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Sam Winchester and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Sam’s so soundly asleep that it takes him a while to really hear the song cheerfully blaring out from his cell phone. He set the alarm late last night after he and Dean stumbled into the room covered in water and bruises but ultimately triumphant: kappa down, job finished. He was a little out of it at the time, sure—cross-eyed half from exhaustion and half from the orgasm Dean wrenched out of him while they were showering—but even in his groggy, early-morning haze Sam is certain that he didn’t pick this song for his wake up call. He doesn’t even have this ringtone on his phone … or he didn’t before Dean ‘borrowed’ his cell yesterday after his own ran out of juice.

Sam folds his pillow in half, trying to block out the sound of Lene Rasted proclaiming that yes, she is indeed a Barbie Girl—ha ha, very fucking funny, Dean—while he gathers the coordination and strength necessary to reach over to the nightstand and turn the alarm off. It’s too early for lame pranks, but apparently his brother didn’t get that particular memo. Maybe he’ll understand when Sam cuts him off for the rest of the week.

Sam smiles a little at that thought, and although he was only making idle threats in his own head a moment ago, he’s seriously considering following through now. Because Dean is like a junkie when it comes to sex. Just a few days of going cold turkey—no blowjobs or hand jobs: not so much as a peck on the cheek—and he’s gonna be coming out of his skin. And when he finally snaps, Sam’ll be right there to reap the benefits.

Imagining Dean’s hands on him—Dean grabbing him and shoving him up against the wall and all but ripping his clothes off to get at the skin beneath—Sam blindly flails one hand out toward his phone. He has just begun to consider prying one eye open so that he can see what he’s doing instead of having to spend the next ten minutes groping around in midair when his knuckles collide with something cold and smooth. Whatever it is teeters alarmingly, and he makes a grab for the object a fraction of a second too late to stop it from tipping over and falling off the nightstand with a crash.

As his cell phone continues to broadcast the message that life in plastic isn’t just great, it’s fantastic, Sam pulls himself to the edge of the bed and squints down. Everything is still sleep-blurry, but not quite blurry enough that he doesn’t recognize the pieces of what used to be the nightstand lamp littering the off-white rug. Wonderful.

Dean picks that moment to stroll back through the front door, juggling keys and two cups of coffee and a paper bag from Dunkin Donuts. He pauses in the doorway, looking from the mess on the rug to Sam, and then smirks around the doughnut clamped between his teeth.

“Ohning, Hunhine,” Dean says, stepping inside and kicking the door closed behind him.

After a brief delay, Sam’s mind translates that as Deep Fried Pastry for ‘Morning, Sunshine,’ and then suggests that Sam might want to get back on that cell phone alarm thing. While Dean sets breakfast down on the table, Sam pushes himself up onto one elbow and frowns at the nightstand. His phone isn’t lying where he left it. Okay, not a problem. It probably fell on the floor when the lamp broke. He leans over the side of the bed again to check and it isn’t there either, but it sounds really fucking close, and not muffled either so Dean didn’t stick it under one of their mattresses or in a drawer or something.

From across the room, Dean calls, “Hey, Barbie, you gonna turn that off already or what?”

“I will if you tell me where the hell it is,” Sam groans. He’s feeling a little more awake now, but his muscles are sore from wrestling with the kappa last night and his brain is still protesting the fact that it has to function at all. For some reason, these waterlogged jobs always leave him exhausted for days.

“Dude, it’s your phone,” Dean says. His voice is sloppy with the sound of chewing: probably back to work on that doughnut.

Shutting his eyes, Sam flops over on his back and drapes his forearm across his face. “Come on, Dean,” he says. “Just—it’s too early for this crap, so tell me where you put it already.”

“What, and take all the fun out of life?”

“Goddamn it, Dean,” Sam starts, moving his arm and opening his eyes. And there’s his phone, clear as day. Glued to the faded floral wallpaper above his bed. Sam stares at it while it takes a breath between choruses and then says tonelessly, “You dick.”

“Hey, you’re the one who slept through your own alarm for, like, five minutes. I just wanted to make sure the second wake up call got your lazy ass out of bed.” When Sam shifts his gaze to his brother, Dean shrugs. “Your phone wakes me up at the asscrack of dawn, you’re gonna pay for it.”

Sam can’t think of a good come back (or any come back, really) for that right now, so he just grunts and pushes himself up on both elbows. He’s about to get up and pull his phone free—or at least dismiss the alarm so that he doesn’t have to hear any more about Barbie’s bimbo friend—when the cell comes loose with a sound like ripping Velcro. It drops down, hits the headboard, and then somersaults off to hit Sam on the top of the head.

“Ow!” he shouts, slapping a hand to the aching spot where his cell hit him. He can feel the phone vibrating against his back where it somehow ended up while the Aquas invite Barbie to their party.

“Oh shit, man, you okay?” Dean asks, but the words come out mangled by laughter.

“You’re a real prick, you know that?” Sam growls. Releasing his head, he scrounges around and (ohthankgod) finally turns the alarm off.

Dean comes over, crunching shards of lamp underneath his boots and still laughing a little. “Come on, man, lemme see,” he says, reaching out.

“I’m fine,” Sam snaps as he jerks back out of range.

Only he must’ve been closer to the far side of the bed than he thought because instead of just evading Dean’s hands—he’s so not in the mood to get poked and prodded by his brother while Dean snickers under his breath—he rolls off the bed and onto the floor. It doesn’t really hurt, but now he’s all tangled up in the sheets: legs still on the mattress and all of his weight resting on his shoulders.

Dean bursts out laughing again.

Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those days.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Things aren’t much better twenty minutes later, after Sam has untangled himself from the sheets (no help from Dean, of course) and taken his coffee into the bathroom with him. He frowns at his reflection as he runs his comb through his hair again, hoping that this time it’ll do something about the horrendous case of bed head he has from falling asleep with his hair wet. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen it this bad, flat on one side and with a wing on the other like an airplane’s. Maybe if he gets it wet again …

“C’mon, man,” Dean shouts from the other room. “We got ten minutes left to check out.”

“In a minute,” Sam yells back as he turns on the sink and shoves his hands under the faucet.

“What the hell are you doing in there, anyway?”

“Fixing my hair,” Sam says, unthinking, and then curses himself in the next moment.

Sure enough, Dean’s response comes immediate and amused. “Dude, you do remember you aren’t actually a girl, right?”

Sam runs his hands through his hair, wetting it as best as he can, and tries not to dwell on the fact that he’s gonna have to put up with about a thousand girl jokes before Dean loses interest with that line of attack. He can’t believe that he was actually worried that Dean would start treating him differently when they finally gave in to the rising tension between them four years ago. There’d been the obvious freak out, of course, and then two years after he came back from Hell—their third year anniversary, if you were keeping track—Dean took him out for a private candlelit dinner, but other than those two aberrations, he’s been the same sometimes lovable, sometimes really fucking annoying asshole that Sam grew up with.

Most of the time, Sam’s thankful for it.

Biting his lower lip in concentration, he tries the comb again and ends up working out a snarl he missed the last time around. When he’s finished, he takes in the overall effect and winces. Somehow, his hair looks worse than before: like he’s actually bald and just wearing a ten-dollar wig. Or possibly has an oversized sewer rat perched on his head. Looks like he’s just gonna have to go whole hog and shower it again. As Sam reaches for the buttons on his shirt, though, Dean pounds his fist on the door.

“Seriously, Sam: move your ass!”

Sam doesn’t really see the problem with being a few minutes late for check out, but he doesn’t want to deal with his brother grouching at him all day either (Dean picks the weirdest stuff to get pissed off about sometimes), so he settles for just bending himself in half and sticking his head under the sink. He really should have expected the loud bang that is his brother not just punching but kicking the bathroom door, but somehow it catches him by surprise and he jumps, knocking his head sharply against the faucet.

“Fuckit,” he swears, clapping his hand against his head. Same spot the phone hit, of course. Now he’s gonna have a lump.

Sam,” Dean shouts again, threatening, and rattles the doorknob.

“I’m fucking coming!” Sam yells, wrenching the faucet off. Only about half of his head is really wet, but no way is he trying that again. He runs his fingers through his hair—wet rat, now: maybe some kind of mongrel terrier—and then gives up and stomps over to the door.

Dean’s waiting impatiently on the other side, shifting his weight from side to side with his own bag in one hand and Sam’s in the other. His eyebrows go up when he sees Sam’s hair, and his lips twitch. He tries to hold back—Sam can see him struggling with himself—and then he blurts out, “You look like a Chia pet someone took a weedwacker to.”

Sam looks at him. Steadily. Letting his mounting frustration show on his face.

It takes a few seconds, but Dean’s smile falters. He clears his throat and shifts his eyes away. “Um, here,” he says, thrusting Sam’s bag at him and heading for the door.

After only a few more delays—Sam can’t get the zipper on his bag to close after he puts his comb back inside, and then he forgets his coffee in the bathroom, and then he has to locate his cell phone, which ended up underneath the nightstand when he fell off the bed—they’re in the Impala and ready to go.

“Where’s your donut?” Dean asks, glancing over at him, and Sam knocks his head against the window in frustration. “Nevermind,” his brother says quickly. “We’ll stop on the way and get another one.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dunkin Donuts is out of powdered donuts. They’re also out of chocolate, glazed, frosted, and Boston Kreme.

“Jelly Filled?” Sam tries, leaning over his brother to offer this order on his own. He doesn’t really like his food oozing and red—too many bad associations—but he’s getting desperate.

There’s a click and then the sexless, static-filled voice comes back with, “Nope, sorry.”

Sam’s hand tightens on his brother’s thigh where he’s resting it for balance and Dean offers, “We can go somewhere else.”

Yeah, they could, but Sam wants his donut. This is Dunkin Donuts. They’re supposed to have donuts. It’s, like, a cosmic requirement.

“How about plain?” he suggests. They have to have a plain donut: those’re always the last to go.

“Yeah, we have … oh.”

Sam’s temples give a low throb. “What?”

“Someone just bought the last one.”

“Look, do you have any goddamned donuts at all?”

“Um … no.”

Dean lets out a surprised, half-smothered laugh that whuffs against Sam’s shoulder. Sam turns his head slowly back and his brother is trying—unsuccessfully—to hide a smile.

“You think this is funny?”

“Oh, come on, man,” Dean says, letting the grin break loose. “You’re being Cheese Shopped. It’s fucking hilarious.”

“Cheese shopped,” Sam repeats tonelessly.

“Yeah, you know: that Monty Python sketch where John Cleese walks into the—”

“I know the sketch, Dean.”

“Oh,” Dean says, and tries to compose himself for about half a second before adding, “Ask if they have Limburger.”

“Sir?” the bodiless voice from the order box interrupts. “Are you going to order anything?”

Sam considers getting out of the car and kicking the box off its post, then bringing it inside and hurling it at the donut asshole’s head. He also considers punching Dean, or at least elbowing him in the stomach to get that damned grin off his face. His jaw clenches and unclenches and then, after a moment, warmth washes through him and leaves him resigned and dull.

“Sir?” the voice prompts. “Can I get something for you?”

“Apparently not,” Sam says, and then sits back in his own seat.

“There’s a Tim Horton’s down the street,” Dean offers, still smirking.

Refastening his seat belt, Sam shakes his head. The way today’s going so far, they’re gonna be out of everything as well, and if he has to replay this conversation with another punk kid he’s gonna snap.

“I’ll wait for lunch.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It isn’t any more than a half hour later when Dean sniffs the air and says, “Do you smell that?”

Sam does—Sam’s been smelling it for the last ten minutes, and he has a pretty good idea what’s causing the scent—but he isn’t going to admit it. As long as he doesn’t acknowledge the smell’s existence, then there’s still a chance that he’s just imagining it. Just a stupid, little kid superstition, maybe, but it’s all he has, and he’s clinging to it.

“No,” he says, silently urging Dean to drop it.

But his brother sniffs again and wrinkles his nose. “Dude, seriously, it smells like something’s burning.”

“I don’t smell anything,” Sam lies, but Dean is already pulling over to the shoulder. He doesn’t bother to signal, but since they’re the only car in sight on the highway, it doesn’t actually matter. Although his face is creased in that mother hen expression he gets whenever the car so much as hiccups, Dean doesn’t turn the engine off: just puts the car in park and leaves it idling. Probably because he already has a damned good idea what’s wrong.

“Dean, come on, we have to get going.”

They don’t, actually. They aren’t on a case any more: they don’t even have a job lined up, although that freakishly weird internal compass Dean’s had since he came back from a few months in Hell is probably leading them in the right direction. If Dean asks just which part of nowhere Sam is anxious to get to, then Sam’s gonna be left without an answer, but Dean doesn’t ask. Instead, he leans forward with an intent frown and splays one hand in the air by the pedals.

Sam is sweating—not because it’s getting warm in here, God no. It’s cool. It’s cool as a freaking refrigerator.

And then Dean straightens again and he goes and says it out loud—“ACs going”—and that’s all she wrote. Dean gives him an apologetic glance and then thumbs the unit off. It suddenly feels about twenty degrees hotter inside the car and Sam stares miserably at the small metal switch in its nest of black electrical tape.

“Hey, man, no sweat, right? I’ll fix it when we stop tonight.”

Sam sort of wants to demand that Dean fix the Frankenstein monster of an AC unit (which his brother cobbled together from the innards of Bobby’s old refrigerator and about half a dozen other small kitchen appliances) right now, damn it, but he bites his tongue and rolls down his window instead. Even if Dean keeps the Impala up around the speed limit, there’s gonna be sweat all right, and a lot of it.

Sam doesn’t mind sweat if he’s sparring or running through the woods after a zombie or a wendigo or a ghost, and he most especially doesn’t mind when he’s busy fucking all the smart alec right out of his brother. It’s only when he’s just sitting there minding his own business that it becomes the most annoying sensation in the world. When it comes right down to it, Sam would rather be covered with poison ivy than have to sit around and sweat, which is why Dean spent about two weeks first building and then installing the AC unit in the first place.

Logically, Sam knows that it was only a matter of time before his brother’s handmade invention broke down—even the store-bought models wear out eventually—but that doesn’t stop the bitter thought that, of course, it picked today to crap out. He pulls off his overshirt and tosses it in the back while Dean does the same beside him. His brother is going to be sweating as well, of course, but he doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, Dean actually enjoys the heat: several times over the years, Sam has caught him sprawled out across the Impala’s hood and basking in the sun like an overgrown iguana.

He licks his lips: sour mood lifting a little at the memory of all that sunlight pouring over his brother’s body and bringing the spray of freckles across the bridge of Dean’s nose into sharp relief. Sam is going to be uncomfortable as hell today, but at least the view will be nice. Leaning one elbow out the window, he tilts his body so that he can watch his brother as he pulls back onto the road.

Dean is either unaware of the scrutiny or ignoring it. He throws a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure he isn’t going to hit anyone as he brings them into the middle lane and back up to speed and then, with one hand on the wheel, rolls his own window down. With the wind roaring past now, the AC/DC tape Dean had in before they stopped is all but inaudible and he turns the volume up before returning his attention to the highway.

Sam lets his eyes trace his brother’s profile as Dean drives, both hands tapping out a drum line on the wheel. Then, leaning his own head back against the side of the car, he drops his gaze lower, taking Dean’s broad shoulders and the easy rise and fall of his chest and stomach underneath the threadbare black t-shirt he’s wearing.

Maybe this AC thing is actually a blessing in disguise, he thinks, and tries to ignore the first wet tendril of sweat snaking down the back of his neck and into his shirt.

Besides, it’s early June in Michigan. How hot can it get?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dean shakes his head as they pull into the restaurant’s parking lot. “Man, what’re the chances of a freak heat wave hitting the same day that the AC craps out?” he wonders out loud: pulling into an empty spot up against the building and parking.

Sam clenches his jaw. He has no idea why Dean is so fascinated with the weather, but his brother has been making obvious comments—real scorcher today, isn’t it; damn it’s hot—for a while, and about an hour ago he turned Guns 'n Roses (which replaced Zeppelin, which replaced Metallica, which replaced AC/DC) off to flip through local stations and listen to various weather reports. It’s ninety six in the shade, according to one disgustingly cheerful weatherman, who then went on to admonish everyone to stay indoors and crank up that AC!

Asshole.

Oh well, the restaurant is probably air-conditioned. And if it isn’t, then they’re driving until they find one that is.

Sam climbs out of the car, cracking his back, and then rests one hand on the Impala’s roof as Dean gets out on the other side. Dean turns to him, opening his mouth to say something, and then visibly pauses. He has a funny expression on his face: wary and amused at the same time.

“What?” Sam asks apprehensively.

“Um. Nothing,” Dean lies, cutting his eyes away.

Frowning, Sam ducks to look at his reflection in the car window and then freezes, mouth gaping a little in horror. His hair was pretty much a disaster area when he left the motel room this morning, but this is … yeah, this is the Hiroshima of hair. The bottom is plastered to his neck: the top is sticking out in all directions from a combination of sweat and wind. There are about seven different wings that he can count—one of which is going straight up like a dunce cap.

“Damn it!” he swears. He knows it’s futile, but he can’t stop his hands from going to his head in an attempt to mitigate the problem.

“Don’t be such a chick, Sammy,” Dean says as he strolls around the side of the Impala.

One of the wings flattens beneath his hand only to sproing back up once the pressure is gone, and suddenly Sam couldn’t care less whether Dean calls him ‘princess’ for the next three months. Turning pleading eyes on his brother, he says, “I’m—Dean, I look like some kind of freak.”

“It’s just the Sasquatch in you coming out,” Dean says, reaching for Sam’s shoulder. “Now come on, I’m hungry.”

Sam resists the pull of his brother’s hand. “I can’t go in there looking like this” he protests, “People are gonna stare.” He knows without Dean even having to say anything that he’s being ridiculous and three kinds of girly and can’t quite help himself.

Sure enough, Dean snorts and tugs hard enough that Sam staggers forward a few steps. “No one’s gonna care, dude,” he says.

Sam sort of wants to argue a little more, but he skipped breakfast this morning and his stomach is practically wailing for food. Also, there are people sitting inside the restaurant in long-sleeved shirts, which pretty much guarantees air conditioning. Chewing worriedly on the inside of one cheek, he lets Dean pull him to the door.

Dean lets go of him as they head inside, which isn’t surprising. He isn’t in denial anymore, not like he was during the first year or so, but he’s still awkward about doing anything in public that might get them labeled as a couple. Sam doesn’t think it’s a gay thing—Dean never had an issue with playing both sides of the fence—but in a way that just makes it worse. Because that makes it a relationship thing, or maybe even a Sam thing.

It doesn’t normally bother him, the same way that Dean looking at women (and sometimes other men) doesn’t normally bother him, because he’s secure in the knowledge that, at the end of the day, he’s the one Dean was willing to sell his soul for, and he’s definitely the one Dean is going to be blowing in whatever crappy motel room they’re currently living out of. Today, though, Sam’s gut and chest are a tangled mess of frustration and unease and self-conscious awkwardness, and he’s all but overcome with the urge to grab his brother’s hand and haul Dean back into a kiss.

Which would get him decked, likely as not, but for a few seconds Sam thinks it might be worth it. Then the moment passes and he berates himself for being an insecure ass. Just because he’s having an off day (yeah, okay, a shitty day) doesn’t mean he has to shove Dean out of his comfort zone.

The sign by the door tells them to seat themselves and Dean heads immediately and predictably to the booth against the window where the Impala is parked. He’s been paranoid ever since the ghost of a teenage hot rodder took the car for a joy ride and almost drove it off a cliff. Also predictably, Sam knocks his knee on the side of the table when he sits down. Grimacing, he rubs it as he slides further into the booth.

Their waitress saunters over almost immediately, giving Sam’s hair the kind of sideways glance usually reserved for people with disfiguring injuries. Sam shoots Dean an ‘I told you so’ look, but his brother isn’t looking at him. He’s too busy giving their waitress one of those wide, easy-going smiles that make Sam’s gut tighten and warm and leave his jeans feeling about three sizes too small.

Sam glances at the waitress, safely checking her out because all of her attention is on Dean, and yes, she’s hot. She’s curving and dark haired and has a great smile and Sam is about two seconds away from clawing her cornflower blue eyes out for looking at his brother like that. Not that he can really blame her.

The heat’s been hell on him (of course it has, today has ‘hell on Sam’ written all over it in glowing neon paint), but Dean looks better than ever. His hair has been artfully mussed by the wind and his damp t-shirt clings to his body, fully illustrating the muscular torso beneath. The sheen of sweat on his skin doesn’t look uncomfortable: it looks lickable, especially the bead of moisture at the hollow of his throat. His eyes are that light, electric green color they turn whenever he’s feeling particularly content.

“Hi, my name is Cindy and I’ll be your waitress this afternoon,” the waitress announces, dropping a menu in front of Sam and handing a second one to Dean.

Dean’s smile goes sugary and he leans on the table as he takes the menu. “Dean,” he says, his voice pitched in that low, intimate register that he has no business using with anyone but Sam, and Sam just isn’t going to put up with this today.

“I’m Sam,” he says loudly, “Dean’s boyfriend.” It’s blunt as hell, sure, but he isn’t in the mood for subtlety.

Dean tightens his mouth as Sam tramples all over the unwritten boundary lines he put on their relationship. For a moment, Sam thinks his brother is going to deny it, and then he’ll have no choice but to pitch a fit like the insecure girlfriend Dean sometimes says he is, but Dean just glares at him for a few seconds and then rolls his eyes. Sitting up a little straighter, Sam offers Cindy a smile—he can afford to be nice now that he stamped ‘hands off’ across his brother’s tempting skin—and feels his face stiffen.

Cindy is glancing between them with an expression that can only be called doubtful, looking from Dean’s perfection to Sam’s hair and then back again. He clenches his jaw, fuming, as Dean gives the menu a cursory glance and says, “I’ll have the hot wings and a Coke. Toss in some of those chili fries and that smile of yours and I’m good to go.”

Sam knows Dean isn’t flirting to be cruel. No, Dean is just smoothing Sam’s open hostility over the best way he knows how. Not that he needs to bother: Sam could be a piece of lint for all the attention the waitress is paying him.

“Well, maybe I can interest you in dessert later,” Cindy offers as she takes Dean’s menu back, like she didn’t even hear Sam’s announcement. Then, before Sam has even opened his mouth to start telling her off, she turns and starts back toward the kitchen.

“Hey!” he calls.

She turns, one eyebrow raised in inquiry, and then flushes as her eyes find him again. “Oh! I’m sorry, I forgot you were there,” she says, hurrying back over, and there goes any hope she had of getting a tip.

Sam is going to tell her just what kind of a skanky bitch comes on to someone’s boyfriend in front of them when he feels something against his shin. He flicks his eyes over to find Dean giving him a steady look. The expression on his brother’s face isn’t anything new—Sam has seen it loads of times before, usually moments before Dean does something incredible with his mouth or his hands or his cock—but this is the first time he’s ever seen it in public. The intimacy of his brother’s hooded eyes goes straight to Sam’s dick and his anger deflates.

“What did you want?” Cindy prods.

“Burger, well done. Fries. Coke,” Sam orders without looking at the menu. He can’t take his eyes off Dean long enough for even a quick glance, and a burger is the only thing he can think of that he’s sure will be on offer.

“Sure,” Cindy says. “Can I, uh, have your menu?” She sounds uncertain now. Sam’s not surprised. He’s pretty sure that the way Dean is looking at him right now is illegal in all 50 states. He holds the menu out blindly and feels her take it.

Once Cindy has left, Dean’s expression shifts into something slightly less intense. “Your boyfriend, huh?” he says, leaning back in the booth.

Now that Dean isn’t giving him ‘fuck me hard enough to make me scream and do it now’ eyes across the table, it’s easier for Sam to remember that he’s upset. “I’m sorry, did you prefer the term ‘incestuous lover’?”

“You know, you can be a possessive little bitch,” Dean points out conversationally as he picks up his knife and starts twirling it on the table.

“Maybe I wouldn’t be if you weren’t such an asshole all the time,” Sam shoots back. “Christ, Dean, you could at least wait until I’m out of the room before you start panting after anything in a skirt.”

One of Dean’s eyebrows goes up. “It’s not like I’m gonna do anything about it,” he says. He’s far too calm for this conversation, which only infuriates Sam further.

“That’s not the fucking point and you know it,” he snaps.

Sighing, Dean puts down his knife. “Look, man, I’m sorry. I don’t—you know I don’t mean to, right? It’s just … habit.”

Yeah, Sam knows that, but he isn’t in the mood to be reasonable. “Four years, Dean,” he says. “Chain smokers quit quicker.”

Dean’s face goes surprised and hurt for a second and Sam feels a flash of mingled satisfaction and guilt. Then Dean’s expression shutters behind a lascivious smirk and he rubs his foot against Sam’s leg again. “Make it up to you later,” he says, using that gravel-rough bedroom tone, and if he thinks he’s getting out of this that easily then he’s sorely mistaken.

Sam jerks his leg away and bumps his knee into the table again. This time, along with the pain there’s a disgusting, squishy sensation. When he lowers his leg, his jeans come away with reluctance. Breath coming a little quicker, Sam slides to the edge of the booth and swings his legs out where he can get a look at them.

There’s a wad of yellowish-green gum stuck to his left knee.

He stares, argument forgotten. These are his new jeans—only his third time wearing them—and someone’s gross, used-up chewing gum is mashed into the denim.

“Sammy? What—wow, that’s fucking disgusting.” Then Dean’s mouth widens in a goofy grin. “Hey, dare you to eat it.”

Sam stares at his brother—who is obviously actually expecting him to take him up on that—and wonders what the chances are that one of them is adopted.

Pursing his lips thoughtfully, Dean adds, “‘Course, you’re gonna have to gargle with Everclear before I let you anywhere near my mouth or my cock again, cause that shit’s just unsanitary.”

A wave of impotent anger washes over Sam and his throat works. Dean is studying Sam’s knee again, though, and doesn’t notice.

“You sure that’s gum, man?” he asks. His tone is considering and serious, but the crinkles at the corners of his eyes—laugh lines—are giving him away. “Cause y’know it kinda looks like—”

“Don’t,” Sam manages finally. “Not one more word.”

Dean’s gaze flicks up to his face and then, miraculously, he presses his mouth shut. Apparently, he actually does know when to shut up sometimes. Slowly and with an outward show of calm that in no way mirrors his seething insides, Sam stands up.

“I’m going to change,” he announces. “Try to keep it in your pants if the waitress comes back before I do.”

It isn’t until he’s digging through his duffel that Sam realizes the only other clean pair of pants he has are the ones he shrunk the last time they did laundry. Gritting his teeth, he brings them into the restaurant’s bathroom and spends almost ten minutes fighting to get them on. In the process, he knocks his elbow against one of the stall walls, jabs himself in the ass with the toilet paper dispenser, and drops the non-gummed leg of his new jeans into a toilet of questionable sanitation.

Unsurprisingly, his mood isn’t fantastic when he finally walks back to their table with an uncomfortably stiff gait and sits down. Lunch is waiting and there’s no sign of Cindy, which seems to indicate that Dean is finally taking Sam’s aggravation seriously. Sam’s a little disappointed by that: he could have used the excuse to blow off some steam.

Dean is already busy stuffing his face, cheeks puffing out around a mouthful of chili fries like a chipmunk’s. As Sam watches, he gives the food a cursory chew, swallows, and then belches.

“You’re such a pig,” Sam mutters, embarrassed more on his brother’s behalf than by him, but Dean just lifts his shoulders in a shrug and reaches for one of his wings.

“Better out than in,” he says, tearing into it. Then, around a mouthful of meat, he adds, “I got Cindy to get the rest of the gum off the table.”

Sam’s well aware that there’s a part of Dean still snickering at him, but he isn’t feeling quite petty enough to ignore the gesture. After a moment, he grunts, “Thanks,” and reaches for his soda.

He actually has the edge of the glass against his bottom lip when he sees it. Staring at something so close to his face is making his eyes ache, but he has to study it for a long moment for the sight to register. When it finally sinks in, Sam isn’t so much upset as he is offended. Seriously, whatever deity or supernatural being is fucking with him (cause this can’t just be a series of coincidences: life isn’t that cruel) is going above and beyond the call of duty.

“What’s wrong?” Dean smacks around another wing. “There a fly in there or something?”

“Or something,” Sam answers flatly. His muscles unglue enough for him to set the soda back down.

Dean leans across the table to peer down at the corpse floating around in Sam’s drink. One of his eyebrows arches. “Is that a spider?”

If it isn’t, it’s doing a damned good imitation of one: big and black and drifting between ice cubes on its back like an arachnid ship, all eight legs curled in on its stomach. Sam isn’t sure, but he thinks it might still be twitching.

Dean sits back down and nabs a couple of fries. “You know the average guy eats about seven spiders a year?” he points out, and Sam’s skin crawls.

“That’s … really disturbing,” he says, hoping that Dean will get the hint. He’d ask his brother straight out to drop the subject, but then Dean would just smirk and turn his casual comment into a string of observations and anecdotes specifically designed to gross Sam out. No guarantee he won’t do that anyway, especially not today, but Sam can hope.

“You want disturbing?” Dean says, licking his fingers in a way that Sam would find distracting at any other time. “Read this newspaper article about some chick who went to Mexico or South America or whatever. She got bit by this spider, right? Right on her cheek. And the bite gets all red and swells up and—”

Sam can’t take it anymore. “Dean,” he interrupts, sharply enough that Dean actually stops and looks at him. Sighing, Sam runs a hand through his hopeless hair. “Look, I know it’s against your nature, but can you please just stop? Please?”

Dean looks at him for a long moment and then shrugs. “Sure,” he says, gnawing on another wing.

Sam regards him, certain that he either heard wrong or that Dean is having him on. “Really?”

“I said sure, didn’t I?” Dean says, and tosses another chicken bone on top of his rapidly growing pile. “Now you gonna eat your burger or what?”

Sam hesitates for a moment longer—he still can’t bring himself to believe that Dean is actually going to take pity on him for once—and then his stomach rumbles and he reaches for his burger.

Dean waits until Sam is about to take a bite and then says, “Anyway, her cheek burst open and all these baby spiders came crawling out—some of them, like, crawled up her nose.”

“Oh my God,” Sam groans, dropping his burger. It isn’t like he hasn’t heard this story before, but Dean has always had a way of wording things so that they get underneath Sam’s skin. And speaking of things underneath people’s skin, now all he can see in his head is that woman’s spider-bloated face. He thinks he’s going to be sick.

Dean, shameless glutton that he is, chuckles and keeps eating.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Sam mutters after a few moments of unsuccessfully trying to get Dean’s story out of his head.

“You asked for it,” his brother replies, unperturbed.

Sam supposes that, according to his brother’s skewed logic, he did. Hell, he knew he was asking for it and he did it anyway. Sighing, he asks, “Are you done now?”

Dean cocks his head to one side, considering, and then says, “Yeah, I’m done.”

Sam cautiously picks up his burger again and then holds it in his hands. He’s waiting for his brother to spring something even grosser on him, but Dean seems genuinely engrossed in his own meal. Looks like he’s going to be allowed to eat now. Of course, after Dean’s story, Sam has spiders on the brain, and so he pulls the burger’s bun back to check for any more ‘special ingredients’. He doesn’t see any spiders there, but the burger itself doesn’t look all that appetizing.

Apparently, ‘well done’ is Michigan-speak for ‘hunk of charcoal’ because that’s what the slab of meat looks like.

Sam considers sending it back and then gives up on that option with an inward sigh. It wouldn’t do any good asking for another burger. Not today. Anyway, so what if it’s a little charred? He’s eaten worse, and his stomach is grumbling enough right now that the burger will probably taste decent no matter how burnt it is.

He bites down and then sits there with a chunk of meat in his mouth. A tiny, cynical part at the back of his head is completely unsurprised to note that the center of his burger is raw and cold. As Sam pushes the meat around in his mouth, his anger fizzles out and is replaced by a dull, throbbing irritation that is too aimless for him to get worked up over.

He’s fucked, and he’s just going to have to accept that.

Wordlessly, he puts his burger down and spits the mouthful he took into a napkin. He’s hungry enough that he’s tempted to eat the burger anyway, no matter how disgusting it is, but he’s also smart enough not to chance it. The way his luck’s going today, he’d probably end up with mad cow disease.

Ever curious, Dean spins Sam’s plate around so that he can see the disaster that’s supposed to be Sam’s lunch. He sucks his thumb into his mouth, cleaning off a glob of chili, and then asks, “You haven’t lost any rabbit’s feet lately that you want to tell me about, right?”

Sam can tell that his brother is only half-joking.

“No,” he says shortly.

“Just checking,” Dean says and then, after a moment of consideration, pushes the rest of his fries over.

Through the staticky frustration thrumming beneath his skin, Sam feels a pulse of gratitude at the gesture. He’s too upset to actually thank his brother, but Dean knows him well enough that he already understands how much the offer means anyway.

Reaching out, Sam pulls the plate toward him and starts in on it. The chili is a little too spicy, but other than that, it’s pretty good. He gets down about five fries before somehow managing to upend the entire plate into his lap.

“Goddamn it!” he yells, not caring that pretty much everyone in the place has turned to stare at him.

Dean stares too, expression completely blank, and then his eyes lift to Sam’s. “Dude, if you wanted a blow job, you could’ve just asked,” he says, licking his lips suggestively, and Sam sortakindareally wants to punch him right in the middle of his earnest, too-wide smile.

Grinding his teeth together, he shoves most of the mess onto the floor and then grabs a wad of napkins from the dispenser. After checking for spiders (or any other nasty surprises), he wets the napkins in his complimentary water and starts trying to wipe his pants and shirt down.

“Is everything all right?” Cindy asks, appearing at their table. “Can I get you a towel?”

Sam wonders how many ways that could possibly go wrong and then mutters, “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Just a check, sweetheart,” Dean puts in. “I wanna get Sammy out of here before he wrecks the place.”

“Ha ha,” Sam mutters, glowering down at his shirt. His ruined shirt because chili inevitably stains.

“You sure I can’t interest you in that dessert?” Cindy presses. “I could hook you up while your friend cleans up in the bathroom.”

Oh. My. God.

“What part of ‘he’s my boyfriend’ didn’t get through the first time?” Sam demands, loudly and harshly enough that the restaurant goes quiet.

“Sam,” Dean says, and he isn’t laughing now. In fact, his lips are tight and thin with mingled embarrassment and anger and Sam’s pretty sure that the tips of his brother’s ears are reddened as well.

Well, too fucking bad. Sam’s had enough.

“I mean, are you that much of a bitch or are you just stupid?” he continues into the silence.

Sam!” Dean barks, and kicks him under the table.

Sam kicks back, feeling sullenly glad at Dean’s pained grunt, and, sugar dripping from his voice, says, “You aren’t his type anyway, sweetheart. He likes his women with an IQ slightly higher than a rock’s.”

“That’s it,” Dean snaps, shoving up out of the booth. He yanks his wallet out, thumbs out four twenties, and presses them into Cindy’s hand. “Sorry about him,” he says with a furious little smile. “He got up on the wrong side of bed this morning.” Then he’s dragging Sam from the booth and herding him toward the front door.

“Don’t you want dessert?” Sam asks because really: in for a penny.

Dean doesn’t actually answer, but the way he all but slams Sam into the door on their way out says it all anyway.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Dean manages to wait until they’re back on the highway before growling, “I don’t know what they hell you thought you were doing in there—”

“Me? You’re the one—”

“—but that was seriously the shittiest thing—”

“—who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.”

“—I have ever seen you do, and that’s saying something. She was just doing her job—and it’s a fucking tough job, too. She doesn’t need to take shit like that just because you’re having a bad day.”

Her job?” Sam repeated incredulously. “Doing her job?”

Dean cuts his eyes over toward Sam warningly and tightens his grip on the steering wheel.

“Cause I thought that her job was to serve us food, not to do her best to fuck you on the goddamned table.”

Dean’s quiet for a second and then he says, “You know, this jealousy thing was cute for about five minutes, but you need to back the fuck off, Sam. I haven’t touched anyone else in years, and I’m not gonna.”

“Yeah, right,” Sam snorts. “Like you haven’t been screwing around with half the chicks between here and New York.” He doesn’t mean to say it—knows that it isn’t true, even in the midst of his insecurities—but he’s so pissed and frustrated right now that it just slips out anyway.

In the driver’s seat, Dean has gone completely stiff and cold.

“Dean, I—”

“I think you said enough for today,” Dean says, distant and clipped, and then reaches out and cranks the radio all the way up so that Sam can’t hear himself think let alone speak. He considers turning it back down and trying to apologize again, but he can read in the set of his brother’s shoulders that Dean isn’t going to listen. It’s going to take more than a simple apology to smooth this one over.

As if today couldn’t have gotten any worse.

Sam hunches against the door and looks out his window. He’s sweating again, the wind mussing his hair into new and exciting shapes, but it feels about ten degrees below Fahrenheit in the car. Guilt tightens his stomach as he leans his head against the window frame.

Dean can be an asshole sometimes, and he hasn’t once managed to say ‘I love you’ to Sam since they started fucking, but he tries. He has issues, is the thing, and at least half of those are Sam’s fault in some way. Stanford, for one, and the whole Hell mess, for another. But Dean is still struggling to be what Sam needs, even if it doesn’t always show, and he would never, not in a million years, betray Sam with anyone else. He’d cut off his dick first and Sam knows it.

But he was flirting, Sam thinks. Dean was flirting and he knows how that makes Sam feel and he did it anyway. He’s been nothing but an asshole all day when Sam’s been suffering, and Sam has chili crusting on his shirt and on the crotch of his too-small jeans—which are all but cutting off his circulation—and it’s fucking hot and Axl Rose’s high-pitched, whiny voice is driving right into Sam’s skull and lodging behind his left eye with a deep-seated, throbbing ache.

I wouldn’t have said it if he hadn’t been a jerk in the first place, Sam thinks, clenching his jaw, and then reaches out and snaps the stereo off. He doesn’t say anything—there’s still a small shred of rationality telling him that he needs to keep his mouth shut right now—but he can’t take anymore of Axl’s repetitive requests for directions. Not if he wants to remain sane.

Dean turns the radio back on.

Sam snaps it off.

Dean turns it on.

Sam reaches for the knob and Dean warns, “Touch it and you’re walking.”

Sam hesitates (he doesn’t think Dean’s serious, but then again Dean’s really pissed right now, so he might actually leave Sam by the side of the road for a few hours) and then turns the radio off anyway.

Dean doesn’t leave him at the side of the road, although they do pull over and get into a brief, vicious fistfight that leaves Dean with a bruise high on one cheekbone and Sam nursing a split lip. They climb back into the car in stony silence, neither of them looking at each other.

The radio stays off, though, so Sam figures that he’s come out ahead for the first time all day.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

By the time they finally pull into the parking lot of Happy Henry’s Hideaway, Sam’s about ready to kill for some sort of distraction. It’s been four hours of stony silence, interrupted only by occasional rumble of his increasingly hollow stomach. Sam never realized before now how much he depended on his brother to fill the empty spaces between stops.

When they travel, Dean is always drooling over a Mustang in the other lane, or playing ‘what’s that road kill?’, or coming out with some random statement that might range anywhere from his hot dog bun conspiracy theory to an update on cows per mileage. He’ll shift and burp and hum along to the radio, and the miles will be eaten up in the uncompromising blare of his presence. But since their fight by the side of the road, Dean has become a ghost: mute and radiating cold across the front seat. For the first time, Sam has begun to understand just how much road there is out there, and how much sky. That kind of shit gets painfully obvious once you had nothing to do but watch the clouds roll past and listen to yourself breathe.

So instead of complaining when Dean pulls up in front of a front office that looked like it was a circus tent in another life, Sam just bites his cheek and stares out his window.

“Just our luck, huh, Sammy? Vacancy.” Dean’s voice is tighter than it’s been in a long time—years, maybe—and carries enough vindictiveness that Sam hunches down in his seat. Maybe he prefers the silent Dean after all.

His brother waits for a response and then after a few moments, when he realizes one isn’t forthcoming, wrenches the door open and gets out of the car. He stomps into the … tent, there isn’t anything else to call it … like he’s going to war, and Sam feels a momentary pulse of pity for the poor sap behind the desk. Then Dean disappears inside and there’s nothing left for Sam to do but sit there feeling guilty.

As his gaze moves glumly over Happy Henry’s (circus tent front office, bejeweled elephant on the sign out front, and circus-striped shutters on all the windows), he feels a pulse of resentment low in his gut. Dean does this every time. Every single fucking time Sam’s upset about something, Dean somehow manages to twist it round so that Sam’s the one in the wrong. Sam already knows that he’s going to end up apologizing for this fight as well—he was halfway to begging Dean to forgive him when they pulled into the parking lot—and it isn’t fair because it isn’t his fault.

Okay, maybe it’s partly his fault, but it’s Dean’s fault too, and he’s going to refuse to own up to his own end because he’s an emotional retard.

Dean emerges from the tent, eyes down on the ground and an oversized key swinging from his hand, and Sam scowls. Maybe he’s going to end up apologizing in the end, but until then he’s going to make this as miserable as possible for his brother. He waits until Dean has climbed back into the car and then says, “If you think I’m staying here, then—”

“There isn’t anywhere else,” Dean interrupts. “I asked the clerk, and this is it for about a hundred miles.”

Sam wants to call him a liar, but his voice has the flat quality of truth to it. “A hundred miles isn’t fa—”

“No way am I driving two more hours with you: it’s like having a rabid Chihuahua riding shotgun,” Dean interrupts. Then, before Sam can argue, he adds, “Besides, the way things’re going, we’d probably break down fifty miles from nowhere, and I’d rather spend a few more months in Hell than sleep in the backseat again.”

Sam shuts his mouth on his protest with an almost audible snap. He doesn’t know whether he’s more angry or distressed by Dean’s flippant reference to his time in Hell. He can’t tell whether Dean is playing the Hell card deliberately to shut him up or if he’s honestly pissed enough that he doesn’t remember what those first few months After were like. Either way, he doesn’t really know how to respond, so he settles for clenching his jaw and glaring out the window while his brother drives them around to a side wing of the motel complex and parks in front of room 13.

Of course.

As Sam glowers at the slightly lopsided number, Dean turns off the engine and climbs out of the car. Sam thinks that he would rather sleep in the passenger seat all night than go inside that room, but he unbuckles his seatbelt and follows Dean around to the trunk to get his bag anyway. At least once he’s inside, he’ll be able to take these goddamned, chili-encrusted pants off.

Despite Dean’s obvious hostility and his own frustrated anger, Sam perks up a little at the thought. As he follows his brother to the front door, there’s even a slight sprint to his step. He should probably be ducking for cover, but part of him can’t believe that today can get much worse. Not unless something really is fucking with him, anyway.

Dean has to work the key around a little to get it to work, but then there’s a click and the door swings open. Sam follows him inside and they come to an abrupt halt at the same time, staring around the room.

There are clowns on the wallpaper.

Grinning, red-haired, white-faced clowns playing with fluffy little dogs.

There are clowns on the bedspreads as well, and on the lampshades, and even—he can see the edges of it from here—on the shower curtain.

Next to him, Dean bursts out laughing.

Sam’s skin is crawling beneath all of those terrifying smiles, but he squares his shoulders and strides forward anyway. He steps over to the less frightening bedspread—sad-faced hobo clowns instead of the maniacally laughing ones on the other comforter—and drops his bag. In the doorway behind him, Dean is still laughing hysterically. When Sam looks back at him, he sees that his brother has dropped his own bag and is hanging onto the doorframe while he wipes at his eyes with one hand.

“Very funny,” he mutters.

“Dude,” Dean manages, finally coming further inside and shutting the door. “I didn’t—I told him—t-told him most n-normal room they—they had, oh man.”

Sam sits down on the bed and puts his head in his hands and counts backwards from ten. When he looks again, Dean has himself mostly under control, although he’s grinning widely enough that the corners of his eyes are crinkling.

The clowns are still there.

“Man, this really isn’t your day, is it?” Dean notes.

Sighing, Sam flops down onto his back. “I’m just going to lay here and wait for the universe to stop hating me,” he says. Clowns aside, though, he feels sort of relieved. He and Dean seem to have moved past their fight without any of their usual awkwardness. Things are looking up.

“Aw, it’s not that bad,” Dean says, coming over to slap Sam’s knee. “Besides, if we don’t get some grub in you, I’m gonna be stuck listening to your stomach all night.”

Actually, now that Dean mentions it, Sam’s hungry enough to eat a horse. Levering himself up onto his elbows, he fixes his brother with a hopeful expression.

“Pizza?” he asks.

“Better,” Dean tells him, and tosses his bag onto the other bed with a grin. “Saw this Chinese place on the way in. Ho Ho Changs or something. Place looked like a dump, so the food’s gotta be awesome. You want me to pick you up some sweet and sour pork while you catch a shower?”

Oh yeah, because that’s going to go down so well today. “Dean, I’m not eating Chinese.”

“What?” Dean says, rummaging around in his bag for something. “Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to spend the rest of the night with my head stuck in the toilet, that’s why not.”

Dean gives up on his bag and throws Sam an amused glance. “You’re not gonna spend the rest of the night with your head stuck in the toilet, Sammy.”

Sam can almost feel his blood pressure rising. “You’re right, I’m not: cause we’re gonna have pizza.”

“We’re not having pizza.”

“Yeah, we are.”

This time Dean’s look is less amused and more annoyed. “Dude, it’s my night to pick!”

“It’s your—” Sam gapes at his brother for a second and then, sitting up, continues, “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty much cursed over here. I think making sure I don’t die from food poisoning trumps whose turn it is.”

But Dean’s brows draw together and his jaw firms. “You do not mess with the rotation, Sammy.”

“Jesus Christ, Dean, it’s just dinner. You think you could cut me a little slack for once? I think I deserve it.”

Dean’s eyes sharpen, cutting. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Sam senses the gaping maw at his feet, but he can’t stop himself from taking another step forward. “It means that I’d appreciate it if you’d stop being a prick long enough to think about someone aside from yourself for a change.”

“Soon as I see someone worth thinking about, I will,” Dean shoots back.

Sam knows that Dean is just goading him at this point—lashing out in self-defense or just in anger—but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. If today has taught him anything, it’s that he’s a whole lot less certain of his brother’s feelings than he thought he was. It’s that insecurity more than anything else that makes him say, “That’s so fucking typical. Seriously, do you care about anything but your stomach and your dick?”

“My—” Dean starts, and then huffs an incredulous little laugh. “You’re still pissed about lunch, aren’t you?”

Pissed isn’t really the right word for it. Sam doesn’t actually know how he feels, except that it’s making his chest ache and his stomach turn over nauseously.

“Jesus, you are,” Dean breathes.

The fact that he sounds surprised by it, and scornful (and maybe a little hurt), scrambles Sam’s insides around into an even more disordered mess. With his voice stuck to his throat like a wad of tar, he watches as his brother builds up the high walls he hardly ever bothers with these days until his eyes are nothing more than two piece of green flint set in stone.

“You know what, Sam?” Dean says coldly. “You can take your insecure, possessive crap and shove it. Yeah, I’ve thought about it. I miss pussy, okay? So sue me. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna do anything.”

Sam knows he should drop it, but those words—‘thought about it’—are scraping around inside of him, and he’s pretty sure that this conversation can’t get any worse. “Did you?” he rasps.

“Did I what?”

“Did you think about it with her?”

Dean stares at him for a moment with those flat, hard eyes, and then he turns around and heads for the door. With his heart rattling against his ribcage, Sam scrambles up to his feet.

“Where are you going?” he blurts. His voice sounds too dry and small.

“Out,” Dean answers shortly. Although he has no idea what he’s trying to do, Sam moves toward his brother, and Dean turns to point at him. Sam stops at the gesture, feeling like he just ran headfirst into a wall.

“You’re staying here,” Dean states.

Sam has to swallow before he can get his voice to work. “Dean, I’m sor—”

But his brother is already out the door before he can get the rest of the word out.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sam waits for about an hour before he admits to himself that it’s going to take Dean a while to cool down from this one. The inside of his chest feels sore and bruised by the fight, and by the realization that he isn’t actually as content as he thought he was. He wonders how long these insecurities have been building, and how transparent he’s been to Dean.

God, he knows Dean is loyal to a fault, but somehow he can’t get that knowledge from his head to his heart. There’s a blockage there, and Sam can’t figure out how to remove it, and he can’t find a detour around it.

And as okay as he’s been telling himself he is with that, he isn’t. Not at all.

All that Sam really wants to do is crawl underneath his hobo clown comforter and cry himself to sleep (maybe he’ll get lucky and today will have been nothing more than a bad dream), but it’s been almost twenty four hours since he ate anything, and his stomach is aching pretty continuously. He could handle that, but he knows from experience that if he goes to bed without doing something about it, he’ll wake up with a hunger headache, and he’s going to have enough to deal with in the morning apologizing to his brother.

If Dean’s even back by then.

The desk clerk, a beefy man wearing an overcoat and a top hat, gives Sam’s hair and clothes a disdainful look and then, begrudgingly, offers directions to a pizza place about a mile down the road. The sky looks a little threatening for Sam’s tastes, but Dean took the Impala so he doesn’t really have a choice. There’s no sidewalk, of course, but the road’s shoulder is wide enough to walk along and there aren’t many cars out here. Sam makes sure to get well out of the way every time he hears one coming, though: today, caution is his middle name.

The pizza place is called Papa Joey’s, and it smells like warm grease, which only makes Sam’s stomach rumble louder. Sticking to the assumption that simple will be safest, he orders a large cheese pizza, pays for it with his last twenty dollar bill, and then slumps over to a corner to wait. The weird looks he’s getting from the four kids sharing a pizza two booths over are annoying, but nowhere near as bad as the rest of his day has been, and Sam finds himself relaxing against his will.

Any second now, of course, he’s gonna be arrested for public indecency, or the oven cooking his pizza is going to catch on fire, or the roof is going to cave in on his head: something is gonna happen to fuck this up.

But nothing keeps on happening, and after twenty minutes the pimple-faced kid behind the counter calls his name and hands over a warm, wonderful-smelling box. Sam is tempted to go back to his corner and devour his pizza immediately, cardboard and all, but he senses that he’s rapidly using up what little luck he has today, and he wants to be back in the relative safety of the motel room as soon as possible.

The sky looks even worse than it did earlier, clouds hanging low and grey, and the air is thick enough that Sam is struck by the uncomfortable illusion that he’s pushing his way through it. After only a minute, his shirt is plastered to his back again and sweat is dripping down his neck and off the tip of his nose. When he tries to wipe his face on his sleeve, he only manages to spread the sweat around a little.

He thinks again, and more seriously, about the possibility that he’s cursed. Or maybe there’s some supernatural creature stalking him and feeding off his misery. Maybe he managed to attract the attention of a couple of pixies.

“No way this is natural,” he mumbles, and then the sky opens above him and it starts to pour.

There’s no point in running for it: Sam would only slip and break an ankle, and he’s soaked within the first few seconds of the deluge anyway. With despair a solid, grey weight in his chest, he trudges onward along the increasingly muddy shoulder. Despite the unbearable heat from moments before, the water is ice cold and leaves him shivering.

By the time he reaches the motel, the pizza box is all but disintegrating in his hands and his shoes are making a squelching sound with every step. His skin is pebbled and numb from the cold, and his body is shuddering helplessly. He can’t really see where he’s going anymore—his hair is plastered to his face and resists every attempt he makes to push it aside—but he manages to stumble beneath the motel overhang, where he stops for a moment to take a deep, steadying breath. After giving the pizza box—or what’s left of it—a mournful look, he trudges down to number thirteen and opens the door.

Sam left it unlocked, of course—they had only one key between the two of them, and Dean took it with him when he left—and he half-expects to find the room ransacked and all of their stuff (well, all of his stuff) gone, but instead he finds Dean sitting cross-legged on one of the beds with a white carton in his lap.

Dean looks up at him, startled, with a piece of lo mein hanging down from one corner of his mouth. His eyes go even wider as he takes Sam’s condition in. They flick to the sopping pizza box, and then to Sam’s leaking shoes, and then to his hair. Blinking, he sucks the rest of the noodle in and swallows without bothering to chew, and then opens his mouth.

“Don’t,” Sam says quickly. “Just. Don’t, okay?”

Dean shuts his mouth again. He watches silently as Sam puts the ruined pizza down on the table. Sam’s stomach gives a wretched rumble that he ignores. Compared to the deep-seated ache in his chest, after all, his hunger is kind of laughable. He turns around and heads for the bathroom, peeling off his shirt as he goes.

“I’m taking a bath,” he announces without looking at his brother. “If I sound like I’m drowning in there, don’t bother saving me.”

Then he walks into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him and locking it, although he doesn’t actually expect Dean to try following him. It’s the principle of the thing.

The hot water is broken (like he didn’t see that one coming), but Sam takes his bath anyway. After all, the cold water is still warmer than his skin, and it’s way more preferable than dealing with Dean is going to be. Stepping into the tub, Sam folds his long body up and sits down. He doesn’t think he’ll be able to manage the cramped position for long, but after the day he had this actually feels pretty comfortable. Despite the chill, he finds his eyes growing heavy and his head nodding.

I should get up, he thinks, but instead he slumps over against the tiles, exhausted, and falls asleep.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When he wakes up again an unknown length of time later, Sam’s neck has a crick in it from resting against the wall at an awkward angle and his toes and fingers are pruned. Cursing under his breath, he drags himself out of the tub, knees and shoulders and hip joints popping as he stretches.

The single, threadbare towel hanging up on the wall has something brown and crusted on it, so Sam is stuck using the hand towel instead. It smells sort of mildewy and is soaked within moments, but Sam’s past the point of caring. He gives his jeans and the small lake surrounding them a quick glance and then shrugs. If Dean is still awake, then he isn’t going to be getting an eyeful of anything he hasn’t seen before. He can deal with Sam’s shriveled, pasty ass for the ten seconds it’ll take for him to get underneath the (hopefully) clean sheets of his bed.

Shaking his hair out of his eyes, Sam opens the door and steps out into the main room. And stops. And stares.

There are plain blue sheets on the bed Sam chose for himself, and a flannel blanket folded at the foot. A new pizza box is sitting on the table: dry and emitting the wonderful aroma of cheese and mushroom and hamburger. There’s a six-pack of beer minus one next to it, and Dean, wearing an old pair of sweats and nothing else, is coming toward him with a bottle in his hand. He comes to a stop about a foot away and holds the beer out with a lopsided, awkward smile.

“Hey,” he says.

“H-hey,” Sam stammers.

“Thought I was gonna have to send a search party in,” Dean tells him after a moment. His smile has started to wilt around the edges, and Sam realizes that his brother is still holding the beer out. Waiting.

He takes it hastily and then asks, “Dean, what—I mean, you—why—” He stops, frowns, and then tries again. “You got me new sheets. And pizza. And beer.” He wonders if he’s actually awake right now, or if he’s still conked out in the tub and dreaming.

Dean ducks his head and rubs at the back of his neck with one hand. “Figured you could use a little pampering,” he says as he turns away. “And I, uh, I thought that maybe if I was the one setting things up, it’d go a little smoother.”

While Sam hesitates in the doorway and contemplates that, his brother leans over between the beds and retrieves a plastic bag. Producing a pair of sweats from the bag, Dean tosses them at Sam. Sam almost drops the beer in the process of catching the sweats, but miraculously manages to keep hold of it.

“Figured you’d need those, too,” Dean tells him.

Eyes stinging threateningly, Sam fists his hands in the soft fabric. “Thanks,” he whispers. Without looking at him, Dean shrugs and takes a beer for himself.

Sam watches his brother open the bottle on the edge of the table and then—carefully—puts his own bottle down on the dresser to his left. He takes his time putting the sweats on: both because he needs to compose himself a little, and because he really doesn’t want to have the talk he can sense coming. Dean, thank God, doesn’t seem much more eager to get down to business than Sam is: busying himself with his beer and the far wall. As much as he might want to, Sam can’t delay forever, though, and once he draws the sweats up over his hipbones, there’s really no putting it off anymore.

After retrieving his beer, he slowly walks over to the table and sits down across from his brother. Still not looking up, Dean pushes the pizza box toward him in a clear offer. It should make Sam feel better, but instead Sam’s stomach knots with guilt over his earlier behavior. The pizza looks even better up close, though, and it smells like heaven, and Sam’s fucking starving, so he reaches out and selects a slice.

Oh God, it’s still hot.

Watching his brother with what he knows is a pathetically open and grateful expression on his face, Sam lifts the pizza to his mouth and takes a bite. He half-expects to choke on it, or maybe to burn the roof of his mouth, but that first bite goes down easily. So does the second.

Dean takes a slow draw from his bottle, throat working as he swallows, and then rests the bottle on his right thigh. “I called Bobby,” he announces. “Asked him to check and see if we’d drawn any unfriendly attention.”

Sam’s fingers twitch on the half-eaten slice. “And?” he asks, not really sure he wants to know.

Dean shrugs and finally turns to look at Sam. “Bupkis.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. You’re just having a really shitty day.” His shoulders hitch in a shrug. “Lady Luck’s a bitch, huh?” Leaning back in his chair, he takes another swig of beer while keeping his eyes on Sam.

Sam shifts awkwardly, unsure how he’s supposed to feel about that. On the one hand, at least he knows that this isn’t going to kill him (probably it isn’t), on the other hand, he was kind of hoping that he’d be able to blame his earlier behavior on something other than his own frustration and insecurities. Dropping his own eyes, Sam fiddles with the slice in his hands.

“Dean,” he starts slowly. “I’m—about before, I—”

“Although I’ve gotta say,” Dean says over him. “She can’t hate you that much when she gave you such an awesome big brother.”

When Sam glances up, Dean is smiling at him. He’s sitting there relaxed and (thank God) not angry at all and offering Sam an out. He’s offering to just let all of the stupid, cruel shit they said to each other today pass by the wayside.

Sam’s chest and throat go excruciatingly tight and his eyes water. Swiping at his eyes with the back of one hand, he says thickly, “Yeah, I guess she did.”

Usually, that’s the kind of response that will make Dean will blush and backpedal, or deflect with a joke, but today he just kicks one leg up into Sam’s lap and says, “If you aren’t gonna eat that pizza, dude, I will.”

As much as Sam wants to revel in the fact that Dean just accepted (sort of) an honest compliment, his stomach is more than happy to take his brother’s pointed command. He tries to be careful at first, mindful of his earlier attempt to eat at the diner, but when nothing happens after he downs the first two slices, he gives up and practically inhales the rest. Finally, when there’s nothing but grease stains left in the box, he sits back in his chair and downs his beer.

“Better?” Dean asks.

“God yes,” Sam agrees, reaching for a second bottle. The way that Dean’s foot slides higher up to push against his groin stops him, though.

Sam expects to find his brother smiling, and when he shifts his eyes from the beer to Dean’s face, Dean’s lips are certainly curved. His expression isn’t teasing, though, and it isn’t hungry. Dean isn’t giving Sam one of his ridiculous leers, either.

No, this smile is soft, and fond, and almost tender.

“You want a massage?” Dean asks, scraping at the label on his bottle with one thumb.

Sam is suddenly certain that he’s still asleep in the tub—probably drowning. Then again, not even in a near death hallucination would he ever have imagined Dean acting like this: acting like … well, like a boyfriend.

“That wasn’t supposed to be a trick question, dude,” Dean prods, and the way he curls his toes against Sam’s cock sends all of Sam’s blood rushing southward in a hurry.

“What, uh, what kind of massage?” he rasps, letting his legs fall open wider.

Dean’s smile deepens, and now there’s a familiar glimmer of heat in his eyes. “Depends on how well you’re planning on tipping.”

It’s a challenge, and either despite the day he’s had or maybe because of it, Sam can’t help responding. Pushing his brother’s foot back down onto the floor, he leans forward and grabs Dean by the waist. Dean’s skin is smooth and warm against Sam’s palms and he lets Sam pull him forward without protest.

Sam can’t taste his brother’s mouth past the beer and the pizza, which is mildly disappointing, but Dean’s scent is abnormally strong. At first, Sam is too distracted by the sting of his split lip, and then by the way Dean keeps fucking his tongue into Sam’s mouth, to figure out where the smell is coming from. Then he remembers the Impala, and the AC going out, and Dean hasn’t showered yet, which means that his skin is covered with a layer of old sweat.

It shouldn’t be erotic, but then again, Sam has never been one to pay attention to ‘should’s. After all, he shouldn’t really be kissing his brother either.

With a low growl, he gets a better grip on Dean’s waist and then drags him off the edge of his chair. Dean grunts as he lurches awkwardly forward to catch himself on Sam’s chest. Laughing against his brother’s lips, Sam runs one hand up Dean’s side and across his back. Dean jerks at the tickling caress, letting out a little yelp of surprise, and Sam laughs harder.

“Bastard,” Dean pants, and then pushes himself up into a standing position. Despite the curse, his expression is amused instead of angry. Sam can sense relief in the way the skin around his brother’s eyes is crinkling, and he understands suddenly that Dean was worried about him.

Twice today, Sam accused Dean of the worst thing he could have—accused Dean of being unfaithful, and of not caring—and yet Dean still put his own hurt and anger aside and went out and bought sheets and sweats and beer and pizza. Sam looks up at his brother and his head spins with how lucky he is, and how loved. He wants to kiss Dean breathless. He wants to lick the salt off his skin.

It’s moments like this that make the roadblock between his head and his heart shrink down to a more manageable size.

Smiling, Sam reaches for his brother and Dean dances back out of reach.

“Uh uh,” he says. “No feeling up the masseuse.”

“That’s for lap dances,” Sam points out, standing up and reaching again.

“Like you’d know,” Dean scoffs as he moves further back, and oh, it’s on.

Sam clips his ankle on one of the bedposts in the ensuing chase, but Dean actually trips over one of the chairs, letting out a surprised shout as he goes down, so Sam figures that his streak of rotten luck has finally broken. He’s on top of his brother before Dean can find his feet again, slipping an arm around his waist and hauling him back onto his feet. Dean’s back is warm against Sam’s chest: muscles twitching as he puts up a token struggle. Lowering his head, Sam bites at the vulnerable join of his brother’s shoulder and throat and Dean goes still.

“Fuck,” he breathes.

“’S the idea,” Sam agrees, letting go of his brother long enough to push Dean’s sweats down.

“What makes you think I’m gonna put out?” Dean argues, but his voice is already rough with arousal. He kicks his sweats the rest of the way off and then pushes his ass back against Sam’s erection.

“Cause I know you,” Sam tells him, nuzzling at the side of his neck. Obligingly, Dean tilts his head and gives Sam room to lick along the corner of his jaw. “And because I had a shitty day,” Sam adds before nipping at his brother’s throat.

“Yeah, and you were a little bitch about it,” Dean mutters.

Sam’s heartbeat speeds at his brother’s words. He thought that Dean was giving him a get out of jail free card before, and maybe Dean meant to, but Sam realizes now that they’re going to have to talk about it anyway. Otherwise it’s just going to sit between them and fester.

Now isn’t the time for that discussion, though: not when Dean is moaning and reaching back blindly to grab at Sam’s ass. Sam drags one hand up his brother’s side and then cups the back of his skull. Gripping Dean’s short hair as best as he can, he tugs his head back while rubbing Dean’s cock with his free hand.

“Sam,” Dean pants, rocking his hips forward.

“Get on the bed,” Sam whispers into his brother’s ear, and then shadows Dean as he obeys.

He doesn’t want to let go of his brother long enough to go get the lube and the condoms, and Dean refuses to settle for a blowjob, so they take it slower than usual. By the time Sam finally pushes inside, they’re both on edge and frantic, and Dean doesn’t seem to be feeling the burn at all. When Sam tries to ease in slowly, his brother just lets out a low groan and snaps his hips back, leaving Sam’s cock deeply buried and their bodies flush.

“Ngh,” Sam chokes out, shuddering.

Dean is shaking underneath him: fingers twisted in the sheets and head hanging low. Sam doesn’t remember his brother ever being this tight, except maybe for that first time, and so he can't be blamed for not really thinking straight when he grips Dean’s upper thigh and tugs him up onto his knees. It takes his brother a few moments to comply, but then they’re finally moving: Dean pushing back against Sam with each thrust.

The breathy, punched noises Dean keeps making send Sam over the edge sooner than he’d like, and he comes with a shout. The warm, pleasurable wave seems to crest forever inside of him and then, finally, ebbs. Sam's weary muscles give out on him and he collapses heavily on top of his brother, driving Dean down onto the mattress with a grunt.

Despite his dazed afterglow, he's coherent enough to remember what happened the one time he was dumb enough to finish and roll off without reciprocating (Dean can be fucking vicious when he wants to be), and so he makes an effort and squirms a hand beneath his brother. It’s an awkward angle, but he only has to stroke Dean twice before his brother stiffens and comes. Sam holds him through it and then, with one semen-slick caress, takes his hand back.

“Jesus,” Dean groans into the pillow.

Sam rubs his forehead against his brother’s shoulder blade and stretches in a slow, languid motion that shifts his softening cock inside of Dean and makes his brother’s breath hitch. Then, after laying one final, soft kiss against Dean’s skin, he eases his cock free and rolls over onto the other side of the bed.

When he feels his brother’s weight lift from the bed a few minutes later, Sam is tired enough that he only feels a faint stab of disappointment. He should know better by now than to expect anything but their normal routine of sex, shower and separate, but he doesn’t think that longing is ever really going to go away. Like the roadblock, it’s just something that he needs to learn to live with. After all, even if Dean didn’t have intimacy issues, sharing a bed wouldn’t really be practical: like Dean says, they’re both big guys and they take up a lot of space.

Shutting his eyes, Sam sends up a brief prayer that tomorrow will be better than today was, and then waits to fall asleep. Except that just as he’s drifting off, Dean’s hands tug at his shoulder.

“Mmph,” Sam grunts.

“You want your back rub or what, man?” Dean whispers, running one hand down his back.

Sam’s mind isn’t really alert enough to translate, but when Dean tugs again he lets his brother roll him over onto his stomach. Then Dean is kneading his shoulder blades, and oh. Oh fuck, that feels good.

Dean has always been good with his hands, and that’s no less true when it comes to massages than with anything else. His fingers keep hunting down knots and kinks that Sam didn’t even know he had, and after a few minutes his whole body is deliriously warm and loose. A low voice washes over him as Dean’s fingernails drag down his lower back and a minute or so later Sam realizes with a slow, waking sensation that Dean said something. Making his mouth work requires a great deal of effort, but somehow he manages it.

“What?”

“I said I was sorry,” Dean says. His thumbs find another knot and set about working it out. “About today, I mean. Must’ve sucked.”

Some of it was actually all right, but Sam’s brain isn’t work enough right now to have that in depth of a discussion. “Mm,” he grunts instead.

“And I was sort of an asshole about it,” Dean adds. “So, uh, sorry. For that.”

Dean’s actually apologizing, which Sam always thought would be one of the signs of the apocalypse, so he wakes himself enough to slur, “This sorta makes up for it, dude.”

By now, of course, he’s awake enough to realize that his brother’s ego doesn’t really need any help, but it’s too late to take it back. Luckily, Dean doesn’t pick up on it. His hands smooth across Sam’s skin one last time and then lift. Sam turns onto his side and frowns into the pillow, disappointed by the inevitable loss. Then something warm and solid eases close behind him.

“What’re you doing?” he asks, opening his eyes with a great effort and trying to make his neck muscles long enough to turn his head around.

Dean slips one arm underneath him and drapes the other over Sam’s ribs. His leg comes up over Sam’s hip. His forehead finds the dip between Sam’s shoulder blades and rests there.

“Dean?” Sam tries again. He’s completely awake now, and if Dean hadn’t done such a good job on his back he’d be painfully tense.

“This a problem?” Dean asks. His voice is gruff, but Sam can tell from the minute trembles of his brother’s body that Dean is nervous as hell about this.

Swallowing thickly, he answers, “No,” and immediately wishes that the word came out sounding a little less desperate.

“Okay then,” Dean mutters, pulling Sam closer against him.

Sam resists for a few seconds—habit—and then relaxes back into his brother. His body can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be hot or cold, and his heart is doing this funny fluttering thing in his chest.

“I know it bothers you,” Dean says after a moment. “I’m not stupid. But I—I don’t want anyone else. I just. I just love you, okay? It’s just you, and it’s only gonna be you, I don’t know how to make you believe me, but that’s the truth.”

The roadblock between Sam’s head and his heart crumbles with an abruptness that leaves him breathless. He blinks once and then he’s crying. Goddamn bad luck, he thinks, because he wouldn’t be doing this otherwise, he’s not that much of a girl, but right now he can’t seem to stop himself. Dean, freakishly attuned to Sam as always, senses it immediately and his hands ghost over Sam’s skin.

“Hey,” he breathes, and kisses Sam’s shoulder. “Hey, man, don’t.”

“I believe you,” Sam chokes out. It’s difficult to talk through his tears, but it’s important that Dean knows. “I believe you.”

Dean’s hand comes up, cupping Sam’s cheek and tilting his head around. Dean kisses him gently: first his lips, and then his cheeks, and finally each of his eyes. Dean wipes away his tears with those clever fingers of his and then rests their foreheads together, waiting for Sam to get himself back under control.

“You said it,” Sam says when he can talk again.

Dean rolls his eyes, but his hand strokes Sam’s hair back from his face. “Yeah, well, don’t hold your breath. I’m not buying you a ring or anything.”

“I love you too,” Sam says, and doesn’t care that this time Dean releases him with a muttered “Jesus Christ” and rolls over onto his back. Following, Sam pillows his head on his brother’s shoulder and tosses an arm across his chest. Dean lets out a long-suffering sigh, but he doesn’t protest and he doesn’t push Sam off.

“You started it,” Sam points out.

“Shut up and go to sleep,” Dean mumbles. A moment later, his arm snakes up and wraps around Sam’s shoulders in return. Smiling, Sam snuggles closer.

All things considered, today was a pretty fucking awesome day.