It had taken years before Dean felt truly comfortable sleeping alone, although he never told Sam that. Sam had always left his own door ajar when he slept, as though he needed at least the illusion of sleeping in the same room, even if Dean was sleeping down the hall and around the corner. Dean had always left his door ajar as well, to hear Sam if he woke screaming in the night, which had happened fairly often the first months after they’d moved here.
When it did, Dean padded down the hall to Sam's room, shushing the kid and providing as much reassurance as he could to help Sam settle again. On those nights, he usually slipped quietly into Sam's bed after waking him up just enough to be sure Sam knew he was there. Then he pulled the covers up over both of them and rolled over onto his side with his back to his brother. Most times, they slept soundly that way the rest of the night.
Dean always closed the door to Sam's room before climbing into bed with his brother. In this way they would be safely cocooned in their own little world, as they had always been before they moved into the bunker, barring those few painful separations that neither of them ever spoke about.
Once in a while, it was Sam who came to Dean in the night, probably because it was Dean who woke up screaming. Dean never remembered those times, except for his gratitude at finding his brother's warm, solid body in the bed next to him, filling his nostrils with the smell of home, sometimes giving him a woody, which he ignored without even thinking about it. Sam always woke up first, so Dean never had to face that awkward moment of waking up in bed with a boner for his brother.
Now he wondered if Sam knew anyway.
Maybe Sam didn't care. Fact was, besides those moments when Dean was fairly certain Sam was flirting with him, or deliberately provoking him in that gorgeous, smirking way of his, Sam had never shown any overt signs of wanting anything more from their relationship. Whenever Dean caught him staring, Sam lowered his eyes. Whenever Sam found Dean staring, Dean winked and licked his lips, making a joke of the moment so that Sam would blush and purse his lips.
It was an on-going joke between them that Dean was always horny, always ready to fuck, and getting turned on by his tall, beautiful hunk of a brother didn't mean anything.
At least, it was a joke to Dean. Sam always acted like Dean's promiscuity annoyed the hell out of him.
Although in the past few years Dean hadn't been exactly promiscuous. In fact, he could practically count the number of one-night stands he'd managed during that time on the fingers of one hand, demon period included.
Still, it was fun to pretend he was out getting laid. It never failed to get a rise out of Sam. Once or twice Dean was pretty sure he'd managed to make Sam jealous, which was good for some serious me-time in the shower. Shortly after that, Sam managed to get himself laid for real, right in the backseat of the car. In case Dean should have any doubts it was really happening.
Because there really wasn't any way for Sam to be more obvious about it, was there?
Dean told himself he didn't care. Sam was a big boy, he knew how to protect himself. If he needed to let off a little steam with some random waitress once in a while, who was Dean to tell him he couldn't? It was good for Sam, loosened him up a little, made him less cranky in the car on those long drives.
Dean ignored the way it had made his blood boil, the way it had made him drink a little harder, the way it had consumed him for a few weeks afterwards, the thought of Sam and that girl together. On the surface, he was proud of Sam's willingness to accept that this was just the way it had to be. Neither of them could ever have normal lives after everything that had happened. Long-term romantic relationships were just not happening for them. Ever.
And when Sam expressed his wistful dream of having someone special, maybe a hunter, someone who understood the life and could share it in every way, Dean reminded him that they were lucky to have what they had, and he meant it. The Winchesters had each other, in every way that counted.
After what he just learned from sick-Sam, Dean couldn't help wondering if Sam had been testing him. What would Sam have said in that moment if Dean had just come right out and admitted, "You have me." What if Sam still harbored feelings for Dean that were more than just brotherly, even after all these years? What if sick-Sam was right and Sam had always felt that way about Dean, had just buried those feelings deep when he thought Dean didn't really want him?
Well, it didn't matter now, did it? It was years too late for them. That ship had sailed and sunk years ago. Even if sick-Sam was right and Sam really did still have feelings for Dean, those feelings must be buried so deep by now there'd be no way in hell Sam would ever admit to them. If there was, they'd have come out by now. Sam would've confessed them in his sleep, or when he was soulless. Dean would've known.
Dean really wished sick-Sam had never come into their lives. That kid was nothing but a pain in Dean's ass, bringing up all these issues and choices that had been settled long ago for Dean and his Sam. It was just asking for trouble to dredge up those old feelings, from that long ago time when Sam had made his choice and left, never to return again, at least not in that way.
No, sick-Sam really needed to go. Dean and Sam needed to find a way to get him back to his sicko life with his demon brother as soon as possible, taking with him all his disturbing revelations and temptations.
Dean found a full glass of water and a couple of ibuprofen next to the bed where sick-Sam had obviously left them for him. Taking care of a sick brother was something sick-Sam had clearly become far too accustomed to, which was not the natural order of things. Not the way it should be at all. Big brothers were supposed to take care of their little brothers, not the other way around. Everybody knew that.
When Dean stumbled out to the library, stomach grumbling now that he was feeling stronger again, he found sick-Sam deep in the books, shaggy head bent as he hunched over the table. For a moment Dean watched him silently; he almost looked like Dean's Sam, except for the way he held his right arm tucked into his side, using his left for moving the books and turning the pages. Dean imagined the kid had probably taught himself to write with his left hand by now, to take the strain off his permanently-shattered shoulder.
Apparently, there were things that even magical demon!Dean-juice couldn't heal.
Sick-Sam must have heard him, or sensed that he was there, because he lifted his head and took a deep breath, putting the book down as he turned slightly towards Dean.
"There's some soup on the stove," he said as Dean's stomach growled loudly. "You should eat."
"Oh, I intend to," Dean said.
"But no beer," sick-Sam admonished. "And stay out of the whiskey."
"I heard you." Dean waved his hand as he turned away and headed down the corridor to the kitchen.
There's been a situation. he texted Sam as he ignored the soup in favor of last night's left-over pizza sitting in the icebox where Sam had left it.
What's up? Sam texted back almost immediately.
They must be in the car, Dean decided. Good. Maybe they're on their way back.
Sick-Sammy isn't so sick after all, and he wants to go home, Dean texted. He hesitated for a moment before texting, I need your help.
It was a long moment before Sam replied, and Dean wondered if Mary was there, taking Sam's attention away from his brother. Dean knew he shouldn't feel jealous, and he didn't, but he did feel something akin to it.
On my way, Sam answered finally. Dean let out the breath he didn't realize he’d been holding, partly because Sam seemed to understand Dean's urgency, and partly because Sam hadn't said, "we're on our way."
Dean was fairly sure he didn't want their mother involved in this strange turn of events. He didn't need sick-Sam to know she existed in this reality. It would only complicate matters, and they were already complicated enough.
"How's it going?" Dean asked as he strode into the library again, cup of fresh coffee in his hand.
Sick-Sam glanced up. "Not great," he conceded. "I was hoping there might be some spells I hadn't tried before, here in this reality. So far everything here is just same old, same old."
"You need a spell-book you haven't seen before," Dean said as a sudden thought occurred to him. "I think we might have just the thing."
Sam had hidden the grimoire that Rowena had stolen from the Loughlins, but Dean knew where to find it. When he put it down on the table next to sick-Sam the kid seemed genuinely impressed, and Dean couldn't help the smirk of satisfaction that spread over his face.
"Where did you get this?" Sick-Sam stared as he turned the brittle pages, lovely eyes growing wide with amazement.
"I don't remember," Dean joked, then realized sick-Sam wouldn't get the reference. "Never mind. We collected it from some very old, very dangerous witches."
"I thought you hated witches," sick-Sam frowned, clearly confused.
"Yeah, well, sometimes we work with one," Dean admitted with a shrug. "Little redhead named Rowena. Yea high, Scottish brogue, Crowley's mother."
"His mother?" Sick-Sam looked up. "Crowley had a mother?"
"Maybe not in your timeline, cowboy," Dean smirked. "In your world, that demon brother of yours probably killed her."
"Maybe," sick-Sam agreed with a sigh. "It would be useful to find a powerful witch right now."
"What, you can't decipher those spells yourself?" Dean scoffed. "I would have thought, after all this time just sitting around the bunker with nothing else to do, you must be practically Gandalf by now."
Sick-Sam pursed his lips. "Dean has to hunt," he said. "He has to kill to keep the Mark under control. We don't just sit around all day."
"Yeah, well, usually, neither do we," Dean said, sitting down in the chair opposite sick-Sam, careful to avoid touching him. "Except right now my brother's off hunting with our mo– with another hunter, and I'm stuck here babysitting."
"Being a dick, you mean," sick-Sam mumbled.
"What was that?" Dean snapped, twirling his index finger in the air around his ear. "I can't hear you through all the static from Bitch-Moan Radio. It sounded like you were thanking me for saving your ass again, but I could be wrong."
Sick-Sam leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose as he let out a long sigh. His legs spread wide under the table, and when his shin slid up against Dean's, Dean didn't move away. He was fairly sure sick-Sam wasn't even conscious of needing the physical contact, but Dean could read Sam like a book when he was stressed. Withdrawing whatever small comfort Dean could offer just wasn't in him.
"I can't do this," sick-Sam muttered.
"Yes, you can," Dean responded automatically. "You're going to find that spell, and then you're going to get back to your evil brother, and all will be right with the world again."
"I need more blood." Sick-Sam rubbed the bridge of his nose. His leg pressed harder against Dean's as he hunched lower in his chair.
"Okay." Dean felt his heart sink. "Okay, I can do that."
Sick-Sam lifted his head then, blinking his beautiful eyes as he raised his perfect eyebrows in a look of surprise.
"No! Oh my God, Dean, that's not what I meant," he said as he shook his head. "I don't need you to do that. Hopefully not ever again." He lowered his eyes to the book, spreading his hands over the page. "I mean my blood. Any spell to get me back to my world requires my blood. And I don't have enough."
Dean frowned. "There's a hospital in Smith Center," he said. "They probably have a blood bank. I could get some for you."
"No, no, it has to be my blood." Sick-Sam repeated. "At least six pints."
"You'd never survive that kind of blood loss," Dean said. "Not all at once. Maybe you could bank it over the course of a few days..."
Sick-Sam shook his head. "The spell requires fresh blood. It wouldn't work if the blood was a few days old, or even a few hours old. It has to be fresh."
"Sam, I am not going to let you bleed out just so you can go home," Dean snapped. "You'll have to live out your life here, if that's the way it is."
"Maybe I'm resilient enough now." Sick-Sam was agitated, his eyes glinting with that wild look he'd had earlier, when Dean first found him. "Maybe I have enough of the Mark in me to keep me alive, or maybe it’ll bring me back if I die the way it did with Dean. Maybe the Mark won't let me die."
"And if it does?" Dean growled. "Sounds like a lot of maybes to me. If you do this and the Mark doesn't bring you back? Nuh-uh, Sam. Not happening. Not on my watch."
"But we're almost there, Dean," sick-Sam protested. "I can feel it. My Dean and I are fully blood-bonded. Once we share the Mark, its power disperses between us. I can save him. I know I can."
Sick-Sam was leaning forward in his chair now, hair disheveled around his angular face, arms open on the table, framing the ancient spell-book. There was something of the fanatic about him, the lonely mystic who had gained the knowledge of the world but lost his soul. He was beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and Dean loved him so much it hurt. Sam on a mission, on a mythic quest, was breathtaking. That it took Dean being a demon to bring out this side of his brother was almost too much to bear.
Dean had seen this Sam before, he realized. When Sam was completing the trials to close the Gates of Hell, he’d been like this. It occurred to Dean that Sam had probably been like this while Dean was in Hell, or while he was in Purgatory. If Death had sent Dean off to live on a distant planet somewhere, where the Mark couldn't make him hurt anyone, Sam would have been like this. Dean had been so certain of that he'd almost let Death talk him into killing Sam. He had a sudden memory of Sam on his knees, looking up at him with that trusting, faith-filled gaze of his, the one that broke Dean's heart every time. The one that had gotten through to him when he'd needed it most.
Dean scrubbed his hand over his stubbled cheek and slid his chair back, getting up before he thought himself into a hole.
"We'll figure it out," he assured his not-brother. "We'll get you home somehow. Sam's on his way. He'll know what to do."
Sick-Sam frowned. "Seriously? Dude, your Sam hasn't spent the past two years studying spells on travel between alternate universes. He's like a total newbie compared to me."
"Well, maybe," Dean shrugged, picking up his empty coffee mug. "But I wouldn't underestimate him if I were you. My Sam's met God. Yep, that God," he nodded at sick-Sam's look of surprise and confusion. "That necklace you carry around in your pocket? The one you gave me when we were kids? The one I threw away because it didn't work?" Dean nodded grimly. "It works."
He turned his back on sick-Sam's shocked expression, sauntering off toward the kitchen for another cup of coffee before heading out to buy groceries and maybe hit a bar somewhere. He would leave sick-Sam to his research, now that it was obvious the kid didn't need babysitting.
Sick-Sam's revelation was making his skin itch. He couldn't stop thinking about it, wondering about it, and he really needed to get laid, or at least make out with somebody who wasn't Sam. He needed to shake loose the sight of Sam's bent head, long hair falling soft across his cheek, bright slanted eyes turning up expectantly as Dean entered the room.
Dean desperately needed to stop thinking about fucking his brother.
Damn it all to hell. Of all the choices and pivotal moments Sam and Dean had faced throughout their long, complicated lives. why did they have to revisit this particular choice? Why was this the thing that came back to haunt Dean in the form of this gorgeous, desperate kid who was so in love with his demon brother he was willing to live with him that way for the rest of eternity?
Take what you can get, his warped brain provided unhelpfully. If Sam was a demon, would you love him anyway?
Dean didn’t even have to answer that. If Sam was a demon, he would let the world burn to keep him safe, and it didn't matter how many monsters or people had to die.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Dean needed to forget everything.
The college girls at the bar weren’t interested, but when Dean lowered his standards and started chatting up the bartender, she pointed him towards a woman who sat alone in a booth at the other end of the bar.
"Ex-cop," the bartender explained. "Her partner died in the line of duty, and now she's in here practically every night, just sitting there, nursing her whiskey and soda. She thinks it should have been her that night. If she could trade places with him, she would. But we don't get to choose, do we? Who lives, who dies. It's not up to us."
"No," Dean agreed, taking a sip of his whiskey. "It's not."
"She's a good person, you know?" the bartender went on. "She's done her penance. She deserves to live again."
Dean raised his eyebrows, took a deep breath, and marched over to the woman's table, offering to buy her a drink, even though he already knew she would refuse.
It surprised him when she joined him at the bar a few minutes later, offering to buy him a drink instead.
"So, you're just passing through, I take it," she suggested, maybe a little too hopefully, like she was wasn't looking for anything permanent and wanted Dean to know that up front.
She told him her name was Gabrielle, but everyone called her Gabby. Dean gave her his real name and swallowed down three whiskeys while she continued to nurse the one she'd had at the table. When she suggested they go back to her place, only a few blocks away, he was more than ready.
Afterwards, she watched him from the bed as he got dressed. "She's a lucky girl, your wife," she said as Dean shrugged on his jacket.
He glanced at her over his shoulder, shaking his head. "Not married," he said, almost perfunctorily.
Gabby smiled and turned onto her back, staring at the ceiling. She obviously didn't believe him. "Take it from a woman, Dean. She loves you. She may not always show it, because she knows you, and you like to act like you're tough and you don't go in for public displays of affection. But she loves you."
Dean flushed, shaking his head as he sat down on the end of the bed to pull his boots on. "I'm kind of married to my job," he said. "Most women can't compete with that."
"She can," Gabby said, turning onto her side again. She pulled the sheet tight over her ample breasts, and her long dark hair fell across her shoulders in a wave. "She loves you for who you are, not just what you do. And she understands why you need to cheat on her once in a while, so don't think she doesn't."
"I'm not married," Dean said again. "And even if I was, I'm not cheating! I don't cheat. That's not what this is."
"It's not?" Gabby raised her eyebrows. "Because I'd hate to think you're the only one being used here."
"I just need to clear my head sometimes," Dean said as he finished lacing his boots. He glanced over his shoulder at her. "How am I the one being used here, exactly? Are you married?"
"No," Gabby laughed, and it was a sad, bitter sound. "I lost my best chance at that, and now it's too late for me. What's done is done. Some mistakes, you can't go back and fix. No, sometimes I just need to be sure I can still feel something, you know? Sometimes I just need to be sure I still have a heart."
"You have a heart," Dean assured her. He reached back and laid his hand on her leg, squeezing gently through the blanket. "You're also a little crazy, letting some strange drifter into your home. I'd have thought an ex-cop would know better than that."
Gabby smiled wide and dipped her head, making her dimples show. "We're two lonely souls, Dean. I recognized that as soon as I saw you in the bar. Anyway, a little danger is just what I needed tonight."
Dean nodded, stood up and crossed to the door, where he paused for a moment, then turned back.
"He's my partner," he admitted, although he couldn't explain why he felt so compelled to correct her. "My better half, if you want to know the truth, although I'd never tell him that."
Gabby raised her eyebrows and nodded, as if this was something she'd already suspected, or as if her long years as an investigator had taught her how easily theories could be adjusted to fit new evidence.
"You will," she said with conviction. "And when you do, you'll find out he was waiting for you, all this time. Just don't wait too long."
Back at the bunker, Dean found sick-Sam collapsed over his books on the table, a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels near his elbow, and for a moment the sight was so familiar it made his chest ache with relief. He wanted to slide into the chair next to his brother, let his legs fall open so that one of them rested against Sam's under the table, warm and comfortable and with that constant buzz of arousal that being near Sam always caused. He wanted to tease Sam in that mocking manner that bordered on flirtation, to get that rise out of him that made Dean's heart speed up a little, to feel that crackle of electricity in the air that always surrounded them when they were together.
Most of all, Dean wanted the clarity and confidence that being with Sam always gave him, the absolute certainty that with Sam, Dean was his best self. He was who he most wanted to be.
But this man wasn't Sam. Sick-Sam wasn't Dean's brother, and suddenly Dean missed his Sam with a vengeance.
"Hey! What the hell!" Sick-Sam jerked awake when Dean slammed the bunker door. He scrubbed his face and ran his hands through his hair as Dean staggered into the room, still a little tipsy and bone-tired, still slightly horny.
"Oh my God, Dean, you smell like a bar." Sick-Sam wrinkled up his nose and rubbed his eyes, and Dean realized sick-Sam was half-dreaming. He believed he was speaking to his demon brother.
Dean knew sick-Sam could smell the perfume and sex on him; he understood now why he needed to do this every once in a while, or at least partly. But sick-Sam acted like this was a normal thing for his brother, and hadn't he said they were lovers? What kind of a jerk deliberately cheated on his partner and then came home to him covered in the evidence? How fucked up must that relationship be?
"You should be in bed," Dean countered, affection welling up before he could stop it, the impulse to soothe this broken boy way more powerful than it should be. He lay a hand on sick-Sam's shoulder and almost ruffled his hair before he stopped himself. Sick-Sam leaned in, of course, probably still thinking Dean was his brother. "Come on. I'll tuck you in."
Sick-Sam let himself be gathered up, draping his big body across Dean's shoulders so Dean could slip his arm around the kid's slim waist and lead him down the corridor toward Sam's room. Dean figured that was where sick-Sam was used to sleeping, on nights like this in his world. Sam would forgive him for putting sick-Sam to sleep in his bed. Sam had not been happy with sick-Sam sleeping in Dean's bed, that much he remembered clearly.
Dean managed to get the kid into bed, managed to tug his boots off, but when he pulled the blankets up to sick-Sam's chin and started to back away, the kid grabbed onto his jacket, pulling him in.
"It'll be okay, Dean, I promise," sick-Sam said, stubborn and fierce even in his drunken, sleepy state. "We'll figure it out."
Their faces were inches apart, and for one heart-pounding moment, Dean wondered if sick-Sam was about to kiss him. If sick-Sam thought Dean was his brother, it could happen, couldn't it? And Dean could let it happen because sick-Sam was half-asleep and probably wouldn't even remember in the morning. Not to mention, sick-Sam wasn’t really Dean’s brother, so it wasn’t even that dirty-bad-wrong, right? And Dean would finally, finally feel those soft lips against his again, might even get away with running his hands through that long, silky hair.
"Dean?" Sick-Sam blinked up at him, frowning a little as he registered Dean's hesitation, something jarring in his manner that seemed slightly off to him.
"Yeah, buddy, it's okay," Dean gave a sad little smile, wistful now that the moment had passed. He grasped sick-Sam's wrists and gently pulled free, pushing sick-Sam down on the bed again. "You just sleep now."
"Okay," sick-Sam agreed, his soft tone making him seem young and vulnerable. He closed his eyes and settled, immediately falling asleep in that trusting way that made Dean's heart break because it reminded Dean of all the times Sam had counted on him to tell him what to do.
Dean retreated to the desk chair by the bed and scrubbed a hand over his face. He was shaking, heart still thudding a little too fast in his chest. He'd almost kissed sick-Sam, had definitely wanted to, had actually hoped sick-Sam would just do it so that Dean wouldn't have to.
He'd never felt like such a cheating asshole in his life.
But if it was cheating to kiss sick-Sam, who was the wronged party? Sam? Demon!Dean? Both?
Definitely both. Plus himself, because the truth was he didn't want sick-Sam. He wanted his Sam. This sick kid would just be a lame substitute for the person Dean really wanted to kiss, to fuck, to love in every damn way he never could again because he'd blown it all those years ago and now it was too late.
Fuck my life, Dean moaned silently.
He watched sick-Sam sleep for another moment as he gathered his thoughts and got his emotions under control. Not for the first time, he reminded himself to be grateful for how it was, that he and Sam were alive and together and fighting the good fight, day after day. They had defeated the Darkness, stopped two apocalypses, and God himself had left them in charge of the Earth. No matter how misplaced that trust might be, the big man himself had decreed it, and Dean would be a damn fool to shirk that kind of responsibility.
The truth was, it wasn't exactly terrible, their life. Dean couldn't really complain, as he had years ago when the entire universe seemed hell-bent against them. Things were better now. And if Sam and Dean weren't sleeping together, couldn't be together in every sense of the word, well that was a small price to pay for the way things had worked out.
He should stop his whining and learn to appreciate things the way they were.
Dean took a deep breath and hauled himself to his feet. He stood gazing down at the sleeping form of his not-brother for another minute, letting himself imagine curling up against the kid's overheated body, burying his face in his sleep-soaked skin, imagining how sick-Sam would allow it because he would assume Dean was his brother.
Then he tore his eyes away, pulling himself together so he could leave the room, gathering his regrets around him like a cloak.
He took a long, hot shower, scrubbing all traces of his evening's transgressions away, renewing his commitment to stowing his crap. He would push down all the thoughts and feelings that sick-Sam's revelation had raised, and he would keep them all locked away in that place deep down inside him where he'd almost forgotten them. Sam would never need to know any of this. It would be as though it had never happened, as though Dean had never considered the possibility of things being different between them.
He would make sure sick-Sam didn't tell Dean's Sam how things were different in his world. Sam didn't need that crap. He didn't need to know that Dean had piled another layer of bad-weird-dirty-wrong on their lives.
Unfortunately, by the time Dean woke up the next morning, Sam was already home.
Sam and sick-Sam sat next to each other at the kitchen table, sharing a pot of coffee and pouring over spell-books, bent heads so close it was hard to tell where one left off and the other started. Their broad backs took up so much of the room, even seated, that Dean had the impression of a Wall of Sam as he entered the room behind them. It was weird, seeing double like this. They even moved the same way, both heads coming up and tilting in that uniquely Sam way when they heard Dean come in.
"Morning, fellas." Dean tried for jovial, but his voice was hoarse so it came out a little cracked and vulnerable.
"It's afternoon, Dean," Sam said, throwing him an annoyed look before turning back to the book. "I got you a burger, but it's probably cold by now."
"Gee, thanks." Dean cleared his throat, pouring himself a cup of coffee. "When did you get home?"
"About an hour ago," Sam answered. "Sam here has been filling me in."
"He has, huh?" Dean stood across the table, one hand in the pocket of his dead-guy robe as he sipped his coffee with the other. "What about?"
"How to get him home, of course," Sam frowned. "What did you expect?"
"Oh, nothing," Dean backtracked fast, struggling to tamp down his nervousness, which of course Sam had picked up on immediately. Sam knew him too well. He turned away to get the overwhelming sight of Doublemint Sams out of his brain and grabbed the take-out from the counter, pretending to check out its cold, unappetizing contents. "So, what did you come up with?"
"Sam has offered to lend his blood to the spell we need," sick-Sam announced. "Between the two of us, there should be enough."
That got Dean's attention. "Wait, what? No! Oh hell, no. No way I'm gonna let my brother bleed himself dry so you can go home to that demon bastard."
"Dean..." Both Sams spoke at once, in that same placating tone that Dean always hated so much.
"No way! I am not letting you put my brother in danger, and that's the end of it! Figure something else out. And get out of my kitchen! You two can go be nerdy in the library together. I need to eat."
One Sam was overwhelming enough, but two was downright distracting. His dick didn't know whether to stand at attention or cower in fear.
Then sick-Sam had to go there.
"Come on, you love it," he teased with that sly, dimpled grin that Dean hadn't seen on his Sam's face in way too long. "You love twins. Double the fun, right?"
Dean's mouth dropped open and he flushed to the tips of his ears.
"I can't believe you just said that, you sick son-of-a-bitch," he sputtered, going for gruff but sounding a little shaky instead.
Sick-Sam retreated immediately, lowering his eyes as he started to gather the books, as if he was a little too used to pissing Dean off.
"Come on," he muttered to Sam. "Let's take this to the library so Dean can have a little me-time with his cold cheeseburger."
Sam was giving Dean a confused frown that could mean anything, and Dean was suddenly terrified of the conversation these two were about to have out of his hearing.
"No, you two stay," he insisted. "I think I'll head down to the firing range. Get in a little target practice."
"Good idea," Sam said. "You seem like you could use a little aggression-therapy."
"Fuck you very much," Dean muttered as he stomped out of the kitchen.
Shit. This was bad. It was definitely time to send sick-Sam home. But draining Dean's little brother was not an option. Fuck these two and their gorgeous, infuriating presences. It was doing things to Dean's equilibrium.
After a half-hour of target practice, Dean hit the gym to shoot a few hoops, finally giving up because his thoughts would not leave him alone no matter how many shots he made. He worried about what the two Sams were talking about out of his hearing. He worried about the spell they were brewing up that would involve copious amounts of blood. He worried about sick-Sam going back to his abusive boyfriend. Every instinct in his body screamed at him to prevent that, to keep sick-Sam here where he was safe.
But he knew better than to try to make Sam do anything he didn't want to. He'd learned the hard way to trust Sam to make his own choices. If he ordered sick-Sam to stay, he was no better than that demon, the darkest part of himself that would never really let Sam be free. Dean had tried to learn from his mistakes. Lately, he'd been making a real effort to let Sam make the calls, to listen to Sam when his little brother had an idea or a plan, even if it sounded insanely dangerous at first.
Like this plan to bleed out for a spell that might not even work.
Eventually, Dean's stomach drove him back to the kitchen. The Sams were gone, so Dean took a few minutes to scarf down his cold cheeseburger and half a carton of milk.
Breakfast of champions, he would have said to Sam if he'd been there.
He was making a fresh pot of coffee when Sam bounded in, looking ridiculously pleased with himself.
"Okay, I think we've got it," he announced, far too cheerfully in Dean's opinion.
"The spell," Sam said, reaching for the coffee-pot to pour himself a cup. His arm brushed against Dean's and Dean flushed hot, responding to Sam so intensely he almost fell over. "Dude, are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Dean growled, stepping away so Sam wasn't rubbing all over him like a dog in heat. Did Sam usually do that? Was Sam always in his personal space like that? Right up next to him so they could practically feel each other's hair grow? "So, what's the plan?"
"Yeah, so, um, we're gonna collect my blood first, then his," Sam said. "He's done this way too many times already, so he's the expert. It takes a little under an hour to collect that much blood without killing the donor, and the blood has to be fresh, so we need you to draw the sigils and perform the spell itself."
"Me? Why me?"
"Well, Sam and I will be pretty woozy from blood loss, if not completely unconscious," Sam said. "If we wait until Sam recovers, the blood will get cold and we’ll lose our window to perform the spell."
"Sam, you know I hate spells, witches, all that crap," Dean said. "Not to mention all the blood. I don't have to tell you how much I hate this plan, do I?"
Sam shook his head. "I get it, Dean. I do," he said. "But if it was you stuck in some other reality, waiting for me to figure out a way to get back to you, I wouldn't stop, Dean. You know I wouldn't. And I couldn't stay there. I would find a way to get back to you. We have to help this guy get home. If our positions were reversed, he would do the same for me."
Plus, we have to get him the fuck out of here, along with all his tempting reminders of all the things that can't ever happen here, Dean added silently.
The thought of Sam stuck in some parallel universe, depending on the locals to help him get home, shook Dean to the core. He wasn't sure what he would do to get Sam back in that scenario, but it wasn't pretty. Demon!Dean had probably burned down half the world by now.
"I don't care about that other world," Dean said brokenly. "All I care about is you. And I don't trust that sick-puppy version of you in there, because all he cares about is his even sicker demon brother. And believe me, what they have, the choices they've made, those are two very sick mother-fuckers."
"I think you mean brother-fuckers," Sam noted dryly.
Dean gaped, stunned and speechless for all of two seconds. "He told you?"
"He didn't have to, Dean." Sam frowned. "You gave it away when you were so weird in here earlier. When I asked him about it, he explained how things were with him and his brother. How things are different."
"Sicker, you mean," Dean huffed, incredulous. "Those bastards are fucking each other. Do you realize how messed up that is?"
"Oh, like all the killing and torturing we do isn't messed up at all," Sam snapped, his eyes flashing with anger and something else Dean couldn't quite put his finger on.
"One, we don't torture," Dean insisted, raising his index finger for emphasis. "And two, we kill because we're saving people when we do it. We don't do it just so we can get our rocks off! We don't kill and then fuck each other's brains out in some mangy motel room, all covered in blood and ash and grave-dirt!"
"Wow." Sam took a step back, raising his eyebrows. "You've really thought about this."
Dean flushed to the roots of his hair. "It's in the fanfiction, damn it!"
"You've read Supernatural fanfiction?"
Dean shrugged. "I might have read one or two things, yeah. It's all online, man. It comes up when you google our names. Kinda hard to miss."
"Huh," Sam nodded, still looking adorably perplexed. "Since when?"
"Since when what, Sam? Why are you changing the subject? We were talking about the creepy Flowers-in-the-Attic Winchester brothers from the other universe, remember? They're not us. That's – none of that stuff – is us."
"No, no, you're right," Sam nodded. "We're morally superior. No question."
Damn Sam's ability to twist everything Dean said into something that made Dean feel like he was being a jerk. Just damn him anyway.
"That's not what I said," Dean insisted, clenching his jaw. "The point is, I don't trust that freaky brother-fucking son-of-a-bitch in there, so if you're willing to go ahead with his plan to get home to his brother, I'll go along with it because I trust you, not him. Are we clear?"
"Crystal," Sam nodded, his gaze softening, as if something Dean said was making Sam feel all fond and gooey inside, as if Dean had just used the L word or something.
They set up a make-shift blood-donor center in the hallway outside the magic door. Sick-Sam obviously knew what he was doing, and while Sam's blood dripped into the wooden spell-bowl, sick-Sam explained the spell to Dean. Then he hooked himself up, and Dean monitored them both, checking for signs of hypovolemic shock as the bowl slowly filled to the required level.
About forty minutes in, Sam lost consciousness.
"If he dies, I will end you and your brother," Dean growled to sick-Sam as he pressed his fingers to Sam's throat to check his pulse. The kid's skin was cool and clammy, his heart-beat fast, his breathing shallow.
"You can disconnect him now," sick-Sam said softly, as if he hadn't heard Dean's threat. "He'll recover, I promise."
"He'd fuckin' better," Dean growled, fighting down the urge to gather Sam in his arms and run for the nearest hospital. He removed the needle from Sam's arm, then cleaned and bandaged the site before folding Sam's arm over his chest. The kid was so pale and still it made Dean's heart clench painfully in his chest, remembering too well those other times when Sam lay silent and unmoving, when time had stood still while Dean's whole world crashed and burned around him.
"It's done," sick-Sam panted, pulling his own needle from his arm. He was pale, his eyelids fluttering as he struggled to stay conscious. "You can do the spell now."
"Jesus, I hate this," Dean muttered, dipping the paintbrush into the blood with a shake of his head. Sick-Sam had already drawn the required sigils on the doorframe, the largest one on the center of the door itself, so all Dean had to do was trace them with the blood and say the spell. He placed the bowl in front of the door when he was done, then sat back on his haunches and pulled the paper from his pocket.
"If this works, I'm gonna come face to face with myself, aren't I?" Dean said as he unfolded the paper.
Sick-Sam nodded. In his weakened state his bones protruded and the dark circles around his eyes made him look ghoulish. He sat propped against the wall beside the door, as close to it as he could get without touching it. It was as if he was planning to crawl through the door as soon as it opened into his world, straight into his brother's waiting arms.
"He's waiting for me," sick-Sam gasped, sucking air into his lungs with effort. "I can feel him. This close, I can almost hear his thoughts."
"Damn, that's not creepy at all," Dean muttered.
"Dean." Sick-Sam reached out and grabbed Dean's arm and Dean felt the contact like an electric shock, felt a shiver run up his spine and into his head. He heard whispering. "You and your Sam have it, too. You're bonded, just like us. You're just in denial about it, that's all."
Sick-Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath.. He was still holding onto Dean's arm, and now Dean heard a voice, inside his head. Sam's voice.
Dean yanked his arm away and sick-Sam opened his eyes, blinking as he tried to clear his vision.
"I don't need you telling me how to feel about my brother," Dean snapped. "Me and him, what we have? It's ours, you get me? Nobody else's. It works for us. We don't need all your mumbo-jumbo mind-reading, blood-drinking bonding crap. We're just fine the way we are."
"He never stopped feeling that way about you," sick-Sam said, his voice dreamy and breathless, like he was struggling to stay conscious and was already half-asleep. "He's just waiting for you. He'll always wait for you."
"Yeah, okay, let's do this, Yoda-man," Dean rolled his eyes, shaking his head clear of sick-Sam's weird mumbling so he could concentrate on the strange words on the page.
As he said the spell, it occurred to Dean that this whole thing was probably a trap. Demon!Dean was waiting on the other side of the door, and he didn't care if Dean lived or died. In fact, it was always easier when somebody died, Dean remembered from his time as a demon. Killing somebody or something (and it really didn't matter, that was the whole point) sated the beast inside him for a while, made it easier to function almost normally, to "pass" for human.
When he completed the spell, Dean put the paper down and carefully reached for the demon-blade that was tucked into his belt. He rose to his feet and held the blade in front of him as he waited for the spell to work, glancing apprehensively between the door and the two Sams.
At first, nothing happened. As the seconds ticked by, Dean frowned and started to reach for the spell paper. Maybe he'd said something wrong, no matter how many times he'd rehearsed it with sick-Sam. Maybe he'd have to recite the spell again.
Then the sigils on the door started to glow, faintly at first, then brighter until the doorframe and the door itself seemed to sizzle with an inner fire.
"He's here," sick-Sam gasped. "Open the door!"
"Yeah, 'cause that's such a great idea," Dean grumbled, clutching the knife defensively.
"Dean!" Sick-Sam pulled himself up, reaching for the wrought-iron latch on the door, and Dean had the distinct impression the kid wasn't talking to him. He was calling for his brother.
"Okay, on the count of three," Dean cautioned. "I open, you go through, got it? Then I'm slamming this door behind you." For good, his brain added silently.
Sick-Sam nodded, managing to pull himself to his feet, and Dean was reminded that the kid wasn't quite human anymore. He was stronger. Probably immortal. Kind-of a sort-of type of monster, actually. Like his brother.
"One." Dean started the count-down, grasping the latch with his left hand as he clutched the knife in his right. Not letting some punk-ass demon into his home, no sir, especially one he knew too well.
"Two." Dean laid his fist holding the blade against sick-Sam's shoulder, ready to push him through the doorway and keep him between himself and the demon.
Things happened fast as Dean opened the door. The demon was right there, as Dean has expected. The moment the door was unlatched the demon pushed through it violently, causing Dean to stumble backwards and lose his hold on the door. Sick-Sam slumped forward of his own weight, and the demon caught him, taking a moment to check him over before turning his attention to Dean.
"You hurt him," Demon!Dean barked furiously. "You kidnapped him, and then you hurt him!"
Dean stood his ground defiantly, gripping the demon-blade. "No, that would be you," he spat contemptuously. "All those scars, his bruises, all you, you sick son-of-a-bitch."
"You took my brother from me," the demon growled, eyes going black as he glared at Dean. "Now I’m gonna end you."
"Dean, no," sick-Sam grabbed onto his brother, trying to get his attention. "They saved me."
The demon glanced down when his brother spoke, noticing Sam collapsed on the floor.
"Is he dead?"
"Why do you care?" Dean countered.
Demon!Dean smiled, and it was a bitter, twisted expression that made a shiver go up Dean's spine.
"I don't," he answered. "It's just one less Doublemint douchebag that I gotta kill, that's all."
The demon moved so swiftly then that Dean didn't have much of a chance. Before he could so much as swing the blade, Dean found it kicked out of his hand. Then he was up against the wall with the demon's hand around his throat, struggling to breathe as the demon began squeezing the life out of him.
"Dean! Stop!" Dean could hear sick-Sam shout as he began losing consciousness. The demon was snarling into his face, holding him up off the ground with a strength Dean could barely remember.
How had he not seen this coming? How had he forgotten how powerful this bastard really was? Had he blinded himself to the threat from this demon because he didn't want to believe he'd once been so strong himself?
Well, it was too late now. Now it looked like he was about to have his windpipe crushed, and that would be that.
Sorry, Sammy, his dying brain cried out. I fucked up again.
He was almost unconscious when he heard the gunshot.
Dean's first terrified thought was for Sam.
He's dead! The demon killed him!
But then he became aware that he was breathing again. Whatever was restricting his airflow was gone. He was on the floor, collapsed like a rag-doll where the demon had dropped him. His back hurt where the demon had slammed him against the wall.
Dean sucked in a deep breath, rubbing his neck to ease the pain as he blinked through blurred vision. He focused past the ringing in his ears so that he could make sense of the scene in front of him.
Sick-Sam leaned drunkenly on the doorframe, Sam's gun in his hand, and the demon was turned toward him, clutching his shoulder in surprise, and Dean understood.
Sick-Sam had shot his own brother.
"Really, Sam?" Demon!Dean shook his head, incredulous. "You shot me? You know that won't stop me, right?"
"Got your attention, though, didn't it?" Sick-Sam countered. "Now listen to me, Dean. You need to leave these people alone. They helped me, and I owe them both my life. I'm not going to let you kill them."
Sick-Sam was obviously recovering, his skin-tone improving; he was growing stronger before Dean's eyes, and it must have been obvious to Demon!Dean, if the appraising look he was giving his brother was any indication.
He glanced at Dean, who was still gasping for breath on the floor, and smiled grimly.
"Today's your lucky day, Loser-me," he said. "I killed the last five or six of you, just for being a pain in my ass."
"I'll bet you did," Dean spat hoarsely.
"Come on, Dean," Sick-Sam coaxed from the doorway. "Let's go home."
Dean could see the anxiety and trepidation in sick-Sam's eyes, the determined clench of his jaw that Dean recognized from his own Sam when he was steeling himself for a struggle, when he was expecting Dean to protest.
But as Demon!Dean moved toward his brother, sick-Sam's expression softened. There was so much love and desperation there it was frightening. Demon!Dean didn't stop when he reached sick-Sam, he just walked right into his personal space, right up against his body like it was the most normal thing in the world, like it was where he belonged. Dean might as well have been a piece of furniture, for all these two cared-– they only had eyes for each other. He felt like the worst kind of voyeur, watching with horrified fascination as Demon!Dean nuzzled sick-Sam's neck and slid his arm around sick-Sam's waist to yank their bodies together.
"You shot me," Demon!Dean whined petulantly.
"You'll be fine, you big baby," sick-Sam slumped a little to accommodate his brother's smaller frame, pressing his lips against the side of his head. "Nothing can kill you now, remember?"
"Hmmm," Demon!Dean purred, grinding and rubbing his body against sick-Sam's in a way that was obviously familiar to both of them. "Love it when you take charge, Sammy. You know I do."
Dean caught sick-Sam's eye over his brother's shoulder. His expression was a strange mixture of anxiety, determination, and fondness, and Dean was struck again by the notion that this was a life sick-Sam had chosen. Managing his demon brother's disease was a responsibility sick-Sam did not take lightly, but it was also an act of love. Sick-Sam was deeply devoted to his brother, no matter what he did or what he was. Sick-Sam's faith in Demon!Dean was absolute, if misguided, at least from Dean's point-of-view.
"Thanks," sick-Sam said, holding out the gun to Dean, handle first. He held his brother close with his good arm.
Dean pulled himself to his feet and crossed the floor to take the gun, nodding as he stepped back again. He didn't want to be too close to these two; the air around them seemed to thrum with power, and it gave Dean the creeps.
"You close that door and burn it," Dean said, and sick-Sam nodded.
"You, too," he said. "Take care of your brother. Thank him for me."
Sick-Sam seemed almost fully recovered now, and as he stepped back with his brother still in his arms so he could close the door, Dean mirrored the movement on his side.
Dean's last glimpse of sick-Sam was of the demon burying his hands in the kid's hair so he could pull his face down for what was obviously going to be some long, deep lip-locking.
Sam was coming around, blinking and rubbing his eyes.
"Yeah, Sammy, I'm here." Dean turned from the closed door and knelt next to his brother. "You're gonna be fine. Just fine."
"Is he gone? Did it work?" Sam blinked up at him.
"Yeah. Yeah, it worked," Dean smiled at him as he checked Sam's pulse. "Of course it worked. Two geeks like you putting your heads together like that, how could it not work?"
"What happened to you?" Sam frowned, staring at Dean's neck, at the bruises that were probably starting to turn purple.
"Had a little run-in with a demon," Dean shrugged. "Nothing I couldn't handle."
"Jesus, Dean. He attacked you?" Sam started to sit up, but he was obviously too dizzy. He collapsed back onto the floor, and Dean cradled his head gently to keep it from banging against the cement.
"Naw, it's okay, Sammy, I promise," Dean soothed as he smoothed Sam's hair away from his face. "Everything's okay now. Those two freaks are right back where they belong. He said to thank you, by the way."
Sam nodded, closing his eyes. "I would've done the same for him. Couldn't leave you all alone in another universe. No telling what you'd do."
Dean smiled, still petting Sam's hair. He knew the gesture was as much for his sake as for Sam's, but somehow it didn't matter. Somehow it was enough right now that they were together, right here where they belonged, with no weird double around to confuse things.
It was a relief to have that other version of Dean's brother safely back where he belonged, no doubt about it. Maybe now things could go back to normal, back to the way things were before Dean found out about how things could have gone, how things were different someplace else.
"Dean," Sam murmured, his voice still weak from blood-loss. "I want you to know, now that he's gone, that I never stopped."
"Never stopped what, Sam?" Dean frowned.
"How things were, when we were kids," Sam said, blinking up at Dean again with such open vulnerability it made Dean's chest ache. "I never stopped feeling that way about you. I'm– I'm sorry I never told you. I thought it would stop. I thought I could make it go away just by sheer will-power, but I couldn't. I can't. I'm sorry, Dean. It probably doesn't even matter anymore, but I wanted you to know so you could stop blaming yourself. It's not your fault, what happened back then, whatever's happening now. It's not."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Dean said, too shocked to think clearly. Sam couldn't mean what he was saying. He was feeling dizzy and delirious from blood-loss, that's all.
Either that, or sick-Sam had rubbed off on him, and not in a sexy-good way. Except...
Disappointment flooded Sam's beautiful slanted eyes, and Dean was instantly overcome with shame.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam sighed, sounding sad and resigned. "It's okay. I shouldn't have brought it up. Just forget it, all right? I'm sorry I said anything."
Sam closed his eyes, and Dean's heart clenched painfully in his chest, worry and concern for the kid instantly out-stripping everything else. He wished he could take it back, immediately wished he had just listened to Sam, had taken a moment to process what Sam said before Dean opened his big mouth and stuck his foot in it.
Because it sure sounded like Sam just said what Dean had waited half a lifetime to hear.
And all Dean could do was react with that old habitual knee-jerk denial he was so good at.
At that moment, another universe was born. One where Dean doubled-down on his denial, where he gruffly patted Sam on the cheek and wouldn't look at him again.
In that universe, Dean said, "Okay, you know what? I think you need some rest. You're gonna be right as rain in the morning."
In that universe, Dean ignored what Sam had just said, or at least tried to, although it ate away at him for weeks and months afterwards. He buried it in habit and the day-to-day functions of their lives, focusing as they always had on the work at hand to keep their minds off the emotional turmoil that bubbled just beneath the surface. Dean was an expert at dealing and coping, mostly with alcohol, without thinking about things too deeply if he could help it. This was just one of those things that he never dealt with because it interfered with the job, or so Dean told himself. Sam had been sick and he hadn’t known what he was talking about, and that was all there was to it.
In that world, Sam moped around for a few days, recovering from the blood loss and his own confession until he figured out a way to live with it again, to push it down deep and never let it surface, maybe ever again.
Or maybe it finally came up again, years later, when they were retired and too old and tired to do more than smile at their own youthful stupidity, their own missed opportunities. Maybe eventually, when it really didn't matter anymore, they could finally talk about it.
But in this world, in this universe, something else happened.
"Hey." Dean ran his hand over Sam's forehead, down his cheek, felt for the pulse in his neck, then just left his hand there until Sam's eyes fluttered open. There was a film of tears over them, and Dean rubbed his thumb along Sam's cheekbone, then cupped the back of his neck. "I never stopped either, Sammy."
Sam's eyebrows went up as his eyes widened, and a tear escaped from one corner, running down the top of his chiseled cheek into his ear, where Dean wiped it away with his thumb.
"Yeah?" Sam said, his voice a ragged whisper.
"Yeah," Dean smiled as his heart unclenched and his chest flooded with warmth. "Thought you knew that."
Sam shook his head. "I thought— When it happened, I thought you were just doing it because I wanted it," he said. "I was drunk and needy and messed up, and you were just being a good big brother."
"I'm an awesome big brother," Dean grinned. He shook his head, sliding his fingers through Sam's soft hair thoughtfully as the memories crowded to the fore. "I wanted you to be normal, Sam. Wanted you to have a normal life. Back then, I really thought you could have one. And normal don't include banging your brother."
"So, you were just never going to tell me?" Sam said. "That was your plan?"
Dean took a deep breath, not too surprised to find that he was shaking. "I guess," he admitted. "I figured you were drunk, and you didn't really mean it. And afterwards, I figured you'd moved on. You had a steady girlfriend at Stanford. You wanted normal, not me. And I was fine with that, Sam, you gotta believe me. If we went the rest of our lives as just brothers, that's fine, man. Better than I expected back then, for sure. When you left Stanford to come with me, I was out of my mind with relief, man. Getting you back, that was everything. Nothing else really mattered. That's still true, Sam. You and me, come whatever, that wins out over all the sex and – whatever – in the universe."
"But if you could have that, too?" Sam peered up at Dean earnestly, so hopeful and full of longing it took Dean's breath away. "Would you? With me?"
Dean felt himself flush to the tips of his ears. He couldn't stop the stupid grin that was making his face hurt. He had to look away from all the love and beauty on offer because part of him just didn't believe it. Part of him couldn't imagine being so lucky. He didn't feel he deserved this.
"You asking me to give up my rambling, Sammy? All my girlfriends and hook-ups? Huh? You askin’ me to settle down?"
Sam flushed, looked away for a minute, then back up at Dean, suddenly shy. "Would you?"
"Does it make you jealous?" Dean couldn't help teasing. Sam was his brother, after all. "I knew it. I knew I wasn't imaging things. You're always such a little bitch when I hook up with somebody, and I always kinda hoped it was because you still had the hots for me."
"You're a jerk, you know that?" Sam rolled his eyes and squirmed adorably, and it occurred to Dean that it was okay to think that. It was okay to admire Sam's face, his features, his body, his tells and little gestures. It was all permissible now.
"Yeah, but I guess I'm your jerk, so it's okay," Dean said, and he couldn't keep the wonder out of his voice, the amazement that he could just say these things to Sam and it wouldn't be weird.
It was still weird, just in a good way now. Something had shifted, and it was good. It was definitely good.
"Yeah," Sam gazed up at him, and there was wonder in his eyes, too. "I guess you are."
They stared at each other for another moment, until it began to get awkward and Dean started blushing again.
"I guess I'm supposed to kiss you now," he said as his eyes slid away to focus on the floor next to Sam's shoulder.
"You can if you want," Sam agreed with a shrug. "You don't have to, Dean. It's not like there's rules for this."
"Well, that's a good thing," Dean smirked. "'Cause you know how I feel about rules."
"Yeah," Sam grinned, and damn it if those dimples weren't the most amazing things Dean had ever seen. Again.
Dean didn't let himself think too much as he leaned down, amazed that Sam didn't push him away until the last possible moment, until his lips were pressed to Sam's and Sam was kissing him back. It was the softest of kisses, a first kiss, really, just a test. When Dean pulled back to see what he'd done, Sam was blushing adorably, his eyes shining as he gazed up at Dean with that look Dean never thought he'd see again.
"Maybe we should get you to bed, let you get some rest," Dean suggested. His heart was racing so fast he was afraid he might pass out. This was so new, so unexpected, and it was rocking his world so hard, he was afraid it was a dream. Maybe some crazy fuck-up fever-fantasy that would disappear as soon as he woke up, sweating and trembling with loss.
Sam must've seen something in Dean's face that gave him away, or maybe it was the fact he was shaking like a leaf, damn it.
"You know we can take this as slow as you want, Dean," Sam said. "We've got the rest of our lives to figure this out. It's not like it all has to change in one day."
Leave it to Sam to be the sensible one here. Dean didn't know what he'd done to deserve such a sensitive, reasonable little brother.
"No, you're right," Dean cleared his throat, backing up so he could climb to his feet.
Then he helped Sam up, and tried to get Sam to lean on him as they walked down the hall, away from the magic door. Towards Sam's room and the rest of their lives.
"One step at a time, Sammy. One step at a time."
It turned out they didn't have to burn the magic door, because one day, when they turned down the corridor where it was supposed to be, it was gone. Maybe it had never existed in the first place. Maybe it had been destroyed before they moved into the bunker by the Men of Letters, who understood its power too well.
Maybe it still existed in that other world, the one where things turned out differently and Dean and Sam continued to hide their deepest feelings for each other. Maybe it waited for them there, reminding them that there were other choices, offering them other chances to figure out just how much they meant to each other.
As the years went by, Dean wondered about sick-Sam and his demon brother. Had they succeeded in neutralizing the Mark of Cain? Were they truly immortal, as sick-Sam had suggested? Dean liked to think so. He was just selfish enough to enjoy the fantasy of some version of the Winchesters going on after he and Sam were dead.
Sometimes he imagined them, prowling the countryside for ghosts and evil spirits, putting down anything and everything that got in their way. They were invincible, unstoppable, and over time they managed to rid the country of most of its supernatural population, until it was just them, until it was just the legend of the Winchesters that haunted the nightmares of anything evil that hovered on the periphery of every human child's imagination.
Don't worry about monsters, parents would tell their children a hundred years from now. If anything comes for you, the Winchesters will get 'em. The Winchesters will keep you safe.
Yeah, Dean didn't mind that fantasy one bit.