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By: Dontwaitup/Winterweathered/Yourperiphery
SUMMARY: In which Sam is the physical embodiment of everything Dean has ever done right in his entire life. Supernatural-Fic | Sam/Dean | Adult | ~31,500 words | Complete. Warning: Incest.

PART ONE. i'm willing to break myself to shake this hell from everything i touch. i'm willing to bleed for days more reds and greys so you don't hurt so much. something corporate The first girl Sam ever kissed tasted like Dr. Pepper and buttered popcorn. Her name was Tara Tucker, and Sam leaned into her on her front lawn after the seventhirty showing of "Beverly Hills Ninja", with her porch light flickering and the Impala idling in the driveway. Dean was waiting in there, listening to Black Sabbath loud enough for Tara Tucker's dad to hear it.

Tara had brought a hand up and touched the collar of his shirt and Sam had brushed his fingers against her wrist. When Sam got back in the car, Dean had a moronic, gas-station slurpee grin on his face. Sam glared. "Shut up, Dean." Dean quirked up one side of his face and elbowed Sam's shoulder playfully. "She a good kisser?" Sam scowled and tipped his head against the window, crossing his arms over his chest. "I dunno." "If you don't know, then she definitely wasn't." Dean had turned the music down, then, and Sam had thanked God for small favors. "Or maybe you weren't. Did you slip her tongue, Sammy?" His pulse had still been racing, but he had set his jaw hard against the blush he knew he was wearing. He shook his head and unlatched the glove compartment, pawing through the fake IDs and fake registrations and coffee-stained roadmaps. "Is the compass still in here?" Dean had laughed, deep and low - his voice settled ages ago, while Sam was still struggling to keep his from rising and falling like a heart monitor. "Dude. Knowing where north is ain't gonna help get you a handful of boob. Now listen, what you've got to do--" "I'm checking to see if there's any weirdo magnetic activity, Dean," Sam interrupted, his brow furrowed. His hands were still shaking when he opened the compass, because he had just kissed Tara Tucker and she had kissed him back. "Her porch light was flickering." Dean sat back, one long arm across the bench seat. "You think Tara Tucker is a demon," he said, gaping, knocking the flat of his palm lightly against the back of Sam's head. The needle on the compass didn't falter. "No... well... whatever. Can't be too careful." Sam put the compass away and closed the glove compartment a little too roughly before crossing his arms and kicking his feet up on the windshield. It wasn't fair that Dean had to be around all the time. Sam never got anything to himself, never got to feel anything without feeling Dean's eyes on the back of his head at the same time. It wasn't fair.

Dean just sat there, blinking at Sam for a few beats before turning the music up and leaning back to roll the car out of Tara Tucker's driveway. "You're never going to get laid," he said. Sam had believed him. The gunshot that kills Madison sounds louder, somehow, than any Dean has heard before. Its reverb curls and flexes in his ears, ringing with the memory of the shots that have come before it: Sam pulling the trigger when their father was possessed, Dean finally wasting the shtriga that almost cost him his baby brother, the rock salt blast Sam laid him out with in the abandoned asylum. He wants to follow Sam and drag him away. But Sam asked him to wait, and so he does, counting seconds. When Sam comes back, his hands are shaking on the gun, eyes glassy as he shoves it at Dean. "Take it," he says. There's a smudge on his face, bright and red. He sucks a breath back quickly, gasping, "Dean," just before his knees buckle beneath him. Dean ducks forward just in time to catch Sam around his chest, getting both arms around him and setting him up straight against the wall. Sam looks up. He's so pale he's practically transparent; the skin around his mouth looks tight and white. The pattern of blood on his cheek, his neck, the front of his shirt - it's not splattered but smeared, like he held onto her after her flesh burst open. Dean is going to be sick, and Sam says, "I'm okay," but he's crying again, sloppy, thick tears spilling over his face. Dean swallows vomit as Sam steadies himself. "Okay, Sam, let's go." Sam sniffs. "Can't," he says. "We have to clean up, or - we have to call someone. They're gonna know we were here, and... Dean, we gotta call someone." "Sam." "She's not expected at work. Glenn's dead. Nobody's gonna find her, and we can't just leave her here, Dean--" Dean wrestles Sam out into the hall. "I'll clean up, okay? Just... go." He shuts the

door, leaves Sam standing in the hallway, and hovers there for a moment, grateful for the wall between them. Something like anger is tearing through him, but he grits his teeth and reins it in. He crosses to the window to stand where they'd watched the sun rise the day before, and doesn't move until he sees Sam on the sidewalk outside. Sam pauses at the Impala and looks up at the window, like he's still waiting for Dean to come up with some kind of answer, long after the question has become obsolete. Dean sighs and pulls the shades before walking into the bedroom. The sheets are still rumpled and sun-warm - but they're dark, now, with Madison's spilled blood, twisted up under her body. Leave it to Sam to hold a person while he killed her, and lay her down against her pillows afterward. Dean is filled with such inexplicable rage all of a sudden - the world isn't supposed to work this way, not for Sam. He rears back and fires one more bullet into Madison's head - just to be sure - before he turns away to wipe their fingerprints. Sam sits on the edge of Dean's bed and the edge of catatonia, staring at the blood on the backs of his hands. He's still crying. "Come on, Sammy," Dean says. He's sitting in the desk chair, elbows on his knees, just watching Sam. Waiting for something to happen. "Pretty soon I'm gonna have to start building an ark." Sam scrubs a hand over his face. His tears have washed Madison's blood from his cheeks, chased it down to where it pinks the collar of his already splattered shirt. "Christ." Dean is pretty sure he's just coming off as insensitive, but he doesn't care. If he lets his guard down, he's gonna sit right down next to Sam and they'll both be crying, and who the hell's gonna stop them then? He stands up and crosses the room, pushes his way between Sam's knees and reaches for the hem of Sam's stained t-shirt. Sam just goes with it, lifts his arms above his head, lets Dean undress him like he's a child at bath time. Dean ducks down to undo the blood-flecked laces on Sam's sneakers, eases them off. "Thanks." Sam swallows audibly. "Thanks."

He goes for Sam's belt buckle and slips it free of the loops before standing up and grabbing Sam by the shoulders. "Up," he instructs quietly, and Sam stands up to toe his jeans off. He's not wearing underwear. Dean looks away and wrenches an arm beneath Sam's, leading him into the bathroom as if he's injured. "Thanks," Sam says again. Dean grits his teeth, tries to keep his chin from trembling. "Christ's sake, Sam. You're welcome." He shoulders Sam into the shower and turns the water on as hot as it'll go. "You gotta take it from here, man." Back in the bedroom, Dean scoops up Sam's discarded clothes. They're spattered with blood but under the gunpowder, they still smell like sex - clean sweat and leftover heat. Dean moves to stuff them into Sam's duffel bag, with the rest of the week's dirty laundry, but changes his mind. He grabs the waste paper basket from under the desk, balls up the dirty jeans and t-shirt and shoves them as far down as they'll go. Sam sinks down into the tub, his limbs crammed awkwardly into all the small spaces. He hasn't sat down in a bathtub like this since he was a kid, with Dean perched on the edge above him, singing. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. He closes his eyes and lets the water burn the layers off his skin - their sweat, her blood. He still smells like her; he can still practically feel her skin under his mouth - warm, and alive, breathing and her heart beating firmly against his. It was the first time in two years that he'd laughed with someone who wasn't his big brother. It was the first time in two years that his fingers had brushed the kind of life where people pay bills and do laundry and watch crappy television and fall asleep without a knife under a pillow. Madison had wrapped her legs around his waist like a beginning. Believing in it had been Sam's first mistake. Afterward, he'd felt like a building burning down. The run to the motel where Dean was waiting took six minutes and felt like the longest stretch of time Sam had ever experienced. We'll find her, Sammy, and of course they would. They always did.

Sam looks down at his body, watches the way the shower beats heat against his stomach, the skin there bright and stinging. Yesterday, his body had worked, relearning the things Jessica had taught it. Now, it feels like it doesn't belong to him. When Sam finally comes out of the bathroom, Dean is sitting on the bed, still in his jacket and boots. His nostrils are flared. "I'm sorry, Sam," he says. "I'm really, really sorry." Sam sits down next to Dean on the bed, shoulders overlapping. "I don't want to talk about it." He swallows. "Sure." "I can't breathe right now, Dean. Don't ask me to talk." Dean stares at his hands. Dean doesn't sleep much, but Sam doesn't sleep at all. He just stares at the places on the ceiling where the paint is chipped and peeling, trying to chase images and sounds and tastes out of his head. He feels like Jessica is burning above him every time he blinks. There are a million things he never got the chance to feel about Madison, but the grief in his stomach fills in the blanks with the way he felt about Jessica. Eventually, the two of them are flickering across his mind, one and the other, faces blending and the memory of their hands on his body blurring until they're indistinguishable. He feels like this time, he failed them both. He's got this coal-hot regret in his stomach, like he's repeated an old mistake. "Not sleeping?" Dean asks, his voice surprising Sam in the darkness. Sam shakes his head and rolls over, looking at Dean across the room, watching the reassuring rise and fall of Dean's body beneath the blankets. "Can't." "Nightmares?" "No. Haven't fallen asleep long enough to have one, but." He swallows, turns onto his stomach.

Dean props his head up on an elbow. "Finish your sentence, Sam. Only one psychic in the room and it ain't me." "I keep thinking about Jessica." "I figured." Dean tosses his sheets back and climbs out of bed, grabbing his phone to check the time. "It's almost five. We could get up." Sam knows how Dean feels about mornings, but he's grateful for the offer, for something to do other than wait. "You should shower." Dean sniffs at himself. "You're not gonna go anywhere?" "Man, just shower. You're gross." Sam watches as Dean locks the window, checks the salt he spilled on the ledge last night, gives Sam a good hard don't go anywhere look and goes into the bathroom. He leaves the door ajar and Sam rolls his eyes and pretends that Dean's worry doesn't provide a sick sense of comfort. When Dean comes out of the shower, Sam's up, leaning toward the mirror. Dean watches him as he touches the still-fresh lines along his cheek. He's looking at them almost reverently for a moment before he even notices that Dean's there. "Hey," he says, looking back at the mirror. "You think they're gonna leave a scar?" Dean shakes his head and reaches for his jeans. "Nah. We'll take care of 'em. Got some ointment somewhere in the first aid kit." Sam straightens up, and Dean knows that expression. Sam has something to say something Dean isn't going to want to hear. "Dean." "It's in your bag, I think, and the antiseptic is underneath the ace bandages." "Dean." Dean whirls around. "What, Sam? You want me to kiss the fucking boo-boo?" "I need a break." Dean pauses with his t-shirt only half on, turning to look at Sam, who is still

staring at the mirror like something's going to crawl out of it. "'S what I been saying, Sammy." He's careful, easing his shirt down, keeping his voice low like Sam is some kind of loaded gun. Sam runs his hands through his hair and straightens up. "Okay." "Okay." Sam reaches for his duffel bag, and Dean suddenly takes inventory of his brother: Sam is packed, dressed, boots laced and jacket on. "So I'll call you in a couple of days, then." Dean shakes his head incredulously. "Oh, hell no, you are not leaving again." Sam sighs. "Dean, I told you. I need space. I can't do this right now, I can't breathe, I have to figure it out and I have to do it by myself." Dean's heart beats hard against his ribcage, shaking him like it wants out. He knows what he should do - he should say yeah, okay, and tell Sam to make sure his phone is always charged and to always let Dean know where he's gonna be, but - "You're not leaving, Sam." Sam sinks down onto the bed. "Dean. You have to let me go." "Nah." Dean shakes his head fervently. "Did that once, didn't work out so hot. Gotta learn from my mistakes." "It's not about you, Dean. This isn't about you. I'm not mad at you, I don't hate you, everything is okay between me and you. I just can't be around people right now. I... don't know. I feel like... I don't know." Dean nods curtly. "Right, Sam, you think you're dangerous. You think everyone you touch is gonna die. Well I'll tell you what, we'll refrain from slow-dancing for a couple weeks, okay?" Instinctively, he moves to stand between Sam and the door. "Please-" Dean's voice catches in his throat when he speaks - he gets that all-too-familiar hot itch in the corners of his eyes. "No. I got news for you, Sam. I can't sleep when you're not here, okay? I can't sleep when I don't know you're safe, and I sure as hell don't plan on lying awake while you run around the country getting your issues figured out, because that's gonna take a million years. So you know what,

Sam? If you're gonna leave, you're gonna have to fight me the whole way. I always find you, man, you realize that?" The words come fast, the honesty unexpected. Dean feels a little naked, a little young, but he just stands there and stares at Sam. Sam isn't looking back at him. "And I know you don't have a lick of fight left in you, kid, so you might as well just shut up." Sam gets up and takes one step toward Dean - toward the door - then turns back, looking away. His shoulders are shaking. "Christ." Dean sighs and closes in on Sam. He puts one hand on each of Sam's biceps and squeezes, like somehow he can shrink Sam back down to the way he was when he was five years old and thought that Dean had every answer. "Anywhere you want to go, that's fine, man. But I'm going with you. That's the deal, remember? You're the one who decided that we stick together, and you sure as hell don't get to take it back now." Dean sees the surrender in the way Sam's eyebrows come together, the way his forehead caves. "Palo Alto," Sam says. "Sam?" "You said anywhere I want to go, and I want to go back to Stanford. There are things I need to see." "Damn it, Sammy, I was thinkin' more like the freaking Grand Canyon," Dean says, but he tosses the keys to Sam. "I'll pack my shit; go bring the car around." It starts to rain almost as soon as the red tile roofs of the University are visible. Dean shakes his head. "Perfect." It's the first word spoken since they got into the car. Sam sits with his arms wrapped around his torso, but he seems surprisingly relaxed. He knows these streets; he likes being on them in this car. The thing that Dean forgets, sometimes, is that the vast majority of Sam's memories here are good ones. Fantastic ones, probably, with keg beer and Frisbee on the grass and Jessica's arms looped around

his neck, her legs around his hips. "Tell me where to go, Sam." Sam sniffs. "You know the way," he says. It comes out like an accusation, whether or not he means it that way. The apartment building looks the same. There are dark streaks visible around Sam's old window, old burn marks that have faded considerably. Dean parallel parks across the street and kills the engine, sitting back. "Okay. So it's still here." Sam scrambles out of the car. The rain is coming down so hard that Sam is soaked right away, his hoodie dark around the shoulders and neckline, his hair stuck across his forehead. Dean sighs and opens his own door. "Dude, it's pouring. I know the whole weeping-in-the-rain thing sounds poetic, but man, despite all evidence to the contrary, it's actually possible to cry inside the car. You used to do it all the time." "Shut up, Dean. Look, there are curtains in those windows; people are living there." "Come on, Sam. If you wanna go in, let's go." Nothing about the building feels familiar to Dean. He knows, logically, that he's been here before, but when he was, his mind was so wrapped up in Sam, Sam, Sam, that he didn't process any of his surroundings. They climb stairs where their voices rose in a familiar, comfortable argument two years earlier. Dean's boots echo on the steps until they reach the second floor. The door out of the stairwell is locked, but Sam reaches past Dean and punches a PIN code in. He shrugs. "They're bad about changing it." The door to the place Sam and Jessica picked out in the winter of their junior year has been sloppily re-painted, but the heat bubbles are still visible underneath. Sam sags against the hallway wall. "This is so weird." "You're weird. So, do you want to knock, or something?" "Doesn't it seem strange that people live there now?" "It's been a year and a half, Sammy."

"I guess it just seems like it should be closed off, or something. I mean, after what happened there. Do you think it's even safe?" "It was a demon, not a ghost. It's not haunted." Dean doesn't say that what happened had nothing to do with the apartment and everything to do with Sam. "What if it is?" "It's not, Sam. She's not there, okay? Now, it's just an apartment where a really bad thing has been painted over. But there's nothing bad left there." Sam and Dean have a whole map of tragedies traced underneath their skin - memories made up solely of places they've been and the people who have died there, people whose lives they've saved or failed to save. It's easy to forget, sometimes, that for everyone else, these places are just places. "Nothing good, either." A door creaks open a little bit farther down the hallway, and a girl comes out into the hall. Her dark curls slip over her forehead as she digs deep into her gigantic backpack. As she's pawing for her keys, a couple of textbooks and a bunch of colored pencils fall on the floor. Sam and Dean turn their heads. "Here," Dean offers, bending to one knee. "Let me get that for you." "Thanks." She drops down next to him. "I swear to God, my life is a mess right now--" "Juliette?" The high pitch of Sam's voice surprises Dean. The girl looks up. She's pretty, if frazzled. "Holy crap. Sam?" Sam's tiny smile looks pasted on, pinched. Dean blinks. "Hey," Sam says, his voice funeral-soft. She blinks at him, eyebrows shooting skyward. "I can't believe you're actually here." She looks pissed; Dean, watching, is amused. "You know, we looked for you for a week, 'til someone finally said they'd heard from you. And you've been on a road trip?" "Kinda," Sam replies, shoving his hands into his pocket. Dean straightens up with her art supplies and books and clears his throat pointedly. Juliette turns to him and blinks in surprise, like she'd forgotten his existence. Dean is beginning to notice a pattern. "Oh."

Dean quirks an eyebrow. "Yeah. Don't mention it. I'm Dean. Sam's big brother." "Sorry," Sam says. "Dean, this is Juliette. She's - was, she was Jessica's best friend." Juliette grabs her stuff out of Dean's grip, still staring at Sam. "So. You back?" Sam shakes his head. "Just visiting. We were up in San Francisco, um, taking care of some stuff." Sam's cheeks are stained with guilt almost immediately. Dean wants to roll his eyes but can't quite manage the movement. "We're headed out pretty soon." Juliette leans back against her closed door, all the anger melting away. "We miss you around here, Winchester." She gestures toward Sam's old apartment and offers a half-smile. "A real jerk-off lives there now. He got kicked out of Sigma something-or-other. He's loud as hell - you know, vomits in the hallway, pees in the stairwell. It's great." Sam smiles with half his face. "I miss you, too." Silence settles over them. Dean clears his throat again. "Sam, we got places to be," he lies. "And this is... weird." Juliette shoots him an odd look and Dean is suddenly aware that he doesn't belong in this conversation. "It's just been a while, is all," she says sharply before returning her attention to Sam. "Look. If you're going to be in town tonight... well, you know where to find us." "Yeah. I'll... maybe." "And call sometime, Sam. I'm serious." Sam's chin twitches. "C'mon, Dean," he mutters, slinking back down toward the stairwell. The rain has picked up, and there's lightning flickering over campus as they jog across the street to the still-warm car. "Dude," Dean says as they slide back in, rainwater slicking the seats. "Awkward. What'd you, like, sleep with her, or something?" "You're a jerk, Dean. No, I didn't sleep with her." He spits the words out.

"Whatever, man. I thought she was kinda hot. So what's with the stick up your ass?" "She doesn't know it's my fault." "What?" Dean swings the car back onto the main street that runs through campus. "Jessica was her best friend, Dean." "It wasn't your fault, Sam. And even if it was... well, it's not." Sam squints through the rivers on the windshield. "Dean, slow down." "The car doesn't like to go slow, Sam, it makes her cranky." Sam slides across the seat so he's right up against Dean. Dean can smell him, old traces of shampoo and soap and rain, as he leans across Dean, practically pressing his face against the driver's side window. "Christ." "That's the building where I was supposed to have my interview." "What interview?" "The one I came back for. After Jericho." Somehow, Dean had forgotten that. Had forgotten that, for a while there, Sam hadn't wanted to come with him. "My whole life was supposed to start there," Sam continues. "I had a plan, Dean. Do you even know what that's like?" Dean hesitates. Sam's still up in his space, crowding him close. "No." He knows how to plan the next week or day; he vaguely recalls a time when they planned summers and school vacations. He's got no idea what it would be like to plan a life. He mostly just feels lucky every time he narrowly escapes getting skewered by a witch with lousy table etiquette, feels grateful for the opportunity to plan his route out of town. "No, I don't, Sam." Sam looks lost, and almost angry at Dean - which Dean actually prefers to Sam being angry at himself. "I had a four year plan," Sam says, "and a ten year plan. I knew what songs Jessica would want to play at the wedding, I knew what I wanted to name our kids. I'd thought about that. I don't even feel like the same person anymore. I can't - I can't make plans now, because I don't know when..." He sighs

and slides back away from Dean's side of the car. Dean immediately misses the thrumming weight of Sam against his side. "Sammy." "Dean. Don't." They check into a nearby motel. The Pillsbury-looking woman at the front desk squints at Dean through her dusty glasses when he hands her his credit card. "I know you," she squeaks. Dean feels Sam's eyes boring into the back of his head. "Don't think so," he says, staring down at the fake wood on the counter. "I certainly do!" she insists, fishing a key from her drawer. "You used to come round here all the time, didn't you? Every couple months, like clockwork." "Doubt it, lady. I rarely go anywhere twice." Dean holds out a hand for the keys, but she holds them just out of reach, dangling them like a carrot from a horse. "I rarely forget a face. And I certainly don't forget eyelashes like those. It's been well over a year since I've seen you!" "I... just... damn it," Dean says, nearly diving over the counter to lunge at the keys. He finally hooks them with his pinkie and settles back on his heels. When he turns around, Sam is leaning against the wall near the door, one ankle hooked over the other, hands in his pockets. He looks up at Dean and right into him. There's a moment where Dean would swear that Sam can actually see his heart beating. Dean rolls his eyes and tosses the keys over. "Let's go," he says. Sam, ever polite, thanks the woman and follows Dean down the hall. "Like clockwork, Dean?" Dean frowns as he watches Sam unlock the door. "Don't know what the hell she's talking about," he says, but he knows Sam can see the way his cheeks darken with embarrassment. He tosses his stuff on one bed and rubs his hands together. "So where's a good place to get a drink around here, anyway?" Sam is still standing in the open doorway. "Dunno."

"Uh-uh, Sam. You might be the world's most gigantic tool but you're still a Winchester. I don't believe for a second you lived here for four years and didn't find a decent place to throw some darts and slaughter a six-pack." "There's a place around the corner from the apartment. Have fun." Dean thinks about surrendering to a night of infomercials and letting Sam sulk, but decides against it. "No. I sympathize with your pain and your angst and your destiny and everything, but you dragged me down memory lane all day. Now it's my turn to do what I want to do--" "You don't need me to play a game of darts." "--and what I want to do is go have a beer with my little brother. And you're the only one I got, so up-up, Sam, let's go." Sam hesitates, then looks down the hall, toward the reception area. Dean knows what he's thinking, and he's right. Dean came through here like clockwork, every time Dad sent him off on his own - just a quick detour through California, not a big deal. Dean spent two years convincing himself that Palo Alto was a perfectly reasonable rest stop when driving between Dallas and Chicago. "One beer," Sam finally says, dropping his bags. Dean grins. "Maybe two." He tosses an arm up over Sam's shoulders as they leave, and Sam kind of melts against him, letting Dean support him as they walk down the hall. "Maybe two," Sam agrees. Sam had come to this bar the first week of freshman year and the bartender had barely glanced at his perfectly crafted fake ID. He'd been grateful for the familiarity of the dark, dank corners and cheap beer; the sounds of pool being played behind him. Some nights, he'd swear Dean and Dad were just over his shoulder, voices raised in a good-natured argument over Dean's latest girlfriend and whether he was treating her with appropriate respect. Now, Sam shivers right away when he walks in. He can almost feel Jessica's teeth nipping at his earlobe.

She was dressed as a nurse here, the night that Dean showed up, and Sam had been so in love with her it hurt, even though he hadn't slept for days as a result of her nightly appearance in his bad dreams. Loving her was like a sharp pain when she was right in front of him; piercing, like he could die that minute and he wouldn't be surprised. Now that she's been gone for a while, it's different; a dull ache, a bruise that only hurts when he presses his thumb to it. "Cool," Dean says, surveying the place and tugging Sam over to the bar. He smacks a palm down on the counter happily. "Two PBRs and two Jaeger shots, please." When the bartender turns around, Sam feels heat flare in his chest. The man blinks, pushing back the sleeves of his flannel. "Winchester?" "Hey, Carson. Wasn't sure if you'd still be working here." "Yeah, well, don't tell my mother. She thinks I'm a doctor," he jokes. Despite Carson's thick Australian accent, something about the way he speaks has always reminded Sam of Dean - all steady confidence; easy, obvious humor. "I'm awful sorry about Jessica, man." He slides their drinks over, eyeing Sam for a moment longer than necessary, like he's making sure he's real. "You know, your buddies are all in the billiards room, if you..." "Yeah," Sam says, grabbing the shot and downing it. What the hell. "Thanks, man." Dean raises an eyebrow, watching Sam put the empty shot glass back on the counter. "You want to go see your friends, Sam? Play a little pool?" Sam nods toward the back room, sliding off his barstool. "Sure." Dean doesn't bother to hide the surprise on his face. "Really?" "I'll introduce you," Sam says. The thick sweetness of the shot sleeps at the back of his throat, and Sam decides that he can do this - he can be what he used to be, for tonight. He can introduce Dean to his friends and act like every memory of this place doesn't feel like impossible heat against his face, smoke in his lungs, Dean manhandling him out of his bedroom. Dean looks wary. "We can go back, Sam, if you want to get some sleep. I know

you didn't, last night." "No. It's fine." Sam grabs his drink and takes a long pull, then waves Dean toward an archway beneath a gigantic Heineken sign. "Come on. I think you'll like them." It's well over an hour later when Sam leans over the bar and orders yet another cold beer for Dean. Carson raises his eyebrows as he hands it over. "They're all for my brother," Sam explains. "He's way too busy beating all my buddies at pool to get his own damn beer." "You're sure doing him a lot of favors." Carson runs a rag over the countertop. He's about Dean's age, maybe a little younger. He's got bright eyes, a comfort in the way he walks. Sam always liked him. "I might owe him a couple," Sam says. "Favors. Besides, Dean is good in this kind of situation. I guess I don't really have much to talk to those guys about, anymore." "Yeah? Thought you'd have plenty of stories to tell. The way people talk, Winchester, it sounds like you've been all over the country on this road trip you're doing." Carson waves away the five dollar bill that Sam tries to hand over. "Stories, yeah. Just not ones I particularly feel like telling." Sam glances back to where Dean is showing Juliette how to line up a pool cue. She's blinking up at him dumbly, but Sam knows damn well that Juliette can hold her own in a game. She's beaten him plenty of times. "You know, come to think of it, I might as well have this one," Sam says, tapping lightly on the bottle. "Might as well." Sam takes a sip. "So? How's life?" Carson smiles. "Not horrible. Got a place in San Francisco; I work a pretty nice bar out there during the week. It's classy to the point of being pretentious - it's called Pastiche, for Christ's sake. You know, with a bouncer in a tux, and executives drinking girly drinks, and stuff. A lot nicer than this crappy ass dive." "And you come back here on weekends?" "Ryan - he's still in grad school, so, you know, I come back here to be with him. Plus, I'd miss this place, I think. Crappy ass dive and all."

Sam nods, pinching his mouth in. "So you and Ryan are..." "Good," Carson says, tapping Sam's wrist before he reaches back under the bar and opens a beer for himself. "We're good." A comfortable silence settles between them. Sam hears Dean shout from the other room as he wins another round and hopes idly that his brother has the decency not to hustle Sam's old college buddies for petty cash. "Hey," Carson says, nudging Sam and nodding toward a weird looking guy in the corner. "Check it out. This guy's been coming in here every night for a week. He just sits there, alone, muttering to himself and shivering and ordering whiskeys." Sam frowns. "Weird. You ever seen him here before that?" "Nope. Just showed up out of nowhere - and all the sudden he's a regular, here every night 'til last call." "Kinda... creepy." Sam squints, watching the guy whispering into his glass. He's sure that Carson only brought the guy up so that they could joke about how odd he is, but Sam's interest is piqued. There's a look on the dude's face that could only be described as haunted. It's a look Sam can spot from miles away. Suddenly, the kid shudders violently. "Seriously creepy. What's he talk about, when he's talking to himself?" "Keeps saying stop touching me, and stuff. You gotta let me go. A couple days ago some, like, retro-goth girl came in around midnight and tried to get him to leave with her, but she gave up, eventually. He's damn stubborn, man. Really hates it when I cut him off. Which I do. Pretty much every night, in fact." "He got a name?" Sam's eyes narrow. Carson smirks. "Uh. You interested, Sam? 'Cuz I gotta tell you-" "Something about his face looks familiar, is all." "It's a German name," Carson nods. "He introduced himself the first night he came in. Muller, I think - yeah. Oliver Muller. He'd be kinda hot if he wasn't so batshit crazy." "Sam-may!" Dean swings into Sam's line of vision, one arm looped around Juliette. "Julie here just helped me win a phenomenal game of pool."

Sam smiles and pokes at Juliette's shoulder; alcohol loosening the tension he can't help but feel around her. She narrows her eyes at him playfully. "How about that." He feels better, now, than he has all day, but something twists in his stomach when he sees the easy, obvious way that Dean fits in with his friends - with the people who he drank and laughed and studied with for those four years. Dean could've been part of this; could've come through and visited, had drinks, told stories... instead of occasionally appearing to sit and lurk in the Impala, making Sam feel like he was being punished for something. Making Sam hyperaware of the fact that Dean was here, just outside or down the street, but that he wasn't allowed to see him or talk to him or touch him. Sam had spent all four years just really, really wanting to get his hands on his brother - to shove him, maybe, but probably just to duck in for a hug, to feel Dean's palm clap solidly on his shoulder. "You good, Sam?" "Yeah. Can I talk to you for a second?" He holds up a hand in thanks to Carson as he and Dean take a few steps away from the bar. Dean is pretty drunk - not wasted, by any means, but happy drunk. If he were anyone else, Sam would think Dean had forgotten about the still-fresh trauma of the last few nights, but he's Dean, and Sam knows he's just smiling through it - or not so much through it as around it. "Dean, I'm gonna go back to the room." "Come on. Let's have one more beer." "I'm tired." "You're a real killjoy, sometimes, you know that?" Dean scowls. "Okay, let's go back and say goodbye to all your friends, then we're out." "You should stay; hang out for a while. Gimme a call when you're done. I'll drive back and get you." "Uh-uh--" "I won't go anywhere, Dean, I promise. I'm going back to our motel room. To wait for you." "No running off."

"No running off. I promise." Dean fishes his keys out of his pocket, but refuses to hand them over. "Look, just let me just grab my jacket--" "I need five minutes to myself, Dean," Sam says sternly. "And I promised you I'm not going anywhere. We've never broken promises to each other, you and me, and trust me, now's not when I'm gonna start." Dean doesn't bother mentioning that Sam's promise involves going to bed like a good little soldier, while Dean's promise involves offing the only family he's got left in the world. "I'll call you when I want to come back," he says warily. "Okay." "And it won't be long, so don't start driving off to, like, Kansas or whatever without me. Because I'll kill you, Sam. I will." Sam waves a goodbye to Carson and Juliette. On his way out, he passes behind Oliver Muller, and suddenly cold, wet air hits him, like he stumbled into something. He steps back and peers at the back of the stranger's head. Weird. Juliette takes the beer that Dean offers. She was pretty, in the hall today, but now she's downright hot; her frazzled nerves have been soothed by a night out with friends, and when she laughs she tosses her head back and her curls fly helterskelter. Dean's instinct says it's inappropriate to flirt with his brother's dead girlfriend's best friend, but the whole concept of inappropriate is pretty much moot when he remembers that his brother slept with an honest-to-god killing machine the other night. Even if she was smokin' hot. "Thanks, Dean." He touches his palm to her shoulder. "Anytime, Julie." She cocks her hair and raises an eyebrow at him, challenging. "You know, you've only known me for what, a couple hours? I don't think that qualifies you for the

nickname basis quite yet." "Ah," Dean offers, tipping his beer against hers. "But my brother's known you for years. So, you know. Any friend of Sam's is a friend of mine." "So where'd he go?" "Sam? Hell. He's back in the room, listening to Death Cab for Fall Out Disco or whatever, crying into his Jane Magazine. I don't know." Dean doesn't want to talk about Sam right now. He doesn't want to talk about the return of that look that he could've sworn fell off of Sam's face sometime last spring, somewhere in upstate New York, at some moment when Dean wasn't looking. He doesn't want to talk about Sam, except for that he does. Ever since Sam was born, Dean's been slipping him into conversations - sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally, sometimes so unexpectedly that it made him physically ache with missing him. Juliette snorts. "Sam Winchester. Crying. Now that's something I wouldn't expect to see in about a million years." Dean makes a shocked face around the mouth of his beer. If he could count the number of tears shed between himself and Sam over the last few years - well, he figures he'd probably go out and invest in a couple of white lace handkerchiefs, just so they could add to the whole dainty package. "Sam? My Sam? Whiny, weepy Sammy?" And yeah, maybe Dean shouldn't talk about the whole crying thing, because his tear ducts haven't exactly dried up and shrunken away, but Sam's not here to defend himself right now, and that's his fault. "Carson!" Juliette calls down the bar, leaning up close against Dean's side. "A couple of shots of Jager? And make 'em doubles, dude." Dean smiles, turning on the charm. "Oh, I like you." "I'll bet you do. But I do think we might be talking about different Sam Winchesters, Dean. Because Sam was pretty much the happiest guy I ever knew." "No kidding." "Well, he was serious, yeah, and he studied a lot - but he was always grinning while he bickered, you know? And he loved this place like it was home - I'd never

seen a shy eighteen year old kid so comfortable in a bar full of drunk pool hustlers and slutty sorority rejects. But Sam got along with pretty much everybody. And Jessica - she loved him more than she loved anything in the world. Considering how distant Sam could be, that wasn't an easy task." "Yeah?" "Yeah. I mean, they fought about it, sometimes, how Sam wouldn't talk about his past. Don't know what it is you guys got up to as kids, but Sam sure avoided the subject." "Heh. Oh, you know. We were kids - a little of this, a little of that. We uh. Collected bottle caps, and played hide and seek..." "Right." She waves a hand in the air, tossing back her shot and then nudging his closer to his hand. "Well, whatever. Sam was - is - great. He was quiet, sometimes, but every once in a while he'd make some off-hand comment about how the bunch of us were kind of like a makeshift family... and it was just... it was nice, is all. It's nice to hear you're loved, sometimes, you know? Sam never let anybody forget that. Which is pretty much why we all about freaked out when he disappeared after... everything." Dean takes his shot, chases its heat with a swig of cool beer. "Tell me more," he half-whispers, his defenses down somewhere around his ankles. He wants, desperately wants, to know what Sam was like in this place, in the life that he should have had. He wants to know it as though it's in his own memory, as if he was here for it, down the hall or on the other end of the Frisbee's arc. By the time he heads for the door with Juliette, his mind is so far gone that he doesn't notice the the arctic chill that carries the air behind the kid at the end of the bar. "So, this is my place," Juliette says, her voice tipping into sing-song. Dean inwardly rolls his eyes. He could do this dance in his sleep by now, like salting and burning or losing at rocks-paper-scissors. Still, he turns on the charm. "I know," he murmurs, thumbing a curl out of her eyes. "I was here earlier, remember? I helped you with your books?" "Right, sorry. I was..."

Dean steps forward, closer. "Distracted. By the return of the prodigal geek." "Something like that." "So... tonight was good." Dean is in her space now, so much so that she has to tilt her head back to look directly at him. "You want to come in?" she asks. Dean blinks at her, surprised by her forwardness. He's used to a little more hemming and hawing, over-glossed girls teasing him enough to get him hard before he even steps through the door. "Uh. Sure, I could do a cup of coffee." "Yeah," she says, unlocking her door and hooking one finger under his belt. "Coffee wasn't exactly high on my list of things to do."

PART TWO. i've been loving you for such a long, long time expecting nothing in returnjust for you to have a little faith in me. john hiatt "You got home late last night," Sam mumbles into his pillow when Dean gets out of the shower in the morning. Dean pulls a shirt out of his bag and sniffs at it. It smells vaguely of wet dog and old cheese. He chooses one out of Sam's bag instead. "Sorry. Was I loud when I came in? I was kinda drunk." Sam shakes his head. "I wasn't asleep," he says. "And yeah, you were. You pissed in the sink, asshole." Dean grins and shakes his wet head, intentionally spraying warm shower-water all over Sam. "Get up, Sundance Kid. Time to go cause some trouble elsewhere. I

wanna get the hell out of California." "Me too," Sam says, running a hand over his face to wipe the droplets away. He pulls his legs up, sitting crosslegged with his elbows on his knees. "Except unfortunately... I might have found us a gig. Here." Dean buttons his jeans and tosses his towel down on the floor, then sits backwards on one of the chairs. "You're kidding," he says, disappointed. "So much for taking it easy for a while." "Look, at the bar last night, Carson pointed out this guy. He was sitting alone in the corner, muttering and shivering." "Carson?" "My friend. He's the bartender." "You didn't introduce me to him," Dean says. "Sure I did. I introduced you to everybody." "Not to the bartender." Dean raises his eyebrows. "Okay, whatever. A crazy dude sitting alone at the bar? That's a new one. Let's call the feds, dude. I don't think we can handle this thing on our own." Sam rolls his eyes. "You're a jerk, Dean. He kept saying 'stop touching me' and 'leave me alone' and stuff. And when I walked past him on my way out... there was a cold pocket around him." Dean considers it, leaning the chair back on two legs. "So you think the bar is haunted?" Sam shakes his head. "I went there almost every week for three years and I never noticed anything." He reaches for Dean's jacket on the floor and pulls their father's journal out of the inside pocket. "So I checked it out. Cold spots are the result of a paranormal being using the air's heat for fuel, right?" "Fascinating. Also, red and blue make purple, Sparky." "Shut up. Look, what if it's not the bar that's being haunted, but the kid? Dad made a note here that cold spots are more common if the spirit is following someone, since that requires more energy than staying in the place where they were killed."

Dean takes the book and studies his father's messy shorthand in the lower corner. "Okay, I'm sold. Jesus, Sam. A little cold air and you're doing research. You really need to get laid." He says the words before he thinks about them, then freezes. Sam's head drops and he stares at his hands; when he looks back up his nostrils are flared and his mouth is pinched at the corners. "Nice." "I'm sorry." He presses the heels of his hands to his eyes, desperately wishing he could erase the last ten seconds, the last ten days, the last ten years. "I didn't mean to say that, Sammy. Sam. I'm just... I didn't sleep well, I guess. It's been a weird couple of days. Maybe I'm still a little drunk or something, God--" Sam lifts a hand. "You done with the excuse parade, Dean? It's okay. It's... whatever. Did you notice the cold pocket when you left? You must've walked right past him." Dean shakes his head. "I didn't notice anything weird." Sam's face is still twisted like he's been sucker-punched. He looks back down at his hands. "You must've been pretty preoccupied. You usually pick up on that stuff." "I didn't notice anything, Sam. Maybe the kid had already left." Sam stands up and goes into the bathroom, pushing the door until it's just ajar. "Did you leave with Juliette?" he asks. Dean drops his head down to rest on the back of the chair, letting the edge dig into his forehead. "No." "No?" "Shut up and talk to me about the creepy cold kid. Seriously, I thought you said you wanted a break?" Sam comes out of the bathroom, his hair wet at the edges from washing his face. His skin is red, scrubbed raw. "I didn't go looking for this case, Dean. It just kinda fell into my lap, and I'm not going to ignore it because... well... because..." "Because you slept with a werewolf." "Right."

Juliette had gotten her legs up around his waist and was kissing him like he was air, her tongue on his teeth and her arms tight around his neck. Her ass had fit into his hands like it was made for them, which was what he'd been thinking about until his eyes slid open a bit and he saw the pictures on her living room wall. He'd kind of forgotten what Jessica looked like. He remembered that she was hot, Playboy blonde, stacked as all hell, but that was pretty much as far as his brain went. When he thought of her, standing there in her t-shirt, eyeing him like she already saw through his bullshit, his mind's eye saw her as though he was looking at her through a foggy window. The truth was, he'd spent those few moments so focused on Sam he couldn't see straight. All the blood in Dean's body had rushed straight for Sam the moment he'd walked through Sam's door, the moment he'd smelled Sam, the moment he'd seen Sam's handwriting on the list on the fridge. He couldn't remember even a little bit of what Jessica's face looked like. Apparently Sam had been ready to marry this girl (because sometimes demons tell the truth, especially if they know it'll mess with your head) and her face, to Dean, had been more forgettable than Sam's grocery list. Also, I finished your apple juice... don't kill me. Love you. S. It had felt good, when Sam took that first swing at him. Just getting a hand around Sam's forearm, blocking the kicks and punches that flew through the dark. Just touching Sam - he'd been either hoping or worried the entire way there that Sam might try to hug him or something. That first fist to the gut had given him all the things a hug would've, but hadn't taken anything away. Sam didn't have any pictures of Jessica - they'd burned up, probably, with his textbooks and his notes and the last picture they had of Mom and Dad together. Juliette had pictures, though, all over the place, on the walls - some of them with Sam, eyes bright and laughing, hair in his eyes and pink in his shirts. Dean hadn't even recognized his brother in half of them. So he had been pulling off Juliette's clothes and thinking about Sam in that bar what he had been like, the things that he had talked about then, the things he hadn't. He had wondered if Sam had lain awake at night while Jess was sleeping, the way that Dean had done with Cassie, trying to reconcile keeping the secret with that burning, desperate feeling in his chest. Juliette had pulled him to the bed. He'd lost his shirt, fished a condom out of his

wallet before discarding his jeans and socks and underwear. She was beautiful on the bed, pale against the dark sheets and smelling like new paper and dark beer, panting, all small breasts and sharp hipbones, writhing underneath him. Dean had known what to do - where to touch and when to open his mouth. Sam hadn't noticed, lately, that it had been a while since Dean's last half-hour thing with a slutty waitress or a slutty receptionist or a slutty underage truck-stop attendant. Juliette had felt good. He had rolled her over, crawling onto her from behind, nipping prayer beats into her shoulders, the place where her neck met. He had one palm spread on her stomach and he could feel himself inside her, feel her muscles flutter while he was staring at the wall over her shoulder. Sam used to live through that wall; he used to laugh there and study there, sleep there, cook and breathe and grab Jessica around the waist, toss her onto the bed. You're supposed to be helping me study, he can imagine Sam laughing, like that was some kind of pick up line. Dean hadn't noticed until a beat too late that he wasn't exactly into this anymore, Juliette spread out beneath him. He'd gone a little bit soft - and yeah, this happens to everybody, but not to Dean Winchester. He had rolled Juliette over, then, kissed her hard on the mouth and then down, licking what he remembered of Sam's apartment onto the flat plane of Juliette's stomach and lower. The door, the fridge, the floor of their living room hard beneath his back -- and then the heat of the fire and that no no no not again feeling as he dragged Sam away from it. Juliette had gotten off, then, under the panicked swipes of Dean's tongue, and Dean had left immediately without the pretense of niceties. He had dressed so quickly that he'd had to pause in the stairwell and pull his sock up all the way, so it wasn't bunched at the toe of his boot. He'd walked the couple of miles back to the motel, and by the time he got there, the sun was starting to come up. He had been loud, in the motel room. Cracking his back all the way down his spine - poppoppop like gunshots on old television shows - dropping his jacket, and Dad's journal with it, in the middle of the floor, stumbling over it and jamming a knee up into the dresser. Sam had lain awake, still fully dressed, listening in disgust as Dean pissed in the sink and then washed his hands. Still, it was only after Dean was under his covers, snoring and smelling like sex and cigarettes, that Sam had moved. He had sat up and put the car keys on the dresser, paused to look at the ridges they'd made on his palm from too long clutching, then toed his boots

off and put his cell phone on silent. They go to the library on campus, Sam flashing the old student ID from his wallet and smiling at the work-study kid at the front desk. Dean does his best to hide his surprise at the sheer, sprawling expanse of the place - they're used to small-town public libraries and beat up big city ones, not the clean, smooth surfaces of this one, the hushed whispers of students with their heads bending in together. They're in the periodicals room, tapping away at separate computers, when Dean finds something. "Hey, look. It's not the Oliver kid, but it looks like his cousin, Sophia Muller, died a little over a week ago." Sam slides his chair closer. "Sophia is survived by her loving father, Paul, her sister, Kate, and her cousin Oliver, in addition to three grandparents and many aunts, uncles, and cousins..." "Why's Oliver mentioned by name if the rest of the cousins aren't?" Dean asks. Sam already has his journal open, jotting down notes. "And look, she was only nineteen." "It was a suicide," Sam says, clicking more links and pointing to the screen. "See?" "Christ. She jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge?" "Somebody tries to pretty much every two weeks," Sam replies. "But why is she sticking around?" Dean frowns. "Suicide counts as an angry death, remember, college boy? But why would his cousin be haunting him?" He prints the obituary and directs the browser back to Google, typing Oliver Muller's name into the search engine again. "Why's anybody haunt anybody? Revenge. Love. Anger." "I'm not getting a whole lot more about this kid." Dean scoots his chair closer to the computer. "He's an artist; he had a couple of paintings displayed in a show about a year ago." There's an article on the screen about his gallery showing, a quick bio-blurb and a thumbnail of one of the paintings. Sam squints at the screen. "Wait... okay, it says he goes to the Frisco Art Institute, but that he's a transfer from Stanford."

"If he goes to school in the city, why the hell is he out in Palo Alto every night this week?" "Hiding from someone," Sam says, "or some thing. Here, Dean, move out of the way." Sam punches a few keys into the computer, his face screwed up in concentration, tongue poking out between his lips. Dean leans back in his chair, watching. "What's Facebook?" "Kinda hard to explain," Sam replies. "Okay - it looks like he fell off the map about the time of the suicide; his friends are looking for him. And he's got a girlfriend - her name is Annabelle, she goes to the art school, too. He's pretty much a townie, you know, he graduated from a high school here in San Francisco. He spent last semester in Paris, though. He'd only been home six weeks when Sophia jumped." Dean just stares. "How the hell did you get all that information? What is this website, like, stalker heaven?" Sam flips his journal open. "Uh. Yes?" Dean insists on going to the bar alone. He leaves Sam on his own at the hotel, hoping that with a little quiet and a little crappy TV, Sam might get some sleep. Maybe in the morning he'll wake up looking a step above refried gloom. The bar is a little bit less crowded than it was the night before; it's a Sunday night in mid-March, and Dean figures that at a fine institution such as Stanford, Sundays generally mean studying. Still, Oliver Muller is in the exact same spot Sam apparently found him in last night, though judging by his filmy, wrinkled appearance, Dean would bet a couple bucks that he hasn't changed clothes or showered in the last twenty-four hours. Dean starts to approach him, and then changes his mind. He orders a beer, plays a quick round of pool, and just watches. The whole let-me-share-your-pain shtick is usually Sam's area of expertise. Dean isn't oblivious to his tendency to solicit concerned or disturbed looks from strangers pretty much every time he opens his mouth. Sam was right about the cold pockets; the hair on the back of Dean's neck stands up immediately when he sits down in the seat beside Oliver nearly an hour after

first spotting him. He raises a finger at the bartender - Carson Daly, or whatever and orders a beer. Carson gives Dean a long, studious look when he slides a cold beer across the bar. "Stop touching me," Oliver whispers so suddenly that Dean nearly chokes on the foam he's attempting to swallow. "Excuse me?" Oliver looks up from his quickly emptying glass and straight at Dean with dark, bloodshot eyes. It's as though he never noticed Dean sit down in the first place. "I wasn't talking to you," he says. Dean frowns. "Right. So, uh. What's up, man?" Dean isn't sure what he expects; probably for this kid to be so incredibly grateful for a friendly face that he'll just hand his secrets over, nicely gift-wrapped for Dean to take home to Sam. "Huh?" Dean tries a different approach. "What're you drinking?" "Single malt," the kid says in this tiny Edward Scissorhands voice. Dean is officially creeped out. "Any good? I'm more of a beer guy myself." Oliver blinks, his lashes starkly contrasted against his pale cheeks. "I only drink it to keep warm." Dean bites his lip. "Of course you do." He puts a hand on Oliver's shoulder, then draws it back quickly. The kid's hovering on the edge of hypothermia - this case might be a more pressing matter than they thought. "So, um... this might sound a little bit crazy." He eyes the panicked look in the kid's eye and the bottle that the bartender left only a reach away. "Actually, you're running ten drinks deep. This'll probably make about perfect sense to you. So - listen. I need to know what happened between you and your cousin." It strikes a nerve somewhere - there is nothing subtle about the sheer terror in the kid's eyes when he swivels on the stool to face Dean. "Who the hell are you," he hisses, his voice low. Dean lifts up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, man, you caught me. My name's Bret Michaels; I'm a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle. I'm doing an article."

"On me and my cousin?" "On, um. Suicide victims and the people who mourn them." Sam, for all his preaching, has always been better about coming up with on-the-spot lies. He hates it, of course, but he does it carefully, figuring that if he's got to lie to people, he might as well do it with enough finesse that they don't know they're getting played. Oliver's body suddenly begins to quake violently, his teeth chattering. The cold crawls through the air, reaching Dean and past him, making other patrons look up to check whether the door's been blown open. "Stay away from me," Oliver says quickly, fear pitching his voice high as he slips off his chair. "Nothing happened." He doesn't even bother to retrieve his credit card from the bar or to finish his drink, just turns around and practically flings himself out the door. Immediately, the room's temperature returns to normal. Dean scrambles off his chair and outside after the kid. "Wait!" he calls. When Sam's smooth lies fail, he always goes straight for the truth, regardless of what Dean tells him. Oliver looks back at him, rubbing his arms to keep warm. "Leave me alone," he begs. He suddenly looks really, really young. Dean sighs. "Look," he says, jogging up. "So, I'm full of shit. I'm not a reporter. I'm trying to help you, okay? I know about your cousin. Me and my brother - we think she's been haunting you." "You're crazy," Oliver says, but he looks at Dean with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "Yeah, well, you're the one sitting in a corner talking to yourself, kid." Dean pulls a piece of scrap paper out of his wallet and a pen out of his jacket pocket and scribbles down his phone number and Sam's. "Listen, we're gonna help you, okay? We're going to figure out what's going on, and we're going to stop it. I just - if anything happens, call that number, okay?" The kid doesn't nod, but he takes the number anyway before walking away and getting into his beat up Buick. Dean sighs. So he's not as good at this as Sam is; he does alright. He remembers, then, that he's still got a perfectly good beer inside, so he goes back to it. The temperature is much more comfortable now that Oliver and his ghostly relative are gone.

"So what'd you say to him?" Carson asks. Dean looks up. The bartender leans over the bar, grabbing for Oliver's glass before rinsing it in the sink. Carson cocks an eyebrow at Dean. "Huh? Oh, nothin'. Just making friendly conversation with the guy." He tips his beer back and finishes it off. "Guess he wasn't feeling all that friendly." Carson grins and reaches below the bar, pulling out another bottle and opening it before replacing Dean's empty. "I haven't been able to get that guy out of my bar all week - he's been scaring people, actually - and you succeeded in about eight seconds. So tell you what. This one's on me." Dean smiles and tips his beer toward him. "Thanks." Carson sticks out a hand. "We met last night, kind of. I'm Carson - you're Sam's brother. Dean, yeah?" Dean nods and shakes Carson's hand heartily, checking the clock over his shoulder. It's only a little bit past eleven; Sam will probably still be awake back at the motel. Dean isn't entirely sure he can bear another evening of watching Sam lie up. "Yeah. Nice to see you again." Carson smiles and soaks a wet rag, begins to run it over the bar. Oliver's hand had been shaking so much that a good amount of whiskey had ended up on the counter instead of in his throat. "So, how's that road trip going?" "Uh... bumpy." Dean keeps his words careful and clipped. He's not used to people knowing anything about their lives; he's even less comfortable with them wanting to know more. "Yeah." Carson pauses, regards his dishrag for a moment. "Sam seems different." Dean stiffens, taking a sharp pull from his bottle and setting it down a little too hard. "Different how, exactly?" The question comes out sharper than he intended it to. Carson is avoiding Dean's eyes, now, wiping residue off of bottlenecks. "Just different." When he looks up and meets Dean's gaze, there's a softness around his eyes that Dean recognizes from somewhere, a sympathy that seems slightly out of place. Dean doesn't like it. "Uh huh."

"I mean, I don't--" "No, dude," Dean says. "Whatever." He narrows his eyes and hesitates for a moment before he finishes his beer, pulls a handful of wrinkled singles from his pocket, and stands up, adjusting his jacket. Carson looks surprised. "Hey, man, I told you. On the house." Dean doesn't bother to hide his sneer. "No thanks." Dean is still passed out when Sam comes back with coffee the next morning. Sam pushes the door shut hard, loud enough to jerk Dean out of sleep. "Hey." Dean squints up at him, his face creased by his pillow. "Morning." Sam locks the door behind them and looks around the room. The sun tumbling in from between the curtains only serves to highlight how thoroughly disgusting their motel is; stains and leaks and scuffmarks everywhere. Just down the street is the pretty apartment where he and Jessica lived, all quiet, domestic tidiness. Remembering, now, Sam isn't sure when he got used to this again. "You were asleep when I got back last night," Dean says, rolling out of bed. "Finally." Sam grunts and hands Dean a coffee cup that's so hot it's hard to hold. "Yeah." "Did you sleep through the night?" There's a palpable tension in Dean's voice; old worry back from the dead. "I'm not an infant, Dean." "Yeah, well, you were starting to look like something I'm supposed to drive a stake through, Sam, and I'm not here to watch you angst yourself to an early grave." "I don't want to talk about it. Did you get any information last night?" Dean hisses around the scalding coffee before taking another masochistic sip. "Muller wasn't exactly forthcoming. But you're definitely right about him; there's something going on with the cousin, and we need to work fast, because the kid's gonna freeze to death standing. Plus, as soon as I brought the cousin up, he clutched his chest like he was having some kind of ice-cold heart attack and

hauled ass out the door." "I wonder what happened. Why she's after him." "He probably stole her barbies one too many times and now she's haunting his ass for revenge. It doesn't matter, though. It's definitely her - I figure we just take care of her. That way, we can leave the poor kid alone." "And he can just pretend you were some lunatic, and it never happened." "Exactly. Anyway - they buried her yesterday." Dean swings his legs up out of bed and taps the laptop, which he'd been up most of the night using for research. "At a cemetery right in the middle of San Francisco." The computer screen springs awake, revealing side-by-side internet windows with the funeral announcement and MapQuest directions. Sam nods and bends to smooth the covers out on Dean's bed. It's a ridiculous habit, but Sam still likes to make the beds so that the room looks nice, the way their Dad used to tell them to. "So tonight we get to dig up yet another fresh rotting corpse, at another cemetery that's probably guarded around the clock in the middle of a busy city." "Yup," Dean says gruffly, heading into the bathroom to brush his teeth. "Easy as pie." Sam sits down on one bed and watches as Dean squeezes the sparkly blue kids' toothpaste he never stopped buying. His head is down as he brushes; he's staring into the sink instead of at himself in the mirror. "Dean?" "What's with that guy?" The words are muddled by Dean's toothbrush. "What guy?" "You know. The bartender. He asked about you last night and it was... weird." Dean spits a gigantic gob of foam into the sink, effectively spraying the mirror while he's at it. Then he tosses his toothbrush aside and braces both hands against the countertop, leaning forward. Sam can see the stress in the movement over Dean's bare back. He wonders for a minute what his brother would say if he told him the truth. "Nothing," he says instead. It's close enough. Dean shrugs and turns back to the room, tossing himself on the bed and reaching

for the TV remote like he hasn't got a care in the world. Sam sees right through it, though, to the pinching around Dean's mouth, how he doesn't seem to know what to do with his hands, the way he doesn't tell Sam to get the hell out of the way because his giganticness is blocking the TV screen. "We were friends," Sam begins. Dean hesitates, then mutes Judge Judy's rant. "When I first got to school, before I knew anybody, I used to hang out at that bar. I felt comfortable there." He doesn't say it made me miss you less, but the words are in the air anyway. Dean's still staring at the television. "He's known me since I was eighteen," Sam adds. "We used to talk about stuff. That's all." "Talk," Dean echoes dumbly. "Okay." Sam scrubs a hand over his face. It's the truth; it's as much of the truth as he knows for sure. "God, I want to get out of California." "Right," Dean says. His tone is sharp, piercing. "Because California is the reason that things keep getting fucked sideways. It's not because you're holding stuff in. Come on, Sam. Sharing is caring, or whatever." "Leave me alone, Dean. I don't ask a lot of you, okay? Just leave me alone." Dean physically winces, and Sam knows he sounds like an indignant teenager, but he has no intention of taking his words back. "Right. You don't ask anything of me," Dean says. "You know what? You won't talk to me, maybe you should go back to that bar tonight, lay all your issues out for whatever-the-fuck-his-name-is, since you guys are so good at talking, and that way-" "You're jealous?" Dean scowls. "Look, you gotta deal with this--" "I don't want to talk about it." "Talk about something, Sam. About Madison or Jessica or how you think everything you touch turns to dead girls. Whatever." Dean whirls around and draws his shoulders up, like he's trying to take up as much space as he possibly can.

"I don't want to talk about it." "You always want to talk, Sam, so fucking talk." Dean swallows. "Did you sleep with the bartender?" "I don't always want to talk!" Sam explodes. He can feel his own face nearly convulsing, nostrils flaring and lips twitching as he tries to keep the emotion away from his skin. "I didn't want to talk about Jessica. I don't want to talk about this. I wanted to talk about Dad, Dean, because that was about you and me. You could've helped, with that. This is about me and her, and she's dead, so it's all me, okay? It's none of your business." He swallows. "So fuck off." Dean starts to say something, and then hesitates. When he does speak, his voice has dropped. "You are my business, Sammy," he says, scooting forward on the bed and reaching out to grab Sam's arm. Sam looks at the way Dean's hand curls around his forearm, steady and rough on his skin. "Why do you care so much?" he rasps, slowly lifting his eyes to Dean's. Dean holds tighter, staring at Sam, working his jaw. He hesitates, then looks away before he speaks, down at the floor. "Sick of you being a whiny little bitch, is all." "Damn it," Sam barks, ducking out of Dean's reach and grabbing his wallet off the bedside table. He slams the door hard on his way out, hopes Dean feels it as much as he does. He drives for most of the day. If they weren't in the middle of a hunt, he'd leave, head straight for New York or Florida or North Carolina, anywhere that isn't here. Still, he knows if he leaves, Dean will follow, case be damned. He eats lunch at the place where he took Jessica on their third date, and then just sits for a while, trying to remember her exactly. He's grasping at straws. He can remember the way her eyelashes felt against his cheek in the morning when she woke him up with butterfly kisses, but he can't remember what she looked like once he opened his eyes. He remembers, in perfect detail, the way her voice sounded when she sang bad eighties songs in the shower, but he can't remember the way the water looked spilling over her shoulder blades, down her spine.

Dean doesn't call, not even to demand that Sam bring his car back, and Sam is almost resentful of Dean's apparent lack of freaking out. He wonders, idly, as he watches the sun set over the deep hills and valleys of the city, whether this is going to be it. Whether, once Dean has finished off this ghost, he's finally going to let Sam leave - or, worse, he's going to leave himself. There's a tension that's been building since Connecticut, since Sam made a drunken, drowsy grab for something Dean wasn't willing to give him. Sam will be twenty-four in a month and a half, and he's still sharing a bedroom with his older brother. There's a logical part of his brain that says that this isn't supposed to last, that people don't live this way. There's another part of him that doesn't understand why he ever even wanted something different. It's dark, and Sam isn't sure where to go next. He doesn't want to go back to the room - and he's being stubborn, he knows he's being stubborn, but he's tired of Dean demanding honesty from him when he won't give it in return. He's tired of Dean constantly wanting to crawl into Sam's head and understand, when he can't he won't, ever. Sam turns the car around. The swanky bar on the edge of the city isn't open yet, but Sam leans against the stainless steel door anyway, trying to peer through the frosted glass window. When he can't see anything but shadows, he knocks. It's a few moments before Carson opens the door, dressed in designer slacks and a black shirt rolled up to the elbows. Sam is used to seeing him in jeans and teeshirts, his hair floppy and his jaw scruffy. "Jesus, Winchester. You drop off the map for a year and a half, and now you and your brother are goddamn everywhere. Come on in." "Thanks," Sam replies, stepping into the bar. It's been ages since he's been a place like this - Jessica's twenty-first birthday comes to mind, and maybe dinner with Sarah in New York. "We're just setting up for the party tonight, but let me get you a drink. Beer?" "You sure nobody will mind?" Carson shrugs. "Don't care if they do."

"Maybe something stronger than a beer," Sam says softly, sliding onto the leatherbacked barstool. Reaching for the hard stuff, Carson smiles. "That kinda day, huh?" Sam wants to say that kind of year, actually, but it wouldn't be completely accurate. "Yes." Sam can feel Carson regarding him curiously. Still, he downs the drink in a cool, steady gulp, enjoying the bitter distraction. "Come on," Carson says, taking the now mostly empty glass away and tossing its contents into the sink. "You can help me stock the shelves in the back room, like when you were a kid." Sam used to show up at the bar before opening, bored and lonely and just looking for someone to listen to him talk about psychology class and the freshman writing seminar. He felt comfortable there. He had made himself useful, long and lanky enough to reach even the top shelf that Carson couldn't quite touch. He had known, even then, that it was against Carson's better judgement to let him hang around. He looks about a million years older, now, shoving his hands into his pockets and following Carson into the back with his head down, watching his feet. "So, my brother came to the bar last night..." "Yeah. Talking to that creepy kid. I gotta tell you, Sam... I always knew you had a soft spot for the weirdos, but this guy's off the charts." "Dean said you talked. Did he - was he an ass? Because sometimes, he can be a real jerk." Carson hesitates, bending down to retrieve a heavy case of wine and drop it unceremoniously into Sam's waiting grip. "He's protective." "He's possessive," Sam blurts out. "And we... uh, Dean's a doctor. So that's why he was helping that kid." Carson looks at Sam, surprised. "A doctor?" Sam nods. "Yeah. So if... you know, if the kid shows up again and looks like he needs help, you should tell him to call me. You still got my number?"

"Yeah, Sam," Carson says softly, picking up another wine crate and leading Sam into a cellar. "I still have it." Sam swallows, reaching up to put the stuff away. "So... you still remember that." Carson brushes his hands off on his pants. "Remember what?" He starts to head back into the first room, to grab more bottles, but Sam stops him, a hand on his shoulder. "When I was a kid, and you used to let me help stock the shelves." Sam doesn't take his hand off Carson's shoulder - if anything, he steps closer, moving so that Carson is standing between him and the shelves, looking up at Sam's face. Sam doesn't look at Carson's eyes. "Yeah," Carson says quietly. "I remember. You just seemed lonely, you know, at first, and then..." "So that's how you thought of me. A pity case." "Sam," Carson's voice is low, like he's telling a secret. "You know damn well that's not--" "I shouldn't have pushed you away," Sam blurts out, betraying himself. "That time in the back room, when you tried to kiss me. I shouldn't have left. You just... you always reminded me of someone I used to know, and I panicked. I shouldn't have." Carson touches Sam's hip, and Sam steps into it willingly. "Maybe." "I did like you. And I regretted it, later," Sam mumbles, moving even closer, trying to ignore the fact that he feels like a sixteen year old girl. "When you met Ryan." "And then you met Jessica." Carson tips his head up, eyes on Sam's, unwavering. "Yeah." Sam inhales. He doesn't want to think about Jessica, or Madison - he doesn't care about Carson's boyfriend or the years or the way he's nothing like the kid who barreled out of that bar five years ago and pretended, the next day, that nothing had happened. He feels like he's running out of chances and there has to be somebody who he can have this with. It's Sam who moves first, who leans down and puts his mouth on Carson's. Carson makes a noise, opens his mouth, tugs at Sam's shirt.

Sam squeezes his eyes shut tight and pulls away. "Sorry." Carson blinks up at him in surprise and then shakes his head. "Jesus, Sam." Dean was twenty-three years old, the first time he went on a hunt by himself. He and Dad were in New Mexico, and then they got word of something urgent in Vermont. John had gone ahead while Dean stayed behind, doing all the research himself, killing the thing and coming away with nothing but a few scratches and bruises. It hadn't meant much without that clap on the back, that solid "You did good," that John would offer before buying him a beer. He had told himself that he liked being on his own. He liked being able to bring girls back to the motel, and listen to his own music as loud as he wanted, instead of the deep-south blues that John favored. He liked being able to get violently drunk without anybody to look at him disapprovingly. Mostly, he liked the satisfaction of knowing he could do it himself. He thought, sometimes, that Sam would've been impressed. Now, though, he's not used to it. He moves through the graveyard quietly, grateful for the cover of darkness. The gasoline and salt cans clank together in his bag as he squints at the coarsely scribbled map he had drawn himself to Sophia Muller's grave. The truth is, he hates this, and he's always hated it. Even back then, the fierce loneliness of Sam's absence and the increasing spaces between John's calls always outweighed the benefits of Dean's independence. Dean came to terms a long time ago with the fact that he needs his family more than they've ever needed him, but awareness of a weakness doesn't do much to make it better. They've laid sod over Sophia's grave, but the ground is still soft. As soon as his shovel touches the earth, the wind picks up significantly, swirling leaves and dirt and blades of grass in a vortex around him. Dean swallows and jams the shovel in with his foot. With every scoop of mud that he tosses away, the sky seems to grow darker, the wind colder and louder. The clouds roll in so thick that Dean can't see the waning moon at all. By the time his shovel strikes something solid, Dean is sweating from the exertion of the dig and he's still shivering almost violently, the cold air chewing at his skin.

He's covered in dirt and the wind is stinging his eyes. "Shit," he hisses. He tosses the shovel away and bends down to use his hands, pushing dirt away from the stillshiny coffin before standing up and crawling out of the grave to get the supplies. Suddenly, he feels arms come around him from behind, feels a distinctly feminine chest press up against his back. He looks down, but the arms are invisible, hands coming to press over the muscles of his chest. "Shit," he grunts as the ghostly fingers start to dig into the center of his ribcage. He tries to grab the invisible wrists, but she's strong and slippery, dripping and soaking ice cold salt water through his shirt. The fingernails are breaking his skin, and he can see the tiny spots of blood come up beneath his shirt. She's literally trying to split him open. The air he's sucking for is so cold it burns his chest, and Dean's heart races too fast for his lungs to keep up. He drops to his knees, gasping, attempting to focus through his panic enough to get himself out of this. The salt and matches are too far away, just beyond his reach, and she's squeezing the breath out of him and tearing him in half at the same time. "DEAN!" He looks up, blinking through the dirt in his eyes, to see Sam appear from the darkness. Sam stumbles forward, raising an arm to shield his face from the debris and the wind. Dean can't breathe, straining against her. "Crazy bitch," he grinds out from a locked jaw. Sam's face goes pale. He jumps into the trench and barely flinches when he gets the casket open, the smell surging up into the air. Dean gags, still struggling, the tendons in his neck stretching as he fights against the spirit. Sam wrenches the top off the gasoline and spills it, before opening the salt and dumping it sloppily over the corpse. He lights one match and tosses it, then another and another. The fire jumps high, Sam's eyes reflecting sharp red. "Jesus, Sam," Dean croaks, relief drenching his voice as the arms around him disappear and the wind sttles. "You gotta burn her, not flamb her." Sam spins around, breathing hard, and grabs Dean's arm roughly. "You okay?" There are tears still streaming from his eyes; from the fire or the wind or

something else, Dean doesn't know. Dean nods reassuringly, pulling the neck of his shirt away to look down into it. There are dark red scratches across his chest, but they're shallow. "I'm sorry," Sam gasps, pushing tears away from his cheeks like he's trying to hide them in his hairline. "I'm sorry, Dean, I should've been here. I shouldn't have left." Dean sets his jaw. "Damn right," he says, pain straining the syllables. He takes the rest of the matches from Sam's hand and folds them in his own fist. Sam's expression is stricken when Dean looks back at him. Dean feels the cold rush out of his body. "You're here, now, though," he says, touching Sam's sleeve. "C'mon." It's a long walk back to the Impala, up the hill from the graveyard. They walk close together, shoulder-to-shoulder, for the whole length of it. "Cold out here," Dean says, pulling his jacket tighter around him. "I'm sorry, Dean. I should've been here." Dean shrugs. "I should've let you go when you said you needed to go." "I didn't need to go," Sam says. "I didn't need anything but..." His voice trails away. "You're here now," Dean repeats. "Yeah." Sam presses his lips together hard, stares at his feet as though the whole one-foot-in-front-of-the-other thing takes serious concentration. "Do you think it'll be quick?" "What?" "Like, one day I'll wake up, and I'll just be a demon? Or do you think it'll be slow? Do you think I'll be able to tell, when it's happening?" Dean wants to tell him that he's not having this conversation; he's sick of the circles they talk. But it's cold, and Sam's arm is warm against his shoulder, and

suddenly one foot in front of the other seems a hell of a lot more complicated. "When you were possessed," he says slowly, feeling Sam tense before the sentence even finishes, "you said... Meg said, rather, that you'd started to feel a... change. She was lying, of course, but maybe that's what it'll be like. Anger... building. I think she said it was gonna feel like hate. And rage." Sam's voice is quiet, beneath the wind and the traffic. "You think I'll be able to feel it in advance." Dean feels a drop of rain hit his forehead. "It's not gonna happen, Sam, so it doesn't fucking matter. Now would you shut up? Whaddaya want for dinner, anyway?" "Dean," Sam says with that familiar, sickening grave sincerity. "If I can tell... if I wake up one morning, and part of me isn't me anymore, isn't Sam Winchester... if I can feel it, I want you to know that I'll do it myself." Dean stops walking abruptly, just as the sky opens up and the rain comes down in buckets. When Sam stops and turns, Dean's eyes are narrowed. "Listen, idiot," he hisses, barely recognizing his own voice through the anger. "All of you is Sam Winchester; all of you is gonna stay Sam Winchester. And I know that sucks sometimes but it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative, so would you just shut up about it? For once in your life, stop talking about you." He stomps away, slip-sliding over the soaked grass until he reaches the car. Sam's got another think coming, if he thinks Dean's gonna let Sam kill himself any more than he's gonna pull the damn trigger. He jerks the car door open, hears it groan on its hinges; remembers the days when it didn't. "Would you get in the damn car, Sam?" Sam jogs a little to catch up and sinks into his seat with an almost guilty look on his face. They drive silently through the slick streets, Dean's hands shaking more with every mile. He knows it's just a matter of time before Sam starts talking, but he allows himself to hope that maybe this time, Sam will shut up, just let Dean turn up the Zeppelin and get them home. "Dean." "Christ." Dean grinds the heel of his hand hard against the wheel.

"I... if one day, I start feeling... evil. If I start thinking about things... bad things that I wouldn't normally think about." Sam pauses and grinds his teeth together audibly. Dean sighs. "Sometimes," he says quietly, in a voice that sounds like out came the sun and dried up all the rain, "sometimes that happens. Sometimes you change. You think about things you... you never thought you'd think about in a million years." Dean glances sideways at Sam, sitting there with his head tipped against the window, and he sees someone ten years younger, clambering into the car with Tara Tucker's bright pink lip gloss still smudged in the dip between his lip and his chin, embarrassment staining his cheeks. Yeah. He'd never have thought, then, that he'd ever look at Sam and think the way that he thinks now - but he does. "Sometimes, things just change," he says dumbly, in lieu of elaboration. Sam's looking at him, split open and Jesus Christ, if there is crying tonight, Dean's going to lose it. "Please, Dean," Sam says quietly, a child again. "After Madison, I understand. I know, now, that it's harder than it sounds - killing someone, I mean. Even if they know that's what they want, even if you know that's the only thing that's gonna save them." "Sam--" "If you knew it was for the best, Dean, and if you knew that it was what I wanted. If you knew it was the only way to save me... I guess..." Sam sniffs, swallows, shudders. Dean feels the muscles in his neck tense up. "But I get it, now, how hard it's gonna be, if you have to do it." Sam's eyes are wet. "But you still have to do it." Dean jerks on the wheel and the car swings dangerously into the motel's parking lot. He screeches to a halt while the Impala's still angled over two full parking spaces and throws it into park with a violence he usually reserves for poltergeists and Gordon, and then just sits there, breathing hard with both hands on the wheel and both eyes trained straight ahead. Sam gulps. "Dean?" "You get it."

The motel's vacancy sign is flickering in front of them, and for a moment it's so quiet they can hear the neon buzz. "Listen--" "No, Sam. You fucking get it? You have a one night stand with a chick - and don't look at me like it was something more than that, Sam. Don't look at me like it was something deeper, because that's just somethin' you told yourself so you could get your dick to work. You knew we were leaving; you always knew you were gonna get back in my car and it was gonna be you, and me, and this road, you knew that, so don't look at me like you didn't." "Aw, hell." "You had a one night stand with a girl who you'd known for all of six minutes. You had to kill a girl who probably hadn't finished digesting the human heart she ate for dessert the night before, and you tell me you know how I feel when you tell me, over and over, about how I'm gonna have to kill you?" "Fuck you, Dean!" The corners of Sam's mouth keep tugging down like he's got no control over the muscles in his face. "You don't know how I felt about her, you don't know- it was like - it felt like I failed Jessica, all over again, and--" "No, Sam. It sucked, and I get that, and I'm sorry you had to do something like that. Told you I'd do it myself, man." Dean swallows, hard, feeling like he might vomit. "But I made you eat your fucking vegetables, Sam. I read you bedtime stories with good morals in 'em and I taught you how to swim and I gave you my poker money so you could pay your college application fees and I took the training wheels off your bike." Dean's not sure when he started crying. It feels like he's been crying all year. Dean Winchester, all leather and engine oil and sawed-off shotguns, and he's crying like a thirteen year old every chance he gets. "I... Sam, damn it, I've known you since before you even existed. Sometimes I think I was born loving you, and you think you know how I feel?" Dean's hands fumble on the door's handle, but he gets it open, practically spilling out into the rain. Sam just stares at him, and Dean knows he might as well throw up, the way he's spilling his guts. He doesn't care, doesn't want to take it back. "I been dragging you away from fires your whole life, Sam. I made you eat your vegetables and now you're begging me to put a bullet in your head. Don't tell me you get it." He slams the door shut and disappears out into the rain, hopes to hell that Sam doesn't follow him.

Sam isn't sure how long he sits there. It feels like hours, but it's probably more like minutes. Sam forgets things, sometimes, until it's too late. He had forgotten about how their dad used to quiz him on his "times-tables," how he used to let Sam sit on his lap and drive the Impala around. He hadn't remembered those things until it was too late, until his father was gone. Now, he's remembering other things. He remembers how Dean quit going out to the bars that fall so that Sam would have a couple extra dollars to pocket toward the Stanford application. Remembers the way Dean's eyebrows crashed in on one another as he furrowed his forehead, concentrating on getting the training wheels off Sam's bike the day Sam decided he didn't want them anymore. He remembers the way Dean made airplanes out of carrots and landed them in Sam's mouth, promising that if he ate enough of them, he'd be able to see in the dark. And you know what that means, Sammy? Means I get to see the bad guys a-fore they see me, Dean-o. "Sam." Sam jerks to attention as Dean yanks the passenger side door open and drops the keys onto Sam's lap. Dean's got his shit together; he's showered and changed into sweatpants, which he never wears in public. He looks young - no product in his hair, the leather jacket tucked under one arm. "Hey," Sam says. There are other things he knows he should say - things Dean expects him to say - but he's pretty sure Dean doesn't care to hear them. Dean steps away from the door. "You drive," he says quietly. Sam stands up; for a moment they're crowded together. He wants to hug Dean more than he's wanted anything in a really long time; his fingers burn with it, his mouth twitches with the desire to whisper apologies into the short hair at the side of Dean's head. Dean's aware of the closeness; his fists are tight and his shoulders are up around his ears. He looks a breath away from swinging at Sam. So Sam doesn't say anything. He sits back down and slides across the bench seat, starting the car as Dean tosses duffel bags into the back seat.

When Dean sits down, he immediately goes for the shoe box of cassette tapes underneath the seat, but Sam swats him away. "Driver's pick," he says, starting the car. "Where we going?" "Don't give a shit. Motels all look the same to me, anyway." Sam swallows and squeezes the steering wheel. "Dean, about before." Dean draws one knee up to his chest and leans against the door. "I know, Sammy. Me too. Just... drive." By the time Sam's found a suitably lame radio station, Dean is half asleep, one hand on Dad's journal and the other tucked between his head and the window.

PART THREE. i wanna see you laugh like you really mean it, collapse into me tired with joy. snow patrol Dean blinks awake as they're crossing a state line. His phone is buzzing somewhere near his feet, and he grabs for it. "Hello?" The sun is beating through the windshield, making him stick to himself in uncomfortable places. "Is this... this is Oliver Muller, we met at that bar." Dean clears his throat and meets Sam's curious gaze. "You okay, kid?" "Did you... do something?" "What do you mean?" "I mean I'm... I think she's gone."

Dean grins. "Don't know what you're talking about," he says. "But, uh... if anything else happens, you call this number, okay?" There's a pause, long enough that Dean checks to make sure the call hasn't dropped. "Thank you," the kid finally says. Dean hangs up the phone triumphantly and gives Sam the thumbs up before pushing his sunglasses up on his nose and squinting at the highway signs they're passing. "Arizona?" Sam keeps his eyes on the road. "Yeah." Dean scrubs the sleep out of his eyes and reaches for the radio, breaking his own rule as he guides the dial away from Sam's depressing indie rock. There are a few beats, and then his head snaps up. "Sam, you're not... are we...?" "Whatever," Sam huffs, his cheeks darkening. "This is the place you picked?" "We've never been here." He shrugs. "Besides, you said anywhere I wanted." Dean twists around in his seat, looking back at the road behind him as if he's not sure it's really there, and then back again, staring holes in the side of Sam's head. "This isn't where you wanted to go." Sam scowls and presses heavier on the gas pedal. "You don't know that." There's a moment, then, when the world speeds up and something in Dean slows down. He wants, all at once, to crawl into Sam's lap - and the feeling is new and familiar at the same time, like hearing a song you've forgotten the words to. "Dean, listen to this. This canyon is a gift that transcends what we experience. Its beauty and size humble us. Its timelessness provokes a comparison to our short existence. You feel like that, standing here?" Dean's eyes slide over to Sam, standing there with the wind in his hair, his eyes squinting up against the sun. He's not smiling, really, but his dimples are so deep in the folds of his face that Dean wants to climb in. He wants to build a home in the place where Sam's smile gives itself away, especially at the end of all the worst days. "What'd you say?"

Dean is focused on Sam, the whole expanse of him against the incomparable vista over his shoulders. He leans against the rails and thinks about what he'd do, right now, if Sam decided to leave - and somehow, he realizes that he's finally sure that's not going to happen. "I'm reading the brochure," Sam explains, waving it in Dean's face. He grabs it the way Sam's tossing it around, it's going to catch the wind. Dean really wants this brochure to sleep in the glove compartment forever and ever, next to the maps they're way past needing and the fossilized, half-eaten candy bars. Sam snatches it back. "Says here that it transcends what we experience. Its beauty and size humble us. Its timelessness provokes a comparison to our short existence. I asked you if you felt like that, standing here. Small." Dean leans on the railing and looks down at the depth of the crevasse and he envies the certainty of it. Like, if someone fell from right here, they will certainly die. And if a certain number of years pass, the canyon will have deepened another inch and a half. Certainty, in the fact that it's here and it's not going anywhere. Sam comes up to Dean's left side and reaches his hand across to brush his long fingers along Dean's right arm, thumb flitting over his wrist bone before settling for an almost manly pat on the forearm. "Keep reading it." Sam rolls his eyes heavily and thwaps Dean on the nose with the brochure. "In its vast spaces we may find solace from our hectic lives." "Who wrote this shit? I should send him an itinerary, teach him a little 'bout hectic." Looking over at Sam, Dean can see that even though Sam is squinting hard against the sun, he is looking at Dean, studying him the way Dean had just a minute ago. "Keep reading, dude." They're surrounded by tourists who are all here to do the same thing they're doing - just coming to see the one thing you have to see before you die. Dean envies all of them. "The Grand Canyon we visit today is a gift from past generations. Take time to enjoy this gift. Sit and watch the changing play of light and shadows," Sam reads. He looks up at Dean then, eyes catching the light. "We have the responsibility to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to form their own connections with Grand Canyon National Park," he finishes.

"When you get those babies and the white picket fence you always wanted, make sure and take 'em here," Dean says. "If," Sam says. "If I get them, not when." "Sam, I'm going to get you out of whatever you're in. So start making those plans you were talking about, okay? Your future isn't going anywhere." Dean pushes his sunglasses so that they rest on top of his head, sending the short strands poking out all around them. "Let's get outta here." "What if I don't want to make plans?" Sam asks. "The babies and the fence and the girl... what if I've changed my mind?" Dean shrugs. "Then we make new plans. Like, say, finding a motel, since we've been driving all day and you need to sleep before you're perfect demon bait." "One more thing we've gotta do," Sam says. "While we're here." Dean quirks an eyebrow, waiting. Sam scratches at his chest and then sighs, pulling Dean over to the edge of the lookout railing. The Canyon looms beneath them, but Dean isn't scared or nervous or amazed - just relieved, that they got there at all, and together. "Okay," Sam says. "Yell something." "Huh?" Dean asks. But Sam just bends over the railing, sucks in the largest breath he can hold, and lets 'er rip. "DEAN!" he hollers, stretching the syllable out as long as it'll go. He throws everything into it; it carries everything he's ever said behind it. Wait up, would you? and Dean, I'm scared and maybe I can meet up with you later and promise me, Dean. The name echoes through the canyon until it isn't a name anymore - just a blurry, singing word, Dean's name leaving Sam's mouth once and coming back about a million times. There's a metaphor there, but before Dean can bother with it, he's already doubled over, screaming "SAMMY!" out into the certainty of the canyon. It's quieter than Sam's yell, but it's there - it comes back to them after a moment as me, me, me, and Sam smiles. "I feel the opposite of what the brochure said," Dean confides as they walk back to the car. "Not, like, small or humble or whatever. Felt... something else."

Sam angles his stride enough so Dean can't see his face. "Yeah. I felt that too." "Felt what?" The Impala is there waiting, already covered in red dust. Usually, Dean would throw a fit - insist he's never coming back and if that messed up the exhaust pipe, he's going to blow all of the southwest to smithereens. "You know," Sam replies, laughing, throwing his arms out. "Big." "That's rich, Goliath." Dean fumbles with the keys, leaning over to unlock Sam's door once he's inside. Sam sits down with one foot still outside the car, and doesn't draw it in for a moment. His happiness is all over his face, and Dean feels it, too: the impact of the moment, Dean and Sam and the Impala, the only things that matter, at the Grand Canyon. Dean knows Sam loves this car, too - loves the secret hiding places they no longer use and the permanent smell of gunpowder and the way the radio whirs when the tape acts up. It's a good chunk of the reason why Dean lay on his back for weeks, just trying to get her to start again. "Kinda glad we made it here," Sam says. "You know. Together." Dean starts the engine and smacks Sam in the leg so that he pulls his other foot into the car and shuts the door. "Aww. You mean that, Princess?" he asks, cool and collected, the measures of his syllables almost calculated so as not to give anything away. "No," Sam says, but he looks at Dean and grins, tosses his head back and laughs with lips chapped and his hair in his eyes and the Grand Canyon dipping red and certain over his shoulder. Dean had been sixteen, with a new leather jacket and a real life driver's license and a C- in summer school geometry. Sam had been twelve years old and bleeding through his tee-shirt. It was one of the first hunts he'd ever been on, and he hadn't been scared - just sloppy, and when the thing swiped at him, it had torn straight through. Back at Pastor Jim's, Dean was grunting as he set Sam down on the kitchen counter and helped him tug his shirt off. John had sustained the worst of the injuries, but there was a formidable looking tear along Sam's ribs, already angry-

hot and swollen at the edges. "Jeez, Sammy," Dean had hissed. "You know I'm gonna have to clean this one up with the stingy shit." "It's called iodine." Sam had tried desperately to hold his voice steady. Dean only had to pull the dark bottle out of the cupboard and he and Sam both winced in an almost Pavlovian reaction. Sam sniffed, watching as Dean carefully mixed the solution and spilled it onto a wet towel. "Close your eyes, Sammy." "Shit!" Sam had hissed at the first press, reflexively twisting his body away from Dean. Dean jerked away. His tone was unsteady when he scolded Sam. "Language, Sam. I barely touched you, now, come on. Winchesters aren't wimps; I've had to do this for Dad lots of times." "It hurts, jerk." Sam was half-drunk with the pain, small and bleeding. "Here, Sammy." Dean shifted his angle on the bed a little. "Bite my shoulder." It was the best thing he could come up with. "Huh?" "Seriously, man, when it hurts, you bite me right here," he added, touching the leather on his shoulder. "It's okay, it won't hurt me. And while I'm bandaging you up, you just concentrate real hard on biting me, okay, and make really tight fists with your hands. It'll be easier to keep your mind off of it." It had been. He'd bit, hard, and focused his gaze on a dark bruise on Dean's neck, right at his eye line while his teeth clamped down on his brother's shoulder. "All done," Dean had said softly once he'd secured the gauze. He dried the skin around the wound carefully, scrubbing away any traces of his brother's blood. "You okay, Sam? You did good, dude. Here, take one of these, it'll make it hurt a little less." "Dean?" Sam murmured wearily as he swallowed the pill. "Yeah?" Dean had carefully helped Sam off the counter before leading the way into the room he'd never really minded sharing. "Is that a hickey on your neck?" He'd never seen one before, not up close, and definitely not on his big brother.

Dean perked up a little bit. "Where?" He leaned close to the mirror over the dresser, stretching his neck. "Huh. Cool." "Who did it?" His eyes met Sam's in the mirror and the corners of his lips turned up in a sly halfsmile. "Lila Sandberg," he had grinned, poking at the hickey like it was some kind of prize. "When?" "What is this, Sam, twenty questions? It's none of your business, man, now lie down and let me tuck you in. That thing's gonna hurt real bad in the morning, dude, but I think you can handle it. You can wake me up in the night if you gotta. I'll be right here, so-" "I don't need to be tucked in, Dean. I'm injured, not eight." "Right. You're a big kid now, potty trained and everything." Dean narrowed his eyes, then sighed and flopped down on his own bed. "Friday night, I snuck out to a party at the abandoned barn after you fell asleep. Me'n Lila made out for like, an hour. She's like, totally in love with me." "Gross." Dean smiled. "Whatever, Sam." "How come you snuck out without me? I wanna come to parties in the barn." "Right, because Dad wouldn't hang me for takin' you out with me." "That's crap. I get to come on hunts, now." "Yeah, and you end up back here getting sewn back together. It's nothing personal, Sammy, you know? It's just a big kid thing. High schoolers only." Sam scowled, shifting gingerly to lay back down. "Whatever." "Doesn't mean I don't love ya," Dean had laughed, flicking the flashlight between their beds on and off. "Just means I love makin' out with Lila Sandberg more." "You're a jerk."

"You're a brat. Go to bed, Sam-I-Am." Dean flipped off the light and the room fell into darkness. "Dean?" "Go to sleep, Sam, seriously." "Next time you sneak out, tell me before, okay? I won't like it if I wake up and you're gone." "Oh, Jesus." Sam's duffel drops to the floor as soon as he unlocks the motel room door. "This isn't happening. Let's keep driving, get someplace down the road. I can't deal with this again." Dean, on the other hand, is glowing as he tosses the keys in the air. "Oh, no way, Sammy! It's like Christmas in fucking March!" "You don't even like Christmas in December, Dean." "Yeah, Sam. But I love Christmas in March." He launches himself at the bed closest to the door and spreads out on it, grinning helplessly at the faded red lettering above the bed: 10 MINUTE VIBRATING BED MASSAGE ONLY 50. "C'mon, Sam," he teases, tapping the coin-operator in the headboard. "I know you been saving quarters." "Those are for parking, Dean. So we don't get tickets." "Right, because once the feds catch us, they're gonna be real concerned about a couple of twenty bone parking tickets from Oklahoma City and Bunkie, Louisiana, as opposed to our magnificent list of grave desecration, murder, robbery, public intoxication, and vandalism charges." Dean wags his eyebrows happily. "Public intoxication?! Dean! When-" "Sam. Quarters?" Sam tables the argument, rolls his eyes, and digs into his pocket before flinging a handful of spare change at his brother, who almost immediately rolls over and starts feeding it into the machine.

"I'm gonna take a shower," Sam mutters, but Dean's already halfway to heaven. Of all the dives they've stayed in, this hotel might just take the cake. In addition to the amusement park novelty bed, the water pressure is too low and Sam can't seem to find anything on the dial between "water delivered instantly from the arctic" and "water sent up special order from the fires of hell," so he settles on the hotter one, lets the water burn it all off his skin - last few days, the arguments and the way Dean's been looking at him. Like a horse with a bum leg, or something. A piece of luggage with a broken wheel. You might as well just get rid of the damn thing, it's so busted up. Sam realizes that he's barely thought about that all day. How broken he feels, how thoroughly inside-out fucked up. He feels the curse that's been inside him all his life rolling to the surface of his skin. Like any day now, it's going to crawl out of his mouth and appear all over his face. But today, looking out over the crevasse, he hadn't thought about that. And yeah, it could be like the brochure said - timelessness, in comparison to our own short existences - or it could be something else entirely. Could've been Dean's stupid grin, the way the wind bit at his freckles, the way he was bouncy on his heels. Outside, Dean is busy hollering a butchered version of "November Rain" while a vibrating bed attempts to jar loose his few remaining firing synapses. He's so lost in the magic fingers that he barely notices when Sam comes out, towel tight around his waist. "But it's hard to hold a candle- okay, seriously, Sam, you have to try this." Sam smirks at the way the bed vibrates Dean's voice box, making him sound the way he did when they were kids and they'd lean into their cheap portable fans and chant in Latin, laughing at the way they sounded like ghosts. "I'll pass, Dean." "Sam." Dean's face goes grave and serious as the bed stops moving. "Look. I'm your brother. It's my born duty to make sure you're alright. And I refuse to let you continue one more minute of your miserable existence without experiencing this pleasure." "You're an idiot." "It would be negligence, Sam. Like not making you drink your milk, or not teaching you how to unscramble the scrambled channels while Dad was out on a

job, or not showing you the good hiding places underneath the back seat, or--" "Jerk." "Bitch." Dean sits up and reaches for Sam, his fingers barely grazing the towel as Sam paws through his stuff, looking for his deodorant or shaving cream or angst pills or whatever. "I'm going to have to insist, Sam. As your brother. Who always looked out for you and checked for clowns under the bed and made sure you didn't make an ass of yourself in front of the homecoming queen..." He trails off, eyebrows arched hopefully. Sam finally shakes his head, plucks a couple stray quarters from the bottom of his duffel, and relents. He crawls over Dean with his towel still secured around his waist and then fits himself on the other side of the bed. It's been a long time and several inches since they've shared a bed for any reason. It takes a minute to shift to accommodate all the new spaces around them and between them. Dean can feel the grin stretching his face. "You ready?" "Just put the quarters in, Dean. It's a bed that jiggles, not the Great American Scream Machine." As the motor creaks awake, the bed begins to hum beneath them. Sam makes a valiant effort to keep a straight face. Dean just closes his eyes and smiles lazily. He can feel the wet heat quivering away from Sam's freshly showered skin; he can smell the cheap hotel shampoo that Sam probably used all of and the familiar mint of the same toothpaste they've been using all their lives. He can feel Sam around him with his eyes closed, the vibrations from the bed edging them closer to the center of it. "Heh," Sam hiccups suddenly. Dean's eyes fly open. The corners of Sam's lips are tugging up, and then his chest is shaking, and he's giggling, dimples and teeth showing unabashedly. He arches his head back, laughing laughing laughing as he exposes the column of his neck. For a minute, he's eight and ten and fifteen years old again, cracking up like the last couple of years haven't even happened. "You love it," Dean announces triumphantly. He can literally feel the last few weeks fall away from his shoulders, because this is how it's supposed to be, him next to Sam laughing and shaking. "You looove the magic fingers!" Sam's grinning. "This is ridiculous," he says, before he actually squeaks with delight.

"And you called me a lab rat with a pleasure button!" "You are a lab rat with a pleasure button." Noises press through the wall from the room next door. A Spanish-speaking couple is either arguing or banging - whichever it is, they're doing it loudly. Dean grins. The Grand Canyon, a vibrating bed, Sam all loose-limbed and malleable, and a fucking telenovela going on next door? Today should be Dean's birthday. "Dean?" Sam asks suddenly. His face is still creased with laughter, his eyes shiny with it, and his tone is more curious than serious. "Um. Why... why did you lie to me? In Palo Alto, about hooking up with Juliette." Sam hears Dean's surprised gulp of air. "Not sure," Dean finally answers. "Felt wrong, after everything." For a moment, the only noise is the shiver of the mattress. "I was jealous," Sam says suddenly. The back of his hand slides to rest against the back of Dean's on the bed between them. "You... what?" He stares at Sam's skin against his - tanner, darker than his own freckled hand. "Sammy," he croaks, voice driven like bad road. "That things always go right for you," Sam finishes, words coming too quick to be honest. "Normal." Dean starts to move, to lift his body up on his elbows, but Sam grabs his hand. "Sammy," he repeats, hearing the desperation in his own voice give him away. "Yeah." Sam rolls onto his side, still holding onto Dean's hand. Dean just lies there, lets Sam roll up beside him like a drawbridge closing. Sam's fingers are longer than Dean's; the tips of them curve overtop and suddenly Sam is there, looking at him, studying Dean's face like he's trying to memorize it, save it for later. Dean's breath stops somewhere around his diaphragm as Sam blinks lazily at him, mud-green eyes blown wide as he watches Dean. Sam squeezes Dean's hand again. "What are you..." "Don't know," Sam answers, andThe vibrations clank to an unceremonious stop.

The sudden stillness breaks the reverie and Sam jerks his hand free of Dean's. He exhales as he falls onto his back, moving so he can stare at the chipping paint on the ceiling. "Should go pick up a newspaper," he says quietly. "Or call Ash; we haven't been in touch with the roadhouse for a while. Maybe they've got something about the demon, maybe--" "They'd have called us, but if-" Sam pushes up on his elbows, stares intently at the dip of his own belly button. "Do you think you'd be a better hunter without me? Because sometimes I feel like... a horse with a bum leg, or broken luggage, or something." He stands up then and reaches into his duffel bag for his flannel pajama pants, tugging them on beneath his towel. So much for a moment of not being miserable. Dean sits down on the opposite bed, eyebrows arched incredulously. He doesn't even bother looking away as Sam digs for his sweatshirt with one hand and holds his fly closed with the other. "I'm confused here, Sam. Are you the pony or the carry-on in this little metaphor you got cooking?" "I'm. Dean. Look... some days, I feel like... like if I get out of bed, I might accidentally trigger the apocalypse, or something." He plunks down at the desk and opens the laptop, distracting himself by entering the usual terms into the newspaper search engine: unexplained, pattern, disappearance, fire. "I just want to know if I'm slowing you down." Dean stands up, then, and walks over to stand behind Sam. There's an article on some newspaper's website about a man being convicted of killing a ghost. Dean lifts his hands and hesitates, for a moment, before thinking fuck it, and just touching Sam, dropping both hands on Sam's shoulders. "Sam," he says, letting his hands slip down toward Sam's neck, following the natural lines of his collarbones. "Fuck's sake, Sam. You remember - remember what Dad used to say? We're only as fast as our slowest. We're only as strong as our weakest." Sam grunts a watery acknowledgment. "I been setting time by your pace your whole life, kid," Dean says quietly. "And I got news for ya. You haven't been the slowest... or the weakest... in a long time." "Dean--" "I told you back in that ghost town doctor's office, dude, while we were waiting

for you to go all 28 Days Later on my ass... wasn't for you, I would've quit a long time ago." Dean feels Sam swallowing under his fingers, sees Sam's hands pause on the keyboard. "So, no, you're not slowing me down." Dean jerks away and crosses the room, grabbing a pair of clean boxers. He pauses at the bathroom door, hand on the knob. "You and your hero complex is the only thing keeping me from buying a one-way ticket to Amsterdam and setting up a special 'coffee shop' for hot lesbians. Go to sleep, Sam." By the time Dean comes out of the bathroom, teeth brushed and face washed, Sam's sprawled out on his stomach, snoring. Sleeping, finally. Dean knows it works both ways. He knows Sam better than Sam knows anything. He sees the way Sam looks at himself in the mirror every morning, inspecting his eyes for traces of yellow, checking for blood under his fingernails. Dean knows that if it wasn't for him, Sam would've quit a long time ago. Sam would've really quit - not run off to California or Holland or the Grand Canyon, but quit, offed himself as some kind of preemptive strike for the greater good of humanity. It works both ways, Dean thinks as he climbs under the sheets of his own bed. At least they've got that in common. Dean's phone rings late that night, once again tugging him out of sleep. "Yeah?" "She's dead." Dean glances at the displayed number and blinks. It's rare that they finish a job and get called back, but it's definitely Oliver... and Dean can hear his teeth chattering through the phone. "Who? Your cousin? Uh... yeah." "No, not my cousin. My girlfriend, Annabelle. I don't know what to do - it was her, I mean, Sophia. I know it was her." "What about you?" Dean hisses, already getting out of bed and reaching for his jeans. "Are you--"

"I'm freezing. I'm freezing and I can feel her touching me--" "Your girlfriend?" "No." The phone line suddenly goes dead. Dean grabs the knife from under his pillow and reaches across to the other bed, jostling Sam's shoulder. "Dean?" Sam mumbles into his pillow, thick and sleep-heavy. "Come on, Sammy, we gotta hit the road. You can sleep while I drive." They close in on Palo Alto late the following afternoon. "Thanks, Ash," Sam says into his cell phone, hanging up and hanging his head. "Shit, Dean. We really messed up this time. We should never have left until we were sure." Dean clenches his jaw. There's another girl dead because they were sloppy; he doesn't need Sam to rub it in. "We salted and we burned, Sam. Unless this girl has a doll with her hair hiding somewhere, we should be okay. What's the situation?" "Ash hacked the San Francisco police records. Annabelle Rogers was found in her apartment near the art institute, with her torso spilt open right down the middle and frostbitten hand prints on her chest. Oliver was right. She's dead, and it's our fault." Dean pulls into the bar's parking lot with screaming tires. "We salted and burned those bones to a crisp, Sam! What the hell is going on? Do you think it's not Sophia?" Sam's out of the car and heading for the bar before Dean even has time to kill the engine. "I don't know, Dean, but we messed up. We have to figure this out." They burst into the bar conspicuously. It's nearly empty, and there's a bartender that Sam doesn't recognize. Still, Oliver Muller is back in his usual seat, shivering and muttering. The bartender has left him the bottle. "Oliver," Dean says, coming up behind the kid. He touches his shoulder and immediately draws back from the cold. "Come on, we need to talk to you." Oliver just nods, knocks back what's left of his drink, and follows them outside. The three of them huddle at the side of the building in a circle, like friends

stepping out for a cigarette break. "Listen," Sam says, his face all sympathy. "I'm really sorry, about your girlfriend. But I need you to tell me everything you can about what happened to your cousin." The kid is quiet, staring at his feet. "Look," Dean barks. "Unless you want to be the next one to die, you better start talking." Oliver sniffs, rubbing his own arms. Sam looks at Dean sadly. "I'll be right back," he says, setting off in a jog toward the car. "Come on," Dean coaxes. The kid is quiet for a long time, until Sam comes back with a thin blanket that they keep behind the driver's seat for cold nights. "I loved her," the boy says finally, wrapping the blanket around his shoulders. It doesn't seem to help his shivering. Dean swallows. "Okay," Sam says, and starts his usual speech. "But just because she was a good person when she was alive, it doesn't mean--" Oliver shakes his head violently, refusing to meet Sam's eyes. "I... loved her. My parents died when I was fifteen, and I lived with her and my uncle my whole life." He stares into the parking lot helplessly. "I loved her. We were going to... we were going to run away together, once I got back from Paris. I went there last September for art school." Dean glances at Sam, but Sam pointedly keeps his eyes trained on the kid, his face not betraying any judgement. "And?" "I don't want you to go," she'd whispered, her mouth against his shoulder. "You're going to forget about me." He'd grinned. "Sophie," he replied, "I'm coming back to you. Even if I die, I'll come back for you." "Oh, my god. Art school's got you all melodramatic, Oliver. You're so full of it."

"I'm serious!" His eyes were wide. "Wouldn't you?" She'd laughed, running her fingernails over the ridges of his ribs. "You think I'd choose your scrawny ass over heaven, if I was dead?" He had rolled over, then, tickling her sides, giggling into her hair. "You so would," he had laughed. "Promise me you would." "But when I was at school," Oliver tells Sam, keeping his eyes on his hands, "I kind of... I lost interest in her. I decided that it wasn't worth it." "What happened?" "My uncle decided to move when I got back. They were leaving for San Diego. I figured it was a good excuse to end it. I told her I was going to stay here, and go to school. I told her about Annabelle." "How'd she take it?" Oliver shrugs. "She was dead three weeks later," he half-whispers. Dean shakes his head. "Alright. Look, man. We're gonna take care of this. But you gotta get yourself to a hospital, okay, and let them at least try to get you warm. Otherwise, you're gonna end up a dead popsicle like your girlfriend." Sam's head snaps up, glaring. "Dean!" Dean scowls. "Look," Sam says. "Did she - did she know anything about black magic? Was she interested in it at any point?" Oliver rocks back on his heels and hesitates. "She was a good person," he mutters. "She knew some of that stuff - read some books, but Sophia, she was a good person." "I'm sure she was," Sam says. "Now go get warm, okay? Get yourself somewhere safe." They watch Oliver walk toward his car, his legs becoming stiffer with every step.

"Christ," Dean grunts. "We salted and burned everything, right?" Sam reaches inside Dean's jacket and pulls Dad's journal out of the inner pocket. He flips through it as they walk briskly toward the Impala. "Hell, Dean. This isn't gonna be easy." "What do you mean?" Dean asks, ducking below the roof and putting the key in. He turns the radio low, listening to Sam. "She died with the intention to haunt him. Not only that - but he made her promise to stay. It's going to be that much harder to get rid of her." Dean sighs and hits the gas, moving back into traffic. "So what's the plan?" The streets are dark. It's getting colder outside. "We've got to dig up the burned remains," he says, sighing. "And we've got to bring her ashes back to the place where she died." "And then?" "There's a ritual, an old funeral song. But..." "Spit it out." "She doesn't want to cross over, Dean. She didn't want to even in life. The spell she had to have done - it's really powerful. The minute we bring her ashes back to that bridge, she's going to become almost corporeal." "And?" "Gruesomely violent. And even stronger. Dean - she nearly ripped you in half at her grave..." "Shit." "So..." "So let's go." By the time they get to the bridge, it's nearly midnight. They had no choice but to wait until it was dark to go back to digging at Sophia's grave. They only needed a

few of the ashes, so as soon as they hit the mostly-burned remnants of the coffin, they had scooped the ash up into the only container Dean could find in the car. Now, as they walk across the bridge, Sam scowls at the McDonald's cup that Dean is holding carefully. Dean grins. "What?" Sam shakes his head, pulling his jacket tighter around him as they walk. "You have no respect for the dead." "Hey. I respected my Mountain Dew, bitch." Sam shakes his head. "Dean! The straw is still in there!" Dean holds it out. "You want a sip, Sammy?" As soon as they reach post 107, where Sophia Muller jumped, the wind picks up and the clouds start rolling in to hide the moon. Sam's fingers are nervous, fumbling with Dad's journal. "Okay," he yells, raising his voice over the wind. "So just... hold onto that, and I'll read, and--" "Sam, just do it!" Sam flips the journal open and begins to read out loud, the Latin familiar on his tongue. Dean remembers when Sam took Latin in high school, the way he used to fall asleep conjugating verbs under his breath. Suddenly, he feels a hand on his shoulder. He hesitates in his chanting and looks at Dean. "Did you just touch me?" "No," Dean says, worried. "Keep reading!" Sam only gets one more word out before suddenly, she's there, standing behind him, shivering. She's small, blonde, and soaking, her eyes bugging out like she's only just hit the water. Her skin, however, is nearly blue, her teeth chattering together as, once again, she reaches for Sam. "Sam!" Dean shouts, but it's too late. Dean sees her get her wiry arms around Sam from behind just before she once again goes invisible. And suddenly Sam is doubled over, his eyes screwed shut and teeth bared. Dean gasps as he sees cold, wet hand prints begin to stain the front of Sam's shirt. Sam

cries out, dropping the journal as his hands fly to the invisible arms. She's unnaturally strong. Even her tiny, wiry limbs render Sam nearly immobile. "Sam!" Dean dives for the book, catching it just before it's blown off the bridge, then reaches for Sam. He can feel the cold around Sam, but he can't get his hands on Sophia. She's too slippery, too saturated to grip. "Dean," Sam moans, clawing at her but unable to get purchase. "Finish the chant!" He flips it open and starts reading himself, desperately trying to ignore the way that Sam is wailing on the ground. The sound of the water and the air and the traffic overwhelm his voice until he can hardly hear it himself. Sophia is appearing and disappearing as if she's teasing him; even when she's invisible, she doesn't release her hold on Sam. This should be working by now. Something is wrong. "Dean," Sam whimpers. His voice is so soft that if he were anyone else, Dean wouldn't be able to hear him, but his ears expertly pick up the specific pitch of Sam's voice over any noise. Dean can barely able to see him through the windstung blurriness in his eyes. There's blood spilling through Sam's shirt, draining from his face. His lips are pale and there's a dark red line down the center of his body, stripping his skin of its color. They must have done something wrong. The place where she died, Dean thinks, and looks down at the cup of ashes in his hand. If he's wrong, they're fucked, but he's running out of options and Sam is running out of strength. Dean pries the flimsy plastic top off quickly and hurls the ashes over the edge of the bridge. The wind dies almost instantly. Sam falls like a snapped rubber band, tripping backwards over his own feet and dropping heavily to the ground. Dean hears the dull thud as his brother's head hits the pavement. He dives after him, crouching on the ground, pressing his hands to the place where Sam is bleeding. "Sam!" Sam raises a hand weakly, touching Dean's arm. "Crazy bitch," he says hoarsely. Dean releases a laugh that sounds more like a sob and gets his hand under Sam's neck. He pulls Sam's head to his chest for a fraction of a second, feeling Sam's

cool cheek through his shirt, and then he clears his throat and moves to help Sam to his feet, eyeing the blood-soaked shirt warily. "Come on," he says, getting an arm around Sam's back to help him walk. "Let's get back to the motel and stitch that up."

PART FOUR. babe, we've both had dry spells, hard times, and bad lands. i'm a good man. for you, i'm a good man. josh ritter Sam's face is screwed up in agony by the time they get back, sweat blossoming at his temples and his eyes shining with tears. "Christ, Dean," he hisses, gingerly pulling his bloody shirt away from his body. There's a large, gaping wound across the center of his chest. He was right about her gaining strength; the cut on Sam's torso looks more like a sloppy surgeon's incision than like the deep scratches she left on Dean. "I know," Dean murmurs, wincing himself as he looks. Sam has already killed everything in Dean's flask, so Dean fishes through his bag for the emergency Jack. He hands it to Sam along with a few too many vicodin from the bottle with Jo's name on the prescription. "Drink up." Sam lies down on the bed while Dean goes to work in the bathroom - diluting the iodine and soaking a cloth in rubbing alcohol, taking a match to the end of a needle and threading an arm's length of black silk through it. He can hear Sam grunting in the other room, tipping the flask back repeatedly. When he comes out, Sam is curled in on himself, one hand fisted in the pillowcase, smudging it with blood. "It's killing me, Dean. It's deep." Dean hesitates. "Sam, maybe we should just risk going to the hospital--" "No," Sam says shortly. "No, you can do it, Dean. I just - it hurts."

Dean kneels beside the bed and touches Sam's shoulder, trying to get him to lie flat. Sam jerks away from him. "Come on, Sam, you have to work with me here." Sam draws a deep breath and looks at Dean pleadingly. He's still bleeding. Dean sighs. He gets up to gather his supplies, and as an afterthought, grabs the full bottle of whiskey from his bag. He hands it to Sam, then knees up onto the bed beside him. He settles himself down and moves Sam back so that he's sitting up against the headboard. "Okay," Sam grinds out, tipping the bottle back again. "Okay, do it." Dean settles his right hand flat against Sam's collarbone, and uses his other one to clean the majority of the blood away from the wound. He spills iodine over the cut. Sam doesn't flinch this time, and Dean hopes that the booze and the pills are starting to kick in, because if they aren't, this is only going to get worse. He cleans the area several times - he wants to be absolutely sure - before Sam slurs, "It's fine, Dean, do it." In all these years, Dean has never gotten used to the sight of his own hand guiding a needle through his brother's skin. Sam takes it quietly, though, biting his lip and occasionally grunting pain into the bottle. Dean moves closer, crowding Sam's space, and bends so that he can see better, so that he can keep the stitches even and small. "Dean," Sam murmurs, turning his head. Dean's fingers hesitate. "Am I hurting you?" "No." Sam's voice is thick with pain and alcohol and drugs, his eyes drooping now. "You never hurt me." Dean pushes the needle through again. "Yeah, well." "I hurt you all the time, though," Sam says. His head drops to Dean's shoulder. Dean has shucked off his jacket, and the only thing between Dean and Sam's face is the thin layer of his thermal shirt. "I shot you. Right here." The wound on Dean's shoulder has long since disappeared. Thanks to Jo's careful handiwork (loving, even) there's nothing there but a thick pink ridge of a scar. "That wasn't you, idiot. It was that crazy bitch, and you know that. You weren't even awake for that part."

"I'm glad," Sam whispers. He turns his head so that his lips are pressed against Dean's shirt. "Fuck. Ouch." It's then that he opens his mouth and bites, his teeth rough through the thermal cotton. Dean's breath hitches, remembering when they were kids - it's okay, it won't hurt me - and he used to let Sam do it. Now, though, it's different, the heat of Sam's breath slipping through the fabric, the edges of his teeth grazing the rise of Dean's scar. Dean swallows, hard, but doesn't say anything. He ties off the end of the silk and uses his free arm to grab idly for the washcloth, swabbing away at the blood that's staining Sam's skin until it's gone. Still, he can't focus on Sam's chest when Sam's mouth is right there, a wet circle at Dean's shoulder. This is new; it's nothing like when they were kids. Nothing is anything like it was before. Dean drops the towel and touches the edge of Sam's ribcage gently. Sam pulls away slowly, breath catching in Dean's ear when he notices that Dean is hard in his jeans. Dean blushes deeply and carefully avoids Sam's eyes. He's starting to move, drawing his hand away from Sam's body and heading toward the edge of the bed, when he feels Sam's breath huff against the side of his neck, just before Sam's lower lip drags a wet line across his pulse. "Sam," he exhales, but he doesn't have a way to finish his thought when Sam's mouth latches onto the curve of his neck. It takes Dean a moment to realize that his little brother is sucking a bruise out from under his skin, and Dean rememb ers him at twelve years old all at once. Dean, is that a hickey on your neck? He gasps and slides away from Sam's face, turning to stare at him. Sam just sits there, sleepy drunk, looking at him from half glazed-eyes. Dean's mouth falls open as he reaches up to touch his neck where it's still slick from Sam's tongue. "Jesus, Sam." Sam doesn't blink, just looks at Dean like a challenge. Dean clears his throat and climbs off the bed, grabbing the bloody towels from where they've been knocked to the floor and turning deliberately away from his brother. In the bathroom, he barely recognizes himself in the mirror as he rinses the towels

clean. Just over the reflection of his own shoulder, he can see Sam in the mirror, moving sluggishly as he pulls his jeans off and slides under his covers. "You're a real grabby drunk, you know that, Sam?" Sam sniffs from the other room and extends one arm to turn off the light. "You're a slutty one," he slurs. He's asleep by the time Dean garners enough energy to mutter "Goodnight, kid," into the dark. It's nearly four in the afternoon by the time Sam wakes up. His head aches, but it's little in comparison to the raw soreness in his chest. He groans and pushes the sheets down around his waist, raising up on his elbows to inspect the damage. Dean's stitches are careful and neat, the tiny black threads marching in a row over the sloppy two-inch incision. Sam runs one finger over the line lightly; the swelling has already started to go down. Dean is still laying on his stomach, under the covers in the other bed. He's got both arms shoved under his pillow, blinking sleep out of his eyes. "How's it feeling?" "Like I almost got split in half by a psychotic ghost?" Dean tosses the covers back and stands, stretching with his back to Sam. "It might leave a scar." Sam runs a thumb over it again, studying the mark it makes between the muscles on his stomach. "Not a bad one," he says. "You did a good job." The motel room is quiet as Dean moves about, grabbing the bottle of pills and shaking two out. He crosses the room and opens his palm to Sam. "Take these." "You want breakfast?" Sam asks, swallowing the pills dry. Dean hesitates and his eyes drop to Sam's stomach. "It's four o'clock, Sam." "So?" "You have any visions lately? Any conversations with Ellen?" "You know I haven't."

"So there's no job lined up? We don't have to high-tail it to Minnesota to battle an abominable snowman, or anything?" Sam rolls his eyes. "Ass." "Then let's go get some burgers and beers, huh?" He grabs his still-damp towels from the night before and flings them at Sam's head. "Go shower, you smell like dead girl. Then we eat." Sam gets up gingerly, one hand flat against his wounded abdomen, and heads for the bathroom. He shuts the door behind him and Dean sinks down on the bed, head in his hands. He's shaking. "Dean." Sam has opened the door again, and is just looking at him - that haunted look playing across his features. His lips are pressed together so hard they're pursed, his brows colliding and his forehead collapsed in an emotion that Dean doesn't want to give a name to. He just stands there in the door, sweats around his hips and towels in his hand. His other hand curls into a fist at his side, and then releases. "Dean, are we... I mean, is it just me, or... is this... Dean." "Don't," Dean says quickly. "Come on, Sam, just shower." Sam nods and shuts the door behind him. Sam is pretty sure that karaoke bar and grills should be illegal. It's not actually possible to listen to college girls with fake IDs butcher Pat Benetar songs while you're trying to eat. Dean doesn't seem to have any trouble with it. He's grinning like an idiot, bopping his head to the music. "Isn't this great?" he asks, speaking through a mouthful of fries. Sam barely hears him over the racket. Dean has ketchup on his chin and he's chewing with his mouth open, and Sam still doesn't want to look away. "I'm gonna go to the bathroom," he mutters, sliding out of the squeaky booth. He can't even hear his own voice over the horrible screaming. "What?!?"

"I'm going to the bathroom!" he repeats, louder. "Okay," Dean nods. "I'm gonna eat your onion rings." "Go for it. They're disgusting," Sam mumbles, well aware that Dean can't hear him. He pushes past a gaggle of loud teenage girls crammed into the hallway in front of the restrooms and locks the door behind him. When he lifts his shirt, the line of stitches is barely noticeable, tucked into the inside of his ribcage. He drops it and runs the faucet, splashes water on his face, studies his palms like he's never seen them before. He's killing time to avoid sitting out there. He feels like he can't breathe, but it's different from before, from after Madison. It doesn't feel like forever, this time. It just feels like something's got to give. He looks into the mirror, blinking tiny water droplets out of his eyelashes and thinking of Dean's face when they crossed the Arizona border, surprise and something else tugging at the corners of his mouth. He thinks about screaming Dean's name out into the canyon, how good it felt to just holler "Dean!" with no holds barred. For once, it wasn't a yell of warning or a cry for help, it was just a shout - an announcement, a promise, a confession. When Sam leaves the bathroom, Dean is at the bar. He's got a beer in one hand and a shot in the other, talking to a blonde wearing heels so high she's looking down at Dean through clumpy eyelashes. Dean catches Sam's eye and smiles awkwardly, lifting his beer. He's still got the ketchup on his chin. Sam nods a little and turns away, heading back to the booth where his half-eaten burger is getting cold. Dean shrugs and turns back to the girl. He can't remember her name, exactly, but she's got legs up to her waist and boobs up to her chin, so he doesn't really care. "Honestly," he says, "I'm not kidding. I think you would make an amazing briefcase girl."

She steps closer and taps a finger against his chest. "Do you really work for 'Deal or No Deal'?" "Do I look like a guy who would lie to you?" She runs a tongue over her lips and smiles teasingly. "Maybe." "Yeah?" "Maybe I don't care," she finishes, tangling two fingers in the cord around his neck. His eyes flick down to where his amulet is bumping over her knuckles. She pulls him in, closer - teases him at first, touching their foreheads together, then their noses. It's when she dips sideways and goes for his neck that it all falls apart. Sam is sitting in their booth, nursing his beer and pushing leftover onion ring batter around his plate. Dean can see him over the blonde's shoulder. He gulps, his Adam's apple moving against her mouth. He doesn't know her name. "I... you know what, I just remembered... I... uh." He pulls away suddenly, drawing his hands up between them. When she steps closer, his fingertips press at her arms, moving her away from him gently. Her face drops, wet lips parting and over-lined eyes blinking in surprise. When she speaks, her tone is different; bitchy. "Are you seriously leaving?" Dean glances across the bar. Sam is wincing at some sorority girl's rendition of "Piece of My Heart", sitting there with his head resting on one hand. He's bored. "I think I might have left the oven on," Dean says distractedly. She raises one pierced eyebrow and huffs in frustration. As Dean walks away, he hears her turn to the girl standing next to her and mutter, "Oh, my God. He's obviously gay." Dean clenches his jaw and walks quickly. His blood is rushing in his ears by the time he reaches Sam, so loud he can barely hear the karaoke. He takes a deep, shaky breath, and reaches to touch his brother's shoulder. "Sam?"

Sam looks up, concern sketched into the lines of his forehead and the tug of his lower lip. "Uh-huh?" "Let's go home, yeah?" Dean squeezes the rise of muscle between Sam's shoulder and neck. Sam looks down at Dean's hand, then up at him for a long beat. It's been a lifetime of false starts all colliding together in this one year, Dean's hands on Sam's face after Gordon, Sam tugging at Dean after a fifth of tequila. Dean thinks it's about time Sam stopped searching for something he's already got. "Yeah," Sam says. "Let's go." Dean's fingers slip on the keys as he jiggles the motel room door open. He can feel Sam just behind his shoulder, hovering closer than he usually does. He's so near that Dean can feel the changes in his breathing, how it hitches every few minutes like he's about to say something. The drive back to the motel was so quiet Dean swore he could hear Sam's heartbeat above the engine, both of them steadily speeding up. As soon as he gets the door open, Dean drops the keys on the table and turns to Sam. Their eyes meet for a half second before Sam pushes Dean aside and moves across the room to the window, as far away from Dean as he could be without actually climbing outside. Dean just watches as Sam leans his shoulder against the wall's ugly panelling and touches the side of his forehead to the glass. Dean sees the tension crawl up Sam's spine and settle around his neck. He shuts the door behind them as quietly as he can and leans back against it. Their beds are still rumpled from the night before; Dean's more so than Sam's. Dean's towels are still on the floor, and Sam's pillowcase is hanging, still wet, over the towel racks, since he attempted to rinse the blood out of it this morning. Dean swallows. This is the way that they've always lived; the familiar patterns of their combined existences marked and obvious. Dean doesn't want to remember what the rooms looked like while Sam was gone. He turns and slides the dead bolt on the door, then hugs himself, grabbing his own biceps as he walks across the room to stand just behind his little brother. "Hey."

Sam stiffens, and when he speaks his voice is less than a whisper, more like a puff of air than a word. "Dean..." Dean runs his tongue over his teeth. His mouth still tastes like Blue Moon and onion rings; he's wearing one of Sam's t-shirts and his jeans haven't been washed in two weeks. He's okay with that. There's a part of Sam that does want to climb out the window, to run like hell to a time when the labels of right and wrong were simple, just sloppily highlighted words in his LSAT review book. There's another part of Sam that has always known that this is where he's headed. That all the moments he spent with Jessica, with Carson, were just time wasted between days with Dean. Sam believes in things like fate and God and destiny, things that Dean casts aside like yesterday's towels. He believes in them even though he's never seen them, even though sometimes it seems like they're dragging him down. When Dean's hand brushes against the solid muscle at Sam's waist, he feels them, colliding at the spot Dean is touching. He squeezes his eyes shut tight and lets Dean turn him around. He doesn't need to look. He's aware of every freckle on Dean's nose, knows the tooth that Dean chipped on a jungle gym when he was eight, knows the crease in the middle of Dean's mouth and the sarcastic arch of his eyebrow. He remembers Dean as a child with his hair in his eyes, as an awkward teenager trying to grow into his nose and his too-big eyes, as a cocky twenty year old with a nasty chip on his shoulder. When he finally opens his eyes, prompted by Dean's thumb ghosting over his temple, Sam sees all of these different manifestations in his brother's face. Dean is looking at him the same way he does when he's checking for injuries, his face wracked with almost fierce concern. Sam swallows. "Dean, I don't... this isn't..." Dean steps closer, and Sam relaxes. Some logical part of his brain tells him that

isn't the proper reaction to having his personal space invaded by his brother. Sam doesn't care. When Dean says, "Sammy," he says it with his mouth close enough to Sam's that there's no going back from this. The worn-in nickname on Dean's tongue is like an unbreakable decision, like a jump from a bridge or a gunshot, a shout into a canyon. Sam feels Dean's fingers tighten on the back of his head and his eyes crash shut again. Dean's breath is hot and damp on Sam's mouth, two short huffs of air and then they're kissing. Dean's mouth opens around Sam's bottom lip, and he makes a noise Sam is sure he's never heard before, like he's surprised. Dean's mouth is trembling. Dean is the one who started it - he knows that, but somehow he's still caught off guard by it, by the way Sam's mouth fits against his. It's complicated and terrible and a million different kinds of wrong, but Sam's mouth opening under Dean's feels simple. Obvious. Dean thinks okay, yeah, and his fingers tighten in Sam's hair the second before everything changes. Sam wrenches out a desperate breath and backs up out of the cradle of Dean's hand. His eyebrows are knitted together, nostrils pinched and chin quivering. There are tears in Sam's eyes. Dean's stomach drops. He just hovers there, his hand still up in the air near Sam's face, fingers quivering like he's a goddamn girl. Sam finally lifts his eyes. "I can't," he whispers, but he takes a step toward Dean anyway. He lifts his hand and drops it gently at the side of Dean's neck, his thumb pressing against the place where his mouth was last night. Dean feels his own pulse kick into high-gear. He blinks - a moment of hesitation, but just a second - then swoops forward again. His kiss lands on the corner of Sam's mouth, too high up, his mouth too open. Sam's hands clutch at Dean's waist, fisting up in Dean's jacket and pulling the leather tight across the span of Dean's lower back. Sam says again, "I can't," but his arms draw Dean up to him so that he's on is toes, his body flush against Sam's. Dean gets his hands into Sam's hair and tugs him down hard, their teeth clicking

before their mouths come together like a car crash. Sam's mouth freezes and he pulls away, tipping his forehead against Dean's and then ducking his head. Dean can smell the cheap hotel shampoo and the sweat and the burger, and underneath it all it's Sam, familiar as waking up in the back seat of the Impala in a brand new state and falling asleep with grave dirt still clinging to their clothes. Sam, who apparently has no idea what he wants. "Stop," he whispers, even as his mouth is dragging up Dean's cheek and his teeth are nipping at the shell of Dean's ear. "Stop." There's no telling whether Sam's talking to himself or to Dean. Dean swallows and pushes back with both hands pressed to the sides of Sam's head, his thumbs framing Sam's face. "I know what you're thinking," he says hoarsely. Sam's mouth is wet, his eyes bright around huge pupils, and Dean feels like he's looking at a new person, someone he's always known and never met all at the same time. "Alright, Sam? And it's not gonna happen. Stop worrying and just... stop worrying, Sammy, you have to. It's going to kill you. I've told you." Sam's lip quivers and he ducks to press his face tight against Dean's neck. His hands continue to grapple at Dean's waist, yanking at the weather-worn leather and digging his fists into the muscles along Dean's spine. "You don't understand, Dean, you can't. I can't--" "I'm not going anywhere." Dean blurts out. "That's what you're scared of, right? You think I'm gonna die on you and let you off the hook that easy?" Dean gets an arm up and around Sam's shoulders, pulling him down. Sam's shaking in the circle of Dean's grip, quivering like a hummingbird, but he tucks his face into Dean's collar and opens his mouth to scrape the bottom row of his teeth roughly against Dean's neck. Dean's stomach flutters and he hangs on tighter to Sam, driving his fingers in like claws. Everything in his head suddenly shifts and clicks into place. This is Sam. This is the physical embodiment of everything Dean has ever done right in his entire life. From running from fires to carrot airplanes to songs at bath time, driving away from Tara Tucker's house and driving through the night to get to Palo Alto by the first of November. Dean grinds his teeth together and pushes Sam's arms away, putting quick distance between them.

There are things that people can recover from: fires and car crashes and screaming fights, four years of short words and dial tones, empty boxes of Lucky Charms and promises no one ever intended on keeping. Falling recklessly, abruptly in love with your brother in the middle of a motel room with onions on your breath and the smell of iodine still hanging in the air isn't something you can recover from. Dean looks away, out over Sam's shoulder at his own reflection in the window. He doesn't recognize the expression on his face. "Well, I'm right here, Sammy," he says, turning away toward the bathroom. "Been right here the whole freaking time." It's that moment that everything speeds up. Sam's arm is out like a shot, long fingers wrapping around Dean's forearm and yanking him back even closer than before. Dean inhales sharply and lets Sam spin him around, backing him against the window until Dean feels the glass on his back, through the leather and the cotton. Sam leans in, this time, and kisses Dean hard, lips pursed and tight and firm. "Okay," he says. "You don't have to--" "Please," Sam breathes, interrupting Dean with his eyes before his voice. "I'm asking you, Dean, please." When they kiss this time, both of their mouths are open. Sam inhales on Dean's exhale, and it's exactly the same as sparring in Pastor Jim's backyard and playing rock-paper-scissors for shotgun. Sam tugs Dean backwards, tripping back over his own feet until he can sit down on the edge of the closest bed and drag Dean between his knees. Dean follows Sam's mouth, bending at the hips so he's got a hand on the bed at either side of Sam, mouths pressing open together. Dean's so hard he could break, and all he wants to do is tackle Sam backward on the bed. He draws back instead, chases the scent of Sam's skin up into his hair. Sam bites awkwardly at Dean's jaw while Dean buries his face behind Sam's ear. "Your stitches okay?" he asks softly, one hand moving from the scratchy motel comforter to Sam's hip, fingering the bottom of his shirt. "My - what?" Sam says, panting animalistically against the side of Dean's face.

"Christ - it's fine, Dean. Can't even feel it." Dean is surprised for a minute before he realizes that he can't feel anything that hurts, either. He pushes Sam lightly until he gets the idea, scooting back on the bed with his denim-clad legs falling open. Dean straightens up. He doesn't take his eyes off Sam, who is still fully dressed, sneakers on, arousal stretching his jeans. Dean shrugs his own jacket off and lets it fall on the floor. "Shoes off," he says quietly, and Sam toes his sneakers and socks away before starting on his shirt. Once they're both in their jeans, Dean climbs up and aligns himself along Sam's side, one leg hooking over one of Sam's. Their hips fit together like puzzle pieces, like they were born for this. It's the kissing that takes a minute to adjust to. Sam knows the way that Dean kisses from years of being around him a little more than should've been normal Dean is slow, uncharacteristically gentle, lots of dragging and sucking and long, low licks. Sam, on the other hand, has always kissed with a different kind of urgency, with short, sharp bursts and bared teeth and a lot of air. They're both used to setting the pace, so their teeth clack together and their tongues go all wrong before Dean laughs, baring his teeth against Sam's upper lip. "Jesus, Sam." Sam pulls his mouth away and looks up at Dean, embarrassed by his own eagerness. Dean is smiling down the way Sam imagines he'd smile at a girl who was a little overzealous - but then his eyes wrinkle at the corners, showing the years of squinting through the windshield at the setting sun. When he says Sam's name again - "Sammy," his voice is low, cracking between the syllables like coffee poured over ice. Sam stretches his neck up to kiss Dean again, getting his arms up so that he can fit his hands over either side of Dean's head. This time, he paces himself, going a little bit slower, leaving space for the quiet that Dean licks into his mouth. When Sam's teeth scrape over Dean's mouth, betraying his enthusiasm, Dean doesn't laugh again, just speeds up his own pace, lets Sam take the lead again. It's Dean who reaches for Sam's pants first, drawing his hand down Sam's chest, over the stitches so that he can curl his fingers inside the waistband of Sam's jeans. Sam's kiss stutters and he pulls his legs closer together, trapping Dean's leg

between his. "Please," he begs suddenly. He'd been so busy kissing until this moment that he'd forgotten the rest of his body, forgotten that there's a lot further they can take this. Every logical corner in Sam's brain is screaming for stopping, but he finds it surprisingly easy to silence his own doubts as he's sliding a hand down Dean's spine and over the sweat gathering at his lower back. He tucks his hand into Dean's back pocket and pushes his fingers beneath Dean's worn leather wallet. Sam feels Dean thumb his button open, and thinks, my brother is touching me. It's a deliberate thought, as Dean pulls Sam's zipper down, like trying out a new alias but truer, less temporary. This, Sam realizes, is the opposite of temporary. "I can't believe we're doing this," he says. Dean's eyes flick up to Sam's face and then back down to the swelling between his legs. "We don't have to." His face is serious, grave. "Sure we do," Sam says. He smiles as best he can, with his chin trembling - but he's scared in the good way, like the first day of school or the click of a seat-belt before the rollercoaster starts. He closes his eyes as Dean wriggles away from him to tug Sam's jeans and underwear down. When Dean crouches forward again, presses his face to one of Sam's hips and his hand to the other, Sam hisses. He speaks because he can't not. He suddenly wants to tell Dean everything that he's ever thought, every inkling that ever came and went through his brain. He goes with the first thing he thinks of. "I tried," he grinds out between clenched teeth as Dean licks at the rise of bone on Sam's hip, then turns to mouth cautiously at the hair where Sam's thigh meets his body. "I think it's supposed to be you, Dean; I think you're the only one, and... God." Dean rises up on his knees. His lips are shiny. "Nobody's supposed to be anything, man," he says. "I keep telling you. Nobody's supposed to be anything, we just are what we are." He undoes his own pants before ducking down to suck Sam's dick into his mouth again. He's humming around it and Sam feels sixteen, like this is the first time anyone has ever touched him. He can see Dean's arm working at himself and it only makes him hotter, sweat blooming at his forehead as he watches his brother's tongue on his skin. -

Dean's never given head before, but he's gotten plenty, so he always figured he wouldn't suck at it. Now, though, any prior knowledge of what works and what doesn't disappears, and all there is is this brand new part of Sam, this new smell and the new noises and the new way that Sam's stomach is clenching and releasing. Dean has no idea if he's too sloppy or too slow, he just does it. "Dean, you're... I don't..." Sam keeps trying and failing at finishing sentences. Dean smiles around him, listening to Sam try to tell him what he's feeling. It's been a while. After a while, Sam palms Dean's head and gently pulls him away, tugging him up by his ear. Dean goes, follows Sam's hand up until their heads are resting on the same pillow. They're both breathing hard. Dean's arms are quivering from holding himself up over Sam. The stitches march down Sam's stomach in a line shorter than Dean's pinkie finger. They're neat and clean and they look like they're supposed to, but they're still a reminder of Sam, how fragile Dean has always thought him to be. Dean is about to say something about Sam's injury, but Sam rolls onto his side and Dean feels Sam's dick against his belly and promptly forgets the English language. He has to bite his lip to keep from coming right there, without any hands on him or anything. He makes a note to be embarrassed about that later; he hasn't got time to now. "Off," Sam says, reaching down to work Dean's jeans away from him, kicking them down. Once they're away, Dean looks at Sam's face while Sam just gapes down at the planes and valleys of bodies. He's staring unabashedly at Dean's whole body, all of Dean open and exposed to whatever Sam wants to do. Dean actually blushes, watching Sam watch him, and turns his face into the pillow when his hips jerk helplessly toward Sam's. Sam grabs Dean's hand and pulls it up between their faces. Dean blinks at him. He wants this so bad it hurts, but he can't decide whether he wants it now now now or whether he wants to spread it out, keep the anticipation in his chest for the rest of his life. "What are you...?" Sam's lips part and he tugs Dean's hand up so that he can lick at the knuckles. He exhales hard, and nips Dean's fingertip as Dean watches from wide eyes. When

Sam opens his mouth and pulls two of Dean's fingers into it, Dean groans and grinds hard against Sam's thigh, twisting his own hips. "Sam," he hisses, pressing in to lick at the side of Sam's mouth. His tongue brushes over his own knuckles. Sam pulls away and Dean's fingers are shiny, slick with spit. "I want you to," Sam says, so quietly Dean can barely hear it over his heartbeat. Dean shakes his head. "We got plenty of time, Sam, and you've got two inches of stitches-." "You'll be careful." Sam is whispering, and Dean isn't sure why, but he can feel the rumble of Sam's voice in his own chest. "Your stitches." He swallows, watching his fingers disappear into Sam's mouth again. "You sure?" Sam takes his mouth from Dean's hand, bending his neck back to expose the point of his chin, the stretch of his throat. "God, Dean, yes," he replies desperately. Dean pulls away. "Just... wait a sec," he says. He sits up and moves to get off the bed. It's shocking, the way he immediately misses the feeling of Sam's body against his skin, so he quickly rolls back over and presses his mouth down hard against Sam's. "Just a sec," he repeats. Sam grins underneath him, and it's the first time in forever that Sam doesn't look scared of anything. Dean kisses him again. He slides off the bed, pressing the heel of his palm to his crotch and walking naked into the bathroom, where he grabs the cheap travel-size lotion from the hand towel basket. It's not much, but it's not like he's allowed himself to think about this enough to actually prepare for it. He knees up on the bed beside Sam, who is now lazily stroking himself, biting his lip. Dean leans down to drag his mouth over the sweat on Sam's brow. "I've never done this before," he says against his brother's hairline, even as he's popping the cap on the lotion and spilling it generously into his hand. "I don't want to hurt you, Sam." "You never do," Sam replies, grabbing Dean's wrist and dragging it down his body. Dean's fingertips barely brush Sam's cock before Sam brings one knee up and pushes Dean's hand behind his balls. "Just go slow." Dean does go slow. He goes excruciatingly slow, repeating be careful in his head like a mantra. For half the time that Dean's fingers are working him open, Sam just lays there with his hands pressed to his eyes as hard as he can, panting and

keening and making noises that Dean never wants to stop hearing. There isn't enough time in the world and there isn't enough air in the room, and Sam feels like he's waited his entire life for this, for Dean's fingers to be scissoring inside him, intimate and close and safe, the safest Sam's ever felt with anybody. Dean licks at Sam's nipple, like he's a girl, and pushes another finger inside Sam at the same time. Sam squeezes his eyes even tighter and doesn't bother to hold in the moan that starts in his belly and roars out of his mouth. When he opens his eyes, Dean is staring at his face, his mouth wet and swollen. Sam's never seen anything like it. "Does that feel... I mean... Sam." "Good, Dean," Sam says. "Feels good." Sam arches back, pulls himself away and then back down on Dean's fingers, willing them deeper, harder, faster. "Sam," Dean gasps, dropping his face to press his open mouth to the crease of Sam's thigh. "Dean, please." Sam reaches down between his legs to touch Dean's arm. His eyes flutter open and Dean is looking at him reverently, like Sam is the only thing he's ever believed in. This whole thing suddenly becomes scary. Sam doesn't want to let Dean down, ever, doesn't want anything bad to happen to them, doesn't want to ever wake up and find Dean gone. Dean huffs and tears into the condom packet that he keeps in his wallet. He sits back on his heels and stares at Sam for a long moment. "You have no idea how you look right now," he says quietly. Sam knows that Dean means things a thousand times more powerful; he hears it in the scraped raw tone of his brother's voice, sees it in the vulnerability that Dean's releasing like sweat. When he pushes inside of Sam, Dean falls forward, his forehead striking the firm muscle of Sam's shoulder. "Holy fuck." "Hold on," Sam answers, grinding words out between quivering lips as his arms fly up to grip Dean's biceps. "Don't move yet." He breathes hard, trying to adjust himself to the feeling. It hurts, and for a split second Sam thinks he can't do this. Then he leans forward and sinks his teeth into Dean's shoulder, bites, counts out a few beats of pain before it dulls. "Holy fuck," he echoes. Dean starts to move, slowly at first. After the first few strokes he pauses to add

more lotion between them, and when he pushes inside again, Sam gets it. "Okay, Sam?" he says, his voice lower than it's ever been. Sam nods up at him and stretches up to nip at Dean's lip, his chin, the side of his jaw. "Feels good," he says, when it does. "Dean, you're--" "You too. I didn't--" "I know," Sam answers, and suddenly he feels Dean snap his hips up close and watches Dean's eyes fly open, his teeth cutting into his lip as he comes. For Dean, it feels like the solution to every problem he's ever had. It feels like a reason for the years of loneliness while Sam was gone, the thing that's going to save his brother, the end of all the one night stands and mornings of showering them away. He's never loved anyone as much as he loves Sam; he's never needed anyone to stick with him like this. He's never been afraid of being alone, and that suddenly makes perfect sense to him - he's only been afraid of being without Sam. He pulls out and tosses the condom away as he slides down again. He only has his mouth on Sam for a split second before Sam's spine bows, his head tossing back against the pillows, and he comes with Dean's name loud and sure on his mouth. Dean catches the first of it on his tongue and then pulls away to finish Sam off with his hand, watching him spill across freckled skin. Sam chokes as he comes, leaves fingernail marks on Dean's shoulders. When it's over, Dean keeps touching him, gentler than he ever remembers being in his life. This is the part where Dean is supposed to change his mind, he thinks - where he's supposed to panic. Instead, he rubs his thumb along Sam's hip, watches Sam cover his eyes with one arm and lay there with his chest heaving. When Dean bends to brush his mouth against the skin just under Sam's belly button, Sam's stomach is quivering, thrumming like a tightly strung guitar string. Dean waits for Sam to uncover his face or sit up or say anything, but nothing happens. Finally, Dean gets up and walks into the bathroom. In the mirror, Dean's cheeks are flushed. The dim light catches the sweat at his hairline and his throat, the lines perspiration has drawn down the center of his chest down to his stomach. Dean reaches for the grayish washcloth hanging from a ring on the wall and runs the tap. There's a tiny split in his bottom lip from where

he bit through, a dark bruise at his neck. He looks like he's come back from a routine hunt. He sees in the reflection when Sam moves, just over Dean's shoulder. Sam hitches himself up on his elbows, his chin tucked against his chest. He's watching Dean, staring at his back. Dean swallows, wrings out the washcloth, and turns back. His cock, still half-hard, clings to the hope of doing that again, but Dean is exhausted. He wants to get his brother clean, to check the stitches and salt the windows and sleep for a month. He stops at the end of the bed, allows himself only a fraction of a second to look at Sam's body. Naked, flushed from the chest up, his hair across his forehead and his lips rubbed raw, eyelids low and face twisted in a nervous expression. "Hey," Dean says - and there it is, the first word after sex. Sam doesn't respond, just stares at him, so Dean leans over and touches the washcloth to the hollow between Sam's shoulder and his sternum. The water is maybe a little on the cold side, and Sam flinches when Dean drags it over his skin. The stitches have held well, only a few tiny pricks of blood from the push and pull. Dean runs the washcloth over the planes of Sam's abdomen. Sam just lies there, his eyes following the cloth as Dean moves it lower, over Sam's cock and behind it, back between Sam's legs. Dean suddenly remembers Sam when he was small enough to ride on Dean's shoulders, the way he'd dig his fingers into Dean's hair and hold on. The memory should shock him, freak him out after what just happened, but instead it feels warm in his chest. Sam doesn't know how to make his voice work. He watches Dean stand up and toss the dirty towel back onto the bathroom counter - it hits the mirror first, the sound of the wet impact loud in the silent room. Sam feels like he's shaking, but when he lifts a hand - just a fraction of an inch - he sees that he's steady. Dean is pawing through one of their duffel bags, now, until he finds a clean pair of boxer-briefs and steps into them. They're actually Sam's shorts - Dean always forgets what belongs to him. Sam watches Dean pull out the salt and spill a little across the windowsill, under the door. Sam considers bitching - telling Dean that sharing underwear is gross, but he's never meant it and he means it even less now that they've --

Jesus. Dean finishes the chores and then pauses and scratches at the back of his neck. Sam meets his eyes and there's a beat where they both move as though they're going to speak, and then Dean looks away. Sam watches Dean climb into the other bed and roll over onto his stomach. His cheek presses against the pillow, changing his face until he looks like someone else for a moment. Sam feels cold all of a sudden, like he's only just realized he's sprawled and naked in the room's harsh light, his cock still softening and he's six feet away from his brother for Christ's sake. His arm flies out and he flicks at the switch on the lamp between their beds. It buzzes almost inaudibly even after it's been turned off. Sam curls his legs up. He doesn't bother to get underneath the covers, just reaches over to the other side of the bed and folds them over his body. He's shivering, now, and his throat is tight. "Sam," Dean says. His voice is so quiet that Sam could ignore it, could pretend he didn't hear it above the low moan of a truck's horn from outside. Instead, Sam draws a shaky breath. "Uh-huh." "C'mere." Dean clears his throat. "Uh... would you - just come here, Sam? Please." Sam doesn't hesitate. He's on Dean's bed in one fluid movement, sliding naked between the cool sheets. From this close, he can see Dean's face with just the red and yellow lights coming in from the "vacancy" sign outside. "I thought," he starts. "I figured you--" "That's because you're an idiot," Dean interrupts. When he breathes, Sam can feel the expelled air against his shoulder. "Come here." They both shift toward each other at the same time, moving to the inside edges of their pillows, still not touching. "What?" Sam asks. "Nothing," Dean says. "I just." He lifts a hand and touches Sam's forearm. Sam feels Dean's thumb rub over the odd formation of bone beneath the skin on Sam's wrist, a permanent reminder of the fall he took in their mother's graveyard. "You don't have to do this," Sam says quickly.

"Do what?" Dean shifts again, his knees touching Sam's beneath the sheets. When he moves even closer, Sam can feel Dean's boxers against his leg, and he wonders if he should have put something on before climbing into his brother's bed. "Cuddle," Sam says. "You don't have to cuddle." Dean laughs a little. His mouth is suddenly against Sam's chin, a little bit too open, his tongue against the mole at Sam's jaw. "You're delusional. I don't fucking cuddle." Sam feels Dean's mouth forming the words against his skin, the hot, sloppy feel of lips and teeth and breath. When Dean speaks again, his voice is deep and soft, a murmur. "I gotta keep touching you," he says desperately, in a voice that sounds like he's spent the night being split open and welded back together. Sam drops his chin and opens his mouth, pushing Dean's lips apart and kissing him hard and sure and open. He exhales into Dean's mouth, catches Dean's leftover air on his inhale - he's so overwhelmed by the rhythm of it, Dean's breath and his exchanging in a syncopated cadence. He pushes Dean down into the mattress, and everything feels like an ecstasy trip he can feel every thread in the cotton sheets, every muscle in Dean's hand around his wrist, every taste bud on Dean's tongue. The kiss is slow and quiet, like they've got all the time in the world, like Sam isn't waiting on a horrible destiny and Dean isn't trying to outrun his own promise. Sam pulls his mouth away, keeping his forehead against Dean's, their noses still battling for space. "You're right, you know." "Course I am," Dean counters. His eyes are open so far that Sam can see the white all around the green. Dean scrapes his bottom teeth over his top lip, chases them with his tongue. Sam feels his own eyes widen. Dean grins. "Wait, what am I right about?" Sam laughs and reaches up to run his fingers over the grooves in Dean's amulet. "You've been right here," he says, "the whole time. You're the only one who has." Dean looks over Sam's shoulder at the ceiling. "That's the whole point," he says. His fingers tighten around Sam's arms. "Sammy, you still naked?" Sam feels his face get hot. "Yeah." Dean smiles and tucks his nose against Sam's cheek. "That's convenient."

Sam is already awake when Dean opens his eyes at a few minutes after five in the morning. He's wearing his Stanford sweats that aren't quite long enough, his hair is rumpled, and his cheeks are pink. He's sitting on the other bed, picking at a thread on the hem of his sweats. "Hey," he says when Dean stirs. His voice sounds clear, like he's already been awake for a while. "Hey." Dean is painfully aware of the fact that he's still naked under the flimsy sheet, the covers kicked to the foot of the bed. He feels like a girl, looking at Sam, feeling Sam looking at him. "What's up?" "Bobby called," Sam says. He looks back down at his hands. "Says he wants us to stop by soon as we can. A friend of his has been tracking some demonic omens in the deep south." "Ah. Bible belt. My favorite place," Dean mutters. He sits up, making sure that the sheet doesn't fall too far. Sam looks back up at him, looking for all the world like he's been socked in the gut. "Dean," he says, his voice now sounding rough and irregular. "Everything is okay," Dean says quickly. He needs Sam to know that right now, in this moment. He needs to see that look fall from Sam's face. "We're okay, Sam. Don't freak out." "I just - you gotta know that was the easy part," Sam says. "What?" Sam stands up and walks to the window. He touches his fingers to the salt there, pushing it around without breaking the line - a game they used to play as kids when their dad passed out early. "What happened last night. The--" he swallows "--the sex, Dean. That's the easy part, believe it or not. This thing between you and me, it's... it's not going to be easy." Dean grabs his jeans from the floor beside the bed and tugs them on deftly, leaving the button and the zipper open. He holds them with one hand while he walks to stand beside Sam. They look out the window together, at the bright colored sign that announces No Vacancy. Dean's shoulder fits comfortably in the highest curve of Sam's ribcage, just under his arm. "We're okay, Sam," he repeats. "I love you," Sam says. The words aren't abrupt or brusque. Sam sounds like he's

been saying that to Dean all his life. Dean realizes that maybe he has. Still, Dean only comes up with one word as a response. "Huh?" Sam smirks, his mouth tightening in a painful non-smile. "I just had to say it," he says. "I'm sorry, and I know you don't want to hear it." He touches Dean's face, a thumb curling over the place on Dean's cheek where soft skin meets the roughness of morning stubble. "But I had to say it just in case." Then he pulls away and Dean watches his back as he walks into the bathroom, leaving Dean standing by the window. Dean clears his throat and then goes to stand in the bathroom doorway. Sam is washing his face with the pink soap, scrubbing. His eyes are screwed shut tight. Even after he bends down to splash water up to his face and rinse it, Dean can see traces of soap clinging to Sam's sideburns, to the tips of his eyelashes. Dean steps forward as Sam is reaching for a fresh towel. He reaches around and flattens a palm low on Sam's belly, and then opens his mouth against the back of Sam's neck, at the top of his spine. Sam's hair smells like sleep, tickling Dean's nose. He lets his tongue flick out at Sam's neck and feels Sam's stomach tense beneath his fingers. "Sammy," Dean says, his voice muffled by Sam's skin. "Oh - what are you - Dean." Dean lifts up a little on the balls of his feet and tucks his head over Sam's shoulder so they can both look at the mirror. He moves his hand up Sam's abdomen a bit and touches the tightly sewn wound with the tip of his middle finger. "You might get a scar," he says into Sam's ear. Dean feels Sam's stomach flutter as Sam puts a hand over Dean's, folding Dean's fist into the place where Sam's stomach meets his chest. "It's okay," he says. "I don't mind." Dean swallows. "Sam, the thing is, I..." he says, stuttering and tripping over syllables. "It's just, I feel... I think. I mean - this is good." Sam's face is blank for a long time, and then he exhales shakily and rocks back on his heels, leaning his back against Dean's chest a bit. It's been a long time since Dean has felt stronger than Sam, and for a moment it feels good to support his little brother's weight.

He dips his head enough to press his lips to Sam's shoulder. It's more of a stamp than a kiss. "You know, we could blow Bobby off," Dean says. "I mean - we've never seen Niagara Falls, either." Sam's face is serious in the mirror for a second before he smiles a little. "Come on," he says. "Bobby's waiting."