Technically, it wasn't on fire. At least...it wasn't still on fire. But that was hardly the point.
How could Dean still be smirking? Sam was horrified! Terrified! And when Dad came home…
“Dude. Dude! Chill. It's okay,” Dean laughed. “You're shaking! Sammy, I got this.”
“Why are you laughing? How are you laughing? We just burned down a damn field!”
This set Dean off again, until he was leaning on his own knees laughing so hard.
Sam felt a nervous chuckle fall out of his mouth, and then the two of them were breaking apart with laughter. Sam's heart was filled with hero worship for the older boy, who had been a man for as long as Sam could remember. He suddenly didn't care what happened after this disastrous July 4th. All he cared about was sharing this moment with Dean, and not spoiling it with worry. Maybe John would kill them both. Maybe John would laugh too. Maybe John would never find out; and Sam was inclined to think Dean had a plan for that. He knew his brother well enough to be skeptical at his promise that things were okay, but he never doubted the “I got this.” But regardless of consequences, it didn't truly matter.
Dean was laughing. So everything was all right. It was his gauge on the universe, Dean’s smile. The wink or the smirk that said, “I got this,” never failed to put him at ease.
One day, they would be in a beautiful room somewhere in Van Nuys, and it would seem as though the world were lost, as though his brother were handing it all over to the custody of two psychotically, irrationally, erotically codependent archangels to destroy. Then Dean would turn to him and give Sam his old “I got this” wink, and confusion and relief would spin through Sam, and he would know that Dean had a plan. No matter how broken Sam was at the moment, his heart was full of gratitude and faith.
Back in the field, he felt the older boy grab him around the shoulders with the crook of his arm, and he basked in the affection happily. They were headed back toward the car, though they would have to stay a while and be sure the fire didn't relight. Dad had taken his new truck, so the Impala was all theirs.
Dean looked down at him with fondness in his gaze. “You okay, bitch?”
Sam snickered. “I'm fine, jerk.”
The first time they had said that to one another, it had been in anger. They had been shouting. Then Dean had begun laughing in the middle of the argument, and Sam had demanded to know why. He had shrugged and ruffled his kid brother's hair. “Nothing. I just...I like how you stand up for yourself, Sammy.”
Sam had been stunned into silence at the abrupt end to their fight, which he had been sure would come to blows. His fists were already clenched tightly, ready to fly the moment he saw Dean move forward in a threatening way. But instead, his brother's eyes were softening, smirking at him with a strange sort of awe.
“I don't know. With me, with Dad, it's like...even if he ain't right, I sure as hell ain't gonna tell him I think so. You? You're such a bitch, you just step right up in the old man's face, and tell him just what you think, and half the time you're right, and Dad just doesn't know what to do with you. And as much as it makes me crazy...Well, it's something I can't do, never could, and I like that you can. You do it with Dad and you do it with me. You're freaking fearless, you crazy bitch.”
“Jerk,” Sam shot back, the adrenaline still pounding through his veins. Then he scowled. He wasn't sure where they were in their argument. This was a tactic Dean had never used before.
Dean laughed again, and at last Sam realized that they could both stand down. The fight was over. He wasn't sure why. But it was. And he thought perhaps he had somehow earned a bit of Dean’s respect.
So it was their go-to phrase, a way of reminding one another that no matter how much they fought, they had one another's backs. That the teasing was all in fun, and the fights were between brothers who cared about one another in spite of them.
Sam had once overheard Dean talking to Uncle Bobby in the kitchen while he rummaged through the old books in the next room moodily. “You're hard on him,” Bobby was scolding. “He's just a kid.”
Dean had not hesitated. “He isn't just a kid! It's Sam! He's my brother. And one day, he's going to be my partner on hunts. Real hunts. He's got to be ready. If he thinks I'm tough on him when we're wrestling, that I'm too critical, he's gonna get chewed up on a hunt some day, Bobby! He's smart, and he's strong, but he's got to connect the both of them. He fights with his anger, not his head, and that ain't gonna cut it in a real hunt. You know as well as me.”
Bobby had sighed. “You ain't wrong.”
“I need him. And he needs me. That thought keeps me running past tired and training past hurt. It keeps me focused on the lore you and Dad try to get into my hard head. It's what keeps me working on my Latin even when I screw it up every freaking time. Sam’s gonna need me one day. And I gotta be better than good when that day comes. When we're hunting as a team.”
Sam's eyes had filled with tears, and he had leaned against the wall miserably. One day he would have to tell Dean that he wasn't going to hunt when he got old enough. He was going to go away to college and be...something else. Something safe and normal. But until then, he had to do what he was supposed to do, be what he was supposed to be. Dean deserved the truth. But Sam wasn't ready to tell him they weren't going to be partners. At least for now, he would let Dean believe it.
And now, as he sat on the hood of the Impala with his big brother, staring out over a field with a twenty foot scorched circle in the center of it, he could feel Dean laughing softly to himself, and Sam realized that, at least for tonight, there wasn't anywhere else he wanted to be.