Welcome to Memphis
by Maygra

(coda to False Comforts)

Ratings: Mature Adult
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Warnings: Incest. Graphic sex. The following is a work of fiction. It is meant for mature adults and deals with mature and disturbing themes. Forced to a category, it would be dark fiction and containing both violence and sexual violence. It is a horror story.  It's also a love story.

I strongly recommended that you read False Comforts first.

Notes: Many, many thanks to auk for the beta work and for playing barometer.

The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.

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Welcome to Memphis
by Maygra

Darkness, darkness, hide my yearning
For the things I cannot see
Keep my mind from constant turning
Towards the things I cannot be
Oh yes, the things I cannot see
The things I cannot see
~~~"Darkness, Darkness" (Jesse Colin Young)

Blues were playing somewhere, low and mournful and for a long moment, behind closed eyes, Dean thought he was in New Orleans. It was a city he liked, one he had more good memories of than bad, despite some seriously freaky things he'd seen (and done) there. He should take Sam there, wasn't sure his brother had ever been and tried to reach for a memory that would confirm or deny it.

He'd have to ask.

Opening his eyes though, whisked the thought of New Orleans and music, and nights that made a whole city come alive, even while the dead walked, vanish in a less sugar coated reality.

Memphis. In August. He had no idea what he'd been thinking. Memphis in August was Hell on Earth.

The air around him was still heavy and thick, the night having barely cooled it at all. The window in the room was cracked to let what little air moved outside move in. Not that it would be cooler, but moving air was better than the heavy stillness inside. The air conditioning in the room, so hesitantly advertised on the flickering sign outside, had proved even more hesitant to actually work. The fan did, and even now it was straining and groaning, an inconstant humming counterpoint to the music drifting in from outside. It was someone playing, live, not a radio or drifting in from one of the bars or roadhouses nearby.

The musician stopped mid-song and Dean strained for it but the music didn't come back.

Beside him Sam stirred and shifted, murmured something.Dean held his breath, waiting, nerves singing and tension racing up his spine. He dared to look over, eyes tracking the rise of Sam's shoulder, the smooth expanse of back that seemed oddly distorted by the way Sam was lying on the bed, face down, arms wrapped around the thin pillow. Too hot for either of them to be under the sheets or even wearing much. Sam's hair just barely brushed the back of his neck. He'd finally gotten it cut a month or so ago, trusting Dean with his life but not with a pair of scissors or any recognizable sense of style.

But the trim exposed the back of his neck and for some reason, it made Sam look far more vulnerable, too much like when they were younger and their father had seen to it that their hair was cut short and neat. The more severe, just-shy-of-military haircuts Dean and their father preferred didn't do much for Sam. His face was too long, too narrow -- short hair made him look ridiculously young and wide-eyed and innocent, even now, when innocence was something Sam had shed a long time ago. Dean wasn't innocent either, but he'd worked at hiding it long before he'd lost it. Sam lost it and now the lack showed up in odd ways.

Sam had put on some muscle in the last couple of months. Workouts and sparring he had tried to avoid and disliked as a kid suddenly had a different motive than just trying to please Dean or his father. Necessary now, in a way maybe they hadn't been to Sam when he was younger. Between seven and ten he'd been eager to learn, trying to push a too young and still developing body into some semblance of shape, to emulate Dean, to please his father. At ten -- and Dean could almost pinpoint the day -- the rebellion had started. The resentment. Sam stayed in shape, the last of his baby fat had peeled away leaving a taller, slimmer version of the child he'd been, more representative of the man he'd become. He didn't look like either Dean or his father except he got his father's height and then some, but not the heavier build. Long legs and arms, and he awkwardly tried to learn his new body, the way most kids had to learn to eat vegetables. Everything he had learned about fighting, about wrestling, had to be relearned with the extra reach he'd gained. Guns too heavy for him at eight or nine suddenly fit more securely in his arms, the recoil no longer knocking him on his ass one in three times.

Sam didn't like sparring any better now than he had at twelve, but he was better at it and he was determined and four years of college had taught him that sometimes he just had to buckle down and learn stuff he wasn't sure he could ever possibly want or need to learn or ever use. But like earning really good grades through an array of schools, often shifting cities mid-year, once Sam put his mind to something, he was committed totally, and doggedly stubborn in his determination to beat whatever challenge was there.

It showed. The hard work showed in his body, in his face. In the quiet satisfaction he'd shown when he managed to pin Dean not once but three times in a row.

Sam shifted again and relaxed, breath evening out and Dean took his own breath carefully. Not another nightmare then. Or dreams, or the oddly disturbing mix of the two that had become constant companions to Sam's sleep.

Sam said he could usually tell now, even sleeping, when the dreams were his own and when they weren't. Dean could almost find some pleasure in that. Their enemy might still be invisible ninety-nine percent of the time, operating from afar, or close, but Sam knowing when the scenarios and obscenities being carried out in his own mind weren’t his own, had mitigated their effectiveness somewhat.

The shape shifters had slipped up somewhere: familiarity bred contempt of a sort.

Dean didn't want to follow that thought too far.

There were times Dean could tell too. Mostly because in the worst of them, Sam would be all tension, muscles rigid, fists clenched, denial and anger on his face even in sleep. Those were the ones where he could whisper Sam's name, touch him lightly.

Sam said it was like suddenly finding a path out of the darkness.

But there were other kinds of darkness. It only helped a little that they were walking it together, because the "together" part of it was still so very wrong on so many levels Dean couldn't stand to examine them very closely.

They'd come to Memphis on a news article, a haunting that had been dealt with, just a short curiosity piece on "Amityville in Tennessee". Their father's name hadn't been mentioned -- just a stranger who'd helped the beleaguered family and then vanished as quickly as the ghosts haunting them had.

Finding him had gained a new urgency over the last couple of months. They were in way over their heads and knew it. But finding him now had some stresses it hadn't had before.

Dean eased back on the bed.

Not that either of them intended to tell their father of the consequences of being at the top of a hit list for a family of pissed off shape shifters -- but Dean hadn't ever had the need to hide things from his father before. That he did now made him realize he'd made a choice not dissimilar to Sam's nearly five years ago.

Sam had chosen between family and a life he dreamed of.

Dean only had to choose between his father and brother. The decision hadn't been conscious, but he knew it for what it was. And he couldn't lay it at Sam's feet or even on the shape shifters entirely. Wrong was wrong.

And this was wrong. What was between Sam and him now was so wrong, there weren't words for it.

But it was the only choice he could make.

He knew when he'd made it: the first time he'd touched Sam with a purpose other than easing him from a nightmare, the first time it had been more than just offering comfort and reality when Sam was having trouble distinguishing between the two.

To date, barring their initial encounter in Milwaukee, the attacks had started just outside of Detroit. In retrospect, they probably should have avoided the place, but running away from things really wasn't something either of them did well. On the other hand, it had been a bad idea. So bad Dean couldn't believe they'd even contemplated it.

How do you find a thing that can look like anyone, be anyone, when it doesn't want to be found? Instincts and guts and dogged determination had gotten them close though -- or so Sam thought. Newspaper articles spread over months of assaults and confused identities pieced together until they were pretty sure the shape shifter with the nasty taste in greeting cards was holed up somewhere on the Southside, in a narrow wedge of town that shared industrial and older residential neighborhoods.

Dean didn't disagree that they'd been close. Close enough for the thing to feel threatened: six days of attacks, of nightly hammering on Sam's subconscious, had left him exhausted and bleary eyed, sick half the time, and so wound up even if it had laid off, Dean wasn't sure Sam could have slept. He hadn't been much better. He'd grabbed naps here and there. Had watched over Sam sleeping or waking. Been short tempered and frustrated enough to just want to find a bar and start something just so something could have an end.

Nightmares alone would have been bad enough, but no. Being what they were, the shape shifter had gone after Sam the way its siblings had the first time, although without the opportunity for physical access.

It had been hard enough to watch the first time, when Dean didn't know exactly what was going on with his brother, when it was wet dreams and fears. But the dreams always ended badly, and Dean had been quick to start waking Sam out of them when they started.

Both of them had ended up taking a lot of cold showers.

Dean had to sleep sometime. Sam knew it, Dean knew it. When Sam's nightmares started bleeding over into Dean's dreams they knew they were in trouble.

They should have left. It had been a bad decision to stay.

"There has to be a way I can turn this around on them," Sam had said, late one night. He hadn't made it to the shower yet and the sweat stood on his skin, matted his hair, even a half hour after Dean had woken him up.

Dean hadn't disagreed and he should have before letting Sam try something so dangerous and with so little idea of what he was doing. In theory it was sound. The shape shifters had told them so themselves. Not that either of them trusted them, but the evidence supported their claim -- Sam's mind was open in a way Dean's wasn't. They could take thoughts and memories from Dean, but they couldn't push them into his mind the way they could with Sam's.

"If it's an open door, maybe it's time I went through it…" Sam had argued.

"You have not the slightest idea how to do that," Dean had countered.

"Then maybe it's time I learn." Sam had been resolute, aggravated and tired, but mostly just pissed off.

"Sam, I can't follow you…" Dean said, seeing some of the stubbornness fade from Sam's eyes.

"Maybe not, but I'm pretty sure I can find my way back."  To you. Sam hadn't said it but it had been there.

Successful wasn't exactly how Dean would define it, but it hadn't totally failed either. Sam had a hard time describing it afterward. Not so much seeing through the shape shifter's eyes as being able to pick up random glimpses here and there.

On Dean's side it had been a whole lot more visceral and painful to watch. To see Sam struggling, like he was fighting, to watch his body strain and his breathing grow ragged, to know exactly when the shape shifter had gone on the defensive…

He'd woken Sam then. There had been no sign or signal between them, nothing Dean could say was influenced by Sam in any way. Mostly it just became too much for him to watch. To imagine Sam reliving something Dean couldn't even think about.

But Sam had woken to Dean's calling him, to the hands that pulled him up, like he was lifting Sam out of whatever hell he'd been in. To hold onto him while Sam worked his way back to being fully aware.

Fully aware and hard as a rock and shaking so bad that even with Dean holding him he couldn't quite find the control or even will to work his own hand into his shorts and finish what the shape shifter had started. Or maybe he just hadn't wanted to give in, to surrender that much.

Dean didn't know, only that after ten minutes Sam was no better off, was lying rigid across Dean's lap, fingers dug into his brother's thigh and just waiting for the erection to fade. Dean had quietly suggested a shower, to get up and move around, and Sam had tried but it was pretty obvious that Dean was going to have to carry him. Sam had stepped past the limits of physical and mental exhaustion that his body could tolerate.

Dean had leaned over him and whispered. He couldn't say it aloud, not out loud even though there was no one around to hear but Sam. Sam's only answer had been to relax slightly.

Dean hadn't looked. Hadn't watched his own hand slide over his brother's hip and into his pants. His hand became something totally separate from himself. It was a tool, an unguent, no different from the analgesic creams and bandages and lidocaine and OTC pain-killers and muscle relaxers they kept in the first aid kit.

He'd talked to Sam the whole time, as much to reassure and soothe as to distract himself from the feel of his brother's flesh, the thin stretch of skin across his hip bone, the rough texture of pubic hair, the hot, hard weight of Sam's dick across his palm.

Sam had barely moved, but he'd relaxed in gradual waves, cheek pressed to Dean's thigh, his hair still damp with sweat and tangled under Dean's fingers. Dean had kept his strokes even and steady, increasing the tempo and speed, changed his grip when Sam's hips had jerked slightly. It made Dean feel slightly perverted but he'd reached back in time to when Sam was younger, when growing pains left him with cramps in his legs and Dean and their father had alternated times, just rubbing Sam's legs until the spasms eased. His father had done the same for Dean when he'd had his own cramping, growing pains, once upon a time, alternating rubbing hands and warm baths. And he could even remember Sam's small hands trying to help.

This was no different. Sam was in pain, distressed, and Dean was offering help, comfort. It had to be the same.

The only thing that had made it even halfway acceptable was that Dean felt nothing but anxiety. The touch of his hand on his brother's dick did not summon an answering response in his own. Even when Sam came, with a shudder and groan that Dean felt all the way to his soul, the feel of his brother's come, the smell of it, didn't evoke anything but a sense of relief.

He didn't know what to do with the spunk coating his hand. Sam had shifted slightly and stretched but hadn't moved away. An after a minute Dean had pulled his hand free and carefully wiped it on the bedspread, never looking. He stroked through Sam's hair until he fell asleep and pretended his other hand had gone off on its own somewhere. He didn't want to see it or smell it. He also didn't want to wake Sam.

For nearly an hour he sat there, ignoring muscle cramps, ignoring the pressure on his bladder from Sam's weight, ignoring the fact that the world was moving on and going about its business beyond the windows of their hotel room.

He'd crossed a line. He knew it, even if Sam didn't. Even if Sam didn't care. It didn't matter if he'd done it to protect Sam or to help him. He couldn't take it back and despite his disquiet, he didn't actually want to. There was more to this than just a simple easing of pain between brothers.

Sam hadn't thanked him when he finally woke up. But he turned slightly and met Dean's eyes. Hadn't forgiven him either -- not with words. But the gratitude and the forgiveness were both there.

Dean pretended to take both; smiling at Sam and ruffling his hair, "You think you can make it to the shower?"

Sam had, with help. And Dean had finally washed his hands, then stripped Sam's bed and tossed the linens in the hall. The shower he'd taken when Sam had finished was brutally hot, turning his skin red. Even when he'd finally turned the water off, he hadn't been able to shed the chill in his bones.

Sam's vague impression took them a couple of days to track down, but they did. The nest had been abandoned; it reeked and stank but it was obviously empty. The rats had moved in, rain had soaked some of the shifter's supplies even though there were tarps handy. It was gone.

They'd known it already. The constant assaults stopped. They'd only looked to prove a point, that Sam could do some back tracking.

There was satisfaction in the fact that this time, it was the shape shifter who had run.

They'd left Detroit the next day, driving west.

Dean knew he was a total bitch for the next couple of days. He tried to rein it in, knowing he was lashing out at Sam for a decision he'd made. Sam hadn't let him get away with it for long. They never talked about it directly, both of them edging around the physical act like it was unholy ground. Which it was, as far as Dean was concerned.

But his guilt eased off when he realized Sam slept more often than he was awake in the car. That on the second day out of Detroit he'd stretched out in the back seat and managed four solid hours without anything more disturbing than a couple of congested-sounding snores.

Denver offered them a matching set of poltergeists, attached to a set of twins, with a penchant for tossing food out of cabinets and refrigerators. They hadn't been particularly persistent or even dangerous and privately Sam theorized that the two girls, both of whom were on the chubby side, were probably having some body issues as they slid out of adolescence into young womanhood. Having a certain amount of attention from two older, relatively attractive guys probably had as much to do with quieting the noisy interlopers as anything else Dean or Sam had done.

Dean hadn't disagreed. "Why waste holy water when charm will do?" he'd offered and Sam had laughed. That alone made the trip worth it but afterwards, Dean woke up to the smell of the rotting meat that had permeated the family's home. It reminded him painfully of the shape shifters's nests. It hadn't helped that he'd also had a few restless dreams of his own that had nothing to do with fifteen year old twin girls and everything to do with memories of Sam stretched out and naked and reminding Dean that he knew when it was Dean and when it wasn't.

A bar in Denver's less popular night scene offered him a quick cure but he'd hesitated, excusing himself from the girl he'd been playing pool with (but not betting against - she was a scarily good player) to tell Sam he was stepping out for a few minutes.

It hit him then, what he was doing. Leaving Sam here, in a strange bar because he was horny and guilty and uncertain. Sam had slept all right the night before but looking at a room full of strange faces…Dean realized he'd slipped somewhere.

"Thirty minutes, max," Dean whispered. "Just don't move from here, Sam."

"I'm fine," Sam had said, looking confused and glancing at the girl who was starting to look impatient. "Kind of shorting your friend, aren't you?"

It had pissed Dean off, unreasonably, and he knew it but he couldn't stop himself. "Just promise me you won't move. Not even to go to the bathroom. Is that so much to ask? If it's more or less than thirty minutes it's not me." The last had been meant as more of a warning but it had come out like an accusation.

Sam had blinked at him, jaw dropping slightly but then he'd nodded. "Thirty minutes. I won't move."

He hadn't. The girl, Sonia, had been willing and sweet and eager and the wide back seat of the Impala was something as familiar to Dean as the sudden need that pounded through him. Dean had used his fingers and his mouth and probably could have gotten off on just that and his own hand, but needed the sweet remembrance of something familiar, something normal.

The irony of that had hit him just about the time his body surrendered to Sonia's encouragement.

It had taken all of twenty minutes and he walked Sonia back to the bar and checked his watch, perversely holding himself to the same time limit he'd given Sam. And even then he'd stood a couple of feet away for a moment or two, studying his brother, the tense set of his shoulders, the way he tore at the label on the beer bottle instead of drinking from it, eyes fixed on the counter rather than looking around. He found himself doubting that he'd even know and the only way he did know was because Sam had given his word.

Sam hadn't even glanced at him when he'd finally come in. "Can I go to the bathroom, now?" he'd asked and gotten up.

Dean had felt the heat flush his face, ordered two beers and followed Sam.

Then he'd let Sam kick his ass at the pool table, although there hadn't been a whole lot of "letting" in the game.

Sam had been pissed off and rightfully so, sullen and silent.

An hour after the lights had been off, both of them silent and tense in their respective beds, Dean had offered the only apology he could. "You might know when it's not me, Sam. But I don't."

"Well, you could handcuff me to the bed, and leave me while you go out," Sam had snarled back at him. "Or just drag me along, Dean. I'll sit in the front seat and promise not to look. She might have gotten off on it."

"I was just…" What? Worried, concerned, yes. And so eager to get himself laid that he'd ignored -- not forgotten or dismissed, outright ignored -- how unfair this was.

"I'm not five, Dean. And I'm not your dog. Lay it out like that again, and I swear I will beat the shit out of you."

Also, unfair but not entirely untrue. The anger Dean felt wasn't aimed at Sam but it was too big to be contained. He'd gotten up, pulled his clothes back on, and left the car keys for Sam. "I'm going for a walk. Try not to get yourself killed or kidnapped, okay?" he'd said, viciously aware of how irrational he was being.

He hadn't gone far or been gone long, no more than across the street, keeping his eye on the hotel door, just in case.

A half hour later, Sam had come out, stood in the doorway fingering the keys. He didn't miss Dean, couldn't. Sam had pulled a couple of books out of the trunk and gone back inside. A few minutes later, Dean followed him.

He didn't want Sam. Not in the way he'd wanted Sonia, or anyone else. And what he wanted for  Sam wasn't really on the table.

Sam hadn't looked up when he came in, didn't check. Didn't do anything but turn the page. When Dean sat on the edge of his bed with his back to Sam, Sam had closed the book. Dean could feel his gaze on the back of his neck and shuddered the half second before he felt Sam's hand close lightly over his shoulder. "I didn't mean it that way," Dean said.

"I know. If you had, I'd have kicked your ass in the bar," Sam said evenly.

Dean smiled at that. He'd have deserved it. It surprised him that Sam had gotten over his anger so quickly. Usually his brother had a slow burn, a temper that could simmer for days even after it boiled over.

When Dean turned around, it was like a coin dropping in a slot. Ka'ching. But it didn't come up all sevens. It came up all lemons. Bright and mocking; three of a kind for a jackpot, except for that one in a million occurrence when it all went sour.

He was all Sam had. All he could trust -- would trust.

Sam didn't necessarily want him either, but he needed him in a way that Dean didn't need Sam. Dean could hold himself apart, watch his back, and let Sam draw back further than he had in going to school. Sam was the one who kept reaching back out, but it couldn't last. Eventually, he'd stop.

Sam squeezed his shoulder once more and pulled his hand back. Dean stopped him.

Even so, it was Sam, once more who made the first move, had set the book aside. Terrified and resolute all in one, when he'd leaned toward Dean.

And even right up until the moment when Dean had let his hand slip behind Sam's neck, he'd hesitated, panicked. He'd lifted his head to press his lips to Sam's forehead instead of his mouth. He'd felt Sam shake under his hands, not sure if Sam were relieved that Dean had taken the higher ground or pained because the road less traveled was so very, very dangerous, but also would leave Sam alone in a way he hadn't been until right at that moment.

Dean thought his heart would beat out of his chest when Sam pulled back and he'd tightened his grip, held Sam still, lips still pressed to his skin and hair. "Sam…" you're my brother!

But of course Sam knew that. "It's okay," Sam said sounding less rejected than calm, but also not nearly as relieved as Dean wanted him to be. He wanted Sam to be able to trust him, to be able to count on him to be the one that held firm.

He wasn't that strong and Sam had always been a pretty obvious weakness.

He'd held Sam a little tighter, then been ready to let him go. His thumb brushed across Sam's cheekbone and he felt moisture. It dried almost immediately, so faint a trace Dean was sure he'd imagined it, but Sam had his eyes closed, his breathing steady and even, his weight balanced on his arms and hip. The only place they touched at all was where Dean held him.

He'd moved his thumb and nothing else, brushing over Sam's lips. Sam had closed his eyes tighter, enough so that the dampness on his lashes became more obvious. Then he'd licked his lips and his tongue had barely brushed Dean's thumb.

It wasn't a yes or a please, but it wasn’t denial either. It was Dean's decision and always had been, ever since this nightmare had started.

Sam trusted him to make the right one.

Dean didn't know what that was, but he'd made it anyway, pulling Sam's lower lip down and moving his mouth to cover it.

Sam had been so still, for a second Dean thought he'd misunderstood, that he'd called it wrong, that he'd just managed to completely shatter whatever shred of stability Sam had managed to gather under himself.

Then Sam had opened his mouth under Dean's and Dean had almost sobbed just from the sheer weight of the decision.

It hadn't been all that great, both of them still too uncertain, too tense, all of it too strange, from the rough rub of beard stubble on Sam's chin to the confusing rivalry of who should take charge of the kiss.

Dean ceded that fight to Sam.

When Sam's arm started shaking from holding himself up so awkwardly, body twisted, Dean caught him, managed to get them both down on the bed without anyone getting an elbow in the eye or a knee in the groin.

Dean totally gave up trying to figure out if he actually liked the way Sam kissed, or if it mattered at all. Less uncertain, Sam was kind of scarily desperate, hooking an arm under Dean's shoulder and sending his tongue into Dean's mouth like there was something he needed to taste.

But he kept his eyes tightly shut, like he couldn't bear to look.

Just as Dean found it hard not to want to look, to see, to watch Sam's face when they drew apart for a second, both of them panting harshly.

Sam was hard against his hip but he wasn't pushing there, seemed to be content with feeding his oral hunger. Dean was hard too, and getting harder, but if this was enough, if Sam's own thoughts pulled him back, Dean wasn't going to force him to go further. Even so, he put a hand between them, cupping his own erection through his jeans, the back of his hand and his knuckles rubbing against Sam's, separated by equally strained denim.

Then Sam opened his eyes. It might have been easier if he'd kept them closed although easier for who, Dean didn't know. But it was Dean's face he stared at, examined, studied and was still looking at when his hand slid over Dean's and linked their fingers.

Sam's fingertips just barely brushed over him but he groaned, low and soft and pressed back. Tilted his head and took Sam's mouth with more aggression than he had before.

Getting zippers and snaps undone was about as far as they got; a combination of awkwardly groping hands and accidental touches, the rub of cloth and just tension breaking them both too early and too fast. Sam before Dean, and he gasped into Dean's mouth when he came, come soaking his underwear. A reflexive clutch of his hand on Dean while he was still working through release pushed Dean past the point of backing off; just the strangeness of Sam's hands, strong as Dean's own but with longer fingers, overrode both objections and any sense of reason.

And Sam's hand stayed there, even when Dean pressed his face into his brother's shoulder, trying to calm his erratic breathing. Even after Dean moved his own hand to rest above Sam's hip, at the curve of his waist, feeling warm skin where Sam's shirt had pulled up.

It was probably only a few minutes but it felt longer before Sam did move his hand, fingers splayed across Dean's thigh, gripping him firmly for a second before turning his head to whisper in Dean's ear. "I'm okay." There was a question there too and Dean could only nod.

Sam had pulled away then and rolled to the side of the bed, stripping his shirt off. "Dibs on the shower," he'd said and gotten up and Dean had tracked him, eyes fixed on the barely healed scar on the back of his shoulder. He'd fallen asleep while Sam was still in the shower and only much, much later had woken to find Sam asleep beside him and the lights off.

Two months ago…two months and the chasm was still just as wide and they hadn't stopped falling. They'd progressed -- if you could call it that. Still no more than hands and mouths, neither of them ready to even think about anything else, Sam for reasons more obvious than Dean maybe, but they were all part of the same fear. After the first time, they'd never done it again with the lights on, like maybe it didn't count as much, but for Dean it was because he was scared.

The role of coward fitted him uneasily, like a suit that wasn't his; he'd stolen it and wearing it reminded him that he had. Dean turned out the lights because he couldn't stand to see the gratitude on Sam's face at the end -- a constant that was almost as reliable as the nightmares he still had.

Why Sam turned the lights out Dean didn't know and hadn't asked.

There was a randomness to it that Dean couldn't get a handle on, because it didn't seem to be triggered by horniness or fear. It didn't matter if they shared a bed or found a room with two. After three jobs successfully completed Dean wondered if that were it, but the next time had been on the road, in between larger cities, two beds, and he'd turned out the lights only to find Sam at his shoulder. There was no seduction, no asking, just that sudden immediate sensation of now.

It occurred to Dean then, as it always did, that he should say no and stop it. But he didn't and in the middle of it, with Sam stretched out on the bed, chest heaving and moaning and his fingers trying to gain purchase in Dean's hair while Dean had gone down on him, Dean wasn't sure he ever could say no -- mostly because he was afraid of what it would mean. He was pretty sure it would be something he'd only get the opportunity to say once.

Which put it all back on Sam and Dean wasn't willing to be that much of a coward. Two days later, even though he felt not the slightest twinge of desire, he stood behind Sam and stroked the back of his neck and frantically hoped maybe Sam would be stronger.

Then felt guilty when Sam wasn't.

They'd stopped asking for any kind of specific room, going for what was cheapest, two beds if the could get them, just to have the extra space to sprawl on.

The first hotel in Memphis had one bed and the room was almost ridiculously small. They only planned to be there for a couple of days to try and talk to the family, see if their rescuer had, indeed, been John Winchester. Their first night in, Sam had been assaulted by nightmares more severe than he'd had in Detroit, severe enough that some other occupant in the hotel had the front desk call the cops.

They'd had to hunt up another place to stay that night and the motel wouldn't return their money.

They'd ended up here, further from the place they wanted to be, but all Dean could think was that he needed to get Sam someplace where he could lie down before reaction alone made him throw up and convince the cops he was the junkie they obviously took him for.

Dean had only barely locked the door when Sam was right in front of him. He was pale and still shaking and so obviously not entirely clear that they were elsewhere. Still so unsure he wasn't caught in a nightmare, that Dean had almost been tempted to shove him in the shower under cold water just to make sure he was awake.

"You were dead," Sam accused him. "You were dead and I was-- I was still…"

Dean didn't want to know. Even without the details, he didn't want to know and no matter how much Sam needed to tell him, which was newly strange all by itself, he couldn't hear it or he'd be out on the streets waving a gun and shooting anything that moved. The flare of rage that ran through him would have scared Sam if he'd been in any shape to notice, but he wasn't

"I'm not dead, Sam. I'm not and you haven't done a damn thing to me." He'd said it firmly, flatly. Waited until Sam had calmed some and said it again with less anger and more reassurance. Then again when he'd helped Sam get undressed.

By the time they were both naked, Sam believed him. Or mostly. Dean would have bruises in couple of days; they'd show up on his arms and maybe even his ass where Sam had held him, moved against him. Sam's own fear had given way to anger at some point until Dean had wrapped his arms around him tightly and held him. "Me, Sam…remember who you're fucking," he'd said and it was like cold water on Sam's face, even without actual fucking going on.

It had been a frustrating night for both of them and even now, Dean could feel the ache in his groin, smell Sam's sweat on his skin, the scent amplified by the heavy air. Sam had dropped his head to Dean's chest and not for the first time, Dean had just held on, willingly laying the blame for the dampness on his chest and on his own face on the heat and the humidity.

Even with the heat, when Sam had finally relaxed and rolled off him, Dean had pressed up close behind him and promised they'd leave tomorrow.

Today. He didn't think Sam would actually give up that easy. A few hours of sleep and he'd be all reason and rationale: that they were here, they might as well check out the leads they had. And Dean would agree and they'd once more face daylight like nothing in the dark could hurt them. Sam would take the lead and push and Dean would agree. He wondered if the low level resentment he felt was in any way equivalent to what Sam had felt for so many years, following behind Dean and their father.

The music didn't come back and Dean finally rolled over and spread his hand across Sam's back, fingers covering the triangular scar on his shoulder, the skin still rough and reddened in the daylight. The scar on Dean's forearm was pretty much the same. Healing but still obvious and raw.

He covered Sam's scar with his palm. No. Not the same. He didn't even have to be a poet to find the metaphor. Sam's scar came from hatred and cruelty and an evil they weren't sure they could beat. Dean's was a reminder of love and trust, something he'd promised Sam in a damp, foul place that reeked of violence and pain and vengeance and his brother's blood.

He moved his hand and pressed his lips on the scar briefly. He couldn’t remember a time in his life when he'd ever kissed Sam's hurts away. Patched him up, told him his cuts and bruises weren't so bad, he'd get over them. Told Sam not to cry; that's not what big boys did.

Well, Sam was a big boy now and Dean felt naively foolish for ever telling himself or Sam, in his own cocky way, there were worse things than dying.

Careful what you wish for.

Sam shifted again, tension rolling through his shoulder then easing. He stretched his arm out and  the scar vanished into the shadows.

"Dean?" Not really a question of identity as much as checking if he were awake.

"Right here," Dean said and rolled to his back.

"I thought I heard music."

"You did. Nothing to worry about, bro'," he whispered and Sam settled again. Dean reached out and rubbed Sam's back. "Just somebody singing the blues."

Welcome to Memphis.



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