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“Where the fuck are we, Sam?” Dean asked, waving his arms.

Sam bit his lip, that expression that said he knew so much more than Dean did and none of it good, which only gave Dean two choices: continue to freak out or get really, truly mad, because if this was another of Sam’s things where he kept vital information from Dean until the clusterfuck exploded in their faces Dean wasn’t sure he could keep from doing real damage to his brother. “Where’s my car, Sam?” Dean demanded, going for door number one.

“I don’t think it’s so much a where,” Sam said, looking embarrassed. He turned his head, and Dean followed his gaze. The Utah mountains were a great chain, nothing like the vast flatness in the center of the country where Dean felt more at home.

More to the point, the Utah mountains were exactly where they’d been two minutes ago. It was the suburb they’d been investigating that had disappeared. The mountains themselves were still impressive, purple-grey and jagged like the teeth of some colossal shark.

“Time travel?” Dean asked, not directed at Sam, or even God (or Castiel, or Chuck, or whoever it was who supervised these things any more, at least back in their own time). He just felt it needed to be said, and with appropriate unhappiness.

“Could be parallel universes,” Sam said, almost hopefully.

“What, and Ape Lincoln is waiting for us in Washington? Yeah, that’s better,” Dean grumped.

“There’s a road,” Sam pointed out. And sure enough, it was not ten feet from where they were standing, tired old concrete with faded lines, edges blurring into gravel. Given that they weren’t standing in the ruins of a town, Dean was gonna have to go with past instead of future. But if some damn dirty apes showed up, all bets were off.


Thirty minutes later, they’d let a truck pass them by without trying to flag it down. That might’ve been a bad call, but they weren’t hurting for water yet and there was this road, which meant that somewhere down it there were places that people lived.

By the license plate and the make and condition of the truck, Dean was putting the year at somewhere between 1967 and 1969. Sam, of course, was doubtful that Dean knew enough to achieve that kind of precision, despite his years of mocking Dean for being retro. Not that Dean had issues or anything.

“So,” Dean said, squinting towards where the road disappeared into the late-afternoon haze, “you think this is a part of something’s big plan, or just the general assfuckery that we always get?”

Sam’s gait beside him didn’t falter, but then Sam was a very good liar, so that didn’t mean anything. “I don’t know, Dean. All I did was touch that coin—”

Dean grunted. He could even see the argument for moving the Winchesters in time instead of killing them, if you were a supernatural player of some sort: death was obviously not going to cut it. Time travel, on the other hand, was demonstrably difficult for the angels, and as far as they knew it wasn’t even a possibility for demons. And now the Winchesters were effectively sidelined for whatever was happening in 2010.

Or it really could be random assfuckery. Couldn’t even blame Sam for touching the thing, because that was the job. It had been the third set of weird happenings they’d investigated since Sam had dragged him back in, and the only damn thing that had gone right was that Dean had managed to ditch Sam’s car, in fairly spectacular fashion, except that now the Impala was gone too, so the usual tit-for-tat game life played with Dean Winchester was in full effect.

“I got a pretty good look at the coin,” Sam said with artificial hope. “I don’t think we should go to the Campbells, we already know what happens when we try to change stuff about our own timelines, but there’ve got to be other hunters around.”

“Hang on,” Dean said, his eye caught by something not quite normal, just a flash of metal over the rocks a couple of yards back from the road. He stopped and pulled his gun, and Sam did the same. Dean nodded and they split up, Dean going forward to circle around as Sam dropped back.

At least they still could still hunt as if they fit, Dean thought, and stuffed the self-pity back down for a time when they weren’t maybe in immediate danger.

But the guys behind the rocks weren’t going to give them any trouble. At least not in corporeal form.

“Shit,” Sam said, tucking his gun back into his waistband.

Dean did the same and prodded the nearest corpse with the toe of his boot, flipping it over. The face looked mashed up even under the decomposition, and at least eight of the fingers were broken. The bodies were close enough to the rock on the side away from the road that anyone driving by wouldn’t have noticed. Apparently the motorcycles—further back, still standing like they’d been parked while the riders had a picnic or a nap—hadn’t been noteworthy enough to get anyone who’d driven by to stop. Dean might’ve pulled over, seeing three cycles out in the middle of nowhere like that, but then Dean was heavily armed, trained, and also he had a cellphone if he really needed to call for an ambulance or something.

Funny to think how much of a difference that made.

“What do you think happened?” Sam asked.

Dean looked around, saw footprints and no other tire marks close by. He backed up until he could see the road, where there was some scuffing that might’ve been where a truck had pulled up. “I think three or four guys kicked this guy to death. You wanna take a look at the other ones? Doesn’t look like our kind of thing, at least not on the killing side.”

Sam grimaced but knelt down next to the other bodies while Dean checked the motorcycles. “Didn’t take their packs,” Dean commented as he rifled through the contents of the pack on the first one. She was beautiful, in her way: wheel stretched out way ahead of the rest of the body, nothing like the machines on the road in their time. It was all gleaming silver and painted black except for the American flag on the side of the gas tank. He ran his hand over the seat, then got down to business. There were a couple of shirts in the pack that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Sam’s duffel, plus a tan leather jacket with foot-long fringes on the shoulders and hem that made Dean shake his head.

The other pack was even lighter, holding faded underwear along with a few more shirts, and the third motorcycle had nothing but a repair kit, which Dean snagged.

“Salt and burn?” he asked when he was done. Even if they weren’t here for a reason, or even if the reason was unrelated to these poor suckers, it went against the grain to ignore potentially restless spirits.

“Unless you’re carrying salt in a body cavity—”

“Burn then, and some of those pretty little incantations you picked up,” Dean snapped back.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do anything like that until we know what’s going on,” Sam said, so reasonably that Dean wanted to smack him openhanded.

Dean took a deep breath, because they were both good at what they did, and Sam had a point, and that was what they had left now: being grownups about it. “I get it, I do, we’ll walk lightly on the earth. But Sam, can you think of any reason leaving three angry spirits free to roam around is gonna help us here? ‘Cause I think we gotta take their stuff, which means we’re gonna be on their list.”

Sam frowned and didn’t say anything for a minute, like he was really thinking it over. “Okay,” he conceded.

Dean went to siphon the gas from one of the cycles, using the tubing he’d found in the repair kit, while Sam dragged the bodies together, still hidden in the lee of the stone in case anybody else drove by, though the road had been silent since the one truck.

The bodies burned as well as they always did as the day stretched into evening, sun diving behind the mountains and leaving the sky pink around the edges, shading into a deep blue overhead.

With the corpses this fresh, the smell was bad enough that Dean was grateful for the lingering stench of the gas; Sam had it harder, standing close enough to ensure that he was chanting at all three of the bodies.

As soon as it was done, Dean turned towards the motorcycles. Even if they were before the concept of serial killers caught on, Dean was pretty sure that being caught with three crispy critters was not a good idea. Dean ran a speculative eye over all three, but came back to the one he’d already chosen. There was a lot to be said for having two vehicles. But the fact of the matter was that he wasn’t getting on any machine that didn’t also ride Sammy. He swallowed the comment about how Sam wouldn’t be able to get a motorcycle set up the way he liked it anyway. That hurt wouldn’t feel better if he spread it around.

That decided, he went to siphon the gas from the other machine they were leaving behind. Sam watched, eyes narrowed and arms crossed, but didn’t complain.

There was something in the gas tank of the second one. After some careful fishing with a stick, Dean stank even worse, thick buzzing smell that was going to give him a headache pretty soon, but he had a hold of a long, snake-like plastic coil stuffed with paper.

“What is that?” Sam demanded as Dean shook the gas off and held it up to examine it.

“Sam,” Dean said, delighted, “looks like we got ourselves some smugglers. This is our life getting easier.” He pulled a roll of cash from the end of the coil, like some segmented pale-green worm. The bills looked funny, all the designs old and more symmetrical, none of that anticounterfeiting crap woven through the paper.

Dean felt a little stab of sadness that Sam didn’t snark about how at least they were robbing bad guys, but then that ship had sailed years past. Dean was just missing how Sam had been trying to keep his own innocence. Dean missed that more than Sam did, he figured. But Sam had put that kind of regret out of his mind, and anyway these guys weren’t going to need their undoubtedly ill-gotten cash ever again, so there was no point in being coy about it.

“You’re gonna be cold in just that shirt,” Dean pointed out. Sam usually wore more layers than the dip at Hooters, but he’d taken them off to go door-to-door back in 2010, since he looked less threatening that way. Sam was already a little hunched in on himself as the temperature dropped, and the motorcycle would strip the remaining heat off of him.

Sam scowled. “Yeah, I know.”

“There’s a jacket in that pack,” Dean told him, then turned to finish up with the gas tank.

When he looked up, Sam was looming unhappily, fringed like Davey Crockett. The jacket was a little tight in the shoulders but otherwise seemed to fit. Dean bit the inside of his cheek and very carefully didn’t comment, though he figured that Sam could probably guess what Dean wanted to say.

“Come on,” he said, tossing Sam the helmet with the American flag on it. “We’re burning moonlight.”

Sam rolled his eyes but got on behind him.

No disrespect to his baby (and she must exist now, cherry as he’d never known her; there was a part of him that kind of hoped they’d been sent back here to see her, but he couldn’t figure out how that would work so he didn’t give it too much thought), but riding on a real chopper was something else. The wheel stretched out in front of him like it was reaching towards the horizon, the headlights shone out like lighthouse beams, the engine roared underneath him, and Sam’s weight was warm against his back. With the wind whipping his face—Sam and his sensitive skin, he’d be peeling (and whining) by the time they stopped for gas—and the road bumping beneath him, forward momentum keeping them balanced, it was possibly the most fun he’d had since they’d done those zombies in Kentucky.

It was nearly fifty miles before they saw a motel, light almost painfully bright as they approached it compared to the distant stars and the ivory moon. Dean pulled them into the courtyard and swung his leg off of the cycle—

The “vacancy” light on the sign flickered off, and Dean jerked, surprised. There was a man in the office, he saw, staring out at him with blank unfriendliness, and then a shade rattled down, cutting off Dean’s view.

“Great,” Sam said in his ear, loud to make up for the road-deafness. “Now we’re outlaw bikers.”

“You wanna go back and start walking, be my fucking guest,” Dean said, but he was a little surprised. They’d never been refused service at a roadside joint like this, no matter how beat up they’d been. “Hunh.” Could somebody even do that? Not to mention that Dean was actually going to pay with real money for once. He flipped off the closed shades with both hands and then restarted the engine.

Which was how they ended up bedded down at the side of the road, way too much like the dead guys for Dean’s comfort. No dinner, of fucking course, but if Dean was honest with himself he probably could use a few missed meals these days, keep him closer to fighting trim.

“Do you think,” Sam began, when it was obvious that neither of them was asleep.

Dean waited, and waited, and then it got weird, but Sam knew he was wide awake, so there was nothing for it but to man up. “What, Sam?”

“It’s just us, here. What if we could—stay?”

Dean’s heart clenched like a fist. It would be so easy for him to believe that their problems were all forty years in the future. Ben and Lisa wouldn’t be big targets if he was all the way gone, and Bobby would look after them. “It’s not far enough,” he said instead, which Sam had to know. No matter what they said, when it got close to Azazel’s time they’d kill themselves to get to Mom, and it would still end bloody. Going through that again would be even worse than whatever was waiting for them in 2010.

“We might not make it to the end of the decade,” Sam noted. “Not like we seem to be able to go that long between deaths, and there’s nobody here to bring us back.”

“Careful,” Dean said, kind of meaning it, “you might just talk me into that murder-suicide after all.”

Sam snorted and turned over so that his back was pressed against Dean’s shoulder. They were still pretty cold, even huddled together, but they weren’t in any danger from exposure. Dean wondered whether the guy at the motel would have turned them away if it had been getting on towards winter. If they’d been worried about freezing, they’d just have tied the guy up if he’d tried, maybe smacked him around a little, but it did make Dean wonder what had happened to that imaginary bygone America all the talk show hosts jabbered about, where people were trusting and friendly and chewing gum grew on trees, all that shit. Maybe if they’d gone back to 1950.

But then after a hungry, stiff hour on the bike in the morning, they came across a weird little hippie encampment, nearly a dozen kids running around in everything from diapers to an embroidered princess dress (Dean thought that was a boy, but he wasn’t going to ask). They looked at Dean a little funny, but when Sam asked whether there was anyplace they could buy some food around, the lead longhaired chick invited them to stay for breakfast.

The place was a mess, people jabbering and snapping at each other like people always did, but half the time they were talking about who was fucking whom and half the time they were fighting about political stuff that whizzed right over Dean’s head. They were upset about the police and the military and the politicians. Plus there was something about suits, Dean thought.

Sam jumped right in, talking revolutionary thinkers and then shutting them all up when he said the words “public choice theory.” Dean just grinned at them knowingly around his mouthful of slightly gritty eggs, because in any decade Sam was going to know more than everybody else. Sam ducked his head and then started explaining what he meant, or at least Dean figured that was what he was doing; Dean’s attention tended to wander when Sam got like this. Anyway the biscuits were fresh.

Sam got into this really intense discussion with the lead longhaired chick’s blonder, longer-haired friend, much to the first one’s dismay, and Dean ambled off to check around and make sure that the hippies weren’t messing with any dark forces as part of their rebellion against the Man. He didn’t find any altars to Satan, but he also didn’t find a shower, which he’d kind of hoped for. There was a busted record player in one of the smaller tents, which he hunkered down and started to work on, figuring that he owed them for breakfast.

One of the littler kids wandered in to watch, not saying anything, just sitting crosslegged and staring. Dean ignored her and wondered what kind of life she had. When he’d been that age, Dad had still cared about getting him to school. But maybe these folks didn’t believe in formal education; they didn’t think they needed to pass for normal, which was a step further than Dad had ever gone.

What if this is random, and we’re really stuck here? He knew it wasn’t a useful thought, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to jump up and go find Sam, grab on like the needy fucking bastard he’d always been when it came to Sam. Fuck, no wonder Sam had been surprised when Dean didn’t roll right back into place when Sam asked, no matter how bad he’d stomped on Dean.

Dean had meant this time to be different. Sam didn’t even understand what he’d done, which was hurt on top of hurt. Thing was, when Sam had believed Dean was weak and worthless, Dean had basically agreed, even when he was walking around with his same old thin candy shell of certainty. But to think that Dean was better off waking up every morning thinking—knowing—that Sam was in the Pit—fuck, random people they’d saved wouldn’t have been okay with that if they’d known, and Sam somehow thought Dean could be happy? Ben and Lisa had been great, and he’d started to do okay with them, he thought, but it was like Sam had taken a look at the globe and concluded that the whole planet was made of the green growing things on its skin, like the center wasn’t forever on fire.

That was too dumb, even for someone without Sam’s overmuscled brain. The only explanation was that it wasn’t Dean who didn’t care.

So, overall, being stuck in the wrong time didn’t seem likely to fix their problems.

Dean fiddled with one last wire on the record player and then pressed the play button. The arm swung out, hesitated, and then dropped down. The notes filled the small, stuffy tent as Simon and Garfunkel sang out, “Hello, darkness, my old friend—” and Dean hurriedly shut it off.

The kid was still watching him like he was going to explode, or disappear, or do something else interesting. Dean nodded at her, thinking that in 2010 he’d probably get arrested for hanging out with a strange little girl in a tiny tent, and used the thought to push himself outside.

“They haven’t seen anything that’s our kind of weird,” Sam reported as soon as Dean found him, leaning back against one of the ever-present rock outcroppings. “And before you say it, yeah, I think they’d notice. They’re good people, Dean. They just want to make a different kind of life, and maybe they don’t know what that is yet, but they’ve got hope. It’s not something you see very often, back in our time.”

Dean shrugged, accepting Sam’s assessment. “So what now?”

Sam pushed his bangs away from his face, his forehead scrunched as he thought. “Pastor Jim, maybe?”

It was a good thought. The best alternative, Caleb, would as soon gut them as look at them if they didn’t come recommended, and anyway Caleb had always been heavier on the arsenal than the theory, and their situation looked like it needed a theory. Dean nodded.

“That’s a long ride,” Sam said, by which Dean understood he was meant to offer to steal a car so that Sam wouldn’t have to spend quite so much time pressed against Dean like they were pages in Dad’s journal.

“Tap me on the shoulder when you get a better idea,” Dean told him, then went to ask about the distance to the nearest gas station.


It was coming on evening again when they pulled up at the diner. They could’ve gone longer, but Dean wasn’t sure where the next town was. His mental maps all had more stuff on them than was presently there.

The nasty looks started as soon as they pushed open the door, the waitress looking out the window at the motorcycle and then back at them like they’d ridden the thing straight through the plate glass. A quartet of middle-aged men folks, one in a deputy’s uniform, sneered at them; Dean found the identical expressions more than a little unnerving, like he was back in high school and all the lettermen were getting ready to mark their territory once again.

On the other hand, there was a gaggle of barely legal girls in one of the booths, and they seemed real interested in Dean and Sam, especially Sam. Dean very carefully did not look in their direction as he sat down at one of the formica tables in the center of the diner. He could feel Sam dropping his shoulders, trying to make himself shrink or at least look less threatening. With the fringed jacket, Dean didn’t think he was going to have much luck becoming inconspicuous.

“Excuse me,” Sam said at last, when it became clear that the waitress wasn’t going to come over on her own. “Could we see a menu, please?”

“Please,” one of the men sitting with the deputy repeated, low but not low enough that they couldn’t hear him, and they all chuckled.

“Dude,” Dean said automatically. “What’s your—” Sam reached across and clamped his hand down on Dean’s wrist, which set off a bunch of giggles from the girls and even nastier smirks from the men.

“Dude?” the deputy asked. “What’s that mean, hunh?”

Dean smiled, trying to remember how to keep his face from saying ‘fuck off and die’ no matter what words came out of his mouth. “Just means a regular guy, that’s all. Sir.”

Sam let him go, and one of the other men distinctly said the word “faggot.” Dean didn’t let his smile flicker.

“Regular guy,” the deputy repeated. “And are you a ‘regular guy’?”

“Just got out of the army,” Dean said easily. “Me and my brother, we’re on a road trip.”

“That’s your brother?” the deputy asked, raising his eyebrows. “Hair like that, he wasn’t in no army.”

“Trick knee,” Dean said in the same pleasant tone. The air was draining out of the diner with every moment, the girls were whispering, and Dean was counting bullets in his mind and wondering if they could get out of this without pulling the guns.

“Where were you stationed, son?” the guy across from the deputy asked loudly.

Dean silently gave thanks to the Discovery Channel. “Nha Trang,” he said, mentally apologizing to the spirits of any vets who might be around.

“You one of those protestors, comes back and badmouths his country?” the guy continued.

Dean couldn’t help but bristle at his tone, even though this was in every way not his fight. Sam, across from him, was tensing up even more. “I wasn’t planning on making any speeches. I just want a sandwich.” He clenched his jaw until he could make the next words come out, because he was really trying to stay the kind of stubborn that didn’t cross the line into stupidity. “But maybe this isn’t the right place.”

The guy opened his mouth again, but this time the deputy held up his hand. “Now, Bill, let the soldier here eat. If we feed him up right, maybe he’ll be able to talk some sense into his brother there.”

The waitress brought them a couple of menus, and they chose sandwiches. Dean’s tasted like sand and ashes, and Sam didn’t look any happier, even when one of the cuter girls dared to approach him and ask about the motorcycle. They ate quickly and paid faster.

“Okay, changed my mind,” Sam said into his ear as they got back on the cycle. “This is not good. I thought I was missing the internet? I was missing the tolerance.”

Dean thought about cracking wise about all the things he missed—cable porn, for one—but he was beginning to get an inkling of just how alone they were, in this time where things looked familiar but you might get run out of a diner for having long hair and kicked to death on the side of the road for who-knows-what crime. They always came in at the middle of stories like those bikers’, and Dean was used to missing pieces, but usually there was something else real they’d done, like stop a ghost from killing again. Without that, it was hard to deal with riding a dead man’s motorcycle and spending his money.

They lived on the loose ends of things, though, so Dean tried to forget about it.

“What I don’t get is why those girls were so into you,” Dean said, fumbling with his helmet. Part of that was automatic harassment of the little brother, etched into his bones even before the Enochian symbols, but part of it was real—in his experience, the girls went for the military men faster.

Sam shrugged. “It’s 1969—yeah, you were right, Dean, don’t give me that look—nobody knows who’s in charge or what it all means. Those girls liked the way I look because their parents would hate it, and because it’s different. Nobody knows what’s coming next, and everyone’s wondering whether someone else has found the answer.”

“Wow, sounds just like back home,” Dean said and started the engine.

That night, Dean parked the cycle a couple of hundred yards away from the target motel and left Sam with it. He wasn’t sure it had been necessary—the couple running the place was youngish and perfectly pleasant—but he couldn’t have stood to marinate in his own sweat a minute longer and anything that promised to increase the chances he was getting a shower had been worth trying. Sam didn’t protest, anyway.

In the bathroom at last, the flimsy curtain and huge showerhead reminded him unpleasantly of Psycho, and then he had that ridiculous eighties song where Michael Jackson sang backing vocals stuck in his head, so overall the mood boost he was expecting from finally being clean again didn’t come. At least the towels were nicer than they’d have been back in their time—faded, but fluffy.

He was rubbing his hair dry when he reemerged, wondering how long he could go in just his boxers without having to put on his filthy shirt again, when he saw how Sam was sitting on the bed near the door. Sam’s back was bowed and his head was in his hands. His shoulders were shaking, just a little. More than enough to terrify Dean.

“Sam?” he said. He knew Sam didn’t want whatever pathetic comfort Dean could pretend to give, but he couldn’t just ignore this.

“I’m sorry,” Sam pushed out, a near-gurgle Dean could only interpret because of years of practice.

“What?” He dropped the towel and hurried over to the bed, kneeling almost close enough to touch. “Sam, what—what are you even talking about?”

“I know I’m no good for you,” Sam said, and the words had the ring of familiarity, like he’d said them to himself so much they were polished smooth, came out easily. “I had to hide so you could get a room, and Dean, I should have to hide. Those guys at the diner, they had it right, and I know why you didn’t stand up for me—”

Dean reeled back. “I didn’t stand up for you because I thought that was what you wanted, so we could get something to eat—”

Sam wasn’t listening. “I’m sorry I fucked up keeping you out of all this, I was trying so hard to make it without you, and now you’ve lost everything all over again—”

“Sam! Sammy!” Dean grabbed his ridiculous biceps and shook until Sam shut up. Sam wasn’t going to look up, so Dean took what he could get. “You fucked up by keeping me out, that’s for sure. But I—” Shit, now he was choking up. “Listen, I get it, why you want me away. I, uh.” He took another ragged breath, because maybe if he could say it he could deal with it; nothing else had worked, anyhow. “I love you more than you love me. And that’s—hard. I know it’s hard for you too. But I don’t think we can—”

He stopped because Sam’s head snapped up and his hands clamped like cuffs around Dean’s wrists. Sam’s eyes were terror-wide and his nostrils were flaring like he’d just outrun the cops.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sam nearly yelled it, and so maybe it wasn’t terror but rage Dean was seeing. “You think I don’t—” He shook Dean a couple of times, as if that would do his communicating for him. Dean had the stray thought, not for the first time, that for all they told themselves about Sam’s talk-it-outness and Dean’s seal-it-up-tight philosophy, that was not really how they played this game. “How can you even—I love you enough to let you go, you enormous asshole!”

Dean snorted and pulled back. It took enough effort that his wrists would be bruised tomorrow, but the struggle was worth it to get to stand and turn away. Sam was saying that Dean was the selfish one, which was true enough, clutching so hard to what he wanted that it broke and ran through his hands. But: “You’re missing a pretty crucial part of that idea, Sammy. If it comes back to you, you’re supposed to take it!”

“I asked you to come back,” Sam said, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Dean snorted. “Yeah, after you let me go a year—after you made me promise, you let me make promises—”

“I think I’m still a monster,” Sam rushed out, like he was going to lose his nerve if he didn’t interrupt. Dean swiveled so that he could see Sam again, only forcing himself to keep back by clenching his fists. “We both know it. I think I’ve got it under control, but. And I hate that you’re stuck with me, I hate that I can’t just make you see, and how could you even think I don’t—Dean, most days, you’re the only thing that keeps me close to the line. But I won’t make that your job. That’s not love. That’s just—addiction.”

Sam was panting, and Dean watched, trying to see past what he expected. Past the long hair and the pained droop of Sam’s mouth, those too-sharp eyes and too-burdened shoulders.

Dean cleared his throat. “Did you ever think maybe it doesn’t have to be my job, not any more? Maybe it could be something I could do for—with—you, because you’re my brother? We don’t always have to—can’t you just let me help? I don’t see the world the same way you do and maybe I never will, but—I can fight this fight if I know you’re in this with me. Not just—not even—on the same side. But with me.”

Dean looked down, not quite ashamed, and was struck all over again by how big Sam had gotten while Dean was watching but not noticing. Maybe their differences were too big now, all that blood spilled a river too great to cross. Maybe they were just as doomed and confused as those hippies and the old guys, acting like the world would go just like it was told if they shut out everything they didn’t like.

“Dean,” Sam said, bringing Dean’s head up like it was on a string. “I—okay, I didn’t, I didn’t say this because I thought it would be unfair, to you, to Lisa and Ben—” he only hesitated a little on their names—”but I do. I mean, you’re.”

Dean stared at him, waiting, and then he began to get a clue. And he couldn’t help it; this was like Christmas come early and bearing beer. “You can’t say it, can you?” He couldn’t keep the triumph out of his voice. “You, Samuel middle-name-emo Winchester, can’t say the words that I, Dean ‘Macho’ Winchester, manned up and—”

His breath whooshed out as Sam’s shove toppled him back onto the other bed. “Asshole,” Sam said from his crouch above Dean, looking hopeful. He ducked his head, but in this position his bangs didn’t do much to hide his expression. “I do, you know.”

Dean bit his lip. There was a lot he could say to that, most of it not helpful. “Could stand to hear more about that, Sam. If that means you talking about the Pit, or whatever, that’s okay too. Or even if it’s just you thinking you know something about how you’re back. I don’t want to beat myself bloody trying to get through to you, all right? I need you to open the door.”

Sam pulled back and regained his footing, but he wasn’t refusing, just giving them both space. Dean realized that he was still just in his boxers, and he was pretty fucking cold. “I’ll try,” Sam said. Dean felt warmer already. Somehow hearing Sam admit to uncertainty made him believe more than any of Sam’s absolute promises ever had.

So, they didn’t have any freaking clue what was going on any more than those girls at the diner did. But that didn’t matter so much, not any more.

“Dean,” Sam said urgently. Dean struggled to his feet and followed Sam’s pointing finger to where a silver coin lay gleaming on the faded motel carpet.

“What the fuck?” Dean griped, but he was already grabbing for his clothes.

Just in case, Dean put his hand on Sam’s shoulder when Sam reached out to touch it. They’d both come over without being in contact, but Dean felt better this way.


They were standing next to the Impala. The ground was rocky and hot, and Dean double-timed it back into his socks, jeans and boots, all other less pressing matters forgotten.

Then he looked around for the coin, which had disappeared again.

“You’d think with all the supernatural therapy we get we’d be less fucked up,” Dean said after a moment.

“Maybe they’re just not very good at it,” Sam said right back, and they looked at each other until Sam smiled, and Dean couldn’t stop his own lips from twitching.

Dean was in the middle of checking to make sure nothing had happened to the Impala while they were gone when he heard Sam’s footsteps. He didn’t pull himself away from the depths of the trunk.

“I meant what I said.” Sam’s voice was low but certain. “I want this. I want us. And I can’t promise I’m not going to hurt you again, and yeah, knowing that makes me want to pull back. But I want you with me for as long as you’ll stay.”

Dean smiled, because nobody was looking. Back where they belonged, they had allies, and family, and plenty of people to save. They didn’t have to stay huddled together out of desperation.

“Yeah, Sammy,” he said. “Me too.”

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