They pulled off for gas three hours outside of Lebanon, beneath a late afternoon sky that was heavy with rain.
Dean got the gas pumping with the last of their cards and then leaned back tiredly against the trunk, bones still aching from the remnants of Rowena’s spell, head sore, eyes heavy. (Witches were pains in his ass even when they were, y’know, being helpful, and he wasn’t changing his mind about that anytime soon.) There was a diner just across the way, tucked in beside a motel with a VACANCY in the office window and a half-lit neon sign out front, and he thought for a couple of heartbeats about just settling in for the night, grabbing some burgers and a couple of beers and then a good twelve hours of shut-eye. But he wanted his own bed, really, and Sam, well—Sammy was barely holding it together, no matter how hard he was trying to hide it, and Dean just wanted to get him home.
Kid always had been crap at coping whenever Dean got hurt.
He watched him getting coffee through the plate-glass window for a little while, let his gaze linger on his brother’s long legs and lean hips, on his soft mop of hair and his tired, beautiful face. Sam had been the last thing he’d forgotten, before the world had tilted sideways and everything he was had gone sliding into the dark, and the first thing he’d remembered after Rowena had brought it back—before his name, before Alistair or the Mark or Crowley or Cain, before Mom, before Cas. Just a rush of warmth and home and mine and Sammy, amid the kaleidoscope of memories slotting back into place against his heart: the kid’s hair sticking up in five different directions before he showered, the curve of his spine as he bent over a book, the scent of his skin and the warmth of his smile and the way he sometimes looked at him like Dean were the only thing that mattered in the world.
The brother that had come in on the tail end of all of that had startled the living fuck out of him. There’d been no way to dodge the messy truth that had hit him like a hammer to the chest a moment later, and it had left a heart-deep, bone-deep bruise that Dean was pretty sure was going to hurt until he died. Because he’d known even then, amid the fading violet glow from the grimoire, that he couldn’t, wouldn’t, tell Sam about this, couldn’t ask the kid for this; it would only … it would only make things worse, whenever a reaper came calling for good and left one of them to carry on alone.
He knew that. He did. All the same, as Sam came shuffling out of the station, frowning at his phone, Dean’s coffee in his other hand, he let himself imagine, just for a moment, hooking a hand around his neck and tugging his head down to kiss him, let himself imagine the soft velvet of his brother’s pretty mouth and the silk of his hair and the heat of his skin, the feel of him tucked in warm and safe and close against him. He let himself imagine, just for a moment, and then he locked it down behind his breastbone and swallowed against the grief.
The gas tick-tick-ticked to a stop beside him, and Sam was thirty, twenty, ten feet away. I love you, he thought, chest aching, and then he scrubbed a hand across his face and turned off the pump, and by the time he turned back to take his coffee out of his brother’s hand and say something teasing and stupid to make the kid roll his eyes and smile, his eyes were dry, and his voice was steady. He could do this; he could. He would. He had to.
He climbed back into his baby and waited for Sam to slide in beside him, and then he pointed them north and west toward home.