It takes three more days to reach the bunker.
They try to start every car they come across, but even with Dean’s recovered mechanical ability, the cars won’t start. The gas is too old.
“None of it makes any sense,” Sam says in that way that he does these days, just talking out loud to Dean as if Dean might have the answers. “What about nuclear power plants? Wouldn’t they melt down without power by now? Why haven’t missiles fired all over the world? Why don’t things explode?”
Dean doesn’t try to answer. Sam doesn’t really expect him to. He understands what’s happened even less than Sam does, and he doesn’t remember enough about the Time Before to guess.
“It’s like the whole world’s got a wet blanket on it,” Sam goes on.
“Maybe it’s the ghosts,” Dean suggests, thinking about that first night, when the ghosts surrounded and killed the car. The Impala.
Dean’s sure he used to think of her that way, as his Baby. It’s still the saddest thing that’s happened since he awoke in this world. Leaving Baby.
“What are you talking about?” At least Sam’s curious. At least he’s not just blowing Dean off, the way he did so much the first week, after Dean recovered his speech and could confirm how little he remembered, how really useless he was.
“Well, they drain the energy from things, like they did to my Baby,” he says.
Sam gives him a sharp look. “You remember the car,” he accuses.
“You already knew that,” Dean insists. “And it’s just sense memories and flashes, like looking at old movies with the sound off. I told you about that.”
“Yeah, you did,” Sam admits.
“So what if the ghosts are like a dampening field that drains all the energy out of everything? Including people?”
Sam stares at him. They’re walking shoulder to shoulder along the same road they’ve been walking for nearly three days, carrying their backpacks. The day is cloudy, as usual, but at least it’s cool, better for walking than it was a couple of weeks ago.
Sometimes Dean wonders if the sun has gone out, it’s been so long since he’s seen it.
“You think that up all by yourself?” Sam asks, and Dean can’t tell whether he’s making fun of him or not.
Dean shrugs. “It’s just a thought,” he says. “Did I say something wrong?”
Sam flushes, looks away. “No, no,” he mumbles. “It’s just that you used to come up with crazy ideas all the time. I used to depend on you to do that.”
“So I used to be crazy?” Dean raises his eyebrows, still wondering if he should feel insulted.
“No! I mean, not crazy, exactly, just coming up with stuff other people would never think of. I always thought of it as a talent. You had good instincts.”
“Sounds like something that might have been helpful in our line of work,” Dean suggests.
Sam gives him a speculative look which softens into a fond smile. “Yeah, it was, actually,” he agrees.
Dean wants to keep Sam smiling. “Maybe some of my natural abilities are coming back to me,” he suggests. “Like fixing cars.”
“Maybe they are,” Sam breathes, and Dean tries not to read too much into Sam’s quick glances, the way their shoulders bump companionably as they walk.
Dean thinks he could get used to this, traveling with Sam.
The night before they reach the bunker, they hunker down in an empty house that has two bicycles in the basement.
“Why didn’t we think of this before?” Sam asks as they stare at the bikes, flashlights revealing perfectly good tires and a hand-pump nearby in case they need it. “We must have passed a hundred bikes on our way here.”
Dean frowns. “Do I know how to ride a bike?”
“Yes, you do,” Sam assures him. “Muscle memory, remember? It’ll come back to you as soon as you get on it.”
They share a can of beans and another can of chicken soup, all that’s left in their packs. The pantry shelves are empty, the house obviously ransacked in the past.
“There’s food in the bunker,” Sam says. “Or at least there was when I left.”
They take turns cleaning up with water from the old hand-cranked well in the backyard, heating the water on the wood stove in the kitchen so they can shave. The house has none of the modern conveniences — no refrigerator or dishwasher, no washing machine or dryer.
“These people lived simple,” Sam notes as he lights the kerosene lamp on the desk in the bedroom. The flame flickers, and for a moment Dean’s afraid it will go out. Kerosene must be losing its ability to ignite, just like gasoline. But then the lamp flares, and the flame grows strong, sending a warm light into the room and casting soft shadows in the corners.
Sam finds a book on the big bookshelf in the living room and sits down at the desk to read. Dean watches him for a few minutes, restless and bored. He thinks his old self would’ve hated reading unless he absolutely had to do it. He’s got too much energy. But he loves watching Sam read, his brow furrowed in concentration, his big body hunched in the chair, the book small and fragile in his huge hands.
Dean strips down to his shorts, takes his t-shirt off. It’s a little too cool, but the air feels good on his skin, makes his nipples pebble. He slides into the bed, pulling the blanket up to his waist, and watches Sam, one arm bent behind his head.
For several minutes nothing happens. The ghosts are quiet tonight, and the only sound other than crickets chirping is the occasional crack of the house settling down for the night. Sam’s profile is bathed in lamplight, the shadows under his cheekbones and eyes giving his face an unearthly beauty that takes Dean’s breath away.
His dick chubs up of its own accord under the blanket. It occurs to him that he hasn’t jerked off in days. Watching Sam’s face for signs of movement, he carefully slides his right hand under the covers. Maybe he can get his dick to settle down if he presses on it hard enough.
Unfortunately, touching it has the opposite effect. His breath hitches as his dick hardens almost painfully at his touch, even through his shorts, and when his eyes fly open once he’s got it under control again, Sam’s staring at him.
“What are you doing, Dean?”
Dean clenches his teeth and decides to go for broke. “What does it look like?”
“Oh my God, can you do that in the bathroom?” Sam’s expression is part annoyed, part embarrassed. His cheeks flush as he looks away.
“Why?” Dean asks, and when Sam’s eyes widen, Dean lets his hand slip down to cup his balls. “You’re here.”
Sam flushes a deeper shade of pink. He ducks his head, long hair brushing over his cheek as his dimples pop out. He bites his lower lip to keep from grinning, and Dean catches a glimpse of his tongue.
“You’re so gorgeous,” Dean breathes, dragging his hand over the head of his dick. “Come on, Sammy. Let me watch you.”
“Jesus, Dean.” Sam takes a deep breath and shakes his head. “You’re so you sometimes.”
“Did I do this before?” Dean asks, taking his dick in hand through his shorts and jacking it slowly. “Did I lie on the bed and watch you read and jerk off? Did I? Cuz I think I did, Sammy. I think I did this a lot.”
Sam’s eyes drop to Dean’s dick, tenting under the blanket, and he shakes his head as his grin breaks out uncontrolled, splitting his face open gloriously.
“You were always an exhibitionist,” Sam says. “You used to bring girls home and leave the door open so I could watch. You wanted me to watch.”
Dean can’t believe he was ever such a dick as that, but then he remembers: they’re brothers. There was probably a time before they were lovers. Maybe there was even a time before Dean could admit how much he wanted Sam. That makes sense to Dean, actually. It’s of a piece with the strong protective instincts he feels where Sam’s concerned. He’d never do anything to hurt Sam.
“Wanted you so bad, Sammy,” Dean gasps as he jacks himself. “But you were so young. I never would’ve done anything you couldn’t consent to. I felt like such a monster for wanting you.”
“You were so beautiful, Dean,” Sam says. His voice is shaky, and when he looks up, his eyes are dark. “I always loved you. I always looked up to you. Anything you did was all right in my book. I wanted to be just like you. I wanted to be you.”
“We never talked about it, this thing between us. Not when it started, once you were of age. Not when we finally went on the road together.”
“Yeah,” Sam frowns, puts the book down. “How did you know that?”
“You’re the only one I ever wanted, Sam,” Dean gasps. He’s almost there. He closes his eyes and grips his dick to keep from coming too soon, but it’s too late. “Nobody else ever mattered that much to me. Just you. Fuck!”
Spots of light explode under his closed eyelids as he comes. When he’s aware again, he’s breathing hard, and his shorts and hand are soaked. He opens his eyes to find Sam gazing at him, his eyes still dark and hooded, the book discarded on the desk next to him.
“I was afraid,” Dean whispers. “If you found out, you’d leave.”
“I’d never leave you, Dean,” Sam says, soft and intent, like he’s talking to that other Dean. “No matter what happens, I’ll never do that. I promise.”
Dean nods, drifts off to sleep without a care in the world. He’s vaguely aware of Sam going back into the kitchen to fetch a washcloth, feels the bed dip as Sam peels off Dean’s ruined shorts and cleans him off, then tucks him back in.
Just before oblivion overtakes him, Dean feels Sam’s lips press soft against his cheek.
Sam and Dean bike into Lebanon the following afternoon. It’s another cloudy day, rain threatening but still holding off.
“I wonder if God’s still watching us,” he says idly. Sam told him about how they were God’s puppets, how he set them up and refused to step in when the chips were down. “I mean, God can control the weather if he wants, right? Seems like we’ve been lucky these past few days. Like he wants us to get here.”
“That’s just stupid,” Sam says.
They’re walking their bikes down Main Street, looking for life, and Dean’s nervous. They’re getting close to the bunker, this place that the Winchesters have called home for the past seven years, and he’s not sure how he feels about that. The Impala still feels like their home. He’s wondering when they’ll get back to her.
“God, Dean, you’re like a toddler,” Sam complains.
“Because you keep demanding answers to impossible questions!” Sam looks pissed, so Dean grins. It seems to be the correct response.
They stop at the weird little park just outside town. Dean investigates the chapel and the sign that marks the geographic center of the contiguous United States.
“The American Men of Letters chose this spot because of its magical properties, all the energy centered here,” Sam explains.
Dean thinks for a moment as he stares at the monument. “But it’s not,” he says. “The center of the continent would be somewhere north of here, wouldn’t it? Like in North Dakota or something.”
Sam shakes his head. “Don’t ask me,” he says. “The bunker was also supposed to be warded against anything supernatural, but you wouldn’t believe the number of supernatural visitors and lodgers we’ve had over the years, God included.”
The road to the bunker is mostly flat, so they bike out the last few miles to the site of the original marker, the place where surveyors reported the first geographic center in 1878, before the park and monument were built closer to town in 1918. By that time, the original marker was on what was private property, and the pig farmer who owned it did not take kindly to the idea.
“It’s a power plant?” Dean gazes up at the structure as they approach it on the little back road, the one no one would even notice from the main road if they didn’t know where to turn.
“Yeah,” Sam nods. “It sits on an underground river. That’s what gives the bunker its power.”
They lean their bikes against the entrance railing. Sam pulls the key from his pocket and leads the way down the stairs to the front door. As Dean follows Sam through the door, he’s overwhelmed by a feeling of déjà vu. Nothing specific, just the sense of having done this before.
“Wow,” he says as he steps out onto the landing above the stairs that lead into the large entry chamber below. “This is so familiar.”
“It should be,” Sam agrees, descending the stairs ahead of him. “We lived here for over six years, before Michael.”
Dean follows Sam down the stairs, across the entry hall and into the library.
“You getting any memories?”
Sam asks the question casually, but Dean knows how much it means to him, so he shrugs.
“Maybe,” he says.
A stabbing pain shoots through his temple. It’s gone almost as soon as it comes, but Dean’s left with a horrible impression of death and grief, right here in this room.
Sam’s hands on his back and his bicep keep him upright, but just barely. The memory doesn’t feel like his, exactly, but it’s vivid. Grisly.
“Yeah,” Dean gasps, voice shaking. “The bodies...What did you do with the bodies?”
Sam takes a deep breath. “I burned them,” he says. “Out back.”
Dean frowns. “All of them? All by yourself?”
Sam’s jaw tightens, and Dean can see his determination not to break down, not to accuse Dean of causing those deaths, possessed or not. He won’t let Dean feel guilty for not being there, for making Sam face his grief alone.
“Mom and Jack,” Dean gasps. “Cas. Rowena... all those hunters...” He looks up at Sam, tears filling his eyes. “How can you stand to come back here?”
Sam’s jaw works. His eyes fill, and his grip on Dean tightens. “I thought it might help you remember,” he says. “Not that. I didn’t mean for you to remember that. We lived here, for years. This was our home. We’re Men of Letters legacies.”
Dean sucks in a breath and steadies himself against the table. “I thought you said we were hunters.”
“We were,” Sam says. He starts to say something else, then checks himself. “We were.”
“I guess we’re not hunters anymore?” Dean suggests. “No more monsters to hunt or people to save?”
Sam nods shortly, jaw clenched. He doesn’t look at Dean, flinches as his gaze sweeps the room. “Come on.”
He leads Dean into the kitchen. The shelves are stocked with food in cans and jars and paper boxes, although the icebox is empty except for a six-pack of beer.
“We usually stop in town for milk and eggs on our way home,” Sam explains. He turns on the tap, runs water till it comes out clear. “This place was designed to survive a World War.”
Dean has a good feeling about this room. Nobody died in here.
Similarly, Dean gets good vibes from the bedrooms, the communal bathroom with multiple showers and sinks, and the shooting range.
When he finds the garage, he’s in Heaven. Then he remembers the Impala and a wave of profound sadness washes over him.
It’s hours later when Dean climbs the stairs and finds his way to the kitchen, searching for food.
Sam sits at the table, working on something on his laptop.
Dean does a double take. “You found the Internet?”
Sam had explained to him about how the ‘net went dark one night, months ago, shortly after the power went out. Even with batteries, there wasn’t anything to connect to. All the servers were down. Satellites must have crashed. There’s been no communication since.
“No, no,” Sam mutters. He seems distracted, and he doesn’t look at Dean. “It’s just a spell I know. It boosts the signal so I can reach whoever’s out there. There must be an old server in a government facility that’s still operating on back-up power. Those things were built to survive nuclear war.”
“A spell, huh?” Dean frowns. He’s not sure why, but the thought of Sam doing magic makes him uneasy. “I thought we were the good guys.”
Sam shifts uncomfortably but doesn’t look up. “We are the good guys,” he assures Dean. “Or at least, we used to be. Now, I guess not so much.”
Dean can hear the despair in Sam’s voice. He’s been hearing it too much lately.
He bangs around in the cupboards until he finds some cans of chili, opens them, and tosses the contents into a big pan on the stove.
“So, any luck?” Dean stirs the chili slowly, marveling at the fact that the stove still works. The place is self-sustaining, which feels like a miracle after their weeks roughing it on the road.
Sam shakes his head. “No. Nothing but old, stagnant sites that are somehow still operating. Probably from somebody’s mobile home with a generator, or a university basement somewhere that still has its own power. The Library of Congress is still up, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
“Well, at least we won’t run out of books to read,” Dean jokes.
Sam lifts tired eyes and tries to smile. “You hate reading.”
“No, I don’t,” Dean balks. “I just like doing things more. I’m a man of action. I think.”
Sam gives him a genuine smile, and Dean smirks. He scored again.
“Yeah, you are,” Sam agrees, real fondness in his tone. His nose wrinkles appreciatively. “That smells good.”
“It’s got 100 percent pure beef,” Dean notes, quoting the can label. “Plus special spices. Sure to put some meat on your skinny ass.”
Sam frowns, insulted. “My ass isn’t...Never mind.”
Dean smirks again as Sam’s face grows red. He’s batting a thousand today.
“I get the feeling I’ve been feeding you all our lives,” he suggests. “This feels totally normal.”
Sam blinks and nods. “Yeah, it does.”
Dean spoons chili into bowls for them, cracks open a couple of beers from the fridge, and sits down across from Sam. Their knees knock companionably under the table, and Dean raises his beer in salute.
“To home,” he says.
Sam huffs out a breath and shakes his head. “You always called this place home,” he notes. “To me, it’s just a place that has a few things we need.”
“Like food,” Dean agrees. “Showers. A place to sleep. A garage. For you, lots of books. It’s got everything we need. Sounds like a good home to me.”
“I need my brother back,” Sam says. He says it softly, and when Dean gives him a sharp look, guilt piercing his gut, Sam blushes. “Sorry.”
Sam’s needs come first. They always have. Dean knows this better than he knows his own face, his own name. It’s ingrained in him, so deep for so long, he doesn’t even think about it. Doesn’t have to remember anything to know that one basic, core principle of Dean’s existence.
“We’ll figure it out,” he tells Sam. “You hear me? I may not remember things, but I’m getting better at being me again. Right? You said so yourself.”
Sam swallows, blinks, and nods. “Yeah, you are,” he agrees.
“So where’s this written history of our lives, huh? All this time you kept telling me all the answers were here, that there’s some kind of published book series about us?”
“Yeah,” Sam sighs, shaking his head. “I’ll show you.”
While Sam digs up the box of books, Dean finds his old bedroom. He knows its his because the walls are covered in weapons. There’s a record player with classic rock vinyl LPs in a box, and another box of vintage porn. The clothes in the drawers are his, and a pair of boots next to the bed look like they would fit him perfectly.
He decides to take a shower and change into his old clothes. When he joins Sam in the library he feels better.
He knows he looks better because Sam does a double-take, and his cheeks turn pink.
“Hey.” Dean smirks and saunters over to the table, keeping his voice deliberately low. Soothing. Or maybe a little sultry. Yeah, definitely going for the smolder. “What’ve you got for me, Sammy?”
Sam flushes even pinker, which tells Dean that Sam’s used to Dean making not-so-subtle double entendres. Dean could get used to this. Getting a rise out of Sam makes Dean feel like a winner. Makes him feel even better than he did a moment before.
“It’s the books I told you about,” Sam snaps, deliberately not looking at Dean again. “The ones Chuck wrote about our lives. Knock yourself out.” He starts to leave the room.
“Hey.” He grabs Sam’s arm. Sam stops, looks down at Dean’s hand, then up at his face, and Dean sucks in a breath. Sam’s expression is that combination of grief and longing that Dean’s used to seeing, masked by Sam’s determination to survive yet another disappointment. It makes Dean want to cry.
Sam is steeling himself for the very real possibility that Dean may never fully recover. Until this moment, Dean hadn’t realized how much Sam had counted on getting him into the bunker as a way to jog Dean’s memory. The fact that being here hasn’t cured Dean’s amnesia makes Sam doubt that Dean will ever recover.
Sam’s bicep flexes under Dean’s hand, and Dean drops his hold. Sam doesn’t want Dean’s touch. He misses his brother too much.
Dean’s deeply in love with this sensitive, sad man who lets Dean see his strength and his vulnerability because Dean looks like the brother he lost. Dean will do anything to get Sam’s brother back. He’ll do anything to fix things.
He backs away from Sam and reaches for the box.
“I’ll just be in my room, reading about myself,” he says with a wink. He thinks the old Dean would do that. Sam’s brother would try to find a way to laugh off the sad stuff, to keep Sam from falling into another well of sadness and longing.
Dean tucks the box under his arm and turns away, conscious of Sam’s eyes on his backside as he leaves the room.
Maybe all’s not lost after all.
Hours later, Sam knocks lightly on his door. Dean startles, jerks his head up out of Salvation, and clears his throat.
“Yeah. Uh, come in.”
As soon as the door opens, Dean blushes. He’s been reading about Sam and that other Dean for hours, and he’s more in love with Sam than ever. Reading these books isn’t bringing back any memories, but it’s sure making him emotional.
“Thought you might be hungry.”
Sam’s got a sandwich on a plate, and Dean’s stomach rumbles just looking at it. Sam smiles softly as he sets the plate down, opens one of the beers he brought, and hands it to Dean.
Dean lays the book over his lap, trying not to be obvious about hiding his boner, but Sam notices anyway. He stands over Dean, making Dean feel young and vulnerable, like he imagines he used to feel when their father tucked him into bed at night.
“So.” Sam opens his own beer and tosses the cap into the wastebasket next to the desk. Dean’s impressed. “Anything? Does anything seem familiar to you?”
You, Dean thinks. Just you.
“Uh, yeah, kind of,” Dean lies. He needs to make Sam happy. He can’t bear to disappoint him. “We really killed a lot of monsters.”
“Yeah, we did,” Sam agrees. “Those books only cover the first couple of years or so, but we were a good team.”
“We need to go back for Baby.” As soon as the words slip out, Dean knows he’s said the right thing. Sam visibly brightens.
“Yeah, about that. I’ve been doing some research - I think I’ve found a spell we can use to keep gasoline fresh.”
“Yeah?” Dean sits up on the bed, and Sam steps back, lets Dean swing his legs off the bed and stand up. “What are we waiting for?”
“Whoa, whoa!” Sam backs up, puts a hand up, palm out. “It’s the middle of the night, Dean, in case you hadn’t noticed. You’ve been reading for six hours straight.”
“So, we start in the morning. After breakfast.” Dean reaches for the sandwich and takes a bite, chewing with his mouth open on instinct.
“Oh my God.” Sam makes a face. “Okay. Just, get some rest now, okay? We’ve got some serious driving ahead of us tomorrow.”
Dean tries not to palm his dick after Sam leaves the room, but it’s hopeless. He doesn’t even care if Sam can hear the noises he makes as he jerks off.
Truth be told, he hopes he does.
He suspects his old self would approve.
They get a late start the next morning because Dean can’t get out of bed until almost noon.
They fill five gas cans with be-spelled gasoline and load them in the trunk of one of the old classic cars in the garage, along with a big bag of salt and a couple of extra crowbars, in case they get caught out in the open at night again. Sam packs a couple of shotguns loaded with rock salt, as well. They pack enough clothes and food for a six-day ride. If it takes longer than that to bring Baby home, they’re fucked anyway.
Sam brings ingredients for the spell, enough to perform it five times if necessary.
Dean’s grateful that Sam’s so thorough. It would suck to have come so far, only to be eaten by ghost zombies.
His old self wasn’t much of an optimist.
Dean drives. Sam doesn’t say much when he slips into the driver’s seat and shoves the key into the ignition. After all, Dean got the car running, didn’t he? In the books, Dean always drove.
As they head east on the highway, Dean rolls the window down, lets the wind bring the smell of cornfields into the car. It’s still late summer, not even a hint of chill in the air yet, but the days are getting shorter. They won’t have enough daylight to make it very far the first day.
Dean can feel Sam looking at him. He’s got a roadmap open over his lap, his own window rolled down, and the wind whips his long hair around his angular face. Dean hopes Sam likes what he sees. He can’t take his eyes off the road long enough to return Sam’s long looks, but they bring a smile to his lips.
Sam likes it when Dean drives.
They stop for the night at a roadside motel. It’s not the same one they stayed at coming in, but they’ve made good time on the backroads and are already outside Hannibal, Missouri.
Dean tries his hand at lock-picking while Sam checks the motel office for food. Dean’s got the door open and their gear unloaded by the time Sam returns with a bag full of vending machine snacks. He gives Sam a triumphant grin.
Sam rolls his eyes, but Dean can tell he’s really impressed.
“Muscle memory,” Dean says. “Just like you said. It’s like riding a bicycle. Or fixing a car.”
Sam shakes his head, pulls water bottles out of the bag, and tosses one to Dean.
As Sam salts the windows and door, Dean cleans up in the bathroom using the bottled water. He’s hoping they can make it back to the farmhouse in Illinois tomorrow so they can shower. The bunker has already spoiled him. He doesn’t like to go to bed grimy and sweaty, but on the road they don’t have much choice.
He’s jealous of the old Sam and Dean. Their motels always had running water and toilets that worked. They always found a diner with a hot meal.
“I don’t know why I used to complain about the motels and the diners,” he says, pulling back the sheets on one of the beds. “Brushing your teeth with bottled water, eating vending machine snacks for dinner... Now this is something to complain about.”
He’s stripped down to his t-shirt and boxers, and Sam’s done the same. Sam sits up in his own bed with a flashlight, reading one of the books he brought from the bunker,
“It could be worse,” Sam says with a shrug. He doesn’t look up, but Dean gets a good vibe off him. Sam’s happy. Or maybe ‘happy’ is too strong a word. Sam’s content. That’s it.
Maybe it’s temporary. Maybe Sam will go back to his brooding, grieving self tomorrow. But for tonight, he seems good.
Dean will definitely take that as a win.
He falls asleep to the mournful moans of a thousand ghosts, and for the first time, it doesn’t bother him.
They spend the next morning siphoning gas to fill their empty gas cans. Sam spells the gas before they fill the tank of a small Honda, which gets much better gas mileage than the old jalopy they drove out of the bunker.
Dean watches as Sam does the spell. He can feel the power roll off Sam in waves. It’s a little frightening. He knows his old self worried about Sam’s visions and psychic abilities, and he gets that, but this is something else. Something darker, maybe. Definitely more powerful. More focused.
Once they’re on the road again, Dean can’t help asking.
“So, you used your psychic thing while I was gone?”
Sam’s jaw clenches, and at first Dean thinks he won’t answer.
“Yeah,” he says finally. “I did. I was trying to find you. Then trying to get Michael to let you go. So yeah. I did whatever it took.”
Dean nods. He thinks his old self might have yelled at Sam, all freaked out and angry, warned him about going darkside.
“So it worked,” he suggests instead. “You saved me.”
Sam huffs out a breath and shakes his head. “The fuckin’ world ended, Dean,” he says bitterly. “I didn’t save anybody.”
”Pretty sure that’s not true, Sam,” Dean says. “Pretty sure I wouldn’t be sitting here, if it wasn’t for you.”
Sam scoffs. He turns his gaze on the landscape outside the window, and they ride in silence for a few minutes. Then Sam shakes his head.
“You used to say we should stop doing this,” Sam says.
“Putting each other before everything else. Letting the world end, or almost end, as long as we could save each other.”
Dean thinks about this for a hot second, then shakes his head.
“Pretty sure I lied if I said that,” he says with conviction. He can feel how true that is. Now that he’s read those books about their lives, he’s confirmed in his gut that he has never put anything before Sam. He never would. Ever. “That sounds more like something you would say.”
Losing Sam has always been Dean’s greatest fear. He feels that in his gut, too.
Sam scoffs again. “Yeah. Right.”
“Doesn’t matter anymore anyway,” Dean says. “That’s all behind us now.”
He feels Sam’s eyes on him, studying him.
“What do we do?”
Sam’s voice sounds so young, so hopeful, it makes Dean’s chest hurt. He sounds like a little boy who looks up to his big brother and just wants his reassurance. Sam needs his big brother to tell him everything’s going to be okay.
Dean takes a big breath, lets it out slow. It feels so important to give Sam what he wants. That need trumps any insecurities Dean has about filling the shoes of his old self. It has to.
“We get Baby,” he says, making his voice deliberately gruff and deep. “We drive back to the bunker, and we retire. Plant a little garden so you can have some of those vegetables you love so much. We take foraging missions out west, down south, up north, see if we can find anybody alive. See if we can find some goddamn beef before we run out of canned tuna.”
Sam’s face breaks into a grin as he shakes his head, and Dean’s triumphant. His heart soars in his chest as he takes in his brother’s dimpled cheeks, his white teeth and perfect nose. When Sam’s eyes meet his, Dean almost runs off the road.
“Whoa, there,” he mutters as he turns his eyes front again and steadies the car. Sam jostles next to him and their arms press together for a moment before Sam leans away again.
The contact felt so good. Dean knows Sam felt it, too.
“Okay,” Sam breathes. Dean glances at him again and sucks in a breath. Sam’s blushing. Damn.
“Sounds good, huh?”
“Yeah,” Sam nods, still grinning. “Yeah.”
“All right then,” Dean nods. “That’s what we’ll do.”
They find Baby exactly where they left her. They’ve been stopping next to every car they find, siphoning gas for their gas cans, but even so, Baby will need at least two or three fill-ups to make it back to the bunker.
It feels like years since they walked away from her, even though it’s only been a month at most. Dean runs his hands over her dusty hood, up over her roof while Sam works the spell so that the gas in her tank will ignite. He looks up and blushes when he catches Dean caressing Baby’s chassis.
“Get a room, you two,” he mutters, half amused, half annoyed. Dean’s pretty sure he’s said it before.
Dean’s pretty sure he loves this car. He thinks Sam loves it, too.
He’s having flashbacks of himself and Sam, driving through the night in the rain, down a back-country road between cornfields, curled around each other in the backseat as children while their dad drives. It’s almost too much. He’s not sure how much is real memory, how much sheer imagination, but he knows the feelings are real.
When Sam finishes his spell, Dean grabs him, pushes him up against the side of the car, and kisses him. Sam stiffens at first, then goes all soft and willing. When Dean steps back, lets Sam go, Sam gazes at him hopefully, breathing hard, lips pink and slick.
“More flashbacks, I think,” Dean shrugs. “Pretty sure I’ve done that before.”
“You have,” Sam nods, gaze dropping to Dean’s mouth.
It’s Dean’s turn to be grabbed, pushed up against the car, and kissed hard. Sam’s a beast when he lets himself give in to his urges, just as Dean knew he would be. His mouth bruises and bites at Dean’s. His big hands grab Dean’s biceps, his waist, his ass.
Dean gives as good as he gets, rolls them along the side of the car till he’s on top again, thrusts his thigh between Sam’s legs.
“I could fuck you right here,” Dean breathes as he kisses and nips his way down Sam’s jaw to his neck. “I’ve done that before, haven’t I? Fucked you on the hood of the car.”
“Yeah,” Sam gasps. He throws his head back and closes his eyes as Dean gropes his chest. He holds on for dear life as Dean massages Sam’s erection through his jeans.
“It’s been too long, Sam.”
Dean drops to his knees before Sam can protest. They work together to unbuckle Sam’s belt, unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans while Dean rubs his face against Sam’s crotch and breathes deep. When Dean pushes Sam’s jeans aside, he mouths along the length of Sam’s cock through his boxers as Sam gasps and writhes. He makes the most delicious cutoff moans and little cries of “oh oh oh” as Dean peels the boxers down and gets his mouth on bare skin. Sam pats his head with shaky hands as Dean takes the head of Sam’s cock between his lips, tongues the slit and the sensitive underside, and sucks on the velvety skin.
Giving head isn’t something Dean remembers doing, but he knows for a fact that his old self had been giving Sam everything and anything for as long as he could remember. He’s sure he’s done this before.
As he opens his throat to suck Sam down, past his gag reflex, he breathes in through his nose. He can’t take all of Sam’s length — Sam’s seriously huge — but he manages a lot of it. He wraps his fist around the base, holds onto Sam’s hip with his other hand, and blinks up at Sam through tear-blind eyes.
Sam stares down at him, pupils blown, mouth slack, cheeks flushed pink. He sucks in a gasp when his eyes meet Dean’s.
“Dean,” he whispers, and it sounds like a swear, the way another man might say, “Fuck.”
Dean pulls off halfway, then swallows Sam down again, sliding his hand under Sam’s boxers till his fingers find Sam’s bare ass.
“Dean!” Sam’s eyes flutter closed, and his whole body shudders as Dean touches his hole. His head goes back, exposing his long neck, his chest a solid wall of muscle under his t-shirt.
Dean pushes the tip of his finger past the tight rim of Sam’s hole, and Sam cries out, thrusting blindly into Dean’s mouth, coming so hard and so unexpectedly that Dean can’t possibly swallow it all. He does his best, but he can feel Sam’s come dribbling down his chin. As he pulls off, he rubs his face over Sam’s still-pulsing cock, making a mess of himself for the sheer pleasure of it.
Panting, Sam gazes down at him, lips parted, chest heaving. He runs his thumb over Dean’s lips, pushing it inside so Dean can suck on it as Sam wipes tears and come from his cheek with his other thumb.
“God, Dean. Damn.”
Dean shakes loose from Sam’s hands and rises to his feet. He wipes his face with the hem of Sam’s t-shirt, then pulls Sam’s face down, crowds in and kisses him, good and thorough.
“Come on,” he growls as he pushes away again, pulls the front passenger door open. “Gonna get you to the first motel we find so I can fuck your brains out.”
“Okay.” Sam’s voice is a shaky whisper, his whole body loose and trembling. Dean folds him into the passenger seat, protective hand on his head to keep it from hitting the roof, then he strides quickly around the car and gets into the driver’s seat.
The key is still in the ignition. As the Impala roars to life, Dean puts his foot on the gas, makes a show of peeling out because he knows his old self used to do that. He wants this to feel as familiar as possible to Sam. He knows now exactly how to play the part of the man he used to be.
The Memory Lane Motel is less than ten miles down the road, just past the Damascus city limits. Dean picks the lock on room 111 in record time, checks the room. Two queen-sized beds and a kitchenette. Dean hauls Sam out of the car and into the room, slamming the door behind them with his body as Sam pushes him against the door and kisses him.
They tear at each other’s clothes, getting everything off and dropped on the floor before either brother changes his mind. They keep their mouths on each other as much as possible, breathing each other’s air, gasping.
“Dean, Dean, Dean,” Sam moans as he clutches Dean’s hair, his shoulders, his back.
“Yeah, Sammy. Yeah. Okay. Okay.” Dean doesn’t try to say the right thing. He doesn’t dare. He’s operating on sheer instinct, letting muscle memory take over so he doesn’t fuck this up.
Sam clings, buries his face in Dean’s neck, big body heaving with emotion.
Dean pushes, walking them backwards until they hit the first bed. They tumble awkwardly, legs and arms entwined, Dean on top. He shoves Sam’s legs apart, pins his wrists to the mattress, positions himself on top of Sam, and ruts against him .
Sam throws his head back and keens, soft lips parted, hair and limbs splayed. He’s unbearably beautiful, and Dean has to grab his own dick with one hand to keep from coming at the mere sight, squeezing the base as he sucks in a gasp.
“Fuck, Sam. Fuck.”
Sam spreads his legs wider, lifts up off the mattress so Dean can slip into Sam’s crack, behind his balls. The offer is explicit, dirty. Sam’s dick is already hard again, and Dean’s head spins..
Later he’s not sure how he managed to find a bottle of lotion that hadn’t completely dried up. But somehow he slicks up his fingers, pushes them into Sam, opens him up. Then he manages to slick up his own dick and push into Sam, steady and relentless, the way Sam likes it.
Dean fucks into Sam like he owns him, following Sam’s pleas and moans, his little choked-off gasps. It’s what he can do, read Sam like a book. It’s what Dean’s always known how to do.
Right now, Sam needs his brother inside him, needs to feel that his brother has finally come home to him, and Dean’s damned if he’ll refuse Sam anything he needs, ever again.
“Touch yourself,” Dean orders, and Sam does. He jacks himself fast and steady, setting a pace that Dean struggles to keep up with. Sweat slides down his temples, makes his eyes sting.
When Sam finally comes, Dean loses it, too. The sight of Sam coming because Dean’s giving him this is too much. He comes and comes and comes, emptying deep inside Sam, flashbacks in his head, all the times they’ve done this before, exploding inside his brain like so many fireworks.
Brain farts, his brain provides helpfully. He’s having little strokes.
He collapses on top of Sam without apology, without consideration for how heavy he is until Sam turns them both onto their sides, still joined and sticky as all hell.
Sam kisses his hairline, his temple, his cheek.
Dean falls asleep with his face pressed to Sam’s collarbone, the salty taste of Sam’s sweat on his tongue.
In the morning they fuck again, more leisurely this time, if no less intense. Dean takes the time to map out Sam’s body with his mouth and hands and eyes, struggling with the emotional overload of more flashbacks.
It’s a first time, and it’s not.
Sam smiles knowingly and cups Dean’s face, turning it up so Dean blinks at him, waits.
“It’s okay, Dean,” he says, soft. “We’ll do this again, I promise. I’m not going to hold out on you again.”
“Then why...?” Dean hesitates. He doesn’t know how to ask.
Sam sighs, lets his hand slide down Dean’s neck to his chest, leaving it over Dean’s heart.
“I just wanted to be sure you weren’t so impaired that you couldn’t really give consent,” Sam says.
Dean thinks about this for a minute. He frowns. “Wait. So you’re saying you wouldn’t put out because - you were worried you’d be taking advantage of me?”
“Maybe?” Sam shrugs. “Those first few days, Dean. You were pretty helpless.”
“Saved your ass that first night,” Dean huffs, indignant.
“Yeah.” Sam’s soft smile makes Dean’s dick twitch. “You did.”
Dean lets his fingers trail down Sam’s arm. “So this thing between us,” he says, hesitant. “It must have started when you were still a kid?”
Sam’s eyes go sad for a second, and Dean’s afraid he’s blown it, reminding Sam that he’s still not really Sam’s Dean. He still doesn’t remember much.
Then Sam nods. “The summer I turned 18,” he says. “It would have started sooner, if I’d had my way, but you wouldn’t let me. You wanted me to have a normal upbringing.”
“Like hunting monsters is a normal way to grow up.” Dean smirks.
“It had its moments.” Sam shrugs. “Until it didn’t.”
“Dad and I left you alone a lot,” Dean suggests.
“You left me behind to do research,” Sam corrects. “And to stay in school. Although Dad didn’t care so much if I stayed in school, you always did. You made sure I got into college.”
“I must’ve hated those years you were away in California.” Dean shakes his head. “I can’t imagine it.”
“I think you probably checked in on me from time to time,” Sam says. “I could feel your eyes on me sometimes, but when I looked over, nobody was there. I never called you out on it, but now I’m pretty sure you were stalking me, making sure I was safe.”
“That sounds like me, all right.” Dean smirks. “Overprotective big brother.”
Sam lifts his multi-colored eyes to Dean, gazes long and intently into Dean’s eyes.
“You’re really you again,” he says. His eyes film over, and his cheeks flush pink.
Dean could lie. He could agree that his memories are back, or that he understands more about their history than what he learned from those books or what Sam’s told him.
He’s got a feeling there’s a lot Sam hasn’t told him. He’s got a feeling Sam’s suffered in ways Dean never wants to think about.
But it’s not fair to Sam to let him think Dean really relates to all that pain. Maybe he does, somewhere down deep that he can’t access because he’s too damaged by Michael. Maybe over time he’ll even recover the memories of that other life.
His chest aches with the need to give Sam what he wants, to return his brother to him, to make everything right again. He wants so badly to be the man he used to be, for Sam. He would be willing to pretend for the rest of his life, if it made Sam happy. Part of him thinks he could do that. With Sam’s faith in him, he could be anybody. Do anything.
“You know, I think I used to be really good at burying all the bad things that happened to us,” he says. “I was pretty good at pretending it never happened.”
“Not so good.” Sam huffs out a breath. “I could always tell when you were really hurting.”
“Can you tell now?”
Sam sucks in a breath, stares another long moment, until his eyes brim with tears. Then he blinks, ducks his head, and nods.
“I won’t lie to you, Sam. Except for some seriously confusing flashes of memory, I don’t really remember anything. Maybe I never will.”
Sam says nothing for a moment, and Dean feels his anxiety rise. Sam’s gonna leave him. Sam’s gonna bail. That’s what he always does.
Sam’s gonna leave because Dean deserves it.
“So you’re telling me you don’t remember Clint Eastwood?”
It’s so out of the blue, Sam’s question, but Dean’s response is immediate.
“Hell yes, I remember Clint Eastwood,” he says indignantly. “I remember every goddamn Dirty Harry movie ever made. Clyde, too. What’s your point, Sam?”
Sam lifts his eyes to Dean, and Dean’s lost because Sam’s smirking. Sam’s goddamn younger-brother smirk is all over his perfect, smug face.
“My point is my point,” Sam answers, quiet and smooth as can be, and Dean should be furious. He should be worse than indignant. He’s being made fun of. He’s the butt of some joke that makes Sam grin like that, and he should punch that smirk right off his damn face.
Sam’s beautiful, grinning face hovers over him, and it strikes Dean that Sam’s happy. He’s found something he’s been looking for.
“I remember David Hasselhoff,” Dean growls as he pushes Sam away half-heartedly. “Chuck Norris, too, and his stupid TV show still sucks.”
“My point is, your memory works well enough,” Sam says, and now he’s chuckling. Dean slaps his chest as Sam looms over him again, so Sam grabs his wrists, pins Dean’s body to the bed. “Whatever you don’t remember, you fill in with instinct. You’re you, that’s my point.”
Dean struggles for a moment, then gives up, panting. “I’ll show you me, bitch,” he growls, glaring up at Sam, defiance masking his excitement, his sheer pleasure at making Sam so happy.
Sam huffs out a soft laugh. “I’m counting on it, jerk,” he breathes, leaning down for a kiss.
Dean turns his face away, so Sam kisses his jaw, dips his tongue into the sensitive hollow below his ear.
Dean bucks up, instantly hard again. He gasps as Sam takes his earlobe between his teeth and grunts with the effort to hold him down. Dean wraps a leg around Sam’s waist, getting some friction for his dick against Sam’s hip. Sam’s dick presses against his belly.
Sam still wants him, broken and messed-up as he is. Dean may never be the brother Sam remembers, the man who shared a lifetime of memories and tragedies, the partner who truly understands everything Sam’s been through because he’s been through it, too.
But Sam still wants him. For now, that’s enough.
It takes them two more days to get back to the bunker, driving all day, holing up in a house or motel to ride out the night.
They never find the farmhouse where they stayed three days in a rainstorm, the place where Dean recovered enough of himself to give Sam some faith. The place where Sam learned to believe again.
Back at the bunker, Dean finds his old journals. He finds their dad’s journal. He reads about things he can’t remember. Fragments of memory keep bursting into his mind. He sees faces sometimes. Cas, Jack, their mom after she came back to them, their dad.
After a particularly vivid dream of John Winchester, of all four of them gathered at the dinner table for a meal here in the bunker, he wakes with tears on his cheeks.
“Did that really happen?” he asks Sam the next morning, as they’re cleaning up after breakfast.
Sam nods. “Yeah.”
Dean shakes his head. “Our lives are weird, man,” he mutters.
Sam takes the dish Dean just washed and dries it. “Definitely.”
But it’s not terrible, Dean decides. As the days turn into weeks and the nights get longer, Dean decides it’s not the worst fate, living out their lives here in this bunker, after the end of the world.
They use Sam’s magic gas to go on frequent foraging missions, mostly for food, but also because Sam never gives up hope that somebody else survived. Somewhere in the world, there must be other survivors.
Sam spends hours working on the bunker’s ham radio, sending out messages on every frequency. Once in a while he gets an automated response, but after a few days it dies, presumably because the batteries died in the radio where the signal originated.
By midwinter, Sam gives up.
Sam never gives up completely on anything, but Dean manages to convince him to pull back a little, to wait for spring when they can get out for longer drives again. Sam relegates his former obsession to a daily routine, checking the radio once or twice for a few minutes before going on to other things.
When the sad look returns to Sam’s face, Dean does his best to distract Sam with a blowjob or an old movie. The bunker’s library is full of movies, all rendered digitally and catalogued meticulously by the bunker’s obsessive in-house librarian, aka Sam Winchester. It makes Dean smile when he finds all the old Clint Eastwood movies, even the ones with Clyde the orangutan. He makes Sam watch Every Which Way But Loose just to see his eyes roll, just to see that little exasperated head-shake as he gives in to the corny slapstick humor with a long-suffering sigh.
Once in a while, Dean catches Sam watching him. It’s usually when he’s doing something routine, cleaning his guns or watching a western or ironing Sam’s shirts. Sometimes Sam follows Dean into the garage. He leans on one of the other cars while Dean works, sipping a whiskey, and watches.
Dean knows Sam’s looking for his brother. Dean knows he’s seeing his brother in those moments, but Dean never calls him on it. Sam’s grief is his own, not something Dean can share. He can wish he remembered their life together, growing up together, suffering at the hands of Lucifer and Michael and all those sons-of-bitches together, surviving all of it, together.
But he can’t. Bits and pieces just don’t make up a whole. He’s broken, his mind fragmented and full of gaping holes, just like Michael had promised he would be.
Dean has a dream one night. In it he and Cas are visiting a man in a hospital. The man sits in a wheelchair and stares vacantly at a wall. In the dream, Dean knows the man is the former vessel of the archangel Raphael. He remembers Cas. He’s old Dean in the dream, with all his memories.
“So is this what I'm looking at if Michael jumps in my bones?” Dean asks.
“No, not at all,” Castiel answers. “Michael is much more powerful. It'll be far worse for you.”
Dean wakes from that dream breathing hard, but at least he isn’t screaming. The Michael nightmares are the worst. He can never remember them, which is a blessing, but Dean knows they’re about his time as Michael’s vessel.
“What do you remember about being possessed by Lucifer?” he asks Sam one night after some particularly energetic sex.
“Everything,” Sam answers, clenching his jaw.
“I wish I could make you forget,” Dean says.
“I don’t,” Sam says, shaking his head a little. “But I’m glad you don’t remember being possessed by Michael. I really am, Dean. I hope you never do.”
“You’re stronger than I am,” Dean says. “My brain doesn’t let me remember. I couldn’t function if I did. I almost stopped functioning as it is.”
“But you didn’t,” Sam reminds him. “You survived. You’re better than you were that day I found you. You’ll get better still.”
“You think so?”
Sam sighs. He pulls Dean into his arms and kisses the top of his head. “I know so,” he answers softly.
Dean figures that’s how it’s always been. Sam believes in him, and Sam’s faith keeps Dean going.
Sam’s faith gives Dean hope.
They’ll plant a garden in the spring, grow fresh vegetables and fruit for themselves so they don’t have to eat out of cans all the time.
They’ll take drives together, just like they used to, only this time they’ll be on a quest to find survivors and food instead of monsters. Maybe they’ll take up fishing, since fish seem to have survived. They have yet to find another living creature that doesn’t hatch from an egg, but at least some eggs are edible, according to Sam.
They’ll make a life for themselves, here after the end of the world.
Maybe they’ll even make it to the ocean. Dean thinks he’d like to see the ocean. He’d like to walk on a sandy beach with Sam, watch the sun set over the water, see the stars come out.
Of course, they’ll have to find a way to keep the ghost zombies at bay, but Dean has faith. They’ll figure it out.
They always do.