Title: Boys of Summer
Author: liath
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Warnings: incest
Rating: NC-17
Note: Title blatantly swiped from Don Henley's song of the same name.
Summary: Five summers the boys spent together.


Mornings are something they ease into, cool and slow, like summer doesn't quite exist in this part of Indiana. Sam's not sure time even exists here. They're not far from town, where the storefronts look like they haven't been updated for decades, and the street lamps and clocks must be antiques. Only the cars seem out of place parked in front of the shops, a clash of eras and technology that the people don't seem ready for.

Their rental is bare, but Sam has his own room for the first time he can remember. The light angles in the narrow window, draws sharp, sterile lines on the lumpy plaster walls. He should be used to it by now-the emptiness, loneliness of these temporary outposts-but all he's managed so far is a mental checklist of all the paint colors of the last two years. Baby blue. Rust. Lime green. Some kind of bland pumpkin. White. White. White. White. When he has his own house, he decides, it's going to be all colors. Colors with bright, stupid names.

Sam watches the sunrise paint the room from his bed, knees tucked under his chin. He spent the whole night out of his skin, all wide eyes and a tight chest that made it hard to breathe. It's the same thing every night, here.

There's a clatter in the kitchen, and Sam climbs out of bed, same pair of dirty jeans he wore yesterday, same black Metallica shirt. Dean had given it to him years ago, and now the black has faded to grey, the silkscreened letters cracked and pockmarked from age and weary laundromat washers. It's too narrow in the shoulders, too short to reach the top of his jeans, but he'll wear it until it's embarrassing.

"Jesus, Sammy, you look like hell." Dean is grinning behind a spoon piled high with wet, generic breakfast cereal. It looks something like Sugar Puffs, but the one time Sam had tried it, he'd felt like he was choking down cardboard. A dribble of milk hits the table. Dean wipes the mess off with his hand, then rubs his palm on his jeans.

"Gee, thanks." Sam stumbles in, pulls back a chair and flops into it, gangly limbs in every direction. Their father is already gone, probably chasing down that lead on some violent deaths outside Covington. Sam had told him to take Dean, that fourteen was perfectly old enough to stay on his own, but it never does work that way.

He rubs his eyes, blinks as Dean pushes an empty bowl toward him. "Err, please, no," he says, feeling nauseous at the thought of eating--now that he thinks about it, something that closely resembles soggy carpet.

Dean's expression softens. "Still not sleeping?"

Sam shakes his head, crossing his arms over his stomach where his shirt rides up, skin warm against skin. His hair is all unruly whorls, curling over his forehead and into his eyes. It's been far too long since he's had a haircut, but he's quite content going for a couple of extra months with uncooperative bangs and curly bits that stick out around his ears. Especially when the alternative involves a family member coming at him with scissors. Eventually the teasing will stop, and someone will take him for a proper cut.

There's a frown that comes with Dean's grunt of disapproval. He's got that look on his face, like he's ready to wreck whatever it is tormenting his little brother, if there was only something to wreck. Sam smiles, and his shoulders are all angles under his shirt when he shrugs. He leans forward, rests his chin on his fist, elbow on the table.

"I can't believe you eat that." It's entirely mush now, a swirl of grey clots in grey milk, but Dean is still shoving it into his mouth.

"'S food," he says, mouth full, lips wet, and Sam makes a face at him.

"That is not food, it's some science experiment gone horribly wrong. Any minute it's going to slide out of the bowl and crawl across the table. And I am not sticking around to defend you from it."

Sam tries not to laugh when Dean lifts the bowl to drink the rest, sputters and coughs, and drops it on the table.

"Told you." He's grinning again, the exhaustion of so many hours fading just a little.

When the bowl stops spinning, Dean wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "Fine, geek, let's get some real food."

There's a diner in town that's got the best food Sam can ever remember having. The waitress might remind him of his aunt, if he had one, and she dotes over him, bringing him an extra milkshake. They order half the menu, burgers, pancakes, some fruit thing Dean won't go near but Sam is happy to devour. He tries not to groan when Dean inevitably orders dessert.

"Always room for pie, Sam."

Dean gets the last of the cherry pie in the place after he pins Sam's legs against the booth, daring him to do anything about it, and Sam gets stuck with apple. He stabs at it with an exaggerated pout, thinks it wasn't too many years ago when Dean always let him have the last piece. He eats it anyway. It's good, and he's always hungry.

Soon all that's left on Dean's plate is a wide swath of cherry filling and a scrape of whipped cream. Dean doesn't even have the decency to use a spoon to scoop it up.

The sound Dean makes is almost obscene. "Best goddamn cherry pie I've ever had," he says with a hard to read, crooked smile. "Wanna taste?" He holds out his index finger, and Sam tries not to gape.

"No, that's o--"

"C'mon, Sammy, you don't know what you're missing. Seriously, dude. We have to come back when they have more." Dean arches one brow and waves his hand in front of Sam.

"You are so gross. Have you even washed your hands?" Sam stares with raised eyebrows at the whipped cream and cherries piled sloppily on Dean's finger. His tongue flicks over his lips, and he tries to look disgusted. He really doesn't think it's working.

Dean cocks his head, the briefest of last chances, then shrugs. "Hey, your loss." He's pulling his hand away when Sam snaps forward, catches Dean's wrist and yanks his hand back. Dean thinks he won't do it, and that's somehow more annoying to Sam than Dean almost smearing his chin with pink glop.

"Oh, for Chri--!" He slides his mouth over Dean's finger and sucks off the remnants of whipped cream and syrup drenched cherries. He glares smugly and sits back in the booth, the swath of skin between his shirt and jeans sticking to the cool vinyl.

Dean looks like he's just won some bet as he licks his fingers clean, ignoring the crumpled napkin Sam shoves at him, and Sam tries to think about how unsanitary the whole thing is. Tries to think of that, but he still tastes cherry and whipped cream and the soft salt of skin on his tongue and--

"God, are you done?" Sam asks, glaring at him.

His brother just grins at him around his thumb, makes a small satisfied noise and finally swipes the napkin. "See?" His eyebrow crooks up, and Sam considers shoving the rest of the apple pie in his face. "You got some on your face, there."

Dean reaches out to wipe it off, but Sam swats his hand away. He rolls his eyes and runs the back of his arm over his mouth, and Dean flags down the check.

"You gonna finish that?" Dean's already pulling his plate across the table, fork carving through the apples and thick crust, and Sam splatters him with vanilla shake from his straw. That earns him a head lock and one hell of a noogie on the way back to the car, but not until Dean makes sure all the pie is gone.

They come back later, when the heat is low and the clouds heavy and pale, and commit what Sam thinks must be the worst credit card fraud they've ever managed in one town. As the sun goes down, Sam's walls turn red violet blue. When the only light left in his room is a weak, sickly orange from the street lamps, he grabs his tattered pillow, ignores the creak of the floorboards and the doors, and climbs into bed next to Dean. It's the first time he sleeps in a week.


It's the heat that gets to him, sun fever and the dance of light that shimmers over everything, warps and twists and liquefies. Tricks on the eyes in a place desolate enough to make anyone wonder what's really out there. Just the only thing he's ever known.

The days are all dust and wide skies, the yip-cry of coyotes blending soft nights into sharp, bitter mornings. The sunrises are sultry, air swelling quick and sending them stumbling and sweat-damp from their beds.

Dean rises first, and Sam lies, stretches, lazily kicks long legs out from under the sheets. The floorboards creak as Dean shuffles into the hall, and Sam watches the curve of his back before he disappears around the corner.

When he hears the static spray of the shower, Sam rolls onto his side, runs his thumb inside the hem of his boxers along his hip. He sighs, worries a lip, and reaches over the edge of the bed to fish for his jeans. In the kitchen, Sam washes a spoon between his fingers and wolfs down a bowl of cereal with too much crumb dust congealing in the milk. He swallows the last with a sour expression and wishes that just once they'd have a kitchen with more than a handful of unmatched dishes and plastic utensils.

Two quarters out of the last school year, Sam had taken Home Ec. He didn't mind that he was one of only two boys in the classes, which had gotten him plenty of looks, a year's worth of remarks that were easy for him to ignore. He supposed this should have been offset by the girls that all wanted to partner with him, but somehow that was what really rubbed him the wrong way.

For once he didn't care about grades, he just wanted to learn how to cook something edible. To be able to find his way around the kitchen in a house where the idea of a gourmet meal was microwaved Spaghetti-O's and hot dogs washed down with milk from the carton. Admittedly, that last part was all Dean, but it's what always came to mind when he thought of a home cooked meal.

Dean's horrendous milk moustaches are still all that come to mind when he thinks of family meals. The image distracts Sam from the realization that this many months later, he's still far too familiar with Cheerios.

The dishes crash into the sink, and he hears the front door close, follows with bare feet and bare chest. Outside, Dean is leaning, white cotton undershirt over blue jeans, shoulder against a porch pillar. He looks back over his shoulder and flashes a smile, eyes crinkled as he peers over his shades in the bright haze of sun. A sheen of sweat is already light on his face, his neck.

Sam watches the muscles there, just below the angle of his jaw, swallows and gives a lopsided smile. He tries to blink away the silver haze the sun burns into the edges of his vision.

"Wanna help me with the car?"

The toolboxes are heavy-flaking, grey-painted steel filled with all manner of things Sam doesn't recognize. He watches Dean's hands as his brother spreads newspaper, grabs rags from one chest. Sam is all eager eyes and nervous fingers behind the wide shadow of the hood, which is propped up and gaping like a great, growling mouth.

Four schools in nine months, and the summer had hit hard and fast, stealing from Sam the few comforts he'd clung to. Schedules and crookedly-copied worksheets offer no more paper shelter. His freshman year has been lost in an ever hastening ribbon of pavement, the road unraveling behind them.

Sometimes, as the wheels beat a steady rhythm in his head, Sam stares out the back window, watches everything fade to blue and disappear over the edge of the earth. The world doesn't seem very round, then.

Not far outside of Mesilla, the Impala's engine had started cutting out. Dean had coaxed her along, soothing words and a skilled pedal foot and maybe, Sam had thought, just love, and the car carried the three of them here.

While their father takes care of a spirit in the old adobe village, Dean is all old shirts and careful hands over black paint. Sam marvels at his touch, at the grace that consumes his brother, a grace that's always there but never so clear as when his hands are coated with dirt and oil, his shirt covered in grease. Dean is already reaching, leaning over the engine, arm deep in hoses and gears. His shirt rides up over beltless jeans, slung low on the slope of his hips; just a sliver of skin and Sam's biting his tongue.

Next to him, Sam keeps the tools by his hand, stares at the alien landscape with his knees pressed against the bumper. When Dean says something about the carburetor, and two barrels and--

"Rochester? What, like New York?" Sam tries, but Dean laughs and shakes his head, claps Sam on the shoulder and leaves long black finger marks behind, warm, that Sam can still feel.

Dean has to remind him what's what and--no, Sammy, that one, the flare-nut wrench--he tries to pay attention, knows this might come in handy some day. But Dean's in another world when he works on the car, and there's a smudge of grease just near his bottom lip that Sam can't seem to tear his eyes from.

Sam's name is far away, persistent, and then Dean's leaning around him, arm brushing against his back, and he wants to arch, push into the touch. He feels the soft hairs trail over his skin, feels Dean's chest against his shoulder, feels Dean's hip against his own. The fabric of Dean's shirt is nothing between them, the heat unbearable, scalding, and Sam pitches forward, hands out to catch himself on the grill.

"Careful there, Sammy." Dean's voice is right behind his ear, as warm as the rest of him. It's forever before Dean pulls back, wrench careless in hand, and the crooked half smile Sam sees from the corner of his eye makes his stomach quiver.

That night Sam looks out at the moon shining off the Impala's hood, and he wonders what it looks like flying through the New Mexico desert at a hundred miles an hour.


The wheat fields are rain soaked, pitch dark clouds heavy-bellied above them even when it isn't pouring, the air thick but cool. Sam wonders if he'll ever remember what dry earth feels like, and he reaches out past the concrete walk to curl long toes in the mud, leaning forward with his arms around his knees. Water rolls through the gutters of the narrow roof stretching over the long line of doors, the last of the rain spilling down and out onto the ground in narrow streams.

Summer had finally broken, lazy and unimpressed, and Sam is two months past his sixteenth birthday. He thinks it might have been more of a landmark, a rite of passage, if he hadn't already known how to drive. He's not sure he'll ever have a birthday where there's something new to look forward to, and he doesn't think that's fair at all. The mud works its way under the ball of his foot, oozing through his toes and over his instep.

It's not the birthdays that matter, not the calendar or the cake or the sometimes presents. When it comes down to it, his big brother had taught him how to drive. And even if he had been twelve and scared to death behind the wheel of that monster, it had still happened, was still lightning clear in his mind, was still something that was his. The time line meant nothing at all.

Sam sticks his other foot into the mud just as Dean comes out of the room. His brother sits down beside him, close enough to bump shoulders, shirt sleeve whispering against Sam's bare upper arm.

"I'm thinkin' dinner," Dean says, looking out over the gravel parking lot. He's been grabbing pieces of wheat from the nearby field, snapping off stems and chewing the broken ends in his mouth like some hillbilly hick. Sam tries not to picture him complete with overalls and a straw hat.

Dean is doing this, this--thing--with his mouth, lips, tongue manipulating that stupid stalk of wheat like he knows it's all Sam can think about. Aside from the way the sun is lighting up the rough edges of Dean's hair, little points of flame that make him squint, it is. He looks murder at Dean, but the smile he gets in return only makes him huff.

"Of course you are," Sam replies. "Sometimes I think an old head injury knocked your brain down a few feet." When Dean's fist hits his arm, it hurts just a little, but he doesn't complain. "When's Dad getting back?"

Sam feels Dean shrug against him, and leans just a little toward him, stretching his muddy toes. Dad's in Lincoln, stocking up at Caleb's with all sorts of munitions Sam won't be allowed to touch yet.

"Soon, I hope. I don't feel like walking to the nearest burger joint in this crap." Dean eyes Sam's feet with one arched brow. "Although I suppose I could send you, Huck."

There's mud caking the cuffs of Sam's jeans. He probably should have rolled them up, but it feels good, the way the dirty fabric brushes against his skin, leaving streaks of red brown that dry funny and itch just a little. He rubs some flaking mud from his ankle, fingernail scraping lightly over his skin. The movement presses his arm against Dean's, the soft hairs standing on end.

"I don't think so. Besides, you're the one with the wheat fetish."

He looks sideways at his brother, sees the last months reflected in the color of Dean's eyes, the cant of his jaw as Dean regards him with one edge of his mouth curling and--god, he needs to stop doing that.

The touches were vague at first, careful, fueled by fear and the need for something Sam still doesn't understand. He'd thought Dean would see him as some kind of freak, but he hadn't seemed to mind and Sam was hungry for more. A grazed shoulder here, a bump of the arms there, intoxicating flashes that warmed Sam's belly.

When Dean started doing the same, Sam sought more, ravenous. Fingers touch when they hand over the butter at breakfast, knuckles brush waistlines as they pass close in the kitchen. Knees bump together under the dinner table right beneath their father's eyes. It's all the time, in every place, in every room.

"You should try it," Dean says, eyebrows rising in way that makes Sam want to punch him.

The sun is still up when Dad gets back, and he tosses the keys to Dean. Sam climbs in shotgun, freckled arm hanging out the open window, skin hot against the black paint, and they drive to get burgers. Dean orders three combo meals just for himself, and when Sam cracks a wise-ass remark he gets an elbow in the ribs. He holds his hand over the patch of throbbing skin and hopes it bruises. Just a little.

It's always like this now. Dean hogs the sack of food in one hand and holds Sam's order high above, taunting with that easy grin Sam lets himself think is only for him. It's an excuse, just like everything else, one that makes everything feel normal as they wrestle in front of their father. But Sam's grown two inches and it's too easy to reach up, wrap his finger's around Dean's wrist. Too easy to wrest the prize from his grip. It wasn't enough anymore. Never enough.

Enough is something Sam knows he'll only see when he jerks off in the shower, the hot water beating his back red as the steam swallows Dean's name.


The nights here are sultry, close despite the open fields that stretch for miles. It storms like clockwork, late afternoon arriving with the dance of lightning and the ovation of thunder before the sky soaks the earth. It never lasts long, and Sam's taken to sitting out on the porch, watching, breathing in the thick ozone. It's good, quiet. They aren't far from the Oconee River, but Sam hasn't been able to convince Dean to go down there, even just to get away from this place for a little while.

"Dude, Georgia? Haven't you ever seen 'Deliverance'? I think we're near that town."

Sam had rolled his eyes, knowing he can't win. "I'm pretty sure that was a fictional place, Dean."

"Don't care." He'd crossed his arms where he sat in one of the wooden porch chairs, jaw set and a beer in hand. "I ain't gonna be squealing like no pig."

It's the last thing Dean's said since Dad took off again. The week had been left to Sam, to solo runs to the store, quiet meals and hours pacing the bedroom, the living room, the front steps. Dean won't answer when Sam asks, needs, all but begs to know what happened. Where it all went. The words, the glances, the touches that kept his skin from prickling with fire. A week of dismissals and cold shoulders and closing doors. It's like a light had gone out.

It's just past dusk, and the crickets are out full force, complementing the rattle of the cicadas in the thick spread of trees and kudzu. The only lights beyond the house are the lazy blink of fireflies in the field. Sam joins Dean on the porch, hands shoved deep in his pockets. He's given up trying to keep his hair out of his face. No matter what he does it curls and plasters itself back across his forehead. He misses being teased for it.

Dean is in the chair, slouched low with his arms hanging over the sides. He's got a bottle of bourbon by his feet and is completely engrossed watching the blue electric buzz of the bug zapper. Sam turns it off and deflects a sour look.

"The hell you do that for?"

Sam steps back to lean against the nearest post. "It kills the lightning bugs," he says with a quiet shrug. It's true, even if he is perfectly content watching the light cast white violet off the angles of Dean's face, the tips of his spiked hair.

"What are you, five?" Dean scuffs a boot over the warped floorboards, the sound loud enough that for a moment it drowns out the noisome crickets. Sam doesn't answer, just watches Dean until he can see the muscles of his jaw twitch, knows Dean's getting tired of it.

"You drinking?"

"Thinking about it." Dean reaches down and spins the bottle slowly by its neck. Sam doesn't see a glass.

"You're avoiding me." Sam crosses his arms and waits while the obvious hangs in the air, clings worse than the southland humidity. Dean says nothing, just lets go of the bottle and slides deeper into the chair. It rattles a few times before settling, still upright. "Dean."

"It's not you."

Sam pushes himself off the post. He puts himself in front of Dean, and Dean drops his eyes, sinks his chin into his chest. Sam doesn't move, won't leave, just towers quietly and looks down while Dean rubs his chin.

"It's... Fuck, it's me, Sam. It's Dad being gone for the past week, for the next three days, knowing he's not... It's--" Dean wraps his hands around the arms of the chair, pushes himself up with a weary look. "Dammit, Sam. Yeah. It's you."

When Dean's eyes finally do meet his, they're red-rimmed and circled in black. Sam can't see any color at all in the darkness of them, and his throat feels tight, tongue thick. Dean shrugs, and Sam sees everything fall away.

"You're my brother, Sam." When Dean turns, the bottle of bourbon falls with a tink against the old, grey wood.

The air hangs heavy around Sam's head, makes it hard to think. And he knows that, knows all the same things Dean knows, but reaches forward anyway.

"Yeah, I know, Dean. I know," he says, even though the words only pass his lips as a murmur, barely louder than the sound of his fingers twining in Dean's t-shirt, knuckles white with the thought that Dean might pull away. "I know," he says again and slides his other hand behind Dean's head, palm prickling against the brush of short hair.

Dean's mouth is wet, impossibly hot as it opens under his and the collision sends them reeling backward, tripping over the chair, kicking the bottle all the way out and down the porch steps. The kiss is bruising, rough and yes, and now and need this, and Dean's pulling him closer even as they stumble. They barely miss shattering a window when Dean's back slams into the front of the house, his hands tangling in Sam's hair, his teeth pulling over Sam's lower lip.

Sam presses forward, grinds his hips against Dean, feeling Dean through his jeans, as hard as he is. His hands drop to Dean's belt, yanking the leather through the buckle and unfastening the button behind it. Dean groans into his mouth, the sensation sending white flashes along the edges of the darkness, behind Sam's closed eyes.

Sam pulls, pushes, exposes Dean's boxers and slides his hand in. His knuckles graze soft, pale skin as he wraps his fingers around Dean's cock, grinning against the kiss when Dean's bucks his hips into his hand. Dean makes this sound, and Sam thinks he could come right there. But there are hands on his shoulders, shoving, and he falls back, barely keeping his feet under him.

"What--" Sam's breath comes hard, ragged, and he's all confusion as he looks at Dean.

Dean's voice is gravel, a half whisper that Sam can barely hear. "Don't fuck with me, Sam. Sammy. Don't."

Sam might have smiled, seeing a joke not so well hidden, might have laughed and shot back with one of a dozen obnoxious little-brother remarks if it weren't for the look of terror on Dean's face, the desperate way he says his name. It cracks something in him, exposes and shifts pieces he wants left alone.

"No. I couldn't."

The wind is knocked out of him; hands are rough over his face and Sam can feel all the years behind the soft calluses, the texture of Dean's palms. The crooked screen door protests, the corner tearing when Sam's shoulder plows through it. Sam doesn't know who opens the door, only that later his back is going to have stripes of black and blue.

It's all frantic hands and jeans tangled around calves, Dean's knee shoving his legs apart and the fire flush of skin, like so much sunburn. The shag carpeting catches Sam's shirt, razes it over his back, shoulders, as Dean thrusts against him, Sam's thighs sweat-slick, Dean's three day stubble burning a path down his neck.

Sam comes between them with his lip in his teeth, tasting blood. Dean growls and follows, hips jerking and fingers so tight in Sam's shoulder it bruises the muscle.

By the time their father gets back, Sam is a patchwork of rug burn and they both look like they've been in a fight.


It's not a white picket fence, but it's close, and they've been coming and going through the same worn gate for four months now. Sam is trying not to get comfortable, trying not to fall in an effortless rhythm, but it's difficult when he has a warm place to sleep, a lawn to mow, a crappy job with bad hours. The summer is winding down, and he doesn't want to hit the road again, doesn't want to watch dirt clouds chase them for miles and miles, until he can't remember where they are.

"Aww, honey, you cooked." Dean slides easy into the chair across from him and pulls at the knots on his bracelet. A mark is bright on the inside of his wrist, a teeth grazed bruise Sam had given him two nights ago. There's a salt sweet flash on Sam's tongue, and Dean reaches for his plate.

Sam can't muster up the energy to look annoyed. "Pig."

Dean just smiles slow around a mouthful of waffles.

Some days they spend lazy afternoons drifting on the couch. Dean tangles himself into Sam, and the way their fingers twine reminds him of the time Dean taught him the constellations when he was five, guiding his hand over shining patterns in the darkness. He still has trouble finding the North Star. All he knows is that it's not the brightest one in the sky.

A cold front moves over central Pennsylvania during the early days of August, the air just crisp enough to bring suburbanites out in long sleeves, hot mugs of coffee steaming in their hands as they chat in each others' driveways. Carpools of mini vans and short, bright buses usher their children off to camp, to summer school, and Sam watches every morning from the dark of his bedroom. The school year is approaching, and he can smell the battered textbooks, remember the last three locker combinations he'll ever have. These mornings, he wishes he'd gone to his own graduation.

There's a collection of envelopes shoved in between the hardwood bookcase and a small, second-hand stereo he'd bought a month after moving in. The paper is crisp, a little dusty, organized by date. They're just like everything else in his room he doesn't know what to do with. When he looks at them he has to put his head out the window for air.

His shifts at the all night grocer's keep him out late, two or three in the morning most nights. Sometimes Dean comes home even later. Sam is always awake to hear the gate creak closed, hear the weary cadence of Dean's boots on the stairs, clumsy and already unlaced.

There are early mornings Dean stumbles into his room, far too drunk to have been hustling pool. He lies down next to Sam in a mess of clothes, crumpled and smelling of sweat and beer, his feet hanging off the end of the bed. Sam doesn't need to ask questions. Dean isn't using that vanilla mint toothpaste he knows Sam hates so much anymore.

Sometimes Sam cushions his head on his arm and watches Dean sleep. Sleep is an unguarded, open place for everyone, and Sam needs to see it, needs to see Dean that way again. And there are moments within that vulnerability that he feels six years old, lost in sleeping bags under a tent of draped sheets and ragged pillows, surrounded by flashlight beams and shadow puppets.

Sam is standing in the settling dust of the last four years, watching the glint of the car windows as they disappear into the bright, flat landscape.

It's day by day now, and Sam doesn't know anymore, doesn't know if he's what Dean is really looking for, what he will be content to find. Some nights, when Dean fucks him into the mattress and leaves him raw and spent, stomach slick with his own come, Sam thinks that something's gone terribly wrong. Then Dean's arms wrap around him, crush Sam against his chest so tightly that it almost, almost makes sense. But Sam thinks what he needs and what he wants to be are supposed to be the same thing.

The window is open, cold night seeping in and billowing the curtains in soft white waves as Sam lies alone, thinking maybe it's not Dean that can't do this. The sun comes up again with no answers.

September is creeping up, inevitable and persistent, and old habits die hard. Sam pulls the stack of envelopes free, tosses them one by one onto the mattress until he finds one that's still unopened. His fingers shake as he tears the end of the envelope, pulls out the letter inside.

April is a distant memory, like smoke on the horizon, fading into cloud. Of the three student replies he'd composed, crisp laser copies spat out at the local Kinko's on a windy day, only one made it into the mail. And now he holds the months-old confirmation between his fingers.

Dean is just back from a late morning run when Sam tells him, slides the scholarship package over and fumbles his words. Dean's palms are rigid, pressed flat against the Formica. Sam's throat feels like he didn't just drain the glass of water in his hand.



It would give him just enough time to register, just enough to move into the dorms and get used to the fact that he'd be spending the next year with a total stranger.

Sam shuts his eyes when Dean steps close, sneakers bumping together, and summer is no more than the warm breath he feels on his cheek. When it's gone, so is Dean, and the glass shatters in Sam's grip. The pieces in his hand are ragged, tinged with his blood, and when he looks at them he sees all that's left of vast continents, wide oceans.

Neither say a word when Dean drives him to the station. There is no mention of yesterday, not of the way Dean brought him off with sleep-slow, lazy touches before the sun rose, not of the explosive shouting matches when their father got home. Neither of them speak as Sam pulls his meager luggage from the trunk of the Impala on his own. It's only silence, and one last glance, one last little inclination of Dean's head before Sam boards the train.

He doesn't look back after that, just sinks into the seat, feels Dean's eyes on him even as the platform starts to slide past. He has three days before the great western states will engulf the windows, three days to clear his head. But as the train barrels into West Virginia, Sam feels Dean, knows he's still standing at the station looking down the tracks.

There are some things he doesn't think California will drown out at all.