( one )
Jean cutoffs, bare feet bare skin, close-crop grass odor deep in his lungs riding wet-humid summer air. Sam runs through the yard full-tilt, laughter thick and heavy in his throat. The sun is bright overhead, end of afternoon nadir goldenbrown; it's soft and sweet and for this moment Sam can pretend there are no such things as shadows, that nothing lurks within them.
He can hear Dean close behind, footsteps and hassling-threat yells and the slosh of the garden hose. His heartbeat thunders, almost mutes it all.
They speed into the backyard, wheeling arms and hollers and Dean's thumb presses into the stream of water just so, concentrates it in a punishing spray that ropes across Sam's back.
He squeals- yelps- stumbles forward and grapples fingers in the grass, helpless laughter as water cold and unrelenting sneaks down into his shorts. Dirt into mud flies behind him when he finds footing, launches, scampers away.
Their rental house is small, but it's good, real rooms real yard real feel; they've been here two weeks. Dad is gone- as ever chasing something bad, might need help later- and it's perfect. Sam and Dean, summertime and nothing but remembered chores on their own time, slightly burnt frozen pizza too-hot from the oven, kisses and handjobs and blowjobs on the couch while they ignore everything Dad doesn't like as it plays background on the TV.
Kisses and handjobs and blowjobs loud in bed, no worry of anyone to hear, then sleep in an hour, maybe two, every lazy morning.
Barefoot and skin and last year's jeans hacked into shorts; water slaps Sam's calves and he shouts, feels free.
Suddenly fire lances into his foot- white-bright burn and it hobbles him. Sam's leg lifts instinctively and he hops backwards, grabs his foot, surprise and curses and goddammit. He hears Dean call his name, hears the worry, can't answer. His face screws up tight, eyes slick-shimmer with tears.
When he falls Dean is there, catches him, slows him then they both thud against the grass.
"What, Sammy- what?"
Dean's tone is concerned, coaxing, breathy; Sam breathes through his teeth, foot in his hands, every nerve bent by the wave of nausea-yuck pain.
"Bee-" he manages, spits out as he keeps breathing and kicks himself for being such a wuss.
He gasps when Dean's lips brush over his; instantly he responds, forgets the sting and the bastard bee, drops his foot so his hands can clutch Dean, instead.
They kiss until he swoons, until Dean has his heel caught over a thigh, thumb just under the beesting, other thumb slow circles that nudge his earlobe with each lingering pass. Dean tugs him and Sam goes willingly, rests his forehead on Dean's shoulder.
Dean kisses in his hair. "Want me to get it now?"
Sam nods, trembles because the stinger out is almost always as bad as the stinger in.
Dean's hands wrap around Sam's shoulders, push them to sit up, slightly apart. Then he reaches into a back pocket and gets out his army knife- just like Sam's, easy to hide and carry that they never go without- bright red casing, array of blades and utensils folded inside. Dean snares the short, sharp, lesser used blade, pulls until it locks in place.
It doesn't matter that Sam is fourteen, has killed and tended wounds and bled worse than this. He'll be forty and Dean will look at him this way, hold him careful and croon, gentle touch as the hurt is fixed, even if it can't be taken away.
A kiss to his forehead, over each eye, then Dean leans over Sam's foot and works the tip of the knife into the sole-thickened skin.
Sam's head drops back and he straightens his arms, locks his elbows, plants his hands on the grass to either side. His fingers dig into the ground, cool dirt under his fingernails through the thick-weave of thin spindly roots. Blades break and rip as his hands tighten into fists, fill the air with their pungent tang.
One cut, a pinch, knife-edge metallic scrape lifts the stinger gone, and it's over.
Dean rubs over the wound with his thumb, pulls Sam's dirty foot up and kisses the puffiness, smiles at Sam between toes as he licks the tingle-burn.
He nods again and lets his breath go- long steady release- flops onto his back in the grass.
Sam hates getting stung. It hurts like a mother but it shouldn't be any big deal- just a bee, just a wasp, just a hornet, just one little poisonprick- and no matter what it makes his eyes well up and his skin itch-burn and his teeth clench. He doesn't dance around and scream when he sees a bee or anything dumb like that, but he still fucking hates getting stung.
He shivers, cooling night air and breeze over him and his shorts, water-damp clammy against his skin. He hears the knife pop closed, hears the rustle of it shoved into Dean's back pocket.
Dean tickles his foot gently, light with a flick of thumbnail, then Dean's hand curves his heel to his ankle then skims up and up and up. Sam turns as Dean's hand travels, hums and presses himself to the curve of Dean's body now down beside his, scoots back as Dean pulls him in, hand on his chest and he still feels the tingle-warmth of it on his knee, his thigh, his groin, his tummy.
It's quiet now, just Sam and Dean tucked side to side skin to skin, sunset-bright in their faces. Both their cutoffs ride low and the heat of Dean's belly- silky hair into coarser hair, warm flesh rise and fall breath- fit perfect to the dimples of Sam's lower back and the teasing-wink apex of his cleft. The rental house is in some trees on the sparse end of town- the bad end- and they overlook a ravine that spreads into a meadow. Their nearest neighbor is two houses down, abandoned shells and an empty lot in between. In the distance is an old farmhouse, once a majestic presence on a ramble of endless acres that's since been cut through by a four-lane highway whose traffic drone can be heard when the wind blows east.
Sam sighs- happy- relaxes into Dean. He chuffs his sole over Dean's shin, winces at the bristle of hair and the friction of skin. Dean kisses behind his ear, again and again, until the sting and his taut held-wince fade.
They lie in the yard and take in this small measure of the world and it is content, it is enough. There are no monsters and the phone isn't ringing; there are no intrusions and the coming darkness won't take that away.
Their fingers play together, search, tease, along, against. Sam giggles low and squirms, Dean's breath hot tickle in his ear.
He blinks at the sky, blinks and watches the sun melt into the earth.
Sam bites his lip, considers how to explain an idea that can't be contained by words. He draws Dean's hand to his mouth, kisses the wrinkle-bend wrist dark blue with veins. When he talks it's from behind Dean's palm, thumb swipe on his cheek to catch his forgotten tears, fingertip-knead at his temple.
"Do you ever look at the clouds and see them as the sky instead? Like- the sky is the clouds and the clouds are the sky?"
He purses his lips and Dean's fingers smooth back, tangle in his hair and the grass, thumb tease-skid up the bridge of his nose.
That wasn't quite right.
"I mean. You can trick yourself, when it's dark out but the sky is still light. After awhile it all blends together then you can follow the dark patches like they're moving, that the sky is amber, when really it's the clouds that are."
Dean draws him closer, rocks them once, twice, slow. Sam huffs, barely, feels stupid, hasn't explained himself well at all. There's a long silence and something streaks between the trees, a gray blur vee cutout against the brilliant sunset that tilts and curls like a stringless kite. Sam thinks it's the red-tailed hawk that greets them every day before their morning run, silent and stoic in the mouldering corpse of a bracken-covered tree behind the house.
"For a long time after-" Dean's voice is quiet, ragged, not quite raw- "when I looked at the sky that's all I could see."
Sam's heart pauses then pulse-throbs. Dean normally doesn't speak of it- any of it. Sam has no memory of that, no point of comparison. Nothing but idle fancy- nothing but his over-thoughtful wonderings and the ever-need to share them with Dean. He wishes he hadn't asked; he wishes Dean would tell him more.
He's glad Dean knew exactly what he meant.
Neither push, neither offer, so they fall silent, instead. Dean's hand caresses down, down, holds tender-splay against Sam's belly. Sam cranes, nuzzles into Dean's neck, kisses and licks and makes up for what he can. He trails his fingers without aim following musclelines and tendon shifts in Dean's arm. Dean's other arm pillows Sam's head, outstretched, their hands entwined in the white clover-scent yellow snap-sorrel grass.
The beesting no longer burns.
The sun has slipped below the earth and the sky is ablaze with color, pink umber purple orange, and the shadows creep back, an inevitable return. Sam sees the clouds for what they are.
Dean bestows wet warmth to Sam's nape- a feeling he knows by heart- a kiss he cannot see.
( two )
Sam eased the car into the side lane, remembered everything so vividly, like an imprint of a picture he could hold in his hand. The street was even quieter, empty lots having grown into tangles of reedy trees and interlaced grapevine and scrub, and two more houses had fallen into abandoned neglect.
Three, he realized.
The house--memories of the sloping yard and its view of cornfields and seemingly huge rambling space inside--was green now, instead of yellow. Still yellow, really, but mildew and mold had long since overcome its pale shell.
Sam knew the whole house would stink of it, probably run with mice and hopefully no raccoons, told himself not to mind.
He parked at the far end of the house, the hidden end, sat in silence while he let Dean sleep another few. More so he could squirm his hips forward then lean back, cheek pressed into the seat, hands loose on the steering wheel and his knees feeling bent to his ears so he could stare openly and without barbed observation.
It wouldn't be long and Dean would wake, all changes felt and responded to, the car gone still and silent. True to that Dean yawned, clapped a clumsy hand over his eyes and scrubbed, heavily, then blinked at the shelter of once-tamed vine roses and periwinkle Sam had brought them into.
"We're here." Obviously. Sam escaped before it was fully said, door open, up and out awkward as anything. Slammed the door closed and strode into the backyard, braced for disappointment. Ready to quell it as he'd been so forcibly doing, the only thing he'd been able to keep down in so long, but losing the ability to allow it to sustain him.
Disappointment in all the incarnations of his life; with Dean and the utter lack of with Dean; ready for the yard he remembered with clover heads and dandelion puffs and that peering hawk to betray him, same as the rest.
The sun had started its descent, put the world through a hazy filter, mellow and soft and lacking color but infused with too many to name. The yard was still a wide sweep, smaller now that Sam was grown, but the sense of cloistered, explorable space remained. Sorrel continued to thrive, scented the air, pungent and sharp. The woods had grown, nearly obscured the crooked dead tree, and the faraway fields were huddled with greener start soybeans and the farmhouse in the further distance glowed, sent its streamer of a late spring fire into the wind.
Sam tried not to show how relieved it made him. He wanted to buckle under it, knee into the overlong grass and spread his hands in the roots, watch the sunset and somehow have Dean understand. From that. From being here.
"Hey, so." Dean stepped beside him and cast a casual, indiscriminate glance around the deserted remains. "You max out our last empty card on something and not tell me?"
Something like a bender or forgotten weekend or gilded days, by the overdone gleam in Dean's eye.
"It's just-" Sam swallowed it all down again and shook his head. "Never mind."
"No, what?" Dean bumped into him, elbows only, sharp and teasing.
Dean laughed. "Sammy, everything you say is stupid." He grinned, for a moment wide and bright, then their eyes met.
Sam wondered why he'd brought them here, why he even bothered, and Dean picked up on that regret.
Dean took a step, removed, brought a firm, impersonal hand down on Sam's shoulder. "Well. The house isn't gonna bivouac itself."
He nodded and started to turn towards the house, into Dean, but Dean held him in place.
"Nah it's fine, I got it." Dean smiled from that meaningless angle they had both learned too well, all tilts and blinds, stared at a fixed point like he didn't want to see this place.
At least not wanting to see meant it was recognized. Sam let him go.
He waited, held out, for the trunk open then bang closed sounds, until he heard Dean curse and stumble then finally kick into the side door that led into the tidy, square kitchen, overlooked the backyard and the front living room with its picture window. Then he folded--into himself, onto the ground, whatever resolve had allowed him to stand diffident beside Dean's absence.
The dying sun's fade and Sam kept pensive company; it was beautiful and orange watercoloring into blue and by consequence of its nature, mundane. Dean returned just in time for the sun to slip behind the world, disappear, stain of its light remaining pushed towards the stars, against the clouds.
"Guess what?" Dean had a smear of dirt on his thigh and across his brow. Sam wanted to lick it away. He blushed, faintly, as if aware but simply waited for Sam to grunt, then said, "Water's still on. Of course it's cold because there's no power, but, water's good."
The light dimmed, burned darkened down to a thick, reddish amber, and the clouds seemed suddenly light. Sky for clouds, clouds for sky.
"I hadn't thought about it before, really, but I -- I only see fire now, too."
"Sam. Don't." Do this. Talk about it. Go there.
He scoffed and laughed hollowly, pushed on with, "I miss-"
"Of course you do, I mean, I know, okay?" Dean shrugged uncomfortably, weight moved restlessly foot to foot, stood there above Sam. He watched the moon as it rose behind them. "I shouldn't have ever said anything about that, doesn't make any sense anyway. And not like I ever wanted you to understand. Not even after you'd gone."
Sam smiled, too fragile and perversely pleased at Dean's outburst to be sour, reached up and caught Dean's hand. What he missed wasn't anything Dean would allow, easier to deny and bluff and bottle, so much easier pretending Sam meant Jess and school, fate tempted--attempted instead of you, this--what's real. He squeezed, hard enough so it hurt, then let go.
Dean muttered something, but it sounded reassuring and exasperated instead of anything wrong. He chased Sam's retreat, dropped boneless and heavy next to Sam and asked quietly, "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Surer than anything. Sam's smile grew, so wide it stung his cheeks and Dean traced the deep tell of his dimples, first with a needy gaze then tentative fingertips.
"I missed it here, too," Dean whispered, let a thumb drag across Sam's lower lip. "It was good here."
Sam shivered, caught Dean's hand again, manacled fingers at Dean's wrist and leaned in. Expectantly, with invitation, made himself wait despite aching need and the wellspring that provoked and flooded to quench his bitterness, his empty days. Years.
Their eyelashes brushed together and Dean whuffed gently, filled with want. Nothing tentative in the push of his nose through Sam's hair, down Sam's cheek, to the meeting, seeking press of their lips.
The kiss was brief but not fleeting. It warmed Sam to his toes and tingled his scalp, made his hands and heart feel like they knew what to do, again. Neither of them had ever forgotten this, either. Dean hummed, tongued the corner of Sam's mouth, pulled away; Sam had no urge to argue it. Could tell from knowing Dean better than he did himself--insinuation of Dean's body, slow throb of Dean's pulse, hot flush on Dean's skin and Dean's low rumbly laugh teasing his neck--that there'd be more. Later out here, then when they went inside, found the shared bedroll Sam suddenly just knew Dean had prepared for them.
Easily more, falling completely back into each other more, whatever they asked for to share, and answer, more.
Dean nudged and Sam maneuvered, flicked a look towards the sun, gone, and the sky gone black, then the darkened shadow of the house, then back to Dean, steady in the growing moonlight. Dean's embrace enclosed him, whole, and Sam sank into it, threaded his hands with Dean's crossed slung at his hips.
"For the record?"
Sam nodded, breathed out a soft noise of yeah go on.
"This wasn't stupid." Dean grinned, under Sam's ear to nip and tickle-taste and kiss.
Sam tipped further, let Dean all the way in, and Dean tightened them together, followed.