glasslogic: (Fortress)
[personal profile] glasslogic
Title: The Things You Keep
Author: [livejournal.com profile] glasslogic
Wordcount: 27.5k
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: R
Warning: Slash, various issues of consent (that's more a warning for the series than this particular timestamp.) This story might not make much sense without having read Fortress and Static. This verse departs from canon when Dean dies at the end of season 3.
Disclaimer: All material is owned by its respective copyright holders and no profit is being made from this story.

Summary: It's been several months since the events of Static and Sam's life has improved considerably. Dean's sane again, the demonic atrocities have stopped, and things are getting back to to normal. But "normal" for the Winchesters is still screwed up, and Sam's just waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does, Dean might be missing, but at least Sam still has his corpse.


Section I

“This isn’t going to work, Sam,” Bobby said flatly, as they both stared into the Impala’s open trunk. Fallen autumn leaves skittered across the gravel driveway of the junkyard. It was unseasonably warm for October in South Dakota, but the landscape wasn’t fooled by temperatures in the seventies. Warm greens and foliage were well on their way to winter’s brown and skeletal branches.

“It’s just for a few days.”

Bobby scowled. “In a few days we’ll be able to smell this clear to the house! It’s already going to take a miracle to get the stench out of this trunk.”

“What was I supposed to do, Bobby? Stay in the motel?” Sam spread his hands helplessly, trying to keep his own irritation in check. The week had started off badly and gone steadily downhill. “I just need a place to stash it until he gets back.”

Bobby gave the tarp-shrouded figure in the trunk another annoyed glance. “Get a shovel.”

“I don’t want to bury him.”

“Well, what exactly did you have in mind then? Because we’re not going to leave him in the trunk, or lying around my yard, or anywhere else that might lead to a murder investigation, Sam! There are law-enforcement type people who like to swing by here, never mind that I do actually have neighbors. They aren’t that close, but this is going to get whiffy in a hurry.”

“I don’t want to bury him, Bobby. I’ve already done that, and I think once in a lifetime is enough!”

“Then do you mind going away for a couple of hours while I do it?” Bobby growled. “Don’t think of it as burial, think of it as… convenient underground storage. Lord knows being six feet under hasn’t slowed him down before. Where did you say he went again?”

Sam’s shoulders slumped. “He didn’t really tell me. He said there was something he wanted to check out, a body was just going to get in his way, and he’d be back in a few minutes. I was in the shower; it wasn’t like I could tackle him or something. He’s uh, a--”

“The next words out of your mouth had better not be ‘free spirit’ if you want to stay on my good side.”

Sam wisely kept quiet. Bobby grumbled something unflattering under his breath.

“How many days ago was this again? Because what I can smell from here says it wasn’t this morning.”

“Three days.”

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed these little visits, Sam.”

“I just don’t want him buried,” Sam repeated, a certain stubborn set of his jaw telling Bobby that he was prepared to be as unreasonable as possible. It was a dependable Winchester trait. The whole world could be going to Hell and John’s kids would still be stubborn as mules and proof against any rational logic. It tended to work for them, but there was a line. “There’s got to be something else we can do.”

“With about two hundred pounds of dead body?” Bobby demanded. “We don’t have a lot of rules here at le chateau Singer, Sam, but I’m going to have to enforce the 'no corpses above ground' one. Unless you feel like trying to explain this from the wrong side of a county jail cell?”

Sam stared into the trunk again, obviously thinking hard. Bobby hoped Sam was thinking about how much he loved digging holes, but didn’t hold out much hope. He was rewarded for his skepticism when Sam spoke up again.

“Do you still have that big freezer out in the barn?”

“Do I still have--” Bobby echoed incredulously. He had a freezer out there all right, and Sam damn well knew it. A huge monstrosity of an appliance, handy for wild game, leftovers, ice, and various other sundries both useful and tasty.

It was not, in any way, a morgue for freeloading house guests.

Bobby glanced between the contents of the trunk and Sam’s hopeful face, and then sighed heavily. “Yeah, okay.”

~~~~~

After a depressingly long time spent unpacking the freezer, they were able to unceremoniously stuff the body inside, tarp and all. Sam had shown absolutely no inclination towards unwrapping it, and Bobby certainly wasn’t interested. He’d seen bodies before, with sad regularity, and he didn’t feel the need to see Dean that way. Again. Especially if he might be looking at him across the kitchen table sometime soon.

He hoped it would be sometime soon; he’d seen what being separated for too long had done to Sam before, and he didn’t need to see that again either.

Once the freezer was repacked with contents that Bobby was decidedly less enthusiastic about, he’d padlocked it and made Sam drop the frozen goods off in town at the food bank, armed with a story about the unreliability of old appliances and wiring.

“I can’t believe he would just up and leave you. You really have no idea where he went?” Bobby asked later, while he checked on a salvaged lasagna he’d stuffed in the oven. Sam had been put in charge of salad and was chopping lettuce at the counter.

“Not really, but it seems like there’s been more demonic activity lately, nothing like last year-- small scale stuff, you know?”

“Better than you, probably. I get the calls.”

Sam shrugged. “It irritates Dean when we trip over them, plus they’d probably like to skin me as a general rule. We’re not making much headway on our other problem, so he was talking about looking into it and then--”

“He just left,” Bobby finished.

“He said it would be a few minutes.”

“Three days ago.”

“Yeah.”

“What are you going to do if he doesn’t come back?” Bobby finally asked a bit awkwardly.

“Die badly?”

“Sam--”

“You asked, Bobby.”

“Don’t you have some kind of, I don’t know, tether or something that you can use to make him come back?”

“We’ve got a link, but it doesn’t work like that. It… kind of barely works at all anymore.”

“Since when?” Bobby demanded. “It seemed to work pretty damn fine the last time I saw you boys. What was that, four months ago?”

“Five months. I’ve been trying to make things… better.”

“Sounds like a bang-up job so far.”

Sam slammed the knife down on the counter. “You don’t know what this is like, Bobby! I just want a little more space in my own head. There’s other things involved too, remember? This is supposed to be something that I did now, and if I did it, then I should be able to make it work however I want. I shouldn’t be stuck with the aftermath of Lilith’s twisted idea of couple’s therapy!”

“If it gets you killed, that’s not actually better, Sam.”

Sam grabbed a bunch of carrots and sat at the table to peel them. “And it’s not actually broken; I can still feel him on the other end. He doesn’t feel like he’s distressed or anything. But it’s not like it used to be. I’m not sure if he’s really fine, or if it’s just so faint that--”

“Did you run this by Missouri before you started messing around?” Bobby demanded.

“I don’t need anyone’s permission to do whatever the hell I want to do with things going on in my head, Bobby!”

“Which is why your brother is stuffed in my freezer out back while you hang around waiting to die! That’s some fantastic planning on your all’s part. Thanks for including me in this.”

“Bobby--”

“Can you fix it? Or just break it outright?”

“Maybe. If I had my hands on him.”

“And I guess his uninhabited corpse doesn’t count?”

Sam didn’t bother replying.

“Well, isn’t this just perfect.”

“What do you want from me, Bobby?”

“Not to do stupid things,” Bobby growled. He pulled the lasagna out and almost dropped it as his finger caught the hot pan through a hole in the oven mitt. “I think you’re big enough now that it shouldn’t be that difficult of a request. I’m old, and I get a lot older every time you come around! Don’t you think there are enough problems in your life without creating all new ones?”

“This isn’t a new problem; this--”

“Wouldn’t be a problem at all if you had left well enough alone!”

“You remember what the curse does, right?” Sam asked.

Bobby glared and slammed a cabinet door after getting the plates out. “Do you have any way of figuring out where he might be?”

“No.”

“Can any of the other voices in your head help you find him?”

Sam seemed to consider that for a moment. “Maybe,” he finally said. “But I don’t really have any way to reach them. They’re strictly on a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ sort of basis.”

“Even for an emergency?”

“I don’t think they really do emergencies. I can try and do the equivalent of waving my hands around and jumping-- but it’s probably like screaming into the wind.”

Bobby tossed a dish towel on the table and set the pan on it, then grabbed the bowl of lettuce and some plates. “Grab the salad dressing and some beers out of the fridge. What’s the game plan then?”

Sam shrugged and pulled the stuff from the fridge, then slid one of the beers across the table. “I guess I wait.”

Bobby eyed him. “You’re taking this all pretty well.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve been through this, Bobby. Not even the first time I’ve been through this here,” Sam said with a certain amount of resignation.

“Trust me, I remember.”

Sam smiled with a definite edge. “Besides, I need to conserve my strength. I’m saving the yelling and punching for Dean.”

Bobby nodded in approval. “Finally, a good plan.”

~~~~~

A few nights later, Bobby woke up from a sound sleep in the dark hours of the morning and pulled on his sneakers instead of rolling back over. He had a firm policy that waking up meant a perimeter check. It was ritual paranoia, but he was comfortable with a certain amount of that in his life. Paranoid hunters lived longer.

He stepped into the dim shadows of his living room and almost jumped out of his skin when a voice spoke up behind him.

“Bobby.”

Bobby spun before the last syllable had cleared the air and breathed a sigh of relief.

“You almost gave me a damn heart attack,” he snapped.

Sam leaned back in the kitchen chair and didn’t reply. The only light in the room was what dim moonlight seeped through curtains that hadn’t been washed in years, but it was enough for Bobby to make out the slump of Sam’s shoulders. It had been most of a week since he’d shown up at the salvage yard, and there was still no hint of his brother.

“Couldn’t sleep?” Bobby tried to gentle his tone. If he was getting nervous about Dean’s continued absence, he couldn’t imagine how Sam was feeling.

“Not really.”

“You want some breakfast?”

“It’s--” Sam twisted to look at the clock on the stove, “-- three in the morning, Bobby.”

“Never too early for waffles.”

“I think it might be this time,” Sam said wryly. “What are you doing up anyways?”

Bobby shrugged and grabbed one of the other chairs. “Restless. Seemed like a good time to check the locks.”

Sam nodded in understanding, and an easy silence filled the kitchen again.

“What are we doing in here?” Bobby finally asked as the minutes stretched from five to ten and he started seriously thinking about his warm bed again.

Sam didn’t move from his position facing the kitchen door.

“Waiting.”

~~~~~

Four more days passed and Sam was starting to look a little on the drawn side. Bobby didn’t know if he was still sitting up in the kitchen at night, but he was definitely sleeping late in the mornings. He helped out around the house in the afternoon, but by dinner time looked exhausted and rebuffed any question with a shrug or an irritated look. There wasn’t a whole lot to talk about anyways; they’d established some time ago that there wasn’t much help anyone could offer. Almost anyone.

“Have you tried asking Missouri for help?” Bobby asked as he emptied the dish drainer in the sink and Sam used a spatula to keep the stir-fry from burning. The evening air wafted through the screen door, carrying the scent of pine and early fall.

“I’m not talking to keep myself company,” Bobby said gruffly, when no answer was forthcoming.

“I called.”

“And she said?”

“Pretty much what you said. It started with ‘idiot’ and went downhill from there.”

“So, not a lot of help.”

“She’s somewhere in the Outer Hebrides.” Bobby gave him a skeptical look. “Seriously,” Sam insisted. “She has a cousin who has a problem… I don’t know. Basically there’s not much she could do even if she was here that I can’t do myself. Working with my inner whateverness. She did threaten to beat me senseless with her grandmother’s wooden spoon if I died.”

“This is why most sane people don’t go in for all the psychic nonsense.”

“Right, because this was something I chose,” Sam snapped.

“I didn’t say you chose it, I’m just saying that--” Bobby bit off his last word as they both heard a sound from outside and looked towards the kitchen door. After a moment, the sound came again, the quiet rattle of a loose rock being kicked in the driveway. There had been no hint of a car engine and the house was a quarter mile walk from the highway. Sam raised an eyebrow in Bobby’s direction and pulled one of the long knives from the butcher’s block.

“Expecting company?” he mouthed silently.

Bobby shook his head grimly and grabbed a shotgun from his well-stocked pantry.

The wooden steps outside echoed with footsteps. Sam was just considering the merits of a salt shaker in his free hand when the screen door was wrenched open and a woman stomped in. She was pale and lanky, and absolutely no one Sam knew.

“What the hell have you people done with my body?!” she demanded, radiating anger with every line of her body.

Bobby let the shotgun lower an inch and shot Sam a quizzical look. “Ah, Sam…?”

The woman snorted and raked some of her dark, oily-looking hair off her face. She hitched what looked like a sheet up higher over her chest and glared at both of them. “My body! Six-something, sandy hair, green eyes, male. Last seen in a motel room down off route 66? Ringing any bells? Sam?”

“Sam?” Bobby asked with a little more urgency.

“I don’t feel anything, Bobby!”

“That’s because you went and messed with things you clearly shouldn’t be messing with. You’re going to give me my body back, then you’re going to fix this, and then you’re going to keep your freaking little metaphysical fingers off the curse. Are you with me on this, Sam? Because don’t think I’ve even begun to express how very pissed I am right now. Do you have any idea what it’s like to wear a body like this and hike along the highway in a sheet? The only reason I didn’t stop to kill half a dozen people on the way is because it would have taken even longer to get here and kill you!”

“Dean?” Sam asked hesitantly.

The woman rolled her eyes and yanked the sheet up, revealing the one pale leg all the way up to her waist; a familiar tattoo twisted neatly over the hipbone. Sam glanced at Bobby, who leveled the shotgun out again and nodded. The woman held still while Sam set the knife down, well out of her reach, and laid a hand tentatively over the intricate design. The familiar tingle bit into his palm and his shoulders sagged with relief.

Dean.”

“Because that’s real proof of identity, Sam,” she said derisively. “I could be Dean, or I could be some other demon who flayed it off him and decided to take you for a ride. It’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility, seeing as that’s pretty much how I got it in the first place!”

“Uh…”

She dropped the sheet down over her legs again. “Where is my body?!

“Well, now I don’t know if you are Dean.” Sam crossed his arms over his chest and returned her glare.

“I’m convinced.” Bobby stood the shotgun back in the pantry and closed the door. “I’d recognize this adolescent wrangling anywhere. Aren’t you two going to ever grow up?”

“I stopped growing when I died,” Dean snapped.

“Did you stop thinking too?” Bobby growled. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Around.”

Sam had something more pressing to address. “Who is this… person?”

“Who--? Oh. Right. She’s a local vegetable.” Dean held out one wrist and wiggled it so they could see the hospital bracelet. “When I couldn’t find my body, I tried for you, but you’ve got the anti-possession ward, and Bobby has a ward--” Bobby’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t interrupt. “--so I went shopping in the produce section. I knew you would throw some prima donna fit if I just grabbed what was convenient, so it took me awhile to locate something suitable.”

“People are going to miss her.”

“Yes, Sam,” Dean said with exaggerated patience. “People will miss her, but she’s not home to care if I spin the wheels and kick the tires, so they can keep missing her. You’re going to keep your mouth shut about it, and we’re all going to pretend this is fun. Now back to the important question--”

“It’s in the barn,” Bobby said.

“You… buried me in the barn?”

“Well, maybe not buried exactly,” Sam hedged. He glanced at Bobby for support, but Bobby just raised an eyebrow and didn’t comment.

Dean’s eyes narrowed ominously. “What exactly did you do?”

~~~~~

The trip outside was delayed for just as long as it took Dean to kick off some badly shredded hospital slippers and stuff his feet into some oversized boots. He refused to wait as long as it would take to change into something that resembled real clothes and wore his sheet back out into the yard for the trip to the barn.

Bobby swore as he fiddled with the padlock on the chest. “This damn thing sticks more every time.”

Dean frowned. “This is a freezer, Bobby.”

“I know it’s a freezer. I had to clean the damn thing out to stuff you in it.”

Why did you stuff me in a freezer? You guys too good for some old fashioned shoveling? Do you have any idea how long it’s going to take to thaw me out and fix the damage? A little decay is no big deal, but this… What a mess,” he finished with a groan.

“Ask your brother,” Bobby grunted as he gave the padlock a solid whack.

“Sam? Something you want to add to this conversation?” Dean demanded.

“I don’t know, Dean,” Sam retorted. “You said you were going away for a few minutes. By the time I realized that meant a few days, you were starting to get a little ripe and my options were limited. And I just… didn’t want to bury you.”

“I bet Bobby would have buried me.”

“I offered. Has anyone seen the bolt cutters?” Bobby asked, picking through tools on a cluttered work bench next to the freezer.

“Next time, don’t ask him, just do it,” Dean said firmly. “Make a note: Sam no longer gets any say over what happens to my corpse.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “How about you make special plans not to leave it with me anymore? Or maybe just not leave it at all?”

“I wouldn’t have done it this time if I’d realized you were going to turn me into a popsicle!”

Sam’s lip twitched. “Do you know how high your voice gets now?”

Dean kicked him in the shin.

“Hey!”

“I would have kicked you higher, but the sheet gets in the way. Bobby, why the hell are you keeping bolt cutters within five feet of a lock?”

“If it’s taken me this long to find them, how long do you think it would take a thief?”

“Just let me do it.” Dean stepped forward impatiently and grabbed the lock, then swore and stumbled back, shaking his hand as if he’d lost feeling.

“Dean--”

“It’s blessed! That stupid, fucking, freezer is blessed!” He turned and grabbed a handful of Sam’s shirt, yanking him down until he was eye level. “You stuffed my body in a sanctified freezer?! I knew there had to be a reason I couldn’t find it. What the hell were you thinking?!”

Sam tried to wrench free as the death grip on his collar cut off his air but Dean was impervious to his efforts.

Bobby, who looked highly disinclined to intervene, eyed the freezer thoughtfully. “Blessed? That’s good to know. Could be useful one day.”

Dean released Sam in disgust, who fell to the dirt floor gasping and rubbing his neck. “That isn’t good to know, Bobby. This is a freaking disaster! It’s going to take weeks to fix this! Weeks I’m going to have to teeter around on these little tent pegs for feet, and it wasn’t exactly a subtle escape. Do you know how far it is from here to County Regional? A hundred people probably saw me stalking down the highway and have called the cops by now. It might take them awhile to show up here, but they will show up, and then what?” He glanced at the bracelet on his wrist. “We tell them that Deborah May Mason just woke up one evening and decided to move in with the weird junkyard hobo down the road? I’m sure they won’t try to cart me off or anything!”

He glared down at Sam who was still sprawled on the ground. “Next time, you put me in the fucking ground, Sam, or I’m going to put you there!”

Neither Sam nor Bobby spoke as Dean turned and stormed out of the barn. A few seconds later the screen door on the kitchen slammed. Sam coughed.

“Well, speaking as the weird junkyard hobo in question, watching the men in the white suits try to haul him off might be worth the price of admission,” Bobby said dryly. He held out a hand to help Sam to his feet. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Sam coughed again. “He’s pissed.”

“You think?”

“Why is the freezer blessed, Bobby?”

“Beats me,” Bobby shrugged. “I didn’t know it was. I picked it up when we cleared out Dave Powell’s bolt hole after he bought it out in King’s Canyon. The only thing I’ve ever stored in it was game meat and leftovers. Didn’t know it would bother a demon.”

“How long do you think until they come looking for him? I mean her, I mean… Dean?”

Bobby shuffled a few more tools aside and finally came up with a pair of bolt cutters that had seen better days. “No idea. I’m sure they’re already looking; it’s really just a question of how long it takes them to get down to here.” He grunted with effort as the arm of the lock snapped. “Depends on how many people saw him, and how close to the house he was seen at. It’s not like he’s going to be dancing naked in the front window. I imagine he can find a bed to hide under if people get unreasonably nosy about things.”

Sam leaned against a sheet-covered old beater and sighed. “This isn’t fair to her family. There’s going to be security footage of her walking out on her own. They’re going to think she woke up, and then abandoned them, and she’s what? Mid-twenties? Maybe thirty? She might have kids, a husband… what about when Dean’s done with his repair work? Is he just going to leave her out in the woods somewhere and then they never know what happened?”

“There’re a lot of unfair things in the world, Sam. You of all people should know that.” Bobby glanced towards the house. “Hopefully Dean’s worked out the worst of his bad temper. He’s back; that solves the biggest problem. Let’s just get some dinner and worry about tackling the rest of them in the morning.”

~~~~~

The shower was running upstairs when they made it back in the house. The muddy boots Dean had borrowed were kicked off in the doorway, and the sheet he’d been wearing was lying by the sink. The stir-fry, forgotten in the excitement, was crispy black on the bottom. Sam scraped it off into the trash can while Bobby examined the contents of his fridge.

“We should have gone to the store today,” he commented.

“We can go tomorrow. No one’s going to starve overnight.”

“I didn’t say we were lacking in food.” Bobby pulled a long foil package out of the bottom of the freezer compartment, turned it over a few times in his hands, and dropped it on the sink with a thud. “Turn the oven on to about four hundred, would you?”

Sam twisted the dial. “What is it?”

“Some kind of pasta, I think. I can’t read most of the label but I’m pretty sure that bottom line says bake for forty-five minutes.”

“Sounds good.” Upstairs, the shower shut off. “Do you have any clothes lying around that might fit… him?”

Bobby frowned. “I might have some old things of Karen’s back in a closet somewhere. A few dresses. Nothing I imagine you’re going to get Dean into.”

“Talking about me?” Dean called from the top of the stairs. When he stepped into the kitchen a minute later he was wearing a well-worn robe Sam had seen hanging in the bathroom for more than twenty years. Both the long, dark hair and pale, oval face of Dean’s newest incarnation looked better for being bathed, and Sam wondered how long she had lain mindless in the hospital.

“You check that thing for spiders?” Bobby asked, nodding to the robe.

Dean snorted. “No spider would dare. Do we have food? Whatever they’ve been feeding this chick, it’s not enough.”

“In a little while.” Bobby pulled out a chair. “Have a seat; tell us about your adventures.”

“Not much to tell,” Dean shrugged and sat.

“There’d better be something to tell,” Sam growled.

“What do you want from me, Sam? I thought it would only take a few minutes. But it’s hard to tell time when you don’t have a body, and I hadn’t counted on just how much damage you’d done to our link. I got tangled up in something I probably shouldn’t have been messing with, and when I surfaced again, you weren’t where I left you and my body was gone. It was a hell of a lot harder to find you than it should have been, and when I did track you down, you had no freaking clue I was there! I tried Bobby--”

“Please stop reminding me of that,” Bobby said.

“--and when that didn’t work, I had to go exploring. I found Debbie here and voila! I’m back. What have you been up to?”

“What were you messing with? Did you find out what was causing the problems?”

“Oh, yeah. Some jackass misaligned the wards when they rebuilt that new crypt over the Devil’s Gate. It wasn’t a big deal. I basically just shoved some things around and it lined up okay. Should stop most of the pests. I thought about just blowing the damn thing back up, but without a body, it’s hard for me to act in this Plane at all. Stupid wards.”

“Those wards are the only thing that keep you here,” Sam said pointedly.

“You keep me here too; the wards keep me me.”

“I appreciate your restraint in not blowing up the crypt, again,” Bobby growled. “Rebuilding that thing has taken a lot of time and resources.”

“Maybe you should have done it right, then,” Dean suggested. “The broken piece of rock Sam and I shoved over it last year was doing a better job than that crap that’s on there now.”

“That stone is still there.”

“But not where we left it. Someone thought it would look prettier all nicely set and mounted. I bet that’s what those demons who did that family down in Waco last week were thinking too.”

Bobby rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “You said you fixed it?”

Dean shrugged. “Maybe? I think so. I guess we’ll find out.”

“You were tangled up in the Devil’s Gate wards?”

“You’re a little behind in the conversation, Sam.”

“I’m just trying to grasp how monumentally stupid that was!”

“And I think that’s my cue to go pick up pizza,” Bobby declared. He poked at the foil package in the oven. “This is going to take forever. Let’s just stick it in the fridge for tomorrow and I’ll go find something else.”

“You don’t have to leave, Bobby,” Sam said, trading annoyed looks with Dean.

“You guys have some things to talk about and I don’t want to be around for the shouting. Do we need anything else while I’m in town?”

“Clothes?” Dean picked at the front of the robe. “Maybe some t-shirts and those cheap shorts with the elastic waist? I have no idea what size this body is.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

There was silence in the kitchen for a long moment after he left, then Dean pushed away from the table and stood up. “Let’s go upstairs.”

~~~~~

In the bedroom at the top of the stairs, Sam sat on the bed while Dean riffled through the dressers, apparently in the hopes of finding clothes stuffed away by forgotten guests.

Sam watched, fascinated with Dean’s mannerisms in a female form. The tilt of his head, the way he knelt on the floor, even the set of his borrowed shoulders as he muttered under his breath in irritation and slammed another drawer closed. Like a new cover of a familiar old song.

“Why does Bobby keep all this crap?”

“You wouldn’t call it crap if--”

“I was twelve?” Dean demanded, holding up a badly wrinkled grey t-shirt. “I think this was yours.” Dean gave it a good shake and tried to smooth it out against his body.

Sam was surprised to feel a stab of interest. He was used to wanting Dean, but not like this. Not this casual curl of desire that tightened his stomach and… other things. It wasn’t just the curse. He could feel that too, beating against him from the inside like a fluttering pulse, a siren song of blood and power and sex. Not since Ruby had ensnared him all those years ago had his body taken notice of anyone other than the demon he was bound to -- regardless of how he felt about things. But this was different. This felt almost natural, and that was fascinating in its own right.

Dean gave the shirt another shake and held it up against his chest. “Do you think this will fit over these boobs?”

Sam swallowed hard. “Uh--”

Dean shrugged the robe off impatiently until he was naked to the waist and rolled the shirt down over his head. It was a tight fit. The answer to Dean’s question should really have been no, but with enough squirming and swearing he managed to get it pulled down to his navel.

“Too bad this body still requires breathing,” Dean said disgruntled. “This would be more comfortable if it didn’t.” Dean glanced up to catch Sam’s eye and seemed to notice his attention for the first time. Sam looked away, feeling oddly dirty. Like he’d been caught watching a stranger through the blinds. It was Dean, but it wasn’t, and the wasn’t part was very… disturbing.

Sam didn’t know Dean had moved until a hand that felt oddly light settled on his shoulder. It burned through his t-shirt.

“You like this body?” Dean asked.

“I don’t know,” Sam answered honestly. “It’s just different.”

“It’s still me.” A long beat of silence. “You’re the one who said no about breaking the curse, Sam. I offered to do my part. I think you made the right call, but if we’re going to leave it in place, it has to be intact. Otherwise, what the hell’s the point?”

“I just wanted some more space,” Sam tried to explain. “In my head, you know? I didn’t mean to break it down so much. I just… it didn’t used to be so all the time. But after what happened at the Devil’s Gate, it’s like everything was just--”

“Crumbling in on you?”

“Yeah. That’s a great visual, Dean. Just how I want to describe things in my head.”

Dean shrugged. It was a distracting movement for Sam. “You think you can fix it?”

“I think so. I just have to remember what it feels like. I just need to make it feel the same way again. I hope. If it takes more than that…” Sam trailed off ominously. He hadn’t had a lot of luck in the deliberate action part of dealing with the psychic crap.

“Fingers crossed then. Let me help.” Before Sam could protest, Dean shifted onto his knees and leaned in until Sam fell back against the blankets. Dean took advantage of his new position and ran a hand up under Sam’s shirt, resting it over his heart. And just like that, the psychic link between them bloomed as if it had never been disturbed. The strange sense of disconnect that had troubled Sam blew away and something settled back into place in his mind. But it was fragile; he could feel its too sharp edges, like slivered glass. If he moved too quickly it would break.

“Dean, what--”

“I can force it if we’re touching; the old paths are still there. But I can’t fix it. You have to do that.”

“Okay.” Sam relaxed back against the bed. He didn’t feel awkward anymore; he wasn’t sharing a dark bedroom with a strange woman. He was sharing one with Dean, and it was his brother kneeling beside him on the bed, and his brother who leaned in and kissed him. Like a thousand times before, only this time there was no faint brush of stubble, and the chest that pressed against his was decidedly more padded.

Sam pushed back; he managed to sit up halfway before Dean put a stop to it by the simple expedient of sliding one leg over Sam’s waist and sitting on him. Sam was abruptly reminded that there wasn’t anything on under the robe. “Dean--”

“What now, Sam?”

“I need to fix this, and then we can--”

“Then we can what? Share a little blood, make a little love? Get down tonight?”

“I-- don’t think that’s how the song goes. Look, can you get off me so we can talk for a minute?”

“Distracted?” Dean smirked and wiggled a little.

Jesus, Dean! Move!”

“I was, and no. I have to touch you to keep this working, and if I have to touch you anyways we may as well be doing this. Otherwise it’s just laying around in a dark room, and how is that fun?”

“I don’t think this kind of contact is good for concentration,” Sam growled.

“Honestly, Sam, you seem to screw things up when you concentrate. How about you kind of set the autopilot and let’s see if you can do better focusing on something else?”

“We’re going to do this anyways in a few minutes; it can wait.”

“Right. In a little while when you have to. But right now you want to, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the curse. Well, not a lot to do with the curse. I mean it’s still me and all, but you seem to like me in this shape. You didn’t think I missed this, did you, Sam?” Dean slid a hand back to run over the front of Sam’s jeans. Sam inhaled sharply and pushed up a little into the pressure despite himself. “When’s the last time you had sex just for fun, Sam? I mean… Ruby, sure. At first. But even that was magic and manipulation. She was hot, but it wasn’t hot that kept you panting at her heels. So that would make it… ten years?”

“This isn’t fun, Dean. I don’t want to use people when I don’t have--”

“She’s dead, Sam,” Dean said bluntly, giving up the tease for the moment. “She’s been dead for weeks. The wheel’s spinning but the hamster’s dead, dead. You aren’t using her, or taking advantage of her, or any one of your other wheedling excuses for a guilt trip. She’s an empty vessel, but I’m here now, and I don’t have any problems with it at all. It’ll be weird,” Dean mused, staring down at Sam’s face, “but they say life’s an adventure. Or whatever. I get the same thing out of it either way. Think of it as an early birthday present.”

“A birthday present--” Sam tried to sit up again despite Dean’s weight, but Dean shoved him flat with no effort. The body might be alive, but Dean was still a demon and Sam was trying his patience.

“We don’t have to, if you really don’t want to.” Dean raised an eyebrow. “Tell me to move and I’ll sit all nice and pretty on the edge of the bed and we can hold hands while you angst and fuck things up more. You know, instead of a nice, distracting roll in the sheets.” Dean shifted his weight again and Sam’s body reported in that it didn’t have any problem with Dean’s suggestion.

Put that way… “I don’t have any condoms.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “I promise not to get knocked up.”

“What if she has something--”

Sam. I’ve never seen a guy squirm so hard to not get laid! She doesn’t have anything. I would know, okay? She’s healthy, she’s dead-- shut up,” he warned when Sam opened his mouth, “she’s not going to get pregnant, and we’re running out of time before Bobby gets home and you go all shy again.”

“Yeah,” Sam drew a deep breath, “okay.”

Dean was right; they weren’t hurting anyone. And Sam wanted this suddenly with a viscerality that surprised him. He ruthlessly squashed the pangs of guilt that insisted there was a victim in this mess and dragged Dean down beside him on the mattress. The robe, loosely tied around Dean’s waist, came free but Sam ignored it for the moment, busy pushing up the shirt that Dean had dragged on with such trouble. He noticed in passing that it had been one of his, left for decades in the dresser from a long-past trip. He felt skin-hungry, something natural that he couldn’t remember feeling for years. Before Ruby, before the deal, maybe even before death had found him in Cold Oak and the long nightmare had begun. Sam felt free from some subtle constraint that had stained even his most willing interaction with Dean with a faint undercurrent of anger.

And shame.

He could feel Dean now, in his mind. Caught up in revelation and physical drive, he thought he could even feel an edge of the swirling chaos that was his brother’s true nature, singing through the recently repaired wards that bound him to himself and the Plane. Last year the wards had been gone, blown to bits by the manipulations of Hell. But even then, when he barely knew his own name, Dean had managed to shield him from the worst of the storms. Dean was quiet in his mind now; in a way he never was when it was blood and dark magic driving Sam to this act. He held the fragile pieces of the curse in place with rock-steady concentration and let Sam do as he pleased in the tangible world.

What Sam pleased was everything and all at once. He felt fifteen again and just figuring out what his dick was really good for. But the woman in bed with him wasn’t the sixteen-year-old next door, and there was no need to rush before a parent came looking for them.

As if summoned by that stray thought, a door banged open downstairs and footsteps creaked loudly enough to be heard throughout the house. Sam froze. Dean’s eyes narrowed, and he wrapped both his legs around Sam to keep him in place.

“Anyone want to help carry in food?” Bobby called.

“Busy!” Dean yelled back, giving Sam a conspiratorial grin. Sam grinned back despite himself, caught up by the ridiculousness of the entire situation. He was on the wrong side of thirty-five, Dean was an immortal demon from beyond Hell, and even the body Dean was wearing was well above the age of any parental consent-- but one possible witness on the other side of a locked door and he had to fight back the instinct to spring apart from Dean and arrange clothes back into place.

Sam was only barely aware of what sounded like a muttered, “Oh God,” from somewhere at the bottom of the stairs, and then Dean was kissing him and other distractions quickly faded from concern. Sam's sense of time flowed away into heat and sensation, fun in a sense that sex hadn’t been in far, far too long. Dean was distracted holding the curse in place; he was still a participant, but lazily, letting Sam set the pace and moving agreeably in tune to Sam’s movements and Sam’s needs. Sam wasn’t sure if Dean was taking his cue from their bodies or from the hazy, half-formed thoughts that occupied his mind. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered, and sometime between shaking release and a blood-tinged kiss with Dean’s bitten lips, that fragile glass piece in his mind flared incandescent and seared back into place. He didn’t track well after that.

“I think I’m dead,” Sam mumbled some time later. Curses didn’t care about refractory periods or the normal limits of the human male, but his body did, and it felt like he’d been beaten. Slim fingers viciously pinched the delicate skin above the inside of his elbow. Sam yelped and rolled away.

“Just checking,” Dean said in tones of deep satisfaction.

Sam sat against the wall and rubbed at his arm, glaring. Or trying to; his eyelids kept trying to fall closed.

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Why the sheet?”

“You should have seen what I was dressed in to start with. Trust me, the sheet was an improvement.” Dean sat up beside him on the bed. “I smell pizza.”

“Mmmmhmmm.”

“You going to stay awake long enough to eat something, Sam?” Dean glanced at him. “Sam?”

“Mmmmmmm...” Sam slid a little until he was leaning on Dean’s shoulder. Dean rolled his eyes and moved so that Sam flopped onto the bed. He curled around to find the pillow and showed absolutely no further signs of moving. Dean rested a hand on Sam’s bare skin and closed his eyes, checking for any chinks in the bond between them, but it hummed along as bright as it had ever been. Too bright, probably; it was more powerful than it had been under Lilith’s hand.

As she had designed it, their minds had barely brushed, moving in cycles that fed the curse’s original purpose. Sam had changed it, but slowly, instinctively, shaping it gradually into something that served the needs of his subconscious more than his waking mind. Dean had been nearly ripped from him twice, and each time the bond burned brighter and stronger as Sam’s grip tightened. That Sam feared losing him was obvious, but the side effect… Dean sighed. The curse was Sam’s, and there was only so far he could draw back in it. But he could be more careful how much he projected, and try to build some walls, and maybe that would be enough. Sam trying to mess with it deliberately had been a clusterfuck of monumental proportions.

Dean walked naked across the hall to get a washcloth, uncaring if Bobby was around to get an eyeful. He cleaned Sam up and pulled the rumpled blankets up to cover him, then fished around for his shirt. Sam’s discarded boxers, folded down and tucked, would make reasonable shorts, but he wasn’t going to bother dressing until he took another shower. The girl thing was kind of interesting, but the details were annoying.

Pizza would sadly have to wait.



Authors Notes: I don't care if it's 27k, it's my baby and I can call it a timestamp if I want to! In all honestly, it was only supposed to be about 3k *resigned* But hey! It's complete, so we'll take our gold stars where we find them. I think I'm almost two years behind on the Silver Bullet Blues sequel, so... yeah. I've got nothing. On to the gratitude! In no particular order, the following people are entirely to thank for this being both completed and posted with any intact coherency. They worked very hard to school me in those little details I missed in English class, point out little oversights and flow issues, and are generally fantastic, awesome people for whom I am happy to return the favor at any time they ask: [livejournal.com profile] elusive_life_77, [livejournal.com profile] vodou_blue, [livejournal.com profile] firesign10, [livejournal.com profile] elumir_calemmir, and [livejournal.com profile] herminekurotowa! Yes, it takes a village *dryly* Or at least a lot of hand holding while I whine and make excuses...
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