A Twist of Fate, A Desert Sun
Author: zephyrian
Pairing(s)/Main Character(s): Sam/Dean
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~6,200.
Spoilers: Through season three; no specific timeline beyond that.
Disclaimer: Supernatural characters and storyline are property of Eric Kripke and associated publishers/licensers.

Summary: When Dean is twenty-eight and his father is two years dead, he sees a dragon for the first time. Sam and Dean finally take that trip to the Grand Canyon.

a twist of fate, a desert sun

When Dean was twelve, he asked his father if dragons were real. John lowered his shotgun and said he'd never heard of one, but anything was possible. Dean told him, "Not Bigfoot," and John sort of ruffled his hair and nodded before taking out the werewolf they were hunting with one silver bullet. They got back to the motel stinking of blood, and Sam was fast asleep with a book of fairy tales clutched in his chubby arms. The cover illustration, a gigantic red-scaled dragon with a gaping black maw, bared its teeth at Dean as he walked by.

When Dean is twenty-eight and his father is two years dead, he sees a dragon for the first time. Sam is awake and beside him, this time, and they stand staring as a huge black thing rises up from the depths of the Grand fucking Canyon and sends every single tourist running and screaming.

Dean means to say something really insightful and witty, but the only thing that comes out of his mind is a half-hysterical, "Are you fucking serious?"

-

It's only a few minutes earlier that Dean is happily bitching about having to wear the weird required "scratch-proof" socks out onto the Skywalk and reading loudly from the brochure.

"Sammy, listen up," Dean says, flapping the thin pamphlet in Sam's face. "It says the Skywalk holds up to seventy tons and withstands winds of one hundred miles per hour. 'The Skywalk extends sixty-five feet beyond the edge of the Grand Canyon and offers an unprecedented view from four thousand feet about the ground.' Seventy tons, it says here that's about the weight of fourteen African elephants. That's a fucking lot, dude."

"That's a lot," Sam repeats quietly. He grips the railing with white-knuckled hands and looks down into the vastness of the canyon. It's been six months since Cold Oak and the Devil's Gate, since the deal and the day the clock began to wind down, and Sam still sometimes gets scary-quiet. Right now, he's got this expression on his face that Dean can't even begin to decipher, emotions without name there one second and gone the next. He's staring and staring at the rolling layers of shale, limestone, and sandstone as they spread out in countless colours to the horizon, and he's not saying anything.

Dean shifts, pulls his coat tight against the wind, and presses his palms against the protective glass wall. "Sammy," he says again, trying to coax his brother into talking, "check it out—"

Sam's eyes slide to where Dean is pointing and then away as he takes a fistful of Dean's leather jacket and yanks him back. "Watch it," he says, tone a little sharp.

"Really?" Dean rolls his eyes, exasperated. "I'm not gonna fall, man. What do you think the glass is for?"

Sam shrugs and falls silent again. Jesus. Dean took them to the canyon for a break, so they could be nothing more than tourists just for one day, but Sam is even more sullen than usual. He was smiling more last week at the close of their latest hunt, when he was standing ankle-deep in a trio of demons' abandoned vessels, than he is now.

"It's something else," Sam says finally, and for a few seconds Dean has no idea what he means or what he's referring to. Then Sam adds, softer, "The canyon. It's just." He snatches the brochure out of Dean's hands and reads it, mouth moving silently over each word. He looks dumb and Dean has half a mind to tell him so, except there's no way he ever would. There's a gentleness in Sam's gaze that renders Dean totally speechless. He looks at peace.

"I feel small," Sam says finally. "I feel so— tiny. It's nice, you know? Someday, I'm going to be gone and this is still going to be here. A hundred of my lifetimes from now this'll still be here."

Dean doesn't like thinking about a time when Sam's not around. It only gets worse when Sam says, "Standing here, I don't feel like the big hero anymore," and Dean is reminded that this is never the life that Sam wanted. He probably still wants the picket fence and beautiful wife and two point five kids.

Dean is distracted, blindsided by that thought, and that's why he doesn't notice the girl beelining for them until she's right there. She's pretty, all sharp angles and dark, gleaming hair, but then her eyes flick black and Dean has just enough time to think, Fuck, not here, when she runs at them. Dean reaches for the vial of holy water in his back pocket, but it's not an attack.

She tears past them and takes a wild flying leap upwards. She lands perfectly balanced on the railing, tiny hands closing over the thin sheet of glass separating her from the canyon below. And then—she's gone. She pushes upwards, tips, dives, and vanishes into the endlessness beneath the walkway.

The Skywalk erupts with noise. Dean's eyes are glued to where she went over, her graceful swan dive, and Sam is pulling at him frantically, because something colossal is rising up out of the rock and into the sky, blocking out the sun.

The dragon is huge and black and has several rows of shining, razor-sharp teeth, and after Dean has run out of expletives Sam says, "Holy fuck," because what else is there to say?

One flap of the dragon's mighty wings is enough to send Dean crashing back into the rail, and he's so woozy that it takes him a few moments to realise that it's now swooping towards them, mouth open wide. Dean stares frozen into the back of its red, red throat until Sam takes him by the shoulders and tugs, bellowing above the wind.

"How many elephants do you think that thing weighs?" is all Dean has time to say before one huge claw curls around the Skywalk. It creaks in protests, bends, and sends the remaining tourists who haven't yet run for their car screaming for solid ground. Dean's still laughing at his own wit when Sam heaves him bodily backward, closer to safety. "Fuck," Dean says, clinging on, and he's pretty sure his head is bleeding, because it hurts pretty damn bad, and also dragons exist, apparently. "Shit, it's a fucking dragon, Sammy."

Sam ignores him and then the Skywalk is snapping, cracking, coming apart under the weight of the dragon, and Dean takes a moment to think, This day was supposed to be normal, before Sam says, "Sorry," and hurls him into the air.

It must be a fluke of adrenaline, because Dean goes flying. He hits ground a few feet back from the edge but isn't down more than an instant, because Sam isn't there beside him. Sam, instead, is hanging for dear life onto a jagged jut of glass where the Skywalk used to be. Dean hears the thunderous shatter of glass against sheets of rock and then he's scrambling to where Sam is biting at the air, hissing, white with fear as he scrabbles for purchase in the empty red dirt.

The dragon is hovering in the air above them, beating wings against the air and gnashing its teeth. It waits, though, watches, as Dean gets an arm around Sam's chest and pulls desperately upward. "C'mon, Sam," he pants, grunting, and then Sam's got both arms for leverage and Dean is able to haul him up.

Sam collapses atop him, chest heaving, mouth red and open. Dean stares up into his face; Sam bit clean through his lip and Dean tosses away a brief impulse to thumb the blood away. "Dean," Sam whispers, breathless. His knee is pressed up between Dean's legs, elbows on either side of Dean's face. He sucks in a great big breath and Dean's close enough to feel it, and that's too close. He rolls out from under Sam and they break into a crawling run, falling back onto solid ground.

The dragon makes a sound like a laugh behind them, a great hacking growl and snap of teeth, and when they turn it cocks its head, feral smile glinting white and bloody.

Winchesters, it says, and it's talking inside Dean's head. A dragon is talking to him in his mind. It sounds like the ringing of church bells and the crackle of fire, like nothing he's ever heard. Thank you for setting me free.

"Son of a bitch," Dean roars, fumbling for the Impala's keys. "Don't tell me this is because of the fucking Devil's Gate!"

Sam breathes heavy and silent beside him, shielding Dean with his body while Dean struggles to get the Impala's trunk open. He finally gets it, stares down at the array of weaponry, and chances a look over his shoulder. "What the fuck kills dragons?" He has to yell over the wind. "Steel? Silver?"

Sam should know this. Sam probably does know this, but he's not listening to a word Dean's saying. Instead his eyes are swallowing up his whole face as he stares up at the monstrous beast above them. The dragon's red eyes are alight, and it opens its mouth and Dean catches a glimpse of glistening black before he mindlessly tackles Sam to the ground, getting them both out of the way. Sam makes a pained ouf noise when he hits the dirt and clutches his fists in Dean's shirt. "Steel," he says into Dean's collar. "It's steel. The machete, come on—"

Dean nods, lifts his head. The dragon is circling above them, hungry, thick black saliva dripping from its lips.

Thick black saliva that is completely covering his car.

"There's dragon goo on my baby," Dean howls, shooting to his feet. Beside him, Sam stands on shaky legs. He sort of looks like he's going to laugh, though, and Dean regrets saving him a little.

Sam stops smirking long enough to shout, "Dean, look out—" and Dean whirls too late. The machete he just grabbed is torn from his hands as the dragon sideswipes him, spitting. Dean hits the ground hard, scraping up his side, lungs burning, and has to roll blind to get out of the dragon's way as it makes its return. There's grit and viscous black saliva in his wounds.

You're mine, snarls the dragon in Dean's head. He feels a hot spray of breath above him and thinks dizzily, Fuck, what a way to go, but then the noise, the heaving choking breathing of the dragon, abruptly cuts off. Above him it wheezes instead, dissolving into wails of pain. Dean feels the air move as it thrashes, and he twists onto his back and sees that Sam has rammed the cold steel of the machete into the dragon's belly. Sam is wild-eyed, hanging onto the hilt of the blade for dear life as the dragon whips itself from side to side in an effort to dislodge him. It's slowly but steadily rising into the air, and Dean knows this could go south very fast. He can see it: Sam tossed into the air like a rag doll, disappearing into the depths of the canyon.

Then Sam lets go, leaving the machete lodged deep, and falls down five feet, landing hard on top of Dean.

It fucking hurts. Dean groans and coughs beneath him, his head aching something awful from the bang it took earlier. The dizziness hasn't worn off and he's sticky from rolling in dragon spit, his whole body red raw. High in the sky, the dragon is keening, and every time Dean blinks he thinks he sees a dark-haired girl writhing in pain instead. Out of nowhere it drops out of the sky, red-veined wings useless. The crash it makes when it hits the canyon floor is deafening.

"Ow," says Sam, as if he can only speak, move, get off now that the threat is gone. "Sorry, Dean." He climbs off and offers Dean his hand, looking triumphant. The expression on his face says, I killed a dragon.

Dean, grudgingly grateful, reaches upward to grab it—and gets a fistful of air instead. He blinks, waits until the world stops swaying, and tries again. He misses Sam's hand by a mile. Sam is starting to look worried and the world is going dark around the edges.

"Uh," Dean says. "I think we have a problem."

He feels as though he's about to pass out. He looks down at himself and at the disgusting black slime practically coating him, and his stomach bottoms out. Underneath his torn shirt there's an open gash down the front of his chest from hitting the ground that first time, and dragon saliva is smudged around and in it like sloppy stitches. "Pretty rookie mistake," he mumbles, and Sam drops to the ground beside him. Dean looks up. There's three Sams, but he speaks to the one in the middle. "You think it has, like. Poison. Poison goo. You don't think."

The three Sams look absolutely terrified. "Dean, oh god, Dean," they say, and the voice comes from the one in the middle. Dean feels proud of himself for not being fooled by some doppelgangers. "Dean, stay with me. Dean!"

"What're you freaking out about, Sammy?" Dean tries to say, but it comes out as a mumble that even he has trouble understanding. Dean wonders if he'll be able to see his brain if his eyes roll up any further in his head. He feels really fucking sick.

He doesn't realise Sam is hauling him up and into the car until he feels the cool leather of the Impala's back seats underneath him. Obediently he scoots up and spreads out, muttering in response Sam's hushed platitudes. The slam of the driver's side door slamming shut behind Sam makes Dean's head throb with pain.

"Bobby," Sam says a few moments later, desperate. Dean is halfway to correcting him on the slipup when he realises that Sam's on the phone. He turns his face towards the window. Man, he got poisoned by a fucking dragon. And again: fuck, what a way to go.

"Christ, Bobby, I don't know what to do," Sam says, and he sounds like he's close to crying. What a pansy. Dean secretly thinks it's sort of cute. Is that weird? "There was a dragon—no, I'm not fucking with you, a dragon—and it. I think its saliva was poisonous?" Pause. Sam sniffles. "It's Dean, Bobby. He's—totally out of it. He's. Bobby, what do I do?"

There's a longer pause this time, then Sam exhales raggedly and says, "Yeah. Thanks," and hangs up. He twists around in the front seat and eyeballs Dean for a long moment. He's chewing on his already busted lip. Dean means to reprimand him, but his mouth won't cooperate. His head is really heavy and his whole body is starting to pulse with a familiar ache. He thinks about landing hard on his side and wonders how bad the bruises will be.

Then Sam says, "Dean," all quiet and broken from the front seat, and Dean goes to sleep.

-

When he wakes up again, it's no longer the Impala's seats beneath him. Instead he's on a bed with an ugly florally patterned bedspread, and Sam is pacing in front of it. He can't know Dean's awake yet, because he's not bothering to hide how freaked out he is.

"There has to be a way, Bobby," Sam says desperately, and Dean catches sight through slitted eyes of the cell phone cradled between Sam's shoulder and cheek. "We don't even know if that's the right lore. It could be wrong. Outdated. We don't know for sure. Please don't tell me that." Sam runs his hands through his hair, trips in the rut he's making in the stained carpet. "I'm going to get him out of this, Bobby." Pause; Dean thinks he can hear Bobby shouting. "N-no, I—I know you do. I just." Sam slings a look at the bed where Dean is, and Dean doesn't shut his eyes fast enough. Sam makes a cut-off unhappy sound. "I have to go," he bites out into the phone. "Dean's awake."

He flips his cell shut without waiting for a goodbye and stumbles over his own feet crossing the room to Dean. Sam drops down heavily beside him on the flowery bed and smiles. It's a weird smile, an ugly smile. "Hey," he says. He sounds hoarse, like he's been yelling for hours. "How're you feeling?"

Dean props himself up on his elbows, winces at the pounding in his skull. "Not so hot," he says. He feels like he wants to throw up, but also like he has more control over his brain. It's an okay trade-off. "What did Bobby say?"

Sam swallows hard; Dean watches his Adam's apple bob in his throat. "He says, uh," Sam says, and twists his mouth in a miserable little smile. His eyes look red, puffy. "Nothing good," he admits, finally. "He thinks. He did some research and he thinks that you, uh, that you have about twelve hours. Less, now." Sam's voice is shaking. "And that there's no way to reverse it."

"Not even a day?" Dean blows out a big breath and stacks his pillows quietly against the headboard. It's a little hard to take in. He lets out a humourless laugh, shrugs. "Hey, well, you know. I was gonna kick it in a few months anyway."

Dean regrets it as soon as it's out of his mouth. Sam's face instantly twists in fury and he winds his hands in the lapels of Dean's jacket, shakes him so hard his head snaps back. "Don't say that, Dean," he hisses, so close the tips of their noses brush, Sam's stupid long hair falling in Dean's eyes. "Don't you fucking say that. Ever. You're not gonna. I won't let you—"

Dean shoves him off, biting down a retort. Sam sits back reluctantly, his fists still raised. He's wide-eyed like he doesn't know where the outburst came from, whole body juddering so violently his teeth nearly chatter. "It's old lore," he says after a moment, picking at the bedspread. "It might be wrong. I—I was thinking we could go to Bobby's. It's. It's a long drive, but we could help him look. Another two pairs of hands, we'd definitely find something—"

Dean waves a dismissive hand in the air. "I don't want to spend my last day with my nose buried in some damn old dusty book," he says. He doesn't miss the way Sam's whole body goes ramrod straight, frozen stiff, at the words. He just shrugs off his jacket and sinks back into the pillows a bit. "This place is all right. The wallpaper's ugly, but we got pay-per-view, right?" He motions to the little leaflet standing on top of the ancient television.

Sam's head is hung between his hunched-up shoulders, tension clear in every line of his body. "You don't even want to," he says. His head snaps up and his eyes are bright with anger. "You don't even want to fucking try to save yourself."

Dean shrugs. "It's been a good six months," he says in lieu of a real response. "Now how about you go out and get us beer and some pie, huh, Sammy?"

Sam stands, pushes away from the bed like it's hurting him to be near Dean. His eyes are squeezed shut and he knuckles them with shaking hands. He doesn't want to, and Dean toys with using the 'dying wish' excuse, but he thinks Sam might actually kill him. So instead he says, "Please. 'Cause you know, I. I kind of want to be alone right now, dude."

Sam whips around. He looks for the lie in Dean's face, but it's not there, because Dean's not joking, not really—for all of his bravado, his heart is beating a slow dull thump, scared and lead-heavy in his chest. He's probably got about ten hours left. Most of those hours he wants to spend wasted in front of porn with a plate of his favourite pie and his brother, but. But right now he wants Sam out of the room so that he can maybe, just maybe, punch holes in the wall and scream until he's hoarse.

He sees the instant Sam gets it, gives in. His shoulders drop and something in his expression cracks, falls away, and he says, "Okay," in a quiet voice that Sam doesn't use for anyone but Dean. He closes the door behind him with a near silent click, and Dean stands up, wobbles, and picks up the alarm clock on the bedside table. He yanks, breaking the cord, and then hurls it as hard as he can. It smashes into a vase next to the television; both fall to the floor with a crash.

Dean lurches towards the tiny bathroom and barely makes it to the toilet in time. He kneels there for countless minutes, the taste of bile in his mouth, his eyes stinging from the smell of it. He slumps against the cool porcelain of the seat until he hears the door creak open.

"Dean?" Sam calls uneasily. Footsteps pad to the open door, and then there's a smash—if Sam dropped his beer, Dean's going to kill something—and Sam is suddenly beside him, a hand on the small of his back, tender fingers in his hair.

"Oh, Dean," Sam whimpers, like he's the one whose expiration date is just about up. He rubs soothing circles into Dean's back and sits there with him until Dean doesn't want to scream anymore.

It turns out Sam stepped on the broken vase and the beer is fine, abandoned but whole on the bed closest to the door. Dean cracks a bottle open on his ring and slouches back against the pillows. He's suddenly not in the mood to watch porn, and his blueberry pie tastes like ashes in his mouth.

He sets it on the table with a sigh. Sam gives him a strange look and goes back to staring blankly at the snow on the television screen. "Are you sure," he starts after a while, then seems to think better on it. He goes back to biting his lip, gnawing off the scab. It starts to bleed again, dripping down his chin.

Dean rolls his beer between his hands, the condensation slipping down the bottle cool on his bare stomach. He abandoned his shirt a while back, but the room's still too hot. He wonders if that's the poison.

"Bobby might find something," Sam says, finally. He keeps shooting Dean weird looks from the other bed, and his eyes are shiny and wet. Dean has half a mind just to tell Sam to join him on his bed, because Sam obviously wants to do something very unmanly like hug or talk about feelings. Neither of which Dean wants to do on a regular basis, but certainly not now. Dean tells him to get the fuck over here anyway.

Sam slides in next to him without a word, mouth pursed and plush against the lip of his beer. He's barely taken a sip. "Bobby might," he says again.

"Or he won't," Dean says. He bites down on the urge to ask what time it is. He guesses about seven or eight hours, now. "Fuck."

Sam's eyes snap to him, and he looks terrified, childlike. His eyes are huge and dark. "Don't you want to see him before you," he whispers, and the last word hangs unspoken in the air between them. Sam shudders with it and takes a long drink of his beer. Dean can't help watching his throat move; he's always watched Sammy, never thought anything of it before. He's always stared as hard as Sam has stared at him.

"We could call him," Dean says, but they both know they won't. They won't call to say goodbye and Bobby won't call with a magic solution. Dean knows that like he knows the way to kill a vampire is by loping off its head and that you shoot werewolves with silver. He finishes his third beer. It finally starts to kick in, a low pleasant buzzing in his bones. He feels relaxed and drowsy and like he doesn't have a thought in his head. Porn starts to seem like a good idea, so he grabs the remote and undoes the button on his jeans.

Sam notices, winces, takes the remote away. "Please," he says, barely audible. "Please, Dean, don't."

Dean doesn't really know why Sam is so dead-set against it; he doesn't even know if it's the porn that Sam is dead-set against, but he doesn't argue. Silence fills the room, broken only by the occasional noise from Sam beside him. After half an hour, Dean twists his heavy head to the side and sees that Sam's nose is running, his eyes swollen and sore-looking. Dean groans and stumbles off the bed, into the bathroom. He needs to piss, needs to get away from Sam.

When he's washing his hands in the tiny, chipped sink, Dean hears Sam give a little cut-off sob. Dean stares, dead-eyed, into the filthy mirror and thinks, I don't want him to see this.

He comes out of the bathroom and doesn't send Sam away. Instead, he flops down on the bed, swallowing down the sick of his roiling stomach, and says, "Well, come on, Sammy. Anything you want to apologise for before I kick the bucket? This is the moment to come clean, dude."

Sam blinks at him like he can't quite believe what he's hearing. "What?" he says, and it cracks high and embarrassing. He looks away. "Fuck, Dean."

Dean shrugs, unapologetic. "C'mon. Get it all off your chest."

Sam shifts, breathes in slow and deep, tilts so he's on his side and staring at Dean across the tiny space between them. Dean tries not to be uncomfortable with the attention, but Sam doesn't stop fucking looking, not saying anything, until finally Dean loses it a little bit and sits up and growls, "Say something, goddamn it, just stop fucking ogling—"

Anything else he wanted to say gets swallowed up by Sam's mouth, Sam's mouth against his, because they're, oh holy fuck, they're kissing. Sam's huge hand is tight around Dean's shoulder and that's his brother's tongue inside his mouth, and Dean doesn't know what to do so he just goes very still.

Sam draws back and his mouth is shivering like he wants to speak but can't, his eyes huge, as if he can't believe what just happened. "I'm sorry," he says, finally. "I'm sorry I never stopped wanting to do that."

Dean runs to the bathroom and throws up again. He stumbles out when Sam rises to follow, right out of their room into the crappy motel hallway. He passes a drunken couple on his off-balance run for the stairs, but he doesn't stop until he's outside in the fresh air. It's a nice day, a beautiful sunset budding at the horizon— too nice, nice like nothing's wrong, like Dean's not gonna die in five hours because he rolled around in poisonous dragon spit, like Dean's heart isn't threatening to beat right out of his chest. He finds the Impala in the parking lot and locks himself into the driver's seat, curling up with both hands on the wheel and no key to put in the ignition.

He sits there until he realises he only has four and a half hours to find out what the fuck that was. Then he climbs out of his car on jelly legs and stumbles his way back to the room. It takes him five tries to find it, trying four locked, wrong doors and the last time bursting in on the drunk couple from earlier, but when he gets back Sam is in the same place as where Dean left him, slumped against the bathroom door. He looks surprised to see Dean back at all.

"I'm sorry," he says again, and it's just such a bad start that Dean holds a hand in the air to shut him the fuck up and crawls back onto his bed. Sam sits down too, but on the edge, facing away like he's ashamed. Dean's heart is pounding in his mouth and he doesn't know what any of it means.

"You just," Sam says, miserably, when he gets that Dean's not going to ask. "You told me to. I—I wanted to come clean."

Dean shuts his eyes, says, "Holy fuck, Sam," and they're the first words he's said since. He feels as if he hasn't talked in weeks; his own voice sounds foreign. There's only really one thing to say next. "How long?"

Sam doesn't hesitate. "That summer in Ohio. I stayed with Caleb. You went hunting with Dad. Came back all cut up. Called me Sammy and ruffled my hair and I knew I was in serious fucking trouble." He laughs a little, but it just sounds sad.

Dean struggles to keep his breathing even. "You were fourteen, Sam."

"I know." He shrugs. "Tried to stop. Couldn't."

Dean thinks about Sam that summer. He was growing into himself, all long limbs and big feet and nose, but even then Dean had seen how handsome his baby brother would become. And that hadn't seemed strange at the time, but looking back it jars him a little. He thinks about the kiss, thinks about Sam's soft mouth against his, insistent but not aggressive. Dean blinks his eyes open and focuses on the water stains in the ceiling. "Shit," he says, all eloquence, and the way Sam huffs a laugh makes Dean think he agrees.

"I'm sorry I did it," Sam says, a little pointlessly. Nervously he slides back on the bed beside Dean, folding his hands on his stomach. He's radiating tension and Dean's mind is still stuck on the kiss, on those long summer nights a million years ago when all Dean was able to do was think about Sam's bare back, tan with hacking wood for the winter fire, and Sam's stupid eyes and the mole beside his nose. It never seemed strange back then.

It's strange now, but not the way it should be. Dean takes a deep breath and goes with his gut, and it's never been wrong before but hell, what a time to start, and he rolls over on top of Sam. Sam blinks up at him, disbelieving, confused, and Dean sort of doesn't want to think about what he's doing. Except that's all he wants to think about, his brother's kissed-red mouth and just how fast they're sliding down this slope.

"Dean," says Sam, but he doesn't say anything else because Dean dips down and kisses him. It's a slow kiss, tentative, because Dean might be leaving it to Sam to push him away, to say no, that it's bad and wrong and fucked-up, but Sam just makes a tiny noise against Dean's mouth and wraps an arm around him, fits a hand to the curve of Dean's jaw.

"Why," Sam says against his lips, just a puff of breath. "Dean. Don't. Please don't do this to me. You don't—"

"Shut up," Dean says, because he does, he definitely does, even though he's not quite sure what Sam's saying. All he knows is he's thrumming with want and he's sure, so sure they were always building up to this. It took ten years, a whole lifetime, and maybe they're finally getting it right.

Sam's grip tightens and he rolls them over, pins Dean underneath him with a leg between Dean's and an arm on either side of his head, just like how they were earlier beside the canyon. Dean should've seen it then, because Sam reaches up and thumbs at Dean's lip like Dean had wanted to back then, but then they're kissing again and nothing really matters but the soft, wet heat of Sam's mouth.

"I don't want to die, Sammy," Dean says, whisper-soft. He buries his face in the crook of Sam's neck like he can bury that truth there, bites gently at the junction where Sam's throat meets his shoulder. Sam shudders against him, palms his hair.

"I know, Dean," he breathes. "You won't, okay, you won't while I'm around, I won't let it happen, not ever—"

They're empty words, empty promises, and Dean is so scared he can taste it. Less than four hours now; the sky is dark and Dean can hear the rumble of thunder overheard. Typical, fucking typical. He hides how he's shaking in the sharp corners of Sam's body, pressed tight like he might be able to sink in and vanish. Sam is pressing kisses to the top of his head, murmuring nothings and everythings and in a hushed, hushed tone those three words that under any circumstances make Dean's stomach drop. Sam's saying I love you like he doesn't expect Dean to say it back, like he just wants Dean to know, so Dean tucks his face into Sam's neck again and mouths at the skin under his lips those three little words. Sam can't hear them, can't feel them, and maybe Dean won't ever say it to his face, but Sam knows, must know.

"Can we," says Dean, once he's sure his voice is strong enough to speak. He pulls and pushes until he and Sam are lying side by side on a bed that suddenly seems too big, curled in towards each other. "Can we just lie here," because he's shaking too badly to do anything else, and he just really wants to kiss Sam until time runs out.

Sam nods, silent, and cards a hand through Dean's short hair. They press closer in together until there's barely room to breathe in the shared space between their mouths. Dean sort of wants to cry, turn away and have a good proper cry for his brother, for the time they didn't have and what they could've had, for Bobby and his father and his mother and all the people he's saved over the years. Instead, Dean ghosts his fingers along Sam's jaw, watching Sam's chest rise and fall where its pressed against him.

They lie there for hours, until the storm has passed and taken away with it the booming thunderclaps that rang like clock chimes in Dean's head. Dean says, "Any moment now," and tries to smile, but Sam looks down at him and says, "Yeah," in this tiny little voice, like it's killing him.

Dean shuts his eyes. "Go to sleep, Sammy," he says in a whisper, as if it's all a dream and he'll be able to roll out of bed a few hours from now and bitch about the lack of coffee while Sam researches the next hunt, except it would be different because Dean knows, now, and instead of bickering and shoving each other like they would have done, he would push Sam up against the wall and trace Sam's body with his tongue.

Sam's breath, slowly, so slowly, evens out. Dean tries to mimic him and eventually the world whites out.

-

Dean startles awake with the sun streaming in through the cracked blinds and Sam's body under his hands. He knows the exact moment Sam comes awake, because his breathing suddenly sharpens, speeds up, and they sit up at the exact same time.

"You," Sam says, wondrous.

Dean turns, squints into the light outside the window, then back again. "Me," he says. He can't quite believe it.

Sam's whole face lights up in a blinding grin and then he's winding his arms around Dean, pulling him in close. Except it's not a hug, because Sam has a finger on Dean's chin and is tipping his face up for what is possibly the best kiss Dean has ever had. Dean scrabbles over him, hands up around Sam's face, holding him firmly in place because he has no plans to move any time soon. He pours everything into this kiss, relief and disbelief and the love he hasn't quite worked up the courage to admit, and life.

Bobby calls and Sam answers it beaming. "We're okay, Bobby," he says, a little wild-eyed, and nods, running a hand through his hair. It's such a Sam thing to do that Dean is thrown by it, that he's still here to see it. "Yeah," Sam says, quieter. "We're on our way."

"Bobby wants us to come see him," Sam says as he flips his phone shut, standing and grabbing his duffel. "He wants the scoop on the dragon."

"You killed a dragon," Dean says, because they never really got the chance to celebrate and because it means so much more, and Sam smiles, intimate because he knows what Dean is saying.

"I killed a dragon," he echoes, and they pack up their bags and leave the motel. It would be just like any other morning, except before Sam circles around to his side of the car, he presses Dean up against the Impala and kisses him until they're both breathless.