Summary: FBI 'verse, Guilty Dean / Emotionally Hurt Sam – Sam's out of town. Dean's drunk. And Jess is lonely. A confession, a betrayal, a mistake. Never say never.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Usual language, plus angst.
Inspiration: I don't usually write these types of stories. But this dialogue exchange in 2.20 ("What Is and What Should Never Be") has always both intrigued and saddened me.
DEAN: ...I mean, you're my brother.
SAM: "You're my brother"?
SAM: You know, that's what you said...when you hooked up with Rachel Nave.
SAM: Uh, my prom date. On prom night.
DEAN: Yeah, that does kinda sound like me.
That conversation paired with all the lying and broken trust between the boys throughout the years...along with the curiously familiar look Dean and Jess exchange when they "first" meet each other in 1.01...somehow led to this.
A/N: I expect this to be polarizing. You'll either love it or hate it. But either way, this is life. It's sometimes messy and complicated and strips us raw. There are no take-backs and no do-overs...but if we're lucky, there is forgiveness and second chances.
I must have called a thousand times to tell you I'm sorry for everything that I've done. ~ Adele
Valentine's Day sucks.
...which is par for the course lately.
Because it seems since Sam left six weeks ago, everything has sucked.
Our information, our data analysis, our leads, our arrests...
My kid brother is off in some undisclosed location doing god knows what for the Attorney General's office on some top-secret case...while everything here goes to complete and absolute shit – including my relationship with Lisa.
...which shouldn't bother me as much as it does since we had always been on-again/off-again.
But yesterday she had made it quite clear we were off.
"You can't have two loves in your life," Lisa had announced, like she was delivering a line from a Hallmark movie, and then had stared at me like I would know what she was talking about.
"What the hell does that mean?" I had asked, not in the mood to hunt for meaning in cryptic messages after an especially fucked-up day at work.
Because if she was talking about my family, about me having to choose between them or her...then she was about to be on the short end of a shitty stick.
"You can't love your work as much as you love me," she had responded, standing in the middle of the apartment's kitchen – mine and Sam's apartment – with her arms crossed over her chest.
I had stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room and had arched an eyebrow, confused as to where this was coming from and suspecting "work" – which involved my parents and brother – was really a euphemism for "family" after all.
"You're suggesting I choose?" I had asked her, my tone icy.
Lisa had narrowed her eyes, freshly pissed. "I'm suggesting you find a balance, Dean. I've been suggesting that for months. And now I'm tired."
If she was tired, then I was fucking exhausted.
"Of what?" I had demanded, even though I had known exactly where this conversation was headed. I was just daring her to say it.
And she did.
"Of you," she had answered and then had shrugged a half-ass apology to go along with those two words before elaborating. "I'm tired of this..."
She had waved her hand between us to indicate our relationship in case I didn't get the clue.
There had been a beat of silence.
"So?" I had ventured, knowing her response before she gave it.
"So..." Lisa's voice had trailed off in a sigh. "We're done. I'm leaving."
And we were.
And she did.
And that's why I sit here in the dark – alone...except for good ol' Jack and Captain Morgan. My familiar friends keeping me company but neither bottle full enough to dull the ache in my chest...or to silence the constant loop of Lisa's words.
"That's why we have beer," I announce to the dark apartment, staring at the outlines of four empty beer bottles on the coffee table in front of me as I slowly work through my fifth one of the night.
My gaze shifts to my cellphone, and I vaguely wonder if I should call Sam again...but then remember my last rambling message tapped out his voicemail box. I'm not quite sure how many times I've called tonight, but I'm damn sure I'll regret every single time when I'm sober.
But...at least Sam will have a good laugh at his big brother whining like a teenage girl dumped before prom.
Stupid fucking Valentine's Day.
Everyone happy and in love and all that annoying shit.
I sigh and take a swig of beer, trying to remember where Mom and Dad were headed tonight – some restaurant...I forget that, too.
But it doesn't matter.
My pride doesn't want company...so I guess that's why I'm initially pissed when I hear the door open.
Suddenly – whether I wanted it or not – I had company.
I know the voice before I turn toward it.
How could I forget that she'd be here? That just because I didn't have a girlfriend anymore didn't mean that everyone in the world had lost theirs as well. That just because Sam hadn't lived here in six weeks didn't mean she no longer stopped by.
Because Jess stopped by every evening after work.
She hadn't missed a day since Sam had been gone, giving some explanation about how being here at the apartment made her miss Sam less...or something equally mushy and lame.
"Dean..." Jess calls again.
"Yeah?" I respond, wondering if the word sounds as slurred to her as it does to me.
Jess looks at me as she rounds the corner. "Everything all right?"
She looks at the liquor and beer bottles. "You sure?"
Jess nods – seeming slightly amused – and looks around the room. "You're alone tonight? On Valentine's?"
She laughs. "Is that all you can say?"
I smile at her. "Yeah."
Jess laughs a little louder, and I feel the cushions of the sofa sag as she sits down beside me.
Silence settles between us, and although she didn't turn on any lights when she came in, I can see her – feel her – staring at me.
"So..." Jess begins and nods toward my own personal mini bar. "What's going on here?"
I shrug. "Just having a beer."
"...or four...or five..."
She doesn't mention Jack or the Captain, but I know she sees them.
I smile and shrug again.
There is silence once more before she asks what I knew she would.
I hold the bottle by its neck and swirl the beer inside. "Lisa."
"Lisa?" Jess repeats and in the next second realizes. "Oh..." She sighs, a strange expression crossing her face before she hides it. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, well..." I let my voice fade and take a swig of beer.
Because there's nothing to say.
Jess stares at me. "Did she say why?"
I snort my disgust at the memory. "Balance," I report and continue to swirl the beer at the bottom of its bottle.
Jess nods as though she can decipher mine and Lisa's whole relationship history based on that word alone – and maybe she can. Women are like that.
"I know how she feels...well, felt," Jess confesses and then laughs self-consciously.
I stop swirling the beer. "What?"
Jess holds my gaze and, for the first time in a long time, I notice how pretty her eyes are.
"I'm always pestering Sam about finding more balance," she tells me quietly, like it's a secret. "I know what he does is important. He has his own cases and consults with the FBI...with you...and he has about a dozen other responsibilities...Chair of This on the Board of That...but there's also me. I mean..."
She shrugs and takes the beer from my hand, drinking from it before she continues.
"He's been gone for six weeks. And I'm sure whatever he's doing is important...just like it always is...but I've barely heard from him since he left."
My first instinct is to defend my little brother – to remind Jess that when Sam is away like this, his communication is limited and dictated by circumstances beyond his control; his schedule set by people who don't give a shit that his girlfriend is lonely back home.
But before I can speak, Jess starts crying.
The tears slipping down her cheeks startle me. "Hey," I soothe, reaching toward her, cupping her face in my hand while brushing away the tears with my thumb. "Don't."
Jess presses her face into my palm and then grasps my hand with her own, her eyes locking with mine.
And I know that look.
Just that quickly, the energy in the room has shifted – and I realize we're in dangerous territory.
Jess continues to stare at me.
"Do you miss him?" I hear myself ask.
The question startles me as much as her tears did – but not as much as her answer.
Jess's hand drops from mine, not embarrassed that we were touching in such an intimate way but instead annoyed...that I mentioned Sam.
"I don't know."
I shake my head, instantly defensive. "How can you not know?" I snap at her. "It's a yes or no question. You either miss him or you don't."
Jess once again holds my gaze. "Then I guess I don't."
I blink at her. "What?"
Jess doesn't answer. She knows I heard her the first time.
I shake my head again, as if I can clear the fog of alcohol. "Why?"
"I don't know."
I sit up a little straighter, trying to understand. "Why are you still here...in this apartment every day, in his life...if you don't even miss him when he's gone?"
Jess doesn't hesitate. "Because of you."
There is silence after that, the two of us just staring at each other.
Jess smiles the kind of smile that usually accompanies spilled secrets, like she is both relieved and aroused by the revelation. "It's always been because of you, Dean. But until tonight, you were with Lisa. So, I settled for Sam. And I don't mean that in a bad way...because he's so sweet...such a genuinely good guy. The kind of guy I don't mind being with and don't want to hurt. But Dean...I don't love him." She pauses. "I'm with him – I'm here – because until now, it was as close as I could get to being with you...to loving you."
I stare at her, completely speechless...and wishing I was sober so I could make better sense of this. We should discuss this as adults. But instead...
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I ask her.
Jess shakes her head. "No."
I swallow in the silence. "Does Sam know?
Jess laughs, bitter and sarcastic. "What do you think?"
She shakes her head again as she finishes the beer – the second one she's opened since she arrived – and puts the bottle in line with the others.
"No, Sam doesn't know," Jess spells out for me. "I don't know how to tell him."
I snort. "But you're telling me?"
Jess leans closer, and I wonder if the beer I smell is on her breath or mine. She's not nearly as wasted as I am but those two beers have definitely taken the edge off.
"Yeah. I'm telling you."
I feel her lips brush mine when she speaks – that's how close she is – and I'm frustrated by my physical reaction to her flirtatious challenge.
Because we can't do this.
"Why?" I swallow. "Why tell me when – "
My words are cut off by her lips pressing against mine.
At first, I think this is an impulsive move...but as her mouth opens and her tongue pushes forward, I realize she knows exactly what she's doing. She is ready and willing...and I'm freaking the fuck out.
Abruptly, I push her back. "What the fuck?" I yell, wiping my hand across my mouth. "Jesus..."
Jess smiles at me. Her lips red and slightly swollen from the intensity of the kiss. Her eyes bright from the alcohol.
"What?" I repeat. "How the hell can you sit there with a straight face and ask me that?"
Jess says nothing.
I shake my head. "We can't do this."
Why? Was she fucking serious?
"Because you're with Sam. You're not with me," I remind her, my tone sharp enough to cut.
But Jess smiles and shrugs as though that detail is no big deal. "Maybe I should be with you," she suggests and moves closer.
"You're not," I snap, moving back on the sofa. "You're with Sam."
Jess gives me a look that's clearly meant to tease. "Not tonight."
I stare at her. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" I demand, anger and disbelief in my voice.
But Jess just continues to smile.
And suddenly I realize I won't have the willpower to resist this...not tonight.
We're in a cluster fuck created by loneliness and fueled by alcohol. We both know we shouldn't be doing this – and yet...
Jess grasps the hem of her shirt and pulls it over her head; her blond hair cascading down her back and blanketing her shoulders as she unclasps her bra.
"If it's wrong..." Jess leans closer, her hands reaching for my shirt. "Then why does it feel so right?"
It's clichéd as hell, but I don't care. Her touch once again causes a physical reaction that I don't want – and yet it's unmistakably there as she tugs the hem of my shirt from my jeans and draws the material upward.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
I have to stop this. Being drunk and lonely is not an excuse to betray Sam.
"Jess – "
Jess's delicate fingers press against my lips, silencing me.
Blood surges through my veins as I realize this is happening. My heart feels like it will explode as her soft lips skim my jaw, traveling to the sensitive hollow of my neck. Her hands are on me, touching everywhere.
And god help me – but my hands are now on her, too.
Jess looks up at me through her pale lashes, her cheeks flushed. "Yes?"
And I know the rest of her question: Yes...we do this?
I answer automatically. "No."
But my actions speak differently as I chase her lips in another kiss and reverse our positions on the sofa – Jess now beneath me in a whirl of naked skin and soft blond hair.
A familiar frenzy follows – of zippers and buttons and belts being maneuvered as we quickly undress our lower halves.
And all the while, my buzzed mind is screaming for me to snap the fuck out of it and stop this shit.
Because we can't do this.
I can't do this.
I can't fuck my brother's girlfriend.
...and yet apparently I can.
Because it's my name she moans with pleasure as I settle my weight completely over her.
Sam came back today...two days too late.
But he doesn't know that.
He's standing there in the doorway of our office – his office – with a ridiculous smile on his face...and I'm overcome by the urge to cry.
But I don't.
I don't because I know tears won't make this right, won't take back what happened. If they did, the amount I've already shed would have washed away my guilt and turned back time.
But they haven't...so here we are.
I force a smile, knowing that's what Sam expects from me...and knowing I should give it to him.
After what I did, I should give him anything he wants.
"Are you surprised?" Sam asks about his sudden return – no call, no warning...just here.
"Yes," I answer as he approaches me.
But not nearly as surprised as he would be if he knew what had happened.
I feel Sam's arms around me as we embrace, and I wonder what he'd do, what he'd say if he knew his brother had held me the same way.
Sam sighs against me as he runs his hands through my hair, and I hate myself that I can only think of one person – Dean.
It's not the first time I've thought of him while I was in Sam's arms, but this time it's different.
I close my eyes but can still see the expression on Dean's face after it was over.
"He'll never know," I had rushed to soothe, not only his guilt but mine – both of us remarkably sober after the deed was done. "We'll never tell him."
"And that makes it okay?" Dean had snapped and had shaken his head before pointing to himself. "I'll know," he had said as he had pushed past me. "And every time I see you...every time I see him, I'll think about this."
"Dean..." I had come towards him in a panic, reaching out to him.
But Dean had turned on me, the fierceness in his eyes and the strength of his grip around my wrist making me uncomfortable.
He had said nothing because there was nothing more to say beyond what his expression had already told me – that he hated me...but most of all, he hated himself.
And I knew exactly how he felt.
Sam pulls away from me, and I open my eyes, seeing absolute adoration in his gaze.
I've ruined everything, and yet he still loves me.
No, I remind myself. He still loves me because he doesn't know.
And he'll never know because we'll never tell him.
That was our plan. That was the pact between me and Dean.
"I'm sorry I haven't called as much as I should have."
I'm sorry I slept with your brother.
"It's okay," I tell him instead.
Sam smiles back, appreciating my understanding. "So, what's been going on?" He sits on the corner of his desk. "What have I missed?"
"Liar," Sam replies, and I feel my heart stutter to a stop...only to start again when he chuckles. "From the messages Dean left a couple days ago, I know I missed the breakup between him and Lisa. And from the way he sounded, it must have been brutal." He shakes his head. "But hey...at least I've got ammunition now for every time he brings up the drunk message I left on his phone. I know he still has it saved."
Sam chuckles again at the antics between him and his brother...but then stops when he realizes I'm not laughing with him as I normally would.
I'm not even smiling now.
I can barely breathe, suffocating beneath the weight of guilt as it seems I overestimated myself to think I could pull this off. Pretending...faking...lying to his face – I've been doing it for months but it's somehow harder now.
Sam tilts his head in concern. "Jess..."
The apology rushes past my lips before I can contain it – my bruised conscience desperate for solace.
"Sorry?" Sam quirks a smile in that nervous way he does and shakes his head, confused. "For what?"
For not loving you.
"For...um..." My mind is frantic as my eyes settle on the stack of papers beside him. "...for not having the Thompson file in order."
"Oh. Okay." Sam follows my gaze and then looks back at me, still smiling. "That's fine."
"I've been going through the stacks and the research and was planning to stay and finish them this after – "
My words are silenced as Sam suddenly stands and presses his fingers against my lips – like I did to Dean two days ago.
Sam gives me a look that I instantly recognize.
"I have a better idea of how to spend the afternoon," he whispers. "After all...it's been six weeks."
Yes, I know.
Six weeks...and two days.
Sam's mouth covers mine, and as he kisses me deeply, I think of what happened two days ago. I remember how Dean felt...beneath my touch...above my body.
I can't do this.
Abruptly, I pull away and turn my back to him.
There is silence and stillness before he approaches me.
Sam's hand is on my shoulder, but he doesn't attempt to turn me around to face him...ever the gentleman.
I close my eyes, feeling tears slip through my lashes.
Because I love the soft tenderness of his touch.
I love the sound of my name inside his voice.
I love him.
Why couldn't I have realized that two days ago?
I shake my head at Sam's question. "I can't do this...not right now."
I squeeze my eyes tighter at the sound of hurt and confusion in Sam's voice.
I can't tell him – and yet I want to.
I open my eyes and turn to look at him, feeling his hand fall from my shoulder. "I just can't. I'm sorry."
There is silence once more as he stares at me, his mind trying to find a logical explanation.
"Okay," Sam finally says and looks around the room like he doesn't know what to say or do. "I guess I'll just...um...I guess I'll try calling Dean again."
My heart pounds.
Of course he had tried to call Dean.
And of course Dean hadn't answered.
Dean is as terrified to face Sam as I am.
It's impossible to live this lie when he's standing in front of you.
"Again?" I ask, doing my best to keep my tone casual.
Sam nods. "I tried calling him at the airport...and then again on the way over here. Both straight to voicemail like he's ignoring me." He shrugs, also going for casual but looking disappointed. "Guess he's just busy."
Sam would never suspect that, but I can tell he's confused as to why his big brother hasn't accepted his calls...and his confusion is only fueling his eagerness to get in touch with Dean.
But that can't happen.
Sam can't talk to Dean until I talk to Dean.
"Maybe you should just go home," I suggest. "Unpack, unwind. Dean will be there later, and you can catch up then."
That will give me enough time to talk with Dean myself, to make sure our stories match in case we're quizzed.
Sam considers and then nods again. "Yeah. Okay." He pauses. "You'll come over later?"
I hum an answer, neither yes or no.
Sam hesitates. This is not the reunion he was hoping for. "Okay...guess I'll see you later then."
And as he turns to leave, it occurs to me this situation wouldn't be any better later.
If the past two days had taught me anything, they had taught that time didn't make things better. Time made things worse.
The past two days had taught that I couldn't ignore this.
I couldn't escape this.
I couldn't wish this away.
What had happened had happened, and Sam deserved to know. He had never been anything but honest with me, and I owed him that much in return.
"Sometimes relationships change."
My words are louder – and sound more desperate – than I intend.
Sam pauses by the door, turning back to face me.
He says nothing but I know he's listening, so I continue.
"Sometimes we forget what we've got...and we forget who we are...so we try to be who we aren't."
I swallow, not sure if I'm making any sense and yet unable to stop myself from rambling.
"And then sometimes we forget who the other person is...and we try to make them someone they're not...and when they're not that person, we go and try to find that person somewhere else."
Sam shakes his head, and I'm not sure if it's from confusion or denial.
I feel fresh tears sting my eyes. "You know...life isn't just black and white...or right and wrong. There's also gray areas...like, when we don't know how we feel...or even who we want to be with."
Sam comes closer to me, undoubtedly sensing my budding confession after all of his experience with the clients he's defended in court.
"Jess, what the hell are you talking about?"
I flinch at his words, my conscience raw. "I'm sorry," I tell him. "It was my fault. I came onto him. And I'm sorry. But I think we've got a chance to make it right."
Sam arches an eyebrow. "You came onto who?"
I answer with a stare.
Sam makes a sound, and I know he's confused – and that frustrates him. "Jess – "
"I slept with Dean."
There...I said it.
Four words that will change three lives.
Sam looks as though I've slapped him. "W-what?"
I remain silent, knowing he heard me...and knowing he doesn't want to hear it again.
"Are you serious?"
"Two days ago."
Sam blinks. "On Valentine's Day? Seriously?"
He looks at me like this is a horrible joke.
"I know." Tears flow freely down my cheeks. There's no point in pretending now. "Lisa had left...for good...and I went over to the apartment...and he was drunk...and I was lonely...and then I had a couple of beers, too...and it just..."
I stare at Sam, unnerved by the quiet venom in his voice and the expression on his face as he finishes my sentence.
I swallow. "Yes...and I know my apology doesn't make things right, but I'm sorry. You have to believe me, Sam. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
There is silence – for what seems like hours – before Sam shakes his head slowly, as though suddenly he sees everything clearly.
"No," he tells me.
I come towards him.
Sam puts his hand out in front of him to halt my approach. "I don't think you're sorry."
I nod, desperate to make him believe me. "Yes! I am. I'm sorry."
Sam moves so fast that his face is within inches of mine before I can blink...and it occurs to me that this is a side of him I've never seen before. He looks angry enough to strike me, but I know he's not the hitting type.
Sam reasons. He analyzes. At worst, he stews.
But right now...I'm not sure what he'll do.
As Sam stands there staring at me, a mix of realization, anger, and hurt crosses his face – and suddenly I know that he knows why. Suddenly I see that he sees it was only a matter of time and opportunity before this happened.
"I love you," I say, hearing the hollow desperateness of those words as my gaze averts from his.
Where did that come from?
Why did I say that?
Sam gives a humorless laugh. "Funny how your eyes always look away when you say that."
And he's right – they always do because I was never good at lying.
"I'm sorry," I respond, sounding like a proverbial broken record...and yet not knowing what else to say. "I'm so sorry."
"I don't think you're sorry," Sam tells me with the trained calmness of a trial attorney. "I think you're more faithful than you intended to be, and that's why you're sorry. Not because it happened, but because you couldn't pull it off...because you couldn't go on like nothing had happened – that's why you're sorry."
"Sam – "
Sam holds up his hand to silence me, like I've seen him do so many times in court, and stares at me with disgust and resentment. "You're sorry because you feel guilty, not because you are guilty. It's not the guilt you mind but the feeling of it."
"Sam – "
"I want all of your stuff out of the apartment tonight."
And although I don't live there, I know he's still kicking me out. He wants my basic toiletries, my few outfits, any of my miscellaneous belongings...gone.
He wants them gone.
He wants me gone.
"Tonight," he repeats, and I know better than to argue.
Sam holds my gaze and then moves toward the door.
My heart slams in my chest.
"Where are you going?" I ask, knowing he owes me no explanation.
But Sam answers anyway.
"To see Dean," he replies, eerily calm.
I rush towards him, panicked.
Because it can't end like this.
He turns on me, the intensity of his emotions clearly reflected in his expression.
"For what?" he snaps. "Is there more to this?"
I hesitate and then shake my head. "No, but..."
"Then we're done."
And he was right – we were.
As I sit in the darkness of my apartment, staring at my cellphone like I've being doing for the past hour, I realize the truth in that old adage – it's now or never.
I either make this call...or resolve to be miserable the rest of my life.
And considering how miserable I am now – almost three months since I've seen or even heard from Sam – I know I can't live like this.
I can't live without Sam in my life...as sappy as that sounds and as much as he would laugh if he heard me admit it.
But it's true.
I miss my little brother.
I miss him so fucking much.
I miss seeing him every day at the apartment...at the office...at Mom and Dad's.
I miss being able to call him whenever I want, just to check on him...just to talk.
I miss the ease of our conversations, our banter that's really brotherly affection.
I just miss him.
Mom tries to keep me updated, but it's not the same.
Having scheduled visits to my parents' house so my path doesn't cross with Sam's isn't the same as dropping by.
Having a conversation with my mom about my brother isn't the same as actually having a conversation with my brother.
I inwardly cringe as I remember what Mom had said last night when I had asked how Sam was doing.
"I'm not telling you," she had informed, not even turning around from where she had stood at the kitchen sink. "I'm done, Dean. I am done with being an enabler in this situation. And I've told your brother the same."
I had felt a brief spark of hope at the implication that Sam still asked about me – keeping up with me the way I was keeping up with him through our parents.
"If you want to know how he is, then I suggest you call him."
"But – "
"She's right," Dad had interrupted.
Mom usually was.
"You fucked up," Dad had continued, always blunt but honest. "You royally fucked up," he had added, as if I had needed the reminder. "And it's that shitty choice that put you in this position." He had paused as he sat across from me at the table, holding his after-dinner coffee. "You can't dig out of a hole, Dean. At some point, you're gonna need someone to toss down a rope."
Mom had finally turned to face me, had leaned against the counter. "Your father's right."
Dad usually was, too.
"Sam's angry and he's hurt." She had paused, her wounded expression reflecting just how hurt Sam was by my betrayal. "But he's also forgiving. He's one of the most forgiving people I know. And you're still his brother...and he still loves you, Dean. He loves you and he misses you...just like you miss him." She had sighed at the mess between her boys. "But this is your mistake...which makes this your move." She had offered a small smile. "If you reach out, he'll reach back. Trust me."
I had glanced at Dad, who had nodded his agreement.
I had then just sat there in the silence that had followed, wanting to take their advice but...
"I don't know."
...and I still didn't.
I know Mom and Dad are right – this is my move to make – but I don't know how Sam will react.
And if I'm honest with myself, I know I can't take any more rejection from him...even though I know I deserve it.
The knife lodged in my chest is only fair since I left my own knife twisted in Sam's back.
I sigh and sit forward on the sofa, rubbing my hands over my face and wondering how the hell I'm going to fix this cluster fuck I've created.
I sigh again and glance down at my phone balanced on my knee. The photo of me and Sam stares back – our arms slung over each other's shoulders...Sam's head slightly tilted toward mine like he always does when we pose for pictures...both of us smiling...happy.
It feels like a lifetime ago.
I swallow against the sudden tightness in my throat as another memory crosses my mind.
Out of all the events I can vaguely pinpoint on the timeline of my life, the memory of Sam telling me that he never wanted to see me or talk to me again...that I remember quite vividly.
From the moment I had seen Sam standing in the doorway of the Bureau's conference room three months ago, I had known that he knew what had happened – and that things would never be the same between us.
If Sam had heard the excited greetings from the rest of the team, he hadn't answered them – or even acknowledged them – as his gaze had unnervingly focused on me.
A silent conversation had passed between us as the others had slipped from the room, having no clue what was about to go down but having been with the FBI long enough to know their exit cues.
"I should have known better," Sam had said when it was just me and him, his tone eerily measured and calm. "It was only a matter of time and opportunity...and I should have known better."
I had stood. "Sam – "
"I trusted you."
Three words that had lodged that dagger in my chest, straight through my heart.
I had wanted to look away, unable to bear the raw emotion in his eyes...and yet I couldn't.
"I know, Sammy," I had agreed. "I know. And I'm sorry."
It had been lame, but I hadn't known what else to say.
Sam had shaken his head. "The blame is not entirely yours."
I had instantly hated myself for saying her name – and hated the way it had seemed to hang in the air between us.
Sam had snorted, quiet but bitter, and had shaken his head again. "She's no longer my concern...and neither are you."
I had felt my heart pounding in my chest, drumming in my ears as it had become increasingly hard to breathe.
Sam must have read the question in my eyes.
"I can't be around you anymore, Dean. I don't want to be around you. Because when I look at you, I see her...I see you and her...and I think about what you did together...and I realize how stupid I've been."
"Sam. No. Listen..." I had begun, moving toward him.
"Save it, Dean," he had told me and had stepped back.
I had swallowed against the panic, desperate to steer this conversation in another direction. "Sam, tell me what I can do."
"I think we both know you've done enough."
I had nodded. "I know. And I'm sorry."
He had just stared at me.
"Sam. Tell me what I can do. Name it."
"You can get your shit out of the apartment," he had replied, our roommate days unsurprisingly over. "And you can call Mom and Dad's house before you stop by, so I can make sure that I'm not there. You can erase my number from your cell. And you can drop me from the list of FBI consultants."
Sam's words – and the detached way in which he had spoken them – had sliced through my heart, leaving a speechless stare behind as I had watched him toss his ID badge on the table.
There had been a beat of silence.
"I hope it was worth it," Sam had said as he had opened the door of the conference room and had walked out of my life.
I sigh, harsh and loud, as Sam's words echo in my mind.
My gaze settles once again on my phone and my determination intensifies.
Because nothing is worth losing my brother.
I reach for the phone, my thumb hovering over the screen as I wonder if I'll summon enough courage to actually do this.
Because how many times have I tried, not only tonight but over the past three months? How many times have I tried to call Sam and apologize and offer to do whatever it takes to redeem myself?
But tonight, this is happening.
I've got nothing else to lose.
The line is ringing before I realize it, and I feel my heart slam in my chest with every hollow sound.
One...two...three...and then he answers but doesn't speak.
"Sam?" I say, hating the uncertainty in my tone.
I smile...because damn it's good to hear his voice.
"Is there something wrong?" he asks, and although I don't know how long I've been silent, I assume it's been too long judging by the concern in his voice.
"Yeah, Sammy. There's something wrong."
"With Mom or Dad?"
He sounds panicked.
"No, it's not them. They're fine," I soothe and then pause. "It's us, Sam." I pause again, trying to judge his reaction and then plunge ahead. "I can't do this anymore, man. I miss you."
Shit, that was hard.
There is silence, and I wonder if Sam hung up.
"You mean you miss my consulting," he finally says.
"What? No. I don't give a shit about that, Sam," I tell him, saddened that he would think that was the only reason I had called – because I missed his services at work. "I miss you, man. I miss my little brother."
There is silence again, and I can almost hear Sam's mind working furiously, trying to calculate the degree of my sincerity.
I sigh, usually uncomfortable with being this open and vulnerable...but this is it.
I need to lay it on the line.
Sam needs to hear me say this.
I stand and start to pace. "Listen, I know my apology is worthless. And I know you don't trust me. Hell, I don't blame you. After what I did, I don't deserve your trust...and I sure as hell don't deserve another chance to be your brother. But Sam...please."
I pause in the continued silence, making sure he's still there.
"Three months...that's my limit, man. I can't go another day like this," I confess. "And I know you probably don't feel the same. I know you hate me right now...and that's okay. But Sammy, please...please give me a chance to make this right."
I'm fairly certain my heart will explode from how hard and fast it's beating as I wait for his response.
At first, there's nothing – just the silence that's been between us this whole time. But it somehow feels less awkward, less emotionally charged...
Sam sighs, clears his throat. "So?" he asks, not taunting but curious...and genuine.
I can tell my little brother is truly interested in what he undoubtedly expects to be my grand plan for fixing this...and I suddenly realize that I don't have a plan.
I never expected myself to actually call; and if I did, I never expected Sam to actually answer. But now that I had...and he did...
Mom's words echo in my mind – If you reach out, he'll reach back.
"So..." I repeat, still pacing in the dark living room. "I was gonna watch the game this weekend. Wanna join me?"
It's the first thing I think of, and therefore, the first thing I blurt out...but somehow it feels right. Casual, laid back, no pressure...just two brothers watching the game.
I know we won't reconnect overnight. I know we have a lot of heavy, complicated shit to hash out between us. But this...this feels right, starting slow and going from there.
I stop pacing, struck by the realization that everything hinges on Sam's response.
Please, Sammy. Throw me a rope.
Say yes. Say yes. Say yes.
The silence is back.
I hear him clear his throat again, a nervous habit of his that's strangely comforting.
"Yeah." He clears his throat once more. "I'm in."
And down comes that rope, dangling in front of my face.
Sam is offering a way out of this hole I've lived in for the past three months. I just have to grasp it.
I'm startled by the sound of my own laugh, but I'm so damn happy I can't help myself.
Sam hums a response not nearly as enthusiastic as mine...but hey, it's a start. Up until a few minutes ago, we hadn't talked in three months.
"So, I guess I'll see you on Friday?"
"Yeah, absolutely," I tell him, close to giddy at the thought of seeing my little brother the day after tomorrow.
And so incredibly thankful he's giving me this chance to fix what I broke between us.