It's been six months since he and Dean became lovers. Six months since his whole world rearranged itself around him. Six months since he realized that the things he thought he wanted weren't the things he needed.
They haven't seen Dad since the haunted house that nearly killed Dean. He's called, though the calls have been awkward and stilted, even by Winchester standards. Sam knows that it hurts his brother, this new distance between them and their father and though Dean tries hard not to show it, Sam can feel his brother's tangled emotions through the bond during the calls.
The bond itself has been growing steadily and its taken time for them both to adjust to it. It's unpredictable, sometimes Sam gets flashes of Dean's thoughts and emotions as clear as crystal and yet other times he can't feel a damned thing. He's never been able to see through Dean's eyes again though, much to Dean's poorly hidden relief. There have been one or two moments when Sam wonders if Dean's picked something up from Sam, but Dean's been somewhat tight lipped on the subject and Sam's learned not to push, not to try and make Dean talk before he's ready.
The transition from brothers to lovers hasn't been an easy one, even with the bond. They don't argue any less, or any less vehemently and the fact that they are brothers still catches Sam sometimes, but it's a fleeting sensation, like an indistinct memory of a whole other life. He suspects that Dean feels the same way, though they've never talked about it. There's still a lingering sense of fear about Dean, as if he still can't quite let himself believe that Sam will stay this time. But Sam's patient and every day that he stays, he sees that fear fade a little more.
They've taken the last six months slowly, giving themselves time to be instead of hunting without pause, with barely enough time to heal in between monsters. They've stayed on in towns once the hunt is over, gone to see the local sights, eaten in proper restaurants, closed the curtains and spent whole days in bed, until their room reeked of sex and sweat and their legs shook with exhaustion and their throats were raw.
Sam finds that he doesn't mind the cold nights spent in forests and graveyards or the gore and the mud so much anymore. Not when he gets to wake up the next morning, arms and legs tangled with Dean's. He used to want normal, used to crave it. He's learned that normal isn't always law school and white picket fences. This is normal for him now. This is what he wants.
Right now though, it's been two weeks since their last hunt and so far Sam hasn't been able to find anything even vaguely supernatural for them to investigate. They’ve been travelling aimlessly, never staying anywhere for more than a couple of days. Dean's getting short tempered and bored and even Sam's starting to feel twitchy.
They've been driving all day, through one small town after another, until Sam thinks he's never going to be able to straighten his legs again and Dean's eyes are red and slightly bloodshot from staring at the road for eight hours with only one short break. They started out early and it's a little after sunset when they finally pull into a motel. They pay for a room, dump their gear and head for the bar down the road.
While Dean's getting the drinks, Sam stretches his legs under the table and opens the laptop. He's doubtful that he's going to find them anything, but he has to keep looking, because they're both going to go stir crazy if they don't find something soon.
Dean sets a bottle of beer onto the table by Sam's hand and drops into the chair across the table, tipping his head back and drinking. Sam watches the way his brother's throat moves as Dean swallows. Six months and Sam still gets goose bumps. He's still staring when Dean pulls the bottle away from his lips and the smirk on Dean's face tells him that Dean knows exactly what Sam was thinking about, knows that he was remembering this morning, when Dean sank to his knees in front of Sam and teased him mercilessly until Sam was begging for something, anything. He tries to hide the shiver that grips him by picking up and drinking his own beer, but when Dean chuckles, low and dirty, he knows he's busted. He looks at the laptop, trying to ignore the little voice at the back of his mind that reminds him that their room is less than 5 minutes away. He can feel the low hum of arousal and amusement through the bond. He's never said anything, but it warms something inside when Dean is like this, playful and cocky, when all the doubts and insecurities drop away and Sam can see his brother without the walls and the barriers he still hides behind most of the time.
He's so caught up in his thoughts that he reads the same paragraph three times before he finally takes any of it in.
"Hey, I think I found something."
"Really? What?" Dean leans forward, suddenly interested.
"Next state over, there's been three suspicious deaths in the last couple of months."
"Well, it seems that they were suffocated, then their brains were apparently turned to Jell-O, although there was no damage to the skulls. Their internal organs were also removed and left in plastic containers next to the body. Except, and this is the really odd part, each victim was missing one of their internal organs, but in each case, it was a different organ."
Dean pauses, beer half raised. He blinks, once.
"OK, that's definitely odd. Sick, even. But it could just be the work of some human sicko with too much Tupperware."
"They found resin under the last victim's fingernails. Resin that matches the type found on ancient Egyptian mummies. And each of the organs that have been taken from the scene matches those that the Ancient Egyptians removed during the mummification process; liver, lungs, stomach."
"Mummies? Ancient Egyptian mummies?"
"Sooo, you're thinking that there's an ancient Egyptian mummy, running around, offing people and stealing their organs? Like in the film?"
"Maybe? Why would it an ancient Egyptian mummy be running around the Midwest killing people like that?"
"It could be an angry spirit, taking possession of the mummy."
Dean actually thinks that one over and Sam can see him running the idea through his head.
"Why would it be taking livers and things though?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's acting out something that it did in life, or that was done to it?"
"OK, that's a really unpleasant thought." Dean shrugs. "I still say it's probably some freaky serial killer, but we've got nothing else lined up, so we might as well go check it out. What do the local police have to say about it?"
"Nothing much. Looks as though they've dismissed the resin angle. Seems the last victim worked at the local museum and they've got a mummy display there. The police apparently believe that's where the resin must have come from."
Dean still doesn't look convinced, but he shrugs and drains the last of his beer. "Drink up, we've got a lot of driving to do tomorrow."
Sam finishes the bottle in two gulps, though it's still early evening and they've practically only just got to the bar. But he can see the look that Dean's throwing him and the anticipation is already fluttering in his stomach. Dean brushes against Sam and the contact makes his skin prickle with heat and want. Six months and the reaction is just as immediate and visceral as it was the first time. Sam's beginning to think this isn't ever going to get old and God, he's thankful for that.
They leave just after dawn, packing up the car while the early morning dew is still frozen on the ground and their breath hangs in the air. Dean drives and Sam slouches in the passenger seat, watching the late autumn scenery slide past the window. He can hear Dean, humming quietly along with the song on one of the classic rock stations he loves so much, fingers tapping on the steering wheel and he can't help but smile. There have been so many times over the last few months that he'd thought things would never be right again, when he thought he'd lost Dean, one way or another, that there's a simple pleasure in moments like this that he wouldn't miss for the world.
It's so familiar, so comfortable that Sam finds himself dozing off, lulled by the familiar sounds and the gentle rumbling vibrations of the car. He doesn't wake until they stop for gas and lunch, eating greasy burgers and fries in a cafe with stained and scarred plastic tables and windows grimy with grease and dirt. It's everything Sam's always hated about their lives, but watching Dean lick ketchup from his fingers has Sam remembering how those hands feel when they're sliding over his skin. The small smear of mustard at the corner of his mouth makes Sam think of watching Dean slide those damned lips down over Sam's cock. He stares too long and Dean catches him, eyes widening before he grins and cocks an eyebrow. Cocky and smug and it still irritates the hell out of Sam, even as it pleases him to see Dean acting more like his normal self.
He takes a breath, looks away from Dean and tries to remember what it was like before they were lovers, when Dean's attitude and the endless line of diners and shitty motels made him long for freedom, to be able to leave all this and have normal. Now, he still hates the diners, Dean's still an irritating asshole and the motels haven't improved much, but none of it really matters anymore. He's finally learned that their surroundings don't matter. He has Dean and it's enough. It's more than enough.
Dean leans back, one arm stretched across the back of the bench seat, eyes bright with amusement and a touch of lust, his tongue reaching out to catch a patch of sauce that he's somehow managed to get on the palm of his hand. He's missed the smear of mustard though and Sam can't resist leaning forward and using his thumb to wipe it away, making sure he brushes over Dean's lower lip when he does. Dean's eyes half close, dark and sultry and Sam's not sure which of them squirms more. Dean sucks in a breath when Sam sucks the mustard from his own thumb and there's as much lust as amusement in his gaze now.
Sam manages to look away when the waitress brings their check, unasked, and leaves it on the table without saying a word to them, as if she wants to get them out as quickly as possible. Her glare as she leaves is at odds with her earlier friendly attitude and Sam wonders if it's because he and Dean aren't exactly hiding their flirtations. He glances back at Dean as the waitress leaves and he can tell by the frown creasing his brother's forehead that he's had the same thought. The easy sensuality of a few minutes ago has gone and Sam's relieved when Dean pulls out his wallet and throws some bills onto the table.
"Let's go." Dean's voice is tight and angry and as Sam slips out from the booth and follows Dean back to the car he can see the tension in his brother's shoulders. They've still got a lot of driving ahead of them and Sam doesn't want to spend all that time in the car with Dean so tense and angry.
He gets into the passenger side and waits for Dean to get behind the wheel. Before Dean can turn the key in the ignition, Sam leans over, grabs the collar of Dean's leather jacket and pulls. Dean's caught off-guard and he half turns, half falls towards Sam. Sam uses his other hand to catch Dean's shoulder, steadying him, then slides that hand up to Dean's neck, using it to pull Dean towards him until he can kiss his brother the way he's wanted to since they first got to the diner. It's slow and hot and Sam doesn't care who can see them, in fact he's rather hoping that that sour bitch of a waitress is watching.
Dean pulls away and Sam reluctantly lets him go.
"Making a statement?" Dean's voice is dry and Sam feels slightly guilty for being so obvious, but the frown has gone and though Dean is still a little uptight, the amusement and the lust are back, if subdued. Dean licks his lips, making Sam want to kiss him again, then he grins and turns the key. As they pull out of the parking lot Sam can't resist looking out of the rear window and sure enough, the sour faced waitress is watching them leave. Sam knows he ought to get used to it, either that or they're going to have to learn to be less obvious, but he can't help the anger at her attitude. He contemplates making some kind of rude gesture, but decides that it would be too childish and besides, they're too far away now for her to have seen it anyway.
Dean's hand lands on his knee, squeezes briefly, then lifts away to settle back on the steering wheel. Sam lets out a breath and relaxes back into his seat, reminding himself that other people don't matter. He chose this, knowing it wasn't going to be easy, but believing that the rewards would be worth the price that he, that they, would have pay. He closes his eyes again, the weak sunlight warming his face through the window and lets the familiar sounds wash over him once more, soothing, calming, right.
When Sam starts making soft, snuffly little snores, Dean stifles a laugh. Sam always denies he makes any noise at all when sleeping and as much as Dean likes to tease him about it, he thinks it's kind of cute too. It's something that reminds him of when Sam was a kid. Dean glances over. His brother looks peaceful and happy and that's an expression Dean's only recently started seeing on Sam's face again and he's determined to keep it there for as long as possible.
He honestly never expected this. He never expected Sam to stay, to want this, to want him like this. A year ago Sam was all ready to walk away once more, to leave them again so he could go back to being like everyone else, normal, ignorant, blind. Yet he's still here, with Dean. Now they share tattoos that bind them even closer than blood and love. Dean's finally starting to believe that he's going to get this one good thing to keep. Sometimes, he's so happy it scares him. Sometimes, when he's content and sated and he should be as relaxed as he's ever been, the terror that he's not allowed to be this happy; that if he allows himself to drop his guard and enjoy this, it'll all be ripped away from him, sneaks up on him. He knows how to fight every evil thing under the sun, moon and stars; everything but his own fears. So if he clings a little too tightly when they're in bed, if he wraps himself around Sam like his brother's a gigantic teddy bear when they sleep, it's hardly surprising, though he'd cut off his own hand before he admitted it out loud.
Mostly though, he tries not to think about the future, or the past. He concentrates on here and now. He focuses on the possibility of a new hunt, the pleasure of a well tuned car, of Sam, dozing beside him. Dean's never wanted much in life: his family safe, the demon dead, to be loved. He glances over at Sam, watching the soft afternoon sun dance across his brother's face. His family isn't as safe as he'd like, the son-of-a-bitch demon is still out there somewhere, but he's starting to believe that maybe he's loved. God knows, he loves Sam more than is sane or sensible.
On good days, he figures that in his life, one out of three ain't that bad.
Its late afternoon by the time they reach their destination. For once they're in a city rather than some middle-of-nowhere huddle of buildings that's only just big enough to warrant the title of 'town'.
Dean pulls into a decent looking motel, leaving Sam sleeping while he gets them a room. Walking back to the car he notes a pool they won't use and a working ice machine that they probably will. It's not exactly the Hilton, but it's slightly more up-market than a lot of places they've stayed in. Sam's still out for the count when he gets back and Dean leans against the railings around the pool, content to just watch his brother for a moment. He's jolted out of his thoughts by laughter and loud voices nearby. He pushes away from the railings and walks to the car. He reaches out to shake Sam gently by the shoulder, but before his hand touches Sam, his brother opens his eyes and look straight at Dean. Dean knows it's the bond as much as anything else, but it still makes him both slightly awed and slightly uneasy how attuned Sam is to him.
Sam looks concerned for a second, so Dean grins at him and moves his other hand so that the room keys dangle in front Sam's face.
"Yeah. Come on, let's get unloaded. I need a long, hot shower, several cold beers and something to eat that doesn't consist of grease, unidentified burnt bits and parts of animals I'd rather not think about."
Sam laughs and Dean's faint unease melts away.
"In that order?"
"Hmmm." Dean thinks about it. "Not necessarily."
They pull their bags out of the trunk and head for their room. Dean opens the door and dumps his stuff on one of the beds. He heads for what he assumes is the bathroom door and is caught by surprise when Sam suddenly wraps those freaky long arms around Dean's waist. Sometimes he still finds it hard to get his head around the fact that he and Sam are now lovers. Sometimes he lies awake at night, just turning the word 'lovers' over and over in his head. That and 'incest'. But neither word really describes what they have together, what they mean to each other. Dean's never really liked labels anyway; he's always thought that labels are for other people, not him, not Sam, not Dad.
"Want to share that shower?" He can practically hear Sam's grin.
"Nah, save time. This way you can eat and get a beer that much quicker."
Dean turns, leaning into Sam, one hand curling around the back of his brother's neck, the other sliding into a back pocket of Sam's jeans, pulling him closer.
"You, me, hot water. You really think we're going to save time, or water?"
Sam's really grinning now and even when Dean drags his head down and kisses him, he can still feel Sam's smile against his lips. It never fails to amaze Dean, how easy it is to do this, how right it feels to lose himself with Sammy this way.
Sam steers them into the bathroom and they undress, trading kisses and getting themselves tangled in their clothes and each other. It's almost like being kids again and not even that thought dampens Dean's desire.
Getting the water the right temperature is tricky when Sam's hands are stroking over his skin, but he manages it. He steps into the tub and Sam follows, pressing Dean against the cold tiles, mouth moving over Dean's neck. He pulls Sam closer, curling one leg around his brother's hip, rocking and rolling his own hips. The bathroom fills with steam and Dean can feel the hot moist air beading on his skin, trickling down his spine. Sam hisses and scrapes his teeth down Dean's neck, from jaw to collar bone, catching on stubble. He shifts, grinding into Dean, lifting his head and kissing him, teasing him with licks and nips, while his hands move restlessly over Dean's skin.
It's slow and sensual and Dean's orgasm catches him by surprise, leaving him gasping and clutching Sam like a life line, feeling the pleasure wash through him from his head to his toes. He drops a hand and wraps his fingers around Sam's cock. The groan his brother gives makes Dean's pulse spike, though he's spent and sated and in no way ready for another round. It doesn't take long before Sam's coming, shivering and pressed as close to Dean as he can get.
By the time they've pulled themselves together and finished showering the water's nearly cold and its dark outside. They dress and Dean throws Sam the keys to the car. They drive until they find somewhere to eat where the ketchup bottles don't have their lids welded on with a crust that's probably older than Dean is.
It's a pleasure to be able to sit at a table that isn't plastic, on proper chairs rather than benches. To eat a decent steak while still feeling the pleasant lethargy from his earlier orgasm. To see Sam looking just as content, just as relaxed. It's not always like this. They still fight, they still misunderstand each other, they still drive each other crazy. He sometimes catches Sam watching him and while that concern warms him, it frustrates him too. Sam still treats him like he's made of glass, as if he'll break, sometimes like he’s still broken. Dean guesses he can't entirely blame him, but sometimes it gets so he feels as though he can barely turn around without Sam being there. That's usually when they have their worst fights. But as quickly as they flare up, the arguments die down. The bond has helped smooth over these disagreements, helped minimise the misunderstandings between them. It's filled in the spaces between them, the places where words and deeds always seemed to fall short.
He knows that Sam is getting better at reading him through the bond and there have been odd moments when Dean has caught something trickling back from Sam. Dean still can't decide whether that comforts or terrifies him. He's not sure he's ready for Sam to see more than Dean wants to show him. But he can't deny that the bond has been damned useful and the closeness it brings isn't unwelcome. It's helped dim the fear that Sam's going to leave him again. He doesn't wake up, wondering if Sam is still going to be there because all he has to do is concentrate and he can feel Sam's presence. He hasn't told Sam this yet, though he knows it's only going to be a matter of time before Sam realizes, if he hasn't already. But Dean needs time to get used to the idea, because he knows as soon as he does tell Sam, Sam is going to want to practice, to test the bond, to push as far as he can and Dean's not ready to deal with the potential ramifications of that just yet.
They drive back to the motel room in comfortable silence. Dean is stuffed full of good food and decent beer and he's feeling mellow and relaxed. When they get back to the room, he stretches out on the bed, intending to chill for a few minutes. The next thing he knows is Sam pulling his boots off, then climbing into bed, curling around Dean and dragging a blanket over them both.
He wakes some time in the night, tangled between the sheets and Sam and unbearably hot. He manages to wriggle out from Sam's arms and the bed clothes. He heads for the fridge, grabbing a bottle of water, which he drinks while watching Sam shift and snuffle into the pillow. He contemplates getting his phone and gathering some future blackmail material, but in the end decides it's too much effort. He finishes his drink and returns to bed, stripping out of everything but his boxers before sliding back under the sheets, enjoying the contrast between the cool cotton and the warmth of Sam's skin.
The sound of running water wakes Sam and he takes a second to stretch, feeling his joints stretching and clicking into place. He thinks about joining Dean in the shower, but he's too comfortable where he is. He sprawls out on his stomach, head pillowed on his hands.
He dozes, dimly aware of the shower shutting off, then a little while later he hears the bathroom door open. He's too comfortable and drowsy to bother moving, though he can hear Dean's moving around the room. He half hopes that if he stays put, maybe Dean will come back to bed. Dean moves closer to the bed and Sam thinks for a minute that he's going to get his wish, only to end up with a wet towel draped over his head.
He pulls the soaking wet towel off his head, sits up and glares at Dean, who's buttoning up his jeans and looking far too smug. Sam throws the towel at him, but Dean dodges, smirking and the towel lands on the floor with a faint splat.
"Come on, Sammy, I'd have thought you'd be itching to get going. Sooner we visit the places where the victims were found, the sooner you can go visit the museum."
"Well, yeah. But did you have to dump your towel on me?"
Dean just grins. That smile is distracting enough at the best of times, but when Dean's shirtless, jeans riding low enough on his hips that Sam’s certain he’s not wearing anything underneath, it's downright fucking indecent. Dean turns away and Sam takes a slightly unsteady breath, then heads for the bathroom.
“You better have left me some hot water…”
“Early birds get the hot water, Sammy. Lay-a-bouts take what’s left.” Dean is entirely too fucking smug for this time of day. Normally, he’s not a morning person and frankly, Sam’s beginning to think he prefers grumpy morning Dean to smug and cheerful morning Dean.
He turns back to tell his brother he’s a asshole, but instead he catches sight of Dean checking and loading a gun before tucking it into the waistband of his jeans. He’s still shirtless and damn if there isn’t something really hot about that. Sam nearly slams the bathroom door shut to block out the sight. He really doesn’t need to start discovering new kinks right now.
He leans his head against the bathroom tiles. He still finds the change in their relationship strange sometimes, apparent gun kink aside. The dichotomy between Dean's ability to act like a bored twelve year old and the entirely adult passion he can evoke in Sam is jarring, even now, and Sam can't deny that there are still moments, like this one, when he wonders what the hell they're doing.
Then he looks at Dean, really looks, and sees the way his brother smiles a little more, the way the fine lines at the corners of his eyes have smoothed out, the way that invisible burden he always seemed to carry on his shoulders appears to have lifted. Even if he didn't want Dean as much as he does, he'd willingly give him this and it still wouldn't be enough to repay everything that Dean's done, every time that Dean's put Sam's needs and wants ahead of his own, every time Dean has taken on the role of surrogate parent, teacher, protector, without being asked and mostly without complaint.
But it's not a twisted sense of duty that makes Sam's pulse race and his cock twitch at the thought of Dean, barefoot and half naked, skin still damp from his shower. It might be twisted, though Sam's not even sure about that these days, but this is more than a sense of obligation. He never, in his wildest dreams, ever imagined that he and Dean would end up like this. His dreams for the future, when he'd dared allow himself to dream, had involved a wife and kids and a safe job that didn't involve hunting or demons or things that went bump in the night. In some ways, losing that idealistic fantasy had hurt almost as much as losing Jess.
Finding Dean again, as a brother, has helped him begin to soothe the jagged edges of that loss, allowed him to take strength and comfort from the reassuring familiarity, despite his anger at being dragged back to hunting and his determination to keep Dean and the life he thought he'd left at arms length. Finding Dean as a lover has brought some kind of meaning and hope back into his life. He knows now that it's not about the hunts and the monsters; it's about the two of them. It’s about the life they can build for themselves.
He snorts, certain Dean would mock him relentlessly if he ever admitted to such thoughts. He’s equally certain that Dean feels the same way, even if he’d rather cut off his right hand than admit it.
Despite Dean’s words, there’s plenty of hot water left, just as there always is. Sam lets the warmth of the water soothe him. He’s not looking forward to checking out the murder scenes, but Dean's right. Sooner or later they're going to have to go to the museum and that Sam is looking forward to.
It’s been a long time since he’s been to a museum and he’s hoping he’ll get a chance to have a look around. Providing of course he can find something else for Dean to do, because Dean tends to find museums dull and Sam’s lost count of the number of museums and libraries they’ve been kicked out of because Dean got bored. When Dean gets bored, he has a tendency to get inventively destructive.
It’s always frustrated Sam that his brother doesn’t share his love of books and learning. It’s not that Dean doesn’t have the brains, because Sam knows he does, it’s just that Dean has never seen the point of learning or school unless it’s directly related to hunting. It's one more difference that Sam's learning to work around.
By the time he's finished his shower and returned to the bedroom, towel around his hips, Dean's dressed and sitting at the tiny table, sharpening his favourite knife with a small whetstone. Sam drags on his boxers and pauses, jeans in hand, watching the rhythmic movements of Dean's hand. It's such a familiar sound, and it's comforting. Some people do crosswords or read a book; Dean passes the time by cleaning his guns, or sharpening his knives. It makes Sam nostalgic and just a little melancholy. It's somehow symbolic of everything that Dean is, of the life he's led and as much as Sam loves his brother the way he is, it makes him just a little sad that Dean never really had a choice about his future. And that despite that, his brother honestly, truly cares about what he does. Instead of resentment, Dean's driven by a burning need to protect others from the pain and loss that he's suffered.
"Hey, Sam. You OK?" He can feel a hint of worry through the bond and he realizes that he's been standing there, dressed in nothing but boxers, jeans in one hand, staring at Dean sharpening the knife for a good few minutes. He mentally shakes himself.
"Yeah. Just thinking, I guess."
Dean cocks an eyebrow in the way that has always made Sam grind his teeth. "Must have been some deep thoughts. You looked like you'd completely zoned out there."
Sam shrugs, not really wanting to get into a discussion about his thoughts.
"Just need some coffee."
Dean gives him a look then, the patented 'I don't believe you, but I'm going to let it drop for now' look. It's slightly less irritating than the eyebrow, but not by much.
Sam finishes dressing, trying to shake the melancholy that seems to have taken hold. He reminds himself that he can't change the past and now he has a future to look forward to, a future he wants, for the first time since he lost Jess.
They head out for coffee and breakfast with Dean still shooting Sam the occasional worried look. He watches Dean order pancakes and proceed to cover them in syrup and butter. The distracting sight of Dean licking syrup from his knife helps settle Sam, chasing some of the jarring sadness away.