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Bearing the Brunt

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There was an angel in a cemetary outside of Sioux City, Iowa. Rumor said that if you sat in her arms at midnight, she’d take your soul away.

Dean was at loose ends, what with Cas disappearing out of his car and Sam—and no Sam to worry about. So he headed back to the Midwest. Bobby sent him this hunt, pointing out that anything that mixes souls and angels ought to be up his alley. “But with no deaths reported, it’s a one-man job,” which was his way of saying that Dean was being a right idjit. Except that if he’d said that out loud Dean probably wouldn’t have spoken to him for a year or until he died, whichever came sooner. Dean no longer thought John Winchester’s word was God (or maybe he did and that was why he was so mad about it), but he was definitely ready to apply some of John’s tactics for dealing with Bobby’s moralizing.

Driving through town, he remembered the last time they were here. The last time he was here; Sam was in the car, but lying and sneaking off to drink that bitch’s blood, and—

He needed not to think about that. But he had six hours until midnight and nothing to do beforehand.

Since he was alone and all, he didn’t have to make up any excuses for turning the car towards 426 Bleeker St.

There was a different guy on duty at the door. He didn’t even blink when Dean asked for Chief. “He’s with another client, but if you can wait …?”

Dean nodded. What choice did he have? The bouncer showed him downstairs and left him. The place didn’t look to have been cleaned since Dean had been there last. There was a crate against one of the walls, and Dean sat on it and tried to decipher the graffiti. Somebody was an artist: there were pictures of anatomically improbable acts, underneath all the tags and curse words and phone numbers. Dean remembered back when phone numbers in sleazy bars had only seven digits. The world just kept changing around him, and he was very tired.

Finally, the door at the other end of the room opened, and Chief was backlit. “I remember you,” he said. “Pretty boy. Are you gonna pussy out again?”

There was a point in his life when Dean would’ve wanted to correct that kind of misconception. That point did not have him visiting Chief in the first place. “My safe word’s orange,” he said, because he was looking at a particularly bright scribble of paint.

Chief hesitated, trying to size Dean up. Dean hoped he could figure out something useful; fuck knew Dean’d failed disastrously at that.

“Come here, boy,” he said (sounding nothing at all like Alastair), and Dean obeyed.

The pain of a real body was so different. Dean didn’t know why, and he didn’t care. Each lash wiped his mind blank, and Chief knew what he was doing, gave Dean just enough time to come back to himself before the next hit. If Dean’s cheeks were wet with gratitude, well, Chief didn’t know him and no one else was watching.

He wasn’t hard—that wasn’t what this was about—but Chief was rough enough when he fucked Dean that it was close enough to what he wanted. Dean didn’t say no, anyway, and it was another ache to add to the list.

Chief’s hands were almost gentle when he checked Dean over, after. “You gonna be okay?” he asked, and Dean couldn’t stand his touch one second longer.

“I’m peachy,” he spat, shaking Chief’s hands off and pulling his shirt back on, lost in the darkness as the fabric covered his eyes.

Chief snorted. “Next time, you might want to mention that you’re just a masochist, because you sure as hell aren’t a submissive.”

You don’t know fuck-all about Hell, Dean said, in his head. Wasn’t worth the trouble of explaining, though, so he paid the man (Iowa prices were surprisingly reasonable, not to mention that they trusted him to pay after) and went back to his car.

It hurt to lower himself back into the driver’s seat. All his concentration was required to maintain normal behavior: foot on the gas, eyes on the road. He didn’t have to think about the empty seat beside him.

****

Except that the welts hadn’t faded when he called Sam, and Dean had forgotten all about Iowa given his trip to the future and the impending apocalypse, so he didn’t bother to cover up after his shower the first morning they were back together.

“What the fuck, Dean?” Sam demanded.

Dean was still rubbing his hair dry with the thin and scratchy motel towel and he honestly had no idea what Sam was talking about. “Calm down, bitch, I left you another towel. Not my fault it’s the size of your palm.”

Sam made an incoherent noise and waved his hand at Dean’s body. Dean looked down at himself, saw only his tattoo and familiar flesh, and shrugged. “I’m a free man, Sam. You turn into a prude while you were gone?”

“Your back,” Sam managed at last.

The hammer dropped. Dean froze, shit shit shit.

Sam didn’t need to ask. He knew the difference between violence inflicted in a fight and what he was seeing. “Was this—did another demon get to you? How did you--? Did Castiel get you out?”

“No big deal,” Dean said, knowing it was coming out faker than Paris Hilton’s breasts.

Sam was silent while Dean dressed, sitting on his bed instead of taking his own turn in the shower. Turned out he was just letting Dean get armored up. “It’s not like before,” Sam said at last, staring down at his hands. “I don’t think you’re weak because you got hurt. But will you just tell me what happened, so I don’t make up something even worse? Please, Dean.”

The words wouldn’t come, like there was a cork in his throat, everything jammed inside no matter how much he wanted to scream. Other times, he would have punched Sam just to get him to back off, but he couldn’t now. Standing there like a useless moron, letting Sam see him frozen and so fucking helpless.

“Dean,” Sam said, soft, because he’d figured it out. Too much to hope that Sam’s big brain would miss this one. “It’s all right.” There was something weird about his voice, a tone Dean didn’t recognize. Not the pity he’d been expecting (he would’ve punched Sam if he’d heard that, no kidding, he’d have made himself do it), but something darker and more tentative. “It’s okay if you need that. But,” he continued before Dean could do anything like point out that he was very much not acceptably screwed up, “it’s not okay for you to go to a stranger. How many times have we gotten caught, tricked that way? Did you even check for possession before you let whoever it was tie you up?”

Dean was fooled into looking up, mouth dropping open at the shock of Sam ignoring what a twisted piece of shit Dean was and coming up with that particular criticism. And now he felt even more like an idiot.

“No,” Sam said, and for some reason Dean didn’t turn away. Sam was looking at him like the rest of the world was melting into fog, like Dean was a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. “This isn’t about making you feel bad because you made one dumb choice. You know I don’t have the high ground there. Listen to what I’m saying, not what you think I’m saying. If this is what you need to keep going, then—then you don’t get it from strangers. You get it from me.”

Dean felt like he’d been knocked through yet another level of weird. Sam couldn’t mean what he was saying. He didn’t have Dean’s experience inflicting pain on the deserving. Sure, Sam understood guilt, but Sam had always thought he was doing the right thing, even when it was for the wrong reasons. Even if Dean was crazy enough to let him try, that would only fuck Sam up more. “You’re just looking for any excuse to beat my ass, aren’t you?” he said at last, but it didn’t come out right.

Sam watched him, not even bothering to roll his eyes. “I’m serious, Dean.”

Yeah, Sam thought he was. But Dean had seen Sam promise things he wasn’t going to do before, and then Sam did whatever the fuck he thought was right instead when the time came.

Dean guessed it didn’t matter. Sam had a point about the danger, given Lucifer running around topside and Michael looking to stick his feathery fist up Dean’s ass, and Dean could deal just fine with only booze and his car to take the edge off.

He’d have to.

****

Weeks later, they were no closer to shutting Lucifer down, and they’d let the Antichrist slip the leash. Not that they’d had any choice about it and maybe that was the right thing to do anyway, but this gig had gotten way too hard for Dean years back and wasn’t getting easier with practice.

There was too much time in each day for wondering what trick Lucifer was going to pull next. Dean tried not to think more than once an hour—every fifteen minutes, tops—about how he’d made the deal that put Sam on the path to killing Lilith, broken the first seal and then just kept helping out the end-of-the-world plan, not even on purpose. How pathetic was that?

Sam was trying to drive him up the wall, not wanting Dean out of his sight after Dean’s latest fuckup with the he-witch—Sam followed him into more than one diner bathroom, even, which made Dean stare incredulously but it wasn’t like he wasn’t used to pissing five feet away from Sam after all these motel years, so it was hard to phrase the objection in a way that didn’t sound too whiny.

After the arch-dick Gabriel’s little lecture on how Dean was the world’s stupidest son, following a father who’d never once looked back, Dean had an even harder time keeping it together. Sam had just shown, again, that he could take a licking and keep on ticking, and Dean fucking admired that about him, but ten years off the rack in Hell said that wasn’t Dean. Even the Trickster had dropped the act and told Dean to suck up his crapsack destiny. He wasn’t saying yes to Michael (not yet), but he needed the kind of break they used to get back before everything got apocalyptic, when they could toss back a few cold ones and look up at the stars and just be two guys who did a little monster-killing on the margins.

Yeah, good luck with that.

They stopped for the night and found a half-clean motel. A six-pack hadn’t done much to calm Dean’s nerves, and he was rehearsing arguments for finding a bar when Sam snapped, “Enough!”

“What?”

“Stop fidgeting.”

Dean scoffed. He did not fidget. “Fine, I’ll get out of your hair, princess.” He rose from where he’d been sitting at the little kitchenette table—and, sure, he might have been rocking the chair back and forth some, but the legs were uneven, so what-the-fuck-ever.

Sam got up from his bed, moving to block Dean’s exit, crossing his arms over his chest as if reminding Dean that he was still Hulked-out enough to keep Dean from doing what he wanted. “Getting drunk and getting laid isn’t the answer.”

“It’s a pretty good way to stop asking questions,” Dean pointed out.

Sam tilted his head, looking at Dean like he was a Latin text in need of translation. “Do you—?”

Dean tried to indicate with his eyebrows that he needed more to go on, even with years of experience in Sam’s significant silences.

Sam swallowed. “Do you want me to,” he said, and then Dean got it, the room suddenly a whole lot smaller.

The answer was obvious, which was why Dean was pretty surprised to hear himself say, “Yeah.”

Sam’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared just a little, but he nodded. “Get undressed,” he said, like he was telling Dean which witness to question next, but when his eyes went to the bed Dean could see that he was a truckload more uncertain than he was willing to admit. Dean was going to call it off right then, but Sam’s jaw firmed—the familiar I-said-I-was-gonna-so-that’s-the-end-of-it look that had taken him from Stanford to demon blood and back—and Sam said, “Kneel on the bed,” as if Dean’s compliance with the initial instruction was already a given.

Dean’s hands might’ve been shaking as he unbuttoned his shirt, but he was turned away from Sam so it didn’t matter. When he unbuckled his belt, he hesitated, thinking he should slip it out of the loops and offer it to Sam, but a glance told him that Sam was already holding his own. It would be still warm from the heat of Sam’s body. Dean flushed, it felt like all over his skin, and dropped his jeans.

When he’d stripped all the way, he got on the bed, like Sam had said. He felt deeper than drunk, like he was going to fly apart if Sam touched him, like he was going to die if Sam didn’t. He could hear himself, panting like a civilian hiding from a stalking vampire, but he couldn’t get himself under control. Which was the point all along, except that right now the anticipation was pushing away that soggy, chest-clenching feeling of worthlessness that had brought him here. If Sam didn’t start something Dean was going to—

“If you tell me to stop, I’ll stop,” Sam said, and then snapped the belt solidly across the tops of Dean’s thighs, right under his ass. It was shocking and stinging and Dean’s mind just shut off.

The bed shook alarmingly as Dean’s hands fisted on the bedspread and somehow Dean could feel Sam’s frown. “Scoot up and grab the headboard,” he said, and Dean didn’t care what kind of fool he looked like as he hurried to comply.

Now that Dean was more firmly in place, Sam began striking in earnest. He’d obviously never done this before—got Dean with the buckle once before he figured that part out—but he knew his own strength and he knew what it took to hurt a person, and he was watching Dean’s reactions in a way Chief simply hadn’t known enough to do. He worked Dean’s thighs over with a thoroughness that was pure Sam, down almost to the knee and then back to his ass. The pain was like barrelling down a highway in the middle of the night, flaring white and then black, each stroke like a mile marker, moving him closer to where he needed to be.

When Sam stopped Dean couldn’t suppress his choked disappointment. He could take more. With the haze still thick in his mind, all he could think was that he could show Sam how much he could take.

But Sam, amazingly, didn’t make him beg. “Lie down,” he ordered instead. “Put your arms over your head.” When Dean complied, Sam started in on his calves, and Dean nearly sobbed in gratitude—Sam had just been looking for a better angle. Like this, too, Dean could hide his face in the thin motel pillow. His ass and his thighs were still hot and stinging, and every stroke jerked his attention between the just-whipped and the still-being-whipped skin. The pain was so big that it pushed aside everything else inside him, smeared it into meaningless noise.

When Sam was finished with Dean’s calves, he moved up—Dean heard the clunk of Sam hitting the nightstand, a muffled curse, and then the next stroke was across his shoulders. Dean’s remaining brain cells told him that Sam had done research, because Sam was taking care of him, and at some point Dean would resent that, but right now it was nothing but wonderful and then Dean was beyond thought again.

Too soon, Sam stopped. He was breathing nearly as heavily as Dean, loud as an engine’s cough in the otherwise silent room. Dean could feel Sam looking at him, heating his skin even further. He could stop now and be okay; he could live with this. By the time he found words again he wouldn’t need to ask Sam for more.

“Turn over,” Sam said, voice stretched nearly to breaking.

Dean jolted like he’d been tasered. He couldn’t—Sam had already seen way too much. He was hard as rebar, and Sam was going to run out of the room and Dean would have ruined everything, again.

Sam made a little disapproving noise that made Dean feel crumpled inside. “I’m not going to ask again, Dean. Turn over.”

Hardly able to breathe, Dean followed orders. The scratchy bedspread grated against all his abused skin, almost enough in itself. For some reason he couldn’t make his eyes close. Sam was flushed, sweat dampening wayward strands of his bangs and sticking them to his forehead. His hand was clenched so hard around the belt that his knuckles were white. Sam wasn’t looking at Dean’s face. Dean tried to raise a hand to cover himself, but Sam hissed.

“Stay still,” he ordered. “I don’t want to miss.” Then he started again, the belt slapping loud against Dean’s chest, down his stomach, inches away from his straining cock. Dean was gasping now, muscles locked as he fought to keep in place, needed to be tied down for this, needed for this to go on forever.

Then Sam stopped, and Dean’s eyes flew open—didn’t remember closing them; the world was dark around the edges and there was only Sam.

“The guy you went to before,” Sam said. Dean’s toffee-slow brain coughed up something about assumptions—there were plenty of women with a good enough arm to mark him up—but he didn’t open his mouth. “Did he fuck you,” Sam asked. Dean stared up at him, half the skin on his body on fire and every cell of him Sam’s, but the words weren’t there. “Did he fuck you?,” commanding him, and Chief had been wrong, so wrong: Dean knew how to submit.

“Yes,” he rasped.

Sam nodded. The belt was doubled up in his hand, and he moved it so that a loop of the leather nudged against Dean’s shaft just under the head, pushing his cock more firmly against his belly. “Do you want it?” he asked, but it was too late: Dean was coming all over himself, the hot wash of come like another slap against the tender skin of his stomach. It was epic and it hurt and it was better than he’d felt since—since ever, toes curling and fists clenching, head rolling back as his neck strained with the ecstasy of it all.

Sam stared, open-mouthed, while the aftershocks moved through Dean. When Dean’s cock spat out a last pulse, he moved his hand, dropping the belt to the floor. And then he was scrabbling at his own jeans, pushing them down just far enough. Dean couldn’t even see his dick since Sam hadn’t bothered removing his shirt, just a bulge where it pressed against the fabric and a flash of reddened skin. Sam was barely able to move like that, but somehow he got between Dean’s legs, Dean’s knees shoved up as Sam smeared his hand with Dean’s come and then slicked it over himself.

Sam’s cock pushing into him was a different kind of hurt, wide and inexorable. Dean was useless but Sam didn’t seem to mind doing the work, grunting as he pushed all the way in. The buttons of his ridiculous striped shirt scraped against Dean’s chest, feeling like they were raising blood and setting off mini-fireworks in Dean’s still-twitching body, and it was all so good Dean couldn’t feel anything else.

Sam’s hips pistoned into him, smacking his sore ass with each thrust. Dean managed a moan and Sam rewarded him by grabbing his ribcage—his hands were so big that one thumbnail sliced across Dean’s nipple, and then Dean was rocking up into the fuck, making noise continuously now, helpless whimpers that just made Sam more frantic, his teeth blunt along the tendons of Dean’s neck.

Dean got his hands on Sam’s shoulders, just holding on, feeling the cotton damp with Sam’s sweat and the hard muscle underneath, strong enough for Dean or at least strong enough to pretend to be strong. Sam stiffened and shoved one last time, biting Dean’s shoulder as he came. Lightning lanced through Dean’s body again, leaving him shaking and limp under Sam’s heavy, panting weight.

He was still shuddering occasionally when Sam lifted his head from Dean’s shoulder, eyes soft, and then rolled off of Dean. Dean could tell that even orgasm hadn’t been able to keep Sam from pretty quickly deciding that his jizz-covered and sweated-through shirt was disgusting, but Sam wrapped his hand around Dean’s wrist and didn’t move further away.

Dean’s head was as empty as he imagined Heaven ought to be. He and Sam could have been floating on this crappy bed, weightless.

Sam cleared his throat. “I can’t tell you I’d do anything for you, Dean. That’s how we got here to start with.” His fingers tightened, hard enough to add bruises. “But we can have this. And if I have to hit you first, I’ll do that. Just, you’ve gotta do something for me, too. You’ve got to stay.”

Dean let his head roll on his neck, putting more of Sam into his field of vision. I’m not the one who leaves, he thought, even though that wasn’t all the way true, not any more. Plus there were all kinds of ways to leave; Dad had taught him that at least as well as he’d taught Sam.

Sam had given this to him, this quiet in his head that was almost like peace. Sam was here, and tomorrow he’d bring Dean breakfast and let him stretch out in the back seat while Sam drove them towards the next disaster, Dean lying on his side to minimize the contact between his bruised skin and the Impala’s leather. Sam would check on him in the rear-view mirror and worry, and maybe Dean would think up some smart remarks while soaking that up.

“Yeah,” Dean said, feeling like, just maybe, he could give Sam what he wanted right back.