summary: Sam deliberates the legitimacy of fortunes and worries soulless-self may have let on too much.
a/n: This is for allback2mine for help_japan. I've lost all perspective, this could be entirely schmoop. Title because we, like everyone, were talking about this song. And, you know, "Great Wall of Sam."
The interview that afternoon had been a bust, and so they'd just spent an hour and a half reviewing newspaper clippings over two plates each at a Chinese place on Main Street. Even though they shared money, he'd gotten Dean to pay for dinner, citing it as the principle of the thing, his being the oldest. That settled, Sam shuffled papers back into the case file and cracked open his cookie one-handed.
"Ha!" Dean said across from him. "I've got: You will make the change you seek. In bed."
Sam wondered just how many times the wait staff had to hear someone use that phrase every day. He read his own fortune, staring at the small slip of paper for a quiet moment, before crumpling it deliberately into a ball and placing it next to his plate.
Dean trailed off talking. "What?"
"Nothing." He shoved back from the table and stood, put his hands in his pockets. "Let's head out."
Predictably, Dean snagged the fortune. He uncurled it with a small smile, stretching it out between two hands. After a tic, though, he crumpled it as well. He dropped it back on the table, shrugging awkwardly.
Sam didn't comment, just pushed out the door with the tinkling of a tiny bell. He looked over his shoulder and called, "Hurry up, man. The weather report said it was going to rain this afternoon." and kept on walking.
Sam based his stability in knowing things. If he didn't know things, he found out, and if he couldn't find out right away, he tracked the answer till he solved the mystery or got the thing dead enough to study.
Dean usually had his back.
So, understandably, this missing time was killing him. Dean wasn't with him on it, for one, and he wasn't allowed to even think about following up on what could be something disastrous, something damning. He only had the one secret that was really worth anything, but he didn't trust himself not to have said something over the past six months. In fact, it seemed illogical that he wouldn't have; he had a hard enough time not letting on in the first place, and that was on a good day, stone-cold sober and soul-included.
Dean was ambling down the sidewalk beside him, and sent one of those glances his way, looked at him askance as they neared the car, like he was thinking.
"'Look within,' huh?" he finally muttered. "It's just a mass-produced fortune, you know that, right? Don't believe that shit."
"Yeah, I know." And Sam knew that this conversation was useless, but some part of him needed Dean to get it. "It's just, I can't 'look within' and I can't look anywhere else. How can I make any sort of judgment when I don't even know what's happened?"
"Hey," Dean said, pulling him to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk. "We make our own destiny, remember? We've met Fate, and she's just a pretty girl with a clipboard now, out of a job."
"I guess...." Although Dean was kind of missing the point entirely.
"Sam. It doesn't matter what happened. Now let's go hit a bar or something, move on."
"Dean, I just...I'm trying. But you gotta know how hard it is, not to even ask you what I did, what I said."
Dean looked away, and it could have meant anything. This not knowing had Sam jumping at shadows.
"Really," he said. "If there was anything, anything at all that I said, you gotta know that--"
Dean stepped in closer, then, and caught his gaze like he was quieting some demon, the personal kind, the kind you kept in your mind and quelled with morally-ambiguous rationalizations and good intentions. Sam saw the inaccuracy, but went with it anyhow. He twisted his hands into the collar of Dean's jacket, and Dean looked him in the eyes, searching out conviction.
"I've got it taken care of," he said. "I'm not holding any of what you said against you, you need to trust me on that."
And that pissed Sam off to no end. They'd had this conversation before.
"That wasn't you." Dean worried at his bottom lip and Sam watched him do it, breath going shallow, time stretching like it would last.
Street sounds rushed abruptly back in when a driver lay on the horn. A woman tittered from where her dog was peeing on a fire hydrant, and some kid said, "Get a room, homo," like even a ten-year-old could see it was only one of them. Sam went red, he could feel it all over, and there was a lot of him.
He turned and walked away.
"Sammy," Dean said behind him.
"I'll see you back at the house, Dean."
"You're not embarrassed, are you? Angry?" Dean called after him. "How are you even getting back?"
Sam waved behind him.
"Aw, c'mon!" Sam heard him kick a garbage can, which clanked down onto the curb. "I hope your little tantrum is freakin' worth it!"
The lights were fine, albeit low, but the dark Victorian-print paper was curling from the walls in strips and caulk was crumbling. The weather had been brisk and threatening the whole two hours it had taken to walk back here, and now it was bucketing down, fat raindrops pelting the single-pane windows, the roof of the place keeping out the deluge only by some sort of structural miracle.
The evening was sliding towards ten pm, and Sam had run out of things he wanted to do; he'd read on the couch until he'd reached a good stopping point in Dean's book, he'd looked at the murder profile again and decided to leave it till tomorrow when they could find some place with wifi. He'd also decided he would apologize when Dean got back, but that had been earlier on, before he'd called five times. Dean wasn't answering, which meant he was either dead or just being a dick. Both possibilities made Sam angry.
He glanced at the dark window. He really didn't want to have to go out in that, without a car no less. What he wanted was for Dean to walk in the door, whole and fine, so Sam could yell a little and also apologize for any gay advances he'd made without his memory. He'd been stupid, he hadn't been emotionally accountable. It had been three months since he'd gotten his soul back, three months of suspecting that Dean knew, and it just had to stop. Something about the night made him certain that when Dean got back, and he would, Sam would finally have the courage to smooth it over and they'd pretend to forget it.
Not how it went.
The old door slammed open down the hall, making the windows rattle. The sound of boots on the damp floorboards, and Dean yelling, "Home sweet home. Bored without me, Sammy?"
"You try tracking down a psychopath with no internet," he called back. He swung to sitting, steeling himself for the apology.
Then there was a different voice, not Dean's. "Psychopath?"
"Don't worry about it," Dean said.
Shit. When he came in, he had some other guy in tow. They were both entirely soaked through, dripping puddles where they came to stand, but in apparent good humor. Great, even. Drunk?
"I'll get you some stuff to wear," Dean said. "I've seen like ten guys die from pneumonia."
"No. Sam, clothes."
Sam sighed and went to a duffel laid open on the floor, and found a shirt. No way he was giving up one of his two pairs of jeans. While the guy was changing, Sam jerked a thumb at him and whispered to Dean, "Where'd you pick this up?"
"Hey!" the guy said. "I'm right here!"
Dean grabbed a strip of beef jerky from a bag on the coffee table, and then said, while chewing, "Name's Lee. Met 'im in a bar."
Lee snorted, pulling on the shirt. "A gay bar."
"That what that was?" Dean made a 'hm' face, then shrugged and sat to pull off his own soaked jacket.
"How, exactly, did that escape your attention?"
"Guys buy me drinks all the time. It's not exactly something I notice." He bent to untie one boot, then the next. He tossed them into a corner. "Then it rained on us. This kid's from California, was out in a thermal and that's it."
"Look," Lee said. "I can just go catch a cab outside."
Sam took in his drowned appearance. He sighed, and gestured for him to take a seat on the couch.
"No, you can stay, it's not you." He turned his gaze on Dean, who was taking off his shirt now, switching it out for a dry one from his bag. "So he's not used to the weather--what's your excuse? Dropped your phone in a puddle?"
"Surly, isn't he?" Lee said.
Dean raised an eyebrow at Sam. "You're telling me."
Eleven at night and they were halfway through a bottle. They'd started a fire with some wood they'd thought to bring in that morning, before the flood, and although Dean and Lee had a head start, Sam caught up to them quickly, just downing it. Eleven thirty came around and found them recounting stupid-as-shit stories in the dry heat near the flames.
"Yeah, I hitchhiked here," Lee said. Sam was impressed. Lee was kind of too nice, maybe, for that sort of thing. And for the hundredth time, he wondered what had possessed Dean to bring this guy back.
"Bet you're not the dangerous sort of hitchhiker," Dean said. "Because let me tell you, Sam here once got tied to a post by some chick he met on the road."
"You're joking. Is he joking?"
"Swear to God almighty," Dean sent Sam a secret smile, even though at the time they'd been battered and bloody. "He met her hitchhiking, she was crazy as all get out. Demon worship, and shit."
"You know what?" Sam said. "That is so misleading, Dean."
"Fine," Dean said. "You tell it, then. How did it really go down?"
Sam hesitated, flicking a look at Lee then back. "First of all, you were in it just as much as I was."
Lee raised a finger. "Clarification: so she did tie you up?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Ok sure," he said, and then had to raise his voice to make himself heard over the crowing of laughter from both sides: "But she was strong as hell! And she wasn't like that the first time I met her, I swear."
"You guys on a road trip, or something?" Lee asked. He shoved Dean, who was still laughing next to him.
Sam smiled. "Somethin' like that."
"An extended one," Dean said, catching his breath, wiping tears from his eyes. "Hey California. Pass the Jack."
Sam almost reached for it, but stopped himself.
"He went to Stanford for undergrad," Dean explained, accepting the bottle.
"No shit!" Lee said. "I had friends who went there."
They talked about Palo Alto and it all started coming back. How there weren't any coffee shops in that town, only Starbucks, and a bunch of yuppies lived there which had made Sam feel like he'd entered some alternate universe where you washed your jeans after you'd worn them rather than out of pure necessity, when the blood stains had become too obvious. He didn't miss it, not really, not anymore.
Lee went to the bathroom out back at some point, and Sam said, "Seriously, he's great, but who is he?"
"Potential vic," Dean said. "After you ditched me, I did a little diggin' of my own. Found the suspect creeping on this guy and got him out through a subtle manipulation of the situation. But kid couldn't go back to his motel room, so I told him to come back here."
"Translation," Sam said, having reached the stage of great eloquence. "You were at a bar. Happened to be the right place at the right time, our suspect's MO: pick some guy up in a public place, then suck his brains out. You see this about to go down, so you get Lee away by hitting on him, asking him back to your place. He accepts, expecting something, only to find that some other guy is at said creepy mansion. Meaning he isn't getting any."
"You're not just some guy," Dean said, but Sam talked over him.
"And now he feels awkward."
"But alive," Dean pointed out. He swigged out of the bottle, and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "Face it, I'm a hero."
"And kind of a jerk," Sam said. "I'd be pissed."
Sam wrestled the bottle away and drank the last quarter inch, tentatively happy. It was probably all over his face because Dean was looking at him, fighting a smile. He kicked him in the leg instead, and said, "Shaddup."
Sam felt that usual, fond sort of warmth towards him. It was something pyrotechnic, something energized and understood, never needing to be expressed in so many words. He thought about this while the ceiling spun vaguely overhead, until Dean's hands were on him and he had to open his eyes again.
"C'mon, baby boy," Dean said, face not quite clear. The fire was just embers, they hadn't thrown any more wood on, and Sam was wasted. "Come on, Sam. Time to pass out somewhere. Not here."
When he stood, he knocked over the empty handle. Dean said something about Cinderella reverting back to her alcoholic house-keeper self by midnight, falling into the pumpkin patch and expecting the mice to offer her a ride home. This sent them into hysterics, Sam found himself in the bedroom off to the side telling Lee emphatically that yes, he should take the bed, he was their guest, and no, Sam would not be able to sleep comfortably knowing he'd denied their guest a sleeping bag.
Then, after stumbling around a bit more and examining himself in the bathroom mirror, touching the skin around his eyes in the neon lights for an indeterminate amount of time, he stole on quiet feet to the living room. If there was one thing he'd learned from all of it, everything, was that there was no time like the present. He had to see his brother.
He found Dean before the laptop, legs splayed and lounging in the white-blue light, staring blankly. He watched him for a second, blearily took in the low but emotive dialogue and indie music coming from the speakers, and then he said, "What are you watching?"
Sam might as well have come up behind him and said 'Boo' judging by the way Dean jumped. He fumbled for the remote, but there wasn't one. He closed the computer instead, casting them in darkness.
"I know what you're doing," Sam said. He found his way over to him in the pitch and collapsed onto the couch.
"Not watching Dr. Sexy, is what."
"So are." Sam knew this because he retained the afterimage of Dr. Sexy on the back of his eyelids.
"I thought you were asleep," Dean said in the darkness. Sam tipped over in his lap, laying his head on Dean's thigh, finding him by touch the way dad had taught them, hand meeting limb and doing a sweep up to the chest to make sure it really was his brother. That was Dean's hip, that was Dean's heartbeat. He stretched out with his feet far out over the arm.
"Get off me," Dean said, something Sam didn't have to see, not a speck of force in it. He hummed a little in response, and Dean said, "What's been buggin' you, dude? You've been totally annoying all week."
"Would you do something, Dean? You do something, if I ask you to?"
"Fine, just spit it out. We should get some rest."
"Promise me. Dean, promise me that you'd tell me if I--"
"If you what?"
"Promise me, You gotta do it, tell me if I said anything to you, did anything at all, when I can't remember it. Please Dean, you're not supposed to know." Words had gotten away from him but that sounded about right. He had ultimate faith that Dean could make sense of him. "Why are you laughing?"
Dean was shaking. He put a heavy hand on Sam's hair that Sam tried to duck away from. "It's just cute, Sammy. The way you always get me to make these elaborate promises, you know? Even though we both know you're not going to remember them. It's like, it's like you're giving me something to keep watch over. You won't remember in the morning."
The wind was howling outside and the house felt like a living thing, creaking and moaning with the worst of it. There wasn't anywhere they needed to get to just now, this late at night, this way. There wasn't anywhere they needed to be. Sam waited for Dean to promise, could have waited forever but for the gentle act of falling asleep.
The next morning, Sam was brushing his teeth on the porch in a fresh flannel shirt and dirty jeans. Mist curled around on the ground, and the gravel road disappeared into whiteness at fifty paces.
Lee came to lean against the damp, wood railing. "Can I use some of that?"
Sam handed him the smushed toothpaste tube and balanced the Georgia Springs bottle on the railing for him.
"Well, it's stopped raining," he said. He spit into the dead grass over the side, after which he leaned on his elbows, dangling his hands over the edge. "I checked on my phone, and it's probably going to start pouring in another hour or so, so if you want to get out now, I can give you a ride somewhere once Dean gets back."
"Okay." The weak quality of Lee's voice, though, made him look up. The guy was rubbing toothpaste over his teeth in a half-hearted way, finger in his mouth, skin kind of greenish tinged. There was a cast of tragedy about his eyes.
"I mean, you can stay here, too," Sam said. "If you're not feeling up to it. I can drive you out in a few hours if you need to lie down."
"You wouldn't mind? I don't feel like I can leave just yet. I drank--" he took a deep breath, and swayed against a post, wrapping an arm around it like it was a lifeline on a roiling sea. "--I drank too much."
"Yeah," Sam said, sympathetic. "Dean drinks a lot."
Lee looked at him like he was crazy. "You drink just as much. Maybe more."
"If I didn't, Dean'd be drinking alone," Sam said. Which, now that he thought about it, had used to seem like a problematic rationale, but now he lived by it. "I mean, ok, usually I have beer, so I got pretty fucked up last night, too."
"I'm gonna--" Lee said, and he took a sad sip of water.
"Okay," Sam said. He patted at Lee's shoulder. "Take your time."
Dean arrived sooner than later with two brown bags that had grease soaking through in circles. He dropped them onto the table near Sam's feet, and handed Sam a coffee, and then looked surreptitiously around the room, like Lee might be passed out behind the empty china cabinet.
"He's still here," Sam said. "We wore him out though. Too bad this place doesn't have running water, because he looks like he's about to start puking his guts out."
"Man needs some bacon. Lee! Breakfast!" He sat down in the middle of the ripped sofa, smacking Sam lightly on one knee. "You alright there, kiddo? You were really out of it last night, real handsy and shit."
"Really?" Sam took a few advil with his coffee. "What did I say?"
"Well the night was dark and stormy," Dean said. "And I, of course, held my liquor real well, like a pro. None of this face grabbing and weird requests. Get the job done while maintaining my cuttingly witty, yet attractive, composure--"
"That's called being a functional alcoholic."
Dean looked at him with disgust. "Thanks, Nightingale. Eat your damn Egg McMuffin."
They ate for a while in the natural light, gulping coffee. They'd found this run-down house on their way into town yesterday, lucky break because they were running low on money. Same old, same old, nothing to worry about. On the abandoned couch, Dean stole a slice of his bacon and Sam squeezed four packets of ketchup on the rest of his food so Dean would think twice before taking that, too.
After eating, Sam cleared his throat. "I didn't, ah. I didn't say anything last night, did I?"
"Oh jeeze, not this again," Dean muttered.
"You asked me the same thing last night," he said. "But about soulless you."
"Really?" Sam got shifty-feeling, didn't know where to look.
Dean pursed his lips and stared into the middle distance for a second, gathered what he wanted to say. Then he turned. "You didn't, Sam. You didn't say anything. I don't know what you mean, exactly. It was what you did, if anything, and you didn't do anything to me. You have to understand that, or you're just gonna be beating yourself up about it forever."
He didn't continue till he'd caught Sam's eye, and when he did, he looked sincere. "I do know it was you...and we're good."
Sam drove Lee back to town, dropped him off at the bus station. Along the way, it was drizzling, the sort of afternoon perfect for getting takeout pizza and then tracking down a brain-sucker.
"Dean. He's a good guy," Lee said, breaking the quiet.
Saved your life last night, Sam wanted to tell him. He would have said it, in another world. Instead he just kept his eyes on the road, watched the evergreen trunks zipping by along the shoulder, and said, "I know."
"No, I mean, he really cares about you."
Sam laughed. "I know. He's not exactly shy about telling me."
They drove for a while, past a People's convenience store and a Target, some strip malls with parking lots half full of SUVs. Sam wanted to give the guy something, invite him in for a second, maybe, didn't want to leave him with the wrong impression. It was inexplicable.
He found himself saying, "You know, every few weeks he'll have this sort of breakdown, Dean will. Where he'll kind of grab me and try to have this heart-to-heart, and then, right after, he acts like it was my idea, like it's a total chick thing to talk about feelings, something he'd never do. He's even cried, once or twice. Real pretty."
Lee laughed, and sat back, wearing his rain-crusted clothing from the night before which had been dried out by the fire on the back of a chair. Sam could sense he still had something on his mind, and sure enough:
"It's just, I was having this conversation with him last night, at the bar," he said. "I think maybe I read the situation wrong, it really did sound like a pickup line it was so cheesy."
Sam steeled himself. "What'd he say?"
"He said," Lee rubbed a hand over his face. "It sounds so stupid. He downs a shot, and then looks me, right in the eye, says, 'Hey, do you believe in fate.'" Sam groaned, and Lee nodded, "I know, I know. I started talking to him, though, told him, hell no I didn't, but nice line, buddy. And he backed off a little, and then we had a good conversation. Turns out he was looking for advice. Said he knew someone who just wouldn't accept that you're your own person, not some playing piece in the divine scheme of things, how he wished said person would just go for it, already, not let what was expected, the probable outcome, hold him back."
The station was coming up ahead. Sam made the left turn. "Yeah, sounds like something he'd say."
"Just for the record, there's nothing metaphysical about it. All the pieces are there, in front of you."
The car pulled to a stop near a Greyhound. Lee got out, slammed the door. It didn't look like he was going to answer, but then he thunked the roof with a hand and said through the window, "He's in love with you, man."
Sam gripped the wheel. He thought, this wasn't some movie where every line was poignant and a stranger opened your eyes to what had been unfolding all along, it wasn't.
"Strong word," he said mildly.
Lee waved dismissively. "You think I don't know that? Jesus, get outta here."
On the way back, Sam couldn't get Lee's words out of his head. So he was compulsive, people saying shit to him was dangerous. He was already dreading what he might do next.
The rain had turned to hail by the time he got back. The world looked desperate and wild, with real, white sheets of the stuff that were hitting the windshield hard so he could barely see. It would probably scratch the paint job. The car bounced up the pitted dirt path and up towards the sad, old house, just barely visible, gray turned blue in the wet weather, whole thing obscured by pine trees and weeds and frozen rain.
He opened the door of the Impala and walked out into it, ice pelting him on his arms, atop his head to slip down the neck of his shirt, beating the life into him. He jogged up the five steps to the porch, yanked open the side door and kept jogging into the house, the air musty and dryish.
When he came into the living room, he stopped for a second, just past the doorway. Dean had a fire going, the scene was so homey. He slammed the laptop closed instantly upon Sam's arrival.
"Hey," he said, rubbing a hand at the back of his neck.
Sam felt stretched thin, taut, ready to do something, but first: "You know it'll just start up again when I open it."
"What'll start up?"
"What you were watching. And because we don't have the internet, it means you downloaded it before this, probably yesterday, and I can find out what it is."
"It's a new season," Dean muttered. "And I was bored. Anyway. California get back alright? Talk about anything good?"
Sam advanced on him, stood at his knees so that Dean had to look up. "Nothing I didn't already know."
Dean took a moment to consider him, and Sam could almost swear it, that he knew, whether Sam'd been the one to tell him or if just by design.
"Well," Dean finally said. "That sounds boring."
"Said you were a good guy."
"Yeah?" He was biting his lip again. Sam wanted to do anything at this point. Lick over that spot, something. So he did. He put a hand to Dean's face, light fingers to his jaw.
"I told him you were a total wimp," he said. "That you pretend like you're not saying things, but I know you are."
And that was going to be it. Even this was overstepping. If Dean didn't respond, Sam would laugh it off, die of what-ifs. But then Dean moved, stubble rasping over the pads of Sam's fingertips as he turned his face into it, breath hot against Sam's palm.
"I hope some piece of crap horoscope didn't tell you that."
Sam edged a knee into the cushion and Dean pulled him down the rest of the way, looping his arms loosely around Sam's neck like it was something they did all the time. And Sam could have found him with his eyes closed, pressing up against him with everything: this was his shoulder, this was his mouth.