Paring: Sam Winchester/Dean Winchester
Summary: It's him and Sam, taking a shot at the impossible.
Original story: Non Sequitur by silverpenlight
Non Sequitur (Keep the Car Running Remix)
Dean doesn't sleep the night that three sixty-three becomes three sixty-four. There would've been a time, six months ago, even, he might not have even known himself, would've counted out his time in Sam's smiles, the way his hair grew too long and his skin darkened in the sun. It's been harder this way, waking up and counting up the days, same as Sam, but it's better. It's him and Sam, taking a shot at the impossible, making hope where there's none to be had, and maybe that's kind of a miracle on its own.
It's the only one they've had. Sam talks about herbs and chants and magic circles like they're solutions, his words quick and his mouth set. Dean mapped out Sam's voice and Sam's face years ago, though; he knows every hitch and angle like they're road signs, pointing him right where he needs to be. Sam's saying all the right things, but he's bullshitting and desperate and terrified.
"We'll start at midnight," he says into Dean's shoulder. Sam's not quite on top of him, but it's a close-run thing. "We don't know when--or how--she's gonna show up, so we'll start early."
Dean keeps his hand on Sam's neck, Sam's hair tickling the backs of his fingers every time he moves his head. "Okay, Sammy," he says. "Tomorrow, okay. But can we just--"
Sam nods, burrows in closer. Dean doesn't know when they last slept in separate beds. There are too many nightmares between them, and Sam's are only ever banished these days when he gets his hands on Dean. "Whatever you want," he says. "You got a plan for today?"
Dean does, though it's nothing Sam wants to hear or Dean's going to say. The only other answer is this, you idiot, and he's no more likely to say that. So he says, "We're gonna go for a drive. Just you and me," like that's not how it's been every day for two and a half years, like that's not how Dean would have it always, if he could choose.
Sam smiles, soft and warm, and for a moment, Dean can believe it's okay, that nothing in the world can touch Sammy and him.
They head out as the sun comes up, drive west with it, no destination in front of them, and for once, no one in particular they're getting away from. The only thing they have to outrun is time, and a choice. Dean's got his foot pressed to the floor, and his baby's flying. If anything could give time the slip, it would be her, and the choice isn't something Dean's ever gonna think twice about.
Sam's smiling around the words to Ramble On, and Dean says, very seriously, "Listen." He drops his arm along the door and taps his fingers on the steering wheel. "If you look real hard today, I honestly think you might find the key this song is actually in."
"Fuck you," Sam says. He's turned towards Dean, sprawled back and watching him instead of the road. He looks exhausted, but open and young, and that's good. Better than. "I got the brains, and I got the looks. And I got the height. Humanity needed me to have one failing so they'd have a reason to keep trying."
"Got the ego, too," Dean says. "But where it counts, skippy, the size is all mine."
They hit the highway on the tail end of Sam's laughter, and he's saying, "Do you remember the time--"
"The witch in Chattanooga? Yeah, Sammy, I think I do." Not the kind of thing he's likely to forget. Sam leans back, looking at Dean expectantly, and Dean grins.
He usually tells this story drunk, but he doesn't plan to do that today, and it's the kind of story he should tell once more. It's an important lesson, and Sam really needs to remember it. “So there's this girl," he says. "Erica Foster, who had the longest legs you have ever seen, and she wasn't afraid to make use of them, if you know what I'm saying." He doesn't need to look to see Sam's eyeroll, but the lanes of the highway stretch out quiet at least for now, so he does. "So anyway, there we were, in the middle of her hotel room, Sam. And she's got this awesomely filthy mouth, saying the kind of things to make even me blush, all the things we're gonna do, and how she hopes I'm up to them all. And I tell her, like you do, I say, ‘sweetheart, you ain’t seen nothing yet’." He pauses, right here, where he always does, because he's heard enough stories over the years to know how you do it right. "And she pulls my pants down, right? And then she starts like, choking, or something, and finally she says, ‘yeah, I think I have,’ and you know what, Sammy?”
Sam says, "What?" pitch-perfect curiosity, even though he already knows.
“Fucking witch from the day before cursed my fucking dick off.” Dean’s snorting with laughter, remembering like it was yesterday, the instinctive panic and even more instinctive embarrassment at being caught short where it really counted. It hadn’t been so bad when he’d gone home and found Dad in the same predicament, but he hasn't ever forgotten the fear. “It came back by the next day, but still, man. Appreciate your junk.”
Sam nods, all intense, like he's getting the secrets of the universe, until he cracks up laughing. It's still Dean's favorite sound, Sam's joy like a physical thing, pushing inside Dean and making him feel it, too.
Dean wants to hold onto it, keep it somewhere safe so he can take it out when he needs it. He's pretty sure that's not how it works, but it's enough right now. He says, "And then there was that kid with the hard on for Harry Potter who made your ears grow to, like, six times their natural size." It had been one of the most hilarious things Dean had ever seen--Dad, too, if the way he'd laughed for three miles straight and intermittently after that every time he caught sight of Sam in the mirror was any indication. "Man, you were a pissy little brat."
"It was two days before my prom," Sam says, in exactly the tone he'd said it then, as if just talking about it makes Sam possessed by a sixteen-year-old.
Dean grins. "Fixed it, didn't we?"
Sam just looks at him for a second, and the smile on his face is all twenty-five-year-old Sam and nine-year-old Sam, like Dean is the biggest dork Sam's ever met, and like he's the only thing in the world Sam can see. It curls through Dean, settles in him like whisky after a hard day. Dean's gotten really good at pretending this is normal, and he'll do it for a few hours more, but there's a second where he looks across at Sam, and thinks maybe, and Sam looks back like Dean could have whatever he wanted.
Dean starts paying attention to the road again, and Sam reaches out, touches his knuckles to the side of Dean's neck. "We gonna stop today?" he asks.
"For food and gas," Dean says.
"In that case, I am picking the music at least once."
"Sorry," Dean says. "That's not what shotgun does."
But later, when the sun's gone from midday roasting to something they can live with, he pulls the tape of Arcade Fire he got for Sam in Goodwill. Keep the Car Running is a pretty awesome song, when it comes down to it, and it isn't a bad way to turn back for a motel room that isn't home, after one last day right beside the brother that is.
When they get out, it isn’t dark yet, but the light has the quality of defeat about it. Dean takes a breath, inhales the smell of the Impala's fumes as they fade in the air, the way summer smells in Wyoming when it's just showing up.
"If we're gonna do this," he says, "we should sleep now." Sam nods, and Dean isn't sorry to be lying.
"Before we do," Sam says. They're standing inside the door, still on the threshold between what's going to happen and what might not, between the day they've just had and what they both know is coming.
"What?" Dean says.
Sam shakes his head, leans in, and kisses him. It isn't the best kiss Dean's ever had. He's too surprised to do much of anything, but Sam still makes it count, like he's making promises, like he's telling Dean everything he's all out of words for.
Dean says, "Sam?" a little breathless, maybe leaning after Sam's mouth some, but Sam just shakes his head again.
"We're gonna need food if we're waiting it out. I'm not listening to you whine all day 'cause you're hungry."
Dean nods. "I--I'll get on that," he says. And because he can't do that, can't have that be the last thing, he says, "Come the fuck here," and kisses Sam again.
This time it's better. This time it's sweeter. Dean can't say goodbye, never learned how to do that and never wanted to, but he slides his tongue into Sam's mouth, and tries to say one last time that Sam is everything, and Dean wouldn't change it.
Sam's smiling when they pull apart.
Dean goes to the crossroads with the taste of him still in his mouth.
It's the closest he can get to going down fighting. He doesn't want to die, and he definitely doesn't want to end up in hell, but he's never regretted that Sam will get to live, wouldn't trade a single day more of his life for a day less of Sam's. He can do this one last thing right, be the big brother one last time.
"Dean Winchester," she says. "You're kind of eager."
The little girl is in a pink summer dress, hair tied back with butterfly clips, and she's smiling like it's Christmas. Dean swallows. "I don't have to kiss you, do I?"
"Only if you want to," she says. She holds out her small hand. "I'm Lilith, by the way. I hold the contract on your life. Good to finally meet you."
Dean doesn't shake it. "I want to make a deal," he says, and she laughs, a happy giggle that makes his hair stand on end.
"You did that already. You want to make another one?"
Dean sticks his hands in his pockets, and feels the empty space where his keys should be. They're in the car, and Sam's gonna find them, shaking and crying and so mad at Dean he'd kill him himself, probably, if he could. It'll be worth it, though. He won't have to watch Dean die, have his strongest memory be hellhounds tearing Dean apart while Sam can't stop it. Dean digs down deep as he knows how to, remembers Sam's laughter from earlier in the day, and pulls out a smile. "It's a good deal," he says. "Take me a day early. Something new to put in the newsletter, right? Dean Winchester, begging for a favor."
Lilith twirls a lock of hair around her finger. "You don't beg very well," she says. Her voice is cold as Colorado in November, but she smiles and Dean knows he's won. "Your brother is gonna be mad," she says, and sticks out her hand.
Dean reaches for it, and when her fingers touch his, he hears the barking of the hell hounds. Then the world explodes, and he's flying backwards.
The first thing Dean thinks, when he's on his feet again, is that hell is almost exactly like the crossroads he was standing in three seconds ago. And it's not like it's his favorite place or anything--he did, after all, come here fully expecting to die, and it's not the kind of neighbourhood he'd ordinarily like to leave his baby unattended in--but he isn't sure it's necessarily screaming 'eternal torment'.
After that, he doesn't really have time to notice what order anything comes in. There's his brain catching up that he's probably not dead, the demon kid in front of him, head tipped back, and there's the smell of burning in the air. And then there's Sam. He looks taller and stronger than Dean can ever remember, standing there like he owns the fucking world, like anger and menace were invented just for him. There's a bloody knife in his hand and the promise he'll use it again written in every inch of him. Dean knows the look in his eyes, the set of his shoulders, the way his mouth curves to the side. It's the same look he's had every time he did something right, triumphant and sure. Dean's never been more terrified in his life.
Sam doesn't look at Dean, focused only on Lilith, as if he's the world's scariest homing device. "You didn't really think," he says, thunder wrapped around every word, "you didn't really think I'd let you have him?"
Lilith doesn't move. Can't, Dean thinks. He doesn't know what could do that, but nothing he can think of suggests sunshine and puppies. Dean opens his mouth, and he can't think of a single thing to say. This could be Hell, if Sam's gone darkside, if everything they did and everything they said meant nothing in the end.
"What did you do?" she says, and Dean doesn't much like sharing headspace with anything demonic in origin, but he's glad someone put it out there.
"Well," Sam says, "first, I killed Rover and Spot. Now, I'm thinking about killing you."
Lilith laughs, and she doesn't sound like a kid anymore; she sounds a lot like a crazy demon who could kill them all. "Are you forgetting the deal?" she says, when she's done. "Try to get out of it, and you die."
Sam just smiles, slow and full of teeth. "Dean isn't trying to get out of it. I am. You weren't specific in your terms, and the deal wasn't with me. And even if it had been, you just broke that. He wasn't getting the year." He taps the knife against his thigh, leaves a smudge of red behind on his jeans. He glances at Dean quickly before looking back at her, but his eyes are blank, so Dean can't get a read on them. "All bets are off, sweetheart." He sounds so much like Dad it's a little scary, except even Dad would never have been this insane.
He raises the knife again, and Lilith makes this angry hissing sound. She still hasn't moved, but the knife jerks from Sam's hand and flies towards her. "Looks like you're gonna have to come all the way over here, if you want to finish it," she says.
Sam takes a step forward, and Dean finally gets his mouth to work. "Don't you dare," he says. Sam takes another step, and then he stops, looks up, and he's beaming.
"You know," he says. "I don't think I will." He's got the Colt in his hand before he's finished speaking, three bullets in Lilith's chest in the next second. When she hits the ground, she still looks like she expects to win.
"Uh," Dean says, and then he can't say anything, can't even stop shaking. Sam drops the gun and comes to him, gets his arms around Dean's ribs and puts his face in his shoulder.
"You're a stupid, stupid son of a bitch," he says, and his voice is shot to pieces, shaking as badly as Dean is.
Dean holds on just as tight, for as long as he can pretend it's okay. "Sam," Dean says. "Sammy." He thinks he could go on saying that all day, but he has to know. "What did you do?" He presses his chin into the top of Sam's head, tells himself if they got around Hell, they can deal with whatever this is, too. It costs him more than he ever thought it would to do it, but he pushes Sam away, holds him at arms length while he searches his eyes.
The little fucker actually laughs. "Saved your ass," Sam says. "Specifically, I shot our arch-nemesis, or something." His eyes are clear, and bright. "No, she wasn't a real kid. No, I wasn't using my freaky psychic powers to control her."
"Then...?" Dean says, when Sam doesn't elaborate.
"Ruby helped out." Sam's lips quirk up. "Well, Ruby and a couple of her friends, to be precise. Apparently, they don't like Lilith very much, and they thought I might be attached enough to you to do something about that."
Dean takes a moment to process that, fear hammering sharp in his gut. "And we, uh. We don't have to, I dunno, lead them out on a bloody rampage, or anything?"
Sam digs his fingers harder into Dean's arms. "I won't, no. They wouldn't want you. And I, unlike you, don't actually go around making deals with demons every chance I get."
He bites his lip then, his face crumpling, like what they've done has finally crashed into him. All the anger is gone from before. There's only Sam now, Dean's baby brother, impossibly young. "If I hadn't known--if I'd been later. Dean," he says, and his voice does this hitching thing that hurts Dean's heart.
"Hey," Dean says, "hey, you are too fucking smart for me, and everyone knows it." Sam still looks freaked, and Dean moves in closer, tilts Sam's face up. "I'm right here," he says. "You're gonna have to put up with me for another fifty years, and you've got only yourself to blame."
Sam looks at Dean for a while, not saying anything; just watching. Making sure, and Dean gets that. Then he smiles for real, shining and maybe a little blinding, and Dean will never be able to look at that and not just fucking want.
"You're responsible for this, too," Dean says, drawing Sam in.
Sam's laughing again, reaching for Dean's mouth while Dean's still talking. He wraps a hand around Dean's neck, and Dean tangles his hand in Sam's hair and holds on.