Blue Memories

Wordlessly (coming down to land tonight)

Dean/Sam (Dean/OFC and Dean/OMC), R 

We've been circling for time, baby
We're coming down to land tonight
The wait is over and now it's easy
Everything is fine
 

~ "Closer" by Dido
 

The world at large supposes Dean Winchester is a manwhore. He just has this air about him, this special kind of smirk and the features to support his suit instead of diminishing his chances of success.

Dean likes his image, carefully grooming it from when he enters puberty and all kinds of women, old and young, begin to fawn over him - never hurts to have a name. But the sad truth is, his hands are so full with watching after Sammy, he hardly has time for casual pick-ups until he's seventeen, for Christ's sake.

That year and after another move, Dean drops out of school in favor of earning money at the local garage, and that's when he goes all the way for the first time. Chance finds him sitting in a bar; his fake ID isn't worth shit, but flirting, a smile and a wink are usually enough to get him what he wants, anyway. He should be watching his little brother, but Sammy's managed to drive him up the wall. Stupid pubescent little fucker, his brother is, and snapping at Dean for everything he does and doesn't do. One second he acts normal, and the next he gets completely emotional and out of control over nothing. Dean had had to get out of there or risk having to shoot Sam; there's only so much of this shit he's willing to take.

He's been flirting with the tall, brunette bartender, not exactly his type - too skinny - but she's serving him beer without asking questions, so it's all good. She's older than him by a few good years, but all night she's only had eyes for him. It's kind of easy. Dean smiles a smile at her he knows she'll find irresistible, a little cocky and a lot self-assured, and voilà, watches as another beer replaces the empty bottle in front of him. At least the alcohol eases the seething anger that's been boiling underneath the surface all night long.

As closing time nears, the brunette - Lily? Leilah? something like that - tells him to wait a second, she'll just lock up the door and then she's all his. Dean immediately snaps to attention, watching her throw him her best come get me look from underneath lowered eyelashes. There's something unsettling in the girl's gaze, controlled assessment and uncontrolled heat warring for something that sits right and tight in Dean's gut.


Years later, the war full-blown and Dean having realised why things felt so off for so long, he meets the girl again, her gray eyes gone black and her body, so pliant before to Dean's every whim, indestructible.

*~*~*

"Where've you been?" Sammy asks as Dean returns late that night, sated and tired and high on release.

"Out," Dean says, flopping down on the couch where it seems Sam's been camping out.

"Don't talk to me like that!"

Dean grins at Sam's indignation, feels his limbs move uncoordinatedly, grins some more. "I'll talk to you any way I want."

Sam doesn't react to that this time, just keeps on watching Dean. "You got laid," Sam says after a while, his eyes unreadable.

Dean grins, cocks one eyebrow. "So?" When Sam says nothing, just continues to study him, Dean mentally rolls his eyes. "You have plenty of time to get to know the wonders of the female body. Go to bed now."

"You can't send me to bed anymore, Dean. I'm thirteen."

"Fine." Irritation sneaks up on him, and his loose tongue does the rest. "Then don't go to bed. Stay out here by yourself. Still afraid of the dark?" The words tumble out of Dean's mouth completely unchecked.

Sam looks at him long and hard, unforgiving. "Fuck you," he says in a deadly whisper. Then he turns around and disappears into the small bedroom they share, crashing the door shut behind him.

Dean sighs, dissatisfaction casting out its opposing twin deep in his gut. No way to bask in the afterglow of his goddamnfirst time with a bitch like Sam around, the demanding little fucker. Yes, now Dean does lay the blame for that on Sam's shoulders; could have been years earlier if it wasn't for him, because Sam's his first responsibility, always takes first priority. He thinks of the .45 under Sam's pillow since shortly after the Shtriga incident years back and refuses to let the guilt about it seep in, carefully shoving the thought away. He stumbles over to the fridge, gets out another beer, and drains it. Then he gets out two more, finds his way back to the couch, and stays there for the rest of the night.

*~*~*

John always reminds Dean Sam is all that matters when he is taking off, which Dean hates. It's not as if he could forget, with Sam hanging onto him day in and day out. Dean's been there through Sam's ups and downs; how could Dean ever forget that Sam needs him?

While John is around Dean mostly keeps to him, trying to learn as much as possible and relishing their short time together. Sam stands this for a few days, but never longer. A week of this and he invariably gets bitchy, his temper coming out full-force. Dean knows this is because his wimp of a little brother is jealous. He used to find Sam's reaction half-hilarious when they were younger, the way Sam would glare at John, but at the same time it has always made him more than just a little angry on the inside. Their Dad is doing the best he can, protecting them and protecting others who don't know how to do it themselves. Dean tried to make Sam understand, but it was like running against a brick wall each time, so he eventually left off.

These days, though, Sam's reaction isn't so funny anymore. He grows quiet when John is around, too quiet for Dean's liking. It's either the calm before the storm or the storm itself, no variety. Either he does his best to get out of the fighting lessons altogether, which he isn't allowed, or he does his job half-assed when John, frowning and firm, won't let him out of it. Dean knows how much Sam hates this, so he doesn't push (too much, at any rate), but he also understands his father's desire for them to be safe, so he doesn't know why Sam persists. He just raises an annoyed eyebrow at him and goes about business as usual.

In retrospect, he probably should have known better.

*~*~*

John returns the day after their fight, a couple of days early. His last job went over fine, he tells Dean over dinner. Dean smiles and nods and laughs with him, tries not to think about Sam, who fled back into the bedroom with a disgusted look when he saw Dean, as he always calls it, hang at Dad's lips.

The atmosphere grows more tense over the next week. Sam hasn't been sleeping well since Dean's been sleeping on the apartment's tiny couch and letting him stay in the bedroom by himself. Dean knows this, feels a little sorry even when Sam doesn't get up until lunch-time and still has huge dark circles under his eyes, but he's been sporting an insufferable attitude lately. Dean needs a little distance before he really rips Sam a new one.

John doesn't comment on the change of sleeping arrangements. He just is after Sam to step up his training a notch, which Sam refuses. Loudly. Insistently. And since Dean doesn't step in to smooth the ground between them... Well. Things are explosive until John finds himself a hunt, is the least Dean can say.

John says he'll be gone for a week, ten days at most, and if he isn't back by then or anything happens to call Pastor Jim or Bobby. Yessir, Dean knows the speech by heart.

The morning after John's departure, Sam is gone.

*~*~*

It's a day like any other. Dean gets up that Sunday morning, yells for Sam, gets no answer (which isn't out of the ordinary; Sam likes pretending not to be awake, though Dean knows way better), takes a leak and washes his face, yells for Sam again. Usually he'll get up then, all grumbly and sleepy, rubbing his eyes as he makes his way to the bathroom, and Dean will bitch at him for being a lazy ass when he's ready to face the day already.

Not that day, though. Dean thinks nothing of it when Sam doesn't appear immediately after the second wake-up call. Sam's exhausted, he knows that, and it's like every time John's been home; Sam needs a few days to recover, rebound. So he lets him sleep, preparing breakfast for them. It's only after Dean's finished with his cereal and Sam's is thoroughly soaked - Sam's going to throw a fit about that - that Dean starts to get suspicious.

When he goes to check in the small bedroom, there is no Sam.

Dean stops, stares. His heartbeat stops for a moment before it returns, frantically. Dean spurs into motion, instinct taking over. The window is wide open.

Checking his Glock and reaching for the shotgun by the door, Dean is out of the small apartment faster than he's ever been before, rounding the building until he's standing under Sam's window. There's no trail that Dean can pick up, though, just a few wild track marks that could lead anywhere; Sam may not have been out hunting yet, but he knows enough to get by.

"Fucking hell," Dean mutters, his mind fogged over with the need to find Sam, now. The voice in his mind sounds like his father, all barking gruffness, but Dean's desperation is all his own, the way he's barely suppressing the shiver threatening to run down his spine. Find Sam, he thinks instead, intently looking about him. Sam. Where'd Sam go?

Sam. Sam doesn't like girls, doesn't like alcohol, doesn't hang out with friends. Sam likes - what does Sam like?

Dean thinks and thinks, one absurd idea after another running through his mind, cursing himself as it finally comes to him. Of course. How stupid of him not to think of it right away.

School. Library. Museum. Anything of the kind. And who has Sam constantly been chattering on about?

Mrs. Lamberts, the quirky cat mother from down the road who supposedly knows everything.

Dean takes off down the road, running as if his life depended on it, which, in a way, is true. Stopping in front of an old, run-down house, Dean checks the address then runs up the stairs of the terrace, stopping again at the widow's front door, panting and sweating. He knocks on the door, hard, impatiently shuffling on his feet as the door doesn't open immediately.

Seconds tick by, stretching into eternity. Dean intensifies his knocking, increasingly anxious. "Mrs. Lamberts!" he shouts, his voice finally after years of cracking stable enough to carry to the old woman, then murmurs underneath his breath, "Oh, come on, you old bat, faster."

Finally Dean hears movement on the other side, sighing in relief as the door opens a crack. He finds himself peering at a gray lady's wrinkled face.

"Yes?" she asks, her voice not as brittle as she appears.

Dean clears his throat, freezing; tries to look all good-son-like. He barely remembers what that feels like. "Mrs. Lamberts, I'm looking for Sam Winchester. Have you seen him?"

Mrs. Lamberts looks at him, intently, calculating. "You his brother?" she finally asks, as if there was any question.

"I'm Dean."

She pauses, looking him over again. Dean fidgets under her direct stare. "Sam's not here," she finally says. "He said not to tell you."

"He was here?"

"He's gone now."

"If you could just point me in the direction -"

"He said not to tell you, so I won't. He'll be home tonight, he said."

"Mrs. Lamberts -"

"No, Dean, is it?" She doesn't even wait for Dean's nod, just carries on. "You go home, son, and don't you worry none. He said he'll be home, he'll be home." There is so much trust in her voice and eyes, but Dean isn't sure he can share the feeling. Sam is too important.

With another look Mrs. Lamberts closes the door in Dean's face, who is not in the least reassured.

*~*~*

Dean, of course, does not go home. He goes looking for Sam. He can't just sit around with his thumb up his butt and wait for things to happen. He hasn't been brought up that way.

He visits the public library, a place he's never seen from the inside before, even goes to the school which he usually only sees from the outside - too few good memories of places like this to want to come near them. He covers the small Home Museum, too, but - there's no Sam to be found anywhere.

In between checking those places, he drives back to the apartment to see whether Sam might have arrived there in the meantime, but no, no-one greets him there either except a room that cries Sam every time he looks at it, this morning's breakfast still on the table.

Dean gives up randomly searching shops and bars close to midnight, the panic that's been simmering so very close to the surface threatening to break out: he thinks of calling Bobby, just like John said to do. The image in his head of his baby brother lying in some wood or other, bloody and just-alive, grows stronger and more difficult to ignore with each passing minute. Sammy's got his gun all right, but his training isn't as far along as it's supposed to be. Dean's been cutting him slack without John around to supervise.

No more of that, Dean promises himself. Sam's got to learn it one way or another, and Dean would prefer it if it was before anything serious happens; before their father decides Dean can't take care of Sam well enough.

There's a knock on the door, and Dean is on his feet and at the door immediately, pulling it open.

Sam's on the other side, looking scared, but otherwise unscathed. Thank God.

Dean pulls his brother inside, checks him over from head to toe and back up again. He holds onto Sam, can't let him go, can't stop looking at him. Gradually the worry he's been feeling falls away from him as the realisation Sam is okay dawns on him. Sam's all right. Sam's here. But the more he looks at Sam, the more the void the worry leaves in his gut and in his chest fills with anger of epic proportions. He can't help himself, pushes Sam against the closed door, just barely constraining himself. His sudden anger needs an outlet, but he can't, he won't let it out on Sam. Never has, never will.

"Where the hell've you been?" he asks, his voice tight.

Sam shrinks in on himself, not only looking scared but lost, and it's Dean's first instinct to pull him back in, reassure him; then he remembers how Sam's old enough now and pulls away.

"Damn it, Sam!" Turning away from his brother, Dean walks a few steps deeper into the room. There's silence between them, tense and unbreakable over the distance Dean puts between them. He feels like he needs to be close to Sam, a physical need, his body accustomed to Sam's little hand reaching for his when he needs a safe place: a memory of years back. Sam isn't doing it anymore, but to Dean it's always going to be something necessary.

But when Dean least expects it, his mind still frantic from the worry and relief and anger at himself for letting this happen, for God's sake Sam's your responsibility, you've always got to have an eye on him, always, there's a hand on his elbow. It's large and skinny and warm.

"Dean."

Dean turns around as the fight goes out of him. He can't ever quite stay mad at Sam if Sam is turning the puppy eyes on him, like he's doing now. "Damn it, Sam," Dean says again, softer now as he's running a hand through his hair, half-heartedly glaring at his little brother.

"'m sorry."

Sam looks genuinely apologetic, but Dean knows him better. "The hell you are," he says. Maybe the glare softens just a little bit; maybe the corners of his mouth lift a little.

"I am," Sam says earnestly, then cracks a careful smile as well. "Just - I'm not six anymore. Try to remember that, okay? I'm here. I'm not that kid hanging onto you anymore, no matter what you do."

"Dude," Dean says. "I'm not ignoring you."

"That's not what I was saying."

"Of course that's what you're saying!"

Sam sighs then. "It's just – whenever Dad's here, it's like I don't matter anymore. You're off training and discussing damned ghosts and vampires and God knows what, planning hunts and laughing and -" Sam looks up at Dean, gnawing at his lip.

Dean stares back, taken aback. Denial is on his tongue, but then he stops for a second, thinks about what Sam just said. "All right," he answers at last, slowly. An idea is forming in his mind. "Tell you what. If you train more, you'll see it's not as bad as you think. Can't ignore you then, can I?"

Sam thinks about it, his eyes narrowing. Dean can see how he carefully weighs one option against the other: time spent with his brother against hatred for fighting. "Fine," he says at last.

Dean exhales slowly, relieved.

*~*~*

For the next week, whenever Sam's home from school and Dean's not working, they train.

Sam, for all that he's too tall for the muscles he possesses, all gangly limbs and little coordination, learns quickly. He knows the basics, but now he begins to learn how to use his height to his advantage, though he won't be able to take Dean in a fight quite yet. He learns where to hit and how to hit and keeps it in mind - not quite instinct yet, but close enough.

He learns more quickly than Dean did at the time, not that Dean is going to admit that. He feels pride sweep through him as looks at his little brother, the expression of concentration on his face and the sweat running down his face.

"If you do good with this next shot," Dean says, panting from exertion and motioning for Sam to come at him again, "I'll let you come along with me tomorrow night. To that bar." Sam's been doing good. He has earned a reward.

Sam's eyes shine. "For real?"

"For real."

Dean's heart sings as he watches Sam's face light up with happiness.

*~*~*

At the age of sixteen, Sam has put on muscle mass enough that his body looks at least somewhat proportional again. He's been on the soccer teams of the various schools he's been attending for years now, but this year every other sports team is courting him, too. Sam isn't really into it though - he'd rather study, he tells Dean, than run around an arena round after round and wrestle other guys to the ground. Besides, they'll be gone in a couple of months at the latest, so why bother? Grades are what matters. He can take the grades with him to the next school. His standing in the sports team though, not so much. Dean aches a little for Sam as he says that. They are so close these days, joined at the hip, Dean's co-workers from whatever town always joke. It freaked Dean out at the beginning, the gay jokes until they realised Sam was his brother (and the hilariously awkward silence following that), but he's gotten used to it. They are brothers who hold together; so what? They're always aware if the other enters or leaves a room, so attuned they can't turn this special radar off; so what? It's a necessity with the kind of knowledge they possess.

As Sam tells Dean why he doesn't care about sports anymore, his voice isn't regretful or angry and frustrated like Dean expected. While he says it, Sam looks at Dean, all smile and quiet adoration in his eyes. Dean's breath catches in his throat, and he looks back with what he knows must be pride written all over his face. They just can read each other like that.

Sam's content with going to school, doing soccer training, shooting training and combat afterward, hanging out with Dean and whatever crowd he's fallen in with at the weekends. He carries his aversion for the job like a banner in front of him (it's in his eyes, the line of his mouth, the tension of his walk), but he's been cutting back on the bitching the more he sees, and the more he realises what it's about: saving people, hunting things.

Dean sees he's trying, which is why every weekend Dean grudgingly goes to the matches and whoops for Sam in turn. He feels ridiculous among all the parents, but Sam has this way of sometimes looking up at Dean (not expecting their father any longer, just Dean) that makes Dean be glad to be there.

And then, of course, some of the parents have their daughters with them, who seem to be relieved about the distraction he provides. Dean, when the game is over and done with and he only needs to wait for Sam to come out of the locker rooms, follows their example. He catches one blonde girl's stare, raising an eyebrow at her. Soon after they've found themselves a snug little place close to the locker rooms, and she's on her knees in front of him, sucking him off. She's not good by any means, too inexperienced to know not to use her teeth like that. Dean isn't averse to a little roughness, but roughness needs experience or else there's serious danger looming in the close distance.

Dean's halfway contemplating pulling away - not that he would, getting off is getting off, but this is seriously ridiculous, fuck! Mind your teeth! - as Sam rounds the corner with his sports bag slung over his shoulder and stops, staring straight into the shadows where Dean hides with the girl. He stares right at them, his eyes unreadable as they lock with Dean's.

Dean feels shock race through him, adrenaline pumping through his veins. But he is used to it, and underneath a first thin layer of uncomfortableness at having been busted, he can feel the thrill of something that hasn't been there before incense his gut, letting tension seep into his muscles. The girl moves her tongue, her hands are hot against his thigh, and moaning, he thrusts forward into her poor unsuspecting mouth. She gags and makes a disapproving noise, throwing Dean right back from the place he was going to, back into reality. Reality is this: while he's getting sucked off, he's staring at his brother, who is looking at them as if he's never seen anything like it. Probably hasn't, the thought runs through Dean's mind, leaving a smirk on his face, and he decides then and there to put on a show for little Sammy. For purely educational purposes, of course.

His eyes still locked with Sam's, he puts a hand on the back of the girl's head, beginning to guide her movements. Her mouth is hot and wet and tight, he'll give her that, at least. "Yeah, like that," he murmurs, still looking at Sam, "less teeth."

Sam takes a step forward, all sharp intensity.

Dean moans as another spark shoots through his body. "Fuck," he breathes; then, vehemently, "less teeth." Seriously, is this girl not going to learn anything? But at least the pressure of her lips and the things she's doing with her tongue now are less awkward, actually beginning to feel good on him; and as Sam's hand twitches and Dean lets his gaze trail down his brother's body, coming to rest on the bulge in his trousers (easy, Sammy, you're too easy), something the girl does feels seriously good all of a sudden. He moans again, needing to close his eyes against the sensations running through his body. He's on the verge, so close to the edge -

When he opens his eyes again he has enough time to see Sam lick his lips, and that's it, that's the last straw. Dean doesn't even have time to warn the girl. He comes down her throat, hard, a release so black it's taking over his vision. Distantly he hears the girl splutter and feels her pull away, but he doesn't care. He feels too good. For all that he'd contemplated putting a stop to the girl's pitisome advances, she's become good under his guidance, he thinks. An impenetrable fog clouds his mind, not letting the truth through. Slumping against a wall, he rests for a moment, breathless, the uncomfortable bricks in his back supporting the weight his muscles can't in their current state of relaxation.

When he comes to himself, there's no Sam any longer. This fact hits him, hard. His eyes trail towards the girl kneeling on the floor, come dribbling down her chin. Dean gifts her with a full-blown fake smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "Thanks, hon," he says, then pushes away from the wall.

He walks away, her outraged shouts barely registering with him. He's got to drive Sammy home.

*~*~*

Sam is waiting for Dean, leaning against the old pick-up Dean is driving. Dean's walk is casual, just like it always is: nothing is out of the ordinary. Going straight to the driver's side, he waits for Sam to get in.

"You did good," Dean says, glances into the rear-view mirror, then starts the car. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Sam shoot him an incredulous look.

"Did you even pay attention to the match?"

"Dude, 'course I did!" Even to his own ears his voice sounds like a mix of indignation at the accusation and Oh fuck, Sam's going to sulk. Sam's supposed to be happy at his team's easy win, not mad at Dean for something he, for a change, did not do. He did watch the match.

"Yeah right."

"Listen," Dean says, exasperated. "You caught me with that girl, fine. But I only picked her up after the game was over."

"Sure, Dean. That's how you always work."

Dean replies with a sideways glance, not with a witty quib like usual. Maybe that's why Sam remains silent after that, apparently not quite believing Dean, though it's a different silence from when he's angry: it's a thoughtful silence, maybe, if Dean had to put a name to it.

That's fine with Dean. Anything's better than another episode of teenage Sam. He's had enough of those, thank you very much. Shooting another glance in his brother's direction, Dean takes one hand from the steering wheel and puts a cassette tape into the tape player. A moment later he's singing along with AC/DC.

*~*~*

The next four days until John is going to be back, they spend in some kind of suspense. Dean is aware that Sam's aware that something's changed. Which is why, because Dean is Dean, they carry on like normal: they train like normal (maybe Sam's a little more careful with the touching now, losing many more times than usual in hand-to-hand combat), they talk like normal (though there's this weird kind of glint in Sam's eye sometimes that Dean can't quite place), they bicker like normal (if more often).

Dean's counting on Sam to recover from whatever is bugging him. He doesn't, though.

"Oh c'mon, man, you afraid of touching me now?" Dean asks one day, the last day they're alone before John is due back. He's got Sammy's fist caught in his hand and holds it tightly, yanks him forward.

Sam stumbles a little then catches himself before he crashes head-first into Dean; pauses, staring. "What?"

"You may have a reach like no one else on this planet, Sasquatch, but you've got to actually be within that reach if you wanna beat me," Dean says, rolling his eyes. Seriously. For all that Sammy's all about feelings and education and shit, he can be so damn thick at times.

"Oh." Sam looks genuinely confused, at which Dean smirks.

"You got it?"

Sam nods.

"Good. Again!"

This time Sam's more into the sparring and less focused on avoiding Dean. He almost manages to get Dean on the floor; a feint and a swing with his feet has Dean stumbling. But Dean has more control over his body, catching himself and coming at Sam instead. Sam isn't expecting it.

Within the blink of an eye, Sam's down and Dean's on top of him.

They stare at each other for what seems like eternity. Dean watches Sam's eyes widen. His tongue quickly licks his lips, prompting Dean's eyes to wander downward, mesmerised. He doesn't move, and Sam underneath him is frozen too, no twitch of an eye nor spasm of muscle.

A car on the street honks. Startled, Sam bucks up, right into Dean, causing Dean to press down instinctively, his eyes drifting shut as he exhales.

"Jerk," Sam says breathlessly. Dean hears the note of insecurity.

"Bitch," Dean replies as his face inches towards Sam all on its own. And then, whatever the reason, what he's doing and with whom crashes home. Dean freezes again. A second later he rolls off his brother and, standing quickly, puts distance between them, his eyes downcast. With Sam still lying on the floor, Dean opens his mouth a couple times to speak before settling on a simple mumbled, "C'mon, Sammy, again."

When Sam is finally on his feet, it's Dean this time who takes care not to touch his brother.

*~*~*

After John returns, the two brothers sleep in one room again, not Dean in John's room and Sam in the other bedroom. Dean hesitates a moment when he carries his pillow over to the other room, has to draw a moment's breath before he can enter. The couch looks inviting as he passes the living room, but there's a perfectly good second bed in the bedroom, so there's no good reason why he should sleep out there. At least, no good reason he can come up with.

That night and with this sleeping arrangment Dean finds himself unable to get rest, hyper-aware of Sam's every twitch, every change of breath. He smells and hears Sammy in a way he never has before, which is more than unsettling to him.

Things aren't supposed to be this way.

He twists and turns for a few hours. His sheets are twisted and soaked, and he feels alternately too warm under them and too cold without them. Sam lies quietly across the room, a dark form turned away from Dean, and Dean tries his best not to stare holes into his brother's back.

His brother, that's just the thing. Sam's his brother. But it's difficult to take this as an argument when they've always been a little too close, always weirding other people out and making them uncomfortable.

No, Dean thinks vehemently. Just no. He pushes away any thought he might be having and starts to get up. He feels antsy, anxious, like he'll explode if he has to lie still for a second longer. The need for space is thrumming through his veins, hard and insistent, and he decides to go for a run. John won't mind: he's been encouraging them to train at all hours as it makes them less reliant on daylight and eyesight.

Dean hasn't even crossed the room yet before Sam rolls around in his bed, turning from facing the wall like he usually sleeps to facing Dean. "Where're you goin'?" he asks, voice sleep-rough.

"Gonna run. Go back to sleep."

Pushing himself up, Sam sits. Dean more feels than sees him rub his eyes with the back of his hands. "'m coming with you."

"Nah. You sleep, Sam."

"No." Dean hears the edge of annoyance in Sam's voice, laced with his usual post-sleep moodiness. "I'm coming with you."

Sighing, Dean gives in. They leave the apartment in silence; Dean remembers to leave a note on the kitchen table.

They begin running down the street into town, but before they reach the center, they turn down an almost invisible path going into the woods. Trees and undergrowth surrounding them tightly, they make their way through nature, running, lungs pumping. With Sam's footsteps in his ears, Dean feels free, invincible, as he takes care not to stumble over the roots lining their way. The cold steel of his gun is an assuring sensation against his lower back, allowing him to remain focused even as freedom clouds his mind. For Dean, it has always been this way with running: there is no better way to shut up your mind than stretching your legs.

Suddenly Sam's footsteps behind him change from a fast rhythm into a crash and then nothing. His heart stuttering to a halt, Dean stops and spins around.

"Sammy?" Within a fraction of a second is Dean beside his brother, kneeling on the ground, touching Sam's arm. He can barely see him in the gray of pre-dawn, doesn't know what's happened. Sam breathes hard, the lines of his face visibly tense even in the half-dark. "Sam, you all right?"

"Ah," Sam moans, pain pushing his voice high up as he's finally moving up from lying flat on the ground to curl in on himself. "My ankle. I think it's sprained."

For a moment, Dean feels nothing, then relief floods through him as worried amusement replaces fear. "Man, what did you do? Trip on a root?"

Sam looks up at him with what Dean imagines are pain-filled eyes. "Yeah, something like that." Sam is already rubbing the ankle in question, though, so it can't be that bad or he'd be crying all over Dean.

Patting Sam on the back, Dean lets out a huff of laughter. "C'mon, get up, you wuss. Think you can get back on that?"

Shooting Dean a killing glance, Sam gets up with difficulty. "I'll manage," he says acidly - then he crumbles down as his foot doesn't support his weight. "Ow."

"Okay, dude. Come on up." Sam shoots Dean another one of those glances, but Dean laughs it off. Helping his brother to stand, he lets Sam sling one arm around his shoulders, and together, they make their way home.

*~*~*

Sam limps home with Dean's help. Every so often a moan of pain leaves his lips, making Dean snicker again. Really. Sam with his limbs flailing everywhere.

When they can finally see the first streetlight in the distance, Sam snaps. "Oh stop it, Dean. I got it, I'm a freak of nature."

Sam sounds so genuinely affronted that Dean feels provoked to stop and turn toward him, even though the distance between them is minimal. "What? When have I ever called you a freak of nature?"

Mumbling something Dean can't quite catch, Sam shuffles on the one foot supporting him, avoiding eye contact.

"Sam?" Dean prods, raising an eyebrow that stays invisible in the dimness.

Sam shuffles some more, then finally speaks. "At school -" Dean patiently waits for more, but more isn't coming.

"They call you that at school? Sam?"

Sighing, Sam looks up from studying the remarkable, almost-black-and-invisible ground. "Yeah," he admits hesitantly, then promptly looks down again.

Dean knows this lost-boy quality to Sam's voice well enough. "Sam," he tries again, the one hand not wrapped around his brother's back rising to touch Sam's face of its own accord. "Sam. You're not a freak of nature, you hear me? Sam."

Sam's gaze lifts to catch Dean's, and Dean feels his frantic thoughts stutter to a halt, suddenly breathless. He is drawn in by the complete openness he just so discerns in Sam's eyes (eyes he's known under every possible circumstance, that he knows by heart).

"Dean," Sam whispers, his hold on Dean's shoulder tightening.

Dean closes what little space there is between them, his lips touching Sam's softly, delicately; then he waits. A moment of suspense turns into relief and love and everything in-between that he hasn't been allowing himself to feel as Sam reacts to the kiss, starting to press into Dean, leaning onto him more heavily. Groaning, Dean gives in; his hand, still touching Sam's face, begins to explore his brother's cheekbones and his jawline, caressing. Sam then presses into him more firmly, a low growl escaping his throat, causing Dean to moan quietly. His hand wanders backwards into Sam's hair (too long, it needs a cut); and Sam, ever-persistent, nudges at Dean's lips and tries to pry them open with his tongue, trailing along the lower lip.

Dean complies, parting his lips and letting Sam in, playing, sucking, stroking. His grip on the back of Sam's head is firm, not allowing Sam to escape. Moaning again, he breaks away from Sam, breath coming in harsh gulps: he needs a moment, or he is going to drown. Sam's hand on his shoulder holds on just as tightly as Dean does onto Sam, and Dean, realising this, takes the plunge again, more aggressively.

Sam growls again - then his lips are gone from Dean's, and where his solid weight had been leaning on Dean's body, there is nothing as his legs stop supporting him, buckling underneath him. Dean slowly blinks at the dark trees surrounding them, this change of events not quite managing to penetrate the haze of lust surrounding him; then, eventually, his gaze trails down to Sam as he hears his brother break out in laughter.

Dean kneels down by him, trying to haul him up with a scowl, but as soon as he has Sam in a sitting position, Sam crumbles back to the ground, helpless under the force of his amusement. "Dean," he gasps in between huffs, "Dean." Then he's back to giggling, curling in on himself as if his stomach ached. Dean supposes it does, just moments before the reality of the situation hits him, hard. With Sam clawing at him, he just can't help it: this really is absurd. He feels his face split into a huge grin. But it's not the time for making girly sounds like Sam does – which Dean thinks is going to make good blackmail material for quite some time to come - and rolling about on the ground. He waits a moment to see if Sam will recover, and when he doesn't, Dean rolls his eyes.

"Come, up," he firmly tells him. Sam tries to comply (still laughing, laughing, laughing), but it takes them three times until he's steady on his foot again, leaning against Dean for support.

There is no awkwardness between them as Dean might have feared if he'd had time to think about it. There's just Sam's solid weight against him, warmth seeping through their clothes and keeping the night's chill at bay.

*~*~*

Back home, Dean deposits Sam on the sofa and goes in search of ice and a clean towel. Ice he finds in the freezer, but finding a clean towel proves to be difficult. John doesn't do the whole house-keeping thing, leaving it to Dean to deal with it, who in turn leaves it to Sam to deal with. Sam is the cleanest of the three of them, and while he continually bitches about the work and how he's no house-wife, he does do it most of the time. Dean curses as he's rummaging through cupboards.

"Where'd you put the towels, bitch?" he calls out towards the living-room area.

"In the cupboard under the sink! Jerk!"

Smirking, Dean bends down to retrieve a towel - then leaps up as he hears a door banging against a wall.

"Sam! Dean!" John hollers, causing Dean to wince on two counts: because of the anger in John's voice and because Dean's masterfully managed to crack the back of his head against the sink. Rubbing at the sore spot and with towel in hand, he makes his way back into the living-room, eyes fixed on his feet, stopping in front of his father with hanging shoulders. He'd been so focused on all things Sam that for a moment he'd forgotten John's light sleep. He glances up at Sam, then stares straight ahead at the front door. "Dean. What, for God's sake, are you doing up at this hour? Sam's got school tomorrow!" Dean doesn't say anything. "Answer me!" John demands, his voice growing quiet.

It rings like a gunshot through the air.

"'m sorry, sir," Dean murmurs at last. "I didn't think -"

"Damn right you didn't think." John's eyes stay on Dean for a moment longer, their gaze sharp and piercing, before his attention shifts to Sam. It feels as if a weight is lifted off Dean's shoulders - temporarily. He dares to breathe again. "Sam, go to bed," John says then.

"But -" Sam starts, and Dean's back to holding his breath. Sam's going to argue over this, Dean feels it, and it's the last thing he needs right now.

"Go," Dean says in his direction. He shifts his gaze to Sam as he says it. His own voice sounds thin to him, defeated, tight with worry, but he can't help it. He knows how Sam can be when it comes to John, and this time Dean really wants him to suck it up and just do as he's told. Waiting one moment, then another, Dean stays completely still, praying Sam will give in without a fight, this one time.

"No." Sam's answer is firm as Dean watches him cross his arms over his chest. "I'm not eight anymore. It was my own decision to go with Dean!"

And just like that it goes downhill, John and Sam at each other's throats and Dean caught in the middle.

Twenty minutes later, Sam is grounded and Dean gets two doors in his face when he tries talking them both into reason. The amount of regard his family treats him with baffles him from time to time, the ice slowly thawing in his hand as he sits on the couch to give Sam a few moments to cool off. Putting the bag of ice back into the freezer, he decides to take a moment off himself – clearing his jumbled mind sounds like a good idea. He grabs his leather jacket and opens the door to take a walk around the block.

Five minutes later Dean creeps back into the apartment, discarding his jacket and taking the ice out of the freezer again before heading straight for the bedroom. He opens the door quietly and enters just as noiselessly, listening for Sam's breathing rhythm before deciding on what to do.

"Sam?" he whispers into the dark.

"Come in," Sam whispers back, voice thick. Dean knows it's not from tears, it's just how Sam sometimes gets when he's angry beyond control. Dean switches on the light and begins to walk into the room, and if he takes care not to look Sam in the eye, he carefully doesn't think about it.

"I got ice for you. Your ankle still hurt?"

"Yeah."

Handing over the icebag and the towel, he sits down on Sam's bed. "Here."

"Thanks." Sam sits up, then proceeds to pull his leg out from under the covers. Dean watches this process with interest. Sam's face is contorted in pain as he moves his leg. "Fuck." When he finally has it maneuvered above the covers, Dean can see the extent of the injury: the ankle sports a violent purple and is so swollen the bone isn't visible.

"Damn," Dean breathes, then reaches out to touch above the swelling. "You sure it's not broken?"

"Yes, Dean. Remember two years ago when I broke my ankle during soccer training? I think I know how that feels."

Dean nods absently, his fingers still prodding at the skin around the injury, drawing hisses from Sam.

"Could you stop that?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry."

"Right, man. I don't know what's gotten into you."

And just like that, tension builds a brick wall between them. Dean freezes for a fraction of a second, then looks up at Sam, whose eyes are already boring into him, searching.

Dean jerks away, getting up from the bed and turning his back to Sam. "Fuck," he says under his breath, running a hand through his hair. "Fuck," he says again, louder. What he thinks is this: wrong. One word, wrong, repeating like a mantra in his head.

"Dean."

The litany in Dean's mind comes to a stop as soon as he hears Sam's voice, small and tired. He doesn't turn around, but he listens to Sam's breathing, laboured, irregular.

"Don't beat yourself up over it, okay?" Sam says. His meaning is clear. Dean's not sure if he imagines it, but there seems to be something in his brother's voice that has no business there. He can't pinpoint it, but it sounds wrong, everything's wrong all over the place, and it makes him spin around to face Sam again. But Sam keeps on talking, looking at his feet with avid interest. "Let's just go to sleep, okay? Dad's right, I've got school tomorrow, and you've got work. It's fine."

Yeah right, Dean thinks as he mutely nods his head in acquiescence. It's fine.

Sleep's a long way gone that night, and from the sound of it, Sam's in the same boat.

*~*~*

Tension runs high in the Winchester household for the next days. Dean is on edge because of Sam. He takes pains not to come too close to him and, God forbid, touch him. Sam seems more weary than anything. He doesn't sleep well, just like Dean doesn't, and he looks more tired and drawn-out as he hobbles around on his one foot. He doesn't even snap at their dad, which usually Dean would call a win - but with each passing day that the situation doesn't resolve itself and things don't go back to normal, Dean also watches John grow more concerned with them.

Sam has four days off training duty, no more. John doesn't accept excuses when it comes to this, and his reason he gives Sam to go throw knives is that you might be injured on a hunt, son. Better be prepared. I need you sharp. This last sentence he says with a meaningful glance to both Sam and Dean that they both pointedly ignore.

Sam hisses pitifully every time he moves his ankle.

Dean almost wants to intercept when John is going at Sam about training more, work with the pain instead of against it, but Sam's been keeping his distance as much as Dean has been keeping his, so he doesn't. Doesn't mean he can't watch, though, because as long as Sam doesn't know about that? He can't freak about Dean's totally inappropriate feelings as he follows Sam's every movement with greedy eyes, the rippling of lean muscle under smooth skin.

That night Dean goes out, John being around be damned. He needs relief from the tension. He proceeds to drink himself stupid - and in between shots he notices the tall, slender, decidedly male bartender is trying to flirt with him. By then Dean is so past caring he begins to flirt back. It's easy. When the guy locks up, it's a familiar scenario: Dean is waiting for him outside, his cock already straining against the fabric of his underwear. The guy pushes Dean against a wall, his hand sure as it unbuttons his jeans and pushes its way inside to curl around Dean's cock. Dean is rocking against him, seeking friction. He needs release, needs to forget for a moment about what is happening outside this alleyway. He closes his eyes as he's beginning to lose himself in the sensations the guy's hand creates, letting his mouth fall open.

"Dean," a voice from the main street sounds. Dean's eyes snap open. This voice is painfully familiar. Dean starts away from the bartender, stumbles as he pulls back and tries to button himself up at the same time. His sense of balance refuses to cooperate.

"Sammy?" he asks wide-eyed. The world spins around him, making it hard to focus on anything in particular, and if he's being honest then he'll have to admit reality - if seeing Sam actually is reality - seems very dream-like right about now. "That you?" He squints at the dark shadow at the entrance to the alley, then shifts his gaze back to the bartender. The guy looks an odd mixture of flustered and angry.

"Yeah," Sam answers. Dean turns towards him. He still has that odd quality to his voice. It troubles Dean, for he can't quite place the sound, and he's supposed to be able to read Sam in his sleep.

"That your boyfriend?" the bartender asks accusingly. Dean turns back to him. The back-and-forth makes him feel a little sick on the inside.

"Sorta," Sam answers for Dean, and then strides up to Dean's side. Dean looks up at him. "Keep away from him." The warning couldn't be clearer if it was written out in man-tall letters that gleamed in the night. Sam's voice even sends an uncomfortable shiver down Dean's spine, which is saying a lot, thank you very much.

The guy takes a step to the side, throwing his arms into the air. "Didn't do nothin' he didn't want," he says. "Didn't know he wasn't free."

"Yeah well, now you know."

Which is about the time Dean finally catches up with the conversation. He blinks up at Sam for a moment before he begins to tug on Sam's shirt. "Sam," he whispers, his eyes wide. Sam doesn't react, too busy staring down the bartender. Dean's tugging grows more intense. "Sam. Sammy."

Sam though doesn't react until the bartender's fled the alleyway. Then he spins around and, for fuck's sake, pushes Dean up against the other wall. "The fuck?"


"What the hell do you think you're doing, Dean?" Sam hisses through clenched teeth, his eyes blazing. Dean doesn't need daylight or sobriety to read this expression, though he'll have to admit the latter is quickly returning to him now. Enough for him to keep his mouth shut, at any rate.

Sam won't have any of that, though. He roughly pushes Dean against the wall one more time, knocking the air out of him. Then he backs off; puts weight on the wrong foot, and with a pained sound escaping his lips, crumbles to the ground.

Sam lying on the ground, grasping at his ankle, is a scenario that sits entirely too close to home, and neither of them feels the least desire to laugh now.

"Fuck," Sam curses under his breath.

"Dammit, Sammy," Dean says the same moment, pushing off the wall. He's a little wobbly on his legs, but he crosses the short distance to where Sam is pushing himself into a sitting position safely enough. He crouches down beside him, one arm hovering to touch Sam's back, but the last moment he stills the movement. "You okay?" he asks instead. He hates the slight slur that accompanies the words, vowels longer than he likes them.

Sam turns his face to him, and when their eyes lock Dean notices tiredness has replaced the anger from before. Sam has deflated.

Dean doesn't particularly like this look on his brother's face, especially since he knows he's the reason for it.

"Yeah," Sam finally says, weakly.

"Bullshit."

Sam just keeps looking at him, saying nothing more. His gaze is steady and unsettling, and it sends a shiver up Dean's spine. He licks his lips nervously, his eyes drawn down to Sam's. Then he notices what he's doing and fidgets, almost losing balance.

"Look," he begins when he's regained his footing. Sitting. Whatever. He swallows. His throat feels dry. "I'm sorry for what happened."

Sam doesn't say anything, doesn't move. Dean realises he'll have to offer him more, and it makes his heart race uncomfortably; he doesn't want to be saying this crap. But Sam needs him to, and this fact beats any other. He pushes past the lump in his throat and croaks out the next words. "I didn't mean - I didn't mean to kiss you. It was a stupid thing to do, and I'm sorry. It won't happen again, I promise. Just - stop being freaked about it, all right?"

Dean hates how small his voice sounds. Right now he feels more like Sam's the adult and he's the scared child, for Christ's sake, and if that isn't fucked he doesn't know what is. He kissed his brother and he wants to do more to him and he wants to pin him to the ground and do unspeakable things to him no sane person should ever want to do to his brother and God he just hopes he hasn't fucked up everything, he needs Sammy around him, Sam's his responsibility, and if he messed that up - it doesn't bear thinking about, it's too dire a prospect -

"Dean." Sam's voice cuts sure and strong though his thoughts, stopping them and keeping them at bay like a dam does a river. Dean searches for Sam's - his brother's - eyes in the dark, and when he finds them -

When he finds them, Sam's hand finds his forearm, its pressure just as sure and strong as his voice. Then he slowly begins to lean forward, as if to give Dean enough time to pull back. Dean opens his mouth to say something, anything, but - "Dean, shut up," Sam says.

And Dean goes with it. He watches as Sam leans further in, their eyes still intent on each other. Then their lips are on each other, touching, caressing, getting to learn the feel of each other. They keep their eyes wide open. Dean still isn't sure if this is dream or reality. Maybe the Powers That Be are playing a cosmic joke on him; he'll have to remember to laugh with them later. Then the kiss gradually deepens, and all thought is lost. Sam pries apart his lips with his tongue, gently asking for entrance that Dean gladly, trustingly gives.

He isn't sure for how long they stay in their own world, just knows that oxygen becomes scarce and he needs to come up, suck air into his lungs. He breaks the kiss and gulps, but Sam doesn't give him the chance to break away. He captures Dean's eyes with his own and holds them captive. Their ragged breathing fills the air as they stare at each other.

"Come home with me," Sam whispers into the silence.

Dean looks at him for another moment, breathless. Then he nods.

Coming home with Sammy sounds like a good plan right now.


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