If he was going to try and explain it, he would say it started out as an accident.
“Dibs!,” he heard Sam say as he walked past him to the bathroom.
“Son of a bitch,” he muttered, still struggling to get the key out of the door. That damn thing was now the reason why there probably wouldn’t be any hot water left for him.
After finally locking the door, Dean sat heavily on the nearest bed. His boots were filthy. He was all filthy, actually; ghouls were just gross. At least that had been a relatively easy hunt and they only acquired some new scratches that wouldn’t need stitches. All in all, it had been a good day.
Dean only noticed he had started to drift off to sleep when he heard the creak of the bathroom door being open.
“There’s still some hot water,” Sam says, fishing another towel out of his duffel bag to dry his hair.
He takes just long enough to get all the goo out of him and clean some cuts here and there. The sound of the shower blends with the sounds of Sam moving around the room, just like any other night in a motel. The rest was just the well known moves of an old dance; turn off the shower, come out of the bathroom, put the first clean clothes found on, check the salt lines, go to sleep. He had done that a thousand times except that this time, when executing the last step, there was already another body in the bed.
“Huh”, he had the presence of mind of saying. Dean was pretty sure he had aimed for the right bed but, honestly, it’s not like he was willing to check. Before giving the subject a mental shrug and adjusting himself better on the space left on his side, Dean registered that, although he and Sam had stopped sharing bed a long time ago and the kid had gotten so freakishly tall in the meantime, he was still a familiar presence at his side.
Dean couldn’t remember it right when he woke up, but he sure must have made an awful decision last night if having his center of gravity suddenly changing and then having his face buried in the carpet was any sign. He got up with a groan - God knows what kind of things have stepped on that floor, including their own boots - and looked at his side. Sam was sprawled in the bed like a fucking starfish, after kicking all the blankets during the night and, more recently, Dean himself.
According to the clock on the bedside table, it was still eight in the morning, which was ridiculously early for a day after a hunt. They weren’t in a rush to leave the town nor had anything to research right now, so they could indulge a few more hours of sleep. He wondered how exactly he had fit in the bed with Sam, then moved to the other one. Next thing he knew, Sam was packing their stuff and the clock said it was 11 a.m.
“Diner down the main road?” he said by way of good morning.
“Yeah,” Dean answers to his pillow, and almost finishes with you furnace, but then remembers that Sam probably hadn’t even noticed Dean had slept in his bed and he certainly wouldn’t be the one who was going to tell him.
It was only now that they were paying the rooms and heading to the diner to get some breakfast that Dean’s brain started to function normally again. They had slept in the same bed. It hadn’t seemed so weird late at night, when he was tired and couldn’t find a good enough reason to walk a few feet to the other one, but now it was just downright awkward. There was a reason why they stopped sharing beds, and that was because they weren’t kids anymore, but at that moment not even the fact that there wasn’t all that space left in the bed for him made Dean leave.
He scrutinized Sam’s face across the diner’s table for any sign of remembrance from the last night, but he seemed oblivious to Dean’s concerns - and, for fuck’s sake, who the hell drinks a shake for breakfast? He voiced that particular question and the face Sam pulled in response was enough to convince him that all was good. Dean proceeded then to archive The Bed Incident, as he was calling it now, on the part of his memory dedicated to things he didn’t want to worry about
All was good.
Hitting the road with Sam again sometimes felt like a blessing Dean didn’t think he deserved to have. They were back to the life for a while now and he was still trying to drink in all the details he had missed in the four previous years.
Not that he hadn’t seen Sam during that time. On the first few weeks after he left, Dean would wake up and think Sam was gone to grab breakfast, just to realize while brushing his teeth that he wasn’t going to come back. He would book a room with two singles even when Dad wasn’t around, and sit at the end of the bed for longer than he would admit, going crazy with the silence.
But he wasn’t all that surprised with himself when it took him more than a year to get his ass down to California for the first time. Dad had been gone for over a month and Dean had finished two salt-and-burns since then, and now there were some beers making him company. He never really felt like a child - growing up as they did does that to you, after all -, but now he didn’t actually feel like an adult either. It was not because of the whole hunting alone thing; that was going well so far, even though he had the vivid impression that it was part of the way Dad was drifting away after Sammy was gone. No, he realized with his fellow beers, it was just that he didn’t really know how to be alone. Dad had said - and demonstrated - a hundred times that a hunter shouldn’t get too attached to those he could lose because he would lose them eventually but, like so many other things in their life, Dean didn’t think to apply that to family.
Dad apparently did, he thought, cursing himself afterwards because he would never get used to let this kind of thought creep into his mind. Dad was the only one in that family who knew what to do and he had trusted Dean enough to let him hunt alone, so it wasn’t the best moment to be a whiny baby.
He couldn’t avoid it, though. Not when he was in a motel room in the middle of Kentucky, wondering if Sam had already figured out the whole living a normal life thing. Dean had his number in his phone but hadn’t called yet; why would he, really, if he was a part of the exact kind of life Sam had always wanted to leave behind. It didn’t sound fair, even though he also knew that his reasons weren’t all that altruistic.
Dean didn’t make that call, but that was only the beginning of a process that would still involve moments where he would think of Sam as the most selfish asshole in the world, and nights where he couldn’t sleep, guilty as if he had said that to his brother’s face and needed to go there and apologize. He did start to drive all the way to California eventually, but hunts along the way were always delaying him and, to be quite honest, he never really stopped looking for them. It was a good excuse. In the end, after driving half of the way at least two times before going back to the other side of the country again, Dean made his way to Palo Alto and asked around.
Sam shared a tiny apartment with another guy, not very far from where he would live with Jess some time later. When they were already in the road again, Sam would mention, tentatively, that there were times he thought he was imagining the sound of the Impala’s engine. Dean knew it as the bait it was and would answer with a simple “Yeah?”, but would never admit how long he spent around that ridiculous small apartment that was still better than anything they ever had, trying to decide whether to go there or not, trying to convince himself he wasn’t the world’s creepiest stalker as he observed Sam moving around his place through the window.
And here they were now. Dean cleaning their guns and sneaking glances to Sam, who was reading on the other bed, brow furrowed in concentration. It was the reenactment of a scene that just kept repeating itself their whole lives.
“I’m gonna grab us some food,” Sam said, finally closing the book.
“Bring me a burger. Maybe two.”
“Like I didn’t know,” he said, rolling his eyes. Dean couldn’t avoid the fondness that took over him; he was always a bit worried that one day Sam was just going to decide to go back to his old life and things would be back to what they were before. In moments like this, though, it didn’t look like that would happen so soon. It wasn’t the best life, but it was theirs, and they were in it together.
If someone asked, Dean would say it started out as an accident, but it continued because he was a fucking idiot.
“I could have sworn he was dead.”
“Of course he was, Dean, he was a ghost
“Don’t get all smartass on me now,” he mumbled, being deposited on the bed with a thump.
All it took was a not yet properly ganked ghost and a small distraction to get Dean to be thrown on top of a bunch of wood that had dislodged his shoulder, and also caused him another kind of sharp pain that indicated that he was going to have to deal with stitches. He was not sure how much blood he had lost in the way to the motel, but things were getting a little blurry and he heard Sam counting “One, two, three” a little too late.
Dean really hoped that the person groaning in pain wasn’t him.
“You’re sure we shouldn’t go to a hospital? This isn’t looking really good.”
“Not s’posed to look good, Sammy, just patch it up,” he managed to say before falling on his stomach in the bed. He didn’t remember sitting before.
“You gotta help me here, man,” Sam was saying, trying to get him to sit again. Taking off his jacket and shirt took them an eternity, but then there was a bottle being put in his hand and a needle going through his skin. That part never hurt. The part where Sam soaked his wounds in alcohol did, though.
“You coulda been a doctor,” he mused. “Like those war doctors, stitching people’s legs back to ‘em in battlefields.”
“Yeah, sure,” was all Sam said, going back to his task. After a while without another comment, he looked concerned. “Dean. Hey, c’mon, talk to me.”
“Motherfucking ghost don’t even has a physical buddy.”
Dean continued on a string of nonsense so Sam wouldn’t think he had slipped into a coma and at some point he was properly fixed, with bandages and all, and being manhandled to the other bed in a way he would find indignant if he was a bit more conscient.
“The cleaning lady will hate us,” he heard Sam say from some point at his left where he was taking care of the blood stained sheets.
After a while, the bed creaked with the added weight of Sam, who moved him just enough so they both could fit there. Huh, Dean thought, and then he wasn’t conscient at all.
The first thing Dean noticed when he woke up the next morning was that his arm was still attached to his body, even though it felt like someone had tried really hard to pull it off. The second was that the heavy weight on top of his stomach was Sam’s arm.
Sure enough, the blankets were pooled around his feet, but other than that he seemed to have behaved well during the night. Dean didn’t know what time it was nor did he want to. He could use a glass of water and some painkillers, but didn’t have the heart to wake Sam.
Instead of getting up then, he just buried his nose on Sam’s ever growing hair; the kid still was a cuddler, who would have ever guessed, and his head had found a place on Dean’s shoulder. They used to sleep like that for ages, before Dad’s sudden realization that they were too old for that and started getting them separate beds. Sammy would still run to Dean’s bed when he had a nightmare or it was raining too much anyway.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s just a scratch,” he had said the first time Sam had to patch him up without Dad’s assistance. He had been barely sixteen then and still not all that used to down a bottle of Jack, so he figured the lightheadedness he was starting to feel couldn’t have been caused only by the bleeding.
“I still don’t get why the hell Dad isn’t here,” Sam’s voice was low, like he was controlling it to not tremble.
“I told you, he had to finish the job… ouch!”
“I”m sorry, I’m sorry. Keep still.”
“It’s okay, Sammy.”
Dad came back only in the next morning, took a look at the wound, said “Good job” and proceeded to pack their stuff to hit the road again. Sam didn’t talk to him for three days; a interval that would only get bigger and bigger as the years went by.
That was ten years ago, though; now Sam was adjusting himself in bed and his body was no longer close to his and all Dean could do was make some noises he hoped would convey the meaning of no wait warm good.
“Hey,” Sam said then. He had turned on his side and they were so close now that the word was a hot puff of air in Dean’s right cheek. In fact, when he turned his head and opened his eyes Sam’s nose was just a few inches away from his.
Once Dean honest to God mistook the doors at a bar and ended up in the ladies bathroom; he had only the time to notice the absence of urinals and hear the lock of one of the stalls before bolting from there and bumping into a woman in the way out. That had been awkward. The word for breathing the same air as Sam, their foreheads almost touching, wasn’t awkward, even though he knew it probably should be.
It was comforting.
Dean had seen Sam’s eyes from up close countless times, witnessed the gradual change of color as he went from wiggling baby to an unusual quiet toddler, but he could swear it still changed everytime he took another good look at them. He had time to catalog some new stripes of blue before Sam closed them again, then did the same. Sam’s arm found his way back around his torso and Dean fell asleep again like this, ignoring the discomfort on the other side of his body. All was good.
They fall into a routine. Sometimes they sleep sprawled in the not-big-enough bed, limbs all over one another, and sometimes they sleep like cats, mirroring each other’s position, foreheads touching. Dean thought it had to do with his injury; it hurt like a motherfucker, but it wasn’t all that bad and certainly wasn’t going to kill him, but when had Sam ever not used that brain of his to overdramatize things? But it was healing well and they still shared a bed more often than not.
The part of Dean’s mind where he archives things he doesn’t want to think about has a leaking problem. Every time it’s his turn to book the room he makes a 0.3 second double-take, as if to make sure he really should take two singles again. Every night they go to separate beds only to get together in the same one an hour later, and he thinks if maybe, just maybe, he should say something. Ask if that’s okay. Maybe that’s a little weird? But Sam’s the one who comes to his bed more often than the contrary, and Dean can’t exactly argue with the logic that, if he does it, then he’s probably not finding it all that weird.
There’s always some dim light passing through the thin curtains of the rooms where they stay, be it the vacancy sign or the lights of the streets and the cars, and it hits Sam only enough to outline his shape in the bed. The fragments Dean collected from the little he could see of his life observing him in Palo Alto were only now starting to form a big picture. The Sam who left him - and he wasn’t sure when exactly Dad had been left out of this thought process - four years ago was an angry teenager that made Dean think of having a heart attack at least three times a week. Dean hadn’t been all that far from eighteen himself, he could still remember what it was like, but that didn’t diminish the trouble of dealing with Sam’s ever growing need to turn their world upside down. He did, eventually.
Dean still couldn’t figure how that night had deteriorated all the way down to his fist in Sam’s face and Dad’s order to never coming back, but it did. That had been the scariest night of his life not because of monsters, but because of the resolution on Sam’s face; he could do it. He was able to disentangle himself from them and leave and there was nothing that could hold him there and it was terrifying
Dean followed him out of the house as if he would disappear instantly if he did not. Sam was standing in the sidewalk, hand pressing the small bleeding in his mouth, looking like he didn’t really know what to do now that he was outside.
The word comes out of his mouth like this; very low and with a period, as if he isn’t really aware of it. Sam hadn’t turned and Dean hadn’t reached for him, and they just stood like that for a while.
“I’m gonna grab the keys”, Dean had finally said, and it was more an apology than a description of his next action, because the keys never really left his pocket. He wouldn’t try to make them talk to each other again now because there was just no point in it, and Sam finally started moving toward the Impala.
“You’re sure it’s okay to leave you alone here?” Sam had asked when they got to the station.
But Dad’s still here, he felt like saying, but he knew what his brother meant. Sam put a hand in his shoulder and kept it there for a moment, as if he’d put it too soon and was trying to figure out what to do next.
"You’re sure you don’t wanna come with me?" he finally asked, hand finally settling for a squeeze.
Dean’s brain was a mixture of You’re sure you can’t stay and This is all I want but what comes out of his mouth is just “I can’t”, so little that the only indication Sam’s heard him is the sudden absence of his hand on Dean’s shoulder.
"I should go."
They hugged and it was a little awkward - they were still trying to figure out how these things worked after Sam’s last growth spurt. Dean ended up with an arm over Sam’s shoulder and other under his arm, and just like that a bell rang somewhere and then he really had to go. The mixed feelings of how could he do that and that’s my boy never really left him since then.
The Sam sleeping at his side now is that boy and also the one who grew up while he wasn’t looking. It seemed absurd just to think that he had missed such a chunk of his brother’s life like that, but it wasn’t the only reason why Dean was so fascinated by the whole Stanford Sam puzzle; there was an itch to know how it was like that he couldn’t always ignore. Dean could barely remember a time in his life where monsters didn’t exist and he had to admit that the few years before that were becoming blurred by the years; the memory that’s carved in his mind is carrying Sam out of the fire - as fast as you can and don’t look back now Dean go an infinite loop in the nightmares he never told anyone about for years -, but the rest are fragments that had more smell and sound than images, and he can’t stand the idea that maybe one day he might forget his mother’s face.
Sam got out, though. Sam lived the same life as him and got out and made his own life as well as he could, and that was way more than Dean could even imagine to be possible. He thought it would be fair to be a little sadder for taking him away of all that, but he wasn’t.
Dean had had to wake Sam up in the middle of the night because of nightmares countless times after Jess’ death, but his sleep now was quieter, except from when he decided to go full on starfish. Dean dared to take some hair out of his face and take it back to behind his ear; for some reason he had grown those stupid bangs all over his forehead, which might or might not be a little endearing.
Still stupid, though.
They stop at a roadside bar in their way out of St. Louis with the excuse of hustling pool - Sam thought that way a bit more honest than credit card fraud - but if he was going to be honest with himself, Dean was still riding the high of being officially dead. He still wondered if the shapeshifter’s corpse would somehow revert to another person’s shape, maybe its original one, or if it would rotten till the bones as the spitting image of Dean Winchester.
That had been their sleep in morning, or so Dean had thought, until he woke up with Sam’s voice saying something at his phone. He was slumped over his laptop as any other day, but with an fond exasperation in his face that meant he was probably talking to someone he liked but didn’t want to lie to.
Not Dad then, Dean concluded, and buried his face back in the pillow. It was probably some of his old friends, or even Rebecca calling once again to thank them, even though Dean thought it was more probable that she wanted to close that chapter of her life once for all. It was not all that uncommon for Sam’s friends to call every once in a while, especially right after he left Stanford, and he figured one day they would just give up. He heard Sam put the phone down on the table and sigh, and suddenly felt as if he was picking on someone else’s curtain. His own concept of privacy was built in small rooms and the shared backseat of the Impala, their whole life more like a collective effort than anything else, but now Sam clearly had had a life of his own and Dean didn’t know what to make of that.
He still thinks about it as he chalks his cue, and his eyes instinctively look for Sam. He’s sitting at the bar, scribbling something in a notepad with a beer at his side. There’s this guy next to him babbling something, and Sam’s got his polite little smile in his face. He doesn’t look in trouble, Dean thinks, and goes back to the pool.
The guy is still there when he finishes his move and looks back at them. Sam is sipping his beer and listening to the stranger, who had the nerve to touch his arm here and there while they talked, thumb up and down his wrist and yeah, well, Dean knows that move. Something ugly and tight curls up low in his belly and Dean has to tell himself that he’s not always one to cockblock, that Sam knows how to take care of himself. Sure enough, a while later Sam sits up straighter, makes himself bigger the way Dean knows to mean that he wants to be left alone, and his own hand tights holding the cue. But Sam doesn’t seem upset, not really; he says something to the stranger, they both smile sheepishly, and the guy writes something down before leaving. “Maybe another time”, Dean imagines him saying, and his eyes follow him until he considers the distance good enough; when he looks back at the stools Sam is staring at him.
Dean barely takes his eyes out of Sam as he moves around the table to make his move again, and eventually Sam approaches them holding out two bottles.
“You any good?” he asks, placing a beer next to Dean.
“You bet your ass, kid.”
They leave a little past two in the morning, a few hundred dollars richer and a few beers drunker. There’s no motel to came back to this time, but Dean figures they should get going anyway in case the people back in the bar realize they have been fooled. They walk to the car in a better mood than they have been in a while, and Dean rests his hand on the small of Sam’s back. To steady himself. Because he’s a little tipsy. And Sam is too tall to use his shoulders for that.
“I’m not gonna sleep in the car”, Sam informs, matter-of-factly. Dean rolls his eyes but fishes the keys out of his pocket.
“You drive then,” he says as he tries to decide which side is the passenger one. “Which does not mean, by any cause or effect, that you hold your liquor better than me.”
“You sure that’s the expression?”
Dean is already inside the car when he notices Sam is not around anymore. He looks behind and thinks of calling him but he’s back to the driver’s seat in less than a minute.
Dean pretends he didn’t see him throwing his phone in the dumpster.
Dean shouldn’t need to catalog every night they sleep together as soon as he wakes up, but he does it anyway.
Not together together, he rephrases it in his head, because that had sounded kind of bad. Sharing a bed is a better - safer - option.
They weren’t in a bed, though, and Dean wonders if it counts as sharing even when the back of the front seat of the car is between them. That had been the second night in a row they had to sleep in the car, as Sam furrowed brow clearly indicate even in his sleep.
Dean banged the seat twice before Sam started grunting, and winced in sympathy when he tried to stretch and met the closed door in the way. He didn’t want to wake Sam up just now but if he didn’t do so the complaints about sore limbs would increase significantly.
Dean shifted on the front seat while Sam was getting used to the morning light; sitting against the driver’s door, he spreads a map on his lap to calculate how long it would still take to leave Fucking Nowhere and get to Somewhere with a Bed, his right hand absently resting on the other side of the seat.
More specifically where Sam’s leg was. He freezes for a second after the realization that, well, he is sort of holding Sam’s shin under his pants. Who the fuck does that.
“We both used to fit on this backseat.”
Dean startles at the huff of laughter coming from Sam, who speaks as if nothing weird is happening at all. Well, who’s Dean to argue then. Sam’s voice is hoarse from sleep and it sounds foreign to Dean, still having some residual trouble to reconcile eighteen year old Sammy with this adult that came back.
That he took back actually.
“We still would if you hadn’t shot up like that,” he says, only realizing afterwards that it might have sounded a bit weird. Maybe he wasn’t fully awake yet because he sure as hell was having a hard time with phrasing things today. “I mean, we could… You know.” he tried to fix, not looking at Sam but feeling his question mark stare all the same.
“...Stretch. We should stretch.”
He fumbles with the map and manages to get out of the car, face hot as if he had been staring at the sun. Sam follows not so long after that, brushing his teeth a few feet away. They were parked next to a tree a little off the side of the road and, despite the not so nice conditions to spend the night, Dean couldn’t complain about the view.
“You know what? I bet we could see some stars here some other night,” he says when Sam sits on the hood next to him.
Sam smiles and takes a bit to answer, as if he had been surprised. It has really been a long, long while since they did things like this together. Since before Stanford, if he thinks about it.
“Yeah, we could.”
Dean makes sure to mark the place on the map before they hit the road again.
Dean has been staring at the wall of the motel room for a long time.
He can hear Sam moving around the room for a while before he apparently stops between the beds. He hears him sigh and decide for his own, then the creak of the bed, then the click of the lamp right before he registers the change in the luminosity.
“You okay?” Sam asks after what could have been a minute or ten years for all Dean knows.
They could’ve have stopped at any other city in Kansas after leaving Lawrence, but Dean had just driven them right out of the state.
Dean’s still staring at the wall. He hears Sam sit up, can picture everything he’s doing even if he’s not looking; passing both hands through his hair, taking his watch off, putting it on the bedside table.
“Dad hasn’t called yet,” Dean says then, not sure if he wants it to be heard. It sounds like something that shouldn’t be said now just as that whole week had felt like something that shouldn’t have happened. It sounds small and too much like the plea of a child for his liking.
He’s not sad, not really. There’s nothing eating at his guts, no tears prickling his eyes, just this sort of apathy that has him stuck there.
Sam doesn’t say anything, but stands up again. It only takes him two steps to get to the other bed, and Dean doesn’t think there’s enough space left for him there, but they make it work as any other time.
“Dude? You can stay, but no hoarding,” he says when Sam takes what he probably thinks is only half of his blankets, and Dean hears what he can swear is a sigh of relief, even if his voice sounds more like a emulation of what it usually is right now.
When it’s late enough that there’s almost no sound of cars passing on the street outside the thin walls, Sam holds him. Dean’s not sad, not really; but Sam holds him tight, and it’s a cold night, and it feels like he’s joining together the pieces of himself Dean’s been leaving on the way.
“There’s no way I’m the little spoon.”
“Dean,” Sam says, shooting his good boy smile to the old lady next to them on the laundry. But it’s been bugging him for weeks, really.
They have been finding themselves clinging to each other more and more often since Sam came back from almost leaving again and since Dean was healed. It was only expected, Dean thinks sometimes. It’s still kinda weird, he thinks too.
Dean comes back to the motel late that night, having stalled at the bar long enough so that Sam would be already asleep when he came back. So far it’s working, Sam sprawled on the bed but leaving his spot free the way he’s got used to do. Dean changes and lays beside him.
It won’t work if Sam’s not laying on his side, so Dean proceeds to move him, which turns out to be not as easy as he had thought it would.
“Hey,” Sam says in the middle of his attempts, all sleepy voice and dead weight.
“You got some heavy bones there, man.”
“You can carry me just fine,” he mumbles.
He eventually turns on his side and Dean can finally reach the end of his plan. When it’s Sam who’s holding him like this it feels like he’s enveloping him, but Dean’s not that broad and he can’t do much to encompass all of him. The heat won’t let them stay like this all night, but for now their legs are tangled, and Dean’s glued to Sam’s back, forehead resting where his neck ends.
Dean had only imagined the results up to this point; he hadn’t expected Sam to be awake, or his arm to be intentionally resting on top of his. He’s hyper aware of every breath they take until he starts counting them as a single one; they breathe even and deep but not enough to be sleeping, and at each intake Dean smells more and more of Sam, right at the collar of his shirt where he had sweated and where his damp hair had dried, and he thinks he would be dizzy with it had him be standing. His left arm is at an awkward position under his own head and Dean doesn’t know exactly what makes him do it, doesn’t want to think about it, but he squirms a little to get it at a slightly less awkward angle and stops his hand midway to getting to Sam’s hair. He feels Sam’s breath hitch, breaking the rhythm they were in, and holds him closer, right hand now soothing over his stomach instead of resting on the mattress, like when they were kids and he had a nightmare.
He wants to say something, a quirky comment, anything that can save him from being stuck in the tension of not knowing what the fuck he’s doing; he obviously chooses the worst course of action.
“Did you miss us?”
It’s probably the most stupid thing that has ever came out of his mouth, and that would require quite an effort. Even he hears how forced the “us” sounds.
“I missed you,” Sam answers, chest rising and falling under Dean’s arm, voice sounding deeper now that they are so close and vibrating through Dean’s body as well.
Dean’s aware he wouldn’t believe it a couple years ago, driving back and forth between states, too much of a coward to risk taking a look at Sam’s life and seeing that he belongs there, away from family, away from him. The first thing he had done when he got a new phone that Sam didn’t have the number of was to call him, let it ring once, twice, seven times until he had picked it up, and Dean would hang up on him then.
“They don’t know you, Sammy,” he would say to the voicemail, tongue heavy in his mouth, the sun threatening to rise soon after he got kicked out of some bar in the middle of God knows where. “They ain’t gon’ take care of you, babe.”
He doesn’t like to remember it, the anger that shifted from the abstract “they” that would take Sam from him to Sam himself for daring to leave, the wounded animal he had become when drunk enough to let the little control he had left slip between his fingers.
Sam gently removes his arm from over him and starts moving, and the i fucked up i fucked up i fucked up chant in Dean’s head only dies when Sam turns to face him instead of bolting off the bed.
“Did you?” he asks then, and Dean huffs a sad excuse for a laughter. Oh boy, did he miss him.
“I was terrified,” still am, he could complete. But this is already too much and, really, how did he even got into this situation at all.
It’s too much and he’s not up to this, not now or most probably not ever, and Dean’s the one ready to bolt off if it wasn’t for Sam bringing him back again. He holds him there by the back of his neck, their foreheads touching while their breath even out again to the same old rhythm.
Sam has to tilt his head a little to kiss him without their noses getting in the way and that’s pretty much the only indication Dean gets before it happens. They’ve kissed before, quick pecks when they were little kids, when it was cute and affectionate and no one really cared that much. They’re not kids anymore, though; Dean realizes it for the millionth time in the last few months, while Sam’s mouth is still over his, nothing more than a tentative touch of lips that leaves him not knowing what to do. He opens his lips a little as if he were to speak but he’s not, not really, and Sam’s there a second later, ever too gently licking his bottom lip as his thumb finds his way on the back of his ear and that’s it, that’s all Dean takes before he finally gets moving too.
Dean might have dreamed about kissing Sam once, or maybe twice, who knows; weird, caste dreams where they would just kiss and kiss, and in the morning he would attribute it to the ever growing hole in his chest that Sam’s absence was causing, some sort of collateral effect messing with his head.
But now there’s only Sam, everywhere he thinks or can touch, he’s inside his mouth and above him and around him. It’s overwhelming, and he thinks for a second that it’s going to be a sweet, sweet death that’s going to drag them both to hell.
He couldn’t care less.
It ends way too soon when Sam pulls back and thank God it’s dark because Dean’s pretty sure he kept his eyes closed for a second more than strictly necessary. For some reason they end up laying back and staring at the ceiling, and Dean’s not sure if his mind regressed to some sort of blank state or if it’s just racing so fast that he’s lost the ability to notice it. Either way, he’s so fucked.
The bed creaks when Sam moves again. He’s leaning on his elbows, head more like a floating mess of hair above Dean; this time he goes for it, halfway into just messing with Sam’s hair before he goes for his neck and, yeah, maybe that was the right idea because then Sam’s going down, down, down again. Dean’s pretty okay with another kiss at this point but Sam goes straight to the curve of his neck, fitting there like he had always have.
f Dean would recount it from memory, it would start like this: the tip of Sam’s nose was cold. And then Sam kissed him, and it was now the second time. If the first time had been tentative, this had an edge of despair; Dean couldn’t blame him. Them. He would say it might have lasted hours, who would ever know, and that Sam’s leg found its way between his own. He would say he rocked back, of course he did, and that would be the story of how he came in his pants like a goddamn teenager making out with his brother.
Ah, yes. The brother thing.
The first thing Dean registers when he wakes up is that he should have taken his underwear off before sleeping. Too late. The second is that he should probably open his eyes, and the third is that Sam’s not around. He panics for a second before even remembering why exactly he should be panicking and finally hears the shower.
Sam comes out of the bathroom a few minutes later, fully dressed for some reason, and stops short when he sees Dean sitting on the bed.
“Look, I…” he starts, and they stay in that position for a while, Sam’s mouth still open mid-sentence, Dean still looking intently at him as he waits for the rest. It doesn’t come. “I’m gonna get us breakfast”, he amends, apparently finding the foot of the bed incredibly interesting today. “Or we could go eat somewhere, I don’t know, what do you want?”
The last question ends up sounding way more intense than it should have probably been, and Dean’s already guilty for something he said before even getting the chance of doing so. Sam sighs to himself, mutters something that might have been “nevermind” and leaves Dean to his own thoughts, that right now are something like this: brothers kissing, brothers rubbing off each other, brothers brothers.
Dean passes his hands through his hair and eventually gets up; before anything he needs a shower. He has tried to rationalize it before; they have been sleeping together because they got used to it, and there’s nothing inherently bad about it. But one thing is to seek the comfort of another person, the other thing is to kiss them; and other yet is when they happen to be your brother.
The area Dean reserves in his mind to the things he doesn’t want to think about has been suffering from overcrowding for too long and he doesn’t like what is spilling out of it. It’s not as bad as he thinks it is if Sam himself doesn’t think it’s bad it’s his good old standard rationalization but it kind of can’t work if Sam runs away from him.
It turns out that Sam does come back with their food. It turns out that they also don’t talk about it the other night. Dean can deal with it.
Or so he thinks, until they’re out in the road again and the music is not enough to stop the oppressive silence that’s between them from getting in his guts. Until they’re in the next motel room and they go to their separate beds.
Dean faces the wall for approximately two minutes before sighing and rolling on his side again to stare at Sam’s back. He’s not sleeping either.
“Do you want me to apologize or something?” he asks, and he must admit that’s a new low.
“You gotta tell me that part too.”
There’s a space the size of a bedside table between them and the light is not all that good, but there’s at least some advance when Sam turns to his side.
“Do we even know what we’re doing?” he says, and Dean thinks he’s being too kind to even consider that they might be conscient of any part of this as a possibility. For all Dean knows, he’s at a complete loss of the big picture, just following the motions that’s he’s only barely aware of the reasons.
Dean shrugs and hopes Sam can see it. He’s not okay with putting things into words like that and he was not okay with the silence either, but as for now he just doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to move on this conversation. He could think it’s just his plain old inability to communicate but it’s fear too, of fucking things up to bad and having Sam leave again. Realistically speaking, he knows that’s not what Sam would do now, but it’s still his most basic fear and, worst than that, the one that had already happened twice.
“You’re wondering if I’m gonna leave, ain’t you?” Sam says, deep sigh as if Dean’s actually boring him, the little fucker. “I’m not, okay? I’m just trying to figure this shit out, so could you just… stop beating yourself up over it.”
Dean opens his mouth a couple times but gives up on speaking; he’s more of an action man anyway. Sam watches him, mildly curious, when he gets up and starts unplugging the radio clock and the lampshade from their bedside table, and then starts moving it out of the way. It’s not really heavy because the thing is probably not even real wood, but it takes him a while anyway to get it all the way to the other side of the bedroom, away from their beds.
“What are you doing?” Sam finally asks.
Dean doesn’t answer, too busy pushing the headboard first, then the foot of the bed, and repeating both moves till the bed is where the table had been.
“Guess that’ll work” he says, that smug grin Sam hates plastered on his face.
He goes back to --now the one and only-- bed. Sam is looking at him, a bit amused and a bit annoyed as always.
“You’re such an idiot.”
“Well, excuse me if I’m trying to--”
He’s cut short by Sam suddenly looming over him and Dean thinks he hears I didn’t say it as a bad thing before he’s being kissed and, really, why is it always Sam that kisses him first. Not that he’s keeping track of it or something.
Dean gets a thrill out of knowing how Sam’s mouth tastes like that has him arching off the bed for a second. He doesn’t know exactly when he missed the memo that informed that Sam was that much into biting; Dean’s pretty sure he’ll have bruised lips by tomorrow, but he’s not complaining. Not at all.
Sam sits on his legs for a minute to pull his shirt over his head and proceeds to take Dean’s off too; he all but crawls on top of him, kissing his way up, up, up to Dean’s nipples and taking the shirt with him. Dean would deny any sources that say he was squirming, but that is pretty much the word for it when Sam finally throws the shirt to the end of the bed and goes all the way down again.
Dean’s pretty sure there aren’t any stars in the motel’s ceiling but he sees them anyway when Sam fucking grabs his thighs and suddenly he’s there, all up close and personal with his cock, which by the way is valiantly doing all it can to peek through the waistband of his boxers. Sam’s there in a heartbeat, licking the head and taking it into his mouth to suck, fingers hooked under the elastic to keep it right where it is.
Dean could seriously die.
Which he’s sure is what would happen if Sam hadn’t let go --Dean did not whine, this is absurd-- to go down again on the shaft still covered by the boxers, scrape of teeth over the fabric keeping Dean on edge; he can hear Sam breathing heavy and fucking inhaling him and he can’t do much more to touch him than to pull his hair.
Sam finally thinks it’s a good moment to get rid of Dean’s boxers and his own and in the next moment he’s there again, kissing as if his life depends on it, and Dean couldn’t say he was any different. They eventually just stay breathing each other’s air when Sam starts jerking both their cocks together and there’s not much more that Dean can take before going off like a goddamn rocket between their bodies. It would maybe be a little embarrassing if Sam hadn’t followed him a minute later.
“Kinda always wanted you to see you coming under me like this,” Sam says. Dean didn’t know his voice could go that low.
“Kinda?” he breathes, his brain short circuited to a point of no return.
Sam removes himself from over Dean, stickiness be damned, and flops on his side; he’s laughing, dimples and all, and that’s Dean’s single favorite view in the world.
“You’re blushing,” he says.
“You are. You just kinda sucked my cock and you’re blushing like a flower.”
“Like a flower, Dean, seriously? And kinda?”
They spar for all of two minutes before calling it a bad idea, and Sam gets up to get them a washcloth. They clean themselves in a comfortable silence, and Dean notices that the room was poorly illuminated since he plugged off the lampshade, now abandoned a few feet from the beds, but his eyes had already got used to see Sam in the dark. The wet spot is on Dean’s side of the bed so they scoot to Sam’s side, Dean flushed against his back even though they’re still so hot he could combust right there.
“Do we still need to talk about shit?”
“Eventually, I guess”, Sam answers, yawning by the end of the sentence.
Dean hadn’t really expected to get away with the talking, but postponing it was good enough.
The man Dean had found in Sam’s apartment all that months ago was some inches taller than he had anticipated. But he walked like Sam, fought like him, and most important of all, smelled like him. Dean knew the moves like a dance, but he was dancing inside a dream, and he was dreaming underwater; that was how he felt moving through the place, at the shock of getting to touch Sam again, to look in his face and be sure he was there, solid, alive, around him again. It was a blessed moment of reality, except for that feeling of displacement, of invading a reality that he shouldn’t be a part of.
Dean’s not part of Sam’s world for the first time in their lives and he doesn’t know what to do with his hands if he doesn’t make an act out of it. It’s the entirety of the last four years all over again; the need to take Sam back almost as strong as the need to lash out, to blame him for leaving.
In the first few weeks Dean wondered if --hoped that, if he wants to be honest, which he really doesn’t-- Sam would be worse without them than he was with; it was part of what made him track him down later, along with sheer despair of not knowing what to do without part of his body, of his soul.
He still wonders sometimes, watching him by the corner of his eye; Sam on the passenger seat, fumbling on Dean’s tapes box just to keep his hands busy; Sam on the driver’s seat, driving a bit too slow and a lot too concentrated on the road while Dean sleeps. He still got that itch to ask if Sam was any happier before, but knows it’s a stupid question he already has the answer for.
“You weren’t there”, Sam says one of those nights, eyes on the road.
Dean considers the possibility of having been thinking too loud.
“I mean, it was… great, y’know? Of course it was. ‘cause I was doing what I wanted to.”
“You wanted to go away”, Dean says to the passenger window.
“Yes, Dean, I wanted to go away. But it had nothing to do with wanting to leave you, that’s what I’m trying to say. It was good, and safe, but you weren’t there” Sam’s as frustrated as he can only get when he tries to make Dean understand one of his point of views. Dean can’t really blame him. “Of course I wanted to go away”, he repeats. “You would too.”
The last part is essentially just a sigh; both of them know exactly what is Dean’s standard answer for that, but Sam can’t let go of trying to scratch that tiny itch on the bottom of Dean’s head that has him second guessing himself for a few moments. It had been that itch that had taken over him half of the time right after Sam left, blaming Dad from pushing his brother away from him.
“I’m here now”, Sam says as a way of finishing the conversation Dean didn’t want to have in the first place.
Dean doesn’t remember exactly when was the first time Sam had a nightmare, but he remembers a series of them extending along the years, sometimes frequent, sometimes more spaced. Sam would dream of monsters and terrors Dean would rather never make him aware of, creatures that would take them at night to separate their family and their members. Dean hadn’t told him yet about the ones that come with daylight.
Now every time Sam has a nightmare his anguish is magnified all over again; the proportions are all wrong, Sam is bigger and heavier and he suffers more, like the goddamn grown up Dean struggles to get to his feet. It makes his heart clench and turn into the littlest pea, makes him want to fight something invisible, forces him to get over it and be gentle because Sam needs him.
That’s what ignites him, makes him move, it's probably what keeps him breathing and waking up every morning because even when there’s nothing else there’s still Sam; and when there wasn’t Sam there was just the dull pain of a ghost limb, something he needed to scratch till the bone even though it wasn’t there anymore.
Sam sleeps all curled up towards him, head heavy in his chest; he’s at peace now, after a nightmare full of fire and burned flesh. It’s one that doesn’t predict anything, just revisits it over and over again to keep burning, and Dean knows them all to well. Sam moves slightly in his sleep and Dean holds his breath, waits for the anguished pleas and thanks some god when they don’t come.
Sam just holds him tighter. He’s not sure if Sam would believe him, or even if he would tell him, but if there’s one thing that this... thing between them brought that Dean would choose over all others was this; being able to hold on, to break whatever barrier that kept them from overstepping boundaries. They can touch now and it doesn’t combust them, doesn’t break the world in halves, it only makes them feel as close to each other as they possibly can without without literally turning into one, which probably wouldn’t be all that bad either.
He’d been wearing one of Sam’s hoodies earlier; grabbed it randomly from the small pile of clothes on the bed and Sam had looked at him funny. Dean thinks it’s maybe because he was wearing it when he was sick, and it was bigger than he would like to admit, but Dean doesn’t really care as long as it smells good and, well, it does smell like Sam.
They were back to getting rooms with separate beds for the eventuality of suddenly meeting John, a silent agreement that considered an aspect of that situation that was too real for their liking. They would push the beds together at night anyway, the uncomfortable joint dipping the sheets in the middle but they didn’t really care. Dean wouldn’t let his mind get a name for whatever it was going on with then; it was theirs, and as any other aspect of their lives it just seemed like something happen at some point. Dean’s not up to discuss it.
They hadn’t really talked about it yet, except from veiled fragments of conversation here and there touching the subject. Tangentially. Just enough for them to know they both want it, not enough for Dean to stop worrying it will stop abruptly at some point, for more inevitable he might think the contrary is. He runs his fingers through Sam’s hair anyway, listening carefully to his breathing; rocking Sam back and forth till he sleeps could probably be listed among his basic instincts.
It lulls him to sleep.
Dean’s not sure for how long they’ve been driving, but it’s been a while. The gashes on his face burn and itch in intervals and he’s feeling tempted to claw the rest of his face off, but Sam’s looking a bit worse and he’s nothing but stoic about it. It will probably leave some scars. Awesome.
They pass what’s probably the fourth hundredth tree that’s just like any other one on the never ending godforsaken roads of this fucking country, but Dean knows it. He will check on the map later and the mark will be there, but for now he just knows they’ve been here before and pulls over to the side of the road.
Sam’s as disorientated as someone who’s been half asleep for a second before saying “Oh’ and falling back to the seat again, light smile playing on his face.
“We don’t really have a lot of time for this, have we”, he says, but it ends in a full stop instead of an interrogation.
“Didn’t I say we were going?”, Dean says. He’s feeling petulant like a little child, blood still rushing in his veins as if they were still running from demons.
To be fair, he had other idea in mind the day he proposed it, involving going more into the field, further from the road, laying on the ground and just generally not worrying about Hell and stuff., but he guesses that would be a bit too much to ask for now.
They don’t really get out of the car. Sam’s with his arms crossed, head resting on the side window. Dean’s own fingers are still gripping the wheel too tight, and he makes an effort to lean back on the seat. It’s only then that Sam moves, just a little tilt of his head to turn to his side, and it startles Dean.
“You taught me how to see them”, he says, and Dean realizes he’s been looking at the stars. They’re not much visible right now and the sky’s still a bit cloudy, but he can distinguish a few of the brighter and bigger ones.
Dean did point constellations at the sky dozens of times till Sam could identify all of Cassiopeia’s stars and distinguish Mars from Antares, little objective head of his trying to wrap around the fact that there were drawings in the sky; it doesn’t stop him from feeling a little sheepish for the acknowledgement of having in fact taught something to him. It sounds like something outside of his possibilities, and yet there it is. Dad had taught them how to shoot and to use a knife and to be afraid for the rest of their lives.
“You taught me how to tie my shoelaces”, Sam says, a smile in his voice.
Dean smiles too. He thinks he might never be really over the fact that he’s getting to know Sam all over again, that he’s no longer the little brother in his pocket that he got to protect; he still does it, will cling to it with his last breath if he needs to, but now he sees that Sam grew beside him instead of around. It’s still terrifying, but he can already put the two images together and recognize the space in between. That is Sam, and that is Dean too.