absolutely slathered with sauce and grease, but it put a real smile on his face, and those had been harder to come by.
Sam picked at his side of collard greens, which he’d mostly ordered just to get a reaction from his brother, and watched Dean polish off his second rack of ribs. Dean began sucking sauce off his fingers in a way that could have been sensuous were it not for the amount also smeared all over his face.
Sam smiled at the BBQ-sauce-covered highly-skilled killing machine. “Are you going to lick the paper, too?”
Dean leaned back in his seat, and returned the grin, happy and full. “Probably.”
Sam grabbed a wad of paper towels from the roll on the table and handed them to his brother. “You’ve got it all over your face, too.”
Dean began wiping it off, missing a spot near his mouth that Sam was most decidedly not going to fantasize about licking off. It had been a pretty good day, for them—nice weather, an easy drive, not one argument-- and a pretty great dinner. Sam wasn’t going to ruin it. Good days had been few and far between the last few months. But Sam had promised his brother he was going to stay, and so he’d promised himself he’d make the best of that stupid fucking choice. He was trying.
Cleanish, Dean removed the napkin from around his neck and crumpled it into a ball, sighing contently. “So, we’ve got a few more hours to go. Do you want to push through, or stay around here tonight?”
Sam didn’t have to think about it. Usually they’d push on, but they were pretty flush from a pool tournament they’d happened on last week and the ghost they were hunting probably didn’t even exist. They could spare a twelve-hour vacation.
“Let’s stay around here. The menu says this place serves breakfast, and I bet they have biscuits and gravy.”
Dean’s face broke into an absolutely dazzling smile. “Goddamn, just when I was starting to think maybe I hadn’t raised you right!” Sam tried not to hear that at all.
Sam finished his beer and threw some bills down on the table. “Let’s go back to the motel we passed a few miles back.”
“And then we go get a real drink?” Dean looked up at him, hopefully. Sam had been trying not to drink too much around Dean—Sam’s ability to make the best of this depended very dearly on his ability to keep his guard up, he’d learned that lesson the hard way—but it had been so nice between them at dinner, lighter than it had felt in ages, and Sam didn’t really want to end it early either.
“Ice cream?” Sam countered hopefully.
Dean made a face. “Dude. It is February. And we aren’t middle-school girls.”
“Fine. A drink.” Sam could pace himself. He could do one drink.
Dean shrugged on his coat, got up from his side of the booth and threw an arm around Sam’s shoulders. Sam tried to ignore that, too.
The motel was right across the street from a nearly empty dive bar, so Sam couldn’t use driving them back as an excuse to not accept the free shots Dean managed to charm out of the matronly bartender. Dean had beelined right for the jukebox when they’d walked in, feeding every small bill he had into it, and she’d been pleased with his selections.
Sam was feeling warm and relaxed, but perfectly in control— he’d switched to beer early—half listening to his brother explain exactly what he would put in a jukebox to make it absolutely perfect. For the first time in ages, he was starting to think maybe he could do this. Maybe he could both have this life and be secretly in love with his brother. Maybe he could find a way to be almost happy.
Later, he’d drink too much, trying not to think that this moment, this moment of contentedness, was what brought everything crashing down.
Dean broke off his dialogue and got up to order another whiskey. He’d had six or seven and was well on his way to drunk, but fun drunk. Sam watched his brother pick his way around the tables and wink at the bartender—even drunk he was graceful, and always he was charming. Sam tried not to wonder how anyone ever managed to not fall in love with him.
Whiskey poured and another beer for Sam in hand--which Sam hadn’t asked for, but was happy to have as the mostly full one in front of him was definitely warm--Dean gestured with his head at a dartboard Sam hadn’t noticed before. Pool was where they made their money, but Dean and Sam both loved darts, always had.
Sam unfolded himself from the booth and went to join his brother. “What are we playing?”
“Around the world? Killer? H.-O-R-S-E?”
They hadn’t played H-O-R-S-E in years. They barely played darts anymore, and especially not H-O-R-S-E because it drew too much attention. Luckily that was not a problem tonight. “H-O-R-S-E!”
Dean grinned, took a sip of his drink. “Perfect. I love it when you lose. I’ll even let you go first.”
Sam made a face and grabbed a dart. “I’ll make the first one easy on you.” He took the dart in his left hand, covered his right eye with his other and threw it, hitting the bullseye.
Dean whistled, taking Sam’s spot. “Oh it is on, kid.”
Sam won, barely, with a throw Dean probably would have gotten if they’d been more equally matched in sobriety, and then the bartender very nicely threw them out so she could close, since they were the only patrons and half of what they were drinking they hadn’t had to pay for.
They stumbled across the street back towards the hotel, Dean grabbing Sam’s arm and tugging him towards the vending machines instead of their room.
“Why do I have to come with you to buy Doritos?”
“Because, there are monsters out there Sammy. And also I spent all my small bills DJing for your benefit and you gotta pay.” Dean was definitely drunk—being overly careful at enunciating his words.
Sam laughed. “For my benefit, was it? And how can you even still be hungry after the entire pig you ate for dinner?”
Dean ruffled Sam’s hair. “Gotta eat good so I grow up as tall as you, I guess. Because it helps you cheat at darts.”
“Right.” Sam shoved his brother playfully, catching him by his sleeve when it caught him unprepared and threatened to actually pitch him over. “I don’t have to cheat at darts. You just suck.”
“Cheaters buy Dorit-ers.” Dean sang. “And snickers. And Cheetos. And two of those things.” Dean pointed at some sort of, possibly local?, packaged cookie thing. “How much cash do you have anyway?”
Laden down with an absolute feast, two orange sodas and one red Gatorade—Sam was a good brother—they returned to the room. Dean flopped down on the floor between their two beds and began ripping open packages. Sam sat down across from him, stretching his legs out in front of him, opening his soda.
Dean took a bite of the weird cookie sandwich thing, and moaned. “Oooo this is good. Do ya’ want some?” Dean offered it to Sam, who shook his head.
"Your loss." Dean took another bite. “You’dnt really think that, ya know.”
Sam raised an eyebrow.
“You’dnt really think I suck,” Dean clarified. “You kinda like me.” Which Dean hadn't meant to say at all.
Sam’s heart stopped. He forced himself to breathe.
“Of course I like you. You’re my big brother.”
“Not what I’mean.” Dean knew he should probably shut the fuck up, but he couldn't help it.
Sam couldn’t think. His head spun. He drew his legs up to chest. He had to be drunk. He had to be way more drunk than he thought.
What the fuck does he do? How is this happening?
“Dean, you are just drunk. You don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I do know, Sammy. I know what I saw.” Wake up, Sammy. This is a nightmare. “You tried to kiss me. Few weeks ago.When I brought you home from the bar you triedda kiss me.” In the back of his head, Dean knew he shouldn't be saying this, but he couldn't stop. It was literally all he'd thought about since the moment it had happened. He thought maybe he'd have to blow his brains out if he didn't say something. He'd probably gotten drunk with Sam tonight to mention it. On a good day, instead of during a fight.
Sam’s blood ran cold. He didn't move. Didn't look up. Nightmare.
“And then you acted like you didn’t even remember.” Which was something Dean would never have added three whiskeys ago. Something Dean had barely ever allowed himself to think.
Sam closes his eyes. Nothing in his brain would fire. Sam wasn’t sure he was breathing.
“You like me, Sammy.” Dean added, more quietly. Sam could feel Dean’s eyes on him. “What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”