Rating: R for language, sexual situations
Length: 13,600 total
Summary: Sam and Dean investigate a series of disappearances and end up learning a lot more than they bargained for.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with Supernatural or the Winchester brothers.
Spoilers: General spoilers for S3, but nothing specific. (If you know about Dean’s deal, you’re good.)
Author’s Note: This rather belated fic was written for fluffandfold. What was meant to be a short, domestic fic turned into a really long fic with a mix of domestic elements, a case, and the first-time urges of Sam and Dean. It happens. Huge, huge thanks to lostt1 for both patiently listening to me when I was writing this and for giving it a read-through. <3 I’ll include my prompt at the end of the fic.
I keep the subject of my inquiry constantly before me, and wait till the first dawning opens gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light. ~Isaac Newton
Part One | Part Two
Four disappearances in two months, all within five miles of each other on Route 47 in the quiet woods of Catchwater, Missouri.
Three of the four had been employees of the aptly named Route 47 Diner, which made working there officially the least appealing career choice for anyone within fifty miles.
All of this went a long way to explaining why Meg was more than willing to hire the stranger who rolled into town with a smooth grin and winking green eyes. He shook her hand, firm and fast, jerked his head at the Help Wanted sign stuck in the front door and smiled as he introduced himself. “Dean Osbourne. Looks like it’s my lucky day.”
Meg had two kids to feed and no one to help her do it, so she didn’t feel too terribly guilty not telling this Dean guy that it was probably the exact opposite of his lucky day. He at least looked like he could take care of himself. She had two openings, and since she didn’t think the waitress uniform would fit him, Meg hired the handsome stranger as the breakfast cook. He assured her with the swagger and smooth words of someone who had talked his way into and out of quite a few sticky situations that he could cook, sure, of course. He could make pancakes fluffy enough to use as a pillow, he claimed with a wide grin. She tucked her pencil behind her ear and squinted at him, not quite buying it. Still, he was terribly pretty to look at and the scenery on Route 47 was nothing to write home about, so the decision wasn’t ultimately that difficult.
“You’ll start tomorrow. 6:30 a.m. sharp.” Meg tugged her apron into place, adjusted her order pad in the pocket and waved him to the door.
With only the barest of flinches at the time, he thanked her kindly, picked up two cups of coffee to go, and headed out to get in a black muscle car she could still hear long after it was out of sight.
When he started a small fire his first morning while trying to fry the bacon, Meg realized she was right to suspect his qualifications.
Then again, it wasn’t rocket science to fry a few eggs and flip some sausage. He’d catch on.
As soon as he put the fire out.
Sam sniffed, loudly, eyes still focused on his laptop. Dean slammed the door closed and sighed heavily.
“Hey, Dean. Man, you smell that? It’s like something burning or - “ Sam turned, nose wrinkled. “Holy shit.”
Dean held up one finger, head shaking, and Sam’s mouth clicked closed. “I need a shower.”
“Dean, what - did you - were you on fire?” Sam stood up, trailing behind Dean, eyes scanning the black and yes, definitely burned bottom three inches of Dean’s gray t-shirt.
“Briefly.” Dean kept walking, yanking the ruined shirt over his head and throwing it to the floor. His jeans were halfway undone before Sam came to a halt, hand covering his mouth. The bathroom door slammed behind Dean, and Sam let a little snicker come out.
He called through the door, voice laced with amusement. “So, is the diner still standing or did you burn down our only lead?”
Dean’s answer was some muttered curse words and the squeal of old pipes waking up as he turned on the water.
Grinning to himself, Sam went back to work, ignoring the relieved groans of Dean as he made his way into the shower.
The second day, Sam came to the diner about an hour after it opened and ordered the Hungry Man Special. Three eggs, scrambled. Two pieces of toast, three strips of bacon and a side of hash browns.
All of it arrived burnt.
The waitress who set the full plate down in front of him smiled, or tried to. It was more of an apologetic grimace, actually. She filled Sam’s coffee cup with the pot in her other hand, and leaned over to pull the sugar closer to Sam. From the angle of her reach, Sam decided Allie, as her baby blue nametag declared, was doing her best to distract him from the state of his breakfast with a remarkable show of cleavage. She smiled, lips pink and wide, from quite close. He had to admit it was kind of working.
He smiled back at her, slightly embarrassed and took a bite out of his extra crispy toast, eyes shifting to the table quickly. “Mmm, just the way I like it. Well done.” He held up the half-eaten toast triangle and something like relief washed over her face.
“Oh, good. Um, our cook is new this week, so he’s just - getting his bearings. New kitchen and all. I hope it’s okay?”
Sam surveyed his plate. “Nothing a bit of ketchup won’t cure. Thanks.”
Allie leaned over, offering him a second view, and grabbed the bottle of Heinz. “There ya go. Let me know if I can get you anything else, okay?” She didn’t put any particular emphasis on the ‘anything’ part, but Sam took the message as it was intended and blushed a kind of furious pink, which he hid in his coffee cup as Allie walked away, hips swinging like a metronome.
Just then, Sam heard a crashing noise in the kitchen followed by an extremely familiar voice cursing a blue streak. He grinned into his coffee and congratulated himself once again on convincing Dean to take the job in the diner, and possibly thwart another attack. It was either that or do the research on this case, and research made Dean whine like a ten year old girl, and Sam did not want to hear that for however long they were staying.
Three days since they pulled into town, though, and Sam had no leads and when Dean came home several hours later, Sam swore he smelt burnt hair. The murderous look in Dean’s eyes nipped that question in the bud as he stomped past Sam and into the bathroom for a shower. Sam ran his hand through his own hair and said a silent prayer he wasn’t the one working the grill.
When Sam had choked down some particularly bland French toast on his second morning in a row at the diner, Allie shook her head in sympathy as she poured his coffee. Sam smiled up at her as he pulled his laptop out of his bag. After going straight back to the motel the previous morning, breakfast sitting like a lump in his stomach, he decided to stick around and research a bit this morning.
This was not because the motel room was a bit too quiet and well, empty, with Dean away at work. Because admitting that was more pathetic than Sam was willing to be.
He also chose a different booth, one where he had a clear view into the kitchen through the opening where Dean took orders and sent plates of food through. Which also had nothing to do with wanting to watch Dean work, familiar back to him at the grill, and everything to do with the case and Dean’s safety. This killer was finding its victims at this diner, and maybe he’d take his chance by going after the cook on Two for One Tuesdays. Sam had to consider every possibility in a case like this and err on the side of caution. He nodded firmly to himself, decided his argument was completely cohesive and airtight.
“Can’t believe you came back today, but I’m sure glad you did.” She smiled down at him, her golden blonde hair tugged back in a high and tight ponytail.
“Um, right. Thanks?” Sam smacked his forehead after Allie moved over to her next table. When he looked up next, Dean was poking his head out through the opening into the kitchen, giving the thumbs up and the thumbs down, face questioning. It took a few seconds of gesturing for Sam to realize that Dean wanted to know if the French toast was any good. He glanced down at the remains of it, and decided to go with mostly honesty and gave Dean a shrug and a hand sign for so-so. Dean frowned slightly, wiping his hands on the towel in his hand and withdrew into the kitchen.
When Sam turned back to his laptop, he caught Allie watching him from across the diner, eyes shifting from Sam to the kitchen and back again, questions there.
“What the hell was wrong with the French toast?” Dean blew into the room, startling Sam from his reading. Sam had been home for about an hour, organizing missing person reports into stacks and reading witness statements over and over. His mind had wandered so far from breakfast, he stared blankly at Dean for the space of several seconds.
Dean, for his part, pursed his mouth into a displeased pout and waited, hands on hips. Sam blinked, brain sliding out of investigation mode and back into the moment.
“Wait, what? The French toast?” Sam paused, hand still holding a piece of paper.
Dean sighed, patience thin. “You said my French toast sucked and I want to know why.”
Sam’s eyes widened, and he waited for the punch line. Dean was clearly kidding, right? But the hard expression in Dean’s face stayed put and when Sam lifted his eyes to meet Dean’s, he even saw something like concern there.
“I made it just like I was supposed to, dude and you were out there with your face all pinched like you sucked a lemon when you ate it.” Dean gestured broadly with one hand, working himself up further. “There’s no lemon in French toast.”
Sam didn’t even know where to start. “You were watching me eat?”
“What? No. Whatever. Just tell me.” Dean sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned over to start unlacing his boots.
Considering his options and the fact that Dean really did seem to want an answer to his question, Sam went with the path of least resistance. He could tease Dean mercilessly later. “Well, it was squishy and - “
Dean’s head snapped up, eyes narrowing. “My French toast was not squishy.”
Sam held his hands up. “Y’know, you’re tired, Dean. You’ve, uh, worked hard this morning and you’ve been getting up really early.” The circles around Dean’s eyes were pronounced already, after just two days of getting up at 6 a.m.
“Don’t fucking patronize me, Sam. So, what else was wrong?”
Sam tapped his pen on the table edge, wondering how to put it. “No taste. Or, not the right taste...” He cringed when Dean jerked both boots and socks off without responding.
“Fuck. I made it just like Meg told me to.” Dean reached over his shoulders and tugged his t-shirt over his head and held it in his hands, casual in his half-naked state. Sam looked at him, at the way Dean’s skin pulled tight on his shoulders, the way his forehead wrinkled in thought. He found himself doing this way too often lately, trying in vain to memorize every part of Dean, every inch of skin, every expression, every freckle, if he could. He caught whatever glimpses he could, burned them into his mind. And it left him drained and frustrated and more angry at the world than ever.
Four months more with his brother.
Four months until all he had to show for this person in front of him was memories of skin on shoulders, and green eyes searching his. Like they were now.
“Hello? Earth to Sam?” Dean waved his shirt in front of Sam, snapping him sharply back into the present.
He frowned. “Gross, dude. Your shirt smells like two tons of grease.”
Dean sniffed. “Two for One Tuesdays, Sam. When you offer two strips of bacon for the price of one, people order a fuckload of bacon.”
Sam held his finger under his nose, trying to block the thick smell of fat. Here was a memory he didn’t need to keep.
“Alright, princess, I’ll go wash the stink of hard work off me, since it’s offending your delicate sensibilities.”
Sam gestured at the papers around him, mouth open in dismay. “It’s not like I haven’t been working, too, Dean.”
Shrugging, Dean nudged the nearest pile, making it just crooked enough to bug Sam. “Figure anything out yet?”
Chewing on one side of his bottom lip, Sam shrugged. “Not yet. The diner is definitely a connection between the victims. It’s just...like each one just vanished. No blood, no foul play. Just poof.”
“Well, I’m not quite sure how to kill poof, so keep looking.” Dean nodded, stood there with his shirt hanging from one hand by his side. He turned, clearly still in thought, and headed for the shower.
“Gonna go by this guy’s house this afternoon. You in?” Sam held up a sheet, a copy of the police report on one of the victims. And by ‘go by’, he meant ‘break in’, but Dean didn’t really need the translation.
Dean’s mouth tugged up to the side. “Yeah, you know it.” He turned, long lines of muscle running smooth down his back, disappearing into faded denim. Sam took it in, breath caught, and filed it away, hands clenching in reaction.
And if those same hands shook just a little bit as he gathered up the gear needed for a little B and E, he chose to pretend they weren’t. He couldn’t really help that he wanted to keep Dean safe, not let him disappear - not like these people, without a trace - by holding on with both hands. It was as natural to him as breathing and harder to control.
Sam slowly blinked his eyes open, searching for what pulled him from a deep, almost restful sleep. A soft glow came from somewhere across the room, a faint tapping sound as well. Rubbing one eye, then the other, Sam sat up slightly and peered towards the distraction.
“Dean, what’re you doing?”
Dean jumped, hands going to the top of Sam’s laptop as if to close it. He looked sharply over at the bed. “Nothing. Just. Sorry, man.”
Groaning, Sam flopped back on his bed. “’s really late, Dean. Stop looking at porn on my computer and go to bed.”
He didn’t have to sit back up to picture Dean’s face, the eye rolling vivid in his mind’s eye.
“Shut up. Go back to sleep.” More tapping came from the computer.
“If you jizz on my laptop, you’re buying me a new one.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Finally, Dean snapped the lid down and stood up. By the time he was halfway to his bed, Sam was out again.
Half an hour after Dean left the next morning, Sam struggled to get up and moving. He woke up his computer and frowned when he saw it was still on. Then, he remembered and muttered under his breath before launching a virus scan. God knows what Dean accessed last night.
Thumb dragging smooth and quick on the touchpad, Sam clicked and scanned the internet history, eyebrows launching themselves into his hairline. He clicked on the visited page links and a slow grin spread across his face.
Not porn. Recipes. Dean had been reading recipes last night. French toast, omelets, home fries. Sam slumped back in his chair, finger absently tapping against the edge of his laptop as he skimmed the recipe for blueberry pancakes.
He laughed to himself softly and got up to take a shower.
“Mornin’, Sam.” Allie put down his coffee mug, tipped it full of strong, bitter-smelling coffee, and lifted her eyebrows at him expectantly. “Back again, huh?”
Sam smiled, taking in Allie’s bemused look. “Yep. Glutton for punishment, I guess.”
“I guess so.” She smiled, tiny lines fanning her warm brown eyes. There was something almost knowing in her expression. Her eyes flicked over him quickly before meeting his eyes again. It made Sam shift in his seat, unsure how to react. “So, what can I get you?”
Fingering the laminated menu, eyes passing over the options, Sam nodded to himself. “I think... French toast again. With a side of bacon.”
Allie’s eyes widened slightly as she jotted the order down. “You got it, sweetie.” She grabbed the menu and shifted to the next table, a little smile on her face the whole way.
Sam caught sight of Dean popping his head through the window and looking his way a few minutes later, but he elected to just keep his eyes on the morning paper. When he knew Dean was gone, he smiled to himself, flipped the page.
The plate of French toast landed in front of him and Allie seemed happier than she had been. “There ya go, Sam.” Her eyes were still on the food, and Sam could tell as he picked up his knife and fork that she was about as surprised as he was to see the difference from the day before. This French toast had golden brown edges, the surface tender, and when he cut into it, steam wafted up along with the scent of cinnamon.
“Damn, that smells good. I think Dean’s getting the hang of it back there.” The obvious warmth in her voice made Sam flush with unexpected pride.
“Yeah, he’s been working really hard at it.” And Sam realized as he spoke, that it was true. Dean was really trying. It made him smile as he said it, which seemed to catch Allie’s attention.
“You know Dean, huh?” She straightened the sugar packets, checked the salt and pepper shakers.
“Um, yeah. He’s my - a good friend.” Sam kicked himself for stumbling over their cover story. A close call with the police in Iowa and they had decided not to be brothers if anyone asked until they were at least out of the Midwest.
Allie nodded, mouth pulled up in a half-smirk as she stood up again. “Well, he’s a sharp tack, I’ll tell you. Nearly caught the place on fire back on Tuesday, but he’s coming along.” She paused, eyes resting on Sam’s face long enough that he felt heat run up the back of his neck. “He’s not bad to look at, either, as you know.”
Sam blinked, not sure how he was supposed to answer that. “Right, um. I’m glad he’s doing well.” He felt strangely awkward in his own skin and Allie’s conspiratorial glance and wink as she walked away only served to unnerve him further. It didn’t help one bit that he knew she was right. The fact that he might have done something, might have implied something she picked up on, had him sweating and worried. He had long ago resigned himself to the fact that this thing in him was never to be acted on, never even to be hinted at and here was this waitress who had spoken to him a handful of times making him feel like he’d stood up and yelled to the heavens how much he wanted Dean. In ways he just couldn’t have him.
He clenched his hands tight around his silverware, rough edges biting into the skin. The warmth of his skin didn’t seem interesting in dying down anytime soon. Sam took a deep, long breath and regained a steadier heartbeat. He was probably imagining her reaction. She was just flirting with him. Or with Dean. It was weird, but again, he was overreacting.
Attention back to his breakfast, he put the first bite in his mouth, and found himself moaning quietly, eyes drifting closed. It was like night and day from yesterday’s breakfast. When he opened his eyes, he met Dean’s, who was leaning through the window pretending to be reading his orders, but really watching him eat. Sam licked his lips and gave Dean a thumbs up with his fork hand, which earned him a quick, happy smile. Dean turned back to the grill, already in motion to make his next order.
A minute later, Sam swore he heard whistling from the kitchen, but he was too busy savoring the crisp and delicious bacon to investigate further.
Dean had no idea how to cook if it didn’t involve a microwave and a mini-mart, so his first day in the diner’s kitchen had been a minor disaster. Three days in, he was starting to get the hang of it, though he was certainly not going to win awards for speed or culinary technique. At least the complaints were fewer and Sam seemed to approve. Dean grinned to himself at the memory of Sam’s reaction to his French toast. Being able to take the edge off Sam’s tense mood lately in any small way seemed worth a few burnt fingers and singed arm hairs.
Plus, surrounded by food was one of Dean’s ideas of heaven. And he got to eat as much as he wanted. His mouth watered as he flipped five strips of bacon at a time. He kept one eye on his home fries as he reached for more eggs.
He had not mastered the one-handed egg crack, so he cracked each one onto the grill with two hands, taking great care not to break the yolk. The sharp hiss of heat hitting raw egg filled his ears, but not so much that he didn’t hear the toaster pop.
Dean snagged a plate from the shelf above, slid a bed of home fries onto it carefully from his spatula, then added two pieces of bacon and two eggs, over easy. He cut the toast into triangles and tucked it on the side. Smiling to himself, he turned and slid it onto the ledge connecting him to the diner’s eating area. As he had every time he made that same move this morning, he looked to Sam’s booth. And as he had been for the last hour, Sam was frowning at his computer, eyes moving from the screen and to the stack of papers next to him and back again.
When he realized he was beginning to stare, he quickly dinged the bell next to the plate of hot food and winked at Allie as she snagged the plate and walked off. Damn, that girl walked like she was on water, hips swaying in the breeze from starboard to port. His eyes followed her until she passed Sam, and then his eyes snagged on and fell back to Sam. Sam nodded to Allie, small smile in response.
Blinking out of his stare, Dean cut his eyes to the clock. Twenty minutes ‘til he was off. Sam had not stayed this long the other days, and he wasn’t sure why he was doing it today.
Dean wiped his hands on the towel hanging from his apron and turned back to the task at hand. He’d find out soon enough.
Nodding a greeting to Sergio when he showed up to take over for the lunch rush, Dean cleaned up a little before untying his white apron from his waist and heading out of the kitchen. He dropped down onto the worn blue vinyl of the seat opposite Sam, enjoying the way Sam started slightly, nearly spilling his coffee.
“You might want to cut back on the caffeine soon, Sam. You’re kinda jumpy.”
“Fuck.” Sam had spilled his coffee a little, and he was wiping it up carefully, brown spots spattered across the top page of one stack.
“What’re you still doing here, anyway?” Dean reached over and snagged a crust from Sam’s plate, popping it in his mouth.
“Figured something out.”
“Yeah?” Dean sat up slightly, leaning forward to brace his elbows on the table. Sam passed him a sheet of paper, and settled back in his seat.
Dean started reading, or trying to read Sam’s scrawl. When he looked up to ask what this had to do with the case, Sam was looking up at Allie, who had appeared next to their table.
“Sam, can I get you anything else today?” She was smiling down at him and then turned to Dean. “Or you, Dean?”
Dean cocked his head, noticed the way Allie was still looking at Sam. Sam, for his part, was doing his normal stuttering when faced with a cute girl, even though he had known Allie for three days now. He asked for a hamburger, then ducked his head, eyes lifting briefly to Dean’s, and back to Allie.
He felt this weird surge of something low in his gut. Tight and hard, and when he looked at Allie, it wasn’t with the same casual affection he’d been feeling for her the last few days. Dean frowned to himself, but managed to order the cheeseburger special with a Coke, squeezing out a genial smile.
As Allie walked off, he caught Sam’s eyes shift her direction before returning to Dean. There was color high in Sam’s cheeks when he turned back and Dean shifted in his seat. He didn’t like it, for some reason, and before he could figure out why exactly, Sam drew his attention back to the paper in his hand and the case they were there to solve.
Ten minutes later, while Sam spun out the details he’d uncovered about each of the victims, it hit Dean square between the eyes. Allie had just sashayed by, giving them a little wave, and Sam had cut a quick look from her to Dean, swallowing hard.
Dean’s eyes narrowed when Sam looked down again. He knew this sensation. Same one he felt when he’d seen Sam’s arm curl protectively around Jess’ waist. Same one when Sam had grabbed Sarah to him and kissed her hard and serious.
Same one he tried to drive out of himself like a poison, but kept failing. Jealous. He was jealous.
Sam paused, asked Dean if he had a headache or something because he looked pale. Dean shrugged him off, rolled his hands for Sam to keep going.
There was a lull in the early morning rush, and Allie was filling napkin holders at the back counter, chatting to Dean through the window. Dean, for his part, was cleaning the grill, contemplating his stock of eggs and bacon.
“God, it must be nice, Dean.”
Dean leaned into the spatula, scraping up burnt bits and excess grease. “What’s that?” He didn’t turn around.
“Have a guy like that.”
Dean frowned, making a few more passes with the spatula before craning his head her direction. Before he could ask her what she meant, Allie continued.
“I mean, he comes here every day, stays for hours, now he even eats lunch with you.”
Dean nodded, realizing she meant Sam. He laughed to himself. For a minute there, he thought she meant -
Allie’s voice was wistful. “Yeah, wish I had a boyfriend like yours. He’s so -“
She kept talking, but Dean didn’t hear her, his brain locking up over the word ‘boyfriend’, breath abruptly coming fast in his chest. The spatula skidded across the grill and Dean just missed getting second degree burns on his forearms before he recovered. He blinked, reining in the chaotic swirl of reactions to Allie’s assumption. Confusion, disbelief, and this weird, sharp thrill that shot straight up his back at the idea. He tried very hard to ignore that last one because seriously, what the fuck?
When he spoke, he got the feeling he was interrupting, but he didn’t care. “Why do you - what makes you think we’re - boyfriends?” The last word tripping from his lips with some difficulty. He couldn’t blurt out that they were just brothers, because in this particular town, on this particular day, they were pretending they weren’t.
Allie stopped, looked up to meet Dean’s eyes. She must have read something like fear in his eyes. “Oh, shit. Um, is it a secret? Or not true?” She lowered her voice to a whisper, eyes casting about for listening ears. “I just - I assumed because - “
Dean froze, not wanting her to stop, not wanting her to continue, unable to make a noise either way.
“-of the way he looks at you. I mean, that’s - damn, I want someone to look at me like that.” Allie fanned herself with the stack of napkins in her hand. “Can’t believe I even thought I had a chance there. He’s head over heels.” She paused, hands idle as her eyes focused on Sam. Sam, for his part, seemed fully oblivious to the attention, head bent over his work. His hair hung forward, shading his eyes, one hand rubbing the side of his neck as he read. His intensity, his determination was there in every line of him.
Allie’s voice cut through his thoughts. “Huh. Guess he’s pretty lucky, too.”
Dean blinked, jerked his eyes off Sam, meeting Allie’s. He felt exposed under her curious gaze, as if he’d been caught naked in the middle of the diner. Or more to the point, caught picturing Sam naked in the middle of the diner. Which, goddamn, he should not be doing that. Something twinkled in her eyes as she lifted her eyebrows and turned back to her task, a little smile playing around soft lips.
He backed away from the window, from the view, and turned to the grill, eyes darting around his work area for something to focus on. Anything to keep from thinking about what Allie had said, what she had caught him doing. To keep from thinking about how he had not denied what she said.
How he kind of wanted it. Wanted...Sam.
Dean gripped the spatula tight, muscles straining in his forearm. He felt something clench tight in his chest, this kind of want one he didn’t know how to handle. It was wrong, he knew that much. He thought over what Allie had said about Sam.
She had to be wrong. There was just no way that both of them were this fucked up.
He spared a wry smile for the fact that at least he didn’t have to be jealous anymore.
“Dude. What?!” Sam threw his hands up in the air and glared over at Dean.
Dean, leaning against his headboard, studiously flipped through a copy of Guns & Ammo and muttered to himself, “What’s your problem, Sam?”
“My problem? You keep looking at me.”
Dean snorted, flipped a page fast enough to slightly rip it. “What? No, I don’t.”
Sam pushed back from the table slightly, heart tripping. He knew what he’d seen from the corner of his eye. Every few minutes, Dean would stop reading and just watch Sam for seconds on end.
One of the times, he caught Dean’s eyes for just a split second and there was something intent there, something he wasn’t familiar with. It was....heated. The way it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up was pretty unexpected as well. Allie’s words from earlier circled in the back of his mind, teasing him. She’d told Sam how sweet it was of him to come and support his friend Dean every day. How devoted. Sam had nearly choked on his eggs.
Dean swung his legs off the bed and tossed the magazine back onto it. “Whatever, you’re imagining things. Too much research makes Sam a dull boy, y’know.”
In that moment, Sam felt kind of stupid. Maybe he was imagining things, too over-sensitive at the moment. Dean’s eyes now were flat, faintly annoyed. He frowned to himself, fingers brushing lightly over his keyboard, catching on the edges of the keys.
“’m gonna grab some dinner.”
Sam reached for his jacket as Dean grabbed his own.
Dean shook his head. “Nah, I’ll bring it back. Need some air.”
Sam shrugged, somewhat thankful for a bit of time alone to clear his head of inappropriate thoughts. He watched Dean go, and then went back to his reading with a sigh.
“What the hell, Dean? You go to Illinois to get dinner or what?” It had been almost an hour since Dean had left and Sam’s stomach had decided to wake up and complain in the meantime.
Dean put a sizeable brown paper bag down on the table and started unpacking it. “Yeah, yeah. Keep your pants on.” Sam could have been wrong, but he swore Dean looked almost embarrassed, eyes tight on the task in front of him.
Just then, Sam caught a whiff of the food and sat up straighter, closing his laptop and putting it out of the way. “What’d you get? It smells really good.” Annoyance at waiting forgotten. Sam tried to reach in the bag, only to have his hand slapped, actually slapped by Dean.
“Christ, wait a minute.” Dean put two plates on the table and some silverware.
“Are those from the diner?” Dean looked at the chipped plate nearest him and nodded. He pulled out two styrofoam containers.
Sam’s mouth was actually watering and that was not a familiar sensation. Dean opened the containers carefully, the most incredible scent wafting out of the first one, revealing noodles and creamy sauce and -- “Is that Beef Stroganoff?” Sam resisted reaching in again, back of his hand stinging from the last slap. Dean popped the other container open, and the whiff of strong garlic preceded his view of buttered and toasted French bread, steam curling up from it.
Sam looked it all over, licking his lips. He felt Dean watching him again. “Where did you get this, man?”
Dean busied himself with dishing noodles and meat onto a plate and shoving it Sam’s direction, actions hasty and short. “The diner.”
Sam snagged two pieces of bread, singeing the tips of his fingers. He got a fork and was winding his first bite onto it when something struck him. “Diner’s closed for dinner, Dean.”
Dean froze for just a split second and Sam knew that reaction. Caught in a lie. Dean completely filled his own plate with the beef and noodle dish, several pieces of bread and went ahead and popped open a beer before answering.
“’s not that hard. Sergio showed me the other day and I -- “
“You made this?” Sam stopped, fork in mid-air hovering above his plate.
Dean’s eyes snapped up, defensive posture in the set of his shoulders and the tightness of his jaw. “I am capable of learning new things, Sam.” If Sam didn’t know better, he’d swear Dean sounded almost hurt.
Not taking any chances and hoping this could be a new trend, Sam backpedaled in a hurry. “I didn’t - just surprised, is all.”
“Less talking, more eating, yeah?” Dean put a big bite of noodles into his mouth abruptly, waving his free hand in front of his mouth, trying to say the word ‘hot’ around a mouthful.
Sam laughed, blew gently on his forkful before taking a bite. The cream was thick on his tongue, ground beef tender and hot, noodles slick and delicious. He knew he looked ridiculous, but he couldn’t help it. His eyes fluttered closed, hand going to his stomach as he made a happy moan.
When he opened his eyes to load up his fork again, Dean was watching him again, the heat back in his green eyes for just a moment before he re-focused on his plate.
The next morning, Sam had just about licked his plate clean after eating two full stacks of the best, fluffiest blueberry pancakes when he had a breakthrough. The search he’d been doing finally popped up results on his laptop screen, catching his eye and nearly causing coffee to spray across the formica. “Holy shit.” He said it a bit louder than altogether appropriate for 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but it really couldn’t be helped. He pushed his plate out of the way after briefly wondering how sick he would be if he had another stack and started pushing through his papers for the ones he needed.
Dean was busy at the grill, back turned to Sam. “Hey. Hey, Dean. Hey.” Sam leaned across the counter, trying to get Dean’s attention. Allie returned from her rounds and hooked an eyebrow at him, which made Sam swallow, hard. “Dean, I need to talk - hi, Allie.”
“Something I can do for you?” She picked up the coffeepot, eyes shifting from Dean to Sam and back again.
‘I, uh, need to talk to my - to Dean.”
She nodded, smiling. “To your Dean, yeah okay.” She rang the bell on the ledge separating the grill from the diner, making Dean jump slightly. He turned, casting an eye back at the food cooking, before coming over.
“What’s up? Something wrong with your pancakes?” Dean looked over Sam’s shoulder, saw the empty plate. “Guess not.”
“No, god, they were incredible, Dean, really. I just - I think I’ve got something about the -“ Allie came through again, snagging a bottle of ketchup and Sam dropped his voice. “About the case. Can you take your break early?”
Dean checked the clock. “Maybe in about ten?”
Sam nodded, headed back to his booth to wait.
When Dean slid into the booth, Sam fairly exploded with words. “Okay, so here’s the deal, Dean. I think these people - these victims? Might all be alive.”
Dean’s eyebrows arched as he leaned closer over the table, voice low. “Why d’you think that?”
Sam turned the laptop around and pointed at the screen. Dean squinted and read aloud, “Sarah Tomlinson stopped for speeding on Route 4 at 4:37 p.m...” He trailed off. “Why am I reading the local police blotter for - Belleville, Nebraska? Who’s Sarah Tomlinson? Is she related to - ” Dean frowned, the furrow in his brow pronounced. Sam kept his hands busy so he didn’t reach over and smooth it out. Because suddenly, he wanted to do that something fierce. Something warm and unfamiliar turned in his belly.
He flipped over to another tab on his browser and leaned in, eyes locked on Dean’s for a moment. “Sarah Tomlinson was Sarah Leeds until about three weeks ago.”
Dean sat back suddenly, mouth open in surprise. “Sarah Leeds? One of the victims?”
“That’s what I’m getting at, Dean. I don’t think they are victims of anything. I think she just left.” He gestured at the screen again, pointing at a line. Thumb rubbing over his bottom lip in thought, then scratching across his stubbled cheek with a rasp, Dean tugged the computer closer and read again. “What’s this? David Tomlinson and Sarah Leeds. He’s another one that vanished.”
“It’s an application for a marriage license.” Sam dropped the bomb and watched Dean’s face clear and then cloud right back over. He braced himself for the coming storm.
“Are you fucking telling me that I’ve been busting my ass back there, quizzing every employee here about those four people, including these two and they eloped?! No one even said they were dating!” Dean slapped one hand on the table and Sam’s coffee bounced in the saucer, spoon rattling off to the table.
Sam hesitated. “Wait, you asked the people who worked here with them and nobody said they had been seeing each other? No one even hinted at it? That’s - weird.” Sam cocked his head, his previous instinct to dismiss this case outright not quite so strong.
“Weird, yeah. And it means I singed half the hair off my arm and ruined two shirts for no good damn reason.” Dean huffed, fingers tapping rapidly on the table with a steady thrum.
Just then, Allie walked by on her way to another table. She nodded at them both, and Sam did his best to look nonchalant before hissing over to Dean when she got past, “Did you ask Allie?”
“Of course. Jesus, I have done this before.”
Sam sighed, eyes following her. “What did she tell you?”
Dean shrugged to himself, dodged Sam’s eyes for a second longer than made sense considering the question.
“What? Oh. She said that Sarah came in one Tuesday, worked her shift and left. They never saw her again. Same for David, only he just stopped showing up at the garage he worked at the Sunday before.”
“And she didn’t mention them dating?”
“Christ, Sam, no. Does it matter? They’re freaking married. I think we can safely deduce they maybe, just maybe they were dating on the sly? The fuck difference it makes. Not even a case here.”
“Dean, there are still two other people missing.”
Dean slumped back into his seat. “Whatever. They probably ran off to Vegas and got hitched by Elvis.”
“Both guys, Dean.” Sam rolled his eyes at Dean, who was definitely irritated and on the verge of pouting.
“Well, yeah. Still. They disappeared only one day apart from each other.”
Mouth set in a petulant line, Sam lifted his eyebrows in question.
“For someone who went to college in California, not too open-minded there, Sammy. Maybe they were dating, too, yeah?”
“Huh. Yeah. That’s - that’s possible.” Sam felt Dean’s eyes on him, intent.
“No shit, Sherlock. Now come on, let’s swing by their houses, what d’you say?”
Allie set down two plates of food, the smell of salt and grease making Sam’s stomach growl despite the pancakes he'd wolfed down not that long ago.
“Uh, after lunch.”
Dean chuckled as he snagged the ketchup bottle. “Agreed.”