Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to 'Supernatural' or the characters from that show.

Pairing: None. But warning for past incest.

Author's Note: After 'Scarecrow' but with no bearing on any following episodes. Just a conversation that needed to be had.

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"The blind faith thing… you still think that?"

Sam looked up quickly, more because Dean was bringing up a sensitive issue all by himself. Neither of them was dying, or hurt, or even on the brink of getting on a plane any time soon.

"Huh," he said, looking into the remnants of his beer, "Maybe you hit your head in the shower."

Dean jabbed an elbow in his ribs. "Just answer, dude. Do you?"

"You're drunk, then."

"I've had two drinks!"

"Neat whiskey?"

"I've drunk this stuff with concussions," Dean dismissed. A little exaggerated maybe, but then Dean wasn't one for holding hands and meaningful stares.

"No wonder you're brain-dead."

Dean smacked his brother up the back of his head.

"Stop that!" Sam shook his head to get the sting out. "Your hands are hard, man."

"They've saved your life a few times too. Just give me the truth."

"Oh, really. Well, my head's saved your ass a few times." Sam rubbed the back of his head one last time and then slumped comfortably across the table. He sobered up a little, as Sam was bound to do. After all, if Dean asked a serious question, it was possible he wanted a serious answer. "Why now?" Of course, Sam didn't trust an apparent need to share as absolutely serious. "You don't like talking about things; I don't want to have an argument. Leave it alone."

On a normal day, Sam could shut a discussion down faster than turning off a light. On a normal day, Dean would be only too glad to let him, no matter how curious he was.

On a normal day, Dean wouldn't lean back in his seat and look stoically determined. "No arguments. I just want to know."

"Dean, shift the conversation, man." Sam really didn't want to have this conversation. He didn't think Dean would like the answers.

Dean didn't seem to have heard. "You're right. Too hard, huh? How do you tell your brother he's a mindless soldier in words of one syllable? Not like I'll understand the big words, right, little brother?"

Dean was approaching vicious; Sam could hear it in his voice.

"I mean, not like I went to college or anything. I only got out of high school 'cause I was too old for the class."

It would have been funny if Sam didn't actually see the truth in it. Dean, from what he remembered, barely went to school except to get the next batch of lectures, homework and black eyes. He'd graduated with the bare necessities and if Sam remembered right, the whole ordeal was of supreme unimportance in the Winchester household. Dean hadn't been too old, really; he'd just never bothered.

He'd never been there.

Sam wasn't sure why. Dean had always been there, but never there. It wasn't that he'd gone on too many hunts back then, or that he'd had a job. No one would ever hire one of the strange sons of Winchester the Weird, especially when that boy was underage and looked younger.

"Sam!"

Sam blinked and he was still in the bar, still at the table in the corner. There was still a game of pool on in the back and some girl was still having a very drunk ranting session with her boyfriend. Sam was very homesick for Stanford all of a sudden.

"Sam? You okay?" Dean demanded, annoyed at the absurdly long moment of silent reflection.

Sam blinked again, just to show he was listening.

"Did you get hit by a curse or something?" Dean snarked.

"Something," Sam said vaguely. He picked up his beer and finished it, grimacing. "I'm sure he pissed in this."

"Who? The bartender?"

"Who else?"

"Sammy, you insulted the man," Dean pointed out patiently.

"Hey, all I said was that I didn't agree with his point of view," Sam protested, "He kept calling his girlfriend a bitch. You heard him! He was talking about putting her down, like a dog or something. Where I come from, that's disgusting."

"Where I come from, you keep your mouth shut."

"Guys like that can set this whole society back by hundreds of years, Dean."

Sam was getting louder and Dean leaned forward with a sneer, "Expressing opinion, Sammy, or didn't they teach you that in law school?"

Sam shut up, annoyed at that card. Of course, if he'd been at Stanford, having this discussion with someone who actually knew something about the law or even gave a damn… he wasn't going to get into it with Dean.

Dean rolled his eyes and tapped a finger on the table. "I don't like it either. But we can't do our jobs if we have the locals on our tails."

"What is that?" Sam said with a flourish, "Rule number two hundred and twenty eight in the Winchester Handbook on how to fight the Supernatural? God, Dean, listen to yourself. You sound like some… some…"

"Idiot?" Dean suggested.

"Dude, I never said it," Sam snapped.

The one thing Dean admired about his little brother was that Sam was as straight as an arrow; he stood up for what he meant. The one thing Dean hated about Sam was his inability to shut the fuck up.

"So you think I'm just an idiot," Dean echoed, "Taking orders; driving around the country after demons and ghosts. Saving people."

"I think you don't ask questions," Sam said, softening his voice.

Dean nodded. "Same again?" He went off without waiting for an answer.

Sam looked around to the pool table, partly for the game and partly for the change in scenery. The hard-eyed bottle blond with one of the players smiled at him and Sam smiled back involuntarily. It'd been a long time since Jess. Longer if he took into account that they'd only slept in that double bed for about a week before he'd left with Dean. Papers sapped the hell out anyone's sex life. Potential interviews were worse.

Dean was having a little discussion with the guys at the bar. He jerked his head back at Sam and the group burst out laughing.

Dean came back with two beers.

"No more cheap whiskey?" Sam asked.

Dean didn't choose to answer. He sat down and looked over Sam's shoulder to the pool table. He smiled, too.

Sam scowled.

"What's the matter this time?" Dean sighed, "Seriously, he didn't piss in the beer. I was watching him."

"Fuck the beer," Sam said violently.

Dean raised his eyebrows. "Well, sure, but that's a waste of good beer."

Sam froze for only a second before he came right back. "And fuck you too," he said bracingly.

"Alright. What's wrong?"

"I'm mad."

"I can hear you. I can see you too, but I'd rather not."

"Ha ha. Funny. Dean Adrian Winchester, ladies and gentlemen-Comedian of the Week."

"Well, Samuel Cole Howard Winchester, you're aiming for first prize in Menstrual Male Category," Dean retorted, "What crawled up your ass?"

"You."

They both digested that for a moment. Sam with complete embarrassment and Dean with simple reflection.

"Nope," Dean finally said, "I'm too far. I'm built, but not that built."

"You admitting you're not the man you'd like to be, Dean?"

"No, Sammy, I'm not admitting to everyone who can hear us that I fuck my little brother."

Sam inadvertently looked around to check for eavesdroppers. "We don't," he hissed, "Stop saying that." Mentally he knew Dean was baiting him. Sam was always defensive about this little bit of history. He figured he had every reason to be!

"Stop looking like a scared puppy, Sam. No one cares in this dump." Dean looked around. "They've probably done it too."

He was thoroughly disgruntled now, swallowing beer like it was oxygen. And still those big eyes looked at him with the worry so clear in them.

"No one heard. Come on, Sam. I kept Dad from finding out, didn't I?"

For just a heartbeat Sam relaxed.

"I may be stupid, but I'm not that stupid. I can think for myself if I want."

Sam gave up on a relaxed drink with his brother. Shabby motel rooms were looking better with each passing second. "Dean, I didn't say you were stupid, or that you can't think for yourself," he tried.

Dean huffed a laugh but it was completely humourless. "No shit. Some days I even dress myself."

"Dean!"

"What?"

"You're being an ass," Sam reasoned, "You know I didn't mean it like that."

"Yeah? Then how? Tell me. You, er, asked if I could think for myself, and you said I took orders, and you asked why I trusted Dad. So tell me, which part of all that didn't you mean?"

Sam rubbed his eyes. "We had to do this here," he mourned.

"No." Dean was sitting up very straight, his eyes over bright and, oh God, Sam wondered if the man wasn't going red with anger. He looked a little flushed. And he kept biting on his lip. "Come on," he demanded, getting up, "We're going back to the room."

Sam followed docilely because Dean gave him no other choice. The short, stocky body was half-way across the bar before Sam could call him back.

So Sam went too. He sat in the passenger seat of the Impala and listened with numbed eardrums to Led Zeppelin played very loud. He wondered if any of those other tapes had survived. The ones Dean used to listen to but not very often. Who were they again?

They stopped finally and Sam opened the door while Dean locked his baby up for the night. It was routine. Sam could swear Dean sometimes said 'goodnight' to the car and stroked her too.

"Okay." Dean shut the door. "I'm going to take a shower. We'll look at the papers in the morning. I need one good sleep this month."

"Dean…"

The bathroom door slammed shut.

Sam contemplated walking in after him. Get this sorted out. Dean was annoying when he was sulking.

The lock clicked too.

Sam shucked off his jacket and shirt before starting on his shoes. His own blood was steaming and if Dean had been in the same room, he would have thrown his left shoe at him. Why the left shoe? Because it was dirtier and muddier than the right shoe.

When Dean came out, Sam was sitting at the table, ready for bed but obviously with something on his mind. Dean didn't want to talk anymore. Sam had given it to him straight and Dean had spouted off some frustration and the whole thing was in the past. Where Dean fervently hoped it would stay.

"Don't say it," he warned.

"We're going to talk," Sam said firmly.

"He said it." Dean took the towel and replaced it with his boxers. "What now, night owl? Some of us want a few hours sleep?"

"No. No sleep. You've been brooding about this for ages. You want to have an argument about it in some random bar and then you get huffy when I try to tell you to shut up."

"Yeah, so?"

"You're being an ass."

"I wanted your opinion. You gave it and I tried to explain. Let's forget it."

Dean got into bed.

Sam promptly sat down on the edge next to him.

"Sammy, I'll push you off," Dean warned.

"I'll come back."

Dean flopped over to the other side and turned his back.

Sam sprawled over him until he could see his face. It didn't happen without a struggle- the elder Winchester had unluckily put his arm under the covers and Sam had happened to pin that arm to Dean's side with his sternum.

"Talk to me, dammit!"

"Get. Off."

Sam got off. He knew that voice. Severely pissed didn't cover it. Vicious wolves would run from the look in those icy blue eyes. Mortal man wasn't supposed to carry that much anger.

Dean's temper was not easy to rouse, but Sam knew he'd torn it when that soft, sensual mouth grew hard and thin, the firm jaw one stark line.

"Okay, Sammy. You ask the questions again. I'll answer. You lay your charges down and I'll stand trial."

"This isn't a trial."

"No? Well, college boy, just so you know, everything has always been a fucking trial to you. Everything has to be good or bad. Everyone has to be guilty or innocent. But you're a shit lawyer, Sam, 'cause you don't give people a chance to defend themselves."

"That's bullshit." Sam was still pissed enough himself. "God, I don't care if you want to go off and fight demons, Dean. But I do care if I'm coming with you and I don't know if I can trust you to do the right thing."

"Don't trust…" Dean's voice failed him.

"Yeah. Yeah, trust. One word from Dad and you jump like a scared rabbit. What if Dad's wrong, huh? What if he gets us killed?"

"Sammy, Dad wasn't the one who shot me!"

"Oh yeah. Bring that up. What about the time you told me Mom died because she came to check on me?"

"I was eight and coping with a fucking vampire bite and measles!" Dean yelled.

"And my head was being messed with when I shot you!"

They both paused to breathe.

"Go on," Dean urged, "Make your charges."

"I'm not putting you on trial."

"You already did. And I was found guilty."

Sam dropped his head backwards. He didn't like dealing with this version of his big brother; it always involved the tenacity of a bulldog as Dean came after him, turning the tables like an expert fighter.

"You just never once thought of asking Dad for any kind of explanation," Sam gave in, reluctantly, "You do everything he tells you. He gives us orders, Dean, and you take them at face value."

"I trust the man. If he says he wants us somewhere, he's got a reason. He's intelligent, methodical, and observant."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "Writing a paper on him?"

"He gets his facts straight," Dean continued, "He works fast but he checks everything. He saves people."

"He's a good man," Sam agreed, "A great man, even. But he treats us like soldiers in a goddamned army. We're not soldiers; we're his sons."

"Yeah. And if his sons can't trust him, a soldier will?"

Sam looked at Dean for a long time, almost unable to believe what he was hearing. This really was blind faith in all its glory, made stronger by choice rather than tradition.

"The good son," he repeated, remembering what Dean had once said, "You're still trying to be fucking perfect."

"He's the best at this, Sam. I learn from him." Dean said it with very matter-of-fact pride.

"Yeah, but is this all you want? Driving around the States trying to save just one more person before you mess up and something kills you? What happens in ten years?"

"Dad's raised two kids and he's still doing it."

Sam snorted. "Dad was barely there to raise a stone. I saw him on birthdays and holidays. When he was home he gave me bruises in training and lessons on mythology. You want to raise kids like that?"

"What's wrong with it?"

"Look at us, Dean. We're not exactly role-models, are we?"

"We're not perfect but we're not that bad."

"We committed incest. Remember? Sneaking off to the bathroom together, blowjobs in the laundry room at two in the morning? And that's when Dad was home! You remember when he wasn't?"

Dean could remember. He had a very good memory. He remembered fights about homework versus combat practice; he remembered making out on the living room couch, the television flickering just enough light to see how Sam's body was changing and growing from one week to the next, one month to the next, one year to the next.

But Dean was a fair person- "So because Dad wasn't around as much as you wanted, you had sex with me? Dude, he's not here either." It didn't make logical sense to him.

"I needed a father, and he wasn't there. He has no right to give me orders now when he's given me nothing else."

"He's given everything."

"When? You were home cooking dinner, buying clothes, doing laundry."

Dean winced. Nothing made him feel more emasculated than being reminded he's been the closest thing to 'mother' Sam had ever known in his childhood. "Dad asked me to do it."

"Dad hasn't ever asked you for a thing in his life," Sam spat, "Show a little backbone sometime, eh, Dean? You can hardly stand up straight with that limp spine of yours."

The fist wasn't entirely unexpected but Sam rolled expertly and came up with nothing to show but a painful bruise on his left cheekbone. Dean had pulled his punches; it was only ever a warning the first time around.

"You did that a couple of times, too," Sam quipped, touching the tender spot.

"When you deserved it," Dean shot back.

Sam smiled grimly and sat back down on the edge of the bed. "You can't go around taking orders forever. Is this all you want- a motel room when you can afford one and driving all day with cracked ribs?"

"Whatever it takes," Dean pointed out, "I save lives. I know things that all those jerks out there don't. I leave them for a job and a nice house and who helps them out? Lawyers? Doctors? You can't sue a demon and even chemo can't get a curse off you."

Sam bowed to that superior need. He understood that, but he could see what Dean wouldn't- this was a highly inefficient way to do it. One case at a time was painfully slow, and one guy to do everything was too much of a strain. How Dean had managed before him, Sam couldn't imagine. Didn't want to imagine.

"You never wanted to go to college?" Sam asked.

"You've asked me this before, Sammy. No, I never wanted to go." Dean thawed slightly, the corners of his mouth curling up. "I hated school, dude. It was never fun."

"Then why'd you ride my ass for years about homework and assignments? You made me try out for every team you could think of. Worse, you talked Dad into pushing it too!"

Dean grinned for real. "I told him it would expand your knowledge of human nature."

"Yeah, right. And he fell for it."

Dean leaned forward as though to tell him a secret. "You know those dregs I was talking to at the bar- those are the people I know. Nice girls think I'm some kind of serious killer; old men want me to lose the attitude and join the army to get the shit beat off my face. But you smile and say nice things and people open doors right up for you. You think there's no difference?"

"Nah," Sam teased, "I'm just nicer."

Dean shook his head and refused to rise to the bait. "And now we're done, I'm going to bed. Sam, if you ever jump on me again I'll break your arms."

He was joking, but just a little serious. Which made Sam tap politely on a muscular shoulder and ask, "You really think I'm selfish?"