|This story is rated NC-17 or so for incest and explicit slash. It's guilty of shameless, self-indulgent, authorial fantasy fulfillment.
The RSM used to have this cool tradition, which was that everyone had to post a story on their birthday, as an unbirthday present for everyone else. I always liked that idea. And then there was this really lovely person named Destina, who read this in an earlier draft and said nice things about it, and I believed her, so, okay.
Carry Me Over the Sky
The storm broke just over the Arkansas border. It had been building between them since Dad -- maybe a lot longer than that -- but just the fact that Sam would ask what he'd asked was a storm warning of sorts, and Dean wasn't really surprised when Sam reached over in the middle of "Iron Man" and turned off the stereo.
"So what stopped you?" Sam said, as if it hadn't been the better part of an hour since the last time either of them said a word.
Dean made the token protest knowing Sam would expect it -- knowing it would piss him off. "Dude, that was the live version."
Dean shot him an involuntary, sidelong glance, feeling the muscles draw tighter in shoulders already sore from hours of strain. Sam looked just as tense, his hands drawn into fists resting on his knees, one of which vibrated up and down with restless energy. He looked straight ahead, like he wasn't sure he trusted himself to keep it together otherwise.
Dean shifted his gaze back to the road. "You want the truth?"
"Yeah," Sam said with deceptive calm, as if they weren't talking about making life-and-death deals with demons.
"I didn't feel like putting up with the hissy fit you'd throw. Looks like that was a lost cause, huh?"
Sam huffed out a sharp breath. "Fine, you don't want to tell me, don't."
"Hey, man, you asked."
He felt the heat of Sam's disapproving stare practically burning a hole in the side of his head.
"This is a joke to you, is that it?"
Dean grimaced, tasting brimstone on the back of his tongue. "Trust me, I'm not laughin'."
"No? Well, good, 'cause that makes two of us."
Dean's hands tightened on the wheel. "What do you want from me, Sam?"
"What do I want from you? Oh, I don't know, Dean. I can't imagine. How about a straight answer, for once?"
Dean shot him a look of frustration. Bastard wasn't gonna let this go. "Come on, Sam, that's not fair. I told you what happened."
"Yeah, well, don't do me any favors, all right?"
The bitter note Sam didn't bother to suppress pushed Dean past the last edge of his patience. "No wonder Dad could never talk to you," he muttered, knowing even as he said it that he was over the line.
It took Sam a few seconds to manage an answer, and when it came, his voice was low, tight with betrayal. "That's a new low, even for you."
Dean said nothing. He swallowed, feeling queasy with it. The yellow lines on the blacktop slid by in the glow of the headlights, endless and unchanging.
"Look, none of this shoulda ever happened," he said at last. It wasn't an apology, not quite, but the intent was there.
Sam didn't take it that way, though. He'd been taking too much crap from Dean for too long, and he was tired, too. There was a recklessness in his voice when he shot back, "Because you're supposed to be dead, right? And that's supposed to make it okay for you to throw everything away?"
Dean's jaw tightened. Yes, goddammit.
"If you had just let me--" He broke off.
One tense heartbeat passed. Two.
"If I'd just let you what, Dean?" But Sam sounded like he knew.
Dean pressed his lips together. Shit -- stupid, stupid.
They didn't bring up Nebraska, ever. It was like some kind of rule or something.
"Go ahead, Dean. Say it." Sam's voice rose, like it always did when he got upset. "If I'd just let you die of a heart attack, like you were meant to. If I'd just put a bullet in Dad like he told me to. If I'd just been a better brother, a better son, none of this would have happened. You think I don't know that? And even if I might have missed it somehow, you think he didn't make sure to tell me?"
Dean felt it like a blow to the solar plexus, a solid jab that knocked the air out of him for a second. "What?"
Sam hunched in on himself, turning away. "Nothing. Forget it."
"No, don't say forget it. You started this."
"Yeah, well, now I'm ending it."
"All right, you know what? That's it." Dean yanked the wheel to the right and braked, pulling to the side of the road.
Sam sat up straighter. "What are you doing?"
Dean turned the car off. "You want to work this out? Fine. You happy? This is us, working things out. You ask me a question you already know the answer to -- now tell me what the hell you want me to say, Sam."
Sam just looked at him for a long moment, anger and sudden bleak misery showing in his face. His lips tightened; at last he reached over and opened the door, climbing out onto the shoulder.
Dean leaned across the seat. "Sam!" His brother slammed the door shut and leaned against it, waiting. "Dammit.
" Dean shoved his own door open and got out, gravel crunching under his angry strides. He had some thought of just hauling off and laying another punch on Sam. Hadn't worked out so great last time, but he was itching to hit something, and tonight, Sam was pissed enough that maybe he'd fight back.
But Sam just watched him close the distance between them, his face etched with a bitter hopelessness that broke and bled all over Dean, washing out everything but how much it hurt to feel the damage they were dealing to each other, that they'd been dealing out ever since Dad died.
Worn thin and out of ideas, Dean stopped a few feet away. He spread his hands, helpless. "Okay, Sam, lay it on me. What's this really about?"
His brother's eyes glinted bright in the moonlight. He shook his head and looked out over the soybean fields, Adam's apple moving as he swallowed.
"You were right. As usual."
Dean let out a breath. He was a huge proponent of the theory that you should never ask a question you didn't know the answer to -- especially where Sam was concerned -- but it looked like he had no choice. "About what, this time?"
"You said I was selfish, and you were right. And this is all my fault. Just not the way you think."
Dean's stomach knotted, and he took a half-step closer, trying to head this off at the pass. He didn't think he could take another one of Sam's guilt trips. "Sam, come on." He tried for pissed off, but Sam looked so sick at heart he couldn't even manage that. "I didn't mean it, all right?"
Sam looked at him at last. "Sure you did. You meant it. So did Dad. The two of you saw eye to eye on everything else, so why not this?" Sam laughed then, in a way that made Dean think of broken glass. "And I'm just supposed to accept it. I'm just supposed to suck it up and accept that it's my job to be rescued, to be the last one standing, while the two of you fall all over yourselves with self-sacrifice because that's just the way things are supposed to go, right? Just shut up and stay in the car, and every so often I can recite some Latin in a pinch, as long as everybody's crystal clear on just who, exactly, gets left behind at the end, isn't that right?"
Dean stared at him for a long second. This wasn't just about Sam feeling guilty for Dad; Sam had gone way past ordinary anger, past irritation and annoyance and well into a deep, burning fury that'd been a long time coming.
He wasn't wrong, though, and Dean was tired enough to say the hell with it. "Yeah, I'd say that about sums it up."
Sam flushed. "And you call me selfish."
"Well, if the shoe fits." Dean was almost relieved to feel his own anger stir back to life.
But Sam just nodded, the corners of his lips curling. It ratcheted up Dean's hunting blood, made him twitch with the hyperawareness of just how bad this could get if they both lost it, really lost it.
The same awareness shone in Sam's eyes, fatalistic and inevitable, and Dean's fighting instincts leapt to a fine razor edge.
"So, what if I told you you're more right about me than you ever knew, Dean? What if I told you I knew all along what Dad was planning to do with the herbs and the candles and the oil that I went and got for him?" The words sounded ragged in his throat, like they were being torn out of him, and Sam wasn't smiling any more -- tears were standing in his eyes. "What if I told you I knew perfectly well what the price would be to bring you back, and I stood aside and let him pay it because I couldn't stand the thought of you being dead? What if I told you it was as much my choice as his, Dean? What then?"
Dean had taken a step backwards before he knew he meant to do it. His breath hitched hard in his chest, like there wasn't enough air in the world. And Sam, seeing that he'd finally struck lifeblood, nodded; his face was twisted up with grief, but he wouldn't look away, wouldn't let Dean look away from what he was saying.
"And I'm not sorry, that's the thing." He shook his head, his voice a rough whisper. "I swear to you, whatever you might think, I did love him -- but I'm not sorry. So, you're right. I am a selfish bastard, and I let him choose you, and I know you're probably gonna hate me for that but I can't--" At last his voice broke, and he had to look away. "I can't help how I feel."
Dean felt like there was a giant fist squeezing his throat, like it hurt to breathe. "It was his choice, Sammy. Not yours. Nobody ever stopped that man from doing a damned thing once he made up his mind to do it."
"Don't make excuses for me, all right?"
"I'm not. I just--" Dean let out a breath, too exhausted to argue any more. He struggled to get a hold of himself, rubbing his hands over his face. "Sam, I don't hate you."
"Yeah, well. Maybe you should."
"Don't be stupid." He moved a few paces away, wishing he were anywhere else. "It's done, okay? Nothin' we can do to change it."
"You still don't get it, do you?"
Dean closed his eyes, praying for strength. "Get what?"
Sam waited until he turned around, until Dean reluctantly met his gaze.
"Look. Dad did the best he could, I know that. Even when we were fighting, I knew he wanted what was best for us. He could have just laid everything down and given up when Mom died, gone head-first into a bottle and never come out. He didn't. He always did the best he could. But you were the one who took care of me. You were the one I could always count on. Hell, Dad felt the same way, I know he did. We never would have made it if it wasn't for you. Dean, I still wouldn't."
Dean tried to laugh, but it came out on the shaky side. "Come on. Sure you would."
Sam just shook his head, matter-of-fact. "I don't think so."
Dean took a half step closer, feeling desperate. "Why you telling me this now, anyways?"
Sam let out a breath, then shrugged with a helpless weariness that looked like it ran heart-deep. "I'm just-- I'm tired, Dean. I'm tired of pretending it doesn't hurt when you shut me out. I'm tired of being scared I won't be able to stop you from just going out and getting yourself killed by the next bad thing that comes along. I'm tired of you treating me like I'm made of glass. Enough already. Either we're in this together, or-- I don't know what. Just stop fighting me so hard all the time, all right? Because I'm starting to think I might seriously lose it if you don't."
"You think I'm the one fighting you?" Dean laughed in disbelief. "Now, that's funny."
"Dean, I'm serious. I just want us to be together in this, that's all. I want you to trust me. I need you here with me, man. Not just going through the motions."
"Aw, Sammy, c'mon." But Sam's expression didn't change. It wasn't the accusation it might have been; it was just Sam, scared and worried about him, stubbornly refusing to let him do this alone. Dean's stomach sank. "Most days you're the only person in this world I do trust. You gotta know that."
Sam smiled, a sad, tight little smile. "You say that, but I can't help thinking you'd rather talk to total strangers than talk to me about anything that matters."
Little bastard didn't play fair, Dean thought, that look making him feel about as low as a worm. How was he supposed to fight that? "All right, I get it. What do you want me to say? I get what you're sayin'."
Dean started to pace, finding it hard to stand still under the discomforting demands of Sam's gaze. "Look, I'll try, okay? That's the best I can do. It ain't like I'm exactly good at it." He let out a breathless, bitter laugh. "I hate this shit, you know that. This is why I can't stand all this touchy-feely crap you like so much."
Sam's eyebrows rose. "You think I like this? Us tearing each other apart?"
Dean shook his head, rubbing the back of his neck. "I don't know, man. All I know is, you get that 'c'mon, Dean, let's talk about our feelings' look on your face, and I want to run for the hills."
Sam laughed, a short, sharp sound in the night. "No kidding, really? I never would have guessed you felt that way."
Dean laughed, too, for real this time, surprising himself. They looked at each other, and Dean's heart hurt, but it felt like some pressure, some weight had suddenly been taken away. "I swear, man, I will wash your clothes for a year and buy you all the caramel macchiatos in the universe if we can never have this conversation again."
Sam didn't hesitate. "Sounds fair to me."
At last, Dean let himself breathe easier. He could feel the tension run out of his shoulders, and he rubbed the bridge of his nose, pressing back the headache that had been plaguing him for hours. "There's only one thing that could salvage this day."
Sam's lips quirked. "A whole lot of something very strong and alcoholic?"
Dean let a grin escape, his relief intense. "See? Always knew you were the smart one." He started around the front of the car.
"Oh, yeah? Since when?" But Sam was already opening the passenger door.
"Since right now, lame-brain."
"Lame-brain? Ouch, that one really hurt, Dean. I may never recover."
"Shut up and buy me a drink, you magnificent pain in my ass, before I do something we're both gonna regret."
It was late, and Tuesday, and therefore not easy to find a bar still open, but Dean's instincts were finely honed in these matters and he wasn't about to give up without a fight. They finally found a joint with a couple cars still in the parking lot. It was closing, but Dean charmed the red-headed bartender into selling them a bottle of tequila. Thus armed, they got back in the car and went in search of a place to crash.
A little further down the road, they found a run-down travel court just off the highway. The place was built in a big square, the parking spaces on the outside and the rooms all facing inward. The sign promised Heated Pool and Vacancy, and the small office at the front still had a light on, a buzzer by the door to call the night clerk.
"Perfect," Dean pronounced, and went to get them a room.
The square of buildings turned out to surround a big grass field, a rectangular swimming pool with a metal fence and two ancient, cracked tennis courts in the middle. Someone had mowed the field recently; the green smell of cut grass filled the cool spring night. "Nightcap poolside?" Sam suggested, reading him like a book.
"You said it, little brother."
They dropped the bags in the room and ditched their shoes. Dean waited while Sam used the john, then locked the door behind them and pocketed the key. They didn't bother with plastic cups, just took themselves and the tequila out to the pool, rolling up their jeans and sitting on the edge, close enough that they could share the bottle.
The water was blissfully warm in contrast to the cool air. For a while, they said nothing, just passed the liquor back and forth. Sam seemed to have talked himself out, thank all that was holy, and seemed content to do his best to keep pace with Dean -- no small feat. They hadn't eaten since mid-afternoon, and the heat went straight to Dean's belly, sank through him with merciful speed.
"So, where we headed after this?" he said at last, handing Sam the bottle.
Sam shrugged. "Got a couple of missing persons in a state park outside Denver. Campers disappeared from their tents, no blood or signs of a struggle. Couple people in their parties mentioned seeing strange lights, and hearing what sounded like a train whistle."
"Let me guess. No train tracks anywhere close by?"
"No trains, anyway. Not in over a hundred years."
Dean grunted. "Sounds good. What else?"
"Ash sent me an email about a lake monster up in Minnesota. Reports are pretty sketchy, but he thought it was worth checking out."
"Huh." Dean nodded, pretending to consider it, and drank. "Missing campers sounds like a real lead. I think Dr. Badass is gonna have to find somebody else."
Sam made a noncommittal sound. His fingers brushed Dean's when he took the bottle; it sloshed when he tilted it back, a small drop escaping his lips and running down his chin.
"What's that, Sammy?"
"Nothing," Sam said easily, wiping his mouth. "Colorado it is." He moved one foot back and forth under the water, watching the way the moonlight rippled on the surface.
"I mean, how often do these supposed lake monsters turn out to be anything, anyway?" Dean said at last, hearing the defensive note he couldn't quite suppress.
"Not very," Sam agreed. "Hardly ever, in fact."
"My point exactly."
Sam slid a sideways look his direction, mouth quirking. "Right. And the fact that it might mean we'd have to talk to Ellen would have nothing to do with it."
"Why would it?" Dean grabbed the bottle out of his hand.
Sam just made an 'mmm' of agreement.
"Look, I just don't like the idea of getting too tight with those people, that's all."
"Yeah, I kind of got that idea, from the part where you've said that about ten times already." But after a long moment in which Dean considered whether it was worth it to get into another argument, Sam relented. "Don't worry, all right? I'm not gonna make a thing out of it. I just feel like we can trust them, that's all. Dad did."
"We don't know that, Sam. All we know for sure is Dad saved Ellen's message, and they used to be friends once. That's not much to go on." Not when it was Sam's neck on the line.
"They've played us straight so far."
"That we know of." Dean caught Sam's look, and paused with the bottle halfway to his lips. "What? You gotta admit, it's kinda funny he never mentioned them."
Sam gave a soft, derisive laugh. "Yeah, well, Dad wasn't exactly big on keeping us in the loop these last few years. Or, you know, ever."
The fell silent for a while, nothing Dean could really say to that. He looked over and studied Sam's profile, thinking suddenly about what he'd said by the side of the road.
"You didn't really know, did you?" he said at last. "What Dad was planning."
Sam didn't look at him. He took a healthy swallow of tequila, coughing. "Not exactly. But it doesn't matter. If I'd known--"
"But you didn't, is my point."
Sam's color rose, and he suddenly seemed very interested in his hands. "I should have. I think a part of me did know, but you were all I could think about."
It was against the strong, almost irresistible urge to grab his brother by the back of the neck and shake him, or maybe hug him, that Dean got up from the pool's edge and dragged two lounge chairs together, then lay down on the nearest one and tucked his arms under his head. After a minute, Sam brought the bottle over and followed suit.
Dean's head felt pleasantly thick. There weren't many stars tonight, but the moon shone off the bottoms of the clouds, lined the edges with silver. Four days, yet, to the full moon, maybe five -- no werewolves, at least, Dean thought. Not tonight.
Memory welled heavy within him, and for once, he let it surface, let himself think about cornfields and old barns under a moon bright as day, about silver bullets and the fast beat of his heart in the dark and his dad calling the shots. It was easier with the tequila in him. Easier just to let the images play out, softened by the glow of the intoxicant in his blood. Sometimes it was hard to remember that there had ever been a time when the three of them had really been a family, that they'd even been happy sometimes. Dean wondered if Sam remembered it that way at all.
"You know the funny thing?" he said into the quiet between them, not knowing until he said it that he meant to.
"I think about all the things we hunted, and how I never really expected him to lose. But then sometimes I think--" His breath caught on it, and the words locked up in his throat.
After a long moment, Sam said, "Tell me."
Dean swallowed. Closed his eyes. The world started to spin lazily, dizzying and kind of nice at the same time. "Sometimes I think he really died when Mom did. Like all this time, he was just waiting. You know?"
"Yeah," Sam said. It sounded like it hurt him, and Dean felt like shit when he realized it surprised him to hear how much. He'd spent so much time being angry about everything -- angry at Sam, angry at Dad--
His chest felt tight, but he got the words out. "You know you can talk about him, if you want to, right?
Sam was quiet for a long seconds, and Dean wondered if he'd heard him. But then Sam's voice came out of the dark beside him, rough with feeling. "I know that."
"I mean it. It's okay, if you want to."
"Dean. I know that. Course I do. I just didn't think--" Sam broke off.
Dean turned to look across the little space between them, the warm glow in his belly spilling over into something he didn't want to look at too closely. "Come on, Sammy. Haven't you figured out by now that worryin' about you is a big part of why I get up in the morning?"
Sam looked up, a faint smile teasing at the corners of his eyes. "Not like it's a secret."
"So, what, then?"
Sam propped himself up on one elbow, taking a deep swallow from the bottle before handing it back. "You've had enough to deal with, that's all. You didn't need me making things worse."
"That's what you think?" Dean's stomach sank. "Man, you gotta stop with this overprotective shit."
Sam shot him a look, expression a study in amused disbelief. "You're kidding, right?"
"I look like I'm kidding?"
"Do you even hear yourself?" Sam countered, but his exasperation was belied by the look in his eyes, languid and heavy with buzzed affection. "Dean, I never told you this, but after Jess? Some days it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. I kept going because you didn't give me any choice. So, you know what? It's my turn, and you're stuck with me." He lay back down and closed his eyes. "Believe me, I know I've sucked at it so far, but I keep thinking maybe eventually I'll get something right."
Dean opened his mouth, closed it. "You don't suck at it," he managed at last. "Exactly."
Sam laughed. "Yeah, I pretty much do. But you don't exactly make it easy."
"Yeah, well." Dean took a pull from the bottle, passed it back. "Fair enough."
They didn't say anything more for a while, just lay side by side under the floating moon. Dean felt light as air and pleasantly heavy-limbed at the same time, his head floating and his body warm and numb, a perfect balance of alcohol-induced bliss he hadn't felt in a long time. He closed his eyes again, drifting. Sam had to be wasted, he thought, hearing the faint slosh of the almost-empty bottle as Sam took a swig. Two beers was usually his max, and Dean couldn't remember ever seeing him touch more than a shot or two of the hard stuff. He stole another quick glance at Sam, a tightness in his chest that had nothing to do with how much he'd had to drink.
As if he read Dean's thought, Sam laughed softly to himself, setting the bottle down clumsily between them. His hand dangled off the edge of the lounge chair, fingertips resting on the concrete. "God, I'm drunk," he said.
Dean sighed, and pushed himself up. "Okay, come on, Francis, let's get you home before you turn into a pumpkin."
He got Sam's arm across his shoulders, got them moving, realizing only when he did so that he wasn't much better off. They staggered. "Jesus, anyone ever tell you you weigh a ton?"
"Yeah," Sam said, but he didn't elaborate.
They made it across the grass to the breezeway that ran along the front of the rooms. Sam stubbed a toe at the edge of the sidewalk, listing heavily, and Dean caught him, steadied him. Sam held on and rested his forehead against Dean's cheekbone like he didn't plan on moving any time soon.
Dean chuckled. "Dude, you are seriously trashed."
"Tell me about it," Sam said, the words slightly slurred together. He didn't move away, seemingly content to let Dean take on the lion's share of responsibility when it came to navigation. Dean couldn't help thinking it was a good thing Dad had never seen him like this -- he'd've torn a strip off him. Dean, too, probably.
They reached their room. Under the weak, acid glow of the overhead light, Dean got Sam propped up against the door and started hunting around for the key. Sam leaned his head back and closed his eyes, his long throat carelessly exposed, then opened them and watched Dean search his pockets.
"You know it's not just you, right?" he said, voice rough-soft. "I think about it sometimes, too."
"Think about what?" Dean said, unthinking.
But Sam said nothing, his face in shadow, his eyes unreadable.
A chill touched the back of Dean's neck, and he fumbled the key. He's wasted, he told himself, getting a grip. Doesn't know what he's saying. With forced lightness, he said, "Whatever, man. I left my decoder ring in my other pants." He finally got the key out and slid it home.
"It's all right," Sam said. "You don't have to say anything. I just wanted you to know, it's okay."
Dean turned on him then, face twisting up beyond his control. "For somebody with a brain the size of a small planet, you really are fucking stupid sometimes, you know that?"
And suddenly it all caught up with him, and he was shaking, on the verge of losing it. He shut up and took two paces away, not trusting himself to say anything else. He hadn't gotten this drunk in months, and there was a reason, and this was it. It made you feel numb, and that was good, but if you let yourself think about anything that mattered it would all well up at once and you wouldn't be in any kind of shape to fight it and then you'd be fucked.
He sensed Sam close behind him. Not touching him -- Sam knew better. But the soft plea in his voice was almost as bad. "Dean, don't. Please, don't."
"Get away from me, Sam."
"I can't. I tried."
Dean's chest felt like someone had hit him. He couldn't do this -- not tonight. Not when he'd already let Sam see too much of him, and all his carefully constructed defenses were down around his feet. "You're fucked up, Sammy. Go sleep it off."
"Yeah," Sam said, reckless and too far gone to stop himself. "I am. I'm fucked up. I'm fucked up and I love you and what am I supposed to do, Dean? What the fuck am I supposed to do?"
And it was Dean who moved first, who was startled into turning around by the desperation in Sam's voice, an instinctive response that brought him smack into Sam's space. After that, it seemed like gravity took over -- Sam just caught himself on Dean's shoulders and melted into him, leaned down and kissed him, his lips warm on Dean's and his tongue touching and his hands slipping up to rest heavy against Dean's neck.
Dean felt like he was coming apart, head spinning slowly and all of him breaking down into dark, unraveling threads. He took a step back and ran into the doorjamb; Sam, his equilibrium shot, swayed with him. It was instinct that made Dean's hands come up to Sam's hips, trying to steady them both, but his fingertips brushed the warm, bare skin at Sam's waist and Sam made a faint sound, shifted closer.
Dean broke away, panting. "Sam." He needed to let go now, he knew that. In just a second, he would. "Stop."
Sam rested his forehead against Dean's and closed his eyes, swallowing. "Don't know if I can."
Dean huffed a laugh at that, even though he didn't feel like laughing. Sam sounded so forlorn, it was ridiculous. "Trust me," he said, holding himself still with an effort of will. "You can."
"Yeah, well, I don't want to."
And God help him, the truth was, Dean didn't want him to. His fist tightened against the small of Sam's back, against the supple cords of muscle there, and Sam turned his face into Dean's neck, breathing him in. Feeling Sam against him made Dean ache in a way he didn't have words for, made him want things he was afraid to name.
They had to stop. But he felt like the pieces of him were laid out all over the grass they'd just walked across, just spilled out and lying there in the moonlight, and only Sam could find them all and keep them all safe, only Sam had the answer for this terrifying, wordless vertigo rolling through him. Just this once, he caught himself thinking. Who would know? Who would it hurt, if he just let this happen, let this insane, awful, fucked up thing happen between him and Sam, just this once?
Sam, that's who, he told himself, and it wasn't the whole truth but he seized on it as the one thing that had a chance in hell of stopping him. Sam, who thought he had to do this because Dean needed it. Sam, who hadn't gotten laid in a year and a half, who thought he couldn't love or touch anyone because if he did, they'd end up dead on a ceiling -- that's who was gonna get hurt if he let this happen. Like Dean hadn't fucked his life up enough already.
Sam's breath was warm against his ear. "Dean, don't. Whatever you're thinking, just-- Don't. It's all right."
"What part of this is all right, Sam?" Dean said, rough and breathless, trying to laugh. Sam still had him backed up against the door frame, and perversely Dean was grateful for the solid support.
Then Sam was touching his face, and he could feel himself shaking. "You need this, all right? So do I. Let me do this."
"Sam--" It sounded as messed up and ragged as he felt. This was displacement, or whatever the fuck Sam called it, that's what this was. Sam was wasted, and he was in pain, and he wanted someone to kiss it and make it better, to make him forget for a while, and there was nobody else. Simple as that.
But Sam shook his head and nuzzled Dean's neck, biting gently, then ran his lips over the bite. Goosebumps rushed over Dean's neck and chest, and he came to an aching hardness. Then Sam leaned in and kissed him, deep and hot and wet, tongue touching Dean's.
Dean hit his head on the door frame. Despite himself, he responded to it, a powerful wave of heat rolling through him, spiraling right through his defenses. And even if he knew what this was, fuck if Sam wasn't right about how much he needed it. It'd been months for him, too, and it was Sam, and Dean had never had any defenses worth a damn against him. Especially not when Sam slid his hands up under Dean's shirt and held him steady.
It was weird and it was fucked up and it was Sam and Dean shivered hard at the cool air that slipped under his shirt with Sam's fingertips, made his nipples stand up and rub against the soft cotton of his shirt. He was suddenly so far past saying no, he couldn't even remember seeing the exit. "All right?" Sam breathed against his ear, and it wasn't all right, not at all, but Dean's breath hitched in his chest and it was either do this or splinter apart completely.
His hands came up and gripped hard in Sam's hair, and when he pulled Sam's head down and kissed him like he was starving, Sam moaned, soft and broken, giving himself over without hesitation. That sound made Dean so hard it hurt; when Sam pressed one thigh between his, it felt so good he couldn't stop himself from rocking into it, from making an answering sound deep in his throat that betrayed just how good. Sam was hard, too, and that was just-- Dean didn't know what that was, but it clenched tight in his gut, a deep shudder of awareness and fear and rightness that hit him where it counted.
He broke away from Sam's mouth, eyes closed, panting and rocking his head against the hard edge of the door frame. "Sam, what the hell are we doin'?"
Sam's hands were warm, rough where they smoothed his eyebrows, his cheekbones, and Dean had to open his eyes, had to look at him. Sam's cheeks were flushed and hectic, his lips reddened from the kissing, his pupils blown. His eyes shone and the tequila was sweet on his breath, but he looked at Dean with that even, wide-set, steady gaze Dean recognized from a hundred hunts, a hundred moments in the clutch when he'd looked over and seen Sam was with him, had his back, and he didn't have to worry.
This time, that look made him feel things that twisted sick and hungry in his stomach. "It's just for tonight," Sam said, soft and hopeful. "Just this once, and we don't ever have to talk about it again, all right?"
Dean gave a harsh laugh. "You don't know what you're sayin'."
But Sam shook his head at that. "Don't," he said, voice low. "Tell me no, if you want, but don't pretend you don't know."
Dean's stomach turned over, and he swallowed. He knew, all right. He'd never come close to letting himself think about it, not on any level that counted, and if he'd ever consciously admitted even a hint of the possibility that Sam might be so inclined, the thought had been so fleeting and so quickly and ruthlessly subverted that it might as well never have existed. Now Sam wanted to drag all that out where they both could see it, where there'd be no smokescreens, no years-deep defense mechanisms layered around inappropriate impulses, no necessary protective armor to keep what he felt safe and contained within the boundaries of family and brother and not okay.
Problem was, right now Sam was stiff and hot up against his belly, and after everything that had happened tonight, all Dean could think about was how much he wanted to kiss him again.
"Sam--" The word caught on a shudder he couldn't suppress, a low throb of response humming through him when Sam's thigh rocked against him. It felt like he was being flayed alive, feeling that -- like the sick shame would kill him -- but he couldn't stop himself from shoving hard against it, from letting his breath come short and letting himself feel the ache of wanting more, wanting Sam's mouth, wanting to just give in with everything he had to those big hands, that solid strength, the heat of Sam's tongue and the rough safety of letting himself go with the one person he could trust to put him back together. He felt the friction burn of Sam's shirt in his clenched fingers, felt himself holding on like he might drown if he didn't. He banged his head one last time against the door frame and let his breath out in a rush. "Fuck it."
He shoved himself away from that support, pushed Sam off him even as he steadied him with one hand, turned the key with the other. His hand shook.
He didn't look at Sam. Numb, blind in the dark of the room, he took three steps forward and stopped, the sound of his own breathing loud in his ears. He felt like he'd lost some crucial hold on reality between the threshold and where he stood. What the fuck was he doing? He heard Sam close the door.
There was some kind of preprinted program they laid into your bones when you got a little brother, and it didn't allow for any breach in the wall you put around your love for him from day one. It was right up there with the basic instinct to protect, to keep him safe. You loved him and you watched out for him and you might even crush on him sometimes, some days when the sun came up just right and you were in sync and maybe he smiled at you a certain way or made you laugh or stood with his back against yours when some dark, evil thing wanted to rip out both your throats. Maybe those sometimes happened a little more often when you hadn't seen him in two years, and then you had him all to yourself for a while and it started to seem like maybe it was going to last. That was all right. That was... innocent. You didn't have to name it, even to yourself, because it didn't change anything -- didn't change the fact that you'd gnaw your own arm off before you'd think about something like this. Before you'd cross the line, even in your own thoughts.
Dean turned in the dark, not needing to see where Sam was to find the front of his shirt, to push him back. They hit the door and Dean's hands seized in Sam's hair again, holding him still; Sam didn't fight him, just let Dean force him back and hold him down and shove him up hard against the door with his body, with his tongue in Sam's mouth. Sam spread his legs and leaned back so Dean was almost on top of him. His hands came up, slipped under Dean's shirt and ran warm over Dean's back, the rough edge of his cast scraping against Dean's skin.
Dean bumped his erection roughly into Sam's, rubbed against him, and Sam shuddered hard under him, panting into his mouth. It was enough. He fumbled at Sam's belt buckle and went to one knee.
But waiting was not in Dean's program. If they were doing this, they were fucking going to do it.
Dean got the buckle undone, scraped his fingernails against the soft skin of Sam's hips getting his jeans open. Sam surged up under his hands, silk-hot and naked and suddenly right there; Dean had to lay his head against Sam's belly and close his eyes for a second, rubbing his face and the side of his head against him. Sam felt like satin over steel and smelled unbelievably good, sweet and musky, a clean, hot scent that made his mouth water even though he'd never done this before, had only imagination to go on.
Sam drew a sharp breath in, not quite a laugh. His hands came up around Dean's head, just the barest pressure of his fingertips against Dean's skull. "Jesus, all right."
Dean shoved Sam's jeans down around his knees, feeling the way Sammy was shaking. He couldn't think about that. He steadied Sam's hips with his hands and pressed his lips to the underside of Sam's heavy cock, breathing in.
Sam needed the support. Dean felt his unsteadiness, felt the way Sam's fingers jerked in his hair. "Dean," Sam gasped out, like he couldn't stop himself.
Salt-slick fluid touched Dean's lips and he closed his eyes, a shudder of hunger clenching in his gut. The seam of his jeans pressed unbearably tight against him, painful and good, his pulse a heavy urgency between his thighs, but he didn't care about that, couldn't care about anything but making Sam feel good. He opened his mouth and breathed and took Sam in, let that slick saltiness spread all over his tongue.
He didn't know what he was doing. It was all instinct, blind hunger and response, but the sound Sam made left no room for worrying about it. Sam must have realized he was yanking on Dean's hair; he started to let go, but Dean reached up fast and grabbed his good hand, held it in place. It was all the encouragement Sam needed. His fingers spread hard against Dean's skull, his neck, and something in Dean gave way, some tightly clenched thing that had been hurting him. Sam thrust jerkily against his tongue and Dean gave as much as he could, bracing them both, his mouth wet and stretched and as careful as he could make it.
"Oh, God." Sam sounded wrecked, a broken note in his voice that hit Dean low and deep, too deep to fight it. "Oh, God, Dean--" Sam shook under his hands and fucked his mouth, and Dean felt like he was alight with it, sick and disoriented and hot everywhere. His face burned, his neck -- he couldn't breathe and that just made it better, just made the throb and ache of his arousal that much more intense. His jaw ached. He tasted salt-sweet-bitter and he spread his fingers against Sam's lower belly, feeling the way the taut muscles jumped. He tried to suck, felt his teeth scrape. Sam thrust in with a harsh, choked sound and came, shuddering, hot and helpless against Dean's tongue. Dean swallowed without thinking, eyes closed.
In the aftermath, it was Dean who couldn't find equilibrium -- Dean who broke away and swayed dizzy against Sam's thighs, head spinning and breath coming fast and ragged. He braced himself there, shaking, unable to move or think; it was Sam who got himself together and reached down, hand fisting in Dean's shirts. He hauled up, pulling Dean against him. Dean let him, unable to find the will or coordination to do anything else.
Blood surged to parts of Dean's body starved for circulation, a hot rush of desperation and need and relief all tangled up. He could feel Sam's heart beating fast and steady, steadier than the ragged rise and fall of his chest, the rough rhythm of his breath against Dean's hair. Dean's hands came up without thought and hung on to Sam's shirt. He closed his eyes and shivered; they were so fucked, he didn't even know where to start.
"Hey," Sam said, voice soft and shaky. It touched sore places in Dean, made him feel too much, want too much. "You with me?"
Dean let out a breath, half a laugh, and found no words.
"Yeah, okay," Sam said, as if it was an answer.
Somehow, Sam got it together enough to kick his jeans off, and Dean couldn't have said which of them was holding the other one up. Sam started unbuttoning Dean's shirt, got them moving toward the closest bed. He stripped off Dean's shirt, then his T-shirt underneath, and Dean had no thought of resisting him, no thought at all beyond the shivers that chased over his skin at the rush of cool air and Sam's warm hands on his shoulders, pushing him down. His mouth felt hot and swollen and he could taste Sam's come, felt like he could smell Sam all over him. He felt dizzy, bruised, and so turned on he was stupid with it. Months since he'd been with anyone. Months since he'd even wanted to. He understood all the reasons why, even understood why it was different with Sam -- who the hell else could he trust? -- but understanding it didn't count for shit when he thought about Sammy touching him, going down on him, when he felt Sam pushing him down and kneeling over him, naked weight on Dean's thighs as he unfastened his jeans.
Sam got his fly open, and the rough pressure as he worked the buttons one-handed made Dean choke back a moan. His hands were still fisted in Sam's shirt; he held on as Sam tugged his jeans down, struggled with them and finally pulled them off. Dean sat up, hauled Sam's shirt off him with sudden ferocity. He had some thought of getting Sam's bare shoulders down between his thighs and Sam's tongue where he needed it.
Sam bent down and found Dean's mouth instead, pulling Dean into a rough, wet kiss. Sam made a low, pleased sound, and Dean knew he could taste himself on Dean's mouth; it made Dean feel dirty and hot and queasy and possessive all at the same time, a knotted confusion of feeling squeezing in his chest and his belly, shivering hard all through him. Fucking mistake, he thought, one fist clenching in Sam's hair. Fucking huge mistake, worst you've ever made-- but it couldn't stand against Sam's weight and his heat and their limbs tangled up, the whole-body rush when Sam lay down on top of him. Dean's erection suddenly lay trapped tight against the naked heat of his brother's belly.
Dean broke away from Sam's mouth, shuddering. "Fuck, Sam--" He was holding on to Sam's arm hard enough to leave bruises.
"Whatever you want, Dean," Sam said in a rush, his face hot against Dean's neck. "Anything you want. Tell me."
"Just--" Jesus. Dean thrust up jerkily against him, undone by the feeling of Sam big and heavy and right there with him, not letting him fall. Whatever he wanted? He wanted everything, wanted Sam to fucking take him apart and put him back together so he could think again, so he could breathe. He wanted Sam's hands on him, and his tongue, and for Sam to bite him some more and to feel Sam inside him, so far inside him he came apart and didn't have to move ever again. All the things he wanted broke open in his head, too exposed, and he swore and put Sam's hand on him, squeezing tight between them. "Just fucking do it, Sam. Make me--"
It was enough to say it, never mind the rough, merciless demands of Sam's awkward grip and the helpless way Dean thrust into it. Dean's desperation slicked their hands as Sam's thigh slid between his and Sam fisted him hard, Dean already so far gone he knew there was no coming back from it, no way to pretend he could ever find the way. Eyes clenched shut and Sam's shoulder solid against his cheekbone, Dean held on to his brother's hand and gave himself to the harsh friction. He jerked himself like that two, three times, and that was as much as he could take before he started to come, knowing.
Dean made a choked sound and curled into it, his release a scary, uncontrollable thing moving through him, too intense, seizing hard in his chest and his stomach and flooding his senses with fuck yes, God, and please don't, and it was too late anyway, he was coming all over them both in sharp spasms, wet heat spilling over their hands and slippery between them. And the worst part was Sam's face bent against his, breath hitching on Dean's name as Sam watched him come.
No-- The worst part was after. Sam's long legs tangled with his, their fingers knotted together on his too-sensitive cock, and Dean felt shaky and exposed and wide open, no way to measure how badly they'd just fucked things up. He could feel Sam inescapably solid and eager against his hip. Something heavy and painful pressed on his throat, squeezing; he closed his eyes, sick and miserable with it. For an awful moment, he thought he might seriously throw up.
He pushed Sam's hand away and let go, shifting to put some distance between them.
"Get off me, Sam." Dean pushed harder, dislodging him, and got up before he knew what he meant to do, where he meant to go.
And Sam, who never knew when the fuck to back off, was stumbling, coming up off the bed after him, getting in his space. "Dean, wait--" He grabbed Dean's arm above the elbow, not hard, but the violent reaction it touched off in Dean made him yank free and knock Sam back, a sharp blow to the ribs.
"I said back off!" Everything had seized up inside him, a sick knot of feeling that made him want to hit things, and the only thing close enough was Sam. Tensed for a fight, Dean felt adrenaline jolt through him -- and then he caught sight of Sam's face, saw the flash of hurt and the still-stubborn set of his jaw, the way Sam bared his teeth in pain, though no way had Dean hit Sam hard enough to hurt him, not physically. It cut straight through the pathetic defenses Dean had been trying to scrape together from the ashes of his psyche; Dean made a sound of frustration he couldn't control and he turned, blind, and put a fist through the nearest wall.
Fuck. Fuck. Dean closed his eyes, shaking. How had he let things get to this? Pain blossomed in his hand, and he laid his palm flat against the wall and braced himself there, two inches from the crushed dent he'd made in the drywall. His knuckles stung, bled. He could barely feel it, naked and stripped of anything even close to normal, wishing desperately that he could just undo every single minute of this day.
"Dean," Sam said, his voice a rough-soft rasp, too close. And Dean felt his brother lay a hand on the back of his neck, just like Dad used to do when they were little -- gentle and steadying, a solid touch that said without words, I'm here, and we're all right, and everything's gonna be okay.
A soft, sharp breath escaped Dean, a shudder running through him. It wasn't a sob, not quite, but Sam turned him and pulled Dean into his arms and Dean grabbed onto him like he'd never held onto anything in his life.
"Okay, man," Sam breathed against his hair, holding on, too. "It's okay. I got you."
"Sam--" He could barely get it out. He didn't even know what he was going to say.
Sam just held on harder. "I got you."
Dean might have just gone down at the knees then, but Sam was there and took his weight without effort, got them back to the bed. Sam pulled him down and fit himself close at Dean's side, his head resting against Dean's, one arm looped tight around him, the weight of his thigh on Dean's. Dean had run as far as he could, stretched himself as thin as he could, and if he resisted at all, it didn't count for much.
"Just forget it, all right?" Sam murmured against his temple, one hand laced firmly in his hair. "Shut up and let me do this, and I swear, I'll wax the car every week for a year."
Dean made a choked sound, halfway between a laugh and something he didn't want to name. "I'm so remembering that in the morning."
Sam just shook his head and didn't let go.
They fell quiet; in the floating dark, exhaustion ran Dean down without mercy and he sank into the pure animal comfort of Sam's body against his, unable to care about anything any more past the steady beat of Sam's heart under his fist.
Dean crossed the line between unconscious and wide awake in the space of a few seconds. He lay in the dark listening, tense; the familiar, steady rhythm of Sam's breathing reached him, and he let out the breath he'd been holding.
He shivered. It was the cold that had woken him. He and Sam had shifted apart as they slept, and without the warmth of skin on skin, the room was uncomfortably chilly.
Sam was out, Dean saw, face mashed up against one arm gracelessly flung across the bed, his hand and one foot dangling off the edge. A frown marred the space between his eyebrows. He was motionless, though, practically comatose -- not restless the way he usually was with one of his nightmares. Probably felt like crap, even in his sleep. Probably, he'd have a hangover of epic proportions when he woke up.
The thought didn't make Dean grin the way it normally would have. Sammy was naked, looking more than a little worse for wear, and Dean had done that.
He folded the bedspread up over his brother's sprawled form, doing his best to cover him, then went and dug out sweatpants and a T-shirt. The bottle of aspirin took more rummaging. He pulled the pants and shirt on and went into the tiny bathroom, grateful there was a motion nightlight so he didn't have to turn on the light to take a piss. When he was finished, he took three aspirin with two handfuls of tap water, then sat down shakily on the lid of the toilet.
He'd lost count of how many times these last few months he'd lain awake in the hours before dawn and wished for it all to be a nightmare, stupid enough to think things couldn't get worse. He'd told himself he had only one thing left that mattered, only one thing left to lose -- and there was no way in hell that was happening while he was still breathing, so there was no point in worrying about it any more than he had to.
Losing Sam would kill him, he knew that down to his bones, but it was nothing new; he could deal with it. He'd been dealing with it since he was four years old. But this, he had no compass for. This was him and Sam, off the map.
After a minute, the nightlight shut off and Dean bent in on himself, arms hugged around his middle, his thoughts going in circles in the close, suffocating dark.
The gray light at the window woke him, and a soft tapping at the door. "Dean."
Sam's voice. "Yeah," Dean said roughly, and rubbed his hands over his face. Christ, he'd fallen asleep sitting up. His muscles protested when he tried to move, reminding him with an almost gleeful malice that he wasn't eighteen any more. How long had Sam been awake?
No point avoiding the inevitable, so he got up and opened the door.
Sam was there, dressed, looking better than Dean felt -- but not by much. He had coffee in his hand. He gave it to Dean, eyebrows slanted in a half-smile, the paper cup radiating heat into Dean's bones. "You're never gonna believe this, but I found a drive-through espresso bar."
"Marry me, Sammy," Dean said, deadpan, before his brain kicked in.
And Sam could have said any number of things to that, but he just gave Dean a wry look, eyes tilted up at the corners and too old for his face. Dean saw the line of tension in his shoulders let up.
"Breakfast on the table," Sam said, and pushed past him into the bathroom.
Breakfast was an egg McMuffin and hash browns with extra ketchup packets, still warm. It smelled like heaven. Dean's stomach growled, unimpressed by what might happen tomorrow, next week, a year from now. He sipped the coffee first, felt it spread instantly through his stomach, heat flowing outward. He could hear Sam in the shower, and it felt like any one of a hundred mornings: crappy motel, cheap food, strong coffee, and everything he needed within reach. He'd lived his life like this. He didn't know if it would always be this way, but he could think of worse things.
Dean glanced at the bathroom door. It scared him -- maybe more than a little, if he was honest -- that it turned out they could wake up and be normal after what they'd done last night. There was a part of him that wanted to just curl up inside that and let it sink in for a while.
Scarier still was the spark of something he hadn't felt in a long time lit like a quiet ember inside him, small and painful and hard to look at. Everything had hurt for so long. He didn't know how to feel anything else any more, and didn't know what to call it -- wasn't sure he wanted to know. It was there, just the same, and for the first time in months, it felt like maybe he could do this.
They hit the road by eight fifteen. The spring day was warm and breezy after the rain, and they opened the windows. Neither of them said anything, but that in itself wasn't really unusual; Sam wasn't much for talking in the morning, and that suited Dean fine, most days. Today was no different -- their version of normal. Except for the part where he was so aware of Sam, it felt like a physical pressure against his skin.
On the county highway outside of Clarksville, Dean finally pulled the car over. He stared straight ahead, hands on the wheel. How many roadside confessions did this make for them? It was getting to be a habit.
His throat felt like sandpaper, but he got the words out.
"I'm not leavin' you on your own, Sam. It's just not gonna happen."
He felt Sam's eyes on him, seeing too much. "You can't tell me the thought hasn't crossed your mind."
"I've had some bad days. I ain't denying that. I've had some real shit days, in fact." Dean looked over, trying to lighten things up. "You should know -- you're the one who's had to deal with it up close and personal. But I'm still here, Sammy. I'm not goin' anywhere."
Sam had that worried look on his face Dean knew too well. But finally he just nodded, and the deep line between his eyebrows smoothed out. "Okay."
"Okay?" Dean gave a breathless laugh. Since when did Sam make anything that easy? "What, that's it?"
Sam shrugged. "Okay, I believe you."
Dean realized his mouth was hanging open, and closed it. "This mean maybe you'll chill out on the psychoanalysis for a while, Dr. Freud?"
Sam's expression quirked. "Depends. Think maybe you could chill out on scaring the crap out of me?"
Dean's heart felt suddenly, painfully light. "I don't know, it's kinda fun watching you make that little face you make."
"Come on, ease up, Sammy-boy. I'm just givin' you a hard time. It's my job."
"And you do it so well."
Dean finally had to look away. He swallowed again, too much feeling lodged in his chest. "I'm tryin', Sammy."
"Yeah, I know," Sam said easily, like it was enough.
Quiet fell between them. Sun shone on the wet grass beside the road, glinted on the Impala's hood. Dean felt it on his face, and remembered Sam's arms around him, holding on like the world would end before he'd let go. He breathed deep, feeling like he could for the first time in too long.
Sam's long fingers tapped a faint rhythm on the edge of the window. "You know, we'd get there a lot faster if--"
"Dude, shut up, I don't even want to hear it." Dean turned the key, shifted the car into gear. Right then, he couldn't have come up with where it was they were supposed to be going if his life depended on it.
He pulled back out onto the road, and stepped on the gas.