Title: Old Ghosts 6/6
Author: Gillian Middleton
Total word count: 13 000
Authors notes: Excerpts from John Winchester's Journal taken from Super-Canon, A Supernatural Resource. They are transcribed from John's Diary on the Official Supernatural Website. For the purposes of this story John's diary is a part of his journal. Spoilers for the Pilot.
Summary: AU story where Sam and Dean were separated as children and meet as adults, not knowing they are brothers. They fall in love, but they have Dean's past & Sam's family to contend with. And then there is the biggest secret of them all...
Some disasters you can see coming, Dean thought, much later when he could think clearly again. Some disasters are like clouds on the horizon, forewarning the storms to come.
But some disasters come like a bolt from a clear blue sky...
The parcel arrived on a Tuesday and Nick signed for it and left it on the table for Dean to find when he got home. It wasn't very big and it was wrapped in brown paper and string.
"You expecting anything?" Sam asked as he put the coffee on. It wasn't unusual for Dean to get packages, he picked up the occasional spare part over the internet. But they were mainly delivered to the shop.
"Well, it is nearly my birthday," Dean teased.
Sam held up his hands. "Three weeks until your birthday, and don't look at me, I haven't got you anything yet. Nothing you can wrap up anyway," he amended with a grin and then skillfully avoided Dean's groping hand. "Hey, watch it, Nick will be home soon."
"Think again." Dean cornered Sam by the sink and crowded close, enjoying the feel of Sam's big hands resting on his hips. "Nick's playing cards tonight."
"So we have the house to ourselves," Sam mused thoughtfully.
Dean pressed closer, belly tightening with desire as Sam's hands slipped around and cupped his butt, fitting the two of them together. "However will we pass the time?"
Sam's lips hovered, cool breath teasing Dean's lips. Then the kettle boiled and and Sam drew back. "Coffee," he said softly.
Dean huffed impatiently, but stepped away. "Coffee," he agreed resignedly.
"I'll make it up to you later," Sam promised. "Now open your parcel, I want to know who's sending my boyfriend presents."
"Ooh, Caveman Sam," Dean admired, flicking out his pen knife and cutting the parcel's strings. "Remember that later. Huh, this is weird." Dean finished ripping off the brown paper. There was another layer of paper with writing on it. "To Dean and Sam," he read out. "Your father wanted you to have this."
"It's got my name on it?" Sam said curiously, abandoning the coffee and sitting down beside Dean at the table.
"I don't know any other Sams." Dean frowned and pulled off the last layer of paper.
"It's a book," Sam exclaimed.
"It's a journal." Dean flipped open the tattered leather book, revealing the inside cover pinned with military insignia. Papers with torn edges were tucked in its pages, plastic folders contained creased old photos. Dean frowned down at the top one, of a young soldier sitting behind the wheel of a jeep.
"Wow," Sam marveled, reaching over and touching a medal. "Dean, you think this is for real? From your father?"
"I don't know how it could be," Dean murmured, still reeling with shock. "Who the hell would even know where I was, let alone who my father was?"
"And why has it got my name on it?" Sam picked up the brown paper again and studied it. "It's postmarked Kansas," he stated. "Lawrence. You know anyone in Lawrence?"
Dean took the paper from Sam's hand and peered down at the postmark. "Damn," he said in surprise. "I was born in Lawrence." At Sam's enquiring look he explained. "I needed to get my birth certificate when I put my petition to change my name before the court. I was born in Lawrence, Kansas to a John and Mary Winchester." He shrugged. "That's all I know."
"Then this really might be from someone who knew your father," Sam said excitedly.
Dean flipped through the book, pulling out newspaper clippings and shreds of note paper. "Sam, do you see this stuff?" He pushed a few clippings towards Sam. "Haunted Cemetery," he read. "North East Ohio Ghost. What the hell is this?"
"Maybe he was interested in the supernatural," Sam mused, pulling the book over and pulling out some photos. "Looks like he was in the military. Probably Vietnam. He-"
Dean looked up from the pages he was perusing when Sam broke off, alarmed to see the color actually drain from Sam's face as he watched. "Sam?" he said in concern. Sam had a picture in his hand, a color snapshot and he was holding it so tightly the edges were creasing. In alarm Dean covered his hand where it held the picture, squeezing Sam's fingers. "Sam? What the hell is wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost!" Dean craned his neck to look as Sam swallowed hard and mutely held the picture out. Terrified now at the blank stare and shocked look in Sam's eyes Dean reached out and took the picture.
A man in a black knit cap was sitting on the hood of a car, a boy by his side and one perched on his knee, being held close. Dean frowned as he recognized himself, his eyes darting to the man. "It's me," he said numbly. "So that must be..." He swallowed, studying the man's face. He was smiling, Dean realized and his younger self was leaning trustingly against one broad shoulder.
"Are you sure?" Sam whispered and Dean looked up dazedly. Sam was still pale but now tears stood in his eyes.
"Sam, what is it?"
"Are you sure that's you?" Sam forced out.
Dean looked back down at the picture and then up at Sam. "Yeah. What's the matter?"
Sam shook his head then stood. For a moment he just stood there looking down at Dean and the picture. Then he carefully took the photo from Dean's hand and turned and left the room.
"Sam, you're freaking me out here," Dean said, casting the journal a last look before following Sam from the kitchen. He tracked him down in their bedroom, on the floor by the wardrobe, pulling the lid off a shoebox. Dean had seen it before, Sam kept old treasures in there, pictures, report cards, ribbons he'd won for swimming. "Sam?" Dean said tentatively as Sam scrabbled amongst the items, finally tipping the box onto the carpet and sifting through the contents. Suddenly he found what he was looking for.
Sam pulled a photograph from the pile and stared down at it. "This is me," he said quietly. "It's a picture of me with my parents, just a few days after they first fostered me." He handed the picture to Dean who automatically took it and glanced down. He'd seen Sam's parents in pictures before, here they were younger. His mom was slimmer and really quite lovely. Sam was sitting on her lap and the big black man next to her had one arm around her narrow waist and the other hand on Sam's knee.
Sam waited until Dean had looked for a moment or two before laying the picture from the journal beside his photo.
And then Dean saw it.
He frowned, sure he must be wrong. He looked up at Sam who just gazed solemnly back at him. "I - I see what you mean," Dean said. "He looks like you."
"It's your brother, isn't it? The one you remembered?"
"The one I thought I remembered," Dean qualified. He studied the youthful lines of the toddler's face. "I guess it must be. Sam, I can see what's got you freaked out. But just because this kid looks like you -"
"I don't think he looks like me," Sam interrupted tensely. "I think he is me."
Dean shook his head in automatic negation. "What are you, nuts? How the hell could he be you?"
"Look at the picture, Dean," Sam insisted.
"So what." Dean stood up, thrust both pictures back at Sam. "Little kids look alike sometimes. It's just a coincidence."
Sam's jaw was clenched but his voice was deadly, insistent. "The parcel said 'to Dean and Sam'. It said 'your father wanted you to have this'. Our father, Dean."
"No," Dean repeated, his mind rejecting the very idea. "No way. Look, maybe my little brother's name was Sam too. Okay?"
"And maybe he looked just like me?" Sam said incredulously. "Oh, and he was fostered out when he was the same age as me? Nearly seventeen years ago? Just like me?"
Dean tried to catch his breath, feeling Sam's words pummeling him like blows. "It's just..." he broke off, bewildered. "It can't be," he managed.
Sam looked down at the two pictures clenched in his fist. "We have to know. We have to read that journal."
Dean nodded numbly. "Yeah."
November 6, 1983
I buried my wife today. Even as I write that down, I don't believe it. Last week, we were a normal family… eating dinner, going to Dean's T-ball game, buying toys for baby Sammy. But in an instant, it all changed… when I try to think back, get it straight in my head… I feel like I'm going crazy. Like someone ripped both my arms off, plucked my eyes out… I'm wandering around, alone and lost and I can't do anything. Mary used to write in these books she kept by the bed. She said it helped her remember all the little things, about the boys, me… I wish I could read her journals, but like everything else, they're gone. Burned into nothing. She always wanted me to try writing things down. Maybe she's right, maybe it will help me to remember, to understand.
"Sammy," Sam murmured, looking up from the journal. "That's what my family calls me." He looked back down at the yellowing pages. "November 1983. I would have been six months old."
December 4, 1983
Last night I was sitting in Sam and Dean's room, in the dark, and I heard these noises… Mike said it was the wind, and okay, maybe it was, but it sounded almost like whispering, like someone was whispering a name, under their breath, again and again… like something is out there in the dark, watching us… I stayed up all night, just watching them, protecting them. From what, I don't know. Am I protecting them? Am I hurting them? I haven't let them out of my sight since the fire. Dean still hardly talks. I try to make small talk, or ask him if he wants to throw the baseball around. Anything to make him feel like a normal kid again. He never budges from my side – or from his brother. Every morning when I wake up, Dean is inside the crib, arms wrapped around baby Sam. Like he's trying to protect him from whatever is out there in the night. Sammy cries a lot, wanting his Mom. I don't know how to stop it, and part of me doesn't want to. It breaks my heart to think that soon he won't remember her at all. I can't let her memory die.
Dean realised he was crying as Sam kept reading, but he couldn't stop the tears pouring down his face. Was it the words from the past? Or his fractured memories over the years of holding his little brother close, trying to keep him safe, trying to feel safe again? Or just the creeping fear taking a hold of him?
Sam laid the book down and reached for him and he pressed his face to Dean's cheek, his own cheeks wet with tears.
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered.
"I don't remember her. I don't remember either of them. And I don't remember you, Sam. It wasn't you."
Sam drew back and gazed into his eyes and Dean could read it all there. The shock, the horror, the grief and rage and pain. Everything he was feeling mirrored in Sam's eyes. Dean lifted a hand, fingers stroking Sam's cheek, thumb sliding over his lips. This man, that little boy, those words, that photograph. How could any of this be real?
"It can't be real," he said desperately. "Sam, it can't be real."
"I mean, look at this stuff!" Dean pulled the book over and skimmed the entries Sam had just read aloud.
'I reach out… and suddenly I'm back to that night, to the blood and the fire and Mary, Mary is on the ceiling, and how did she get on the ceiling… she can't be on the ceiling…'
"It's crazy, Sam! This guy was nuts!"
"He'd just lost his wife." Sam sniffed and rubbed at his eyes. "I can only imagine how I'd feel if I lost... you..." he trailed away, agonized realization breaking through his shock. "Oh god, Dean," he whispered harshly. "If this is true... What does that mean for us? What are we gonna do?"
"We have to find out the truth," Dean said tightly, Sam's pain and confusion tearing at him. "And we're not gonna find it in this... journal. You need to call your mom."
Sam shook his head. "My mom?"
"You said you never wanted to know about your birth parents. But she must know something about them. About that time. How long did they foster you before they adopted you?"
"Nearly two years," Sam said numbly. "Dean..."
"Sam." Dean touched Sam's hand, wondering if his own fingers felt so cold. They were both in shock, and maybe it was all for nothing. Let it all be for nothing, Dean prayed. "Sam, just call. It'll be all right."
Sam nodded jerkily and pulled out his phone, flipping it open with trembling fingers.
His mother's voice brought fresh tears to his eyes but he blinked them away, swallowing down the scream he could feel building inside of him.
"Hi, Sammy," his mother said delightedly. "I'm so glad you called."
"Mom?" Was that his voice? It sounded choked, as if he had already wept for hours the tears inside him. "Mom, I need to ask you some stuff."
"Sammy, are you okay? You sound like you're starting a cold."
"Yeah, I'm fine," Sam lied, meeting Dean's eyes. Dean hands gripped the old journal, fingers white on the leather cover. Sam wondered if he looked as pale and devastated as Dean did right now. "Mom, I wanted to ask you about... about my birth parents. What you know about them."
"Oh." His mother sounded taken aback, as well she might. Sam had insisted for years that he didn't want to know anything about that time of his life. "Sam, wouldn't you rather wait until we can sit down together? I'd rather be face to face for something like this."
"I'd like that too, Mom," Sam whispered, meaning it with all his heart. He wanted to hear this story from her lips, look into her eyes, take hold of her hand. He reached out now and Dean's hand instantly grasped his own. "But right now I just have a couple of questions. Mom, who were my birth parents? Why was I up for adoption?"
"Well, when we applied to have you placed with us you weren't up for adoption," his mother started hesitantly. "We fostered you for the first two years before we applied to make you ours forever."
"Why wasn't I up for adoption straight away?"
"We had to wait for parental rights to be terminated by a court order," Colleen explained.
"Oh, Sammy," Colleen said. "I wish we were doing this in person."
"Please, Mom," Sam implored. "I need to know now. Why would they terminate parental rights?"
"Well, that's what they do in cases of abandonment," Colleen said sadly. "I'm sorry, honey."
Sam closed his eyes. "I was abandoned?" he choked out, gripping Dean's hand harder. "Mom? What was my name? Before? What was my name?"
"Winchester," Dean repeated numbly.
Sam looked down at their hands still gripping tightly. "That's what she said." The phone was closed but still in his hand. Dean didn't even remember Sam saying good-bye to his mother.
"I don't understand," Dean said blankly. A little while ago the world had been itself, the sun was shining and he had the evening alone with Sam to look forward to. And now everything he thought he knew had blown up in his face, and he was ripped apart and bleeding out. "I mean, it doesn't make sense. What are the odds that you and I would even meet one another, let alone..." He couldn't say it aloud, and that scared the hell out of him.
"I meet people every day," Sam murmured. "Hundreds of people. We could have met and just moved on, passed one another in the street, even worked together for years and not known a thing." His eyes sought Dean, bewildered and frightened. "But the minute I saw you..."
"I thought I knew you," Dean recalled suddenly. "Just for a second, you said something, or tilted your head and I thought I knew you. But then I realized I didn't. I never thought of it again," Dean finished in a whisper.
"The first time you smiled at me I..." Sam shook his head painfully. "Oh god, Dean. We're brothers."
"Maybe... Maybe one of us was adopted?" Dean ventured. "Maybe there's no blood between us?"
Sam looked hopeful for a moment, then frowned. "No, Mom would have known if I'd been adopted before. Besides, you said you have your birth certificate?"
"Dean? What are we going to do?" Sam said desperately.
"We don't do anything," Dean said, trying to think. "We throw this thing away." He pushed the journal across the table. "This never happened, any of it."
"What good will that do? We can't pretend this away, Dean. It's real, it's happening." Slowly Sam pulled his fingers free and Dean let him, clenching his hand into a fist where it lay on the table.
"We didn't do anything wrong," Dean said tightly. "We didn't know."
"We know now," Sam starkly. His face was white, his skin looked like it was stretched over his bones.
"But no one else does," Dean said desperately. "And if we don't tell them they never will."
Sam stared at him in disbelief. "So what are you saying, Dean? That we can just go back to the way it was before?"
"Why not? I mean, this doesn't change anything, not between you and me!"
"It changes everything!" Sam exploded, pushing away from the table and jumping to his feet. "Don't you get that?"
"Of course I get it!" Dean yelled back, shoving his chair back as he stood up. "I just don't care, okay? I don't care!"
Sam stood there, chest rising and falling, pain etched on his face. For long moments he just stood, hands by his side, eyes dark.
"I do," he said simply, and then he dropped his chin and rubbed tiredly at his brow. "I have to." He gestured to the journal laying abandoned on the table. "This means something, Dean."
"We mean something," Dean said intensely.
Sam closed his eyes.
"You and me." Dean took a step closer, willing Sam to open his eyes, to look at him. To tell him everything was going to be all right. "Everything that we went through to get here, to be together. We can't just throw that away now. Sam?"
"I don't want to," Sam whispered, and Dean took another step closer, reached out, cupped his face with his right hand. Sam leaned into the gesture, eyes still closed, face still white as parchment. His skin was like ice under Dean's hand and he vaguely realised that Sam was still in shock. That they probably both were.
"Then don't," Dean implored. "We'll figure this out, Sam. We'll make it work, somehow."
Sam's hand came up, blindly he caught at Dean's waist, leaned into his warmth as he had a thousand times. Dean let himself be drawn, stepping into Sam's space, hand sliding around to the back of his neck. Then suddenly Sam's eyes flew open and he was pulling back, ripping away from Dean's touch, eyes wild with grief.
"No!" he exclaimed in horror. "We can't make it work, Dean! We are brothers. We had the same mother and father, we share the same blood! There's nothing to work out!" Sam was shaking hard now. "God! This isn't fair! Why is this happening?"
"I don't know," Dean whispered. All he wanted to do was put his arms around Sam, ease his pain, try to clear his mind enough to think this through. But his skin still stung with the pressure of Sam pulling away from him. Pushing him away.
Sam had never done that before.
"I can't get my head around this," Sam muttered, crossing his arms over his chest, hugging himself as if the chill of his skin had penetrated to his heart. "I have to think. I gotta get out of here. " He looked at Dean beseechingly.
Agony lanced through Dean, rooted him to the spot, froze his voice.
"I need to get away," Sam said desperately. "You understand that, don't you, Dean? I need to think."
As a child Dean had perfected the art of disassociating himself from his body. Of stepping back, distancing himself from the pain. Oddly that sensation came over him now, and it was as if he was a long way away when he heard himself speak.
"Will you come back?"
What a foolish thing to ask, he thought to himself. Is that all you can think of to say?
Sam was shaking his head, but he wasn't saying no, Dean understood that. He was shaking his head in despair, because he didn't know the answer, because he didn't know what to say. And then he was walking away, and Dean was just standing there, frozen, powerless as he'd been for so much of his life, as events moved around him and forces beyond his control took away everything safe and familiar, and replaced it with pain.
Much, much later Dean picked up the journal and walked down the hall to his room. He carefully slid open the top drawer of his dresser and laid it down on top of his socks. Then he closed the drawer and sat on the side of the bed.
Later the pain would come, Dean remembered that much. When he let himself feel again, when it all became real and the bruises started to show.
But for now he could lie down on the bed that still smelt faintly of Sam, and stare up at the ceiling and think about nothing at all.
A few hours later Sam was parked in front of his parents home, without any clear memory of the drive there. His mind was seething with memories of the last few months, playing over and over again every minute of the time he'd spent with Dean.
It had all seemed so perfect at first. As if there was no hurdle they couldn't overcome, no old ghost so powerful they couldn't defeat it. Falling in love with Dean had been the easiest trip of of his life. And for a while it had seemed like there was nothing they couldn't do, so long as they stayed together.
So why the hell had he left?
Everything in Sam cried out to turn the car around, to go back to his real home, the three bedroom yellow clapboard with the sagging fence and the half built Chevy Impala in the garage. To the blue and white kitchen smelling of Nick's cooking. To evenings on the front porch, sitting on the swing, watching the stars and necking with his lover.
His lover. His brother.
Sam didn't turn the car around.
Sickness was roiling in his belly. He thought of Lily, his little sister. He'd been ten years old when they brought her home. She'd been nearly three and he remembered holding her little dimpled hand and thinking in awe that she looked like a china doll. She was his sister, even though they shared not a drop of blood. She would be his sister until the day he died and one day her children would call him Uncle Sam. He knew this with every fiber of his being.
Dean was his brother. They had the same flesh, the same blood. But none of that felt even remotely real to him. Even now, knowing the truth, Sam just wanted to be back there, in Dean's arms, holding on for dear life.
But he still didn't turn the car around.
Instead he climbed out and walked slowly up the path to the front door of his parent's home.
Dean heard Nick come home, heard him call his name quietly and then walk back down the hall to the kitchen. He must know Dean was home, the truck was in the driveway.
Nick thought he was in here with Sam, Dean realized. Nick thought they had already gone to bed and he was being discreet and leaving them alone.
What was he going to tell Nick?
The afternoon had faded to night as Dean lay on the bed watching the shadows grow longer and disappear into darkness. The house had been so quiet and still that he'd heard all the sounds of the street outside as he lay there. Children on bikes. Mothers calling them in for supper. Cars pulling into driveways as people came home from their normal days and lived their normal lives.
Nothing would ever be normal again.
Dean wondered how it would feel if he and Sam had been torn apart in some normal way. If they'd fought, or cheated or just grown tired of one another. At least then he would feel something, right? He'd be angry or hurt or betrayed. He'd have something to blame.
Right now he couldn't feel much of anything at all, least of all blame. Who did he have to blame? Some tattered old journal written by a madman? Whoever had sent it to them? Or the people who tore them apart all those years ago, before they'd had a real chance to get to know one another as brothers?
Try as he might Dean couldn't remember Sam as a child. Only the memory of someone in his arms, depending on him, needing him. Only that empty knowledge inside him that he'd let that person down. That he'd failed them.
Groaning like an old man Dean straightened and sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing at his face wearily. He wondered where Sam was, how he was feeling. He wondered if he was letting Sam down again by letting him walk away. But what could he have done to stop him? They were tangled up in this thing and for the life of him Dean couldn't see a way to cut through that tangle and set them free.
"Sam," he said softly. His voice seemed to echo around the empty room.
Sam let himself in the front door and Nathan Fielding stood up, pulling off his reading glasses and blinking in astonishment.
"Where's Mom?" Sam asked bluntly.
"She's still at work. Sam you look terrible. Are you okay?"
"Can I stay here?"
"Of course you can," his father said after a surprised beat. "Sam?"
Sam turned without another word and climbed the stairs to his room.
"Sam?" his father said again, following him up the stairs and finally catching him on the landing, hand on his wrist. "Sammy, what on earth has happened?"
Sam kept his head turned away, wishing he hadn't come now. "I just want to be left alone, okay?" he said quietly.
"It's him, isn't it?" Nathan said suddenly. "Dean. He's done something."
Sam flinched away. "Just leave me alone," he said raggedly, pulling free of his father's hand and escaping into the safety of his old room. He pushed the door closed behind him, leaned back against it, shaking, tears spilling from his eyes, pouring down his cheeks.
"Sam? Honey, can I come in?"
Sam looked up, dimly aware that it was dark. He must have been sitting here an hour, he realized. Staring at the wall, lost in his thoughts. His explosion of grief hadn't lasted long, now he didn't think he could cry again if his life depended on it. Some pain was too deep for tears, they could not help to wash away this misery that gripped him.
He felt helpless against it, bruised by it. All his life he'd been lucky, he knew it now, he could see it. Sure, he'd been abandoned as a child, but he'd been so young when it happened he had no memory of that time. Since then he'd been adopted, loved, taken care of. Everything had come so easily, all his life.
That was why it had been such a shock when his father wouldn't even try to accept his relationship with Dean. Had turned so viciously against Dean without even giving him a chance to defend himself. Sam had thought that nothing could hurt as much as that rejection.
Now it all seemed so unimportant.
"Sammy?" His mother opened the door, peered around it. "Oh, Sammy," she said, and he blinked and frowned, wondering what she was seeing when she looked at him. For surely all the pain he was feeling was etched into him now, carved deep.
Sam sat silent as his mom approached the bed, sat down next to him, wrapped her arms around him. He closed his eyes, let her hold him.
"Honey?" she said sympathetically. "Can you tell me what happened? Your dad and I are worried about you."
"I'm all right," Sam said, his voice scratchy.
"You've been crying," Colleen said gently.
"I just want to be left alone," Sam said again. Alone. His aloneness was an empty ache in his chest.
"I shouldn't have told you that stuff about the adoption over the phone," his mother said worriedly. "I know how terrible it sounds, being abandoned-"
"It's got nothing to do with that," Sam lied. "Please, Mom."
"Oh, Sam. Can't you talk to me about it?" Colleen invited. "You've always been able to talk to me about anything."
Not everything, he thought dully. I couldn't tell you when I started to realize I wasn't entirely straight. It was too scary then, too private.
And he couldn't tell her this either, Sam realized. He couldn't tell anyone about this. He couldn't bear to see the horror in her eyes, the pity, the disgust. She wasn't the one he needed to be with anyway. The one he wanted to confide in, to hold onto, to cry with.
That was Dean, the man he loved with all his heart. The man he'd walked away from.
Colleen was frowning a little, looking at his face, trying to read his eyes. Sam looked back, felt some of the tension leave him at the love and concern in her eyes. This wasn't her fault, it wasn't anybody's fault.
"I really just want to be alone, Mom," he said gently. "I just need to think."
To process. To mourn. All his dreams were gone, burned up into ashes. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Dean was never so glad to see the dawn, the night had seemed never ending as his thoughts twisted and turned on him. A dozen times he'd flipped open his phone, found Sam's number, held his finger over the button. A dozen times he'd snapped the phone closed and tossed it away.
Once he'd stood up, shoved his feet into his boots, even picked his keys up. Determined to find Sam, to hold him down if necessary, to make him listen.
Then he'd sat back down on the side of the bed, hand falling limp by his side, keys tumbling onto the carpet.
Because he still didn't know what he was supposed to say to Sam that he hadn't already said.
It doesn't mean anything. Whatever blood is between us we're not brothers. I love you.
The shock had worn off during the night, and sometime in the dark hours Dean had given into his grief. Now he lay dry eyed as the sun came up, filtering through the thin curtains. He wondered if there was something wrong with him, that he could think like that. Was there something missing in him, at his very core? Maybe that was why he'd made the choices he had all those years ago. Why it had become so easy for him to get on his knees for whatever stranger had handed over the cash.
There must be something wrong with him. Because Dean knew now with absolute certainty that he didn't care whether he and Sam were brothers. That they shared the same mother and father. None of that meant a damn thing here and now. He just knew he wanted Sam back.
Dean showered and shaved, wondering what would have happened if he and Sam had known they were brothers when they met. He couldn't imagine seeing Sam and not wanting him. Loving him.
What was Sam feeling right now? Dean's heart wrung at the thought of everything Sam must be going through. Because it was different for Sam. He'd never had to face the choices that Dean had. He'd never had to develop that thick skin of pragmatism that allowed you to ignore the voice of conscience in your head. Sam would be struggling, not just with the present, but the memories of the past. The knowledge that he'd been making love with his brother. Committing incest. Time after time after time.
Dean drove to work and opened up the shop, getting an early start on the day's work. He knew he was just putting off the inevitable by avoiding Nick and his questions. But he couldn't face those questions right now. What was he supposed to say? This was one secret he couldn't share with anybody. Deep down Dean knew why.
Deep down he still had hope. Some part of him believed that Sam would come back to him.
Minutes before Gary was due into work, Dean's phone rang and he rubbed his hands on his overalls and reached for it, breath catching in his throat at the caller ID. He flipped it open.
There was silence on the line, soft breath, a whisper of sound.
Pain clenched his throat and he closed his eyes. "Sam," he whispered.
The phone beeped and the call ended. Dean just stood there until Gary came in, then he carefully closed the phone back up and slipped it into his pocket.
Sam held the phone tight, still hearing the echo of Dean's voice, that whisper of pain. He shouldn't have phoned, it wasn't fair to Dean. But he just missed him so much, like a limb that had been amputated, still aching with the shadow of pain. His eyes burned from the lack of sleep, his head throbbed dully.
Outside the world was going on around him. He'd heard Lily come home from dance class last night, heard his mother shush her outside his door. Ignored the quiet knock a little while later and his mom asking if he wanted anything for supper.
Sam belly growled and he huffed a weary sigh. Life did go on, didn't it? He pocketed his phone, standing and stretching, muscles twanging, protesting the long sleepless night slumped at his desk. The house was quiet and he realized his parents must have gone to work and that Lily would be in school already. Sam visited the bathroom first, throwing water on his face and rinsing the sour taste out of his mouth.
He stood in front of the mirror, bracing himself on the marble vanity, looking at his reflection. His eyes were puffy and swollen, his hair a tangled mess. Sam frowned and peered closer, looking at his own face and searching for traces of Dean in it. Surely he should have been able to see something before now. Shouldn't he have known somehow? That they were connected by blood?
Hunger led him downstairs. On the kitchen table was a casserole dish with a note propped on top.
Sam, heat this up for your lunch. Mom.
Sam half smiled at his mother's looped hand writing. He was sorry now that he'd pushed her away last night. Sorry that she was probably worried about him. He'd still been so shell shocked and dazed. But really, what could he say to her? To any of them?
He didn't even know what to say to Dean.
Not bothering to heat the dish up, Sam grabbed a fork from the drawer and a carton of juice from the refrigerator and began eating. Stirring through the congealed gravy and plucking out pieces of meat Sam remembered the last meal he'd shared with Dean. They'd been sitting outside the garage, enjoying the rare warmth of the sunny January afternoon. They'd packed sandwiches and juice boxes and Dean had been telling a story about helping Gary paint Ronnie's room the first time he'd come to stay with his grandfather. It had all been so normal and easy.
The food caught in his throat and Sam pushed the dish away and swallowed down a few mouthfuls of juice.
He felt as if someone had died.
Like those stages of grief people talk about. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Sam had left denial behind, and mutely understood in the depths of the night that he didn't have anyone or anything to be angry at. Bargaining had come at dawn, when, for the first time he seriously considered what Dean had said before Sam had walked away from him.
Seriously considered Dean's wild plan. Burn the book, forget they'd ever heard this truth. Go back to the way things were before.
Except there was no going back, was there? You couldn't fix something this broken. You just swept the broken pieces up and threw them away.
Sam wondered whether he'd skipped depression and gone straight to acceptance. Had he accepted this? Was he ready to push those broken pieces under the rug and just go on? Right now he couldn't even summon up the energy to figure out what he was going to do next. Term started again in less than a week. He didn't care.
His phone beeped and Sam pulled it out of his pocket, frowning at the screen. He had a message, from Dean.
"Do you remember what you said about choices? I've made mine, Sam. Come back to me when you're ready. I'll be waiting."
Sam found he still had some anger left after all when he snapped his phone closed and threw it against the wall.
It shattered and the broken pieces scattered into the sink and over the bench.
"Where's Sam?" Nick asked curiously as Dean sat down at the dinner table.
Dean looked at the spaghetti on his plate without appetite. He'd eaten an apple at lunch time, when he'd begun to feel light headed from the emptiness inside him. But the smell of the meat and sauce now was making him vaguely nauseous.
"Sam's gone," Dean said bluntly, pushing the plate away and standing up to grab a beer from the fridge.
"Gone?" Nick sounded confused.
Dean avoided his glance, twisting the top off the bottle and tossing it onto the bench.
Nick was silent for long moments while Dean drained his beer then threw the bottle in the trash and helped himself to another.
"Is he coming back?" Nick finally asked quietly.
Come back to me when you're ready. I'll be waiting.
Dean looked up, into concerned amber eyes. "I don't know," he murmured.
Nick just nodded and pushed his own plate away. "You got one of them for me?" He nodded at the beer.
Dean grabbed the six pack and put it on the table.
Days passed. Sometimes Sam thought about what he'd do when school started, where he would stay. He wondered briefly about his old dorm but dismissed it. They probably had someone else in there now, and anyway he didn't want to go back there. Ironically this was the first term he would have been living off campus.
"Why waste your money on a dorm room when you're practically living here now?" Dean had said casually when Sam told him that his scholarship included a monthly stipend for accommodation and meals. And as easy as that Sam had moved in. He'd had a quiet word with Nick about it, beforehand, making sure it was all right with him. Sam wondered what Nick must be thinking of him now. He wondered what Dean had told everybody.
He didn't do anything about accommodation though. He spent the week not doing much of anything, but by Saturday morning Sam knew he couldn't hide any longer. His mother was at his door, inside his room, pulling drawn curtains apart and sliding open the windows.
"Okay, Sam," she said firmly. "Enough's enough. We've given you the time you wanted, now we have to sort this out."
"Easy as that," Sam mused dryly.
"Get yourself cleaned up," his mother ordered. "And come downstairs. Lily is out all day. We need to talk." She bustled to the door and paused. "And shave, will you? You look like a hobo."
Sam rubbed at his jaw, realizing he'd grown quite an impressive stubble. Then he lifted his arm and realized he'd developed quite an interesting smell as well. All week it had been wet and blustery and Sam had lain in bed listening to the patter of wind-driven rain against his windows. But this morning the sun was out, Sam could see little white clouds in the sky and the pale curtains billowed gently in the breeze.
All of a sudden he couldn't stand this room any more, couldn't stand himself, the way he smelt, the way he felt. He wanted that shower, wanted to wash away this sour depression that had clung to him for days, rendering him unable to speak or think or sleep.
The shower invigorated him and he stood in front of the mirror with a towel around his waist, sweeping his razor through the thick stubble on his cheeks. His hands were steady as he shaved and when he rinsed his face he stood as he had days before, hands braced on the marble vanity, looking at himself in the mirror.
This time he wasn't looking for traces of Dean, he was looking at himself, comparing the old Sam with this new one. That Sam had thought himself so grown up, had gone out into the world, fallen in love, thought that he could do anything.
This Sam knew better.
He couldn't do everything. Some things were beyond his confident strength. He'd thought he could fight anyone, even his own father, to keep Dean. Hadn't he stood by Dean and faced the old ghosts in his past? Hadn't he held onto Dean and poured all his love into him to try and help heal him?
But he couldn't do this. He couldn't change what he and Dean were to each other.
Flesh and blood.
Linked by history and ancestors and genetics. Linked in a way Sam never would be to his parents and his little sister. Connected in a way that Sam wasn't connected to another soul on earth.
This new Sam in the mirror understood that. Now he just had to decide what he was going to do about it.
"Do you remember what you said about choices? I've made mine, Sam. Come back to me when you're ready. I'll be waiting."
Sam recalled Dean's message and a corner of his lips twitched in a half smile at the memory. He'd always admired Dean's strength. The courage it had taken not only to survive his childhood but to rise above it. To become a surrogate son to Nick and Renie. A good friend to Gary and a big brother to Ronnie.
And to give his heart to another person. To Sam.
But now, for the first time, Sam understood that Dean really was stronger than he was. When they had found out the truth Dean had faced it, conquered it. He'd cut through the tangle of it all and come out the other side with the clear knowledge of what he wanted. When he'd had to make that choice he'd chosen Sam.
"I've made mine, Sam."
Now Sam had to decide if he had the same courage.
"What do you want?" he asked his reflection.
The kitchen was the heart of his parents home, Sam realized, just as it was for Nick and Dean. It was where they worked together in harmony to make meals. Where they sat together and shared the news of the day as they broke bread. Sam could remember coming home from school and running in here, finding his mother cooking, his father sitting at the bench reading some interesting article in the newspaper out to her. Sam remembered tests with A's written on them stuck to the refrigerator with magnets, school projects and glue scattered all over the benches. Biting his lip to keep back the tears as his dad put a sticking plaster on a scraped elbow.
Today his mother and father were sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him, coffee mugs steaming in front of them. His mom jumped up but he shook his head.
"I'll get it, Mom," he said quietly, pouring out a mug full and adding a generous spoonful of sugar. He needed the energy right now.
"You look better," his mother said anxiously.
"I feel better," Sam confirmed, sitting down and sipping the warm drink with a sigh. "I'm sorry I've been moping around for so long. I won't be doing it again."
Nathan laid his mug down and cleared his throat. "Before we say anything else, Sam, I want to apologize."
Sam bent his head, not wanting to hear this. Once he would have welcomed the chance to clear the air, but right now he didn't want to have to deal with this.
"I shouldn't have gone to Jake to get information about your... about Dean."
"No, you shouldn't," Sam agreed. He looked at his mother, wondering what she knew about this.
"For what it's worth I asked Jake to keep quiet about it. Not that he'd tell anyone, he could get into real trouble for helping me out. And I didn't tell anyone else about it," Nathan finished awkwardly, flicking a glance at Colleen.
"Thanks," Sam said. "But it doesn't matter now. Dean's not that scared and broken little kid any more. People change. Life changes them."
"Sam," Nathan said deeply. "I wish I could tell you that I'd changed. I wish I could tell you that I understand your... lifestyle choices. But I haven't. I don't."
Sam absorbed this. Nodded. Wondered what his father would think of the choice he was facing now.
"But I do love you, son," Nathan continued. "And I hate this distance between us. I hate that you won't talk to us now about what's hurting you so much."
Sam looked up and searched his father's familiar face, reading the sincerity and concern there.
"I don't understand you either," Sam said honestly. "Dean never did anything to you, but you could have brought a world of trouble down on him, having him investigated like that."
"How can you still be defending him?" Nathan said hotly. "After everything he's done to you!"
"Nathan," Colleen said firmly. "That's not fair. We don't know exactly what happened yet."
Sam shook his head. "What are you talking about?" he asked blankly. "Dean didn't do anything to me."
Nathan opened his mouth but Colleen shushed him. "We're just worried about you, Sam," she said carefully, putting her hand on her husband's arm and squeezing warningly. "Worried that you're taking this break-up with your young man a little too hard."
Sam stared disbelievingly. "I haven't broken up with Dean, Mom," he finally said firmly.
"Well, after he's broken up with you," his mother frowned, looking bewildered.
Sam shook his head again. "Dean didn't break up with me either. I still love Dean, and he still loves me. Nothing is going to change that." Sam heard his own words, felt them settle in his chest, easing away a trace more of the ache. He looked away, frowning thoughtfully. "Nothing in the world is going to change that."
"Well, then I'm confused," Colleen exclaimed. "What on earth have the last couple of days been about?"
"The five stages of grief," Sam explained slowly. "And the last one's acceptance."
"Beer is not going to solve this problem, Dean," Nick said, plucking the empty bottle from Dean's hand and dropping it into the trash bin. He held out a steaming mug of coffee and Dean reached out for it.
"I know." Dean sipped the hot brew, his knuckles scraping the the stubble on his chin. It rasped roughly.
Nick dropped down on the swing next to him and sipped his own coffee. Saturday had dawned cool and fine and the neighborhood kids were taking advantage of it. New bikes and games handed out at Christmas were finally getting a work-out and the sounds of playful laughter and the occasional burst of temper could be heard over the ever present drone of the highway a few blocks over.
"Have you heard from him?"
Dean shook his head. "Not yet," he admitted. Dean had survived the last few days on the hope that Sam would come back to him, but now, for the first time, he was starting to accept that it might not turn out that way. That Sam might have finally decided he'd had enough. Maybe they had finally found one old ghost that neither of them could defeat.
What if Sam has cut his losses and run? Found someone without a police record and years of emotional baggage, and oh yes, isn't his freaking brother.
"Look, Dean," Nick said determinedly. "I've never interfered in your life before. I've respected your choices even when I didn't entirely approve of them. No," he added when Dean turned a pained glance on him. "I don't mean Sam. Sam's the best choice you ever made."
Dean flickered a smile. "No," he amended. "Keeping that card you gave me, all those years ago. That was the best choice I ever made."
"Well," Nick said gruffly. "Then I guess Sam's the best choice you made as a grown man. As to the stuff I didn't entirely approve of, well, let's just I was glad not to see you out chasing skanky skirt every night."
"Yeah, well, there's a lot to be said for skanky skirt," Dean said lightly, although right now it was hard to remember what he'd ever seen in it, beyond the obvious.
"Huh," Nick scoffed. "You didn't look like you were missing it much."
Dean curved both hands around his mug and shrugged. "Maybe it was getting old," he conceded.
"You know, Dean, I always hoped you'd find someone, settle down. I wanted you to find the kind of happiness Renie and I had together. Of course," Nick continued thoughtfully, scratching his hair. "I was actually picturing you settling down with someone who'd complain about us leaving the toilet seat up. Maybe someone who'd wash her delicates out in the sink."
"Delicates," Dean shook his head, half smiling.
"Someone who wasn't taller than me, is what I mean," Nick continued, then he grinned and Dean huffed a soft laugh.
"Anyway, like I was saying. I never interfered before but I'm going to now. Dean. Son. Why the hell haven't you gone after that boy?"
Dean shook his head. "I can't."
"You letting pride stand in your way?" Nick asked incredulously.
"Pride?" Dean huffed a laugh. "No, this isn't about pride. This isn't about anything that Sam and I have done." Dean turned his head to watch a group of children stream by on bikes, their joyful laughter caught on the breeze. "This is about choices. I've made mine. Now Sam has to make his."
Nick heaved a sigh and stood creakily. "Well, I won't pretend to understand. I'm just saying, maybe you should go see him. Help him make his choice." He swung the screen door open and paused in the doorway. "I miss him," he said heavily.
The door slammed shut behind him.
Dean didn't say out loud that he missed Sam. He didn't need to. Missing Sam was a part of him now, and probably always would be. And he didn't repeat to Nick that he had to let Sam make his own choice. That was a realization that had come pretty quickly.
If there was any chance for the two of them to survive this, then Sam had to come to this decision as Dean had. Alone. Dean's choice had come from the very heart of him - from the sure and certain knowledge that he did not want to lose Sam, and that he was willing to do whatever it took to keep him. He would ignore any rule, break any taboo. To keep Sam.
And if that was going to happen, Sam had to come to that same decision. And he had to do it alone.
His phone rang.
"Hello?" Dean's voice was cautious.
"Sam!" Dean said in obvious surprise. "I didn't recognize the caller ID. Where's your cell?"
"Long story," Sam said shortly.
"I've got time," Dean invited and Sam couldn't help it, it was so good to hear Dean's voice that he leaned back in the chair, closed his eyes.
"Seriously, dude?" Dean continued. "I'm glad you called."
"I'm sorry for the way I ran out," Sam said softly. "It wasn't fair on you."
"None of this is fair, Sam. And I think we're actually handling it pretty well, considering." Dean's voice dropped. "I mean, long lost brothers? What the hell?"
For the first time in days Sam felt his face crease in a smile, felt a bubble of laughter in his chest.
"No kidding. When did our lives get so weird?"
Dean huffed a laugh down the phone and then there was only long moments of silence and the sound of their breathing.
"I miss you," Sam whispered. "I miss you so much it hurts, Dean."
"I know, babe," Dean said huskily. "Sam? Come home?" His voice was a mere whisper of sound but it cut Sam to his soul.
"Not yet," Sam said softly. "I need more time."
"I'll be waiting."
Sam left on Sunday, hugging his mother and shaking his father's hand. He lifted Lily up and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"You know we're always here when you need us," his mom said, fussing with the front of his shirt, pushing a loose button back into its hole. Sam stilled her hands with his own and squeezed them gently.
"I do, Mom. Thanks."
"Sam?" his dad said awkwardly. "Take care of yourself."
Sam nodded, then reached out and let his father hug him. He wasn't quite sure he was ready to forgive Nathan yet, but he loved him enough to try to make a start. Anyway he had too many other things to worry about right now to carry a grudge. He drew back, patted his father on the shoulder and climbed into his car.
Zach's apartment wasn't huge, but he had a fold-down couch and Sam had crashed there the year before when they'd been out to a game or a bar. Zach was a friend, he didn't ask questions, didn't wonder why Sam had only a few things with him, didn't hesitate to invite Sam to stay a long as he needed.
Dean dropped off Sam's books and laptop and some clothes while Sam was in class, on Tuesday. When Sam came home and found his things on the couch he had to sit down for a minute, realization hitting him. It had been a week ago today. Just seven short days. And yet the longest time he'd been apart from Dean since the day they met.
Met again, anyway.
Sam went to class and studied hard and completed his work, and in between he worried about their situation. At night he'd doze for an hour or two and then wake up, head spinning with memories and worries. How was Dean without him? What if he got tired of waiting for Sam to figure this all out in his head? What if someone else found out?
Sam wondered about the journal as he tossed and turned sleepless nights away. Who had sent it? Why? Finally he couldn't take the helpless inaction any more. So he began to do do what he did best. Study, research. Find answers.
Through the California Adoption Registry he learned that he had been abandoned in San Joaquin County, just outside of Stockton, although he couldn't gather any information about why he'd then been placed in the care of the San Francisco Social Services. He searched the archives of the Stockton Record, the largest newspaper, and finally located a small article. October, 1986. Two small boys, he read.
Abandoned in a motel outside Stockton. One of the children is gravely ill. A man is being sought in connection with the case. Police state the man used a fake ID to book into motel. The only clue the police have to his identity is the classic black Chevy Impala witnesses saw him leaving in. No license plate number is available.
Sam read the article again and again, staring in astonishment. That couldn't be a co-incidence. That Dean should have seen that model of car, fallen in love with it. It almost struck Sam as funny, now. That Dean saw him and fell in love with him too, just like the old car. Relics of a half remembered past.
Sam decided to search for mentions of black Impalas, scrolling through page after page in the archive section. By chance, days into his quest, he logged onto the archives of the Stockton Impact and entered his search, forgetting to change the date parameters.
Instantly he had a hit.
December 2nd, 2002. Police have found two human skeletons in an isolated area in the Emigrant Wilderness Area. The skeletons were found inside a black, 1967 Chevy Impala, about 15 miles from the town of Cold Springs. Police sources indicate it was an anonymous tip-off that led them to the car, buried in deep brush. A weapon was also found at the scene that police sources say is a rare Colt revolver. There is speculation that the scene was tampered with before the police arrived, and the anonymous tipster is being sought for questioning. One of the men has been identified. He was Daniel Elkins, 39, of Manning, Colorado. Suspicious circumstances have not been ruled out, although at this time no cause of death has been ascertained.
Sam printed out the article and read it through again, then twice more. One month ago. He pulled out his phone.
Dean showered and shaved and spent ten minutes collecting empty bottles from all over the house. He carried them out to the recycling bin and dropped them in with a crash, dropping a wink at the glare from his neighbor. She sniffed disapprovingly and continued hanging out her wash. On the top of the fence her cat stared at him disdainfully and then turned her back on him.
Dean changed the sheets on the bed and ran a load through the washer, trying to keep his mind on the mundane tasks and not on the clock slowly ticking away the time until he would see Sam again.
Nick just watched him bemusedly for a while, shaking his head, then patting him on the shoulder when a car horn sounded from the driveway.
"It's just George, coming to pick me up," he explained when Dean jumped a mile. "I won't ask you to come again, I can see you have plans."
Dean looked at the clock, it was just past six. He was never going to make it.
"Dean," Nick said, squeezing his shoulder. "Good luck."
Dean was waiting for him on the front porch when he drove up. Sam slowly climbed out of the car, his eyes fixed on Dean, who was staring back at him. Sam stopped at the bottom step, suddenly unsure, but then Dean tilted his head and smiled a little, eyes creasing at the corners in the way Sam loved. Sam swallowed hard, smiled back, knees feeling weak.
Sam looked thinner, Dean thought. And there were shadows under his eyes that matched Dean's perfectly. He also looked tall and strong standing there in the porch light, the evening breeze stirring his soft hair. Had it only been a few weeks since he'd seen him last? Sam looked as nervous as he felt, but Dean couldn't help the smile he gave him. It came straight from his heart.
Dean took the printed sheets and read through them.
"I wanted to see the journal," Sam explained. "See if this Daniel Elkins is in there. I remember there were some addresses in the back."
"A '67 Chevy Impala," Dean read out loud. "He glanced at Sam. "Guess I remembered more than I thought I did."
"Yeah." Sam waited until Dean finished the last page. "I looked it up on a map. Cold Springs is only about forty miles from the motel where we were found."
"You think those bodies sat there all those years?"
"I don't know," Sam shrugged. "But it's possible, isn't it? That he never meant to abandon us in that place? That he intended to come back, and something happened to him?"
"I guess it's possible." Dean tossed the sheets onto the table. "Not that it makes any difference now."
"What do you mean, it doesn't make a difference?" Sam said incredulously. "Don't you see? This." He slapped his hand down on the papers. "This is where it all started! It has to mean something!"
Dean gazed at him curiously for long moments.
"What?" Sam demanded hotly.
"What are you doing, Sam?"
"I'm trying to find answers."
"Why?" Dean said softly. "Sam, what good will it do? Even if we find out all the whys and hows of the past. It won't change what we have to deal with right now. It won't change the fact that we're brothers."
"But..." Sam felt his temper slip away as quickly as it had appeared. He slumped a little in his chair. "But I just thought. If we knew..."
Dean reached out and covered his hand where it lay limp on the papers. "This isn't something you can fix, Sam, especially not by cracking a book, or searching on google dot com."
Sam gave a half shrug. "I guess," he admitted.
Dean smiled and squeezed his fingers. "You're such a geek," he said fondly.
Sam huffed a small laugh, curling his fingers in Dean's hold until their hands were joined. It felt so good just to be here, talking about this, after the long lonely days of the past few weeks.
"I missed you," Sam blurted out.
Dean squeezed his hand again. "I miss you too."
"Dean, what are we gonna do?" Sam asked, feeling lost all of a sudden. It was as if the drive to find answers had been keeping him going, given him a purpose. And now he had admitted that those answers weren't going to change anything.
"We have to face facts, Sam," Dean said carefully. "And that is there's no pill we can take to cure this. No truth we can dig up that will make it go away. Nothing that we do in the world is going to change this situation. The way I see it we have two choices."
Sam tilted his head, listening hard.
"We face this together. Or apart."
"I don't want to go again," Sam said, from his heart. "I just want to be with you."
A kind of cautious hope was kindling in Dean's eyes. "Then stay," he whispered.
"How? How do we get through every day, living with this?" Sam appealed.
"I don't know," Dean admitted. "I just know... However hard it is, it can't be any worse than the last few weeks."
Sam acknowledged the truth of this with a nod, but reluctantly pulled his fingers free, rubbing his hands together against the chill. He stood up and leaned back against the kitchen bench. "Are we crazy?" he asked seriously. "Is it crazy to want this?"
Dean shrugged. "Well, if we are it's hereditary."
"Yeah." Sam chuckled under his breath. "Thank you, John Winchester."
"Yeah. Thanks for thinking any reason in the world was good enough to leave two little kids alone in a motel room," Dean said with a bitter twist to his lips.
"How about thanking Social Services?" Sam said lowly. "For pulling me out of your arms in the first place."
A pained frown flickered over Dean's face. "You remember that?"
Sam shook his head. "No. I just know they would have had to."
Dean met his eyes steadily and Sam gave him a small half smile that faded swiftly.
"They stole us away from each other, Dean. We'll never truly be brothers, because we missed out on all those years. When we should have been growing up together, being there for each other."
"I know," Dean said sadly.
"Well never have that," Sam said softly. He took a small step forward, reached out and took Dean's hand gently back in his own. "But maybe we can have this."
"That's all I want," Dean told him fervently.
"It might take some time," Sam said carefully. "To be anywhere near what it was before."
"We'll go slowly," Dean agreed.
"One step at a time," Sam nodded. He tugged on Dean's hand, bringing the other man to his feet. "We might find that we just can't make it work at all," Sam said reluctantly.
Dean nodded, stepped closer. "I know," he murmured. "We'll go slow. Okay?" He waited for Sam's small nod before he took another step and slid his hands around Sam's waist, stepping into his space and hugging him, a little at first, and then more tightly.
"Dean," Sam whispered, flexing his hands uncertainly for a moment. And then his palms found the warmth of Dean's chest, slid around to his broad back, clenched in the worn khaki of his shirt.
They hugged for long moments, then Dean was drawing back and Sam looked away, blinking hard as Dean surreptitiously rubbed under his eyes.
"I'll, um. I'll get the journal," Dean said, clearing his throat. "See if we can find those names in it."
"I thought you didn't care about the past?" Sam said, hands lingering on Dean's waist before pulling away reluctantly.
"I said that knowing the past won't change anything," Dean amended. He caught Sam's eye and shrugged. "Doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice, knowing one way or another."
Sam nodded slowly. "You get the journal," he agreed. "I'll get the beer."
"Uh, better make it coffee," Dean said, rubbing the back of his neck ruefully. "We're kinda out of beer."
Sam frowned, then reached out and cupped Dean's face gently, one thumb smoothing over a dark shadow beneath his eye. "Coffee it is."
Dean turned for the door, paused, and swung back around. He opened his mouth, sought for words, then shrugged self consciously. "It's good to see you," he muttered. Then he disappeared down the hall.
Sam stayed where he was for long moments, feeling the warmth of the sun on his back through the kitchen window. For the first time in weeks that empty space in his chest was gone. He took a deep breath, and then another, feeling the warmth spreading through him, a little at a time.
They studied the journal, argued back and forth, made notes and finally got Sam's laptop and began to look up some of the scribblings and clippings tucked in the pages of the tattered old book.
They grilled cheese sandwiches for supper, then retired to the comfort of the living room to argue it more.
"Maybe we can make a trip to Lawrence," Sam wondered. "See if we can find some of these other names mentioned in here. Maybe even figure out who the hell sent the damn thing to us."
"Yeah, and how they knew who and where we were."
Sam nodded, then yawned and blinked. "Man, I'm tired."
Dean patted the spot next to him on the couch. "Come here?" he invited and Sam slid over, allowed himself to be drawn against Dean. "Not sleeping too good?" Dean asked quietly.
Sam let his head come to rest on Dean's shoulder, yawning widely again. "Not really," he admitted. "You?"
"No." Dean settled a little into the corner of the couch, his own eyes half closed. "Not much."
Sam rubbed his cheek on the smooth fabric of Dean's shirt, breathing in the familiar smell, a thousand memories playing in his mind. "Hey, Dean?"
"It's good to see you too."
Sam slept and Dean dozed, unwilling to give himself up to sleep entirely, half afraid he'd wake to find Sam gone, or worse, that this had all been some dream and Sam had never been here at all. It was almost beyond belief that Sam was here with him now, in his arms.
Sam stirred, snuffled. "Is your arm getting tired?" he slurred, shifting a little.
"Uh uh," Dean denied softly. "Go back to sleep, you need it."
"This is nice," Sam said wistfully. "Even if we never have more than this..."
Dean pressed a kiss to Sam's soft hair, just behind his ear. "I know," he agreed. Sam's head grew heavy again and Dean tightened his arm, drew him a little closer. What if this was all they ever had again? Was it enough?
Sam murmured something in his sleep, pressing closer and Dean smiled and lay his cheek on Sam's crown, inhaling the clean fragrance of his hair.
Dean had learned a long time ago to take what he could get.
Sam felt the low rumble of Dean's voice in his chest.
"Is he staying?" That was Nick's voice, hushed in the quiet house.
"We're taking it slow," Dean whispered.
"Pretend I'm not here," Nick hissed, and Sam couldn't help smiling as he heard the old man tiptoe back down the hall.
"Playing possum?" Dean murmured in his ear.
"I'm too comfortable to move," Sam admitted with a low purr. "I haven't slept like that in weeks." He tilted his head back, studied Dean's face anxiously. "Did you get any rest?"
"Some." Dean smiled. "Sam, will you stay? I can sleep in the guest bedroom, if you want."
Sam reluctantly pulled away, shivering at the loss of toasty warmth down his side. "I should be the one sleeping in the guest room."
"Or we could just sleep," Dean said tentatively. "Like we did just now."
Sam couldn't deny it was what he wanted. He didn't remember when the decision had been made, or if he'd even made it. Maybe some part of him had already made the decision a long time ago, and just bided its time and waited for the rest of him to catch up. But all of a sudden Sam knew with absolute certainty that he wasn't going to let go of Dean. He wasn't sure if that made him as crazy as their father, or just made him a bad person. And right now, he didn't much care.
Maybe he would, later on. Maybe Dean would. Maybe the weight of conscience would drive a wedge between them as time went on.
But Sam didn't think so. Dean loved him, it was there now in his eyes, his gentle touch, his cautious hope. It had been there from the beginning, in the way he'd given himself with such trust. Sam stood up, held one hand out.
Dean seemed frozen, for a moment. Then he reached out and curled his fingers in Sam's.
They lay down together on the bed, face to face. Refreshed after his nap Sam was wide awake and he couldn't take his eyes off Dean's face, painted in shades of silver and white in the moonlight. Silently they just gazed, Dean's hand stroking down Sam's forearm, Sam's hand pressing against the soft material that covered Dean's chest.
Dean's long lashes fluttered closed and he slept a little, and Sam thought he must have dozed too. Once he woke up to find that Dean was caressing his hand, softly. Another time Dean must have rolled onto his back and Sam found himself with his head tucked under Dean's chin, Dean's hand stroking through his hair.
Some time during the night they both must have fallen asleep, because when Sam finally woke up again the sun was filtering through the curtains and the room was full of the soft dawn light. Dean's cheek was pressed to his, damp warm breath painted his skin as Dean's chest rose and fell against his own. Their limbs were tangled, Dean's hand was on his back, smoothing gently, soft sweeping arcs that sent a shiver of longing over Sam's skin.
"Dean?" he murmured, tilting his head, blindly seeking and finding warm, parted lips. Then they were kissing, languidly, deeply, hands gripping a little tighter on each other's backs, breath coming a little faster. Sam teased his tongue over Dean's lips, tasting him, drinking him down, only realizing as he pulled him even closer how thirsty he had been for this, how hungry.
"Sam," Dean panted, hands sliding to Sam's shoulders and pushing. "Wake up."
"Hmm?" Sam hummed, snuffling and sighing into Dean's neck.
"Hey," Dean curved into the tickling touch, huffing a chuckle against Sam's cheek. "We're going slow, remember?"
Realization dawned and Sam rolled away from Dean and onto his back, chest rising and falling as he breathed raggedly. "Oh, man," he groaned ruefully. "I have no self control."
"You were half asleep," Dean comforted, rolling onto his side and stretching. "Hey?"
Sam rubbed his cheek self consciously, feeling the flush of desire war with the tide of embarrassment.
"You okay?" Dean asked softly.
"I guess maybe I missed that too," Sam admitted.
"You think?" Dean leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. "It's okay. No harm done."
Sam slanted him a glance, his embarrassment fading as he read the warm desire in Dean's eyes. "Do you feel guilty?" he asked curiously.
Dean appeared to think about it. "No," he said finally. "But then I never did." He flicked Sam a nervous glance. "Sam, I don't know how to say this without sounding nuts. But, bad has this has been, there's a part of me..."
"What?" Sam asked curiously.
Dean reached out, touched his hand again, smoothing his thumb over Sam's knuckle. "I spent so many years wondering if I'd imagined you. Or worrying that even if you were real, that you might be alone out there." Dean's lashes swept down, hiding his eyes for a moment. "That you were being hurt. That you might need me and I wasn't there for you."
Sam's heart twisted and he cupped Dean's face, tilted his head until Dean's eyes met his. "I was fine," he said deeply.
Dean smiled gently. "I know," he whispered. "And it's so good to know that you were happy and being taken care of. I wish this wasn't hurting you so much, Sam. I wish you could feel about it like I'm starting to. I can ignore what everybody else in the world would think is wrong, and just be glad we found each other."
"Whatever the reason," Sam murmured thoughtfully. He thought of their warm, slow kisses. The kindling fire of passion that could still ignite so easily between them. And Dean pulling gently away because he knew Sam wanted to go slow, and he was taking care of him like he always did.
"I can," Sam decided. "I can be glad about that." He turned his head and looked at his lover, his brother, putting the two together in his mind. That cold, empty feeling was gone, he realized. And that was enough for now.
Maybe it wasn't perfect. Maybe there would always be a part of him that fought to accept it. But for now, in their bed, in the warm morning sun...
Sam put his arms around Dean and embraced his future.
And Dean held Sam close and found forgiveness for the past. It had led them to this place. From here they could find their own way.
"Hey, I thought you were wearing a costume as well?"
Dean lifted a brow. "I thought one of us looking like a dork was enough."
Sam looked down at his pirate costume and then quirked a brow. "You're just jealous you don't get to wear an eye patch."
"Yeah," Dean said dryly. "That must be it. Anyway, I am wearing a costume." He slipped on a narrow headband that disappeared beneath his hair, leaving only a pair of sleek, red, devil horns. Then he turned a little as so Sam could see the red pointed tail protruding from the back of his jeans.
"How apt," Sam smirked. He grabbed a fistful of leather jacket and hauled Dean closer. "What happens if I pull your tail?" he murmured against Dean's lips.
"Play your cards right and I might let you find out," Dean whispered, then leaned forward and took Sam's mouth in a deep, unhurried kiss.
"Dean, we're late," Sam muttered as he felt himself drawn towards the bed. Hands were burrowing beneath his billowing shirt, sending flutters of desire through him. He tilted his head back as Dean laid a trail of suckling kisses down his throat. Finally he grabbed wide shoulders and held Dean away. "You really are a little devil, aren't you?" he accused and Dean grinned wickedly.
"To Sam and his awesome LSAT scores." Everyone raised a glass and Sam rolled his eyes.
"It's not that big a deal."
"He acts all humble," Jessica teased. "But he scored a 174."
"Is that good?" Carl asked, tossing back another shot.
"It's okay," Dean said grudgingly, then ducked as a hail of beer nuts came at him from all directions.
"How does it feel to be the golden boy in your family?" Carl teased.
Sam exchanged a quick glance with the closest member of his family, and Dean dropped him a quick wink.
"Does the phrase 'walk on water' mean anything to you?" Dean answered blandly and Sam elbowed him.
"Ha ha." Sam raised his own glass. "I have a toast as well. To Jessica and Zach. Congratulations on their engagement."
All attention turned to the pretty blonde and the dark haired man with his arm firmly around her waist.
"Long life and happiness," Rebecca chimed in, and they all raised their glasses in a toast.
"Nice deflection, Sam," Dean murmured a few minutes later as the crowd spread out a little.
Sam slipped his arm around Dean's waist and tucked his fingers into the waist band of Dean's jeans. "I was serious. She's a nice girl."
"She's okay," Dean admitted, leaning casually into Sam's side. "I have to admit she's easier to like now she's stopped mooning over you."
Sam gaped at him and Dean grinned, obviously pleased to have surprised him. "Come on," he hooted. "D'you think I don't recognize a fellow Sammy-worshipper?"
Sam could feel the color in his cheeks and cursed his seemingly unbreakable habit of blushing. It was small compensation that Dean loved it when he blushed.
"Also," Dean said, sipping casually at his beer. "She looks kind of hot in that nurses outfit."
"Oh," Sam said, eyes narrowing. "You're gonna pay for that."
Dean wiggled his eye brows and danced away into the crowd as Sam reached for him.
November 3rd 2005
"Dean will you stop pacing," Nick said in exasperation. "It won't bring him home any quicker."
"I should have told him to phone. Why didn't he phone?"
The front door slammed and Dean's head came up, but it was only Gary and Ronnie.
"Is he back?" Ronnie asked eagerly. "We brought champagne to celebrate!"
"Or commiserate if he doesn't get it," Gary teased.
"He'll get it," Nathan said as Dean resumed pacing.
"Of course he'll get it," Colleen agreed.
The front door slammed shut and everybody turned to the kitchen door expectantly. Sam stepped in, face sober, but Dean knew his lover better and he was already smiling as Sam suddenly grinned and gave them a thumbs up.
"He got it!" Ronnie yelled and Dean was wrapping his arms around Sam and squeezing the life out of him.
"I knew you'd get it," Dean murmured into Sam's ear.
Sam squeezed back and they held each other just that moment longer, while around them their friends and family celebrated for them.
Sam rocked the porch swing gently with one foot, head resting against Dean's, arm wrapped around his shoulder. The November evening was drawing in around them, from inside the house came the sound of their family celebrating.
"Lily has a crush on Ronnie," Sam murmured and Dean chuckled.
"No kidding. I thought your dad was gonna get his shotgun out of the car."
"Look on the bright side. If he's concentrating on them he might stop staring daggers at you,"
"Hey," Dean protested comfortably. "Your father is warming up to me. I actually had a conversation with him when he arrived today."
"Gee, and it only took three years," Sam teased, kissing the soft hair behind Dean's ear.
"Yeah, at this rate I might get a hug on our twenty-fifth anniversary."
Sam huffed a laugh and sighed happily. "Hey, Dean?"
Dean twisted and looked at him. "For what?"
"Oh, you know." Sam smiled. "For never giving up on us."
"Oh, that." Dean settled back comfortably. "You're welcome."