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One time the Winchesters never got married

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Dean rolls over and nearly breaks his nose. Well, grazes it at the very least; the wallpaper's pretty damn abrasive and god, he hope's that's just the pattern blurring dirtily less than an inch from his eyes, and not some other kind of stain.

He draws back too-quickly and groans at the way it makes the smeary wallpaper spin even more sickeningly, and there's an answering groan beyond the card-thin wall.

"What," he grunts out automatically, wincing at the way the sharp-edge of the reverberation buzzes into his temples.

"Stop banging," Sam says, torn-paper gruffness to his voice clear through the barrier between them. "On the wall."

"M'not banging." Dean flails out a little, one hand covering his eyes from the vicious light shining in through the thin curtains at the foot of his bed, the other scraping brief knuckles against the wall.

There's a shuffling sound from the other side, the squeak of a faucet and the very distinct click of Sam's knee joint locking back into place. A thump against the wall. "Are!"

Dean scowls, tightens his fingers into a fist, flails out again with more purpose this time. "Not!"

He grimaces as the recoil from the blow enhances the waves of agony currently aggressively attacking his skull, then again as Sam pounds on the wall. Dean could swear that its shaking under the blows.

"Fine," he mutters, rolls over with the intention of climbing into the next bed, as far from the adjoining bathroom wall as possible, and Sam could just do whatever the hell he was doing in there and then deal with the consequences of driving Dean into Sam's own bed when he came out.

Dean's toes jar against the wall and he swears viciously, words working his tongue enough to taste what seems to be the dregs of an ash tray in his mouth. He blinks, squints, clutching at his foot, and realizes a couple of things simultaneously. One; there's only one bed in the room, and two; he's naked.

"Sam," he says, the low tone he uses to warn or gauge any number of situations. He holds still, toes throbbing in time with his head as he looks around the room. Or closet, more like, it isn't actually any wider than the bed, and what looks like just enough room at the foot of it for the bathroom and front doors to swing open respectively. Though maybe not at the same time. Dean rubs a hand over his face. "Sammy!"

There's an uncharacteristic silence from the bathroom, and Dean considers hammering on the wall again when the door wobbles open and Sam steps out. He looks, Dean realizes, not unlike a doll too large for its doll house. A giant kitten, maybe, shoved into a doll's crib, and looking not too happy about it. A kitten with bed hair.

"Dude," Sammy says, eyes wide and jaw slack. He's wearing nothing but shorts that look like they've seen far, far better days and he's holding a somewhat crinkled piece of paper.

"What," Dean says, smart-assery on auto-pilot even as his brain struggles through the fog of hangover to remember just what they're doing in… Vegas, that's right. And the only goddamn room left in the whole goddamn city. He couldn't remember hearing the john flush, so who knows what Sammy had been doing in there. "You find another growth? Want me to check it out for you again?"

Sam's only retort is to shove the piece of paper at Dean, and that in itself is sobering enough that Dean clears his throat, takes the paper. It's kind of damp in his hands, and smells faintly vile, but the type on it's still clear and unsmudged.

Certificate of Marriage, it says along the top, and Dean frowns, glances up at Sam. "What is this, for a case…?"

"Just… keep reading," Sam says, and sits on the edge at the foot of the bed, his back to Dean.

Dean skims through the official text at the top, the date -- yesterday, if he's done his math right -- the place of ceremony, the celebrant, the happy couple--



Names familiar, but not in the usual drummer-for-Led Zeppelin kind of way; instead because they're older ones, ones Dad chose to fit in instead of just briefly hoodwink. Ones Dean knows Dad set up for more than hoodwinking. Ones that didn't officially connect the three of them but were official in every other sense, a safety net in case things we well and truly fucked, social security numbers and all.

Dean blinks, feeling heat flush up over his face, then cold. "Wait," he says. "What?"

"We're married, Dean," Sam says, standing again and brandishing his left fist. Dean's silver ring gleams dully on his ring finger. "I don't know what the hell you made me do--"

"Made you do?" Dean says, incredulous. "You think I wanted to get married? Me? What the hell did you do!"

"Oh, that's right," Sam says. "Blame me. I don't care anyway, I don't care about your stupid reasons, we're getting an annulment today."

"An annulment?" Dean says before he can stop himself, more than a little wounded and automatically cramming back down the jack-in-the-box reasons for that. "Oh that's great. That's just typical."

"What the hell, Dean?" Sammy says, sticking his arms out as if in supplication, but oh, Dean knows this game. Sam's hands almost reach either side of the motel room, would if he stretched them out straight. "I sure as hell don't remember any of it, least of all the motive. Do you?" The last spoken accusatorily.

"Whoa, whoa, wait," Dean says. "I'm the one waking up naked here. I think I should be the one demanding the answers." He punctuates his point with a jab of his index finger to the duvet, and Sam abruptly slumps back down onto the bed, back curved and face in hands.

He doesn't turn to face Dean when he says, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, I was naked too."

"Dude--" Scandalized isn't a tone Dean does often, but when the situation calls for it…

"It's okay," Sammy says, still sounding anything but. "I found our clothes in the bathroom. Hanging all over everything. Or at least, some of them are. They're kind of wet and… foul."

"Something attacked us?"

"No, I…" Sam wipes a hand over his face again. "I think I kind of remember falling in the pool."

"The pool?" His memory seems to stop somewhere around drinking Sammy under the table, able to take a couple of steps back from that to winning big and finding last motel room in Vegas, sans mod cons including cable and pool.

"Pond," Sam amends. "Garden feature. Thing."

"Jesus." So that's why his mouth tastes like piss and cigarettes. Nausea rears its ugly head.

They're both silent for a moment, and Dean is absurdly grateful for Sam's turned back, the tiniest modicum of privacy that's enough for him. At length, Dean clears his throat. "So," he says. "You have any weird dreams last night?"

Sam shakes his head. "No sulfur traces around here either, and nothing on the EMF."

Oh boy. Dean rubs his hand at the nape of his neck, feels something catch there, pull at his finger. He looks at his hand, realizes what it is and lets out a surprised huff before he can stop himself.

"What," Sam says, turning around. Dean clenches his hand into a fist and shoves it under the blanket.


Sam's eyes narrow, and he crawls up the bed toward Dean. He eyes Dean's wrist disappearing from sight. "What are you hiding?"

"Nothing." Sam just looks at him and Dean's had enough of fighting at least for now, his stomach turning at the thought of wrestling right now, and he sighs, drawing his hand out and looking away.

"Dude, what the hell?" Sam examines the cheap plastic ring, turns Dean's hand over to look at where the ends stretch to meet, pinching the flesh of Dean's ring finger. "Where the hell did this come from?"

"You gave it to me." And jesus, there's no mistaking the hurt in his tone that time. Dean wonders if he could get into the bathroom (and away from Sam) by bashing the wall with his head until he just broke right through it.

"What? When? Last night? It looks like it came out of a goddamn cereal box."

"It did," Dean says, continues to refuse to meet Sam's eyes. "When you were five."

"And you kept it?"

"What!" Dean explodes finally, throwing his hands in the air, having enough of the scrutiny and needing to get away from it now, thankyou very much. He surges up, attempts to crawl off the bed and away. "You were a selfish little son of a bitch," he says. "I took what I could get, okay?"

Sam at least has the good grace to sound mildly remorseful. "Get your goddamn pale-ass back down here," he says, yanking at Dean's knee until Dean collapses onto the mattress, then throwing the duvet back over him. "Exhibitionist."

"Fuck you." Dean mumbles. "'Sides, we're married now. Or is this the kind of marriage where you never take your nighty off and we always do it in the missionary position?"

Sam doesn't answer, allowing Dean to get back his one-up. He sighs, shifts around on the bed to lie at Dean's side, both of them on their backs, staring up. "What the hell were we thinking?" Dean says miserably.

Sam fidgets, and Dean recognizes the movement and the faint metallic sound of hardened skin spinning the silver ring around the ring finger. "I don't know," Sam says, but less like despair and more like speculation. "Maybe… Maybe we had the right idea. I mean, this way, if anything happens to… to one of us, we've still got our legal rights, to, you know. Power of attorney. All that."

"Sam," Dean says. "We're brothers. Already next of kin."

"I know, but," Sam says, hesitates. "You know it can't always be like that, Dean. Not all the time."

Can't always be Winchesters, and if that doesn't sting more'n anything then Dean doesn't know what does. Twenty-two years of figuring his own way and Dad never slipped them up enough to cause any permanent damage; Dean's only got Sammy to take care of -- a grown-up Sammy, at that -- and he's managed to screw them royally in a matter of months.

"Yeah," Dean says gruffly. "I know."

"Trust me," Sam says. "We can play this to our advantage." Somehow Sam's managed to get his right hand under the blankets without Dean noticing, fingers fiddling with the plastic ring, fingers testing out the fat edges of the plastic gem like it's Braille, wiggling it experimentally so it pinches Dean’s finger. Dean twitches, and Sam's hand flattens, covering Dean's.

"Sam," Dean warns, but Sam doesn't even look at him.

"It's under the covers, Dean," Sam says matter-of-factly, and Dean just knows he's not going to budge. "You can't see it. Just pretend it isn't happening."

Dean grumbles wordlessly, but doesn't draw away. "Too bad we can't remember anything," he says. "I bet you cried like a baby. Wishing your daddy was still around to give you away."

Sam's only speechless for a moment.