Summary: Dean tells RoboSam that he'd have to be paid a large sum to sleep with him. Challenge accepted.
Warnings: Non-sex dubcon. RoboSam is a creep, okay?
a/n: So, I used to write fic with no beta and no discussion with any outside person, which was fun and had a nice sense of disconnect, but what is even more fun is bugging every person in the universe about the fic I'm writing. So, a ridiculously large amount of people looked at this in emails and such. checkthemargins is pretty much to blame for this one, but other people I would like to thank profusely are oddishly, merrymilkmaid, lavishsqualor, riyku, britomart_is, faithgrowsold, and my good friend and ally samsnow.
Podfic: By me!
(On a side note, there is the most awkward conversation happening to my right and it is making me depressed, haha. Oh my god I cannot handle this. Fandom, I love you for all of your political correctness, why are you not an actual city we can all live in? I do realize I say this right before posting something with horrifying implications. Ummm yes. Okay, enjoy.)(I just want RoboSam and Dean's relationship status to be "It's complicated in a big way")
Dean's sitting at the edge of the slept-in bed, sheets built up against one side. He tightens the laces of one of his boots and thinks about breakfast like it's his one salvation. Butter, syrup, shortstack: sometimes a man needs his pancakes.
Sam's by the window where he's presumably been all night. He clears his throat but Dean gets his other boot on before addressing it.
Sam has one elbow resting on the table, his chin propped on his fist. He's gazing out into the parking lot.
"I want to blow you."
Dean doesn't pause, if anything just yanks his laces tighter and knots them into a death-bow, then stands, a fight or flight response.
"No," he says.
He shrugs his jacket on. Sam stays where he is but looks Dean's way, eyes drifting down his shirt front, lingering at his crotch area, and then curving down a leg. "Hm," he says.
Dean jerks the room door open and stomps into the sunlight. The parking lot fries him like an egg on his way to the car, Sam trailing him like a shadow.
"I really want to blow you," Sam says again, twenty minutes later with only two feet and a bowl of sugars between them.
Dean swallows with a click and ignores him, staring at the menu.
"I give good head."
"Oh my god," Dean says.
Nancy arrives at the table with a pad of paper to take their orders, pencil at the ready. "What can I get for you boys?"
"If incest is your only argument, I'm calling bullshit," Sam tells Dean, cool as you please. "You've wanted to fuck me since I was fourteen."
The tip of Nancy's pencil snaps. "Oh, uh, I need a new...I'll be right back." She gives them some privacy.
Sam clasps his hands on the tabletop and leans forward to repeat: "I really want to blow you."
Dean laughs, but not really. "You forget that I don't care what you want," he says. "No matter how many times you tell me."
"Fourth time's the charm?"
Sam's knee knocks Dean's under the table. "What if I begged?"
Dean jerks his knee away and glares down at his menu, flipping to the second page even though it brings him to Dinner. "Ha. You'd have to pay me a very large amount of money, and even then it would be a cold day in hell."
Even though his head's aching with a special, dull sort of stress dependent on how souled Sam is, Dean's feeling thankful that at least he's shut this one down, left no room for discussion. But then Sam comes out with, "Oh? How much?"
Dean squeezes the bridge of his nose. "Jesus."
"I mean, if you're working the money angle...are we talking hundreds? Thousands?" Sam taps his fingers on the tabletop, thinking. "It would take a lot to pay off that load of guilt so I'd hazard at least five grand. Am I right? No? More? Well, it's lucky I redid my resume."
"You—" Dean pauses. "Wait a second...redid?"
"I've had one that I update every once and a while, just in case." Sam allows a merciful two seconds for that to set in, some glimmer of real empathy, before shifting in his seat and getting back on track. "So, no set price?"
"How about I get a job and we'll talk," says Sam. "How does that sound?"
Dean snaps. "I don't care!" He gives up on reading, folds the menu and drops it on its spine near the napkins. "I don't care. Just shut the hell up."
Nancy returns, looking refreshed, less shocked. "So, what'll I get you?" she asks with a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes.
"Bacon, sausage, rye toast." Sam rings it off like a lazy firing squad, leg pressing Dean's again under the table. "And five eggs over easy."
Dean leans back in the booth, resigned. "Just coffee for me, thanks."
Sam's a tenacious guy, which has annoyed Dean for as long as he can remember. Accordingly, he hasn't dropped the subject by middle Alabama. Being less one soul doesn't mean a complete personality overhaul.
So, despite there being no job, every lead on an alpha run dry, and ample mosquitoes in these parts, Dean practically pulls over on the side of the highway and calls stay because he can't handle another hour in the car, angry and turned on and next to his remorseless asshole of an excuse for a brother. They reach a motel at long last, and Dean's finally slotting the key card into their room door, sweat beading the back of his neck and under his arms. He's uncomfortable, dammit.
"We're stopping here for a week or three," he says. "No argument."
Sam probably thinks Dean's given up on the big picture, confirmation of failure.
"I'm not quitting," Dean clarifies. "We're just cooling our heels until we catch a lead."
He watches the corners of Sam's mouth curl. It's the first time Dean's looked at him in over three hours.
"Whatever you say."
And that right there is why; if Dean never has to listen to the cool smirk in Sam's voice ever again it will be too soon.
The first day in town, asshole in question fucks off somewhere on foot and Dean thinks, Good riddance.
It's a relief to get Sam out of his hair, even if Dean does feel some vague worry about letting him loose on the general public. Meanwhile, he just hangs around. He strikes up an accord with the dude who owns the motel and can feel the tension go out of his shoulders because for once he's not hiking them up against some un-Sam-like comment or the weird way Sam looks at him, like he can see right through him.
He goes on a supply run. They need heavy duty glue and a tarp for the trunk for when they have carcasses they can't burn on the spot, so after lunch he heads over to Home Depot. And when he comes out around the side, he sees a familiar hulking figure in a crowd of guys moving boxes from the back of a truck.
Dean looks to his left and his right and then back to Sam. Sam, who is actually working. He'd said he would, but Dean hadn't believed him.
After watching for a second, Dean shakes his head, making the decision to walk away.
Five minutes later finds him back with a French cruller, and a cup of hot coffee which he balances on his knee while he sits on the hood of his car and watches Sam act like a normal guy. It's kind of hilarious once you get past the fact that Sam's only trying to get his hands on some money so that Dean will put out.
Sam's lifting a couple crates onto a cart with no apparent effort, wearing an orange Home Depot apron, a white t-shirt, and a stern expression. The late July is barely short of sweltering, and just existing motionless watching this is putting sweat on Dean's nose.
He's still sitting there when someone hollers, "Hey, Winchester!"
He and Sam jerk their heads in that direction.
"Thursday's beer night," the guy says, pushing another box into the back of the truck. "You in?"
Dean watches as Sam shakes his head and says, "I can't spend any money."
"Oh yeah? Saving up?"
Dean winces a second before Sam nods seriously and says, "I'm paying my brother to sleep with me."
Alone, without Sam cataloging his every reaction and Sam throwing the concept off-handedly to some stranger, Dean's hit with the kind of flush that runs across the back of his neck and burns up his cheeks like a wildfire, his palms going clammy.
He gets prickles down his spine, though, when Sam continues. "He's not giving in so I figure somewhere in the low thousands should do it."
And abruptly, Sam's off work early.
Caught somewhere between amusement and horror, Dean pulls himself together and leaves his coffee cup by a wheel to wander over. He nods to one of the workers moving away and says, kind of mean but Sam is a fucking creep, "I gotta say, I'm impressed. You're doing good. Totally kept a job for—" he does the math on his fingers. "Five hours?"
"Couldn't stay away, huh?" Sam shoots back, implication heavy in his voice.
"Just making sure you're not stowing bodies."
Sam grunts and pushes past him.
Dean feels smug the entire drive back to the motel.
Sam heads out the next morning, presumably to find another place of business that's willing to hire a sociopath. It's more funny than anything, dude trying to make big money on minimum wage, that and the fact that he thinks Dean can actually be convinced. At least this way Dean can get a bunch of shit done, something other than dicking around America, sweating on the driver's side next to Sam and missing him.
First thing's first: brake pads. In passing, the motel clerk recommended Dean go to his buddy's autoshop, so Dean ducks in there that afternoon.
There's the hot smell of oil in the air, and a guy in the back about Dean's height with his arm in a toolbox. He wipes his hands off on a rag when Dean comes in.
"Hey, name's Ryan." He shakes Dean's hand. "What can I do for you?"
"So, I drive a '67 Chevy Impala," Dean says.
Ryan is a fan of baseball and classic cars. He lets Dean poke around the engine of a yellow Camaro he's fixing up, and one thing leads to another and they wind up drinking beers and kicking back the way two guys can when they share an honest appreciation for beauty.
"So what brings you to town?" Ryan asks at last. He's off the clock now.
Over the years, Dean has been asked this question more times than any other, and his old answer's on the tip of his tongue. But Sam's not Sam right now, and it feels like betrayal to act like he is, even to a stranger.
"There's this guy," he says instead, even though that doesn't quite sit right either, too much like he and Sam have just met, an impossible idea and a disservice to history.
It's only when Ryan says, "Oh yeah?" that Dean realizes he's stopped.
"We're traveling," he says. "Have been for a while. But we've kind of...hit a rough spot. So when we came through town we decided to stick around for a time."
"So, this guy...?" Ryan lets it trail off into infinity.
Dean blinks at him.
"No. What?" He gets an itchy panic, right under his skin."No, it's not like that, I...he's my brother."
"All right," Ryan says, with the air of one putting their hands up, saying 'It's cool.'
Dean goes on, rolling his shoulders. "Yeah, my brother. He got this idea into his head that he needs to earn some money, get a job. Stop hustling and follow his dreams."
Ryan laughs. "Something legal? Bo-ring."
"Yeah, that's what I told him, but kid's made his mind up, so. I'm letting it run its course."
Ryan shrugs. "Yeah. You sound like a good brother."
Dean thinks of watching Sam fall into the Pit. He thinks about how he's wanted to put his hands all over Sam his whole life almost, thinks about Sam propositioning him over a yellowed diner table. "Not really," he says.
Dean searches out a bar that evening but stops in the doorway when he sees who exactly is arranging the cherries and stacking beer coasters.
"For real?" he mutters.
Eventually, he takes a seat. Sam makes a 'huh' face when he looks over and there's Dean, but that's about all as far as indication of surprise.
A second later, a double slides across the counter and Dean stops it on reflex.
"You giving out free drinks to just anyone?" he asks, catching light in the rim of the glass.
"You're not just anyone," Sam says. It makes Dean grind his teeth against unspoken things.
He throws down a five, pissed. "Quit it. And what are you so happy about?"
"It's just...you tipping me for drinks is basically you paying me to fuck you."
After Sam is unceremoniously told to close out his tabs and leave the premises for sexual harassment, Dean is given another free drink, this time from the owner in apology. He downs it and then steps out into the warm night, and Sam steps out of the shadows to meet him.
"You looking to score a ride?" Dean asks, shoving down that second-nature relief that Sam's waited for him.
"Might as well."
It's a summer night with teenagers hanging out on corners and cars zipping by on the street, and the silence between them is almost companionable. Dean pulls out his lighter and flips it open, shut, open, shut as they walk.
When they get to where they're parked, Dean says, not unkindly, "Maybe you should give it up."
"It's embarrassing, man." He unlocks the car and slides in. "You're a menace to society, freaking out the good citizens. This whole thing is stupid."
He doesn't exactly feel for the guy, but after they get things straightened out, Sam is going to be embarrassed and Dean will feel at least a little responsible. Not to mention Sam abandoning this whole thing might mean Dean can sleep a little better at night.
Sam gets in on his side and is quiet for a long time. It's not until they're half way to their motel that he says, "We'll see."
Dean doesn't answer.
"It's really funny, though," Sam continues. "I know you think it's funny, me getting fired like that. Did you see that guy's face?"
Dean huffs in annoyance. Even if it was hilarious, it's not like he'd admit it.
Sam learns from his mistakes. It's like a robot conforming to human modes of communication out of necessity, and Dean witnesses it firsthand the following Monday when he steps in through the open flowershop door and loiters around some big, white lily things to eavesdrop.
"From what you did to that last arrangement, I'm guessing you've never so much as picked out a bouquet at a supermarket," the cashier says, trimming a browning leaf off of a stalky plant. "You're on rose duty for now, until you get a better eye for it. We don't do contrasting colors in this establishment."
"Yes, ma'am," says Sam.
"What made you want to work here, anyway?"
"I'm trying to prove myself," Sam says, and Dean holds his breath. "Earn honest money, impress someone."
When Dean peers around to check Sam's face to see if he's lying, Sam is intently slotting some fuzzy-looking white flowers into an arrangement of roses, but the cashier looks pleasantly surprised, cheeks pink with a charmed smile. Dean rolls his eyes and recedes again.
"Yeah, I'm trying to convince him," Sam continues, smoothly, somewhat sardonic. "To let me...take him out."
That's what the guys are calling it these days.
The door dings then, and Dean grabs a bunch of white carnations to examine.
"You're up," the cashier tells Sam.
A woman comes in and steps up to the counter. "My aunt just passed," she says. "What's an appropriate flower arrangement to express one's condolences?"
Sam considers this, tapping long fingers on the glass countertop.
"How much did you like your aunt?"
"You're obviously willing to spend more money if you like the person," Sam says in tones of one condescending to explain basic fact. "So, it depends. We've got some funeral arrangements in the back that go for an exorbitant price, but we also have—"
"Out," the cashier tells him, pointing the way with her clippers. "Just leave."
Dean doesn't turn around until Sam has exited the shop. When he steps out from behind the lilies, both women look at him like he was somehow involved.
"Ma'am," he says, and hands the customer the carnations.
That night, Sam comes back driving an ice cream truck.
Of the 17 jobs Sam is eventually hired at and then subsequently fired from, ice cream truck driver is among Dean's top five for pure shock value alone. He pushes aside the curtain and gapes as the truck trundles into the motel parking lot to pull in across from their room.
Dean stands on the curb Sam's one day on the job, watching while a young mother drags her excited children away to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star after catching a glimpse of Sam in the front seat.
This tops even Sam's next stint as a drive-thru worker where he is required to wear a paper hat, and a couple days later when he's been hired as a pastry apprentice, which he's actually decent at but is let go for, as the owner puts it, "having a passion for blueberry, and an utter disregard for all other flavors." The customers also complain that the frosting cake-endearments are lackluster at best.
Dean makes a 'hm' noise of non-interest from the bed.
"It's about our deal."
Dean gets that coil of unease in his stomach. They haven't outright mentioned the subject since that conversation in the diner over a week and a half ago.
"We don't have a deal," Dean says, keeping it together admirably. "You decided out of the blue you wanted to go the incest route and I said no, and you said I'm going to make myself useful somewhere else and I said Okay, good, taking a break from your face is fine by me."
Message delivered, he forces himself to relax, trying not to think of how Sam systematically going about trying to buy sex from him's got him going just the smallest bit. He is rifling through newspaper clippings and thus has no time for the topic of Sam getting with, in, or otherwise on him.
Sam kicks out a heel to land on the bed and reaches back to grab the headboard, almost like he's cuffed there. Dean glances hastily away because he hadn't noticed he was staring until he realized he was considering whether Sam was wearing his pair of jeans with a normal zipper or the ones with all the buttons.
"Look," Sam says.
Dean shakes his head free of any guilt because really, he's only human. Anyone would be hot for it by this point. He picks up a second article.
"I've been trying to figure out why you're holding out," says Sam. "You don't seem impressed by the money."
"Yeah, no shit," Dean says.
"So, maybe you want more than money. I know stuff. Stuff I've never told you. Stuff that could be important to you."
The article is now balled up on the table but it wasn't important anyway. Dean stares at the wood grain.
"Maybe you want to know what I really think about you, about all that pent up unhappiness, issues with Dad, issues with you. Maybe you want a laundry list of my secret desires so you can make all my dreams come true."
Dean gets to his feet and clenches his hands by his sides and watches Sam watch him, calculating.
"It could be real simple," Sam says. "I'll answer you anything. Just take off your pants and get over here, it's hot anyway. Can't believe you haven't stripped down, it's gotta be 90 in here, windows open."
Dean is sweating.
"Taking a shower," he mutters instead, for no reason at all, it's not like he's talking to anyone, not really.
He makes it to the bathroom door, gets his hand on the frame before Sam calls after him.
"What do you want from me?"
"I don't want anything," Dean lies.
"I'll tell you anything. And I won't lie to you. Lying's for dicks and cowards."
"Okay," Dean says after a beat. "Tell me one thing, then."
"Would real Sam be telling me any of that shit?"
"No," Sam says. "That's why I'm better."
Dean's lip curls. "No, that's why Sam might get his dick up me but there's no way in hell you're getting anywhere close."
The bathroom door clicks behind him and he strips down and jerks himself off roughly in a cold shower, picturing Sam where he's laid out on a garish motel topsheet in the other room, miles of legs. It fucking sucks. But who is he kidding, Dean thinks, biting his lip; he's been doing this for years.
Sam's gone when Dean wakes up the next morning and isn't there when he gets back from a day of hanging around town, either. Dean doesn't care.
He wakes up the following morning to Sam pulling on a jacket and opening the door.
Sam looks over, frame filling up the entire doorway. "I'm going to work."
Dean puts his face in his pillow.
That afternoon, after eating tacos on the hood of his car because he doesn't want to be in the presence of other human beings, and then an hour of unenthusiastically looking up alpha-type signs and omens, Dean starts damning his insatiable curiosity. He doesn't care about knowing things about anyone on this whole damn planet except Sam, and so help him, that extends to not-Sam and his depressing antics. That, and Dean may have been accidentally having an okay time watching Sam fail at working. It's like watching sports, holding bets with himself on how long Sam can stick it out at each job. Buys himself a drink whenever he wins.
Giving in, Dean cues up the laptop and tracks Sam's phone GPS to a street across town and gets back in the car. He starts driving over there, sighing a lot with his hands lax on the wheel and giving himself pep-talks in the rearview mirror at traffic lights.
At a corner, he notices a lone tendril of steam or smoke curling out from the vent.
"Oh, hell no." He swerves to the curb and jerks up the parking break. He just replaced that shit five months ago.
He rolls down the window to air out the car and then waves his hand in front of the vent. Warm. He gets a screwdriver from the glove compartment and pries at the edge. It pops right off.
"Sam, what the hell?" he says under his breath.
Because completely obscuring the vent is a wad of cash.
He takes it out gingerly like it's delicate evidence at the scene of the crime. The corner of a hundred dollar bill is browned like it had only just started to singe. He smells it anyway to verify.
He's impressed and unsettled that Sam has managed to rack up this much dough in so short a time, or maybe this is money he'd already had. What it comes down to is even though he'd given Sam a talk about how if he were going to be in this with him, Dean was going to be the one calling the shots, this is just one more secret. This shit, right here.
Dean replaces the vent and sticks the roll of bills in his pocket, feeling justified in doing so, and then pulls away from the curb.
The coordinates lead him to a shopping area. He parks legally and gets out and looks up and down the road like Sam might be standing outside dressed as a banana by the ice cream store, but he's nowhere in sight.
With nothing but time, Dean starts where he is and scopes out places of business, peeking his head in bookstores and stationary shops, looking around, asking if a guy 'yea high' works there.
Situated between a barber's and a bakery is a nauseatingly baby-blue and frilly store, and when Dean shades his eyes, he can make out an unmistakable figure walking out from the back.
Dean absolutely stops mid-sidewalk and chokes on glee.
"No," he says. Because this is too good.
He looks around and other pedestrians non-commmittally give him a wide berth. Not one of them meets his eyes. Of course, there is no one around who can share this moment. This, the best joke in the universe, that Sam, his baby giant brother, is employed at a cat groomery.
Dean has to go in and gloat. All annoyance is temporarily put on hold. This is like finding out Sam had gotten a Brazilian blowout; hilarious forever and ever, nothing can ruin it.
Tiny bells tinkle over the door when Dean goes in. Two girls in aprons look up with twin smiles, one holding a clipboard, one holding a cat.
"Welcome to Pretty with Kitty!" one says.
"Would you like to make an appointment?"
Dean looks around, at the mini hot tubs and the walls of baby-colored bottles and soaps. The cat has a squashy face and seems to be all fur. The cat's owner, Dean guesses, looks him over with similar interest.
"No, I—" So much pink. Dean grapples with joy. "No, I'm looking for my—"
"Ah, there he is."
Sam is in an apron that matches the décor. He has a kitten crawling along his shoulder and around under his collar which he removes and puts on a table. His face looks a little puffy, which makes sense, given the environment.
"You can chat for a second, but your four o'clock is here," one of the girls tells him, passing by with an armful of warm-smelling towels. She gives Dean a wink.
"They trust you with kittens?" Dean says in an undertone.
"Dean, forgive me, I have a customer," says Sam. He steps around Dean and goes to the front. "Good afternoon," he tells a girl with a high ponytail. "My name is Sam. I see you're scheduled for our Princess Package."
The girl is all business. "Yes. This is Agnes," she says, depositing a small, white cat into Sam's hands. "She'll freak out on you if she sees water, but turn her away from the faucet and you're good."
Sam takes Agnes in a surprisingly practiced hold. He nods to a chair and says, "Sit."
Dean takes a second to admire how Sam's lack of public niceties comes off as competence, but then all of his attention is on how Sam is kneeling on a mat, and very calmly setting up to give the cat a bath.
"What are you using on her?" the girl asks.
"Well," Sam says. Dean lowers himself into a chair to watch. "I've noticed this," he holds up a pink tube. "Has the best results: softer, less staticky fur after we blow her dry."
Dean experiences a controlled sort of wonder at both Sam's cat etiquette and the blackmail material that is just being handed to him as Sam delicately cleans the cat's ears.
After her bath, Sam rubs Agnes down with a large towel. She tries to struggle out of Sam's manhandling, eyes wide and offended, but it is halfhearted and ultimately she ends up standing on her toes on the towel while Sam keeps a hand lightly on her back and reaches for a pronged thing.
"After I brush out her coat I'll be straightening it with a diffuser and then we'll start on the nails," he says, in creepily soothing tones.
By the time Sam has buffed and filed Agnes's nails, his neck has gone pinkish. He hands Agnes back to her owner and Dean waits until she's handed Sam a couple large bills and left. Dean hauls himself to his feet as Sam tucks the money into his back pocket.
"All right," he says. "We're done here."
"I'm still on shift," Sam tells him. "Unless you have a cat you want me to wash, leave."
"Listen, Sam. Cut the crap. We need to get you out of here."
"I'm working until six. We can talk then."
Dean gets up in his face, and grabs the front of Sam's shirt for good measure. "You are allergic," he hisses.
Sam gives him a blank look that seems to mean he considers himself above all weakness of the flesh.
They both turn. It's one of the other employees.
Dean steps in front of Sam, and sighs. "Ma'am, it's true. My brother is allergic to cats. He just loves them so much, but I worry for his health."
"That's the saddest thing," she says, doubtlessly taking in the contrast between Sam's huge body and his red-rimmed eyes.
"You'll understand that I need to get him out of here right now."
Dean jerks his head to the door and Sam glares at him.
"Sam," he says.
Sam is pissed. He stands at his full height and squares his shoulders like he's going to accept the next cat that comes through the door, regardless who tries to stop him.
But Dean is pissed, too. He feels the roll of cash pressing against his thigh through the pocket of his jeans and he stares Sam down until Sam clears his throat and Dean says, "You are not dying on my watch. Do I need to get you a Kleenex or are we leaving?"
Sam is silent the entire ride back, and at first Dean thinks he's still angry but when he glances over, Sam is stroking his sideburns thoughtfully and watching the world go by, expression almost entirely absent of malice. It sets Dean on edge.
"Allergies are a pansy-ass way to go," Dean grumbles, belatedly.
Sam tilts his head to watch him.
It's only when they're back at the motel that Dean notices Sam's wearing a pair of tight jeans with ruffly pockets. He raises an eyebrow, looking Sam over from the bed to assess just how ashamed he should feel on behalf of his brother's masculinity.
Sam strikes an unsubtle pose that shows off his ass. "These do it for you?"
"No, you look stupid," Dean says. It's true; he actually does look stupid, if hot. Mainly hot. But also stupid. This is not new. "Where'd they come from?"
"They gave them to me after the shoot this morning."
Sam shrugs. "You interested?"
"No. I don't care what you do."
Sam disregards what they both know is an obvious lie. "It's just, I wonder. You obviously don't want me to hold down a regular job, what with the way you've been skulking around trying to get me fired. It's like you're afraid of what will happen if I do have enough money, if I do give you a price."
"It's not skulking," Dean says.
"It's possible money's not that important to you. And information's not enough, either." Sam squints at him. "And you don't want me to die."
"Of course I don't want you to die of an allergic reaction. You embarrass me like that and I'll kill you myself."
"I think I get it," Sam says. "But do you? You're not that slow. Or are you?"
"I'm not slow," Dean says, not exactly sure what he's arguing anymore.
Sam toes off his boots and then takes off the jeans without ceremony. Dean scoffs and grabs the laptop off the nightstand. When Sam pauses in black boxer briefs and nothing else but his socks, Dean doesn't look over.
Sam says, in a tone that's possibly supposed to be placating, "You can always change your mind, you know."
"Fuck off," Dean says. Then decides, "You know what? It's past time to leave. We're leaving tomorrow, after I replace the fan belt."
"Let me do that for you," Sam says. "It's the least I can do, really."
There's a beat.
Dean considers the words for some malicious second meaning, but when he looks over Sam's still standing there, bronzed from some sort of nude tanning Dean is not privy to and in tight briefs and wearing a waiting-expression, no obvious ill-intent except that soulless Sam never gives him anything without a reason.
"No, that's alright," Dean says, biting the inside of his cheek and looking away, because really, a man can only take so much.
"Fine," Sam says, sounding annoyed.
Dean cues up some anime but then guilt gets the better of him. He offers a truce to make himself feel better. "Thanks, though."
It's weirdly touching. Sam's still just standing there, and if it were a year ago, Dean would tell him to sit his ass down, hand him a beer and pretend to accidentally flip to some movie he knew Sam liked.
"You need to call in tomorrow?" Dean asks. "You got a job lined up?"
"No, not tomorrow."
"Okay. You know, how are you even getting jobs, anyway? Because to be honest, if I were to try, I wouldn't know where to start."
"If you're looking for a job, there's always sex for money," Sam says, giving Dean a meaningful look.
Dean flips him off, feeling vindicated again, moment over, and starts an episode of Dragon Ball Z.
It's never hot when you want it to be.
When Dean wakes up it's still July, middle of America, and his shirt is stuck to his back. Different if they were at some motel with a pool and chicks in red bathing suits were rubbing each other down with sunscreen, but instead he wakes up sweating and when he sees Sam's gone, he heads outside, only to find Sam under the car.
He could still be dreaming. It's possible.
There is a nightmare pile of small parts heaped by Sam's knee and a hammer laying abandoned by a wheel. Sam better not be using a hammer.
"What are you—"
Sam slides out from under the car to look up at him. "I decided I'd fix it for you. Before you woke up."
"Well." Dean can't take his eyes off a hose that Sam shouldn't have been able to get loose unless he'd dismantled most of the undercarriage. "Well, I'm up."
"It'll be done soon," Sam says, like he thinks Dean's being a bitch. He ducks under again, and that is apparently that.
Dean moves back inside in a cold shock. He needs a minute.
The tick of the fan does nothing but move air around, and the ratty curtains won't pull closed all the way. That's his excuse and he's sticking by it. It's why he's ended up sipping a trying-for-cool beer at the half table, watching Sam's feet planted on the asphalt, knees splayed more the farther he wedges himself under the car, instead of going out and doing something about it.
If this was old Sam, real Sam, Dean would have texted him something like, You fuck anything up more than you have, well...just don't fuck anything up, and then waited for Sam to jerk when the phone buzzed in his pocket. He would have been proud of Sam. Proud of him for trying. Now, though, he just sits and drinks, and thinks with a depressed sort of tragic humor that soulless Sam is as shitty at this as Sam is, that all those years wishing Sam would be the mechanic Dean knew he could be has culminated in this, Dean in danger of losing his brother and his car.
When he can't take it anymore, he opens another beer. He watches Sam dragging himself around between the wheels, finishes his beer, and then cracks another.
He calls Bobby and spins out a hypothetical about how Sam suddenly wants hamburgers and should Dean let him when he knows Sam isn't going to be happy about it when he's got his soul back? Because Dean is having a hard time constantly saying no, in fact, more than a hard time, because who doesn't want to have hamburgers with his brother? Who?
Bobby tells him that, from what he understands and as they've been told time and again, Sam isn't all different just because he's lacking emotions. Not the facts, not what he wants, so Dean should just buy the kid a damn hamburger and stop calling him about it. He tells Dean to drink a glass of water and then hangs up on him.
"Fat lotta help you are," Dean says to the dial tone and gets another drink.
Which means half an hour after he woke up, he's got an edge and what feels like nothing less to lose. He goes outside again and stands over Sam's legs and watches the way he can see muscles of Sam's stomach pull under the white t-shirt for a long, inappropriate moment that has him running his thumb over the palm of his hand in distraction, before saying, "Still can't believe you wanted to fix her up. Why the sudden interest?"
Sam pulls out, looks up. "Just thought it was time to learn," he says.
"For real?" Dean says.
Sam looks at him like he's dumb. "Yeah?"
"Don't 'oh, yeah,' me. This doesn't by any chance have anything to do with how I told you we were leaving, does it?"
Sam uses his sleeve to wipe sweat from his face. Today, Dean thinks, if you squint, Sam looks a lot like himself.
"Is this some evil plan?" Dean asks, straightforward.
"I just thought it was something that would make you happy."
Sam rolls his eyes and gets back under the car and Dean stands there a second longer thinking if anyone has grounds to act fed up, it's him. He gets on his ass on the hot concrete anyway, and joins Sam under the car to see what he's up to.
"Okay," he says, because it doesn't look good. "You're never going to get anywhere doing that."
"I read about this," Sam says, elbow-deep. He sounds affronted.
"Sam. Stop." Dean puts a hand on Sam's arm without thinking. It's hot under his hand, of course it is. It's surprising nonetheless. He pulls away and holds his hand out, open-palmed. "Wrench."
The thing handed to him is, in fact, a wrench.
"At least you remember something," he says under his breath.
"I remember everything," Sam points out.
Dean should kick him out, there's no room for two guys under there anyway despite the car being up on bricks, arms pressed together, but he doesn't and he doesn't react either when he feels Sam's fingers brush his side where his shirt's riding up, what could pass for an accident, although it's absolutely not.
Dean loosens some shit and tightens other things like a pro, wiping the back of his hand across his forehead and muttering under his breath about heat valves and stupid soulless non-mechanics, but then kind of zones.
He jumps when Sam's huge hand lands on his stomach.
He keeps twisting the wrench, so help him. He feels out of his head with heat and close proximity to Sam and the double vision of this body but no soul. Sam shifts closer so his breath is on the side of Dean' neck and he scratches up under Dean's damp shirt with blunt fingertips. Nothing's actually happening. It's not like they haven't been this close before, grappling or whatever.
Only when Sam's reached the point of feeling Dean up with seeming impunity does Dean elbow him hard in the chest.
Sam grunts and takes the hint. He smoothes Dean's shirt over his front again in what could be a messed up kind of apology but it's slower than necessary and makes Dean's breathing hitch so he doesn't forgive him, not one inch.
"Sam," he says. His hands have stilled but he's got a deathgrip on the wrench.
"I know you took the money," Sam says evenly, which makes Dean's skin go goosebumped.
"What money?" Dean asks, but Sam noses in to bite at the hinge of his jaw, so his voice goes weak partway through.
Sam says, "Consider it a down payment."
"I've been nothing but honest with you. About everything. Isn't that what you wanted? Or do you want something else?"
"Okay, car should run just fine." Dean doesn't move, though, just lies there like his body isn't his own. "Get off me."
"You know, it's really stupid to fall in love with your brother," Sam tells him.
That gets Dean moving.
He kicks Sam's legs out of the way, hard, and scoots out quick. He clambers to his feet and tosses the wrench to the side.
"I could go in for killing something right now," he says, meaning it. It shocks two guys passing into a nearby room. "Hunting," he hollers after them, then mutters, "Fuck me," to himself.
"You're really a mess," Sam observes, getting to his feet.
Dean is sunk in a deep nausea, too damn tired for anger.
"Just leave me the hell alone," he says. "And keep your fucking hands off my car."
Sam gets a job somewhere but Dean is done caring. They're moving on soon anyway, he can feel the itch building up under his skin. He puts the car back together but there's still a terrible noise he should fix. He takes a day off to drink instead, and suddenly he wakes up to find he's whiled away half a week sinking into various bottles of whiskey, feeling like a piece of shit with trying to forget his brother's soul somewhere under the ground.
"All right," he says to his reflection Saturday morning, finally, after scraping the stubble off his face with a fifty cent razor.
He shoves his wallet in his pocket. He walks out and lets the door click behind him and goes to put a hand to the hot black of the car.
"Times are hard," he says. "We do what we always do."
He drives over to that autoshop again. Maybe a small part of him wants some normal, human contact. Part of him wants a fan belt that Sam somehow damaged irrevocably. Win-win.
He parks out front like before and steps in through the garage, and raises a fist to rap on the sheet metal wall, call 'hello,' but some second sense makes him stop. Instinct kicks in, one that's saved his life a hundred times, more.
He steps inside, moves silently past a van and there it is, what made him hold off. By the workbench, shoulder-to-shoulder with Ryan, is Sam.
"You did not," Ryan is saying, amusement clear in his voice.
"I did," Sam tells him. "I don't know why you're laughing."
Ryan laughs harder.
"I sleep with murder suspects," Sam says. "I know nothing about cars and this one time I killed a man. More than once, actually. It's stupid that you hired me."
Ryan knocks their shoulders together. "But then what would I do for entertainment?"
The urge to punch the guy square in his straight, white teeth hits Dean like a bag of bricks. He takes it slow though, ambling up to the end of Ryan's pet car that's in pieces.
"Decided you didn't like the Camaro after all?" he asks, gesturing to the wreckage.
"Oh!" Ryan smiles. "Dean, right? Good to see you back, man. I was wondering if you'd left town."
"No, still here." Dean nods to Sam. "Hey."
Sam's eyes bore into his, and Dean holds his gaze even as Ryan leans back against the workbench and gestures to Sam.
"Yeah, new guy totally dismantled this," he says. "He came and begged me to let him apprentice. As you can see, he really needs the practice."
"It's been a learning curve," Sam says.
Dean lets out a grunting noise that barely passes for a response.
"So, what can I do for you?"
"Here to get a fan belt," Dean says.
"You got it."
It's quiet as Ryan rings him up. The guy's affable and doesn't seem affected by how Dean's glaring at Sam's back.
"You know what," Ryan says, handing Dean his change. "You guys would really get a kick out of each other. Me and Sam here are getting lunch in ten, if you want to—"
"Boyfriend," Dean cuts in. He has no idea what possesses him to say it but he finds himself striding over to Sam to jerkily grab his hand, hard. "He's my boyfriend."
"And we have plans. Sorry, man." If this were any other life Dean would feel bad, but when it comes to Sam there's no room. He pulls Sam, roughly in case he resists, but Sam comes easy. "Come on."
Sam allows himself to be led away, out of the shop, to the car.
"You're not going back there," Dean says after he slams his door shut and Sam's settled where he's supposed to be in the passenger seat.
"Okay," he says, emotionless, and it sets Dean's teeth right on edge.
"No argument?" Dean asks as he screeches out onto the road but watches Sam deftly fasten his seatbelt out of the corner of his eye. "You're not gonna give me some shit about how you like it there and how I'm being a horrible older brother."
"No." Sam shrugs like he actually doesn't care.
"Okay then," he growls, even though it's not.
It's not a relief but Dean feels like they're escaping something. He looks in the rearview mirror and clenches his jaw. The idea that anyone would assume to tell Dean about Sam has his blood going. He hits the wheel with the heel of his hand.
"Dammit," he says under his breath, and says to Sam, "This has to stop."
"I'm serious." Dean waves an all-encompassing wave at the road rolling out in front of them. "The shitty jobs, trying to learn how to be good at cars to get to me, the whole nine. Too little, too late, okay?"
It feels like a damn breakup speech or something. The only noise is the tape deck clicking over, the burn of the wheels on the road. Sam sits ramrod straight and doesn't answer him, so Dean barks out, "Understood?"
Sam taps his fingers on his thigh, once, twice. "What about the deal?"
"For the last time, there was no deal."
When Dean hazards a wild glance over, Sam's frowning. God help him if it doesn't make him want to give Sam a noogie and then buy him a milkshake later on to make it up to him.
"I'm not fucking you," Dean says, stronger. If there's one thing he's come to terms with in life, it's that.
"Fine," Sam says.
"Not for any amount of money."
Dean rolls down the windows to get some breathing room, settle down. The sick part of him wants to amend, to concede that, were Sam to find himself in possession of his soul, return to the freak he usually is, Dean would be more than down, but it's some Catch-22 shit where real-Sam would never even go there, so it's useless to even think about.
Sam is a legs-cramped, jaw-clenched sort of calm, one knee knocking the door with every bump and his fingers curled into a fist on his thigh. Dean finds himself looking at the vent as he turns on the road that will take them to the motel.
He watches buildings fly by and thinks about what Bobby'd said. He's confused and pissed at the idea that Sam's still himself. Because real-Sam would never go there, he knows for certain. Absolute certain. But maybe, just maybe, there's a one percent chance, that maybe some small part of Sam might want this. He backtracks, because maybe a lot of things. Stupid to think about. Like maybe he's going to fail, and Sam will always be this shade of himself. Maybe the soul isn't all the good things in the body or maybe soulless Sam is playing on a weakness because he knows how bad Dean wants it. Dean's going to drive himself insane, thinking about this.
But above all things, he just wants this to be over.
"Fine," he grits out, sure even as he says it that he rationalized himself into this because, yeah, he's pathetic and wants it. "One kiss."
Sam's knee stills. He turns in his seat. "Sorry, I didn't catch that."
Dean tightens his grip on the steering wheel. "I said fine."
"And you'll let me—"
"Kiss," Sam confirms.
"On the mouth."
"All right. Chill."
Dean feels more calm now that he's in control. "You give me all that money, too, I don't want you using it on who knows what after this. I've seen what you do with money these days, and it ain't cute."
He hazards a glance at Sam, whose mouth his twisted in an approximation of a real smile that's unsettling as fuck.
"No funny business," Dean warns, lightheaded at the thought of it.
Dean finds them a secluded place, by the lake just outside of town. He gets out of the car with a heavy sense of something that grows worse when he realizes he's thinking of his brother as a sure thing.
If this were Sam — and it really never would be — Dean would ask, "So how do you want to do this?" or better yet Sam would do the talking. Sam would doubtless be awkward about it, but then he'd take Dean's face in his hands and kiss him carefully, taking his time about it.
This time will not go that way. Dean slams the door and leans his shoulder blades against it. He crosses his arms across his chest and looks out over a placid lake past the muted reeds. He holds his ground, frowning out at the water until Sam steps in front of him.
Dean sticks out his hand. "Money."
Sam dutifully walks away again, back to the passenger side, and when Dean looks in the window he sees him fishing a giant wad of cash out from under the floor mat. His boots crunch into gravel when he comes around to Dean's side again, and he holds out what must be ten grand at least, in hundreds.
"Dude, how many secret stashes do you have?" Dean asks, and grabs the money and sticks it in his back pocket, feeling less like a hooker than he'd of thought. "How'd you get this much anyway? We've been here two and a half weeks, barely."
"I've been hustling pool every night."
"What?" Sam asks.
"You know, that's kind of comforting to hear? I had this idea you sat and watched me sleep."
"I do that too," Sam tells him, a hint of humor in his tone. "It gets boring, though."
"Oh, well, that's good to hear."
Dean is running at the mouth, now that he has more of Sam's money in his pocket and an informal agreement to make good on. It's just a a kiss, he reminds himself, it's not like it's his v-card. It's just Sam paying to put his mouth on his, and later, Sam'll remember but he'll understand maybe.
Sam is staring at him. It's nothing new. Dean's insides tumble in slow motion at the realization of just how often Sam looks at his mouth like this, just as Sam steps in. Because this is really going to happen. This is not a dream, it's definitely real life.
Sam's hands are rough when they cup Dean's face, and Dean jerks a little, testing. Sam, surprisingly, lets go. His hand hovers a half inch from Dean's jaw until Dean steels himself and meets his eyes.
There's not one fraction of a worried thought there. Sam is looking down at him intently, and it makes Dean pissed, how in a perfect word this would be Sam, his brother, but this is like a cheap version. It makes him surge into it when Sam dips in to kiss him.
It was supposed to be a gross, we're-related thing, where suddenly Dean is cured or something, Sam's mouth on his like kissing a cold fish. But instead it's warm, and Dean gets a pleasant shock down to his toes as Sam presses him back into the car like he's got all day, one hand moving down to rub over Dean's chest, over his heart, slowing things down until time fades out.
Sam is good at this, doesn't force anything. He kisses in sweet presses of his mouth against Dean's and it's unnerving and Dean's chest physically hurts and he wants more than anything to duck both of them into the backseat where Sam would be real easy for him.
It can't happen, though. The kiss as is is verging on romantic, so he gets one hand fisted in the front of Sam's shirt and for the next fifteen seconds kisses the fuck out of him, makes it desperate by tugging him down so he can push their tongues together, no room for breathing. And when Sam's thumb brushes over his temple like he's making it tender, Dean is done. He shoves Sam away, because give it another second and that move might work.
"There," he says, out of breath. He jerks his jacket back into place.
Sam steps around to lean next to him on the car, knocking their elbows together with a partial smile on his face. Dean shifts toward him without thought.
Then, Sam reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pack of Reds and taps one out and lights up.
"For real?" Dean asks, weakly.
"Hell yeah," Sam says, ignoring the protest when he throws a heavy arm across Dean's shoulders and tugs him close.
Sam smells like that axe body spray he's taken to wearing, which makes Dean want to gag. They stand like that, Dean rigid while Sam smokes and chuckles to himself every once and a while and generally acts like a smug asshole.
"Quit acting like you nailed the prettiest girl at prom," Dean finally tells him.
Sam ropes him in closer and smokes some more, and Dean rubs at his mouth with the back of his hand but then more surreptitiously again, and only a minute later realizes he's been spooned up against his brother, looking at the water with his fingertips pressed to his lips.
"I've wanted to do that since I was fourteen years old, you know," Sam tells him.
"Get the fuck off me," Dean says, meaning it this time, and jerks open the car door.
Sam whistles the whole way back.