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Highway to Heaven

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Paradise lasts for all of fifteen minutes. Well, maybe longer. Dean’s not sure yet how time works here, but it sure doesn’t feel like forever before things start going sideways.

First, there’s the moment the world around him shifts, an empty room suddenly packed too tight; the difference between not having and having Sam. That’s how it always felt with his brother, Sam’s presence occupying more space than should be possible. Whatever the opposite of claustrophobic is. A crowding that goes missing sometimes, leaving behind freedom more paralyzing than close quarters could ever be. Dean recognizes the sensation, because he’s damn well been waiting for it. Had that lack crawling under his skin from the moment he realized where he was, and it’s what propelled him away from Bobby and the Roadhouse and whatever else may have been waiting for him that would have tried but failed to compensate for Sam’s absence.

He can feel the distance between them, and even though he knows it’s not physical space in any real way, it makes sense that this is how it manifests. Dean climbs in the car and doesn’t stop moving for anything, every few miles a year off Sammy’s life, and the faster he goes, the closer he gets to the only destination that really matters. So he puts the pedal to the floor and feels months fly by in the span of a song. For Dean, Heaven is a long road and a dull ache until suddenly he just knows…there’s something coming that’s worth pulling over for.

It’s no surprise when his brother is standing behind him. There’s an incomprehensible weight to that single moment, something like what Sam used to try to describe about black holes when they were out sipping beers in empty fields and staring up at the night sky. He only half listened most of the time, focused more on the way Sam’s voice poured over him as he went on and on about some cosmic science that Dean didn’t really have a lot of curiosity for, but apparently some of it stuck. The black hole thing, Dean finally gets. The mass of a mountain condensed into a grain of sand, Sam said once. That’s the one second in the eternity stretching on around them when his brother smiles at him, muted but intense, and their bodies, now souls more than flesh, collide into a solid embrace. Dean stands at Sam’s side, staring off a bridge he doesn’t remember if they ever really visited, and there are no questions left between them. Nothing he couldn’t bring himself to say. No doubts or insecurities or resentments. For the first time, Dean experiences pure, unadulterated happiness. Everything is perfect and easy and there’s nothing lingering on the horizon that can take it away and there never will be.

Then, there’s the bubble burst. Dean can’t say how long they live inside that blissful moment…just long enough to be able to tell the difference. They get one tiny infinity together without any mess between them, and it’s no surprise that Dean’s the one to screw it up.

They both start out enjoying the scenery, which is breathtaking and vast but mercifully unspecific. It doesn’t bring up any one memory of a time on Earth when things were almost right. It’s just some mountain, some stream, a vague impression of the Pacific Northwest that makes him think they should get back in the car before it starts raining, except they probably don’t have to worry about things like that anymore.

But inevitably, Dean is a compass and his eyes drift back to his brother. Sam isn’t looking at him, so he doesn’t have to pretend not to stare, doesn’t have to so much as blink and miss what’s finally next to him. Neither of them says anything, so they remain static until Dean starts to realize that there’s nothing new here to memorize, and something goes sour in his gut.

His first instinct is anger, which rushes up in him hot and immediate and it makes him grab Sam by the shoulders, turn him and study his face, looking desperately for changes to prove what he’s seeing is wrong. There’s nothing. Sam hasn’t aged a damned minute since Dean died.

Dean shakes Sam, demands, “You stupid sonofabitch, how could you?” and Sam looks confused, so Dean shoves him away. “You promised me. You said that it was okay for me to go, that you would—you were supposed to keep living.”

He watches his brother’s face fall, understanding settling in as his expression dims and he whispers, “You were watching?”

“I didn’t need to see,” Dean says, gesturing at Sam. “It felt like a few hours for me, but I thought—there was this pull, like. Like I could feel the distance getting less between us. I thought it was time. But look at you. Did you even try? Did you go out reckless on some hunt two days later or did you just throw yourself on the fire?”

Confusion again. Sam reaches up and touches his face, which gets wrinkled at the temples the way it used to when he was close to solving a case. Dean watches as Sam rushes to the Impala and stares at his reflection in the window.

Finally, he laughs, which almost pisses Dean off, until he turns, not quite looking at Dean, eyes fixed somewhere just past him, and says, “I was north of eighty.”

It takes a few moments for that to sink in as gradually relief replaces anger. Dean lets out his own little laugh, steps forward, and gives Sam an apologetic pat on the cheek that Sam just nods into.

“I don’t get it,” he says, holding his palm against Sam’s skin. “Everyone we’ve ever seen here was the same age as when they died.”

Sam shrugs. “Don’t ask me. All I know is that I look incredible, comparatively.”

Dean starts to grin, because it’s coming back, that sensation of everything going right. Sam got to live a full life, and that’s great, but now he’s here and he’s Dean’s and it’s for keeps.

“Well,” he says cheerfully, lowering his hand and stuffing it in his pocket. “Aren’t you gonna tell me all about your life, Sammy? I want to hear everything.”

Sam’s eyes get a little wide and he shakes his head as he looks away. “Can we just—? For a little while, do you think we could just be us? I promise I’ll tell you the rest, I will. In time. All I want right now is to remember what it’s like to…”

Dean thinks back on when he got here, on Bobby and everyone they ever lost, and how for the first time in his life, existence, whatever, all he wanted was to be alone. Alone if he couldn’t have Sam, so he gets it. No one else, none of what happened on Earth, just him and Sammy and the open road. Dean can definitely go for that.

He angles his head towards the car and asks, “You wanna go for a drive?” the way he used to when they were both spinning out and they needed to clear their heads or there were too many people crowding up the Bunker. Sam was always the introverted type. Dean took pride in the fact that he could offer those escapes, that Sam’s need for solitude usually left room for him.

For a little while, Sam looks the car over, and the expression on his face begins to change again, a soft smile that grows until Dean is looking at big bright teeth and dimples wider than every universe Chuck ever built. “She looks happier when she’s with you.”

Dean raises an eyebrow, because Sam never really talked about the Impala like that, and Sam huffs with amusement at Dean’s reaction and maybe at himself a little bit, too.

“I know that sounds nuts, but it’s true. Not that—I took good care of her, Dean. She still runs. Didn’t drive her much. But every now and then, when I…” Sam is quiet for a moment before continuing in an almost panicked voice, “I didn’t want to let you down. Tried so hard not to do anything that would…I don’t ride her brakes anymore. I swear I don’t.”

Dean moves closer, putting a hand on Sam’s back, trying to be comforting as he rubs Sam’s shoulders but unsure what to say. It’s clear he’s reacting to more than the car, but Dean’s got no idea what. He wasn’t there. That doesn’t sit right, but facts are facts. “I believe you, Sammy.”

“She was nearly a hundred. Hell, maybe she’s past that, I wasn’t really keeping up with the calendar towards the end there.” He takes a long breath and then says again, “I took real good care of her. Learned how to fix her. I wasn’t you but I did my best.”

“Prove it,” Dean says, taking Sam’s hand and pressing the keys into his palm. “Show me.”

He can’t think of a single time that didn’t work at least a little to cheer Sam up, but now Sam flinches, pulls his hand away before Dean can let go.

“I need you to drive,” he says, turning from Dean to round the car, and just before getting in on the passenger’s side he adds, “I never want to drive her again.”

In Heaven, Dean’s leg doesn’t cramp when they go too many hours without breaks and the needle never hits E unless he’s got a craving for Gas ‘n’ Sip nachos, which makes an exit promptly appear on the right. The radio is all Zep and Stones with no ads or droning DJs between songs. Sam doesn’t try to change the station anymore, doesn’t complain at Dean singing along to every song that plays, even when Dean is doing his worst. In fact, he doesn’t say much of anything, doesn’t even seem to want to look at Dean, and responds to most of what he says with noises instead of conversation.

Dean waits for that uninhibited joy he felt at Sam’s arrival to return, but it’s hard when his brother still feels so distant. They go for longer than they ever have before, the world breezing by outside the window soothing in its lack of urgency. Dean isn’t sure, actually, where they’re headed. There’s no destination to speed towards like there was when he was without Sam. He’s got all he needs, and sure, they probably won’t spend their entire afterlife on one road trip, but Dean enjoys the aimlessness while it lasts. He just wishes he could convince himself that Sam feels the same.

It eats at him until he happens to glance over and catches Sam watching him just out of the corner of his eye, which he wipes at quickly before turning away. It stings to accept that Sam’s not feeling as worry-free as he is, that his Heaven isn’t simply Dean the way Dean’s is that simple, but he understands Sam enough to let go of what he doesn’t understand. Sam will talk when he’s ready, and Dean will do what he can then.

For now, all he has to offer is distractions. Smirks as he drizzles melted cheese into his mouth, trying to make Sam wrinkle his nose at his snack choice. Random questions that pop into his head about the future, some of which Sam gives brief answers to and some Sam needs a refresher to even remember what the hell Dean is talking about. He jokes about taking one for the team, dying for a few decades just so Sam’s pop culture references could finally catch up to his, but that joke flops, causes Sam to clam up even more than before and slump against the window.

It’s a billboard that snaps Sam out of it, of all things. Sun-bleached pale on the side of the road advertising ‘JUST FORTY MILES TO HEAVEN’S BIGGEST TWINE BALL.’ Dean points to it, says, “Would you look at that?” and before he has a chance to think, Sam does. Turns his head right in Dean’s direction like it’s normal and natural and only flinches after he’s already done it.

It’s blatant enough this time that Dean can’t just go on ignoring it. “Hey, Sammy, why won’t you look at me?”

Sam doesn’t reply, which makes Dean all kinds of self-conscious.

“C’mon,” he says, trying to sound unphased. “I didn’t gargle that much cheese.”

His brother laughs and kind of half turns his head, but he still doesn’t look at Dean directly. After a long moment of silence, Sam whispers, “I don’t want to wake up.”

Dean frowns, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t know how many times I saw you out of the corner of my eye. How many times I’ve had this exact dream.” Sam’s voice is thin as he continues, “Every time I looked, it wasn’t you. Someone with your haircut or the right height or…nothing, just wishful thinking. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of waking up.”

“Sam, hey,” Dean says, pulling to the side of the road. “Look at me, man. I’m right here. Be here with me.”

Sam shakes his head, until Dean reaches for him, placing his hand on Sam’s knee. Sam takes a long breath then, stares down at where Dean is touching him, frozen.

“You feel that, don’t you?” he asks. “You looked at me before, on that bridge. You felt me then, too, right?”

It almost makes Dean laugh, the grudging way Sam nods his head, like when he was a little kid and Dean had to talk him into going to bed even though he could hardly keep his eyes open. He maintains that stubborn insistence he had then, but Dean is patient and Sam folds just the same as he used to.

Slowly, and with a contrary twist to his lips, Sam lifts his eyes to Dean’s. Dean sees that his instinct is to look away, but Sam fights himself on it, until he’s staring right into Dean’s face for a long minute.

“I don’t look so bad, huh?” he jokes when Sam goes too long without saying anything.

“Dean,” Sam says, his eyes getting puppy dog wide and glossy. “Dean.”

“In the flesh.” He takes a beat, then corrects himself, “Or whatever.”

His brother throws himself across the car, grabbing Dean into a hug that lasts much longer than it had out on the bridge, Sam holding him tight and then tighter when Dean tries to pull back. So he goes on returning it the best he can with a steering wheel in the way.

Sam keeps his face buried in Dean’s neck as he mumbles, “You even smell right.”

Dean huffs at that, replying, “Alright, now you’re just being kinda creepy.”

Laughing, Sam finally releases him and scratches the back of his neck, sheepish. “Sorry, I—”

“So what do you say?” Dean interrupts, sensing Sam doesn’t really want to get into it. “Surely at least in Heaven the twine balls aren’t disappointing, right? Let’s go check it out. Add it to our collection. See if it beats Darwin and Cawker City.”

“Maybe someday,” Sam tells him, flattening his hands on his thighs and rubbing them over his jeans nervously. “I think I’m ready to go home now, Dean.”

As soon as he says that, Dean realizes he’s tired of driving and his leg actually is starting to ache and fuck, he’s starving. He wants nothing more than to lay his head down on his pillow with his giant little brother’s body heat at his back.

“Yeah, okay,” Dean replies, turning the engine over. “Home it is.”

As he says it, a sign appears a few feet down the road. Winchester Street, next exit.

“It’s not his fault,” Sam says when he catches Dean giving it the side eye. “The kid has only been God for a few decades. So what if he’s still a little on the nose?”

The place they pull up to is…not what Dean is expecting. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen the house before, though to be honest, it’s not the kind of place you remember. Shoddy on the outside, in good condition but just not much to look at, and dated even to Dean. It’s the kind of house they could have worked any number of hauntings in, so Dean is still searching his memory when Sam opens the passenger side door and puts a foot out.

“Looks like we’re here,” he says, smiling warmly at Dean in a way he hasn’t yet, not since he got to Heaven. “Unless you want to pull into the garage?”

“Wait, I thought…” Dean points out the window, to the squat little house sitting at the edge of the driveway. “I thought we’d go home.”

Sam’s eyebrows draw together as he explains, “Dean, this is my home. I raised my son in this house.”

Dean reels at that for a moment, at the casual release of universe-altering information. Sam, his Sam, his little brother, had a whole kid, and Dean wasn’t on the newsletter. “Your son?”

“Yeah.” He smiles, smiles real big, like he’s giddy to tell Dean, but if that were the case, he would’ve said something sooner. “He was my whole life. After.”

“Oh,” Dean replies, because he’s not sure what to say to that. “Bobby or John?”

“Dean,” Sam says, huffing dismissively, like Dean’s an idiot for asking.

“I’m serious. That was, like, the one tradition we kept in our family. Did you go for biological parent or what? Because when you were soulless you took it a little literal but I always thought—”

“Dean,” Sam repeats. “My son is named Dean. Obviously.”

“Well, obviously it wasn’t that obvious,” Dean replies, trying to cover for how his chest feels like there’s something too big inside it. “I bet he cleaned up with the ladies.”

Sam rolls his eyes as he finishes climbing out of the car. “He was a bigger geek than I was.”

Following him up the path, Dean says, “Needed a good influence like me around. Someone to guide him away from the dark path of science fair projects and mathlete competitions.”

Sam snorts. “That’s not what he needed you for, but he did need you. I did my best. Always tried to think of what my big brother would have done in a situation, but. Wasn’t the same. Still, he grew up good. Better than.”

Dean smiles at that, the open pride in Sam’s voice when he talks about his son, though it’s still not really registering all the way. Sam had a son. An entire life after Dean with his kid that Dean never had anything to do with. Dean went for a drive and in the same time, Sam raised a human being. It’s what he wanted, but it’s nonetheless a little hard to swallow.

That’s the moment Dean’s brain starts running ahead, sliding into panic mode. This is the home in Sam’s Heaven, that’s the person who was Sam’s whole world, and Dean…Dean can’t compete with a life Sam liked better than theirs.

He stops outside the door, catching Sam’s attention before Sam can unlock it. “I figured we would go someplace we’d both feel at home. Like the Bunker. We lived there all those years. We were happy, weren’t we? At least, after Chuck. I was.”

A shadow falls on Sam’s face, and he shakes his head. “Not there, okay? Anywhere else. If you don’t like my house we can find a motel or, I don’t know. Start somewhere new. But I can’t go back there, Dean, please. You don’t know what it was like, how…how quiet it was after you…” There are tears welling in his eyes and he lifts his hands to cover his ears as his voice builds to borderline hysterical and he begs Dean, “I know you loved it. That’s what made it so suffocating. Everywhere I looked I’d see something stupid you used to get excited over. Empty room after empty room. Just like when you were Michael, even though it was full of all those other hunters. It wasn’t the right noise. Your absence was deafening. I hated that place when you weren’t around. Hell, sometimes even when you were. I know we were at home there, but it was never the Bunker that made it home to me. Please don’t make me go back. I left it behind the week I burned you and I can’t go back.”

“Hey, Sammy, it’s okay, man,” Dean reaches out and cups Sam’s cheek, forcing him to stop working himself up and just look at Dean and relax. “It’s not a big deal. Show me your house.”

Sam melts instantly, and Dean’s relieved that he’s at least still got it when it comes to comforting his brother. It’s only a few pouty seconds longer before Sam’s excitement is back, and he starts talking more than he usually would, words all rushing out as he pushes the door open to reveal…exactly what you’d expect, judging from the outside.

“It’s not just mine, you’ll see, Dean,” Sam is calling over his shoulder as he disappears into the house. “It was the kind of home we should have had. I think you’ll like it, too.”

The living room is dark, covered in floral wallpaper and cluttered. Dean can’t help that the first thing he does as he looks inside is laugh.

When Sam seems stung by his reaction, Dean explains, “Sam, it looks just like—”

“Bobby’s, I know.” Sam’s expression relaxes once he understands why Dean responded the way he did, and he says, “It felt like home the moment I walked in. Allison always hated it.”

“Allison?” Dean echoes, though it’s a question he knows the answer to before he asks.

“Dean’s mother,” Sam tells him, as nonchalantly as he had been in bringing up his son. These are people Sam takes for granted. Strangers to Dean who replaced him in Sam’s heart. He used to be the only thing Sam could count on like that. He knows it’s low and ugly to resent anyone for loving his brother, for giving him the easy happiness that Dean thought they shared towards the end of his life. Fuck, he can’t help it.

Like putting up a wall, Dean’s brain decided not to hop to the obvious conclusion as soon as he learned Sam had a kid. One thing is a little less threatening than the next logical step, so he just didn’t take it. Should’ve known better. He learned a long time ago that those kinds of walls always come down.

Sam having a son was one thing, no problem. But a wife…Sam had a wife. A new love, one that was shame and baggage free. Better. A perfectly normal little family. Something he was never gonna have as long as Dean was around. The dream he gave up on. Dean kidded himself for a while there that Sam meant it when he said he preferred what they had, but now here they are, touring Sam’s Heaven, and Dean’s got no part in it, except as a namesake.

Frozen at the threshold between their world and Sam’s, Dean finds himself staring down the single most horrible realization of his entire existence. Jack and Cas didn’t remake Heaven so they could see their Mom and Dad and drink a beer with Bobby every now and again. They had to do it, for Dean’s sake. Dean would have waited forever just for his brother not to show up.

Sam is still gesturing this way and that, talking about the house and when it was built, completely ignorant to Dean silently having a crisis in the background. “Allison thought I would blow out all the walls as soon as we bought it, renovate from top to bottom. Couldn’t believe I wanted to keep it this ugly. But, uh. It really felt right to me. I mean, when we were kids, Bobby’s was just about the only place I ever felt safe.”

Dean forces himself back into the moment, chuckles too loud to make up for the fact that he’s not feeling it. Dean loved the time they spent there growing up, but as far as safe went, Bobby’s was a nightmare for him. He spent most of the time worrying over Sam when he went running around in that deathtrap of an auto yard. “Only broke how many bones out back?”

“That’s how kids are supposed to break bones,” Sam responds, turning to look at Dean and frowning a little when he sees that Dean still hasn’t stepped inside.

“Real worried about your parenting now,” Dean tells him, and Sam cracks up as he walks over to stand behind Dean.

“You know what I mean,” he says, shoving Dean past the threshold. “Jerk.”

Dean just preens at him until he’s in the door, and then he stops, the breath knocked out of him. He thought he’d feel like a stranger in this house, but the truth is he gets hit by an overwhelming rush of Sam and nowhere’s ever felt so much like home. He looks around now and sees all the ways this place could only belong to his baby brother, the pictures on the mantle and the bookshelves shoved in where they don’t fit, sandwiched between other bookshelves, all crammed with books displaying titles that make Dean’s head hurt. He recognizes a few items scattered across the room, nothing from the Bunker, but things that got carried in when they moved there, and apparently got carried back out after. Dean wants to belong here more than he’s ever wanted to fit anywhere, and that only makes it that much harder to know he doesn’t really. The puzzle’s done already. No missing pieces. Dean is just left over from some earlier puzzle that got scrambled in by accident.

He wanders slowly through the room until he reaches the mantle over the fireplace and starts looking at every picture, trying to get a feel for what Sam’s life was like without him. The photos aren’t all that instructive. Most of them are old, family shots of them as babies with singed edges, him and Sam laughing over sandwiches in a room that looked not very different from this one the day Sam got his soul back. There are school pictures, too, a kid with a missing front tooth whose long brown hair is in his eyes, just like his dad’s used to do, no matter how hard Dean tried to make Sam presentable.

“I died there,” Sam says, pointing to where Dean is standing. “I wanted to be at home, but I couldn’t make it to my room, so Junior set up a little bed out here.”

Dean steps away as if the floor burnt his feet, but Sam just laughs. “It’s not a bad memory, Dean. It was time. Past time.”

Before he has a chance to argue with that, Sam grabs his hand and tugs him. “Come on, I have so much to show you.”

Despite his eagerness to give Dean a tour of the house, Sam pulls him past most of it without allowing more than a second’s glance into rooms. He waves a hand left, says “kitchen” and then right “dining room” before stopping at the foot of the stairs.

“You know, they don’t look so daunting when you’re in your forties,” he tells Dean, laughing at his own joke as he hurries up the steps.

When Dean joins him on the landing, Sam points to the two rooms behind Dean. “Guestroom’s over there. And that was Allison’s office, though it’s kind of just been overrun by books at this point.” Sam smiles down at the floor as he shakes his head. “Junior and I had a little bit of a hoarding problem when it came to books. We called it the library after a while, because that made it sound intentional.”

“Poor Allison,” Dean mutters, never having felt less sorry for anyone.

Sam puts a hand on the round doorknob next to him and inclines his head down the hall. “That one’s Junior’s and this is ours.”

Ours hits Dean like a salt round to the chest. Ours is supposed to be him and Sam, not Sam and Allison. Heaven isn’t supposed to mean getting comfortable just to be pushed aside when her time comes. Dean’s not about to sleep in the bed Sam shared with his wife.

“I’ll take the guest room,” he replies, pointing to the door. “You said it was this one, right?”

Frowning, Sam says, “Yeah, but. You don’t have to sleep in there. This one’s much bigger. And besides, the fan creaks. I could never get it to stop, no matter how many times I tightened it.”

“Well, you’re the old man now,” Dean jokes. “You need the quiet. I could sleep in a construction zone if the ground was soft enough.”

Sam’s expression goes neutral, like he doesn’t care much either way. Which makes sense, if he knows as well as Dean does that his invitation was temporary. “Okay. Whatever you want.”

“I’m beat, so I guess I’ll turn in for the—”

“Wait.” Sam catches Dean’s wrist as he tries to turn away and Dean holds his breath, hoping to hear Sam tell him he’s got it wrong. Instead, Sam smiles shyly and lifts his chin to the ceiling. “You haven’t been up there yet.”

Dean notices a string dangling on the other side of the landing and scoffs. “Creepy pull down stairs to the attic, Sam? It’s like you were trying to get haunted.”

“I was.” Sam summons the stairs and disappears up into the loft, assuming Dean will follow, which he of course does.

He finds himself standing in what looks more like his Dean Cave back at the Bunker than anything you would find in a house like this, let alone in the attic. The walls are the same gray tile, the recliners are leaking stuffing in all the same places they were by the time Dean died, and there’s a way more high tech television in the same spot, but aside from that, the room could have been lifted directly and put here.

“Sorry, Sammy,” Dean says, grinning as he looks around. Maybe he should feel bad, given how much Sam apparently hates being reminded of their home, but it’s comforting to know Jack put a little bit of him in this house too, especially if they’ll be living here forever. He runs his hand along the edge of the foosball table, which Sam always hated, unless Dean was fucking him against it. “I guess whatever you had up here got replaced. Nice little spot in Heaven just for me.”

“No, uh. This was here. It cost a fortune, but I had some folks bring all this down when they reopened the Bunker.” Sam laughs, but it sounds muffled. “This is where I came to spend time with you. Talk to you. Watch stuff I thought you’d like. I wanted you to feel at home even though…”

Dean turns to look at him, hoping his face doesn’t show his concern or, even worse, his relief. What Sam is describing is a little demented, but Dean can admit to himself that it’s nice to know Sam wanted some part of him around.

“Anyway, I know you liked having your space. Not that you can’t have your own room, too, just. This was for you.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Dean says. “This is awesome.”

Sam smiles at that and shrugs. “I’m pretty beat. From, you know, dying. Think I’ll turn in.”

“Yeah, alright, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Dean approaches him for a hug, which he rethinks, but it doesn’t matter. Sam pushes his way into it just as Dean is about to drop his hands. When Sam lets go and steps back, Dean notices there was another door behind him.

Hitching a thumb at it as Sam begins to descend the staircase, he asks, “Hey, what’s in there?”

“Oh.” Sam waves dismissively. “Extra storage. Old junk, mostly. Toys Dean outgrew and, you guessed it, more books.”

Dean huffs with amusement as his brother goes, then looks around at all the simple pleasures he collected in this room while he was still alive. Games to play with Sam. Side by side chairs to watch TV with Sam. This was not a space that was ever supposed to be enjoyed alone. Dean laughs to himself, thinking things are gonna get pretty pathetic up here after the wife arrives.

The bar is still good for one though, and the vinyl Sam used to threaten to break over Dean’s head more often than anything, so he drops the needle on whatever record is already in the player and pours himself a glass of good scotch. The bottle doesn’t seem to get any closer to empty, so Dean’s got that going for him.

He takes a seat in his favorite recliner and savors his drink slowly, letting the music sink into him as he thinks over recent events. It’s not so bad, he decides. He and Sam were who and what they were for a long time before things got physical, and that was never the most important thing about them. Just an extension of the rest. He’s not gonna have Sam that way? Dean can live with that. So the house will be a little more crowded than he’d prefer, so what? Sam deserves that after everything he went through. Dean just needs to take the night to adjust, wrap his head around the things that changed while he was dead, and then they’ll be happy. Truly happy. Sam’s peace was always Dean’s North Star.

The alcohol warms and loosens Dean’s bones, but it doesn’t seem to dull his mind. He finds himself growing more curious about Sam’s life—what he shared and what he’s still keeping to himself—and can’t shake the conviction that he won’t be able to accept this place, not really, until he has a better idea of how Sam lived here, who he became. Husband and father, not brother. Sam said so little about that version of himself. Dean doesn’t know him at all. It was never supposed to be like that.

Dean rises and sets the drink down on the bar counter, walking slowly over to the door Sam had hardly acknowledged. He’s not sure why, but he feels a pull to investigate, thinking maybe there are clues here that can help him.

It’s weird when he pulls it open. It’s not locked, but there’s a slight resistance, as if there’s a vacuum on the other side. Dean wins out and what he sees inside he knows for sure did not exist in Sam’s house back on Earth.

He walks in on shaky feet, suddenly underdressed for the altitude, but the chill he should feel is too far away to bother him. The red dirt under his feet crunches lightly as he moves closer to the edge of a cliff. Sam is sitting there, feet dangling over, talking to empty air and laughing after listening for pause. It’s not really Sam, not the one who went downstairs a few minutes ago, not the one who lived a good, full life without Dean. He’s only a few years younger going off looks, but he’s a completely different person to Dean’s eyes. It’s his Sam. It’s about a minute before he became that. This is Dean’s most cherished memory.

Apparently Jack didn’t completely get rid of the old Heaven model, just relocated it somewhere you’d only find it if you went looking. Dean used to hate the whole memory lane bit, but right now being transported to this moment is exactly what he was longing for. He never gave the kid enough credit.

Crossing his legs under him, Dean takes his spot next to his brother. Sam is gazing out at the scenery in front of them, but as usual, Dean was and is looking at him instead.

“So what do you think?” Sam asks, smiling as he glances over. “After all these years, we finally made it. Is it everything you dreamed it would be?”

Dean turns his attention to the landscape stretching on in front of them just like he did then, overwhelmed by a sudden thrall to act out the moment. “Honestly? It doesn’t feel real, does it? Looks like a painting of what the Grand Canyon is supposed to be.”

Contemplative for a long moment, Sam finally answers, “Do you think we’ll ever be able to enjoy it again? Any of it?”

“What do you mean?” Dean asks.

“The world he made,” Sam clarifies. “All this natural beauty and all I can think is…it’s exactly like you said. It was all window dressing. Sets he designed for his horrible little dramas.”

“Not anymore, Sammy.” Dean doesn’t remember putting his hand over Sam’s, but he must have, because Sam looks down, his lips parting just the slightest bit into an ‘oh.’ “We get to take it back now. All of it.”

Sam meets his eyes, and Dean can see that he’s questioning himself, questioning Dean, trying to decide whether or not to say something. He knows now what it is, and that Sam will say it, but he is flooded with the raw emotions he felt that day, with the unsureness and underlying hope that punctuated this moment in life.

“Were there things you thought maybe…?” Sam licks his lips. “I had all these feelings I thought for the longest time were all him. That he made me want certain things for the fun of it, or to try to nudge me into doing something that would make you hate me, make us hurt each other,” he takes a deep breath before continuing, “I always felt it, but when we learned how much he’d been manipulating us, I assumed that was part of it. Hoped, to be honest. And that it would go away and let me be normal once we got rid of him. But it’s been almost a week and…I must’ve guessed wrong. Which things he was manufacturing and which ones were just me. I tried chasing all these lives I thought were the right ones, the ones I would be after if I weren’t so messed up. If he hadn’t messed me up. And then we took him out of the equation and it’s all still there. The strings I felt pulling me away, those are the ones that got cut.”

“Sam, what are you even talking about?” Dean asks, laughing nervously.

“Eileen,” he says. “And Amelia, and, and Stanford. I don’t know. Forget it.”

Dean watches Sam shake his head and look away, feels his hand lift without telling it to, just like it did then. The way he hardly trusted himself to touch Sam, so afraid he was misinterpreting. His fingers barely ghost Sam’s cheek, but his brother turns to him as if Dean is exerting irresistible force.

“That why you two split?” Dean asks. “Chuck made you want her?”

Sam nods. “She wanted to keep trying, but I finally knew for sure I…”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees after a long silence. “Me too, Sammy.”

His eyes widen and the question is clear in his expression. Dean remembers thinking, well, it’s gone this far, might as well take the whole damn plunge.

“I thought it would go away, too. It didn’t.” Dean smiles nervously and admits, “I was relieved.”

Something breaks in Sam’s expression, and he doesn’t know now, even with the live replay, just like he didn’t know then, which one of them moves first. Suddenly they’re kissing and Dean’s throwing himself into it like his entire soul is trying to escape through his lips and trap itself in Sam.

They don’t part for a long time, long enough that when Dean looks out at the canyon now, it’s been transformed. The sun is setting on the horizon, which seems to be a million miles away, and Dean thinks they could drive to it, that’s how goddamn free they are. Now this is real. Now it’s sublime. But so is his little brother, resting his head on Dean’s shoulder, so he doesn’t feel an impetus to go chasing something as small in comparison as the sun.

“It’s gonna get cold as soon as the light goes,” Sam tells him.

Dean’s shrug is slight enough to not disturb Sam. “We’ll stay warm somehow.”

He drinks the memory in for a little while longer, until the land around them is completely dark and Sam stands to leave. Grudgingly, Dean accepts that he can’t live inside one kiss forever. He walks back through the closet door behind them, into a room from the Bunker that’s actually a room in Sam’s house. He feels reassured as he shuts it softly behind him, knowing at least he’s got someplace good to escape to when he needs to be Sam’s number one again.

Dean decides to call it a night on that high, notices the door to Sam’s room is open when he comes down, and Sam must not be asleep yet, because Dean has hardly settled into his bed before his brother appears in the doorway.

“Hey,” Dean says. “You alright?”

“Can I…?” Sam touches the doorframe and keeps his eyes on the wood like it’s the most interesting thing he’s ever seen. “We don’t have to do anything. Can I just hold you? Please?”

He smiles and pushes the covers aside on Sam’s half of the bed, settling as Sam walks in and the bed dips from his weight. He feels instantly better when Sam wraps an arm around his middle and presses his chest to Dean’s back, like he’s pulling in a stuffed animal. Dean doesn’t say anything about the long inhale Sam takes when he places his chin on Dean’s shoulder and turns his face towards Dean’s neck, and he definitely doesn’t mention it if there’s something wet like tears on his skin.

True to his cliffside promise, they do stay warm.

Dean watches Sam wake on their first full day in Heaven from the end of the bed, five feet up. Sam puts a hand out on the mattress when he begins to stir, and as soon as he feels that Dean’s not there, he seizes forward, panic in his expression.

“You were right,” Dean says, watching his brother calm at the sound of his voice. “The creaking was driving me nuts.”

Sam laughs as he finds Dean with his eyes and sinks back onto his pillow, expression a mix of amusement and relief. “I guess we could just leave the stupid thing off for eternity. Got hotter than Hell in Texas, but temperature control doesn’t seem to be much of a concern up here.”

“Yeah, but then I would know it wasn’t installed properly and it would bug me. Forever.”

Dean climbs down from the ladder and flips the switch, holding his breath as the fan starts up. He looks to Sam, whose expression is more annoyed than impressed when it stays silent.

“Are you kidding me?” Sam whines. “I must have tried that seventeen times.”

“Don’t got the magic touch,” Dean jokes, wiggling his fingers.

Sam rolls his eyes. “Incredible. Next do the running toilet.”

He moves slow, climbing out of bed and passing Dean on the way to the bathroom. For a brief moment he pauses at Dean’s side in the narrow hallway, touching Dean’s wrist lightly like he’s just checking to make sure it’s solid. His smile is soft at the contact and he gives Dean a small nod before letting go and taking the next step towards the stairs.

“You see if Heaven repairs make every old creak and loose board in this house go away, I’m gonna cook breakfast.” He does a goofy smile Dean doesn’t really understand and says, “Two slices of toast.”

Dean shakes his head as he watches Sam go down, glad to see he seems to be more animated today, and fiddles with the bathroom plumbing until his brother calls him to eat.

Sam proudly presents Dean with a plate of scrambled eggs so flavorless he’s not sure how anyone could accomplish it in a place that is supposed to be paradise. After he takes his first bite, Dean must make a face, because Sam laughs.

“I was never the chef.” He holds up a salt shaker. “Does it need more?”

“Could use salt,” Dean tells him. “And pepper. And some cheese. And…I don’t know what could save this. Jesus? Your eggs need Jesus, Sammy.”

Sam grins. “Gonna get us booted right out of Heaven. Egg crimes.”

“Well, if all the gay incest didn’t do it…” Dean pauses awkwardly, unsure if they’re supposed to not talk about it, and Sam clears his throat, getting up to find a glass of water. He moves back to the easy teasing by asking, “You had how many years to learn how to cook and this is still the quality of product you’re serving me?”

“Allison was a great cook,” Sam says. “Junior learned from her. I only had to be good enough to keep the kid alive until he was old enough to use a stove.”

“Long live the Spaghetti-Os king.” Dean keeps eating despite his complaints, and Sam mostly just watches him. Dean’s not sure if he ate his breakfast already or if he tried it and decided to spare himself the suffering. “I’ll grill us up something later.”

“Yes, please,” Sam agrees easily. “I missed your cooking.”

“Surprised to hear it,” Dean replies without thinking.

“Why’s that?” Sam picks up Dean’s mostly finished plate when it’s obvious he can’t stomach the rest and walks it over to the sink. “I always loved your cooking.”

“Just sounds like you had a good thing with this Allison chick. Maybe I should have given you the out earlier.”

There’s a clatter as Sam drops the dishes in the sink and Sam’s back goes rigid. “What did you say?”

“Nothing.” Dean gets up and walks across the kitchen, putting a hand on Sam’s shoulder, which makes Sam turn to face him. “I just mean I’m glad I didn’t get in the way—”

“Get in the way?” Sam echoes. He looks angrier than Dean is used to seeing his brother. After he got back from Hell, Sam almost never got this heated. “Fuck you, Dean.”

“I’m sorry,” Dean tells him, laughing it off. “It was just a joke. I wasn’t trying to upset you.”

“Well, you did,” Sam says bitchily. He takes a step towards the door and when Dean blocks his path to try to talk to him, Sam pushes him aside. “Why don’t you get out of my way? Since apparently that’s something you’re good at.”

Dean wasn’t looking to start a fight, honestly isn’t sure why Sam’s overreacting so much, but he definitely doesn’t want to escalate into punches, which is where things usually go between them, so he moves aside to let Sam pass. “C’mon, man. I said I was sorry.”

Sam pauses in the doorway and faces Dean. He can see that Sam is cycling through a lot of different thoughts, at first seeming to get angrier and then slowly working himself down. Whatever it is going on in his head, he doesn’t let Dean in.

Finally, he sighs. “I never thought I would say this to you once we got here, but I just need to be alone for a little while. Okay?”

Dean nods and watches his brother storm out, guessing from the path he hears Sam’s heavy stomps take upstairs that he ends up in Allison’s office. The one space in the house that was all hers, which is where Dean would go if he were missing someone, so maybe he touched a nerve. Got a little too close to what Sam was already thinking.

He waits for an hour or so, assuming his brother will come looking for him once he’s cooled off so he can say how sorry he is, but Sam doesn’t emerge. Dean goes back up to the attic, kills a few hours in happier times, and gives Sam the space he needs until the day is mostly over, a beautiful dusk settling overhead that doesn’t really match Dean’s mood.

He finds Sam out back, sitting on a rocking chair and staring out at a lake reflecting stars. There’s two chairs, but Dean isn’t sure he has the right to claim the empty one. It’s probably hers.

“Beer?” he offers nervously, tapping Sam on the shoulder to try to get his attention. Sam didn’t like being startled, after Hell. Dean’s not sure if that kind of thing carries over to Heaven, but it seems like more than enough of their issues did, so there’s no point risking it.

He’s never felt more relieved than he does when Sam turns his face up to look at him and smiles warmly. Apparently, Sam has decided not to be mad at him forever, which is a start.

Sam’s voice is distant, but he finds it long enough to thank Dean as he takes the bottle Dean’s holding out to him.

“Look, Sam. About earlier—” Dean begins.

“Shh,” Sam interrupts, waving him off. He taps the wooden arm of the chair next to him and says, “Sit.”

Dean obeys, telling him, “I’m really sorry about that joke, okay? I didn’t mean it.”

Sam nods. He looks down at the beer in his hands and starts to peel the label. “It wasn’t the first joke like that you’ve made since I got here. I’m never going to find it funny, Dean. That you died. I know we’re here now and it’s over, but that’s just not…doesn’t feel so far away for me.”

Swallowing a lump, Dean admits, “Figured you were over it. Thought it was a long time ago for you.”

“It was.” Sam presses the label back on his beer, keeping his eyes anywhere except Dean. “You dying was a long time ago. Living with it was yesterday.”

Dean frowns, unsure what to say. He looks out at the scenery, which is pretty damn distracting, but it’s hard to appreciate when Sam is still so muted, this tiny version of the brother Dean’s used to. Sam used to get like this, when they were really in the thick of it, withdrew more and more every day for years until he hardly ever talked to anyone aside from Dean, and even that got scarce at times. In those wide open years after Chuck, when it was mostly just them, all of that started to reverse. Sam came right out of his shell. Now Dean’s shoved him back in there, and there’s just no apology big enough for doing that to a person.

“It’s not all your fault,” Sam finally says after a long stretch. “I haven’t exactly been forthcoming.”

He opens his mouth to reassure Sam, but Sam doesn’t let him. “I know you wouldn’t rush me to say more, but it’s not fair to get pissed at you for stepping on landmines I hid from you.”

“Still, I wouldn’t have liked those jokes if the shoe was on the other foot,” Dean tells him. “I could have been more sensitive.”

Sam smiles. “Sensitive wasn’t always your strongest suit.”

“True enough.” Dean returns the smile and looks out at the wide expanse in front of them, mountains climbing up to a sky so full of stars there’s hardly any darkness for them to stand out against. “So just where exactly in Texas did that house,” he hitches a thumb over his shoulder and then gestures in front of them, “come with that view.”

“Please,” Sam says as he laughs. “This porch my house had. The rocking chairs, I hate to admit, were mine.”

“You really were an old person, huh?” Dean teases.

“See? I always knew you’d say that,” Sam replies, apparently delighted by Dean’s mocking. “Got them anyway. Two, side by side. Other one was usually empty but, uh. You’re here now. Anyway, the yard was fine for tossing a ball around, but this? This is all Heaven.”

Dean nods, because that makes sense. This was the kind of place he always liked best. Dense forest, sprawling vistas, not very many people around to encroach on his and Sam’s little unit. And then there’s the sky, of course. They shared that love, stargazing, even if they were drawn to it for different reasons.

Dean liked the calm, the fact that stars and planets didn’t need anything from him, could just exist out there regardless of what the drama of the day was down on Earth. It didn’t matter how bad things got, they could always park in some field and see the same sky. It was reassuring to think that if Dean dropped the ball and some monster swallowed the Earth, they would still be up there. That was all he really wanted from them. The distance, the mystery, that was kind of the whole point.

Sam was just the opposite. Sam always had to know how things worked. He’d start in on gas giants and fusion and origin stories from dead cultures about why one cluster that looked nothing like a bear was named after a bear, and Dean would let him ramble because it was nice to hear his brother go on like that, especially as time wore on and Sam got wearier and every new trauma just seemed to make him more pensive, less willing to leave his head. Dean would have listened to him talk about anything.

“What do you reckon?” Sam asks. “Big Sky Country?”

“Big Sky,” Dean confirms. He’s pretty sure he remembers this lake, one of the spots he and Sam used to frequent for night drives when they were spending time at Rufus’s cabin. Then he scrunches up his face and turns to Sam, repeating in a mocking accent, “‘Reckon?’ Really?”

Sam huffs. “I lived in Texas for decades, Dean. I say reckon. And y’all. Start getting used to y’all now or it’s gonna be a very long afterlife.”

“Why Texas?” he asks, knowing this is tricky, that it’s not his place to demand details about Sam’s life before he’s ready to share them, but Sam seems to be comfortable enough on this topic, at least.

“I don’t know, just kind of where I ended up.” Dean feels a little defeated by that, by how uninterested Sam seems to be in sharing any part of his life. Sam takes another moment and adds, “I liked it. It didn’t get cold all that often.”

Dean nods, not needing to hear more. He remembers what the cold used to do to Sam, how even minor ghost hunts made him trip up sometimes when the temperature dropped. Dean didn’t spend nearly as much time around Lucifer as his brother did, but even he remembers the chill standing anywhere near him would leave in a person’s bones, how it would linger for hours after. He can’t imagine what it was like at the center of that and he doesn’t really want to.

Sam takes a sip of his beer, wincing as he swallows. “Boy, this stuff is really disgusting.”

“My fault,” Dean admits sheepishly, assuming Sam’s tasting what he is.

“I’ll say,” Sam agrees. “It’s the first one you ever snuck me.”

Dean laughs. “For me it’s the first one Dad gave me.”

“Well, at least I know my son will be sipping the good stuff when he gets here.”

“I’m sure we can get some quality brew to poof itself into the fridge if we both focus hard enough on it.”

Sam grins. “Isn’t that just like a couple of Winchesters? ‘Welcome to Heaven, you can have whatever you want.’ ‘Well, the beer could use some work.’”

They share a few moments of amusement before Dean remembers that the scotch at least is good and what he discovered while he was savoring his nightcap pops back into his mind.

“The landscaping’s not the only thing that’s changed about your house, you know,” Dean tells Sam. His brother looks intrigued so Dean continues, “I went poking in that closet in the attic last night. Sorry, couldn’t resist.”

“Don’t…” Sam licks his lips. “Dean, this is your house now, too. You don’t have to apologize for going into any part of it. I just wish it had been a little more interesting.”

“Well, that’s the thing. Apparently it was so boring in there that the whole thing got replaced.”

“So what is it now?” Sam asks. “A private concert put on by the band Kansas?”

“Random pull, but I’d take it,” Dean replies, which makes Sam huff a laugh. “You remember the memory thing that used to happen when we came up here?”

“Please, don’t remind me,” says Sam. “I braced myself for it. And then all I got was a lousy t shirt.”

Dean smiles at that, because he noticed the outfit Sam was wearing when he arrived. Wasn’t sure how to take it, but he knew how he wanted to.

“You think that would have shown up?” he can’t help asking. “As a happy memory?”

“The happiest,” Sam says easily. “With enough perspective.”

“Ah, well, maybe you can still find out.” Dean clears his throat because there’s a lump forming in it that is absolutely not a reaction to what Sam just told him. “The memories are in your storage closet.”

“What an amazingly stupid sentence to have to say out loud,” Sam replies flatly.

Dean laughs. “Alright, I’m just reporting back on my findings, smart ass. Whatever you choose to do with them is not my business.”

“Did you go in?” Sam asks. He nods, so Sam follows up with, “What did you see?”

“That time I banged Tara Benchley.” Dean whistles. Sam looks a little put out by his answer, so he adds, “The Grand Canyon. I spent a few hours in there today. Went through a lot of them.”

Sam perks up when Dean mentions the Grand Canyon, and Dean wants things to be like that again so much he’d choke holding his breath for it if he wasn’t already dead.

“Sam, when’s she gonna get here?” he can’t help asking. Sam has the audacity to look confused, so Dean clarifies, “Allison. I can’t take the waiting. It was so fast for me, so for you…she should be here by now. Can’t you feel where she is? Just tell me how long I get you before she shows up.”

For a long few seconds, Sam studies him, looking concerned, then amused. “That’s why you’ve been so wound up?”

“It’s not funny.” Dean tries not to sulk. “Just tell me when she’s coming.”

“You’d have to ask her first husband that,” Sam replies. He takes a long pull from his beer before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and adding, “Or her third. Either way, not me.”

Dean feels like one of those mountains they’ve been staring at just got picked up and dropped on his head as he attempts once again to connect the few data points Sam has shared with him. “Third. And First. Which means you were second.”

“My ex-wife isn’t coming to dinner, Dean,” Sam says, smirking at whatever he sees playing out on Dean’s face.

“You never said you got divorced!” Dean defends.

“Never said we got married, either.” Sam reaches out, giving him a light slap on the arm. “Those things you said earlier. That was because you thought, what, I replaced you?”

“She gave you a kid,” he reasons. “You had half your life to move on from me. I just figured—”

“How long would it have been for you?” Sam meets Dean’s eyes and holds his gaze when Dean tries to break it. “Answer the question, Dean. How long before you replaced me?”

“You know perfectly well where I stood on that. I made it clear.”

“Yeah, you really got to say it all, didn’t you?” Sam’s voice is a little accusatory, which Dean doesn’t get, until he adds, “Said everything you had to say and then just left me before I could—”

“Are you serious?” Dean asks, laughing at the absurdity. “I didn’t leave you, Sam. I fucking died.”

“Well, I wasn’t so lucky,” Sam says coolly.

Dean stares at him in disbelief. He watches his brother take a long breath and drop his head between his hands, which is how Sam stays for so long Dean starts to feel awkward even being here. Whatever Sam is going through, he shouldn’t have to have an audience, though it feels to Dean like a pretty fucked up glitch for Sam to be going through it at all. Some Heaven they’ve landed in.

Finally, Sam lifts his face, though he keeps his gaze forward so Dean can’t really see his expression. “I didn’t get to say my part. Even if we’d had longer, I probably couldn’t have. Not the way you did. You were always so good at that, figuring out how to say exactly the right thing. I couldn’t ever find words like you could.”

“I didn’t leave you,” Dean says again, because that’s much more what he’d like to focus on. “I never would have.”

“I know that,” Sam admits. He seems frustrated with himself, so Dean decides not to push it anymore, but Sam doesn’t let it drop. “But you did in a way. I mean, I had to keep going. You don’t know how hard that was.”

“I know it’s hard, but—”

“You don’t. The longest you ever had to do it was what, a year?” Sam scoffs. “Multiply that by forty. And it’s supposed to get easier, that’s what everyone says. They never lost what I lost. Every day it was longer and longer and longer without you. But I did it. I did it for you. That was how I said it. However many days there are in almost forty years, that’s how many times I said it. I got out of bed for you. I fought through it because you told me to. Even when all I wanted was to die, I kept pushing and pushing and pushing through it so I could show you how much I—the way I felt about you. And I finally get here and you still doubt me? I don’t deserve that. I know I left a few times, but I sacrificed enough to make up for it.”

“Sammy, I’m sorry,” Dean says, reaching out to place his hand on Sam’s slouched back. “You’re right, okay? And you know what? I couldn’t have said it like that. I couldn’t have. I would’ve taken you off the rebar so I could throw myself on it, even if you asked me not to. It’s just like I said. You were so much stronger than I was.”

Sam finally looks at him, doesn’t refute his claim, but he's more sad now than angry at Dean. “I didn’t do it right,” he says, and Dean can’t see because of how dark it is, but he can hear that Sam is crying. “I fucked it up again.”

“Fucked what up?” Dean asks. “Hey, Sam, it’s alright. You didn’t fuck anything up.”

“Yes, I did. I never got it right. The first time, I threw myself into hunting so hard it swallowed me up. To get revenge for you, to do the job like you always wanted me to. Then you came back and you thought I was a monster for what that did to me. You were right.”

“Sam,” Dean whispers, trying to sooth his brother by rubbing circles into his back, but Sam’s too deep in it now and what Dean’s doing doesn’t even seem to register. “That’s ancient history.”

“Then I went too far in the other direction,” Sam says, as if Dean hadn’t spoken at all. “I knew I couldn’t hunt without you, that I would only disappoint you if I went down that path. So I found a normal life and I crammed myself into it so desperate to make it fit. It didn’t, but I ignored that, I cut out every connection I had to hunting so I could be sure I didn’t go too far trying to save you. Then you came back. And you hated me for that, too.”

“I didn’t hate you,” Dean tells him. “I was hurt, and I—”

“This time I really thought I figured it out.” Sam gives Dean a pleading look, and Dean wishes he knew what his brother was asking for, because he’d give him anything. “I found a good balance. It was mine, it fit me, but it was all for you. Every single thing I did, I did it because I thought you might have chosen it for me. Every choice I made, I filtered it through that question, ‘what would Dean say if he knew?’ I was so sure I had it right. But here we are and you’re, what, upset? That I had this life without you? I give up, Dean. If this last one wasn’t it, I was never gonna get it right. I should have just swallowed a bullet and called it done.”

“Don’t say that.” Dean sets his long ignored beer on the small table next to his chair and moves until he’s leaning down in front of his brother, hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Listen to me, Sam. I’m trying to figure things out here just like you are. You had all this time to change and grow and move on without me. You can see how that’s intimidating, right?”

Sam nods, and Dean gives him a small, reassuring smile. “I’m sorry I got it wrong. I don’t know much of what you did, but I know you did the right thing, not giving up.”

“I’m not trying to keep things from you,” Sam tells him, sniffling as he wipes his nose on his sleeve. “I got so bad at—I didn’t have anyone to talk to, Dean. You were the only person I ever really could open up to, you know that. I had people in my life, people who cared, I know they would have listened, but I didn’t know how to say most of what I needed to and you’re the only one who ever understood the way I didn’t say things. Got so bad, sometimes I talked to your ghost, even though I knew you didn’t have one. It was such a long time. I’ve forgotten what it was like to have you around to say things to. I don’t remember how to be the person you loved. I want very much to be that version of myself again, but I can’t just snap right back into him. I didn’t stop when you did. Not all of me, at least. I changed and some of that was growth but most of it…” He shakes his head. “I wish I could go back to who I was when you knew me.”

“Maybe we’ll find him again up here,” Dean tries. He gives Sam one last squeeze on the shoulder now that he seems to be calmer and moves back over to his chair. “Why don’t you tell me some of it? Just the easy parts. For practice.”

Sam fidgets for a moment, picking up his beer to keep his hands busy. “The first thing you should know is that there was never a replacement for you. There was never going to be. It was always you for me, you dick.”

Dean absorbs that for a long minute, letting it seep into all the self-pitying conclusions he’d drawn since Sam got here and drown them. He hates that he misread this so spectacularly, and that he made this reunion less pleasant for Sam in the process. The truth is, Dean hasn’t changed like Sam has. He still comes with all the same bad habits: assuming the worst and lashing out and putting his goddamn foot in his mouth. But Sam knows all that, knows him, and he still just said it’s Dean he’s choosing. That’s so much more than Dean could ever hope to deserve.

Instead of saying so, Dean grins, happy that, whatever Sam reveals about his life, the biggest worry is already set aside. Then he teases, “It was nicer the way I said it.”

“You and me,” Sam repeats quietly, echoing Dean’s dying words. “I missed that. Even how annoying you are.”

“I’m a treasure,” Dean informs him. “So am I the reason your marriage failed? Not sure I’d like being married to someone who’s still in love with their dead brother much either.”

“Such a common problem that happens in so many marriages,” Sam jokes. Dean snorts, and Sam is smiling as he goes on, “As far as my marriage goes, the answer is yes and no.”

Dean raises an eyebrow. “Doing that thing again where you say something that doesn’t actually tell me anything.”

“Right. I’m supposed to be working on that.” Sam licks his lips. “I met Allison about a week after you died.”

That kind of stings, and Dean can’t resist pressing the bruise a little. “Really waited for the ashes to scatter, huh?”

“We cannot do this if you’re going to judge me every step of the way, man.” Sam takes a deep breath. “I went on one last hunt after. Donna forwarded a case down in Austin to me and I didn't really know what else to do. It was a nasty one. Werewolf who liked chomping on kids.”

Dean nods to show he’s listening and not going to add anymore shitty commentary.

“Had to interview her. She,” Sam frowns, “she had been out with some friends from work. Got home to find, uh. Can’t be sure of course, exactly how it happened, but from what I could tell, the thing broke in, going after her son. Her husband tried to stop it. Didn’t know how to take down a werewolf, why would he?”

“Man, that’s grizzly.” He means it this time when he says, “Poor Allison.”

Sam nods. “As you can imagine, she was a wreck. I took care of the job, but that doesn’t make a huge difference when a thing has eaten the heart out of your kid’s chest.”

“And you retired from hunting after that?” he asks. “Sounds like enough to make anyone reconsider.”

“It wasn’t just that it was…” Sam looks a little nervous as he admits, “I was being really reckless at the time, you know? Wasn’t trying to die exactly, but I wanted to. Pretty much planned to go on like that until some monster got the better of me.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” Dean tells him. “You kept your promise.”

“I wish I could say that’s why I stopped, but it wasn’t that noble. Something horrible almost happened on that hunt. Way worse than me dying. The werewolf decided I would make a good ally. It tried to turn me. It almost got the bite in.”

“That’s not so bad,” Dean reasons. “Garth lived with it. You could have, too.”

“Living wasn’t what concerned me,” Sam replies. “Dean, werewolves go to Purgatory.”

He physically recoils as he realizes what Sam is saying. That they were that close to Sam never making it here. Separate forever. People get turned into all kinds of things. They saw it happen so many times to hunters over the years. Not just with Garth. Gordon, countless friends who swallowed demons, hell, even Dean was a vampire for a hot minute. It feels silly to be so shaken by a possibility that no longer exists, but just the fact that it was out there in a universe an asshole like Chuck created makes it way too close a call for Dean’s comfort.

So if Allison is what pulled Sam out, Dean has decided to do a complete 180 in one conversation, going from hating the idea of her to president of her fan club.

“Fuck,” he says. And then again, with a little more emphasis, “Fuck!

“Exactly.” Sam shrugs. “I was a mess. She was a mess. I couldn’t go back home. I wasn’t about to keep hunting. She let me stay with her while I tried to figure out what the hell my life was gonna look like. She was great, Dean. You would’ve liked her. In fact, you know who she reminded me of? Sarah. She had that same no bullshit, rational response to learning monsters were real. You approved of Sarah, so I figured you would have approved of Allison.”

“You didn’t need my approval,” Dean says. “I’m sorry if I made you feel that way.”

Sam shrugs. “You didn’t. I just wouldn’t have chosen someone I didn’t think would have it.”

“Okay, she’s got my approval,” Dean confirms. “Go on.”

Sam grimaces. “Maybe you don’t want to hear this part, but she and I were good together. It wasn’t like with Amelia, we weren’t kidding ourselves. Neither of us thought what we had was going to fix what we’d lost or even make it one tiny bit better, but there was comfort there. Friendship. The sex was great. It was enough. We made good partners and we built a life and down the road, once we had Dean—she was an incredible mom. Best mom a kid could have hoped for, not that I have a ton to compare it to. And I never had to feel any guilt that she wasn’t it for me. I wasn’t her great love, either.”

“When did you decide to have Mini Me?” Dean asks.

“We didn’t,” Sam admits, looking a little guilty. “Junior was…kind of a surprise.”

Dean waggles his eyebrows. “Should have done a better job giving you the birds and the bees.”

Laughing, Sam tells him, “You’re such an idiot.”

“Yeah, but you love it.”

“I do,” Sam admits before picking up where he left off, “I never would have thought to have a baby. The state I was in? I worried when she got pregnant that I would be terrible at it. Some days I could hardly take care of myself, let alone a kid. I didn’t want to be like Dad.”

“You could never have been like him,” Dean says. “Not in those ways.”

Sam tries to smile at that, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Doesn’t matter. It happened. We were both older when we met. I mean, Allison was a few years younger than I was, but still. Early forties. We figured she couldn’t get pregnant so we were not as careful as we could have been. Then she did. And I couldn’t…whatever my reservations were, I couldn’t ask her to lose another child. So we did the whole shotgun wedding thing, made a run at it.”

“Sounds pretty good, Sammy,” Dean says.

“Yes, it was good. My life was good. I was…” Sam pauses, like he’s trying to choose his words very carefully. “I wasn’t unhappy.”

“That’s not the same as being happy,” he observes.

“No, it’s not,” says Sam. “But there was a lot of happiness. A lot of very real love. It felt right.”

“Alright, so where did it go wrong?” Dean gestures with his free hand before taking a drink from his beer. “You said she was your ex-wife.”

“I guess what we had worked a little too well,” Sam says, glancing over at Dean with a wistful smile. “She didn’t lose what I lost. She thought she was never going to be able to move on, but after a few years of healing, she did. When Junior was about ten or eleven, she met someone she could have something real with. Passionate, not comfortable. It sucked to lose her, but I was happy for her. We stayed good friends, and we made it as easy on our son as a divorce can be.”

“Sorry it didn’t work out,” Dean says automatically.

“No, you’re not,” Sam replies. Dean shrugs because, well, he’s right. He’d have liked to believe a happy marriage was what he wanted for Sam, but his reaction when he thought it had happened speaks for itself.

Instead of sitting with that any longer, he pivots, “So you got out of the life completely, huh?”

“Yes and no,” Sam answers, grinning wickedly when that makes Dean groan. “I stopped hunting. I loved hunting with you, okay? That wasn’t always true, but it was a long time before I lost you. What we had and how we lived is what I would have chosen over anything. But I couldn’t hack it by myself.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me,” Dean assures him. “You more than earned a regular life.”

“I didn’t have a regular life.” He smiles at his hands and admits, “I wish you could have seen what I created. The legacy we built, you and I. Just because I wasn’t going on hunts doesn’t mean I gave up on the family business. I told you, I found balance this time. Pride in what we did. I wasn’t trying to escape it like those times I ran away. I wanted what you taught me to go somewhere, to be part of shaping the world we fixed. I saved more lives after than I did when we worked cases. Not—no apocalypses left to avert, but in the week-to-week stuff.”

Dean’s touched by his brother’s words and he taps Sam’s knee encouragingly with his nearly empty beer. “I’m dying to hear this.”

“I started out taking a little bit of a Bobby role. Or a Men of Letters one, however you want to think of it. Fielding research questions, connecting hunters who needed partners, assigning out hunts.”

“That makes sense for you,” Dean says. “Bobby’d be proud to know you followed in his footsteps.”

“He was part of the legacy I was trying to honor. Dad was. Mom, too. But mostly it was you. Dean, if you could hear the way hunters talk about you now. You’re a legend. You’re a thousand feet tall.”

“And still shorter than you somehow,” Dean jokes, keeping himself humble.

Sam huffs at that before he goes on, “I built a network from there. Nothing official, obviously, you know hunters would never have gone for a hierarchy, but I had a lot of respect and a lot of contacts and I used them. As time went on, we started setting up headquarters, places like the old Roadhouse where hunters could learn from each other, spread news, stuff like that. All over the country. That’s how we made most of the money to support the operation, real estate investments, businesses that functioned both as meeting points and income. Not a nice thing to think about, but a lot of properties end up abandoned when hunters don’t come home to them. Folks started deeding us places to use. After a while we had so many perfectly good homes set up that hunters didn’t have to depend on fleabag motels to go from job to job. Now they can find somewhere to stay free.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Kids these days have it so easy.”

“You’ll be glad to know the Bunker has a core group of folks who live there, mining the information, making it more widely available, as well as some rooms for people to pass through. Though I’ll be honest, I never checked in on that one personally.”

“I get it,” Dean assures him. “Sam, this is all really awesome. I wish I could have seen it.”

“I wish you could too.” Sam eases back in his seat and finishes his beer, setting it on the table. He seems to have been put at ease by Dean’s enthusiasm. “I know there’s no use wishing for things like that, but I do.”

“Maybe, if I’d lived, we could have done it together…” Dean frowns and trails off, not wanting to make Sam feel any shittier about his death, but the truth is, he’d give anything to have been a part of what his brother is describing, and it sucks to know it went on fine without him.

“It’s okay to be jealous, Dean,” Sam says. “I had half a lifetime of experiences you didn’t get.”

“What? I’m not—”

“I was jealous of you, too,” Sam admits. “When you told me it had only been a few hours, that you got to skip all those years I had to go without you. Doesn’t mean I begrudge you it, just that emotions aren’t clean, they aren’t only the nice ones. You can resent it a little that you got less than I did. That’s more than fair.”

“I don’t resent you,” Dean insists. “I wouldn’t have traded places with you. Couldn’t have made it alone. Never could.”

“Maybe you could have.” Sam shrugs. “Doesn’t matter now. We each got the deal we got.”

Dean nods. He puts his empty bottle aside before asking, “You weren’t lonely, right? Tell me I didn’t leave you lonely.”

“I don’t know what to say then,” Sam replies bluntly. “I was rarely alone. I had my son. I had people around. But being surrounded by people wasn’t always for me. I was often lonely. Junior helped. We got along. I mean, he’s my son, obviously I love him, but more than that, once he was old enough for us to relate on an adult level, we did. I was able to talk to him about some things I would only have said to you. Not everything, but. More than most people.”

“That’s good.” Dean smiles. “He sounds like a great kid. Tell me what he was like.”

Sam gets sadder than Dean is expecting, and he just looks off. “I don’t think I can talk to you about him yet. I need to keep him for myself a little bit.”

Dean nods, even though the kid seems to be the most important thing, and he doesn’t want to go eternity not knowing a major part of his brother. He doesn’t get to choose how Sam copes with all this.

Sam shakes his head a bit to clear it before eventually volunteering another bombshell piece of information, “I remarried.”

“Great,” Dean mutters. “More competition.”

Grinning, Sam adds, “But we separated.”

“You’re gonna give me whiplash, I swear.” Dean heaves an exaggerated sigh before asking, “Alright, what’s this girl’s name?”

“Manuel,” Sam says, and even in the dark, Dean can tell he’s blushing. “Manny.”

“Ah, a man named Manny.” Dean smirks. “So you married a dude, huh?”

“It’s not news to you that I go both ways, right?” Sam watches Dean laugh before saying, “I met him a few months after Dean went to college and we got married pretty fast. It was stupid maybe, but…I wasn’t handling the empty nest thing all that great.”

“Well, that serves you right,” Dean says, hoping Sam will take it for the joke Dean means it to be. “After Stanford.”

Thankfully, Sam huffs a laugh. “Believe me, the thought tormented me daily. I had to stand in your shoes and a part of me felt the same irrational anger that he went to school. Then I met Manny and I made a new life with him. I guess that’s what I do, when I lose my Deans. Find someone, anyone, and hold on tight.”

“Would I have approved of this one?” Dean asks.

Sam weighs the question for a long moment before answering. “I don’t know, maybe. He was different. He had none of the trauma Allison came with, there wasn’t as much of an understanding there. He knew I’d lost a lot of people, but aside from one mostly harmless ghost in a house he was listing, he never saw the supernatural firsthand. You can’t make someone like that truly grasp the things we’d been through. I’m sure he would have made an effort, but I wasn’t always open with him. He was very independent, which was good, we stayed out of each other’s way a lot, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t prioritize me, and I never did that for him. He came in third at best, after you and Junior, and it’s hard to lose out to a dead guy. Especially since most people hear brother and don’t immediately jump to whatever you and I were to each other. He didn’t know he was getting damaged goods. I do regret marrying him, a little bit. He really loved me. I loved him, too, but not the way…”

“He was lucky to have you at all,” Dean tells him, because he believes that if he believes anything. If Sam had found someone after him and they ended up winning out, Dean would have been destroyed, but he’d still have stuck around for whatever scraps of affection Sam might throw him. Sam’s worth that.

But he doesn’t look convinced by Dean’s words. “He was way younger than I was. Handsome, smart, successful. He could have had all the options in the world. You made a comment once, about wanting me to live long enough to be chugging Viagra. Try being married to a guy in his late forties when you’re nearly seventy. I don’t know what the hell he saw in me. Wish he’d been smart enough to get out sooner. I hope he finds someone who can be better to him.”

“Why did he get out?” Dean asks. “If he stayed through all of that.”

“He left shortly after I was diagnosed,” Sam tells him.

“Son of a bitch.” Dean moves forward in his seat, suddenly enraged. Wondering if it’s possible to murder someone from Heaven. “Who does that?”

“Ah, calm down, Dean.” Sam stares at his feet as he admits, “Kind of think you would have sided with him.”

“You don’t leave your dying spouse,” Dean replies. “You thought I’d be okay with that?”

“He didn’t leave me because I was dying. He left because I…”

When Sam glances up at Dean, he looks afraid, and he doesn’t keep going. Some old instinct churns in his gut telling him something’s not right. Suddenly Dean remembers that moment on the bridge, when he assumed Sam had died young and the way his brother’s face had fallen when he thought Dean had watched.

“Sammy, how’d you die?” he asks, despite how hard he’s been trying not to push Sam, not to ask questions about things Sam may not be ready to talk about. Sam shakes his head, looking away, but not fast enough that Dean doesn’t see the tear welling in the corner of his eye. “Tell me.”

“Please, don’t be disappointed in me, Dean,” Sam begs him, when Dean doesn’t know what he’s even supposed to be disappointed about. “He said I was choosing to die and that he wasn’t going to stick around to watch me give up. He said he finally understood that all I wanted was to get back to you. He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t entirely right either.”

“You gotta explain,” Dean tells him. “I’m sorry, but I need to know this. If you were sick, why would he blame you?”

“I refused treatment. It might have worked, or it might have killed me sooner. Manny wanted me to at least try, but I’d seen so many people go through it at that point. It’s ugly. It’s prolonged and miserable and I had already had so much of prolonging misery. You know what I learned from not being a hunter, Dean? Regular people lose each other, too. The regular ways. We always romanticized it, but having seen pretty much every kind of death imaginable, there’s no good way to watch someone you care about go. You don’t actually feel any better when you can tell yourself it’s natural causes. I can think of plenty of hunter deaths I would have chosen over some of the diseases I watched claim my friends. So I made the choice I could live with, even if it meant not living a little longer.”

Dean’s lips turn at the corners. “You thought I would be upset with you for that?”

Sam gestures vaguely. “I hoped not. But I struggled with it. You wanted me to get everything I could out of life. I believe I did that. But I was tired, too. I was so fucking tired by that point. I went down to sit in the Impala for hours when I was making up my mind, as if she would tell me whether you’d forgive me or not. I figured lots of people make the choice I did, people without all the trauma and a death wish. It wasn’t suicide. I just couldn’t lose myself to some drug. The cancer was in my brain. I was already starting to forget things, and I was afraid if I lived long enough, I might forget—” Sam laughs. “There were times I wished I could forget so much of our life. But by the time I got near the end, I couldn’t risk forgetting even one time you left your smelly socks in the kitchen sink or that obnoxious smile you would always have when I told you to move them. I was done, Dean. It was time.” A tear slips down Sam’s cheek, and Sam doesn’t bother trying to wipe it away. “I went on as long as I could. And then I let you down at the very last moment. I broke my promise with almost no time left on the clock. I did it wrong again.”

“No, no, no, hey, Sammy, look at me.” Dean leans over the small space between their chairs and takes his brother’s cheek in his hand, forcing Sam to look, even though he tries to resist. “Sam, I am so proud of you. I could never be disappointed in you. You did it exactly right.”

The noise Sam makes is somewhere between a sob and a gasp. He shakes through whatever emotion he’s still got in him as Dean strokes his hair, making reassuring sounds. When Sam’s breathing has evened out, he moves closer, until their foreheads are resting together. It’s like the first time all over again. Dean doesn’t know which one of them starts it, but as soon as their lips touch, it feels like all the years between them evaporate, leaving behind some purer version of who they are when they’re together.

By the time they separate, Dean realizes that dawn is starting. They talked all night, apparently. Sam notices it too, and he laughs, shaking his head. The sun immediately reverses course, and Sam stands up, holding his hand out for Dean.

“I think that’s all I can share tonight,” he says, and Dean reels for a moment at the thought that there could possibly be more. “I’m tired.”

Dean glances out again at the pitch black night, amazed by the fact that they can apparently decide for themselves when the night will be over. They reach the top of the stairs and Dean turns on instinct to the room he slept in last night, but Sam holds him, tugging him towards the master.

“Dean, enough,” he says, gentle but firm. “Come to bed.”

He follows obediently; there’s never been any part of Dean that didn’t want to follow his brother.

When Sam opens the door, Dean feels his eyebrows drawing together, and he looks from the room inside to Sam and back for confirmation. “That’s my bed.”

“We always slept in your bed,” Sam reminds him. “Back on Earth.”

“Yeah, but this wasn’t here.” Dean glances around the room, which otherwise looks a lot like the rest of Sam’s house. “You didn’t bring my bed to your house, did you?”

Sam shakes his head ‘no,’ though he’s too exhausted from everything they discussed to put much energy into it. “I already told you. This is our room. And just because I can’t go back to the Bunker doesn’t mean those years aren’t part of my Heaven. I would have shown you that yesterday if you’d let me.”

Dean thinks that over for a moment before returning Sam’s smile. “Hey, Sammy.”

“Mmm?” Sam asks as he moves towards his side of the bed.

He watches his brother begin to toss extra pillows onto a chair in the corner, something he never did while Dean was alive, but which seems second nature to him now, like he did it every night he ever spent in this house.

Yesterday, that would have terrified Dean, his brother having habits that aren’t as ingrained in him as they are in Sam. But tonight Sam is doing it to make room for himself in Dean’s old bed and Dean finally gets it, all the ways their life and Sam’s never actually split off. How there was space for him here, even though it hurt Sam to leave that space vacant, because it would have been worse, getting to Heaven and not having room. Sam endured that for him, so he would be able to slip into place here and know where he stood just as sure as he knew on the South Rim and every day between there and that shitty barn in Ohio.

“I really love this house.”

Sam stops what he’s doing and climbs onto the bed, reaching across to grab Dean and pull him down. Dean is taken completely by surprise, so he falls easily, and suddenly Sam is hovering over him, looking down with wide eyes. “Say that again.”

“I love your house?” Dean tries.

“No.” Sam does an aggravated little huff. “Like you said it before.”

“I love this house,” Dean says, and he reaches out to stroke Sam’s cheek. “I love our house.”

“Did I…?” Sam closes his eyes and breathes deep, holding it for a long few seconds before letting it out. Dean wonders if maybe he learned that in therapy. Seems like a thing Sam might do. “You used to think of home like this. Physical spaces. The Bunker. The car. Someplace we lost in the fire. I was so young when Mom died, that I…to me it wasn’t like that. I learned that at Stanford. Waited months before it clicked that California wasn’t going to suddenly become that for me just because I was finally staying put. So when I bought this house, I knew I wouldn’t ever be at home the way I needed to be. All I wanted was to give you something that was stolen from you. I thou—I thought it was too late.”

“It’s home,” Dean assures him. “I feel at home. You’ve given me a home.”

Sam’s lip wobbles for a moment, but Dean knows he said the right thing, despite the fact that Sam looks a little wounded by it, because he ducks his head into Dean’s neck and holds it there, breathing steadily until he’s calm.

“Do you know what home was, for me?” Sam asks, playing with the collar of Dean’s jacket. “From the day I was born until the day I died? It was steady, even when we picked up and left every place we laid our heads. It was the one thing that never changed. You know what it was?”

Dean shakes his head, because his best guess would have been that they’re there now.

“I never fucked my husband,” Sam says, lifting his head to look into Dean’s face. “I didn’t fuck Brady when we were together. I never fucked any of the guys I dated or messed around with. Only you.”

“I do recall you being a hall of fame catcher,” Dean says. “But that was a hell of subject change.”

Sam doesn’t laugh at Dean’s response. He puts his hand on Dean’s belt buckle and gives Dean a nervous look, like he really doesn’t know. As if Dean ever turned him down.

“You saying home is up my ass, Sammy?” he asks, laughing.

This time, Sam does smile at his joke, though he’s clearly fighting it. “I’m trying to have a moment here.”

“We’ve got all the moments we could want ahead of us,” Dean reminds him. “I’ve gotta ruin some of them or we’ll get bored.”

“I’m not gonna get bored,” Sam says, annoyed. He wipes his face his with hand and gives Dean a bitchy look. “Dean, quit being a dumbass. I’ve really waited for this.”

That sobers Dean right up and he palms Sam’s cheek, drawing him in for a kiss, so he can reassure Sam they’re on the same page. When he pulls back, Sam looks down into Dean’s face, his expression a mix of longing and ache that makes Dean want to wrap him up and hold him inside until Sam can’t remember ever being anywhere else.

“I want to go home,” he says quietly. Needy and trusting Dean to understand, which he finally does. Sam wants to go home and Dean wants to be home.

“So what are you waiting for?”

As soon as Dean’s given his consent, Sam immediately dives back in to kiss him again. They go for a long time, moving together until they start to get more desperate, and the layers of clothes between them feel more and more constricting.

Sam breaks from him, scowling like this is Dean’s fault, and pushes Dean’s jacket off before tugging his own shirt off over his head. They kiss again once there’s less in their way, hands roving everywhere, wrestling off whatever pieces of clothing they can.

Before long, they’re both naked, touching all over as they keep right on making out, both hurried and unhurried somehow in the same moment. There’s a desperation and a passion to it, but it’s not the same way they had those things on Earth. No lingering shame that says if they’re gonna do this it shouldn’t be savored. They need what they need and there’s no one in the universe whose judgement can reach them now.

“Fuck me,” Dean tells Sam, reaching for his brother’s cock and feeling it hot and hard already as soon as he grips it. He can’t help teasing, “The Viagra do that?”

“Hilarious.” Sam gasps as Dean jerks him slowly and they writhe together for a few moments until they’re in the right position.

Dean spreads for him, knows instinctively that they can just go from here. No prep, they don’t need to ease into it, not unless they want to. So he takes Sam’s dick and steers it until it’s lined up and ready to breach him.

Nothing could have prepared Dean for the feeling of Sam dropping into him, flesh and bodies long abandoned, the new sensation of nothing between them. When Sam fucks into him, Dean learns what it is to have his soul connect with Sam’s, the way these two bodies were never supposed to be separate to begin with. Like some evil thing tore them apart and every experience they shared in their lives, even the horrible ones, was a stitch as they sewed themselves back together. It’s the feeling of being perfect, complete, in a way no one else will ever be. Finally, finally whole.

Above him, Sam’s face shifts, surprise and understanding in the same moment. They thrust in a frenzy, nothing like the way they fucked on Earth. It’s like everything else here, an act that goes on both forever and not long enough. They come together, and then they come together.

When Sam pulls out and falls to the side of him, Dean rests his head in his palm so he can look at his brother. He couldn’t say what it is, but Sam has changed. Not his age and not his appearance, but a shining in his eye that Dean recognizes, even though he hadn’t seen it yet, not up here.

“There you are,” he says, leaning over to kiss Sam. His Sam. The weary man who lived too many years has fallen away, and lying in Dean’s bed he sees the boy he first kissed on the edge of the Grand Canyon. “Welcome home, Sammy.”

The next day, Dean wakes up first. He could tell how draining it was for his brother to relive everything he’d been through, so instead of waking him, he presses a light kiss to Sam’s forehead and delicately unravels himself from the tangle of limbs Sam’s got him in.

He goes up to the attic to sit and think about everything Sam told him about the life he had on Earth. It’s still hard to square some of it, but Dean knows that’ll just take time. Time they have.

“No Saturday morning cartoons?” he hears after a short while, and he turns to see Sam joining him.

“Didn’t know how much noise I could make without waking you,” Dean tells him.

Sam laughs quietly at that, opting to sit on the arm of Dean’s recliner rather than in his own. “I see the dead guy robe is back in rotation.”

Dean grins. “I am now the dead guy. It is my robe. You’ll never get me out of it.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I’m pretty good at getting you out of it.” He takes a moment to give Dean a dirty smirk, and as soon as he has Dean’s attention, his expression turns serious. “Listen, Dean. I have a favor to ask you.”

“Anything,” he says, reaching up to run his fingers along Sam’s arm.

“I’m going to go in there,” Sam points at the memory door before catching Dean’s eye, “and if I don’t return within a few hours, I need you to go in after me.”

Dean’s eyebrows draw together but he nods. “Sure, okay. Anything in particular you’re worried might detain you?”

“Yes,” Sam answers, but he doesn’t say what. He drops his hand for a moment to squeeze Dean’s shoulder and then he crosses the room, disappearing as soon as he steps past the threshold.

It’s enough to make Dean curious, but he resists the urge to follow Sam in right away, opting to flip on the TV instead. There’s a Doctor Sexy marathon and it just so happens to be his favorite season, so Dean watches a few episodes before he starts to feel hungry and remembers they didn’t eat anything aside from Sam’s terrible eggs yesterday. Not that they need to, but still. Dean could eat.

Time to fetch Sam, he decides. He knocks on the closet door before trying to open it, not entirely sure what he’s trying to accomplish. It feels like the polite thing to do.

The door is a little harder to force open this time, but eventually Dean gets it. He steps into a parking lot he’s seen before, looking up at a dorm he’s stared at for longer than he’d like to remember. Before he can get too sucked into his own memories here, someone grabs his hand, distracting him.

“You have the key, right?”

Dean’s heart breaks clean in half as he realizes he’s staring into the face of Jessica Moore, who is bright eyed and younger than seems possible and smiling at him warmly. Alive. He’s confused for a moment as his mind begins to flood with thoughts that are not his own, I love her and why doesn’t she see I’m broken until he realizes he’s in Sam’s memory, standing where Sam stood. The thrall is working on him now, the way it had him playing out his and Sam’s first kiss the other night.

“Our own place,” she says, slipping her arm through his and walking them towards the door. “It feels so grown up, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I just wish…” Dean finds himself saying.

Jess frowns for a moment, reaching up to gently push a loose lock of hair Dean doesn’t have away from his forehead. “He’ll visit it someday,” she tells him. “I really believe he will.”

He hates that what he feels is doubt, Sam’s conviction that he will never see Dean again. He’s not sure if it’s better or worse knowing that Jess was right to bet on him, but she’ll die because of that. As he’s thinking all this, Dean leans into the comfort, because that’s what instinct is telling him happened, and his brother’s thoughts float through him. You’re so much like him.

Sam must not have said that part out loud, because Jess smiles, angling her head towards the lock. “Open it before I take your key away.”

Dean does as he’s told, a little overwhelmed to hear whatever joke she’s making about carrying him across the threshold. When he pushes the door to Sam’s apartment building open, it doesn’t reveal the stairs that led up to his and Jess’s unit, and she disappears between one blink and the next. He steps forward into a room that looks very much like it belongs in Sam’s house, though he doesn’t recognize it. That only leaves two options, the library or his son’s room, and the fact that it’s set up like a nursery makes it pretty easy to guess which.

The room is narrow, with a crib and an armchair the only things that fit up against the far wall. He’s found his brother and it’s obvious now what Sam got lost in. He’s sitting in the armchair, absently rocking back and forth as he hums Smoke on the Water to what Dean can only imagine is a baby, except the bundle is too small and Sam’s arms too big for him to see. Dean grins when he recognizes the ball of fur curled up by Sam’s feet, and it takes everything in him not to ruin the moment by calling out to Miracle.

For a few minutes, Dean watches, unsure whether to interrupt or not. Finally, he starts to worry he might be intruding, so he announces himself by clearing his throat.

Sam looks up, smiling automatically. “Dean,” he says, and he rises to his feet, walking over so that Dean can finally see the scrunched up little face of the baby in his brother’s arms. “Meet Dean.”

“Hey, little guy,” Dean says, trying to offer a finger for the infant to grip onto. There’s no response, and he hears Sam say, “not your memory” in a deflated tone.

“Yeah, I guess that was how this bullshit worked,” Dean tells him.

Sam’s face lights up like he’s got a great idea, and he holds his arms out as much as he can without disturbing his son. “Here, take my place.”

“What?” Dean asks, even as he’s having a baby shoved into his arms and Sam steers him back a few steps until his legs hit the chair and he sits down on it where Sam had been before.

He gazes into Sam’s son’s little face and there’s a weird mix of sensations, both his own at seeing his nephew for the first time and the ones he knows are what Sam was experiencing when he lived through this. The emotions are all familiar though, even the ones that don’t belong to him. Dean still remembers what it felt like the first time his parents trusted him to hold little Sammy.

Then he gets hit with a wave of crippling sadness as he feels Sam think Dean will never know you.

“You know what, I think maybe I shouldn’t be here,” Dean says, trying to rise to his feet, but Sam holds him down.

“Please, don’t,” Sam urges, with his big puppy eyes. “Just stay there a few minutes longer. I want to…you are supposed to be here. You have no idea how much I would have given to see this.”

Actually, Dean does have an idea. He has a pretty fucking clear picture. Because he can feel everything Sam was feeling and it’s devastating and he doesn’t want to know he made his brother hurt like this. “Sam, I get your emotions when I sit here. I don’t think you’d want me to—”

“No secrets,” Sam says. “I don’t want to hide anything from you, not ever again. I waited decades to share with you. Will you let me see you hold him for a little while?”

It’s a stark reversal from how walled up he was when he arrived, and even experiencing Sam’s ambivalence as he bonded with his son, learning that mourning Dean’s absence punctured this otherwise perfect moment, isn’t enough to stop Dean from appreciating that Sam is letting him in. He won’t refuse this if there’s even a chance of driving his Sam away again, so they go quiet for a few minutes as Dean does what his brother asked.

Until a new voice asks, “Is he hungry?”

Dean looks up to see a woman standing in the doorway. She’s pretty, with long light brown hair and kind eyes, but she looks bone tired, and not just in that new-mom tired way. She’s got an oversized red shirt on over purple pajama pants, which at least beats a white nightdress.

Dean shakes his head, smiling for a moment before turning his attention back to the baby.

“Are you coming to bed?”

“Tomorrow,” Dean says, because that’s what Sam said. “When he’s six months and one day old.”

He waits for Allison to question that, because it’s a crazy thing he just said. Dean wonders just how much Sam told her and how much he didn’t. From the way she nods, accepting Sam’s response, she must have known enough.

“Alright, come get me if you need anything,” she says. “I’m going back to sleep. Love you.”

Dean doesn’t respond, gets sucked right back into looking at the infant as soon as she’s gone.

There’s a soft whine from the floor, and Dean leans enough to see Miracle, whose face is even more wrinkly than the baby’s. “Aww, hey buddy.” He looks up at Sam. “He’s so old.”

“He died just a few months after this.” Sam frowns. “That was a rough—he was the only person I think who even got close to understanding what I lost. He worshiped you. That slavish devotion dogs have for their masters, that was...” Sam laughs at himself. “Anyway, he was hard to say goodbye to.”

“Yeah, but we don’t have to say goodbye to anything,” Dean points out. He stands up and crosses the room, calling Miracle to follow him, and Sam allows them by as Dean attempts to take the baby and dog back into their house. “Come on, Sammy. It’s time to go.”

Miracle barks animatedly as soon as they enter the Dean Cave, and Dean grins at that, realizing he changed as he passed over the threshold. He’s not the old dog from the memory a moment ago, but he’s not as young as he was when they found him either. If Dean had to guess, he’d say Miracle is just around the age he was when Dean died, a condition that seems to be going around.

His excitement at the success of bringing their pet over is crushed when Sam touches his arms, searching for the bundle that Dean was holding. Sam is clearly shattered by the realization that his son did not make it through.

“Sam, I’m so sorry,” he says. “Maybe we can go back in and get—”

“It wasn’t really him,” Sam mutters sadly. “I’m never going to…”

He turns without saying another word and walks right out, down the stairs like there’s something calling him away. Dean follows him, worried what Sam’s grief is going to lead him to do, and reaches the second level just in time to see Sam open the door to his son’s room. He walks in only a few seconds before Dean and Miracle, Dean following loyally at Sam’s heels and Miracle just as devotedly following at Dean’s.

Dean recognizes the shape and size of the nursery from the dream, but it’s decorated completely different now. Dark blue walls and space posters and little model buildings that lead Dean to believe Sam wasn’t exaggerating when he told Dean how much of a nerd his son was.

Sam sits at the edge of the twin mattress and stares up at Dean, looking conflicted.

“Do you want to talk?” Dean asks. “Because I can go if not.”

His brother shakes his head. “Don’t leave me.”

Dean frowns a little, trying to hide his concern, but not entirely able to. He thought after their breakthrough last night that this would be over, but maybe it’s not gonna be that easy. This is his Sam; he isn’t like he was before, closed off and distant, but there’s still things that pain him. That’s not actually very surprising. Dean’s Sam wasn’t always happy just because they finally made good. They both had pasts haunting them, and Sam had struggled more with letting his go.

As Dean is wishing he knew what exactly it was troubling his brother, Sam meets Dean’s eyes, and he can see the conflict in his expression. “I’m happy to be here with you, Dean. I really am. But it’s unbearable knowing I’ll never see my son again.”

“You’ll never wha—?” Dean begins to ask before realizing his mistake and he nearly smacks himself. He had Bobby to tell him, but Sam only had him, and Dean didn’t even think—it didn’t feel all that important to him. But for Sam. His son. The real reason Heaven had to change. “Fuck, Sam, I’m such an idiot.”

“Been telling you that for years, but I’m not sure now’s the moment to—”

“You’re gonna see him,” Dean says before Sam can go another second with that weight on his soul. “Jack changed Heaven. It’s all one place now. We can see whoever we want. When he dies, Sammy, you’re gonna see him again. As often as you’d like.”

Sam stares for a long moment, and Dean can see him processing it. Sam’s smarter than pretty much everyone, but even he needs a minute. “What are you talking about?”

“Bobby told me when I first got here. He was waiting for me outside Harvelle’s of all places. Mom and Dad were down the street from him, Rufus, all our friends. I forgot you didn’t know. It didn’t occur to me that you wouldn’t know already, about your son. I can’t believe I didn’t tell you right away.”

Instantly, Sam goes from somber to wide-eyed. “You’re gonna meet my son? I’m gonna get to see you and him—” Sam actually bounces on the bed, and Miracle lets out his own excited little yip in solidarity. “That’s all I wanted. Dean, that’s all I ever wanted.”

“I can’t wait,” he says, not quite matching Sam’s enthusiasm level, but genuine. “It’s gonna be great, getting to know him.”

“You’re gonna love him!” Sam promises. “He already loves you. Told him so many stories about his Uncle Dean. I can’t—I can’t believe it. I lived my whole life thinking once I died that was it for us. It’s one of the things that kept me going, honestly, believing I wouldn’t have more time with him after.”

Dean opens his mouth to ask for details, but then he remembers the way Sam had shut down last night when Dean tried to learn about his son and thinks better of it.

Instead, he decides to learn what he can from the clues left behind in this room and walks over to the bookshelf to examine the titles, surprised to see a few shelves entirely devoted to spell books and lore.

“You told him about this stuff?” Dean asks without thinking, brushing his finger along the spine of Monsters of South Asia vol. 2.

“Once he was old enough,” Sam answers. “I let him have a childhood. But I wanted to be open with him, about our life, about you. I could only hide so much.”

“You really told him everything?” Dean asks, surprised. “I wouldn’t have expected you to do that.”

“Well, not everything,” Sam replies, huffing a little. “I left out the more traumatic episodes.”

Dean glances back at him. “And the part where you fucked your brother, I hope.”

“Yeah, I forgot to mention it.” Sam grins. “And I think I destroyed all the evidence. Here’s hoping I didn’t miss anything.”

“You trained him right, I assume.” Dean looks around, can’t see signs of any weapons, not even so much as a baseball bat. “Taught him what I taught you?”

“I didn’t raise him a hunter,” Sam says, threading his hands. “You taught me a lot more than he needed. But I made sure he knew what was out there and how to protect himself. I left it up to him whether to join the family business or not.”

Dean raises an eyebrow, intrigued. “Did he? Sorry, never mind. I know you don’t want to—”

“I thought that was all I would have of him, forever. A closet full of memories. That was so much not enough. I wasn’t sure how to share it. But now that I know it’s just a matter of time…” Sam scoots on the bed to make room for Dean to sit next to him. “Come here. Let me tell you what a badass my son is.”

He laughs as he walks over, gesturing to the desk across from Sam. “No badass has that many chess trophies, Sam.”

“My kid did,” Sam says proudly. “You remember what I told you yesterday? About how I used my properties to connect hunters, spread information through physical spaces?”

“No, I forgot already, say it all again.”

Sam rolls his eyes and otherwise ignores him. “Well, Dean went to school and became an architect. But he wanted to be part of the family business, too. So he started mixing them. He created this whole new way to save people. Unhauntable houses, floorplans that can kill a demon as soon as it walks through the door without hurting the host, windows that show shapeshifters, design elements to hide entire buildings from angels. You name it. He didn’t invent most of it, but he’s the first to incorporate it at the level he has. Half the people who commission him don’t even know what they’re getting, but he protects all his clients. I’ll tell you, Dean. I’m in awe of who he grew up to be. At least, so far.”

“Alright, I hate to admit that is in fact one of the most badass things I’ve ever heard,” Dean says, letting how impressed he is shine through and loving watching Sam light up at Dean praising his kid.

“I hate that I won’t get to see his career take off, but I’m glad I was there for the start of it. I guess that’s the trade off when you have your kid as late as I did. I had so much before, but he was only in his thirties and I had to leave him. There’s so much I’ll never see happen, even now that I know he can tell me.”

“Do you wish you’d had him sooner?” Dean asks. “I’m not…I swear I’m not trying to make light of me dying, but. You would have had more time with him.”

“He wouldn’t have been my Dean,” Sam points out before shaking his head. “You didn’t take away those options just because we couldn’t have it. I chose different things when you were alive. Sure, I wanted a family when I was younger and I could have been happy to have it, but not over what we had. Life is like that for everyone, not just Winchesters. Nobody can do everything. Sometimes, going down one path means giving another one up. Not for anything would I have changed the time we had together. Or cut it any shorter. You were what I chose. I made the right choice.”

Dean doesn’t look at Sam directly, but he knows his brother can see his smile. He takes a moment to get his voice under control before joking, “Well, listen to you. You’re all wise and shit.”

“I am incredibly old,” Sam reminds him.

Dean laughs, but a part of him takes in everything Sam just said and can’t figure out what exactly he’s supposed to offer in return. He’s not even the older brother anymore. He’s obsolete.

“So no, I don’t wish I’d settled sooner,” Sam tells him before sighing. “But I still hate to think of how much he won’t be able to share with me. Maybe he’s gonna have kids and I won’t know them in life.”

“I’m sorry, Sammy,” Dean says. “I can’t imagine how hard that is.”

“Yes, you can. You just went through it with me.”

Dean nods, because Sam makes a good point. He sits quietly and next to him, Sam smiles at his hands, shaking his head. “I cannot believe how many years I wasted, torn between wanting to see you and dreading leaving him. I should have known Jack wouldn’t let that happen.”

It’s nice to see him finally so unburdened, but it annoys Dean a little, too. Mostly on his brother’s behalf, but that’s not all of it. Sam should have known sooner. Dean couldn’t reach down to Earth and spare him, but there were people who could. In fact, they both could have been spared a lot of grief.

Sam’s still basking in Dean’s revelation when Dean says, “He brought Cas back, too.”

“Oh, wow.” Sam is smiling, but he watches Dean closely now, like he’s trying to get a read. “That’s great.”

“Yeah,” Dean says. “They were working up here to fix things the whole time, I guess.”

“I know his death…I know how it happened never sat right with you.” Sam tiptoes around the subject asking, “Did you get to see him?”

“I didn’t want to see anyone before you,” Dean admits. “It was great seeing Bobby, but after a minute or two, even that just felt off.”

Sam waits a moment before asking, “Do you want to see him?”

“Someday…” Dean sighs. “All those years he didn’t come down to let us know he was alive. I felt like so much shit for causing his death and he was up here. Fine.”

“You didn’t cause his death, Dean.” It’s a worn old argument they had more than a few times back on Earth.

Dean scoffs. “If you’d heard the things he was saying, you’d be singing a different tune.”

“He made a choice. And it was the right one for him, whether he got brought back or not.”

Shaking his head, Dean says, “I couldn’t even offer him the comfort of pretending.”

“He never asked you to.” Sam wraps an arm around Dean’s shoulders and squeezes. “Believe me, man. I thought about that often. How jealous I was that he got that choice. I would have done what he did a thousand times over if it could have stopped you from walking into that barn.”

“You knew, didn’t you?” he asks. “That he…how he felt about me?”

“Of course I did.” Sam laughs lightly. “Cas and I were kind of members of the same club, weren’t we?”

“I’m glad you didn’t have the choice,” Dean says. “I wish he hadn’t either.”

“Well, it all worked out,” Sam argues. “He’s up here, making a better Heaven. That was what always mattered most to him.”

“He hasn’t even tried to make contact. He obviously resents me.”

Sam shakes his head. “You remember how Cas got when he was in angel mode. Kind of nice that he went back to that. It means he’s got a purpose again. Even if it’s hard for us to let go of the version that was our friend. It’s not the same, but I missed Jack something fierce. Would have loved to see him every now and then, but our Jack isn’t even the same thing anymore. He’s in there somewhere, mixed up with all the rest of what he took on. I think Cas is like that, too. They’re still the people we loved, and they still care about us, but not in the same easy ways. We have to accept that that’s what’s best for them, just like…” Sam takes Dean’s hand and smiles almost shyly. “He knew what was best for you.”

Dean looks down at their hands and says, “I’m surprised he didn’t visit you. Jack, I mean.”

“He told us he wouldn’t,” Sam reminds him. He waits a moment before admitting, “I prayed to him, after you died. I begged him to come see me. I. I know you asked me not to. And I told myself it would be wrong, to try to get him to bring you back. Knowing how that always goes. And that the last time he did it—he saved me and almost immediately killed Mom. Maybe things wouldn’t have gone that way if he hadn’t used his powers on me. Had to remind myself how much you’d hate me if something like that happened again, if I robbed the world of the better God we gave it just so I could see you again. But I still considered it. Prayed just to see if it was even an option.”

“You wouldn’t have gone through with it,” Dean says confidently. “You would have made the right choice. You had so many years to break your promise and you kept it.”

“Maybe. I guess it’s for the best he never answered. And Rowena never showed up for my summons. Removed the temptation. I gave you the hunter’s funeral pretty quickly, so maybe I would have resisted, but I sure thought about cheating.”

“I would have done more than thought about it. I broke that promise to you so many times. It doesn’t matter what you thought about, it matters what you did.” Sam doesn’t look convinced, but Dean’s not sure what more he can say to get through. So he decides to lighten things up instead. “Oh, hey, speaking of. Was my funeral the party of the century? I bet it was.”

Sam looks guilty for a second before bending over to pat Miracle on the head. “I know you wanted a big one. I’m sorry, Dean. I couldn’t give you that. It was just me and the dog. The thought of people milling around, thinking they understood what I was going through. That they could share any part of my grief. I just…I couldn’t do it.”

“No worries, Sammy,” Dean says. “We’ll have a party here someday, with everyone, and no grief at all.”

“You aren’t disappointed?” Sam asks.

“Why don’t you quit asking me that, huh? And another thing—” Dean puts on a stern voice as he stands, playfully swatting his brother on the shoulder when Sam glances up at him anxiously. “I’m making burgers tonight.”

“I think I’m ready to see them now,” Sam tells him one day as they’re enjoying their morning coffees out on the back porch.

“Huh?” Dean asks, staring down into his empty coffee cup. Maybe the rest of Sam’s train of thought is in there.

“Everybody,” Sam clarifies, which doesn’t actually clarify anything, and no, the cup isn’t talking. “I’m ready to see everybody.”

Dean’s brain catches up after a few more moments. The caffeine kicking in, probably. “Oh.”

Dean leans over to scratch Miracle’s belly as Sam adds, “Unless you don’t want to.”

He thinks on it for a moment, then shrugs. He’s got no problem with seeing other people, as long as he’s got Sam with him. It’ll be fun, even. Probably, it wouldn’t have occurred to him to seek it out for another several centuries, but if it’s what Sam wants, Dean will take a chance to drive his baby and shoot the shit.

It feels like weeks of driving before they find anyone at all, and Dean kind of likes that. The perfect compromise between the soulmates thing before and a free-for-all where just anyone can walk up to their place any time. Him and Sam get their privacy, but they have options, too.

They make stops along the way, reliving their favorite idiotic tourist traps and tacky motel decorations and the best of fast and greasy road food. Sam loosens up a little now that health isn’t really a factor, indulges in bacon-stacked burgers without bitching when the place they roll up to doesn’t offer salads. Their friends and family all seem to live in clusters, small groups gathered on orderly little streets that they reach between doing their own thing. Dean wonders if the geography changes based on who’s looking, if everyone gets to pick how close or far they are from folks the way he and Sam have.

They visit Charlie for video games, get their asses kicked for a few rounds, and then they’re back on the road. They stop at Jody’s to see the girls, most of whom are gray and wrinkled, but still tease him and Sam about being old timers somehow. Bobby grills steaks while Rufus tells him he’s doing it wrong and Karen is there, baking more pies than even Dean can eat, just like the last time they met her. They even get a round of drinks at some poorly lit bar Sam owned, where Sam introduces Dean to hunters he worked with after Dean died.

Mom and Dad come last. He doesn’t plan it that way, but that’s how it happens. Dean knows when they pull up to the house, the way he gets to know some things about Sam now, without all the old guess work, that this is what the whole trip was actually about. Working himself up to try and forgive them. The visit is challenging but they do get to talk some old stuff out, and by the time they walk out of their parents’ suburban house, Dean is about ready to never speak to another person other than his brother for the rest of eternity.

“Home now?” he asks, looking over from the driver’s seat. “Please say we go home now.”

Sam beams at him despite how wiped he is. “I love hearing you call it home.”

Dean rolls his eyes at his brother’s sentimentality and they drive the first leg of the trip back in complete silence, a relief after so much socializing. Eventually, Dean turns on the radio, which Sam graciously doesn’t complain about, and they go another few hundred miles like that.

He turns over everything in his mind and once he feels like they’ve recovered enough to debrief, he clears his throat. “Sam, did you notice anything weird? About Dad?”

Sam’s forehead is pressed against the Impala window, but when Dean starts speaking, he sits up and turns his face towards Dean.

“It makes sense to me now,” Sam says. “Why I look like this. After seeing him, I think I get it.”

“Care to explain?” Dean prompts, only looking away from the road long enough to let Sam see his curiosity.

“Dean, I don’t think we ever knew him at all,” Sam says, looking down at his hands. “He burnt up in the fire with Mom. The man that raised us was just a walking, talking corpse. You don’t go on living when your heart stops beating. He looks exactly the way he did the day he died. We were used to seeing him older, but that wasn’t him. Not the best of him, anyway.”

“But that would mean you…” Dean flinches and turns his face away from Sam as the realization hits. “Sammy, no.”

He sees a flurry of movement as Sam rubs his face with his hands, but he doesn’t look over.

“I wanted to see if I could forgive him. Really forgive him, now that I’ve been where he was. And I’m more torn now than I was on Earth.” Sam sighs. “I know how hard it is to find any part of yourself to show people after going through that. He would have been someone completely different if Mom had lived. Someone good, probably. I’m glad that’s who he is up here, but it felt like a stranger.”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees. “He was a little…soft for Dad, wasn’t he?”

“Maybe Junior never really knew me, either,” Sam muses. “I tried my best to let him in.”

“You weren’t like Dad,” Dean insists. “I know you weren’t.”

“Not most of the time. I did everything I could not to be him. I wanted to be you.” Sam bites his lip and sighs. “There were some things, though. They were so raw. I couldn’t help the way I reacted. You know what I never understood about Dad? The way he wouldn’t let us talk about Mom. Didn’t tell us stories. What little I ever knew about her, I had to learn it from you. And I would just get so frustrated. Thinking, ‘Don’t you want us to love her?’ I get it now. It took me so long to be able to share you, even with him. I didn’t want to share him, even with you.”

“But you did eventually, right?” he points out. “You said you told him all about me.”

He sees Sam nod out of the corner of his eye and then immediately follow it up with a shake of his head. “I caught him in the attic once when he was just hardly tall enough to reach the string. I was so furious at him. I totally blew up. Yelled until he ran off crying his little eyes out, and it took hours to feel bad about that.”

“Come on,” Dean says. “You put a room in a house and tell a kid he can’t go there, of course the kid is gonna go first chance he gets. You did the same thing with Dad’s journal. Which I’m still mad about, by the way.”

“I know,” Sam replies, laughing the slightest bit at Dean’s joke. “It was totally unfair. But that was where I went to be with you and the thought of anyone trespassing on it just. Broke me. I can’t explain it, it wasn’t rational.”

“Still, that was one time,” Dean reasons.

“Yes, you’re right. After we made up, I took him up and started to tell him more about you. We’d hang out there sometimes. That’s why I’m finding it tough to forgive him.” Sam spreads his hand, gesturing at nothing. “I know how hard it is to be present when you’re living like that, but I’ve had a kid now and I just can’t—I can’t imagine ever treating your child the way he treated us. Even when I was pissed at Dean I couldn’t have…”

Dean considers Sam for a long time before deciding whether he can really handle the potential shitstorm he’s about to stir up, but he knows now that if he doesn’t get this off his chest, it’s just going to build. If it festers long enough, maybe Sam will never be able to forgive him either.

So he clears his throat and says, “Listen, Sam. While you’re, uh, making peace with people who wronged you. I know there’s a lot of shit I did that wasn’t cool. And I didn’t always own up to it. I just want to say I’m—”

“Stop,” Sam says, looking at Dean with his eyebrows drawn together, forehead wrinkling in a way that would be comical if he didn’t seem so offended. “We settled all of that ages ago. You don’t have anything to apologize to me for.”

“Some of the things I did were really not okay,” he points out.

“I seem to recall that being a two-way street.” Sam grimaces. “I don’t want to start stacking up mistakes we made to see who has the most to be sorry about. Are you holding any grudges against me?”

“No, of course not,” Dean replies immediately. “I just want to be sure we’re good.”

“Okay, let me be clear on this then,” he pinches his temple as he decides what comes next and after a minute or so says, “I have spent the last four decades wishing for you with such desperation that I would have given my life just to go back to the worst moments we ever shared. I missed you so much I longed for you to be standing in front of me calling me a monster and meaning it. There was nothing you ever did, or any situation we ever found ourselves in so horrible that I would not have relived it just to see your chest rise and fall. Does that address your concerns?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” Dean says, happy to move on from the subject. “Hey, you know what else I don’t get?”

Sam doesn’t say ‘no, what’ but he angles his head in a way that says it for him.

“Just where exactly is your kid?” Dean asks. “How is it possible we ran into everyone we ever met on Earth and I still don’t know my nephew?”

“Are you wishing my son dead?” Sam asks, narrowing his eyes.

Dean laughs, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “No, I just don’t get how time works up here. It was a few hours between you and me, and we’ve been driving around for weeks at this point. Stands to reason that like eight generations of our family should be popping up every day. I wish he’d hurry up so you could see him already.”

I wish I could see him,” Sam replies. “But that’s not how it works, I don’t think. What happened for us, that’s—it wouldn’t have been Heaven. We aren’t supposed to live apart. Take my word for it, Dean, it had to be like that for you, or the whole reward would have gone sour.”

“I’m not complaining,” Dean says. “Those couple of hours were more than long enough.”

Sam smiles; it’s bittersweet but it feels honest. “I miss my boy, I do. But it’s not the same. This is…this is how it’s supposed to go, with parents and their kids. I’m supposed to have to wait for him. It’s a good thing, it means he’s living. Hurts like hell to be without him, but it’s a good pain.”

“Do you think you’ll know?” Dean asks. “When he gets here? How will we find him?”

“I’ll know,” Sam says confidently. “He’ll find us.”

“In the meantime,” Dean hazards a glance over, checking to see how Sam will react. “Just us?”

Sam’s smile gets a little easier as he agrees, “You and me.”

They get home long after the sky has gone black and as soon as the door is shut behind them, Dean is shoved up against it. Miracle runs to greet them, barking with excitement and wagging his tail, and Dean feels a little guilty, but he’s too distracted to give the dog much attention. Sam kisses him hard and goes deep fast, and Dean’s not sure where it’s coming from, but he wraps his arms around his brother, pulling him in tighter. They make out for a while before Sam trails his nose along Dean’s jaw, taking a breath against his neck before pulling back.

“Let’s fuck,” he says.

Dean laughs. “Kinda weird that seeing our parents apparently got you hot and bothered.”

Sam shakes his head, cupping Dean’s face with one enormous hand on each cheek. Says, “I don’t think I have anything left.”

Dean knows he must look as confused as he feels, because that doesn’t sound like a good thing, exactly. “I’m sorry?”

Laughing, Sam takes Dean’s hand and starts leading him upstairs. “To say. To do. To shed. There’s nothing left I haven’t told you. Nothing I have to miss so bad it’ll poison this. I let go of the things that kept me bitter. I feel…so free, Dean. Almost like,” he stops in the middle of the stairs to turn and kiss Dean, and that goes on for a little while before he pulls back and touches their foreheads together, “I almost don’t remember what it feels like to miss you. All those years I thought I’d never know another sensation and it’s so far away now.”

“Oh,” Dean says, returning Sam’s smile. Then Sam grabs his ass and pulls him in until their bodies are flush together. “Oh.”

“We’re gonna fall down the stairs,” Sam says, pulling Dean’s shirt off over his head. He must be very unconcerned by the danger, since he’s the one who decided to do this here.

“Bed is like ten steps away,” Dean reminds him, but he buries his hands in Sam’s hair and pulls him in for a kiss right where they’re standing, working Sam’s belt off and tossing it aside.

“Too far,” Sam decides. He turns so that his ass is towards Dean and undoes his jeans, looking over his shoulder as he drops them. “Fuck me?”

“Here?” Dean asks. The answer is clearly yes, because Sam slings a leg over the handrail so Dean has space to crowd in behind him, and it’s a weird angle, but anything is possible in Heaven, so they manage it.

He has to go one step up from where the foot Sam has on the ground is resting, bristles a little at the fact that being the big brother doesn’t make him the bigger brother, but then he remembers that he is bigger in at least one way that counts, and Sam was never shy about how much that turned him on.

This feels different from the way they’ve been fucking since they’ve been here, not that the sex has been bad. It’s been full of meaning and trying to make up for lost time, but there’s something about the shameless way Sam is begging for him now that’s utterly devoid of any greater purpose than just getting off. Fun, casual sex, like they used to have pretty regularly down on Earth, once they’d fully accepted they could. That’s when it hits Dean that they’re actually allowed to get used to this.

Dean grins, pushing hair off the back of Sam’s neck and sucking the skin there, and Sam whimpers, pleading for Dean in a way he could never turn down. Dean only undresses enough to pull his cock out and shoves Sam hard against the bannister as he pushes in. Sam grunts, taking him easy, which isn’t actually a huge difference from how he was on Earth, though the spontaneity of not having to prep is obviously new. It’s just as intense this way around as it was that first night when Sam had been in him, every time either of them gets inside mixes their souls together and binds them even closer.

The way he thrusts roughly into Sam makes the stairs creak—makes the whole damn house creak, relic that it is—and Dean thinks the force of how hard he’s fucking Sam would bring the whole thing tumbling down if they were in the real world. The thought of that makes him laugh and moan at the same time, and Sam grins at him as much as he can, pushing back for more.

His ass is so tight as Dean pulls Sam in, holding his brother closer than would be possible if they were still alive. “You miss this, Sammy?” he asks. “Miss your big brother wrecking you.”

Sam’s response is wrecked, unintelligible sounds that Dean assumes mean ‘yes.’ Not such a smartass now, Dean thinks as he traces his hands along Sam’s strained thigh muscle and, fuck. He’s so hot, so good for Dean, exists just for Dean to use like this, for as long as he wants. Unfortunately, Dean gets a little too carried away in that thought, and his climax hits, making him come raw in Sam and push his face into Sam’s shoulder, biting him lightly to hold back a sound.

He takes a step back to let Sam relax his body a little, but he doesn’t waste any time, either. Dean turns Sam around by his shoulders and drops in front of him, taking Sam’s leaking cock into his mouth when his brother buries his long fingers in Dean’s hair and urges him forward. Dean looks up to see bare throat exposed as Sam throws his head back, groaning at the ceiling.

Dean sucks Sam’s dick better than he ever could on Earth, worshipping on his knees at something so divine God couldn’t make it. Couldn’t unmake it either.

“Fuck, Dean, I’m gonna—” Sam says, and Dean’s tongue gets a preview of the salty rush of come before he’s drinking it down, holding Sam in his throat just the same as he’s held Sam everywhere else Sam’s let him.

Once he’s done swallowing what Sam gives him, Dean rises to his feet, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Sam takes that same hand and kisses it, giving him a dirty grin.

Now that they’ve calmed some, Miracle joins them on the staircase and Dean can finally focus enough to properly greet him as he rises to his hind legs and paws at Dean.

Sam watches them fondly, leaning back against the wall as he catches his breath. “To think I used to have trouble just climbing these stairs.”

Dean laughs. “You really showed them.”

Still holding Dean’s hand, Sam starts to lead them up to bed, the dog trailing them cheerfully. “We better get that all out of our system before my kid starts dropping by.”

“He’s gonna need to call ahead,” Dean says. “I’ll never get enough of that.”

There’s no measure to the time they spend in Heaven, so Dean can’t say how long it’s been. Long enough to get settled, after a lifetime of having the rug pulled out from under them. Easy living is something Dean takes for granted now. It feels like years and nothing much new happens, so it’s a surprise to say the least when Dean hears a knock on the door from where he’s singing in the kitchen.

For all the time they’ve been in Heaven, no one has ever found this house. Sam and Dean have stayed hidden in their own little piece of paradise, and that’s how Dean likes it. He’s not exactly thrilled to learn somebody has figured them out. Still, it’s a guest, and a good host greets his guests. Dean may have died in a barn, but he wasn’t raised in one.

He opens the door to an old man standing in front of him. Dean doesn’t think he’s seen the guy before, but something about him is familiar, the big eyes or his nervous smile as he holds out a hand that’s covered in liver spots.

Dean figures it out at the same time he hears something hit the ground upstairs in the library, and he knows he won’t have to call out for Sam. Somehow Sam just felt it.

“Kid, you sure made your father wait long enough,” Dean says.

“Uncle Dean,” the old man says, smiling Sammy’s smile. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

Instead of shaking the hand his nephew is offering, Dean tugs him in for a hug and as they release, there’s an excited rush of footsteps on the stairs. He turns to see Sam standing on the bottom step, staring with his mouth dangling a little at the picture in front of him.

Sam doesn’t say anything, apparently too overwhelmed, but he walks up to stand between them, looking from Dean to Junior and back again. Dean sees in Sam’s expression something he once felt, when his brother joined him on a bridge somewhere up the road from here. The first moment of unmitigated bliss.

He reaches out to place one hand on Dean’s cheek and one on Junior’s, and holds them like that for a long moment as he works to get his emotions under control.

“There,” he says, tapping both of his Deans’s faces affectionately. “Now it’s perfect.”

The End.