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Threw Away the Sun

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It’s been six months since Dean has seen his dad or even heard from him. He plays his tapes loud and drives until he’s exhausted every night. He hates that feeling, when he walks into an empty motel room, that silent moment before he can find the remote and get some background noise going. It reminds him too much of those early days, before he was old enough to join in the hunts, waiting with nothing but the television for company for hours or days for his father to come home.

He used to wonder, when he was little, what it would have been like if his brother had stayed with them instead of being taken away for the state to raise, how things would have been different if dad had been able to find him and get him back. He hasn’t thought of that baby in years and feels stupid for thinking of it now. What is he, twelve? Can’t handle a solo mission without the thought of some sort of family to comfort him?

The Impala turns off the highway, away from the city streets, and down a residential road. The car is like some prehistoric black shark, threading between the bright colored Beetles, Hondas and Neons. There’s a college around here, Missouri had mentioned. He re-reads the address and pulls up to the curb.

“It doesn’t work that way, boy,” her voice had been scolding but sad. “I can’t see the future or throw a dart at a map to find where your father is.”

“There has to be something,” Dean had protested. “He’s never been gone this long. There’s something wrong. He needs me.”

Missouri’s sigh had been resigned. “There’s another psychic I can send you to, somebody better at seeing the future than I am, but I fear he’ll bring you more pain than peace.”

Dean smoothes the wrinkles from the bit of paper in his hand. There’s nothing on it but an address and the words “Ring J. Moore. Ask for Sam Cole.”

Dean looks over the row of buttons by the apartment house door and presses the correct one. He counts the seconds, to give J. plenty of time to answer before he makes an ass out of himself and rings again.

When she answers, her voice is rough with sleep.

“Ms. Moore? My name is Dean Winchester; I’m here to see Sam Cole.”

“It’s late,” and it could be his imagination but she sounds more awake. “He’s asleep. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“Please,” he cuts in quick before she can turn off the intercom and go back to bed. “I’ve driven all the way from Kansas. My father’s missing. I think something bad has happened to him.”

The woman sighs. “Wait,” she says.

Dean’s on second number three hundred sixteen when her voice comes back. “He’ll see you. Come on up.” The door buzzes and the lock clicks and Dean heads up to 2B. He knocks and the door opens to the extent of the security chain.

Normally he’d think of the blonde on the other side as cute or pretty or fuckable, there in her Smurfs t-shirt and thigh-length robe. Right now though, all he sees is suspicion and an obstacle to finding his dad. He gives her his least-threatening smile, but she doesn’t seem to care. Her blue eyes glance down at the medallion on his chest and wariness fades to annoyance.

She closes the door for just long enough to remove the chain then steps inside. There’s a cordless phone in her left hand, 911 probably already dialed, just waiting for the talk-button to be hit. A baseball bat leans against the table in the foyer and something about that strikes Dean as funny to see in a house with a man around.

“Wait in the living room,” she says and heads back to what’s probably a bedroom. “He’ll be out in a minute.”

So Dean parks his ass on the couch and waits. The room is sparsely furnished—a couch, two chairs, a bookshelf full of textbooks and binders. The stereo is pretty expensive looking for students, but there’s no television. There’s something off about the room too, something in the negative space of it that Dean can’t quite figure out.

Voices drift through; the walls are thin and the building is old. “Relax, Sam, just let him wait.” The man’s voice is lower, doesn’t carry as well, so Dean can only understand the woman. “Here, arm,” she continued. “He woke us up at four AM. I don’t think he’ll run off in the time it takes to fix your hair.”

Dean hears a soft masculine laugh. “Am I presentable now?” The guy asks.

The woman’s voice is almost inaudible. Dean shifts down the couch so he can catch what she says. “I don’t like this, Sam. I don’t trust him. I don’t…” Whatever else she was saying is muffled. Dean hears soft murmuring from both of them. Footsteps echo through the hardwood of the floors and Dean shifts over before he’s busted eavesdropping. Yeah, textbooks. Interesting.

The door to the bedroom opens. Dean looks up and startles halfway to his feet. Whatever he was expecting from the oracle that Missouri sent him to, this isn’t it. The guy’s tall, probably six-four if he stood straight, if he wasn’t so slouched in on himself. He moves with slow creeping motions, feeling his way along the walls and furniture. Big hands, bony wrists, doesn’t this chick ever feed him?

Dean looks him in the face and is met with a brilliant crooked smile. Shaggy brown hair flops over his forehead down to the upper edge of a pair of large opaque glasses. A soft melt of scar tissue flows out from under the black plastic on the left side, following the outside curve of his cheekbone. Maybe it’s the blindness, but it’s hard to place the man’s age. The smile belongs on a sixteen year old; the guarded posture is that of an old man.

“Dean,” the man says, making a flickering effort to control his grin. “Mister Winchester. Please, have a seat. I apologize for not being more prepared; you were much more likely to come here next week.”

“Missouri call you?” Dean asks, unwilling to trust some strange psychic with his money or his hope without some proof.

Sam’s smile becomes more subdued, almost sad. Jess wanders off and the sounds and scents of coffee being made drift in from the kitchen.

“Your father’s missing,” Sam says softly and they both know that’s not a newsflash. “He’s been gone for longer than ever before and you’re scared. You think something’s taken him—a demon. The demon.” Sam moves forward and the smile is gone. “You’ve been to the priest, the junkman and the arms dealer and none of them could help you. You think this is stupid and that I’m probably a charlatan, but you’re here anyway, because you’re out of options.” He sighs and hunches his shoulders up tight, like he’s feeling a sharp wind.

“I can help you, Dean.” His voice is so soft, so sure, that Dean has to fight to keep his skepticism. “It won’t be easy and this isn’t an exact science, but the odds of finding your father are a lot higher with my help than without.”

Dean finds himself frowning. “Odds? What the hell does that mean?”

If the blind man takes offense, he doesn’t show it. “Odds. I don’t see the future, I see the futures, plural. I see the ghosts of worlds that can no longer happen and all the possibilities that are still open. I see you leaving this room with your brother beside you and I see you leaving without my help. I see worlds where your father comes looking for you instead. Sometimes there’s a woman, and she’s hunting the demon who took her little boy and burned her husband on the ceiling.

If this guy really can do what he says, Dean knows he’s choosing his words for the most impact; the details are cutting Dean to the bone. “Okay,” he says, to make the words stop, to not have to think about mom alive and his baby brother with him because he can’t have that; it’s gone. “Okay, I believe you. So where’s my dad?”

“I don’t know where he is,” Sam sighs like he’d hoped Dean would be smarter than this. “But I can tell you where he’s most likely to be, two weeks from now.”

Dean’s starting to lose a little of his patience. “So tell me already. What, is this about money?”

Jess comes back out of the kitchen, coffee mugs in hand. She offers one to Dean and he takes it. She nudges the ceramic just a little as he takes it, not enough to spill it on him but he knows a threat when he sees one.

“Sam,” her voice is so sweet and innocent. He holds out his hands and she places the mug in them, waiting until his fingers are wrapped around it before she lets go.

Dean expects her to leave then, but she settles on the arm of Sam’s chair. Apparently Dean’s no longer trusted to be civil with the handicapped.

“It’s not about money,” Sam says like Jess wasn’t there. “I need to know you're one hundred percent committed to this. If you’re willing to do whatever it takes, follow it wherever it goes. In all the worlds where I ask you that, you never ever lie to me.”

Dean’s not used to this level of freakin’ honesty. “I want my dad back,” he growls. “He’s the only family I have left and goddamn it, he’s all that matters to me right now. So yeah, I’m in. Whatever it takes, as long as I’m seein’ some results.”

Sam smiles, tired but honestly glad. Jess frowns like Dean got his lines wrong, like she’s not pleased at all by his answer. “Great,” says Sam, “You’re driving.”

“What?” Dean blurts. Beyond the blind-guy joke of it, the statement is just ridiculous. “You’re not coming with me.”

Sam’s lips quirk into a frown. “Look. My chances of directing you to your father from here are much slimmer. I need to use the odds of when I’ll meet him to reinforce when you will see him, to find the strongest, soonest point. It’s necessary.” He turns his face away from Dean like the conversation is over, and Dean thinks that yeah, maybe it is.

“Jess? Can you get my bag and the notes you made?”

“Fine,” Jess snaps, sounding as frustrated as Dean feels. “Of all the things you’ve ever seen, Sam, you’d better be right about this one.”

“I can’t slow down for you,” Dean warns while Jess is out of the room.

“You’re going to have to,” Sam says, “But not when it matters. Not when it would endanger your or your father. I wouldn’t want you to.”

“Fine. When are we leaving?”

“Now,” Sam says as Jess comes back with the blue duffle bag and a red notebook. “I can work while we’re on the road. Even though there’s a better chance of meeting John in the desert in two weeks, there’s a small chance of finding him in the mountains in just a few days if we can narrow down the exact location.”

Sam climbs to his feet, and feels along the furniture until Jess brings him a worn leather satchel. Sam hangs it across his body, from left shoulder to the opposite hip, like it’s something so precious he doesn’t want to risk losing it.

“So how much is this gonna cost me?” Dean asks, because in his experience, professional help doesn’t come at low, low prices. The way down the stairs is slow. Sam clings to the rail with one hand and Jess with the other. He feels the edge of every step with his foot before he steps down. Dean can already see that the slow pace is gonna drive him nuts.

“I’ve got reasons of my own,” Sam says. “Out of one hundred futures where I tell you now what they are, in twenty nine, you don’t believe me. In forty three, it changes the way you react to certain things and you die. In eighteen it changes the way your father reacts and he dies instead. In seven you are so shocked you leave without me. In three, everybody lives and nobody is hurt. When the odds change on that, I might tell you then, but not now.”

Goddamn psychics, Dean thinks. Even if it’s true, it only makes him want to know more than he did before. Stupid mumbo-jumbo logic.

They step out into the warm spring air and Dean trots ahead to open the passenger-side door. Jess gets Sam settled in the seat and hugs her goodbyes to him while Dean’s getting the luggage stored. When she’s done, the blonde takes Dean’s hands and puts the notebook into them.

“Everything he’s seen of your father so far is in here, and everything you need to know about taking care of him.” Her eyes are glistening with unshed tears, and whatever she is to Sam, Dean can see how much this parting hurts and frightens her, like she expects to never see the man again. “My number is on the first page. Call it anytime, if he needs anything. If you can’t cut it, being around him, please, please give me time to get there; don’t just leave him alone in a strange place somewhere.”

That stings. Seriously, now. “I’m not a complete asshole.”

“I know,” she says. “I just worry that sometimes he doesn’t watch out for himself as well as he should, that he doesn’t keep himself safe.

She gives Dean a trembling smile. “But he has people who care about him, people who love him. And if you hurt him, we’ll find you. Count on it.”

“I’ll take good care of him,” Dean promises. “And I’ll make sure he gets home safe if I can’t.”

“You better,” she says and hugs him suddenly. Before Dean can react she turns and runs back towards the door, one hand pressed to her lips.

Dean gets in the car and starts the engine. Sam turns towards the window, closes in on himself.

“That’s one hell of a girl you’re leaving behind,” Dean says after forty miles without a word. That gets a smile from his passenger, soft and melancholy.

“She really is,” he agrees. “In a couple of worlds, she was even in love with me.”

“But not this one?”

“No. She’s just my friend. In every possibility where we were together, she died.”

Dean keeps the questions professional after that. It’s gonna be a long drive.

=========

 

The scorching wind that rushes against his face brings with it the scent of smoke and charred meat, burnt hair and melted rubber. Sam closes his eyes and breathes it in deep, the odor of power and freedom.

The city is in ruins beneath him, and beside him stand the ranks of his brothers and sisters, the army of the reclaimed, strong and beautiful in the red glow of the sun. Their power flows into him. His senses sharpen, expanding until he sees what they all see, feels what they feel. The very air seems to throb in time to his pulse.

The pet at his feet whimpers and clings tighter to Sam’s leg. Sam wraps the leather of the leash another time around his fist. He hears the whimpering thoughts of close secure kept not-lost as it presses its face against his thigh.

“Hush,” Sam says and it shivers. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ll never let anything hurt you, Dean.”

 

The man in the passenger seat startles awake and Dean turns the radio down. Sam’s trembling hands reach out to touch the dash, the windshield, the roof, the window. Searching fingers brush Dean’s shoulder and then jerk away like he hadn’t been expecting to find a person in the driver’s seat.

“Whoa, hey, you okay?” He takes his foot off the gas and starts slowing down. The last thing he needs is some crazy blind guy jumping out of his car at seventy miles an hour.

It seems to take a long time for Sam’s breathing to stop being desperate gasps, for his huge hands to stop pressing against glass and vinyl like the car’s his only anchor to reality.

“Yeah,” Sam rasps as Dean pulls off the highway. He still looks pale, shaken. “Where are we?” Dean could eat right about then anyway and he figures Sam might appreciate stretching those long legs out a bit so he stops at a truck-stop diner.

“Food,” says Dean as he turns off the engine and gets out of the car. He waits almost a minute and the other door doesn’t move. With a frown, he walks around and opens it.

“Waitin’ for an engraved invitation?” He asks, half teasing and half annoyed.

Sam unfolds his lanky limbs and stands, one hand on the Impala at all times. “I didn’t know if there was a car beside us or a road or what,” he explains and Dean feels like an ass. The food’s smelling pretty good though, and Sam’s not moving.

“You need your cane or something?” Dean asks. He’s trying for polite; he’s not sure he makes it.

“Jess packed it,” Sam says, half mumbling, “But I haven’t used it in years. I haven’t—I haven’t gone out.”

Dean bites back a curse. “Out, like what, out of your house? And you’re telling me this now?”

“You said whatever it takes,” Sam reminds him, standing a little straighter. “Are you really whining ‘no fair’ this early?”

“Fine,” Dean growls and adds some choice words as he digs through the bag that Jess so carefully packed. He finds the cane and unfolds it and puts it in Sam’s palm.

Sam takes the cane and reaches out with his other hand. His desperate fingers try to grab Dean before he can walk away. There’s a flash of real fear on his face and Dean tries to imagine what it would be like, to have nothing but chaos beyond the tips of his fingers, to be so lost and helpless in a place as common as a parking lot.

“I’m right here,” he grumbles and grabs Sam by his jacket and half-drags, half-leads him into the diner. He’s still annoyed enough to let him trip on the curb but he doesn’t let Sam fall on his face or walk into the doorframe.

The waitress gives Dean a dirty look as he manhandles Sam into a booth and he has to resist the urge to protest “but he started it.”

Sam has a sausage biscuit for breakfast. Sandwiches or liquids in a mug, Jess’ notes say. Dean reads the whole notebook while they eat. The items on his dad and the demon aren’t quite the detailed city and date list he was hoping for. There are lines like “spring wet trees, hungry mud, young women, gold hair, freckles,” that Dean thinks he might be able to narrow down once the events start happening and he has news articles to match with the vague text. One thing about the notes makes him uneasy: Dad’s hunting, and still, for some reason, out of touch. Something’s weird, wrong. He hopes that maybe as they get closer, Sam will have clearer visions.

Jess has given him copious pages of plastic-sleeved notes, things like what shampoo to refill Sam’s bottles with when they run out and how to tell him where things are using the hours on a clock for directions.

There are two sheets of paper, back to back in their protective covering. One says “Don’t let him get lost in nightmares.” The other says “Don’t let him get lost in dreams.” Like Sam’s not cryptic enough on his own and Dean needs another person talking riddles at him.

Sam’s quiet all through the meal. Dean’s been awake for thirty-six hours and driving for most of those and Sam still looks like the more tired of the two. “You said we have a few days, right?”

“Even if we lose a couple doing research or whatever,” Sam replies.

“Good,” says Dean. “There’s a hotel we passed on the way in. I need a few hours of sleep before I wrap the car around a tree.”

“Blue tile,” Sam says, so soft it’s almost a whisper. “That’s fine. I--could use the rest.” And Dean could swear that wasn’t what he had been about to say.

The check comes and Sam pulls out a credit card. Of all the things that have gotten on Dean’s nerves so far this trip, Sam picking up the tab isn’t one. Gift horses are too rare in this life to question, and when Dean finds out why Sam’s here, the fact that Sam paid for a meal and hotel room a couple of times isn’t going to have any bearing on how Dean reacts. He just hopes he’s not the only one who’s aware of it.

After breakfast, Dean gets Sam back in the car and leaves him there while he pays for the hotel. He drives to their room door, then half-leads, half-drags Sam to the room. Unlike the last time, Sam’s carrying his bag and Dean actually warns him of the curb and doorway. Dean will give him this—the guy’s no whiner. That’s a good thing, unless it means he has no spine.

“Bathroom’s through the door straight across,” Dean says, “Your bed’s the one closest to it.”

Sam reaches out a hand, follows the door to the doorframe to the wall and starts making his laborious way around the room. Dean shakes his head and thinks I would have led you if you’d asked. What he says instead is, “You want the first shower?”

“Nah, you go ahead.” It’s kind of weird, the way Sam’s body language is so flat, missing all the nods and shrugs and hand-gestures normal people use.

Dean leaves him to his explorations of the motel room. The bathroom is a monstrosity—the walls and floors are both covered in a random seventies mosaic of different sizes and shades of freakin’ blue tile. More than anything, that little detail makes Dean start to believe that he’s not getting conned.

When he gets out of the shower, Sam’s curled up on the bed Dean assigned him, his leather satchel nestled against his stomach. One arm is thrown over his face, and his back is to the window. A rectangle of afternoon sun turns the stray wisps of hair at the nape of his neck to gold.

“Hey,” Dean says, and his voice is gentler than it was. “The uh—You see at all? Like light or anything? I was gonna close the curtains, thought I’d warn you.”

“That’s fine,” Sam says, still without moving. “I only see in the visions. In the best dreams, and the worst nightmares.”

“Yeah, okay.” Dean closes the curtain and strips out of his jeans. “Try to get some sleep if you can.”

==========

“You stay away from my brother, you son of a bitch, and get the hell out of my dad!” Dean is shouting, pushing Sam back and Sam’s trying to shove back in front, but it’s so hard in the dark.

You’re expendable to it, he wants to shout. It’ll take me no matter what you do. But there’s no time and Dean’s screaming and there’s the smell of blood in the air as Dean’s weight crashes into him. He wraps his arms around Dean’s chest, feeling for his heartbeat, for his breath, but there’s nothing, an unmistakable stillness.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he cries out. He has no tears, but he’s choking on his sobs. “I would have done anything!” The sweet fire of anger burns through his veins, clean and pure.

“Now? Fuck you,” he hisses. “You killed my brother, and you set me free.”

The thing laughs, in the voice he’s heard only in visions of memory. “Oh, I hear you, Sammy. I just wanted to make sure I had your attention.” It’s so lazy, sure, a deep rumbling drawl. “What’s been done can be undone. You join me and I’ll bring him back. He’ll be yours forever, there at your side for as long as you’re at mine.”

And Sam knows. He can see the future, Goddamn it. He knows the Dean he’ll get back will be a shell of the man he once was. The real Dean would make him strong, and the demon can’t have that. But without Dean—there’s nothing left, no reason to hold on, to endure the pain, to risk breaking. His hand slips underneath Dean’s jacket and closes around the still-warm grip of the Colt. It’s sticky with Dean’s blood and Sam’s resolve hardens.

“See you next millennium, asshole.” He can feel the thing’s lack of fear. What are the chances a blind man could strike a fatal blow at this range? Overconfident bastard.

He holds the gun with both hands and jams the muzzle under his own jaw. He doesn’t hesitate as he pulls the trigger. A thousand years of confinement for the demon. He can live with that. Die with that. Semantics.

 

Dean wakes to the noise of restless shifting in the next bed, small fear/hurt/distress sounds. For a second, it’s incredibly disorienting because the only person he’s shared a hotel room but not the bed with is his dad, and his dad always slept like a corpse. It takes him a second before he remembers the previous day. Sam, and he’s not sure why he’s so gentle as he rolls out of bed and reaches out a hand, resting it on Sam’s shoulder.

“Dean,” Sam breathes, like somebody else might say “Oh, thank God,” and every muscle in his wiry body seems to go limp. There’s something about hearing his name like that; it strikes a chord in Dean. Yeah, he’s saved people before, it’s what they do, but the gratitude he’s received has always been so general, so “Thanks for saving us, whoever you are.”

Sam makes it feel like nobody but Dean could have made this right. As he settles back into deeper sleep, Dean sits on the edge of the bed and rubs a hand over his bony back and he’s not really sure why.

When it seems like Sam’s not waking up again, Dean grabs the red notebook and his cell phone and steps outside. It’s late afternoon and he sits in the sun and dials the number Jess gave him. She answers on the second ring, breathless like she ran for it.

“Dean?” she says instead of hello and Dean feels stupid. He has no idea why he called, beyond having someone to talk to who understands.

“Hey,” he says, and yeah, awkward much?

“How’s Sam?” Jess asks, not beating around the bush. Dean can respect that.

“Sleeping now. He’s been quiet all day. I dunno. Weird, I guess.”

Jess sighs. “You have no idea how hard this is for him,” she says, “Interacting with people, trying not to look ahead and see the outcome of every word he’d say to them.”

Dean leans his head back against the wall of the room Sam’s asleep in and closes his eyes.

“I know you don’t know him,” Jess murmurs, “But he’s known about you for a long time. He’s never said why, but this is really important to him. You’re really important to him.”

Dean wishes he knew what to say to that but he doesn’t. “Look, I gotta go. He shouldn’t wake up alone in a strange place.”

“Okay,” says Jess. “Take care of yourself.” She sounds like she even means it.

The next time they stop for food, Dean has it planned out, how he’s going to get the door and lead Sam in and not be a pain in the ass this time.

Sam’s car door opens before Dean gets there though, and the blind man levers himself out of the car, his cane feeling along the way. His lips press into a fine line, his head cocks to the side like he’s listening for the way. His fingers grip the slender pole so tight that Dean’s half-afraid he’ll break it.

Dean watches in amazement as Sam taps his way to the curb and from there to the diner’s door. He wrestles with the door for a moment, then gets it open and himself straight to an empty table.

Dean takes a seat across from Sam. He’s about to ask how the hell he accomplished that, when he sees how pale Sam is, how hard he’s shaking. A bright trickle of blood creeps from his right nostril down his lip.

“Jesus!” Dean breathes. He grabs a napkin and comes around the table, trying to stop the nosebleed. “Jesus, Sam, what the hell did you do?”

Sam grins, a smile so crooked that thoughts like stroke and cranial hemorrhage pop into Dean’s head.

“I saw it,” Sam says, “I ran through every possible direction I could step until I found the only path here.”

Dean’s not the type of man to find himself speechless, but what the hell can he say to that?”

“One chance in five of it even being possible,” Sam says, and then, “Oh God, I need some painkillers.”

Dean gets the pills out of the car and orders himself a burger. Sam has fucked himself up too bad to keep lunch down, so they get back on the road.

Half an hour later, the impala pulls off on the shoulder. Dean holds Sam’s head while he barfs like he’s gonna puke up his socks.

“Why would you do that?” Dean demands, because, dude, this shit ain’t pretty.

“Had to prove it,” Sam says between dry heaves. “To you. To me. Won’t get you killed.”

Dean snorts. “Lot of good that does me if you’re in no shape to ride.”

Sam sags down, elbows on knees, head in his hands.

“Look,” says Dean, “Seriously. Are you bleeding in your brain or something? Do I need to get you to a hospital?”

“If I am, I won’t die from it.”

It pisses Dean off more than a little that Sam sounds so sure, like Dean’s the last one to be let in on a secret.

“Never?”

Sam smirks. “Hardly ever. C’mon, I can ride again. We can’t fall that far behind schedule.”

Dean gets in the car and drives, but he doesn’t like it.

===========

 

Weeks pass, and they travel. East down to Texas, then back up through Illinois.

They get to the little town in Oregon where Sam had calculated that there was a small chance of John being. There’s no sign of the man, but Dean does find out about a string of missing teens going back thirty years. The salt and burn means his dad is less likely to come, but he can’t let the restless spirit kill again.

There’s more than enough time to get to the next possible rendezvous point. A sliver of hope that John’ll come, but late, remains, so they decide to wait another twenty four hours, just in case.

That night, Sam listens to a talk show on the clock radio by the bed. Dean searches the web for hot spots that match up with the vision Jess recorded in the notebook. He’s not sure when Sam falls asleep, but he sure as hell knows when Sam starts to dream.

“I’m sorry,” Sam whimpers, “It was the only way--please, please--”

Dean steps over; he sits on the edge of the bed and shakes the thin shoulder.

“I’m sorry!” Sam sounds so young, so broken. He curls towards Dean’s hand, then quiets down to sleep again. Dean sits for a while, stroking the kid’s shoulder. The satchel lies on the bed, not touching Sam anymore. Dean’s curiosity has put cats to shame, and he has to lean over, lift the flap.

There’s a gun inside, some decrepit old pistol. Dean has to shake his head. Sam sees the future. He wouldn’t carry around a gun that would never work. Still, the thing looks a hundred years old; how useful can it be? Crazy, he thinks, and closes the flap again.

Sam is still sleeping peaceful, so Dean goes back to work. The second nightmare hits less than an hour later and the third just minutes after Dean moves away again.

The next time, he gives up and crawls into bed alongside Sam. He expects Sam to smell sick, like hospital rooms and too many hours in one bed. He doesn’t though, he smells clean, soap and toothpaste and just a little like the sweat from the dreams before.

He puts an arm around the younger man. Sam feels so right, like a bony, lanky teddy-bear for grownups, and Dean would die before he’d admit a thought like that out loud.

He wakes to the sound of Sam’s gasp, the feel of the whipcord-thin body in his arms going tense.

“Dean?” Sam whispers, and there’s a note of uncertainty for the first time. He doesn’t sound afraid or hurt like he does when he dreams. He sounds--aroused.

 

It takes Dean’s sleep-fuddled brain a second to catch up, to realize his hand has drifted down, so low on Sam’s stomach that his pinky finger has slid under the waist-band of Sam’s boxers.

Sam’s heavy breathing isn’t fear, isn’t the tail-end of a nightmare.

“Shh,” Dean soothes. Sam’s not beautiful, and yet touching him still feels good, still gets him hot. “Don’t look ahead,” he says, “If you want this, just let it happen.”

“Dean,” Sam sighs and moves against his hand. “Please, please.”

It seems right, doing this in so little light that all Dean can see is the outline of Sam’s shoulder and a little of his scarred cheek. If Sam can’t see, it feels fair that Dean can’t either.

Dean slides his hand further into Sam’s shorts, feels the curls of pubic hair against his palm and the warm flesh of his cock against his knuckles. Sam bucks at the touch, and Dean thinks he doesn’t realize how he’s rubbing his ass on Dean’s dick.

A strangled whine slips from Sam’s throat and Dean knows he’s the first, that nobody’s ever seen Sam this way. The virgin kink has never been Dean’s thing before but Sam, giving him this, making it right, feels important.

Dean tries to make it last, giving slow easy touches and gentle kisses to the back of Sam’s neck and shoulders. So much of the younger man’s life has been pain, Dean’s determined that this should be good.

Sam doesn’t talk throughout it all. He clings to the wadded up sheet and makes these little whimpers that shoot straight to Dean’s dick. It doesn’t take long at all, and then he’s crying Dean’s name and spilling over Dean’s fist.

Dean pets him through the aftershocks, soothes him until his breathing slows and his lean body relaxes. He waits until Sam’s almost asleep before he gets up for a washcloth. He’s still hard, and he promises his dick that as soon as Sam’s cleaned up he’ll give it the attention it deserves.

Sam stirs at the touch of the warm cloth. “Why?” he asks, and he sounds so bewildered that Dean has to smile a little.

Dean scrubs the come out of the blind boy’s pubes. “Wanted to,” he answers, and it’s the only true thing he can say--not because he’s ashamed of what he’s done, but because all his reasons sound a little sick, put into words.

Sam’s fingers find Dean’s wrist and circle it, and his other hand moves along Dean’s shoulder and down his chest. Dean holds his breath as Sam’s fingers brush against his erection.

“Fuck,” Dean sighs.

Sam’s hand rubs slowly up and down the still cloth-covered hard on. He swallows hard, and Dean’s a little amazed that he still seems uncertain, like he hasn’t looked into a hundred futures to see how this all ends.

“Why didn’t you finish?”

“It wasn’t about me getting off,” Dean whispers back, half-dizzy with how good Sam’s touch feels on him.

“It is now.” Sam’s face is unreadable in the near dark as he draws Dean back own to the bed, face to face this time. They fit like pieces from two different puzzles, awkward lines and sharp hip bones. Dean gets his dick lined up against Sam’s thigh though, and doesn’t have any complaints.

Dean’s fingers are so world-worn and calloused as they trace over Sam’s lips. He leans in, flicking his tongue at the corner of Sam’s mouth, tasting him.

Sam gasps and shivers. “God,” he whispers, and when Dean’s knee slides up, he’s hard again. “God, I want--”

“Yeah?” Dean asks as Sam thrusts against him.

“I want--fuck me.” Sam’s back arches, exposing his throat. “Fuck me, Dean. I’m not a kid. You won’t break me.”

And shit. Jesus. That’s all Dean needs to hear. He scrambles up, dumping the first aid kit on the foot of the bed with one hand, keeping hold of Sam’s ankle with the other. There’s no proper lube, but he finds a bottle of aloe gel and a condom. He flips Sam over and crawls up his body. Sam’s trembling and Dean strokes his hands up his bony back to soothe him.

“You sure?” he asks, because the last thing he wants is to fuck this up.

“I’m sure,” Sam gasps. “I--” he cuts himself off but Dean doesn’t push it. He goes as slow as he knows how, slicking up his fingers and working them into Sam’s ass.

Sam bucks back and fucks himself on Dean’s fingers, squirming like a cat in heat. He makes these noises, like he can’t sort it out, what’s good, what isn’t, like some part of him is being torn apart and put back together again, a million times a second.

The no-eyes thing is freaking Dean out again--he has no idea what this means to Sam, if it’s some crush, or just lust or if he’s using Dean to punish himself.

“Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop,” Sam chants, and hell if Dean has it in him to disobey.

Sam makes a broken sound down in his throat as Dean pushes in. His fingers grip the sweaty sheets and he pushes back again, driving Dean deep.

Christ almighty, Sam’s almost too tight inside. Dean grabs his hips, and there’s no padding to cushion the force of his grip. It takes everything Dean has to go slow, to give Sam time to adjust. It can’t be comfortable, but Sam’s rocking against him no matter how hard Dean tries to keep him still.

Sam’s vocabulary has shrunk down to the words fuck, Dean and shit, hissed out in seemingly random combinations. Dean’s hips snap forward three times and then they’re coming together, profanity spilling from Sam’s lips and apology from Dean’s, because this is wrong, so wrong.

He tries to pull out slow, but Sam still makes a broken little sound in his throat. There’s blood on the condom, but not enough that Dean feels worried, just guilty.

“Stay there,” he says, putting a reassuring hand on Sam’s back. Dean turns on another light and digs through the first aid stuff on the floor for some antibiotic cream.

Sam doesn’t flinch when Dean sits beside him on the bed. Dean can’t help but catalog the damage--bruises from his hands and bite-marks he doesn’t even remember making.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, because this was Sam’s first and nobody’s first should be like that.

And Sam? The fucker laughs at him, a low chuckle, muffled in the pillow. “Don’t be,” he says, “God, Dean. I felt real. I felt connected.”

Dean has no idea what to say to that so he’s quiet as he soothes the cream into the scrapes and bites on Sam’s shoulders and hips, and pushes slow and careful into the inflamed pucker of his ass. He caps the tube and starts to stand, but Sam reaches for him.

“Please,” Sam says, soft and needing. There’s nothing left of the closed, distant jerk Dean’s been traveling with.

“Please, stay here tonight?”

“Yeah,” Dean whispers, and turns off the light. He wraps himself around Sam, knees tucked up under his thighs, arm around his waist, forehead at the crook of his neck, and it feels right.

==========

 

The day after Dean fucks Sam is a little on the strange side. Sam’s sore in the morning, walking stiff and slow. Dean insists on checking, but he’s not bleeding, just tender.

Something has changed in Sam himself--despite the aches, his smile is easy, flashing those dimples at the slightest provocation. It reminds Dean of how Sam smiled the first time they met and he doesn’t know what to make of it.

Sam seems deeply content, and despite how desperate Dean is to find his dad, that contentment is almost contagious. Dean catches himself singing with the radio for the first time in ages and it feels good. Maybe when this is all over, he thinks, maybe he can manage to swing by Palo Alto every now and then. Visit maybe, spend the night.

He happens to glance over and witness the instant when everything changes--Sam folds like he’s been gut-punched, flailing out for the dash and door to ground himself.

“Here,” he says, “Here, here!”

Dean hits the brakes. The only thing he can see is a small dirt track cutting through the trees.

“Sam, are you sure?” he asks, even though he already knows the answer.

“Turn,” says Sam, all gritted teeth and hoarse voice, and Dean turns.

The way is so narrow the leaves and branches along the path screech against the Impala’s paint. Dean can’t even worry about it though, if this brings him to his father.

Far back into the woods, four miles or so of slow driving, the track ends at a dilapidated old hunting cabin. Dad’s truck is out front, gleaming black. Adrenaline spikes through Dean’s system at the sight of it. He checks the knife in his boot and the pistol under his jacket.

“Dean,” Sam whispers, “Take me with you.”

Dean’s first reaction, to turn him down with a flat no, is tempered by the fact that Sam’s been content to wait in the car or hotel every other time Dean went to work.

“It’s important,” Sam urges, “It turns out better for everyone if I go in with you.”

Everybody means dad and Sam both and Dean’s come to trust Sam’s visions. Sam slides over the seat and climbs out the driver’s side door before Dean can say “Okay, fine,” his ridiculous man-purse tucked tight under one arm.

“Hold onto me,” he orders as he moves Sam’s hand to his shoulder, waiting for him to get a good grip of the leather jacked. This is stupid, he doesn’t need a psychic to tell him that, but he’s doing it anyway, and god damn it, Sam better be right.

Sam follows and doesn’t stumble and Dean hopes to all he holds dear that he’s not doing that vision-walking thing again.

The cabin door hangs half off of its hinges and it looks like it’s been moved recently. Dean sets it aside and ducks his head in. The interior is dimly lit. What little sun there is comes through the tree-cover and the glassless windows or through gaps in the roof. The shadows are as dark as any sewer, between the bright speckles of light.

“Dean,” his father’s voice rumbles out of the grey. Dean’s never heard that tone from his father, all sex-satisfied and sensual. He knows the shit’s hitting the fan before he sees the twin flecks of gold in the dark, before something wearing his father’s body steps out from the shadows.

“Son of a bitch!” Dean hisses, then “Sam, get back!”

Sam’s fingers tighten on Dean’s jacket but he doesn’t move away. “It’s okay, Dean.” The words are like an icy tongue, licking up his neck. “It’s for the best, I swear to you.”

Dean wants to curse again--it’s a fucking set-up, Sam and his psychic bullshit. A giant invisible hand grabs Dean then. Sam’s ripped away from him as Dean’s thrown across the room, hitting the far wall so hard the whole cabin rattles and dust falls from the rafters. The demon pins him there, helpless as Sam feels his way into the room.

“Looks like I have the Winchester hat trick,” the thing that is not Dean’s father says, and that makes no sense because a hat trick is three and it’s only got him and Dad.

“I gave it to you,” Sam says, way too confident to be dealing with a demon. “I’ve seen what happens if I fight. How I lose. How you lose.”

“Sam!” Dean tries to yell, and even he isn’t sure if it’s in anger or warning. A pain cuts through his torso like a hundred miniature chest-bursters ripping their way out of him at once, and he grits his teeth against the scream.

“Stop it!” Sam commands and the demon’s so startled it complies.

“I want three things,” Sam says, and Dean can see the tremble in his knees, how much this is taking out of him. “Three things, and I serve you forever, willingly, the perfect general for your perfect army.”

The thing in John seems amused if nothing else. “Name your terms then, boy.”

Demons lie, Dean wants to say but an invisible vice closes around his throat and all he can do is choke.

“I want my brother, alive.”

Sweet oxygen flows through Dean’s lungs and he breathes deep as much as he can before it stops again. The pain in his chest mellows but he can feel the tickle of blood running between his shirt and his skin.

Sam takes a fumbling step towards the demon, one hand reaching out towards it, the other clutching his bag against his hip.

“I want to see again.” His voice breaks with need. The demon cups a hand around the back of his head like a lover’s embrace. Dean can remember his own hand, holding Sam like that, Sam the betrayer, Sam who used him, Sam who is making a God-damn deal with The Demon.

The scar tissue on Sam’s cheek twitches and slithers, receding just enough to prove that the demon can deliver on that promise. Sam grins, this pained, crooked smile.

“I want to be the one to kill my father,” he says, low and sure and steady. John’s face splits into a wicked grin.

“Done,” it says with a tone of finality, and pulls Sam’s head down, plundering his mouth, claiming him. It’s too busy to see, but Dean isn’t, as Sam reaches into his bag. He doesn’t even bother pulling the gun free, just angles it up between their bodies.

“No!” Dean screams, but nobody is listening to him.

The ratty old pistol fires like any other gun, but then lightening crackles around Dean’s dad, an unearthly light. His body stiffens and twitches before he crumples. Sam steps back and trips, falling to the ground in a sprawl.

The force holding Dean to the wall disappears and he scrambles to his father’s side. A dark mist crawls out of John’s mouth, sluggish and wounded. The shadow sinks to the floor and dissipates while Dean rushes to his father, cradling the older man’s head with one hand, pressing the other to the entry wound just under his sternum.

John’s hazel eyes gaze up into his son’s and a slow smile spreads over his face. “We got it,” he says, content, and then he dies.

Dean keens high in his throat and presses his face against the last of his father’s warmth. He lets his grief pour out of him, rip him apart.

The sound of an unsteady breath, almost a sob, breaks him out of his sorrow. He raises his head to see Sam huddled in a corner, ribs heaving like he’s crying, like he has a fucking right to cry over the man he just killed.

Anger feels better than sorrow any day, and Dean climbs to his feet. His lip curls back from his teeth. “You used me,” he growls, “You killed my dad.”

Sam raises his head and Dean wishes the bastard had eyes ‘cause he’d like to look into them as he ripped him to shreds.

With the wall for support, Sam climbs to his feet. “It was for the best,” he grits out, and Dean can’t believe that, can’t even understand it.

“We could have done something else,” he protests, “You stupid shit, you killed him for nothing.”

Sam smiles like he hurts. “I got everything that matters,” he says. His head snaps to the side and there’s blood on his mouth before Dean realizes he’s thrown the first punch. Sam starts to sag to the floor but Dean grabs his shirt, keeping him up.

The first strike’s the hardest, holding Sam up as he pulls back his fist. He looks so broken and helpless.

Then Dean remembers this is the guy who planned and executed his father’s murder, who let Dean hope for weeks that they’d find the man, only to shoot him in the fucking chest when they did.

The fist to the gut doubles Sam over. Dean straightens him up again, slams his head into the wall and follows up with a hard right cross. Sam brings his arms up to guard his face and Dean wraps both hands around his scrawny throat and crushes in. He squeezes until Sam’s face turns red and his frantic clawing at Dean’s fingers goes weak.

“Damn you!” Dean cries as he throws him to the floor.

“I’m sorry,” Sam wheezes and curls in a protective ball.

Red rage burns through Dean. He doesn’t stop kicking until Sam’s not moving and Dean’s struggling for air. He stumbles to the wall and leans against it for support. Oh Jesus, he thinks as he looks down at what he’s done.

Sam’s chest rises and falls with his unsteady breaths, and Dean can hear how wet the sound is.

Oh Jesus. He pushes himself from the wall and goes to his dad. He crosses the dead man’s limp arms in front of him and half-drags, half-carries him out the Impala.

Dean can’t look back, he won’t. He is touched by a measure of comfort at the familiar low rumble of the motor. From there it’s easy to shift into drive and take his foot off the brake.

Branches slip by, brushing the windows and doors. He stops once, to hang over the side and puke. He pulls a tarp out of the back seat floorboards and wraps it around the body. Sam’s cane rattles around behind his seat but his brain twists away from thinking about Sam.

He makes it to the edge of the paved road before the guilt of beating a blind guy and leaving him for dead overwhelms the pain of his father’s death and his anger at his killer. He wipes at his eyes without quite understanding why they’re so blurry and reaches for his phone. 911 brings him some Podunk emergency services and he hopes for Sam’s sake that it’s the right one.

“I beat him,” Dean chokes out to the woman on the other end. He knows he’s not making much sense but it’s been a hard day and a man’s entitled. “There’s--there’s a cabin, off county road 41. About five miles off the hard top on the south side.”

The operator is saying something like “Sir, are you with the injured…” but Dean talks right over her.

“He’s blind, and alone and God--oh God, he needs an ambulance.”

By now they’ve got his phone number and are probably doing a trace on it, so he wipes it down and tosses it out into the road. The Impala’s wheels grind it to bits of plastic and wire as Dean drives away.

Dean finds a secluded field a few towns over and waits for nightfall. The pyre for dad burns hot and bright and Dean’s anger burns up with the body. When the fire dies, all that’s left in him is pain and sorrow, a void of loss that stretches for miles inside his heart.

==========

 

For a month, Dean drives and drifts, mourning his father in his own way. The road is the only home he knows and hunting the only thing worth doing.

He tries to remember dad and forget Sam, but somehow memories of that first time they met, how open and honest Sam’s grin had been, linger with him. He hears Sam call him brother, John father, and wonders if it can be true, if this Sam can be Sammy.

Dean’s no novice to the investigative process and this--this is worth as much work as it takes to find out for sure.

First things first, he has a cop-friend check to make sure there aren’t, y’know, warrants out for his arrest.

“You’re clear,” Mike tells him, which means either Sam didn’t make it out of that cabin in any condition to communicate, or Sam did and chose not to talk to the cops. Both thoughts squirm around in Dean’s guts like guilt. His mind shies from thinking about Sam dead, his life snuffed out by Dean’s hand. The idea that the young man is lying in a bed somewhere, hooked up to a ventilator and all kinds of other machines isn’t much better.

The other possibility, that Sam came through it all okay and made the decision to protect Dean, it makes no sense. Like, why would he do everything in his power to tear the Winchester family apart and then chose to not get Dean thrown in jail?

He poses as a janitor in the hospital for Burnett County for two weeks before he gets a hold of Sam’s file. Hiding in a broom closet, he reads what he had done: contusions to the head and torso, broken wrist, broken and bruised ribs, a cut to the inside of Sam’s cheek bad enough to need stitches.

The last note chills him. “Indications of sexual assault.”

And God, it hadn’t even bee like that. It had been rough, yeah, but Sam pushed things that way. He’d fucked himself back on Dean’s fingers and dick harder than Dean would have if the younger man let him have the lead. He knows he didn’t imagine Sam’s “don’t stop.” He’s positive it wasn’t a “Stop, don’t.” He knows it and he has the way Sam wanted him to stay, the way Sam smiled in the car the next day, as proof.

Sam had been happy.

Sam had known they were brothers.

Sam had sex with him anyway.

It boggles his mind as much as Sam’s motives for killing the man he knew was his father.

The final page of the med file is a note about police notification and a referral to a good psychiatrist. Dean copies down the names and numbers and puts the folder back where he found it. He leaves his mop and uniform in the closet and walks out of the hospital.

Dean’s pretty sure he could get his hands on the police records if he wanted to, but he figures it would result in a whole lot of “I don’t remember, officer,” and “Sorry, didn’t see his face.” If there was anything else in Sam’s testimony, there would be warrants out for Dean’s arrest.

He breaks into the shrink’s place on a Sunday night, but there’s no file for Sam under Cole. On a whim, Dean checks for it under Winchester, but the names skip from Wilson to Womack.

The notebook with Jess’ number is still in the car but Dean doesn’t call it. There’s still too much he doesn’t know.

The change of name records are easy to acquire. The day of his eighteenth birthday Sam Winchester petitioned the court to become Sam Cole. Dean doesn’t know if it’s because he was planning this for so long or if he had another reason to not be a Winchester.

The childhood information is a lot harder to get a hold of. It takes a suit, glasses, a black briefcase and a well-forged subpoena, and still he ends up in the ass-end of the records office, digging through boxes for three days before he hits pay dirt. He gathers the thick stack of papers into his briefcase and leaves.

He opens the file in the privacy of another hotel room. Somehow the scratched Formica makes a fitting backdrop for the history of his broken family.

The oldest document tips Dean’s world on its side--he reads the first pack through twice and still can’t quite make sense of it. There’s no record of neglect, no abuse, no complaint and no hearing, just a surrender of parental rights dated November 8, 1984.

Dad lied.

Sammy wasn’t taken, he was dumped.

Dad abandoned Sam.

Dean wishes his old man was alive so he could shake him, ask “What the fuck were you thinking?”

They were family, God damn it. Family doesn’t just give up, walk away. Family doesn’t lie.

Jesus.

They could have protected Sam better than whatever schmuck ended up with the job, kept him safe. He tries to imagine Sam without the old scars on his young face, without the pained stoop to his shoulders. He tries to envision a Sam raised by Winchesters, what a different person he’d be.

If Sam blamed dad for the way it all turned out, Dean can see how it could be motive for murder. If Sam even knew.

The rest of Sam’s file turns Dean’s stomach until he has to read the words and not let himself imagine little Sammy in that life. It started small--a healthy white baby that nobody wanted. Discipline problems by age three, “Disruptive behavior,” lying, fighting. Psychological exams resulted in a five-year-old on antipsychotics for a year. A month after he came off the pills, an older boy in the foster home held him down and poured battery acid over his face.

Dean rubs at his own eyes, trying to make the phantom pain behind them dissipate.

For nearly six years after that, Sam withdrew, unresponsive to the point he spent that time in a children’s hospital.

The records are sketchy after Sam moved out of the hospitals. The kid was transferred dozens of times in the next six years. He filed for emancipation twice and was turned down on both times on account of not being able to care for himself. Dean has to ask himself, how desperate must have Sam been to try something with such a thin margin for success. It doesn’t take a genius to know a judge isn’t going to cut a blind orphan boy loose in the world.

Dean reads the entire file a few more times but the facts don’t change.

He’s emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed. He takes a drive to clear his head and hits Canada two days later. He starts looking for a job, anything to distract himself from the thought that he has a brother (that he’s fucked), that his dad is dead (and a liar, and did he really ever know the man?). He finds shit to kill--a ghost, two ghouls and a golem gone wild. He runs himself ragged trying not to think. He still dreams of Sam’s soft skin and warm smile. He dreams of Sam’s voice, low and serious, saying things like “You’re my brother, I love you.” Sometimes it’s just “I love you,” and sometimes it’s “I want you, Dean.”

Time is supposed to fix stuff like this, but months roll by and it doesn’t get any better. He convinces himself that it’s not desire or love or any of that crap, just curiosity. He even believes it a little, right up until the day he finds himself pulling the Impala up to the curb near Sam’s apartment.

Jess will probably take a swing at him with that bat, he decides as he slides in the building as someone else is going out. The cops are gonna get called and it’s crazy to be here. He’s not even sure what he hopes to accomplish.

He raps on the door, rocking from heel to toe and back again while he waits.

“Yeah?” Sam’s voice calls from within and Dean's surprised by the rush of relief that sweeps through him at the sound.

“It’s Dean,” he calls back, and takes a step to the side, just in case Sam shoots him through the door. Then he remembers he’s dealing with a freakin’ psychic and steps the other way. But of course Sam would know that too, so he gives up.

There’s a second of silence and then Sam says, “Hold on.”

“Sorry,” Sam says when he opens the door a moment later, “I had to put the dog up.” He looks tense, nervous. Still, Dean’s struck by how much better he looks than the last time Dean was here. He’s standing straighter, moving easier. There’s color in his face; he’s no longer the pasty, ill-looking young man of a year ago. Dean wants to touch him, to see if he feels different, smells different.

He turns and leads Dean into the living room, only fumbling for the couch a little at the very end. Sam sits and clasps his hands together as if to keep them still. Dean takes a seat across from him. He’d expected Sam to start the conversation like last time, but he doesn’t.

“So uh, how ya been?” Dean asks at last, feeling stupid and awkward.

Sam makes a little choked noise. “What are you here for?” he asks, like the words hurt to get out.

Dean frowns. Okay. He can play this game.

“I want to know why you did this,” Dean says. “Why you killed our dad, why you used me, why you fucked me.”

“It was for the best,” Sam whispers towards the floor. “It never came out any better than that.” A normal person, someone who could see, may have looked up at Dean then, but Sam’s face stays tilted downward.

“I knew it would hurt you,” he says, “But you’d live, and dad would go clean.” Sam takes a shuddering breath, “I love you, Dean. God, you don’t know how many horrible ways you could have died, the worse ways you could have lived.”

“I just gotta take your word for it?” Helpless anger burns up through Dean’s chest.

Sam’s knuckles go white where he grips at his own knees.

“If you aren’t going to believe a word I say, why are you talking to me?” he asks through clenched teeth.

The hunter in Dean can almost smell the opening.

“Why don’t you know?” He keeps his voice low, steady. There’s something here, something he’s missing. He notes the way Sam twitches, the flare of his nostrils. “What the fuck is going on?”

 

Sam’s lips curl in what is not a smile. “It’s gone,” he says, “The sight, the dreams, the visions.”

“When you killed the demon.” It’s not a question.

“Yeah,” says Sam.

Dean looks at Sam, healthier, probably happier (at least when Dean’s not there harassing him). It looks like not being able to see the future agrees with him.

“That why?”

“I already told you why.” Sam sounds more tense, like he’s gonna crack any second.

For Dean. And dad. Right.

“Did we have to fuck?” Dean asks, his voice hard. “Was that what was best for me? Knowing the guy who fucked me over and killed my dad was my brother?”

Sam turns his head away. If he goes any paler, Dean figures he’ll faint.

“That was for me,” he says, his tone soft and bittersweet. “That was all of you that this me would ever have.”

And shit, that’s the last motive Dean expected to hear. He clenches his hands into fists to keep from reaching out.

“Call me selfish,” Sam says, “But I thought I died when--after.” He shakes his head. Despite how accurate Sam’s prediction had almost been, it still makes Dean sick, that Sam would think that of him.

Dean’s quiet so Sam keeps talking. “I know it was wrong, Dean. I know. But for sixteen years, I’d seen how we would have been, how you’d have kept me safe. I’d seen worlds where we were as close as brothers can be and worlds where we were even closer."

He takes a breath. “If I hurt you, if I twisted us in ways we shouldn’t have been, I’m sorry, but not for loving you.”

Dean moves slow, but to Sam the touch to his cheek must feel sudden; he jerks back from Dean’s fingertips.

“Wait, wait,” he begs, scrambling back into the couch. “Please, please don’t leave me here for Jess to find.” His chest heaves with panicked breathing. “Don’t do that to her, man, she doesn’t deserve that. Please, Dean, please.”

It takes a second for Dean to get what Sam’s begging for. Sam used to love him, trust him. Now he expects Dean to murder him in cold blood.

“Shh,” he soothes, not sure if this can be fixed. He reaches out again, touching where Sam’s jaw meets his neck. Sam leans in, a sob breaking from his lips.

Dean gathers him up like the little boy he never knew. He can’t quite bring himself to apologize for beating his father’s killer, but it’s easy to say “I won’t hurt you, Sam. It’s okay, you’re safe. I’m here now, I’ve got you.”

Sam clings to Dean, fingers tight on his shoulders. He cries tense little whimpers, like a man who has never been free to show his hurt.

“I’m here,” Dean whispers into the unruly waves of dark hair. He sheds the tears that his brother can’t. He has no idea how to make this work, if it’s even possible.

He just wants it to be like it could have been.

“I’ve got you, Sammy. You’re safe.”