After the djinn presses his calloused hand to Samâ€™s forehead things smear until itâ€™s like looking at reality through Vaseline, and Sam opens and closes his mouth and tries to say something, anything, but all that comes out is the faint whistle of his breath until heâ€™s sucked down, down down. And inside itâ€”whatever it isâ€”he dreams. He dreamsâ€”the way he dreams anything since he started getting the visions: in flashes and with physical jerks of pain or pleasure or fearâ€”of the gold coast of California and the crash of waves, the stretch of American heartland spread at his feet like a patchwork of green and brown. He dreams about steam off of hot dog stands and the yellow and red and white umbrellas outside of Fenway Park and he thinks he sees Dean in the stands, on his feet and heckling, waving a beer. Sam dreams the flicker of sun burning on his skin, and in a split second he blinks and realizes that this isnâ€™t a dreamâ€”this is memory, and he slips, and slides, and trips into black all over again.
Sam wakes up fast, brain rolling over like the engine of the Impala, and it takes him a few shuddery moments before he pushes himself up onto his elbowsâ€”before he blinks the white glaze of sun out of his eyes and sees pale green walls. The djinn is gone and in its place there are overflowing bookshelves instead, monochrome photographs of classic cars on the walls, in stark black frames with gleaming glass. Itâ€™s quiet, and Sam lets himself breatheâ€”once, twice, three times, come on Sammy, focusâ€”before he looks round again.
Itâ€™s still there, all of it: books double and triple-stacked, with volumes layered on top of other books, piles on the floor next to mountains of The Economist and Harvard Law Review, the bed with the pale linens with a high thread countâ€”the king-sized bed. Sam rolls off of the mattress and lands silently, onto a pale woven rug, one hand on the dark wood bedside table, fingers grazing the edge of a hardback book, the metal edge of a Tiffany lamp. Heâ€™s alone, and it takes some prowling around the room before he finds his cell phone.
Itâ€™s charging in a cradle on a dresser scattered with keys and change and ballpoint pens, and Sam tries not to think about that when he plucks it out, dials Deanâ€™s number from physical memory and listens to the ring on the other end.
The phone goes six times before somebody picks up.
â€œWhat the fuck?â€ Dean says.
Sam nearly cries in relief, and he covers his face with a shaking hand when he laughs, when he gasps out, â€œDeanâ€”oh my God, Dean. Thank God.â€
â€œSam?â€ Dean asks, and his voice has dropped half an octave, gone rough at the edges and hard, and Sam knows automatically and in his heart, against reason, that when Deanâ€™s voice goes like that everything will be all right. â€œSam, are you okay? Whatâ€™s going on?â€
â€œThe djinn is what happened!â€ Sam hisses, keeping close to the walls. â€œI went to the warehouse and the djinn was there and he was definitely real, Deanâ€”and then he put his hand on my face and I woke up in this room with like a thousand books I keep tripping over.â€
Thereâ€™s a long silence before Dean says, â€œA djinn, huh.â€
â€œYes!â€ Sam snaps, scowling into the deserted hallwayâ€”there more pictures of cars on the walls, black and white stills of carnival lights and cityscape. â€œLook, Iâ€™m going to try to figure out where I amâ€”you need to come get me.â€
Dean says, â€œAre you drunk?â€
â€œWhat?â€ Sam squawks. â€œNo!â€
â€œBecause itâ€™s like 8 a.m. in the morning, Sammy,â€ Dean says, fond.
Outside the hall window, Sam can hear morning traffic, car horns. Itâ€™s a normal street outside, thereâ€™re sidewalks and trees and people walking around and talking on their cell phones, hefting laptop bags and briefcases. If this is hell or heaven or the ever after Sam canâ€™t help but be unimpressed. â€œIâ€™m not drunk!â€
â€œSure you arenâ€™t,â€ Dean says, and hangs up.
Sam stares at his phone in horror, standing barefoot in pajama pants and a STANFORD t-shirt in the hallway until he hears somebody comingâ€”but even before he can look around for a weapon his fingers go numb and nervelessâ€”
â€œDean,â€ Sam says, and it comes out hoarse, scrape out of his throat.
Because it is Dean standing in front of him, holding a chipped coffee mug and wearing a Red Sox t-shirt and sweat pants and glasses and holding a cell phone.
â€œWhat, did you think I was out jogging or some yuppie shit?â€ Dean asks, still grinning. He sets the phone and coffee aside. â€œNightmare?â€
Sam shakes his head because he doesnâ€™t know what else to do. This is real. This must be real, and Sam tamps down the voice in his head that says the djinn must have found thisâ€”that he must have dug down deep somewhere and pulled this secret out of him, without words, because Samâ€™s never given it a voice, but it doesnâ€™t matter, because here it all is andâ€”
â€œNo,â€ Sam manages. â€œNot a nightmare.â€
Itâ€™s Dean smirking when he takes the last few steps to close the space between them, saying, â€œMan, Sammy, you are not a morning person,â€ before he puts a hand on the back of Samâ€™s neck and presses his mouth against Samâ€™sâ€”soft, and Sam tastes coffee and belonging and love and home, and it doesnâ€™t occur to him for a single minute to push Dean away.
Dean kisses Sam until Sam feels boneless and docile and agreeable, with Dean murmuring things into the skin at the corners of Samâ€™s mouth, his smile sun sweet and burning like citrus against Samâ€™s tongue. Sam feels like a cat, purring, and when Dean finally does pull away, itâ€™s to say â€œYou okay?â€ and â€œIâ€™m here, babe,â€ and â€œMorninâ€™, sunshine.â€ And so Sam lets Dean lead him by the hand down the hallway, into a sun-drenched living room with still more books, letâ€™s Dean sit him down at a blond wood kitchen table and give him coffee, to brush a fond hand over the crown of Samâ€™s head.
It feels like Sunday mornings: slow, sunken in honey.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on, Sam?â€ Dean says, tugging out a carton of eggs and peering at Sam over the top of his glasses. â€œYouâ€™re acting weird.â€
Everythings wrong, Sam thinks. â€œIâ€™m not acting weird,â€ he says.
Dean gives him The Look. â€œYou called meâ€”from the bedroom.â€
Sam squares his shoulders, leans back in the kitchen chair. Thereâ€™re a row of cookbooks on a shelf over the sink, and a dying basil plant by the window; this looks like a room Sam always wanted to have, and maybe he can have it now.
â€œI didnâ€™t know where you were,â€ Sam says, too carefully, because he could still be wrong.
â€œI was a whole 100 yards down the hall getting coffee,â€ Dean shoots back, frowningâ€”he comes closer, poking Sam in the chest with the long end of a spatula. â€œYou sure youâ€™re not having nightmares again?â€ he asks.
â€œNo,â€ Sam retorts, picking up his steaming mug and taking a sip. Itâ€™s terrible, and Sam thinks, only Dean could make coffee this bad. â€œAnd Iâ€™m not drunk either.â€
â€œYeah, drink your joe,â€ Dean says, and cracks eggs into a bowl, searches round for a fork. Sam has seen the line of Deanâ€™s back almost every day of his entire life, and he knowsâ€”the way he knows the edges of his own bodyâ€”how Deanâ€™s shoulders look when he beats an egg, when he wakes up, when Dean looks away, out a window, as theyâ€™re cruising down a rural highway in the middle of nowhere. Sam knows Dean.
He takes another sip of coffee and watches Dean scramble eggs, watches Dean make toast and microwave bacon and casually flick on the TV, humming something by God damn Kansas under his breath as the morning news announcer chirps, â€œItâ€™s another beautiful Saturday in Bostonâ€”and we can anticipate highs in the lower 50s today and plenty of sun.â€
Somewhere between eggs and bacon and coffee and lunch, Sam tells Dean that he dreamed he was being attacked by a djinn, which as stupid as it sounds is better than telling Dean he was attacked by a djinn.
â€œIn no way do I want you to interpret this as me discouraging you from fawning over my stuff,â€ Dean says through a mouthful of toast, â€œbut maybe you should quit reading my books right before bed.â€
Sam forces himself to snap his jaw shut, so he doesnâ€™t ask anything stupid like, â€œYou write?â€ and â€œBooks? You write books?â€ and thinks to himself, â€œDamn genies.â€
â€œYeah, maybe,â€ Sam finally manages, forcing down another mouthful of Deanâ€™s coffee until the taste hits him full in the face like a semi and he snaps the mug down and says, â€œOkay, Deanâ€”you are never allowed to make coffee again.â€
Scowling, Dean snaps, â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong with my coffee.â€
â€œPeople in prison get better coffee than this,â€ Sam argues. They do. He knows for a fact.
â€œPeople in prison also get ass-shanked in the shower,â€ Dean ripostes.
Sam looks at him for a long time, torn. â€œI donâ€™t even know what that is,â€ he admits finally. â€œIs that a threat? I donâ€™t even know what that was supposed to mean.â€
Dean gulps down the rest of his mug, as if to prove some sort of point. Samâ€™s seen Dean eat sandwiches heâ€™s found in motels and chicken cordon bleu from roadside diners, so it doesnâ€™t prove anything other than the fact that Deanâ€™s stomach acids should be studied by the CDC for possible medicinal properties.
â€œThat means Iâ€™m going to be late for my meeting with my editor, and that you,â€ Dean says, pushing himself up from the table and leaning closeâ€”close enough to press an absent kiss to the corner of Samâ€™s mouth, and it makes Sam murmur a little, babble quietly in tongues to feel that: the chapped skin of Deanâ€™s mouth with intent, â€œare a bitch.â€
â€œJerk,â€ Sam answers, reflexive, but even before horror can sink in, Deanâ€™s wandering down the hall back to the bedroomâ€”to their bedroom, calling over his shoulder:
â€œYou love it. Donâ€™t lie.â€
Sam stares into his coffee cup, thumbs on the rims. â€œYeah,â€ he admits. â€œI guess I do.â€
Dean disappears from the apartment in a clatter of footsteps and yelling, â€œIâ€™ll be back by seven at the latest, so I better see dinner on the table,â€ and when Sam yells back, knee-jerk, â€œMake yourself dinner, ass,â€ he says, horrified, â€œOh my God, weâ€™re married.â€ He waits just long enough to see Dean heading down the street from the living room window before he runs back into the bedroomâ€”starts rifling around the desk, the dresser.
He needs details, explanations, he wants to know how any of this ever happened and why and why are they in Boston and since when does Dean write books. But instead of a wallet or a neatly-summarized list provided by his friendly neighborhood djinn, Sam finds a book on what he guesses is his side of the bedâ€”opened and face-down on pages 57 and 58â€”by Dean Winchester titled Carnival.
He flips back to the beginningâ€”before all the dog-eared pages and after the Library of Congress informationâ€”and creases down page oneâ€”realizes it was already folded before. When I read it the first time, Sam thinks crazily.
It was six hundred degrees in the metal box of the Impala and the leather upholstery was starting to feel like sexual harassment. Even the wind blowing in the opened windows felt like a wall of steam, and outside on either side of the highway only half-abandoned farm shacks interrupted the land, cracked in heat. Jake ran one sweaty palm over his forehead, his upper lip, prickly from a day without shaving.
â€œIt is too God damned hot,â€ he said, mostly to himself.
So of course Sam answered, â€œWhich could be fixed if we got a new car.â€
â€œWe are not getting a new car,â€ Jake said. He glared across the front seat. â€œThis car is a classic. She and I have an understanding.â€
Sam made Jakeâ€™s least favorite Bitch Face (TM). â€œDo you,â€ she said. â€œThen could you be good enough to pass a message to her and tell her to make the fucking AC work?â€
Jake stroked a hand over the steering wheel comfortingly. â€œDonâ€™t listen to her, baby,â€ he cooed. â€œSheâ€™s just jealous you got better curves than her.â€
Sam turns the page with extreme prejudice. â€œHer,â€ he snarls. â€œIâ€™ll kill him.â€
Jake Winston and Samantha Holloway are driving away from a harrowing experience with faith healers when they come across a haunted carnival, and Sam spends most of the first 40 pages of the book cussing and freaking out because Dean is writing their God damned lives. Their other livesâ€”in glowing technicolor, with sexual tension so deliberate and obvious it sparks neon off of the pages.
Itâ€™s the kind of airport paperback Sam used to read in between state-mandated sets of textbooks, between schools, curled up in the backseat of the Impala when he and his dad werenâ€™t speaking to one another. Itâ€™s fast and furiously-paced and Dean obviously thinks the car is nearly as sexy as Samantha Holloway, and Sam canâ€™t help but feel a little irrationally wronged about thatâ€”but in the grand scheme of things itâ€™s so low on his list of things to worry about it barely registers.
Samâ€™s still readingâ€”Jake and Samantha are having a fight Sam knows he and Dean had in Iowa once and also that he sounded nowhere near as gay as Dean has portrayed himâ€”when he feels somebody drop a hand to the back of his neck.
â€œI thought I told you to stop reading that,â€ Dean murmurs.
When Sam blinks he realizes itâ€™s late, that shadows have cast over the pages of the book and heâ€™s reading by the light of the street lamps outside, faint orangeâ€”that the noise of cars and people drifting through the cracked-open window has harshened, the way sound at night gets sharper around the edges, echoing and jagged in the dark.
â€œWhat time is it,â€ Sam asks. He puts down the bookâ€”opened now at page 94â€”rubs his eyes.
â€œItâ€™s like, 6:30, babe,â€ Dean says, fond, and runs his fingers through Samâ€™s hair, reaches over to flick on a lamp with his free hand. â€œYou been reading all afternoon?â€
If this were homeâ€”if this were the other them, Dean would ruffle his hair: irritating, affectionate, too many sharing bathrooms and hand-me-downs on the hot, unforgiving highways. Sam closes his eyes hard against that thought, because it was impossible there, but not hereâ€”Sam canâ€™t help but think there arenâ€™t impossibilities here.
â€œI guess,â€ Sam admits, and leans into Deanâ€™s touchâ€”his fingers kneading the tense muscles in Samâ€™s shoulders. â€œI got sucked in.â€
â€œItâ€™s because Iâ€™m a genius,â€ Dean assures him, laughing, and steps away, touch gone but still close, and Sam finds himself following like heâ€™s trapped in Deanâ€™s gravitational fieldâ€”like heâ€™s always been trapped in Deanâ€™s orbit, helplessly drawn even when there was a continent between them.
â€œHow was your meeting?â€ Sam asks, and he watches Dean make a grab for a cordless phone.
â€œIt was good,â€ Dean says, glancing at Sam over his shoulder. â€œIâ€™m ordering inâ€”what are you in the mood for?â€
Sam shrugs, leans against a counter. â€œIâ€™m fine with anything.â€
Dean leans over to dial in a number from a magnet on the fridgeâ€”and then pulls the door open to snatch a beer. He puts the phone between his shoulder and his ear and pops the top on a counter, and Sam wants to scold him for that, but he doesnâ€™t know if he does that hereâ€”if thatâ€™s a brother thing or a whatever the hell this is thing, but Dean just gives Sam a preemptive donâ€™t shit bricks about it look Sam would know from any version of Dean.
â€œYeah, hey, delivery please?â€ Dean says, and passes Sam his beer, digging around his pocket with his free hand.
Sam takes the bottle in numb fingers, feels the slick glass against the pads of his fingers, and thinks that Dean will keep his wallet in his back left pocket no matter where he goes, or who he is, or who they are to one another. Sam used to steal Deanâ€™s beers all the time, partly because dealing with his brother long-term occasionally required alcohol abuse, but mostly because he could feel the lingering warmth of Deanâ€™s mouth that way.
Sam remembers feeling bad about it, guilty, like he was taking advantageâ€”but Sam thinks that back then, wherever he was, taking advantage was all he could ever take.
But thatâ€™s not true now, Sam thinks, and sets the bottle down, reaches over and threads his fingersâ€”they arenâ€™t shaking, theyâ€™ve always known this geographyâ€”through the hair at the back of Deanâ€™s neck and draws him in. And Deanâ€™s eyes are wide and amused but kisses Sam anyway, with the tinny sound of the pizza guy in the background confirming their order and the metal frames of his glasses cool on Samâ€™s cheek.
And Sam kissesâ€”firstâ€”the corners of Deanâ€™s mouth, and then the bow of his upper lip, scrapes his teeth on the soft sweet flesh on the inside of Deanâ€™s pout. He licks his way into Deanâ€™s mouth, sliding across teeth and tongue: Dean tastes like hops and Coke and still a little bit like the toothpaste Sam found on the bathroom counter, he tastes exactly like Sam has always imagined.
And itâ€™s that thought the triggers the rush of desperation, of want like a chemical burn under his skin. Sam has been in a haze all this time, still dreaming, but the way Deanâ€™s fingers are digging bruises into his hip is real, and so is the slight chip in one of Deanâ€™s molarsâ€”and Samâ€™s suddenly knotting his fists in the fabric of Deanâ€™s shirt, trying to climb inside.
â€œOkay,â€ Dean says when he pushes away for air. â€œWeâ€™ve totally just scandalized Papa Johns.â€
â€œDonâ€™t care,â€ Sam tells him and leans over to bite at the line of Deanâ€™s chin.
â€œBut they give us pizza,â€ Dean protests, but Sam decides not to be annoyed because Deanâ€™s sliding his hands into the back pockets of Samâ€™s jeans. â€œItâ€™s not like you can cook.â€
Sam nips Dean harder for that. â€œI microwave.â€
Dean hisses, and without a trace of irony in his tone, says, â€œGod, youâ€™re hot when you talk about cooking.â€
Sam never thought that if he got this heâ€™d get laughter, too, and heâ€™s still laughing when Dean knocks them over onto the sofa and insinuates a thigh between Samâ€™s knees, slides his hands up Samâ€™s sides and down again, fingers intoxicating and warm and rough-heavy through the t-shirtâ€”close enough to burn. He feels like after 43 years in the desert, heâ€™s just tripped headfirst into a river, and he doesnâ€™t know what to feel first in the rush of water on his skin.
Dean reaches up, thumb and fingers on the rims of his glasses, pulls them off and sets them on an end tableâ€”and itâ€™s so easy and ordinary Sam canâ€™t help but blurt out, â€œI never thought Iâ€™d get thisâ€”you.â€
Dean stares at him for a long moment, braced over Sam on his elbows, before he says, â€œWhat the hell are you talking about? Iâ€™m easy. You picked me up at Fenway. And I paid for that beer I was waving around when I met youâ€”I got myself drunk so you could pick me up at Fenway.â€
Sam canâ€™t really do anything but stare up at Dean, astonished, because thatâ€™s so easyâ€”thatâ€™s just plane tickets and being in Boston and forcing himself to watch the Red Sox play. All Samâ€™s abstract plans to get here before meant selling off parts of himself, trading in pieces he doesnâ€™t think he can loseâ€”but more importantly, trading in pieces of Dean.
He slides a hand round Deanâ€™s side, rests a loose fist at the small of Deanâ€™s back. It takes a while before Sam can swallow down the sob thats lodged in his chest, but he does it, and keeps it down long enough to say, â€œStillâ€”lucky me.â€
A day later, Sam spends half an hour digging around hisâ€”expensive leatherâ€”briefcase trying to figure out where he works while Dean sprawls out asleep, face down on his side of the bed. Itâ€™s hard to make himself to when he could just take his pants back off and crawl back under the covers, but when Sam actually picks up the phone to call in sick to wherever the hell he works, Deanâ€”unmovingâ€”mumbles into his pillow:
â€œIf you do not get the fuck out of this house and let me get some God damn writing done, Sammy, I swear to God. I will kill you and find some other hot, young piece to keep as my sexual plaything.â€
Sam glares down at him. â€œFine,â€ he says. â€œBut your last book had three typos in it.â€
Heâ€™s already halfway down the hall by the time hears Dean thud out of the bed, shouting, â€œWhat? Where? Son of a bitch!â€
Itâ€™s Monday and Sam steps out onto the steamy morning street feeling like he can do anything, like he can have anythingâ€”and when he hears the sash of the third floor window being thrown open and Dean shouting down at him, â€œYou motherfucker!â€ Sam thinks, nevermind, nevermind, because he already has it, everything that matters.
It turns out Sam works at Ropes & Gray, which is only less terrifying than being told heâ€™s about to go have coffee with Satanâ€”and only because Samâ€™s not entirely convinced he doesnâ€™t still owe the Prince of Darkness anything for the many and sundry things he did to Dean over the weekend.
And then, once he gets over his panic attack and goes through security, the guy at the metal detector only says, â€œMorning, Mr. Winchester,â€ and doesnâ€™t tackle him and call him a fraud or anything. Sam knows that if anythingâ€™s screaming, â€œI JUST PASSED MY LSATS, THATâ€™S ALL!â€ at the top of its lungs, itâ€™s not the revoltingly expensive Armani he found in his closet and put on this morning. (He spent part of this morningâ€™s traffic snarl depressed heâ€™s apparently kind of a stereotypical gay man.)
Sam gives himself a mental slap and says, â€œMorningâ€”â€ he checks the guardâ€™s nametag â€œâ€”Curtis.â€
Curtis cocks a brow at him and hands Sam back his security tag. â€œStill canâ€™t remember my name,â€ he says disapprovingly. â€œKids these days.â€
Sam flushes. â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€”Iâ€™m just having one of those mornings.â€
Curtis waves him through, rolls his eyes. â€œYeah, yeahâ€”for the last six years.â€
Elevatorâ€™s not much better, thereâ€™re two women having whispered arguments into their bluetooth earpieces and at one point Samâ€™s seriously concerned that theyâ€™re arguing with each other from different ends of the elevator. Nobody says hello to him, but itâ€™s still the sleepy part of the morning, when everyoneâ€™s letting the coffee seep inâ€”but by the time he reaches his floor thereâ€™re women in businesslike heels and men with their sleeves rolled up saying, â€œMorning, Sam,â€ and â€œHey, Sam, have a nice weekend?â€
Sam doesnâ€™t have a corner office, he finds, but he has a window and a potted plant, and a half dozen photographs of he and Dean on his deskâ€”a coffee mug with highlighters in it. He closes the door and sits in his Herman Miller desk chair and stares out across the Boston skyline for a long, long time, soaking in it until ten past eight somebody knocks on his door and says, â€œSam? Sam? Hey, we need to go over those S-8s Hellermanâ€™s filing tomorrow.â€