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Corpse reviver

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The mark made Dean feel like an animal prowling around from one source of stimulation to another—eat, sleep, fuck, fight, and sometimes he even managed to get a few of those wrong despite his lifetime of practice on all counts.

Even when he had a handle on the bloodlust, he felt incurably sloppy, always one step away from falling apart. His head wasn’t screwed on right and it wanted to fall off his shoulders and shatter on the ground. His hands didn’t work on anything other than weapons. His attention span was zilch. Everything was hard, every word out of his mouth felt brittle and stilted, and the worst part was that Sam kept seeing all of it. He couldn’t get anything past him and he was too resigned to even pretend that he could.

They were out west on a string of insignificant hunts, anything to keep their minds off Dean’s very visible decline into madness; maybe it wasn’t smart, but he wasn’t about to sit on his hands while his soul ate itself. A haunted mirror in Wyoming, a couple cocky vampires in Idaho and now a good old fashioned poltergeist up in Oregon. Get in, get out. It felt like a simpler time, two brothers who had never died riding in their dad’s old car.

Dean wasn’t crazy about Portland and its orbit of suburbs, they felt too curated, but, when in Rome. After his cold turkey thing failed, his new strategy for coping with the mark was to do things he wouldn’t normally do, as if it were an enemy he could thwart by moving unpredictably. So instead of a highway-side dive bar, he dragged Sam to a dark gastropub in the tourist district that smelled like sandalwood and sold twenty-dollar cocktails, and hoped his hatred of places like that would help him outrun his demons against all logic to the contrary.

“What the hell is this?” Sam said, laughing. He stopped outside and looked up at the bar’s glitzy name above the door. It was pouring rain and his face was wet and shining in the affected, old-timey street lamps.

Dean clapped him on the back and said, “We’re treating ourselves, Sammy. Gonna get rich-guy drunk.”

“We can’t afford this.”

“Money’s only real for other people. C’mon.”

Dean strode in like he owned the place. A bevy of hostesses milled around a podium at the front and one showed them to a spot right in the middle of the bar, a small high table with a flickering candle in the middle.

Dean said, “Ooh, romantic,” and waggled his eyebrows at Sam, but realized too late that the hostess didn’t know he was joking, because she gave him a cripplingly sincere aw-isn’t-that-sweet smile before leaving them with menus.

Sam said, “I will never get tired of ruining your shot with women,” as he settled into one of the seats. “It’s funny every single time.”

He took off his jacket and put it over the back of his chair. Dean huffed.

“It’s fucking Portland. Too progressive for their own good.”

The place was dark and crowded, loud, but not as frou-frou as it looked from the outside. The cocktails all had names and foreign-sounding ingredients. There was a huge broad-leafed plant behind Sam. A woman at the next table over had massive tits in a white tee and Dean’s eyes kept wandering. All in all, it wasn’t so bad.

Their server showed up, a willowy person of indeterminate gender, and brought them water.

“What can I start you off with for drinks?” they asked, and both of them frantically scanned the menus.

Sam said, “I’ll have a, uh, Last Word.”

He smiled and handed the server his menu. Dean was still hunched over his.

“Ooh, Corpse Reviver. Sounds metal.”

“That’s got absinthe in it,” Sam said, admonishing. Dean beamed at the server.

“I’ll grab a Corpse Reviver No. 2.” He slapped his menu down on the table. “And we’ll keep this fella, thanks.”

The server seemed to find him charming, though he wasn’t as good at separating the real from the workplace politeness as he’d been back in the day. They whisked off to the bar, and then Dean was left sitting across from Sam, alone with no escape. He couldn’t remember what they’d been talking about lately—nothing, it felt like, no conversations that weren’t depressing on like five different levels or serious like a heart attack.

He drank his water for something to do with hands. He rolled his shoulder and it cracked, he winced. Even the day they just had was too simple to give them anything to hash out. Sam didn’t even have any bruises he could jab a hand or foot into.

“It feels too easy, sometimes,” he said finally, eyes scanning the room. “A case like this.”

“Well, we’re getting better. We’ve officially been doing this for a long time, you’re almost forty.”

“Shut your mouth,” Dean snapped, and Sam smiled.

“You know what I mean. We’re not green, we could do a routine haunting in our sleep.”

“I guess so.” Dean craned his neck to look for their server. How long did these things take to mix? He felt antsy, too sober. “Doesn’t always feel like we’re getting better. It feels like everything’s just scaling up.”

“You just said this case felt easy.”

“Yeah, well, everything else feels hard.”

The dark cloud that covered them whenever they referenced the mark even tangentially loomed on the horizon. Sam got that stupid look on his face. Neither of them said anything for an excruciating whole minute before Dean was saved by their server reappearing at his elbow and setting their drinks on the table. Thank you, yeah we’re good, no food yet but check back, thanks.

Sam’s drink was greenish, Dean’s was yellowish, both in thick lowball glasses. Dean eyed them skeptically, but he took a sip and it was strong as hell and citrusy. 

“Oh goddamn, that’s good.”

He finished half of it in a single pull. Sam scowled.

“They’re cocktails, idiot, you’re supposed to sip them. You’re gonna get plastered.”

“They’re like juice, Sammy, I ain’t sippin’ shit.”

“They’re pure booze with maybe like, an ounce of juice.”

“Girly drinks get you girly drunk. Bottoms up,” Dean said. Sam rolled his eyes at him. “Your face is gonna get stuck like that.”

Sam ignored him. “They’re also like, ten bucks each.”

“Live a little, you square. It’s on me.”

“We share money.”

“What part of ‘live a little’ was unclear?”

They made it through most of their drinks before Dean got inordinately sad about not being able to talk to his brother sober lately. He reminded himself that a lot of people only saw their siblings at holidays, argued about parenting and politics, lent them money, sent texts. He couldn’t decide whether he was relieved or angry that his relationship with Sam was something else entirely, for better or worse.

Sam tucked his hair behind his ear. “How’re you feeling?”

It was Dean’s turn to roll his eyes. 

“I’ll give you one guess.”

“Don’t be a dick, I’m serious. You…”

He trailed off. There was no end to that, anyways, because Dean what? Dean was acting feral? Dean was a murderous liability? Burning up from the inside out? Not anything you talked about at a fucking gastropub.

So Dean said, “You’ve got no idea what it’s like,” and tried not to sound like an asshole. Sam shrugged.

“I hate to break it to you, but if we’re talking magical addiction issues, I might be the only one who does.”

Dean squinted at him over his drink. Sam held up his hands.

“You can bitch if you want, but it’s true. It’s not not an addiction. You’re, you know, compelled to do something, I guess, that’s an addiction. Have another drink, do another bump, or—”

“Chug blood, you fuckin’ vampire?”

Sam chucked his straw at him. Dean was glad they’d gotten far enough from Sam’s demon blood thing that they could joke about it at least some of the time, as if he’d just dinged the car or something. Dean was confident that given enough space, there was nothing that wouldn’t become water under the bridge between them.

He was pretty sure, anyways. The Gadreel thing was the worst he could remember that was his fault, and that gave him pause; he knew he’d always forgive Sam, but he wasn’t sure on Sam’s end, not anymore. He’d only let up on the silent treatment because Dean had gotten himself in a worse situation than him—which was always how it went, caregiver and caretaker, because they butted heads if they both felt too good or too bad at the same time—but Dean would be stupid to think he’d forgotten. Sam didn’t forget. Wasn’t great with the forgiving, either.

Not that Dean was any better, mind you. Sam wanted him dead. Sam wanted a peaceful life he could only achieve without Dean, his ol’ ball and chain. Dean still thought about it, occasionally. Sometimes. Not often often, just any time he had a moment alone with his thoughts. Any time Sam was out of his sight line for five minutes. It was fine. They were fine.

“I’m just saying,” Sam went on, and for all his lecturing about sipping, he sure wasn’t sipping. “I’m listening, you know? I get it.”

“Thanks, Sammy.”

“Don’t be an asshole.”

“I said thank you, get off my dick.”

“You didn’t mean it.”

“Of course I didn’t mean it, was I supposed to mean it?”

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. “Christ, you need therapy.”

“You’re throwin’ stones in a glass house, there, basket case.” Dean raised his drink. “What I need is another five of these tasty bitches.”

 

 

Dean had another Corpse Reviver and made Sam try one, and after that they worked their way through the cocktail menu with an irresponsible thoroughness. They ordered soggy, overwrought burgers with shitty truffle fries, though neither remembered the food much by that point. They argued about anything they could think of, talked about nothing, laughed a lot. For the first time in what felt like forever, Dean was almost happy, even if it was chemically induced.

He was tripping over his words, bubbling with drunken excitement and adrenaline. “I’m not saying you and me in head to head combat, Sammy, listen to me, I’m saying it’s your clone, exactly like you in every way—what do you pick, knife or baseball bat?”

“Knife!” Sam said, throwing his hands in the air. “Still knife, Dean! With a knife, you get even halfway lucky and it’s like a slice, they’re bleeding, you know how hard you have to try with a baseball bat?”

“You’re a fucking tank!” Dean shouted. He downed the rest of his drink in a single pull, he didn’t remember what it was called, citrus and tequila bursting bright on his tongue. “You, with a baseball bat? You’d smash his dome easy, you can’t do that with a—”

“I’m against me! He’s also a tank! I get knocked out like a bitch, anyways, so why—”

“He’s you! That’s a weak spot! You gotta pick bat!”

“You didn’t even pick bat!”

“I bleed like a stuck pig, that’s why! Grow up!”

“Ah, sirs?”

The server was hovering next to their table. Dean wasn’t sure how long he’d been there, it was a new guy who liked them less than the first server. There was a shift change and the tall one was gone, and before they left they’d settled the bill with a huge tip for putting up with them, then opened a new tab and kept drinking. Dean had no idea what time it was or how much they’d spent, not even close. 

“Hey!” Dean said, like the server was an old friend and not a guy at the end of his shift who was very clearly annoyed with them. “How’s it going?”

“Excellent. We’re closing.”

“Nice,” Dean said automatically. Then, “Oh, you want us to leave. Got it. Sammy, pay the man.” He slapped his hand down on the table and stood. “Lemme take a leak. Then we can header.”

The bathroom smelled like essential oils and was lit with soft orange lighting like a spa. Even the urinal felt fancy. Dean pissed and washed his hands with their expensive bergamot hand soap and, as he was drying them, risked a glance in the round mirror above the sinks.

He looked awful. His skin was translucent and pale with winter, bluish, freckles faint. He had dark smudges under his hollow eyes, half healed wounds up by his hairline, faint bruises at his left temple. Rain had washed the product out of his hair and it was all fluffy. His pupils were huge, he was wasted.

“Shit,” he sighed, to no one, to everyone.

Sam was looking okay. He should know, he’d been looking at him all night. This burden, rough patch, hellhole, whatever, was built mostly for one. He was fine with that, although he wondered how they must look together. The big one, golden and gleaming; the little one, very possibly strung out.

He found his way back into the bar, loud with chatter and music. Sam looked like a giant at their tiny bistro table, leaning back in his chair and looking down at his phone. No wonder their knees had knocked together all night, they crammed as many people as possible into tiny joints like this. Dean came up behind him and clapped a hand down on his shoulder.

“C’mon, baby boy, let’s blow this popsicle stand.”

It was a big shoulder. He remembered when Sam had hollow little bird bones, it felt like, all angles and agony after growing half a foot in a year in his mid-teens. That had been a markedly smaller shoulder, attached to markedly smaller traps. 

Sam laughed and stood on unsteady legs. Dean weaved and suddenly there was an arm across his back and a catcher’s mitt of a hand latched onto his arm.

Sam said, “You haven’t let a ‘baby boy’ slip since high school, Jesus, you’re tanked,” and he was so close Dean could smell his sweet, boozy breath.

“Hey, whatever, maybe staring down the barrel makes me sappy. I think I’ve earned it.”

He reared back and Sam had a look on his face. He didn’t know which look it was. It might have been Aw Christ Dean Are You Fucking Kidding Me, or maybe, if he was lucky, Haha Oh Dean What Am I Gonna Do With You. He’d put money on the former.

“What?” he said. Sam shook his head again.

“Don’t— don’t worry about it, we’re going. I settled up, c’mon.”

They teetered unsteadily out of the bar, Sam giving the hostesses an apologetic wave as they passed. Outside it was freezing still, their breath clouding in the air, but the rain had dropped off. Dean shook Sam off him and shoved his hands in his pockets for warmth. The cutesy cobblestone sidewalk gleamed under his boots as they started down the street.

“Which is worse, ‘little brother’ or ‘baby boy’?”

“Baby boy,” Sam said right away.

“You think? I say little brother, sometimes. It’s better?”

“They’re both godawful, you loser, call me Sam.”

“Little brother’s got ‘little’ in it, though, that’s got connotations.”

“Oh my God, shut up, I’d take Samuel at this point.”

Dean threw his head back and cackled. He patted Sam’s cheek twice with the back of his hand to be patronizing.

“Anything for you, baby boy.”

Sam swatted at him and Dean shot back and they nearly crashed into a newspaper stand.

“We’re stupid,” Sam said, his words coming out mushy. “God, we’re dumb, you make me stupid, this was not smart.”

“This was fun! Live a little, eh, Sammy? You’re all doom and gloom.”

“I’m exactly as much doom and gloom as is required by the doom and gloom we live our entire lives in, thank you very much.” He put his hands in his pockets, hunched. “Also, I call bullshit. You’re the king of doom and gloom, you just, like, act fun.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got a reason. You don’t.”

“I do too.”

“Well, you shouldn’t.”

They were at the Impala; parking was long expired, but there was no ticket tucked under the wipers. Dean fumbled for his keys and Sam grabbed the back of his jacket like a mother cat picking up her baby by the scruff of its neck.

“I know you live to drink and drive, but this is too much even for you. We’re walking.”

“I’m good to drive!”

“Walk in a straight line.”

“No. I don’t wanna.”

“You can’t.”

“I can, I just don’t wanna.”

“Do it and I’ll let you drive. Toe to heel, two yards. One yard. Do it.”

Dean took a deep breath and stopped. He put his arms out to his sides like a tightrope walker. One step, two— he staggered. Sam caught his arm. The streetlights were too bright and sent him reeling, that wasn’t his fault.

“Gimme one more shot.”

“Keys. Now.”

Sam had to wrestle his hand into his pocket to get his keys, and Dean let them go willingly, but only because he wanted to walk. It wasn’t that cold, and not that far. He gave a final glance back at his baby, then hurried to keep up with Sam as he weaved back to their motel. Sam would know where it was. Dean only had a sense of direction behind the wheel; as a pedestrian, everything looked different. Sam would get him home.

“Shoulda picked up some girls,” Dean said idly. “There were those two at the bar, in the back, they were looking at you.”

“They were looking at you.”

“So you noticed.”

“They were looking when you were screaming about knife versus bat, I mean.”

Dean punched him in the arm. He chuckled. They went quiet for several blocks but Dean’s brain was rabbit-holing at the thought of sex; that was something the mark seemed to do, make all of his many vices seem urgent and unavoidable. Suddenly it seemed like a huge mistake that he wasn’t going to get laid. It wasn’t so late, he could still go somewhere, maybe a strip club, see if any of the GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! would go back to the motel with him after their shift. Or he could go back and chat up the hostesses at that bar, that would work. Maybe he’d get someone for Sam, too. Like in Fargo.

“What time is it?” he asked Sam.

“Time for you to get a watch.”

Dean slugged him again. He lurched sideways but didn’t fall. Dean obediently checked his watch—nearly two in the morning.

“How late is shit open in Oregon,” he asked, “is it one of those puritanical ‘stuff closes at eight’ states? I never know.”

“Don’t even think about it, asshat. You can hardly walk.”

“Grab some gas station beers on the way back?”

“You’ve had enough. You’re gonna be in hell tomorrow.”

“I’m in hell every day, I might as well earn it.”

Another look, but they were between streetlights and it was too dark to make it out. He could practically feel Sam’s looks prickling at his skin those days, his helpless eyes and overwhelming pity smothering him practically unconscious. Where was this when Dean was in purgatory? Why did Sam care now?

Sam, bless him, found their motel, one of those two-level ones, and climbing the stairs was grueling. Inside, they kicked off their boots in unintentional unison. Sam stumbled into the bathroom and shut the door behind him and Dean fell onto his bed and struggled out of his jeans, his jacket and flannel and socks all in a pile on the floor. He listened for Sam throwing up, but didn’t hear anything telling.

He flicked on the TV and channel surfed. News, news, Friends rerun, commercial, oh, Hellraiser. He flopped back on the bed and watched it sideways, grainy on the old screen. It was near the end. He had to close one eye to stop his double-vision. In the bathroom, the faucet sputtered and Sam cursed under his breath.

Sam came out while the daughter was solving the puzzle box, his face wet and pink, wearing just boxers and a t-shirt. The rest of his clothes were in a pile on the bathroom floor that matched Dean’s at the foot of his bed. 

Dean laughed. “Your legs are freakishly skinny. You look like a Dorito on stilts.”

“I hate you.”

“Skippin’ leg day, Sammy.”

“I run, I dunno, they just get skinny. Yours aren’t better.”

Dean flexed his quads as if to prove a point. Sam sneered at him. He thought he had pretty nice quads, good thighs. Girls seemed to like them, always grabbed at them when they could. He liked that.

Sam grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. Dean tried to snatch it back.

“Sleep,” Sam ordered, brandishing the remote. “It’s two in the morning, you need it.”

“Alright, dad.”

“Oh, go fuck yourself, you’ll thank me tomorrow.”

“Just for that, I won’t.”

“Drink some goddamn water.”

Dean did not drink any goddamn water. Lights off, lines salted, only the sound of his pounding head and the humming radiator were left in the room. Sam was in the bed farthest from the door, although privately, if Dean had to bet on who was more fit to fight at that exact moment, it’d be Sam.

Twenty minutes and he couldn’t sleep. There were two sweet spots of sleeping while drunk: one was after a couple drinks, just buzzed enough to drift off extra easy, and the other was being so blasted you couldn’t speak, couldn’t stand, and tipped off into the ether. Dean was in the horrible dry land between those two oases, where he was dizzy and sick and couldn’t get comfortable, his bed was too hot, his feet were too cold, he thought he might throw up but he wasn’t serious enough about it to get up, he had to pee but wasn’t sure he had to pee, he couldn’t stop thinking about his own death, he was in a hell of his own making.

Sam was quiet, asleep already, the fucker. Sam could practically sleep standing upright like a horse and Dean had always resented him for it, and would never stop. Dean, plagued by nightmares at the best of times and worse in the last year, only knew of one way to fall asleep and stay asleep. It wasn’t great, but it was surefire.

He cupped his dick through his boxers, soft and thick and reassuring.

It wouldn’t be the first time he jacked off with an unconscious audience, or the thousandth. You made do with life on the road. You didn’t talk about it. If you woke up for a second and heard it, you rolled over. Sam had always been quiet like the dead, the weirdo, he’d learned better than Dean. Dean could never stay still.

He lay flat on his back and slid both hands into his boxers, one around his dick, the other cradling his balls, rolling gently. He shuddered a sigh before remembering, quiet, Sam, sleeping, shh. It was a hell of a lot easier than when they were kids and had to share a bed, he didn’t have to worry about knocking elbows, that was a small victory. In a few strokes he was gloriously hard and finally halfway comfortable.

He imagined someone else’s hand on him, softer and smaller, maybe with nice painted nails. A heavy pair of tits hanging over him as she worked him in her fist, close enough to reach out and palm. He’d slip a hand between her legs to get his fingers inside her while she jerked him off, like a challenge, who could make the other come first. He rarely lost. Unless she spat on his dick, that always got him going, he loved the sound of it. Handjobs made him feel like a teenager, a virgin, back when that was the furthest anyone would go. Simpler times.

Sam hissed, “Goddamn it, Dean.”

His hand went still. So much for rolling over and ignoring it. Sam wasn’t observing the protocol.

“Sorry,” Dean whispered, swallowing, throat dry, tongue gummy, “sorry. Couldn’t sleep.”

“Do it in the bathroom then, you freak.”

“I’m—”

“Are you seriously arguing about this?”

He couldn’t keep his hand from moving. More slow pulls, base to tip. His toes curled. He kept his breathing steady. His eyes shut against the spins, listening with hyper-awareness to the other bed. 

Sam didn’t say anything else, but he must have heard him keep going, the sound of the sheets. Dean’s head was pounding with an apocalyptic headache like his brain was hot and swollen, his joints ached, his mouth tasted like shit, he was hardly human, the only good thing in his existence was his hand on his dick and—

He said, “Do it, if you can’t sleep,” to Sam, somewhere over there in the dark, not thinking about it, just giving advice. 

Silence for a long time. Dean lazily touching himself under the covers.

Sam’s feet shifted against the sheets.

“I’m too drunk to sleep,” he whispered back, bitter.

“It helps.”

The words fell out of Dean’s mouth before he could stop them. He’d been there enough to give advice about it. He was helping him. He was being helpful. His heart was beating so hard, sludgy with liqueurs and absinthe, that he could hear the pound of it in his eardrums.

No reply, but he heard Sam move again. Bed springs creaked.

Then, very quietly, half-slurred, Sam said, “Fuck you,” without much heat.

Dean closed his eyes. ‘Fuck you’ sounded like defeat in his books, so he started jerking off again, slow enough to not make a sound, tight enough that it was good anyways. He let his knees fall wider. Trying to keep quiet was a sick thrill that he didn’t examine too closely because there was only one person he ever had to keep quiet for. He thought about that faceless woman again, spit on his dick. Another minute and he was getting there, each stroke lurching him towards one pulsing moment of bliss in his hellish drunken nightscape, and the promise of sleep after it.

An indistinct sound from the other bed. His eyes flew open.

Sam’s ‘fuck you’ had been a defeat, but not the way Dean thought.

He turned his head and could just make Sam out in the slice of light leaking into the room from between the curtains. He had a knee drawn up so the drape of the comforter hid the movement of his hand, but Dean could see his shoulders tight with strain, eyes screwed shut and mouth pressed thin in an ugly kind of frown. 

Dean’s first thought, jarringly simple: Oh no.

His second thought, much less so: Oh NO.

The mark ached, it always ached but it really ached then, it seemed to act up when he held down his impulses and also when he gave into them. He had no idea which one he was doing now.

He didn’t register that he was still touching himself for a few long moments, way too long to be watching Sam and the way his forearm moved under the blanket, the taut muscles in his neck. When he realized what he was doing, he still didn’t stop. Closed his eyes. Opened them. Jacked off and watched Sam’s bent knee twitch, dip, spread. Sam dug his head into the pillow and pressed his shoulders down.

Dean imagined a girl riding Sam while he pressed himself to the bed like that, his hands on her ass bouncing her up and down. Someone small who would make him look obscenely huge, it wouldn’t be hard, some five-foot chick he could pick up in one arm. She’d bury her hands in her hair and arch her back, dark hair, Sam liked brunettes now. Sam’s thumb on her wet clit as she rode him.

“Lemme see,” Dean panted. 

He didn’t have a single thought in his head when he said it, pure id. No ramifications or brothers, guiltless and free.

“Sammy,” he said again, “lemme see you.”

Sam groaned like he was annoyed and furiously kicked the comforter down like a kid throwing a tantrum, and then, Jesus, Dean could see him, every fucking inch of him, his boxers shoved down around his thighs and his hand around his cock, hard and blood-dark and shining with spit or precome and fucking up into his fist with intent, his hips lifting off the bed just a bit as he clenched his ass into each thrust, and he turned his face away from Dean into the shadow on the other side, his whole body twisting and seizing up and then he was coming with nothing more than a laboured grunt. His come seemed bright in the dim room, flashes of white in all the black spurting onto the front of his shirt and God, there was a lot of it, still pouring out over the backs of his knuckles, did he not do this much, the repressed little freak? There was always time to jack off; showers, bed, stolen moments in the yawning space of the bunker, he could if he wanted, Dean found time like it was his fucking job, his browser history was a petri dish of human filth. No wonder Sam was always so cranky.

Dean came watching him come, all that tension finally letting go.

Sam flattened himself against the bed when he was done, even his wet palm pressing down into the sheets, like he was trying to hide from some enemy. His breath was loud in the quiet room.

 

 

Dean didn’t remember passing out, only waking up. Limp dick still hanging out under the sheets, mouth pure sewage, eyes crusty and raw fear rocketing through his brain.

A dream, he thought, instantly. Wet dream. A seventh-circle-of-hell wet dream. 

He cracked an eye open. The gray winter sun was offensively bright and the room was quiet and empty, Sam-free, the bathroom door open and dark inside. He glanced over at Sam’s bed. It was made with military precision. The corners were tucked like he’d never been there.

Dean squeezed his eyes shut again, like he could will his hangover away.

Not a dream.

All his life, he’d been absurdly lucky that drinking too much rarely held real consequences for him; his hangovers were manageable, he rarely puked, rarely blacked out, generally kept his shit together no matter how far he pushed it, nothing worse than some vague embarrassment the next day. But he knew it would catch up with him someday and he would do something deplorable while drunk that he couldn’t shrug off.

At worst, he imagined being cruel or callous to some woman he didn’t know. Kicking her out of bed, being annoyed and hateful. Maybe he could see saying something hurtful to Sam during a fight, letting loose some half-cocked insult that dredged up an old feud and cut deeper than he meant.

This hadn’t been anywhere near the realm of possibility.

He pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes hard and left them there for a long time. Unsure of how long. Sam didn’t come back. He peeled himself out of bed, his sheets faintly damp and cold with sweat, and practically crawled into the shower. Fucking girly drinks, the sugar, the crazy liquors. He wanted to yank out his brain and wash it in the sink.

The water in the shower was like needles on his shoulders. He put his forehead against the mildewy tile and shut his eyes. 

He couldn’t decide if he was over or under reacting. How bad was it to jerk off together, on a scale of one to ten? How bad was it to watch? It felt pretty fucking bad, but he didn’t know anyone else who had a brother, and no one in the world had whatever else his insane relationship with Sam had become; they were each other’s brother, father, best friend, partner, trading roles like musical chairs to fit the situation. There was no reliable yardstick for any of that.

Luckily, Sam would let him know exactly how badly he’d fucked up. Sam was good like that. 

He lathered up, washed the dried come off his dick and balls and slid a little further into self-loathing. The shower didn’t run hot for long enough, they never did, and eventually he was out of things to do and had to slink out of the bathroom, get dressed and face the consequences of his actions.

He dug through his duffel for aspirin, took four and drank a whole bottle of mini-fridge water. Sam still wasn’t back from wherever he was. Dean spotted his car keys on the table, which sent his panic down a notch.

He could imagine easy enough how Sam was going to be. Eye contact would be a pipe dream for a few days, and if he brought him coffee, it would be sickly sweet and cold. Stereo stuck on volume two, short answers, zero fun. Little things, death by a thousand cuts, because Sam fought like a girl. John used to mention it when they were kids, he said to Dean once: you can knock a guy around ‘til the cows come home, but Sam’ll make him wish he was never born in the first place.

He screwed his eyes shut at the thought of their father. Not the time. Even after so many years he could hear his voice in his head on command in response to any situation, oh, Jesus, Dean, what the ever-loving FUCK have you done to your brother now.

He looked over at Sam’s suspiciously neat bed and could almost see him lying in it, the gray-black shapes he’d been in the dark. Grimacing like he hated it but coming like a fucking train.

“Wait,” he said, out loud. Sam’s backpack was gone.

He was on his feet, shouldering his duffel and out the door. It was cold and spitting rain, gray on gray and God, right, the car was back at the bar. Sam couldn’t get very far without that, except Sam had gotten far without it, several times, happy to bus or hitch or hotwire as long as it got him away from Dean.

“Hey!”

He whirled around, and instantly, his heart sank. What he found wasn’t a sly, guilty, kicked-dog Sam, but it wasn’t an openly furious Sam, either. It was a Stepford Sam with his backpack on one shoulder and a thousand-watt smile, holding two giant cups of coffee.

Dean never knew how to handle this Sam. He was worse than the other two, and much rarer.

Sam hadn’t showered or shaved and his hair was limp and greasy. His skin was all gray and red, he looked about as hung over as Dean felt—but that fucking smile. A wax figure smile, a busboy smile. Dean wanted to beat the shit out of him.

“Here,” Sam said, pushing one of the coffees into his hand. “You look like shit.”

Dean took it, squinting. Sam was wearing a different shirt from yesterday, obviously he was, but all Dean could think about was how yesterday’s shirt was covered in a truckload of jizz and Dean knew that, he’d seen that, and Sam was handing him coffee and playfully ribbing him like he didn’t know. He was leaving Dean alone with his hideous knowledge, like it hadn’t taken two.

He took a sip of the coffee. Hot. Black. He got a horror movie don’t go in there! feeling in his gut.

“Thanks,” he said back, absolutely hollow. If that was how Sam wanted to play it, fine. It’s not like Dean planned on talking about it either.

 

 

In general, the mark did demony things, inched Dean towards demonhood. It felt demony to make your brother jerk off in front of you, but maybe even that was a stretch. It wasn’t something he’d ask Crowley. 

It was easy and not totally inaccurate to blame all this on the mark, because it made everything run hot. His skin felt thin and stretched and he found himself mad about past grudges like they were yesterday. When Sam was twelve, he wore Dean’s favourite shirt without asking, a vintage Dark Side of the Moon tour t-shirt he found on pure luck at a thrift store, and he tore a giant hole in the back horsing around with his stupid friends from school. He didn’t even apologize, just said it’s only STUFF why do you even care like he did any time Dean suggested they set even the most minor of boundaries between them back then, tried to convince a preteen to care about mutual respect like beating his head against a wall.

And now, decades later, Dean was mad about it again, bitter and pissy over how quickly Sam’s big-brother hero worship had worn off and never come back.

Dean’s problem was that every bad thing about him was sitting right under the surface now, hauled up from the depths of his being where they’d been painstakingly put away. The Pink Floyd shirt. The girl he’d actually liked in North Carolina when he was sixteen that Sam had embarrassed him in front of because he was mad that he was always spending time with her. Ruby. Ruby. Sam and that Amelia lady whose dog he ran over or whatever the hell that was. Sam treating him like he was an unforgivable freak for, sue him, not wanting his only brother dead. Sam with his stupid dick in his hand. They were all the same thing and Dean was furious.

The drive back east was so cartoonishly awful it would have been funny if he had any capacity to appreciate it. Sam threw up into an empty chip bag. Dean took so many painkillers he missed an exit and had to double back. Sam talked non-stop about nothingness so banal and excruciating that Dean had to yell at him twice; recounting old movie plots, telling stories about guys from college that Dean didn’t know, explaining the impacts of gerrymandering. His sunny avoidance was infuriating and Dean was ready to knock his teeth out by the time they stopped for the night at a motel just over the Wyoming border.

Dean checked them in, then went back to where Sam was standing over the trunk, pulled out his duffle and shoved it against Sam’s chest along with the room key.

“I’m gonna get us some hair of the dog and I don’t wanna hear a fucking word outta you when I get back, capisce?”

Sam got all deer in the headlights, which only made Dean want to hit him more.

“Sure. Yeah.” He took Dean’s duffle. “Sure.”

 

Dean walked to a corner store down the block. Trudged, really. It was fucking cold and he was still tired and sick, he thought the shitty burger he’d had at lunch would make him feel better but he only felt worse, the pills helped his headache but made his stomach hurt.

The corner store was hot and muggy and smelled like old wine. He grabbed a six pack without looking, and a pack of Twizzlers, and stormed up to the counter. The acne-scarred cashier gave him a double take as he scanned his stuff.

“Rough night, man?”

The register beeped and showed the total. Dean fished a few bills out of his wallet and, for no other reason than because he could, he told the cashier, “My brother jacked off in front of me.”

He handed the guy his cash. The guy looked horrified, and hesitated a moment before accepting the money. He very intentionally did not touch Dean’s hand.

“That’s… gross,” he said.

Dean scooped the six pack under his arm and stuffed the Twizzlers into his pocket.

“You’d think so, right? Keep the change.”

 

Back in the room, Sam was lying on his back on the left-hand bed with his boots still on, jacket half off and twisted around one arm only. His other arm was folded over his face. Dean kicked the door shut behind him and the bang made Sam jump a foot in the air.

Dean put the beers down, twisted the cap off one and handed it to Sam, who took it somewhat reluctantly.

“Drink exactly three of those, and if you throw up again, I’m getting my own room.”

Sam hauled himself to seating, swinging his feet over the side of the bed. “Oh, fuck off, I know you threw up in that gas station bathroom, your breath could strip paint.”

“Least I made it to the bathroom, bitch.”

Sam drank half his beer, idly inspecting the label. Dean shucked his jacket and sat at the room’s small dining table, chewing on a Twizzler and looking at his phone. The silence was nice. The beer was alright. After the first one he already felt better, a bit of the poison reintroduced to his system. 

Sam said, “It’s so insane that people think the Supreme Court is actually non-partisan.”

“Sam!” Dean barked.

Sam flopped onto his back and groaned. “Sorry, sorry. I don’t even hear myself doing it.” 

“Well, stop it, fuck. Shut up and put the TV on.”

Sam put his hands over his face. He left them there for a long time, immobile on the bed, not touching his beer as it sweated into a puddle on the nightstand. He didn’t turn the TV on. Dean watched him carefully—he’d seen Sam in agony more times than he’d like to count, he knew the way he held tension in his body, and it was there now. He’d been manic and babbly all day and now he was crashing.

From behind his hands, Sam said, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Dean sat up straight and took the Twizzler out of his mouth.

So, they were talking about it. He could do that. That would be well-adjusted of them to talk it through, apologize and air it out. His palms weren’t sweating, it was just condensation from the beer bottle. He set it down. He rubbed his clammy hand over his face.

“Uh. How many bougie cocktails and demon curses does it take to whack off in front of your brother?”

Sam was quiet for a second. Then, muffled from behind his hands: “If you’re looking for a punchline, I don’t have one.”

“You see me laughing?”

Sam sat up suddenly in a sharp pike, his legs flying. His face was blotchy and livid.

“Is this a joke to you? Now you wanna talk?”

“Hey, I don’t—”

“We never talk about your fuck-ups, right, just mine?”

“Who’s saying this isn’t mine? This one’s a joint effort.”

“You’re not the one who—”

“I asked.” Dean swallowed but his throat was still dry. “I started it and you know it.”

There was a horrible, gnawing silence. Sam was blushing, for Christ’s sake, what was he supposed to do with that? Was he blushing? He’d slit his own throat if he was blushing. It was insane to think that after everything he’d done, everything he’d become, he was still capable of doing something so stupid.

It was one of those things that was hard to talk your way out of, asking to watch someone masturbate. There wasn’t a lot of plausible deniability, since there was only one real reason a person might ask that—there was no half-baked lie about doing research or rehearsing for a play. He didn’t know if Sam had seen or heard him come, only seconds after him, but he had to assume he did. Not a lot of ways to talk yourself out or that, either.

“This is pretty bad,” Dean said finally, looking down at his hands. It was bad, as opposed to a lifetime of smaller, similar things that, unlike this, never added up to anything. Two brothers who were always a little too close for a little too long. That wasn’t great, but this was bad. 

Sam was sitting on his bed just staring at him, looking like every passing second was yanking out his teeth. He was stuck and Dean had to keep going, had to fix it for the both of them, had no idea where to start.

Sam beat him to it.

“Things were messed up between us way before this. It’s not even about this.”

Dean balked. If it wasn’t about jerking off together, what was it about? What could be worse than that, wasn’t that the thing they had to talk about? Dean’s thing? Sam’s response to Dean’s thing?

“What are you talking about?”

Sam shook his head. He shrugged his jacket on properly, busied himself with fiddling with the cuffs.

“I don’t know what we are anymore, Dean. It’s sure as hell not brothers. That’s too easy.”

It stung every time Sam said it, although he had more of a leg to stand on with this horrible new un-brotherly thing surfacing between them.

“I don’t know how to handle you anymore,” Sam went on, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to treat you. I already didn’t, not lately, and now there’s this and—fuck, man, I don’t get it. It’s too much. I’m always on my back foot and I’m fucking drowning.”

Dean got it, then. It was about everything. They were in a motel room in western Wyoming, so hung over they were sweating with the exertion of remaining upright, and Sam wanted to talk about everything.

“I don’t know how to handle you,” Dean said. That familiar anger crept up his throat like a flush, numb heat and razorblades. “You wanted me dead, you think I’m just gonna forget that? Or you wanted you dead, or both of us, whatever, you just— I know you wanted anything but this. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?”

“I never wanted you dead!”

“You didn’t even look for me, Sam, Jesus!”

“That’s not fair!”

“Yeah, no shit! And then, what, with Metatron, you didn’t want me to die all of a sudden? And now, you don’t?”

“I don’t want you to become a fucking demon!”

“Only because that won’t kill me. Not because it will.”

Sam’s stuttering silence was crushing. It felt like the floor was tilting up and back. This whole thing was quickly getting away from him. He couldn’t stop talking.

“Don’t make me do this, Sam. I don’t wanna spend the last few months before you put me down like a dog arguing with you about who wants who dead, I want— I want it like how it used to be, is that so goddamn much to ask?”

“Yes!” Sam shouted. He’d gotten mad in the middle of that and he was madder now, up off the bed now and rounding on him. “Yeah, it is, Dean! That’s not real anymore, and if you think taking on these stupid little hunts is gonna send us back in time to— God, I don’t even know which part you liked, you wanna explain that to me? Tell me when! When I’d just killed my girlfriend? When I found out my whole life was this—this demon-orchestrated lie, or when I made myself sick worrying about you going to hell? When all our fucking friends died? What part of that do you wanna get back to so bad?”

“When we were kids!” Dean yelled, before he knew he was saying it. The look on Sam’s face was even worse than he thought. He couldn’t stop. “However far back we’ve gotta go to make you actually like being around me, because this mopey nanny shit isn’t working.”

“Dean…”

Sam wasn’t even mad, he was sad, and that was so much worse. Dean couldn’t stop talking, an unstoppable train of fucking up. He was standing now because Sam was standing and he hated letting him loom.

“I want you to stop looking at me like I’m a mess you’ve gotta clean up. I want you to talk to me like I’m not made of fucking knives. I want you to figure your shit out and not— not— God, Sammy, last night—”

“Don’t.”

Sam was starting to look panicked now that it was here, the thing, what they’d done being given actual shape and space and words on top of how fucked up everything already was.

Dean said, “You know what I mean. I’m not gonna sit around and wait for you to figure out if you want me.”

He heard himself say it. He saw Sam hear it. It was the longest second of his life.

“Want me around,” he said, and the correction sounded pathetic even to him. 

The mark was burning. His mind played a glorious fantasy of blood and guts where he charged over there and tore Sam’s sad little face off, ripped out his throat and gnawed on his trachea like a chew toy so he’d never be able to look at him like that again—like a side project, a bad phone call, a tear-down, Old fucking Yeller.

He shoved his thumb against the mark, which hurt enough, when it was like this, to distract him. He’d never hurt Sam. He wanted the opposite of hurting Sam so badly that it was maybe worse than hurting him. His impulses were tangled up like the wires diffusing a bomb; yellow wire, red wire, blue wire, kill your brother, kiss your brother, save him, maim him, fuck him, fist him. Snip.

Sam hadn’t moved, a few paces away.

“What are you doing?” he asked, so quiet.

Dean shook his head. What was left after that? What did he have to lose? His only move was to tear the whole thing to the ground and pave the way for Sam to finally leave.

He said, “I stopped you from boarding up hell because I don’t know how to live without you.”

Sam’s eyes got big. They’d only talked around it, and that let Dean cling to his half-baked excuses until now. He made himself keep talking, all the anger and bravado from earlier gone, so gone he had to clutch his own arm and thigh to stop his hands from shaking.

“Millions of lives lost to demon joyrides, ‘cause you were the last thing I thought about every night.”

It felt like getting disemboweled. He was desperately holding his slippery guts in with his hands and it was futile, everything inside him just spilling out onto the ground for everyone to see.

Nothing from Sam, just frozen horror. He went on.

“You were right to be pissed, you can’t trust me—most selfish thing I ever did, keeping you alive. It was downright impressive, the mental backflips on that one.” He took a step closer to see if Sam would take a step back. He didn’t. Only a couple feet apart. “Trading one guy for the whole goddamn world, Sammy. That feel fair to you?”

“No,” Sam said, instantly. Very nearly a whisper. He hadn’t backed up and hadn’t moved closer, white as a sheet like he was the one dying, the selfish bitch. “Stop it. This is the mark. It isn’t you.”

Dean grinned, or he thought he did. He had the feeling it came out toothier than it was supposed to.

“All of it’s me, now. There’s nothin’ else left.” He reached out, grabbed the front of Sam’s shirt and twisted hard. “What are you gonna do about it, baby boy?”

There was a split second where Sam twitched and he thought he was going to hit him, or something else. But he just smacked his hand off him and bolted, didn’t stop, didn’t look back.

Dean watched him go, pounding with adrenaline. He stared at the door as its slam echoed around in his head and he spat, to himself, to no one, “That’s what I thought.”

 

 

Dean followed him in secret, obviously. That wasn’t even a question.

Sam found the one bar in that ugly nowhere highway town, taking a page out of Dean’s book. Dean saw him go in, then loitered around outside for a while, waiting for him to get settled and be less likely to see him creep in after him.

He didn’t know what he was looking for. It was a self-destructive kind of thing, he wanted to see Sam be angry. He’d been so careful around him lately, walking on eggshells in case Dean decided to turn on him next, and he just wanted to see him existing somewhere while pissed off and fuming. Maybe he’d start a bar fight. Maybe they’d make up and split a pitcher. He didn’t know and didn’t care, he’d take what he could get.

He eventually ducked inside. The bar was a dive that tried to attract college kids by re-upholstering some bar stools and playing indie folk, gaudy and unremarkable. It was nearly empty, although Dean had no idea what day it was, maybe that made sense. Sam had a habit of standing out, or maybe Dean was just incapable of not Where’s Waldo-ing him in every room. He was up by the bar with a beer at his elbow, and already, he wasn’t alone.

He was standing with some little blond guy, five-nine at most, twenty-something, early twenties. Sam couldn’t have found someone that would piss Dean off more if he’d tried, and maybe he had been trying.

Sam was stooped down towards the guy like he did when he talked to women, curled towards them in a way that made everything feel intimate but was mostly so he could hear them from so high up. He was smiling this brilliant fucking smile like he didn’t look tired and greasy, and the kid didn’t even care, he was laughing, as if Sam was ever funny. Dean’s blood was pounding and he stood there watching them, waiting for something to confirm the sinking feeling in his gut, something undeniable—

The guy put his hand on Sam’s arm. Sam leaned into it. Dean was capable of murder.

He started towards them, not thinking, just a force of nature.

Sam caught the movement and their eyes met from across the bar. It was like a bad movie. The guy saw Sam’s distraction and turned, and then they were both staring at Dean in horror as he stopped in front of them.

He was so small, Dean could crush him like a bug. Sam could crush him like a bug. Intrusive thoughts crashed in, a melange of sex and violence; this guy on his knees with Sam fucking him from behind, tying him up, feeling his nose break under his knuckles, watching him ride Sam and come all over his chest.

Dean heard his own voice. It sounded like he was underwater, everything did.

“Hiya, Sammy. Introduce me to your friend.”

Maybe it was the ‘Sammy’ or the way Dean radiated threat, but the guy got it instantly. He took a giant step away from Sam.

“Oh, God, sorry, are you—”

Sam said “No” at the same time Dean said “Yes” and Sam looked at him so completely offended, exactly the same look he gave Dean when they were kids, this is my EMBARRASSING big brother Dean, don’t listen to him. An ancient emotion in an extremely new context. 

The guy went, “Uh.”

Dean said, “It’s complicated,” and grabbed Sam by the arm, hard. “He’s busy.”

He dragged him towards the washrooms at the back of the bar, ignoring his babbled protests. He slammed the men’s room door shut and flipped the deadbolt behind them, and Sam was desperately backing up but it was a small bathroom and there was nowhere to go. Dean grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him around, shoved him up against the sinks.

“We were just talking,” Sam said first, so fast he stumbled over it. He had his hands up in surrender. 

“How’d you find him, in a town like this?” Dean hissed. “You sending out some kind of beacon I can’t see?”

“I don’t know. I don’t— Come on—”

“You weren’t talking. You weren’t gonna take him out back and talk to him.”

Logically, he knew that none of this was anywhere near any of his business, but it didn’t matter, not then. He felt possessed. 

“I wasn’t—”

“No, tell me. You were, what, curious? Horny?”

“I don’t—”

“Pissed at me?”

Sam froze. It was telling.

Dean felt unhinged—out of control, vomiting, everything coming up. It was a slow-motion plane crash thirty years in the making, his hands in the front of his little brother’s shirt with violence thrumming through every inch of him.

“You look me in the eye and tell me this has nothing to do with me.”

He hardly recognized his own voice, rough and low, animal.

Sam was almost pleading. “Dean.

“Tell me,” Dean said again. He shook his fists, thumped them against Sam’s chest. “Tell me you wouldn’t have thought about me while he sucked you off.”

He might as well have stabbed him in the gut, the way he was looking at him. He thought, you don’t have to do this, back out, back up, stop, but then Sam’s gaze dropped to his mouth and he was gone. 

His mouth was open against Sam’s throat. He didn’t remember putting it there. He felt Sam’s pulse race under his tongue and beat against his chest, the taste of his skin, oily vinegary hangover sweat, felt him shudder and go still. He grabbed his arms. Sam didn’t shove him off, didn’t touch him at all, just clenched his hands around the edge of the counter behind him.

Dean slid his mouth down the side of his neck so slow, through the rasp of stubble. He scraped his teeth against his soft skin. He smelled so overwhelmingly like Sam, he didn’t even know there was a Sam smell.

“Is this what you want?” he asked, and felt Sam’s sharp breath. He nosed into the collar of his shirt and sucked the pit of his throat until he left a misshapen red mark, then bit at it, licked it.

Sam’s breathing was uneven. Otherwise, nothing, no answer. The mark prickled like a fresh sunburn on Dean’s arm and the rest of him was numb, hot and ragged and unthinking.

He slid his hands down Sam’s chest, still close enough that they couldn’t look each other in the eye. His body was so hard, he took care of it in a way Dean could never be bothered to, so effortlessly broad in a way Dean had to work for.

“I can go get that guy for you,” Dean mumbled. “Trade places. Get him in here, and I’ll go home. Is that what you want?”

Sam still didn’t say anything, which felt more no than yes. Dean might have gotten an answer from his face, but couldn’t imagine looking at him. He watched his own hands instead, moving down Sam’s stomach towards his belt; his muscles jumped nervously under his fingers. His head was tipped back just enough that he didn’t have to look at Dean, eyes up where the walls met the ceiling.

Dean risked a glance up. So close, with the angle of Sam’s head, he couldn’t really see his face. He nipped his chin.

“What do you want, Sammy?” Dean whispered, his teeth still against his cleft chin. “Do you even know?”

He saw his eyes close. He worked his belt free, his hands shaking and fumbling, and Sam made a tiny, anguished noise.

“That’s what I thought,” Dean said, and kissed his chin more to be a jerk than anything.

He didn’t feel like himself, he couldn’t think, could hardly move. He put his forehead against the front of Sam’s shoulder and got his jeans open. He was watching, but it felt like someone else’s hands, someone else’s hard dick under his palm, hot and velvety soft. He’d never, before. He wasn’t sure if Sam had.

The tile was hard under his knees. He felt old. He felt belated sympathy for all the women who kneeled for him on hard floors or asphalt. Spit flooded his mouth. 

Someone rattled at the locked door.

Dean turned his head and shouted, “Busy!” like a boom of thunder.

Sam flinched. The rattling stopped. Dean put his mouth on him.

He closed his lips around the head of his cock, felt a gush of precome against his tongue that felt absolutely obscene and way too soon, and Sam’s hand clapped down on his shoulder. He expected to get shoved away—finally too far, his unwanted victory in their perpetual game of chicken—but Sam just squeezed him so hard he felt his bones grind and, after a second, pulled him nearly imperceptibly forwards.

He swallowed him down, fist covering what his mouth couldn’t; he’d been on the receiving end enough times to do okay, sucking slow and wet and hard. Sam’s hand curled around the back of his neck and that was almost too much. He wondered if he was watching him but nothing could make him look up to find out. He wondered how long it had been since someone blew him.

Sam was quiet, only his breath coming fast and shaky. He slid his hand around to Dean’s cheek, pressed his fingers in and felt the flex of his jaw, the way his head bobbed and the shape of himself in his mouth. He gasped. His other hand dug into Dean’s jacket tight like a death grip. Dean took him all the way to the back of his throat, breathed through the gag reflex and was horrified—in a distant, objective kind of way, like it was happening to someone else—to find that he liked it, liked the taste of him, the quiet sounds he made. He was so hard in his jeans it was starting to hurt. He moved a little faster.

“God— Dean—”

It sounded like begging somehow, and not even pleasure, more like Dean quit it Dean stop it leave me alone Dean GOD Dean fuck OFF.

Sam’s hand on his cheek scraped nails against him and grabbed his jaw a little too hard. Sam’s hips came up, his dick hit the back of Dean’s throat and the hand on his jaw meant he couldn’t pull back, and he came down Dean’s throat like a fucking asshole. Dean hadn’t decided what he was going to do, he thought he had more time. He just held on and took it.

Sam hunched over him, shaking. His shirt was soft against Dean’s face. His hand slid through his hair, grabbed at the back of his head. Dean tried not to gag. He didn’t. 

He let him go and sat back on his heels, pointedly not looking up. He rubbed at his wet eyelashes, coughed and worked his sore jaw back and forth. The mark burned so bad his dick was going soft.

His knees clicked as he stood, slowly, rising until they were face to face again. Sam’s whole face was red. Dean clenched his jaw, reached out and grabbed Sam’s face between his thumb and fingers, pulled until he stooped a little so his face was right in front of his.

“You want it, you get it from me. Understand?”

He had no idea where that came from. It wasn’t an okay thing to say, it was so far from okay he couldn’t even see okay from where he was standing, but Sam was just staring at him and it was the second time in two days that he’d seen him come, but this time he could taste it, and it didn’t seem like anything would be okay ever again.

Then Sam said, “Yeah,” all breathless and panting, and he knew for a fact that it wouldn’t be.

This time, it was Dean who ran.

 

 

YOU HAVE THREE (3) NEW MESSAGES. FIRST NEW MESSAGE.

Dean you stupid fuck I can’t believe you LEFT me in FUCKING Wyoming, you’d better be running ‘cause I’m gonna kill you when I catch up. Call me when you get this you son of a bitch.

TO DELETE THIS MESSAGE, PRESS 7. TO SAVE—

BEEEEEP

Dean I know things got messed up but CALL ME, man, come on. I’m not— I know it’s fucked up, I don’t know what to say. Just call me, okay?

TO DELETE THIS MESSAGE—

BEEEEEP

Dean you’d better be heading to the bunker, and if you’re not, I’m gonna change the goddamn locks when I get there. I don’t care if they’re magic locks. I’m almost home. Call me.

TO DELETE—

BEEEEEEEEEP

 

 

Dean took the Impala and drove, by himself, back to Kansas. Sam was resourceful, he’d figure it out. It’s not like he stole his wallet. 

He drove half the night, pulled over and slept horribly in the back seat. The following day was a miserable stretch of cold coffee, soul-searching and watching eclectic gay porn on his phone, but at least he wasn’t hung over anymore. Sam called him a few times through the night and morning, but tapered off in the afternoon.

Dean got to the bunker that night, cramped and over-caffeinated. He showered, threw in a load of laundry and poured a massive glass of whiskey. He wandered over to Sam’s room and stood in the doorway a moment, looking over his things. He didn’t have much stuff, very little that said Sam besides some clothes over a chair. It was one of the only real rooms Sam ever had, he reminded himself, which hurt exactly as much as all the other times he thought about that. He wasn’t much better off, but still. He didn’t know what he was looking for. He rarely knew, with Sam.

In the end, he went back to his own room, got into sweats and a t-shirt and laid on the bed with his headphones on. He considered jerking off and didn’t. He thought about Sam almost exclusively, trying to pinpoint when things had gotten so fucked up between them. It had been a slow burn. The thing about the frog in boiling water or whatever. One thing leading to another until it was too much to ever go back.

He tried to remember if he’d really thought Sam would let him suck his dick when he went for it, or if he thought he’d push him back—whether he wanted to do it, or just to be given an opportunity to break everything irreparably. He was so whacked out he hardly remembered dragging him in there, just the feel of it once it was happening, and before that, his tongue sliding down Sam’s neck. He should have paid better attention. His throat still felt weird, just shy of sore. He had no idea what Sam would be like when he got home, and maybe he’d have a clue if he’d looked at him more than once during or after it. 

That breathy little yeah afterwards, though, like he was perfectly fine getting it from Dean or not at all. That was trouble.

“Dean?”

Sam’s voice, barely there through all the concrete, steel and magic. He was quick, he must have driven all night. Dean folded his hands over his stomach and closed his eyes. Too soon, Sam knocked on his door.

“Dean?” He tried the handle. Obviously locked. “I know you’re in there. It doesn’t lock from the outside.”

Dean lifted one of his earphones off. “Take a hint, Sam.”

“No.”

“I’ve got a lot more country on the other side if you want me to keep running.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

He didn’t respond, and he heard Sam leave. Good. Let him think it through. It was about a minute before he saw the knob rattling. He took his headphones off and heard a telltale clicking and scraping in the lock.

“Sam!” Dean shouted. “Fuck off!”

“Nope,” Sam said through the door. In twenty seconds, it was open, and Sam was standing there with his lock pick kit like the smug asshole he was. “Hey.”

Hey. It was painful to look at him. He seemed to take up the entire doorway. He looked tired, but the last time Dean saw him he’d been sweating liquor out every pore, so he looked good now by comparison.

Dean said, “Hey yourself. Get out of my room.”

“What are you, twelve?”

“We never had rooms to get out of. I’ve been saving up.”

“Well, keep saving.”

He didn’t seem that mad, which was… dangerous. Sam didn’t make a habit of being understanding, not really, and Dean just made him find his own way back from two states over. And now he was just leaning in the doorway with his arms crossed.

“Can I help you?” Dean tried.

“I’m good.”

He was playing games. Dean told him he made him stop the trials because he had fucked up feelings for him, then gave him a blowjob in a public washroom, and this was funny to Sam. Or something. 

“You, uh, steal something to get home?” he asked, awkward.

“I gave some kid a hundred bucks for a junker. We are now the proud owners of a 1992 Buick Skylark with mismatched rear doors.”

“Jesus.”

“Hey, who ditched who in Wyoming? Like I’d come home in a Jag.”

Another long silence. Dean was starting to feel sweaty and weird. Was he supposed to get up? There was something stupid about lying down while someone else was standing.

“What are you doing?” he finally asked. Sam perked up like he’d been waiting.

“It’s a kind of therapy for phobias. Exposure therapy. You face your feared thing in graduated stages.”

Dean sat up on his elbows and sneered at him. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Aren’t you?”

Dean looked him over way too obviously; his big arms, the way his hair curled at the collar of his shirt. It felt like a trick. Sam let him look, smiling like he knew—and, Dean figured, he probably did. It was another one of those things: not a lot of reasons you’d suck someone’s dick.

Dean said, “Well, fuck you, too.”

Sam was still smiling, but it was just shy of being actually happy. He stepped into the room and nudged the door shut with his foot, then leaned on the edge of Dean’s desk.

“See, now I’m over here. In a minute, I’m gonna sit on your bed.”

“No the fuck you’re not.”

“Watch me.”

Dean sighed loudly, an audible giving up. He lay back down, folded his hands over his stomach and looked up at the ceiling like he was in a shrink’s office.

“I’m not mad, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

Sam raised his eyebrows. “About which thing?”

God, there were so many things. Not mad that you kept me dead, not mad that you’re still investigating the mark, not mad about the guy in the bar, not mad that you keep making me want you. Technically, he meant the first one. Not that it mattered, because he was mostly lying anyways.

“Purgatory,” he said shortly, and watched Sam tense up. “I don’t forgive you, not really, but I get it. If I’m gone, you get a life you can’t get with me here.”

Sam said, “It’s not like that.”

“It is. It’s okay.”

He bit his tongue. The mark ached as he thought about how Sam left anyways, told him it had to be strictly business and not family. He couldn’t ask if anything had changed since then, but he wanted to. One big thing had changed in the past two days, but probably not in the direction Sam was looking for.

Sam, true to his word, crossed the room and sat next to Dean on the bed. He swung his socked feet up and sat with his back against the headboard and his legs stretched out, his hands folded politely in his lap. It was hardly a two-person bed and certainly not a two-man bed, and Dean’s shoulder was jammed against his hip.

Dean said, “You wanna get your kid on a waitlist for a private preschool. Shop around for the best home insurance rates. Save for retirement. I could go on.”

“That’s mean.”

“Hey, I’m being supportive! The heart wants what it wants, right?”

Sam looked down at him then, and God, he wished he hadn’t. The guy had a terrible poker face sometimes.

“Well?” Dean pressed, looking back at the ceiling. “I’m not wrong. If it’s what you want, I’m not…” He trailed off. This was uncharted territory. “There’s a lot that neither of us got to do. Maybe you can still do some of it. That’s fine by me.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Do I get points for effort?”

“That’s just called lying.”

“Bitch.” He scooted away as best as he could. The physical contact was distracting. “You want me to die some big heroic death so you can put an ugly picture of me on your mantle and tell people, ‘That’s my brother, Dean. He was a hero.’ Get all weepy and shit.”

Sam scowled down at his hands. “You are a hero.”

“I’m a monster, and you’re brainwashed. Let’s not go there.”

Dean glanced up at Sam. He looked stupid from upside down. He was wearing a t-shirt and he thought he could see the mark he sucked into his neck, but maybe it was just a shadow. Had Sam noticed it? What did he feel when he looked at it? What if he jammed a finger into it to make it sting?

“I don’t have any photos of you, anyways,” Sam said quietly. 

The thought of Sam looking at a picture of him broke his heart a bit. The few physical pictures he had of Sam were from when they were kids, grainy old things from when adults in their orbit figured they’d better document their upbringing, rarely John himself. Sam had been so blond when he was little, Dean too. As adults, they had a few grim family portraits with Bobby, but that was the extent of it.

He wondered what it would be like to have a candid photo of Sam laughing, his dorky teeth and dimples. He wondered who on earth might have a photo like that, and then careened down the horrible path of wondering what Jess’ parents were up to. And how there were former college kids who had ugly photos of a nineteen-year-old Sam on their Facebook pages, a gawky kid with a hot girlfriend crammed onto a couch at a party, holding a solo cup between his knees.

“What are you gonna keep of mine?” Dean asked, rough. “When I go.”

“Other than the car?”

“Other than the car.”

Sam sighed. He wiggled so Dean’s shoulder was against his thigh again and Dean was out of room to move away into. It was a while before he spoke.

“Lots of stuff, I guess, we’ve got the space now. Your gun. Your records. The usual.”

Dean laughed humorlessly.

“You’d keep my room exactly how it is, wouldn’t you? One of those sad-ass dead kid shrines.”

“So what if I would? Shut up.” Sam looked around the small room that was steeped in Dean, all wistful. “If I stayed in the bunker, anyways. Which… yeah. I’d leave most of it if I left. Whoever comes along in a hundred years would get all your shit.”

“Dusty dead-guy skin mags for a spacefaring generation.”

“Right.”

What would Sam do if he rolled forward and threw an arm over him, just to feel his heat? Put his cold hands up under his shirt? It was something he wanted long before this mess, something sexless; he liked to feel the thrum of his brother’s living body, ever since he learned what the absence of that thrum felt like. Scars like that didn’t heal great.

“You keep anything before?” he asked. Then paused. “The first time.”

He didn’t stir the pot by saying, I doubt you kept anything the second time I went you son of a bitch, but he thought it extremely loudly.

“I… I had your wallet, for some reason.” Sam said it like a confession. Maybe it was. “That ring you used to wear. Your watch. Your red shirt.”

The shirt got to him, for some reason.

“How come the red one?”

Sam didn’t answer, which was ominous. His mind supplied unwelcome flowery explanations, all of them likely so far from the truth: maybe he’d been wearing it when something important happened, and Sam remembered that. Maybe he looked good in it. Maybe it had been unwashed when he died—he wanted to see Sam bury his face in it, breathe him in. He’d give anything to know if Sam had, short of asking him.

He closed his eyes tight. Tapped his teeth together. 

He said, “I didn’t keep anything. When you.” He rubbed his face. “Too much. You know? Couldn’t even look at the fucking car.”

“Dean…”

“Don’t.”

Sam shuffled to lay down next to him on his side, all thirty feet of him right up against him. His feet hung off the end, but his feet hung off every bed. Their ankles knocked together.

He put his hand over Dean’s heart. Dean screwed his eyes shut. He thought maybe he’d said the body heat thing out loud.

“Don’t, Sam.”

Sam smoothed his hand over his shirt. He was so warm. Dean’s back was sweating but he was willing to bet that was nerves, because his feet were freezing. 

“It’s okay,” Sam said, hushed and annoyingly placating.

Dean dug his fingers into the back of his other hand, pressed his mouth into a thin line and thought, fuck, maybe he’s right about the phobia. The closeness was killing him, the intimacy and innocence of laying in his own bed with someone with all their clothes on. With Sam. Like they were kids reading superhero comics by flashlight, and they hadn’t both died several times over and he didn’t know what Sam’s dick felt like.

“It’s not okay,” Dean insisted, and then, “I’m your keeper,” like an idiot, and it probably wasn’t the first time he said it but it was the first time it wasn’t followed by a joke about killing him with a rock.

Sam whispered, “Dean,” all breathy and sad again.

“This is bad,” Dean said, panic rising. “I can’t— I’m not—”

Sam sat up on his elbow, close and getting closer. His hand on Dean’s chest slid up until his fingers were against the bare skin of his throat.

“Shut up. None of that matters anymore.”

The mark burned and Dean tried to swallow the terror, bloodlust and regular lust and make it go away, Sam was gonna see it, but then Sam was leaning in and all he could do was hold his breath.

Sam kissed his temple. Then his cheek. Dean turned his head away.

“Quit it.”

“No.”

Sam’s lips were at the corner of his mouth. He stayed there, breathed shallow. He was so close. 

“Hey,” he whispered. Dean felt it more than heard it. “It’s okay.”

Dean shook his head, which just brushed his mouth against Sam’s. Sam’s hand slid up his neck to his cheek. He turned his face back towards him. Dean let him. They spent a second breathing the same breath, mouths open, lips just barely touching, and then Sam kissed him. 

It was worse than dying, worse than opening his eyes in that first demonic second with new blood screaming through his veins, everything going SAM! SAM! SAM! in a way he’d never let himself come close to before. A thing he’d seen only out of the corner of his eye was suddenly in front of him in all its horror and it was his brother’s hand on his face, his slick soft tongue against his, and it made every muscle in his body suddenly go pliant. The best worst thing he could think of, the end of everything.  

“Jesus, Sam—”

Sam kissed him again, shifted up and in so his chest was pressed against his, Dean laying flat, Sam braced over him. Sam slid a hand back to cup his skull, tip his face up. Kissing him was somehow worse than blowing him, it was sweet and pointless in a way he didn’t know what to do with.

He was kissing back. He’d been kissing back the entire time, he realized. Everything felt syrupy and thick, Sam’s lips sliding against his, the nip of his teeth, his thumb pushing up the line of his cheek. Dean ran his hands up his arms and fisted them in his shirt, dragged them over the backs of his shoulders and pulled him closer. Everything was falling apart and it felt so good to watch it go.

He ran his fingers over Sam’s belt. Sam knocked his hand away.

“Just go with it,” Sam mumbled, kissed him over and over again. “It’s okay. Let me.”

He had no idea how much time passed, just making out like there was nothing else. It reminded him of being in girls’ bedrooms as a kid, feeling too hulking and evil for a beautiful, alien world of lip gloss and hair ties he’d never understand or deserve. He was never the one on his back in those rooms.

He slid his hands up Sam’s neck and buried them in his hair because, God, if they were doing this, he was gonna do it. Sam left very little room for machismo in all his crippling tenderness, like he thought he could get the mark out by being sweet, or fix everything that was broken between them, whatever he was trying to do. Or maybe he wasn’t trying to do anything, maybe he just wanted to kiss him. Dean was obviously hard, which he felt kind of bad about, but it wasn’t his fault. It was physical, Sam could kiss.

Then: Sam’s broad hand slid down the flat of his stomach, then under his shirt, pushing it up around his ribs. He was moving slow, methodical, firm and gentle all at once. Any time he’d felt Sam’s body on his in the past decade, it was through shirts, jackets, blood, some easy barrier, and the feeling of skin-on-skin, Sam’s warm, dry palm across his stomach, was catastrophic and new.

His fingertips slipped under the waist of his sweatpants and Dean’s hand slapped around his wrist. Sam huffed against his mouth.

“What, it’s only okay when you do it?”

“Yes,” Dean hissed.

“I didn’t sign up for that.”

“Tell me when either of us signed up for any of this.”

Sam dragged his lips across his cheek, breathing in slow. He didn’t move his hand and Dean still clutched his wrist.

“Probably around our fifth cocktail in that stupid bar, when you started playing footsie with me,” Sam said, right into his ear, which was a low blow. Dean shuddered and Sam’s hand moved lower, into his boxers, the tips of his fingers brushing short, coarse hair.

“You’re full of shit.”

“Didn’t even know you were doing it, huh.”

“Shut up.”

“I don’t know who told you you were good at this.” He slid his hand lower again, fingers wrapping around the base of Dean’s dick. “You’re not smooth.”

Dean’s eyes slammed shut. Sam pulled him out and he swore against his cheek, mouthed at his ear, then kissed him again. He started jerking him off in these long, slow pulls and Dean didn’t know what to do with his hands, couldn’t think, Sam was right, he wasn’t smooth, he was dying, this wasn’t how he thought this would go because Sam should be the one losing it, sex was Dean's thing.

He groped blindly, got his hand between Sam’s legs and felt him hard and thick through his jeans. Sam shifted his hips away and pushed Dean’s hand off with his leg.

“No,” he said, softly, “just you.”

Dean grabbed his thigh to have something to hold onto, which Sam allowed. He tried not to buck into his hand, he couldn’t give him that. Sam kept kissing him and he couldn’t breathe, the mark was burning, Sam’s tongue kept stroking his almost in time with his hand on his cock and he kept forgetting to feel bad about any of it, it was too good. The focused attention was overwhelming and the handjob and the kissing weren’t enough, he wanted to get them naked, flip Sam over and fuck him into the mattress, make him cry, make him come. He couldn’t even fathom how good it could be with someone who knew him the way Sam did. The intentional slowing-down was killing him, it was soft and he wanted sharp, he wanted teeth. 

He groaned against Sam’s mouth and fisted his hand in his shirt to pretend he had some semblance of control. He was getting close already, fever-sweaty with Sam’s hand working up over the head and slick now, moving faster. He dug one of his heels into the bed and pushed his hips up. He couldn’t keep kissing him, couldn’t get enough air.

“Sam—”

Sam got up and changed the angle so he was leaning over him, and bumped his forehead against his, pressed together along their noses.

“Whatever this is,” Sam said, his voice low, “it’s not a bar bathroom thing. Don’t do that.”

“Okay.”

“And we have so many problems between us that this is a bonus, if anything, so don’t you dare freak out on me.”

“Okay, Sam, God,” Dean panted, twisting against his grip. “Does it look like I’m freaking out? I’m not freaking out.”

Sam squeezed his dick hard enough to approach the good side of painful.

“You left me. In fucking Wyoming.”

“I knew it! You are pissed!”

Sam kissed him hard and he arched up into him, he was so close, his whole body was still and tense and if Sam stopped he’d kill him, he shoved his face into the crook of his neck and just held on, held on

Sam closed his other hand around the mark and it felt hot and raw under his touch like a festering wound. 

“If it wants you, it’s gotta go through me.”

Dean came with his face burning against Sam’s throat, his hands clutching so hard at the front of his shirt that they ached, shoving at him, so desperately, dizzyingly good with Sam breathing almost as hard as he was against his temple. He worked him in his fist until he wrung him out, until he’d stopped pushing his hips into his hand.

Dean’s ears rushed with static and vague embarrassment, his heart thundered in his ears. He inched back from Sam, let him go and looked down, felt an involuntary twinge of emasculation from seeing a big hand on his dick, an unfavourable comparison. He had jizz on his boxers, sweat under his arms.

He looked up. Sam hung above him like the fucking sun in his eyes and every fibre of Dean’s body wanted to screw him until he couldn’t breathe or break both his legs, though the end result of either, he figured, would come out kind of the same. He wanted to make a joke or something else to break the impossible ice, but he couldn’t think of anything. There was nothing else to say. Sam kissed him again like that was an okay thing to do, all slow and deep and soft, and it made his heart do this thudding-stabbing motion he didn’t completely hate. Part of him wanted to run as badly as he did last time, but he tamped it down.

Sam peeled himself off him and washed his hands at the sink by the door, then wet a cloth and wiped Dean off.

“Ugh.”

“Shh,” Sam said, and Dean smacked at him.

Sam got back into bed after, lay down next to Dean and propped a pillow behind his head. Their shoulders were crushed together and Dean turned on his side. The backs of Sam’s knuckles were still brushing the mark and it felt good, painful, nauseating.

Sam turned his head. Dean could feel his breath on his face.

“Get some sleep,” Sam said quietly, “you look like shit.”

“What, you’re just gonna stay here?”

“Maybe.”

“Sam.”

“Come on. I know you’re not sleeping, like, at all. And you sound sober.”

Dean swore, sighed, closed his eyes. There wasn’t enough room but God, it was good to have a body next to his. Something angry and churning inside him felt sated, however briefly.

He fell asleep and slept like the dead, no nightmares, for two hours. When he woke up he saw Sam was asleep too, his face lax and open and his hand closed around Dean’s right forearm. He went back to sleep.