Heart's Desire I - Times Two

It was cold and dark, and the shouts were coming faster and louder and he couldn't hear where they were coming from -- everywhere, around and above and below. It was dizzying and he frantically tried to hang on, tried to find his brother in the chaos.

There was blood and fire and screams, and the blast of a shotgun and salt rained down upon them. Sharp pain bit into his skin, drawing what he knew would be symbols if he could only see them, make out some meaning and maybe, dear god, maybe he could stop it.

He felt something tremble in his hand, and he looked down to find his brother's heart beating in his palm.

*******

Sam awoke with a jerk, breath and heart racing, after-images of fire and blood and pain imprinted on the inside of his eyelids.

He opened his eyes and stared around the small shabby room, with its second hand furniture and piles of books and papers strewn everywhere. Sunlight shone in through the thin curtains, the shadows they cast on the floor letting Sam know it was a lot later than his usual wake up time.

For a moment it all seemed strange, like an old memory with the edges worn off, more dream than the dream he'd just had, instead of the bedroom he'd woken up in every morning for almost the last year.

Then there was a knock on the door and his brother stuck his head in.

"Sammy? You all right?" Dean frowned, like he wasn't sure if there was anything to really be concerned about, but prepared -- like always -- to deal with the worst if that's what it was. Sam knew that he was also fully prepared to give him a hard time if it turned out to be nothing.

The oddest thought occurred to Sam, though -- Dean doesn't look different.

Which was just weird; why would Dean look different? Sam shook his head trying to dislodge the strangeness that seemed to be clinging to him.

Dean was still looking at him, waiting for an answer. "Yeah," Sam said, even though he wasn't quite convinced he was okay. "Just, y'know." He gestured vaguely. "Some weird dreams."

One eyebrow went up, in a precursor to a very sarcastic big-brother witticism. "Weird dreams? You need to change the sheets?" Dean leered, expansively.

Sam rolled his eyes. "Weird dreams not wet dreams. Some of us do occasionally have a thought above the waistline, Dean."

"Hey,I wasn't sure if this was your first," Dean said, managing to make fake-concern sound thoroughly insulting. "Thought maybe you didn't know what was going on." Dean grinned, and Sam knew he was no doubt thinking about the time a much younger Sam had asked Dean about the strange noises coming from his brother's bed.

"Jerk," Sam said succinctly, sitting up and running his hands through his hair.

"Bitch," Dean retorted. He didn't move from the doorway, either in or back out. "You sure you're all right?" There was a soft note of concern, well-hidden under the casual lightness.

"Yeah," Sam said with more conviction and a quick smile. Dean being annoying and supportive in turns was just so... normal that the weird strangeness he'd been feeling couldn't stand against it. "What time is it?"

"It's too fucking early in the morning, that's what. You want some breakfast?"

"Waffles?" Sam asked with a hopeful look.

There was a pause, then Dean nodded. "With pecans, I take it," he groused, as though it were his job to go climb the pecan tree and shell the nuts.

Sam grinned. "Is there any other way?" He paused. "Thanks."

"Yeah, yeah." Dean waved a hand, dismissing any indication of Sam's gratitude. Then he pulled back and Sam could hear him heading for the tiny kitchen just a few feet down the hallway.

Sam grinned after him, then got up and headed down the hall in the other direction to the bathroom. He peeled off his boxers and t-shirt and stepped into the shower, closing his eyes and tilting his head back under the soothing stream of hot water.

Even though things weren't feeling nearly as weird, Sam still couldn't get the dream out of his head. It had been especially vivid, although it was starting to blur in his memory a little now, as dreams were wont to do.

But blurry edges or not, he couldn't stop thinking about it. It had ended in a brutal battle, but there had been more to it, a lot more. Flashes passed through his mind's eye -- fighting, hunting, going to school -- college -- a gorgeous blonde woman whose smile made his heart speed up and...

Sam felt his face heat. Okay, maybe it had been at least partially one of those kind of dreams after all.

There was more though, other things that felt important, but they also felt... bad. He didn't want to think about them, didn't want to look at those parts of the dream too closely. Even just thinking of thinking about them was enough to send a shiver down his spine.

A sudden pounding on the door startled him -- no matter that it was exactly the same pounding as every morning when Dean was home. Why Dean thought Sam was going to drown was beyond him. He wasn't four any longer; he didn't need big brother sitting beside the tub.

"Your waffles are gonna get cold!" Dean shouted through the door. The volume was totally unnecessary; the door was thin, as cheap as everything else in the tiny apartment. Hell, their neighbours five doors down could probably hear Dean.

Grateful for the interruption regardless because Sam hadn't liked where his thoughts had been going, he called back, "I'll be right out!" and rushed through the rest of his shower, then quickly went back to his room to throw on jeans and a clean t-shirt.

Barefoot and hair still wet, he then headed out to the kitchen to join his brother.

He found Dean standing beside the waffle iron, just pouring batter into it. Sam looked at the table, found empty plates and glasses. When he gave Dean a glare, Dean smirked.

"Gonna get cold?" Sam repeated, raising a sardonic eyebrow at Dean even as he went to the fridge and got out the carton of orange juice.

"You took for freaking ever; I ate the first ones already." From Dean's tone -- and from knowing his brother all too well -- there was no way of knowing if he was telling the truth.

Except... "Where's the dirty dishes then?"

"Who uses dishes?" Dean countered. "You're the one who pours half a bottle of syrup on the things."

"Right," Sam said, his voice dripping with disbelief. He poured them each a glass of OJ and handed one to his brother.

Dean swallowed a third of the juice at once, then set down the glass and gave Sam a grin. "I guess if you don't believe me, I get the next waffle, huh?"

"It'll get cold when you cook mine," Sam grinned.

Dean responded by flipping him off, then he rescued the waffle from the iron with a fork and dropped it onto a plate. Contrary to his words, and just as Sam had expected, Dean handed the plate to him.

"Thanks," he said, grabbing the syrup from the fridge and sitting down at the table to eat. He watched Dean pour more batter to make his own and asked around a mouthful of waffle, "You got any plans for today?"

"Yeah, I thought I'd sit around the apartment and stare at the walls." He ducked the kitchen towel Sam threw at him, then added, "You got any more exams to study for?"

"Nope. Took the last one yesterday."

"Cool. So you're free and clear, huh?" There was a hint of relief on Dean's face that came and went almost too quickly for Sam to notice. Casually, Dean asked, "You wanna head out and do some target practise?" There was a field a few miles out of town that was perfect for practising with the range of weapons they carried.

It was far from Sam's first choice of a way to spend the day, but the hopeful look his brother was not quite giving him made him give in. "Okay. And maybe we can catch George Clooney's new movie afterwards?"

Dean hesitated, and it took Sam a second to realise why. "How about we check the Morris, instead?" He made it sound like it didn't matter, but he wasn't looking Sam in the eye, either. The Morris was the town's dollar theater, playing films that had already come and gone at the other theaters.

Which meant money was tight and that last night hadn't been a good night for Dean at the pool tables. Dean still hadn't completely recovered from his cracked collarbone, even though he'd stop wearing the sling last week. "How about we rent some stuff and come back here to watch them?" Sam countered, knowing they still had some credits on account at the local video rental place and so it would be even cheaper than the Morris.

"We can do that if you want." Dean nodded, obviously trying to hide his approval. Although why he bothered, Sam didn't know. It wasn't like Sam wasn't perfectly aware of the state of their finances. Dad made sure to mention it almost every time he was home -- commenting on the rent he paid just so Sam could stay in one high school for an entire semester.

Like they won't graduate you at any school, dad had argued, back when Sam had first brought it up. Like it mattered what school the diploma was from.

But Sam was almost certain that if he hadn't dug his heels in on this -- and if Dean hadn't surprisingly backed him -- they wouldn't have stayed in one place long enough for Sam to graduate from anyhigh school. It would've been a GED for him, and even that would have been something that their Dad would have grumbled about taking time and money away from hunting.

Dad had at least finally given in, though he himself didn't stop hunting, barely coming home for more than a few days before leaving again for weeks. Half the time Dean went with him.

That was the worst of it, when they were both gone. Partly because Sam was lonely then, missing his brother's presence and even his father's. But also and more shamefully, there was a freedom when he was alone. He could forget about all the ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night and just pretend he was normal.

It was during one of those times that he'd sent off the forms and applications, heart beating fast when he'd dropped them in the mail. A chance, a grab at that normal life beyond just pretending in an empty apartment a few days at a time.

He had no idea what Dean would say if he found out. He was fairly sure he knew what dad would say. "No." Unless he managed to swing enough scholarships that dad couldn't stop him, throw the lack of funds in his face again. But he hadn't told Dean about the applications, hadn't told him that the real reason he needed to be at one school for awhile was so the teachers would get to know him, and could write letters of reference.

Something teased at the corners of his mind, images, words from the weird dream that made him uneasy even though he couldn't remember them clearly. He shivered again.

He caught Dean looking at him, and tensed, but despite the thoughtful look on Dean's face, all he said was, "You wanna grab your gear, and we can get going."

"Right." Shaking off the almost-memories, Sam swallowed the last bite of his waffle and headed off to his bedroom to get ready.

*******

"OK, Sammy, what do you want to start with? Pistol or crossbow?" Dean was standing by the trunk of the car, already digging into the duffel bags they had stashed there.

It was a surprise they could fit both duffels in the trunk. The old green GEO was tiny, unlike dad's truck. The laughable trunk space carried barely enough gear to make heading out for target practise worthwhile, but it ran, which was enough to get Sam to school and back.

Dean was still waiting for his choice, looking at him expectantly. Sam was pretty sure that "Neither," would not be an acceptable answer. So he sighed and said, "Crossbow." At least that was quieter. For some reason he didn't feel like dealing with the noise and violence of a pistol, just yet.

With a nod, Dean hefted his bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Good idea. Your aim needs work." There was a gleam in Dean's eyes, a barely-suppressed expression of excitement.

It was a look Sam knew well. Dean loved hunting, despite all that it entailed. Staying home, whether due to injury or babysitting Sam, never sat well with him. Sam knew that he was looking forward to getting back on the road and staying there.

He didn't want to dwell on that though because it inevitably made him think about how that was the last thing he wanted and he didn't want to think about how different they were today. Today was about spending time with Dean and having fun. So he ignored all his mixed thoughts and feelings and grinned a challenge at his brother. "My aim's better than yours."

"Dude, when I was still wearing a sling, my aim was better than yours." Dean dropped the duffel bag not far from where they'd parked the car. The old abandoned shack was a good distance away, and there were still several cans scattered beneath the barely-standing fence. Dean waved at him to go check the shack for anyone who might have taken up residence.

"You keep thinking that," Sam said, heading over to the shack.

"I don't have to think it. I know it," Dean called after him. Sam could hear him setting out the crossbows and bolts, talking to 'himself' loudly about how many each of them would need in order to hit the designated bull's-eye -- a tiny knothole on the shack's door.

Sam smiled to himself as he made his way back to his brother's side. It was just so... Dean. "I think you've got some problems with your math there, dude."

"Don't think so. One for me, twenty for you. That's what it took last time. And the time before, the time before that...."

"He's hallucinating," Sam said sadly to the empty field at large.

Dean cocked his head, and looked like he'd heard a noise. "What was that?" he asked, and his manner told Sam that he hadn't just caught the sound of something evil stalking them in the woods. Dean held a hand up to his ear. "I thought I heard my brother say I'm a genius." He made a 'listening' face again, then added, "He also thinks I got all the beauty and the brawn."

"I notice you didn't mention brains," Sam shot back, making it to Dean's side and reaching out for the crossbow.

Dean opened his mouth, but paused, then shrugged. "That's all you," he said, quietly. Then he grinned, though it looked a little bit forced. "But I'm charming." Dean handed him the crossbow, then picked up his own. He cocked it one handed, resting the butt on his hip.

Sam studied him for a moment, something sharp and bitter-sweet in his chest. "Yeah, you are," he finally said softly. It was true; when Dean turned on the charm, he could sell snow to Eskimos if he wanted to.

"You ready to get your ass handed to you on a plate?" Dean held up his crossbow, and gave Sam a cocky smile.

"Are you?" Sam countered, shifting his grip on his own weapon.

Dean laughed. "In your dreams, Sammy."

With deliberateness, Sam stuck his tongue out at his brother before raising the crossbow up to his shoulder to aim.

Sometimes the old taunts were the best.

"Real mature. What are you, five?" Dean raised his own crossbow, and waited a moment. As soon as Sam fired, Dean shot his own bolt towards the shack. If they hadn't been using colour-coded bolts, it would have been impossible to tell whose aim was better.

As it was, Dean's failure to wait a decent second before firing was just yet another attempt to harass him, big-brother style.

"I figured I'd resort to something on your emotional level," Sam replied to Dean's rhetorical question, then shot again.

When there wasn't an immediate response, Sam looked over -- and saw Dean stick out his tongue before turning a serious look back to the shack. He fired, frowning at the door they were using for target practise.

Sam grinned and fired his third shot, and watched his bolt land less than a centimetre away from the first two, which made him grin even wider. Dean didn't say anything, simply took his next two shots, concentrating on his target. Then, when they had five bolts each, they stopped to head over to check their marksmanship.

When they got close enough to see exactly where each bolt was -- blue ones for Dean, yellow for Sam, they both stopped.

"Huh." Dean said, then he turned and smiled, looking proud.

Sam felt his cheeks heat and he smiled shyly under Dean's look. It was weird; all the praise he got from his teachers for his accomplishments, or even the occasional word of approval from his father, none of that ever made him as warm or happy or proud as when Dean looked at him like that.

"You been practising while we're gone," Dean said, half-questioning, half-convinced. "Good for you."

He hadn't been, not really, but Sam didn't say that. Instead just he just smiled at his brother and turned his attention to retrieving the bolts from the door.

Dean clapped him on the shoulder, and asked, "Were you aiming for the door, or the wall?"

Sam brushed Dean's hand off his shoulder. "Bite me."

"Not even if you were legal." Dean shook his head.

"Chicken."

Dean flipped him off.

Oh yeah, we're so mature. Sam chuckled as they walked back to their starting point. "You wanna go again?"

"Since you still haven't hit the bull's-eye, yeah, we go again." Dean conveniently didn't mention that he hadn't hit the knothole, either.

"You go first this time," Sam challenged. "Show me how it's done."

Dean gave him a friendly sneer. "Sammy, if you haven't been watching before now, you're never going to learn." He raised his crossbow and fired.

Sam timed it perfectly; before Dean's bolt had even left the weapon, he had his own raised and was firing. Their bolts hit the door almost simultaneously, one an inch away from the knothole, the other dead center.

Dean's head popped up, and he stared at the door for long enough that Sam had to brace himself for the sarcastic comment he knew was coming. Then Dean turned towards him, slowly, his eyes wide with surprise.

And delight. "Dude!" He raised his right hand for a high-five.

Sam gave it with another shy smile. "Not bad, huh?" he said, letting the pride creep into his voice.

"You suck," Dean said, his voice still full of joy. "Why didn't you tell me you were sneaking out here to practise? Here I thought you were spending all your time in the library, or something."

"I uh..." Sam managed, then trailed off, not quite knowing what to say. He had been spending his time at the library; the idea of coming out to the field and practising with the crossbow hadn't even crossed his mind.

"You been working with the pistols, too? You've been pretty good with a rifle since you were twelve -- and don't think I don't remember who claimed I was the one who shot out the church windows." Dean waggled a finger at him, looking for a second like Old Mrs. Habersham.

"And who was it that put me up to shooting at the windows?" Sam asked archly, ignoring Dean's question. "You got what you deserved."

"I only told you that because you couldn't hit the broadside of a barn," Dean retorted.

"Seemed like I didn't have any trouble hitting the broadside of a church."

"Wise guy." Dean shook his head. "Shut up and go grab a pistol."

"Just pointing out the facts," Sam said, as he headed back to the trunk to retrieve the pistols.

Dean was waiting for him, slipping the bolts back into the quiver, save for one. Sam saw him slip that single bolt -- a yellow one -- into a small pocket in the side of the quiver. Sam knew there was one other bolt in the pocket, a blue one, that had been there for awhile.

That sent another little zing of warmth through Sam, but he didn't say anything. Just handed one of the pistols to Dean. Dean took it with a return of his cocky grin. "Let's see if you've been practising this, little brother."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "No claims about how you're going to kick my ass at this?"

"I've been kicking your ass since you were five. It gets tedious reminding you every time."

"Just shut up and shoot, jerk."

"What's the matter, I hit a sore spot?" Dean shot him an amused look, then he raised the pistol and aimed at one of the cans still propped up on the fence from the last time they'd come out. For a moment he didn't move, then his hands squeezed just so, and fired. Under the sound of the shot, Sam heard a bitten-off curse.

He frowned. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," Dean replied instantly, dismissively. "Take your shot so we can get on with your beating."

Sam gave Dean a hard look, but after a moment of his brother not showing any sign of pain, he sighed and raised his gun, sighted down the barrel and fired.

One of the cans flew off the fence.

"Notice you aimed for the big one," Dean said. He grinned and took aim again, firing quickly. "Fuck," he whispered, though his aim had been true.

Sam's worry spiked again. "Dean..."

"Shoot the last can off, already, so we can set the rest up." Not that it was at all unusual for Dean to go the stoic route when he was hurt. His collarbone might have been healed enough to warrant losing the sling -- and Sam knew that Dean was likely to have shaved a few days off the doctor's recommendation, there. But the kick from a pistol couldn't be feeling good.

"No, that's enough," he said firmly and had a weird sense of déjà vu, of having said the same thing to an injured Dean more than once, of putting his foot down against stubbornness and lack of self preservation.

"You really afraid of me beating your ass, huh?" Dean said it lightly, then shrugged. "Whatever, man. Not your fault you're intimidated by the master." Then he raised his gun again and fired at the last can -- Sam saw him bracing himself for the kick. Saw him suck in his breath and not say a word when the pain hit, hard.

"Damn it, Dean, I said enough!" Sam growled, snatching the gun out of his brother's hand, suddenly angry all out of proportion to the situation.

"What the fuck is the matter with you!" Dean shouted, whirling on him, but not trying to make a move to retrieve his pistol.

"What the fuck is the matter with me?" Sam repeated, a harsh laugh bubbling up in his chest. "Gee, Dean, I don't know. Maybe I'm not into watching my brother in pain, what do you think?"

Dean froze, for a second, a sincere expression of shock on his face. "Dude, what is with you? It's barely anything." He stopped, then when Sam opened his mouth to yell at him, Dean spoke in a low voice that brooked no arguing. "It isn't like a little pain is gonna stop me on a hunt. I can't let it stop me here, just because you can't handle seeing me wince."

"You were doing more than just wincing," Sam said, again having flashes of... something. A long row of pictures of Dean injured in all sorts of ways, always trying to shrug it off and pretend it doesn't hurt, isn't important. "This isn't a hunt and you don't have to torture yourself just to shoot at some god damn tin cans. You're not fucking superman, Dean. You have to give yourself time to heal."

He realised Dean was just standing there, gaping at him. "What the hell has gotten into you?" he demanded, when Sam paused for breath.

And Sam didn't know, didn't know why the thought of Dean in pain was suddenly so much worse than it had ever been before. Not that he ever liked it, but it had never brought this morass of anger and fear and exasperation all tangled with affection up from the bottom of his soul before. He didn't understand it and he certainly didn't know how to explain it. In the end he just shrugged and offered again, "I don't like seeing you hurt."

The look Dean gave him just reinforced the feeling that maybe he was losing his mind. His brother obviously thought so. "You've been hitting the books a little hard?" he asked, taking a half-step backwards, like Sam was going to spin around with the classic signs of possession -- or try to hug him.

Sam sighed, and rubbed at his forehead, feeling the weight of a headache trying to crash down on him. "Look, this was supposed to be a fun day and watching you curse and wince and put yourself through this shit when you don't have to isn't really my idea of fun, so..."

"Hate to tell you this, Sammy, but I do have to. You don't keep up with this stuff, your aim gets sloppy and your skills get rusty. What do you think I do all day while you're in school? Sit around and watch soaps?"

"You push yourself too hard and you're out of commission that much longer," Sam countered. "And I'm not in school today so can we go do something that doesn't involve your masochist routine?"

Dean glared, and for a moment Sam had no idea which way his brother would jump. "You.. I thought you'd got over this bullshit," he finally said. "What the hell have you been practising for, if you still think this is all nonsense?"

'I haven't been practising,' was what Sam meant to say, but what came out of his mouth was, "I don't think this is all nonsense."

"Then just my part of it?" Dean snapped back. "The fact I find it necessary to be ready, to be able to fire a gun even if I'm hurting? It's just that part that's nonsense?" By the time he'd finished, he was shouting.

Sam sighed, wondering how not wanting Dean to hurt himself translated in his brother's brain to an insult. "If our positions were reversed, would you be able to just stand here and watch me fire that gun over and over, seeing that every shot was hurting me worst than the last? Honestly, could you just stand there and not say anything?"

There was no immediate response, which Sam hoped meant that Dean was listening. That he understood. But then Dean said, "I'd like to think you'd be able to back us up on a hunt." His voice was soft, and rock-steady -- just like the gaze that was boring into Sam.

"If we were on a hunt, I would," Sam said, not backing down and not even thinking of his usual ambiguous feelings towards hunting. He held Dean's gaze just as steadily. "But I'm pretty sure those cans aren't going to rise up and devour passing squirrels or anything."

"Yeah, because it's impossible for anything to, I don't know, possess inanimate objects and threaten living things." It was absurd that Dean might actually think there was a chance there could be any danger, here, but the set of his face said he wasn't trying to make a joke.

"And if those cans were possessed, I know you would get them all, broken collarbone or no broken collarbone." Sam sighed again in frustration. "Is this target practice really that important to you?"

"Keeping you alive is that important to me." With that, Dean spun on his heel and stormed away, back towards the car.

Sam cursed under his breath, running through every swear word he knew as he followed Dean. But when he caught up all he said was a mild, "You ever think that maybe I feel the same way about you?"

The startled look Dean threw him made Sam realise that this was probably the first time he'd ever said such a thing. "What's gotten into you?" Dean asked. "You know this is what I do. What we do. It's dangerous, and we get hurt. And if we work hard enough, we're good enough to survive." He frowned, then, apparently off-balance by what he'd just said. Or possibly just annoyed at being forced to say it. "Christ, Sammy, you owe me a beer. And don't tell me you're too young to buy it."

Dean's words struck a chord in Sam, one that felt absolutely right and absolutely wrong at the same time. He wasn't sure if he liked the feeling or not and besides he was getting tired of the weirdness, so he ignored it and answered only Dean's last statement with an easy shrug. "Okay. Stop at the store after the video place."

With a scoff and an eye roll, Dean began putting their gear back into the car. "And you wanna borrow a twenty, first?" he teased, sounding like the argument was forgotten.

"It's covered," Sam said, waving off the offer. "Still got the money you gave me for lunch last week." Still had it mostly because he'd been skipping lunch in order to save the money, at least he had been until Mrs. Eriks had taken notice and pity on him and started slipping him food on the house every day, but he didn't necessarily need to mention that part.

Dean raised an eyebrow, giving him a rather scrutinising look. "You got a girlfriend feeding you lunch?" he asked, leering.

"Well," Sam coughed, "not exactly. It's the cafeteria supervisor."

Dean's eyes popped open. "Dude! You're banging Mrs. Eriks?" He looked caught between pride, and shock.

"What?" Sam stared at Dean. "No. She's just been giving me free food. Dude, you've got a sick mind."

"Who, me?" Dean shot him an innocent look. "Hey, it's none of my business." He held up one hand, as though he actually meant for Sam to believe that none of Sam's business was his own. Then he gave Sam a wink.

Sam rolled his eyes but couldn't quite keep the smile off his face. "Are we going or what?"

"We're going, we're going." Dean moved around to the driver's side of the car, giving Sam one more smug grin as he opened the door. "You dog." He tugged the door open with his left hand -- and grimaced.

"You want me to drive?" Sam asked, careful to keep his voice entirely neutral and to keep the 'I told you so' firmly behind his teeth.

There was a pause, and Dean started to give him a disgusted look -- then he sighed, and nodded, once. A tiny, defeated nod, and Dean didn't look him in the eye as he walked around to the passenger side of the car.

Sam wanted to say something, to make it better, but he knew his brother well enough to know that anything he said was only going to make it worse. So he kept his mouth shut, got behind the wheel and drove them back into town in silence.

He let Dean pick the movies though.

Well, all but one. Sam wanted at least one movie where things didn't blow up. If only to antagonise Dean.

********

"You wanna grab the mail?" Sam asked Dean as he carried all their purchases in from the car.

"You know, my arm isn't broken," Dean said, as he glared at the bags in Sam's hands.

"Good, then you won't have any problems getting the mail," Sam shot back without missing a beat. He'd seen the way Dean's movements had taken on that extra carefulness again after they'd left the field and wasn't about to let his brother's pride override his common sense.

Dean flipped him off, demonstrating that he hadn't lost allmobility, but jogged off towards the apartment complex's bank of mailboxes. Sam grinned and shook his head, then carried the bags up to their apartment.

It was several minutes longer than Sam would have expected before the door opened and Dean sauntered inside. No doubt he'd stopped and talked with one of their neighbours -- one of the young, pretty, female neighbours. The look on his face told Sam that he must have been shot down pretty handily.

"Anything interesting?" Sam asked, unpacking the bags and putting the beers in the fridge to get cold.

"You know, the usual. Junk mail, mostly. More credit card applications." He stopped, and stared hard at Sam. "One big envelope from Stanford, addressed to Sam Winchester."

Sam froze, his heart simultaneously both rising and sinking. With careful controlled movements (because if he didn't keep iron control, he wasn't sure what he would say or do) he closed the fridge door and walked over to his brother, holding his hand out for the envelope.

Dean handed it over without a word, eyes never leaving Sam. From the set of his jaw, Sam knew just how tightly his brother was holding onto his reaction.

Trying to ignore the way his hands were trembling, Sam carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the thick packet of papers it held. The size of it alone was enough to tell him what the answer was, but he read the top most letter just to be sure.

'Dear Mr. Winchester, We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted...'

He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths to try and steady himself when his entire reality seemed to be trembling. "I got in," he said.

"You got in," Dean repeated, in a flat tone. "You got in." When Sam looked up, his brother's eyes were deadly. But there was something else inside that look, which Sam knew he wouldn't have been able to see, before today. Before last night.

Fear.

It was like a splash of cold water on his face, halting his dawning joy in its tracks. "Yeah," he said softly, not taking his eyes off of Dean. "I applied... I wasn't sure if I'd even have a chance, but..."

"You applied," Dean repeated, in that same dead tone. "To college. To go to college." He saw Dean open his mouth, braced for what would come next, but Dean suddenly whirled and stormed away, to his room.

"Dean!" Sam called after him, but his brother didn't even slow. Tossing the papers on the table, Sam followed him, catching up in time to prevent Dean from closing his bedroom door and shutting him out.

Not that they'd never knocked down each other's doors, before, but usually it was from too-rough roughhousing, and not because Sam had pissed his brother off that badly. Dean shot him a glare as Sam pushed his way in, but said nothing, just began pacing back and forth across the nearly-empty room.

Sam hovered in the doorway, following his brother with his eyes. He had a feeling, part of the same weirdness he'd been having since he woke up that morning but even more, that the next few minutes were going to be very important, and that something bad was going to happen if he didn't get it just right. Trouble was, he had no idea what would be the right thing to do.

"Talk to me, Dean," he begged, feeling his way. If he could get Dean to talk then maybe he could figure it all out. Or at least get a hint.

"Talk to you? That's rich!" Dean slammed his hand into the closet door as he walked past it. "How long ago did you apply, huh? How long have you been thinking about-- fuck, Sam, this is why you wanted to stay in one place for high school, isn't it?" Dean's face went suddenly pale.

"Not the only reason," Sam said in a small voice.

"But that was the main reason, wasn't it? So you could get into college. So you could leave." Dean's voice broke, and he spun away.

Sam shook his head and took a step towards Dean. "It's not about leaving. It's about... being normal." But even as he said it, he knew something about it was wrong. Not the desire, really, but that this, college, was the solution.

And somewhere in the back of his mind he could hear Dean's voice saying, "Sooner or later everybody's going to leave me."The dream again.

He saw Dean flinch at his words, though, and Dean turned his head, just enough that Sam could almost see his face. "So, you still want to get away from this. From what we do, and... pretend none of it is real." He sounded tired. "Which means you aren't going to come back after college, doesn't it? Not like Stanford offers a degree in hunting evil." Dean turned and pushed past Sam, hurrying out -- this time towards the front door.

Sam caught his arm as he went past, holding on tight.

"Fuck--" Dean snapped, turning back halfway, twisting his arm and shoulder, and reaching over to shove Sam, hard, with his other hand.

"No," Sam replied, holding on tighter. "Dean, would you just stop and listen to me?" He gritted his teeth as his brother tried to throw him off again. "Dammit, Dean, I'm not leaving you!"

At that, Dean froze. His face went blank -- not fast enough that Sam didn't see the look of relief, and... something. Then Dean pulled back again, but this time without much real force.

Sam slowly relaxed his grip, only now remembering Dean's injury. "Sorry," he said softly, rubbing his fingers gently over Dean's collarbone in apology.

Dean frowned and pulled away, dismissing Sam's touch. "Sorry you got in to college? Sorry you forgot to ever mention it? Sorry you want to leave?" His words held very little heat, though, but his eyes still looked shattered. He turned his head and stared at Sam. "How do you think you can go off to college and not leave us, Sammy? It isn't like dad and I are going to quit."

"I don't know." Suddenly feeling weary and depressed, Sam moved over to slump down onto Dean's bed. "I didn't think of it like that. I just... If you're normal, live-in-a-house, have-a-job and not-be-afraid-of-the-dark normal, that's what you do. You go to school, you apply for college..."

"What, so you didn't... you just applied because you're supposed to?" Dean looked confused, which didn't surprise Sam at all. "Was it a thing at school, they made everyone apply?" His anger had faded almost completely.

Sam shook his head with a sad smile. "No, it wasn't something they made us do. I guess... I just wanted to know if I could do it. Pass for normal. Go to college, get a degree, have you and Dad at my graduation cheering me on." He laughed without amusement. "Stupid, huh?"

Dean didn't answer right away, but he came over and sat down beside Sam. "It's not stupid, Sam," he said quietly, at odds with his earlier anger. "I know...how much you want...you know. A life like that." There was a pause, then he elbowed Sam in the side. "Hey, you got in," he said, smiling.

"Yeah, I did," Sam agreed, letting himself smile at that accomplishment for the first time. "Pretty good, huh?"

"Yeah, pretty good." Dean kept smiling, then he asked in a somewhat doubtful tone, "Stanford's...that's a pretty good school, huh?"

"It's a very good school," Sam said, letting his voice sharpen.

But there was just the same pride in Dean's voice, as when he'd congratulated Sam on his marksmanship. "Good for you. I always knew you were the smart one of the family." He paused. "Except for Whiskers."

Sam stared at him. "Whiskers was your stuffed rabbit."

"He was a clever stuffed rabbit," Dean said. "He always knew which hand you hid the treats in."

Sam opened his mouth and closed it again without saying anything. Sometimes, really, it was just safer not to discuss some things with Dean.

They sat there for a little while, neither of them saying anything. Then Dean jumped up, clapping his hands together and tension -- and college -- apparently forgotten. "So, I think there was a beer and a Vin Diesel movie with my name on it."

"Yeah, I think there is," Sam said, following his lead. It was better to put the whole Stanford thing to the side for now, until he had time to really let it sink in and figure out what he wanted to do.

"So you coming, or you gonna sit in here and be bitter about the fact Whiskers beat your ass at checkers?"

"Dude, you cheated. And I was four," Sam laughingly pointed out, getting to his feet and following his brother out of the room.

"Which might explain why you cried." Dean looked thoughtful. "No, that was when you were fifteen." Dean ducked away, then ran towards the living room.

"Oh, you are so asking for it!"

Dean just laughed harder. "Poor iddle Sammy!" He dodged around the back of the couch, leaping over the arm before Sam could get a hand on him.

"You know, you're going to have to stop calling me that one of these days," Sam said, moving to cut Dean off. "What with me being four inches taller than you and all."

"Yeah, you freak!" Dean lunged, and knocked them both back onto the couch. "I can still pin you."

"Prove it." Sam wrapped his legs around Dean's waist and pulled him off the couch onto the floor, careful to take the brunt of the short fall himself, part of him very much aware that Dean was still injured. Then he used the momentum to roll them over so that Dean was on the bottom.

Dean's eye went wide and for a second he didn't react. Then he reached up and grabbed Sam by the neck and pulled him down, twisting around to flip them over. The coffee table rattled as they banged into it, and there was the sound of plastic video cases sliding to the floor in a clatter.

Sam oof'ed as Dean's move knocked his breath out of him, but he didn't give in. Instead, he pulled out his secret weapon, and dug his fingers into Dean's sides, right where he knew they would bring the most reaction.

"Goddamit!" Dean bucked underneath him, jerking away -- or trying to. Behind him, the coffee table tipped over as Dean shoved himself backwards away from Sam's fingers, even as he began to scream. "You cheating sonofabitch!" Dean gasped, as he managed to pin one of Sam's hands under his arm.

Which just gave Sam a better shot at tickling him there. "Never fight fair, isn't that what you always say?" He grinned. Evilly.

Dean reached up and yanked on Sam's shirt, wrapping one leg around Sam's waist in a near-mirror of Sam's earlier move. Dean's attempt to throw him was thwarted by the couch, slamming them both into it before Dean shifted enough to get a knee on the floor. He lifted them both up a few inches, scooting one hand around Sam's back in what Sam recognised as an attempt to get Sam over a shoulder.

Sam squirmed out of that position, redoubling the tickling as he scooted back a little and lowered himself closer to Dean, making himself less of a target.

With a quick jerk, Dean shoved them again, trying to flip them over, with Sam on his back. One leg slid in-between Sam's, and Dean pushed himself, hard, against Sam. For a split second, Sam felt Dean freeze.

Then he felt why.

Sam stilled as well, staring down at him. He caught his breath as he had more of those flashes that he'd been having all day. But these...

Sam remembered moving against Dean, both of them naked and slick with sweat. Both of them hard and desperate.

Just like now.

Dean shoved him suddenly, hard, and Sam went tumbling sideways. Dean scrambled to his feet, holding his arm and looking at everything and anything that wasn't Sam.

Sam lay where he'd fallen, staring up at his brother, panting for air. "Dean...?"

Instead of answering, Dean just headed for the kitchen. A second later, Sam heard the fridge door open.

Beer. If ever a moment called for someone to start drinking... Sam climbed to his feet and made his way to the kitchen doorway. "Grab me one too?"

"Fucking underage!" Dean shouted back, as though that had stopped him before.

"I don't care." Walking over to where Dean still stood with the fridge door open, Sam reached around him to grab himself a beer.

Which had the side effect of pressing them up against each other again.

Dean flinched violently, jerking away and dropping the can of beer in his hand -- luckily it wasn't opened yet, so there was no spray of beer. "Goddammit," Dean snarled, and he practically leapt away from Sam.

Sam looked at him for a long moment. "Nice. Thanks for making me feel like a leper," he said, then leaned into the fridge to get his own beer. He understood that Dean was freaked -- hell, he was hitting pretty high on the freaked out meter himself -- but there was still a pang of... something when Dean so obviously didn't want to touch him.

Dean shot him a look that said he thought -- no, knew Sam was crazy. "What the hell are you talking about?" His face twisted into a sneer that was almost ugly. "You prefer I come all over you?" He tried to storm past, out of the kitchen, but Sam blocked his way.

Dean's words triggered more flashes of memory -- dream -- whatever they were, ones that had Sam gasping and shivering in something other than fear, although there was beginning to be a healthy undercurrent of that as well. Not sure what was happening to him, Sam automatically reached out and grabbed Dean's arm. His brother had always been his anchor when things got hairy and those instincts remained, even in the face of this... waking wet dream.

"Don't," was all Dean said, but his voice was twisted, gasping like he didn't quite have the strength to protest. "Sam, let me go," he whispered.

"I can't," Sam replied just as softly as there were more flashes, this time of pain and loss and leaving and... He shivered harder and moved closer, tightening his grip. "I'm not letting you go. Ever."

"What?" Dean stared at him, confusion and something darker - despair? - clouding his eyes. "Sam, what are you talking about?" His voice held no heat, though, and he wasn't trying to get away. In fact he looked trapped, in the middle of the kitchen with only Sam's hand on his arm.

"I don't know," Sam said faintly, and even he could hear how young and lost his voice sounded.

"Just forget about it," Dean said quietly. "It's nothing." He pulled Sam's hand from his arm, letting it drop. He hissed silently, sucking air between his teeth, and moved towards the fridge again. This time he pulled open the freezer and took out one of the many icepacks, and tossed it casually onto his shoulder.

Sam frowned. "You're hurt." It was something to focus on, something that wasn't the very strong possibility that he was losing his mind.

"No shit." Dean shook his head, looking tired all of a sudden.

"Sorry."

"Not your fault." Dean stepped aside, then, but instead of walking away -- again -- he simply went to the kitchen table and sat down heavily in one of the rickety chairs.

Sam trailed after him, sitting beside him. He stared at Dean, weighing things out in his mind, then said slowly, "I think it might be."

"I don't recall you being the one who hit me in the chest and nearly broke my collarbone." He shifted the icepack, grimacing slightly.

Sam shook his head. "No, not that. I mean the --" He waved his hand in the air vaguely between the two of them. "--other thing."

Dean gave a laugh, that didn't sound amused, at all. "That one is definitely not your fault, Sammy." He looked down at the floor, looking defeated. "Look, just don't worry about it. I'm good, I'm fine," he said, drawing himself up and visibly slapping a mask across his face. He gave Sam a grin. "No harm no foul."

"You don't understand. I... something's happening to me."

He could see the sarcasm forming on Dean's lips, but then he stopped and looked at Sam closely. "What do you mean?" he asked, seriously.

Now that he had Dean's attention, Sam was having trouble finding the words to explain. He licked his lips nervously and asked, "You remember this morning, when I woke up, I said I'd had a weird dream?"

"Yeah?" He smiled, briefly. "You gonna tell me you were dreaming about me?"

Sam hesitated. "I... I don't know. I think so. Maybe? But what's been happening since, that's definitely about you."

Dean blinked at him. "You...what? Sam, I was joking." He shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "You really shouldn't be having those kinds of dreams about me."

It sounded like words he'd said before.

"It's more than dreams," Sam said, leaning forward, suddenly urgent to tell what had been happening. "I mean, yeah, I think it's all connected to the dream I had this morning, but..." He looked up, met his brother's eyes. "All day long I've been having these... flashes. Like memories sorta, except they're of things that have never happened. And they're more... solid than a normal memory."

"What do you mean, more solid?" Dean was looking at him now, taking everything he was saying seriously, shifting into what Sam had come to know as 'work mode'.

Only... when had he come to know that?

This was getting too weird. Sam forced himself to concentrate just on answering Dean's question. "It's like whatever's in the flash is really happening for a split second. I hear the words being said, see something happening..." He glanced down at his own lap as he added in a quieter voice, "Feel it happening."

"Feel what happening?" Dean reached over and took Sam's arm, holding it firmly.

Sam glanced up, giving his brother what he hoped was a very pointed look.

Dean blushed bright red. "So, you're having dreams about sex," he said, as though he wasn't thinking the same thing Sam was: 'With me.' "Sam, that isn't exactly... unusual."

"It's not dreams -- I've been wide awake every time it's happened. More like..." Sam hesitated, searching for the right word. "Visions. And it's not just about sex." Although, he admitted privately, that one had been the most vivid.

"You're having...visions," Dean repeated, without any inflection. Sam had no idea if his brother was humouring him-- rather, just how much Dean was humouring him. "About...what else?" He glanced away as he asked.

"Before that Stanford letter came, I had this... flash of me at college. And then there was this blonde...." Sam trailed off, feeling his face heat. "Okay, maybe that one was about sex, too. But when we were talking about why I applied and you were-" freaking, but he wasn't about to say that. "I heard you say something. In my head."

"What'd I say?" His brother sounded like he was listening. Like he might even believe what Sam was saying.

Sam licked his lips. "You said, 'Sooner or later, everybody's going to leave me.'" He didn't look at his brother as he answered, he couldn't.

Dean didn't say anything. Finally, Sam had to look over; Dean was staring at him, face nearly impassive. "So, you read minds or something?"

"No," Sam denied emphatically, then more uncertain, he had to add, "At least I don't think so. They don't... feel like other people's thoughts. They feel like mine. Just not..."

"You don't think so? Sam...." Dean shook his head, and took a deep breath. "Just not what?"

"I don't know," Sam said, running a hand through his hair in frustration as he tried to find the words to explain something he didn't understand and that seemed to skitter away when he looked at it too hard. "I can't say they're not real because they feel real. Realer than real even. But they're not... now?" He frowned and shook his head. It sounded silly, but it fit. "Like they're thoughts and memories I haven't had yet."

"You're seeing the future?" Dean's voice cascaded into disbelief -- then he looked thoughtful. "Well, that's what visions are, right? If you're telling me you've got the Shining, then you'd be seeing stuff that hasn't happened yet."

"Or I'm just going crazy," Sam said miserably. It was, he figured, the far more likely option.

"Nah," Dean said, easily. "If you were gonna go crazy you'd have done it before now. Besides...with everything else out there, it isn't too weird to think...this is real too." Dean frowned, like he wasn't completely convinced. But he sounded determined. "So what else did you see -- wait a fucking minute. You saw--" He clamped his jaw shut.

Sam cleared his throat nervously. "Actually that one was more than just seeing," he admitted, eyes downcast and face flaming.

"Oh great," Dean muttered, leaning forward and dropping his head into his hands. "Sam, I don't think these are visionsbecause there is no way in hell--"

"Yeah, thanks. Sex with me is repulsive. Got it." He really had no idea why he was being so sulky over this. Dean was his brother; the thought of sex with him was supposed to be repulsive.

It just wasn't.

Dean hit him on the arm -- hard. "Did you forget the part where I'm your brother?"

He couldn't help it, his lips twitched up into a smile -- and god his mood was bouncing around so much it should be making him dizzy. He looked up at Dean and said, "Not yet."

The scowl he got in reply didn't dissuade him from grinning. Dean shook his head. "Nobody told you that sort of thing isn't done? Sam, I know we don't have a normal life--" He stopped, suddenly, looking guilty.

"Doesn't look like it's going to get any more normal," Sam observed quietly. And, despite how much that was something he achedfor, at that moment he didn't seem to mind too much.

"Sam...you... you don't have to...." Dean leaned back again - sprawling, really, legs apart and was he trying to distract Sam on purpose? "I mean, it isn't like we can afford much, but if you got into Stanford, you could... maybe we could figure something out. They give out scholarships, don't they?"

Sam stared at him. "You want me to go?"

"Well, don't you want to?" Dean wouldn't look right at him. "It'd be what you've always said you wanted. Live a normal life."

But Sam could hear what Dean wasn't saying -- what he wasn't saying now. Don't leave me, Sammy.

His own feelings were so mixed up and confused right then, Sam concentrated on Dean's instead. "It's not what you want."

Dean laughed once, harsh and sharp. "This isn't about what I want, Sammy. This is your life -- you're the one who can go to college. Do something with yourself. Get away from...the things we have to do."

"Get away from you, you mean."

Dean flinched, telling Sam just how exactly he'd hit the nail on the head. But Dean said, "You're the one who applied without telling anyone. You must have been thinking about doing this. I don't buy that bullshit about applying just to see if you could get in."

He had been thinking about doing this, dreaming about it, wanting it desperately, he couldn't deny that. But... "That was before."

"Before you had a vision."

Sam didn't flinch at the tone of his brother's voice, but it took some effort. "Yes."

"A vision of us...having sex."

"The sex is beside the point." It was, he realised, even as he said the words. At least when it came to his going to college, it wasn't about having or not having sex with Dean. It was about leaving.

"I thought that's why we were even having this conversation," Dean replied.

"Do you want me to leave?" Sam asked bluntly, catching and holding his brother's gaze.

Dean stared back, mouth dropping open but he stayed silent. Sam waited, knowing his brother was just trying to say what they both knew. Finally Dean said, "No." His voice cracked, and he shook his head.

Sam let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. He'd been half afraid that Dean would say yes. "Okay then," he murmured. "Good."

"But maybe you should."

There was no way that Dean could believe the words he was saying. Sam could see the tension -- his brother was holding himself still, eyes never moving from Sam's face. Only his voice was trembling.

Sam thought about it, allowed himself to imagine being at college, leaving Dean and their Dad behind. His stomach clenched in response as a feeling of wrong flooded through him that only stopped when he stopped imagining leaving.

He shook his head, still holding Dean's gaze. "No, I shouldn't."

"Why? Because of your vision? Sam, how do you even know it's true?"

Sam didn't think Dean would accept It just is as an answer. So, heart beating fast, he said, "Because it feels like this," and leaned over and kissed Dean.

As soon as their lips touched -- probably a second before, when Dean saw Sam coming -- Dean froze. Eyes wide in shock, he didn't move a muscle as Sam kissed him.

When surely he could have shoved Sam away, broken the kiss and said...anything. He sat stock-still and let Sam kiss him. Perfectly still, then Sam felt him shaking. Felt his lips move.

It made Sam hesitate, wondering if he should pull back or try and deepen the kiss. He was doing his own fair share of trembling as well and not just because this was an incredible gamble he was taking, one that if it backfired might leave him with no other choice but to leave.

That was when he felt Dean's hand come up, and rest on the back of his head. Holding him in place as Dean opened his mouth with a soft, desperate moan.

That was all the invitation Sam needed to deepen the kiss, dive into his brother's mouth with a mixture of giddy relief and arousal. Dean pulled him in, hands insistent now, holding him with a grip firm enough Sam would have had trouble pulling back had he wanted to. But the way Dean was kissing him, now, made it impossible to even consider.

More images flashed through his mind, a cascade of them, every one of him and Dean kissing. Sam moaned, as aroused by the visions as reality. He needed... more. Closer. Wrapping his arms around Dean, he all but climbed into his brother's lap.

Dean's arms went around his waist, like they'd been doing this for forever. Holding onto him, still kissing him like he couldn't get enough. He felt more than heard Dean moan, then Dean pulled away, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against Sam's, and tightening his grip on Sam's waist.

Sam took a deep breath, trying to slow his heart. He smiled, unable to help himself, a giddy happiness that he'd never felt before bubbling up inside of him. "Feels pretty true to me," he said softly.

"Huh?" Dean opened his eyes, though it took a moment for him to focus. "Oh. You...." He stopped and shook his head. "Sam, what the hell?" He asked it softly, without heat -- and without letting go of Sam.

Sam chuckled. "I haven't a fucking clue."

"Oh good, it's not just me, then." Dean took a deep breath, held it for a second and his expression turned serious.

Sam sighed and raised a hand to trace Dean's features. "Trying to figure out what we do now?"

Dean swallowed, hard, but didn't break his gaze. "Trying to get the strength to do it," he whispered.

"You're probably the strongest person I know," Sam said, with a soul deep belief.

Dean laughed. "Sammy, how many people do you know?" The faint humour died fast. But then he nodded. He let go of his hold on Sam's waist, and gave Sam a gentle shove backwards.

The look on his face said it was killing him.

Sam held on, resisting Dean's attempt to push him away. "No."

"Sam--"

"I said no. This isn't something you need to protect me from."

Dean's expression hardened, and Sam knew what was coming next. "It isn't something I need to be encouraging, either. Sam -- we can't... we can't do this."

"Why? Because it's not normal?" Sam shook his head exasperated. "Dean, when have we ever been normal?"

"That isn't... god, Sammy, that isn't the point. It's still wrong. We can't do this -- I can't. You're my brother."

His words echoed in Sam's head. They'd had this argument before. "I don't care," he told Dean, hearing an echo of his words from another time and place. "Everything we've lost, everything we'll never have because of who we are and what we do... we can have this. Don't you think that for once we deserve something good? Something that's just for us?"

In a hard voice, Dean said, "This isn't like making up secret code and passing notes in the car."

"No, it's not," Sam agreed easily. "It's more important than that. A lot more."

Dean shook his head again, and tried once more to push Sam off his lap. Sam tightened his grip, refusing to be moved. Dean scowled and shoved harder, trying to stand up and dump Sam onto the floor. The action jostled the ice pack and it fell backwards; Dean flinched forward, hissing at the cold on his back.

Taking advantage, Sam wrapped himself tighter around Dean and kissed him again. If words wouldn't convince him, Sam was more than willing to try actions.

It took longer this time for Dean to give in. His mouth was determinedly closed, and for a moment Sam thought the hands Dean had got between them would win, shoving them apart. Then one curled into a fist, hanging onto Sam's shirt.

The whimper Dean made wasn't one of arousal. Just need, desperate and totally without resistance. Begging -- begging Sam to stop, even as Dean opened his mouth and held on.

When they finally parted this time, it was Sam who rested his forehead against Dean's with a sigh. "Can I suggest a compromise?"

"There's nothing we can do, Sammy," Dean said, brokenly. "We do this or we don't, and... doing this can't be an option."

Sam hated to hear that tone of voice from his brother. "Just hear me out before you say no, okay?"

Dean didn't answer right away. Then he leaned sideways, reaching behind him and yanking the ice pack out from between his back and the chair, and dropped it on the table. He didn't look up, but nodded.

"Okay." Sam took a deep breath and began his pitch. "We don't make a final decision one way or another right now. We give it time, to think about it, see if we can get used to it. We don't stop... touching each other, but we set limits. Say... nothing below the waist. Like... dating."

The laugh Dean made surprised him. As much a sob as a laugh, and Dean dropped his head forward, letting it come to rest against Sam's chest. "I've been thinking about it for too long already, Sammy. I can't...." He suddenly slid his hands around Sam again. His voice was so low Sam could barely hear him when he said, "If we let this happen at all I won't be able to stop."

Sam sighed again, touching Dean's cheek. "That wouldn't be such a bad thing." He slid his hand back into Dean's hair, and hugged him tighter. "And frankly? I don't think either of us can stop now. Not really. Even if we don't do anything, it's still going to be there."

Dean pressed his face closer, tilting his head up so his mouth was against Sam's neck. "I--" His hold tightened again, briefly, hard enough to make Sam's ribs ache instead of just his heart. Dean moved again, turning his head against him ever so slightly, and Sam could feel his breath, hot and damp against his skin.

The feel of it was doing things to Sam, making his nerves tingle, making his cock harden. "Dean..."

"I need...." Dean's words huffed against Sam's neck, like ghosts of kisses.

Sam shivered. "What do you need?"

He felt Dean's mouth open, could feel the intake of air, but no words came out. Sam stroked his fingers lightly over the nape of Dean's neck, knowing that always soothed him. He didn't look too closely at why he knew that or how; that was a freak-out that could wait until later.

Dean exhaled in a rush, hot air almost solid against Sam's skin. He could feel Dean's arms relax around him -- no effort made to let go this time, or push him away. He felt the press of Dean's chest as he breathed, waiting for Dean to figure out what he wanted to say. But his brother remained silent.

Sam didn't push him, didn't do anything more than what he was already doing, didn't feel the need to do any more. Just sitting there wrapped around his brother as much as his brother was wrapped around him, he felt a sense of peace and contentment roll over him that he wasn't sure he'd ever felt before. It was enough.

Dean's fingers brushed his back, gently, then Dean lifted his head and looked at him. Whatever had been there before -- fear, anguish -- were gone. Sam couldn't say that his brother looked happy, but it was clear he'd finally stopped fighting himself.

Feeling a smile tug the corner of his lips upwards, Sam leaned in and kissed Dean gently.

His mouth opened easily, lips parting to let Sam in as far as he wanted to go. Sam kept it gentle and light, more comfort than arousal. As much as he might want to push this all the way or at least as far as Dean would let him, he knew it wasn't the right time yet. There would be time for everything later, he knew with a certainty he couldn't explain.

For his part, Dean didn't seem any more interested in pushing for more. He kissed Sam back, held onto him, one hand returning to light, gentle touches across Sam's back. But it wasn't to encourage him for more; Sam thought Dean might not even realise he was doing it. All those nights falling asleep to that same touch....

He wasn't sure how long they sat there just kissing, but finally Sam pulled back, searching his brother's face and smiling at what he saw there.

"We don't have to have another chick-flick moment, do we?" Dean asked, then he stopped. "Not that I want to know if chick flicks have this." He gestured with his eyes and elbows, at the two of them together.

"I was thinking more along the line of beers, Vin Diesel movie, and making out on the couch," Sam offered, still smiling. He seemed unable to stop.

The corner of Dean's mouth quirked, then suddenly he was grinning. He laughed, then clapped Sam on the back with one hand and nudged him to stand. Sam did so, holding out a hand to pull Dean to his feet with him. Dean smirked, then took his hand and let Sam haul his entire weight up.

Catching sight of the discarded ice pack on the table reminded Sam of his brother's injury. "How's your shoulder?" he asked, letting his fingers slide lightly over the body part in question.

"Hurts," Dean said, succinctly. He shrugged with his other shoulder, then moved away from Sam, taking a step towards the living room. One hand was still on Sam's waist, and he didn't move far enough away to let go.

"Want me to rub some ointment in?" Sam asked, snagging the beer with one hand and sliding the other around Dean's waist in return.

"Nah, I'm good," Dean said, leaning into him.

"You sure?"

Dean looked at him and shook his head, his expression that long familiar one of teasing. "Dude, if you want to get that smelly crap all over your hands and massage my back, why should I argue?" He took one of the beers out of Sam's hand, then carefully slipped out of Sam's one-armed embrace, and walked out of the kitchen.

Sam went to the bathroom and grabbed the ointment that they used for sore muscles before joining Dean in the living room. "Somehow having an excuse to get my hands on you doesn't seem like an arduous chore to me," he said, holding up the ointment.

Dean made a noise that might have been agreement, or not, but laid down on the couch, head turned towards the TV. "Put that in before you start." He gestured towards the movies that were still scattered on the floor.

"What did your last servant die of?" Sam snarked, though he obliged, putting in the movie Dean had chosen and hitting play.

"Blue balls," Dean muttered.

"Yours or his?" He crossed the room and knelt beside the couch. "Take off your shirt."

Dean reached back and pulled at his shirt, not bothering to answer Sam's question. As he pulled his shirt over his head Sam heard a hiss of breath. Then he saw the scar -- long but clean, a single straight line. One of dozens on his brother's body, scattered everywhere. And the long, ripped lines of muscle as Dean settled himself back on the couch, good arm tucked under his head for a pillow.

Sam stared.

He stared for several moments before Dean peered up at him. "Sam, you--" Then he stopped, and flushed. Sam saw his muscles tense, but Dean didn't move. Then Dean turned his face towards the couch cushions and said, "Jesus, Sammy, don't--"

"Don't what?" Sam asked, reaching out and sliding his hand down Dean's spine. "Look at you? Dean, I've been looking at you for years."

Voice muffled by the cushion, Sam could still clearly hear Dean say, "You and everybody else." The smugness was not entirelyfaked, Sam knew.

"And yet you still blush." Sam smiled, opened the ointment and rubbed it on his hands.

"I do not," Dean protested, absurdly.

Sam slid his hands over his brother's back once again. "You were doing a pretty good imitation of it a second ago."

"Your imagination," Dean said, and there was a hitch in his voice. Sam felt him tremble and saw the rise of goose bumps on his arms.

"I must have a vivid imagination then." He moved his hands up over Dean's sore shoulder, pressing with what he judged to be just the right amount of pressure.

The long, hard moan told him he'd judged right.

"Good?" Sam asked, his voice coming out hushed and deeper than normal. Dean's back was warm and solid beneath his fingers and it was having an effect.

"Umph," was all Dean said. Sam saw him crack an eye open and look towards the TV, but two seconds later as Sam's hand pressed into his back again, the eye slipped closed and Dean moaned once more.

Sam dug his fingers into a particularly stubborn knot. "You really should take it a little easier on yourself," he said softly.

"Vuh," Dean replied in a sound of pure pleasure. Then he pushed himself up a bit, pulling his arm underneath him. "I do what I have to," he said, equally quiet.

"I know." Sam didn't stop the massage as he spoke. More flashes of his brother, so fast that he couldn't make out individual details, but the end meaning was clear. "You always do. No matter what it costs you."

There was a softer mumble which sounded an awful lot like 'doesn't matter'. Dean's face was relaxed from the massage, like the idea didn't even bother him.

"It matters to me," Sam whispered.

Dean opened his eyes and rolled partway onto his side, looking up at him. He shook his head and opened his mouth, but whatever he was thinking didn't make its way out into words. The look in his eyes was obvious enough to Sam, who knew the inside of his brother's head nearly as well as he knew his own.

Dean didn't think it mattered. The hunting, and Sam, were the only things important in Dean's life. For now -- Sam remembered a time (a future) when Dean had asked for what he wanted and Sam had been all too happy to give it to him.

He would just have to be patient and wait for Dean to ask him again. But in the meantime...

Sam leaned over and caught Dean's mouth with his own once more.

With a groan, Dean rolled towards the back of the couch and drew Sam down.

He went willingly, sliding his legs down until he was lying stretched out on his side, pressed against Dean. Then Sam got really serious about the kissing.

Dean seemed perfectly happy to let Sam kiss him -- one hand found its way to Sam's head, and Dean tangled his fingers into Sam's hair. Whatever he said, whatever he thought he shoulddo, it was painfully clear just how much he wanted this.

It wasn't just the warm, firm pressure against Sam's hip that told him so, either.

What surprised Sam -- in the part of him that didn't suddenly seem to have a whole new set of memories of things that hadn't happened yet -- was just how much he wanted this too. He hadn't even really considered doing what they were doing before this morning when everything changed. And now, everything else he thought he wanted, thought was so important, suddenly, here with Dean, faded into insignificance.

Dean's hand slipped under his shirt and came to rest, palm flat, in the middle of his back. Dean kept kissing him, soft and insistent, like he had settled in to stay.

Sam liked that, as much for that strange sense of permanence as for the feeling of Dean's warm hand against his skin. He deepened their kisses, tongue diving into Dean's mouth trying to capture every last bit of taste it could find there.

He loved the feel of Dean opening up for him. Mouth and tongue making way, like all he ever wanted was Sam. Holding him, caressing his tongue, and soft, gentle sounds that made it perfectly clear he'd stopped fighting.

Sam moaned and pressed closer, sliding one leg between Dean's, the other over Dean's hip. He needed... more.

Everything.

Dean.

It pretty much amounted to the same thing.

Dean pressed his hand on Sam's back, holding him close, then he ran his hand up the length of Sam's spine, pushing Sam's shirt out of the way. His hips moved, rubbing against Sam, and the hard length Sam could feel grew even harder.

There was a moan, and Dean broke off the kiss -- only to press his lips against Sam's neck. Sam gasped and arched his head back, giving Dean easier access. Dear god, that was...

Dean nipped at his Adam's apple and Sam's hips bucked in reaction, a breathless whimper escaping his lips. He felt Dean's chuckle, rumbling in his chest. Smug bastard. Dean continued to lave Sam's neck with his tongue, sucking not-so-gently at a spot near Sam's collarbone.

Finally getting frustrated with the material in the way of what Dean was doing, Sam pulled back long enough to get rid of his shirt before diving back into Dean's embrace, all but purring at the feel of skin against skin.

"Oh, god, Sammy," Dean breathed, bringing both hands to Sam's back, holding him down and kissing him again. Then he slid one hand down to Sam's ass and pushed his hips upwards, grinding his erection against Sam's. Dean gasped, once, and rubbed against him once more.

Each thrust of Dean against him was like an electric shock through his system; Sam held on tightly, pushing his hardness against his brother's again and again, desperate, needy sounds falling from his lips to be swallowed up by Dean's mouth.

He heard the noise in the back of his brother's throat, the familiar sound of it sending vibrations through his mind, and straight to his cock. Dean was close, and his movements took on a more desperate, urgent quality as he continued to push against him. Dean kissed him hard, pulling at him like he meant to swallow Sam whole before he came.

That thought -- Dean swallowing him whole -- brought with it another series of flashes of all the ways Dean could do just that. It was more than enough to push Sam over the edge. With a choked gasp of his brother's name, Sam came.

"Sammy, god," Dean moaned, sucking at his throat, kissing him hard and fast all over his jaw, then capturing his mouth and pulling him in as Dean began to buck beneath him. His voice was low, almost a growl, and wordless as his eyes locked onto Sam's.

Sam couldn't have looked away even if he wanted to. He needed to see this, see Dean's face as he...

Dean's face contorted, muscles locked and his hands gripping Sam's back. Hard, and fast -- just like Dean, he thought. Then Dean was coming, hanging onto Sam and crying out, wordlessly.

Sam held him through the tremors, never looking away, and dropped light kisses all over Dean's face as he began to come down.

He collapsed slowly, arms loosening their hold on Sam; one arm fell to the side, dangling off the edge of the couch. His eyes were closed, and as Sam pressed a kiss to his lips, he returned it lightly. As Sam moved away laying more kisses down, Dean pressed his nose into the crook of Sam's neck, nuzzling.

Sam sighed in contentment, eventually stopping moving altogether and just laid there entangled with Dean enjoying the afterglow and their closeness.

He felt Dean shift, then, in a clearly disgusted tone, he said, "Eegh."

For some reason he wasn't even sure of, that set Sam off into laughter.

"I hate coming in my pants. Seriously, Sam, get off me." Why he bothered telling him to, Sam didn't know, because his brother pushed him off and Sam tumbled onto the floor. Dean was grinning at him.

Sam couldn't help but grin back from where he was sprawled on the floor. "Way to ruin the mood."

Dean just flipped him off as he sat up, then staggered to his feet. If he felt anything like Sam did, his knees were protesting the necessity of working correctly. Sam just kept grinning and pushed himself to his feet using the coffee table for support.

Dean looked down at himself and grimaced, wrinkling his nose in what was probably meant to be a disgusted look. But the corners of Dean's mouth were twitching, even as Dean dabbed at the wet spot on his jeans.

Sam glanced down at his own jeans to see a matching spot, which now that he was thinking about it, were feeling kind of disgusting. "You're right. This is kinda eegh."

"Should have thought of that before--" Dean stopped, frozen for just a second. Then he turned. "I'm gonna go change." He made it three steps before he stopped again, and looked over his shoulder. The expression on his face was hesitant, and yearning.

Sam immediately closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around Dean's waist. "It was worth sticky pants."

"Yeah," Dean responded, quietly. Then he snickered. "Sticky pants," he repeated, and Dean sounded for all the world like a four year old.

It made Sam chuckle. "Shut up."

Dean shoved at him, though he didn't quite let Sam go, either. "Make me," he taunted.

Sam opened his mouth to retort, but then got a better idea. He gave Dean a wicked grin and then kissed him again.

Dean looked breathless when Sam broke the kiss. He raised a hand, and touched Sam's cheek, briefly -- then his eyes went wide and Sam knew that it had hit him.

"Come on," Sam said, trying to head off what he thought was coming. "Let's get changed and then we can... do whatever we need to."

"'Do whatever we need to'?" Dean repeated, an incredulous tone creeping into his voice. "Sam-- shit. SHIT!" Dean tugged out of Sam's grip as the freak out Sam had been expecting finally hit.

"Okay, or we can do it now," Sam muttered under his breath. "Dean-"

"What? Are you going to tell me that it's all right? That this...." He waved a hand at the living room, looking around. The room looked the same as it did every time he and Dean got carried away rough housing. Dean went suddenly pale. "Christ, dad's going to kill me."

He turned and fairly ran out of the room.

Sam went after him immediately, catching hold of Dean's arm just as they reached the door to Dean's bedroom. "Don't," he half begged, half ordered.

"Don't? It's a little late for that, don't you think?" He tried to pull away and succeeding only in slamming the both of them into the door frame. "God, Sammy, I just had sex with you!"

"I know. I was there." He pushed closer to Dean, crowding his brother. "I don't remember complaining."

There was a choked noise from Dean, and his brother shook his head. He tried to push himself farther away from Sam, but there was nowhere to go. He balled his hands into fists and said, tightly, "I told you I couldn't...stop, if we did this. Sammy--"

"You told me. I know," Sam said, holding Dean's gaze and covering Dean's fists with his own hands, trying to get some of the tension to relax. "It's okay, Dean. Really. I don't want you to stop."

"You don't get it, do you?" Dean looked at him, his gaze not wavering at all. "This... dad is gonna kill me. I'm supposed to take care of you, not be the one you need protecting from."

"I'd only need protecting from you if you were doing something that hurt me. You're not." He squeezed Dean's hands. "You could never hurt me," Sam said, letting the belief shine in his face and his voice.

"I...I'm glad you think so," Dean whispered. "But somehow I don't think Dad is going to agree."

There wasn't anything Sam could say to dispute that; however much this made sense to them, Dad wasn't going to understand it. "I know," he said softly, acknowledging that fact.

"We....we can't do this again," Dean said, brokenly.

"What?" Sam all but yelped. "No. No way. We're not..." He broke off and stared at Dean hard. "Do you want to never do this again?"

Dean wouldn't look at him. Sam watched him struggle to speak, then finally he just leaned close, and dropped his head onto Sam's shoulder. His arms came up, wrapped tightly around Sam's waist.

Sam let out the breath he'd been holding, wrapping his arms around Dean in return. "It's okay. If Dad...." He took another deep breath. "If he ever finds out, I'll take care of it." He managed the ghost of a smile. "I'm used to fighting with him."

"No," Dean said, but he stayed where he was. "You can't take the heat for this. You and dad...you don't have to--" Slowly, Dean raised his head and stared at Sam. "Maybe you should think about going to Stanford."

The suggestion triggered another series of flashes for Sam, more impressions than actual images -- fire, heat, horror, grief -- so strong they almost staggered him. They did make him wince with pain and disorientation and he leaned his head on Dean's shoulder as he tried to ride it out. "No," he said faintly. "I can't. It's... no."

"I'm sorry," Dean said. "I wish we could afford to send you to school. You... you'd do really well, I bet."

Sam smiled, but didn't raise his head from Dean's shoulder. "Yeah." He sighed. "But it's not where I'm supposed to be."

"How can you be sure?"

He gave a half shrug. "I don't know. I just am."

"This isn't where we get sappy, is it?"

Sam chuckled and raised his head to look his brother in the eyes. "Guess that depends."

"My jeans are still disgusting," Dean said.

"Yeah, mine are too." He was beginning to relax again, sensing that the crisis might be past for now.

They stood there in the doorway, holding onto each other. It seemed like Dean might be content to stay there all day -- which was fine with Sam, really. But then his brother leaned slightly away and said, "I'm gonna get changed."

"Yeah." Sam reluctantly let go and stepped back, turning to go to his room next door to do the same. "Meet you back on the couch?"

Dean stared at him for a heartbeat, before he nodded. "Yeah."

Sam hesitated for a second then turned around and headed into his own bedroom. He changed as fast as he could, pulling on an old pair of sweatpants, their material worn soft and thin. Then he headed back out to the living room.

Dean came out of his bedroom as Sam was settling on the couch. He glanced at the TV, then over at Sam, his raised eyebrow asking if they were going to start the movie over -- since they'd missed everything including the opening credits. Dean sat down on the couch, leaning up against the arm.

Wordlessly, Sam handed over the remote to Dean, then waited for his brother to stop the movie and start it over before sliding over until he was against Dean's side.

There was only the slightest hesitation before Dean put his arm around Sam.

Sam sighed in contentment, then wriggled around looking for the most comfortable position. He ended up leaning back against Dean's side sideways, knees bent and feet up on the couch. He reached up for the arm Dean had slid around him and tugged on it, until it was wrapped around himself in a half-hug.

"There," he said, satisfied.

"You sure?" Dean drawled, heavy with the sarcasm. "I could fluff up the pillows, or build a new couch real quick."

"Nah, I'm good," Sam said, answering as if it was a serious question.

"You need anything to drink? Popcorn? M&MS? Or can I watch the movie?"

Sam hid his grin and patted the arm that was wrapped around him. "I'm good," he repeated. "I've got all I need right here."

And if it came out a little more serious than he had meant it, it was just because it was true.

Dean made a face at what he no doubt considered a chick flick moment, but he didn't say anything, just turned his attention back to the movie.

They sat quietly, getting pulled into the movie and forgetting -- more or less -- everything else. Sam didn't draw Dean's attention to the fact that he'd pulled Sam in a bit closer, and was occasionally absently stroking Sam's arm.

He found himself equally absently resting a hand on Dean's thigh and occasionally sliding it upwards just a little bit more.

The moment Dean noticed was obvious -- his hand stopped moving and his whole body tensed. But what he said was, "Sam, I likethis movie."

"So watch it," Sam replied with perfect innocence.

"Fine." Dean removed his arm from around Sam, and grabbed Sam's hand, forcing it away from his leg.

Which was distinctly unfair, Sam felt. He turned enough to shoot a look of wounded innocence at his brother.

"Oh, no, you don't," Dean said, and he gave Sam a hard push, knocking him onto the floor. A couch cushion followed.

Sam caught the cushion and came up off the floor all in one motion, pouncing on his brother and pushing him back into the couch as he landed on him.

"Hey! I'm watching a movie, here!" Dean struggled underneath him, wrapping one arm around Sam's neck in a headlock.

"So was I!" Sam shot back, digging his fingers into Dean's ribs. "Until some idiot dumped me on the floor!"

"You started it!" Dean countered. He twisted, trying to get away from Sam's hands. He ended up dumping them both onto the floor again, missing the coffee table only because it was still overturned from before.

"Me?" Sam clamped his legs around Dean's waist to hang on as he continued his assault on Dean's ribs. "What did I do?"

"You know exactly-- fuck!" Dean writhed as Sam tickled him, trying to pin Sam's hands under his arms and simultaneously free himself from Sam's legs. He managed to roll them over again, knocking one of Sam's legs free and getting to his knees.

Sam accessed the situation for a second then wrapped all his limbs around Dean, trying to use his weight to pull him back down.

Dean got one hand underneath him, locking his elbow and holding himself up. Then Sam suddenly found Dean's other hand slipping inside his sweat pants.

Sam felt his eyes widen and he froze, completely taken aback. About the only part of him that wasn't surprised was his dick which was just happy to have Dean's fingers wrapped around it. "Wha-"

"You gonna let me watch the movie?" Dean asked. His grip tightened, as though his actions were anything remotely like a threat.

Sam didn't answer, just continued to stare at Dean with wide eyes, trying to figure out what he had to say to get Dean to keep touching him.

Dean chuckled, and he shifted his grip -- into one Sam wholly recognised. "You gonna make me miss the movie?" Dean asked, his voice dropping low.

Sam swallowed a groan and did his best not to arch up into Dean's hand. "If I let you watch the movie, you gonna keep touching me?"

"Are you gonna let me watch the movie if I keep doing this?" Dean asked. He moved his hand, barely half an inch.

"I think," Sam paused to try and catch his breath, licking his lips as he did so, "that I might be open to negotiations."

"Good." Then Dean let go and pushed himself back, standing up quickly. He stepped back to the couch and sat down, looking at the tv, apparently forgetting all about Sam, sprawled on the floor.

Leaving Sam hard and not a little bit irritated. He stared up at Dean, and sputtered for half a minute before the perfect revenge came to mind.

He crawled back over to the couch, but didn't get up, moving instead to kneel between Dean's outstretched legs. "You wanna be like that? We can be like that." Then he started undoing the buttons on his brother's jeans.

"Jesus!" Dean shouted, and pushed Sam's shoulders back, none too gently. Which sent Sam sprawling back on his ass again. He glared at Dean. Dean looked back, eyes wide, and gulping air in deep breaths. "Um," Dean began, and he seemed to be visibly calming down. "Sorry," he mumbled, looking away.

Sam didn't move. "So are you going to let me blow you or is this going to get ugly?"

He watched as Dean raised a hand to his face, and pressed the back of it hard against his eyes. When he looked at Sam, his expression was apologetic. "Can we just go back to what we were...doing before?"

"Which before?"

"On the couch, just... holding you." At least he sounded comfortable with that part.

Which was a definite plus, but still... "You mean before you had your hand down my pants?"

"You were tickling me," Dean replied, glaring. "I hate it when you do that."

"So you put your hand down my pants."

Dean opened his mouth, then closed it. He seemed to realise he was going to be in serious trouble, no matter what he said.

Sam watched him squirm for a moment, feeling a sudden wave of affection as he watched Dean try to come up with an answer that would get him out of this. He decided to put his brother out of his misery and moved forward between Dean's knees again, with a muttered, "Better not shove me."

"Better not bite me," Dean countered, and though it was clear by his tone that he wasn't entirely comfortable, he didn't try to stop Sam this time.

"Don't tempt me," Sam replied darkly, his fingers going back to the buttons on Dean's jeans.

"I--" Dean began. He didn't move, not even spreading his legs to give Sam room. He kept his hands very carefully on his thighs, away from Sam.

He looked so uncomfortable that Sam immediately softened his attitude. "Relax," he said gently, even as he reached in and slid his hand around Dean. He squeezed as he shot his brother a smile. "I've got you."

"I--" Dean said again, but then he moaned. "Sammy...."

"Shh..." Sam leaned forward, letting his breath from the word puff over the end of Dean's cock when he pulled it out.

Dean didn't exactly comply -- but the noises that came out of his mouth probably weren't intended to be communicative. But Dean spread his legs, knees falling to each side with a hint of the agility that Sam was looking forward to exploring. Dean's head fell back on the couch, eyes staring up at the ceiling.

"Not going to watch your movie?" Sam teased, before leaning in and licking the head like a lollipop.

"God damn," Dean said. It didn't sound like he was talking about missing the movie, though.

Sam chuckled. He raised his head just enough to say, "You could always watch me instead," before going back to teasing Dean with small little licks.

Dean left his head where it was. Still in denial?' Sam thought, incredulously. 'His cock in my mouth, and he's pretending this isn't happening?'

But Dean wasn't making any attempt to stop him, wasn't doing anything but pushing his hips forward.

That was good enough for now, Sam decided. There'd be time enough for more later. For now Sam put all his attention into making Dean lose his mind.

There were more flashes going through Sam's mind as he bent to the task, of them doing variations of this in all sorts of places. Not only did it send a shiver of arousal down his spine, it gave him knowledge of the sort of things that worked best on Dean, knowledge Sam put to good use.

It wasn't long at all before the incoherent noises were coming fast and furious, like someone had unhooked a filter in Dean's brain. His hips kept making small thrusts upwards, checked apparently by a residual awareness that he shouldn't really be fucking his brother's mouth.

Sam wrapped his hand around the base of Dean's cock, then took as much of it into his mouth as he was able. The sound that Dean made wasn't in any language Sam knew, but he understood every syllable. Dean's hand brushed the side of his face, then slid down to grip his shoulder.

It would've made Sam smile if he hadn't had his mouth full.

There was another strangled moan, then Dean managed to say something that sounded like Sam's name. That called an answering moan from Sam and he got serious about trying to make Dean come. He could hear Dean panting now, and the movements of his hips seemed involuntary. The grip on his shoulder tightened, followed by a long, low groan.

He knew Dean was close and pulled back enough to flutter his tongue over the head in a way that he knew always drove his brother crazy.

Dean shouted, and thrust up, then did it again, then he was coming, shouting and hanging onto Sam with one hand like he was afraid one of them might fall.

Not this time, Sam found himself thinking fiercely, though he wasn't sure where the thought came from.

Dean collapsed back on the couch, looking boneless and relaxed in that way Sam knew he only ever got after sex. His eyes were closed and his head was lolled to the side.

There was satisfaction in seeing him this way and Sam just watched him for a moment. But then his own body's needs began to demand attention. Sliding up onto the couch beside his brother, Sam leaned over to kiss him.

"Mmm." Dean kissed him for a moment, wrapping his arms around Sam and pulling him in. Then he broken away and turned his head -- towards the TV.

And watched the movie.

"Thanks, Sammy," he said in an absent tone.

Sam stared at him in disbelief. He couldn't just be.... ignoring him after that, could he?

After another minute of staring at the TV, Dean asked, "You wanna get me a beer?"

"You have got to be kidding me!"

Dean looked at him, raising an eyebrow as though he couldn't feelSam's erection pressed against his leg. "I know we only drank two of them," he began. His eyes were dancing with the amusement that he was no longer trying to hide.

It was, Sam thought in the small part of his brain not exasperated at his brother's teasing, at least a better reaction than freaking out. But still it wasn't something he was going to let Dean get away with.

Assuming that anything short of directness wouldn't get any results, he asked, "Are you going to help me out here or do I have to do it myself?"

"You did pretty well with the...blow job," Dean said easily, only the slight stumble over the words 'blow job' hinting at the fact he was faking the nonchalance. He waved a hand as if to indicate he thought Sam could do fine by himself.

"You'd really just sit there and leave me hanging?" Sam asked in disbelief.

"Your hands broken?" Dean challenged. The hand on Sam's back stroked his bare skin, gently -- so much in contrast to his teasing that Sam wondered if he was even aware he'd done it.

"It's not the same." Oh god, he was sulking; Sam knew it, but couldn't quite stop doing it.

The expression of delight that appeared mostly made Sam want to hit Dean, hard. But then Dean was darting forward and -- god! -- sucking on Sam's lower lip. He whispered in Sam's ear, "You don't want me to watch?"

Before Sam could answer, Dean's fingers stroked his cock through the fabric of his sweat pants.

"God!" Sam was so hard already that his hips bucked up almost violently at that touch.

"You can just call me Dean."

"You're a real jerk," Sam told him, but it lacked any real heat as most of his attention was on the hand gripping him through his sweatpants.

"Language, Sammy," Dean scolded. "Is that any way to talk to someone you want putting his hand in your pants?"

Sam swallowed a moan at the words, but he answered gamely, "When you're not actually doing it, yeah."

"So you don't care if I go back to the movie?" Dean smirked, then he moved his hand away. Luckily for Sam, and for Dean's continued good health, he immediately put his hand inside the back of Sam's sweatpants, cupping his ass and giving it a hard squeeze.

"You don't really want to go back to the movie." Sam let his head fall back against the couch cushions, automatically lifting his hips to make it easier for Dean to touch him.

"Yeah, actually, I wanna know if..what's her name does..that thing with the..." He shook his head. "I don't have a fucking clue what the movie's about."

Sam chuckled, the laugh coming out all breathless. "Yeah, kinda figured."

The pinch on his ass wasn't totally unexpected.

He turned his head to look at Dean, studying his face, judging for a long moment before offering tentatively, "If you're not watching, we could take this somewhere more comfortable than the couch...?"

Dean's hand stopped -- but stayed inside Sam's pants, at least. Dean looked at him and asked, "Backseat of the car?" Then he did move his hand, pulling it free of the waistband, and before Sam could protest, his pants were being pushed down to his hips and Dean's hand was closing around his cock.

Sam made a sound that was embarrassingly close to a whimper.

"You like that?" Dean asked, moving his fist up and down, slowing. "GEO really turns you on, does it?"

"Youturn me on." The words fell out of Sam's mouth without conscious decision. He spread his legs and pushed his hips upwards, mutely asking for more.

Dean didn't answer; words like that had always made him uncomfortable. Sam remembered -- dreamt of -- Dean shying away both figuratively and physically when Sam said...things. The specifics were lost, however, as Dean tightened his grip briefly, then began moving his hand faster.

Sam groaned, then did it again, all of his attention focused on Dean's hand. Well... almost all; Sam turned his head to watch Dean's face as his brother jerked him off.

The expression on Dean's face was so serious, like he was concentrating so that he wouldn't accidentally jerk Sam the wrong direction. When he caught Sam looking, he moved forward and kissed him, pushing his tongue easily into Sam's mouth.

The taste of Dean was almost enough to push Sam over. He reached for Dean, pulling him closer, a desperate whimper vibrating in his chest. Dean reacted the way Sam wanted -- pulling at his cock harder, tightening his grip in all the right places -- though as long as it was Dean's hand, they were all the right places, so no threat of Dean's reading his mind, there. Dean pulled at his mouth, licking Sam's lips and diving back in to capture his mouth.

That did it. Sam came silently, the power of it stealing words and breath.

Dean didn't let go of him -- cock or mouth -- until Sam was completely wrung out. Then he pulled his hand away, and kissed Sam again, slowly, and with an intensity that made Sam's head spin. It made something deep inside Sam ache and he fisted his hands into Dean's shirt, holding on desperately.

He felt Dean's hands on his back, rubbing firmly, soothingly. Dean made a small noise, then he broke away long enough to say, "Sammy, Sammy....s'all right."

Sam wrapped his arms around his brother, burying his face in Dean's shoulder, feeling himself start to shake. It was all right, it really was, in a way that it had never been before, and it had been so... easy to get here. How could he have not done this before?

"Sammy?" Dean asked after a moment, sounding concerned and a little bit alarmed.

"'m all right," he managed, though the words were mumbled into Dean's neck. He didn't want to let go just yet. Not until this felt solid and real.

"Yeah, I noticed," Dean said, sarcastically. "You always do this after sex?" His words were teasing, but his hands had never stopped stroking Sam's back.

It made Sam smile in spite of the lingering tremors. "Just with you."

He felt Dean tense beneath him, then Dean said lightly, "So, that's twice? Or does this still count as once?"

The future memory of another scene like this, with Dean wrapped around him as he freaked out over finally getting it right flashed through Sam's mind. He chuckled. "Depends on if you count times that haven't happened."

"Oh, yeah. Well, of course." He could practically feel Dean rolling his eyes. Then Dean ran his fingers through Sam's hair, brushing the bangs out of Sam's eyes and rubbing his thumb lightly across Sam's forehead. A gesture Dean had only begun doing after they'd become lovers, then and now.

It calmed Sam, made it all feel more real somehow. He pulled back enough to meet Dean's gaze and smiled. "I got it right this time. We got it right this time."

Dean frowned. "What?"

"I remember. It was wrong before. I didn't see -- couldn't -- too busy trying to pretend that I wasn't..." Sam trailed off, shaking his head. "Never mind. It's that dream-vision-memory thingy again." The memories were there and became clearer when he tried to talk about them, but he found himself reluctant to give them even that much reality.

"So this..isn't how it happened in your vision?"

Angry words and looks flying back and forth. Doors slamming and cold hard silences. Pain hidden away under polite words and awkward farewells. Something so broken that it would take years for him to understand the depth of the damage and to even begin to fix it. Sam shuddered and pushed it all away and simply answered, "No, it didn't."

"But...this is okay?" Dean looked like he wasn't exactly sure what was going on -- but Sam also saw the trust in his brother's eyes. He might not be fully prepared to accept what they'd done and what Sam knew they both dearly wanted. But he was apparently willing to trust what Sam would say.

"It's okay," Sam told him. He reached up and touched Dean's cheek. "It's better than okay. Really."

"Because -- Sam, we don't have to--" was as far as Dean got.

Sam stopped him by the simple expediency of sliding his fingers over Dean's mouth. "It's not about having to. It's about just having and holding on with everything we've got."

Dean looked doubtful, but raised one eyebrow, clearly wondering what chick flick Sam had dragged them into. He opened his mouth against Sam's finger, no doubt a smartass comment was on its way.

Then Dean bit Sam's finger.

"Dean?"

"What?" He sounded for all the world like nothing at all unusual had happened -- all day.

"Do we need to go get you rabies shots?"

"You're the one being bitten," Dean pointed out reasonably.

"Collar and leash then," Sam countered, noticing how Dean's eyes widened slightly at the suggestion. "Possibly a muzzle."

"The fuck... Sam, tell me you did not see that in your vision."

Sam just smiled, keeping his mouth shut.

Dean narrowed his eyes, then suddenly -- for the fifth time that day -- Sam found himself shoved onto the floor, on his ass. And for the fifth time that day Sam came back up and pounced his brother, laughter bubbling up as they resumed their makeshift wrestling match.

Dean had wanted to know if this was okay. It was so much more than okay that Sam didn't even know where to start to explain.

It was, simply, a dream come true.

*******

Sam blinked as he looked around himself, off balance and disoriented by the sudden lack of noise and pain of the fight.

There wasn't really much to see, just a bright light that should have had his eyes streaming with tears but didn't. It did however obscure whatever else there might have been around him.

The light coalesced, then, and Sam could see it literally wrapping around itself until it created a figure.  Humanoid, if not quite human.

"Hello?" Sam asked tentatively.

"Sam Winchester," it said.

The voice was warm and powerful. Sam thought it should scare him, but it didn't. "Who are you?"

It smiled, and there was a distinct feeling of warmth.  Like what Sam imagined a tropical beach would be.  "You've had a difficult time of it, Sam Winchester," it said.

Sam snorted bitter laughter. "You could say that."

"Yes," it said, looking.. regretful?  "Things did not go...as they should have.  Beings escaped, let to run loose on your world which should never have found foothold."

He shook his head slowly. "I don't understand."

"The demon should not have had a chance to...change your life."

Sam frowned. He was beginning to get the impression that he had asked the wrong question earlier. He should have asked not who, but what .

In a serious tone, it said, "I am authorised to extend an offer of reparation."

Sam blinked. "What?"

There was a slight smile on the being's face.  "Our way of apologising.  I am here to extend an offer."

"What sort of offer?" Sam asked warily.

"Your life," it said simply.  "And your heart's desire."

"Heart's desire?" The life part was easy enough to understand, but this could be a little trickier.

"Your life as it was cost you a great many things.  So much lost -- you can have it to do again, and this time..you may choose one to keep."

"So it's like a do-over?"

It grinned.  "Yes.  Not a complete one -- I cannot send you back to your beginning."  It gave him a sorrowful look.  "I cannot undo the death of your mother.  But after that, once your father's path swept you and your brother away -- anything after that, I may send you to relive, and change."

His brother. "Dean," Sam blurted. "Where is- Is my brother here? Is he all right?" Which was a really stupid question since he was pretty sure they were both dead, but... "Is he getting this choice too?"

"This is your choice," the being told him.  "Your life."

Even as he continued to worry about Dean, Sam couldn't help but go over the things he'd wanted most and hadn't been able to get -- or keep. College. Becoming a lawyer. A house, a mortgage, white picket fence. Jess. Marriage, children. Pets. A normal life. He'd wanted all of that for so long and so badly it hurt to think about.

But.

He wasn't normal. It had been a long and hard battle, but he'd come to accept that, even be grateful for it. It had given him Dean in a way that he could never have had his brother if they were normal. To ask for that normal life now would be to wish away what he and Dean had found together, to wish away Dean. He couldn't do that.

And even as he thought it, he realised how everything his brother had ever wanted -- and there wasn't much -- seemed to slip through Dean's fingers time and again. Sam couldn't add to that.

And just like that, his answer came to him.

Pulling himself to his full height Sam said, "Dean. I choose Dean's heart's desire."

The being stared at him for a moment, and Sam thought maybe it hadn't heard him.  Then it nodded.  "So it is done."

With that Sam felt something tremble in his hand, and he looked down to find his brother's heart beating in his palm.