|Sometimes you get fulgurites (luzdeestrellas) wrote,|
@ 2007-09-26 03:43:00
|Current music:||Brian Ferry - Slave To Love|
Fic, Supernatural, Small Conspiracies (gen, PG)
Title: Small Conspiracies
Summary: For a second, everything they need is right there, in curled fingers and tiny brushes of skin.
Dean gets hurt in Texas, fucks the tendons in his right arm up, and he won't let Sam take him to the hospital, bitches non-stop while they drive a hundred and thirty miles to get out of dodge, looking for nothing more than a cheap motel room and maybe water pressure that's more than nearly non-existent. It would be funny; it's like they're incapable of having four functioning arms between them these days, except nothing's all that funny at the moment.
They still aren't talking. It's all half silences and trivialities, which isn't exactly new--they can go days discussing nothing but a case or which exit to take, whether Sam wants mayo or ketchup on his burger (it's sometimes both, thank you very much)--but in between times, there's normally conversation they slip into, as easy and comforting as sleep or breathing. There's movies and music, people watching and sports, sometimes even politics, because Dean can't spend as much time as he does trawling newspapers without forming an opinion. Sam doesn't love music like Dean does, doesn't know it like he does, but sometimes Dean goes off on tangents, Zeppelin and Bruce and Johnny Cash and U2, The Clash and Nirvana and Pearl Jam, pointing out links and shifts and patterns Sam has never really thought about, and which make a weird kind of sense when he does. Or Sam tells him what he's reading, words filling up the miles like an atlas of who and what they are, and Dean listens and nods.
"It's like," he says, "like string theory." And for an endless stretch of road they talk about alternate realities and the nature of time, and none of it means anything, and it feels a lot like safety.
Now, though, now, it's different. It's like the air is too heavy, all Dean's words wrapped up in a promise, or maybe a goodbye that Sam didn't even give him before taking off again, and Sam doesn't know how to untangle them, is a little afraid of what might happen if he does.
He keeps poking at it, subtle and direct and every possible way he can think of, because he's never, ever learned when to back off, and if he tries hard enough, maybe Dean will just break under the assault, give Sam what they both need.
"You think the moon landing really is a fake?" he asks, when they've been on the road half an hour, and Dean's run out of insults for Texas.
On a good day, Sam totally thinks it happened. He likes to believe in it, that they did something almost impossible. On the bad days, he likes to think Dean might believe it for him, but all Dean says is, "The fuck does it matter?" even though this is exactly the kind of crap he's normally all over--he has elaborate theories about JFK, only half of which involve the supernatural, and, though he denies it, his own set of notes on Area 51.
Sam lets it go, because he doesn't know how much farther he's got to push, and Dean falls asleep, cheek mashed against the glass, out like he hasn't been in a while, painkillers and exhaustion a double hit he doesn't have the energy to fight. Sam reaches around into the back (a move Dean would kill him for if he were awake to see him diverting his attention from his baby), and grabs Dean's jacket to throw it over him. His hurt arm is held protectively in his lap, but he doesn't twitch when Sam changes the radio station, or when Sam runs a thumb along the bruise that's barely healed below his right eye. He looks awkward and all of six years old, young like Sam doesn't remember him being; he was always bigger and brighter and faster, a point in the distance Sam was forever shooting towards.
At the moment, his hair's sticking up crazily, except where it's pushed flat against the window, and his skin's too pale, but the furrow between his eyebrows is gone, and the tightness has eased some around his mouth. Sam doesn't take his hand away, caught by his warmth, his familiarity, even though, if Dean were awake, he'd be jerking miles out of Sam's grip, all their casual touching lost along with their conversation. He's been restless under Dean's gaze for days, fear and doubt falling heavy over every inch of him, but now he feels the absence of it like a slow throbbing wound, all persistent ache and goddamn everywhere.
"Hamsters eat your shoes," Dean mumbles, when Sam eventually breaks the contact, sleepy-thick, drawled out, syllables lengthened and wrapped around each other so it's almost one word, and only years of living with Dean lets Sam understand it at all. He goes right on sleeping, snuffle of his breathing audible over the local college station Sam gets for a while, and then it's just that and the engine, when the music fades to static, and there's nothing but talk radio or some easy listening crap he won't pollute the Impala with, even to piss Dean off.
"It's all your own goddamn fault," he says into the rumble of the engine. He reaches his hand out again, curls his fingers just above Dean's shoulder and doesn't touch this time, unwilling to press his luck. "You're the one who was all, 'let's cut off our dicks before we admit anything's wrong.' You're like, I dunno, the guy who gets his leg eaten by a bear and insists he can still walk. Hell, you are that guy, too. And I'd totally have to carry your ass when that turned out to be a world of bullshit." The pattern of Dean's breathing doesn't change, but he shifts against the window, moves towards Sam, drawn like the Impala to the road, and Sam angles his shoulder, slumps right just a little bit so Dean can settle there, isn't just hanging in midair like some freakshow puppet. Dean comes to rest against him, and it's an arsenal of ammunition in Sam's pockets, and that's not even mostly why he smiles. It feels almost unfamiliar on his face, but contentment settles warm and heavy in his gut, like it hasn't since a whole town vanished and Sam added immunity to demonic viruses to his list of freakish qualities. Since then, every road has only taken them farther into downright fucked. He's not sure they know the way out, but Dean is a line of promise and strength against his side, even now, the strongest defence Sam has, and Sam thinks, if he had to outrun destiny and the world and everything in between, this is how he'd do it.
Doesn't mean he won't store it up for mocking later, when Dean shifts closer, sighs contentedly, his breath damp through Sam's t-shirt, and his hair tickling against the side of Sam's neck.
When Dean wakes, even with pills in his system and an hour and a half of deep sleep, it's still instant, alertness snapping through him so sharp, Sam almost feels it zinging in the air across the hairs on his arms. All his focus is immediately on Sam, and Sam almost does it--Are you checking I'm still here, or that I'm still me?--but he hasn't done it any of the other times it's happened, and he doesn't now.
"You're so cute when you snuggle," he says, instead. "And so adorable when you're seconds away from suffocating on your own drool."
Dean rubs his good hand over the stubble that's pretty much becoming beard on his face, wincing when he forgets and tries to flip Sam off with his other hand. "You're always mute in my dreams." Grumpy and cranky, heading back to drowsy now that Sam's what and where he's meant to be.
Sam grins. A drowsy Dean is easier to deal with than almost any other version of him, compliant and , all his sharp edges smoothed and softened.
"No naptime until you've wrapped that arm," he says, and Dean only nods.
They walk into the motel room together, wince in unison at the cracks in the ceiling and the carved wooden--"What the fuck is that? Are those goats?"--on the walls, and Dean is still and almost yielding under Sam's touch. He doesn't push away when Sam wraps his arm, and if he isn't bitching about Sam's medical skills, Sam can pretend it's just because he's too tired to make the effort. Sam curls his fingers around Dean's elbow for a second when they're done, part apology and part just holding on. If Dean notices, he doesn't respond.
He flops on the bed as soon as Sam lets him go, face down, miles of him sprawled everywhere, and Sam smacks his boot as he walks past to get to the door.
"You need any help there?"
Dean doesn't even lift his head. "Fuck off."
Sam leaves him there, eyes closing again. When he gets back, Dean and his clothes have obviously waged war, and Sam isn't sure Dean won. His boots are haphazardly stranded around his bed, his shirt thrown beside them, buttons only half undone, and inside-out, like there was a struggle getting it off at all. He's burrowed under the blankets against the cold of the motel room, his t-shirt still on, and from the part of Dean's leg Sam can see sticking out, he gave up when it came to his jeans, too. He isn't asleep, head propped up on his left fist like he's forcing himself to stay awake. He mumbles something about waiting to do salt lines, but his head is back on the pillow by the time Sam's got the door closed behind him, and he's fast asleep before Sam's even got the salt on the window. His back's to Sam's bed, and Sam gives some very serious thought to smothering him with his pillow.
He contents himself with walking all over Dean's shirt and snagging the Reese's Pieces he knows Dean's got hidden in the side pocket of his duffle, falls asleep with chocolate on his tongue and the certainty that tomorrow, they'll catch a break, and Dean's smile won't be full of accusation and open wounds, and Sam won't wake up and wonder if Dad would've killed him, if Dean ever will.
As it turns out, Dean spends the morning, most of the next two days, too pissed off to even pretend not to be. Sam offers to help, but even though Dean did everything but feed Sam for the first week after he broke his hand, he refuses, spends at least half a century in the bathroom that first morning doing God knows what, and Sam's pretty sure maybe he's brained himself on the sink, until he comes out with toilet paper stuck to one side of his face and yesterday's beard still pretty much in tact.
"Don't even," he says, when he catches Sam's look, and Sam doesn't. He doesn't say anything, either, when it looks like Dean's honest to god about to attempt to tie his laces with one hand and his teeth; he just bats Dean's hand aside, crouches down in front of him and ignores Dean's grumbling above him. Dean steps away the moment Sam releases him, tense and unhappy.
"Did you take your painkillers?" Sam says, as he stands up again, moving closer to Dean, near enough to breathe him in, warmth thrumming in his pulse.
"Am I five?"
It's not like this isn't familiar: Dean irritable and annoying as all fuck just because the pills haven't kicked in and because he hates being helpless, never allowed himself to be, no matter how different the rules were for Sam--even for Dad--like the whole goddamn world would be eaten by zombies if he admitted he had the flu. But it has an edge now, a desperate quality that's sharp even in Sam's bloodstream, probably tastes dangerous and metallic, like tequila and bitter promises. Everything Sam knows for dealing with him like this feels inadequate, like he's attempting blessings in pig Latin instead of the real thing.
"My psych professors would have a field day with you, swear to God," he says, which just gets him an eyeroll, an annoyed huff of breath that conveys Dean's general disgust with the world in general and Sam in particular. There's no smack to the shoulder, though, and Sam wants to shake him until all Dean's locked down pieces come loose. "Give me the keys."
Dean hesitates, and Sam glares. "Not even you," he says, "not even you on your stupidest day would argue about this."
Dean totally would, looks like he still might, but he hands them over, and makes a show of trying to put his jacket on as if to prove how competent he really is. Sam pretends not to see the way he screws his face up in pain, though he reaches out, anyway.
"I'm fine," Dean says, bite like winter in his voice. He leaves the jacket on his bed and yanks the door open before Sam's even picked up his.
"Right. Of course. You just find a thousand below bracing." He doesn't push it, though, keeps his mouth shut while they go for breakfast and Dean doesn't even bother to cut his sausages, eats them right off the fork. Sam does the Sudoku in the paper just to piss Dean off, smirks when Dean sighs like Sam's announced he thinks cars are for pussies and finally breaks the silence.
"Dude, you have two sixes there."
Sam deliberately adds an extra nine in the row below where Dean is pointing. "And you’re a stubborn fucker, and you look like ass."
"I got nothing on you," Dean says, which is pretty much the biggest lie ever.
"Uh huh. My mistake." Dean is every bit as stubborn as Sam; he just seems like he isn't, which is all the more infuriating. Sam at least has always telegraphed, mostly with ordered lists and a few pages of notes, and Dad's was obvious for anyone to see, complete with increasingly ridiculous orders and thunder in his voice. Dean, though, picks his battles--acts amenable, until he suddenly isn't; he digs his heels in quietly, and if you're lucky, you catch what he's doing before he obliterates you. "Must have been my imagination that you've been shutting me down for the last two weeks."
Dean pulls the lid off one of those stupid containers of creamer, and half of it sprays up on his face. He wipes it away absently. "I meant you looked a lot more like ass than me, Sammy. If you're not eating that, then gimme."
It's over just like that, a conversation never begun, and they go on like before, more irritable because they've got nowhere to go and nothing to hunt. It doesn't help that they're shut up together. Dean can't drive, can't play pool, and if he's thought about going to get shitfaced somewhere, he hasn't acted on it. Sam tries not to think too hard about the reasons for that.
Dean reads car magazines and watches bad TV, over and over, while he catalogues their ammo supplies and writes in a left-handed scrawl Sam doubts he can understand. Sam cleans up his music collection, emails Ash about FTP and encrypting their emails differently, learns more than he ever wanted to about Ash's horrific taste in porn. The silence itches right under his skin, layered right over the panic that's been coiling in his blood since the cabin turned from safety to nightmare, and the beep of hospital monitors made it real.
They go to bed, and even in the darkness, Sam can feel Dean watching. He rolls over, and opens his mouth before he even knows what he's going to say. "I didn't mean to--" Leave, except Sam did, at least at the time, and he wouldn't do it again, listened to the voicemail and maybe finally gets what it does to Dean every time he walks out, but he won't lie and say he didn't feel that stupid teenage satisfaction as he drove away. Make you promise that, except he meant that, too, trusts in Dean's promises like he always has, holding him together like Dean's hands used to after nightmares when he was little. "Make things so hard. I don't mean to, Dean."
He sounds like a kid, and he can't stop it, but Dean just sighs, rolls onto his side. "Night, Sam."
"You found us a hunt?" Dean, sleepy-eyed and with ridiculous bed hair even for him, has his razor in his hand, and he's yawning wide enough that Sam's jaw aches in sympathy.
Sam's been reading Simpsons quotes for the last half hour, which he thinks still counts as intellectual, since he got there from a page on global warming. He didn't even know Dean was awake, and his voice, rough and spun of sunlight, makes him jump. "Uh, no," he says, covering. "Figure we wouldn't hunt until you healed up some." And got some sleep, which is the one advantage of the painkillers.
"Huh." Dean stands by the bathroom door, and the pause probably isn't inviting anything, probably isn't an accusation, either, but Sam fills it all the same.
"What? You aren't seriously telling me you can hunt right now?"
Dean holds his hand up, all feigned casualness. "Dude, I just thought you'd want to get back to it. With your whole--you know, whatever the hell. Saving the world thing."
Sam isn't sure he deserves that, though he'd like to think he doesn't, and it makes him angry either way. "Yeah. I'd risk that. Yeah. You're a real fucker sometimes, you know that."
Dean grins, still sleepy at the corners. "You've mentioned it now and then." There's something softer in his tone, warmth twisting through the pauses between the words, and Sam hopes he isn't imagining it.
"Yeah, well," he says. "I won't be sorry if you cut yourself and bleed to death."
Dean flips him off before closing the bathroom door behind him, razor dangling stupidly in his remaining fingers, and a few seconds later, Sam hears him cursing so profanely that even Dad might have blushed. Sam listens for five minutes, torn between impressed and horrified, before he gives up.
The door isn't locked. It's not like Sam couldn't have gotten through it if he'd needed to, not like they haven't on occasion, when one or other of them passed out from blood loss or just pure exhaustion, but he still figures it's got to be a good sign that Dean didn't even bother trying to keep him out.
"Management called," he says, leaning against the door. "You're frightening the truckers."
"Oh, fuck you." The razor has been abandoned by the sink, and Dean's got his toothbrush in his hand, frowning at it like it's personally responsible for every bad thing that's ever happened to anyone ever. "Beards fucking itch like hell."
Sam grins. "You can shoot a gun and throw a knife with that hand, but you can't shave?"
Dean shrugs, holds his toothbrush in his mouth while he squeezes toothpaste onto it. "Different skill set," he mumbles around it.
"Uh huh. Nothing to do with the fact that you're neurotically worried about screwing up your face."
Dean ignores him while he brushes, and then spits and rinses his mouth. "Gotta preserve our assets, Sammy. What do you want anyway? You're not pissing while I'm in here."
"Uh." Sam chews his lip for a second, scratches his right arm, even though it's not itchy at all. "I could help." He could make it an order, the way Dean did--We don't have all day, Sammy, so move your fucking ass or let me do it.--but when it's Sam providing, Dean's never responded well to orders or help. Dean looks over, and it's Sam's turn to shrug, self-conscious, heart hammering with something that might be hope. "If you want, I mean."
Dean narrows his eyes, and shakes his head. "The fuck you're bringing a razor anywhere near me," he says. Sam shoves his hands in his pockets, and drags in a breath that doesn't ease the pressure in his chest at all. He's tried everything else, and now it's just pissing him off.
"Look, I get it. Jesus, I do. But I'm not about to, you know, whatever, take off, and I'm pretty sure if I'm going to turn evil, it's not gonna be right here in this bathroom." He pauses, ready to stare Dean down until he cracks. "Why the fuck are you smiling?"
Because Dean is, smudge of toothpaste narrowing as his mouth curves into that familiar, punchable grin, mostly translating to Sam's a dork, but fond and happy and goddamn shining.
"I was gonna say, Sammy, not before you've had coffee. But I feel a lot better now." He stretches his left arm out towards Sam. "Let's hug it out."
"I hope your arm falls off, man." But Dean's still smiling, and Sam's almost forgotten how it feels to see that, settling everything crazy inside him, at least for a while.
"Aw, come on. You're ruining the moment."
"And then you're eaten by a bunch of rats."
Dean picks the razor from the counter and tosses it to Sam. "I should've left your ass in Indiana," he says, pulling the toilet seat down and settling himself on it. "I hate razor burn, and I like having my skin intact."
Even with the door closed so Sam can get in front of Dean, Sam feels freer than he has in weeks; he doesn't know when this became the only kind of normal he needs, but right now, it's enough just to be able to breathe again. "Yeah, yeah. You will sit there and shut up, and if you're very lucky, I won't make you pay for being such an asshole."
He rolls up his sleeves, pulls Dean forward so he can wet his face again, rubbing away the smudge of toothpaste as he does. The shoulder beneath Sam's hand is still tense, knots of muscle that have probably been there since Dean came looking for Sam all those months ago, and Sam knows it's only been piling on since then. He doesn't take his hand away, even when it's no longer necessary. "I meant what I said last night," he says, squeezing a little.
"Oh, God. If you're gonna keep talking, could you skip ahead to the throat slitting part?"
Sam huffs out a breath, part annoyance and part relief, because for all he bitches, if Dean ever decides he really wants Sam to talk about how scared he is, Sam's afraid he's gonna bleed out all over him, even more than he already has, and Dean will kill himself trying to patch him back up. "Fine," he says. "I didn't mean it at all." He uncaps the shaving cream, and Dean holds out his hand for it. Sam bats it away. "I promise not to tell anyone," he says, before squeezing it into his own hand and tilting Dean's face up.
Dean grunts something that's mostly lost against Sam's palm, and Sam kicks him anyway, because he has no doubt it deserved it. His skin is soft even beneath the beard, and Sam lathers the cream, fingertips rubbing firm and sure over his jaw, trailing over his cheeks. It should be weird, and it is a little, but Sam's known every expression Dean's ever worn, sewn stitches into his forehead, iced his black eyes and caused more than a few of them, and this makes up for weeks of being shrugged off and kept too far away.
"If you're done touching me."
"Oh, Dean," he says, in a breathless high falsetto, "but your skin is just so silky smooth." He swirls his fingers slowly, and Dean grins, a curve of happiness curling out underneath Sam's fingers, even though Dean's pretending not to be amused.
"Hold still," he says, unnecessarily, as he reaches behind him for the razor. He expects more threats from Dean, all the many and terrifying ways he's going to kick Sam's ass if Sam screws up; he even waits for a second, standing over Dean with the razor inches from his face, but Dean just raises his eyebrows.
"I know you know how to use that thing, college boy, and I kinda want to eat in the next three months."
Sam touches the razor to his skin, Dean flinching a little at the cold. "Uh huh. Piss off the guy with the razor." He's done this for himself since he was fourteen and Dean came home and threw a package at his head--use my razor, Sammy, and I'll know.--and it might as well be comparing shaving to playing baseball. The razor glides through the foam, the sound of it scraping over Dean's skin mingling with Sam's own breathing, like some weird, hypnotic music he could get lost in. The angles are different than Sam's used to, the razor mapping the harder line of his jaw, the arch of his cheek more pronounced, and the skin he reveals is lighter, freckles appearing like trail markers in the path he's creating. His hands are steady, and he's close enough to smell the mint on Dean's breath, to feel each exhalation on his own skin. Sam skates the razor gentle and slow, over the tiny scar no one but Sam probably ever sees anymore, ever knows to look for, the one he got from the car door, and then he continues on, round to the one Dean got when he was fourteen, the first time he ever got hurt, or at least, that Sam remembers. Sam had watched, terrified, as Dad sewed him up, and Dad had looked right at them both when he said, "If someone's got your back, boys, you don't need to look behind you for trouble."
He follows the razor with his thumb, a moment's caress deliberate over the scar, but all he says is, "You want a goatee? It looked so good on you when you were sixteen."
"Anna Stravinsky certainly thought so," Dean says, but his voice is slow and lazy, like sleepy days and water cool over Sam's skin, and when Sam glances up, his eyes are closed. Sam pauses, just for a second, watching Dean, vulnerable and content, and Dean opens his eyes. They're clear, green like a promise, like one freely given, and he doesn't look away. Sam grins at him, and Dean returns it, water collecting in the hollow of his throat, and foam trapped in the lines of his smile. Sam wipes it away, and Dean leans in to the touch when Sam lifts his chin, cups it and tilts it to get a better look.
"All done," Sam says, and pulls him close again, rinses the foam off, fingers smoothing over every clean inch of his face until he's satisfied.
"You're hands are freakishly huge, man," Dean says. Sam steps away, reaches for a towel, but Dean's fingers close over his wrist, strong and warm. "Hey," he says.
Sam turns back, drawn by the tone of his voice, not the grip on his arm. "You can thank me by doing the laundry later." Dean smiles, but he doesn't let go, fingers still pressing there, like they'll put the words into Sam's skin, form a rhythm as important as the pulse he can feel beating against Dean's fingers.
"You been making things hard for me my whole life, Sammy," he says finally. "It's how I knew I was doing something right."
Sam doesn't know what to say to that, and it's probably nothing Dean wants to hear, so he reaches out, curves his own hand around Dean's neck, and for a second, everything they need is right there, in curled fingers and tiny brushes of skin.
"Okay, move your ass. I'm about to eat you."
"Now who's ruining the moment?" Sam says, but he's already opening the door, and Dean's already moving past him into the room, and his voice reaches Sam, muffled from inside his duffle.
"The moon landing, you gigantic moron, of course happened. If you want a conspiracy, you gotta try harder than that. John Lennon. Totally the CIA." He pauses for a moment, re-emerging with a clean t-shirt in his hand, probably, if Sam's not being all that fussy about the meaning of clean. "Or Elvis, depending on who you believe." And Sam doesn't know what he's laughing more at, Dean's bullshit theories, or the way he's tangled up in his own shirt.
Sam crosses the room and frees his arms, yanking the shirt down over his head, and Dean flips him off as he snags his jeans from where he dropped them on the floor last night. "You better have thought of something for us to do today," he says. "God knows, I'm not staying around here with your mopey ass."
Sam throws his shoe at him. "Come up with something yourself, genius."
And Dean throws it back. "I'm the oldest. You gotta do what I tell you."
Sam doesn't even bother responding, just ducks his head to hide how wide he's grinning. Their lives are still fucked in more ways than Sam ever thought it was possible to be, and they both know it, but Dean's smiling, and fucked up doesn't stand much of a chance against that.