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Dean doesn’t smoke. 

Not really, anyway. Once every year or so, he’ll get an urge and he’ll pick up a pack at the nearest Gas-Mart, and then he’ll stand around some motel parking lot and start one. For no real reason other than just to do it. The smoke will be harsh, but weirdly comforting as it curls against his lungs, and the cigarette will give him something to do with his hands. With his lips.

But no matter what else is going on around them—always and without fail—before Dean can even get two minutes in, he’ll catch a fleeting glimpse of Sam through the grimy window of their room. Or he’ll feel his brother’s eyes on the back of his head, anxious and sad. Dean will look up and he’ll meet his brother’s stare and Sam will always have the exact same expression pasted over his face. Every single time. A mixture between a carefully feigned lack of judgment, and a quiet, desperate longing for Dean to stop (as if lung cancer is something that either of them will actually live long enough to have to worry about). 

It’ll be painfully obvious that Sam is deeply upset by the cigarette between his fingertips, but is also doing his goddamn best to stay out of Dean’s business and not bring it up. Because damn straight it isn’t any of his business. Dean is a grown-ass man and he can smoke if he wants to. Because they’re his fucking lungs. Hell, he can rip ‘em out and set 'em on fire in the freaking parking lot if he so chooses. His little brother has absolutely no say in what Dean chooses to do with his spare time.

And then Dean will sigh, flick the barely-used cigarette to the asphalt, grind it out with his boot heel, and toss the rest of the almost entirely full pack into the trash. Every. Single. Time. 

And when he heads back into the room, Sam’s eyes will say, “You didn’t have to do that.” But his lips and his hands will say, “I’m so glad that you did.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

For the longest time, Sam always smelled like sweat and aftershave and the exact same brand of Old Spice deodorant that Dean uses himself. It was just one of those familiar constants that had never wavered over the years, like the vague leather and fast food scent that seems to perpetually linger in the backseat of his Baby.   

And then one day, Dean had crawled his way out of Purgatory to find his little brother suddenly wasn’t using a straight razor anymore, and Sam’s weirdo tea-tree whatever shampoo had jumped up to replace aftershave for the number two spot. It had thrown him in ways he didn’t expect for an unsettling stretch of time before he had eventually adjusted to the insignificant shift. He’d gotten over it, of course, because Sam is Sam—and when Sam’s knee is jammed up between Dean’s thighs and his broad shoulders are pinning Dean back against a wall or down into a memory-soft bed, he’d learned real damn quick to appreciate whatever the hell his brother wanted to smell like. Like that experiment with the dogs and the bell-ringing. All Sam has to do is scrape his teeth along the edge of Dean’s jaw or moan against the skin of his neck, and Dean’s dick hops to like it’s angling for a tip. Sam could start spraying himself with gasoline, and it would only take one thorough fondling for Dean’s cock to decide that it was the best thing he’s ever smelled in his entire life.

But, no matter what drugstore conditioners his brother ends up swapping out for whatever’s in the miniature, complementary motel bottles they always seem to have too many of—cluttering up the bottoms of their duffels and scattered haphazardly around the shower bank in the bunker—Sam’s hands have always carried the faintest scent of paper. It makes sense, considering he’s around it constantly. Whenever his brother’s not elbow-deep in research in the back room of some Podunk library, he’s settled into one of the plush leather armchairs in the bunker, poring over some ancient tome he’d plucked from one of the shelves. And if he’s not doing either of those, then he’s flipping through Dad’s journal at one of the spare tables, idly flicking through the pages as he skims over passages he’s long-since memorized.

One of Dean’s favorite things in the whole world is to have those hands all over every inch of him. Huge and deft and delicately gentle when Sam strokes them over the sides of his face, his elegant fingers curling behind Dean’s ears as his calloused palms scrape against the rough stubble on his cheeks. Thumbs tracing along the bow of Dean’s lip until all he can smell is old paper and binding glue and Sam

And the only thing that’s better than Sam’s hands all over him, is when his brother whimpers and grabs at Dean’s own—nipping at the pads of his fingers and tugging them around to settle at his hips or to tangle in his hair. Because maybe Dean’s own hands smell a little like gun oil. Or road salt. Or maybe they carry just a hint of wet earth from his favorite whetstone, the one he’s had forever that happens to fit just right in the center of his palm. All Dean knows is that none of it matters when he’s got a handful of willing little brother. Because, yeah, Sam’s so far gone for him it’s ridiculous.  

Dean’s just happy that he’s not the only one.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Brothers,” Emerson huffs over his piece of three plum pie. “Sure.”

“What?” Chuck blinks innocently. “Why can’t they be brothers?”

Emerson makes a skeptical sound, low in his throat. “’Cause I ain’t never seen no brothers act like that.”

Olive gasps and flutters an excited hand at the neckline of her uniform. “Oh,” she chirps dramatically. “Do you think they’re secretly lovers?” She drops into the seat across from where Chuck is wiping down the counter and leans in with a conspiratorial whisper. “Maybe their employers don’t approve, and they have to hide their torrid love affair under a false façade of sibling forgery.” She raps at the counter with her knuckles. “Or, maybe they’re a pair of secret agents who secretly fell in love on the job, and ‘brothers’ is their cover.”

Chuck giggles and leans into the brainstorming. “Or maybe they really are brothers, but can never consummate their forbidden love because of the lines they’ve promised themselves that they’d never cross…”

“If they say they’re brothers, then they’re brothers,” Ned pitches in assertively. “It’s not right to go around telling other people what is and is not appropriate behavior to display around siblings. I’m sure that if I grew up with my brothers, we’d be just as close as the closeness that you think is too close.”

Chuck pops a spare strawberry into her mouth and raises a teasing eyebrow. “Yeah, but technically they’re your half brothers,” she says with a cheeky grin.

“That’s true…” Olive says, contemplative. “But there are two of them. And in my book, one half brother plus another half brother practically equals one whole brother.”

“Well, half or whole brothers, notwithstanding,” Emerson interrupts. “The one thing I also know is that they ain’t no detectives.” 

“But how can you know something like that for sure?” Chuck asks.

“Because I am a private detective. And it’s my job to detect things. Privately.” He pushes his pie around with his fork. “You let those two snoop around our murder case and they’re gonna scoop us before we even know we’re getting scooped.” He glances down at his plate. “And speaking of scooped,” he says, far too polite to be sincere. “I’m fairly certain I ordered this pie a la mode.” Olive thunks a solid spoonful of vanilla onto his plate with a put-upon look, and Emerson gives her a sarcastic grin before turning back to his dessert. “I’m just telling you now, don’t be surprised when you find out all that brotherly affection ain’t really all that brotherly. And I don’t want none of y’all comin’ in here, waving your arms and screeching in my ear, and expecting no ‘I told you so’.” He pauses, fork halfway up to his mouth. “In fact, I told you so. There. That’s a preemptive ‘I told you so’ for whenever one of you finds Pretty Boy bending Tall Boy over the back of one of the dumpsters in the alley.” He pauses and thinks for a bit. “Or in the walk-in fridge.”

Ned chokes and flushes pink all the way to his hairline. “Emerson, this is a family restaurant,” he squeaks. “For families.” He leans over the counter and sets his voice to a very stern whisper. “So please, no more talk about ‘bending over’ unless it’s ‘bending over backwards’, and you’re referring to the quality of the service here.”

Chuck wraps her hands around her elbows and leans forward with a scandalous gleam in her eye. “So what makes you think Pretty Boy’s the bend-er over-er?”

“Yeah,” Olive sighs dreamily. “He looks more like a bend-ee to me.”

“I de-tec-ted it,” Emerson replies, elongating the vowels.

“It doesn’t matter who bends whom over what,” Ned says, a little too loudly. “The Pie Hole is open to any and all who choose to solicit her services, and as long as the, uh,” he coughs awkwardly, “the pretty one keeps ordering pie the way he does, they’re both welcome here anytime. Brothers or not.”

Olive snorts. “If he keeps ordering like that, we’ll never need another customer again.”

Chuck glances over at the Piemaker’s awkward shuffling and grins. “Now, Ned. You wouldn’t be jealous because of all this talk about pretty boys, would you?”

“Of course not,” he says, entirely ineffectively. “Jealousy is a ridiculous construct created to prey on couples that thrive on insecurity and distrust. I have complete trust in what—or whom—you choose to talk about, and therefore have no reason to be jealous.” He nervously taps his fingers together and glances up at Chuck. “Right?” he asks tentatively.

“Right,” Chuck smiles back warmly. Then she says, “I think I liked the taller one better anyway.”

Ned laughs at the teasing, then subtly entwines his fingers together under the counter.

Chuck notices and does the same.

Emerson notices and makes a disgusted sound over his empty plate.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

 

“So whaddya think, Sammy? Betty or Veronica?”

Sam glances up from where he’s tapping at his keyboard. “What?”

“The blonde or the brunette, man.” Dean pops open a beer and drops into the chair next to him. “Which one do you think Pie Man is porking?”

Sam scoffs and turns back to his computer. “You’re disgusting.”

Dean leans back and continues as if Sam is still actively participating. “I’m thinking Blondie. The chick’s a firecracker. Plus, you know a lady like that’s got experience.” He waggles his eyebrows ridiculously and flicks his loose bottle cap at Sam’s shoulder.

“It’s the brunette,” Sam says quietly, still focused on his screen.

“What?”

Sam sighs and pushes away from the table. “He’s in love with the brunette.”

Dean thinks about it for a minute, then makes a face. “Nah. No way, man. They didn’t even touch once, the whole time.”

“Exactly.”

“Yes, that’s much clearer,” Dean says, rolling his eyes. “Thank you, Yoda.”

“He wanted to touch her, but he didn’t.” Sam drops his elbows onto the armrests of his chair and hooks his foot around Dean’s ankle under the tiny table. “He wanted to the whole time. Bad.”

“And you know this…how?”

“Because I know what it feels like,” Sam says quietly. He flicks his gaze back up to Dean. “To want to touch someone in public and not be able to.”

“Sammy,” Dean says softly, like he’s moved. He leans in slowly and places a palm along the side of Sam’s face, thumb gently rubbing at his cheekbone. “When did you become such a massive pussy?”

“God, you’re the fucking worst.” Sam shoves his brother off and hunches back over the screen of his laptop.

“I gotta tell you, man,” Dean laughs obnoxiously. “If I hadn’t been intimately acquainted with your balls last night, I wouldn’t believe you actually had any.”

“Yeah?” Sam snits. “Well, yours are gonna be lonely for a while.”

“Aw, don’t be like that, baby.” Dean drapes himself over the line of Sam’s shoulders. “After all, someone’s gotta help me work off all that apple-gruyere.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“No. I don’t—” Sam backs away from his brother’s outstretched fingers and focuses on taking deep breaths until he can get the anxiety under control. “No.”

Dean sighs and drops his arm. “Sammy. C’mon, man.” He swipes the back of his hand over the ridged line of stitching that jaggedly bisects his forehead. The patch of skin on the right side doesn’t match perfectly, a little tanner than Dean’s natural paleness, but it was the closest that Sam could find at the time. “It’s getting fucking hard to see. And I’m sick of needing you to read me the labels on the goddamn soup cans.” 

“Dean, they’re the last…” Sam swallows around the lump in his throat and presses back in close, resting his forehead against Dean’s and gazing down into those very same eyes that his asshole brother wants to chuck out like yesterday’s garbage. “They’re the last part of you left. You can’t just replace them like it’s no big deal.”

Dean huffs out a laugh and fixes Sam with an ironic look. His bone structure is still the same, of course—the shape of his jaw remaining unchanged despite the multiple patch jobs over the years, and his sharp cheekbones still cut shadows across his skin, even if that skin isn’t exactly technically his anymore—but his eyes are the only remaining piece from his original self. From when he was still human.

Dean’s heart had been the first thing to go, fifty years after the original procedure. If you’d have asked Sam back then, he probably would have guessed liver. Dean had been a borderline alcoholic even before this whole mess and becoming functionally immortal sure hadn’t slowed him down any—the opposite maybe. But the steady diet of cholesterol and grease had apparently worked its toll quicker than the cirrhosis could, his body slowly breaking down from the inside even though he still doesn’t look a day over twenty-nine on the surface. Well, maybe more like a twenty-nine-year-old who lost a few fights with a lawnmower.

Sam had thrown a fit back then, too. Terrified beyond all scientific reasoning that maybe swapping out his brother’s heart would somehow end up swapping out his feelings as well. He’d operated that first time with tears in his eyes, stitching a healthy organ from an escaping prisoner into his brother’s chest. (They got most of their spares from the correctional facility a few miles up the road. Apparently, quite a few inmates figured they’d be able to lose their pursuers by cutting through the acres of dark, Virginia woods surrounding the prison. They were right.) Sam had swallowed back bile throughout the entire surgery until Dean’s stupid quips had eventually managed to allay most of his irrational fears.

“Hey, Sammy. Guess what I’m gonna say.”

“Yes, okay? I’ll be your goddamn valentine. Just shut the fuck up. I don’t need you distracting me while I’m wrist-deep in your fucking chest cavity.”

It had made him feel even better once he’d finished sewing his brother back up completely and Dean finally had enough energy to flip him back onto the operating table. He’d pinned Sam down onto the chilled metal, still wet and sticky under the layer of blood and various preservatives, and fucked him hard. Pounded into him until every one of his insecurities had been smashed to pieces. 

Sam had kept Dean’s heart afterwards—couldn’t force himself to throw it out—and now it sits in a formaldehyde jar on one of the storeroom shelves. He gets to see it every single time he heads downstairs to bring more fireplace wood up to the first floor of the ramshackle cabin they’ve been squatting in the last few decades.

“Sam. Sweetheart.” Dean presses a casual kiss to the side of Sam’s mouth. “Dollface.”

“Don’t call me dollface,” he gripes.

“It ain’t gonna change a fucking thing.” Dean traces the pad of his thumb along a particularly coarse line of stitching down the length of Sam’s neck. “I’d just like to be able to see your stupid mug, okay?” 

And it’s true. It’s not like Sam is one to talk. He can’t remember where most of his current pieces came from originally, it’s been so long. A large swath across his lower back is even from a woman, and his brother teases him mercilessly about it. They’ve been doing a decent job managing all the really important parts, but the skin… The skin always rotted quicker than they thought it would.

Dean reaches back to tangle his fingers in Sam’s hair—the color just slightly darker than his actual strands had been before he’d had to replace his scalp, but it’s cut to the exact same length. “We can wait until we find some green ones, okay?” he says reassuringly. Because he’s infuriating and always knows exactly what Sam’s real issues are. “It’ll be like nothing’s changed at all.” He grins. “Cross my heart and— Well, y’know…”

Sam can’t help but chuckle at his brother’s terrible sense of humor. “Yeah,” he eventually relents. “Okay.” Then he shifts back until he can take in the full view of Dean’s body. The patch across the base of his neck is starting to go bad and Sam can see the first signs of decay peeking out from underneath his t-shirt collar. One of his sutures is faintly red around the edges, infected probably, and Sam’s gonna be the one who has to deal with that when Dean starts complaining about the itching. And yeah, his eyes are starting to go a little milky, but they’re gonna fix that soon. Dean grins again at Sam’s not-so-subtle inspection, and he’s fucking beautiful

They’d done this—all of this—to save Dean from Hell, but sometimes Sam thinks that all they really did was book an extra ticket down if the time ever comes. He gets a little flutter of relief in his chest whenever he imagines it though. Dean had tried to separate them (even if he thought it was for Sam’s own good), but Sam had been the one to fix it again. To keep them together like they’re supposed to be. Forever. 

Sam leans in and presses a long kiss to his brother’s corpse-cold lips, echoing Dean’s earlier words right back into his mouth. “Like nothing’s changed at all.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sometimes Sam really wishes that his brother hadn’t been born looking the way he did. That Dean didn’t have a jawline sharp enough to be carved out of marble, or an ass that could make a Hollywood starlet cry, but instead, an appearance so painfully ordinary that civilians would never even look twice. Maybe a hooked nose instead of his full, plush lips. Or a scrawny, unimpressive frame in place of his broad back and strong arms. The kind of face that fostered anonymity in its own plainness. The kind of body that eyes flicked to once, and then slid past without really registering. 

Sometimes Sam goes even further. Imagines that Dean had been born ugly as a fucking mud fence. Because no physical flaw could make Sam care one iota less about his brother. No sloped, hunched shoulders or dull-colored eyes would stop Sam from wanting to ravish Dean stupid. No ghastly deformity could keep him from loving Dean with every inch of his own battered soul—would stop him from wanting Dean in every possible way he could have him, inside and out.

What it would do is stop every other person in the goddamn world from feeling the exact same way.

Because they can’t walk into a bar without every single woman (and sometimes a few men, depending on their relative proximity to the Bible Belt) drooling over Dean like he’s the last hot entrée at the buffet. First, come the bold ones. “Hi, I’m Traci. You look like you and your friend are new around here. Care to buy me a drink?” Then the passive, please-notice-me ones, with their completely coincidental closeness and the fuck-me eyes. Then finally, the whoops-I’m-so-drunk-I-didn’t-even-mean-to-grab-your-ass-like-that stragglers. And Sam can only take a half-dozen or so ‘accidental’ trip-and-falls into his brother’s lap before he has to physically bite his tongue in order to stop it from giving the poor women the lashing his pissy, beer-dampened brain thinks they deserve.

The irritating part is that Dean goes for the girls just about as often as not. “Well, hey there, darlin’. Accidents happen. How ‘bout I make sure you get back to your place safe?” Or the ever popular, “Why, we are new around here. How’d you guess? Y’know, I’d absolutely love for you to show me around.” And then Sam is left holding the room keys (and more often than not, his own junk) in his hands while Dean is off carousing with the flavor of the night.

And the thing is, Sam usually doesn’t even care that much. But it’s been four consecutive nights of, “Here, Sammy, you can finish my beer, I’m heading off with Chantal,” and he’s kind of sick of it—the rude abandonment, that is—because he refuses to even entertain the notion that he’s only sulky because Dean is out fucking people who aren’t him. So the instant Dean starts in with his most recent “Don’t wait up, I’ll see you in the morning” spiel, Sam decides to cock-block his brother with all of the prejudice universally bestowed upon him as a younger sibling.

“Sure thing, Dean,” he nods, way too earnestly. “But you should probably tell Desiree here about the chlamydia, don’t you think? I know how upset your wife was when the doctor had to break the news to her.”

Desiree’s falsely-lashed eyes fly open for half a second, and then she’s tossing her vodka cranberry in Dean’s face and strutting away before his brother can do more than gape after her in shock.

“What the hell, dude?” Dean swipes a hand over his soaking chin and violently flings the residue at Sam. “The fuck was that for, you dick?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Sam snits in return, but he’s a little too pleased with the situation to really let his words bite. “Were you planning on going home with her? I never would’ve guessed, based on every other night this week.”

Dean blinks at him for a moment, then breaks into quietly derisive laughter. “Dude, seriously?” He scrubs his face dry on a handful of Sam’s shirt and shoves himself away from the bar table. “If you were that hungry for dick, baby,” he says a little too loudly, “you could’ve just asked me.”

“Dean, shut it.”

His brother overdramatically saunters to the door, clearly intent on getting back at Sam for ruining his casual fuck. “Or is it your hemorrhoids acting up again?” he practically shouts. “It’s okay, Sammy. Nothing to be ashamed of if you can’t sit down for more than five minutes at a time. I’ve heard it’s a very common problem.” Dean swings through the double doors like he thinks he’s one of his stupid, silver-screen cowboys, and Sam has to duck his head to hide his burning face from the rest of the very crowded bar. He thanks the universe that at least they’re leaving town tomorrow morning and slinks outside after his brother.

Dean is waiting for him out front, hands in his pockets as he leans against the wall, and looking thoroughly smug. The insufferable smirk on his face tells Sam all is forgiven now that they’re even, and his brother pushes himself away from the bar with a spring in his step. “So, you gonna tell me what that was about?” Dean asks, sparing him a casual glance.

Sam keeps his eyes on the asphalt in front of his feet for a few moments, then eventually says, “What would you do if I looked different?” Dean raises an eyebrow in response. “Do you think we’d still…” Sam wiggles a hand between them. “Y’know?”

Dean yanks the driver’s door open as they reach the Impala, then slides across the bench seat. “Different how?” he drawls once Sam has joined him inside the car.

“I mean, like if I had a…deformity or something.”

“What—like flipper hands?” Dean snorts at the esoteric thought, and then grins to himself as he contemplates the steering wheel in front of him, quietly enjoying his own imagery. “Like DeVito from Batman?”

Sam rolls his eyes at his brother’s immaturity. “Sure. Flipper hands. Fine.”

Dean pauses for a pensive moment. “Can you jack off by yourself in this scenario? Is that what this is about?” He levels Sam with an irritatingly simpering look. “Righty not doing it for you anymore? Y’know, I heard that if you sit on your hand until you lose circulation—”

“Oh my god,” Sam gripes. “Forget the fucking flipper hands.” He thumps his head back against the seat with an aggrieved sigh. “I just meant, would it bother you? If other people thought I was gross.”

“Oh, what?” his brother mocks. “You mean, instead of all the sex you’re usually having?”

“You’re a jerk and I hate you,” Sam grumbles without really meaning it. “Just forget I said anything.”

Dean rolls his eyes with a final, amused huff of breath and starts the engine, steering the broad nose of the car back toward their motel for the evening. There’s another few minutes of semi-comfortable silence before he speaks up again. “Do you mean would it be easier?” he asks quietly, weirdly sincere. “If I didn’t have to keep constantly glaring at presumptuous dickheads over your shoulder all the damn time?” Dean shakes his head with a small, admonishing smile. “Yeah,” he sighs. “That would probably be easier.” Then he sniffs and turns his attention back to the road—the moment over as suddenly as it began. “Although, I think flipper hands might actually be an improvement.”

“You’re an idiot.” Sam tries not to let his smile seep into his words.

“An idiot who’s gonna get blown within an inch of his life tonight. To make up for whatever the hell that bitch-fit was earlier.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sam says, going for grumpy, but his heart isn’t in it. He stretches his arms out to the sides with a fake yawn, not-so-accidentally grazing his hand across his brother’s lap. “Y’know, I might have to blow you the rest of the week too. Just to be fair.”

Dean snorts, then catches Sam’s hand in his own, bringing it up to his mouth to playfully nip at the pads of Sam’s fingers. “Right,” he agrees way too easily. “Of course… Just to be fair.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Dean cricks his neck and shifts the angle of his head for the twelfth time in the last five minutes. The reproduction amulet that Marie had given him swings violently from the rear view mirror as Baby’s tires hit another tiny dent in the asphalt.

“Dude, are you alright?” Sam asks, voice quietly amused as it wafts over from the passenger side.

Dean shifts in his seat again as the large, blocky charm obscures his view of the highway marker up ahead. “I’m fine.” He reaches out to fiddle with the hanging cord, then lets out a small sigh as the sign flies by them—too quickly to catch the name of the turnoff. Dean adjusts the string again until the ‘samulet’ is dangling mostly unobtrusively above the dash.

“Are you sure?” Sam sounds like he’s got one of those restrained smiles twitching across his face, but Dean doesn’t want to risk looking and missing their exit.

“I said, I’m fine.” The friggin’ enormous hunk of clay swings again as they hit a pothole, clinking against the plastic edge of the mirror, and Dean winces at the sound. His fingers twitch up automatically, itching to remove the heavy charm hurting his poor Baby, but he catches himself at the last second and curls his fist tightly against his thigh. This isn’t about him, or his car. It’s about Sam. And if he hadn’t thrown the damn original away in the first place, then he wouldn’t have to be dealing with this now. Least he can do is suck it up for the sake of his brother’s happiness.

“Pull over,” Sam says after a few moments.

“What? Why?” Dean throws a confused look in Sam’s direction. “Everything okay?”

“Pull over,” he repeats calmly, and Dean steers them up onto the shoulder as quick as he can. If his brother is gonna blow chunks, he’d prefer it not to be on the leather upholstery.

Dean shoves the parking brake up and braces himself against the seat, ready to tug a carsick Sam out the driver’s side if he can’t unlock his own door fast enough. But instead, Sam reaches up over their heads, yanks the amulet off of the rear view, and carelessly flings it into the backseat. “What the hell, Sam?” Dean starts—until he’s suddenly attacked by a lapful of heavy younger brother.

“Don’t need a symbol, Dean,” Sam pants against his neck, dragging hot kisses up the line of his throat. “To prove anything.” He laughs and grinds down against Dean’s crotch, which is starting to pay eager attention to the proceedings. “And it was very obviously bugging the crap outta you.”

“I was being romantic,” Dean gripes, roaming his hands over his brother’s sides. “See if I do anything nice for you after this.”

Sam laughs again and pulls him into a long, sincere kiss. “Thank you,” he breathes, then trails a series of chaste kisses across his face and down to nip at his ear. “But it was freaking me out a bit.” He grins, then clarifies, “You being sensitive and all.”

Dean scoffs and tightens his arms around Sam’s waist, tossing him to the side across the empty bench seat so he doesn’t have to worry about the wheel jamming into his brother’s back. He crawls over Sam’s waiting body and tears at his fly. “Thank god, man,” Dean growls in relief. “Only douchebags hang shit from their mirrors. Thought I was gonna have to invest in some of those fucking fuzzy dice too.”

Sam bites off a moan as his hips buck up against Dean’s hands. “If you really wanna make it up to me, you can use your mouth for more important things than talking.”

Dean tosses his brother a devilish grin at the innuendo. “Thought you might wanna wait for a motel, Sammy. Y’know. Do it all proper-like.”

“C’mon, Dean,” Sam drawls back, just as sinful. “We wouldn’t want to disappoint the shippers, would we?”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Sam!”

Sam immediately drops the book on Biblical Symbology he’d been leafing through and races toward the library, skidding around the hallway corner as his socked feet slip over the bunker’s stone floors. The call didn’t sound like Dean’s usual “Holy shit, there’s a skinwalker in here” warning, or his “Oh god, I’ve just dropped something sharp onto my foot” plea for medical assistance, or even what Sam imagines a “Help, the Mark is eating my entire arm” might sound like, but Sam’s seen far too much in their line of work to risk his brother’s safety on a guess. He sprints into the war room, stumbling up the ironwork stairs, and then catches himself on the little stone step-up to the library’s entrance—panting heavily as he takes in the scene before him.  

Dean is fine. Totally, completely fine. He’s resting his ass against one of the tables with his arms casually crossed over his chest, and he’s quirking an eyebrow at Sam like he’s the one being ridiculous. “You’re…okay?” Sam finally manages to get out between heaving breaths. “Nothing’s wrong?”

“Uh, yeah, Sam,” Dean says flatly. “I’m fine. Just got back from picking up a couple more vinyls at the thrift shop in Topeka.”

Sam thumps a hand over his own chest and tries to force his heart rate back to normal. Dean’s fine? In no danger whatsoever? Sam growls under his breath as he glares at his brother. Well he won’t be for long because Sam is gonna kill him. “You almost gave me a heart attack, Dean,” he scolds. “I thought you were in trouble! Why the hell were you screaming for me?”

“Ah,” Dean says, holding up a finger like he’s just remembered. “Got something for you too, Sammy.” He scrounges around in the paper bag on the table behind him until he finds what he’s looking for. “Catch,” he says, tossing Sam a large, flat square.

Sam fumbles with the cardboard sleeve for a moment, then flips it over to study the front. Ann and Nancy Wilson stare broodingly up at him from layers of red and black velvet. A comb and a silver mirror dangle apathetically from their fingers as they pose in front of a gypsy caravan, and Sam has to blink in confusion as to why he’s holding Heart’s ‘Little Queen’ album in his hands. Yeah, okay, Heart is totally on Dean’s list of weird old 70s bands that he’s completely obsessive over, but Sam has absolutely zero interest in any of them. And he’s told Dean that somewhere around a million times in every possible arrangement of words—and in at least two languages. He brings his head back up to stare at his brother in outright bewilderment, but Dean just smirks serenely back at him.

“Be my valentine?”

As Sam flings the record over his shoulder and cages his brother in against the library table, he can’t help but think that the almost-coronary was probably worth it.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

In the end, falling was the easy part.  

After Death had made it clear that the Mark was the only thing stopping the innocents of Earth from being swallowed by a monstrous, primordial force of evil… Well, let’s just say that one, solitary Knight of Hell wasn’t looking like so much of a threat in comparison. They shut down Rowena’s spell, ruthlessly dispatched the witch herself, and carried on as best they could, despite knowing that the ever-ticking clock was endlessly hounding their every step.  

A single, stray bullet was all it took for time to run out completely.  

Sam doesn’t bother with the holy water and the sanctified blood this time. What would be the point, really? Just an intermediary stopgap while Dean reenacts his vicious cycle of relapse and Sam continues to age beyond him. Pushing them further and further into separate eternities with each passing year. Something they both know that he’ll never let happen. Easier to face the firing squad now instead of putting it off for later.  

It’s only the work of a moment to slice Ruby’s knife across the demon’s neck, bound and chained as he is. To kneel down and press his lips to his brother’s throat, gulping down each drop of crimson liquid he can get at before the wound heals itself. To tear the gash open, again and again, until he’s drunk his fill. After all, there’s no possible way to bleed the bearer of the Mark dry. Dean doesn’t even try to stop him. He just holds perfectly still and laughs.

The instant that black eyes open to black, everything becomes easier. No conscience or morals to hold them back. No irksome concerns about humanity to keep them from what really matters. Sam doesn’t even have to lift a finger to snap his brother’s ropes. He doesn’t even have to ask for Dean to rise before him as general and guardian. To pledge his fealty with a blood-soaked kiss. Dean wants this to be fun. There will be plenty of sinners for him to toy with.

Toppling Crowley’s kingdom is a joke. The sniveling sycophant won’t even fight to the death for his crown—immediately kneeling before the rightful king the instant they blow past Hell’s gates. Dean leaves him alive for the show of respect. A gift, really. Sam could always use an advisor.

Crowley has turned the place into a palatial stateroom. A cushy center of business. Sam easily corrects this with a flick of his fingers—twisting the rich carpeting and oak desks into a beautiful nightmare of obsidian glass. The room’s corners straining and unfolding until they finally settle to reveal a throne room worthy of the Boy King himself. Sam’s clothing runs down his body like ink with each step he takes toward the center of the yawning hall, melting away so that shadows as black as tainted souls can reach up to twine themselves around his bare legs and waist. This is no longer a place for Earthly things. A single throne slowly rises under his outstretched hand, the towering spires dark and twisted enough to match the knotted crown of thorns that has sprouted upon his own head. Then come the high, vaulted windows, stretching up toward the Heavens themselves. A masterpiece of stained glass in shattered gold and emerald green. Each panel an ode to his brother’s strength and beauty. Dean snorts at the dramatic gesture, still rolling his eyes as his new vestments form around him where he stands. The dark leather and gleaming plate mail perfectly molding to his chest and shoulders. A suit of armor fit for such a commanding Knight.

Pleased with his new accommodations, Sam gracefully seats himself upon his throne, surveying all that he has wrought. Dean steps forward to stand confidently at his left, idly dropping a hand to card through the strands of Sam’s hair. He leans into the touch for one indulgent moment, arching his neck like a spoiled housecat before pulling away and forcing himself back to center. There will be time for softness later. Now is the time to solidify his regime—whether that be through fear or respect or blood.

The Boy King flicks his coal-black gaze to his new royal advisor, his voice smooth and rich as it echoes off the cavernous walls.  

“Bring them in.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Dude, what has gotten into you today?”

Dean looks up from where he’s currently straddling Sam’s thighs atop a creaking library chair to blink at his brother. “Whaddya mean?”

“What do I—?” Sam breaks off with an amused snort. “I mean all the kissing. What else would I be talking about?” 

His brother had woken him up this morning by crawling into Sam’s bed and shoving his tongue down his throat. Then he’d made them both breakfast, taking advantage of Sam's lingering grogginess by wrapping Sam's arms around his waist and tangling up their fingers, effectively locking them together, right there over the sizzling bacon, so that Dean could turn his head and leave chaste little pecks up and down his jawline whenever he felt like it—which, apparently, was a lot. The afternoon hadn’t slowed him down any either. Sam had hunkered down at one of the library tables to immerse himself in looking for their next hunt, and Dean had clearly viewed that as a challenge. He’d swooped in every time he had to cross through the room (and even a few times he hadn’t), tugging Sam’s hair back for quick, upside-down Spiderman kisses, or easing his shirt collar open to leave a few sucking bruises at the junction of his shoulder and neck as he typed, or—most memorably—sweeping himself into Sam’s actual lap for an extended make-out session that got so heated, Sam had to watch one of those UNICEF videos on YouTube about the starving kids in Africa in order to cool himself down after his brother had abruptly and unexpectedly swanned off. 

Even now, Dean appears to be using the momentary lapse in conversation to go to town on him again, gliding his plush lips over Sam’s own, then pulling back just enough to nip and nibble at the corner of his mouth. Like a goddamn cocktease. “Dean,” Sam mumbles, losing his train of thought for a moment as his brother does that thing with his tongue that makes him go weak in the knees, “I’m seriously starting to think this is a curse or something.”

Dean ignores him in favor of playfully grazing over the seam of his lips. Then he plunges in deep again, dragging Sam’s tongue back out to play until he can’t help but let out a long, broken groan and give in to his brother’s ministrations completely. “C’mon, that’s ridiculous,” Dean says eventually, low and insufferably sexy. “You’re acting like I never touch you.”

Sam’s hips hitch up as Dean sucks at his lower lip and his fingers helplessly clench tighter around his brother’s shoulders. “There’s usually a little more dick action,” he shoots back, a little too breathy to truly be sarcastic the way he means it. 

“Psshh,” his brother scoffs. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” But Dean twists out of reach the instant he makes a clumsy grab for his belt, distracting Sam with another impossibly expert curl of his tongue until he goes all liquid again. “I just feel like doing this, is all,” Dean says into his mouth. “Kinda need to or something. Have ever since this morning.” He tosses Sam a careless shrug, then quickly ducks back in for another drawn-out kiss. “What’s the big deal?”

Sam needs to figure this out. Something here isn’t right. Dean must have stumbled over something he shouldn’t have in one of the bunker’s storerooms. He needs to do some research. He needs to— Dean tangles his fingers in Sam’s hair and tugs just the slightest bit, and Sam whimpers as he immediately melts into putty in his brother’s magnificent hands. Maybe he’ll look for a cure tomorrow. Yeah, that’s it. Tomorrow.

…Or maybe the day after that.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s supposed to be good. Every single fucking thing about this should be good. It should be goddamn fireworks.

Sam is naked and panting above him, the soft ends of his hair tickling at Dean’s jawline as his brother grinds down against him, skin to skin. Wanton and brutal and perfect. It should be fucking amazing. Dean shouldn’t be able to breathe with how amazing it is. 

“Dean.”

He wrenches his head to the side and claws the mental echo out of his memory. Slams his eyes shut and focuses back on Sam. On the heavy sound of his breathing and the slick slide of sweat underneath his hands.

“We’re bound, Dean. We’ll always be bound.”

Dean wraps his arms tighter. Shoves her image away. Waterfall of loose curls. The elegant curve of her body. That fucking dress. He digs his fingers into the muscle of Sam’s back.

“You and I will be together.”

He sucks in a shallow, desperate breath and clenches every muscle in his body. Focuses on SamWarm, slender frame in his arms. Delicate fingers against the back of his neck. No—not Amara. Sam. Sam and the goddamn cock riding the cut of his hip. Small, soft hands sliding down to press firm against his chest—huge, calloused palms tucked under his shoulders and stubble scraping against his cheekbone every time Sam’s head dips too low.

“We will become one.” Liquid brown stare. Perfect, crystalline calm. Like the eye of a storm. “Why wouldn’t you want that?”

It escapes his lips on a sigh.

Sam freezes rigid above him. One moment of terrible silence behind his own eyelids stretching into a brief eternity. And then his brother’s voice, slow and strained and razor thin. “…What did you just call me?”

Dean’s heart leaps up into his throat and he swallows hard to buy time, fluttering his lashes open and pinning Sam with a look of confusion as his brain scrambles for a fix. “I said ‘more’,” he manages to lie way too smoothly. “Why? What’d you think I said?” Jesus fucking Christ. Because, clearly, he’s intent on digging his own grave like a lying asshole. Dean is scum. He is—he’s scum. He’s a fucking weasel. He should punch himself in the face and remove himself from Sam’s bed just for everything he’s done already.

But his brother immediately relaxes again, shaking his head in embarrassment as an honest smile jumps back up to warm his face. “Nothing,” he laughs under his breath. “Seriously, I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking.” He scrunches his nose up a little in self-awareness. Cute, like he’s fourteen again. It rips Dean’s heart into ragged, uneven chunks. “Like, honestly, you’d laugh if I told you. Right in my face.” 

He forces a pathetically weak chuckle in return. “Yeah?”

Sam lets the smile spread into a full-fledged grin and drops his head to nuzzle behind Dean’s ear. “Yeah.”

The guilt clenches around Dean’s heart like a fist, and the rest of him quickly follows suit. Shit. Where did he put those little blue pills he snagged? And how is he gonna take one without his brother noticing? Maybe he can send Sam into his room for a condom or something. No, that’s suspicious as fuck. More lube? Handcuffs? Dean lets out a bitter snort. Hell, he could task Sam with finding a silk fucking blindfold, it still isn’t gonna be any less weird that he’s pumping the brakes right in the middle of things.

“Hey, Dean…you okay?” 

Sam’s noticed. Of course he’s noticed. Dean clears his throat and vomits up another lie. “Yeah, just—lost the moment for a second.” He wriggles until Sam lets him free, then guides his brother back into his vacated spot. “Here.” And Sam sure as hell isn’t having the same problem he is. The barely-in-his-thirties asshole. Dean leans down to take Sam’s dick into his mouth, but doesn’t meet his gaze.

He needs to tell him. He needs to tell Sam yesterday. But how the fuck are you supposed to bring something like that up? “Hey, baby. So I’ve totally got the hots for someone else. You know, that chick who isn’t you? And I’m talking big-time. Intrusive fantasies popping up in the ol’ spank bank, general pining, wishing she were here instead of you—the whole nine. Ha, you know how it is. And so, I’m thinking it’s probably a spell, but hey—who knows? Maybe it isn’t! Funny world, isn’t it? Boy, am I glad to get that off my chest. So…we good?”

Sam wraps his hand around Dean’s right forearm, tenderly sweeps his thumb over the unmarked skin, the way he always does lately. Because the Mark’s gone, right? It’s gone.

Dean chokes on his brother’s cock, and doesn’t think about warm, brown eyes…

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It isn’t until they’re forty minutes down the I-70 that Dean is able to speak up again. “This thing with Amara, it isn’t—”

“I know.” Sam doesn’t even spare him a glance, calm and composed as he placidly watches the scenery roll by the passenger window. 

He should leave it at that. Take Sam’s out and let bygones do what they do best. But a terrified, insistent part of him can’t stand the idea that his brother could possibly misunderstand him. Could think that any part of Dean wants this. Or, even worse, enjoys it. “I mean, the feelings,” he babbles on. “It’s not like they’re anywhere near—”

“Dean, I know,” Sam repeats gently.

Yeah. Alright. There’s being extra careful, and then there’s just beating a dead fucking horse. “How did you figure it out?” he asks eventually.

“You called out her name.” And that bit comes out a little rueful. “More than once.” Sam lets out a benign sigh and shifts around in his seat. “I thought I was imagining things at first, but I picked it up pretty quickly after that.”

He can’t stop the wince on that one. Usually, Dean prefers it when their eventually mandatory heart-to-hearts end up taking place in the Impala. Safe driving requires a certain lack of touching and mush, and there’s something relieving about being able to sidestep a moment before it gets too Hallmark. This time’s different though. He almost wishes he’d been able to spit all this up back at the freaky tire motel, where he could have put a comforting hand on his brother without worrying about driving them into a ditch. “How aren’t you pissed?”

Sam practically melts into sugar as he finally twists around to catch his gaze—the typical rainbows and fluffy kittens shooting out of his eyes. “I’m not. Not even a little bit. Dean, after everything we’ve been through, after everything you did for me when I was dealing with—” He doesn’t quite finish that thought, but Dean knows where it was headed anyway. “How could you possibly think that I could blame you for something like this?”

Dean gives him a weak smile in thanks, and Sam matches it before steering them back toward safer ground. “You want me pissed?” he teases, raising an eyebrow. “Let’s talk about you kissing the vic and throwing yourself into the line of fire like that. I came about three seconds from laying one on you myself, just to give you a taste of your own medicine.”

Dean doesn’t even want to imagine the qareen’s deadly fist directed at Sam’s precious heart. Or who he’d have seen doing the aiming. “Well, that’s a little petty,” he says instead. 

His brother chuckles in response. “Yeah, don’t I know it.”

The comfortable silence only lasts for a minute or two before Dean ruins it again with his dumb mouth. “I’m nervous, Sam,” he blurts out, too honestly. Because if he doesn’t get it out now, then he never will. Dean tightens his hands on the wheel and doubles down. “Listen. You need to know that no matter what I say, no matter what I do when I’m freaking bewitched—”

“Dean—”

“I don’t mean it, okay? No matter what happens when she’s got her hooks in me.” He risks a glance to make sure his brother’s paying attention. “You gotta know that right now is what’s real. Alright, sweetheart?” 

Sam just patiently waits for him to expound on that, and Dean feels a slight twinge of irritation at having backed himself into a corner. Stupid, perfectly understanding little brothers. Confessing stuff would be so much easier if he didn’t have to deal with all the fucking words. “This is what I really want,” he forces out. “Okay? You. This.” He twitches a hand between them. “Us.” Dean swallows hard. “And if I forget that—”

“I won’t let you.” When he looks over again, Sam is staring at him like the sun is shining out of his ass. And Dean refuses to admit melting a bit under the sappy sound of his brother’s voice. “I love you too, you emotionally-constipated idiot.” 

He carefully tucks the words away somewhere to the left of his heart, and then grumbles a little out loud, just for posterity’s sake. “That isn’t what I said.”

“Yes, it is.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s just flashes at first. Chaotic bursts of memory as his brain tries to reconcile everything that’s just happened with what should have instead. Fleeting and disorienting. 

Closing his eyes to the soundtrack of his brother’s last words, like some fucked-up bedtime story from when they were kids. 

Their few precious family photos scattered between them, creased across the center from where he’d had to clumsily pluck them from his breast pocket. 

The unexpected bite of air sweeping across his forehead as Dean’s swing went high. 

“You okay?”  “I’ll live.”

It doesn’t quite stop feeling like a fever dream until the bolt of lightning comes down from the sky. And Sam’s so past the irony on that one, he isn’t able to muster up much resentment other than—How very fucking biblical. He doesn’t even manage to start worrying about Dean until the thing’s already seared itself onto his right arm.

But the difference is immediate. The white-hot sizzle of electricity snaps back up through the ceiling, taking the accursed fucking Mark with it, and emotion instantly floods through his brother’s eyes again. Love and guilt and regret swirling in the clear green depths like some levee has just been smashed to pieces, letting everything loose at once. Like Dean is real again. Like everything that’s happened the last few weeks doesn’t matter. Simply a placeholder for when Sam could hold his actual brother in his arms and say, “You’re back. You see? We did it.”

And as if some floodgate has suddenly broken in Sam as well, he’s rushing to Dean’s side the instant it’s safe, heart pounding away in his chest like it should have been when his brother had the business end of a scythe pointed at his throat. “Are you okay?” he asks frantically, fingers sweeping over Dean’s now-bare skin. “Did that hurt you?”

His brother barely manages to shake his head. “No.” His gaze flounders a bit, then flicks down to a small section of Sam’s collar and stays there. “It’s okay. I’m fine.” 

Sam can’t stop the awed smile from slowly spreading across his face, no matter how ill-timed it is. “Dean, it’s gone.” He ducks his head, trying to get his brother to meet his eyes. To share in the relief. “We did it. You’re okay.”

But Dean doesn’t budge from that spot on his left shoulder, and Sam finally cranes his neck down to see why. There’s a tiny drip of blood on his jacket—almost unnoticeable—but the fabric’s too pale a green to completely hide the stain. And when Sam glances back up again, Dean looks more mournful than he’s seen him in months.

“You’re bleeding,” his brother says, quiet and small. And Sam can feel the self-loathing rising off from him in waves.

“Dean, it doesn’t matter—”

But Dean’s already pulling away from him. “I’m getting a rag,” he tosses over his shoulder, striding past the restaurant’s rather macabre mural as he heads for one of the back doors. “Don’t move.”

Juanita’s has clearly been shut down for some time now, and Sam had assumed the facilities would be just as run-down as the rest of the place. But the lingering smell of grease in the air tells him that the slowly congealing platter to his left must have been cooked recently enough that the water’s still running. And Dean is back, damp kitchen dishcloth in tow, before Sam can question the strange sight for more than a second.

He doesn’t even ask before stepping into Sam’s space, tentatively cradling the right side of his face with one hand as he gently wipes the blood from his cheek with the other. The mindful, tender motions so at odds with the violence and icy hatred of the past couple days that Sam can’t stop himself from closing his eyes and leaning into the touch. So starved for his brother’s affection that he doesn’t even think twice about mimicking the action that was almost his last act on Earth. He welcomes the slight sting of the rough cloth against his broken skin like he’s starving for it. Sinks down into the bittersweet sensation as Dean loves him with his hands. Each careful pass of the washcloth over his cheekbone is a whispered apology. Each spot of wet warmth a plea for forgiveness. A brief graze of his fingers across the worst of the bruising more than sufficing for when his brother can’t say what he means out loud.

“Dean,” Sam can’t stop himself from blurting out, “what you said about Charlie—”

“Don’t.” His brother’s spine stiffens like he’s in actual pain, and his hands halt their movements against Sam’s injury. “Sam, I didn’t mean— I wouldn’t…”

He can’t continue, but Sam doesn’t need him to. He touches his forearm instead, something lighter in his chest. “Is it different?”

“Yes.”

That’s all Dean says. All he does for an infinite blip of time before Sam is suddenly being wrenched down into the most impassioned kiss of his life. Fierce and gentle and alive. It’s “I’m Sorry.” It’s “How dare you let me do that to you.” It’s “Please, don’t leave.” The washrag falls from Dean’s fingers, forgotten, onto the floor with a wet splat, and Sam claws his nails into his brother’s back without any intention of ever letting go.

He kisses his would-be murderer’s lips and feels nothing but gratitude. Only sheer, unadulterated joy that they’re both here to live through this moment. A killer’s hands carefully sweep the hair back from his forehead, and he leans into the motion like a moth headed straight for an open flame. Dean pulls them even closer together, their boots skidding through the very ashes of death itself, and Sam pours his heart into his mouth for his brother to have. To consume. For him to keep forever. A small, desperate noise passes through their joined lips, and then Dean lets Sam swallow his in return. A promise

And from the ruins of a shitty, crumbling Tex-Mex restaurant, Sam’s faith rises like a phoenix.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sam stops Dean before he’s able to completely clear the doorway. “Hey, wait,” he says, twisting in his seat to pin his brother with a suspicious look. “How was your—what’s it called? Unattached Creeper Christmas?”

“Unattached Drifter Christmas,” Dean corrects him, somewhat woundedly.

But Sam just ignores him and continues on. “Because I heard you get home late last night, but it wasn’t that late.” He narrows his eyes playfully. “Did you seriously bail on the poor girl in the middle of the night? On Valentine’s Day?”

Dean grins through the mouthful of rice he’s still working on and leans back against the doorframe. “Well I had to get back to my valentine, didn’t I?” 

Sam remains as implacable as possible. “You literally have another woman’s mouth-print on your neck right now.”

His brother waggles his eyebrows and cranes his head to the left. “Wanna give me a matching one on the other side?”

Sam can’t help the snort at that one. “I meant it, Dean. If you think you’re touching me before you shower, then you’re more hungover than you smell.”

“You’re not jealous, are you, Sammy?” he prods insufferably. “Because we celebrated yesterday.”

“Squeezing out all my toothpaste into the shape of a heart on my mirror and leaving a note that says ‘Let’s do it’ on the bed is not celebrating.”

Dean laughs out loud and ignores him right back, crossing his arms over his chest. “Might have to change the name though,” he mentions lightly.

Sam frowns in confusion. “What?”

His brother shrugs, the kind of devilish smile tugging at his lips that can only bode poorly for Sam. “Doesn’t exactly fit anymore, y’know?” He takes a lingering sip of coffee, practically reeking of amusement. Well, that and booze. “Think I might have to start calling it Attached Drifter Christmas.” And then he slips out into the hallway without another word.

Sam bites hard at his inner lip and forces his eyes back to his computer screen, trying with everything in him not to let his brother’s obnoxious version of flirting make him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

…He fails entirely.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I told you it was too hot.”

Dean pops the hood, and then coughs through the burst of steam that escapes right into his face, fanning his arm to disperse some of the superheated air. “Yeah, well you were the one who needed the A/C on so desperately,” he grumbles, hissing a little until his fingertips can acclimate to the sun-baked metal.

His brother just leans back against the passenger door and takes another pull from his water bottle, his overshirt already stripped off and tied around his waist. “That’s ‘cause it’s like a hundred degrees out here. You know West Texas has mountains, Dean.”

“Yes, Sam,” he repeats obnoxiously, twitching his shoulders as a bead of sweat tickles down the back of his neck to soak into the collar of his t-shirt, “I know West Texas has mountains.” Dean shoves the ire down and carefully checks over his Baby’s insides. As if he needs his clueless little brother to tell him what does or does not overtax an engine. “Fuck,” he sighs once his gaze catches on the empty tank. “We’re out of coolant.”

“Yeah,” Sam says acridly. “It probably all evaporated in the heat.”

Dean rolls his eyes as he crouches down to check under the car. “No, Einstein,” he mutters under his breath, “it means we sprung a leak somewhere.” There’s no noticeable puddle he can make out beneath the chassis, so they’ve probably been leaving a trail all the way down the interstate. Dean lets out a frustrated growl at the realization and sweeps a hand over his face. “Please tell me that isn’t the last of the water,” he forces out as calmly as humanly possible right now.

His brother lets out a self-righteous snort and tips the bottle back against his lips. “I asked if you wanted one back at that Gas-Mart,” he says smugly. “But no, you called me a health nut and bought a bunch of slim jims instead.” Sam twists the plastic cap back on and jams their only salvation into his pocket. “If you want your own, you can just wait until we get back to El Paso.”

“It’s not for me, dick. I need it for the radiator.”

“Uh, no,” Sam informs him flatly. “I’m not dying of thirst in an honest-to-god desert so that you can waste our only water on the car.” He scrubs his fingers through the soaked hair at his temples, then flips up the longer ends at the back of his neck. “Just call for a tow and we’ll spend an extra night back at the motel.” 

Dean scoffs incredulously, feeling what little self-control he’s been holding onto start to slip through his grasp. “I am not letting some sweaty redneck named Bubba scratch up my Baby with his greasy sausage fingers and his poor excuse for a truck.” He swipes the back of his arm over his forehead, then reaches out toward Sam, twitching his hand expectantly. “So give me the fucking water bottle.”

Sam just glares at him and sets his jaw in defiance, clearly intent on playing this like a stubborn asshole. “What part of ‘no’ do you not get, Dean?” he bites back at him.

And Dean’s control snaps its tether that instant. “Give it!” he snarls, lunging forward to grab the thing by force. Sam hurriedly slips into a defensive stance, trying to use his unfair height advantage to keep him at arm’s length, but Dean kicks his brother’s ankles apart and shoves him up against the car, crushing their chests together. The heat bleeding through the thin fabric of his brother’s t-shirt is somehow even more sweltering than the sun beating down on them, and Dean’s cock quickly takes an interest because his wiring’s been all fucked up for years now. 

Sam notices too, if the surprised intake of breath is anything to go by. “Dean, stop,” he groans, vaguely trying to shove him away. “It’s way too hot.”

“Yeah?” he asks sharply, all his anger channeling itself into something else as he gropes at his brother’s crotch. “Little Sammy sure doesn’t seem to think so.”

Sam growls again, just to be contrary, but he snaps his mouth shut the second Dean wrangles his jeans down, tilting his shoulders back against the Impala to escape the worst of their entwined body heat. There isn’t another soul out here, not in the middle of the fucking Chihuahuan like this, and Dean’s got his teeth latched around his brother’s neck and a finger lodged firmly up his ass before either of them has the chance to get self-conscious about it.

Jesus, Dean,” Sam hisses sharply. He rips the belt from his jeans to return the favor, lining Dean’s angry, red cock up against his own and gripping them both in one enormous hand. “Just fucking do it already.”

Dean bristles at the unnecessary nudge—like he needs instructions to get Sam off—and then gives the asshole exactly what he’s asking for, violently ignoring the sudden flash of heat that has nothing to do with the desert sun. He shoves in two fingers deep, dry, and Sam’s so tight that it’s gotta sting like a motherfucker, but his brother just grits his teeth and tightens his grip. Furiously jacking the both of them and slamming his eyes shut and clenching down around Dean’s twisting fingers inside him until he’s shooting off right into his own hand. Quick and dirty and brutal.

He tries to wriggle free for a hot second afterwards, but Dean wrenches him back into place against the side door, crooking his fingers until Sam gasps. “You ain’t done,” he says lowly. Sam swallows visibly at the order, lingering arousal warring with sheer obstinance, but he eventually gives in and does as he’s told. It only takes a few more rough strokes for Dean to finish. He keeps his fingers inside Sam the entire time.

Exhaustion settles heavily over the both of them once his brother finally pulls away, wrestling his clothes back in some semblance of order as he slumps down to rest against the car. “You bit me, you asshole,” he grumbles half-heartedly, giving Dean the stink eye as he rubs at his sore neck.

Dean yanks his own jeans back up and huffs out a sarcastic breath, slowly sliding down to collapse into the sand beside his brother. “You bite me all the damn time,” he reminds Sam childishly, then hooks his arms around his bent knees in a weary sprawl. His t-shirt is pretty much soaked through, the black fabric even darker where it’s splotched with moisture, but the sun remains as unforgiving as ever. “Give me the water,” he says again.

“Dean, c’mon,” Sam whines, letting his skull fall back against the door. “Let’s just call for a—”

“Yes, alright, fine,” Dean spits. “We can call for a goddamn tow truck. Would you just hand me the freaking water?”

Sam holds out for a few more seconds before finally relenting, too worn-out to complain as he weakly complies. The anger and agitation from earlier are all gone now—a good fucking will do that—but Dean’s still hot and tired and absolutely drenched in sweat. He grabs the water bottle out of his brother’s hand, sullenly unscrews the cap as he listens to Sam dial, and then dumps the rest of it over his head.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Dean’s hands are everywhere, his eyes stinging from the poisonous smoke as he tries to protect his brother from some mythical fucking infection that he can’t fight. Sam’s chest is already going fluttery underneath his fingertips, and Dean can’t do fucking anything other than try to hold on. To give Sam just the slightest measure of comfort while he dies in his goddamn arms.

“What did you do?” Sam coughs out in far too small a voice, wincing against the thick, white fog swamping them so opaquely that it’s hard to breathe, let alone see. “What did you do?” Sam asks again, and Dean’s about to point out the unfairness of his brother blaming him for all this bullshit when Sam continues. “In Idaho,” he clarifies, voice already scoured raw from the smoke, “with the werewolves. After Corbin—” He winces again, at the memory this time, but eventually manages to force his gaze up to meet Dean’s eyes. “What did you do when you thought I was dead?”

Dean ignores the cavernous pit his brother’s question has suddenly ripped open in his stomach and tenderly strokes his free hand through Sam’s hair again, tightens his grip around his brother’s thigh instead. “Already told you, Sammy,” he says softly, lying through his teeth and pleading to anyone who’ll listen for his brother to just believe him for once. To accept the honey-coated answer and let the rest go. “Knew you weren’t,” he whispers. “’Course I knew.” Dean tries for a smile, but the stupid tightness clogging his throat makes it come out all lopsided. “Knew you were coming back to me. I just had to wait until your slow ass caught up to mine.”

“Stop lying to me,” Sam spits, and a single tear squeezes out as he wrenches his eyelids shut. “You always do that, ‘cause you think I’m too weak.” He shakes his head—more of a spasm than anything else, like a flea-infested dog—as the horrible, poisonous words keep vomiting out, running counterpoint to the rough husk of his voice. “Too pathetic. Can’t handle anything by myself. And you throw yourself on the pyre to protect me, over and over again, and I don’t deserve it,” he croaks wetly. “You keep sacrificing yourself, and for what?” Sam makes a weak grab for his wrist, but he doesn’t quite make it, his fingers twitching as his eyes start to slip shut under the choking fog. “I don’t matter. You’re everything, Dean, and I’m nothing and you’re gonna choose Amara because of course you are.”

Dean clenches his fists tighter in his brother’s jacket. “Sammy, I’m not,” he promises angrily. “I wouldn’t.”

“You’re gonna leave me behind and I’m gonna die without you and I’ll be alone,” Sam sobs, and then he flinches painfully at his own words. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I don’t mean that. It’s the fog. I wouldn’t say that. I’m sorry, I’m sorry—”

Dean can’t take it anymore, surging down to violently capture his brother’s mouth with his own—the kiss fierce and hard and far too painful to be enjoyable. It’s not a goodbye, just an attempt to stop the sickening lies tumbling from his brother’s lips. And Sam’s not even kissing back, too out of it to do much more than simply fall into him. “I went to talk to Billie,” Dean says finally, whispering the words right into Sam’s mouth. Doing his best to fill it with the truth instead of that awful fog. “Choked down about three fistfuls of barbiturates until she came to reap me, and then I tried to make a deal.”

Sam tries to shove him away—barely a twinge against his shoulders—and then stares up at Dean like he’s just admitted to murder. “You killed yourself?” His voice cracks a little in the middle, hurt wracking his tone. “Why would you—?” Sam pulls in another ragged, smoke-sour breath, chest heaving erratically under Dean’s hands. “You can’t do it again, Dean. You can’t do that this time.”

This time. And Dean can’t even contradict his brother’s words. Can’t protect him from what’s happening. The car’s too far away, by the time he got back with the holy oil Sam would be gone. He can’t even say, “Don’t be an idiot, you’re not gonna die,” because he is. He is. Sam’s gonna drop in a matter of seconds, lifeless and oozing black goo just like all the rest of the innocent civilians locked up in the storage room behind them, and the cruel cosmic-fucking-joke of it all is that Dean can’t follow him. Thanks to the monstrous, evil fog Amara made to, apparently, affect everyone on the planet but him. To leave him alive. Alone. Wailing and gnashing his teeth, just so he can mourn Sam for the rest of whatever the Darkness considers an eternity.

No. No. It ain’t gonna happen that way. Dean will make sure of it. He wraps Sam up tighter in his arms, ignores the sickeningly limp splay of his brother’s limbs. The fog may not affect Dean like everyone else, but it won’t stop his gun. It won’t stop a fucking muzzle right up against his forehead. And if Amara wants to bring him back, then she’ll have to keep doing it forever ‘cause Dean’s gonna eat a bullet every single time. Hell, maybe he’ll drag himself through just long enough to put a slug between her eyes first. But he’ll follow Sam quick enough. He’ll always follow Sam.

Dean pulls another broken kiss from his brother’s slack lips—one last memory to tide him over before his real Hell can start—when Sam suddenly starts jerking around for real this time, cringing and twitching in his arms like something’s burning him. Dean frantically pulls back, desperate to help, to remove even this very last hint of pain, when something in Sam’s pocket manages to catch the corner of his eye.

Just the slightest sliver of impossible light.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It takes ten minutes of silence after Chuck—God—Chuck has left the room for Dean to speak up again. “Where was it?” It’s the only thing he says, low and quiet, and Sam frowns at his brother in confusion until his gaze happens to wander over to what Dean must be talking about. The only thing he could be talking about. His jacket crumpled up where he’d left it, distractedly tossed onto the table by the library stairs—along with the very precious object he had tucked inside the pocket.

“Fake lining,” Sam says hoarsely, all of his earlier giddiness draining away in the face of his brother’s impending disappointment. “Stitched into the side of my bag. Black thread to match.” He drops his eyes to the war room table. Twiddles his fingers a bit. “You never would have found it.”

“You—” Dean breaks off for a charged minute, the thick silence clogging up the room, and when he speaks again there’s hurt in his tone. “You had it all this time.” Sam does glance up this time, and he finds his brother staring at him like he’d never stopped. Searching his gaze as if to verify the truth of his own suspicions. Sam’s pretty sure that the embarrassed look he gives back down to the map answers the question. “Why didn’t you give it back to me?”

Sam’s heart starts beating double-time in his chest as his throat goes dry. “I was gonna,” he says defensively. “It’s just—you were so mad at first I was afraid you wouldn’t want it back. And after what you did—”

Sammy,” Dean breathes.

He can’t help another quick glance, but the pain in his brother’s eyes stops him cold. The pain in his brother’s eyes could bring down the very walls of Jericho. Dean looks haunted—no, that’s not the right word—he looks ruined, and Sam immediately brings up his hands to dispel any thoughts of accusation. “Shit. I’m sorry,” he blurts out. “That isn’t what I was gonna say. Not like that. I swear.” Yes, he’s babbling again, but this isn’t even remotely the time to play the ‘blame’ card. Dean was quite literally crying only a few moments ago. Hell, the fucking tear tracks are still present, carved through the dust on his face like if he ignores them, then it never happened. “I didn’t mean it like that,” Sam amends quickly. “I’m not attacking you. Really, I’m not.” He takes an abortive breath, his open palms still awkwardly hovering between them as he tries to explain. “I just figured you wouldn’t want it right away…so I kept it. Just in case I ever thought you would again.”

There’s a long moment of just his brother’s silent staring as Sam waits for the final verdict. “Sam,” Dean says eventually, “I know things got pretty fucking dark for a minute there between us, but you had to know I wasn’t still…” He swallows hard, tightening his hands into fists on the table. “The Heaven thing, it was stupid. I wasn’t—I wasn’t still holding that grudge, man. You had to know that.”

“No, of course I did.” Sam scoots forward in his chair, as if he can merge right through the table to get to his brother. “I did, I swear. I was gonna hand it over so many times. I was gonna give it back to you after that ‘Supernatural’ play at the girls’ school. Remember that? Hand to God, man—to Chuck,” he quickly corrects himself. “Jesus.” Sam scrubs at his eyes, unable to hold back a weak laugh at the ridiculousness of their current situation before he can find his way back to the topic at hand. “You had the fake one,” he says, “and you put it up on the rearview and I…” There’s another moment of uncertainty as Sam tries to get his thoughts in order enough to explain. “I was gonna tell you the truth. I was gonna go grab it the second we got home. But then you gave it to me, the little clay thing, you gave it to me instead of keeping it and I just froze.”

Dean stares at him like he’s just grown half a chupacabra out the side of his head. “Sam, I wasn’t—“ Then he scoots forward too, a hint of anger making its way into his tone. And despite the fact that he seems to be taking the brunt of it, Sam can’t help but be relieved that at least Dean has something else to focus on right now. “That wasn’t supposed to be some secret, coded message about how I felt,” he snips. “I just thought you would want it. For your little keepsake box.”

“No, I know.” Sam tries for a disarming smile, but it’s way too wobbly to stick. “I get that. It was stupid. I wasn’t upset or anything, I just—“ It’s way too hard to find the right words under this kind of pressure, so he drops his head into his hands, running his fingers through his hair and stalling until he can think. “I dunno, Dean,” Sam says finally. Resigned. “The longer I had it, the easier it was not to say anything.” He grants his brother a half-hearted shrug, but his eyes don’t quite leave the table. “’Cause at first I could have just risked it and seen what you thought, and if you wanted it back, then it wouldn’t have been that big a deal. But then things would get tense between us, so I’d wait until they were better, and then I’d end up stalling so long while things were still good that things would get all fucked up again.” Sam lets out a frustrated sigh and forces himself back upright. Trying to face Dean’s haggard expression like he isn’t a coward. “And so much time went by that the longer I didn’t give it back to you, the weirder it became that I kept it a secret. Because it is weird. I get that it’s weird. And I should have given it to you years ago. I had plenty of opportunities, I’m not trying to blame you or anything.

“I was gonna bring it,” he swallows hard, clenching his jaw to keep himself from breaking their gaze again, “to that restaurant. When you…” Sam trails off, unsure how to put that horrifying afternoon into words. Dean standing there like an executioner—as cold as marble and half as forgiving—with the grim spectre of Death himself lurking over his shoulder. That scythe in his hands. Sam winces a little as he tries to shake the awful memory out of his head. He skips ahead instead. “But I wasn’t sure if you still wanted me dead after what you said about Charlie,” he says quietly.

Dean flinches back like he’s been burned. “Sam, Jesus Christ.”

“I thought the photographs—Mom—would be a safer choice to try and bring you back to yourself. I know it’s dumb, Dean, but I just choked. Each and every time.”

There’s another long moment of weighted silence as Dean mulls over his little speech, and Sam stews in the quiet like a prisoner waiting for the axe to fall. “I meant what I said, Sam,” Dean says finally, and Sam’s head snaps back up, the pained betrayal plastered all over his face, because Dean can’t possibly be talking about Charlie. He just can’t. But his look of utter panic must be unnecessary, because Dean simply lets out a self-rebuking huff. “Shit, that wasn’t you. It was that—” he flaps his hand around, “that girl dressed as you. The one from the play.” His brother seems to deliberate for a moment, then pushes back from his chair and walks over to his jacket, fumbling a little as he fishes the amulet out of the pocket. He crosses back over once he’s got it, extending his arm over the map table and letting the necklace dangle between them as a visual aid. “I don’t need this,” he says, giving his fist a tiny shake. “I don’t need a reminder to tell me how I feel about you.”

And even after all this time, even after playing this possibility over and over again in his mind, Sam’s heart still crumples a little at his brother’s words. “I know that, Dean.”

There’s a quiet thunk of brass hitting wood, and then there are hands on his shoulders. A forehead against his. “Shh, not like that,” Dean whispers, half-sitting on Sam’s side of the table and seemingly soaking up every bit of contact he can get. “Let me finish.” His voice is still raw, Chuck’s passive-aggressive barbs clearly having done a number on him, but there’s a sense of candor to his words that wasn’t there before. “What I mean is,” he explains carefully, “I could wear that thing every damn day of my life or I could chuck it into another trash can right now and it wouldn’t change a thing between us. You need to know that, Sammy.” Dean pulls back to catch his gaze, nothing but sincerity in his eyes. “Because I hurt you when I shouldn’t have been able to.” Sam tries to offer some assurance, but the electric moment of connection between them holds him still, and then Dean reaches back to snag the amulet, the cord tangled around his fingers as he holds it up for Sam’s inspection. “I want this,” he says definitively. “I want to keep it if you’ll let me.” He grabs at Sam’s chin with that same hand, the leather thong biting into his jaw as Dean holds his stare. “I do. But I don’t wanna wear it again.”

The words hit him like a stone, and Sam tries to stay afloat as that oh-so-familiar sinking feeling starts to creep in at his edges once more. But Dean doesn’t let him drown, holding Sam aloft with just the touch of his brother’s skin on his. “Throwing this away,” he starts, “was petty and mean and I was trying to hurt your feelings because mine had been hurt.” Dean pulls in a shaky breath, his rock-solid conviction wavering a little. “But I might do it again,” he admits painfully. “Shit. I know that’s a fucked-up thing to say right now, but I could.” Dean’s expression screws up tight as he tries to make him understand. “You know I could. We fight, and we cut to wound. Both of us do.” And that’s the core of it, isn’t it? It’s absolutely true. And Sam will take full blame for his part in it. “I don’t want you to see this on me,” Dean continues, gesturing with the amulet again, “because I don’t want to be able to take that away. To hurt you that way. Not ever again.” Sam brings his hand up to cup Dean’s face, hating the fact that his brother leans into the touch like he’ll never get it again. “But I wanna keep it,” Dean finishes. “Fuck, Sammy, I wanna keep it. Please let me keep it.”

Sam forgives him in less than an instant, answering the question his brother didn’t have to ask by yanking Dean down to his mouth. And he jumps him back so fast, Sam thinks that he must have been waiting for it this whole time. The kiss is unusually chaste for them—not dirty or deep—just the fierce, soft slide of his lips along Dean’s as they breathe together. Intent and prolonged and poignant. And it’s not until Sam pulls back that he distantly realizes there was an uncharacteristic lack of tongue the entire time. “It’s always been yours, y’know,” he whispers against his brother’s cheekbone. “Even when I had it, Dean. It was still yours.”

Dean claps his still-wrapped hand around the back of Sam’s neck, and the knotted cord rubs up against the knob of his spine like that one miserable summer he’d had to wear it because Dean couldn’t. But Sam doesn’t need to think about that anymore. He doesn’t ever have to think about that again. Not when his brother finally has it back for good. “Y’know,” Dean says, breaking through Sam’s maudlin reminiscing, “it seems like it could actually be a pretty handy Bat Signal if that deadbeat outside ever decides to drop by again.”

Sam can’t hold back the breathy chuckle. “I’m pretty sure he can hear you,” he reminds him, then pulls away enough that he doesn’t have to go cross-eyed to look at his brother. The warm moment fades though, as he remembers what brought them here in the first place. “Dean, about what Chuck said,” he starts clumsily. “About him and his sister…” Sam pulls his lower lip between his teeth, worrying at the skin until he can force the words out. “You know that I don’t feel that way, right?”

Dean makes a sharp sound. “What, me telling you what to do and ordering you around?” There’s a lot less bitterness in his voice than Sam would have expected, but the earlier hurt is obviously still there. “Pretty sure you’ve ragged on me about that yourself,” he points out sarcastically. “More than a few times.”

Sam shakes his head. “But not like that, Dean,” he says. “Never like that.” He trails a fingernail over the seam of his brother’s jeans, weirdly nervous considering what he’s about to admit. “I’d trade being alone and independent in a heartbeat as long as it means you’re here enough to actually do all that annoying crap.”

Dean lets out a sigh at Sam’s words, but there’s a hint of amusement on his lips. “No, you know what? It’s better this way.” He rolls the horned charm between his fingertips for one more moment, like he’s savoring the long-familiar feel of it, then heads over to slip the thing back into his jacket pocket. “You’re not a little kid anymore.” He slides his bare hand back out and pats the bulge in the material. “This’ll remind me of that.”

“Hey, Dean,” Sam says, his voice scratchy from every single one of the emotions that seem to be lodged in his throat. “Merry Christmas.” It’s April. It’s fucking April and his brother has the allergies to prove it.

But Dean is smiling faintly. Dean is smiling so soon after there were tears spilling from his eyes, and Sam can suddenly see tinsel and twinkling lights. “Thanks, sweetheart,” his brother replies softly. Honest and heartfelt and eternally fond. “I love it.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Huh,” Sam says curiously from where he’s cleaning his gun on the opposite bed. It’s the same little noise he used to make whenever he came across some bit of internet fluff that amused him, trying to bait Dean into asking him about it without outright saying the words. Sam doesn’t play coy now though. Not without his soul. He doesn’t hesitate before getting to the point he wants to make. Just continues on like he doesn’t really care about Dean’s opinion one way or another, like his participation in this conversation is simply a side note. “You wanna hear something interesting?” he asks, not waiting for a reply before telling him anyway. “You’re not doing anything for me.”

Dean stiffens in indignant offense at the accusation. Has to mute the TV at the sheer audacity. Comes about three seconds from asking the ungrateful automaton what the hell he has been doing lately other than trailing back and forth over the lower forty-eight trying to stuff a soul back in his brother’s stupid asshole of a body.

Sam lets out a polite laugh at Dean’s reaction. It isn’t genuine. Just a pale, clockwork replica trying to imitate the man he once was. “I’m sorry,” he says neutrally. “That was unclear. I meant sexually.”

Dean stiffens again for an entirely different reason. “Wow, Sam,” he says dryly, shoving back the slight whisper of hurt at the callous statement. “Don’t hold back on my account.”

“I just think it’s really interesting.” Sam pulls the slide back on his Taurus, closing one eye to peer along the side of it. “Because I remember wanting you,” he says casually, like they’re having any other conversation. “I remember wanting you so bad it felt like there was a fire burning inside my chest. Kinda like how I remember my other emotions, even though I don’t have them anymore. Although, I can still feel arousal now,” he says speculatively, pulling back from his gun to tilt his head in contemplation. Dean doesn’t doubt that. Not with the unsettling parade of tail his brother has been plowing through with a voracity that reminds him of…well, him. Old him, maybe. “But when I look at you,” Sam continues, waving a hand over his body like the world’s shittiest magician, “nothing.”

Dean doesn’t say anything in response. What is there even to say to something like that? He turns back to the TV, watches Dr. Sexy silently bang an intern in the on-call room, and ignores the lump in the pit of his stomach.

“I mean, I’ll do it anyway,” Sam says nonchalantly, not even glancing up from his gun. “If you want. Was planning on it, actually. Bought some lube and everything.” Dean flinches at the blatant offer, turning to stare at his brother in repulsed confusion. “Oh, no,” Sam says reassuringly, “don’t worry. I was gonna wait until you were done with Lisa.” As if that’s what Dean is taking issue with here. “I wasn’t gonna do anything until that fell apart.” He pauses for a moment, hands stilling in his lap. “It did fall apart, right? You haven’t called her in a while, and you’ve been all…mopey ever since the Veritas thing.”

“I don’t need a pity fuck,” Dean tries not to spit too acridly, “but thanks anyway. You’re a real gentleman.” He tosses his head with a pissed-off scoff and goes back to the TV, trying like hell to ignore his brother through sheer force of will.

“I’ve been trying,” Sam says with an honest nod. “I didn’t kill you in your sleep or anything. Even though I had plenty of opportunity. And it would have been way easier than wasting all that effort pretending to be normal like I did.”

Dean’s jaw drops open—like, literally drops open—and, fuck, he’s never gonna sleep again. “Those were your two options? Fuck me or kill me?”

“Well, no.” Sam gives him a searching look, like he’s trying to understand what the problem is. “Murder’s wrong,” he explains haltingly. “Plus, you’re helping me get my soul back and that’s probably what I should do. So, of course I’m not gonna kill you when you’re doing something for me.”

Jesus Christ,” Dean can’t help but let out, tilting his head back in sheer, bitter disbelief.

“And then when I care about you again, I’ll be glad I didn’t.” Sam sniffs and goes back to his work, picking up the bore brush at his hip and scrubbing it through the barrel. “Anyway, my point is, I think it’s interesting that I don’t find you attractive without my soul. I mean, you’re attractive,” he clarifies. “You know that.” He quirks his head to the side, then gives him a one-shouldered shrug. “Guess I’m not gay.” Sam tosses the brush back on the bed and picks up some gun oil, casual as you please, prattling on like they’re discussing the last movie they saw. “It’s gotta be the soulmate thing, right? Like all the feelings stemmed from the love or something, and without the love—” He makes another zipping gesture with his hand. “Nada.” He snaps the barrel back together and looks down the sight, unloaded gun aimed straight at Dean. “You don’t think that’s interesting? I think it’s interesting.”

Sam doesn’t wait for his response, again, going back to wiping down his pistol, and Dean shuts off the television completely, suddenly uninterested in Seattle Mercy’s latest sexploits with the nausea crawling in his gut. He glances at Sam out of the corner of his eye—his brother apparently completely unconcerned about being observed as he rubs a dry cloth over the cylinder ratchet—and really allows himself to look.

Sam’s a good-looking guy, always has been. Even with the girly hair. He’s built, and he’s tall, and his eyes are pretty. Dean’s never had even the slightest problem getting up close and personal with any part of his brother’s body. Had been glad to, really. Practically salivated for it. But looking over Sam now, his long legs casually sprawled over the small mattress and his huge hands working with confident efficiency, Dean can’t see anything of his brother in the man beside him. No softness, no warmth, no stubborn, pigheaded, beautiful fire in his eyes as he desperately fights for what he needs. Nothing but this empty shell of a thing that casually tosses out the terms “love” and “soulmate” like they mean nothing to him… He and Sam, they don’t even say the words. Not out loud. Not since Ash had first dropped that not-so-surprising bombshell on them back in Heaven. The concept is too precious, too…fragile to be brought out into the open air. It’s something they’re supposed to keep way down inside, never discuss, and secretly poke at when they’re feeling low. They’re not supposed to actually talk about it. And they’re certainly not supposed to talk about it like they’re discussing if it’s gonna rain tomorrow.

And as Dean sweeps his eyes over Sam’s broad chest, his perfectly sculpted cheekbones, the soft, pink give of his lips…he can’t help but think that the feeling is mutual.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sam really thought he’d be able to hold out for longer than he did. He’s been sliced to ribbons, frozen down to his very bones, charred from the inside out, and torn apart limb from actual-freaking-limb. Solitude should have been a walk in the park. A quiet room with only himself for company was what he’d prayed for every single time Lucifer had begun another one of their ‘play dates’ back in the Cage. A few months of boredom before Cas or Crowley or maybe even Rowena showed up to rescue them should have passed by like nothing.

It only takes fifteen minutes for his throat to go tight whenever he thinks about Dean.

It only takes three silent days before the need for his brother starts to gnaw at him like a painful hole in his chest—an agonizing, hollow absence he’s helpless to smother. It’s a pathetic showing, really. Barely seventy-two hours and he’s already buckling.

He thinks about praying at first. Sending an S.O.S. out to Cas to come get them…but Sam’s only halfway through stringing the thoughts together in his head before he realizes that he has absolutely no idea where they are. Cas could hear him, but without a location for him to lock onto, there’s nothing he’d be able to do. Not to mention that ‘nondescript cement room in some secret Guantanamo wanna-be prison’ isn’t much of a lead to go on even if he still had wings. For just one flicker of a second, Sam hates the Enochian warding carved into his bones. Hates Cas for giving them to him. But he relinquishes the anger in his very next breath. There’s no point reaching out if all Sam’s gonna be able to do is torture Cas even more. It would be cruel.

On day four, he tries shouting. Just one, sharp holler of his brother’s name. Sam doesn’t know for sure if he’s being watched—he doubts it, given the initial sweep of the room he’d done for cameras—but even if that two-bit Cheney knock-off does have eyes and ears on him at all times, he doesn’t care anymore. Let them see him falter. They’re already doing the worst possible thing they could be doing to them, according to the guy’s own words. It’s not like their methods are gonna get any worse now that they know Sam misses his brother. He yells Dean’s name once, counts to thirty-six hundred, and then shouts it again, and then again five more times—six full hours—but there’s never a response.

On day nine, he starts eyeing any bit of metal his cell affords him. The bed frame. The toilet. The mirror. His walls are cement, probably at least a foot or two thick, and there’s absolutely no way Dean would be able to hear him no matter how hard he banged. He picks up the electric razor they’ve permitted him anyway—the blades nice and safe and tucked away, no way to check out early if it gets too bad—and tries all three. The toilet makes the best sound.

It takes Sam another two days to realize that his cell door is metal too, just painted over. He laughs out loud for the first time in almost two weeks, but it isn’t a happy sound

Sam falls into routines to keep himself sane. He shaves, and he does math in his head, and he exercises, and he sleeps, and he thinks about jerking off but he never actually does, and he forces down the disgusting food they bring him three times a day, and he takes to tapping out brief messages in Morse Code at regular, non-regular intervals.

D/E/A/N is the first one, and the most common.

I/M/O/K

I/M/I/S/S/Y/O/U

He gets out all the lyrics to ‘Ramble On’ that he can remember once, just for something to do.

N/E/E/D/Y/O/U he only sends when things get really bad. …It gets more frequent the more days that go by.

Sam knows Dean can’t hear him—or at least, even if he can, he’s been unable to send an audible message back. He wonders sometimes if they’re both screaming out into the void, their messages just missing each other like ships in the dark. More likely, Dean’s never been getting them. Whoever designed this place actually did a halfway decent job and apparently, solitary means solitary. Even the guards never say one more word than necessary no matter how much annoying knocking Sam’s been doing against his door. They’re well-trained. Too well-trained for him to make any headway with and it feels like another version of hopelessness.

Roughly four weeks from when he started, hours after his final meal has come for the day, Sam taps out H/A/P/P/Y/B/I/R/T/H/D/A/Y into the night. It’s the very last message he sends.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

It’s only two days later that he hears a familiar voice for the first time in ages, but the sound brings him no relief whatsoever.

“How’s it hanging, Winchester?” Billie asks, dry and casual as she leans up against the inner wall of his cell, the barest shadow of a smug smile gracing her shapely lips. Like she’s already won. “You don’t look so good.”

Her quick rundown of Dean’s proposed deal hurts even more than all these weeks on his own have. But it hurts Sam worse knowing that he’s going to agree to it even before she finishes speaking. Dean’s willing death in exchange for half a day of life and Sam’s freedom. Because it will be Dean’s death, Sam knows that despite Billie’s all-too-gracious offer of “any Winchester”. As if there’s even the slightest chance Dean would let him take the bullet for this. His brother would have worded it this way on purpose, letting Sam think that there’s a possibility it could be him just so he’d agree, and then put his foot down at the last minute. It’s such a Dean-like thing to do though—to omit just enough that it isn’t technically a lie in order to save him—and his brother’s fingerprints are so all over this deal and infusing every single word Billie speaks that Sam can’t help but bask in it as much as it makes him want to tear his hair out. Because god he’d missed his stubborn jerk of a brother so fucking much.

It doesn’t really matter, when it comes down to it. It’ll all be worth it to see Dean again, to hear him, to be able to touch him just for a few hours. Because Dean will go with Billie to the Empty when their time is up, no hesitation and no fighting just like he promised, but Sam won’t rest until he figures out how to pull him back. To find a way, like they always do. Or, if there truly isn’t one, then he’ll follow his brother there. Easiest thing in the world to do. Gun or pills or bleeding out. He won’t wreck the car though, not this time. It’s Mary’s as much as theirs now and she deserves something to hold onto after they’re gone.

Sam accepts the loose screw Billie offers him with a single, quiet, “Yes,” and slices his own palm open with only minimal fumbling, eagerness and blood making his fingers clumsy around the tiny shard of metal.

His heart stops the second his hand clasps hers.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Sam’s staring down at his body the next moment he comes to, carefully placed back on his bed by Billie, or maybe he’d just fallen that way. The guard who brings him his food each day is hunched over him, hands forcibly gripping his shoulders and brow scrunched tight as he’s kissing him, and Sam’s brain falters for a minute before the other man is leaning away again to palpitate his chest. CPR—he realizes distantly. Won’t do any good.

Billie’s nowhere to be found when he looks around, but neither is Dean, and a helpless ache starts up somewhere around Sam’s sternum—or soul, he supposes, now that he’s dead—like he can feel everything the guard is doing to him across the room. The man jolts back up after a few moments, running out and leaving the cell door unlocked as he races to collect the top brass, and then the next minute there are more men in Sam’s room, milling about and asking sharply pointed questions.

He follows them out of there the second the asshole-who-thinks-he’s-Jack-Bauer orders them to open Dean’s door and Sam’s not-heart freezes in his not-chest as his brother tentatively steps out of his open cell, right past the frantic soldiers who blindly rush by him.

“Sammy,” he says, barely a breath as their eyes lock. Sam sees his brother’s lips shape the word more than he hears it.

Dean,” he chokes out in response, also probably too quiet in the rush of emotion, but he’s sprinting down the hallway anyway. Eating up the space in between them, every fiber of his soul reaching out for Dean’s as he barrels into his brother’s arms…

…and misses.

Sam blinks as he stares down the empty hallway. Then turns around in outright confusion to come face-to-face with Dean’s equally surprised expression. He’d run right through him. Because they’re ghosts. Intangible. Dead. And Sam’s heart breaks all over again as he watches Dean realize it too.

“Heya, Sammy,” he tries softly, reaching his hand up to hover over the outline of his cheek. Sam closes his eyes and leans into the touch, but can’t feel anything as Dean’s fingers pass right through his skin. “It’s good to see you,” his brother says, a criminal understatement compared to how he must mean it, but it’s everything.

“I missed you,” Sam whispers in return, not even caring that he sounds like his throat’s been flayed raw. “Christ, Dean, I don’t even know—”

“Did Billie talk to you?” Dean interrupts gently. His voice is still soft, but his gaze is as steady and unflinching as granite.

Sam swallows out of reflex. “Yeah.” He can’t help stretching his own hand out to brush over his brother’s chest, but his fingertips disappear into Dean’s jumpsuit the moment he makes contact. He holds there for a bit, some small part of him needing to keep them connected the only way he can. “She told me what we were agreeing to,” he finally says, dropping his arm and anxiously wetting his lips. “Said we have ‘til midnight.”

Dean nods once, jaw clenched tight and eyes seemingly stuck on Sam’s mouth. God, he’s beautiful. He’s so fucking beautiful and these past several weeks Sam had missed him more than he’d miss his own lungs. He would’ve traded anything to see Dean again—he just did—and now they’ve only got the rest of the day before they have to say goodbye again, for who knows how long this time. Sam wonders if he should at least make an attempt to try and discuss their deal out loud, pretend he’s putting up even a little bit of a fight to be the one to go, or if there’s no point. If Dean knows how this is all gonna go down just as well as he does.

They remain there in the hallway, nothing left to say in the quiet desperation, until their captors finally lug both their corpses out onto gurneys. Sam feels a solid yank as his body is rolled away and he’s helpless to resist, tied to his bones just like any other ghost now. He allows himself a brief second of icy panic before they start wheeling his brother after him and Dean is able to catch up and close the distance between them, a weakly reassuring smile doing what his touch can’t at the moment.

A few more minutes with the just-as-clueless coroner, and then they’re home-free. Left alone with the rest of the dead in a deserted morgue. Or maybe all the other drawers on the wall are empty too and they’re really by themselves here. No way to tell, currently.

Half an hour, Billie had said, before she brought them back. Just to be safe. To make sure the room would be clear of any personnel. They’ve probably got ten or so minutes left.

Sam takes his silent fill of Dean for as long as he can stand it before eventually slumping down against the nearest wall. “This fucking sucks, man,” he says exhaustedly.

Dean lets out a light scoff. “You’re just saying that ‘cause you’re dead.”

Sam fails big-time at stifling his amusement at the flippant statement, and he ends up snorting a bitter laugh into his knees. Because the whole situation is ridiculous. Their whole lives are fucking ridiculous. “God, I hate this,” he lets out on a frustrated sigh. “I really wish I could touch you.”

“Life’s a bitch.”

“Death’s a bitch,” Sam corrects him, relishing in his brother’s resulting smile, tight as it may be. “Maybe,” he starts hesitantly, “y’know, afterwards, when we’re—”

Dean shakes his head, understanding him clear as a bell. “There won’t be any time.” His fingers twitch at his side, longing flicking across his face for just a second before he pushes it away again. His determined stoicism firmly back in place while they’ve still got a plan to see through.

It isn’t fair. If this was just about them escaping, Sam wouldn’t have any problem at all putting his own stuff on the backburner until they were out of harm’s way. He’s done it a million times before. It’s how they’ve both survived this long. But the instant they get to safety, the second that clock strikes twelve, they’re going to be torn apart from each other again. Sam’s going to have just enough time to hug his brother once before Dean drops dead right in front of him. “I still wish I could kiss you,” he says stubbornly, professionalism be damned. Because Dean’s fucking dead and he still looks like a Levi’s model, even filthy as shit and wrapped in a prison jumpsuit, and Sam couldn’t want anything more even if he wasn’t torturously touch-starved at the moment.

“I’d fuck you right on top of that autopsy table over there if I thought we had enough time for it,” Dean grumbles petulantly. “…And if I physically could.” He lets out a heavy breath and scrapes a hand over his mouth, finally glancing up to meet Sam’s eyes with just the slightest flicker of playfulness lurking in the glass green depths. “Right now, in front of anybody. I ain’t even kidding. Let that Secret Service dick have a first row seat.”

Sam grins back at his brother so wide that his skin almost hurts, his face stretching into a smile that hasn’t seen the light of day in six weeks. Because Dean means it, and that’ll have to be enough for now. Sam can do this. He can. He’ll shove it all down, figure out a way to escape this hellhole with his brother at his side, and then deal with the emotional fallout later. And when he drags Dean back from the dead in a month, or joins him there in two, Sam’s going to wrap his arms around him so tight that he can’t breathe and never let go again. “If I thought we’d have enough time for it,” he says with a choked laugh, “I’d sell him the tickets myself.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It all starts at a diner in Chelsea.

Dean’s been aimlessly skimming over the dessert menu for the last several minutes, his ketchup-streaked plate pushed to the edge of the table awaiting pick-up, and past that, Sam half-heartedly building a tower out of coffee creamers while he waits for Dean to make a decision. The French Vanilla ones are white and the Hazelnut ones are brown, and his little brother is occasionally alternating between the two to make a pattern. He can’t make out exactly what design Sam is going for, but his brother’s head has always buzzed away on a frequency two steps higher than his own. Hell, he might be recreating the Tower of Pisa for all Dean can tell.

He sighs and pulls his eyes away from Sam to glance down at his menu again. He’s basically just been looking away and back over and over in the hopes that one of the pie offerings will magically become edible in the interim, though it’s starting to feel like a lost cause. It’s not like New York’s got any of the good flavors anyway. Just a bunch of hipster crap. No, Dean does not need to try a slice of the chef’s special Strawberry Lavender or Lemon Earl Grey, thank you. What ever happened to good, old-fashioned pecan? Or like, boysenberry, or something? Freaking art school dropouts—always trying to fix what ain’t broke and ending up ruining something as perfectly good as pie.

The waitress finally deigns to stop by their table and Sam notices her in time to discreetly sweep away the evidence of his little art project. But when Dean waves her away with just a request for the check, he leans back in his seat to find his brother’s eyes unnervingly fixed on his.

“What?” he asks flatly.

Sam just raises a single eyebrow. “Seriously, man,” he says. “What’s going on with the pie thing?”

Dean doesn’t even know where to begin with that one. Once his brother gets one of his creepily perceptive ideas in his head, it’s hard to pinpoint where they first came from. Or get him to stop. “There’s no ‘pie thing’,” is what he goes with eventually. “Stop being weird.”

Then Sam does that infuriating thing where he tilts his head and makes his eyes go all sincere, like one of those two-bit shrinks they like to roll out on daytime talk shows. “You can always talk to me,” he says slowly.

And Dean has to roll his own eyes at the soppy platitude to prevent himself from scoffing out loud. “Think I’ll pass, thanks.”

Almost an entire minute drifts by before Sam finally lets out an amused huff of breath. “No, Dean,” he says, shaking his head a little. “You know what? No. We are too old for this. We are too old to keep shoving down all the shit we should be talking about out of some ridiculous aversion to—well, talking. ‘Cause it ends up blowing up in our faces and it’s always like ten times worse than it needs to be.” He crosses his arms, elbows resting on the table, and scooches forward. “So spill.”

“Sam, it’s pie,” Dean insists dully. He vaguely waves a hand between them. “It’s not like some secret apocalypse bullshit or whatever.”

But his little brother doesn’t relent, keeping his annoyingly patient gaze locked on Dean, until he suddenly leans away from the table and settles casually back in his seat. “Y’know, this area seems pretty liberal,” he says, completely out of the blue.

Dean blinks suspiciously at the non-sequitur, convinced his brother’s brain has finally shorted out. “What?” he asks.

“Just saying,” Sam shrugs with an attempt at innocence that doesn’t quite fit around his shoulders. Like back when he was sixteen and awkwardly bony and growing through Dean’s hand-me-downs like a weed. He sniffs and gestures his head at the rest of the diner’s clientele, fighting off an obvious smile. “I could totally get down on one knee and fake propose to you, right now, in front of all these people. Probably would cause one hell of a scene.”

The implication of Sam’s words hits him like two tons of wet concrete and Dean narrows his eyes until they’re barely more than slits, his voice tight and quiet. “You fucking wouldn’t,” he threatens lowly.

Sam doesn’t budge an inch. “Try me,” he threatens right back, just as steady. And about ten times as smug.

Dean feels the frustration build under his skin until he has to admit that he’s well and truly outmatched. “Sadistic bastard,” he mutters under his breath, thoroughly giving up. He scrubs a rough hand over his face, resigning himself to the inevitable chick-flick moment even as he resolves to take it out of Sam’s ass later on. 

“I dunno,” he starts gruffly, trying to retain some modicum of self-respect, “it’s like…” Dean sighs and starts again. Decides to just barrel right through to get it over with quicker. “Okay, so when I was a kid—and I’m talking little, like before the fire—Mom would always bake me these pies, right?” Sam nods for him to continue, honestly curious. “It was like this perfect, suburban, normal life thing,” Dean says, voice low enough that no busybody’s gonna be able to overhear. “And so, afterwards, pie was always kind of a reminder of that. Or something, I dunno.” He rubs a finger into the corner of one eye and flicks his gaze between his brother and the window. “And, yeah, if I’m getting a slice from a diner or a Gas-n-Sip or whatever it’s not gonna be as good as a homemade one, obviously. Of course not. But it was still this…link, I guess, to a different time. Before hunting.”

Sam nods supportively, his brows drawn down a little in the middle like he’s thoroughly absorbing his words. Dean holds back a scoff. Fucking jackass blackmailed him and now he’s playing the ever-accepting saint. “Okay,” Sam says slowly. “So now you…don’t need that reminder anymore? Because Mom’s here?”

“Dude, would you let me finish?” Dean asks a little testily. “If you’re gonna make me talk about my crap in a stupid diner, you could at least let me finish.”

His brother raises both his eyebrows and his palms up defensively. “Alright, sorry. Go on.”

“So, Mom would make me these pies, right? From scratch,” Dean continues, eyeing Sam to make sure he isn’t gonna interrupt again. “Except, she didn’t.” He spreads his hands out and waits for his point to land. “She didn’t, Sam. She doesn’t cook. She probably bought pre-made ones from some crappy diner down the road or a goddamn Gas-n-Sip. Like—the exact same junk that I’ve been eating my whole life. I was always trying to get back to this better time. Except, it never happened. That memory doesn’t actually exist.”

Sam’s silent for a decent stretch of time, digesting Dean’s revelation. “Well,” he starts off tentatively, “if they’re the exact same thing—I mean, if the pies now are the same as the ones that Mom got you back then…” He frowns slightly, brain working overtime as he tries to sort it out. “Wouldn’t that still be a good memory-connection or whatever? They obviously reminded you of Mom’s because they were the same.”

And nothing about that is even remotely right, but Dean can’t begin to put his actual issue into words. He can barely even put a finger on it himself. “Yeah, Sam,” he sighs, slumping back in his seat. At the very least, it’s sweet that his brother is trying, so he tries not to sound as listless as he feels. “That’s gotta be it. Thanks.”

Dean tries to shove the moodiness away as best he can, but he’s not sure how successful he is. And Sam keeps shooting him furtive little glances for the rest of the afternoon, not really looking any more convinced in the passenger seat on their way home than he did in that diner booth.

It’s only a little while after that Dean realizes his brother had been spending all that time concocting a plan

He’s reluctantly dragged into the kitchen by a suspiciously over-eager little brother a few days later, pushed and pulled and nudged over to the room’s small table no matter how he tries to dig his heels in. The entire thing has been cleared off except for a single fork sitting ominously in front of him, and next to that, some kind of misshapen lump of wrapped fabric.

“Um…Sam?” Dean starts, but his brother doesn’t wait for him to finish.

“Ta-da,” Sam announces proudly, whisking off the cloth napkin with a theatrical flourish to reveal the surprise waiting beneath. “It’s a pie.”

It doesn’t look like a pie. It looks like Sam has wrapped up a soggy lump of bread and plopped it right down in the middle of his kitchen. Dean eyeballs the spongy wad for another few seconds, then drags his gaze back up to his brother. “Where did you get it?” he asks, carefully neutral.

Sam’s grin gets even wider. “I made it.”

Ah. That would explain all…this. Dean wets his lips, stalling for time. “Wow, man,” he says, trying to sound supportive. In vain, probably. “You, uh, made it?”

“Yeah.” Sam tucks a few errant strands of hair behind an ear and shrugs, as humble and boyishly charming as ever. “You said you were bummed about not having any homemade pie when you were growing up, so I figured you could have some now and that might make up for it. Y’know, create a new memory.” He gestures his hand back and forth between them. “Just, with us.”

And Jesus Christ, it’s the sweetest goddamn thing anyone’s ever done for him. Dean knows without a shadow of a doubt that he’s going to have to eat some of the monstrosity currently leaking over the edges of its ancient Men of Letters’ casserole dish and onto the wood. “So, um, what recipe did you use?” he asks, trying to gauge just how unpleasant this is going to be.

“No recipe,” Sam says brightly. “Didn’t really figure I’d need one. I mean, it’s just fruit and dough, right?”

“Just—?” Dean has to stop himself before he lashes out in sheer indignation, pulling in a breath to make sure he’s in control before he continues. “Uh, well usually there’s sugar and butter and stuff in it too.”

Sam just blithely waves away the semantics. “This’ll be healthier,” he assures him, nudging Dean’s fork a little closer and slipping into the seat across from him. Because, apparently, he actually wants to watch him eat the damn thing.

Dean finally gives up for real, settling into his own seat with a measured exhale and grabbing both eating utensil and pastry. He gets the…pie square in front of him and pokes at it a little, the bready part swallowing up the ends of his fork with a slightly damp squishing sound. Sam’s eyes are still on him, so Dean forges ahead, managing to hack the top open enough that he can examine the rest of it. There’s no cinnamon-sweet goopiness to the filling—hell, there’s no filling at all, really—just assorted pieces of fruit all chopped up and tumbled together. Dean can clearly make out a few hunks of apples, with a pricing sticker still attached to one, naturally, but the other ingredients are harder to place. He scoops up a pale, withered sliver of some kind of skin and lets it dangle limply from the tines of his fork. “And this is…?”

Sam beams at him self-assuredly. “An orange slice.”

“You put orange slices in—?” Dean has to bite at his bottom lip in amusement. “Sam, where in the fuck have you ever heard of someone making an orange pie?”

“It’s a fruit,” he shoots back defensively.

Well, at least his brother peeled them. Dean sorts through more of the layers before him until he uncovers a few dark, shrunken lumps hidden underneath the rest. “And these are…” he pokes at one of the shriveled purple husks, “…raisins?”

“Well, sorta,” Sam says a little hesitantly. “They were grapes.”

Dean bites at the inside of his cheek. “You made me an apple-orange-grape pie?”

“It’s—they’re…fruit,” Sam says again. “It’s what the market had.” He wilts just the tiniest bit. “They’re organic,” he mentions insistently.

“And how long did you bake this?”

“I don’t know. An hour, I guess?” His brows draw down a little as he leans in to examine his creation more closely. “Do you think it needs more?”

Dean can’t hold back the audible chuckle this time. It’s just too much. “I dunno, man,” he says with a helpless kind of humor. “What temperature did you cook it at?”

Sam looks back up at him like he’s speaking in Greek. “What do you mean?”

“I mean the temperature,” Dean repeats slowly, wiggling his fingers at the oven to clarify. “The little red, beepy numbers that appear when you turn on the stove.”

“Well, yeah, Dean,” his brother says, rolling his eyes like Dean’s the idiot here. “I just used the normal one.”

“The…normal one,” he repeats dryly.

“Yeah, the one it automatically sets to when you turn it on.”

Dean quickly has to bite his tongue in order to cage in the wave of laughter trying its hardest to escape. “So, what? 350?”

Sam tilts his head back and lets out a short exhale, clearly starting to get annoyed with the third degree. “I don’t know. I didn’t exactly check or anything. I just figured that was the right one for cooking. Why else would they have it?”

Dean rubs a hand over his jaw, leaving it lingering over his mouth to hide his obvious smile. He already knows what the answer is gonna be, but he feels like he needs to ask anyway. “Did you at least preheat the oven?”

His little brother begins to look just the slightest bit crestfallen, his vague sense of eagerness drooping a little at the edges. “What’s…that?”

Dean doesn’t say a word. He just maintains his level, expectant stare until Sam lets out a good-natured groan and drops his head onto the table. “I didn’t think it would be that hard,” he whines lowly.

“Clearly.”

Sam does look up then, his eyes peeking over his crossed arms just to glare at him mournfully. “How do you even know this stuff?” he mutters. “It’s not like you ever use the oven, either.”

“I’ve used ovens,” Dean insists mildly. Maybe he can’t remember the exact last time he did, but it’s happened here and there. “Plus, you preheat grills and stovetops too, man. It’s the same idea.” Dean should probably end it there, but he can’t help but poke a little more. Must be the older brother in him. “It’s like basic cooking, Sammy.”

“Alright, fine,” Sam snipes. “You don’t have to eat it.” He stands up and gets a hand around the base of the pie, trying to take it away, but Dean holds firm, muscles in his forearms clenching as he tries to keep the thing on the table.

“Who says I’m not gonna eat it?” he asks stubbornly, pulling back until he gains a little ground.

“Dean, c’mon,” Sam sighs, and now they’re just playing tug-o-war with the casserole dish. “You said it yourself, I didn’t do it right.”

“Shut up, Sam. You made me a pie, I’m gonna eat it.” Dean gives it one more good yank until his brother finally lets go, just barely avoiding dumping the soggy mess all over his lap. Sam lets out a muted sound of frustration, crossing his arms over his chest and dropping back down into his seat, but Dean ignores the display to bring an actual bite of the disaster up to his mouth.

And, well…it’s not awful. The crust, if you could even call it that, is a lost cause by any definition, but the rest of it is just fruit. The apples taste like slightly cooked apples. The oranges are a little sour and a little flat, but they’re definitely orange-y. And the grapes kinda just taste like hot, deflated grapes. It certainly ain’t a steak dinner at the Royale, but Dean’s eaten worse. He spears another not-quite-raisin on his fork and pops it in his mouth with a contemplative hum. “Y’know,” he mumbles around the bite, “it’s actually not that bad.”

Sam perks up a little, tentatively hopeful despite himself. “Really?”

And it’s so goddamn pathetic and so goddamn endearing that Dean can’t be disappointed by the culinary experimentation, no matter how differently he thought his afternoon would go. “Here,” he says, stabbing one of the apple pieces for Sam. “Try it.”

His brother looks between him and the offering, then leans over the table to delicately accept the piece from his fork. He chews for a moment, his brows quirked like he’s seriously mulling over the flavor, before glancing up again with a defeated smile. “It doesn’t really taste like pie, does it?” he finally admits.

Dean gives him a matching smile right back. “No, it does not,” he says. Then he generously scoops up another mouthful. “But it’s kinda like a…thing.” He twirls his empty fork around as he chews. “Like a weird, hot fruit salad.”

Sam chokes on an amused scoff. “Yeah,” he says dryly, “I can totally see a burgeoning market for that.”

“Well, maybe this’ll just be a one-time attempt then,” Dean suggests diplomatically. “Go out when you’re on top, right? Leave ‘em wanting more.”

“Yeah, I think that might be a good idea.”

He laughs at his brother’s easy agreement, then leans back in his chair to snag another fork from the center island. “Here,” he says, flipping it in his fingers so he can extend the handle to Sam. “You made it, you’re gonna help me finish it. And you can eat all the gross, floppy oranges ‘cause you’re the one who put them in there.”

Sam’s mouth goes tight at the edges as he tries to hide his smile, and he takes another small bite. “You think there’s any saving the crust?” he asks politely.

“No, I do not.” 

Sam laughs out loud at the blunt response, forgetting to keep his mouth closed as he chews, and that sets Dean off too until they’re both choking through the so-called pastry, half from the ridiculousness of the whole situation and half from the off-putting taste. They only get about a third of the way through the thing before they unanimously decide to toss it out, leaving it behind in the kitchen trash as Dean opts to drag Sam to his bedroom instead. Where he can thank him for his efforts properly.

Because you know what? Dean can honestly say that it was the best damn homemade pie that he’s ever had.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“It’s good to see you smile,” Sam says. Like, literally says. Those are the actual words that come out of his mouth. Like some sap from an old black-and-white romance.

Now, normally, Dean would tease the shit out of his little brother for a sentence that schmaltzy, but Sam’s clearly got something reserved and hesitant between his teeth, so he lets it go. “Well, I said I needed a big win,” Dean answers honestly. “We got Cas back. That’s a pretty damn big win.”

Sam doesn’t react the way he’s supposed to. Dean expects a smile, maybe even a rueful laugh. Not his brother sucking in a clumsy breath and darting his eyes away. “Yeah,” he directs at the floor, turning away from Dean to fiddle with the closet. “Fair enough.” He shuts the folding doors with an odd sense of finality and just stands there for a second, looking awkward as shit with no reason not to turn around.

“What?” Dean asks flatly.

Sam only shifts a quarter of the way back, barely glances at him before finding something else to fix his eyes on. “What?”

“You’re acting weird.”

“No, I’m not.” Then Sam does that little scoff thing he always does when he’s lying. “You’re crazy, man.”

Dean doesn’t budge though, feet firmly planted and facing his brother’s profile. “You unhappy Cas is back?”

“What? Of course not,” he splutters, shoving the words out as quick as he can. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Then what is it?”

Sam bristles, uncomfortable as all get-out. “There is no ‘it’,” he says, overly nonchalant. He just stands there next to the closet, messing with the cuffs of his shirt, probably because he’s already hung up his suit and there’s nothing else he could ostensibly be doing to occupy his hands. Or to avoid this line of questioning.

And if his brother wants to be locked up tighter than a clam, then Dean ain’t gonna spend any more of his energy trying to pry him open. “Fine,” he says, giving up with a huff of breath. “You’re gonna be weird, I’m gonna take a shower and head out with Cas.”

Something dark and tight settles over his brother’s features. “Yeah,” he says, trying for easy-going and missing by a mile, “go be with Cas.”

Dean doesn’t let that one go at all. Not with the way his brother’s said it. “Okay, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything, Dean,” Sam says tensely. He opens the closet once more just so he can stride across the room, pick up his backpack, fling it inside, and shut the doors again.

“Dude, you’re acting like a little bitch right now.” He gets one hand around his brother’s shoulder and yanks, bodily spinning Sam around and pushing him back against the folding doors. Not hard. Just enough to keep him there. “Just spit it out already.”

And Sam does. Just like back at the grief counselor’s place. All that pent-up bullshit flying out the second Dean pushes him too far. “You really wanna know?” he says lowly, his words quiet and private despite the venom in them. “Fine. I’ve been working my ass off trying to make you feel better, but nothing gives. You won’t let me touch you for weeks, but now Cas is back and everything’s instantly fine?”

Dean’s already starting to get a headache trying to follow his brother’s crazy logic. “Uh, yeah, Sam,” he explains, slow and patronizing. “Cas was dead. I was pissed. Now he’s alive, so I’m not.”

“Oh, believe me, I know. I get it,” Sam says tightly, trying to wriggle away from him. But Dean holds fast, trying to figure out when his brother suddenly went insane.

It isn’t until Sam’s eyes accidentally catch his for a split second that Dean gets it too. He wrenches them away just as quick, but the damage is done, and Dean can feel the annoyance rise through him and straight up past the top of his head. “Seriously, Sam?” he says, dry as dust. “Seriously? This again?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Liar. Of course he does. “The whole jealous, bitchy act,” Dean spells out unnecessarily. “You’re pulling that out now?”

“I’m not jealous,” Sam spits dully. And the blatant, disbelieving stare Dean provides him apparently gives him enough juice to wrestle free, stalking across the room to slump down onto the farthest bed.

Dean pinches at the bridge of his nose, and at the headache that’s quickly becoming more solid by the minute. “Sam,” he says, trying for calm, “I thought we were done with this shit ages ago, man. Because it’s stupid. You seriously throwing a tantrum over Cas being back?”

“No, of course I’m not—” Sam throws back automatically—then he pauses for a second, probably realizing that it’s exactly what he’s doing at the moment, and descends into a sullen silence.

Dean could easily make this a fight—probably would if the circumstances were different—but he really is in a good mood right now and he doesn’t want to waste the rare moment. Plus, all things considered, the least he can do is try and pay Sam back for all the care he’s been shoving on him lately. So Dean steps slow across the room, letting his boot heels deliberately hit the floor with every step. “C’mon, lil darlin’,” he drawls in his best Texan accent, slow and sweet as molasses, “you know you’re my best girl.”     

“Don’t do the voice,” Sam grumps from his spot on the bed. “I hate the voice.”

Dean carefully unzips the Stetson he’d brought with him from his garment bag, then places it square on his head just so he can tip it back with a rakish thumb. “You think there’s anyone I’d rather have watching my back out on that thar dusty trail?”

His brother does at least raise an eyebrow at that. “What dusty trail?” he asks flatly. “It’s 2017. All the roads are paved.”

Dean steps closer, playing up his cowboy swagger as best he can. “You think there’s anyone I’d rather have as my deputy?” he purrs, finally close enough to cage his brother back against the bed.

That one gets a reluctantly amused huff. “I’m not your deputy, you lunatic.”

“C’mon, pardner,” Dean over-enunciates, pronouncing the ‘d’ and everything. He pushes forward, playful and unrelenting, until Sam caves and finally relaxes into him, Trails his lips over his brother’s neck as much as he can without the hat getting in the way. “You know I ain’t ever leaving you for anything or anyone,” he breathes into warm, golden skin.

Sam shivers a little, because he wasn’t wrong about how long it’s been. But he also finally meets Dean’s eyes. “I know.”

And Dean is taken back a little, despite himself. “Yeah?” he asks warmly.

“Yeah,” Sam whispers back, arching up underneath him just slightly.

Maybe this is Dean’s fault a little bit, for taking his brother for granted. For not letting him know how much he needs him often enough, or aloud enough. But mostly it’s Sam’s. For being a big, jealous moron.

“Then you done being an idiot?”

Sam finally laughs. Even nods, however grudgingly. He puts whatever dumb insecurity he’s somehow got in his head fully behind him and reaches around the back of Dean’s neck to drag him into a kiss, full on the mouth. In his hat. With all the greatest gunfighters and outlaws of the last century watching them approvingly from the walls. Dean might actually be in Heaven.

After Sam’s well and fully staked his claim, he loosens his grip a hair. Pulls back, a little embarrassed, and chews at the corner of his lip. His little brother looks pretty damn mussed and flushed, and Dean’s sure he must too, but it’s nothing a shower can’t fix. “You wanna take the sheriff with me tomorrow?” he asks, intentionally throwing Sam a bone. Even if it’s not the type of bone he’d prefer right now. “Let Angels Sr. and Jr. handle the cemetery?”

“No,” Sam lets out on a benign sigh. “I really do wanna keep an eye on Jack. Go play cowboys with Cas.” He waves a magnanimous hand between them, shooing Dean away. “You’ll probably be able to get him to wear a hat and everything.”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees easily, a classic Western smirk playing at his lips, “probably.” He plants another long one on Sam before pushing himself up and heading for the shower. Glad all the bullshit’s behind them for now. “But he won’t look half as pretty in it as you would.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Dean lets his brother have his space for as long as he can. Which, really, probably isn’t that long. Long enough to finish his beer. Again, not saying much.

But Sam’s got something deep and painful gnawing at his soul and it isn’t just Mom and Jack, no matter how he’d tried to frame it. It isn’t solely jealousy either, though Dean’s sure that didn’t help. He scrubs a hand over his forehead and lets his mind wander back over the sickly-sweet candy high of Jamie’s love spell. It didn’t feel the same as Amara—dark, smoky ropes knotted around his heart and tugging him inexorably toward her. Slow and unceasing and inevitable. Like inertia was his enemy more than anything. It felt…faker. Well, they were both fake, but it felt more fake. All the flaws airbrushed away, all of Dean’s real feelings smothered down and hazy and locked away somewhere he couldn’t get to them, no matter how he tried.

He’d had Sam tangled up in his limbs as they wrestled near the car, his brother’s whole body writhing and struggling against his chest, his ass snugged up tight in his lap and felt nothing. The Plum sisters’ love spell didn’t just create some feelings they could manipulate. The him under their sway almost felt like an entirely different man, wholecloth. 

Remorse gets him up to his feet with barely a wince, more numbing than even the booze. 

It hurts like a motherfucker making his way down the hallway to the bedrooms, even with the icepack he’s keeping religiously pressed to his knee. But he makes it eventually. 

Sam isn’t even dressed for bed. Dean knew he wouldn’t be despite the pointed goodnight he’d tossed his way. He’s curled on his side on top of his covers, eyes wide open as he silently broods. His brother does spare him a glance though, once he realizes that Dean is limping through his door. “Would you stop walking around?” he scolds him half-heartedly. “You’re gonna hurt your leg worse.”

Dean ignores him, shuffling across the room to settle onto the empty side of the too-small bed. He drops the icepack on Sam’s end table and then swivels himself horizontal. “How’s your face?” he asks, spooning up behind Sam’s back and resting his injury across his thigh.

His brother flinches at the closeness, like he doesn’t want to be touched, and Dean tries not to take it personally. “It’ll probably bruise pretty ugly, but nothing’s broken,” Sam says, too tightly for the casual air he’s attempting. He isn’t mad though. The stiff way he’s holding himself isn’t about the punch. “How’s your knee?” he tosses back after a second.

“About the same.”

Sam huffs out a sarcastic laugh under his breath. Dean can feel his whole ribcage expand and contract. “You regretting handing the grimoire over to your soulmate yet?”

Ouch. It’s a low blow, and catty, but Dean supposes he deserves it. “Alright, c’mon,” he says, appropriately chagrined, and very generously doesn’t toss that exact same insult back at him regarding Rowena. He stretches up to press his lips to the nape of Sam’s neck, burrowing into the silk of his hair a bit. Not a kiss, just resting there. “I’m sorry, by the way. If I didn’t say it before.”

“Wasn’t your fault,” Sam responds automatically.

“Still am, though.” The truth of his brother’s words doesn’t blunt the guilt any. “And about what I said. The whole ‘jealous’ thing. That was…that was fucking mean.”

Sam pulls in a deep breath and relaxes a shade under Dean’s arm. Not enough to let them be comfortable, but at least it doesn’t feel like he’s about to bolt. “It was a love spell, Dean,” he says. “We’ve dealt with them before, both of us. I’m not holding it against you.” He shifts around a little, pretends like he is about to go to bed. Trying to get Dean off his case. “Is that what you came in here to say?”

“No.” Dean pulls in a long inhale of his own and steels himself for what he’s about to bring up. He locks the muscles in his arm, just in case. “You said you felt helpless,” he repeats.

Sam goes rigid underneath him, and Dean takes back everything he thought only moments ago. He obviously is trying to bolt. Urgently. “Dean—” he complains, struggling against the gentle grip he’s got on him.

But Dean doesn’t relent. He can’t. He’s in too deep now. “I know you said it was about losing Jack and Mom and not having a plan and stuff…” he says, keeping himself pressed flat along his brother’s back now matter how bad it jostles his knee, “…but ‘helpless’? That’s Lucifer talk, Sammy. The little of it that you actually bring up.” 

Sam freezes against him and Dean knows it’s partially his fault too. He tries to be sympathetic, does everything he can to be understanding and patient, but those aren’t really his strong suits. He dreads talking about the Cage just as much as his brother does. If not more. He doesn’t want to be a dick and say that reliving it hurts him more than it does Sam—because of course not—but at the same time…he actually thinks maybe it does. So Dean acts selfish and cowardly and doesn’t push the subject. He already knows enough, he knows the important parts, and he truly, honestly doesn’t wanna hear the details. Can’t bear imagining Sam’s abuses playing out in living color across his mind’s eye. He’d still do it, obviously, if Sam wanted him to, but Sam never seems to want to. And Dean can’t bring himself to pry.

Sam finally drags himself back together again and goes still, compartmentalizing all the pain like a champ. Just like Dean taught him. He expertly ignores the sickly pang of guilt at that very thought. “Can we just skip the whole pep talk please?” Sam asks tensely. “Because I already know everything you’re gonna say. You’re gonna tell me that we’ll ‘figure it out’,” he recites by rote, sing-song, like he’s reading off a list. “You won’t let Lucifer hurt me. You’ll protect me.”

“No, Sam, I won’t,” Dean interrupts bluntly. Bleaker than he’d intended. He lets out a tense sigh and uses Sam’s moment of uneasy hesitation to wind himself around him more securely. To get them as close as possible. “I would love to tell you that I’m never gonna let anything happen to you,” he admits, low and rough. “That I’ve got you, right here in my arms, and I’d rather die than let anyone—witches or demons or fucking Satan—get their hands on you. Because it’s true.” He tightens his hold, rests his forehead against the back of Sam’s neck and swallows back his own inadequacies. “But that doesn’t really mean jack, does it?” he asks, defeated. Tired. “It’s already happened, Sam. Bad things have happened. To you. To me. And no matter how much I want them not to, they’re gonna happen again. To you. To me.”

“It’s the job,” Sam says haltingly.

Dean smiles a little. Shakes his head a little. He knows Sam can feel both. “Or our luck, or our life, but yeah,” he says. 

Except…this isn’t helping, he realizes after a quiet few seconds. They’re just wallowing. So Dean straightens his jaw and tries a different tack. “Jamie had a sledgehammer,” he mentions, then realizes how out of left field that must have sounded. He backtracks and explains a little. “When I brought her the book.”

Sam pauses, clearly unsure where he’s going with this. “I know,” he says obviously. “I saw.”

“And you saved my life,” Dean continues. “You protected me. Even after…” He reaches his left hand up to lightly brush his knuckles against Sam’s cheek. He avoids his actual injury, not wanting to twinge it.

“Of course I did,” Sam says. And he sounds touched. More human. Less unfeeling, perfectly adjusted automaton.

Dean presses an actual kiss to his neck now, unable to hold off any longer. “I can’t promise that you’ll be safe,” he says, even as he hates himself for it. “I can’t even promise that I’ll always protect you, no matter how hard I try, because I’ve already failed way too many times at exactly that.” Dean clenches his eyes shut and shifts in closer, like he’s trying to meld them into one. “But I can promise that I’ll never stop trying to save you. That when shit hits the fan, I will never stop coming until I’ve found you. Hell or high water. Nothing, not even death—yours or mine—is gonna stop me from getting you back, sweetheart. Every time.”

Sam lets out a weak scoff. “Yeah, okay, Westley.”

“I mean it, Sam,” Dean says, devastatingly sober. “And the only way I’ll ever willingly leave you is if some fucking Sabrina-wannabe forces me to with a magic slave spell.”

“Dramatic,” Sam chides flatly.

“That’s what it was,” Dean insists. Allowing himself just a moment of stubborn childishness. “Tell me I’m wrong.” But his brother keeps his mouth zipped. Love spells are fucked up, deep down, once you get past the flighty, infantile humor of them. They’ve come across enough variations of the things to know. “And when that happens,” he reminds Sam, “then you need to be the big hero and come save me.” He nudges him a little, playful, then lets the grimness of their conversation gradually drag him back down to serious. “You’re…gonna get hurt again, baby,” Dean says regretfully, “at some point over something. I can’t stop that.” He pulls in a breath of Sam’s scent to steady himself, filling his lungs up like liquid gold. This is what real feels like. This is what all the love spells in the world couldn’t ever hope to emulate. “But I’ll rescue you,” he whispers fiercely. “I swear to fucking God I will. Or you’ll rescue me. It’s the core of us, ain’t it?”

Sam’s silent for a moment more, then finally twists around in his hold, letting him see his face. He hasn’t been crying, thank god, but the cold, stoic cast to his expression isn’t much better. His brother doesn’t kiss him, but he does bring up a hand to lightly trace his fingertips over Dean’s features. It’s almost a win.

“So yeah, Sam,” Dean prods, letting him carefully map his face. “You’re scared. Be scared. Hell, I’m scared too. But you’re not helpless. You’re never fucking helpless. Because of me,” he promises, catching Sam’s wandering fingers in his own and bringing them down to his lips, “and because of you.” He keeps Sam’s hand against his mouth, fervently trying to get him to understand. “Trust in us, Sammy. That’s what I have faith in. That’s the only thing I have faith in.”

Sam meets his eyes and something like awareness slowly flickers into view, like he finally gets what Dean’s been saying the last few days. “We’ll figure it out,” he echoes.

“We’ll figure it out,” Dean answers back, gentle and sure. And his little speech hasn’t fixed anything. Not really. Not Sam’s fear or his trauma or even his mood. Nothing short of getting Jack and Mom back can do that, but it’s something at least. And Sam leans forward to tuck his head under Dean’s chin. Where he belongs. And even if he can’t do anything else, Dean knows he can do this. He can hold his little brother, his real soulmate, in his arms and he can make him feel safe. 

Just a little bit. 

Just for a moment.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Mary Campbell walks out of the 9:15 screening of Slaughterhouse-Five at the Varsity Movie Theater on the corner of Massachusetts and 10th and right into a brick wall of a human being. Luckily, years of life-or-death training reflexively gets her feet planted square and her center of gravity shifted low, so it’s the guy who ends up on his ass. Hard. He’s a marine, probably, given the bright red number ‘1’ diamond-stitched onto the breast of his jacket—and god, Mary has had enough of hunters and killers and soldiers to last her her entire life. Plus, it serves the jerk right, blindly stumbling into her like that.

Though the dope is kinda cute, she has to admit, tall and strong and dark-haired. He blinks up at her in shock from the dirty sidewalk and Mary can’t help but feel a little gradual embarrassment start to creep up her neck at what just happened. Nice girls like her aren’t supposed to be able to knock soldiers straight off their feet without flinching.

Nice girls like her aren’t supposed to know the most effective way to incapacitate and kill vampires either—but welcome to the inescapable life of being a Campbell.

The guy is still staring at her so Mary takes a deep breath and opens her mouth and even makes to apologize, despite the whole situation not really being her fault…and then the egotistical son of a bitch starts laughing. He sits on his ass and laughs and tells her that she can make it up to him with a coffee. As if she’s the one who wasn’t looking where she was going. As if she’s the one practically running over girls on the street who aren’t doing anything but minding their own business.

Mary turns on her heel and walks away without uttering a single word. Maybe that way the asshole will think twice about watching where he’s going the next time.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

John Winchester is exhausted and starving and coming off a double shift at the garage that felt like it would never end when he suddenly finds himself flat on his ass and gazing up at a painfully bright movie theater marquee. The source of his current predicament, unbelievably enough, seems to be a beautiful girl who looks like she eats lettuce three meals a day. And even though John’s got no clue how she managed to stay standing when he’s blinking cartoon birdies out of his eyes, he still laughs it off and asks her out for a coffee.

But instead of helping him up or apologizing or accepting his friendly offer, she simply glares at him. Then she flips her hair over her shoulder and stalks away without a word. Like John isn’t worthy to be the gum on the bottom of her shoe. And who the hell does the stuck-up blonde with the Farah Fawcett hair think she is anyway? Probably some spoiled, rich girl who’s never had to deal with an ounce of heartache or loss in her entire life, that’s who. Folks like him put their goddamn necks on the line so folks like her can go to their movies and eat their damn popcorn and never think twice about what their quality of life costs. Ah, well. Good riddance, anyway. She’d probably be boring as a stump if they ever even did get to talking.

John picks himself up, dusts off the seat of his jeans, and continues on his way—in the opposite direction from where Little Miss Temper-Tantrum had just strolled off to. Sure, it’s a more out of the way walk to Maroni’s this way, but he’s much more interested in avoiding running into any other jerks tonight.

At this point, he just wants to get a decent meal in him and then head home.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Mary is pressed as far back into a corner booth as she can get, agitatedly tapping one of her boot heels against the linoleum floor, and fuming like there’s no tomorrow. She’s only at Maroni’s because it’s the one joint in town open this late, but if she had known that the idiot from the street would follow her in here, she would’ve gone straight home. No matter how much she’s trying to avoid her dad right now.

He can’t even keep his obnoxiousness under wraps here either. He’s sitting at the front counter because he probably hasn’t glimpsed her yet, or maybe he’s just ignoring her to piss her off, and he’s singing. Not like full-on American Bandstand-type singing—he didn’t seem that kind of crazy, at least—but that annoying, half-assed, under your breath kind of singing that’s just loud enough to really get on a person’s nerves. He hasn’t missed a word though, mumbling along to the radio’s staticky rendition of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ like he thinks it’s impressive. Like that song hasn’t been on every single rock station for almost a year by now. Hell, Mary could probably get most of the lyrics right and she usually doesn’t go in for anything harder than Judy Collins.

The radio continues on to ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and the marine doesn’t even miss a beat before he starts singing along to this song as well. And Mary doesn’t think she’s ever actively hated anyone in her life that didn’t have fangs or claws or a wrist-spike, but she might actually have to make an exception for this guy. She watches the dumb lug sit at the counter and hum as he eats his food, and she tries to bore holes into the back of his jacket with her eyes, and she hates him.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

John is ignoring the pesky witch intent on glaring daggers at him from one of the back booths. He’s ignoring her with every muscle in his body and fiber of his soul. He is eating his dinner and he is listening to Zeppelin and he most certainly is not sparing a single thought to the blonde harpy actively trying to ruin his evening.

Or, at least that’s the case right up until one of the waitresses brings him a slice of pie he didn’t ask for. She tells him it’s on the house and calls him “sugar” and affectionately squeezes his shoulder, and all of a sudden, John feels something warm spread throughout his insides. It feels…familiar in a way, like one of his mom’s proud smiles or the sound of an old music box plinking away in a dark bedroom. But it feels kinda different too. New, almost. Kind of like the swell of excitement over Christmas he used to get as a kid, only this time he’s not sure what it’s for until he turns around and his eyes snag on the girl who’s been doing her best to make his life a living hell—

And it’s funny, but with all the grudge-keeping and moping and refusing to even glance at her, he’d never noticed how beautifully the light seems to catch in her hair. Even in a place as crappy as Maroni’s. She’s not exactly looking back at him right now, more intent on frowning at her coffee mug like it’s personally wronged her, but even her scrunched-up little scowl is adorable now that he’s actually paying attention. And yeah, maybe she’s a little domineering and gutsy and stubborn…but, really, isn’t that exactly John’s type?

He just can’t believe it took him this long to realize it.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Mary lets out a frustrated groan and mentally wills her empty coffee cup to be full again. She’s needed a refill for the last ten minutes or so, but the waiter she’d originally had apparently went on break or something because he hasn’t stopped by her table in ages. It’s no damn fun at all to sulk at the guy at the counter without anything to sulk over, and she almost lets out a sigh of relief when a new waitress starts heading her way. Mary doesn’t remember her from her original scan of the room, but it’s hard to care much when the woman is bringing her some much-needed caffeine.

The waitress steps up to her booth to refill her cup, and then, out of nowhere, she winks at her. Like she’s in on some juicy secret that Mary has no idea about. It’s a little freaky to say the least, but Mary’s parents didn’t raise her to be rude to any working folk, so she smiles uncertainly back and graciously allows the woman to place a friendly hand against her shoulder as she tops off her coffee. Except the instant her fingers touch Mary’s skin, something blooms unexpected in her chest. Something that feels like safety and warmth and quiet, unassuming happiness. She darts her gaze around, desperate to find the source of the incredible feeling, until she happens to catch the eye of the marine she’d accidentally clothes-lined—

And all of a sudden, his dumb face doesn’t look quite so dopey anymore. In fact, he actually looks kind and sweet and open. And his singing along to the radio isn’t annoying, it’s charming. Endearing, even. And instead of getting mad at the fact that she’d sent him sprawling onto the sidewalk like most guys would, he’d laughed it off like it was no big deal. Hell, maybe Mary is so used to the gruff, monosyllabic cavemen from her parents’ hunting circles that she didn’t know a nice guy when she saw one.

Maybe she’d like to get to know a nice guy for once.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

John is getting up to join the girl at her table before he even knows what his feet are doing. Only, she’s not cold anymore. Now she’s funny and tough and gorgeous, and John can’t get enough of her. He asks her for her phone number and she only hesitates for a second before scrawling it out for him on one of the monogrammed drink napkins.

Mary Campbell—she writes in girly, loopy, cursive above the digits. With a little flower doodled after the last letter. John doesn’t even need the napkin with how fast he immediately memorizes the number, but he shoves it in his pocket anyway. He knows he’s gonna keep the thing ‘til it’s nothing more than shreds.

“It’s my parents’ house,” she tells him with a heart-stopping grin. “So don’t freak out if my dad picks up.”

John nods like an over-eager, lovesick idiot, willing to jump through any hoops she asks of him to make this work out. But he also can’t help the slight thread of worry over how scary the father of a girl like Mary might be. “Is he gonna be mad or something?” he asks, laughing like it’s a joke. Trying not to sound too nervous.

But Mary just smiles again. “Yeah,” she says, gazing at him from under her eyelashes like she’s worth every single bit of the trouble. “Yeah, he really is.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

John. His name is John Winchester and he’s a mechanic and his favorite movie is Casablanca. And Mary thinks she might be in love.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Dean heads down the hallway to the bedrooms with no intention of going to sleep. It’s not early, but it’s not late either, and there’s an ironic bubble of bitter humor floating somewhere behind his ribs—right where the dread would be if he were a different man. A smarter man, perhaps. Or maybe just a luckier man. He should probably check on Cas and Gabriel before he shuts he and Sam in for the night. They aren’t exactly on his way, but he hasn’t spoken with Cas since the brief phone call when he first arrived in Amarillo and he hasn’t said more than two words to Gabriel—to Gabe, as Sam so familiarly put it—since the dick and his brother had that secretive tête-à-tête outside the car earlier.

But Dean can’t bring himself to care enough. Cas has probably got the situation well in hand, and if he doesn’t, then Dean doesn’t wanna know about it ‘til morning. He’s got more important things on his mind. More pressing matters making a home for themselves deep within his chest. Sam won’t be waiting for him in Dean’s room tonight—the way he is more often than not when things are good between them. He’ll be in his own. Maybe only half expecting Dean to join him. Dean isn’t planning on disappointing him. Not in this, at least.

He’d started drinking the moment they’d touched base back at the bunker, well before Sam had first swept into the war room with his obviously rehearsed little speech and well afterwards too. Dean hasn’t put enough away to actually get him drunk—who knows how much it would take for that nowadays—but it’s just enough to keep his hands steady. To keep the lurking worry and the guilt at bay. Or maybe there’s no guilt at all and that’s what he’s keeping at bay. That feels truer, if he’s being honest.

His brother’s door is closed when Dean reaches it, the miniscule gesture of privacy the only one they have between them, meaning that he should probably knock before entering.

He doesn’t.

Sam glances at him as he steps in, then goes right back to washing his face in the bedroom’s small sink. Serene and accepting now that he’s said his piece. Unsurprised by the company. Dean shuts the door behind him without a word.

He almost says something glib like, “Fancy meeting you here,” but he doesn’t. And Sam simply shuts off the taps, rubs a dry washrag over his face, and then slips his shirts over his head in return. Silent. He only pauses for a second before he presses right into Dean. Broad, bare skin bleeding heat through his clothes where Sam’s engulfing him. His little brother is clinging somehow, while still caging him in at the same time. Hiding the sliver of desperation behind the play at strength. Like he thinks he’s getting away with it. So fucking smug, thinking he’s pulled the wool over his eyes.

As if Dean’s too blind to see Sam’s dangerous little vengeance kick for what it really is. Going after Lucifer ‘cause he’s got some stupid idea in his head that it’s gonna feel good. Just because misery loves company and a literal witch and a selfish excuse for an archangel keep spitting poison into his ears. …Just like Ruby had done all those years ago.

Dean brings his hands up to cradle his brother’s slim hips—an automatic reaction more than anything else—and falls back against the door as Sam presses in further. As Sam stakes his claim the same way he’d done earlier. Announcing to the world, or at least the only part of it that matters, that if they go down they’ll go down together. It’s sweet in an embarrassing, Thelma and Louise kind of way, but Dean knows there’s some truth in it. Neither of them will last very long on their own. Not the final time. Not when it’ll really be permanent. It’s even a little romantic—he can’t help but grudgingly think. In every sense of the word. Especially the darker ones.

But what’s Dean supposed to say to something like that, true or not?

“The only way we’re going out at the same time is if the bullet rips straight through me first and still has enough velocity to do some damage.”

Because that’s the real truth. That’s the truth if Dean has any say in the matter whatsoever—and he usually does. Billie had told him she’d see him again soon, back in Rowena’s fancy hotel room. She hadn’t said the same to Sam. Dean had taken note. Dean had felt an equal thread of relief tremble down his spine alongside the initial dismay.

Sam won’t have it though, not with the way he tends to fight against the tide every step of the way, constantly grasping for Dean to see him as an equal. He deserves it. His brother deserves it more than anyone has ever deserved anything, and he’ll never get it. Not as long as Dean’s still got breath in his lungs.

Sam can’t be equal because Sam will always be more. And it isn’t conditioning. It isn’t duty or responsibility or even self-loathing. Not really, anyway. It’s—well, it’s the thing that Dean doesn’t usually like to dredge out and poke at if he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t have to get all sappy and say it out loud to know it’s true. And he doesn’t have to get all sappy and say it out loud to know Sam knows it’s true. He and Sam, they are what they are. Dean’s long come to terms with that—and the repercussions of it. Because it doesn’t matter the logic you throw at him, the request for fairness over whose turn it is this time, even the thought of his brother’s face after another one of Dean’s stupid, selfish, self-sacrificing decisions. He’ll still tear the very heart out of his own body to keep Sam’s blood pumping. Every time. And he’ll do it with a smile on his face. Every time.

Sam bends down to kiss him and Dean exhales out so he can breathe in his brother instead. So he can lose himself in the long, careful fingers clutching at the back of his neck. The sharp nip of teeth tugging at his bottom lip. The way Sam’s chest feels crushing him against the door, probably leaving a backwards 21 indented into the skin of his back.

Sam is letting him into his bed tonight because he thinks they’re going under together.

But Dean is happily crawling into it because he knows he’s doing it alone.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sam steps away from the clinking of glasses and low clamor of the party behind him and into the relative isolation of the tiled halls. Jack had slipped out of the main room nearly an hour ago, head hanging low as he left the celebration he couldn’t be a part of. Sam should have followed him then, but he couldn’t seem to tear himself away from Dean’s side once he’d planted himself there. Not after what had happened in the tunnels. Not after they’d nearly lost each other again. So Sam had registered Jack’s escape with a watchful eye and then selfishly turned back toward his brother, losing himself in the rough cadence of Dean’s voice as he relayed some ancient, lighthearted story to the gathered refugees hanging on his every word just as much as Sam was.

But Dean had eventually wandered off to find another drink, roping Cas into coming with him, and once Sam was alone, the guilt started bleeding back in, full-force.

He can’t keep putting this off. Can’t avoid the kid forever. Hell, he doesn’t even want to.

Sam lets his feet carry him where he needs to go, glances at the gleaming 22 for a fond moment before lightly rapping his knuckles against the wood and creaking open the door. “Hey, Jack.” Sam keeps his voice low, unobtrusive. He doesn’t want to barge his way in here if the kid isn’t ready for it yet.

But Jack dutifully brings his eyes up to attend to his visitor, carefully considers Sam at his door for a moment before nodding in acceptance. “Hello,” he says softly in return. Polite, but listless. It wouldn’t take a psychic to read the slump to his shoulders as anything other than what it is.

Sam locks a guilty breath behind his teeth an inches a little further into the room. “I wanted to talk to you about your—about Lucifer.” He can’t say ‘father’, not without wincing. He won’t. “If that’s alright with you.”

“He didn’t make it through before the rift closed,” Jack replies with all the innocent conviction of a child five times his age. “He must have been fighting off Michael. Protecting the rest of us.” He lets his eyes drift back down to his standard Men of Letters-issue comforter, picking at one of the spare threads with a fingernail. “He just didn’t make it in time.”

Sam swallows hard as he closes the door behind him. He could tell him the truth right now. He should, from a strictly moral standpoint, but who knows how Jack might take the news, especially given how he’s only working with a fraction of the full picture. Sam tries not to laugh at the sharp and belated understanding he suddenly feels for his own father. At all the bitter lies of omission he’d been told growing up. And yet, he still follows right in John’s footsteps anyway. “Lucifer isn’t the person you think he is, Jack,” Sam sighs, easing down onto the foot of the bed and side-stepping the more incriminating admission entirely.

Jack screws his lips up tight, that oh-so-recognizable flare of young anger held in check by a single thread of willpower. “Everyone keeps saying that, but no one has any actual proof other than rumors and made-up stories. My father told me. Humans make things up about him, but he couldn’t have done any of it. He was locked up in a cage the whole time.”

The Cage,” Sam corrects him tonelessly, keeping the frantic beating of his heart under control through sheer necessity. Sam’s hang-ups, his issues, aren’t important here. This is something the kid needs to hear. No matter how uncomfortable it is for Sam. He can’t reasonably stall any longer. “And I know because I was there too,” he forces out after one last lingering moment. “I was in it with him.” Jack pauses at his words, the anger draining from his face to leave simple wary confusion. “You said Michael hurt you, right?” Sam checks, keeping his voice level as best he can. “Well, in the Cage, Lucifer hurt me.”

“He…did?” The question comes haltingly, off-balance and unsure, and Sam can’t help but feel grateful that Jack even trusts him enough to believe him in the first place. He’s been half afraid this whole time that Lucifer might have already got his manipulative hooks in the boy too deep to counter.

Sam nods, and then it’s his turn to drop his eyes to the bedspread. “God locked Lucifer away because he was dangerous, and he was locked away for a long time, but Dean and I—accidentally let him out.” He glances back up to catch Jack watching him with a silent quirk of his head and a furrow between his brows, listening obediently, and Sam has to clear his throat before he can continue. “He murdered a lot of people when he was topside, Jack. Hurt a lot more. The only way to keep people safe—to keep the world from looking like what it does on the other side of the rift—was to lock him up again.” It isn’t the whole story, of course it isn’t, but everything he’s saying is the truth. “And I got trapped with him. It was the only way—” to keep Dean safe. “…to keep the world safe.”

Jack sits in complete stillness for a moment, trying to get his head around the information that’s just been dumped in his lap. “…And then he hurt you?” He asks it like he can’t understand it. Like he can’t reconcile the attentive father he met in the other world with the villain from this bedtime story Sam’s weaving.

“Yeah,” Sam says, rough and quiet against the flood of memory, “then he hurt me.” Lucifer, his grip tight like bands of unforgiving iron, slowly crushing Sam’s skull between his bare hands. “Not so smart now, are we, cowboy?” he’d taunt, fingers squelching ruthlessly through the gray matter. Flaying off his skin, strip-by-strip, until nothing was left but the bleeding, gleaming slick of red muscle. Keeping him alive—always keeping him alive so that not even the brief release of death was there to comfort him. Pinning his eyelids open and showing him his true face, grinning and peeling back the human glamour until Sam’s mind buckled at the seams trying to remain sane.  “He was angry,” Sam chokes out on a weighted breath, so hushed that he’s not sure how Jack can still hear him. “And he’d take it out on me because I was the one who stopped him.” He needs to say it. Putting it into words doesn’t make it any more true, any more real, despite how much he hesitates every time. “He tortured me, Jack,” he whispers. “For a really, really long time.” It doesn’t matter anymore. There’s no reason for the terror to keep hovering around his every move and breath and word. Lucifer is dead, thanks to Sam. Michael killed him and he can’t ever hurt anyone again.

Sam just wishes he could believe it, deep down.

But Jack is still waiting for Sam to finish his story, his soft blue eyes flooded with emotion. So Sam does. “He’d do things to me—horrible, violent things that should have killed me, but he wouldn’t let me die. He’d just bring me back so he could do it again. So he could break me some more.” Sam lets out a wavering breath, scrubbing a hand over his face to make sure it’s dry. “And he’d say awful things, try to break me that way too.”

“Did—did he do anything else?” Jack asks attentively.

Sam remembers all of it, remembers his legs wrenched so wide—the dangling, unnatural splay of them—until he’s absolutely positive his hips are broken. He remembers thick, heavy hooks pierced through the tendons of his ankles and scraping raw against the shifting bones every time he screams and flinches in pain. Remembers Lucifer easily punching his entire fist up inside of him as if Sam were a hollow, children’s puppet, the blunt, unceasing agony of it until the angel could claw his fingers around the most sensitive part of him and slowly tear the flesh away in a cascade of dirty blood. “You think I’d actually touch you with these ridiculous, pathetic genitals you humans are so obsessed with?” he’d chuckle right in his ear. Lucifer would always laugh when he’d say it. “You think I’d actually make whoopee with something as filthy as you?”

Though it never stopped him from fucking him with his hands. His fists. His grace. Thick, metal battering rams covered in spikes meant for tearing and rending. Those ever-present meat hooks in every size—“Let’s see if we can get you inside-out, okay,  Sammy?”—which Lucifer never seemed to grow tired of. It never stopped him from forcing his slimy tongue down his throat so he could “see what all the human fuss is about,” no matter how much Sam would bite.

That…wasn’t the worst of it, though. That was never the worst of it.

Sam thinks he shouldn’t be able to recall everything, almost two hundred years spent locked in a small metal box with an inhuman sadist. Locked inside the shifting nightmare landscape Lucifer would create for him. The human brain shouldn’t be able to process the sheer amount of daysweeksmonthsyearsdecadescenturies of torture he’d had to endure. And in his weakest, most indulgent moments, Sam always hopes that he’ll forget the other times first. The times when Lucifer would lash him down immobile and then creep his fingers inside with determined, clinical intent. Gentle, repetitive, unceasing movements. Viciously cooing over how much Sam liked it. Taunting him for what primal, base creatures humans were. Never letting up until he’d drag an unwanted, horrified release from Sam’s helpless body, a cry of sheer animal denial up from his raw throat and through the teeth that he’d clench so hard they’d splinter—

“Sam?” That’s Jack again. His forehead wrinkled in concern as he worriedly blinks at him back in the present. The present. So many years removed from the Cage. From the sickly vivid memories of it. Sam’s safe now, here with the small army of roughly-trained rebels stuffing the bunker, except in all the ways he isn’t.

But Jack isn’t ready for that kind of knowledge. Not even Dean knows the specifics because Sam’s too much of a coward to have ever said any of it out loud. He knows for a fact that his brother has drawn his own private conclusions though, after being forced to suffer through Sam’s night terrors, second-hand. Plus, it was painfully obvious that there were certain things Sam couldn’t do at first, back when it was still fresh, back before Cas had atoned with a couple of grace-bright fingertips to his temples. Things only Dean was privy to. There’s no other explanation for something like that. For the way his brother had carefully twisted himself up in knots trying to sew back together the tatters of their physical relationship afterwards. But Dean still doesn’t say it out loud because Sam doesn’t.

Sam’s not sure he ever will.

“No,” he says, aiming for a reassuring smile and falling somewhere around shakily unconvincing. But Jack’s too young to know the difference. “It was mostly just that.”

“That’s still horrible.”

“Yeah, it is.”

Jack slouches back down in hurt and confusion, but at least he’s chewing on the actual truth now. Instead of some twisted-up half-lie of Lucifer’s. At least he’s firmly on their side now. Safe in the bunker with him and Dean, where he belongs. Sam breathes out a regretful sigh and reaches out, briefly brushing over the light wheat of Jack’s hair before letting his hand drop down to rest solid and comforting on the curve of his shoulder. Jack immediately leans into the touch, instinctive and automatic, and Sam can’t stop a small smile from twitching over his lips. It’s so strangely unexpected, the love he feels for this boy. They’ve come across piecemeal team members here and there throughout their lives—people they’ve cared for and lost, painful and unfair—but Sam doesn’t think he’s ever felt this kind of pure, clear emotion for anyone other than actual family, and it unsettles him a little. Especially considering how brief a time they’ve known each other. It’s a different kind of need that he feels for Jack, closer to what he feels for Mary maybe. Or their Bobby. The desire to protect and cherish and keep burns a little cooler than it does for his brother, if Sam’s being brutally honest, but it still burns nonetheless. He’s not sure if it stems from the himself he sees in the boy, or the Dean in him, or if it’s something else entirely. What he does know is that he, Dean, and Cas are all this kid’s got. What he also knows is that he’s selfishly glad for it.

But Jack hasn’t been mollified by Sam’s unloading. The opposite, if anything. He raises hurt eyes up to lock with Sam’s own and Sam almost buckles at the pain he sees there. “Maybe I deserve to be in the Cage too.”

No,” Sam breathes. “No, Jack. You don’t.”

“I’ve hurt people. Humans.”

“Those were accidents.”

“But they keep happening,” he hisses tightly in distress.

Sam gets his other hand around his other shoulder, holds him firm and tight between his palms. “Listen to me, Jack,” he says, slow and deliberate and honest. “I know Lucifer. I know Lucifer maybe better than any other human in the world, and I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are nothing like him.”

But Jack just shakes his head, his eyes wrenched shut against the sins of his father. “I’m not human.”

And god those words break his fucking heart. It’s sobering, really, to see it from the outside like this. What Dean must have gone through with him all those years ago. “Yes, you are,” he promises. “Your mom was human. Dean and I are human.” Sam doesn’t ask himself why he’s placing him and Dean up with Kelly on this. “You are, Jack,” he says again instead of dwelling on it. “Just…trust me.”

A slight shiver runs through Jack at his words and he finally opens his eyes again. He watches him for a long time with that curious, searching stare before he nods, shallow but determined. “Okay,” he says quietly. Then he’s silent until, “Thank you for telling me the truth.”

Sam feels the last remnants of dread leave his body and he gives the kid a matching nod of his own. “Okay,” he repeats, clapping Jack lightly on the shoulders. He can read the room, read the moment, so he pushes himself back up to his feet to leave. “Goodnight, Jack,” he says, just as soft as when he came in.

“Goodnight, Sam.”

Though he can’t help but linger a little too long before he closes the door.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Sam slips out of the very bedroom Dean knew he would and he can’t hold back the knowing chuckle from where he’s been watching and waiting.

Sam startles at the unexpected sound, whirling around to pin him with an annoyed glare once he realizes it’s just Dean. “How long have you been out here?” he asks dryly.

He tips the glass of whiskey to his lips and shifts a little where he’s casually leaning against the opposite wall. “Just making sure you didn’t need any back-up.”

The slight flash of anger in his brother’s pretty eyes is unexpected. “Jack isn’t dangerous.”

Dean almost lets out another laugh. “Well, one, that isn’t entirely true, and B,” he tilts his head warmly and raises his eyebrows, trying to get his intent across, “that isn’t what I meant, Sam.”

The understanding seems to filter in just as fast. “Oh,” Sam says, touched.

He’s already got one hand up and out, skimming over his brother’s cheekbone before he belatedly remembers where they are. The angsting nephilim not two feet past the closest door. Their entire home filled to the brim with strangers and pseudo-strangers alike. Dean blames the whiskey. He’s been celebrating tonight, drinking to get happier instead of just simply drinking to get by. It’s left him warm and vulnerable. Dean gets himself under control and drops his hand back down, brushing away the small flutter of annoyance at how hands-off they’re gonna have to play this for the foreseeable future.

Sam gives him a smile anyway. It’s not what Dean needs or wants, but he takes it, regardless. He can live on Sam’s smiles until they’re alone again.

“Is the kid okay?”

Sam pulls in a pensive breath and lets it out clean. “I think so.” He shrugs. “At least, he will be. I’m pretty sure.”

“And are you okay?” Dean asks evenly.

He isn’t expecting the puppy-eyed look he gets in return, but he accepts it gladly. “Lucifer’s gone,” Sam says in tentative relief. “We’re safe. We’re together, all of us.” He fixes Dean with a gorgeously lopsided grin and maybe Sam’s been drinking a little more than usual too, after everything that’s happened the last couple days. “I think I’m gonna be just fine.”

“Good,” Dean says. And, surprisingly, he means it with every goddamn fiber of his being. About Sam and Jack.

It’s shocking, really—how quickly this fucked-up, inhuman other managed to burrow his way into Dean’s heart. Though he knows it was mostly just his own fear keeping up those walls at first. Fear for Sam’s safety, always forefront. The way Dean has to protect his brother from his own soft heart. Fear of yet another person—another thing—turning on them.

Fear of letting himself care for someone else he could lose.

He’s gonna go ahead and affectionately blame Sam for all of it though. Because Sam’s most of the reason why Dean’s in this stupid predicament in the first place. It’s just…he sees so much of his little brother in Jack, every time he looks. The quiet, careful placement of his words. The annoying way he has to slowly analyze everything from absolutely every angle before coming to a decision. That night he’d caught him methodically plunging one of Dean’s knives into his own chest, over and over again, a martyr in a blood-soaked t-shirt trying to spare the rest of the world from his potential darkness. And Dean sees so much of himself in the kid too. The dangerous urge for recklessness. The childish joy he gets just from being near his family. The impossibly heavy guilt he carries on his shoulders over whatever happened on the other side of that rift. Dean’s vaguely aware of that nature vs. nurture thing all his guilty pleasure daytime talk shows seem to go on about, but he’ll be damned if nurture doesn’t seem to be pleading its case loud and clear. Winning by a freaking landslide.

Practically every asshole they’ve come across this last year has been cracking jokes about the kid being their…well, kid—but Dean does have to grudgingly admit that there might be some truth in it. He has to grudgingly admit that maybe he wants there to be. Sam’s sure as hell already two steps ahead of him on that front.

“Where’d you go just now?” Sam asks teasingly, stepping in close enough that Dean can feel his body heat. Can catch just a hint of the outline of his body under that grimy, borrowed sweatshirt. He’s playing with fucking fire, the little bitch, but Dean is just toasted enough to not care who might come around the corner and see them. He’s in too good a mood right now to let anyone ruin this for him. For them.

He lifts up his glass instead of answering, keeping his gaze smoldering and locked on his brother. “Here you go, Sammy,” he purrs, feeling something in his chest flicker and ignite when Sam takes it from him without a word and finishes it off.

Sam encloses his long fingers around the now-empty glass and then rests his wrist on Dean’s shoulder, just close enough for his knuckles to brush against the sensitive curve of Dean’s neck. He leans down until their lips are nearly touching, until Dean can feel his own whiskey on his brother’s breath.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Sam says, low and sinful, like the fucking cocktease he is. And then he’s slipping down the hallway into his own room with an insufferably pleased cant to his stride. Probably laughing it up every step of the way.

“Night, Sammy,” Dean replies to the empty air, playfully accepting the defeat. Then he chews at the inside of his lip, letting his gaze fall back to rest on Jack’s bedroom door. He pictures his brother in his mind’s eye, stripping the clothes from his body and falling back against his too-small bed, long and tan and beautiful. He pictures Jack, grieving and curled in on himself for now, but safe and cared for and wanted.

He can’t help but linger for a little too long before he finally heads back to the party.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s gotten to the point that Sam can’t let it roll off his back anymore.

It’s gotten to the point that if Sam hears one more crack about his “pure virginal flesh” from the couple of dickwad bullies in his English Lit class, he’s gonna shove the offending assholes into their lockers and see how they like it when an Honors student finally fights back.

Honestly, it’s not even like it’s the first time he’s heard that kind of thing. Hell, Dean makes the same types of jokes all the freaking time. And he always lets out that obnoxious, low chuckle when he does it too, tilting the arch of his throat back as he finishes off a beer or preening in front of the bathroom mirror, shirtless, like he thinks he’s God’s gift to girls. It’s just that Dean—well, Dean is…different. Dean is so, so different

Sam shoves the dangerous thought out of his head before it can gain even a whisper of a foothold in his subconscious. He can’t be thinking those kinds of things anymore. Not if he ever wants to stop being such a freak. And it isn’t about Dean anyhow—Sam insists firmly enough to make himself believe it—it’s about Rachel. Rachel Nave, the hottest girl in Bennington High’s senior class. Rachel Nave who, somehow, is interested in him. And Rachel is nice. Well…mostly, at least. Sure, she’d all but admitted that the ‘study help’ she’d needed for their Ancient Civ test was really just a ruse to make out with him, but Sam was more than happy to toss the books aside in that instance. It’s just…

Rachel has the prettiest smile. It was the first thing Sam had noticed about her, actually. How her eyes had sparkled every time she grinned. The warmth in them. Only, she went away for a three-day weekend at her parents’ lake cabin, and when she came back to school, her smile was suddenly different. There was something odd behind her eyes. She seemed older. Cold, almost. And before, where Rachel had blushed or laughed nervously every time Sam’s palms skimmed a little too close to second base, last week she just made an impatient noise under her breath and dragged Sam’s hands under her sweater herself. Not that he’s complaining or anything. It’s just… Sam runs his fingers through his hair, sweeping his bangs back from his forehead. Then he lets out a quiet groan and fully slumps forward against the pitted wood of the ramshackle house they’re squatting in for the month. The problem is that now Rachel keeps making these overt little comments about Senior Prom. Hence Heckle and Jeckle overhearing during one of Mrs. McClintock’s silent study periods. Hence the two morons deciding to make Sam’s life a living hell. Hence Sam’s current predicament.

It’s gotten so bad that he’s actually here, awkwardly hovering outside the door to his and Dean’s current shared bedroom, to ask his brother for help. Something he swore he’d never do—for about ten million different reasons, really. Sam pulls in one last deep breath, shoves aside the wriggling thoughts shouting about why this is such a bad idea, and then barges his way into the room before he can talk himself out of it.

Dean glances up from the colorful, glossy pages of the magazine he’s reading, dark smudges of grease still criss-crossing his knuckles from his afternoon shift at Rocco’s Garage. “Um, hi?” he says casually. And Sam instantly regrets the fact that he’s still wearing his backpack, busting in here all silent and weird and red-faced. Dean keeps his eyes on him for another few, curious seconds. “Can I do something for you, Sammy?”

“It’s Sam,” he corrects on autopilot, then winces when he remembers he’s actually here to ask Dean for a favor. “I, uh, kinda need your help.” Dean instantly flips into attentive mode, sitting up straighter against his headboard, and Sam has to remember to relax his own expression a little to assure him it isn’t anything life-or-death. “You know Rachel?” he asks tentatively.

Something uncomfortable flicks over his brother’s face for half a moment, but it’s quickly replaced by a more characteristic leer. “That the little piece whose books you been carrying to class?” he teases, settling back down into his earlier casual sprawl.

Sam rolls his eyes at Dean’s exaggeration, but nods at the overall gist of his point. “She’s been talking a lot lately about maybe…” He sucks in a nervous breath at his brother’s expectant expression. “Y’know,” he says lamely. Given the blank look Dean gives him in return he, clearly, does not. “Like, at prom…”

“Oh, shit,” Dean lets out on a surprised squawk. “Little Miss Sunshine wants to finally make Sammy a man, huh?” He lets out that same smug chuckle he always does and it makes Sam grit his teeth until they ache. “Good for you,” he says, turning his attention back to his magazine. “I mean, you’re graduating in like a month, right? Way to sneak it in before the buzzer, tiger.”

“That’s not…” Sam’s fists clench reflexively at his sides and he has to mentally count to ten before he lashes out with something pissy. “That’s not what this is about.”

Dean raises a silent eyebrow, but keeps the rest of his childish, condescending jabs to himself. “Then what,” he asks flatly, “you need some tips or something?” Sam swallows awkwardly, the lump in his throat feeling like solid hunk of granite, and Dean’s eyes blow wide at the nail he’s accidentally hit on the head, magazine completely forgotten as it falls from his fingertips. “Wait, is that—?” He lets out an insufferable bark of a laugh, eyes glinting bottle green as he inadvertently catches the light from the window. “For real?”

“Whatever, Dean,” Sam spits sullenly under his breath, almost before his brother can even finish his question. “I was just asking. You don’t have to be a fucking jerk about it.” He’s spinning on his heel to march right back out the door when Dean clumsily launches himself off the bed, wildly groping for a hold around his wrist.

“Wait. Wait, Sam. C’mon.” He gets a good enough grip to wrench him back, then catches his gaze and holds it steady, subdued amusement still lurking in his eyes. Sam privately counters with the smug satisfaction that at least his brother now has to look up in order to do so. “C’mon, man,” Dean says. “I didn’t mean it like that.” He half-smiles again like he’s planning on saying something dickish, then seems to think better of it, letting it go on a sigh. “Look, I—” He warily tests his grip to see if Sam’s gonna bolt again, then releases him to rub that same hand over the back of his own neck. “I can help. Sure I can.” Sam levels him with a long, flat, disbelieving stare. “What?” Dean says, subdued but still indignant. “I mean it.”

And everything else aside, he obviously does. So Sam finally relents, letting his backpack straps slip from his shoulders and trudging over to the opposite bed so he can fall face-down in a mortified heap. “I just…I dunno, I thought maybe you could tell me what your first time was like or something,” he mumbles into the comforter, words embarrassingly trailing off the longer he speaks.

When Sam pulls himself together enough to brave a furtive glance, Dean’s got that soft, fond smile on. The one he only seems to get for him. “Yeah. Okay, Sammy,” he says, clearly still amused. But in a different way than before. He sinks down onto his own bed, shoving the magazine aside with a distracted flick of his wrist, then links his hands together over his knees. “So you, uh…you know the basics, right?”

He doesn’t dignify that with any response other than a sarcastic glare.

Alright, fine,” his brother mutters. “Just checking.”

Sam had gotten the most incredibly awkward talk of his life from his dad when he was eight or so, mostly John just pounding into his head how important protection was, and then he received a way more graphic, and only slightly less excruciating, talk from Dean just a few years after that. As bad an idea as this is, Sam can’t help but be glad it’s only him and Dean this time.

Dad is due home tomorrow, which means they’ll be getting a phone call sometime tonight explaining why he’ll be back two days later than expected. John used to only hunt for a few days at a time back when they were kids, a couple of weeks at the absolute outset. But ever since Sam started high school, a couple of weeks became the usual. The minimum, even. Sam couldn’t care less though. These rare stretches of days with just him and Dean—with no orders or PT drills or screaming matches—are the only time it feels like peace anymore. Sam guiltily flicks a glance over at his backpack, like he can see straight through the rough fabric to make out the crumpled college admissions forms shoved into the very bottom. The ones his counselor had insisted he take. The ones that had made his heart flutter with something that felt too much like hope when he’d closed his fingers around them. Sam tears his gaze away before Dean catches it and clears his throat, focusing back on his brother instead. He doesn’t wanna think about that right now.

Dean is intently contemplating his own hands though. The thick, blunt fingers hesitantly woven together, strong, rough-calloused palms, familiar pattern of scar tissue, thin and silvery under the car grease smearing his broad knuckles... Shut up—Sam hisses at his own brain. “Look,” Dean says, knocking him back into the moment, “honestly, the first time isn’t always the best, okay?”

Sam blinks at him. “You said that every girl you’ve ever been with had the most unforgettable night of her life.”

“Yeah, I know what I said, shut up,” his brother cuts back, all one run-on thought. “I may have…” He shrugs his shoulders and gets sort of a spoiled milk look on his face.

He lets out a derisive snort. “Lied out your ass?”

Exaggerated,” Dean corrects him tightly, his jawline rigid as the Rockies. “Slightly.” He rolls his neck until it clicks, grappling for his pride back. “You don’t gotta be Casanova on your first go, is all I’m saying. The goal is to avoid making an ass of yourself.”

Sam scoffs into his pillow.

“I mean it, Sam. Number one is you make sure she actually wants it. You make sure.”

Given the mounting audacity of Rachel’s innuendos the past week or so, that’s the one thing Sam doesn’t have to worry about. “Trust me,” he says with slightly more ambivalence than he’d planned on, “she does.”

That uncomfortable look flickers across Dean’s face again, but it’s gone before Sam’s even sure he caught it. “Yeah, buddy,” his brother crows exactly the way he’s supposed to. “It’s them Winchester genes. I’m telling you, chicks can’t get enough.”

“You’re being gross.”

Dean ignores him completely, same way he always does. “So, my first time, Robi—uh, this girl I’d been seeing for a while, she goes right in for it. She kisses me first. She takes my shirt off. Pushes me down on her parents’ bed. Couldn’t fucking wait.” Sam idly notes his brother’s almost-reveal with a mixture of amused curiosity and a spike of something hot and bitter that he doesn’t want to name. “And let me tell you, Sammy,” Dean continues on, shaking his head in little shallow dips, “sex feels…” He lets out a low breath, full lips just slightly pursed at the edges. “…good. Good like you wouldn’t believe. It’s like jacking off, but times fifty. ‘Cause she’s soft and she’s wet, man. Fuck. And she’s small in your arms, warm, and she smells like…” Dean trails off again, the deeper baritone of his voice going rough and breathy as he drifts over memories only he can see.

“What happened next?” Sam asks too quietly, not wanting to ruin the moment.

“She climbs on top of me,” Dean says, eyes bright with the retelling. “Thighs on either side of mine, pressed together chest to groin, and she’s hot against me.” He tips his head to pin him with a look. “Hot against me,” he repeats again, raising his eyebrows to clarify until Sam’s mouth goes dry. And he can just imagine it, this mystery girl from his brother’s past, soft and wanting and pressed up against his firmer, stronger chest. No air between them. Hot and wet where she’s practically sitting on his dick. “Then she slips out of her dress,” Dean purrs. “I bring my hands up, tracing her sides, and she feels like friggin’ silk.” Sam’s breathing gets a little heavy, his chest tight, like he can’t pull in enough air. Big hands, deadly and capable, brushing so carefully over smooth, soft skin. “And I get up to her tits and I just squeeze. Gentle. Just enough for her to feel it.” Sam knows. Sam knows from his own limited fumblings exactly what that’s like. Except he presses harder. Dean spreads his thighs a little wider, letting out a quiet groan as he shifts on his mattress. “Now my dick’s so hard at this point I can barely think,” he drawls, low and sinful, and the beginning of Sam’s own erection twitches in his pants as much from the sound of his brother’s voice as it does the lurid story he’s spinning. “She undoes my jeans, she lines us up, and my head’s about to fucking explode, I swear to god, and then…” He runs the tip of his tongue over his lips, leaving damp, glistening skin behind as he parts his mouth in the suddenly warm air of the bedroom.

Sam feels an electric thrill run through him at the sight, and he has to shove away how fervently he wants to taste it. The warm, stale smell of spit. He wonders how much clumsy awkwardness Dean’s skimming over to make himself sound better. He wonders what it says about him that he doesn’t even care. “Then what?” Sam presses on, hoping his brother is too far gone to notice how eager he sounds.

Dean fixes his attention right on Sam, his sooty, too-long eyelashes heavy over his heated gaze. “Then I’m inside her,” he says, almost a whisper, low and filthy like sin. “You’re gonna love it, Sam. The feel of it. And then we’re moving together, pressing and breathing—and the sounds she makes? Fuck, there’s nothing like it.” Sam could do that. Dean wouldn’t even know what hit him, the kinds of sounds Sam could make for him. For Rachel—a thin, hysterical sort of voice in his head reminds him. “And then it just builds,” Dean says, almost hoarse with the way he’s breathing, “and you gotta keep moving, dude, you can’t stop.” Dean, with his arms around him. Thick, heavy biceps unyielding across his back. Them moving together, never stopping. Grinding up against his brother’s hard thigh. Sweat and panting and clutching at Dean so tight they’ll never be apart again. Dean whispering dirty stories, this exact dirty story into his ear. Sam quietly chokes on a gulp of air and forces himself back to stark, sober reality, tries to figure out when he’d stopped picturing himself with Dean’s faceless girl and as her instead. His brother seems unaffected by his little freak-out though. “And it builds and builds,” he continues on, same gorgeous tone of voice, “until you think there’s no way you can take it anymore and then finally you just—” Dean twists his hands sharply in the air, like he can’t even begin to describe it. Like it’s beyond words.

Then he suddenly slumps back against the headboard, easy as all get-out. Like they’d been talking about something, anything else the last few minutes. “And that’s—honestly that’s about as ambitious as you’re gonna wanna get on your first go.” He scratches a fingernail alongside the bridge of his nose and sniffs. “High school girls, they don’t want you to eat ‘em out. Too prudish about it for whatever reason.”

If you were to judge solely by listening, you wouldn’t think Dean was affected at all by what just went down. So Sam doesn’t look further south. He doesn’t look at the way Dean’s hips are tilted just the slightest bit off the bed as he lays back, feigning casual disinterest. He doesn’t look at the line of his jeans, rough denim stretched taut over the crotch where something big and thick is tenting the material. The slight half-twitch of his brother’s thighs as he fights against thrusting up into thin air. The gleam in his eyes from working himself all up over some girl Sam’s never even met.

Sam flips over until he’s facing the wall, subtly pressing his own hard-on into the mattress beneath him, and silently contemplates what kind of a fuck-up could possibly want his own brother this badly. And what kind of fuck-up could possibly want his own brother at all.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

It’s a week and a half later that Sam drags himself, alone and self-loathing, past the front door of that same, abandoned house. His dress shoes are pinching at his feet, his tie is pressing too tight against the knot of his throat, and he could just about throttle himself. Rachel had offered herself up on a silver freaking platter, practically begged him to have sex with her, and Sam had wussed out like a pathetic coward.

It was a damn good night up until that point too. Rachel had looked stunning in her white dress. Innocent, almost. But there’d been something dark and predatory in her eyes, just for a moment. Just for one glimpse of a second before it had smoothed back into the sweet, normal excitement of a teenage girl at prom. It had rattled Sam something fierce, and so now, here he is instead. Alone. And still a fucking virgin.

He slips through the doorway with a sigh and then stops short at the sight of Dean waiting up for him at the kitchen table, a couple of empty beer bottles framing the one currently in his hand. Given the late hour, and the way Dean’s clearly been drinking in the dark, his dad’s probably asleep in the master bedroom. His brother seems awake enough though. Probably invigorated by the rumble of the Impala pulling up the drive. He’d let Sam borrow it out of the goodness of his heart, but only an idiot would think his brother wouldn’t be counting the minutes to make sure it was returned in pristine condition. Dean’s trust only extends so far when it comes to his stupid car.

His brother fixes him with a lewd grin that looks more plastered on than anything else. Maybe it’s the alcohol. “How’d it go?” he asks suggestively.

Sam’s stomach drops into the rest of his guts and he shifts his gaze away so he doesn’t have to face Dean directly as he admits what a loser he is. “It didn’t feel right,” is what he ends up going with. Feeble and childish.

He expects Dean to throw his head back and groan loudly in disappointment. He expects him to make another one of his stupid virgin jokes. He expects him to never let him forget this for the rest of his goddamn life.

What he doesn’t expect is the look of fleeting relief that flashes across his brother’s expression. Dean pulls in a deep breath, then sets his bottle down on the table without finishing the rest of it. He lets out a hum. “Then it’s good nothing happened.”

Sam has to literally blink the shock out of his eyes. “Wait,” he checks, trying to stay quiet enough that he won’t wake up John, “are you serious?”

Dean pins him with a look. One of his annoying I’m the oldest so I know everything looks. “Sex is supposed to be good, kiddo. You should be having it with someone—” He seems to blanch at the direction of his own thoughts, then swallows hard. “It should be good, is what I’m saying,” Dean redirects, a little more muted. “If that means waiting, then wait.” He tugs another bottle out from the cooler at his feet, pops the cap off with his ring, then offers it to Sam. Drinking instead of talking, now there’s the Dean Winchester way.

Sam doesn’t usually—the whole underage thing and all—but it’s far from the first time, if he’s being honest. He takes the drink gratefully, tugging the bowtie loose from his rented tux as he thumps down into the seat across from his brother. Dean holds his own half-empty bottle out expectantly and Sam obediently clinks them both together before taking his first sip. Same way they’ve always done. Same way they always will if he has any say in the matter.

Dean’s just buzzed enough to hook his foot around Sam’s ankle under the table as they sit together in comfortable silence.

Sam finishes his first beer as fast as he can so that he’s buzzed enough to keep it there.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sam had prepared for the knock-down, drag-out screaming match. 

He’d mentally shored himself up that night on the long walk toward the sickly glowing neon of the closest 24-hour bus station, the even longer drive west—sixteen hours on a Greyhound that smelled of stale B.O. and felt like bittersweet freedom. Because deep down, he already knew what would happen even before he’d walked out that door for the last time—the furious, despotic ultimatum from his dad, the flimsy, shock-silent attempt at mediation from Dean. And he also knew that the argument wasn’t over just because he’d finally sacked up and drawn a line in the sand and refused to budge. No, Sam hadn’t spent almost two full decades breathing his brother’s air without learning every single thing about him, inside and out. Winchester fights didn’t end in a pop-bang fury of emotional fireworks…they lingered. They got as cruel as they did petty and they trailed in your wake like drowned spirits and they festered.

So Sam had prepared for the passive-aggressive, below-the-belt emotional jabs on both sides. He’d prepared for the clumsily camouflaged pleading and appeals to his sense of family loyalty. Hell, he’d even prepared for the women. Knew there’d be days that he’d pick up the phone and hear a barely-smothered feminine giggle against the crackling background of Dean’s shitty cell connection—a carefully orchestrated shadow drama to remind Sam how great his brother was doing without him. (Even if Dean would never quite know how deep that particular tactic stung.) But Sam took it in somewhat gracious stride because he needed his brother in his life, despite the double-edged hurt, and because he knew he deserved it. That was the cost—the price he’d had to pay for getting everything else he ever wanted. And he’d willingly paid it, willingly continued to pay it…

Which is why he hadn’t prepared for Bruce Willis of all things to knock him completely off his foundation.

Dean had called him roughly around midnight. Pacific time. Though it was probably a couple hours past that wherever Dean was, knowing his brother’s penchant for getting maudlin after his sixth or seventh drink. Sam had picked up the same way he always did, already missing that whiskey-warm voice from when he’d last heard it a couple of weeks before. Longer, if Dean was knee-deep in the shit with Dad on some stupid, unnecessarily dangerous hunt. But Dean hadn’t been drunk—well, he was probably buzzed on beer or something, but he wasn’t drunk. He just said, “Heya, Sammy,” as easy as Sunday morning, and then, “How’s tricks?” and Sam had said, “I have an essay on kelpies due in my Anth 201 class, can you believe that?” and Dean had laughed and they’d fallen right back into it like no time had passed at all.

They’d talked for a good hour after that. Dean had told him about some poltergeist case he and Dad worked a couple weeks back that Sam had to grit his teeth through in order not to say anything too pissy or judgmental. Sam had told Dean about how he was thinking of concentrating his major into Pre-Law—and he’s positive his brother must have been playing nice through a grimace right back at him considering the lack of shitty lawyer jokes. But it was good. Hell, it was more than good. It was a damn sight better than Sam had dared to hope for in a long time.

Only—then there had been some staticky, muffled explosion from Dean’s TV and he’d made some crack about penny-ante German terrorists, which could only have meant that he was half-watching a Die Hard marathon, and Sam was feeling too good and too high on this DeanDeanDean buzz he was riding not to say, “You stay up late enough you can catch ‘With a Vengeance’. Really round out your night.”

And then Dean had said, “Nah. Y’know what? Dad’s right. First one’s the best.”

And Sam’s heart had caught in his throat.

Dean’s favorite Die Hard was the third one. Dean’s favorite Die Hard had always been the third one. Since he was seventeen years old and had sat Sam down to watch it with him for the very first time and had launched into an ardent diatribe about why Samuel L. Jackson was the only sidekick badass enough for John McClane to ever consider teaming up with that ran on so long it drowned out nearly half the dialogue.

Dean wasn’t allowed to change his mind. It wasn’t some cheap, thrift store t-shirt or his breakfast order. It was an intrinsic truth, a part of his brother that was supposed to stay the same no matter what else changed around them. Like his arbitrary hatred of modern music or the stupid obsession over his car.

But then Dean had snapped him back to Earth with a, “Hey, man, you still there?” and Sam had fumbled for some flimsy excuse to say goodnight. Homework or getting up early or plans with one of his friends. None of them true, and he doesn’t even remember which one he’d said before Dean had signed off as well, leaving him to stare forlornly at the bulky cell phone nestled in his palm.

That was nearly forty-five minutes ago, going by the neon-red block letters blinking at him from his cheap Wal-Mart alarm clock.

Sam hasn’t moved.

It’s the stupidest thing. Inconsequential. Ridiculous and childish in a way that makes Sam feel like a whiny, overemotional teenager again. Only, he isn’t anymore. Not since he hit the big 2-0 a few months back. He’s a grown-ass man, by almost anyone’s standards. An adult. He grew up. Which means that Dean must be allowed to too, but he wasn’t supposed to move on. He wasn’t supposed to change when Sam wasn’t there to see it. He was supposed to stay the same. He was supposed to stay Dean—the exact Dean that Sam still dreams about almost every single night, only maybe he’d get a little older. He’d get some gray in his hair and the laugh lines would get a little deeper around his eyes, but he’d still pop in and see Sam in between hunts. And maybe one day there’d be too close a call or he’d get tired of Dad always telling him what to do the same way Sam did and he’d eventually realize that a normal life is the best way to live. And he’d stay with him in his big, nice, lawyer house and he’d move in with Sam’s wife and his family and he’d retire from hunting and they’d pick up right where they left off, still completely in sync, still exactly the same. And maybe he’d drive Sam out to a clearing in the woods one night. No wife, no kids. Pack a cooler full of beers in the Impala’s trunk and take him stargazing, just like they used to when John wasn’t around. Maybe after the few years apart he’d finally start to look at Sam the way Sam always looked at him. Maybe he’d slink over the hood, rough hand sliding up the back of Sam’s neck to pull him in closer, and he’d smell so good, and Sam would—

No. No. That isn’t—Sam squeezes around the cell phone in his hand until the edges of his palm go white. That isn’t realistic and it isn’t sane. It’s sick, and Sam had fled across the country until he hit seawater to make those thoughts stop.

He finally forces himself to start breathing again, letting his phone drop to the grubby Berber carpeting of his grubby campus housing. Brady will be back soon and if he catches Sam sitting and staring at the floor like a nutcase he’s gonna drag him to the health center for fear of a nervous breakdown or something. It’s just—Sam feels more unsettled than he ever has after one of his and Dean’s talks and they hadn’t even fought. Hell, that was one of the most cordial, easygoing phone conversations they’ve had in over a year.

Sam had prepared for the fighting. He’d prepared for the begging, and the insults, and the string of fun, easy women who would always, perpetually be everything that Sam wasn’t to his brother.

He hadn’t prepared for Bruce-fucking-Willis.

How is it possible that that hurts more?

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. Sure, he wasn’t about to outright tell Dean what was actually churning bitter and spiteful in his guts. Wasn’t about to go, “Hey, so I know you’ve just run into your supermodel-hot ex and all, but wouldn’t you rather start a fucked-up incestuous relationship with your little brother instead?” Obviously he wasn’t gonna do that. You’d have to brain Sam with an aluminum bat a few dozen times before he’d even get within the vicinity of thinking about maybe doing that. And honestly, even then he still probably wouldn’t because Jesus-fucking-Christ of course not.

But that still doesn’t explain why Sam had decided to dig himself a hole, pour gasoline over his head, and then light the fucking match. So wildly overcompensating that instead of just meeting Cassie and treating her with a normal, believable amount of acceptance, he’d gone barreling down the highway in the other direction. Practically dictating to his brother that he was in love with her. Like that isn’t the most inappropriately insane thing he’d ever done. Sam had been so terrified of giving himself away, so terrified of letting the tiniest slip of jealousy flicker out from behind his layers and layers of concrete-thick walls, so terrified of Dean viscerally recoiling in disgust once he recognized his true feelings that he’d struck out with some paper-thin taunts like Sam had any idea what he was talking about—pushing Dean away from him and further into his ex-girlfriend’s arms with a smattering of weak innuendo and a smirk so poorly taped on that its loose edges were still dangling free.

It was worse when Dean had met him at the site on the morning of the fourth murder, straight from Cassie’s house, because that had been all on Sam. And whether it’s true or not, he’ll never be able to think on that night without wondering if he’s the reason Dean slipped back into her bed. If it was everything he’d said, all that crap about only looking when the other one wasn’t—pulled straight from the guilt-laced awareness of Sam’s own behavior. The creepy, obsessive way he constantly rests his eyes on Dean whenever his brother isn’t paying enough attention to catch it.

The only difference is, Dean sometimes looks back at him.

Not the same kind of looking, obviously. Sam’s not pathetic enough to project that onto his incredibly straight, incredibly creeped-out-by-incest-the-normal-amount brother. But, still… Dean sometimes catches him looking. Hell, Dean catches him more often than he doesn’t. It would be practically impossible for him not to with the way he reflexively keeps tabs on Sam nearly 24/7. Except Dean doesn’t only look at Sam when Sam isn’t looking back, not like he does with Cassie. He catches Sam’s gaze and he smiles, or he rolls his eyes, or he says something cliché like, “Take a friggin’ picture, why don’t you?” but he doesn’t look away and that has to mean something. It has to mean something…right?

And as Sam watches his brother say a lingering goodbye to the woman he, himself, so ridiculously insisted that Dean once loved, he can’t play the teasing little brother anymore. Not even just by himself, alone with his bitter-tinged thoughts in the driver’s seat of the car. Sam drops the façade and the carefully constructed smile, and stops pretending that his glassy-eyed desperation when it comes to Dean is anything other than what it is, actually letting himself entertain those dangerous, gossamer thoughts for the first time since he was sixteen years old and all twisted-up inside around Dean’s eyes and his voice and his grin and his hands and his scent.

The realization doesn’t feel like a weight off his heart or a lightness in his being. It feels like a death warrant signed in his own handwriting. Because this need, this jealousy isn’t resentment over Dean finding a girl to care about when Sam’s had gone up in smoke along with the rest of his dreams. It isn’t some borderline-normal type of acting out—a younger sibling’s simmering envy over his older brother’s attention or his time. It isn’t even some messed-up crush—the kind that the books promised would gradually fade away once Sam started pursuing normal relationships with other people.

It’s so much worse than that.

It’s so much more horrifying than that.

You’re in love—Sam’s brain whispers to him, cruel and unfair and unthinkable…but he already knows that. Of course he does.

He’s known it for his entire life, after all.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s been a very long time since Michael was curious enough about a human to dreamwalk. Most hold no individual interest for him other than in how his army can use them. The child prophet had fallen into that category. He’d served Michael poorly as an alchemist, but surprisingly well as a bomb. Overall a net win. Michael remains where he is, cloaked in mental shadows, as he watches his human subject slowly pace about the area he’s constructed for them, raising a tentative hand to test the ephemeral walls. This might even be considered risky for an angel without his strength, or his fortitude, his power—thanks to his new vessel. After all, bringing these two bodies together was how this world’s Lucifer had lost. The first time and the last.

Michael flicks away the paltry whisper of not-quite-regret and simply observes the man’s behavior as he tests the boundaries of the room, the air between them tinged a slight gray-blue by the human’s own subconscious—though it’s more of a feeling than a color. Michael idly wonders if the limited thing before him can even tell the difference.

Sam Winchester. His brother’s true vessel—at least, in this universe. Michael had first glimpsed that bit of knowledge as he’d pulled at the threads of Lucifer’s mind, but he’d felt it for himself the instant he’d blasted into the middle of that poor excuse for a resistance party. The human had been hovering at the outskirts of Michael’s battle with his brothers. The same way he did at their last meeting in that church. Cowardly.

There’s a nudge from deep within him, weakly pressing at the edges of his control. A pathetic flicker of anger from Dean at the insult. Michael lets out a calm sigh and smothers his vessel’s bothersome consciousness until the light goes out again. It doesn’t matter. Lucifer is gone now—twice dead by Michael’s own hand—and the empty receptacle before him is just as useless as the rest of the swarming, mewling masses of humanity.

Sam Winchester spins around the moment Michael allows himself to be seen, the motion wary and well-practiced. Though he collapses back in on himself just as quickly. “Dean,” he breathes. And there’s an element of relief to it, like he’d almost been waiting for this to happen. Perhaps he dreams of this often, even without angelic assistance. Sam takes an eager step forward, a look of blissful peace settling over his features as he reaches out a hand, fingers twitching slightly as he waits for him to eat up the rest of the distance between them.

Michael knows what the human expects from him, has known from the instant he gained unfiltered access to all of Dean Winchester’s memories. The sin of it. It should be purged—the unholy, sickening lust these two blood-kin feel for each other. The even more nauseating way they act on it. Michael could snuff out the human’s life right now, before another Winchester can cause any more trouble. He could reach out and steal the breath from his lungs until he dies, choking in his sleep, the way his wicked soul deserves. Careful—an admonishing whisper reminds him. That’s the very road Lucifer tread. Yes. Yes it was indeed. And his little brother lost his entire petulant life over such a foolish error. Michael wills back his sense of righteous violence, deliberately centering himself. It is amusing, he supposes, in an ironic way. These two hapless creatures, soulmates by Heaven’s own brand, made sinners by the very higher calling that Michael is benefitting from now.

Disappointingly, Sam seems to recognize him almost instantly—the half-second it takes for him to become aware that Dean isn’t responding the way he should. Isn’t running into his arms, just as desperate for the other’s touch as he clearly is.

Michael expects terror at the realization. Awe, maybe. He doesn’t expect this…weariness.

“Michael,” the human says, flat and dispassionate.

And Michael feels the grace under his vessel’s skin start to prickle at the lackluster reception. At how quickly Sam Winchester seemed to put together that this isn’t an ordinary dream. It’s as unpleasant as it is unexpected, the well-oiled shrewdness of the man’s mind. Michael isn’t used to being outstripped. It reminds him too much of that infuriating whelp of a nephilim.

“What are you doing here?” Sam asks bitterly, resentful as a spoiled child. “Come to gloat?” Then he flips to subdued pleading just as suddenly, the swiftly shifting layers of a dream. “Let me talk to my brother. Please let me talk to Dean. Just for a second. Please.”

“He would like that, I think,” Michael allows. Sam flinches at the sound of his voice, but holds steady under his gaze—making a retroactive attempt at defiant and sullen, even as desperation is clearly leaking out from every fiber of his being. “He’s so drawn to you,” Michael says. “This body keeps pulling me, wanting to be next to yours. Why is that?” As if they don’t both already know. He closes the last few steps separating them, keeping his expression as cold as the nuclear winter of his universe. “I have no idea what he sees in you.”

He’d meant the remark to cut deep, to wound, but Sam simply smiles in tired agreement. “Neither do I,” he says—not quite self-loathing, more something like an old joke.

The unanticipated reaction sends another spike of bridled fury through Michael for being caught off-balance like that, though he expertly squashes it down. Remains calm and in control. There’s no need to feel threatened by this…marionette. Puppeteer-less without this universe’s Lucifer, his cut strings dangling loose and incorporeal around him.

A simple child’s toy.

Michael advances on the man, finally giving into the tug of his vessel.

“Wait, what are you—?” Sam jerks back in instinctive alarm, true, honest fear in his voice for the first time since he was placed here. Michael twirls his hand through the loose strings of Sam Winchester’s will and pulls, quickly extinguishing any hint of resistance. He isn’t interested in playing at violent subjugation tonight. He doesn’t have the time. The man’s face goes immediately lax for a moment, and then he slowly blinks at him in pleased surprise. “Dean,” he says again. Just like he did when he first saw him.

“On the bed,” Michael orders coolly. And there is one now, just behind Sam’s calves. It’s a little smaller than Michael would have created on his own—a thin, gray blanket laid over the top, plain and unassuming. Sam’s subconscious must be impacting the landscape as much as Michael’s power is. They are in his mind, after all. A weak flutter of memory from Dean informs him that it’s the one from Sam’s bedroom in their strange little bunker of a home. Not that it matters. Michael widens it by half again, gives himself more space to work with. Sam doesn’t seem to notice the distortion.

He lies back eagerly, his pitched smile almost tipsy under the fog clouding his mind. Michael follows him down, beat for beat, cages him in between the solid arms of his vessel and hovers above him, looking his fill at this body his meatsuit apparently finds so captivating. Michael finds the whole of him to be wanting, honestly. Though Sam doesn’t seem to note his disapproval. He shifts his hips and shoulders up against Michael’s weight, trying to flip them over until he’s on top, clearly expectant that he’ll go with the familiar motion—but Michael holds fast, bristling at the presumptuousness of it, and Sam frowns in confusion at the refusal. It doesn’t take him long to get over it, and maybe the spell is helping with that, but Sam eventually relaxes completely. Pliable and obedient. He blinks up at him from his back, still a little uncertain about his position underneath him, but seemingly amenable to the direction Michael is taking things.

Good. His control is holding fast. He’d expected as much, of course, but it’s nice to have his suspicions confirmed.

Michael takes advantage of the tractability to grip a hand around the human’s jaw, tilting his head side-to-side so that he can examine his features from every angle. Handsome—he supposes, by human standards—if a little too sharply exaggerated—but it still doesn’t explain the ferocity of the need he feels from Dean. He reaches back to slide a hand through his hair—a nagging itch that’s been stirring in his vessel’s belly since he first caught sight of him—then tugs hard. Sam winces at the pressure, but remains docile as a mannequin. It’s soft, clean, well taken care of; but not exceptionally so. Michael magicks the man’s clothing away so that he can get at the rest of him, but finds nothing of interest there either. Tan skin, pockmarked by an unattractive scattering of silver-white scars. His body is well-muscled in an elongated sort of way—broad, densely-packed shoulders tapering into a leaner, rangier lower half. His cock is larger than the norm, already blood-warm and half-swollen with desire from his brother’s touch. Sin upon ever-mounting sin. Michael knows that sort of thing is considered attractive among humans, but he can’t fully stifle his own shiver of disgust alongside his vessel’s innate shiver of arousal.

He’s unimpressive, really. All muscle and tendon and bone. Meat—like all the earthly creations his Father had been so enamored of. But Dean Winchester clearly doesn’t share his distaste for matters of the flesh. His body is already thrumming, just from Michael’s clinical examination.

It’s…odd. The immediacy, the heat of Dean’s want. Even when he isn’t in the driver’s seat. Michael had been in control of his last vessel for years. He’d felt the odd rush of hormones or occasional sexual urge wash up against his consciousness like waves lapping at a shore—easy enough to ignore—but he’s never come across a soulmate connection before, not physically at least. Not from within. It’s intoxicating, difficult to resist the sway of, and Michael could see how a lesser angel might get swept away by the sensation. Not him, of course, but someone weaker. Someone prone to succumbing to the base allure of humanity. Hannah, or Daniel, or maybe even Anna.

Michael glances back down at the plaything spread out for his any and every whim. Maybe he should up the stakes a bit if he really wants to get to the crux of the matter. He inserts two fingers into Sam’s mouth, slips between the pink flesh of his lips and pushes down on his tongue. It’s wet, and warm, and oddly rough. Sam chokes a bit at the intrusion, but adjusts quickly enough. He’d probably adjust to more, just as easy—Michael thinks. He’s even half considering taking out his own genitalia as well, forcing the stiff flesh into this one’s warm-wet opening and seeing if it feels half as good as—

Michael’s body suddenly rocks in metaphysical impact as Dean flares up in protective outrage, the surge of raw power almost blinding, from the tiny little corner he’d locked him in. “Sam!” The desperate cry for help slips past his carefully leashed control, torn from his throat like a dying scream. Rough and clumsy. A newborn colt trying to run before it learns to walk. The single word is all Dean gets out before Michael violently grapples him back. Lashes and chains him down so tight he’ll never break free again. Slams the door behind the impertinent human with every ounce of rage that Michael’s got in him.

But something flickers almost awake in the brother at the sound of his name, a vague shadow swimming toward the surface, and Michael has to tighten the strings of his spell until the man’s mind goes compliant again.

It takes far more effort than it should.

He goes inhumanly still at the unsettling realization that he’d almost lost control. His sword is strong. Michael knows that, had coveted this body for exactly that reason…but for the first time in a very long time, he feels a miniscule glimmer of doubt gnaw at the back of his mind. What if Dean Winchester is too strong?

No. Impossible. Michael casts away his uncertainty and shoves the ridiculous notion out of his head. It was just an oversight on his part. He hadn’t locked Dean down securely enough. The lapse in faith was just a moment of vulnerability. A human thought. He lets out a low chuckle, shakes his head almost pitiably. Poor wicked creatures. He’ll save every single one of their souls, no matter how long it takes. Grind them all out under his boot heel if he must.

Michael sits back on his haunches and casually observes the defenseless body laying between his thighs, passive and stupid under his power. Perhaps he should kill him. End it all now. Nip any possibility of defeat in the bud while he has the chance.

Careful, careful—his thoughts gently remind him again.

No. Of course not. He won’t make the same mistakes as Lucifer did. He’s better than that. God should have loved him more. Ah, well. It isn’t like their Father’s affection did the favorite son any good in the end anyhow.

Michael can stay away. This brief interlude was simply a single moment of weakness. He’ll put as much distance between him and his vessel’s soulmate as he needs to. As long as no harm comes to this body, Dean will have no power over him. No leverage for his emotions to grant him a foothold. And Michael’s done with this human, anyway.

He waves his hand over Sam Winchester’s eyes and waits until they go blank before he slips back into the shadows. Let the rest of the man’s slumber be dreamless, it’s the least he can do. His feeble human mind won’t recall any of this, come morning.

Michael’s made sure of it.