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It's a road movie,
a double-feature, two boys striking out across America, while desire,
like a monster, crawls up out of the lake
with all of us watching, with all of us wondering if these two boys will
find a way to figure it out.

--Richard Siken

 

Somewhere in southern Oregon, near the Idaho border, it’s raining. The drops thud lazily on the motel roof, making everything sound damp, and the wallpaper is peeling in strips, making everything feel damp.

Sam draws his knees up, the sheets shifting with him and he runs his hands through his hair, back and forth, wake up wake up wake up. He glances at his brother, sprawled like an untidy child, mussed and messy; one more good turn and Dean will be just about sideways on the bed. Dean’s always slept that way, though he has forever claimed, hand on heart, that Sam’s the angry bed octopus, the one who has to claim every square inch for himself, all intruders be damned. Sam thinks it’s the other way around; he remembers having to share a bed with Dean, waking up with an arm thrown across him, like he was just another pillow, or trapped under a twisted mass of blankets and Dean’s legs, or with a knee thisclose to his junk, so if Dean had some twitch in his sleep, Sam’d be talking high-pitched for at least a few hours.

The argument can last for days. And it will. Photographic evidence is crucial because they’ll both lie to further their cause, one-up each other until the case has to be thrown out in court, but it’s just a recess, the court reconvenes next month or three states down the line.

The Impala is not a democracy (though Sam attempts rebellious in-roads every other month) and the case has been heard many times, in many locations, over a period of years, and the counsel and defense switch places when it’s convenient.

Sam’s better at setting up his case, but Dean’s better at twisting witness testimony and one of these days, Sam’s going to find the loophole, there’s always a loophole, and he’s going to exploit the hell out of it, because that’s what Dean would do.

But after all this time, Sam feels cold when he wakes up. As if he misses having Dean next to him, talking in his sleep, stealing Sam’s pillow and burrowing into it.

It’s a perk, waking up before Dean because he gets to see the magnificent truth in all its chaotic glory and dammit, where’s his phone, he’s got to get a picture of this, it’s almost as good as that morning when Dean had woken them both by loudly falling out of bed, still somewhat slightly drunk, I’m not drunk, I’m testing the bed, it’s one of the tests, shut up, Sam, you sound like a fucking hyena when you laugh like that.

Too late. Dean’s eyes open and he stares at Sam for a long minute. He says something, but his yawning breaks it up so badly Sam can’t understand him until Dean’s said it a few times. “Coffee. Coffee, Sam, coffee.”

Sam shrugs. He feels unsettled, a kind of nervous excitement because today they’ve got to get gone, get this show on the road, three days they’ve been here and it’s rained every day and now it’s time to go. Travel giddiness, slipping into his familiar seat in the car, a map on his lap and the lower forty-eight states to prowl through, someone fire the starter’s pistol, they need to get crackin’.

“We can get it on the way outta town,” Sam says. His stomach jumps at the idea, eating on the run, go go go go go go go, but he doesn’t move to get out of bed, crappy bed, the mattress sunk in the middle and he stretches out a crick down around his left kidney.

“Coffee. Breakfast,” Dean tries again, and he hasn’t moved either, half his face smashed against his pillow like he’s attached to it, his body limp on the mattress like he’s decided to live there. His arm dangles over the side of the bed, fingertips almost in the carpet, then he points at Sam. “Breakfast.”

“On the way outta town,” Sam says. “Let’s get on the road.”

“Just ‘cause you’re being all demanding like you’re gonna drive doesn’t mean you’re gonna drive,” Dean says, contorting to flip Sam off. Sam returns the eloquent gesture the way his brother taught him, with an energetic flourish.

Dean hauls himself upright in crooked fashion, muttering, “Dunno how you expect me to function without caffeine, why did I get such a crappy brother, wait ‘till you fall asleep I’ll just leave you in a truck stop, serve you right,” and so it goes as Sam rolls his eyes until Dean disappears into the bathroom and the shower kicks on.

They trade showers like people trade umbrellas, fast and dripping; Dean climbs out, leaving the water running and Sam hops in, says behind the thin safety of the curtain, “No wonder you’re so cranky, if I had to work with that tiny equipment you call a dick, I’d be downright bitchy too,” and Dean retorts around his toothbrush, “You’re one to talk about being bitchy. It’s a chronic thing with you, remind me to refill our stock of Midol before we leave, Samantha.”

Sam peers out to glare at his brother, damn he hates that name, he gifts Dean with his glare, he can’t help it even though it’ll make Dean think he’s won and sure enough, Dean grins, all toothpaste foam victory until Sam reaches out with a sloppy wet hand and wipes the minty-fresh smile off his face.

“You better get your ass out here, Sam, in five minutes or less. I will leave you here to grow mold.”

They make it out of the hotel room and into the car, but it’s a farce, a parody of any sort of travel efficiency because Dean keeps forgetting things and trying to trip up Sam, but then in some lucky contrivance, he actually does, and in fast succession, Sam trips over Dean, bangs his funny bone on the doorframe and hits his head when he gives up and attempts to get in the car.

Sam actually sees stars and fuck, his elbow hurts, teeth-grindingly hurts for a second, then Dean’s staring at him, half-caught with laughter and everything clears.

Dammit, Dean, what'd I ever do to you?” Sam says, not really angry, not really with how Dean’s smiling at him like he might put Sam in a bag and sell him to the circus, his eyes stupid-bright and spoiling for a game, a dare, their usual pre-road tendencies to do dumb things and drag out every insult in the book.

“You were born, bitch, I was happy right up to that date which will live in infamy,” Dean says. “I wanted a puppy. I asked if we could trade you in. But they thought you were cute or helpless or some shit.”

It’s suicidal to do this without caffeine, to continue this I’m-not-touching-you kind of fight, so Sam just glares again, that’ll hold them both for a little while, then he’ll get his coffee and wait for the right moment, it’s there, somewhere down the road.

For now, with hot-blooded little brother vengeance, Sam whistles Willie Nelson until Dean’s doing it too without realizing it, on the road again just can’t wait to get on the road again, and they’re both whistling it, around the streets to a drive-thru for coffee and greasy paper-wrapped breakfast sandwiches made with real eggs and meat and bread.

It’s raining and they find the highway headed east, bitching and balancing coffee. Dean throws his wrapper at Sam, catches himself whistling, “such a pain in my ass, Sammy,” and Sam flicks his coffee stirrer at Dean, “eyes on the road, thought you knew how to drive this thing.”

--

They’re in Utah, Dean’s pretty sure, he thinks he’s saw a sign somewhere at some point, it’s possible. Maybe. Or Colorado. Could be Colorado. Sam could tell him, Sam who reads the signs for fun, Sam the man with the map, Sam his co-pilot and navigator, except that Sam’s useless because he’s fallen asleep.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty, wake up, this ain’t no free ride,” Dean says, “meter’s running, pal.” He grabs Sam’s chin and Sam fights him as he snaps awake, but Dean doesn’t let go, then Sam’s got him by the wrist, “What the hell, Dean.”

They’re kind of locked like that, though Sam’s trying to yank his face out of Dean’s grasp, but he hasn’t released his death grip on Dean’s arm, so it becomes a push-pull and Dean has to get them off the road.

He grins, all pleased because this is like old times and he says it, “Like old times, huh, Sammy,” the days when they’d be in for another long haul and Dean would grab hold of Sam, usually one of his spindly little limbs, back when Sam was little and spindly, and Sam’d struggle, get offa me, fartknocker, lemme go, but he’d latch onto Dean, then it was a stalemate, neither one trusting the other if they let go first, because then it would be retaliation and a fight to the ultimate surrender and all the resulting, deserving humiliation that went with it.

Sam’s never backed down on a fight with Dean, ready to scrap from the minute he woke up to the minute his eyes closed, and nothing has ever changed that, and Dean’s pleased, here on the side of the road in Utah or maybe Colorado, Sam staring at him, still woozy with sleep, his fingers wrapped around Dean’s arm and his free hand out like he’ll catch whatever Dean throws at him.

“Where’re we?” Sam says and Dean tilts Sam’s chin with his hand, trying to push his head against the window. “What’re you – stoppit – where’re we.”

“Uh, Utah. Colorado? They’re next to each other.” Dean shrugs. He shifts, puts his other hand on the wheel and Sam twitches in response, then kind of sags into Dean’s grip. “I dunno,” Dean admits.

“You don’t know?” Sam looks incredulous. Dean has privately thought for years that that particular patented expression makes Sam look goofy, with this puppy manner of surprise and exasperated disbelief, as if he might say aroo? at any moment. And sometimes Dean overdubs Sam that way in his head.

So he scrunches Sam’s face a little with his fingertips. “I was busy.”

“Busy. Doing what.”

“Driving. Y’know. Not putting us in the ditch. Who cares what state we’re in. We’re alive.”

“No thanks to you.”

Dean squeezes Sam’s face more and Sam squeezes his arm and they’re still stuck.

“It is nice to be alive.”

“Gotta ‘ppreciate the little things.”

Sam nods and that’s what breaks him free from Dean, some sort of bizarre acquiescence, so Dean scrambles to get him back, but Sam hasn’t let go of him, shoving him back by the steering wheel and dammit, Sam’s got some long arms. And it dawns on Dean he might be fighting too hard for this, to get hands on Sam again, so he talks, distraction and diversion.

“Think we’re still headed east.”

“Well, where’s the sun.”

“Behind us. Ish. What’re you, blind?” Dean scowls and Sam smirks, he’s building a case of some sort, Dean can tell, he’s got the line on his forehead, when he’s thinking and being nerdy.

“And what time is it?”

Dean knows that one because he checked while trying to decide what havoc he should wreak upon his sleeping brother, as if the time made a difference, it’s late afternoon, time to make Sammy suffer for sleeping when he should’ve been at least some modicum of entertaining.

Sam still hasn’t let go, the freak of nature and he gives Dean another little push, almost jamming his elbow onto the horn.

“Watch it, bub, or you’re gonna be walking.” Sam narrows his eyes and Dean stares right back before he lunges forward, but Sam stiff-arms him, damn it all to hell. Dean pouts.

“What time—“

“You own a watch. You could check it if you’d fucking let go of me. You’re a big boy, you can tell time.”

Sam’s fingers tighten.

“Fine, bastard. Around 4. Ish.”

“Then we’re headed east. Ish. I know it’s hard to believe, Dean, but the sun doesn’t revolve around you.” And Sam rests his case, squeezing Dean’s arm until it spikes numb.

“Discovery of the century, Bill Nye. Lemme call the Nobel Prize committee.”

“I mean, whole galaxies don’t revolve around you. The moon, the stars, pretty girls, none of that…sorry, man, you just don’t have that kinda pull,” Sam says, smirking big before mouthing physics.

“Then why’re you here,” Dean says and then bites his tongue. Hard.

Sam lets go. He stares through the windshield, like he can see far down the road, then he smiles at the dashboard, a weak curve of his mouth.

“Mystery of science.”

He scoots over against the door and doesn’t say anything else, not even anything nerdy, the same reason dogs lick themselves: who knows, and Dean doesn’t have much else to do except get them back on the road.

When he glances at Sam, just to see if he’s still awake, nothing else, Sam’s got the line again, thinking.

Utah or Colorado. Somewhere. Ish.

--

They’re in Nebraska when Dean spies two large dragon statues painted gold, guarding the entrance to a Chinese restaurant, and he swings into the parking lot, gleefully declaring it lunch time.

“It’s almost 2.”

“Close enough.”

It’s the dragons, Sam knows, it’s the dragons because Dean peers at the snarling open mouths before they go into the restaurant. Sam’s surprised Dean doesn’t say anything, dragons, Sammy, hell yeah, but he reads it shining in Dean’s face as he glances around at the themed décor, because dragons.

The food is really good, and since this isn’t take-out and they aren’t digging through cartons, they eat the way their dad taught them: Dean orders beef and Sam orders chicken, and they share the dishes when the plates arrive, piling onto mounds of rice.

“So what should we do?” Dean asks, licking soy sauce off his fork and Sam’s distracted, momentarily confused.

“Uh, hunt?”

“I mean, c’mon, where should we go.”

Mixing rice into the sauce, which is tricky and demands his attention, Sam says, “A place with a hunt?”

Dean kicks him under the table, toe of his boot. “You got anything?”

His brother’s watching him like Sam’s television and the cable’s gone out, so he makes a big show of pulling out his phone and pretending to scroll through something.

“No,” Sam admits, curious because Dean’s watching his fingers, so he surreptitiously flips Dean off and Dean rolls his eyes. “Bupkis.”

“So let’s go somewhere,” Dean says, stabbing a piece of beef, chewing thoughtfully. Then he talks with his mouth full, “Go do something.”

“You asking me on a date? ‘Cause, dude, your manners are atrocious.”

Dean’s mouth shapes the word atrocious before he squints, he kicks Sam again. “What the – no, Sam, why’re you so – why’re you like this.” He gestures at his head, crazy, exaggeratedly befuddled for all he’s worth.

“I blame you.” And Sam means it, sort of, in a way, Dean this wild person he grew up with, Dean some kind of force Sam’s had to reckon with all these years, Dean is Sam’s definition of sanity and nothing else seems to make sense.

“Do I get a prize.”

Sam throws a fortune cookie at him and Dean catches it, careful open palms, scowling, “Dude, do not break the fortune cookie.”

His brother, superstitious in a little-kid way, faith in the oddest things, and Sam almost can’t stand it, he’s dizzy with a rush of affection, sitting across from Dean in this particular restaurant because there were dragons.

“So did you have somewhere specific in mind?” he says, pushing broccoli around his plate.

Pursing his lips, Dean says, "No."

"Glad we had this talk."

"I have the good ideas, Sammy."

"Yeah, you're really proving your point so far."

Dean rolls his eyes again, so long-suffering.

"Well, we could go see Bobby,” Sam offers.

"Heyyyyyy, we could go see Bobby."

"I just said that."

They lapse into silence because it’s yet another stalemate, wow, they have the best ideas between the two of them and Dean mumbles, “There’s gotta be something.”

Sam slouches in his chair and messes about on his phone, because there’s something in every state, they just haven’t found them all yet and now he’s convinced, Dean’s such a snake oil salesman, Sam should really know better, but now he wants to do something.

Popping open the plastic, Dean takes out his fortune cookie and holds it to his forehead. “’There are many cornfields in your future,’” he intones before cracking the cookie and reading the fortune inside. “Pfft, not even a real fortune.”

Glued to his phone, Sam almost misses the check, Dean paying, Dean tugging on his elbow, “let’s go unless you wanna move in and try everything on the menu.” He almost forgets his fortune cookie and he jumps about a foot in the air when Dean tucks it into his jacket pocket, “what the hell, Dean, I’m not four years old,” “yeah, I’m surprised you can still tie your own shoes,” and then they’re at the door, Dean saying, “Rub the Buddha belly, Sam. Need all the good luck we can get.”

Which isn’t something his brother should ever have to say, so he rubs the laughing Buddha’s belly and Dean gives a satisfied grunt.

And they get good luck; Sam’s found something.

“Carhenge.”

“Carhenge.” Dean leans against the car, nodding slow like he’s being patient with Sam.

“Yeah, it’s like Stonehenge–“

Dean thumbs down, blows a raspberry, miraculously not spitting on Sam.

“—but with cars, like stacks of cars.”

And somehow Sam’s pulled the pin on this grenade; Dean’s whole body lights up and Sam is amazed, so struck he feels himself catch Dean’s heat, as if he’s about to spark.

They’ll have to drive back the way they came, but it’s only a couple of hours and Dean’s grin is growing, his mischief-making grin, the one that leads to prank wars and no hot water for Sam.

But it’s cheesy and possibly awesome, and out on the highway, Dean is practically yelling songs at the top of his lungs. Sam wonders what’d happen if he touched Dean like this, like touching an electric fence, it might blow him completely out of the car, out of his mind, so he twitches, stomach jumping again with something like the travel giddiness.

Dean’s eyes keep finding Sam, excited, and they’re grinning stupid at each other for no apparent reason. Sam’s heartbeat aligns with the drumbeat, and they’re flying low and fast. When they get there, this empty field with cars stuck in the ground, Dean takes pictures with his phone, makes Sam take pictures of him with the cars in the background, the cheeseball with his out-of-the-way sightseeing love affair.

Sam wants to keep this going.

“How ‘bout Cadillac Ranch.”

“Cadillac Ranch?”

Old clunkers stuck somewhere in the Texas soil, and nearby, a 72 oz. steak that’s free if you eat it in an hour, and that’s it, all bets are off. They have a few states between here and there, so Sam will continue searching for stuff on the way because he wants to keep this going, keep his brother talking a mile a minute, drawling his words together as if he’s drunk, and he touches Sam over and over. “Stay awake, Sammy, or I swear to God I will draw on you. With a Sharpie. All over your face. Unfit for public consumption.”

“You’re always unfit for public consumption.”

Dean looks offended, though Sam thinks he secretly takes it as a twisted compliment in his Dean way, Sam knocking a blow against his looks because Sam noticed.

Not that Sam does that.

--

Texas isn’t more than they can handle, but some folks don’t take kindly to people hustling pool, which was probably because it was early evening on a Wednesday and everyone was nursing their beers, so when they end up with a shotgun trained on them and a few fists waving at in their faces, they aren’t dumb, they take the hint and leave. Sam drives, because he was the quickest and mysteriously, he had the keys, he drives them straight through to Mississippi. Dean carefully sets his phone to vibrate, then makes a pretence of searching for a signal to check his voicemail, all so he can take a picture of Sam without his knowing it, a picture of his brother like this, behind the wheel of Dean’s speed-lovin’ car, his brother relaxed and open with his stupid hair tossed around by the wind, speeding like it’s his second nature.

Sam reads the signs for fun, so Dean hears it as the state line sign flashes by, Sam saying singsong under his breath “M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I, crooked letter-crooked letter-I, humpback-humpback-I.”

His brother is a huge dork, every inch of him, and Dean feels the need to celebrate this fact, which is why they end up at a bar.

An E is burned out in the sign. Dean asks, “Ber?”

“Sure, if you’re buyin’, can always do with some ber,” Sam says.

“I taught you well, never pass on ber,” Dean says.

Somehow Dean is stuck in this moment, stuck on Sam, so when they get inside, his brain snags and he orders ber, coughs, then orders beer. The waitress doesn’t even notice, but Sam laughs his fool head off, like he’s drunk as hell already and Dean takes to shoving his foot at Sam’s knees because Sam won’t shut up.

And that might be why Dean then orders a line of shots, because Sam won’t shut up, laughing again every time he sees Dean and he sees Dean a lot because he keeps laughing. It’s a vicious cycle.

But the shots just make Sam looser and more excitable, his whole being a jumble of sloppy lines and Dean’s mimicking him, his body one big warm fuzzy feeling as they do a shot together, then chase it with beer.

It’s like Sam’s trying to do magic, pers – pres – presssta – prestidigitation as he talks, sleight of hand, a shell game, and Dean’s watching him intently, attempting to keep up, because he isn’t going to lose this game, Sam won’t knock him over and steal his heart or money, not tonight as they collect shot glasses and beer bottles like they’re keeping score, winner take all.

Sam doing magic, making Dean a captive audience as he waves his hands around, “do you have any idea, Dean, do you, Michael Bay has to blow shit up all the time, seriously, fireballs everywhere,” Sam forms explosions with those hands, going whoooosh, “that man has some serious destructive tendencies.”

“Great balls of fire, like you don’t wanna blow shit up all the time.” Dean’s following him, he knows Sam’s tricks, how Sam is a happy drunk and constantly fiddles with the stuff on the table so that Dean wants to just grab him and shake him until Sam’s laughing again, holding onto Dean for dear life. Sam doesn’t realize he does it, too happy in his drunkenness, and it’s a cheap trick to play on Dean, he falls for it every time. Almost Pavlovian.

“Blow shit up, that’d be you, py-ro-man-i-ac,” Sam says, “stop confusing me with you,” and for a minute, Dean thinks he’s done exactly that, a classic crime, a heist job where Sam’s cracked some vault in Dean, just by touch, Dean’s been hijacked by Sam.

To head this all off at the pass, he says, “Give a man some gasoline and a match.”

“And you’ll have a happy man,” Sam says, smeared with a grin, then he frowns. “Bathroom. Gotta piss.”

“You ready to go anyway?” Dean asks. He needs fresh air, Sam taking all his available oxygen.

Standing, Sam glances around disinterestedly and shrugs. “Yeah. Sure.” He wanders off towards the back as Dean fumbles around for his wallet.

A girl stops Sam’s progress, cute and stacked. She looks kind of familiar and in a flash, Dean recognizes her; she’s been eyeing Sam, he saw her slide by their booth a few times, a slow swing to her hips as he and Sam argued about Jurassic Park and whether someone should’ve treated it like a big game preserve, “tell me you wouldn’t want a T-rex head mounted on your wall, Sammy, ‘yeah, the fucker charged me, tried to fucking eat me, but now he’s on my wall, so who won that one.’” He remembers her and his stomach rolls, watching her hand coming down on Sam’s arm, her eyes wide with invitation and Dean throws money on the table.

He needs to piss. Just happens to be heading the same direction where this girl is hitting on his brother. Who he’s proud of, for getting lucky, Dean took pride in his birds-and-bees speech when Sam was younger, liked giving Sam all the slippery details, ins-and-outs as it were, he laughs now here in this bar in Mississippi. But this girl’s wearing too much makeup, caked on her face, and as Dean gets closer, holy shit on a shingle, her perfume reeks.

“Hey, Sammy,” he says, like he’s actually got something to tell Sam and the girl says, “Excuse me.”

She doesn’t move though, stands there like she’s claimed this territory, move along, nothing to see here. Sam’s always been better at looming, but Dean’s no stranger to what his own size can do, so he shakes out his shoulders, hands in his pockets and the girl glares at him.

Then Sam’s smiling lopsided fond at Dean and he says, “Hey, man, you pay already?”

“Yeah, pit stop, then let’s head out.” He walks away, patting Sam’s shoulder, then smacking his cheek and stops short of calling Sam baby just for the hell of it.

The girl sighs, “Whatever,” with a small flick of her fingers and yeah, Sam didn’t need to go back behind the bar with some chick who gives up so easily, acting like she’s bored already, but Dean doesn’t wait to see Sam’s response to this trick Dean’s pulled off, that’s part of the magic trick, just turn your back and make your audience see the light. Sam’s not the only one who can do magic.

Dean’s washing his hands as Sam stumbles into the bathroom, making a beeline for a urinal and for some reason, he laughs when he spots Dean.

“My knight in shining armor,” Sam says over his shoulder, “where’d you leave your horse, tell me now so I don’t step in horseshit.”

“Out in the parking lot. I’m sure you noticed my black steed.”

“Black, which means you’re probably evil. Wait, there ain’t – isn’t – ain’t no ‘probably’ ‘bout it. You are. You put gum in my hair once.”

“Evil gets all the good toys,” Dean muses, still thinking, yeah, black steed.

“And all the popsicles. And juice boxes, never understood why you had to steal my juice boxes.”

Leaning against the sink, Dean peers at the mirror, picking at his teeth, and now he wants Juicy Juice, then Sam’s pushing him out of the way, pawing at the taps, Sam caught him off-guard because Dean’s daydreaming about juice boxes.

“You expecting some sort of reward or shit?” Sam says, shaking water off his hands and though he’s drunk, he’s fast, Dean forgets this sometimes, so he doesn’t expect it when Sam grabs him by the collar. “For defending my honor?” He’s grinning again, threatening to drag Dean down with him.

Where Sam’s concerned, Dean gives as good as he gets, so Dean gets Sam by his jacket and their boots squeak on the cheap linoleum because Dean’s gonna go down swinging in this weird shoving-tugging brawl, but they’re equally matched which must be why when Dean shoves, Sam trips, crashing them both backwards into a stall.

Close quarters combat, Sam laughing at this stupidity that’s been visited upon them, then the bathroom door slams open and Dean claps a hand over Sam’s mouth.

The intruder wanders around, pisses, washes his hands, curses at the paper towel dispenser and leaves, and Dean’s about to die the whole time, Sam’s eyes madcap and foolhardy as he licks Dean’s palm, slipshod passes of his tongue.

“What the hell was that,” Sam says, overly loud with mock anger.

“Two dudes in a bathroom and you sounded like you were having way too much of a good time there, lover boy.” Which isn’t a great explanation, but there it is. And, Exhibit A, Dean has to wipe his hand on his jeans where Sam slobbered on it.

“Two pairs of boots in a stall makes it look even better,” Sam replies, nonchalant. “All that leather, Dean.” He clucks his tongue and Dean knows that infuriating sound, one point for me, as Sam nods sagely and extricates himself from the stall, the door swinging closed behind him.

Silence, but Sam’s out there, waiting for Dean but pretending not to wait for Dean. Dean knows this game too, so he just stays in the stall, yells, “What about my reward.”

“’Cause filthy bar bathrooms are so romantic,” Sam slurs, “you take me to all the best places,” then the bathroom door opens again and maybe Sam’s leaving, so Dean peers out around the stall door to check, but it’s just some guy who looks like the alcohol went straight through him.

And Sam nudges the guy, jerks his thumb at Dean and winking conspiratorially stage-whispers, “Romeo missed his chance to fuck me,” then makes like a tree and leaves.

Dean slams the stall door shut and locks it. He hunkers down like it’s a foxhole until the bathroom is empty again.

He might be plotting Sam’s slow, torturous death.

Romeo.

At least he’s got the fucking keys to the car.

--

They argue their way out of Mississippi, or rather Dean illogically argues with Sam, on through Alabama and across Georgia, almost into South Carolina, but they’re both exhausted and angry before they get to the border, so Georgia it is.

Sam’s not sure he can remember what the last fight was about, but he knows Dean started it, like all the others down the last two hundred miles and he’s not exactly feeling forgiving. They slam around each other, Dean doing his damned best to be alpha male about the situation, touching everything like he’s going to claim it stupidly: both beds, the lamp, the TV, the remote, the table, Sam’s laptop, Sam’s duffel, Sam’s toothbrush, the towels, and he leaves messes in his wake everywhere he goes.

And Sam’s about had it. He stops talking, because sometimes that’s the only weapon he has and Dean tries to make him feel like he’s brought a knife to a gun fight, but it isn’t going to work, Sam learned silence at an early age, staring out the window, letting his mind drift along with the landscape. His moods follow the dips of the telephone poles, down swoop up down swoop up down swoop up down swoop up, he’s angry, he’s tired, he’s lonely, he’s desperate.

Dean rattles on something fierce, even worse than when he’s in a good mood, talking like the price of words are going to go up any second, they’ll be worth more than gold and rarer than wonderflonium, you’ll be able to trade them on the Stock Exchange and he’s buying up every share he can. Sam wants to tell him to take stock in his vocabulary, but the joke’d be mean-spirited and somewhat lost on Dean since he stopped paying attention to Sam’s moods halfway across Alabama and he’s only talking to get a rise out of Sam or to fill the car like the music can’t.

Finally, he shuts up and Sam exhales.

They’re stopped at a gas station in the Georgia heat and it smells of gasoline and sugar, an odor Sam’s never understood. His brother is propped against the car, ankles hooked together, hands jammed in his pockets. His eyes are closed, scowling at the world in general even if he can’t see it. Sam watches him tip his head back, but he doesn’t open his eyes.

The thing is, Dean drives Sam insane even on a good day. He is, whatever, fill-in-the-blank, and that’s enough to push Sam over the edge most of the time, the absolute propulsion of Dean’s existence, it blows through Sam like a jet engine.

“Stop fucking staring,” Dean says without opening his eyes, shifting to rest his neck and shoulders against the car.

“You’re paranoid,” Sam retorts and goes into the squat little building to get caffeine and junk food.

Sam’s waiting for the penny to drop, because, see, he can’t figure it out, he can’t figure out what is so fucking infuriating about his brother. How Dean can do something completely dopey, it shouldn’t be any big thing, watch me fit this whole thing of Twinkies in my mouth, Sam, something dumb like that, careless and reckless and free, what, oh this is Brenda, she’s a tattoo artist, whaddya think, Sammy, you want a Tweety Bird tattoo on your ass, then Dean disappears and doesn’t come back until he’s stained with lipstick, walking with a hitch in his hips and smug self-satisfaction.

And Sam wants to strangle him.

“Don’t think the gummi bears are gonna bite your head off, Sam,” Dean says, “you don’t hafta give ‘em the death glare.”

So Sam gives Dean the so-called death glare and Dean crosses his arms. “It’s easier if you just eat ‘em first. So I hear.”

Then he strolls away, easy as you please, like some day he won’t be the uncalled-for death of Sam. Sam stalks the tiny aisles, snatching things off the shelves, avoiding Dean and not thinking about when they’ll stop next, how far that’ll be or where it’ll be or what. Maybe he’ll just claim illness and threaten to vomit in Dean’s car, then when they get to a motel, he’ll crawl into bed and sleep this off, whatever it is, this destructive mode he’s in.

He dumps the food at the cash register and Dean appears out of thin air with sodas and Sam backs away, just leaves Dean to pay, he needs space, space.

But of fucking course they’re at a gas station, nowhere else to go unless Sam wants to go play in traffic, what a wonderful idea. He plants himself on the trunk of the car, smiling meanly as it rocks on its tires, and hikes up his feet to perch on the bumper. He’s hunched like a vulture on the car and that makes him feel a little better.

He hates fighting with Dean. Their fights are different from anything he’d ever had with Dad because when Sam fights with Dean, he feels like he has so much more to lose. Everything, in fact. He and Dean are way too stubborn and don’t know how to back down gracefully and some days, it feels like all they’re doing is trying not to throttle each other.

The sun feels good here in Georgia and there’s a frog croaking off in the grasses and the sky is some sort of undefined blue. Sam breathes in that gas station smell, gasoline and sugar, undercut with exhaust. He closes his eyes, picturing Dean out here not fifteen minutes ago, doing the same thing.

They’re both wrong, whatever they’re fighting about, they’re both wrong, but Sam still feels validated and righteous because Dean hates it when they get like this, snappish and snarling, he hates it too, but he pushes to get under Sam’s skin and itch until it’s a new fight all over again.

Suddenly, there’s hands gripping his knees and he jerks so fast he almost falls off the car, but it’s Dean, a rueful smile on his face, his fingers tightening to steady Sam.

“I wouldn’t kill you in broad daylight, Sam,” his brother says, “you should know that by now. Can’t risk it, too many cops after this pretty mug o’ mine.”

“Sounds like a ‘your problem’ to me. I’d kill you in broad daylight in front of a whole crowd of witnesses and after I explain to the cops how I helped rid the world of such a cocky, mentally unstable, degenerate, pain-in-the-ass sonuvabitch, they’d give me a damn medal. Big as a fucking dinner plate.”

It’s the most Sam’s said in almost two states and he can’t help his self-congratulatory smile that puts a punctuation mark to the speech. “A plaque. On this spot, on this date, Sam Winchester killed his brother for being a jackass and saved us all a lot of trouble. He’s a real hero, that Sam Winchester. Maybe a statue. Especially after they look at your rap sheet.”

Dean shifts to push his weight on Sam’s knees and the car rocks again. “So much crime, so little time.”

The sun feels good here in Georgia and Dean’s watching him closely, only cracking half a smile, and Sam decides maybe he could stand to have a truce.

“Admit you’re a huge jerk, like the size of a planet.”

“Only if you admit you’re 100% little whiny bitch.”

“Not gonna happen.”

“Then it’s not gonna happen.”

Sam raises his eyebrows and Dean digs his elbows into Sam’s kneecaps.

“You motherfucker!” He swipes out blindly and clips Dean on the shoulder.

“Ow, you’re the fucker, you fucker! I was gonna entertain the idea of maybe thinking about the possibility of letting you drive, but now,” Dean says, affronted, “you just lost your shot. Better luck next time, buddy.”

Then, to Sam’s amused disbelief, Dean turns theatrical; he has the sheer fucking audacity to look like an injured woodland creature, big eyes and pout-frowning mouth, rubbing at his shoulder like it’s a horrible war wound aching in wintertime, really milking it. “How’m I ‘sposed to drive now, Sam. Seriously.”

Yanking the shotgun door open, Sam says, “Hell, Dean, one little punch and you’re down for the count? So sad, so fucking sad. No wonder you overcompensate.”

“Kiss it and make it better,” Dean demands, “I’m the victim here,” and Sam’s going to die here at this gas station, holding in his laughter and how was it that not twenty minutes ago, he would have happily punched his brother sideways into next week.

“Kiss it.”

“No. Fuck you. Let’s go.”

Dean harrumphs and gets into the car, then they’re shooting off to find the road and Sam forgot how much junk food he’d picked up in his annoyed haze; he’s sitting in a small lake of crinkling wrappers.

He focuses on a package of jerky and it’s inevitable at some point, Dean flicks Sam’s hair and says, “Hey, watch this, Sam, watch, watch, lookit, you watching?” Then he proceeds to stuff his face, chipmunk-full, with Swiss Cake Rolls.

Sam laughs because it’s Dean and his brother just takes Sam over like a virus, a full-blown, wide-scale epidemic. There’s no cure, and thank fuck Dean didn’t demand Sam kiss his fake boo-boo a third time because Sam would’ve done it.

--

It’s not part of their itinerary, ha, itinerary, but Dean makes it their new mission to eat their way through the Carolinas and by the time they get to Virginia, Sam’s bellyaching about Krispy Kremes, “if I hafta eat another donut, Dean, I will puke in this car.”

“They’re just donuts, not like they’ll kill you.”

Sam pushes his hair back and glares and drinks his coffee and falls asleep and Dean thinks about getting another box of donuts, just to have another box, as if they randomly appeared in the car, whoops, now we have to eat ‘em.

This donut thing is annoying; puking in the car is an extreme threat and Dean doesn’t think donuts warrant such violence. He’s curious about this side of Sam, the kid who’s made ultimatums and threats all his life, and he’s pondering the epic puzzle of his little brother, the shrimp who grew up into this mountain beast, complete with crazy hair, who holds onto things forever and won’t let go, and overreacts to simple things like donuts.

Dean’s absolutely lost without him, the big stupid idiot in the shotgun seat, because who else complains about donuts and makes Dean stop to do laundry when they clearly have enough clothes to go a few more days and lets Dean steal his onions and fries and tomatoes and sometimes his pickles (the pickle is the last straw, a declaration of war) and tells Dean to change his shirt, there’s a weird stain on it, you can’t talk to people like that, how on earth do you ever get laid, man, no, wait, don’t tell me, I do not wanna know, fuck you, I told you to stop talking, do you want me to beat you to death.

Dean’s absolutely lost without Sam to pick out in a crowd, he’s always finding Sam, like some new world discovery, and when he actually pays attention to the road, they’re in Virginia and Sam says Dean’s name in his sleep.

Twice.

Which might be why they get lost in Virginia. Lost with a map, of all the unspeakable things, and he’s flying down the highway, twenty over the speed limit, and he’s torn because Sam needs to wake the fuck up and get the map to tell them where the hell Dean’s gotten them, or he can let Sam sleep and see what else comes out of his mouth.

Like maybe his name again.

It’s a big risk because for all he knows, Sam could start talking about My Little Ponies and wait, why the fuck would Dean’s name be involved in that situation, and oh, by the way, where in the hell are they.

“Sam. Sammy. Sammeh. Sammich. Samantha. Sammalammadingdong. DICKFACE.” Dean thwacks Sam on the shoulder a few times, three times, four for good measure and five to grow on, he might resort to hair-pulling, but Sam wakes up, already fighting him off, the kid fights in his sleep too.

“Did you just call me ‘dickface’?”

“It’s your middle name, isn’t it?”

“As much as yours is ‘asshat.’”

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Dean says.

“You trying to fucking ruin my day,” Sam says, “that must be what woke me up.”

“Oh shut the hell up and find the map.”

Then a sign flashes by, handmade, flimsy cardboard tied to two posts and there’s crepe paper streamers fluttering in the wind: THIS. Big childish hand in thick magic marker and Sam spots the next one, jabbing his finger at the glass.

WAY.

Dean starts to slow down, this should be good.

TO.

THE.

FAIR.

“Dude, a fair,” Dean says, inordinately pleased and then he feels stupid. Sam’s alternating between watching him with his mouth open and watching for more signs and now Dean has to explain, geez, this happens all the time.

“A fair,” he says patiently. “Pie, barbeque, cotton candy, rides, making you eat a lot so you throw up on a ride…pie…”

“You already said pie,” Sam says as he spots another sign, the streamers gaining strength on this one: KEEP. Then he flicks a smile at Dean, a quick throw of highbeams in Dean’s direction, the smile Dean likes to see and waits impatiently for like little kids on Halloween.

GOING. NEXT. TWO. MILES.

“Yeah, a fair,” Sam says around that smile. “I bet you get sick first.”

“You’re on. Wait.”

Sam smirks, the fucker, and Dean almost drives them off the road looking for the next sign.

It’s a county fair, a big sprawling affair with the whole nine yards: tents, bluegrass bands, game stands, treat vendors, rides, and food as far as the eye can see. At six that night, there’s going to be a fiddling competition and a dance following after and Dean is so damn glad they’ve got cash on hand because he wants to buy everything. It’s only lunchtime and every booth, every tent, all the rides, the lights are going, bright and noisy and when he glances at Sam, his brother’s the same way, sparking bright and noisy, dimples deep.

There’s so much to eat and Sam’s right there with him, plates of barbeque and ham, corn on the cob and mashed potatoes, cole slaw in messy piles, baked beans with brown sugar, cornbread. Pies bleeding blueberries or cherries. You gotta walk it off though, all that food, or you won’t be able to do anything else, so when Dean spies a shooting game, he drags Sam over.

“This is how it’s done. Watch and learn, junior.”

Sam crosses his arms, huffing, but his grin is still there, and for his money, Dean gets five shots. He feels the buzz in his blood when he picks up the gun, even though it’s a toy gun basically, and he remembers shooting cans with Sam on days like this, fair weather, no wind, keep your eye on the target, Sammy.

He’s shooting, knocking over the targets, easy as a breeze, until he gets to shot number five, then Sam leans in and whispers, “The biggest pair of tits just walked by,” and shit, Dean misses.

He doesn’t know whether to blame the tits or Sam until he realizes it’s all Sam, the gigantic goofball telling lies through his teeth, and the vendor chooses that inopportune moment, when Dean has some choice words to say, to hand him a small green teddy bear, “Here ya go, mister, nice shootin’.”

Sam rocks on his heels, hands in his pockets. “Yeah, nice shootin’, Tex. Too bad you missed that last one. Damn shame.”

Dean’s staring at Sam who’s grinning like the devil, and suddenly, he’s cracked wide open with a vicious happiness.

He’s so gone on Sam, it ain’t funny no more.

He shoves the bear at his brother. “Here you go, you can tell it all your hopes and dreams, just like a real girl.” Then he hides his chattering pieces by trying to smile, maybe it comes out right.

“Think I’ll name it Dean, Jr.”

“Think I’ll take you out back and shoot you.”

“You’d miss, as you just demonstrated,” Sam says, poking at the bear’s belly. “It looks like you.”

Dean rolls his eyes, leads the way though he doesn’t know where he’s going, has to get away from this thing trying to eat his head, his brother driving him up the wall without even trying. Like every other day.

“It does, it looks like you. Green. Dopey. Stupid grin. Probably thinks he’s God’s gift. I mean, look at this bow. He’s obviously trying too hard.”

There’s a crowd ahead, a knot of people and it’s just the ticket, what Dean needs as distraction.

A strongman contest, step right up, folks, swing the mallet and ring the bell, step right up, and Dean snickers.

“C’mon, sasquatch, you think you can do better’n me?”

Sam sighs, so put upon. “We could just go back to the shooting game. I can shoot as good as you,” he says, then he makes the bear dance. “Or at least as good as you. Wouldn’t miss.”

“Aw, you afraid of the mallet?”

The guy looks up and up and up at Sam and says, “Hell, man, I’m not even sure you have to try, but I’ll take your money.”

Sam stuffs the bear into his pocket and the crack in Dean is breaking more and more, his brother standing like a colossus with the mallet in his hands, the green bear with its ridiculous bow hanging half out of his jacket and he’s got this grim smile on his face, how did I get talked into this mess, and Dean’s little brother is, fuck, everything.

First swing, not quite to the top, a hair short of the bell and Dean thinks Sam’s faking it, not really trying, but then Sam looks straight at him, like a challenge, and takes his second swing.

Ding! and the crowd around them cheers and Dean’d forgotten anyone else was there.

The barker gives Sam a huge stuffed tiger and Dean can’t resist. “Atta boy, tiger.”

“So you wanna explain to me why mine is bigger?” Sam says, licking his lips, a smirk so wide Dean might have to punch him.

Dean shrugs, there’s nothing he can say without giving something away, he might shoot his mouth off or just hand Sam his heart, so he shrugs again and Sam gives him a funny look.

“Hey, cotton candy.”

Together, they systematically start destroying the game booths, giving away the prizes they win, though Sam keeps the green bear in his pocket, toting the tiger along and out of the blue, they’re on the Ferris wheel, Dean isn’t sure how he got there, in a swinging bucket with Sam, watching the sky darken and the lights spread out beneath them.

“You want the tiger?” Sam asks.

For some reason, Dean’s scared out of his mind, just going to jump out of his skin and run away as a skeleton, no, Sam won the tiger fair and square in some amazing feat that was all his and he’s Sam’s brother, he taught Sam to share, no wonder Sam’s offering it.

“Nah, man, you keep him. You’ve prolly already named him,” Dean says nonchalant and focuses on not swinging the bucket.

Back on the ground, the fiddling contest is still going, so they sit and eat again and listen, watching the fiddlers’ fingers and arms flying, music pouring out like sweat. The bear’s head is poking Dean in the side, Sam’s sitting so close.

It’s dark when they leave the tent and at the edges of the fairgrounds, a touch football game has broken out, illuminated by a circle of headlights, pickups and minivans, so they stand at the fringe and watch. Naturally, Sam picks the other team and like everything, it’s a contest.

“Seriously, my quarterback’s got an arm.”

“Yeah, maybe, if only he could aim for the receiver instead of that Ford over there, they might be able to score. Gotta get more points than the other team.”

“Wasn’t aware of that. Thanks, John Madden.”

A little girl is staring wide-eyed at Sam, who looks absurd, clutching a tiger and a green bear, and Dean nudges him. Sam waves to her and she smiles back and he says, “Do you like tigers?”

She nods and Sam says, “You aren’t afraid of ‘em?”

She shakes her head and her mother’s watching them carefully, but Dean smiles, we aren’t scary, and then the little girl says, “They’re big kitties.”

Sam grins, full-force, and gives the girl the stuffed tiger. “He’ll protect you,” Sam says and the mother smiles, waves.

Back at the car, they can hear the fair still going on, but Sam’s yawning like he might dislocate his jaw and Dean’s following suit because everything about Sam is contagious. Then Dean’s at the driver’s side, ready to unlock the door, but Sam blocks the way, leaning against the car.

“You were right,” he says and Dean’s scared shitless again, thought he was over that, what’s he right about, then Sam continues, “The fair. This was good.”

He tries to shove at Dean and Dean tries to shove back, but it’s dark and cockeyed and the ground is uneven, who the fuck knows, because Dean steps in a hole, smacking face-first against his motherfucking sequoia tree of a brother.

Dean’s insane, Dean’s gone insane, the lights and noises have done something to him, brainwashing, Sam’s grin has brainwashed him, he leans open-mouthed against Sam’s throat, just a press, a long brush of tongue and teeth against Sam’s skin and he tastes Sam, he’ll never forget now.

Sam makes this noise, shocked and low.

And Dean comes to his senses.

He fumbles, stepping in that same hole, but flinging himself back. “Here, you drive. Way too tired to be driving.”

“Dean.”

He blindly throws the keys in Sam’s direction and wanders around the car, climbing in and plastering himself to the door, ready to pretend to sleep.

It’s a miracle, Dean’s experiencing a miracle because Sam doesn’t say a word, turns the key and gets them back to being lost in Virginia.

--

By the time Sam gets them to Ohio, he can still feel Dean’s mouth on his skin.

Somehow, he powered through Virginia, watching cars with Maryland and Pennsylvania licenses plates veer off into the dark. He follows his sense of direction and he’s not sure how Dean got them lost anyway because Dean can unerringly find north when he concentrates, but maybe it’s something like how Dean is pretending to be asleep.

Dawn, then the sun creeps higher and Sam passes a motel, but he can’t sleep just yet; he was tired after the fair, then they were caught against the car, Dean so fucking warm against him and Dean’s mouth jolted him awake, adrenaline shot to the heart. Sam’s been driving the whole night, worrying about what he did to give himself away and he hasn’t figured out what to do. He can’t sleep yet. This might all disappear if he closes his eyes, and he can’t. No.

Sam didn’t know his brother could hide such huge, ginormous things from him, as if he was keeping wings under his clothes or a werewolf heart in his chest that’ll come bursting out, and that’s what it feels like, Sam’s been bitten and transformed and now he’s running hot alongside Dean, the two of them not who they said they were.

His muscles feel like they’re straining, as if he really is running, his clothes stuck to him, holding him back and he wants to shed them, like a pelt, like snakeskin, a new change of clothes and Sam’s head will clear and he’ll know what to do with this revelation that’s been handed to him.

He’s been doing this alone, for so long, and he should’ve known: you can’t con a con man.

A laundromat, the sun flashing on the windows and Sam doesn’t second guess, just pulls in and parks, jittering, his mind tumbling over and over. Confused, he wakes Dean up, well, pushes at his shoulder and says, “Hey, man, I’m gonna do some laundry. You can sleep or go get coffee.”

Pop the trunk, grab the duffels and emergency rolls of quarters, and Sam bursts into the laundromat, he needs a simple task to help him figure out what the fuck he should do because Dean put his mouth on Sam’s throat and Sam couldn’t say no.

Sam couldn’t say no because it’s Dean and Dean pushes his way under Sam’s skin and hollows him out and makes a home for himself under Sam’s ribs, taking over his bloodstream. Sam wants to keep him there, forever and ever, amen, selfish and possessive and jealous, Dean his without question.

Maybe he’s lost his mind. Finally. He should be relieved.

Change of clothes, change of clothes, so Sam locates the restroom, finds his last clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt, socks, boxers, he’s shedding his layers to put on new ones in a cramped stall with graffiti scrawled on the walls, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

In Ohio. In a laundromat. Randomly washing clothes because he’s in love with his brother and he’d been keeping it quiet in the shotgun seat, but now everybody knows.

He goes back out, choosing a pair of washers away from the windows.

“Dude, what the hell,” Dean says behind him, as if he’s the monster come to eat Sam, and Sam will give himself up willingly.

“Uh, we needed clean clothes,” Sam says, “saw the sign, decided to do laundry. Seriously, man, your socks could kill an elephant at twenty paces.”

“And you thought this’d be the best time to do laundry.”

“No time like the present.”

Dean drags a hand over his face, not looking Sam in the eye, which is okay because Sam’s avoiding his gaze.

“I’m just gonna go get coffee,” Dean says, “I’m not even gonna ask.”

“Smelly clothes. Really. Don’t kill anybody with your stench,” Sam calls after him without thinking.

And this isn’t anything new, this is just them, like any other day, running on no sleep and eventually caffeine once Dean comes back and he will come back because he’s Sam’s brother, he wouldn’t leave Sam here, regardless of his dumb, inane threats to the contrary, this is Sam standing in a laundromat dumping clothes into a washer, paying with quarters scrounged from pockets and the glove compartment, the car gleaming safe in the parking lot and the smell of detergent that makes Sam sneeze.

Sam figures it out.

He sits on the washer to wait for Dean. He finds the green bear in his jacket and the fortune cookie from the dragons in Nebraska, fortune cookies don’t go bad, and he cracks it open as the bell dings at the door and Dean appears, coffees in his hands and a newspaper tucked under his arm.

“You were supposed to eat that when I ate mine, that’s how fortune cookies work, them’s the rules, Sam,” Dean says. “What’s your fortune.”

“’Your talents will bring you the highest status and prestige,’” Sam reads around crunching on the cookie and Dean says, “In bed.”

Sam laughs and Dean tries to drink his coffee too fast and almost chokes, but it’s okay, Sam’s figured it out.

He puts his mouth against Dean’s, a swift, chaste kiss; he remembers doing this when he was little before Dean started wiping his mouth off, cut it out, Sammy, gettin’ too old for that, go brush your teeth.

One kiss, and Sam presses in for two, three because he can, then he pulls back and snaps open the newspaper, eats the other half of the fortune cookie, takes a swig of coffee.

He feels calmer than he has in a long time, settled, right in his skin.

Dean says, “Huh.”

“What.”

“Nothing. Hand me the funnies.”

The laundry detergent itches at Sam’s nose and he sneezes and Dean rolls his eyes at him.

The washer starts to make Sam’s back hurt, so they relocate to the plastic molded chairs that aren’t going to be much better in about an hour and Dean perches the bear on the washers to guard their laundry.

“See, just give Dean, Jr. a gun and he’d be even more like you,” Sam says, “ready to shoot whatever moves. Of course, he’d miss.”

“Hardy har har,” Dean says, “laugh it up.”

“It’s so sad though, ‘cause he’s just a small bear, he doesn’t deserve to be as blind and stupid as you are.”

“It’s so sad you don’t have any new jokes.”

Sam punches Dean in the leg and Dean snatches at his wrist, dragging Sam’s arm across his body, and Sam’s held captive, trying to figure out the best strategy to fight in crappy plastic chairs, but Dean kisses him and the battle’s just begun.

He already knows the way to the bathroom, so hauling Dean there isn’t hard, it’s the waiting until they get there, until they can lock the door behind them and he can put into practice what he’s learned since they got here, it’s the waiting that might kill Sam and how red Dean’s mouth is.

Another fucking bathroom and it’s almost another fucking brawl, close quarters combat, hand-to-hand fighting, “you shoulda fucked me in that bathroom in Mississippi,” Sam says, tongue on Dean’s cheek and Dean bites the words onto his collarbone, “I woulda but you ran away.”

“You were too stupid to see, dumbass.”

“Me? Bitch, it’s amazing you can see anything with your dumb hair in your eyes.”

“Oh fuck you,” Sam says, dragging Dean’s jeans open and shoving a hand inside and Dean breathes out, “Fucking tease, you – holy shit, think you can get away with anything.”

Sam strokes Dean hard and says, “Yeah, I can,” and then Dean’s fingers find Sam where he’s blood-warm and aching, and his teeth close on Sam’s lip.

It’s awkward and noisy and Sam’s new to this, pushing Dean to the edge and having Dean drag him along, getting lost in kisses with a map of bodies at their fingertips and the same instincts but different responses and how Dean watches Sam as if granted some sort of epiphany.

The way Dean’s voice breaks and his eyes close when he says Sammy.

It’s messy and Sam goes to his knees, but he figures it out.

--

Ohio is where they try to fuck for the first time and the teddy bear is sitting haphazard on the other bed, so Dean gets creeped out, “it’s watching us, Sam, with its beady little eyes.”

And then Dean’s going to hide the green fucking bear, turn it around, whatever, but he trips on the fucking blankets, takes out the lamp and Sam almost cuts his feet on the shards when the power goes out because of the huge thunderstorm that hit at sunset and at any moment, the bed could collapse or the broken lamp could short out and start a fire or the police will show up on their doorstep, who the fuck knows, Dean’s pretty pissed off when he’s got Sam naked and all this shit happens out of fucking nowhere.

It’s enough to make a grown man cry. Almost.

The bear gets packed in the trunk.

Dean gets them out of town, out of the state, he’s kind of superstitious about this, it’s Sam after all, Sam is it for him, so he’ll take every precaution available at his disposal even as Sam laughs his head off, “I don’t think we have to leave the state.”

But it’s down the road apiece, in Missouri, where they eventually, finally climb into bed and get it right, and Dean shakes Sam apart underneath him and he’s discovering Sam, again and again and again.

Down the road, after stops in gas station bathrooms (“Dude, we have got to get out of these bathrooms, they are not made for sasquatches,” Dean says and Sam says, “Oh, are they made for midgets?” and Dean sucks his cock to shut him up) and various mile markers off the shoulder with traffic bombing by at intervals, Sam says, “Dean, if you don’t stop at a motel, I won’t let you get near me with a ten-foot pole.”

“Oh, I’ve got a ten-foot –“

“Don’t even say it,” Sam snaps, maybe because Dean’s been running his fingers along the inseam of Sam’s jeans for the past ten minutes.

Somewhere in Missouri, Dean gives in to his little brother, lets Sam do whatever he wants with him, which isn’t anything new, he’d let Sam eat his heart if necessary.

It’s new and dorky and Dean feels drunk all the time and scared mindless.

He doesn’t know what to do, especially when Sam smiles at him, doesn’t know where to put his hands or isn’t sure what’s going to come out of his mouth or why Sam even takes him up on things, Sam with his hands on Dean’s hips, Sam falling asleep on him, sweating naked while they watch bad movies on TV.

They’re squeezed into a booth, damn these diners and their tiny booths, but the air smells amazing, grease and eggs and gravy and bacon and sausage and butter.

The coffee is barbaric, a health code violation, and it all clicks together for Dean when he takes a sip and his teeth chatter as he watches Sam pouring sugar and cream in his cup like he just wants the sugar and cream.

This is familiar and old, worn in like the holes in his jeans and the wrinkles in Sam’s t-shirt, the accidental bleach stain on his collar and how Dean puts both boots on first then ties them.

It’s new and dorky and Dean feels drunk all the time, but he’s not scared anymore as Sam forks up some of his huevos rancheros, leaving a streak of sauce on the table.

Sam wipes at the sauce and Dean steals a slice of Sam’s bacon.

“Dude, stop stealing my breakfast.”

“You stole from me first, Sammy.”

“You don’t need to be eating beans, Dean, for fuck’s sake.”

“You don’t need five pieces of bacon.”

“Drink your coffee, I don’t wanna be stuck with you if you’re gonna be so damn crabby,” Sam says, munching on bacon.

Dean scowls. “This coffee is a crime against humanity. You trying to kill me?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Sam smirks and yeah, Dean’s not scared anymore, but he does feel drunk when he reaches across, clutching at Sam’s t-shirt and the bleach stain on the collar, and he kisses his brother.

He gets egg and chili sauce on his shirt and Sam knocks over his cup of sugar-and-cream coffee, but it’s good, fantastic, better than anything else in the world.

And Sam lets him steal another piece of bacon.

--

In Iowa, Sam wakes up with Dean sprawled half-sideways on him, an arm thrown across him like he’s another pillow, Dean’s face smushed by Sam’s shoulder. He shifts, testing the waters, and Dean almost kicks him, muttering, Sammy, stoppit.

Dean’s eyes open and he stares at Sam for a long minute, then finally says, “Your breath could strip paint. I don’t have any coffee.”

Sam’s not sure those two things go together. “Your point is…”

“You’re useless.”

“Blow me.”

“Fuck you.” Dean pins Sam to the mattress, grinning, his mischief-making grin, the one that means prank wars and no hot water because they stay in the shower for too long.

And Dean’s grin is a challenge, his brother taught him to not back down from a challenge and his brother taught him to fight dirty, so he licks a long wet line along Dean’s throat and hears his name broken down the middle.

Later, they get breakfast on the way out of town and maybe head west and Dean throws sugar packets at Sam’s head, says, “Why do I put up with you, Sammy,” and Sam changes the music, says, “Eyes on the road, thought you knew how to drive this thing.”