PART SIX: to love in the major key
They left the next morning. Sam was still loading their bags in the car when Dean tapped him on the shoulder and held out his hand.
Sam looked at Dean, hesitated only a moment, and then handed the keys over.
Dean twirled the key ring around his finger, smiled and stroked a hand across the hood of the Impala. Sam climbed into the passenger seat, head tipped back in the sun, and nothing felt more right than the dip of the car as Dean sat behind the wheel, the familiar slam of the door, turn of the ignition, the sudden screech of electric guitars and heavy bass.
-- cause I’m back, yes, I’m back,
Sam burst out laughing, and only laughed harder at Dean’s raised eyebrow and the knowing quirk of Dean’s lips.
well, I’m back, back, I’m back in black --
They stopped at a Cracker Barrel, and Sam decided there was something distinctly bizarre about the sight of Dean, crooked grin, leather jacket, his face grizzled and scarred, standing in the middle of the kitschy Cracker Barrel gift shop.
Dean seemed blissfully unaware of the absurdity, and ignored Sam in favor of snickering at the countrified knickknacks and making all the motion-detector frogs start ribbiting at once. The ensuing cacophony made Sam cringe, and a woman with frizzy, bright red hair came over to scowl at them.
“Snyder, party of two?” She sneered at Dean, who was carefully placing the tie-dyed Beanie Babies in compromising positions as Sam pretended not to know him. “Your table is ready.”
“Man,” Dean stage-whispered to Sam as they followed the woman’s angry flounce. “I always forget how much I love this place.”
“You just love traumatizing all the little kids,” Sam replied.
“Sammy, I’m wounded. Deeply. I’ll have you know – oh, man, look at that guy’s biscuits. I want biscuits. Biscuits and a big bowl of gravy. All that grease and lard and sausage and – waffles! With syrup.”
“You are so gross.”
“Whatever.” Dean poked Sam in the side. “Dude, I feel like I haven’t eaten in like, a year.”
With Dean’s illness, that may have been close to the truth. Sam shut up after that.
They ended up at a table in the middle of the huge dining room, surrounded by squalling families and decrepit old people on all sides.
“Hey, Sam,” Dean whispered. “Check out that guy over there in the corner. He’s staring at us.”
Sam looked quickly, still a little paranoid about old people staring at them in public places. There was, indeed, a guy sitting in the corner and looking in their direction. He was also about ninety years old and completely human.
“I think we should waste him,” said Dean. “You can’t be too careful these days.”
Sam rolled his eyes and kicked Dean under the table.
Dean kicked him back, then left his foot next to Sam’s, so close their ankles touched. Sam looked up at Dean, surprised, and Dean wouldn’t meet his eyes, still nose-deep in the menu.
Dean didn’t move his foot, though, and he didn’t even flinch when Sam scooted his chair in until their legs were pressed together at the knee. Sam stared at the table, certain that all of the old people were glaring at them disapprovingly. When he looked up, though, no one was watching.
Dean tossed the menu aside. “I’m just gonna order one of everything. Goddamn, Sam, I love Cracker Barrel.” He fiddled with one of the peg games that came on every table, plucking out the little golf tees and sending them rolling towards Sam across the sticky tabletop. Sam sent them rolling back.
“You’re insane,” said Sam. “That little girl thinks so, too.”
Dean sent a blazing smile toward the pig-tailed little girl in question, and she squeaked and hid behind her mother’s chair.
Sam leaned back, cautiously, stretching his leg out and ever so slightly hooking it behind Dean’s knee, calf-to-calf. Dean’s eyes flickered in Sam’s direction, but he said nothing.
They stayed touching, just like that, for the rest of the meal. Sam could barely eat his eggs, too full of fearful, headstrong hope to think about filling his stomach with anything else.
Sam dozed off in the car, and when he woke up, Dean was pulling into a motel parking lot. It was still early, the afternoon filled with blazing sunlight.
“Sorry,” Dean said when he saw that Sam was awake. He waved a hand at his face, at the fact he was wearing his sunglasses again. “Still not all the way up to snuff. Got too bright, eyes started acting up. Figured we could rest until dark.”
“Sure.” Sam yawned wide. “Yeah, that sounds good.”
The motel room was dark as a cave, and Sam immediately went and sprawled on one of the beds. The fabric of the bedcover was cool against his skin. He could hear Dean rustling around in the dark, the rattle of metal, zippers being zipped and unzipped.
Sam closed his eyes, concentrating on those sounds. It was a strange feeling, to have made a decision so important, so life-altering, and yet not be sure anything would come of it. Sam assumed that Dean knew Sam wanted him; he must at least know that Sam touched him all the time for a reason, had asked Dean to stay in California two years ago for a reason, hell, had even kissed Dean – and maybe that was more just because Sam had wanted to, but it still counted.
Sam was pretty sure that Dean was with him on this, but he didn’t know. It was just a feeling Sam had. He had nothing to show as proof except the occasional look in Dean’s eyes, and the fact that Dean still hadn’t run screaming from Sam’s advances.
He stretched his arms over his head, then sat up, focusing on Dean’s dim silhouette.
“Dean?” Sam cracked his wrists, folded his hands together in his lap. Anxiety crawled in his stomach. “You’re probably gonna laugh in my face over this, but – I think we need to talk.”
Dean stopped moving things around and just stood there, his back to Sam. He didn’t say a word.
“I just wanted to tell you... I never used to, when we were kids. It's just – after, and – it seemed like the next thing. The only thing that could happen." He squeezed his eyes shut rather than stare at Dean’s back. "I’m not explaining this very well.”
“You’re not explaining at all, Sammy. What are you talking about?”
Sam sighed. “You know what I’m talking about, Dean. You and me. This whole thing.”
Dean’s back stiffened. “Oh?” Sam couldn’t read anything from his tone.
“We’ve been through a lot in the past couple of days, so maybe it’s a bad time to bring all this up, but I just have to know, Dean.”
Dean half-turned, but Sam still couldn’t see his face. “What are you trying to ask me, Sam?”
Sam thought he was going to say something confident, maybe even suave: Do you want me? or You know I’m right, Dean, or even So... you, me, and a king-size bed? -- pretty much anything except what did come out of his mouth, which was nothing, just a half-formed thought that had been held back for two years and suddenly broke loose.
“Is that why you left?” Sam’s voice sounded choked and frightened to his own ears, like the kid he’d never really been.
Dean gave an obvious start, like he was surprised at the question, but he didn’t say anything, not anything at all.
“Shit,” said Sam. “God, Dean, you – why did you let me –“ He actually felt the humiliated blush as it spread over his skin, making the hair on his arms prickle. His stomach clenched like it’d suddenly been hollowed out with a spoon.
“What?” Dean shook out of his surprise and took a couple steps toward Sam. “No, that’s not why I left. Jesus, Sam.”
Sam nodded jerkily. “Uh-huh.” He closed his eyes, not wanting to watch Dean make excuses just so Sam could feel better.
“Goddamnit,” Dean muttered.
Sam felt the bed dip beside him, the familiar smell of Dean’s sweat. Dean’s fingers encircled Sam’s wrist.
“Okay,” said Dean. “Okay. You want to know why I left. It’s – not that easy. I’ll tell you what I’ve got to tell you, and then you can decide whether you’re still, you know, whatever. Sound good?”
Sam opened his eyes, watched Dean bite his lip and stare at the wallpaper.
“So. You’re the thing I love most in the whole fucking world, you know that,” said Dean, and he said it, so it was. Just plain fact. “You’re my brother. And even if you’re a huge dork with stupid hair and a big forehead and a lousy sense of humor, you’re still my brother, and... I’m not ever gonna just take off like that again. Never.”
“Good,” said Sam shakily. “You’re my favorite brother, you know.”
Dean snorted and punched Sam in the arm. It hurt. “Smartass. I’m your only brother.”
“Yeah, but. The rest of it, too.” Sam cleared his throat, but Dean raised a hand to cut him off.
“No. Still my turn, then you decide if you want to finish that. Till then, not a word.”
Sam clenched his jaw but nodded. Dean got up and stalked across the room, turned half a pace, almost stalked back but then just traced the flowers on the wallpaper for a lack of anything else to do with his hands.
“I thought you were serious,” said Dean. “When you asked me to live with you. I thought you were serious, and then I thought you weren’t, and it fucked me up. I couldn’t watch you. Fall in love.”
“Shut up, Sam. I couldn’t, um. Watch you fall in love...” Dean swallowed. “With someone else.”
“I don’t understand,” Sam said. “That’s why you left?” His voice was barely there when he tried to use it. He wanted to take Dean’s words at what he thought they meant, but he still couldn’t be sure, couldn’t take that final step without Dean just saying yes.
“Jesus, Sam, what the fuck is there to understand.” Dean turned away from Sam and put his head in his hands.
“Explain it to me,” and Sam took Dean’s hand this time, the scarred one with its stiff, curled fingers, the hand where their blood had mingled and bound their lives together into yet another secret Sam could never tell. “Okay? I need it explained. Please. I need to hear it.”
Dean just looked at where Sam’s grip tightened against his skin, making white bloodless circles.
“Dean,” said Sam.
“I wanted it,” said Dean. “When you said ‘stay,’ I wanted the dumb apartment and the dumb job and the dumb life.”
He sounded breathless and lost, and Sam wanted just to fold up around him, hold him and not let go.
“I wanted to save people and kill evil things and then come home to someone and - and kiss them and hold them and fix them blueberry pancakes and eggs on freaking toast.”
“I like blueberry pancakes,” said Sam.
“I know,” said Dean.
“You made them for me when I was little,” said Sam.
“I know,” said Dean, like that was the problem, rather than the easiest fucking answer in the world.
Sam swallowed. “You know, I did. I was serious. I wanted that, too.”
“Yeah,” and Dean looked at their hands again, twisted his palm around and interlocked his fingers with Sam’s. “I knew that. But then you started making eyes at some girl, and I – I freaked, man. And that’s why I left. Because I’m an asshole, and I was jealous, and I know, it’s no fucking excuse.”
Sam took a breath. “You’re an idiot.”
Dean was an idiot, and Sam didn’t care, because Dean wanted it, too –the two of them, together in this life after the war was won; hoping, loving, clutching on to everything that was left and finding it to be enough.
Yeah, Dean was pretty much an idiot. He was maybe okay with that, though.
Dean took a breath and touched Sam’s stomach, gently, with the backs of his fingertips. His hand felt frozen, like it wasn’t really his. He clumsily stroked his fingers up the center of Sam’s chest, up to the base of his neck, then he flattened the palm of his hand to the pulse beating there.
"You see, it's like this," said Dean. “It’s, um. You have to ask me something.”
"Right," said Sam. His pulse beat faster under Dean’s hand, and just the feel of it amazed Dean for a moment. “Uh, what am I supposed to ask you?” said Sam, and he leaned into Dean’s hand, just a little.
How many times had Dean felt his brother’s pulse? He’d even felt Sam’s blood pumping over his hands a time or two, when they’d been cut up and ripped to shreds after hunts gone bad. But then, Dean was his brother’s blood, wasn’t he? Family, and Dean tried to ignore the nausea that threatened when he thought of family, of their father, of what Dad would think of them now.
Dean blinked himself back to the moment. “It's what she told me, okay? I asked her how to keep you safe, protect you, and she said that... you had to ask."
“Did she say if that protection would go both ways?” Sam offered him a smile that waned slightly, odd and self-conscious around the edges. “Cause, man, I don’t think I can take much more of you dying on me.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Dean. “I’ll try to lay off that for a while.”
Sam looked down for a moment, deep in his head, then he squeezed Dean’s hand. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to ask you. And I think she’s full of crap, anyway, because since when have you ever given me a straight answer on anything?”
“Plenty of times,” Dean said. “I’m an open freaking book.”
Sam raised an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? What about that time in fifth grade, when I asked you if you were going out with Georgia Franklin?’
“It’s not funny!” Sam sputtered. “God, I thought her sister was gonna kill me –“
“Shit, Sammy, I remember your face,” Dean crowed, and while Dean was laughing, helpless for air, his eyes starting to tear up and turn his vision watery, Sam leaned over and kissed him.
Dean froze for a moment, just a moment, then he leaned into it, chuckling into Sam's mouth. Their teeth clacked together, and Sam's hand suddenly pressed against Dean's side, long fingers spanning Dean's ribs. Dean let himself fall back against the bed, and Sam followed him down, slinging a leg over Dean's and shoving his face into Dean's neck.
"Dean," he said to Dean's neck. "Dean, this is my question. Listen. Do you want this?"
Dean bumped Sam with his shoulder. "Yes. Yeah, I do."
"Are you sure?" said Sam.
"Oh, for crying out loud, you only get one question," said Dean, and he rolled both of them over, shutting Sam up with his mouth.
The sun set gently outside a nameless motel room. Deep in the forest, hundreds of miles away, a black horse ran a curtain of night across a well-tread path. It wove between the trees at a gallop, scratching past branches and twigs. It had no rider.
“Hey,” Sam said suddenly. Dean looked up from sharpening some blades, and Sam glanced over, pale in the light of the laptop screen. “That Timothy kid?” he continued. “Just – look at this.”
Sam flipped the computer around, and Dean read the headline on the screen. Local Boy Found Dead In Hemlock Lake.
“Shit,” said Dean. “Suicide, you think?”
“I don’t think so.” Sam stared into space. “He wanted to be a doctor. He told me.”
“Sam, we just took off and left those bitches there.” Dean swallowed, thought of those three days that could have been either months or hours, the heads on spikes, the bits of flesh caught in the sink drain. Elizabeth. It turned his stomach. “We still need to do something about them.”
“No,” said Sam sharply. “We don’t. Look, Dean – Timothy was an okay kid, but he knew he was messing with heavy shit. He got himself killed. That’s all.”
“So, what, you’re saying the guy just deserved it?”
“That’s not what I’m saying!” Sam sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “Look. I know they messed with your head, Dean – hell, they messed with mine, too. But we can’t kill them, and you know what? I’m not sure we should even try. They’re immortal for a reason.”
“Yeah, what reason? To be a huge pain in my ass?” Dean tested the edge of his knife. “I get what you’re saying, Sam, but Baba Yaga? No matter which one it is – they’re all evil. They’re gonna keep killing. How can we say that’s okay?”
Sam shook his head. “It’s not okay, but... we don’t even know how long they’ve been in that forest, Dean. It could have been centuries. And for every person like Timothy, or those other kids, how many do you think they helped?”
Dean sighed. “I don’t like it.”
“Neither do I, but. They saved your life.” Sam paused. “They’re not evil, Dean, they just... they don’t care. They only care about knowledge, and finding the answers no one else can find. I mean, hell, they’re a fairy tale. How can we kill a fairy tale?”
“We’re keeping an eye on them,” said Dean, gesturing at Sam with his knife. “You hear me? And if anyone else turns up dead, I don’t care if they’re a fairy tale or if they’re freaking cartoons. I’ll nail the damn bitches’ feet to the floor.”
“Deal,” said Sam.
Dean went back to sharpening the knives, and it was several minutes before he glanced up again. Sam blinked and looked away quickly, like he’d been caught staring. Color rose in his cheeks as Dean watched.
How about that. Dean ducked his head and concentrated hard on the knives to hide his grin.
When they were little, Dean used to think he knew everything about Sam. Kept thinking that, too, well into Sam’s teens and early twenties. Then, after Dad, after the demon, Dean realized he didn’t know shit. He kept second-guessing everything, until he didn’t even know how Sam felt anymore, and didn’t have the first clue what Sam wanted.
Dean was still somewhat amazed that he’d managed to overlook his little brother’s feelings for him for so long. Not that he should have been looking for them, but still. It would have saved them both a lot of pain.
Now, Dean felt like he was getting to know Sam again. And this time he was getting to know a lot of new, interesting parts along with the old ones. Namely, naked parts.
All the things Dean had known about Sam – the way Sam moved, the way he walked, his favorite color, the things sure to set Sam off in an argument, hell, even which side of Sam’s mouth would start to smile first, just everything – with the addition of sex, even the things Dean had memorized were all raw and new. The way Sam gasped under Dean’s touch, the way he mouthed at Dean’s neck… the way Sam moved when he was naked under Dean was unfamiliar and yet remarkably, stunningly, fantastically the same. Dean fucking loved it.
They didn’t move on to the naked parts immediately. In fact, it was a few weeks after Hemlock Lake when they both finally gave up on pretending that everything was normal. Normal didn’t exactly include Dean turning off all the lights and making out with Sam for hours every night. Normal didn’t really cover the way Sam couldn’t stop watching Dean, or the way Dean had to keep touching Sam, because goddamn, but he could touch Sam if he wanted.
Finally, fifty miles outside Mobile, Sam slid his hand over the seam of Dean’s jeans and said, “Pull over at the next motel, and get the room for a week. I don’t care how much of a shithole it is.”
Sam went ahead to the room while Dean raided the vending machine for Coke and pretzels. When Dean entered the room, he didn’t even get a chance to see if it was a shithole before Sam was on him, slamming Dean up against the wall and groping him everywhere through his clothes.
They kissed until their mouths were slick and raw. Dean broke away, shuddering, when he realized that he was humping Sam’s thigh like the world was ending.
“Oh, fuck --“
Sam tried to kiss Dean again, but Dean turned his head away. Sam would just have to try again later once Dean could actually feel his lips again. Instead, he rocked up against Sam’s leg again, gripping Sam’s shoulders through thin, sweaty fabric.
“Mm,” hummed Sam. He squeezed a hand between them and palmed Dean’s dick. “Dean? Dean, fuck me.”
Dean jerked and came, searing-hot pleasure rocketing through him and sending his head back into the wall with a thump. “Oh Jesus ow,” he panted.
“Or not,” said Sam.
“No,” said Dean. “I mean, yes. Jesus. Not now.” His jeans were a sticky mess, and his brain was in an even sorrier state.
Sam made a helpless noise and slumped against Dean’s neck, letting out a huff of air against Dean’s skin. “Uh. Okay. We don’t have to.”
“No, I want to,” said Dean, even though he wasn’t quite sure. Fucking Sam sounded great in theory, but – it was Sam. Dean’s little brother. Kissing and orgasms were one thing, but putting dicks in asses was something else entirely. The thought of it turned Dean on and made him feel a little queasy, all at once. “Just, I kinda can’t right now, dude.”
Sam gave a little chuckle. “Yeah, I know. But –“
“Later,” said Dean. “We’ll fuck, we’ll -- fuck. We’ll do everything.”
Dean ran his fingers down Sam’s spine, slowly counting the knobs of bone. Sam gave a squirm and rolled away from Dean, his T-shirt pushed up into his armpits and his jeans tangled around his knees. He tried unsuccessfully to extricate himself, and finally Dean just reached over and yanked Sam’s T-shirt up over his head.
Sam batted Dean’s hands away and swung a leg over Dean’s thighs. Dean’s whole body jerked, suddenly realizing that Sam was completely naked, and this – this was so far from okay, yet so far from bad. It was so far from anything that Dean didn’t even know how to name it. He shivered.
“You’ll fuck me,” Sam murmured. “You’ll – hey. Let me see you.” Sam reared up and straddled Dean’s thigh and wrestled Dean’s jeans down just far enough to reveal Dean’s sticky boxers and lazy, spent cock. God. Sam was fucking gorgeous, completely naked without an ounce of shame. He was just a long stretch of skin and muscle that waited for Dean’s touch.
“Or, would you let me fuck you, Dean? I could just, I could –“ Sam was losing it already, words gone muffled behind his teeth. He was rutting against Dean’s leg in a loose, crazy rhythm. The flesh of Sam’s dick was hot against Dean’s jeans-covered thigh, the head of it swollen dark pink and wet at the tip. Dean brought his leg up between Sam’s, forcing Sam to come up on his knees like some kind of Greek statue, ass pressed against Dean’s thigh and hands clutching at Dean’s T-shirt. He wrapped a hand around Sam’s cock and gave it a few good yanks. Sam lurched forward with each yank, saying “oh, oh, oh,” and underneath the rush of heat in his gut, Dean had the rather inappropriate thought that it was like pulling the voice box cord on an oversized baby doll.
Sam’s arms gave out, and he pitched forward, draping over Dean’s chest, sweaty and slick sliding against Dean’s skin where Dean’s shirt had ridden up. Dean didn’t realize that Sam had come at first, not until his hand came away from Sam’s dick wet with a couple thick smears of sticky jizz. Sam pressed a kiss to Dean’s collarbone and rolled off him, collapsing on the bed next to Dean.
They lay there, breathing heavily. Dean managed to kick off his jeans and struggle out of his T-shirt, and as soon as he was naked, Sam gave a sigh and tucked himself against Dean’s side. His hands started roaming all over Dean’s skin, gentle, just enough to get the lay of the land and not enough to wake lil’ Dean again. Dean returned the favor, let his fingers sketch out the spaces on Sam where he was gonna put his mouth later.
“Go to sleep,” Sam murmured.
“You first,” Dean replied.
“No, you first,” Sam said, but Dean was pretty sure that he was already asleep as he said it.
Dean wasn’t sure when he joined Sam in sleep. The feeling of core-deep contentment gave way to dreams that were nearly indistinguishable from reality: dreams where he lay next to Sam and they touched each other. Every new brush of skin left splotches of light behind, until they were both fuzzy with glowing neon incandescent patterns, bright enough for anyone to see.
When they woke up, Dean got busy on familiarizing himself with Sam again, this time with particular focus on the naked parts. Sam just laughed, occasionally joining in Dean’s running commentary.
It was a good week.
"You want to go back home yet?" asked Dean. "I'm sure that Matt guy is probably wondering where you are."
"Mark, you mean? Yeah, probably." Sam leaned back in the passenger seat a little and stretched his feet out as far as they would go. "I think I'm good, though."
Dean probably thought he was hiding his smile pretty well, but Sam could see it. "Okay," Dean said, his tone lighter than his words. "Fair enough. Then what the hell do you want to do, anyway?"
Sam shrugged. All he knew was that he was pretty happy where he was. Dean cast a glance at him, and his smile grew wider, but faint; like it was meant only for Sam. Like it was a secret.
Sam took a breath and held it, feeling the moment. Dean beside him, hands on the steering wheel, where he belonged. The Impala was filled with familiar smells – leather, sweat, Dean, Cheetos, faint traces of fresh-cut grass. Lynyrd Skynyrd wailed in low volume, sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue --
"I hate this song," said Sam.
Dean smiled again, slowly sending the Impala around another back-country curve. Then he full-out grinned, and rolled the window down. Sam, with a sideways glance, followed suit.
"Me too," said Dean. "Turn it up,"
Sam twisted the knob on the radio, caught the crest of the next verse. The wind from the open windows ruffled Dean's hair, and Sam's hair blew in his eyes, making him blink. The lines from the song were torn from the car in a mess of music and wind, blaring down the road in a crooked line of sound as they drove on.
-- labama, Lord, I'm coming home to you.
Yeah, Sam thought.
Yeah. Something like that.