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The Three Reasons Dean Winchester Ever Gets Up in the Morning

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Dean's said it a million times before but it will never become any less true. He fucking. Hates. Witches.

They salt and burn the bitch and everything is awesome, until the moment Sam's stitching him up and he asks him how he feels. Dean tries to say "I'm good" but the words won't come, so he frowns and tries for something else. "I'm alright" won't happen either, or "it's fine", or "it doesn't hurt that badly"... the first thing his brain lands on that will actually come out of his mouth is "I feel like I got hit by a truck."

What the everloving hell?

"Dude, I had no idea it was that bad." Sam bites his lip. "I mean, the wound doesn't look that bad from here, but if you're saying that, then...okay, you've got to go to the hospital."

Dean splutters. "What- no! No fucking way! I refuse to go to a hospital." He takes a deep breath. "I, uh... I feel like this after every hunt, dude," he admits, because he feels physically compelled to. Like he can't keep the secret in his chest. "And I dunno why but for some reason I'm being forced to tell you right now."

Sam stares at him. He feels like this after every hunt and he doesn’t tell him? He fights down the urge to throw something at his brother. Mainly because that goes against the Hippocratic Oath; there’s surely something against chucking a pair of scissors at a patient’s head because they’re a fucking idiot.

"Say something," Dean begs in that way he does that doesn't really sound like begging. "Literally anything. The stare you're givin' me right now would send Lucifer sprinting back to his Cage, bitch."

Sam takes a deep breath. It does absolutely nothing to lessen his anger. “Okay. Why didn’t you tell me you feel like this? Why didn’t you tell me you’re struggling? And don’t give me any of that pansy crap, I am your brother. I’m supposed to be here for you, shit- I should have known about this!”

Dean shrugs, just generally not feeling it. "Cause I'm not allowed?" he supplies. "C'mon, Sammy, you remember how we were raised. I was the oldest kid, I had to take care of you, I wasn't given the chance to have my own feelings. Not to mention all the bullshit when I came out and started getting fucked in the ass by Dad's LGBT-phobic attitude, refusing to call me 'he', I had to do whatever I could to feel like a guy, so this is what we get. Emotional repression and toxic masculinity. Those habits are hard to break, man!" He pauses. "Why did I say all of that?"

Sam glares at him. “We will return to the part about you bottling up all your issues later. Right now, I think we’ve got a bigger problem.” He considers his brother, who has probably said more about his feelings in the last 5 minutes than his entire life. “I think you’ve been cursed.”

Dean's really glad he can't see himself right now, because he's pretty sure he just went completely white. "No. Nope. Incorrect. Not happening. Blocked." He stands up, walks two steps, turns around, runs his hands through his hair helplessly, and sits back down on the edge of the bed. "Cursed?" he finally manages. "Fucking witches, man."

“Fucking witches,” Sam echoes. He pushes the anger to the back of his mind. They have bigger problems right now. “Right,” he says, standing. “I’ll go look at the lore, see if there’s anything there.”

"I'll go look at the lore," Dean mocks him under his breath. "Dude, reading is what you do when you don't want to deal with shit or you don't want to have to look at me. You know you aren't going to find anything. We've done these fuckin' witch cases a bajillion times." He's not even looking at Sam - his back is to the kid - but he can feel how all the air in the room goes stiff. And Dean's really good at sidestepping the truth when he's actually trying but he doesn't have the energy to really try right now. He's just exhausted.

So when time freezes and both of the Winchester brothers with it, Dean doesn't move for five seconds (he counts them in his head), and then he takes a deep breath and tries to force himself to lie down.

He wonders if Sam is going to let him.

“You know the one good thing about this?” Sam says softly. “It’s that I finally know what you’re thinking. And I can’t stress how wrong you are.”

He takes a step closer to him. “I’m going to read the lore because I know that somewhere out there, there’s an answer. Maybe it’s in the lore, maybe it’s not. Hell, maybe we’ll have to start another Apocalypse for it. I don’t care. I read every time something comes up because I’m not ready to give up on you.”

Dean exhales loud and slow, finally looking up into his brother's eyes. "Whelp, that's about enough intensity for me right now," he announces abruptly, putting his hands on his knees and standing up. He pulls at the stitches in his left shoulder. He winces. He feels like a baby.

But then he turns and he meets his brother's eyes again, and it's like something's shifted between them. He doesn't know what it is or why it's different but he has to say something, has to relieve that tension, or it's going to drive him insane. He gently places his hand on his brother's shoulder and says, "just for the record, Sam... I love the living shit out of you."

Then he slips under the covers of his bed, facing away from Sam, pretending to be asleep. He holds his breath until he hears the door click quietly shut behind his brother, and then he actually does sleep.

Sam heads to the library by himself. There is some truth to what Dean said: about him finding respite in books. But not because he couldn’t face him or the situation. It was more of him running to the promise of a solution, just hiding somewhere in those yellowing pages.

I love the living shit out of you. He carries a thick stack of books over to his favorite desk. “Yeah, I know, Dean,” he murmurs under his breath. “I know.” He flicks to the first page. He’s going to be here a while.


He doesn't sleep well. He never does. He never has. He sometimes wonders if the last time he had a good night of sleep was the night of November 1st, 1983.

He has the same nightmares that have plagued him forever - fire, blood, losing Sammy - and a few new one's he's collected throughout the more recent years. Hell, Abbadon, Crowley, Alastair, losing Cas, losing Sammy. Losing Sammy a billion different ways, ways he never even knew were possible until he was thirty. Losing Sammy because of IT, because of The Big Thing that's fucked up about him. Losing Sammy because of the shit he doesn't say, that he's come so close to saying three different times already just tonight. Losing Sammy because he's a disgusting pervert.

That's nothing new.

He wakes up after being dead to the world for about 8 hours, which amounts to probably two-and-a-half hours of real good sleep for a normal person. But Dean's been functioning on two-and-a-half nearly as long as John Winchester's been an alcoholic, so he thinks he'll be fine. He wakes up, but he doesn't move. He knows what time it is - thanks alarm clock! - but he doesn't know if Sam ever made it back to his bed last night. He doesn't know if Sam's in the room with him.

He's scared to know.

By his count, in the past 12 hours, Sam has spent more time surrounded by books than human beings. Mainly because he's spent the last 8 locked in the bunker library, and the last 3 of those trying to decipher an ancient Chinese text (which proves quite difficult when you don't actually know Chinese).

He groans, yawns. It's 10 am. His eyes are swimming and his head is pounding and his stomach is growling and God, he's getting too old for this. He lets his mind wander for a while. Wonder if Dean got any rest. He looked pretty tired yesterday. Maybe...4 hours of shut-eye? Is he up yet? He looks at the text again.

Jesus it's like pulling teeth. The characters swirl before him. It's like looking at it through glass. Maybe I should just hit the hay, call it a day. Then Dean's face swims before him, angry and vulnerable and angry that he's vulnerable and just... just so tired. Sam sighs. He blinks, once. Twice. He pulls the text towards him, peers closer. He's got a lot to go through.

Dean finally takes a deep breath and throws the blankets off himself all at once. He swings his legs off the bed. They're shaking. What the fuck.

He glances around; Sam's not in Dean’s bedroom, which is... alright. He slips into the hallway, sticks his head into Sam's room. His bed is immaculately made, which isn't unusual considering it's 10am, but there's a thin layer of dust covering it, which indicates it hasn't been used in the six days it's been since they left for that salt-and-burn. Dean groans and growls a "Sammy!" through his gritted teeth, then pads deeper into the bunker toward the library.

And lo and behold, there's the baby brother. He stands there in the doorway, watching him for a minute, and then he feels himself getting so pissed off that he physically can't keep his mouth shut any longer.

"Samuel James Winchester," he snarls, stalking over to the table his brother is sitting at and slamming his book shut for him, sliding it to the other side of the table so even Gigantor can't reach it (and Sam had better know how serious he is, because Dean hasn't said his full name and definitely hasn't taken that tone with him since Sam was nine). "Get your ass in that bed before I drag you there."

He's pointing in the general direction of Sam's bedroom, and whoo boy would he love a fight right now. He's all amped up and ready to throw hands, but he doesn't actually know what he'd do if Sam did provoke him.

Sam, despite himself, is slightly impressed. Majorly annoyed that Dean just manhandled a 3000-year-old script, but the fact that Dean had the guts to say his full name (and even his middle name; God, even he had kind of forgotten he had one)... well, he's got to respect that he pulled the older-brother card. And then common sense comes back in. Mainly, the sense that comes naturally to younger siblings, which is an instinctive anger at any older-sibling card.

"I would love to see you try," Sam says, grabbing the book back towards him. "Or did you miss the part where I'm a head taller than you?"

Dean smirks. Damn, he hasn't felt this alive in a while. They were getting too complacent without any reason to fight each other.

"Bitch, I can still take you any day of the week with my injured arm tied behind my back. Also, you're sleep-deprived. I bet you can't even see straight. I am not. Well, more than usual. So c'mon, I wanna see you try to keep your balance with four Deans in front of you and 12 feet of muscle to throw around."

"Bite me, jerk," Sam says automatically. He refuses to rise to the bait. Because his brother's a grade-A idiot, but also because there's some truth to it. He's quite certain Chinese words shouldn't be moving. He blinks. They stay in place for a moment, before starting to move sluggishly around the page. "I could take you any day," he maintains. "Old man," he throws in, just to rile him up.

He sees the bait dangling from that big shiny hook Sam's waving in front of his face and he almost swallows it whole, but he manages to drag himself away. "Four years, Sammy," he reminds his brother. "Only four years, and every year that feels like less. If I'm an old man, you're just as guilty."

"4 years. 48 months. 1460 days. 35040 hours. 2102400 minutes." Sam tries to suppress the admittedly childish urge to snigger. "Might want to start working on your pension plan now."

"What pension plan? Most hunters don't live to 40, there's no such thing as retirement." Dean suddenly realizes he's doing exactly what Sam wants him to do. He played himself. He sighs. "So here's the deal, Sam. Whether you go to bed or not, I'm going to go into the kitchen in three minutes and make chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream and the good coffee. Now, if you go sleep for the amount of time it takes me to make 'em, I'll whip you up a batch. If you don't..." He shrugs. "They're all mine."

"I'm pretty sure this is a bribe," Sam deadpans. "As a patriotic, red-blooded American, I cannot surrender to enemy forces this easily." He flips to the next page. Shit, now that his mind's on it, he really wants chocolate chip pancakes. "No to the pancakes," he says.

Dean shrugs. "Your loss." He turns and strolls out of the room, calling over his shoulder, "blueberry too! Last chance to change your mind!"

Sam bites his lip. Well yeah, pancakes sound good, a voice says in his head, but are you really ready to swallow your dignity for fucking FOOD? He looks down at the book and makes a snap judgment. "They better be the best damn blueberry pancakes in the world," he shouts, standing up, pretending not to notice the multiple cracking sounds from his joints. "And I want hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows."

Dean patiently waits until Sam's bedroom door slams shut before he violently fist-pumps in victory. "Of fucking course they will be, dude, it's me!" he screams in the general direction of the residential area of the bunker. "And damn right I'm makin' you hot chocolate, it's December. What kind of brother would I be if I didn't?" He makes his way to the kitchen, feeling extremely satisfied.

I don't usually need to do this kinda shit with Sam, he notices as he starts grabbing the ingredients for the pancakes - from scratch, of course. He's no slouch - and arranging them on the counter. It's usually the other way 'round. What's gotten into him?

Sam stumbles into the kitchen and fuck, it genuinely smells amazing. Dean doesn't look it, but he's a seriously great cook. Which younger Sam would not have believed, given some of the things he'd come up with as a kid. A polite term would be "inventive"; an accurate description would be "hazardous".

Seriously, who thinks putting marshmallows into mac and cheese is a good idea? Smiling at the memories, Sam drops into one of the chairs.

Barely five seconds later Dean sets a plate down in front of him, soon followed by two identical steaming mugs, the hot chocolate identifiable by the whipped cream topping it. He marvels at the look of pure reverence that adorns his brother's face and smiles when he remembers that he's the one who put it there.

And then he forces himself to wipe that smile away because he's not allowed that, remember? He doesn’t get to feel that way about his brother, he's just fucked up. He grabs his own plate and instead of sitting across from Sam like usual, slides into the chair next to him. He grabs the whipped cream and sprays an ungodly amount onto his pancake stack - they're piled eight-high because as he said, he's no slouch - and digs in.

"You know," Sam says, cutting his pancakes carefully, "if you ever retire, you could consider being a cook. I'm serious. This is really good. Plus, you managed to keep me alive.” He snaps his fingers. “Oh, there’s another job. Babysitter."

He eyes the veritable mountain of food on his brother's plate. "Careful there. I don't think you've got enough. You know, in case you were aiming to challenge the Tower of Babylon's height with those pancakes."

Around his mouthful of food, Dean manages to make "vuh fug iz da Dower ov Babawon?" sound arguably distinguishable. He just hopes he manages to make his brother laugh.

(That laugh is one of three reasons Dean ever gets up in the morning.)

Sam fights the urge to roll his eyes. "Swallow, you heathen." He takes a sip of his chocolate. "The Tower of Babylon, or Babel, is mentioned in Genesis. Basically, a bunch of people thought they could build a tower so high it would reach Heaven. God saw this as hubris, and cast them all down, scattering the people. Some people think that's how we came to be from different races."

Dean follows his brother's command, then grins and holds up his silverware. "Hey, dude, at least I'm using a fork and knife." He'll have other opportunities to hear that laugh again. "So basically, bunch of idiots think they get a free pass to Heaven just because they get architecture? Sure sounds like hubris to me." He stabs at another piece of whipped-cream-with-a-touch-of-pancake. "Chuck was in the right, ask me."

Sam shrugs. "I don't know, man. Seemed like an overreaction. I mean, how many times have we directly challenged people above our pay grade? Sure, it may have been arrogant but...they were human. We make mistakes." He chews on another bite thoughtfully. "Still. I can't believe you haven't heard of the Tower of Babylon."

Dean smirks conspiratorially. "Sammy, you know I love it when you talk nerdy to me. Maybe I did know and I just wanted to hear you explain it to me."

Fuck this curse, fuck this curse, fuck this curse. Fuck every witch who's ever lived. Except Rowena ROWENA INCLUDED, because she's a bitch and she gave birth to Crowley. He can't lie, Sam will figure out that he means that and holy shit has he just fucked himself?

He shouldn’t have said anything. He should've kept his stupid mouth shut.

For now, though, all he can do is drink his hot chocolate and pray that his brother doesn't notice his internal panic attack.

Sam feels his face flushing because goddamn, his mind is spiraling to places it shouldn't even be, shouldn't even go near because fuck that, they're brothers. He wills himself not to think. Think of... blank canvases. And... clouds. "Uh," he clears his throat. "I mean, yeah." He smiles at an attempt at normalcy. "Guess you're not as stupid as you look. Jerk."

Dean is so busy trying not to spontaneously combust he barely hears anything Sam says, but he catches 'not as stupid', 'look', and 'jerk'. He can infer the rest of the sentence from that.

"Well, thanks, you little bitch," he shoots back, attempting to keep his voice in its normal register. It wants to shoot up an octave for some reason, but fuck if he's gonna let that happen.

Sam clears his throat again. “Well,” he says, trying his best to sound casual, “thanks for cooking. But...uh, I should really get back to research. Truth curse, and all that.”

"Good God, Sammy, you can't take a break for three hours? Take care of yourself first instead?" Dean rolls his eyes. "I care about you way more than I care about myself, and I know that's the truth curse talkin' but you knew that already, didn't you? And besides, and I can figure this shit out on my own. It's alright."

"That's what you always say, Dean," Sam sighs. He rubs at the spot between his eyebrows. God, he's getting a really bad migraine. "It's always 'let me handle it', or 'I've got this', or 'I'll figure it out'. Jesus fuck just let me help you. I'm your brother. It's my job."

"And I want you to," Dean replies, "but not right now. You're no help to anyone if you're workin' yourself to death."

Sam fumbles for an answer, comes up empty. He resorts to glaring at his older brother. "Fine. But only for 4 hours. No arguments. And then back to work. And as for you, you're going to rest. Watch some trash TV, whatever. You're not leaving the bunker."

"Duh," Dean says, making a face at his brother. "You're a stubborn bitch, but yeah. I was just gonna chill. Drink some hot chocolate, maybe spike it with alcohol. Nothing too drastic. Just hang out. Seriously, Sammy, go sleep, a'ight? I'll still be here when you get back. I ain't leavin' you."

"I know," Sam says, dragging himself into his bedroom. All those hours of restlessness catch up to him at once, and he passes out almost instantly. The last thought that flits through his mind is: And I'll be there when you need me, too.

Dean sighs and slumps onto the couch. "Four hours," he murmurs. What should he do for four hours? Jerk it to his brother's face ain't gonna work, so he might as well just watch Battlestar Galactica and get a little bit drunk. Maybe he'll forget that he's disgusting and fucked up and a little bit in love with Sammy while he's at it and wouldn't that be nice, not to hate himself for a couple of minutes.

The alarm goes off at 2pm, which doesn't help the raging headache Sam has now; it amplifies the pounding in his head tenfold. He turns it off quickly. There's the nausea of first consciousness, coupled with the throbbing of his migraine, which only seems to be worsening. He groans.

Fuck, I think I'm going to be sick. He tries to sit up and fails. His head thumps back down onto his pillow, and his skull makes a scream in protest. Okay. No. You've got to get up. For Dean. Sam tries again. The world is swimming, and he feels like his brain is being liquidized... but he's up. He takes a cautious few steps forwards. His legs feel like rubber. He exhales slowly. Okay. To the library.

Dean intercepts him on his way there. "How's it goin' Sammy? You look like shit," he adds, giving his brother a once-over.

His voice is far too loud. It sounds like a gong in his head. "Yeah," he croaks out. "I'm fine."

"You need a beer and some Tylenol," Dean decides, grabbing Sam's wrist before he can think better of it. As soon as he does he feels his face get a little bit hot. This is uncomfortably close to holding hands and they haven't done that since Sam was five and Dean was helping him cross the street. (In a totally familial, platonic, not-at-all-creepy, big-brotherly kind of way) He inhales shakily and then drags his brother toward the kitchen, hands him a beer, then pops the top off the acetaminophen bottle and passes two tablets to his brother. "Better?" he asks.

"Yeah." Sam groans. It's technically true. His headache's still raging... but for some reason, he's thinking about Dean grabbing his hand. He hasn't done that since he was little, when he wanted to hold the spoon when he was cooking, or when he was half-dragging him across the street. Dean had looked so tall back then. And now he's towering over his older brother.

For some reason, he wants to start tearing up. Has to be the Tylenol. "Thanks," he says. For everything, he tries to say, but the words won't come. He wonders when he also started picking up his brother's habit of not expressing his feelings.

"Course, Sammy," Dean tells him easily. "I love you." And it's not even the curse talking - he tells his brother because he wants to. Because he needs Sam to remember that.

 “Yeah. I know.”

Sam can stop there. He doesn’t have to go on. But he can’t stop the next words that come out and if he’s being honest, he doesn’t even want to.

“I love you too.”

Dean claps Sam on the shoulder, hoping to avoid the awkwardness. "Yeah..." he whispers. "Yeah, I know. I know." He gulps, then changes the subject. "A'ight, let's go see if we can get this godforsaken curse off of me."

The library is damp and musty and damn near suffocating. He genuinely considers turning tail, heading back to his room and sleeping for... 16 hours or so. But then he looks over at Dean, who's had a full 8 hours at least, and is looking happier than he's seen him in a long time, and already knows that he's going to be here the whole day. Sam stumbles across the room. "Right," he says, throwing a pile of Ancient Greek texts at him. "Make yourself useful."

Dean catches the books just barely and gives his brother a look like he's gone off the deep end. "These are in Greek," he observes stupidly. "Nobody reads Greek."

"An entire country does," Sam points out, grabbing a few Arabic scripts. "Plus, we've got dictionaries."

Dean sticks his tongue out at his brother and finds himself faced with and similarly overwhelmed by unbidden fantasies about jamming it down Sam's throat. He stops, turns away, makes a genuine attempt to locate a Greek-to-English dictionary, and refuses to look at Sam until his half-woody calms down.

"Well look who's being a smartass today," he retorts in the tone he always uses when he knows he's lost an argument, even if it wasn't actually an argument. It's only an argument cause he decided.

Sam throws his stack of books onto the desk and settles down. "Look, you going to help or not?"

"Course I am, Sam, you think I want to be cursed?" he demands. "You think I want to be all but forced to tell you the shit I've been hiding from you forever because if you knew you'd fucking abandon me like everyone else does? It's not like I asked for this. So yeah, I'll fuckin' help you." Dean has no idea where all the anger came from, but he's bitter and pissed off and now he's taking out on his brother which is just- fantastic.

Sam stares. His mind is racing. Dean thinks I'd abandon him?

"Look," he says, trying to keep his voice calm and his anger from boiling over, because fuck, his brother is possibly the most idiotic person to ever walk the face of the Earth. "You're my brother. I don't know how many times I have to say it to get it through your thick fucking skull but I'm not leaving you. And I'm not having this conversation again. You're stuck with me. Forever. Sucks to be you." He sits down opposite him, breathing heavily. "Shut up and start reading. Jerk."

"Eat my ass, bitch," Dean replies, but a little of the tension seeps out of his shoulders. He pulls open the book and starts to surf through it for anything that even mentions truth or curses.

He bites the inside of his lips to keep himself from smiling because you're stuck with me is far more of a confession of love than the straight-up 'I love you's they exchanged earlier were, and yeah, Dean knows Sam would never mean it like he means it but it's still significant anyway.

Sam relaxes a little. If they're calling each other jerk and bitch then that's some semblance of normalcy. He props his feet up on the table and turns his attention towards his book.

"Found som’n'," Dean murmurs blearily hours later, shoving the book in Sam's direction. "Wanna break the truth curse, something something, greatest secret, something. Have at it."

Sam looks over the book quickly. "Alright, good news is there's a cure. What did I tell you?" He shoots a quick smile at Dean. "Um, let's see. You have to tell your greatest and darkest secret to break the truth curse. And... and apparently that's it."

He leans back, feeling a wave of relief wash over him. "Well shit, that was easy. Not even... blood of the witch who laid it on you or anything. Thank God. I was not ready to go witch-hunting just yet; my back still aches." He snaps back to attention, looks at Dean expectantly. "Well? Greatest secret then. I won't judge."

"Woah, no fuckin' way!" Dean almost-shouted. "This is not a relationship where we share our darkest damn secrets with each other and that ain't startin' now. I'll tell Cas, I'll tell Crowley, hell, I'd tell Gabriel if he was still alive but I ain't tellin' you." Because I'm fucked up and disgusting and I can't take the look on your face when you realize it. I won't be able to survive that, Sammy.

Sam tries to swallow the hurt he feels. Because Dean would rather tell a demon he hates than his own brother. Him. "Dude," he says softly. "It's alright. You can tell me. It’s me."

Dean takes a deep breath, wishing this wasn't so hard for him. "Uh..." He gulps, in a futile attempt to swallow the lump in his throat. "Look, Sammy," he starts, praying to Chuck for strength. "I... I'm bisexual. Uh... yeah. Not straight. Never was, never will be, never dated a guy either because I'm too fuckin' scared. And, uh... there's only one guy I actually want to date in the first place."

Sam nods. "Yeah, that's cool. And hey, I just want to say that I'm here for you, okay? Like... I can't imagine keeping that in for that long so... if you need anything, just let me know. But you're still my brother. I don't care who you like, okay? You're still my brother." He leans back on his chair. "Whew. So... was that your darkest secret or is it the person?"

"Well, uh... can we just go with that for now? Cause having feelings isn't my favorite thing in the world so maybe we come back to this when I ain't so exhausted?"

He sighs, hoping that Sam will accept his pathetic excuse for a reason to postpone the conversation. He needs to milk every last second he can get with his brother before he's forced to make the ultimate mistake, ruin the best thing he's ever had, purely because he doesn't have a choice.

Sam narrows his eyes. "Alright, I don't know whatever kind of bullshit you're on right now, but you're going to have to deal with it sooner or later. And judging from your reply, bisexuality was not your darkest secret. But you're going to have to say it sometime or other. Maybe not now, because you look like you'd fling yourself off a cliff if you had to, but some time."

He sighs. "Dude, it's just me. I've seen you do monumentally stupid things. I'm your brother. I'm honor-bound to not judge."

"Maybe it's not about whether you're gonna judge me, Sam," Dean mutters tiredly. "Maybe it's about the content of what I'm about to say. Maybe it's about the fact that I don't like it much myself."

"Shit, dude. Just come out and say it." Inspiration hits Sam in the face. "Remember when I was, like, six and you were trying to get me to take my cough syrup?" he says excitedly. "Yeah, and you said 'just get it over with, be brave and just get it done'? This is just like that. One sentence, and that's it."

And the anger's back. Dean slams his hand down on the table. "Fine!” he screams, suddenly towering over his brother – when did he stand up?

“It's you, alright! I'm fucking in love with you and I fucking hate it because it's fucking demented to feel that way about my own fucking brother but I don't even fucking care!"

I'm fucking in love with you.

Sam doesn't hear the rest. It's like he's listening from underwater. In fact, he thinks he's lost the ability to breathe. All he can really think about is I'm fucking in love with you. He's pretty sure his mind is short-circuiting. He can't form a coherent thought, like what he should say next, like what expression he should be making, like what action he should take next, because I'm fucking in love with you, I'm fucking in love with you, I'm fucking in love with you.

There's something writhing in his stomach, something blocking his throat. Somewhere in the back of his mind, between the total collapse of logical thinking, the sound of reason comes through and tells him if he doesn't inhale in the next few seconds he will pass out due to lack of oxygen. It's amazing how even in times of extreme crisis and mindfuckery, self-preservation prevails. So instinct kicks in and he takes a deep breath.

This helps him in terms of not passing out. This does not help him in terms of finding what to say next. What do you say? And he already knows that whatever he says, he'll be kicking himself afterwards because it will be a shit response, and he'll have thought of something better. What do you say? His mind is wandering, and that's not good. It's pulling apart every piece of the statement and it's running wild, it's going to places Sam reserves for the darkest nights, the quietest moments and shit he's not allowing that.

So in the end all he says is "what." It is as dumb as it sounds. Sam wants to die the second he says it. But it's the safest answer. Because anything else is dangerous, is an invitation, and even now, reason and logic are setting in, and yanking his thoughts back to secure paths, and isn't that for the best?

Dean deflates like a balloon, slumping back into his chair. "I don't know what you mean by 'what', Sam." He can't call him 'Sammy', not after what he just confessed. "Thought it was pretty clear. I'm a disgusting pervert who wants to bang my brother but also take him on dates and... I dunno, watch movies and eat popcorn and drink shakes with only one straw and like, have a person who loves me and also understands my damn lifestyle because I can't deal livin' like this and it's you, it's always been you, since I was... God, ten? Twelve?"

He exhales long and soft and slow. "My first crush was on you, and I didn't even know what a crush was when it started. Didn't figure it out for almost a year, 'til I also developed a crush on some random girl and asked some other random dude what I was feeling. He told me it meant I liked the girl, that it meant I wanted to be around her. And I remember thinking well, I always want to be around Sam, but I am. I'm always around Sam anyway. He's my baby brother."

He can barely breathe now, can barely make sound. His chest is constricting and he can't stop, can't move, can't do anything besides keep talking until it all pours out of him all the way. "You never would've understood. I thought you were the reason the sun rose in the morning. You were the thing that got me out of my nice warm bed, I'll tell ya that much. And the longer it went the more I realized oh, this ain't normal, there's somethin' really wrong with me and eventually I decided the best course of action is to shove it down deep as it'll go. Hide it from the world, never let it see the light of day. Maybe that way I could survive it, maybe that way I could keep it away from you. Cause you were the one person who could never know, because if you did, I'd lose you forever. Forever is a long-ass time, Sammy."

His voice breaks on the last word. There are tears on his face. He wants to smash something.

Sam hears every word, clear as day. His brain is just having trouble processing it. Because his ears are telling him that his brother loves him, loves him, is in love with him, but his brain is screaming that it can't be right, that it's wrong it's fucking disgusting, Dean would never he's Dean he's his brother, he must have misheard or misunderstood or something, listen again, and his heart is hammering against his chest, pounding so fast he's sure he's going to need a defibrillator any minute now, and all the while Sam, he's just sitting there, just staring at his brother, eyes glazing, legs slowly numbing. His mind is going a million miles an hour, it's going crazy, it's screaming screaming screaming and his limbs have lost the ability to move.

He wants to say something. The right thing. Because that's his job, always has been. Dean would say something shitty and he'd roll his eyes and he'd comfort whoever needed comforting, and then Dean would say something snarky again and so on for infinity.

What do you do when it's Dean who needs comforting? What do you do when one half of the two-act falls off? It feels like... it feels like he's lost a part of him. Like he's been forced onstage with no script. His brother is across from him, he's so close, and he wants to reach out, say something, do something but he can't. His arms are weighed stones and his lips are glued shut. And he doesn't know how. He doesn't know what.

He forces his jaw open. It feels unnatural, to say the least. Actually fuck that, it doesn't even feel like his jaw, it's like he's controlling somebody else, like he's watching the situation unfold from afar, and he's locked in his own head, the voices still screaming and shouting and so, so loud. He grasps for something to say. Anything. Finally, he says, "It's okay."

It's a lie. He knows it. His brother knows it. What do you say?

"It's okay," he repeats.

Maybe if you say it enough, you'll actually start to believe it.

"It's not okay," Dean says, and he knows that Sam knew that even while he was saying it, but... but. He can't stop this. He can't stop saying all the things he knows are true now that the floodgates have been opened, now that he has a chance to say them, to set everyone right once and for all - he can't hold back. He isn't capable. So he keeps talking and the silent tears keep flowing as he rambles.

"I know you could never feel that way about me - why the fuck do you think I didn't want to tell you in the first place? I am broken, I'm messed up, I am other, and now that you know everything there is to know, now that you've got it all in your mind, now that I've poured my fucking soul out, knowing I'm gonna lose it all... you're gonna send me away, cause what other choice do you have? You kick me out of the bunker, you tell me to hit the streets and beg for scraps and make a little sign on a piece of cardboard because that's what I deserve, right?"

He should stop talking. He should close his mouth, he should stand up, he should walk away. He should never look his brother in the eye again, or he might kill himself.

He doesn’t.

"You know, if Dad could see me right now, I don't know if he'd know who I am," Dean admits. "Or if he did he wouldn't hesitate to put a gun to my temple and squeeze the goddamn trigger because I'm just a blight on his name, a horrible dark spot on his history. I have always been the one who fucked everything up and you were always the one who had to clean up my messes and I'm sorry for that, Sam, I'm so frigging sorry. I just wanted to protect you cause I figured if one of us made it out of this alive and relatively well that'd be a win, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be me because... I'm me."

And something in that whirlwind cuts through to Sam, cuts him right to the bone. It's in I'm messed up, I am other and you're going to send me away and put a gun to my temple and squeeze the goddamn trigger. It knocks him back to reality with a crashing thud. He's seeing again, he's hearing again, and he's moving again. His mind is still swimming, the voices are still screaming, but he's human again.

"No," he breathes. It comes out as a croak. Sam tries again. It's desperation and fear and anger and sadness and confusion and clarity and everything in between. "No," he says again. "You're not going anywhere. Because..." he fumbles for an answer, comes up empty. A million additions race through his brain. "Because." He finally says. And somehow he knows that's the right answer.

"Because," Dean repeats blankly, staring at him. He feels like a drone - like everything that matters has been sucked out of him. He has no personality, no fears, no dreams, just the horrible, sickening knowledge that Sam doesn't know what the fuck to say. That Sam never considered this, never thought in a million years that this would happen, and why should he have? Most people didn't think about their siblings that way.

Sam is scrambling, Dean can tell, because he doesn't feel like that about Dean, but he loves him anyway – but the way he’s supposed to love him, with that part of him that’s still a little kid who thinks his big brother hung the moon. Like an idol, like a friend, like family, and decidedly NOT like Dean loves him. Somehow that makes it all worse, that Sam wants him to stay despite now knowing Dean's big, dark, horrible flaw. It'd be easier to make the decision for him.

Dean stands up, he looks at his brother, and he says, "I'm sorry I put you through this, Sammy. But don't worry about it. Seriously, just forget I ever said any of this, it's not worth it."

He turns to walk out of the room, ready to pack a bag and hit the road, go anywhere but here in his beloved Baby. Something makes him stop.

"Dean," Sam all but growls. "If you take another step, I swear to God I'll shoot you. I swear to motherfucking God I will fucking shoot you."

The anger comes so easily it should scare him, and what's left of his rational thinking is telling him to stop, that this isn't right, that he should take a step back and consider what to do next, but the red-hot fury is right there, and it's a way out, it's a means to an ending, and it is pure adrenaline, so when he reaches for it, it just takes over, tells him what to do and what to say.

"Don't you fucking dare," he says, spitting out each word. "You're my brother. I don't know how many times I have to say it but you're my brother. This doesn't change anything. You hear me? Anything. So don't you fucking move from this room, Dean Michael Winchester, or I swear on Mom's grave I will shoot you."

He's panting heavily by the time he finishes his spiel. The rush of energy has left him. The world is spinning, and the headache is back, and so are the voices, murmuring and shouting and hissing, and all he wants to do is sit down. He drops into a chair. He feels like he's aged 50 years in the past 5 minutes. "Sit down," he says. He can't look his older brother in the eye. He doesn't really know why. He doesn't try to figure out why. "We're going to sort through this. And then we're going to move on."

Dean whirls around, stares at Sam, and his heart is pounding wildly and he's breathing ridiculously hard and he can't function. "Will you?" he demands. "Will you motherfucking shoot me, Sammy Winchester? I don't think you've got it in you. I don't think you could do it even if you fucking wanted to. I know I couldn't, no matter what Dad said. He could tell me every day I had to kill you and I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it Sam."

Sam's not looking at him, he's staring at his lap, and Dean doesn't mind that - if they made eye contact he might explode. "I'm just fucking tired of never being able to say anything. Because you know, you are my favorite goddamn person in this godforsaken world, and I hate that you're so close to me, cause you're my weak point, Sam. You've fucked me over a million times and I wouldn't trade it for all the money in the world. I don't give a fuck. But it's the silence that's killin' me, man. I can't keep my mouth shut to save my life, you know that, and so having to shove that all down until I can't find it anymore is driving me insane."

He takes a deep breath and then sits down like Sam told him to. "I love you, Sam. And I'm telling ya, I'm fuckin' sorry I do because it complicates everything way further than it needs to be but... God. God, you're a person who actually does good, who actually cares about people, and I'm a fuckup, so I'm- yeah, I'm just begging for an excuse for you to shoot me. So maybe I will walk out of this room, just for the bullet wound. Maybe that's the thing that'll finally make me forget, after all these years. Probably not, but it can't hurt to try.

"So you want to sort through this, fine. That's such a you thing to say. But fine. Here's the facts; I love you. You love me... kinda. Not like that. We are a fucked-up pair of people, and to be perfectly honest it was almost inevitable considering the way that I was shoved toward you again and again as a kid. And I'm not worth your time or effort or any of whatever it is you're trying to put into this conversation. So you should stop tryin', little brother, because I'm not gonna make your life any easier by being in it."

Sam finally looks up, finally looks at his brother, and it's like he's seeing him for the first time. Dean had always just been... Dean. A constant, like air and sun and sky. He was part of his universe, in never-ending circulation around him, and it was easy, because it was Dean. But now... now, his eyes are too green, his lashes too long, his freckles too pronounced. Because it’s Dean and it isn't Dean; it’s Dean, but... different, somehow. He doesn't like this thought. It's dark and dangerous and it complicates matters too much. And he doesn't like Dean's speech.

"So you're just going to run." Sam’s voice is cold as ice, even to his own ears. Suddenly the anger is back, and he doesn't even have to reach for it; it comes naturally. "You know, all my life I thought you were the brave one. I was the one who couldn't handle the job. I was the one who ran." His voice breaks a little, and he hates that, because all of a sudden he's thrown back to when he was younger, he was twelve and he was arguing with Dean, who was sixteen and knew everything and could do everything, but still, no matter how many girls fawned over him and how many guys invited him to their parties, he still spent his nights with Sam watching Scooby-Doo at whatever motel their dad dumped them at and laughed at stupid jokes Sam spent hours thinking up.

Tears are forming in his eyes. He blinks them away ferociously. He's not a little kid anymore. "You don't run. I know that now. Because family doesn't run. Maybe you're a fuck-up. But you're family. That means something. That means you stick around, and I stick around, and we get through this. The two of us. Like we always have."

"Okay, but if you got somethin' else to say you should say it, Sammy." Dean doesn't know why he feels that way, he just knows, somehow, that there's more to this than Sam is telling. "No secrets anymore. I can't lie to you, so it seems only fair that you don't lie to me either. Out with it, c'mon."

There's something in his brother's eyes that tells him he means it. He wants to know what he thinks about this... whatever this is. He's looking for an answer that isn't there. Sam raises his hands, drops them. "I don't know," he says helplessly. "I... I know you think I can't accept this. And... and I don't know what I think now. It's just...” he runs a hand through his hair. "It's a lot. But I'm being truthful here. I don't know what I think about this. But I know one thing. You're my brother, and nothing is going to change that. So don't you fucking dare do anything stupid, or I swear to God I'll smash the car up myself."

"Woah there, cowboy," Dean mutters, holding up his hands in surrender. He feels something resembling a smile make its way onto his face. "You don't touch my Baby. I can tolerate a lot of shit from you, but you touch my Baby and you're dead."

He takes a shaky breath, forcing himself to meet Sam's eyes. "So it's... what, it's okay? The whole incest thing just- doesn't bother you? I just don't know where you're comin' from, Sam, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I know what I want to do, but I don't know what I can do."

Sam opens his mouth to respond, but his mind is running wild again, it's taking him to lonely 3 am thoughts, to childhood memories, to soft touches and low, rumbling laughs and emerald-green eyes, and he is not going down that path.

Sam... well, he isn't gay. He's never even been with a guy before. And yeah, he's looked at some men, occasionally, but doesn't everyone? That was just... appreciation. It wasn't gay. And okay, even if he is gay - and that is a very big "if" - it would not be for his brother. Because it's his brother. Dean Winchester. His fucking brother. It isn't just illegal, it's wrong, wrong on so many levels, because he doesn't like him like that.

He's your brother. A voice screams. He's a fucking idiot, he's annoying, he doesn't clean after himself, he is your BROTHER. And yes, he should really listen. It's reasonable to tell Dean that he's not okay with this, that no sane person would be okay with this, because it's just fucking wrong. But then the other part of him, the deepest, darkest part replies. Doesn't say anything. Just offers up scenes from memories long-forgotten: how rough and gentle his hand felt when he held it, when he picked him up from kindergarten and helped him across the street; how he'd always sneak him more snacks and more sweets when Dad was looking the other way, because he always knew he'd been picked on at school again, he could tell just by looking at him that there'd been another bully, that he didn't want to talk about it but that was fine, Dean knew and Dean always knew because he was Dean. He was Dean.

Sam forces himself to look at him, really look at him. It's like staring into the sun. His eyes are so green. He blinks, and just for a second, he's years younger. There's an amulet around his neck, he's wearing an oversized leather jacket, and he's smiling at him. He can practically hear him. Come on, Sammy. I'll look out for you, bud. He hears himself say it: "It's okay."

It's okay.

What the fuck?

Sam shouldn't be allowed to say that to him. Sam shouldn't be able to tell him he's alright, not after everything he's done, everything he's fucked up- after all the bad blood between the two of them, Sam shouldn't be able to ease his fears like this with two words that on top of that shouldn't even be true. But he can and he is and Dean hates how much power Sam has over him.

It was always like this. He remembers always acting out at every school they were sent to just to keep John's attention off of Sam, because if he knew Sam was getting beat up and he wasn't fighting back there'd be hell to pay. He remembers packing Sam's lunches with the only food they had in the house, sometimes cutting school to go to homeless shelters or other places he could get free food, and he never even ate it all, because Sam needed something to have for dinner. He remembers how much anger he carried with him as a teenager, because watching those people come after his little brother and tell him all these things that weren't true, watching Sam start to believe them - worthless. Freak. Failure. - made him want to shoot somebody.

He remembers how protecting Sam was priority #1, always, from the day their mom died until now, and he doesn't regret it. He regrets a lot of the things he's done, he regrets that he wasn't always there, that he wasn't always the good big brother he was trying to be, but he doesn't regret loving and protecting Sam. Always.

"I want you so badly," he whispers and he doesn't realize he even formed the words until they've fallen from his lips. He wants to take them back, because Sam's going to ask and he won't be able to lie and this is fragile enough and-

He needs to chill the fuck out.

I want you so badly. The words ring in Sam’s ears, echo in his brain. And suddenly something snaps. Something changes. Something falls into place. He doesn't know what. All he knows is that he's standing up and he's reaching up, up for his brother, like he did so many years ago. And it's only natural he does so now, too.

It’s such a natural progression it's impossible to know who actually moves first. They are apart one moment - Dean looking confused, Sam moving up - and then one of them moves upwards and the other surges downwards and they meet in the middle, melting into a soft kiss. The edge of the table is digging into his stomach, and he's half-standing, half-sitting, he's basically squatting mid-air, and Sam can’t really see Dean, only feel him. He pulls him closer, his hand curling around the warm nape of his neck, feeling the faint brush of Dean's hair across his fingertips, and Dean presses close until there’s not an inch between them, and this is where they both belong, where they’ve always belonged. The kisses start to get deep and messy, but no more hurried; both of them taking their time.

Dean pulls Sam closer, climbs over the table to do it, and he hears things clatter to the ground but he could give a fuck because the only thing in his brain is Sam's mouth is so warm. He manages to pull Sam with him and they stumble backward until Sam's back slams against the wall and Dean finally pulls his mouth off of his brother's. He takes a breath, just for a moment, looking into Sam's eyes, and then he surges forward again, pressing open-mouthed kisses to his cheek, his jawline, his neck, everything he can reach, he just wants to hear Sam make those sounds.

And then his lips are back on Sam's again, still slow, still sloppy, still so, so loving, and he doesn't know why he's been depriving himself of this for so long. This was all he needed, all he wanted in the whole world and it's so fucking good.

"I love you," he breathes against Sam's skin, and it tastes vaguely like sweat and soap. "I love you."

The one coherent thought that he manages to form is that he's never kissed like this, never been kissed like this before. Jessica was sweet, mild, competent. Dean is...he's electric. Kissing him is an experience, it's a wild rollercoaster ride: there are goosebumps forming after his hands run over his arms, there's the feeling of their chests pressed together, heartbeats pounding to the same rhythm, there's the smell of sweat and motor oil and pine, and most of all, there's his lips.

They're everywhere, touch-starved for his skin. They're so soft, just the lightest brushes of lips against… well, everything really, but fuck, it’s lighting up Sam’s nerve endings and he's already completely gone, he's just gone. For Dean. And just as Sam manages to reach this thought, Dean leans up, goes on his tiptoes, and he bites down on Sam’s lower lip. Gently, gently, of course, but his mind goes fucking blank.

Sam makes the sweetest little keening noise when Dean does that, and Dean grins bigger than he's grinned in maybe ever and he thinks okay, I guess this is finally happening. He pulls Sam's bottom lip between his teeth and honest-to-God sucks on it and Sam leans into him, still searching for more contact, and groans like it's being ripped out of him.

 And then Dean pulls back, yet again, and stares at Sam, feeling hungry, like it's time to absolutely devour his little brother, and then... Sam shoves him, hard.

It's adorable that he ever thought his brother would be a sub.

---

Hours later, Dean collapses, happy and sated, into his mattress. He’s still shirtless and still mostly wrapped around Sam, and through the post-orgasmic haze he breathlessly announces, "well, I don't think I can call you little brother anymore." He rolls his head to the side so Sam can see his little shit-eating smile and whistles. "The size of that thing."

Sam laughs. "Shut up, you dick," he says sleepily. He lets himself relax into the bed. God, that was... He closes his eyes. Secondary thoughts float around his head but he pushes them away. Because this here, this now: the softness of the mattress, the pillow, the outline of Dean beside him, the heat radiating off of him... is right.

"No, Sammy," Dean corrects him. "You're the one with the dick. Fuckin' huge one. Puberty was good to you, you're hung. Bigger'n me." He pulls his brother closer and buries his face in his collarbone. "I love you," he murmurs for the thousandth time in an hour.

“I love you too,” Sam murmurs back. God, he’s missed this. Every part of him aching, the sting from love bites, the warmth of another person pressed against his side, their breath ghosting over his neck, his mouth, his chin. “I love you,” he says again, and this time, he really means it.

"I'm sorry," Dean says, pulling back just a little to make eye contact. "God, Sam, I'm so sorry. I... I made some damn huge mistakes. But it was all for you, always for you, cause you're the one thing that matters the most to me. I'm sorry, Sam."

He's not quite sure which one he's apologizing for, or whether he's apologizing for all of them. He just hopes that Sam will get it, because Sam is the entire fucking world, all the stars in the sky, everything that made his life valuable and worth it. There ain't no me if there ain't no you.

And he doesn't know how else to say it, he just needs Sam to know that it isn't his fault, Dean knows he's a fuckup, and he knows Sam could leave at any time, and he'd take it, honestly. This is more than he ever thought he'd get from his brother so even if Sam ditches him eventually, he'll always have this.

Sam fumbles for Dean's hand, finds it amidst the mess of limbs and sheets. He holds it tight, and it's like he's reached through time, because it's exactly how he remembered it to be: warm and rough and soft. He runs over the outline of his palm with his thumb, trying to commit every line to memory.

"Don't be sorry," he whispers. He can't see his expression, just a hazy outline against the midnight dusk. But he can guess. Dean will be second-guessing this. He second-guesses everything. And to be honest, so do you.

He holds his hand tight. It's warm and rough and soft, and right now, it is all he needs. "Don't be sorry," he says again before he drifts off to sleep.

Dean sleeps too, holding his brother, still tangled up around him, and it's better sleep than he's had in lord only knows how long. He tries not to believe that Sam will give him up, that there will be something else that's more important, but he can't. He sleeps, and his nightmares take on a whole new level.

He imagines losing Sam because Sam hates him, because he did something so fucked up that Sam remembers that Dean is his brother and this is ridiculous and disgusting. He hears curses and insults and the malice in Sam's tone and he wakes up around two in the morning breathing hard. His first instinct is to glance over to the side and when he does he realizes that Sam has curled himself around Dean in his sleep.

One arm is draped over Dean’s torso, with his hand resting on Dean’s hip, and the other is threaded through the narrow space between Dean’s neck and the bed, bicep supporting his head and fingers intertwined with Dean’s. His left leg is thrown carelessly over both of Dean’s, bent back at the knee to wedge his ankle between Dean’s calves. He’s managed to tuck Dean’s head under his chin.

Dean disentangles himself and props up on one elbow to watch him, breathing softly and gently, a little bit of his hair falling in his face. Dean brushes it away.

"It's okay," he murmurs to himself. "I'm okay. You... you're not going to leave me, are you?"

It astounds him that just 18 hours ago he was making his little brother pancakes and pining madly, and now he's right there within arm's length. Dean can reach out and touch him if he wants to, without needing to feel ashamed or dirty, and he does. His fingers trail along Sam's shoulder, his arm, and he feels muscles jump under the skin. He smiles. He never even realized how strong Sam was. He marvels at it.

Sam sleeps better than he has in a long time. And he knows that because when he wakes, the sun is shining through the windows so it's nearing mid-day, and he can't even remember what he dreamt about. And to top it all off, Dean's arms are still wrapped around him, his face nuzzled into his chest.

He's fast asleep. Really asleep, with his guard down and no gun under the pillow. His eyebrows aren't furrowed, for once. And he looks so damn peaceful it almost breaks his heart, because he looks so much younger, so fragile, and God how did he ever miss this, how did he miss that Dean needed protecting too?

He leans over him and slowly, gently, carefully gives him a kiss on the cheek. Dean shifts a little, murmurs something but doesn't wake. And Sam just can't fight back the smile that forms.

Dean feels something feather-light on his face and he rolls slightly to the side to lean into it, whispering something that was supposed to be "Sammy" but he's not sure it sounds like that. He drifts back to sleep.

He wakes up again later, and his alarm clock is telling him it's 1pm. Sam is still there, and he's still holding him, and he just rolls on top of his brother and buries his face in his chest. "Mornin'," he mutters. He glances up, hoping to see Sam smile.

(That smile is the second of the three reasons why Dean ever gets up in the morning.)

"Mm," he hums. "You're so beautiful."

Sam smiles. "Idiot," he says, ruffling his hair. Lying there, with Dean pretty much crushing him with his weight, he can almost forget. Forget the world, forget its burdens, forget right and wrong, because right now this is their universe. It's limited to Dean's bed, and nothing beyond his room exists. Lying here, it's easy to trick himself into thinking he can have this moment, he can will time to stop, to trap it in amber and freeze-frame his present for eternity. Because sun is pouring in through the windows, Dean is still lying on his chest, and everything is holding its breath. Fate is irrelevant in this room, because it's their corner of the universe.

And it has to stop sometime. It's a lovely dream, but time marches on.

Sam moves first, gently nudges Dean off his chest. No words come. No words can.

Dean pushes himself up on his elbows and kisses his brother's jaw lightly. "Time for breakfast?" he says hopefully, grinning. Before Sam can answer, he rolls off him to the side and swings his legs off the bed. "I'll make omelettes."

And Sam tries to tell him. Really, he does. This is a one-time thing. Dean, this is wrong and you know it, I know it, so this... this was amazing, but... we can't take this out there. But then he looks into his eyes, and they are emerald green and deep, deep, deep and he just breaks.

"Yeah. Sure."

Dean sighs heavily as he searches for his boxers. "What's wrong, Sam? And don't give me your bitchface, alright? I've been your big brother for thirty-something years, I know when something's up. You're not the one who got cursed to tell the truth, which means I'm gonna have to drag it outta ya." He finally locates them and turns to make eye contact as he pulls them on. "C'mon."

Sam eyes him. His eyes are big and wide and pleading, and he knows that Dean's going to get it out of him one way or another. He exhales. "Okay. Here goes." He closes his eyes. He can't look at him when he says it. He can't watch the moment he breaks his brother's heart.

Fuck. Fuckity fuck shit goddamn cockscucking fuck fucking asswipe. His mind intervenes, because of course it does. And it provides very useful scenes from last night: Dean's fingers digging into his back, whispers in the dark of night saying Sam Sam Sammy, and his lips – God, his lips – everywhere… his mouth, his neck, his chest. It's wrong, he tries to tell himself.

But if it was that good, how can it be wrong?

He looks at his brother again. He’s all messy hair and freckled skin and wide, wide eyes. Oh fuck it.

"I'm sorry I have to say this. You really can't cook for shit."

Dean laughs. "Okay. Go make me omelettes then, if you're so high-and-mighty." He pulls his shirt over his head and glances at his brother. "Unless you don't think you can do any better," he challenges.

"Cheese is not a valid filling," Sam bites back, pulling on his clothes. "And if I remember correctly, you tried to make a whipped cream-omelette once, when I was six or seven. You remember? Montana? Shitty hotel? You, being the fucking genius you are, thought whipped cream good, omelette good, so whipped cream-omelette great." He snorts at the memory. "You nearly burned the place down."

"Okay 1," Dean holds up a finger (his middle finger, because he never claimed to be mature), "you fucking loved those omelettes, don't even pretend. But that might have been because you were six. And 2, I was going to go make you big fluffy three-egg omelettes with milk and cilantro and diced white onions and bacon and a crapton of cheese and nothing weird like whipped cream. Basically the only productive or worthwhile thing I did while you were at Stanford was learn how to cook."

He shrugs. "But now I don't think I will, so eat me."

Sam leads the way to the kitchen. "Right," he says, not even bothering to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "There were no nationwide monster-killing road trips. No avoiding daddy issues." He snorts. "And please, I survived off of homemade meals for four years. You think those Ivy League brats can cook for themselves? I was a fucking Michelin star chef back there."

"Hey, I said the only productive thing I did. Only reason I drove around the country killing evil shit is because that's all I know how to do and of course I was avoiding my daddy issues, that don't mean it was healthy." Abruptly, he reaches out and wraps his arms around Sam's waist.

"Mm, you're warm," he hums, waiting for Sam to push him off. He buries his face in the back of Sam's shoulder.

"And you're bad at cooking," Sam says, nearly kicking down the kitchen door in his attempt to balance his and Dean's weight. He's not the most agile of people out there; having another man weigh him down is not helping. But he manages to make it to the kitchen counter, despite Dean's refusal to let go. "Watch and learn, Dean-o, watch and learn."

Dean lets go, grinning. "Since when do you get to call me 'Deano'?" he demands, smirking at his brother. Then he grabs a pan and slams it down onto the stove.

"How do you feel about a cook-off, bitch?"

A cook-off is perfect, in Dean's opinion. It fuels both of their competitive natures and allows them to blow off some steam (in a non-sexual, domestic sort of way) while also being relatively simple and fun to kill the time. And yeah, they'd be making omelettes at 2 in the afternoon but who really cares? Time is a construct.

Sam raises his eyebrows. "I didn't know you had a kink for losing. Jerk." He winks, and before Dean can respond, he runs and grabs the eggs and milk.

Dean just smirks, turns on the heat under his pan, and leisurely makes his way back to his own bedroom where his high-grade milk and eggs are sitting in his mini fridge. (Yeah. He has a mini fridge in his bedroom. Sue him for getting attached to a few of the little things that came with growing up in hotel rooms.)

He gets back and pulls the bundle of cilantro out of the fridge, closely followed by the pico de gallo and a whole onion. He gives his brother a signature look - a look that says you don't stand a chance as well as do you have any idea how much I missed our pointless little competitions? and that he's perfected over the years - and starts chopping at top speed.

They dance around each other in the kind of comfortable way that highlights all the things in their relationship that always meant the most to Dean. They don't necessarily avoid touching each other - in fact, Dean actively seeks it out once or twice - and they hand each other ingredients as needed. They don't speak almost at all, because they've learned how to communicate through meaningful silences and lingering touches and loaded looks. It underlines all of the things that are yelling at Dean that he should have known.

There were about a million reasons for he and Sam to end up together, and the only reason they hadn't before this was because they were brothers and were struggling to break the incest taboo. So every time that he makes eye contact with Sam is exhilarating. It's another second that Sam chooses to spend in this odd gray area with him, not running, not leaving him. It means more than Dean has the words to express.

Sam watches Dean bustle about the kitchen. He's doing that thing with his tongue again: he sticks his tongue out whenever he's focusing hard on something. Sam's known this since he was seven, when he was watching Dean figure out how to fix the broken heater in their motel room. He'd thought it was weird at the time ("you'll bite your tongue off one day,” he’d told him, and Dean had replied "shut it Sammy, let me concentrate"); now he thinks it's adorable.

He sneaks a look at Dean's pan (which isn't cheating; nobody said you couldn't look) and sees the eggs bubbling away. There are tomatoes and onions and Serrano peppers and cilantro and Jesus, Sam really wants to win this. The immediate thing he wants to do is to win. Win so badly that it will be the only thing he'll talk about for a week. And he knows he can do it. Because Dean's omelette is cute, at best, but if he could cook a 3-course meal for a group of 20 frat boys at 3 am while rip-roaring drunk, he could definitely out-cook his older brother.

Then he looks at the aforementioned older brother.

He's shuffling the eggs around the pan, carefully tidying up the excess along the edges. He looks so much happier than Sam's seen him in a long, long time. Sam looks down at his own pan. It's full of fried ham and spinach and tomatoes and cheese (just to spite him). It is culinary perfection.

He stares at Dean. He's readying the pan for a flip. He is in serious danger of biting his tongue off. And he's smiling.

Oh, what the hell.

He grabs a can of whipped cream and sprays it all over the mixture.

Dean laughs out loud as soon as he sees, grinning at his brother, but he feels a little subdued, because he notices. He sees the things he wishes he couldn't see and he hates how hard they hit him.

He sees how Sam just slightly flinches away from him when he touches him, how Sam breaks eye contact after a couple of seconds, how Sam watches him with this look, this fucking look, that Dean has no idea how to even begin to decode, because Dean's never been good at feelings. That was always Sam's department.

So when that's all over and done with, when they've finished up their childish cooking competition and Dean is eating Sam's omelettes (which, goddammit, are really fucking good), he doesn't look up from his plate as he asks.

"You don't want this. With me." Okay, so he isn't really asking, he's just stating his observations. He takes a deep breath and forces himself to meet his brother's eyes. He has one eyebrow quirked up and he's wearing Bitchface #251: I Have No Idea What You're Talking About and You're Going to Have to Be More Specific. "You don't want the domestic happy life, because you don't love me like that. Do you?"

When Sam doesn't answer right away, just stares at him like a deer (moose?) in headlights, Dean just knows. He can feel his heart shattering in his chest, becoming tiny shards of glass that cut deep into his insides. He hates this. He could have lived with the rejection of Sam telling him he doesn't feel that way in the first place, but instead Sam gave him the most dangerous thing in the world - hope. He let Dean think, for just a few hours, that he could have this, and now he's about to rip it away.

"A'ight. Get it over with then," he commands, staring resolutely at the whipped-cream-and-egg on his fork.

He doesn't know what he'll do when Sam leaves. Sam's presence in his life has become such a constant that he's not sure he even knows how to function without him anymore.

He thinks it's the little things he'll miss the most. Things like the way that he buys Dean takeout and he always knows exactly what Dean wants from any given restaurant. The way that he has Dean's coffee order memorized. The way that he kisses good morning. The way that he plays footsie with Dean under the table, alternately slipping his foot idly up Dean's leg and trapping Dean's ankles effortlessly between his calves.

The way he groaned when Dean went down on him. The way he made Dean absolutely beg for it. The way he was so damn perfect that Dean didn't even care enough to be ashamed.

He's going to miss his brother, and he's going to miss his... lover? One-night stand? God, if they become nothing more than a one-night stand to each other Dean will probably off himself. If he manages to dissolve all the brotherly (and not-so-brotherly) bonds that have been the center of both of their lives for so long... if he manages to fuck it all up with his one stupid confession, he couldn't live with himself.

He can't lose Sam. He just can't. Not after everything they've done to stay together, after everything they've done to save each other. Dean can't give up his brother. He loves him too goddamn much, he can't.

He watches Sam, he waits for the response, he tries not to cry. He despises himself for ruining their entire relationship. He wishes Sam hadn't pushed him. The sex was good, but it wasn't worth this.

Nothing is worth this.

Sam’s brother’s shout is followed by a deafening quiet. In the clock-ticking silence, for the first time, Sam confronts his thoughts. He leans back in his chair, crosses his arms, and stares up at the ceiling. The light overhead is a venomous yellow. He looks up into it. The harsh glow warps his vision and his eyes lose focus and honestly, it is what he needs right now.

His thoughts are a jumble, a confused tangle. Voices fighting to be heard, screaming over each other, battling for his attention. Slowly, slowly, he follows his lines of thinking, one at a time, weighs the arguments. He’s stuck in a courtroom in his head – he as the judge, he as the lawyers, he as the damned. And even as he is doing so, he knows the verdict. It is for the reasoned, rational thoughts – concerns of legality, morality. They are strong and indisputable and all-encompassing. There is only one ending to this farce inside his head.

Sam looks back down, tries to see around the spots forming before his eyes. His brother’s face is blocked by the hundreds of little black dots and perhaps that is for the best. He speaks slowly, carefully. “I know that this is wrong, and I know you know this is wrong."

The silence marches on. The light beats down on him, is true and absolute and unforgiving.

He speaks again. He hadn’t known he was going to speak. “But I know this… this feels good.” And suddenly his voice is hoarse and breaking with warmth and Sam fumbles along his words, feeling for them through the caked mud of his thoughts. “It’s good. And we deserve that.

“I’m still thinking, I’m still sorting through it,” he admits. “I don’t know what I think about… all this yet. Not clearly. But I know this is good. I know it.”

This is good.

He thinks this is good. He knows this is good.

Dean lets out the breath he was holding in a loud whoosh.

"Yeah, Sam," he agrees. "It is good. We are good. But..." But.

But he still can't quite believe that Sam could want him. He can't quite embed that in his internal code, that Sam feels that way, despite how many years he's spent feeling the way he feels, he never thought it'd be reciprocated and he doesn't know that he deserves it.

But then he suddenly starts to remember things about the previous night, things he hadn't let himself think about. He'd thought it was just about good sex, but...

He remembers how carefully Sam deposited him on the bed. He remembers how brightly his eyes shined as he looked over Dean's entire body. He remembers how gently he took him apart, like he was trying to learn every inch of his skin, everything he could do that would make Dean gasp and writhe like that. He remembers how Sam had kissed him, gentle and soft. He remembers the litany of 'oh, baby' and 'Deandeandeandeandean' that had fallen from Sam's lips, softly exhaled against his sweaty skin. He remembers how Sam had tried to take care of him. He remembers, and he has a sudden, stunning epiphany.

It wasn't just sex, it was lovemaking. Not just on his end; on Sam’s too.

He's sent reeling by this unexpected realization that maybe Sam does feel that way. And it's insane, because that's everything he's ever wanted, and everything he hasn't earned.

"I love you too," he blurts out. He needs Sam to know, despite the fact that he's already said it more times in these past 48 hours than in his entire life. He’s not cursed anymore, and he needs to say it of his own free will. That’s what they were all about, right? "I- I love you too."

The weight of those words crash into Sam like a tidal wave. Because he knows Dean, who doesn't ever do shit like that. Who didn't cry when they burned Charlie's body or Jo's body or Bobby's body but didn't talk for weeks afterward either. Who would literally rather eat glass than talk about his feelings because he's a fucking man, thank you very much. So the "I love you" is somehow heavier, the words weighing him down. They’re more important, more meaningful. They stifle the air between them. Because they aren't whispered in the dead of night, over and over, to the sounds of grunts and moans and gasps, and they aren’t pulled from him because of some damn witch who thinks she’s being funny. Those three words are carved out of him, a very fragile part of him. And he's just handed them over to Sam.

Sam doesn't quite know how to respond. Because what do you do but say ‘I love you’ back? And he doesn't want to. Because that doesn't encapsulate what he feels. An ‘I love you’ from his lips doesn't mean the same. He says it all the time. He's said it to tons of people. To people he loved, to people whose faces he can't even remember. He's been throwing the phrase around for years, and it doesn't mean anything, and he wants this to mean something.

He racks his brain for an appropriate answer, comes up empty. Every phrase sounds cheesy or cheap or both. So he gives up. He just looks at him. Commits every part of him to memory. Then finally, he says, "this is forever."

Forever.

Dean finds himself parroting his own words from the previous day, back when he thought Sam was going to leave him. "Forever is a long-ass time, Sammy," he chokes out, not knowing what else to say. "You sure you wanna be stuck with me for forever?"

But even as he asks, he has a feeling he already knows the answer. He can see how hard this is for Sam, it's etched in every line on his face, but he also knows Sam doesn't enter into things lightly. He can see the internal struggle as he watches his brother process, and he just knows. Sam means it.

So he makes it a rhetorical question, moves on to something else. "I don't tell people I love 'em, Sam, you know that. I'm not- I've never been able to. But you... you're easy. You and I aren't even separate people anymore, we're extensions of each other. It doesn't feel like I'm baring my soul when I tell you that I love you and I think it's cause you already know."

It matters, he wants to say. It's so fucking important that you know just how much I love you. I can't say it, to anyone but you. You're my only.

Instead, he says, "I had to do a lot for you. I've always been mom and dad and big brother and best friend and whatever else you needed me to be and I wouldn't take it back. I'd do anything for you, because I love you."

And he looks into his brother's eyes, and the lines on his face have smoothed out, and he looks... relaxed. Peaceful. Like he's not worrying about the next disaster or having a panic attack about their last hunt, he's just there. Then. Right where Dean needs him, in the moment. And then Dean kisses him again, omelettes forgotten, trying to pour the words he doesn't know how to say into it. One of his hands threads its way into Sam's hair, dragging him down and into reach, and the other is at the small of his back, pulling him closer. And he just prays that it'll be enough.

Sam feels Dean's lips crash onto his, his hands running through his hair, fingers ghosting over his scalp, over the small of his back, and it's messy and sloppy and it is beautiful. Because he knows what this is. Talking has never been Dean’s strong point. But this... this is how he speaks. This is how he shows his brother: that he loves him, he loves him, loves him so much the word "love" is too simple to contain the concept. His feelings are chasmic and boundless and eternal and God, it terrifies the shit out of Sam and it makes him fall even harder.

He presses closer against him, smiles into the kiss. He's so warm. Holding him close to his chest, Sam realizes for the first time just how fragile his brother is. He'd always thought he was the reckless one, the stupid one to charge headfirst into a battle (and to be fair, he probably still is). But now, as Sam’s holding him close, Dean melts against him, and something in him dies a little. For a moment, he stops. Just holds him. Indulges in the non-movement of it. For a moment, he tricks himself into believing he can freeze this moment, he can live here forever, if he just wishes hard enough, if he just stays still long enough.

"We can, Sam," Dean mumbles into Sam's mouth. "We can have this. Forever. Stop doubting us, stop doubting me, stop thinking for a minute." He pulls back. "Turn off your brain, Smart One, and just let yourself feel for a little while."

In response to the confused look on Sam's face, Dean replies, "yeah, you said that out loud." Dean stares at him for a second, then sighs, grabs his hand, drags him back to the table. "I'mna tell you a story, Sammy. This might sound borderline creepy so please don't freak out," he japes. "You musta been... God, five or six? It was at one of our elementary schools. I was in the third grade, and some big fifth-grader came at me at recess, I don't remember why. I prolly picked a fight with him, knowin' me. Anyway, he's yellin' at me, I insulted his mother I think, and he says 'drop dead, Lose-chester' and takes a swing at me. 'N' then you show up, outta fucking nowhere, and you tried to shove me out of the way. Which... you couldn't, cause you were this tiny five-or-six-year-old, but it's the thought that counts. Guy smacks me in the face, I don't even get a black eye because I'm awesome. But you spat at him and you said 'stay the fuck away from my brother'."

Dean snorts. "Bout eight hundred different things wrong with that, but it was adorable to say the least. I 'member thinking I ain't taught Sammy that word and then pushing you behind me and telling you to run, cause if he got his hands on you he woulda kicked your teeth in."

Dean's tired. That's why he's slurring so much, even more than usual. He's just sitting next to his brother, holding his hand... telling him this story. This monumentally, colossally important story.

"Soon as you ran inside, I turned to face the guy, kicked his ass, then went and found you and we cut the rest of class so I could take you home. And as we were walkin' back to the motel I just thought, this is it. This one, he's mine. This is what I want out of my life. And I just hugged you a little tighter and I didn't quite realize what it meant at the time, but... I sure do now."

He turns to look his brother full in the face. "That was the day I fell in love with you."

Sam doesn’t quite know how to respond to that. Because his brother has just handed the darkest part of him over, and he’s cradling it in his palms and he doesn’t know what to do with it because he doesn’t want to hurt him. All he can think to say is, “you taught me that word. Kind of. You let me watch R-rated TV that one time and I heard it.”

He hesitates. The words are right there on his tongue. They're choking him. And yet – there’s something about actually speaking them. The nakedness of it all. That was the day I fell in love with you.

Fuck it, he thinks. Gotta be vulnerable sometime. So Sam inhales deeply and takes the plunge.

"I think...I think I knew too. Long ago. I didn't know that I knew but... I knew this was special. That we were different. Remember when you were sixteen and you disappeared for a few months and then you came back? I knew what happened. I mean, Dad didn't tell me or anything. I just figured. You came out of Sonny's house, eyes red from crying, and I just remember thinking: why is he leaving if he's so sad? He should stay. But then I thought how fucking terrible those months without you were, because even back then I hated Dad and I loved you and I just wanted you to come back, no matter how selfish it was, because I needed you. And then it just... just hit me. You came back for me. And... and I didn't know what to do with that."

Dean shrugs. "Was always you, Sammy. From the moment you were born, when I was standing over your crib, you were the only thing that mattered. I disappeared because I couldn't handle being around Dad and I came back because I couldn't handle not being around you. That simple."

He stands, takes a step away, because what he's going to say next feels like almost a little too much. "Sam, I'm only gonna say it once, okay? I'm not a guy who waxes poetic and gives big dramatic speeches so you're gonna have to listen real close."

Dean takes a deep breath, wishing he could pull his brother against his body, practically itching to. "You wear your emotions on your face, little brother. I know what you're thinkin' about. Legality, questionable morality. I hear you. But a) we've broken a billion laws. We impersonate federal agents on the daily. This is nothing. And b) neither of us really has a conscience anymore. Besides, Sammy, we're both so fucked up it's almost a natural step. Doesn't really seem out of place, does it?"

He glances up, makes eye contact with Sam to double-check that he's listening. "Which means all that's left is do we want this? I'll tell you, Sam, I want this. I want this with all of me. I love you. I ain't cursed anymore, I'm telling you this just because I want to, and I love you. So if you love me too, just kiss me again. Let's just forget about all of that and we don't have to be brothers and we don't have to be boyfriends, a'ight? We can just be Sam and Dean. That's enough for me, if you're okay with it."

And Sam does not have a reply to that. There is no answer in the world perfect enough in the world for that, so he just grabs his brother and smashes his mouth against his. It's messy and sloppy and probably not the best kissing technique ever, but it's important. "Sam and Dean," he says into the kiss. "Forever." And he holds onto his brother, who smells of motor oil and pine and sweat and he knows it's true.

Sam is not good at this.

It makes Dean feel so much better about his own issues. Dean sucks at this too. He's never been good at this. He's always been the love 'em and leave 'em type, not one for relationships. But Sam makes him want to try, and here, now, with Sam pressed against his body and his mouth hot and wet and pliant on Dean's he doesn't think there's any other way it could have gone.

Sam makes him a better person. Full stop.

He’s smiling against Sam’s lips, staring into his eyes. Dean’s never been able to tell what color Sam’s eyes are – some days they’re hazel, other days they’re green, others they’re brown, and still others they’re blue – but he’s always thought that they were some of the most beautiful things in the world.

(Those eyes were the third and final of the three reasons Dean ever got up in the morning.)

So he holds his brother a little closer, a little tighter, keeps him as safe as he can, and he just whispers over and over that he loves him, because it's all he has to say.

I love you, Sam. I love you I love you I love you.

I love you.