Title: Conflict
By: nancy
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: R
Warnings: angst, language, incest
Summary: After the faith healer, Dean finds out that Sam had more information than he let on.

Dean groaned as he twisted his neck back and forth, trying to relieve the cramped muscles that came from driving for so long. Road trips were always good, it was how he lived, but the cramping muscles were a bitch. Of course, he was very glad to be alive to have them, though in his better moments, he knew that he shouldn’t be breathing. In his petty moments, he was glad the other man had died so that he could live. The guilt that had hovered at the back of his mind directly after the whole debacle had died down in the last couple of days, but Dean knew it would always be with him.

Wondering if Sam was going to be long, he eyed the small store like countless others they’d been at before with annoyance. If they were going to make Kansas City by dark, they had to get back on the road. His cell rang, interrupting his irritation, and he saw with some surprise that it was Joshua, the man who’d sent them to Roy in the first place. Dean answered with short, “Yeah, Joshua?”

“Dean! You’re alive! That’s great, man!” the other replied enthusiastically.

Dean kept his doubts to himself and said, “Thanks, Joshua. What’s up?”

“I was actually calling to find out how Sam was doing,” Joshua said, sounding abashed. “I didn’t expect, well, he did say permanent heart damage. I knew he wouldn’t use Roy after I told him the man was causing deaths somehow when he healed. Glad your heart problem turned out to not be permanent.”

Shock kept Dean rooted to the spot and silent.

“Dean? You still there, man?”

Dean shook himself from the fog and answered, “Yeah, sorry. Just, I’ve got to go. I’ll have Sam call you.”

“When he’s got a chance, no rush,” Joshua assured him.

Hanging up with a sense of dread, Dean couldn’t believe that Sam had known all along about the Reaper. Maybe not the specifics, but the ‘life for a life’ situation for sure. He’d known, kept Dean in the dark, and then not done anything to stop the death of an innocent man when Roy had called on Dean to heal him.

“Hey. They didn’t have any Poptarts, sorry,” Sam said, joining him at the car.

Without thinking, Dean slammed his fist into Sam’s jaw, sending him sprawling on the ground, the small bag and its contents flying through the air. More furious than he could remember being in a damn long time, Dean spat, “You son of a bitch! You knew! You knew and you traded someone else’s life for mine anyhow! God damn you, Sam!”

Knowing that he had to leave before he did something that would result in serious violence, Dean jumped into the car and tore off, leaving Sam behind.

*  *  *  *

Sam sat up with a groan, his jaw throbbing from the impact of his brother’s fist. The Charger was long gone and the dust already settling from the squealing tires that had sped through.

“You all right there, son?”

Looking over at the gas store owner with a grimace, Sam nodded and answered, “My brother and I just had a disagreement.”

The old man grinned. “Sure looks it. Had a few of those with my own brother over the years. C’mon back inside and you can have a seat ‘til he cools off and comes back.”

Grateful for the offer, Sam replied, “Thanks, I appreciate that.”

“No problem.”

Sam gathered up the spilled junk food and followed the man inside. It was a small station with a garage, so the area where the junk food and sodas were held was tiny, but the chair beside the register was fairly comfortable.

“Name’s Erasmus,” the man introduced.

Sam stood, taking his hand, and said, “Sam Winchester.”

“Well it’s good to meet you, Sam,” Erasmus replied, bringing up an ice pack with his other hand. “Looks like you could use this.”

Giving the man a rueful look, Sam accepted the ice pack and gingerly placed it to his jaw, which was throbbing and hot, signaling a pretty spectacular bruise to come. He might have five inches and twenty pounds on his brother, but Dean sure as hell knew how to throw a punch, no matter who was on the receiving end. Sitting back down, Sam sighed and repeated, “I really appreciate your help.”

Erasmus waved it off and sat on the stool behind the counter. “It’s no trouble, Sam, honest. So, you boys on a road trip?”

“Yeah,” Sam confirmed.

“And you’ve been traveling long enough to get on each other’s nerves.”

Sam sighed. “That’s one way to put it.”

“Sounds like it’s time to go home, then.”

Shaking his head, Sam answered simply, “There is no home. Dean’s all I’ve got left.”

A gnarled hand patted his shoulder and Erasmus said, “Don’t worry, then. I’m sure he’ll be back.”

I’m glad one of us is, Sam thought, sighing to himself.

*  *  *  *

By the time Dean took his foot off the gas pedal and pulled into another gas station, it was dark and he had no idea where he was. He sighed, rubbing his eyes, and tried to make sense of the emotions still rioting through him, two hours later.

How could he have done that? Dean wondered for the hundredth time. It doesn’t make sense! You don’t trade your life for an innocent person’s, you just don’t! It’s not right. Dad told us that a hundred times and even if he hadn’t, it’s still not right! What was Sam thinking?

A tap on the window scared the shit out of him and Dean jumped, heart beating fast. Shock hit him when it was Sam who bent down to look through the window. Opening the door, Dean exclaimed, “What the hell!? Did you do a spell to get me back here, too? Have you gone completely dark side?”

Sam jerked back in surprise, then asked, “What are you talking about?”

“I never turned around, Sam,” Dean snapped. “And yet somehow, here I am, back at this miserable little gas station.”

Holding up his hands, Sam replied, “I didn’t do anything, Dean. You probably just didn’t pay attention to where you were going. You never do, when you’re upset.”

“I would know if I God damned well turned around,” Dean snarled, walking away.

Sam followed, grabbing his shoulder to stop him, and Dean swung at him again. Prepared for it this time, Sam dodged with a quick jump back. “Dean, let’s talk about this, okay?”

Glaring at his brother, Dean retorted, “There’s nothing to talk about. You traded an innocent man’s life for mine and that’s just wrong. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are! I was ready to die and you cheated Death just the same way that Sue Ann did! That’s going to come back and bite you on the ass one day, Sam! And even if it doesn’t, it’s just not right!”

“I know.”

Fully prepared to argue the point, the quiet agreement threw Dean. Squinting suspiciously at the other man, Dean repeated, “You know? Then why, Sam? Why did you do it?”

Sam’s jaw flexed and he looked away. “Did you know that Jesse was my first girlfriend? It took four long years for someone to chisel away through all the walls that I’d built up, thanks to how Dad raised us, and believe me, she had a lot of chiseling to do.”

Dean wanted to take offense to the insult to their father, but kept silent, sensing that Sam was going to say something important.

“She became everything to me,” Sam continued, staring off into space. “Leaving her to go find Dad was the hardest thing I’d had to do since leaving home in the first place, especially with those nightmares, those visions, haunting me. And then she was gone, taken from me the same way that Mom was from Dad. I was…shattered…and I didn’t think I would recover, I really didn’t. But then there was you. You filled up the, the hole inside me, Dean. My heart, my soul, my gut, whatever you want to call it, there you were. Trust me when I say that you’re the last person on the planet I expected to do that, but you did.”

Feeling vaguely offended by the remark, Dean muttered, “Thanks, bro.”

Sam half-smiled at him and said, “No offense. But see, here’s where the problem is, Dean…I love you, and I will not let you die if there’s anything in my power that I can do to prevent it. I will kill for you and I will die for you, and I will trade another person’s life for yours, before I let anything bad happen to you.”

Astounded by the blazing certainty that shone from his brother’s eyes, Dean had no response at first.

Taking his silence for disgust or worse, Sam looked away and said in a pained voice, “You don’t have to worry, Dean, I’m not going to do anything about how I feel. Just…please don’t send me away.”

Shaking himself from the fog, Dean closed the distance between them and reached for Sam, who flinched, but didn’t try and get away. He hesitantly cupped Sam’s face, looking up at him as he said, “It’s okay, Sammy, honest. You just, you caught me by surprise.”

“So, you don’t hate me?” Sam asked uncertainly.

It hit him then, just how young Sam was. He forgot, most of the time, that Sam was only just twenty two and most of his life had been sheltered before he’d gone to college, which had been even more sheltering. Having been hunting for the last ten years, it was a stretch for Dean to remember that Dad had kept them both from the darkness for as long as he could. He’d taught them to fight, and they’d moved around a lot so Dad could hunt on his own, but neither Sam nor Dean had been brought on any hunts until deemed old enough.

And by then, Sam had taken off.

Dean offered his brother a faint smile and replied, “I don’t hate you, Sam, I love you too.”

Relief spread across Sam’s face and he smiled fully. “You don’t know how relieved I am to umph!”

Dean pressed his lips to Sam’s in a short, hard kiss before pulling back to repeat strongly, so there was no mistake, “I love you, too, Sammy.”

Understanding dawned on Sam’s face and happiness replaced the relief a split second later. It didn’t really matter what anyone else thought, as long as Sam was happy.

And hell, people already think we’re a couple, Dean thought, half-grinning as he remembered the whole house-hunting gig a few months back. This won’t be a big change.

“So…we should get going,” Sam said, grinning stupidly at him. “Find a hotel somewhere.”

Dean smirked. “I like the way you think, Sammy-boy. Let’s get out of here.”

Snorting, Sam replied, “Just let me say goodbye to Erasmus.”

He followed Sam to the gas station door, but it was locked. Not only that, but the whole place looked like it had been deserted for years, the glass barely transparent with caked-on dirt and dust.

“What the hell?” Sam muttered, tugging on the door.

Dean peered over his shoulder into the darkened, defunct store, then tugged on his arm and said, “Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. C’mon, Sammy, time to go.”

Sam looked over his shoulder a couple of times, but climbed into the Charger without further protest.

Starting up the engine, Dean peeled out again, but this time, his hand rested on Sam’s knee and his heart was calm and full. Probably for the first time in his life.