"Slow down, Dean," he says.
I shake my head at him and take a long pull on the beer.
We eat in silence. I'm waiting for him to tell me what the hell's going on. He seems to be avoiding the issue, not looking at me, pretending he's so hungry all he can look at is his stupid-looking health food.
Finally he gets up, looks around for something, finds the t.v. remote and sits down on the edge of the bed, flipping on the t.v.
I watch him for a minute in disbelief.
Really? He's not gonna talk about the salt thing and the weird dirt thing and the trunk full of weapons? Really?
Well, fuck that.
I get up, cross in front of him so he can't see the t.v., gesture angrily.
He looks up at me for moment, annoyed, and I shake my head, scribble on my pad and thrust it in his face.
–No fuckin' way, pal. You tell me what the fuck's going on. Now. Or I walk out that door.–
That last is a bluff, and he knows it, damn him.
–Did you bring me out here to kill me?– I scribble wildly. –Are you some kind of psycho serial killer?–
He looks up at me, opens his mouth, shuts it again and shakes his head.
"No, Dean, I did not bring you out here to kill you," he lets out a long breath. "You and I – we're hunters, man. We hunt things. Bad things."
I stare at him, uncomprehending. Hunters? But what's with the salt and the dirt and that goddamn arsenal, then?
And what the hell does he mean, "Bad things?"
–Are we bounty hunters?– I write.
"No," Sam shakes his head. "The things we hunt aren't human. And we kill them. We don't take them in for money. Although sometimes I think that might make more sense."
I stare at him, uncomprehending and feeling like he's doing it deliberately. Making me feel stupid.
–So they're animals,– I write. –Big game. Predators.–
His mouth twitches in a small smile, but he looks away, which means it's a joke to him, what I'm saying.
"Not exactly," he says.
–Bears? Cougars? Wolves?–
"You're getting closer," he acknowledges.
I am so done with this shit.
Before I think about what I'm doing I've got him up against the wall, hard, shoved there with his shirts in my fists and my face in his, glaring at him, shaking him.
He looks surprised, stares at me keenly for the first time in a long time, and it feels good to finally have his full attention.
But then I realize how close we are. I'm aware of my thigh pressed between his legs, against his crotch.
I shake him one more time, then back off, whirling away from him and grabbing my pad.
–Quit fucking with me.– I write, thrust the pad angrily into his face. –I need to know what the hell's going on.–
"I know you do, Dean," Sam sighs. "I just think it would be easier if I could show you. Tomorrow when we get home. This isn't something you can just make any sense about without some context."
If I could hiss, I would. Sam is being beyond annoying. He's being a total pain in my ass.
Sam's shaking his head.
"You'll just think I'm crazy," he says. "And I really don't need you running out that door right now. Also, talking about it trivializes it. And believe me, what we do is not trivial. Or simple in any way. Or normal, for that matter."
–Tell me, goddamn it.–
Sam lifts his eyes, looks into mine for a minute, and I do my best to hold his gaze, not let it make me melt with need and desire and something even more profound.
"Okay," Sam shifts his feet, puts his hands on his hips, licks his lips. "You know all the stories you heard as a kid, about bogeymen and monsters under the bed and in your closet? Ghost stories? Well, not you personally, you don't remember your childhood. But you've heard of those things, right? Ghosts, monsters, werewolves and vampires?"
Suddenly I know. I just know. It's not like I have a sudden memory of anything specific. I just know in my bones that this is what we do. We hunt those things he's talking about. We've been doing it forever, since we were kids ourselves. We hunt them, and then we kill them.
"Are you hearing me, Dean?" Sam presses, 'cuz, I'm staring away from him, at a corner of the room, trying to process this weird feeling of just knowing what he's telling me is true. "You're not freaking out on me?"
I snap my eyes up to meet his, fiercely scribble and hand him my pad.
–Don't you dare think I can't handle this. You were holding out on me, damn you. Lying to me. Goddamn mechanic, my ass.–
Sam sucks in a breath, raises his eyes from the pad to my face, puppy-dog look back.
I snatch the pad back, scribble furiously, shove it in his face again.
–We hunt evil. We kill it. I get it.–
He raises his eyebrows, lets his arms swing wide in a helpless gesture.
"How can you just accept that so easily?" he asks. "Damn it, Dean, here I was thinking all the time that maybe you weren't gonna remember. Maybe you wouldn't have to live that life any more. You could finally have some normal ––"
–Obviously our lives are pretty far from normal, Sam.–
–And I don't remember. I just know.–
Sam stares, then shakes his head.
"Those goddamn instincts of yours," Sam says. "It's like a sixth sense or something. Like some kinda psychic mojo."
Now it's my turn to stare, because when he says that, it's like something itches inside my head. It's like there's something I'm supposed to understand but I can't quite see it. The thought that pops into my head makes no sense whatsoever and is completely and utterly terrifying, beyond what I've just learned about us. And I'm not ready to think too deeply about it, so I don't.
So now it's my turn to avoid conversation, and Sam accepts that, thank god. Just lets me get ready for bed, then takes over the bathroom like a goddamn octopus.
The thought nags at me, just won't go away, even when Sam comes back into the room and climbs into his own bed, reaches up to turn out the light.
I raise a hand and give a little wave, blankets pulled up to my chin, turned away with my back to him so I don't have to watch him fold his long, lanky, well-muscled frame into the tiny twin bed.
I can't sleep.
I lie as still as possible for awhile, listening to Sam trying to make himself comfortable in the other bed. He tosses and turns, then goes still for a few minutes. Then turns over and huffs out a breath.
"Dean? You still awake?"
I lie as still as I can, still turned away from him.
"Dean, I can tell you're awake. I know how you sound when you sleep."
So many things, pal, I think. So many things.
"Come on, man, talk to me."
Yeah, right. Like I would if I could.
I turn over, sit up, turn on the light, grab the pen and pad off the nightstand and scribble on it, thrust it toward him, all in one movement, fast and hard.
He looks at the pad, then up at my face, and there are tears in his eyes, damn it, but I don't look away.
"I don't know, Dean," his voice is choked. "I don't know if we're human anymore. Sometimes I think – after what happened to you – "
I grab the pad back, scribble furiously.
–What happened to me? Cuz it weren't no car accident.–
"No," he agrees, his voice a hoarse whisper. "It wasn't a car accident."
I shake the pad for emphasis, demanding.
He keeps his eyes lowered for another minute, and when he raises them to mine they're coated with tears.
"Please don't make me tell you," he begs. "Not right now. Let's get home first, where it's safe. Then I'll tell you everything. I promise."
I shake my head again, turn back the page on the pad to the one where I already wrote NOW in all caps. Hold it up to him with a little shake.
Sam runs his hands through his hair, screws his face up in an expression of such agony I can't stand it.
I reach out, brush my fingers across his cheek in a gesture I mean to be comforting but which is way more intimate than I intended. It feels so natural I don't even want to think how many times I must've done it in the past.
And the way he leans into my hand -- yeah, been there, done that.
His eyes are closed and he's taking slow, shaky breaths, leaning his face into my hand, so I leave it there for a minute, rub my thumb along his cheekbone, watching him steady himself and take comfort from my touch.
When he opens his eyes again I pull my hand away. He nods.
"Okay," he says. "Okay, Dean."
He takes a deep breath.
"You were lost," he says. "I had lost you. You weren't coming back. It wasn't Crowley, wasn't Hell, wasn't even angels and God. It was the Mark. The fuckin' Mark of Cain."
I watch his face as he talks, lost in his story, hazel eyes still shining with unshed tears, hair mussed and sticking up in places.
"So I learned everything I could about that Mark," he goes on. "How it twisted your soul till there was nothing there. Nothing to save or bargain for, nothing to cure. I knew it made you immortal, kept bringing you back when you died. I followed the history of the thing all the way back to its origins, to the fiery kiln where the First Blade was forged. Below Hell, the underworld that existed before Lucifer and the angels."
He pauses, looking up at me for a minute to be sure I'm following.
I'm not, really, but I'm listening. I'm waiting for the things he's telling me to make sense. I have some crazy faith that they will, eventually.
"I found a guy who could help," he says. "One of the gods of the old pagan underworld. The Greeks called him Hephaestus. The Romans called him Vulcan. He was a blacksmith, forger of all sorts of ancient talismanic artifacts and weapons, including, as it so happened, the First Blade. After the re-ordering of the pagan gods, he got a job making weapons for Heaven. And Hell."
–You went to this underworld to meet with this dude?–
"Yeah. Don't ask how I did it -- there were spells and incantations and I had to kill a lot of innocent people to create the offering that led me to the door, and it's not exactly something I'm proud of, Dean. But I did it."
I'm stuck on the "killing a lot of innocent people" part, feeling my mouth drop open in shock.
He won't look at me, seems to know what I'm thinking. Just barrels ahead with his story.
"So Hephaestus said yeah, he could release you from the hold the Mark has on you, but only for six months out of the year. For six months you could come home. We could live our lives. Your soul would be whole and healthy again."
Sam looks up, the hope and love so plain in his expression it takes my breath away. It's my turn to look down, to look way from the naked emotion in my brother's face.
How can I ever live up to that? What did I ever do to earn that kind of love?
"But at the end of the six months, you're Demon!Dean again," Sam goes on. "You're back in the pit of your own private Hell. You're the evil son-of-a-bitch I'm supposed to hunt and kill."
He's clenching his fists, throws his head back like he wants to scream, lurches to his feet and begins to pace around the room, suddenly wired and full of a terrible, frenetic energy that actually scares me.
"And I do, Dean," he chokes out, turning to me, standing there in his tee-shirt and boxers, shaking, muscles tensing, jaw working furiously. "That's the sickest thing about this whole thing. I have to hunt you. I have to hunt you and kill you so you can come back to me, broken and bloodied and brain-damaged -- "
He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes.
"I'm the only one who can do it, see. The only one who can kill you. And I do it because -- because if I don't, I lose you forever. And I can't live with that."
Watching him standing there, suffering and miserable, I'm suddenly on my feet, taking the steps to reach him and gather him into my arms, pulling him against me.
He stiffens for a split second, surprised, then collapses into me like a drowning man, his long arms wrapping me up, leaning down so he can press his chin into my shoulder, turning his face into my neck and hair, breathing deep.
I start patting his back, then I'm clutching his shirt in handfuls, hugging him against me, our bodies not quite flush because he's so freakishly tall he has to lean down to put his head on my shoulder.
I wish I could say what's going through my head.
-– It's okay, Sammy. Just let it go, brother. It's all right, I've got you.–
The words are there, deep inside me, beyond thought or memory or understanding, and I'm letting go of all conscious thought for the moment so I can listen to them, respond to him, this strange, beautiful man in my arms.
But he seems to hear my thoughts, squeezes my back and shoulder, presses his face into my neck so that I feel wetness against my skin.
We stand there for a long time, till Sam's breathing slows, till his body stops shaking with sobs. I run my hand up into his hair, cup the back of his neck and knead the muscles there gently until he pulls back a little, and I'm cupping his cheek again, running my thumb along the perfect cut of his cheek.
He smiles a little, eyelashes still wet with tears, eyes red with crying. I nod.
His eyes fall to my lips as I mouth the word, linger there, so I clear my throat, deliberately take a step back.
He lets me go, reluctantly, and I turn away from him so I can reach for my pad and pen.
–Not gonna even try to understand everything you just said,– I write. –But I know in my gut you did your best. You did what you had to do. We'll figure this out.–
Sam stares at me, lips parted, long arms hanging loose, and I realize I'm physically fighting the urge to gather him into my arms again. To soothe his furrowed brow and kiss his soft lips and give him everything he so obviously needs from me. Only from me.
But I can't. I still barely know him, even if my body feels completely familiar with him. I still can't give him what he wants.
"I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this, Dean," he says now, voice cracked and broken. "To have you back -- it's everything. But you come back a little more damaged every time. Hephaestus says the memory loss is part of the way it works. You come back up the River Lethe, so you forget everything each time. At first I thought that was a good thing. You don't remember all the things that happened while you were a demon. Believe me, that's a good thing. But you don't remember us either. I have to spend more and more time just getting you to trust me again. To trust US."
A demon, I think. I'm a demon.
So I'm not human.
I knew it.
–Sam, I need to know. How long has this been happening? How long since I was just me?–
Sam's face crumbles again as he reads my note, like I've punched him.
He shakes his head.
"A while," he says, his voice barely above a whisper. "It's been awhile, Dean."
I nod. Years, I think. It's been years. That's the only answer that makes sense.
None of this makes sense.
Suddenly I'm bone tired. Suddenly I don't think I can stay on my feet another minute.
I sink down on the bed, put my face in my hands.
Sam shifts his feet nervously.
"I know it's a lot to take in, Dean," he says softly. "Just take all the time you need. I don't mean to pressure you."
–Yeah, you do. Demanding little bitch.– I throw the pad at him and he catches it easily.
A tiny smile turns up the corners of his mouth as he reads.
"Jerk." His smile widens a little. It's the ghost of a grin I used to tease out of him pretty regularly, I'm guessing.
We look at each other for another minute, and it feels warm and familiar and I'm so sure it's everything he's said it is, this thing between us. I'm as certain of that as I can't remember anything specific about it. And it's inevitable, I guess, that I'll be kissing those lips one of these days and feeling all that warm, tan skin on mine.
Just not tonight.
–Need to sleep,– I gesture, pulling the covers back so I can slip under them again.
He watches me another minute, till I wave and turn my back to him, curled in a ball on my side with the covers pulled up to my chin again.
"Night, Dean," he says softly, leaning down to turn out the light. I hear the sheets rustle as he climbs back into his own bed, then waves of exhaustion crest over me and I'm out before I can form another coherent thought.
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