author: victoria p. [musesfool]
summary: Sam is waiting for a sign that won't come, a sign they probably don't even need, and nothing Dean says will change his mind.
pairing: Sam Winchester/Dean Winchester
Original story: Eurydice by wanttobeatree
notes: I really love the original story, and hope I did justice to it. Thanks to laurificus for betaing and to angelgazing for title-wrangling.
word count: 3,390 words
Back from the Great Beyond (The Velvet Underground Overdub)
At first, Dean is so grateful to be alive, to not be in hell, to still be with Sam (who is still Sam), that he doesn't even think to question. Sam says, I can never look at you again, and Dean says, Sucks to be you. What he really means, of course, is, Thank you, Sammy, and he knows Sam knows, because Sam's laugh has a hitch in it, like it's caught in his chest and has to break a little bit to get out, the sharp edges of it rough and welcome against Dean's ears.
And it's not like he can't read the line of Sam's shoulders, the stance of his legs, the way his fingers curl and uncurl into loose fists as he stands by the beat-up old pickup truck in Bobby's yard, his back to Dean, though Dean can imagine the thousand-yard stare on his face.
"I can't--" Sam starts, then changes his mind. "I should go," he says instead. "It's not safe." Dean opens his mouth, because when have their lives ever been safe, but Sam says, "I can't lose you again."
"You won't. I'm right here, Sam. I'm okay."
"I'll call you," Sam says, swinging himself into the truck. Dean's gaze goes to the mirrors, but before he can catch Sam's gaze, Sam says, "Dean, don't. Please." So Dean doesn't. He turns his back and listens to Sam drive away.
He dials Sam's number as soon as the truck is out of sight, and breathes easier at the sound of Sam's voice in his ear.
"It's not forever," Dean says.
Sam gives another huff of laughter and doesn't disagree.
It's not until much later that Dean realizes he didn't actually agree, either.
The first year, it's like a giant game of hide-and-seek, the kind they used to play for hours, when Dad was training them to track--he'd send them out early in the morning and come looking, based on whatever trail they left. Later, they'd had to find each other, and no matter how well he hid, or how awesome his hiding place was, Dean would always find Sam. Always.
Now, he's the one leaving the trail, coordinates in Kalamazoo, a note with a cute waitress in Abilene, a postcard in a P.O. box in Portland.
Sam follows him, like a comet chasing its tail, and Dean finds ever more ingenious ways of blazing a trail.
They meet in the darkness of a motel room in some nowhere town east of Natchitoches, humid air heavy on their skin, making them sweat even before they've tumbled into bed. Dean licks down the long line of Sam's back, salt-sharp and familiar on his tongue, touches the knobs of his spine like the beads of a rosary, every rub of his thumb a silent prayer of gratitude, for protection. He slicks his trembling fingers and twists Sam open, sliding inside like coming home. The months away make it harder to keep control, to take his time, and the way Sam moves around him, beneath him, makes heat and need rise fierce and heavy in his blood.
Sam thrusts back against him, chanting his name, DeanDeanDean, like it's some kind of spell. He breaks it into nonsense syllables mingled with fuck and please and God, when he comes, warm and wet over Dean's stroking fingers.
Dean lets himself go, then, hips driving hard, and vision whiting out with pleasure.
They collapse on the sticky sheets, trying to find a spot that isn't warm and damp with sweat or lube or come. They fail, but Dean's so fucked out he doesn't care. They fall asleep to the slow whirr of the ceiling fan and the busy hum of cicadas outside the window.
Dean wakes up in the middle of the night to take a piss, and Sam's blindfold is askew. He reaches out to fix it, and Sam wakes with a jolt, his hand wrapping around Dean's wrist like a vise.
The panic in Sam's voice rings through Dean like a bell, and he says, "It's okay, Sammy. I'm here."
"If you hadn't woken up--If I had--" Sam sounds like he's been running a marathon instead of sleeping peacefully in bed. He gets up, starts pulling his clothes on. "I'm getting another room."
"Come on, Sam. Don't be ridiculous. No harm, no foul."
"You could have died, Dean. I'm not going through that again. I'm not letting you go through it again."
Dean sighs and lets him go.
He's gone when Dean wakes up in the morning, left before dawn according to the hollow-eyed lady at the desk.
Dean doesn't hear from him again for a month.
He hears about him, sure--from Bobby, from Ellen, even from Jo. And he talks to his voicemail daily, at least until the number comes up as unrecognized, disconnected.
But he doesn't talk to the man himself for a month. It's a Wednesday when Sam finally calls--Sam's been freaky about Wednesdays since that time in Broward County--and at first he doesn't do anything but breathe into the phone.
"I know it's you, dickwad."
"The one and only."
"I need to see--We should meet up."
"Okay," Dean says. "Okay."
After Natchitoches, whenever they're together (and it's not fucking often enough for Dean, but Sam is still skittish), Sam always wears this stupid black knit cap that makes him look like Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail; it's a look Jack barely pulled off, so Sam's got no chance of making it look cool.
But the cap rolls over his eyes easily, and it has less chance of falling off while they're having sex (Sam refuses to share a room with him now), so Dean doesn't mock him too much about it. He's aware of how much Sam has given up for him, knows that it was his own desperate need to stay together that put them in this situation in the first place, so years of having to be separate feels like the kind of punishment the ancient gods would require.
Dean knows the myths like the back of his hand, knows that gods, like demons, lie with the truth, omit whole portions of the story that don't serve their purposes.
He makes Sam go over what happened until he knows all the details by heart, can recite it with Sam, using the same inflections, making the same pauses, the sound of Sam's voice (and his silence) a living thing to him now, sometimes all he gets of him for months. Dean misses Sam's eyes, the way they crinkle and tilt, how the light makes them change from brown to green to gray. Not that he'd ever say anything that sappy, but it's the truth, and it's got to be even worse for Sam, who doesn't even get to see what Dean sees.
Sam reads him like a blind man now, long, callused fingers tracing over every inch of Dean's skin, lingering on the small of his back, the sharp jut of his hipbone, the curve of his ass. Dean is grateful for his scars, the stories they tell when Sam touches him. It's not even about sex when they do this, though sometimes he thinks Sam thinks it is--or, he thinks Sam thinks he thinks it is.
Dean tries not to spend too much time in his own head, because he just ends up all turned around, ass over teakettle, but without Sam to nudge him out of it by complaining about his driving or his music or his choice in kitschy motel rooms, there's a lot of time to think, and Dean, mostly against his will, spends the time thinking.
That's when it gets hard, when he thinks about all the things he's missing, all the hunts Sam's doing by himself, the nights he's spending alone when he belongs at Dean's side, where Dean can keep an eye on him and make sure he's not doing anything stupid. That's when Dean spends some quality time breathing into a paper bag, counting his breaths until the world stops going fuzzy at the edges.
That's when he gets a new phone number, decides it's easier not to talk to Sam at all than it is to hear the sadness in Sam's voice over the distance, knowing he won't see him for weeks, and even then there will always be that layer of fear and cotton between them.
Of course, he always breaks before Sam does, leaves messages he knows will reach their destination--coordinates and phone numbers and promises written in the spaces of the notes he leaves behind. Sam always finds him, always comes running after, the way he did when he was a baby just learning to walk, and a seven-year-old kid learning to ride a bike, and Dean would always hover just out of reach, making him work for it. Now, Dean wants it to be easy, and Sam's the one throwing obstacles in their way.
They're lying in bed in the dark--Sam has his hat on, and Dean figures he'll let the darkness blind him for a little while, in solidarity--and Dean says, "There's always a loophole, Sam."
"Yeah, but it's usually not in our favor."
"I'm looking. Jesus, Dean. Do you think I'm not looking?"
"I think we work better together. I think you think better when we're together." He doesn't say, I know I do. He doesn't have to. He can hear Sam breathing beside him, watches as he opens his mouth to speak. "Don't say you're sorry, Sam. Don't even say it."
"I--wasn't going to."
Sam laughs and rests his head on Dean's shoulder. "Yeah."
"We're gonna figure this shit out, Sammy, just like we always do. You'll see." The words are out before Dean realizes what he's said. Sam stops laughing and goes still.
The silence stretches for a long time. Finally, Sam says, "Yeah. I will."
By the third year, it's so routine, it feels like they've always lived this way. They're separated twenty-eight out of every thirty days, and sometimes, Dean thinks they're in the wrong myth. He's not sure if he's Demeter or Persephone, but he likes the way Sam's mouth splits in laughter when he brings it up.
He stops trying to convince Sam to stay with him, to stop worrying over every possible way things could end badly, because it makes Sam cranky, and Dean doesn't want to spend their limited time together with a cranky Sam. Then, he stops trying to convince Sam to look at him every time they meet, because then Sam stops talking to him altogether; he only mentions it once every six months or so. Sam's answer is always the same. Sam is waiting for a sign that won't come, a sign they probably don't even need, and nothing Dean says will change his mind.
At least once a year, sometimes twice if he can manage it, Dean leads Sam to the Grand Canyon. He can't explain why the huge-ass hole in the ground speaks to him; he just knows it does. He's sure Sam's got some ridiculous theory, all that reading he's done over the years, psychology and semiotics, art history and literature, making him think he understands how people work. In theory, maybe, but Sam's never been the people person he thinks he is. Dean's done some reading himself, though never when Sam's around, not anymore. Geology and soil erosion, architecture and engineering--Dean knows how to build things, cool things, and he knows how to burn them down, blow them up, take them apart and make them into something new.
He's always been good with his hands, always appreciated well-made things.
He washes the car, makes her gleam, coming up on fifty years on the road now, the last few just her and him most of the time, always her and him even when everyone else has gone, and the empty spot on the front seat beside him still feels wrong. At least she's still as beautiful as the day she rolled off the assembly line. He's done some upgrading here, too, biodiesel and hydrogen combustion, wicked cool acceleration that can be fueled by the grease from the local KFC, and all of it with parts he scavenged out of Bobby's yard.
He's thirty-six now, not too far from forty (and there's another thought he doesn't like to entertain), an age he never thought he'd see, but the girls still stop to watch and flirt as he polishes the sleek black metal till she shines, his own face smiling up at him from her depths.
He heads back into the room, pulls the shades, tapes them shut, with the same methodical determination he uses to salt the sills and the threshold. Can't fuck this up, or it'll be months before they're together again. Sam's stubborn as the red cliffs of the canyon, and Dean hasn't had millennia to work away at him, ease the grooves and smooth the sharp edges. Dean hasn't had enough time for anything, though he knows all the time he's got now is a gift, and one he wants to use to the fullest, if only Sam would let him.
He hears the truck rattle into the parking lot; Sam takes care of her, but Dean can never resist busting his balls about keeping her tuned up, making sure her oil's changed.
The Morse code knock--dot-dot-dot, dot-dash, dash-dash--earliest signal they ever learned from Dad, at the door, and then Sam's filling the room. Somehow, after weeks apart, Dean always forgets how huge Sam is, how he fills up the space around him as if he owns it, and doesn't always know where all his limbs are, even now, like a big fluffy puppy sprawling on the floor, begging for affection.
He's got that stupid knit cap pulled down over his eyes and he smells like sweat and grit and fried food, and Dean licks the taste of peppermint lifesavers out of his mouth, stale coffee and heat underneath the sting of cool mint. Sam's huge, warm hands slide under the hem of Dean's shirt, along the skin of his waist, his belly, the small of his back, and Dean growls low into his mouth.
They stumble towards the bed, unbuckling belts and shoving shirts and jeans out of the way so they can fall together in a desperate tumble on the cool cotton sheets. Dean lines up their hips, tongue licking at the sweat sliding down Sam's neck, pooling in the notch between his collarbones, and Sam thrusts up against him, moaning. They rock into each other, fitting together like a bullet being chambered, and Dean presses his face to the crook of Sam's neck, breathes him in, sweaty, warm and familiar. It's hard and fast and sweet, Sam's fingers twining through his as they stroke and rub together, slick with sweat and pre-come, and it's over too damn soon.
Later, at the canyon, Sam is turned half-towards him, unable to see the awesome sight spread before them, and Dean's seen it often enough now that he spends the whole time staring at Sam. He reaches up, runs his thumb over Sam's lower lip, winning a smile that makes his heart ache.
"I don't want to do this for the rest of our lives, Sam," he says, eventually, knowing that Sam's smile is going to disappear, hating to be the cause of the hurt twitch of Sam's lips. "I can't do that."
Sam tugs the hat down lower over his eyes. "You want to stop?"
"What? No. No. I don't wanna--" He straightens, catches hold of Sam's elbow and turns him so they're facing each other fully, an imitation of eye-to-eye. "I wanna fix it."
"And, what? You think that hasn't crossed my mind, I dunno, once or twice over the past few years?" Sam's jaw takes on the mulish, angry set that makes him look sixteen again, or twenty-two, like he did right after Jess died and all he wanted was vengeance and be damned to everything else.
"I'm not saying it hasn't, Sam. Jesus. I just. We've waited long enough. Five years. Five fucking years, Sammy."
"And I'll wait fifty more if I have to, Dean, as long as you're alive to enjoy them."
But for once, Dean doesn't let Sam deter him. "Look at me," he says, voice like a command. He imagines it's the same tone Jesus must have used when he told Lazarus to rise and walk, but Sam is more stubborn than any ancient dead guy ever was.
"I mean it, Sam. Look at me. See what happens."
"We already know what happens."
"We don't. I don't." Dean's hands find their way to Sam's hips, fingers rubbing the warm, sweaty skin there. A soft breeze ruffles Dean's hair, and maybe that's the approval, the hand of god they've been waiting for. "Not for certain. Come on, try it. Let's find out."
Even though he can't see Sam's eyes, he's pretty sure Sam is glaring at him in disbelief. Over the past few years, Sam has perfected the art of glaring through closed eyes and black knit cotton. He shakes his head in disbelief. "Are you completely insane, Dean, or does it come and go?"
"I never thought I'd see thirty, Sam. Forty is--forty is close enough to taste now, and I still can't believe it sometimes." He waves a hand. "It's all borrowed time."
"And I'm okay with that, Sammy. I'm okay with that, and I want you to be, too."
"Well, I'm not, Dean. I'm not okay with that, and I'm not going to be until--"
"Until you get your miracle sign? Your rainbow or your burning bush?"
"It's not--it's not like that."
"So you know what a sign from the gods looks like? You're familiar with the divine thumbs-up? 'Cause I gotta tell you, Sam, I have no fucking clue what you're looking for here." He tries to keep it light, casual, but a little bit of pleading seeps in. "Listen. Listen to me, okay? Sure, in all the old stories, the gods grant some kind of sign of favor. Well, I was supposed to be dead and I'm alive. I'm here, Sam, I'm here with you now." He tightens his hands in the waistband of Sam's jeans, gets right up in his space. "Maybe this is your goddamn sign."
Sam doesn't move, doesn't breathe.
"Please," Dean whispers.
The silence stretches and all Dean can hear is the beat of his own heart, loud in his ears.
"No." Sam shakes his head. "I can't risk it. I can't lose you completely."
"No," Sam says again, and then he disentangles himself from Dean. He waits, huffing impatiently, until Dean points him in the right direction so he doesn't tumble off the cliff and bring their sad story to a really fucking ridiculous conclusion. He walks back to his truck, not waiting for Dean to follow.
He doesn't look back.
A week later, Dean is sitting in a motel room in Menasha, cleaning his guns, when there's a knock at the door.
His heart stutters for a second and his stomach drops. "Sammy? Everything okay?"
"Yeah, I--Everything's fine. Can you just open the door?"
There's a sadness in Sam's tone that never fails to generate a response in Dean, and he's opening the door before he really has time to think about what he's doing.
Sam is standing there, hat pulled down low over his eyes. "Can I come in?"
Too startled at Sam's unexpected appearance to come up with a smart remark, Dean just says, "Yeah, sure," and steps out of Sam's way, lets him get a sense of the room.
"I've been thinking."
"Oh, that can't be good."
"Shut up. Seriously. And I--" His hands go to the lower edge of his hat. "Are you sure?" he asks, his voice a hoarse whisper.
Dean sucks in a surprised breath. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, Sammy, I am."
Sam rolls up the edge of the hat, and for the first time in five years, Dean sees his eyes, wide and bright and blinking.