“We need to get ourselves a code word or something,” Sam offered, breaking the silence that had stretched for too long after dropping off Gary and Nora. The deep breath he took after wasn’t a sigh.
Sam had been doing that a lot, Dean had noticed. Just random deep breathes every now and then, lungs pushed to their full capacity at completely non-related times.
Dean shrugged, hiding the wince of pain that the shoulder movement elicited from his ribs. That little demonic bitch had done a fine number on his chest because, really, Dean never got to be kicked by chicks in sandals or soft tennis shoes. No... the possessed girls who attack him always wear heavy, solid tip boots. The kind that slot right into the space in between his ribs and hurt like a mother.
It hurt badly enough that, every time Sam took one of his arbitrary lung expansions, Dean took notice and envied him.
“What, like funky town?” Dean offered. He didn’t look, but he could smell the size of the bitch face on his brother’s features.
Gary-as-Sam didn’t do the bitch face thing, which, along with everything else, should’ve clued Dean in to the fact that Sam’s body had been high jacked. Again.
“I’m serious, Dean,” Sam let out, his arms speaking more than his mouth, giant octopus limbs waving around madly inside the car. “We just got fooled by a bunch of high school kids and I, for one, am getting tired of being kicked out of my own body and coming back only to find out that someone else has been doing lord knows what with it!”
Dean chuckled, mostly because Sam’s waving arms were leaving some pretty wild light tracks in their wake, like the red rear lights of a car in the dead of the night.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Dean offered diplomatically. “I was with you... well, with your oversized bones, most of the time. Its not like the kid took you out to swim with sharks—“
“Well, most of the time doesn’t account for the bites and marks that I have in places that shall remain nameless, okay Dean?” Sam’s arms said again, looking furious in the patterns that they were creating.
Now that Dean thought about it, there had been that blond cougar that his bro—that Gary had hooked up with at the bar. And if the sheer mechanics of a seventeen year old in the skin of a twenty-six year old having sex with a forty something woman with seventeen year old tendencies weren’t enough to justify Dean’s headache, he didn’t knew what else could.
“Meg didn’t kicked you out,” Dean offered instead. Helpful.
The Sam he’d been with for the past day was really helpful too. Supportive in small ways that, Dean would never admit to, but that felt really good and pleasing.
Like bringing him comfort food without being asked.
Or having a drink together that wasn’t a toast to dead friends or a means to get some sleep.
Or saying that he was a nice guy.
Dean wasn’t even sure if Sam still thought that he was a nice guy. Not after telling Sam what he’d become in Hell... and certainly not after making decisions that had gotten their friends killed.
“No, she just kept me in the dark while she tried to kill you,” Sam reminded Dean.
As if Dean needed a reminder of that. His mind veered so fast from memories of Jo and Ellen to the image of Sam shooting him in that pier, that Dean actually saw a flash of white in front of his eyes.
For the amount of times that Sam’s body, if not his conscious will, had tried to either harm or kill him, Dean figured that it was a good thing that he loved his brother so much, or else he would find it kind of hard to stare at the guy for five minutes straight.
Sam took another of his non-schedule deep breaths and Dean, foolishly, felt himself following his lead, years of synchronizing their breathes making him forget. His bruise ribs weren’t happy with his decision.
“Motherfuker!” Dean hissed, closing his eyes for a second while his chest had its fun jabbing hot and flashing daggers of pain into his lungs.
“What?” Sam asked, his voice confused, but muffled as he looked down, lifting the edge of his shirt to find out the suspiciously hickey-like bruises near his waistline. He swore in turn, realizing that the ‘bruises’ went all the way bellow his waist.
“’Motherfucker’,” Dean repeated more subduely, breathing shallowly through the pain. “That should totally be our code word for— you know, body snatchers attacks,” he finished lamely.
“You’re an ass,” Sam concluded, sounding a lot like the teen that he’d been for the past twenty-four hours. “Maybe that should be our code word.”
Dean felt like ass. A chewed over and spat out ass. An ass that was seriously considering the pros and cons of pulling over and stopping the car to let Sam drive instead. Of curling in the back seat of the car, where it was dark and soft and where the streetlights could stop stabbing his eyes with too bright lights and where he could wrap his arms around his midriff and bring the pain down a notch.
“We can’t let this happen again, Dean... if those kids were right and there really is a bounty on your head... we can’t leave ourselves open like this,” Sam said after a while, brain still working furiously to solve the problem at hand. “Maybe Bobby knows of some kind of spell... or charms to keep our consciousness trapped inside our own bodies,... or some yards to avoid being affect by spells of this sort—“
“Why do you keep taking such deep breaths?” Dean cut in, the sound of air rushing in buckets inside his brother’s chest finally making him snap. It felt like he was traveling with a giant vacuum cleaner.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Sam asked in confusion, looking at Dean for the first time since they’d hit the road. “Gessh, man... are you feeling okay?”
Dean’s eyebrows danced above his eyes, dislodging the drops of sweat that had gathered there. “Ever since you switched back to your body, you’ve been taking these huge gulps of air... it's frigging distracting, dude,” Dean clarified, ignoring Sam’s question.
“Dean, you don’t look so good... maybe you should just pull over,” Sam insisted.
The trouble of old cars with a single front seat was that all Sam needed to do to intrude in Dean’s personal space, was to slide over. It annoyed Dean even more than the vacuum cleaner breathes.
The Gary-as-Sam had done it too, now that Dean thought about it. Huge gulps of air, like he wasn’t used to a Sam-sized pair of lungs. Which, come to think of it, the kid actually wasn’t.
Only after seeing Gary’s ‘original’ body, did Dean understand why Gary-as-Sam couldn’t seem to get inside the car without banging his head on the door.
At first, he’d thought that Sam was having one of his clumsy days. Sam had a lot of clumsy days –whole frigging weeks sometimes- when he was growing up, never quite quick enough on the uptake of his ever-increasing height.
Dean couldn’t even remember when Sam had had one of his clumsy days. Not ever, he would think... not since Dean returned from Hell.
Seeing the two heads of difference between Sam and Gary explained a lot.
“Took me a long time to figure out you weren’t you dude,” Dean went on, trying to work around the fact that Sam was now hovering inches away from him. He pressed one arm protectively around his stomach, afraid that Sam would decide that now was a good time to tickle him.
Sam used to do that, tickle him at the most awkward occasions, making him giggled convulsively, like a damn high school girl. Which he was at the time –the high school part, not the girl. Sam had stopped doing that around about the time he got taller than Dean.
“And what scares me is that, if he hadn’t acted exactly like you used to be, I wouldn’t ever even guess.”
Sam stopped looking at the waving road and fixed his gaze on Dean. “What do you mean by that?”
Dean, however, was busy trying to decide which lampposts were real, the ones shimmering and shifting on the sides of the road, or the ones dancing in front of the car.
“Sam... I think it’s best if you drive,” he said in a rush, arms loosing their strength as his vision started to tunnel. “Try not to hit any dumpsters.”
Sam had time only to gab the wheel and push Dean’s foot away from the pedal, quickly replacing it with his own.
The car swerved to the right, came within an inch of hitting a traffic sign announcing that Deusenville was five miles away and finally came to a messy stop of dust and oil on the side of the empty road.
Sam thrust the gear into park, hard enough to make the car violently jerk forward in a way that, if Dean were coherent, would make him cringe. After killing the engine, Sam reached up and snapped on the overhead light, determined to get a better look at his unconscious brother.
Sam had been going on and on about what the kid had been doing with his body behind his back that he’d completely forgotten that Dean had been stuck with a hitchhiker who was trying to claim the frigging bounty that Lucifer had put on his brother.
Somehow, in retrospective, dealing with over-protective parents paled in comparison with a camouflaged killer ‘dressed’ as your own brother.
Gary’s plan to kill Dean was, however, doomed to fail from the start. It had failed the moment Gary allowed himself to hang out with Dean for more than five minutes.
Because that was the effect that Dean had on people. Sam often forgot, or allowed for that knowledge to be swallowed by Dean’s easy conquests and womanizing ways, but Sam was always aware that his brother could charm a turtle out of its shell without even trying.
No, not charm. Charm was too shallow, only managing to skim the surface of how Dean could literally turn his would-be killer into a friend.
It was charisma, a compelling presence that lured everyone staying too long in his orbit, into Dean’s spell.
Well, everyone but the demons hell bent on ending him. And Sam.
Somehow, somewhere along the line, Sam had become immune to Dean’s charisma and presence, had stopped recognizing what a decent human being his brother was and being appreciative of that. A sort of selective blindness, where all he could see were Dean’s flaws and shortcomings.
All the rest, all the notions and behavior that made Dean Dean, had fallen under Sam’s radar, lost in all the crap that they had to deal with.
It made Sam wonder if he’d ever truly seen Dean the way other people saw him. It made him wonder if, in between obsessing with killing Lilith and the demon blood addiction, Sam had even bothered to really see Dean after coming out of Hell.
Dean had been quiet while Sam and Gary worked the ritual to get them back in their rightful place, not saying much about the time he and the teen had spent together –other than it was nice to hang out with someone who actually ate people’s food and not birds’ seeds- but from the way the previously possessed Nora wouldn’t meet Dean’s eyes, Sam could guess that the demon hadn’t announced its presence peacefully and quietly.
Of course, after ripping a guy’s heart from his chest with your bare hands, Sam doubted that Nora would be looking anyone in the eyes for a very long time.
But Sam could pretty much guess that some blows had been exchanged and could bet that at some point, Dean had landed on his head instead of his feet.
Dean begun to stir as Sam’s fingers touched the back of his scalp. The goose egg was easy enough to find.
“Something you wanna tell me, Dean?” Sam asked, his voice low now that he could see the reason behind Dean’s blackout.
“It wasn’t me... it was the one-armed man?” Dean ventured, pulling his head away from Sam’s fingers. “Is there a reason why you’re sitting on my lap?”
“My side of the car was cold and unwelcoming,” Sam offered with out pausing for a beat, ignoring Dean’s squirming and manhandling his face until he could look into Dean’s pupils. “Also, you passed out driving. How many fingers?”
Dean crossed his eyes, staring at Sam’s finger inches from his nose. “Dude... I can see your frigging fingerprints... back off, I’m fine.”
Sam slid back to his side of the car and opened the door to get out, mumbling and cursing fate all the way.
Dean was still processing the fact that his brother had actually done what he said, when his door was pulled open.
“Scoot over,” Sam demanded, his body barely shielding the wall of rain pouring outside.
Admitting defeat and figuring that resting his head and being allowed to close his eyes sounded like an awesome idea, Dean dragged himself away from the wheel and curled as best as he could around the passenger seat.
Sam turned the key and the car obediently started, a low rumble of engine that always brought a smile to Dean’s face, even though his eyes were closed and Sam could swear that he was already asleep.
“It’s the asthma,” Sam, eyes stuck on the wet road, said out of the blue when he caught himself taking a deeper breath some time later.
That feeling of a hidden menace, of a cloaked weight in his lungs –Gary’s lungs- never quite stopping him from breathing but never really allowing the freedom of movement that Sam was used to with his own body, had been the weirdest thing that he would be taking from this whole creepy experience.
Once he'd returned to his own body, Sam had marveled at the way air could filter freely and undeterred to his lungs. He guessed that, all these hours after, he hadn’t stopped enjoying it.
“What’s the asthma?” Dean asked, popping on eye open to make sure that Sam was indeed talking to him and not just thinking out loud.
“The kid, Gary... he has asthma. It sucked to do of any kind of exercise while I was in his body, breath running short whenever I tried anything more demanding than dressing,” Sam explained. “I guess some things you just realize how much you need them when they’re gone.” And sometimes you don’t see it even when you’re lucky enough to get them back after you loose them, Sam thought, his mind far from thoughts of asthma or lungs.
Beside him, Dean remained quiet, silently listening to the whoosh of the tires on the wet pavement and the rain pelting the roof of the car.
“We’ll make sure that this won’t happen again,” Dean offered, reassuring, confident. Lying through his teeth.
“And if it does?” Sam asked, finding it impossible not to.
“We’ll make sure that you switch bodies with a Swedish top model,” Dean said, eyes closed but smirk firmly in place.
Sam shook his head and smiled. Yeah, some things you truly only missed when you lost them.
“Dude... that is wrong on so many levels...”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
As always, much, MUCH appreciation for Jackfan2's work, without which this would be very hard to read. All remaining mistakes are there because I liked them too much to throw them away. Warning for swearing.