Disclaimer: Written for fun, not profit.
Notes: Written during the 2016 SPN-bigpretzel Spring Fling Fic Exchange for Dizzojay, a truly fantastic member of the fandom who deserved a story ten times better than this one. Rowena & the bunker are both mentioned in this story, but the season setting isn't very important, so there's no real fear of spoilers if you're not caught up.
When asked, Dean will say it started out as a persistent itch. It was really more of a tickle.
Sam glanced down at his phone, skimming a text from Cas, and noticed the time. It had been two hours, he realized. Two very long hours in the Impala, and Dean was still acting off. Sam couldn't quite put his finger on "how" or "why," but it had something to do with the way he was moving. After a life of traveling together, Sam had gotten used to Dean's little ticks, the way he was jittery after a fight and stony going into one, the way he'd hold himself when he was hiding an injury or roll his shoulders every few miles to work out the kinks. What Sam wasn't used to was Dean...twitching.
But there it was, every few minutes, Sam would catch it out of the corner of his eye, a sudden, reflexive movement followed by an equally fast stillness, as if Dean was catching himself in the act.
Sam frowned, realizing he still didn't know how to ask what was wrong in a way that didn't leave Dean giving him a surly look and a sarcastic comment in return.
Dean jerked slightly, slapping at his knee as if to sooth an ache, then scratching at the denim of his pants with his fingernails.
"Son of a bitch..."
Sam raised a brow, considering the muttered comment an opening. "You ok?"
Dean took his eyes off the long, lonely road ahead. They were narrowed in aggravation when they landed on Sam. "This you?" he asked.
Sam blinked, confused. "What's 'this'?"
Dean huffed, then grimaced when he jumped slightly to the right, as if something had touched his back. The Impala jerked with him, but there was no one else on the road to notice. "Did you put friggin' itching powder in my clothes or something, Sam? Because, I swear to God, I'm not in the mood."
Sam snorted, somewhat relieved. An itch? Seriously, that was what this was about? "Not guilty. Maybe you're allergic to that cheap detergent you bought."
"It's the same detergent I've been using for months," Dean snapped, "and I've worn these clothes twice while we were visiting Glenda the Good Witch, so it's not the soap. What did you do?"
Sam scrunched his nose. Well, that explained the mustier than usual smell in the car, though he couldn't blame his brother for wanting to get "home" to do their laundry after that foul-out of a hunt for one of Rowena's pals. Who turned out to be an ex-pal who only dealt in "lame white kiddy mojo in a grab-bag," as Dean had put it. And her story had checked out, with no creepy happenings in her small town over the decade she'd lived there to even suggest she was back into the dark arts. In fact, Sam was certain the little old woman with a flair for the theatrics had actually been protecting the town from supernatural interference. As interesting as meeting her had been, she hadn't been able to help them with their Rowena issue.
"I didn't do anything, Dean. Ruthie had five cats, and you were sneezing the whole time we were there. I'm sure one them just got against your clothes. You're probably covered in hives."
Dean made a face of disgust. "Am not," he muttered. He shook his head, pissed. "I took three Benadryl while we were there. It's not my damn allergies!"
"Three?" Sam straightened, hands checking to make sure his seat belt was still secured. "Dude, how are you still driving?" A silly question, he knew, since he'd seen his brother drive while quite literally bleeding to death, but still... "You know what? Pull over at the next motel."
"I don't need a nap!"
"You need itch cream!" Sam shouted back, then took a calming breath. "Dean, you look like a tweeker in need of a fix. Just pull over so you can change and get a flea bath or whatever the hell you need to do. We can both get a few hours of rest, and then we can head back to the bunker."
"Waste of time," Dean commented. Then jumped as if something had bitten his butt. Baby slid off the road, hitting gravel, before Dean smoothly eased her back onto the blacktop. He and Sam were silent a moment before Dean finally snapped. "Fine! We'll stop. But just for a few hours."
Sam ran his fingertips up and down the deep lines of his brow as he stared at the laptop screen, willing it to magically give him the answers to the questions circling his mind. Unfortunately, willpower didn't help him. No, the possible case that he'd noticed while checking his usual off-beat news sources wouldn't provide him with any answers over the internet; he'd have to get them himself. Which meant that instead of having a few moments of peace at the bunker, they would need to make a detour that would take them a few hours west of Lebanon toward a small town that seemed to be suffering from a sudden case of missing and dismembered people...and their pets. An odd combination, but possibly not their kind of case. Still, it would be worth checking out, even if he didn't relish the idea of telling Dean. Especially since Dean had been particularly bitchy by the time they'd pulled into the parking lot of the cheap motel.
Sam heard the click of the bathroom door opening and felt the thick steam from a hot shower drifting to the far side of the room. He sighed to himself. "Dean, I think I've found something."
"Rowena related?" Dean asked.
Sam frowned. "No, unfortunately not. But it might be a case. There's a town outside of..." Sam trailed off as he glanced up over his laptop. His train of thought completely lost, he grimaced. "What the hell, dude?"
Dean only scratched the back of his still-wet head, looking boyishly shy. "I'm sleeping in the buff tonight."
"Uh. No. You're not."
Dean frowned, losing his bashfulness and threw himself down onto the far bed. "Uh, yeah, I am," he snapped back. "My clothes don't feel right. They're all tickle-y. Which is probably your fault."
"I didn't put itching powder in your clothes!" Sam snapped his laptop shut. "Did you put on the itch cream?"
"I don't need it. Do I look like I'm covered in hives to you? This isn't because of the friggin' cats!"
Sam opened his mouth to shout a reply and closed it again when he realized Dean was right. While he was trying to not look too closely, it was fairly obvious that Dean was just as pale as usual and squeaky clean. "You're not fidgeting right now."
"That's because I'm naked," Dean noted, rolling his eyes.
Sam tried to stop himself from mimicking his brother. And failed. "Did you try putting on fresh clothes? You know, ones that are actually clean."
"Yes, smartass, but I can't stand the feel of them on my skin, ok? So I'm sleepin' frickin' naked tonight, and I don't care if that screws with your delicate sensibilities. This isn't exactly the first time you've seen my ass."
"Don't remind me," Sam muttered. He grumbled to himself, shifting his chair so he'd be facing the ugly green curtains instead of the beds. "Fine. Do whatever you want, Dean. Just don't sit on my bed. Please. Dean?"
When no reply came he glanced over his shoulder to see Dean rolled onto his stomach, mouth open and relaxed in antihistamine-induced slumber. Sam shook his head. Of course Dean hadn't even managed to cover himself up.
"Full moon tonight," Sam commented, then went back to work.
Despite the number of years they'd spent on the road together, living in each others shadows with an extreme lack of privacy, Sam still wasn't quite used to seeing his brother in all his glory. So, when he woke the next morning, he was glad to see that Dean had both decided to get a full night's rest and, more importantly, decided to put on his clothes again.
"Thank God," Sam yawned, rolling out of bed.
"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," Dean said, hauling his duffel bag over one shoulder. "I'm packing Baby up, so if you want a shower, better get it now."
"You're in a good mood."
Dean only shrugged. "Guess you were right. Must have been allergies. You'll have to fill me in on that job when I get back."
"No itch?" Sam clarified.
But Dean was already out the door, letting in a blinding strip of sunlight and promising a greasy breakfast before he disappeared.
Sam stared at the shut door a moment. "Huh."
"We're going to get arrested." Sam clenched his jaw, the muscles rolling beneath his cheek, before adding a terse, "Again."
Sam blamed himself. He should have noticed the T-shirt. It wasn't often that Dean went anywhere without a layer of shirts on unless there was a heat index of over a hundred, so, in retrospect, Sam realized he should have taken note of the fact that Dean was only wearing a white undershirt with his jeans when he came back to the motel room with their breakfast. Somewhere along the way, he'd lost the flannel shirt he'd had on when Sam opened his eyes that morning.
"Plenty of people drive without a shirt on, Sam," Dean said, huffing in annoyance.
Sam blinked at his brother, too angry to speak for a moment. "Are you serious right now? We just nearly died on the Interstate because you decided to whip your shirt off while trying to pass a semi! What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Are you calling me a bad driver?"
"I'm calling you an assho - get your hands off your pants, Dean!"
Dean's eyes widened. "I'm not touching my pants, Sam. I just had a big breakfast, so I was loosening my belt."
"I just saw you tugging at the top button. You are not taking off your pants while driving!" Sam hesitated a moment, considering how crazy that possibility was. It wasn't like Dean to endanger the Impala over something so trivial. Sam hated that he was wrong about the allergies. "Pull over."
"What? We're headed to a job..."
Sam shook his head. "No. I'm headed to a job. I'm going to have Cas pick you up and take you back to the bunker so the two of you can figure out what's going on with you. If there weren't people dying two counties over, we'd turn right around and head back the way we came."
"What the hell for?"
"Because I think Ruthie put a spell on you."
Dean snorted. "I would know it if there was a spell put on me, Sam. I'm just feeling all cooped up lately. Don't you ever just get the urge to take off your clothes and feel the air against your - " Dean cut off sharply and raised a hand to stop Sam from replying. "I heard it too. Pulling over now. Friggin' witches."
"So...skinwalker serial killer?"
Sam nodded in reply, trying not to wince as he eased back in his seat. He was still a bit sore from being forced into a kennel while Mr. Sometimes-A-Poodle had told him about his dastardly plan to let his victims choose him at the animal shelter. He'd almost felt bad for the guy when Dean had appeared out of no where and kicked his furry ass across the shelter. Sam was pretty sure that being butt naked had given him some sort of advantage. Sam had been thankful enough not to force Dean to put on clothes during the ride home. But he had given Cas an earful for letting Dean escape his sight while in such a...state; he still wasn't sure how that had happened, but thankfully the angel had come through on the research front.
"Yep," Dean popped the word and let out a sigh. "Apparently Ruthie heard some of the things I was calling her cats while her back was turned and took offense. So she decided to make my clothes tickle me, because that's an adult response to criticism."
"I hope you learned your lesson," Sam said, hiding a smile behind his bottle of beer.
"Don't piss off crazy cat ladies. Check." Dean leaned back in his chair, propping his feet up on the edge of the table, nursing a new bottle, and seemingly pleased with the fact that he had a tasteful dishcloth covering his nether region. "Witch is lucky she used white magic or I'd be hunting her ass right now, naked or not naked.
Sam chuckled outright then. He'd only barely convinced Dean not to kill Ruthie after she confessed to casting the hex. Thankfully, she'd also assured them that the hex would wear off in a few days. And she admitted that she'd thought the hunters would be staying in town after their visit to her house...Sam wasn't going to point out that Ruthie had been hoping to get free entertainment out of her mojo.
Dean shrugged one shoulder. "I think he's had enough of seeing...umm...yeah. Prude. He said he'd be in his bunk."
Sam choked on his beer, coughing loudly into his arm. "I bet," he finally managed.
Dean raised a brow. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Sam rolled his eyes, trying to keep them pointed toward the ceiling. He was certain other hunters didn't have to put up with hunts that involved poodles and an aversion to clothing, but then they didn't have Dean Winchester for a brother either. No matter what life threw at them, at least it would never be boring.