“Here, take it son, looks like you could use it. We’ve all been there at one point or another.” The grizzled cashier hands him a small business card along with his change across the scarred counter.
Dean doesn’t bother looking at it, just mumbles thanks and scoops up the snacks and six pack as quickly as he can manage with his thoroughly bruised arms, heading back to the car where Sam’s impatiently waiting.
“Took you long enough in there.” Sam grumps as Dean slides into the driver’s seat slowly, careful of his probably broken again ribs. Sam has reason to be grumpy as he’s covered in a drying-to-a-shellac finish of fine mud and basilisk goo.
“Keep your hair on Francis, we’ll be back to the motel in like two minutes.”
“It’s not my hair that’s the issue Dean.”
“I know, I know, I’m driving as fast as I can.” Dean says, stifling a groan at how much his hands hurt, they’re not just bruised, but abraded and torn-up. It really hurts to curl them around the steering wheel so he keeps them as straight as possible, still in control of the car.
They’re already set up in the motel of the week, been here for four days already, and the room shows it, a total wreck with Dean’s clothes everywhere, empty bottles filling the trash can, Sam’s research papers spread across one bed and the small table. They’d run out of tape to put them on the wall like they usually do.
“Dibs on first shower.” Sam mumbles, as he sees there isn’t a bed to flop on.
“Obviously. Get in there, the stench is makin’ me wanna puke again.” Dean says, pushing Sam towards the small bathroom. “Hurry up and get that stuff off, you always break out in a rash if it stays on your skin too long. Just go, I’ll bring you some clean stuff.”
Dean can hear the shower start up, and Sam’s moans and groans as he undresses to get in. Then a sharp yelp and prolonged cursing.
“You okay in here Sammy?” Dean asks, opening the door to the bathroom with a stack of clean clothes for Sam.
“Yeah, my shirt was stuck to my hair.”
“You need help?” Dean asks.
Sam sighs, hesitating to admit it. “Can you do my back? It’s getting really itchy and I don’t think I’m reaching it all.”
“Sure, hold on.” Dean strips down quickly, grabbing an extra bar of soap from the sink. He pulls back the shower curtain and climbs in behind Sam.
Sam starts humming a song in his mind, just the lyrics going over and through and around all the thoughts and feelings that get brought up having his brother behind him in the shower. Naked. Wet. His hands all over his back. The song lyrics and tune are a distraction that usually works, when the pressure of letting all of this out once again get to be too much to handle. Like now. When Dean’s strong hands are swiping relentlessly over his back, scrubbing hard and rough, slipping in the soap and water, sending ripples of electric fire down straight to his groin, and that’s when the music in his mind has to be turned up even louder.
I love this feeling of freedom running through my veins
Been too long at the crossroads waiting for the light to change
Even if it takes forever and I never find out where it goes
I love this road
I love this road
The chorus playing in a steady loop until Sam feels under control enough to use his voice. “That’s uh, good Dean. Think you got it all. Thanks.”
“Okay then switch, I need to rinse off. Can’t sleep with this smell still on me.” Dean passes by, so close, slick skin not quite touching, Sam feels the hair on his forearms tremble in passing.
“I’m outta here,” Sam says, stepping out of the shower, relieved to have gotten through it without anything embarrassing happening.
Dean doesn’t say anything, but he starts singing in that happy just after a hunt expressive way he usually does when no one is needing stitches. So that’s not unusual. That Dean is singing. But it’s what he’s singing that makes Sam drop his toothbrush into the sink. His brother is repeating the exact song lyrics that he was just singing in his mind. And Dean does not know this song, there’s no way he does.
“Hey, keep it down in there, some of us are trying to concentrate,” Sam says, just so Dean will shut up for a second.
“Sorry, just got this song stuck in my head for some reason.”
“Where’d you hear that anyways? It’s a country song.”
“No idea, just kinda came to me.” Dean carries on with singing it, a little quieter now.
Sam doesn’t ask anything else, doesn’t want to think about it too much really. Because if Dean’s reading his mind somehow, then who knows what else he’ll be picking up. It’s been almost a year since Gadreel and Abaddon and Kevin, a year with barely any talking much less any sex between them. Dean too guilty to ask and Sam too angry to want to ask. But the feelings are always there, just like they have been his whole life. And Sam doesn’t want to have that conversation. Not right now, not tonight. Sam slides into the one bed that they’ve been using. Still wrapped up with each other every night, neither one of them can sleep otherwise. But just like regular brothers do.
“You were awesome today Sammy,” Dean says, voice heavy with sleep.
Sam hears Dean’s voice trail off obviously to full unconsciousness, but he answers anyways to the darkened room, “Uh thanks. Glad you’re not chewed up any more than you are.”
In the morning Sam wakes up first and examines Dean’s arms in the sunlight streaming through the curtains, the bruising got even worse. The basilisk’s talons left marks decorating Dean’s skin in deeply purpled streaks. At least they don’t look like the marks left by a human hand this time, Sam thinks to himself.
It turns out to be hot that day and Dean wears a t-shirt because he just doesn’t notice, or just doesn’t care. But even more people notice the bruising on his arms. Their waitress at the diner they stop at for lunch looks at Dean’s left arm as he gestures at the menu, glances at his equally bruised right arm and then trails up slowly past the ring of bruises on his neck to his face. Her face scrunches up in a little frown that’s gone past cute into annoying when you’re trying to get a refill on your coffee.
“Hey, it’s Trudy, right? Can we get a refill?” Dean asks, hiding his impatience behind his wide fake grin.
Trudy nods and turns on her heel, leaving without a word. They don’t see her again, another waitress brings their bill. But no coffee. “What was with her?” Dean asks Sam as they leave the diner and head back into the afternoon rain that’s just beginning to come down.
“I think she was checking out all those bruises. They’re kind of dark now,” Sam observes, wisely shutting up after stating the obvious.
“Checking me out is more like it. Girls always like a guy who’s obviously held his own in a fight. Lived to tell the tale, all that.”
“You keep telling yourself that Dean. Just maybe put on a long-sleeve something when we get to Jody’s.”
After another four hours of driving through the rain and back into a brilliantly orange sunset, they pull up to Jody’s place and she’s out front gardening, so Dean doesn’t have a chance to cover up first. So at the first chance she gets him alone she says something to Dean in the most concerned motherly tone she can manage. “Everything’s all okay with you and Sam right?”
Dean rolls his eyes at her when he figures out what she’s trying to subtly ask. “Yeah, he only beats me like this on the second Wednesday of the month.”
Jody back hands him in the center of the chest, “Just lookin’ out for you Winchester, don’t be a jerk about it.”
Dean rubs at the spot where Jody had whacked him with maybe a little bit too much force for someone who’d just been beaten up by a basilisk. “Sorry Jody. No, we’re okay, course we are. This is all monster related, nothin’ to do with Sam.”
Dean’s left to wonder what exactly she thought Sam would have done to him to make those particular marks in those particular places. And how much she really knows about him and Sam and how they are, well, were.
Sam comes in on the tail end of this conversation, and is again wracked with guilt for letting the basilisk get close to Dean. Let alone close enough to mark him up like this and hurt him. He feels like he’s let Dean down yet again, not having his back like he deserves. And to have their friend guessing that he himself had done this to his brother makes it all that much worse.
“Cut it out Sammy, we’re both standin’ here alive, and the thing’s dead. You did good.”
“How did you know I was…?” Sam asks, because he knows he didn’t say anything, not out loud anyways.
Dean’s eyes go a little wide at that. Because yeah, he’d heard what Sam was thinking, pretty much like he was talking without his lips moving. “I don’t know.”
“Basilisks can do some weird stuff, but mind-reading?” Sam asks, uselessly hoping that Dean remembers the details of their research. But pardon him for not being able to recall anything at this moment past holyshithecanheareverythingIthink.
“There are Basilisks too?” Jody asks, even though she knows what they’re going to answer.
Sam looks at her and smiles. “Yeah. And they’re a whole lot easier to kill than the dragons we told you about.”
Jody shakes her head and grins back at him. “Just when I think I’ve heard the craziest thing from you two. What’s this about mind-reading though?”
“Dean, how long have you been, uh, hearing me?” Sam asks before he can answer Jody’s question.
“Last night I guess, that ‘I Love this Road’ song, you were singing it in the shower, but not out loud.”
“But you haven’t been hearing me all day though, right?” Sam asks.
“No, just sometimes, maybe it’s when you’re stressed out. But Sammy, if you’re that stressed out in the shower, you’re doin’ it wrong dude,” Dean teases.
Sam doesn’t answer. Can’t answer. He’s putting all his energy into not blushing a bright red in front of her. This is not a conversation he wants to have within a thousand miles of Jody. Because it’s not just about the mind-reading, it’s about everything, how he and Dean aren’t back together even though it’s been a year. And Sam wants that, more than anything, but he can’t get past the walls Dean’s thrown up, mortared together with all the guilt for Gadreel and Kevin and everything else he’s ever taken on as somehow his fault.
“Okay, okay. But we’re talking about all this later.” Dean points his finger at Sam, so that he knows he’s heard the whole story.
“Hey, what’d I miss?” Jody protests, leading them into her kitchen for the lasagna dinner she’d promised them.
“Nothin’, just the usual Sam-angst-fest. So where’s this famous lasagna anyways?” Dean asks, sitting down at her table, and hoping the curious sheriff part of Jody gets held at bay. Sam sits down across the table from him, and Dean bonks their knees together so that Sam will look at him. Sam’s giving him this look that’s 40% murder, 20% hope and all the rest just pure embarrassment. Now that he’s heard a little of what Sam’s worried about, he’s not going to tease him anymore. And besides, he just got some great news out of that last look into Sam’s thoughts. Dean smiles so that Sam knows he’s off the hook for any more big brother teasing in front of Jody. Sam returns the smile a little tentatively and relaxes back into his seat.
They stay at Jody’s that night, crashed out after finishing off the after-dinner whisky, on the pull-out futon couch she has in the living room. Emboldened by the good drunk he has on, Dean wants to work all of this out right here and now, so they can get to the reuniting part, but Sam just whispers to him in the dark, “Not here, okay?”
The next day, they start the six hour drive back to the bunker. Neither of them know what to say, how to get this conversation going. It’s been a long year of grieving and denial and not doing much to rebuild the trust that needs to be between them. The further they roll south down highway 81 towards home, the more Sam starts to worry that they’ll never be able to get all the way back to what they had, that what Dean has heard of his thoughts has given him the wrong idea that it will all be easy.
Dean hears all the worried thoughts tangling and flowing through Sam’s big monkey brain, and he’s cheered that it’s all the same stuff they’ve always dealt with. None of this is new, they’ve been here before over and over. He keeps hearing Sam singing that same country song in his head, must be his go-to stress reliever, and he’s struck by the lyrics, and repeats them, singing out-loud, because they seem to apply to this situation pretty much exactly:
Wind at my back and the sun on my shoulders
Pushing me moving me a little bit closer
Sometime a little trust is just enough to take you there
When Sam hears the song’s words repeated in his brother’s off-key, yet still compelling voice, he knows it will all work out. Because Dean is still singing to him after all these years and miles.
They stop for supplies a little ways out of Lebanon at a small supermarket they like, that’s still open this late. “Sam get us a pie or something, okay?” Dean asks, handing his wallet out the open window to a Sam who is in mid-stretch. Sam nods and goes into the store, rifling through Dean’s wallet to find the cash stuffed in amongst all the receipts. A business card falls out so he picks it up, the light catching on the slick yellow surface.
New England Safe
`We Care, So Call Us’
Sam stops in his tracks in the doorway of the store, looking down at the small card in his hands and back to his brother in the car. Someone must have given this to Dean, recently. Because of how beat-up he looks. He can practically see the bruises on Dean’s arms from here. The guilt hits him again, if he’d just been a little faster, Dean wouldn’t have gotten hurt, again, because of him. Dean’s head swivels towards him, locating him instantly their eyes meeting across the parking lot. ‘Okay, okay, I’ll go get your damn pie’ he sends in his thoughts to Dean to hopefully placate him enough to keep him from getting out of the car.
The whole time Sam’s in the store though, he keeps going back to the idea that some stranger had seen them together and slipped this card to Dean, to help him. To protect his brother from this giant, hulking, apparently abusive monster that Sam comes across as. He’s used to thinking of himself as a monster. Pretty much forever. But this is not the kind of human monster that he’s ever cast himself as. The thought of someone assuming that, Jody too, who supposedly knows them is really upsetting. He comes back to himself in the produce section, a bundle of lettuce squeezed to a pulpy mess in his hands. He tucks it back under the non-mangled ones and selects a whole one from on top. There are only two pies left in the bakery section, and he can’t make up his mind on which one Dean will like more, so he gets both of them. That’s what abusers do right? They make it up to the ones they’re whaling on by trying to make nice.
By the time he’s out the door of the store, Dean is most of the way across the parking lot. A look of intense worry and anger on his face. Sam stops on the third step down and watches his brother stride towards him. Dean stops and looks up at him, “You cut that out right the hell now! That is not you Sam. You could never be like that, you hear me? Never.”
Sam puts the two grocery bags down on the step and pulls Dean up in a hug, lifting his feet completely off the ground. “Even when I can do this to you?”
“Sam, let me go,” Dean protests, face smashed into the front of Sam’s flannel shirt.
“Never,” Sam answers, smiling into his hair, squeezing Dean tight in his embrace, still sun-warmed from their hours on the road. Hair smelling that familiar Dean smell over the scent of his hair gel. “Can we just go home now?”
“Yeah Sammy, yeah, let’s hit it,” Dean says, straightening his shirt out, but keeping his eyes on Sam in case he decides to scoop him up again.
In the kitchen of the bunker, Sam sets both pies out on the counter and waits for Dean to notice that there are two of them. He’s musing on whether Dean will have a piece out of both tonight or wait to cut into one of them until he’s finished off the first.
“You really spend this much time thinking about my eating habits?” Dean asks from his position at the stove where he’s cooking them some quick dinner.
Sam doesn’t answer, just laughs and finishes the beer he’s been working on. “We ever going to talk about this?”
“What the mind-reading?” Dean asks without turning around.
“No, well, what you’ve been getting from me. About you.”
“I don’t know Sam, there’s just so much of it, I don’t know where to start,” Dean teases.
“It’s not fair, you getting this, right now when you most need it,” Sam complains.
“Hey I got the bruises, I earned it. Besides you said it won’t last, right?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, I checked the source we left out on the table, maybe the rest of the week,” Sam answers, thinking of what a very long week this is going to be.
“Well then the way I’m lookin’ at it, we’ve got a week to talk,” Dean says, finally turning around to face him, gesturing with the spatula.
“Yeah, where you get an unfair advantage,” Sam retorts, crossing his arms.
“What is this? A high-stakes corporate negotiation?” Dean asks.
“Yeah. I guess. Kind of,” Sam answers, looking down at the linen napkins folded on the table, desperately trying not to think of what it is he really wants to renegotiate with Dean, right here, right now. Maybe right here on top of the kitchen table.
“Proposing a re-merger are you?” Dean asks with a filthy smile in his voice.
“God Dean,” Sam says, heart sinking that his attempts at hiding everything have completely failed.
“Don’t lie to me Sammy, you love it,” Dean taunts, wiggling the spatula at him.
‘More like I love you, you idiot!’ Sam yells at him in his mind as loud as he can manage. He sees Dean wince in pain and smile, so he knows his message has gotten across. Then he wonders if Dean is still in too much pain from the basilisk to pursue that merger they were talking about or not.
Dean puts down the spatula, turns off the stove and comes over to stand behind Sam’s chair. He puts his hands on his shoulders and leans down to kiss Sam behind the ear where he knows it always makes him shiver. While he’s there he whispers, “Sam, I’m not too beaten up. Not if you’re offering.”
Before Dean even finishes the sentence, Sam has him in his arms, on his lap, back pressed up against the table. Their hands find familiar pathways and their lips come together like reuniting magnets, everything slotting into place once they finally meet up. There are no more words required, not when Sam can finally think at Dean long enough to send him a picture of them naked, entwined on his bed. Somehow they make it there without falling over the clothing they’re removing on the way. Leaving a trail of shirts and pants down the stairs to their room. The one that was their room before, that Dean’s been using on his own this past year. The room with the bigger bed.
Their kisses hold more than just sheer lust and joy at being reunited, but there is darkness there too, sorrow, pain and betrayal all wound up with the good stuff. It makes for a heady mixture, one that Sam can feel himself drowning in, struggling to catch a breath through the relentless assault of Dean’s lips and tongue and teeth. Dean gets the message to slow down though, mind-reading the last thing he’s worrying about, but hey it comes in handy as another tool. He starts getting a picture of what Sam wants the most and inches his way down to lick and bit at Sam’s hipbones.
Dean has to lay an arm across him to hold him down, but it’s worth it to feel the bunching pushing strength of Sam’s muscles beneath him, as he tongues his way around the head of Sam’s cock. Sam sends him a thought of sheer bliss and relief that is matched by the awestruck look on his face. A whole year without this. Such regret to have waited so long, such enjoyment at what he’s feeling right now. It all spurs Dean on to dive back onto him and give him the best blow of his life.
By the time Sam finally comes down his throat, Dean’s opened him up on three fingers inside his ass with Sam barely noticing, lost in a wash of constant pleasure. Dean’s never gotten such feedback from his partner before and it’s really useful as well as a complete turn-on. He can tell just what Sam wants now, just when he needs it. He’s finally getting an insistent buzz from Sam, with an undercurrent of now now now, come on Dean, no more waiting.
“Are you sure Sam?” are the first words said out loud in quite a while by either of them. But Dean has to ask.
“Yes. Please Dean,” Sam answers, voice strained with the waiting, with the effort of saying yes when he should say no because they haven’t talked all this out.
Dean sees the hesitation, but hears the answers, both of them. What Sam says out loud, and what he’s thinking. So he moves forward, into Sam, experiencing that coming home feeling that he’s missed so much. The one he’s only ever felt with Sam, but he’s never told him. And that’s what he can give to Sam, to make it up to him for all the mind-reading. “Feels so good Sammy, like coming home.”
Sam pulls him down to kiss him breathless all over again. Dean’s words giving his heart such a boost it feels like it’s pounding triple time now. He sends him a picture of Dean dressed up as a cute little girl anyways, knows it’s what Dean needs to get over saying something so sappy. “Just give it to me Dean, c’mon, like you really mean it.”
Dean manages to say just one thing before losing himself to giving into their rhythm. “I always mean it.”
And it’s good, so much better than good, especially with Sam’s internal narration, Dean knows just where to hit him harder deep inside. Best of all he gets to actually hear what Sam is always mumbling, all those words of love and devotion they never say out loud to each other. All those words soak into Dean where he needs them the most, filling in the cracks where he’s been broken for a year now. That Sam still loves him, and needs him and wants him like this, it’s all the best kind of miracle he never expected to get.
Dean reaches between them to work Sam’s cock back to hardness, stroking him in time with his thrusts, listening closely to hear whether Sam’s liking it not, his pants and moans as well as his silent screams of pleasure tell him he’s on the right track.
Sam’s almost undone by how good this is, but somehow, he manages to pull himself together enough to flip them seamlessly, never coming apart for a second. Manhandling Dean like he’s a much smaller person. And then he’s riding Dean hard, Dean’s grip on his cock tightens as Sam starts to move faster. Both of them approach that final edge. There’s nothing more for them to discuss or hesitate over now, it’s all pure pleasure that they give each other, pulling each other over into the bliss they’ve been waiting for.
When Dean comes back to himself, he’s hearing Sam in his head, not saying actual words, just humming that same song, in a happy satisfied sort of way. He doesn’t know how long this mind-reading thing is really going to last, but he’s going to enjoy it while it does.
Sam’s kissing his way around the bruises encircling Dean’s neck, continuing on to the ones on his right arm. Not thinking about anything other than keeping Dean safe.
“You do you know? You do keep me safe. All the time,” Dean says quietly.
Sam looks up at him and frowns. “Not all the time. That’s the problem.” Sam thinks fiercely in his head that he never wants anything hurting Dean, not ever again, not if he can help it. Imagines wrapping Dean up in cotton and keeping him in a box safe here underground in the bunker.
Dean sees that picture and starts laughing, and watches Sam’s face fall. “No, no, not laughing at you. Just at the picture of me wrapped up like that.”
Sam grumbles at him, “Just wanna keep you safe and I can’t always.”
“Yeah I know Sammy, me too. I get it, believe me I get it.”
Sam looks at him and sees that he does. He sends Dean a picture of both of them wrapped up in fluffy cotton and quilts, never going out to see the sun again.
“Wish we could. But no way. Not how we roll.”
Sam pulls him back in and hugs him tightly. Dean couldn’t move if he wanted to. “Get ready, I’m going to send you the reason why,” Sam warns him.
Dean’s senses are overwhelmed with what Sam throws at him, time after time, of him getting hurt instant-replay style with an overlay of how Sam had felt. Helpless, useless, desperate sadness and pain. It goes on and on until Dean puts up a hand, “Enough.”
Sam doesn’t say anything, just holds Dean close, stroking his back gently. Waiting to hear what Dean will say.
“I didn’t know it was the same for you.”
Dean’s mind fills with question marks and a sense of Sam yelling at him, ‘how could you not know that?’
“You’re a good actor dude, or I don’t know, I didn’t think about it that way. But what are you saying? That we stop hunting?”
“No, just that we do it differently. Use our resources here better. Be more prepared. More choosy about what we take on. That kind of thing.” Sam gets frustrated, knowing he can’t say it all to Dean, sending that frustration and an honest feeling of how much he fears losing Dean permanently, again. He can tell Dean heard him when he suddenly holds him even closer.
“Okay Sammy, okay,” Dean murmurs into the side of Sam’s head where he’s kissing him.
Sam sends Dean an image of the two pies sitting on the counter.
“You gonna bring it in here?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, I know you’re not moving anytime soon.” Sam releases him slowly, reluctantly and stands up. He pads out of the room, returning quickly with a washcloth for Dean. “Clean up before I get back.” He shrugs into Dean’s dead-guy robe and disappears up the stairs.
Dean lays back on the bed after cleaning himself up, tucks the blankets around himself and stares at the doorway, stretching out to hear what Sam’s thinking. Instead of a replay of their worst hits, it’s their best ones, one after the other, all the stuff Sam keeps around in his mind as the best. It’s not all sex, although there’s some of course, mostly it’s just them, in the car, on the road together. Not necessarily doing or saying anything. By the time he comes back in with the pie, Dean’s lying on the bed with a big goofy smile on his face.
“That’s all the good stuff huh?” Dean asks.
Sam looks at him from the doorway, holding a plate that has both kinds of pie with two forks, nods and smiles.