Dean takes a few months to work things out for himself. First he’s disgusted at himself, then he’s angry at Sam, then he switches back. All the while he’s tracked down the Impala, made contact with Dad, and wasn’t that a fun conversation. Not. He tries to hook up a few times at dives where he’s pool-sharking, but either he’s lost his mojo, or his heart isn’t in it. Either way, he’s frustrated. And lonely. He doesn’t call Sam, almost does several times, but he stops himself. It’s too much, too soon, he can’t even imagine what he’d say. He doesn’t want to imagine that Sam wouldn’t want to talk to him.
The words that Sam had said, that had seemed to ring and ring through his body as the spell finally broke, they’ve been playing on an endless loop in the background of whatever he’s doing. He analyzes it over and over again. What did Sam really mean? It must have been true for the spell to have been broken. But what is he supposed to do with this knowledge now? His brother loves him, like that. And wants him to be in his life. He keeps picturing Sam’s face in that moment of confession, how he’d never seen his brother happier, and it wasn’t just his ‘O’ face either. Sam was really, truly happy. And hadn’t that been what his life was all about? Keeping Sam safe and making sure he was happy, that’s what he’s acknowledged as his prime directive.
Finally he’s realized this isn’t something he can decide on his own, and it’s not a topic for discussion in email or on a phone call. Way too important to risk that. So, he gathers himself together and swings by Stanford to tell Sam, that he’s on board with it. He’s happy to anticipate what Sam’s reaction will be. But he sees him walking across the quad with a beautiful, leggy, blonde. He shadows them for a little while, and they look good together. Sam looks happy. Not as happy as when he’d been inside Dean, together on that bed, looking down at him, declaring his love and all that jazz. No, not quite that happy. But maybe happy enough. And Dean decides he doesn’t want to screw that up for his little brother.
He should have just left right then and there. Gotten out of Dodge, headed for the beach or headed back towards Vegas or something. But no. Like the idiot he knows he’ll always be, he decided to have one drink before hitting the road. The dive bar he chose was pretty far from campus, but then everything pretty much is. He’s sitting there alone, perched on a barstool, sipping down a California micro-brew that tastes vaguely lemony, staring at himself in the backbar mirror when he sees him. Sam, walking in with a small group of people, the leggy blonde next to him like she was earlier today. Dean watches as his little brother steers everyone to a table and then jumps up to order at the bar. He sees Sam approaching, step by step he comes closer and he repeats to himself that his decision is made. He’s going, he’s leaving, it’s better this way, for Sam. All for Sam. He ducks his head down, pretending to look at his new cell phone, until he feels his brother’s hand on his shoulder.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t see you?”
“Hey, Sam. I just…uh…didn’t want to interrupt you with your friends, especially that hot blonde,” Dean says, knowing how completely lame that sounds as soon as the words leave his mouth. He makes a rude leer at the table Sam’s friends are sitting at.
“Really? That’s all you’re gonna say? Not a word for all these months. After all this time, that’s it?” Sam’s hand tightens on his shoulder until it’s almost hurting. Dean meets Sam’s eyes in the mirror and finds he can’t speak. “You asshole,” Sam spits.
Sam’s hand drops, and so do his eyes. He signals the bartender over. “Hey, we need a pitcher and six glasses over there,” Sam says, pointing at the table where his friends are all laughing at someone’s joke. He throws a twenty on the bar and stalks back over to the table, sliding into the booth bench next to his girl on the end.
Dean sits on his barstool, feeling like he should just slide off and melt into the sticky mess on the floor. The night cleaning staff can mop him up and pour him down the drain. What’s the point now? He looks at himself in the mirror once again, sucking his pint glass dry. He looks empty, as drained dry as his beer glass. Just knowing Sam was his brother used to fill him up. Just knowing Sam loved him in some way was what mattered. Before everything else. Now who the hell knows what his brother even thinks. He’ll probably never get to ask him. He orders another beer, with a whisky chaser this time. Might as well get too drunk to drive, because why the hell not?
He drinks and watches, watches and drinks. Soaks in all the booming laughs that are Sam’s, can only be Sam’s, because no one laughs like that except his little brother. He can hear how forced it is, that Sam’s trying to show him he’s having a good time even though his asshole of a brother is crashing his party. What did he think he was going to accomplish even coming here? What, was he going to drag Sam off like some caveman, you come with me, we go hunt? Sam’s definitely gotten past all that now, past him, wanting him, needing him, loving him. Obviously, look at the way he’s got his arm around that beautiful girl. How she’s looking up at him with those eyes filled with who knows what, it’s hard to see from this far away, and he’s had too many shots of whisky by now.
He orders another and is actually looking at his phone this time to check and see if there’s a message from Dad. Hoping to be rescued from this self-created train wreck by some other poor bastard’s need for a hunter’s rescue. That’s when he feels the hand on his shoulder. But it’s not as heavy as Sam’s. He looks up and sees it’s the girl, the hot blonde, Sam’s girl. She’s standing there, next to his barstool, with her hand on his shoulder like she knows him. Or wants to.
“Hey sugar, what’s up?” Dean asks, mildly alarmed at the slight slur in his voice.
“You’re the guy, right? Sam’s guy?” the girl asks, her face friendly, but intense.
“I’m nobody’s anything, not anymore,” Dean says, slamming that door before she can get it open.
“Dude, cut it out. He really misses you. This is the first time we’ve gotten him out of the dorm in two whole months,” the girl says, looking at him like she’s seeing right through all the bullshit, right down to the man who screwed his little brother.
“He’s not mine. Like I said, sweetheart, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dean says, turning away from her to get her hand off his shoulder, the weight of it suddenly oppressive.
She doesn’t give up though, just tightens it almost as tightly as Sam had a while ago. “Listen, buddy. Sam hasn’t been the same since you and he got together. He came back from vacation, and he was completely different. Like he’d filled in his missing piece or something, but then someone took it all away. I know I’ve only heard his side of things, but the thing between you two, well, it sounded like it was a long time coming. Something he’d always wanted. And you gave it to him and then split. Not cool, dude. Just talk to him, okay? He needs you.”
“What’s it to you anyway? You’re his girl, right?” Dean asks with nasty venom.
“No, it’s not like that. Not at all. We love each other, but just as friends. I gave up on that a while ago. He’s got no room in his heart left, you’ve been taking up all the space, buddy.” She squeezes his shoulder briefly then lets go and walks back to snuggle into Sam’s side. Sam pulls her in close and laughs uproariously at something one of his buddies shouted.
Dean watches all of this blearily from across the room, hoping that Sam will at least make eye contact. But nothing. He orders another whisky shot and tosses it back. When the glass is empty he stands, unsteady, unsure of his next move. He looks one last time at Sam, and is surprised to see his brother’s glaring eyes tracking his motion. Dean motions with his head towards the door and raises his eyebrows, then stumble-stalks outside.
The cool, California air, finally moist with the night’s fog feels good after the closeness of the bar. He leans up against the Impala’s front fender, waiting to see if his brother will come out or not. He’s just about to give up and drive in search of a place to crash when the bar door opens and closes. A tall man’s outline is silhouetted briefly in the warm spill of light from the bar. The wide shoulders and long hair unmistakably Sam. Dean tightens himself up at his brother’s approach, battens down the hatches for the coming storm. Wraps up his heart in the Faraday cage that will allow for no incoming signals to reach it.
Sam leans up against the Impala’s fender next to him, not touching, but close enough to be able to easily. “Jess told me, what you asked her. About she and I being a couple. Is that why you…?” Sam asks, trailing off at the end like he’s not sure why he’s even asking.
Dean nods, not wanting to say anything more about it.
“I looked for you, man. For weeks. But I finally had to come back here, that was all I had left since you ditched me. Figured you’d come back once you’d had some time. Or you wouldn’t, if you couldn’t deal. Well, I hoped you would.”
Dean doesn’t say anything, just marvels at how well his brother knows him. It shouldn’t be a surprise. They know each other as well as any other two people ever could. Sam’s always been the more perceptive of the two of them. But he can’t answer, or speak up for himself or his actions.
“Is this you, coming back because you had enough time to figure things out?” Sam asks with a restrained hopefulness that just kills Dean to hear.
“Sammy, I…” Dean finally says, each word feeling like shards of broken glass cutting up his insides.
Sam interrupts him. “Don’t say you’re sorry. I get it. I shouldn’t have just said it like that. Not when you weren’t even yourself.”
“That’s not why I left, Sam, I couldn’t believe I did that to you.”
“That just because I had amnesia or whatever from that spell the freakin’ witch had put on me, I let myself do that to you.”
“You didn’t do anything to me, Dean. If anything, I took advantage of you. What are you even saying?”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. That’s what I’m saying. I shouldn’t have let it happen in the first place.”
“So, what I told you, right before you left, that’s not why you’re here?” Sam asks in a low, pained mumble.
“Naw, I know you didn’t mean all that, heat of the moment in the middle of hot and heavy sex, people say all kinds of stuff. I’m not holding you to it, if you’re worried about it.”
Sam stands up with his hands clenched into fists, knuckles gone white; Dean has a chance to glance at his face and is terrified by the sudden rage, then he’s getting clocked with a fist to his jaw. He wasn’t expecting a punch like that, and he’s unsteady with all the whisky so he goes down, crumpling against the side of the Impala.
“You are so screwed in the head, dude. You still can’t even accept it? I love you, you freakin’ idiot. Don’t you get it?”
“Hell of a way of showing it, Sammy,” Dean says, rubbing at his jaw.
“So why the hell did you even come here then? Huh?” Sam asks, arms crossed and chin jutted out.
Dean looks up at him from his spot against the side of the Impala, briefly considers trying to stand up, and decides he’s better off farther away from Sam’s fists. “Just wanted to check up on you.”
“That’s it? Really? Last chance, dude,” Sam says, jaw tightening and flexing.
Dean bows his head and looks at his hands laying there in his lap. Empty. But they’re the ones that had held Sam, had felt every inch of his skin, had loved him. He can hear the deadline seriousness in Sam’s voice, he means it, this is his last chance to say it or not. Everything that means anything to him is standing right there in front of him with his arms crossed, practically breathing fire out of his nose. “All right, you got me, I came to see if you really meant all that stuff, or not.”
Sam blows out a breath with a heavy sigh, it sounds almost like a baby elephant trying to trumpet and sinks down to the side of the car next to Dean. “Yeah, I did. I meant every word. Of course I did. I wouldn’t ever say something like that if I didn’t. Don’t you know me?”
“I didn’t know you, not like that. And I didn’t even know myself, then all of a sudden the spell or whatever was gone, and I did. All at once, it all came crashin’ in on me. It was hard to wrap my head around. I’m sorry I left like that.”
“I’m sorry too. That I didn’t figure it out, that you really had amnesia, until after we’d gone to bed the first time. I seriously feel like I took advantage of you. I felt sick about it, man. But I’m really sorry that you left, and that you thought for one second that it was just some lies I was laying on you while we were in bed.”
“Sammy, it’s what saved me. From the curse thing. You telling me that, while we were, uh, you know.”
“Really? A true love’s fuck curse? That’s a thing?”
“Apparently. And if you hadn’t gone there, and done and said that, I’d still be a mortician in Modesto.”
“It does have a certain ring to it, alliteration and all,” Sam says with a one-sided grin. “So, you forgive me for taking advantage of you, while you weren’t you?”
“Yeah, of course. I mean, as I remember it, I came on pretty damn strong, and I know I’m irresistible and all,” Dean says with his own grin matching Sam’s.
“So, you wanna come back to my place? We can find some ice for that,” Sam points at the darkening bruise on Dean’s jaw.
“Sure, sounds good, but you’re drivin’,” Dean says, tossing Sam the keys.
“You were a mortician, Dean. And you seemed pretty damned good at it, I watched you a couple times, especially the handling the sad people stuff, you were great with them,” Sam says as he steers them out of the gravel parking lot.
“I was just channeling you, Sammy. You’re the one that’s good with grieving widows and stuff,” Dean says, leaning against the window and looking his fill of Sam driving his car.
“That’s bullshit. You were great, really great. I was surprised, actually. I think you could do it, for real, if you ever wanted to go legit, you know.”
“Yeah, like if you want to take a break, settle down for a while,”
“You mean, settle down, like here?”
Sam just looks at him like he’s the stupidest person on Earth.
“You want us to what, move in together or something?”
“Yeah,…uh, I do. I mean, if you want to. I think it’d be…well it’d be good.”
“I’ll think about it when I’m not drunk, okay?”
“Sure, yeah, plenty of time for thinking,” Sam says, sounding a little disappointed.
“That wasn’t a no, by the way,” Dean says with a smirk.
“I know, I heard you,” Sam says, looking guilty.
“Nothing to be guilty about, Sam, why’re you makin’ that face?”
“I’m asking for too much. I know I am. I’m sorry, I’ll stop. I’m just glad you’re here, okay?”
“Okay, okay. Me too, and you’re not asking for too much. I just need some time with the idea, that’s all,” Dean says.
Sam nods and shuts up. Dean can see that his mind is still racing though, judging by the expression he’s got on his face and how his hands are clenching and unclenching nervously on the steering wheel. Dean doesn’t say anything, just watches his brother fret and drive, until he’s being awoken and Sam’s pulling him out of the car and wrapping his gorilla arm around his waist, hustling him up the stairs and into a small dorm room. Dean crashes down onto one of the beds. Gotta be Sam’s bed it smells like him, smells like Sammy is the last thought he has for a while.
He wakes up a little when Sam puts an icepack on his jaw and runs his hands through his hair. Just enough to grab Sam’s hand that’s in his hair and hold onto it, until he falls back into blackness. Of all nights why did he have to drink so much?
In the morning he wakes up to Sam’s face a few inches from his, eyes wide and bright and brimming with happiness. He can feel that Sam’s wrapped his whole body around his own to make them fit in the small bed. “G‘mornin,” he finally manages to say.
Sam leans forward and brushes their lips together. “Good morning,” Sam says in what sounds like a thunderous pronouncement. “Sorry, I’ll be quieter,” he whispers when he sees Dean’s wince.
Dean wants to just go back to sleep, and avoid going through with the hangover, but what he wants more is to be here, with his brother, finally in his arms. “Thanks, Sammy,” he says, snuggling back into Sam’s side and closing his eyes, hoping Sam will do the same, and not make him get out of this perfectly wonderful, warm bed quite yet.
Sam starts getting antsy, legs twitching, arms fidgeting, until he finally starts unwrapping himself and making a move to get out of bed. Dean peeks one eye open and asks in a low growl, “Where ya goin’?”
“Just down to get some breakfast. I’ll bring some back up. You want some coffee, right?”
“Yeah, that’d be awesome, thanks,” Dean says, turning over to flop in the warm spot that Sam’s left in the bed, inhaling the scent of his brother left behind. He of course isn’t able to go back to sleep, since that smell reminds him that he’s going to have to be coherent enough to talk to Sam, and soon. He groans as he hoists himself up off of the small bed, and then scrambles around the room looking for shower supplies. He snags Sam’s soap and towel and heads out the door to take a quick shower before Sam gets back. He’s toweled off his hair and is sitting at Sam’s desk, looking out the window at the quad below.
Dean grunts, acknowledging the coffee that Sam sets on the desk in front of him.
“See you found the shower. Feeling any better?”
Dean takes a sip of the coffee and grimaces at the heat. “So you really think I could do that, for like a job?” Dean asks, continuing the conversation they’d started and not finished last night.
“What? Be a mortician? Yeah, of course,” Sam answers through a mouthful of granola and yogurt.
“Gross. Wonder if I have to go to school or anything?”
“Yeah, my friend, Ross, I was talkin’ to him down in the cafeteria just now. His dad’s brother is one, went to school up in San Francisco for a couple years. You apprentice and learn all the stuff you probably already know, I bet it’d be easy for you.”
“Huh. I always figured I’d be like a mechanic or something, if I ever stopped hunting.”
“When did you ever picture that?”
“Uh, kind of recently. I was in the South, in Missouri, talking to a friend of mine. She uh…asked me what I’d do if I wasn’t huntin’, so I started thinkin’ about it.”
“A friend, huh?”
“Yeah, a friend, let’s just leave it at that.”
“Fine, fine. Ross said he’d find out about the mortuary school if you want,” Sam says.
“Where am I supposed to live while I go to school, huh? Assuming they’d even take a guy with just a GED and some experience that I can’t actually claim under my own name,” Dean asks.
“We can get a place, off campus, maybe you can even take the train up to school. San Francisco is pretty close.”
“You really want to live together? You think we could?” Dean asks, just the thought of what Sam’s asking waking him up more completely than coffee ever could.
“I want to try. would you at least do that for me? For us?” Sam asks, and Dean can see he’s trying to control using the puppy-eyes, that means this is for real and for serious.
Asking something like that means that this is the real deal, for them at least. Dean does the only thing he can do to stall for time, respond with a big-brother teasing question instead of an answer. “So, there’s an us, then?”
“Yeah. I mean, there is if you want there to be. You do, right?”
Dean drains his coffee and sets the mug on the desk, he takes the bowl and spoon from Sam’s hand and puts them next to the mug. Then he folds himself down over a surprised Sam, who pulls them back down onto his bed. Dean kisses his answer into Sam’s lips, trails the answer along with kisses along his jaw, whispers the answer into his ear while nibbling on his earlobe.
The answer is yes, of course it’s yes, what else could it possibly ever be?