Title: After the End
Author: liath
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Warnings: incest
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 6488
Note: This is post AHBL2, so consider spoilers through Season 2. Also contains some pre-series.
Summary: Dean refuses to let time slip away, and Sam refuses to let his brother go.


It's been four days since the gates of hell opened. Four days, and they're waiting now in some forgotten, run down motel still inside Wyoming. Dean can't remember which town, but it's not important. He's with Sam, and they're not going anywhere, not until Bobby and Ellen return.

Four days with barely a breath of sleep, days spent with his eyes fixed on Sam and really nothing else. Going through the motions, mind and mouth on autopilot until exhaustion was just a memory. Inside Dean was trying to feel each minute with Sam as it passed, trying not to count, trying to sear it all so deep in his memory it could never be undone.

The television reflects the dull incandescence of the room, two low burning bulbs above their beds. Dean doesn't even bother finding out if they have cable. He has no patience for television, and he doesn't want to wake Sam. He thinks of music, but all he really wants to hear is Sam breathe.

Four days. That much less than a year left. That much lost already without so much as a thought. Dean feels as though it never existed in the first place, worries that it will be like this until the last second. Nothing tangible to fill him up as the time passes, as it's leeched slowly away from him to leave nothing in its wake. He wonders if the memories will be enough.

The first couple of days had been almost easy. It felt like twilight, the grey-blue parts of day when you can't always tell if it's dawn or dusk. The bitter relief of having Sam back was just enough to make everything okay, even in the shadow of the world's ending. Even in Dean's own shadows. Everything had burned just a little bit brighter for a while. If he tries hard enough, he thinks, he can hold onto that.

Sam's been half unconscious for more than a day. He's never really woken, but his sleep has been erratic, disturbed, feverish. He sweats too much and thrashes sometimes. Dean wonders what Sam's dreaming about, and thinks it must be awful. His clothes are suddenly constricting, and he peels off his shirt, tosses it on a chair. He leaves Sam sleeping and heads for the shower.


The motel is an awful yellow in the early evening light, sharp starbursts where the sun reflects off the long row of windows. Sam unlocks the door as Bobby and Ellen take off in a spray of gravel, and Dean slips inside right behind him. The wallpaper is dull and red, the shag carpet plastered down with wear, and the furniture dark and far too old, but it's all lost on him. After so much time on the road, all the rooms look the same.

Sam is already pulling out his laptop, connecting his cell phone and signing online. Dean tosses his bags at the foot of the table and looks at his brother. Sam's eyes are red-rimmed with fatigue, bloodshot, circled with darkness as he surrounds himself with books.

"What are you doing?"

Sam looks up and Dean almost thinks he's a ghost. "I told you I'd get you out of this." His fingers rush over the keyboard and he's absorbed again, a critical draw of his eyebrows as he scans the screen.

"You should rest," Dean says, but his brother doesn't look up. "Hey," he insists, louder, and this time he gets Sam's attention. "Rest? You know, sleep?"

"Shouldn't waste time," Sam says, and that hits Dean like a punch to the gut, but he doesn't show it.

Dean runs a hand through his hair, rubs at the back of his head. "We haven't slept in like, two days. We can spare a few hours." Sam only shakes his head vaguely, and Dean drops his arm to his side. The room is oppressive, hotter than outside. Dean's pretty sure Wyoming isn't supposed to be this humid. They both have a sheen of sweat over their skin, and Sam's hair has started clinging to his face in wild curls.

The door closes, and Dean reaches for the settings on the air conditioner under the windows. It coughs and hums and spits dust before pumping out any air. When it does, it's warm with a musty smell, and Dean twists the knobs every way he can, trying to get some cool air. When that doesn't work, he kicks it, popping off one corner of the faceplate and cursing.


He looks up, but Sam is still lost in search engines and obscure texts, squinting now to read. Dean gives up on the AC and pulls the curtains back, forcing the stuck lock free and opening the window. The air is silent, too still to give any relief, and Dean wants something cold.

"I'll be back," he says, fist closing around his keys, and he doesn't wait for Sam to answer. He climbs in the Impala and fires up the engine, roaring out of the lot, and speeds toward the convenience store they passed on the way here. He's in and out in record time and skids to a stop with beer and some snacks in front of the motel.

Dean drops the bags on the dresser and pulls out a six pack. Practiced hands grab two bottles and pop the lids off. He holds one out to Sam.

"Thanks," Sam says, actually looking up at Dean. For a moment he seems to forget about the research. "God it's hot in here."

Dean grunts and sinks into the other chair, ignoring the way the cheap wood back pushes into his spine. The bottle is already wet with condensation, cool in his hand as he takes a long drink. Sam's still drinking when Dean sets his bottle down, head back, adam's apple bobbing along his long neck, and Dean's eyes fix there, frozen, until Sam sets down the empty bottle.

Clearing his throat, Dean asks, "More?"

"Yeah. Thanks" Sam wipes his mouth on his sleeve and takes another bottle. He downs this one just as quickly, and Dean already has another waiting. It's not long before they've gone through two six packs, wanting to drink while the beer is still cold, and Dean's only had three or four. The rest are working their way through Sam, making him belligerent and drowsy.

"I don't need to sleep," Sam insists, trying to focus on a book. He's been staring the same page for fifteen minutes now. "Not yet."

"Sam," Dean says, clearing the bottles from the table. "Come on."

Sam pushes the chair back and stands, not entirely straight. "Look, if you're tired, go to bed. I'm going to--I want to keep working." He sways and reaches out for the table. Sam shakes his head and disappears into the bathroom. By the time he comes out, he's leaning on the door frame and looking pale. Dean exhales. Sam never could hold his liquor, especially on no food or sleep. He hooks his arm around Sam's shoulders.

"Let's get you to bed."

It's a pitiful excuse for a fight, but Sam puts one up anyway. His head tilts to the side and he's scowling at Dean with hazel eyes that look so dark in this light.

"You know, you're--"

"Short, yes, I know," Dean finishes, guides Sam to one of the double beds. He knows it's probably not what Sam's going to say, but anything else is too much.

Sam grumbles something he can't understand and falls onto the bed, almost pulling Dean with him. He groans, one hand gripping Dean's shirt so Dean has to lean over him. And then Sam's giving him that look, that angry, pouting glare that he always wears when Dean's done something he thinks is idiotic, which is often. There's a moment where it looks like Dean might have another fight on his hands, but Sam only grabs his head and plants an intentionally sloppy kiss on the line of Dan's Jaw, just below his ear.

"You stupid son of a bitch."

Dean doesn't, can't, look at Sam, just pulls free and helps his brother get his shoes off before Sam half-shoves him away.

"Got it m'self." Dean arches a brow at Sam's clumsiness, but eventually his brother sprawls out on his stomach on top of she covers in his boxers, arms crossed under his pillow and one knee bent.

"'Night, Sammy," he says, but Sam's breathing has slowed. He glances at the clock on the bedside table and turns it to the wall.


Dean rubs a towel over his wet hair a few times and tosses it into the corner. He leaves his shirt where he left it on a chair and buttons the top of his jeans. The air isn't any cooler, even in the middle of the night, and the damp is clinging unwelcomed to everything. The scattered food receipts are soggy, the pages of the books limp. His thumb leaves behind brief circles of fog as he dials voicemail on his cell. Dean isn't sure how much more of this he can take.

He sinks into his familiar place on the corner of his bed. Sam stirs, mumbling something unintelligible. Dean watches his brother, listening to his mailbox assure him there are no new messages. The phone closes with a click, and he drops it on the bed. Elbows on his knees, Dean cradles his head in his hands, fingers running roughly over the wound on his forehead. A cut that will heal in a matter of days. No scar, no reminder. Not that he needs one.

The heat is already starting to seep into his skin again, and Dean shifts back, leans against the headboard. His eyes are bleary, the red, dull-patterened wallpaper fading in and out of focus. He starts drifting, until the room illuminates in a flash of white. When Dean looks out the window it's black, all ink and no stars between the staccato of light from distant storms. The lightning is furious, but there is no thunder.


Sam is five, and Dad isn't there. Dean holds his father's shotgun steadily and keeps Sam behind him as they scout the hotel room, all the lights blazing. They peer under the beds and search the closets, pull back the shower curtain with fury to find nothing. Dean cracks the door open and glances out front. The wind howls savagely, the air heavy with coming rain, but there is nothing else out there.

"What did you see?"

Sam frowns at him, rubbing one eye. "I don't know."

"Well, what did it look like?" Dean bolts the door, walks to the back window by their bed and tries to keep Sam behind him.

Sam sticks his jaw out and stares at Dean with bright eyes. "It was black. And --I don't know, I only saw for a second. It went... up there." He points out the window.

Dean frowns and puts a hand against the glass, trying to see more clearly. A shadow flits by in the moonlight front of him, and Dean almost jumps back. But it isn't black, it's red, and fluttering. He almost sighs.

"I told you!" Sam hisses, running to the window.

"Keep back," Dean says, even though it's not necessary now, pushing his little brother behind him again. "Let me look." He still can't see much, so he slides the window open just far enough to fit his head out.

There is a line of old trees just behind the building, skeletons that stretch up into the clouds, bending and crackling in the wind. Dean sees the shape again amongst the branches, not too big and very square.

"What is it?" Sam's beside him again, all elbows, trying to see what Dean sees.

Dean opens the window all the way. He sets the rifle down and hoists up, climbing over the sill and jumping out onto the grass. The blades are wet under his hands, and he wipes them on his jeans.

"Where are you going?" Sam's already trying to pull himself from the bed to the window, and Dean hushes him.

"Just wait," he whispers roughly. When he looks up into the trees, Sam's kite is being battered by the wind, tail and string wound around a branch. Dean can't reach it, so he starts climbing, shoes scraping at the bark and hands finding the best places to grip. He slips, spins and finds himself upside down on the lowest limb.


He ignores Sam, pulling himself right side up to straddle the branch, scooting out to the tangled kite. The knife his father gave him last year is in his back pocket, all polished wood and sharp steel, and Dean flips the blade out, cuts through the knots of string. As he gets hold of the kite, a violent gust sets everything on its end. Sam screams and Dean hits the ground, hearing something in his forearm crack before he feels it. His face twists, he's sure it's broken, but he grits his teeth and climbs to his feet. He's still holding the kite.

"Dean! Are you okay?"

When he looks up, Sam's trying to climb out the window again. "I'm fine. Just wait there."

He finds his knife a few feet away, and Sam's eyes are wide when he starts climbing gingerly back into the hotel room. "You found it!" he says, jumping, and grabs the kite from Dean before he's even got two feet on the floor. "I thought I lost it."

Dean lets the tail ribbons slip through his hands and closes the window. He holds his injured arm against his stomach. "When were you flying that?"

Sam looks up, wide hazel eyes almost green. "This morning, while dad was showing you--"

"You went outside alone?" Dean grabs one of Sam's shoulders, a surge of stomach flipping panic hitting him, and leans down to look him in the eye. "Sam you know you're not supposed to--"

"I know, just... It hasn't been windy like this in a long time, and I thought--I wasn't out there long. It wasn't a very good place to fly it..." He trails off into a worried pout. The kite falls to his side, tail rustling at his socked feet.

Even though he's talking about a toy, Dean thinks Sam sounds far too old to be five. Toys are something they should both be talking about, he knows, asking for at Christmas and getting for birthdays. Crashing together, shooting down, fighting over. But neither of them really has any anymore. He closes his eyes and sits on the bed.

"Okay, Sammy," he says. "Just, put it away. We'll get more string later." He falls back and stares up at the ceiling, the throbbing of his arm fading beneath the lingering worry.

Sam nods, retreating to the closet and pulling the kite's frame rods apart. He wraps them carefully in the covering and puts it all in his bag.

When Dad gets back, Dean has a story prepared, one he hopes is believable, but Sam doesn't let him tell it, doesn't let him take all the blame. There is no shouting. Dad sets Dean's arm in silence, and it's the last time Sam ever flies that kite.


Dean wakes with a start, banging the back of his head. He rubs at his forearm, and in the poor dawn light almost sees a scar. A groan from Sam rises above the numbing sound of crickets.


His brother doesn't answer, only shifts slightly, turns away from him. The bright scar stretching across Sam's back is blinding to Dean, and his face twists in half-rage, a self-loathing that rises quickly and threatens to consume him. His jaw clenches until something pops, and Dean tries to breathe deeply with the heels of his hands pressed into his eyes. This was about as far from how things were supposed to go as Dean could imagine.

He remembers the crossroads, remembers the sky, remembers the stomach turning taste of the kiss with that demon bitch that sealed the pact, and he wonders if he should regret it. Regret the weight he's piled on Sam's already heavy shoulders. But he can't live without him. Not without Sam. He believes it was his only choice.

The breath he exhales is heavy and sharp, and he stands, steps toward Sam's bed. Dean reaches out and rests the back of his fingers on Sam's shoulder, touch light, checking for signs of fever. But despite the sweat, Sam's skin is cool against his. A very small part of Dean relaxes. At least there is that.

He lingers with the contact, and his throat tightens, tongue suddenly thick, mouth dry. His hand moves almost on its own to Sam's spine, fingertips tracing the soft percussion of vertebrae from Sam's neck down to the angry new skin of the scar. When Sam's back arches into his touch, muscles tensing under his fingers, Dean slams his hand closed until his nails burn into his palm.

"Fuck, Sammy," he breathes, turning away from the bed. Sam had never needed to do much to make him feel like this.

The window is as far away as he can get without leaving, so Dean leans against the frame, holding the curtain open with one hand. There is a breeze now, at least, enough to push through the window. The ocean of wheat across the highway bows and sways in the wind. The sun is an ember, red and yellow and edged with cloud. Dean watches as it climbs from the sea.


Sam is eighteen, and Dad's gone hunting alone. They've been at the beach all night, sitting by a driftwood fire and reveling in the sea spray air on their faces. It's cool, despite the warm breeze blowing in off the Atlantic, and Sam has edged closer for warmth. Dean tosses another piece of timber on the fire and watches the sparks fly.

He doesn't know when Sam had finally grown taller than he is. His brother had always been thin, with too-long arms and legs that were sometimes awkward in his younger days. The way he'd expect any kid that good at school to be. One day Sam just shot past him, and now Dean is the one looking up. He wishes he could remember the day they could stare each other evenly in the eye.

"Where do you think he's gone this time?" Sam pulls at the hem of his sleeve and stares into the flames, elbow bumping Dean, arm resting against Dean's shoulder.

Dean doesn't move, just watches the light on Sam's face, the sharp relief of molten shadow and soft orange. His chest feels tight. "Dunno."

"I'm just so... so goddamned sick of this," Sam says, turning shining hazel eyes on Dean. "I just don't know why it has to be this way." He draws some meaningless symbols in the sand with one finger. One of the empty beer bottles falls over.

"He must have his reasons," Dean replies. He knows that's not what Sam means, can see it in the fullness of his eyes. But he can't stand get into that again. "Shit he doesn't want us getting into." The sky is melting from black to indigo, and the stars are fading.

Sam huffs and crosses his arms over his knees. There's a long silence, and Dean glances quietly at Sam, just from the corner of his eye. His brother is scowling, eyes narrow and dark. Sam's mouth sets in a crooked line.

"I don't understand it, Dean," he says as he draws his knees closer to his chest.

Dean knows where this train is going, tries to reroute it anyway. "What? That Dad might have some things he thinks he has to do alone?"

"No. Your--" Sam chucks another piece of wood into the fire. "--your blind faith in him."

"'Scuse me?" Dean's shoulders straighten, feeling this gain speed and trying to brace for it. "Blind faith? Sure I have faith in him, but it ain't blind, Sam. I have no reason not to have it."

The collision course is set out, that things will only spiral on out of control until it crashes, and Dean wonders what the casualties will be. Until his brother just nods and drops his head, and Dean lets out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

"Yeah. But don't you... don't you ever think about having a normal life? You know, a house, a steady job. Never on the run. Just... A life of our own." Sam looks up again. "Well. My own. Your own."

Dean isn't really sure what to make of that, thinks he's missing something in what Sam says. It wouldn't be the first time. The sky is paling by the second, the stars washing away, the moon blending in. The water crashes in small waves against the shore, creeping up and up as the tide rolls in. The sun is just below the horizon now. Dean wishes it would stay there.

"Yeah. Sometimes," he lies. But he never does, not really. He's strangely content doing what they do, and part of him, most of him, can't imagine not doing it. Not now, not knowing what's out there. He hunts because he can, because other people can't. He hunts because it helps.

"I'm going to college in the fall. In California."

Dean feels someone's fist tear into his chest. His throat constricts around nothing, wordless, thoughts scattered. Sam looks worried, eyes crinkled at the edges, pupils darting back and forth in the light, everywhere but at Dean. It's the first uncomfortable silence he can remember in years.

When Sam clears his throat, it makes the hair on Dean's arms stand up. "I got accepted to Stanford. Pre-law. I'm gonna head out there in August."

The withering fire suddenly looks to Dean like his entire life. He's watching it all burn away, and even if he puts it out, most of it will have already turned to ash. "That's what you want." He can't force any life into his voice, and he twists his ring, hunching over so Sam can't see his face, see the tension creeping in.

"Yeah, Dean. It is. Sometimes... sometimes these kinds of things are all that can save you." Sam sounds quiet, apologetic.

Dean closes his eyes against a sudden flood of words. He pushes them aside, all the things he really wants to say, swallows it all until he can feel the world knotting up in his gut. He wants to point out all the things wrong with that, all the things he sees that Sam doesn't. He wants to know why Sam thinks he needs to be saved. But if he opens his mouth now it's all going straight to hell. They can argue later, like he knows his brother will with Dad. Right now, right now is here.

"All right."

Sam's head whips around. "What?"

"Yeah. If that's what you want." Dean grabs a handful of sand, grains rough against his skin, real, and he closes his fist until it starts pouring out from between his fingers.

"Well... thanks."

Dean can't sit still anymore. He pushes himself to his feet, dusting the sand from his clothes. "It's morning, we should probably get back." He needs something to do, something to hide the tremor in his hands, so he gathers up the bottles. Sam starts to help, but Dean shakes his head. "I got it, dude."

His brother backs off, and he can almost breathe again. Dean shoves the bottles into a trash bag, the crack of glass against glass comforting. When he looks up, Sam has left his shoes by the fire and is standing calf-deep in the water, foam curling around his legs. Behind Sam's silhouette he sees the sun climb out of the sea.

Stoicism has always been easy for Dean, in the face of everything they've seen, in the moments he's had to be strong for Sam, for Dad. It's never been hard to hide how he really felt. This is different, and it takes him a while to remember exactly how to find that smile, the one that reaches his eyes just enough to make it believable. Dean drops the bag and steps up behind Sam, squinting into the sunrise. He pushes Sam's shoulders, and Sam falls face first, rolls over, gasping and clambering to his feet.

"Fuck, Dean! Cold!" His hair is dripping wet, his clothes soaked, and Dean laughs.

"Poor Sammy," he says as Sam breathes through the water pouring down his face. "There's no way you're getting in the car like that."

"Shut up."



The light is glinting off the water now, and when Dean looks at Sam, all he can see are his eyes, lit green behind damp lashes. Of all moments, it's this one when Dean realizes he's in love, and that this will break him.


When Dean opens his eyes, the sun is pouring into the motel room, spilling onto the floor, breaking into a million pieces. He's exhausted, but he can't stand to sleep, can't stand the thought of wasting even one second. He knows he'll have to, eventually, but he's pushing it away with everything he has.

The bed sheets rustle, and Dean turns, sees Sam stretching and crushing his face against the pillow, feet dangling off the end of the bed. His brother heaves a sigh and shifts a little to look at Dean, finally awake. Dean lets the curtain fall, taking the edge off the light that breaks though, and walks to Sam's bed.

"Hey, Sasquatch." Sam's looking up at him through half-lidded eyes, and Dean swallows. "Still asleep, hunh?" Dean doesn't blame him. He'd sleep for a week after what Sam's been through. He means to let Sam wake up on his own terms, sparing him any big brother torture, and he's turning away when long fingers wrap around his wrist. When he turns back, Sam's eyes are illuminated, that same vivid green he'd seen so long ago. "Sammy?" he says, drifting closer to the bed.

"How long have I been sleeping?" Sam's eyes don't move, not even a flicker, and Dean can't look away.

"Little over a day. Day and a half, maybe."

"Son of a bitch," Sam says, and Dean can't tell if it's meant for him or not. His brother looks at the other bed before pinning him with that stare again. "You haven't slept."

"Naw. Well, maybe a little, but it's all I could manage." Dean doesn't know why he hopes Sam believes him. If he doesn't, he doesn't say anything. Sam's still holding his wrist, and when he rolls onto his side, Dean suddenly wishes he weren't standing so close.

"Why'd you let me sleep so long?"

"You needed it." Dean wants to pull away, turns and leans, but Sam grips tighter, and Dean's pulse quickens, thrumming under Sam's fingers.

Sam's tongue flicks out over his lips. His voice is throaty, full of sleep, and Dean is suddenly half hard. "No, I didn't." Then Sam is pulling him, and he lands awkwardly on the bed, almost sliding to the floor. But Sam is holding him tightly enough to keep him there, and Dean swings his legs onto the bed, knees bent to put some distance between them, trying to conceal his reaction. Even so he can't help but shove Sam's shoulder.

"Dammit, Sammy," he grumbles, "the hell was that for?" Sam is grinning, the light hitting his face just so, and Dean smirks, shakes his head. It's the best thing he's seen in four days.

The grin doesn't last very long, and his eyebrows raise. "Dean." Sam's tone is low, serious, and Dean tries not to roll his eyes.

"Aww, Sammy, I thought we agreed a long time ago, no chick flick moments. Don't bail on me now."

"Shut up," Sam says, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Sam releases Dean's wrist, and the air feels cool against the places his fingers were. He touches Dean's necklace, traces the cord around the back of Dean's neck and his hand settles there. A chill skates down his spine.

Dean suddenly feels exposed, crosses his arms awkwardly in front of his body, between them. Sam is studying him with an intensity that strips him bare.

"I won't lose you, Dean. I thought I had once before."

There is a certainty in Sam's voice he hasn't heard since Sam was a kid, making Dean quiz him with flash cards as if there were something he didn't already know, showing off with a confidence Dean would always wish he had. Somehow, it's not as calming as he expects.

"I lost you twice, Sam." It's not what he means to say, and by the look on Sam's face, it's not what his brother expects to hear. Sam's fingers brush the short hair at the nape of his neck, and he pulls Dean's forehead to his.

"Jesus, Dean," Sam mutters, and Dean feels a swift understanding in the pressure of Sam's fingertips. Looking at Sam is too much for him, now, and Dean has to close his eyes. All around him bridges were burning.


Sam is twenty-two and Dad has been missing for days. Dean is sitting in the Impala outside Sam's California apartment, the engine and radio off, the only light coming from the orange-white street lamps that offset the black-blues of the evening. He's been out here for over an hour, watching the dark windows, imagining what could be going on inside. An old man in flannel pajamas fixing a bowl of cereal in the middle of the night; a group of college girls eating ice cream, watching romantic comedy tear-jerkers and waiting for Dean to show up at their door; a family with kids tucked in safe and sound, dreaming of, well, whatever it is normal kids dream of. Or Sam, sitting up late with a book by low-light in his bedroom.

Mostly he's thinking of Sam. What he's reading, what classes he's taking, what his bedroom looks like. How much taller he is, if his voice has changed at all. Dean's realized he has no idea who's in there. That four years and a few hundred thousand miles of cracked blacktop and lonely power lines has probably put a lot more distance between them than he'd thought when he first started driving here.

Looking up at Sam's door is like looking backward, seeing every moment they'd had in reverse. And the dark windows echo the hole time had fallen into when Sam had left. All of it was a greater monster than he could approach just yet.

Dean feels like the pieces of a puzzle had been scattered four years ago, and that he'd put most of it back together okay. Some parts more quickly than others. But there is still one or two spaces unfilled, pieces he hasn't been able to find yet.

He's tried. Once or twice he's found someone who almost fit. A girl he thinks he might be able to spend long nights talking with, sharing their most quiet stories, the light and dark of their lives. Like he and Sam had when they were kids, taking cover under the sheets while their father snored in the other bed. But nothing is ever like it was when they were young, and it's never enough, never the same, never just right. Never like that safe high he used to get jumping off a swing and landing on his feet, that feeling of dizzy contentment in his stomach he'd had around Sam.

Dean tells himself there are plenty of reasons. He's never in one place long enough to make any real connections. The stories he has to tell would make most laugh, some run. And when he thinks of the secrets he has to keep, his mind always comes back to Sam. It's been four years since he looked at Sam and knew, but it hasn't gone away. It doesn't feel like it ever will.

The air is cool when Dean opens the door, the Impala's aging hinges creaking. He closes it too roughly before he remembers, flinching when it slams, but no lights come on, no dogs start barking. He climbs the steps, pulling out his lock picking tools. When he's sure no one's watching he carefully works the tumblers in the lock until they fall into place with a familiar click, and a twist of the knob opens the door.

He hesitates at the threshold, knowing what this means. Walking into Sam's house doesn't equal walking back into Sam's life. But he doesn't think he can turn back even if Dad isn't missing. The bridge is crossed.

They last spoke two years ago. The distance had done its job pushing them farther and father apart, but Dean knows he let it. He'd written a few letters, small words scrawled across paper with bad penmanship. Each one seemed so contrived, so meaningless, and they all ended up the same way: discarded with a thousand afterthoughts he had to drown with stale company and cheap whiskey in the smokey glow of a dive bar.

The door swings open silently. It's a minute before Dean's eyes adjust to the blue monochrome shadows of the apartment. When he sees the tidy furniture, the pictures hanging level, he can't help but be happy Sam has found his normal life. And he wonders suddenly if Sam will forgive him for coming to take that away.


Sam's hand his still warm on his neck, his other fingers curled over Dean's shoulder, and Dean looks up at him. Sam leans in, impossibly close, and so much of Dean wants to pull away it hurts. But he can't, even in Sam's hitch of hesitation, and then Sam's kissing him, tentative, almost chaste, and Dean can't move, can hardly breathe. Sam pulls back, licks his lips, and that look in his eyes nearly breaks Dean right there.

This isn't supposed to happen, this is something Dean knows he can't have, has always known. But when Sam's fingers vanish, leaving an icy hand print on his shoulder, he he stops caring, reaches out, slips his hand into Sam's sweaty mop of hair and pulls him back. He doesn't kiss him, can't bring himself to. This is not his choice.

It's all searching eyes and light touches and Dean wishes Sam wouldn't be so goddamned girly about it, and then Sam's lips are crashing against his. He tastes of sweat, salt and sweet and all together Sam, and Dean responds. His hand curls into Sam's hair, tugs just enough to draw a low sound from him, make him bite down on Dean's bottom lip. Fingers dig into the back of Dean's neck, and Sam's other hand slides past his arm, underneath to traverse each one of Dean's ribs before settling like summer on his hip. The touch is elemental, and Dean arches toward him, feels like this is the first time he's ever really done this. Sam's mouth is wet, hot, and Dean can't get enough, doesn't think he'll ever be able to get enough. He's drowning and doesn't want to come up for air.

"Fuck, Sam." But it's lost in a clash of tongues.

Between feverish, messy kisses, Sam says his name, quietly, over and over like some long practiced mantra, and Dean feels his chest caving in. Maybe he's the one who shouldn't be so damned girly about this. Fingers hook inside his jeans, jerk him closer. Sam works one leg between Dean's, and he can feel Sam's cock hard against him.

"Sammy." It comes out choked, and Dean shakes. Out of need, out of relief, out of disbelief. Sam pushes him back, the old motel bed cover rough against his skin, and leans over Dean, forcing their hips together. Sam's fingers slide around the front of his jeans, knuckles scraping the sensitive skin of Dean's abdomen, and Dean doesn't think he's ever been so hard.

Teeth nip down his jaw line, a tongue runs over the sweat slick place over his pulse, just there, and all he can think is Sam's name. Sam presses against him, kissing down his neck, over his collarbone, which makes Dean groan out loud, the small depression just in the center of his ribs above his belly, grazes his teeth over one hip bone. Dean wraps an arm around Sam's back, palm pressing into the valley of spine between hard muscle.

Their breaths come rough, movements rushed and half-clumsy and just need right now, and Sam is undoing the buttons of Dean's pants, forcing them down just enough, moving back up to kiss him. Dean gasps and bucks his hips, one hand with a death grip on the sheets, when Sam's hand shoves into his boxers, wrapping around his dick.

He'd groan at the pitiful noise that escapes him when Sam's hand disappears, but he doesn't think he can care less. The loss is momentary, and then he feels Sam's cock brush against his and Sam's long fingers wrapping around them both, pulling, twisting, thumb brushing over the tip, and his eyes slam open. Sam pulls back, just enough to lock eyes, and Dean shakes his head, the world starting to tumble down around him. He's coming apart in Sam's hands, in the swift, careful strokes that are going to bring him off any second now, disintegrating in that look that Sam's giving him.

Dean thinks he can't do this, can't come undone all over again so soon and make it out the other side, but Sam's arm is around his shoulders now, Sam's mouth warm on his lips and it doesn't matter. A few more strokes and Dean's shattering in Sam's arms, all the pieces he'd so carefully put back together scattering on impact and he's got Sam in a death grip. Dean's come is white and sticky between them, and Sam is shuddering seconds later, collapsing against him in a tangle of arms and legs and burying his face against Dean's neck.

Dean closes his eyes and can't do anything but concentrate on the feel Sam's skin against his. Something he's been missing slides into place.

"I will get you out of this," Sam says, shifting against Dean's shoulder, and right now, Dean believes him. It seems an eternity, and he's as grateful for that feeling as he's ever been for anything, but finally Sam looks up at him, eyes bright green, and gives him a very lazy, very Sam smile.

The wind has picked up, gusts crashing like waves against the motel front.

Later, when Dean pins Sam against the bed and Sam's fingers curl over the headboard, he thinks it might be true. Sometimes it really is the cliches that save you.