Sam/Dean. NC-17. ~6300 words. Spoilers to end of S2.
Sometimes, when he’s riding to the top of the world on adrenaline, Dean forgets that’s all they are, nothing more than skin and muscle and bone.
By the time Sam rounds the grime-brown corner of the gas station, Dean’s settled in the driver’s seat fiddling with the tape deck. His collection’s gotten smaller since the last time he really looked, cassettes lost to time and the Impala’s moods, but he’ll be fucked if he’s going to sit here listening to any more of that emo punk crap Sam’s been blasting for the last forty miles.
Sam parked them in the back, way, way in the back, between a mud-spattered eighteen-wheeler with Walking Eagle emblazoned on the door and a truck camper plastered with such a riot of multi-coloured we’ve-been-here stickers that it looks more like a hippie van. All the sneaking around Sam’s got them doing lately grates on Dean’s nerves, but he didn’t say anything when they pulled in and he’s not going to now. At least back here there’s some shade.
Instead of heading across the front to the passenger’s side, Sam leans down, arms folded on the car’s open window. “What’re you doing?”
“Pickin’ the music, ’cause surprise, Sammy, you’re shotgun.”
Sam’s nostrils flare on an annoyed huff.
“C’mon,” Dean says, leaning back, hand curled possessively over the steering wheel. “We’re in the middle of nowhere Nevada, closet thing to civilisation around here is Spring Creek’s one-lane bowling alley. Nobody’s gonna be lookin’ long enough to make either of us.”
It’s an easy win; the look on Sam’s face gives it away before he even opens his mouth. “No speeding, promise,” Dean says, and hits play as Sam folds himself into the seat and slams the door.
Mouth twisting, Sam says, “I thought you lost that tape.”
“You try to hide my shit again and you’re walkin’,” Dean says, grinning from ear to ear.
Marjorie Cooper lives in a tidy little neighbourhood in a tidy little riverside town. Her house has a small brick path lined with flowers all the way from the sidewalk to her front steps, where there’re pots and pots and more pots of them all vying for a bit of sunshine.
For once, Sam’s face doesn’t tighten with a longing that Dean’s never understood. He might get it but he doesn’t get it in the same way that Sam’ll never get hunting. Without the passion, it’s just an idea.
Dean tries to straighten his tie. “Gonna check out the place. Keep her at the front for about ten minutes, if you can handle it.”
Sam gives him a curt FBI-nod and practically rattles the lady’s front door off its hinges with three perfect, perfunctory knocks.
As he rounds the thorny rose bushes, Dean listens to the low rhythm of Sam smoothly rattling off question after question, that token, false concern of authorities everywhere cropping up when the woman takes too long to answer. It hadn’t taken Dean long, maybe half a year back on the job, to understand that tone when it came out of his little brother’s mouth.
Satisfied that the back garden isn’t a burial ground for half the county’s missing persons, Dean comes back around to the front. Sam glances at him and quickly looks back. A puzzled frown creases the woman’s face, the lines settling in deep like all she’s done her entire life is scowl.
“My partner’s waiting,” Sam says. “Thanks for your time, Ms. Cooper.”
Bitterly, she says, “Don’t mention it,” and after one last odd look in Dean’s direction, closes the door.
“Nice lady,” Dean says, on their way back to the car.
Sam snorts, tucks his little black notebook away. “I think she’s a dead end. Wrong place, wrong time.”
“Did you find anything?” Sam opens the back door and chucks his coat in, hitching up the legs of his slacks before settling behind the wheel.
“She’s got a runty dog named Speckles out back, but that’s it.”
After a short pause, Sam says, “I didn’t hear any barking.”
“Dog was asleep. You gonna drive any time soon? We’ve got two more witnesses to interview and this freakin’ suit itches.”
A homey Ma and Pa couple and their teenaged granddaughter run Gerald’s Way Motel. Dean takes one look at the girl’s short-shorts and sends Sam in to get the room while he picks a strategic spot to lean on the Impala, just enjoying the view.
Pa’s got a Smith & Wesson behind the counter for trouble and an evil eye for Sam. Sam flings his dimples around some and Pa eases off, wanders into the back to finish his dinner. The girl tries to fling herself right back at Sam as soon as he’s gone, but Sam just smiles more and ducks his head to sign the slip of paper she slides oh-so-slowly over.
When he comes back outside, Dean says, “Man, you could’ve had that.”
“She barely sixteen,” Sam says. He hands Dean the room key, points in the direction they’re headed and goes to bring the car around.
Inside, after they’ve thrown their gear down and Sam’s taken his turn in the bathroom, he says, “Besides, that guy was just looking for a reason.”
“Coulda been worth it.”
“No way, man,” Sam’s mouth is quirked at the corner, not quite a smile. “No way.”
Around midnight, Dean wakes to the sound of Sam puking his guts up.
The sliver of light shining along the threshold creeps over Dean’s toes as he gently pushes the door open. Sam is bent low over the toilet, naked back glistening and hair matted in thick, messy curls against his neck.
Sam’s answer is a wet, wracking cough. He spits and rubs a hand over his face, slumping tiredly against the rickety cupboard. Dean wrinkles his nose and flushes.
“You been at this long?”
“‘Bout ten minutes,” Sam rasps. His eyes are heavy and glassy as they follow where Dean moves to sit on the tub’s edge. “Seems longer.”
“Sour stomach or something else?”
Sam closes his eyes and doesn’t answer right away. At times like these, Dean’s pretty tempted to take up praying as a hobby. They’ve been doing good the last few months, taking on jobs that are easy enough but just as meaningful because at the end of the day, somebody’s mom is still breathing and the bad thing is dead. Dean can’t even remember the last time he’s had something worse than a stitch or two since the end of the whole demon mess.
Eventually, Sam says, “Truck stop food.”
Flashing back on the pile of congealed grease that’d been dinner, Dean reaches out to rub Sam’s shoulder. It’s solid and warm beneath his palm, strong. Sometimes, when he’s riding to the top of the world on adrenaline, he forgets that’s all they are, nothing more than skin and muscle and bone. “Wouldn’t really call that food.”
“Truck stop shit.”
Dean grins. Sam is miserable, shaking and shivering and looking like he’s about to have another go at saying hello to his insides, but he’s smiling. Smiling like everything is exactly as it should be.
For now, Dean believes him, and wrings up a damp cloth.
A couple hours later, they’re in an all-night laundromat washing the stink out of Sam’s pyjamas. Sam’s still looking a little drawn-out and grey, but he hadn’t been able to sleep either, and if neither one of them was sleeping, Dean didn’t see any reason why they had to lie around in the dark reeking of Sam’s regurgitated leftovers.
While Dean does all the work, Sam sprawls in a tiny plastic chair, one hand on his stomach like he’s afraid it’ll try to escape again. If there’s one smarmy word about how Dean’s not folding his socks right, he’s going to chuck the whole mess at Sam’s feet and go sleep in the car, sick brother or not.
Out of the blue, Sam says, “I always used to do my laundry around this time.”
Dean thinks about playing dumb but says, “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Sam nods slowly, stuck somewhere halfway between exhausted and wired. “Lotsa people used to try just after midnight, but the place never really went dead until three, four in the morning. You remember that laundromat in Camden?”
Dean tucks a rolled-up pair of Sam’s jeans into their bag. He can’t remember when but somewhere along the way, they’d lost one of their clothing duffels. They’d never bothered to replace it–it’s not like either one of them is rolling in designer duds–and now all of Dean’s clothes smell like Sam. Every time he hauls on a shirt and gets a whiff of his brother, something clenches tight in his gut. He figures it’s like when you come home after a long, long time in somebody else’s house and that first breath you take when you walk over the threshold is everything you didn’t know you missed.
Sam has a lopsided, dopey grin on his face. Rolling his eyes and tucking away another shirt, Dean says, “You deserved every bit of flack you got for that. Maybe I dared you to do it, but that doesn’t count for squat.”
They’d had to wait around almost twenty minutes, Sam doing his best to pretend the stale air conditioning wasn’t freezing his balls off, before the tinny bell above Camden Laundromat’s door had rung. It being grumpy Ms. Finch from Number 12 standing there with her eyes bugging out had been like Christmas. Honest to god real Christmas, the kind you see on television where everybody gets more than they’d ever even thought to ask for.
Dean wonders if Sam would stand up and bare it all now, if Dean dared him to.
Stupidly, Sam just stares at him. “You want to go out?”
“Yeah, I wanna go out. Grab a couple beers, shoot some pool.” Dean hauls on his jacket, comfortably enveloped in its heavy warmth. It doesn’t smell quite the same as it used to, less like old leather and Dad and more like the inside of the car, which used to be Dad’s too, but doesn’t smell like him anymore either. “Just relaxin’, you and me.”
Visibly, Sam hesitates, stubborn uncertainty holding him back to hover in the bathroom door, turned to a dark outline by the bright bare bulb hanging behind him. His shirts are in a wet ball of mud on the floor at his feet.
“Flick off the light, would ya?”
“Well, maybe I wasn’t in the mood. Look, just turn off the damn light, put on a shirt, and c’mon.”
Warmer, softer light fills the room when Sam finally hits the switch. The tight clench of muscle between Dean’s shoulder blades eases; Sam’s not quite looking at him straight on but at least he can see Sam’s face again, try and figure out what’s got his shorts in a bunch this time.
Dean drives to the bar he’d spotted on their way into town. Sam makes him park three streets over next to a fenced-in empty lot. He’d bitch about what a pain in the ass it’s going to be to tromp all the way back when Sam’s three sheets to the wind, except that’d blow the whole plan out of the water.
To really get Sam drunk, you have to sneak attack him.
Longman’s Run is generic: bald guy behind the counter, a stocky guy on the door heavy with a layer of fat over thick muscle, pool tables, dart boards, smoke and beer and a faceless crowd to get lost in. Dean stakes out a table in the back corner and sends Sam up for a shot and a beer each.
Sam eyes the pool tables but a space never clears, the locals having long since marked their territory, so they end up sitting and drinking for a couple hours, just talking about everything under the sun and nothing really at all. Every now and then, Dean’ll check out the crowd again. Turns out everybody’s either spoken for or not really tempting enough to get Dean to move.
He catches Sam looking at him a little too hard and pushes a fresh beer across the table. “How about you finish that one, eh, Sammy?”
Sam squints at the beer, nose wrinkling slightly. He drags his gaze up like it’s the hardest thing he’s had to do all day and says, “You’re trying to get me drunk.”
“Nope. I already got you drunk, I’m just tryin’ to keep you there.”
Squinting harder, Sam says, “Why?”
“‘Cause I like it when you’re all mellow and agreeable. Drink up.”
Abruptly, Sam stands up, his chair adding another few skid marks to the worn wood floor. “C’mon,” he says, and heads straight for the bathroom.
The world tilts a little to the left when Dean gets up. He can’t quite stomp down the urge to cast a quick, furtive glance around to see whose attention they’ve got, but he manages a casual walk to the rough door with the peeling green paint. The sign is hanging on by one screw.
Inside, Sam’s waiting for him.
His back hits the lone stall’s door before he’s got time to blink. The thin clapboard rattles and bends beneath his weight, hinges creaking. He pictures both of them falling through it with a crash and then Sam’s right in his face, saying, “How come you never say anything?”
Sam shakes his head, gives Dean a shake to match, and says, “How come?”
It’s a stupid question. There’s a dozen reasons how come; like how Sam’s got a future again. Or how about the whole you’re my brother thing. But Sam’s not in the mood to listen–Sam’s moods range from talking to not talking, but not talking’s not the same as listening.
From too close by, gaze on Dean’s mouth, Sam says, “There’s maybe one thing I wouldn’t do for you.” When Sam looks up, his face says, this isn’t it. “Maybe one day, you’ll figure that out.”
“It’s not–” Sam’s grip on Dean’s collar tightens enough to make Dean’s breath hitch. “Not the same, Sammy.”
“It is.” The fine trembling in Sam’s arms increases, turns into a quick, hard shake that snaps Dean’s teeth together. Sam gets up closer, impossibly closer, gives him another shake that has him grabbing for Sam’s wrists, his pulse tripping over itself like his breaths. “Yes it fucking is.”
Sam doesn’t notice the fine spiderweb cracks skittering across the warped mirror. Dean closes his eyes before it shatters. Sam’s mouth tastes like whiskey and sweet spun-sugar floss.
The moon is bright and full. Dean pushes and Sam willingly slumps against the car, the sharp angles of his face thrown into stark relief by cool white light. His eyes are grey, wide and fever-glassy. Like sickness, except Dean can feel the same sickness in his blood, pounding in his brain. They’re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and be over this.
Dean presses his hands flat to Sam’s thighs and Sam spreads them wider, presses his mouth against the chill line of Sam’s zipper, the thick warmth beneath, and Sam’s head falls back, throat exposed long and pale. You- Sam, you sure? echoes in Dean’s head, his tongue too thick for speech. He already knows the answer, anyway.
Clumsily, he tugs Sam’s cock out, palms already damp with sweat. It fits perfectly in the greedy curve of his fingers, the head shines wet, slick. His face is on fire, blood-hot, and it’s got nothing to do with shame. Winging this is the only way to go and it’s not going to be even close to the best blowjob anybody’s ever gotten, but that’s not the point. This is him and Sam, his mouth and his tongue and the taste of hot, sweat-salty flesh.
He runs his mouth up one side of Sam’s cock, sensitive to every bump and ridge and vein like a conman’s fingertips to the dots on a die. Each breath he drags in is deeper than the last, held longer, like he can keep the heady smell of Sam swirling inside him forever. He buries his face, lips wet and soft and open, against the heavy weight of Sam’s balls, sucks at delicate skin until Sam’s hips jerk and precome smears high across his cheek.
“You want me to suck it?” It’s not a question; he kisses the slippery ridge and Sam answers with a noise like a man with his chest ripped open, wet and gurgling and pleading. Dean takes that sound and tucks it away to remember when he needs it most.
Long fingers push through Dean’s hair, curve tight to his head with the tips pressing hard against the base of his skull. He looks up to see every thought, every feeling Sam’s ever had for him written in the dazed slant of Sam’s eyes, the slack curve of his mouth. Dean knows his brother inside out and thinks as soon as he wraps his lips tight around the head of Sam’s dick, Sam’s going to hold off, hold off and hold off and then just give in, go for broke, fuck him until his jaw’s aching and his lips are rubbed raw. Dean’s own cock jerks, sticky precome soaking the inside of his shorts.
Sam moans something low under his breath and pushes forward, eyes flaring as the head slides easily over Dean’s lips. His legs start to shake as Dean holds him there, his tongue moving in quick little flutters across the slit, pushing the taste of Sam around until his mouth’s full of it. The next time Sam pushes, Dean opens wide and lets in every last inch he can take, close to choking on how bad he wants more.
He can feel how hard Sam’s trying to hang on. There’s time for that later, Dean wants to tell him, long after they’re wrung out and exhausted, but doesn’t want to stop long enough. His lungs are screaming at him for more than the sharp, tiny puffs of breath he’s sucking in through his nose and he’s not even sure he wants to stop long enough to ease the burn. All he can taste, all he can smell and feel and want is this.
The air’s filled with choppy noise, the greedy sounds Dean’s making deep in the back of his throat when Sam thrusts harder, the needy whine as he keeps going. He imagines the whole empty lot echoing with the ruckus they’re making and is glad there’s nobody around to be a smartass about it.
Right when Dean thinks that’s it, he can’t take it anymore, and starts fumbling at his zipper, Sam’s grip tightens, thumbs digging in hard on Dean’s jaw. Sam comes too fast and hard for Dean to really taste it, swallowing slippery warmth down as quick as he can while he fucks into the shaky circle of his own hand. He blows his load right between Sam’s wide-spread feet with his mouth still full of Sam’s cock, his teeth resting lightly against the softening length.
Sam pulls him off way before he’s ready to move. He’d bitch except he doesn’t think his mouth will work quite right and Sam doesn’t really give him a chance. They’re both on their knees and Sam’s practically in his lap, thumb running obsessively back and forth over Dean’s swollen lips before kissing him, kissing him and kissing him until Dean thinks alright, now he’s going to pass out from oxygen deprivation and that’s okay.
He drives slowly back to the motel, Sam a huge, smugly-satisfied presence in the passenger seat. The thought that this could be awkward briefly crosses his mind. Sort of like he’s standing still on the side of the highway and the idea’s a car whipping by at Mach 3, the draft left in its wake all he’s got time to register.
Inside the room, overhead light blaring, he strips Sam down and they end up on top of the covers doing it all over again, Sam fucking up into his mouth while Dean just tries to hold on. This time, when his mouth fills with Sam’s come, he holds onto it, not caring if some spills down his chin or drips onto Sam’s thighs. He just licks it up after, savours it because it means something, and then he hears himself say, “Gonna fuck me if I ask nice?”
Sam’s breath hitches on a full-body jerk. He’s completely fucked out under Dean, limbs heavy in a haphazard sprawl. Dean crawls his way back up the whole lazy length of him, touches his mouth to Sam’s as he says, “S’all I want, Sammy. Wanna feel you.”
The look on Sam’s face is clear and pure. Roughly, like he’d just been the one to get his throat fucked, he says, “Yeah. Yeah, I-” and his hands skim down Dean’s arms, up over Dean’s back to pull them closer together. The next thing out of Sam’s mouth is garbled and sleepy.
Sam rolls over without a fight, obediently curling his legs up as Dean tugs and curses on the thin blankets. A few minutes later, they’re settled down, Sam even more obstinate in sleep; every time he tries to wrap an arm around Dean, Dean pulls away. He ends up with Sam sprawled out halfway on top of him drooling on his chest.
The harsh warble of his ringtone jerks him out of sleep.
The overhead light is off, so Sam must’ve woken up at some point without Dean noticing. On the bedside table, Dean’s phone is lit up and vibrating, precariously close to taking a nose-dive off the edge and plaguing him until he gets up to search for it.
He makes a grab for it, flips it open and says, “Yeah, it’s Dean, what?”
From the other end, there’s silence, then Bobby’s crackly, “Hello?”
Bobby’s high on Dean’s list of favourite people, but right now he’s got a few hundred pounds of little brother crushing him into the thin mattress so he’s not really in the mood for friendly chatter. “Hey, Bobby, you got a job?”
“Sam? Sam, that you?”
Dean pulls the phone away to scowl at it, and then it’s sent flying in a bright LED blur as Sam grumpily bats it away.
“That was Bobby,” Dean says, as if it’ll make a difference.
“D’answer phone,” Sam mumbles. His face is pressed into the crook of Dean’s neck, his heartbeat thumping hard and fast against Dean’s chest.
“Okay.” Because he can get away with it, Dean smoothes his hand down the long, long line of Sam’s spine. Sam settles into it, body lax and heavy, but it’s another good five minutes or so before his heart stops galloping.
Dean forgets about it in the morning, waking up to the brilliant sunrise and Sam’s bright smile.
“Got some suspicious decapitations down in Georgia,” Dean says. “When the hell isn’t a decapitation suspicious?”
Mouth full of eggs and peppers, Sam says, “Industrial accident.”
They’re holed up in the motel eating the almost-cold breakfast Sam had insisted on running out for. Dean would’ve preferred a couple cups of piping hot coffee in the diner instead but figured that wasn’t a good enough reason to bring the dark cloud of worry back to Sam’s face.
“Head down there after lunch?” Dean asks. “Nothing more solid somewhere else?”
Sam swallows hard and washes it down with orange juice. Dean watches his throat work and wonders if they’ll have enough time for one last roll in the dirty sheets before they’ve got to shower and check out.
“I’ve got some witnesses to a missing persons in this little town just inside Idaho,” Sam says. He shoves his plate away to get some papers, the remains of his egg sandwich toppling over. “Lots of kids going missing around the river. Never any bodies, though.”
Dean scratches at his chin and wonders when was the last time he shaved. Sam’s got tiny red patches on his throat, like stubble burn. They’re brighter in the morning light, more real. They’d be hot against Dean’s lips if he kissed them.
“Well, it’s closer.” Glancing at the grainy black and white photo of a scowling, middle-aged black woman accompanying the newspaper article, Dean says, “Since the river runs through her back yard, guess we’ll start with her.”
A couple years ago, Dean hated the West Coast. Sure, to everybody else it meant sun, sand, surf. A bit further inland, it was Las Vegas and all the chances of a lifetime. To him, it used to mean little more than the place Sammy would rather be.
But by the fifth or sixth time they’d driven through California and Sam hadn’t so much as blinked at the signs pointing the way to Stanford, he’d relaxed some. He felt a little guilty about it, even went so far as to bring up how easy it’d be for him to swing by and visit. All Sam had done was look at him like he was crazy.
Dean had said, “It’s not like you got a record.”
Along with Sam’s incredulous stare had been an expression Dean hadn’t recognised at the time, but now he knows was something like what people really meant when they came up with the word ‘stricken’. “I don’t want to,” Sam had said. Not I can’t, but don’t want.
Fiery red sunset hits the bruise Dean sucked onto Sam’s collarbone last night. It’s taken a long, long time, but Dean finally knows what Sam wants, and it feels a lot like winning the lottery to know that it’s what he wants, too.
One morning, Dean wakes up realising he hasn’t been further east of Utah in months. It’s not really like them to stick to the same geographical area for so long, so after Sam hauls himself out of the shower, naked and wet and flushed with the heat, Dean brings it up.
Sam brushes it off, says something about transient populations. He’s got his hand shoved down Dean’s pants, though, jerking him off slow and steady and so fucking good Dean’s eyes cross. Dean figures it doesn’t matter what part of backwater America they’re in, ’cause anywhere they go, he can always have this.
They’re driving past a seedy highway bar about five miles outside the last tiny wateringhole-town they skipped through, Dean eyeballing it speculatively because he’s sure he’s been in there before, when Sam’s phone rings. He checks the display and glances quickly in Dean’s direction before answering, “Hey, Bobby.”
A lengthy pause. Sam nods, makes agreeable sounds, says, “Yeah, near there.” Another pause, then, “Sure,” and he hangs up. He jams his cell back into his jeans and slumps lower in the seat. “So, Georgia, huh?”
They’re about as far away from Georgia as they can get and still be in the US. “You know what they say about those sweet Georgia peaches, Sammy.”
Sam rolls his eyes, but he’s maybe smiling again. Just a little. Dean taps along to John Fogerty and tries to remember where the nearest access for I40 is.
Sam’s mouth is pinched by little white lines until they pass out of Oklahoma into Arkansas. It’s hard to put his finger on exactly what’s got Sam’s back up this time. He chalks it up to the fact that he’s still cruising around with an FBI warrant on his head and fucks the tension out of Sam’s long, lean body when they stop for the night.
He wakes up sore and used and so fucking content it almost hurts. Sam’s mouth is on his hip, tongue licking at the permanent bruise that marks his favourite spot. Every now and then when they’re out, grabbing food or gassing up, Dean’ll slide a hand in his pocket to press on it. And Sam’ll watch him, gaze heavy enough to squeeze the air out of Dean’s lungs.
When they finally make it to Abbeville, Georgia, the local PD’s solved the case. They poke around a little just to make sure, ending up about as satisfied as they’re going to get when it turns out to be regular old human insanity.
Dean flops on the wobbly park bench outside their motel room and stares up at the night sky. The air is warm and close, thick as he draws it deep in his lungs. The door opens and Sam leans against the frame, tee rucked up as he crosses his arms and follows Dean’s gaze.
“You wanna head up north for awhile?” he asks.
“It’s the freakin’ dead of winter up there,” Dean says. “No thanks, rather stay down here where my balls like it. Maybe head back across the desert. ”
The corner of Sam’s mouth twitches. “Where they like it, huh?”
A prickling wave of heat ripples down Dean’s arms and legs. He glances around, sees too many lights still on, and stands up.
Sam backs into the room’s dim light, pushes him up against the closed door when he follows, so close he can feel Sam’s warm breath damp on his cheek.
They pick a meandering path back and forth the south. Sam relaxes more and more until it seems like the last eight years never happened and they’re kids again, heady with newfound freedom. Sam laughs and smiles and the only darkness Dean ever sees in his eyes is when Sam’s buried in him so deep he can feel it in his bones.
Bobby finds them sometime in the middle of that dusty endless summer, the taste of Popsicles and each other’s come strong in their mouths.
Sam opens the door a bare five inches and hangs on its edge, completely blocking Bobby from view. Dean rolls off the bed and starts digging around in the mess of clothes for a pair of jeans to haul on. The whole place reeks of sex and sugar.
“How’re you doin’, Sam?” Bobby’s gaze skips over Sam’s shoulder and Dean shuffles a little further away, grunting something that he hopes sounds like, “Hey.”
Sam says something low and quiet in return, then Bobby says, “You got somebody else in there?”
Dean freezes with his dick half tucked in and stares at the bare, broad expanse of Sam’s back. “What?”
Bobby stares resolutely forward, gaze stuck somewhere on the wall between Sam and Dean. “Look, Sam, I know you were always close, closer’n anything-”
“Yeah?” Sam says, heated and hard.
“This ain’t the way.” Bobby’s voice is as heavy as the look in his eyes. “Your father-”
“What the hell do you know about it?” Sam barks.
Dean’s jolted out of his daze and zips up so quick he almost nips himself. He’s pretty sure he knows what’s about to go down here and if it’s going to happen, he’s not leaving Sam to shoulder all the blame.
“Bobby, listen,” Dean says, laying a hand on Sam’s back to push him gently aside.
Sam jerks like he’s been stung. Dean barely has time to see the wide-open panic on Sam’s face before Sam’s slamming the door shut. “Leave it alone, Bobby,” he calls through it, throwing the bolt and leaning all his weight against the door as if that’ll keep Bobby out for good. “Just- go away and leave it the fuck alone!”
Dean struggles to close his gaping mouth. “Sam? Seriously, what the fuck?”
Sam shakes his head and jerks his chin at the door. Dean frowns and folds his arms, waiting impatiently for the accusing rumble of Bobby’s old Camaro and for the explanation that had better follow it.
A full minute after the sound fades, Sam says, “Nothing.”
“Jesus. That wasn’t nothing. What the hell did Bobby want, why’d you slam the door in his fucking face? You don’t-” Disbelief trips Dean’s tongue. “You don’t do shit like that.”
“He knows,” Sam squeezes out. “He knows you’re- he knows about us. Wants it to stop.”
Belligerently, despite the twist of guilt in his gut because it’s Bobby, for cryin’ out loud, Dean says, “Isn’t any of his fucking business.”
“No,” Sam breathes. “No, it’s not.”
“Doesn’t mean you get to go around screamin’ at the man.”
Sam’s mouth gives a sad little quirk. “Now you sound like Dad.”
After a second, Dean blows out a slow breath. “Okay. He’ll get over it or he won’t.” He unfolds his arms and waits for Sam to move away from the door, come back to him.
He doesn’t forget about it entirely, thinks about how much they owe Bobby every now and then, and that they should maybe give making amends a shot if there’s any chance at all, but it just never seems to happen. It’s hard to feel guilty about it when he’s happier than he thought he’d ever be.
The phone, always safely tucked away in Sam’s coat pocket, doesn’t ring again.
Dean picks a direction and drives.
The black, shimmering ribbon of road vanishes beneath the tires, coast giving way to mountains and mountains to sand. Sam dozes with his arm slung over the window, the hairs on his arm slowly bleached blond as his skin darkens and a smattering of freckles appears by his elbow. He wakes up in the shadow of a scraggly bristlecone pine when Dean pulls over to take a leak, slides across the leather seat smooth as butter and slips his tongue between Dean’s dry lips. A few miles after that, Dean pulls off onto the sloped shoulder again.
They roll into Spring Creek a few hours before dawn, Dean still behind the wheel, Sam sleep-groggy in the passenger seat. Warm, gritty dust is everywhere, coating the Impala, their skin, dry and chalky on the inside of Dean’s mouth. He hands Sam the bottle of water, watches him drink and grins cheekily as he jostles Sam’s arm. It makes cool, clear tracks down his throat for Dean’s mouth to follow.
Sam gets them a room and throws the bolts once they’re inside. He turns on Dean with a desperate sort of want in his eyes, drags them both down to the threadbare carpet. Dean can feel it on the air he breathes, like it’s choked up with something more than heat and dirt, but it feels good, electric, alive.
The next day, and the next and the one after, in the stillness between the hours they fuck away, Sam warily watches the horizon, waiting. Waiting and waiting and waiting. It gets under Dean’s skin, buzzes so loud in his head his teeth rattle. His stomach churns with the thought that this is it, Sam’s finally pulling away from him here in this dusty shithole, then he realises: it’s him. He’s the one that’s been looking in the other direction while Sam’s holding on to him so tightly.
They leave the car parked in the motel lot and go on foot into the dunes. It’s nearing twilight, the sky ablaze and the air still heavy. Later, it’ll be too cold for Dean’s shirtsleeves and Sam’s light hoodie. They’ll be back in the room by then. Dean wants the feel of Sam’s bare skin against his own again so much it aches.
A couple miles outside town, he knows, there used to be an old crossroads. Not even roads so much as pony paths, long ago covered over by wind-scattered dirt. Dean walks to the centre and Sam falls behind, grief like death twisting up his face, hard and unforgiving.
To the horizon Sam’s gaze is fixed on, Dean says, “You broke the deal here.” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Sam nod. “How?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Sam’s voice is a dry, choking rasp. “I still couldn’t save you.”
Closing his eyes, the warm wind dying, Dean stops forgetting.
It wasn’t a knock-down, drag-out battle. There were no hellhounds, no blazing, sulphur-pit of Hell yawning wide and black beneath his feet. There wasn’t even the demon, killed ages ago by Sam’s cold fury and a bullet. Just the two of them tricked here because that’s the way Hell works, and pain. The hot wrenching pain of being pulled apart from the inside out.
And Sam in the middle of it all, begging, pleading, trying to make another deal with the demons. When that failed, he tried to bargain with Dean, saying, just hold on and stay, I’ll stay and I’m so fucking sorry, don’t leave me, don’t you dare.
He remembers what it felt like to not really wake up and find himself cradling Sam in his arms, dirt and blood and snot and tears smeared in a gruesome mask across his little brother’s face. Between that moment and the next, when Sam’s eyes finally fluttered open, he decided to forget. Forget everything except what really mattered.
“How long?” Dean asks, hot, prickling pressure in his eyes because that’s what crying is supposed to feel like.
Behind him, far away, Sam says, “I thought you were stuck here. That if we tried to leave-”
“How many years, Sam? How many?”
Sounding young, afraid, weary, Sam says, “Three.” Dean squeezes his eyes shut and Sam barrels on, stronger, more stubborn. “Don’t tell me it’s not worth it. Don’t you even fucking try.”
“This’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” isn’t what Dean meant to say. There’s a shift in the too-still air, the smell of Sam’s warmth, the life in him, before Sam folds him close. It feels real, so real.
Lips brush through the tear-streaked dirt on Dean’s face, linger on the softness of his mouth. “Unfinished business,” Sam whispers, sandpaper-rough, in his ear.