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The King and The Lionheart

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--Taking over this town, they should worry
But these problem aside, I think I taught you well
That we won't run, we won't run, we won't run
We're here to stay, we're here to stay, we're here to stay.--

 

In a town like Misty Luna, Maine, a gleaming black muscle car rumbling through the no-stoplight streets on a rainy Saturday morning catches nearly everyone’s attention. It’s summertime, and they don’t get many people passing through this time of year-- or any time of year, for that matter.

It’s also the kind of town that those who don’t see the car firsthand hear about it within the hour. It parks in front of the diner, the engine clicking after the beauty is shut off.

Elizabeth watches from her window seat at Joe’s Diner while she taps a ragged fingernail (chipped dark berry polish she's been too busy to redo completes the whole 'hot mess' thing she's got going on) against her nearly empty coffee cup. A half block down, she spots Libby, home for the summer from Dartmouth, rushing to meet Elizabeth for their weekday mother-daughter brunch (coming dangerously close to six cups of coffee and a chocolate chip muffin that was still warm and slightly gooey, don’t judge her).

The front passenger door of the big black car opens suddenly, and that's when Libby collides into the tall man unfolding his long limbs onto the pavement. The door hinges scream in protest as it’s shut. The old Chevy has certainly seen better days, but it’s still gorgeous, and it sticks out like a sore thumb among the bike riders and Volvos.

“Ah, shit. I’m so sorry!” The taller one, who’d barreled into her tiny daughter, swears so loudly she can hear it from inside the diner, as the other one (who’s pretty tall himself) laughs himself silly, fondly watching Libby and the behemoth scramble for her books. She can’t hear what’s going on out there anymore, but both men are helping gather the thickly bound textbooks, flyaway notes and a planner stuffed full of Libby’s busy life.

They introduce themselves, and Libby seems to like both of them. Elizabeth can tell, just by her daughter’s demeanor, and she instantly warms to the two strangers dropped into their tight-knit town.

No sooner does the short-haired one lock the car does Mitch come storming across the street from his store, the only grocer in these parts (unless you want to drive to the Super Wal-Mart a couple towns over, and really, who wants to?), waving his hands with his usual air of disapproval.

“This is a no-parking zone!” Mitch bellows, and even Joe hears that. He comes from around the counter to finally fill up Elizabeth’s second (okay, sixth) cup of coffee.

“What’s all this?” Joe asks, adjusting his baseball cap. “And who are they?”

“Tall and handsome is all I know. Libby likes them, though.”

“Yeah? And you know this how, exactly?”

“My keen and penetrating mind. Also, this great big window I’m sitting next to. Front row seats to the action.”

“Penetrating my ass,” Joe mumbles, and then seems to realize what he said. Watching Elizabeth’s smirk grow, he points at her, “Nope. Quiet.”

Elizabeth tries to mime zipping her lips, but it’s nearly impossible over the full-blown smugness radiating from her face.

As the short-haired one finds another place to park (his expression is sour; Mitch had touched the car during his rant, and the driver of the muscle car had a look on his face like he was deciding whether or not Mitch was going to be allowed to keep that hand), Libby makes her presence known inside the diner, the bells tinkling merrily as she bursts in. The tall man is in tow, still apologizing quietly for knocking her over.

“Hey,” Libby greets, flopping down into the seat next to Elizabeth. She’s reorganizing all of her dropped papers, and the tall one (she’s gotta get a name, soon) looks enamored by the load of school work she has. Not horrified, no, but… almost reverent?

He hovers awkwardly at the table, waiting for an invitation. His want to sit to get all eyes off of him is almost palpable, but it’s nearly impossible to stop staring at such a tall, gorgeous specimen.

It must be hard, Elizabeth thinks, to be so tall, but to be so insecure--if that’s the right word for him. More like, he’s unassuming. He knows his height draws attention (and his face doesn’t hurt), but beyond that, he doesn’t think people care much about him.

She’s gotta start charging for this pseudo-psych she does on everyone.

“Sit down, Sam,” Libby tells him. “Mom, this is Sam. He just moved into town with his brother, Dean. They’re, uh, from…” Libby looks over to Sam, smiling at him to continue.

“Ah. Um,” Sam clears his throat, pulling back a seat, wincing at the screech it causes. “Kansas, actually.” His voice is soft, gentle. Nothing at all like she expected. Like he’s trying to signal, I come in peace. Oddly, she believes him.

“Sam,” Elizabeth greets, as he takes a seat. His long legs sprawl awkwardly under the table, and he shifts a couple times, arranging them. His foot bumps into her ankle, and she grins at him. “Is that short for anything? Samson, perhaps? Is that your Dean-lilah over there?”

As she’s saying this, the tinkle of a bell announces the presence of brother number two. The other tall man, Dean, all but saunters in, and my god. Sam is a gorgeous guy himself, okay? She definitely wouldn’t kick him out of bed, don’t get her wrong. But Dean has this look, this way of moving his body that indicates the good time to be had underneath all those layers. Whether she means literal clothing layers, or the shuttered look in his eyes, she’s not sure. But there are certainly layers, and she’s not sure what to make of how much she likes that.

She was wrong, though. Sam isn’t the insecure one. It’s Dean.

Apparently overhearing the conversation, Dean drops down into the seat next to Sam, appearing at ease. It’s fascinating to Elizabeth. His body language screams I’m open, but his eyes tell the opposite story.

“Well,” Dean says, clapping his brother on the back. “I’ve definitely been trying to get him to cut his hair all his life, so.” He holds out his hand to Elizabeth, giving her a firm handshake. His fingers are callused, denoting physical labor. It’s unfairly hot.

“Dean, in case you haven’t been warned,” he adds with a grin. “And this here is Sammy.”

“It’s Sam.” But it’s said with fondness and a smile, like it’s an old joke. “Please don’t call me Sammy.” Sam-not-Sammy shakes Elizabeth’s hand, too, but it’s a very soft clasping of her fingers. It endears her even more to him, this overgrown man terrified of throwing his strength around.

“On my mother’s life,” Elizabeth drones. She introduces herself to both of the boys. Men, really; Dean must be her age, at least. She realizes she’s biting her lip afterwards, and Libby shoots her a look.

Elizabeth is pretty aware of everyone listening in, and she’s sure the brothers are aware, too. Dean makes his voice as loud as possible without yelling, so he can tell the story once and let it trickle down the grapevine.

“Sammy and I were in a dangerous line of work, and we recently lost the rest our family. After that, we decided it was time to hang up the work boots and get the hell out of Kansas. Sammy wanted somewhere with snow. He’s sentimental about white Christmases, aren’t you, Francis?”

“I wanted somewhere with seasons,” Sam acquiesces. He seems completely comfortable with Dean taking the reins, and the barrage of nicknames to which he apparently responds.

“So, we, uh, got rid of our old house, and I asked Sam to find the, um, no offense, kookiest town name in New England. After a lengthy Google search, Misty Luna seemed to be the perfect spot to settle.” Dean shrugs, then motions to Joe, who is giving Dean a very mistrustful look, that he would love a cup of coffee. “Want anything, Sammy?”

“An orange juice. Please,” he adds, when Joe is in earshot.

“Joe, hey. This is Sam and Dean, uh…”

“Wesson,” Sam supplies.

“Sam and Dean Wesson, new in town, hailing from Kansas. They picked our town just because of the name. That’s pretty awesome, right?” Elizabeth smiles beatifically at her coffee dealer and friend.

“I’m thrilled,” Joe deadpans, topping off everyone’s coffee, then retreats to the kitchen to retrieve Sam’s OJ.

“We’ve already got a place lined up, down by the river. It’s a little bit of a fixer-upper, but… we’ve lived in worse, huh?” Dean nudges his brother, and they share a smile that has a million words shared from closed lips.

“The old McDarmont place, yeah. We know where that is, right, Mom?” Libby chimes in, finally finished organizing her papers to her satisfaction.

“We do indeed,” Elizabeth agrees. “Love the architecture of that place. The wrap-around porch is awesome. Hey, if you guys need help fixing up the place… don’t ask me.”

They both laugh, and she is inundated with Dean’s sweaty throat as he tosses his head back, and Sam’s blinding smile complete with deep dimples. She grins before continuing, charmed by their laughter at her really lame joke.

“But really. Libby’s best friend’s mom passed a few months back, and she had this amazing antique shop. Penny is trying to sell it all, so it’s really cheap. We could point you in that direction.”

“Thanks, Lizzy.” Dean turns the whole force of his smile on her, and she has to cross her legs because it’s so inappropriate to get a lady boner in front of her daughter. But if this man intends to stay, she’s just… she’s just gotta.

“No one’s called me Lizzy since I was in pigtails,” Elizabeth tells Dean, but she already knows it’s a lost cause.

“Yeah, well, I’ve asked him to stop calling me Sammy since I was about that age.” Sam grins at his brother, and she is struck by the tenderness in that smile. “Nicknames stick with Dean, I’m afraid.”

Elizabeth checks her watch, downs the rest of her coffee, gathering her things all in one smooth motion. “I’ve gotta jet, dollfaces. Business owners never rest.”

“Then explain the snoring I heard last night,” Libby calls after her.

But Elizabeth is already out the door, cramming things in her briefcase. When she glances in through the window one last time, Dean has excused himself to the restroom, and Libby is in deep conversation with Sam over a thick poli-sci book. While Sam’s focus is on the pages, Libby’s focus is on Sam.

She wants to tsk-tsk her daughter, her beautiful nineteen-year-old daughter who is way too young for the kind, beautiful man sitting next to her. But she can’t, because she doesn’t move on until Dean comes back to the table, catching her eye through the window and dropping her a wink.

Yeah, she’s just gotta.

Sam and Dean’s house is a fixer upper, but it's theirs, and that's all that matters. And thanks to Dean’s background in construction (the look on his face when Sam reminded him that he did it for a year when he lived with Lisa was like he was wondering whether to make good on the threat of breaking Sam’s nose), it doesn’t take too long to get everything livable again. The place came pretty much furnished, and it's comfortable, if outdated.

There are three bedrooms: a master downstairs with a bathroom, which Dean magnanimously let Sam take, because according to the older brother, Sam needs plenty of space to do his hair. Dean takes the one upstairs, which has its own balcony, so Dean doesn’t think it’s too bad of a deal. The third bedroom is turned into Sam’s office, and Sam is absurdly pleased with that.

There’s another bathroom upstairs, down the hall from Dean’s room, and a half-bath downstairs, off the kitchen. The kitchen and living room are connected through an open bar space, and despite the big kitchen table, they eat most of their meals on the stools at the bar, facing the massive HD television paid for thanks to credit card holder David Aldridge, which was their last purchase on “borrowed” credit. Sam happily shredded their fraudulent cards after, throwing the plastic in the bonfire they had in the pit down by the river that night. After Dean got that TV mounted on the wall, Sam hadn’t seen him so accomplished since he succeeded in killing six vamps with no back up.

The yards are huge, and they require a lot of maintenance. Dean sneezes for days after mowing the front and back, so Sam picks up the slack and edges around the porch. They both pull up weeds from the potential garden in the backyard and move the earth around, discussing what’s in season, or if it’s too late this year to try. They decide that it is, but vow to keep the earth ready for next spring. Further into their backyard, there’s a rickety bench swing down by the river, and Sam demands Dean fix it so they can sit out there with a beer or two after work. Dean eventually listens.

Sam decorates his room sparingly, not much different from how it looked at the bunker. Aside from the beds which came with the place, he and Dean get all new furniture for two hundred bucks thanks to the antique store Elizabeth had steered them towards.

Sam now has a desk with a planner, a leather bound journal, and three pens: blue, black, and red ink. A miraculous king-sized bed he almost fits all the way on, a walk in closet, and a dresser with a couple stacks of books (one stack for his true crime novels, and the other for work) completes his space. He has a lot to study before he takes up his position at the state college a town over as the newest Humanities professor. His office upstairs is littered with at least a couple dozen more books, some in languages that haven’t been spoken in thousands of years.

Dean decides against displaying his beloved weapons on the wall like he did at the bunker. They’re still hiding, in a way, and as he explained to Sam, he doesn't wanna have to explain anything awkward to a potential hookup. Trust Dean to think of those things. But, he does put up several posters (Sam made him get frames, squawking as he watched Dean stick a push-pin into their brand new house), old muscle cars, a Zeppelin and Metallica world tour poster, and the famous Farrah Fawcett red bathing suit photo (because he’s the epitome of a bachelor). He has a king-sized bed, too, and Dean is the master of creature comforts, so he gets himself a pillow-top mattress cover along with his precious memory foam, a down comforter, and two memory foam pillows. The sheets are dark blue, but the comforter is white, and Sam has to admit (after Dean had kindly let him “try it out”) he’d done a pretty good job.

They're all moved in by the Fourth of July, so they decide to head into town around seven PM--right before it starts to get dark. They bring their own chairs and cooler, and Sam has a smile for the last time they did this, the goofy sunglasses they’d bought at a Gas-N-Sip off the interstate, and the speed boats racing across the glass-like water. Now, it’s not just a quick respite by a lake. This is for real, for keeps, forever.

There is an honest-to-god gazebo in the center of town (he's noticed it before, in his couple runs into town, but really, a gazebo!), where a few grills are set up, smoking and barbecuing all different types of meat. A few dozen coolers are set up with everything from Coca-Cola’s to beer to Smirnoffs, and no one is checking ID. They don’t have to, Sam realizes. Everyone already knows who can or can’t legally drink.

Back before he went to Stanford, he used to dream about ending up in a small town like this. Waving to your neighbor, calling the mailman by name, getting helpful tips from Bud down at the hardware store. He wanted people to know his name. He wanted people to know his story. He wanted a wife and a career and maybe some rugrats.

Dean waves at Elizabeth and Libby, who are sitting back with cold coffees in their hand, clearly gossiping about everyone. They wave Sam and Dean over, gesturing to their prime spot next to the beer cooler.

Now, Sam has the town and the peace.

And he has Dean.

“You just wait,” Dean murmurs as they near the mother and daughter. “There’s something about her, Sammy.”

“Well, it’s a step above you panting after college girls.” He sounds a lot more bitter than he was expecting to.

Dean looks uncomfortable. “It was the Mark, man. I--”

Sam pats him on the back, trying to shake off the sudden flash of anger. “It’s all right, Dean, hey. Believe me, I get it. You know soulless me didn’t care where he stuck it. Just… you know. We’re putting roots down. You can’t love her and leave her.” His voice stays pretty even, he thinks. No jealous wobble.

Dean just nods, cutting their conversation short as they come up to the festively-dressed duo. Elizabeth is dressed in a short, bright red t-shirt looking dress with bright red lips, but Libby is a little more conservative in a long navy blue sundress with the same striking red painted on her mouth.

“Don’t you two look beautiful,” Dean croons as an introduction, and Sam wants to roll his eyes but can’t disagree. The two women stand out among the crowd, that’s for sure.

Smiling at Dean in a way that sparks Sam’s anger again, Elizabeth asks, “Have you met everyone yet?”

After getting comfortable in their lawn chairs, Dean shakes his head. “Nah. Really just been around the homestead, making it look presentable. Sammy’s got a gig the next town over at a state college, the newest and best Humanities professor.” He claps Sam on the back, pride pouring from his smile.

“You find any work yet, Dean?” Elizabeth asks, sipping at her coffee.

“I went out and met Matty at the garage; he saw Baby and gave me a job on the spot.” He’s practically radiating smugness, but that’s Dean for you. His brother and his baby are doing real well, taking to civilian life. And they’re doing well because Dean gave them this. He gave his brother the life he never stopped wanting, but gave up for Dean. He gave his baby roads to familiarize herself with, to stamp track marks on in a permanent way. Nothing on this earth could make Dean happier than giving them those things. Finally.

Dean and Elizabeth fall into a conversation about the best bands of the 80’s (Dean almost comes out of his seat, choking on his beer when Elizabeth says she’s a diehard fan of The Go-Go’s), so Sam settles back, ready to hear Dean’s familiar lecture on real music of the 80’s.

“You’re going to teach at Northbrook State?” Libby asks, redirecting his attention. She settles down in front of him, her long legs pale and stark against the royal blue blanket she’s sitting on. “It’s a really pretty campus. And you know, a really great school. For people who aren't overachievers like me. Not that--" She looks up. "Sorry, I didn't mean..." Her voice is soft, sorry.

“That's okay.” He grins, thinking of the fake Doctorate hanging in his office at school. She’s not going to offend him and his fake degree. He’s already brought a couple things to make his office “homey,” even though he’s sharing half of it with the kooky tenured professor of literature, Dr. Wilder. A picture of him, Dean and Bobby in front of the Impala from what seems like forever ago, another picture of just him and Dean, grinning over beers at Bobby’s kitchen table, his fake degree framed on the wall, and a special amulet hanging from a black leather cord, tucked in his desk drawer, that announces the presence of God if He is near. Something Sam needed far away from Dean’s prying eyes and nosiness, now that they’re settled.

He realizes Libby is still looking at him expectantly, so he clears his throat. “Um. Yeah, you know. I’m really excited about it. I just got my doctorate after a few years of being out of school, and I love to teach.”

Libby nods, her bright blue eyes never leaving his face. He thinks she’s sizing him up, listening to him speak, wanting him to pass the test. He hopes he passes, too.

“Your mom said you go to Dartmouth. That’s pretty impressive. And definitely overachieving.”

Libby ducks her head, finally breaking eye contact. She smiles a little, painted red lips stretching over white teeth, and it’s beautiful. Sam thinks that; he thinks, you’re really beautiful. But then he thinks, I’m tired and you’re way too young for me.

“Yeah,” she agrees finally. “Yeah, I really like it. My grandparents wanted me to go to Yale--my grandfather is an alumnus. But I chose Dartmouth because it’s still that, you know, Ivy League dream, and it’s really close to my mom. I come home every weekend and holidays and sometimes just because I want to.”

“You two are really close, huh,” Sam says. It’s not a question; it’s an easily observed fact. There’s a cadence and rhythm to the speech patterns between them, to their body language. It reminds Sam of him and Dean. He's used to being on the receiving end of that question. It's nice to ask someone else.

“She’s my best friend,” Libby agrees, echoing Sam's thoughts. “Where did you go to school?”

“Stanford,” Sam says automatically, and then remembers that’s not what his Doctorate says. “For, uh, undergrad. Pre-law. Took some time off, and then I…” He smiles to himself. “I realized I’m a lot better with stuff like Folklore. Old stories, myths, legends. It’s always been an… interest of mine. I love it.”

He can’t remember the name of the college on his diploma, and he hopes she doesn’t ask. He can’t believe how many holes are in his story. He’s getting lazy already, being here. Complacent. He’s gotta stay sharp, maybe now more than ever. They can’t just ride away from the lies this time. The more truth they can squeeze in, the better.

“Stanford,” Libby repeats, admiration clear in her voice. “Talk about impressive. I got, um, wait-listed there. The only place that happened. I'm trying not to resent you. What’d you get on your LSAT’s?”

“Um…” Sam’s eyes scrunch together as he tries to remember. He remembers studying for that test, how he thought that one number would shape his whole life. How it became just another unimportant detail in the grand scheme of things. “174, I believe. Yeah.”

“Holy shit,” Libby says, and then blushes. She probably doesn’t swear much, but it makes Sam laugh. “Sorry, it’s just… I’ve never met anyone who got a higher score than me. I mean, I’ve only taken a practice one. But.” She says the last part really fast, like she’s not trying to brag, like she’s genuinely shocked. Pleased. Her blue eyes regard him closely, and it makes him blush, the way she’s looking at him.

“Well, uh.” He scratches the back of his neck, smoothing down the hair there, trying not to be all weird like Dean accuses him of being around girls. He winces, thinking about the cougar in that bizarre Clue-ish case they worked last year. With the shapeshifter that Dean shot, like, a hundred times, and the prejudice against their flannel-wearing ways. “That was, you know, like, fifteen years ago. I’m sure it’s a lot harder now.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Libby says. She’s humoring him. “I got a 173.” She grins at him, and he can’t help it, he’s gotta stop grinning back, because he swears to god he won’t do this. He can’t flirt without thinking of the consequences; he’s not like Dean. He can’t make her think this is ever going to be any bigger than friends. Not to mention she doesn’t know the things he’s done. She’s way too good for a fuck up like him. Too young, with way too much going for her.

They sit in silence for a couple minutes. Sam hears the familiar rumble of Dean in a heated discussion, but now they’re talking Schwarzenegger movies, and Dean’s favorite “it’s not a tumor” line. Elizabeth’s body language couldn’t be screaming OPEN FOR BUSINESS any louder. He wonders if Dean knows, if he’s gonna act on it. If he’ll lay in his room downstairs tonight and know that Dean is fucking someone under the same roof. If he’ll just roll over and go to sleep, or if he’ll touch himself to it, like he’s done since he was thirteen and Dean was a horny teenager who didn’t care who heard him fucking the blonde check-out girl, not even his horny teenage little brother. He’s done it since, all throughout his life, and sometimes, not even when Dean was there. Sometimes, when Sam gets lonely, he thinks about Dean just because.

“Can I ask you something?” Libby wonders out of the blue, after bringing him a new beer without him asking. Great. She’s trying to get him drunk.

“Thanks. Yeah. Can’t promise I’ll answer, though.” He smiles, trying to make it clear that it’s nothing personal. That he’s just private, and they’re still getting to know each other.

“Have you… um, ever gone by the name Dean?” She’s flushing, a blotchy red spot crawling up her chest and neck. She tucks a lock of shiny brown hair behind her ear.

The question surprises him for a lot of different reasons. First of all, why would he go by his brother’s name? Why would she think that? Does she know they use aliases? That they’re using one right now? She must see his expression, because she waves her hand.

“Nevermind. It’s nothing. You just, you really remind me of someone.” She smiles, but it’s sad. It speaks of regret.

“No,” he says finally, relaxing. She’s too embarrassed by her question for it to mean anything sinister or suspicious. “No, that name has always been reserved for this asshole.” He hooks his thumb towards Dean.

And Dean, who always knows when Sam is talking about him, turns his head and gives him a smile, eyes squinting against the last of the summer sun. Hell, knowing Dean, he’s probably heard every word of their conversation while maintaining the lively banter with Elizabeth. He admires that laser-focus of Dean’s, but he wishes sometimes he wasn’t the main recipient. That laser can burn through his skin. It can get to things Sam is hiding under there.

He slaps Sam’s thigh, his laugh lines crinkling. “I think we’re about to meet everyone, Sammy.”

Sam and Libby turn, and she laughs. “I guess this is your official welcome to Misty Luna.”

“Yeah, boys,” Elizabeth drawls. “Do you feel welcomed yet?”

Nearly the whole town has lined up, waiting to shake their hands. He’s never been more welcomed anywhere. He’s not totally sure how to react, so he just smiles at his brother to let him know he’s okay. He can do this. Dean was the anti-social one once upon a time, remember?

“Let’s do this,” Sam says, downing the rest of his beer in three long gulps, and Dean laughs, handing him another.

“That’s the spirit, brother mine.”

Dean stays close to his brother the rest of the evening, but Sam loses sight of him during the fireworks and after, when everyone is dispersing. He waves goodbye to one of the hundreds of people he’s met in the past few hours. He doesn’t remember anyone’s name, but he’ll learn. He wants to learn. He can’t wait to learn, to be allowed the privilege of being a character in these people’s stories.

He finds Dean leaning against the trunk of the car. Elizabeth is there with him, and they’re talking, voices low. Dean’s got it in the bag. Sam’s gonna be real pissed if he finds out Dean’s plan was to take off to the house without giving him a ride back. They live a good ten miles outside of town.

“There you are, Sammy. Get lost?”

Sam smiles at Dean and Elizabeth, but it feels like more of a grimace. He can’t help it. His whole life, he’s been uncomfortable and unsettled when Dean’s attention isn’t one hundred percent on him, despite him wishing he wasn't conditioned to feel that way. Logically, he knows he can’t take up Dean’s whole world, especially in a place like this, where Dean will shine and no doubt save kittens from trees and mow older ladies' lawns, no charge. Where other people will fall in love with Dean, too.

He blinks away that thought, the way it settles. The way it lands in his mind like a key, and the way it unlocks things he hasn’t let himself acknowledge since he was a teenager growing up with nothing but Dean’s beauty filling up the close quarters. Sharing a bed when money was tight, feeling the shift of muscle under the arm Dean would end up throwing over Sam in the middle of the night. The heft and weight of him against Sam’s ass the next morning, and how confusing it all got. How the smell of Dean’s sweat started to turn him on. How the smell of Dean’s sweat still makes him sigh in relief, a bone-deep relief, and how it also doesn’t relieve anything at all. How sometimes, it makes it worse.

“No,” Sam replies, his eyebrows in his hair. He couldn't have painted a clearer picture of his irritation if he tried. “You ditched me.”

“I would never,” Dean scoffs. “Ready to go?”

He’s surprised. Elizabeth moves off the trunk, and the car groans, like she’s glad. Sam is, too. “I’m happy you guys came out,” she says to Sam. He can’t read her smile, but it’s genuine regardless. He returns it, because yeah, he’s glad too.

“We had fun,” Sam tells her. “Everyone seems really nice.”

“Oh, we’re all crazy. We like to lure in unsuspecting handsome strangers with small-town charm and great coffee, and then we never let them go.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Dean remarks, smiling at Sam like he’s got something juicy between his teeth, like a shark. Sam rolls his eyes.

“So innocent and unsuspecting,” Elizabeth sighs smirk-ily, patting Sam on the shoulder before popping up on her tiptoes to land a kiss on his cheek. He flushes, dick stirring. It’s been that long. God, Dean’s right about him! He is weird around girls. “I'll tell Libby you said bye. See you boys soon.”

“Count on it,” Dean replies, slapping the top of the Impala--Sam’s cue to get in. Sam gives Elizabeth’s petite shoulder a squeeze, and then moves around her to climb into the car.

Dean settles in after, the door closing with a screech. He breathes out slowly, hands running up and down the steering wheel.

“You okay?” Sam asks, tipping his head back and closing his eyes. He’s a little buzzed, and Dean is sweating. He’s happy here, in this moment, totally and uncomplicatedly happy. He almost can’t believe it.

“Yeah, Sammy.” Dean’s voice is gentle, and Sam knows if he opens his eyes, Dean will be smiling at him in that way he does. He’s got all sorts of smiles, but there’s one just for Sam. “Yeah, ‘m okay. Let’s get home, huh?”

Sam nods, crossing his arms and leaning against the window as Dean cranks up the car. He falls asleep on the way home and doesn’t remember Dean half-carrying, half-dragging him to bed.

At midnight, Elizabeth stands outside of the home of Sam and Dean Wesson. Her heart is racing, and she’s damp in all the right places. She sent Dean a text saying she was here ten seconds ago, and she can hear movement in the house. She feels like a teenager, meeting up with a boy, having him sneak her up to his room past sleeping parents.

There’s a lot more to the relationship between Sam and Dean than meets the eye, and it’s fascinating to her. The chemistry between them is enough to write a textbook about, and she all but expected Dean to kindly but firmly spurn away her advances, explaining that he and Sam are actually married, or something, and just not ready to be "out" to the whole town.

But, no. She had been in bed, drinking a glass of wine, already in her pajamas. Libby was asleep downstairs, and she was thinking about digging her vibrator out of the bottom drawer. It was that kind of night; there was a buzzing under her skin, points of heat where Dean had touched her. During the fireworks, while Dean watched his brother like a hawk (he hadn’t ditched him because he had never lost sight of him, just sat back and let Sam mingle), his wide palm had settled low on her back, and a long finger had trailed up her spine as a firework was sent towards the moon, and his palm spread between her shoulderblades as light exploded in the sky and all over her skin.

She had been in bed when Dean had sent her a text. One text led to several, and when he had been two steps away from sexting her, she downed the rest of her wine and made a decision.

Now, here she is, standing under the porchlight, waiting.

When Dean opens the door, he’s shirtless with a pair of grey sweatpants hanging off the sinuous curve of his ass. She licks her lips, trying to think of anything to say. He’s just--just fucking stunning. He isn’t ridiculously cut, but strong with thick blocks of muscle that smooth their way across his scarred skin, and the humanness of him not having a six-pack makes him even hotter. His shoulders are broad and pale, kissed with hundreds of freckles. His arms are strong, and his bicep bulges as he leans against the door. This is a booty call, she realizes. She’s thirty-five, and this is a booty call.

“Come on in,” he says, his voice low, like he hasn’t used it in a few hours. He doesn’t seem surprised to see her, even though she didn’t tell him she was coming. He must have known. He certainly looks like a man who knows when a woman is coming.

He takes her coat, hanging it in the front closet. “I’d give you the tour, but Sammy’s sleeping. I had to drag the big ape from the car. I think I sprained my back. You want anything to drink?”

“Is there a fridge in your bedroom?”

Dean grins at her. “Why don’t you come find out?”

They climb the stairs quietly, and she doesn’t resist staring at his ass the whole way. He opens a door, the last on the left, and then closes it behind them.

“Hey,” she breathes, her back against the door.

“Hey.” He comes toward her slowly, giving her plenty of time to back out. She has no intention of doing that. “You looked beautiful tonight.” He’s braced against the door on his forearms, their faces inches apart, his chest brushing against her nipples. It makes her shiver.

“Thanks. You gonna kiss me?” It’s midnight, she’s horny, and they’re adults. They both know what’s about to happen, and they consent. Time for compliments is over.

“Yeah,” he groans, breath warm against her mouth. Then he kisses her.

It’s heady, like being drunk. His mouth is lush, damp, but not too wet. He lets the kiss build naturally, like he’s got all the time in the world, bringing a hand back to wrap fingers in her dark hair. Her head tips back, and he licks at her mouth. A question. She opens it, the answer.

From there, it gets blurry. She’s on her back before she knows it, hardly bouncing once before Dean is a delicious, warm weight on top of her. He sucks deep kisses into her jaw and neck, his fingers crawling underneath her Camp Waziyatah t-shirt to draw upward circles against her skin. She’s not wearing a bra, and he groans against her lips as his hand fits over her breast.

Clothes litter the floor in uneven piles as their pace becomes hungrier. As her shirt joins the others, his mouth ducks down to her nipple, sucking it into his mouth, flicking at it with his tongue. God, fuck. Jesus. The other nipple is being twisted between thumb and forefinger, and her hips are moving of their own accord. She feels heavy between her legs, like she’s a sponge holding in a bunch of liquid, just waiting to be wrung dry.

His fingers travel lower, dipping into her black cotton underwear. He paints circles in her wetness, and she flushes when she hears the sound it makes. God, she’s so wet. So fucking wet, and Dean sinks two fingers into her as he uses the other hand to divest her of underwear. Her hips work in time with his fingers, the way they confidently fuck into her, curling upwards to drag along the bundle of nerves hidden there. Between one breath and the next, he’s between her legs, the back of her thighs resting against his strong shoulders.

Taking his fingers out, he trails the wetness back up to her nipple, like he knows. Like he knows already, how to play her. Like she’s someone else’s guitar, but he’s been playing all his life, so all he has to do is tune her a bit to his liking, and he knows exactly how he’s gonna make her sound. His tongue dives into her, seeking out her taste from the source, then he drags it up to suck on her clit. Fuck, she’s obviously been dating the wrong people, because she’s never been eaten out on the first date before. Or first--whatever.

“C’mon,” she pants, hiking her hips up against his face. She could come like this, but she wants him close. She wants to feel it all before she gets there, she wants his fingers and tongue and mouth and cock all to contribute to the orgasm she’s working on. “C’mon, let me see you. I bet you’re gorgeous.”

He pulls away from her with one last suck to her clit, and her hips spring up at the sharp sensation, riding that good line between enough and too much. “You want me, sweetheart?”

She hates pet names, hates them, especially since she’s a mother. But he could be calling her anything, anything with that rasping voice, with those heavy-lidded eyes, and those fingers unthreading the tie at his waist, the one barely holding up his pants as it is. “Yeah, I do,” she tells him. Like he doesn’t already know.

He’s big. God, of course he is. Of course this beautiful stranger rides into her town in a gorgeous car, knows all the right things to say without saying anything (her specialty), and of course he has these lips, that mouth. Those fingers. And that big fucking cock jutting up from between his legs, drooling from the tip. He kneels in front of where she sits on the bed, knees straddling her thighs, fumbling with a condom. She clicks her tongue and pulls him forward with a firm hand wrapped around his dick. God, her fingers don’t touch around the girth of him. She has small hands, but. Still.

She pulls him down for a kiss that tastes like her, her wetness drying all over his chin and lips. He drives his tongue into her mouth as he gives a sharp thrust, fucking his cock into the hold she has on him. A warning of the power behind those hips. She lets his mouth go so he can straighten up into a kneel in front of her, his cock bobbing at her lips. Because she believes in instant Karma, she sucks the head of him into her mouth, keeping it tight between her lips, then suckling him against the roof of her mouth. He moans, fingers tightening in her hair, a look of intense concentration on his face.

She’s ready for that concentration to be redirected. She grabs for the condom this time, and she gets it rolled down his length. “How do you want me?”

Beyond words, apparently, Dean flips her onto her stomach and gives her ass a firm swat. She can hear herself moaning, but she’s not totally aware of doing it. He’s driving this noise out of her, the same one she’s been making this whole time without realizing it, the volume increasing and decreasing depending on the activity, and yes. Yes. Fuck, she loves getting it from behind. She can’t, won’t shut up.

“Ready?” he asks, checking in for the last time before he tears her up.

She bucks her hips as an answer, then groans as he drives in, all of him, in one firm thrust that pushes until he's all the way inside, buried. He’s a warm weight there, in her belly. She braces herself on her forearms, wiggling around, moving her hips back and forth. She’s getting a feel for him, and he feels incredible. He doesn’t respond for a second, hands spreading her ass, pulling her apart. She can feel him looking at where he’s disappearing inside, just kind of rocking as she adjusts, and then.

Then, he fucks her.

Sam lies awake downstairs, his cock rock hard in his pajama pants, but he doesn’t touch himself. Dean wasn’t trying to be obvious about this one. He was trying to sneak it past Sam. It doesn’t seem right.

But Elizabeth is loud. Not for the first time, he wonders if Dean picks up screamers for free advertising, or if Dean Winchester (Wesson, he reminds himself) turns all of them into screamers.

She leaves forty-five minutes later. Dean closes the door behind her, and Sam can hear him moving towards his bedroom. He feigns sleep, but Dean’s gonna know. He always knows when Sam is faking it.

He cracks the door, the lamplight from the living room forming a line on his floor that widens as Dean peeks his head in. Checking in, making sure Sam is good before Dean will allow himself rest.

He tries to fake sleep, okay, he really does. He thinks he gets away with it, too, because Dean goes to close the door.

He says, “Get some sleep, Sammy,” right before it shuts.

Sam doesn’t have time to answer.

Dean isn’t an idiot, okay? He’s not. He knows he’s done a pretty decent impression of one for the majority of his life (defense mechanism, you know), and he knows what people think of him. Hell, he knows what he thinks of him. Sammy’s the brains of the operation, and he’s the, well. He tries not to use the word grunt, because Sam doesn’t like it. But, the brawn. The muscle. The soldier.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not introspective. That doesn’t mean he can’t understand the language Sam has been trying to teach him since they were teenagers. Telling him that there could be another facet to their relationship, if they just got the codex. The translation text. The language is one he might not know off the top of his head, but it’s easily decipherable, if they so wanted.

Dean has always been afraid of that language becoming clearer than a fuzzy outline in the part of his brain, heart, soul, whatever part, all parts that have a Sam section. Sam, for the most part, has obeyed, staying back, not pushing, only lifting the gauze to take a peek at the hurt before sealing it back down, deciding it still too raw, too vulnerable to be exposed to air. Dean is glad for that. He'll never be fully ready. He knows whenever Sam finally rips it off, it's gonna hurt.

He uses the lip of the porch railing to uncap his Bud Light, settling his ass on the swing. It’s 6:15, and in another couple minutes, Sam will be making an appearance in their driveway. When they found out Sam would have a 45-minute commute to and from their house, Dean managed to scrape together the last of the money Bobby had left them and bought Sam a used mid-2000’s Camry. Sam loves the stupid piece of plastic, and he’s already declared that he’s getting Bluetooth installed with his next paycheck. Dean went over that car with a fine-toothed comb, tweezers and a magnifying glass before he declared her safe enough to cart such precious cargo to and from him every day.

Don’t think it doesn’t really grind Dean's gears that he can’t drop off and pick up his baby brother every day. He had been trying to figure out a way, silently, that he could manage it. Sam had figured out his expression and made one of the few demands he’d ever laid out to Dean: oh my god I’m 32 years old you can’t drop me off and pick me up from school anymore, Dean. I would fucking die.

And plus, according to Sam, he enjoys his commute. He says it gives him time to be alone, listen to the radio or podcasts, daydream. Gives him time to clear his head.

Things like that give Dean indigestion. If Sam is clearing his head, he may want to talk about what he’s made sense of in there. For the past ten years, in any number of their discussions (the thousands, maybe millions of them), Dean has been expecting Sam to come home one day with a bug up his ass that they’re gonna have to face what’s been going on between the two of them since Sam’d hit puberty.

He never has, okay, but settling down like this practically invites the conversation. Dean figures the only reason he’s gotten so lucky with it in the past is how fast-paced and world-ending their lives have been since Dean stole Sam away from higher education. But because of that life, too, the lines have gotten thinner, more blurred. The more times they die, the hungrier the other is to get them back. The more times they get each other back, the greedier their seeking fingers become, pressing on new bruises, seeking out old scars, grounded again. Touching their anchor and thinking, don’t go away again, please, I’ll do anything.

And ever since the whole Lizzy thing, well.

Sam’s always been a possessive little bitch. Oh, don’t get Dean wrong, he is too. But he’s clearer about it, he draws an obvious line in the sand with his piss. Instead, Sam just takes it all in, ruminates, and then throws in little jabs that ruin Dean’s day. Or make his heart pound. Or, you know, both.

Like, a couple months ago. It had been a Sunday morning, the night after the 4th of July… thing. Dean decided he needed a shower; it’s not so secret he’s a germaphobe and sleeping in other people’s secretions give him the fucking willies. Plus it was hot and kinda late in the morning, and you can never be too clean, right?

Not wanting to walk back upstairs, he’d gone into the master bathroom that connects to Sam’s room. It had nothing to do with the fact that Sam was sleep-warm and close, and Dean needed to check to see if he was still breathing. Nothing at all.

Okay, look. Sam has a habit of dying on him, all right? So if he stood at the end of his brother's bed just to watch his chest rise and fall ten times, he had just been being careful. Making sure.

Sam had still been asleep that morning, okay? It was Dean’s excuse, his justification for rubbing one out in his brother's shower, smelling like his brother's soap. He'd never know. And Dean was half-asleep, and he had wood and his dick reminded him how good coming felt last night, and why not go for one in the morning too? So he had, and his shower had run long, the water tepid at best when he finally shut it off.

He went into Sam’s room to grab a pair of the kid’s boxers to laze around in until he felt like going back upstairs. He was unsuspecting, god dammit, and it wasn’t fair to sneak up on a man like that. Or, you know, talk when he thinks you’re asleep. It’s not right.

“Left unsatisfied?” Sam’s bitch-ass voice had rung out from the bed, still gruff with sleep but radiating smugness. So startled was Dean that he dropped the towel, and instead of sticking around to argue, he kept his back to Sam as he darted out of the room.

No need to let Sam see the way his dick chubbed up at the sound of his voice. And there was no acknowledging that Sam’s crude assessment of being left unsatisfied was anything but a dirty lie.

And it's not like he suddenly expected Sam to be mature about it. Sam has never reacted well to playing what he assumes is second fiddle in Dean's life. He doesn't remember much, other than the important details, about his life before his trip downstairs (he's been alive for a long time on a hell of a lot more planes than earth), but he has a distant recollection of ditching Sam to hang out with a girl when Dean was sixteen or so, and listening to Sam cry himself to sleep after he came back home. He'd never picked a girl over Sam since (and who could blame him, he'll never forget the fiasco over Cassie, Sam's awkward, probing questions and his I'm-okay-with-it-really smile) not until Lisa, and he didn't even want to, and. And. Just look how that fuckin' turned out.

So. He doesn't know what the hell he's doing with Lizzy, per se. Or why he's letting it put a wedge where one should never be, between him and his brother. But he's scared, man. Terrified. His big secret is one layer from being released into the world. It's right there underneath his skin, stretching and crackling with heat, wanting to break through and light up the sky. Right now, Lizzy is a big band-aid. A really funny, hot, smart band-aid, but he can’t lie to himself. She’s nothing to him in the scheme of things. Compared to Sam, she’s even less.

Sam’s red Camry breezes up the driveway, and Dean can see him fumbling to turn off his music. Dean grins around his beer bottle. He can hear the strains of a Bob Seger song, and it really gets him, really tickles him that Sam bitches constantly about his music, but still chooses to listen to it when he’s away.

Dean makes his way down the drive, a second sweaty beer bottle in hand. Sam nearly falls out of the car, trying to unfold six and a half feet out of a compact. It’s fucking hilarious. He holds his arms out so Sam can pile stuff on there, and he gets a briefcase, an iPhone and a smile for his troubles. When he waves the beer in his hand in Sam’s direction, the smile softens and becomes more than happiness. It becomes fondness and affection and thank you.

“Thanks.” Sam loosens the tie around his neck and follows Dean into the house. He hears the pop and sigh of the beer opening from the kitchen, so he lays Sam’s stuff on the couch and goes to join him.

Sam has his tie off and shirt unbuttoned by the time he makes it back in there. He looks exhausted, but he’s still smiling. He’s happy. Sam is happy. The feeling that gives Dean, it’s everything.

“How was the first day back?” Dean moves over the stove as he asks, giving the bubbling pot of spaghetti sauce a quick stir.

Dean has made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner on Sam’s first day of school since the kid had toddled into kindergarten. The last time he made it was the night Sam told him about Stanford. That was as supportive as he could be at the time. Sam had gotten it all the same, and he had cried. They had shared one last good meal together, and then John had come home. And Dean had gone to bed that night without his brother breathing in the same room, in the same fuckin’ state, as he would every night after for the next few years.

“You makin’ spaghetti?” Sam asks, voice a soft rumble. He moves behind Dean to peer into the pot over his shoulder. Dean hates when he does that, the overgrown brat.

“Nothing gets past you,” Dean mumbles. Don’t make it a thing, Sam, please. Just let me feed you.

“Good. ‘s my favorite.” He pats Dean on the back. “Fuck, I’m exhausted. This beer is already goin’ to my head.” He takes off his blue button-down, left in a tight white t-shirt. Dean can see his pretty pink nipples through it.

Thirsty all of a sudden, Dean downs the rest of his beer. “Wait. Let me catch up to you, lightweight.”

“Shut up,” Sam mumbles, scratching his stomach. “I’m gonna go change.”

Dean goes for another beer as he watches Sam stumble through the living room. Before he closes the door, with his back facing Dean, Sam slowly strips out of his undershirt. His strong back is a broad expanse of tan skin and scars, a Braille captured diary of their lives together. He wants to run his fingers across it, see if he can decipher the message. Sam stretches, pushing up onto his tiptoes. He’s enormous, his arms stretching to nearly touching the ten foot doorframe. Groaning, he rolls his head on his shoulders, then he turns, catching Dean’s eye. They stare for a beat, and Sam almost smiles.

When the door shuts, Dean realizes his beer bottle is paused halfway to his mouth. He’s sweating a little. And his heart is trying to break through its cage. Sam just, he just. He just-- just stripteased him. That’s what that was. He knew he had Dean’s full attention (as he often does), and he used it to his evil advantage.

Dean clears his throat and goes to stir the noodles. His second beer is gone by the time Sam makes it back out.

Sam is full and buzzed and content, leaning back against the couch as Dean shouts out nonsensical answers to Jeopardy.

“Suck it, Trebek,” Sam mumbles in his best Sean Connery voice.

Dean shouts a laugh, turning his head to finish the joke. “Your mother’s a whore.” His Sean Connery is even worse than Sam’s. It’s a fond memory, up late watching SNL on a crappy old screen. Dad would’ve killed them if he knew his sons were indulging in that much pop culture (it took away their focus, apparently), but Dean loved that stuff. Sam did, too, but he’d sit with Dean mainly just to watch him laugh. Much like he did not too long ago, with his brother laughing his face off at the Three Stooges, grilled cheese hanging out of his mouth.

As the show cuts to a commercial, Dean groans, stretching his back after a long day of labor. He swigs the last of his fourth--fifth?--beer as he stands, knees cracking. “Need a refill?” he asks, gesturing to Sam’s beer bottle with his own.

Sam shakes his head. He’s halfway through his third, and he’s riding the best buzz he’s had in ages. He’s warm, he’s safe, he’s happy. He has an awesome job and a huge TV to watch stuff on, and he’s got his brother. He smiles to himself. That last one really gets him. He’s got Dean.

When Dean settles back down into the couch, Sam shifts closer. Not a lot, not to be obvious. But his head is heavy, and he can practically feel the warmth Dean’s body is giving off. He likes his height a lot of the time, but this always gets him--that he can’t be small and innocent anymore, he can’t crawl into Dean’s lap and it mean nothing but affection. He can’t have Dean’s nails scratching his scalp, his fingers combing his hair. It would mean too much. Dean would blush if Sam just invaded his space like that. He can’t.

He shouldn’t.

“So, you never really gave me an answer. Good first day?” He taps the neck of his beer bottle against Sam’s before taking a big gulp.

Sam nods, running his fingers up and down his track pants. They’re smooth underneath his fingers, almost slick. “Yeah, it was good. I was over-prepared, but I’m glad I went into it with all my bases covered.”

“What’re you teaching again?”

“Myths and Legends of the Northeast, Native American Myth and Storytelling, and Death and Dying in Southern US Folklore.” His classes were amazing, full of bright students ready to learn. He’s teaching all electives, so the people that paid to put their butts in the seats chose to be there, hoping it’ll be fun, interesting, and maybe a respite from their heavier major-related coursework. He doesn’t want it to be easy, no, but the classes he remembers best were full of animated professors who knew all the students by name (or at least the ones that engaged, like him). He had an amazing humanities professor at Stanford, and that’s how he’d been able to recall the legends about the Native Americans (not Indians, Dean) who were holing up with Metatron. All from a symbol he learned in that class.

He’s worked tirelessly on his lesson plans the past month, researching and referencing and keeping himself sharp. Reading up on things until he was so certain of what he was going to be teaching, he could say it in his sleep. Remembering the types of questions he would ask in class and using that to help shape his teaching. He wants to inspire conversation, but he’ll never do that if the students feel like they can’t get the answers they need out of him.

Dean laughs suddenly, like he just registered what Sam had said. “What?”

Shrugging, Sam turns his head from where it’s planted against the back of the couch. He smiles at his brother. “Hey, if anyone in the world is qualified to teach a course on death and dying, it’s one of us.”

“You’re… qualified,” Dean mutters as Jeopardy starts back up, his comebacks as good as ever.

Dean watches in silence. Sam watches Dean. His profile is sharp and beautiful in the lamplight, and he’s both the most familiar thing in Sam’s world, and the most striking. He reaches out before his drunk brain can tell him to stop and settles his hand against Dean’s neck, his palm a backboard to Dean’s dribbling pulse. He continues to stare, watching the way Dean’s Adam's apple bobs.

“Take a fuckin’ picture,” Dean mumbles, but he drags his chin over Sam’s fingers in an almost-nuzzle. He’s uncomfortable with scrutiny, but starved for affection.

They watch the rest of the show in that position, and when Dean goes to get up, Sam is half-asleep and groans in protest.

“Just gotta piss, Sammy,” he murmurs.

By the time he gets back, Sam, finished with the rest of his beer, is dozing against the back of the couch. He opens his eyes blearily as Dean settles back down, and he knows it’s his chance. Time to make a move.

He half-scoots, half-crawls to the other end of the couch, making a space for his head against Dean’s chest. Dean grumbles as Sam wiggles around, looking for the most comfortable position, but doesn’t protest. It’s so warm here, against Dean. He miraculously fits right where he used to, with his forehead tucked into Dean’s neck, lips brushing his collarbone. Dean smells like everything Sam loves most in the world, right here. He never wants to move, ever.

“You good, Samantha?” The taunt sounds a lot softer when Dean’s mouth is against Sam’s hair.

“Yeah. ‘m happy, Dean.” He looks up at his brother, can see the freckles and laugh lines right up close. He looks exactly like the man Sam loves. “Thanks. Thank you.”

Dean pats his face gently, fingers sweeping up to tangle in Sam’s hair. It feels just like it did when they were younger, when Dean would do this to help him fall asleep. Like no time has passed, like Sam hasn’t let his brother down in a million ways since then. Like Dean could still love him like he did back then, freely and viciously. “Get some sleep, Sammy.”

“Mmphkay,” he mumbles, pressing his face against the warm, damp place in Dean’s neck. He mouths a dry kiss to the skin there, and then settles, message sent.

Around midnight, Elizabeth raps on the Wesson’s door. She and Dean had agreed on midnight being a good time for their trysts, or whatever. Both Libby and Sam are asleep by then, so they don’t have to explain their behavior to the arguably more mature adults living in their respective houses.

They’ve been doing this thing for a couple months, and Elizabeth is mainly happy with it. But…

Dean is complicated. Elizabeth’s first attraction to him was based off the fact that he was uncomplicated. Funny, hot and smart, but uncomplicated. All of her ex-boyfriends have more issues than the New York Times, and all she wanted out of this was a good friend who she could also take her sexual frustration out on. And Dean has been more than willing to find ways to help her vent that frustration on him, under him, all over him. It’s been nice.

But. She’s starting to feel like the other woman, when there is no other woman. There is just another man named Sam, who is supposed to be Dean’s brother, but is actually Dean’s whole world. Sam acts nothing like a brother; he acts more like an ever-patient partner, just waiting for Dean to come to his senses. And the more time she spends with them, the more she finds herself waiting and wanting Dean to come to his senses, too.

She knocks a couple more times, but no one comes to the door. She tries the knob, and it’s open. She’s been in and out of this house enough times to feel comfortable walking in, and hey, they’re the ones that left the door unlocked.

It’s dark inside, but there’s a TV playing somewhere. She follows the noise but stops short when she finds it.

Sam’s entire body is sprawled on top of his brother, his face obscured by messy hair and its place against Dean’s neck. His long legs hang off the edge of the couch. Dean has his arms closed around Sam’s back, their breathing exactly in sync. It makes her heart ache for two reasons: it’s one of the sweetest things she’s ever seen, two overgrown men curled against each other like cats, and it also means she’s right, and it’s time to step back.

Smiling to herself, she backs up into an end table holding their keys. The keys fall to the ground, and one man is instantly animated, and she finds herself staring down the barrel of a gun.

Her heart is in her throat. She thinks about Libby. She thinks about her mother and Joe. She’s got so much left to do, and she’s gonna die here.

“It’s me, Dean! It’s Lizzy,” she says, holding her hands up. Her voice cracks. Fuck, she’s so scared.

“Lizzy?” Recognition filters through the cold fury on Dean’s face, and his grip on Sam lessens. He had been holding him down. Protecting him with his body. Against her. Against the world. “Ah, shit. Lizzy. I’m sorry.” He puts the gun back down, in between the cushions. She’s never gonna be able to look at the couch again without thinking about that gun.

Sam grumbles, waking up fully. “Dean? What time is it?” His words are slurred at best. She only understands when Dean checks his watch.

“A little after midnight, Sammy. Go back to sleep.” His voice is softer, kinder. Gentle. She’s never heard this voice.

There’s a pause. “...kay,” Sam mumbles finally, picking up six and a half feet in the grumpiest way she’s ever seen a non-toddler behave. He stumbles toward his room, shoulders caved in. He’s clearly not happy, and he doesn’t acknowledge her.

“No, I meant--” Dean reaches a hand towards his brother, but the door slams. Loudly. She flinches, and so does Dean. He sighs, face working, then turns a sweet smile her direction. Like it’s totally normal for someone’s brother to throw a tantrum over the cuddle-sesh being over. The grin is so different from the man of a minute ago, with the gun. Before he knew she wasn’t a threat to him. Or Sam. Maybe especially Sam.

“Hey," he says, voice scratchy.

“Hey. Sorry, I--”

“No, hey. Don’t apologize.” He scrubs a hand down his face. “Sorry I fell asleep. Didn’t mean to mess up our… time,” he finishes awkwardly. “And I’m sorry about the, you know. The gun. I know he and I haven’t talked much about our past,” he says, smiling a little bitterly. She’s surprised. Perhaps the sleep and beer is making his tongue loose, but he hasn’t said a word about where they came from. Maybe he’s just that sorry, he’s willing to offer up a piece of himself as retribution. “Sam and I’ve been startled awake by bad guys one too many times, and I’m kind of a paranoid bastard…”

She starts backing up again. She can almost feel Sam in the other room, the ‘not welcome’ vibes he’s sending out. It’s okay. She has her answer. And she doesn’t think she wants to get any more involved with a man who uses a gun like it’s an extension of him. She likes him, though. She likes him a lot. She doesn’t want it to hurt like this. She wants to be friends, still. Dean fits in like a puzzle piece, one she didn’t necessarily know she was missing. But now that it’s there, she’d feel unfinished without it. She’s got other friends who own guns. They’re more display-on-the-wall pieces, but. Yeah, friends.

“That’s okay.” She wraps her coat tighter around herself. Nevermind she’s wearing lingerie under her clothes. She’d worn something lacy last week, and Dean had gone out of his mind. He’d eaten her out through the material, and she can still feel the way the lace scraped against her clit. But it’s okay. It is.

“Lizzy…”

She almost wants to snap, it’s Elizabeth. But she doesn’t. He’s been nothing but kind to her, and the nickname is affection. An apology.

“Wanna meet at Joe’s for breakfast tomorrow?” She gets her keys out of her purse, hoping they jingle loud enough for Sam to hear. I’m leaving. I get it, even if he doesn’t. He’s yours.

“I gotta go in kinda early. It’ll be around seven.” He smiles, and she can tell he’s so grateful for the out. But sad, too. He cares about her, she knows that. But it would never be enough. He would never care for her more than Sam, and that’s not fair to anyone.

“Seven it is. See you then.”

She goes to leave, but he’s up suddenly, and he takes her arm gently. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she whispers. He’s in her face, close.

He kisses her with his hands in her hair. His tongue is sour with beer and sleep, but the kiss is scorching. Then it turns soft, a few brushes of his lips. It’s goodbye, she realizes. He’s saying goodbye.

“I really am sorry,” he murmurs as he backs away. Drops another kiss to her forehead, then hugs her tightly. Then he lets her go.

“I know.” And she does know. “Me, too.”

She’s gonna go back home, eat a pint of ice cream, masturbate because she’s wearing lingerie and someone is gonna appreciate it, dammit, and then crawl in bed with her soulmate. Her gorgeous daughter who has never once broken her heart.

Nothing else could make this kind of bittersweet ache go away.

Dean hears Lizzy leave, her jeep rumbling down the driveway. He locks the door, then goes around to all the windows just to see. Just to make sure they’re safe before he allows himself to rest.

When he deems it okay, he shuffles across the living room to Sam’s door. He doesn’t knock. Sam is still awake, anyway, and Dean knows it. He’s been lying there, listening, seeing what Dean would do. What he would choose.

“Move your fuckin’ legs,” he grunts, lifting Sam’s covers.

Sam doesn’t hesitate. He withdraws his legs and opens his eyes, watching Dean’s every move.

Sam lays his head back on Dean’s chest after Dean settles onto his back. His skin is still warm from where Sam was resting earlier. Dean wants that spot to stay warm from Sam’s body heat for the rest of his life. It’s like a handprint. It’s like ownership.

He draws the covers up around them, and he can feel the shape of Sam’s smile against his neck. He falls asleep committing it to memory.

“Morning!”

Dean waves as he staggers blearily into Joe’s Diner at seven AM sharp. Elizabeth is sitting at their usual table, typing away at her tablet. Joe is standing by her, one hand on her shoulder as the other pours her coffee, and he looks at Dean sharply.

Dean looks steadily back, sitting down across from Lizzy, although his heart kind of sinks. Great.

“What’ll it be,” Joe asks him behind clenched teeth as he whips out his pad, straightening his ballcap.

“Coffee, black. Two fried eggs, two strips of bacon, wheat toast. Thanks, man,” Dean answers, handing the menu back to him without glancing at it.

Joe grunts, turning a smile onto Lizzy. “And you, you coffee addict?”

“One IV,” she snarks, tipping her cup to him. “Whatever pastry is fresh. Two of them.”

Joe rolls his eyes, but nods, writing her order as he walks through the busy diner back to his counter.

“So,” Lizzy starts, closing out of her tablet to look at him. “Is Sam gonna hate me forever?”

Dean groans, rubbing at his puffy eyes. He hadn’t gotten much sleep last night, despite the comfort of sharing a bed with Sam. He spent the whole time just hanging onto him, accommodating the few positions Sam had rolled into, ending with his face buried in Dean’s neck, his long, heavy arm slung over Dean’s waist.

Dean’s heart had simply been pounding too hard from the newness of it to get a good night’s sleep. He’d just stared at the ceiling, thinking about how he’d given up someone he probably could have fallen for to make his little brother happy once again.

It was more than that, though. Dean’s not gonna act like he’s so completely whipped by Sam that he wouldn’t have kept it up with Lizzy, if he'd really wanted to. And that's just the thing. There’s just-- something new, something dangerous between them now. Something he feels the need to be open, ready for. Sam has always reveled in the affection Dean gave him, or at least never shied away from it, but he’s never demanded Dean’s physical presence so close like he had last night.

Dean gulps at the scalding cup of coffee Joe sets in front of him, giving Lizzy a bland smile. “He doesn’t hate you.”

Lizzy scoffs. “Dude.”

“Last night was not about you,” he argues, even though it kind of was. But mostly, “it was about me. Okay? Not you. It’s complicated, Lizzy.”

“I’ll say,” she mutters, picking at the apple strudel Joe plunked down in front of her. “You two were… really close last night.”

Dean studies her over the top of his mostly empty cup. “It’s never. I mean, that’s never really happened before. We’ve had to share beds logistically, but he’s never really clung to me like that.”

Lizzy shoots him a look as Joe sets his full plate down in front of him. “Uh, Dean. Hate to tell you this, buddy, but you were clinging right back. So whatever’s going on, it’s not just Sam, you know? Even if you’re not aware of it, I’m letting you know-- you’re just as bad as he is. So maybe you two should figure your shit out, huh?”

She says it kindly, but Dean still bristles at it. If only, he thinks.

Sam can’t remember the last time he was happy about Halloween, but the residents of Misty Luna kind of make him understand why civilians go crazy for it. There are kids dressed as everything from Disney characters to zombies running down the streets of shops, all owners handing out candy. They’re squealing, darting around his legs, and the parents wave and say hello, ask how he and Dean are doing while jogging after their candy-high kids. It makes Sam laugh, and he stops to breathe in the chilly autumn air. There’s a bite to it. It’s gonna snow soon, Sam thinks.

They’ve been here four months, and the world hasn’t ended. Monsters haven’t risen up and taken over, and no one has called the cell phones they guiltily keep charged in Sam’s office upstairs. Sam has friends, colleagues, students (a couple who have tried to take him out for coffee or dinner, which Dean felt gave him the right to play Hot For Teacher any chance he could for at least a week), and he has his sanity.

Sam gets home later than Dean does, so every week night (they do pizza or the diner on the weekends) he gets to look forward to Dean’s cooking. Dean took over that role in their childhood, and he picked it back up and ran with it when they lived in the bunker for a couple years. Give Dean a kitchen, and he’ll give you lasagna and fried chicken and roasts. Even some vegetables, lately. Fresh, organic ones, from the farmer’s market.

When they decided to move into the bunker, they learned about chores for the first time in years--no maids to clean up after the blood, sweat and general untidiness of two bachelors. They set up their chores, and they’ve seen no reason to change them here. Dean cooks, they both clean, and Sam takes out the garbage. He keeps his room tidy, and Dean does, too, for the most part. Sam vacuums because it soothes him, and Dean tends to the yard. Dean does the laundry on Saturdays, and Sam sits down one Sunday a month and writes out the checks for the bills. It’s a new chore for them, but Sam almost insisted. He gets to write checks. With their money. That they earned, with their real jobs. Dean thinks he's weird, but it thrills Sam.

He’s got a routine, chores. A place to hang his coat and lay his head. And above all of that, amongst all of that, he’s got Dean.

He’s at peace. Not in what he privately called ‘remission’--the peaceful times between each world-ending event--but actual peace. And no one, finally, is trying to take that peace away from him. He’s allowed to luxuriate in it, enjoy it. Appreciate it.

And he’s also allowed to want more. He’s allowed to crave closeness and intimacy. Someone to run their hands all over his body, not wanting anything from him other than the pleasure he could gain from it. Really, there’s only one person he’d trust to expose both belly and back to. Only one person he’d want to expose himself to at all, in any way that can be construed.

“Sam!” As he walks into the bakery two blocks down from Joe’s, across from the post office, his name is called out. In a happy, glad-to-see-you way. He’s pretty sure he’ll never take that for granted.

“Hi, Ms. Lo,” Sam waves, the warmth of the ovens a wonderful contrast to the chill from the mountain wind.

“Not used to seeing you during the week,” comments Ms. Lo, the town busybody and owner of the best bakery Sam’s ever been to. Dean won’t eat anyone else’s pies now. He says that now that he knows how good it can be, he’s not gonna cheat on Lo for a cheap substitute. Sam thinks of Dean saying that to Lo, and the way the 65-year-old woman had blushed with the full force of Dean’s smile on her.

Sam understands. He’s had thirty-two years to get used to the dangerous, delicate beauty his brother possesses, and still sometimes Dean will look at him and he’ll think, when did you get so beautiful? Sometimes, he sees that look on Dean’s face and wonders if he thinks the same thing about Sam. Sometimes he thinks Dean does. Most times, he doesn’t. But. Sometimes.

“Thought I’d grab an apple pie for Dean, if you have any fresh on hand.” He smiles at her, and then glances down at the deliciousness behind the glass counter. He’s never had a sweet tooth like Dean, but Lo’s pastries are from another planet. He hasn't indulged on anything but demon blood his whole life, so he figures this is both something much better than his previous addiction, and something he deserves, dammit.

“I think I can manage that, gorgeous.” Ms. Lo is a former beauty queen, and her shop is littered with trophies and black-and-white photos of a beautiful young woman in a fancy dress holding said trophies. Her real name is Lolita, and she hates it-- she told Sam and Dean as much the first time they met her, at the Fourth of July block party. She doesn’t introduce herself as that, so as much as Sam thinks it’s a cool name, he would never call someone something they didn’t want to be called. He’s had 32 years of Sammy’s he didn’t ask for.

No, that’s not right. He didn't ask for them, exactly, but he very quickly gave up on asking Dean to stop. It became bearable, because it was affection and love and duty, the way Dean's always said it, his nickname, but it was firmly in the 'he's the only one who gets to call me that' category. He remembers wanting to smash Gordon's smug, smiling face in after he'd been condescendingly instructed to lighten up. He would rather carve out his eyeballs than admit it, but he likes it these days, being called Sammy. Not the name itself, maybe, but the gravitas behind it. What that one word says that Dean won’t.

Ms. Lo gets his pie and a few of his favorite berry pastries all wrapped up, no extra charge. She just asks Sam to say hello to Dean for her, and she throws in a couple comments about how sweet he is to take home a pie to Dean, that they are just so adorable. Sam hears the word she’s not saying (couple) loud and clear.

He walks the few blocks down to where his Camry is sitting, chilled to the bone and ready to get home from a long day of teaching. Dean had mentioned something about a Halloween marathon on TNT when they were texting earlier between Sam’s classes. Sitting on the couch next to his brother with a full belly and beer while teens scream in horror in the background sounds pretty damn perfect.

Force of habit, he surveys his surroundings before he ducks down into his car. He can see through the giant glass windows of Joe’s, and Elizabeth is inside (even though it’s technically closed) scribbling in a notebook, talking to Joe. He’s wiping down tables, and while he talks, his expression turns from a tired frown to something softer. There’s something there, Sam has always thought that. He’ll never forget the surly look Joe had shot Dean when they made their first appearance in Misty Luna. The mistrust has transferred onto Dean, who always bitches about his "shitty, weak-ass coffee."

As he glances down the alley, he hears what sounds like faint sobbing. He quickly sets the pies in his back seat, then lets his doggedly curious nature carry him towards the alley. “Hello?”

“Sam?”

Sam recognizes the voice, but can’t immediately place it, even though he feels like he should. He moves closer, and the street lights flicker on.

“Libby? What are you doing?” Sam moves closer to the girl, immediately worried. She’s sitting against the brick of the alley, crying into her knees. Something is bad wrong, considering her mother is twenty feet away, and Libby’s not with her.

“I can’t go in there, Sam,” Libby whispers. She goes to get up, but she can’t quite manage it. She wobbles, and Sam lunges forward, grabbing her arms to steady her.

“Hey, what is it?” He peers into her pretty, upturned face. He immediately knows--she smells like a distillery. Her normally neat, shiny hair is unkempt and unwashed, and her eyes are bloodshot. “What happened?”

Libby’s face crumples at the question, and she moves forward to duck her head against his chest. She wraps her arms around him and sobs, and he holds her. He’s awkward, yes, but. He can’t help it. They’re friends--good friends, and she’s losing it. They've had coffee together while Sam read over Libby’s notes, fascinated by her poli-sci courses. She tells him about her boyfriend, Chasen. About their fights, about how pigheaded he’s being. She never seems to have anything good to say about him (only that she loves him), and in Sam’s opinion, she could do much better. He assumes that’s what this is about, but he’s proven wrong with her next sentence.

“I got a B-minus on my m-midterm,” she sobs into his chest, like the words hurt so much she can barely speak them.

Sam smiles above her head. It’s not funny, but it’s such a small, manageable problem compared to most of the problems crying women had in his old line of work.

“I w-was out with Ch-Chasen the whole night before, and I overslept. You get an automatic 20 points off if you’re l-late to any exam, so even though I aced it, I--” She takes in a shuddering breath, her soft voice muffled against his wet shirt. “I can’t even face my mom right now. She’s gonna be s-so--”

“Hey,” Sam says again, pulling her back gently. “Don’t think for one second your mom is gonna do anything but love you and be sorry you’re hurting. She’s not gonna make you feel worse, c’mon.”

That makes Libby start sobbing again. “I kn-know, she’s s-so amazing, I don’t deserve a m-mom like her--”

“Okay, all right.” He pulls back from Libby completely. “Here, come on. I’ll take you home, okay?”

“Okay,” she mumbles, hiccoughing. They bend to gather her things, and when she does, a plastic bag full of smelly green stuff falls out of her pocket, to the ground.

She gasps and goes for it, but Sam’s quick reflexes and long limbs are no match for a drunk girl. He scoops it up in two fingers and tucks it into his pocket.

“I don’t care how or where you got it,” he says, catching her eye. “But, please believe me when I say anything you do to take away hurt is addictive. You have so much going for you. Don’t ruin your life with a decision like that.”

She looks like she wants to argue, but sighs. “Okay. I-- I just wanna go home.”

Libby looks out of her window almost the whole drive, fiddling with her purse. She goes to speak several times, but nothing ever comes out. Sam’s already battling with whether to tell Dean about this or not, because he still hangs out with Elizabeth fairly regularly-- they just don’t get naked. Sam would prefer them not hang out at all, but he’d never voice that jealous, ugly thought. Dean deserves his own friends, his own relationships. In all honesty, he’s just relieved that Dean seemed to make a decision that night. Sam doesn’t know what that decision was, but he knows Dean chose him, anyway.

Since that night, they’ve been in the most intense game of chicken Sam’s ever played. Their touches linger, and their looks speak volumes of things he’d never be able to. Some nights, when Dean has a little too much to drink, he’ll follow Sam into his bedroom. They’ll lay together, and wake up close.

One night, when Dean had liquor instead of beer, he'd laid behind Sam in his bed, tracing every scar he could find on Sam’s back, and it ended with a searing kiss to the knob of his spine, and the tiniest touch of his brother’s tongue. Dean had wrapped his arms around Sam after and fell asleep with his nose tucked against Sam’s jaw. Thinking about that, how flustered he was, how hard he got, how much he wanted-- it still tightens Sam’s gut.

“I got the liquor from my mom’s stash,” Libby says finally, as they turn down her street. “And the pot from Chasen. He was trying to be nice, you know? He couldn’t be with me this weekend, so he sent me home with something to calm me down. I’ve never… but he said it would help, so.”

Sam tightens his hands around the wheel. How can anyone treat this girl like that? Any girl, really, but especially this one. How can any man not see how special she is? She’s so-- the way she was raised charms him in a lot of ways. She's the town's darling. Everyone adores Libby. It shaped her into the kind, special person she is. But it also sheltered her from the harsher realities of the world. She took the pot from Chasen for stress relief like she would take an Advil from her mom for a headache. She just doesn’t know. She saw it as a kindness, while Sam finds it kinda horrible.

“Libby,” he starts, pulling into her driveway. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, okay? But, don’t you think that…” He clears his throat, putting the car in park. He doesn’t know how to have this conversation. Every time he’s tried to have a ‘I know what’s best for you' talk, Dean has refused to participate beyond telling him to go fuck himself. He’s never had a chance to actually say the words. “Don’t you think there might be someone better out there?”

She turns to look at him, her pretty blue gaze still swimming with unshed tears. She’s upset for a lot of reasons, Sam realizes. The Libby Sam knows would never get drunk. At least, he doesn’t think she would. She’s a nineteen-year-old girl, yes, but she’s never shown interest. Elizabeth had tried to share her cocktail at the Fourth of July party, but Libby had turned her nose up at it. Who even knows what's all bothering her at the moment. Sam remembers being nineteen, when he finally started making friends. His sophomore year at Stanford. He met Jess when he was nineteen, too, but they stayed friends for another year and a half before Sam had felt ready.

His freshmen year consisted of a dorm roommate he only saw all together five times, and no Dean to motivate him to do his homework. Because the stuff Sam was doing in college was hard, okay? But the satisfaction of him excelling was dimmed because his big brother-- who he missed, oh god he'd missed Dean so bad that first year-- wasn't smiling down (then smiling up, the summer Sam turned 17) at him, saying geek exactly like normal big brothers would say I'm real proud of you, Sammy.

“Like who?” she questions. She sounds wary, but her eyes are suddenly more focused than they’ve been all night. Sam hopes it means she’s finally listening. And kinda sober.

“I--” He doesn’t know who. That’s not the point. “Anyone. Anyone is better than that kid.” He didn’t mean to say it that way, but this guy is both hurting his friend and wrapping her around his little finger. She has way too much ahead of her to get bogged down by some idiot.

“Anyone?” she echoes. “Anyone like you?” Before Sam can react, she’s across the gear shift, kissing him.

Sam is shocked. He is one-hundred percent, down-to-the-bones shocked. He hasn’t been kissed in years, not since Amelia. It feels so unfairly good to have a beautiful woman leaning against him, little hands seeking warmth against his chest, soft lips kissing nervous questions against his. He wraps his hands around her arms and groans, pushing hard into the kiss for five long seconds. Then he moves her back, gently but firmly.

“No,” he says. Quietly. But there’s so much command in that one word, she stops short of trying to connect their lips again.

Her entire face flushes, turning such a dark red she’s nearly purple. “Oh, god. I thought--"

“You’re a beautiful girl,” he tells her, trying to be kind even though he’s so flustered. “But, Libby… you’re nearly half my age. And you’re drunk. I think you’re great, and I really enjoy your company. But, I…”

“You’re already taken,” she sighs, gathering her things. “Maybe you and your… your Dean should hurry up and figure that out before you hurt anyone else.”

That’s unbelievably unfair for many reasons and overly simplistic for a lot more. He knows everyone thinks he and Dean are secretly married, or at least used to be, explaining the same last name. They think he and Dean moved here to work their marriage out in a more liberal town, where they could be together without fear or judgement. He wishes he could tell them the truth: that they’re (sort of, a little) right, but they actually are brothers. He can’t imagine Dean not being his brother. Everything he feels for him is wrapped up in the fact that Dean is his brother--that he’s adored Dean since the moment he laid eyes on him, for everything he does, everything he is, everything he sacrifices for Sam (even if Sam doesn’t want him to). What about the fear and judgment then?

Her words sting, but she’s drunk, and Sam just wounded her pride and maybe her heart on an already bad night. He can afford to let that slide. He’ll wait until she’s sober before he tries to appeal to her logic.

“Good night,” he says instead, and he winces when she slams his car door. “And you’re welcome.” The muttering is more bitter than he’s used to being, but fuck.

He backs out of her driveway, taking the desserts out of the backseat and putting them in the passenger. They’re cold by now, but that’s okay. Once he gets them to Dean, they can be warmed up again. Dean is the warmest thing Sam has ever known, so if anyone can take the chatter out of his teeth, it's Dean.

An hour later than Dean is used to Sam getting home, his big little brother comes through the door like he’s falling through it. He has a heavy, shell-shocked look on his face, and that sets off about fifty-seven different alarms in Dean’s head.

“Sammy? Sam. Hey.” He rushes over to Sam standing by the door, where he's stiffly taking off his peacoat. “What is it? Everything okay? Where you been, huh? I must’ve texted and called you five thousand fucking times, dude.”

Sam loosens his tie, and Dean can see his throat working. He knows that look from many years of watching his naturally gentler, more emotional brother repress things. Something spooked him, upset him, and he's trying to hold something back, to be strong. Words or tears or what, Dean’s not sure. Whatever it is, it gentles Dean's searching touches into brushing Sam's exposed skin with the tips of his fingers, and it makes Sam shiver.

“Sammy? Talk to me, baby,” he asks again, wrapping a fist around Sam’s tie, tugging it. He’s needling him, but he can’t fucking help it.

“Dean,” Sam answers this time, voice all breathy, and he falls forward a little. Dean goes to steady him and ends up getting a one-armed, desperate kind of hug from his huge, tired brother. “Ah, shit. I’m squishin’ the pie. Sorry, I'm sorry.”

“Pie?” Dean backs away quickly, looking down into Sam’s arm squished between them. Sure as shit, there’s a slightly smooshed light-blue pie box with Ms. Lo’s Bakery stamped across it, gripped tightly in Sam's enormous hand. He groans happily. “You are my favorite brother, and don’t ever let me or anyone else tell you otherwise.”

“I’m your only brother,” Sam reminds him with a faint grin, little brother bratty-ness suddenly shining a little more brightly in his hazel-blue eyes.

Sam hands the pie over, still looking a little pale, but as his smug little smirk grows into a private, Dean-only kind of smile, color slowly creeps its way back into his face, staining his cheeks with deep red. His cheeks do the same thing when Sam is drunk and grabby and beautiful and so, so goddamn tempting with his hot, lithe body, those broad, strong shoulders that carry the weight of the world, and how they taper down into a slim waist that's almost feminine, and the way he uses that body like a weapon when he's intoxicated. So unassuming, so open with his affection, pressing his love right down into Dean with the weight of him, with the anchor of his long, piano fingers drawing patterns into Dean's chest (Devil's traps, Sumerian hieroglyphics, music notes, and endless hearts and infinity symbols, love and eternity written into his skin).

God, he's such a fucking sap about his brother. He's so fucking gone for the kid, it's getting out of hand. If only Sam knew how wrapped around his little finger Dean was. Dean hopes, one day, Sam will just know, without Dean having to tell him. He tries to live his life that way, with actions, because they could never be meaningless, unlike words.

“Not true! What about Adam?” Dean picks up the train of their conversation again, shaking his head when Sam gives him a strange look. He must have been staring off into space. Luckily, Sam lets it drop, and he rolls his eyes dramatically, scoffing.

“He’s dead, Dean. We killed him. I’m obviously still your favorite." Sam goes the opposite way of Dean, who carries his precious pie to the kitchen, and Sam towards his room. Sam always changes into comfortable clothes the minute he gets home. He hates the polyester crap of his school attire.

“Don’t sass your favorite brother,” Dean calls from the kitchen. He hears Sam’s huff before he closes his bedroom door, and it makes him smile.

That smile quickly turns into a frown. What’s happened to him? Why did he come in looking like he’d seen a ghost? Actually, Sam would probably be way more composed than this if he saw a ghost. Something really freaked the kid out, and Dean is gonna get to the bottom of it if he has to use the jaws of life to pry his mouth open.

Sam seems better after a warm meal, and he settles next to Dean on the couch. They turn the TV to TNT in time to catch Michael Myers stabbing a screaming girl, and Dean sighs, content.

"Awesome," he breathes, leaning back against the leather. They pick fun over the copious amounts of fake blood pouring from the victim, pointing out the inconsistencies and nonsense of "scary" Hollywood movies. It's so familiar and exactly what Dean needed.

He's feeling Sam out, really. He knows the kid needs to talk about something, but trying to get him to open up before he's ready is pointless. So he sits with his brother and waits, watching the tension in his shoulders slowly loosen. Sam takes a last big gulp of his beer, and then sighs like an exorcism.

"Dean," he begins as a commercial break starts. "I… uh, need another beer."

“What am I, your fuckin’ slave?” he grumbles as he rises to get him another one. He strolls to the fridge, overly casual, and only when he’s sure Sam isn’t watching, he leans his forehead against the cool freezer door. Trying to settle himself, to not demand Sam to speak. He gets his hand inside the fridge, then jumps as a loud boom of thunder resonates throughout the valley their home is settled in. He narrowly avoids bonking his head.

He’s back into the living room in the next second, watching Sam stare wide-eyed up at the ceiling. He has a deep, dark secret: he’s terrified of thunderstorms. He’s had to ride out one too many only under the cover of the Impala, and they’ve seen tornadoes touch down while driving through black clouds in the Midwest. Mother Nature is terrifying to him because Sam is a control freak, and Mother Nature is the ultimate dominatrix.

“It’s okay, Sammy,” he chuckles, feeling so fucking fond of Sam right then. Every little thing about him. He presses the cool beer to Sam’s neck to distract him. “Grab a blanket, huh? ‘M gettin’ cold.” He leans back into the couch, watching Sam’s long body stretch for the afghan across the other arm.

Sam flutters it out, and Dean opens his arms so Sam has no choice but to lean back into him as he tucks the blanket around their feet. Sam goes easily enough, like it was his idea in the first place. But all nonchalance leaves him after a crack of lightning touches down close, and in the next second they’re shrouded in darkness, Sam shaking against Dean’s chest.

Dean grumbles, immediately going for the flashlight under the couch. Sam is hooked tightly to him, hardly letting him breathe, let alone go. “I gotta go check the breakers, Sammy, c’mon--”

The sky opens up, and a sheet of rain pours down. Wind howls past their windows, and they both jump as a branch lands on their roof. Shit, if anything leaks in this old place, he’s gonna--

“You can’t go out there in this,” Sam begs against his neck, breath clammy. His lips catch against the sweat coating Dean’s skin. He was just cold a minute ago, wasn't he? “I won’t let you.”

“Sammy, dammit--”

“Libby k-kissed me.”

His hands tighten in a hold on the back of Sam’s t-shirt, the flashlight rolling around on the table where it drops with a thunk. “What?” His voice is a growl, and he's not totally sure if he meant to sound that angrily possessive, but. Well, he had sounded that way.

“Yeah.” Sam sighs, burrowing himself deeper into Dean’s body. He’s trying to hide. From what, Dean doesn’t know. His expression, maybe. Shame. Guilt. Maybe he liked it. Or maybe he didn’t. Both could be upsetting. Dean’s upset, and it didn’t even happen to him.

He blows out a breath. Dean kinda wants to laugh, wishing he could say he was as shocked as Sam. Even if he hadn’t seen her interest himself, which almost everyone around town had (not including Sam, the oblivious idiot), Elizabeth had warned Dean of Libby taking a liking to Sam. Dean had been confused at first, because he was pretty sure Libby had a punkass boyfriend at that fancy college, but Elizabeth had smiled and said, it’s different.

Dean gets that. He gets why it’s different with Sam. He’s the expert on why things in life are just different because of that kid.

He wouldn’t call himself a gentle person; his former job created a hardness to him over the years, to his features, to his mannerisms. Even when he’s kind, he’s still gruff. But with Sam, everything in him remembers that the wobbly sniffles coming from the thirty-two year old man squashing him are the same sniffles that came from the sick six-year-old, the whiney twelve-year-old, or the indignant seventeen-year-old.

Everything in him remembers kissing baby knee scrapes, singing lullabies he made up because he couldn’t remember the ones he’d heard (except for Hey Jude, but that one made him hurt, made him sad), brushing out Sam’s unruly hair with a tenderness he didn’t understand at that age, stitching up a messy gash from a werewolf, the last one they’d seen until the one Sammy slept with (and didn’t that churn his guts to think about, even back then, even as he’d played the proud wingman). The scar is high up on Sam’s thigh, way too close to the femoral artery. He remembers doing everything not to cry while hugging him goodbye at the Greyhound station and ultimately failing, and he remembers seeing his brother again for the first time in years with his apartment and his girlfriend and his disdain and thinking, maybe I did you right, after all.

And how despite all that, despite the inherent tenderness he possesses for Sam because of the way they grew up, everything to each other, absolutely everything, he’s coming to want and need and love and desire the man Sam is today. It has little to do with the memories of his childhood, and a lot more to do with Sam’s grace, his kindness, his laugh, and the dopey smile he gets on his face when he’s proud of Dean.

And the way he looks when he comes home, tired but happy and fulfilled, tie loose around his neck, full of stories about his students and hippie colleagues. The way he surprised Dean at work one day, shaking the greasy hands of all his mechanic buddies in the shop while dressed in a dark, tailored three-piece suit, still smelling like the shower he took that morning.

The way Dean couldn’t stop staring at the delicate curve of his brother’s waist that afternoon, wondering how his fingers would look there, gripping and bruising that skin over the almost feminine slimness of his hipbones. The way Sam came bearing gifts--leftovers from a potluck school function, quietly charming those gruff old wrench monkeys, the way they were calling his brother Dr. W by the time Sam left with a smile and a touch to Dean’s face. The way Dean blushed that whole afternoon because of it, glowing with pride when the guys asked him and the doc around to their next poker night. And. And just-- the way Sam has Dean completely and totally wrapped up in him, like no one else has, not even their father. It's devotion that Dean could give to no one else, because there’s only room for one person that singularly important to him.

He strokes Sam’s hair in the dark, not sure what to say, chest aching. He doesn’t wanna stop touching his brother, but he’s gotta go get some candles, at least. “Didja slip her some tongue?”

Sam scoffs, but the question shocks a laugh out of him, too. He shoves Dean away. “Go find something so we can see, okay? I’ve got something in my jacket I want to show you.”

Dean waggles his eyebrows, but it’s lost on Sam in the dark.

After Dean has four of their old spellwork candles lit in a row on the coffee table, and Sam has fished something out of his jacket in the closet, he gathers Sam back up to him, resting his chin on the top of Sam’s head. His fingers slowly untangle the day’s knots from Sam’s hair, working through them with tenderness and patience and no less love than when he used to do this for Sam every night when they were kids.

“What’d you wanna show me, huh, Sammy?” Dean murmurs a few minutes later, when Sam is all but purring from the head scratches.

“Hmmm,” Sam responds, rubbing his forehead against Dean’s chest. Then he sighs, blowing his hot breath through Dean’s t-shirt. Dean shivers. “First, I wanna talk about what I said before.”

“About Libby?”

Sam raises his head, looking at his brother. “Yeah. I… I guess I kinda knew she had a little crush on me, but I thought it was innocent, you know? And maybe it is. She was… she was, uh, drunk.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, Sam looks mad at himself for saying anything. Like he had planned on doing the exact opposite.

“Drunk?”

“Yes. Yeah. Dean, don’t tell Elizabeth. Please. You know Libby will tell her when the time is right. She was really upset. And Elizabeth will be so, so hurt if Libby hasn’t told her yet--” He crawls up Dean’s body, pawing at his face in the same way he did last year when he had fallen to his knees in front of Dean and said, tell me you had to do this. But these fingers are gentle, not afraid. Not searching for black eyes. He cradles Dean’s face in his big hands like he’s delicate, something to be cherished. He’s begging Dean with not only his words, but his body. Sam is using his body as a weapon, and if Dean could hardly say no before, how he is supposed to now?

Dean’s jaw tics, but he nods. He thinks about how upset he’d be if he heard what should be first-hand information about Sam from one of his friends. He can settle for some things being none of his business, anyway.

“She also… had, um, this.” Sam digs into his pocket, and then comes out with a plastic bag of some pretty damn fragrant pot. "I kinda stole it from her."

“Holy shit, Sammy,” he crows, his face lighting up in a huge grin. “You dirty fuckin' thief. I haven’t, we haven’t, not in years, man.”

“You wanna?” Sam is smiling, too, and he brushes his happy mouth against Dean’s cheek. Some of their fondest memories, a lot of the times they were closest and happiest, they were sharing a joint in the woods behind their piece-of-shit house of the month, or in Dean’s car, or down by the town lake in the dead of night. It would loosen their shoulders, bring smiles and laughs to otherwise grim, tight lips. They would share secrets and fears and stoned giggles and curl up together like lazy cats, sleep it off until the next time Dean could score from some deadbeat kid in the neighborhood. They always lived in neighborhoods where it was pretty readily available, Dean thinks, breathing in the familiar scent of his brother’s warm breath.

“Hell yes, Sammy boy. You bring me pie and pot? In the same night? You tryin’ to get lucky or something?” Dean makes smoochy noises in Sam’s face, watching his cheeks immediately turn bright red.

“Dean.” Dean is charmed, totally charmed by this new coy act of his brother’s. He didn’t know Sam could blush like that.

They take a couple hits from the bong Dean rigs up from an empty two-liter, then settle back against the couch. Sam is touchy-feely when he’s impaired-- Dean would say he’s kinda cuddly. But he’s never been this open, this free with his love. He drops open-mouthed kisses against Dean’s collarbone, soft sucking noises making Dean moan softly. He doesn’t know if he likes this. It’s making him squirm, waking up some dormant part of his lizard brain that wants to be turned on by his brother. Sam snugs his hips against Dean’s, and shit, maybe he does like it. Sam definitely seems to.

“Sam,” he mumbles eventually, getting a hand in his brother’s hair and tugging. Instead of allowing himself to be pulled back, Sam moans at the pull on his scalp and uses his teeth the next time he smears his mouth against Dean’s clavicle. “Sammy,” he tries again, trying not to fall in love with that aching little moan.

“You did it to me,” Sam responds eventually, little brother stubbornness in his voice.

“Was just makin’ sure you were still alive.” He gives Sam’s hair another yank for the impudent behavior, for reminding Dean of his drunken-heart openness, and his brother groans right against his neck, the vibrations pulsing all the way down to his cock.

“And that kiss to the back of my neck? Was that for proof of life, too?”

Dean’s head is moving too slow. Everything is a little hazy, and nothing seems bad enough to get worked up over. Plus, his mouth feels gummy, sticky, and words don’t want to form. He can’t come up with a good argument, so he continues to run his fingers through Sam’s hair, giving it a sharp little tug every now and then, just to hear that hurts-so-good moan rumble from his baby brother’s throat.

They’re quiet for a while, listening to the storm outside. Sam flinches with each boom of thunder, but it’s almost lazy, ducking because he knows he should be scared, but can’t quite work up the energy. The truth is, right now Sam couldn’t be more protected. He’s in their home, under their roof, warm under their blankets, and Dean’s got him.

He tells Sam that, he says, “I got you,” right into Sam’s ear, and Sam sighs like it’s the best thing he’s ever heard. He laces his fingers through Dean’s available hand, and then pulls it back, bringing his fingertips together to the middle of Dean's palm. It makes Dean shiver with want, that light, maddening touch.

“Dean?” Sam whispers a few minutes later, after he’s done tracing his fingers along Dean’s palm. The tickle almost felt like a scratch to an itch he didn’t know he had, but the torture was so good, and he’s rock hard in his jeans. If Sam tries something now, tonight, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to do the right thing. He feels weak tonight. He wants. The feeling sits heavy and muggy in his chest, an almost constant ache.

“Yeah, baby.” He had never called Sam anything sweeter than Sammy his whole life, but the first time Dean had let ‘baby’ slip, Sam’s cheeks had turned red. He liked it a lot, way more than he wants Dean to know. So Dean saves the word for quiet moments like this, where Sam can really savor what all he’s saying in that four letter word.

“I… I, uh, really miss Cas." Sam says it fast, like he's afraid of Dean wigging before he gets it all out. "I went to call him the other day, just to check in. I’ve done that, like, once a month since we got here, and I fuckin’... miss my friend, Dean.”

That is the last thing Dean ever expected to come out of Sam’s mouth, and it hits him like a punch. He actually gasps a little, and Sam is moving immediately, gripping his face again. “Sorry, Dean-- sorry, I know we’re not supposed to, but--”

For the past four months, they’ve been doing everything they can not to think about what they left behind in Kansas. Or what they didn’t leave behind, more accurately. After Charlie's murder at the hands of the Stynes, Dean went on a rampage that was fueled by both the Mark of Cain and the pain of losing someone they both loved so much. Charlie, though, and Sam would agree--Charlie was Dean’s girl. He loved her more than he’d ever honestly and fully loved a woman in his life, and he was secure in that love, that it was equal and special, and that she’d never fall for him, or he for her. It was exactly what he needed, and he hadn’t known it until she’d cried in his arms, and he’d kissed her forehead and thought but didn’t say, I love you too, kiddo. She was so fucking special. Now, she was gone, because she dared to love the Winchesters, just like all the rest of them.

And Cas. That friggin’ child, never listening to them. Always steaming full speed ahead with whatever righteousness he got in his teeth that year without looking out for potential consequences. They taught him that, and Dean doesn’t know if he’ll ever forgive himself for it.

While Dean was off slaughtering the Stynes, Sam, Cas and Rowena were cooking up the last ingredients to the spell that would take the Mark off his brother forever. Crowley had been killed earlier that day by Rowena, after he tried to steal the Book. Sam said later that he had almost felt sorry for a moment. Almost.

Dean doesn’t know why Sam didn’t think Rowena would double-cross him. Sam gets short-sighted sometimes, especially when he’s trying to save his brother. But Dean’s guilty of it, too, he knows that. And Sam can’t take the burden of anyone else’s blame-- he blames himself enough.

Rowena had gathered the final ingredients for the spell, and then asked Cas to cast it. It was in Enochian, she explained, and even though she could read it, she wasn’t proficient. She needed an expert, she had drawn in that enchanting brogue. So, Cas recited the spell, and Sam (not understanding the complicated Enochian) hadn’t known anything was wrong until Cas looked up at him. He was smiling, but he looked ancient and terribly, terribly sad.

“Kill her, Sam. Do not hesitate. Now.”

Sam hadn’t hesitated, seeing the look in Cas’ eyes. The resignation. The sorrow. The peace. Before Rowena had time to react, to even wipe that horrible smirk off her face, he put a witch-brew bullet in her head, and she had gone down hard, Sam told Dean later. Like a bag of bricks.

“What is it?” Sam had asked. “What did she do? Is Dean--”

Castiel’s blue eyes had been patient, kind. “Dean is fine, Sam. Now, listen to me. We have minutes, if less. Your brother will be cured, and you two will be free.”

Sam had broken out into a smile. It felt just as triumphant as his welcome back, Dean smile. Finally, everything had worked out. Charlie hadn’t died in vain, and his brother was saved. Why Rowena had to die he wasn’t sure, but he trusted his friend.

“Sam Winchester," Cas had said, sounding older than he had in years. "I want you to know that even though my time with you and your brother was short compared to the many millennia I’ve been alive, it was the most extraordinary time of my life. I have no regrets. I love you and your brother as much as an angel can love anyone who is not My Father. Do you know this to be true, Sam?”

Sam’s smile had been long gone by then. He had assured Cas that he was loved, too, and needed. But by that time, Castiel had begun to cough. Every time he did, grace poured out of his mouth in a high-pitched wail and started swimming in the bowl of spellwork.

“No, Cas,” Sam had pleaded, close to tears. “No, don’t. We need you.”

“She tricked us, Sam. The spell--the caster had to be an angel, the purest opposite of the demonic Mark, and they had to willingly sacrifice their grace, and so their life, for the Mark bearer. She would have double-crossed you and probably killed you after she killed me, and that is why I asked you to kill her. To save you.” Sam could barely understand him through the hacking coughs and whine of the grace.
“I read the spell on purpose, Sam. I could have stopped once I started, but I am okay with this. I have and will again willingly give my life for yours and your brother’s. Please take this opportunity to love your brother. No more fighting. No more agendas. And Sam?--” Then, Castiel’s grace lit up the room, and his wings flared out one more bright, beautiful time. Sam looked at him for as long as he could, then ducked, covering his head.

Then, their friend and guardian was gone, reduced to his purest form--the grace that was reacting in the bowl with the other ingredients. There was a force that blew Sam backwards, shattering the windows, and when he came to, Dean was there, transported to the origin of the spell. The Mark was gone, and Dean was cradling Sam’s head, picking pieces of glass out of his long hair, crying silently, taking it all in. And even though Sam got exactly what he wanted, he had nothing to say to make it better.

After the deaths of their friends, they spent a week getting everything they needed out of the bunker and into several storage lockers. Sam had the identities of Sam and Dean Wesson ready--credit scores, resumes, college diplomas, references. Then, they torched their batcave to the ground with Charlie inside, thoroughly salted, just waiting to be burned. They agreed that they had each other, and as always, that was way more than enough. That was everything, despite the ache of leaving their last true friends and allies in ashes. They promised each other they weren’t going to talk about it and pointed Baby northeast.

“I miss him, too,” Dean finally says, and then moves for the plastic bottle. He takes a couple deep hits, the flicker of the lighter a soothing background noise, then gives the bong and lighter to Sam. “And I miss Charlie. I miss Bobby and Ellen and Jo and dad and every other godforsaken person on this earth who decided to care about us. They’re all fuckin’ dead. But. But, I can manage that hurt. But I can’t-- without you, I can’t. Sammy, I just,” he trails off, a little embarrassed of how wide-open he is right now, with his brother.

Sam regards him quietly after taking another hit. His eyes are glassy, unfocused. Dean has no clue what to expect next from the kid’s mouth, so he settles Sam back in, fingers stroking up and down his spine.

“You wanna hear what else Libby said?” Sam asks suddenly, sitting up and away from Dean for the first time since the lights went off. “Why else she was so upset with me?”

No, Dean really doesn’t. All of a sudden, he knows what’s coming. Sam is going to do it. He blinks at his brother, smoke-lazy mind so unsure about whether he wants this to happen tonight. Or ever. His heart is fucking racing.

Sam doesn’t care whether he’s ready or not. “She told me that you and I need to work our shit out before we break anyone else’s heart. That we belong to each other, and it’s about time we realize that.” He punctuates that with a poke to Dean’s chest, almost bratty.

Dean blows out a breath, adrenaline coursing through him, telling him to run. He knew it was coming; he’s known for the past ten years, okay. But he never really thought Sam would do it. He never thought they’d get here. He definitely never thought Sam would just rip the gauze off the wound, exposing it to the air. He expected it to be gentled, coaxed. He doesn’t know if he can do this tonight. His heart already feels stretched too thin, and one more revelation from Sam’s mouth might just break him.

“Sam--”

“She’s right.” Sam is speaking to his knees, refusing to look at Dean. Dean is glad for it, for the moment, so he can school his expression into something less bug-eyed than it is right now. “She’s right, Dean. I know it. You, I-- I think you know it, too.” Sam reaches out, finally, placing a big hand over Dean’s heart. “This, this is mine. Isn’t it?”

Dean feels like he’s gasping for air, but on the outside, he appears calm. His brother’s hand is warm and sure, and it’s appropriate that Sam is cupping his heartbeat. He’s been doing it his whole life. This kid, this man. This soul that shone so brightly, even Death’s grip couldn’t damper it. The only person he’s loved consistently his whole life, without fear or hesitation or resolve, and the only person who has loved him back just as much, just as unconditionally.

He is the love of Dean’s life, of all his many lives. He’s finally realizing it, finally realizing it always, always comes back to Sam.

“Yeah,” he whispers finally, and Sam meets his eyes. They’re dark, sparkling with something he can't quite make out in the candlelight. “Sammy.” He says it just to say it, to ground himself here in this moment. If he doesn’t, he feels like he’s gonna float away.

Sam takes another hit off the bong, inhaling smoke deep into his lungs. Dean watches him, leaning back against the couch, tracing every feature of his brother’s face with his heavy-lidded gaze. He’s never thought of another man as beautiful, and even if he’ll never say it out loud, he suddenly realizes that Sam is. The light from the flickering candles is casting shadows across his brother’s face, highlighting the high cheekbones and strong jaw. His hair looks shiny, soft, and his eyes have a glow that seems to come from inside. Underneath. Like Sam is his own light source, and that makes Dean think of Sam’s soul again, that bright star in Death’s grip. And how now, it’s in Dean’s.

“You’re, uh… really kinda beautiful,” Dean tells him. So much for never saying it out loud.

Sam smiles, and with the grace and intent of a hunter, he straddles Dean’s lap. Dean suddenly has two hundred pounds of little brother heat and muscle on him; little brother hands in his hair, tipping his head back.

“Open up,” Sam whispers, and Dean obeys him, so fucking turned on.

Little brother smoke straight from little brother lungs comes pouring into his mouth, and then finally, little brother lips melt over his own. The touch of their open, wet mouths feels like a punctuation mark, the end of a run-on sentence.

“Can this belong to me, too?” Sam murmurs against Dean’s gasping mouth. “Can it, Dean?”

Dean groans deep in his chest, one hand on Sam’s waist and one buried in his hair, both arms pulling him closer. Dean shoves his tongue into Sam’s mouth, seeking, owning. He can’t breathe; he’s never kissed like this, in aching, panting bursts of air, like it’s so good, it’s too good, he’s gonna hyperventilate. Dean wants to know every bit of Sam’s mouth, wants to know what every moan tastes like, every incarnation of his name.

God, he’s already fucking addicted to the way his name tastes on Sam’s tongue. He’s gonna find out how many different ways he can make Sam say it.

“Anything you want, Sammy,” he groans, letting go of the bite on Sam’s top lip to suck the gorgeous, bright red bottom lip into his mouth. He suckles at it, brushing his tongue back and forth, tasting his brother, leisurely, like the first taste of aged whiskey. He’s savoring; he's gonna take his time.

Hell, he’s already addicted to everything about this, who is he kidding? He lets Sam’s mouth go with a sharp last tug to speak, to drive his point home. “You gotta know that. You can have anything you want from me. Always. Always been that way.”

Sam groans, like it hurts to hear that. Gasping for air, he rests his sweaty forehead against Dean’s, hair tickling Dean’s nose. Dean lunges for Sam’s mouth again, now that he can see it all up close, wet and pink and so fucking tempting.

Sam pulls away after a few seconds with a wet noise Dean moans for, wrapping his arms around Dean’s neck. Their noses are pressed together now, they’re so close. Dean can smell his brother, every tired, stoned, sweaty, musky inch and it’s making him crazy. He can’t leave Sam’s mouth alone, the phantom pain of their lips separating too great to not keep kissing him.

“God, Dean,” Sam gasps, smearing open-mouthed kisses all over Dean’s face. He’s hiccoughing, he’s breathing so hard. “God. My entire fucking life, Dean, this is--”

“Shhh,” Dean gentles. “Shh, Sam.” A firm hand yanking his hair makes Sam’s hips grind over Dean’s hard on. They both moan, and Dean bares his throat to his brother, head dropping back to the couch. Sam presses sloppy kisses there, breath damp, almost purring for the fingernails against his scalp.

“Kiss me again. Please.” Sam blushes, doubtful. Like after all this, Dean could possibly tell him no. Possibly want to. Dean knows Sam has issues, and a lot of those are his fault. So all he can do is reassure his brother that he is loved, cherished, and always, above all, in every way, wanted.

And Dean’s entire life is an exercise in devotion to his brother, so somehow he doesn’t think it’ll be an issue. And Sam shouldn’t ever have to beg, and definitely not beg Dean, someone who is so unworthy of giving love to a man like his brother. So he kisses him again, tipping their bodies backwards until Sam is all spread out underneath him, an arching, six and a half foot block of muscle, flesh and bone. Dean drops back down against Sam, and his brothers’ arms are there to greet him, pulling him down the rest of the way before reattaching their hungry mouths.

Eventually, Dean realizes there is a motion to their hips that’s causing a buzzing in his ears. Sam’s big hands are attached firmly to his ass, helping Dean with the slow grind to his hips, like he’s really fucking Sam, like he’s trying to bury himself down deep. Sam is panting, whining against his mouth, and it’s the sweetest fucking sound Dean has ever heard.

He can’t believe it, believe this, his brother here all this time, waiting like all Dean had to do was push a button and he’d come to life. His back is arched beautifully, Dean’s hands gripping at his hips between his back and the couch cushion. Sam’s rocking his hips up into Dean a little, but mostly letting Dean drill him into the couch. All they’re doing is dry humping, fully-clothed, and it’s the hottest goddamn sex of Dean’s life.

That thought halts Dean's hips, and Sam groans, kneading at his ass to encourage movement again. When Dean doesn’t budge, Sam runs his hands up Dean’s back, under his shirt. The light touch against his sweaty skin jerks his hips, and Sam pants yes, fuck, c’mon into his mouth.

“Sammy. Sam. Baby,” Dean murmurs against his brother’s swollen, sloppy lips. “Maybe we should stop.”

“No, Dean, don’t, please don’t,” Sam groans, piercing his fingernails into Dean’s back. Dean hisses, biting at the loose skin of Sam’s bottom lip hard enough to taste blood. He starts licking the taste out of his brother’s mouth, so fucking gone, before he remembers he had a point.

“But,” he moans, gasping when Sam all but growls and bruises a kiss against Dean’s puffy mouth.

Sam pulls away just as quick. He locks eyes with Dean, gnawing on his bottom lip, and the look between them, it takes everything in Dean not to flip Sam over on his belly.

“W-what if you wake up tomorrow and decide this is all one big mistake?” Sam looks panicked at that thought, but kind of resigned, too. Like he’s just waiting for the blow, soaking up every inch of this he can get before it’s taken away from him. He closes his eyes, begging. “I want this. I want you, Dean. Let me have it. Please. If-- only if you want it, though. But if you do, please, please let me have it.”

“Sam,” Dean whines, hating how much that breaks his heart, listening to his brother beg, again with the goddamn begging Dean is powerless against.

He loves and he hates how well his brother knows him, knows that he’s thinking about this, and it’s making him a little nervous. He doesn’t regret it, no-- it’s been coming his whole life, and he’s not shocked. He wants Sam, too, just as badly as his brother wants him. This is just a lot, this is big. Sam is Dean’s whole world. When something this significant changes in his world, he has to take some time to reflect, make a game plan.

Even if his plans don't work out (who is he kidding, they never do), he feels better going into it prepared, and he-- he doesn’t want to hurt Sam by retreating on him, so he thinks if they could just take this slow, it would be enough time to absorb it all. To start loving this, to start needing this every day.

To not want to know how one day looks without it.

Sam’s having none of it, though. He hooks his legs around Dean’s waist (those gorgeous, long fucking legs), eating at his brother’s mouth. “Do you need me to put you on your back and do it myself?”

All the blood in Dean’s body heads straight for his dick. He groans, grabbing Sam’s hands from where his fingers are digging into Dean’s back, stapling them to the couch. Sam resists briefly against the hold, then his whole spine shivers, melts. Dean puts both large wrists into one hand, and Sam could easily break free, but the intent, the idea behind it is getting them both off so goddamned good.

Balancing with the grip he has on Sam’s wrist and his knees firmly planted around Sam’s thighs, he sneaks his other hand down to their waists. After unzipping his jeans and untying Sam’s track pants, he takes his cock out and gives it a shuddering stroke to soothe the ache of wanting for so long. Sam’s eyes are glued to where he’s rubbing, and he arches against Dean’s hold, wanting to take his own dick out, wanting to touch Dean, Dean doesn’t know. He titters at Sam, slowly working his hand into his brother’s damp boxer briefs.

“You sure you want to put me on my back, baby? Seems like you’re lovin’ that spot a little too much to give it up.”

“Fuck,” Sam growls as Dean’s hand finally closes around his dick, hard as nails, leaking like a faucet. God, so fucking wet, almost like a girl. But no girl could compare to this: the hot, thick length of Sam, soaked with how much Dean’s turning him on. Sam hikes his hips up and Dean gets the hint, pulling his brother’s briefs down so the elastic rests right under his balls, pulling them tight, so achy and full. Sam whimpers.

“They hurt, Sammy?” Dean murmurs, palming them softly, giving them a couple squeezes that has Sam panting, twisting under Dean’s grip.

Dean’s mouth is watering, looking at Sam’s cock for the first time. Smooth and straight and beautiful, a little longer than Dean, but Dean’s is fatter with a few thick veins, just a little under the eight and change inches of his big little brother.

Precome oozes from the flushed tip, and Dean’s never sucked a dick in his life but damned if he doesn’t know he’s gonna end up choking on Sam’s and probably fucking loving it. “Goddamn, I’m gonna eat you alive.”

Dean drops back down on his brother, letting go of his hold on Sam’s wrists. Sam keeps them where they are, curled around his ears, which really turns Dean’s crank. He wriggles a hand between their bodies, lining up their dicks, too fat to fit in his hand. Sam brings his long fingers down to help, strong grip smashing them together. Dean whines in the back of his throat, the borderline painful tugs making his hips stutter. He comes not a minute later, vision whited-out, Sam's touch too good, too hot to sustain him. He can't help grinding down hard against Sam’s big dick and his stroking fingers that move back to his balls to help squeeze out the rest of his come. Dean releases a harsh moan, his hips still moving, come slicking his grind, a goal still in mind.

“Come on, Sammy. Fuck, look at you--that pretty fucking cock, baby, there you go.” He’s always had a filthy mouth, but getting to breathe these things against his brother’s puffy, red lips while Sam pants choked-off, gorgeous little moans, eyebrows drawn together in concentration-- it only fuels the fire.

“Gonna fuckin’-- fuck, I’m gonna--” Sam’s head tips back, and Dean feels his brother's come shoot between his fingers. Sam is writhing, looking up at Dean like he’s never seen anything like him, mouth and jaw working hard against the desperate, bitten-off cries escaping his throat. His hair is a wild mess of tangles and sweaty curls, his lips so tender to the touch and swollen and red-- Dean has to bend back down for another taste of his open mouth, and Sam has a pleased hum for him. He wrings his brother’s cock until Sam twists his hips away, making hurt little moans as he sucks on Dean’s bottom lip.

They lie there for several minutes, catching their breath against each other’s skin, a mess of come and sweat and a thick underlay of emotion-- a feeling of both finally and I don’t know what happens next. He presses one last kiss to Sam’s mouth, and Sam inhales sharply and wraps his arms around Dean’s neck like he knows Dean’s about to let him go and he can’t stand it, won’t allow it.

“Let’s go get cleaned up,” Dean whispers, kissing Sam’s forehead. He blows out the candles, holding out his hand for Sam’s. Sam takes it with long, trembling fingers.

They rise to take a shower, only realizing when they stand that the power came back on, and they totally missed it. While Sam goes to turn the water heater back on, Dean goes to the kitchen, dismantling the bong, already needing a little breathing room. After rinsing the bottle and throwing it in the recycling to go out tomorrow morning, he pours himself a couple fingers of whiskey and leans his elbows against the counter. He sees the baby blue pie box, and it gives him a little pang. Sam went all the way into town on a busy night like Halloween after a long day at the college just to get him something. Just to make him smile. He sighs, wishing he was in the mood for it right now.

He’s not running away, exactly. He doesn’t wanna go far because he knows he’ll be back. But there are words like duty and honor buzzing through his head, and his vow to protect that bright spark of a soul against every bad thing in this world. And it’s not the brothers thing-- after everything they've seen, faced together, Dean is oddly okay with that part of it. He can even concede that it kind of makes sense. Their lives are nothing but a blurred line, and their real identities only exist with each other anymore. Dean couldn’t ever erase the fact that they’re brothers from his mind, nor would he want to. He’ll always be Sam’s brother. But maybe, he could also be more. Obviously the brothers part of it doesn’t bother Sam enough for it to stop the way he feels, so Dean isn’t going to let himself get hung up on it, either.

It’s the fact that Dean is a bad thing in this world. Well, maybe not so much anymore-- he’s learning to kinda like Dean Wesson with a nine to five and a Super Shopper card at Mitch’s Grocery. But it can’t be denied that a lot of Sam’s suffering has been caused by him, and if they go into this, Dean can’t promise he won’t fuck up again. Oh, he’s gonna try his damnedest not to, but. He couldn’t take it if he breaks Sam’s heart by being an idiot. Or if he did something, said something that made Sam leave. Who would Dean be then? Dean Wesson doesn’t exist without Sam. And neither does Dean Winchester.

Logically, he knows Sam has forgiven him for those huge lapses in judgement, but that doesn’t stop Dean from hating himself for every wrong (no matter how big or small) he’s ever inflicted on that good, forgiving man.

“Dean?”

That man, who is standing beautiful and naked and tall in the doorway of his bedroom, calling for Dean across the house. He looks scared of the distance. Dean can’t stand that look on his brother’s face; he never could. He drains the rest of his whiskey in one gulp, never taking his eyes off that long, gorgeous body.

“Hurry up if you wanna share my shower,” Sam demands, forcing confidence into his voice, stubbornly brave in the newness of this life-changing thing. Dean loves him so goddamn much it hurts. Someday, he swears he'll tell Sam that.

Dean strides over to him instead, catching him in a searing kiss. He walks them backwards into Sam’s bedroom, shedding his clothes as he marches them towards the open door pouring out steam. Sam washes Dean’s hair, but they don’t touch much, content to just be. They dry off sleepily, then brush their teeth shoulder-to-shoulder, leaning up against each other. They climb into Sam’s bed, naked, sticking to the sheets in some spots with the dampness of their skin. They both lie on their backs, staring at the ceiling. Their breathing is quiet, and Dean is sure Sam can hear his heart racing.

“C’mere,” Dean grunts, pulling Sam to his chest. Sam goes easily, sighing deeply through his nose. It isn’t an unhappy sound, but it isn’t the contentment Dean wishes he was hearing. Sam presses a kiss to Dean’s rib cage, right under his nipple. “Everything’s okay, hmmm? I promise. Get some sleep, Sammy.”

“Mmph,” Sam answers, already obeying Dean. Dean follows a couple minutes later, but he doesn’t dream. His eyes blink open a few hours later, like no time has passed, wide awake. His heart's still racing.

When Sam wakes up, it’s still dark outside. Even through the haze of being half-asleep, he immediately notices the absence of his brother. He reaches out to Dean’s side of his bed, and the covers are pulled back, sheets cold. Adrenaline makes sweat prickle in his underarms.

“Shit,” he whispers, unable to stop the terrifying images of Dean dressing frantically and taking off to all points nowhere, totally wigging out. He could tell his brother was a little unsettled before they went to sleep, despite him trying to reassure Sam. He’s throwing off the covers between one breath and the next, practically tripping out of bed to get to the window.

The sick feeling in his gut loosens when he sees the Impala in the driveway, the chromed beauty glinting in the porch light. He’s never been happier to see that stupid car, and with the way Dean used to use her as the loyal black steed to his heroic white knight, that’s really saying something.

He glances at the clock. One-thirty AM. The room is chilly; they had forgotten to reset the heater after the power outage. He hikes his boxer briefs up his hips, then throws on the dead guy robe Dean refuses to part with. It does little to stave off the chill, so he puts on some socks to keep his cold toes from cramping.

Okay so, he’s stalling. With an irritable huff, he leaves his bedroom, moving through the quiet house, stopping to turn on the heater so it can start to warm up in here. He walks into the kitchen, spying the open pie box (was that really just last night, with Libby and the bakery? It seems like lifetimes ago, now) two pieces gone, crumbs littering the counter. A mostly-empty glass of what appears to be milk and a gooey fork sit atop a plate in the sink. The bag of pot is sitting on the counter, open, with shake dusted all around it. A pack of papers with crinkled sheets lies next to it, and next to that, a note. He lifts it with slightly shaky hands, remembering the last two horrible notes he’s received from Dean.

Don’t panic. Down by the river. -D

It’s November first in Maine, and Sam is not looking forward to going after his brother in only his underwear and a robe. Sighing, he shrugs on a thick flannel jacket of Dean’s and stuffs his feet into his boots, wrapping the robe tighter around him, cinching it off with the fuzzy belt. He looks ridiculous, probably, but he couldn’t care less. Everything in him, though terrified of what this all means, terrified of Dean taking it all away, all of him is crying out to be near his brother. Like now that he knows just how close Dean will let him get, any further distance away is too much to be acceptable.

The moon is bright as he steps through the back door with an LED flashlight, shining it along the grass. He tips his face up to the sky, praying to anyone who’ll listen for calmness and strength. Then he treks the couple hundred yards down to the swing by the river, trying not to feel like he’s walking to his execution. His breath is visible, steaming from his tired mouth.

He licks his dry lips when he finally makes out Dean’s silhouette, a dark figure with the moon shining behind him, lit up like a beacon. His heart is in his throat, and tears are trying to come to his eyes. He’s so overwhelmed--he can hardly believe what they did six hours ago. How good it was, how natural it felt, how hard Dean made him come. How his brother looked above him, strong shoulders bulging against his grey t-shirt, fat red lips swollen and sore from Sam’s mouth. Sam made him look like that. All dazed and crazy, like he couldn’t believe the electricity behind their touches. The hunger.

“Hey,” Sam says as he nears, clicking off his flashlight. The smell of pot is thick and cloying in his lungs, and Sam can see the red cherry burning on an inhale. Dean is smoking a joint, staring out at the water. It’s beautiful tonight, the moon casting a white V across the flat black surface. In another month, it’ll be frozen solid. It looks like Sam could walk on it, if he wanted. He certainly believes Dean could.

Dean doesn’t startle, but that doesn’t surprise him. Dean probably knew the second Sam woke up, part of his soul clicking back online. Sam doesn’t know how to describe it, doesn’t know why. But he can tell when his brother is here, safe. Something inside him lights up, recognizing its counterpart alive in the world, reminding him he’s never alone. When Dean isn’t around, he feels like a snuffed out candle. When Dean dies, he feels like a blackout in Manhattan.

“Sam,” he answers eventually, voice rough. Sam tries to figure out from that one word whether Dean’s been out here crying. Angsting, definitely. Self-flagellating, without a doubt. But if Dean’s not crying, it can’t be too bad. Dean scoots over on the swing, an obvious invitation.

Sam sighs, so fucking grateful for the permission to get close. Dean looks almost untouchable in the moonlight, every chilly breath visible, icy, and Sam wants to disprove that. He wants to get his hands all-fucking-over him. He settles in next to Dean, hissing at the chilly bench two layers too close to his ass.

“What the hell are you wearing?” Dean asks, finally looking over at him, trying not to smirk.

Sam could ask Dean the same question. He has on old, butter-soft jeans, cuffs stuffed into his work boots. He’s wearing a grey Joe’s Diner zip-hoodie Sam had gifted him with a smart-ass smile, zipped halfway up with no shirt, bare chest strong and broad underneath, and every time he shifts he almost gets a peek at Dean’s hard little nipples. And those dark, reaching lines of his tattoo are stark against the moon-pale hue of his brother's skin, and it's making him crazy, like Dean's teasing him somehow. His new leather jacket (brown and supple, a lot like the one he’d lost to Purgatory, which Sam found at a vintage shop in town) completes the look. Sam swears if he were a teenager, he’d be hard just looking at him. With half a joint hanging from his still-puffy mouth, he’s fucking indecent. How the hell is he supposed to keep his hands to himself?

Dean cocks an eyebrow, clearly wondering why Sam is just staring at him like a crazy person. Sam blushes, and that makes Dean flush, too, realizing he’s being checked out.

“I didn’t know I was gonna have to chase you all the way down here,” Sam responds finally, his voice a lot less confident than he was aiming for. Mostly, he just sounds scared that he had to chase his brother at all.

Dean doesn’t comment, just offers the joint to Sam. He takes a tiny hit to soothe his nerves, but he wants to be pretty much sober for this conversation. This is important. He knows whatever is about to be said will shape the rest of their lives.

“Are you sorry?” Sam asks quietly, long legs helping keep the swing in its soft sway. It gives him something else to concentrate on besides the cold and dread, both equally sharp.

“No,” Dean says quickly, but firmly. “No, Sammy. Of course not.”

“Then what is it?” Why did you leave the bed? You had to know I was going to panic. You left a note. Something is wrong. He thinks all these things, wishing he was brave enough to say them. He thinks maybe one day he will be.

Dean almost looks embarrassed, rubbing his palm against his thigh. “It was just… a little too fast for me, I think?” He sounds unsure. Dean never sounds unsure. He clears his throat, taking one last big hit off the joint, then tossing it into the river. Sam almost bitches at him for littering, but figures now isn’t the time. “I wanted it, though. You didn't force me. I know the way your mind works so don't think-- just, don't think that. I don't…” He looks so unsettled, like his magnetic north suddenly veered west.

Sam turns to his brother, already over the distance. He takes Dean’s freezing hand in both of his own, bowing his head over it, forehead against the backs of his fingers. “Please, talk to me. Please. You’re not the only one on completely new footing, here.”

“I know that, baby.” The endearment lights up Sam’s insides, and he starts pressing little kisses to Dean’s knuckles. So thankful for his beautiful, miracle brother. Dean’s fingers wriggle against Sam’s mouth, and there’s a thumb pressing into the dip of his bottom lip. “Sam,” he sighs. “I took this vow, right? To protect you in any circumstance. At any cost. I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes with that vow, done things you hated me for. No, don’t interrupt me, okay? Done things you couldn’t forgive at first, and things you can’t ever forget. But what I became-- what I’ve done, what I did. The shit I said, making you think I’d rather see you die than fail. I get it now, but back then I couldn’t believe you couldn't see how precious you are to me.”

“Me, too, Dean,” he whispers, kissing the thumb that’s just resting there. “You are to me, too.”

“How ‘m I supposed to protect you when doing this will open you up for me to hurt you really, really bad? I’m a fuck up, Sam. God knows why you want this from me, when anyone else out there could do a better job.” Dean removes his hand, using it to tip Sam’s chin up, to search his eyes. Dean is so beautiful, all lit up from the bright white moon, searching for truth. Absolution. Forgiveness.

Sam draws away, thinking about what his brother said. All understandable fears, but. “Dean, I want you to really hear me say this, okay?”

“Kay, Sammy,” Dean mumbles, like he’s afraid of whatever words are about to come out of Sam’s mouth. Maybe that’s why he’s staring at Sam’s lips.

“This ‘saving you from myself’ shit has got to stop. I don’t want anyone else.” He takes a deep breath, still gathering his thoughts. “How long have you felt... like this? About me?”

Dean doesn’t react to the question at first, still searching his eyes. Finally, he says, “I don’t know, Sammy. It’s always kinda been there, I think. I can’t pinpoint one moment when I realized it because it was something I never fuckin’ let myself think about, you know?” He clears his throat. “But, uh. A while. A real long time.”

Sam smiles, trying not to look manic with happiness. On the same page, as usual. Even if they’d never known it, all of the embarrassing thoughts they’d had about each other-- the ones they thought would make their brother turn away from them for good-- were not only okay, but reciprocated. Even if it hadn’t been the right time yet, they were never alone in it. I’m a freak, too, Dean had once said, so long ago. How well would that come to fit their lives? Together. Both of them, or neither.

He really should feel worse about the incest, too, he thinks. But it’s only a law they’re breaking, really. They’ve been doing that all their lives. Sam kinda figured God gave them the go ahead when He gave them the same Heaven, and then couldn’t have made it more clear He couldn’t care less what His murderous, greedy little creations did.

Who even knows what his dad would say. Sam thinks John kinda had a feeling, though he’ll never tell Dean that. The way he looked at them when they were snuggled together on the same bed, when he thought Sam was sleeping-- there was a deep, aching sadness there, like his boys were doomed and it was all his fault.

But his dad is long gone, and so are the rest of the people who knew them as the scary hunter brothers. They put in an anonymous tip through the hunter grapevine that the Winchesters had been inside, asleep at the bunker during the fire, burned inside with everything else. Those phones have been silent for almost five months. Plus, he can’t separate his feelings from loving Dean as his brother and loving him as a man, but he knows they’re both equal components in how he feels. There’s no parting from that, and Sam wouldn’t want to.

“We’ve done some really fucked up things to each other,” Sam continues finally. “There’s no doubt about that. We both had to move on from those things quickly, too-- no time to lick our wounds before the next world-ending threat. You never got to experience my forgiveness, or vice versa, because we were just around the corner from one of us making another shitty decision.” He runs his fingers up Dean’s bare chest, the soft skin chilled against his. “That’s never gonna happen again.” He locks eyes with his brother, and even though Dean’s are bloodshot, his gaze is fierce. All here. “I forgive you, Dean. For all of it. I want to move on, but we can’t do that if we’re using our mistakes as ball and chain.”

Sam takes another deep breath. “And I’m not leaving you, either. I know you have this deep-rooted fear of me taking off, looking for the whole 2.5 kids thing. I guess my actions haven’t been obvious enough, so-- I choose you, Dean. I choose you and this and our life here every morning I wake up. I want this more than anything. But this life here-- it would mean nothing to me without you. Nothing.” His teeth have started to chatter, chilly wind whipping off the water.

Dean studies his brother, jaw working. He takes Sam’s hands and puts them underneath his hoodie, not flinching at Sam’s freezing fingers against his warm belly. Sam touches the bare skin greedily, the implicit permission making him ache all of a sudden.

“I’m probably gonna fuck this all up,” Dean warns, speaking finally.

“You won’t hurt me like that, Dean. I know you won’t. And even if you do, there’s nothing in this world that would make me voluntarily leave you. Nothing.”

Dean looks taken-aback at the vehemence in Sam’s voice, the way he had squeezed Dean’s obliques tightly as he spoke. “I wanna do this slow,” he tells Sam, looking away. Almost like he’s embarrassed. “There’s a lot I’ve missed over this past decade, Sam. A lot about you. I can’t get that time back, but I can make sure you’ve got all of my attention from this point forward. Okay?”

Sam swallows, wondering how having all of Dean’s attention could ever be something he has to be warned about. It sounds like the best thing Sam can imagine, the little brother dancing around his cooler, older brother, dying for acknowledgment. He doesn’t know how he’s gonna handle having all that attention on him, but that’s okay. He’ll find someway to cope, he’s sure. And they’re taking it slow, just like Dean said.

“Kiss me?” Sam asks as his answer. He’s hoping taking it slow includes kissing. He’s lived like a monk for practically the last ten years, sex sporadic because it just has to mean something to him. He can’t get off otherwise, if his brain, heart and dick aren’t all into it. He can deal without the sex, that’s what he’s getting at, but he’s already crazy about the way Dean’s mouth tastes.

“Sammy,” Dean murmurs, his lips at Sam’s cheek. “‘M gonna get addicted to this. It’s too good, you--” His huff blows hot breath into Sam’s ear, making him shiver for a reason besides the cold. “We start this, this is it for me. You hear what I’m sayin’? I--I’ll be done for. I don’t think I’ll ever want anyone else. I won’t be able to leave you alone, and I won’t let you leave without a fight you might not win. You get me?”

Sam groans, again wondering why Dean says that like it could be a bad thing. Blindly, he noses across Dean’s face, wrapping his arms around Dean’s neck. “Kiss me,” he demands, absolutely certain this time that Dean wants to. It’s a delicious feeling, one he wants to keep for the rest of his life. Being confident and assured in Dean’s love and desire for him? Sign him up.

“Sam,” Dean breathes, wide-eyed, like he can’t believe this is happening to him. He seals their mouths together finally, and Sam sighs, melting into the heat and taste of this thing between them he’s already so fucking gone for. He gets at Dean’s mouth, rough in a way he wasn’t the last time. Last night, he was almost pliant, submitting to the way Dean had wanted it. That really, really did it for him-- but this does too, surging up into the kiss, using all of his weight because Dean can take it, only gasps for the way Sam pulls his head back and sweeps his tongue into his brother’s mouth, letting Dean suck on it, taste him, like it’s a privilege Sam is granting. Dean’s fists are balling into Sam’s jacket, not tugging closer, but holding on.

“Come back to bed,” Sam whispers against his brother’s mouth, breaking away to press little kisses against his bottom lip.

Dean groans, leaning his forehead against his brother’s. “Say that again.”

Sam presses a hard kiss to Dean’s lips, the rasping timbre authentic when he repeats, “Come back to bed.”

Dean sighs, smiling. "Coming, Sammy." Sam can tell he means it.

 

Chapter Text


Part 2 Header

--His crown lit up the way as we moved slowly
Past the wondering eyes of the ones that were left behind
Though far away, though far away, though far away
We're still the same, we're still the same, we're still the same.---

When Sam wakes up again, peaceful silence has fallen on their home like a thick blanket. There are no birds chirping, no trash truck rumbling down his street (they aren’t zoned for trash, but Ed is a friend of Dean’s, and he rides out here once a week with his big truck to collect their trash and recycling). There's a strange glow to the sunlight, and he takes a deep breath, trying to figure out what's different.

Sam glances down at Dean, warm and sound asleep, cheek mashed against Sam's bicep. There's a little puddle of drool on Sam's skin from Dean's mouth, and it hardly bothers him. In fact, he almost grabs his iPhone to take a blackmail picture. He never knows when he’ll need the leverage.

He throws the covers off instead, shuffling sleepily across the wooden floor. He braces himself on the ledge of the window, ripping the curtain back.

"Dean!" Dean snuffles, always hearing Sam’s voice, even in the deepest sleep. “Dean, get your ass up!”

“God dammit, Sam.” His brother's voice is gruff, rumbling up from the covers like a thunderclap.

Sam knows the stern, serious big brother tone very well. Instead of it dissuading him, however, Dean's almost-aggression awakens something under his skin. The low rumble of his brother's groan-yawn is a familiar comfort, and Sam takes a deep breath as he watches Dean's body slowly start to wake up, everything else forgotten for the moment. Before he registers moving, Sam's back in bed, nose pressed to Dean's shoulder blade. Dean's sweat-damp skin smells like home, smells like how much Sam loves him. Will always, always love him.

Dean's playful as he continues to pout, rubbing his grumpy, sleepy-sweet face into their pillows. “I swear to god, Sammy, I ain’t sleepin’ in here if you wake me up like a crazy person every morning. I'd rather hear my alarm than you screeching like a woman at the top of your goddamn lungs--"

Sam laughs (even knowing it'll just encourage Dean), throwing a leg over Dean's butt. He lands heavily against Dean's back, like he’s six years old and fifty pounds again, demanding Dean's attention. Dean makes an oof noise, groaning, then makes a few pathetic attempts at getting away. Sam doesn't appreciate that one bit.

Sam groans, "Dean, please," and it comes out way too honest for Sam's liking, considering he meant it to be a sharp warning to quit the damn squirming. He clears his throat, attempting to roll away so Dean can have some breathing room. That's when Sam begins to wonder if Dean can read his mind, because before Sam can put distance between them, Dean shifts under him, rolling onto his back. Sam shifts too, straddling Dean's sinew-thick, starkly-pale thighs. Dean's hands are warm and gentle, sliding all the way up Sam’s flanks, then down, grabbing at his waist. His thumbs press deep in the dip of Sam's hipbones, all without opening his eyes.

Sam leans forward, pressing kisses to Dean’s cheek before whispering in his ear, “Wake up, big brother."

Dean groans, shifting his hips under Sam’s ass. Sam ignores his brother’s morning wood, but it’s a strong temptation. His eyes blink open, this insane sea-foamy green, and they’re fixed directly on Sam. “You’re way too big to sit on my lap, Sam.”

“That’s not what you said last night,” Sam sing-songs, rocking his hips back and forth just to be a dick.

Dean growls, and before Sam knows it, he’s on his back with an aggravated big brother hovering over him. “Behave, Sammy.”

Sam shivers, and Dean looks down at him, groaning sleepily. “Fuck, you look good, little brother.” He presses his rough mouth against Sam’s, and Sam opens for it, wrapping his arms around Dean’s neck. His breath is sour with sleep, but Sam couldn’t care less, opening his mouth and all but begging for Dean’s tongue. That makes Dean pull back with a gasp, looking a little betrayed by his own body’s reaction. “Shit, you go to my head so fuckin’ fast. What’d you wake me up for, huh?”

Sam shakes his head, trying to get the blood to flow back North. “Go look,” he whispers, pressing one more kiss to Dean’s lips before he shoves him up and away.

Dean goes to the window, and the smile he shoots back at Sam says it all. “It’s snowing.”

“First snow of the year,” Sam agrees, trying not to feel like this is something significant. Their first snow in their new house, with their new lives. Sam has always loved snow-- not traveling in it so much, but what it means, how it washes everything anew with pure white.

“You’re lucky I gotta go to work later,” Dean gruffs, trying to hide a smile. He scratches at his stomach, taking it all in, then starts to sleepily shuffle back towards the bed. “Or your ass would be grass in the Great Snowball War.”

“Big talk,” Sam insists, kinda bummed he has to work, too. He’d love nothing more than to burrow back down into these covers for the rest of the morning, not just for the next hour or so. He’d love to take a leisurely shower, eat a hearty lunch, then play in the snow with his brother all afternoon.

Before, with their old job, the monsters didn’t care if they played hooky for a day if they wanted to have a snowball war. Somehow, he doesn’t think their bosses would appreciate it.

Divider 1

“What’re you and that doctor of yours gonna do for Thanksgiving?” Matty (Dean’s boss and the owner of Matty’s Motors) asks him a couple weeks later, about an hour before they close.

It’s a good question, Dean thinks. They haven’t celebrated any holidays since that terrible/wonderful Christmas before Dean’s Hell tour, and Dean hadn’t really given any thought to this holiday season, either. But Sam’s been leaving recipe websites open on his laptop since the first snowfall, one in particular proclaiming that it could teach him how to make America’s Juiciest Turkey. And once Sam gets something like this between his teeth, he doesn’t let it go. So. Resistance is futile, or, you know. Whatever.

Okay, so, it doesn’t bother Dean as much as he thinks it should. He’s kinda looking forward to doing the whole stupid holiday thing with his brother. Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about family, right? They’re supposed to be, anyway. Sam’s the only family he’s got, but also the only family he needs, so he doesn’t see anything wrong in celebrating that. Even if that means slaving in the kitchen all day, with Sam trying to be helpful, but ultimately getting thrown out and having to watch the Parade alone, sulking with a beer.

“I think we're just gonna do our own Thanksgiving,” Dean answers finally, twisting the wrench one more time before he declares the Volvo S60 road ready. He stands up, rubbing the wrench in a dirty rag. “I’m a pretty good cook. We, uh… Sammy and me, we gotta lot to be thankful for this year. He's been askin' me about it, and... it seems kinda wrong to just let it go by. You know what I mean?”

Matty claps him on the shoulder. “Absolutely. Been a good while now, you living here with Sam. I'd wager you two're happy. You look it. 'Bout time you celebrate it, son.”

The older man is gruff and grey, and he has a heart of goddamn gold. He reminds Dean of Bobby, too. Even though there's no chance of anyone replacing Bobby Singer in Dean's life (there is no person he misses more, not even his father), it's nice to be reminded of his surrogate father, to be given a chance to remember him fondly, even in this brand new life he's co-creating out of the ashes (the ones piled high under ten years worth of pyres).

He remembers pulling into the lot, desperate for a job, and Matty had come out of the shop, hooting and hollering.

“Bring that gorgeous girl up here,” Matty had shouted, waving Dean towards the bay. “I gotta take a look under her skirt. A ‘67 Impala, Jesus. I heard people talking about a couple guys pulling up in one, but I never imagined… Craig! Come take a look at this! Get that pussy-ass Camaro out of this man’s way!”

Obviously, Dean had liked him instantly. Dean said he’d let Matty look under the hood if he gave him a job. Matty asked if he did all the own maintenance on his car, and Dean had smirked. “Like I’d let anyone get a peek at her insides. Yeah, man. She was totaled about ten years ago, too-- built her back up from the ground myself.”

Dean got the job, and they spent the rest of the afternoon talking the Impala’s specs. A lot of people liked his car-- she was gorgeous, yeah, but Matty appreciated her.

“I was just gonna ask what you guys were bringing for Brown Friday.”

Dean blinks at his boss, totally lost. “Brown… Friday?”

Matty chuckles behind his beard. “Yeah, instead of Black Friday.” Dean stills looks confused. “Were you living in space before this? The day after Thanksgiving, all the stores have huge sales for Christmas stuff. Anyway, the store owners in town decided a few years back they would rather be on vacation still, so they came up with Brown Friday. Every resident of Misty Luna brings a chocolate dish to the square, and we all chat and eat desserts. It’s kinda awesome.”

That does sound awesome. But… “Brown Friday?” he asks again, smirking.

“Yeah,” Matty laughs. “I know. Just go with it, son.”

Dean can cook, yeah, but he’s never baked anything. Or made a dessert more complicated than ice cream sundaes. “Can’t we just come and eat?”

“Nah,” Matty grins. “Elizabeth is the hand-stamper. To get in, you have to go through her line and let her stamp your hand. No stamp, no dessert. And she’s ruthless. Kicks crying children out of the line, if she has to.”

Of course she does. “Dammit. Fine. What are you bringing?”

“Carol’s making brownies, I think. ‘S'what we bring every year.” He pats Dean on the shoulder again. “You’re a good man, Dean. I know we’re all kinda crazy here, but you and your, um… your Sam--” He grins at Dean, and Dean wonders if he should stop trying to insist they’re brothers. Eventually, he’s gonna want to kiss Sam around these people. “You guys have really made a home here. We’ve seen countless people move in, then move back out. If you don’t click with the town and the people, it’s not that special of a place. We don’t even have a Walmart.”

Dean laughs. “Yeah, you heathens.”

“You two fit,” Matty continues. “I hope you guys know this, can tell, but--you’ve got a home here, with all of us. Everyone from the smallest kid to the eldest adult, we all like you guys. A whole bunch.”

Dean grins, touched. “We’re glad to be here. Believe me, man. Misty Luna is like paradise for us, and the fact you guys don’t have a Walmart makes it even better.”

“That’s what I like to hear. All right, I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Done with the Volvo. Think I could pull Baby up, give her an oil change?”

Matty peers at him, obviously thinking hard. Dean’s changed the Impala’s oil a couple times here, so he doesn’t think that’s what’s giving Matty pause. “All right, Dean. Yeah, of course. But first, I was gonna wait ‘til Thanksgiving to tell ya, but I’m the boss. I can do whatever I want.”

“Damn straight,” Dean encourages, stomach fluttering. It sounds like a good thing, but even if he loses his job Sam’s salary would be enough to sustain them ‘til he found another, but he likes Matty’s Motors. He doesn’t have any other skills, really, and he doesn’t know what else he could do.

“I’d like to offer you the position of Garage Manager.”

Dean drops the wrench he’s carrying in his haste to shake Matty’s hand. “Are you kiddin’ me? I didn’t know that was a position.”

Matty laughs, giving Dean’s hand a couple firm shakes. “There wasn’t, but I ain’t gettin’ any younger. I need some help. You’d have your own office,” he nods towards an empty room. He can see a desk and computer in there. “And you’d be directing the flow of things out here. Being the face of customer service, too. Anyone’s unhappy, I want you dealing with them. You got a way about you. And all the guys follow your lead anyway, don’t think I haven’t noticed. And it’s a pay raise--instead of hourly, we’ll start you off at $50K a year. Plus benefits and a 401K I wrote up. I want you to stick around and work for me. I want you to be happy here. I don’t have any sons, and my daughter would rather die than inherit this business. You get what I’m sayin’, son?”

“Yessir,” Dean assures. “Yes. Thanks, I-- I won’t let you down.” He feels the smile on his face, but he doesn’t care how ridiculous he looks or how cheesily earnest he sounds.

“I know you won’t, Dean. So you accept?”

“Yes,” he says firmly. “Yes, sir. Thank you.”

They shake on it, and instead of changing his baby’s oil (she doesn’t need it, anyway, he'd been trying to kill time), he takes the rest of the afternoon off at Matty’s insistence.

As Dean drives off, he lets go of the reins, lets go of everything, as he lets his best girl carry him home.

Divider 2

Sam leans back against his desk, listening to one of his more talkative students give a well-thought out opinion on why Messenger of God is carved into a tiny rock otherwise full of Native American inscription. He likes to play these games with his class without their knowledge-- things he knows the answers to, the real answers, and things he would never, ever tell them.

Sam also knows this particular student gives such well-thought out responses because she’s trying to get in his (tailored suit) pants, or something. He’s turned down three different offers from her for some sort of extracurricular outing, and he has locked his office door when she’s implied she would be by during office hours. He hates that he does that, but she almost straddled him once. Luckily, he’s got quick reflexes and maiden-like tendencies when it comes to his personal space bubble.

Well, except for Dean. Their bubbles? They're more of a Venn diagram.

Sam wraps up his class, calling out page numbers to read for Thursday. They all groan, and he turns a wide smile on his class. He remembers being in the opposite position, bemoaning yet another piece of homework.

“Okay, look,” he says, as the class gathers their things. “There’s not gonna be a quiz on the reading material or anything, okay? So if you have harder things, you know. Manage your time wisely, but it won’t be the end of the world if you can’t get to it. But the reading is important, guys! I get a lot of exam questions from the text, because I love this textbook.” He’s about to geek on, but some of his… uh, less motivated students have already walked out, not caring beyond no homework.

“Anyway. Bottom line: make sure you read it before the test. It would be awesome if you could by Thursday, but you won’t be penalized.”

There's a round of shouted thanks from his class as they all start shuffling out of the double doors. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Lacey (his persistent admirer), and she looks like she's trying to hang back. Sighing, he looks up, knowing eye contact is inevitable, but then--

Dean is striding down the steps of the amphitheater-like classroom, a crinkly plastic wrap of bright colored flowers in his hand. When Dean catches his eye, he grins-- his face is bright red, though.

"Sammy," Dean greets him, his smile somehow both (a little) shy and (a lot) smug. But mostly just happy, and his grin is totally infectious.

“What are you doing here?” Sam asks, smiling his damn face off. He can’t help it, though. Dean’s never come to his work before, and he still has one more class to go before he can leave for the day. He’s got about thirty minutes to prepare for his course on death and dying, but he’s just standing there, watching his brother until Dean is three feet in front of him.

“I, uh. Got off work early, and I wanted to… bring you these. Because.” His ears are pink, and Sam wants to let him off the hook, because Dean doesn’t have to explain the gesture-- the gesture is enough. “Well. Something kinda cool happened today. I was wondering if maybe you wanted-- if uh, you know. You’re not embarrassed to be seen with me. You could recommend us a place to eat out here?”

Sam will not use the word date, and he’s glad Dean doesn’t either. But for all intents and purposes, that’s what Dean is getting at --a nice sit down meal at a good restaurant, to celebrate whatever happy news Dean received. And yeah. Hell yeah, Sam can do that.

Sam nods, holding his hand out for the flowers. Dean shoves them into Sam’s face instead.

Divider 1

Dean ends up hanging out in the back of the next classroom Sam teaches in, watching his little brother in his element. He doesn’t have words for the contentment that runs through him, warmer than bath water, than redemption. It doesn’t hurt that the (slightly smooshed) flowers lay on Sam’s desk all class period.

As Sam dismisses the class, a student calls out, “What’s with the flowers, Dr. Wesson?”

Sam flushes, but a smile creeps across his face. His eyes move to Dean, standing visibly in the back, waiting for Sam's class to pile out. Several students turn to see where he’s looking, and the student who asked initially whistles under her breath.

“Damn, Dr. W! Someone's gonna get luck-ay,” she laughs.

“Okay, okay, off you go,” Sam chuckles, shooing her away with their quizzes rolled up in his fist. He keeps looking up at Dean, blushing, ducking his head and stuffing things into his briefcase. He does this a couple more times before Dean travels down the steps to help him pack it in.

“I’m thinking Italian,” Sam says, picking up his crinkling bouquet. “There’s this awesome little place right off campus, and I--”

Dean doesn’t let him get much further than that. He leans forward, making his intent clear, before he settles a slow, lazy kiss against his brother’s lips. He’s just so damned irresistible like this, with his tailored suit and shiny hair, his eyes still glowing from the intellectual arguments he’d corralled during his last class. Dean has only had this, really, for a couple weeks, but he already knows he won’t be able to live without it: this, the feeling of Sam smiling against his mouth, and the pinkness of his cheeks when Dean backs away.

“Sorry,” Dean murmurs, then goes in for one more. Their lips break with a sound that makes Sam’s dimples dig into his cheeks, and Dean has to bite at his own mouth to stop it from connecting to Sam’s again. “I just, you’re just--”

“Don’t apologize,” Sam insists after a dazed pause, still staring at Dean's mouth. He clears his throat, nodding his head towards the exit. “Anyway, like I was saying. There’s an Italian place just off campus, and I’ve always wanted to try it, but never really had a reason.”

They shrug into their scarves and heavy winter coats as they walk, bumping shoulders and elbows. Sam's is a grey, thick wool pea-coat that goes down to his knees, the lining a bright red silk. Dean's is a fleece-lined black leather jacket with a fleece hood. The lining of his is also red, but plaid. They'd picked them out separately, but both had refused to go find another, so they'd sighed and resigned themselves to matching. Elizabeth had mocked them for a whole week over it.

“No co-eds to take on a little rendezvous? Sammy, I’m disappointed.” Dean picks up the conversation as he holds the door open for his brother, and they step through, their shoes hitting the ground in sync as they walk side-by-side.

“Dean,” Sam chides, trying to hide his smirk. Dean's name is all he says, though, like it’s a whole sentence, with a million different nuances. For them, it is.

“Italian sounds good,” he says, squeezing a hand around Sam’s small waist. He wants it to linger there, work his way under Sam’s shirts, feel the warm, soft golden skin there, make it his own again. He wants to map out every place Sam keeps hidden away from the world, so if someone were to see it, they’d know Sam belongs to someone, and more importantly, someone out there is lucky enough to belong to Sam.

“Dr. Wesson,” someone calls behind them, right before they hit the doors to freedom.

Sam turns, raising his eyebrows. A petite blonde woman in a red power suit is striding towards them, high heels clacking smartly against the linoleum. “Dr. Wilder, hi,” Sam greets, smiling.

“I wanted to ask if you were coming to the Christmas party,” she says once she’s in front of them. “Need a headcount so we know how many kegs to buy.”

Dean whistles under his breath, obviously impressed with this development. “He definitely is, and mark him down for a plus one.”

Dr. Wilder casts a bemused smile at him, eyes flittering between them.

“Dr. Wilder, this is my, uh. This is Dean,” Sam stumbles, putting a large hand on the small of Dean’s back.

“Is this your other half?” Dr. Wilder asks kindly, shaking Dean’s hand. Dean knows how she meant it-- is this your partner, or whatever, but he likes the way she phrased it better.

They are each other’s other half. They are not complete without the other, and Dean has always known that, but he’s still amazed that he was afraid of just how complete they could be.

“Better half,” Dean corrects, grinning up at Sam.

“We’ll be there,” Sam promises, shooting Dean a look and rolling his eyes.

They take their leave once more, then push out of the heavy double doors, into the grey dusk, lush and damp with freshly fallen snow.

“You can say partner,” Dean tells him as they navigate the half-empty parking lot. “It’s accurate in a lot of different ways.”

“Okay,” Sam says, that adorable, coy-pink blush staining his cheeks again.

Thirty minutes later, they’re settled into a table in the back of a dark restaurant, two draughts on the way. As Dean takes off his heavy coat and scarf, Sam shimmies out of his jacket and lays it across the back of his seat, then fidgets, trying to settle his long legs somewhere comfortable. Dean traps them between his own, and Sam smiles down at the table.

“You’re okay, right, Sammy?” Dean asks, leaning forward on his elbows to try and peek around the gold-brown curls covering his brother’s face.

“Yeah, I…” Dean watches as Sam snaps at the elastic around his wrist, drawing all the hair away from his face in a tiny little bun on top of his head. Dean hasn’t been able to see all of Sam’s face at once like this since they were children, and he’s struck, again, by how beautiful his brother is, the sharp angle of his cheekbones, the slanted eyes, the pretty pink mouth. He can’t even bring himself to make fun of the girly accessory Sam totes around. “I don’t think I can say how long I’ve wanted this, you know? It kinda feels like a dream.”

It’s Dean’s turn to flush at the dreamy, bright-eyed expression on his brother’s face. “I can’t get over you lookin’ at me like that. Have you always looked at me like that?”

“Not to your face,” Sam mumbles, then casts a bright smile at the server settling their drinks. Dean orders something starchy and Sam gets an antipasto salad, and the familiarity of it settles the voice in Dean’s head that’s telling him how weird it is to take his brother on a date.

“I don’t ever want you to hide from me,” Dean tells him, so fucking sorry that he’s an idiot and didn’t know about this, the depth of Sam’s love. “I wish you would have told me sooner.”

“You wouldn’t have been ready,” Sam argues, fiddling with his napkin. “I know by now there’s nothing that will make you turn away from me completely, but it was touch and go there for a long time. You had to be settled, as settled as we could be. Honestly, I don’t know if I was ready. I couldn’t… there was such a strong chance of us dying, every day, that I knew it would kill me to have it, then have it taken away like that. I’m okay with this, Dean. More than okay.”

Dean lets it go for now, so they move on to better topics. When Dean tells Sam about his promotion, Sam’s genuine happiness for him makes Dean that much more excited, and the tight squeeze Sam gives his hand settles him completely. It’s amazing to him, that it could have been like this all their lives: easy, like breathing, like dying, like coming back to life. He thanks whoever is listening that his brother is brave, has always been the braver of the two, has the heart of a lion.

When their food comes, the conversation quiets down, and Dean listens to the little happy noises Sam makes as he devours his salad. The pasta is good, but Dean isn’t really tasting it. Suddenly, he’s on autopilot, ready to get them home. He feels like a schmuck, but the candlelight on his brother’s golden skin is making him crazy, desperate to see all the places Sam’s modest, well-cut suit is hiding. The server comes by with their check, and Sam scoops it up with his long, elegant fingers before Dean can even move.

“Hey, let me do that,” Dean argues, leaning over the table to snatch it.

“Nope,” Sam says gleefully, sliding his debit card (DR SAMUEL WESSON printed on the front) out of his leather wallet. Plunking it decidedly onto the table, he asks Dean, teasing him a little, “You got cash? You can leave the tip, sugar daddy.”

“It’s the same damn checking account,” Dean insists, ignoring Sam's voice while trying to grab at his card.

“So what’s the issue?” Sam teases, holding the black folder away. “Let me do this, Dean. My whole life, you’ve done this, you know. Taking care of the little stuff, and I’ve let you, but we’re gonna be equal about this. I'm gonna take care of you, Dean. Whether you fight me on it or not. So, uh. I recommended the restaurant, so. I pay.”

Dean pauses, thinking. Then, “Takin’ it outta your ass later,” he promises with a grin, leaning in close. Sam’s cheeks color again.

Sam doesn’t disappoint, still a little pink when the server comes by for the check. “My plan all along,” he grins, locking those bright hazel-blue eyes onto Dean’s like a homing beacon.

They take their respective cars back out of the city towards home, and Dean drives with one eye in the rearview mirror the whole time, eyes on Sam’s headlights. Dean pulls into the red-clay driveway first, Baby’s shocks not happy about the potholes, and that’s project number seven thousand on Dean’s list. He’s distracted, though, watching Sam’s long, graceful body slide out of his compact.

Dean is only a man in the face of the love of his life, and even if Sam wasn't the most beautiful man on this planet and any other, he’d be completely stripped of his defenses by the hopeful, longing look in his brother’s eyes. Sam walks towards him, his lithe form sauntering, and Dean presses him up against his car.

“I’m gonna eat you alive,” he promises, then seals his mouth over his brother’s, Sam’s desperate groan vibrating his molars.

Twenty minutes later, Sam is ass-up in his bed, hands white-knuckled against the sheets as Dean traces his tongue along the flushed, pink hole pouting for Dean’s mouth. Sam is panting, his gorgeous cock heavy and pointed towards the sheets, dripping a line of clear fluid. His hips haven’t stopped rotating, like Dean’s mouth is too good, and it’s both too much and not enough.

“Can you come like this, little brother?” Dean murmurs against Sam’s ass cheek, sucking little bites against the gorgeous, pale skin just asking to be marked up.

Sam keens as Dean drives his tongue forward, breaching that gorgeous little opening that Dean intends on thoroughly getting acquainted with before any heavy-duty penetration. He sucks on a finger, getting it sopping wet, before pushing it in his brother’s hot, tight ass.

“Oh god,” Sam chokes, rubbing his face against the white sheets. “Oh, please, oh please…”

“Sound so pretty, beggin’ for me up there.” He scrapes his fingerprints along the inside, feeling blindly for the little spot that made Sam lose it last night. He reattaches his mouth to Sam’s flushed-red hole, sucking firmly, wriggling his finger in that tight space he made for himself.

“I, I’m--” Sam whines, his spine dipping into the most beautiful arch Dean’s ever seen.

Dean gets a hand into his slacks, fisting his own rock hard cock. He’s seconds away from blowing, completely torn apart by his brother’s unadulterated want for him. Dean is used to women wailing once he gets his fingers up inside, but the quiet brokenness in Sam’s voice has him soaked in so much pre-come, he doesn’t need to lube up his hand at all for a slick stroke.

Dean slides in a second finger, pulling firmly at his own cock, and Sam smacks his hands against the bed and comes, big dick twitching with nothing against it but air.

“That’s it,” Dean tells him, “touch that pretty cock of yours, wring it all out.”

Sam’s hand goes to where Dean directs, and Dean watches, two fingers still buried firmly in his brother’s ass as Sam tugs and twists, milking every drop. Dean comes himself, groaning into Sam’s hole, creaming his own jeans.

“Fuck,” Sam whines, collapsing onto his stomach, quads twitching with the aftershocks. “Fuck, that was good. C’mere, lemme…”

Dean grabs Sam’s ankle, motioning for him to flip to his back. Sam does, watching with wide, wet eyes as Dean crawls over him, his spent, sticky cock dragging against Sam’s thigh, stomach. Sam all but smirks at him, but there’s wonder there, too.

“You’ve unmanned me, little one,” Dean murmurs, dragging his blood-heavy lips up the strong, long line of Sam’s neck.

Dean has every intention of dragging their sticky-asses into the shower, but when he wakes the next morning with his dick glued to his pubes and Sam’s unbrushed-teeth brand of morning breath blowing hot in his face, he’s okay with not having the faculties to even lumber out of his bed.

Besides, he can’t think of a better start to his first day as garage manager. He drags a half-asleep, warm, clingy little brother out of his, their, uh, the bed and into a steaming hot shower. Dean stands behind Sam, who's finally coming online, face tipped up and back. His brother is a little too tall for the shower head, but Sam had told him once that he's pretty used to it. Apparently, being (overgrown) six-six is not nearly as awesome as it seems.

Dean trails a loofah (god, he's so fucking domesticated; he owns a loofah) down his brother's long, graceful back. He presses his palm to the scar at the base of Sam's spine, the wound that should have killed him. Hell, it did kill him, but Dean had refused to let that stand. It's hard to believe how long ago that was, nearly a decade. He digs his fingers into Sam's waist, and his warm, wet skin is a goddamn miracle. He moves on, soaping up Sam's flanks, watching him come alive another day right before his eyes and under his hands.

Divider 2

A couple weeks later, they’re perusing the alarmingly busy Mitch’s Market to get their last minute Thanksgiving supplies. The turkey’s been resting in the deep freeze in their garage for a few days, delivered to them special by Mr. Atkins, the farmer that specializes in free range poultry. Dean still smiles when he thinks about the outrage on Sam’s face when Dean had suggested buying a good ol’ Butterball from a grocery store.

Their cart is nearly full with fresh veggies, regular potatoes and sweet, cranberries (and the kind that comes in a can, because Dean loves that shit, doesn’t care what Sam says), cornbread for the stuffing, and the little yeast rolls they love so much. They compromised on store-bought pies: one pumpkin, one chocolate cream, and Dean is just about fed-up with making small talk with the little old ladies they've befriended who keep trying to cram recipe cards into his pockets.

He’s got this, okay? He’s been slaving away over recipe blogs, and he’s gonna make Sam the best damn Thanksgiving dinner he possibly can.

As they turn the corner to get to the register, finally, they run into Libby and her scummy boyfriend, Chasen. Dean feels Sam go stiff.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Dean says, kind of impressed with how he can still make an otherwise banal statement sound like a threat. He doesn’t hold Libby’s thing for Sam against her, because who could blame her. But her boyfriend, on the other hand, he wants to chase out of this lovely little town with a pitchfork.

“Uh, hi,” Libby bleats, looking anywhere but at Sam. “Dean, have you met Chasen yet?”

“Haven’t had the pleasure,” Dean grits through a smile that’s just this side of threatening. Sam agrees by the elbow Dean gets shot with in the gut.

Chasen holds out his hand to shake, and Dean takes pleasure in the way his fingers are trembling. “So this is the man, sorry, did I say man? The fucking moron who thought it’d be a good idea to give our girl here weed,” Dean says lowly, still smiling in that shark-like way.

“Dean,” another voice hisses, a female one that he recognizes. Only slightly chastised, he lets go of the kid’s hand to turn, bestowing a hug on Lizzy’s displeased body language.

“How about we get through this without a homicide,” she hisses in his ear before letting him go.

“You know he’s no good for her,” Dean argues, holding eye contact as he backs away.

“Well,” Lizzy quips as she adds rows and rows of candy onto the conveyor belt. “It seems to run in the family to fall for bad boys who are no good for us.” She’s smiling as she says it, though, and Dean knows Lizzy is all but over their little tryst. Still, it stings.

They wave goodbye after the cashier rings up the ladies’ purchases, and both Sam and Dean scowl at the way Chasen tucks a hand into Libby’s back pocket as they exit the store.

“I agree with you,” the cashier, old Ms. Jessup tuts as she begins to scan their items. “There ain’t a man in this world good enough for our Libby. Except,” she acquiesces, “Sam over here. Why, Libby carried a torch for him so bright, all of Misty Luna could see it. I guess it’s true what they say: all the good ones are either gay or married. In your case, both.”

Dean, who’s been watching the prices ring up carefully, splutters indignantly.

“Ms. Jessup,” Sam says, much more kindly, “Dean and I-- we aren’t…”

“Nonsense!” Ms. Jessup cuts in. “Why, the whole town knows. It’s high time you two stop playin’ us as fools and just admit it already. Two men move into our town with the same last name, sayin’ they need to get away from their old life, to work things out-- ha! What better place to rekindle a love than right here? We all know it, son. No need to hide from us, you get me?”

Sam, who’s beet red, seems to want to argue, but just shrugs helplessly in Dean’s direction. Dean, who’s heard this gossip through the grapevine even before he started shoving his hands down his brother’s pants regularly, never confirmed nor denied. Plus, he knows how unusual their situation is: two brothers in their thirties, still living together without any intent of moving on with their respective lives. So, because Dean will never be able to find words for all the ways Sam owns him, he's okay with them using the relationship label. They're not wrong, really.

“Guess the cat’s outta the bag, baby,” Dean says, wrapping his fingers through Sam’s. Sam’s hand tightens in his, in acceptance, in love and solidarity, and Dean wonders if Sam’s been wanting to share their last name in a different way. “No use in hiding it, huh? If they all know.”

“Guess not,” Sam murmurs, his smile small and a little shy, but so goddamn sweet it makes Dean flush. Casting a glance around, he notices they have quite the audience suddenly.

As they leave the market with their purchases, Dean doesn’t let go of Sam’s hand. He catches sight of Libby and Chasen in the parking lot, and Libby ducks away from the sight, the way Sam won’t stop smiling down at Dean, the way their fingers never stop moving in an attempt to get them closer. He hurts for her, he does, Sam’s friend who unknowingly stepped across a property line not clearly marked yet.

“Dean,” Sam starts haltingly after they climb into the car, “if-- if this is how we’re gonna play it, can, uh. Can we,” and he stops there, gnawing on that pretty bottom lip.

Dean gently pries it out from Sam’s teeth with his thumb, laying a kiss against the indent Sam’s teeth had made. “Spit it out, Sammy.”

“I, uh. Want rings. If we’re, you know. If they think we’re married, and, I just,” Sam’s face is beet red, but he’s firm, and it jolts Dean that he hadn’t even thought about it.

The (pretty large) part of Dean that likes to own, likes to control, the dark possessiveness he’s always felt about his little brother loves that idea immediately, but all he does is smile.

“I ain't wearin' white,” is what he tells his brother, and Sam gets it. He scoots across the bench seat, and Dean wraps an arm around those broad shoulders, and they drive back that way, Foreigner playing lowly on the radio (I wanna know what love is; I want you to show me...).

Divider 2

Elizabeth both loves and hates her job as the hand-stamper, because she gets a real sick joy out of kicking people out of the line, but all those delicious chocolatey snacks that waft passed her makes her want to follow. She imagines herself in a cartoon, floating in air as her nose leads the way towards the incredible smells.

“That’s store bought,” she says firmly to Caleb Crews, owner of the best (and only, but still best) Italian eatery in Misty Luna. “I can’t believe you’d try such trickery on me, Caleb.”

Caleb’s aging face looks pinched, and he keeps casting long glances towards the rows and rows of tables the townsfolk are mingling through, talking and laughing and insisting that they can’t eat one more bite, they just can’t, oh if they must.

“I’ll give ya a free meal next time you come in,” Caleb barters, rising on his tip toes hopefully, waggling his grey eyebrows.

“One for Libby too,” she argues.

“Elizabeth, I run a business, not a--”

“Next!” she calls pleasantly.

“All right, all right. Two free meals. Jesus, you’re getting meaner every year, I swear.”

“Love you too,” she smiles, stamping his hand so hard he hisses. “Now move it along. Dump that in the trash so people don’t see it and think I’m letting in purchased merchandise. You’ll ruin my reputation.”

Caleb grumbles as he moves along, and she shoots a smile at The Warrens and their young daughter as they present devil’s food cake. She’s seriously considering calling for her understudy when she feels a tugging on her sleeve.

“Hey mom,” Libby yawns, and Elizabeth notices chocolate on the side of her mouth. She wonders if she should let her suffer the embarrassment or be a good mom and tell her. She decides on both, licking at her thumb to smudge it off while Libby squirms.

“Ugh, how long has that been there?” Libby groans, wiping at her mouth with a scowl.

“Have I told you how adorable you look?” Elizabeth asks, stamping hand after hand, nodding hello to all the familiar faces.

“Only about a dozen times,” Libby answers, straightening her frock. She’s dressed as a pilgrim, like she is every year. It started when she was young just because Elizabeth thought it was adorable, but it’s nonsensically continued every year just because it’s tradition, just like every other thing about this town. One of the many reasons Misty Luna is the most special place on Earth.

“Oh, shit,” Libby says suddenly, ducking to hide behind her mom.

“What?” Elizabeth asks, looking around. “Don’t tell me Caleb put the plastic thing of brownies on the table.”

“What? No. I can’t believe you let him in, by the way,” Libby responds, still hiding.

“Explanation for hiding in three, two…”

“Wessons, 3 o’clock.”

Elizabeth’s heart only does a slight drop. They’re walking up to the line, tupperware in one of Dean’s hands, Sam’s hand firmly clasped in the other, and they’re smiling in this really lovesick way, but they won't look directly at each other. It's a little funny, and a lot cute, but mainly it just depresses her. It’s been a little over two months since the thing between herself and Dean stopped, and it’s taken her a lot longer to get over it than she expected. It was only sex, yeah, but it was friendship, too-- and that part hasn’t changed, but Dean doesn’t flirt with her anymore, not at all. It’s like he’s completely forgotten he’s seen her naked, and that’s not an easy feat. She looks amazing naked, if she does say so herself.

And Libby-- well. She hasn’t gotten over Sam at all. Before Sam learned of Libby’s crush, before the bold kiss because of the alcohol (she’d almost killed Chasen, and she’d almost let the Wessons kill Chasen for her), he was around often. He spent time with Libby at the town’s library, or in the town center (once, Libby had convinced Sam to sit in the gazebo, and she could almost feel how uncomfortable he was). Sometimes they went to Joe’s, and even a couple times, their home, when Libby was in town and staying over. Elizabeth blames herself for not putting a stop to it, because she knew, deep down, despite all of Libby’s protests of just-friendly-feelings, that her little girl was falling in love for the first time with a man who was completely unavailable to her. And not just because of his age-- because of his heart, and to whom it already belonged, the man Elizabeth herself had started giving a little piece of her own heart to.

She has to smile, even though it's a little bitter. The pair she and her daughter make-- always alike, always the same, even to their detriment, their downfall.

Anyway. Sam had never been anything but kind and respectful and emotionally distant from her daughter, so Elizabeth had let it go on, hoping Libby would pick up the signals that Sam was either oblivious or not interested or both (both, unfortunately both), but she hadn’t. And despite Libby having a boyfriend who goes to her school, who is the same age-- she would have picked Sam Wesson for her daughter over that little prick any day.

“I look like such an idiot,” Libby bemoans, fiddling with her white cap, tied under her chin with a bow.

“Understudy time,” Elizabeth tells her, and Libby grins, thankful. They both turn and bellow, “JOE!”

Five minutes later, Joe is handling the line, and she and Libby are fixing their hair and makeup in the diner’s bathroom.

“What’s the point of this?” Libby asks, as she flutters her eyelashes over the mascara wand. “It’s not going to make them want us any more than they already do-- I mean, don’t.” She frowns in the mirror, then rummages through her purse for her lipstick. She’d abandoned the white cap, whipping her hair up into a top knot.

“This is for us,” Elizabeth tells her, leaning back against the sink, watching her beautiful daughter get even more beautiful for a man who will never appreciate it. “This is how we cope. This is how we feel better about it. We make ourselves as beautiful as we can so they don’t see we’re hurting. It makes us feel better that they can see we’re still beautiful and happy after them.”

“At least there was a ‘during’ time with you and Dean,” Libby mumbles, painting her lips a deep purple. “All I got was one lousy kiss he didn’t even want, and I barely remember it.”

“I think it’s worse that I did have him for a little while,” Elizabeth tells her daughter. She’s never given Libby all the gory details-- she and her daughter may be best friends, but Libby is still a virgin, and there are some lines that have to be drawn. Especially since Dean had been insanely good in bed, like a tireless machine that seemed to know what she wanted before she did. Fast, hard, slow and tender, his mouth or just a finger, whether she wanted to be in charge or wanted him to make her take it-- he just knew, and he gave and gave of himself until she was exhausted, and then he’d sit with her the next morning during breakfast at Joe’s, make her laugh with stories about the guys down at Matty’s, or something he read on CNN.com. But most of the time, it was about his "brother."

The frequency of the stories about Sam was her first clue.

“It was still the best kiss of my life,” Libby says, breaking Liz's train of thought. Libby finally turns away from the mirror, and she starts fidgeting. “I think part of him wanted it, and that-- I think that’s why I can’t, that’s what is making it hard for me to let go. Because if he wanted it then, maybe he’ll want it again someday when I’m a little more grown up.”

“What was it like?” Elizabeth asks, smiling at her daughter, because she’s never gotten the full story without sobs behind it, and she knows Libby is dying to talk about it.

“I, uh,” Libby fiddles with her hair, pulling a strand down from the tight bun to make it look a little messier, and Elizabeth nods her approval, “I kind of lunged at him. I leaned across the gear shift and just-- just, you know.”

“Planted one on those pretty pink lips?” Elizabeth grins, waggling her brows.

”Yes,” Libby gasps. “He-- I know his mouth isn’t as full as Dean’s, but Sam’s got the pinkest lips. And I, he tasted so good. Like, like a man, you know? He grabbed my arms, and I had my hands against his chest, and he’s so firm, he feels like a man, Mom--”

“He is a man, honey,” Elizabeth reminds her.

“I know, but you know what I mean! Just-- god. He grabbed my arms really tight, and he pulled me closer for a few seconds but it felt like a lifetime, and his lips were so soft and pressed so hard against mine, and then,” Libby sighs, deflating, “then he pushed me away. I tried, I tried to kiss him again, but he said no. In this voice that really meant no, and I was mortified. I told him he should figure out what the whole thing with Dean was before they break anymore hearts. Which, which I know wasn’t fair because Sam was only ever a friend, never acted like anything else, and I tricked myself into thinking he was flirting but he was just being nice because that’s who he is.”

“That sounds like a great kiss,” is what Elizabeth says after a moment, “and you’re right, it probably wasn’t fair of you to say that, but it’s true that it’s not fair that Sam and Dean present themselves as single men when they’re clearly tied up in each other. I think they’re married, Lib. I really do. I think they moved here as a last ditch effort to work it out, or something, or maybe new scenery, and Dean was using me to make Sam jealous or make him wake up, because maybe it was Sam who wanted the separation-- I don’t know. But I know with my whole heart they aren’t brothers.”

“Definitely not brothers,” Libby sighs, rubbing her hands up and down her arms, like she’s cold. “Okay, I think it’s time to stop hiding in here.”

“We’re not hiding,” Elizabeth protests.

“Totally hiding.”

“Okay, you’re right. We are. Let’s go be women about this, huh? Strong and beautiful and tough as nails.”

“Sounds like a plan. Mom?”

“Yeah, babe,” Elizabeth answers, gathering up the spare makeup lying around.

“Hug first?”

“Always time for a hug,” she smiles, pulling her very best friend into her arms, squeezing her so tight she makes it obvious she doesn’t ever want to let go.

Divider 2

Sam idles on a bench in the center of town, watching Dean move from table to table. He fits in well with his winter coat and townie smile, and Sam can’t help but admire his brother.

Sam likes Dean like this, open and well-fed, in love with their life here. Sam likes it, too, but what he likes more is that he can’t remember the second line of the Latin exorcism he’s been saying from memory since he was in his early twenties.

They’re not just playing at being civilians anymore; they are civilians. Dean’s waist has expanded half an inch, even though he swears it’s from Sam keeping his jeans in the dryer too long. He’s nowhere near overweight-- he’s still strong and solid and broad and otherworldly beautiful, but he’s more human, too. He’s tucked-in polo shirts and thin brown leather belts and off-brand moisturizer on his bathroom sink.

“Who made the cookies?” asks a sweet voice behind him, and he turns to the smiling face of Ms. Lo. “Keep that up, and I’m afraid I won’t be seeing you two in my bakery much longer. They were delicious.”

Sam grins at her. “Dean,” he admits, his voice soft around his favorite word. “He’s the cook. You should’ve seen the spread he made for Thanksgiving. I didn’t know he had it in him.”

Lo moves to sit next to him on the chilly bench, so Sam scoots obligingly. He doesn’t get to see the people of his town as often as Dean does. Dean works two blocks down from here, eats lunch at a different restaurant every day. Sam brown bags it and has a tiring commute Monday through Friday.

“I’m happy to see you two settling in,” Lo comments after a comfortable silence, while they both sit, watching the happy passersby as they call out to each other, hugging and asking about plans for Christmas. “Two handsome men like you sure stuck out for a couple months.”

Sam chuckles. “We’re just tall, Ms. Lo.”

She pats at his hand. “You are that. Lotta people want to live in this little town, or one like it, you know? Charmed by our simple ways, but most can’t take it after a while. Most people prefer anonymity, and there’s not much of it here.”

Sam wonders on that, decides it’s true. “Dean and I used to hide for a living,” he says haltingly. “It’s really nice that we don’t have to anymore.”

As if on cue, Dean turns to find Sam in the crowd. Sam watches his brother look for him, his brow wrinkled as his gaze trips over person after person, nodding hello, but tense in the shoulders. He finally spots Sam, his whole body relaxing, and he shoots Sam such an adoring, open smile that Sam can’t help but duck his head to hide the lovesick grin cratering his dimples.

Lo pats his hand, and they sit in silence until the sun starts to set.

“You know,” she starts, squeezing his fingers before placing them in her lap, “I heard a bit of gossip about you the other day.”

Sam raises his eyebrows at her. He’s still not used to it, the way so many people want to know his business. He and Dean have been drifters all their lives, and sure, maybe a few lonely women thought their mysteriousness was sexy, or something, but most of the time, people were terrified of them. And however grateful they were, they were always glad to see Sam and Dean leave.

“That Wesson isn’t your family name, but your married name,” Lo finishes, eyes darting to Sam for his reaction.

It isn’t either, Sam thinks. But he knows what she’s getting at, so he just smiles at her, shrugging. “It’s both,” he says vaguely, winking at her, and she covers her mouth in a squeal.

“Oh, I just knew it,” she cries, fluttering her hands. “You should see the way he looks at you when you’re not looking. Like you’re the sexiest thing he’s ever seen.”

“Lo!” Sam gasps, flushing, but he laughs, too. It’s the first time anyone has ever said anything like that, and Sam thinks it might be the best thing he’s heard all week.

“You ready to go, Sammy?” Dean’s come up behind them, landing a heavy hand on his shoulder before trailing gloved-fingers into his hair. “Fuckin’ freezing out here. Hi, Lo.”

Lo flutters her fingers at Dean before leaning over to kiss Sam on the cheek. “You make him treat you right, young man.”

“What was that about?” Dean wonders, pulling at Sam’s arm until he stands. Dean shoves his hands under the back of Sam’s coat, seeking the warmth of his skin.

Sam smiles, wrapping his arms around his brother’s shoulders. He can’t believe this is his life. After so many years of fear, of uncertainty, of snapshot happiness-- he’s allowed to dwell in perfect moments like this, with his brother’s soft smile shining up at him, his leather-covered fingers drawing patterns against his lower back.

“Just staking my claim on you,” Sam answers, drawing Dean closer. “Publicly.”

“Hmmm,” Dean murmurs, settling his arms against Sam’s waist. “Don’t stop now.”

A couple hours later, they’re stumbling through the door, greedy hands attached to clothing, seeking the warm skin underneath. Dean slams the front door closed with Sam’s body, moving firmly into his brother’s bubble.

“Kiss me,” Sam groans, bunching his brother’s shirt at the small of his back. “C’mon.”

Dean fists Sam’s hair at the back of his neck, yanking to expose the long, sweaty column of soft, pale skin. He sets his teeth against it, feeling the rumble of Sam’s ascent against his lips.

They’re frantic in a way they haven’t been. Dean has found himself pulling back a little, afraid of Sam settling for this, for him. He hasn’t voiced it because he knows how badly Sam reacts when Dean implies he doesn’t know his own mind, but they are the most familiar thing in the world to each other, and he’s worried that the thrill is in the comfort for Sam. For him, the thrill is in the realization of lifelong feelings he’s repressed, being able to express those things, and the new things he learns about his brother every time he touches him.

The way people had looked at them tonight, their eyes lighting over them together, understanding the deep love that runs between them-- it had struck a match against the flint of Dean’s protective streak, made him feel possessive and hungry, like he wanted every single resident of Misty Luna to know he was taken by a man like Sam.

Dean’s never really been in love, not like this, and a lot of that was self-preservation. But Sam has always had him, every single piece of him, and he has nothing left to preserve from his wandering hands.

“Dean,” Sam chokes as Dean bites his way up Sam’s neck, setting his teeth against his jaw as their hips choke up against each other, rub in deep, hurting circles. They’re both so hard underneath their jeans, it’s making Dean’s eyes roll back.

Sam drops, suddenly, sliding his long body down the door, resting on his haunches. His long fingers fumble at Dean’s belt, and Dean sucks in a breath through his teeth as Sam trails the back of his hand over Dean’s cock, threatening to burst out of his confines.

“What are you doing,” he whispers, his voice shot.

Sam presses forward, unlooping Dean’s belt, popping the button to his fly, letting the denim fall to Dean’s knees. He rubs his damp lips over Dean’s cotton-covered dick, mouthing over the drooling head. It twitches in his briefs, like it’s stretching to get inside Sam’s mouth. They’ve never done this before.

“Sam,” he groans, bracing his hands against the door, looking down.

“Gotta,” Sam murmurs, fitting his hands over Dean’s hip bones, licking at the head of Dean’s cock, “gotta know what you taste like here. Been thinking, wondering since I was a kid. You smell so good.” Dean’s little brother buries his nose in the dark curls just above the waistband, then pulls it down to drop with Dean’s jeans.

Dean’s eyes roll back in his head as Sam licks out again, trailing a soft, wet tongue up the vein of his cock, which is almost purple, twitching like a heartbeat. He’s so hard, he feels dizzy with blood loss.

He takes himself in his own hand, rubbing up slowly, watching more clear fluid leak out. Sam leans forward, letting Dean trace his precome on Sam’s lips like lipstick.

“Open up, then,” Dean tells him.

Sam looks up at him through his bangs, through those long flirty lashes, and then his eyes close as Dean slides himself inside, one long, rough thrust until he’s snug in the back of Sam’s throat, feeling the contractions of Sam’s gag reflex.

Dean absolutely checks out, then. He’s gotten hundreds of blowjobs from all types of people, and as cliche as it sounds to him, nothing has ever felt like this. Sam’s smart tongue drawing shy but sure circles over the head, going long down the vein, getting spit everywhere until it’s leaking out of the corners of his red mouth. Dean gets a hand in those thick curls on Sam’s head, still braced against the door, petting his big little brother softly, a juxtaposition to the hard, demanding motion of his hips. Sam just closes his eyes, and lets himself be used.

Sam gets a hand down his own pants, the jingle of his belt making Dean’s eyes pop open to watch.

“Lemme see,” Dean demands, working his hips in little circles against the battered softness of his brother’s throat.

Sam’s dick is long, longer than his, but thinner, paler, the head a rosy pink like the color of his lips, nipples. He jerks it roughly, massaging it between his fingers as he moans around Dean, the vibrations making Dean’s toes curl in his boots.

“So pretty, Sam, God. So fuckin’ beautiful, little brother, look at you,” he babbles, letting his orgasm work up from the base of his spine. “Gonna, gonna come down that throat of yours. You ready? Ready for me, baby?”

Sam’s hand speeds up as he moans, and the suction takes on a frantic, hard edge that has Dean’s hips stuttering. His soft strokes in Sam’s hair turns into a fist, pushing his head back and forth, working his dick deep in Sam’s throat.

He bites off a yell when he comes, locking his knees so he doesn’t collapse. Sam takes it all, swallowing, groaning like it’s his last meal, one he’d chosen above all others.

Dean tries to withdraw, but Sam makes a hurting sound, continues to nurse on his oversensitive cock. There are tears in Dean’s eyes from it, but if Sam wants him in his mouth to get off, far be it from Dean to deny his brother anything.

Sam breaks off when he comes, gasping in air as his chin drops to his chest. His little brother comes like a pornstar, thick ropes almost to his chin, gushing out of his fist as he works himself. Dean drops to his knees, getting at Sam’s mouth, tasting the satisfaction there.

An hour later, they’re pressed up close on the swing down by the river, breathing hot steam into the cold air. Their heads are tipped back, gazing at the stars glittering in the clear night, their hands warmed with mugs of spiked cocoa.

“Haven’t done this in a while,” Dean says quietly, taking a sip of his drink, letting it settle warm in his gut. He scoots closer to his brother, letting the body heat he gives off warm him. “A long while, actually.”

Sam smiles, blinking down at him. He takes in a deep breath through his nose, letting it out in a little chuff. “After a while,” he says softly, “felt like we barely had time to breathe, let alone do anything fun, do anything for us. It was,” he swallows, and Dean watches his Adam’s apple bob, transfixed by the quiet beauty in his brother, “it was weird to, uh. To miss someone who you spent all day, every day with. But I did. I missed you all the time.”

Dean nods, scratching at the back of his neck. “After you, uh, got me back last year, we parked by the lake, remember?”

Sam scoffs. “Dean, that lasted for a day. You were going crazy just sitting there with me.” He shrugs, and Dean can hear a little hurt in his voice. “I coulda sat there for a week, but.”

Dean wonders if he’ll ever stop discovering ways he’s hurt his brother over the years. “Sam.”

Sam shakes his head, his hair flying. “No, I. I didn’t mean it like that.”

Dean puts a tentative hand on his brother’s thigh. “Yeah, you did. It wasn’t you, Sammy. I couldn’t stand to sit there with my thoughts, remembering all the horrible shit I did. The things I did to you, running out on you. It was… I was embarrassed, so mad at myself. Hated myself for it, for doing that to you.”

Sam turns to look at him finally, his eyes soft, reflecting the night. “It doesn’t matter anymore, Dean. I swear it doesn’t. Everything that happened over the past ten years led us right here, and I’m okay with that.”

Dean thinks on that, giving his brother a little smile. Sam grins back, resting his head on Dean’s shoulder with a heavy sigh. It makes Dean’s heart pound as he wraps an arm around him, this easy affection between them, the way Sam will give of himself, the way he trusts Dean to open up, let him be soft.

“I never,” Dean starts, swallowing around the sudden lump in his throat. “I never wanted me for you, Sam. I think that’s why I never let myself completely feel that way, even though it’s always been there. I never thought I’d be good enough to have you this way. To, to love you. To let you love me in a bigger way than you already did.”

Sam sighs, like he’s disappointed but not surprised. “I’ve always loved you this way. I’ve always wanted it to be me and you. Always wanted to settle down with you, if we lived long enough. I didn’t think we’d ever be this, didn’t think you’d ever look at me and want me, but I was okay with that. I was used to living with this, and it would’ve been worth it to just have you, you know. By my side.”

Dean presses a kiss into Sam’s hair, waiting for him to continue, watching Sam work his bottom lip as he thinks.

“We’ve never been able to be apart, Dean. We’ve never been able to handle each other having someone who might fill a role more important than ours. Lisa? Amelia? Even soulless me couldn’t stand it. I remember that, remember thinking in that logical way he had that you would never be able to maintain a relationship with her if I was in your life, and that made him so damn smug.”

Dean lets his hand wander into Sam’s hair, twirling the soft strands around his fingers as he tugs, and he presses his smile into Sam’s forehead at the noise his brother lets out.

“Sam, are you sure this is what you want?” He asks against his skin, his lips tickling against Sam’s hairline. “Are you sure? We can go back to, to just being brothers if. If that’s what you need, but I have to know now,” but even as he says it, it makes him feel sick, and he knows that even if Sam one day leaves him, leaves this, Dean will never stop being the sad old man in love with his spark of a little brother.

Sam leans up to press his mouth against Dean’s, soft but sure, firm, an answer. Dean gets lost in it, the heat of his brother’s mouth, the dampness of his tongue, how he tastes, right here, like how much Dean loves him, has always loved him.

“Okay,” Dean whispers against Sam’s mouth, sighing right into their kiss. “Okay. Then,” he slides off the bench suddenly, crouching in front of him.

When he opens his hand, there’s a white gold ring sitting on his palm.

Divider 2

On Dean’s lunch break a week or so later, he drives over to Lizzy’s place. She’d guilted him into an oil change and wanted to know why her Jeep was making a funny noise, so on the promise of two six-packs, he’d offered his services.

He searches for her key under the monkey plant holder, finding it covered in cobwebs. Cursing, he stamps on a couple beetles that run out of their hiding spot before setting the key in the lock to let himself in. The central heating is on, and it feels nice, so he wanders over to the fridge to grab a payment beer before he starts on the job.

His phone vibrates as he’s taking a leisurely sip, so he digs it out of his coveralls pocket. It’s Sam.

I think you should take the afternoon off.

Dean frowns, confused. He wonders if it’s jealousy, knowing Dean’s at his ex… whatever’s for the next couple hours. Sam’s classes are over for the semester, so he’s been underfoot. Dean’s both loved it and hated it, his little brother driving him nuts in the ways only little brothers can.

What for?

As Dean waits for the response, the door opens again. It startles Dean; no one is supposed to be home. He doesn’t have a gun-- rarely carries one on him, these days, but his pearl-handled Taurus is in the glove box of Sam’s car, which Dean had driven to work (it had gotten an oil change this morning). He grabs the nearly empty beer bottle by the neck, hoping he doesn’t have to bust any heads. The lack of violence in his life has been pretty nice.

Libby rounds the corner, a drugstore bag in her hands. She looks up, surprised, and Dean thinks, shit. Awkward.

“Hey,” he starts carefully, downing the rest of his beer. “Your mom asked me to take a look at the Jeep.”

“The Jeep’s outside,” Libby tells him, cocking a fine eyebrow.

“Uh, right. But the beer she owed me is in the fridge.” He waves the empty bottle. “I’ll just get out of your hair.”

He loops another two beers between his fingers before moving past where she’s standing, motionless, chewing on her lip. Dean’s practically begging whoever’s listening that this is the extent of the conversation he’ll have to have with his ex whatever’s daughter, and the recipient of a broken heart given by his brother-slash-lover.

Man, his life is weird.

“Uh. Um, Dean?” Libby asks, her voice very soft, shaking a little. He can hear her playing with the plastic bag nervously, and he curses to himself before putting on his kind face.

“Yeah,” he responds, putting a hand on the doorknob. He’s not trying to sound mean, or anything, but it’s definitely short. They don’t really know each other; he’s maybe said a total of ten words directly to her the entire time he’s lived here. Also, he banged her mom. That’s gotta be weird for her.

“Um,” she hedges, and she sounds so unsure that Dean sighs to himself, turning to face her. “Have you, uh,” she sends him a trembling sort of smile.

“Hey, what is it? Are you okay?” He moves to her slowly, patting her on the shoulder. He’s been around enough emotionally charged people in his lifetime to know when someone is about to have a freak out session, and he hopes to either a) stop it or b) get away quickly.

“I’m not sure,” she tells him, staring at his hand in a way that makes him withdraw it. “Can I ask you a question?”

He shrugs, uncomfortable, but why the hell not. “Sure, kid.”

She makes a little face, but mows on. “You’ve been with a lot of women, right? You just. It seems-- your body language, I don’t know.”

Oh, Jesus. “My fair share, sure.” More like over a hundred, probably, and he remembers maybe a tenth of their names. “Um, Libby. Your mom and I… We used a condom, okay? I didn’t give her a, you know, disease. Not that I have one to spread.”

She screws up her pretty little face. “What? Oh, god. No. I mean, good. But no. I was just-- have you,” she cuts off, plunging her hand into the plastic bag she’s been holding. She pulls out a little box, handing it to Dean with a blush.

First Response Pregnancy Test.

His eyes nearly bulge out of his head. “Uh, Libby. Don’t, don’t you think you should be with your mom? Like. She can help you way more than I can.”

Libby shakes her head. “She’s at work. I just. Have you, you know. Used one of these?”

He hasn’t, actually. He has no idea if any of the women he’s slept with (all with condoms, okay, but they’re not totally foolproof, and Dean used to be quite the fool) have ever had to pee on one of these, worrying themselves sick until the lines popped up. He has no idea if he’s got a kid out there, because if he did, the woman would have no way of contacting him.

The thought makes him frown a little.

“It’s pretty simple,” he tells her, handing it back. “You just pee on the stick and wait for the results, right?”

“Yeah,” she breathes, biting at her lip. Her normally neat hair is stuck up in a messy bun, and she has really dark circles under her eyes that stand out like bruises on her pale face. “Right. Sorry, I. I’ll let you get back to it.”

He nods as she whirls around, and ten seconds later he hears the bathroom door slam. He uncaps his second beer, taking a long, thirsty swallow. His phone vibrates against his hip, so he pulls it out to distract him from the strange guilt he feels leaving her all alone to her freak out.

Because, Sam has texted back. This.

There’s a picture below it, and Dean flushes so hard he nearly drops the phone. It’s taken between Sam’s legs, his long, spread legs. The fingers of one hand are holding his full balls and pretty cock up out of the way, while the other hand’s fingers (two of them, actually), are shiny with lube and stuffed up inside his stretched pink hole, up to the second knuckle. The real kicker, though, because apparently Dean is a huge sap, is Sam using his left middle and ring finger, and the pretty band Dean gave him shines brighter than anything else.

Dean just barely holds back a whimper.

Holy fuck. is all he can respond.

Fuck is right, Sam comes back with not thirty seconds later. What are we waiting for? So sick of waiting.

Dean has been waiting, it’s true. They’ve been sexually active, don’t get him wrong, but he’s held off on the actual sex for... reasons. It just hasn’t felt right yet, much to Sam’s frustration, but seeing that ring there settles Dean’s nerves. He’s never been the type of person to wait for love and commitment to have sex, but then again he’s never been able to. Maybe that’s the kind of man Dean actually is, one that doesn’t want to give all of himself until he knows all is reciprocated.

You drive a hard bargain. Literally. Very, completely hard.

See you soon.

Ah, Jesus Christ. Dean doesn’t want to leave Libby (he feels bad), and he promised Liz he’d get it done today because she’s driving to her parents’ place in New Hampshire tomorrow, but this is almost an emergency. There’s a gorgeous man in his bed demanding Dean get up inside him, and it suddenly seems extremely vital to be there.

Dean turns to leave, but the sex gods hate him because he picks up the faint sound of a crying woman. And he just. He can’t leave her all alone. He sighs as he stares at the picture Sam sent for a little longer, adjusting his hard on, then puts the phone away.

“Libby?” He calls quietly, knocking on the closed bathroom door. “Everything okay?”

“I’m wigging out, Dean,” she answers in a shaky voice a couple surprised seconds later. “I thought you left.”

“You’re one of my best friends’ pride and joy,” he reminds her. “That would be a total dick move. Have you taken it yet?”

“Yeah,” she calls back. “Gotta wait five minutes for the results.”

“That’s total bullshit.”

She laughs, but it sounds kind of choked. “Uh, yeah. Tell me about it.”

He leans against the door, willing to think about anything but Sam’s pretty pink asshole, and the way it tastes, feels under his fingers. “So what happened?”

“I had sex,” she answers solemnly, and Dean splutters.

“Jesus, I know that! I mean, did the condom break? You’re really responsible, Libby. Your mom is constantly saying how you’re the adult of the family. It just seems a little out of character, that’s all.”

Libby sighs deeply. “It was dark, and I didn’t check to make sure Chasen put one on. He swore he did, but he didn’t.”

“Are you fucking serious?” He almost shouts. “Look, I’m not the kind of guy to tell people what to do with their life, but fuck that guy! Well, no. Stop fucking that guy!”

Libby laughs again, sniffling. “I did. It’s over. It was the last straw in a very long line of straws.”

“Good,” he says emphatically. “You want a beer, kid?”

“I’m only nineteen,” she responds hesitantly.

“I won’t call the cops on you.”

She snorts. “Yeah. That sounds good, actually.”

He goes to the kitchen to grab one, and he almost drops the beer when he hears her scream.

The bathroom door rips open, and she throws herself in Dean’s arms, sobbing. She’s getting snot and eyeliner all over his work shirt, but it’s okay, because she’s whispering, “thank God, oh, thank God.”

He pats her awkwardly on the back until she composes herself, wiping her nose on the back of her hand in a completely unladylike move that endears her a lot to him. He hands her the beer with a smile, and she takes it gladly.

“It’s pretty fucked up,” she says after a good swallow, “that stress can make you miss your period, too. Obviously, stressing about whether you’re pregnant or not is going to happen, and the one thing besides a pregnancy test that could alleviate your worry is pushed back the more you worry about it! Fuck you, biology.” She takes another swig as Dean chuckles.

“Drink your celebration beer and be quiet.” His phone vibrates again, and he all but groans.

Where are you?!?

He sighs. “Lib, tell your mom I’ll be back tonight to fix her Jeep, okay? One of the, uh, guys at the shop had to, uh, go home sick. So. I gotta go… cover that.”

She eyes him. “Yeah, all right. Hey, if you talk to my mom, don’t--”

Dean pats her on the cheek gently. He guesses she’s not so bad after all, when she’s not competition, or whatever. “Your secret’s safe with me. Promise.”

She responds primly, “I strangely believe you,” and Dean scoffs.

Divider 1

Sam wakes up all at once, gasping as he sits up in bed. His heart is racing, and he listens for what woke him up, but there’s nothing but silence so loud, his ears are ringing. He’s disoriented-- it’s dark outside, the blinds still wide open like they were this afternoon, when he apparently fell asleep, waiting for Dean.

He blushes when he realizes he’s still naked, and he can feel the wetness of the lube between his cheeks when he moves for his boxer briefs. A quick glance at the bedside clock tells him it’s almost eight PM, and he frowns, wondering why Dean didn’t come wake him up.

He gets up off the bed, opening his bedroom door, ready to bitch Dean out for letting him nap so long, and for not waking him up to have the sex he was all but begging for.

The house is dark. Sam’s stomach does a little flip, because it’s strange to see the house this way, without the TV Dean leaves on all day and night, without something being cooked in the kitchen, without Dean talking to himself through whatever he’s doing. It feels cold and alien, and for the first time in the months they’ve been here, completely unlike Sam’s home.

Sam turns on a lamp in the living room, and it turns the place into something more familiar. The home they’ve made for themselves here is what Sam is most proud of himself for, more than anything else in his life. The friends they’ve made, the jobs they hold, and the love they’ve nurtured between themselves, something Sam stopped wishing for years ago, but never stopped wanting.

He turns back to his bedroom, flipping on his bedroom light to search for his phone. Maybe Dean got held up at Lizzy’s, or at work, and he had to go back to finish up Lizzy’s Jeep. His phone is lying on his bed, and as soon as he gets to it, it starts ringing.

“Dean, where are you?” Sam mumbles in the phone, scratching at his bleary eyes.

“Sam.” It’s not Dean, and his muzzy head can’t place the female voice for a minute. He pulls the phone away to look at the caller ID, and it’s Lizzy, of all people.

“Lizzy? What’s up?”

“Sam, where have you been? We. I. I’ve been trying to call you for hours, we all have.”

Sam’s heart starts to race, and he thumbs at the ring on his finger, a nervous gesture he's picked up since Dean put it there a couple weeks ago. “I fell asleep waiting on Dean to come home, and my, uh. My phone's on silent. Why? Where is he?”

“Sam. He, he was apparently heading back to your house to meet up with you. He was talking with Libby at our house, and she told me he got a text and raced out of there. He, uh, had your car.”

“Yeah, he was getting the oil changed. He left me the Impala.”

“Sam, someone ran a stop sign on him. He’s--”

“No,” Sam tells her, voice cracking in rage. “No, he’s not dead.”

“He’s not,” Lizzy concedes. “Sam, he’s hurt bad. You. You need to get here.”

“Is he asking for me?” Sam hopes, grabbing at the first pair of pants he sees.

Lizzy is quiet, then repeats, “You need to get here.”

Divider 2

Sam follows Liz’s texted directions to the waiting room once he arrives at the small hospital the next town over. He refuses to think that his brother might be lying cold, unresponsive in one of these beds, so unlike the way Dean is in their bed, how warm he is, how he refuses to admit that he’s a cuddler, the way the morning sun glints in his eyes when he first opens them, the love shining out when Sam is the first thing he sees at the start of his day.

When he steps into the waiting room, he almost steps back out again in surprise. Nearly every person they know is gathered around, huddled together, talking softly amongst themselves. They’re in dressed-down clothes, like they’d been lounging at home, ready for bed, but jumped straight into their cars the second they’d heard. He personally knows Lizzy and Libby, Joe, Dean’s boss, Matty, a couple of the guys Dean works with (although their names escape him right now), Ms. Lo with curlers in her hair, and Ed, the trash man. But there are others, too, people he recognizes from Misty Luna but doesn't really know, people who care about Dean. He fights down a strong surge of emotion.

Libby catches sight of Sam first, and she breaks away from her mom to rush toward him. She flings her arms around his middle, and he numbly catches her, patting her back.

“Sam, it’s all my fault,” she cries. “If I hadn’t distracted him with my problems, he’d-- he’d have been working, probably wouldn’t have gotten your texts, I don’t know. He was just being so nice, and I--”

“It’s not your fault,” he tells her firmly, holding onto her arms as he backs her away. “Dean is just like that, okay? I’m the one who called him away.”

“It’s not your fault either, Sam,” Liz responds, pulling her daughter away. They all have red rimmed eyes, and Sam’s completely taken aback by all these people.

He’s been in countless hospitals, waiting for bad news about his brother, but he’s always been alone. It’d made him endlessly bitter in his younger years, seeing droves of people waiting for someone to get out of a routine surgery, while his brother had no one but him waiting for word on whether he lived or died trying to save the world again.

“Has the doctor been by?” Sam asks Liz, moving farther into the room, nodding at the group that has formed in solidarity, in support for the man they’ve all fallen in love with, just a little bit.

“He wouldn’t talk to anyone who isn’t family,” Liz responds, frustration clear in her voice. It’s obvious that she’s been trying to find out something besides whether Dean’s alive or not. “I’ll get Joe to find a nurse. Joe?”

Five minutes later, a man with a white coat trails in after Joe, and Sam stands, setting down the weak coffee Ms. Lo had pressed in his hands.

“Family for Dean Wesson?” He asks, and Sam waves him over. “Relation?”

Sam almost says brother, but he catches the light off his ring, and he says firmly, for the first time, “Husband.” He hears a couple gasps from his friends behind them, their first confirmation that Sam is exactly who they’d thought all along.

The doctor nods. “I’m his doctor, Dr. Kaluda. Your husband was hit from the left side by a truck speeding through a stop sign. When the driver tried to stop, he hit a patch of black ice, causing a second impact, which made the car Mr. Wesson was in spin several times before hitting a streetlight head-on. He is currently in a coma with severe brain swelling, a punctured lung, and some internal bleeding because of it, but we were able to stop that. However, he’s responding to external stimuli, so that’s a good thing. He has three broken ribs, and his left ulna is fractured. Frankly, this should have been a lot worse. Your husband must have a guardian angel out there.”

Sam smiles blithely, thinking that he couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Any remaining angels will probably throw a party the day the Winchesters finally leave the world for good. “Can I see him?”

The doctor sizes him up quickly, sighing. “Yes. Though I must warn you, it isn’t pretty. He’s very cut up; the blast from the airbags pushed glass into his face.”

Sam scoffs internally. Like their lives have ever been pretty.

Dean is banged up, though. His brother’s beautiful face is cut up and swollen, and the breathing tube taped to his lips makes them pale, so unlike the deep red Sam likes best. His left arm is in a sling, hugged protectively to his side, like he’s guarding his busted ribs even in a coma. There are cuts and bruises all over his hands and arms, and Sam runs a gentle thumb over them just to feel that Dean’s skin is still warm, that he’s still here in some way.

Sam grabs a chair, pulling it roughly to Dean’s bedside. “God,” he chokes, taking Dean’s hand in his once more. “Dean, I’m sorry. If you’d been in the Impala, she would have protected you better. I guess you were right when you kept calling my car a plastic piece of crap.”

Tears start to well up in his eyes, but he refuses them. Dean would be so pissed at him for crying at his bedside, because there’s every reason to believe he’ll wake up. Sam has always had hope, always had faith, and it’s never been stronger than when centered in on his brother. He’s always believed in Dean, and he’s not going to stop now.

He gets as comfortable as he can, because they’re gonna have to bring the entire police force, the national guard and no less than three nuclear missiles to remove Sam from his seat. He’s gonna be there when, not if, when Dean opens his eyes.

“Please, Dean,” he murmurs, linking his left hand in brother’s right, so he can see the way his ring looks all wrapped up in their hands. “Just. Please wake up. It's-- it’s just like you to try and get out of a commitment, but. You. You promised me the rest of our lives, and you’re gonna keep that promise, so help me.”

Divider 1

Elizabeth walks into the hospital the next morning with a huge thermos of coffee from Joe, and a paper bag full of pastries Lo had shoved in her hands, saying worriedly, “hospital food is just the pits, Elizabeth, and no doubt that poor man hasn’t left his husband’s side.”

Husband, she thinks as she steps into the elevator, mashing the button for the third floor. God, Dean has a husband. She almost fell in love with someone’s husband. No wonder Sam’s always held her at arm’s length. No wonder he hid in his room whenever she was around, always left their house after hanging out with Libby when she came home. She tries to imagine being with a man, taking vows to forsake all others, then having to hear someone else boldly, loudly having sex with that man.

She chews on her fingernail as she steps out. That’s not exactly fair, she knows, because even though she doesn’t understand it, they certainly presented themselves as single men. As brothers, of all things, to explain away the same last name. Her heart had dropped last night to hear Sam’s soft voice say, “husband,” the way he’d said that one word with devotion so palpable, everyone in the room had felt his love.

She knocks on the doorjamb of Dean’s room, alerting Sam to her presence. His normally neat, shiny hair is unkempt and wild, dull as it hangs to his shoulders. His eyes are red-rimmed, from exhaustion or tears is anybody’s guess. He has Dean’s smaller hand in both of his, pressed up against his mouth, head bowed like he’s praying. The boys hadn't struck her as the praying sort, but maybe it's like they say, no atheists in the trenches.

She notices the band of white gold on his left ring finger, and wow. She’s definitely never seen that before, wonders if Dean has one, too-- but he must, if they’re wedding bands. She wonders if Sam slipped it on last night before coming to the hospital, tired of the charade, ready to show the entire town just who Dean is to him. In the face of this, it must seem so silly to uphold a lie they weren’t doing the best job at keeping up, anyway.

Sam looks up at her, giving her a bleary smile. “Liz. Hi.”

“Morning, Sam,” she murmurs, holding up the brown sack of pastries and hot thermos as offerings. “From Joe and Ms. Lo, with love.”

“Oh, god. Is that Joe’s coffee?” Sam nearly moans. “Thank God. This hospital crap is so weak; I’m pretty sure it’s actually decaf.”

Liz smiles, grabbing a styrofoam cup off a tray to pour Sam a scalding pick-me-up. “You look exhausted,” she says softly, settling into the chair on the other side of Dean’s bed. “How’s he doing?”

Sam swallows the coffee with a harsh gasp. “No change,” he reports, his eyes trailing over Dean’s puffy face. “He’s still responding to stimulus, though, so that’s good news. His reflexes work, and he flinched when the doctor poked him with a lance. He’s just… lost up there. Thanks for this,” he adds, lifting his cup.

They sit in silence for a moment, listening to the reassuring beep of Dean’s heart monitor. Elizabeth has about a million questions, and she wonders if it’s rude to take advantage of Sam’s vulnerability to quell her curiosity. She’s just never seen a love so strong, especially one that two people were so blind to for such a long time. Or at least one they tried to ignore.

“Sam,” she starts softly, tucking her hair behind her ears. “I know we aren’t the best of friends, but…”

Sam actually looks embarrassed. He ducks his head, his hair falling to obscure his striking face. “Liz, I’m sorry. I was… really rude to you.”

She holds up her hands. “God, don’t apologize. I’d be rude to some trollop who was sleeping with my husband, too.”

Sam’s mouth twists into almost a smile. “It’s a little bit more complicated than that.”

Elizabeth nods, sitting back in the uncomfortable chair. “I know small-town folk get a reputation for being gossips, but. Look, I really care about Dean, you know? He’s one of my closest friends. We meet for breakfast almost every day, and he’s… he’s a good man. One of the best.”

Sam smiles for that. “Yeah, he is.”’

“My point is, if you want to talk about him. You know. Need to talk about him, I’m all ears. Non-judgmental ears. I’d love to hear about anything you’d want to tell me about you two. I can’t lie, I’m really curious. You two are both incredibly obvious and annoyingly mysterious.”

Sam sighs, rubbing at Dean’s busted knuckles with his thumb. “What do you want to know?” He doesn’t look away from Dean’s face as he asks, and she wants to cry at the tenderness in that expression, the same tenderness she noticed the first time she ever met them.

“How did you two meet?” She pours herself a cup of coffee, then settles back into her chair, ready to listen.

Sam laughs through his nose, a puff of air. “When we were young. God, we were so young. He, uh. He saved my life.”

Elizabeth startles at this, nearly sloshing the hot brew on her lap, but she says nothing. God, no wonder. No wonder.

“My house caught on fire when I was just a baby,” he continues softly, pressing Dean’s hand against his forehead. “Dean was… a next door neighbor, but my dad always told me that Dean was attached to me from the moment my mom brought me home from the hospital. He was, uh, spending the night at our house, and the fire started in, um, my nursery. Instead of running out of the house, he ran to my nursery, and my dad put me in his arms and told him to take me outside as fast as he could. My mom died in that fire.”

“Sam, I’m--”

Sam shakes his head, rubbing his lips against Dean’s thumb. “It’s okay. I was just a baby. I don’t remember her at all. But ever since then, Dean’s taken it upon himself to be my guardian. He’s four years older than me, so ever since I can remember, I’ve been looking up to him, studying him. Trying to be exactly like him, because he was, he is everything good in this world to me. It was just innocent hero worship for, for years, you know? He taught me how to stand up for myself, how to treat a girl the right way, how to be a good man, although I don’t think he was really trying to do that. Like I said, I just. I wanted to be as good as him.

"But, I guess I was about fourteen when it changed for me. He was eighteen, and god, he was just… he was so goddamn beautiful, strong, with these delicate features. Always wore a leather jacket, and he drove that car around like James Dean--”

“The same car? The Impala?”

“Yeah,” Sam smiles. “That car is like a second home to us. It was Dean’s dad’s car; he passed it down to him, but it’s always been Dean’s. He’s totaled it a couple times, but you’d never guess. Anyway, yeah, I was fourteen or so when I started noticing him in a way that wasn’t so… brotherly,” he trips over the word, looking up at her like he’s said something wrong, but she nods, so he continues. “It stopped being hero worship so much, and it became… god, it was like obsession. He’s never said if he felt like that about me, but I was so young, so he’d probably feel terrible to admit that we weren’t exactly… normal. We were really affectionate, shared a bed every time we could, but it stopped being about comfort for me. I just wanted to be close to him, and I think he started figuring that out so he tried to put a stop to it, but he could never,” he smiles, remembering, and Elizabeth is so charmed by these memories, “he could never say no to me. Still can’t.”

“It’s pretty obvious you have him wrapped around your little finger,” she remarks, sharing his smile.

His grin widens, and he squeezes Dean’s hand. “He knows it, too. He calls it my puppy dog thing. Nothing happened, you know, I was still a really scrawny kid. But I shot up in my senior year, and I don’t know if it was just wishful thinking, but he started to look back. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I’d stayed, but I got accepted to Stanford, and…”

“You left him,” Elizabeth supplies, surprised, when Sam seems like he can’t say the words.

“Yeah. I. I didn’t mean for him to take it personally, because it was never about leaving him. I felt really… claustrophobic, I guess, and Stanford was such a huge opportunity for me. Years later, he asked me why I didn’t ask him to come, but it never occurred to me that he’d want to leave with me.”

Liz can’t help but shoot him a disbelieving look, and Sam wipes his free hand over his mouth. She tries not to notice the way his hands are shaking.

“Sorry, I. I haven’t thought about this stuff in so long. I was at Stanford for a few years, and I… I’d moved on, for the most part. He left me alone which made me think he was so angry at me for leaving he didn’t want anything to do with me anymore, so what else could I do? Then he showed up at my apartment at 2am, just like that. Just out of the blue, no phone call, and he asked me to come with him, because his dad-- who, you know, was like a dad to me, too,” he smiles to himself, shaking his head, “he was, uh, sick. Dying, I guess. I refused at first, because I had a job, I had this huge law school interview coming up, I had a girlfriend. But then I spent a couple days with him, and it all came back. I wasn’t really over him at all. It, it was kind of more powerful than ever, after missing him so much. I left with him, and I’ve never looked back.

"It’s been the two of us ever since. We’ve been, uh, partners for ten years. He’s. He’s my entire life, and for someone like me, who values self-identity so much, it sounds like a really pathetic thing to say. Like I’m giving up, or. Giving in, I don’t know. Sacrificing a piece of myself, but the truth is, everything I am is wrapped up in him. He’s all I’ve ever known since I was a baby. Except for those few years at school, he’s been there, just to the left of me. In arm’s reach, my line of vision. And I get mad at him, yeah, I get so angry at him I want to kill him, but there’s just. There’s no world I can live in without him. And there’s no world I would want to live in without him.” He finishes his speech softly, picking up Dean’s hand in both of his again, his gaze fixed on his husband’s (freaking husband's) face.

Liz finishes her coffee to hide the tears scalding the back of her throat. She didn’t think stories like that were real. She didn’t think people were actually touched with love like that, like a soulmate. It’s certainly never happened to her, and she’s never witnessed it in any of the relationships around her. Not to say her parents, or whoever, don’t love each other, but they don’t really need each other in the same way Sam and Dean do, like there’s only one smile that will make your lips turn up, only one voice that will make you turn your head. The stop and the start, the meaning within everything else.

She puts her cup down, studying Sam, this man, this quiet, incredible person she dismissed over and over again. Not purposely, but he was never as interesting to her as his brash, older, blatantly beautiful counterpart, and she’s ashamed of herself. She takes in his strong, clenched jaw, the sharp cheekbones with soft hair brushing across them as he bends forward to press his mouth against Dean’s palm, completely silent, like now that he’s done speaking, he’s checked out on her, forgotten she was there, completely unembarrassed by everything he’s just said.

She clears her throat, and he looks up, startled, and that confirms it. He centered that incredible, singular focus back onto Dean, and he completely forgot she was sitting there. It makes her smile.

“You know,” Sam says suddenly, a pretty little grin stretching across his face, and she’s taken aback by how beautiful his smile is, how it makes him look ten years younger and several burdens lighter. She doesn’t think she’s ever seen him smile like that, not directed at her, at least. It’s a powerful thing, and she suddenly understands why Dean is so completely owned by him. If it was her objective to make this man happy, to be on the receiving end of that smile every day, she thinks she might do anything to make him dimple up like that. “If anyone could understand why you fell for Dean, it would be me, Liz. I never really blamed you for that, for any of it.

"Dean and I… were taking time to work things out, get back on our feet after losing a couple of people we really loved, and Dean… wasn’t really Dean the past couple years. We weren’t close, weren’t together, really. We were together, like, logistically, but… Anyway. He pretty much set his sights on you the minute we got here, and he told me that. I didn’t tell him not to, you know? And you didn’t know. We didn’t tell anybody because we didn’t know if, if we’d ever get here again. If we’d get back to us, get back to communicating and laughing and being around each other out of want instead of… responsibility. Loyalty. But we did, and Dean… Liz, I’m sorry. But he’ll choose me every time, in every scenario, over and over again. That’s a lesson I had to learn, but now that I know it, I know that it’s always been that way, and it always will be. We will always choose each other, will always want to choose each other. And that’s not totally fair, maybe, to us or anyone else, but that’s the way it is, and I wouldn’t change it, and I don’t think he would either.”

“Jesus, Sam. Don’t apologize for being in love with your husband,” Liz grins, waving her hand. It helps to hear him say that, hear the finality of his voice, his words, the kind but firm look in his eyes. It helps to bury any remaining feeling of ‘what if’ so she can fully move on to someone else, someone she could actually have. “He was never mine. Not really.”

Sam gives her a sad smile. “No. He wasn’t. But, my point is, I… think there might be someone close to you who could be, if you gave them the chance. Someone who has an irrational hatred of Dean, someone incredibly protective of you, someone who would come to the hospital for a man they can’t stand because you asked.” Liz’s heart starts beating strange, skipping every few beats, and she gives Sam a confused look. “Someone who would make coffee for that man’s husband, who he probably doesn’t like because he doesn’t return the feelings of a girl he thinks of as his daughter just because you asked.”

“Joe?” Liz screeches. “Sam, you cannot be serious. He, Joe, he-- he’s my best friend. He’s, I don’t know, my confidante. My safe space.”

Sam drags his eyes over Dean. “I know exactly what you mean.”

Liz scoffs. “No. It’s not the same. There’s-- there’s no way. He-- for one thing, he’s way too good for a mess like me.”

Sam scratches at his chin, giving her a knowing smile. “You know, if I’ve learned anything about, about love, or whatever, it’s that no matter how big of a mess you perceive yourself to be-- whether it’s a fair assessment or not-- the person who’s always been around to weather your storms, who comes back for more…”

Liz buries her face in her hands, trying to hide the smile breaking out on her face. Before Sam and Dean moved to Misty Luna, people were always asking when they’d stop dancing around each other, but no one has really asked since. She thought the perception had gone away, but if Sam can see it, maybe. Maybe Joe still looks at her in the way everyone but her sees, and the thought is both comforting and terrifying.

She shakes her head, dropping her hands to Dean’s bed. She reaches across Dean’s still torso for Sam’s hand, and after a beat, Sam allows her to take it, to hold those long, graceful, piano fingers in hers.

“Sam,” she says gently, stroking at his palm with her thumb, because she feels this overwhelming rush of affection for him, this larger than life, beautiful, strong man sitting straight-backed and quiet at the love of his life’s hospital bed, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but. I do know that if there’s a way for Dean to get out of his head, he would do it. Will do it. For you, because of you.”

Sam squeezes her hand tight, and he cuts his eyes down to his lap to hide the flash of tears she saw well up. “I know,” he breathes. “Believe me. I know.”

Divider 2

Dean is sitting on a dock. It’s peaceful, and he likes it just fine, but there’s something missing. Something huge missing, but he’s not sure what. He’s not hungry, and he doesn’t have to pee, which strikes him as odd because he’s been sitting here for hours, maybe days. The sun hasn’t moved, the water hasn’t rippled, the temperature hasn’t changed. The same birds sing the same songs, the same fish nibble at his toes, where they’re dunked just under the blue shine of water, and he’s content, but there’s something he wants very badly just out of reach.

He rubs at his chest absently, trying to bat down the overwhelming ache there.

“Dean.”

Dean startles so bad he almost falls into the water. It’s been obvious to him that he’s alone here, and the quiet wasn’t so bad, but he had to tamper down the urge to scream, a name welling up on the back of his throat-- but he couldn’t find the name, not exactly, so he would sigh, quiet, and keep sitting.

He whips around, and he’s confronted with a tall man in a khaki trench coat with startling blue eyes. Dean looks at him for a long time, trying to figure out why he suddenly feels calm, feels like everything will be all right. He doesn’t know this man, he doesn’t think.

“Who are you?” he asks finally, watching suspiciously as the man walks up next to him. He sheds his own socks and shoes, sensible ones, Dean notices, rolling up his pants, sticking his own pale feet in the water next to Dean.

“Dean,” he repeats his name, cutting his shocking eyes across the water, then to Dean’s face. “You’ve been in a very bad accident, and you are in a coma. Sam needs you to wake up.”

At the name Sam, Dean gasps, doubles over. Behind his eyes, a reel of his life is playing in high speed, and in every high point, and in most of the lows is the man named Sam, laughing with him, crying for him, loving him. And he remembers so suddenly, so completely, it’s agony.

“Cas,” Dean bites out, taking hold of his friend’s forearm. “Is it really you? Or is this all in my head?”

“Both,” says Cas, gently. “I have been watching over you and your brother over the past six months, but it was one of my conditions when I was given a soul by God so I could reside in heaven, that I wasn’t allowed to find a way to contact you. But you are on a different plane right now, so I am technically not breaking the rules. I am in your coma dream.”

Dean looks over his friend’s face, still breathing past the pain of his whole life coming to him, away from that unsettling silence echoing in his mind. He only really now understands, accepts losing Cas, feels the shock of loss all over again. Cas was his best friend outside of Sam, despite the betrayals and idiocy on Castiel’s part.

He’s missed his friend, but he would lose Cas a thousand times over again to have what he has with Sam, now. The thought makes him feel guilty, but he thinks Cas probably knows that.

“It’s really good to see you, man,” Dean says finally, giving him a one-armed squeeze. “I never got to say thank you for. For saving my life. For taking the Mark away.” He hasn’t talked about the Mark, or what happened after in months. He and Sam had a few stilted, painful conversations, but it’s still not his style to talk about things until he feels better. No matter how happy he is right now, his past is a minefield of bad memories and tender spots, and it’s an unspoken thing between them to focus on the now, on the future.

“I was okay with it,” Cas tells him. “I was ready to rest. To be done. Admittedly, my long existence has never been wonderful, but I was only truly aware of it after meeting you and Sam. The past few years have been painful, to say the least. I messed up so many things by gaining a sense of entitlement. By loving you and your brother. I don’t regret it, but it was time for me to go on. I woke up in Heaven, and God Himself told me that He gave me a soul so I could rest in paradise. He said I deserved it. That I had served well. He gave me a piece of Heaven. I am… happy.”

“What’s your heaven like?” Dean wonders, his chest blooming in warmth, truly happy that God finally stepped up to the plate, made something right. Despite it all, Cas’s heart was always in the right place, and his friend deserved the rest of a warrior. To find peace at last.

“I am in the Bunker with you and Sam. We go on simple hunts. We watch Netflix, and we eat bad food. We talk to each other. We laugh a lot. I have my own room,” he adds, like it’s the best part.

Dean clears his throat around the emotion. This stupidly loyal angel, thinking that a quiet place with him and Sam is anyone’s idea of paradise is hard to wrap his mind around, but he’s overwhelmed with affection for him. Hearing that soothes any last bit of bitterness Dean felt towards him.

“I’m glad to hear that,” he says hoarsely, squeezing Cas’ shoulder. “Just wait ‘til I tell Sam.”

“Sam,” Cas repeats. “Yes. He is,” Cas closes his eyes, and Dean has this strange feeling of Cas suddenly not being present, but when he opens them again, he’s there. “Sam is sitting in your hospital room with the woman you fornicated with. They are quiet, holding hands. Sam is thinking of you. She is thinking of a man who makes weak coffee.”

“Where am I?” he asks, looking around, refusing to think about Cas knowing he ‘fornicated’ with Lizzy. That means Cas has to know about what he’s doing with Sam, and he’s not too sure what Heaven thinks of that. “Would I have just stayed here forever if you hadn’t come? I. I could feel something wrong, like something Sasquatch-sized was missing, but I didn’t know what. I barely knew my own name. I was just… content to sit here until something happened.”

“This is the place your soul goes while your body decides if it will pass on or not. Do you remember what happened?” Cas blinks at him.

“Kind of,” Dean grunts, thinking hard. “I remember driving Sam’s car back from, uh, that woman’s house. I was talking to her kid about something. Sam asked me to take the afternoon off, so I was trying to get home, and-- I remember being hit on the driver’s side. A lot of pain, tasting blood in my mouth. Feeling the car spin. Then nothing. I.” He falls quiet.

“Yes,” Cas continues when Dean doesn’t. “What is it?”

“Sam is getting a fucking Humvee when I get back,” he growls. “I knew that plastic piece of crap wasn’t safe enough for him! What if he had gotten hit, huh? He drives so much, it’s only a matter of time before he gets in a fender bender. Or worse!”

Cas smiles at him, like he’s completely unsurprised that Dean is in coma limbo, worrying about Sam’s safety. “Dean, I want to tell you that I am very happy for you. And for Sam. I’ve known all along the way he’s felt, and you, too, although much further buried. I had hoped that one day you two would figure it out. Get out of hunting, be happy with each other. I tried to communicate that with Sam before I… passed, but I exploded before the words would come. I didn’t think you two ever would get here. Too stubborn. Too concerned with each other’s happiness to see where the most of it lay. I am… proud of you both. If anyone deserves it, it is the Vessels.”

Dean gives him a look. “We haven’t been the Vessels in a long time, Cas.”

Cas stares at him, then shakes his head like he’s clearing it. “Of course. Right. I apologize. That is just how you have been referred to for millennia, and still, no matter how many times I tell them your names. Well, you know angels. The ones that have never met you just call you the Vessels.”

Dean starts at that. “You mean to tell me the angels are still talking about us?”

Cas shrugs. “There’s not much else to do. Dean, you never wondered why you haven’t heard from any hunters? Why a vigilante vampire never showed up at your door? I know you and Sam, after a lifetime of habit, still look over the papers sometimes, for hunts. God came back to Heaven, to give us order. Peace. And He sent a whole fleet of His best, most trusted, to look after the both of you. To make sure no harm would befall you, to make sure you weren’t lured back into the life out of guilt, or your sense of honor. He has seen it that you rest, and rest well.”

“You can’t tell me that God is okay with… with. With the way Sam and I are. You can’t honestly tell me that,” he argues, refusing to think about the rest until he can talk to Sam about it.

“Dean,” Cas smiles, “God is the one who made you soulmates in the first place.”

There doesn’t seem to be anything more to say after that. Dean deflates with relief, blowing out a huge breath. Not that he really worried about what God thought, but it’s nice to know that the Big Guy doesn’t have an issue with it-- in fact, kind of made them this way. It proves that they’re just a victim of design. Not sick, not messed up. Not crazy. He can feel the last bit of hesitation in him break free, and it leaves him feeling like he’s flying. If only Sam were here.

Plus, it’s a nice bonus to know he has the rest of his life, plus his afterlife to be with his brother. Because God willed it.

Maybe He isn’t so bad after all.

He rubs absently at his chest. “Cas, I. It’s real good to see you, to talk to you. I’m glad you found a way to get here because who knows how long I would’ve sat here otherwise. But I’m… I want.” Dean digs against his heart, where a sharp pain is thrumming.

“You miss him,” Cas says simply. “He misses you. It’s him you’re feeling in your chest. Your heart. His pain. What he’s feeling right now.”

“Creepy,” Dean mutters. “I’m ready to go back. Can I go back?”

Cas gives him a long look, then sighs. “If it were any other human being besides you or your brother, the answer would be no. You would have to wait for your body to decide whether it will live or die, whether your soul will go back or move on. Moving on wouldn’t be so bad, Dean. You would be waiting in peace, in paradise, for your brother to join you. You would have your memories in the meantime, your shared memories.”

For the first time, Dean feels a flash of panic. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? You think I want some Disneyland Hocus-Pocus CGI crap for the next fifty plus years instead of living them out with my brother? What the hell were my secret service angels doing while I was getting in a car accident, huh?”

Cas frowns at him. “I have upset you.”

“No shit, Cas! You say what I’m feeling is what Sam feels? Well, it feels a little bit like dying, right here. Like he’s sitting there wilting away, crying at my fucking bedside. Why aren’t your angels protecting him from that, either?”

“The angels are to keep the supernatural out of your life, Dean. You weren’t hit by a rogue demon. Just an irresponsible human.”

Dean pokes Cas in the chest, glaring down at him. “I want to go back. And then I want you to tell those angels that Sammy and I, whenever we go, are dying within the same three seconds, old and fat in our beds. That we’re not gonna suffer any time apart, you got me? Are you listening to me?” His heart is racing.

“Calm down, Dean. I will pass along your message,” Cas tells him, looking startled. “I apologize. I did not mean to make you upset. My point, that I completely got away from, was since you are you, you tend to get what you want, even if it's outside the realm of normal possibilities. Sam cannot see, but there is an angel in the room with him now.”

“He better keep his fuckin’ hands to himself!”

She is there to heal you. Sam will be put into a light sleep so she can work uninterrupted. You were badly hurt, Dean. I don’t want to make this into something light. The doctors were upbeat for Sam’s sake, but your brain is swollen. You had internal bleeding. One of your three broken ribs punctured your right lung. It will take her a while.”

“Cas, if she hurts him, I swear to god--”

“Do you trust me, Dean?” Cas asks, putting a cool hand on Dean’s shoulder. His ancient blue eyes stare, unblinking. “Despite everything that happened, I have only ever wanted the best for you and your brother.”

“Yeah,” Dean sighs. “This one last time, Cas, yeah. I’ll trust you.”

“The angels God assigned you talk to me about you all the time. They ask questions of your journey, how you came to be. They marvel over you, your choices, your bravery. Over your creation, the Vessels, the soulmates that defeated our brother, Lucifer. There are some angels still in awe over what God has made, and they see you and Sam as worthy of their dedication. They would never harm him, nor you. I would know. I am the one who helped God appoint them.”

Dean smiles for that. “Will I remember this, Cas? Can I remember this? Sam will want to hear this.”

“If that is what you want,” Cas concedes. “In the meantime, Dean, rest. When you wake back up, you will be home.”

Dean’s throat tightens, and he clings to Cas’s coat. “Will we ever see you again?”

Cas smiles sadly. “Not in this lifetime, Dean. But, perhaps I will be granted permission to come visit you in your Heaven someday. If you would like.”

“Cas, you. You always have a home with us, you know?” Dean starts feeling a little fuzzy around the edges, and the startling color of the scenery around him starts to dull. “Thank you,” he mumbles. “For everything.”

“Thank you, Dean Winchester. For teaching me. And for being my friend.” Cas lifts his hand, and Dean watches it as it comes toward his forehead.

He closes his eyes, and at the cool touch, he sleeps.

Divider 1

Sam wakes up slowly, his neck protesting the movement. He’s fallen asleep with Dean’s hand all tangled in his arms, his forehead pressed against them. This is the third night in a row he’s slept like this, and although it’s definitely not the first time he’s pulled several overnighters in a hospital because of his brother, it’s the first time he’s felt his impending old age.

Groaning, he sits up, intending to rub the crick out of his neck. When he goes to pull his hands away, something offers resistance.

His heart goes to his throat, and he snaps his eyes to his brother’s face. Dean’s eyes are open, and he’s smiling gently at him. “Where do you think you’re going?” he croaks, his voice like sandpaper from days of silence.

“Dean,” Sam sobs, the crick in his neck forgotten. He grabs at the first thing on his brother he can, squeezing his uninjured arm. “Oh, god. Let me call the nurse.”

“Wait,” Dean says, putting his hand over Sam’s forearm. “C’mere, Sammy.” He pats the tiny space in the bed next to him.

Sam shakes his head, unable to stop touching every inch of Dean’s exposed skin. He feels crazed with it, and it hasn’t completely hit him that Dean’s awake. That he’s okay. It’s pitch black in Dean’s room, since it’s in the dead of night. It’s just them, no hustle and bustle of nurses or the townsfolk of Misty Luna taking shifts to sit with Sam, to make sure he didn’t go crazy sitting all alone with his thoughts and over-the-rainbow brother.

“I’m way too big,” he protests, watching Dean move the many cords and lines away from the spot he wants Sam to lay down in. “No, Dean, stop. You shouldn’t be awake this soon. Your injuries…”

Dean clears the spot, scooting over to the other end like he doesn’t hear a word Sam is saying. “Lay down, little brother. I wanna get my hands on you.”

Sam mashes his face in his hands as his chest starts heaving. It doesn’t seem real, and he doesn’t understand how Dean is awake, talking to him like they’re looking at each other from across the bed they share at home, like everything is normal, like all that Dean wants in the world is Sam close enough to touch, to smell, to hold.

“Sammy,” Dean murmurs, and that does it. Sam takes in a huge gasp of air, and when he lets it out, he’s sobbing. “No, Sammy, c’mon, c’mere. C’mon, baby, I’m okay, I’m all right. Come let me touch you, come here…”

Somehow, Sam arranges six and a half feet of limbs into the tiny bed, avoiding all the instruments hooked up to things beeping. He buries his face into Dean’s warm chest, heedless of his broken ribs, but Dean doesn’t flinch, just pulls him closer until there isn’t any space between them, until they’re touching from shoulder to groin.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Sam repeats in a watery voice, wiping his nose against Dean’s shoulder. His hands wander into the open back of Dean’s hospital gown, pressing against his strong back, rubbing along his spine, feeling every inch of skin he can, so grateful for this, for Dean’s life.

“It was Cas,” Dean whispers into Sam’s hair, using the hand not wrapped up in a sling to comb the strands out of Sam’s eyes.

Sam listens in awe as Dean tells him of the place his soul was laid in waiting, how Cas found him there. He can’t help but smile at the description of Cas’s heaven, but he doesn’t like the idea of their guardian angels at all, especially the one putting Sam to sleep to heal the worst of Dean’s injuries (even though he’s thankful).

“So, what,” he murmurs, thumbing at the sharp cut of Dean’s hipbone under his gown, “Misty Luna is in a supernatural-free bubble? Did we inadvertently make it the safest town in the world?”

“Seems that way,” Dean remarks, closing his eyes, like Sam’s touch is too good, and he has to just let himself feel it. “Missed you, Sam.”

Sam’s hand finds Dean’s face, tipping his chin up. “Don’t ever do that again, Dean. I can’t do this without you. I won’t do it without you.”

“Less talking, more kissing,” Dean demands, but his eyes are glassy with emotion, and there’s a soft, beautiful smile on the lips Sam was afraid would never move again.

So he cups Dean’s scruffy cheek, ignoring the morning breath they both have, and he kisses his brother with every ounce of gratitude, fear, and love he can find.

Divider 2

Dean is released from the hospital two days before Christmas. Sam drives them home in the Impala, going ten under the speed limit the entire way. It's snowing heavily, much the same conditions that aided in Dean's accident. Even still, cars fly around them, honking, waving their middle fingers, but Sam refuses to go any faster.

“So much for the Christmas spirit,” he mutters, reaching over the bench seat for Dean’s thigh.

The doctors had been flabbergasted by Dean’s recovery. Seemingly overnight, his broken ribs healed to the point of only bruising, the puncture in his lung closed up, and the cerebral edema was just plain gone, like it had never existed. The angel left Dean’s ulna fractured, but that, aside from the nasty bruising down Dean’s left side from impact, was the only visible reminder of Dean’s near death experience.

“Speaking of Christmas,” Dean says after a moment, shooting Sam a guilty look. “Sammy, I’d… I’d really wanted to do it the right way this year. You know? Our first Christmas in the new place, in our new life. The tree, the lights, too much eggnog and a giant ham— I’d been planning it for a while. I’m sorry I couldn’t give that to you.”

Changing lanes for the exit to Misty Luna, Sam shoots an incredulous look at his brother. “Dean, are you kidding me? You were laid up in the hospital after a car accident that probably should have taken your life, and you’re apologizing for the lack of a stupid Christmas tree? We’ve lived without one for thirty years. I think we can go one more year. I, uh. Not to sound, you know, like a girl, but… you safe, you alive, this life we have— it’s the best gift you could ever give me.” He flushes, like he can’t believe he just said that.

“Awww, Sammy,” Dean crows, “I love you, too, princess.”

As Dean turns away to look out the window, he notices Sam's stiffening posture. He turns to look at Sam, frowning. “What's the matter, Sammy?”

Sam shakes his head, hair flying. He ducks a little, trying to hide the obvious blush on those lovely cheeks. Dean wants to touch every inch of him.

“You, uh. That’s just. That’s the first time you’ve said that, is all.”

Dean frowns harder. “Said what?”

Sam sighs, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. “That, uh. Thatyouloveme,” he mumbles quickly.

Dean stares at his brother, a little shocked. There’s no way— he really hasn’t? It feels like he’s been telling Sam his entire life, showing him in everything he does, every move he makes that Sam is the love of his life, but he knows Sam's right. It makes shame and guilt coil up in his gut like curdled milk. Sam is the type of person who needs words like that, and he would know if he’d never heard them from Dean. Just one more reason (on a very long list of reasons) Dean'll never deserve him. But Dean is selfish, and he needs him more than anything, more than Sam will ever know. So all he can do is be the best man he can be, try to earn Sam's love every single day.

“Ever?” Dean croaks, feeling deeply ashamed of himself. “Like. Like, ever?

“Not to me,” Sam mumbles, his face so red he looks feverish. “It doesn’t matter, Dean. I know you do. And it didn’t really matter before, in our old life. You showed me you did, and that's all that really mattered to me. It’s just… now, you know, with. With this,” he raises his left hand, flashing his ring, “and me kind of, uh, telling the whole town that you’re my husband—“

What?” Dean didn't know he could hit such a high note. But he’s smiling, because he's a selfish, possessive bastard, always has been when it comes to Sam. He needs everyone to know that Sam is his, will be his 'til the day Dean ceases to exist.

The word brother has always meant everything to Dean, and he’s used the excuse ‘he’s my brother’ to explain away a lot of actions he’s taken over the years in regards to Sam— selling his soul, refusing to give up on him— but it doesn’t mean the same thing to other people. Plus, ‘husband’ has a blanket possessiveness to it that immediately says that they are the most important people in each other’s lives, that they will forsake all others for each other. Dean never thought he’d be the kind of man who’d proudly bear the title of ‘husband,’ no matter his not-so-secret dream of settling down one day, but it makes his chest inflate with pride, makes his heart pound so hard he swears Sam can see it trying to burst out of his chest.

“We can make it official,” Sam tells him, turning down the long, bumpy road that leads to their home. Dean’s missed their place, can’t wait to get back to it. Plus, he and Sam have a little something they need to do, something he was rushing home to have when his accident occurred. It doesn’t matter that he’s injured, they’ll find a— wait. What did Sam just say?

“Official?” Dean echoes.

“I forged a marriage license for us,” Sam admits, grinning at Dean. “All you have to do is sign your name, and I'll get it, like... framed. We can put it on the mantel.”

Dean snorts. "We can put it next to the beer tower." Sam rolls his eyes, pulling into their long driveway. Dean winces at every hit his baby's shocks take, about to gripe at Sam to go easy, but. "Uh, doesn't everyone already think we’re married?”

“Yeah, uh. I thought about that, too. We can tell them it's a re-commitment ceremony. People have those, don’t they?”

Dean mulls this over, chewing on his bottom lip, hugging his broken arm tighter to his chest. Honestly, he never considered making it a public affair, or official. A ring on Sam’s finger and other people knowing it was enough for him, but. It sounds like Sam’s put a lot of thought into it, and if the hopeful way Sam’s glancing at him out of the corner of his eye is any indication, he wants it really, really badly.

“Well, hell, Sammy-baby. Wanna make an honest woman of me?”

“I love you, Dean,” Sam says, suddenly serious. He squeezes Dean’s thigh so tight, Dean won’t be surprised if there are five fingerprint bruises there. “Besides, you’d look real pretty in a white dress.”

“Sam!” Dean splutters. "I said no white!"

Sam is definitely laughing at him, not with him, but Dean takes it in stride. He would willingly be the butt of every single joke if it was a surefire way of getting Sam to laugh like that, like he's twenty-two and full of unchallenged hope. Sam doesn't need to know that, though. He's already too aware of how happily whipped Dean is for him, how completely and singularly devoted. He doesn't need anymore ammo.

Sam smiles over at him as he parks her smoothly, biting the tip of his tongue to keep another laugh from spilling out. Dean would say Sam probably knows that, anyway. And he's more than okay with that.

Divider 1

Sam’s hands shake as he fumbles with the key to their home. He hasn’t been here in a week, choosing to use a motel close to the hospital to shower and sleep for a few hours. Call him crazy, but he refused to come back to this house without his brother. If the unthinkable had happened, he would have left it all behind, taken the Impala (with Dean's pearl-handled gun in the glove box) and…

He doesn’t want to think on that, because that didn’t happen. Dean is right here, leaning up against his back, pressing kisses against his shoulders, looping the arm not immobilized with plaster and a sling around Sam’s waist to press closer, the hot line of him against Sam’s ass.

“You’re being very distracting,” Sam mumbles around a grin. The pain medication Dean is on makes him horny, always has— but before, Sam had to watch him go look for a girl to scratch the itch, dying a little inside as he waved Dean off, smiling through clenched teeth. Or, he'd sometimes take Dean back to the motel after striking out, and he'd guiltily listen to his brother touch himself through the thin wall of the adjoining bathroom.

You’re the distracting one, baby brother,” Dean nearly purrs, his heavy hand wiggling down the front of Sam’s yoga pants, the ones he’d snatched a couple years ago from Canyon Valley Spa during his time as a yoga instructor, and that crazy case with the monster Dean calls 'Fish Tacos.' “Very, very distracting.”

The key finally releases the lock, and they nearly fall through the front door. They both stop, looking around, jaws nearly to the ground.

The first thing Sam notices is the heater pumping warm air throughout their drafty old house; he was expecting cold toes against bare calves for at least an hour while the place warmed up after a week of disuse.

But the most astonishing thing is the way it looks like the North Pole threw up in their living room. There’s a huge tree, at least ten feet tall, and it’s real, if the pine needles on the floor and strong smell are any indication. It’s decorated beautifully, like it’s out of a home magazine, with white lights and gold ornaments, and a shining bright star glittering from the top. ("We should totally find an angel tree-topper that looks like Cas," Sam suggests, grinning. Dean smiles at his brother, "Yeah, I think he'd really get a kick outta that.") Their gas fireplace is going, pushing a wall of warmth against their cold hands, and the mantel is strung with garland, little reindeer and a fat, jolly Santa Claus figurine strewn across. There are at least a dozen presents sitting under the tree, all addressed to them, and they mysteriously are all signed, “From Santa.”

“Sam,” Dean calls from the kitchen, and Sam removes his jacket, stuffing into the closet before he goes after him.

Dean thrusts a note in Sam’s face, picking it up from the kitchen table.

To the Wessons— We couldn’t let your first Christmas as beloved citizens of Misty Luna go un-celebrated. Hope you don’t mind that I used the key Dean gave me months ago.

Love, Liz, Joe, Lo & Libby

Sam places the paper back on the table, trying his hardest not to get all choked up. In truth, he’s been lonely his entire life, homesick for a place that never existed. He might be the “quiet” brother, but he’s definitely the more social one, and he’s secretly missed his time at Stanford for the camaraderie, the sense of friendship and belonging. The community.

Even here, in Misty Luna, he felt like it was Dean who was the beloved one, who (as he'd predicted) charmed old ladies and saved kittens from trees. Who fixed up people’s cars, mowed their lawns, made them laugh, waved and smiled on the streets as he walked from breakfast at the diner to his job at Matty’s a couple blocks away. But he was shown at the hospital, as the town rallied around him, that they love Sam, too. Not just as an extension of his brother, but because he’s Sam, and maybe because it’s Christmas and he’s never been able to properly feel the sense of togetherness surrounding it, he finds himself unable to hold back the tears he so firmly held together the entire week Dean was in the hospital.

“Aw, Sammy,” Dean murmurs, but he doesn’t make fun, so he has to be feeling a little choked up, too.

“I was so scared, Dean,” he whispers into his brother’s neck as Dean wraps him in his arms the best he can. “I can’t do this alone. I need you too much. I think I-- I’ve always needed you too much. Loved you too much.”

Dean pulls Sam back, just a little, just so he can look up into his face, thumb at the tears there. "Ain’t getting rid of me, baby. Not ever. Listen, I. I was afraid for a long time, afraid of how much we— I made a lot of decisions over the course of our lives because I was so scared of being alone, but being here with you, making this life with you, it made me realize that it’s not about being alone. It’s about being without you. I wasn’t fair to you so many times because I didn’t want to let go of you, when maybe you were tired, maybe you were ready to go. I couldn’t accept that. But, Sam, it’s just because-- It’s because I love you too much, have always loved you too much. Ever since Dad put you in my arms, ever since he made you mine, you have always been the, the axis my world revolves on. My magnetic north. Everything I know is through your eyes, Sammy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

"I kept you at arms’ length, even here, even after that night when— when we, or I, I guess, realized what was happening. Accepted what was happening between us, because I knew if I let myself have it, and you decided to leave one day, it would kill me. Sam, it would fucking-- it would just kill me. And I, I realize now that I was taking your choice away from you again, not respecting your wishes to have this because of my fears, my biggest fear of being alone without you. Being lonely for you. So. Even though I already put a ring on your finger, even though it feels like I’ve already told you this, I don’t know. Talking to Cas again, thinking about our old lives— it put so much in perspective. And I’m not afraid anymore. I want you. Every day, I want you. And I love you, Sam. I’m sorry you never got to hear me say it, but I hope you saw it in everything I did, because that’s what I’ve been telling you with my whole life.”

Sam actually feels a little weak in the knees. It’s just— his taciturn, two grunts and a ‘shut up’ brother does not do long-winded speeches, and definitely not about his elusive feelings. He cups his hands around his brother’s unshaven, flushed cheeks and kisses him, opens Dean’s mouth right up with his tongue, tastes every single word he just said, brings it back into his body to hold there, forever.

They kiss for so long their lips go numb and puffy, chasing each other’s tongues, moaning and panting and wrapping each other closer and closer together until the hard line of their erections rub together, and they still.

“Don’t make me wait any longer,” Sam begs, outright begs, without an ounce of shame. “Please, Dean. Don’t make me wait.”

Dean growls, and Sam feels it rumble in his chest. Dean reattaches their aching lips as he begins to march them backwards towards Sam’s bedroom, the bedroom that’s become theirs over the past several months. Sam is gratified to see that the bed is still unmade, that their friends stayed out of their personal space.

Dean’s hand, the one not in the sling, goes to Sam’s pants, pushes right down the back of them to cup at his ass cheek, kneading the muscle in his firm grip. Sam whines against his brother’s mouth, biting his plump, swollen bottom lip as Dean’s thumb rubs deeply against his hole, dry.

“Yes,” Sam whispers, backing Dean up further until his knees hit the bed. Dean sits on the edge, and Sam, all six and a half feet of his gangly limbs, straddles his brother right there. “Like this, Dean. Just like this.”

Their clothes make piles on the hardwood floor, and Dean’s back hits the headboard as Sam straddles him once more. Their cocks rub and strain together as Sam breathes heavily into his brother’s mouth, hissing as the cold lube runs straight down his crack.

Sam reaches back to guide Dean’s fingers, and his head rolls back on his neck as one of his joins two of Dean’s thicker ones. Dean is staring up at him, mouth slightly open, like he’s never seen anything quite like him, like he’s a little overwhelmed by all this. The thought that Dean, his promiscuous, beautiful brother, who has had sex more times than Sam could even begin to quantify-- the thought that he's overwhelmed just by this, just by Sam squirming in his lap while hanging off his fingers, it melts something in Sam. He thrusts down onto his brother's fingers as Dean curls them up inside him. It makes Dean curse, makes him start putting his wrist and forearm into the pushes of his fingers up into Sam.

“Open up, little brother,” Dean murmurs to him, massaging at the muscle inside him, spreading his fingers, moaning as Sam pushes another of his inside him to loosen the tight clutch of him even further. “Open up for me.”

Sam shouts as Dean scrapes across his prostate, and his hips start rocking urgently, the wet tip of his cock leaving clear strands over Dean’s stomach. He’s panting Dean’s name against his lips, his eyes screwed shut as he rocks even deeper, taking his own fingers out to wrap his arms around Dean’s neck.

“Touch yourself,” Dean whispers, putting firm pressure against the spot inside Sam, pressing at it, rubbing it like a clit, and Sam barely gets a hand around his leaking cock before he comes, eyes rolling back in his head, mouth dropping open, forehead knocking against Dean’s.

“Jesus, oh Jesus,” Sam mumbles, still wringing himself dry, loving the sensitivity, how much it almost hurts, the sick, twisted man he’s always been. Will always be, twisted for the man underneath him, staring up at him like he sees no one else, has never seen anyone else in his entire life. Sam now knows that that’s true.

Sam rubs lube down Dean’s cock, which is streaming pre-come, for him, just for him, for this, so turned on his entire body shivers when Sam touches him. They lock eyes as Sam gets up on his knees, and it’s quiet, so quiet, none of the dirty words spilled between them like all the other times. Sam feels his brother nudge against where he’s wet and open, and he presses his forehead against Dean’s as he begins his descent.

“Ah, fuck,” Dean mumbles, pressing his open, panting mouth against Sam’s, not kissing him, just sharing their hot breath. “Slowly, Sam. Slow, baby. Don’t hurt yourself.”

Sam’s life has been spent in considerable pain more times than not, so the word hurt doesn’t even register. This, this isn’t hurting. It’s pressure, and he feels something tight in him snap open as Dean clears the tight ring of muscle, and from there it’s easier, and time seems to speed up because suddenly, he’s sitting, ass pressed to his brother’s thighs, and they’re both trembling, unable to look away from each other, scanning each other’s faces in something like wonder.

Dean bucks up, like he can’t help it, and Sam’s head rocks back, eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling fan as he digs his fingernails into Dean’s shoulders.

“Again,” he pleads, screwing his eyes shut against the parting of delicate muscles, the way it feels to have Dean shoved up in his guts, to have him shifting things around inside him. “Feels so good, Dean,” he murmurs, pressing a kiss to his brother’s panting mouth. “You feel so good.”

They find a rhythm, and Sam might be an awkward dancer but he’s good at this, always been good at moving his body with Dean’s, two fighters always in step with the other, reading each other’s body language. It’s hard for Dean to thrust like this, but that’s okay, Sam likes him up in there, deep, not able to move too far away. There will be time for hard, for fast and rough later, when Dean is healed. Now is about slow, now is about Sam, and the swirling motion of his hips as he rocks back and forth, flushing at the aching little moans that keep escaping him as his brother keeps him open, rubbing up against the fragile nerve endings.

Eventually, they readjust, Dean sliding to his back on the bed, and Sam folds over him, clinging, as Dean slams his powerful hips up and up and up. Their bodies are slick with sweat, sliding together as they hold on, and Sam realizes he’s hard again, so he guides Dean’s good hand down to his cock, where it’s weeping trails of slick against their bellies.

“Gonna make me come,” he bites out, wrapping their fingers together around his thick, engorged cock. “Gonna, I’m gonna—“

“Oh, god, me, too, Sam, so fuckin’ beautiful,” Dean grits out, staring up at him as he plants his feet on the bed, hammering himself inside. “So fuckin’ beautiful, hanging off my dick, I swear to god—“

Dean. God, I-- Come on, come on,” Sam mutters, their hands a slick blur against his cock as he lets the pleasure creep down his spine, really feel the way Dean is buried up inside him, the way his body opens and closes around Dean’s big dick as his hips pick up speed as he, himself, gets closer and closer to the finish line.

Sam adjusts himself, their bodies slicking together, and that causes Dean to nail his prostate with each thrust, and it takes him no time at all to clench down, hard, as he shoots across Dean’s stomach, almost to his chin. He rears back, nearly unseating himself, and that makes Dean laugh, a broken sound that turns into a moan as he slams his hips up into Sam a half dozen more times before he shakes and shakes and shakes apart, growling as he screws his hips to get as deep as he can.

Sam falls over him, exhausted, not caring about the sweat and come, not caring about anything but getting at Dean’s mouth, slipping his tongue in lazily to let Dean suck on it as he ruts almost dreamily, wringing out the last of his release into Sam’s body. Sam gives himself one last squeeze, his eyes nearly crossing at the pleasure-pain, then he wraps his arms around his brother’s neck, kissing him and kissing him until they both can’t breathe.

Dean hums against his mouth as Sam lifts off, then gives him a swift smack on the ass for good measure. Sam nearly limps to the bathroom, not out of pain, but trying to keep in the load Dean spilled in him, loving how owned he feels, how Dean’s he feels.

He wipes them down quickly, blushing and grinning at the feeling of Dean’s eyes on him, those bright green eyes that Sam has looked to his whole life, the way they’ve never quite looked at him like this, with so much unabashed love and pride.

Sam flops to his back, sighing, scratching at his stomach. He holds out his arm for Dean to snuggle up to him, and Dean does, burying his nose into Sam’s armpit, breathing in a great sigh, and letting it out hotly, making goose pimples erupt all over Sam’s torso. He wraps Dean up in a huge hug, ignoring Dean’s squawk of protest, because not ten seconds later, Dean lays his lame arm across Sam’s chest, buries his face against Sam’s neck, kissing at the sweaty skin there.

“Welcome home, Dean,” Sam murmurs, never meaning anything more in his life.

Chapter Text

Epilogue Header

--And as the world comes to an end,
I'll be here to hold your hand,
'Cause you're my king and I'm your lionheart.

Springtime

“Dean is so drunk.”

Elizabeth smiles over at her daughter, laughing a little at the wrinkled nose she’s sending Dean’s way. It’s true, though. Dean is drunk, and she’s never heard him laugh so much, so loudly.

It’s twilight, and they've eaten their dinner and had their cake. Now, everyone is huddled together in groups, being completely obvious about staring at the Wessons, who have never indulged in so much PDA in their lives, Elizabeth is certain. But that's okay. They deserve it, because earlier today, in front of the entire town, Sam and Dean recommitted their lives to each other. Right there, under the gazebo, in the middle of downtown. Almost like a fairytale. She thinks if anyone deserves the fairytale, it's Sam and Dean.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Joe had muttered to her, squeezing her hand to let her know he was kidding, as they watched Sam and Dean repeat “I do,” both looking absolutely stunned with the joy of it all. Gosh, how could she not cry? She's not made of stone, you know. And anyway, it's okay, because there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And that's including the two grooms, she might add.

Neither of them had worn white, because according to Dean’s waggling eyebrows, “that ship had sailed long ago.” Instead, Sam was in a pink oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up his strong forearms, Dean in mint green. They’d never looked more handsome.

Now, they’re stripped of their shirts, both in white v-necks and jeans. Dean’s wearing a necklace she’s never seen before, something gaudy and gold on a black string, and he keeps touching it and smiling over at Sam, like every time he remembers it’s there, it’s the happiest he’s ever felt. She watches as he tugs at it again, laughing as the townsfolk bang their forks against their glasses, demanding them kiss.

They smile in the middle of it, their mouths stretched wide as they chuckle to each other. They seem to get a little lost in it, and someone whistles loudly, causing everyone to catcall. Their smiles grow as they part; Dean kisses Sam soundly one last time before backing away, and Sam laughs, ducking his head, a tell she’s learned: hiding his flush.

Liz sighs, holding her heart.

“Get down, you big dumb dog!” Dean suddenly shouts, waving away their dog. Snow, a white pit bull who had wandered her way into Dean’s garage late in winter, starving and cowering away from everyone but Dean, had followed him home for “just one night,” and never left. Now, she’s licking at the remnants of Dean’s plate, white icing on the tip of her pink nose.

“She’s not dumb,” Sam protests, clicking at her. “Dean is the dumb one for leaving the plate so close, isn’t he, baby girl? He shouldn’t do that, should he?”

“Oh, shut up,” Dean smiles, jerking the plate out of Snow’s reach. “I hate when you speak through the dog. ‘Snow, please tell daddy if he ever wants to see me naked again, he will stop leaving his towels on the floor to breed bacteria.’”

“Dean!” Sam hisses, flushing, as everyone around them laughs. “Snow, please tell your daddy he is officially cut off from drinking.”

“It’s an open bar!” Dean protests as Sam pours the rest of Dean’s whiskey down his own throat.

“It’s not the same if we’re paying for it, dumbass,” Sam concludes.

The reception is being held in Sam and Dean’s huge backyard, down by the river. White picnic tables with pretty pink flowers in the center are set up everywhere, and the whole town sits around, talking and eating and laughing. This party will definitely go down in the Misty Luna history books as one of the best, because everyone is feeding off the energy between the grooms. Even as they bicker, they’re smiling, holding hands on top of the table, unable to stop catching each other’s eye.

A lone note cuts across the evening sky, and Elizabeth looks across to Joe, who has broken out his fiddle. The rest of his “band” (consisting of the spoons played by Ed, and Lo’s sultry, twangy voice) fall into place, and someone lets out a whoop! as everyone scrambles for a dance partner.

Libby takes the hand of her new boyfriend, Jared, who is tall and gangly, with long brown hair and a sweet smile. Elizabeth considers herself a fine mother indeed for not pointing out the similarities to a certain newly recommitted someone, but she’s over the moon that Libby has finally found someone to redirect her affections. Someone who, in Elizabeth’s opinion, deserves them.

“May I have this dance?”

Liz looks up, surprised. Dean bows down in front of her, hand outstretched, wobbling once before finding his balance. She shoots Sam an amused look, and he grins back, shrugging like what can ya do? He's petting Snow absently (who is frankly too big to be up in his lap like that), watching Dean's every move with such blatant, open-hearted love, it makes her wanna cry all over again.

“Sam refuses to dance,” Dean explains, drawing back Liz's attention. “He says no one wants to see someone embarrass themselves that badly.”

Liz laughs, taking Dean’s warm palm in hers. “He would be wrong,” she snarks, but stands, smoothing out the skirt to her light blue dress. Dean tucks her hand into his elbow as they walk to the dance floor, still a little tipsy on his feet, but a steady, comfortable presence all the same. “Are you happy, Dean?”

Dean cuts his eyes to hers, blinking. "Yeah. I-- Yeah. Love him more today than I did yesterday. I'll love him more tomorrow than I did today. So. Hey, uh. Don't tell Sam I said that, okay? He’s got me whipped enough as it is.”

She smiles, patting his healed arm. "I think he knows, Dean."

Once, his answer might have hurt her, made her wistful for a man that could never be hers. But when she catches Joe's eye, and he has a smile for her, she thinks of how healing love— real, true love— can actually be. How it soothes old wounds, gives you something to look forward to every day. Gives you a reason to smile when the whole world is crashing around you. How it holds on so tight, but that's okay, because you don't ever want it to let go. How lost you would be without it.

“You’re a very lucky man,” she tells Dean as he draws her out to spin her, and she watches as he looks to Sam one more time, winking.

“You have no idea,” he promises.

THE END.

Chapter Text

November rolls into a chilly December, and Sam hangs up his scarf and heavy peacoat in the foyer closet one Friday night, frowning. Dean is usually on the porch to greet him with an Irish coffee or spiked cider, but he’s nowhere to be found.

“Dean?” Sam calls, loosening his tie. His briefcase is heavy, full of final exams he has to have graded by Sunday at midnight so his students can enjoy their winter break. His neck is stiff, and his antiperspirant seems to be failing because his crisp white shirt is sticking to his underarms.

“Out back!” Dean calls, deep voice ringing through the kitchen. He mumbles something Sam can’t make out, but it’s in a sweet, soothing tone that Sam can’t place, almost like he’s talking to a child.

There’s chili simmering in the crockpot, and Sam takes a minute to open the lid, letting the steam bathe his face as his stomach growls. He’s just about to sneak a spoonful when there’s clacking on the hardwood floors, and Dean shouts, “wait!”

Sam spins around, and there’s a skinny white dog-- a pitbull mix, by the looks of it, running towards him, butt wiggling, tail wagging, ears flat in deference. It starts sniffing at Sam’s shoes, but Sam just stands there, immobilized. He looks up as Dean shuffles into the kitchen sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.

“So, uh,” Dean starts, crouching onto his bad knee, making soft clicking noises as the dog rushes back over to him for firm pats on its flank. “This little girl here wandered into the shop today. She’s, uh, a little underfed, and she’s got some scarring on her throat, see? Matty says she’s a street dog, been wandering around town for about a year, but no one’s been able to catch her. But, she uh, she came right up to me, and I... “

“Dean,” Sam finally says. “Is that. Is this? Are we? Can we keep her?”

“I sure hope so,” Dean answers after a beat. “Her vet bill was pretty hefty, so I’m thinking she’s got a lot of time to give us to pay it off.”

Sam drops to his knees, and the dog shuffles back over to him, head bowed, tail between her legs. He clicks softly at her, reaching out a gentle hand. “I’m not gonna hurt you, pretty girl,” he promises. “What’s your name?”

Dean rises from the floor, moving over to the cabinet to pull out some bowls for the chili. “She doesn’t have one yet. Thought you could do the honors.”

Sam rubs a thick scar around the dog’s neck. “Chained up?” He guesses.

“Looks like. Know what I thought about when I was drivin’ her home?” Dean has a soft smile on his face.

Sam shakes his head, unable to look away from the dog he can’t quite believe is his, is theirs. She’s allowing him to scratch behind her ears, and she casts her big brown eyes up at him, her tail slowly rising from between her legs, wagging nervously as it thumps against the floor.

“Cas,” Dean chuckles sadly, spooning some chili into two bowls. “When we were in Rufus’ cabin, right before the big showdown with Dick Roman? How he said something like, ‘doesn’t this place feel one species short?’”

Sam looks up at his brother, knowing his heart is in his eyes. “Dean, I. I’m--”

“Let’s go watch the Die Hard marathon on TNT, yeah? Bring the dog. I got her a bed, coupl’a things from PetSmart a couple towns over. Figured you’d wanna be with me for the big shopping.”

Sam stands, striding over to this brother while he balances two hot bowls of chili in his hands. He cradles Dean’s face in his palms, kissing him soundly, trying so hard not to let the tears of gratitude he feels welling up fall. Nothing could tell Sam that Dean has truly settled down roots more than this, and Sam doesn’t have the words for how that makes him feel.

----

“Don’t know why you’re so excited,” Dean grumbles, listening to the way the wet dog food plops into the metal bowl, “it may say steak and eggs on the can, but I can promise you it’s nowhere near the real deal.”

Snow, named after the weather condition in which she was found and her all white fur, thumps her tail excitedly against the kitchen floor. Dean figures meals were pretty hard to come by in her former life, and the way she looks at Dean and Sam when they feed her-- obvious gratitude shining from those keen brown eyes, it chokes him up a bit.

It’s never been a case of Dean not liking dogs. He just knew their life wasn’t conducive to owning one, so he never let himself want one. The desire never left Sam, though, and Dean’s been waiting months for Sam to bring it up. When he didn’t, Dean thought maybe the want finally passed, but he knew he was wrong the first night they had her, with the way Sam scooped up the sixty-pound pup, carrying her around everywhere.

He sets the bowl down at his feet, then washes his hands carefully. He’s in the nicest suit he owns (Sam wouldn’t let him use the old FBI numbers, and he’d armed himself with a measuring tape to get Dean’s correct size. A week later, they’d both had new suits hanging in the back of the closet), waiting for Sam to finish primping so they could head out to the faculty Christmas party at Sam’s college.

After finishing her meal, Snow wiggles her still skinny body over to Dean for a pat, then follows him to the backdoor for a long sniff in their backyard. They’d both been worried at first that Snow would run off, since there was no fence, no property border for acres and acres, but she stayed close-- Sam said it was out of love, but Dean thought she wasn’t willing to give up two easy meals a day and a lot of Milkbones, but he wisely kept that to himself.

“Sam!” Dean hollers, grabbing his jacket off the back of the couch. “C’mon, princess. We gotta go now, or we’re gonna be late.”

Thirty seconds later, Sam shuffles down the stairs. Dean can almost see a thundercloud over him, with the way his face is all pinched and pouty. His tie is loose around his neck.

“What’s wrong?” Dean asks, following his brother as he stomps into the kitchen.

“Can’t get my tie,” he mumbles after a couple seconds. “My fingers won’t cooperate.”

Dean turns his brother to face him, looking up at his face. “You’ve been tying your own tie for fifteen years,” he reminds Sam, fitting his hands around his brother’s hipbones. “What’s’a matter, Sammy?”

Sam won’t stop fidgeting with the pieces of his tie, twisting them between his long fingers. His freshly shaven face is pink, with two spots of color against his cheekbones. “Nervous,” he finally murmurs.

Dean rubs at the sharp cut of his hips, trying not to smile, because Sam will take it as Dean making fun of him, when really he just feels extremely fond. “How come?”

Sam shrugs, finally dropping the tie. “Will you help?”

Dean nods, combing Sam’s wavy hair back behind his ears. He pulls his brother down by it, pressing a lingering kiss against his brother’s soft lips, and Sam makes a noise in the back of his throat for it.