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“Hey, Rip Van Winkle. Nice of you to join the living.”

Dean rolls his eyes and yawns at Sam’s scolding, lazily scratching at his stomach just to show how not sorry he is. “Shut up. It’s not that late.”

Sam grins and shrugs, turning back to the skillet to flip the bacon with a practiced hand, one that has now learned how to handle more than weapons. “S’after ten. I’ve been waiting. When I got really bored, I figured I could get you up if I started frying things.”

Pressing right up behind him, Dean swats his ass, then kisses his shoulder. Sam always feels so cozy and sleep-soft in the mornings, warm to the touch like Dean’s still dreaming. He can never keep his hands to himself. “Too good to me, Sammy. You’re my favorite.”

Sam chuckles and leans back to press their bodies together, letting the bacon twirl on the fork like it’s giving Dean a striptease, giving Dean’s hands time to roam where they want to. “Your favorite what? Husband? Brother? Chef?”

“Yes. All that.”

“Sit down, then. I’ll even bring it to you instead of making you fix your own plate.”

Mornings like this are what Dean lives for. It’s only been a year, but hunting seems so far away when he’s sitting at this table, when Sam’s flirting the way he is now. That life of fighting and surviving, of being a Winchester , feels like a drifting, faded memory, one that might have just been a dream. In the last twelve months, he hasn’t read up on the mating habits of a single monster, hasn’t traded any illegal weapons in the back of a pawn shop, hasn’t even driven across state lines, except that one trip to the beach.

Hunting is a whole lifetime ago, and he doesn’t miss it.

It had actually surprised both of them when Dean randomly suggested leaving the bunker for good and settling down in a smaller, more house-like house. And while Dean was right in thinking there was no real need to stay there anymore, there had been no real reason to leave, either, and the idea was an odd one. The conversation had come out of nowhere, on a lazy morning very much like this one. They had been living in a strange kind of in between for too long, Dean pointed out. They needed to leave.

And it felt right when Sam had agreed.

The bunker is still there, of course, locked up safe and tight, waiting with all of its resources, should they ever need it. But Dean hardly ever thinks about it.

And why should he?

Sam and Dean are living the literal apple pie life. Nice house on a suburban street, where kids ride bikes and they still have neighborhood barbecues in the summer. Dean goes to work at the garage every day and gets his hands dirty with grease instead of blood, making cars purr the way they were meant to. Sam manages the little bookstore in the middle of town and spends the day looking for collector editions of stories that don’t involve any kind of supernatural beings.

They even have a regular double date night with a couple down the street- a sweet man and woman who think the last name Winchester comes from marriage instead of blood, and don’t cringe in disgust when Dean and Sam kiss in front of them.

It’s a fucking dreamland here.

And Dean can’t get enough of the boring calm.

Sam brings two plates of bacon, eggs, and pancakes to the table, smothered in butter and syrup, and they both eat until the plates are empty. (Also in the last year, Dean’s jeans have gotten a size larger, but Sam doesn’t seem to mind and that’s good enough for Dean.) This is a normal Sunday morning now, and it still makes Dean so happy he feels like he might explode from it.

This life looks good on Sam, too, not that Dean ever wondered if it would. This healthy freedom is what Sam was meant for. He buys fresh food at the local farmer’s market, and he gets a new hobby as often as he gets a new shipment of books at the store, too many things in those pages that he has to try for himself. It keeps his cheeks a constant rose color, and the bags under his eyes are happy ones now, bags from late nights spent reading rather than late nights spent fighting for his life.

It took a few months, but even their shoulders have fallen down away from their ears, relaxed a little. They don’t sleep with guns beneath their pillows, and Dean can’t remember the last time he walked into a store or restaurant and scanned for potential danger before the door had time to close behind him.

Yeah, he doesn’t miss hunting at all, and that’s a fact.

“Okay, you get to wash these dishes,” Sam says, standing up and stretching his arms above his head. “I’m going to Home Depot.”

“For what?”

“Dirt. I’m a gardener this week, remember?”

Dean chuckles, leans his head up without even thinking to accept the goodbye kiss Sam offers. That’s the other new thing this past year has offered them- the chance to accept how fucked up they are and forgive themselves for it, and to just be together. Really together . In all the ways they want to. They’ve never been any good at being apart anyway, might as well just lean into the curve and go with it. Sam tastes like the food he just ate, lips still a little sticky, and Dean fights the urge to coax him back up to the bedroom.

Fucking dreamland.

Except. Well.

The only teeny-tiny, microscopic flaw in their new existence is the dreams. It’s only happened a few times, so Dean doesn’t really mind. Hell, he’s getting off easy if the only remnant of his hunting days is a nightmare or two.

Dean does the dishes as asked, Sam gets back with far too many gardening supplies and a backseat full of starter plants, and they spend the day together in their backyard. But even the long day of gardening Sam puts him through isn’t enough to send his brain to sleep that night, and he wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

Sam rolls over, sleepily throws a heavy arm across Dean’s stomach, the green smell of the outdoors still on his skin because he couldn’t be bothered to wash more than his hands before bed, then makes a half-assed attempt at pulling Dean closer. “Mmmmph?”

“I’m fine. Just a dream,” Dean whispers, and Sam’s snoring again in the next breath.

Dean lies there, under the safety of Sam’s arm, willing his heart to calm down as he stares at the ceiling. This one had been more realistic than the other few, had seemed to last longer. It’s harder to come out of it, to draw the line between the dream and Sam’s real, warm body next to him.

Cold concrete. Dean’s hands chained up above him, his body hanging limp. The drip of water somewhere. Waiting. Trapped. Scared.

The adrenaline eventually drains from his body and he starts to shiver in bed, scoots closer to Sam to get some of his furnace-temperature body heat. The dream was made of all the feelings and reactions he’s said goodbye to. And he doesn’t like how ready he felt when he woke up, like if he needed to, he could be Dean Winchester again, lethal and dangerous. He doesn’t want to be that now, wants to forget that he ever was that.

It takes a good hour, but the sleep haze takes over, and Sam’s calm, even breaths remind him who and where he is now.

Just a dream.

 

********

 

“What happened last night? Nightmare or something?”

Dean nods and grabs a towel, wrapping it around his waist as he gets out of the shower. Their eyes meet in the mirror’s reflection as Sam grabs for his toothbrush. “You okay?”

“Sure. Just a dream.”

Sam frowns. “That’s what you said last time, but it bothered you for a couple of days.”

Dean rolls his eyes, and that seems to reassure Sam more than his words. “I’m good. Come here.”

He pulls Sam into a long kiss, tangles his fingers in Sam’s hair as their tongues meet, the kiss turning a little hotter and wetter than it should, seeing as they both have to be at work in less than an hour.

But who cares about being a few minutes late?

Dean’s only a little disheveled when he clocks in for his shift, seven minutes late after their bathroom quickie, and he feels fine. He really does.

Just.

These particular dreams stick with him. There’s something about the blue-gray haze that makes the edges of his mind feel metallic, not quite right, a little darker than his shiny new world is supposed to be. It clouds up his day, makes him move a little more carefully, causes his eyes to dart to the corners of the garage to check if they’re empty.

He almost feels bad for lying to Sam about being fine, but it wasn’t lying. Not exactly . There’s just no point in talking about some stupid dream. Dean’s not bringing those things back to Sam when he doesn’t have to.

But the bad mood carries through the rest of the day and into their evening, and once he notices, Sam doesn’t drop the subject as easily as he did that morning.

“Dude, just tell me what the dream was about.”

Dean keeps his eyes on the television screen, feet propped up next to an empty beer bottle on the coffee table. “Wasn’t really about anything. Just. Y’know. Images that don’t really make sense.”

“Like what?”

“I was chained up, I think. Trapped somewhere.”

Sam doesn’t press, and Dean thinks for a minute that he’s won, that Sam is going to let this go. But he should know better.

“You know…” Sam’s words are slow and careful when he finally speaks.  “It’s going to take a long time to get past hunting. If we even can get past hunting.”

It’s not so much the words as the quiet, assuming tone of voice that gets under Dean’s skin.

“I told you. I’m fine. Just a little tired and cranky. And I didn’t want you to have to deal with this anyway. I’m gonna go to bed.”

Sam nods because he knows when he’s lost a battle with Dean’s stubbornness, kisses Dean a little longer than necessary, and settles in to watch the news. “I’ll be up in a little bit.”

And to Dean’s relief, he doesn’t bring it up again when he comes to bed.

Over the next three weeks, Dean has five more dreams. None of them make any more sense than the first few, but they get stronger. More real. The fear, the feeling of helplessness, the sense that the dream was something more than just a dream- Dean starts staying up at night, lying in bed and listening to Sam breathe, mind refusing to fall asleep because it doesn’t want to be in that world again.

Why is he having these dreams now , after all this time of being fine? Of being happy?

Sam worries. Quietly at first, then louder as Dean’s trouble becomes more obvious. He makes a disapproving face at every cup of coffee Dean drinks to keep himself awake, tries to talk to Dean about PTSD, tries a bunch of home remedies that the internet guarantees will make Dean sleep peacefully.

None of it helps.

Dean’s back in his old, regular-sized blue jeans now, forehead showing his frown lines, and he spends an afternoon cleaning the guns they’ve kept locked away in a cabinet, fingers working faster than his brain when muscle memory kicks in and makes sure they’re in working order.

“We’re going on a date,” Sam announces from the doorway. Dean jumps and looks up a little guiltily with the guns all around him. They aren’t supposed to think about guns now. How long has Sam been watching?

“What?”

“You need to relax. I don’t want you deciding we need to spend a whole week giving the house better warding or something. That shit is over. Come on.”

Dean wonders for a moment if maybe the warding idea isn’t half bad, but Sam snaps him out of it by tossing some clean, nice clothes into his chest.

“Meet you in the car in twenty minutes.”

Dinner is perfect. Dean actually does relax somewhere around the second bite of his bacon cheeseburger, surprised that a relatively nice place even has this on the menu. Sam’s leg is against his under the table, an intentional physical presence that grounds Dean, pulls him out of the dreams and back into his life. His new life. The one that needs no weapons or warding at all.

“…and you can make homemade marinara sauce when the tomatoes are ready. I’m telling you, this garden is a good idea, Dean. Even if you hate vegetables.”

Dean grins. “Sure, Sammy. Homemade marinara would be good.”

“So, I know I brought you out to get you in a better mood, but I also have something I want to talk to you about.”

Dean narrows his eyes at the sudden change in Sam, shoulders slumped, hands folded in front of him like he’s a little nervous. It only takes a second for him to realize what Sam’s after.

“We’re not getting a dog.”

Sam sighs and looks up, eyes big and wide. Those eyes used to be the bane of Dean’s existence. He couldn’t resist them, would give Sam anything he wanted, because he couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing him. Not with those eyes. And not much has changed, actually, but Dean’s going to hold out as long as he can on this one.

“No.”

“I just don’t get it. We have a yard now, Dean! Space for it to run around. I wouldn’t ask you to take care of it. You wouldn’t even have to know it was there, but I bet you’d enjoy having one around while you worked on your cars. Just think about it. Please?”

The laugh that bubbles out of Dean takes both of them by surprise.

“Why is this funny?” Sam asks.

“Because it is. Because sometimes…”

Dean doesn’t know how to explain the ache in his chest. It hurts to look at Sam because he loves him too much, and now that he gets to have him, now that he could lean across the table and kiss him if he wanted, it hurts even more. It’s the best ache Dean’s ever felt, too full, like his heart is going to explode. He pictures Sam sitting in his bookstore, looks at the dirt under Sam’s fingernails from the garden, and feels like he could die from the peace that comes over him. They used to argue about whose turn it was to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Now they’re arguing about getting a dog.

“Because I love you.”

It’s not the first time he’s said it, but it’s rare enough that Sam’s mouth falls open and he forgets about that damn dog. It wasn’t exactly Dean’s plan, but it’ll do.

The conversation shifts, but Sam stays a little quieter as they leave the restaurant, a secret smile at the edges of his lips that Dean knows as well as he knows everything else about Sam. They hold hands like teenagers during the movie, fuck like newlyweds when they get home, and fall asleep cuddled up like old men, with CNN on in the background and a book on Sam’s chest.

And Dean has another dream.

This time, Sam’s there. Dean can feel him first, and then he can hear him, knows that Sam is doing his best to get him out of the chains that hold his arms above his head. Dean’s fear turns to hope, but he can’t quite get a grip on anything real, can’t quite focus. Everything is muddled and swimming in front of his eyes.

“Dean!”

Sam’s voice snaps him out of the dream, and he’s back in their bed.

“Dean, I’m right here. Wake up.”

And suddenly, Dean knows it’s wrong.

It’s their bed. Those are Sam’s arms around him. It all looks and sounds and smells and feels the same. But it’s not. It’s too clean, too shiny. It’s not real.

And then Sam’s screaming Dean’s name and he’s back in his dream, the line between realities blurring.

“Dean, wake up. Wake the fuck up!

His eyes open, and he’s in some warehouse or storage place, chains around his wrists, leaky pipes dripping water, everything he got away from a year ago. Sam’s in front of him, eyes scared and worried, hands gripping Dean’s shirt as he shakes him awake.

Dean’s finally able to form a thought. “Wh-what…what happened?”

Sam ignores the question. “Can you walk? We gotta get out of here.”

“What is it?” The words still sound too weak, but they’re the right ones, and that’s the best Dean can do.

“A djinn.”

 

********

 

This is real.

Dean knows it. Knows it deep in his bones, in his soul. This. The dark blue-gray haze of the concrete, the trickle of blood on Sam’s forehead, the smell of sweat and dirt on his clothes. This is his life.

His real life.

The rest of it, the house and their bed and Sam’s garden and the size-larger blue jeans...it all seems like a ridiculous fantasy now. It’s bathed in golden light in Dean’s mind, like it existed in a permanent sunset, and he wonders how he ever convinced himself it was real in the first place. All the signs were there.

Sam gets him outside and into the Impala as quickly as he can with Dean’s legs refusing to work properly, half-dragging him most of the way. The air is too crisp and it burns Dean’s lungs, his head too startlingly clear all of a sudden. It’s a searing pain, slicing through him. He watches silently as Sam slides in behind the wheel, drives too fast to get them as far away as possible.

If it wasn’t real, that means that...that. Dean hangs his head and fights the urge to vomit. They’ve never touched. All the kisses, all the times he woke up with his body underneath Sam’s, all the touches and secrets they discovered about each other. None of it was real. If Sam knew where Dean had been…

That’s really not the point right now. But it’s all Dean can think about.

Neither of them speak until they’re checked into a motel, Sam taking care of the room and their bags while Dean just follows behind, numb and silent. He wishes Sam would stop looking back at him every second, worried and scared, like Dean’s gonna start screaming or crying or disappear again. Dean can’t take the scrutiny. He needs to be left alone for a few minutes so he can figure out what the hell just happened.

“You okay?” Sam asks. It’s the first time he’s said it, but it feels like he’s been asking since he dragged Dean out, asking with his eyes and his halted breaths and the way he won’t let Dean more than six inches away from him.

It’s always felt normal for them to do this, to move around each other this way, to be there for each other the way brothers should. Neither of them have ever been good at watching the other one hurt.

It doesn’t feel normal right now. Right now, it makes Dean want to throw up all over again. Sam reaches out to look at the wounds on Dean’s wrists, raw from the chains, and all Dean can think is how Sam held him down while he fucked him. Only that wasn’t real. The panic builds inside him and he jerks away, almost falling down when he backs into the bed.

“What? What is it?”

“N-nothing,” Dean says, unable to look Sam in the eyes. “I. I need to shower.”

“You sure? You want me to-”

“I’m good, Sam.”

God help him if Sam tries to follow him into the bathroom, tries to help him undress or check him for injuries. Mercifully, he doesn’t, and Dean manages to get the door locked and the shower turned on before he sinks down to the floor, fully dressed, shivering as the bathroom fills up with steam.

What the fuck.

What the actual fuck.

Dean’s seen djinns before. He knows how this works. And he knows how he felt while he was in that other world, the world the djinn created as his perfect reality. Safe. Secure. Completely, helplessly in love.

What the actual fuck.

Somewhere between the hot water running out and Sam knocking to ask if he’s okay, Dean realizes he’s crying. Soft, silent tears stream down his face, and he finally sheds his clothes and gets in the shower to wash them away.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Soap. Washcloth. Check for injuries.

He’s a little bruised, but he doesn’t think any ribs are broken. The water feels good, even when it goes completely cold, and by the time he’s finished, he’s feeling a little better. Convinced he’s not dying, anyway.

Sam’s waiting when he comes out of the bathroom. Dean tries not to blush as Sam looks at him with just the towel around his waist. But he couldn’t have put his dirty clothes back on just to hide his body, or Sam would have known something was wrong. Sam’s gaze is on Dean’s face, still wondering if he’s alright, and there’s no need for Dean to feel shy or embarrassed.

He still wants to hide.

He’s spent a whole year with Sam staring at his naked body. Kissing it. Touching it. Doing so many things to it…

Dean has never felt as totally fucked up as he does right now.

He clears his throat and pulls some clothes out of his bag. Sam digs around in the mini-fridge for a beer, and Dean pulls his pants on as quickly as he can, before Sam turns back around.

“So...the djinn?”

“Dead,” Sam tells him. There’s more of a story there, Dean knows, but it isn’t really important. The details never are, as long as they are together and alive and safe.

Dean nods, mind unable to find the memories of how he got taken by the djinn in the first place.

“You wanna talk about it?” Sam says the words quietly, knowing that it’s dangerous territory, incredibly personal and probably painful.

Dean almost laughs at the mental image of Sam’s reaction if he did talk about it. Sam has no idea what he’d be getting into. “No. I really don’t.”

“Dean…” But he stops himself, looks at Dean for a second, then changes his mind and falls silent.

“I’m gonna get some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning, okay?”

Sam nods, still frowning at Dean with that eager puppy look, the one that needs to know that Dean isn’t freaking out. Dean feels bad that he can’t reassure him, that he doesn’t have it in him right now.

He swallows half his beer in a few long drinks, then heads across the room to one of the beds. “Hey, Sammy? Thanks. For saving me.”

It’s the most natural thing in the world to grab Sam’s shoulder when he passes him, to squeeze it and feel his brother there with him, same fight and blood and life that’s running through Dean’s veins. Sam needs it, too. He leans into it like it’s what he’s been waiting for, like everything is back to normal now.

Dean’s shaking when he gets in bed.

Because the most natural thing in the world is different now.

Everything is different now.

He lies awake and stares at the darkness, torn between sifting through everything that happened and trying to figure it out, or pushing it down into the place where he hides his deepest darkest secrets from everyone, including himself. Especially from himself.

In the end, sleep wins out over both, and he dreams of Sam, standing at the stove cooking breakfast.

 

********

 

“You ready to get out of here?”

Dean nods, stretches his arms over his head and twists around until his back pops. “Yep. You find a case somewhere?”

“Nope.” Sam slings his bag over his shoulder and takes one last glance around the motel room to make sure they aren’t leaving anything behind. “I didn’t know if you’d want to.”

“No reason not to. See if you can find us one down south. It’s too cold here.”

Sam grins a little, probably more at Dean’s good mood than his words, and they head for the car, the cold gray of the sky nudging them on, away, pushing them to head for better weather. Sam doesn’t ask why they aren’t going back to the bunker, and Dean can’t explain why he needs to keep busy, why he can’t play house with Sam right now.

Regardless, it feels nice to sit next to Sam and drive, the steering wheel under his hands, music blaring from the speakers until Sam rolls his eyes and turns it down. It’s almost normal.

Dean has spent a week recovering, eating bad take-out and watching old movies as his brain settles back into reality. That other world seems far away now, like the dream that it was. The feelings of it, the safety and warmth and love of it, stay with him, but he can at least feel now that they aren’t real. That it never truly happened.

And this world really isn’t so bad.

It’s amazing how quickly he settles back into it.

They pass an old billboard on the highway, and Sam reads it out loud in a deep, dramatic voice, like he’s the announcer of a game show. “World’s Best Tater Tots. Fill your snackhole in three miles.”

They both laugh, loud and free sounds that fly out the open window into the frigid fresh air.

“Snackhole? What do you think, does it make the top ten?” Dean asks.

“Nah. It’s pretty bad, but not top ten material. And nothing’s going to beat that one in...Georgia, I think? The plain white one with big black letters, and all it said was ‘STRIPPERS’? That’s easily the best worst billboard.”

Dean laughs. “I dunno. That one might just be brilliant, not bad. Concise, to the point, no wasted space. And you can’t argue with strippers.”

Sam sticks his hand out the window to catch the wind and settles back against the seat. “You would think that.”

“Aww, don’t be jealous.”

It’s out of Dean’s mouth before he can stop it. Sam doesn’t react, because it’s just Dean’s normal teasing, and he can’t possibly know that it isn’t. Not anymore. Because Dean’s thinking about then , about teasing Sam as they had dinner together, feet tangled under the table. Because Dean’s thinking about then , about long nights spent rolling around in their bed, laughing as much as moaning, making up for all the years they spent not touching each other.

Suddenly, like a lightning strike or punch to the gut, Dean realizes it’s been there all along. It had to be, for the djinn to pull that out of him, to put him there, for him to feel so at peace in that reality. It had always been there, but Dean didn’t really believe it, hadn’t let himself realize it before.

He does now.

In the blink of an eye, as Sam drifts off in the passenger seat, probably still thinking about bad billboard slogans, Dean sees their entire life differently. He feels the possessive responsibility of Sam, taking him to school and getting him new shoes and hating the middle school girls who giggled at the tall boy with the thick, messy hair. He feels the hurt of losing Sam, of how desperate he feels when Sam’s gone, how he’d rather die himself than live without his brother. He sees the betrayals and the need, how Ruby and Amelia felt like cheating, though he’d never admitted to himself that was the source of his anger. It all seems so clear now, and Dean almost pulls the car over, almost feels like he’s going to be sick. Again.

That other world was the best he’s ever felt. And it was because he had Sam. Had Sam the way he really wants him.

Sam sleeps for hours, and Dean drives without stopping, until the car’s almost out of gas. He can’t deny it anymore, can’t put it off or hide it under something else. There’s no pretending that other world hadn’t existed, no getting out of the consequences of feeling everything he felt there. So instead, he does the next best thing and decides to just deal with it. He’s fucked up, sure, but he’s always known that. It’s just one more detail of his insane life, isn’t it? One that he can lie about, and Sam will never have to know.

Can never be allowed to know.

Dean will keep this secret until it goes away or until he dies. Whichever comes first.

When he finally has to pull into a gas station to avoid being stranded on the side of the road, he chuckles to himself as Sam stirs and blinks his eyes open, though it’s a chuckle without humor.

Only Dean Winchester would have this problem.

“Where are we?”

“Dunno. A gas station in Virginia somewhere. You wanna go get snacks?”

Sam yawns and nods, pushing his hair back. Dean watches, remembering exactly what Sam’s hair felt like between his own fingers.

“What are you on this week?” Sam asks. “Root Beer or Coke?”

“Coke. Thanks.”

Sam walks toward the entrance, still sleepy and moving slowly for it, and Dean tears his eyes away, forces himself to focus on the gas pump instead.

He can do this. It will just take some time to get over the djinn and that world. But it’ll get easier. It has to.

 

********

 

It doesn’t.

It’s not even a month later that Dean feels like he’s going to break under the weight of it.

“Are you serious?” Sam’s trying hard not to glare at him, trying to hide his frustration, but it’s right there in the flat line of his mouth.

“Why not? People need help. Let’s go help them.”

“Dean, we don’t have to. The bunker-”

“The bunker will be there after this case, Sammy.” Dean hopes that he’s hiding the desperation in his voice.

They haven’t been back to the bunker for more than one night since the djinn. Dean tried after that first case, he really did, and it just...it just felt wrong . It was hard to be in a bedroom that didn’t have Sam in it. It was harder to be alone with his thoughts, knowing how completely fucked up everything is. It was harder still to move around that place that they’ve made their home, to cook and do laundry with Sam next to him, not touching him, not sneaking a kiss.

Keeping busy is the thing, and Dean had found a case the first morning they were back in the bunker. Staying on the road, doing their job. That’s what would save him.

It has everything to do with dealing and healing, and nothing to do with the fact that Dean sleeps better when Sam’s in the same room, where Dean can hear him snoring.

It has nothing to do with Dean only feeling normal when Sam is this close, when he can almost pretend sometimes that when he catches Sam staring at him from the passenger seat, it’s because Sam can’t help himself. That he needs Dean, too.

Sam doesn’t argue about going back to the bunker. Not yet. It’s coming, Dean knows. One or two more cases, and Sam is going to put his foot down, cross his arms and flare his nostrils like he’s twelve again, and Dean won’t win that fight.

But for the next few days, at least, he’s safe.

The motel is a pay-by-the-hour type. Everything is red and silver, peeling around the edges, straight out of a porn from the seventies. There are two beds, both with a mirror on the ceiling above them, and a jacuzzi in the bathroom that looks like you’d need a shot of penicillin after using it.

Sam looks around and snorts. “Great place you’ve found here.”

Dean laughs and tosses Sam a beer. “It was the cheapest. I didn’t ask what the rooms look like.”

A few hours later, Dean thinks Sam’s asleep. He’s been breathing deep and even for a while now, and the streetlight reflecting off the mirrors in the room is almost comforting, soft and silvery like a dream.

“Dean?”

Sam’s voice is as quiet as the night, just as blurry around the edges, and Dean grunts his what? without thinking about it, without any guards up.

“Tell me about what happened. With the djinn. Were you...where were you?”

Dean’s too exhausted to deflect Sam’s question. The moment feels surreal, as much a fantasy as what happened with the djinn, so Dean simply answers.

“We retired. From hunting.”

Sam doesn’t make any noise, but Dean can still hear his reaction, can feel the way he’s squeezing his eyes shut. It probably hurts Sam to think about it too, to think about a world that’s safe, where they get to be normal.

“Did we…”

“Yeah. Had a normal house and normal jobs and everything.”

And we were in love. Both of us.

“That...I bet that was nice.”

Fuck, Sam sounds small. And sad. Dean rolls over and squints until his eyes adjust and he can make out the shape of Sam’s body, a huge lump curled under the covers of his own bed. Dean realizes Sam’s staring back at him.

“It was.”

Something shifts. Dean isn’t sure what it is, or what it means, but Sam’s eyes flash and close, he takes a deep breath, and Dean knows that something important just happened.

“Sam?”

“It’s nothing.” Sam says it so quickly, like he knew Dean was going to ask. “Just. I thought I’d lost you. And. And I- I was jealous.”

“Jealous?”

“You were happy.”

“I was dying, Sam. You saved me.”

“I know. Just. Do you ever wish that…”

“All the time.” Dean’s heart beats faster, his chest suddenly too small to contain the ache.

Sam sighs. “Someday. House in the suburbs, a beach vacation, maybe a garden…”

Dean holds his breath and wills the tears in his eyes to dry up quickly.

A fucking garden. Sam wants a fucking garden.

“It would be nice,” Dean manages.

“Yeah. And maybe.”

The air thickens, tenses up around whatever it is Sam isn’t saying.

“Maybe what?”

“Maybe we’d even settle down. You know. With someone.”

Dean doesn’t move. If he does, he might break whatever this bubble of honesty is that they’ve stumbled into. “Someone?”

Sam huffs a tiny little laugh. “I know, it’s stupid. We’re just gonna grow old with each other.”

“Would that be so bad?”

Headlights pour through the room as a car backs out of a space in the parking lot. Dean catches Sam’s eyes, clear and bright, for just a second. They’re staring right back at him, and if Dean was close enough, he knows he’d see all the colors in them dancing around, the way they do when Sam’s overwhelmed and feeling too much.

The room goes dark again when the car is gone, and Sam takes a minute to answer. Dean revels in the silence, in this moment where it feels right again, everything gentle and shimmering like it was back there . He wants to stay here on the edge of this moment, doesn’t want to know what Sam’s answer is, in case it’s the wrong one.

“No. It wouldn’t be bad.”

There’s a tone to Sam’s words that Dean’s never heard before, and he raises his head finally, letting everything come into focus and be real, because Sam sounds like...like…

But Sam rolls over and gives Dean his back, apparently done with the conversation. Dean flops back down and puts his hands behind his head, stares at the wall.

The ache takes back over, and he regrets ever answering Sam in the first place.

 

********

 

Nothing changes after that conversation.

And everything changes.

Sam still gets annoyed when Dean leaves wet towels on his bed in the motel room. Only there’s a different look in his eyes when he gets angry about it. A strange kind of almost-sadness that Dean can’t quite put his finger on.

Dean still teases Sam about anything and everything. Only Sam takes it better than he ever has before, grins like he’s in on the joke now.

It’s another couple of weeks before Dean realizes that Sam is trying to talk to him without actually trying to talk to him. He mentions buying a new couch for the bunker. He asks if Dean knows how to cook chicken parmesan. He sits on Dean’s bed one night to watch the free HBO their current motel brags about.

Once Dean notices, he can’t stop noticing. Sam is acting different.

“What’s with you, man?”

Sam looks up from his laptop. “What?”

“You’re weird.”

“I’m literally just reading the news, Dean.”

“That’s not what I...you’ve been weird lately. Not this exact moment, just. What’s up with you?”

Sam shrugs, but his eyes move too quickly back to the screen. Dean knows he knows exactly what they’re talking about.

“Sammy.”

Sam slams his laptop shut with so much force that it makes Dean jump. “I don’t know.”

Dean stands up, not knowing what else to do. He wasn’t ready for a real conversation apparently, doesn’t know how to deal with Sam’s display. He looks at Sam with raised eyebrows, waiting for an explanation.

“I just keep thinking about what you said. About us being retired.”

“You want to retire?”

“No. I want. I don’t know what I want.” He shoves his hair back and stares out the window, eyes focused on something Dean can’t see.

“The hell is your problem, man? The djinn went all alternative reality on me , not you.”

Sam finally looks at Dean, and it’s almost accusing, makes Dean look down at his feet.

“You talk in your sleep. Did you know that?”

Of all the things Sam could have said, Dean isn’t expecting that. “What?”

“All the time. Since you got back, you dream about it, and you talk about it in your sleep. Almost every night.”

Fuck . Dean’s whole body surges and then goes rigid, like if he can just be still enough, he can make time stop.

But time keeps moving and Sam keeps staring, waiting for Dean to say something.

“Then...then you know?” The words squeak out of Dean’s too-tight throat.

Sam nods, just once. “I’m a little fuzzy on the details. But I’m guessing...we weren’t living together in that world just to save on rent.”

There’s no anger in his voice. No disgust.

Dean shakes his head no.

“And you didn’t think that was important information for you to share? I had no idea that you were-”

“Why the fuck would I share that with you? Why would I want you to know how fucked up I am? Jesus Christ , Sam, this is...this is…”

“It is.” Sam agrees, but again, there’s nothing in his voice but confusion.

Dean doesn’t know what to do with that. And he certainly isn’t prepared to have this conversation. Sam doesn’t try to stop him as he grabs his jacket and his keys and tells Sam he’ll be back in a few hours.

 

********

 

She tells Dean her name is Cherry, and he wonders how old she was when she came up with that. She’s got a great rack and smells like lavender perfume, which barely covers the scent of pot clinging to her hair.

Dean pulls her into the backseat of the Impala, not bothering to leave the parking lot, because they’re in the back corner and he doesn’t plan on being here long anyway.

She climbs into his lap and starts sucking at his neck like he’s paying her, not at all bothered that anyone who wanted to could look in and see them.

Cherry is exactly what he needs tonight.

Maybe this has been his problem all along. He’s been too busy living in that world to get out of it. It’s not going to take time, it’s going to take pussy. Someone new and different, someone who can remind him of who he really is, what his life is really like.

And Dean could go for a good blowjob, if he’s being honest.

He’s being crude and awful and he knows it, but he can’t stop. Cherry bites at his lips, sucks at his tongue, and he has to slide his hands up her shirt, under her bra to pinch at her nipples.

She moans just like he knew she would, sweet and girly and more for his pleasure than her own.

Dean will make sure she comes at least twice.

Her skirt is so short that it’s already ridden up over her thighs. He can see black lace underneath. Instead of a blowjob, she just pulls his cock out of his jeans, pushes her panties to the side, and sinks right down on him, wet and ready.

God, she feels good.

For a few thrusts, it’s exactly what Dean wants. She’s so soft, and her thighs give a little when he squeezes at them, digging his fingers in to control her pace. Her hair falls around her shoulders, tits bouncing as she wiggles around.

And it isn’t Sam.

Dean makes her come twice, just like he promised himself he would. He enjoys her enough to get himself off, pumping up into her hard and letting go as she clenches down around him.

But it isn’t Sam.

The second it’s over, he feels empty. Hollow. Guilty.

She’s too light on his lap. She doesn’t push back, doesn’t bite or grab, doesn’t push Dean to his limits the way Sam does.

Did.

Would have, if it had been real.

Dean can’t taste himself on her tongue like he could with Sam, doesn’t feel his own blood pumping in the heat of her skin.

It isn’t enough for him. Not anymore.

She kisses him before she leaves, grinning and satisfied, no clue that beneath Dean’s wink and playful goodnight he’s aching, desperate for something she never had a chance of giving him.

Sam’s asleep when he gets back. Or maybe he’s pretending. But even if the deep, steady breaths are fake, it’s good enough for Dean. He heads straight for the shower and scrubs himself clean of Cherry and her not-Sam scent.

Later, just as he’s falling asleep, he feels Sam watching him. The room is dark, only a tiny bit of light from the motel’s neon sign coming through a crack in the curtains. Dean rolls over and squints, trying to make out Sam’s face in the dark.

When he does, when his eyes adjust and he can see Sam’s expression, he stops breathing for a moment. Sam looks wild, eyes practically glowing, mouth open to help the hard breaths escape.

“Do you feel better?” There’s no anger in his voice, but it’s still stretched tight, like the words are painful.

“No,” Dean says, simple and honest.

Sam throws his long legs over the side of the bed and down to the floor, pushes himself the one step between their beds.

“What are you doing?” Dean can barely get the sentence out through the thick tightening of his throat, over his heart suddenly lodged where his tongue used to be.

Sam gets in the bed, not touching Dean, close enough that Dean can feel him anyway.

“I don’t know,” he whispers.

They look at each other as best they can in the darkness, and neither speaks for a long while.

Dean is terrified, desperate to know what Sam’s thinking and too afraid to ask. But those thoughts can only last so long before the memories take over, and it’s all too familiar. He’s felt Sam’s weight in his bed before, has fallen asleep not touching exactly this way, comforted by the heat of Sam, by the smell of his breath on Dean’s face.

Dean forgets that those aren’t real memories, that it can’t possibly be true. Without meaning to, he relaxes, slips back into that dream world he wishes he’d died in. His body goes limp, legs bumping into Sam’s, head tilted just a little too close for their noses not to brush together.

And Sam doesn’t pull away.

That thought punches Dean back into reality. This isn’t the djinn dream, with the fuzzy warm light and gentle sweetness surrounding every movement and word. This is real. The sheets are scratchy, and the motel room is a little too hot despite the loud air conditioner, and Dean can smell the cleaning chemicals failing to hide the scent of cigarette smoke. There’s nothing romantic about this moment.

So it’s real.

In the other world, Sam was never nervous, and Dean never had a guilty conscience from fucking some girl just hours before he touched Sam.

If that’s what it takes to make this really happen, if those are the conditions, Dean’s ready to sign in blood. He’ll take them.

“Sammy…” He doesn’t know what he means to say, but Sam’s looking at him with those little brother eyes, waiting for Dean to take the lead and make this okay. To tell Sam that this is what they are supposed to be doing.

In the seconds it takes Dean to decide, his brain tells him he can’t do this. It’s wrong, it’s more than just crossing a line, more than just another unconventional aspect of their insane life.

But deep down, down in his guts and his chest where it counts, it’s the only thing that has ever made him feel safe, the only thing that has ever filled all the little cracks and holes in the armor he has built for himself.

So he leans forward and kisses Sam.

Dean’s not sure what he’s expecting. Maybe he’s expecting the way Sam used to kiss him in that world that never was. It always felt like sweet fire, like thick lava oozing through the kiss and into his body. Or maybe he’s expecting it to feel strange and awkward. It’s not the most normal kiss in the world, obviously.

But when Sam kisses him back, it falls somewhere in between. Sam’s lips are warm and soft, but a little hesitant, like he isn’t sure if Dean’s going to draw a line somewhere, like he’s afraid there might be rules to this he isn’t aware of.

Dean doesn’t care. It’s Sam. It’s perfect.

It’s better than the djinn fantasy.

Sam has never felt so real before. Dean can feel him trembling. He can’t stop his hands from reaching out, carefully running up Sam’s side, and he can feel the sweat, can feel Sam’s nerves, can feel a raised scar through the thin t-shirt. Sam’s kiss is a tiny bit too forceful now, pushing a little too hard in his haste, and he tastes like beer.

And the reality of it, the fear and the doubt and the need suddenly pulsing through both of them, is enough to make Dean wish he could spend the rest of his life right here in this bed, his legs aching because they are bent in a strange position.

“Dean?” He’s asking if it’s okay, if Dean wants this, he’s asking for reassurance.

Dean rolls over then, too greedy to be careful. Sam rolls back and lets Dean settle on top of him, his hands lightly gripping Dean’s waist and looking up with big, questioning eyes.

Dean kisses him again, a real kiss this time. He slides his tongue over Sam’s lips, tasting them, memorizing how the shape of them feels, before pushing inside. Sam opens his mouth easily, ready for it, and whimpers a little as Dean kisses him like he wants to, like he used to, the way he’s missed kissing him.

Before he realizes it, he’s got Sam’s hands in his own, fingers locking together as he pushes Sam down into the bed, as he lets their hips fall together. He can feel how hard Sam is through his sweatpants, grazing against Dean’s own erection and making him moan through the kiss

“God, I missed you,” Dean says, letting his head fall into the crook of Sam’s neck, lips on Sam’s shoulder. “I know it wasn’t real, but I missed you so fuckin’ much.”

The words are dangerous. Sam might not be ready to hear them. They’re too intense, too much for this first kiss. But Dean can’t stop them.

“I didn’t know you...that you’d...that we could…”

“It’s okay,” Sam gasps, hands sliding to dig into Dean’s lower back. “I didn’t either. Not until...until you left tonight. I knew what you were doing, and I...I couldn’t…”

They’ve never been great at communicating, because they’ve always understood what wasn’t being said better than the words themselves, and this is no exception. Dean doesn’t need Sam to say anything more, and all of his blubbering can wait. If he’s got Sam, he wants to enjoy it before he slips away again.

He starts at Sam’s neck, licking and sucking at his pulse point, grinning when Sam is much more sensitive than he expects, bucking his hips up into Dean’s the harder Dean bites at his earlobe. Dean’s never heard the sweet little sigh that escapes Sam’s lips, and he groans at the knowledge that he doesn’t actually know everything about Sam, that it really was just a dream and he still has things left to discover.

It hurts. Dean’s heart is slamming and he can’t get close enough to Sam and he’s going to melt out of his skin. Sam’s fingers are digging into his muscles now, pushing his shirt off, pulling his hair to bring him back down, biting his lips until there’s a little blood on their tongues. Dean keeps his eyes closed until he can force the tears to stop, until he can get a grip on himself and let the physical sensations take over.

Sam’s got his own shirt off, too. His skin is soft under Dean’s calloused fingers, warm and delicate even as Dean traces the scars he finds, the evidence of the hard life Sam has lived. Dean wants to make it all go away, wants Sam to always be safe and warm and happy, and before he even means to, he’s kissing down Sam’s chest, lips touching every mark like he can love them into disappearing. Sam holds his breath, a tiny whimpering sound escaping every now and then like Dean’s burning him, like this hurts. But he arches up into Dean’s mouth, drags him back in for another kiss when Dean tries to pull away.

They need to go slow. They need to stop and talk or think or just breathe or something. Dean won’t survive if they lose themselves tonight and Sam regrets it in the morning.

But Sam won’t let him.

Sam grabs Dean’s hair, pulls him down hard, and kisses him like he doesn’t need to breathe anymore. There are too many teeth in the kiss, too much energy. There’s no grace or finesse in Sam’s tongue when it pushes into Dean’s mouth, only an urgency that Dean can feel in his own fingers and toes.

It’s contagious.

Dean forgets all the reasons why they need to pause. He just misses Sam so fucking much, misses the weight of him, the heat of him, the safety of him, even if it’s not anything like it was in the djinn’s world. This is harder and clunkier, the two of them figuring out how to move together. Sam isn’t as confident of himself, is touching Dean like he’s scared he’s doing it wrong, but Dean doesn’t mind. He just needs Sam’s hands on him.

They kiss until Dean’s lips are tingling.

And then Sam pulls away long enough to look at Dean with the same expression he’s used all his life, the look in his eyes full of all the hero-worship and total dependence it always had, only this time, there’s something new. It’s a raw heat, burning and blazing, more than Dean’s ever seen there before. Enough that it makes Dean want to look away, but he just can’t.

“Dean.”

It’s a question, a request, and even Sam’s voice is different now. It’s deep and steady, like he knows he’s going to get his way, that Dean could never say no to him.

Dean should take him time. He should make this good for Sam.

Hell, he should make this good for himself. He’s missed this. And now Sam’s beneath him, with his chest hair tickling Dean’s skin as he squirms and rolls, pulling Dean closer. Dean can touch, can kiss and stroke and bite and tease, can get all of the things he wants.

And it’s fucking real this time.

Which is exactly why Dean can’t go slow.

This is real , and any second, Sam is going to pull away. Dean doesn’t have the luxury of taking his time, because what happens when Sam’s head clears? What happens when he gets out of this bed, disgusted with both of them?

Dean has to do this right fucking now or he won’t get to. It’s the most selfish thing Dean’s ever done, but he’s too far gone to stop now, and he’s never claimed to be anything good. And no creature in existence has the strength to turn away from Sam, to deny themselves the scent of his skin and the way his hair gets in his eyes, the way his cheeks flush and his ab muscles flex.

So Dean doesn’t give Sam the romance he deserves, doesn’t say all the things he should, doesn’t worship Sam the way he’s meant to. Instead, he just licks down Sam’s body and gets Sam ready for him.

Sam doesn’t seem to notice or mind the lack of foreplay or how crude and thoughtless Dean’s being. He spreads his long legs and arches his back, his huge body still so pretty and lean, still Dean’s Sammy as he offers himself up.

Dean stares for just a second, wonders how long Sam’s been holding this back, if they could have been doing this years ago if someone or something had only pointed out they wanted it.

And then he remembers that he’s on a ticking clock, and his mouth is on Sam instantly. He kisses and licks over Sam’s cock, growling at the familiar lines and curves of it, but he doesn’t let himself linger. Instead, he moves lower, sealing his lips around Sam’s hole.

“Fuck, Dean.” Sam acts like Dean’s burned him, jerks and hisses at the first touch of Dean’s tongue, but he doesn’t pull away. He tangles his fingers in Dean’s hair and holds him there, presses him closer.

Dean could die right here and be completely satisfied.

But he knows he won’t be satisfied until he’s inside Sam, and it’s urgent, like oxygen is urgent for survival. So he still doesn’t allow himself the pleasure of a leisurely pace. He licks Sam open with quick efficiency, closing his eyes and clenching his fists against Sam’s moans, against the begging words that fall from his lips. Some of them don’t even make sense, Sam’s so lost in the feel of Dean’s tongue in his ass, and it’s all Dean can do not to stay right there torturing him.

If he were a better person, he would.

No. If he were a better person, he wouldn’t be fucking his brother. So why not be a little selfish? It’s not like it matters now. It’s not going to bring him back over the line into decent.

The second he thinks Sam can take it, he slides a finger in. Sam clenches around it, then starts pumping his hips like maybe he understands what Dean’s after. Maybe Sam knows this spell is going to break before they know it, and he wants to get to the end just as much as Dean.

With that thought in mind, Dean starts thrusting his finger, adding a second and then a third as soon as Sam can handle it. Sam groans, but he doesn’t slow down. He fucks himself down on Dean’s fingers until he’s stretched and ready, until his hole is as pretty pink as his mouth and even more inviting.

“Jesus Christ, Sammy,” Dean whispers.

“Dean, please…”

There’s no denying that tone. It feel like a magnet, pulling his whole body up and up until Dean is settled on top of Sam, his hips between the soft skin of Sam’s thighs. A lot more spit and some wiggling around, and he’s sliding in, pushing himself to where he belongs. Sam’s hole is burning hot, like a furnace surrounding Dean’s cock, and Dean practically shouts at the first thrust, at how deep Sam pulls him in, like his body knows they’ve done this before.

He’s been trying to hurry things along to get right here, to feel exactly this before he wakes up from yet another dream. Now that he’s here, all he can do is pump his hips, slam into Sam over and over until Sam’s letting out these perfect whimpers, hanging onto Dean like he’s going to fall off the edge of the world if he doesn’t. Dean puts his head down close to Sam’s and grinds into him as hard as he can, letting himself feel every inch of Sam’s skin, letting his sweat roll and drip down, fitting a thousand memories into this one moment.

When Sam comes, it takes Dean by surprise. He isn’t touching Sam’s cock, has ignored it actually, and yet Sam arches up as much as he can with Dean on top of him, grunts and groans, the end of the sound rising in pitch as he pulses against Dean’s stomach, making a mess of both of them.

Sam clenches around him and pulls him deeper, his cock still throbbing between them, and Dean feels his own orgasm build at the thought of Sam’s, at watching Sam fall apart from Dean’s cock in his ass and nothing else.

It’s too much. It rips and shatters through Dean, pulls his arms out from beneath him and his breath out of his lungs. He collapses down on Sam, mouth open on a silent sound, and everything fades away. Nothing exists except Sam and the pleasure crashing over him. It’s the same as it always was, the same as Dean remembers, and his voice comes back to him just in time for him to let out a sound very much like a sob.

As the air settles around them, they don’t talk or move. The silence is comforting now, and Dean basks in it, grateful and exhausted.

He is still inside of Sam when he falls asleep.

 

********

 

The air is too cold, air conditioner on full blast in the tiny room. Dean stretches under the blanket, muscles screaming and bones popping as he breathes it in, relishing the burn of it in his lungs.

It feels so good that it takes him a few minutes to realize that he’s starfishing over the whole bed, and he hasn’t run into another body.

Instantly, his blood goes as cold as the air. He listens for a moment with his eyes still shut, hoping to hear the shower, or the click of keys on Sam’s laptop. When all he hears is silence, he squints one eye open, hoping for Sam to be sleeping in the other bed, but it’s empty, mocking Dean’s foolish hope.

With a heavy sigh, Dean sits up and lets reality in, the buzz from the night before seeping out of his skin and leaving him shivering. He tries not to panic when he sees that Sam’s bookbag is gone. His duffel bag is still there, right next to Dean’s, and that’s what matters.

Dean almost laughs when he sees a note on the table, probably saying that Sam went for breakfast or something. But it’s false relief, a forced laugh that disappears when Dean reads the words, scratched out in a hurry.

Be back later.

That’s it.

There’s something scary about Sam when he’s quiet, when he’s not trying to work through things together and make Dean face his own emotions. It’s dangerous for Sam to shut down and run, and Dean doesn’t like being shut out one bit.

Well, he’ll just wait.

Dean tries to go back to sleep, but he’s too worried now, a growing pit in his stomach, keeping him awake. So he showers and gets dressed, shaves and brushes his teeth to keep busy, trying his best to pretend it’s a normal day.

Sam comes back just before dusk, a full ten hours later. Dean has been sitting on his hands the entire time to keep from blowing Sam’s phone up. The car keys are on the table, ready for Dean to grab them when it gets dark, because he isn’t letting Sam wander alone without checking in, no matter how angry or upset he might be, no matter how much he wants to be alone. Luckily, Dean doesn’t need them, and they continue to sit there and coldly gleam.

Sam sinks down into a chair and pulls a burger out of the bag of fast food he’s carrying. He holds it out toward Dean, but doesn’t look at him. When Dean reaches to take it, he jerks away as soon as possible, making sure their fingers don’t touch as he hands over the food.

“Look,” Dean says, clearing his throat more than actually speaking the word. “Maybe we should-”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sammy…”

I don’t want to talk about it .”

Dean fights the instinct to argue, and just unwraps his burger while Sam pulls out some sort of grilled chicken wrap. Neither of them eat.

When the silence is roaring in his ears, he breaks it, the words bubbling up like they’re a real, tangible part of him. And maybe they are.

“I don’t want you to leave.”

Sam flinches like the words sting. Dean forces himself to watch Sam’s face no matter how exposed he feels, no matter how much he wants to turn away. Sam chews on his lip for a minute, then shrugs, getting up to throw his uneaten food away.

“I’m still here, aren’t I?”

Sam’s words are so comforting, and so much like Dean that Dean laughs, loud and awkward in the uneasy quiet.

“You sound like your big brother, Sammy.”

Sam ignores him, but Dean thinks he can see Sam’s mouth twitch upward, just barely.

They don’t speak while Dean eats his cheeseburger, feeling a tiny bit better. They may be fucked up beyond repair, but Sam’s right. He’s still here. That’s what matters.

As they get ready for bed, Dean watches Sam. He’s so deliberate, moving so carefully, fingers precise as they undo his buttons and brush through all that hair. Sam only does that when he’s anxious or feeling awkward. Dean wishes he would talk, or yell, or something. Instead, he just moves around the room so aware of his own body that it makes Dean ache.

Sam is so beautiful. Dean appreciated it for so long in his djinn fantasy, and now it’s second nature to notice, to see all the rolls of Sam’s shoulders, the set of his jaw, the way he slinks around like a dangerous cat. Dean has always been too straightforward, and he loves how Sam only shows what he wants to show, even when he’s not saying anything at all.

Well, Dean loves it until he’s the one Sam’s hiding from.

But Sam isn’t gonna talk tonight, so Dean just waits for him to turn off the light, then tries to sleep.

When Sam gets out of bed about an hour later, Dean quickly closes his eyes and tries to fake it while Sam goes to the bathroom.

But the bathroom door never opens for Sam to enter it, and then there’s a heavy weight sliding into Dean’s bed and snaking an arm around Dean’s body, a large hand flattening out against his stomach.

“Tell me what it was like,” Sam whispers.

Warm breath tickles hot over Dean’s ear, goosebumps rising on his skin and his cock rising in his boxers. His own breath catches in his throat, making his answer hoarse and weak.

“What what was like?”

“Us.” He squeezes his fingers into Dean’s flesh. “ This . What was it like there?”

Dean swallows around the lump in his throat, tries to hold his hips still as they attempt to press back against Sam.

“It was...it wasn’t as good as this.”

He turns over without putting any distance between them, their noses grazing now, Sam’s hand lightly resting on his ass.

“Your perfect fantasy wasn’t as good as some grimy motel room? You have onion breath from that cheeseburger and I smell like I haven’t showered. How is this better?”

“Because it’s real,” Dean whispers, letting the dark of the room hide how his heart is pouring open. “Because in this world, you want it, and I didn’t just make it all up.”

Sam blinks, eyelashes brushing against Dean’s face. Dean could just push his lips out and kiss him, but he doesn’t.

“Right?” Dean asks, voice small now.

Sam sighs, and Dean can’t read it. “Yeah,” he says, tilting his head until their lips are touching. “I want this.”

Last night, Sam had been sweet and nervous, had let Dean take control. Tonight, he’s just hungry. He bites at Dean’s lips, scraping his teeth down to Dean’s neck where he digs in until it almost hurts. Dean groans and pushes his hips forward to feel Sam’s hard cock through their underwear.

“Did I ever do this there? In that other world?”

There’s a challenge in Sam’s voice as he talks about Dean’s fantasy, like he’s jealous he wasn’t really there, like Dean’s been cheating on him. Dean can see the pout on Sam’s face without opening his eyes.

“What, bite me? Yeah.” Dean’s caught up in it now, not thinking, just feeling and reacting.

“Did I ever do this?” Sam runs his mouth down to Dean’s nipples, bites and sucks one raw, then goes for the other. Dean gasps and grits his teeth as he rolls flat on his back to give Sam more room.

“Y-yes,” he manages. “You’ve done that.”

Sam frowns. Dean can’t see his face, but he can feel it, can hear Sam’s brain trying to think of something creative.

“Did I ever fuck you ?”

“Sammy, we were together a long time. You gotta switch it up every now and then.”

Sam snorts, his hand running down Dean’s stomach and hip to his thigh, tracing with his fingertips like he’s memorizing the map of Dean’s body.

“I want to do something we’ve never done before. I want something that’s mine.”

Dean blinks until his eyes stop burning, heart painfully swollen in his battered chest.

I’m yours, Sammy. You can have me .”

Sam knows better than to respond to Dean’s words and acknowledge the vulnerability of them, and Dean’s grateful. “You know what I mean.”

They’ve never spoken this way before, so quiet, with knowing smiles on their lips, holding back floods of words that would sound too much like bad poetry. Dean’s never felt this ripped open before, and he doesn’t even care that Sam’s crawling inside the holes, filling him up until there’s no way to separate themselves from each other. Not that there ever really was.

Sam sits up and strokes Dean’s chest, just appreciating Dean’s skin. When he slides down Dean’s arms, just barely squeezing around Dean’s wrists, Dean feels a surge of heat up his spine.

Sam’s fingers curl complete around his wrists, pressing harder, and Dean moans. “You’ve never done that, Sam.”

Eyebrows raised, Sam smirks a little. “What, held you down?”

“Tied me up.”

The offer is a heavy one, pressing in on them until it feels like there’s not even air between them.

“Can I?”

Dean nods, knowing Sam can feel how much he wants it. The shadows in the dark room hide most of Sam’s expression, but when he pulls away, Dean senses that he isn’t supposed to move, that Sam’s in control now.

It takes Sam a couple of minutes to dash out to the car in his underwear, covered by the late hour and empty streets. When he comes back, he smells like the fresh night air, feels a little feverish from the flush on his skin. And he’s carrying a rope.

Dean lets Sam tie his wrists together, doesn’t move as Sam knots the end of the rope to the headboard. They aren’t tight, just enough for Dean to feel them, enough for them to bite at Dean’s skin if he pulls too hard.

“You want to fuck me like this?” Dean’s starting to sweat, his whole body screaming for Sam to touch him. Torture him.

“No. I want to ride you like this.”

Jesus Christ.

Sam leans down from where he’s sitting on the bed and lets his tongue wander, glides over the cut of Dean’s hip to the base of his hard cock, then slowly up, teasing over every inch until he gets to the tip. He pushes down a little, letting Dean’s cock move over the smooth inside of his cheek. Dean groans, first at the sensation, then at the sight of his dick in Sam’s mouth, at Sam’s bulging cheek.

Somehow, Dean manages not to come, even when Sam takes him in until Dean bumps the back of his throat, over and over, faster each time. Dean pulls at the ropes and lets them sting and burn, but he holds on.

Sam eventually pulls away and digs around in his bag, leaving Dean to lie there and squirm. Dean’s certain that whatever he’s looking for, he could find it quicker than this if he really wanted to.

When he finally makes his way back to the bed, he’s got a tiny plastic bottle with him. Dean raises his eyebrows in surprise when Sam opens it and drips lube on his fingers.

“You carry lube on you?”

Sam grins. “Our hands have too many callouses. This helps. Do you not have lube?”

Dean shrugs. “Maybe, but I-”

His words are cut off by a gasp when Sam grabs his cock, firmly squeezes and slides up and down, slick fingers coating him. Sam drips more lube down, working Dean’s dick until it’s dripping. And then he straddles him.

“Don’t you want to…” Dean’s words trail off when he tries to reach out for Sam and ends up with ropes burning at his wrists, holding him back.

Sam shakes his head no, pressing back against Dean, lining himself up. He’s breathing harder now.

“No. I don’t want your fingers. Just your cock.”

Dean’s dick twitches at the words, at the growl behind them.

“It’ll hurt,” he warns.

“I’m still a little loose from last night. And I don’t mind.”

And then Sam plants his hands on Dean’s chest and pushes back, lowers himself down until the head of Dean’s cock slips inside.

Dean wishes there was more light than the little bit of streetlamp making its way through the crack of the curtains. He wants to see Sam’s face clearly, wants to see more than just the hazy outline of his expression in the shadows. He’s sure it’s perfect, better than any expression he’s ever seen on Sam’s face.

He’s certain of that because Sam’s trembling, fingernails digging into Dean’s chest as he works his ass down on Dean’s cock inch by inch, hissing and grunting and letting out low groans the whole time. Dean can feel his muscles working, rolling and flexing as he moves.

The ropes keep his arms still as they try to reach out, over and over, forgetting with each of Sam’s noises that they’re restrained. He’s going to have marks tomorrow, he’s certain.

Finally, Dean’s completely buried inside Sam, and all he can do is lie there and wait. Wait for Sam to move, for him to slide up and down or grind deeper, whatever he wants to do to Dean. It’s the sweetest torture he’s ever experienced.

He wants to move. He wants to touch Sam.

And that’s the difference between this and the djinn fantasy.

Sam gave him everything he wanted there. He never wanted for anything.

That has its merits, of course. Having Sam at his mercy any time he wanted was pretty fucking awesome, and he’d never wished for anything other than the way Sam said yes, Dean so quickly.

But this? Sam teasing him, actually denying him what he really wants just to prove that it could be good this way too, taking what he wants instead of just offering himself to Dean?

Dean could never have imagined this feeling. Even in that fantasy world, he couldn’t have imagined the way his insides could twist, the sharp sting and frustration of not being able to move, the sweet pain of it.

Sam finally does move, slow little circles of his hips at first, then a deep grinding, never letting Dean get more than an inch out of him before taking him in as deep as possible all over again. Dean sweats and writhes and tries to thrust up, pulls at his ropes and tries to create some kind of rhythm, something that will build to a release.

Sam won’t let it happen.

They are both dripping with sweat, muscles shaking, skin red as it smacks together. Sam gives up his deep grinds for bouncing, getting his feet underneath him and riding Dean like it’s the first and last and only time he’s ever going to do it.

Dean gets so caught up in feeling Sam, in watching the shadows of him as well as he can in the dark, that he almost forgets that some of the pleasure is his, too. He cries out when Sam clenches around his cock, holds still as he grabs his own dick and strokes hard, his back jerking into an arch.

They come at the same time, Dean inside of Sam, Sam all over Dean’s stomach, both loud and shuddering, violent waves knocking them against each other.

When Sam decides he can move again, it’s to untie Dean’s arms, carefully pulling them back down where they belong. They’re aching and sore, and Dean whimpers a little as Sam massages the tension out of them, kissing his way up and down the inside of Dean’s sensitive forearms, past his elbow and almost to his armpit, his tongue trailing along in a perfect sweet caress.

Dean manages to turn onto his side when Sam snuggles up against him. Somewhere between consciousness and sleep he realizes he’s still covered in Sam’s come, but he can’t be bothered to get up. He’ll deal with it in the morning.

Sam snores next to him, his fingers twitching against Dean’s skin.

And then Dean wakes up alone. Again.

This time, he doesn’t worry or panic. This time, he’s just fucking pissed.

Sure, this is an impossible situation. Sam needs time, and probably space. But damn it, he shouldn’t just leave without a word, without telling Dean he just needs time to process. What he’s doing is just running away, and if he’s gonna run away every time they touch, maybe they shouldn’t touch at all.

Next time Sam crawls in his bed, Dean’s gonna toss his ass right back out.

But that’s a lie.

And if Sam were here to hear it, he’d know it was a lie, too.

It doesn’t take Sam long to come back, at least. He bursts in while Dean’s showering, nods at him, then starts packing.

“You find a case?” Dean asks, recognizing the businesslike tossing of plaid into a duffel bag that is more patches than bag. And if there’s a case, the fight Dean wants to have can wait.

“Yep. Iowa. Poltergeist.”

Dean pauses, razor against his cheek. “We haven’t seen a poltergeist in years. Anyone hurt?”

“Some bumps and bruises, nothing major. Car in ten minutes?”

“Yeah, we’ll stop for food on the way out of town.”

It isn’t until Sam finishes packing and leaves Dean to finish getting his own things together that Dean realizes Sam didn’t look him in the eye for that entire conversation.

The drive is a quiet one. Dean tries to turn his music up real loud, get some metal pumping through his blood, but it echoes uselessly, makes his bad mood stand out even more in contrast. Sam makes his typical I fucking hate your music face, but doesn’t say anything. Dean turns it down, wishing they could just fight.

It’s worse when they cross over into Iowa. There’s nothing to see except flat fields, and they still have a few hours to get where they’re going. Dean squirms through it as long as he can, but he’s crawling in his skin well before sundown.

“Let’s stop for the night.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to. We can get up early and still be there when we said we would.”

Sam doesn’t argue, has learned over the years that arguments like this can only go so far when you aren’t the one driving the car.

It takes another half hour or so to get anywhere. Dean is bouncing in his seat to get out, to breathe air that isn’t shared with Sam, and he lets out a sigh of relief when the straight, sparse highway offers a sign for a little town ahead.

“That desperate to get away from me?” Sam murmurs, almost to himself, but obviously meant for Dean to hear.

Dean speeds the car up as his blood boils.

“Seriously? You bail two mornings in a row after...after that, and you’re mad at me for wanting to get out of this car? Who the fuck do you think you are? Man, I oughta dump your ass on the side of the road.”

Sam clenches his jaw and stares at the road, holding back whatever it is he wants to say.

Dean jerks the steering wheel so hard the tires screech, turning into the first motel he sees when they get to civilization. He leaves Sam to fend for himself and get the bags, jumping out into the late afternoon air.

The office is small and dark and suffocating, but Dean relaxes without Sam, takes a deep breath and lets his face make whatever expression it wants without fear of showing his hand.

The woman behind the desk is bored and slow, barely glancing up from the computer screen when Dean says he’d like a room.

“King or two queens?” she asks, voice as flat as her expression.

“Two-” Dean stops himself. If Sam won’t talk about it, maybe there’s a way to force him to make a move, decide one way or the other.

“King, please.”

There. Let Sam make what he will of that.

She types in a few commands, hands Dean a slip of paper to sign in exchange for a wad of cash, then slides over a key. She doesn’t bother to wish Dean a good night or thank him, and Dean just nods before heading back out.

Sam’s waiting, his bag on one shoulder and Dean’s on the other, hanging there like a peace offering. Like carrying Dean’s bag is gonna fix any damn thing.

Dean blows right past him, counting the numbers until he gets to their room. Sam stops at the door instead of following him in.

“Dean?”

Dean almost laughs.

“The king bed was me. The mirror above it is just the universe having a sense of humor.”

Sam nods and takes a couple of steps, just far enough inside to get the door closed behind him, then lets the bags fall to the floor.

“Why’d you get a king?”

Dean turns and stares at him, waiting until Sam meets his eyes. “Because you’ve been in my bed the past two nights. If you don’t want to be there again tonight, then you’re gonna have to actually say it.”

Sam runs both hands through his hair, holds it back off his face for a second before letting it fall down to its messy place. He walks over and stares at the bed for a moment, then sits down on the edge of it and looks up at Dean.

“How are you so calm about it?”

Dean frowns at him, not understanding.

“I mean...how can you just be okay with what we’re doing?”

Dean shrugs. “You know me.”

Sam smiles a little. “Yeah, I do. And I imagine that even in the djinn world where everything was perfect,  you freaked out about this.”

Dean smiles back, but it fades quickly. “I really did. But I never left, Sammy. I never refused to talk to you.”

“I just wanted to think it through.”

“And I just wanted to know that’s all it was.”

Sam exhales. “Fair enough.”

“You want a room with two beds? I can-”

“No,” Sam cuts him off. “This is fine. But can we...can we just sleep tonight?”

Instantly, Dean’s back in the fantasy world, back where he and Sam climbed into bed together after working all day, and didn’t have sex. Where they would snuggle into the covers or stay on their separate sides, just one leg pressed against each other because they still wanted to be touching. Where they slept and whispered and laughed like boring old people. It makes Dean’s heart swell and shatter.

He still misses Sam.

They get undressed together, Sam pulling on sleep pants and taking off his shirt. Dean leaves his own t-shirt on, deciding it’s probably softer than the scratchy sheets, but shrugs his jeans off and gets into bed in his boxer-briefs. Sam only hesitates a few seconds before sliding in next to him. They don’t touch, and it takes Dean a while to fall asleep. But once he does, it’s deep and calm and dreamless.

Sam is curled up half on top of him when the sun wakes Dean up. He’s still there. Dean ignores the blood rushing to his cock. That’s just morning, and has nothing to do with Sam.

But Sam is so soft right now, one leg thrown over Dean’s, head nestled on Dean’s chest, snoring just a little. Dean could reach out and play with Sam’s hair, but he doesn’t want to wake him up. He just stares at Sam’s face instead, letting his own eyes open and close with his morning drowsiness. The weight of Sam’s body lulls him, keeps him from waking up completely, and his mind drifts.

They should work in the garden today, he thinks, before remembering that their garden doesn’t actually exist.

But maybe that world isn’t as far away as he thought. Not anymore.

He isn’t aware of falling back asleep, but he’s aware of Sam’s tongue when it wakes him up, sliding over the strip of skin showing above his underwear. Sam grins a little when Dean wriggles, sleepily arching up into it.

This time, everything feels soft and golden, early morning haze seeping into every movement, every touch. Sam murmurs his name, but Dean doesn’t open his eyes. It wasn’t a request for his attention so much as a sign of pleasure, so Dean just basks in it, lets it float around behind his closed eyelids.

He can smell the motel air, a little too cold, a little too much carpet cleaner, and as it mixes with the scent of Sam’s skin, nothing has ever felt more like home.

They take their time and work up a good sweat, just rolling around together, hands and mouths exploring. Sam gasps when Dean touches everywhere he already knows Sam likes, cries out when Dean proves just how good this can be, how good it was.

And then Sam pushes Dean down in the bed and spreads his legs, wiggling between them. Again, he takes his time, makes sure Dean’s good and ready, gets him slicked up and stretched open on his careful fingers before he lines himself up.

When he pushes inside, Dean groans. His whole body is on fire, but he still has enough clarity of mind to understand what Sam is doing. Sam is letting him know he’s not gonna run this time. That first thrust, slow and steady, is an active decision to stay, a decision to choose Dean, to choose them .

Dean thrusts his hips up and takes Sam deeper, meeting him halfway. He feels Sam shudder, understanding the promise between them.

That’s the last thing Dean consciously does. His mind gives way to his body, and he moves on instinct, letting what feels good lead the way. Sam thrusts and shakes and sweats above him, filling him up, breaking him open, hitting every sensitive spot inside Dean over and over again.

And when they’re too exhausted to keep going, when they’ve had their fill of each other even though they’re still hungry, Sam collapses down on top of Dean and stays there, a heavy and solid weight Dean trusts to still be there when he wakes up.

 

********

 

“Home sweet home,” Dean grins.

Damn, it’s good to be back at the bunker. Dean’s spent so much time running from it, he forgot how much he loved it. Now that things are right between them (better than right, actually, more like perfect), he can’t wait to settle back down. It’ll be good to give Baby some tlc in the garage, to take a shower with the bunker’s great water pressure.

Sam drops his bag on the table and runs his hands through his hair. “Yep. Want a beer?”

“I want to sleep,” Dean says, stretching his arms above his head. “Not all of us slept the entire drive home.”

Sam rolls his eyes. “I fought a fucking poltergeist, it’s not like I hadn’t earned it.”

“Whatever, Sleeping Beauty. Wake me up in the morning.”

Dean pauses at the end of the room, just in the entrance to the hallway. “I mean, you’re welcome to sleep in my room with me. Or I could go to...I don’t know. Should we get a new mattress? A bigger one?”

Sam grins. “Tonight?”

Dean returns the grin. “I guess we’ll have to change some stuff around here.”

“I guess we will.”

“Sammy?”

“Yeah?”

“You are still using your own sink. You leave hair everywhere when you shave.”

Sam makes a face. “Says the guy who can’t rinse the sink after he spits toothpaste. Our sinks aren’t supposed to be mint blue, Dean.”

Dean smiles, a big sincere smile that he feels on the inside. “Night, bitch.”

“Goodnight, jerk.”

True to his word, Dean falls asleep quickly, and stays asleep for what feels like days. He’s too groggy when he wakes up, like his body probably needed to move around a few REM cycles ago. Sam isn’t there. Dean’s not surprised. Sam probably didn’t sleep at all, given his snoring marathon in the car. Dean pulls on sweatpants and stumbles out of the room to find him.

The smell of food drifts through the air and leads him to the kitchen, where he finds Sam at the stove, a skillet of bacon in front of him.

“Sit down,” he says, “and I’ll get your pancakes.”

“You made pancakes and bacon?”

“Yep. I wanted you in a good mood.”

“Why’s that?”

Sam turns around with an actual flirty smile.

“I want to ask you something.”

“Whatever it is, I’m saying yes.”

Sam laughs. “I want a garden.”

“What?”

“I want a garden,” he repeats, shrugging his shoulders as he turns back to the food. “I was reading, and I think we could turn the observatory into a greenhouse.”

He turns from the stove with a plate full of delicious food, holding it out to Dean, then frowns in confusion.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

Dean swallows around the lump in his throat, tears in his eyes as he tries to keep his voice steady.

“Let’s figure out the bedroom situation first. But yeah, Sammy. A garden would be nice.”

It’s not the suburbs.

But it will do.