The spell slammed Sam into the Impala, his head impacting right where the roof curved into the driver's side window, and then Dean's shotgun took off the witch's head.
Sam fell to his side, slumping half on the windshield, sliding down to the hood, his hands grappling for purchase. Dean ran over to him, slinging one arm around him as his knees gave way.
Sam's eyes were fluttering, half-conscious. "Sam," he said urgently. "Sam, don't you wuss out on me, wake up."
He lurched upright, Dean still hanging on to him, one hand flailing against the car. "Wha -" He shook his head slowly, opened his eyes as if he were seeing for the first time. "What happened to me?" He turned and propped himself against the hood with both hands, staring down onto the glossy surface as if fascinated by the blurry shadow he was casting.
"The witch happened," Dean explained. "She's gone. And you're not a frog, so I say we call it a win."
Sam blinked. Dean slapped him on the shoulder. "C'mon, Sam, I hear a beer and a waitress calling my name. Well, not my name, exactly, but you know what I mean."
"... Okay," Sam said, which was way too compliant; they'd have to get drive-through and then spend the night in the hotel room, with Dean checking to make sure Sam was still annoying every hour.
"You're just lucky you didn't scuff the wax," Dean said and looked away. "I'd've had to kick your ass then."
That afternoon, while they were waiting for nightfall so that the tracking spell would work, he'd made Sam help him wax her, slow and careful, even guiding Sam's hands in the proper motion until Sam got too pissy and shoved him away. Maintenance wasn't all engines, he'd warned Sam. You had to have pride - not to mention that a dirty car could rust right out under you. But that wasn't the point of the wax. The wax was so that the rain would bead up on her like diamonds, so that she could ride out of a storm as shining and perfect as she rode in.
"You've thought way too much about this," Sam had said, but he'd just laughed and thrown a sopping wet rag at Sam's chest, which led to a chase around the car and enough tussling in the dirt that he'd actually had to clean himself off before continuing to work on the Impala.
It had been a good day, up until the witch got the drop on them. He kept track, now.
Back at the room, Dean sat on the bed nearest the door and finished his last burger. He watched Sam, who was sitting by the tiny side table with the generic lamp on it, chase the last fragments of french fries through the ketchup puddled in the bottom of his little grease-spotted carton. Just as he'd been in the forest, Sam had been unusually cooperative: endorsing the trip through the In-‘n-Out lanes, sucking down his vanilla shake, eating two Animal burgers, and now hoovering down the fries as if he hadn't been bitching about In-‘n-Out's "faux social responsibility" two days ago.
At least his appetite proved he wasn't experiencing nausea, and he was talking readily, if not at his usual level of caring and sharing. Still, Dean couldn't shake the fear that the witch had hurt him.
"You sure your head's okay?" he asked again.
This time Sam looked up and actually rolled his eyes, which made something unclench in Dean's stomach. "I'm fine."
Dean hitched himself off the bed and went over to check for himself, leaning down to peer into Sam's face. His pupils were the same size; no concussion, at least.
Sam licked salt off his lips. "I like it that you worry, Dean."
And that was the way to get him to back off, which Sam of course knew. Weighing concern against humiliation, he pulled back and crossed his arms over his chest. "I want to go to a garage around here tomorrow," he said. "Something's off with the steering - she was fighting me on the way back here."
Sam gave him a big, toothy smile. "I'll use the Internet to find one!"
"Okay, Sammy," he said tolerantly, "you do that."
While Sam went online, Dean turned on the TV. He liked it when they had enough money to stay in a motel with serious cable. This one had over a hundred channels, including Baywatch reruns, which was enough to make him happy for a while.
Sam left him alone until the bad guys had been caught and Pamela Anderson had jiggled her way offscreen. Dean had been sneaking looks at him throughout the show, but Sam had seemed absorbed in whatever he was reading, occasionally pecking at the keys. The rhythm of his writing was slower than usual, but not shockingly so; when Sam was trying to figure something out, whether it was a ritual or a scrap of historical information, he could go minutes between typing words as his big, big brain cycled.
"I found a garage," he said at last, practically bouncing in his seat. "They do custom work, there's a picture of a '65 Super Sport they rebuilt to get 450 horsepower. Maybe we can get that Richmond 5-speed you've been talking about."
Dean looked more carefully at his brother, narrowing his eyes. "You were listening, hunh?"
"I always listen," Sam said reprovingly. So, yeah, that maybe hadn't been fair - Dean was the one who tended to tune out when Sam went on about some Sam-enthusiasm. He'd tried hard with the engine in the past few weeks, even if half the time he looked like he hated the idea, as if not learning maintenance would make sure Dean had to stay when the time came.
"Sounds okay," he conceded, hoping Sam would understand what he meant. He killed the TV and rolled off the bed, intending to head into the bathroom, but winced when he put his weight on his right leg, which had stiffened up while he was lazing around.
"What is it?"
He shrugged. "Nothing."
"Dean," Sam said warningly.
"Before she threw you into the car, the witch hit me with a branch." It had been more like a tree trunk, and he had no doubt the bruise would be spectacular when he took off his jeans. He rolled his head on his neck and felt a twinge in his back. Getting old sucked. Not more than the alternative - but still, it sucked.
This was the part where Sam whined about letting him know when Dean was hurt, as if Sam could have done anything about it with his head still ringing from his man-versus-car encounter, but Sam stayed silent, looking out the window into the darkness.
Dean started towards the bathroom.
"We still have that oil from the physical therapist in the trunk, right?"
It took Dean a few seconds to remember what Sam was talking about. He always did the damn exercises when he had to after an injury - he wasn't going to risk his mobility or flexibility even if it was frustrating to go through a slow rehab - but he'd ignored the massage oil from that place in Illinois once the hot brunette massage therapist wasn't around to show him how to use it any more.
But it sounded like his extended monologue on the subject had stuck with Sam, despite the fact that by the end Sam had put his hands over his ears and sung Kylie Minogue songs off-key to drown him out. Which, frankly, Dean considered a violation of ‘driver picks the music,' but good luck getting Sam to acknowledge that.
"Uh, yeah," he said.
"I'll get it," Sam offered and rabbited out of the room before Dean could react. Wasn't much point in just standing there, so he had a piss and brushed his teeth, which is what he would have been doing anyway if Sam hadn't bolted.
"Listen, Sam," he said as soon as the door opened, "I'm fine, really."
Sam closed the door, then pulled the curtains over the window, cutting off their excellent view of the parking lot.
"You take such good care of me, Dean," Sam said. "Let me take care of you."
His voice was weirdly intense, and even though Dean had accepted that they were going to have periodic conversations about Dean's impending death and subsequent burning in hell, he didn't have to like it, so he didn't say anything.
He took off his clothes, except for his boxer-briefs, checked himself out in the mirror over the dresser, and gave himself a wink. Sam, busy getting the oil positioned just right on the bedside table, didn't pay any attention.
"Lie down on your stomach," Sam instructed.
"If you give me a wedgie or anything like that I will hurt you," Dean warned. It wasn't that likely, but he lived in hope that Sam would get a sense of humor, and it was important to be prepared.
He pulled the scratchy bedcover down, exposing the sheets, and planted himself right in the middle. The worn cotton was cool at first; the pillows smelled of everyone and no one.
Sam's hands rubbed warm circles on Dean's shoulders; when his fingers moved away, the air was cool on Dean's skin, but not unpleasantly so. He was tentative at first, and even when Dean told him to press harder. But when Dean ordered him to put some strength into it, he soldiered up and started delivering a real massage. Dean could feel his weight in every move, and it was awesome.
Shoulders and neck for a while; then Sam stopped to pour more oil and worked his way down the left arm, even rubbing the back of Dean's hand and the palm, which felt - intense. Not bad, though. When he was done, he briefly ran his fingers over Dean's - almost like they were holding hands - then switched to the right shoulder and began to repeat the process.
Sam was kneeling next to Dean as he worked, his jeans rough against the skin of Dean's waist. Dean could feel the weight of Sam's attention on him, like another source of heat in the room. It was like morphine, or blood loss; it pressed him down into the bed, as if his bones had turned to iron.
When Sam finished with Dean's right hand, he pulled away; Dean heard the soft chug of oil into his hands and then the wet sounds of skin rubbing on skin. He shivered a little when Sam's hands returned to his shoulders.
"Sorry," Sam said. "I tried to warm it up."
"'sok," he mumbled into the pillow, then lifted his head half an inch to make himself clear. "Stop and I'll kill you."
Sam laughed and leaned his head down so that his mouth was inches from Dean's ear. "I knew you'd like it."
And that made him twitch full-on, no way to hide it, but Sam didn't say more, just covered Dean's shoulders with his huge hands and squeezed, then began to knead his way down Dean's back, careful as if he were working some complicated spell, pressing just hard enough that Dean's abused muscles surrendered gratefully.
So, yeah, there were reasons to be grateful that Sam was as strong as a gorilla, even if it did make sparring mostly a matter of hoping for a mistake. Lots of reasons to be grateful, if he thought about it - Sam could be strong in all the ways he needed to be, later.
No. He ran his mental Zamboni over that line of thought, smoothed it all out, settled into his body, which by the way felt great, that amazing kind of hot and loose that you only felt when you knew that it was cold somewhere else close by.
Sam's hands moved down, sweeping over him like one of those endless gray stormclouds that rolled over the skies sometimes in the middle of the country, down to the small of his back, skimming over his ass so closely that he could have sworn he felt the heat of Sam's fingers. But then they settled at the backs of his right thigh, the balls of Sam's thumbs pressing down together. His fingers were gentle on the outside of Dean's thigh where the bruise was already darkening, but continuing the massage everywhere else.
The oil was matting down the hair on his legs, and he'd be half an hour in the shower getting it out, but after this a long hot shower might be just right, so he wasn't complaining. Sam squeezed the muscles of Dean's calf, his hot hands covering so much of Dean's skin that it was like being dipped in wax. His fingers circled the knob of Dean's ankle until Dean twitched and cursed him, and then he caught Dean's foot. Which had to be kind of gross after a day and a night out hunting, but Sam didn't seem to mind, and then again gross was their business, so Dean forgot about it and just enjoyed the way Sam's fingers swept from heel to toe; the roughened and calloused skin changed the sensation, spread it out, so that it was like having his whole body touched at once.
By the time Sam finished his left leg, he felt like a puddle of oil himself, hot and shimmering, relaxed and electric at the same time.
"Turn over," Sam said.
Dean's pleasant mental fog turned into ball bearings and dropped with a clatter. "Hunh?" he managed. Because it was one thing to pretend that he hadn't been humping the mattress for the past - well, however long it had been - and another to put the matter between them. In a manner of speaking.
"You've always shared everything with me," Sam said. "It's okay."
He'd moved up while he was speaking, until he was straddling Dean again, kneeling above him, no part of their bodies touching and no cell of Dean's unaware of him.
"Shh," Sam chided, and whispered the next words into the nape of Dean's neck. "You really aren't at your best when you're talking." His hands had come down on either side of Dean's shoulders, supporting him over Dean's body, still no point of contact between them.
Dean shuddered and closed his eyes. "Get off me," he managed, his voice a toad's rasp.
"Get off me so I don't knock your enormous head off when I turn over," he said, and that was more like it. Sam rolled over easily, and Dean turned in place. As soon as he was on his back, Sam was on him, hands all over Dean's chest.
"Hey, what happened to my massage?" he complained, voice shaking only a little. Sam didn't even bother to bitch at him, just bent down and kissed him, tongue driving into Dean's mouth like he thought he'd have to force his way in.
He nearly did Dean some damage, tugging at Dean's undershorts, so Dean lifted up and kicked them off. Sam was still in his T-shirt and jeans, which confused Dean a little, but then Sam put his hand on Dean's dick and Dean didn't care any more.
"I watched you," Sam confessed. "So many times, I watched you like this, and I wanted -" He stopped talking - finally! - and kissed his way down Dean's throat, down the midline of his chest, tongue dipping into the belly button, dragging along the curly hairs low on his belly, Sam's mouth just brushing Dean's stiff cock. Dean bucked up, cursing, and bit down on his knuckles to keep from talking.
Sam's mouth was hesitant at first, as if he'd never done this before. Dean wasn't sure whether that made this whole mess better or worse, but then Sam's movements smoothed out, hit a rhythm like a well-tuned engine, and thought disappeared into the pleasure.
He'd been hard for so long it was almost painful. Usually he could tell when he was about to come - usually he didn't know the girl, and so he was polite about it - but this was a crash at fifty miles an hour, spinning out on black ice, blowing him apart like a rock thrown through a windshield.
The only reason he knew he was still alive was that he'd actually had his heart stop before, and this felt better. Plus Sam was looking up at him, lips shining, eyes wet like he'd been rescued from something - and if Dean followed that thought he was going to go crazy, so instead he grabbed at Sam, tugging him up, helping him pull his shirt over his head, fumbling with his jeans and boxers until they disappeared over the edge of the bed along with the covers.
"I want - I want -" Sam keened, almost sobbing with it, and Dean pulled him in close, one arm around his shoulders, the other hand smoothing down his hip until his near-panicked breathing slowed a beat. Dean was used to teaching Sam how to do fucked-up things, after all.
Dean brought his hand up to his face, spat into the palm, then wrapped his fingers around Sam's cock, blood-hot and twitching.
Sam jerked so hard he almost broke Dean's grip on his shoulders, throwing his head back, exposing his neck. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to bite at it, just hard enough to hear Sam gasp again like a man coming up from a near-drowning.
"I didn't know it would feel like this," Sam said, quite distinctly, and came and came, pulsing against Dean's hand, all over his stomach and Dean's, dazed and whimpering, leaning into Dean's careful grasp.
He protested fuzzily when Dean got up to get a washcloth, but submitted to being cleaned, then wrapped himself around Dean like another blanket when Dean returned to the bed.
Dean thought they'd sleep then, but Sam had one more surprise. "Promise me," Sam murmured. "Promise me, whatever it takes to break your deal, you'll let it happen. Whatever it takes, promise me."
Maybe it should have been harder. But once you've promised to kill your own brother, other pledges just aren't that difficult. And who'd want to go to hell? It was sweet and easy to open his mouth, let the word come out. "Yes," he said.
Sam, unusually, was still out of gas when Dean woke, which let Dean shower first. He washed off the evidence of the past night while trying not to think about it. His skin felt too soft, too easy to cut, but he managed to get himself cleaned and shaved without incident.
He was pulling on his shirt when Sam sat up in bed like he'd been spring-launched and looked around wildly. "Oh thank God," Sam said.
"What?" Of all the reactions Sam was going to have the morning after, Dean wouldn't have put that one on the list.
"The witch's spell broke!"
"What do you mean, what? How long have I been out? Has it just been one night?"
Dean sat down on the other bed, the one that hadn't been used at all, hard. It creaked underneath him, but he wouldn't have cared if it collapsed.
Sam, evidently beginning to realize that Dean was clueless, continued, his voice still too loud in the small room. "When that bolt hit me, my consciousness was transferred into the car. It's hazy -- the sensations were just weird, I went in and out, but I was definitely in the car."
"But you - you were - you seemed - okay, I guess that was her, in you, last night." He wiped a shaking hand across his face. His friggin' car. He loved her, of course he did, knew every inch of her, but - he'd fucked his car, and somehow that was worse than what he'd thought he'd done.
"Her?" It was Sam's turn to squawk in disbelief.
"Uh, you didn't just go into the car. I think something came out."
"Something came out," Sam repeated, dangerously. "Came out and got inside me and just, what, carried on like nothing was the matter? I spent the entire night in the parking lot! And, okay, you're right, the wax does make a difference, there's a spot I missed just by the passenger-side rear-view mirror, and I gotta get that - but the point is, Dean, I was a car and you didn't notice!"
"Hey," he said, still trying to stuff everything from last night into an unused corner of his mind, "she knows everything about us. And as much as you wish we did, we don't spend every night in a heart-to-heart, talking about our crushes and having pillowfights. We came back, we ate, we went to bed."
They stared at each other, Sam obviously on the verge of mentioning the last time Dean had failed to recognize that Sam wasn't quite Sam, and Dean just wanting him to go away long enough for him to think everything through.
"I wonder if the spell produced the personality," Sam said at last, half to himself, and Dean deliberately did not breathe a sigh of relief.
"Dunno, she seemed a lot like I'd expect, now that I think about it. Less trouble than you - I guess that makes sense of some things she said," he continued, as lightly as he could manage. The less Sam thought about what might have happened, the better. In fact, if he could get Sam into the bathroom and mess up the sheets he was currently sitting on to look slept in, that would be really fucking useful.
"Why are you calling it ‘she'?" Sam asked suspiciously. "It was in my body."
He snorted. "Oh, there are so many ways I could answer that."
"Shut up." Sam looked down. "Dean, why am I naked?"
"Because you took your clothes off?"
Sam scowled and made as if to gather the sheets around himself - and maybe that wasn't such a good idea either, Dean realized, and nearly fell off the bed grabbing at the duffel on the floor between the two of them. "I guess she's not used to clothing, probably didn't feel comfortable. Here," he said, throwing a semi-clean pair of boxers at Sam, "go shower, get dressed, we'll talk after you're done."
"What's wrong with you?" Sam asked suspiciously. "Did something happen?"
Dean gave Sam his best ‘my little brother is slow, but I like him sometimes anyway' look. "No, but I want to have a little chat with the car."
Amazingly, Sam seemed to understand the logic of that.
"Baby," he said slowly, running his hand along the dash. "That was not cool, what you did. Forget about the brothers thing, you're a car, what do you know - but you could've told me. I would've liked to hear from you. Like, you could have told me about when you got a personality, what you like, what you want."
Music started pouring out of the cassette deck - "Back in Black" - which pretty much made Dean's point, because he had no idea what that meant.
And now to the tough part. "But - if Sam doesn't get me out of this, maybe you could move into my body?" He'd been thinking about this since before he got over the first wave of freaking out. A body needed a soul to live, but apparently a soul sufficient to power a human could also inhabit a car. "He wouldn't have to know, and you could take care of him better. I'm gonna talk to Bobby - if that's okay with you. Uh, I guess, maybe you could turn off the music if that's a problem. I just - you and he are all I've got, the only good things I ever knew, and -"
The music soared, louder than the speakers should have allowed.
He put his palms against the dash and pressed his forehead into the top of the steering wheel, too close to losing it. "I don't know if I'm gonna beat this, baby. We can't let Sam go down too."
The cassette stuttered, and started again a few lines into "Have a Drink on Me."
He smiled into her metal-and-plastic skin. Smiled, because what else was he going to do?