Title: A Trust We Built Together
By: OurLongGoodbye
Pairings: Sam/Dean
Rating: NC-17
Summary: It's like building a suit, like making armor, every time he closes his eyes to sleep, because when things are normal again he wants to be able to say this once, this time, he was the strong one.


[ There's a hole in the trust that we, mapped out in my bed, for six long months, There's a hole in the trust that we, mapped out in my bed, for six long months, for six long months -- The Honorary Title, Everything I Once Had ]

It started the same way everything started, with a hunt. As life threatening as it could--and usually did-- get, things were usually the same. If not for the adrenaline dumps, for the fear pumping through their veins, and the knowledge of the evils that lurked in the world, it could damn near be called boring by way of routine. Routine for the Winchester boys was beyond the norm for nearly any one else.

It was not routine, however, when Dean came out of it half dead. Dean was always supposed to be the strong one. When they had been kids, Sam remembered back then, he'd thought his brother was invincible--Dean had taken his word for it ever since. Sometimes, when you believed something hard enough, it was like it became the truth.

"I could really use a shower," Dean offered helpfully. He was covered in dirt and gashes, wounds extensive enough to make Sam give in and cringe.

"Can you stand up enough to get to the shower?" Sam himself was dirty, sure, but he didn't look half as bad as Dean--stupid Dean, always playing hero.

Dean snorted but shook his head. "Feel like I could run a marathon Sammy. What do you think?" He closed his eyes though and tried not to think about it. Weakness would never be an option. Ever.

Sam gave Dean his best admonishing look, pulling it off well with that extra height of his. It also helped he was far less wounded than his smarmy bastard of a brother. "Can it. I just want to keep you alive. You're not Superman, Dean."

Another snort from the elder Winchester. "Thank God. I'm much better looking, for starters." Dean covered for a lot by being a smart ass...but it would only work so well when his voice was weak, tired from the overall strain put on his body in the last few hours. "I also like wearing my underwear inside my pants, not the other way around."

Sam glared, almost ready to throw his hands up in the air and tell Dean in not so uncertain terms that he was completely impossible sometimes. Instead, "Do your ego masturbating later. You need to get cleaned up and you need to shut up and let me dress those wounds of yours."

Dean affected his best wounded child look; it didn't bother Sam in the least. Sighing he replied, "Be nice. I do like this living thing when I'm not getting beat to shit. Promise." And then his already quiet voice got quieter, more imploring. "Help?" He didn't relish asking but he couldn't get himself to the bathroom with all his injuries--he'd had a hard enough getting into the motel room and that too had been with Sam's help. Dean hated asking, hated Sam just a little for making him ask, but knew it wasn't because Sam grudged him--it was a lot more because Sam was panicked and when Sam panicked he got quite forgetful.

With a sigh Sam put an arm around his brother, helping him up and towards the cramped bathroom. "I'll do whatever you need me to do." Dean leaned heavily, more heavily than he would have liked.

"Shower. And food. God, I'm hungry. And...anything normal. Or." Pause. "Not normal." Dean tried to angle around just a bit so he could glance at the clock on the way but it was a failed effort. "Is it late yet? Drive me somewhere so we can watch the sun go down or up or whatever the hell it's going to be doing in a couple hours." He knew the last was an odd request but he also knew, confused as Sam might get, he wouldn't be denied. Dean just wanted to be outside, enjoying the fact that he was still alive and enjoying the fact that he could have his brother and his car so close, the two most important things in his world.

Looking oddly at Dean a moment, Sam let the tirade slide, readjusting his grip around Dean. "Come on. Let's get you a shower and something to eat." A pause then, because Sam didn't know how to approach the stranger request. "We'll figure out the rest from there, all right?"

"Yeah, fine." Dean was forced to lean heavily against Sam, one arm hanging limply at his side. He was scarcely able to walk and keep upright beside his brother, making him dependent on that support and he hated it. He winced. "Hah. Fuck. Maybe a bath would be more appropriate, huh?"

Dean's coping mechanism, his smart-assed remark, got Sam to laugh slightly. "Yeah. We can sit you in the tub and turn the shower on if you're really that attached but a bath might feel better."

"Feeling good is a plus."

Sam rolled his eyes.

Dean just looked pained. "Whatever." And Sam knew Dean would shrug, all nonchalant, if he could. He did not, however, expect Dean to curl his fingers around his shoulder, around whatever part of Sam he could get a grip on, his voice quiet and far more needy than he would have liked--"Stay?"

Trying, and failing, not to look worried, Sam conceded with a quiet, "All right." With a foot he toed down the toilet seat, helping Dean to sit there so he could not only get a better look at his brother but start the water without the worry of Dean crumpling to the floor.

Dean laughed, short, tired, and trying to cover for a lot more than just a laugh could. Stubbornly he fumbled with his fly. He gave up only a moment later, deciding instead to focus on his shirt while he watched Sam start the water from the corner of his eye. After numerous ridiculous tries, Dean awkwardly managed to tug off his shirt to reveal myriad fresh wounds--cuts, bruises, strange puckers of flesh--in addition to all the old scars. The scars on Dean's chest always made Sam's stomach flip a little. I did that, he'd always silently accuse himself.

Sam sighed, running a hand through his hair.

Motioning with his chin, Dean indicated his dislocated shoulder. "Gonna help me fix that?"

Sam looked at the arm and sighed again. "Gonna have to."

"Well yeah, since I can't do it myself and I happen to like that arm. You know. It's a good arm."

Sam rolled his eyes. Dean was always posturing, trying to come off as untouchable--at times it drove Sam up the wall, times like now when it was clear Dean was really injured. On the one hand he was glad Dean never showed him that weakness, was still his super older brother, but other times the act got damned annoying and Sam wished Dean would just stow the crap and trust him, trust him with his emotions. "Wanna deal with it now?"

"Wouldn't mind, no," he replied sarcastically. "Count of three?" Already he was tense.

Sam nodded. "One...two--" and those hands took a tighter hold on that arm and pushed hard, hoping that by going on two he'd help Dean avoid a certain amount of tension.

Dean had tried very hard to forget Sam always went on two but failed with miserable results. He flinched, biting back curses, and nearly fell to the other side. He'd definitely be sore. "That sucked. Gonna hafta start goin' on one..." But his rebuke was ragged.

Wincing sympathetically, Sam made a face. "Stop dislocating things and it won't be an issue."

"Or that." Dean was still wincing himself. "I'll make a note of that right away." He rested a moment, awkwardly perched on the toilet seat. He didn't bother yet with his pants. Sam stopped the water, turning back to regard his brother.

Sam's face was drawn with worry, upset by the amount of injury. "Do you need help?" He didn't want to ask but Dean had yet to move and he had to be sore--hell, he could barely walk! It was awkward and Sam would have preferred not to have to undress his brother but...well. Sometimes you have to do things you don't like.

Laughing, completely humorless, Dean asked, "Trying to make this more embarrassing?" He sighed, nodding a little, another laugh bubbling up just as humorless as the first. "This is nothing, you know. You worry too much."

Sam snorted, just as humorless, and moved to help Dean undress. He did it with clinical precision, undoing buttons and helping Dean push off the cumbersome articles of clothing. He added, as he worked, "If this is nothing, let's avoid something in the future."

Wisely Dean didn't comment to that. With a wince and a dark frown, "Careful, huh? I'm delicate." He shifted where he could to help Sam help him, feeling useless. Undressing him just revealed more cuts and bruises but, thankfully, no more breaks or dislocations.

Sam couldn't help but look at each wound as it was exposed, his expression never getting any less worried or upset. "God, Dean..."

He snorted. "Just Dean suffices, you know."

Sam scowled. "Jackass."

Dean only rolled his eyes. "You like me just the way I am."

Scowling all the more, Sam helped Dean up, ignoring the fact that he was now in the cramped bathroom with his naked brother which was weird, even for them. Usually neither of them got this wrecked up. "Come on, let's get you in the tub."

"Yeah," it came out a pained sigh. He tried to push to his feet and shuffle towards the tub, everything aching. Dean felt like one big bruise and in some places he wouldn't seem wrong. He nearly fell on his face in his attempt. "This is going great so far."

Sam sighed and put an arm carefully around Dean to hold him up, helping him to the tub and the water inside. Dean let his head loll on Sam's shoulder a moment, needing to be led and helped into the tub. "Feel like a freaking invalid," he grumbled.

"Hate to break it to you Dean but you are a fucking invalid."

With a soft snarl, Dean glared at his brother. "Fuck you, Sam." he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. "...You still have a brother, asshole, that's what matters."

"Yeah. I know. And I'm grateful. Trust me. But Jesus, Dean." Sam sighed, giving Dean a hard look.

"What'd I tell you? Just Dean is fine, man."

Sam rolled his eyes again but decided not to comment, he just frowned, concerned for his brother. Dean let the conversation slip away from him, relaxing into the tub with a wince. He tinted the water pink almost immediately. Sitting back against the tub, Sam sighed. As an afterthought he reached up, fumbling a moment before finding what he wanted, and pulled down a washcloth to toss into the tub with Dean.

Dean glared at the back of Sam's head, fumbling awkwardly for the washcloth. It was difficult to wash himself but he'd be damned if he'd give Sam more ammo and ask for help. Dean didn't need help--he was self-sufficent...usually, anyway. Giving up, Dean abandoned the washcloth on the side of the tub, figuring he'd cleaned his wounds as best he could. At some point the water had chilled and only when he relaxed did Dean notice it and the red color of the water. With a snort, his jaw set tight, Dean tried to lean forward and add more hot water and let out the old but it aggravated his wounds too much, forcing him to give up with a groan and a splash of water. Sam's attention was redirected by the water suddenly splashing against his back.

Shaking his head, Sam pulled off his shirt to avoid getting it any wetter and turned, reaching down to let some water out before turning the hot water tap on. "Asking is a better way of getting my attention, you know."

Dean snorted, his usual response when he didn't want to reveal anything, but he still looked just a little shamed. He relaxed though, the hot water soothing his aching body. Dean felt at least twenty years older than he should have.

Sam just watched for a good time to close the drain again.

"Food after this?"

"Food after this," Sam agreed. "And then we do whatever."

Dean coughed into a hand, wiping extra blood off on the side of the tub, watching the rest dissolve in the water when he lowered his hand again. "Sounds good. Heh. As eldest and dictator, I dictate you drive." Sure he was trying to save his pride but that hardly mattered.

Sam closed the drain, looking up at Dean finally with a smirk on his face. "Yes, sir." And then he wasn't looking any more. "Need anything else?"

Dean made a face, tempted to childishly stick out his tongue. "Yeah. get my back, would you?" He was joking though, not expecting Sam to respond with anything but an "augh" or "you're a jackass."

Eyebrows raised, Sam crossed his arms on the side of the tub and took the washcloth into his hands.

The seriousness there had Dean blinking dumbly for a moment. "Uhn." Just a tiny noise of assent. He leaned forward as much as he could without causing pain, exposing his bruised and slashed back. "Careful," he warned.

"Really? I just thought I'd scrub at them until they were just this side of open wounds again." Sam's voice was sarcastic but his fingers were careful. Even with care though, the touch still hurt, the cloth rubbing irritatingly on the wounds by no fault of Sam's. Dean grit his teeth.

"You kind hearted bastard, you. Such a charmer." He was tempted to add something about women and their preference in Winchesters but Dean didn't have the energy.

Sam smirked. "I learned from the best, the good and the bad."

Dean couldn't help a groan, leaning further from Sam's touch. "Your teacher was a piss poor one."

That one took Sam just a little by surprise. "I'll let you know you said that." Having cleaned Dean's back, his wounds, the best he could, Sam once again dropped the cloth in front of his brother. It's once pristine white color had gone a dark shade of pink.

"I'll remember." A pause. "And I'll still smack you for it." He grinned a bit, much more like his old self than he'd been acting for hours, before he slumped back, eyes closed. Dean let the pause linger then and Sam turned back to lean against the side of the tub. It was a little tense but not wholly uncomfortable. When the water was again beginning to cool and Dean belatedly realized he'd been drifting he asked, "I look clean yet?"

Glancing back over his shoulder Sam replied, "Cleaner than you were."

"Clean enough for general consumption?"

Sam stifled a laugh, nodding. "Yeah." He turned then, reaching down to let out the water.

Nodding tiredly, Dean just stayed in the tub. He wiped away the remaining traces of blood and pink water awkwardly with the washcloth before tossing it aside. He was clean but he still felt like shit. He wanted to get some food in his stomach and go out somewhere in the car with Sam, watch the sun do it's thing so he could appreciate it more fully. He could respect that whole thing about facing death making everything better, more vibrant. He'd been almost certain he was knock knock knocking on heaven's door some hours ago. All he needed was Sam and the car then to feel human again, to feel whole.

Sam stood up with a sigh, stretching and popping some joint or another. He glanced back down at Dean and sighed. "Come on. Let's get you out of there."

Weakly Dean got back to his feet in his attempt to follow, swaying. Dean reached out to brace himself on Sam before falling down, falling just a little against Sam instead. "Damn thing should have a no slip bottom," he grumbled, not enjoying his disposition a bit. "Help an invalid out, wouldja?"

Covering for his worry, Sam smirked at Dean's remarks and wrapped an arm around his brother for support. He grabbed a towel and handed it to Dean once he was safely out of the tub.

Dean leaned a little heavily, blindly slinging the towel low on his hips. He tucked his head against Sam tiredly, feeling drained, but only allowed it for a moment. "Let's go out somewhere."

Sam's response was only a concerned glance. He held in his sigh, leading Dean out of the bathroom. "Like where?"

"Out." Dean shrugged elaborately, unsure how exactly to explain things to Sam without worrying him. He didn't want to explain that he'd been worried before that he'd never see Sam again. He didn't want to explain that he wanted now to see everything when he'd been so sure he'd never see anything again. "Outside somewhere." Another elaborate shrug, the irritation mounting on Dean's features. "Look it up. There's got to be a vista point or something around here, I don't care." He snorted, ducking his head slightly to avoid any other embarrassing and all too telling gesture.

Sam's eyebrows knit together into that familiar look of worry, of concern, but he didn't voice it because he knew better. "...All right." And he helped Dean to sit on the edge of one of the beds.

Dean sat down heavily with a sigh, eyeing Sam through half lidded eyes. Dean Winchester didn't talk things out. He felt maybe he owed Sam an explanation but it really was best to let it go. Sam might not understand completely but that would be just fine. Sam watched Dean, still with that worried look on his face before shaking his head slightly and getting his laptop. He'd do a search, like Dean had suggested.

"Good to be back," Dean muttered. Still awkward, he leaned back, curling onto his side after only a moment because the extensive injuries were still painful.

Sam smiled just a little but didn't look at Dean, knowing his own face would show not only his fragile smile but the heaping amount of concern. He set a hand briefly on Dean's shoulder, squeezing. Dean glanced at the hand but did not pull away immediately. "Girl," he chided his younger brother, brows furrowed. "So?"

With a roll of his eyes Sam set his laptop down before Dean, letting him inspect the screen for himself. The picture was of one of those nice, open, panoramic type spots with links for directions and the like off to the side. "That good enough for you? We'll stop somewhere and just get take out, if you want," he trailed off, trying very hard not to press while still being accommodating.

Dean gave the screen the once over, clicking a few other pictures to inspect the vista point Sam had found with his quick internet sleuthing skills before nodding vaguely. "Looks fine, yeah. Looks good." He glanced towards the window, trying to determine the sun's position from behind the drawn blinds. "Hey. How many hours till sundown around here? I wanna catch it." It made the request weirder but Dean could care less. he wanted to see the damn sun do it's thing. "And take out's fine...anything. Don't care. I'm starved." He made a slight face. "Haven't eaten in a while and my stomach's still...well. Nevermind, I'm just starved."

Sam arched a brow at Dean but didn't comment as he clicked around on the internet for the information Dean wanted. "About two hours, I think," he commented as he continued clicking around. "Yeah. Just under two hours here. What do you think your stomach can take?"

Dean made a little noise, sort of like a snort. "Better get going then." He sighed, still tired, and awkwardly dragged a hand over his face. "What can I stomach?" He had to think a moment. "Two cows and a horse." He grinned just a little at his younger brother.

Unable to help the quiet laugh from bubbling past his lips Sam struggled to nod. "Right." He closed his laptop up, shutting it down for the time being, and got up to pack it away again. "Are we buying out McDonald's?"

"Only if you can stomach their piss poor attempts at salad," Dean tried, striving for that normalcy. He was grinning just slightly, putting on his best poker "I'm fine" face.

Sam merely rolled his eyes. "I'll make myself sick on apple pies or something."

Dean made a face, absolutely disgusted. "Of all the crap on the menu--seriously. Apple pies." He made a worse face. Since the ordeal with the scarecrow and pagan God, Dean had been turned off apple pie in the extreme.

Sam just laughed and rolled his eyes again.

"Shut up." Dean made a face. "Be a good nursemaid and grab me something to wear..." He still felt like crap but he could at least act like he was merely being lazy. It was better for his ego. He rolled half onto his stomach and gestured at his bag.

"I would have had to be saying something for me to shut up, Dean." Sam smirked just slightly. "And yes, sir." With yet another roll of his eyes he rose to find something for Dean to wear. It took him a good minute to find something clean for Dean in his bag, filled as it was with dirty or semi-dirty clothes. "We seriously need to do laundry, man."

Dean took his turn to roll his eyes. "Yeah yeah. Just grab whatever doesn't reek."

Sam snorted softly and continued to try and find something that was relatively clean and that wouldn't irritate Dean's wounds too much, a real task given Dean's preference for tighter t-shirts. Clothes found, he tossed them at Dean.

Attempting a charming smile, Dean looked the clothes over. "Not bad." Silence reigned then as Dean tried to struggle into the clothes he'd been given. Sam politely looked away, making busy by packing them a bag of clothes and weapons, just in case, and tugging on a clean shirt himself.

For Dean, the entire outfit was giving him trouble but, he thought thankfully, at least he was able to struggle into the boxers Sam had so kindly thrown at him, the jerk. With a groan, he gave in and ordered, "Help me."

Sam couldn't help but smirk. "Strange to see you being the helpless one." It was odd to dress his brother but it was just one more weird thing in an entire life of oddities.

Dean just made a face. "Man, what will we do without the status quo? ...Bitch." He tried just not to think about it, about being incapable of dressing himself. Dean just made himself remember it was only for the short term. He'd be fine with some food and a little rest.

Sam looked at his brother oddly a moment. "...I'm surprised you even know what "status quo" means." And that just got him another look; Sam laughed, poking Dean in the forehead. "Watch it or I'll make you do this on your own."

A snort. "As if you could live with yourself, letting your wonderful, caring, protective, would do anything for you brother just lie around helpless."

"You're such a drama queen," Sam responded, shaking his head as he finished helping Dean into some suitable clothes.

"So says the girl." Dean laughed and winced, mostly because laughing hurt, giving Sam an amused incredulous look.

Sam merely grabbed the keys off the night stand sandwiched between the two shoddy beds, jangling them in Dean's face with a teasing little curve to his lips. "Shall we then, princess?"

"Call me princess again and I'll break my ass again whooping yours." Dean grabbed onto Sam's arm, fingers digging in, and pulled himself up from his seat on the bed. Quickly he found he still needed to lean for support and while, on the uppermost level it bothered the hell out of him, he couldn't help but be glad somewhere below that. He could enjoy it because he was alive and that was good, even though only hours ago he had wished for the exact opposite, anything to make the pain stop, anything but giving over Sam because he could never do that. With his nose almost pressed to Sam's neck he could smell the cheap hotel soap and even that one little thing made him smile just slightly. Being pulled from the edge of death, it was like coming back drunk, coming back high, and the littlest things became triggers. "You...smell." He meant to add more but it would border too close to that invisible line he'd put up for ages. Dean Winchester wasn't a girl and he didn't say weird girly shit.

Sam rolled his eyes and led the way out to the impala. "You don't exactly smell much better, you know."

"And who's fault is that, nursemaid Sammy?"

Sam snorted and opened the impala's passenger side door, pushing Dean towards it. Almost reluctant Dean pulled away from his brother, sliding into the car without the usual grace and finesse because god dammit he hurt. He curled into the seat a little oddly to try and spare some of his injuries, waiting for Sam to get in the car before he said, "If you're not hungry, hell, we can skip the food." He added, more a mutter than anything else, "I might just throw it all back up anyway."

Sam slid into the driver's seat and started the car. "I'd feel better if you at least had something in there to throw up, instead of burning your throat with stomach acid. Because eventually not eating makes you just as sick as the eating would."

Dean gave his brother a look. "I know. Mom." He grinned a little and made a bad attempt at humor. "Never know though...might be some leftover blood."

"Augh, god." Sam looked disgusted. "Shut up before the little appetite I've got is gone."

"Yessir," Dean replied with a grin, looking out the window with more attention than usual.

Sam couldn't keep his eyes on the road for long periods of time, continually glancing at his brother, still injured and still putting on a brave face, just like clockwork. Dean caught him looking about the tenth time, feeling eyes burning on his skin. "Keep your eyes on the road, Sam. I'm fine."

Sam sighed but did as he was told, his cheeks a little pink from being caught. He hadn't wanted to let on that he was so worried; it was his turn to be strong for Dean, to care for Dean. He was doing okay on the second part but the strength has always been more Dean's forte. "All right, fine. There's a McDonald's up a few miles, what do you want to eat?"

"Food. Lots of food." Dean grinned a little, looking at Sam. Giving in though, he decided he should help out and be more specific. "Two bacon double cheeseburgers, extra onions, no lettuce, and uh, no sauce but like...ketchup." He nodded slowly, fairly sure that was it, and went back to looking out the window.

"Right," Sam sighed, unsure Dean would actually be able to eat all of that and keep it down but willing to indulge his brother. Once at the drive-thru window Sam ordered everything just as Dean had specified, ordering himself some fries because despite the worry he was fairly sure he should grab a bite to eat as well. He looked over at Dean and paused when the static filled drive-thru voice asked if he wanted anything else. "Hey, Dean. You want anything to drink?"

Dean didn't turn back to look, just nodded a little. "The biggest coke they can give me."

With a nod Sam added that to the order. He couldn't make out what the amount was over the static but hoped it was under twenty as he shifted to pull a couple of tens out of his wallet. He handed the food over to Dean and then began the task of putting the McDonald's long behind them, heading out towards their vantage point to watch the sun set.

Letting Sam just drive, Dean peered into one of the bags, his eyes alighting on the fries. He started shoveling them into his mouth with an enthusiasm even he usually couldn't work up.

Stopping at a sign Sam could only look over and laugh at his brother. "Watch it or you'll make yourself sick, genius."

For his part, Dean just gave Sam a look. With his mouth full he replied, "Yoo thay that wrike I cair." Sam couldn't help but laugh again, giving up. Dean would do what he wanted anyway. Dean swallowed his remaining mouthful down hard, taking a couple great gulps of soda before relaxing. He fought hard against the lurch in his stomach, not letting his sick feeling show on his face. "Huhn. Okay." Finally he closed his eyes.

And Sam worried. He glanced over at Dean but said nothing as to his concerns, just munching on his fries--whatever ones Dean had left him, the pig--as he drove. Eventually he made it up the winding roads, out past civilization and to a wide open field out in the middle of nowhere.

Already Dean was feeling full but he unwrapped his burger and took a big bite anyway, if only to make Sam feel better. He avoided sighing and just looked down instead. Dean took in the place quietly and then gave Sam an approving nod. "What do you say to moving dinner out onto the hood?"

Sam shrugged and climbed out of the car, taking his food with him by way of answer. Dean started to protest until he saw Sam set the food down on the hood, move around to Dean's side of the car. He protested then anyway, making a face. He was glad he didn't have to suffer the embarrassment of asking for help again but he still had an appearance to maintain. "Jeez Sammy, I'm not that bad off. You getting off on this or something?" His words didn't match his actions though, not when he leaned on Sam a little too heavily before carefully pushing away. Sam grunted and rolled his eyes.

"God Dean." Sam rolled his eyes and swatted Dean in the back of the head.

Dean just smirked, hoisting himself onto the hood with some effort. He reclined carefully so his back pressed to the cool glass of the windshield, soothing his injuries. His face was tilted skyward and Sam couldn't help but notice how young his brother looked.

He looks like a little kid, Sam thought. he couldn't ever remember a time when Dean had looked like that, especially not when they had been kids. A new wave of guilt washed over the younger Winchester and he made a face. Whatever was up with Dean, whatever really happened to him, it had been bad. Sam resigned himself to never knowing what it was and decided just to do his best to put Dean at ease.

"Quit thinking so damn loud and come here." Dean was looking at him, surprising Sam. When had Dean stopped looking at the setting sun?

Climbing onto the hood besides his brother Sam merely quipped, "So what, now I'm a telepath too?" he shook his head.

"Pfft. Probably. It'd be like you to get the girly powers." But his words didn't match his actions, not when Dean was subtly closing the distance between them, fingers carefully seeking out Sam's own. He kept watch on the sky the whole time, his face never giving anything away, nothing but some weird childlike awe in place there as he just watched the colors shift.

It was Sam that ended up taking Dean's hand but his brother didn't pull away. He didn't rise to Dean's bait, either, just lying back and squeezing Dean's hand, casting worried glances in his direction from time to time.

Looking younger and almost content, Sam watched as Dean just sighed and relaxed. he returned the squeeze with a small one of his own. "I don't think I've ever just stopped to look like this..." Dean shook his head, thinking he sounded pretty foolish, the way he sounded so enthralled, so amazed by something so simple, but it was just something he'd always taken for granted. The way the sky looked after a long hunt, setting in front of them or behind them, or while they crashed into cheap motel room beds, tired and aching from all the fighting, all the driving, all the everything. The sky was always there, changing, but steady and constant at the same time. If Dean were the more thoughtful and introspective type, he might have felt jealous.

Sam himself wasn't watching the sky, too busy keeping an eye on his brother out of the corner of his eye, too busy being worried about this unexpected twist in behavior. He weighed out the pros and cons of muttering a 'christo' but in his heart of hearts he knew Dean was just a little shaken, not possessed or anything, so he could let it slide for a little while.

Unblinking, Dean just watched. The sky went pink first and then a murky red. It gave way to a rich purple after a while and Dean just watched, quiet and enamored. Food forgotten, hand squeezed tight in Sam's, sitting on the hood of the car things just had an overwhelming feeling of rightness. His breathe came, shaky and slow, but Dean didn't ever say a word. He wasn't the sort to give in or give up and he definitely wasn't the type to cry but things did feel just that certain kind of right with everything important to him close enough to touch, to grab hold of and never let go.

Sam watched Dean, worried and confused, his lip worried between his teeth. He just watched when Dean's fingers tightened around his own and Dean was shifting closer, his own name soft on his brother's lips.

"Sammy," Dean breathed.

Frowning slightly, Sam just nodded, brow furrowed. "I'm right here, Dean." Without really thinking about it he reached up with his free hand to brush through Dean's short cropped hair.

Dean made only the slightest face, feeling weak and hating that. "Hnn. I should be the one saying that, you know." He snorted softly but didn't pull away, either. He let the silence drag a little longer, Sam not knowing how to reply before finally conceding. "...But I know."

Sam sighed and just pushed his fingers through Dean's hair again, amused by the face he made, torn between relaxing into the gesture and, likely, chastising Sam for being such a damn girl.

When Dean finally gave in to relaxation he shifted, still close to Sam, a warm line from shoulder to hip and fingers entwined. He didn't look at Sam again, just watched the sun set and let Sam do as he pleased. Sam, finding no protestations and wishing he could actually be of some comfort just continued to card his fingers through Dean's hair absently, watching over Dean like Dean so often did for him.

Dean didn't say anything because, honestly, he just didn't have the words. It was nice just being there; being together with Sam on the hood of the Impala, watching the sun set with newfound appreciation because hours ago he'd been pretty sure he'd never see again, he'd never touch Sam again, he'd never be able to protect Sam again and he'd never ever hear that voice again. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Hey. Sammy?"

Sam bit his lip, glancing down at Dean, squeezing his hand, warm and calloused against his own. "Yeah?"

Dean looked at Sam then, quiet. He couldn't say the words, all of them catching in the back of his throat, so he settled for squeezing Sam's hand, leaning close to press his nose to Sam's temple for just a moment, something he used to do when Sam had been very small and Dean had wanted to be close or had been trying to calm his baby brother; Sam figured, this time, it was definitely the former. Dean did it like they were kids and not adults, not men, saying without saying I love you or something like it, maybe I'm in love with you, but it was hard for even Dean himself to tell. The fact of it was he would always love Sam.

Sam's brow remained furrowed and he kept watching Dean, almost but not quite wishing that the whole psychic thing worked like everyone always expected it did.

When the sun finally set it was dark, leaving the brothers to themselves. Dean smiled in it, wondering at the entire moment, something he'd keep for a long time. "..Thanks, Sam."

Sighing Sam finally laid back and looked up at the sky, stars twinkling down at him. "...You're welcome."

In the faint remaining light, cast mostly by stars and some ambient light Sam couldn't figure out the source of, Dean's face was hard to see, hard to make out, but then he was leaning over Sam slightly, breathe warm. "Really. Thanks. This...Jesus," He laughed, shaking his head, short little huffs of breath. "Too bad you can't use your mind powers to see just how much this (you) mean to me." The 'you' goes completely unsaid but Dean knew it was implied. With a head butt he let the topic slide, leaving Sam to wonder.

He blinked and rubbed his head, just making a face. "It's really nothing Dean. Just my turn to take care of you."

Dean scoffed but seemed amused enough. "Never wanted to be a burden or anything." The hand not already twined with Sam's own, too lazy to pull out of his brother's absent grasp, reached up blindly, running across ribs and collarbone, across Sam's set jaw only to flick his forehead. "Figures though that you'd be too stubborn about it to see me gone. Knew I'd see your doofy face again." And though it might have been a lie, it was a good one and dean was so glad it was a lie he just didn't care.

Sam had to stifle an odd shiver at the hand trailing over him, brow furrowing for the nth time that day. He grunted at the flick but allowed Dean that. Sam leaned forward slightly to gently press his forehead to Dean's own, his voice quiet and teasing. "You're always a burden, man. Your sense of humor, taste in music...libido? I'm too used to baring you to drop you."

Dean couldn't help but laugh a little at that, quiet. "Right. I'll remember that next time I need to save your ass."

At least Dean was smiling and that's what kept Sam from freaking out. Dean was acting just a little weird but maybe, not that Dean would tell him, he'd been pretty close to that edge they were constantly skirting. It seemed Dean was always flirting with death.

Together like that on the hood of the car the Winchester boys were ready to give in to the ache of muscles, the lure of sleep hanging there so temptingly. Dean flung an arm out, winding up over Sam's middle. Sam absently wrapped an arm around Dean, stroking his back soothingly, weary of injuries.

Dean didn't say so but he was glad he was still around, still able to see Sam. They were close there and it felt good, the closest to a family Dean had known for almost all his life, all that was left anymore. "S'nice," he slurred, voice sleep slackened. "Here with you and whatever."

Sam tilted his head slightly to rest his chin atop Dean's head. "Couldn't get rid of me that easy."

For his part Dean just laughed. "I know. Been trying for years. Harder than I thought it would be," he kidded. But his fingers were still curled loosely around Sam's, arm still flung out over him. Already his breathing was calming somewhere toward sleep.

"Mm," Sam agreed. "Sorry. Stubborn." He grinned, still stroking Dean's back. "Winchester." There was a pause then, long moments of comfortable silence, and then, "...You need rest." He sighed. Sam wasn't sure of the exact extent of his brother's injuries and that bothered him, but even if they weren't so bad, Dean still needed to sleep.

Dean shrugged, purposefully vague. "I'm resting right now."

"Yeah," Sam laughed, stirring strands of Dean's short hair, tickling his chin. "I guess it's a sure sign of being on the road too long when the hood of the car is as comfortable a place to nap as anywhere else." He expected a joke, he expected any kind of response but what he got.

Dean was serious when he replied, "It has nothing to do with the road or this life, Sammy. Right now I've got everything important right here with me. Everything I want, you know, aside from having mom and dad and that whole normal family you want so bad." Dean shrugged. At least he had Sam and the car.

The admission set Sam's smile to wavering before settling into something softer. "...I can't speak for the car, but...I'm sure as hell not going anywhere any time soon if I have any say about it."

"Just don't wreck my baby, okay? My luck, you'd fuck up the car and die."

Sam laughed slightly. "No promises...but I'll be extra careful with the car if it makes you feel better."

"Mnnhm." Dean nodded minimally, clearly drifting off toward sleep. "You better."

Sam rolled on to his side to get more comfortable, just holding his brother. In his sleep Dean mumbled incoherently, pretty much asleep. His own arms were curled awkwardly, one draped over Sam in a half embrace he would never have made while waking.

Sam smiled faintly at the noise, at the slight snoring, and closed his own eyes. He'd let himself fall into a state of half sleep, like Dean always did when he was watching over him.

Dean woke from his sleep, certain he'd heard something. He found himself blinking dumbly at Sam's neck, wondering when he'd found time to pick up a girl and where he'd found the energy to entertain when he felt so awful before realizing it was Sam's neck he was staring at. "Nnn?"

When Dean spoke Sam cracked one eye open. "Dean?"

Dean just pulled away, head canted as if that would help him listen better. "Shh. Shut up, Sam," he hissed, straining to listen. He heard it again just a moment later, something equally quiet, something calling his name.

Sam frowned, wanting to say more, wanting to ask what was going on, but Dean looked so serious he didn't bother. He was wide awake then, listening himself but he heard nothing.

Dean strained to hear the voice, paling slightly when he realized it was getting closer. He looked at Sam, opening his mouth, but when there was suddenly a horrible noise and long scratched out furrows in the side of the Impala all Dean managed to get out was, "AUGH!" Dean unceremoniously pushed Sam from the hood, surging in the direction of the voice because of the adrenaline dump.

Sam rolled off the hood, almost failing to get his legs under him in time before hitting the ground. "Dean!" He saw the scratches in the car door then, staring at them for just a few seconds before his eyes snapped up to follow his brother. "Dean!"

End Part One