Word Count: 15,000
Summary: Dean, rather than Sam, gets disillusioned with hunting. So he enlists.
Notes: I've been working on this fic since early July. Would you believe I watched Generation Kill for research? I seem to have gotten somewhat distracted. That said, I had to play rather fast and loose with actual events (both canon and real life) to make this work. Hopefully the end result is worth it. Thank you so much to rosekay, who is the best beta a girl could ask for.
Sam asks Dean about his shoulder piece with his fingers curled around the neck of a Heineken, relax and loose like he rarely sees him. Dean blinks at him and then realizes they’ve never talked about it. Sometimes he carried Sam around in his head so much he forgot that he wasn’t actually there, that Sam hadn’t seen Dean drunkenly tumble himself into a tattoo parlor with his buddies after completing his MOS. Sam’d been chopping corners and drilling at Navy.
“Ah, Jesus,” Dean says and scrubs at his face, embarrassed.
“I would’ve expected a huge Led Zep tribute, but this seems way more…” Sam pauses, searching for the right words.
“Personal?” Dean finishes, grinning, perfectly aware that what Sam was going to say wouldn't have been exactly flattering.
“Sure,” Sam says, mouth fighting a smile. He slides the sleeve of Dean’s shirt up, revealing the edges of the ink. Dean shrugs and the fabric slides back further showing almost the entire tattoo. It was designed to look like his flesh had ended, torn away, revealing inked-on armor underneath. “Whose idea was it?”
“The artist,” Dean says and takes a drink. “I said I wanted armor tattooed on, and he called me a drunken idiot, and when I woke up the next morning with a pounding head, it looked like this.”
“Hey, don’t get me wrong it’s pretty tight,” Sam replies, eyes crinkling at the corners fondly. His thumb smoothes over the Celtic knot-work decorating the tattooed rendition of a spaulder. Dean shivers. Heat flares up in his face like he’s had too many drinks and he sucks down the last dregs of his beer and then tilts the bottle looking for more as a distraction. He might be making this more uncomfortable than it has to be. “You want another?”
Sam shrugs. Dean goes to the bar to put some space between them. Sam’s delicate off-hand touch is still causing his synapses to fire. It’s crowded, so he idles for a short while waiting for the overworked bartender to notice his twenty dollars. He has to drive them back, so he refrains from asking for an empowering shot of whiskey.
When he returns with the second round, Sam isn’t alone. A tall blonde girl with tan skin and an easy smile sits straddling the back of the empty chair at their table. She laughs and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. She’s pretty, right on his radar, but he hadn’t even noticed her until she moved in on Sam.
“I’m Jess,” she says when he sits back down, offering him a flirtatious grin.
He nods. “Dean.”
She smiles again and then turns back to Sam. “Yeah, so I’m road tripping with my friends,” she says, “celebrating graduation.”
“Oh, from college?” Sam asks perfunctorily, rotating his empty bottle on the table.
“No, I just finished up my masters,” she grins and shrugs, “Hope I can get a job now. But what about you guys?”
Sam and Dean trade glances before Dean answers, “We’re in the marines.”
She leans back, surprised. “Like, you’ve been to Iraq?”
Sam nods, eyes on the table. Dean shoves his full pint at him and Sam smiles before taking a swallow. “Just got back,” he says.
She cocks her head. Dean thinks she’s probably never come across somebody in the military who wasn’t a bitter ‘nam vet or part of that greatest generation that fought and bled all the way through France into Germany. They are so far from that, and she will probably never understand. She asks, “Are you out now?”
“We’re career,” Sam replies, eyes on Dean. Dean hides a smile and Sam ducks his head. Somehow she senses she’s intruding and with one last million dollar smile, she gets up and says goodnight.
“Congratulations on your masters,” Sam says and raises his glass to her.
She turns around, a strange almost sad look on her face and nods. “Thanks.” Sam never looks back at her. Dean wonders if he’s just missed something important, if he should tell him to go after her. He doesn’t.
Sam loves Glacier Park. He’s awestruck by it. They pull off at the first vista point and he’s out of the car, staring around him in wonder like the sky’s turned a beautiful unexpected shade of green. Dean finds the wondering childlike expression on his face more interesting. The sky is studded with a few creamy clouds and the entire world feels like it’s been washed and scrubbed, suds left behind. Even the air seems polished. He breathes deep.
“What do you think?” Sam says, turning around, his arms spread wide. A pocket-sized digital camera dangles at the end of one hand. He’s taken about fifty pictures with it and he snaps one of Dean with his mouth open to answer the question.
“Love you, sweetheart,” Sam replies with a laugh. He turns around and snaps another shot, the camera held at arms’ length as he lines it up in the viewfinder. Dean thinks back on the days when cameras were black heavy things or yellow Kodak disposables. Guys had still carried those on his first overseas deployment, hoping the film wouldn’t degrade in the hot sun and sand in Afghanistan. Dean smiles and shakes his head.
“You know, you said we were going to kill each other,” Dean points out to Sam. He doesn’t know why he brings it up. They don’t need to talk about these things. It seems too loaded. He expects Sam to shoot him that look, the ‘c’mon, man’ face. The one he’d given Dean every time he tried to assure Sam they’d be staying in a school district, or had enough money enough for Sam’s textbooks, or that Dean’s leaving for basic wasn’t going to change anything.
But he doesn’t, in this strange new place it flies right past Sam. He hops up onto a rock like it’ll make him tall enough to touch the soapy sky and says simply, “I know. That’s what I thought.” When he looks back at Dean, a strangely inscrutable expression on his face, Dean drops his eyes and thinks about how he’d like to eat some cotton candy. He hasn’t had any since he was seventeen.
They are so close to British Columbia they could touch it, just keep on going until they make it, but Sam says he’s ready to head home. He’s itching for something. Dean doesn’t know what. They were never like other kids who needed their own beds or stuffed animals or any sense of regularity to sleep. They wouldn’t have survived if they’d needed that. But Dean knows something’s up. He just doesn’t know how to ask.
Without meaning to, they run into a hunt in Kalispell, the night after they checked into the motel. They’re driving out on a two-lane road to get some breakfast and then head on to the next town, but they never get that far. It's so accidental as to be embarrassing. They hadn’t heard anything about the seventeen deaths or read about strange occurrences. Dean had had to actively break himself of the habit of scanning the papers the first couple of years at 29palms. For the second time in their lives, something supernatural just chooses them.
The parking lot of the diner opens out into the woods, and they leave after pancakes and bacon. Dean turns around to make a joke about the couple that was fighting in the booth next to them. Something on Sam’s face, the subtle shifting of the skin around his eyes before it can even reach an expression of horror, tells him to duck. A large animal whirrs by overhead, slamming into a tree trunk. Dean rolls, ready to get to his feet, but he only makes it to his knees before a heavy clawed hand rakes over his shoulder, digging deep into the skin. Over the sudden bright rush of pain running up and down his arm, he thinks about how shredded his leather jacket’s going to be. And then there’s a sensation of weightlessness.
Sam shouts his name. Dean can’t see him, everything is moving too fast, and then he’s thudding to the ground again with a horrible sickening thud. He thinks he must have at least two ribs broken. But he doesn’t have time to worry about that. Already he’s trying to put damage out of his head, assess the situation, reach for his weapon. But there isn’t one. He can’t quite pick himself up, but he rolls his head back on his neck, eyeing the huge creature behind him. It crouches, watching him, waiting to pounce. It growls, and Dean has the sudden realization that it’s toying with him.
He stares back at it, can’t believe this is how he’s going to go. Just like Dad. The last way he thought he’d die. When Sam crashes through the bushes, firing rock salt at the creature, Dean’s heart starts beating again. The creature backs up but doesn’t back off.
“He’s not a believer!” Sam shouts.
Dean uses a fallen log to get himself to his feet and he yells hoarsely, “What the fuck, Sam?”
“It’s a matagot!” Sam calls back, one of Dean’s sawed-off shotguns trained on the creature. He darts a glance at Dean, and then looks back at the creature, more of an abnormally large black cat. “Tell it you don’t believe in God.”
“I don’t…I don’t believe in God,” Dean says. He doesn’t how that can possibly help. His hand goes unwillingly to amulet around his neck, and it draws the cat’s attention.
“May he strike you down,” the cat replies sarcastically, rolling out of its crouch, yellow eyes luminous in the shade. Dean stares at it, shocked, finally daring to breathe. He slumps back against the log, unable to hold himself up any longer, and clutches his arm to his chest. He can feel blood running down over his fingers, but other than the open wounds where it burns, the arm is numb to the shoulder.
The cat licks one paw and says to Sam in an ungendered voice, “You can’t kill me. You know the rules.”
“Kill you?” Sam replies, smiling grimly. “Vade retro me, motherfucker.”
The cat yowls suddenly and starts charging them. “Sam,” Dean yells, trying to lurch forward in front of him.
“Ab insidiis diaboli,” Sam yells and shoots the cat who goes flying back, and then he reloads, continuing to shout, “libera nos, Domine.” The cat shakes its head, dazed and then rolls to its feet, trying to lunge at them. Sam puts bullet after bullet in it, firing every time it struggles towards them. “Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos.”
The cat screams and then crumples, going up in a gout of smoke. Sam breathes hard. From relief, Dean realizes, he didn’t know it was going to work. The edges of his vision are starting to darken, and he spares a thought that at least he waited ‘til it was safe to pass out. “Demons,” he slurs, “have we ever come across demons?” And then he’s falling to the ground.
Dean doesn’t know how Sam gets him back to the car. He comes to as Sam drags him into the passenger’s side, but the entire world is spinning, and time keeps blinking out.
“No hospitals, Sammy, no hospitals,” he says, holding his shoulder. It hurts to breathe and his vision turns purple at the edges.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? We are not like Dad, we have to go to a hospital!”
“I ca—c—” he stumbles over the words and then gives up all together. “Venom—on the claws.”
His last thought is remembering Balad—the helicopters descending in droves, and how it was far too much like MASH for comfort and then he’s sinking back into the darkness.
He resurfaces to Sam pouring some concoction down his throat and dousing his arm in Johnny Walker Red Label. There’s pain and hallucination. He’s back wandering the halls at Balad, the horrible fever dream about the reaper. The doctors talk above his bed in muted whispers. But he still hears one say, “The brain damage is irreversible, doctor, this one will never breathe again off a life support system.”
“Real shame, got it pulling some civilian out of a house that got schwacked.”
Dean wants to scream, but he can’t move. He can’t do anything.
A grinning army ranger with the bandage over half his burned face stands in the room and says, “They call it mortaritaville, you know?” He snorts, mouth pulling in away his facial muscles shouldn’t allow. “Clever!”
“No!” Dean screams, thrashing. “I left!”
He’s in the stairwell in hospital issue clothes, begging to live again. “You don’t understand, Tess,” he says.
“Of course I do,” she replies. “You think you’re the first not ready to go?”
“I never got to see him again,” he says weakly, vertigo dropping his stomach through the floor. The halls seem to extend infinitely. He will never get out of this place. She told him he wasn’t supposed to leave and the doctors said he couldn’t ever hope to.
And somehow, somehow he woke up fine, with only a shallow cut on his forehead, because it was all a dream. But maybe he’d never really woken up. Maybe coming home, seeing Sam under the hard desert sun was the lie. Now, the grinning wounded soldier and the doctors have come to take him back to Tess. How could she give him this gift and then take it away again?
Sam appears above him. “Dean, I need you to be here with me.”
“She says I have to go,” Dean replies.
Sam grips his shoulder. “Well, she’s lying.”
The motel snaps back into focus like a rubber band, ceiling and walls slamming firmly into their proper places again. It makes him want to vomit. He moans weakly and curls away from Sam’s touch. The darkness takes him again.
He wakes just after eight pm, feeling woozy and drunk, but even though the room is spinning, it makes sense. Sam sits at the table by the window looking haggard, surfing the internet and crumpling and unraveling a napkin periodically.
“How bad was it?” Dean asks gruffly, eying his bandaged arm.
“The venom was hallucinogenic,” Sam explains, “The matagot likes to play with its victims before killing them.”
“Why are none of these fuckers straight up?” Dean replies, shifting his head on the pillow. The entire bed seems to move under him. He groans.
“So I didn’t know you were taken to Balad,” Sam says after a long pause. He’s looking at Dean over his laptop screen, face purposefully expressionless.
Dean swallows. “My platoon was in Al Qaim, there was a little girl with a broken leg screaming inside this hut while we were taking fire.” He looks up at the ceiling and tries not to picture her mutilated left leg in his head. “I pulled her out just as the building next door was hit with a mortar. One half of the structure collapsed and shrapnel exploded everywhere. I only sustained superficial wounds, but I was knocked out and my forehead was bleeding pretty bad. They had me cas-evaced to Camp Anaconda.”
He pauses and Sam hands him a glass of water, watching him drink it like a mother hen. Dean nods his thanks and then says, “I had this dream while I was there that I was brain dead or locked in or something, and this reaper—you know like the ones Dad used to talk about—was telling me it was time to leave. God, it was a nightmare.”
“Sounds like,” Sam replies.
“But when I woke up, I was fine. They just stitched up my forehead and a few days later I was with my platoon again." He shrugs. "The little girl died.”
“Nothing you could’ve done,” Sam says softly in the officer voice. When Dean looks up at him, Sam’s eyes are far-away, like he’s remembering his own personal failures back in theater. Sam stands up purposefully, brushing off his pant legs. “Well, Bobby says I should get you some food if you feel up to it. You threw up your entire breakfast.”
“Not in the car?” Dean asks, horrified, pushing himself up to his elbows.
Sam laughs. “Not in the car.”
While Sam is gone picking up takeout, the pain in his arm returns a hundred fold. He doesn’t carry anything stronger than Aleve with him anymore. He’s got the achy feel that comes from fevers and sunburns accompanied with an unbearable wrenching dagger of pain in the meat of his arm. He eyes the half-full bottle of Johnny Walker that they’d bought when they meant to have a good time, and has to purposefully look away.
He hates himself. He really does. Thinking about Balad always brings back the self-loathing. He doesn’t remember despising himself before the dreams about Tess. But he knows he must have. There were a billion and one things to be guilty of. Almost all of them were about Sam. He fucked up. He fucked up so hard. He doesn’t even know where it started. But it was there when he was gone. First few weeks of Basic, too tired even to jerk off, and he’d dreamed of Sam’s coltish legs bracketing his hips. His fingertips on Dean’s skin, sliding up over the ridges of newly cemented muscle. Basic hadn’t been the hell on him in the way it had been on the other recruits, but it wasn’t a piece of cake, and the entire way the only thing he wanted, more than rest, more than respite, more than a good beer, was to feel Sam’s weight pressing him down into his tiny rickety-springed bed.
He hadn’t gone home on leave, not because Dad had told him not to come back. That would never have stopped him. But he couldn’t see Sam. He’d gone to Bobby’s and worked odd-jobs in the yard, picking up girls in the evening, and generally trying not to miss what he never realized he was going to lose when he left.
And when Sam had found out Dean was at the junkyard and he recieved the next in a long line of betrayed phone-calls, Dean hadn’t said, “I’ll try and find a way to spend a day with you the next time you’re in this neck of the woods.” He’d just apologized and left it at that. Because Sam never had to know that his brother had fucked up. That he’d gone and got his entire sense of family responsibility and love all twisted up into something that didn’t even make sense. And somehow, he just accepted that about himself. But the loathing, he’s pretty sure that started with the reaper dream. He guesses he’ll never be sure something wasn’t going on there.
He thought whatever that feeling for Sam was, the one he’d nurtured inside himself even as he refused to go home, had been scoured out of him in the wake of that self-loathing. Now it seems, he gets to bear the weight of both.
By the time Sam comes back with a bag full of sesame chicken and beef lo mein, he’s lost the battle. He’s just drunk enough that the room spins around him and his head is lolling on his shoulders. It didn’t take much on an empty stomach. His shoulder still fucking hurts. Useless. Sam takes one look at him and says, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” He sits down on the other bed, leaving the food forgotten next to his laptop. He puts his head in his hands. “Why would you do that?”
Dean laughs, tries to resettle comfortably on the bed. “Didn’t like the inside of my head, didn’t like my arm.” He laughs again. “Hurts.”
“Jesus,” Sam replies. There’s a sigh in his voice. “I would’ve gotten you something, idiot.”
Dean blinks at him, his eyes are tracking too slow. “Needed it now.”
Something about that amuses Sam. He gets up and pulls a carton and chopsticks out of the brown bag. It’s like he’s given up on getting mad when Dean goes off and disappoints him.
“Never meant to hurt you?” It comes out like a question. Did he mean that? Maybe that way he thought he could keep the fucked up from spreading. Maybe he did mean to hurt Sam, but he never had the guts to come right out and yank the band-aid off. He could’ve said I don’t want you around.
Sam stares at him like he’s grown a second head. “What the fuck?” he says, holding Dean’s lo mein.
“When I didn’t—didn’t come back to see you as much as I could…have.” He stumbles with the words. It would be nice if he could talk in pictures. Just show Sam the stuff rolling around in his head. It’s far too difficult to articulate it.
“Okay. Don’t make a mess of yourself.” Sam plunks the carton of food next to his head and retreats to his bed with his own food. He’s pissed off, stabbing his chopsticks into his rice like he’s trying to kill it.
“You’re upset,” Dean slurs out. He tries to struggle out from under the tangle of covers, but they always wedge these sheets so tight under the mattress it’s like he’s been nailed down. He gives up and stares at the box of Chinese food on the dresser.
Sam makes a horrible bitter noise in the back of his throat. “You nearly died. Dear fucking christ, why would you be so stupid?”
There’s a headache building up between his eyes. “I couldn’t go back and see you…”
“We’re not having the same conversation here,” Sam says slowly. He’s tired with rings under his eyes and a grey pallor to his skin, but he still looks so fiercely beautiful. “It’s water under the bridge, Dean.”
“I—I gotta say this,” Dean replies, even though it’s so hard to talk. “I thought if I went back, I might ask you for some—something that I never should.”
He doesn’t hear Sam’s reply or even register the look on his face, because he’s sucked back down under.
He wakes up the next morning feeling like his brain is pulsing inside the confines of his head. When he blinks the grit out of his eyes, he finds Sam picking at leftover rice and talking on the phone. After a moment, he makes eye-contact with Dean and then looks away again before Dean can mouth an apology. He feels like a really big idiot. A hungover, pained idiot. His arm is screaming at him and he really wants a shower.
Sam smiles into the phone and he talks in this laidback relaxed voice which instantly clues Dean in that it’s not Bobby or Pastor Jim. You don’t talk like that with someone so much older than you, he figures. You talk like that with a buddy. He rolls himself out of bed just as Sam is hanging up.
“Who was that?” he asks, brushing crud out of his eyes and lurching for the large bottle of Poland Springs water Sam probably bought just for this moment.
“My roommate,” Sam replies, stretching his arms up above his head. “He just got back from his hitch in Hawaii and he’s wondering why I’m not in the apartment.”
Dean doesn’t remember much of last night other than the desperation that drove him to the bottle in the first place, but now he’s decided he’s not going to say anything. Sam doesn’t look mad, he brought him the water, and he wasn’t banging around the room at all hours in passive aggressive retaliation. When Dean looks at the clock, he realizes it’s nearly noon.
His stomach growls.
Sam shakes his bangs out of his eyes and says, “Take a shower, and we’ll hit the road. There’s a Jamba Juice here, miracle of all miracles, we can grab something to eat there.”
Dean pulls a face. “You’re fucking with me.”
Sam raises both his eyebrows and leans back in his chair. So maybe Sam’s a little pissed.
Dean got a White Gummy and felt slightly mollified even though Sam gets into the car on the driver’s side. The smoothie really does taste like gummy bear, so he’ll let Sam drive without fussing. He supposes he owes him that much. Sam also bought a soft pretzel and he keeps tearing pieces off and handing them over like Dean's five. Dean takes about five Aleve in a single swallow and rotates his arm into the position it’ll hurt the least in. He’s not going to enjoy getting back to the Stumps and explaining why his arm looks like he put it through the shredder. Mother's disapproving face is almost as frightening as Sam's.
Sam drives faster than Dean remembers. The thought occurs to him as they merge onto the highway that he’s in a hurry to get back. He swallows the sudden lump of unblended fruit that shoots up the straw and coughs. It all went wrong. He realizes they skipped all of the important questions. He thought Sam was just as unmoored as he was. But fond calls from a roommate—clearly not. He clears his throat and says, “Are you seeing anyone?”
Sam blinks away from the road briefly to stare at him. “Nope,” he says finally. Dean sighs and busies himself looking for a new tape to put in. Well, it’s awkward now. He bets Sam has run through all the reasons he never wanted to come to begin with. This hopeless feeling is starting to overwhelm him. He makes a lot of noise rummaging through the box, but Sam doesn’t react, doesn't even dart his eyes over to look at what Dean's doing.
Dean discards a cassette of sixties hits like The Zombies, The Hollies, The Amboy Dukes, and a few other bands that some free love and flower power obsessed chick made him in high school. It's a mystery how he's managed to hang on to it between all their time spent on the road and him packing up his bags forever. Funny how he keeps picking up the detritus of a former life in all the most unexpected places. The Allman Brothers’ Idlewild South goes next, and then Iggy Pop’s Sister Midnight.
After much unsettled shuffling through the box, he unearths a Jimmy Cliff tape he didn’t even know he had. The first time he can distinctly remember listening to it was when he was four, sitting in the Impala with his feet propped up on the dash--Dad finally agreeing to let Dean sit next to him when they ran errands for Mom. He pops it in and turns up the volume.
Sam darts a glance at him, surprised when the first few bars of ‘The Harder They Come’ plays. “Man, I don’t think I’ve heard this song in ten years.”
“Me neither.” Dean grins and sings, “‘The officers are trying to keep me down/Trying to drive me underground/And they think that they have got the battle won/I say forgive them Lord, they know not what they've done.’” Sam rolls his eyes and Dean reaches across the gearshift to punch him in the shoulder. “Those damn officers, what do they teach you in OCS?”
“I didn’t go to OCS, fucker,” Sam replies, but he’s laughing.
“You Annapolis boys always get so touchy,” Dean replies, settling back in his seat.
“Dude, OCS is 12 freakin’ weeks long. I busted my ass for four years.”
“And that’s why you’re not as fucked in the head as other officers, that and I raised you right too,” Dean says fondly. He leans his head up against the glass of the window. “So tell me about the roommate.”
“Hmm?” Sam says, “Oh, Reese. Not much to tell. He’s a warrant officer with the 2/1. He got back from his deployment in Okinawa in January, but I haven’t seen him since I got back.” He shoots Dean a pointed look and then shrugs. “We met at Pendleton. He’s a cool guy—you would like him.”
“Oh yeah?” Dean replies, skeptic.
Sam looks over at him again and smiles. “Yeah, you would. His favorite pastimes are horror movies and chasing skirts.”
Whatever Dean may say to Sam, he’s not like some of the guys in his platoon who think that all officers suck dick and are going to get them killed. Mother is possibly the best human being he knows, and certainly one of the most competent. But Dean really fucking doubts he’s going to like whatever retard lieutenant Sam is sharing house with up with in Oceanside.
They hit Salt Lake City just before 10 PM. They stop at a Pizza Hut and pick up a Meat Lovers for Dean and a Supreme for Sam. There’s some deal where they get a free 2 liter with their pizzas and Dean even feels generous enough to pick Sprite instead of Coke, because Sam hates Coke.
The motel is a little too warm and it’s familiar, comforting somehow. It amuses him to watch Sam peel off layer after layer. He feels pretty exhausted after stuffing himself, so he brushes his teeth and shrugs out of his clothes while Sam watches a rerun of CSI. He’s peering at his bandaged arm in puzzlement when Sam looks over and says, “You need a hand?”
He sits Dean down on the bed and unwinds the bandage around his bicep slowly. It sticks in the wound and Dean hisses when Sam pulls it out with an even tug.
“Sorry,” Sam says and holds up a bottle of iodine. “This is going to hurt.” Like Dean doesn’t know, still the sting brings tears to his eyes. Sam swabs the excess away and Dean carefully watches his face, the way his eyelashes flutter, the velvety-looking quality of his skin, how pink the curve of his lips are. Sam tapes the gauze down with his tongue poking out between his teeth. Dean drops his gaze to his lap and he doesn’t look up until Sam grips the uninjured part of his bare shoulder reassuringly.
“It’s healing up fine,” he says, hand still on Dean’s shoulder. Dean meets his eyes and swallows. Sam’s fingers dig in, pressing deep into a knot. He shifts and holds back a groan, the pleasure pain running warm all the way down his spine. Dean’s nose is level with Sam’s navel and it takes more willpower than he knew he had to keep from dropping his eyes lower.
Sam says, “Last night you said you couldn’t keep from asking…couldn’t keep from asking what?”
“Sam,” Dean replies warningly, turning his head away.
“I’m serious,” Sam says. His long fingers are still rubbing at Dean's shoulder and he draws them back down over the wing of Dean’s scapula. “Couldn’t keep from asking if you could…touch me?” Sam says and his voice is hoarse. Dean squeezes his eyes shut, horrified that heat is pooling in his shoulder and along his nerves so that he feels it everywhere. “If you could kiss me? If you could fuck me?”
“It wasn’t like that,” Dean says, trying to shrug out from under Sam’s touch.
Sam makes a noise in the back of his throat, and Dean can’t bear to look up at his face. “Why not?” Sam asks. “What if I wanted it to be like that?”
He slides his fingers around Dean’s throat, thumb rubbing over Dean’s Adam’s apple. His hand is so big it easily seems to span it. Sam can probably feel how hard his heart is pounding. Dean reaches up and tugs it away, pressing a quick kiss to Sam’s palm. “You don’t mean it.”
Sam pushes him back on the bed, settling over him gingerly, careful of Dean’s injured arm. “How would you know? You never came home.”
He connects their mouths, hand tilting Dean’s chin up just the way he wants it. Dean still has one foot on the floor and Sam’s completely clothed while he’s just in boxers. There should be a million ways it’s awkward even beyond their shared DNA, but something about it simply works. Sam sucks at his lower lip assiduously until it’s swollen and over-sensitized. Dean has to pull back and nip at the corner of Sam’s mouth to distract him. When Dean brings his other leg up on the bed to bracket Sam’s hips he moans in a way that makes Dean smile.
Dean got hard from the first touch of the tip of Sam’s tongue to his and he can feel Sam’s own erection against his thigh, but they don’t do anything about it. Sam kisses and kisses him like a fourteen-year-old who doesn’t expect anything more than this. Like making out and little shivery touches designed to make Dean breathe harder are the end game.
Dean tangles his hands into Sam’s hair and feels completely drunk and just as out of control as he felt last night. He rolls them over to gain some of his equilibrium, take charge of the moment, but Sam runs one large hand down the dent in his spine, and he loses his place. The room is altogether too warm and he feels like he doesn’t have full control of his muscles.
He pushes himself up and stares down at Sam, whose cheeks have flared up in a flush. Sam eyelids flutter and there’s the slightest hint of a smile about his lips. He cranes his neck up and brushes their lips together again. Then he says, “You should’ve come home, idiot.”
Arousal simmers in the pit of Dean’s stomach, but he just drops his head and chuckles bitterly. Sam falls asleep, sprawled out under him. Dean doesn’t move because he’s too afraid this perfect image is going to shatter.
The next morning Sam wakes him up with two Boston crèmes and a coffee Coolata from Dunkin Donuts, just the way he likes it. Dean gets the filling everywhere and is internally amazed when he licks his fingers off and Sam watches him with undisguised hunger. He blinks at his brother and Sam turns away again to gulp at his black coffee and read the paper.
The air simmers between them. When they hit Nevada, they pull off at a rest stop just out of Mesquite to switch drivers. Sam stretches as he gets out of the car, closing his eyes as his back cracks. He winks when he catches Dean watching and buys him a Coke slushy while he waits for the gas to finish pumping. He gets a cherry one for himself that turns his mouth violently red. Flirting--they're flirting. The mere thought is astonishing.
“So much sugar,” Sam says, voice hoarse, as Dean merges back into traffic.
“What are you talking about?” Dean says, scandalized, balancing his slushy between his thighs.
“I like, basically haven’t eaten sweets except on special occasions since my plebe year.”
“That’s atrocious!” Dean replies. “Every day is a special occasion.”
“You would say that,” Sam replies, cranking his seat back and popping his sunglasses on his face. He falls asleep to Dean drumming along the steering wheel while the Doors play. Dean can actually glance right over and see the line of Sam’s dick against his thigh through his jeans. The real surprise is knowing he doesn't have to feel bad about it. He snorts at himself and guns the engine up to 90.
It’s another four hours on the 15 before they’re back to Dean’s place. He likes the silence in his head. He realizes that it’s been quiet since last night. Sam doesn’t stay asleep the whole way. He wakes up when Dean swears at a guy in a Porche who swerves into his lane without checking the blind spot.
Sam stretches and rolls his shoulders. Dean knows he’s probably tight as a wire. Sam looks down at his watch and then at the speedometer. “I swear there’s no need to break the sound barrier.”
Dean grins. “And yet, I’ve never had a speeding ticket.” He pets the dashboard lovingly while Sam rolls his eyes.
“CHP is seriously remiss in their duties.”
It’s not like a speeding ticket would stop him. If Dean spoke German, he’d totally move there just so that he could drive on the Autobahn. “Whatever, you parsimonious monk.”
Sam laughs at him. “Hoo, pulling out the SAT words.”
They lapse into silence for several miles and then Dean looks over at Sam. He breathes out and asks, “Can I ask you something?”
Sam widens his eyes. “Sure.”
“When did you know?” he asks with his eyes firmly on the road ahead of him. In the end he can’t help glancing back quickly at Sam.
“Mmm.” Sam leans back in his seat, his eyes unreadable behind the mirrored lenses of his sunglasses. “In the 8th grade? I had a dream about DPing that girl you were seeing, Cat Garland.”
“Yeah, it was fucked up,” Sam replies with a laugh.
Dean remembers Cat. She wore tiny, tiny denim shorts with combat boots and heavy flannel shirts that probably belonged to her dad or her older brother. She liked to play the feminist card, but Dean bets he could’ve gotten her to do it. He’d had her wrapped around his finger in a way that makes him kind of ashamed now. He hasn’t thought about her in a long time.
“Do you still…want something like that now?” Dean asks.
“Threesomes?” Sam laughs again. He rolls his head on his neck like he’s stretching the muscles. “No. I’ve never done it, and I can’t say I want to.”
“More trouble than they’re worth,” Dean agrees. “It’s easier with two girls than it is with two guys. Women are right, men are fucking selfish.”
Sam bites his lip. “I’m not sure I want to know.” There’s an unfamiliar expression on his face.
Dean smirks. “Yeah, you do.”
When they get back to the tiny-little second story linoleum apartment, the sky has gone dusky purple. They leave everything in the car. Dean runs laughing up the steps while Sam chases him. He knows when he forces the door open, keys nearly refusing to come out of the lock again that Sam would’ve pinned him up against that door and fucked Dean’s mouth with his tongue for all the world to see.
Only everybody here has some cousin or brother or friend in the service. There are about a million things wrong with this according to the Uniform Code. Sam’s a guy and an officer, and while the Uniform Code has nothing to say on siblings, the state of California picks up the slack. With the door closed and the curtains drawn across the windows Dean doesn’t care. That stuff doesn’t matter.
They fight to get their clothes off and Dean winds up with his arms tangled in his shirt, pinned to the cheap carpeting in front of the TV while Sam tongues a continuous line from his pulse over to one flat nipple to flick into his navel. His hips jerk and rise unconsciously against Sam’s weight.
Sam slides back up his body to breathe across his skin, “How’s your bed?”
“I think…it’s pretty good,” he says, and then leans up to suck Sam’s tongue into his mouth. They never make it there. Dean gets a hand inside Sam’s jeans and he rolls halfway off of him with a weak moan as Dean’s fingers close around his cock. It’s the first handjob he’s given, and it’s more unwieldy than he expected. Sam doesn’t seem to mind, silently lifting his hips so that Dean can tug his jeans and boxers down. He stares up at Dean under his lashes, tongue poking out between his teeth as Dean slowly strokes him. A flush that originates at Sam’s cheeks spreads down his neck and into his shirt collar. He breathes hard, eyelids fluttering, when Dean tightens his grip. Sam continues to watch him, lips parting on a silent moan.
His shirt is already twisted up around his middle and Dean pushes it all the way up past his chest, nails carelessly skimming his skin. As he palms the head of Sam’s cock, the muscles in his abdomen jump and tighten. It’s fascinating.
When Sam comes, he reaches up to grip Dean’s forearm, stilling his hand. The only warning Dean gets is the way his head drops back on his neck, presenting Dean with the long vulnerable column of Sam’s throat. He would like to spread Sam out on his bed and take hours to touch him everywhere, especially the divot in his throat and the knob at the top of his spine. He’s spent years reconstructing Sam in his head, he’d like to know how close he got it.
When they get to Dean’s bedroom, Sam pushes him back on the bed and kneels down at the foot of it. He peels the last of Dean’s clothes off and leans forward to suck him into his mouth. What do you know, Dean’s got an officer sucking his dick. He’s filled about a thousand grunts’ fantasies without even trying. With Sam’s tongue twisting around the head of his dick and his hand speeding up and down Dean’s dick in smooth strokes, Dean realizes something.
“You’ve done this before,” he says, voice choked up.
Sam’s eyes crinkle at the corners like he would be smiling if his lips weren’t stretched tight around Dean’s dick. He gets his palms under Dean’s buttocks and forces Dean further back into his throat. It’s so good--he's clinging so hard to that fragile thread that's keeping him from coming too early. Sam sucks hard at the crown, bumping and sliding it along the soft flesh of his cheek, and wrenching a surprised shiver out of him. Dean curses and fists his hands tight into his cheap comforter, fingers digging in so hard they ache. It barely registers. There seems to be nothing left of him but his dick and the nerves that connect his brain to it.
Sam gets Dean’s leg over his shoulder and tilts his hips further up so that he can play a finger over Dean’s hole. The touch fails to impress on him until Sam’s throat closes around his cock and then he’s scrambling to get his arms under him so that he can see what it looks like. He swallows at the ways Sam’s eyes slowly close like he’s savoring the experience of Dean’s dick in his throat.
“Your fucking sweet-as-pie mouth,” Dean says incredulously. “Jesus, who are you?”
Dean’s orgasm hits him almost too soon. Sam’s fingertip dips just inside him and the thought of what that means is too much. He shakes hard, dropping back to the mattress and losing himself for a minute in the post-orgasm Euphoria. When he opens his eyes again, Sam's just wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand. He runs reassuring hand up and down Dean’s thigh.
Dean has to force his fingers to open on the sheets. When he lets go the rents left from his grip remain in the fabric. Sam laughs at him.
“Your mind is completely blown, isn’t it?”
“Shut the fuck up,” Dean says, but it’s soft and breathy and only serves to make Sam laugh.
Sam runs a too hot shower and forces Dean into it. They kiss with shower water getting into their mouths. Sam’s soap slippery fingertips brush down over his back and between his cheeks to slide over the tense ring of muscle. Dean’s never really thought that far. He imagines what he’d look like spread out under Sam. It’s not hard to picture. He nips at Sam’s jaw and saves the thought for another day, enjoying the way his dick slides in the groove of Sam’s hip.
Just before Dean comes a second time, Sam’s arms tighten around his waist and he says, “I need you to come back to Oceanside with me.”
“Why?” Dean asks, voice cracking.
“I just need you to, okay?” Sam whispers, dropping his face into the curve of Dean’s shoulder. He’s still careful of the unbandaged wound scarifying Dean’s arm.
“Okay, Sam,” Dean replies.
He doesn’t know why Sam insists they have to drive all the way out to his place in Oceanside. He’s got a roommate. He shares the bathroom. And it means they have to drive in Sam’s stupid economy car. When Dean tries to question him, Sam just fixes him with a look and says you’ll see. Dean would rather be fucking him with the remaining time he has on leave. Instead he finds himself trapped in a car unable to do anything.
Dean knows that Sam lives on Canyon Drive, he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve, but Sam ends up turning off the highway early. He drives to a storage facility and parks the car while Dean is still trying to figure out what's going on. As he pulls the keys out the ignition, he gives Dean a loaded look before getting out of the car. There's something important missing from this story. They walk together in silence to a unit way in the back. Sam sticks the key into the lock and rolls the door up with a crack. The light of the sun shines inside, illuminating the unit enough that he can see a car covered with a drop cloth.
“No way,” Dean says, frozen at the entrance. Sam grins at him and steps inside to pull the drop cloth off. Dad’s Chevy is revealed as the cloth floats to the ground. Sam brushes a fond hand over the hood, lashes lowered like he’s remembering, and Dean finally steps inside. He repeats, “No way.”
“Dad left it for you,” Sam says. “Before we went on that crazy road trip I came to tell you about it.”
Dean can’t say anything. His heart is in his throat. He’s spent a ton of money restoring the Torino Cobra he stumbled upon with Bobby while working in the junkyard. He loves it like other people love their dogs, but this was the car Dean grew up imagining would be his. He can’t believe Dad thought of him. That it’s still intact. Dean doesn’t even know how much work must’ve gone into it. If he puts his hands to it he’s pretty sure he’ll be able to tell where his girl ends and her prostheses start. He brings a hand up to his face and realizes he’s crying. Sam presses the keys into his palm and then walks out of the unit into the sunshine, leaving him alone for a moment.
After a while, Dean follows him back out again, keys stretching out his jean pocket. He finds Sam leaning up against another unit, feet crossed at the ankle. Sam peers down at the ground, expressionless and Dean can’t help pressing into his space and kissing him. Fuck whoever sees them just this one time.
In May of 2009, Captain Sam Winchester was redeployed to Afghanistan in support of the Helmand Province Campaign. He participated in Operation Khanjar in July. It was the largest offensive since Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. He is still there, quietly taking care of his men.
The 1/7 is currently at home at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms. Dean had to explain to battalion command that his arm was savaged by a wild animal during his leave. They didn't exactly believe it.
He and the 1/7 continue to participate in exercises and contingency deployments with the 1st Marine Division. He makes sure to Skype Sam as often as he can. It's not enough, but they take what they can get..
Only one officer dares to accuse Sam of being overly-familiar with enlisted personnel without realizing S.Sgt Winchester is his brother. This person's shoulder socket troubles him for the next two weeks. Nobody will say exactly what Captain Winchester did.
While he waits for Sam to come home, Dean seriously considers mustering out for the first time.
1st Battalion, 5th Marines loading into helicopters at Camp Leatherneck, preparing to be dropped off in the Nawa-l-Barakzayi district on July 2nd.