Disclaimer: I am taking SPN on this truly twisty road. I'm sure Kripke would not approve. But since I'm not making money off of it, or claiming to be him, he'll just have to deal.
Summary: Sam isn't the only one with powers. Unfortunately for Dean, his mystical ability to grow flowers doesn't have the same awe-inspiring effect.
Notes: This story all started with a jokey conversation between me and ericaplease. Somehow it ended up getting written. Possibly because IMs involving all caps were involved. Thanks to memphis86 for the wonderful last minute beta. Title taken from "Hodie Aperuit."
This fic is for Erica, just because she's Erica, which is pretty damn awesome.
It started like this: Dean was pissed off because the ghoul they’d been hunting had spit slime in his eye and then thrown him into a wall. Sam had to come scrambling to his rescue. When they stepped outside the rickety old house the ghoul had retreated into, blinking in the sudden sunshine, every lawn on the block had turned a brackish dead brown. Sam kept repeating that he couldn’t believe it. There were sprinklers going and it was early May. Dean had to admit there was absolutely no reason for the grass not to be lush and green and perhaps even slightly muddy.
Dean made noise about ghouls getting upgrades, and Sam took a careful sample of the soil while Dean mocked him for being a geek. Even more so when Sam had it analyzed at the next college town they stopped in. But then the results came back completely weird. There was enough oxygen and nitrogen in the soil, no toxins, no sulfur, no acid, no paint thinner. The soil was a veritable dream—ideal for plants. But unless grass was supposed to be dried and coarse where only seconds before it had been a soft dewy emerald, it was pretty damn dead.
Dean didn’t waste much thought on it. Baddies were baddies and and unless global climate change was slipping over into the metaphysical world they lived in, he figured it was just a one off.
But then Dean got into a fight with Sam at a diner two weeks later. In the middle of calling Sam a teenage girl, all the ubiquitous diner carnations suddenly bent on their stems and dropped to the tables. Dean poked at the one next to his plate a bit and silently went back to his pancake. Sam stared at the drooping white bloom and sighed, positing some plant related curse. Something strange was going on, Dean was willing to admit, but that sounded completely bogus.
And then there came a day where even he couldn’t ignore it any longer. He got tossed into a jail cell again after getting into a slightly sticky situation in a supposedly haunted hardware store, and when Sam came to bail out one “George Romero,” the cherry tree outside the station—riotous with pink blossoms—suddenly dropped its petals like the leaves had already come in.
Only they hadn’t.
“Sam, you gotta stop killing things!” Dean snapped as he slid into the passenger side. Sam shot him a glare and huffed in that epic bitchy way he had. He expounded on all the many and varied ways he was absolutely positive it wasn’t him. When he moved things, when he heard things, when he saw things, he could always feel himself doing it. Now he was just a casual observer. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Somehow he found himself agreeing to visit a botanist who specialized in tropical flowers when they saw her orchids in a stall in a local farmer’s market that Sam dragged him out. It was a stretch, but maybe she knew something. Dean grumbled the entire way. He wanted sleep. He wanted food, and none of this nasty organic, gluten-free vegan shit. He absolutely did not want to play with the flowers.
It was fruitless. How exactly did they put into words that wherever they went, plants started dying? And usually only when Dean was pissed off. At least not in such a way that she wouldn't accuse them of playing a really bad practical joke. Unfortunately, Dean’s frustration "allegedly" killing an entire crop of crucifix orchids spoke rather loudly for them. Turned out she was religious and started wailing about demons and blight upon the holy orchids. They got out of their real quick when she began to threaten them with silver bullets.
“Dean, just so you don’t continue to blame me for all the strange plant deaths,” Sam started as they drove down the highway, “It’s you, man.”
“It is not,” Dean growled. Then all the grass that lined the highway started browning and curling.
Sam shot him a pointed look. “Is so.”
They tried again with the university quacks when they were two states and half-a-dozen fried lawns, shrubberies, and elm trees away. Sam found a hippie professor who taught a class on the symbolism of greenery in literature on the school's website. Her office had a poster of The Grateful Dead, right next to a bookcase overflowing with books in various languages. Dean did his best to hide his incredulity, which was not very well at all, and Sam tried not to be skeptical.
“He’s got the mark of the Hesperides,” she said when they sat down.
Dean sat up straight in his chair. “What?”
“The Hesperides, three nymphs who tended a sacred garden estimated to be off the coast of Iberia. They had more than a way with plants.”
Dean wanted to gnash his teeth. Sam looked alarmingly amused. “How can you tell?”
“And how do you make it go away?” Dean muttered.
She ignored Dean and leaned forward on her desk, chin propped on her fist. “I can feel it on you. It doesn’t go away. You were born with it.”
Dean grumbled a few choice things about marijuana use and new age crap under his breath. She looked over towards the window, suddenly startled, and then unexpectedly chucked a pencil at him.
"What the hell, lady!" Dean cried, just ducking under it.
“Mind my heliotrope!” she got up and furiously started watering the withering purple plant. Dean had the good grace to feel a little chagrinned. She sighed in obvious relief when it seemed to revive itself. “You should be able to grow things as well—it's a rare gift for a man to be graced with such fertility and you're completely wasting it.”
Dean gagged aloud and Sam couldn’t restrain his endless fucking amusement any longer. They were both more than happy to go when she told them to get out. Although Dean gave Sam a deserved smack on the back of the head for being an ass and then loudly bitched the entire way back to their motel about how Sammy got to have cool powers, and he got freakish plant shit. Sam told him, in the voice that said he was being very reasonable, that it could only be karma.
Dean had to learn to control his temper and his self-doubt fast to stop affecting every fucking growing thing around him. He was even causing mushrooms to shrivel up. He had an added interest. He couldn't hide hide being upset around Sam anymore. Every time he tried, diner flowers dropping dead let the cat right out of the bag. And then Sam just wanted to talk more and confess all their deepest fears, or some whackadoo shit. Dean hated talking, he thought he had made this very clear. It wasn’t like anything bothering him went away just because he and Sam yammered on about it.
Sam closeted himself in the first town library they came to. He read text after text about Dean’s newfound abilities, not that there was an exhaustive amount at the podunk libraries they regularly found themselves at. But they were at loose ends, without a case, and Dean couldn't find a good excuse to tell Sam to drop it. So he sat there in those stupid wood-backed chairs across form his brother doodling on college-ruled binder paper the library had in plentiful supply and drawing faces on the pictures in old issues of Sports Illustrated. He was bored out of his ever loving head.
"Someday,” Sam said, finger holding his place in a book, “when you have some semblance of control, you should be able to grow something even in one of your colossal snits."
“I can’t wait,” he replied with a dark look. "And I fucking don't have colossal snits, bitchass." Sam just smiled cheerily and went back to his research. He was really enjoying the whole thing. What a jackass.
See, it really sucked, because killing plants was in no way useful. It didn’t help in a hunt, and worse, it left behind a trail. Sooner or later those dumbfucks at the FBI would pull their thumbs out of their asses and pick up on it, and then they could add it to his extensive rap sheet. Dean Winchester, grave robber, serial killer, and plant slaughterer. How fun.
And then, of course, Sam couldn't stop hovering. He was constantly desperately worried, because Dean started keeling over, completely undone by a deep debilitating exhaustion, sometimes hours after demolishing the plants in an area.
It was weeks later when his attention was completely focused on something besides plants that he actually encouraged something to grow. They both sat crouched behind a huge potted hotel plant to eavesdrop on a suspect’s conversation, and Dean absently fingered a leaf frond. The spindly little palm tree was halfway to the ceiling before Sam cottoned on and dragged him out of there.
“Progress,” Sam told him like he was proud or something stupid and girly like that and bought him a black coffee to cure the ensuing exhaustion. Shyeah, right.
After that it was like the floodgates opened. He stopped killing things and started forcing things into bloom—reviving plants from bad frosts or neglectful owners, sprouting things up in places the soil just couldn’t support it, and half the time Dean had no clue what it was they were looking at when he was done.
“White ball flowers,” he said after Sam asked him what it was he’d grown in an inner city children’s park. The neat rows of flowers cheered up the battered playground immensely.
“White ball flowers?” Sam blinked a few times and shook his head. “Oh, you have got to be motherfucking kidding me! Dean, come on!”
Sam disappeared for a few hours after that, grouching at Dean to play quietly with his toys until he came back. In typical Sam fashion, he showed up with an entire library section on flowers from the gardening section at the local bookstore. Dean vociferously claimed Sam made him want to die and utterly refused to read them. Sam magically figured out how to jam the radio with his brain for an entire car trip before Dean finally gave in.
"Now you fucking know how to use your powers," Dean groused. "Useless asshole."
Sam was a stern task master, poking and prodding at Dean until he actually read the contents rather than just staring at the text blankly and daydreaming about Claudia Schiffer. Dean found himself carrying the flower books around like they were his favorite trusty gun. He made a point of taking them inside diners and coffee shops, studying them while they ate, pointedly refusing to make conversation with Sam in retaliation.
It was a failed effort, because Sam didn’t mind. He started reading again, everything from deep impenetrable philosophy that made him look like a lofty snobbish douche to really crappy mystery novels. Dean was absolutely never, on pain of death and dismemberment, ever gonna admit it, but he kinda liked it. It was comfortable. And kind of depressing when he realized his only literary material for the last ten years had been newspapers and automotive magazines. When he got through the flower books, his head nearly bursting with knowledge about angiosperms and monocots and dicots, he thought maybe he’d read one of Sam’s books. Of course when he searched Sam's duffle, the only one he turned up was Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People. Anything with Neoliberalism written on the cover was not actually reading material, fuck Harvard poli sci majors and unwashed socialists. He explained it was probably better served as kindling for the next time they got stuck out in the wilderness when Sam caught him with it.
They walked past a nursery, small and empty, in some blip on the map in Washington State a few weeks after he’d finished the last of the books Sam had bought for him. The flowers out front were vibrant, but ignored by the pedestrians on the street.
“Jess loved those,” Sam pointed at a black tub filled with red and orange and yellow flowers that looked like fireworks on short thick stems.
“Dahlias?” Dean offered.
Sam smiled and bent down over the blooms.
“They don’t smell,” Dean told him and leaned over a pink shock of Freesia, their scent almost head-achey in its potency. “Try these.”
“What are those?” Sam asked, genuinely curious at the small startlingly bright magenta trumpets. Dean told him, and Sam waded through until he found a good bundle to buy. He fished them out of the bucket, the stems dripping all over his shoes and inhaled. Dean looked away at the slightly blissful expression on Sam’s face. He didn't know why he felt like he was intruding on something private.
Dean startled when Sam asked him about a cluster in a black tub, thinking they were done with flour hour. Dean sighed and answered, “Tiger lilies and thanks, it's not like I already feel like my balls have been cut off.”
Sam rolled his eyes and gestured at another bunch, deep purple, long-stemmed, with thin curling leaves. “Bearded Iris," Dean said grudgingly and crossed his arms.
They went through everything in the bins. Daisies. Orchids—Calypso, to be exact. Gladiolus. Delfinium. Foxglove.
“That doesn’t look like a Fox’s glove,” Sam replied with a laugh.
"Ha ha," Dean replied dryly at the weak joke.
He shot Sam a dark furtive look and then bent over the tub, trying to hide it with his body. The foxglove were suffering a little in the weather and he couldn’t help giving them a little help. “It’s called digitalis, they use it for people with heart problems, maybe you've heard of it by that name,” he said and then cleared his throat. When he stood back up Sam was staring at him with a soft look, and Dean snorted at this obvious embarrassing show of sentimentality and started naming off the rest.
Snapdragons. Gardenias. Paper Whites—a type of Daffodil, the usual yellow ones were Jonquils. Tulips. Lilies again, this time brilliant yellow like uncooked egg yolk. Hyacinth, dusky purple and drooping.
Balls of hydrangea or "Hortensia, as you'd call it Sam, because you're an 80-year-old spinster aunt," Dean clarified.
Sam rolled his eyes. “There are male botanists, jerkwad.”
Dean made a derisive noise in the back of his throat. “They probably specialize in cacti or like algae, not this girly shit.”
"Would you stop gendering everything for like, five minutes?" Sam said plaintively.
He still followed Dean inside to look at the potted plants. Dean dutifully named off every one Sam pointed to. There wasn't much, but begonias and geraniums bloomed, color as vivid as jewels, even in the grimy dimness of the shop. There were also a couple sad African violets with velvety-soft leaves and a straggly fuzzy noxious-smelling salvia that Dean pumped a little extra juice into.
Sam inspected a shrub that he claimed used to grow in pink and white clusters all over in front of the apartment he and Jess shared.
“Camellia,” Dean told him, “They were in your yard, you should know.” In spite of his derision, Dean found he was glad that Sam could look back without crying or locking himself into the bathroom and refusing the advances of all things with a pussy. As they circled around the shop, he realized he could identify everything in the room, from the bright bloody red Amaryllis, his marginal favorite, to the gigantic hybrid tea roses, past their prime but still pretty rad. He felt utterly useless and girly and stupid, because he couldn’t shoot or fight or track with this knowledge, but there was still a strange pride welling up in him in the knowing of it.
They stopped off at Bobby’s when they needed a rest. Dean couldn’t help getting twitchy and irritable once the summer heat set in. People everywhere forgot to water their plants or protect them from snails and other pestilential insects.
Sam nearly died of laughter when he heard Dean say that. “Pestilential insects, Dean?”
It hadn’t stopped being a joke to him, and often enough Dean wished he could’ve had some other lame power, at least with x-ray vision he could scope out girls. He was surprised when Sam suggested a break, and then remembered that Sam could understood pretty well how special jumped up abilities made the daily flow of life difficult.
Bobby didn’t find it nearly as hilarious as Sam did. If anything, he found it even more so. Dean just blew out a breath and stomped into the house, failing very badly at reigning in his temper. As he set up shop in the usual bedroom with the rickety old twin beds he heard Sam tell Bobby he wasn't taking it very well. That only seemed to amuse Bobby further.
"I've never heard of anything like it," Bobby said gleefully over dinner picked up from the KFC four miles away. Dean raised his hands in weary supplication.
"I guess we got some weird DNA floating around in the Winchester family," Sam said. Dean thought of the look on Dad’s face at the idea of him tending roses and wanted to slam his head against the table.
It wasn't much of a restful vacation. It seemed like only a day before the dust and dryness of the junkyard was driving Dean completely batshit. He had gotten used to sinking his fingers into the ground and feeling life in it. Sam kept stumblingly trying to help and that only served to piss Dean off even more.
But he felt pretty terrible when Sam tentatively said, "I know we don't have the money or the security to take a real vacation, but maybe we could figure something out? Like the Pacific northwest or something?" Dean sighed and decided he had no choice but to improvise. He started looking into plants with protective properties.
The small rowans saplings he started up around the house on the day that Bobby went into town were a fairly respectable height after a few hours. Not tall enough to give the place afternoon shade, but enough for security. He thought very carefully about the order they should be organized around the house and settled on a circle to double the strength. A circle had no beginning, no breaking point, and the fey and the spirit folk were both repelled by rowans. Cold iron wasn’t the only thing that could form a boundary.
Bobby was somewhat scandalized with the small microcosm Dean cultured around his house. He circled his place, eyeing the fully grown trees like they were rude graffiti Dean had sprayed on the walls. Another job mercifully called him away before he could seriously protest.
“Hard to take a bachelor with a junkyard serious if you got this kinda crap growin’ around it!” he said, after hauling parts back to the yard from a big accident on the interstate. Dean shrugged and said he could uproot them, but the expression on his face must have been pretty bleak, because Bobby sighed and told him to leave it be.
"You don't spit in the face of protection, son," he said, "Even if it makes me feel like I'm hiding my junkyard in some damn mock-up of Little House on the Prairie."
That was the end of it.
Sam astonished Dean by reveling in the little garden. He sat in the scrubby grass Dean had forced to grow in the shade of the young trees, eyes off in the distance and thoughts equally far away. Dean watched Sam watching the world, felt his lungs breathing in air, and breathing out the carbon dioxide so vital to his plants. He couldn’t even tell when he’d started thinking about it like that.
One day Dean woke up and declared himself recovered. He was itching to get back to hunting and he was beginning to find all sorts of surprisingly nifty uses for the powers.
"You can get yourself a bobcat and bulldoze everything," Dean told Bobby as they packed up the Impala.
"Ah, shut it!" Bobby said, slapping Dean on the back. Dean hid a smile, glad the trees had grown on Bobby.
Dean began using medicinal herbs to ease the scrapes and bruises they received in the field in tandem with the ordinary first-aid. Sam had always been the better, more patient hand at this sort of thing even though Dean had patched him up for years. Now it was his job all over again. It was slightly comforting when gave Sam chrysanthemum tea when he got sunstroke out on the planes. Sam’s headaches and fever dropped in an hour. He had to hide how amazed he was that it worked.
When they got horrible slashes from a werecat, Dean applied a pungent mixture of vervain to stop the bleeding. It staunched the blood flow of even the worst of Dean’s gashes, and when he peeled it of Sam’s shoulder a few hours later, he was staring at clean new skin.
“The holy herb,” Sam said softly as Dean traced disbelieving fingers over his uninjured back. “Vervain was applied to the wounds of Christ.” Dean poked him, hard.
"Ow, stop that! It's not going to undo itself," Sam said and batted him away.
When Sam went for their stash of Ativan when the nightmares hit again after a brutal case involving a girl slashed to bits, Dean suggested Valerian and chamomile. He’d been reading all the information on Lorazepam, the active ingredient in Ativan, and frankly it scared him.
Sam started calling him Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. Dean refused to speak to him for a whole day. As a retaliatory gesture, he started slipping experimental herbal aphrodisiacs in Sam’s food. It was nearly three weeks before he hit upon one that actually worked, an extract of Damiana and Ginseng.
It was a couple of hours after lunch before they noticed the affects. Sam was just fiddling about on his computer trying to figure out the correlation between a series of disappearances when his face started to flush across the bridge of his nose. Dean watched with tightly-reigned amusement as Sam absently started undoing the buttons on his shirt.
“God, it’s hot in here.” He shucked the stripey button-down he was wearing. Sam hated showing his skin, he never did it even in the hottest weather, and it was a rare moment indeed that you could get him into anything that wasn’t two sizes too large. Sometimes he still changed in the bathroom. Dean stared at the sudden revelation of his brother in the bare skin as he peeled off the wifebeater he always wore under button-downs. He looked away quickly, starting to regret this plan.
Sam let out a noise suddenly, and dropped his head to the table. Dean looked back at him, the humor of the situation returning.
“I can’t concentrate,” Sam moaned, face pressed against the pitted wood of the table.
Dean finally allowed himself to laugh. “Yeah, good luck with that!”
Sam propped his head up on his fist, eyes narrowed. “What’d you do?”
Dean hummed innocently. “I don't know, I was just playing around with some all natural viagra.”
His laughter abruptly ended when Sam threw him back on the bed with his telekinesis and pinned him there. Dean struggled against the hold but it didn't let up. Why exactly was it that Sam's powers only seemed to work when he was thwarting Dean's every move. It would be far more useful if he could do this against a werewolf or a grimalkin.
Sam glared at him, his mouth pressed into a tight line. “Yeah, good luck with that.” He scooped up the keys to the Impala and his jacket and left. Research and button-down forgotten. Dean figured the unnatural gravity holding him down would dissolve when Sam got far enough away, but Sam must’ve really been thinking about it, because he still couldn’t move by the time Sam came back drunk and smelling of perfume. He decided three hours of singing "Rock You Like a Hurricane" to himself was worth it for getting Sammy laid.
“I should kill you,” Sam said, throwing his jacket aside. There was a long lipstick smear on his collarbone. The pressure on Dean eased and he was finally able to sit up.
“Then you would never get any.” He scratched the back of his head and stretched his legs. He desperately needed a piss.
Sam continued to glare at him for a long moment before breaking into laughter. It was a move so completely uncharacteristic, Dean couldn’t help but gape.
“You made it yourself didn’t you?” Sam said as he pulled his shirt off and fell back on the bed, limbs akimbo. “Still a medicine woman.”
Dean growled and dove at him. They wrestled playfully on the creaky hotel mattress, grunting and laughing. The bed wasn’t the best place for leverage, and it slammed back against the wall with every move. Dean finally came out on top and he held Sam’s hands down next to his head.
“Better be careful, squirt, I know a few things that could, how do I put it, cause a few problems for your skin," he said, breathless and triumphant. Sam snorted, forced his hips up and to the side, and rolled himself back on top.
“Damn it,” Dean mumbled without heat. Sam chuckled.
“You better not slip me anything else, unless you like being stuck to the bed.”
“Kinky.” It was out of his mouth before he seriously considered the somewhat charged position they were in. Sam blushed and rolled right off him, over-judging the distance and landing on the floor. Dean cleared his throat. They didn’t speak of it again.
The one sticking point Sam had was that Dean didn’t eat vegetables any more often than he used to. Sam tried to force carrots or green beans or peas, any of the more innocuous edible flora, but Dean dug his heels in.
"This must be what having a five-year-old is like," he said grouchily after Dean noisily scarfed up an entire plate of french fries and left his side salad completely untouched.
Dean declaimed loudly that now that he had an affinity with plants he’d never be able to eat them again like a plants rights activist. But then Sam, already at the end of his rope, looked ready to shove a tube down his throat and dump wheat grass into it, so he refrained from using that line of argument ever again. Figured eating a few bites of iceberg lettuce the next time they arrived as a garnish wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Sam loved vegetables and fruits. A whole life of fast food and 'good' home style American cuisine had fostered a deep hatred of anything that could be gotten at the roadside. Dean was proudly the exact opposite. Sam would never get him to eat Indian or Thai or sushi until he promised some ostentatious reward—beer all night or all of Sam's quarters for the vibrating bed or cleaning all of Dean's guns.
"This is exploitation," Sam bitched after doing all of the laundry in exchange for some not that stellar korean barbecue.
Dean continued watching TV, tracking Sam as he folded their clothes out of the corner of his eye. "Yeah yeah, I know, after four years of fresh produce and farmers markets and Whole Foods blah blah blah, you're not about to go back to a constant staple of simple carbs and protein or whatever the fuck. I get it. You whine about this every day."
"That's because avoiding heart disease is important!"
Dean shook his head. "Did any of our relatives die of heart failure? No. Ergo, not an issue."
"That is a completely facile argument. We don't know any of our relatives!"
"I think I should put you on a quota for five-dollar words. Maybe one every two days?" Dean said speculatively. Sam threw a pair of underwear at his head.
They got a hotel with a little kitchenette and Sam told Dean he’d make a salad even he would enjoy. Dean refused to believe it, but he grudgingly pointed out which red-leaf lettuce was the healthiest and the freshest in the grocery store anyway. He could grow his own, but Dean had so far avoided growing things that weren’t functional. Vegetables were totally not functional. He was not Grandma with a vegetable patch. Sure, he helped the dying dogwood tree in Connecticut, but he’d be damned if he forced one on his own, just for the hell of it.
“For a rebel you have a lot of issues with how people see you,” Sam pointed out when they got back to the room.
“I have an image to uphold, flowers are the complete opposite of my badass self.”
Sam started chopping vegetables up with noisy no-nonsense thwocks and Dean backed off to the other half of the room to watch Nip/Tuck re-runs. Sam thought the show was awful, but Dean knew he was pausing to watch the gory surgical procedures.
The episode finished just as Sam called him over to the dingy linoleum table. He’d set the table and everything, albeit with plastic knives and forks because they didn’t have any silverware of their own.
“Aww, Sammy, no candles?” he asked as he sat down in the chair with the best view of the door. Sam rolled his eyes and refused to be bated.
Dean thought the concoction that Sam set before him was truly frightening. Strawberries, penne pasta, chicken, parmesan, nuts, cucumbers, onions, and lettuce all mixed together? It looked like a buffet had blown up in a bowl. Sam sat there, eyes hard and fingers tented, his own plate untouched until Dean took a bite. It was frankly a little terrifying, maybe he could unleash Sam to stare their next job to death.
When he actually processed the taste, it nearly killed him to admit how good it was. “Where the hell did you get this idea?”
Sam smirked and finally dug into his own plate. “It...was an experiment.”
Needless to say, Dean weeded out all the chicken and the pasta from what was remaining in the bowl, and he only ate a little of his lettuce. Sam sighed and said gustily that at least it was some form of progress.
Dean sucked a whole strawberry into his mouth and grinned around it. Sam looked faintly green.
Dean later blamed the flowers. They were totally sucking his brain dry or something. Sam just thought it was hilarious. They were at Target to pick up some supplies, Dean was off in the home improvement section for bone meal as a source of phosphorus, and Sam was trying to find shampoo that wouldn’t irritate his scalp, because even his skin-cells were lame and wimpy.
Sam was just walking up with a bottle of Garnier he always insisted he used because it was cheapest and not because it smelled like fruity candy, just as a song by Savage Garden came on.
Dean wasn't even thinking about it, just standing with his hands in his pockets, amidst bags of soil, peat, and other garden additives. The bone meal failed to reveal itself.
“Lift you up and fly away with you into the night,
If you need to fall apart—” He sang along.
"Are you...are you singing O-town?"
Dean felt his face flame up in a blush. "No! Savage Garden, dicksmack."
"Aw Dean, don't be embarrassed. You have a good voice, a sweet one actually, when you're not caterwauling along to Zeppelin or Bon Scott. But Savage Garden?" The annoying jerk pulled down the bag of peat high up above Dean's head that he hadn't even noticed.
"Shut up, Sam."
"No, no, no, Didn't you go on insane rants about how gay pop music was when I watched MTV?"
“All of this soil has lye in it, I don’t know how they expect anything to grow,” Dean said loudly, talking over Sam.
“No, I'm sorry, I cannot just let this complete comedy gold go."
“Anyway, it’s completely useless, whoever puts this in their yard will be killing the—”
"You can run, but you can't hide," Sam interrupted in an irritating sing-song voice, hoisting the bag of bone meal over his shoulder and walking towards the register.
Sam picked up a copy of The Economist as they waited in line, Dean cracked the gum he was chewing, hoping to convey all his disgust with the noice, and glanced at a Heidi Klum ad spread on the cover of InStyle. Sam turned the page to an article on Toyota and the electric car and it caught Dean’s attention. He rested his chin on Sam’s shoulder to look down at it, he had to stand on the balls of his feet to do it.
"Shove over, let me see," he said plaintively.
"Get your own!"
Their stuff finally started rolling down the conveyor belt.
“You boys are darling,” the cashier said as Dean swiped a credit card in Sam Raimi’s name in the machine. He hadn't played out the zombie movie phase just yet, especially because absolutely no one noticed. Always a sucker for compliments he gave her a wide grin.
"Why thank you, beautiful," Dean told her.
“How long have you been together?” she asked as she handed Dean the receipt. They both sighed. Shoulda seen that coming. Sam walked out of the store humming Savage Garden, and Dean whapped him hard on the shoulder.
“Stop, no more homo behavior, dude.” He unlocked the trunk and dumped their bags inside.
Sam shot Dean a dry look. “Dean, people have thought we were a couple since I was fifteen, independent of the powers of pop bands.”
“Not my fault you act all faggy,” Dean replied offhand as he climbed into the driver’s side.
Sam rolled his eyes. “Dean, I know you have.”
“Have what?” Dean asked as he stepped on the accelerator and peeled out of the parking lot.
Sam shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. “Slept with guys.”
Dean’s knuckles tightened on the wheel, but he didn’t deny it. “So have you.”
“Yeah, Dean,” Sam replied. “So why does it matter if people think you’re gay?”
“It’s just—it’s just—you’re my brother!” Dean burst out.
Sam looked down at his hands. He turned away. "Forget it."
Sam nearly had his head cut off by a Sluagh in the decrepit house of a struggling family in South Dakota. The youngest daughter was dying slowly, and the Atwaters couldn’t afford her medicine. The Sluagh had tried repeatedly to take her soul to join the ranks of the undead, and it was putting up a worthy fight against the two Winchester boys.
Dean was distracted, it felt like his scaphoid was broken—his fingers didn’t have the strength to tighten on the trigger of his gun. That’s when the Sluagh attacked Sam. Sam had only just hurled himself out of the way when the branch of a cedar tree struck through the roof and speared the phantasm through the chest. He died fast and messy, ooze getting everywhere. When Sam turned to congratulate him, he found him collapsed and pale on the ground, his breathing harsh and his eyes glassy.
He’d used too much controlling that tree, he was dimly aware of lying on the floor in an empty house, Sam talking to him. But it felt like he’d pushed past the plane of his own consciousness, and was slowly merging with the Earth. He felt himself in the blades of grass, in the manicured azaleas that lined the streets. The water that rushed up the Douglas firs was his blood. The xylem and phloem pumped the beat of his heart. He was everywhere, thousands of places at once, and he was losing himself fast.
Sam was shouting now, grip on his shoulders painful. Dean was too far away and he didn’t want to come back. Sam could go on without him. But then he was being jolted back into his body, Sam’s mouth on his and fingers tight on his skull.
Dean half-rose out of Sam’s lap, pursuing the kiss. He didn’t know what he was doing really, he was beyond most coherent thought. He reached up with his hand, running it across Sam’s chest. No wound, no blood, only warm uninjured flesh beneath the cloth.
He imagined peeling Sam’s clothes off, inspecting him for injuries with strong capable hands, licking a line along Sam’s collarbone, and absorbing the clean hewn grace of his brother’s body.
Sam moaned into his mouth, and then pulled back, ruining the moment entirely. “Welcome to the world of the living, Sleeping Beauty.”
Dean let it go. “Fuck no, you are not Prince Phillip!”
It didn’t happen again, they didn’t discuss it, that wasn’t their way. Sam didn’t appear to angst on it at all, nor did he seem the least likely to initiate anything, but Sam touched him more often. A hand on his wrist to still him when a word would have sufficed. Dean could’ve lied and said he didn’t like it, done his whole ‘get off me’ routine. But Sam probably would’ve laughed his ass off, and then pointed out the way Dean was leaning against him, the way his knee was brushing his, so he didn’t bother.
Even if more people thought they were absolute fairy homos as a result. Way more people. Like everybody.
They were in a tiny little Huck Finn’s diner in Chicago at four in the morning, and Dean was eating really good chocolate-chip pancakes.
“Sam, hey!” a voice cried from behind their booth, Sam turned around in his seat and Dean tried not to let his stomach twist at the sight of a small dark girl with short hair and a smile to rival Sam’s own. Sam got to his feet when he saw her and dragged her in close for a hug.
“I’m graduating soon, Sam,” she told him when they pulled apart. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
Dean coughed into his fist. Sam turned and looked at him, his eyes twinkling. “Dean, this is Kira, I mentored her when she was a freshman.”
“Nice to meet you, oh my god, you guys are really adorable together,” Kira shook his hand. “I noticed you when I walked in the door, and I just thought to myself ‘those two are perfect for each other.’”
Dean muttered a disgruntled curse under his breath. Sam reached up and scratched the back of his neck, awkward and embarrassed. Dean determinedly shoved a chocolaty piece of pancake in his mouth and waited for Sam correct her.
“Well, I got to get back to my family, we just flew in from Guadalajara and we’re all dead, so were getting some sustenance and then crashing. Just thought I’d come say hi.” She hugged Sam again, eyes a little worshipful.
“Bye, Kira.” Sam waved, already going to sit back down.
She smiled again. “Bye, Sam! And nice to meet you, Dean. You be good to him now, he deserves it!”
Then she was off.
“She didn’t look dead,” Dean said and went back to his pancakes, squirting lemon juice furiously on his breakfast. Dean would never admit it, but he was eating more and more plant products.
“What?” Sam asked, going back to his own fruit salad and omelet.
“She said they were all dead, but that chick looked like she had enough energy to power a village.”
Sam heaved a sigh, eyes far away as he thought back. “Believe me, I know.”
They ate in silence and then left. Kira waved again on their way out. Sam was quiet, probably going all nostalgic on Dean. He probably could’ve played “The Razor’s Edge” on the tape deck and Sam would’ve only sat and stared rather than attempt to smother himself like he usually did. Dean felt merciful.
They went into Hyde Park later in the day, checking out a lead and they stopped at a small park just adjacent to Lakeshore Drive. It had been Earth day only a few weeks before, and bunch of young saplings stood planted along the edge, no doubt by little kids and their enthusiastic parents.
“Do you want to go back?” Dean asked.
Sam took a deep breath and didn’t ask Dean to clarify. “Sometimes, life was easier then, and I can’t deny that.”
Dean looked down at the grass, the heat hadn’t set in yet, and it was still dewy. He could feel Sam watching him.
“But mostly no, I want my degree, because I worked so hard for it, but—”
Dean swallowed. “Then you should do it, go back.”
“I can’t, I can’t go back anymore,” Sam said softly, voice slightly wistful, but nevertheless strong. “But I have enough credits to graduate, and I’m almost finished with my senior thesis.”
Dean’s head snapped up. “What?”
Sam smiled and shrugged. “I started writing it when we met up with Dad and I—I stopped for a while when he—”
“But that’s months, Sam, I thought when we found him you were gonna be done with hunting and it was only him—you know, that changed your mind.”
Sam looked sheepish for a moment, like he was trying to best explain himself but couldn’t think of the words. He was silent for a moment that seemed to go on forever, and then bent down in front of the whip-thin stripling trees.
“Apple trees,” Dean told him without being asked.
Sam pulled his knife out and popped the blade out with a soft snick. Dean watched as he nicked off the bark of one side of branch revealing the pale green inside, he did the same for the tree next to it and then carefully braided the flexible branches together.
He gestured at his handiwork like that explained anything as he got to his feet and dusted off his pant legs, but Dean understood. They themselves were tangled together, and the knots were gradually becoming more fancy and more complicated.
Dean could feel his power being sucked out of him unbidden and the two saplings were growing and straining upwards towards the sun. His breath rushed out in a whoosh, and the next thing he knew Sam was shouting in surprise and he was staring up at two apple trees from the ground. He smiled, even as he could feel his pulse beat a painful staccato rhythm in his skull. Anybody would swear the two trees were at least a hundred years old if they bothered to count the rings. Two branches formed a bridge between them.
“Did not mean for that to happen,” he coughed and struggled to his feet, only to trip into Sam. Sam steadied him and they stood unspeaking in the presence of the trees and the cars whizzing by on Lakeshore.
Dean really, really wanted something to happen. However, he wasn’t sure if Sam meant for this to be a lifelong “I shall forever pine over you from afar” type of deal or if he actually had a plan of action, and was waiting for the right moment.
So Dean kept flirting with the girls in bars, kept lining up shots, kept going on as if nothing had changed. What if it was just nothing, and he had read everything between them wrong? But Dean knew his brother, and unless Sam was sending out signals in the most elaborate and unsavory prank ever, he meant something was going on.
A job took them through the woods in Rome, Maine, out on Blueberry Hill, and Dean had cracked at least a half a dozen dirty jokes before they’d walked more than forty feet. The blueberries were just ripe, and Dean kept popping them into his mouth. The moon was out and shining out on the lakes below, Long Pond on one side, Great Pond on the other, and the wind was blowing just enough to rustle the leaves.
They sat out on a large flat plane of rock, waiting for anything to show up, but after two hours went by and nothing happened even Sam's famed patience was starting to fray.
“Think maybe this time it really was all a rumor?” Dean said, lying back on the rock and looking up at the sky. There was no light pollution, and the sky was full to bursting with little pinpricks of stars.
“Yup,” Sam replied, resting his elbows on bent knees. Dean pushed himself into a sitting position and Sam looked over at him.
“Nothing scary about this place,” Dean whispered and then kissed him, tongue wickedly tracing Sam’s lower lip. They kissed for long slow minutes under the moon, with the crickets buzzing and the whispering branches of the trees, Sam cradled between Dean’s thighs and Dean’s hand at the small of his back.
Dean rolled them over and began to learn everything that he knew so well by sight again by touch alone, watched as Sam’s eyes fell shut and his hips rose off the cool stone beneath them to meet Dean’s own. Sam practically clawed the shirt off his back, going on about needing to see and feel Dean against him. It was his brother, and he was shy, suddenly. He had to close his eyes against the way Sam's eyes roved over him, gaze hungry and sharp.
Dean forced a chuckle and told him to stop waisting time. His nails and callused fingers marked Sam everywhere, slow sweeps over the ridge of his collarbone, and scrapes over his shoulder blades. Dean’s mouth followed the path his hands mapped out, and gradually more and more clothing was shed.
Sam pushed careful fingers inside his brother, aided by the tube of lube Dean had thrust upon him, embarrassed. A plan of action indeed. Sam’s shirt was under Dean’s hips, the rest of their clothing discarded at the side of the rock, and he realized that they were visible to anybody who thought to come looking, but couldn’t bring himself to stop. Dean couldn't help arching into the fingers pushing steadily into him, lips bitten bloody trying to keep all the sounds he wanted to make inside.
“There’s no one to hear you but me,” Sam told him searching out Dean’s prostate, but Dean squeezed his eyes shut tight like he could imagine them in a private room, fingers scraping ineffectually over the rock. It was all very strange, because he'd never had a problem with sex in public before.
When Sam finally pushed inside, he thought he would die from it. Dean clamped his thighs around him and his arms tightened around Sam’s middle. Dean could watch every change on Sam’s face through the light of the moon, everything that made his mouth open on a swallowed gasp, everything that made his shoulders bunch under Dean's palms, everything that made his eyelashes flutter. He wondered what Sam saw, if everything on his face was as clear to him as Sam’s was to Dean.
It was only after he came, when he could finally tear his eyes away from Sam’s parted lips and half-lidded eyes, that he saw the deep red roses blooming all over the rock, roots pushing out through newly created fissures in the mountainside.
Dean breathed deep, eyes drifting closed and still coming back to himself. Sam rolled to the side, but kept a hand on him, tracing gentle fingers over the lines of Dean’s muscles.
Dean finally opened his eyes again and turned to contemplate the roses that had creeped up over the rock, nearly blanketing it in deep bloody blooms.
“I wonder if I could make a black one.”
Sam snorted and buried his head in Dean’s shoulder as he laughed.
Eventually it was Dean who insisted they put down roots of their own after Sam sent in his thesis and received his diploma. He’d begun to write everything down, logs of all that happened, spinning them into tales that were darkly satirical and dotted all over with what he claimed were the "outrageous" things Dean said. The first time he got published he’d made Dean open the letter, and then told him to stop lying about the amount written on the check.
Dean nearly hit him with a book to shut him up.
Sam kept trying to get to Dean start up a nursery when they finally settled in Santa Cruz. Dean pointedly got a job at a specialty autoshop for classic cars. "Not grandma's vegetable patch, Sam!" he insisted. They'd managed to get an unbelievably cheap deal on a large white clapboard house with a widow’s walk a ways out from the downtown and the other residential areas, because it was quote, an absolute fucking nightmare.
Even after people stopped complaining of strange things happening near the house, they avoided the Winchester land like the plague. Dean liked it that way. There was often weird enough stuff going on that they didn’t want people to see, stuff that couldn’t be explained by that whole “oh you know, modern landscaping” line.
Sam annoyed him into building himself a greenhouse. Dean didn’t garden, which totally explained why he spent all his time elbows deep in flower beds. Like the round tower library on the third floor was Sam’s, it became Dean’s space. Well that and the garage, which Sam was only allowed to enter on Dean's sufferance. He started growing cannabis in revenge.
When Bobby stopped by for a visit he was agog at the tall oaks with their branches threaded together. He found many other such protections laid in and around the house, but he did wonder as he watched Dean, as he called it "commune with a tree," whether some of it was for aesthetic purposes as well. He snorted with Sam over it, but feigned severity when Dean threatened to fill his soup with ipecac.
It wasn't easy to stop hunting. They got into fights about it sometimes, with Dean quite seriously threatening to burn the entire house down to spur Sam off his ass, and Sam psychically slamming all the doors and sticking the locks when he thought Dean was taking unnecessary risks.
Somehow, like figuring out how to be a badass and grow flowers, it worked.
And it is finished