Sam/Dean. R. ~2500.
Standing at his own crossroads, Sam lifts his arm to knock.
There was no clue before it happened. Sam didn’t catch a glimpse of battered leather in a crowded diner, didn’t see him vanish around the corner. One day in April, after Sam had come up empty on a rumour of a group haunting in South Dakota, Dean was just there.
Two empty tumblers sat on the low bureau next to a bottle of Jack’s Old No. 7. The flickering television bathed the stuffy room (generic; no kitsch to lighten the load on Sam’s shoulders) in a bluish glow. He stood warily by the door, heart a solid lead weight in his stomach and hand clutching the doorknob.
It leaned easily against the rickety headboard, watching him. Same scarred boots, same torn jeans, the amulet a brass glint on his chest as tarnished as the smile that couldn’t reach the black in its eyes.
“No welcome home hug for big brother?”
Sam’s voice wavered, crackled like breaking glass, “You’re not my brother.”
It turned to the mirror, cocked his head and cocked an eyebrow. “I sure as hell look like him.”
“Why?” It stood, used Dean’s casual grace to cross the short distance between them. One foot, a few superficial inches as Sam stood frozen, then nothing. It pushed up in his face, filled the air with the familiar smell of warm skin and gun oil. “Because I died? So did you.”
Sam ran. Left behind his supplies and his research, his clothes and his cash. Ten miles outside town he pulled blindly onto the shoulder, hand white-knuckled on the wheel and lungs burning, screaming for more than the short, desperate gasps he squeezed through the tight clench of his throat. He didn’t move until the sun broke through the clouds of morning.
The hallway stretches out dim and dirty. Dull, grey-brown carpet covering the floor, a water stain spidering out like the roads on a map across one wall. The brown paint beneath the scratched gold number seven is rippled and pockmarked, diseased.
He’s been here before, in a life he didn’t have. The first time he didn’t have Dean. He knows where it will lead and doesn’t stop to hope that he’s wrong.
Standing at his own crossroads, Sam lifts his arm to knock.
“Did you get it?” the demon asked.
Sam tightened his grip on the delicate bit of carved stone. Sharp edges dug into his palm, moments away from breaking, gouging into flesh. “Yeah.”
It made an impatient noise and held out one hand, sliver ring glinting in the lamplight. The curtains were drawn tight against the sunset, the only other light in the room from the muted television. Happy Days reruns.
When Sam still hesitated, its eyebrows raised. It wore Dean’s usual expression of curiosity like a mask. “Are you breaking our deal?”
“No,” Sam said, hurriedly. He opened his hand and let the avatar drop into the demon’s. He didn’t know what it planned, had only gotten as far as standing at the edge of the university’s campus before he decided he couldn’t know what the stone meant. “There, done.”
The demon’s fist closed over the jade. “Done,” it agreed, and the darkness in its eyes melted into the warm summer green of Dean’s.
The horrible tightness in Sam’s chest let go with a wrench. For the first time in two years, he met his brother’s steady gaze, let himself fall into it with barely a pang of regret for what he’d done. For this, he’d have done more.
The room is empty. His things are carefully stowed in the usual places. There are two toothbrushes in the bathroom, one mangled tube of toothpaste and one damp towel. One bed, rumpled, sheets carelessly lopsided and pillows mashed against the headboard.
He toes off his shoes and lays on top of the covers, fully clothed, wide awake even though he’s been driving for a day and a half. He’d like to think he didn’t start out this desperate but Dean knows better.
It wasn’t the Roadhouse by a long shot. It lacked that air of tension, the sorrow and the insanity stomped into the wood by years of heavy booted feet walking steadily towards revenge and salvation.
Sam took a small table in the back for himself, spread out the journal and a ragged pile of newspaper clippings. Less than a half hour passed before he felt the weight of someone’s attention. He lifted his head, took in the mud-spattered boots and heavy canvas jacket. One jerk of his chin and he went back to the journal, fitting his university-ruined scrawl next to Dean’s neat block printing.
“Winchester,” the guy said, kicking out a chair and dropping himself into it.
“There’s a pack outside Delaware,” Sam said. He kept writing, curving his sentence around a sketch of the tattoo inked into his skin. “No more than three.”
The guy settled back in his chair, arms crossed. “And you’re just givin’ it to me.”
“Yeah, looks that way.”
Sam’s gaze flicked up. A jagged, angry scar slashed diagonally across the man’s lips. His eyes were honestly curious, his mouth hard and threatening.
“Got something else I need to do.”
The guy scratched his chin. Across the bar, a chair scraped roughly over the pitted wood floor. “Alright,” he said. “’Bout time somebody took out those bastards.” He stood, clapped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. Solidarity.
His name was Clive Williams. He had a wife, a son, and a dead daughter. Sam didn’t know any of that until he found them all in the obituaries a week later.
Sam wakes when Dean touches the dried blood on his face. The room is dark and cool, the press of Dean’s fingers a warmth that he craves. He pushes up on one elbow, closing his eyes as Dean’s hand slides up, fingers smoothing through his hair, palm curved on the back of his head.
“Is this what you wanted?” he asks. “Right from the start?”
Mouth inches away, eyes heated and bright, Dean says, “Now it’s what you want.”
Dean’s kiss is warm, wet. Soft and demanding and sweet, he seals the first deal Sam’s really believed in.
Ruby’s corpse slowly flaked away to nothing as Sam tossed her room. He’d been surprised to find her holed up in a motel just like him, odd little bits of life strewn about, lip gloss and obits, take-out cartons and mixed herbs. She was him, until he’d shot her in the head.
He finished rifling through the delicate lace underwear she kept in the dresser and turned to find it standing in the open doorway. It stepped inside, carefully bolted the door and said, “Find it yet, Sammy?”
Does it look like I have is what Sam would’ve said, if it were really Dean. Instead, he bit out, “No.”
The look it gave him was flatly disapproving. It wore Dean’s face easier now, eyes green almost all the time, sometimes a glint of a different life in them. It surveyed the mess before moving to the closet, brow wrinkling as it helped search for the knife.
Sam stared at it in the mirror hung behind the door. It bit its lip, muttered under its breath, and Sam didn’t even have to close his eyes to imagine it really was Dean in the room with him.
It looked like Dean. It walked and talked and watched him like Dean. He wondered if he let it, would it touch him, offer him so much and ask for so little like Dean, too.
Dean rolls easily under him, pliant and cracked wide open. A tiny shadow flickers across his face, as if he’s not sure this is real, but it’s gone long before Sam can think to stop. He relearns by touch the familiar lines of Dean’s body, the firm curve of muscle, the shallow under his ribs, the taper of his back. He’s shaking but Dean says nothing, arching into each sweeping caress and harder press of his hands. The quiet is barely broken by the hiss of cars on the wet road outside. Too quiet, too easy to think without his brother loud in his head.
Sam stops, says, “It’s not. This isn’t-“
Dean sits up, shirt hanging open and loose around his bare chest. “You sure about that?”
Sam’s heart crawls up his throat to choke him. He seals his mouth shut tight against it, ignores the churning in his stomach that makes him want to throw up. A gentle, cautious hand on his shoulder makes him jerk like it’s a raw jolt of electricity.
“You’re not-“ Sam tries to say, but it’s a lie. All of it’s a lie.
Warm, strong arms curl around Sam from behind. His brother’s voice, like so many nights hidden under the covers for comfort, whispers in his ear, “You more afraid that I am or that I’m not?”
She was working in a hole in the wall outside Illinois. Sam sat parked around back until closing and watched the last drunk stumble to the kerb, fall in a heap on the crumbling sidewalk to wait ten minutes for the dinged-up cab to pick him up.
The overhead light snapped on as the passenger door creaked open. It settled in the seat like it belonged there but it didn’t, it was wrong, so wrong, to see his brother riding shotgun.
Mouth dry, Sam said, “What’re you doing?”
It rummaged under the seat for the box of tapes. The labels on some were torn and smudged, names dutifully re-written in as careful a hand as Sam’s messy scrawl could be coaxed into. It smiled, warmed by the gesture like Dean would’ve been, didn’t say anything (like Dean) and slid a Motorhead mix into the deck (Dean, Dean, Dean).
“I’m remindin’ you why you’re here,” it said. “Full circle, Sammy.” It turned to look at him, then. Really look, seeing more than Sam’s face and the dread Sam could feel knotting up his guts. “I almost killed her for you once, you finish the job for me now.”
“I can’t,” Sam said. He dropped his gazed, focused on the glint of the streetlights on Dean’s ring instead of the glint in his eyes. “Don’t ask me that. I can’t.”
“You mean you won’t.”
“I won’t,” Sam repeated with a tinny, empty scrap of conviction that even he wasn’t sure he believed.
“Okay,” it said, “okay. Then who?”
It shrugs. “You said you’d do it, she-“
“I didn’t know it’d be her.“
“Bobby?” it asked. “Ellen?” It leaned forward, amulet swinging free on the thong around its neck. Sam had the sudden, stupid urge to reach out and grab it. “Whose blood’ll it be? It’s got to be somebody who trusts you, y’know, the rest of the hunters out there don’t like you much anymore. A few too many gone missing.”
Their blood on Sam’s hands though he hasn’t seen a drop spilled. He said, “Mine.”
The demon looked up sharply, mouth twisted into a hard, unforgiving line, eyes bright, blazing green. “You think I’d do that? You think I’d ever fuckin’ let you do that?” Sam wasn’t ready when it grabbed him by the collar, dragged him halfway across the seat, shaking him with a same helpless, gut-reaction fury he thought he’d never see again.
It said, “Forget it,” and let him go. It got out, went to close the door and stopped, peering back inside. “You’re lucky, Sam. I’m used to you breaking your word.”
Sam breaks from Dean’s hold, stumbles to the bathroom and falls to his knees on the slick linoleum. He grips the toilet bowl, retching, sweat gathering at the nape of his neck and tears clearing pinkish-red tracks on his cheeks. He tries and tries but nothing happens. There’s no way to get rid of the sickness inside him.
He hears heavy, deliberate footsteps, the rush of tap water and the softer patter as Dean wrings up a cloth. He closes his eyes, lets Dean wipe his face and leans into the solid warmth Dean offers.
“Won’t be so bad in the morning, you’ll see,” Dean says. “You’ll see.”
The baby screamed. Screamed and wailed and kicked her tiny feet and didn’t know why, just knew something was wrong, so wrong, and Sam wondered if he’d known, too. He stared down at the little girl and wondered what sort of woman she’d grow up to be, if she’d be beautiful and kind like Jess, smart and charming like Sarah, strong and brave like Madison.
Or broken and useless, still flailing helplessly against the things she doesn’t understand.
Sam goes to the mother–Vanessa Moen, twenty-eight, who wakes up early every day to work from home so she can be with her new daughter, who leaves extra tips for the teenaged boy working at the bakery, who gossips cruelly about the neighbours behind their backs and cheated on her husband twice, promised never to do it again but probably would–and knelt beside her on the floor. He gathered her close, smoothed her blood-matted hair back from her face to wrap it tightly around his fist. The nightlight on the dresser slowed and stopped, the last tinkling strains of Twinkle, Twinkle faded out to leave just the baby’s quieting whimpers.
When he sliced her open, he said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” but wasn’t sorry enough.
At dawn, Sam wakes. His brother is curled tightly against his back, their bare legs twined together, a wide palm spread loose in sleep on the flat of his stomach. He breathes in, careful and deep, relishes the fading smell of soap and cologne mixed with the muffled scent of slept-in sheets.
He rolls over as quietly as he can but he wakes Dean regardless, those startling green eyes opening slowly, heavy-lidded and lazy. Sleep-slurred, so content and relaxed and real that Sam’s chest aches, Dean says, “Told ya we had a deal.”
“Yeah,” Sam says. “Yeah, we did.”
Dean kisses him, only half on the mouth and more than a little sloppily because it’s barely half past five and Dean’s just like that in the early morning, all good intentions but motivationally lacking. Sam settles down meaning to go back to sleep and stays awake instead, watching the steady rise and fall of Dean’s chest, the tiny flickers beneath his eyelids as he dreams.
If there’s a small emptiness inside Sam now, if he looks in the mirror and can’t see himself through the blackness of it, it doesn’t matter. He’ll fill himself back up with Dean, see himself in Dean’s eyes.
It’s not such a high price to pay.