Sam looks up and he smiles, bright and honest, his eyes penetrating the back of Dean’s skull as he tries to find the strength he needs for his last act. And when Sam feels it’s right, which is laughable given the circumstances, he reaches up under the collar of his flannel and t-shirt. His fingers touch the familiar black cord and they wrap around it like a lifeline.
Pulling it over his head, he lets the gold face come to rest in his hand and lets it stare back at him. His lungs struggle through a sigh as he reaches out to the same Heaven that condemned him so long ago. He hasn’t done it in years, but fuck if now is not as good a time as any to try again. And so, he prays with everything in him that this will work.
That Dean will find the strength to hold on to life, to him, and to them.
“And maybe, one day,” Sam starts and then lets the amulet dangle from his fingers, so Dean can see. “This can help you remember what it was, to love.”
Dean’s hands tighten around the wood handle of Death’s scythe and his eyes harden with emotion as the golden face he used to know, stares back up at him. And he looks from it, up into the pleading eyes of his Brother and he sees the lifeline within them.
Dean watches as Sam leaves the house with Melanie White and the smile carved into his face, starts to falter. Because, yes, he talked Sam into going--told him he’d make sure they stayed long enough to let him go. Even spent the last of his cash, buying Sam a nice tux from one of the second hand stores in town.
And it was all fine, fine until Sam looked over his shoulder and gave him this haunted look. One that bit its way straight to Dean’s core and filled his stomach with an incredible ache. Because yes, if they lived in a different world, where rules didn’t exist for the way things should be between them, then of course--he would have been the one going to prom with his Brother.
But no, Melanie White gets the honor and so yea, maybe he hates her a little for it.
It’s not until an hour passes, that Dean gets a call from Sam saying he’s bored (even if his voice is more sad than it is bored) and that he’s gonna just walk back to the house. Dean offers to come get him, but Sam declines the offer and just says something cheap like, "It’s nice out; good night for a walk."
Dean’s not sure what possesses him. Not sure why he finds himself outside, digging in the impala’s trunk for his cheap ‘fbi suit’, and is definitely not sure why there’s a rising tide of urgency in his chest as he does it. But, when he’s got the suit on and he’s got his hair gelled just so, like he’s going on a date, it’s only then than he steals a look into the mirror and asks himself just what the fuck he thinks he’s doing.
And he almost lets his head talk him out of getting into the car, but his heart beats faster and stronger. There’s simply no contest between the two. So he turns the key and lets Baby come alive. When he gasses the engine, he looks into the rear view mirror and thinks about how there’s no going back now.
Dean finds Sam a few blocks away from the High School.
Sam is walking, his face down, and with his hands shoved into the pockets of his pants. He looks impossibly sad in the streetlights that fight to lick the shadows from his face. And as Dean edges closer, he can’t help but feel his chest constrict at the sight. In knowing that somehow, in some inexplicable way, that he is ultimately at the root for the cloud that Sam walks under.
Dean pulls up next to the curb and leans over to open the passenger door. “Get in.”
Sam stops at the abrupt pound of the impala’s engine and stares into the darkness of the impala with sorrow in his eyes. “Let me walk, Dean. Please.”
Dean swears under his breath, his heart hammering a million miles an hour. “Just get in, Sammy, c’mon.”
And here they are, both pleading with the other to listen.
There’s an endless moment where neither of them move, and the street is quiet aside from their breaths and the rumble of baby’s purr. They’re both steeled in their resolve to get their way, and they both wait for the other to give, but no one is giving in tonight.
Just when Dean is getting ready to get out and haul his stubborn ass Brother into the passenger seat, whether he wants to go or not, Sam steps closer to the car with a sigh from his lips, still heavy in the air. Dean feels his lungs squeeze as the warmth from Sam’s body tucks into the car, into the place he’s always been (and Dean hopes he’ll always be) and he can’t tear his eyes away from the backs of his hands, that are wrapped around the steering wheel, like a drowning man clings to his buoy.
He only manages to look at Sam, when he feels question marks burning into the side of his head.
“Why’re you dressed up?” Sam’s eyes drag across the worn fbi suit and back up to Dean’s gelled hair.
The question is out and Dean feels like it’s too big for the interior of the car. Feels like the question itself is crushing him against the driver’s side window, feels like it’s so big and bold, that his tongue does nothing more than march itself into the back of his throat. He stares at Sam, his eyes blank slates, if Sam’s expression is anything to go by.
“Whatever, lets just go.”
Dean doesn’t need more motivation to put Baby into drive and tear on down the street. All he needs is a few blocks to muster the courage to tell Sam why he’s dressed up, why he was so hellbent on picking him up, why every fiber in Dean’s body is a thousand times sorry for the hollowed look on Sam’s face as he walked down the street.
Fifteen minutes later, they’re flying by the city limits sign and heading out into the darkness, on a back road out of town. Dean catches how Sam’s hands grip around his knees, squeezing and releasing, like he’s trying to worry something away into the fabric of his pants. Sam’s nervous. And that makes two of them, because Dean’s heart is in his throat and he has absolutely no idea what the fuck he’s doing, he’s just letting the road lead him to wherever it may take them.
Another ten minutes on down the road, there’s a side road that leads away from the main road. Dean swerves to take it, hearing Sam’s mumbled profanities as he grips at the handle on the door, to keep from sliding over into Dean.
“Where the fuck are we going, Dean?”
Dean doesn’t answer. He still doesn’t know.
Just a bit up the road, there’s a clearing. A big field spreads out and he parks Baby right at the edge of it. To anyone else, this would all look planned, but it’s actually a fucking miracle this field even exists all the way out here. Dean thanks the stars above for letting him find this little gem of a place. It’s perfect. Well, as perfect as it’s going to get.
Dean turns Baby off, but leaves the lights on. And then, he reaches over Sam, into the glovebox and pulls out a cassette tape. He doesn’t think much more about it, he puts it in the tape deck and turns the radio up on full blast.
And without further ado, he’s out of the car and pacing himself over to Sam’s side of the car, with a do or die feeling creeping up his spine. It’s now or never. Because, maybe Dean can’t give Sam everything that he wants, but he can give him this. It’s gotta count for something in the nicks of time, at least that’s what he tells himself when he opens Sam’s car door and offers his hand.
“Can I have this dance?” His voice is soft and barely audible, as though they’re confessions that the world is too fragile to handle.
Sam looks up at him from under the curtain of his bangs and there’s so many questions there, like ‘what does this mean?’, ‘what are you asking?’. But Sam looks at Dean’s waiting hand and sees how it shakes ever so slightly and swallows every last one of them down. Maybe he does it for Dean, maybe he does it for himself, but he does it no matter what.
They make their way into the field, right into the glow of Baby’s headlights. And when they turn to face each other, their hands still clasped, the first notes of a song start to play.
‘When you were here before, couldn’t look you in the eye.’
Dean stares into Sam’s eyes and he bores the words coming from the impala’s radio, into the back of Sam’s head.
‘You’re just like an angel, your skin makes me cry.’
Sam’s fingers curl tighter around Dean’s as they step closer, their bodies aligning together.
‘You float like a feather, in a beautiful world.’
Dean pulls Sam the rest of the way into him, lets his left hand wander around to Sam’s back, coming to rest just above his waist. The heat of Sam’s body is overwhelming and dangerous, every nerve in Dean’s body is calling out warnings. But Dean doesn’t pull away, doesn’t do anything but hold Sam to his chest and somehow convinces his feet to start moving beneath them.
Sam is a hair taller than Dean, but he still folds himself into Dean’s arms, his face ear to ear with Dean’s. It’s as though Sam is a caterpillar and Dean’s arms are the cocoon. They’re fit to mold to each other.
‘And I wish I was special; you’re so fucking special.’
Dean feels his lips move with the words, feels himself whisper the line into Sam’s ear. And Sam curls closer to Dean, lets his head rest in the crook of Dean’s neck.
For the rest of the song, they sway quietly with nothing but the headlights of the car they’ve always called home, illuminating them like stars in the midnight sky of the field they stand in. The song hangs in the air, written in the cursive of Dean’s breath against the nape of Sam’s neck. It’s the closest thing to a love letter Dean can write, because even though their bodies crave to close the lingering spaces between them, there are certain lines that should never be crossed. And more than that, Dean doesn’t want to stain the beauty of Sam, with the wrongness that beats in his own chest.
‘I don’t belong here.’
It’s the last line and Dean pulls away just enough to find Sam’s lips and to kiss him boldly and with meaning.
‘I don’t belong here.’
It echoes one last time in the air, and Dean breaks the kiss and gives Sam a half smile. Sam’s lips falter at first, his lip quivering slightly, but eventually he pins a smile to his face. Dean watches the tears in the corners of Sam’s eyes and knows in the core of his being that Sam understands what this all means.
That maybe in a different world, maybe in some far off galaxy--or perhaps in a different life, they could be more. But in the world that they live in, they can only be this as they are and nothing more.
For the first time, Dean watches as Sam understands it’s not because he doesn’t want it, it’s because he feels Sam deserves better.
Sam’s eyes reflect little moons of light back at Dean and it’s like Sam is trying to tell him something without saying a word. But if Dean were to put words to Sam’s look, it would say--’There’s no such thing as ‘Better’, when you already have ‘The Best’’.
And Dean’s heart quietly whispers back, ‘Ditto.’
Dean feels his chest tighten around an emotion that is so strong in it’s course that it almost knocks the breath right out of his lungs. He looks down and sees Sam kneeling before him, looks at the ground and sees their memories scattered by his own feet and then back up, to see the desperate look woven across Sam’s features.
The darkness roaming through his veins, comes to a screeching halt. For the first time in months, maybe longer, he feels a true emotion embark across his heart. And it is stronger and more powerful than The Mark that taints his arm.
It’s like coming up for water, when you’ve been drowning for so long. A moment of clarity, of sobriety. Dean exhales and feels the tension in his shoulders dissipate. He looks at his Brother and he wants to fall to his knees and mutter a thousand apologies. Wants to say so many things, that the words traffic jam in the back of his throat.
But then Death comes from behind him and a strike of terror creeps back up Dean’s neck and just like that the darkness takes control again.
Just like that, he’s underwater and screaming. And yet, his mouth betrays him.
“Forgive me.” Dean whispers.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Dean laughs at the ridiculousness of this all. Laughs because he once sold his soul to ensure the light in the sunflowered eyes he now stares into, would never go out. But now, here he stands, the very hand that will propel those eyes into an unforgivable darkness.
There’s no coming back from that, no forgiveness great enough. But still, he asks for it.
Dean’s hands tighten around the wood of Death’s scythe and his fingers feel like hungry snakes as they curl around it for purchase.
And Sam, bless him and all that he is, he gives one last heroic smile. His dimples offer a ballad of unquestionable forgiveness and he carves the song into the back of Dean’s skull. When he’s content, he sighs and bravely closes his eyes.
Dean wakes to the feeling of a sweaty hand lacing itself around his wrist.
At first he flinches, his instincts readying him to fight, but then he sees Sam’s sleepy eyes looking down at him with tears brimming his lash line.
“Bad dream?” Dean whispers and Sam replies by nodding furiously. “Wanna talk about it?”
Sam’s bottom lip quivers at the question, his head shaking in a clear ‘no’.
Dean sighs and pats the space next to him, pulling back the covers to invite Sammy in. Sam doesn’t hesitate with the offer and hurries in, like the monsters of his dream are still out to get him. And Sam’s little body latches onto Dean’s side, anchoring his hand around Dean’s waist.
“It’s okay,” Dean whispers, reaching up to wipe Sam’s hair away from his eyes. “I gotcha, nothing is gonna hurt you--I promise.”
Dean smiles quietly in the darkness as he feels Sam’s body relax at his words. Smiles, because in a world as cruel as the one they exist, at least he can have this--at least he can have the power of Sam’s trust. Dean doesn’t have much, but if he can keep just this, then he considers himself remarkably lucky.
Stroking Sam’s back, Dean watches and waits for the tell that his little Brother is fast asleep. It doesn’t take long, it hardly ever does, before Sam’s mouth parts just so and his soft airy snores tickle the side of Dean’s neck.
Dean lazily traces the skin of Sam’s arm with his thumb, as he thinks about the past few months and the frequency of the nightmares. If Dean thinks back, there’s been more nights like this than nights where Sam has slept peacefully. The thought worries itself around Dean’s heart as he looks down and takes in his Brother’s face. And he swears he’d give anything in this world to just let Sam be safe. Even from the monsters in his mind.
It’s a couple of days later when they’re passing through some small town in Arizona, that Dean finds himself face to face with the perfect remedy to Sam’s nightmares--a dream catcher.
Yellow feather-like petals fan the circumference of the circled web of string and Dean feels his chest tighten with the beauty of it. He lets his eyes take in the green and blue beads that are stringed delicately next to the brown feathers that hang from it. It’s beautiful.
Dean traces the webbed string and lets his eyes wander from petal to petal and then back down to the beads that hang from it. He’s knocked breathless when he realizes that every color is a mirrored reflection of Sammy’s eyes. It’s as though it were designed specifically for him, as though nothing else could be more perfect. And he just can’t say no to it.
Dean spends some of the money he was supposed to go grocery shopping with, to buy the dream catcher. And parts of him feel guilty for it, but the bigger part knows that he can stuff down peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of time, if it meant Sam would be happy. It’s a simple sacrifice and one he’d make again in a heartbeat.
Later that night, Dean hangs the dream catcher above Sam’s bed. Sam watches him, his eyes bright and curious. And when Dean is happy with the catcher’s placement, he turns around and sees the half dozen questions that have come to litter Sam’s eyes.
“Ever hear of a dream catcher, Sammy?” Dean raises his brow.
Sam looks from him, to the catcher and back again. “No..”
“They catch all of your bad dreams and they keep you safe while you sleep.”
Dean watches as Sam inches closer to the hanging sunflowered dream catcher, his hands reaching out to trace the yellow petals and slowly coming down to the hanging beads and feathers.
“How?” Sam questions, his little fingers rolling one of the beads between his index finger and thumb.
“It’s magic.” Dean replies, an air of mystery in his voice.
Sam stares at it for a long time, as though he doesn’t believe a silly thing hanging above his bed could ever keep him safe from the darkness of his nightmares.
“This one is especially magical,” Dean helps. “It’s one of a kind, because of the sunflower petals.”
Sam turns to look at him, listening.
“Sunflowers worship the sun. And the sun is the only light that can banish the darkness completely. So, since you have a sunflower looking out for you, the darkness can never get you, Sammy.”
The low light of the hotel room catches a glimmer of tears in Sam’s eyes, as though he’s relieved by the words. And Dean kneels before his Brother and stares into the only sun he knows.
“No more nightmares, I promise.”
Sam’s little arms lace themselves around Dean’s neck, pulling him into a hug. “Thank you, Dean.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, the catcher is pinned over every bed that Sam sleeps in. Every morning Dean asks him about nightmares and Sam just shakes his head ‘no’. The light in Sam’s eyes, grows in leaps and bounds. And Dean decides to call it ‘faith’.
Faith in the light, in life, and in Dean.
Several years later, when Sam is packing for Stanford, the catcher is put into his bag quietly and neither of them say a word about it. Because in their hearts, in already speaks for what they cannot.
Dean stares down at Sam, who looks like the visage of something holy, of something to be worshiped. His hair falls around his face, as his head is bowed, as if in prayer. If Sam is scared, no one would know, no one would ever guess it, because peace is written so clearly across the kingdom of his cheekbones.
Sam is the image of faith, as he kneels on the floor, ready for Death to greet him with open arms. And when the light catches Sam’s lips just right, Dean thinks he could almost look happy.
As Dean looms over his Brother, something finally breaks in his chest. Something big and important, like an iceberg crumbling in the Atlantic. It dismantles and it blows apart and it has him gasping for air.
A nest of vampires brings them out to Anaheim, California. And as fate would have it, John picks a hotel that’s less than a block from the front gates of Disneyland. It’s made even more glaringly obvious when a squeaky eight year old voice, belonging to Sam, starts reverberating throughout the car as his face is plastered to the impala’s backseat window as they pass on by.
“Disneyland, Dee--Disneyland!” Sam shouts, as though John and Dean aren’t just in the front seat.
Sam’s eyes are as wide as saucers, his cheeks riddled with excitement as he takes in the scale of the park, his little fingers aching around the door handle--so hungry just to experience the joy beyond those gates. It’s a literal Heaven in the Hell they live in and it’s staring him straight in the face, so close he can almost taste it. And when Sam trails his tongue across the roof of his mouth, he can almost taste the sickly sweet funnel cake everyone raves about.
But then John’s voice, gruff and authoritative, breaks all of Sam’s hopes and dreams in one sentence. “Sit down and buckle up, Sammy--we ain’t here for fun.”
When they’re settled in for the night, John having left to go scope out the case, Dean tries to coax Sam out of bed with a deck of cards he pocketed at a gas station a few towns over. “Wanna play slap jack?” Dean lures, his fingers already breaking the deck and making a show out of shuffling.
Sam’s body is curled away from Dean and his shoulders are laced with defiance. And Dean stares at the back of his Brother and wishes with everything he knows, that he could make all of this better for him. Wishes that a deck of cards could somehow compete with ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, but knows in the depth of his stomach, that he was dumb for even trying.
Dean goes to bed that night and waits for Sam’s breathing to even out, for the tension to leave his lungs and for peace to wash over him. And when he’s sure that Sam’s out for the count, he throws the covers off of his body and swings his legs over the edge of the bed. He takes a second for the blood to settle in his body and then gets up, footing his boots back on.
John would probably skin him alive if he knew he left Sam unattended, even for the ten minutes Dean needs, but it’s a shot in the dark that Dean is willing to take. He walks the half mile up the road and spots the convenience store they drove by earlier. It’s lit up brightly and it hurts his eyes as he closes in, because it’s a marked contrast from the darkness he was walking in.
Once he’s inside, he scans the aisles for something to grab his interest. Before he knows it, he’s got a bag full of funyuns, a couple of snapple peach iced teas, a loaf of bread, and some peanut butter--all of which are Sammy’s favorites. Dean considers this his ‘make Sammy smile’ splurge. Because there’s really nothing a little junk food can’t fix, or so he hopes.
Dean finds himself standing in line, waiting for the people in front of him to pay for their own purchases. As he stands there, he lets his eyes wander, taking inventory of the random ass knick-knacks they’re selling. And naturally, everything is an overly regurgitated and corny as hell, Disneyland souvenir.
Rolling his eyes, Dean shifts the items in his hands and tries to fight the urge to walk over to the stupid fucking park and burn it to the ground. It’s really too bad it’s not a ghost and you can’t just salt and burn it into the next life, because that would just make things way too easy.
When it’s his turn, he places the items on the counter and finds himself fixated on pair of mickey ears that are on a shelf behind the attendant. He was just in a violent fantasy of him walking away from a burning park and now something completely different crosses his mind. And he wonders if it’d work out.
When Dean leaves the store, it’s without the peach teas and the funyuns, but in his bag is the bread, peanut butter, and the fucking mickey mouse ears.
The next day goes by slower than molasses dripping from a tree. John checks in around noon, eats and bathes, gives Sam a scratch on the head and Dean a meaningful ‘keep your eyes open’ look, and then he’s out the door again. Another hunter picks him up in an old beat up pickup truck and he’s gone just like that. And then, just as easily, Sam returns to the endless reruns of cartoons and Dean returns to playing solitaire by himself.
Around 8:30pm or so, Dean slyly shoves Sam out the door and he follows closely behind.
“Where’r we going?” Sam questions with annoyance clear in his voice.
Sam huffs and drags his feet behind Dean, following helplessly because he’s offered no other choice.
Dean walks through the parking lot, until he spots the impala and he sighs when he sees that she’s parked in the perfect viewpoint of the park. He leads Sam over to it and then climbs onto the hood. He reaches down for Sam’s hand, to help him up, but Sam just stares back at him with a ‘what-the-heck-are-you-doing’ look engraved into his features. And Dean can’t help the small chuckle that escapes his lips, because boy is his Brother just as thickheaded as a Taurus should be.
“You trust me?” Dean raises his eyebrow and reaches his hand down again.
And that’s something Sam can’t argue with, because he trusts Dean wholeheartedly. Trusts Dean more than he trusts the sun to rise every morning. It’s all he’s ever known, all he knows to be true and loyal--Dean’s love.
Sam’s hand clasps Dean’s and Dean hoists him up to sit beside him on the hood. Their backs press against the windshield and their feet stretch out before them, the cool metal of the impala’s hood beneath them.
Together they watch as the last rays of the sun disappear beyond the horizon and it’s only truly dark for a few minutes before the first pop of color goes sailing into the sky. Dean feels Sam’s sharp intake of breath as another flare of color explodes into the dark before them and it’s then that he pulls the mickey ears out of the inside of his jacket and places them atop of Sammy’s head.
“Wha--” Sam starts, before he feels for what is on his head, his eyes growing five times their size as he feels around the round ears. He pulls the cap off and looks at it with the simplest of joys written across his face.
“So, here’s the deal…” Dean says, wrapping his arm around Sam’s shoulder, letting his face lean close to Sam’s ear. “One day we’ll come back here and we will spend the entire day in that park. You can eat all the funnel cake you want and I’ll ride all those rides with you a hundred times.”
Sam stares up at Dean, an unreadable emotion swimming in his eyes. But Dean just stares back at Sam and waits for Sam’s irises to give in and believe the words he is saying.
“And even better, we’ll get to see these fireworks up close.”
“Promise?” Sam whispers, his voice barely audible.
Dean feels his stomach pool with something he can’t quite name and he swears on his life in that moment to keep this promise, till his last breath--so help him. “I promise.”
Sam keeps with their tradition and sticks out his left pinky finger, waiting for the deal to be signed. Dean doesn’t keep him waiting long, lacing his right pinky finger with Sam’s.
When they’re done, Dean places the ears back on top of Sam’s unruly hair and pulls his Brother tightly against him so they watch the rest of Disneyland’s firework show. Sam’s eyes are wide and excited, every streaming color that breaks into the sky, causing him to gasp.
Sam watches the sky and Dean gets lost watching the reflection of the fireworks in Sam’s eyes.
Dean is a tornado of muscles working, of knuckles aching to overthrow the dark tide within himself. The scythe is swinging as his eyes clear of the dusty smoke and all he sees is Sam’s kneeling figure before him. He’s a breath away from taking Sam’s head, when he uses every ounce of strength he can muster to change the course of his swings throw. And as the blade closes in on his Brother’s bowed head, he closes his eyes, his chest tightening with panic.
His eyes are still closed when the blade of the scythe connects with something solid. The force of the blade going through, takes Dean by surprise and suddenly he feels sick to his stomach. He wishes himself blind, so he’d never have to pry his lids open and face the reality of what he’s done. There’s no coming back from that image and he knows it with every fiber of his being.
“God, Sammy.” Dean whispers hoarsely, his fingers still clutching the handle of the blade.
Tears rise from deep within him and they pound behind his eyelashes, a dam ready to break.
“Dean?” It’s Sam’s voice, and it sounds just a shocked as Dean is to hear it.
Dean’s eyes open with the sound of Sam’s voice and he’s confronted by the dissipating image of Death before him, his own scythe being used to kill him. And if the situation weren’t as serious as it is, Dean could almost laugh at the irony of this. Because, ‘killing Death’ is the most fucked up pun he can think of.
When the scythe clanks to the ground, Dean stands there and feels the ache of his bones, now that they’re his to control once again. He looks down at the red mark on his arm and contemplates cutting his stupid arm off, thinks about what he was just ready to do--what The Mark convinced him of. And his stomach swirls with terror, because he was that close from actually following through.
“Dean..” Sam says and it’s not a question this time, it’s rhetorical. As though he’s not sure where he stands in the grand balance of things.
“Jesus, I’m so--so, so fucking sorry, Sam--I--I…” Dean whispers, the tears breaking from his lash line like deep sea divers.
Turning around, Dean sees Sam who is still kneeling on the ground, his hands clasped in his lap and the memories they made still scattered by his knees. Dean looks at the yellowed petals and feels his chest hollow out. From there he scans over the photo strip and feels his fingers curl at his sides, because his body aches to relive that day. And finally, when he comes to the amulet, an empty sob leaves his mouth--because he truly believed he’d never see it again.
Somehow he stumbles his way to kneel in front of his Brother and Sam just watches him, a glimmer of tears in his own eyes. They keep each other’s gaze, a million apologies that can never be spoken, being engraved in each other’s minds. And when Dean breaks the look, his fingers reach for the black string on the ground.
“You kept this?” Dean’s voice is wrecked and unrecognizable. “I can’t believe…”
“I couldn’t let it go, couldn’t let you let it go either.” Sam whispers quietly. “I prayed so many nights that maybe you’d want to wear it again someday.”
Dean picks it up and feels the cool metal kiss the callouses on his palm. He looks down at the familiar golden face and he can’t help the smile that cracks subtly in the corners of his mouth. It looks just the same as the Christmas Sam had given it to him; if you didn’t know it’s history, you’d think it’d be brand new. And Dean lets himself marvel it over for a few more seconds, before he hands it to Sam.
Sam takes it, a look of defeat in his eyes and Dean immediately curses himself, because of course Sam would immediately expect the worse.
Dean catches Sam’s eyes and holds him there, telling him without words what he wants him to do. Telling him that it’s the only way it can ever hang from his neck again, the only way he’d ever feel right wearing it. Sam gave it to him once and he threw it away, it only makes sense that Sam gives it back to him this time too. That is, if Sam deems him worthy of it.
“You want me--” Sam questions, his voice worrying around the symbolism of it all. “You want me to put it on you?”
Dean nods and gives Sam one last tearful look and then he leans forward to bow his head and wait for the familiar cord to secure him to this earth once again.
Sam’s fingers tremble as they card themselves around the black rope, his hands bringing the cord up and over Dean’s head. And when it rests against the back of Dean’s neck, he smooths it there and lets his fingers trace the length of it around Dean’s neck, down to his chest. When his fingers find the golden face, he worries over it with his right forefinger and thumb, before pressing it against Dean’s chest.
Dean looks up when he feels Sam pressing the face into his chest, as though he’s trying to burn the image of the golden horned promise into Dean’s skin. Their faces are inches apart and Dean can see the layers of fear, sadness, and doubt that swim in the sun of Sam’s eyes. Dean stares at each layer there and feels something break open in his chest, something he doesn’t have a name for--something that has been locked away for too long.
There’s not much thought that takes place, before Dean is reaching forward for Sam’s lips. And Sam helplessly pulls him closer, his fingers still tangled in the cord around Dean’s neck. They kiss and it’s different than the handful of times they’ve kissed before. This one is raw and open, it’s soft and desperate, and it has both of them trembling from the intensity of it.
Dean’s fingers find themselves through Sam’s hair and at the nape of his neck, his tongue dancing across the gate of Sam’s lips, wanting--no--needing more. His entire body, desperately hungry for the pink flesh inside of his Brother’s mouth. And when Sam grants him access, he lets himself in and he savors the entirety of Sam’s fleshy teeth palace.
Sam’s fingers free themselves of the cord, his hands wrapping themselves around the back of Dean’s neck, pulling Dean deeper into him. It’s as though, he wants to swallow his Brother down, so they can never stand apart again. Wanting nothing more then to see both of them reflecting back in one image--together, whole.
They kiss, their hearts beating in time and they let themselves get lost in it. Their lifelong apprehensions are tossed into the wind, the voices in the back of their minds--now silenced. And as they exchange breaths--the other’s exhale, the only inhale the other could ever need--they let their bodies melt together in all the ways they’ve hungered for.
And it’s only then, the two of them lost in the deepness of each other’s mouths, that something miraculous begins to happen.
A slow burn begins in Dean’s arm, it’s a whisper at first and he confuses it with the heat from Sam’s body. But then it begins to tingle, a slow tickle that slowly morphs into a jagged pain. It suddenly feels like a knife has cut through his arm and Dean opens his eyes with the shock of it.
Sam pulls way, his lips swollen from their kiss. “Dean?”
Dean pulls back and looks down at his glowing arm. Sam must follow his glance, because they both stop breathing at the same time.
“Sam.” Dean worries, his left hand coming to clench around the throbbing pain that surrounds The Mark on his right arm.
Neither one of them get another word out, before growing lines of light carve themselves up the entirety of Dean’s arm. Dean’s head falls back with the intensity of what’s happening inside of him. Sparks of golden light fill the air around them and the lines of light travel up Dean’s right arm to his chest, circling around the flesh above his heart.
Sam gasps at the sight of it, his hands reaching forward to somehow protect his Brother from what is happening. “Dean!” He shouts, his hands curling around Dean’s shoulders and shaking him, begging him to respond.
Dean’s eyes roll into the back of his head, his chest lurching forward as the sparks light the room around them. The flares of light lick the skin of Sam’s arms and hands, but he doesn’t pull away, his mind too focused on Dean’s sudden unresponsiveness.
“Gahhhh!” Dean roars, his fists clenching at his sides as the lines of glowing golden light course the entirety of his body--every single one of them pulsing for the circle of energy above Dean’s heart.
The circle intensifies and lifts from Dean’s chest slightly, glowing brightly in the reflection of Sam’s eyes. Sam swallows as he focuses on it, something inside of him shivering in response. And just as the circle is about to touch Sam, it explodes, sending light shooting through the expanse of the room around them. The bulbs in every socket, burst and the windows of the diner, shatter. The room shakes with power and the explosion throws both Brothers backwards and apart from each other. And then, the room is propelled into darkness.
Sam finds himself on his back, a sharp pain in his shoulders and his breathing is ragged and uneven. What the fuck was that? But that thought gets quickly overridden, as the thought of Dean comes crossing full center into Sam’s train of thought.
“Dean?” Sam calls, his body twisting to sit upright.
He scans the dusty room around them, a neon ‘drink and be happy’ sign is flashing sporadically in the corner by the bar. And it’s only by that light that he can see the shadow of his Brother’s body, sprawled in a similar fashion that he found himself in.
“Hey!” Sam shouts desperately as he half crawls-half runs over to Dean’s side. “Hey! Dean!”
Dean groans, his legs moving and Sam can’t get his hands on him fast enough.
“Are you alright?” Sam worries, his chest constricting with the variety of answers that could be returned.
“What was that?” Dean’s voice is hoarse, his eyes tearing through the darkness and stapling the question to Sam’s.
Sam looks around the room, sees the shards of glass all over the floor and looks through the windows and feels the soft breeze of dusk, flirt against his cheek. He doesn’t know what happened, but whatever it was, it was something big.
“I dont….” Sam turns back to look at his Brother, who is still on his back. “I don’t know.”
Dean moves to sit up, his face wincing with the pain of moving his body. Sam’s hands help him up, his eyes roaming the vastness of Dean’s face, worrying him over and making sure he’s okay--that they’re both okay. Dean just stares back, a little dazed, but somehow manages a small reassuring smile.
“I’ve heard of seeing fireworks, but damn, Sammy.” Dean tries to break the tension with a lame joke.
Sam can’t help but feel a blanket of anxiety leave his body, his shoulders suddenly lighter with the sound of Dean’s ‘piss and vinegar’ voice. “Shut up.”
Dean’s eyes leave Sam’s and move to scan his own body, because even though he hasn’t vocalized it, there’s something different about him then there was before. He turns his right arm over and is shocked to see the red mark is gone from his skin. His left hand comes up to smooth over the skin where it once laid claim to and then feels a burning sensation against his chest.
Hurriedly he pulls his jacket and flannel away, to expose his undershirt and the necklace that Sam had just given back to him. But the necklace is not golden as it once was, instead it is red.
“What?” Dean questions to himself more than anything else.
Sam stares silently as Dean feels the face in his hands. It looks just the same, but is now a deep red with golden flakes. He examines it closely and then lifts his arm to ensure the mark is gone.
“Do you think the necklace absorbed the mark?” Sam questions, reaching for the red faced token hanging from Dean’s neck. “I mean, does that even make sense? Is it even possible?”
Dean stares down at Sam’s hands as they worry over the amulet. “I think we had something to do with it, too.” He says absently. And he’s not even sure what he means by that, but something in his body tells him it’s the truth.
Sam’s fingers trace softly on the skin that now lies unmarred by the red curse. He does it quietly, his face a book of emotions and Dean watches him.
“What made you stop?” The question sounds absurd in the moment and it throws Dean for a second before he gathers what Sam means by it.
Dean reaches for Sam’s hands and wraps them in his own. He traces his thumb over Sam’s knuckles and searches for the words that tangle themselves in the back of his throat. He wills his tongue to move, to make sound, but it lies in the back of his throat defiantly. But then a single word comes roaring out of Dean’s pelvis, up his chest and comes crawling out of his mouth with a startling rawness.
Sam flits his eyes up and his adam’s apple bobs with the emotion of such a simple word. He stares into the sky of his Brother’s eyes and he sees the undeniable truth behind that word.
“I made a promise to you once and I’m gonna keep it.” Dean adds, not bothering to elaborate on what exactly he means.
But Sam seems contented with those words, defining them in his own way. And Dean is shocked when it’s Sam’s lips that find themselves against his this time.
They kiss and it’s of the delicate variety. Their lips, softly pressed together, becomes the seal on the history of reasons that bind them together so profoundly--that not even Heaven or Hell, could destroy them or tear them apart.
A week later, they find themselves on the road and heading west. Sam asks Dean a half dozen times where they’re going, but Dean just smiles lazily and says something vaguely, like--”The beach.” And Sam presses for a better definition of what that means, but Dean just turns up the AC/DC and thumps his thumbs to the beat against the steering wheel.
It takes them a day and a half, but eventually they arrive at their destination.
Dean gets a flare of deja vu as they pass the park, just like so many years ago. He looks over at Sam as they pass it and sees his Brother work through something in his mind. But Dean is ultimately reassured by the sight of Sam’s dimple, cutely etching itself into the shadow on Sam’s cheek.
When they park in front of the same hotel they stayed in when they were little, it’s then that Sam looks over at Dean and smiles like the sun itself was born from his lips. But neither one of them say a word as they rent a room and unload the car. Both of them working together as they have their entire lives, but this time, it’s not for a hunt. This time, it’s for them.
Dean leaves Sam to shower and makes his way back down to the hotel office, where he buys park hopper tickets and a postcard. The tickets are good for three days and Dean feels like that’s a good length of time. He nods his thanks at the clerk and makes his way out and heads back to the parking lot where Baby is parked.
He fetches his keys from his pocket and rounds the back of his car, to open the trunk. Dean shoves the tickets into his back pocket and digs around in the trunk for something, his fingers working furiously, because he knows that what he’s looking for is in there somewhere.
“Ah.” Dean sounds, his eyes having found what he was looking for.
He picks the item out and shoves it inside his inner coat pocket, before closing the trunk.
When he gets back inside the hotel room, Sam is waiting for him. “Feel better?” He asks.
Sam nodds. “Yea, anyone would feel better after having washed two days worth of car camping off of them.”
“Touché.” Dean laughs, fetching the postcard out of his back pocket and throws it on the table where Sam sits.
Sam looks down at the pristine waters of Crescent Bay, California. He smiles and can’t help but let a laugh escape his lips. “What’s this?”
“Well,” Dean starts, sarcasm already written across his face. “I told you we were going to the beach. I didn’t want to disappoint.”
Sam breaks into a side splitting laughter, more so because his Brother is the biggest idiot to ever idiot, than anything else. And when Dean joins in, their laughter fills the room and they both could swear that the world truly feels carefree for the first time in their entire lives.
Later that afternoon, they find themselves in front of the magical gates Dean had always promised Sam that they would return to. And as they stand there, Sam looking at the grandness of Disneyland, Dean pulls out the mickey ears from so long ago and meaningfully places them on top of Sam’s head.
“What is--” Sam goes to ask, his hands feeling for what is on his head.
A pool of emotion swells in Sam’s eyes as he recognizes what they are. Sure his head is a bit bigger and the ears a little smaller, but Sam knows it’s the same hat from when they were younger. His chest expands with something he doesn’t have a name for and it only solidifies itself when he feels Dean’s fingers card through his own.
“A promise, is a promise.” Dean winks, giving Sam’s hand a gentle squeeze.
Sam is thirty-two years old, but when he walks through the gates, his old mickey ears atop his head and Dean’s hand in his--he's that eight year old kid again. And he looks over at Dean, the sun a halo around his head and says, “Thanks, Dean.”