Sam watched the road roll past from where he lay in the back seat. He was sweating slightly, thanks to being wrapped up in an old blanket—a threadbare relic from some long ago motel. He'd been forced into the back by Dean, who persisted in treating him like some delicate Victorian invalid. Not only had Dean rolled him up like a burrito, but he'd taken his laptop away—the fucker wouldn't even let him have a book, leaving Sam to die of boredom, forced to count mile markers as they sped down the road. The only blessing in the situation was Dean having relaxed his usual stranglehold on the radio. Tear In My Heart was playing at a level not designed to wreck his eardrums and, Sam thought, even discounting the burrito-making and laptop-stealing, Dean allowing Twenty-one Pilots to grace his speakers was a clear indicator of the amount of guilt he was feeling.
It was frustrating, sometimes to the point of pissing him off, that he couldn’t get it through Dean’s head that feeling any kind of guilt was a waste of time. Sam had forgiven him—okay, so maybe forgiving and forgetting all the shit Dean had done was a work in progress. Still, his brother wasn’t alone in the fucking up, right? They were Winchesters—screwing the pooch was a trait practically written into their genes. All that crap? Sam was taking it and shoving it in the big, fucking, box of things he’d deal with at some fabled future date. He could do it too, because despite all the shit Dean showered him with, Sam knew how truly, deeply, his brother loved him. How he wanted only the best for him.
Even if sometimes the best Dean wanted for him was kind of stupid and fucked up and not entirely in Sam’s best interest....
At least now they were headed back to a place that he’d truly been happy in, probably the happiest he’d ever been. He was glad, and wanted to be truly grateful, but considering the way they'd ended up at this point, he couldn't be, not completely.
He'd had a mission, and failed totally—demons would still be infecting the world, rogue angels would still be a problem if not for Kevin and Cas managing to complete what he hadn’t been able to. He given in, and lost any chance he’d had to be truly clean. Sam squeezed his eyes shut, blocking out the sight of Dean being Dean in the front seat. Tapping out an aimless beat on the steering wheel, troubled gaze split between the road and the back seat; if he didn't start paying better attention to the road, his eternal quest to 'save Sam' was going to be moot.
Eventually, the roll of the tires, the slight rock of the car, the warmth and smell of the vinyl under his cheek; all those familiar things, plus the pills he'd swallowed before he'd climbed into the car, worked to untangle his tightly strung, barbwire nerves. He slipped into sleep before they were more than a couple of hours out.
He was wandering some deserted road somewhere, the world it cut through a weird, wild, too bright landscape, the air full of Dean yelling garbled rivers of words at him and Cas jumping out from behind burning bushes and Kevin screaming and burning and an archangel swinging a giant sword made of fire in one hand and throwing flaming snakes at him with the other….
Sam jerked awake, sweat soaking his clothes and his hair, fucking thankful to be out of one the weirder dreams he'd had in a while. God, he hated painkillers. Always gave him whacked-out dreams.
He managed to kick the blanket off, pulled himself up high enough to rest his head against the side window. He was still in the car, and even though he was slick and gross with sweat, the car was cool, which meant they’d been still long enough for it to have cooled down.
Dean glanced back at him from the front seat. Must have been too dim for him to tell that Sam wasn’t sleeping, because Dean slid out of the car without a word, moving as quietly as was possible when opening doors that weighed a ton. The crunch of gravel told Sam Dean was headed up the driveway; a wave of nostalgia cascaded through him at the sound.
Blinking sleep from his eyes, he squinted, trying to see through the road dust-smeared windshield. "Wow...wow."
He eased fully upright, taking in the picture of the small house back lit by the setting sun, with an over-grown forsythia on either side of a wide porch. His forsythias, the ones he'd planted as little, brittle twigs back when Dean had first brought him here...and now they crowded the porch stairs. A hot knot welled up in his throat, and his eyes burned as he thumbed at them, struggling to clear tears away. He took a deep, shaky breath to let out slowly.
"Craftsman cottage, circa 1920s," he whispered. He remembered the last day they’d spent here, remembered how Dean had kissed him on the porch of this house that one last time, that the air had been so chilly, but Dean's mouth had been so warm against his. Sam closed his eyes and remembered pressing Dean back against the door, returning that kiss and how he'd tried to throw every bit of himself into it. The way Dean had looked at him...and how he'd promised, "We'll come back someday. Someday."
Sam opened his eyes, watching as Dean threw the door wide and flipped on the porch light. He hoped with all his heart that now they were back like Dean had promised, they'd come back to everything that they'd had here. Right this moment, though, he was just going to be grateful for what he did have—they were home again, and home was still beautiful, this place where he'd regained his balance, found a reason to keep moving. Where he'd found Dean.
The bags were sitting at the bottom of the stairs, ready to go up. He’d stumbled a bit in the dark, his memory a little dim regarding the layout. Stopping before he tripped and broke something, he peered around, wrinkling his nose at the stale air. It smelled of the dust that settled in unused places, of being empty. No big deal. Now that he and Sam were back, it wouldn't be long before it smelled like home again. He swept his hand over the wall beside him, searching for the light switch. Blinked when the lights flared, and breathed a little thanks that the electric was still on. He could hear the heater wheeze and gasp and clang its way back to life, ready to fight the chill in the air. Thought how familiar, and how funny that the sound was so welcome now—it used to irritate the fuck out of him back then.
Grinning, he strolled into the kitchen and flicked on the light above the stove. Looked in the fridge—"Nice.″ It was spotless and nearly empty. It held only two things, and one of them made him grin even wider: a six pack. The other was an open box of baking soda. Shelly. He shook his head, laughing softly, a little louder when he noticed a card from a local pizza place tucked into the six pack.
Next, he opened the drawers and cabinets, one by one, and nodded. Shel had done a good job of clearing the place out. All empty and decked out with clean, new liners, each and every one. Seriously a sweetheart, that girl.
He passed the kitchen table, heading back to the front door, and noticed a sheet of white notebook paper folded into a tent and propped up on it. Opening it, he read.
'hey Dean! Hey Sam! Welcome home! The extra keys are hanging in the hall closet, and there's beer in the fridge. I'll call later. Love ya Shelly'
Shelly Miner, their neighbor, and the first "summer romance″ he'd ever had that hadn't ended sad and pathetically. Nope—it had run aground and burst spectacularly into flames.
Not that Shel wasn’t a great chick, she was the best—it was just that year, he'd found out he was already in love, and had been for a really fucking long time. Actually, it was Shel who’d given him the sorely-needed needed kick in the butt that jump-started his brain, waking him to the fact that Sam was it for him. It had been rough between him and Shel, briefly, but to come out the other side still friends? Shelly was a class act all the way.
Rocking back on his heels, Dean checked the place out. It didn't look bad at all—with all the craziness in his life since, he'd forgotten how nice the house had turned out. Had almost forgotten how much fun fixing up the place had been. He stroked the smooth, cool surface of a cabinet door, pleased at how the paint had held up, as well as happy that she’d kept the colors he'd chosen: soft yellow and gray. The huge, old, 1970s stove was still there, with the oven big enough to cook a whole kindergarten class in. He grimaced to himself. Okay, kind of a gruesome thought, considering how many things they'd dealt with that would happily eat a kindergarten class.
Cramming Shelly's note into his back pocket, Dean walked over to open the kitchen windows, let some fresh air in the joint before heading back out to collect Sam. Dean looked around, drifting a bit in thought. Yeah, the paint did look good, but some deep-cherry wood cabinets would look even better. Might even see about the possibility of opening up the wall between kitchen, like some distant owner had opened up the dining/living room area….
Dean straightened, brought sharply back on point by the sound of the car door creaking open. He scoffed at himself. How 'bout he got Sam out of the car before he started planning a new kitchen?
"New kitchen...″ Who’d imagine ever having a thought like that? Not him, and certainly not on the very first day he'd spent in this house, him and Sam. He remembered practically dragging Sam through the front door….
He pulled down the thick brown paper that had been stapled and taped over some of the windows. Light oozed in, reluctantly lighting the cobwebbed rooms. The place was…okay. Nice and normal, the kind of place Sam would like...the place John Winchester picked, and had planned for them to come to, after their work was done. Dean inhaled, chest filling, held it until he was forced to exhale.
Yeah. Dad hadn't bought this place for himself. Dean figured he'd bought it for him and Sam, and he was going to make a home for Sammy and for him. He was gonna make it a place Sam could catch his breath and for fuck's sake live again. They needed to refresh and refuel, to become human beings again before they could even think about going on. They fucking deserved it.
He'd ripped that paper down and let the light of day in and fuck, he'd almost grabbed his beautiful-mind brother and tossed him back in the car to haul ass outta there. But he hadn't, and it'd turned out to be one of the best decisions he'd ever made. He just wished he'd known what was ahead—they should have just stayed. Should have kept Sammy in this Craftman, Crafter's, Crafts-what-the-fuck-ever- cottage and bolted the doors and never fuckin' left. Yeah, hindsight being twenty-twenty and all.
Dean looked out towards the driveway, and movement towards the back of the car caught his eyes. There went Sam, impatient as always, trying to get out of the car by himself. 'Lemme go get that idiot before he breaks something, Dean thought with a chuckle.
Sam, stubborn-ass little fuck he was, had just made it out the back; was leaning against Baby by the time Dean hit the porch. Dean leaped the last few steps, propelled by the sight of Sam weaving back and forth in the slight breeze. Boy was a little green, obviously nauseous from the effort of pulling himself out the car and probably the change in altitude, freakin’ giant Yeti. "Dude, you feelin’ okay?"
"Pretty good," Sam croaked, sounding like he’d gargled gravel, but he was smiling, like, a real, genuine, dimples an' all smile. He paled to white when he tried to push off from the car. Giving a surprised little groan, his body started folding, his chin wobbling in a way Dean was more than familiar with.
"Oh fuck!" he yelped, and tried to turn Sam away from the car. "Don't barf on her, don't you dare—" It wasn't that he didn’t care about Sam hitting the deck, it was just...well, fuck, he'd just washed and waxed his baby before they left the bunker.
"Dean! I can't help how I—urrghhh—"
Sam did try and turn away from the car at least, poor guy. Being a totally awesome brother, Dean gave Sam a few minutes to compose himself—and to shuffle away from the gross spot—before grabbing his elbow to lead him into the house.
Slowly, step by step, up the porch, to the front door, into the house...Dean could feel the way Sam went rigid for a moment before relaxing into his hold.
"It looks good," Sam whispered.
Sam stood on the threshold, leaning where Dean propped him. He pressed a hand into the small of Sam’s back, feeling him lean into the support as he looked his fill of their house. Dean couldn’t but smooth the hair back from Sam's wide, sweaty forehead as his boy gazed about, a small but genuine smile tilting the corners of his mouth.
Dean pushed back on a surge of emotion, suddenly having to blink furiously—which had nothing to do with tears, damn it, because he was a motherfucking Winchester and they didn't do that. Well, not very much.
"Yeah, Sammy," he murmured, eyes on his little brother. "Looking real good."
Dean’s voice echoed in the empty space of the living room, which at the moment contained him and a couple of dust bunnies. Sam rinsed out the glass he’d found in one of the cabinets, and set it down to air-dry on the drainboard. His mouth still tasted acidic, but rinsing would have to do until he could get to his toothbrush in the dufflebag.
Dean came swaggering into the kitchen and leaned on the counter next to Sam. "So, yeah, head’s up, there’s no furniture in any of the rooms at the moment. Shel got rid of most of the stuff we left," Dean said, rolling his eyes. "Like there was something wrong with it. It was lived in, that’s all, good for another couple of years."
Sam couldn’t hold in a tiny sound of horror at the thought of sticking with what had been decrepit furniture even then. Dean ignored him—of course—and continued. "She took the stuff she bought with her—good, I’d say. Chick’s taste, an’ all."
"Dean. You’re such a – a—"
Dean held his hand up, stopping Sam in his tracks. "I’m thinking. Rag on me later." He tapped his cell phone against the counter, nibbling at his lower lip in thought. Sam watched the way Dean's white, Hollywood-straight teeth depressed the plush pillow of his bottom lip, remembering how it felt to touch that fever-hot lip when they were deep in it, the way it swelled against his tongue, how hot and smooth it felt when he licked over it….
"Hunh? Sorry, what?"
He peered at Sam, frowning slightly. "Lookin’ a little flushed, there—say, you're not pissed about Shel getting rid of the furniture, are you?″
"Oh god, no, of course not. I - I mean, ah, it wasn’t like the stuff was new.″ Before Dean could respond, he quickly added, "You think she got rid of my desk? And my bookcases?"
Dean looked thoughtful. "She said she put some pieces in the attic, and there's some stuff in Baby's spot, in the garage, I mean."
"So, I guess we need to hit the Goodwill again. Or hey, here’s a thought...how about we check out actual, regular, furniture stores?″
"Screw you," Dean said conversationally and headed out to the living room. He hefted their both their duffles even though Sam knew he could lift his own just fine, due to it being lighter than normal without the usual addition of firepower. "I’ve got nothing against furniture stores. In fact, if you’d like to leave off stereotyping me as some kind of Philistine, we have the money and some of us do like to indulge in the occasional creature comforts, you know. I don't know about your narrow ass, but I'd like to keep sleeping on a bed that remembers me. If you’re nice, we’ll get you a bed that remembers you, too.″
"Oooo, Philistine," Sam smothered a giggle. "I see watching Jeopardy pays off for some of us."
Dean bit off a laugh, flipped Sam off and trotted up the stairs with their bags, while Sam reran Dean’s words and his amusement died down. He didn't need a reminder of how their shared bed at the bunker had become occasional nights together, which in turn had become a few rushed encounters, and those had eventually dwindled to nothing in separate rooms.
Sam sighed. As good as it was to be here again, it hurt a little, too. He’d hate to end up overwriting the good memories he had of Dean and him in this place...they were a lifeline to him. He’d known real joy here, learned so much about himself, and what if this lack of a relationship that they'd devolved to ruined that?
Sam took a deep breath, let it out slowly as he grappled for some measure of calm, willing back the murky swamp of emotions that occasionally swept him under. Since their relationship – at least anything outside of being brothers – had deteriorated, there’d been a few times he’d been pulled under. It had been like that at Stanford until Jess found him. There’d been some recurrences after losing her, during spectacularly shitty times. But he weathered them; time after time, he’d come out the other side whole...pretty much.
He was not going to drown now. Not when they were going to make a home here again. Not when there was a possible chance for more, and better. After all, they’d trudged through a ton of troubles, separately and together, and he was still here with Dean and that fucking counted for a lot. In fact—kicking fatalism in the ass—being back here in the house meant he at least had the freedom to hope.
He grabbed the one, small, backpack he was allowed to lift and followed Dean upstairs to the bedrooms. His duffle bag was sitting inside the open doorway of the room that had been theirs, Dean’s having been made over into an office when they'd finally admitted that they were sharing a bed. He stepped over the bag, a wave of deep, deep exhaustion taking him. He untied his sleeping bag, shook it flat, then kicked off his boots before crawling in still dressed. He worried briefly about being able to sleep what with the wild tumble of thoughts in his head, but he blinked his eyes once or twice and the next thing he knew, sunlight was bleeding through the slats of the window blinds.
Sam yawned, stretched his arms wide, and hissed when his knuckles hit bare floor instead of mattress. For one hot second he was totally lost 'til memory came tumbling back. "Right...″
He rolled upwards, pushed out of the bag, wincing as bone and muscle protested the night on the floor.
Rubbing sleep out of his eyes as he peered around, he remembered the very first time he’d slept here, waking up in an empty, dreary box of a room, light barely making it in through the grimy windowpanes. His chest ached as he remembered the care Dean had put into making it livable for him. Sam was glad the walls were still the grayish-blue Dean had painted them. Sam couldn’t remember the name of the color now, just remembered that Dean picked because it made him laugh. A jab at Sam, sure, because his brother was a jerk. And loved him.
He did his best to tamp it down, but hope made his ridiculous heart beat a little faster.
He shoved the clothes from yesterday into a corner—they were completely gross, kind of crunchy with dried sweat. He’d rather go naked in public than wear them another day. Not like some brothers he could name. With any luck, the washer and dryer were still working.
Sam dumped his duffle out onto the sleeping bag, sorting through his things before choosing fresh jeans and a t-shirt. Grabbing clean boxers and his dopp kit, he headed towards the bathroom, which if he remembered correctly, had a pretty crummy shower, just about the right height to maybe get his nipples wet if he slouched. Dean had done a great job of remodeling the rest of the place, no doubt—but back then, the bathroom had kind of fallen by the wayside. In Sam’s opinion, nothing was ever going to top the MoL showers. Utilitarian as they were, he missed their green-tiled magnificence whenever they were out on the road. Endless hot water? Perfect water pressure and adjustable shower heads? Hard to beat.
A quick shower later, he went back out into the hall, dripping a trail of water as he went. Having forgotten to bring a towel in with him, he rooted hopefully through their old linen closet, chuffed in triumph when he found a couple of thin motel towels still inside. Shelly must have overlooked them when she moved in, seeing as how they were crumpled up deep in a back corner. Lucky him. He pressed a towel to his face, remembering Dean rubbing down with one or another purloined crappy motel towel after his marathon showers, the smell of Dean and his prissy shower gel in the humid air.
The memory had Sam’s dick jerking a little in interest. That was surprising—his dick chubbing, and the way he’d managed to lose himself so deeply in memory. He hurried back to his room. All he needed was for Dean to come out and find him half-hard and fondling the towels—hell, screw fondling towels, if Dean found him dripping all over his oak floorboards he’d have a fucking fit. Home-remodeling sonofa bitch.
Showered, teeth clean, and though he'd never let on to Dean, skin moisturized, he followed his nose to the kitchen, currently sending out wonderful waves of scent: fresh coffee, toast, eggs. Sam walked through the doorway into the kitchen, just in time to see Dean setting a small dish of yogurt and fresh cut fruit by his plate of soft scrambled egg whites and—
"Is that turkey bacon?"
"You know how damn hard it is to cook this stuff so it's got some kind of crisp to it?" Dean complained, sitting at his own plate, piled high with a ham and cheese omelet that looked like it’d been stuffed with another ham and cheese omelet.
"You're going to get fat," Sam mumbled around his eggs, smirking inside at Dean's squawk of outrage. He got a lot of enjoyment out of pretending to ignore Dean glaring at him while scarfing down his perfectly seasoned eggs. Dean might not like so-called health food, but he cooked the hell out of it.
Sam reached for the heavy cup of coffee Dean slid over to him, looking forward to a good jolt of caffeine. The cup looked familiar. In fact... "Did you steal cups from the bunker?"
"No! Well, not all of them. Just a few. And maybe some plates...some silverware, good stuff like that is hard to find."
"How would you even know what’s good?″ Sam huffed. "Do you not get the concept of stores and shopping for goods?"
"I know good stuff because we buy shit like that silverware to melt down all the time. Besides, Sam, it’s not like I’m stealing. It’s ours anyway, ain’t it? Birthright and all. And there’s plenty left for Kevin, and Cas...besides. It’s like...I wanted it because I got, y’know, attached to it."
Sam rubbed his thumb across the edge of the heavy mug, and nodded. "Yeah. Okay, I guess I get that." He lifted his head, and gave Dean a smile. "I guess I got attached to it too."
After breakfast, he trailed after Dean, watching him scratch notes in a little spiral-bound book he’d produced from somewhere. He tried to explain how Dean could download an app that would let him save notes to his phone, but Dean hit him in the head with his phone instead.
They went from room to room, making notes on what they’d need. Mattresses, bed-frames—though Dean thought the old frames might be back out in the detached garage that he’d had taken such pleasure in the first time they’d lived in the house.
Dean kept muttering little snatches of sentences, pretty much to himself. Sam was just along for...no real reason he could see, but what the hell, he had no other pressing business and Dean had a tendency to bend over a lot, using his thigh as a desk. That meant those jeans tightening over his ass. It was a view Sam quietly enjoyed.
"Gotta check the attic." Dean grumbled when they peered into Sam’s room. "It’s not fair your room’s bigger than mine,″ he said, and Sam managed to not remind Dean it had been both their room before. He'd bet anything Dean felt it, because he just said, "Rugs," and hurried past the open doorway.
He elbowed Sam as they walked the hallway. "You know what? We should sand and refinish the floors up here, don’t you think? Work on the bathroom too, no way are we living with these munchkin showers...hey. Is that water in the hallway…?
"No." Sam said and pushed past him to look up the attic stairs. "You coming?" he asked when he saw that Dean was just standing in the hallway, squinting suspiciously at him.
"Yeah, coming. Jeez, I forgot what a killjoy you were last time we did this, ya cranky Bumble."
"House stuff is not fun, and remember you worked me into pneumonia back then?" Sam asked, and cursed himself when Dean’s smile dropped. "I’m kidding, Dean," he said softly and Dean shrugged.
"I know, Sam. Here, hold this for me. You’re gonna stay here and take notes,″ he said, less enthusiastically than he had been. "I’m not having you climb up there and poke around a hot attic. You’re better, but you’re not all the way there yet.″
Sam grabbed Dean’s arm as he went past, holding on until Dean huffed. His eyes softened, and he gave Sam a lingering sort of half hug that lit up Sam’s insides like a shot of Johnnie Walker. He patted Dean’s arm and let him go, and Dean cupped his cheek. "Asshole,″ he said fondly, knowing Sam really was sorry for being kind of a dick. Of course he did, because for good or bad, no one else read him as clearly as his brother.
Dean patted his cheek, maybe a wee bit harder than he had to, and then swaggered down the hallway, reaching up to pull down to the attic stairs. Sam eyed the little strip of pale, freckled skin that showed as Dean's tee rode up, and smiled.
Sam leaned against the hallway wall, tapping the little notebook against his knee while listening to Dean thumping and crawling around in the attic, occasionally cursing, too. "Fuck, it’s dusty up here," he called down. More shuffling and then, "Good news, looks like the desk is up here."
Sam smiled, a warm wave that just might be contentment sweeping through him. He liked the idea of bringing his books inside, of having a home for them. He didn’t have as many with him this time—the bunker was still the safest place to keep specific types of books, which just meant he’d have room for books that were strictly for pleasure. He pictured himself sitting in the backyard reading, while Dean trimmed back the greenery wearing a single layer. No, shirtless, yeah that's it, and gleaming under the sun...more of that freckled skin exposed, his little belly, sweat-glazed and wanting to be traced with fingers, lips, and tongue…
"Yo! You still there or what?"
Sam jumped, accidentally throwing the notebook, watched the pen roll down the hall. Damn it. He was just getting to the good part. "Yeah, yeah, was just, ah, daydreaming, I guess."
"Oh. Well, she just shoved the whole office upstairs. Lucky us," he said and Sam noticed that he’d said office and not 'the stuff that’s going in your room’, so did that mean...was Dean considering, maybe, sharing again? He swallowed; barely kept himself from begging a certain Deity who was definitely not paying attention to give him a hand.
Shopping for food with Sam was always good for a laugh—it sure as hell was never boring. There was the interesting argument they’d had in front of the meat case—Sam making a case for meatless meals like some kind of vegan proselytizer, then there was the usual struggle to toss as much sugar and salt in the form of cookies and chips in the cart as he could get away with while Sam tried to sneak them back out and put healthy shit in instead. Like he couldn’t tell the difference between Baked Veggie Chips and Garlic Dill chips, tchah. They agreed on fish, but argued about broiling or frying it. Both of them tossed their favorite flavor of ice-cream in the cart, and eventually, despite their best efforts, they’d gathered the basics for the pantry and plenty for the fridge.
Dean pushed their over-flowing cart towards the checkout and thought how weird it was to be buying so much food at once. Besides buying the real necessities, like pizza and burgers, and occasionally the necessary ingredients for when he wanted to make something a little challenging—like some of the recipes in the ancient cookbook he’d lifted from a shelf in the bunker library—the MoL’s magic pantry had somehow always kept them in basics. Not even Cas knew exactly how the pantry worked, but Charlie said it had something to do with dimensional shifts and pocket universes and Dean had kind of glazed over after dimensional whosis—even Sam had been confused. If a brain like Sam couldn’t get it, than how was he supposed to? Besides, he didn’t need to think about stuff like that. That’s why he had a little brother.
He watched Sam, a warm wave of affection making him smile at his brother as he fussily picked through the cart,.
"What?" Sam asked when he caught Dean staring.
"Nothing,″ Dean said. "You just looked goofy standing there reading food labels."
Sam rolled his eyes. "They put the nutritional info there for a reason—yeah, never mind. Let’s get some fruit before we check out."
Dean nodded. "But no bananas. I hate them."
"That’s because you’re stupid," Sam said. "You’ll eat them if they come with a side of ice-cream and fudge sauce, though."
"Who wouldn’t?" Dean elbowed Sam in the side, remembering to hold back a bit at the last minute. Sure, his boy was definitely stronger now—better day by day, in leaps and bounds—thanks to Cas finishing off what that ass Gadreel had promised to do. Still, there was nothing wrong with being careful, no matter how much it annoyed Sam to be treated like he wasn’t one hundred percent.
Heading to the register took them past the dog food shelves; he tried to walk past, he really did, but he couldn’t help slowing, and finally stopping, to look at the ranked rows of cans and bags. His eyes caught the bright blue bag, the one with the smiling dog on the front. Man, he’d bought a lot of bags of it when….
Sam stopped too, leaning past Dean to run his fingers over the smiling-ass dog on the bag. Dean hated when Sam looked so wistful. Looked just like he did when he was a kid, watching other kids shitting themselves over fuckin’ Christmas, knowing that more than likely, Christmas was going to skip over them once again.
Still...they were back now, and they’d only given their pup away because hunting was no life for a dog, not a sweet, little shit like Fi, anyway. And if Dean had his way, they were never leaving again. Sam was going to have his house, and his garden, and his dog. Some kind of normal, no matter what he said about not caring about that anymore. Hadn’t giving Fi up been a temporary thing? He was pretty sure he’d told Ford and Donnie that it was a 'just for the meantime’ arrangement. Hell, wasn't like Sam couldn’t argue their case.
Good old Donnie and Ford Spriggs were—had been—great guys. They’d been the first friends he and Sam had made in the neighborhood, an old gay couple who'd 'been through the struggle’, as Ford used to say. Getting the news that Donnie had lost Ford a few months ago had been fuckin’ rough. Sam had sent a letter, letting Donnie know how much it hurt to hear of Ford’s loss; something full of compassionate, Sam-style stuff because Sam always knew what to say when it came to stuff like that. Dean was completely aware of how worthless he was when it came to comfort. He was only good for cursing shit, smashing shit, and getting drunk as shit.
It was awful that he couldn’t even view the news as having been straight horrible—it had sparked one of the rare times that he’d reached out to Sam, just...needy, and lonely, and wanting things to be different. For a night, it had been.
And then like an asshole, he’d had shut Sam down afterwards—to spare him. Right. To spare his own stupid self, to be honest. Too afraid at the time to find out maybe Sam wasn’t looking for things to be like they had been.
Well, fuck. Waste of time to mope—they were here now and fitting themselves into their new lives was what he needed to be thinking about, not what a fuck-up he was.
They loaded their groceries into Baby’s nearly empty trunk. Dean idly observed, while dropping a bag of groceries into it, that with most of their weaponry parked back at the bunker, there was plenty of room for a couple of bodies in there now, not just a tiny fuckin’ king of Hell.
He and Sam snickered at the same time—he glanced at Sam and Sam said, "It is weird, right? Not having the trunk full of...things.″
Dean snorted. "Things...right.″ and Sam giggled again. He pushed his bags towards the back of the trunk to make room for more. They bumped into each other, shoulder sliding against shoulder and Dean let the warmth he always felt at a touch from Sam fill him. Taking a chance, he lingered—just for a moment. His heart beat kicking up a bit, hopeful, when Sam seemed to press back, make a tiny sound that put Dean in mind of better times.
It was nice, putting away the food. They worked in silence, but it was good silence. Before long, their cabinets were full to bursting, their fridge bulging at the seams with more than the basics—it felt comfortable, kind of like the aftermath of a nice, boring, salt 'n’ burn.
Safe at home, and Sam taken care of. What could be better?
Dean went out to sit on the back porch, cracking a well-deserved beer, treating himself to a memory of the first meal he’d cooked here—eggs and bacon on a disposable grill on the back porch. He sat on the top step, remembering how damn prickly Sam had been, still weathering the aftermath of being hounded almost to death by hallucinations of Lucifer. So angry, and so—god, kinda mean, actually. The poor kid had been sick, striking out at everyone, especially at him. Couldn’t blame him at all. Fuck, he’d been so fucking worried about Sam, so scared….
Nowadays, though, Sam was just kind of sad. He was healing pretty good physically, and as far as Dean could tell, dealing well as could be expected with all the levels of shit that’d been done to him. He didn’t think Sam was pissed off at him anymore, not like he didn't have a right to be. These days, seemed like he was just deeply disappointed in Dean, and that was probably worse than Sam wanting to clock him one. Dean held onto a glimmer of hope that dropping out, stepping back from constantly chasing down ‘evil’, would preserve what they had left.
He wasn’t brave enough to hope it would repair them.
Painful pressure on his hip had Dean shifting, then painful pressure on his bladder made him curse. Trying to move sent a mini-spasm rippling down his spine, and then his shoulders chimed in to remind him of those many times he’d dislocated one or the other. Waking up each damn morning brought a laundry-list of aches and pains with it these days, fucked-up reminders of all the shit he’d put his body through down the years, and just how much it hated him for it.
Mornings. Fuck 'em.
He finally gave in to his bladder’s demand he get the fuck up, and rolled upright, groaning in misery. Screw this sleeping on the floor right in the face. He needed a mattress, for fuck’s sake. This shit might have been just about doable at thirty-three, but thirty-five was calling him out. He eased himself onto his feet, thankful no one could see him clawing at the lone chair in the room for support. Hauling himself to standing, he then waited for his blood to start flowing again. Did some stretches, and then rolled up the sleeping bag and kicked it viciously into the corner. Damn it felt good; he was kind of tempted to kick it again—just 'cause. He shuffled to the bathroom, biting down a groan with each step, finally peed with a little moan of relief. He glanced at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands. "Looking a little rough, man,″ he said. "Need some sun.″ Probably needed to work out, too. Maybe he should find a gym—Sam was still finding his way back to peek condition. He’d hate to set him back doing something stupid while they sparred.
Dean brushed his teeth, humming 'Don’t Fear The Reaper’ while he did and did some low-key planning. Both the master bathroom and that hall bath needed serious revamping. He made mental notes while he rinsed and spit and bared his teeth at himself in the mirror. "Handsome devil,″ he muttered.
Jerking the curtains open brought that bright fall sunlight flooding in. He admired the way the light brought out the color of the walls—Salt Glaze, if he remembered correctly. He’d basically picked it because he’d thought the name was so damn funny, but it was a genuinely nice color. Sam’s too. The name had been...what was it? Oh, yeah... Pensive Sky. Still made him giggle. Still suited Sam to a tee.
The distant sound of cars accompanied the cool morning breeze flowing through the windows he'd opened a crack before going to bed last night. As much as he considered the bunker luxurious compared to the endless stream of questionable motel rooms they’d camped out in over the long years, he’d always missed waking to sunlight and non-recycled air. The ability to lean out a window and smell the air, feel it flow over his skin, and let the sun in was luxury, too, a real pleasure. He leaned elbows on the sill and let it all soak in.
When he straightened up, his back complained some, but much less than when he first awoke. The spasm made him think of Sam with his long self sacked out in that crummy bag on the hard-ass floor, and Dean hoped he’d managed some decent sleep. He liked the idea of Sam crammed in that room less and less. And shoving the desk and the bookcases back in would just make it smaller yet.
"He can’t,″ Dean muttered. "That’s just—stupid.″ Okay. New mission. He’d figure out some way to talk Sam into sharing one bedroom with him again...and screw the whole fuckin’ 'separate beds’ thing. If he wanted Sam back in his bed, he’d have to just…
Dean flailed his arms around. Just what? He had no fuckin’ idea how to ask. Didn’t know if he dared to ask.
No, screw that. New mission, new attitude. He fucking dared. Yeah, he dared. He wasn’t afraid of Sam, no way. In fact, Sam was probably just waiting for him to ask.
Dean laughed, dry and bitter.
"Sure. Keep telling yourself that. After all this shit, I bet Sam’s just holding his breath waiting for you.″
Didn’t matter though. He’d made up his mind. He was either going to fix things with Sam, or Sam was going to have to tell him point blank there was no chance of there ever being a them again.
He’d start the mission with checking on Sam before making breakfast.
Dean padded across the hall and tapped at Sam’s door, tried the knob when he got no answer. Peeking in with a quiet, "Sam?" he stepped inside.
Sunlight leaked in through the wonky slats of the window blinds, painting stripes of light across a sleeping Sam. He was twisted up in that ancient sleeping bag of his, hands curled tight into fists, and crammed under his cheek. Even in sleep his face was drawn tight in a frown. Little snores whistled in and out, his breath fluttering the stray bits of hair falling around his face.
He looked cute, but Dean’s smile slid into a frown as he took note how tense his brother was. On the other hand, Sam's pallor was much, much less—his skin was almost back to the same creamy tan it’d been as a boy. He was filling out again, and that was good. Cheekbones not so sharp now, jaw not looking so much like something you could cut yourself on. The lines around his eyes might be more defined, little worn commas bracketing his lips, but they were that delicate, pink cupid’s bow again. Dean’s fingers twitched, wanting to be tracing that bow.
Sam suddenly exhaled, a little moan leaking out with it, and Dean wanted to touch so bad, but not now. Not yet.
Sam’s eyes fluttered; he was making the snuffling noises that Dean knew meant he was waking, so he took a step back, and waited for Sam to come fully awake. Eyes still closed, a soft, small, smile curled that cupid’s bow even more. "Dean...″ Sam murmured.
Dean was about to answer him when Sam’s eyes flew open. He jerked upright, confusion clouding his eyes.
"What? Dean? What’s...you okay? Everything okay?"
"Yeah, sure was just coming to see if you...wanted breakfast?"
"Oo-kayy," he drawled, eyeing Dean like his head was about to fly off. "Yeah, thanks..." He broke off with a gasp, both hands going to the small of his back. Dean knew just what he was feeling. "Fuck. Is it me, or are these sleeping bags thinner every year?"
"Yes. We need beds. I’m not putting myself through that shit another night and neither are you. You’re too damn old to sleep on the floor."
Sam yawned, groaned, licked his lips – a quick little swipe of the tip of his tongue, but it drew Dean’s eyes like a laser.
"Dude, I’m thirty-one.″ Sam growled. "That’s not fucking old."
"Yeah, whatever you need to tell yourself, Grandpa." Dean snickered and reached his hand down, grappling for Sam’s.
Sam tried to swat his hand away, but Dean gripped him tight and then pulled him upright—right into his chest. "You look good, Sammy. Really good. Feeling better?"
He smiled, eyes on Sam’s and watched them warm. A wave of pink rushed over his cheeks, Sam's free hand came up and after a second, landed on Dean’s hip, tentatively at first, and then, solidly. The warmth bled into Dean’s skin...filled his chest.
"Yeah, I do...feel better, I mean."
Dean took a chance, and reached up, cupped Sam’s blush-warm cheek for a nanosecond before patting him softly. "Okay. C’mon. I’m gonna make breakfast, and you’re doing the cleaning-up."
Making breakfast together was a quiet affair; they worked around each other effortlessly, comfortably, their conversation limited to "Hand me the butter, want garlic or no, don’t be stingy with the grounds, I want coffee, not water... "
It was good. Sam felt like life was finally slowing down enough to let them breathe. Dean passed him a plate, ruffling his hair as he moved past him back to his chair, chuckling as Sam smacked his hand away, and it was better than good.
Halfway through breakfast, as though they’d been talking about it all along, Dean said, "Yeah, so, moving the office stuff back downstairs shouldn’t take that long.″
Sam stopped mid-chew. "Random, but okay. You know, putting all that stuff back is going to make that room feel cramped. What d’you think about putting the bookcases in the hall?”
Dean nodded, said, ″Or we could just...″ he trailed off; Sam watched him draw the tines of his fork through his over-easy eggs, painting yellow swirls on his stolen MoL plate. Sam's heart fluttered, racing a bit while he waited for Dean to stop painting the crockery with yolk and spit it out. Bit his lip to keep from shouting what, we could just what?
Dean looked up and flinched—Sam wondered briefly what it was Dean saw, his eyes searching Sam’s...he finally gave a quick nod, and said, slowly, carefully, "Or we could just invest in a king...redo the office. We could share a dresser, I mean, neither one of us has a ton of clothes….″
"Well, maybe not me, but you do manage to somehow always have the 'appropriate ensemble’ when we work 'undercover’″ Sam said, making air quotes a la Cas. "I’m certainly not judging,″ Sam murmured, and smirked at Dean’s frown.
″Shut up, Dad taught us to be prepared. Anyway, 'm just putting that out there,″ he muttered and went back to murdering his eggs.
″Sounds like a very good plan,″ Sam said, trying for nonchalant, but Dean brightened, waggled his eyebrows, and finally put his eggs out of their misery. Sam couldn’t help but smile. Back together...in this at least. Sharing a bed didn’t automatically mean resuming everything, but it was a damn good step one in his plan.
A couple of sweaty, dusty hours later—made longer by cussing each other out and dodging elbows—Sam’s desk and bookcases were back downstairs, along with a twin mattress that Dean said they could put to good use, maybe turn it into a daybed and have an office-slash-guestroom. Sam had just nodded, grinning to himself despite being disgustingly sweaty and plastered with dust—Dean in full-on-nesting mode was a hoot, kind of cute even.
After a quick lunch together, Sam headed outside, needing a little break from Handyman Dean. He wandered around the backyard, remembering how the lawn had tried to kill him on their first day there with rusty, old, tetanus-covered farm implements, sneakily tucked down in the too-high grass, along with the woodchuck holes waiting for him to sink in and break an ankle. They’d put some hard work into cleaning that yard up, and it had paid off. The lone Fourth of July party they’d had there, with the cookout and the neighbors filling the yard, was a special memory for Sam. It’d been the taste of normal he’d thought he’d always wanted, but more importantly, it’d led to Dean and him having their first kiss, sprawled against the car, sky full of stars overhead, and man...they’d been stupid as fuck. That first kiss was a shock—bit of a let down, actually—oh, but then the second, and the third, and every one of them after had been everything, just...everything.
Dean whistled for him from the garage, flashed a come-here sign, so Sam waded back through the slightly-overgrown grass. If the mower was still in there, maybe he'd have a go at it later.
Inside, the garage was dim, but Dean threw open the rear doors to let light in, talking to Sam as he did so. ″We got plenty of room to park Baby again. There were just a couple of boxes left, not much, really. And some bed frames. No kings, though. Figure we just get rid of the frames, we don’t need them 'xcept for the twin—we can use that one for the office daybed.″
Sam knelt beside a box, opening it to find "A dented pot...coupla motel towels, a really nasty sheet...what in the world did you save it for? Ugh, no, don’t tell me. Well, this is basically a load of crap.″ He glanced up at Dean. ″We’ll need to replace all these things—unless you stole the bunker’s linens, too?″
″Liiii-nens.″ Dean mocked Sam, assuming a girly voice that no one in real life ever had. ″No, I just took a set of towels. Maybe two. And some robes...a pair of slippers. Or two. Jeez, you act like I tossed the place before I left. And are you really gonna fight me on those Turkish towels?″
"Are you kidding? I could have used those damn towels this morning.″ Sam laughed. Those towels were a dream, thick as mattresses and actually large enough to cover him. No, he really wasn't going to argue.
″I thought not. So hey, I'm going to give Shel a call, see what’s up. And talk to her about Fi. Unless you need some help setting stuff up to the office?″
Sam jerked his attention from the box to his brother. "Yeah? Nah, I got this. Go on, call her, tell her I said hi. Invite her to dinner. Get our dog back,″ he said, and couldn’t help from grinning.
Dean matched him, just as happy as Sam at the idea of getting Fidus back home. "Okay, then.″
He strolled out of the garage, all concentration on his phone. Sam watched his rolling walk, the way his jeans tightened over his ass with each step, and reminded himself that it had been nearly a year since he’d had anything like sex, and while he wasn't a teenager anymore, this fascination with Dean's ass was probably hormonal, and—yeah, he wasn’t buying a fucking word he tried to tell himself.
He pulled himself out of fantasies just in time to hear Dean’s cheerful, ″Hey Shel!″….
After a few minutes, Dean hung his head around the edge of the door, big grin lighting up his face. "Hey, I’m headed out now—sure you don’t wanna come with?″
Sam looked up at him for a long, heavy minute, swiped his arm over his face, pushing sweat-damp hair away. "Eh. I think I'm just going to lie down. Some old guy press-ganged me into work today and it wore me out.″
"Fuck you, press-ganged,″ Dean laughed. "But no, lying down’s a great idea. You rest, I’ll give you a call on my way back, hopefully with good news about Fi. Say, how 'bout we order out, Italian or something.″
"Dean, we just filled the cabinets,″ Sam scolded while pulling himself upright. He dusted off his knees, trying to look stern, but Dean just smirked at him. He knew he’d hooked Sam at Italian—he loved a good antipasto.
"C’mon, you don’t wanna cook, and I'm not cooking.″ His voice went wheedling—actually, it went sort of seductive: soft, kind of intimate—"You know you want it, a little crispy bread, all soaked and dripping with butter with a tease of garlic, some pieces of creamy, smooth cheese and a good, dry, hard, salami...″
"Oh, my god, shut up! Go, go already, Guy Fieri!″ And even though he knew that there was nothing between Shelly and Dean—had never really been, not that way—his heart clenched when Dean bounded towards the car without a bit of hesitation and barely a wave so long.
on to part 2b