Sam kisses Dean like it's the only thing he's ever wanted in this world.
Look away, Motel Guy, he thinks. Leave us alone. Leave us to this, whatever it is. Let us do this alone. Remember last time? You left us alone.
And for all the things Dean's not, he's a professional-grade kisser. Sam's not sure why this surprises him--especially not now, not after all this; but for a moment Sam forgets the impetus, forgets Motel Guy, forgets the cold, forgets any jag they've ever hit or break they've never mended.
It's never just one kiss. It hasn't been in a long time.
Sam gives himself.
Dean's a little sloppy, on-drugs sloppy, but that doesn't stop him from grabbing Sam's wrist, holding tight. With his other hand, he swipes the tickle of Sam's bangs away from his cheek. Sam pushes past Dean's compliant tongue and he feels a chill shoot up his spine. His heart beats in his wrist where Dean grabbed it.
But ultimately, like the dull pounding of waves, or of a migraine, a torrential white noise breaks though to Sam's brain. Senses divert, attention scatters outward. Pleasure dissipates.
Motel Guy is still shouting: They are loitering, this is funny business, what are they spying on, no loitering. NO LOITERING!!! Apparently romantic rendezvous wasn't a good enough excuse to be sitting in his parking lot, staring at his building.
He's just angrier now, and he has a gun. Sam catches it at the periphery of his vision, without turning around. So he separates from Dean, air cold against his now-wet lips, and slowly raises his hands.
And the kicker:
"Okay, what was that one for?" Dean asks, a little breathlessly but not anything that suggests transcendence, or even real want. It's like he's just asking about the weather.
"If you need to ask, then why did you kiss back?!" Sam hisses.
"Was I fucking not supposed to?" Dean volleys, as he makes a show of raising his hands and exiting the vehicle, at the behest of Motel Guy.
Reflex. Sam kissed Dean and then Dean kissed back, because what are you supposed to do? Dean's kiss was thoughtless in the way that habits are, not swept up in emotion over mind games, but absent of them entirely. That's what had Sam had wanted.
It's not what Sam had wanted.
Dean's zero leaves Sam cold.
It hadn't felt that way in the moment. It hadn't felt like some neuromuscular blip, Dean's neck rippling beneath Sam's fingers and his tongue flashing in. But maybe that's what professional-grade means.
For example, Dean doesn't give a shit about Motel Guy's bottom line, but right now it sure sounds like he does. Because Dean is a professional, and Motel Guy's the one with the rifle. No, they hadn't been thinking about the other guests, Dean allows.
(All… none of them, Sam thinks testily. Well, there had been Mackie. And Walt and Roy, if they ever left that bar that one night.)
Dean's still talking. Something about how sure, taking all those pastries without thinking about anyone else that might need them; that's just depraved. Obviously you're not a Hilton; that probably set you back. Look, let us make that up to you, Dean suggests.
Professional or not, it all sounds morbidly sarcastic to Sam, like maybe Dean wants to be blown away in a parking lot. But it must not play that way to strangers, because Motel Guy's finger hasn't leapt to the trigger yet. Sam raises his hands higher and tries to smile obsequiously.
"And my Ethernet cord," Motel Guy reminds them. "I saw what you did to it, before chucking it out, you vandals."
Sam's throat tightens. "Wow," Sam exclaims, which is an excuse to gulp in air. "Nothing gets past you, does it?"
"Sharp tack," Dean agrees. "I mean, you saw him whiz that poker game."
Motel Guy knows everything that goes on in his hotel, he says. Don't think he doesn't.
Dean says he'd never dream of it.
As it turns out, and as Motel Guy explains, Motel Guy served in the National Guard--just long enough to give Dean a higher estimation of his aim, but not long enough for their parting to have been on amicable terms. Which is exactly what Sam wanted to hear, really, in the dark in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. And they obviously can't shoot him back, which would be the easiest escape route. So here they are.
"Come any closer, and I shoot," Motel Guy announces shrilly.
Sam casts a glance at Dean. It's hard to tell in the dark, but Dean looks significantly less interested in Motel Guy's life story now that it's clear all the buddy-listening in the world won't get them close enough to disarm him.
"Look, man, it's late. You've clearly had a long day. Can't you just--I dunno, put the gun away and add some extra charges to our bill or something?" Sam tries. "I feel like that's a pretty... normal way to resolve stuff like this."
"I don't trust you!" shouts Motel Guy. "When you're all the way out here like this, you can't take stupid chances. Do you know how long it'd take the cops to get here? How long it took the ambulance to get here? Besides, I never trust guys who pay in cash. If you don't got a name, a billing address, or a credit score, why should I trust you? Like as not you'll just skip town in the morning anyway. Maybe I should shoot your tires out, instead of you."
Dean chuckles nervously. "Let's not escalate, now."
"Shut up. I know the kind of people roll through here; don't think I don't. People like you--like that dead guy--"
"Our money's in the room," Sam blurts out. He hates that this is their life, rising to every snag in the plan and run in the fabric like it's the only thing that matters, or the only thing that's ever happened. Because yes, fantastic, it's 1AM and it's time to talk down their twitchy motel host--obviously. It doesn't matter what they were just doing to each other. It doesn't matter what Sam dreams, or who hasn't eaten, or who's hurt, or what happened last week, who was supposed to be dead in a month. Who died. None of that has any chance to matter.
What matters is they ate too many pastries, and this is what that comes to. Obviously.
Motel Guy orders a march toward their room, rifle still trained on the both of them--swiveling between them worrisomely--and Sam hates everything about that. And if one thing's clear, it's that Motel Guy is deathly afraid of them, hence the rifle. Hence the unsettling jumpiness, and the distrust.
Maybe he's afraid of them because of all those things that aren't allowed to matter. They look dangerous because four days ago, they showed up sopping and covered in mud. Because of the gouges beneath their eyes, dark bruising because no one's slept because Jess, because Dean, because reapers, because they're stuffed to the gills with fodder for generic nightmares. Because hunting. Because pain. There's that gleam of hungry desperation in their eyes, which only grows and which can't lead good places. Because Sam wrenched open a monster's throat and bathed in its blood. And even if no one else can see it, Sam can, and he acts like that's what happened last week. Because there's something in his own blood, this Sam now knows for sure, and he fucking acts like it, because he's terrified, and he can't help it.
Motel Guy's afraid of them because they look criminal. Well. They are. And everything that's led them here, that could possibly explain what they are and who they want (who they are; what they want, Sam corrects) is a sentence, not an exoneration. But for all Sam's pained indignation, Motel Guy has a point. He's wrong, he's so wrong--but he's not, is he?
Sam's beginning to sense a theme.
Motel Guy satellites a clean arc around them, using the Impala as cover, and they start marching. Because you don't mess with the armed and anxious unless you have a clear and foolproof open. Problem is, now they have to make one--and their luck this week hasn't quite been up to snuff.
"Bang-up hostage negotiation skills, Sam," Dean snaps under his breath.
"Right, 'cause your performance was fucking scintillating," Sam snaps back.
Here and now, he thinks. Here and now.
Dean pants. "My question is, how the hell did he find the Ethernet cord, but not the armadillo? Like, is that a card we can play?"
"The possum, you mean."
"Whoa, fuck--" And Dean goes down. Not at all cleanly--it's more of a staggering, shale-like collapse, some morbid combination of Dean hedging pain and his knee proving wholly unable to shoulder its burdens, even if Dean wanted it to.
Sam thinks frayed muscles and torn tendons and small, needling splintered bones. Dean thinks--or this is what he says, anyway; maybe he's not thinking anything at all--'ahhhgh' as it all hits ice and pavement and his palms skid across dark wet asphalt. Motel Guy say, "Don't try any funny business--just step the fuck away from him and keep your hands where I can see them!"
"He's hurt, I'm just trying to--"
"Step the fuck away," intones Motel Guy, and he cocks the gun.
For the love of-- They were pastries, Sam objects mentally. But when he turns around he shuts up quick, and all but jumps away from Dean.
There on the nose of the rifle sits the serendipity.
It's nothing much. Just a rounder, brighter version of the heat trails it's left behind. But it's sitting on Motel Guy's gun and Sam can only imagine what Motel Guy might be wishing for. How any gun might mean to give it to him.
"Dean," Sam whispers through his teeth. But Dean doesn't hear him; he's still trying to get a handle on himself.
Sam has the flask in his jacket pocket. Rifle notwithstanding, Sam realizes that he has no idea how they're supposed to shove the thing inside it.
Is serendipity corporeal?
It just looks like light. Light in frosty motes, brightest against the snow shaking from above.
"Dean," Sam tries again.
They just need to get Motel Guy his money. Make him happy, get him inside before he and Dean figure out what to do with this thing. They're nearly to their stairwell; they need to get Motel Guy his money.
Except they don't have his money, Sam remembers. Because that was a lie, and they don't actually have any money at all.
"I'm waiting," Motel Guy reminds him. He also reminds him not to try any funny business, though it's a little late for that.
"Can I help my brother up? He's hurt," Sam asks. Come on, Dean. It's on the gun. It's on the gun. Read my mind.
"I don't believe you," gulps Motel Guy. "You just want me to pity you. But I know that trick."
It takes everything Sam has not to split with hysterical laughter. They don't need to trick anyone into finding them pitiable; they just are. It's been that kind of week.
"Oh, you got me!" Dean confesses loudly, his voice shaky. "Smart man--can't get--anything past you."
Dean raises his hands in the air again. He drops one immediately to stabilize himself and groans, deep at the back of his throat, as he struggles to stand on his own. He sucks in air sharply, and as he turns to face Motel Guy, he locks eyes with Sam.
Where is it? he mouths. He takes one look at Sam and he knows that's where Sam's focus is--why he hasn't made a move yet.
Sam turns back to the barrel of the gun, and Dean follows his gaze.
"You know where the wallet is, right Sam?" Dean says. "The nice brown one. In the duffel. How 'bout you run and get that so our friend here can go home and get some shut-eye?"
Sam has no idea what Dean's talking about. But not getting shot seems contingent on playing along, so he plays along.
"Sammy's gonna go get your money, and we'll just chill out here, okay?" Dean offers.
This was all so backwards. Sam's the only one who can see the serendipity; he should be the one keeping an eye on things down here. And Dean's the only one who has any idea what Dean's talking about--Sam's really not sure what he's supposed to do once he gets up to the room. Convince Motel Guy that bartering is all the rage? But Dean can't climb these stairs, and he's not the one with a gun on him. Sam starts climbing.
He'd take them two, three at a time if he could, but the handrail is too cold to touch and the stairs are too icy to underestimate, so his ascent feels agonizingly slow. He's never felt so scrutinized while climbing a flight of stairs.
He's also never been on a hunt where the look of his stair-climbing was the determining factor. What was this, hunters' dressage?
What if Motel Guy decided he didn't like Sam's footing, and the serendipity obliged to change it for him? Apparently it's on his team now, not Sam's. And if Sam's hopes, wishes, and dreams are complicated, right now Motel Guy's aren't: Remove the threat.
Just climb, Sam tells himself. No funny business.
Then Motel Guy changes his mind.
He says, "No, this won't fly. I need him where I can see him. He needs to come down right now!"
And Sam does fly. One moment he's climbing, and the next he's being hurled from the stairs. It's that fucking easy, instant, irreversible.
Dean only gets halfway through asking Motel Guy to reconsider before he's shouting Sam's name, in one long, aching syllable.
It's all Sam can hear, which couples well with all he can see--just a bright green-yellow light all around him as he sails up and over. Sam's pretty sure fate's not supposed to actively throw you off of staircases.
But then, he's Sam Winchester.
Sam manages to grab hold of something as he falls, and almost instantly regrets it. Handrail, Sam thinks. Because of course--that's what they're there for.
But this one's cold, and Sam feels his skin suction to it, the sweat of his palms binding with the icy rail like they were made for each other. It feels hot.
Below him, Sam hears the raucous ping of a bullet ricocheting from metal, casing tinkling against ice, and a barrage of muted, meaty human sounds, though blessedly none of them sound like being shot. Some of them are Dean wrestling a rifle from someone else's hands and dropping all its ammo out the side. Most of the sounds are Motel Guy shouting about Sam. He tells Sam not to fall. But, like most things, it's a bit late for that.
There's a thud, and Motel Guy goes quiet. (There's that clear and foolproof open they were waiting for, at least.)
Sam's pretty sure the best thing he could possibly do for himself in this moment is fall. He'd really like to keep his hands, and frostbite's not conducive to that.
Besides, how far up could he possibly be? The building's only two stories. If he plays his cards right, the fall's not gonna kill him.
Of course, if he breaks his legs then they're that much more fucked than they already are, what with Dean. They can't pay for any of that. They can't even pay this guy for his flat, disgusting pastries.
But he's the one with the flask, and he's the only one who can see the stupid thing, and he needs to get down there. So Sam bids his skin farewell and swings as hard as he can, adds momentum to his body weight and aims for the ground. He thinks of all the glass outside that bar (and the fried bugs, and Dean's arms around him, and Dean's arms around him) and hopes there's nothing sharp down there.
Dean's shouting his name again, a familiar refrain that resounds unhelpfully like SAM, SAM NO, SAM, YOU MOTHERFUCKER, NO but Sam's palms give happily.
He drops like a stone.
Then he's on his back, he's just gasping--or failing to gasp--like a surprised goldfish because he can't move, he can't breathe, and shattering his C2 had never been a part of the plan, if that's what just happened. Dean's still shouting his name.
He wants Dean beside him and Dean's not there, and then he's still not there, and it's the worst feeling in the world.
Dean's not there.
Then he is. He crashes to the ground and then onto Sam again. Apparently, it hurts. His hand's on Sam's chest when Sam's body remembers what his diaphragm is for, and it fills, and the breath torn from him ekes its way back in.
He's okay. He's okay.
Dean's been babbling this whole time, but Sam doesn't know what he's saying and doesn't care what he's saying. Dean pulls him up and Sam thinks, This is a weird fucking moment for another kiss.
But Dean's just checking the back of his head for blood, which there's quite a bit of, everywhere. It's just his hands, though, raw to the world and spewing bright, dazzling magical blood.
He's mortified until he remembers he's the only one who can see that part. Then it just hurts; and he's so shocked he's not even sure if it does that. But it should.
"Where is it?" Dean spits. It seems like maybe that's not the first time he's asked. Sam's not sure where it is. He blinks, and everything streams together in long and multiple exposure.
"Sammy, you gotta work with me here, you gotta-- Where is--"
Sam's voice pitches considerably higher than he thought possible.
"Sammy--" Dean warns. A generally useless warning.
Sam knows where the serendipity is, all right. It's on his shredded hands, like some kind of queer, vampiric, phosphorescent butterfly. Sam feels a nauseating tickle against his nerves as small clots of red trickle along its edges--his blood staining the serendipity's horizons ugly and mottled as his red and its green mix.
"Righthereit'srighthere it's right here," Sam stammers. "It's right here it's in my hands I think it's trying to eat me."
It's trying to drink me, oh god it's drinking me, is the only clarification Sam can think of, so he keeps his words in his throat and just gapes silently. Tries not to budge a single muscle, a capillary, a cell of skin.
"It'srighthereit'srighthereit'srighthere how do we put it-- How do we put it in the-- the thing--"
"I have no idea," Dean admits. He's staring at Sam's hands, which means he's staring at nothing.
"It's eating me, it's eating me, it's eating me--"
Then Sam's mind suggests something else.
It's trying to purify me.
"Sam, don't move," Dean orders. "God, I feel like a fucking mime," and grabs haphazardly at the air in front of him. His fingers close around nothing, and disappear within the light of the serendipity.
"Get out of there, you'll feel it, you'll feel what's in that thing and what's in my blood and you'll know get out of there it's trying to help--"
"Shut up, Sam--I'm trying to fucking--"
Dean pulls at the serendipity until it's a long thin stream and funnels it into the flask. Funnels, funnels, funnels. And then it's gone.
"Holy shit," Dean rasps. He's not looking at the flask but at Sam, and in Sam he can tell that it's done, it's gone, it's over. It's quick, unceremonious, and a little embarrassing.
Okay, it's a lot embarrassing. This whole case hasn't exactly been the stuff of ballads and war stories to write home about. Sam doesn't feel victorious. He does not feel relieved.
But because it bears repeating, Dean says, "Holy shit."