Heart's Desire VII - The Way Home

~~~

Dean felt that weird, familiar mix of exhausted and caffeine-wired as he pulled into the parking spot beside Dad's truck. He'd finished off the thermos of coffee hours ago, refilled it at a truck stop, and now had enough caffeine in him that he might be able to sleep sometime before the day after next -- if he was lucky.

He'd made the drive in just under fourteen hours, though given his late -- delayed -- start, it was later than he'd expected to arrive. He'd called his dad when he'd been a few hours out of Clayton, letting him know. Dad hadn't mentioned his being late, so Dean was hoping it wasn't a problem.

He'd had a lot of time to think on the drive. About Sam, his dad, what the hell he would say if he found himself having that conversation. He still had no idea and he was hoping that he could just ignore the whole issue and it would never, ever come up. Certainly he didn't plan on being stupid and saying anything, but the more he tried to act normal, the more he was afraid Dad would read it written on his forehead or something.

Telling himself he was seriously over-reacting, Dean got out of the car. Grabbing his duffel, Dean headed for room #21. The door opened just as he got to it, revealing his dad who had a faint smile on his face as he stepped back to let Dean enter.

"Hey." Dean gave him a nod, excuses ready in case his travel-time was called on. Not lies -- there was no way he'd get away with outright lying. But there were plenty of half-true reasons why he might be an hour late.

Dad looked him over closely, searching for... what, Dean didn't know. Before Dean could get too paranoid though, he smiled and said, "You're looking good."

"Thanks." Dean smiled back, suddenly feeling nothing more than happy to be with his dad again. "You find anything interesting about the poltergeist?" His dad had planned to spend the day trying to gather information. Dean set his duffel down by the second bed, pulling the laptop out of the top.

"I've got us a few leads to check out tomorrow," Dad told him, frowning at the laptop. "That's not Sammy's computer, is it?"

"It's mine--" Dean stopped, realising he hadn't told his dad about any of this. "We, uh.. I needed one," he began, nervously. "For, er... I'm going back to school," he said, in a rush.

Dad's stare transferred from the laptop to Dean. "You're what?"

He'd been trained to look his father in the eye when spoken to in that tone. Back straight, head up, no lies, yes sir, no sir. Dean managed the tone of respect, but failed everything else as he said, "I'm going back to school." He stared at the laptop, and the Metallica sticker that had appeared mysteriously in the time between when he'd finally picked a wallpaper and unpacked the computer this evening.

Sam had packed his duffel, after all, but it wasn't like he didn't know who to blame. He wanted to smile at the thought of his brother's show of support.

"I didn't know that you wanted..." Dad's voice was softer; deliberately so, it sounded like.

Dean shrugged, still not able to look his dad in the eye. He'd never questioned anything his father told him -- that included the decisions he'd made about missing school for other things. Sam had been the rebellious one, questioning everything and standing up for what he wanted. When his dad had taken Dean out of school, every single time Dean could recall, he'd gone without argument.

Now it felt like he was criticizing all that, complaining about what his dad had asked him to give up.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Dean looked at his dad, surprised -- then surprised to find himself so surprised. "I... have no idea," he said, with a laugh. "Sam's doing all the... you know. Getting me enrolled and stuff. The program's online, which is why--" He gestured at the laptop. Dean shook his head. "I... you really....?" He trailed off as he realised it was probably a stupid question; his dad wouldn't have offered if he hadn't really meant it.

Dad smiled a little and nodded. "Sam seems to be pretty good at that kind of thing. And knowing it needs to be done." He paused and said, more seriously, "I'm sorry, son. If I'd known you wanted this... I would've..." He laughed a little. "I would've asked Sam to take care of the paperwork on it."

Frowning, Dean asked, "Why would you have known? I didn't want to until.... once Sam got to college, I mean, I guess... it just seemed stupid. Him getting his degree and me...." He trailed off again, shying away from actively calling his dad's choices into question.

It felt so weird to have his dad talking to him the same way he'd been talking to Sam, all summer. Ever since Sam's freaky vision thing had changed everything.

"So you decided to go back to school and get your own?" Dad finished.

"I figured I might as well," Dean said, forced a light tone he didn't feel. How was he supposed to tell his dad that not having graduated made him feel like a failure? "Better than watching soaps all day," he added with a grin.

But his dad seemed to catch what was under the light tone because his frown deepened. "Dean, I..."

Turning away, Dean looked at the bed. Wired as he was, he probably wouldn't sleep well. But he should try, and sleep sounded better than the conversation he knew was coming. "If we're gonna stop this poltergeist, I should hit the sack," he said.

"I'll pay for it."

"What?" Dean found himself staring at his dad again -- and fuck, he hadn't even thought about the fact he'd have to pay for the program. Sam hadn't mentioned it, but he should have thought of it himself. Should have realised, and.. fuck, how much would something like that cost? Would he be able to put it on one of the fake cards, or...? Fuck.

Dean wondered if Sam would tell him, if he emailed. Maybe over the phone? No, chances were Dean would need to be in the room, threatening to strangle him, in order to get a straight answer.

Maybe school wasn't such a hot idea. He could probably take the G.E.D -- they'd charge a lot less to just take a test, right? Get a few books from the library to study, and not bother with actual classes. "I'll have to ask Sam," he said, absently. "I don't...."

Dad nodded. "Right, Sam's taking care of all the details. I'll get the cost from him. But not just that. You'll need textbooks and..." His eyes lighted on the computer again. "I'll pay for that too, of course."

Stunned, Dean stammered, "I...paid already...." Then he wanted to smack himself, because of course it was paid for, otherwise he wouldn't have it. "I mean, I had cash," he tried again, thinking that his dad might have guessed they'd put it on one of the credit cards -- or maybe that's what he was planning to do when he said he'd pay.

Christ, textbooks. He hadn't... He really hadn't thought this through, at all.

"I'm supposed to let Sam know I'm here," he muttered, and opened the laptop to send an email. He could let Sam know he'd changed his mind before Dad had a chance to talk to him.

"Dean," his father said, in that voice that had always commanded complete and instant attention from him.

Dean was looking up before he even considered what his dad wanted, hands resting on half-open laptop. "Yes, sir?"

"Just... stop. Slow down and whatever it is that's got you so..." He gestured at Dean in lieu of actually describing how Dean was acting. "Just stop it and talk to me."

And that did stop him, completely. The last time his dad had told him to talk about anything it had been about either a hunt, or Sam.

He didn't know what to say. Glancing down at the laptop, he tried, "I told Sam I'd email him when I got here -- to prove I know how, I think," he said, smirking a little. Dean knew that was almost lying, because he knew what he was going to tell Sam. "I didn't realise.... it isn't anything I need," Dean said, quietly. He'd always understood the difference between things you needed, and things you couldn't afford.

Dad sat on the edge of the closest bed and looked at him. "Is it something you want?"

"You sound like Sam." Dean laughed, realising it was probably the other way around. He leaned away from the laptop, waved a hand in the air. "I'm sorry, I should have... I didn't think about it costing...." Inwardly he flinched, knowing that he'd pretty thoroughly broken rule number one -- don't go into anything unprepared.

"You shouldn't have to."

"Yeah." Dean nodded. There was a short list of things they needed -- the things their money had always gone for. Weapons, ammo, upkeep on the vehicles. Food, whatever rent they had to pay if it wasn't a motel room on a credit card.

Shoes for a little brother who simply would not stop growing.

Dean glanced down at his boots. New footwear for school. He wondered where Sam had got the money for them. He'd priced them once and knew they weren't cheap. Well, he knew Sam had money from his scholarship, but all that was supposed to go for his own school expenses.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, stomach clenching. "I need to tell Sam he wasted--" He was reaching for the laptop -- that, at least, he could return and get the cash back to use for better things.

"Dean," Dad said again, drawing him up short. "Do you want to do this?"

Dean blinked, focused on his dad. He knew the right answer, even if it was hard to say. He swallowed. He felt -- something, which he refused to look at and refused to even feel, because he knew what mattered. He knew what he wanted: he wanted to help his dad hunt, he wanted to get rid of as many evil things in the world as he could.

He wanted to be able to go home to Sam, as often as he could manage.

"No, sir." He was proud of himself for saying it decisively, without any trace of regret on his face.

Something flickered in Dad's eyes that Dean couldn't identify. "You know, I can't remember the last time you lied to me."

The accusation was like a slap to the face. Dean flinched, mouth open to deny it, even as he knew he couldn't. Unable to face his dad, he stared down at the ugly brown carpet, ashamed of the fact he couldn't repeat himself and mean it. "We don't need to waste money on this," he said, able to say that much, truthfully.

"That wasn't what I asked you," Dad pointed out, in a strangely gentle voice.

Weirdly, it made him feel like one of the people they helped -- spooked, confused victims, and Dad being all soothing and reassuring. He opened his mouth to answer, though he knew his dad knew what the answer was. He'd just have to look at the program brochures again and pick the one that was cheapest.

Still not raising his eyes, Dean nodded.

"All right," Dad said, sounding like everything was decided. "Then you do this. And don't worry about the cost. You shouldn't have to -- that's my job."

"I don't--" Dean wanted to tell him he didn't have to take care of this. Of him.

He couldn't make his jaw work.

"I'm your father. This is part of what I'm supposed to do."

Dean just frowned. That hadn't been an issue for years. Dean had always been just as responsible, taking care of himself and Sammy. He was an adult, now, for god's sake, and he shouldn't need his Dad to do something like pay for school.

Pay for high school, Dean thought, Twenty-two years old and-- and he really just couldn't think about it anymore. He pressed his hand to his eyes, and maybe the caffeine had worn off because he just wanted to curl up and not think about it at all.

"I need to let Sammy know I made it here." He must be wondering, by now.

Dad sighed and nodded. "All right. Just..."

Dean opened his laptop, glancing up to wait for his dad to finish. But he didn't say anything more, so Dean clicked on the email program Sam had set up for him. Sam was the only name in his addressbook, and he quickly typed a message.

Sam-

Made it to Clayton alive and well. Poltergeist not alive, probably not well. Will find out tomorrow. No speeding tickets, still wearing pants.

He paused, then typed the rest, as quickly as he could.

Don't enroll me in that program I picked. Forgot to check something -- need to look at them again. No big deal.

Dean

He hit 'send,' then closed the laptop and felt the last several hours hit him like a sack of bricks. He looked over at his dad. "It all right if I turn in?" he asked, feeling rather subdued.

Dad gave him another of those looks he couldn't quite decipher. "Sure," he said.

Nodding, Dean headed for the bathroom for one last piss before crawling into bed. When he came out, Dad was sitting at the table, looking over what was probably the research he'd done for the poltergeist. Dean just headed for his bed and sat down heavily, leaning over to pull off his boots.

After he dropped the first one on the floor, his phone rang. Dean groaned and reached for it, not surprised at all to see the call ID listing Sam's number. He set the phone back down -- he knew beyond a doubt that he did not want to talk to Sam right now.

His dad looked up. "Aren't you going to answer that?"

"It's just Sam."

Now Dad was frowning at him again. "Usually that makes you pick up before it's finished ringing once."

"I don't--" Dean stopped, and figured that maybe talking to Sam would be the lesser of two evils. He opened the phone then realised that he must be brain-dead to think it would be easier to explain his email to Sam than explain Sam to Dad.

He didn't even get "Hello" out before Sam was demanding, "What the hell do you mean don't enroll you?"

"Hey, Sammy, you're up late," Dean said, sighing. First Dad, now Sam. Did he have a 'kick me' sign on his back? "I just forgot to check something, is all," he said quickly, before Sam could get stubborn at him.

"What could you have possibly forgot to check? We both went over everything backwards and forwards. You could probably recite the entire brochure."

"I just...." Dean didn't glance over, knowing full well his dad could hear every word he said, and probably every word of Sam's. "Never thought to look at how much it was. Dad said... he offered to pay and I wanted to make sure I hadn't picked the most expen--"

"Is that what this is about?"

Dean was taken aback by Sam's interruption -- by the way he said it, like he was relieved that it was something silly. He glanced over at Dad, knowing that there were things he wanted to say to Sam but couldn't with Dad overhearing. And there were things he wanted to say to Dad, but couldn't say in front of Sam. He felt stuck between them, and wasn't that a familiar place to be. Dean sighed. "Well, yeah. I forgot to look at it and I want to make sure--"

"Dude, don't worry about it," Sam told him, voice equal points of warmth and exasperation. "I looked into the costs when I looked into everything else. We can cover it, even without Dad's help. With it--"

"It isn't that," Dean said, quietly. It wasn't that he cared if Dad paid or he did. Not really. It was just... he should have taken that into consideration before he'd even started this. Now his dad and his brother were going to be trying to cover his ass for something he'd somehow convinced them he wanted badly enough to pay...however much it was.

Because he knew if he'd thought about it and taken a look at the cost, he wouldn't have ever brought up going back to school in the first place.

"What is it then?" Sam asked softly.

He glanced at Dad again, and knew he didn't want to tell Sam the truth. He tried to brush him off with what sounded good enough, and hoped his brother wouldn't press him. "I just wanted to know what it cost," he said, trying to sound sincere.

Sam snorted. "That isn't it," he said with conviction. "At least not all of it." He paused. "You don't want to talk in front of Dad, do you?"

"Well--" Dean stopped himself, because it wasn't like he could say 'I don't wanna talk in front of Dad,' in front of Dad.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Okay, here's what you're going to do. Get back on your computer and make sure you're online."

"I'm what?"

"Get back on the computer. I'll message you and we can talk that way."

"Oh. Right. OK... thanks, Sam," he said, casually, as though he were just saying good-bye and we'll talk after we blow up some buildings.

"You're welcome," Sam said, then added in a more threatening tone, "And if you don't get on the computer, I'll call back. On Dad's phone."

"Dickwad," Dean said, still casually, then he hung up. He picked up his laptop and settled back on his bed, leaning up against the headboard. He carefully didn't look over at his dad while he waited for it to boot up, half-afraid he would ask Dean what was up.

He could see his dad out of the corner of his eye though and he was still going over his journal and the other papers he had spread out over the table. He didn't even look up.

Dean turned his attention back to the laptop and saw the messaging icon. Hand over the mouse, he had to remind himself that Sam would call, and on Dad's phone so there would be no way Dean could stop Dad from answering. He opened the program, almost able to hear Sam's exasperated sigh.

As with the email, Sam was the only contact he had listed. Dean waited, though, not quite willing to be the one to start the conversation.

lawboy: You there, Dean?

with_boots_on: Bitch. 'with_boots_on'?

lawboy: Got a problem with it?

with_boots_on: how am I supposed to have a conversation when I'm thinking about being fucked so hard I fall asleep with my boots on?

lawboy: You think about it most of the time when we're talking already, don't you?

with_boots_on: ... Maybe.

lawboy: Well then.

with_boots_on: I still say you're a bitch. Dickhead.

lawboy: Yeah, yeah. Bitch, bitch, bitch. So you going to tell me what's really going on with you now?

with_boots_on: No, I'd rather sit here and call you names.

lawboy: Let me rephrase: Tell me what's really going on with you, Dean.

Dean glared at the screen, knowing his brother couldn't see him -- but Sam probably knew him well enough to know that Dean was glaring. He started to type out a phonetic version of Kwan's better insults, but realised that Sam probably had his phone in hand, and Dad's cell on speed dial.

with_boots_on: I just want to know how much it costs, all right?

lawboy: Why? Seriously? I told you I worked out all the costs. We can afford it.

Dean glared at the screen again, angry that Sam was making him have this conversation at all. Angry at himself for having done this in the first place.

with_boots_on: Because I should have thought about it before I picked one.

lawboy: Don't you trust me to be able to handle all of those details?

The stab of guilt hit him low, in the stomach, and Dean had to force himself to type.

with_boots_on: I trust you. I just should have I mean I should have thought about it. Before I decided to do this.

It took him a moment to hit 'send', wondering if he really wanted to say any of this at all.

lawboy: If you had you wouldn't have even let yourself consider doing this.

Dean stared at the screen for a moment, wondering how he could respond to that without saying 'yes' - or 'no'. He had a feeling either answer was going to get him yelled at.

But at least over the laptop, he didn't have to see Sam giving him that Look. Dean grinned, briefly.

lawboy: Yes, I know you that well, and you can stop grinning any time.

with_boots_on: Bitch.

lawboy: You know I'm right.

with_boots_on: That doesn't mean I'm going to admit to anything. Why is everyone making a big deal about me wanting to know how much this is gonna cost?

lawboy: It's not you wanting to know how much it's going to cost that I'm making a big deal over. It's the fact that you asked me to not sign you up because it costs *something* at all.

with_boots_on: I asked you not to sign me up so I could find out how much they all cost so I don't get the most fucking expensive one.

Dean jerked his hand away a second too late, and sent the message.

lawboy: Yeah, that's what I thought. Why shouldn't you get the most expensive if it's the one that fits you the best? And don't tell me because we can't afford it-- I've already told you I made sure we could afford any of them and that's before Dad offered to help.

with_boots_on: But it's not something we need.

Dean stared at the screen for a moment, hands above the keyboard and trying to figure out what he needed to say to make Sam understand.

with_boots_on: It doesn't make sense to waste money on something I'm not going to use.

lawboy: Who says you're not going to use it?

with_boots_on: Who needs a diploma to kill evil things? It isn't like anyone's hiring demon hunters.

lawboy: There's more to life than hunting. But even if that's your life's work for your whole life, this is still something we need. Because *you* need it.

with_boots_on: There's more to your life, Sammy. You want more, you can get more. This is all I want to do. I don't need a piece of paper that says I finished all my classes to say I'm good enough.

lawboy: Don't you?

Dean glared at the screen, wishing his brother was there so he could smack him -- though if Sam were there, he'd be giving Dean one of his earnest, soulful looks. He tried to think of something to say, and the only thing coming to mind was nothing he wanted to put into words.

He remembered sitting in the car in Reno, confessing to Sam that he wanted to go back to school. The things Jorge had said, about the simple things that build a man's pride -- how a person is nothing unless he believes himself something. And how having options was always the smarter thing -- that no one went into a fight with only one weapon and no one to back him up.

Dean finally typed.

with_boots_on: I don't know.

lawboy: Dean, you want this. That means I want you to have it. Stop acting like you're not important enough to expend our resources on. You are. You're the most important thing in my life.

Dean continued glaring as he read -- until he hit the last line. He felt his throat clench and he glanced over at Dad, in case, bizarrely, Dad was watching and could somehow read through the back of the laptop.

Fortunately, Dad was still pouring over his research, and Dean looked back down at the screen.

with_boots_on: I want to hide in the bathroom.

lawboy: Go ahead. As long as you take the laptop with you.

with_boot_on: And you'll explain to Dad why I'm hiding in the bathroom with my laptop, huh?

lawboy: You want me to call him and tell him you've developed a deep emotional attachment to bathrooms?

with_boots_on: You say 'deep emotional attachment' to him and I'll break...something. Fuck, it was bad enough having this conversation with him, too.

lawboy: You had a conversation with Dad about hiding in the bathroom?

Dean flipped off the screen, keeping his hand hidden from Dad.

with_boots_on: About school. When he said he'd help out. He

Dean froze again, wondering if this whole conversation over the computer was really such a good idea. It was hard enough talking to Sam sometimes, but it was even harder this way because he felt almost obligated not to bullshit too much.

with_boots_on: About school. When he said he'd help out. He said he'd pay for it, and for books and the laptop, and he didn't yell at me for not having thought about classes costing anything.

lawboy: Why would he yell at- No, wait. I don't want to hear the answer. Why does the idea of Dad paying for it make you want to hide in the bathroom?

with_boots_on: It isn't him paying for it. It's the fact I didn't think of it. It's like going after something without finding out first what kind of ammo you need to use. Unprepared. You know how he gets about shit like that.

lawboy: Did you tell him I was taking care of the details?

with_boots_on: Yeah.

lawboy: Well then. You gave the details to me to handle, you were prepared. Unless you think Dad doesn't consider me trustworthy enough to do that.

Dean smiled, and typed quickly, cursing silently as he had to go back and fix half a dozen typos.

with_boots_on: Dad said that if he'd known I wanted to go to school, he would have helped by asking you to take care of the details.

lawboy: See? He'd do it himself. Can't get upset at you for something he'd do himself.

Dean sighed, and risked another glance at Dad. He knew Sam had a point, but... the trouble was, Sam's point wasn't addressing the problem. He was concerned about Dad thinking he wasn't able to take care of things -- he'd always done everything he could to take care of himself and Sam and anything else Dad threw his way.

But he knew that Sam couldn't say anything about the real problem until Dean admitted to him what it was. He scrolled back up through the conversation, and realised that he had. It was hard to read -- distracted by Sam's declaration that really did make him want to shut the laptop and go hide somewhere, if not the bathroom then maybe the wilds of central Washington.

with_boots_on: What if we need the money for something else?

lawboy: Like what?

with_boots_on: Bail. Ammo. Car repairs. Traveling to China to kill something that's eating people. Rent during the summer when your scholarship's gone.

lawboy: We do have an emergency stash, it's been budgeted for, we do have an emergency stash, you wouldn't get on the plane anyway, and I can get a job.

Dean stared at the screen before typing.

with_boots_on: What the fuck do you mean I wouldn't get on the plane anyway?

lawboy: You're scared to fly, remember?

with_boots_on: I know I'm scared to oh. You saw that?

lawboy: Yeah. Dude, you were humming *Metallica*.

with_boots_on: Of course I was humming Metallica. If you -- I got *on* the fucking plane?

lawboy: Yep. :-)

with_boots_on: How the hell did you get me on a plane? And how'd you make that face?

lawboy: I think the plane was going to crash and we had to stop it.

with_boots_on: Oh. Yeah, that would do it. Man, sometimes I *hate* evil sons of bitches.

lawboy: Which would explain the whole hunting lifestyle.

with_boots_on: Smartass. There was a time I wanted to be a fireman, you know.

lawboy: I know.

with_boots_on: Glad you know you're a smartass. Did you also know I wanted to play hockey?

lawboy: Yes.

with_boots_on: Now I know you're lying.

lawboy: I'm not lying.

with_boots_on: When did I tell you I wanted to play hockey?

lawboy: You didn't tell me. I just have eyes. When we were up in Minnesota that winter when you turned 16 and there were all those puck bunnies.

with_boots_on: Dude, I hate to tell you this, but that really didn't have anything to do with *hockey*. Well, tonsil hockey, maybe.

lawboy: You had a burning desire to play hockey that winter though. So you could get to the tonsil hockey. Especially that one girl, the cute little blonde... what was her name? Betsy? Becky?

Dean frowned for a moment -- not because he didn't remember the girl. But he suddenly remembered how, all that winter, Sam had been more...annoying, than usual. Following him freaking everywhere, and every time Dean had gotten a chance to talk to Bethany, Sam had shown up seconds later full of 'Dean, will you' and 'Dean, can I'.

At the time he'd been willing to stuff his little brother in the trunk of a random stranger's car. Now he was suddenly wondering if Sam had just been jealous.

with_boots_on: I didn't think you liked her very much.

lawboy: She was okay. But she wasn't good enough for you.

with_boots_on: Sam, she had a C cup! What else does a guy need at 16?

lawboy: Someone with a brain?

with_boots_on: This is why you had so much trouble getting laid. At 16, you don't need brains, you need someone who'll let you take off their shirt. And possibly everything else -- though skirts are really nice for when she wants to pretend she doesn't do that sort of thing.

Dean glanced up at Dad, saw that he was still reading over the articles. It wasn't that, that was making him feel uneasy with the conversation. He thought about Bethany, and her white-blonde hair and quick smile, her C cup and the way she'd slide up next to him while they were watching hockey games.

She'd been so normal, the girlfriend every red-blooded straight guy would kill himself trying to date. That winter, Dean had caught a glimpse of what his life could have been like.

lawboy: You could've taken my shirt off when I was 16.

Dean scowled hard at the computer screen, trying not to look guilty, trying not to look up at Dad to see if he was looking over to notice Dean trying not to look guilty.

with_boots_on: Shut the fuck up.

lawboy: Granted, you probably couldn't have talked me into wearing a skirt, but that never has seemed to slow you down any.

Dean wanted to reach out and smack his brother -- that would have to wait 'til he got home. He told himself that Dad could easily walk over here any time and ask what they were talking about. Ask to talk to Sam. Anything which meant reading the conversation so far.

with_boots_on: Dennis has a friend -- chick's got a black leather mini skirt that doesn't quite cover her assets. Remind me never to introduce you.

lawboy: Dad's not going to start reading over your shoulder, Dean. Relax.

with_boots_on: You're not the one he's going to kill if he *does*.

lawboy: No one is going to be killing anyone. Well, anyone with the last name Winchester at least. Promise.

with_boots_on: You have no idea what you're talking about. You don't--

He knew Sam was probably just trying to calm him down. But - with all the fighting Sam and Dad had ever done, surely Sam knew the difference between Dad getting pissed off and Dad getting so righteously angry you were better off just shooting yourself and saving him the trouble.

with_boots_on: You have no idea what you're talking about. You don't-- I guess I can just slam the laptop closed if he walks over.

lawboy: He's never read over my shoulder. And there were times I was looking at porn and trying to be casual about it.

with_boots_on: Sam, we always knew when you were looking at porn. Hell, I learned how to use a web browser because I wanted to know what the hell you were looking at. In Dad's day, they had these things called 'magazines' that they kept under the bed.

lawboy: My point is, he never read over my shoulder, no matter what he thought I was looking at.

with_boots_on: Because we *knew*. We didn't have to look to know you were looking at naked girls. And naked guys, and there was that one site with threesomes -- which reminds me, I need to copy your bookmarks onto my computer.

lawboy: Can do that as soon as you get back. Though most of my bookmarks aren't nearly as interesting. But I suppose some of them might come in handy with your homework.

with_boots_on: How is porn going to help with my homework?

Dean typed and hit 'send' before he even remembered that the whole point of the conversation was that he wasn't *going* back to school.

He wanted to smack Sam again.

lawboy: I was thinking of the less porny bookmarks I have, but porn can give you something to look at during study breaks. The ones when I'm not around to distract you.

with_boots_on: I want to know how much the program costs first.

Dean scowled as he sent the message, knowing that Sam was going to, somehow, end up making Dean do exactly what he wanted: enroll in the program he'd already picked.

lawboy: Not enough for you to give it up before you've even started. Dean, please. Let me do this for you. Let *Dad* do this for you.

He rested his hands on the edge of the laptop, knowing what he wanted to say, but knowing that if he did... he'd just have the same argument all over again.

The truth was, he wanted this. He knew it, and apparently Dad and Sam knew it just as well. Even if it was maybe a stupid thing to want. He stared down at the keyboard.

with_boots_on: I

He stopped and stared at the screen. He wanted to type it, that he couldn't do this. He didn't think Sam would believe him -- and it was a pretty fair bet, Dean realised, that if he said no -- Sam would pester him until he gave in, anyway.

with_boots_on: It's hard

lawboy: I know. But it's okay, Dean, really. It's okay to want this, to take this. I promise.

with_boots_on: How can you know that? How do you know this isn't going to be a huge waste of time? What if

Dean yanked his hands back, noticing that he'd accidently hit the enter button and his message had gone through. All he could think about was Kwan. Video games, and Sam, and...everything else he'd ever wanted.

lawboy: I know that because I know you and what you're really worth.

with_boots_on: Fifty bucks.

lawboy: You're worth a lot more than that.

with_boots_on: Not cash. I've had more in trade -- though I swear that couch wasn't worth even the hundred they were asking for.

Dean knew he wasn't being fair -- he'd promised not to throw this in Sam's face. But he was tired and annoyed and...couldn't stop himself.

lawboy: You're worth a lot more than that too.

Dean sighed; trying to keep it quiet a second too late, not wanting to arouse his dad's attention. There was an urge -- a cruel streak, if he had to be honest -- to add up the list of everything he'd done. Throw it in Sam's face...and make him admit maybe he wasn't worth it.

with_boots_on: I wish I were home.

lawboy: I wish you were here too. I miss you already and you haven't been gone even a day yet.

with_boots_on: This poltergeist probably won't take long. But yeah. God, I think we're both girls. Can we get sappier?

lawboy: Probably if we put our minds to it. Or we could just have cyber sex.

with_boots_on: If you make me want sex while Dad's in the room I swear I will kill you. I'm not joking.

lawboy: Phone sex?

with_boots_on: You think I'm kidding. I will KILL YOU and I will never, ever fuck you EVER again.

Dean hit 'send,' then realised what he'd just typed, and he glanced up at his dad. This time, Dad caught his eye, and he said, "You should think about getting some sleep, we've got a lot of work to do tomorrow." He didn't say it like he was chastising Dean, just...that same, weird, casual tone he'd used earlier.

"Yeah, lemme just tell Sammy which end gets the rubber bit," Dean said, grinning.

lawboy: Sure you will. Or I'll fuck you. More likely both. Call me when you get a chance and Dad goes out.

with_boots_on: I gotta crash. Wish us dead things. Er, destroyed dead things. Love you.

lawboy: Love you too. Be careful.

with_boots_on: I'm always careful. Besides, I'm too pretty to ever be in real danger.

lawboy: Yeah, right. Go to sleep, Dean.

with_boots_on: Don't steal my pillow while I'm gone.

Dean mock-glared at the screen, as though Sam could see, then he quickly logged off the chat. His dad was already moving around, getting ready for bed, and Dean was beginning to realise that he really, really, really wanted to be asleep.

He closed the laptop and slid down until his head hit the pillow. He closed his eyes and tried to think about poltergeists, and nothing else.

~~~

It was early morning when Sam's phone rang. Sam was already awake mostly because the absence of Dean beside him in the bed was enough to keep waking him up every time he moved and noticed it. So he was conscious but grumpy when he picked up the phone and muttered something that would pass for "Hello."

"Sam?" It was his dad.

"Dad?" Sam found himself sitting up straighter in bed even though of course his father couldn't see him. "Is everything all right?"

"Yes, yes, it's fine. Did I wake you?" Dad sounded slightly confused.

"Not really," Sam said. "I was about to get up anyway. So Dean's okay?"

"He's asleep," Dad said. "I figured...after last night we'd get a bit of a late start. I wanted to ask you... this school program. It's a good one?" He sounded hesitant, which didn't really surprise Sam at all. This wasn't the kind of conversation they were used to having.

But it was the kind that Sam was all for encouraging. Talking with his Dad about something other than a hunt was something that he once thought would never happen. He was happy every time he was proven wrong on that.

Especially when they were talking about Dean. "Yes, sir," he replied. "It's the best of all the ones I could find."

"Good, good. I know you wouldn't let him pick something that was a scam, but.. well, it should be a good school." From the way he said it, Sam could hear what his dad was thinking. Nothing but the best for my boy.

Normally he said it about handguns and ammo.

That he was saying it now about this made something inside Sam relax just a tiny bit more. "He let me do the initial research and I didn't give him any choices but the best I could find. I didn't want him... settling, y'know?"

There was silence for a moment. "Yeah. Sam, you.. you make sure you get him enrolled."

"Already started on that," Sam replied, relaxing even more as it became evident he had an ally in his father in this. "All the paperwork is done, just need to submit his transcripts and a check to pay for it on Monday." He paused and added softly, "I won't let him back out."

"Good. Just...sit on him if you have to." There was a soft sound, almost like a chuckle. "And you'll probably have to." The amusement died away, though, and his dad sighed. "God, I really...." He heard his dad take a deep breath. "I screwed up pretty badly with him, didn't I?"

There was a time in the not too distant past when Sam would have agreed wholeheartedly, but not now. Between the perspective he'd gained from his vision flashes and his own growing closeness with both Dean and their father in different ways, Sam saw things differently now. "You've always done the best you could with us," he told his father. "We didn't turn out too badly all things considered."

Dad laughed, once -- not from real amusement. "All things considered. Yes... Sam, I-- I'll put some money in your bank account, to cover the program. It might not clear right away, but it should only take few days, a week at most."

"Thanks," Sam said, not arguing now any more than he had considered going to their Dad and asking for money before. "It'll help." He paused and then confessed to the one person who might understand, "My whole life he's done everything for me. I just want him to be able to do some things he wants for himself." Sam gave a bark of laughter that wasn't quite humorous. "And I have to fight him harder on that than anyone else."

"I know. I... Sam," Dad said, voice soft. "Did you...know about what he was doing? I mean, before you told me?"

Sam didn't need to ask for clarification on what Dad was referring to. "Some," he admitted softly. "Not exactly how bad it was or how long he'd been... But I knew he was... taking things out in trade sometimes."

"God. I had no idea. I... why would he.... We didn't need anything that badly." He was speaking quietly, and Sam couldn't tell if he was just overcome with emotion, or just trying not to wake Dean.

"Dean... never seemed to consider it a big deal," Sam said, trying to explain something he wasn't sure he fully understood himself. "It was just something else he could do, another way he could help."

There was silence for several moments. Then, "Sam, if you boys ever need anything, don't.... Tell me, OK? Don't let him...."

"Believe me, I won't," Sam replied, letting some of his fierce determination show in his voice.

"Thank you." Dad said it, heartfelt as Sam himself felt. "So," he said, clearly trying to regroup. After a moment it became clear he had no idea what to say, though.

"So have you got a lead on the poltergeist yet?" Sam asked, quite happy to shift the conversation to more familiar territory. That his Dad had even made the effort for more was enough.

"I think so. We have a few places to check out -- there are some reports of something similar happening at three different locations over the last twenty years. We need to find out if they're related."

Sam listened to his father talk with his usual enthusiasm about the hunt and even threw in an idea or two of his own. He found himself actually kind of missing being there and not just because of missing Dean. One thing his vision flashes had taught him was that however much he might yearn for normal, somewhere deep down inside he was as much a born and made hunter as his brother and father.

Soon enough it was time to say goodbye; Dad and Dean needed to get on with the job, and Sam himself had things he needed to do. It was surprisingly easy to end the conversation without any awkwardness or gruffness. No more was said about Dean, or school, though Sam was pretty sure it wasn't anything his dad would forget anytime soon.

Sam finally hung up the phone and was faced with a quiet apartment and a day spent alone.

Well, Deanless at least; he would probably run into other people when he headed out to the library to study. But in some ways it pretty much amounted to the same thing.

At least he had things to do today; if he'd had nothing at all planned, he had a feeling he might end up sitting around the apartment completely wasting the day.

Or checking out flights to Spokane.

He would have to do that some hunt, just to see Dean's face when he showed up.

He told himself that this first time, he'd have to let Dean and Dad hunt alone, just to prove... well, something. That he could let Dean go and do this, so he'd feel free to do it again. Sam didn't want Dean to feel stuck here, no matter what the original excuse for his coming along had been. Sam knew how much Dean loved hunting -- watching his face light up when Dad had invited him had been evidence enough of that, even if Sam hadn't already known.

Even if he didn't really want Dean to go off and leave for days on end, neither did he want Dean to ever feel trapped.

The most important thing he wanted was for Dean to be happy -- really happy. Everything else fell second to that, even his own happiness. Not that that had been a hindrance so far; seeing Dean happy made Sam happier and more content with his life than he had ever dreamed he'd be. It meant things were right in the universe in a very basic, intrinsic way.

Sam realised it was maybe a good thing Dean wasn't there; he'd be laughing at just how sappy Sam was getting.

On the other hand, if Dean were there, Sam wouldn't have to get sappy because he'd be sleeping off some early morning fucking. Or possibly in the middle of mid-morning fucking, it was a close call. Stopping that line of thought before it could get... uncomfortable, Sam got up and headed for the shower.

He managed to keep himself busy with one thing or another until after lunch, when it was time to head out to the library to meet up with Mat and Kerrie from his economics class. He didn't remember them from... before, but Sam wasn't really sure if he would or not.

Things were different now and getting moreso with every passing day; Sam wasn't sure how much relevance what he saw in his vision flashes still had. Considering some of the things he'd seen, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

Sam headed out, catching the bus up to campus.

The ride was pretty short, even with a dozen stops along the way. Not nearly as nice as Dean driving him -- but that had more to do with Dean, than the fact they could drive directly to campus. When he got to the library stop, Sam saw Kerrie and Mat by one of the benches lining the sidewalk.

He got off the bus and headed over to meet them. "Hey guys."

"Hey, how's it going?" Kerrie smiled, hitching her backpack up on her shoulder. Then she glanced past Sam and frowned. "Did you just get off the bus?"

"Yeah. Keen powers of observation, Kerrie."

"Is your boyfriend sick? Or--" Her face suddenly lit up. "Did you break up? Can I call him? I mean, I'm really sorry, that sucks, but you don't mind, right?"

Mat shook his head. "I think you have to wait a couple days before you swoop in."

Sam smiled slightly, not being able to fault Kerrie's taste at all. "Dean's fine. Just had to go out of town on business."

"Oh." Kerrie pouted. She'd never even tried to hide her attraction to Dean -- though Sam knew she respected the fact that he and Dean were together. Sam wouldn't have considered her a friend if he thought she would really try something. Dean, he wasn't worried about.

Not just because Dean knew how good a shot Sam was.

"But if you do ever break up, you'll let me know, right? So I can comfort his broken heart?" She grinned, cheerfully.

"Not going to happen, Kerrie," Sam assured her cheerfully, with the utter confidence of his visions.

"But we're friends! Don't you think I deserve a guy like Dean?" She gave a small pout. "Someone who'll drive me to school, carry my books, make me breakfast..." She shook her head. "If he does the laundry, Sam, I swear I will kill myself. Or you, so I can comfort his broken heart." Kerrie winked.

"We take turns doing the laundry."

"Huh." Kerrie seemed to be considering this as they headed into the library.

Mat, trailing behind Kerrie and Sam, said, "You really can ignore her, you know. She was at the Carburetor last night with some guy named Phil."

"Yeah, but Phil is no Dean." She looked at Sam. "How'd you score someone like him, anyway? Does he have a brother I could have?"

"His brother's just as involved in his relationship," Sam assured her with a straight face.

"There really is another one just like him at home?" Kerrie's eyes widened. "And they're both taken? How is that fair?" She shook her head, angrily. "And I'm stuck with jerks like Danny and Chris and Travis and Marcus."

Sam stared at her. "All at once?" Knowing Kerrie, it was a distinct possibility.

"Eew!" She wrinkled her nose, but she didn't, in Sam's opinion, look entirely put off. "I mean, yeah, I was dating Marcus and Danny at the same time, but not.. you know."

"We don't know," Mat put in. "Please, explain. In detail." They reached the elevator, and Mat hit the button for the third floor, where the study rooms were.

"Please don't," Sam put in, looking at Mat. "Ever heard of TMI?"

"I dunno," Mat said. "I don't have a girlfriend. I have to get my pleasures vicariously."

"I could tell you about how I said goodbye to Dean..." Sam offered helpfully, knowing Mat would turn him down.

"Thanks, but really, I'm not that desperate." Mat shook his head and held up one hand, warding him off.

Ahead of them, Kerrie had found an empty study room, and was holding the door open. "Ooh," she said. "Can I hear?"

"No."

Kerrie looked at Mat. "Tell him you want to hear about it."

Mat dumped his backpack on the table. "Not a chance in Hell."

Sam let a smug expression settle on his face as he sat down and pulled out his laptop.

"Grr. My life is so not fair." Kerrie pulled her books out, letting them slam down onto the table with a loud thump. "And we have this stupid test on Monday, which means my partying time is being seriously cut into. I could be visiting the Bay right now."

"I could have gone with Dean," Sam pointed out. "We all have to make sacrifices."

"I'm really not sacrificing anything," Mat said. "I have no life. I'm a pathetic loser." He gave a determined nod, and opened up his textbook. "A pathetic loser who is not listening to you talking about the fun things you could be doing."

"Yeah," Sam said, thoughtfully looking at his friend, knowing how very easily that could be him saying those things if the vision flashes hadn't changed his choices. "Y'know, Dean would say we need to get you laid."

Mat sighed. "If he's got a friend, send her my way."

They settled down to study. The class wasn't one Sam remembered from before -- it would have been nice if his visions included the stuff he'd learned the first time around. But understanding the information was still pretty easy, if dry and more than a little boring.

Finally, after about an hour, Kerrie leaned back and tossed her pencil down. "My brain is stuck. I need a break. Preferably on a beach with a surfer boy bringing me a Pepsi." She sighed, shaking her head at the books spread out over the table. "Your boyfriend is lucky he doesn't have to do this stuff anymore."

"Actually," Sam said leaning back in his own seat, "Dean's thinking of taking a couple of courses online. Getting his feet wet." He didn't mention that it was for his high school diploma, but the idea that Dean was taking classes too might help him fit in with Sam's friends better. Not that he had seemed to need much help in that direction so far, he had to admit.

"For grad school?" Kerrie asked.

"He's not that old," Mat put in.

"He totally is," Kerrie retorted. "I saw his driver's license."

Sam stared at Kerrie. "When were you looking at Dean's license?"

"He was buying us beer." She waved a hand, then looked guilty. "Unless you weren't supposed to know about that in which case I didn't say a word?"

"Only if I didn't get any of it myself," Sam said solemnly.

"He said something about it being girly beer," Kerrie said.

Dean would. "When was this, anyway?" Sam asked, trying to figure out when Dean could have been hanging out with his friends when he wasn't around.

"Couple weeks ago. I stopped by to pick up those notes you said I could borrow and I was talking about the party Cherise was having and how Marcus wouldn't buy us any beer because his fake ID is crap and he's scared of getting arrested. I wasn't.. you know, I wasn't thinking about him buying it but he offered. Who am I to turn him down?" She smiled, and Sam had a feeling that one of Dean's charming smiles had been involved in Kerrie's willingness to let him help.

"He always has been ready to help corrupt people," Sam said with a fond smile.

"See! I keep volunteering, but you won't let me," Kerrie said.

"Kerrie, you don't need any more corrupting," Mat put in. "Maybe you should try going after someone who isn't happily married."

Sam blinked; no one had ever referred to him and Dean as married before.

"You are," Mat said, sounding like he was breaking news. "Maybe not legally, but.. dude, you are totally married."

Kerrie was nodding. "The way he looks at you when you aren't looking -- my grandma looks at my grandpa like that and they've been together for forty years. Not in a 'wanna have sex' way because eew. But... like you're the best thing ever."

Sam felt his face heat a little at Kerrie's description, but it wasn't one he could gainsay. He knew how Dean felt about him with almost the same certainty as he knew his own feelings for Dean. "He's the best thing in my life," he admitted with a small smile.

"Yeah, we know," Mat said, rolling his eyes.

"You look at him the same way." Kerrie explained, and smiled -- dreamily, which was actually a little frightening. "It's so romantic. You act like you've been together forever, and it's only been, what? I mean, you're only eighteen." She leaned forward, elbows on the table, eager for details.

"We've known each other since we were kids," Sam said carefully, giving as much of the truth as he could. "It feels like I've always known him, really."

"Oh, yeah?" Kerrie asked. "So your parents... they know?" She paused, clearly realising she'd stumbled on a potentially difficult subject.

Sam stumbled over the response too, mostly because they hadn't discussed whose Dad they were going to say their father was if he ever came visiting. "It's known we're living together," he finally said even more carefully.

"But they don't realise you're sleeping together?" Mat said, looking at Sam carefully. "They think you're just roommates?"

"It's known we're living together," Sam repeated again, refusing to give any more details that they'd have to live up to later.

Both Kerrie and Mat stared at him with similar expressions of confusion, though Kerrie's cleared a moment later. "Your parents know and pretend they don't know? My mom's like that with my older sister -- she's a Wiccan, and Mom is all 'oh, and church this, and Pastor Jim that' whenever she comes home." She waved a hand, as if encompassing the inanities of parents everywhere.

"Pastor Jim?" Sam asked. It was most likely that it wasn't the Pastor Jim he knew, but it never hurt to ask.

"Yeah, I know - seems weird to call your Pastor by his first name, doesn't it? But.. Pastor Jim has always had us call him that." Kerrie shrugged. "He's cool, though.. sometimes he's a little...strange. Not bad strange, just...he gets really intense, sometimes when he talks about...stuff. But maybe that's why he's a pastor, I guess."

"What... Is his name Jim Murphy?" Sam asked.

Kerrie boggled at him. "Oh my god, yes. Do you -- how do you know him? The congregation is tiny, I've never...." She frowned, and tilted her head. "I've never seen you there before. How do you know Pastor Jim?"

Beside them, Mat began humming the theme to the Twilight Zone. Kerrie stuck her tongue out at him.

"He's an old friend of my Dad's," Sam said honestly, a little boggled at this connection. And possibly also a little freaked out.

"Oh my god!" Kerrie looked a little freaked out, herself. "Is your dad from Blue Earth?" She frowned, and Sam didn't blame her -- the last time they'd been to Blue Earth, the town's population had been something like 3,000 people. "I don't know any Winchesters," she said thoughtfully. "Was he a war buddy? Pastor Jim never talks about it, but he was in Vietnam."

"Yeah," Sam said, grateful for the simple explanation. "My dad's an ex-Marine."

"That's so cool!" Kerrie bounced in her seat. "I can't wait to tell Mom, and she'll be so thrilled to tell Pastor Jim I know one of his friends' kids. How weird is that?"

"Yeah, the world is really small," Sam said, forcing a smile. He wasn't go to freak out. Even if the thought of Kerrie telling Pastor Jim all about going to school with Sam Winchester and his boyfriend Dean had his stomach clenching.

Maybe -- possibly -- the message would get so garbled that Pastor Jim would end up only hearing that Kerrie knew Sam and Dean, and any of Kerrie's romantic notions of how wonderful it was that Sam and Dean were in love would...

He needed to call Dean.

"I..uh..." he said, standing up. "Just need to..." He gestured in the direction of the bathrooms.

Kerrie and Mat didn't say a word as he left -- which made sense, there was nothing wrong with having to go take a piss. Sam walked past the bathrooms and into an empty study room, already pulling out his phone and dialling as he walked.

It didn't take long -- halfway into the first ring -- before he heard Dean's voice. "Hey, Sammy." He sounded happy.

Just hearing Dean's voice steadied Sam. "Hi Dean," he said. "Hunt going well?"

"Oh, yeah," Dean said, completely sarcastically. "We've been going from one end of town to the other, digging through news archives and county records and surveyors' maps. Real thrill-a-minute stuff."

Those were the parts of the job Dean had never really enjoyed -- he liked dealing with people, and things he could destroy. Still, even if this wasn't the part that was Dean's favourite, he sounded like he was enjoying himself, and Sam was struck not for the first time by just how much hunting meant to his brother.

"Hang on a sec," Dean said, then he heard his brother saying something -- sounded like he was talking to Dad. That was confirmed when he heard his dad's voice, then there was a pause -- then the noise of traffic and wind and Sam realised Dean had gone outside. "OK. Hey. Miss you."

"Miss you, too," Sam said, the words coming out more heartfelt than he'd intended. "I don't like waking up alone anymore."

Dean laughed. "Yeah -- thought about saying you should have come with me, but.. sharing a bed with Dad in the room? Not a good idea." Dean sounded more amused by the prospect than freaked out.

"Yeah, that could be... problematic," Sam agreed, and took a deep breath before moving to the reason he felt he needed to call. "Speaking of possible problems, we might have one. Or maybe not. I could just be overreacting and freaking out over nothing..."

"What's up?" Suddenly Dean was all business.

"You know Kerrie?"

"Cute blonde, from your economics class? Yeah -- hey, if this is about me buying her beer... what the hell do you care? I buy you beer all the time."

"She's from Blue Earth," Sam said.

There was the slightest pause, then, "She knows Pastor Jim?" Dean said, with audible trepidation.

"Yeah. And she thinks we're cute. Cute enough to talk about."

"We are cute enough to talk about," Dean retorted, but from the stunned way he said it, Sam knew the impact was not lost on him. A second later, Dean said, "Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck us both, sideways."

"Yeah. And I was so surprised to hear her talking about Pastor Jim that I told her I knew him," Sam admitted, realising now that that had been his mistake. "I'm sorry."

"Would that matter? If she knows him, she'd talk about us anyway sooner or later. Blue Earth is a tiny fucking town, everyone knows everyone else."

"We're lucky we never ran into Kerrie when we were staying with Pastor Jim," Sam said, thinking what a mess they'd been in now if she'd had.

"Yeah. She's gonna tell him all about us, isn't she?" Dean asked, in a hushed tone.

"Probably, yeah. Dean..." Sam trailed off, not sure what he wanted to say.

"Soon as Pastor Jim hears, he'll tell Dad."

"Yeah. We have to..." Again Sam trailed off, feeling lost.

There was a pause, then, in a quiet, tight voice, Dean said, "I have to tell Dad."

"No," Sam said immediately. He swallowed hard. "Not... at least not alone. If we have to tell him, we do it together."

There was no response, and Sam knew what Dean was thinking -- that he'd protect Sam. Give himself up as the target.

"Together, Dean," he repeated. "Promise me."

"What if he asks?" Dean asked. "Sam, I can't lie to him." He laughed, once, harshly. "I tried last night; I suck at lying to him."

"It's not likely to come up in random conversation," Sam said. "Not in...however long it'll take me to get there. I doubt Kerrie's making a special phone call right now to tell Pastor Jim about us or anything."

"You're...coming up here?" Dean sounded surprised -- but also quite clearly hopeful. Though maybe the longing Sam heard was as much due to the fact that they missed each other than anything else.

"Well, this isn't really something we can break to Dad over the phone, and I'm not letting you do this by yourself," Sam pointed out. "So yeah, looks like I am."

"I--" Dean sounded happy, then, "How are you gonna get up here? Sammy, if you hotwire a car....make it a good one."

Sam chuckled at this typical Dean advice. "I was thinking I might fly up. Could you pick me up at the airport if I do?"

"I dunno, Sammy," Dean drawled, voice thick with sarcasm. "Maybe I'll just go grab a pizza instead. Moron."

"Just checking," Sam defended himself. "You could be really hungry for pizza, after all."

"Sam, you're a dickhead." Dean's voice changed, then, casual and friendly and distant. "I gotta get back to work. Some of us have important things to do."

"I'll call when I know when I'll be getting in," Sam promised, then after a pause added, "Love you."

"Asshole," Dean responded, in a cheerful tone. Then the call was disconnected from Dean's end.

Sam stood there listening to dead air for a moment, before shaking himself and taking a deep breath. Dialing another number, he set about booking himself airline tickets to Spokane.

~~~

Dean was sitting in the airport terminal of what he thought was a pretty small airport. He'd only been in one airport before -- Chicago -- and that one had been a huge, freaking, confusing mess. Spokane's International Airport had four terminals and barely more than 30 gates. Sam was coming in at gate 2 according to the monitors, and Dean had been sitting there waiting for him for probably an hour longer than he'd needed to be.

He'd already figured out exactly where baggage claim was -- though he didn't know if Sam would bother with checking a bag. He'd paid way too much for a crappy cup of coffee, and was trying to browse a newspaper when really all he was doing was trying not to freak out.

It was a really good thing he didn't have to get on a plane. His head would have exploded.

Finally they announced the arrival of Southwest Airlines flight 251 from Oakland. Dean set the paper aside and stood up, hovering -- not too closely -- and waited for Sam.

Sam was one of the first people off the plane, backpack slung over his shoulder. He looked around, eyes lighting up when he spotted Dean and made his way over to him. Dean had to hold his hands down at his sides -- wanting to grab Sam and kiss him senseless. But even with Dad waiting for them back at the motel, he didn't feel safe letting himself touch his brother. "Hey."

"Hey," Sam replied and Dean could see the same desire in his expression. It made Dean almost go ahead and grab him -- but the whole reason Sam was here was not because they were pussies who couldn't stand to be apart for 24 hours.

Even if Dean was really, really happy to have Sam here.

He was here because they had to tell Dad. Dean felt all his amusement die away. He reached out for Sam's bag -- not quite like hugging him, but good enough. "How was your flight?" he asked, not that he really cared.

Sam's fingers brushed deliberately against Dean's as he let him take the bag. "It was fine. How's the job going?"

Dean shrugged. "Fine. Dad-- he thinks you're coming up to help. He's really...happy about it." Dad hadn't said as much, of course, just 'fine, all right' when Dean had said he was picking Sam up. But he'd looked happy, in that silent way Dean had learned to interpret.

He turned to lead Sam out, wanting to get out of the airport and back to the car.

Maybe they could run for Mexico.

He felt Sam following right on his heels, almost close enough to feel the heat of his body. Neither of them said anything else until they got back to the car. The moment they were both inside, Sam was sliding across the front seat to hug Dean like his life depended on it.

Dean held onto him, pressing his face into Sam's shoulder and feeling like they'd been separated for months. Maybe it was just fear.

"What the hell are we going to say?" He couldn't tell if Sam could even hear him; he could barely make it out himself with his voice muffled against Sam's jacket.

If anything Sam's grip tightened. "I've been thinking about that. Maybe... maybe we don't have to tell him."

Dean froze, then whipped his head up to stare at Sam. "What?" His fingers tightened on Sam's arm. "Sam, I told you -- I can't lie to him."

"It won't be lying," Sam said, speaking quickly as if he was trying to get the words out before Dean could stop him. "We just don't tell him the whole truth. We tell him that we're living as a couple, but we don't tell him we are... y'know. Not pretending."

It sounded like a good plan -- except Dean knew what Dad would say. "Why are we pretending in the first place?"

"Because 'I'm living with my brother' isn't a good enough reason to get out of having to stay in the dorms to get my scholarship, but 'I'm living with my committed life partner' is," Sam answered immediately, showing that he really had been thinking about it.

Dean stared at him. "Did you say that to the university people? I mean, when you applied? Or did you just make that shit up two seconds ago?" Dean had always been impressed by his brother's ability to bullshit. But he didn't always feel surpassed by said ability -- like he did now.

He wasn't going to tell Sam anything of the sort, though.

He tried to ignore how the words 'committed life partner' made him want to grin like an idiot.

"Well, two hours ago," Sam said with a tilt of his head. "Though I think the admissions people just assumed when I filled out the paperwork with your fake name as emergency contact and all that."

"You think Dad'll buy it?" Dean frowned, and pulled away from Sam before the muscles in his back could tighten up any further.

Sam shrugged. "It has the advantage of being true," he said. "Well, probably true. True enough anyway. And if he does, it gives us the perfect cover for anything that gets back to Dad or that he sees or hears if he comes to Stanford. We're just playing the roles we have to."

"And since we have to live off-campus because of the whole demon thing, it sounds like... well, something he'd approve of." Dean tried to think it over, shoving away the voice in his head that was still trying to freak out about the idea of Dad knowing. He glanced over at Sam. "And the reason you dropped everything and flew up here?"

"I finished my paper early and I missed you," Sam said. "Both of you. Which is mostly the truth, too."

Slowly, Dean nodded. It sounded like this was going to work. But he reached over and took Sam's hand, threading their fingers together. "Sam... if he asks. If Dad looks me in the eye and asks -- I can't lie to him." Dean looked over at his brother, hoping he could make Sam understand. "Not because I want to and I suck at it, even though when it comes to Dad I really do. But -- I can't... I can't lie to him. I'd rather tell him and have him disown us both and have to spend the rest of our lives hiding from him, than...." He shook his head, not able to think of the words to explain how he felt.

"I know," Sam said softly, tightening his grip on Dean's hand. "I'm not sure I could lie to him if he asked me directly, either. It's okay. If that happens, we'll deal. Together." He gave Dean a faint smile. "The trick is to try and keep him from asking."

Smiling back, Dean asked, "And what do we say when we wake up in the morning and we're wrapped around each other like usual?" Dad aside, he was looking forward to that -- although he had a feeling it might be safer all around if he and Sam slept in separate beds.

Sam chuckled. "Dean, we've always woken up that way when we shared a bed. Even before we...."

"Yeah, but lately when I wake up plastered against you, I've already got my hand down your boxers." He gave his brother's crotch a leer. It wasn't precisely true -- normally he was awake before he started playing around. But not always.

"Guess you'll have to concentrate extra hard on keeping your hands to yourself," Sam told him breezily, then shifted in his seat in such a way as to make his jeans tighter in the area that Dean was leering at.

"Or I'll just remember to call you 'Doug'." Dean thought about reaching over and helping Sam with his jeans, but he figured maybe the airport parking lot wasn't nearly as private as it ought to be for that sort of thing.

Luckily, the drive to Clayton had several places where they could pull off.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?" Dean started the engine, and only as he was pulling his hand back did he realise that he'd stroked the dashboard.

"We're going somewhere to have sex, aren't we?"

"There's a couple places we can stop along the way, yeah. Can you hold it for fifteen minutes?"

Sam laughed, the sound low and deep and going straight to Dean's cock. "I was going to ask you that."

"I know I can hold it," Dean said, with a confidence that was completely faked. But he was already pulling the car out of the parking area, and it wouldn't be impossibly long before he got them someplace reasonably private. He glanced at Sam and thought about what he wanted. "I could tell you about the blow job I'm gonna give you," he offered casually.

He watched Sam's eyes darken at the offer. "Well, we have to talk about something while we're driving," he replied just as casually.

"Yeah." Dean nodded. "Although...what I'd like, you shouldn't do while I'm driving."

"I remember the rule. No blowjobs while the car is in motion," Sam recited.

"No, no, this isn't a rule. Yet. It's gonna have to be, though." The cars around them were really starting to annoy Dean more than a little -- every ounce of attention he had to give them was attention away from Sam, and sex. Which, OK, while driving was a good thing. Hence the no blowjobs while the car is in motion rule. "When the hell did we make that a rule, anyway?"

"Day after we almost ran into the ditch when I was... exploring." Sam made 'exploring' sound like the dirtiest word ever.

Right, Dean remembered that day. He tried not to think too much about it because -- driving. "Well, here's another rule: no talking me to orgasm while I'm driving."

Sam was silent for a moment. Then asked curiously, "So you think I could really do that then? Make you come without touching you?"

Dean whimpered, because he knew Sam could. "New rule: no talking about talking me to orgasm, either." He wanted to pull over and grab his cock, but there was no place to do so that wouldn't get them arrested five minutes later.

"I really could?" Sam repeated. He seemed to be fascinated by the concept.

With a strangled laugh, Dean said, "You remember when you were practising your lines for Our Town? And I pretty much left the room whenever I could?"

"Yeah. I know I was driving you crazy with it, but you never said a word." Sam smiled. "I always appreciated that."

"Dimwit. I was in the other room, jerking off."

There was silence from the other side of the car.

Plowing ahead, Dean admitted, "When you were practising that speech on voter rights for your history class? Every time you ever worked on your Latin exorcism rites...." He glanced over. "So you talking to me and trying to get me off? Yeah. Is gonna work."

"Dude you got off on me talking about voter's rights?" Sam asked disbelievingly.

"I had my hand on my dick," Dean pointed out, defensively. Sam was right, though -- the speech hadn't been exactly stimulating. But-- "I like your voice," he said.

He'd once deliberately gotten Sam pissed off at him, then he'd locked himself in the bathroom with Sam on the other side, banging on the door and screaming at him. Screaming, so that his voice dipped way down 'til Dean could practically feel it in his cock. He'd jerked off, listening to his brother shout -- at the time he'd hated himself for it, and Dean had spent the next several weeks trying to make it up to him.

"Huh," Sam said in a tone of enlightenment. "So phone sex would be....?"

"Not when I'm driving. Or on a hunt with Dad. Or when I'm about to run out of minutes," Dean listed. "Otherwise, yeah. It'd be good." Given how hard he was, Dean thought it was maybe obvious that 'good' was an understatement.

Sam took that in and nodded. "We'll have to do that then."

"Sounds better than ice cubes," Dean said. He still wasn't sure Sam hadn't been putting him on with that.

"I could talk about ice cubes."

"That would be safer than trying to stick one in my ass," Dean told him. "You can talk about anything you want." It occurred to him, too late, that he might not have wanted to admit that. Well, then, if Sam hadn't realised it from Dean's confession about the speech on voter's rights....

"Even how much I love you?" Sam asked.

Dean tensed, without meaning to. Hell, talk about being blindsided. He unclenched his jaw, because he didn't want to piss Sam off -- but there wasn't anything he could say to that.

Sam reached over and patted Dean's leg. "That's okay," he said kindly. "We'll work up to it."

He tried to make himself relax; the turnoff was coming up in a couple miles, he remembered seeing it on the drive to the airport. Made note of it, because he'd had a feeling there would be some sex in the car on the drive back to Clayton. He felt like jumping out of the car and shooting something, though. There was even a sawed-off shotgun in the trunk that would be perfect. All he needed was a ghost.

If Sam was aware of his sudden twitchiness, he didn't let on, continuing on in a casual tone, "I guess I'll just have to talk about some of my fantasies then. Like, say, you fucking me over the hood of the car."

Dean coughed. "You could. I could." He had a sudden image, and he knew that right at that very moment the hood was probably not too warm. Fucking traffic. He glared at the Spokane outskirts, wishing they would go the hell away already.

Sam smirked. "Figured that would be one you liked, considering how you feel about your car."

Shifting his glare to Sam, Dean said, "I thought teasing me about the car was off-limits."

"Who's teasing? I'm just stating a fact."

Dean squirmed in his seat, mostly because the conversation wasn't doing much for his ability to drive comfortably -- and he knew if he tried to unzip and give himself a little room, he'd better be ready to slam on the brakes and stop driving all together.

"How much longer until we can stop?" Sam asked.

"Six and a half minutes." Dean glanced down at the speedometer to confirm his speed, and checked his calculation again. "Six if we don't get Ma and Pa Podunk leaving town in their 1932 pickup."

Sam nodded, looking he was doing mental calculations. "I better stay quiet for at least the next four minutes then."

Dean frowned. "Two minutes."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "Two minutes?"

"Stay quiet for two minutes."

"You think you can handle me talking dirty while you're driving for four minutes?"

"I think it's better than the alternative, which is me thinking about you talking dirty for four minutes." Dean glanced down at the speedometer again; going a little faster. They'd probably make it to the turnoff in four and a half more minutes.

"Don't think about it then," Sam said in his utmost reasonable tone. Which didn't make it any less unreasonable.

Dean gave Sam a dry look. "Yeah." Because he hadn't stopped thinking about it since they'd got in the car -- well, since he'd left the motel to pick Sam up and he'd taken note of all the places they could pull over. There were three good spots, and two more 'will do if we're desperate' spots.

Clayton was only 35 miles away from the airport.

"Think of something else," Sam suggested. "Something.... unsexy."

Dean gave him another raised eyebrow, asking Sam if he was kidding. "I could think about what Dad will say if he catches us," he said, sarcastically.

Sam made a face. "That might be a little too unsexy," he said mildly.

"It's all I got," Dean told him. "I'd say you could tell me about something unsexy, but that would still be you talking to me, and I think voter's rights have proven it really doesn't matter what you say. Not that it wasn't a good paper," he added.

"It got an A," Sam said just a little bit smugly.

"Did you ever not get an A on a paper?"

Sam frowned, obviously thinking. "I got a B once in 4th grade."

Dean glanced over, saw the look on his brother's face. "You're serious. You got one B? Ever?"

"Well, that I can remember," Sam admitted. "Maybe in kindergarten..."

"Your kindergarten teachers loved you to pieces and always gave you those gold stars on your papers."

"Then no, no other B's."

Dean didn't say anything for a moment. Sometimes his brother was just...scary.

"Dean?" Sam asked after a moment.

"You sure you won't do my homework for me?" He remembered getting A's in his math classes, sometimes. And he'd always got A's in elementary school when he told the teacher how his dad had been sick or out of town and he'd been taking care of Sammy and hadn't had time to do his homework.

"You don't need me to do your homework," Sam told him with complete confidence.

"But it'd be easy for you," Dean said, wheedling just a tiny bit. It occurred to him a second later that of course it'd be easy, because it was high school and Sam was-- Dean slammed the brakes on that train of thought, then saw the turnoff up ahead.

What he wanted was sex to take his mind off it.

"It's going to be easy for you, too," Sam told him. He looked out the windshield. "Is that the turnoff?"

"It wasn't easy the first time," Dean said, and he checked the traffic in every possible direction because there was no way he was going to risk being hit by a truck this close to his blowjob.

"The first time you were spending all your time looking out for me," Sam pointed out.

"There was one week I missed school because of Rebecca." Dean smiled at the memory. Hell, but she'd been hot. Sassy, agile, and her daddy had had a freaking mansion. Parents off to Europe, and Rebecca had been bored, poor girl.

"Well, that's not something you have to worry about anymore either," Sam said darkly.

"She was hot," Dean said, giving his brother a cocky grin. He knew Sam got jealous, but... he found himself wanting to reassure Sam that Rebecca hadn't been one of those partners. "The only thing I got from her was a week of great sex, free drugs, and missed school."

Sam frowned faintly. "There aren't going to be any more Rebeccas."

"You're saying you won't distract me from my homework by walking around naked?" Dean saw the abandoned gas station ahead, and he headed for it.

"Was that what she did?"

"The first day she was in a bikini. After that, she didn't really bother getting dressed." Dean shook his head, as if thinking of it fondly. In reality, his cock was damn near jumping at the way Sam was almost growling at him.

"Y'know, you really don't need to sound so much like you want to repeat the week," Sam said, crossing his arms over his chest and staring out the window. Oh yeah, his brother was definitely pissy.

"You don't wanna have sex for a week and skip class?" Dean asked, confused. He wondered just how serious Sam thought he was, though, about caring at all about Rebecca. As he pulled the car behind the gas station, hiding them perfectly from the road, he asked carefully, "Sam? You know I meant it, when I said I wasn't going to sleep with anyone else?"

Sam sighed and the tension seemed to ease out of his shoulders a little. "I know," he said in a softer voice.

"So are we cool, or are you gonna sit over there wondering if I'd rather be out there with some chick with a C cup?"

Sam looked over at him with a faintly worried frown. "You're not...?"

Dean rolled his eyes, and resisted the urge to smack his brother. "Sam, if I wanted some chick I'd go get one. But, god help me, I want you. If I didn't, I wouldn't be with you."

"You flirt with Kerrie," Sam blurted.

"I what?" Dean was glad he'd already stopped the car. He switched off the ignition and turned to stare at his brother. "When did I... wait, the beer thing?" He tried to remember if he'd done anything more than just be friendly. He hadn't; hell, Kerrie knew that he and Sam were a couple, so she shouldn't have thought he was serious.

Sam shook his head. "Forget it. I'm being stupid, I know."

"Hey." Dean reached over and put his hand on Sam's arm. "It isn't stupid. Well, it is stupid, because I didn't mean to flirt with her. I was just-- she's a friend of yours, I was trying to be nice."

"She has the hots for you," Sam told him, though he leaned towards Dean just a little.

"Sammy, everyone has the hots for me. Mr. Drake down the street has the hots for me, and he's 82." He shook his head, wondering how to get it into his brother's brain that he wasn't going anywhere. He reached up and tugged Sam's chin around to look at him. "Sam, I'm willing to risk losing the second most important thing in the fucking world, in order to keep you."

Sam sighed and moved into Dean's arms. "I know. I do. I just... I'm being stupid."

Pulling Sam close, Dean pressed a kiss to the top of his head. "Is there something I can do?" He should probably offer to stop flirting, but half the time he didn't even know what he'd done until Sam called him on it. But it seemed like it always upset him, so maybe he should at least try to stop doing it.

"I dunno," Sam said, snuggling closer. "I mean, it would probably help if I didn't have to hear how great Rebecca was and how much you loved sleeping with her with so much enthusiasm. Like... you miss it."

"Sam." Dean pulled Sam around so he could look him in the eye. "I don't miss Rebecca. The great thing about that was taking a week off school and doing nothing but enjoy myself. Hell, it coulda been anyone. It could have been no one."

Sam leaned in, resting his forehead against Dean's. "I told you I'm being stupid," he said softly.

"Yeah, you are." He gave Sam a quick kiss.

"I don't even know why this is bugging me now," Sam said sounding exasperated, but not at Dean. "I mean it's not that I think I have anything to worry about with you or anything."

"Don't you? You're not worried about me...picking a nice girl because it'd be a hell of a lot easier to tell Dad about? Or even a nice boy? That maybe I was right to hate myself for wanting you like this?" He swallowed, and said, "You're not worried about us needing something we can't pay for and me deciding to sleep with someone to get it?"

In retrospect, Dean thought maybe Sam had a lot of reasons to worry about what Dean was going to do.

"No," Sam said sharply. He leaned in and kissed Dean gently. "I know where your heart lies."

Dean waited until it seemed like Sam was willing to stop kissing -- it took a minute, and Dean thought maybe the conversation could be over, instead, and they could have sex. But then the kiss broke off, and Dean looked at his brother. "So why are you freaking out about it?" he asked, willing to forego sex to keep having this conversation, if Sam really needed to.

"I don't know," Sam said, shrugging with bewildered honesty. "Guess this whole potential crisis is getting to me maybe? Or maybe it was Kerrie going on and on about how if we ever break up she wants first crack at you..."

Dean wrinkled his nose at the thought of dating Kerrie. "Wait, who said we were breaking up?" Maybe there was another reason Sam was freaking out? There was no way Sam could have been thinking about it, without Dean having had some kind of clue before now.

"Kerrie and Mat were teasing me about it when I showed up on the bus instead of you dropping me off," Sam explained.

"Oh." Dean thought about it, then grinned.

"What?"

Dean shrugged. "I like.. that they think we're attached at the hip." He nudged his hips upward, emphasising the point. "So they tease you about us breaking up just because I'm not dropping you off." It wasn't quite like writing his name on Sam's ass, but it was close. Maybe he could write it on some of Sam's books, though. "Hands off - Dean W."

"We are practically attached at the hip," Sam pointed out, sliding a hand down over Dean's hips as he spoke. "Mat thinks we're married."

Dean smiled, and was seized by the urge to kiss his brother, hard. "Aren't we?" he asked, instead.

"More or less," Sam agreed. "I never really thought of it that way though. You're -- we're -- just a given. Inevitable and essential. Like oxygen."

"Water," Dean corrected. "Oxygen and hydrogen, and don't bitch at me about being one oxygen to two hydrogens. You're not that much taller than me." He gave Sam a kiss, then said, "We must be married; we have the same last name." He tried to fight the grin -- because Dad was only about twenty five miles away, and in a couple hours they were going to have to pretend they were brothers who would never even dream of this sort of thing.

Sam kissed him then shook his head. "Married isn't a big enough word for what we are." He smiled slightly. "I suppose it'll do as a description for lack of a more accurate one."

"Carbon monoxide."

Sam chuckled. "Something a little less deadly."

"Hey, we're deadly. And there's one carbon, one oxygen... you wanna be nitric oxide?"

Sam just stared at him then shook his head. "You are so weird sometimes."

Dean frowned. "How am I weird? Sam, did you sleep through all of Dad's lectures about fuels and flammable gases?"

"You're comparing us to one of Dad's lectures on fuels and flammable gases," Sam pointed out.

"To make it one atom each, not -- fuck, I am a moron. Sodium chloride."

Sam chuckled. "And you don't think you're smart."

Frowning again, Dean said, "Sam, we learned about salt when we were kids. I was five the first time Dad showed me how to pour a ring around the bed."

"You're smart," Sam said, then leaned in to give Dean a long lingering kiss.

"Whatever." Dean thought Sam was trying to distract him, but from what he couldn't figure out. Being married? Kerrie? Finally having some sex so he could walk into the motel room without sporting a hard-on?

"And I?" Sam said in between kisses. "Like smart guys."

"Don't you mean smartasses?"

"If that's where your brains are..."

"I can tell you where all my blood is," Dean said, hopefully rubbing his crotch against Sam's hip.

Sam grinned at him. "Still want to fuck me over the hood?"

"You think you can hide it from Dad?"

"Unless you're planning on getting a lot kinkier than I've been thinking..."

"Dirty laundry? That well-fucked smirk?" Dean gestured at Sam's face, but really he was hoping Sam would say yes, he could hide all traces of Dean fucking him.

"I'll just have to make sure there's no clothes in the way to get dirty," Sam said. "As for the other," he shrugged. "Maybe I joined the mile high club on the way here."

"Sammy!" Dean gasped. "You dog!" He gave Sam a gentle push. "Get out. Hood." He scrambled behind him for the door handle, because if he was going to get to fuck Sam, he wanted to stop talking and start fucking, already.

Laughing, Sam complied with Dean's orders, getting out and leaning casually on the hood of the car.

"Hood cool enough?" Dean put his hand on the metal, and it seemed OK to him, but it wasn't going to be his bare ass -- though it could be, if Sam said it was too warm still. Dean didn't care about a little contact burn.

"Yeah," Sam said. "Good thing it's cloudy."

"You wanna lie on the hood, legs in the air? Or just stand up and lean forward against the car?"

Sam's eyes darkened at the question. "You have a preference?" he asked, voice going low and husky like it always did when he was aroused.

Dean shrugged. "When it's me, I like to be standing. Um--" He decided not to say that was maybe because he'd never been fucked on a car by Sam. He tried to picture his brother in either position.

Christ, he needed to fuck Sam. Right fucking now.

Sam's gaze on him was almost like a physical touch. "Yeah, but how do you want me?"

"On the hood." He got a hand on Sam's chest and pushed him backwards, and fumbled for his zipper. Then again, he'd rather be undressing Sam. He got his hands onto Sam's waistband and fumbled with the top button.

"You want me naked?" Sam asked in a low voice that had more than a hint of growl to it.

"Pants down'll be fine," Dean managed. "You don't have to waste time stripping."

"But might be good to make sure my clothes stay clean," Sam said thoughtfully, then pulled his shirt up over his head.

"Fine, fine, strip, I'm not complaining. Unless you take your sweet fucking time." Dean had his jeans unzipped and his cock in his hand and Sam wasn't on the hood yet.

Sam chuckled as he quickly set about undressing. "You're just so romantic," he teased.

"I'll buy you some flowers later. Get naked so I can fuck you, unless you wanna watch me masturbate on you."

"Pushy," Sam accused, shedding the last of his clothes and then moving back to leaning against the edge of the hood.

"I'm not.. Jesus Christ." Dean stared. Sam, naked, on the hood of the car. Looking like he was just waiting to be fucked -- Dean was kinda surprised he didn't come, right there.

He swallowed, and fumbled for the inside pocket of his jacket. He'd stashed some packets of lube, thinking -- looking for places they could have sex on the way to Clayton, because he'd thought that one way or another this would be his last chance to touch his brother.

Sam looked amused. "No, you're not Jesus. I don't want Jesus to fuck me, I want you to fuck me." He slid back a little until he was more firmly sitting on the hood.

Dean took a step forward, then another until he could get his hands on Sam's thighs. Squeezed them, then pushed, gently, because he didn't want to force Sam, just...encourage him to lay down, spread for him.

Sam leaned forward and kissed him, devouring his mouth roughly before pulling back and, with a smirk, leaning back against the hood, his entire body an invitation.

"And you call me a slut," Dean said, and he got the packet of lube open, and spread some on his fingers. One hand on Sam's leg, again, gripping the hard muscles and pushing the leg up. Opening Sam even more when he slid his fingers inside.

Sam gasped, his head falling back. "Just following your lead," he said, voice catching as Dean's fingers moved.

"I think you have a... sex outdoors kink," Dean said, knowing he wasn't making much sense but not really caring because Sam was naked on the hood of his car and Dean could feel parts of his brain breaking.

He made a noise that almost felt as painful as it sounded, and he gripped his cock, smearing lube on it as fast as he could. He couldn't take his eyes, or his hand, off Sammy.

"I have...." Sam groaned. "I have a sex with you kink."

"We can work that in," Dean said, trying to sound casual, but the way he was gasping and moaning made it sound like he was about to come. He slid his cock into Sam's ass, and groaned.

A groan that his brother echoed. "Dean..."

He pulled part way out, and thrust in again, harder. God, he was at the perfect height -- Dean realised he could stand here and fuck Sam all day. The whimper that accompanied that thought made him fight to hold back -- maybe he couldn't manage all day, but he could make it last as long as possible.

Maybe.

Sam lowered his legs as much as he could, wrapping them around Dean as if trying to keep him from escaping. His hands were flat on the car hood, bracing himself against Dean's thrusts.

Thrusting in once, as hard and deep as he could, Dean stopped there, and when he pulled back he began fucking Sam as slowly as he could stand to. He could feel his throat tighten, and he tried to unlock his voice to let the words out. All he could hear was meaningless groans as his voice caught.

Sam didn't seem to be having the same problem as a steady litany of "Dean," "good," "more", and "harder" fell from his lips.

Dean tried to ignore him, concentrating on slow and deep. But he couldn't take his eyes off Sam, spread out on the hood, and yeah, so he had a fucking fetish for his car, and a fetish for Sam, and it was maybe more than a person should ask that he make this last any longer.

"Sam," he breathed, and he let his head fall forward, and that breaking thing he'd felt before was shattering harder.

Sam reached up and rested a hand against Dean's cheek, tracing his lips with his thumb. Dean kissed it, then gave it a lick. Opened his mouth to pull it in, and he lost himself for a moment in just fucking Sam. Fucking him hard, and Dean was still making those noises that he couldn't understand, harsh and painful and like he needed something that he wasn't getting.

"Sam," he begged, and had no idea what he was begging for, just kept fucking Sam and reaching for his hand, trying to get more of him inside Dean.

"Dean," Sam replied, voice catching on the name. "God, you're..."

He wanted to know what -- couldn't ask, because he couldn't get his voice to work. Godawful sounds coming out of him now, and his one hand clenched Sam's thigh, hard enough he didn't know if Sam would be able to walk without wincing. The other hand flat on the hood of the car, warm metal soaking into his skin. The same metal he could feel every time he moved forward, banging his legs against the fender.

Dean cried out and slammed into Sam again, and felt himself about to come. Arms shaking, legs threatening to give out, Dean felt himself starting to fall forward even as he fucked Sam, still, hard as he could.

He heard himself saying Sammy's name, over and over, caught in whispers and each twisted breath that escaped. Sam groaned loudly, the sound taking on a desperate quality as he slid a hand between their bodies and grabbed his own cock, jacking himself off in time with Dean's thrusts.

He wanted to make this last -- knew that was nothing short of impossible because he was losing his fucking mind, but he looked at Sam, watching him as he fucked him, harder, slamming him back against the hood of the car and Dean felt his throat lock, not even breathing as he came. He was aware of Sam watching him the entire time, his gaze holding him, urging him on.

He felt his knees bang into the fender, wondering vaguely if he'd have bruises. How he'd explain them if he had to -- who ever saw his knees but Sam, anyway? He thrust into Sam again, legs and ass shaking with the effort, then Dean froze for a second before falling slowly forward. Arms grabbed him and pulled him close, held him steady, held him tightly, Sam's voice murmuring things to him he wasn't together enough to make out.

Dean tried to tell Sam he was all right, but all that came out was a strangled 'urk' noise. He tried to move his hand towards Sam, wanting to hang onto him. Sam just held him tighter.

After a minute, Dean turned his head and gave Sam's arm a kiss. Then he pried open his eyes and realised that the world hadn't quite stabilised yet. He groaned, loudly. One of Sam's hands found its way into Dean's hair and stroked it lightly.

Much as he wanted to fall into a coma, there was vivid evidence pressing into his hip of something still waiting. Dean moaned as he pushed himself up enough to get a hand on Sam's cock. The sound that came out of Sam's mouth at that first touch was more of a needy whimper than anything else, as Sam pushed his hips up into Dean's grip.

"Love this," Dean said, leaning down. "Your cock in my hand. Get to touch you...." Dean jerked him off with a tight grip, being careful not to jostle his own softening cock out of Sam. Sam was still holding onto him, but now it felt like he was doing it to keep himself from flying apart instead of Dean, fingers digging tightly into flesh.

"You gonna come like this? Bare-ass naked, on the hood of our car? Out here where just about anybody driving by could see your legs in the air, my dick still inside you?"

Dean actually had no idea if talking dirty would turn Sam on or off, but now seemed like as good a chance to find out as any. Sam made this desperate sounding whining moan in the back of his throat as he bucked up into Dean's hand almost violently. Dean reacted quickly, moving his hand to get Sam to come; he made a mental note to find out if what he was saying was having any effect, or if he could be reciting the phone book and Sam would still be this close to coming.

He decided not to risk finding out right then, and instead he leaned down and found a spot of skin near Sam's collarbone, and bit. Sam came, moaning loudly.

Dean moved, a second too late, then just leaned back down and licked the spot he'd been biting. Hell, they'd need a shirt to clean up with afterwards, might as well be this one and hope Dad didn't ask why Dean had left wearing one and returned wearing another.

How many times could he claim to have spilled soda on himself?

Sam had gone completely boneless as he came down from his climax, letting his head fall back to rest against the car's hood. Dean took a moment to just look at him. He was always gorgeous, but like this... Dean leaned down and kissed him, softly.

Then he laid his head on Sam's shoulder and closed his eyes. Possibly not the greatest place for a nap, but Dean didn't care. After a few moments, Sam's hands began to run over his skin lightly, soothingly. He had the vague impression that it should be the other way around -- if Sam had already bounced back, Dean thought maybe they were going to have to use all five stop-for-sex spots he'd scouted out.

He heard Sam sigh in that completely-content-with-the-world way he had, usually heard just before he fell asleep. Dean didn't move a muscle, because if anyone deserved a well-fucked nap, it was the guy who had just been fucked. Sam didn't move either, save to shift his grip on Dean to keep him close.

He'd slept in worse places, Dean figured, as he let his weight settle on his brother.

What felt like a minute later someone was poking him. "Dean. Wake up."

"What?" Dean snapped, or tried to - it sounded like his mouth was taped shut. His back hurt like a bitch -- and he suddenly realised he'd been sleeping bent over on Sam.

Outside in the middle of bumfuck Washington. Literally.

Dean snickered.

"Yeah, laugh it up all you want, just get off me," Sam demanded. "My legs have fallen asleep."

"Sorry." Dean started to shove himself backwards, then pulled away more slowly as he realised he'd still been inside Sam. His back hurt, and he stretched, then pulled off his shirt and used it to wipe himself off. When he was finished, he tossed it on Sam, and zipped up his jeans. More or less clean. "I'm gonna borrow one of your shirts."

"Knock yourself out," Sam said, still sprawled on the car, though he was lazily cleaning himself up with Dean's shirt.

Dean walked around to the trunk, digging for his keys. He'd planned this pretty well, except for bringing a change of clothes. He popped the trunk and grabbed Sam's duffel. Once upon a time, Dean had kept a bag in the car all the time. Not his hunting kit, but just a bag with enough clothes and shit to keep him going for a week -- or forever, if he hit the laundromat.

He grabbed one of Sam's less offensive shirts and put it on. By the time he was closing the trunk up again, Sam had got down off the car and was putting his clothes back on.

Dean stopped and watched him for a moment. There was a moment of something, a feeling that came and went too fast to recognise. He was used to feeling a lot of things when it came to Sam -- love and lust and anger and amusement and pride. This was something new.

"You ready to hit the road?" he asked, and he heard the distant tone of his voice and wondered if it had anything to do with the strange feeling.

Sam gave him a strange look. "Almost," he said, closing the distance between them and kissing Dean long and deep, his hands cupping Dean's face between them.

Dean slipped his arms around Sam's waist, not letting him go when the kiss ended. He looked at Sam again, poking at the weird feeling -- it was there again, or still, quiet and weird and he wasn't entirely sure he liked it.

Then he found himself saying, "You're gonna be here."

The strange look was still on Sam's face. "Yes?"

He shook his head, and tried to explain. "I think...I just realised. You're gonna be here." He swallowed, and decided that he might as well just say it. "Pretty much always."

Sam smiled at him and kissed him again. "Yeah, I am."

It was strange. Just him and Sam, parked at an abandoned gas station with the scent of old gasoline and fresh sex, and everything around them overgrown and empty. But it was the whole world.

"I guess..." Dean shook his head, not really sure what this feeling meant, since he wasn't really sure he understood it. He shook himself and asked, "You wanna check out the other four stops I found?"

Sam's laughter was all that was light and good. "You're insatiable," he accused fondly.

"No, I'm thinking that we won't get to have sex again until I get home sometime next week." He shrugged, as though it didn't matter -- and he realised it really didn't. "Wanna go chase down a poltergeist?" he asked, smiling, in the exact same tone.

"Yeah," Sam replied, grinning at him and reaching out to squeeze Dean's hand.

"Wanna blow up a house?" Dean asked -- and he took a second look at the building they were standing next to.

"Dean," Sam said in his best don't-be-crazy tone.

"Come on! What's the harm?" Dean gave his brother a wide grin.

"Dean, we are not blowing up a house just because you want to have fun."

"Sa-am," Dean whined. "Just one gas station. No one's even gonna miss it!" He gestured at the abandoned building. There was probably gas soaked into the ground, so actually setting fire to the place would be a very bad, dangerous idea.

But the fireball it would make.

"No."

"Sam!" Dean protested.

"No," Sam repeated, in the same implacable tone.

Dean scowled and folded his arms across his chest, refusing to move towards the driver's side car door. Sam sighed and moved over to him, slipping a hand into Dean's pocket and coming up with his keys and moving to the driver's side door himself.

"You've got your own key!" Dean protested, not that he minded having Sam's hand in his pants.

"Get in the car, Dean," Sam told him.

Still scowling, Dean went around to the passenger side of the car -- stomping his feet once or twice for good effect. When he got in the car, he said, "You never let me do anything."

Sam glanced over at him as he started the engine. "I just let you fuck me over the hood of your car," he reminded.

"Let me?" Dean raised an eyebrow at him.

"Do you prefer 'granted you permission'?"

Dean scowled harder, with just a touch of sincerity. "So you're telling me you didn't like it."

"What? When did I say that?" Sam asked, taking his eyes off the road long enough to give Dean a disbelieving look.

Dean smiled, then quickly composed his face into a scowl again. "You're sitting there acting like you did me a favor, getting fucked on the hood of our car."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you like it?"

"We're not talking about whether I liked it," Dean reminded him. "We're talking about the fact that you said you let me fuck you on the hood of the car in the middle of nowhere next to a gas station you won't let me blow up."

Dean wasn't entirely sure he followed his own logic there, but since the point wasn't to be logical, but to harass his brother, Dean didn't figure it mattered.

"I did let you," Sam pointed out. "Whether I enjoyed it or not doesn't change that fact, though it might explain it."

Suddenly, Dean felt his stomach clench. "Stop the car."

Sam gave him a puzzled look. "Dean, what--"

"Stop the fucking car!"

Sam did, pulling over to the side of the road.

Dean yanked open the door and pushed himself out -- for a second he thought maybe he could calm the hell down. 'Whether or not I enjoyed it' ran through his head again and he was on his knees, throwing up.

He felt his brother come up behind him, felt Sam's hands on his shoulders, rubbing soothingly. Dean tried to breathe, and had to spit out the taste in his mouth. "Don't--" he managed, breath shuttering as his stomach clenched again.

"Don't what?" Sam asked in that quiet voice he always used when trying to calm Dean down. One hand ran lightly through Dean's hair.

"Don't ever let me...." He coughed, then dry heaved. God, the thought that he could do that to Sam....

Sam made soothing sounds, obviously trying to calm Dean down without actually saying "Calm down." He was trying to, but his stomach kept clenching and he figured he'd be throwing up still if there was anything to bring up. Dean realised his fingers were digging into the dirt like he was trying to pull himself down.

He coughed again, a sick, half-dead sound. Then he was being pulled up and wrapped in his brother's arms.

He had a thought about getting up off the ground, but Sam was pretty much hanging onto him like he wasn't going to let go, ever. Dean leaned into him, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, and let his brother fairly engulf him. Sam held him tightly, his face pressed into Dean's hair, murmuring soft words that Dean couldn't make out but that were nice to hear anyway.

"I--" he began, and stopped as he didn't really know what he wanted to say.

He had a flash of memory -- Dorinda Lee, standing in her bedroom and gesturing at him with a crook of her finger.

"What?" Sam asked softly.

She'd been wearing thick make-up that made her look older, scarier. He could remember her bright green eyelids and the dark red lipstick he'd had to wash off his own skin, after.

"I wanted," he tried again. Inhaling deeply, Dean shivered. A run-down house, wooden floorboards and the smell of something sour from the living room, like nobody had cleaned in there, ever. Dorinda Lee's voice, tired and high-pitched and wheedling, like maybe he'd say no.

He'd wanted to say no.

He felt Sam drop a gentle kiss on his temple. "I promise you, Dean, you can say no whenever you want."

"Don't ever...." He stopped, and had to try again. "Don't ever let me do something you don't want to," he said, voice trailing off in a whisper.

"Dean." Sam pulled away enough to force Dean to meet his eyes. "I don't think there's anything you could do that I wouldn't want," he said, his emotions clear in his gaze. "But I promise if there ever is, I'll tell you."

Dean nodded, knowing Sam meant it. Hoping -- but he could imagine Sam letting Dean do something he wanted, enduring it just because Dean wanted it--

Or would he? How often had Sam ever stayed quiet, really quiet, about something he didn't like? Dean closed his eyes and let his head fall against Sam, and knew he just had to trust that Sam would keep his word.

"Sorry."

"For what?" Sam asked, seeming to be honestly perplexed.

Dean waved a hand, gesturing at the whole sitting-by-the-road-upchucking thing.

Sam shook his head. "Not your fault."

"Not exactly what I planned," Dean said, quietly. He felt tired -- his stomach was still queasy, but he didn't think he'd throw up again. He rested his head against Sam, again, and tried just not moving for a minute.

"Nobody plans throwing up on the side of the road, Dean," Sam teased gently, his fingers threading through Dean's hair again.

He laughed, once. "Could have gotten us out of some of those boring drives through west Texas," Dean said. "Throw up at the New Mexico border a few times...."

Sam chuckled, the sound comforting. "Dad probably would've just given you an airsick bag and kept going."

"Yeah." Dean closed his eyes as his stomach squeezed itself tight again.

"You want your daddy?" she'd said, whispered in his ear, mouth next to his cheek and he'd didn't dare move an inch for fear she'd think he was turning her down.

"Hey." Sam's voice, a little more urgent, one big hand cupping Dean's cheek. "Stay with me, okay?"

Whimpering once, Dean tried to stop remembering -- opening his eyes didn't help much, he could still hear her. Feel her hands--

He pressed his face into Sam's hand, huge and hard and calluses on his fingertips where hers had been smooth, with long fake nails.

Sam was looking at him worriedly, but also calculatingly. He leaned forward and kissed Dean, hard and possessive, seeming unphased by the fact that Dean had just been throwing up. "You're mine," he murmured to Dean in a low growl. "No one else touches you like this ever again. Just me."

"I don't want them to," Dean said, feeling lost and trying to hang onto Sam, trying to focus. He realised he was shaking and he tried to stop, but all he could manage was to press himself even closer to Sam. He wanted to feel that growl, feel it in his chest, let it vibrate through him until he could feel it on the inside.

"I know," Sam said and there was that growl again. "They won't. Not without having to go through me first."

"OK." Dean closed his eyes again, and he felt dizzy, and tired, and he just wanted to let Sam stand guard. Or sit, he corrected, and they should probably get off the ground and back to the motel. Sam made no move to get them up though, just pulled Dean closer and held onto him tightly.

"We...should get back," Dean finally said, knowing that they had a job to do and Dad was waiting for them. He didn't feel much like going hunting, but he told himself he'd messed around long enough, and sitting by the side of the road wasn't getting the job done.

He didn't try to let go of Sam just yet, though.

"We will," Sam told him, not sounding the least bit worried or rushed. And still not making any move to leave.

Deciding that he didn't feel up to arguing, Dean didn't say anything more. The wind was picking up, cool and nice -- it made him think of the snow that, up here, wouldn't be too many more weeks away. He shifted, once, thinking that they really needed to get off their asses and get back to Dad and the poltergeist -- he wanted to go home.

Finally Sam stirred, pulling back a little. "You ready to go?"

"Yeah." Dean was glad to notice he sounded less like he wanted to throw up again -- or stay where he was. He moved away from Sam just enough to see if his brother was going to let him go. Sam moved a little, but didn't relinquish his hold on Dean as he got them both to their feet. Dean felt himself sway for a second, then he got ahold of himself and stood up straight. He looked at Sam and found his brother watching him.

Sam smiled at him and patted his arm.

"God, I need water," Dean muttered. His mouth tasted nasty. He only had holy water in the trunk, but there was an exit up ahead with fast food places and a couple gas stations. He glanced down at himself to check if he'd splattered vomit anywhere, but he looked clean.

"Hang on a sec," Sam said, moving away from Dean for the first time since they'd stopped. He went to the trunk and dug through his bag, coming back with a bottle of water. "Here."

"Thanks." He took the bottle, swigging a mouthful and swishing it around his mouth before spitting it out. He did the same thing again, then the third time he drank some. He made a slight gagging noise and shook his head. "I taste nasty." He gave his brother a look. "I can't believe you kissed me when I tasted like this."

Sam shrugged. "You needed me to."

Whatever he'd been about to say died before even reaching his lips, and Dean just looked at Sam. "Yeah." He coughed, then tried to not go there, and said, "Yet you won't kiss me after I have fish tacos."

"That should tell you something about my feelings regarding fish tacos," Sam pointed out.

Dean nodded, taking another swallow of water. He fought back the urge to grab another cuddle -- he'd planned for a few stops for sex along the way, but he hadn't really expected to waste too much time getting back to Clayton. "There's a Benny's Tacos in town," he said, hopefully.

"Dean, I love you, but I'm not buying you a fish taco."

"I think they have fish burritos." Dean capped the water bottle and stepped towards the car, door still hanging wide open as he'd left it.

"No," Sam said, moving around to the driver's side.

"I thought you loved me," Dean said, forcing himself to not think about what he'd just said. He got into the car and pulled the door closed, reaching forward to give his girl a pat before Sam got in and could catch him at it.

"I do. But that still doesn't mean I'm going to buy you fish tacos."

"Why not? Seriously, what have you got against a perfectly wonderful combination of two of the most perfect foods ever? Add a couple twinkies and those Funyun things...."

"You're trying to make me throw up on the side of the road, aren't you?" Sam asked plaintively as he started the engine.

"Sammy!" Dean chided. "If I were trying to make you throw up I'd remind you about the time Sue Ann tried to kiss you in first grade." He leaned back in the seat, sliding down a little to let his head fall low on the headrest.

"Just because I don't want to think of kissing anyone other than you doesn't mean that doing so will make me throw up," Sam said easily.

"Is that why you were so mad when she kissed you? Because she wasn't me?" Dean grinned smugly at him.

"I was six years old. I thought girls had cooties."

"You made me kiss you to disinfect where she kissed you." Sammy had been scowling like the proverbial thundercloud -- and he'd stayed angry the entire walk home from school. Dean had finally been at his wit's end to get Sam in a better mood; in desperation, he'd leaned down and kissed Sam on the cheek and told him that erased it.

He remembered how Sammy had looked up at him, those damnable puppy eyes wide as they could go, and he'd said that the girl had kissed him on the mouth.

Sam shrugged. "I figured I probably already had your cooties."

"You drooled on me, first."

"No fair bringing up things that happened before I had teeth."

"You teethed on Mr. Ber-ber," Dean told him, scowling. Mom had given him the teddy bear -- leave it to Sammy to decide that was the only proper teething ring he could use.

"You gave it to me," Sam defended. "And what did I say about bringing things up from when I was a baby?"

"I gave him to you because I had something better to sleep with." Dean closed his eyes. He really didn't care about the stuffed bear -- hadn't at the time, didn't now. But there was no way in hell he'd ever stop teasing Sam about it.

Sam's hand squeezed his thigh, there and gone. "You still do," he said.

"Still drool on me sometimes," Dean said. The motion of the car was starting to lull him into a post-fuck-freak out haze. He didn't feel like fighting it; they still had about twenty minutes to reach the motel.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"You have to tell me where we're going."

Dean left his eyes closed and muttered, "First exit, Motel 6. Room 21. Look for a guy who answers to 'Dad'."

There was a pause and then Sam told him, "Jerk."

"Dickface," Dean replied. "Na to--"

As he drifted off, he heard Sam say softly, "Yeah, love you too."

When he woke up, the first thing Dean thought was that his mouth tasted like the inside of a trash can. The second thing he thought was that Sammy was hanging onto him and trying to tug at him to get out of the car. He tried opening his eyes and saw the motel, room 11's door right in front of him. He looked up to the second floor: room 21.

Right. Clayton. Poltergeists.

"Dean?" Sam asked, seeing his eyes open. "You back with me?"

"Muh?" Dean lifted his head and remembered why he didn't like sleeping in the front seat of the car. He looked around again, saw a cheap motel with a mostly empty parking lot and a spate of fast food restaurants and bars scattered along both sides of the street. He looked at Sam again.

Sam smiled at him. "You aren't, are you?"

He flipped Sam off, because it seemed like an appropriate response.

Sam laughed. "Come on," he said, tugging on Dean's arm. "Let's get you up to the room."

He let Sam manhandle him, though he was pretty much awake by the time he was standing up. He leaned against his brother, letting Sam hold a bit more of his weight with every step.

Halfway up the stairs, Sam stopped, looked closer at Dean and then pushed him off with a dirty look. "I'm not hauling you around for your amusement," he said, exasperated.

"Geez, first no blowing up gas stations, now this. Don't I get any fun?"

"Didn't we have this conversation already?"

Dean made a face. "Yeah. Don't really wanna have it again." He continued up the steps, wondering if Dad was here or if he'd walked down to the diner. He tried to get himself settled, just in case Dad was waiting for them in the room.

Sam followed him. "I think we might have to because I think you heard something different than I was saying. But that can wait."

Frowning, Dean looked over at him. "What?" He didn't remember hearing anything... well, of course, he told himself. Sam just said Dean had heard something that wasn't what Sam thought he was saying.

A quick glance around as he opened the door to their motel room showed him Dad wasn't there. He relaxed, a little, and stepped inside. Sam dropped the backpack he'd had slung over one shoulder on the bed furthest from the door. Then he turned back to Dean, eyeing him speculatively.

Dean shifted nervously from one foot to the other. "What?" he asked, a bit more seriously.

Sam grinned. "Just trying to figure out how long we're going to have the room to ourselves."

"The second you try anything, I guarantee Dad will walk through that door." Dean gestured at the door, scowling at Sam. Not that he didn't want to make use of the bed, but they'd just figured out how to keep Dad from finding out. He didn't want to make that a moot point by being caught in mid-orgasm.

"Yeah, probably." Sam didn't stop staring at him though.

"Sam," Dean said, warning him. "Stop thinking that, right now. I mean it."

"Thinking what?" Sam asked, still staring. He didn't even try to sound innocent.

"You're thinking about throwing me face-first onto the bed and fucking me until my brain bleeds out of my skull." At least he hoped that was what Sam was thinking.

Sam shook his head. "Not quite, though that sounds pretty good too."

"You were thinking of stripping down and me sucking you off?" He glanced at his watch as if trying to decide if they might have time. They didn't -- there was no way he was having sex with Sam in a room Dad had the key to.

But talking about it was better than thinking about...other stuff.

"Nope, but also another excellent suggestion."

"So tell me, smarty pants, what are you thinking?" He knew he was asking for trouble, since they couldn't follow through. But he still wanted to hear.

"Oh, I was thinking about stripping you naked, tying you to the bed, then seeing if I could lick every inch of your body without letting you come." Sam kicked off his sneakers and flopped down on the bed, leaning against the headboard. "Then I'd fuck you until your brain bleeds out of your skull."

"We can barricade the door." Dean dropped his hands to his jeans, thinking of all the things in the room they could use for bonds.

Sam shook his head. "No, you're right. It's too dangerous when we don't know when Dad will be back."

"You're evil," Dean told his brother. "I just want you to know. If anyone ever says you're the good brother? They're lying."

"But you love me anyway."

"Right now I want to smack you." Dean glared at him. "Call Dad and tell him the poltergeist went to Seattle. The drive'll give us some time."

"We can do it when we get home," Sam said, eyeing Dean speculatively again. "Mm, yeah, I think I like the idea of you tied to our bed, on our black sheets, totally at my mercy."

Dean held out his wrists. He was hard enough that even if Dad did walk in the door right that second, Dean wouldn't care. Sam crooked a finger in the universal "come here" gesture.

Dean went.

Sam took one of the leather ties he wore as a bracelet off his wrist and tied it around Dean's. "Best I can do for now," he said as he tied it up, he glanced up at Dean, eyes dark and intense. "But this means you're mine."

Looking down at his wrist, Dean didn't try to stop the huge fucking smile that split his face. God, he was so... well, owned. He knew he should be embarrassed as all hell and he ought to try for something to prove he still had balls.

He gave Sam a kiss, deep as he could.

Sam kissed him back, smiling a little smugly at Dean when they broke off. "I should've done that ages ago."

"You could have," Dean nodded. Then he rubbed his bottom lip. "Ugh. Sorry, shoulda brushed my teeth first." He took a step towards the bathroom to do that, and said, "You wanna call Dad and let him know we're here? See if we need to meet up with him?" He fingered the leather tie around his wrist. Thin, almost like a lace -- nothing like the thick band on his other wrist.

"Yeah, suppose we should," Sam said with a sigh, digging in his bag for his phone.

Dean left him to go brush his teeth -- the water had rinsed most of it out, but his mouth still tasted like vomit. He grabbed his toothbrush and the small travel tube of toothpaste, noting that he was going to have to replace it in a day or two. Dad had some, but there was still the problem of dealing with Dad's lectures about being prepared. There was a K-Mart in town, they'd driven past it once.

The thought of K-Mart made him smile, remembering his and Sam's trip when they'd first moved to Palo Alto.

He brushed his teeth quickly, then rinsed a couple extra times before heading back out. He rubbed at his stomach -- maybe he should grab a 7-Up from the machine to make sure his stomach would stay settled.

Sam was on the phone, speaking to, Dean assumed, their dad. "Yes, sir."

He walked up behind Sam and slipped his hand inside Sam's front jeans pocket.

"No, we haven't eaten." Sam smiled at him and leaned back against him.

Dean mouthed a spot on Sam's neck, making it clear that he had a preferred menu. He wriggled his fingers a little deeper into Sam's pocket, looking for anything fun.

"Whatever you can pick up will be fine," Sam said. He kind of... wriggled a little against Dean's body.

Dean didn't really think he wanted to risk real food -- but neither did he want to have that conversation with Dad about why he didn't want dinner. He slid his fingers all the way into Sam's pocket, and found a promising sort of bump under the fabric. He stroked it, to see if it would respond.

Sam's free hand went to Dean's wrist, one finger tracing the leather that he'd tied there. "Yes sir."

Dean stopped moving his fingers, not sure if Sam's touch was meant as a warning that he'd kill Dean if he kept that up while he was talking to Dad, or if it was encouragement in the 'I'll stroke you and you stroke me' sense. He rested his chin on Sam's shoulder blade, remembering a time when he could see over the top of his little brother. He gave Sam's shoulder a scowl. Stupid genes.

"We'll be ready," Sam said. "Bye." He clicked the phone off and tossed it on the bed, before turning around to wrap his arms around Dean and kiss him.

"Hey," Dean said, when Sam finally broke the kiss. "Was that Dad?" he asked, with as straight a face as he could manage.

"Yeah," Sam answered. "He's checking out a lead, then is going to pick up some food before coming back. So he's going to be at least an hour." He moved in for another kiss.

"He want us to do anything?"

"You're supposed to bring me up to speed about what you've already found out and he wanted me to look through his notes," Sam said, in between nuzzling Dean's neck.

"We...haven't found the poltergeist yet," Dean said, trying to think -- but not trying too hard. "Don't know if it's one, or three, or kids making trouble," he added as Sam's tongue started pressing against his jugular. "Um. And an hour's plenty of time to tie me up and fuck me."

"No, it's not," Sam countered, breathing the words directly into Dean's ear. "Not for what I have planned. We'll just have to improvise for now."

Frowning, Dean argued, "It's enough time. We don't have to get fancy. Tie me to the bed, fuck me, hose me off. Forty-five minutes." He gave Sam a kiss, because really he was happy to do anything -- except maybe sit and watch Sam read through Dad's notes for an hour.

"The whole point of tying you up is so I can take my time. It'll have to wait."

"I thought the whole point of tying me up was to tie me up," Dean said. He got his fingers underneath Sam's shirt and focused for a moment on the feel of his skin.

Sam chuckled. "You're really getting off on the idea, aren't you?"

He paused, then shrugged. "I've never been tied up before. I kinda think I'd like it." He suspected he was only turned on by the idea of Sam tying him up -- but that was fine, since Sam was the only one who would be getting the chance.

Sam pulled back and looked at him.

Dean had no idea what the expression on his brother's face meant. "What?" he asked, voice dipping a little sharper than maybe he wanted, if he expected to have sex instead of an argument.

"You've never been tied up before," Sam repeated. He smiled. "I'll be your first."

Grinning, Dean rolled his eyes. "I haven't done everything before, you know." Which meant as he tried to think of another example, all he could come up with was, "I've never had sex in a hot air balloon."

Sam laughed. "Do you want to?" he asked, going back to nuzzling Dean's neck.

He had his mouth open to say sure, when he realised they'd be up in the fucking air. "Oh, hell no. Not unless it's deflated and on the ground."

"That's what I thought," Sam said, chuckling again.

"How about if we have sex now, and we can talk about what I haven't done later?"

"Sounds like a plan. We can make a list."

~~~

They ended up not making a list -- Dean got as far as 'blowjob' then there was being naked and trying not to make a mess they couldn't clean up before Dad arrived. They actually had gotten cleaned up and dressed, and Sam was sitting at the table reading over Dad's notes with ten minutes to spare before the hour deadline was up.

"Hi Dad," Sam said, flashing a quick smile when their father came in, bags of fast food in his hand.

"Boys." Their dad gave them each a nod, then handed over one of the bags to Dean, who was already clearing a spot on the other end of the table from where Sam had Dad's notes spread out.

Sam noticed that Dean was being careful not to actually move any of the papers. Well-trained, the both of them, Sam thought with amusement even as he turned back to their father. "Find out anything new?" he asked.

"Just that our possible second haunting isn't a haunting at all, but someone having an affair with her co-worker." Dad handed over a second bag of food to Dean, who took it, then frowned at the table as if trying to figure out where there was room to put it or the food inside, without disturbing the papers.

After a second, Dean pulled one of the chairs out from the table and set the bag down on it.

"That changes the pattern," Sam said, looking over the list of hauntings and what they had in common. He moved the papers closer to him as well, freeing up a little more of the table's surface for the food Dean was getting out.

"One less house to clean out," Dean said, as he began setting everything out, arranging the burgers and fries for each of them using all the free space.

"Might not mean less work, though," Dad said easily. "The people who own that house own the other two. Even if it isn't haunted it might still be related to whatever's happening."

"You think the affair has something to do with it?" Sam asked, looking up at his Dad. "The poltergeist was triggered by infidelity?"

But Dad shook his head as he sat down in the third chair, taking the burger Dean had set closest towards him. "I doubt it. It's only been going on for a year; the poltergeist has been showing activity for five years."

"But it's only in the last couple months it's gotten bad," Dean put in. "Could still be connected. Maybe she got pregnant."

"Or maybe it's not the first affair," Sam counter-suggested, reaching for his fries that Dean had placed within easy reach for him. "The poltergeist hasn't been consistently active; it might be worth it to check and see what was happening with the family when it was."

"Why bother the other two houses, though, if it's the woman's affair?" Dean put in, picking up one of the sodas. "Unless she had affairs with people living there? One of the landlords is jealous?"

"We'll have to check into their backgrounds," Dad said, nodding his agreement that the affair might still be related. "Dean, why don't you and Sam look into her background while I check the first house again see if there's anything else to explain this."

"Yes, sir," Dean said, as he reached across his fries to snag two of Sam's.

Sam automatically reached out and slapped Dean's hand away from his food. "Dude, eat your own."

Dean's hand jerked back reflexively, then his brother scowled at him. "Geez, make a simple mistake...." Though it was perfectly clear by his tone that he hadn't been any sort of mistake.

"Hands off the fries," Sam said succinctly.

Dean flipped him off and started eating his own. There was a brief look of amusement from their dad before he pulled one of the papers closer to him and looked it over. "She never lived in the first house," he said after a moment.

"So we need to see if we can find a connection she does have to it," Sam said, unwrapping his burger.

They continued to talk shop while they ate, Dad and Dean offering observations and facts they'd remembered, rehashing what Sam had read in Dad's notes. At least Dad and Sam were eating; Dean seemed to be picking at his food -- though when he caught Sam looking, he began eating normally.

It made Sam frown, then watch Dean more closely. His brother had seemed to pull himself together when they got to the motel room, but it wouldn't be the first time Dean had put a front on over whatever was bothering him.

Dean kept talking about the case, and he sounded perfectly normal -- as normal as Dean ever got when he talked about whether they'd have to break into a series of private residences and where they could get more gasoline in case they had several bodies to burn. Dad, for his part, didn't seem to notice anything unusual.

They made plans for the next things to check out, and it felt like they were making progress even though they didn't know anything more for sure than they did when they sat down at the table.

"So we can get started tonight," Dad said, picking up the street map of Clayton. The table was almost covered in paperwork again, Dad having finished his dinner and let the notes reclaim his portion of the table. Dean still had some of his left, but he kept scooting it closer towards him as the paperwork encroached on the available table space.

Thinking turnabout was fairplay, Sam leaned over and went to steal some of Dean's leftover fries. Dean didn't stop him, didn't even tease him about it. He was looking at the map as Dad talked about things the three residences had in common; Sam noticed when Dean suddenly went pale.

"Dean?" he asked, letting his worry show in his voice.

Dad stopped talking and looked at Dean. Dean just frowned -- then he was up and running for the bathroom. Sam was on his feet and following him before he'd formed the conscious thought to do so. He heard Dad standing, but his attention was on Dean -- catching up with his brother as Dean landed on his knees in front of the toilet just in time as he vomited. Sam immediately went to his side, rubbing Dean's back in soothing circles as his brother was sick.

He heard Dad walk up behind him, but he didn't say anything as Dean threw up his dinner. Finally Dean leaned back, breathing hard, and Sam could see from how tense he was that he was keeping a very tight control on himself.

Behind him, at the sink, there was the sound of water running. Then Dad was handing over a damp washcloth.

"Thanks," Sam said absently, taking the cloth from their father and running it lightly over Dean's face.

Dean let him for just a moment, then he pulled back and scowled. "I'm all right," he said, voice harsh.

Sam wanted to argue the point because it was blatantly obvious that Dean wasn't all right, but with Dad standing right there, it was difficult to talk as freely as he wanted to.

"Flu or food poisoning?" Dad asked, and his voice was a mix of all-business -- he'd have to know what was wrong so he could change their plans accordingly. But there was a note of concern as well, that Sam thought sounded new.

"I'm fine," Dean said again, obviously forcing himself to sound it. But he was still pale, and his hand was twitching towards Sam's arm.

"No, you're not," Sam said, sliding an arm around Dean under the cover of helping him stand. "Maybe you are coming down with the flu." He didn't think so but it was a good enough explanation to let him bully Dean into taking care of himself.

The glance Dean gave him showed him his brother appreciated the cover story, and he let Sam help him to his feet. As soon as he was standing he tried to pull away, looking past Sam at where their dad was standing, and Sam could literally see him pulling on the mask he recognised as 'the good soldier.'

"I'm all right," he said, looking at their dad.

"No, you're not," Sam repeated, holding onto Dean in spite of his brother's efforts to pull away.

"Sam, I just--" Dean began, glaring at him angrily.

"You're not," Sam said, holding Dean's gaze with his own. He could be just as stubborn as his brother.

They glared at each other for a moment, neither backing down. From behind Sam, Dad said, "If Dean says he's all right to work, that's his decision."

Dean's glare at Sam sharpened, defiantly. Sam could practically hear him say, 'So there.' Sam just raised an eyebrow at Dean, silently letting him know he'd pay for it later if he pushed himself too hard now.

The look he got in return was hard to read. The glare pretty much vanished, and Dean pulled himself away from Sam, dismissing the need for support. Like he was dismissing the fact he'd been sick at all. It might have even been convincing if he weren't for the fact Sam could see the tiny tremors Dean was fighting to stop.

"Dean," Sam breathed softly, not sure if his voice carried any further than Dean's ears. Dean looked at him, eyes widening just enough and he could see what Dean wanted, what he probably needed. But there was no way he was going to break down in front of their dad.

"I'm--" Dean began, and his eyes flickered past Sam again, at their dad, and he went a little paler.

"Dad," Sam said, not looking away from Dean, "can you excuse us for a few minutes?"

"Sam, if Dean says he isn't sick," Dad began, and the tone of reprimand was soft, but there.

But then Dean told him, "It's OK." He looked at Sam, expression pleading for the sort of comfort Sam knew he wouldn't let himself indulge in while they were in front of Dad.

There was silence for a moment, then Dad said, "I'll be outside."

"Thanks," Sam said softly, then waited until the door shut behind Dad as he left the bathroom. Then he was taking the few steps forward needed to wrap his arms around Dean.

He felt Dean lean into him -- almost but not quite collapsing on him, arms coming up around Sam's waist to hold on like his legs weren't quite strong enough. "I hate this," Dean whispered. "Why the fuck--"

"Because you finally feel safe enough to deal with it," Sam answered, taking comfort in that fact. He paused, then added in a teasing tone, "And because you've always had the worst timing."

At that, Dean laughed once. "I have great timing," he countered. "Or are you forgetting all the times I've saved your ass just in the nick of time?"

"I wouldn't protest if sometimes you saved it before the nick of time," Sam said, sliding a hand up into Dean's hair. "But yeah, you're always there when I need you."

Dean chuckled, then rested against Sam, pressing himself close in a brief but tight hug. He felt steadier on his feet when he loosened his hold, but he didn't make any effort to get away. "It's my job," he said lightly.

"That? Makes me very lucky," Sam whispered fiercely.

"The pay sucks, but the benefits...used to suck, too," Dean said, thoughtfully. His voice was still quiet. "But lately they've gotten pretty good."

"That's because I finally figured out that looking after you is my job, too," Sam said, kissing him gently.

"I thought it was the sex."

Sam chuckled. "That's just a fringe benefit."

Dean didn't respond, and Sam heard him sigh. Then Dean started to pull away. "Dad's gonna be shitting nails if we don't stop dicking around in here."

"He can handle it," Sam said, not letting Dean go quite yet.

"Sam--" Dean leaned back, trying to pull away. "We have to get back to the job."

"You're more important than the job."

Dean scowled and stepped backwards out of Sam's hold. "And I didn't come up here to goof off," he said, angrily. "I don't have a choice -- I know you...came up here for other reasons, but I came up here to hunt down this poltergeist."

"You know how I just said how my job is looking after you?" Sam said, his voice getting low and intense as he tried to get through his brother's thick skull that his well-being was more important than any stupid ghost. "That's why I came up here. And that's what I'm trying to do now."

"I'm all right," Dean insisted. "I can handle this."

"Yeah, you can," Sam affirmed. "But you're not handling it alone."

"So what do you want from me?" Dean demanded. "Should I start shrieking like a little kid because I had to have sex?"

"Would it make you feel better?"

"It'd make me feel stupid," his brother snapped. "And it'd make Dad ask me what the hell was wrong with me."

"Forget about Dad for a moment," Sam told him. "I'll handle Dad if he needs to be handled."

"I can't exactly forget about Dad, since he's the one--" Dean stopped and looked away. "Can we please just drop this?"

Sam frowned. "Since he's the one... what?"

"He's the reason I--" Dean stopped, still not looking up at Sam. "Had to," he finally said, quietly but giving a half-shrug as though it didn't mean anything.

"What do you mean?" Sam asked, frown deepening. It couldn't be what it was sounding like. He'd seen Dad's reaction to Dean's hustling and it had been all concern for Dean and had had nothing of guilt about it.

Dean scowled at him. "To save his fucking life," he said shortly. "Or do you think I should have done something else--" Dean jerked himself away from Sam, expression suddenly thunderous and closed off.

Something that had been momentary askew with his reality clicked back into the place. Though Sam wondered how the possibility had even crossed his mind. But he'd worry about that later; right now there were more important things to deal with. He reached for Dean but didn't force it when his brother resisted. "I think that you did what you had to in a horrible situation. I'd never presume to second guess you." Sam sighed. "I only wish I'd been old enough at the time to help."

"You... did, though," Dean said, looking away again, apparently embarrassed. "You were the only normal thing in my life after that."

Sam swallowed hard at that, taken by surprise by the strength of emotion Dean's words invoked. He'd been going through such a bratty stage back then and to think that Dean.... He swallowed again and promised, "I'll always be here."

"Yeah." Dean nodded, slowly. "I think I'm getting that." He moved forward, then, wrapping himself back into Sam's embrace. "Dad really is going to be shitting nails," he said, and he sounded a lot calmer than before.

"Yeah," Sam agreed. He hesitated, considering asking Dean for permission to talk to their dad about this, but finally decided not to. Dean might just say no after all and Sam was of the opinion that Dad really needed to know what was going on. Better to beg forgiveness after the fact.

"We should get going," Dean said quietly. "Before he comes in and kicks our asses."

"Okay," Sam said, knowing that was a distinct possibility. "But the only place you're going is bed."

His brother pulled away and gave him a flat look. "I don't really have the flu, you know."

"You're exhausted though," Sam pointed out. "Don't try and deny it."

"We're not chasing down werewolves," Dean retorted. "We're going to talk to a lady about her sex life. The only way that could be exhausting is if we got a re-enactment."

"I'm not talking about what our plans are, I'm talking about you. Exhausted. You'd be asleep on your feet if you let yourself relax for two seconds."

"So who says I have to relax?"

"Me."

Dean just glared at him.

Sam rolled his eyes and sighed. "Come here," he said, pulling Dean into his arms.

His brother made an inquiring, protesting noise, but he went back into Sam's hold. He settled himself easily into place, like they'd been molded that way. Sam closed his eyes and just relished it for a few seconds before raising a hand and stroking the back of Dean's neck in a way he knew always soothed him. "Relax," he said softly. "I've got you."

Dean made another protesting noise, but this one was slightly...whinier, was the only way Sam could describe it. Sam let himself grin, but only because Dean couldn't see it. He kept up with the rubbing, feeling Dean getting heavier and less tense in his arms. There was a soft moan -- Dean was definitely nearly asleep on his feet.

"Hate you're always right," Dean mumbled, as he turned his head, pressing his face into the crook of Sam's neck like he did when they were lying down.

Turning his head, Sam pressed a kiss to Dean's temple. "Come on," he said, gently steering Dean towards the door. "Let's go find you a bed."

This time Dean barely made a protest, and he shuffled along more or less willingly as Sam maneouvred him out of the bathroom, shifting their positions so it was less of an embrace, then got Dean across the bedroom and into bed and settled. He resisted the urge to kiss him one more time as Dean drifted off, acutely aware of their father behind him.

When he turned around, Dad was watching him closely with an expression Sam recognised -- and not just because that determined expression was one he saw on his brother all the time. Dad's gaze flickered over to Dean, but all he said was, "Are you coming?"

Sam turned to look at his brother for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah."

Dad already had his small bag by the door; he grabbed it on the way out. They weren't expecting to encounter anything dangerous tonight -- just more research, gathering information. But his dad was never unprepared to fight off just about anything they could come across. Sam noticed that the bag he carried was the exact same style as the one Dean carried, too.

Sam followed Dad to his truck, silent as he tried to figure out the best way to say what he needed to. What Dad needed to know about Dean.

As soon as they got in, Dad looked at him. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" His tone was gentle, but the glint in his eyes said he wasn't going anywhere until he got an answer.

"I... you're not going to like it," Sam said, meeting his father's eyes.

His dad turned towards him, obviously settling himself in. He frowned, but said nothing, just waited.

"I think... I'm pretty sure... Dean's having flashbacks. To the first time he..." Yeah, this was as hard to say as he'd thought it was going to be.

"To the first time he what?" Dad asked.

Sam just looked at his father.

His dad looked back, scowling slightly. "To what, Sam?"

"When he... hustled," Sam finally got out.

Dad frowned, clearly confused. "He's having flashbacks?"

"The first time... He told me a little about it," Sam said, licking his lips nervously. "It hadn't exactly been his idea."

His dad's eyes went wide. "What?"

"It was back when he was 14 and you went missing when we were in South Carolina," Sam told him, staring out the windshield. "Dean found a woman -- Dorinda -- who knew where you were, but she'd only tell him if he... y'know. Slept with her."

For a moment his dad just sat there and looked at him. Sam wondered if Dad even got it, from the look of confusion still on his face. Maybe Dean had been right about not wanting Dad to know.

But Sam kept trying to explain it; what else could he do. "It was his first time. He'd never... Hell, maybe that's what the bitch wanted."

Dad narrowed his eyes. "She traded me, for that?"

Sam nodded.

He could see Dad's fists clench. "She forced him to have sex with her, in order to save my life?" He didn't wait for a confirmation; he looked back up at the motel room, no doubt seeing Dean, lying on the bed, asleep. The anger drained out of him in a rush, and when he whispered, "Oh, god," he sounded broken.

"Dean did his best with a horrible situation," Sam said, trying to put the best spin on it, the way he tried to think about it in his own mind. Otherwise it might just make him cry. "He got you back."

"He did," his dad whispered. "They were about to... Dean showed up just in time. Saved my life." He kept staring up at the room, then he looked down and rubbed a hand over his face. In a quiet, wavering tone, he said, "Sam... I'm going to have to go back to Carolina and kill that bitch."

Sam nodded silently, then heard himself ask, "Can I help?"

Dad nodded. "You have a break next month for Thanksgiving," he said.

Sam smiled tightly, though he thought it was probably more a baring of teeth. "Nothing like a little family togetherness."

Dad kept staring at the motel room for another moment, then he looked over at Sam. "Will it be all right if I go back up there?"

"He really does seem to need the sleep," Sam said after a moment's hesitation. "But it would be good if we're there when he wakes up."

He watched as his dad looked at the room for another moment, then, suddenly, his dad got out of the truck. Sam followed silently. As they headed for the stairs, Dad glanced over and gave a sort of half smile. "This job was the only thing I could find on the west coast."

That confession made Sam smile as well. "You know, you don't need an excuse to come visit."

Dad shrugged, dismissively. "I miss hunting with my boys."

"We've missed it too," Sam said, finding with a little surprise it was true for himself as much as for Dean. He'd spent so much time in the last few years just counting the days until he could get out, his new outlook was sometimes still a little disorienting.

The look Dad gave him was surprised. "I didn't think you would."

Sam gave a half smile. "Me neither. But I do."

"Maybe... this summer we can--" Dad stopped himself, but the hopeful look in his eyes didn't quite dim. But they'd reached the motel room and Dad looked at it, hesitating a moment before getting out his key and very quietly opening the door.

They walked in, both of them leaving the lights off. Dean was motionless in the bed, not stirring as they entered the room. Dad walked over to the bed and stood there, looking down at his son. Dean still didn't move, giving lie to his claim that he could have gone out this evening.

Dad crouched by the side of the bed nearest Dean; Dean's face was turned towards him. Carefully, Dad raised his hand and placed it lightly on Dean's head, brushing his hair back. The look on their dad's face said quite clearly how much he was aching.

Sam swallowed hard at the emotion he saw there. He almost wished that Dean was awake to see this proof of how much their dad cared about him.

Almost as if he'd heard Sam's thought, Dean shifted, then Sam heard him mumble, "Dad?"

"Shh, it's all right," Dad said immediately. "Go back to sleep."

Dean rolled backwards onto his side, looking up at their dad. "S'wrong?"

"Nothing," Dad said, speaking quietly as if he suspected Dean wasn't fully awake. He still had his hand on Dean's head, and Sam thought maybe that contact was why Dean shifted towards him.

"I don't feel good," Dean said, sleepily moving forward. Dad stood up and sat on the bed, leaning against the headboard and gathering Dean into his arms. Sam could see Dean's eyes close again and he looked flushed.

Frowning, Sam moved over to them, reaching out a hand to touch Dean's forehead. He could feel the heat radiating from him before he even touched the skin. "He's burning up."

Dad nodded. "There's Tylenol in my kit," he said, nodding slightly towards the bathroom.

Sam went and got the pills out of Dad's kit and brought it back to the bed along with a glass of water. Dean opened his eyes when Dad nudged him; Dean looked around and saw Sam, and frowned. "Are you OK?" he asked.

Typical Dean. Worrying about Sam when it was him that needed the worrying. Sam smiled reassuringly at him. "I'm fine," he told him, pressing the pills and water on his brother. "And these will make you feel better."

Dean made a noise that was probably meant to be a question. But he reached up for the pills and swallowed them, holding the glass of water in a unsteady hand, but managing to drink half of it before he let his head fall back onto Dad's shoulder. Sam quickly rescued the glass before it could slip out of Dean's lax grip.

Dad put his hand on Dean's head, stroking him again; Dean looked like he was already asleep. Dad looked up at Sam, and smiled. Softly he said, "When Dean was a baby, he hated to fall asleep unless someone was holding him."

"Yeah?" Sam asked, sitting on the foot of the bed. He smiled, privately thinking how true that still was.

Dad grinned as he thought back to good memories. "Once he fell asleep, you could put him down and he'd be all right. But no matter how tired he was, he'd fuss and refuse to go to sleep until someone picked him up." Dad gave a soft laugh. "I'd take him to the garage with me sometimes, and he'd play in the office. We'd set up a playpen there and he'd be happy as anything all by himself. Until he got tired, then he'd start making a fuss and throwing his toys outside the pen. I'd pick him up and take him into the pit -- start showing him what we were working on. Teaching him the trade," Dad said, winking. "He'd fall asleep on my shoulder."

Dad trailed off, no doubt fully aware of Dean, fast asleep on his shoulder once more.

Sam grinned. "He's never really outgrown that making a fuss when he's tired, has he?"

"No, he really hasn't." Dad laughed. "Though you do a good job taking care of him." Dad got that faraway look in his eyes. "When you were about a month old, your Mom was trying to get Dean to take his nap. She was busy with something, I forget what, so she put him in your crib. He went right to sleep, you laid there just...smiling and hanging onto him. Mary started putting him in with you for his naps after that -- she said if she'd known that was all it took, she'd have gotten pregnant years earlier."

Though Sam of course didn't remember any of that, some of his earliest memories were of being curled up with his older brother and feeling like nothing bad could get to him as long as Dean was there.

Dad looked down at Dean and his expression changed. Grief, sharp and deep, of the like Sam had only ever seen before when Dad talked about Mom. Dad pressed a quick kiss to Dean's temple, and whispered, "I'm so sorry."

Sam swallowed hard, feeling that lump of emotion in his throat again. "He's all right," he said softly. "I mean, it hurt him, but... he's all right. And going to be better."

His dad didn't respond right away, just sat there and held onto Dean. When he looked over, he said in a soft but fierce tone, "You take care of him." It was half a question, and half an order.

Sam nodded his head sharply. "Yes sir."

Dad nodded, gave Dean a sort of half-hug. "We should get him back in bed." He gestured at Sam to help him ease Dean back down onto the mattress. As Dad shifted away, though, Dean frowned and rolled towards him, hanging on.

"Guess he's not ready to let go yet," Sam said, smiling faintly.

From the look on Dad's face, Sam thought maybe the feeling was mutual.

~~~

Dean felt like complete and utter crap. He was barely awake, and the only thing he could feel was complete and utter crap. He opened his eyes, discovering that it was way too light to be nighttime, and that he felt even more like crap, awake. He moaned as he tried to roll onto his back and discovered that he was in his t-shirt and briefs when he was fairly sure he'd fallen asleep with his jeans and boots on.

He tried looking around the room again and saw Sammy at the table, typing on his laptop. Except -- there was a Metallica sticker on it, and didn't they live in an apartment now, not motel rooms?

Dean blinked again and tried to say his brother's name. He didn't actually manage to make anything that sounded remotely like "Sammy" but the noise was enough to attract Sam's attention anyway.

His brother looked up with a worried expression that smoothed out into a smile as he got up and came over to sit on the edge of the bed beside Dean. "You're awake."

"No," Dean said. He let his head fall back on the pillow and wondered why it was so hot -- the a/c must be busted. "I feel like shit."

Sam ran fingers that felt wonderfully cool gently over Dean's face. "That's because you've got the flu."

"I thought that was bullshit for Dad." He closed his eyes and realised that his entire body ached like he'd been thrown into a wall. He tried to move and had a vague sense-memory of -- had to have been a dream. Dean opened his eyes again and looked at Sam.

"What?" Sam asked, reaching out and caressing Dean's face again.

"Nothing. Had a weird dream." Dean shook his head. It had been kinda nice, dreaming about Dad holding him like he was a little kid.

It made Dean think he really was sick, to be thinking that sort of crap. He pushed himself upright and bit back a groan. Sam immediately moved to help him, shifting the pillows behind Dean to be more comfortable. "What kind of dream?" he asked, turning to the night stand beside the bed and picking up a glass of ginger ale with a bendy straw in it and offering it to Dean.

He frowned at the ginger ale. "Where the hell--" Since when did they have straws? He took it, though, drinking a couple swallows. "Just a weird ass -- dreamt Dad was--" He stopped, belatedly realising he was about to say something that would make Sam tease him for a decade.

"Dad was...?" Sam said leadingly.

Dean waved a hand, surprised to find he used up all his energy doing so, and let it fall back onto the bed. "Here. Holding me like I was a baby." He made a face. "I must be feverish."

"You are," Sam informed him pleasantly. "But that wasn't a dream."

Dean looked at his brother. He took another drink of ginger ale, bending the straw a little more. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You didn't imagine it. Dad was holding you." Sam gave him a teasing smile. "You put up a fuss every time he tried to put you to bed."

Dean stared at him. That was probably the most absurd thing -- then Dean grinned. "You're pulling my leg." Leave it to his brother to mess with him when he was sick. He was kinda proud. He bent the straw back up, but decided he'd had enough when his stomach protested.

Sam shook his head, expression serious. "No leg pulling. He was worried about you. We both were."

"For what? You said I have the flu. It's not some demonic flu thing, is it?" Dean was pretty sure he hadn't done anything lately that would have exposed him to a supernatural illness, but that hardly meant it was impossible. He suddenly realised he was playing with the straw, bending it up and down. He set the glass back down on the table.

"Nothing demonic," Sam reassured him quickly. "But you were having..." he trailed off. "Don't you remember?"

"I was throwing up my guts," Dean said. "I thought it was...you know. The shit that happened." He didn't want to think about it and didn't really understand why he was suddenly thinking about it now after eight years of not.

"So did I," Sam admitted wryly.

"So if it's just the flu, why were you worried?"

Sam looked down at his hands, but didn't answer.

"Sammy?" This didn't look good. He leaned forward, reaching for his brother's wrist. "What's wrong? Where's Dad?" It was just a poltergeist, right? There wasn't something wrong... except Sam wouldn't tell him if there was, if Dean was sick.

"Dad's fine. He's out doing some research." Sam took a deep breath and admitted, "I told him."

"Told him what?" As soon as he said it, he realised -- no, Sam couldn't possibly mean... "You told him we're--"

"No," Sam quickly denied. "God, no. Not that. I told him about what you did when you were fourteen."

Dean let out a sigh, relieved that his brother hadn't done something so incredibly stupid. Then he realised what Sam had told their dad.

And still felt relieved. He tugged on Sam's wrist, pulling him forward. Sam came willingly, though his expression was still a little wary. Dean settled himself quickly against his brother, the feel of it reminding him eerily of the dream he'd had -- not a dream, Sam had told him. Dad had really been here, holding him?

It was too bizarre to think about.

"Thank you," he said, closing his eyes.

Sam's arms tightened around him. "I was afraid you were going to freak."

"I don't think I could have told him," Dean said. He'd thought about it -- once. The idea of it had, well, as Sam said, freaked him out. But he'd always sort of wished his dad knew, if only.... "He wasn't mad?" he asked, thinking of one of the reasons why he'd never wanted to tell his dad what had happened.

"Not at you."

That didn't make sense. He looked at Sam, wondering who the hell Dad could be mad at.

"He's planning on making a trip to South Carolina to pay a certain blackmailing bitch a visit," Sam explained.

Dean blinked, staring at his brother. But Sam was serious. "What the hell for?" he demanded, surprise giving him more strength than he'd thought he'd have. "She just... asked for what she wanted." Like every other trade he'd ever made.

Maybe he was still feverish, because what Sam was saying made absolutely no sense.

"It wasn't something she should have asked for," Sam said fiercely.

Dean frowned. "Why not? Everyone else wanted the same thing." His head hurt and he was exhausted. And his brother still wasn't making any sense. Why get mad at Dorinda Lee for doing the same thing everyone else had done? She'd just been the first, and.. well, maybe Dean hadn't been exactly ready for it. But he'd done OK, and he'd saved Dad, so it must have been good enough.

He'd gotten plenty good enough, pretty quick, and all those other people...was Dad going to hunt them down, too?

"God, Dean, it has nothing to do about if you were good enough or not," Sam told him, looking at him with a stricken look. "Of course you were good enough -- you always are at whatever you think you need to do. Some things you just should never have needed to do."

"Why not?" Dean frowned, then yawned. "It's no big deal." He shivered, a sudden flash of Dorinda Lee -- he'd forgotten about after, in the bathroom of the motel room, trying to wash himself clean. Scrubbing her lipstick off his mouth. Off his cock.

"What would you think if it had been me she'd wanted?" Sam asked.

"You're too young," Dean said, frowning. Christ, Sam was just ten -- even if Dorinda had wanted Sam, there was no way Dean would let him.

"Say it had happened a few years later then and I was the one who was 14." Sam seemed to be watching him awfully closely. "Would you still think it was no big deal?"

Scowling, Dean wanted to know why the hell Sam was saying this. "You don't need to do that sort of thing," he said. "If you need something I'll take care of it."

"I know," Sam said softly and leaned over and kissed him. "But that wasn't what I asked."

Dean glared at his brother again -- not for kissing him, because that was always nice. But for being stubborn and pig-headed and.. and other things he couldn't think of words for other than "Sam Winchester." Why Sam wanted to... let anyone do that sort of thing to him, he didn't understand. Use him like he was nothing. "You're better than that," he said, glaring harder.

Sam nodded in agreement. "So are you."

Dean sighed. "It doesn't matter," he said again, because he had a feeling Sam wasn't ever going to believe him. "I don't have a choice." He rested his head against Sam, and shivered -- weird, because the room was still hot, so why was he shivering? But Sam was comfortable and safe, like always, and he didn't want to move.

He felt Sam shift, reaching for something, though his brother didn't let go of him. Then Sam was handing him two Tylenol and the ginger ale again. "Take these."

Dean let him give him the pills; he still hurt everywhere and the painkillers would hopefully help with that. The ginger ale was warm, but he drank all of it -- realising as he started swallowing just how thirsty he was. When Sam took the glass away Dean leaned into him again. "Gotta take care of you," he said. He didn't understand why Sam didn't get that. It was the only reason Dean did what he did -- he'd do anything to make sure Sam had what he needed. Even if that meant Dean giving up something he didn't really need.

"You do." Sam was stroking his hair again. "You always have. You're pretty much everything to me. That's how I know it's a big deal. You're everything so anyone that makes you feel like nothing is so very wrong they can't even see right anymore."

Dean raised his head and looked at his brother. "Do I have a fever?" It might explain why he felt dizzy trying to follow what Sam had just said.

Sam gave a kind of warbly chuckle. "Yes."

Nodding, Dean relaxed. "So that's why you aren't making sense." He stopped trying to replay Sam's last sentence in his head. He'd heard it before, he thought -- Sam's insistence that because Sam loved him, that suddenly Dean didn't have to make sure everything was all right. That there would be no need for rent, or groceries, or staying out of juvenile detention, just because Sam wanted....whatever Sam wanted.

Dean felt tired and his head still ached despite the Tylenol.

"I want what you want," Sam told him, seeming to answer his thoughts. "Whatever that is. I have you, so I have everything. I want to give you the same thing."

"All I ever wanted was you," Dean said. "Love you. Want you happy." He yawned, and closed his eyes.

He felt Sam kiss him lightly. "You've got me. Always." Another kiss. "I love you. You make me happy."

Dean smiled, snuggling in. "Like it when you say that. Even when it freaks me out." His headache seemed to be fading, and he felt a lot better. He knew it was because Sam was holding him -- he loved it when Sam cuddled.

Sam chuckled. "Guess it's a good thing I'm determined to keep saying it then, huh?"

Dean nodded, feeling himself slipping back to sleep. "Couldn't stop you anyway."

The last thing he remembered was Sam murmuring, "Love you," to him again.

When he woke up the next time, he didn't feel quite as hot, and his body ached but not quite as badly, and best of all Sam was still holding him.

Except...Sam had gotten a lot bigger around the waist, and smelled like Dad. Dean opened his eyes. It looked like Dad, too. He had Dean comfortably resting against him while he read a newspaper he was holding in his free hand.

"Daddy?" He was probably still dreaming. Except why would he dream that he still felt like shit, even if less shitty than before?

Dad immediately put the paper down and turned his full attention to Dean. "Hey," he said with a smile. "How are you feeling?"

"Sick?" He looked around, feeling a little confused. "Where's Sam?"

"He's checking some records at the library." Dad lay a gentle hand against Dean's forehead. "Fever seems to be down a little, so that's good. Do you want something to drink?"

Dean nodded, feeling more confused. He'd been a kid the last time Dad had taken care of him when he was sick. But Dad was holding up a glass of what looked like ginger ale -- with a straw stuck in it. Sam had to have bought those; they'd had bendy-straw sword matches often enough.

"Is there anything else you want?" Dad asked when Dean finished drinking.

He thought about it, but he wasn't thirsty, and he knew he didn't want any food. He wasn't completely exhausted like the last time he'd woken up -- and he had a feeling he'd had a less-than-coherent conversation with Sam. Dean shook his head and relaxed against his dad. "You know what the poltergeist is yet?" he asked.

"We've got some good leads," Dad told him. "That's what's Sam out trying to verify."

Dean nodded, again. "He's good at that," he said. Sam had always been the brain, and had always liked hitting the books and doing research and generally being a geek.

Dad nodded in agreement. "He is. He always has been."

Letting his eyes slip closed, Dean laughed. "Takes after you. Both geeks..." Dean sometimes wondered if he took after Mom -- if she'd been happier doing things rather than reading up on them. Not that he thought she might have liked blowing up buildings, but for all he knew, she would have loved it as much as he did.

Dad chuckled. "You think I'm a geek?"

"I know you're a geek," Dean protested. "Where do you think Sam learned it?"

"A geek." Dad seemed to be very bemused by being called this.

"You're a total research geek," Dean insisted. "The amount of detail you both go into....and God forbid anyone re-arrange your papers while you're still studying 'em." It occurred to him belatedly that criticizing his dad might not be a great idea, especially considering their positions. Dean closed his mouth and wondered if he could get away with blaming it on his fever. Tensing, he started to shift away.

But Dad tightened his arm around Dean and answered in an almost teasing tone. "I'd have thought the hunting and the weapons would balance out any.... geekness."

Letting himself be kept in place, Dean tried to explain, "It's just...your kind of geek. You're a geek about hunting. You always want the shiniest toys and read up on everything about them before you get one."

"So what kind of geek are you, then?" Dad asked after seeming to think that over.

Dean laughed. "I'm not. You and Sam are the geeks -- he doesn't think he's anything like you, but you two are completely alike." Dean sighed. "I'm not like either of you."

"Why do you think that?" Dad's hand found its way up to Dean's face, touching it then sliding back to stroke his hair.

It was relaxing, even as it was out of the world freaky. "Because I don't like that stuff," he said. "I don't wanna read about something, I just want to shoot things and blow up buildings." It was really unlikely that Mom would have liked those things -- Dean wondered vaguely who, if anyone, he did take after.

There was a long pause and then Dad said, "Dean, you do remember who it was who taught you to shoot, don't you?"

"Just because you're good at it doesn't... It's a skill. It's something you need to be good at, in order to do your job. Anything you have to do, you're good at, push yourself to be the best you can be. I--" He didn't know if it would be such a great idea to confess, or not. "I only worked that hard because I wanted you to be proud."

There was a longer pause. Then, "I am proud of you, Dean. I've always been proud of you."

Dean nodded, thinking that he had always been a good shot with any weapon his dad had trained him on -- partly to please his dad and partly because shooting things was fun. Whether it was tin cans or evil monsters, there was a satisfaction that had probably played as much a role in compelling him to practise as wanting to make his dad proud of him.

And there was the fact his baby brother had been better than him with the rifle, which still annoyed him. He needed to find a good field or practise range in Palo Alto.

Dad was looking at him and frowning slightly. "Did you hear what I said?"

"Yeah, you think I'm like you," Dean repeated. Maybe he was right, a little. He couldn't be totally unlike his dad, after all.

"I think you're my son, my firstborn. I look at you and I see bits of myself and bits of...your mother," Dad's voice threatened to break but didn't quite. "God, you smile just like her, and your heart.... You give everything for those you care about, just like she did."

Dean's eyebrows rose, and for a second he couldn't really breathe. He stared at his dad. His dad almost never talked about Mom. And never when he hadn't had a few drinks, first. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask for more, but he stopped himself.

Dad's eyes were distant, melancholy, but he smiled at Dean as he said, "She'd be proud of you too, son."

The words hit him right in his stomach, but Dean frowned. "For shooting things?"

"For the man you've become."

"Oh." It was nice to think his mom would be proud, even if Dean wasn't entirely sure what he'd ever done that he'd want her to know about. He could think of a lot of things he didn't want her to know. Stuff like what Sam said he'd told Dad. And Dad was saying that Mom would be proud. Which meant... despite the stuff Sam had told him.

Dad was watching him closely. "Is any of this sinking in?"

"What?" He looked up at Dad, feeling suddenly like Dad had been lecturing him on something -- but he'd always paid attention to those lectures and it had always sunk in, so why.... He rubbed at his face and thought he still felt warm. "How can you say that?" slipped out, when he'd only meant to think it.

"That Mary would be proud of you?" Dad asked.

"Sam told you what I did," he said, barely able to whisper it.

Dad nodded solemnly. "He did."

"You...she'd hate me," Dean said, feeling the words slip out even as it occurred to him it might be the wrong thing to admit out loud.

"No." Dean felt his father's arm around him tighten. "Dean, your mother could never hate you. I could never hate you. You're my son. And I certainly could never hate you for that."

He didn't argue with his dad -- been taught too early not to. But...being someone's kid didn't erase the things they'd done. Maybe that was all Dad meant, though, that she'd just ignore those things. Like parents who insisted their murdering, thieving kids were still loved and innocent and....

Maybe Dad just meant that she'd forgive him, since he'd done it to save Dad's life.

"I'm sorry, Dean."

"I didn't know what else to do," Dean said quickly, wanting to apologise before Dad could say it. Tell him what he'd done wrong, how he could have avoided the whole.... He shoved himself away from Dad, hard, and rolled over to the far edge of the bed. Someone had left a trash can right where he needed it, and the ginger ale he'd had came up.

He felt his father's hand on his back as he was sick, rubbing in soothing circles that he vaguely remembered from being sick as a child. It felt a lot like how Sam did it, too, which was weird. Or...not, Dean wasn't sure. He finished upchucking his soda and leaned sideways onto the pillow.

Dad ran a hand over his forehead in a gesture that would've brushed Dean's hair back if it had been longer. "Do you want some water to wash your mouth out?" he asked quietly.

Dean nodded, feeling exhausted again. He felt himself turning towards Dad's hand as he moved away, and stopped himself. But Dad must've seen because after he gave Dean some water, he tugged gently on Dean's shoulder, pulling him closer until his head was pillowed on Dad's knee and the hand was back stroking his hair.

He blamed it on being sick and exhausted, because he let him. The kind of cuddling he hadn't had from anyone but Sam since he'd been so small he could barely remember. He wanted to close his eyes and drift off, but he also wanted to stay awake and enjoy this while he could.

Dad was silent for so long that Dean was on the verge of falling asleep before he spoke again. "I know you didn't know what else to do," he said quietly. "You were put in a situation you never should have been in, where all the decisions were bad ones and you chose the one that you thought was least bad."

Dean forced himself not to speak -- it was always so hard, listening to his Dad correct him. He rarely yelled, rarely belabored whatever point he was trying to make. He just made it and expected you to figure it out on your own. But he nodded, to let his dad know he'd heard and understood. "I'm sorry," he whispered, not sure it would help. He still didn't know what he could have done, but Dad was right that he'd made a bad choice.

He closed his eyes and tried to think about what she'd said. What else he could have done. Sam had only told Dad about it today, and already he'd figured out how Dean had fucked it up, which meant it was probably fucking obvious and he'd missed it because he'd been so caught up in what she'd done to him.

Dad made a sound of frustration. "Dean, you weren't in the wrong. It wasn't your fault."

"But you said I made a bad decision," Dean whispered, which meant he should have done something else only he didn't have any idea what. Let Dad die, or let Dorinda force him-- Dean could feel himself shaking, and god, he wanted Sammy. Even if he had to lie, Sam would tell him it hadn't been his fault, and he wouldn't be disgusted by the fact Dean couldn't stop shaking or that now he was crying like a little kid because he'd been wrong and his dad was telling him so.

"What?" John said sounding honestly surprised. "No, Dean, that's not what I said. I said you made the least bad. You made the best decision you could. I hate like hell that that bitch had her hands on you, but none of that is your fault. You were doing what you did to save my life. And you did."

He still couldn't stop shaking, but hearing Dad say that.... He dug his fingers into the fabric of Dad's jeans, wanting...wanting to hear him say it again. He pressed his face against his dad's knee, and felt something inside him unravel. "I thought...you'd tell me what I should have done. That I made a mistake."

John shook his head. "No, son. You just did what you had to do. I was the one who'd made the mistake."

"You didn't mean to get caught," Dean said, and realised it kinda sounded stupid even as he said it. "And it wasn't like we could let them keep killing people."

"And you couldn't let them kill me," Dad said.

"No," Dean gasped, because just the thought of letting his dad get killed made him feel queasy in a way that had nothing to do with the flu.

Dad began stroking his hair again. "And you didn't. You saved me."

Dean nodded. That had made it worth it, had made him able to forget more or less about that night, until recently. Maybe it was the flu, maybe Sam was right about feeling safe enough to deal with it.

What he'd done really didn't matter, because he'd saved Dad. Dean closed his eyes, feeling himself relaxing. Dorinda had been creepy, and scared him -- but he'd brought Dad home, safe. "I guess... it shouldn't bother me, what she did," he muttered, feeling like he could probably fall asleep without much effort.

"It bothers me, what she did," Dad said softly.

Dean nodded again. It bothered him, too, really, though he'd always tried not to ever say so. He'd finally told Sam, and he'd always wanted, ever since it had happened, to tell Dad. He could feel Dad's hand still running through his hair, and his stomach still felt sore, but he didn't feel quite so hot anymore.

In fact he kinda felt like things were a little bit all right.

~~~

Dean slept most of the next two days, at first waking only long enough to drink more ginger ale and take more Tylenol. They'd been able to get him to eat a little -- crackers at first, as he couldn't keep anything else down. But he'd finally managed to keep down some soup, and he'd stopped running a fever, and when he was awake he'd seemed more coherent and less like all he wanted to do was go back to sleep.

Which meant, of course, he was insisting on going with them.

"I don't have to run around, but I can sit in the truck and I can fire a shotgun--" Dean was saying, glaring stubbornly at Sam.

"No," Sam told him firmly. Not for the first time.

"Sam," Dean began, in that tone he reserved for big brotherly ordering around.

"Dean, we'll be fine," Dad put in, gently. "You still need to rest."

"Dad's right," Sam said, grateful for the backup. "You're just now getting better -- you don't need to overdo it and relapse."

Dean scowled at Sam, then at Dad, though the look softened when he aimed it at their dad. "I'm not going to overdo it," he insisted.

"No, you're not, because you're not going," Sam told him, watching his brother trying not to sway on his feet. "Dean, you can barely stand."

Dean straightened up, holding himself still and glaring at Sam. Dad, however, just walked over and put his hand on Dean's arm, pulling at him slightly. Dean listed towards him, then fell heavily against their dad with a soft groan.

Dad pulled him towards the bed, and Dean protested, but he went. Sam relaxed a little as he watched, glad for once that Dean always obeyed Dad -- or at least didn't have the energy to fight him off.

"I can sit in the truck," Dean said again, even as Dad pushed his shoulder, and Dean sat down to the bed.

"You can sit up in bed," Sam countered. "Watch some tv or surf the 'net." He paused. "If you're really good, I can call you and give you a play by play."

At that, Dean scowled at him, hard. "You're gonna blow something up and I won't be there," he complained. There was a soft chuckle from Dad.

"We're not planning on blowing anything up."

"Really, it's going to be boring," Sam put in as earnestly as he could. "Just the usual salt and burn. You can dig to China next time."

Dad looked over at Sam, startled and amused. Before he could say anything though, Dean said, "I don't." He scowled at Sam again.

Sam rolled his eyes. "God, you get so pissy when you're sick. You're not going and that's that, even if we have to tie you to the bed." He tried to ignore the mental pictures that went along with that because Dad was right there. "Now do you want me to call you when we're out or not?"

"I'm not pissy," Dean protested. "I'm tired of being sick and you're gonna go blow up a building and I'm gonna miss it."

"We won't blow anything up without you," Dad said, soothingly. "When you feel better, if you want, we can go down to New Mexico and clear out some of those possessed prairie dog nests."

Demonic prairie dogs weren't anything that ever bothered anyone, but dropping a stick of dynamite down the hole had always been fun for Dean when he'd been a kid. Dad had used them to train Dean and Sam on how to use explosives.

Dean looked hopeful. "Really?"

Sam rolled his eyes again. Trust that to be the thing that got Dean to cooperate.

"Really," Dad said, indulgently -- though there was something in his tone that said maybe Dean wasn't the only one who liked blowing stuff up.

"Sammy'll have a break for Thanksgiving," Dean said, even as he was letting Dad push him back to lean against the headboard. He didn't fuss when Dad pulled the blankets over him, either. Then he paused and looked at Sam, alarmed. "You've missed school."

"It's okay," Sam assured him. "I emailed my professors and let them know I had a family medical emergency."

"The flu's not an emergency," Dean began. But he stopped, and Sam could tell that Dean didn't really mind that Sam had stayed.

"I maybe exaggerated a little," Sam admitted, smiling at Dean.

"If you told them I'm dying, I expect you to do all the chores for a week when we get home," Dean said, shifting the pillows he was leaning against.

Sam reached over and arranged the pillows for Dean. "I'll probably end up doing them anyway just because watching you fall on your face isn't really as entertaining as it sounds."

"I'm not that sick," Dean insisted. His head rested back on the pillow, giving every indication that as soon as they left, he'd be asleep.

"Whatever you say, Dean," Sam said, wishing he could kiss him but again, Dad in the room.

Dean flipped Sam off. Dad said, "We'll be back soon," then he leaned down and gave Dean a kiss on the top of his head. Dean didn't move until Dad had turned to walk away; when Dad's back was to him, Dean's eyes went wide.

Sam wasn't sure if his own eyes weren't as wide. It wasn't that he ever doubted that their father cared for them, but that kind of display of physical affection wasn't something he usually expected from him.

Dean's face fell almost immediately back into a casual mask; he gestured towards the table and said, "Sam, gimme the TV remote." There was a very slight shake to his voice -- the only sign that anything had happened. Sam picked up the remote and handed it to his brother, taking the opportunity to squeeze Dean's hand covertly. When he got close, though, Dean hissed under his breath, "Douse him with holy water."

"He's not possessed, Dean," Sam assured him.

Dean glared. "I'm serious!" he whispered, and took the remote and clicked on the TV, giving their Dad a breezy grin. "You two have fun," he said at a more normal volume.

Sam rolled his eyes again and said loud enough for Dad to hear, "Christo." Just to prove it to Dean.

Dad raised an eyebrow, looking confused. Dean thumped Sam on the arm.

"Ow," Sam said, rubbing his arm. "See? Not possessed."

"And now he thinks I'm nuts," Dean said.

"He's our dad, Dean. He already knows you're nuts," Sam teased. He surreptitiously squeezed Dean's hand again.

Dean flipped him off again, then gave Sam a shove. It wasn't a hard shove -- which made Sam wonder again how long Dean would be awake once they left.

"Come on," Dad said, though there was no hint of impatience in his voice.

"Do you want me to call?" Sam asked his brother even as he was backing towards the door.

"No. Yes. No," Dean was still frowning. Then he looked up at Sam and seemed to really think about the question. "Yes," he finally said, calmly.

Sam nodded seriously. "All right. I'll call when we get there." He smiled slightly. "When Dad doesn't have me digging for China."

Dean nodded and gave Sam a very brief look that said he was thinking about kissing him senseless. Then he just sighed. "You better get going." Sam nodded again, gave Dean a heated look of his own then turned and left.

Dad preceded him out of the room, not saying anything as they headed down to the truck. He seemed at ease, focused and intent on the job ahead.

Sam's thoughts were still up in the motel room with Dean. "He's definitely better if he's arguing to come with us," he said.

Dad laughed. "That's true. He always hated to be left out." The amusement died a little as they climbed into the truck, and Dad glanced upwards, towards the motel room. "When he got old enough, I always hated leaving him behind."

"With me," Sam said, knowing that was the only reason Dean hadn't been with Dad on every hunt.

Dad gave him a look. "I never had to worry about you when Dean was with you."

"I never worried about me when Dean was with me, either," Sam admitted. "But there were times when that wasn't where he wanted to be."

There was a moment while Dad didn't respond, then he asked quietly, "Is he having trouble now? With you in school?"

It was the question that Sam kept poking at, worrying at. "I dunno," he finally said softly. "He says not, but..."

"But he isn't always honest when it comes to himself," Dad finished. "And as long as he thinks you need him, he'll--"

"He'd walk through hell for me if he thought I needed him to," Sam said, heartfelt.

Something passed over his dad's face -- like maybe Dad was thinking he already had. But what he said was, "I can come to Palo Alto sometimes, free Dean up to take some jobs." He stopped and glanced over at Sam. "I know you're completely capable of handling yourself. But college takes a lot of time and hard work and I don't want you worrying about things your brother and I can protect you from. I don't want you doing badly in your classes because of this."

"I can handle it," Sam told him. "I originally thought I'd be going alone anyway, so it's kinda what I planned for when I was applying."

"I know you can handle it," Dad said easily. "But if something happens to you I'll--" He stopped, pausing a moment, then when he continued his voice was back under control. "That isn't the issue. College is a full-time job."

"Dad, nothing's going to happen to me," Sam said earnestly. That was the real issue here.

"You don't know that. Even if-- Sam, I would do anything to keep you boys safe. Even...." Even sacrifice his older son's happiness, Sam thought was what he didn't say.

"I know, Dad, but some things just aren't worth sacrificing," Sam said seriously, taking the chance to address this point. "We need to be able to live beyond just being safe."

He watched as his dad just gripped the steering wheel hard, staring at the road ahead. After a long silence, his dad said harshly, "What we do is important. Finding the demon that killed your mom-- Isn't something I can compromise on."

Sam was hit by a series of memory flashes: his father talking about getting the demon, feeling the same desperate need in himself, of Dean yelling at him that it was going to get them both killed and he'd have to bury them, of looking at Dean's face pale and covered in blood, hearing his voice begging him not to shoot...

He shook his head, trying to banish the images and the emotions attached, but couldn't quite manage it. Their residue made his voice a lot rougher than he'd intended when he said, "There are some things that are more important than the demon. He's more important."

"Sam, that demon killed your mother. I realise you don't remember her, maybe that's why you don't care--"

"I care," Sam insisted, another flash of his mom smiling at him with sad eyes.

"You have a strange way of showing it," his dad said, his voice tight.

"So you're saying killing the demon is more important to you than Dean and me?" Sam challenged.

"I never--" Dad began, then cut off. In a softer, but no less harsh tone, he said, "I loved your mother just as much as I love you boys. I would do anything for her."

"I know," Sam said, trying to rein his temper back in with mixed success. "But she wouldn't want that to include sacrificing us. Or yourself."

His dad shook his head, clearly brushing aside Sam's final words. He could see that his dad was trying to brush them all aside -- sticking with the decision he'd made eighteen years ago, to pursue the demon at all costs. But dad knew now what those costs had really been -- not for himself, but for his sons. For Dean.

"Dad, you say you'd do anything for Mom. I'd do anything for Dean and I know the reverse is true. Finding the demon is important, I agree, but I won't let you sacrifice either one of us in the search." Sam paused, then amended, "I won't let you sacrifice any more of us."

There was complete silence from the other side of the truck; Dad was staring ahead, and only the palpable tension gave any sign that he'd heard. A moment later, though, he was pulling the truck to the side of the street and slamming on the brakes. When the truck was stopped, he turned and looked at Sam. "Perhaps you'd better head back to the motel and see to your brother."

"Dad-" Sam began.

His dad glared at him, hot and angrier than he could ever recall seeing him. "If you don't think that destroying the demon that killed your mother is important, then get out of this truck and go back to the motel."

"I never said it wasn't-"

"But there are other things you'd rather do?"

"Live," Sam replied. "Have a life. Make sure my brother has a life. Not have any of us die."

"Like your mother died?" Dad asked, and the cruelty of his words was dulled, slightly, in the way his voice broke.

Sam looked his father in the eye and said softly, "Don't you think this demon has spilled enough Winchester blood?"

His dad glared at him, and the words he didn't say were loud enough they both heard them clearly. His dad didn't really care if the demon killed him, as long as the demon was destroyed. As he stared at Sam, the anger shifted. Sam didn't know what his father was imagining, but suddenly the anger melted away, leaving only grief.

Sam watched him, not knowing what to say, though he sensed that things had shifted emotionally in their conversation.

Finally his dad said, "I can't let this thing get away. Your mother... I loved her more than...." He sounded broken, now, all traces of angry confrontation gone. But he looked over at Sam, eyes bright. "Not more than you boys."

"I know," Sam said quietly.

He leaned forward over the wheel, then, resting his forehead on his hands for a second. Sam could hear him taking a deep breath. When he straightened up he looked under control again. He put the truck into gear and said, "We need to get rid of this poltergeist."

There was something like an apology in his voice.

Sam took a deep breath. "Yes sir," he said.

Apology accepted.

~~~

Dean wanted to stretch out on the motel bed, face first, and close his eyes. He'd been doing nothing but sleep, watch TV, and browse the internet for four days and finally they were ready to head home -- god, home. Home. He shook his head and told himself that now was no time for wanting to give in and have a nap, because Sam would take it as a sign that a) he wasn't ready for the trip back and b) he, Sam, was right. Again.

Sam and Dad had gotten back sometime last night while Dean was sound asleep. When he'd woken up, he'd found his dad and brother talking quietly over breakfast.

It was weird -- not quite like they were getting along, but there wasn't any yelling or silent screaming or dark looks that said one of them was about to starting shouting. All last summer it had been like this, though now there was something else to it that Dean couldn't figure out.

"You'd tell me if you got to blow something up, right?" Dean asked, giving his brother a slight frown.

"Yes, Dean, I'd tell you if we'd blown something up," Sam said patiently, not for the first time.

"And you wouldn't lie to me because you know I'll be pissed?" He'd actually checked the local news when he'd gotten up; neither Sam nor Dad had said anything as he'd turned on the TV and flipped to the news. Nothing at all had been said about fires, mysterious holes in the cemeteries, or how those strangers at the local motel were about to be arrested for vandalism.

"It was a routine salt and burn," Sam told him. "Dig, burn, bury. You didn't miss anything."

Sam was wrong, of course; he had missed something. Going on a hunt with Sam and Dad, like nothing was wrong between any of them. But instead he'd had to spend the entire job in bed, throwing up his guts.

Dean just frowned and let it go before he started whining about that. He bent down to grab his duffel, trying to get packed. Dad had finished his own packing half an hour before, his bags sitting by the door waiting. Sam crossed the room with some clothes to pack, nudging against Dean seemingly accidentally, though there glint in his eyes spoke otherwise.

Reaching over to grab some of his own clothes, Dean elbowed his brother in the stomach, sort of gently. Smiling slightly, Sam reached over to pick up a pair of pants that was lying on the bed on the far side of Dean and whacked him with it in the face as he pulled it back.

Discarding any pretense, Dean hooked his foot around Sam's ankle and tripped him onto the bed. Sam yelped as he went down, grabbing onto Dean's shirt and pulling him down on top of him. Dean bounced on top of his brother -- reminding himself sharply that Dad was sitting at the table pretending to ignore them, but that wouldn't last long if Dean did what he really wanted to do. Instead, he got his hands onto the mattress and pushed himself to one side, pulling Sam by the arm to flip him over Dean and hopefully onto the floor.

But Sam hooked those ridiculously long legs of his around Dean and held on, foiling Dean's attempted floor dumping.

Then his fingers sought out all the places that Dean was ticklish.

Dean brought his arms to his sides, trying to defend himself while trying to push Sam off him. He only managed to block one hand, leaving his other side fully exposed. Dean yanked himself and Sam onto their sides, feeling as though his body weighed three times what it used to, and his limbs suddenly felt like he was swimming through mud.

He hated being sick, but he hated the part afterwards even more, when he felt fine but his stupid body wouldn't cooperate with anything. Sam, being Sam, seemed to figure out exactly when Dean's energy started to flag as his attack slowed as well until they were just laying on their sides looking at each other.

"Jerk," Dean said. He really wanted to kiss him -- more than that, but at the least, a kiss would be good.

Sam gave him a tiny smile, just the corners of his mouth turning up. "Jot de gari," he said back, with a perfect accent.

Startled, Dean grinned - slow at first but as soon as it started he found he couldn't stop it from taking over his entire face. He knew he probably looked like a loon. "You gonna take my Korean class with me?" he asked.

"Do you want me to?" Sam asked, dimples showing as he smiled widely at Dean.

"I want you to take it for me," Dean said, trying to sound more like a big brother and less like a love-sick moron. "Then you could do my homework."

Sam snorted. "Jot de gari," he said again. "I'm not doing your homework for you."

"Come on," Dean wheedled. "It's all right, Dad's not listening." There was a snort from the table where Dad was sitting.

"Yeah, he is," Sam said, his eyes holding all sorts of things that would get them in so much trouble if Dad heard.

"No, he's not," Dean said, though it was absurd to think he could even be pretending that Dad wasn't listening to every word. But he was caught in those promises Sam was looking at him; he wanted to go home -- to be home, already, so he could do something about them.

"If you're taking classes, I expect you to do your own work," Dad said, in a casually-stern tone.

"Told you so," Sam said in his best annoying little brother voice, though he was still smiling at Dean. Or was until he stuck his tongue out at him.

"So you don't want me to tell him about the time I did your math homework?" Dean asked, raising an eyebrow. He knew he was probably safe from paternal wrath -- Sam had been in second grade, had thrown a temper tantrum rather than do subtraction problems. Dean had finally just done them himself so Sam would shut up about it.

"Bite me," Sam said, still grinning.

Dean brought up his hand and flipped his brother off, giving him a look that said he meant it, oh so very much. He felt like maybe lying on the bed with Sam was going to be a bad idea, fast, though, so he pushed himself upright and looked over at their dad.

Dad was watching them with a soft smile, which took Dean back a bit. His dad had been acting fucking weird the whole week. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sam sit up beside him, watching Dad with a strange intent expression.

That was the other bizarre thing - not just Dad and Sam getting along, but acting like... well, like they liked each other. Or... Dean thought maybe he could blame it on being sick, except that reminded him of the fact that when he'd been running a fever, every time he'd woken up either Sam or Dad had been holding him.

Maybe Sam and Dad were both possessed.

It was, on the other hand, if downright freaky -- kind of nice. It occurred to him that they'd started acting like this right after Sam had told Dad....

Deciding he so did not want to think about that, Dean picked up the clothes he'd been trying to pack earlier, and dropped them on Sam.

"Hey!"

"Make yourself useful," Dean told him.

Sam threw a balled up pair of socks at him. Dean scowled and threw them back at Sam's head. "Pack!" he ordered, knowing there was no way in Hell Sam would actually pack, but he was curious to know what Sam would end up doing. Other than throw Dean's clothes at him.

"You know, check out is at eleven," Dad said calmly.

"Plenty of time," Sam assured him. "As long as Dean gets his ass in gear."

"You started it," Dean said, almost embarrassed to have that for a retort. But it was actually true this time. He rolled onto his back on the bed, and said, "Besides, you should pack for me. I'm sick."

Sam looked at him intently and Dean did his best to look like an invalid. "Fine," Sam said, hands on his hips. "If you're too sick to pack, you're too sick to drive. And maybe too sick to travel at all."

Dean opened his mouth, then stopped. He didn't mind so much Sam driving, but-- "Oh, hell no." Sam knew the rule about the driver picking the music. He sat up fast enough his head spun a little, and grabbed his clothes from Sam and stared stuffing them into his duffel.

Sam smirked, clapped a hand to Dean's shoulder as he got up and went over to join Dad at the table.

"Bitch," Dean said, and he continued packing. He could feel Sam watching him, but he didn't turn around to look. He wasn't sure if he'd see the expected smirk or something more... dangerous. And hot. Christ, but how stupid -- or desperate -- did they have to be, to do this sort of thing with Dad sitting right in the room? Dean might have been sick, but he still felt the ache of having not touched Sam, not felt Sam's hands and tongue and cock and -- Dean mentally shook himself and reminded himself that thinking about it was not helping.

But he got his clothes packed into his duffel, as long as nobody counted off for neatness. Then he looked around for his kit -- not that he'd unloaded it at all, hadn't even had the chance to get any of his weapons out before being laid low. It was ready to go, which meant toiletries and the one last look around the room for clean-up and he was good.

"Ready?" Sam asked from his place sitting at the table.

"No." Dean ducked into the bathroom and discovered all his crap was in its bag, already packed. He grabbed it and came back out; the look on his brother's face said he'd been the one to do it. Dean scowled, because if Sam was going to pack some of his shit, why not all of it? "I'm ready," he finally said. He didn't see any salt on the floor or chalk on the walls, so apparently Dad and Sam had already cleaned up while he'd been sleeping.

"Right," Sam said, turning back to Dad. "Looks like we're ready to take off."

Dad nodded, and stood up. "Was good to see you boys," he said, in a gruff voice. Dean watched as he reached out and gave Sam a quick hug, then he walked over and gave one to Dean. It was brief, but strong, and much more like what Dean was used to from his dad.

"We still going to New Mexico?" Dean asked, hopefully. Thanksgiving wasn't all that far away, and he could use the time to stockpile some empty bottles for firebombs.

His father smiled at him and nodded. "Don't want the state to get overrun by demonic prairie dogs now, do we?"

Dean grinned as he picked up his duffel and slung it over his shoulder. "You gonna come, too?" he asked Sam. Sam had never really taken the same delight in blowing shit up that Dean did. But his brother was weird, so that was all right.

Sam shrugged. "Dunno. Dropping explosives down holes doesn't turn my crank as much as it does yours."

"You'd rather stay home and do homework?" Dean frowned, willing to give his brother a pout, even though it probably wouldn't work. "Sam, explosives," he said, in the exact same tone he usually reserved for "fish tacos."

"You're not actually helping your case, Dean," Sam told him with a wry smile.

Dean gave his brother a perplexed look, then turned to their dad. "Are you sure we're related?"

"Do you want to see your birth certificates?" Dad asked with a straight face.

"Because we've never forged those before," Dean said, dryly. Which reminded him of the entire reason Sam had even come up to Clayton in the first place. He shot a look at Sam, wondering if he wanted to do the honors, or if they should pretend they had no idea what Pastor Jim was talking about when he talked to Dad.

Sam, being Sam interpreted what Dean was thinking from the look and cleared his throat. "Oh, by the way Dad, you might be hearing some stories about us in Palo Alto..."

Dad just raised an eyebrow and waited.

"You see," Sam continued, looking earnest, "to be allowed to live off campus, I had to um..."

Dean had been really hoping he wouldn't have to jump in; he liked the idea of standing back and pretending he'd had nothing to do with any of this. But Sam was a hair's breadth away from flashing that Look at him, so Dean said, "They wouldn't give him an exception to live off-campus, without a good reason. All freshmen have to live in the dorms, and it isn't like I could sleep on the floor." Well, he could have, now that he'd thought of it. If they hadn't had better reasons for needing their own place.

Sam nodded with what Dean said. "So we had to give them a reason why I couldn't live in the dorms."

Dad just said, in a mild tone, "I'm assuming you didn't tell them about demons."

"We thought of that," Dean said, lightly. "But we went with Sam being attached at the hip to his domestic partner." Dean was rather amazed he'd been able to just say those words to his dad without dying from embarrassment. He didn't think his face was burning red.

Sam's face wasn't quite that bad either but there was definitely more colour than usual in his cheeks. "Everyone at school thinks Dean's my l-lover, not my brother," he said, in a reasonably calm and collected voice, only stumbling over the one word. "One of my classmates is from Blue Earth and knows Pastor Jim, and I made the mistake of letting on I knew him too and now she can't wait to go home and tell him about her friend Sam who's living with his partner Dean..." He trailed off with a shrug. "We didn't want it getting back to you without any warning and freak you out or anything so..."

Dad looked at Sam with an impassive face. "You thought I'd be confused as to whether you're both my sons or not?" he asked, dryly.

"We just...figured you'd talk to Pastor Jim and he'd...." Dean trailed off, because clearly this wasn't going to be a big deal. Not as long as Dad thought it was a lie, at any rate. He looked at Sam and said, gravely, "You really are adopted, you know."

"Oh, bite me," Sam told him, but there was a giddy relief in his eyes when Dean looked at him. Sam obviously hadn't been as confident in his plan as he'd let on.

Dean wrinkled his nose. "Dude, I know where you've been." Even if the thought of biting Sam was making him want to get away from Dad and someplace private. It occurred to him too late that he should have faked being too sick to travel, yet, so he and Sam could have stayed in the motel room for another day.

"Is that all you needed to tell me?" Dad asked, looking back and forth between them. "Or do you want to also reassure me that Dean's not really a cannibal?"

"I actually did eat a guy once," Dean said, keeping his face straight.

He saw... something flash through Sam's eyes quickly before his expression shut down, and even Dad was frowning a little at him. Dean tried to think of something that would let them both know he was kidding, except he already knew they were both thinking that, really, he wasn't. Dean rolled his eyes.

"We going or what?" Not that the idea of having a chick flick talk with Sam and Dad at the same time didn't sound like just as much fun as having his eyeballs gouged out with a rusty nail.

Sam seemed to shake himself and nodded, heading once again toward the door but Dad stopped them both with a quiet, "Dean."

Dean froze, frowning as he felt himself tense. Whatever Dad was going to say, Dean had a bad feeling he didn't want to hear it.

Dad's gaze was serious as he looked at Dean. "You don't... You know you don't have to do that anymore, right?"

Fucking hell, was all Dean could think. It was bad enough -- or good, depending -- that Dad knew about South Carolina. And he knew Dad knew about this stuff, but they never talked about it. He realised he'd taken a step backwards and stopped himself. He wanted to say yeah, he'd promised Sammy he'd stop, but.. he couldn't exactly say that without saying he only slept with Sam, now, and it pissed Sam off to have Dean sleeping around.

His mouth opened and nothing came out but a half-voiced, "Yes, sir."

Dad looked like he wanted to say more, but he finally just nodded. "You boys better get going if you don't want to be driving half the night."

Dean managed a nod and another "Yes, sir," this time sounding less like he was about to swallow his tongue.

"I'll give you a call and we can plan the New Mexico trip."

He nodded again. "Yes, sir." He waited, and he couldn't see anything that meant Dad was quietly disapproving. He could remember how Dad looked at him differently after the Shtriga, that unspoken lack of faith, and disappointment. He didn't think he saw any of that, now.

Dad was still looking at him, then got up and crossed the room to where Dean stood. He hesitated, then hugged Dean again. Dean stood absolutely frozen for all of two seconds, then he heard an embarrassingly young voice in his head whispering, "He's not mad at me." Then Dean's arms proved they had minds of their own because he was grabbing onto Dad with both arms and hanging on like he was still feverish and out of his mind.

He thought about shoving himself backwards, but he couldn't make himself move yet. Well, he could -- his head dropped forward and he clung to his dad like it was Sam hugging him. He heard the door open and shut, but couldn't bring himself to pull away to look. He knew it was Sam, though why he was leaving -- it wasn't like Sam hadn't seen him with his walls even farther down than this.

He stayed where he was, though, because Dad was still holding him and finally Dean felt himself relax. Tension draining out of him like water through a drain, he shivered, once, and thought maybe he could blame collapsing onto his dad, on the flu. He wasn't quite sure he could say he was just grateful his dad didn't disapprove of him.

"Thank you," he managed to mutter.

His dad nodded, which Dean felt more than saw. But he didn't let go. Not yet. Dean let himself enjoy it for another ten seconds, then right before he began to feel awkward as hell, he let go.

Dad let him go instantly, patting his shoulder as he pulled back. He looked a little self-conscious, which, perversely, made Dean feel a little better. His dad nodded again. "Take care of yourself and your brother," he said a little gruffly.

"Always," Dean said, though he figured Dad knew he meant Sam maybe a little more than himself. Dean stepped away and grabbed his hunting kit, noticed that Sam had taken their duffels with him.

He and Dad gathered up the rest of their stuff and headed out of the room, and by the time they stepped onto the walkway everything was back to normal. They didn't talk on their way down to the vehicles, a comfortable silence that Dean had long associated with hunting with Dad. They found Sam waiting for them, leaning against the Impala and watching them closely. Whatever he saw made the corners of his mouth curl up in a barely there satisfied smile. "We're all packed and ready to go," he told Dean.

"Great." Dean held out his hunting kit to see if Sam would take it as their dad went around to his truck and put his own bags away.

And for once Sam did, taking the bag and going around to put it in the trunk. "Don't get used to it," he muttered to Dean good-naturedly as he came back to the side of the car.

Dean looked at him as if bewildered, then turned his attention back to Dad as he stepped up beside them. For a horrible second he thought his dad was going to hug him again, right in the open. Not that a quick hello or goodbye hug wasn't normal, but Dean knew if anyone touched him again he was going to fucking embarrass himself by turning into a clingy six year old.

But Dad just gave him a curt nod, smiling at him. Then he watched as Dad looked at Sam, started to give him the same curt nod -- then he raised an arm towards him and gave Sam a hug. Dad said something to Sam too softly for Dean to hear and Sam looked a little startled, but nodded and hugged Dad back.

When Dad let go, he said, "Thank you," to Sam, voice still soft but Dean could hear it clearly. He felt himself flush, knowing exactly what Dad was thanking Sam for. He suddenly wanted to be going, already, in the car with the radio blaring and nothing to do but drive for sixteen hours.

Or forever, maybe; sometimes he missed being on the road all the time. He glanced down at his car where his hand was resting on the curve of the door, trailing his fingers along the metal. Someday, he told himself.

He shook himself hard, and looked up as Dad walked away, towards his truck.

"You boys drive easy," he said.

"We will," Dean promised.

Sam looked at Dean assessingly long enough that it began to make Dean nervous. He was just starting to get twitchy when Sam asked, "You want to drive?"

Dean blinked. "Are you giving me permission to drive my car?" he asked, trying for bland. "Unless you wanna rent a room, lover boy," he said, loudly enough for Dad to hear right before he put his truck into gear. Dean grinned. "Then I'm driving."

"Jot de gari," Sam said, but he was smiling when he tossed Dean's keys to him -- keys he'd confiscated earlier to make sure Dean didn't drive.

Dean glared at them as he realised what Sam had done, then gave Sam a glare as he walked around to the driver's side door. "You are so doing my English homework."

~~~

They made it ten minutes past the edge of town before they'd stopped. Two quick blow jobs later they'd been back on the highway, Dean singing along with Pantera. Sam had leaned back and enjoyed the music, keeping a close eye on his brother's energy level. It had started to flag about an hour and a half later, but Dean had stubbornly refused to say anything until Sam finally came right out and asked.

"Pull over at the next rest stop," Sam said with world weary patience, "and I'll take over."

"Sam, I'm fine," came the not-wholly-unexpected reply. Dean visibly focused his attention on the road again, which only further proved that if he had to, then he needed to take a break.

"And I'd like you to stay that way," Sam shot back smoothly. "And me as well. And the car too. You wouldn't let me drive if I was having to concentrate as hard as you're having to do."

"I'm not having a hard time concentrating," Dean replied, but he sounded sullen, rather than convincing.

"Yeah, sure," Sam said, snorting in disbelief. Apparently he was going to have to bring out the big guns. "If you don't pull over, I'm not going to have sex with you for a week."

There was a snort. "As if you could hold out that long." But as they passed the sign which listed the rest stop in a half-mile, Sam noticed that Dean began to slow down. When he took the exit, he gave Sam a glare. "I'm not tired, I just need to take a piss."

"Of course," Sam said, not bothering to try and sound like he actually believed Dean. His brother flipped him off as he pulled into the rest stop, then after he parked, Sam watched as Dean got out and headed towards the restrooms.

Sam grinned as he watched his stubborn brother's retreating form and then slid over into the driver's seat.

It wasn't very long before Dean was heading back to the car. He headed towards the passenger side of the car, scowling mildly.

"Are you going to sulk the rest of the way home?" Sam asked curiously.

"I'm not sulking."

"Pouting?"

"Do you ever want another blow job in your life?"

It was Sam's turn to snort. "Yeah, like that's a real threat."

"You don't think I could stop giving you blowjobs?" Dean asked, and his tone was pure challenge -- as though he wasn't saying something completely absurd.

"No, I don't think you could stop giving me blowjobs," Sam said with a smirk. "I know you can't stop giving me blowjobs."

Dean raised an eyebrow at him and asked, "You don't think I could stop sucking your dick into my mouth? Pulling the tip of your cock over my lips real slow, letting you fuck my mouth?"

Sam swallowed, trying to ignore the mental pictures Dean's words were inspiring. "I think you don't think you could, either."

"You really think I couldn't give up the taste of your precum, the way your cock hits the back of my tongue when you fuck my mouth hard, or the way I fucking swallow you whole when you finally shoot off and I swallow every last drop?"

Sam's jeans were beginning to get tight. "Dean?"

"Yeah?" How he made that one syllable so sultry, Sam didn't know.

Unable and unwilling to resist, Sam slid across the seat and kissed Dean, pressing up against him. Dean didn't even pretend to hesitate, opening his mouth as soon as Sam's lips touched his. His arms came around him, and it was so much nicer than the urgent sex they'd had as soon as they'd got free of Clayton.

Then Dean nudged him back.

Sam obediently pulled back, but gave Dean his best puppy look. "What?"

The corner of his brother's mouth quirked up, and he pointed. "You wanna move the car?" There weren't a lot of other cars parked at the rest stop, but they were rather front and center to the main rest area. Dean was pointing to an area somewhat more secluded.

"Right," Sam said, but couldn't resist leaning in for one more quick kiss before sliding back over behind the wheel and moving the car.

"Or we could put out a hat for tips," Dean said, leaning back in his seat, letting his legs fall open. His erection was clearly obvious, pressed against his jeans. As Sam watched, Dean stroked his thumb down the edge of his cock.

Sam felt a surge of gratitude and love -- along with horniness -- as he looked at his brother. After the days of seeing him so sick, it felt like a gift to see him like this. "I'm really really glad you're better," he said, heartfelt.

"Because my cock-tease wasn't so good, before?" Dean made a face.

"Pale and feverish isn't your best look," Sam told him, making his voice apologetic. He pulled the car into the secluded spot that Dean had pointed out.

Dean gave him a pout. "I didn't still look hot?"

"Frankly, you made me want to feed you chicken soup more than you made me want to fuck you," Sam said, using the same apologetic tone.

Dean looked at him for a moment, then made a face. "I don't think I want to hear about your kinks right now."

Sam laughed; it was such a Dean thing to say. "Not a kink," he assured him. "Just... wanting to take care of you. You should understand," he said, turning in the seat to face his brother. "You've been taking care of me all my life."

"Sam, we pulled over here so I could suck your cock, and you want to talk about chicken soup and all the times you had a cold when you were a baby. Do we see a disconnect, here?" Dean was smiling, though, like thinking about taking care of Sam wasn't a bad thing at all.

"Hey, you're the one who wanted to know what you looked like when you were sick," Sam said with a shrug, sliding closer across the seat. "You looked like I needed to take care of you."

"Yeah, well, you did a good job. From what I can remember." Dean smiled, looking a little self-conscious. Then he looked confused. "Did Dad really--?"

"Did Dad really what?" Sam asked, fitting himself against his brother's side like he belonged there.

"This," Dean said, giving Sam a slight squeeze. "Every time I woke up either you or Dad were there." He sounded a bit freaked, but not exactly in a bad way.

"We were worried," Sam said, remembering how looking at how sick Dean was had made his stomach clench so badly he could barely eat any more than Dean could. "Your fever was pretty high. And then with the..." He hesitated over choosing the proper word, gesturing vaguely, "y'know... flashback nightmares you were having..." He swallowed and continued on in a quieter voice. "I didn't want you to wake up alone."

He felt a kiss pressed against his temple. "It was nice," Dean said quietly. There was a pause then, in a don't-hit-me tone of innocence he added, "I'm sorry if I end up giving you the flu."

Sam snuggled closer. "You better not. Or you'll be doing my homework."

"I'm not sure I could." There was that tone again which Sam had heard every so often when Dean talked about his school.

"Sure you could," Sam said with deliberate casualness, pressing his face against Dean's neck. "Turnabout's fair play -- you want me to help you with yours, you gotta help me with mine."

"Yours is a little more advanced," Dean said, but his hand slid around Sam's waist, promisingly.

"You'll get there," Sam assured him with absolute conviction. He let his mouth slide up a bit higher so he could whisper directly in his brother's ear, "You can do anything you want to."

He felt Dean shiver. "What if I want to never blow you again if you keep stealing my car keys?"

Sam chuckled and nipped at Dean's earlobe. "You don't want that," he said assuredly.

"I want you to stop stealing my car keys," Dean assured him, even as he moved around to give Sam better access. "Why I got you your own key." He slipped his hand under Sam's shirt, fingers brushing his lower back.

"Because you love me." Sam hummed in pleasure at his brother's touch.

Dean's response to that was to kiss him, pulling him close and holding on like he didn't ever intend to let go. Which was just fine with Sam. There was no place he'd rather be than with his brother and he thanked whatever force had given him those flashes of the way things could've been that he'd realised it before he'd done something irreparable.

Any more thoughts of a philosophical nature were waylaid as his brother's hand moved down inside Sam's jeans to cup his ass, even as his tongue slipped inside Sam's mouth.

Sam groaned as he sucked on Dean's tongue and tried to move even closer to his brother. He thought about straddling Dean, but the last time he'd tried that in the car, he'd hit his head on the ceiling hard enough that he'd seen stars. Dean seemed to be trying to help, shifting to make room every time Sam tried to get on top of him. Finally Dean broke off from kissing him and gave him a flat look. "If you were just about five inches shorter, this would work."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, because that's helpful." He paused and then suggested, "Backseat?"

"Or we can drive for fourteen hours, hard and frustrated."

Sam snorted. "I'm against that option."

"Yeah, I thought you would be." Dean opened the door and scooted backwards, out of the car. He glanced around like he was casing the area before moving back enough that Sam could get out as well. Grinning, Sam slid all the way across the seat and out the passenger door. Dean continued standing between Sam and the rest area, blocking the way as though Sam were already naked, or he expected the cops to show up.

Sam laughed. "Is there something you don't want people to see?" he asked, laying a hand against Dean's chest.

Dean actually looked slightly startled. "What?" Then he seemed to realise what Sam was talking about and just scowled. "Get in," he ordered, gesturing at the rear passenger door. Still laughing, Sam opened the car door and climbed into the back seat. Dean crawled in after him, and on top of him, still scowling mildly. He tugged at Sam's jeans.

"You know you could look a little happier," Sam pointed out. "Considering you're going to suck my dick and all."

Dean suddenly grinned. "Who said I was going to suck your dick?" He was getting Sam's jeans unbuttoned, and tugging on the zipper as he spoke.

"You did," Sam pointed out, helpfully wriggling his hips.

"No, I said I wasn't going to suck your dick." Dean scooted forward a little, and reached back to swing the car door closed. It was still cramped, but at least it wasn't going to be impossible. Then Dean reached for Sam again and tugged down the zipper of his jeans.

"Yeah, but you weren't serious," Sam said with complete confidence, and wriggled again enticingly.

His brother stopped, gave him a look that Sam knew all too well, then said, "You think so?" Dean started pulling Sam's jeans down, nudging for Sam to lift up until he got them down around Sam's hips.

"Dean, you said you would never give me a blowjob again," Sam pointed out, obediently lifting up his hips. "You don't have that kind of willpower when it comes to me."

For a moment Dean's eyes darkened. He opened his mouth, but then shook his head and turned his attention to getting Sam's underwear out of his way.

"You don't think so?" Sam asked.

"If I blow you now, can we not have this conversation?"

That wasn't the answer Sam was expecting. He frowned up at his brother, the build-up of arousal backing off in his concern. "Okay, spill. What's wrong?"

"Fucking hell," Dean muttered, sitting back on his heels and rolling his eyes. Then he glared. "I had fucking willpower for four fucking years. Is that not enough for you?"

Sam considered himself an expert of deciphering Dean, and had got even better at it after he started having those vision flashes, but he still his brother could blindside him. "What?"

For a moment it seemed like Dean was going to answer, then he folded his arms. "Never mind. Come on, I'm fucking driving." He started to scoot back out of the car.

Sam lunged up and grabbed onto Dean's arm, holding him in place. "Not until I figure out what just happened here. Come on Dean, talk to me."

Dean gave him another angry glare, but he said, "I fucking avoided sucking your dick for four years; you don't think I can keep myself from touching you when I want?"

Sam stared at him as he realised what his brother was talking about -- the years he'd spent wanting Sam, and not being free to have him. "Dean," he said softly, tugging on his brother's arm, trying to pull him closer, "that's a completely different situation."

"Because you finally gave in?" Dean stared at him, eyes showing what his flat voice didn't.

"Come here." Sitting up more fully, Sam tugged harder until Dean was close enough for him to pull into his arms.

"The hell are you doing?" Dean protested, but he let himself be manhandled into position.

"What does it look like?" Sam asked. And hoped Dean didn't answer, Making sure I can't run away.

"I think you're trying to keep me from driving," Dean answered, but he didn't sound as angry as he had a moment ago. He fidgeted once, then settled into Sam's hold.

Sam smiled and pressed a kiss to Dean's cheek. "Well, that too."

His brother made a noise that was a mix of grumpy contentment. But he stayed where Sam held him, and Sam could feel him relaxing.

When he was fairly sure that Dean wasn't going to try and bolt immediately, Sam finally answered his question. "Those four years are different because you were waiting for me to be ready and to realise what I really wanted."

"I thought I was waiting for your testicles to drop." Dean gave a sort of laugh. "Sam, I wasn't waiting for you. I was...trying not to.... I was trying to stop. And when I couldn't figure out how to stop I...hoped I could just learn to live with how I felt. Hoped you wouldn't find out and--"

Sam stopped him with another kiss. His brother kissed him back, willingly, almost eagerly. When he pulled back he held Dean's gaze and said, "This? You and I? It's always been meant to be. You just got there first." He smiled slightly. "But I caught up."

"How can you say that?" his brother asked. "And don't tell me you saw it all in a vision. You can't...know that.... What if it wasn't real?"

"Dean, nothing has felt more real to me than this," Sam said, willing his brother to really hear him.

"Maybe you're just crazy," Dean said, and it was clear he was trying to make it into a joke. But Dean was still leaning against him, not making any attempt to get away.

"Nah," Sam said with a grin.

"You like Alanis Morrisette," Dean accused.

"I'm not in love with Alanis Morrisette," Sam replied.

"You listen to her music," Dean said. "That means you're crazy." He felt his brother tense, suddenly, then relax -- as though it had taken that long for Sam's declaration to register.

"I'm not crazy," Sam said patiently, raising a hand to rub at the back of Dean's neck.

His brother stayed still for a moment, then Dean's head came down, resting on Sam's shoulder. "Love you even if you were," he said quietly.

"And that," Sam said, voice soft, "is why I know this is real."

"But--" Dean stopped himself and fell silent. Sam could tell he wasn't even wrestling with what he'd started to say, had just decided not to say anything at all.

"But what?"

Dean sighed, like he'd expected the question but still wished that Sam had left it alone. But he said, "I'd still love you. Even if... this wasn't right."

"So would I," Sam replied without hesitation.

Dean didn't answer, and Sam just let him have some time for that to sink in. They lay along the backseat of the car, Sam partly up against the door. It was cramped and not wholly comfortable, but Sam had no intention of moving.

His brother finally asked, "Sam? Are you doing...any of this because I want it? I mean, not because you want it?"

"What?" Sam pulled back enough to stare at his brother.

"I mean.. you say stuff like that and it sounds like.. you just want this like I do. But... if I ever... If you did anything because I wanted you to, and not because it was what you wanted...." Dean trailed off as he realised he wasn't making any more sense than he had the first time. He moved forward, resting his head on Sam again -- possibly to hide his face, Sam thought. "Sam, if there's something you'd rather have that isn't-- Don't be with me because you think you have to," he finally said, in a whisper.

Sam was frozen for a moment; he was so shocked that Dean thought... "No," he said, tightening his arms around his brother. "Dean, I want this. It's -- you -- are the most important thing in my life. Nothing else comes close."

He felt Dean nod, and could feel him relaxing again; if not fully, then at least Dean didn't feel like he was ready to run -- or braced for a blow. "I just needed to make sure," he said quietly.

"How long have you been worrying about this?" Sam asked, rubbing Dean's back comfortingly.

"Since you kissed me last spring?" Dean raised his head, looking at Sam like he was an idiot.

"That's what I was afraid of." He poked Dean hard in the side. "Next time, ask instead of angsting about it for months. I'm supposed to be the moody one, not you."

"I wasn't--" his brother began, in a defensive tone. Then he stopped and took a deep breath. As he let it out, he seemed to collapse. "I didn't want to lose you."

"Idiot," Sam said fondly, hugging him tighter. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Yeah." Dean pushed his hand underneath Sam's back, awkwardly but determined. He turned his head slightly, placing a kiss on Sam's chest, then he put his head down once more, closing his eyes. When it felt like he might say something more, instead his brother just breathed deeply and stayed quiet.

It wasn't too long before Dean's breathing let Sam know his brother had fallen asleep. Sam put his own head back and sighed, holding onto Dean tightly.

They could spare a few hours before getting back on the road. Some things were more important than keeping to a schedule.

the end