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Road to Shambala
by astolat

Dean pulled off I-35 and chased a state route all the way to the dead end marked on the map, five miles further on. Sam got out to move the roadblock trestle so he could pull around it, then Dean killed the engine and the lights. Sam drew protective symbols on the car doors for the night, his breath puffing white in the air and his mouth drawn tight with pain; his left arm was still in a sling. They were two days past a werewolf killing in Etowah, Oklahoma, and one day past the sheriff getting suspicious of the two cut-up guys in the local clinic. It called for a little lying-low, even with four hundred miles already laid down due north.

"It's going to be a bitch of a night," Sam said, getting in the back seat, blowing on his hands. Dean had already pushed the front seat all the way up so they could stretch out their legs in the back.

"At least we've got the necessities," Dean said. They climbed in the back seat and huddled under a couple of blankets and dosed themselves against the cold with shots of Johnnie Walker and chasers of Heineken, with a brief pause for the four food groups of fat, salt, sugar, and fat: ham and egg bagel sandwiches from the last truck stop, already cold, with pudding cups for dessert.

Dean woke up sticky and still half drunk, stretched along the back seat with Sammy a big heavy warm weight limp on top of him, watery yellow morning spiking in through the rear window and the empty green bottles rolling around on the floor. He didn't even get what had happened until he figured out that his pants were open, his shirt was rucked up, and that was Sam's goddamn cock lying pressed up to his belly and hard, tacky against his skin. He went a little crazy then, shoving and pushing and trying to get himself loose, like if he could get away it would be like it hadn't happened.

"Fuck, ow," Sam said, before he woke up enough and said, in a completely different voice, "Dean—" and Dean heaved him off onto the floor of the car and got himself out into the cold wet air. He shoved his dick back in his jeans, not touching it as best he could, zipped up and went to his knees in the frost-killed grass and laced his hands together behind his head, elbows bowed forward, trying to breathe.

Sam picked himself up and got out of the car after a minute. Dean couldn't look at him. Sam, Jesus, and he'd—

"I'm sorry," he said. It didn't come out right, like his voice was locked up somewhere down around his gut. "I'm sorry, Sammy, you got to believe me, I'd—"

"Fuck you," Sam said. "And shut the fuck up. Jesus. You weren't any less drunk than I was." He slammed the car door shut and put his hands on the frame and leaned against it, heavily, with his head down.

Neither of them said anything a long while. They just sat there while the sun crawled up. Dean's skin started to prickle with cold pins-and-needles under the wind.

Finally Sam said, "This isn't close to the worst fucking thing that's happened to me the last four years. Not the same goddamn planet as the worst."

He went to the edge of the road where the pavement broke up into weed-filled cracks and loose blacktop gravel and took a leak into the grass, then he walked around to the trunk and took out a fresh pair of shorts and went into the bushes. Dean just stayed there on his knees, because he couldn't see the use in getting up off them.

Sam came back out and shoved his old shorts into the laundry bag, the one already near bursting, and then he came back and stood over Dean. "Get in the car. I'm hungry and we've got an hour of driving before we'll find a place around here that serves breakfast."

It didn't seem right that could be it: clean themselves up, drive away. It ought to have been the end of everything. Dean pushed his eggs and home fries around as much as they could be pushed, and then he got up his nerve and looked into Sam's face across the stained formica of the diner table. He thought he should've seen writing on the wall. Maybe even some relief too, because what the hell else was Sam waiting for, if it wasn't an excuse as good as this one? They'd killed that yellow-eyed son of a bitch for good, sure, and put a stop to the war he'd been brewing, but that was two years ago now, and ever since then Dean had just been waiting for Sam to get fed up with it again, to walk away and find himself that normal life he'd always wanted.

Sam just glared back at him: mad, but an ordinary kind of mad. "Don't you fucking look at me like that." He stood up from the table and bent down, shoved his hand into Dean's pocket and took out the car keys. "You pay the check," he said, and went and started the Impala back up.

They bore west and hit Rawlins, Wyoming, by midnight, nine hundred miles from the scene of the crime, and Sam went into the motel lobby and got them a double room.

The thing was, sometimes Dean wanted Sam to go. Not really, not ever enough, but sometimes it got so he was choking down the words that would set Sam free. I know this isn't what you want. Go back to school. Make a life. They never got out, because the truth was, he wasn't a goddamn saint, and Sam was everything he had. Dean wasn't above using loyalty to keep him. Maybe it wasn't noble, and if something ever happened to Sam—except that thought always got derailed before it even managed to finish forming up in his head. If something ever happened to Sam, Dean fully planned to be dead beforehand, and ideally lying in wait just outside the pearly gates to bitch Sam out for not being careful enough.

A week after the thing they were never going to talk about ever again, a witch started calling them to Louisiana, more specifically calling Sam, like a static-crackly phone call in his dreams for one night after another. She wasn't terrified or screaming like his usual nightmares and visions, just pissed-off and impatient. " 'What the hell you keeping me waiting for, boy?' " he mimicked, rubbing his forehead in the morning. "At least she held up her address for me. Beats having to do research."

"Great way to invite us into a trap, too," Dean said, and went online to hustle a stolen calling card number.

They didn't have a lot of contact with other hunters these days. Too much bad blood, on both sides. Dean wasn't about to forget the ones who'd tried to take Sam and the other psychic kids out, or the ones who'd kept their mouths shut about it. Ellen hadn't gone south on them, but she'd cut them off after Luger went down in the crossfire when Dean finally killed Gordon. "You're putting me in a hell of a bind," she'd said. "Gordon was a loose cannon, but Luger was a good man, a man like we're going to need if it comes down to a fight."

"He tried to kill my brother," Dean said flatly.

"He was worried about your brother, and from all we've seen, hard to say he was wrong," Ellen said. "Truth be told, I don't trust you, not on this. I'm not interested in having your confidence anymore."

"Fine," Dean said. "Then do me one last favor and you'll never hear from me again."

"What's that?" she said, warily.

"Tell the others the gloves are off. Anyone else comes after my brother, I'm putting them in the ground. And I don't give a fuck how good they are." He'd snapped the phone shut and gone back inside the motel where Sam was sleeping off the last of the drugs they'd shot him up with.

Despite that throwdown, though, they'd started talking again a little in the last year, mostly because Sam picked up the phone and made the first call, more forgiving than Dean was inclined to be. "They were scared," Sam said. "Can you blame them?"

"Hell, yeah," Dean said.

Ellen still wasn't any too enthusiastic when Dean called, but the balance sheet was running pretty heavy in their favor. Dean had kind of expected Sam's premonitions to go away after yellow-eyes got deep-sixed, but instead it was like they got unlocked and suddenly he had a twenty-four-hour spirit news channel running in the back of his brain. Funny how quick all those other hunters got over themselves and started coming to Sam for help, long as they could do it through Ellen instead of asking direct.

Dean would've told them all to go fuck themselves, except when he'd tried the first time, Sam had woken up and taken the cell phone right out of his hands and told Ellen, "Tell them to look for a white house with a red fence, number 584, and they'd better get there before sundown."

So Dean didn't have much patience for Ellen's tone when she answered this time around and said, "Yeah, what do you need?"

"Hey, you want to quit having these friendly chats, say the word," Dean said, and listened to her silence for a minute before he went on. "I need the word on a witch down in Louisiana, nearest town's St. Francisville. She's black, wears a big red cross and white hair in dreads."

"What kind of word?" Ellen said.

"Just what's her story," Dean said. "Is she a good witch or a bad witch?"

Ellen called back in an hour, after doing the rounds, and apparently she was a good witch. "All right, come on, man, let's go. She may be crotchety, but I think she's really worried about something," Sam said.

Dean still didn't like the idea of Sam's brain being on some random Glinda's speed-dial, but he guessed he wasn't going to have a chance to make his position on that clear to the lady without seeing her face to face.

When the Impala pulled up in front of the old plantation house, half eaten by kudzu and ivy, Martinique hobbled out to meet them, leaning on a twisted rowan stick. But she snapped, "Shut your mouth, boy," before Dean got halfway through his first sentence. "I don't like yelling uncle any more than you like hearing it, but this ain't something I can manage on my own."

Sam was grinning like anything, and Dean caught it out of the corner of his eye and turned to scowl right at him, without even thinking about it, for the first time since it'd happened.

They spent the next two days solid spraying holy water out of fertilizer pumps onto the mutant kudzu vine that had gotten possessed and was trying to eat the entire county: houses, cars, and people included. "What kind of self-respecting demon possesses a damn vine?" Dean snarled, hosing off behind the house, plastered with mud and bits of kudzu. "I liked that shirt." The thing had wrapped a coil around his ankles and dragged him for a quarter of a mile through the muck before he'd managed to hack through it.

"It ate twelve people, Dean," Sam said, ducking his head under the pump and rubbing his hair vigorously.

"Still, you've gotta admit, it's kind of pathetic," Dean said. "Hey, you've got—" and he leaned over and took off a little piece of creeper that was still feebly trying to strangle Sam, even though it wasn't big enough to go even halfway around his neck.

Sam straightened up and looked at him, and Dean realized he'd just wiped his hand across Sam's naked back. He swallowed, but what Sam said quietly was, "So, are we okay?"

''For you to say, man," Dean said, his throat tight.

"Goddamnit, Dean—" Sam shook his head and looked away. Then he looked back, his mouth firm. "Fine. That's how you want it, then yeah. We're okay."

As a reward, Martinique fed them the fried chicken of the gods, glaring at Dean and withholding fourths until he finally ate the greens too. It was the first real home-cooked meal they'd had in longer than Dean could remember, at least a year. After watching them eat like wolves, she said, "All right, you boys are staying here another week, and you," she pointed at Dean, "are learning how to cook for real."

"What?" Dean said. "Why me?" Sam was grinning again.

"Because I said so," she informed him, but after she sent Sam off with the dishes to go do the washing up, which mollified Dean a little, she leaned over and said quietly, "Son, your brother learns cooking, he'll be a step away from making spells. He's already a honey-pot for the dark things of the world. Best not." She sat back. " 'Sides, you already know your way around a kitchen, I can tell, even if you don't like to admit it."

"Goddamnit," Dean muttered. He hated witches.

Most of the rooms in the house weren't liveable, either because the roof had leaked or some ghost or another had set up camp in a corner. They wouldn't leave Sam the hell alone. "Are they doing anything?" Dean asked warily, looking around the first guest bedroom. He could feel the cold, but not see them.

"Nah, they're just standing there staring at me," Sam said. He kept staring back though. "This is weird, man. Should we figure out what they want?"

"Oh, no, you don't. Out, out, out," Martinique said, poking them with her cane to herd them back out and downstairs. "Don't you go exorcising my spirits. They're better company than most people."

Instead they bedded down on the two big velvet couches slowly dying in Martinique's living room, kitty-corner to one another. She gave them pillows and blankets and left a charm-candle on the coffee table to keep off the ghosts, then turned off the lights and went upstairs. One of the cats that wandered in and out of the house jumped onto Dean's back as soon as he'd gotten settled down just right, and refused to get no matter how he tried to twitch it off.

"Fuck it," he said, giving up, and let his head thump back down. The cat purred victoriously.

He was drifting off to the sounds of the old creaky house when out of the dark, Sam said softly, "Dean, I'm not going anywhere."

And there it was again, that was his goddamn cue to say It's okay. You don't have to stay. Dean kept his mouth shut and pretended to be sleeping.

After Martinique finally cut them loose, stocking the trunk of the Impala with a carton of dry goods and a lecture, Dean looked over at Sam and said, "Where to, bright eyes?"

Sam hesitated, his fingers tapping on his thigh, and then he said, "You ever been to New Orleans?"

"Just once," Dean said: working alone, and he hadn't liked it even then, his father's trust and the responsibility no better than ashes in his mouth, because what it really meant was his family was gone, broken up worse than any demon out of hell had ever been able to do. "There a job there? Usually the tourists scare everything off."

"No," Sam said. "I just—I had a vision about something in Minnesota."

Dean groaned. "Minnesota in the winter. My favorite place." He shifted the Impala into gear.

"I called Ellen and asked her to pass it along to somebody who owes us one," Sam said.

Dean stopped, his foot on the brake, and stared at him.

"Come on, man," Sam said. "How long has it been since we took a break?"

They went on all the different ghost tours, asking the tour guides obnoxious questions in deliberately loud voices and ruining the atmosphere. Then they went into a supposedly haunted house that turned out to be actually haunted, and the ghost freaked out and started making the walls bleed the letters GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT everywhere around them and slammed all the doors shut except the ones leading outside. The tourists screamed and ran, and the two of them spent the rest of the day in the library figuring out the ghost was harmless and just liked to play the occasional practical joke.

After that they spent their nights cruising from one sweet, smoky jazz bar to another, inhaling blues and Southern food and bourbon. They'd crash at whatever motel had a cheap room left at three in the morning and sleep in until noon, then go out and eat a million beignets and just sit nursing their coffee for hours in one spot or another, people-watching, until it was time to start all over again.

And they really were okay. Dean started being able to breathe easy again by the fifth night, and after a week he relaxed enough to give Sam a nudge: there were a couple of women sitting at the bar together, giggling together and checking out guys. "Come on, man, what do you say? You want the one on the left or the right?"

But Sam said "No" instead of "You go ahead," and then he knocked back his glass of whiskey and added, "Let's go over to Bourbon Street."

He got up and headed for the door. Dean closed his mouth and went for his credit card, and followed him after he'd taken care of the tab. Sam kept them moving the rest of the night, going until five and getting drunker and drunker, until they stumbled into an old rundown bed-and-breakfast on the fringes of the French Quarter.

The night clerk flicked a glance up from her magazine at them. They'd been around this track so many times Dean already knew what was coming; he couldn't even bother getting annoyed. "King?" she said knowingly.

"Double," Dean said.

"King," Sam said, and slid his credit card across the counter.

Dean was pretty drunk, and also Sam had just slid a big warm hand up under his jacket and onto the small of his back. He couldn't get himself together before Sam had a key in his hand and was signing the guestbook: Sam and Dean Winchester. "Sam, can I talk to you?" he said, trying to keep his voice steady.

Sam tossed the pen flat. "Thanks," he told the clerk, and walked up the stairs.

"Sammy," Dean said, and followed him. "Sam, wait up—"

Dean caught up just as Sam unlocked the door and went inside: room at the end of the hall, with a big old stupidly frouffy four-poster bed in the middle, draped all around. The french doors onto the balcony were open and the curtains were rustling around the edges, sky already getting light outside.

"Close the door," Sam said, tossing the key into the bowl by the door, and went into the bathroom. The sound of running water started.

Dean stood on the threshold without coming in, his heart thudding like crazy, his head not doing a lot better. He looked down the hall, like he was going to find some answers there. It was just an empty hallway. Most of the other rooms had homemade Do Not Disturb signs hanging on the doorknobs.

"Dean," Sam said quietly, coming out of the bathroom again. Dean jerked his head back around and stared at him. "In or out, but close the door."

Put like that, there was only one direction to go. Dean closed the door behind him and stood there with his back hard up against it. "Come on, man, you're starting to freak me out," he managed, while Sam came across the room towards him, this intent serious look on his face. Dean was breathing hard, swallowing. Sam reached up for him and put his hands on Dean's face, his thumbs resting warm on Dean's cheekbones, fingers curled around the edges of his jaw, and he bent down and—and—

Dean burst out, shoved him away, panicking, and circled away almost in a crouch, low and scared. He scrubbed the back of his hand over his mouth, panting. "We can't do this. You know we can't."

"We already did, Dean." Sam wasn't even looking at him, he was looking down at the door. He threw the bolt and turned around.

It wasn't a big room, and Sam looked weirdly huge in it, almost looming. Dean backed up. He looked over at the balcony doors mostly out of instinct: what the fuck was he going to do, jump out the window to get away from Sam? "We were drunk as hell."

Sam kind of laughed and said, "We're pretty drunk now."

"Getting more sober by the minute over here," Dean said, and then Sam had him pinned flat, the big overstuffed bed sinking under their weight.

"Give me a reason not to, Dean, I'm serious," Sam said, like Dean wasn't already getting that idea from the way Sam's leg was rocking out between his thighs, not really sliding up and down so much as just flexing into him and back. "Because I've got news for you, we're not going to be making any two-headed babies here."

"Just when I thought this couldn't get more disturbing," Dean said, which came out funny as a kick to the head, and Sam was bending down to him again. Dean turned his head away to breathe. "Don't. Sam, don't." Sam wasn't stopping, kissing the corner of his mouth instead, moving south. Dean's shirt was riding up out of his jeans, two fingers' worth of bare skin more than enough when Sam slid his hand underneath and pressed at the small of his back, tilting Dean's hips up to meet him, his mouth working on Dean's neck like it was his property.

"Why?" Sam said, between kisses, between breaths, soft and hungry. And Dean couldn't help it; he couldn't help thinking, just for a second—maybe he'd gotten it the wrong way around. Maybe if he lay here and let Sam have this—maybe after that Sam wouldn't ever be able to leave. Maybe—and then the thought made Dean so goddamn sick of himself that it finally cracked him.

"Because you don't fucking want this," he said, and he planted one foot on the mattress and heaved Sam off, rolling him towards the foot of the bed, hauling himself up against the headboard while the four-poster groaned under them. "You don't want any of this. You don't want to go from one hunt to another and live in motel rooms and eat goddamn fucking Hot Pockets for breakfast lunch and dinner." He stopped and gulped for breath, said, lied, "I don't need you. I can do this alone. I did it without you before, I can do it again, and you don't fucking have to stay."

Sam just lay there a minute staring back at him, sprawled on his side and breathing hard. It was light enough to see his face, dark enough his eyes looked all black, liquid, like demon eyes, except for the way they held the light. "You know, man, I don't get it," he said finally. "You've known me my whole stupid life, and you still have it in your head I'm some kind of saint."

"I know exactly how much of a saint you're not," Dean said.

"Yeah, but you don't believe it," Sam said. "Come on, Dean. You really think I'm being some martyr, sticking around for your sake?"

Dean tightened his mouth and looked away, because fuck Sam anyway, making him say this, making him talk about it more, instead of just ending it. "Don't fucking lie to me," he said. "You don't want this life, Sam. You never did, and no matter how good a game you talk—"

"I never said I want this life." Sam pushed himself up to sitting. "I don't want it."

Fuck, fuck, fuck, and why the hell hadn't he kept his eyes shut and spread his goddamn legs—Dean said roughly, "It's not too late for you. We can get you a new ID, a fake background, you can go back to school—"

Sam broke him off with a laugh. "Yeah. Yeah, Dean, I used to tell myself things like that, too. Before we killed the demon, I used to think when that happened it would all be over, the visions would quit, I'd get to start my real life again."

"Well, it is over," Dean said. "It's over, Sam. Demon's gone. War's stopped."

"Over," Sam said. "This is over?" He closed his eyes, and Dean jerked as the balcony doors slammed shut by themselves. The wooden curtain rings rattled over the rod as they dragged themselves closed to keep out the rising sun. The candles around the room crackled into flame, yellow light reflecting in Sam's eyes as he opened them again.

"I get visions twice a fucking week, more if I'm trying, and it's over?" Sam said, soft and bitter. "Sure, we got our revenge. Maybe if I was some kind of asshole, that would be enough and I could go back to law school and close my eyes and pretend I don't know what's happening to people out there. Pretend I can't do anything about it." He shook his head, and when he met Dean's eyes, he had a hollow look. "I'm not a saint, Dean, but I'm not a coward either."

"Sammy," Dean said, his throat tight. That fucked up selfish part of him should've been celebrating, and instead hearing Sam talk like that made him want to go out there right now and kill every goddamn evil thing left in the world, or maybe even cry. He hadn't wanted—he hadn't wanted to know this, to know that Sam really was trapped—

"I'm the one who can't walk away," Sam was saying, going on, his voice thick and low, "and you're the only one—you're the only one that—" He sounded so goddamn desperate, so goddamn broken, that by the time he was pushing Dean back down into the pillows again, Dean was just grateful for a way to make him stop talking, for a way to make it better, and he opened his mouth and tightened his hands into Sam's hair and let Sam have anything he wanted, everything he wanted, everything Dean had to give.

Dean woke up in the afternoon with Sam lying next to him in bed, sprawled out on his stomach naked, the sheet skating low just above his hips, one arm thrown loose over Dean's waist. Dean put an arm behind his head and stared up at the canopy, his other hand resting on Sam's arm, smooth ridged scar from that time with the vampires in Alabama under his fingers. The balcony doors had come open again, some cool air coming in. Sam's hand slowly spread wide on Dean's stomach.

"This is seriously fucked up, man," Dean said finally.

"More than the rest of our lives?" Sam said. He rolled over onto his back and yawned.

"Maybe not more, but we're sure opening up a whole new category," Dean said, trying not to sound too much like he was pleading, even though he'd go down on his knees to get out of this, because he was pretty sure it was already too late. Sam didn't answer.

After a while, they got up, brushed their teeth and put their clothes back on, and went out again. The sky didn't fall and the earth didn't open up under them. Sam took them through a dozen vintage and antique stores, sorting through boxes of estate jewelry until he found a pair of rings, old dark gold engraved with protective symbols, smoothed down by years but still there. He took Dean's hand in the back of a café on Bourbon Street and pushed the thick gold band steadily on: left hand, ring finger. He put the other one on himself while Dean drank another three glasses of whiskey, cool band clicking against the glass, match to the silver on his other hand.

They checked in early, just after dark, into a real hotel with gaslight at the front door and carpets you couldn't see through, and the clerk gave them their keycards without even bothering to ask. The bed had white sheets and didn't sag in the middle, and Sam tossed a drug store paper bag on the end table before he took off his jacket.

Dean stared at it and went for the hotel phone. "I need a steak for this."

He conducted his own private taste-test of the little bottles out of the minibar before the room service got there, and then they killed a bottle of red wine with the food. The comfortably numb wasn't going to last long, but Dean got up from the table and stripped down while it did, peeling his t-shirt off over his head, leaving his jeans and his shorts in the corner with it, and he threw himself onto the bed, on his back.

"Dean," Sam said softly, climbing onto the bed with him, broad hands on Dean's thighs spreading him open. Dean reached back over his head, gripped the headboard with both hands and stared up and breathed through his mouth. "Dean—" Sam was breathing ragged and warm against his skin, tasting him with slow licks and deliberate kisses, his fingers pressing in.

"Jesus," Dean said. His stomach muscles were clenching and relaxing in time with the slick easy strokes Sam was making in and out of him. "Okay, okay, come on already, I'm not going to lie around here all day."

"Shh," Sam said, like he was a horse or something that needed to be gentled, and okay, maybe there was a point in there somewhere, because when he finally got started, it took nearly all his weight to keep Dean from jerking them both right off the bed.

"Ow, man, that goddamn hurts," Dean said, but it didn't much, and his legs were locking around Sam's waist even though he'd planned to just lie there and take it. Sam was kissing him, sweet with wine and bourbon, his hands sliding up Dean's arms to wrap over his grip on the headboard, and then he held there, waiting.

"Yeah?" Sam asked, and Dean said, "Yeah," barely recognizing his own voice. Sam moved, and all of a sudden Dean was straining for it like it was something he'd wanted his whole fucking life, rocking up into it, every thrust, catching Sam's mouth whenever he could and only breaking off for air. And fuck, he needed air, gasping like crazy and he still couldn't get enough, their hips riding together hard and fast, and Jesus, it was even more wrong to want this than it was to be getting it, and he did anyway.

"Sam," he said, and clenched his jaw on the rest; he was not, repeat not, going to start begging for it, he wasn't going to—"Jesus, fuck, again," he said, his voice spiraling up into a whine, "come on, baby, come on, that's it, that's the way to give it to me, just like that—" Sam pinned him down, slammed him twice and all the way gone. Dean put back his head and yelled "Holy fuck!" at the top of his lungs, and went limp while the next door neighbors banged on the wall.

Sam did a pancake right on top of him after, his face mashed up against Dean's collarbone and one of his feet hanging off the side of the bed. Dean just slung an arm around his shoulders and lay there breathing hard, his mouth open, jazz coming in at the window and his brother asleep by his side.

Sam mumbled, "Shower." He didn't move.

"No fucking way do you get the first shower," Dean said. He didn't move either.

"You're the one who takes forever," Sam said. "What do you even do in there?"

Dean shoved him off and went.

By the time he got out, Sam had ordered up more room service and sent out all the laundry. They sat in the hotel bathrobes and ate through pancakes and omelettes and bacon. Dean finished first and sat there idly poking the strawberry garnish around with his fork until Sam took it off his plate and ate it. Sam looked at him through a haze of overgrown bangs, and Dean got up from the table and went to the window. He leaned out to get some air in his face, running a hand back through his hair.

"I didn't want to think about it either," Sam said from behind him, like he was answering something Dean had said, part of a conversation that hadn't stopped. "I've been pretending that this was going to have an end, that I could get out of this someday."

"You still can," Dean said. "Listen, nobody's got a right to ask you for this. You're not the only psychic left, not by a long shot, and most of them aren't on the road like this. Maybe if you weren't—traveling around, hunting, doing what we do, maybe your powers would calm down. Go away or something."

Sam snorted. "Yeah, except the only way I could test that theory is just ignore them for a while and see if it helps."

"So, fine," Dean said, turning around. "Anything you do see, I'll handle solo, or we'll hand it off to Ellen. Those fuckers can do your dirty work for a while."

"Dean—" Sam dropped his head a moment and raised it up. "Thanks, man," he said quietly. "But I can't. The things I see—these powers—they save people. I can't turn away from that."

"Yeah, and you're not a martyr," Dean muttered, shaking his head.

"Well, I don't goddamn want to be," Sam said. "That's what I'm talking about, Dean. If we're going to be doing this the rest of our lives—if this is it, if this is our life, then I want to live it. You're right, I don't want to eat Hot Pockets anymore and I don't want to sleep in fucking rat-nest motels on beds that make my back hurt."

"Man, you're turning into a real princess, you know that?" Dean said.

"Yeah, well, you're turning thirty this year, pal," Sam said.

"Shut up," Dean muttered; low blow.

"Whatever, the point is, all we do is kill things," Sam said. "This is the first break we've taken where neither of us is healing up from something, and more often than not, even then we've been doing research."

"So what do you want?" Dean said. "Come on, Sam, you think fucking is going to solve the problem?"

Sam just gave that little huffy half-smile of his. "I want—I want this, okay? We're traveling across the whole goddamn country, I want to spend a week in New Orleans. I want to lie on a beach in California. I want to see Yosemite without hunting a werebear. And yeah," he said, standing up and coming close, sliding his hands onto Dean's hips, "I want this, too. Listen to me, Dean, I love you—"

"Oh, God," Dean said, trying to squirm away.

"Sorry, man, you're going to have to sit there and take it this time," Sam said, pinning him up against the wall.

"Hey, there's been plenty of that going around already," Dean said, but Sam shut him up by kissing him, slow and deep, one kiss after another every time he tried to talk or eel away to one side or another, and finally he quit fighting and locked his hands behind Sam's neck, letting their foreheads rest together.

"I love you," Sam said quietly. "I need you. And I can't do this without you."

Dean breathed out hard, like getting hit in the gut. "You and me against the world, huh?"

"Yeah," Sam said, smiling a little.

"Yeah, okay," Dean said. "Sounds about right."

= End =

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