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Two Tragedies

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Sam's gone for three days before Dean calls for Castiel. And they're the longest three days of Dean's life. He just keeps living it over and over. Watching Sam fall. Wondering what he could have done differently to save his brother. Kicking himself for being such a scared little shit his whole life. Because now Sam's gone. Maybe really gone. Forever gone. And Dean will never know how Sammy's lips tasted. He'll never trace the curve of that bright smile with his tongue. He'll never hold Sam the way he's always wanted.

And then he feels like a grade A dick because what he really wants is just to talk to Sam again. To be able to reach out and touch him, even if it's only as a brother. He just wants Sammy back. And that's when it hits him and he prays.

Maybe he can't get Sam back, but he has an angel on his side. An angel who can time travel.

Cas is adamant that they shouldn't do it. But he doesn't say no and Dean keeps pushing.

"I just need to see him again, Cas. Just for a little while. And you can make that happen. Please, man?"

Castiel sighs, but he still doesn't say no.

"Dean, you cannot change this. If you try to alter the course of Sam's fate, there will be horrendous consequences. You could lose him sooner. Or he could lose you. You both could die. Or you both could live and the world might end. Could you live with that? Knowing you're responsible for the deaths of billions of people?"

Dean almost says yes. Because there's a part of him that would let the world burn as long as it burned around them. Together. But no. Sam would never forgive him. And more than anything, Dean wants to make Sam proud. Even if Sam isn't around to know it.

"I don't want to change anything, Cas. I just want to talk to him. I… maybe I could just go back and… I wasn't always nice to him, Castiel. And if I could just correct some things? I never really told him how proud I was of him for getting into college, you know? And sometimes I was a little rough with the teasing and if I could just let him know that even when I was hard on him he was my world. I just need him to know."

Cas studies him for a minute, leaning back on the wall of the last motel room Dean shared with his brother, his eyes seemingly penetrating Dean's head. And maybe he is. Maybe he's seeing all of Dean's dirty secrets, because it's only seconds later that his eyes narrow and his mouth draws into a tight line. But still, he doesn't say no. And he doesn't comment on whatever he sees in Dean's mind.

"You would have to be very careful. And Sam would need to know that he cannot say anything to anyone about your visit."

Dean smiles for the first time since even before Sam fell and he nods, clasping his hands together in his lap to keep them from shaking too much.

"Is there any particular time you want to visit?"

Lots, Dean wants to say. But they'll work up to that. For now he settles on one night in particular. Sam had asked him to stay that night. He'd wanted to watch movies and have popcorn. But the cashier at the local 7-11 was so fucking hot. He'd chosen her. Just one of many mistakes he's made with his little brother. But this is his chance. And he's going to make it right.

"June, 14th, 1993. About…" If Dean remembers correctly, he'd left around six p.m., knowing he needed to be back before it got too late, "six-thirty? We were staying in a motel off route fifty-five somewhere in Indiana."

Castiel tilts his head, but he doesn't step closer.

"Dean…" he starts, shifting uncomfortably before turning his head to focus his gaze somewhere across the room, "Sam was… He was ten years old. I do not think it is advisable, considering your current mental state and the affections you have for Sam, to send you to a time when he is so vulnerable."

For a few seconds it doesn't really register what Cas is implying, but when it does Dean jumps to his feet, indignation warring with outright anger.

"I would never hurt him, Cas. Not ever. And okay, so maybe what I feel for Sam isn't necessarily… brotherly, but still. I don't have a thing for kids, okay? Not even if that kid is Sam. I just want to spend some time with him. We were supposed to watch movies and I skipped out on him. That's all. I can't believe you would even think…"

Cas meets his eyes again, but he doesn't defend himself. Instead he just nods, seems satisfied with Dean's response.

"At what time would you like to come back?"

Anxious to get the show on the road, Dean leaves it at that and replies, "Nine."

That gives him an hour cushion because he never left Sam alone after ten.

And that's the last thought Dean has before Castiel steps forward and places two fingertips on Dean's head.

*~*~*

Sam knows he's sulking. But it's not like anyone is around to see it, so he doesn't really care. Besides, Dean had totally said he'd stay in tonight and they could have a horror movie marathon. But the stupid bimbo at the store had smiled like that and he knew it was over. Plans cancelled. And sure enough, despite Sam's pleading, Dean had walked out a few minutes ago, promising they could watch a movie when he got back.

Well screw him, Sam thinks. He'll just watch The Exorcist and be asleep by the time Dean gets home. It'll serve him right.

He's just putting the tape in when there's a knock at the door. And Sam knows he's not supposed to answer it. But it's probably just the desk clerk anyway. Maybe their dad forgot to sign something. That's happened before.

So he leaves the TV playing snow and pulls a chair up so he can see out of the peephole. Totally not the desk clerk. First of all, this is a guy. And so far, all the employees Sam has seen at this motel have been girls. Plus he's a little rugged. Kind of scary looking, honestly.

Sam is definitely not opening the door. Nope. Not at all.

But then the guy looks up and straight into the peephole and Sam gasps.

He's only ever seen eyes that green in one face. And the lips are right. Cheekbones too. This guy is way too old to be his Dean. But there's no doubt about it. The guy on the other side of Sam's door is his big brother. Some incarnation of him anyway.

Better to be safe than sorry though, so Sam checks the salt line before he pulls the door open far enough to catch on the chain. But then he's not sure what to say.

"Sammy?" The guy says, leaning to the side and squatting down a bit, "Look, dude, I'm not gonna hurt you. I'm not like… I just…"

And Sam snorts because yeah. This is Dean. He obviously didn't think about what he was going to say before he showed up – in the past if his age is anything to go on – at his little brother's doorstep. But still, he'd better be sure.

"Right now, where are you? My you, I mean."

One side of Dean's mouth pulls up in a lopsided grin and if Sam wasn't sure before, he is now. That's the same look his Dean gives him when he comes back with a particularly biting insult. A little proud and a little amazed. It's Sam's favorite look.

"Don't remember her name. But she's leggy and blonde and totally boring. And it's only going to take me about ten minutes to wish I'd stayed with you instead."

Sam returns the grin and nods. He figured as much. "What movie did I want to watch tonight?"

"Horror movies. Not sure which ones, but classics knowing you. Probably The Exorcist . Definitely Psycho, because it's my favorite."

Sam's smile grows and he nods. One more question and he's opening the door, "What's our dog's name?"

For some reason, the question makes Dean's smile disappear and he shakes his head, "Never had one. But you've always wanted to pick up strays along the way. Once, in Idaho, I let you feed one for the week we stayed. I didn't let you name him though, because I didn't want you getting too attached. Should have let you."

This is Dean, alright. He always beats himself up over the silliest things. Usually things relating to Sam. Like tonight. Dean will likely apologize repeatedly over the next few weeks for ditching him.

He pushes the door closed enough to slip the chain and then steps back. He's not sure how, but his older brother is here, probably from the future. Time travel is a real thing. Who knew?

*~*~*

Castiel pops him right back into his motel room and Dean goes straight in for a hug. He's just spent a couple hours with his little brother and he thinks they were probably the best hours of his life so far. And he has Cas to thank for that.

Castiel lets himself be hugged, but when he steps back, he's not returning Dean's smile.

"You'll want to go again, won't you?"

"Yeah," Dean answers, because now that he's been there, curled up next to little Sammy again, he can't imagine not having that sometimes. He doesn't know how he'll survive if he can't talk to Sam. Hug him. Just look at him even.

"This is a very slippery slope, Dean. I'm worried that your visits to the past will keep you from moving forward."

Dean snorts, because he doesn't want to move forward. He'd be perfectly content to stay right here in this motel room and let Castiel transport him back to Sammy as often as he can manage. But something about the way Cas is looking at him tells him that is definitely not an option.

"So, what? This was a one-time thing? You're not going to-"

"No," Castiel cuts in, taking a few steps back, obviously preparing to depart, "I'll send you again. But you have to do something for me in return. You have to keep moving. Don't waste away waiting here for me to send you to him. He wouldn't want that, Dean. And I don't want that for you."

And then Cas leaves. And Dean doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want to attempt to build any sort of life that doesn't revolve around Sam. But he knows Castiel. And if Dean doesn't comply, there'll be no more visits to Sam. So he packs and gets on the road. He'd promised Sam he'd find Lisa. So that's what he does.

*~*~*

It's been two weeks and Dean's itching to see Sam again. He's done what Sam wanted, found Lisa and pretty much moved in with her. And he's done what Cas asked, built this fake little life as if he could really live this way for the rest of his days. But he can't keep going without Sam. So, again, he prays.

Castiel wastes no time. He flutters into the garage and almost before he's even spotted Dean, he asks, "Time and date?"

So Dean gets right to things as well. He's thought about this. Considered the best way to go about things. And he's decided he should go chronologically. That way, now that he's going to have two sets of Sam memories, they'll both at least run the right way. And he and Sam will be on somewhat more even footing.

"September 5th, 1993. Three in the afternoon. Outside his school in Lincoln, Nebraska."

Sam had wanted Dean to walk him home from his first day, but Dean had sent Sam ahead of him because Diana Miller, a girl he'd literally just met, had invited him for milkshakes. Fucking milkshakes. But, in his defense, she'd been a couple years older and the way she'd twirled her gum when she looked at him. Yeah. He's sorry he missed walking Sam home, but that had been his first blow job. But even so. Now he can go back and do it right. And he still gets to get his dick sucks. It's perfect really.

"You can bring me back around five."

Castiel touches him without another word.

*~*~*

Sam rolls his eyes as Dean trots off to sling his arm around a girl entirely too old for him. But it's not like Sam's a kid or something. He can walk himself home. Or to the motel. Whatever. He'd just kinda wanted Dean to be there beside him.

When he steps around the corner, he gets his wish. Just differently than he'd hoped. Or a little differently, because honestly, sometimes, he thinks he likes older Dean better. Or at least what he got to see of him that night a few months ago.

"Didn't think you were coming back," Sam says as Dean falls into step beside him.

"Told you I would. And I don't break my promises anymore, Sammy. Haven't in a long time. Actually, give it a few years and you'll see. Right now I'm just…"

"Thinking with the wrong head," Sam says, something their dad has said a few times.

"Yeah, pretty much. Besides, it's only been a couple weeks for me. So I haven't really been gone that long."

Sam nods and veers a little closer, letting his arm brush Dean's just because he likes the contact. And Dean's not very big on physical affection. Though, the last time this Dean was here, he seemed a little more comfortable with it. He'd let Sam curl into his side while they watched movies. And he hadn't even laughed when Sam had to hide his face in his side. He'd just held tighter and given Sam a little squeeze to let him know when the head spinning and puking was done.

"So, how does this work? Can you just show up anytime you want? Like, right now you could just pop in a few years ago?" What he really wants to ask is why Dean is doing this at all. That concerns him more than the hows. But there's a certain something about the way Dean looks at him, like he'd give anything just to stay right here, that tells Sam he might not really want to know why.

"Nah. I mean, yeah. I can go to any time I want. But I can't do it myself. Someone, a friend of mine, can do it. But he's not like the things we kill. He's a good guy. That's maybe something you can know that's not a huge deal. It's not all black and white, Sammy. Sometimes even things that aren't human aren't really bad. I won't learn that for a while though, so keep it to yourself, okay?"

Sam agrees remembering the rules Dean put in place last time. No one can know. And, if Dean slips or tells him anything, Sam has to keep it completely to himself. It's a small price to pay, Sam thinks, to get to spend time with his now much older brother. Because, even older, Dean is still the coolest person Sam knows.

"Is this really just your second trip? Or have you visited me farther in the future?"

"Nope. Gonna do this in order. So when you see me next time, it'll just be the third time. It'll help us keep everything straight."

Sam agrees and shuffles closer, hiding his smile when Dean casually drops an arm over his shoulders – no hesitation. Yeah. Sam likes this Dean a lot.

*~*~*

And so it goes. At first, Dean just visits dates and times he can remember Sam being alone. Or times when he'd somehow let Sam down. But eventually, they start planning it. Dean doesn't go too often. Cas limits him to once a month in his time, and he forces himself to space his visits to Sam by at least six months. Because he doesn't want Sam to become dependent on him.

It's enough though. It's just enough that Dean can feel like Sam's not really gone. Like he's got a little secret piece of his brother that's just his.

Things are pretty awesome right up until they get a little weird. And even then, he has to convince himself that things are still awesome. Because, as much as he's always wanted, he never even considered corrupting Sam like this. And it comes as a shock when it happens.

*~*~*

Sam's nervous. Really, really nervous.

It took some serious convincing to get Dean and Dad to leave him behind on this hunt. But the other Dean is coming tonight and Sam needed to be here for it. Not that Dean wouldn't have known to show up elsewhere if Sam had gone. But he wanted there to be no chance of them being interrupted. There are things he wants to know. And he's going to make Dean tell him. No matter how uncomfortable it is for them. Because the way Dean looks at him… And the things he's starting to feel, not just for the older version of his brother, but the current version as well… Well, he just needs to know some things.

Dean's been visiting him for the better part of seven years now and Sam doesn't know what he would do without him. And he's scared that once they have this talk, Dean won't come back. But it's a chance he has to take. Otherwise he might do something really, monumentally stupid with his Dean and fuck things up beyond repair. But, if he doesn't ask, he might not do anything when he should. So he has to know.

Dean's wearing his standard blue jeans and flannel shirt when he steps through the doorway. But Sam's had six months to reflect on all their talks and all the time they've spent together. And things are different now. For him at least. So he's looking at this man, his brother aged several years, in a new light. And god, if he isn't one of the sexist men Sam's ever seen.

His face flushes brightly when Dean swoops in to pull him into a hug, but Sam clings to him anyway. Because this Dean is free with his hugs now. And Sam wants to touch. Desperately.

"Missed you, Sammy," Dean says into the side of Sam's head. It makes him sad. Because the only way Dean could miss him this much, the only reason Dean would need to visit him at all, is if Sam isn't around anymore in his world. He doesn't know if that means he's dead or they've gone their separate ways. But he thinks it's probably the former, because he cannot imagine willingly leaving his brother's side. Not for good anyway.

"Missed you too," Sam answers, his words muffled into Dean's chest.

Dean holds him longer than is strictly necessary, but Sam doesn't complain. And when Dean finally steps back, Sam almost follows him. But then he catches himself and lets Dean go.

It starts off like any other visit from this Dean. Sam pops in a movie, one they've watched countless times, and they sit on the little sofa, slowly shifting until they're side to side, Dean's warmth bleeding into Sam calms him and encourages him. Dean loves him, he knows this. And no matter what happens, that's not going to change. So he begins with an easy question.

"What am I like in the future?"

And this isn't new. Sam asks a lot of questions and Dean always answers, even if it's only vaguely.

Dean chuckles and reaches one hand up to rest it on the top of Sam's hair, "Taller. More nerdy. Still a bitch," And Sam smiles at that, because it only ever sounds fond coming from Dean, "So pretty much the same, but more. Strong. Brave," Dean's voice cracks a bit on the word, but he continues, "So brave, Sammy. A hero, really."

Dean's quiet for a moment and Sam thinks maybe that's enough this time around. He's struck a nerve without even meaning to, because Dean's pensive now, almost sad. But then Dean ruffles his hair and says with a mock serious tone, "Still sporting this wild mop too."

Sam laughs at that, because as much as his Dean protests Sam's long hair, he always seems to end up with his hands in it. So he figures Dean doesn't really hate it all that much.

Dean's more relaxed now, so Sam pushes on, "What are we like? Are we still together?"

This is as close as Sam's ever come to asking why Dean comes to visit him. And he's still not really sure he wants an answer. Thankfully, Dean doesn't give him details.

"We’re the same, Sammy. We fight. Each other and all the baddies out there. Things get complicated for us here and there, but yeah. We're always together. You and me against the world, right?"

Sam nods, but he avoids the urge to ask about Dad. Figures he knows the answer. If it's the two of them against everyone else, Dad is gone. Strangely, Sam doesn't find that too scary or even all that sad. He figures Dad went out fighting, just like he'd want. And it's not like Sam really knows the man all that well anyway.

"Are we… do we get married? Have kids?"

This is important, because if the answer is yes, then he can just stop this line of questioning altogether. Sam doesn't want to change the future. He just wants to know if it might be possible for him to have the things this Dean has made him want. And, maybe, it's not really even just this Dean. Because since this all started, Sam's been looking at his Dean a little differently too.

He's always loved his brother fiercely. And he knows Dean feels the same way. But this is different. Scary and new and fucking exciting. Also wrong. But he doesn't really care about that. So many things they do would be considered wrong by the general public. The rules don't really apply to them Sam thinks.

"Nah. Can't really do that in our line of work, can we? Don't worry though, Sammy. You don't stay this gangly and awkward. Grow up to be tall and… not hard on the eyes. Turn more than a few heads everywhere we go. So you'll get laid. Eventually."

Dean smiles then and turns a little to face Sam, ignoring the movie completely. Sam's breath catches and he just stares. Because, god, his brother is beautiful and the extra years only enhance that. All his worry lines and laugh lines only make him more attractive and Sam finds himself lifting his hand, one finger extended to trace the thin wrinkles by Dean's left eye.

Dean goes utterly still when Sam's finger makes contact with his skin, but he can feel Dean's heart pounding where his shoulder is pressed into Dean's chest. A little too fast. A little too hard. And that emboldens Sam.

"Do we ever do this?" Sam asks, voice low and a little shaky as he pushes up and presses his lips against Dean's.

There's a second of shock for Dean; Sam can see it on his face. But then Dean moans and tightens his hold where his hand is still resting in Sam's hair and they're kissing. Dean's tongue slips into his mouth. Dean's free hand comes up to grip Sam's hip and pull him closer. And Sam loses himself in the moment, feeding from his brother's mouth like he's starving for it. And Dean gives as good as he gets.

Sam goes from nervous and a little bit shy to horny as fuck in the blink of an eye. He twists awkwardly, not willing to give up his brother’s mouth even for a second, until he can get the leverage he needs to lift up and seat himself over his brother’s thighs. And then he’s diving deeper into Dean’s mouth, one hand on each side of his face and tongue dancing in and out hungrily.

Dean’s hands dig into his sides, just above his hips. And he groans, deep and needy and Sam’s heady with it. Forcing those sounds out of a man so much older, out of Dean is a monumental feat. So Sam starts rolling his hips, pushing his crotch into Dean’s stomach, and every now and then he feels Dean’s jut up just a bit, the fleeting but solid pressure of Dean’s hard on a welcome feeling that he strives to get more of.

But then Dean’s pulling away, turning his head to the side and using his grip to slow Sam down rather than encourage. Sam whines but continues his assault, lips pressing into Dean’s cheek and then the sharp cut of his jaw, and then lower, his warm neck, his pounding pulse.

”Sammy,” breathless, desperate. And Sam doesn’t stop, latches onto the skin of Dean’s neck and sucks, nibbles even. “Sam. Gotta stop, Sammy. Please.”

And that, the way Dean sounds almost pained, makes Sam slow down. He keeps his mouth where it is, lets his tongue play teasingly against Dean’s too warm skin, but he makes himself calm down, takes several deep breaths and gets dizzy on the smell of his too much older brother. His voice is low and thready when he says, “Sorry. ‘M sorry, Dean. You just… God.”

Dean’s hands move from his hips to his back, rubbing soothingly into the skin there, the only barrier being Sam’s thin t-shirt. And Sam wishes he’d reach under it, let him feel those rough, calloused hands against his bare skin. He shivers with need and Dean pulls him closer, holds him tighter. But he makes no move to turn this sexual again. He just clings to Sam as if Sam is the only thing anchoring him to the planet. As if Sam is his lifeline. The only thing he needs. The only thing he’ll ever need. And somehow, strangely, that’s better than the kissing or the rubbing.

Finally, Sam pulls his lips away from Dean’s skin, just a fraction of an inch. He feels a moan vibrate through his brother’s chest and then Dean shakes his head just once before leaning his temple against Sam’s hair.

They’re quiet for a long time, just breathing together and holding each other. And honestly, Sam’s never felt closer to any version of Dean than he does in this moment. He fists his hands in Dean’s shirt and holds on for dear life.

”I never meant for this to happen, Sammy. I swear I didn’t. I just… I needed to make a few things right, you know? Needed to fix all the times I let you down. Needed to make sure you know just how much I love you.”

Dean sounds sad. Grief stricken and Sam knows now, without a doubt, that this Dean is mourning him. An older version of him, but it’s him all the same. He’s dead in this Dean’s world. In the future. His future. And this Dean, rather than moving on with his life, is visiting his little brother in the past. He’s dwelling on things that don’t matter at all. Not in the long run. Because no matter how Sam is going to die, he’s absolutely positive he’s not going to do it thinking Dean doesn’t love him. He could never, in a million years, feel that way.

”I know you love me, Dean. That’s the one thing I’m always sure of. Nothing else in the world is as steady for me as you are. Even when you let me down, I know you’re coming back to pick me up. It’s what you do. It’s what we do. So, however you lost me, I died sure of only one thing. I died knowing my big brother loved me.”

”I do, Sammy. So fucking much.” Dean pauses then and pushes Sam out. Not away, just farther back so their eyes meet. And what he says next makes Sam’s heart skip a beat and then fall. “Even like this. Maybe always like this. But we don’t get to have it. It never quite works out like that, Sammy. And if you try this on me now, the me you have, it’s going to mess me up. Probably you too. So just… don’t, okay? Please.”

Sam doesn’t want to agree. He can’t. Not knowing that he could have this. He can’t promise to leave this here and pretend it never happened. Pretend it can’t happen again.

”Dean, don’t make me-“

”You have to, Sammy. If you don’t…” Dean closes his eyes tightly for a second, bites his lip, and then, gently, oh so softly, he reaches up to cup Sam’s cheek. Pulls his face in and their lips meet tenderly and Sam swears he can taste Dean’s longing there. Years’ worth of it. It aches. Sam aches for both of them, because he knows that every bit of love and want his brother has felt and denied over the years, he’s matched him desire for desire. And they’ve just let it smolder between them with no further acknowledgement.

”It sounds stupid, I know. But the world depends on it, okay? I can’t… if we… God, this is hard.” Sam watches Dean struggle for a few seconds. He’s trying to figure out how to explain this to Sam without revealing too much, and finally, Sam takes pity on him.

”It’s okay,” Sam says against Dean’s lips, “It’s fine. I won’t. If you say I can’t, I believe you. But now… like this… we could… I mean. You and I could. That won’t mess things up, will it? And you can visit more often. We’ll figure something out, Dean.”

Dean nods and presses one more kiss to Sam’s mouth before easing him off his lap and onto the couch. And Sam knows, instantly, that Dean has no intention of coming back.

”Yeah. We’ll… yeah. But I need to get back,” Dean looks at his watch and stands, taking several steps away from the couch quickly, “C- My friend is supposed to beam me out in just a minute or two.”

Sam doesn’t call Dean on his lie. Doesn’t have the heart to do it. Instead he just nods and runs a hand through his hair. And when Dean walks out the door with nothing more than a sad smile and a wave, Sam just lets him go. It’s for the best. Dean, future Dean, needs to move on. And Sam, as much as he doesn’t want to, needs to let him.

*~*~*

The night Sam comes back to him, his Sam, Dean walks out of Lisa’s door for the last time. And it hurts, but he doesn’t even look back. She’s better off without him. Safer, she and Ben both. That’s how he justifies abandoning them. And as far as justification goes, he thinks it’s pretty reasonable. Especially if he doesn’t factor in the knowing look in Sam’s eyes as he waits by the Impala under the yellow glow of a street lamp.

Dean doesn’t know how Castiel managed to get Sam out of the cage, and he doesn’t really care. Sam is alive and well and he’s anxious to get back on the road. And Dean feels the same way. So he packs his duffle, kisses Lisa on the cheek, ruffles Ben’s hair, and steps out of the door. Steps out of this life that never really fit and into the only life he’s ever wanted. Baby, the open road, and Sam riding shotgun.

Sam is quiet at first, just watches Dean as they roll down the interstate without a real destination in mind. But finally, once they’ve crossed the state line, he speaks.

“I’ve been waiting, you know. And I was pretty sure, right around the time I realized I had to say yes to Lucifer, that was it. That was when you lost me. When I died. And fuck, it sucked. I knew I was going to leave you alone, but I couldn’t tell you. Because you hadn’t gotten there yet.”

Sam stops, turns to stare out of the window and Dean takes a breath, deep and slow. For him it’s just been a few months. Just weeks since he sat on that small, dirty couch with his too little brother in his lap. But for Sam it’s been years and years. And even more for the time he spent in hell. Dean still feels the same. Still wants. But there’s a lot of water under the bridge for Sam now. And maybe he doesn’t anymore. Maybe he never would have felt that way about Dean at all if Dean hadn’t popped into his life older and more affectionate than he had any right to be.

“I…” Sam starts and then stops, and Dean hears him swallow, glances over and sees the reflection of passing headlights playing over Sam’s features. He looks tired. Older. Worn and weary. But he’s still Sam. Still, in some ways, that eager little boy he’d been only months ago for Dean.

“It was hard, Dean. So fucking hard. And I had to run away from you, more than once, to do what you wanted. But I did it. And when the time came, I threw myself into that pit knowing it was the end. But, just like I told you, I also knew how you felt. And I carried that with me for the years I was down there. And it’s the only thing that kept me sane. Or close to it anyway.”

Sam turns his head then and though Dean’s eyes are back on the road, he can feel his brother’s stare cutting into him. It’s painful and raw and full of so much love Dean almost chokes on it.

“Please don’t tell me no again. It’s been so long for me. But it’s still there. Still burning and stabbing away at me. And I need you now, maybe more than ever.”

Finally, Dean finds his voice, and eyes fixed firmly ahead, because it’s hard to look at Sam right now, for a multitude of reasons, he says, “Not gonna say no, Sammy. And I don’t think you know how hard it was to say no then. Especially knowing it was my last shot. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t take advantage of you. And I couldn’t risk screwing everything up.”

“You could’ve come back though, Dean. You didn’t have to… I wouldn’t have pushed.”

“Yes you would have. It’s who you are, Sammy. And I would have given in because that’s who I am. And, to be fair, it’s only been a few months for me. I was close to saying fuck it and calling Cas back when he dropped you on my doorstep. I would have come back. I couldn’t stay away.”

Dean sees Sam nod out of the corner of his eye, but somehow he misses the way Sam shifts toward him. And then there’s a hand on his thigh, so much larger than it was a few months ago. But just as sure. Just as warm. Just as alive and that’s what matters more than anything.

“We need a motel,” is all Sam says as he squeezes Dean’s leg, fingers dangerously close to delicate bits. Bits Dean definitely wouldn’t mind that hand touching. Bits that are waking up, genuinely excited for the first time in almost a year.

Dean just nods in answer and takes the next off ramp.

*~*~*

The motel is no different than so many others he and Dean have shared over the years. Same out of date wallpaper. Same crazy bedding and weird divider between the sitting room and the beds. But it feels very different.

Sam isn’t sure if it’s this thing hanging out in the open between them now or if it’s all the time he spent in the cage. Could be either, really.

Thankfully, Cas was able to take most of it. Sam can’t remember too much. A flash of Lucifer’s maniacal laugh here and there. Michael’s solemn face staring down at him as Lucifer grinned menacingly. The heat. God. That’s one thing Castiel couldn’t take, no matter how hard he tried. Sam feels charred and itchy and nothing seems to help. And he’s only slept once since he’s been out, but he woke screaming and burning and even an ice cold shower couldn’t quell the feeling that he was turning to ash from the inside out.

So maybe that’s why he feels so out of sorts. Everything feels the same and different too. He feels new and also very old. And he thinks this is probably how Dean felt when Cas pulled him out. Everything is shiny and fascinating but marred around the edges with the memories of the flames and screams and the agony. Nothing quite fits like it did before.

Nothing except for Dean. Dean is a constant for Sam. And as he pulls off his hoodie and searches through his bag of recently acquired goodwill clothes, he feels Dean’s presence at his back like an anchor. And he remembers thinking that, so long ago, he was doing just the same for Dean. Tying him to the earth with nothing but his love. And that’s just how it is. The world, Heaven, Hell… they tug and tear and rip. They sling them far and wide and leave them broken and tattered. But it’s never enough. Sam always finds his way back to Dean and vice versa. And out of everything that feels completely wrong or just not quite right, Dean feels perfect. Feels like home in a way no physical place ever has. He doesn’t burn quite so painfully with Dean standing behind him. But in some ways he burns hotter, brighter than ever before.

“Shower?” Dean asks, voice low, quiet like he might startle Sam and send him running if he isn’t careful. But Sam’s not going anywhere. Not now that he finally feels a little peace. A little right. A little more like the Sam he remembers himself being. The Sam he can only be when Dean’s there to steer him straight.

“Yeah. Kinda… haven’t bathed since I’ve been back. And I know it’s crazy because of the angel mojo, but I feel a little dirty.” Sooty, he doesn’t say. But he doesn’t think he has to. If anyone understands, it’s Dean.

“No, yeah. I mean. I know what you mean. Are you hungry?”

This mundane, normal, almost bland conversation makes Sam want to laugh. They both know where they’re heading. They both know why Sam insisted on a motel room as soon as possible and why Dean didn’t waste any time getting them here. But they can’t talk about it. Not yet. Can’t even touch.

Sam hasn’t seen his brother in years and Dean’s been without him for months and they haven’t even hugged yet. But, on some level, they both know that once they do, it’s over. The floodgates are going to open and they aren’t likely to come up for air until they’ve drowned in each other time and again.

Finally, Sam pulls out a pair of shorts, nothing else, and turns to face his brother. He says, “Not really,” but he knows his eyes are telling a different story. He’s starving. But not for something that could be found on any takeout menu.

Dean almost steps forward but stops short, shoves his hands in his pockets and nods. “Okay. Alright. Um. So. Shower. Maybe fast?”

Sam feels a smile tug at his lips and it’s odd. He hasn’t smiled in so long. It feels foreign on his face, muscles tugging almost painfully. But he lets it grow anyway.

“Wasn’t planning on doing it alone.”

He sees, for the briefest moment, doubt flicker over Dean’s features. Maybe a bit of guilt and definitely some anxiety. But then it’s gone and Dean nods, jerky and off beat. But still willing. So very willing. And Sam thinks they can worry about the rest later.

*~*~*

Sam’s skin is tan and warm and alive beneath Dean’s soapy hands and after the first broken moan from his brother’s mouth, Dean doesn’t try to refrain from laying kiss after kiss over his back and shoulders. And Sam just stands there, one arm holding himself up on the wall, the other reaching behind him to hold Dean in place. But he twists and arches to receive every single offering Dean’s lips press into his body.

And it’s peaceful. Sweet. So soft that a few years ago Dean would have balked at the thought. Not just being here with Sam, but being like this. Before he’d always imagined it happening in anger, violent and uncontrollable. He’d take Sam or Sam would take him and there would be biting and pushing and screaming. And so goddamn much guilt they’d drown in it. But that’s not what this is.

This is an epiphany for him. A fucking revelation. His brother is alive and he finally has him just like he’s always wanted, pliant and eager.

Dean licks a stripe up the center of Sam’s back, tongue bumping over protruding vertebrae and Sam whispers, “Yeah,” using his grip on Dean’s hip to pull him closer. And when Dean’s bobbing erection brushes the underside of one of Sam’s asscheeks they both shudder and sign. As often as Dean has thought about this over the years, he’s never thought it could be so easy, so right.

Dean’s dick slips between Sam’s slick thighs and then he’s clamping down, trapping the length with his muscles. Dean can feel the soft skin of Sam’s sac shifting as he pushes and the pulls into the crevice Sam has created for him. And it’s so fucking good that he can’t believe they’ve waiting this long.

“Shit, Dean,” Sam breathes out, leaning forward to rest his forehead against the shower wall so that he can reach down and get a hand around his shaft. And then Dean slides forward again, fucking into the space between Sam’s legs and feeling the side of Sam’s hand brush the head of his cock before he pulls back again.

And he could finish just like this, snugged up against Sam’s balls, fingernails biting crescent shaped marks into the skin covering Sam’s slim hips. He could sink his teeth into the soft flesh between Sam’s neck and shoulder and paint the wall with his release. But he can’t see Sam’s face, can’t kiss him, can’t make sure this is as good for him as it’s bound to be for Dean.

He pulls back, reluctantly gives up the space he’s carved out between Sam’s thighs, and runs a soothing hand over Sam’s lower back when he whines. They have all night. No need to rush. Sam’s not going anywhere and neither is Dean. They can make this good.

“Shh, Sammy. Let’s get you rinsed off and get outta here, okay? Then I’ll take care of you. Nice and slow. Got all the time in the world, baby.”

Sam huffs and then lets the hand he was jerking off with fall to his side with a nod, “Yeah. Okay. Just, um… don’t back out on me, alright?”

Dean laughs, low and rumbling, as he turns Sam around, already leaning to the side so the shower spray can hit his chest and clear away the suds, “You give me way too much credit. No way could I walk away, Sammy. Never could, not in any permanent way. I’ve always been yours. However you want me.”

He tries to keep his eyes on Sam’s body, hands swooping in to aid the water in washing Sam clean, but his brother slides a hand under his chin, tilting his head up so he has no choice but to meet his eyes.

“Good. Because you’re all I’ve ever wanted.”

Dean rolls his eyes at how sappy they sound, but he doesn’t voice any complaints. He finally has Sam back and this thing is growing here between them now. Maybe they’re entitled to a little mush. And he loses the will to even care in the next instant because Sam leans down and brings their lips together.

It’s so much better than it was before. Because this Sam is older and more experienced. Not only in kissing in general, but in handling Dean. Somehow he knows just how to flick his tongue against the roof of Dean’s mouth, just how Dean likes to have his bottom lip nibbled and sucked, just when to pull Dean closer and press their bodies together, erections squeezed tight between them. And Dean just twists his fingers in all that hair and holds on, grips his brother tight and grinds fast and dirty into his hard, wet body.

“Fuck,” Sam groans, pulling back to suck in a deep breath, “we gotta...” he leans down again, sliding his hot mouth over the cut of Dean’s cheekbone, right up to his ear, teeth nipping gently at the skin he finds along the way, “get to the bed.”

But they don’t make it that far, despite Dean’s desire to lay Sammy out and map his entire body with hands and fingers and lips and tongue. They make it to the wall just outside the bathroom door and then, like it’s nothing, Sam presses him into it and then lifts.

And Dean is just there, caught between Sam’s rutting hips and the wall, his feet a few inches off the floor and his hands gripping Sam, one on his shoulder and the other still tangled in his too long hair. And he doesn’t even care that there’s nothing manly about the position he’s in. Doesn’t care that his little brother can lift him like a fucking rag doll.

Because Sam has a hand on his hip and one braced against the wall and his lips are welded to Dean’s, tongue and teeth gentle but insistent as he owns Dean’s mouth. And it’s perfect and real and god, Sam’s alive and he’s here and they’re actually doing this.

And he realizes he’s whispering that into Sam’s mouth when Sam replies, ragged and on the edge of cresting, “Gonna do this all the time, Dean. You ‘n me against the world, right?”

And just like that, Dean arches and comes, slicking the path for Sam’s cock, shooting spurt after spurt between their stomachs.

Then Sam grunts, a punched out sound, and his hips stutter several times before he follows Dean right over the edge, forehead pressed against Dean’s, stealing breath from Dean’s lungs. And Dean wouldn’t have it any other way. Would give Sam even the very beat of his heart if he wanted it.

For several moments they’re suspended like that. Dean quite literally and Sam figuratively as he stares into Dean’s eyes from not even an inch away. Like he’s trying to read his mind. Desperate to know that this really was okay and not just Dean sacrificing himself for his little brother. And Dean knows that’s what he’s thinking just as surely as if Sam had said it out loud.

“’S good, Sammy. We’re good. I mean, I’d like to stand up,” Dean says, punctuating the statement with a swing of his feet, “But other than that, everything’s good.”

Sam chuckles, his face shifting from sex god to goofy little brother so fast it makes Dean’s head spin. But Dean loves it. Is so glad to have Sam back that he’ll take him in any capacity.

“What about you? You good too? This, um, this okay with you?”

Sam snorts and leans in to peck Dean on the lips before he steps back, lowering Dean to the floor and making a face at the mess stringing out between them.

“More than okay. But I think we should shower again. Or find a washcloth.”

Wincing as his legs and feet adjust to holding him up again, Dean nods and steps around his brother in search of something to clean them up. And that’s it. Simple. Easy. Like nothing has ever been for them before.

*~*~*

When they go to bed that night, they slip into the same one. And once they’ve ruined it, they shift to the other and finally fall asleep in each other’s arms.