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The State Of Things

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Sam gnawed on the inside of his cheek to keep from giving his brother a hard time as Dean poked through the clutter in the back of the Impala, searching for a box of silver-tipped bullets. If Sam had had something to say about it, that box, like everything else in the trunk, would've been stowed in its own predetermined place, where they'd be able to lay a hand on it straight away every time they needed it.

But it wasn't up to Sam; it was Dean's trunk. And Dean…? Was a slob.

The first weeks after Dean had dragged him away from Stanford, his slovenly habits had really grated. After years of living in a real house—with real closets and real drawers—instead of in motel rooms and out of duffel bags, it'd been maddening to trip over dirty underwear abandoned on the floor, to find wet towels in the bathroom sink, or to discover Dean had 'borrowed' Sam's toothpaste but failed to screw the cap back on properly so all Sam's stuff was covered in white, minty goo. Complaining about it didn't do much good either: Dean simply laughed at him, and Sam could expect to find smelly socks—or worse—hidden among his clean shirts the next time he unzipped his bag.

It's weird, Sam thought, watching Dean sort through the trunk. Their father had drilled them with marine-like discipline, up to the point of bouncing coins on their mattresses despite their moans that motels offered maid service. And it wasn't as if Dean treated his weapons carelessly. He was too smart to do that, knowing that one day a well-maintained gun or properly honed knife could mean the difference between life and death. Dean was mindful to always keep his powder dry, his guns cleaned and oiled, his knives so sharp that a man could shave with them—and then he dumps them in a reckless heap in the trunk.

One morning, a month or two into their search for Dad, when a nightmare of Jess had woken him and he couldn't go back to sleep, Sam had taken it on himself to clean out the car and rearrange their weapons cache into neat, logical categories. Shotguns and handguns to one side, cases of different types of ammo clearly labeled and piled in another corner, various blades properly sheathed and loosely tied together so they wouldn't bounce all over the place. Sam'd thought Dean was going to burst a blood vessel once he discovered what he'd done, and that it was going to turn into kill-or-be-killed. So he'd done the only thing he could think of: he'd apologized, and offered Dean the woeful look that he'd learned as a four-year old, the look that never failed to get him what he wanted.

Fortunately, the expression hadn't lost its magic: Dean's color had returned to normal and he'd growled, "Just don't mess with my stuff again, asshat."

And Sam never had. But there were times he dreamed about having a car of his own, with a weapons compartment he could arrange the way he thought it should be. Secretly, he ached to bring order to the chaos, fingers itching to sort and categorize and….

"Ha!" Dean exclaimed triumphantly, holding up a square wood box and smirking at Sam. "Told ya we still had some."

Sam shook his head in exasperation, but he couldn't keep his mouth from twitching into an amused little smile.

Of course, Sam thought, waiting for Dean to remove the shotgun that propped up the lid, those had been his dreams from before. Before Dean made that deal to save him. Before the remote chance of Sam ever taking over the Impala had suddenly become a near-certainty. Before he'd learned what such a well-ordered life without Dean's bad habits to irk him would really be like.

Dean slammed the trunk shut, rounded the car and climbed behind the wheel. Sam crawled into the shotgun seat and risked a glance sideways as Dean turned the ignition and the engine roared to life. Nowadays, Sam's dreams were very different….