Title: When Gentlemen Agree to Disagree
Pairing: Sam/Dean, established
Warnings: Spoilers for 14.13 “Lebanon”
Summary: Dean’s wish has been fulfilled, and then there’s what comes afterwards.
Read over on AO3 right here.
Mom had left soon after that damn pearl had been crushed, the sound of the bunker door slamming just as harsh in his ears as that heart-breaking crunch on the library table.
Back to the same ol’, same ol’, Dad gone, Mom too. But Michael still on board, always and forever was how it felt to him now. That last-ditch chance at a wish to get Michael gone for good just wasted on pointless emotional backfill.
Just him and Sam left behind again, and a bottle of whiskey that was now mostly empty. They’d ended up in Sam’s bed this time, wrapped up together, both thinking too much about what that granted wish had given them and then taken away just as quickly. Neither of them seemed able to talk about it yet, even under the whiskey’s influence.
Dean didn’t know what any of it meant to him yet, the reunion had all happened so fast. Dad here and then—poof—gone again, and Mom right after had been bad enough. But then there was the whole thing with the glimpses they’d had of their alternative selves. Dean wasn’t surprised to see that he was on the run from the FBI, back in 2003, even with Dad still alive, that would have been par for the course.
What Dean couldn’t get over was just how much the Sam in the online videos had reminded him of his Sam. Driven, meticulous, and so damn hot. But he’d also been remorselessly clinical about not having attachment to family or anything else, making the point over and over again about how spending any mental energy on family wouldn’t let you perform at your best. It had rattled Dean how much it had seemed true for him. That Sam believed he was better off without a family to tie him down, burden him or whatever.
Dean couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that some choice his Sam had made somewhere along the line had ended up with them here in bed together, tangled up, naked and satisfied (at least for the moment).
“We were really messed up in that universe, weren’t we?” Dean asked, breaking the silence once he’d regained the ability to speak. He’d thought sex would get boring after so many years with the same person, but Sam was always surprising him with just how much better it could get. Particularly at emotionally intense times like tonight, they seemed to become one even more seamlessly than usual. Both of them desperate for the balm of those fleeting moments of unified bliss. He wondered what Sam would think if he ever said something like that out loud. Probably laugh him out of bed or worse.
“I guess this is the universe where we’ve both made all the right choices, for all the right reasons,” Sam said, flexing his long body against Dean’s in just the right way, it still made Dean shiver with the sheer pleasure of it every time. He couldn’t imagine it ever not making him feel that irresistible buzz and crackle of their connection.
“And that’s why we’re—the way we are?” Dean asked, instantly feeling the usual regret at his inability to really come right out and name what they were to each other. He watched as Sam’s jaw tightened like he was holding back from saying the words that they had never said out loud.
“Together, we’re together, Dean,” Sam finally managed to say, his teeth were not quite gritted closed, but it was close.
Just seeing how pissed Sam got when they couldn’t say what they really meant to each other was enough to make Dean get angry all over again. All the upset from seeing their father and then losing him right away, having to witness how much it had hurt their mom. It was too much to take back to back like that. Neither of them were dealing with it well, they both were hurt, obviously they were. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault, not this time….for once.
But the raw anger Dean had felt at seeing how Sam’s life had been so perfect without him in it roared up once again. He couldn’t hold it back, couldn’t manage to stuff it back down where it usually stayed hidden and unexamined.
“Right, got it. We’re together, or whatever we are, because in this universe I’m not some entitled prick that pushed my brother away for god only knows what reasons! Instead here, in this universe, I’m the selfish prick that we both know I am, and I took the first opportunity to yank you back into a life that I knew you never wanted. And once I had you roped back into this crazy thing along with me, then I took my first chance and jumped you.”
Dean watched as Sam’s face went blank, like all the feelings in him had been erased. He almost looked like Soulless had all those years ago, it was edging into creepy. And then the emotions flooded back in, he could see the tears that threatened to fall gathering in the corners of his brother’s eyes. “Wow…just give me a second here,” Sam said in a strained whisper.
Sam was quiet for an agonizingly long amount of time. Time in which Dean contemplated retreating to his own room, packing his things and leaving so that Sam could finally have a chance at a life without him where he wasn’t dragging his brother down. He watched with growing dread as Sam gracefully rose from their bed, wrapped himself in a robe, drank a glass of water, poured another one that he brought back to offer Dean. Sam sat down on the bed near Dean’s hip, and waited patiently for Dean to finish drinking. Dean wished he had another gallon of water to finish just to put off what was going to come next. He’d really opened up a can of worms that had no business being anywhere near an opener.
“First of all, I’m not sure where this is all coming from. Is there something from the pearl created universe that you haven’t told me about?” Sam asked, sounding exasperatingly calm.
“Yeah, I listened to a few more of your online speeches and other things than the one I showed you when we were in town. You were pretty damn sure of how much you wanted absolutely nothing to do with your family. There was even one where a reporter asked about your “felon of a brother” and the face you made…” Dean trailed off because he couldn’t express how seeing that particular expression on that other Sam’s face had made him feel. The disgust and disdain in that Sam’s sneering was unforgettable.
“Dean, those weren’t my speeches, that wasn’t me. You know that right? That was a me that was without you,” Sam said in an earnest rush, his hands nervously fiddled with the empty water glass.
“Yeah, I know that, and…?” Dean asked, really at a loss to understand what Sam meant.
“That was a good example of how bad I get without you. I wish I could show you a movie of how I was when I had all those Tuesdays and you got killed, how fast I fell apart. You’d be surprised how close I came to the soulless me that you lived with for months.”
“I don’t understand,” Dean said, feeling overwhelmed with what Sam was trying to say, it didn’t track with how he thought about himself. He knew he wasn’t as important to Sam as Sam was to him, that had always been true.
“Obviously,” Sam said with a grin that was somehow still serious. “Listen, you once said to me, under very extreme and unusual circumstances, that there wasn’t a me without you. What you don’t seem to understand, and maybe you never will, the exact reverse is true. And it really sucks that you don’t get that.”
“It’s because it’s hard for me to imagine,” Dean said, instantly wishing he’d thought about that answer a little bit longer. Was Sam being serious here? Expecting him to just accept something so mind-blowing on Sam’s say-so.
“Why? Why is it so hard for you to imagine? I am not in the vicinity of okay when you’re gone or dead or whatever, I fall apart, I turn into a hunting killing machine. Hell, in this latest iteration you’re worrying about now, I was wearing a goddamn turtleneck preaching about kale and not having a family as the way to achieve success.” Sam’s hands were twisting in the robe now, tying and untying the belt.
“Yeah, exactly, that’s what the other you was saying you believed, so how am I not supposed to imagine that’s not part of how the real you feels, right here, right now?” Dean asked, the anger rising up in him once again.
“Because, you idiot, I’m not that person, he hadn’t had a life with you all these years. He didn’t know what he was talking about, what he was missing out on. Dean, honestly, I think he was the saddest version of me I’ve ever had to see.”
“I don’t know, Sam. Every time we have one of these peeks into other universes or versions of ourselves or whatever, I don’t like who I am. Remember that first time with the djinn?”
“Yeah, when you wished for mom to be alive and I was also a douchebag to you.”
“Well, you had good reason, because that me was a shit to that you too. It just…seems like maybe I’m not the person you should get stuck with for the rest of your life. Maybe you could have a better chance without me dragging you down.” The second he’d said it, Dean knew it was bullshit, but he’d needed to say it, get the worst of it out. At least he’d learned that much by now.
“Hey! You cut that out right now, I’m not listening to any more of this absolute horse shit. Dean, you’re the only reason, the only reason I’m still alive, okay? And maybe you’re the one who’d be better off without having to drag me around everywhere.”
“No! Hell no!” Dean shouted, sitting up in bed.
Sam squared his shoulders and yelled, “Back at you!”
“You are so damn stubborn,” Dean said, shaking his head at Sam’s predictable pig-headedness. He should have known better than to have given him that opening.
“Back at you,” Sam said with a triumphant little-brother grin.
Well, Sam kind of had him there, Dean couldn’t think of what to say, except to stay there, in Sam’s bed because he was just that stubborn too. He saw it all happening even before Sam said the words out loud. He saw the determination on his brother’s face, how he was bracing for the incoming blow to land and it was everything Dean had been waiting for.
Sam leaned in and made sure they were eye to eye, his focus was both unnerving and comforting. The combination softened the blow of his words. “We never say this, and maybe it’s why you don’t see it. But what I saw between mom and dad last night at dinner, that’s what I feel between you and me. That’s what keeps me here, keeps me going. That kind of love is what life’s about.”
“Well, now you’ve done it,” Dean said, the fondness in his own voice surprised him. He had always hoped for this, and now it was finally here. The question was what to do with it next, where to put the joy of his racing heartbeat, the fluttering in his stomach and the yearning in his fingertips.
“What?” Sam asked, completely unaware of how undone Dean really was at his words.
“I thought it was one of those unspoken gentlemen’s agreements, that we weren’t doing that,” Dean managed to say, lifting one side of his lips in the one-sided grin he knew his brother always fell for.
Sam shook his head at him, smiling wide and happy to be teased. “What, the l-word? It’s only a fucking word, Dean. We both know it’s true. And maybe if we used it once in a while it’d keep us more honest with each other.”
“It’s stupid, I know, it’s like a superstition, that if I say it out loud, something evil will hear it and use it against us somehow.” Dean shook his head at his own stupidity, trained into him by the man they’d gotten to hug just a few hours ago.
“Haven’t they all done that already? Every single time? Ever think it might make us stronger if we accepted it, used it?” Sam asked.
“What, love as a weapon?” Dean asked. The word hadn’t gotten stuck on his tongue, it had gently and easily tripped off, sailed through the air into Sam’s ears where it was most needed.
Sam smiled even wider before answering. “Yeah, exactly, that’s how I beat Lucifer and threw his ass down into the Cage.”
“Power of love works against archangels, huh? Think I could use it against Michael?” Dean asked, the word again was sweet and easy as pie in his mouth. In this moment it seemed possible it could work, and maybe that was the point.
“I think you already are,” Sam said, slow and deliberate. He leaned in and ran a hand through the hair over Dean’s ear, leaving it cupped around the side of his neck. “Right this very second. You might not call it that, but that’s what it is, and that’s why it’s working.”
Dean couldn’t answer that, couldn’t deny it, because of course it was true. Had always been, would always be, all that. And of course Sam already knew, because he was Sam.
“You’re damn right it’s working,” Dean finally managed to say, letting himself lean into the hand Sam still had on his neck. That small amount of skin to skin connection hummed and sparked like a winning buzzer going off at a casino.
“Good,” Sam said, slipping his robe off in one graceful shrug, sliding back under the covers and slotting himself up against Dean’s body, bare skin to skin, before Dean had a chance to say anything even more stupid.
Dean let the warmth of Sam being back in their bed soak into his skin, his bones, his heart. This would have to help keep Michael where he belonged, locked-up tight where he couldn’t get out and hurt the people he loved—especially this one.
He hugged Sam tighter. “I’m glad you don’t wear turtlenecks, Sammy.”
“I’m glad you’re not being chased by the FBI somewhere,” Sam said.
“Spoiler alert, I’m getting you a treadmill desk for Christmas,” Dean whispered.
Dean got to fall asleep to the bed shaking with Sam’s silent laughter. He couldn’t have wished for anything better than that.