Sam's never felt worse. No nightmare, no hangover--just a dream. Jess was there. When he wakes, he's reminded she's not. It doesn't even matter it's been six months, almost seven. It has nothing to do with anything he did yesterday. It makes no sense. But suddenly she's gone all over again, more gone than she has ever been before, and it hurts like absolute hell.
Sam doesn't think these cloudbursts will ever go away. Not really. Loss doesn't care if it makes sense or not. He tries to roll onto his back, take a deep breath (and fuck, everything hurts). His motion is stopped by a bulk behind him. It's calming for a half-second, Dean's back warm and sturdy against his, but then Dean starts awake, chokes on his own spittle, and too quickly, becomes a fluster of motion. There have been easier Sunday mornings.
Also, it's only Saturday. And they're not supposed to be here.
"Fuck, fuck--" Dean chants, with the relative incoherence of someone who's just woken from sleep they'd hadn't meant to fall into. "Move it, Sam, we gotta go--"
They're in Mackie's room--conveniently downstairs--his shit still strewn about. By the sound of Dean's suddenly more impassioned fuckfuckFUCKs, there's also still pins on the floor.
Blessedly, the more awake Sam gets the less Jess hurts. But the more awake Sam gets, the more his body remembers that everything else does.
His raw hands. Every muscle fiber. The blurry, prismatic dance of magical signatures across his vision. Now the particle trails seem warped and imprecise, as though they've been melting from their signifiers all night. He can barely see. So he stares straight ahead, straight up, and doesn't think about fire.
"We can't go anywhere. No gas in the tank," Sam says dully, without tearing his eyes from the ceiling.
"I seriously thought he was gonna chase us all the way across state lines, man." Dean laughs a little.
Sam remembers this hazily--trapping the serendipity and afterward, Motel Guy crying bloody, bloodcurdling murder until they promised they'd get the hell out of his life. They'd waited two hours on a frontage road before sneaking back.
"Believe me, if I thought there was a green zone out there we coulda made it to, I would've gone for it. But apparently, Motel Guy's got the only digs in Rime. And for the love of God, Sam, get your pretty ass up--"
By the way, Jess is still gone.
"I can't believe we didn't at least get a free night out of this," Sam grumbles as he folds his head toward his knees.
Jess is gone.
It doesn't make sense to bring her up now, even if it might explain to Dean what Sam's fucking problem is. It never does. It takes everything Sam has to wake up and swallow her.
Not that Dean's one to talk, where speedy getaways are concerned--he's still seated, too. Slowly weighing the pros and cons of further movement. He's hurting. No miracle cures on Dean's front either, then. No functional, actual serendipities. No more meds.
Sam can hear it in Dean's voice when he answers, "Come on, when have we ever been thanked?"
"Almost every time, actually," Sam points out. "Even Becky thanked us, and we left a dead shapeshifter on her coffee table."
"Layla didn't," says Dean.
When Sam doesn't reply, just claws his fingers deeper into the bedspread, into his knees, Dean asks, "Are you okay?"
"Spell's wearing off," Sam mumbles. "Feels like a migraine. Or everything looks like a migraine, anyway."
He keeps his eyes screwed shut.
(Don't think about Layla, whose name Sam had forgotten and now cannot erase. Don't think about Jess. Don't think about any of that.)
"Guess I'm driving, then," says Dean.
"You good for that?"
Dean winces. "Pretty sure Motel Guy wasn't bluffing when he said he'd shoot us if he saw us again. So yeah, I guess I'm good; let's not get our asses capped. Man's gotta defend his pastries after all; plus, he's already mad about the Internet. And, I dunno, loitering. Funny business. Though I guess he did nearly kill you, so I don't know if that really--"
"He was trying to save us from being indigent low-lifes or whatever. Scare us into having good moral character," says Sam, mostly to slow Dean down. All the chatter's for his benefit, Sam's pretty sure--at least in part. It's Dean's usual strange combination of unhelpful courtesy and adrenaline jabber. Sam continues, "All right, someone has to say it: Motel Guy's is fucking weird. But it's the serendipity that tried to kill me."
Dean shakes his head. "Dude, never cop to being offed by an invisible nightlight."
"And death by Motel Guy is somehow better?"
Dean mutters "Fuck mornings" as he takes a stiff, experimental step, then replies, "Death by conniving businessman who withholds rations from the prisoners of his snow palace and wants to shoot them. But hey--when in Rime..."
Sam snorts into his chest, forehead still braced on his knees. They don't even know Motel Guy's name.
"Sam, up and at 'em," Dean repeats. "I'm serious, we gotta go."
"Why are you so scared of him?" Sam yawns. "Aren't you supposed to like, work your charms and wiles in these situations?"
"As of last night, I'm pretty sure he knows he's not my type. Thanks for that," Dean says.
"Sam, look at me."
Sam looks, and Dean's lips meet his. The mattress craters beneath him and suddenly Dean's whole body falls against Sam's. Dean grabs Sam's shoulder to stabilize himself, but holds the kiss. His tongue skates along the rim of Sam's lower lip.
Sam kisses back.
They match each other's breaths, lips tickling between kisses, until finally Dean pushes off from Sam's shoulder and up from the bed.
When Sam opens his eyes, everything's haloed and wavering like an old TV, with its tubes all out of sorts. The brightness of the magic dusting everything makes his eyes water.
It's covering Dean like blood, of course, clots in his hair and dripping from his hands. Humming in his heart, and washing the air before him with every breath. It splatters the room, lingers in the light fixtures. Dances along the windowsill like ant poison.
It's even leaking through the bandages on his hands, the thin scabs beneath the gauze. His veins glow with it.
Sam wipes his mouth aggressively.
"Seriously?" says Dean, brows arched.
"You haven't brushed yet," says Sam.
"Seriously," says Dean, and throws his hands up.
Dean makes a show of planning to leave Sam behind, while Sam tries to work out the color of him--or the magic in him, in any case. There's so much of it crossfading against itself it's mostly a murky gray--white for the reaper who brought Dean back to life, puffing in and out of his chest. Every other color for every other evil thing they've ever touched. Sam strains to see the chlorine yellow of the serendipity, in hopes he'll be able to see what marks it's made, but it's everywhere, and the delineations are too hard to make out. His vision's going black and splotchy.
Sam tries to focus on the fingers he'd used to wipe his lips. His heart tingles with the sensation of Dean's proximity and Sam begs himself to ignore it.
Because there's a chance, isn't there?
And because he wouldn't be Sam Winchester without this, he thinks up one more terrible thing before they leave Rime. One possibility he hadn't yet considered: There's a chance that he and Dean, the way they are right now, are just misprogrammed fate. If that's what they're calling it.
Maybe what they have is just the serendipity, spitting things out in faulty translation. Sam wanted Dean, so he got him.
Sam thinks of Dean's lips against his, their backs against each other, Dean's hands in his hair, arms around him, and maybe that's all it was.
Or maybe it's a grief thing. Or a neurosis thing. Maybe it's not real. Not really what they're meant to be. Maybe Dean's just lying to him. That kiss just now should belie that, but Dean's too smart for his own good; maybe he's figured out what that kind of thing does to Sam, what it can make Sam do for Dean. Maybe it's a tool.
Sam's thought about this on his end, too. Maybe this is just a tipping point--because if this last week has been a testament to anything, it's that they can't just say "I'm on a roadtrip with my brother" anymore. They can't keep saying, "because we're family; because you're my brother" and just leave it at that. It leaves too much to default. Allows too many escapes where there need to be incursions, confessions, confidences. Maybe Sam's lips against Dean's are just a way of forcing those conversations out of them.
Maybe this is all just manipulative as shit; or maybe it's professional. It's in exchange for services.
Maybe it's as innocent as just wanting Dean to touch him like that.
Sam would like that, it it were.
"Sam, I'm fucking lapping you. I haven't been the one telling you to get up since you were like, seven. This is pathetic."
By this point, Dean's backed against the door, holding it wide open so the wind sweeps in. Snow flurries meet a quick, wet demise against him.
Sam imagines himself at seven and Dean at twelve and wants to gag. But he also wants his dick in Dean's hands, their ankles locked, and a few other things he hasn't thought about since midterm study breaks with Jess last spring. But that's all a few steps more than the kisses Dean's offered so far.
"Dean, we're brothers," Sam blurts out.
Dean looks away, out toward the parking lot, his eyes squinted against oncoming snow.
"I don't see that changing anytime soon," Dean says.
Sam shrugs his jacket on completely and nestles deep into its collar as he zips its front. There's a tender pressure at his back as Dean guides him out the door. A click as it closes, finally, behind them. The noise hurts, for some reason.
Sam tries to speak over it, drown it out, even though the sound is gone and the act is already done. "So what are we even doing?" he asks. "What are we gonna--"
"We're gonna let some slack into the 'find Dad' thing, for one," Dean answers immediately. Apparently he's been thinking about this. "Not like he wants to be found, anyway. And just until we figure out what-- until we--"
"Until we what?"
The their car doors slam in sync as Sam and Dean tip inside.
"Sam." Dean sucks in cold air and it blows out with the white of both ice and magic. Sam shudders. "Don't torture yourself. I'm begging you. Please."
Sam watches pained tears spark in Dean's eyes as he taps the acceleration. Dean ignores them, the Impala rolls backward, but when they shift to drive and push in earnest, the sound Dean makes is unearthly.
Speaking of torture.
So Sam says, "But you realize how fucked that'd be, right? If we kept--and it was all just--"
"Please," Dean repeats.
"Everything's already so fucked up. I mean, Dad, and Jess. And the demon, and now I'm having visions--and then reapers, and hell, even the fucking health insurance. I just, I can't do that to you, Dean. I can't." And there's magic in my blood; dark magic. And I can't take you down with me.
Dean sighs. "What. What are you doing, Sam? What are you supposedly doing?"
"I don't want to hurt you," says Sam.
"But what if it's just some weird serendipity sex pollen thing?"
"Dude. First dolphins, now flowers? Mixed signals, man. Mixed fucking--"
"Can you shut the fuck up for a second and listen to me?"
The Impala fishtails a little on the icy driveway, but she's steady on the road and a half-second later, they're sidled up to one of the gas pumps.
Dean takes a moment to catch his breath, hissing a pained staccato through his teeth. It's going to be a long drive.
"Just answer me one question, Sam. Then I'll listen to you from here clear to--" Dean pauses. "Oh, this is the last landmark for hundreds of miles. So I guess I'll listen to you from here to, uh, right about here."
"I'm fucking serious."
"Me too," Dean replies, in a tone that suggests that yes, he's pretty damn serious.
He says, "Sam, do you want this?"
Sam's not sure.
"Yes," Sam says finally.
And Dean says, "So why wouldn't I?"
Sam swallows. "Because you're not always that great at knowing the difference. Between what you want and what you--don't actually want. Or what you only think you should want," he says.
Dean frowns. "I know how to say no to you."
"That's not what I meant. I'm just saying that sometimes--"
"You know what I want right now, Sam? 8 gallons and one of those meat stick things."
Dean digs a wallet--not his--from his jacket pocket and flips it into Sam's lap.
"What? And where--"
"You know--one of those meat stick things. They're like yea long, weirdly red, giant bog cow on the package, always near the register. Oh--right. That's Roy's," Dean explains belatedly, poking at the wallet. It presses against Sam's crotch.
"You stole Roy's wallet? How hasn't he noticed yet?"
Dean shrugs. "He's an idiot. Though I'm sure he'll get us back someday." Then he adds, “I figure that'll get us a couple hundred miles and some real food. We hock that stupid video camera and we can probably swing--something vaguely medical. Maybe.”
Sam fingers their catch. It's a nice wallet, and well worth stealing. Its contents are a little tailwind, which will keep their crash and burn away for a few more days. (Plane's still burning, emergency measures still in place--but that, they probably don't ever escape.)
It's not about the money, though. It's not even petty revenge.
It should be about the money, fucking frankly. Sam's probably never going to really know what happened between Dean and Walt and Roy and Mackie; he'd be foolish to guess. But maybe it should be about revenge, too.
It's not, though. Sam knows, because if Dean's still anything like the person he was the last time Sam knew him, for every cause he takes up and every plan he makes, there's a hundred things he draws outside the lines. No rhyme, no reason; no fate, nor fatalism. Just impulse. Uncalculated inspiration.
A thousand fires could burn a thousand ceilings, and Sam could see an entire fucking rainbow in his blood, or on Dean's breath, or striating the muscles of his heart. A thousand fractured serendipities. But if it's him and Dean against it all, they won't be hemmed in by fate. They can't be.
So Dean will steal wallets because he can and Sam will throw pastries and maybe they'll both fall deeply and wholly into some other kind of love. Because fuck it, they're not someone else's story, they don't have to play by destiny, and if they want to fall in love they can fall in love. It's just between them. They can take it and run.
The epiphany leaves Sam frenzied and breathless, but really, he should know better. You can't drive off into the sunset at 5AM. And their pain is enough to sober just about any fantasy.
"I liked it," is all Dean tells him, which is about a gram off neutral zero. It's not exactly a sweeping declaration of love.
But if they're going to have any chance in hell, Sam might need to be okay with that. And of course, given how Dean's sweeping declarations make Sam feel, maybe Dean's lowball declarations are actually a good thing.
(I'm never going to let that happen to you I'll do whatever it takes Always and forever Anything it takes Sammy I'm gonna keep you safe)
"Sam, I liked it, okay? I'm just not sure--"
"Sure of what?"
Dean's face contorts, as though he can only do so many things at once--juggle the conversation with Sam, or the one with his knee. And it's like they're right back where they started, with Dean falling apart and Sam afraid to hurt him.
"I don't want you to psych yourself into my arms because I'm the least dead thing you could find. There--is that honest enough for you?" Dean snaps.
Sam doesn't take the bait. "That sounds like my problem, not yours."
Dean tries again. "I'm just saying--there's a lot on the table. You're all over the place right now, and God knows I'm a piece of work. And I don't-- This might not be the time to add in another deck of cards."
They're in the middle of a load of shit; that much they agree on. But Sam's jumped way past that.
"Do you have any idea how relationships work?" Sam asks. "Like, do you think Jess and I hooked up because we had all our ducks in a row and everything was great?"
"Okay, seriously. What were you gonna do with those ducks?" Dean asks.
"Is that what you think, Dean?" Sam repeats, ignoring him. "Have you ever been in a relationship before?"
"I have a no-strings-attached policy."
"Okay, well, me and you have strings whether we fuck or not."
"So now you want me to say yes? I thought you were all flipped out because maybe the serendipity love doctored us."
"It doesn't matter what I want you to say. That's my whole point."
"So as long as I'm down with this, you're cool with a fairy possibly pimping you out."
Sam flip-flops Roy's wallet between his hands. He decides, "Wishes are simple. Whatever you and I are, we're not that."
All it takes is one glance at Dean, fleeting eye contact, and that's twenty-two years; and life and death and life again; and the dust monsters, old and new; freight-rate baggage and thirteen different fights, ninety paranoias, seven hundred traumas. It's bad ice cream and worse baked goods and shitty jokes and a lot of blood. What he and Dean have isn't exactly wish material. You don't choose this kind of thing--not even if you're confused or wishing badly. No one chooses this. But it's what they've got, and it's what Sam never wants to lose. Of this much, Sam's absolutely certain.
Does he want it? might be a different question. He doesn't want to lose it.
He wants to want it.
"Let's see how far we get, then," Dean says finally.
It's difficult to tell if 'far' should be measured in miles or inches, in intimacies or just plain survival.
As if on cue, Dean's phone rings. At first Sam assumes it must be Roy, finally mourning his missing property. But from the look on Dean's face it's clearly not; it's a conflagration of yearning and dismay.
John, Sam thinks. Dad. Dean's head on his shoulder and his hands at Sam's waist--and Dad.
Whatever Sam's told himself about his father's approval, or how much he does not want it and does not care, it all folds like a house of cards. His lips curl against the hot memory of Dean's tongue and he nearly pisses himself. Because if John Winchester can track a demon, there's no way he won't find out about this.
Maybe he already knows.
"Don't give me that look," says Dean, when he finishes his phone call. Sam missed the entire thing.
His heart's still racing, his stricken expression a warped rictus.
"Sam, I promise--we'll hit up a clinic on the way. You can march my ass through the doors yourself."
Sam's still thinking JOHN JOHN JOHN and Dean's tongue in his mouth.
"And, ah. Let me know when you're good to drive. Please."
JOHN JOHN JOHN and Sam's hands on Dean's ass.
Dean waves a hand in front of Sam's face. "Uh, hello?"
Sam blinks. "What, uh, what did he--"
"She," Dean corrects, and Sam's brow furrows.
"Trust me, if Dad's anywhere, it ain't anywhere near her."
"So where are we going, then?" Sam asks dazedly. He only just processes the fact that Dean hadn't been on the phone with John; he'd been so sure. He can hear the judgment raining down. Asking, as always, why everything Sam wants comes with such a high damn price tag. Asking why, even after Jess, Sam's still ready to take everyone down with him.
"Down South," Dean answers. "It's time to visit an old friend, I guess."
He looks at Sam kind of funny then.
He adds, "Her name is Cassie."
If Dean thinks he's being generous by giving Sam that, Sam's not sure why. Her name means as little to him as Walt, Roy, Mackie, or Sara.
"Cassie. Sure. Cool," says Sam.
"Not really," says Dean. He doesn't meet Sam's eyes that time.
Sam lets the name ring in his head. Cassie.
"And Sam--" Dean starts again. Then he changes his mind. Sam doesn't bother fighting it.
Sam can see it in Dean's shoulders, the line of his jaw and the cant of his knees. He's loose and easy; it's the way other people look when it's time to say I love you, or time to feel it. It's what other people look like when their guard is down and their heart is out. When they feel safe.
But Dean's guard's not down.
Dean pats the wallet atop Sam's crotch, points outside, and says, "Pump 3."
If you haven't already, please check out sketchydean's gorgeous artwork, which combines Winchester grit with fantastical fae signatures so gorgeously well, and is just all around beautiful in its composition, palette, and level of detail. <33333333