Word Count: ~1875
Summary: After Sam jumps into the cage, Dean sees him everywhere. They never did learn how to let each other go.
A/N: Written for spnspringfling for delanach! I chose her prompts "Sam/Dean" and "Choice." Title from Home by Cinematic Orchestra. Betaed by the ever wonderful geckoholic.
Dean doesn’t say a word after Sam jumps in the cage. He nurses the same beer for hours, stares blankly at the wall. Tries to make sense of a world without Sam in it and can't.
Bobby presses a tumbler into his hand. "Whiskey," he murmurs, making sure Dean has a firm grip on the glass, "Straight."
Dean stares at the amber liquid before taking a long, slow sip, exhausted down to his bones. It’s easier to say nothing, to lean his head back against the couch. Close his eyes and let Bobby do all of the talking and not have to think about what to say or how to say it without sounding like he’s dying inside. Bobby slips the glass from Dean’s fingers, drapes a blanket over his legs, murmurs something Dean doesn’t catch before he falls asleep.
He wakes in the middle of the night with a crick in his neck and presses the heels of his hands into his eyes. He shoves the blanket to the floor, grabs the remainder of the bottle of whiskey from the coffee table. Slips out the front door and sits in the driver’s seat of the Impala. He rubs his fingers down the jagged S and W carved into the dashboard. Sam knelt beside him, knife clutched in his fist, their shoulders and legs brushing, knowing Dad would kill them both when he found out and neither of them giving a damn.
"Dad didn't kill us."
Dean knocks his head against the lip of the door in his haste to turn around. He blinks away the pain through watering eyes, blinks again, but no - Sam’s still there in the passenger seat, Sasquatch knees hitting the dashboard. Like he never left.
"He screamed himself hoarse for a good half an hour and he made us clean every inch of the car of the sawdust, but... I think he was amused by the entire thing." Sam raises an eyebrow and gives Dean a wry smile. "Still can't believe your line of defense was she's ours."
"Worked, didn't it?" The sound of his own voice startles him, the words flowing out, simple and easy. Dean shakes his head. "I'm dreaming," he says, voice flat.
Sam reaches out, barely brushing the carved D next to his own initials. He drags his hand away, fingers closing into a fist as he shoves his hand into his jacket pocket.
"Go back to sleep, Dean," Sam whispers, leans over and brushes his lips against Dean’s.
Dean closes his eyes. Opens them and squints against the sun streaming through the windshield. He’s still in the driver's seat, the same tattered blanket draped over his legs. He rubs his eyes and gets out of the car, wincing as his stiff knees protest the movement. He drapes the blanket over the back of the seat, slams the door shut.
He runs laps around the salvage yard, for no other reason but to move. To feel the sun on his face, keep his head clear and not think of anything else, especially not Sam.
But the place is full of memories - playing hide and seek, Sam hiding out behind a car with a rusted fender, splitting his shin wide open, twenty tiny stitches down the back of his leg, dad lecturing Dean, Watch out for your brother.
Another day, years later, Sam grabbing the back of his shirt, hauling him behind a tall pile of tires, hands slip-sliding against sweat soaked skin, lips crashing against Dean’s, and -
Dean stumbles. Catches his breath. Keeps going, even though he sees Sam everywhere - leaning his hip against a heap of car parts, sitting on the edge of the kitchen table cradling a glass paperweight between his palms.
Dean grabs a beer from the fridge and idly flips open his phone, fingers reaching for Sam on autodial. He stares at the caller ID for a stunned, terrifying moment, and a startled laugh peals out of his mouth. He drops his head back, eyes watering behind clenched eyelids.
Bobby takes the beer from his fingers and hands him a cup of coffee instead. Dean stares out the window and sees Sam laughing, grabs onto the kitchen counter to keep his legs from giving out.
Dean works on some of the cars for Bobby, does research for the calls that come in from other hunters - to pass the time, to feel like he's contributing to Bobby, to society. He sorts through his weapons, too - cleans the guns, sharpens the knives. Monotonous work. Easy.
Bobby sits next to him while he’s reloading salt shells. He clasps his hands together between his knees. Dean doesn’t look up.
“You-” Bobby stops, clears his throat. When Dean glances over, he swallows. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, Dean. Your brother didn’t save the world for you to spend the rest of your life on my couch.” Dean looks back down at his hands.
“Sam wanted you to live,” Bobby says, the first time he’s spoken Sam’s name aloud. The sound cleaves Dean’s chest, a spike driven through his heart. The shell falls from his fingers, spilling salt all over the floor.
Bobby claps a hand to his shoulder, squeezes tight. “He made his choice. You need to make yours.”
Dean leaves in the middle of the night. He scribbles a note for Bobby, resigns himself to the inevitable lecture, and packs his bags. He tosses his duffel into the trunk of the Impala, pausing when it meets resistance.
Sam's duffel sits untouched, snug between the extra jugs of holy water and a box of ammo. Dean runs his fingers over the worn seams, rubs the tag of the zipper between his fingers, contemplating.
He swallows, drops his hand and slams the trunk shut, pulls out of Bobby’s driveway with the sun rising at his back.
Dean almost forgot what this felt like - nothing but miles of blacktop beneath the wheels and no set destination in mind. The significant difference lies in the empty seat beside him, a silence that can't be broken by the wind whipping past the window or the music blaring from the radio.
He clenches a hand around the steering wheel, rolls the window the rest of the way down, and turns the music up louder.
To his surprise, Bobby doesn’t call. He sends a short text message, two words - You okay?
Dean lets out a breath and types back his response - Ok.
He travels day and night, stopping at diners and gas stations for take-out before climbing back into the Impala. He sleeps only when he can no longer keep his eyes open, eyelids heavy despite half a dozen cups of terrible, sugar-loaded coffee, the wheels of the car swerving beneath his feet.
He pulls over to a rest stop at the side of the road. Kills the engine, tips his head back. Closes his eyes.
The shadow that passes outside of the window is as familiar as his own. Dean shoves the door open and rises to his feet so quickly, his head spins.
"Sammy," Dean whispers, hoarse and exhausted and so fucking desperate, he can barely see straight.
Sam shakes his head and smiles, the slightest lift of his lips, fond but bittersweet. "You never did know how to let anything go," he says, quiet and wistful. “Neither do I.”
"I tried," Dean whispers, his defense feeble - he made a goddamn promise, the only thing Sam asked of him. Live a normal life. Live. He should have tried harder, should have tried to-
"Don't," Sam's voice is ragged, so drastic in it's almost-silence, he might as well be screaming. "Don't you start."
Dean stares at Sam, drinks him in - hands clenched into fists at his sides, broad shoulders tense beneath the line of his jacket. The watery smile he gives Dean makes his heart clench, and he grabs the collar of Sam’s shirt, crushes his mouth to Sam’s. Sam reaches up, cradling Dean’s face between warm hands.
"I’m going crazy,” Dean whispers, face pressed into Sam’s neck. He kisses the hollow under Sam’s ear, relishes in the shiver he gets in response. “In the yard. At the house. I saw you. I see you."
Sam lets out a noise that’s nothing short of wretched, and he kisses Dean again, reaching over Dean’s head. A heavy weight tugs on his neck.
"You know where to find me," Sam says before Dean can look down, a frantic plea and a command all wrapped up into one.
Dean glances at his reflection in the rearview mirror as soon as he opens his eyes, unsurprised to find the amulet draped around his neck.
His heart fucking shatters, and he reaches out a trembling hand, lets the amulet rest in his palm, unsurprised Sam rescued it from certain doom. He raises it to his lips, and the metal is as warm as Sam’s mouth against his.
Sam was right - they never could let each other go.
Dean considers calling Bobby - for help, for assurance that he isn't crazy. Maybe to point him in the direction of an easy salt and burn. Something to keep his hands busy and his mind off of his brother for more than a few spare moments - impossible with the familiar weight of the amulet against his heart.
The phone clatters, forgotten, into the footwell. Sam’s voice echoes through his head.
Dean turns the engine over and drives.
Everything begins and ends in Lawrence.
Dean expects the hitch in his breath at the first sight of Stull Cemetery. There’s a smooth patch of grass where the ground opened and swallowed his brother up. He expects his hand to tremble as he tugs the keys from the ignition, pulls on the door handle.
He absolutely does not expect to open the door and trip straight into Sam.
Relief coils tightly in his chest, and he can barely breathe, doesn't dare hope. He closes his eyes, opens them, and Sam doesn't disappear, his eyes wide and surprised, hand a steadying weight on Dean's shoulder.
"Dean," Sam says quietly, taking a step back, and Dean exhales.
His arm snaps out, quick right hook to his brother's jaw. Sam staggers backwards, and Dean hauls forward, throws himself into his brother's arms, arms tight around Sam's shoulders.
Sam squeezes right back, and Dean feels tears against his neck, not all of them his own. Sam pulls back an inch, just enough to reach with shaking fingers for the amulet around Dean’s neck. He rubs this thumb along the surface, says, “Dean,” swallows and looks at Dean with wide, watery eyes.
"Sammy," he chokes, “God - fuck - Sam,” and Sam’s hand closes around the amulet. He uses it to drag Dean forward and kisses him, warm and wet and perfect.
Dean stares out the windshield watching the scenery pass. Green blurs into brown, blue sky blending with white clouds and the faint outline of houses beyond the thick forest, there one moment, gone the next.
He doesn’t ask if his dreams were real or a figment of his imagination, desperate hallucinations for a desperate man. The amulet rests against his breastbone, and Sam rests his hand on the back of Dean’s neck. He rubs his thumb back and forth under Dean’s hair, and Dean doesn’t care about anything else.
Sam asks, “Want to take over?” and Dean takes a deep breath, but this time, the words come easy.
“Keep driving,” he says, leans into Sam’s touch, and smiles.