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Between The Lines of What We Need and What We'll Take

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"But people are alive because of you. It's worth it, Dean. It is. It's not fair, and... you know, it hurts like hell, but... it's worth it," Sam said.

Dean's eyes had tears in them. He looked small and broken and lost, leaning up against the counter with the weight of countless lives on his shoulders.

Sam wanted to hug him. He wanted to just sit beside Dean and pull him into his arms. But that wasn't how they did things, and he wanted Dean to feel strong for having forced his way out of the djinn's influence, not weak for it. So he didn't move, and neither did Dean. Not until Dean's eyes ran dry and he stood up and walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

Later, the two of them lay quietly in the dark in their separate beds, and Sam watched the play of passing headlights reflect on the walls. He listened to the road sounds and the motel sounds, the blustering lullaby of a typical night, and waited for it to lull him to sleep.

Maybe Dean thought Sam was already out. Or maybe he just couldn't hold it back anymore, that great encroaching darkness that followed him wherever he went, through an endless string of motels and jobs and women. But whatever it was, Dean made a small choking noise in the night, his breath hitching, and Sam heard it, and listened.

For a few minutes, he listened to his brother sob over the couple feet of empty distance between them.

They had sacrificed so much, the two of them. Dean had said it not hours before. Had said it even before that, in not so many words. But there was one thing they had left, and it was something that belonged to them, something that they had forged themselves through the pain and the loss, and Sam was damned if he would sacrifice that, too. Though he was probably damned if he didn't sacrifice it.

As if being chosen by a demon hadn't damned him already.

Sam got out of bed. He reached out in the dark and found Dean's arm, warm and trembling a little on top of the blanket. Dean made a sound and tried to pull away, but Sam held onto him tight. Then he climbed onto Dean's bed, and Dean sat up, and he tried to warn Sam off with a low "Sammy‒" but instead it came out pleading and desperate. So Sam took it. He crawled forward and wrapped his arms around Dean, and Dean flinched for a hunter's second before his hands were clutching at Sam's back.

And so Dean finally let himself have the one good thing he had left in this world that was the one good thing he hadn't had in the other one.

And Sam held him, and rocked them back and forth, and waited out Dean's wrenching sobs as Dean hid his face in Sam's shoulder and let hot tears spill down Sam's shirt until the motel air, rattled out through an old radiator, turned them cold. After a while, Dean tried to pull away, and Sam let him.

"I couldn't have them both," Dean said, eventually, his voice uneven.

Sam waited. He knew that if he spoke and reminded Dean that he was there, listening, Dean would never tell him.

"I couldn't think up a world where you were happy and the two of us were...y'know," Dean said. He couldn't finish the sentence.

Sam didn't try to fill in the blank for him. Didn't knew if he had a word that could fill it.

"And I picked being able to have you over you being happy. God, how fucking selfish‒" Dean swallowed.

Sam had to say something, after that. "Dean," he started. When Dean didn't flee the conversation, Sam continued, "You didn't choose the way we were raised. We did everything we could to make a shitty situation not quite so shitty, and no one can blame you if‒"

"‒If it fucked us both up," Dean finished. "Because the two of us‒ you and me, what we've got, Sam..." He took a breath, and then the next part was so quiet, Sam had to strain to hear it over the hum of the ambient motel sounds. "...It's fucked up."

Dean's breathing hitched with a hollow sob. "If we were just brothers, we would be like how we were in that world," he said. "That's what brothers are supposed to be like. We're supposed to grow up, then live behind our own separate white-picket fences with our own separate jobs and girlfriends hanging off of our arms. But this? This is‒ it's fucked up."

"I know," Sam said. It was easier in the dark. "And I don't care. Our lives are fucked up, so it kind of makes sense that it would fuck us up, too. But what can we even do about it?"

"Live with it, I guess," Dean said, surprising Sam. "Or die with it." He laughed, even though it wasn't funny. His silhouette leaned back, and then he was laying down and resting on his back again, face tipped heavenward.

Sam lifted up the covers and crawled under them, lying down beside Dean.

"Sammy..." Dean made a weak movement to try and shoo Sam out of his bed. "What're you doing?"

"Living with it."

And then Sam closed the distance between them and slid his arm around Dean, tucking his face into Dean's shoulder. He could feel Dean's heartbeat increase, thrumming a steady rhythm against Sam's skin. Dean shifted, and then his arm was coming up around Sam's back, and the feel of him was firm and tangible and familiar.

And maybe it was too much, maybe in the morning it would be crossing a line that should never have been crossed, but for now, it was everything Sam wanted in the world to just hold his brother and be held like this.

They each had just one thing left, after all.