The Hardest Word

(c)2008 gekizetsu


For moveablehistory, who asked for Sam/Dean, first time, where Sam wakes up and Dean is gone and everything is different. The full request is in notes, after the story (because if I give anything else away, it won’t be as amusing). 8400 words, R for language and sexual situations between two smokin’ hot brothers.


I can’t be as sorry as you think I should

But I still love you more than any one else could.

–Snow Patrol, Make This Go On Forever


-|-


Warren, Vermont


His first impulse was to apologize. Wipe it away, begin again, put it aside.


His second impulse was to hide.


He knew that was ridiculous, and not something he’d ever done, no matter what was going on around him. All the things he should have hidden from were so easy to face, in comparison.


The impulse hit him for the second time in the closest diner to the motel. He’d expected to find Dean there.


Dean, not able to face him right away, both of them pretty damn drunk the night before but not drunk enough to forget what the hell had gone on. Dean would bolt, would pack everything up and put it in the car and head to the nearest safe public place so he didn’t have to look at Sam right away. That made sense. It was the only thing that did, at first.


Dean’s stuff was gone, true. But they’d left the car two blocks away at a bar. Dean would head straight for the car, then plan from there.


He walked back to the bar, to an empty parking lot. Place didn’t open back up until 2.


The impulse to hide became an urge to worry, hard and hot in the pit of his stomach, dread over what had to be going through Dean’s head. Dean had threatened to leave before, had it in him, especially if he thought he’d be saving his brother from anything as a result.


Even if Sam had started it.


He tried to call Dean and got an automatic ‘disconnected’ message. That didn’t make sense, so he punched it in manually rather than using speed dial. The saved number in his phone must have become corrupted in some way.


Disconnected.


He looked at his watch. How fast would a company disconnect a number? And if it really wasn’t a mistake...why the hell would Dean do that?


No note, nothing? No sorry, Sam, it’s got to be this way? Dean would have given into leaving something behind.


He looked around the diner and tried to think. Nothing of Dean had remained in the room. There was no way anybody else could have come in and taken Dean without Sam knowing, so he could put that idea away.


He’d find him. Find him and say, I’m sorry, it was my fault, we’ll just pretend it never happened.


It was like Dean to leave over what had happened, but not like him to leave absolutely nothing behind. He would slip away in the night, but he’d have left Sam something.


He sat and had coffee and tried to put his thoughts into order. Something was wrong – besides the obvious – and if he calmed down and looked around, he’d catch on. He looked over the numbers in his cell and debated checking to see if anyone had heard from Dean. Dean wouldn’t talk to anybody, not for awhile, if he was gone simply because of the night before. He flipped his phone shut again and stared into the diner’s parking lot.


Dean had tasted like tequila and lime, pliant against the side of the Impala in the parking lot. That had been a bigger turn-on than anything else, the very idea that Dean was capable of being pliant. Walking with their jackets slung over forearms, too warm with them on after the close heat of the bar, Sam had argued that there was no way they were driving. Dean had argued back with no way am I leaving my car here where some idiot can get it. Sam had meant to deter him from driving with a last-resort body check, one hand against his chest and slipping down by accident when Dean tried to duck away.


Too-warm skin against his fingertips when Dean’s shirt rode up a little. Unwise to slide his fingers into the waistband of Dean’s jeans to get a better grip on him.


They both tended to get a little horny when they drank, that was nothing surprising or new, but the feel of his brother’s skin was also nothing new and shouldn’t have sent him from half-hard to oh god somebody touch me in a matter of seconds.


Shouldn’t have put Dean up against the side of the car and kissed him. Shouldn’t have walked two blocks back to the motel without sobering up just a little, one hand under Dean’s shirt that was never shrugged off. Of the two of them, Dean was the more wasted, and Sam had known it. Once the idea had sunk in, he couldn’t shake it off, didn’t even try, wanted to know if Dean would be pliant again.


He wanted to believe it all would have turned out differently if Dean had shoved him and called him a pervert, had struggled at all that first moment when Sam had kissed him. If he hadn’t melted along the contours of the car and let Sam get away with it. He didn’t blame Dean for any of it, not for a second. Sam had known Dean would let him get away with anything.


Kissing him again up against the wall next to the door of their room, waiting to see if anything would change. Pressing a knee up between Dean’s legs and laughing when Dean did. Snorting with laughter while fumbling with the lock, like they were in the middle of playing the biggest joke on each other they’d ever imagined. That’s pretty much all it was. Just wanted to see how far he could push him. Hilarious. Get inside and go to bed and pretend it never happened.


Except Dean leaned into him a little while he was still fucking around with the door, boneless and lacking all the usual hyper awareness of himself or what he looked like to other people, soft-eyed and giggling. Giggling.


Sam wanted that more than anything. Wanted to look at that and revel in it for awhile. Wanted whatever Dean would let him get away with.


Dean let him get away with a lot.


That was true even when he was sober.


Long moments of skin on skin and Dean whispering crazy things in his ears about love and anything you want, Sammy and so good like little prayers, moving with him and being everything Sam needed right then. Whimpering and shaking apart under his hands, gasping into his mouth, sweet and open and his.


Falling asleep curled together, so much contact, so much need.


“You want a refill, sweetheart?”


Sam glanced up at the waitress and nodded with a smile that even he knew was pale.


He looked into the surface of the coffee as he emptied a creamer into it, watching it swirl, concentrating on something he could control for a moment.


He could start by putting together what he knew.


One: he should not have done it. He should not have wanted it.


It was done. He had wanted it.


Wanted it for a long time without consciously acknowledging it, just longing along in Dean’s wake for endless days trying to alleviate an ache he tried to blame on so many other things. He was a fucking danger to himself, sometimes, with all the things that lurked under the surface that he thought he knew about himself. Dean was even worse, he knew. It resulted in things like the night before.


Two: Dean was gone. He was not off trying to clear his head. Sam imagined there was some kind of huge, self-effacing litany spooling along behind Dean’s eyes somewhere. He would not have picked a direction randomly, and he would not go to someone they both knew. He might not have a destination in mind, but he would, sooner or later. He would end up somewhere, and make it possible for Sam to track him down. He would ditch his current batch of credit cards and he would not check into any motel with a name Sam would recognize. No classic rock stars, no pop culture icons. He had already cancelled his current phone number.


Three: he was alone.


He wasn’t sure who he was applying that last one to with more dread: himself or Dean. Dean did not know how to be alone. Despite his mouth and his behavior, Dean was a team player. He was not going to do well alone. That was not a failing. It was just fact.


Sooner or later, Dean would go back to hunting, and if he knew his brother at all, there was a possibility he was going to be purposely careless while he did so to punish himself for any number of transgressions. Dean would be blaming the hell out of himself.


Sam took stock. The weapons he considered to be his own were with his stuff already. He had credit cards that were nowhere near being maxed, and he’d only been holding them for a couple of days anyway. He had the rest of the billing cycle before he had to move on to new ones. He would start moving in the direction that Dean was most likely to take, and hope it was the right one. Dean didn’t have that much of a jump on him, no matter when he’d taken off.


He threw a couple of bills on the table and left, pausing to pick up part of a newspaper that had been tossed onto an adjoining table. He’d acclimate himself and find a map online, pack up, decide whether to hitch or just borrow a car here and there.


He would catch up to Dean and get him to understand. Apologize until he was hoarse, tell him any damn thing he wanted to hear.


So many apologies, practiced in his head.


He tossed the paper onto the other bed, the one that had never had its covers disturbed.


When he mapped it out, Dean had two directions to go: west and south. He was not going to head east and be forced to head north or south when he ran out of land. He wasn’t going to head northeast into Maine. He would be thinking clearly enough to know he’d have to head south or west. He wasn’t going to risk going into Canada just to escape Sam. Not with as wanted as they were.


The closest freeway was the 89, running north/south and then banking southeast into New Hampshire. He could keep going south if he picked up the 91 from there. Dean would do that, not dick around with back roads; he’d want out of the area as quickly as possible, to get as far as he could as fast as he could before he chose somewhere to hide. He would think he was being pretty damn stealthy, but Sam knew him.


Pang of guilt. Knew him, but didn’t heed the warnings that came with it. Used it to his advantage more often than not.


Loved him too desperately to let him go.


He blew out a breath and tried to focus. He was missing something, he knew he was. It just wasn’t hitting him yet. He would get headed, and give it a day or two, and then try calling Bobby or Ellen to see if they’d heard from Dean. Dean might break down sooner or later and call somebody, leave Sam a cryptic message, warn him off, something.


Looking at the paper would have helped him exponentially. He realized that later.


He turned in his room key and carried his duffle over one shoulder, looking for the biggest ‘lot he could find. There’d be a strip mall or a supermarket, and no one would pay attention when he decided to jimmy a car in the furthest corner.


The first thing that nagged his subconscious once he allowed his subconscious its say again was that almost every single car in the motel parking lot or that passed him on the road was small, and newer. There were more hybrids than he ever remembered seeing, anywhere. No SUV’s, nothing larger than a midsize. The Impala would have stuck out to a ridiculous degree. Was there some sort of convention in town, or what?


The second thing that nagged him came when he passed the gas station at the corner. Regular was $8.26 a gallon. He looked again, to make sure, then decided someone was being an asshole and screwing with the sign, or taking advantage because it was the only gas for miles.


He found an Elantra without an alarm in the far corner of a WalMart and had no problem getting into it. No baby seat, no indication he’d be making some single mother walk somewhere.


There was little traffic, and he took smaller back roads east until he could switch over to the 89. Light traffic there, too, and when he flipped the radio on it was to some easy listening station. He punched buttons until he found some talk station, hoping for a human voice that he could use as background noise to concentrate over.


President Blunt discussed the failure of Social Security reform and indicated that he intends to reinstate the program as soon as possible, once other budgetary concerns have been met. When asked whether the continuing US presence in Iraq was going to remain one of those concerns, President Blunt stated ‘backing down in the Middle East is not an option at this point’. 


Had to be the president of some college or something. They got political whenever they got the chance.


The Dow increased slightly to just above six thousand, and the Nasdaq is holding steady for the second straight week at 983.24.


That didn’t sound right, but he hadn’t been paying attention to any of that stuff anyway. He flipped the radio off.


He passed through Northfield and kept an eye on the rearview mirror. He didn’t want to get pulled over in a stolen car, or in any damn car, really.


The Impala’s tank held 24 gallons. They’d been at half a tank the night before. At about ten miles to the gallon on average...Dean could probably get to about Brattleboro, maybe down to the state line and over into Massachusetts before stopping for gas. Chances were, he’d filled the tank before running for it. It was what he’d do. That meant a more than two hundred mile radius to contend with. He’d have to just go with his gut.


He kept south on the 91 once he hit White River Junction. He stopped in Brattleboro on the off chance that Dean had settled for a half tank, and filled his own car in the interest of not abandoning it empty; least he could do.


Gas was $8.16.


What the fuck was going on, on the east coast? He hadn’t noticed the prices the last few days because he and Dean had had other things to worry about, but Dean would have said something, credit fraud or no. It was nuts.


There was no way to pay by card at the pump, even though they were digital, so he went inside.


The clerk at the counter held her hand out, and when he handed over his latest card, she did a double take. “Huh.”


He tried not to freeze. Had someone caught on to that one already? It was brand new.


“Customer since 2008, huh?” she said. “Thought these all got switched out, didn’t think they let anybody keep them.”


He had no idea what the hell she was talking about, but she wasn’t moving to cut it up, so he played it cool. “Yeah, they let me keep it. They offered a program for...a higher annual rate.”


“Nice to see somebody keep a card for so long,” she said. “Don’t have the setup to take these, though. Got any cash? If not, I’ll have to go dark ages and get the manual receipts out.”


Sam made a show of feeling around his jacket pockets. “Sorry.”


“‘kay. Be right back.”


She left his card on the counter and headed for the back room.


Sam had the urge to run for it, just leave the car there, grab his stuff, and take off. But he was curious by then. Something else about his day was messed up aside from the fact that the center of his existence had left him behind.


He glanced around. The magazines hanging off the front of the counter were tabloids, but he didn’t recognize any of them. He didn’t recognize anybody on the covers, either, which was weird but not as weird as the one face he did recognize: a 250-lb, 30-something Britney Spears walking out of a Piggly-Wiggly.


Okay. He was beginning to feel a sense of the surreal, rather than just a general disorientation.


The clerk came back with an old manual slider for the credit card. Sam grabbed several sodas out of the back cases and got a large black coffee. He needed caffeine and sugar and a clear head, immediately.


She rang him up the rest of the way, slid the card through, and waited for him to sign.


“You’ve got the date wrong,” Sam said.


She raised an eyebrow at him. “Nope. It’s really Thursday.”


“I mean...” Sam paused. Screw it. If she wanted it to say it was 2018, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t his damn credit card anyway.


He showed her Dean’s picture. She hadn’t seen him.


He checked three different stations and showed Dean’s picture to whoever was behind the counter. No recognition.


Dean wasn’t going to head into any of the big cities, so he could cross New York off the list. Dean would probably keep heading south for awhile.


He made it all the way down into Holyoke, Massachusetts before he ditched the car. He walked about three blocks to a McD’s and got the laptop out to map out his next few moves. There was also the off chance that Dean had left him something on there. He’d get some high carb food in his system, kill off the rest of his hangover, catch his breath, and figure out what to do next.


The wireless kicked in, and Sam stared at the home page he’d set on the thing months earlier: CNN.com.


April 19th, 2018. The US was still in Iraq. Gas really was eight-something a gallon, everywhere. Minimum wage was up to $14.60, and Social Security really was gone. Matt Blunt, former Governor of Missouri, was president and had been since the 2016 election. Bin Laden had been dead for 3 years, shot dead at an open market by an off duty soldier in Afghanistan. Paper currency was being considered for a few changes in the US, possibly like the Euro. Mexico had lost roughly three hundred kilometers of its southernmost border to Guatemala. Pakistan and India had briefly exchanged small nuclear warheads the year before, and the fallout – politically, environmentally and socially – was still ongoing. China had split into two, the way Korea had.


He read on and on, fascinated.


Okay. He had seen weirder things. He had wrapped his head around worse. If he was missing ten years...


He tucked the laptop away and went into the bathroom. Same face. Same Sam. He was not ten years older.


Dean would have realized by then that they’d been shoved forward in time. He would contact Sam to say did you see this crazy shit and Sam would say yeah, we have to figure this out, where are you and Dean would say I’ll come get you and Sam would say Dean, I’m so sorry, just forget it ever happened.


He went back out and checked his phone for voice messages, texts, anything. It showed him a date ten years later than when he’d started out, and nothing more.


What if I’m the one who’s missing?


Jesus.


He tried dialing Bobby. Maybe –


A woman’s voice answered. She’d never heard of Bobby. She’d had that number for three years.


He hung up. Phone numbers were put back into circulation after a certain amount of time. Bobby’s had been put back into circulation. He huffed out a breath, holding down panic, dialing information for Mission, South Dakota, Robert Singer. None. Singer Salvage. None.


He sat down with the laptop again and started looking through obituaries.


Robert James Singer had died on February 18th, 2014, of unknown causes, preceded in death in 1982 by his wife. Owner of Singer Salvage, avid gun collector and historian, honored member of the community. Eulogy given by Dean Winchester.


Sam clicked the laptop shut and sat watching people pass by outside. This was all some huge setup, and he’d survive it. He was awake; he knew that. He had fallen into something and he had to find Dean and get them the hell out of it.


He called the roadhouse and asked for Ellen. Ellen was only in three days a week. He left his name and number and asked if the voice would pass his info along to her at home; it was an emergency.


He started walking. He stole a Chevy Cobalt from the second story of a parking garage next to a movie theater and headed south again. He would trace Dean’s original path. It gave him something to do. Dean would head south and west and maybe hang around places where it was warm and dry, keep hunting.


Twenty minutes later, his phone rang.


“Who the hell is this?”


Funny; she was the one calling him. “Ellen, it’s me. It’s Sam.”


“Sam Winchester’s been missing since 2008,” she said. “So if this is some kind of joke, I’m gonna find your sorry ass and break it.”


“How exactly did I disappear?” Sam said. “I mean, what was the last thing anybody heard from me? I woke up in the same place I went to sleep on April 18th, and I’m the same. So what the hell happened? I find out ten years has passed and Bobby’s gone and I can’t find Dean. Ellen, tell me Dean is okay.”


There was a pause on the other end.


“Ellen – “


“I haven’t seen or heard from Dean in about four years, since Bobby died,” she said. “No harm telling you that, no matter who you really are. I heard he’s still hunting, but I have no idea where he is. Nobody gets close enough to have any contact with him. He used to leave messages here, in case anybody heard from...Sam.”


“Then maybe the last message he left...maybe you can try and contact him for me,” Sam said. “Please. If you can, tell him I’m looking for him. It’s me, I don’t know what happened, but I’m...back.”


-|-


A week went by.


Sam learned to keep low, to keep a car for about six hours at a time max, to tuck his current credit cards and ID’s away. The formats had changed on damn near everything. Credit cards had microchips in them and required a thumbprint as a signature. He was reduced to snagging one out of someone’s mailbox, hitting an ATM with it, and tossing it afterwards.


He didn’t hear back from Ellen. No one called him. When he called her to check in, no one called him back.


Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi. No one recognized Dean’s picture.


Dean could have been anywhere. He’d spend the rest of his life looking, if he had to.


-|-


Another week went by.


Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado. He barely slept. Sometimes he just stared at his phone for awhile, wondering if there was a way to get Dean’s attention, a newspaper ad or something that would be impossible to ignore, something that would hit the national news. He could blow something up and leave a note behind. Dean, call Sam.


He refused to believe that Dean had been wandering that world for ten years without him.


In Springer, New Mexico, he stopped long enough to piss and wash his face and try not to put his fist through the mirror at a Chevron. He ran through his mantra yet again about how he couldn’t keep doing this, he couldn’t, and then he dried his hands and went on.


He walked around the building to go into the store. He thought maybe he should grab a few things and then keep walking, find another car since it was about time. The sun flashed off glass across the street, making him glance in that direction automatically.


Black older car, Impala size and Impala type, sitting in the parking lot of a bar.


He’s seen a few cars that could have been his brother’s. They never were. There were so few older cars on the roads that he knew Dean would be easy to spot because he’d never, never ditch that car no matter how high the gas prices climbed.


The fact that he’d failed so many times before didn’t keep his heart from speeding up, didn’t keep him from jogging across the street and coming closer. It would turn out to be dark green, or be the wrong year, or belong to someone else; but he had to look.


The upholstery was the same. The box of tapes in the back seat couldn’t have belonged to anyone else.


He wanted to cry, sit down next to the car on the asphalt and weep, but he was too excited. He forgot, then and there, how long it might have been for Dean or that he didn’t actually know what he might find when he faced his brother again. All the searching, all the things he wanted to say, the chance to just look at Dean overrode everything else.


It was dim inside, tinted windows, some game going on in the background on a TV he didn’t see. He let his eyes sweep every inch of the place that was visible from the entry. He recognized the leather jacket and the short hair, the breadth of the shoulders, the posture. Dean was sitting alone at the bar.


A step, three, ten, and he said Dean’s name louder than he meant to, watched him turn, saw the shock on his brother’s face and knew it mirrored his own.


The thing Sam centered on first was the notch missing out of the top of Dean’s left ear. It was the smallest thing, but the first, and it hit the hardest as a result. Dean, for all his scars, had always been quicker; they had avoided permanent injury so many times that it had never occurred to Sam that something might finally take a chunk out of one of them and it would be irreparable, wouldn’t heal. The new scar along the left side of Dean’s jaw that twisted down across his neck had to have come from something that had nearly ended his life.


The gauntness in that face...that, he couldn’t reconcile with the man he knew. The gray at his temples, the sallowness of his skin, the dull and faintly yellowed eyes.


This wasn’t Dean just ten years older; this was Dean, ten years gone.


“Dean,” he said.


Amazement softened to hope for a moment, maybe a little relief, things Sam was used to seeing in those eyes. Then that smirk, more bitter than sarcastic. “Good for you.”


The fist that hit him was just as solid as he remembered, though. He stumbled back a step partly in shock and partly because he hadn’t seen it coming.


He rubbed at his jaw reflexively, still too surprised to duck the face full of water he was doused with from Dean’s flask. Holy water; had to be. “Dean, Jesus Christ!”


“Some of you fuckers are tough enough to use that, now,” Dean said. “I’m not impressed. Get out of here before I use the Colt on you, you dumb sonofabitch.”


“Dean,” Sam said, “It’s me. It’s actually me. I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I’m not some shapeshifter or demon.”


The bartender came out of the back to look at them sternly. “What’s up, out here?”


“Nothing,” Sam said. “Just...catching up.” He pushed his wet hair back off his forehead. “Dean, come on.”


“You show up here looking like the last moment I saw him, and I’m supposed to believe it’s him,” Dean said. “Fuck off. It’s not gonna work.”


“Don’t start anything in here,” the bartender said.


“I’m not,” Sam said. “Dean...look at me. What do you want me to say, to prove it to you? We got set up. I don’t know who did it, and I don’t know how, but I woke up to this place and time about two weeks ago. It’s 2008 in my head, Dean. I woke up, and you were gone, and I’ve been looking for you ever since. Please. You gotta believe me.”


Dean got up, and Sam backed another step away. Dean had lost so much weight that Sam was afraid for him.


“What the hell’s happened to you?” Sam said.


“I’m gonna take a leak,” Dean said without looking at him. “And when I get back, if you’re still here, there’s gonna be a real problem. Go find something else to do.”


He started to walk away.


“I’m sorry,” Sam blurted. “For all of it. It was my fault.”


Dean paused, his back to Sam.


“I wasn’t even as drunk as you were,” Sam said, “And I knew it, and I didn’t even care. You can blame me for it, you didn’t do anything wrong. I thought I let you down, that you left because you couldn’t face it, that maybe you thought it was something you should have been able to keep from doing. But it was me. I’d take it all back, okay? I’d undo all of it. I’m sorry.”


The bartender’s eyes were wide. Sam ignored him.


“Help me figure out how to get us back where we were,” Sam said.


Dean turned back and looked at him. Then he gestured him outside.


Sam followed willingly, mind spinning. They had to find what had done this to them, reverse the entire thing, get each other back. It could be done. They’d done worse.


“I didn’t leave you,” was all he could think of to say.


Dean stopped next to the Impala and waited for Sam to stop in front of him. Dean looked even worse in the daylight, washed out and tired. Ill.


“Sure, Sam,” Dean said.


He wasn’t ready for the blow he got that time, either. That time, it knocked him out.


-|-


He came to tied to a chair. That wasn’t new. The devil’s trap plotted out in masking tape above him and the one on the floor in salt weren’t even that big of a surprise. Dean sat across from him on a single bed. It looked like any other motel room he’d been in.


“Thing is, when I woke up the next morning and all his stuff was gone, it was no surprise to me,” Dean said, voice low and calm. “I mean, how else should a guy react to getting drunk and fucking his brother? It’s pretty over the edge. First, to have the idea even occur to somebody. That’s fucked up, outside Arkansas. Then to act on it, no matter how drunk they are...that’s some sick shit, right there. But then there’s the capper: they both enjoy it. The first two are survivable, to a point. That third one, that’s the end for everybody, even if nobody else ever finds out about it. You never quite make up for that. I was actually kind of glad he was gone, in a way, even though it made me want to die.”


Sam closed his eyes again. It kept the room from spinning, and kept him from staring at the years-old pain etched into Dean’s face.


“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Dean said. “Doesn’t matter that it happened, or who knows about it, or what it says. I didn’t save him from himself, when it came down to it. I didn’t even try and stop him. I’d have done anything for him, and the anything went way too far. You can love somebody too much, you know? After a point, it turns into something else, and it ends up doing more harm than good. I tried to get myself killed, that first year, after I realized I couldn’t find him, and I couldn’t even do that right. I mean, how bad does something have to be for him to never even check in with Bobby? That’s when I knew how bad it was.”


Sam made himself open his eyes again, made himself look.


“Maybe he’d run into something he couldn’t handle by himself, maybe there’d been an accident, maybe he whacked his damn head and didn’t know who he was. I made myself crazy thinking up ways I might have lost Sam. I kept looking anyway. So I could apologize to him. So I could say, ‘I’m sorry, it was an accident, I didn’t mean it’. I just wanted to know he was okay. Then he could just walk away again if he wanted to.”


“Dean,” Sam said, “I didn’t – “


Fast, so fast, the barrel of the Colt was pressed against his forehead.


“Shut your fucking mouth,” Dean said, and his tone was still so conversational that it frightened Sam more than the gun, startled him more than if Dean had screamed. “I loved him, but it doesn’t mean I won’t end something that looks like him. You feeling me?”


“Yes,” Sam said, softly and clearly.


“I’m not gonna ask you how you found out, because I don’t even care anymore,” Dean said. “Sam’s been gone so long that I’m used to missing him. I’m still looking for him. How fucking sad is that? How pathetic can one guy get? It’s so funny that you showed up now that I’m running out of time. Who’s idea was that? Maybe I can confess to something that looks like him? You guys love a good joke, don’t you.”


Sam knew that was rhetorical, and he wasn’t feeling up to having the Colt making an imprint on his forehead again, so he kept his silence.


“It’s not gonna work. But it’s funny, all the same. Go ahead. Enjoy the fact that by the end of the year, I’ll be dead if I don’t really piss someone or something off in the meantime.”


“What is it?” Sam whispered.


“What’s killing me?” Dean said. He laughed, low and brief and humorless. “Liver failure. Cirrhosis. Been drinking my ass off for ten years. It’s not like I wasn’t going to do that anyway, the way I was acting. Never meant to be this old, anyway. And wait, you’ll love this one: I haven’t touched anybody since Sam. Take that one back to hell with you.”


Sam felt the first tear spill over and track down his face. Dean, his Dean.


The open handed slap snapped his head around. Dean was on his feet and just inches away, a finger in Sam’s face. “Don’t you cry at me with his face,” Dean said, voice gruff with rage. “Don’t you dare.”


“You can hit me all you want,” Sam said. “Shoot me, go ahead. I didn’t leave you! I’m the one who did this to you, but I didn’t leave. You searched my goddamn duffle, you know that stuff is mine, you can see the year on the goddamn ammo. Why the hell am I carrying ten year old ammo, Dean!”


He was crying openly and didn’t even care. Dean was staring at him, one hand raised like he might hit him again, but the blow didn’t land. His hesitation alone was hope Sam could work with.


“I tried to guess where you would go,” Sam said. “There’s a silver Corolla across the street that I stole in Colorado Springs. Somebody will have reported it stolen by now, so you can check. Before that was a blue Saturn in Dodge City, and I can tell you every damn car I’ve stolen all the way back to Warren, Vermont, which is where I woke up one morning two weeks ago to find you gone. If I’m something trying to pretend to be me, why the fuck have I gone to all this trouble when all I had to do was appear and mess with you and leave again? Look at the credit cards in my wallet, Dean, they’re vintage.”


“Not that hard to find old stuff, or duplicate it,” Dean said.


“Then if you’re dying anyway, why the hell am I tied up? Why don’t you let me up so I can finish you off?”


Dean stared at him for a moment.


“What do I get out of messing with you?” Sam said.


“No telling,” Dean said.


Sam struggled with the ropes. “Then fucking untie me and see what you get,” he said.


Dean sat back on the bed and watched Sam struggle with the ropes. Sam worked at it until he could feel his wrists bleeding, until the rope was slick enough to give him some leeway and let him get part way loose. One hand finally came free, and Sam used it to struggle the other hand loose and work on his ankles. Kicking the ropes free, he scuffed the salt and walked out of both devil’s traps. He stood in front of Dean, who was looking at his hands.


“Ten years is a long time,” Dean said. “But it’s almost over, now.”


Sam got down on his knees in front of Dean and wrapped his arms around Dean’s calves, pressing his face to one of Dean’s knees. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry.”

 

Dean didn’t say anything.


-|-


Dean fell asleep soon after, and Sam went outside to lean against the Impala to think.


It was going to be hard enough to get Dean to tell him whether he remembered anything from that day, from the night before. Anything that might tell them what had happened. If it could be done, it could be undone.


This was not a Dean he knew how to handle. Not anymore.


“Didn’t seem too happy to see you at first. Ten years is a lot of time to think.”


Sam turned at the voice to find himself looking at a face he recognized. He knew immediately that it had chosen that face so that he wouldn’t have to guess. Janitor, from that college campus in Ohio. The Trickster. Standing there in jeans and a torn t-shirt that said I do all my own stunts.


“You son of a bitch,” Sam said deliberately. He straightened from the car.


“What, no love for an old friend?” it said.


“You did this,” Sam said.


The Trickster shrugged. “Maybe.”


“How much of it did you do?” Sam said, hating to ask but knowing he had to. “Be really clear about this, for once, okay? How much was you?”


“Sam,” the Trickster said, “I don’t make people do things. I just give them a stage and wait to see what sort of performance they decide to attempt. I can throw you all over the place and make you see things, change your environment. I can’t make you decide to grope your big brother.”


Sam wasn’t sure if he felt relieved, or sick. “Why should I believe you?”


It came a little closer, but stayed out of arm’s reach. “Because if I could,” it said, “I would. And I would have done it a long, long time ago, to see all this. Look how little it took to get you two to believe you’d left each other.”


Little?” Sam said, raising his voice and throwing his arms wide. “Throwing me ten years into the future is a little? Dean is dying.”


It shrugged and tsked. “Because of what he’s done to himself. So dedicated, and ready to drop it all in a second because of some supposed transgression. You know, it seems like you guys are more into saving yourselves from each other rather than saving each other.”


Sam ignored it for a moment. Even if it was giving him only part of the truth, it was still enough to know he couldn’t blame it for what he’d done.


“‘Boo hoo, I just knew he’d do it’,” it said. “‘I didn’t deserve him anyway’. You guys are the biggest train wreck I’ve ever seen, and you should be proud. I’ve seen a lot of train wrecks. Caused a few, or six.”


It liked to hear itself talk. Most demigods did. Sam knew that played in his favor. When he looked at it again, its shirt said it’s only funny until someone falls...then it’s hilarious.


“How do I get everything back the way it was?” Sam said. “What the hell do you want?”


“What you’ve gotta ask yourself, Sammy-boy, is whether you really want it back the way it was. You mean the way it was before you and your brother did the horizontal cha-cha, or the way it was right after? Can’t have it both ways. Especially not knowing Dean is gonna run for it anyway.”


It was trying to tell him something, and he tried to listen over the impulse to hit it until it wasn’t recognizable anymore.


“You can get back anytime you want,” it said. “You just have to say the magic words.”


Sam looked at it steadily for a long moment, unable to get his voice to work. Then he took a deep breath and said, “Please?”


It threw its head back and laughed. “Nice, but no,” it said. “Oh, Sam. It’s a lot more than that. It’s not about what you say to me.”


“What the hell do you want?” Sam said. “Whatever it is, just tell me, so I can get this over with.”


“It’s not about dancing for me, Sam,” it said. “He’s wrong, by the way. About making it to the end of the year. End of the month, maybe. Come on, brainiac, you can solve this by then.”


Sam swallowed hard. It had only been two weeks for him, but it had still seemed like forever. “I don’t understand why everything’s gotta be a game,” he said. “Just leave us alone.”


“Too much fun,” it said.


“We can’t be that interesting,” Sam said.


“Oh, sure you are,” the Trickster said. “With your dick up his ass, you guys are really, really interesting.”


Fucker.”


Sam recognized that growl of rage in any decade. Dean was only feet away, and neither of them had heard him approach. Dean had his gun out before Sam could get to him, but he didn’t get a chance to use it. “No point,” Sam said, pulling Dean’s arm down and yanking him in until they collided. “No point.”


Dean shoved him away. “I’m gonna kill you,” he said to the Trickster. “You’re gonna give me another chance, sooner or later.”


“You guys keep trying, but you keep not doing it,” the Trickster said. “Sad.”His shirt had changed to Subtext = Buttsex.


“You’ve got a soft spot somewhere,” Dean said, voice laced with that eerie calm that had crept in somewhere in the last ten years, something Sam wanted to duck from.


“Right now it seems to be you two,” the Trickster said with a smirk. “Forever’s a long time, and your species gets pretty boring, but you two...oh, boy. You guys are like a bottomless pit of angst and fun. How the hell would you not get anyone’s attention, after awhile? Didn’t it ever occur to you two that while you’re running around looking for evil, you’re making a huge spectacle of yourselves?”


“I don’t even care,” Dean said. “We don’t care. Like you know anything about it.”


“All your big, grand loyalties and unending quest to purge the world of whatever you decide is evil,” the Trickster said. “Then you go and break just about every sin you can get your hands on. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Most of your species’ self-appointed sins are a joke anyway. But you guys take them pretty seriously all the same, then go on breaking them. It’s beautiful. I could just follow you everywhere and never get bored.”


“Go ahead,” Dean said. “Do that. Sooner or later you’ll get careless.”


“Sooner or later, you guys’ll get drunk enough to invite me into a threesome,” it said, and when Dean raised his gun that time, Sam didn’t even try and stop him.


Dean fired into empty space. In the space of a simple eyeblink, it was gone.


“I hate that sonofabitch,” Dean said wearily.


Sam ran his hands over his face, then glanced around to see if the shot had gained them any attention. “We’ll figure this out. At least we know who’s behind it.”


“Doesn’t matter,” Dean said, and headed back for the room.


Sam watched him walk away, wondering if it had been telling any part of the truth, if it was just getting off on all of it and wanted to show them something. Riddles, he understood. This one had too much at stake, though.


He sat out on the trunk of the car until it started to get dark, running the conversation over in his head, looking for hints and angles and phrasing.


Dean was lying on his back above the covers, clothes on, TV off. Sam sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the ruined devil’s trap on the floor. When he looked at Dean, Dean cracked his eyes open.


“You still here?” Dean said.


“Yeah,” Sam said. “Not leaving, this time.”


Dean groaned and closed his eyes again. “Jesus, I can almost believe that bastard screwed with time just to mess with me.”


“It did,” Sam said. “To mess with us. You heard it. It wouldn’t think this was half as funny if it wasn’t really me.” He pulled his legs up onto the bed and laid down along Dean’s side, resting his head on Dean’s shoulder.


“Smells like you,” Dean said. “Like Sam. After all this, it’s too much to wrap my head around. And it’s too late.”


“It’s not,” Sam said. “I don’t know how to get you to believe it. Did you mean everything you said, earlier? About...finding me so we could talk.”


“No,” Dean said. “I left out the part where I wasn’t really sorry about any of it. At all. Except for the part where it fucked up my life. Why do you think I’ve been trying to kill myself for ten years?”


“I lied to you,” Sam said, murmuring it into the crook of Dean’s neck.


“Yeah?” Dean said, stiffening a little but not pulling away.


“I’m not sorry,” Sam said. “About what happened that night. You’re so...I just wanted whatever I could have of you, something to keep. I’m not sorry. I wanted you then, and I want you now.”


There was a long pause. Then Dean said, “Whoever you are, you’re an idiot.”


They fell asleep that way.


-|-


Sam rolled over in the morning light and frowned at it. He was naked. Aside from that, he had a feeling something huge lay just behind him, something too big for him to grasp. Maybe he’d just been dreaming. He rolled the other way and was hit with the rest of the why am I naked question, because everything smelled of Dean and sex, and yes those two things went together very easily on a weekly basis but not when he was naked in one bed and the other bed in the room was still undisturbed.


He sat up. Hangover behind his eyes and in his stomach, covers kicked off except for the sheet, which pooled around his waist. His clothes were mixed with Dean’s on the floor, and...


Oh.


Oh.


Dean, all soft mouth and low moans and god sammy yes love you so much.


He’d been wasted, and he’d given an equally-wasted Dean an offer with a non-refusal clause.


It panicked him. Not that it had happened, but the fact that Dean was not there.


He jumped out of the bed, wincing at the headache but not caring, scrabbling for his clothes, whipping the door open with his jeans held in front of his crotch. The Impala was there. Dean’s clothes were on the floor. Dean’s duffle was behind the door. He wasn’t sure why that was so important, why it warranted a freakout when he should have been freaking out about taking advantage of his drunk brother.


The bathroom door was closed.


Dean!” he yelled.


The door whipped open. “Fire?”


“What?”


Dean’s head poked out of the bathroom. “What the fuck is your problem? Keep it down, my head’s imploding.”


Sam left the door open and dropped his jeans and slammed the bathroom door inward, crowding Dean into the bathroom and grabbing him. They both had pretty bad old-tequila breath and Sam didn’t give a shit. He kissed Dean for all he was worth. Dean’s eyes were distant and somewhere near half mast when he let him go and looked at him. “Dean?”


“We are so fucked up,” Dean said. “Oh, my God. So, so so...”


“I’m not sorry,” Sam said. “I did it, I’d do it again, I’m not sorry. I love you, in every way that can be true, and I don’t care if it’s messed up.”


Dean let his head fall against the wall behind, and winced at the impact. “Jesus, do you have to be such a girl first thing in the morning?”


“I’m not sorry.”


“I can’t think about this right now,” Dean said. “I need coffee.”


“Are you pissed at me?” Sam said.


“Sam,” Dean said, “Do I look pissed?”


“Okay, are you...sorry?”


Dean squinted at him and rubbed at one eye. Sam held his breath.


“I’m not sure how I feel about it, right now,” Dean said. “But I could’ve stopped you, if I wanted to. I didn’t. You’re hard to say no to, Sammy.”


Sam nodded.


“I’m gonna kill you if you try to get all psychoanalysis on me about it right now,” Dean said.


Sam nodded.


“I kind of hope this is some kind of some weird phase or just that I’m so hot that nobody can –“


“Dean,” Sam said.


“Dude, what is your problem?”


“Don’t be sorry.”


Dean squinted at him again. “‘m not sorry. Okay? Not if you’re not.”


Sam leaned in and kissed him again. “I won’t freak out.”


“You are freaking out, right now,” Dean said. “So, go get coffee. With clothes on.”


Sam dressed and took the keys to the Impala and went outside. He leaned against the hood and pressed his lips to it and said, “I’m not sorry.”


Then he went for coffee.


-|- -|- -|-


-|- -|-


-|-


Notes:

The full request was for:

SPN, Sam/Dean, first time fic. My premise is that the morning after, Sam wakes up and Dean's gone and everything's different. While trying to find Dean, Sam realizes that something happened (a demon, perhaps?), and it's quite some time (ten years, maybe?) later. When he finally does find Dean, Dean's sick, brittle around the edges, maybe cirrhosis or something. Anyways, Dean was under the assumption that he'd done something wrong, that he'd hurt Sam somehow, or that Sam couldn't stay after what they'd done - he looked for Sam for years and years, didn't stop, didn't acknowledge that he might not find his brother. I don't know what happens in the fourth act, but I'm pretty sure it ends with them achieving some sort of balance (Sam probably needed to figure something out?) and they snap back into their proper time line, probably without a much of a memory of what happened.

If Matt Blunt ever ends up so much as thinking of running for president, I will declare myself psychic and will be taking requests. I will even offer to hit people with a spoon. A SPOON.