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Loud and Clear
by astolat

He hated it when Sam got all cranked up and annoyed at him. A night in a crowded bar, a few extra rounds of pool, fifty miles out of the way for a place with good pancakes or beer, and Sam would start in with the bitching about wasting time, all, "What the hell's the point?" Dean could never figure out how to answer him well enough to shut him up without also getting sucked into some huge fucking girly conversation. And Sam always popped it out in the goddamned car, when there wasn't anywhere to get away to, and he kept worrying at it like a terrier, so Dean just had to grit his teeth and ignore him until he finally got tired of his one-sided conversation on the subject.

It just seemed pretty fucking obvious to Dean: you couldn't get what you really wanted, so you had to take what you could get. Girls said yes, marks put their money down on the table, evil things curled up and died, with enough effort involved to make it worth the while. That small sweet taste of victory came his way as regular as a hit, and it felt good each and every time. So yeah, damn right he chased it down, he worked for it, and he enjoyed the hell out of it when he got it. What the fuck else was there, except an imaginary carrot you held out for yourself, knowing you weren't ever going to reach it?

Maybe the truth was he didn't really want Sam to get that, though. Not that Dean didn't want Sam to learn how to carpe a little diem, because Jesus Christ, the kid needed to relax and get laid like nobody's business, but there was something kind of stupid cute about the way Sam kept acting like there was something out there. Some big shining prize off in the distance that he could really get his hands on, that wasn't just a will-o-wisp. It made Dean feel weird every time Sam proved he still believed that; made him feel like he was fifteen or sixteen again. Yeah, the magic years, back when Sammy had still thought he was Batman and Superman all rolled into one, invincible; when Dean had thought pretty much the same thing. Going on his first real hunts with Dad, coming home to Sammy snug in their warm bed and sleepily asking, "s'okay?" and cuddling up when Dean crawled in next to him.

"Yeah, Sammy," he'd always said, and he wasn't going to start changing that answer now, no matter how much the world and all the hellspawn in it were conspiring to prove him wrong. Sam could keep chasing that mirage, and who knew, maybe he'd even get it, in the end.

Dean was doing his best not to believe in destiny these days, but he thought maybe he could take it okay if it turned out that his was to go out getting Sam across that finish line. It would be a victory all its own—like their whole family running a relay, handing Sam off down the line, Mom to Dad to him, keeping him safe and out of that demon's hands, getting him to a place where he could have that normal life, because nobody would be coming for him anymore.

In some ways, maybe that would be easier. Dean wouldn't have to work at being happy for Sam after, wouldn't have to let him go with a smile and a clap on the back, see you when I see you—

Okay, not going there. Bad enough the first time around. Those last few months after Sam's high school graduation, they'd been perfect. Riding with the wind at their backs, Dad and Sam and him, blowing through one hunt after another, smooth well-oiled Winchester machine, and Sam was getting over it, this stupid idea he had of giving up their life, their family, and going his own way; he wasn't even fighting with Dad much anymore. Growing out the last of his teenage rebellion, settling down, and Dean had slipped up; he'd let himself believe, for a while, that he was going to get something he really wanted.

Once Sam had even—they'd been out in the woods after a hunt, drinking, blowing off steam, just the two of them with a bottle of whiskey on the hood of the car. Sam hadn't meant it as anything, hadn't done it on purpose—but he'd turned on his side and slid his hand onto Dean's stomach, bare thanks to the riding edge of his shirt, and Sam had put his head on Dean's shoulder and breathed out against Dean's neck. It had been better than the best sex of his life, closer than Dean had ever expected to get to—what he'd been wanting the last couple of months, ever since Sam had quit the dragging martyr act and signed on for real, taken that step up and become his partner, not just his little brother.

Dean had known even then he wasn't actually going to get it, but that was okay; he didn't really want it, not when it would mess everything else up and do God knew what to Dad. It was damn sweet, though, to feel like he could've had it, could've just put his hand on Sam's and coaxed him along. Instead he'd laughed and ruffled Sammy's hair into a mess, happier than he'd ever been, and three weeks later Sam annouced he was leaving, cross-country bus for California, and by the way, lucky you hadn't tried anything, Dean, because you'd have found out real quick just how many illusions you were still living under.

He hadn't whined or bitched. There were hunts to go on, girls to hook up with, the open road in front of him, and he could have himself a damn good time all on his own. Yeah, he didn't want it that way, but what difference did that make?

Every couple of weeks he'd run the argument through his head, the case he'd lay out to Sammy for coming back on the road, coming with him. Dean knew he'd only get one shot at it, because every time after the first it would just be easier for Sam to say no, so he wasn't going to try until he was damn sure it was going to work. He nearly got himself disemboweled on a hunt in Nebraska, and in the hospital, he lay flat on his back in bed and looked up at his cellphone and thought about calling Sam to come, putting Sam's hand on those stitched-up cuts and saying to him, I need you watching my back. That was a pretty good one, except Sam could turn it back around too easy, could try and talk Dean into quitting, coming back with him.

That was dangerous ground, because Dean had never gotten rid of that gut feeling that Sam needed looking after, by him, and it didn't matter that the biggest threat Sam was facing these days was a drunk coed or a TA with a vicious red pen. Sam had been too busy getting into it with Dad to go there in the final blow-out, but Dean knew damn well if he came at it from the wrong angle, Sam would do his best to flip him, and then where the fuck would Dean be: working in a garage nine-to-five, watching Sam get his degree, build his shiny fake life, losing his edge, while innocent people out there kept dying and Dad was on the road all alone, no backup at all.

Then Dad had disappeared, and apart from the what-the-fuck of it, Dean's first thought had been finally. Finally: this was as good as it was going to get, this was the best shot he was ever going to have: four years of guilt for ammunition, a specific job to do, open-ended because if Dad was going to be found easy, Dean would have found him already. And Sam had gotten back in the car, come on the road, and for a little while Dean had let himself believe he'd won.

Yeah, that had worked out real well.

But what could you do? Dean couldn't quit wanting what he wanted. There was only one thing to do, the same thing there had been all these years, and that was to just keep on going, and when the day came and Sam walked away again, that would still be the only thing to do. Just as well to make it a habit.

"Dean," Sam said, his face crumpling, and Jesus, what now, and what the fuck, was Sam crying? Dean hated taking the Impala onto a gravel shoulder, but he didn't even think about it, except to make a mental note to check her undercarriage when they stopped for the night.

"Come on, Sammy, talk to me, what's," he started, except Sam's hands were on his face, and Sam was babbling like some kind of psycho, making zero sense, and then he was kissing Dean—"What the hell," Dean said, terrified, his arms fishing in the air helplessly as he tipped his head back out of reach. Sam was hauling his legs up onto the seat—and Jesus Christ, just like that Sam was going at him, head-on, nothing tentative or maybe about it.

"No way," Dean said, except if Sam pressed his fingers down over Dean's cock—Sam did—then Dean was going to arch up into his hand, and if Sam said let me, then Dean was going to lie back and let him do whatever the hell he wanted, and Sam did say, "Let me," except Jesus fucking Christ, they couldn't, he couldn't have this—

"You can," Sam said, "you can have what you want, just swear to me you won't, swear you won't—I'm not the fucking baton, Dean," and Dean knew he hadn't said any of that out loud in a million fucking years, and what the fuck, was Sam reading his—

"Yes," Sam said, sick and miserable, and holy shit that was seriously not okay, that was fucking wrong, and Sam started babbling, saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it just started, I don't know how not to," and kissing him again. Dean tried to think no at him, except Sam said, "I can tell you don't mean it," and his hand was wrapping around Dean's cock, so Dean really didn't mean it now, but if Sam freaked out about this after, Dean was going to kick his goddamn ass, and he sure as hell did mean that, and Sam laughed against his mouth, a little brokenly, and said, "I hear you."

= End =

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