Lost, behind
by Te
February 24, 2006

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here belongs to me.

Spoilers: None, really. Various references to episodes up
through "Route 666."

Summary: "I'm Bugs fucking Bunny. And you -- *you*
are Elmer Fudd. Only not."

Ratings Note: Mostly harmless.

Author's Note: My first attempt at Supernatural fic. Um...
wish me luck? Or read. Reading would be good.

Acknowledgments: To Zee, Betty, and Livia for audiencing
and encouragement. Zee also went above and beyond to
help me make this much better than it could've been.


He's moving before he knows what's got him itching.

This isn't new, or disturbing.

This is what's kept him -- *them* -- alive, over the years.
It's instinct, though he hates putting a label on it for anyone
but Sam, and then he only does because Sam needs things
like that before he can listen.

Sam used to write his name in things, too. Even when he
knew they were going to have to leave them behind.

There's no threat.

He's still itching, a little.

He's also still moving.


The first smack of air once he's beyond the windbreak of the
motel walls is cold enough to feel clean, and this is what he

He doesn't change his pace, he doesn't stop checking his
perimeter, he doesn't stop. He holds his breath, and he
holds it, and he holds it, and winter is as clean and sharp
as the knife in his boot, and --

And then it isn't, because he's alive, and so he has to
breathe, and the motel is located conveniently between
truck stops.

It's not clean, but it's --

There's no bar, but the diner has a liquor license and a pool
table so sun-faded the baize has gone nearly olive.

He makes enough to eat for the next week without relying
on the cards -- the next few days, since he's got Sam to
think of.


"How come you never lived in a dorm?"

And Sam does that thing -- that really kind of annoying
thing, when Dean thinks about it -- he does, where he rears
back all theatrical and shit, like it's a fucking shock Dean
would ask about his life.

He's done it at least once a day since the first time he got
into Dean's car. It's okay, though. "Well, I'm just saying.
Seems to me that dorms are *normal*."

The snort is more air than sound. "Actually --"

"As your brother, Sam," Dean -- he's pretty sure 'intones' is
the word. He picked it up from a sheriff in Nagadoches who
kept calling him 'son.' The sheriff's actual son had been a
zombie, if he recalls correctly. "It's important for me to
understand your needs. And you may have mentioned,
once or twice --"


Dean pats Sam's knee, and they eat up a little more road.


"I did live in a dorm, actually," Sam says, pretty much out of
nowhere, when they make it to the interstate.

Dean blinks his way out of the half-assed memory he's
building of the one time he'd seen footage of Zep
performing this song live, and tries to catch up.

"I mean, you have to. For the first three years, anyway."

Right, he'd asked. The answer doesn't quite... he doesn't
really remember why he'd asked.

Dean nods instead of wasting time trying to figure it out.

There's a motel coming up soon that he's pretty sure he
stayed in once, three years ago or so with Dad.

Some night when Sam had been in a dorm.


He snags them some sandwiches and a few apples which
actually *smell* like pesticide from the gas station next to
the motel, and, when he gets back, Sam's chewing his
thumb and focusing in on the laptop like it has all the

It's the same look he always has when he's looking for
something, half-excited and all -- not quite *here*.

Exactly like he could get up and do -- *something* at any
given moment. He could. He has.

Most of the time, though... Dean's seen him sit that way for
hours at a time, until the back of his own neck is
crawling --

There's no threat.

He tosses Sam the sandwich that claims to be turkey.
"Anything for us out there?"

"Nn. Got a few burning deaths two hundred miles or so
southeast. Still trying to figure out if it just sounds
mysterious because the reporting was crap."

Dean nods, knowing Sam's picking it up in his peripheral

"You should sack out."

"Planning to be at it for a while?"

Sam looks at him, shrugs, and then refocuses.

And Dean gets it, the way he had when Sam was fourteen
or so, and they'd all had to half kill themselves figuring out
*which* angry swamp spirit was turning northern Louisiana
into more of a miserable place than usual, and even Dad
had been ready to just load them up with all the talismans
and weapons they could carry and still move, even though
you *don't* when you don't know what you're up against --
unless you have to.

Sam was already hunting, even though they weren't.

And Dean realizes that, these days, nine times out of ten it
*is* Sam doing this side of it.

Like it's something he still hasn't grown into, or --

"I'm heading out."

Sam looks up so fast -- there's no threat, though. And he
smiles. "The redhead at the convenience store?"

Dean flips him off.


The redhead had been checking *Sam* out. He'd known
that -- it's one of the things he's pretty fucking good at,
actually -- and he's sure of it by the way she kind of fails
not to keep checking the door *after* he comes back in.

He hangs around long enough to see if she won't try second
best, and then picks up a couple of no-cover paperbacks
that don't look completely ass-stupid.

About one time out of three, he picks something Sam
actually reads when they're both pretending to be getting
a good night's sleep, and that they can't smell the
sour-homey sweat of Sam's nightmares in the air.

If he can get to fifty percent, he'll vote himself best brother
in the history of the universe, and possibly give himself
sainthood, too.

Sam has left paperbacks next to the bibles in motel rooms
all over the country.

He doesn't write his name in them anymore.


Sometimes, if you're quiet enough -- or maybe desperate
enough -- you can walk out onto a stretch of back-country
blacktop, and it'll tell you which way you need to go.

It isn't -- it's not like some kind of *thing*. It's not real, and
it's not fucked-up like the way Sam's quiet, nasty little
nightmare sounds always mean, these days, that they've
got a job to do, either.

It's not real.

It's stupid, really, but there's also nothing like the rush of
standing spang in the middle of a highway with your eyes
closed and everything else just... just...

It's good.

And the only reason why he's trying to put it into words is
because there's Sam to deal with.

"Well, there's a lot of mythology about roads. Crossroads,
anyway. Is that what you --"

"Forget it."

"No, I'm -- I want to know, Dean."

That's the other thing Sam does, where he stops being the
twenty some odd year old college boy Dean had lured into
his car, and suddenly he's about eight years old, and still
somehow convinced that Dean can teach him *something*,
if Sam can only find the right words to put into Dean's

It's not like that, not really.

It's not bad.

Dean feels the smile creep onto his face and shifts it a little
with a snort and a backhand slap to Sam's shoulder. "Forget
it, man."

"Dean --"

"Or just... I don't know." The smile's slipping on him. "Ask
me after I've slept again, hunh?"

Sam nods at him, slow and serious like maybe he just
hadn't *registered* the snort and the slap, and Dean
doesn't ask what the hell happened to him, and he doesn't
ask Sam why he left, why he had to leave, because he
already knows.


The thing is, Dean thinks, watching Sam fail to watch the
way the brunette is being so damned *thorough* -- and
*generous* -- about the way she's walking away from
their table in the bar, is that sooner or later he's going to
have to start fucking with Sam about this.

This -- *thing*.

There's a part of him which is pointing out how easily he's
kicking Sam's ass in terms of hookups, and it's not even
gloating, at this point.

It's *too* easy.

Sam had never been...

Sam has always been the way he is, really, but at least
when they were failing to be high school students, he'd
sometimes *try*.

He has no fucking clue how *long* Jess had been in the
picture. He doesn't know anything about her except that
*Sam* seems to think she'd be at least a little pissed at
him -- Sam apologizes in his sleep -- and that she was hot,
living with him, and completely ignorant about who Sam
really is.

Except if that was true --

"What is it?"

"What's what?" Dean frowns a little, making his point.

"You're looking at me like I missed my shot. Like..." Sam
shakes his head and frowns for real, into his beer.

It's fair to say that both he and Dad had really
underestimated how much Sam hated learning the bow. It
wasn't just the life. It couldn't have been. This is almost --
no. This is totally personal, and it may or may not be a
tangent, and... shit. Dean gives up and shrugs, a little, and
waits for Sam to look at him.

He's going to *have* to start fucking with Sam about this,
and he doesn't know when he will, but he knows it isn't the
time. Not to do it seriously, anyway. So... compromise. "Do
you realize that woman --"

"Her name's Carrie."

Dean taps his beer glass on the table to make Sam pay
attention. "Do you realize that *Carrie* has what's
colloquially known as a great deal of funk in her trunk?"

"I thought it was 'junk.'"


"Junk. In the trunk."

"Sammy, *whatever* --"

"Of course, there *are* regional differences. Etymologically,
that is."

"Et -- You're punishing me for using the word 'colloquially.'"

Sam grins, sly and strange -- college boy. "Just trying to
rise to your level, bro," he says, and spreads his hands.

"Are you saying I'm illiterate?" And Sam's...

Sam's leaning in, elbows on the table and secret-close. "I
like to think of you as being more earthy. Grounded. Primal,

"So I'm a savage, now?"

"Me Samuel, you asshole," Sam says, slow and clear like
maybe he's had a little more beer than Dean knows he's
had -- no, he hadn't ate lunch. It's okay. -- and he's --

And Sam's fucking with him, and it's not like he hasn't been
doing that all along, it's just that it's still good.

Still... better.


If Dad was here, Dean's pretty sure he'd do just what
Dean's doing right now. That he'd just watch this, and listen
to it, even though it's Sam, even though it's *Sam*, and
he wakes up just like any of them when you touch him --
fast and perfect.

Even though it's Sam, and he's having another nightmare.

In the first months, it would've been different. Nightmares
get in the way of getting rest, and you've gotta be rested
up to do the work, otherwise you might get yourself
killed -- get a *civilian* killed.

Nightmares, for Dean, always meant that warm, heavy
hand on his shoulder, and the sound of his name spoken
sharp, clear, and calm.

Nightmares mean waking up in the dark until some stray
neon catches and gleams in Dad's eyes.

Nightmares mean going back to sleep.

Except that the *minute* they got anything like a hint that
Sam's nightmares were anything but just, well,
*nightmares*, he'd be doing just what Dean's doing now:

Sam's breathing is harsh, but not in the danger zone.

Sam's sweating, but he still has the blanket on.

Sam's moaning, but not loud enough to make any of their
'neighbors' suspicious.

Sam's color is as good as it can be, considering, and --

And Dad would do just this, because sometimes Sam's
nightmares mean something, something important, their

And if his Dad saw him like this now, he'd frown a little, and
make sure Dean took off for a day or two in the next town.
Maybe cash for a movie, to buy the pretty girl something
sweet. Maybe...


Maybe he'd just make sure Dean understood why they had
to do this, had to be *like* this, and whenever Dad had to
repeat himself, he'd get --

Dad looks old when he has to repeat himself. Dad looks --
Dad shouldn't ever have to repeat himself. Sam never got

Sam's gasping and -- there. He's still all over for a heartbeat,
another, and then he opens his eyes.

If Dad were here, he'd say something simple, to the point.
Something... something.

Dean isn't sure what to say, so he waits, and, after another
moment, Sam rattles off the forgettable name of what's
bound to be some kind of unforgettable little town in --
Dean focuses. It was Mississippi, this time.

Dean nods, when he feels Sam looking at him. And -- he has
to --

"Just -- just. I'll tell you more about it in the... morning." In
the light is what Sam didn't say, Dean thinks.


"I -- good night."

Dean doesn't snort. He breathes, and he listens, and when
Sam is doing a good enough job of pretending to be asleep
again that he *will* fall asleep, eventually, he closes his


The thing is, when you have angry spirits who've died in a
fire, they get even more pissy than usual when you torch
their bones.

This is understandable, as far as Dean's concerned, but he
thinks he'd be a lot more sympathetic if he still had

Spirits that die in fires can -- sometimes -- use fire against
you, after all, and --

And he looks really stupid with no fucking eyebrows, full

"Don't say it."

"I didn't say anything --"

"You were *going* to," Dean says, and glares at the stretch
of road ahead of them.

"I thought I was the psychic," Sam says, all sly stranger
again, and -- Dean's really starting to hate that.

"Just don't say it. Whatever it is. Whatever you want me to
believe you weren't going to say, I don't want to hear it."

"You know, if you're really --"


"I could pencil some in for you, you know. You could think
of it as going undercover."

"As *what*?"

Sam's quiet enough that Dean pretty much has to look over,
and so he gets the full force of the kind of blandly sweet
innocence which could make a man want to learn
necromancy, resurrect the sonofabitch who discovered
vanilla, and then banish his soul to hell.

And not any kind of nice hell, either. "You can just fuck off,
you know."

Sam nods slowly. "I picked that up."


It's not really an idea -- if it was, he'd have to admit it was
ass-stupid and punch himself in the eye.

However, since it's not an idea -- since there are, in fact,
*two* bars in this armpit of a town, and at least one of
them is playing the kind of hillbilly rock that pretty much
guarantees every shitkicker in it will underestimate Dean
enough to lose a little of their hard-earned cash, and
that one is *on* this road --

Well, if he wasn't straddling the dashed line (just so, and
he doesn't know why, because it's not like it's real, but still),
if he was just hanging out on the *side* of the road, then
it wouldn't --

It's not going to work if he doesn't wait for it. It's not going
to work if he isn't listening, or...

The thing is, he knows it's not gonna work full stop.

He knows that the road isn't gonna tell him anything -- not
really -- and that he's never gonna be good enough at that
side of the work to find jobs for them as easily, as
*perfectly* as Sam always does.

They didn't -- *Sam* didn't find anything for them in any of
the local papers, and the internet wasn't their friend, and
it's late *enough* that Sam is gonna pass out no matter
how hard he tries to avoid it, this time -- Dean knows,
*knows* that Sam doesn't even like the book he's
slogging through -- and then...

And then.

It's just definitely not gonna work if he doesn't shut the fuck
up and *listen*.


The curtains in this motel are a little better than most --
there's only just enough sunlight coming through to make
the room seem warmer than it actually is.

Technically, it's cold enough that --

There's no reason why Dean shouldn't at least have the
blanket around his shoulders, if he's gonna just sit here
and watch --

The thing is, if Sam would just say a place name out loud
while he was dreaming like this, then Dean could wake him
up. They could fucking well figure out the rest when they
*got* there, and they could -- they wouldn't have to do

He can't even count on the fact that Sam's saying Jess'
name meaning that it's just a normal nightmare.

Not for the first time, Dean wonders what it would've been
like if Jess had died in a car crash, or maybe of appendicitis
or something.

Not for the first time, he realizes what he's doing, and
wonders why he's still alive and moving and --

His Dad is the strong one, and just as smart as Sam in a lot
of ways, and Sam is Sam, but he's just the sorry asshole
listening to his brother suffer. Again.


And when Sam finally wakes himself up, it isn't any better
that it turned out to be a normal nightmare, after all. Of
course it isn't.


Sam's still getting hit on by women he proceeds to ignore in
about seventeen thousand different polite ways, but there's
something a little off. There's something making Dean
*itch*, and it doesn't go away even when Jilly-from-the-bar
shoves him down onto her pink, fluffy nice girl bed and
rides him, and it doesn't go away, and it doesn't go away,
and he has to roll her over and look at her, really look at
her until she's burned into his brain, until he knows he's
never going to see her again, that this is it, that it's over --

He comes groaning hard enough that Jilly gives this little
squeak of surprise and jerks, raking his back with her
nice girl nails and that's pretty much good enough to
justify another go, except that she's looking at him like
once was enough.

She kisses him (good-bye) at the door, and the bars are
already closed, and this is the kind of 'city' where they
roll the sidewalks up at night.

Mom used to say that, and work her hands like she was
rolling dough into a rope, or something like that, closer and
closer until she could catch him, and tickle him until he

She was from a place like that, Dad said once.

It's too late and it's too early and he itches like crazy,
walking the perimeter of their motel in the dark until he's
pretty sure he's giving everyone halfway in touch with
their lizard brains inside the motel a case of the screaming

He walks like a stranger and he *keeps* walking, because
this is going to drive him bugfuck if he doesn't --

They're older now.

The women hitting on Sam are older now, because they --
all of them -- can smell it on him. *It*.

That thing that makes him look or smell or fucking
*whatever* too much, too strange, too old for the
college girls.

Too wrong.


They don't really want to *do* him. They want to take
*care* of him, and that's -- well, that's something that a
*lot* of women do, but it's not -- it shouldn't be the first
thing. It shouldn't be the first thing.

Dean stops in front of their door, and he -- he doesn't know
what to do.

The thing is, he's fully aware that he looks like a *psychotic*
jackass just standing here staring at the cheap wooden
door, but he can't really do anything about it. Because
Sam's behind the door, and, sooner or later, he's going to
fall asleep again.

He's... Right now, he's surfing, or he's reading, or he's
watching the television muted with the captions on, because
he's kind of a freak in a lot of ways, but sooner or later --

Sooner or later, he's going to yank open the door and point
a gun at Dean's forehead, actually.


"Jesus, Dean, what the hell?"

He drops the gun too soon, considering. Dean frowns.
"That's not real cautious, man --"

"I knew you were you," Sam says, stepping back into the
room and making a complicated little gesture that's
somewhere between 'shut up,' and 'get your ass inside.'

"How? I mean, I was acting pretty suspiciously," Dean says,
as earnest as he can manage.

Sam gives him the glare that's really an eye-roll. "I knew
you were you."

And really, this isn't just a good way to stall. It's *important*.
Skin-changers, shapeshifters -- this shit happens. This shit
happened a few *months* ago, and it feels good to be
pissy, to cross his arms (like Dad) and --

And Sam crosses his arms, too. "What, Dean? Was I not
supposed to notice that you've been stalking me to my *
face* for the past three weeks, or have you just now
figured out that that's what you've been doing?"

"I'm not stalking you!"

"You watch me like I'm gonna fucking *bolt* or
something --"

"Well, are you?" He won't. He knows it. He hadn't *realized*
he'd known it, but --

But Sam's already done that thing he does, that other thing
he does, where his eyes go wide for just long enough to
be the kind of tell that would be problematic if more of
the things they faced were more, well, *human*, where
he pales just enough, and then they both have to put
just enough effort into not breaking anything in their room
too loudly.

Sam's always been a little slower with his moves than Dean,
but maybe he's too slow. Maybe that punch should've
landed. Maybe --

"What the fuck are you *doing*?"

"Uh, pinning you because you're fucking lame?"

Sam sucks a -- really *impressively* pissy, now that Dean's
thinking about it -- breath in between his teeth. "You were
pulling your *punches*!"

It's funny, a little, because the way Sam's saying it makes it
sound more like 'you ran over my *puppy*' than anything
else, which is --

Which is, actually, exactly the way it should sound, and he's
the one being an asshole.

He really should've known.

Dean shakes his head and pushes off. "Look, I'm -- you --"

"*What*, Dean?"

And he knows the look on his face is pretty much the most
useless thing ever, and Sam just kind of makes him
absolutely sure about that by giving him that eye-roll glare

"Just -- go get laid again or go to sleep or something, man.
Just -- *something*."

"Yeah," he says, more to the wall behind Sam's head than
anything else. "Something."


Sam takes shotgun the next afternoon, and feeds him one
Metallica tape after another.

He stares, too.

It's a message. It's a message, and it couldn't be fucking
clearer if Sam carved it into his face with one of Dad's old
Bowies, and --

He --

"I get it, I've been being an ass. I just -- I'm sorry."


He can pretty much feel Sam blinking at him. Girls love eyes
like Sam's, which is the kind of thing which is actually
interestingly lesbian, but not even that is enough of a
distraction, right now, because --

"Dean, *what*? You're apologizing *first*?"

Dean bites the inside of his lip. "Yeah. I am. Can we drop

"Not *now*!"

He doesn't actually mean to slam his hand on the steering
wheel, but it feels good enough that he does it a few times.

"Jesus, *Dean* --"

It kind of suits the music. It --

Sam grabs Dean's arm hard enough to make them swerve,
and Dean's pretty sure that cow just saw its life flash before
its eyes, and possibly it was more than a few times.

"I'm done," he says. "Let go."

"Dean --"

"I'm *done*."

Sam just keeps holding on, and there's nothing wrong with
his grip strength, and he remembers the way Sam kept
trying to play catch with the little squeeze balls Dad had
started them on, and he remembers the way Sam always
fell asleep first, fell asleep *hardest*, and the way Dad
had said it was because he was younger and smaller and
burnt up more of his stamina than Dean did.

And the thing is, it was probably true. Scientifically true,
even, but it was always just Sam, for him.

Sam had slept the night their mother died.

Sam was --

Sam was okay.

"Look at me, Dean."

"I'm *driving* --"

"Then pull the fuck *over*."

He does, and... and Sam's still holding on.

"Would you look at me?"

Dean bites the inside of his lip.

"Please. I'm asking here. Please, just --"

He does, and Sam is a bruise, a kid, a college boy, a kidnap
victim, a stranger, a *stranger* --

"I... Jesus, Dean."

This is where he tells Sam to let go. This *isn't* where he
twists out of Sam's grip, because that would make this
something other than what it is, even though he's not sure
exactly what those two things are. So.... "Sam --"

"About a month ago, you were dying."

Her name was Layla, and, if things are going okay, she's
going to be dead five months from now.

"I didn't -- I didn't look at you like this. I didn't --"

"Let go."

"You're treating me like *I'm* dying, Dean!"

You are. Every day. "Let go --"

"Dean, please, come on, I know you're worried about the
nightmares, but --"

"Let *go*, Sam, or I swear to fucking God --"

"You'll throw a half-assed punch? You'll stare at me?"

It's kind of childish to punch the steering wheel with his
free hand, but there you go.

"God, you're such --"

And Sam makes a little sound, surprised and about to
*move*, and that's how Dean knows that he's finally
twisted out of Sam's grip, but there's nothing but his own
eyes to tell him that he's cupping Sam's face, because
there's no feeling in that hand --

And then his brain reminds him that he can feel that hand
just fine, and there's the thin stubble of Sam's cheek
against his palm, and all that stupid fucking hair is tangling
in his fingers, and if he shifts, Sam's mouth will just be
brushing his wrist.

He doesn't shift, and he lets Sam look, he lets Sam *see* it,
all of it, because --

Because Sam never knows *enough* of what he's seeing
for it to count.

(Her name is Cassie, and he's going to see her again one
day, even if he dies first, because that kind of promise is
just as dangerous as it should be.)

So he lets go, and he curls his hands back around the
steering wheel, and then he lets go with his left to stroke
the dash, because you shouldn't let a car like this idle
without apologizing, and if he was deaf and stupid he'd
still know Sam's laugh was a weak-ass joke of a thing,
and that he needed his Dad, if only because Dad would
know enough to *look* like he knew what he was doing.

And then Sam would get pissed at him for pretending, and
they'd fight so much Dean would want to kill them both.

His own laugh isn't much better, all things considered.


"You know, Dean -- and I'm just throwing this out there,
mind you --"

"Fuck you."

"You know, if both of us just lie here waiting for the other
to pass out, you're going to be too tired to drive, and too
pissy to let me drive, and we'll die in a fiery car crash and
torment every pair of brothers who drives down this stretch
of road --"

"Fuck. You."

"How often do you just sit there and watch me sleep?"

Never. You haven't really slept, not really, since we started.
Dean doesn't say anything. Instead, he focuses on evening
out his breathing, even though it's at least as much of a
reflex for that to *actually* put him to sleep as it is for Sam.

And really, so what if it is?

Fucking *let* Sam have his damned maybe-sometimes-
actually-psychic nightmares alone, if that's the way he
wants it.

Sam *always* gets what he wants anyway, right?

The least he can do is get to --

"You only grit your teeth when you're awake, interestingly

"I don't -- fucking *Christ*, Sam, fuck *you*."

The breath Sam takes is long, and deep, and it makes Dean
tense up all over, because there's a threat.

There's always been a threat.

"I just -- God, Dean."

Dean squeezes his eyes shut.

"One of us... one of us needs to actually rest, every once
in a while, you know?"

He hates that laugh more than anything, now.

"And I think... I think it has to be you, now. I mean, you
know what Dad --"


"You know what Dad would *say*, Dean! God, if *I* know
what he would say, *you* --"

"He's wrong."

This breath is shorter, and the hairs on the back of his neck
would be rising if Dean didn't have the cheap motel pillow
shoved up under them.

"Just.... don't, Sam. Okay?"

"Dean --"

"I --"

"Dean... Jesus, we're fucked."

"Yeah. Go to sleep, Sammy."

"Heh. Sweet dreams."


Idaho means people who will knife you if you tell just one
more potato joke, and it's also the first time he sleeps
through most of one of Sam's nightmares.

Physical reality -- it had to happen sometime.

*Home* means sweat and moans and the fact that he can't
see the things behind Sam's eyes until they come true.

Everything out here, this time of year, is that bleak shade of
golden that just means the whole world seems faded and
old and colder than it actually is.

And he's asleep until Sam starts saying 'no," so he's rolling
over to grab the bible from the drawer and throw it at
Sam's head until he wakes up and shuts up before he's
back online, before he *knows*.

Catching the throw before it goes makes him fall out of bed,
and his knees have a new reason to wish him thorough
damnation, but the noise doesn't pull Sam out of it.

*That*... would be much too easy.

Instead, he's kneeling on the floor next to Sam's bed, and
Sam's not thrashing -- he never does, Dad trained them
too well for that -- but Dean knows he wants to. It's in the
way the tendons in his neck are standing out.

He's kneeling, and he's still clutching the fucking bible, and,
at this point, it's even a little funny.

All he has to do is reach out and touch Sam's shoulder.

Unless, of course, that wouldn't work anymore.

One day, maybe, he won't be able to take it anymore, and
he'll reach out (he'll get someone killed, because Sam won't
have enough information, or maybe he'll forget
*everything* because he woke up too fast, and isn't that
the *point* of jolting someone out of a nightmare?) and
nothing will happen at all.

He'll just keep dreaming.

He'll just keep *being* there, wherever it is, until...


Dean lets his head fall on Sam's mattress, telling himself to
pay attention so he can *move* -- and look a bit less like
a jackass when Sam finally wakes himself up, and he does.

He pays attention.

He just doesn't actually move. He can't.

"San Bernardino," Sam says quietly, and, sometime when
Dean wasn't paying attention (or maybe when Sam was in
a dorm), Sam's hands got big enough that he could palm
Dean's head like a freaking basketball, only he's just letting
it sit there.

After a moment, the generalized warmth gets specific
enough that Dean can feel the sweat of Sam's palm on his

It's uncomfortable and a little wrong, but then, Dean had
been asleep.

How long had this one lasted?

"I'm sorry, Dean."

Don't. "I know you are."

Sam sighs, and the mattress shifts enough beneath Dean's
forehead to let him know that Sam's stretching a little,
maybe easing away from as much of the sweat-damp patch
as he can on a bed that narrow --

God, why hadn't he thought of that before? *That* shit's
not going to help -- "Sleep in my bed for the rest of the
night," he says, dealing enough to put the 'because I'm
*older* than you' look on his face.

"Dean --"

"Do it."

This is where Sam finds a way to tell him to fuck off that
uses too many words -- which is, of course, *another* way
to tell him to fuck off. He used to do it to Dad all the time.

He just kind of fucks with Dean's hair a little, though, and
says "yeah, okay."

Dean pulls the covers up on Sam's bed, gets dressed, and
lies down on top of the scratchy coverlet.

When he looks over at what *had* been his bed, Sam's got
the covers pulled up to his shoulder and his mouth is
hanging open like the kid he isn't, anymore.


Goat entrails are surprisingly difficult to get out of the treads
of boots, but at least it's warm enough that he can let Sam
drive until they find someplace with serious water
pressure -- and stick his feet out the passenger side

He'd paid good money -- five card *stud* money -- to get
the floor mats cleaned last week, dammit.

It's also a position designed to *make* him pass out -- the
engine purrs like a loving mama tiger, and that means at
least a few things are right with the world -- but that's
okay. Sam can't have nightmares when he's driving, except
for how maybe the world is actually fucked up enough that
one day he *will* --

And they'll be dead in a fiery crash.

Either way, he's getting some damned sack time.

"I don't know how you can sleep in the beds that I..."

Or not. Dean looks over just in time to catch Sam shaking
his head.

"That's probably stupid, isn't it? They're just beds."

No, they aren't. "Well... yeah."

"Heh. You know what scares the hell out of me?"

Dean thinks of the baby that had been next in line after
the goat. "I've got an idea or two."


He had been. But... "Tell me."

"One day, we're going to have to roll back through this
town, or one of the others -- it's like Missouri said; evil
opens *wounds* -- and maybe it'll be one of the ones with
just *one* motel, and maybe it'll be all full up except for
room 27, or 3A, or whatever, and you'll take the bed
furthest from the windows on reflex, or because you don't
remember, and I won't say anything because it's just a --
it's just a *bed*, and I'll lie down, and I'll go to sleep, and
I --"

"Sam --"

"Yeah, I know. I need to get drunk. Maybe I'll do that.
When it happens."

Dean closes his eyes and surprises himself by dozing until
the tape clicks to a stop and pops out. It's not too much of
a surprise, though.

"And yeah, I'll let you know if I'm actually going crazy."

"Good to know."

The grin on Sam's face is so close to right it hurts.


Once upon a time, it was 2002, and he couldn't even smell
the exhaust from the bus Sam had hopped on anymore,
and this time he wasn't going to come back smelling more
like book dust than beer and woman -- but a little of
everything, because he *was* a Winchester -- and there'd
been a moment.

Just this one --

Dad had stowed some extra gear in the back driver's-side
seat where Sam always sat, and Dad was driving *east*,
away from Sam, because there was work to do, and he'd
hated Sam more than anything in the world.

Because he wasn't real anymore.

He'd -- he'd turned himself into one of those goddamned
fucking cartoons, who could do anything they wanted
because they refused to learn the law of gravity.

He could leave.

One night, not too long after that, he and Dad had been
drinking in the *same* bar -- it happened sometimes,
because sometimes there was only one -- and he'd
probably (definitely) had a little too much, because he'd
actually said some of that out loud. Just a little.

Just that he couldn't wait to see Sam's face when he realized
what an asshole mistake he was making. Something like

Dad hadn't said a word, and the sweat got cold and wrong
on the back of Dean's neck, and Dad had --

His father had looked at him, long and silent.

He hadn't needed to say anything, or do anything more
than that.

And he trusted Dean enough to know that, and go with it,
so it's only in the top ten worst nights of Dean's life, as
opposed to the top five.

And that had been it, except for all those times he wasn't
really supposed to know where Dad was going when he
took off on his own -- west.

The thing is, he'd already figured out exactly why all that
was fucked-up, why it was something he never should
have thought, much less said.

He didn't need anything else.

He didn't.

He'd *known*.

It's just that the universe likes to repeat itself a lot more
than Dad does, because now...

Now he could walk away much easier than Sam ever could.

It -- *this* -- is only in Dean's blood, after all.


He likes high curbs best.

It's really very simple -- sometimes you have to leave a bar
because if you try to puke in the bathroom, your soul will
die in hygiene-related pain.

Sometimes, you have to not just puke on the street, you
*also* have to sit down while you're doing it.

High curbs mean you don't -- necessarily -- have to fuck
your boots while you're at it.

Therefore, high curbs are the best.

"Jesus, Dean."

Sometimes Sam sounds a little like Mom, if you squint your...
ears. Something.

"God, you..." The laugh -- it's a good laugh. "You're pretty
much officially a mess. I mean, you know this, right?"

"You sood. Should. You should talk."

"Uh, huh. So what's messing with you enough to make you
break protocol?"

Protocol. God. Jesus. God. He's exactly drunk enough to be
allowed to bury his face in his hands.

"Hmm. You *look* drunk enough that I can pry any secrets
out of you that I want, but who's to say?"

"Time -- will tell," he says, and fights back a belch that will
probably make him *want* to vomit again, which would be
a bad, high-curbs-can-only-do-so-much, very bad thing.

"Uh, huh. So are you gonna tell me?"

Well. That's... "No."

"Pretty please?"

"You are -- a twelve year old. Girl, I might add."

Sam drops into a crouch next to him, fast and smooth and
sickeningly sober -- and upwind. "Uh, huh."

Sam is the smart one.

"You should probably tell me. I mean, if you don't, I might
start talking about everything I had for dinner. I think there
might have been rare beef involved."

"Oh God. I'll tell. I'll tell."

Sam sucks his teeth like Dean is the weakest bitch in the
world. The twelve year old girl could make him cry, at this
point. The fact that he can own this is, he thinks, a point in
his favor as a person.

It's all about give and take, really.

"I'm waiting."

"I'm -- I'm a cartoon."

"You're a cartoon."

"I'm Bugs fucking Bunny. And you -- *you* are Elmer Fudd.
Only --" Dean waves a hand. "Not."

Sam's quiet for long enough that Dean has to check to
make sure he'd actually said it out loud, instead of just in
his head. It is -- he has to own this, too -- all a little
unclear, at this point. Sam's expression certainly seems
thoughtful. Or... something.

"You're a cartoon," he says again, slowly.


"Okay. Are you gonna make a sad, pathetic attempt to put
up a fight if I drag you back to our motel now?"


Sam nods, and Dean has just enough time to recognize
that Sam's punches are getting better before he bounces
on the sidewalk. A little.


The thing about drinking too much -- at least when he does
it -- is that he's always horribly, painfully awake the minute
he's sober enough to feel hungover.

The thing about truck stops is that there's always hot, black
coffee -- if you're man enough to drag your ass *to* it.

Sadly, he isn't.

He staggers out of the annoyingly narrow bed and into the
shower, instead, which is probably better for everyone in
the general vicinity of his sorry carcass, anyway, and then
he crawls back into bed.

And then he notices that the bed isn't narrow so much as
half-occupied by his brother, which is confusing until he's
about thirty-five seconds more sober and pained, and he
can see the rumpled mess Sam had made of the other bed.

Sam, of course, is awake.

"You should've told me to wake up and move, man."

Sam just looks at him, steady and strange not really strange
enough, anymore.

"I mean... I wasn't *that* useless." Except for how he'd
slept through all of the nightmare, this time.

There isn't enough in his stomach to let him puke again,
and his head knows that's a good thing. The rest of him
will just have to catch up.

"Sam --"

"*Should* I have woken you?"

"Well, *yeah* --"

"Are you sure?"

There's a difference between sober enough to be hungover
and *sober*, and right about now it's kind of obvious.

He's missing -- he's missing too much, right now, and the
only part of his mind which is speaking in anything like clear
sentences is the part that sounds like Sam, circa 2002 or
so, kind of high and annoying and right about everything
except for what mattered.

What mattered in 2002, anyway. Now...

"Dean --"

He shakes his head and shifts, throwing his arm over Sam's
waist and squeezing. It's about as much of a question as he
can manage.

And maybe the breath Sam lets out when he lets his
forehead fall against Dean's shoulder is as much of an
answer as either of them can --

It's an answer, anyway.

"Springfield, Massachusetts," Sam whispers, after a moment.

And it's not light enough for Sam to say anything else, so
Dean closes his eyes.


"Dean --"


"Asshole. No, *what*?"

"No, that wasn't any more fucked-up than anything else.
No, I don't think you're losing it. No, I don't think we need
to talk about it."

"I -- oh."

"No, I'm not going to freak if it happens every time you --
any time."

"Jesus, Dean. I'm not -- I'm not..."

"No, you don't need to explain that, either."

"Dean --"


"Dean, please."

Sam's voice is the kind of quiet which makes Dean want to
close his eyes until he knows how to breathe again, but,
again, there's the possibility of death in a fiery crash to be
considered, so all he does is tighten his hands on the wheel.

"I -- I just -- fuck, I didn't even do that when I was a *kid*."

"Neither did I."

The laugh is all wrong again. "Yeah, and you still don't."

"Look, I -- you're different now."

"You know... one day, we're going to find Dad, and about
a week or so after that -- maybe a little more, but probably
not much -- he's going to say *something*, and it's gonna
mean 'college made you soft.'"

"Jesus, bro, I *told* you he wasn't really as much of an
asshole about you leaving as you thought. As -- as he
*acted*, okay? He wasn't. He's -- he's not --"

"He'll be right."

"*College* didn't make you soft, you fucking dumbass bitch.
Random fucking psychic powers made you --"

"Weak --"

"Fucked in the *head*, and we're dealing. Just like when
that werewolf took out Dad's right knee, and we *dealt*.
There are things -- you just -- fuck, don't fucking -- don't
*do* this --"

"What happens when -- when it's every night?"

That wasn't what Sam was going to say. It's just that he
doesn't know what Sam *was* going to say, and maybe
that's for the best.

"Yeah, I thought --"

"What *happens* is that I get disturbingly used to you
drooling on my shoulder, to the point where I can only date
lobotomy cases, but that's okay, because by *that* point,
I'll be so desperate for pussy that it won't actually
*matter* --"

"*Jesus*, Dean!"

Score. Dean breathes on the inside, reaches over to punch
Sam's shoulder, and gets his wrist caught just that fast,
even though Sam's still puffing out those shocked-sounding

Yeah. Real soft. Right.

After a minute, Sam squeezes his wrist and lets go.


He's not sure why he's weirded out, beyond the obvious.
It's just Sam, and if the bed's too warm...

They've been in places like freaking North Dakota and
*Alberta* way too often for him to not think it's better
than the alternative.

He's not --

Well, Sam's awake.

Sam's awake, and so is he, and the bed on the other side
of the room is probably good enough for him to sleep on --
nightmare sweat dries fast on cheap sheets, and he's
known that for years -- but he can't, because Sam didn't
look at him, or nudge him, or do anything but crawl in with

Sam wants him here. And he gets that -- he *got* that.

It's --

"You know how many times I almost crawled in with you
when you were having nightmares?"

Sam's close enough that Dean can feel his expression
changing, even though he can't really tell what it's changing

That's kind of weird, too. All about the changing texture of
Sam's mouth, and the brush of his lashes, and --

And the best thing about sleeping with a woman, not sex,
but *sleeping*, was always waking up first and feeling her.
Her skin, and whether or not she'd gotten a wax job
recently, and how a woman could have hair that *looked*
just like the last one, or the one before, but it always felt

Smelled different, of course, that's one thing, but the
*feel* --

"... was a kid?"

And he was so busy getting it -- getting *it*, that he missed
whatever Sam had just said. "What? Sorry, I was just --"

"It's okay. I was asking you if you meant when I was a kid?"

"Well... yeah. I mean, there was this movie we saw, and...
I don't know. When the little brother had nightmares... it
just seemed like something. I don't know."

The laugh is quiet and low, but it's still a laugh. "All the
times I asked you if you ever wanted to be like other

"Asshole. No, I didn't say I *wanted* to, I just -- oh, fuck, I
don't know, Sam. I just... I don't even know why I brought
it up."

"Because we're two grown men sharing a bed even though
neither of us are in danger of dying from hypothermia."

"There's that."

Sam's face is moving again. Dean thinks it might be a smile.
He's kind of hoping for a smile.

He's -- "Look, I just. I think it's probably normal. I mean...
there are probably all kinds of words for it."

"'Gay' comes to mind."

"You know, I actually kind of hate you, Sam. You're aware
of this, right?"

Another one of those quiet laughs, and that's... better.
Good. Something.


Sam's driving, and it's not actually warm enough for Dean
to have his window open like this, but so long as Sam
doesn't take it up past seventy or so, they're not gonna
die of cold or anything.

And he's tired enough that the cold doesn't really matter,
anyway. He's *going* to pass out, sooner or later, no matter

There's a part of him that wants to ask if the sleeping
together thing -- if this thing they're doing now is making
it any easier for Sam to get rest, because it sure as hell
isn't doing anything for him.

Except that a) that's the dumbass part, because it's not like
sharing a bed with his little brother has made him lose the
ability to count the number of hours Sam actually spends
asleep (as opposed to having nightmares), especially since
he gets to *feel* it now, and b) he gets to feel it now.

He gets to *feel* it, and it's right there, the way the winter
is, and the way the road is when he's wearing his favorite
boots and standing and listening, and the way his Dad's
favorite shotgun is light in his hands when the journal feels
like a brick.

It's not a question he needs to ask. It's a *cartoon*
question, when you get right down to it, and... and that's
it, really.

He gets to feel it, and everyone with half a brain knows
that the threat you can sense is about a million times
better than the one you can't, even if it does mean you're
always itching.

Always -- needing or something. He doesn't know.

He gets to feel it.

And so does Sam.