sam/dean, R-rated, contains exactly no spoilers and bears only slight resemblance to the show itself. sigh. 11,666 is the word count, which is a good run-on sentence away from being two posts, so please enjoy the unbroken flow.
Manhattan for Beads
By Candle Beck
In Nebraska, Dean slipped up.
They were staking out a Little League park that night, camped in right-center with their arms and canteens. It was haunted, cursed, something. Kids kept breaking bones and losing eyes in bizarre collisions, swinging into great looping foul balls that crash-landed on windshields out on the too-close road and caused head-on wrecks. Beyond the chainlink fence in the outfield was corn, a sea of it, and two days ago a kid had hit a towering home run that brained a guy on a tractor. It was that kind of hysterically random evil.
The two of them hadn't gotten anywhere on the case and for now they were just keeping an eye, sitting cross-legged on the neat-trimmed grass with the wind through the corn sounding a tide behind them. It was a perfectly regular night, nothing remarkable about it except that they were fifteen miles from the nearest neon sign and the night sky was unbelievably bright, silver stars arranged in strata and cast in highly interpretable shapes.
Dean was complaining about the job, only idly, just to kill time, talking about how he kept waiting for their dad to emerge from the stalks in a New York Giants uniform, and how this really should be happening in Iowa, and Sam was kinda following, nodding along at any rate. He knew what Dean expected of him.
It was very late and Sam was tired, and he lay back on the grass, his spine popping. He sighed, solid black behind his eyelids.
He sensed Dean turning, hovering over him. Sam occupied himself picturing Dean's face at this moment, the precise angle of his eyebrows.
Dean asked him if he was going to sleep. He called Sam an unkind name, but Sam preferred to read the subtext. He ignored his brother. It was nice out here, warm enough that they were out of their coats, and the field had a particular fine rough childhood smell that Sam had missed.
Dean's hand landed on his shoulder, sudden but Sam was okay with it; it was just Dean. Dean basically had free rein of Sam.
"You're not leaving me alone out here," Dean said, and it was probably only because Sam's eyes were closed that it sounded weird to him. Not Dean's tone--completely normal, Dean's tone--but just the phrasing. Something.
Sam had a habit of overthinking. It got him into trouble more often than not.
"Nothing's gonna happen," Sam told him without opening his eyes. "It only happens during games."
"Wow, you're just helpful as fuck." Dean went to punch him but Sam knew him so well, caught his wrist as clean as choreography. He opened his eyes.
Dean was scowling, tugging and Sam tightened his grip without thinking about it, cause and effect. Soft ridged veins on the underside of Dean's wrist, weird and fragile-seeming under Sam's fingers. His arm was tense, a strut.
"I'm not gonna fall asleep," Sam said, and Dean looked kinda surprised.
"What're you doing then, star-gazing?" Dean's mouth curled up, wicked little grin that he used like a blade.
Sam rolled his eyes, didn't justify it with a response. The stars hardly required gazing. They were omnipresent. He smiled back at Dean, appreciating the moment, or the night, something.
Dean pulled against Sam's grip again, but halfheartedly, not really going anywhere. "What's up with you? All grabby and shit. Is this a new thing, because I'm thinking hell no."
Sam shrugged best he could, trying to simultaneously count Dean's heartbeats and count to ten in his head, a feat at which he was failing spectacularly. Dean's pulse seemed to be going fast, but how was Sam to know?
Dean was looking down at him, an odd look on his face and Sam kinda eyed him, suspicious. Dean looked calculating, conniving, but not really that, just crowded with schemes and plans and maybe they were benign, maybe they were hopeless. Sam got this hooking sensation in his stomach, his throat suddenly thick. He couldn't look at Dean anymore, staring over his shoulder at the moon.
"Let me go, Sam," and Dean's voice was different, lower and stirring, not screwing around anymore, and Sam let him go at once. And he held his breath, because there was something here, something Sam had half-expected half a million times, this idiotic tension between the two of them that had had him terrified at fifteen and exhilarated at seventeen and morbidly depressed at nineteen, all this stupid potential and it was just like the two of them to have not lived up to it.
But then Dean let his hand fall onto Sam's stomach and made it explicit, unmistakeable, fingers curled just above his belt. The slightest weight bearing down, pressing into him like a seal in wax, and it was unconscionable, the kind of damage Dean could do with just one hand. Sam freaked out the tiniest bit, but he couldn't be blamed for that, what with his life flashing before his eyes and his brother making a pass at him and all, and he, yes, he jerked away.
It wasn't his intention, wasn't consciously done. It was a reflex and there was a difference, a monumental fucking difference.
Dean got this look on his face like he'd had a chunk ripped out of him, something he could live without but only barely. He pulled himself away from Sam, his whole body going stiff.
Sam tried to tell him, wait, wait goddamn it, because he didn't mean no, it was never no, but the second his hand flattened on Dean's back, Dean was shoving to his feet, walking swiftly across the grass away from him. Sam sat up, a horrible telescoping feeling in his chest as he watched Dean go.
It was probably always gonna happen, Sam decided three days later, when Dean was still speaking almost exclusively in monosyllables, a persistent brick-colored flush on his face every time Sam looked at him. They had been sharing spates of bitter silence, tugging at it jealously like a blanket too small to cover them both. Dean hardly even looked at Sam anymore. It was awful.
Sam wasn't sure if thinking of it as predestined was actually helping the situation, but he was willing to try anything.
So, okay. It was always going to be like this. There had been a moment a couple weeks before Sam's sixteenth birthday, when they'd been wrestling and Dean's head had been trapped under Sam's arm, pinned to his side and Dean had bit him, swift gouge through thin cotton, and Dean had pressed his tongue flat, a coin of heat branded on Sam's ribs. It couldn't have been too strange; they had always wrestled, and Dean had always fought dirty because Sam's hair was easier to pull, and Sam already had him beat on reach. It didn't hurt as bad as Sam made out, just scared the hell out of him like every other glimpse of his future, froze him shocked and silent. He would have liked to forget about it, relegate it to fever dreams and narcotic hazes, but he wasn't the type for repression.
They'd been wrestling on a scratchy motel carpet, laid over what felt like concrete and Sam carried road rash on his elbows and knees for the next week, hiding how bad it stung. He was fifteen, almost nearly sixteen, and he had been taken down for the very first time by the thought of someone else's mouth, the treacherous paths his mind had begun to travel. Ever since then, all through this long latest decade of Sam's life, he'd been waiting on his brother.
And it was stupid for it to come to this, Sam concluded, glowering at Dean from the shotgun seat. For Dean to let him fuck it up and then refuse to let Sam explain, wrenching the volume all the way up every time Sam opened his mouth, banging out of their motel room, going anywhere as long as it was away from Sam. It was a favorite pattern of Dean's, really basic sabotage type of stuff and Sam knew, Sam knew him so well. Dean had ropes on him, he was tied to horses and pulled in several directions at once, and Sam would usually back off, but he was sick and tired of it and he'd never said no.
Sam chose his moment. Their latest motel room with its scarring pink and orange argyle-patterned wallpaper, and Dean was changing his shirt, quick and efficient because he was dying to get out of here, get to the bar or the brothel or wherever he was going each night, and Sam stood up, his hands closed in fists. There was a rush in his chest almost exactly the same as what violence brought out in him.
"Dean, I want to. Are you listening to me now? I have forever, and you need to stop being a jackass so we can get the fuck on with it."
Sam had caught Dean bare to the waist, discordantly shy and braced as though for a blow, overwhelmed by the insane wallpaper at his back. His shoulders were tipped up, muscles drawn taut, and he stared at Sam, his eyes an entirely different level of green, blown with shock like that.
There was a moment of fraught silence. Sam twitched, fiddled with his hands. He lifted his eyebrows at Dean. "Well?"
Dean shook his head slowly, and Sam experienced a hollowing sensation in the core of him, but Dean was coming closer, arrowing towards Sam. Sam tensed, tried to prepare but Dean didn't grab him or hit him, just stopped short a couple feet from Sam and looked suddenly out of place. Dean blinked.
Sam shrugged. His mouth felt broken. "We. We should at least try and see how it goes, right?"
Dean gave him a look, like, you incredible moron, but he shifted a step closer. Sam could make out the traced scar on his forehead, watch Dean chewing on the edge of his lip.
"Ignoring it's not doing us any good," Sam said, and his voice was worn away to almost nothing now; Dean was very close to him, all perfect shoulders and clean smooth chest.
Dean half-grinned, and Sam kinda fucking swooned on the inside, distantly appalled at himself. "Far and away, craziest thing we've ever done," Dean said, and then he kissed his brother.
The simplicity of the move would be surprising later on, when Sam got to overthinking it, but he was in the moment and it didn't seem strange right then. They'd taken years to get here, that was probably fair to say. Sam's body gave in certain places, his shoulders falling to accommodate his brother, a muscle memory from every time he'd had to physically haul Dean out of some place. He experienced an instant of crippling regret that came out of nowhere, but then Dean was on him.
Dean knew exactly how he wanted this done, hooked his arm around his brother's neck and pressed full against him right off, like it was nothing, like the seven thousandth time instead of the first. His mouth fit against Sam's, opened fast and deep because evidently Dean did not fuck around when it came to fucking around. Sam held his brother to him, hard around the waist with both arms and his hands spread out huge across Dean's ribs. He couldn't breathe and it was because he had Dean too close, it was because Dean wouldn't stop kissing him, and the whole thing was kinda absurd and fucked up and self-destructive but it worked.
They didn't attempt anything too complicated that first time; Sam didn't even get his shirt off, still in his head enough to be half-embarrassed, not really wanting to get naked with Dean just yet, just in case things took a bad turn. Dean's hands found their way under everything, forming to Sam's angles and planes and it was better that he couldn't see it--it might have killed him.
Dean laid him flat on the bed, breathing hard and grinning through the shadow on his face, blushing dangerously red because it was working but it was still fucking weird as fuck, and Sam couldn't figure out if Dean's skin was naturally this hot, or if it was just the flush. Dean's hand was down Sam's jeans, over his boxers, and that was perfect too, everything just halfway, holding back because holy fuck, you know. Sam pulled at Dean, twisted his face against Dean's throat, his eyes screwed shut. He was gasping, struggling for air with his open mouth skidding, snagging on his brother's collarbone.
Dean got him off so easy, rubbing through his shorts and muttering in that goddamn voice of his, not dirty like Sam was sorta fearing but scratched up and wrenched low, almost pleading, "c'mon, yeah, that's real good man, just like that," and Sam, he didn't expect that. It hit him very hard for some reason.
Afterwards his head was fragmented and spinning and he pushed his hands across Dean's body curiously, feeling the quick muffled beat of Dean jerking off inside his own jeans, gnawing painlessly on Sam's shoulder and shaking against him at the last moment, sinking his teeth in. Sam felt stung, imprinted. He tightened his grip on his brother, fingers strict lines across Dean's back, and paid close attention to the tangible feel of Dean coming down, catching his breath against Sam's chest.
They lay there for a minute. It wasn't very long, the weird coming back with a vengeance and Dean peeled off, stood awkwardly with his jeans open and pulled off his hip on one side. He stared at Sam, looking frankly surprised, his mouth used and dark.
Sam cleared his throat, fixed his own pants. He sat up, wincing. "So. Wasn't terrible."
It was really quiet before Dean answered, one of those piercing instances of silence when Sam could hear faraway train whistles and everything seemed intolerably difficult. Dean swallowed, crooking a careless smirk that was his default setting more than anything else.
"It's never terrible when I'm involved, Sammy." Dean's voice wasn't quite there, missing something indefinable but necessary.
They were stuck for maybe a ten-count, eyeing each other uncertainly. Sam kept licking his teeth, the roof of his mouth, thinking about how Dean tasted like lemonheads and it was just a few minutes ago that they pretty much had sex.
"Dude," Sam said, sounding bizarre and hoarse to his own ears. "How is this more awkward than the screwing around itself?"
Dean looked pained. "Because now you're talking about it, Nancy."
"Don't call me that." Sam glared at his brother. "It's very annoying."
"You're awful fuckin' touchy for having just gotten off."
Sam started to snap back in kind, but he stopped short, hauled himself under control. He was still muzzy-headed and overly warm under his skin and he didn't want to fight with Dean, but it happened as naturally as all this other stuff, like they'd been born for it.
But Sam took a few breaths, watching Dean scowl at him and shift his weight, looking like he wanted to bolt. Sam thought that there was no reason to think that screwing around with him would keep Dean from being irritating. It wasn't as if sex were a cure for anything.
Dean was spoiling for a fight but Sam wasn't into it, and eventually he blew out a disgusted breath and went digging in his bag for a clean set of clothes. Sam thought that Dean would change right there in front of him like normal and Sam wouldn't look because it was still wrong in a convoluted way, but instead Dean disappeared into the bathroom, tossing a sneer at Sam over his shoulder. Sam didn't think Dean was really mad, just messed up a little bit, which was probably reasonable.
Sam rubbed his face. He was bone-tired all at once, a weight dropped on his shoulders. He wasn't too anxious to fall asleep, mostly because he had a feeling tomorrow morning was going to be nightmarish, but he didn't want to worry about the consequences just yet. There was a stubborn warm spot in his stomach, kinda making him sick even though it was good, the memory of Dean grinning down at him in the diluted light, his hands painted on Sam's body.
This was not going to fuck them up, Sam decided. Maybe it was a stupid idea but they'd survived those before.
Dean came out of the bathroom, chucked his jeans on top of his duffel and got in the other bed. He gave Sam a narrow look, knuckling his fist into the sheets. Sam couldn't quite read him, thrown off by the unsure set of Dean's mouth and his hardened eyes.
"There's gotta be some middle ground between ignoring it and talking it to death, right?" Dean asked.
Sam was taken aback, having prepared himself for an attack. He scratched at his arm, looking away and trying to get his thoughts in order.
"Yeah," Sam allowed. "But I'm, well. Not really interested in fucking around and pretending it's not happening."
"Who said that?" Dean's voice was muffled, and Sam looked over to find him most of the way under the covers, his damp hair spiking up and his eyes flicking. He looked like Kilroy. It was pretty funny but Sam didn't feel like calling him on it.
Dean's eyebrows twitched, and he glanced at Sam with this odd pleading look on his face. It was already too much talking for Dean, too much dissection.
"It's happening," Dean said, and Sam couldn't see his mouth move. It helped somehow. "I know it's happening. I just. Don't want you acting any different. I, it's 'cause of how you are right now, all right, so just stay like that and. Shut the fuck up."
It was absolutely the nicest thing Dean had ever said to him. It flared in Sam, made him blush and struck him dumb. He wove his hands together, staring down and trying not to show anything on his face. Dean saying that aloud was the most outlandish thing that had happened all night long.
Sam risked a glance at his brother and Dean had his eyes stubbornly shut, his hand curled around the edge of the sheet. Sam grinned at him, only for a second but with everything he had, the corners of his mouth aching and his eyes scrunching. Crazy teetering feeling in his chest, too wild to be trusted but Sam was going to go with it for now, he wasn't going to fight.
He shimmied out of his jeans and got under the covers, slapping the bedside light off and saying into the darkness, "Night, Dean."
Dean huffed. He answered, sounding aggrieved and dimly hoarse, "Night, Sammy," and Sam pressed his smile into the pillow, cotton sticking to his teeth and his head reeling suddenly with the thought that this was just the first time.
The next couple of weeks found them out of synch with each other, off their game.
Sam missed Dean's nonverbal cues, and Dean ignored half the stuff Sam said out loud, cherry-picking what he wanted to hear. They lay awake in separate beds, staring at the same ceiling, and Sam waited for Dean to come to him and he supposed Dean was waiting for the same. Neither wanted to make the first move, and it became swiftly ridiculous, like playing chicken with a freight train.
They had been stranded in the Midwest for a long time, bouncing around from farm to farm, field to field, made aimless by the land as flat as paper, the sky overwritten above it all. They hadn't seen an ocean in nine months. Sam was deathly sick of it, and he wanted to put fifteen hundred miles behind them in a single day, go on one of their haulass tears across the country like when there were cops actively looking for them.
He was just getting itchy, his skin begging for highway wind, and it wasn't like him. Wanderlust was really more Dean's thing. Sam figured it was some gear slipped in his mind, pressing on unfamiliar instincts. It was a side effect of fucking around with his brother, probably, or anyway that was the story he was sticking to for now, but whatever the reasons, he wanted to get the fuck out of here.
He still wanted to take Dean with him, though, so at least there was that.
Outside Topeka there should have been a ghost but instead there were drunk teenagers. The condemned house in Sioux City wasn't haunted by anything other than transients. The werewolf in Des Moines was actually a rabid dog. They hadn't done any tangible good since exorcising that stupid Little League park where the whole mess began. This little streak of bad luck starting, but Sam thought it was just coincidence. Sometimes things didn't pan out.
They were still in Iowa, landlocked a thousand miles in every direction and suffocating from it. When Dean pulled into a liquor store just as the sun was starting to set, a frisson of heat skittered through Sam. He followed his brother inside without a word, his hands in his pockets as they studied the wall of sparkling glass bottles.
Sam had a feeling he knew where the night would end. Dean kept shooting him undercover glances, clicking his ring against the counter in a steady rhythm.
They got a room at the nearest motel, and Sam's breathing suffered as he trailed Dean into the room, his bag digging heavy into his shoulder, heart jamming against his ribs. He felt like he might pass out; he couldn't take the suspense.
Dean put the paper bag full of liquor on the table and tossed his duffel and Sam did the same, crossed the room quickly and pulled his brother to him, a hand on his hip and a hand cupped around the back of his head. He tried to kiss Dean and Dean shoved him off, looking mortified. He cut his eyes away from Sam, ran a hand through his hair. Sam stood there feeling terrible, flatly rejected.
He fumbled for the bag of liquor, staring intently down at his hands going about their quotidian task of opening a bottle. His head was buzzing and he could hear Dean breathing, kinda unsteady but that might have been the shock. Sam could feel Dean staring at him and he wished to god he would stop.
Sam fetched two plastic cups from the bathroom and made them up some very strong drinks. He left Dean's on the table rather than handing it to him, went to sit on one of the beds, side-eyeing his brother warily. The liquor scoured going down, made his eyes water.
Dean kicked his bag, took his drink and finished it in one go, poured another for the same treatment. Then he disappeared into the bathroom and Sam was left staring at the shut door, his throat aching and this unkind suspicion growing in him that Dean wasn't going to be able to do this.
Maybe it wasn't just Dean. Sam kept remembering how easy it had been, how the stomach-twisting weirdness had faded for the length of time that he'd had his hands on Dean, had Dean biting at his mouth and pulling his hair. It seemed more like a dream now, something that took place under dream-logic and with a dream's lack of consequences. Sam couldn't figure out how to get back there, how to make it work again.
He finished his drink, got up and hurriedly made another, retreated. He felt safer on the bed, less open to attack. Sam pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead, squeezing his eyes shut and marveling at how completely neurotic he'd managed to become in just a few short weeks.
Dean emerged from the bathroom quietly, almost unobtrusively if Sam's whole life weren't devoted to his every move. He had his eyes cast down, a slight flush on his face that probably had more to do with the empty cup he was refilling.
Sam looked for help in his drink, found nothing at all. He cleared his throat. "Dean-"
"Nope." Dean was turned away from Sam, towards the window. "There's a Hostess truck out there."
"What was that movie where the kids stowed away in a Hostess truck and ate like pounds of Ho-Hos and stuff?"
Sam wondered how Dean had gotten shitfaced drunk so fast. "I, um, I don't remember, dude."
"We oughta try it sometime." Dean worked at his drink, the bend of his arm forming a triangle through which Sam could see a scatter of hazy parking lot lights.
Sam didn't know what to do. He said yeah, just because, and then it was quiet for a little while, both of them drinking too fast, pushing this thing because that was the only way it would go.
Eventually Dean came over and settled on the other bed, still not looking at Sam but Sam was hardly expecting it. Dean turned on the television, began scanning through channels at warp speed, gnawing worriedly on his lower lip and Sam realized he was staring, jerked his gaze away.
Sam looked blankly at the spastic flurry of the television, a panda bear, a McDonald's commercial, a newswoman with gravity-defying hair, and said by rote, "Slow down."
"You speed up."
"You can't even see what's on."
"Yeah I can," Dean said. He flipped through the channels even faster. "I can see that it all sucks."
Sam rolled his eyes. An imploding building flicked past, buckling into the rising dust. "There, go back to that."
Dean shook his head. "It's that demolition special, I've see it like nine times."
"Well, I haven't. C'mon, buildings falling down. You know you wanna."
The corner of Dean's lip curled up and he glanced at Sam, his eyes half-lidded and starting to betray the drunk, fogging in and out. Sam smiled at him, wanting to show that he wasn't going to make things any weirder than necessary, no threat to grab Dean and kiss him again. They were just regular brothers as far as Sam was concerned, so, fine, good.
Dean switched back to the demolition special just in time to see a bridge explode. Sam made an approving ooh noise, checked to make sure Dean was smirking and he was, half-grinning into his cup. Sam felt a little better, some small piece of their relationship repaired.
They watched shit blow up and fall down for awhile. Dean got the bottle from the table and topped Sam up without Sam having to ask. Sam was swimming, fighting to keep his mind anchored. He kept stealing looks at Dean, his smooth forearms and bare feet, hair all screwed up because he kept scratching through it compulsively. Dean was covering pretty well but Sam could see through him.
Sam kept wondering, are we drunk enough yet? Is it okay yet?
He wasn't sure this was how he wanted it to go. He wasn't going to remember it well enough in the morning. He didn't know if they'd ever get it all the way right.
Dean turned off the light.
Sam wasn't expecting that, didn't see Dean move, and he flinched, thinking spirit immediately followed by power outage, but then he registered the television still blaring steadily, flashing light across the room. Sam looked over at his brother. Dean was sitting oddly stiff, frozen, eyes locked on the television, and Sam's mouth opened to say something but then he thought better of it. It would never happen again if he kept asking Dean to explain himself.
They watched TV in the dark for a few minutes. Sam absorbed nothing, couldn't have said whether it was show or commercial at any given moment, his attention fatally diverted.
Dean spoke without preamble. "It's too bad that we're fucked up so much the same."
Sam started, badly on edge. Dean still wasn't looking at him, but Sam couldn't help it. "What do you mean?"
"This whole thing." Dean's hand gestured indistinctly in silhouette. He sounded very tired, old. "It'd be better if it was just me. Then we could write it off."
"I mean," Dean continued like Sam hadn't spoken. "I'm already fucked up in enough other ways, I coulda dealt. I never woulda--wouldn't have done anything, not ever, and we wouldn't have to worry about it, and, and, and that woulda been it. Solved. Never a problem to begin with."
Sam shook his head, vaguely annoyed amidst everything else. "It was never just you, Dean. Sorry to screw up your little martyr plan there."
"Jesus, and you wonder why I never want to talk to you about this stuff."
Sam started to snap back, caught himself and breathed out. "I'm listening."
Dean exhaled himself, fast and angry, scrubbed a hand through his hair. Sam's eyes were adjusted to the uneven light and catching the details now, Dean's shirt crumpled across his stomach, Dean's fingers kneading restlessly in the sheets.
"I'm just sayin'. You're all, like, whatever. Like it's inevitable or something, like it's natural. But it's gonna be tougher than you think."
Sam considered that, turned it over in his mind like a found shell. It could be easy, it had been easy, but only for the fifteen-twenty minutes it had actually been happening, and maybe Dean was right, maybe that wasn't enough to go on.
"It'll be okay," Sam said, his mouth feeling dry. Dean snorted.
"Thanks for proving my point there, Sammy."
Sam glared over at him. "I wasn't finished, jerk. It'll be okay--it will, we're not out of our depth here. Look at what we do every day."
"What the fuck does hunting have to do with anything?"
"A lot, man, c'mon. We're trained for the worst stuff that ever existed. Surely we can handle this."
Dean shook his head, and it was too dark to tell but Sam figured he was twisting his mouth, letting his lip curl in disgust. Sam could have drawn it from memory.
"Okay, now I'm thinking we shouldn't because it makes you say really stupid things," Dean said, a fresh cut that had Sam wincing.
"And turns you into a complete dick, apparently."
"Right." Dean made an aborted stabbing motion with the remote, turning off the television and instantly diving the room into pitch black. "Goodnight, Sam."
Sam sat gaping in the dark, his body tense. He wanted to believe that Dean was just fucking with him, but he could hear his brother slamming a pillow, punching it into shape, the short angry breaths Dean took. He should have known Dean would have a hair-trigger about this stuff, but Sam was still impossibly irritated, left open-mouthed and hanging, all alone all of a sudden.
He didn't do anything just then, didn't even move to get under the covers. He had to wait for his mind to clear a little bit. Dean had stopped everything so abruptly, heedless of the fact that Sam was still in motion, and he'd hit a brick wall, suffered a minor head injury. Sam felt much more drunk now that all the lights were off.
The hitches in Dean's breathing evened out. He wasn't asleep yet--Sam knew what that sounded like as well as he knew pretty much anything--but he was calmed down at least. Dean was probably drunker than Sam; he'd had more and his tolerance wasn't that much better than his brother's, and Sam wondered how Dean's thoughts worked when he was drunk, if they came as whirlwind or a flood, some kind of natural disaster for sure but the devil of it was always in the details.
Sam pulled his legs up and rested his head on his bent knees, thinking that he should just try and get some sleep, try not to make too much of it in the morning, see what could be salvaged. His stomach ached at the very idea, months it might take, years before Dean acted normal around him again. Sam was sick of Dean not looking at him. Sick to fucking death of Dean being places other than right here next to his brother.
Sam slid to the edge of the bed, swung his legs out silently. He took off his shirt and laid it down with painstaking care. It was kinda chilly, his skin stinging and tightening up all over.
Dean was way the hell over on the far side of his bed, of course, hunched with his shoulders in a tight curve, but Sam figured if he was going to do it, it might as well be in adverse circumstances, the very worst they could find. They had to see if it would float.
He got into his brother's bed feeling huge, clumsy, trying to move fast and stealthy but it was beyond him. Sam knocked the alarm clock onto the floor, and Dean was already saying, "What the fuck," kinda slurring and Sam didn't want to think about how drunk they were anymore. He reached out, far across the stretch of sheets to grab Dean before he could roll away, off the bed, out of the room and into some other future. Sam's hand wrapped tight around Dean's hip and Sam followed it, pulling Dean into him.
Dean fought, snapped his elbow back into Sam's chest but Sam deflected it, got Dean's arms pinned down. Dean was pressed flush against shoulders to hips, folded into him in a casually intricate way, and Sam was terribly aware of his bare chest, the places where Dean's skin touched his own.
"Sam, you fuck, get your motherfucking hands off-" and Sam buried his face in the side of Dean's neck, opened his mouth and closed his eyes. He licked at Dean's throat, sucked a small mark there, and Dean gasped, fell silent and became very still.
"You win, Dean," Sam said low and directly into Dean's ear. Dean shook, barely pulling himself together. Sam grinned, bit Dean's earlobe. "We're not gonna talk about it anymore."
He pushed his hand off Dean's hip and under his shirt, sliding up his chest quick and clean and jesus, again, easy, and Sam got his fingers spread out wide, fingertips spanning Dean's collarbones and his forearm neat in the groove down the center of Dean's ribs, everything just clicking right the fuck into place.
Dean wasn't done, would never stay quiet, but he was swearing in a different way now, choking a little bit. He shoved back against Sam but he wasn't trying to get away. Sam rolled his body against his brother's long and slow, almost killing himself in the effort and shivering hard, his hips snapping at the end, and all the air shot out of Dean. He made this remarkable sound, this long-drawn moan.
Sam smiled, nudging his face against Dean's and trying to get a hold on this ridiculous way he kept shaking. "See, nothing's changed, I told you," Sam whispered unsteadily, kissing the edge of Dean's mouth, and he didn't even know what the fuck he was talking about but he felt it was important to make that clear.
Dean hissed and craned his head to get at Sam's mouth, Sam falling dangerously fast into the kiss while Dean scratched at Sam's hand on his chest, tugged it pointedly downwards. Sam let Dean lead, figured he owed him at least that much.
Dean kept kissing him, probably just trying to keep Sam quiet but Sam didn't care; Dean could do whatever he wanted as long as he didn't stop. He had his hand down his brother's shorts and Dean kept rubbing back against him hard and fast and Sam couldn't breathe or think or anything like that. He was helpless, drunk in every way.
Then Dean broke away from Sam's mouth, let his head drop onto the bed as he groaned out his brother's name, came all over Sam's hand and his own boxers. Sam laid himself heavily across Dean's back, panting into the angle of his shoulder and feeling Dean work through it. Sam pulled his hand out and wiped it clean, found Dean's hip again like a magnet.
There was a lull. Dean's face was hidden in the bed, his breathing ragged and his back juddering under Sam. His shirt was rucked up under his arms and they were skin to skin there, smooth and hot and Sam almost couldn't register anything past the feel of it.
When Dean pushed up with his shoulders and shrugged Sam off, Sam rolled obediently onto his back, blinked up at his brother as Dean turned to look at him. Dean looked faintly wrecked. There were marks darkening on his throat even as Sam watched, his mouth looking bruise-colored in the dim light. His eyes were roman candles, full matchbooks set aflame.
Dean grinned. He tossed the covers off Sam and shimmied down his body, fit himself between Sam's legs with his chin coming to rest on Sam's stomach. Dean's fingers curled in his shorts, just shy of where Sam wanted him and Sam was wrong, actually: it had never been anything like this before.
Sam stared down at his brother, heard his own voice cracking, "Oh god Dean."
Dean flashed him another smile, giving them out like candy tonight, and he hooked Sam's shorts down, fisted him in one hand and Sam arched back, his hips canting. Dean pressed him back to the bed, his mouth wet and open low on Sam's stomach, his rough face scratching the hell out of his brother. He said muffled, "Quit talking, Sammy."
But Sam wouldn't listen, saying, "yeah," and "yes," and "please," with his fingers skidding through Dean's hair, and Dean couldn't make him stop no matter what he tried.
They slept in the same bed that night. Dean batted him away when Sam tried to sling an arm across his waist, but that was okay; Sam had been second-guessing that move even while it was in progress. It wasn't really like them. He was content over here on his side of Dean's bed.
Sam got woken up by the sun at mid-morning, which blanketed him in heat, pasted him to the sheets. He kicked the covers away, sprawled out as wide as he could with his skin stretching overtight, and he realized Dean wasn't there anymore.
"Dean?" Sam wasn't really expecting an answer, feeling like he'd seen this movie a million times before, but Dean replied absently, "What," from over by the table.
Sam looked over his shoulder. Dean had the computer open, a cup of coffee at his hand. He didn't look back at Sam, and Sam thought he might be pressing his luck but he asked:
"What're you doing?"
"Finding a job," Dean told him, still not looking over but he didn't sound weird or ticked or freaking out, just kinda distracted and it threw Sam off, not what he'd prepared himself for. "We gotta get the fuck out of the plains."
Sam let his head whump back into the pillow. He had a pretty bad headache starting up, stirred by exposing his eyes to natural light, and he wanted to go back to sleep but it was no good; he was up.
He smothered himself, breathing out hot against the pillow, and thought for a little while about Dean sucking him off last night. The sunlight sank heavily through his skin, drugged him, made him feel half human and half composed of pure warmth.
Dean clapped the laptop shut and Sam jerked, barely perceptible but he could just imagine Dean's smirk.
"C'mon, lazyass," Dean said, and something chipped off Sam's back; it felt like a quarter. "Dying of hunger over here."
Dean's voice was moving; he was on his feet, the floor sighing. Sam froze, wondering suddenly what he must look like, facedown on the bed in just his shorts with the covers kicked off, and he thought maybe Dean would come over to him, slide his hand down Sam's back, Dean's thumb notched into the base of his spine.
But then Dean was rustling around getting his bag together and Sam gave up on it for now. It was too early. He rolled out of bed and made it to the bathroom without sparing his brother a look, a rogue flush the only thing betraying him.
Sam ran the water barely more than tepid for his shower, exhausted by the way he kept sweating through T-shirts before noon, the persistence of the summer. The water pressure was criminal and he felt less clean getting out than getting in. The day was off to a strange start, but Sam counted his blessings. It could have been so much worse.
They hadn't brought much in with them and checking out consisted of Dean tossing the keys onto the office counter without even bothering to ring the bell for the clerk to come out. Sam had always felt that disappearing shouldn't be as easy as they made it seem. There shouldn't be so many holes in the world for them to slip through, so many places where they had left no more lasting trace than tire tracks in dirt.
But they got back on the highway again and he felt better. Dean forgot about how he was dying of hunger and opened her up, tearing through the green fields saturated with humidity and color. Sam had to squint his eyes closed, rode like that blind with the backs of his eyelids deep ruby red.
Dean told him about some stuff he'd dug up on the computer, a possible haunting in Tennessee and some kind of bat monster in a West Virginia coal mine, and Sam made non-committal noises. He'd hoped Dean might find something even farther away. Something in western Alaska, maybe, so that they could take weeks getting there and months coming home.
Sam was drowsing and Dean had abandoned the conversation, twisting the volume higher. Sam followed looping trains of thought, piecing together daydreams out of memories, trying to absorb into his skin the hum of the car all around him. He felt sore and beat-up, like a night of broken shallow sleep.
There was a spot like a week-old burn on his stomach where Dean had scuffed his chin, soft rash when his shirt brushed it. Sam wanted to concentrate on that to the exclusion of all else.
Dean pulled over at what was probably the first bar in the county to open, and Sam opened his eyes, blinked at the neon all dimmed in the sunlight.
"Bar?" he asked dumbly, immediately bracing for Dean's sharp rejoinder.
But Dean only said, "Yeah. Cheeseburgers," and then got out of the car. Sam rubbed his eyes, yawning and not yet all there. He followed his brother, his mind clicking and stuttering and he tried to keep it from catching, finding his diffuse sense of things to be somewhat agreeable.
They only got a little buzzed. Sam was suggestible, distracted by the slightest moves his brother made, and he kept saying, "Yeah, whatever," to cover for not listening. He didn't realize that Dean had been holding himself stiffly all day until he watched his shoulders fall loose after a second beer. Dean slumped back against the chair, his eyes half-closed but more directly on Sam than they'd yet been.
Sam was embarrassingly grateful for it. He snuck pickles and fries off Dean's plate so that Dean would slap his hand, kick his ankles under the table. Their conversation was stop and start, stilted and uneven amid agonizing stretches of silence, but Sam was inclined to focus on the good things.
They walked out to the car sucking on green peppermints, and Dean stopped before getting in, looking at Sam across the roof. He had a cautiously intent look on his face, like he had some coded message to deliver.
Sam waited. He wasn't holding his breath, his fingers uncrossed, but it was a near thing.
"So, look," Dean said, and Sam nodded without thinking, yes yes whatever. Dean rubbed the back of his neck, looked away from his brother. "Where do you think we should go?"
Sam was lost for a second, utterly at sea, recognizing the words individually but not as a whole, not coming from Dean. He wasn't usually this stupid, but he heard himself asking, "What?"
Dean looked vaguely aggrieved. "You don't want to go kill the bat thing, right? I still need a direction to point the car in."
Sam shrugged, something staggering and jolting in his chest, but then he said, "That way," pointing east down the highway. He sounded entirely confident, surprising them both a little, and Dean nodded, got in the car.
Checking the position of the sun in the sky, Sam thought about the miles between time zones and the speed at which Dean drove, working out the mathematical equations that would determine where they'd be when they caught up to the night.
They drove the gas tank empty before stopping, filled her up and got right back on I-80, the great northern lifeline of the country. The landscape didn't change at all for the first four hundred miles, just fields, and fields, and fields. They didn't talk hardly at all, and the air between them became slowly stale, poisonous. Sam kept trying to think of something to say, scraped and clawed for it, but he was no better than the scenery, a clean blank.
It would be easier at night. They would leave off these high speeds and face each other without moving, and Sam would know what to do then.
They made it as far as Youngstown, a long home run away from the Pennsylvania state line, hulking dark masses of gridwork sweeping past as they cut through the defunct steel mills and factories. Dean was almost asleep on the steering wheel before he finally gave in to it, found a motel with half its neon letters blown out.
Sam was numb from so long in the car, his mind dulled and humming with heavy metal. He leaned hard against the dresser, stretching the muscles in his arms and looking over in time to see Dean faceplant into the bed without ceremony.
"Take off your boots at least," Sam told him. It felt weird to be talking, his throat kinda sore.
Dean grunted into the mattress; his feet stuck out over the edge of the bed, one untied bootlace dripping down to the floor. Dean's face was hidden and Sam took the chance to study him, catalog the slope of Dean's back, the dents at the backs of his knees. A lump formed in his throat for some reason.
Sam washed his face and brushed his teeth, aware that his hands were trembling but trying not to dwell on it. Some things couldn't be helped. When he came back out, Dean was under the covers, his boots and jeans discarded between the two beds. Sam hesitated, staring at the fringe of Dean's hair that was all he could see of him, wondering which bed he should choose.
He lost his nerve, got in the empty bed. An electric shock jerked against his fingers when he reached to turn off the light, and Sam scrunched down, stuck his fingers in his mouth, metal traces like the taste of a penny. Sam closed his eyes, forced his muscles to relax. He really was very tired, everything else aside.
The dream developed naturally, his mind segueing into sleep so subtly, so sly, and Sam was in a different motel room, gray walls and one strange bed, cloud- and sky-colored and upon closer inspection floating several inches above the floor. Dean was beside him, his eyes open, and Sam must have been invisible because he was staring at Dean like he never let himself when Dean was looking back. So Sam was invisible and Dean was wearing his Black Sabbath shirt that was so old it was worn through along the edges of the letters, little slivers of skin showing. Dean was staring right at him but Sam was invisible, he had to be.
Sam wanted to get his hands on his brother, slide under his frayed T-shirt, push through his hair, but he couldn't touch Dean because Dean would think it was a ghost; he might try and shoot Sam and then where would they be besides bloody, crippled by rocksalt and guilt?
Dean said his name. Sam didn't have to answer, being invisible. He hovered one hand over Dean's chest, watching Dean's eyes go narrow, his teeth flicking at his lower lip. Sam passed his hand down Dean's body like a benediction, and Dean said his name again, said, "Sammy," and grabbed his wrist.
Sam jarred awake, wrecked by confusion for a minute because Dean still had his wrist but Sam couldn't see him anymore, couldn't see anything. No one was invisible, but Sam might be blind.
"Sam," Dean said, and that was the third time, that had to mean something.
Sam's brain locked into place. He couldn't see anything because the lights were off. Gravity was doing its job like always. Dean had his wrist; Dean was standing half-bent over, awkward with his voice this dim scraping thing in the dark. Sam swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly bone dry.
He shoved the covers down and rolled back, tugging at Dean's grip and Dean didn't let go, followed Sam down. One knee sunk into the bed, Dean held himself still above Sam, his eyes glimmering faintly. There was a field of heat around him and Sam could feel it, almost see it fogging Dean's edges, making Sam's skin ache.
"It's okay," Sam whispered, low like a secret, and Dean's mouth curled. It might have been a smile or a sneer, hard to tell; it was so dark here in the waking world.
Dean pulled away from his brother and Sam reached to pull him back but Dean pushed his hands off, hissing quietly. Dean stripped his shirt over his head quick and Sam's breath caught because Dean was pale, trimmed with glow like an idealized version of himself in the spare light, and then Dean straddled Sam's body and Sam's higher-level thinking mostly shut down.
His hands flew to Dean's hips, fit to him as if fused. Sam slipped his fingers under the waist of Dean's shorts, held soft bare skin against his palms and Dean was gasping already, almost crushing Sam's ribs between his knees. He was folded down over Sam, his hands buried in his brother's hair and pulling his head back. Sam felt the hard arch in his throat, felt Dean's mouth streak down and hot, licking away the lines his teeth had made.
Sam dragged Dean's shorts off his hips, messy and uncoordinated, and Dean was snickering against the underside of his jaw, missing Sam's mouth when he tried to kiss him. Sam was shoved closer to out of his mind with every breath Dean took, every time he rocked down, slick slow grind of his body against Sam's.
Sam slid his hands up Dean's back, held him by the nape of his neck and brought their mouths together. He kept Dean still, kissed him until it hurt.
It was as good as the other times. Maybe better--it didn't seem possible but it might actually be getting better.
After, Sam lay sprawled across his brother's midsection, his face smashed into the bed and his arm slung around Dean's legs. The two of them formed a disjointed cross. Dean's hand was a slight limp weight on his back; he wouldn't put up with Sam smothering him for long but Sam would take as many seconds as he could get.
Sam wasn't thinking about anything in particular. At the moment he was just happy, not smart.
Dean's chest expanded against Sam, and he said as if surprised, "This is really good sex that we keep having."
Sam twitched, his whole body flushing and he wondered if Dean could feel the difference in temperature. He peeled his mouth off the bed, answered carefully, "It really is."
Dean breathed under him for a minute, considering. His fingers tapped absently at the trench of Sam's spine, the drumbeat of whatever song Dean had running in his head.
"Kinda awful the rest of the time, though," and Dean said that so quiet that Sam almost didn't catch it. Dean hadn't wanted to say it, or Sam hadn't wanted to hear it, something; it was all futile in the end.
Sam couldn't help going tense, his skin drawing away from his brother's. He dug his face into the mattress, his nose aching and his voice muffled.
"It's not so bad."
Dean made a hoarse scoffing sound. "We exchanged about twenty words in the past ten hours, dude, did you not notice that?"
"That was just. It's a boring drive, that's all."
"What? That doesn't even make sense." Dean's hand tightened on Sam's back, his fingertips pressing in. "It's too weird."
"It is not," Sam said immediately, without thought of any kind. "It's just new."
Dean shook his head, sighed, the sound of it old and rusty. His grip was suddenly gone, nascent bruises left under Sam's skin. "Get off me."
Sam didn't want to, preferred Dean pinned and beating warmth, but he obliged, rolled onto his back beside his brother, their shoulders touching until Dean shifted away. They traded inhales and exhales back and forth for awhile, finding no differences between this ceiling and any other.
Sam's thoughts were whirring, paging through scenarios and turns of phrase at a feverish rate. Somewhere there was something he could say to convince Dean, somewhere in this fractured mess he called a mind, but Sam kept coming up empty. All day in the car today with nothing to keep him company but his brother and the concrete silence between them, yes, Sam had noticed. And the several weeks of their most recent past, stretching back all awkward and halting with their rhythm completely shot, critical pieces chipped off their perfect fit.
It hadn't gone like Sam had hoped. It was probably time to admit that.
But he rebelled against it, a great rally and cry against the thought of giving up his brother, this insane new thing that they'd found. It was terrifying, inconceivable, hard to face up to in the daytime, and none of that meant shit, because Sam was addicted to the moment, the brief mindblowing instants when it was working.
"You're making this more difficult than it needs to be," Sam said, and it came out kinda wrong, not really what he'd intended to say.
Dean didn't like it either, his sneer audible. "You're living in some kind of ridiculous fantasy world where stuff like this happens all the time."
Sam tightened his jaw. "Who started it, Dean?"
"Oh bullshit, you are not pinning this on me-"
"You, you fuckin', ten years I waited for you and you did, you started it, I thought you were finally ready, and I can't, you can't do this to me now, it's not fair."
It was a sincere force of will, but at last Sam managed to shut himself up. He bit into the inside of his lip, sharp and painful just shy of breaking the skin. His eyes were burning, jammed open, his heart going like a rabbit in his chest. He could hear Dean breathing shallow and angry. Sam fought back an encroaching tide of panic, feeling vulnerable as glass. Dean could shatter him pretty easily right now.
"I had time to rethink it," Dean said after a long moment, and the weird thing was he sounded demolished already himself. "It's a bad trade, Sam."
Sam shut his eyes. He dug his fist into the side of his leg, knuckling hard and trying to concentrate on that lesser pain. All he could think about was how much he didn't want to lose his brother. He hadn't defined his terms; he didn't know what that meant anymore.
"You think we can just go back now?" Sam asked, no malice in it but Dean still flinched.
"Yes. Maybe?" Dean popped his knuckle, unseen. "If we stop before we, before it goes too far."
Sam shook his head, his lips pressed into a seam. "It already has. It's not like I'll forget."
Never, no, he wouldn't forget this. Dean's weight on him, the shape of his hipbones, the taste in the dent of his collarbone, his stirring madman's grin and his fingers tied up in Sam's hair. Like stars in the sky, the bright spots of his memory, now and forever. Sam was in it for good.
Dean made a small noise, a low inward moan like he'd taken a punch to the gut. He was nodding, one hand flat on his chest as if to hold himself together.
"I, I won't either, but that's okay. See. We tried it, and it just. It didn't work."
Sam took a breath that stuck in his lungs, left him opened up and hollow. He was reeling, trying to recognize some shred of himself in this young man getting his heart crushed on a motel bed. He almost missed Dean whispering:
"It's nobody's fault,"
and later he'd wish he had.
Dean slept in Sam's bed that night, some kind of sick consolation prize. Sam tried to stay awake, pinching his thigh, gnawing at the inside of his cheek. He wanted as much as he could get, every second of the poor remains, even if it was only Dean asleep under the same sheet.
But Sam was exhausted. He was heartbroken; he couldn't bear the strain of holding his eyes open any longer.
He didn't remember any more dreams. It was probably for the best.
Sam woke up inch by excruciating inch, dragging himself upwards against a submersive black tide. He was saying, "Dean?" before he was consciously aware of it, mumbling and scratching at the pillow. There was no answer. Dean wasn't in the other bed or at the table, the bathroom dark, its door ajar.
Sam let panic wash over him for a couple of minutes, uncharacteristically surrendered to it because he didn't have the energy to resist at the moment. Dean was gone; Dean had left him. That was never supposed to happen.
His head in his hands, Sam pressed in at his temples, squeezing his eyes shut. This was his life now, this empty motel room, that space on the other side of the bed. He deserved no better.
Then Dean came back. The door rattled and swung open and a flood of sunlight spilled into the room. Dean had a bagel bit between his front teeth, his hands juggling keys and coffees and a pastry bag, and he hiked his eyebrows when Sam jerked his head up, wide-eyed and transparent. Dean did what he could to smirk with a bagel in his teeth. He put down the coffees, chomped off the bagel and said with his mouth full:
"Sorry, man, can't get rid of me that easily."
And Dean was half-smiling, lit up all over by the new day he'd brought in with him, and after a couple of seconds Sam realized he was smiling back.
It was a natural reflex, he thought, and that meant he was helpless against it. It was just the way it had to be.
Endnotes: Okay I will not lie, it took me a freakin' minute to find my footing here, in very basic, like, where-the-hell-is-this-story-going kind of ways. And that's not counting the half-dozen botched starts, or the constant distractions of real life that resulted in it being written on and off for three damn months. Hence, the meandering and awkwardness. But I think it came out all right, despite all efforts to the contrary. It's not quite what I thought it'd be, but it's close.
And the movie with the Hostess truck is The Wizard. You know. "California."