The Mother Road
By Candle Beck
Amarillo, October 2006
Dean tried to hustle a game of pool from the wrong pack of Texans, and ended up getting beaten half to death in the parking lot.
Sam found him behind a decrepit pick-up truck, broken fingers, blackening eye, bloody nose. Dean was conscious, his eyes rolling up to Sam as his brother ran over to him. Dean manufactured a cocky grin, his teeth red.
"You should see the other guys," Dean slurred, and Sam fisted a hand in his shirt collar, told him to shut the fuck up.
He manhandled his brother up and over to the Impala, and Dean was too quiet in the backseat. Sam kept checking on him over his shoulder and almost drove them off the road. Dean was on his back, arms wrapped protectively around his chest, his shoulders curled inward. Streetlight flashed across his bruising face, the dark graffiti of blood.
They were on Route 66, and Sam stopped at the first motel he saw, a long row of rooms that was as old as both of them put together. It felt somewhat familiar, the bald patches in the carpet and the soft yellow spots of water damage on the ceiling, the rust-spattered taps in the bathroom. Sam couldn't say whether they stayed here at some point in this lifelong drive of theirs, or if every motel room in the country just looked the same to him now.
He had other things to worry about, anyway. Dean was recalcitrant and gruff the way he got when he was in pain, pushing Sam away when he tried to help him out of his leather jacket. Sam could see the unnaturally crooked slant of Dean's fingers, the tense shape of his split lip, but he didn't get mad because it never did any good, getting mad at Dean.
"You're gonna want me to splint those fingers, I think." Sam went rummaging for the medical kit, battered once-white metal box that had come home from the war with John Winchester and been with the family ever since.
Dean sat on the bed, rubbing at his eye with his good hand, and Sam wanted to tell him to stop, he was just going to make it worse, but held his tongue. Dean looked exhausted and too sore to sleep, each bone broken perfectly in half.
"It's not even that big a deal," Dean muttered.
Sam nodded, went into the bathroom to wet a washcloth before bringing the tape and splints and Vicodin over and sitting next to his brother on the bed, close enough that their shoulders bumped. "Yeah I know. Here, lemme see."
Dean gave Sam his hand, reluctant and wincing overdramatically at the first touch. His broken fingers were a twilight shade, crimson and indigo, grimed with dirt and bearing the distinct impression of a boot print. Sam handled him like a precious thing made of sand and held together with wishes, wiping the skin clean and fitting the splints in place, wrapping the two fingers separately and then together. Dean cursed a few times under his breath, but Sam didn't look up, keeping a neat humming tone in his mind, his eyes locked on the task.
"There," he said, finished, and shifted away so his knee wasn't touching Dean's anymore. "Gonna have a bitch of a time jerking off for awhile, but that's what you get."
"Dude, it wasn't my fault. Motherfuckers ganged up, it was like six against one."
Sam worked open the childproof cap on the Vicodin and shook out three pills that Dean snatched clumsily with his dumb unbroken hand, dry-swallowed with a grimace crimping his face.
"What, were you hustling all of them?" Sam asked.
"Not all at once," Dean said, as if affronted by the very idea. Sam hid a smirk behind his hand, knowing Dean would be sensitive and short-tempered until the pills kicked in.
"Did they get your phone? I tried to call you."
And what a fresh piece of hell that had been, coming out of the men's to find his brother vanished from the room, a half-empty beer gleaming in his place and the phone jammed against Sam's ear, not even a ring but straight through to Dean's utilitarian greeting. It was an inevitable side effect of the life that Sam's mind flew heedlessly, mercilessly, to the darkest of scenarios, demons and shapeshifters and succubi, but evil wasn't always so spectral. Sam had gone to the Impala for the EMF reader and heard his brother groaning on the far side of the lot, and it was some kind of fucked up, the level of relief that had flooded through Sam at finding Dean merely beaten to shit, still breathing.
"Yeah," Dean said, a scowl heavy across his features. "Wallet too. Fuckers."
"Lucky I had the car keys, huh? She'd be a little harder to replace."
Dean's eyes went as wide as they could considering one was in the process of swelling shut. "Dude, don't even joke about that."
Sam let a fractional smile show, raised his hands in innocence. "Sorry, sorry."
"Shit," and Dean was just mad at the world now. "Thirteen hundred dollars right there in my pocket, fuckin' redneck fucks."
"It happens, Dean. Good days and bad, right?"
Dean scoffed, but settled, simmering under his skin. That was one of their dad's, his ready answer to how you doin', how you been--good days and bad. It summed up existence for Sam, and he liked collecting words that could do that.
The television remote was missing (Sam just didn't understand these people who were out there stealing remote controllers from motel rooms, it was like the least practical crime ever), and so Dean made Sam stand by the set flipping through the channels manually until a Happy Days rerun flashed by and Dean called stop.
Sam went outside, promising Dean chocolate bars and those Doritos that were the color of homemade napalm, but he loitered before hitting the vending machine, wanting to skip past the part of the night where Dean was hurt and embarrassed and miserable in defeat, and get to the opiate-softened, sugar-sweetened version of his brother that always repaired Sam after moments of extreme duress.
The high plains looked like nothing at all at night, just flat and black in every direction, but the sky was a different story, hot with stars and boiling over. Sam wandered out to the road, a quarter of a mile away from Route 66 and her slow ghost-like traffic washing past, each car a small lapping wave. It smelled like the highway out here, like home.
This little interval was good for both brothers. Sam let the wind blow the residue of terror off his skin, his hair thrust back from his face. Dean would be twice as annoying as usual until his hand was better (and of course it had to be his right that got stomped on, of course Dean would say he could handle a gun just fine with his left, and god willing neither of them would end up shot), sending Sam on every minor errand he could think of, but Sam wasn't going to stress about that until it happened. Tonight he had Dean on Vicodin, who was one of Sam's very favorite Deans, and he intended to take advantage.
Sam returned to the room, candy bars stuck in his pockets and his hands rattling with chip bags. Dean had managed to rid himself of his shoes and overshirt, sitting up against the headboard with his bruises looking worse than when Sam had left, Dean's swollen eye hovering in his pale face like a dark moon, a photo negative. But the tension was gone from Dean's shoulders, and he fairly lit up when Sam came in, so the painkillers appeared to be having their effect.
"Did they have 'em?" Dean asked.
Sam pulled a Twix out of his pocket and flicked it over to Dean. "Of course. It was a vending machine in America, you know."
"Sometimes they're sold out, bitch."
Dean bit the edge of the gold wrapper and stripped it back with his teeth, same as he'd done since Sam was seven and thought that was the coolest way to eat a candy bar ever.
Maybe Sam still thought it was pretty cool. There was a certain kind of myopia that came with being little brother to a guy like Dean.
Sam considered asking for the second Twix bar, but figured he would get shot down and become annoyed and so he decided against it. He emptied his pockets on the foot of the bed and had a Whatchamacallit instead.
They settled in. Dean munched away, orange Dorito dust on his fingers. He was sitting somewhat stiffly, and Sam studied him carefully out of the corner of his eye, trying to determine if Dean had cracked ribs that he was pretending didn't hurt.
Sam asked, "Did you get kicked in the chest?"
"I got kicked in the stomach. My ribs are fine."
Of course Dean knew how Sam's thoughts were running. Dean had an infuriating awareness of Sam, that pinpoint spotlight that followed Sam everywhere. It was no good being irritated by it; it was just the way Dean was.
"Here, you want this?" Sam offered his brother a Reese's cup across the space between their beds, and Dean's eyebrows shot up greedily.
"Duh," Dean said, and reached out his hand. "No one in their right mind would ever say no to a Reese's."
Sam half-smiled, nodding and looking down. Dean's expression had become dopey and content as he slumped down against the headboard. His good eye glittered, high as a kite and caught in a windstorm.
"How're those pills working out for you, Dean?"
Dean beamed, gave a deformed thumbs-up with his splinted hand. "They were delicious," he reported. "I feel like a million bucks."
"You look like about a nickel," Sam told him. "Shoulda got some ice or something for that eye; you're gonna be all Cyclops tomorrow."
A careless flick of Dean's hand dismissed that concern. Sam found himself staring at the small dark spot of road rash on the edge of Dean's jaw, the size of a thumbprint stretched out.
"Betcha I still got better aim than you," Dean said.
"Okay, let's not actually test that theory."
Sam grinned sharply, a solid-feeling grin that chocked tangibly into place. Dean smiled back at him, happy when Sam was happy. A tight feeling of anticipation curled up in Sam's stomach, and he stood.
"I'ma get a Coke, you want?"
"Orange soda," Dean demanded. "Or else don't bother coming back."
Sam said, "Big words," and stood by the television punching through the channels until he found CNN. He smirked at his brother's shouted protest--"Ew! News!"--and left the room.
The land spread out as broad and flat as ever, and Sam breathed deep of the night air, coins clinking in his palm. He got an Orange Crush for his brother and a Coke for himself, and lingered just before their room door, planning how it would go.
Straightforward was the best way, Sam decided, and went back inside. Dean had managed to summon the strength to get up and turn the channel back to the Happy Days marathon, but Sam only vaguely registered Fonzi saying "heeey," as he crossed the room and sat down on the bed next to Dean.
His brother shot him a muddled look. "Something wrong with your bed?"
Sam shrugged, put their sodas on the floor and then slid his cold hand up under his brother's shirt. Dean gasped, his whole body jerking.
"Whoa-" Dean started to say, and then, "What?" sounding painfully bemused.
It was just the Vicodin, Sam knew. This wasn't the first time. The first time had been four months ago, in some other motel room in some other part of the country, an off-shoot of another swift asphalt artery. They had been drunk, falling against the door, laughing too hard and holding each other up haphazardly. Dean's hand had slid off Sam's shoulder onto his neck, and the touch of skin on skin had been the last straw for Sam. He had pressed Dean against the wall with his body, placed fingers to his jaw to draw his head back, bare his throat, and Sam had mouthed a hot messy line from Dean's collarbone to his chin, and that had only been the beginning.
Fucking around with your brother, it turned out, was difficult to bring up in casual conversation. There had been a week of stifling silences and moments so awkward Sam prayed for horrific catastrophes to distract them, but then they had taken a couple of cases and saved each other's life in dramatic fashion, as you do, and it got better.
Then two months later, it had happened again. Sam was the only one who was drunk that time, which was probably why Dean hadn't let his brother touch him, just pressed his back flat to the bed and pushed Sam's shirt up, licked down the center of his chest and sucked him off with his eyes closed like he was in some perfect dream. Sam remembered feeling like his chest was going to cave in. He remembered staring down at Dean's face between his hands, Dean's head between his legs, and the image had yet to fully leave him.
They didn't talk hardly at all for almost two weeks, that time. Dean had been sullen and bright red, driving slouched in his seat all through the plains and onto the Mother Road heading west. Sam hadn't been able to reach him.
This, this time would be the third. The charm. Sam knew for a fact that Dean wanted him just as badly as he wanted Dean. It was going to happen between them, like how one day the sun would explode, like a force of nature. All the time in Sam's head, a voice was chanting, soon soon soon.
And now his hand was under Dean's shirt and Dean was staring at him with his good eye wide and green, his face lopsided with bruises and still so pretty it made Sam's chest hurt. Sam smiled, the sly little smile that he had mastered a decade ago.
"I'm making sure you haven't broken anything," Sam said, but his voice was deep and rough, his head tilting in towards his brother's. Dean's stomach twitched under his hand, muscles shuddering.
"I told you I haven't," Dean answered hoarsely.
"Yeah, but you lie."
Sam leaned in, brushed his nose along Dean's cheek. Dean went very still, his breath catching and holding. Stroking his thumb down the soft line of hair low on Dean's stomach, head spinning and mouth gone dry, Sam rested their foreheads together for a moment, exhaling careful and slow.
"Dean," Sam said quietly. "I wanna try something."
Dean's chest hitched. He was strung so tight he might as well have been vibrating. "What?" he said, guarded.
Answering seemed a waste of breath. Sam thumbed open the button of Dean's fly, worked down the zipper and slipped his hand inside. Dean shuddered, his shoulder pressing into Sam's, teeth sunk into his lower lip. Sam moved slow and carefully, shaping his fingers around Dean and watching his face intently. If Dean was going to pull away, it would happen now, any second now.
But Dean didn't pull away. He pushed his hips into his brother's grip, grew hard under his hand, a diluted opiate flush on his face. Dean didn't say anything, just leaned on Sam's shoulder and sucked in ragged pieces of air. Sam stroked him off, slick on his palm, bound up in the fog of heat around his brother, the tip of his tongue bit between his teeth.
"Is this okay?" Sam asked in a subterranean tone. Dean only groaned, and Sam slowed his pace, asked, "You like that, right?"
Dean breathed out hard between his teeth, pushed his face into Sam's shoulder and didn't answer. Sam rubbed his thumb over the head of Dean's cock, turned on so bad he was shaking with it.
"C'mon, Dean, you gotta tell me," Sam said, because this was the third time and Sam wanted ten thousand more.
Teeth gritted around a moan, Dean twisted his shoulders and rolled his forehead, dragged up from the very heart of him, "Yeah. Yeah."
"Oh my god, Sam." Dean bit him, a high burst of sudden pain on the soft part of Sam's shoulder that made him shiver. "Yeah I like it, I fuckin' love it, just come on."
Sam grinned, huge stupid grin, a busted-open feeling in his chest, and he tightened his hand again, pulled a long pleading moan out of his brother. Dean was amazing like this, and Sam could only stare, thinking of the things he wanted to do to him, the endless roads he saw when he closed his eyes.
Dean came over Sam's hand, shuddering and nearly silent, and then slumped against his brother, panting faintly. Dean was overly hot, his head a dense weight on Sam's shoulder, but Sam didn't care. He touched Dean's back, the place at the nape of his neck where sweat dampened his hair and made it feel like suede.
A minute or two passed. Sam wiped his hand off on Dean's jeans and understood how profound a moment it was when Dean didn't protest. Sam felt legendary, miraculous; he wanted to run in crazy circles, outrace the cars on the highway.
Eventually, Dean drew away from Sam and stood up, fixing his jeans with hands that seemed thick-fingered and slow. There was still color on his face, and Sam was rigid with suspense, thinking that Dean would ignore it again, disappear into the bathroom and not emerge until dawn.
Instead, Dean placed two fingers under Sam's jaw and lifted his face, leaned down and kissed him. It was their first, Dean's mouth sore and awkward on Sam's, and without thought Sam put his hand on Dean's neck and pulled him closer. Dean grinned against Sam's mouth, and his lip split open again. Sam tasted the blood between them, and grinned right back.