fragmentedwhole: (Dean bloodied)
[personal profile] fragmentedwhole
Title: For the End of my Broken Heart
Chapter: Four
Author: [livejournal.com profile] bloodkisses
Pairing: Dean/Sam
Rating: NC-17/Adult
Warnings: Angst. The usual drill. Slash
Spoilers: Devil's Trap (seriously, is there *anyone* who would be spoiled by this?)
Summary: Dad's disappeared and Sam's left to pick up the pieces of his broken brother.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, sadly, no matter how much I pleaded.
A/N: My first plot!fic. I have sweated blood and tears on this thing. I need to thank *everyone* who supported, cajoled, bullied, hand-held and babied me through this. I especially need to thank my betas, [livejournal.com profile] sosoru and [livejournal.com profile] wenchpixie. Special thanks and much love go to [livejournal.com profile] sosoru, because without her belief in me and her endless patience, this thing would never have got this far. Love you darling.


Dean wakes to the feel of morning sun on his skin. He's sated and lazy; relaxed in a way he hasn't felt for a long time. He stretches, enjoying the way his spine pops back into place, then sits on the edge of the bed.

He'd half expected to wake up and find Sammy gone, no matter what his little brother might have said in the heat of passion, but Sam's clothes are still strewn around the room, and he can hear the shower running. Dean knows it's stupid beyond belief, but he's starting to believe that just maybe, Sam actually means what he says. Every time Dean's been certain his baby brother will up and leave, he's turned out to be wrong, and not only has Sam stayed, but he's gone out of his way to try and convince Dean that he's not leaving. There's an earnestness, an honesty in Sam's declarations that Dean hasn't heard for years, and Sam's only ever used that tone when he's desperate to prove he's telling the truth.

Dean remembers the feel of Sam's hand, warm and gentle against his cheek; the horror and the delight of hearing Sam promise him forever. Dean's all too well aware that forever probably isn't going to be as long for them as it would be for other people, but he's cool with that, really. And if he gets to spend that time with Sam in his life, in his bed, he's greedy enough to grab it with both hands.

It surprises Dean, a little, how Sam seems to be dealing with what's happened and how little regret he's shown. If Dean had ever given this situation any thought before it happened, he'd have figured Sam would be in the midst of a major fit of angsting by now. The moments of worry have been few and far between, and by Sam standards, barely worth mentioning. Of course, that could all change, but the fact that Sam's still here gives Dean some hope that things might work out after all.

He's contemplating whether sneaking into the bathroom and joining Sam in the shower would result in a freaked out Sam trying to kill him, when his cell rings. Dean scrambles for the phone, not needing to look at the caller display to know who's calling. It can only be one person, and his lecherous thoughts about his brother evaporate. He takes a deep breath, and then flips the phone open.

"Dad..."

"Dean. You ok son?"

Ridiculous how such a simple question can fill him with such contrasting emotions. Overwhelming happiness that maybe Dad actually cares, shame over what he's done with Sam, and a tangled mix of sadness and relief and anger that he's not here with them.

"Yeah. Just about." He can't hide the bitterness, can only hope that it masks the fear and the remembered horror of thinking he'd caused Sam's death.

"Dean. What is it? What's happened?" Dad sounds, not panicked, exactly, but worried, his voice taut with tension and worry. Dean tries not to feel a perverse sense of satisfaction at the sound. God knows, he loves Dad, but sometimes even he can't help but feel a little resentful of the fact that no matter what he does, it's never been quite good enough for the great John Winchester. Usually, he buries that part of him, as deep as he can, but his emotions have been scraped so raw of late that he can't ignore it the way he used to.

Either that or Sam's starting to rub off on him, and damnit, but that's not a thought he needs hen he's on the phone to Dad.

"We're fine, Dad." It's not an answer, not really, and definitely not to the question Dad asked, and Dean knows that he's not going to get away with the evasion, but he needs time to think, time to figure out how to deal with this.

"Damnit, tell me what happened, you hear me?" There's a familiar note in Dad's voice, one that Dean's heard damn near every day since he was four. A tone that says 'how the hell did you screw up this time?'.

"Yessir, I hear you." He takes a breath, resentful, resigned, and just so damned tired. "It didn't go quite as smooth as it should, and..." he has to stop, caught again by the gut-wrenching grief at losing Sam "..but we're fine."

"What do you mean, 'didn't go as smooth as it should'? Dean..."

"Don't." He's not sure which of them is more surprised by the sharpness of his tone. "We weren't ready...to go hunting again. We...I wasn't ready. Damnit Dad, Sam nearly..." he nearly chokes on a sob, but swallows it down "I screwed up, because I wasn't ready, because I couldn't...God, Dad..." He can hear the fear in his own voice, even though he's whispering by the end.

"But Sam's ok? You're both ok?" Dean wants to laugh. Ok? Not even for Winchesters could nearly getting your brother killed, and then fucking him be considered ok.

"We're in one piece, and we're alive. Does that fall into your definition of ok, Dad?"

"Dean, stop. I...thought it would help you. I...I guess I should have listened to Sam."

Dean shudders, hot and cold by turns.

"Sam? You've talked to Sam?" Betrayal, hot and strong leaves the taste of bile and ashes in his mouth.

"Yeah. Before I sent those co-ordinates. He told me then that you weren't ready." Dean can hear Dad take a breath, but he can't seem to quite get past the fact that Sam's still hiding things from him; still keeping Dean at arms length. Sam spoke to Dad and never said anything; Sam tried to protect him; Sam knew better than Dean or Dad. He doesn't exactly like his brother's new protective streak, but he can't deny that it warms him more than it should.

"Dean. I'm...sorry. Sam begged me not to send you on a hunt, maybe I should have listened to him."

It's like someone's tipped a bowl of ice water down Dean's back, and the first thing he thinks is that the Demon's got to Dad again, because he's never heard Dad admit to a mistake, let alone apologize.

"Dad....?"

"I just, I want you boys to be safe. That's all I've ever wanted." Not all, Dean thinks, but he keeps the thought to himself. He's pretty certain it's guilt talking now, and that sooner rather than later, Dad's going to be sending more co-ordinates, and eventually he's going to go after the demon again

"I know Dad."

There's a pause, and Dean can hear Dad's breathing, and he wonders briefly whether his life could possible get any more surreal.

"Is Sam there?"

"He's in the shower. You want me to get him?"

"No. I'll call him later. Dean, you take care of him...and yourself, you hear. You boys...you're...just watch yourselves, ok?"

Dean hears the bathroom door opening, and he turns to watch Sam, towel slung low on his hips. The sight is distracting, but with Dad on the phone, and the knowledge of Sam's deceit, however well intentioned, it's relatively easy to keep his libido under control.

"Yeah. Yes sir. Bye Dad."

****

Sam wraps a towel around his waist, and feels an unfamiliar tingle of something remarkably like anticipation over his skin. He's lost count of the number of times he's faced Dean wearing nothing more than this, and sometimes less, and thought nothing of it. That's all changed now, and though Sam still finds it strange to think of Dean in that way, he can't deny the sexual thrill the thought brings.

He stares at his reflection in the mirror, finding it hard to reconcile the fact that despite everything that's happened, he doesn't look any different. He looks relaxed, calm, more at ease, but essentially the same. He doesn't know whether to be pleased or disappointed that the happiness he feels bubbling just underneath his skin doesn't show. He knows they're going to have to be careful, but he also wants the world to know, to see how happy they are. It's exactly the same way he felt with Jess, the day he decided he was going to ask her to marry him. It surprises him that he doesn't feel guilt for comparing them, Dean and Jess, but though he loves them both, it's in completely different ways. Jess was his normal, his white picket fence and 2.5 kids; she understood Sam, even if she didn't really know him. Dean is his rock, his support, the constant in a life of change and uncertainty, and the only person who has ever really known Sam, even if he hasn't always understood him.

He steps out of the bathroom to find Dean sitting on the bed, phone held to his ear. The look on Dean's face tells Sam who his brother is talking to. The happiness drains from Sam when he sees the look in Dean's eyes as he watches Sam.

"Yeah. Yes sir. Bye Dad."

Dean lowers and the phone, and snaps it shut, without taking his eyes off Sam. Sam can sense the cold anger, and he knows Dad's told Dean about the first phone call.

"Dean, I..."

"Were you going to tell me that Dad called?"

Dean's voice is cold, and Sam has a sudden flash of premonition, of the ways this conversation could go, and it's shocking to realize that this moment could be the beginning of something special, something important in a way Sam can't quite grasp, or the end of everything Sam holds dear. And everything rests on how Sam answers.

"I'm sorry. I should have told you, but I was worried. I didn't think we were ready to start hunting again so soon, and I asked Dad to understand but he... I'm sorry Dean, I still should have said something."

Dean's expression doesn't change for what feels like eternity, and Sam wonders if he got it wrong after all. The fear of being the reason everything falls apart wracks his body with cold shivers.

"Dad said you were pretty mad at him. That you told him not to send us on a hunt."

Sam still can't read Dean's mood, all he can do is wrap his arms around himself, and hold his breath. Dean looks away, and throws the phone onto the bedside table, as if in disgust.

"I told him you were right. That I hadn't been ready, and that I'd nearly got you killed."

That Dean would admit he wasn't a superman, to Sam; that he'd admit to Dad that he'd screwed up gives Sam hope that he made the right choice after all, and shocks him speechless.

Dean lifts his head and meets Sam's eyes.

"I'm mad you didn't tell me he'd called but... I guess I know why you did it. But you can't make those kinds of decisions for me, Sam. I don't need you to protect me. I'm too damn tired to fight about this shit all the time."

Sam can't help thinking that Dean needs exactly that, because he spends so much time protecting Sam that he forgets about himself. He bites his tongue, because as open and honest as Dean is right now, Sam's pretty sure Dean's not going to want to hear that.

"Yeah, I know. I am sorry, man. No more secrets?"

Dean looks for a moment as though he's going to say something else, then he snaps his mouth closed, and nods. The relief sweeps through Sam, and he's glad that he's got his arms crossed, because he's certain his hands would be trembling otherwise.

"So, you leave me some hot water? I know there's a lot of you to wash and all, but dude, what the hell do you do in there?" Dean raises an eyebrow and leers at Sam.

Sam isn't sure whether to laugh or cry at the knowledge that he got it right. He wants to slap Dean for being the same smart-ass brother he's always been. He wants to press his brother down onto the bed and kiss and touch him until Dean can't think of anything but Sam. He wants to fuck that ridiculous smirk off of Dean's face.

He's across the room and in Dean's lap before he knows it, hands cupping Dean's head, fingers cradling his brother's skull, marveling at the way Dean lets him angle his head so that Sam can lick those far too tempting lips, and draw Dean into a deep, hot, wet kiss.

He pulls back, taking in the faint flush over Dean's cheeks that highlights the freckles, and the way his lips look slick and plump and completely fucking illegal, immoral and utterly sinful. When Dean opens his eyes, Sam can barely see any color at all, and he knows exactly what he wants.

"Dean. Fuck me."

"Christ Sammy." The sound of Dean's voice, breathy and deep makes Sam shiver. The way Dean's hips jerk, pressing his cock against Sam's ass through the towel and Dean's boxers makes Sam groan.

"Come on, do it. I want this Dean. Fuck me, damnit."

Dean actually growls, honest to god, and Sam didn't think that shit happened outside of dodgy novels and bad porn.

"Fine. You want to get fucked? I'll fuck you, little brother, I promise."

Dear God, hearing Dean talk like that, hearing that reminder of how many lines they're crossing shouldn't be so damned hot, but it makes Sam pant and has him grabbing Dean and slamming their mouths together. Dean gives as good as he gets, tongue chasing Sam's, teeth nipping at Sam's lips.

Dean shifts under Sam, and then he's standing, somehow hooking his arms under Sam's legs. He takes two steps, then dumps Sam on the other bed, following him down until he's leaning over Sam, arms braced on either side of his body. His expression is suddenly serious, and Sam knows that while Dean may not worry about morals, he does worry about hurting Sam. It's written all over his face. No matter that Sam's hardly a kid anymore, Dean still wants to be his big brother. Sam knows that if he ever indicated that he didn't want this, Dean would never touch him again, even if it killed him. Sam doesn't know what the hell he ever did to deserve that kind of devotion, but he does know now is not the time for Dean to start with this crap.

"Sam....."

"I know. It's fine, Dean." He reaches up and pulls Dean down into a kiss, then slides his hands under the waistband of Dean's boxers and pushes the thin cotton down, until they end up around Dean's ankles. When Dean tugs at the towel, Sam braces his feet and lifts his hips so Dean can pull it away and drop it onto the floor.

Skin against skin, and Sam wraps a leg around Dean's hips as his brother rocks into him. Dean stretches a hand out, and fumbles with something off to the side. Sam doesn't really pay much attention, until Dean lifts off a little, and a hand slides between them, and wraps around Sam's cock, slick and tight and hot. The firm stroke has Sam throwing his head back, hips arching up to follow the motion of Dean's hand. Shockingly hot, and damn, Sam can't believe he'd forgotten how good Dean is at this.

He's so caught in the pleasure of Dean’s hand fisting his cock that the slow slide of the finger inside him almost doesn't register. Lips and teeth drag over his throat, pain edged pleasure distracting him when another finger joins the first. The third finger burns enough that even the words Dean's whispering in his ear can't quite drown it out, but he doesn't care.

He doesn't resist when Dean moves him into position, doesn't care about the undignified and vulnerable position. He holds his breath, trying not to show how much it burns as Dean slides slowly into him, concentrating on the lewd words and soft endearments Dean’s mouthing into his neck, breath hot on his skin instead.

Dean’s movements are slow and careful, and the pain shifts, fades, and melts into pleasure. Dean keeps the same pace, pulling back, then driving in, deep, so deep. Sam wraps his legs around Dean’s hips, one hand clutching his brother’s bicep, the other around the back of Dean’s neck.

He doesn’t even realize he’s talking out loud until he hears Dean answer, and then Dean shifts, gets a better angle and suddenly he’s fucking Sam in earnest, hips driving hard, with almost bruising force and Jesusfuck, it hurts, just a little but oh God, it’s good. Sam wriggles his hand between them and strokes his cock, knowing it’s not going to take much, but needing to come.

When Dean raises his head, looks Sam in the eyes, drives in hard once more and freezes, it’s the look in his eyes, that makes Sam shudder, makes him fuck his hand frantically until he’s coming, body clenching around Dean’s cock, leaving them both gasping and riding the aftershocks.

Dean pulls out gently, and Sam bites his lip to hide the wince. Dean half rolls, half falls to the side, and Sam rolls carefully over to face him. He forgets the discomfort when Dean drapes an arm over his waist, and pulls him in for a slow, gentle kiss.

Sam still doesn’t understand how it can feel so right, but he doesn’t care. He can’t have normal, anymore, but he can have this, and he’s fine with that, he really is.

Eventually Dean pulls away, and drops onto his back, though he leaves one hand resting on Sam’s hip.

"So, what did Dad say?"

"Jesus Sammy, you sure know how to kill the afterglow."

Sam laughs, wondering how the hell he got to a place where not even the mention of their father can dispel the pleasure of lying in Dean's arms and enjoying the faint ache that reminds him that he's just let his brother fuck him six ways to Sunday.

*****

Sam's too sated and lazy to call Dean on his evasion right now, unwilling to risk spoiling the mood by pushing Dean too hard. He needs to know that Dad didn't give Dean a hard time for what happened. He feels this ridiculous urge to protect his brother, even from their own father; especially from their own father, though he knows it's both pointless, and will be unwelcome. Dean has a blind spot the size of a small continent where Dad's concerned, although given what he told Dad, Sam has some hope that that might change now.

They lie quietly for a long time. Sam listens to Dean's soft breathing and the muted sounds from outside, drifting into the room, as if from a long way away. It feels as though they're isolated, insulated from the rest of the world. Alone together in this room, they can be themselves, they don't have to pretend. Outside is full of people that Sam's knows will want to label them, condemn them for what they've done. People who won't, or can't look beyond the fact of their blood relationship or their gender to see the truth; that this physical relationship is nothing more than an extension of the bond that's always existed between them, even when Sam tried to deny it, tried to pretend he couldn't feel the pull towards Dean.

It makes Sam want to never leave this room, to stay here, safe and shielded from the rest of humanity. He knows it's childish and foolish, but lying next to Dean, watching the morning sun paint his brother's body with light and shadows, he can't help but indulge the fantasy. Dean's hand still rests on Sam's side, thumb lightly stroking the sensitive skin over Sam's hip bone, slowly, rhythmically, and Sam's certain Dean isn't even aware he's doing it. The touch is both comforting and sensual, and Sam just lets himself enjoy the affection in his brother's touch, the closeness, and the hope that maybe this time they won't screw this up; that things might actually work out between them.

Sam doesn't expect it to be easy. Apart from the outside world, Dean is almost pathologically allergic to discussing anything emotional. Sam used to think that Dean didn't care, didn't really feel anything. It was only as an adult he realized that the opposite is true. Dean feels things so deeply that the only way he can deal with them is to bury them, to put up walls and barriers and keep people out. It dismays Sam to know that the only way to get Dean to open up is to break him. Though Dean's been more open these last couple of days, Sam knows it's because his brother has been pushed so far his defenses have been cracked wide open, so that every raw, bleeding emotion is laid bare.

There are so many reasons they shouldn't be doing this, from the fact its illegal; it's incest; it has the potential to hurt them both, very badly; to what would happen if Dad ever found out. Sam doesn't care, though. He lost his brother once through his own stubbornness; he's not going to make the same mistake again. It hurts though, to know that Dean's suffered through both Sam and Dad's ruthless obsessions. He's never asked for anything, never done anything but be there, right behind them, putting their needs before his, every damned time. He wishes he'd seen this before, but Dean made it so hard; keeping everyone out, refusing to admit to how much they hurt him with their carelessness, their refusal to see anything beyond what they wanted. Sam sighs and shifts on the bed. Dean stops stroking for a second, and Sam can feel the sudden tension as if he's still worried, after everything, that Sam's just going to up and leave. When Sam relaxes, trying to use his body language to tell Dean all the things he knows Dean won't let him say, the tension drains out of his brother and his thumb resumes the gentle stroking.

Everything feels languid, slow and lazy, so unlike most of their lives. Sam's almost tempted to give into the lure of sleep, just so he can have the pleasure of waking up next to Dean, but he wants to enjoy this quietness, this brief lull. He knows that they need to get up soon, and finish the job they came here to do, but not yet. He watches Dean, his brother's sprawled on his back, eyes closed, breathing slow and deep, almost asleep. Sam finds the knowledge that he can just reach out and touch Dean, run a hand over the warm, tanned skin of his chest or arms, cup his face and kiss him, stunning. He can't quite get his head around how everything so familiar seems new, somehow.

"Sam, stop staring at me. You're giving me a headache with all that thinking."

That's just so typically Dean that Sam has to smile. Sleeping with Dean doesn't make him any less of a smart-ass, but it does make that attitude a little easier to deal with.

"What makes you think I'm looking at you?"

"Dude, I can practically feel it. Just stop, ok?"

Sam moves closer, until he can see his breath stirring Dean’s hair, despite the amount of gel he puts in it. The little shiver that Dean can't hide sends a matching shiver through Sam.

"I thought you liked having people look at you, Dean."

"Looking is one thing, staring is something else. And will you quit breathing on me." Dean moves away, but Sam catches hold of his bicep, and Dean stops moving, frozen in place. Sam bites back the retort he was going to make and loosens his grip on Dean's arm.

"It's just, well, it seems different...now. Like I'm seeing you differently somehow." He watches Dean's face, wishing Dean would open his eyes so he could get a handle on what Dean's really thinking. When Dean tenses under his hand, Sam realizes Dean's taken that statement completely the wrong way, again. "Different good, Dean. It's just, it takes a bit of getting used to, you know. It's like I've always looked at you as my brother and now I'm having to look at you as my..." He trails off, suddenly shy and unsure about saying what he's thinking.

"Lover?" Dean's voice is neutral, and his eyes are still closed. The tension in his form hasn't abated, but it hasn't increased either, which Sam takes as a good sign.

"Yeah. It's just, odd. Doesn't mean I don't like it though." And wouldn't you know it, Dean chooses the moment Sam's certain he's blushing to open his eyes and turn to face Sam.

They watch each other for a moment, then Dean reaches over and brushes strands of hair off of Sam's forehead. And Sam's floored, yet again by this gentle, tender side of Dean. It makes him sad that he could have gone the rest of his life without ever seeing his brother like this; open, trusting. He's always known Dean loved him, he just never understood how much.

It's moments like this, more than the sex, more than anything else, that quell the lingering doubts, the last vestiges of shame and unease Sam feels.

Dean leans forward, and his eyes close again and Sam is suddenly, irrationally fascinated by the sight of Dean's eyelashes fluttering against his cheek. He keeps his eyes open as Dean kisses him, slow and gentle. There's almost nothing sexual about the kiss, and Sam thinks that he was right, he really could spend hours kissing Dean like this.

When Dean pulls back, Sam leans forward, trying to recapture Dean's mouth. He opens eyes he doesn't remember closing when Dean laughs, low, deep, sexy as hell and Sam can't remember why he isn't supposed to find that sound arousing.

"Later, Sammy. Much as I'd like to stay here all day, we've got things to do."

Sam sighs. Too much to hope that Dean would forget about the coach. But the promise of later makes the prospect of hunting down the ghost more bearable.

He watches Dean walk across to the bathroom, completely unselfconscious about the fact he's nude. Sam can't help but watch, and can't help but feel a little like a voyeur while he's doing it. When Dean shuts the door, Sam flops down onto his back and stares at the ceiling, letting the calm wash over him, hoping it will be enough to see him through the storm he's sure is going to come, sooner or later.


****

When Dean gets out of the shower, Sam goes to clean up, again. They dress and load up the car in relative silence. Not tense and strained like it was after Sam had left Stanford, but comfortable, familiar in the way it was when they were kids. They’ve always worked well together, even when they were fighting, or didn’t understand each other. Dad used to go off at them sometimes, used to tell them that they spent too much time watching each others backs, and not enough watching their own. Sam used to find that ironic, in a bitter kind of a way, because he’d thought that was exactly what Dad had wanted. But then, logic has never really been Dad’s strong point.

When the car’s loaded, they get in. Sam doesn’t ask Dean if he wants to drive, and Dean doesn’t offer.

The drive to the bridge is made in silence too, but the closer they get, the more Sam can sense the tension and the unease in Dean. Sam can feel it too; this place is so charged with feeling, with emotion for them, that it’s almost tangible.

He wants to offer comfort, and reassurance, but there’s nothing he can say that isn’t going to sound trite and patronizing, at least to Dean. He settles instead for resting his hand on Dean’s knee, wincing slightly at the way Dean jumps at the touch. He’s about to draw his hand away when Dean relaxes, exhaling softly, letting some of the tension drain away. Sam leaves his hand there for the rest of the drive, not sure which of them needs the contact and the reassurance more.

When he parks, he deliberately doesn’t park in the same spot they did the night before, and God, how can it be only a few hours ago that they were here? It feels like half a lifetime. He turns to face Dean, but whatever he was going to say just flies out of his head at the look on his brother’s face. Dean’s staring at the bridge, and his expression is a churning mix of guilt, despair and anguish. He looks torn open again, like he did last night, when he thought Sam was dead, and it was his fault.

Sam reaches over, catches Dean’s hand and squeezes.

“Dean, hey, Dean. It’s ok. I’m fine. We’re fine.” He keeps his voice soft, gentle, trying to keep his confused emotions from bleeding through.

Dean tears his eyes away from the bridge and looks at Sam and his eyes are so blank, that for a moment, Sam thinks Dean doesn’t even see him, then he blinks, and focuses.

“Sam….” His voice is hoarse, like he’s been shouting, or crying and it makes that need to protect him rise up in Sam again. He wonders if this is what Dean’s always felt and it’s just another thing that Sam could kick himself for not getting. God knows, Dean has his faults and Sam could list every one, but Sam should never have taken his brother so much for granted. He’s just about to say so when Dean shakes his head slightly and blinks slowly again, like he’s trying to clear his thoughts.

When his eyes open, they’re bright with what Sam suspects are tears, but they focus, and in a second or two, it’s as if nothing had happened. It makes Sam’s head spin, how fast Dean can hide behind the walls Sam and John have helped him build.

“Come on, let’s get this done and get out of here.” And there’s nothing that Sam can say to that, not when Dean’s closed off like this. All he can do is follow, and hope just being here is support enough for Dean to get through this.

****

The bridge doesn’t look so imposing in daylight, but Dean still feels a chill run through him. He can still see the moment the coach plunged over the edge, every time he closes his eyes. He can feel the horror at losing Sam, at knowing he could have stopped it, and didn’t. He has to get out of the car, away from Sam’s scrutiny and concern; concern he doesn’t deserve.

He shoves his hands in his pockets, and waits for Sam to get out and open the trunk. The calm laziness of the morning seems to have burnt away, and now Dean just wants to get this over with, and get the hell away from this place. He wants to put this place, this area, hell, this whole damned state as far behind them as he can, then he wants to find a halfway decent motel and a liquor store, and then he wants to lock the door and lose himself in Sam, in the knowledge that his brother is alive and well, and here.

He can feel Sam’s eyes on him, watching him, as if Sam’s afraid to let Dean out of his sight for even a second, and isn’t that ironic, when by rights it should be Dean checking on Sammy. It still sickens Dean that the one time Sam needed him, he fucked up, and damned near cost his brother his life. He can’t bring himself to look at Sam and see the worry in his brother’s eyes.

Sam thankfully doesn’t say anything, but his fingers trail over Dean’s when he hands him a gun, and Dean’s hand moves by itself, wrapping around the weapon and Sam’s fingers. Sam tangles their fingers and it feels somehow symbolic of their lives; of everything they are, standing in the pale sunlight, holding on to each other, the gun caught between their hands. It’s so close to everything Dean has ever wanted, everything he’s ever wished for that for a moment he thinks he’s going to embarrass himself and break down, but Sam squeezes him fingers one last time, and slowly draws his hand back, leaving the solid weight of the gun in Dean’s hand. Dean stopped praying many years ago, and he stopped hoping for dreams to come true before that, but right now, he’s prepared to do both, if he can just have this; have Sam with him.

He looks up, and finds Sam watching him. He smiles what he knows is a weak smile that’s fooling neither of them, but Sam doesn’t call him on it, just smiles back, and hands Dean the can of gas. Dean doesn’t know what he’s ever done to deserve Sam, but he thanks whoever is listening for his baby brother.

They grab shovels, and walk to the edge of the bridge, side by side, and just knowing that Sam’s there, that he’s real and whole, and that Dean can just reach out and touch him helps him ignore the queasy feeling in his stomach. He tries not to look at the spot where he watched the coach tumble into the ravine below, and concentrates instead on the feel of Sam’s arm brushing gently against his as they walk, a subtle reassurance that Dean's grateful for.

The only way to get to the bottom of the gully is to clamber and slip down the steep embankment, and by the time they reach the bottom, they’re both muddy and bruised and the skin of their hands is scraped and sore. Dean thinks that all he needs to make the experience complete is for it to start raining. He keeps that thought to himself though, because with his luck lately, there’s no point tempting fate.

They’ve got no idea where the body of the missing passenger could be; it’s been almost a hundred years since the coach went over the bridge and although the stream is barely more than a trickle, a hundred years ago it was a decent sized river. Dean looks down the river bed. The body could be almost anywhere down stream. It was going to be a long day.

A couple of hours later, they’ve worked their way about a quarter mile down stream. Dean’s jeans are stiff with sticky mud, and Sam’s back is covered up to his neck where he’s landed on his ass at least twice that Dean's seen.

In the end, they find the remains through sheer dumb luck when Sam falls over his own too-damned-long legs for the third time, and ends up on his hands and knees, face-to-face with the empty eye sockets of a human skull. The look on his face is half surprise, half annoyance, and in any other circumstances Dean would be delighted to tease him endlessly over it, but right now, he just wants to get this over with and get the hell away from this place. He wants to a hot shower, hot food and about a week of sleep. He tries not to dwell on the fact that he also wants to press Sam down onto cool, clean sheets, and wrap himself around his brother until he can't tell where Sam ends and he begins.

It takes a while to locate all the bones, and they end up having to dig some of the smaller ones out with their fingers. Dean's not entirely sure they get them all, but frankly, he really doesn't care anymore. He's filthy, and certain he's got slime in places he doesn't want to think about.

Sam salts the pile of bones, and Dean douses them in gas. He tosses a lit match onto the makeshift pyre and sees the flames stutter, struggling to find a hold on the damp and muddy bones, despite the half gallon of gas he used, before catching and flaring into life so strongly that he and Sammy have to take a couple of steps back. He can tell Sam wants to be going, but he stays put, watching the bones slowly char and blacken, before crumbling into ash. There's a vindictive sense of satisfaction at destroying the thing that nearly killed Sammy, and something that comes perilously close to gratitude for being the reason he spent most of that morning in his brother's arms.

He waits until the last of the yellowed bones is nothing more than dust, then shoves his hands in his pockets, and turns his back on the remains. Sam's standing a couple of feet away, watching him.

"We done here Sammy?"

"Yeah. You ok?"

No. Yes. I don't know. I've never been happier, and I know it won't last, because nothing good, nothing that I want ever does. "Yeah. I'm good. Let's go, I need a beer."

Sam doesn't look convinced, but he says nothing, just follows Dean in scrambling back up the embankment, and back to the car. They load up the gear, change out of the filthy clothes and climb into the car.

They drive until it's dark, and Sam looks like he's about to fall asleep at the wheel. He finally pulls into the first motel they find, and while it's hardly the Ritz, neither of them cares. Dean's uncertain, not knowing if Sam will want to share a bed; not knowing quite how he feels about asking. But sometimes having a psychic freak-show for a brother is a blessing, because after they've stripped down, too tired to do more than a token clean up, Sam slides between the thin sheets, leaving Dean standing beside the bed, a little unsure; a little nervous, as if sharing a bed was somehow worse than fucking his brother. Sam just reaches out, grabs Dean's wrists and pulls him down, until he slips in next to Sam. Once they've arranged themselves, Dean on his back, one hand under his head and Sam on his side, one hand resting on Dean's stomach, the jitters and the nerves seem to dissolve.

It feels so comfortable, so right to have Sam curled around him like this that Dean drifts into sleep within minutes. For once, his dreams are peaceful.

****

Sam wakes sometime before dawn, jolted sweating and shaking from a nightmare. He remembers Dean was missing, and he and Dad were hunting for him. Sam can still taste the terror and despair, and the gut-wrenching fear that he'd never find him, or worse, that he'd find him too late. His heart is racing, and he feels sick with the knowledge that this isn't so much a nightmare as a premonition.

He has to reach out and touch Dean, curl himself around his brother's body and rest his hand over Dean's heart, needing the reassurance that Dean's here, and safe, and Sam's. He lost Jess because he didn't pay attention to the warnings. He's damned if he'll lose Dean the same way. He's just found his brother again, just discovered the person behind the walls, and he'll die, he'll kill before he lets anyone, anyone, take that away from him again.

The need to protect Dean, to keep him close and to guard him is so strong that it surprises Sam. He's never thought of himself as a particularly possessive person before, though he's always wanted to keep the people he cares about safe. He wants to hide Dean away, to keep him safe from anyone who might seek to harm him. The idea of even trying to keep Dean locked away from the world is so ridiculous, so utterly impractical that Sam can't help but be amused. But as he watches the first light of dawn brighten the sky outside, an idea begins to take shape. He drops a kiss onto Dean's shoulder, and slides out of the bed, grabbing the laptop and sitting cross-legged on the other bed, attention caught between the computer and the temptation of crawling back into bed with Dean.

Eventually, he has what he was looking for, and he grins at the paper in his hand before tucking it carefully in his wallet. He closes the laptop, and rejoins Dean in the other bed, pressing up against Dean's back, one arm wrapped around his brother's waist. His brother. His lover. His to protect, his to love, and screw anyone who doesn't understand. It's not normal, even for them, but it's all they have, and it's enough to make Sam not care about trying to be normal anymore.

He holds his brother as the sun slowly rises, surrounded by the sight, sound, feel and scent of Dean. Thoughts and plans roll through his mind, and he's well aware that his plan isn't foolproof, and he's still got to persuade Dean to go along with it, but it's the best idea he's got. Eventually he slides into sleep, pressed as close to his brother as he can get.

*****

Weak sunlight filters between the cheap curtains, waking Dean. He finds that Sam's wrapped around him like a human blanket and he allows himself a few minutes to enjoy the feel of Sam's arms around him. If Dean could keep one moment in time, could preserve one memory above all others, he thinks that maybe it would be this one, when it feels as though everything and anything is possible, and that he might be allowed to keep what he wants.

Sam shifts behind him, and presses closer, burying his face in Dean's neck, breath tickling the sensitive skin. The rush of lust is sudden and intense. He holds his breath, teeth pulling at his lower lip, a little uncertain as to whether Sam is asleep or awake. Sam settles and his breathing evens out. Dean exhales and relaxes, at least until his bladder starts complaining. He manages to slide out from under Sam's arm without waking his brother.

Once he's relieved himself, he catches sight of his reflection in the cracked bathroom mirror. For the first time since he left the hospital, he doesn't turn away. Instead he takes a long look. Dark circles under his eyes, skin just a little too pale, eyes a little too dull. He can see why Sam's been so concerned about him. What he can't see is any outward sign of the way his world has changed. He can't see any visible evidence of the fact he's slept with his own brother.

Incest.

He repeats the word to himself, waiting for the shame, the disgust, the horror to kick in. But it's just a word, and he looks exactly the same as he did before he knew what it felt like to make love to his brother.

This isn't the first line he's crossed, and every time he expects to see some outward sign of the dark stain he's sure must be spreading across his soul. He's killed, he's lied, cheated, slept with more people than he can honestly remember, broken damn near every law, and now he's dragged his brother down with him. If he were stronger, he should make Sam leave, drive him as far away as possible, even though he knows that Sam's capable of making his own choices. But Sam's his one weakness, the one thing Dean can't give up, not now.

He looks away from the mirror and scrubs a hand over his face. He still feels a little off-balance, uncertain of himself and he doesn't like it. He needs to pull himself together before he makes another mistake. It's still a kick to the gut, the memory of almost losing Sammy, and Dean's not going to go through that again. He has to be alright, has to get a grip. He drags himself into the shower, and stands under the hot water until his skin is bright pink and the bathroom is filled with steam. The motel soap is cheap and harsh, and the chemical smell of it makes his eyes water and his nose itch, but he uses it anyway, allowing the familiar, soothing actions of washing and shaving to calm his thoughts, to soothe the jumble of wants and needs and hopes.

It feels as though he's been confused since the moment he woke up in the hospital, and frankly, he's getting a little sick of it. He's sick of living with the fear that Sammy's going to up and leave again; sick of trying to live up to Dad's expectations and share in his obsessions; sick of feeling fragile and out of control, of hurting and not knowing what he needs to make it stop, or of being too scared to take what he want, what he needs, in case it's taken away from him again. He wants his old self back. He wants to be able to hide behind the shallow, vain, arrogant mask he so carefully created, but he fears that it's shattered beyond repair.

Sam’s not going to let him recreate the mask anyway, and as much as Dean wants Sam, the thought of baring his soul anymore than he already has is a terrifying one. He doesn’t even know if he’s capable of being that honest, of being that vulnerable. But he knows that he’s still going try, because he’s always given Sam what he wants, and he probably always will. He’s not sure just how he feels about that right now.

He takes another long look at his reflection in the mirror, then wraps a towel around his hips and heads back into the bedroom. He's not surprised to find Sam awake and messing about on the laptop. He's half hopeful, half afraid that Sam's found them something else to chase. He doesn't want to put Sam at risk again, but he knows he needs to get back to doing the only thing he's ever really known, because without the hunting, what purpose does he have?

"Uh, Dean?"

Dean feels his heart sink a little. He knows that voice. It's Sam's 'I know you're probably not going like this idea, but I'm going to say it anyway because I know I'm going to get my own way eventually'. Dean hates that voice, it's gotten got him into more trouble than anything else.

"Yeah." He doesn't daren't look at Sam. It's hard enough to refuse Sam at the best of times, but with the change in their relationship, Dean really doesn't need the added distraction of Sam in nothing but boxers, sitting cross-legged on the bed.

"I, uh... I." Sam coughs, and Dean realizes his brother is nervous, though it doesn't make him any less wary, it does please the more sadistic side of his nature.

"What?"

Sam takes a deep breath.

"Dean, I want us to get tattoos."

Dean makes the mistake of looking over at Sam. He sees the hopeful expression that has so often gone hand in hand with the ‘voice’, and he knows he’s doomed.

“You want what?”

“Tattoos.” His expression shifts, becoming serious. “I, I had a dream Dean. A premonition. About…us…you.” His expression melts into distress, and fear settles in Dean’s gut like a lead weight. “You were…missing, and I couldn’t find you.” Sam’s voice fades, distressed and unhappy, and he drops his eyes to his lap.

Dean crosses the room, and cups Sam’s chin. He can’t help the small, selfish part of him that never ceases to be warmed by such demonstrations of how much Sam cares.

“Sammy, it’s ok. Maybe it’s just a dream.” He doesn’t know which of them he’s trying to reassure.

“It wasn’t.”

“You sure?"

“Yes. Dean, I'm not going to make the same mistake with you that I made with Jess.”

“Sam, Jess… her death wasn’t your fault.”

“Don’t, ok?” He pulls away from Dean.

Dean wants to hold Sam, wants to shake him until he can convince his brother that nothing he could have done would have saved Jess once the demon had decided to kill her.

“Sam…”

“It’s not about Jess anymore. It’s about you, now. If anything does happen to you, if you should… disappear, I need to know I’ve got a way to find you.”

“Well, ok, but I still don’t see how a tattoo is going to help. Unless you’re thinking of writing ‘Property of Sam Winchester’, and I love you man, but you can forget that idea.”

Sam manages a grin and much to Dean’s relief, shakes his head.

“No. I did some research, and I think the best thing is a rune spell.”

“A what?”

“A rune spell. You know, runes. The druids used them to…”

“Sam. I know what runes are. Don’t look at me like that, I do. So what kind of spell?”

“Protection, bonding, healing, kinship, positive energy.” He hands Dean a scrap of paper inscribed with seven runes, their names and their meanings. It makes Dean realize that Sam’s serious about this.

Dean wants to refuse. He’s not real keen on the idea of something so potentially powerful being permanently etched on his skin, but Sam’s so earnest, so sincere, that it’s pointless to resist.

“And you want me to get this as a tattoo?”

“Both of us. I want both of us to have this tattoo.”

“And I suppose you’ve already figured out where to go to get this done?”

Sam has the grace to look slightly sheepish, but it’s little consolation against the realisation that Sam’s got this all planned out.

“I’ve found someone who knows how to empower the spell at the same time as tattooing it, and they’re only a couple of days from here.”

Dean sighs.

“Ok, fine. If it’s going to make you feel better. Anything to stop you acting like girl all the damned time.”

Sam rolls his eyes, then grins, grateful and loving and Dean can’t help but lean down and kiss his brother. He meant for it to be a quick kiss, chaste and restrained. But Sam opens his lips and then they’re really kissing, deep and wet and when Sam slides a hand around the back of Dean’s neck and pulls, Dean goes willingly. He ends up sitting in Sam’s lap, thighs spread over Sam’s. Dean wonders if this is always how it’s going to be between them. Wonders whether he’ll survive if it’s taken away from him again.

Sam tugs the towel away from Dean’s waist, and twists until Dean’s flat on his back on the bed, under his brother. Sam trails his mouth over Dean’s jaw, down his neck, fingers stroking over Dean’s chest, a hint of nail making him arch towards Sam. There’s something almost reverent about the way Sam touches him, and it makes Dean feel ten feet tall, and totally unworthy of that adoration.

He tries to move, tries to reciprocate, but Sam presses him back down, and whispers “Let me do this” against the skin of Dean’s stomach. He can’t help the way his hips jerk, and his breath catches when Sam slides his mouth slowly down over Dean’s cock. Christ, it’s the dirtiest and the hottest thing Dean can imagine, and he doesn’t know whether he’s furious, jealous, or grateful that this clearly isn’t the first time Sam’s done this.

Sam’s tongue flicks against the underside of Dean’s cock, and somehow he’s got hold of the lube, because one of those freakishly long fingers is sliding into Dean and fuck, that’s good. He’s not used to letting someone else take control, but he trusts Sam, trusts him with his life, his soul, and whether he wants to or not, with his heart.

If it were anyone but Sam, he’d be vaguely embarrassed by how quickly he comes, but he’s too surprised by the rush of orgasm to care. He’s still too sated and boneless to move, even as Sam crawls up his body, and kisses him, making Dean pull faces at the taste. The slow slide of Sam’s cock inside him dispels some of the lethargy, and he arches into his brother, hands clutching at Sam’s shoulders, hips catching Sam’s rhythm. Sam’s gentle, his strokes are long and slow, but deep, and the sensation is right on the edge between pleasure and over sensitivity. It doesn’t take too long before Sammy’s motion becomes erratic, and then he freezes, buried as deep as he can get in Dean’s body, shuddering and gasping Dean’s name, over and over.

Sam pulls back, making Dean wince slightly.

“Damn, I’m sorry…”

“Sam, shut the hell up. You ruined the last afterglow, let me have this one in peace, ok?”

Sam laughs, and slumps next to Dean. The atmosphere between them is easy, comfortable. If this is the way they’re going to spend all their mornings, Dean thinks that maybe he doesn’t want his old self back, after all.

Chapter Five
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