Title: Phases of the Moon
Universe: SPN
Theme/Topic: N/A
Rating:PG-13 for language and me being gross.
Character/Pairing/s: Dean, Sam (mentions of DeanxCas, though it's not really the point)
Spoilers/Warnings: Set in an alternate S6.
Word Count: 5,590
Summary: a sequel to "Curvature of the Earth"- The one where Dean doesn't have commitment issues because Sam has them for him.
Dedication: for myxstorie and pinkpapyrus- thank you both for helping me beta "One Thousand and One NEWS NIPPON Nights." I know it was a daunting task. ;_;
A/N: I don't know, I just really wanted to use the LOTR reference, okay. That is the entire basis for this story. No really. That and I didn't want to write anything useful today. Anyway, you should probably read the first story for this one to make any sense. Even then, it might be iffy. And I was trying to be funny in this, I swear, but thinking back on it a few hours later I realize I was just kind of gross. MY BAD.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended. All is just for fun.

Everyone always talks about how Dean is supposed to look out for Sam, like it's his job or his destiny or his punishment for heinous crimes in a past life or something. Sam knows this because everyone always seems to want to talk about it to him.

With John, it had always been Sam's mistakes being Dean's fault because Dean was supposed to be "watching him," and "keeping an eye on him," and "protecting him." Sam remembers how he had railed and screamed and tried to explain to their father that his mistakes weren't actually mistakes, and that if there was anyone to blame it would be John for being the one who is actually wrong. That had always been about the time Dean would hastily smack Sam, or punch him, or clamp a hand over his mouth, apologize to Dad, and drag Sam off to cool his head (at least until Sam had gotten bigger than Dean and he couldn't anymore).

After those fights with Dad, Dean would always tell Sam that Dad was in the right, and that he shouldn't argue with him like that. Sam remembers the lines around the edges of his brother's eyes at those times, how they'd made him look older and a lot like Dad did when he thought no one was watching. Back then, Sam had kind of hated that Dean was always on Dad's side.

With Bobby, Sam had always heard, maybe not the softer side of the same argument John had thrown at him, but at the very least, the deeper side of it. "Your brother just wants to make sure you're safe, son," or "He blames himself for every damned stupid stunt you pull, you know," Bobby would say in that even tone of his, the one that told Sam if he tried to argue that Dean's sense of responsibility was pointless or misplaced, Bobby would kick his ass, and even Dean wouldn't be able to save him from it (though he'd obviously try anyway).

Add to that a slew of people who are basically strangers commenting on Dean's overprotective tendencies, and it's like Sam's got an entire Supernatural book's worth of third-person accounts about how much Dean takes care of him. Off the top of his head he can remember that cop in Michigan who had caught a thirteen-year-old Dean shoplifting at the 7-11 while a hungry Sam had waited outside; the man had pulled Dean out of the shop, taken one look at Sam, and had understood exactly what was happening. "I get that he's gotta look out for you," the officer told Sam later, as he and Dean had been held at the precinct while someone tried to find John, "so we won't tell your Dad about the shoplifting, at least this time. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Sam had said, and didn't think about it much more than that at the time because the cops kept giving him donuts.

Similarly, Sam's first high school girlfriend had broken down laughing when Dean had caught them at the movie theater after Sam had snuck out of the house they'd been renting one Saturday night; Dean had thought he'd been kidnapped or something and had freaked out all over town looking for him. The girl, her name was Silvia, had, in-between giggles, breathed that she understood exactly how mortified Sam must have felt at that moment, when his brother had stormed into the theater wielding a shotgun and a crazed look in his eye. "I have an over-protective older brother too," Silvia had told him, and patted his shoulder comfortingly.

She'd never wanted to make out with him again after that, though.

And those are just some of the more memorable incidents. Sam can't even count the number of times over the years little old ladies or teachers or friends' moms had looked at Dean and offhandedly told Sam, "Aren't you lucky that your big brother takes such good care of you?"

Sam knows, okay. Since the tender age of four, Dean has been charged with the very serious task of being Sam's keeper. It's like to the rest of the world, the brothers Winchester are in a wacky remake of The Lord of the Rings or something. Sam is the ring because he's pretty and shiny and everyone wants a piece of him, but on the flip side, dark forces also want to use him for evil things and sometimes bad things happen to good people just because he's around.

Dean might be that hobbit then, the one with the gay-for-him BFF that pulls him out of the volcano, and hey, this comparison is starting to work out really surprisingly well, which is impressive, because Sam had come up with it just now, completely on the fly.

But that's beside the point. The point of this entirely too long preamble is that the world knows Dean watches over Sam. It's not exactly news.

What is news, and what Sam would like everyone to know, okay, is that it's not an entirely one-sided gig, despite how the books might portray it, or how the TV show that's in development will portray it, or how whatever the hell those girls are writing on the internet is making it out to be.

Dean looks out for Sam, okay sure, fine. Sam gets it. Everyone does.

But what everyone else might not know is that Sam looks out for Dean too. And not just in a perfunctory, we're always around each other so I can't help but notice these things way, either. Sam watches out for Dean with the same intensity that Dean watches out for Sam; they just show it in different ways. Dean eats his feelings about it or cries to himself in corners at night. He has nightmares about abandonment or failure or whatever, and they manifest in commitment issues and mild alcoholism and a life centered on self-sacrifice so as not to disappoint his family.

Sam, on the other hand, gets a little OCD about watching over Dean.

He notices Dean's sleeping patterns. He notices the extra bacon on the burgers, or the tear-stains on his brother's pillow in the morning. He notices when Dean drinks liquor instead of beer and when he drinks beer instead of liquor and he knows what that means, and sure, these types of things may not be as grand a gesture as selling a soul to bring someone back from the dead is, or even close to something like giving your bratty kid brother the last of that cereal you really, really wanted back when you were twelve. Sam's not Dean, so he's not wired like that.

But for Sam, all of the little things he does, all the little things he notices, mean that he's watching, that he cares, and that in the end, he'll do whatever he needs to do to take care of Dean, to keep his brother happy.

What Sam is trying to say here is that sure, all of this could be construed as mildly stalkerish behavior or something on his part, but the intention behind it is pure. He's doing it out of love and a desire to watch out for Dean at least as much as Dean watches out for him.

This lengthy and detailed prologue is necessary because the actual beginning of the story might be misconstrued by perverted fangirls as something incestuous and creepy. It's not; Sam has already clarified as such by saying he just notices things about Dean, okay, so just don't even go there.

Anyway. Things happen like this:

Sam, in his lifetime of living on the road, hustling cash, scamming credit cards, and on the occasional, desperate occasion, outright conning some poor sucker out of his hard-earned money, has learned that keeping a careful track of your expenses can be the difference between starving on the streets or getting wanted posters with your name and a reward for your capture displayed in every post office and police station across the country. The trick about life on the hunt is to make sure that you don't have nothing, but that you don't have too much of anything, either.

So Sam, being the fiscally responsible Winchester brother, always makes sure to develop a detailed budget in advance for the cash they have on hand; there is cash needed to hustle more cash (you need money to make money in this world), cash for drinks, cash for toiletries, gas, food, hunting supplies. In terms of each of these funds, there are certain red-lines you can't let yourself dip under unless you're okay with the nose-diving tailspin that ensues, the one that can only end in you having to pull a last-minute pyramid scheme with your brother on some poor, unsuspecting suburban home association just so you can get a burger and a fresh tank of gas out of town.

It's just the truth.

So, when Dean has his non-gay-crisis in his now emotionally-uncomplicated life with his angelic BFF and they consummate it in a series of night-long rolling blackouts across central Florida (to Sam's utter horror and dismay), there are, as Sam is prone to noticing, certain changes he can expect to make in the budget as a result of this new development in their lives.

And this is the part that can be misconstrued as weird or wrong, but it's not, it just is. Sam can't stress that enough here.

Three months after that brain-scarring first night in Panama City, Sam realizes that Dean is no longer buying condoms.

Which, yes, is a gross thing to notice about your brother in general, but when your brother is Dean, and you've had a lifetime of dealing with his particular brand of crazy, you can't help but learn to read little things like that as a sign of something greater.

Really, in the Dean Winchester Dictionary of Significant Gestures, this development is probably as poignant as a marriage proposal. It's like the world's most incredibly indirect way of saying "you're the one, please don't leave me, I need you forever," or something. In other words, it is totally Dean, and Sam is probably one of the only people left on this earth who is fluent enough in his brother's dumbassery to interpret it correctly.

In addition to the condoms thing, Sam is also pleasantly surprised when he notices that Dean is under-spending in his alcohol and porn allotments too. Sam could make a pie chart that would directly and empirically correlate what all of this means if he really needed to, but in general, Sam, with his infinite wisdom in all things Dean, is comfortable saying that right now, Dean is happy, and all signs point to the incredibly gross, way too frequent angel-sex as the cause.

Naturally, Sam is happy that Dean is happy. It's just a bonus that Dean's happy means there is more leftover petty cash for organic food, because Sam got more than enough artificial colors and growth hormones in his Chef Boyardee growing up, thank you very much.

In either case, those are all of the reasons why, as weird (and maybe gross and un-PC) as it may seem to any normal person, Sam begins to associate Dean's emotional well-being with condom-less sex.

It makes sense. After all that, how can it not?

Everything goes fine for almost six months. And by fine, Sam means fine by Winchester standards. Sure they almost die at least once a week, suffer a few broken bones every now and again, and have more close calls with law enforcement officials than they'd like crossing state lines, but as for the other stuff—the interpersonal stuff— Cas and Dean settle into this kind of adorable routine of waking up after their power-surging nighttime shenanigans, having breakfast together, and then going their respective ways to work, almost like normal married people do, except that Dean shoots things for a living and Cas could probably blow stuff up with his mind if he tried.

Further developments on the plus side of this new domestic era in their lives reveal that Cas is still Sam's pal despite all the sexing-of-Sam's-brother, because Cas sometimes takes Sam's side in arguments and has even agreed to whisk Dean away for the majority of their one-on-one time, so Sam doesn't have to wish for brain bleach or sleep in the Impala with his knees against his chest while crying and rocking on most nights.

It's all good, as far as Sam can see. Everything is going well, almost six months later. It's unexpected, but good. Uncomplicated, like Dean had wanted.

Which of course, by Winchester standards, is also way too long for something not to change.

This is just how they roll.

Right before the official six month mark following what Sam has (somewhat) affectionately been calling his Brain Rape in the Sunshine State, everything Winchester and fucked up finally catches up with them in the most unexpected way, as it is inevitably wont to do.

"I'm going to the 7-11," Sam announces, the evening after they kill a liver-eating kumiho living under an all-you-can-eat barbeque restaurant in Texas, of all places. "Do you need anything?"

Dean somehow manages to frown thoughtfully without actually tearing his eyes away from the screen, where there is a Dr. Sexy MD marathon playing on basic cable because it's the weekend and people aren't actually expected to be indoors watching TV.

Sam already knows Dean will only need a six pack of beer and some chips, mostly because they don't need to go out to hustle tonight and Dean hasn't trolled a bar for fun for months. Plus the stitches from the gash in Dean's side from where the kumiho had tried to eat his liver earlier kind of limits his mobility. Probably.

So when Sam asks Dean if he needs anything else, mostly he just expects requests like toothpaste, or deodorant, or shampoo that doesn't smell like girl.

Thus, it surprises the hell out of Sam when Dean doesn't say any of those things, but says instead, "Busty Asian Beauties should have the ski bunny special issue out today."

Sam stares, because in a length of time when there had been little to no porn, sudden, glaring porn is kind of a sign that means something foul is afoot. Like the bat signal. But for Dean. The Dean signal.

Sam decides to proceed with caution. "Uh… okay. Anything… anything else?"

Dean is still frowning at the TV as he watches Dr. Sexy and the new hot intern go to town on each other in the MRI when he adds, "Some condoms would be good."

Again, Sam would just like to pause in the narrative and say that gas is expensive nowadays and they don't exactly have a fixed income, so hold off on judging them on the things they have to buy for each other sometimes, please. Besides, it's not every day someone has something try to eat their liver, so there's that to take into account too. It's not like Dean can just go out and buy condoms himself like this. He'll tear his stitches and end up bleeding all over the place and Sam will probably have to clean it up.


Resuming the story, Dean's request for condoms and porn just makes Sam stop. "Dean," he asks, after a beat of hanging out in the doorway like a weirdo with the keys in his hand and his jacket draped over his forearm, "is everything okay?"

Dean is still frowning at the TV. "Obviously not, numb nuts," he answers, and Sam prepares himself to sit down and talk and maybe watch Dean eat his feelings and cry into his pillow, like in the old days.

Then Dean gestures to the TV, looking irate. "That new intern is only sleeping with him so he'll pay attention to her during rounds. What a slut. Hot, but a slut."

Sam blinks. "Dean," he repeats, and is too concerned to be embarrassed when his voice comes out a little high-pitched and worried, "are you and Cas seeing each other tonight?"

The sound of Cas's name is what finally pulls Dean's eyes away from the screen. "Cas?" he asks, and blinks for a minute. "Nah, man. He's got a thing tonight. I was actually thinking of going out, grabbing a drink. Been a while since you'n me hit the bars just for fun, right?"

Sam stares. "Dean," he says, and it's the saddest thing ever when he does.

Dean blinks. "Sam," he answers. He looks at his brother strangely. "You going, or what?"

Sam sighs. "Yeah, I'm going," he says.

"Don't scratch the car," Dean grunts after him, and turns back to the TV.

Sam stands and gives Dean one last, mournful look over his shoulder before heading out the door.

So Sam knows Dean has commitment issues. He tries, he really does, but there's always this fear in him, that everything he builds is going to be torn apart, so maybe he should be the one to pull out all the seams first.

Sam hadn't been a psych major at Stanford, but he'd taken the intro course. This is one of the three things that he's learned from it.

The second thing he's learned is that a lot of the time, a person has to realize he or she has a problem on his or her own before anyone can do anything about it.

The third thing he's learned is that after there is acknowledgment of a problem, a person has to be willing to talk about that problem in order to deal with it healthily.

These are the first things Sam tries to do with Dean.

Sam comes back from the 7-11 a little while later with chips and a six pack of Red Tire for Dean and a new toothbrush for himself, which was why he'd been planning to go the convenience store in the first place. Dean digs around in the bag for a while before blinking in confusion. "Where's the condoms?" he asks. "Did you at least get the ski bunnies?"

Sam coughs. "Oops. I must have forgot."

Dean gives him this look, which is punctuated with that thing he does with his eyebrows that is code for I thought you were supposed to be smart. But then he sighs and grabs the bag of chips and tears it open. "Whatever, I'll go get them myself later."

"Will you?" Sam asks, and eyes Dean weightily.

His only answer is another strange look, with extra emphasis on Dean Winchester's Amazing Eyebrow Circus. Who knew they could furrow that much on a single face? "Sam," Dean asks, carefully, "is something wrong?"

Sam's response is to look soulfully into his brother's eyes and say, meaningfully, "I don't know, Dean, is there?"

Dean grunts, makes another freaked-out face at him, and turns back to the TV with his chips and his beer.

Sam sighs.

The more Sam thinks about it, the more he realizes that maybe Dean's commitment issues with Cas aren't entirely unfounded.

First of all, there's the whole interspecies thing. That's kind of weird. People will probably judge them. Dean hates that. Being judged. That kind of goes with the gay thing too, Sam presumes, which Dean is supposedly over, but you can never tell with these things.

Second, there's the whole Cas is basically immortal thing. So Dean will get old, and what, Cas won't? Sam realizes it's probably kind of optimistic to think about growing old considering what he and Dean do with their lives, but he's always liked being a positive thinker. Either way, it's definitely going to be hard to explain that Cas is not Dean's grandson in fifty years.

Third, Dean doesn't want to be the reason Cas gets in trouble for anything (at least, in any more trouble than he already has). Sure, Cas is head honcho upstairs for the time being, but what if God decides to come back from his douchecation one of these days and finds Cas having his forbidden fruits with the righteous man? Sam is pretty sure that if Cas gets smote (again) for Dean that Dean will eat his feelings into a heart attack on purpose.

Last, and probably most of all, there's Dean's issues with Sam. Sam personally doesn't like thinking about this, but it's there and he knows it; Dean always secretly worries that one day, if push comes to shove and he has to choose between Sam and someone else he might love, he might do the unthinkable and betray the entire Winchester bloodline by hesitating before ultimately choosing Sam.

These, Sam admits, are heady, terrifying issues. He's even starting to wonder himself if maybe Dean and Cas should call it quits now, while they're still ahead.

But Sam tells himself that is not the point of this exercise, and that he is the one watching out for Dean right now. He can't help but feel like that means keeping Cas.

While Sam is busy thinking these deep and important thoughts, Dean gives his brother a judgmental look and limps out of the hotel room, presumably to buy his own condoms and porn.

He doesn't come back for a long time.

Sam finds him hours later at a bar in town.

By "finds him" Sam means Dean called him and told him where he is, and asked if he wanted to join him, because there are lots of pretty girls at this bar and even a hulk like Sam might get lucky if he isn't too gloomy or thinky around them.

Sam is forced to walk to the bar because Dean had taken the car, and on the way, he looks up at the moonless night sky and can't help but think that it's an omen or something, like the fadeout ending to what had otherwise been a really good half of a year.

More than that, he keeps wondering what his brother is thinking, and whether or not Cas has figured out how to summon lightning bolts down to specific points on the earth yet. Would he fry Dean for cheating?

The thought increases his pace, and when he finally gets to the bar, he has no problem finding Dean amidst a pair of cute co-ed admirers, as he tutors them on how to throw darts properly. Not everyone present is sober.

"Sammy!" Dean greets, when he sees his brother gaping at him from the doorway. "Ladies, this is my brother Sam."

The girls turn their harpy, homewrecking eyes on Sam and smile. "Dean was telling us all about you," one says, and Sam doesn't care which of the embarrassing naked bath time stories Dean broke out this time, that is not what is important right now. What is important is whether or not Cas can summon lightning from the sky like Zeus and scorch Sam's brother to death where he stands for being a cheating cheater.

"Can I talk to you?" Sam says, without taking his eyes off of Dean.

Dean gives him another one of those weird looks. "Uh, sure. Girls, practice what I showed you."

The girls giggle between themselves and converge agreeably around the dart board while Dean walks up to Sam and gives him that patented big-brother moue of concern. "Dude, is everything alright? You're making poop face."

Sam makes an abortive gesture with his eyes as he hastily pulls Dean into one of the booths by the window. "Dean," Sam says, voice low as he keeps looking out the window every few seconds to make sure no sudden storms are rolling in, "I get it, okay, I do. But you can't live like this. It's not healthy."

Dean blinks at him from across the table. "Okay," he starts after a moment, "well I'm glad one of us gets whatever it is, because I have no idea what you're talking about."

Sam huffs to himself. "I know that you have questions about this thing with Cas, okay?" he starts again, and tries to use his most sympathetic face while still surreptitiously checking the weather from the window. "But this is definitely not the way to deal with it. I mean yeah, he's an angel, and you know, in charge of heaven, and that's probably terrifying…"

"I dunno, I think it's kind of cool. It's like having sex with Superman," Dean interrupts, with this little half smile on his lips that Sam can't quite place.

Sam shakes his head, giving his brother a look that says Dean can try to bravado his way out of this one all he wants, it won't work. "You're scared about how you feel about him, obviously. I mean, don't think I didn't notice. Buying porn? Condoms? You're acting out because you've been serious for months and it's been too good for too long and you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. But cheating is not the answer…"

Dean gets this convincingly bewildered look on his face as he holds up a hand to shut Sam up. "Woah, woah, woah, stop. Back up. What do buying porn and condoms have to do with cheating? You're not going all born-again on me or something, are you?"

"Dean, you stopped buying porn and condoms nearly three months ago," Sam points out, decisively.

Dean stares at him with a look that says he's completely weirded out now and that he might start trying to exorcise whatever has decided to possess his brother today at any moment now, public place or not. "Yeah," he begins, slowly. "After Cas and I hooked up. And?"

Dean has obviously had too much to drink, despite the fact that he's injured and had taken antibiotics earlier today. Sam sighs. "And then, after dating Cas for nearly six months to the day, you suddenly start wanting to buy them again, just like that? Don't you see what you're doing here?"

Dean looks like he's having a hard time wrapping his mind around what Sam is suggesting, so Sam decides to just go ahead and fill in the blanks for his brother, because clearly that whole realizing your own problems and choosing to talk about them in order to fix them thing is psychology for normal people and not for Dean Winchesters. "You're freaking out about the whole you and Cas thing and you're trying and sabotage it before it gets any further by coming out here and hooking up with the first pretty girl—or girls—you see. Which, I get, I do. I mean, yeah, there are issues about you and Cas. Tons of them. Like weird questions about the future, and whether or not God comes back, or if you'll ever have to choose between him and me. It's freaky, right? I mean, I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing in your shoes."

Dean's eyes narrow. "Oh really?"

"Yes, Dean. But I want you to know that it's okay to be scared. I'm a little scared for you, man. But you've just been so happy these six months and I don't want you to…"

"Five months, thirty days," Dean corrects, abruptly.

Sam blinks. "Right. Whatever. What I'm saying is…"

"Sam, shut up for a second," Dean interrupts again, and his tone is downright insulted now. Dean's eyebrows keep furrowing lower and lower on his head; it makes his face look squishy.

Sam glares. "I will not shut up, Dean. This is important."

Dean rolls his eyes and reaches into his pocket to pull out his cell phone. Then he starts scrolling through it, right then and there. Sam can't believe it. "Dean, I'm having a serious conversation here!" he protests.

Dean doesn't respond, he just finds whatever it is he's looking for and shoves the phone into Sam's face. "Don't blame me for any more brain-scarring after you read this," is all he says, and from there, Sam is forced to take the phone and look at the screen.

On it is a text message. It says this:


I will see you on Sunday evening after the Cherubs have conducted their general election. I am very interested in trying your suggestions, though I don't wish to make a mess in the library. Also, what constitutes as "librarian like" clothing and where would I get it?

3 Castiel

Sam stares at the message.

"Is that a heart?" he asks, after what feels like a very long time. His voice is surprisingly steady, all things considered.

Dean nods. "You want to read my reply, or do you get the picture?"

Sam can't help it when the general mental image of a naughty schoolboy Dean and nerdy Librarian Cas roleplay scenario gone horribly wrong flashes through his mind by way of explanation. He's always been a visual thinker like that. "Ugh," he says when he can't unsee it, and pushes the phone back across the table at Dean.

Dean leans closer and lowers his voice a little. "You know, he catches me sneaking porn into the library and has to show me what a bad boy I am. That's what the stuff was f…"

"Stop, please," Sam hisses. "I get it."

Dean chuckles, before his expression softens and he looks at Sam in a touched, weirdly happy sort of way. He clears his throat. "Six month anniversary thing or whatever is actually tomorrow," he clarifies, voice inexplicably gruff. "We have plans."

Sam is torn between being relieved and incredibly grossed out. "Obviously," he answers, and groans into his hands. After a moment, he chances another tentative sideways look at his grinning brother. "So… you're really okay?"

Dean snorts. "I'm good. You know, besides the whole almost got my liver eaten thing."

"No, not that. I mean about…everything. You're not freaking out about you and Cas and this whole half year thing at all?"

Dean shrugs. "Not yet. And clearly not as much as you are."

Sam figures that's as serious as Dean's going to get. "But you might?"

"I dunno, Sammy, maybe. But right now I'm pretty okay. Right now I feel like I'm all in, you know?"

"All in?"

Dean half shrugs again. "I'm just gonna go with that, see where it takes me. And not gonna lie, I'm really looking forward to getting some action in the stacks."

Sam rolls his eyes; clearly that is the end of serious Winchester bonding moment. "Fine, whatever. I'm never talking to you about anything ever again."

"Don't make promises you can't keep, princess," Dean chortles. "But hey, Cas'll be happy to hear you care so much about whether we work out or not despite our many issues," he adds after a beat, because he is an asshole. The telltale push of cell phone buttons tells Sam that Dean is texting his cute angel boyfriend all about it right the hell now.

"Hate you," Sam says, and eyes Dean balefully.

"You say that now," Dean answers, still texting, "but there are two cute women's studies majors over by the dart board who know exactly how badly you need to get laid tonight. The vibes I'm getting say they would not say no to a threeway."

Sam perks a little bit. "What, really?"

Dean finishes his text and looks over his shoulder towards the dart board. He catches the girls' eyes and then does this obnoxiously obvious jerk of his head towards Sam, which earns him a bunch of sly smiles and thumbs ups in return. "All signs point to yes," he confirms, as he turns back to his brother.

Sam feels himself flush a little, and Dean looks like he's king of the world. "So I'm gonna go finish telling them that story about the time you wouldn't let Dad abandon that injured dog on the side of the road," Dean says as he stands, while clapping Sam on the back once. "You can just swoop on in whenever you feel like sealing the deal, because the puppy story never fails."

Dean swaggers back to the ladies, very obviously laughing to himself about the whole day. Sam just huffs—inevitably feeling a little amused about everything that happened as well— and finds himself leaning against the window to cool his head a little. The condensation on the glass is nice against his skin, and when he looks out across the parking lot, he can't help but note that the distant sky is still calm and peaceful. Even though it's darker than usual out without the moon there to light the way, it somehow only serves to make the stars around it seem all the brighter.

And hey, just because he can't see it at this very moment doesn't mean it isn't still there, right?

Besides, Sam, of all people should know that when Dean decides fully he's all in for something, that really means he's all in, sometimes to the point of freaky, unhealthily codependent and self-sacrificing levels.

That's just how Dean's always been with the things that matter. Sam's nowhere near the same way, but he shows he cares by understanding that about his brother.

Eventually, Sam takes a deep breath, waits a minute or two to collect himself again, and then goes to usurp Dean's teaching position at the dart board with the cute grad students before his brother actually does end up ripping his stitches while trying to be a showoff.

The two of them have always watched out for each other like that.