The Long and Winding Road (amypond45) wrote,
The Long and Winding Road
amypond45

PART TWO: This Soul With Sorrow Laden

//**//**//


And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains


//**//**//


“Well, hello there.” Pamela greets them just before Sam can knock on her door. She glances to Sam’s left, frowning. “Come on in. Both of you.”

“You can see him?” Sam’s beyond excited. He’s tried his best all day to concentrate Dean into existence, but he can’t quite do it. He knows Dean’s there, though, so he talked out loud to him all the way here in the car, despite the fact that he couldn’t hear Dean’s answers.

Sam still has to close his eyes and concentrate pretty intensely to make that happen.

“Well, I can sense he’s there, which is almost like seeing him,” Pamela answers. “He’s been following you around like a shadow for a while now.”

“Yeah,” Sam agrees. “About a month.”

He follows Pamela into her sitting room, where a table is laid out with candles and an intricately-carved spell bowl.

“Sit,” she instructs, indicating the chair across the table from the one she takes. A third chair sits between them, and Sam reminds himself that she’s a psychic. She was expecting two guests.

“So you’ve got yourself a bit of a ghost problem,” Pamela suggests with a knowing smirk.

“Not a problem, exactly,” Sam admits. “It’s my partner. He was murdered about a month ago, and just a few days ago I realized his ghost never left.”

“Ah,” Pamela nods, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “You’re a bit of a psychic yourself.”

Sam blushes. “Not really. But I do know a thing or two about ghosts, and we’re both a little worried about what this means.”

“You talk to him?” Pamela’s impressed.

Sam nods. “At first, it was just when I was sleeping, or almost asleep. Now, if I close my eyes in the dark and concentrate, I can hear him.” He doesn’t mention feeling Dean pressed against him. For some reason, that feels private.

“And you’re wondering what’s tying him here,” Pamela guesses.

“Not exactly,” Sam says. “I’m more concerned about what it means if I can’t get him back.”

“Get him back?” Pamela’s eyes widen. “You want to resurrect him? You do realize you’re talking dark magic, right?”

Sam shifts uncomfortably in his seat, looking away from her obvious disbelief. “I know.”

“Sam, even if I knew a way to help you with that, I wouldn’t.”

“Right.” Sam glances to his left, thinks he sees Dean for a split second before he’s gone again. His brother’s uncomfortable, too. Maybe even a little angry with him. “I just — I need him back.”

Pamela takes a deep breath. “Now that is something I can understand. Half of my clients come to me consumed with grief, just wanting a chance to communicate with someone they’ve lost.”

Sam shakes his head. “Yeah, but that’s not the issue here. I can communicate with him just fine. Mostly.”

Pamela leans forward, hands flat on the table. “You need to find a way to move on, Sam,” she says quietly. “If you’re holding him here by the force of your will — and given your psychic talent, I wouldn’t be surprised by that — then you need to learn to let him go.”

Sam shakes his head again. “I can’t do that. I don’t even know that I’m the thing keeping him here. It’s just a hunch.”

“The hunches of a psychic tend to be pretty accurate,” she notes with a smirk.

Sam huffs out a breath. “See, the thing is, Dean sold his soul to a demon. I just need to know if his ghost being here means his soul didn’t go to Hell.”

Pamela’s eyes widen. She leans back, drums her fingers on the edge of the table as she regards him. “That kind of intel is way above my pay grade, Grumpy. Although if I had to guess, I’d say the spirit following you around is as much your partner as he’s able to be. Maybe it’s not all of him, but it’s all of him that’s left, and he’s attached to you like glue.”

Sam considers this for a moment, then nods. “If I can’t get him back, then I need to find a way to keep his ghost from going crazy.”

Pamela’s eyebrows go up, followed by her hands. “You just don’t quit, do you? What part of ‘letting him go’ do you not understand? I know it hurts, Sam, but helping Dean move on is what you need to do. You’re the only one who can do it.”

Sam gets the feeling that Pamela knows Dean’s not just Sam’s partner.

“You want me to let him go so that his soul can go to Hell?” Sam’s jaw clenches. Now it’s his turn to be angry. Stubborn. “I don’t think so. As long as he’s here, he’s not there, and that’s better than nothing.”

Pamela sits back and crosses her arms across her chest. “I don’t know much about demons, but if you two have managed to cheat one, I’m not too optimistic about your chances of getting away with it. In fact, I probably shouldn’t even be talking to you right now.”

Sam sighs. “Yeah, Bobby warned me about putting you in danger, and I’m sorry, I really am. I just need to know what we’re dealing with here.”

“You’re dealing with a ghost who should be in Hell, apparently,” Pamela reminds him. “Your choices are a little limited. As you point out, letting him go condemns him to Hell. I actually get why you wouldn’t want to do that. On the other hand, keeping a ghost with you indefinitely has its drawbacks.”

Sam nods. “Drawbacks like how all ghosts go insane eventually.”

Pamela frowns, considering. “Usually, but not always,” she says. “Not if they’ve got something — or somebody — grounding them.”

Sam shakes his head. “I don’t understand.”

Pamela rolls her eyes, leans forward and stretches her arms across the table, palms up.

“Here. Let’s try something.” She beckons, so Sam takes her hand. He starts to take her other hand but she shakes her head. “Let him take both our hands. Now close your eyes.”

Sam does as she asks. He starts and almost opens his eyes when he feels Dean’s hand slide into his, warm and solid.

“I’m right here, Sammy,” Dean says, clear as a bell.

“I hear him,” Sam says for Pamela’s benefit. “And I can feel his hand in mine.”

“Well hello, beautiful,” Pamela says. Sam can almost see the smirk on her face as Dean becomes solid for her.

“You can see him?” Sam asks, keeping his eyes closed.

Pamela chuckles. “You’d better believe it. Wow. There’s some mighty fine genes in your family.”

She does know they’re brothers. Okay.

“You’re pretty hot yourself,” Dean says.

Sam frowns, aiming a disapproving (if blind) expression in Dean’s direction.

Dean chuckles. “Aw, Sammy’s jealous,” he teases.

Pamela squeezes Sam’s hand. “He can definitely join us,” she offers. “You’re both welcome anytime.”

Sam’s eyes fly open. Dean’s still there, as solid as if he were alive, not even flickering. He’s smirking at Pamela, who winks at him before lifting her eyes to Sam.

Dean follows her gaze, locks eyes with Sam, and raises his eyebrows.

“Heya, Sammy.”

“It only took the combined efforts of two psychics, but here he is,” Pamela says. “Of course, once you leave here, it’ll be all you, Sam.” She shakes her head. “I shouldn’t encourage you, but if he were my brother, I’m not sure I could let him go, either.”

Sam blushes. He’s having trouble taking his eyes off Dean, who looks as solid as he feels. The urge to hug him, to hold him close and never let go, is almost unbearable.

“So how do I keep him this way?” Sam asks, finally dragging his gaze away from his brother’s face. “How do I keep him solid like this?”

“Well, I could give you a couple of tips,” Pamela acknowledges. “But it’s really up to you. Your level of concentration, your focus, not to mention his. The connection between you two generates serious energy. That’s what’s making this possible, and that’ll be the source of his stability going forward.”

Pamela gazes thoughtfully at each of them in turn, bites her lip before she speaks again. “There are a couple of exercises I could teach you, if you’re really serious about this.”

“I am,” Sam nods. “We are.”

It’s not the same as having Dean back with him in one piece, but until he figures out a way to make that happen, this will have to do. It definitely beats the alternative.

Dean remains visible for the remainder of their visit, even after they let each other’s hands go. When Sam and Dean practice the exercises Pamela teaches them, Dean seems to become even more corporeal. Sam can see the pores in Dean’s skin. He can count the freckles on Dean’s nose.

“Use your combined energy when you need to touch something without going right through it,” Pamela instructs. “You’ll be levitating objects in no time. Eventually, if you really work at it, he’ll be able to stay solid for as much as a day or two at a time. He’ll be able to pick up solid objects.”

She hesitates, glancing from one to the other Winchester with a grimace. “God, I shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Why not?” Dean asks. Sam can feel his excitement. Dean’s practically vibrating with his new-found power.

“Well, for one, if you go dark-side and start killing people, that’s on me,” Pamela snaps. “And believe me, I’ve seen it happen. You two are hunters, so I know you’ve seen it happen.”

Dean shakes his head vigorously. “Not gonna happen for us,” he insists. “As long as I’ve got my trusty side-kick here to keep me on the straight and narrow, nothing bad is gonna happen.”

Pamela doesn’t look convinced, but she says nothing.

//**//**//


Within the sound of silence.


//**//**//


“This is gonna be great!” Dean crows later when they’re back in the car. He’s still solid, corporeal even in broad daylight. He started to get into the driver’s seat out of habit, and Sam had to stop him. Now he’s sitting shotgun, practically bouncing on the seat in his excitement. “We can track down the rest of the demons, maybe even find Lilith. Who knows? Oh man, Sammy. This is definitely better. Monsters can’t see me coming.”

Sam makes a face. “Dean, we can’t go back to hunting! Are you nuts?”

“Why not? Think of the advantages! I’m like the Invisible Man!”

Sam huffs out a breath. “You can’t be serious. No way we can hunt with you like this.”

“What are you talking about? Of course we can! I mean, maybe I’ve got to work up to holding a gun, but I’ll totally get there. And thanks to Pamela, you can hear me all the time now, so I can have your back when we’re on a case. Hey, maybe I can even take out ghosts on my own, you know? We should check on that. Next haunting we catch wind of, let’s see whether I can take the ghost down right here in the veil. How awesome is that?”

Sam’s mouth opens, then snaps shut again. “You’re unbelievable, you know that?”

“I’m awesome!” Dean insists. “Come on, Sammy, even you have to see what an advantage this could be. We’ll be an even better team! Demons and monsters won’t even see me coming till it’s too late. We’ll be ganking ‘em left and right before they even know what hit ‘em.”

“You’re an idiot.” Sam shakes his head. But he can’t help the grin that cracks open across his face.

The fact is, Dean’s enthusiasm is contagious. Sam’s just relieved to be able to see and hear his brother again. He’s not sure what moved Pamela to help them, but Sam’s glad she did. He’s glad she didn’t insist on burning Dean’s bones or reporting him to Bobby.

Dean’s obviously relieved as well, now that Sam can see him and hear him, now that they have a future again. It’s not the same as being here in body and soul, but Dean feels more like himself than he has in weeks. Being cut off from Sam had been torture for him. Being so near to his brother without being able to communicate with him had been deeply frustrating. Sam can tell.

Sam thinks he understands why ghosts go mad. He’s pretty sure being close to his brother without being seen or heard would drive him insane over time.

Dean’s sure that things will be better now.

And Sam wants to believe that, too.

//**//**//


In restless dreams I walk alone


//**//**//


“There’s definite advantages to this thing.”

The Winchesters are in a diner, on their way back to Illinois to check out possible demonic omens. It’s late, close to midnight. Sam wanted to push on through till morning, but Dean insisted they stop, let Sam eat and rest.

Dean, of course, doesn’t need to do either.

“Dean, you know you can’t actually eat that,” Sam reminds him.

Dean looks down at the bacon cheeseburger platter in front of him. The waitress had looked a little worried when Sam had ordered it “for my brother,” who still hadn’t shown up, but she’d put it down across the table without a word. Dean’s winks and flirtatious smiles had gone unnoticed, of course, but Dean didn’t seem to mind too much.

“I just like thinking about eating it,” Dean says. He leans over the plate with his eyes closed and takes a deep breath through his nose. “Ah. Smells just as greasy as always.”

Sam shakes his head and picks at his salad before reaching across the table to nab a couple of Dean’s fries.

“Hey!” Dean swats his hand, and Sam feels it. It’s so normal that it takes him a moment to realize it’s one of the first times he’s really felt his brother, other than those almost imagined moments sitting beside him in bed and when he held Dean’s hand at Pamela’s. This felt like the real thing.

They stare at each other, amazed. Dean reaches tentatively across the table, touches his fingers to the back of Sam’s hand. They can both feel it. Dean’s fingertips are rough and calloused. Warm.

“I don’t eat, I don’t sleep,” Dean says. “I can keep watch while you sleep, man!”

Sam makes a face. “That’s creepy.”

Dean blushes, looks down at his hand on the table, still touching Sam’s.

“Not watching you sleep, dumbass,” he insists as he sits back. Sam misses the contact immediately. “Watching out for you. So you can sleep in peace.”

“It’s still creepy,” Sam says. “All those hours with nothing to do but make sure nobody enters the room while I’m sleeping? Ugh.”

He busies himself eating so he doesn’t have to look at Dean, so he doesn’t have to think about the way Dean’s touch made him feel.

“Not nothing,” Dean insists. “I can practice those exercises Pamela taught me. Learning to lift things. Throw things. Shoot a gun. Swing a blade.”

“Just keep your mitts off anything iron,” Sam reminds him. “Or salt.”

“Right.”

“Will there be anything else?” The waitress interrupts them, looking worried. She’s obviously seen Sam talking to himself. “Do you want me to wrap that up for you?”

“Sure, that’d be great,” Sam smiles at her. “Just the check, please.”

Dean rolls his eyes as she leaves with the cheeseburger. “She thinks you’re crazy,” he comments with a wink.

Sam shrugs. “Maybe I am,” he admits. “Doesn’t matter. I’ve been called worse.”

He doesn’t lift his gaze to Dean’s look of concern. He doesn’t want to think about all the concerned gazes he’s missed over the past month. He doesn’t like to think about how much he needed them.

Back in the car, Sam feels the hair on the back of his neck move. Glancing at Dean in the passenger seat, he realizes his brother has his arm extended along the back of the seat, his fingers lightly brushing Sam’s neck. Dean doesn’t seem to realize he’s doing it, and Sam tries not to think about how good it feels.

His feelings for his brother have always been complicated. Sam would be the first to acknowledge that there were times when those feelings could be classified as a little more than just brotherly.

But of course he never acted on his attraction, and it usually went away, or became subsumed by the normal, day-to-day interactions with Dean that had become habitual. Comfortable.

And if there had been times in the past when Sam jerked off to thoughts of his brother, he never let it bother him much. Dean was a handsome man. Some might even call him too handsome. Beautiful, maybe, or at least damn pretty. In a purely objective sense, finding Dean sexually attractive wasn’t exactly outside the pale.

Although Sam’s fairly certain Dean didn’t return those feelings. Sam may have experimented with gay sex in college, but he’s pretty sure Dean never considered it. He’d always had the girls lined up waiting their turn at him. Easy pickings, as he would have said. Had said, more than once. Dean’s flirtatious, teasing ways were a part of who he was. If there were times he aimed those charms Sam’s way, it didn’t mean he was really attracted to Sam. It only meant that he recognized how sexual attraction worked, and of course Dean Winchester was sex on legs. He loved to tease Sam. Loved to make him blush.

But that was before he died, of course.

It occurs to Sam that Dean’s been lonely. Being a ghost can’t be easy for him. He’s used to having people see him, respond to him, usually in a positive way. Getting no reaction from anybody must be very disorienting. Even maddening.

No wonder he seems so excited about the exercises Pamela taught him. He’s looking forward to becoming part of the world again, to having an effect on people and things again. Far from discouraging him, Pamela’s advice has given Dean hope.

That night, Sam wakes to the sound of the bathroom door opening. He blinks into the darkness of the room just as the bathroom light flicks on. For a moment, he’s disoriented. His foggy brain tells him it’s just Dean getting up to use the bathroom. But then the cold shock of reality reminds him that Dean’s dead.

Then his brain clears and he remembers. Dean’s here. He’s dead, but he’s here.

“Dean?”

The bathroom door opens again and Dean appears, backlit by the light he’s just flipped on.

Sam pushes himself up on one elbow, blinking against the light. “What are you doing?”

“Had to take a piss,” Dean snaps. “What’s it look like?”

He reaches up, flips the light off and pushes the door all the way open with the flat of his hand. It’s so normal that it takes Sam a minute to realize what it means.

“Wow,” Sam says. “That’s — okay.”

“Cool, huh?”

In the near-darkness, Dean’s shadow moves across the room to his bed, sits down on it. The bed squeaks.

“I’ve been trying to open that door all night,” he says. “It’s just a matter of concentration.”

He stretches out on the bed, crosses his ankles, and tucks his arms behind his head.

“Did you take your shirt off?” Sam knows what Dean was buried in. He’s been wearing the same t-shirt, jeans, and open button-down since he first appeared. Until now. Now he’s just wearing the t-shirt and jeans. “And your boots? How did you manage that?”

More importantly, where are they?

Dean shrugs. “Just did it,” he says smugly. “Now I’m tired. Gonna get some beauty rest.”

“You’re serious.” Sam stares.

Dean yawns. “Goodnight, John-boy.”

Sam shakes his head. “Idiot.”

When Dean’s breathing becomes deep and even a few minutes later, Sam tries not to think about how impossible it is for Dean to be sleeping. Dean’s just showing off, for Sam’s sake. Making things feel normal.

Dean doesn’t even really breathe, after all.

But Sam can’t help feeling comforted as he drifts off to sleep to the sound of his brother sleeping in the other bed. Dean even smells familiar.

Sam knows he shouldn’t let Dean’s presence lull him into a false sense of normalcy, but he can’t seem to help it. It feels so good to pretend that Dean’s really here, alive and well. It’s too easy to forget the truth.

And the scary part is, Sam’s beginning to wonder why he should remember the truth in the first place. He’s starting to agree with Dean.

Maybe this could work out after all.

//**//**//


Narrow streets of cobblestone


//**//**//


Their first hunt together as man and ghost goes better than Sam could have imagined. Dean’s learned to flicker in and out of sight, to be seen by living people and monsters for brief moments, and it’s ridiculously convenient. They take down a pack of werewolves without breaking a sweat. A nest of vampires becomes so confused they start attacking each other, which Dean thinks is hilarious, of course.

Chupacabra and black dogs don’t stand a chance.

After three weeks of hunting without a single demon sighting, Dean’s thrilled.

“We’re a real team, Sam!” He crows after they’ve ended a ghost in Tuscon in the easiest way possible — Dean grabs hold of the thing while Sam torches its corpse. Easy peasy. “This is awesome!”

When a poltergeist they were hunting decides to strangle Sam, then sends him tumbling down a flight of stairs, Sam loses consciousness. It’s only Dean’s ability to plant the hex bags in the walls of the house and banish the thing that saves the day. When Sam comes to, Dean’s kneeling over him, smiling his relief.

“We got him,” he assures Sam, signature cocky grin on full display.

Sam nods, unable to speak. His throat feels like it’s on fire. Dean helps him up and Sam leans on his brother’s solid body as they stagger to the car. Sam’s too exhausted to drive, so Dean gets behind the wheel and Sam doesn’t protest.

Back at the motel, Dean makes Sam strip so he can check for broken bones and other injuries. Sam lies prone on the bed in his underwear as Dean’s familiar touch soothes his aching muscles, his burning skin. Dean washes away the blood from Sam’s scalp wound, the scrapes on his elbows and knees, the shallow cut on his abdomen where the poltergeist tried to slice him open with an 18th century sword. Dean makes him take painkillers, wraps ice in a wash cloth and presses it to the bruise forming under Sam’s left eye.

As Dean starts to get up, Sam grabs hold of his wrist.

“Stay,” Sam croaks hoarsely.

Dean chuckles. “Demanding little bitch,” he mutters fondly, but he does as Sam asks. He sits on the edge of the bed, strokes Sam’s hair until Sam falls into a fitful sleep, floating away on painkillers and Dean’s soothing touch.

They take a few days off so that Sam can heal. They hit a Counting Crows concert in Springfield, visit Lincoln’s tomb while they’re there, then drive south to Nashville to check out the Grand Ol’ Opry. They agree the place sucks, but at least they can tick off having been there.

Bedding down in a motel outside Clarksville, Dean suggests they watch a movie and Sam agrees immediately. Dean shows off his new ability to open a beer and drink it, and Sam tries not to think too hard about how that’s possible. It feels better than it should to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with his brother on one of the beds, drinking beer and watching Predator on the motel’s crappy oversized television. Sam relaxes into Dean’s body without letting himself think too much about how solid Dean has become over the past month.

It occurs to him that Dean allows this almost-cuddling way more than he did before he died. It’s making Sam horny, which may be the reason Dean never allowed it before. But of course that assumes that Dean knew how Sam felt about him, so that can’t be right. Maybe Dean allows the physical closeness as a way to reassure Sam that he’s really here. Or maybe he’s just showing off how solid he can be.

Sam’s a little tipsy. He can’t help squirming, trying to adjust his hardening dick without being too obvious. He feels Dean watching him, his attention diverted from the TV, and Sam can’t help turning his head, just a little, slowly enough to give Dean time to turn away.

When he doesn’t, Sam almost laughs. Dean’s face is so close Sam can see every pore, every whisker. There are too many freckles across his nose to count, but that wouldn’t stop Sam if Dean would let him try. His full lips are slick with beer, his eyes half-lidded, lashes long and dark. He’s looking at Sam’s mouth.

“Sam?” Dean’s tone leaves no doubt about his meaning, and Sam doesn’t need to be asked twice. He’s waited too long.

Dean’s lips are as soft as they look, his mouth strangely cool. He tastes of beer and something vaguely sweet. Sam cups his cheek, rubs his thumb along Dean’s jaw, marveling at the prickly feel of his five-o’clock shadow. Dean’s been shaving every morning, which shouldn’t be necessary. Every evening his jaw has a little stubble on it, just enough to be sexy and to make Sam want to touch.

Sam runs his thumb over the smooth, delicate skin of Dean’s cheek, just under his eye, angles his face so that Sam can kiss deeper.

Dean moans as Sam’s tongue touches his. He shivers as Sam’s hand caresses his skin. When Sam finally lets him up for air, he’s gasping. Trembling. They gaze at each other for a moment. Dean’s eyes are full of love. They crinkle a little at the corners with amusement as Sam watches.

“What?” Sam breathes. He’s trembling.

“Nothing,” Dean says. He swallows, and Sam watches his Adam’s apple bob enticingly. “Just you taking so long, that’s all. Waiting till I was dead.”

“Wanted you since I was fourteen, you idiot,” Sam says, running his thumb over Dean’s lower lip.

“You picked a helluva time to let me know,” Dean says, sucking Sam’s thumb into his mouth. It’s wet and cool. Dean sucks it while looking up at Sam from under his lashes, making Sam blush and harden almost unbearably.

Dean takes their beer bottles and places them on the bedside table. He reaches for the remote and flips off the TV before turning back to Sam.

“Wanna get naked?”

Sam shivers. His eyes slide closed as he nods, then he opens them again as Dean sits up, pulls his t-shirt off and drops it on the floor. Sam marvels again at the way Dean can do that — remove the clothing as if it’s not just as ghostly as he is — then he gets distracted by Dean’s bare chest and back and arms. His shoulders, sprinkled with freckles. His nipples, pebbling in the air-conditioned room. As Dean unbuckles his jeans and pushes them down his legs, Sam sucks in a breath. The boxers he has on underneath are the same boxers Sam pulled onto Dean’s dead body two months ago. He already removed his boots and socks, and somehow the sight of Dean’s slender bare feet almost makes Sam lose it. Everything about Dean had always seemed unattainable, unreachable. Sam had looked up to his brother all his life, but seeing him vulnerable and nearly naked always made Sam want to cry. Dean had always been so good, so pure of heart, better than Sam at everything, undeserving of what happened to him. Sam would give anything to atone for Dean’s death, which was due to Dean’s one and only sin, the sin of loving his brother too much.

“Hey.” Dean leans up on one elbow next to Sam and swipes his thumb along Sam’s cheek, under his eye, wiping away the tear that slid down it. “Sammy?”

“I should have been the one to die,” Sam says miserably, letting more tears flow. “You should have left me dead in Cold Oak.”

Dean shakes his head. “You know I couldn’t do that,” he says. “I’m not as strong as you. Can’t live with you dead.”

“Neither can I,” Sam sobs, flood-gates finally opening. “I’m not strong, Dean. I’m not!”

“Hey, come on now, Sammy.” Dean gathers Sam into his arms, rolling him towards Dean on the bed. “I’ve got you. You’re all right now, Sammy. You’re all right.”

Dean holds him tight, hands rubbing circles on Sam’s back, and Sam clings, a small boy with a skinned knee in his big brother’s arms. He pushes his face into the hollow of Dean’s throat, snuffling miserably, breathing in Dean’s scent. His skin is cooler than it should be, but smells of sweat and aftershave as it should, and after a moment or two Sam’s sobs subside. He becomes aware of Dean’s skin, of the smooth planes of his back and chest, the pulse in his neck.

Dean shouldn’t have a beating heart. He shouldn’t have a circulatory system.

For the first time since Dean reappeared, Sam considers the possibility that Dean isn’t a ghost at all. He’s too corporeal now. He’s able to eat and drink, to remove his clothing, to shower and piss and sleep. He stays solid for days at a time, as far as Sam can tell, although he might disappear when Sam’s sleeping.

But if Dean’s not a ghost, what is he?

“I can hear you thinking.”

Sam starts, pulling back to look sharply into Dean’s face.

Dean’s eyes widen comically, then he laughs. “Kidding! I’m kidding! Geez, Sam. I’m not psychic.”

Sam blinks, shakes his head to clear it. “No, I know,” he says. “It’s just — You drove the car the other day.”

Dean nods. “I’m getting stronger. It’s you, Sam. Your psychic energy, like Pamela said. You’re making me stronger.”

“But that’s just it, Dean,” Sam says. “Even with my help, you shouldn’t be able to do all the things you’re doing. You practically carried me out of the house and into the car after the poltergeist, which you killed. You can eat a meal at a diner now. You make yourself appear to the waitress and she never even realizes that you’re not — that you don’t have a body. No ghost we’ve ever heard of could do those things.”

Dean shrugs. “I don’t know what to tell you, Sam. I guess I’m just special.”

“Yeah, you are,” Sam agrees. “That’s just it.”

Dean smirks, slipping a hand down between them until he finds Sam’s still-clothed dick and gives it a squeeze, making Sam gasp.

“You wanna get naked so can show you just how special I can be?” Dean teases.

God help him, Sam does. He knows he should probably get up and do some research, follow up on the little niggling fear at the edge of his consciousness, the tiny voice deep in his brain that keeps trying to warn him that things aren’t as they appear. He really should try to figure out what’s going on here.

But he doesn’t. He chalks that up to his conviction that whatever Dean is, he’s still Dean. He’s still the big brother who loves and protects Sam and always has his back. If he’s somehow become something else, something not quite human, that’s just the way it is. Sam can live with that, as long as he’s got Dean by his side.

Once they’re both completely naked, Dean kisses a line down Sam’s chest, sucking each of his nipples in turn, dipping his tongue in Sam’s belly button. He settles between Sam’s legs, kissing around his cock on both sides, sucking the tender skin on the juncture of each thigh. He pushes Sam’s legs apart, bends his knees, kisses down behind his balls to his hole, shoves a wet, weirdly cool tongue inside Sam’s body.

Sam arches off the bed, moaning and squirming, out of his mind with the responses Dean elicits. When Dean swallows down his cock, Sam can’t help bucking up, fucking into Dean’s mouth. He squeezes his eyes shut in his effort to hold back his orgasm, but that only makes the sensations more intense. When Dean does something with his tongue Sam literally can’t hold back. It’s been too long, he’s wanted Dean since forever, and the last two months have been too overwhelming for Sam to keep control of himself one second longer. He comes and comes, moaning loudly, uncontrollably, fucking up into Dean’s mouth with his fingers clutched in Dean’s hair. Dean swallows like a pro, something Sam at first files away in the back of his brain to mull over later, then immediately discards because it reminds Sam that Dean grew up too fast and had to do whatever he could to keep Sam fed when Dad left them alone too long.

As he comes down, he reaches for Dean, pulls him up next to Sam on the bed, kisses him deeply, tasting himself in Dean’s cool mouth.

“That was — “ he begins, then remembers. “Oh. Just give me a minute.” He waves down at Dean’s erection, pressed against his thigh.

“Oh, baby, I’m not done with you yet,” Dean murmurs, voice whiskey smooth.

“Oh my God,” Sam breathes, shivering again as he guesses Dean’s intent. He’s only ever been fucked by one other guy, back at Stanford during his freshman year, thinking of Dean the whole time, but he knows how it’s done. How it feels. He’d talked Jessica into pegging him a couple of times, again thinking about Dean because she already reminded him of his brother, and he didn’t want to think too much about how that was probably the best sex he’d ever had.

Until now, of course.

Dean takes his time opening Sam up, using his mouth and his fingers until Sam’s a quivering mass of nerve endings. He’s begging and leaking tears and jizz by the time Dean slides his lubed dick inside, but he doesn’t care. Dean doesn’t laugh at him, just takes care of him the way he’s always done, making it good for Sam. Dean’s always been a considerate lover. Sam’s heard him giving pleasure to some random girl in the next room or the next bed dozens of times over the years. Now, he takes his time, drives Sam crazy so that he’s hard and weeping by the time Dean starts pounding into him.

“Touch yourself,” Dean demands, panting. “Want you to come with me.”

Sam shouts when he comes this time, feels his hole clench around Dean’s dick as Dean comes, too, holding himself still, breath hitching in that tell-tale way Sam’s heard so many times over the years.

Only now, it’s Sam making Dean come. It’s Sam’s body clenched around the only person he’s ever really loved in every way.

Dean collapses on top of Sam, breathing hard, and Sam holds him, strokes his sweaty back, buries his face in Dean’s hair. Sam holds Dean until he becomes uncomfortably heavy, until Sam thinks Dean might be asleep. Sam holds his brother until his heartbeat starts to slow, letting his fingertips play with the short hairs on the back of Dean’s neck. He holds Dean until he feels Dean’s softening dick slip free from his body.

Dean hisses and stirs then, rolling to the side and blinking dazedly at Sam, green eyes shining with unshed tears, cheeks and lips flushed red. He looks more vivid, more alive, than Sam’s ever seen him, with his hair sticking up and his long, thick eyelashes clumped with sweat or tears or sleep.

He’s beautiful.

Post-coital Dean isn’t new. Sam’s seen his brother just after he’s had sex many times. But this time it’s Sam who’s put that look on his brother’s face. It’s Sam who’s made Dean look like this beautiful, fucked-out version of himself. Beloved. Alive.

Then Dean smirks, cracking the illusion.

“Get me a washcloth, bitch,” he drawls. “I’m not sleeping in the wet spot.”

Sam huffs out a disbelieving breath but rolls obediently out of bed and heads into the bathroom. His ass is sore and dripping grossly. He can feel Dean watching him as he limps a little, but he tells himself he doesn’t care. He can imagine the smug look on Dean’s face without needing to see it.

He looks at himself in the bathroom mirror, sees the same bright-eyed, flushed look that was on Dean’s face. He runs the water, washes his face, runs his fingers through his hair to try to tame it a little before he wets a washcloth, wipes the sticky mess off his belly and between his legs.

“You took long enough,” Dean grouses when Sam returns with a damp washcloth. Dean’s stretched out naked on the other bed, and Sam tosses the washcloth a little too hard before pulling up the blankets on his own bed and flopping down on it.

“Ha ha, very funny.” Dean wipes himself off, scoots over on his bed in an obvious invitation. “Get over here.”

Sam blinks, but doesn’t need to be asked twice. Dean spoons him when he slides into the bed, arm around his waist, lips pressed to the back of Sam’s neck.

Sam’s not sure he can sleep with Dean’s naked body pressed against him, but he reminds himself that Dean’s body is rotting in a grave in Pontiac and this is just an impossibly solid astral projection.

It doesn’t seem to help. He’s hard again in record time. He comes three more times that night, and when he finally collapses into Dean’s arms for the last time, wan morning sunlight is peeking through the curtains.

When he wakes, late in the morning, Dean’s already been out and returned with coffee and breakfast sandwiches.

Despite his sore ass, Sam’s happier than he can ever remember feeling.

ON TO PART THREE
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