Dean sipped his coffee, wondering what the hell he was doing at six o'clock on a cold morning sitting outside a scruffy motel room in a minuscule town of South Dakota instead of being snugly curled up in bed in their warm and comfortable bunker.
He sighed; the things he did for his little brother.
After a first awed appreciation of the MOL bunker and its treasures, Sam had developed the inexplicable habit of mooning around restlessly after a couple of weeks of stable living in their new home. He'd get twitchy if he didn't get out on the road again, seemingly missing the Impala and their old roaming ways.
It was something Dean couldn't for the life of him understand.
Sam had always been the one to want normal, to settle down, have a home. Yet now that they had this fantastic bunker filled with all the geeky books and information a nerdy guy like Sammy could want, not to mention the mouth-watering home cooking he served up daily to his prissy little brother, he reminded himself proudly, Sam still wasn't completely happy.
He supposed it was the same old story. One strived and laboured to reach a goal, but when one did, it no longer seemed so attractive. Maybe Sam's desire for normal, wasn't everything he'd hoped for after all.
Dean's eyes were drawn to the parked Impala, sleek and black; a sight that always lifted his mood. He loved the car but he wasn't oblivious to the fact she was forty-six years old.
He kept her like new but there was no forgetting she'd been rebuilt nearly from scratch at least a couple of times; most of the work he'd carried out himself; done it lovingly too, watching fondly as she was re-born from her ashes like the mythical Phoenix.
He thought back to his little trip to the future courtesy of Zachariah, where his future self had trashed the Impala in favour of the more practical Jeep. THAT Dean hadn't been him, but he'd understood why he'd become that man; knew he could easily become an uncaring killing machine too, without Sam by his side.
Croat Dean had abandoned his Sam, hadn't contacted him again, and though it was still difficult for Dean to admit that he and Sam were important enough to have caused the end of the world, that's exactly what had happened in that future reality.
He and Sam, because they had been apart, had brought on the Croatoan virus, trashed the world, and been responsible for future Dean's death at the hands of Lucifer wearing Sam's body.
He shivered at the thought.
Terrified by what he'd seen, as soon as he'd been angel-taxied back home, he'd contacted his little brother, wondering why the hell he'd thought letting him go off on his own had been an intelligent idea, but he'd never told Sam any details of that horror-filled alternate reality.
Dean felt an unexpected shiver run through him. Next year would be 2014, the year the world had gone to hell.
They had stopped the Apocalypse, or Sammy had, throwing himself into the Cage with Lucifer, so that scenario was no longer viable, was it? In 2014 the Earth would keep on turning, nothing would change, or would it?
Dean knew as far as the Winchesters were concerned, the worst was always hiding in the wings waiting to rain down fire and brimstone on their heads, so nothing could surprise him any more, but he fervently hoped never to see that future come to pass.
He gulped down the rest of the coffee before it became as chilled as the cool morning air, tossing the paper cup into the nearest waste-bin with perfect aim. He was about to go back inside when the door opened and his brother flopped down beside him, his body still warm with the heat of sleep, his hair sticking out all over the place like some wig on crack!
"Dean, " he slurred drowsily, "thought you'd be snoring in bed, not out here freezing your ass off."
"Couldn't sleep, Sasquatch, " Dean answered, his eyes flicking over his kid brother, looking away once he was satisfied that Sam was hale and hearty and still sporting four limbs. "You don't think you've got the monopoly on sleeplessness do you? That award might have gone to your soulless self. He'd have been first across the line," he joked.
"Yeah, things are a little fuzzy, but I think I outdid myself in research during that year," Sam reminisced ruefully..
"Not just in research, Sammy," Dean, smirked. "You got through a hell of a lot of women too, bro!"
Sam huffed. " I didn't have my soul, Dean. He was the worst part of me."
"I know Sammy. While he was hunting and having hot sex, you, the real you, was still in the Cage being tortured by those two douche-bags. I'm sorry, I didn't realise it earlier, bro. I could have saved you a lot of suffering," Dean grimaced.
"Yeah, well that works both ways, man; if I could've gotten you out of Hell, I'd have saved you a lot of pain too, So let's just call it quits, Dean."
Dean nodded. Their lives sucked but as long as they had each other, it was bearable.
Sam took a swig of his coffee then held the cup out to Dean.
"You've been out here longer than me, this is still warm, it'll heat you up. I'll go shower and we can get back on the road," he said.
Dean took the cup, knowing that it wasn't about the coffee but that Sam was thanking him for leaving the warm bunker simply because he'd sensed Sam's need to get out.
Dean cleared his throat. He wasn't as shy of chick-flick moments as he had once been when he was younger and cockier, though he still found it difficult to talk about his emotions, but he had to ask.
"I'm not complaining, but you wanna tell me why we're really out here?" He held up a cautionary finger. "There's no hunt in vista, is there? So why?"
Sam shuffled uncomfortably.
Dean raised his eyebrows, incredulous.
"Just cos! Not exactly an explanation worthy of a Stanford attendee, Sam. You gotta admit!"
Sam picked at a loose thread on his sweat pants and sighed.
"I can't give you a better reason, Dean; not a logical one anyway. I should be as happy as pig in a mud-bath, and I am, don't get me wrong.
The bunker provides me with endless research and I'm grateful, but," he added, raising his eyes to his brother, "I never thought I'd say this; sometimes I just miss the past; you and me in the Impala, our life on the road, the smoky bars, hustling pool, the unpredictability of our days, the total freedom we had to roam the country from coast to coast.
We're legacies, I get it, and I'm proud, but this whole MOL thing clips our wings, heaps responsibilities on our shoulders..." He broke off, realising that Dean was looking at him amazed.
"I can't believe I'm hearing this from you of all people, Sam! What happened to you wanting normal? Well," Dean qualified cocking his head. "As normal as Winchesters can expect, and now you're telling me that you would rather go back to sleazy motel rooms and all the rest.
Then you shying away from responsibility! Hell, you've always been the sensible one in the family. You've just spewed out words that I would say. Did some witch swap our bodies without us realising it? "
"I told you Dean," Sam snorted. "I've no logical explanation to give. I'm great for a while, but then something builds up inside me; it feels like the walls are closing in and I just need to get out of the bunker, back on the road. I'm sorry to have dragged you out into the cold, man"
"It's fine, Sammy," Dean consoled him. "Whatever you need, bro. Maybe we've gotten a little soft living the good life. But I want you to know Sam, I'm good wherever we are as long as I've got you by my side. If the bunker fell down around our ears I wouldn't care. Wherever you are is home to me."
Sam's head flew up, his eyes questioning.
"Don't look at me like that Sam, I've never said it out loud, but you must have always known that without you I'm nothing."
He clapped a hand on Sam's knee before getting up and going back inside, leaving his younger brother staring after him, stunned.
Yeah, he'd always known Dean loved him, no one else on Earth would ever have sold his soul for his sorry ass, but to hear his brother say it out loud...
Sam breathed in the fresh morning air.
On some level he recognized the relationship he and Dean shared was unhealthy and co-dependent, but it was what they had, and at this point in their lives, he doubted it would ever change, and to tell the truth, he never wanted it to.