Characters: Sam, Dean (Gen)
Rating: PG-13 for language
Length: 2,843 words
Summary: Set a few months after 2x01. Dean drinks a bit too much tequila and ends up with a permanent souvenir of the evening, thanks to Sam.
Disclaimer: I do not own these boys, this show or that car. Damn.
Author’s Note: Second half of my birthday gift for the lovely deathisyourart. Once upon a time, she got me hooked on VM and then I returned the favor by pushing the kickassedness that is SPN on her until she caved and totally fell in LOVE with the Winchester boys. This fic is a particular request of hers, which I am fairly sure she will be surprised that I’ve finished, since I haven’t mentioned it in awhile! :D She asked for Dean getting drunk and getting a tattoo, with Sam’s involvement. The rest as they say...
Title from Don’t Look Back by Boston
Dean struggled to swim out of unconsciousness, cheek slapping down against the hard vinyl of the Impala’s backseat. He blinked, squinting into the setting sun streaming through the front windshield. The car jumped, hitting another bump like the one that must have jarred him awake.
“Holy fuck.” Dean’s voice was coarse, quiet, but it seemed Sam could hear him well enough.
“Sleeping beauty awakes." Sam looked over his shoulder, entirely too cheerful. His smile turned into a playful grimace when Dean glared up at him. "Well, sleeping something awakes."
Dean frowned harder, giving Sam the finger and then running his hands through his hair as he pushed himself halfway up from the seat. The whole world moved side to side, which was directly opposite from the direction the car was moving and that was just five different kinds of bad. He bit back the need to swear or puke or both and sat all the way up. Dean put one hand to the side of his head, to hold it steady or possibly to just keep it on his shoulders. Blinking slowly at Sam, he licked dry lips and tried the talking thing again.
"Where are we?" It was the simplest question he could come up with at the moment.
"Hmm. About halfway between Biloxi and Birmingham." Sam tapped a beat on the steering wheel with one hand, the other arm thrown across the seat back.
Dean closed his eyes slowly, tipped his head forward to press it against the cool vinyl of the seatback in front of him. His next words were directed at the floorboards. "Which one are we headed to?"
Sam laughed and Dean's vision splintered. He reached up and gripped Sam's arm as tight as he could currently muster. The laughter stopped and he could just feel Sam look back at him.
"Biloxi. Dean...uh, should I pull over?"
"Yes." Dean lifted bleary eyes and stared at Sam, whose face was half-turned from the road. "Pull over. Find my machete in the trunk. The one with the black handle." He could see Sam frowning, eyes on the road ahead. "Then, please, as a favor to your big brother...cut my fucking head off."
Sam choked on a laugh, Dean's fingers biting into his jacket.
"Sorry, man. You...you've got quite a hangover, huh?"
"Sammy, your mastery of understatement makes me want to puke all over you." Dean groaned. "In fact, everything makes me want to puke all over you. What the fuck did we do last night?"
Sam hesitated before answering. "You...don't remember last night?" His voice was carefully neutral, impassive.
Dean lifted his head, glared at Sam's ear. "I remember going to that bar. The one with the horse or something. And drinking...tequila, maybe? It's just the part after that is...fuzzy." Dean admitted reluctantly, frowning.
Sam opened his mouth to laugh, but thought better of it. "Right. Well, we did go to the Palomino and yeah, you bought tequila. A lot of tequila." Sam paused. "As a matter of fact, you were so happy about killing that werewolf with one shot, you bought shots for the whole bar, Dean."
"No." Dean struggled with his memory, face going through several expressions before settling on bemused. "Really?"
"Yeah. And...what else do you remember?" Sam slowed to make a turn, taking the chance to cut a quick glance at Dean. There was something in his eyes that Dean recognized. It made him narrow his own.
"I said, what else do -"
"No, I heard you. I want to know what's going on. I may be hungover, but I know you, Sammy. And you're hiding something."
Dean leaned back against the seat. When his shoulder made contact, he sat up immediately, frowning. "Ow, fuck. What in hell?" He craned his neck to look over his shoulder, one hand reaching back as well.
When he looked up at Sam, who was now watching him in the rearview mirror with undisguised merriment, he growled out. "Tell me, Sammy or I swear to God, you are not too old for me to whip your ass."
"Oooh. Threats of violence. That's so unlike you, Dean." Sam's eyes rolled. "I just wish you'd felt comfortable telling me the truth before. I mean, I'm your brother."
Dean’s hand was still scrabbling at the back of his t-shirt. He glared at Sam. "What truth? What?"
"It's just...I can't believe you never told me about this thing you have..." Sam bit his lip to keep the giggles in. "...for unicorns."
If it had been physically possible for Dean's eyes to actually fall out of his head, they would have, he opened them so wide. And then he regretted it, moaning, letting his eyes fall closed again. "I don't know what in hell you are on about, Sam. I don't have a thing for unicorns." He finally yanked his t-shirt all the way off, fingers brushing a pad of gauze taped to his shoulder blade. Whatever was under there was very tender, and he flinched.
With deadpan delivery even Dean would have appreciated under different circumstances, Sam lifted his eyebrows in question and said, "Then why on Earth did you get one tattooed on your shoulder last night?"
Dean's hand froze in place, fingers on the soft cotton. His voice was deathly quiet when he replied. "No."
Sam snapped his fingers and the sound reverberated in Dean's head. "No, wait. It's got wings. What are those called?"
"Huh?" Dean's hand had not moved from the offending spot.
"The horses with the wings?"
Dean just shook his head, face locked on horrified.
"A pegasus! Yes. That's it!" Sam grinned, teeth all white and taunting. Dean wondered exactly how much damage the Impala would take if he punched Sam in that happy fucking mouth right now and caused them to drive into a ditch. He restrained himself. His baby had been through enough. And Sam was going to be quicker than him today, since he seemed to have an immunity to hangovers or something. Also, moving that fast seemed likely to result in that puking he was really trying not to do.
Dean’s fingers caught on the edge of the tape and started to peel it back, tugging on his skin as it went.
Sam looked back quickly. “Dude, you’re supposed to leave it covered so it doesn’t get infected.”
“If I have a fucking winged horse on my shoulder, Sam, I’m going to see it. Got it?”
Sam bit his lip, stared ahead. “Right.” His fingers continued lightly drumming on the steering wheel.
When Dean had the gauze half undone, he pulled his shoulder forward with the opposite hand, trying to get a peek.
“Holy fucking shit, Sam. I’m going to kill you.” Dean was craning his neck back so hard, Sam was surprised he hadn’t pulled something. “I see a goddamn wing.”
“I told you.”
Dean leaned forward, letting his forehead fall forward onto his palm. He left the gauze hanging half-off. His voice was muffled when he spoke again. "Oh god, why?”
He heard what he swore was laughter and slowly lifted a bleary eye to glare at Sam. "As soon as I can move..."
"Oh, keep your pants on, Dean. It's a very pretty pegasus. Artistic." Sam ducked just out of range as Dean swung at him. "Dude. I'm driving."
"Aw Dean, you are going to puke, aren’t you?" Sam glanced in the rearview sharply, alarmed when he realized Dean had vanished. A quick look over the back of the seat revealed Dean was bent down, pulling his boots on.
"How the fuck did I end up in the car, anyway?" Dean's voice was laced with irritation.
“You didn’t.” His voice pitched higher, cheeks pinkening with embarrassment.
“Oh, I did. Right over my shoulder, dude. And seriously, you might want to cut back on the bacon at breakfast. Your ass was heavy.”
“So dead, little brother. You are so dead. Now, pull over somewhere that has a mirror.”
"Well, I never took you for vain, Dean. Okay, actually I did, but I -" A sharp cuff to the back of Sam’s head coupled with a groan from Dean and the car was pulling into the next gas station with a thump thump when Sam clipped the curb in his haste.
Dean stomped out of the gas station bathroom, glaring daggers in Sam’s direction. He yanked the car door open and slid into the passenger seat. His eyes locked in front of him as he pulled the door shut with a resounding slam. Dean closed his eyes slowly, exhaling, muscle in his jaw twitching as he struggled with the reverberating pain in his head. The one he just made worse by slamming the goddamn car door. Sam cut a quick look at him, which Dean fully ignored.
As soon as Sam started the engine, Dean shot out, “You lied to me.”
Sam barely contained his smile at Dean’s petulant tone. “Yeah.” He threw the car into gear and pulled out. Dean noticed Sam drove around a big pothole to avoid jarring the car, and therefore Dean’s head, but he was too thrown to feel grateful.
In his mind's eye, Dean could still see it, elegant whorls of black ink forming feathers, feathers forming long, swooping wings. Wings swept high, framing a bird's head turned in profile, raised in defiance. His hand trailed absently over his shoulder, fingers brushing the cotton covering.
"It's a...phoenix." Sam's voice was hesitant, breaking the sudden silence in the car.
"Dude. I know what it is." Dean looked at Sammy, shook his head briefly. He remembered it perfectly, flames of orange and red and yellow hot against his skin, licking up around the rising bird. Dean’s mind started skimming over all the times he'd risen from the ashes in his life already. Thought of all those who didn’t. He looked out the window quickly, eyes burning.
"Right." Sam cleared his throat, focused on the road.
The atmosphere in the car changed. It was full of unsettled emotion and the thick humid air of Mississippi wafting through, heavy with the scent of magnolia blossoms. Dean tapped a loose rhythm on the door edge before recoiling from even that sound. His head still felt in danger of detaching itself at any moment and this new tangle over the tattoo was not helping.
"You...don't like it." Sam's voice was small, smaller than him by far.
Dean cleared his throat, a suddenly formed lump making it hard to speak or swallow or even breathe a little. "That's not...no, I -." How could he explain to Sam that just seeing that symbol rising strong and fierce on his shoulder gave him a sharp stab right in the middle of his chest? A sharp stab of emotion he couldn’t put his finger on just yet.
Sam sighed, a quiet little sound. All the bravado of a half hour ago was gone. "You...let me pick last night. Said you trusted me to...”
When Sam paused, Dean shifted his eyes to his brother's profile, to the way he swallowed hard, eyes locked on the road ahead. If he didn't know his brother better than just about anyone but himself, it would be easy to miss the tightness in his fingers as he gripped the wheel, the nervous jiggle of his knee. As it was, the signs were an alarm bell ringing.
He dug back through his fogbank of memories of the night before. A vague flash of a brightly lit room, filled with a persistent buzzing noise and the scent of disinfectant jumped into Dean’s brain. He had been in that room. With Sam. He can remember leaning against Sam slightly, being jostled back into a sitting position with hissed instructions about not acting drunk. Voice slurred with more than alcohol, he had asked Sam...what? What did he - and then he remembered. With a sickening little crunch, the memory shifted back into place.
"I said I wanted you to pick something that would remind me of Dad." Dean spoke just above a whisper, eyes focused on the worn denim on his knees, on the threads slowly unraveling. His fingers picked at a thread, pulling it looser and looser as he sat there.
Sam coughed a little. "Yeah, and - well, I told you last night why I picked what I did, but ... do you remember?"
Dean had rarely seen his brother so nervous, but then again, Sam had never gotten Dean permanently marked like this before. Not in full, living color, anyway. He had more scars than he could count from saving Sam, but none of them could be considered beautiful.
Not like this one.
"Not...exactly." Dean bit off the thought that hearing why might overwhelm a little right now, but he could tell Sam needed to say. And when Sam needed to talk, Dean usually let him. To a point.
"Well, there are a lot of legends about the phoenix. Ovid refers to the -“
“Sam.” He stared at the roof of the Impala, eyes trying to focus. Turned out the point he could take was pretty limited right now. “The short version, dude. My head wants to get back to exploding soon.”
Sam didn’t answer for the space of five breaths. “Yeah, okay.”
He still didn’t answer, mouth twitching slightly and Dean watched him, brow knit.
“Don’t laugh at me, Dean.”
“Laughing would possibly be fatal right now, Sammy. I won’t.” Dean shifted around, leaning his temple against the cool glass of the passenger window. He waited, watching Sam. His shoulder itched, burned a little.
Sam took a really deep breath, flipped on the wipers and headlights as rain started to splat, hard and quick on the windshield.
“You asked me to pick out a tattoo to remind you of Dad, Dean, but...I didn’t. Not exactly. I picked one that reminds me of you.”
“Oh?” Dean lifted his eyebrows, questioning.
Seeming to steel himself, Sam began to speak. It felt like a story he had been rehearsing, words carefully chosen. “Fire is always the end of something for us. Lives, hauntings.” Memories flashed staccato through Dean’s brain, Mom, Dad, even Jessica. All burned, all gone. All dying right in front of him and Sam, fire the last thing that touched them, in life or death. Then there were the hundreds if not thousands of bodies and bones he had burned in his life, feeling the heat flare up in his face. Always fighting the urge to recoil from the very thing that took his mother. Watching bodies burn until there were just embers flickering orange, knowing it was the end of a job, the settling of a spirit, the sign of success.
Tasting ash in his mouth for days after, bitter and thick.
“But for the phoenix, fire means rebirth.” Sam paused. “It seemed...I liked what it said. I wanted to see if we could...change what fire meant. Maybe it could be the beginning of something instead.” Biting his lip, looking briefly at Dean, Sam seemed relieved that not only was Dean not laughing, Dean was watching him carefully. He smiled briefly. “And Dean? I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re just about immortal at this point. Figured you and the phoenix had that in common, too.”
Sam stopped, cheeks flushed red, embarrassment clipping his words. Because Dean was still just staring at his brother. At this big, gangly kid who wasn’t a kid anymore. Who had been through a trial by fire before he could walk. Whose life had been shaped by fire and loss and death even more than Dean’s. But who still wanted to tell Dean that fire could mean something else, too. Could mean new life and rising from the ashes, stronger than ever.
Hot tears pricked Dean’s eyes, but he blinked them away. There were parts of Dean that craved family. Craved a mother and a father and a life where they watched out for him. But a bigger part saw Sam and thought, that’s all the family I need.
Dean grinned a little, ignored the pain in his head long enough to reach over and punch Sam in the shoulder.
“Oww, what was that for?”
"That’s for lying to me about what it was earlier. You scared the shit out of me."
Sam lets out a chuckle. "Well, you puked on my favorite boots last night, Dean. Payback is a bitch."
Dean shook his head, leaned it back against the window, relishing the press of chilled glass on his skin.
“I fucking hate tequila.”
“Not sure it likes you either, dude.”
Dean closed his eyes, blocking out the brief peeks of sun as the rain lessened. His hand trailed up and over his shoulder, under his t-shirt, fingertips finding the edge of the bandage once again.
“Thanks, Sammy.” Without opening his eyes, Dean knew Sam turned to look at him. Probably smiled just a little, mostly in the eyes. Knew that Sam didn’t need to ask.
Happy Birthday, Diya! *hugs*