For amireal, with many thanks to Terri and Cesca for beta!
Sumer is icumen in
"Found a little Brazilian place a couple of blocks away," Dean said. "All-you-can-eat buffet. They had this meat-carving station, roast beef straight off the bone. Plantains, black beans and rice. Fresh corn on the cob. Awesome."
"I hate you," Sam said, without opening his eyes. The dark circles under his eyes looked even more purplish and bruised, and the back of his wrist was red around the IV line.
"Oh, and they've got chocolate silk pie in the cafeteria here," Dean added gleefully. "Pretty good, too."
"You don't even like chocolate silk pie," Sam said.
"No, but I figured I'd eat it anyway, just for you," Dean said.
"You know what, fine," Sam said. "Next time I'll let you get hit by the freaking curse."
"See, Sammy," Dean said, "if you hadn't been throwing yourself in the line of fire like that, I'd have dodged it just fine."
"You had your back to the guy, Dean!" Sam said.
"That's what yelling is for, dumbass," Dean said.
"Whatever," Sam said. "How many more days until the end of the month?"
"Five," Dean said. "You want some more ice chips?"
Sam gave him the finger.
The door banged open, and made them both jump. "Hey!" the doctor said, limping into the room. "So, you remember when you first got here and we did all that fun medical history thing, asked you all those questions about cancer in the family, kidney disease, heart attacks, all that good stuff?"
Dean mentally ran over the backstory he'd given them. He was pretty sure he'd just said no to everything. It hadn't seemed like a great idea to tell the hospital that Sam just needed some IV fluids and glucose until the voodoo curse he was under ran out, thanks; so they'd just pretended they didn't have a clue what was keeping him from eating. Except apparently that made Sam the medical mystery of the week, and these guys were on him like terriers.
"What about it?" Dean said, warily, wondering if this was going to turn into another attempt to shove needles into Sam's spine or get pieces of his liver or feed him some loopy experimental medicine. He was all for Sam getting a couple of good prostate exams or shivering through an MRI or having to wander the halls in one of those ratty hospital gowns that barely hit upper thigh on him, but it was getting to be a pain in the ass having to fend these guys off from the serious shit.
The doctor stopped, leaning on his cane, and waved his hand vaguely in the air. "And you remember the part where we said he might need a kidney and Cameron did all those tests on you?"
Dean smiled. Good times. Man, that chick doctor was hot. It had been worth getting stuck with a few needles for all that quality time in the lab with her. "Ow!" he said, when Sam smacked him in the back of the head. "What?"
"You're such an ass!" Sam hissed. "You know I don't need a kidney!"
"How was I supposed to explain that to them!" Dean hissed back.
"If you're done with the private conference over there?" The doctor glared at Dean. "Now, I realize you're fighting tooth and nail to stay in the nice comfortable land of denial where it is not a problem that your brother is slowly starving to death, but did it not occur to you at any point in this whole process that maybe it would be a good idea to mention that little Sammy here was adopted?"
The asshole doctor slunk out and left them alone after he figured out they hadn't known. Dean closed all the blinds over the glass walls, shoved his hands in his pockets and went to stand by the window staring out at the parking lot. He felt cold and sick. "It doesn't make a difference," he said. "It doesn't make a difference, Sam."
Sam didn't say anything. There was a clatter of metal; Dean turned around and saw Sam was working on pulling out the IV. "What the hell are you doing?" Dean snapped.
"It's only a few more days," Sam said. "I can make it without—I'll just—I'm going."
"Like hell you are." Dean grabbed Sam's hand away from the tubes and shoved him back down. Sam went over like a piece of cardboard in a stiff wind. "Forget about it," Dean said harshly. "You're, we're staying here until the curse goes, and you're back on your feet. Then we'll—"
"Then we'll what?" Sam said, voice cracking. "We'll get back on the road? Go back to hunting? Like we don't know—"
"Nothing's different!" Dean yelled. "Nothing's different from yesterday, Sam, nothing's changed since fifteen minutes ago—"
"Yes it has," Sam said. "You know it has, you know what this means."
"What? You're just as much a pain in my ass as you were before," Dean said.
"A pain in your ass?" Sam laughed, and it wasn't a good sound. "Dean, I'm the reason Mom—I'm the reason your mom is dead. I'm the reason your dad is dead—"
"Shut the fuck up," Dean said. "Don't you goddamn dare start talking about them like that. Our mom, our dad, are dead, because that son-of-a-bitch demon—"
Sam looked at him, eyes wild, wet. "Because the demon came to your house," he said, "the night your brother turned six months old—"
"No," Dean said. "No—"
"—and left me in his place—"
"You don't fucking know that!" Dean grabbed Sam by the front of the stupid fucking hospital gown, except the cheap thin ties slipped loose, and the whole front just came away in his hands. He dropped it and grabbed Sam by the shoulders instead.
Sam didn't even try to put up any resistance, just hung there limp in Dean's hands, tears smearing down his face and the gown puddled around his waist. "I'm the reason you haven't had a home since you were four," he said. "Why you haven't had a normal life, why you got raised like a soldier—Dean, your whole life's been screwed because of me—"
"So what the fuck is new!" Dean shouted, and shook Sam until he stopped talking, at least for a minute. Sam tried weakly to catch at Dean's arms, to push him off. "Just shut up, Sam. You don't, we don't know anything yet—"
"Changelings," Sam said dully, his hands loose and useless on Dean's wrists. "There's lore about them in dozens of cultures. You know it well as I do. It left me there, Dean, and your real brother—your real brother is—"
Dean shuddered all over, his grip loosening. He didn't mean to; he didn't mean to let Sam feel him do that. He just couldn't help it, thinking about what had really happened to baby Sammy that night, to the swaddled little bundle in the old photograph with his gaping baby smile, who'd just been a placeholder far as the demon was concerned.
Sam did feel it, and he broke, just crumpling down in on his side, and he flinched away when Dean tried to reach for him again. "Don't," he said, thickly. "Don't try to tell me it's okay, Dean. Don't try to tell me this doesn't mean something to you."
"Goddammit, Sam," Dean said, angry, because he had a right to freak out about this too. "Just—" Sam wasn't looking at him, shivering and curled in on himself under the covers, and Dean shoved away and went out of the room, because he didn't know what the fuck to say.
He went and got a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the waiting room, stood there and drank it all and got another one, and then he got another cup and filled it with ice before he went back to the room. The girl doctor was standing outside the room, looking anxious, and when she caught sight of him, she met him halfway down the hall and followed along with him back to the room. She was saying something about counseling, full of apologies. "Whatever," Dean said, not paying attention, and went inside the room.
Sam was sitting up in the bed, bowed forward with his head buried against his propped-up knees. Dean smacked him up the back of the head to uncurl him. "Here's some more ice," he said, shoving the cup at him, and dropped into the chair next to the bed.
Sam looked at him like he wanted to say something, then he dropped his head instead, fished a chip out of the cup and put it in his mouth.
The doctors didn't put up that much of a fight when they finally checked out on the first. It wasn't something Dean had said, because he hadn't been talking much the last few days, but maybe it had something to do with the way he'd backed the hospital shrink out of the room, silently, when the guy had dropped by with his talk-it-out mantras and earnest expressions. Or maybe it was what had happened when they'd tried one more time, tag-teaming them; Cameron had cornered Dean in the cafeteria while he'd been hunched up over a cold cup of coffee, while Gimpy tried to talk Sam into some other kind of freak treatment he didn't fucking need.
After that worked about as well as it was going to, he came downstairs to where Dean was still ignoring Cameron. Dean ignored him for a while too, and finally the doctor leaned in and snapped, "You know, if you're not interested in helping here, I can get a court to buy that his judgment's impaired from the month of starvation. Normally that would hand off decision-making to his next of kin, but since you don't have any adoption paperwork, legally you're not related," and Dean didn't remember a lot after that until Cameron was clutching at his arm, talking and talking frantically, trying to get him to put the asshole back down on the floor before he choked to death against the wall. There were a couple of security guards out cold behind him, so it had probably been about five or ten minutes.
Nobody tried to talk them into any more medical experimentation. The last morning, Sam doggedly ate his way through about five helpings of breakfast, one slow bite at a time, and none of it had come back up by lunchtime, so he was clear. The nurse came in and popped out the IV and slapped a band-aid on it, getting herself out of the room quick, and then Sam pushed back the covers and slowly got himself dressed, jeans sagging almost down his hips, t-shirt sleeves loose around his arms.
Dean got him settled into the passenger seat and tossed a box of protein bars and a carton of milk into his lap. Sam started eating quietly, and Dean put them on the road: no destination except as far away from the damn hospital as he could get.
Dean thought not talking about it was going pretty well. Repress and deny; it was a strategy that had worked for him plenty of times before, and he didn't see any damn reason to mess with success. Nothing had changed, and that was how he was going to play it, and then he noticed after a week that he'd been blasting the music so loud he couldn't even hear the semis go by, and Sam hadn't bitched about it once.
And then he realized Sam hadn't complained about the night in Allentown either, when they'd closed out the smoky bar with the cheap beer, even though he'd been rubbing his eyes and coughing all the next day. The next night he'd taken the motel bed with the rusty old bloodstain on the sheet, without even pulling out a coin to flip for it. Twice now he'd done most of the gun cleaning and inventory before Dean had gotten out of the shower, and he hadn't complained once in the four hours Dean had spent at the gun shop in Tamaqua; he'd just put himself in a corner and stared down at one display case, and he hadn't said a word.
Dean decided he was gonna give it one more week, and started pushing Sam as much as he could stand to, a twenty-four hour cycle of loud music, crap food, skanky chicks, and pranks over and over—Sam's underwear in the toilet, stubble and toenail clippings in his food, except Sam took it, all of it, and just got more huddled up and quiet, and then Dean caught the look on Sam's face in the sideview mirror the third morning, just after he'd taken the first swallow of the coffee full of chili powder and garlic salt.
Sam didn't look pissed off, not even for a split-second before stuffing it down. He just looked scared. And kind of nauseous, but he just swallowed, put the lid quietly back on the coffee, and held it in his hands, like he was going to wait until Dean pulled over to pour it out.
"What the fuck," Dean said, and hauled off onto the shoulder. Sam flinched, not looking over, and Dean twisted his hand into Sam's shirt and jerked him around to face him. "What is this, some kind of fucking joke? You've got to be perfect for me, or what, you think I'm going to dump you on the side of the road and drive away?"
"No," Sam said, but so softly Dean could barely hear him.
"Yeah, you sound really convinced there, Sam," Dean said, jaw clenching. "You really think I'm going to walk away—"
"I don't think you're going to," Sam said, "I think you should. I think if I wasn't a coward I would get out of the car and walk away from you, get myself out of your life—" He shoved open the door and got out of the car.
Dean slammed out the other side. Sam wasn't going anywhere, he was just standing out in front of the car. He turned when Dean came up to him, and Dean didn't even decide to do it; the punch just snapped out of him, straight shot from his shoulder to Sam's jaw, knocking Sam around.
"Fuck you," Dean said, while Sam hunched over and cupped his hand over his face. "That's how you feel? Twenty-three fucking years doesn't matter, our whole lives don't matter, it's nothing to you now?"
Sam didn't uncurl. "It's not about what it means to me. Dean, I got put into your life by a demon. We don't even know what I am, except whatever it is, we know it's evil—"
"We don't know any of that, we don't know a goddamn thing," Dean said. "You're a person, Sam. I'm thinking the doctors would've noticed if your DNA was that screwed up. Maybe it took you from some other family, you ever think that? Playing a little psychic musical chairs, another way to screw you up—"
"Yeah, just another baby, looking enough like your real brother to fool Dad?" Sam said.
"Just shut the hell up," Dean said. "You're my real brother."
"Except I'm not," Sam said, his voice breaking, "I'm not. And if I'm not, I don't have a right—"
"You are," Dean said. "You are because I say you are. Are you telling me I'm not your brother anymore, Sam? You're saying you want to just walk away from me? Maybe call up that demon and say hey, sign me up, I'm down with the master plan now?"
"That's not the point," Sam said.
"That's the point for me," Dean said. He grabbed Sam by the arms, made him straighten up. "Listen to me. We're going to find that son of a bitch demon together, and we're going to burn him down to the ground. And we're going to do it for Dad, and for Mom, for everything he's ever done to us and our family, which includes you whether you like it or not, you whiny little bitch, and that hasn't changed because some asshole with a medical degree ran a test in a lab and read us the results off a piece of paper. Nothing has fucking changed."
Yeah, except for how that was a lie.
Dean stopped making fun of Sam in libraries and coffeeshops, even tried a couple of the froofy yuppie drinks Sam liked; they turned out to be okay. Sam got better at pool and darts, and turned out to be some kind of freaking genius at poker, which aside from making slow evenings go by, brought in more extra cash than they needed. When Dean spent some of it on new shocks for the Impala, Sam came outside and helped him put them in, both of them lying side by side underneath her, Dean showing him how to do it. Afterwards they cleaned up, and Dean took Sam out to a good little Mexican place with salsa music playing in the back, and then a little run-down movie theater showing The Lion In Winter, some freaking thirty-year-old movie he vaguely remembered Sam had wanted to see.
The whole division of labor thing had always worked for them, but Dean didn't like letting Sam out of his sight all that much now. So he ended up doing more of the research out of self-defense, since otherwise he would've been sitting drumming his fingers in the library while Sam read. Sam trained with him more, finding them shooting ranges in town or going out with him to empty parking lots to spar. Dean picked up an ipod adapter for the car to go along with the cassette tapes, and let Sam DJ once in a while; pretty soon Dean could drum along with the White Stripes from memory.
And then there was the night when Dean got picked up at the bar by a sexy brunette who had a blonde pal in tow. He looked over at Sam, and Sam flushed a little and swallowed and managed a smile at the blonde, and all four of them ended up in the motel room, fucking in side-by-side beds. Somewhere after the first dazed hot rush of losing his clothes, getting her on the bed, Dean noticed that Sam was doing it the same way he was; slow working down from breasts to the wet, hungry place between her legs, and the girls both laughed almost together, because he was watching and he licked the same time Sam did, and when the girls had left, they both lay on their beds staring up at the ceiling, catching their breath in time.
So that wasn't fucked up at all or anything.
They didn't prank each other at all, they didn't fight. Sam set up a separate user account for Dean on the laptop and put a bunch of virus and spam protection software on it so he could surf porn sites without getting the machine messed up. Dean washed the dishes after he ate and put his dirty laundry in the bag. They didn't argue about taking turns with chores. Dean started doing stuff whenever he noticed it, because otherwise Sam would just do anything that needed doing without saying a word to him. Their motel rooms stayed clean, and they kept their stuff on their own beds.
They were maybe better friends, and better roommates, and better partners, but they weren't being brothers anymore. And he knew it, and Sam knew it, and he knew Sam knew it, and Jesus, they were seriously fucked, and then they killed the yellow-eyed demon.
It wasn't what you'd call easy, but it was still an anticlimax. They'd made it down to Virginia for a house-haunting Ellen threw their way, and Sam stumbled over a ritual in some old seventeeth-century witch's book that could lock a demon into a physical object with 'the ufe of a circle on confecrated gronde, hallowed bye ye honoured dead.' Conveniently they were twenty minutes away from Arlington. They summoned the bastard, threw him into a big empty pickle jar, and took the angry roiling thing to Bobby's. The spell to destroy it was a little more complicated, and when it blew it took out Bobby's roof, two walls, and all the windows in every car in his lot, plus their eardrums.
It took a few weeks before they could hear each other speak without yelling, and they were three months more fixing all the damage around the place. Then they puttered around for another couple months for no reason, until Bobby said, "Not that you boys've worn out your welcome or anything, but get."
And then that was that. So they got in the car and Dean drove them aimlessly south, looking for summer. They'd won, but they hadn't gotten any answers; the demon hadn't been too conversational once they'd stuffed him in the jar. It wasn't like Dean was sorry, he couldn't be sorry, but he didn't know what to do now. It felt like something had ended, except he was too fucking scared to figure out what exactly, because he was afraid it was going to be his life: that one morning he and Sam were going to stick out their hands and shake on it and say goodbye.
And yeah, Dean knew that wasn't going to kill him, but he wasn't going to get over it, either. The hell of it was, he knew Sam was scared of the same thing over in the passenger seat. But it felt somehow inevitable, like they'd done their job, now it was over, and there wasn't anything left to hold them together. It didn't make any kind of sense for Sam to tag along hunting when it wasn't the life he wanted and it left him worn out and scraped raw and scared. If Dean dropped Sam off in some college town, there wasn't any reason for him to stick around while Sam built himself the normal life that made less sense to Dean than a box full of gerbils. Either they were going to have to split up, or somebody was going to have to give, and give, and give.
They'd worked out all of the small stuff, but that was all bullshit, something you'd do for any good pal, any friend, somebody you'd known for a long time, somebody who'd done you favors, somebody you owed. This was too big, though, something you couldn't even ask for or offer without it changing things, taking on meaning. This was life, the rest of their lives.
And maybe you could offer it to a brother, maybe you could ask for it from a brother; Dean had once before. But finding out about Sam had made a difference. Blood did matter, or anyway Dean had been raised to think it did. He still loved Sam more than anyone else in the world; he'd still have died for Sam in a second; but he didn't believe Sam was his brother anymore, not deep in his bones, and it didn't seem to matter that he wanted to.
He was never going to say that out loud, not as long as he lived, but of course Sam knew anyway. He'd known all along, and it made Dean feel sick with guilt sometimes, because he was pretty sure that it didn't matter to Sam, not the same way. Sam didn't feel different about Dean. Sam felt different about himself, which was worse, and so Sam was never going to ask Dean to walk away with him, either.
And Sam wouldn't walk away on his own, even if Dean never said a word, but it was different, not asking. It wasn't fucking fair. If Dean did that to Sam, it was a lie, it was him pretending he had a right to keep Sam with him, without even giving Sam a choice, and they'd both know it, underneath. He couldn't stand to lose Sam, but if he kept Sam on the road just because Sam wouldn't open his mouth, that would do something to them too. And maybe one day he'd be holding Sam's dead body in a graveyard, and he'd have to live on with that, with knowing that he'd kept Sam in this life, selfishly, when Sam couldn't walk away, even though there was nothing he'd given Sam that could make up for it.
Dean thought a couple times, desperately, about doing it the other way. He could pull into a medium-size town and just park them quietly somewhere—get them a rental place and get himself a construction job, and after a couple months Sam would get the idea they were stopping, without another word said, but then that was too much the other way. Dean couldn't handle putting himself in a box, and if he tried it, he was gonna wake up each morning resenting Sam more and more, and Sam would be able to see that too, and it would just be a long drawn-out rotting away, instead of a quick sharp cut, clean as they could make it.
Maybe it was all Dean's fault, for feeling like he did, but he couldn't fucking help it, and he couldn't do this; he couldn't decide for both of them. So instead they drifted for a while, until one day Dean took his foot off the gas and let the Impala roll to a stop on a nameless dirt road with meadows on either side, somewhere between Texas and Nebraska, California and New York. They got out and sat down on the hood, staring at the empty yellow track straight ahead, the dust cloud behind them hiding where they'd come from.
Sam kept looking over at him, quick desperate glances not long enough to turn into a request, waiting for Dean to break the silence like a prisoner waiting for his sentence.
"I know this isn't what you want to be—" Dean said, and Sam drew a short, gulping breath and looked away, his hands curling up into fists on his thighs, and Dean stopped and turned his head the other way, his eyes stinging no matter how hard he tried to blink them clear. "Sam," he said. "Sam, I don't know what to—I don't know how to—"
"It's okay," Sam said, except his voice was breaking like glass, and it wasn't, and Dean put his hand out on instinct and found Sam's, clenched and hot and sweating. Sam's hand opened up and closed around his, tight, so tight, and maybe Sam wasn't his brother, but he was as necessary as air, and Dean turned back and leaned in towards him, blindly, and Sam pulled him in just as desperate.
They made love in the sun-warmed grass with the car's hot engine still quietly ticking itself cool next to them. It wasn't like any sex Dean had ever had, it wasn't fun and easy and hot. It was Sam's free hand low in the small of his back, rocking him forward, slick of Sam's cock a new lurching feeling against Dean's belly. Sam under him panting, panting, their hands clasped over his head and both of them spilling onto his belly quick, in five minutes. It was relief so strong it tasted better than pleasure, both of them curled together breathing hard, in the thick crushed grass sharp and sweet beneath them.
Dean was grateful, so grateful he shoved his face against Sam's shoulder and heaved a choked sobbing breath that felt like the first one he'd had in a year. Sam took Dean's face in his hands and started kissing him slow and thorough. Dean shuddered and hooked his leg over Sam's hip and let him, Sam murmuring things softly between kisses, nothing that made sense, tears tracking down his face.
"Yeah," Dean said, rubbing Sam's back up and down, until Sam calmed down some, started breathing evenly again. "Yeah."
He tugged Sam in closer. Sam settled in and nuzzled at his cheek. Dean put his hand in Sam's hair. It was soft and fluffy under his fingers, and he stroked Sam's head through it. The air was still warm, even though the sun was going down. They'd figure out where they were going in the morning.
= End =
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