Disclaimer: Supernatural is Kripke's, and I suspect it owns me, rather than the other way around.
SO. I have written fic. Supernatural fic. WOT IS THIS MADNESS.
Coda to What Is and What Should Never Be; written at the time, but I think it still holds up with current canon. ConCrit is much desired. Title from the Tom McRae song Human Remains, which fits Sam'n'Dean damn near perfectly in my head. I also have this long meta-ish essay I really want to one day write about the importance/significance of photographs in the show, but that can wait.
Yes, I know the bitch/jerk exchange is overused, and I've grown sick of reading it, so this makes me a complete hypocrite. WHATEVER. TragicBrotherLove transcends all fic hang-ups, yo.
The Photograph of You and Me
Dean pretty much sleeps through the next day and a half, barely wakes up long enough for Sam to dump them back at the motel, force orange juice down his throat and a few stale chocolate chip cookies into his hand. He eats, not even tasting them, then collapses on his bed and is out like a light.
Sam already quizzed him when they dropped the girl off at the hospital, so he knows the basics, but he's still armed and waiting with questions when Dean wakes up in the evening. He asks and pushes and for once Dean doesn't resent it, doesn't shut down out of spite and stubbornness and fear, because what he'd seen--that was the life Sam should've lived, and he deserves to know everything.
And when Dean's done, when he's talked himself out, they sit in silence for an eternity and a half, not looking at each other, and it's too fucking much for him to take. He stands, suddenly abuzz with nervous energy, grabs the keys from the fake wood table by the door.
"Dude, no," Sam says, stopping him short, and he turns, irritated and uncomfortable in his own skin, needing—something. He needs an out, a quick escape; he needs to get the hell out of his own head.
"What?" he asks, and it doesn't even sound like him, the word short and bitten-off, like Sam at his prissiest. And God, but Sam had been a real bitch, in his head. Complete pansy.
A real bitch. Yeah. Fucking flinched away whenever –
"You're not going out for a drink and a fuck," Sam says, and it comes out an incredulous denial and an order all at once, somehow, managing to make the best idea Dean's had in a week or so sound like the lowest form of stupidity. The Sam in his head had that voice down perfect.
"Dude, what the hell?" Dean demands, and he doesn't even know why he's angry, it's not like Sam's done a damned thing to him but save his life. "I'm fine, you don't have to worry I'll collapse in the freakin' beer nuts."
"You really think doing this will help anything?" Sam asks, chin dipped and eyebrows raised, eyes wide in that 'come on, let's connect' way that, Christ, the same way that Sam, at the end, with Mom and Jess and fucking Carmen…
"Yeah, probably not," Dean says, with a smile that feels out of place, the wrong shape for his face, "but hey, worth a try."
Sam stands, slow, and it hits Dean that Sam, the Sam in his head, always hunched when he was around, and suddenly he doesn't want to drink or get laid, just wants to close his eyes and try to work out where everything went so wrong, if it's really true that his brother can't be happy unless he's half a country and a lifetime away--
"Dean," Sam says, careful and low, like Dean's some tearful widow needing a kind word and a sympathetic smile, "man, just sit down before you fall over. We—I already have plans for tonight. For us."
Dean blinks, eyes Sam suspiciously, because that just does not sound like anything good can come of it.
"Seriously," Sam adds, in his most persuasive come-on-Dean-Dad'll-never-notice voice, "just…sit down. Rest a little more, you lost a lot of blood. I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Oh, so you get to go out?" Dean asks, and shoves his hands in his pockets because they're shaking, and he wants to fist them in Sam's shirt, wants to grab his brother and see if he flinches, wants to never let go because he might not have Carmen or Mom or a nine to five, but he still has Sam. For now. Until the FBI finds them, or some crazy hunter does, or Sam decides he wants his life back—to be a real person again, wasn't that what he'd said, before?
For now. Until Dean fails to save him.
"I'll be right back," Sam repeats, and when he uses that tone with that expression, it's impossible not to believe him, even when he's lying out of his ass. But still-
"Dude, whatever. I'm not five years old. Just don't take too long or I swear, I'll go pick someone up and screw her on your bed."
"Asshole," Sam mutters, rolling his eyes, and that sounds close enough to jerk that Dean relaxes, just a little.
Sam comes back twenty minutes later with a couple of DVDs and a bag of Chinese. And if Dean counted the minutes, glanced at the bright digital numbers on the cheap bedside clock at least five times, pacing the room and not thinking, Sam never has to know. He hears the key in the lock in time to sprawl casually on his bed, look bored and not at all like he's been panicking since--
"I thought you said we were broke," Dean says suspiciously, grabbing the food, because apparently hanging from your wrists in a warehouse as a djinn drinks your blood works up a bit of an appetite. He doesn't even bother with chopsticks, just shoves an egg roll in his mouth, deeply satisfied by the familiar 'God-you're-a-pig' face Sam pulls, all exasperation and no indifference.
"Yeah, well, I keep an emergency stash," Sam shrugs, tossing the DVDs down next to the food, as if Dean doesn't know every last damn thing about him. Except he doesn't, not really, not anymore.
He's a master of speaking with a full mouth, but damn, these are big egg rolls, so he just raises an eyebrow pointedly and feels something deep inside become a little less off when Sam reads the look right and says, "Not an emergency, yeah, but I figure a celebration counts."
"Celebration, Sam?" Dean manages, grinning when Sam flinches at the sight of his mouthful of half-chewed dinner. Such an enormous girl.
"Yeah." Sam ducks his head, suddenly looking unsure of himself. "You, ah, you said it was Mom's birthday."
Dean almost chokes, swallows too fast and feels the food hit his stomach like lead. "Mom's—Christ, Sam, the djinn…I don't even know when it really is." It wasn't like Dad got any drunker and angrier one night of the year over others. Any more absent.
"Doesn't matter," Sam says, jaw set mulishly, and that's him all over, everything that was missing from the Sam in his head, the Sam who was all appeasing smiles and contentment. This is Sam, the real Sam--unsure and determined, desperate to have his own way even when he doesn't know what the hell he wants, and it makes Dean breathe easier even as it pisses him off. "It doesn't have to be her actual birthday. It's just…we never did anything, and I think it would be—nice. To, you know…"
"Celebrate?" Dean demands, and he doesn't get up from the bed, just feels every muscle lock into place, hard. "What's to celebrate, Sam? She's gone. She's dead, and we're - "
"And we're not," Sam interrupts him, and fuck, he's really set on this, all geared up for a real argument. "And she loved us, Dean. That's worth…something. Worth remembering. Don't you think?"
No one should be able to pull off belligerent sincerity, but Sam's master of the mixed emotion, always has been, and there's a lump in Dean's throat that stops him from arguing back. Egg roll. Yeah.
"I'm not singing the song," Dean gives in gracelessly, when he's got himself back under control, and it's worth it for Sam's smile—not big and blinding, but lopsided and relieved and more than he's seen in way too long.
"Shove over; we can eat while we watch," Sam commands, moving to take one last nervous glance from behind the heavy motel curtains, making sure he wasn't, what, followed home by the Feds from his nefarious night-time Chinese run?
"No player," Dean points out, even as he clears enough space for Sasquatch-boy, and tries not to roll his eyes when Sam grabs his laptop and flourishes it, all smug like he's found the answer to the meaning of life.
Sam drops the laptop on the end of the bed, and they lounge side-by-side like a couple of girls at a slumber party or something, and Dean really should complain, maybe shove his brother off the bed, but…
Hell. He'll figure something out. For now, Sam's shoulder against his is the best thing he's felt since—since Mom's hand on his face. Most real thing he's felt in a long while.
Then the movie starts to play, and he groans. "Dude. You're kidding me."
Sam doesn't look away from the screen, presses his lips hard together like he does when he's trying desperately not to grin.
"You got the freakin' remake?"
"It's a classic."
"It's a remake of a classic. A bad remake."
"Yeah, because Godzilla's cinematic gold."
And it's on the tip of his tongue – I can't believe we're related – except he can see the glint in Sam's eyes, the smirk he's completely failing to hide, and yeah, okay, maybe the Sam in his head was happy, but this Sam? This Sam is his little brother, because no way would he be able to piss him off so much otherwise.
"Bitch," he mumbles, quietly enough that he can pretend Sam didn't hear him if –
"Jerk," Sam finishes, j and k sharp, and bumps his shoulder against Dean's. And the world's maybe just a little less skewed, now, and a little more theirs.
"What's the other movie?" Dean asks then, because hell if he's watching another remake, and Sam actually looks away from the laptop, glances at him a little uncertainly.
"I--we don't have to watch--I just picked it up - "
Dean closes his eyes wearily. "Just spit it out, Sam."
"…Wizard of Oz."
He swallows hard, barely breathing, and fuck if he knows whether he wants to hit his brother or just curl up and cry, because it was all a goddamn dream. Except Sam's still staring at him, guilty but earnest, and Dean has a sudden premonition that some shit like 'you really are home now', all laden with Layers Of Meaning, is going to come spewing out.
So instead he lets his lips curl up, because yeah, some things are really better left unsaid or he might have to puke, and says, "Hey, Sammy, remember when the munchkins made you cry for, like, a year?"
"No, no, you begged me and Dad to hunt them – "
They watch both movies and Dean calls Sam Toto for a while, grabs him by the collar and gives him a hell of a noogie. Then Sam says, slapping him away, "You know that makes you Dorothy, right?" and okay, now it's time to shove him off the bed.