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The quiet is jarring after the clattering chaos only moments behind them. This mansion isn't haunted anymore. It's still creepy and empty—not to mention drafty as hell—but there's no more sign of the malignant spirits that just tried to bring the whole place down. Instead there's genuine quiet, where before even the air was alive with ugly restlessness.

Even if Dean hadn't seen the ghosts evaporate to cinders, he'd know just from breathing the dusty stillness that the job is done. The EMF meter is silent in his hands as he circles back the way he came, completing his check of the second floor. Downstairs, Sam will be finishing the same; they've already checked the floors above.

Dean's nose tickles from the musty air and dust as he navigates halls of brittle carpet and high ceilings. The first hint of dawn is beginning to sneak through the few windows he passes, but he keeps his flashlight on. Sam will never let him live it down if Dean manages to trip and bruise himself up after the danger has passed.

When he reaches the main hall with its massive staircase, Dean slows his pace. There's more light below, mostly from the heavy-duty electric lanterns he and Sam brought with them, but this room in particular still gives Dean the wigs. All this extravagance, faded and fractured and rusted over. Broken panes of glass form sharp edges in almost every window frame, visible between worn and rotting curtains gone sickly gray. Even without its resident ghost, this grand foyer is creepy as fuck. Dean will be glad to put the place behind him.

He's careful as he descends the stairs, just in case of rotted steps or weak spots.

He finds Sam sitting near the bottom, feet planted on the step and posture slumped with fatigue. Sam's hair is a wild mess—care of the windstorm their quarry called up—and his elbows are braced on his knees. Dean can't see his brother's face until he's taking a seat immediately beside Sam, but he finds no surprises there. Sam looks winded and exhausted, which is pretty much exactly how Dean feels right now.

"Buy you a drink?" Dean asks, even though he already knows they're both going to face-plant directly onto their pillows as soon as they reach the motel.

Sam laughs, the sound warm with fond exasperation. When he turns his head to look at Dean, there's a particular ember of heat in his eyes.

Normally when Dean catches a glimpse of that ember he runs like hell the other way. It's not that he doesn't want the things it suggests—God help him, but he does—so much as it's a painful awareness of just how wrong it would be. Selfish. Sam doesn't really want this life. He sure as hell doesn't want Dean, whatever he might think. And it'd be a sight worse than unforgivable for Dean to indulge something so unambiguously wrong.

At least, that's what Dean normally thinks. Maybe he's too exhausted to care tonight, or maybe he's too rattled. They cut it damn close. They've been cutting it close a whole fucking lot recently. Maybe selfish isn't so bad.

"What are you thinking about?" Sam asks, nudging Dean's shoulder with his own.

"I gotta be thinking about something?" Dean keeps his tone as light as he can, his face blank. He won't be the one to nudge them into anything they can't take back. He'll meet his brother halfway, but that puts the first move on Sam.

"Guess not." Sam mutters. When Sam looks away, Dean doesn't think he's imagining the faint blush across his brother's cheeks. Or the equally faint hitch of disappointment in broad shoulders.

Before he can stop his idiot mouth, Dean hears himself concede, "Fine. Maybe I am thinking about something. But it doesn't matter unless you're thinking it, too."

There's bald hope in Sam's eyes when he his attention snaps back to Dean. Sam never did have a poker face worth gambling with. "Yeah?" Sam asks. There's no subtlety at all in the way his eyes drop to Dean's mouth before flying guiltily up again, and Dean struggles to keep amusement from curling the corners of his mouth.

"Yeah," Dean agrees. Fuck it. In for a penny.

Sam grins, wide and sudden, warmer and brighter than the daylight creeping in through the windows. Then his big hand is reaching for Dean, curling around the nape of Dean's neck to tug him close. Dean closes his eyes first, lets Sam come to him. He doesn't try to play coy beneath the hard press of Sam's mouth. He opens easily for the kiss they've been dancing around for months. He lets it happen, giddy and terrified and a little bit dizzy.

He keeps his eyes closed when Sam retreats, and doesn't open them until Sam's hand falls away, leaving unwelcome cold in its absence. He finds Sam watching him closely. Somber eyes, serious mouth. Waiting for Dean to freak out.

And yeah, sure, maybe Dean kind of wants to do just that. Maybe, even now, he has to remind himself to breathe through the panic threatening in his chest. Maybe the enormity of what just happened is enough to leave his head spinning. Somehow Dean still doesn't want to give Sam the satisfaction.

Just like that the worst of the panic quiets in Dean's blood. The grin he gives Sam is all bravado, but his voice is steady. "That all you got?"

Sam grins and kisses him again.