With deep thanks to my newest selfless editor, Jenifer.
K Hanna Korossy
Sam snapped his head up from the table, not sure what had awakened him.
That question was quickly answered in the form of his brother standing over him, arms crossed and face creased with the exact same expression he'd worn the last thirty years whenever he found Sam curled up asleep atop a book, from Dr. Seuss to JRR Tolkien to Tobin's Spirit Guide. The one that tried to be annoyed and just looked reluctantly fond.
Sam blinked back, straightening up, and winced as vertebrae all the way up to his skull protested. Something that had changed since his Seuss days.
"And that, Sammy, is why we sleep in bedrooms instead of libraries." Dean smacked him gently on the head. "Come on, Man of Letters, time for bed."
Sam groaned as he climbed to his feet, stretching the shoulder that was still sore from the Nazi goons tossing him about. He didn't even bother to shove his brother away as Dean grabbed his arm and wheeled him toward the living quarters wing of their new headquarters instead of, huh, the table he'd been about to walk into. Sam yawned, smacked his lips, then mumbled over a shoulder, "G'night, Dean."
"Good night, John-Boy," Dean cheerfully replied.
Sam snorted and stumbled on to his room.
He hadn't really cared what room he got—unlike Dean, who had intently studied each bedroom and, Sam was pretty sure, had even taken some measurements before choosing one—but once his brother had picked, it seemed a given that Sam would end up in the one directly across the hall from him. In unspoken agreement, they both left their doors open at night, neither of them used to the quiet of sleeping alone.
Sam shuffled inside, took one look at the dresser where he knew freshly washed sweats were stashed—another thing in which Dean had taken great delight was having their own washing machine and dryer, albeit some really ancient models—and decided, to heck with it. He crashed headlong onto the bed fully clothed, sighing as his body sank into a mattress that was decidedly more soft than the library tables. He did take the effort to toe his sneakers off, and stretched out on the bed.
And kept stretching. And still didn't reach the end of the mattress.
The puzzle was enough to rouse Sam from his sleepy stupor. Baffled, he pushed up on one elbow to gaze down the length of the bed. A bed that was now easily a foot longer than the one he'd slept on the night before, when his ankles hung off the bottom.
Come to think of it, the mattress was softer, too, feeling less like forties-era hard springs and more like the kind of cushiony mattress-top he'd last had at Stanford. And it was in an honest-to-God dark wood bed frame with a headboard and everything instead of the basic cot the bedrooms had originally come equipped with.
Sam smiled to himself. Dean. Who'd listened to him complain for years about too-short beds and too-hard mattresses.
"Thanks, man," he called toward the door, knowing his brother would be close enough to hear.
"Shut up and go to sleep," the response came back immediately.
Sam huffed a laugh, and obeyed.
He'd forgotten to take clothes into the bathroom with him, again.
Sam had never not had an en suite bathroom. It was a given in motel rooms, and the apartment he'd shared with Jess also had a master bath. Not that he often changed in the same room with Dean, but after a lifetime of having to race to the bathroom if he wanted the first shower, he wasn't used to taking his time and picking out clothes to take in with him. Which meant another awkward towel-clad tiptoe down the hallway from the bathroom to his room. He shut the bedroom door behind him, one of the rare times he ever used it.
His room. Sam shook his head. It was still a weird, freakishly disturbing thought.
He grabbed boxers and a white tee from the top dresser drawer, then pulled out the one below it to pick a shirt for the day. Considering the whole half-dozen he had—when everything was freshly washed, which was almost never—it wouldn't be a difficult choice.
Sam's brow gathered as he stared at the full drawer. What the…? He shoved the drawer in, pulled out the one below it. Flannel shirts, all neatly folded, filled it to the brim. The bottom drawer held at least twice as many jeans as he knew he owned.
Flummoxed, Sam dropped back on the bed.
All their lives—well, Sam's life on the road, anyway—they'd never had more clothes than they could fit into one duffel. There wasn't room, and there was always a thrift shop in town to replace ruined clothing. Sam had tried to keep a few beloved pieces in the bottom of his bag, like the greyhound shirt Jess had given him, for rare and careful use, but practicality eventually won out. Besides those few years of normalcy at Stanford, he'd never had more outfits than he could count on one hand.
Until now, apparently.
Sam sorted through his memories of the day before. He'd been preoccupied all day, incorporating the Judah Initiative's material into the MoL library, barely taking breaks to eat the food Dean shoved in front of him. But he was pretty sure his brother had said something about going into town to do some shopping. Sam had assumed it was for groceries and other supplies, but it seemed his brother had been even busier.
He leaned forward again to thumb through the neat row of t-shirts. Mixed into the ones he recognized were others of similar hues and cut, all of them soft, freshly-washed cotton, but some clearly new.
Especially, Sam saw with a grin, a pink tee Dean had no doubt gotten as a joke.
Five minutes later, he walked into the kitchen, dressed and combing his wet hair back. Dean, sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, took one look at him and gave a theatrical moan.
"Why am I not surprised you went for the pink, Princess?"
"Hey, you're the one who got it," Sam retorted as he grabbed a plate and shoveled on still-warm scrambled eggs.
He had a feeling the shirt would end up conveniently "lost" in the next wash, but for now, Dean's sour look was totally worth it.
He was pretty sure lunch had been not long ago. Okay, maybe not, considering that the grandfather clock ticking in one corner of the library showed the little moon in its cut-out window instead of the stylized sun. But it still seemed like they'd just eaten, except for the constant growling of his stomach.
Reluctantly, Sam pushed away the notes on hellhounds and went to go reconnoiter the kitchen.
He'd just opened the ancient refrigerator—still amazingly functional—when Dean hollered from God knew where.
"Got some of that lame yogurt you like on the top shelf."
Sam raised an eyebrow, trying and failing to remember a time when he got yogurt and Dean didn't make fun of him. He found the row of small cartons behind the container of sour cream—really, they had sour cream?—and felt a little bloom of warmth at seeing that not only had Dean gotten the Greek kind, but even some of the flavors Sam especially liked. He grabbed a peach one, then, on further thought, poked through the drawers of the fridge, hoping for—
"Apples are in the fruit bowl."
They had a fruit bowl now? Sam shook his head as he backed out of the fridge and shut the door. He wasn't even going to think about how his brother's psychic abilities seemed restricted to Sam. He grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl on the counter, only a little amazed that Dean had found his favorite Honey Crisp variety in March in Kansas, and dug a spoon out of the drawer.
The one next to the steaming pot on the stove.
"Huh," Sam muttered, grabbing a convenient dishcloth to lift the lid. The smell of spicy chili cooking made his stomach growl in want. "Hey," he called, "When's—"
"Half-hour. You touch it before then, you're going to bed hungry."
Sam quickly replaced the lid. That was one threat he knew to take seriously.
Besides, he had his apple and yogurt. And missing dinner would also mean missing dessert. On a whim, Sam opened the oven door. Quickly shutting it at the bellowed, "Leave it alone, Sam!"
The pie looked like it was cherry, and that was totally worth it.
He knew he was supposed to be thinking about trials as the car sped toward Shoshone. About closing Hell's door forever. About hellhounds and he and his brother having to face another hellhound and how on earth they were going to take down a hellhound.
Instead, Sam's mind kept circling back to Dean's earlier defensive remark. I'm nesting, okay?
It had been cute and made him smile at the time, and then Sam had been distracted by the awesome burgers Dean had made. But now, with the dark quiet of the car and nothing to do but worry about how this very important hunt would go, that one line was what he kept thinking about.
He was pretty sure Dean had meant he was enjoying having a home, his first in almost thirty years, and playing Happy Homemaker. But what he'd said was nesting, preparing a home for your child. It was a Freudian slip of a word, and Sam couldn't seem to let it go.
Long-forgotten memories stirred. The way his brother as a teen—and even younger—would drag home furniture from people's curbs to try to make their rental-of-the-week a little cozier. The cooking shows a young Sam would grudgingly sit through with his brother that were just mindless TV to him but that Dean would raptly absorb for future use. The Lego bed sheets he was pretty sure in hindsight that Dean had stolen for him so he could have a "cool bed."
And, faintly, the time Sam had been crying over some flea bites from an infested mattress, and Dean had pulled him into his lap. In the midst of putting cream on the bites and rubbing his tears away, his whisper had been just barely audible to Sam. I wish I could give you a better home. Sam was pretty sure his brother hadn't known he'd be heard or he'd never have said it out loud.
Dean had been less than ten at the time.
He'd returned from Purgatory an angry warrior. Sam had gone in the opposite direction the year they'd been apart, and floundered to fall back into step with his brother. Frankly, he hadn't been sure those first few months why Dean had even wanted him back again, when he was so angry and disappointed with Sam. All Sam's presence seemed to do was aggravate the man.
But it wasn't battle-hardened Dean who'd bought Sam a variety of granola cereals so he could figure out his favorite, with a box of Lucky Charms tucked into the mix. It wasn't the bloodthirsty pure hunter who'd installed a higher shower head in the bathroom so Sam could actually shower without crouching down. It wasn't his wounded big brother who'd been giving Sam "making-up-for-missed-holidays gifts" of things he'd longed for in the past but had had no place to put…and one incredibly stupid-looking stuffed frog that always seemed to end up on his bed.
He hadn't had to say it in so many words for Sam to know Dean wanted him back because he still cared about him. And maybe in caring for him, Dean had reclaimed a piece of himself he'd lost in Purgatory.
"You're not having second thoughts over there, are you, dude?" Dean interrupted his thoughts.
It took Sam a moment to realize his brother was talking about the hellhound hunt. "No," Sam said firmly. Not even a little.
It was three days later before he walked into his room again, more reassured than he would have thought possible by being home. Across the hall, he could hear Dean unpacking, quiet in his worry. Sam still felt shaky since the completion of the first trial, and while he wouldn't tell Dean that, it privately made him feel better knowing his brother was listening out for him.
And had somehow beat him to the room. Sam froze at the sight of the picture frame on his desk. The one picture he had of him and Jess had been blown up to several times the wallet-size photo Sam had, and now sat facing his bed.
He stopped, swallowing the lump in his throat.
"You want lasagna or beef stew for dinner tonight?" Dean called from the hallway.
He had to clear his throat before he could answer. "Lasagna. With salad and garlic bread."
"Dude, anyone ever tell you you're high-maintenance?" the grumble drifted back as Dean headed for the kitchen. Where he would no doubt fix a salad and garlic bread to go with the lasagna.
Sam dumped his duffel on the bed and grabbed a book from the dog-eared row that had mysteriously appeared one day on its own wall shelf. He started to go join Dean in the kitchen, but paused.
Sam pulled out his wallet to retrieve the one other picture it contained. He regarded the younger versions of his brother and himself a moment, then tucked it into the corner of the frame.
"And don't you forget it," he whispered before he walked out of the room.