1 It was only a joke. That was what Dean told himself. It was a way to mess with his brother the way brothers messed with each other, nothing more. Except it was more, whether he was willing to consciously acknowledge it or not. That first time, when the old wound of Sam's abandonment had been freshly reopened, when Dean was still euphoric over his brother's presence (however brief he thought that might be) . . . that time when Sam got sentimental and Dean thought the weight of it might crush him . . . that was when Dean had said it.

"Hey," he'd said, holding up a hand. "No chick flick moments."

To Sam, it had been the joke that Dean wanted it to be. He'd simply laughed and rolled his eyes. "Jerk."


That had been the end of it. Dean had shot his brother a smirk and then headed off to the shower to relieve the tension that had been building.

But the tension wouldn't stay relieved. Sam agreed to stay with him and hunt, a moment Dean still counted among the best of his life, but it wasn't long before he realized he had a problem. Somehow, he had forgotten that way Sam had of getting under his skin, of driving him crazy and then being so . . . so Sam that Dean just wanted to—

Well, that was the problem: the things Dean wanted to do. So when it all got to be too much, when he was wound so tightly that he was sure the lightest touch from his brother would make him snap, he used those words as a shield.

"No chick flick moments."

If Sam was offended by it, he didn't say so. He always just rolled his eyes and gave Dean the space he needed. To Sam, it was only a joke.

But it was more than that to Dean. Over the years, the words became sort of a code to him. When he said them, what he meant was that he was weak. He was scared. He wanted things he shouldn't want, and he wanted them too much. When he said those words, what he meant was that he loved Sam more than he was supposed to, and if he got too close to him he would cross a line.

The words were his refuge until . . . until they weren't anymore. Somehow over the years things had changed. Monsters and demons were one thing, but then Heaven got involved and the morality got muddy. Too many mistakes were made, too many grudges built up between them. People started to cluster around them, pulling them apart, sliding into the empty space between. Ruby, Cas, Samuel, Chuck, Bela, Garth, Kevin, Benny, Crowley, Metatron . . . they elbowed their way in and pretty soon there was no need to put up a barrier. Dean and Sam were already miles apart.

This thing with Gadreel hadn't started it. Dean knew that. They'd been too far apart for too long already. But this was something Sam wouldn't seem to forgive—or not forgive, exactly, but shove into the closet with all of the other mistakes. Maybe the closet was full, or maybe Sam had finally reached his bullshit threshold. He'd had a chance for an entirely different kind of life, after all, and it was Dean who had pulled him out of that. Never mind what the yellow-eyed demon would have done if he hadn't. That was in the closet, and Dean was pretty good at keeping his own closet locked up tight. The fact was, it had been Dean who showed up at Sam's place and dragged him back onto the road again. That road had led them here, to Gadreel, and this time Sam wasn't letting it go.

Dean didn't know how to do this. He knew how to exorcize a demon—or an angel. He knew how to put a destructive spirit to rest. He knew how to kill vampires, leviathan, skinwalkers, wraiths, and every other creature they had come across that victimized the human race. But he didn't know how to exorcize the demons that lived between him and Sam. He didn't know how to kill a lifetime of resentment.

He didn't know how to live with it, either. So back at the bunker, when he invited Sam to help him research, and Sam picked up a book at went and sat at the other fucking table, Dean reached his own bullshit limit. He slammed his own volume closed and fixed Sam with a withering glare.

"You got something to say to me?"

Sam didn't even look up. "Nope."

Which was probably true. So much had been said already that there was practically nothing left. There was a time when the two of them would get mad at each other, have a giant blow-up and yell at each other—maybe even throw a punch or two—and then come out on the other side okay again. It was how they worked. But this time they'd had one fight after another and nothing got put right again.

So why the hell was Dean gearing up for another one? What, exactly, was the point?

He clenched his fists and turned away. "I'm going out for a drink."

Sam didn't answer. He didn't point out the open bottle of El Sol already on the table, and he didn't mention the well-stocked bar in the kitchen.

"Sulky-ass motherfucker," Dean muttered under his breath as he stalked downstairs to the garage.

Dean had long ago lost count of the number of times he'd driven back and forth across the country. Every place had its own personality, every town flavored just a little bit differently, but there were two things he knew he could always find, no matter where he went: greasy diners and dive bars. Lebanon wasn't an exception to the rule, and it wasn't long before Dean was making a beeline toward a bar stool with yellow foam peeking through the cracks in the faux leather. He slid onto it, pretended to consider the beer choices for a moment, and then went straight to the hard stuff.


The bartender placed the glass in front of him and took his ill-gotten credit card without a word. Which irritated Dean. Weren't bartenders supposed to ask you if you'd had a rough night? Listen and sympathize? Earn their fucking tips? Not that Dean was going to go spilling his guts about . . . well . . . that. Still. It would have been nice to have the opportunity to say something vague and evasive, yet still expressive of his discontent.

He glowered at the bartender's back.

The thing was, sometimes he thought he could really use a listening ear. He and Sam had paid occasional visits to therapists and psychiatrists and stuff—standard fare when you're tracking down people claiming to have seen monsters. And sometimes Dean wished a little bit that he could have just one session, open that closet and let it all spill out everywhere, before picking it up and stuffing it back in again.

But what was he supposed to say? "Hey doc, ever come back from the dead and find out that your brother didn't even try to resurrect you? And after you saved his ass from being eaten by a ghoul who looked like your bastard half-brother, too. Has he got some nerve or what?"

Dean shook his head and took a swallow of whiskey, feeling the cleansing burn of it. There weren't very many people in the world who could handle the kinds of stories he had to tell. That was why Sam was so important. He'd been there through most of it, so he understood. Or he should have understood. He should have listened to Dean, should have recognized that he had only done what they always did—whatever it took to keep each other alive.

Only Sam seemed to be giving up. Which was ridiculous. After what they'd seen of hell—and of heaven, for that matter—the jackass should be doing everything in his power to avoid going there. Dean didn't understand the whole fatalism thing Sam had going on lately.

His thoughts were interrupted by a figure dropping onto the stool next to him . . . and what a figure. Dean gave her the once over, and then did it again, just for the fun of it. Short. Petite. Redhead—well, a bottled redhead; her mousy-brown roots were showing. But it wasn't her roots that Dean's eyes lingered on.

She noticed his perusal of her and smirked. "What's a guy like you doing in a place like this?"

If that wasn't an invitation . . .

Dean turned toward her, flipping the switch, turning on the charm. "Looking for a girl like you. Buy you a drink?"

"Bud Light," she told the bartender.

Dean gave a disapproving shake of his head. "How am I ever going to get you drunk enough to convince you to go home with me if you're only drinking beer?"

"I guess you'll just have to buy me a lot of them."

Her coy smile was exactly the kind of bait that Dean could never pass up. A little catch-and-release was just what he needed tonight.

Which meant there had to be something wrong. There was no way it could be this easy. He shifted back in his chair and eyed her.

"What are you?"

"Excuse me?"

"Angel? Demon?"

She looked confused.

"No? Vampire, maybe? Shape-shifter? Rugaru?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Look, I'm not really in the mood to play this game, so why don't you drop the act and show me your claws so I can get on with the business of killing you."

The girl's eyes widened and she slid awkwardly off the barstool. "You know what? I don't think I really want that drink." She fled to a table in a dark corner where two other girls were sitting. They immediately leaned in and began whispering.

The bartender ambled over and tossed Dean's credit card onto the bar in front of him.

"Out," he said, pointing at the door for emphasis.

Dean cursed to himself and pushed away from the bar, taking the credit card with him. Even the bar wasn't working for him tonight.

He didn't want to go back to the bunker, though. At least, that was what he told himself. He was going to go for a drive, get lost in the town—if there was even enough town for that—and find his way back again. He wanted to get to know the roads and the alleys, the shady places, the places where the townspeople congregated to gossip.

But somehow, the car kept turning back toward the bunker, and before Dean realized it he would find himself on the road home again. It was like the damn car had a mind of its own—like that truck they'd dealt with down in Cape Girardeau. Was the Impala possessed? If the Impala was possessed, Dean was going to break some fucking heads. He had to do research. Had to get home right away and . . . Well, anyway, avoiding home didn't seem to be working too well for him right now. He let the car steer itself back to the bunker and parked it in the garage.

"Don't be possessed," he ordered, pointing at the car as he exited. It didn't try to kill him, which he took as a good sign.

He headed back up to the study, but stopped before entering and leaned against the heavy granite door frame. Sam was still sitting at the table where Dean had left him, but he wasn't looking through the books. He was staring at the wall, his half-empty beer clutched in one hand, and he knew Dean was there. Dean could tell by the way his shoulders tensed, just slightly, ready for a fight. Dean had seen it more times than he could count—when they'd argued as kids about who got to sit in the front seat or who had eaten the last doughnut, and more recently, which leads sounded most like their thing and whether they would eat at some whole grain tofu hipster joint or a normal place like Biggerson's.

And, well, he'd seen it for other things, too. Ruby. Benny. All those fucking ghosts sucking the air out of the space around them.

"Sammy, we've got to stop this."

His shoulders rose a fraction of an inch more, and the movement of his neck muscles told Dean he'd clenched his jaw. Like a bratty little kid, Dean thought, and loved him all the more for it.

"Stop what?" His tone was clipped, combative. Sam was ready for the fight that Dean didn't want anymore.

"Come on, don't be like that. Playing dumb isn't going to help."

Sam thumped his beer down on the table and turned to Dean, his eyes flashing. "Playing dumb? Is that what you think this is? Because I honestly don't know which of the multitude of issues you're talking about. Please enlighten me. Which of them needs to stop?"

"Whichever one made you this mad at me," Dean snapped back. He couldn't help it. He didn't want to fight, but Sam—he had a way of provoking him. He always got him all riled up and defensive.

Sam turned away and shook his head.

"God damn it, Sam, would you just get over it already? You've been moping around like a kicked puppy since—" but he couldn't finish the sentence, because that would mean opening the closet. If he brought up Purgatory, all kinds of baggage would come out with it. Benny, Cas . . . and Sam running off to play house with some girl instead of doing what they did and getting Dean the hell out of there.

He swallowed back a lump in his throat. "Whatever it is that you're so pissed about, I wish you'd punish me for it already and get it out of your system."

Sam's lips pressed together in a hard line, another move Dean knew all too well. He was being stubborn, biting back what he wanted to say instead of just coming out with it already. But Sam wasn't any better at holding things back than Dean was. All he needed was a little provocation, and Dean was ready to give it.

"Would you stop being such a sulky little bitch and grow up? My god, Sam, what is your problem?"

That did it. Sam whirled on him, eyes narrowed in anger. "My problem is that I was born a Winchester."

Dean tried not to flinch. He tried not to show how deep his brother's words pierced him. "Is that it?" he growled, burying the hurt behind anger. "Here I was thinking that family was important, that we had each other's backs because we're family. And all this time you just wanted out."

"Yeah. All this time, I wanted out." Sam turned his chair to face him and crossed his arms over his chest.

Dean stared at him, his temper warring with the devastation inside of him. Sammy wanted to leave. The worst memories Dean had were of the years he had tried to hold himself together without Sam—they haunted him even more than his memories of hell did. But that was what Sam wanted.

And if he really wanted to go so badly, how could Dean say no? It had been almost ten years since he'd dragged Sam out of his apartment, promising him he'd be back in time for his big test. Nearly a decade spent doing what Sam had never wanted to do, and there was no end in sight. Things had actually gotten worse.

Sam wanted out.

Dean pulled his keys out of his pocket and threw them to Sam—at Sam, really, but his brother uncrossed his arms quickly enough to snatch them out of the air.

"You know where the door is."

He turned away, but Sam's voice stopped him.

"That's it?"

He turned back and watched as Sam unfolded himself from the chair and drew himself up to his full height. (Damn, that motherfucker was tall.)

"No tearful goodbye?" Sam asked bitterly, slowly advancing on Dean. "No promises to write? Oh, no. Wait. You don't do that." He reached Dean and shoved the keys into his chest. "No chick flick moments."

Dean froze and stared at Sam, not bothering to catch the keys when Sam released them. The fell to the floor with a clatter, but Dean was too distracted to care about them. Did Sam . . . did he know?

He couldn't. Dean had tried so hard to bury it. There was no way Sam could have realized.

"What?" he finally asked, unable to think of anything else, desperately fishing for more information. If he knew what Sam thought, he could argue it, turn it around on him, make fun of him for thinking . . .

"You heard what I said."

Sam was staring at him, eyes boring into him, and Dean suddenly got the feeling that he'd never had a secret in his life, that his brother could look into his eyes and see everything in his mind. He closed his eyes, hiding, regrouping, collecting his scattered thoughts.

"You don't have any idea what you're talking about."

"You think I don't?" he demanded. "We spend every day together. We drive together, eat together, sleep in the same room, and when we hunt together it works because we both know how to read each other without saying a word."

Sam's hand moved to his shoulder, gripping him right at the base of his neck, and he gave him a little shake. "Do you think, after all that, I don't know you?"


"Do you think, after all that, I would still be here with you if I didn't want the same thing?"

Dean blinked his eyes open and looked up to meet his brother's gaze, dark and intense, and still a little bit angry.

"You can't possibly . . ."

"What? Love you?" Sam let out a dry laugh. "Isn't that what Winchesters do? Put family first?"

"Sam . . ." Dean dropped his gaze and shook his head. "This is not normal."

"Abnormality isn't new territory for us."

"It's not right."

Sam blew out a breath and gave Dean a shove, sending him stumbling back and breaking their connection.

"It's not right," he said his voice hard and cold. "According to whom? There are angels out there killing people and it hasn't occurred to you to question your Judeo-Christian upbringing?

"It's not about religion, it's about—"

"What?" Sam asked when Dean didn't continue. "What is it about? How do you judge right and wrong?"

Dean didn't have an answer for that. Dean stared at Sam, and Sam stared back for several long seconds before he spoke again.

"We've been over this before. The things we hunt . . . we give them a pass if they're not hurting people. Right? Like Benny?"

"It's not the same thing."

"How is it different?"

"This is . . . personal."

Sam nodded. "It's personal. It's between you and me. If we're not hurting anyone else, who cares what we do together?"

They could not possibly be talking about the same thing. There was no way Sam was saying that he wanted . . .

"Let me get this straight. The reason you've been sulking around here like a little bitch is because I haven't—" He stopped abruptly . . . because what if Sam really was talking about something else, and he just blurted out the thing he'd been trying so hard to hold back?

But Sam was stepping close to him, letting his hand slide up the back of Dean's neck, and god, it felt so good.

"Say it," Sam said, leaning down to let his forehead rest against Dean's.

"Because I haven't . . ." He stepped closer almost without realizing he was doing it, his body responding to Sam's the way it always had, moving when he moved, reading him and following his lead. He couldn't find the words to finish the sentence. He had never been good with words—not the way Sam was. So he communicated the way he knew how, sliding a hand around Sam's back and stretching up to kiss him.

The moment their lips touched, all of the desire that Dean had forced back through the years exploded inside of him, and he fell forward into Sam, bringing them into full contact, chest against chest, hips against hips. Sam was obviously feeling something similar, because being this close to him allowed Dean to feel the very interesting things happening inside of Sam's jeans.

He broke the kiss before everything he wanted to do overwhelmed him, but he couldn't step away from Sam's body. He leaned his head against his brother's clavicle, breathing hard.

"This isn't real," he mumbled. "A Djinn. I was hunting a Djinn and now I'm hallucinating."

Sam pulled back a little and quirked an eyebrow at him. "Dude. Shut up." And he kissed him again.

This time their hands didn't stay put. Sam's slid down Dean's chest, and the other one moved to his back. Dean responded, their bodies conversing the way they always had. Sam's ass was right there and Dean took full advantage, groping him with one hand while he pulled their hips harder together with the other.

Then Sam moaned, and the desire in Dean overflowed. He grabbed him by the hair and kissed him hard, then began dragging him back toward the stairs to a bedroom—his, Sam's, it didn't matter. He'd have settled for one of the tables if they hadn't been covered in books. But they were, and Sam would probably kill him for shoving hundred-year-old books off the table, so bed, right fucking now.

They had tremendous difficulty with the stairs. It wasn't Dean's fault. Sam was touching him, and he was touching Sam, so there wasn't very much attention to spare for coordination. They fell twice, and once Dean got a sharp jab to the kidney from a marble step, but they eventually managed to make it up the staircase and into his room. They fell onto the bed in a tangle of limbs and struggled to twist themselves into a position that allowed for maximum contact.

There was just . . . there was a lot of Sam to touch.

Dean wasn't in the frame of mind to take his time, though. He tugged at Sam's clothes, pulling and yanking, and why the hell did he wear his T-shirts so tight, anyway? He should stop wearing them at all. They got in the way of . . . Dean stopped thinking and starting kissing what those T-shirts got in the way of while he fumbled at Sam's belt. A few seconds of frantic yanking at material and they were both free of their clothes, and Dean pulled back and nudged Sam's shoulder toward the bed.

"Turn on your stomach."

Sam froze. "You turn on your stomach."

"Are you kidding me?" Dean dragged his eyes from the curve of Sam's lower back and met his eyes. "Sam, get on your fucking stomach."

"No. What makes you think I'm going to bottom?"

"Because—" Dean broke off, glaring at him. "Because that's the way it is!"

"Fuck that. Why should I?"

"I'm older," Dean shot triumphantly.

"I'm taller."

"Only because of all that demon blood you drank. I mean, come on, you think your actions don't have consequences?"

"My actions?" Sam's eyes widened. "I'm not the one who went to Hell and broke the first seal." He gave Dean a shove and Dean shoved him back. In seconds they were wrestling around on the bed, each trying to force the other onto his stomach.

"You broke the last seal"

"You let Gadreel possess me!" Sam gave a hard thrust with his hips, and Dean suddenly stopped caring about either one of them turning over. He gripped Sam's shoulders and ground against him, drawing another moan from Sam which he answered with his own. They stopped wrestling and started writhing, thrusting against warm skin and hard muscle. Dean's fingers tangled in Sam's hair, and Sam's fingers left deeps scratches in Dean's shoulder.

"You let Lucifer possess you," Dean growled, aware that the closets were being flung open and all the things inside them were spilling out. He was exhilarated by the fact that it didn't seem to matter.

"Which one of us has the Mark of Cain?" Sam grunted with another hard thrust.

"At least I'm not a werewolf fucker."

"At least I was never a vampire."

"This from the guy who's afraid of clowns."

"Better than being afraid of airplanes!"

"Fuck!" Dean cried, losing the thread of the argument in the intensity of the sensations. He rubbed hard against Sam's solid stomach, muscles clenching throughout his whole body. A few more growling thrusts from his brother sent him over the edge and he came hard, sticky spurts of liquid spattering on their skin and pressing between them. Sam was right behind him, his fingers digging hard into Dean's back as he moaned in pleasure.

For a moment the two of them arched together, bodies straining to be impossibly closer, and then they finally collapsed, Sam's weight heavy on top of Dean, pressing him back into the mattress. They stayed there together for several long minutes, breathing hard as they came down from their high. Then Sam dropped his head into the crook of Dean's neck and breathed deeply before rolling off of him.

Dean stared at the ceiling, suddenly feeling awkward. Because . . . of what they were . . . and all this. But next to him, Sam was relaxed and content. Dean didn't even have to look at him to know it. He could feel it, the absence of the tension that had slowly been growing thicker for years. He decided that he preferred awkwardness to tension.

"So . . . what now?" he asked.

Sam leaned over the side of the bed and grabbed his T-shirt, wiping himself up with it and then tossing it to Dean. "Now you get over yourself and let me fuck your ass."

"Me? Hell no. You first."

"Why do I have to go first?"

"Because I called it," Dean said, and answered Sam's arched eyebrow with a wide grin.

"You called it? You can't call being on top."

"Sure I can. I call top! See?"

Sam narrowed his eyes. "You bottom first and I'll get you pie every day for a week."

Pie. Pie. That was tempting. And it wasn't like he was agreeing to be on bottom forever. Just the first time.

"What kind of pie?"

"Whatever kind you want."


"Whatever you want."

Dean tried not to smile. Because Sam was staying, Sam wanted him, and pie. All he wanted to do was smile, but he would lose his edge if he gave away how happy he was.

"Two weeks, and we don't eat at any of those pansy-ass organic soy wheatgrass places for a month."

Sam smirked. "Deal. Bitch."

Dean threw his shirt back at him. "Whatever." He pushed himself off of the bed and started searching through the clothes on the floor for his underwear. "We need to get back to work. There might be a trio of sirens in town, and I'm pretty sure the Impala is possessed."