Dean wakes up as they’re driving over the water. The breathtaking beauty of the open sea is, of course, lost on his brother, who merely demands, “Did you just want to work on your tan?”
Sam quirks a grin and shakes his head. He’s got one hand keeping the wheel steady while the other hangs out the window, cupping the breeze as their borrowed white Challenger roars down the Overseas Highway. “There’s a case here, promise.”
“What, the case of your missing tan?” Great. Ten seconds in, and Dean’s already in a griping mood. His brother sits up straight and rolls down his window. There’s a moment of uneasy silence as Dean works out where they are. “Sam, what are we doing in Florida?”
“Key West,” Sam specifies. “And I told you: working a case. I’ll give you the details once we check in.”
Dean gives him a rheumy eye. “Where we stayin’?”
“The Marriott.” Sam braces for it.
Dean doesn’t disappoint. “Sam!” he snaps. “What the hell? Running credit card scams on small-town motel owners is one thing, but you want us to stay at the freaking Marriott?”
“Relax,” Sam replies. “You don’t trust me?” From the corner of his eye, he can see Dean blink at him. “I’ve already booked us a room, so what’s done is done. Do you have any idea how hard it was to even find vacancy this time of year?”
Dean’s mouth is agape. “You made reservations in advance?” He narrows his eyes, glaring at Sam suspiciously. “Seriously, is this about your tan?”
Sam waves him off. “Sit tight and shut up. We’ll be there soon.”
The Marriott is on Roosevelt in Old Town, situated perfectly on beachfront property. Dean remains mercifully silent when they check in as the Smiths, but Sam can feel the heat of his brother’s gaze burning a hole in his head all the way to their room. And then, of course, there’s the room itself.
“Did you know about this?” Dean demands, gesturing to the king-size bed.
Sam pinches the bridge of his nose. “It was the only one left.” He almost says it isn’t that big a deal, but refrains. Dean’s been touchier about his space, about his stuff, about everything, since Dad. “Rock-Paper-Scissors for the first night, then we can take turns?”
“Screw that, I’m first.” Dean tosses his duffel bag onto the mattress. “You can try fitting your tree trunk limbs in that chair.”
Sam rolls his eyes. “There’s probably a cot in the closet. Look, forget the honeymoon suite and check this out.” He sets his own duffel on the chair by the desk and digs around for the printouts he’d made at the library days ago. “Steven Cain,” he summarizes, “goes for a walk along the beach near his hotel one night, vanishes. Alicia Miller: tells her friends she is going for a moonlit walk along the beach near her hotel, vanishes. Oscar Greene: his snoring was keeping his wife awake, so he decides to go for a walk—”
“Along the beach near his hotel?” Dean hazards, quirking an eyebrow.
“—and vanishes,” Sam finishes with a nod.
“Okay,” Dean allows, “creepy and tragic, I’ll give you that. But we drove a long way to get here, so tell me you’ve got something more concrete than people never coming back from walks on the beach.”
Sam gives his brother a tight grin, having saved the kicker for last. “Katie Licursi,” he says, handing Dean the paper. “Went for a walk and was gone for a while. Her friend Diane got worried, went to check on her. Swears up and down that she saw Katie follow a man into the water, and that the man dragged Katie under. Diane screams bloody murder, tries following them in, but neither of them surface.”
Dean, reading along with Sam’s summation, lowers the paper and exhales audibly. “Damn. Okay, so what, wayward sea spirit looking for sacrifices? Poltergeist got something against the hotels on his beach? Someone accidentally open a can of evil?”
Sam shrugs. “No clue. Diane’s testimony is the only proof we’ve got, and unfortunately she’s long gone. That’s why I got us a hotel on the beach.”
“To get it to come after us?”
“If that’s its game, yeah. So we’ll be on the beach, and staying on the beach, in case that’s the criteria it looks for.” Sam lets this rest, giving Dean a few seconds to mull it over. Their room is nice, if obviously intended for a couple, and Sam nearly burned a hole in their “borrowed” pocket getting it for the week. He can only hope the Marriott won’t ask questions until long after they check-out.
“So,” Dean ventures, still studying the papers. “Wait until tonight, then?”
“Best place to start,” Sam agrees. “We don’t have any witnesses to talk to.” Dean doesn’t reply for a few seconds, and Sam glances at his brother only to find himself the subject of Dean’s scrutiny. “What?”
“Nothing,” Dean says, a little too curtly. “Just…” if anything, his gaze fixes upon Sam more firmly, “I let you pick the next hunt, and I didn’t ask any questions.”
Sam hesitates, trying not to shift uncomfortably beneath the stare. “Yeah…?”
“And you drive us all the way to Key West?” Dean finishes, nonplussed.
“I hustled all the pool for the gas money,” Sam points out. The economy being what it was these days, they were paying through the nose per gallon.
“I’m sure there are hunters around here who would have been on top of things,” Dean goes on. “Not that I haven’t been itching for a case,” he clarifies, gaze flickering to the plush carpet, “but I still have a lot of work to do on the Impala.”
“I know,” Sam says — maybe too pointedly, because Dean looks up again sharply. “But I was going stir-crazy.” And you were — are — a wreck. “I just thought we could use some downtime,” he offers, spreading his hands in a placating gesture.
Dean blinks bottle-green eyes at him. “Downtime?” he echoes, sounding vaguely amused. “Your idea of downtime is driving to Florida to hunt ghosts on the beach?”
He no longer sounds too suspicious, though, so Sam counts this as a win. He shrugs one shoulder and gives his brother a wry smile. “What, yours isn’t?”
He’d figured a metaphorical handing-over of the reins would give his brother time to kick back and work through Dad’s death. Sam knows he’s not over it, or even resigned to it; he wasn’t far away when Dean started smashing the shit out of his own car. He’d feigned obliviousness when Dean had come in for another beer — didn’t comment on the sweat soaking his shirt or the haunted, crazed look in Dean’s eyes or the clammy pallor of his skin. When Dean retreated back to the yard, Sam had decided enough was enough. They’d already agreed to keep hunting despite the Impala being out of commission, so Sam set to work looking for a hunt as far away from death and demons as he could find. Maybe getting his brother far away from old memories and getting some fresh air on a good, old-fashioned hunt would help him along — especially since talking about Dean’s feelings was most certainly not on the menu.
Sam pads to the bathroom to wash up. He considers calling Dean, but figures his brother is in the middle of replenishing their funds. Instead he decides to scope out the beach. He scribbles a note for Dean and grabs his keycard.
Still, he walks along the beach, sticking close to the beginning of the shoreline so as to avoid getting in anyone’s way. He doesn’t find anything suspicious or out of place a mile or so each way from the Marriott, but then again, he didn’t expect to.
It won’t be dark for another couple of hours, and now his stomach is becoming insistent. Sam decides to head back and grab a bite. Then they can hunker down and wait for everyone to abandon the beach.
If they solve the case before the week is out, Sam thinks he might like to lie on the sand and let the waves wash over him.
“I’ll get that,” Sam pipes up, plucking the menu out of the waiter’s hands and settling on a modest Merlot. By the glass, of course; the only way to get fine wine in Dean is to surround it with chocolate. “He’s not much for wine,” Sam finds himself explaining, still feeling like an anomaly in this establishment. “Just bring him whatever’s on tap.”
The waiter takes back the wine list with a nod and smile. “Mine’s the same way,” he laughs, understanding, and winks at them before flitting off for their drinks.
Dean blinks after him, clearly unsure where to start. Finally he says, “He could have asked me what I wanted.”
“He did. You spaced out, so I rescued you.” Sam grabs a bun out of the basket and breaks it in half.
“You could have asked me what I wanted,” Dean points out, petulantly.
Sam bites back a smile. “Are you upset because I ordered for you?”
Dean just flops back against the booth with a sigh. “He thinks we’re together.”
“Story of our lives,” Sam says, reaching for the butter.
His brother folds his arms, kicking one foot against the table leg like he’s eight years old and was told to sit still. “You’re up to something, Sammy,” he says, scrutinizing him closely. “I don’t know why you booked us a honeymoon suite as The Smiths, for god’s sake, or why you dragged me all the way to the Keys to hunt something instead of focusing on fixing the Impala and getting back in the game with hunts closer to ho—to Bobby’s, and—”
Sam cuts him off. “First of all, it is a normal guest room, not a goddamn honeymoon suite, you paranoid, touchy jerk. Second, I did this for you, because you need to, to, to just work it out, okay? Because you’re not yourself, and you’re not addressing it.” Sam huffs a defeated sigh. “And third, I don’t know what I’ve done to make you suspicious of everything I do, but I don’t think I deserve it.”
Dean stares at him for a long time. It’s an intense look, almost smoldering, but Sam holds his ground. Their waiter deposits their drinks suddenly, startling them.
“Are you ready to order?” he asks, hesitantly. He knows a lovers’s quarrel when he sees one, Sam thinks wryly.
He expects his brother to tell the waiter to buzz off, to give them a minute, but Dean orders a cheesy pasta dish and chicken parmesan for Sam. “Now we’re even,” he says as the server scuttles off.
It’s a peace offering. Sam takes it. “No carnivorous selections?” he teases.
Dean shrugs. “I’m on vacation. Sort of.”
Sam grins at him. “Right, right. So you’re stuffing your arteries with cheese instead of red meat.”
Dean flips him off, and it’s business as usual. Which for them, is playing Who Can Be Gayer? with the misguided waiter.
His brother, damn him, is spread out on his stomach in the middle of the king-size bed. The bed they totally could have shared, but Sam isn’t opening that can of worms. He squirms, but not fast enough for Sam’s liking. So Sam picks up one of his shoes and lobs it, aiming and striking true: a literal boot in the arse.
“Argh — damn it, Sam!” Dean scrambles out of bed, hitting the alarm with more force than necessary. “Good fucking morning.”
“What’s so good about it?” Sam returns, standing up to stretch. “Let’s go for a nice moonlit walk, hm?”
They hang the do-not-disturb door-knocker on the way out, just in case.
“It’s kind of beautiful,” Sam says, his voice sounding loud despite the water.
“It’s kind of pissed,” Dean corrects him. “Strong swimmer or not, I can see how the people dragged into that had no chance of getting out.” He looks up and down the shore. “So, which way?”
And now, the part of the game plan that Dean will hate. “I think we should split up.”
“What?” Predictably, Dean whips his head around to fix Sam with a glare. “How is that a good idea?”
Sam shrugs. “It’s the only idea. The victims were out walking alone. Whatever this thing is, it seems to prey on the vulnerable ones. I don’t think it will show itself to us if we stay together.”
He’s right, and Dean knows he’s right, but his brother doesn’t look happy about it. “Sam … look, be careful, okay?”
“You, too. You go up, I’ll go down? Scream like hell if it gets you.”
It’s just a job, like any other dangerous job, but even in the darkness Sam can see the glint of something in Dean’s eyes. He doesn’t know what it is, what it means — just that this isn’t like any other dangerous job, because something is wrong with Dean, and Sam has no idea what.
But they’ve always been professionals, so the chick-flick moments have to come later.
He’s almost given up when he hears it. “Sam?” It echoes along the wind, a sweet caress across his face, and he smells — honey? Lilies? “Sam?” The voice gets closer, the smell gets stronger — in his nostrils, crawling down his throat. He can taste honey, so sweet.
The voice. Her voice. “Sam,” she breathes, so much closer now, smelling like lilies and tasting like honey.
“Jess,” he chokes out, spinning around to find her, half-expecting an illusion, a specter to fade once he lays eyes upon her. His heart skips a beat when he finds her, standing on the beach not ten feet away. She’s wearing a white dress, so vibrant even in the dark, and her hair — he can tell from here, darkened with water and tumbling over her shoulders. Even from here, he knows rivulets of water are trickling between her breasts and god, he misses her.
“Sam,” she says again, holding out her arms. A particularly large waves crashes onto the shore, getting half of her dress wet, but it’s thick enough material that it’s difficult to see through. “I’ve been waiting for you. We have a lot to talk about.”
“I know,” he says, fervently. He moves toward her, one shaky step at a time, walking through a fog of lilies and honey. “Jess, I am so sorry.” He says it in a rush — finally, to her face — and swallows the sudden lump in his throat.
He still expects her to be a dream — for all this to be a dream, somehow. He is so tired of dreams, of dreaming — of seeing. But she remains, arms outstretched, smile wide and brilliant, sopping wet from swimming.
Wait. Why was Jess swimming? What was she doing in those waters; they aren’t safe. She wouldn’t; she isn’t reckless like that. These thoughts pierce him, sudden lucidity cutting through the fog, and he stops short of her arms. “Jess.”
She tilts her head. “Yes, Sam?” Her plump lips purse after the M, and then her tongue sneaks out to run along the bottom one.
Sam lowers his gaze, tries to avoid looking her in the eyes. The hem of her dress is dirty, and her toes curl into the wet sand. “Jess,” he tries again, fighting through the sweet haze of her, even though a part of him wants to just lose himself in it. “Why are you all wet?”
“For you,” she says, reaching for him. “Come swim with me, Sam. The water is wonderful.” He shrinks away, but she follows, dripping and enticing and Sam goes with his gut.
He moves fast, all reflex, slicing one of her arms with the iron blade. She shrieks, stumbling backwards and Sam follows, slicing her again, across the shoulder. The wounds hiss and smoke, iron working its counter-magic, and suddenly she’s Jess but she’s not. Jess doesn’t have talons or fangs, nor does she have the speed of a cheetah.
She leaps, taking Sam to the ground, but he keeps his grip on his knife and lets her dig one set of talons into his shoulder, keeping the other at bay with his free hand. She struggles with him; evidently for all her strength she has never had someone fight back before. Sam figures, distantly, that most victims fall so deep beneath her spell that she can just entice them into the water.
With strength he didn’t know he could muster from this angle, Sam thrusts his iron blade deep between her ribs. She goes slack, and as the iron’s properties infect her blood she begins to convulse. Sam pushes her off him, pulls his knife out, and stands up to watch her die. Her glamor flickers, flickers, fails; Jess is gone and a green-haired maiden in a red dress lies upon the sand instead. Sam shakes his head in disbelief, but then the woman — creature, whatever it was — dissolves before his eyes, becoming the very seawater from whence she came.
He stares at the spot for a few moments, watching a wave whoosh up and wash her away. It was almost too easy, and beyond that, he’s angry. Whatever she was, how fucking dare she use Jess’s memory so perversely. What the hell was that thing? What if there is more than one?
And then, Sam’s stomach sinks. He has to find Dean. He doesn’t know why, only that he has to.
Gripping his knife, he takes off up the beach at a dead run.
He wonders how Sammy is doing. He’s kept an ear open, listening for shouts along the wind, but nothing so far. Maybe they just picked the wrong night to look for this thing. Maybe, he thinks wryly, this really was just an excuse for Sam to work on his tan.
He stops and kicks absently at the sand. He doesn’t want to think about Sammy and ulterior motives. He doesn’t want to think about Dad. He peers into the darkness, seeing nothing but dark sand for miles. He just wants to hunt how they used to hunt and gank Yellow-Eyes and never think about Sammy — about Sammy maybe — no.
He knows Sam is worried about him. Truthfully, Dean sort of feels like a dick for the way he’s been acting. He can’t help it, though; this is just how he is, how he deals with things. Maybe he should talk to Sam, though. Maybe Sam deserves to know — fuck, maybe if Sam knows he can consciously fight it.
But how exactly do you start a “Dad told me to kill you if I had to” conversation? Fuck his fucking life, when did everything get so complicated?
“I wish you’d told me more,” Dean confesses to the roaring waves. “If I’d known — if … that was a cryptic message to leave before dying!” he shouts the last word, hearing it carry across the wind. “Sir,” he adds, almost sarcastically. Almost.
Then he smells motor oil on the air. Curious, he sniffs, wondering where it’s coming from, and then catches a whiff of gunpowder, too. Motor oil and gunpowder and suddenly he’s back on the side of the road somewhere, cleaning guns while Dad lectures him on how to change a tire and change the oil and fix the brake pads. When the Impala broke down, Dean and Dad would get up to their elbows in grease trying to fix her up. Some of the best laughs they had together were when Dean was lying under the car, Dad trying to explain how to fix the latest problem without looking at it.
John Winchester’s voice is a warm rumble, not a trace of disappointment or anger or “why aren’t you with Sam?” It’s coming from behind him. Slowly, Dean brings himself to turn around — afraid of what he’ll see, afraid of what he won’t see.
“Dad?” he ventures softly, because it’s him, right here, almost close enough to touch.
Dad’s wearing army fatigues and a red hat, letting the water wash over his ankles. “Yeah, kiddo. How are you holding up?”
Dean narrows his eyes, really looking. It’s hard; he feels kind of lightheaded. He gives himself a shake. “Dad, what are you doing here?”
John Winchester spreads his hands. “You wanted my help, so I came.”
“I…” Dean trails off, frowning. No, something’s weird — something….
“You’re worried about Sam, aren’t you?” Dad takes a step closer. He’s dripping wet. Why is he so soaked?
But Sam. Dean swallows and nods. “Why did you tell me I might have to kill him?” It hurts to get the words out, to push them past that lump in his throat.
Dad shakes his head, eyes crinkling with amusement. “Sam never did know what was best for him. Fought me tooth and nail every turn, didn’t he, son?”
It’s not an answer, it’s not — but Dean finds himself nodding as if everything makes perfect sense. “Dad,” he tries, but forgets what he wants to say. His head feels fuzzy, like he needs sleep. He screws his eyes shut, wrestling for clarity. Something’s wrong here, something’s—
“I need your help with something, Dean,” Dad says. Dean looks at him, eyes his father’s outstretched hand. “I can’t trust Sam right now. You know that. Will you come with me?”
He’s nodding before he even processes the request. He’s always been the one Dad could count on, the one who didn’t demand explanations for orders left, right, and center. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, of course.”
“—ean!” echoes faintly along the wind. Dean inclines his head toward the sound, vaguely curious, but Dad grabs his attention.
“We have to hurry, Dean.”
“Yes, sir,” he replies automatically. He takes his father’s hand — cold, clammy — and fingers tighten around his wrist like a vice. “What—?”
“Dean!” A familiar voice, closer now. Sammy?
He’s yanked off his feet, pulled flush against his father’s body, arm twisted painfully behind his back. Dad’s other hand clamps over his nose and mouth, soggy and smelly and he’s drowning, drowning — fucking drowning in the ocean of a palm. His free hand claws at the clammy flesh and army fatigues, pulling as hard as he can to no avail. Then he stumbles, boots struggling to find purchase as he’s dragged backwards, back into the ocean.
He tries biting; his teeth sink into rubbery flesh that doesn’t yield. He tries elbowing, kicking — he’s held fast and it’s too strong. He tries yelling, but all this does is waste his air. Already his lungs are screaming, his chest burning. His vision is dimming around the edges and they’re waist-deep now; he can’t struggle anymore. He tries anyway, digging his heels into the bottom and straining to hold his ground. If this thing gets him further out, he’s a goner.
He gives up trying to get the hand away from his mouth and switches tactics. He reaches up and back, scratching, poking — anything to entice it to readjust its grip on him and hopefully give him the opening he needs. How long has it been? How much longer before he passes out? He grabs a handful of hat and hair, pulling mercilessly. Whatever this thing is, it barely notices. Dean is shaken fiercely once, twice, and the fight is literally beaten out of him like dust off a rug. He goes limp, thinking two concurrent thoughts: Fuck the whole fucking thing, and Sorry, Sammy.
Then the shots ring out, loud even over the crashing waves. They miss — Dean is certain they miss by a wide margin — but the noise startles the monster and it drops Dean. His legs aren’t ready for this, so he falls face-first into the sea and barely stops himself from inhaling a breathful of saltwater. He scrambles away as fast as he can, coughing and gasping for air, salt burning his eyes each time a wave rolls over him.
Something catches his ankle, pulls him back. He cries out, twisting around and it’s right there, right in front of him, some disfigured sea monster wearing loose-fitting John Winchester skin. Dean fumbles for his knife — his gun is waterlogged — and kicks at it, yelping when it grabs his other leg and Jesus Christ, it has claws, too?
“Get away from him!” Sam shouts, and Dean hears his brother stomping into the water even as Sammy’s gun goes off again. This time, he hits the damn thing right in the shoulder. It drops Dean again, who immediately continues retreating, but it just keeps coming, hell-bent on dragging Dean out to sea.
But that doesn’t make any sense. “Why’s it—urk,” he ends up swallowing a mouthful of water. “Why’s it still after me? Why isn’t it running away?”
Sam fires another shot, stalling for time. He’s got maybe one or two rounds left; Dean hasn’t been counting. “Hurry!”
He’s finally gotten to his feet when he realizes he’s still holding the red hat, panic and adrenaline having kept it tight in his fist. He stares at it for a split second, realizing he never saw Dad wear a hat like this before. Dad never even mentioned having a hat like this, and that sort of minutiae would be inconsequential any other time, but right now Dean has a feeling it’s the most important piece of information they have.
Dean holds up the hat in one hand and his iron knife in the other. The fabric actually ignites when the knife pierces it, and Dean has to drop it before he gets burned. It disintegrates before it hits the water, and it leaves the sea monster a shrieking mess. John Winchester’s skin melts away, revealing a horrifically misshapen blob of flesh, back arched and body quivering as whatever magic the hat held falls away.
It’s a perfectly presented target; Dean takes aim and throws his knife. Bull’s-Eye.
After the blob dissolves, Dean stumbles backward onto his ass. The adrenaline’s fading fast now, giving way for lightheadedness and disorientation. Sam walks past him to retrieve the knife while Dean totally crawls onto the beach. He flops onto the wet sand the way they do in the movies, rolls onto his back and stares at the sky.
“Dude,” he utters when Same stands over him, “what the fuck was that?”
It’s a few moments before he realizes Sam isn’t answering. He focuses on his brother’s face and frowns. Sam looks … lost. A little broken. A little pissed. He doesn’t look anything like he should after finishing a hunt.
“What’s wrong?” Dean asks, and it’s like this opens a floodgate. Sam’s on all fours in an instant, trapping Dean with a hand in the sand on either side of his head and a desperate glint in his eyes.
“I’m tired of seeing Jess,” Sam chokes out. “I’m tired of dreams.”
“Okay,” Dean allows, as the waves wash up beneath them.
The next comes out as a whisper. “Tired of seeing people I can’t save.”
This really isn’t the time or place to be having this conversation. “Sam—”
“Dean, you…” Sam sinks onto him in one of the most haphazardly inappropriate hugs they’ve ever shared. He freezes when he feels his brother’s lips on his forehead. Dean’s about to push Sam away when he admits brokenly, “I just got you back.”
It makes Dean’s heart twist inside his chest. “Sam,” he says, trying to inject everything he wants to say into the one word. He makes himself lift his hands and settle them on Sam’s back, however odd this post-hunt beach hug looks. Sam lingers a little too long, but Dean doesn’t rush him.
Then Sam’s lips start moving. “Sam,” he ventures again, in a shaky tone. He gets only a “mm” in reply as his brother’s mouth moves across his forehead down to his temple. “ Sam,” he tries again, more earnest, when his brother drops feather-light kisses on his eyelids and licks water from his eyebrow.
Sam pulls back just enough so they can see one another. Dean doesn’t like the haunted look in his brother’s eyes — or the way his gaze is fixed on Dean’s lips. He turns away when Sam dips down, ignores the muted sound of protest and resists the hand on his cheek. His brother is undeterred, mouth hungry against Dean’s neck.
“ Sam!” he snaps, shattering whatever spell had been cast.
His brother starts, pulling away and readjusting himself and — oh Jesus Christ — when he moves Dean can feel the beginnings of an erection pressing against his leg. He scrambles out from under Sam as soon as he’s able, putting some distance between them, one hand flying up to rub his neck.
Sam, for his part, is on his knees where Dean left him. He looks pale and stricken, mouth open as he pants. Most of all, he looks confused — like a lost puppy — and that’s almost enough to excuse whatever the fuck just happened.
“Sam,” Dean calls. His brother blinks at him. “Are you okay?”
Sam blinks some more, looking halfway to mortified. “Y-yeah. Yeah, Dean, I’m … look,” he starts, raising a hand.
Dean cuts him off, “Forget it, let’s head back.” He hops to his feet, perfectly happy to never talk about this again. He pointedly starts walking, trusting Sam to follow.
“Dean,” he hears behind him, plaintive and heavy with why aren’t we Talking About It?
He steadfastly ignores it, and sure enough, a quick glance over his shoulder finds Sam trudging along after.
Dean claims the first hot shower, citing being drowned by their father as grounds for it. He rinses salt from his hair and finds sand in places he didn’t know he had. He stays under the spray for a long time, until Sam bangs on the door and Dean thinks maybe the awkwardness is over and they can just carry on.
When he opens the bathroom door, Sam nearly bowls him over as he shoves past. “Bitch,” Dean mutters as the lock clicks into place. Bitchiness is better than revisiting the weirdness, though, so Dean’ll take it.
It’s only when he flops onto the bed that he realizes how tired he is. Seems kind of silly, since they had a short nap before heading out to hunt by the moonlight — but this is what vacations are for, so he burrows under the covers and revels in the a/c and fluffy pillows.
He’s almost asleep when Sam’s weight dips the mattress. Dean’s about to protest, to insist that Sam curl his gigantic body onto the chair — but his brother saved his ass tonight, so maybe he deserves a pass. He rolls onto his side, facing away from Sam, and drifts off as his brother’s body heat warms the bed.
“Sam,” he calls, reaching back to give him a shake. “Sam, wake up.”
Sam whimpers something and presses closer. Too close, actually; Dean’s absolutely certain that Sam didn’t go to sleep with a gun down his boxers. Dean’s breath is caught in his throat, and he pulls at Sam’s arms, searching for the magic words that will make this entire situation go away.
His brother jerks awake with a gasp. Dean gives him a moment, two moments, to come back to himself, and then rolls away. He sits up, watching Sam collect his bearings. Sam’s eyes are dark, still lost in a dream somewhere. He breathes deeply but unsteadily.
Dean decides to forget that Sam’s rubbed a boner against him twice tonight. Whatever the fuck is going on in his brother’s head, there are a hundred reasons to get an inappropriate erection. Instead he focuses on the more important issue. “Sam. What did you see tonight?”
Sam turns his head, searching Dean’s face like there is some sort of answer in it. “Jessica,” he admits softly. “Always Jessica,” he whispers, as Dean hurts for him. “Will it always be like this?” He’s not talking to Dean, anymore; addressing the ceiling as though it can respond. “Will I have to see them, over and over?”
“Sam.” Dean shakes his head. He doesn’t know what he can say, that he didn’t already say to Sam in the car once upon a time. Sam startles him out of saying anything, though, by shooting upright and grabbing at Dean’s arms. It’s chilly in the room, thanks to the air-conditioner, but Sam’s hands are hot against his skin.
“I needed to save you,” Sam says, fervently, pupils dilated and breathing hitched.
“You did,” Dean assures him, feeling more than a little uncomfortable here. Something must have happened to him down by the water. Something must’ve. “Sammy. You did.”
“Good,” Sam exhales, eyes softening a little. “Good, great.” He leans forward and Dean tries pulling away and fuck if Sam’s not using his spoon-bending mojo because he can’t—
“Sam,” he whispers, desperate. He can feel Sam’s breath on his lips, can smell … flowers?
“Yes,” Sam breathes, answering a question no one asked. Then he swipes his tongue along Dean’s bottom lip like it’s the most natural thing in the world — and when Dean can’t immediately bring himself to clock him, he licks his way into Dean’s mouth.
And Dean’s not, he’s not into it, or anything — really, exactly — but it’s literally intoxicating. For some reason, Sam smells like flowers and tastes like honey and the more Dean tries to figure it out, the longer the kiss goes on and the more addicting it gets. Sam, on the other hand, is very much into it, and demonstrating how he managed to woo and keep a girl like Jessica. Dean finds himself sucking Sam’s tongue, trying to get the honey off it. He shivers in the cold; Sam pulls him close, and it’s only when his brother starts to burrow them back under the covers that Dean remembers himself.
“Shit,” he curses, tearing his mouth away from Sam’s. “Stop, something’s—”
“What’s wrong?” Sam asks, mouth working at Dean’s ear, wrenching a “nngh” out of him.
He takes Sam by the shoulders and pushes him away. “We’re in the middle of a hunt.”
Whatever spell he’s under, it’s not match for years of training. Sam’s glassy eyes regain a little clarity. “But…”
Dean nods encouragingly. “It’s not over yet. We’ll know if we got ‘em tomorrow. For now,” his gaze drops to Sam’s glistening lips for a brief second, “for now we should sleep, okay?”
Sam looks like he’s going to argue — and rightfully so; what the hell would sleeping fix on a hunt but, Jesus Christ, Dean was desperate — but in the end he only nods. A moment later, the two of them are tucked in on their own sides and Sam is already drifting off.
Dean lies awake for another hour, tasting honey on his tongue.
“The suire,” Sam discovers. “Sounds like our culprits. They can change their forms to appear human, preferring to manifest as their victim’s lost loved ones and lure them into the sea. Males wear red hats that keep their powers in the check.” He frowns. “I guess they use some kind of spell infused with scents from your memories to help put you under, keep you pliant. The more resistance, the stronger the spell.”
“You resisted,” Dean says, studying his brother. That has to be it. The suire who appeared as Jessica drugged Sam stupid in its effort to get him under. He finds himself smiling a little. Sammy always was a stubborn little jackass. “Is that why you…” he trails off.
“What?” Sam asks, twisting around to look at him. His face is blissfully ignorant and Dean concurs that he really doesn’t remember.
He shakes his head. “Nothing.”
“Dude,” he ventures, gesturing vaguely. Maybe Sam’s gone nutbars already.
Sam only chuckles, and pats the space beside him. When Dean hesitates, Sam sits up, looking angrily put-out. “Dude, seriously, what the hell.”
“What the hell, what?” Dean evades, but Sam isn’t playing.
“You keep — looking at me,” he snaps, like this is a grievous offense. Which, well.
“Wow, sorry,” Dean puts as much sarcasm as he can muster into it. “I’ll be sure to ask your permission next time.”
Sam stands up, wet and covered in sand and suddenly very tall. “You know what I mean! You think you’re being subtle but you aren’t. I see it, Dean. You’re looking at me like I’m some sort of ticking time bomb, and you’re waiting for me to go off. You look at me like, like you don’t trust me anymore. What did I do?”
“Nothing,” Dean insists, hoping the words don’t ring hollow. “You didn’t do anything. It’s not like that at all.” Even as he says it, he’s shoving away thoughts of Dad and honeyed kisses and Dad and Sammy going over to the dark side and Dad. He almost tells Sam, he almost does — but his throat closes up. Only he knows what Dad said. If he tells Sam, that makes it all real. “I’m just,” he tries instead, grasping at straws, “I’m feeling — I’m not…”
Sam gives him a moment, but Sammy’s pissed and his usual patience is already worn thin. He shoulders past Dean but stops when Dean catches his wrist.
“Sammy, you’re my brother.” It’s all he can manage, but it should be enough.
It should be enough.
Dean throws himself at the Impala as soon as they’re unpacked. This time, Sam leaves him to it.