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Title: Stoop and Build (With Worn-out Tools)
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: R
Pairing:  Sam/Dean,
Kinks/Warnings: platonic kissing, caretaking, hurt/comfort, subtext of past non-con,

Summary: Dean realises Sam doesn't touch people, that he can't seem to make it with anyone. It's not like he's exactly alone with those issues though, Dean's never let Sam suffer alone and he isn't about to start now. Sam's touch-shyness, how he can't even bear a kiss is something Dean can try and fix. Technically a sequel to Part of Me (Is a Part of You) but can be read alone.

It's been three days and Sam is better, at least on the surface. He's still a little thinner than he should be, and Dean shouldn't be surprised at how much weight you can lose in a week but he is. At least the fever has gone, and he's keeping down food and drink and right now that's the best they can ask for. It's certainly good enough to travel on. He wishes they had all the time in the world to rest, for Sam to recuperate but they don't, and every night they lie in a different motel room unspeaking it feels like his failure all over again. But there's no choice, there's never any choices.

On the third day of it though it's especially hard to bear. Sam hasn't spoken, hasn't said anything beyond occasional grunts when he's asked questions, gazing out the window like he can't even hear Dean, and man is it pissing him off. Sam needs to stop being such an asshole and say something if he's got a problem. He conveniently ignores the hypocrisy inherent in that statement, and decides that he's had enough.

Being himself, he jumps feet first into it, starting off with the crudest explanation possible for Sam's poor mood. "Dude are you angry about losing your cherry to an inch of plastic coated happy-pill?" The question is a little serious, but mostly faectious, and even though Sam is ignoring him he knows he's struck a nerve from the subtle tightening of his back, and his shoulders. Anything's better than nothing though and he carries on. "Don't be embarrassed, nothing so wrong with that after all. I heard it's how Sasha Grey started her porn career. From little acorns great oaks grow and all that jazz." He can talk like this for hours, no response necessary and has in the past, start him on a thread and let him go like a fucking windup soldier, but Sam's whipped round.

"Shut up Dean," he says, but it's not fierce enough, not angry enough and Dean can see the fear in his eyes, feel it between them like some dirty grey smog, and he shuts up real fast, and Sam's right back in on himself, huddled inside like he doesn't want to let anyone else in. They drive on in silence, each one locked in his own bubble, the scent of secrets between them, the questions Dean's too afraid to ask his brother, that he's not sure Sam could answer if he did. They've been on the road so long and that's just today, that Dean can't face the thought of another evening of silence, staring at the worst wallpaper in the state, drinking flat warm soda from a machine, eating whatever flabby food the convenience store has to offer, and when they've checked in, he doesn't give Sam a choice, marches him off to the sort of dive bar that does decent onion rings and beer that goes down smooth and leaves no taste.

They don't talk as they eat, and it's like they might as well be in the hotel room for all Sam reacts to anything, eating like a fucking bird, like he can live on one onion ring and a few fries if he stretches them out for an hour, and Dean has to remind himself that Sam's been ill, and that he's always been prissy when it comes to food. If it comes to that, he doesn't want it so much himself either, pushes his plate aside half done, and welcomes the flicker of surprise in Sam's face, wonders how it got to this, when he has to guess and read and imagine half of Sam's reactions. "I'll get the beer in," he says casually, and Sam nods, stands up and stretches.

"Heading to the mens," he says unnecessarily and goes. Dean's eyes follow him idly, and it's then that he notices something. Sam doesn't touch people. For someone practically six and a half foot freaking tall in a room full of half drunken fratboy partiers that's something of a miracle in and of itself, and the way he does it is near effortless. It's like he's gliding through, making minute turns to avoid people, ducking swiftly and smoothly past raised arms and glasses, edging between groups, polite smile pasted tight on as he slips past, and he's done it all in seconds, disappears from sight through the wooden door, and Dean goes back to his beer, thinking harder than he wants to with a couple of beers down him.

He doesn't like what he realises. Sam doesn't touch people if he can help it, doesn't care for their hands on him in anything but ways he can control fully, and something about that makes Dean's stomach roil. His memory isn't wiped of what happened the other night, and something about it feels wrong to him. It was natural to fight somebody shoving something up your ass, and he didn't think too closely about how exactly it was he knew that so vividly, his own stint, well it was a long time ago. But he was Sam's brother for chrissakes, if you had to trust someone to do something like that to you without fear of being hurt or or... his mind refused to fill in the thought to go there, self protection came first.

But that hadn't mattered to Sam, nothing had, and he knew why. The way Sam had fought had been different, had even in his weakened condition been the fighting Dean knew so well, vicious and intent, the sort of resistance that had long since lost sight of what it was resisting, didn't care who it was fighting. He'd done it himself on occasions he'd rather forget but didn't have the choice to. He knew what Sam was doing, knew the path it lead down, and felt something freeze inside him at the thought.

He sits there long enough that his beer is warm and flat by the time he takes another sip, and Sam still isn't back. He's standing up to go find him, he's better but he shouldn't be alone right now, but then Sam's back, smiling like everything's okay, like they're just two brothers scouting for girls, for an easy fun night and he's got his arm slung round a tall good looking girl, and for half a second Dean relaxes, tells himself he's being a fool, because Sam's fingers are curled easily around the bare skin of her shoulder, and her arm is around his waist, and he must have been imagining things, projecting his own fucked up version of hell everywhere he looks.

Then he looks closer and it's all wrong, all off and the girl is just a little too tipsy to notice (and even that isn't Sam's style, never has been), she tosses back the last of her vodka and strawberry juice (sounds disgusting, she tells him smiling, tastes delicious,) and kisses Sam sloppily on the cheek. Sam flinches, manages to pass it off as distaste at the stickiness and Dean thinks with a note of triumph caught you, you fucker. He knows how this will happen, knows that Sam will just about manage to get it up, that he'll go down to avoid kissing her, and fuck her facing away so there's no expectations, that his grip will be too tight and too hard until he remembers how to let go. It's the lore, the mythology he knows, the eyes are the windows to the soul and the mouth is the entrance, it's bred in them as deep as breathing, and when you've been in the hell pit that long, it gets stained down to blood and bone.

They sit, and Dean orders another round of drinks, ignores the look Sam throws him, the pissed off 'why you skewing my game' look, knows that if this was a normal night, if anything about this was normal, then he’d be surprised at Sammy doing this at all, and he’d have pissed off ages ago, back to the hotel room with someone else. He watches them with clinical eyes and sees Sam like perhaps no other person ever could, the lines of strain around his eyes, the harsh set of his mouth, the way he holds his beer so tight. Turns out over twenty years in the same car is good for something. He sees the way Sam is drinking, not heavily but steady, like he needs it, like he can't do without it, and he wants to do something, to fucking throw a bottle at Sam's head, or haul him up and hug him until he can't fucking take it any more, until he has to hit Dean, push him off and admit that there's something wrong with him, that he can't bear the touch. That the one thing that should be a relief, is a torment, and that masochistically he makes himself do this, like repetition will make it better, and if only Sam would listen, Dean could tell him that it wouldn't. That it couldn't, and he didn't need to be a thousand dollar an hour psychiatrist to tell him and be right.

He doesn't do any of those things, he waits until the fourth strawberry and vodka that he's been present for vanishes, then he calls the girl (Candy? Randy? Mandy?) a cab. Pity, a long ago part of him notes. She was hot, and throwing him a reproachful look, telling him that she wasn't so drunk, but that he was a sweetie, why didn't he come back with them? And Dean could have laughed. Looked like everyone was shit out of luck that night. Mandy (he was pretty sure that was right) wasn't getting her naughty drunken threesome, Dean wasn't getting any peace, and Sam wasn't getting to duck out of this conversation.

Any other night, he tells her, any other night and he'd have taken her up, because hell he doesn't want to hurt her feelings. Doesn't want to explain that Sam can barely touch her, certainly can't kiss her the way she should be kissed, and that Dean's not so sure he himself would be up to it either, not tonight. She gives in with good grace, the slightly bewildered pliability of the drunk kicking in, lets herself be put in a cab, even remembers the sweater she'd thrown over the back of the chair. As the cab drives away, her head is already leaning against the window, her eyelids drooping down and she looks surprisingly young.

That leaves him and Sam and a bunch of explaining about why he'd delayed them enough that Mandy was gone. He opts out of one last beer, has a shot of whisky instead, lets it fire it's way through his veins like a bizarre parody of good-will and temporary cheer, and Sam has a final tequila, tosses it back with a squeeze of lime and a lick of salt, and Dean knows the bright burn of it down your throat, like the promise of a good night. As Shakira might have said but didn't, drinks don't lie, except when they do.

They walk back, and the streets are surprisingly empty, caught in that half-time between early leaving, and last orders. The silence is as muted as the colours, Sam walks head hunched down, hands in his pockets, and Dean tugs him deeper into the shadows. No point being stopped by the cops, and suddenly he can't believe he took the risk, took them to a bar like they weren't being chased, being hunted themselves, and he can't restrain his snort of laughter. Sam doesn't ask what he's laughing at, just fumbles the key from his pocket, and after only one abortive try they're in the room, and Dean lets Sam lock up, throws himself on the bed and stares at the ceiling. He already feels woozy and that's what he gets for mixing drinks. When he next looks up, Sam's on his knees by his duffle-bag pulling out a bottle of Jack, and two plastic travel mugs that he picked up from some coffee shop.

Dean can't remember the last time he was in a coffee shop, but he's in that weird stage where he's too drunk to think about it properly, and not drunk enough to start crying over it, and all of him dimly suspects that he doesn't care. When he sits up, Sam hands him the mug with a more than generous slug of Jack inside and he grimaces as he knocks it back in one and holds it out for another. In the warmth and noise of the bar it had seemed like this would be easier, now they're here it seems impossible, impossible to reach over that gulf and say that he gets it, that he knows how Sam is feeling because if anyone had said that to him, he'd probably have beaten them to a bloody pulp. But it's true, and all of a sudden he remembers Ben with an ache. Kids are a closed book, they make their own rules, and no-one had ever told Dean that the worst thing you can say to them is that they'll understand some day, that you know how they're feeling. Ben hadn't been an exception had shouted at him, tried to make him understand, and in the end understood that it probably wasn't possible.

Sam knocks back his own mugful, and apropos of nothing Dean remembers the first time Sammy drank hard liquor, twelve years old and in dad's stash like a ferret, defiant and angry, and how Dad had let him, told Dean he needed to be taught a lesson, that being sick and having a splitting head wouldn't hurt him none in the long term. Sam's not a kid, hasn't been a kid for a very long time, but whatever happens, hell, heaven or high water, he's still Dean's brother, and if it's up to him to start this he will.

He slides down to sit beside Sam, warmth of his furnace-like little brother bleeding through their respective jackets. "Man," he starts, and stops unsure of what to say. What words can he drop into this silence that'll make it better. Is there anything that can be said? He clears his throat and tries again. "Sammy, something's wrong." The utter imbecility of that statements makes him want to mock himself savagely. What's wrong Sammy? A wall in your head, and the little one said, roll it over. Time in the hell pit, plaything of two debauched archangels, can't spread your legs to save your life, can't touch in tenderness, can't kiss for fear, stumbling along with your idiot brother into the unknown, never a moment's peace, never a chance to tap out and call it a day, and it's taken this long for aforementioned idiot brother to notice all this as more than a passing casualty of war.

It's like Sam doesn't even hear, his neck twisted away, his head down low like he's trying to sleep, and Dean's about to give up, about to call it a night and crawl into bed and pretend like he can do any better tomorrow when he knows it isn’t the truth, when Sam finally speaks. It’s like the alcohol’s cut right through him, blurred his defenses, stripped the hard competent shell from him, left him exposed and raw like Dean feels most days. “I just don’t even know Dean,” he says and it’s like a confession. Dean barely dares move, almost holds his breath. “I just don’t want it anymore, don’t want the risk. It’s like if I touch them I might hurt them, who the hell knows what I might do, and when they touch me, I just want to run.” He takes in a huge shuddering breath, but his eyes are dry and hot when Dean catches them. “I don’t want to be like this, but what sort of choice do I have?”

Dean breathes in so deep he can feel the oxygen hit, lets it out all at once. “I get you Sammy,” he says as quiet as can be, knows that Sam hears him. “You can touch them, because you feel like you can maybe trust yourself to stop, but they touch you and it’s out of your hands.”

He feels, more than sees Sam’s head drop, nerveless hands tighten around the coffee mug. “I try and touch them Dean, but I don’t think I can let them kiss me..” he falls into silence, he doesn’t need words to explain why, not with Dean. Doesn’t need to talk about that time in hell, because they’ve both been there. It’s the moments of affection that break you, the moments where it stops and you dare to hope it might be over, the seconds of time before you’re pushed into, body and soul and mind giving way before the onslaught. There are kisses in hell, and the worst ones don’t burn like fire.

When Dean swills the bourbon back, puts the mug down firmly on the ground it’s not unexpected by either of them he thinks, it’s like this is inevitable. The lame leading the blind, the dog licking the leper’s wounds, the broken fixing the shattered. When his fingers press over the old familiar scar, still open beneath the skin like it can’t be healed, Sam shudders, a convulsive shudder, but he doesn’t jerk away because this they know. This he can take, can take pain like a pro, like he was born to, but Christ, tenderness will break him, and Dean wonders how strangers could ever mistake them for anything other than brothers because this must be written all over them.

The first kiss is awkward, steps over the line that should divide, and when Dean pulls away, Sam is breathing so fast, he almost panics, but waits it out, waits for it to slow, kisses him again, if it could be called a kiss at all, mere press of dry lip against dry lip, devoid of passion and impulse, born of closeness and pain between them, and still Sam pulls away like it burns, like he can’t take it, and Dean stops instantly, lets Sam catch his breath, lets the seconds tick past and then the minutes. He can feel the fast harsh rhythm of Sam’s heart beating a rapid tattoo, like it wants to break past his ribcage, and Dean pushes a hand to his chest, like that will stop it, calm it. He’s muttering nonsense now, doesn’t care what he’s saying as long as Sam doesn’t check out, doesn’t freak.

When he presses back, he can't quite believe that he's doing this. This is Sam, his brother, and he's pressing against him, taking his warmth, giving him this. Then the logical bit of him raises his head, and he can't quite believe that it's that part that's telling him to do this. But it is, and Jesus he has to do this. Who the fuck else will after all? Who'll kiss Sam, and stop when he can't take it, or just hold him enough that he can stop shaking? It's always been him, this is his job, he'll do anything for Sam, he's always known that, everyone knows it. John knew it, trained him too well, created him it feels sometimes for this purpose, every evil son of a bitch they hunt knows it, they always go for Sammy because they know where it hurts, know how to press his buttons so hard. The only person who doesn't know it properly is Sam. He knows Dean loves him, knows what Dean has done for him, but Dean doubts that he gets just how deep that goes. Four nights before, he'd pinned Sam to a bed and got closer to him than anyone ever had, shielded him from having to see, pushed through his barriers, and it had driven home to him that sometimes loving Sammy and doing what's best for him, means ignoring what he wants.

In this case it means listening to it. He learns fast when it's the things he loves. Learns the rhythm of Sam's breathing, the swift sudden pacing of his panic, the sound he makes when it gets too much, learns them and stores them somewhere so deep he'll never lose them, they'll be part of his blood and his bone and heart as long as he lives. Knows Sam's doing the same, because this thing has never been one way, no matter how it might have looked from the outside. He pretends not to notice that Sam's face is wet, and not just from Sam's tears, just thumbs them away with hands as firm and gentle as he can make them, because Sam has to know it's him, and he can’t tell if it’s him or the him of twenty years ago who thinks fiercely, when the fuck has he ever let Sam cry and not tried to fix it?

Sam pushes back against him, hands fumbling in Dean's jacket, pulling him closer and pushing him away like he can't decide what he wants, or what he thinks he should want. Dean makes that decision for him, he needs Sam patched, needs him up and running and living no matter how superficially. He hasn't had Sam whole in too long doesn't expect ever to again, it's been so tough, and if he could fix it he would, but he can't, all he can do is hold the pieces together with strength of will like he does with himself each day, and hope that he's helping that he's doing something to make this better.

The kiss is chaste, terribly so, can't ever not be so Dean knows and is glad. Had been afraid some tiny freakish bit of him, the bit that had always been terrified he was a monster, would get off on this, remembered pain stinging his lips, because hell, hell had done a lot of things to him, and he still finds the remnants in himself, still sometimes thinks thoughts that aren't his, aren't organic or natural, more monstrous than human.

But it's just Sam, Sam there and needing him and Dean will never say no to that. Can't. He eases back, time to let Sammy take the reins, and Sam tenses against him like this sudden pause is a responsibility he has to take up, then presses closer breathes in Dean's air, a shared exhalation, one breath for them both, and this is more intimate Dean thinks than anything he has ever done before. Wonders if Sam feels that as well. This is what counts, this between them, not what was done to them, not what was inflicted, that had to be borne, that they never had a choice with. This is theirs and Sam can hit him if he wants, can push him down and whale at him, and that's the point of it. They can stop. Sam's lips are warm, are dry and shy against his, and he tastes only, faintly of salt, the salt of his tequila, and perhaps tears.

The damage isn't fixed, Dean knows that. It'll take more than a kiss, take more than a night to make a dent. But Sam knows, he thinks, knows that Dean will do this for him, and he knows that Sam will also, and it's a start. He imagines tomorrow, imagines holding Sam's wrist as they drive, fingers indenting in exactly where the devil grips you tight, and then releasing and letting go. Closes his eyes, and lets himself fall.


Regardless of when you're reading this, feedback/crit always appreciated.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 8th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
This was so amazing....i can't even come up with a compliment worthy enough for it. So beautifully bittersweet!
Nov. 8th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
How kind of you :) thank you very much!
Nov. 8th, 2012 04:26 am (UTC)
You have such a great way of swirling dark and light together...until I'm not sure which I'm reading or which I want. You capture so many different angles of the brothers and of their relationship.

"There are kisses in hell, and the worst ones don’t burn like fire." = Amazing, amazing line.
Nov. 8th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much, and I'm really glad you liked that line- it's my favourite as well.
Nov. 8th, 2012 05:28 am (UTC)
Edition #2,386
User enablelove referenced to your post from Edition #2,386 saying: [...] by (NC-17) Stoop and Build (With Worn-out Tools) [...]
Nov. 8th, 2012 10:23 am (UTC)
I'm a sucker for touch starvation and you really hit it with this one, except in a new and unique way. It's not often you find something, a concept or idea, really new in fiction. I think this qualifies. Thank you for sharing :-)
Nov. 8th, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
Re: hi
I'm flattered that you found something new in this, thanks very much for commenting!
Nov. 8th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
This was wonderfully well-written. The insight into each brother's head was so lonely. They've suffered so much and kept quiet about it. I can't say enough about how achingly sweet the ending was. Such love these two have got each other. It's surreal and so painfully beautiful. I can't help but want more of this.
Nov. 8th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, I'm really glad that it worked for you, and that the love came through in it.
Nov. 8th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was so very heartbreaking. And just...Sam's panic and fury, Dean's desperation to *fix* it, even a little....

This is what counts, this between them, not what was done to them, not what was inflicted, that had to be borne, that they never had a choice with. This is theirs and Sam can hit him if he wants, can push him down and whale at him, and that's the point of it. They can stop.

*sniffles hard*

Lovely stuff.
Nov. 8th, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
Cheers! Much appreciated. And yes, I can imagine Dean always trying to fix it no matter how bad it got. Thanks again.
Nov. 8th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
Mmmmm, this, this makes me feel desparation, isolation and want, in complete chaos. Needing to control who can touch you, how and why, that was so vivid and gut punching.

And this, "because hell, hell had done a lot of things to him, and he still finds the remnants, still sometimes thinks thoughts that aren't his, aren't organic or natural, more monstrous than human."--->well, it's very relatable to someone who has been through their own private hell and feels those kind of things, too. Trying to find the light and love from that place, it's a hard and battle-scarred road. Thanks for leading our boys back to that path.
Nov. 9th, 2012 11:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, I'm super glad the emotion came across so clearly, especially the element of control- after so much has been taken away from you, you need to hang on to what you have left.

Really appreciate the comment, and glad there was a little bit of realism.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 9th, 2012 11:38 am (UTC)
:D Thank you! Two compliments in one! Very glad the character insight felt true, it's something I care a lot about.
Nov. 9th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
This was so poignant and yet it felt...right.
This...is them. So in-character and..-and well, perfect.

" The lame leading the blind, the dog licking the leper’s wounds, the broken fixing the shattered. "

Such an amazing sentiment.

Thanks for sharing!
Nov. 9th, 2012 11:44 am (UTC)
Thank you, what a lovely compliment to give :)

I'm especially glad you liked that line, since it's how I see the boys a lot. Thanks again!
Nov. 10th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC)
Wow... Intense and moving. I didn't read the first one, BTW, but I really did feel I didn't need to.

Nov. 11th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very glad it worked as a standalone :) Cheers for commenting
Nov. 12th, 2012 05:24 am (UTC)
No title
User electricmonk333 referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] by Stoop and Build (With Worn-out Tools) [...]
Nov. 24th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC)
the scent of secrets between them
This was some line.
This was some story.
Nov. 24th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I imagine the atmosphere of that car must be crowded with secrets :)
Jan. 16th, 2015 02:36 pm (UTC)
This. This is what I love about Sam and Dean.

Great fic.
Jan. 23rd, 2015 02:48 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm so glad the fic worked for you and got across that Sam + Dean relationship. Cheers.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


heart, Dean and Sam

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