Growing up and growing old down in the southlands of rural America. Now that they’re older, they’re younger somehow; perhaps because, now, more than ever before, they’re two brothers just shooting to stay alive. Left on their own they’re fighting hell-bitch demons and fairy-tale monsters and the slow-building creep of loneliness on those rare occasions when the nights stretch long and cool and quiet after a hunt.
Out here in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere, in an old, one-room, wood cabin Dean lies in bed. Above him, he hears the wood groan as it shrinks and swells with the rain, feels the soft, shallow puffs of breath from his little brother, ghosting warm and damp against the bare skin of his back. Tells himself they’re not too old for this – never too old, of course - but truth be told, these days there are times when he has to stop and wonder.
After all, Sam is not so little, now. He’s tall and boney, all awkward angles and long, lanky limbs stretching beneath too-thin, sun-warmed, pink-blistered skin and in some ways the idea of lying this close makes Dean uncomfortable, but still...
Still… they’re here, two brother’s tangled up together, buried beneath blankets downy soft and dust covered on a worn down twin with box springs that creak and groan at the faintest twinge of muscle and, safe in the dark, Dean tells himself that that’s all that matters as he feels Sam shift in his sleep, pressing closer, wrapping strong, bone-chilled arms around his waist, seeking the warmth and comfort of another body not his own.
Dean’s too used to it somehow, yet not at all now, but either way he isn’t stupid. Two years is too long and he knows he doesn’t fit quite right anymore. Knows he can’t hope to ease all the pain of loss that has settled itself deep between the crevices of Sam’s ribcages and the hollow empty space where his still-beating heart lies.
And Dean… Dean isn’t enough, now.
There’s a chance that, maybe, he never was.
Still, he tells himself it doesn’t hurt to try and reaches up. Runs rough, gun-calloused, gasoline-soaked hands along the goose-freckled flesh of his brother’s arms and behind him Sam’s breathing hitches and he whimpers, “Jess…” softly as he buries his nose into the hollow dip between Dean’s shoulder blades. Inhales slow and deep. Takes in the familiar musky scent of salty-sweat and gun-powder that lingers like perfume on Dean’s skin.
And sighing, Dean says, “s’okay, Sammy,” as he gently uncurls one of his little brother’s oversized hands from where it rests on the boney ridge of his hip and bringing it up, he runs chapped lips over the warm surface of Sam’s skin. Tastes the salty, copper tang of blood on his tongue and even in the dark he can make out the off-colour patches of flesh where his little brother’s hands are blood-battered and battle-worn after another hunt.
And Dean says, “Everything’s okay, now, Sammy. I’m here... I’m here…” and he presses kisses like promises, onto every bruised fingertip, every bloody knuckle and for a moment – just a moment - he almost believes all the lies he tells himself.