This story is also available at this location on The Archive of Our Own, where all my current stories and comments can be found. I am no longer updating this site.

There are a few things about Sam that Dean hates, and only some of them have to do with Azazel and all the shit the demon put on Sam. One of them is the way Sam is still contemptuous of the things they have to do to get by, the credit cards and the pool, the petty scams and the shoplifting. That list is in increasing order of proficiency: Sam has quicker fingers than most of the magicians working in Las Vegas, and when they have a couple of days free he can do a pigeon drop the way Dean can put five bullets in a two-inch target, though Sam mostly refuses to commit outright, face-to-face fraud. Sam can do all these things, but he despises each and every one, even the ones that are just parting fools from their long green. He treats them like they’re optional.

Dean keeps the family accounts, always has. He knows the price of everything, whereas Sam only knows the value.

When Sam leaves seven hundred dollars on a pool table, Dean is fully prepared to jump the mark on his way out of the bar. It’s not classy and it’s not playing fair by his own rules, but that is living money, eating money. But Dean gets distracted by Ruby and her talk of angels, and the mark disappears with seven hundred dollars of hard-earned Winchester money.

Resentment is cheap but inedible. He shoves it aside.

Dean is tired, really bone-deep tired, Hell behind him and Hell in front of him and nothing but angels’ angry wings above. He doesn’t have a death wish, because he knows now how much worse it can get, but he sure enough has a wish that it would all just stop. But of course he can’t stop. There is still some hope that Sam will make it out of Lilith’s attempt to bring on the end times. He knows this is mostly delusion, but past the horror of ‘mostly’ there is a thin shred of ‘maybe’ and he will keep crawling towards it until his bones splinter into toothpicks.

There are some things Sam has never done to get by, would never lower himself to do. Gas is still over three and a half dollars most places they go, though, which adds up fast when you’re driving a boat built before Detroit had heard of OPEC. And you can’t get much farther down than Dean’s been. So, after the shit with Anna is over (however briefly), Dean heads them towards a city big enough that Dean can take care of business while Sam spends some quality time in a university library reading books Bobby doesn’t have.

Except that they’ve been driving over eight hours when Sam starts awake in the passenger seat. “Hey,” he rumbles, rubbing his eyes and smacking his lips as if to get a bad taste out of his mouth. “You shoulda woken me up, man, I need a piss and a drink.” And Dean puzzles over that, because Sam always wakes up when they stop the car, he’s delicate like that, but now that Dean thinks of it, he hasn’t—and Jesus fuck they must be driving on fumes, the next rest stop not for thirty miles. Honestly, he thinks he might start crying again if he has to walk down this dark road in the cold and then back, freezing heavy handle of the gas can digging into his palm, not to mention the mystery of how exactly he plans to pay for the can and the fill-up. But when he looks at the gas gauge, it’s pegging full, just like it was this morning.

It’s a moment of relief, and then another ton of god-fucking-dammit, because it’s not the first gauge that’s stopped working and it won’t be the last, but Dean doesn’t need the added stress of constantly keeping track of mileage until he can sweet-talk his way into a garage and get at the sending unit, which is the most likely source of the problem.

Then he actually does the math: twenty-four gallons at roughly fifteen miles a gallon, because it’s been highways most of the way (Dean loves his baby, every knob and gasket, but lying about her diet will fuck them both), is three hundred and sixty miles, which they passed well over two hours back.

He looks at the gauge again, suspicious. But she’s still flying down the road, the engine’s running no hotter than he’d expect, and Sam is still grumbling about his back and his thirst and how dangerous tired drivers can be, so he shifts his hands around the wheel, the rough edges of the leather more familiar than his own new and improved skin, and thinks.

Winchesters don’t stop when they reach the bottom of what they’ve got to give. He guesses she’s been a Winchester as long as any of them.

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