“Now’s the Time, the Time is Now”
Disclaimer: I’d be out at the crossroads burying my box as we speak if I thought it would bring me the Winchester boys. Ten years would be plenty. Title is taken from “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin.
Summary: An experiment with flashbacks in the form of short dialogue from key earlier episodes.
Dean recalls hearing lore about a book written by the Devil, and he believes that it may contain a spell to summon and destroy Lilith. However, a nasty cold on Dean’s part, an hourglass that’s almost run out, and heaps of angst complicate measures.
Set directly before ep. 3.15, "Time is On My Side."
Wordcount: Around 10,000.
Author's Note: Honestly, I'm a bit embarrassed by this at this point (since oh-so-high-and-mightily I believe my writing skills may have improved since I wrote it), but I'm re-watching S3 currently with kalliel, so I figured, what the hell. This story was published in the Supernatural fanzine Route 666 last year, so I wasn't able to put it online until after that. Anyway. Here you have it- the adventures of Bitchface and Sundance, otherwise known as the Winchester brothers.
They’ve been running themselves into the ground for weeks now, almost as if Dean’s going to pop off a shot at a last creature even as the hellhounds drag him down. 52 weeks in a year and there are barely three left. Three weeks, 21 days, 504 hours: whichever way you want to spell it out, it isn’t getting any longer. The rope they’re hanging themselves with just keeps getting shorter, but the worst thing about it is that there’s still always an adequate amount left to do the job.
They don’t have time for this now.
To be honest, they don’t really have time for anything right now, but least of all this, something so simple in light of the grand scheme of things. Just an annoying speck of dust on life’s movie screen, really.
Bare bones of three weeks left and Dean wakes up sick.
He insists that he’s fine, but Sam knows better. He also knows not to push the issue too much—the charade has held up for this long, might as well give the audience a well-played finale. Their full money’s worth.
Dean’s pale in the spotty motel-room mirror, his eyes ringed with bruise-colored circles a la Lindsay Lohan stumbling back after a night on the town. He’s not partial to too much dark eyeliner, though, and this isn’t anything new, per se—like that old saying went, You can sleep when you’re dead. Dean directs a sneeze over his left shoulder (too late for superstitions now, though, and he’s spilled more than his share of salt over the years) and then looks his reflection in the eyes again. What a joke—he should be so lucky, to still live under the delusion that death could be equated with some sort of peace or rest. He splashes cold water on his face and wipes his running nose.
God, he can’t even reminisce about the ‘good old days,’ before he was privy to all this information.
Sometimes he wonders why it has to be him, why he had to grow up already knowing the truth about the world. “Use your imagination,” he can remember one of his myriad of kindergarten teachers instructing, and he didn’t comprehend, as he’d never had the need to.
He’s interrupted by Sam banging on the bathroom door, and he emerges to duck under his brother’s arm and hopefully evade any inquiries about his health or general well-being. Rhetorical questions, by now. How well can his being be at this point, when they both know that it’s going to burn up pretty soon, regardless of what kind of shape it’s in? Really, by running himself ragged, he’s just making the job easier in the end. Less to burn. Less to feel. Okay, the second one was a lie.
Dean’s halfway across the room, but Sam remains in the doorway of the bathroom, apparently still in full possession of any sharp-eyed lawyerly aptitude, despite the probable loss of other things. (The demon’s voice in his ear: How certain are you?) He swallows hard. (How certain are you, that what you brought back is one hundred percent pure Sam?)
“I think you’re sick, Dean.”
Dean takes a moment, has to sniff (dammit), and says in as snarky a tone as he can manage, “Great diagnosis, there, Dr. Quinn.”
“I’m not sick.”
“You sound terrible.”
“I don’t sound terrible. You must’ve meant ‘terrific.’”
“You know, the whole negation of all of my comments thing, well, it went out of style even before your music did.” Sam steps out of the doorway and closer to his brother. Dean sinks down on the closest bed.
“Ouch.” Dean’s hand is on his throat, fingers half a noose, massaging.
“Sore throat, huh?” Sam asks in a sly tone.
“Cough? Headache?” he continues.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Please, for the love of God, don’t try to channel Hugh Laurie. I mean, I can appreciate the man’s well-placed comments, not to mention his sweet jacket, but that cane would just get annoying…” Dean trails off midsentence and sneezes harshly, twice, “Huuguhx-shoo! Huughx-shoo!”
“…Besides, I think you’re more of a Chase anyway.” Dean wipes his nose on his sleeve and peers up at Sam, making a picture frame out of his index fingers and thumbs.
“Yup. It’s the hair.” He coughs definitively for emphasis.
Sam runs a hand through said hair, his lips pursed in the Bitchface that Dean’s begun to think is really omnipresent, and says, “I think we’ve still got some of that cough syrup left in the kit.”
“Orange flavor?” Dean rasps, as if it isn’t the same stuff Sam’s pressed on him several times before.
“What else, Dean?” Sam’s tone is tinged with exasperation.
“Sammy, you know I hate that stuff.”
“Yeah. Same as you hate antibiotics. And painkillers that don’t come in a long-necked brown bottle. And doctors.”
Dean sighs, but it comes out sounding shaky, like his breath is catching in his throat. “Haven’t we been through this before? ‘Cuz personally I’m feelin’ a little déjà vu, here.”
“Join the club,” Sam deadpans. “Maybe if you’d take better care of yourself we wouldn’t have to do this every time.”
“Come on, Sammy, if I took any better care of this- pristine model, by God, I don’t think people would even be able to look at me for the splendor.” The irony isn’t lost on him when he has to break off to hack into his sleeve, but he continues around a sardonic smile, his voice so low that Sam has to lean in to hear him, “… And that wouldn’t be so good for our… inconspicuousness.” His fingers quoting in the air, it hits Sam like a shot of rock salt to the heart (Dean’s voice: That’s rock salt. Not gonna kill me. Then, his own, distorted by the effect of an insane spirit: No, but it’ll hurt like hell.). What could he purport to know about hell, or how it’s going to hurt? The whole family owns stock in the place, but Dean’s got the larger shares, first left to him by their father like some sort of twisted inheritance, then bought of his own free will, the deed signed in blood.
Now it’s Sam’s turn to sigh, but when he intakes breath it’s for a different reason than when he lets it out. He surveys his brother for a long moment, like he’s trying to use cartography to piece him together. It’s impossible, though, Winchester has always been an un-mappable region. (Dean’s voice again, sure, intractable: You can’t tell me there’s not a connection there, Sam… Dad’s dead because of me.) Sam hitches a small breath, but the voice isn’t quite done with him yet (So tell me. What could you possibly say to make that all right?).
Sam keeps his gaze trained on his brother, watching as he unscrews the cap and measures out a shot. Tries not to think how in a few short weeks, he’ll most likely be mirroring this action, only with a different bottle and his choice of (
glove cleaners) chasers.
“It’s not really that bad, Dean,” he says softly, and doesn’t miss the grimace when Dean whips his head around to look him directly in the eyes. An unwavering, unbroken line between them. Dean seems to consider saying something for a moment (His own voice, taut as steel cable, but someone must’ve mixed a cheap alloy, because the foundation was crumbling around him as he told Sam, It’s not even that bad, alright? Sammy. Sam. Listen to me, we’re gonna patch you up, okay?), but then thinks better of it, and tips back the cup. He makes a face, then gives Sam a smile that’s also some sort of alloy he’s synthesized himself, so that Sam can’t even tell what the components used to be.
“I’m sure the Kool-Aid tasted sweet at first, too, Reverend Jim.”
It’s midmorning and they’re driving along a deserted stretch of highway somewhere in the Midwest.
“Dude,” Sam says, poking Dean in the shoulder. “Where are we even going?”
Dean evades the question. “Don’t ‘dude’ me. Acting like everything’s all happy doozy do. Guuhhiishoo! Dabbid.” Dean smacks the steering wheel in frustration, and sniffs loudly.
“Happy doozy do?” Sam repeats in monotone, ignoring the sneeze. Blessings would only be ironic at this point.
“Hey, I had to use the phrase once in my life.” (Dean, his tone clearly stating, ‘You can buy an education, Sammy, but clearly, you can’t buy sense’: Yeah, well. But this is my last year.)
Sam glares at his brother, and Dean glances back at him and the road in turn, letting out a chuckle that turns into a nasty-sounding cough.
“What is this really about, Dean?”
Dean allows the pause time to stretch out into a complicated yogic position before responding.
“Have to check something out,” he states at last.
“By which you really mean, ‘waste some last monster.’” Sam’s arms are already crossed over his chest, and Dean makes sure that his eyes never deviate from the road, because he can’t look at Sam like that without picturing the same position, different location, that’s burned into his memory like acid. (Bobby: I hate to bring this up, I really do. But don’t you think maybe it’s time… we bury Sam.)
“No.” Dean feigns hurt, or maybe he’s just glossing a layer on over the top of the raw wound that passes for ‘coping’ in Winchester-ville. Sure, there’s still dirt rubbed in the abrasion, but Dean knows his father wouldn’t have mentioned it, and therefore it as good as didn’t exist. (John’s voice, so close that he almost turns around: Look, I don’t expect to make it out of this fight in one piece.)
“Well, what then?”
“I meant it literally. I have to check something out.”
“Come on, Sammy, I’m sure you can hear the mecca calling to you.”
“A library,” Sam guesses, phrasing his answer in statement format. Standard Winchester protocol. What you don’t know, make up, and it better sound so good you believe it yourself.
“Checkmate,” Dean says, and sneezes again.
Sam gives him a strange look, and Dean flushes.
“You dow… just wadded do bix thigs ub a bid.” He clears his throat.
“I thought baybe ‘Yahtzee’ was getting a little worn out.”
Sam blinks, smirks.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want, big guy, just remember the time I whupped your ass at your own game.”
“You used the ‘little-known but invaluable “Resurrection Rule”’ to bring back your queen, got mad when I took it back, then accidentally knocked over my king with your elbow and declared yourself winner.”
There’s another pause, during which Dean coughs and Sam scowls.
“You didn’t argue.”
Sam wisely chooses to end the discussion there, and they lapse into silence for the next hundred or so miles. Or at least absence of conversation, as Sam pretends not to hear the numerous sneezes and congested swears.
They’re somewhere in Indiana, and Dean’s starting to think that it’s a losing battle. Well, to clarify, maybe he’s always known that, but specifically, right at this moment, this cold is winning. He pulls off at the next exit and parks in a gas station parking lot, mumbling something to Sam that could’ve been “bathroom” or “breakfast” or, hell, “brachiosaurus”. He returns to the car pink-cheeked, Nyquil, cough drops, and swiped napkins stuck deep into his jacket pockets. It’s the principle of the thing.
He’s more focused on the throb that’s set itself up nice and cozy above his right eye, so he does a double take when he finds Sam, also set up nice and cozy… behind the wheel of his car.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dean gives Sam his best staredown and takes his right hand out of his pocket to open the car door. It’s locked. He pounds a fist on the window and then sneezes twice into his shoulder.
He fishes a napkin out of his pocket and blows his nose with it, throwing it at Sam’s window before going around to the passenger side.
“It’s for your own good,” Sam tells him as he gets in.
“If I wanted a granny to drive my car, I’d go pick one up at the local bingo hall,” Dean grates out, slumped low in his seat, the car door still wide open. Sam opens his mouth to retaliate, but Dean straightens up and cuts him off.
“Don’t you dare tell me to go to hell. Don’t bother calling the press on this one, because, newsflash! The headline’s already run.” (Bobby again, his hands cool on his hot face, How long did they give you? How long?)
“Dean…” Sam says, looking as if he has something pressing to convey, but then decides against it. “Just… just rest for a while, okay?” (His own voice, imploring: Well, hold on. You need to get your rest. We got time. Then Sam’s, cutting through his chest as easily as the knife that sliced through his spinal cord, as if he knew already what he’d done, that the clock was already ticking backwards: No, we don’t.)
Dean leans over and shuts the car door, then coughs lightly into his chest.
“Forget it, Sammy. A bingo lady would probably be more fun than we’re used to, anyway.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Sam’s channeling his inner Fall Out Boy groupie again, so Dean knows that he can relax for now.
Bitch, Dean thinks, but he doesn’t say it out loud. (Sam’s voice, confused: What’d you call me a bitch for?) They’re already treading on ground that’s like newly dug graves, and he’s not sure that he could take a fall six feet under right now. He crosses his arms over his chest and closes his eyes.
Dean wakes up gasping against the cold, unyielding glass of the car window. The coughs that escape him sound like the barks of hellhounds. Great, just one more way he can be reminded of his impending due date at Dante’s library. As if he could forget. While he was sleeping, the pain in his head has somehow radiated throughout his body, placing command central in his throat so that it hurts to even swallow.
The dreams started a few nights ago. Actually, he supposes he can pinpoint it to when he started feeling… well… not well, too. (Sam’s voice, annoyed: Why’d you let me fall asleep?, then his own: ‘Cause I’m an awesome brother. So what did you dream about? As if he didn’t know. Sam’s voice, in a cut-the-bullshit tone: Lollipops and candy canes.) The memory is so vivid that he’s startled when Sam’s actually talking to him.
“Were you dreaming?”
Dean slumps back against the seat and blots out the sun with his thumb, wondering if it will really end that easily, the (blood) ink on his contract barely dry, still shiny in some places.
“Yeah, sure,” Sam laughs, then turns to Dean with a serious look on his face. “Dean, don’t think about the crocutta anymore. I know it sounded pretty real, but Dad’s gone. You saw him yourself.” (Cut to the graveyard in Wyoming, blood dripping into his eye, the indistinguishable, inimitable click of the gun cocking, and aiming it at the son of a bitch’s heart.)
Dean pauses, sneezes wetly into his elbow. “Yeah, I saw hib… Het-shugg!” He sneezes again, and groans.
“Cad you cragck the widdow or sobethig, Sab? Id’s lige (hell) the Sahara id here.” He twists around to maneuver his right elbow out of his jacket sleeve, then slides his other arm out and throws the jacket in the backseat… though not before retrieving a crumpled napkin from its pocket and blowing his nose.
Sam frowns and purses his lips in that quintessential way, but reaches out and turns up the A/C without further comment. He watches as a slight shudder runs through his brother, despite his proclaimed desire for cold. Though, if he allows himself to really think about it, to really tread beside those waters that sure as hell aren’t still, on ground that’s definitely not someplace he’d turn livestock out to graze, not being led by anyone because he’s a Winchester, goddammit, and Winchesters don’t follow, they are followed- well, he thinks that he’d probably be the same way. The hellfire’s been chasing them for months now, and if he can feel it licking at his heels, God only knows how it’s been for Dean. (A flicker of memory, digging its toenails in so hard that they draw blood. So maybe he’d already known, back in Mississippi, or had an idea at least, that what they were dealing with wasn’t a black dog. Maybe he’d felt the air of- not déjà vu, exactly, but- premonition, perhaps- that had tainted the case, like it was all too familiar somehow. It’s all too fitting, then, Dean’s voice accusing, Great. So we've gotta clean up these peoples' mess for 'em? I mean, they're not exactly squeaky clean. Nobody put a gun to their head and forced 'em to play Let's Make A Deal.)
Taking all this into consideration, Sam’s not really surprised when Dean falls asleep again, and stays that way until they’ve almost reached their destination. He’s glad that Dean seems to maybe be getting some rest, but he also can’t help feeling slightly angry for all the wasted time. The hours that bleed into one another with no regard to how every grain of sand in this goddamned hourglass should be equally important. What is it about last things? Oh yeah, they’re last.
Dean coughs himself awake in the motel parking lot. He blinks blearily out the window, and gives Sam a ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me’ look.
“The ‘Motel California’? Really?” He rubs his eyes and then his throat, his face screwed up in a slight grimace.
“Seemed like your kind of place. It’s… uh, charmingly tacky?”
“Not really; just true.”
“No,” Dean admits grudgingly. “’M cold.”
“I thought you were hot.”
“Well, that’s a given.”
Sam sighs. “I’m sure there’s a heater inside. And dude, it’s April. Not December.” The cliché phrase scurries across Dean’s mind before he can stop it, squash it like a bug: April showers bring May flowers, though he realizes quickly that he’s not going to see May, or much of it anyway. Happy friggin’ birthday, Sammy, he thinks, that’s- literally, even- one hell of a way to remember a date.
Dean will give the motel one thing- it does deliver, theme-wise.
“Palm trees? In Wisconsin?” Dean half-shouts the word with far more enthusiasm than is called for, in some sort of attempt to disguise the way his voice cracked embarrassingly on the word ‘palm.’ It kind of backfires, though, since his voice cracks on ‘Wisconsin,’ too, and sets off some type of deep coughing that forces him to set down his duffel and kick it through instead as he leans heavily on the doorframe. He straightens only for his head to quickly be thrown back forward, “Hhkkuuusch-shoo!”
“Don’t give yourself whiplash, there, bud.” Sam slides past him, and Dean glares at him while very deliberately wiping his nose on his sleeve.
“Thad’s nod a probleb, with you drivig.”
“Ahhhuuggguh-shoo!” He seems to be waking up a lot lately, abruptly and with no sense of where he is. This time’s no different, but then why should it be? Aren’t they all just primers for the real thing that’s coming, its shadow already falling more than halfway over them no matter how fast they drive?
Dean rubs his eyes before his nose- wouldn’t want to cross-contaminate germs, of course- and thinks about the ends of half-remembered dreams that he’s not even sure how to describe.
He thinks of The Lost Boys: the shouted Do you want to live forever?, but then he thinks, no, that was wrong, did he want to die forever. Parts of him were going to just keep dying off down there, burnt to unrecognizable crisps, until he was like those other—things. Just like Ruby said. Yeah, his soul’s last act: proving Ruby right. Did he choose the short end of the stick or what.
He thinks about James Bond: The World is Not Enough. Yeah, maybe that was true, maybe it wasn’t, but either way wasn’t it better to stay in it?
He remembers falling to his knees on the cold ground in South Dakota, water soaking through his jeans and reminding him with every too-loud thud of his own heart just how cold life was when you were a Winchester.
He thinks about everything and pretends it’s nothing, which in some way is better than thinking of nothing and pretending like everything never existed. Isn’t that why he’s here, now, anyway? In the Hot Seat, ready to answer the million dollar question? He can just see it, Regis Philbin’s eyes going dark after he’d already locked in his answer, (the demon’s sultry whisper dripping into his ear like molten wax, You wanna make a deal) the confetti falling, catching in his hair (You keep going, I’ll keep saying no), the audience going crazy (It’s a fire sale, and everything must go), his shaking hands taking the oversized check from the demon who wouldn’t take it back (It’s a better deal than your dad ever got. What do you say?).
Funny how the mind works, innit? He pictures saying this to Sam, half-cocked smile locked and loaded in place, but disregards it like a white flag, fluttering slightly before coming to its graceful yet deserved demise. (A different day, a different meatsuit, but the voice in his ear always the same, Look. Your dad's supposed to be alive. You're supposed to be dead. So we'll just set things straight, put things in their natural order.)
Dean drags his fist under his nose again, and allows the coughs to spill out of him like a waterfall over a long drop to rocks below. There’s no way around it, the stream can’t be diverted. (And it’s Ruby. Of course it’s Ruby, who else would it be, come to kick him when he’s down with pointy roach-killer shoes on? Hell, it only takes one word, too, who’d have guessed, Ruby, with flawless aim. There’s no way of saving me from the pit, is there? he’d asked, and maybe if he didn’t hate her so much he’d have admired how she didn’t lie, her answer so cold and fast it felt like biting an ice cube—No.)
He’s alone in the motel room for the time being—Sam’s out buying “supplies,” of the variety that Dean’s sure he’s not going to like.
God, couldn’t they just leave him alone for these last few dregs of weeks? It’s a rhetorical question, of the variety that almost makes him laugh (yeah, did he forget his last name somewhere along the line here?), but the idea of the sound of a single laugh in a sucky motel room in the middle of God-doesn’t-care, USA isn’t exactly a pretty one, and besides, he thinks it might make him cough some more. He runs his finger around the edge of the label on the bottle next to him, hey, worth a shot, huh? Not like there’s anything to lose. Father, brother, soul, all laid out on the poker table. Three guesses which chip was worth the most, and zero as to which was the one he still had in his possession, though the heat was making his fingers sweaty and he was starting to lose his grip.
It’s whiskey, of the cheap variety, and hell if just opening the bottle seems to be a monumental task all of a sudden. He has to rest his chin in his hand, and falls into a sort of doze until he detects the characteristic sound of the Impala’s engine. He forgets what the scene looks like to his audience (Sam), since all he really wants to do is get into the probably lumpy bed, fall into a sleep that will probably be interrupted by the current “Since You’re a Winchester, Life Sucks—Like, Industrial Vacuum Strength Sucks” parade, and curl up under the definitely sketchy blankets.
“I see you’re self-medicating.”
Sam’s tone is disapproving, but Dean takes a quick swig of whiskey as Sam watches anyway. Some would call it bullshit, some acting, still others lying for a living, but regardless, Dean’s great with improv. And also following through.
“Doesn’t that burn?” Sam asks. “Like, a lot?”
“Yeah,” Dean swallows with a slight wince. “—It’s practice.” He looks up at Sam with a crooked half-smile.
“That’s not funny.” (Dean, his voice weak and cracking: Oh, come on, it’s a little funny.)
Dean swirls the whiskey in the bottle. “Sure it is. Just a little.”
“Can you just humor a dying man here?”
“You’re not dying.” (Dean again, his voice sounding annoyed, but with a hint of something else behind it- pride, maybe: You’re not gonna let me die in peace, are you?)
“If an oncologist told me that I had three weeks left, would you still tell me that?”
There’s a decidedly petulant silence, in the amount of time it takes to break the water’s surface and take a gasping breath- a breath that tastes better than any breath you ever took, but which comes at the price of inhaling some water.
“It’s not.” Dean shifts the whiskey bottle to his other hand and picks at the edge of the label. He sets it down on the table and pushes the chair back. Wonders why Sam’s not shivering his ass off like he is, but then again the bitch probably turned it up full crank in here, just because he’d complained a little about it earlier.
Getting up makes him a little dizzy (apparently, he’s now losing both his ability to handle his liquor, and to not feel like an 80-year-old woman. Great. It’s lucky the day’s almost over, because when gambling, one should always retain at least some chips with which to bargain.), but the sound of the bathroom door closing is a satisfying end to the conversation.
Even with the door shut and the water running, it sounds like Dean’s in there coughing up his soul (the Crossroads Demon’s hot breath curling into his ear, like an itch he just couldn’t scratch: Just keep your gutter soul. It’s too tarnished anyway.). Sam considers knocking, just to make sure, but the water shuts off and the door opens again just as he’s lifting his hand. Dean does a double take and almost runs into him, before he comes to a (dead) stop and lets out a tremendous sneeze.
Sam blanches slightly, and takes a few steps back.
“Did no one ever teach you to cover your mouth? Weren’t you supposed to have learned that in kindergarten?”
Dean sniffs harshly, and coughs. “Must’ve beed oud sigck thad day.”
“Ha-ha,” Sam says, facetiousness with a bitchface to match. “Like you ever stayed home sick. You didn’t want to miss hunting with Dad, and too sick for school was too sick to hunt.”
“Mmm,” Dean says, since he can’t argue with this. He remembers some god-awful hunt in the winter of fifth grade, coming back to the motel soaked through, and hung out to dry in the morning as his father was already gone again, like any downtime would drive him crazy, as if he hadn’t passed through fanatical a hundred thousand miles ago. He remembers plodding through math problems, his chin resting precariously on his hand, his teacher bent down next to his desk, “I would’ve pegged you for the kind of kid to milk a hangnail and get enough to make ice cream.” He smiles at the memory, thinks of his proud, if somewhat hoarse, answer, “No, sir.”
“What’s that?” Sam asks.
“What’s what?” Dean replies, leaning up against the doorframe and rubbing his hands up his arms.
Dean’s lip curls back up into the unbidden half-grin, God, he’s going to miss this, Sam just makes it far too easy sometimes.
He sneezes again, into the crook of his arm this time, and then raises a guilty eyebrow at his brother, who’s not looking amused.
Sam pauses, like he’s choosing words as carefully as he’d select silver bullets to load into his gun. “I’d say you looked like hell, but I feel it’d be inappropriate, given the occasion.”
“It’s no—nahh—ahhhugguhx-shoo!—nothig, Sab.” Dean pulls up the collar of his shirt and coughs into it, softly at first but then he can’t control it, it’s like a riptide, dragging him out until it’s too far to swim back to shore. He has to bend almost double, and God, if it doesn’t hurt like a son of a bitch. When he finally straightens again, he takes the glass of water Sam’s holding out without comment and sips cautiously. Sam watches like he thinks he’s going to keel over, but once the critical moment is reached, he purses his lips and surveys Dean with an inscrutable expression on his face.
“That doesn’t sound awful or anything.”
“Good,” Dean chokes out, and takes another gulp of water.
“We finally agree on something.”
At this, Sam turns away from his brother and makes a frustrated gesture with his arms, or tries to imitate a windmill, Dean’s not sure which.
“Uh… didn’t know we were playing charades, Sam—” he starts, but Sam cuts him off.
“You know what, Dean? Save it.”
“For what?” Dean says, his voice low, grave. “A rainy day? ‘Cuz rainy or not, I don’t have too many days left, Sammy.”
Sam flushes under his too-long hair and settles his glance anywhere but at his brother. Dean sees his opportunity and takes it, pushing past Sam and starting to get ready for bed quickly and without trying to be quiet. Once he’s ensconced in the questionably-clean motel sheets, he flicks off the light, leaving Sam to do his thing in the dark. He can open his laptop for the light if he needs it.
Dean’s almost asleep when he hears Sam’s voice above him, soft in the darkness, “I’m sorry, Dean.”
“S’okay, Sammy,” he whispers back, snaking a hand out from under the covers to flap in Sam’s general direction. And all is forgiven, but nothing’s forgotten. Goddamn if they don’t just have eidetic memories for stuff like this. Dean can feel Sam watching him as he falls asleep, and for once it doesn’t creep him out, it just feels right, some small comfort in the presence of his brother, since soon he’ll be lacking that, probably permanently.