Dean was pissed, Sam noticed miserably. Like, really pissed. Pissed to a whole new degree of pissed-offed-ness that Sam had never seen before, and honestly? Sam couldn't really blame him.
Jesus fuck, but he couldn't believe he'd shot his brother. There were splatters of blood all over Dean's t-shirt where the rock salt had penetrated the skin on his chest, and when Dean had gotten into the motel room and shed aforementioned t-shirt on his way to the shower, Sam had spotted the beginnings of some truly spectacular bruising. He hoped that the salt was finally going to wash out in what was probably a fairly epic hot shower, because that had to burn like all the fires of hell.
Dean couldn't even look at him now, Sam thought, sinking back into his misery. Hadn't even glanced over at him once during the drive back to the hotel and Sam had carried the duffel into the room because hey, he was trying to be nice and Dean probably didn't want to lift anything right now, but Dean had just brushed past him when he'd held the door open for him and had stripped off quickly before going to take his shower. Where he still was, after a good half hour. He'd been right about the epic bit.
And he didn't even know how to fix things, anyway. Dean had absolutely every right to be pissed at him, what with the whole angry ranting and then trying to kill him thing. And Sam had tried to say that it wasn't him, that he never meant those things, that he never would have thought them, but Dean had given that all the respect it had deserved with a disbelieving "huh." Yeah, Sam knew better, too.
The thing was, it wasn't entirely him. Yeah, he'd thought those things, and yeah, he'd gotten pissed at Dean about them, but he never, ever would have said them. Well, not like that. His temper had been much more hair-trigger since Jess's death, and probably the wrong snarky comment out of Dean's mouth would have gotten him to say most of that stuff anyway, but not like that. Not so angry, not so vicious. And definitely without the guns.
So how did he explain to Dean that yeah, he had though that stuff and that yeah, some of it pissed him off but no, he didn't think that Dean was pathetic and no, he didn't hate him that much? Hell, he loved his brother. He'd die for his brother, had told him so before, would follow him into the mouth of hell itself because it was Dean and Dean may have been Daddy's little soldier but he was good at it, damn it, in a way Sam wasn't and never had been. Sam had always been too busy trying to run off and play soccer to learn the bow hunting, whereas Dean had just picked up the damn thing and shot at targets until he could spade out of a playing card from fifty paces. And yeah, sometimes it bothered him that Dean could just follow Dad's orders and not even question, but he didn't think Dean was pathetic. Dean was the strongest person he knew, bar none.
The question was, how did he explain all this to him? Dean didn't seem too willing to listen to him right now, which hey, Sam deserved. It wasn't every day that your brother tried to kill you, and Dean had every right to be pissy and ignore him and avoid the issue altogether. Which Dean would do if Sam let him, only he didn't plan on letting him. They had to talk about it- which just brought it back to the question of how.
He abruptly ran out of time when Dean came out of the bathroom, towel knotted around his hips. Sam watched him covertly out of the corner of his eyes, trying to find an opening for the conversation and trying not to notice Dean's almost-nakedness. He pretty much succeeded, though only because of far too much practice. Dean had no modesty.
"I can hear you thinking," Dean said, his back to him, as he did his belt. "Stop."
Ah, the dulcet tones of his brother giving orders, Sam thought irritably, then stopped guiltily because hey, last time he was thinking stuff like that an evil spirit had increased his rage till he almost killed Dean. Those were bad thoughts. Even if they were kinda true, sometimes.
"Dean, we really need to talk," he said. He couldn't really think of a better conversation opener than that, so Dean would just have to deal.
"No we don't," Dean said.
Or maybe Dean wouldn't.
"Yeah, we do," Sam said. "We can't just let things stay like this, it's just not-" He stopped. Dean still had his back to him, hunting through his bag for a t-shirt. "Would you just look at me for a minute?"
Dean straightened, t-shirt in hand, and turned to glare at him. Sam resolutely ignored the deep cuts and bruises decorating his chest. "I'm tryin' to get dressed, Sam. You have a problem with me wearing clothes?"
His real answer was one that Sam wouldn't give him in a million years. Thinking back on his encounter with the spirit, Sam supposed it could have been worse. He could have talked about all the really fucked-up things, instead of just the mildly fucked-up stuff. If it had tapped into sexual urges instead of just rage, then Sam very well could have ended up attempting to rape his brother instead of just shooting him. So, yeah, it could have been worse.
With that comforting thought to buoy him, he decided to stop fucking around and dive right in. "Man, we really need to talk about what happened back at the Asylum. This repress and ignore thing just isn't working."
"Working fine for me," Dean said, his words slightly muffled as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. With Dean's eyesight blocked by fabric for half a second, Sam stole the moment to admire the sharp jut of his hipbones and the ripple of his stomach muscles. Then the t-shirt dropped into place and Sam's "want that" expression had switched back to serious. Oh yeah, he had way too much practice with this.
"Yeah, well, it's not for me," Sam said. "You've barely looked at me since we left that place."
"I'm looking at you right now," Dean said. And yeah, he was. He was also looking pretty pissed about having this conversation.
"Yeah, looking like you want to kill me," Sam said.
"Nah, that's your department," Dean tossed back, then immediately looked like he regretted giving Sam the opening. Too bad that Sam was already jumping in.
"I knew you weren't okay with it!" he said. Of course, a blind monkey could have seen that Dean wasn't okay with it, but… Yeah.
"Of course I'm not okay with it," Dean snapped back. "You fucking shot me, Sammy. If that pistol had been loaded then you would have killed me. I'm supposed to be, what, happy about this?"
"No," Sam said. "But at least you're not pretending that everything's okay."
"Well, everything's not okay," Dean said. "Fine. I admit it. Are you happy now? Can we stop talking about it?"
"No," Sam said. Dean sighed. "Look, we have to talk about this."
"Why?" Dean demanded. "I'm happy not talking about it. Really."
"Because you're walking around thinking that I want you dead, and I don't," Sam said. Dean gave him a skeptical look. "Honestly, I don't. That spirit was possessing me, and-"
"It wasn't possessing you," Dean interrupted.
Well, that stopped Sam cold. "What?"
"It wasn't possessing you. It just increased any anger that was close to the surface to true rage. It's what he was doing as a doctor when he was alive, only it worked better as a spirit."
"Are you sure?" Sam asked. It had felt like it was possessing him.
"Yeah," Dean said, sounding really irritated now. "The bastard tried to do for me before I torched the body, you think I don't know what the hell it was doing?"
"Oh," Sam said. "I didn't know that."
"Yeah, that was because I had to knock you unconscious because you tried to kill me," Dean said. "And yeah, I believe you that you don't want to kill me now. But all that shit you said? That was one hundred percent you, and we both know it. So don't pull the 'I was possessed; it wasn't my fault' card with me, because it's bullshit."
Ouch. Okay, so, that was kinda what he was trying to get at, but with less of the pissed-offed-ness. He could work with this. Really.
"It wasn't me, really," Sam said, then held up a hand to stop him when Dean opened his mouth to protest. "No, listen. I thought that stuff, yeah, but we both know that I never would have said it. I never would have said those things to you, and I sure as hell never would have shot you. You have to know that."
"Yeah, I do," Dean said, and Sam was just about to sag with relief when Dean said, "Is that supposed to make it better? That you can think that about me, but just don't say it? Not exactly helping your case, little bro."
Ah, shit. Sam had forgotten that. "Okay, fine. Some of it was true. Yeah, I do hate the way you just toss out orders. And yeah, I hate that you just follow Dad's orders blindly without thinking that maybe he doesn't know what the hell he's doing sometimes. But I don't think you're pathetic, and I don't hate you. And I'd never hurt you."
"Unless I got you angry enough," Dean said. "Not hurting me when you're in control of yourself and not wanting to hurt me are two entirely different things, Sam. Didn't they teach you that in college? Or am I the only one who's too stupid to think for himself?"
Sam winced. "Dean, I don't want to hurt you. But that thing hit, and it was like I couldn't even think past my anger. It was rage, like you said. After it left me-"
Dean interrupted him, with an expression on his face that said he couldn't stand to listen to any more of Sam's bullshit. "Sam, that thing took you over because you were pissed. At me. You know what happened when it started frying my brain? I torched its ass. I didn't go, 'Right, now would be a good time to shoot my brother,' I fought back. And you didn't, which says something about the state of your anger before it attacked. Are you getting any of this, or do you have any more bullshit rationalizations for why you hate me that much?"
Sam just shook his head. What could he say? He didn't hate Dean. He didn't. Yeah, he had some issues with his brother, but they were his issues, damn it, and for the most part they had more to do with his own fucked-up mind than anything Dean did. He got pissed at himself for always looking like an idiot around Dean and for always wanting something that he couldn't have because hello, incest, and he tended to turn that anger around in his head till it was aimed at Dean because it was really fucking hard to hate yourself that much all the time. But he didn't really hate Dean. The only problem with that was, there was no way to explain this all to Dean and still leave out the self-doubt and incestuous leanings, so he couldn't explain himself. He couldn't really do anything to change Dean's mind. And so Dean was left thinking that his brother hated him and Dean was really, really pissed off about it.
"Good. Then you will shut the fuck up and listen to me for a change."
Dean was probably operating at the same level of rage that Sam had been under the spirit's influence. Even if he wasn't he was the angriest Sam had ever seen him, not even in his teen years or that time that Sam had accidentally attracted the attention of a werewolf when he should have been in the car. But Dean was in absolute control of himself, and the combination of his white-hot rage and icy control was really fucking scary.
"The worst thing," Dean said, in a conversational tone that sent little creepy-crawlies down Sam's spine, "is not that you think I boss you around. Never mind the fact that you tell me what to do just as often, and I actually listen. Or did it escape your notice that when you told me to back off and let the spirit communicate with the girl, even though it could have killed her if you were wrong, I did it?"
Sam said nothing.
"It's not that I can't trust you anymore, because honestly, I didn't trust you before. You had my back when we went in, sure, but there was no way you were sticking around for the long haul. You don't give a damn about me or trying to help people; you just want to kill shit and find Dad so you can get your goddamned revenge. First chance you got you were gonna be off again, just like before, and there's no way in hell that I was ever gonna trust you when I knew you wanted to be anywhere but here."
Okay, that hurt. And it was definitely unfair. Sam loved his brother, would never just take off on him like Dean was saying- except he had, back when he left for college, and he hadn't given Dean any warning. Just one big fight with his Dad when he wanted to go to Stanford and then he was packing his bags and gone the next morning, ignoring Dean who was begging him to stay, begging him to at least wait, and he never really did say a goodbye. And Dean had tried to talk to him for two solid years before finally taking the hint, and Sam hadn't heard a word from him for two years until he'd come back looking for help. So maybe Dean had reason to think that he'd do it again… But didn't he realize that Sam wouldn't do that again, that he wasn't an angry teenager anymore, that he'd grown up?
No, Sam realized. He didn't know that. Because Sam hadn't given him a damn bit of reason to think otherwise. God, he was so stupid sometimes. How was it that he'd spent four years trying to be normal and he couldn't even tell his brother that he loved him? Dean did it every day, with and without words, backing him up, looking out for him, patching up his wounds and saving his ass. And Sam had never even said thank you.
Fuck, no wonder Dean thought Sam hated him.
"It's not that you think I'm a pathetic loser who can't see outside of his Dad's shadow," Dean continued inexorably. "Even though you never considered that there was a reason I did this, not just because Dad said so. Because this is what I want to do. Because I think saving people from monsters is a hell of a lot more useful than becoming just another lawyer arguing divorce cases between rich people or whatever the fuck you were gonna do. Because you never even bothered to ask me before condemning me.
"The absolute worst thing," Dean said, seeming to get larger in his anger, till he was taller, way taller than Sam, or maybe that was because Sam had fallen back to sit on the edge of the bed in his retreat from Dean's formidable rage, all directed at him, "is what a fucking hypocritical asshole you are. The way you go on and on about how wrong Dad was, how he never should have started his crusade, how we had a fucked-up childhood- blah, blah, blah. Did you even listen to yourself after the funeral, up in the mountains? Dad wasn't there and if I hadn't pushed you would have just turned around and walked right back out, leaving that family to die up there, eaten alive by the Wendigo. If I hadn't pushed you'd still be doing that, hunting Dad down like a dog and fuck everyone who needs our help, because you want revenge. You're just like him, only you're a million times worse because at least he made it into a crusade, at least he fucking helped people who were in the same boat he was, and all you want to do is get revenge for your dead girlfriend."
Dean paused just long enough to take a deep breath. "Yeah, you loved her. Well, Dad loved Mom, and I loved Mom, and maybe you were too young to remember her and so that's why you never got it, but I thought that maybe once you'd been hit by the same fucking tragedy you might, just might get it, but no. You're just like Dad and then act like everything he did was so, so wrong. So guess what, Sammy? You've turned into your own worst nightmare. Grow the fuck up and get over it."
Sam didn't even have words. He just… couldn't think. Was he really acting like that? Was he really as bad as Dad? Or was he, like Dean said, so much worse? It wasn't exactly the most comfortable thought in the world to be having, but Dean had one hell of a point.
"And at least I," Dean said, by way of conclusion, "managed to tell you this without shooting you first."
Sam exploded. "Look, I fucking apologized for that!" he yelled. "I tried and tried to explain and you wouldn't listen!"
"Because you were feeding me bullshit!" Dean yelled back. "And yeah, I remember your apology. 'Look, man, about back there, I'm kinda sorry but it wasn't my fault,'" Dean said, rubbing the back of his neck in a mockery of Sam. "Yeah, it was real fucking inspiring. I could tell how much you cared that you'd just tried to kill me." He sighed and turned away, his anger fading and his shoulders slumping with hurt. "Fuck, Sammy. If you'd just said that you were sorry and actually meant it, I wouldn't have cared. I'd've said fine, sure, and we'd've gone back the hotel and it would've been okay. But you couldn't even be bothered to make an apology after blowing chunks out of my chest with my own fucking shotgun." He paused and swallowed, and Sam listened to it catch painfully at the back of his throat and knew his brother was choking back tears. Tears, when he hadn't seen Dean cry since he was twenty-two and watching Sam walk out the door for college. "Tell me. Tell me, Sam, why the hell I should listen to anything you have to say?"
It came to him, then. The missing fucking element, or whatever it was called. The element he'd been missing, anyway, because he was so wrapped up in himself to realize that his brother wasn't he smiling charmer with a gun that Dean pretended to be. He'd seen glimpses, in the way Dean had empathized with Haylee over losing her brother, in the way Dean had connected with Lucas, in every person that Dean had tried and tried to save when Sam had thought about just driving away. He'd seen it in the way Dean had tried to explain their father, tried to make Sam understand who he really was and what this life meant to him, what Sam meant to him, but Sam hadn't been listening. He'd missed it, missed what Dean was really trying to say. Six months of Dean never shutting up, and it all had really boiled down to three words-
"I love you," Sam said, and Dean whipped around, stared at him like Sam had stabbed him. Maybe, in a way, he had.
"I love you," he said again. "I'm sorry I never told you before. I'm sorry that you thought I'd leave you without a second glance. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when I went to college. I'm sorry I didn't say goodbye. I'm sorry I almost killed you, but sorrier that I made you think I hate you because I don't, and I never have. I'm sorry I pushed you into talking about this when I want to, but I couldn't bear the thought that you were mad at me- I never could. I'm not sorry that we talked about it, because if we haven't I might never have said this, and I will never be sorry that I finally understand."
Dean looked like he was about to cry, or throw up, or just have a heart attack and die right there on the carpet of the dingy hotel room. "What?" he finally asked, his voice nothing but a whisper. "What do you understand?"
"There's never been anyone but you," Sam said. "No one else can get to me like you do. No one else means as much to me as you do. And the thing that I'm the most sorry for is that it took me this long to realize it."
Dean took a step forward and looked like he was about to collapse, so Sam just reached up and pulled him down till he was sitting on the bed next to him. And from there it was just sort of a natural progression to wrap one arm around Dean's shoulders and pull him against his chest. Hell, he'd never get used to being taller than Dean, but sometimes it was pretty fucking cool. This was one of those times.
Dean let himself be maneuvered, which said something right there, so Sam just let his head tilt to the side till his cheek was resting against the top of Dean's head. Fuck. Dean. In his arms. Dean, his brother, the only person who's ever really touched him like he was precious, like he could break. Like he wasn't stronger than everything in the world, because Dean was the strong one and they both knew it, knew that Dean would always protect Sam, would always be there to lean on. And now Dean was leaning on Sam, and it was all Sam could do not to kiss him because this- this was what love felt like.
Dean twisted a little in his arms, ignored Sam's subvocal protests and squirmed around till he was still held loosely in the cradle of Sam's arm but wasn't leaning against him anymore. Sam had kinda slouched down a little, and Dean was sitting straight up, and Sam's height was mostly leg anyway and so there were eye to eye, nose to nose and Dean leaned in closer.
And kissed him.
Sam was pretty much too shocked to kiss back. Dean was kissing him, and it was like something out of his fantasies, only without the almost-death and rage and fighting and confessions beforehand. Some distant part of his brain was able to recognize that, yeah, Dean was just as good a kisser as he'd always bragged about, and Sam was just about to rouse himself enough to kiss back when Dean pulled away, breathing a little faster.
"I'm not sorry," Dean said, looking scared and defiant. "Take a swing at me if you want, but I'm not sorry. I've wanted to do that since you were sixteen."
Sam gaped at him. "Really?"
Dean hitched his shoulders in a tiny shrug. "In the spirit of confession, and everything."
"Well, shit," Sam said, still staring at him. Dean started to look really uncomfortable, his gaze shuttling back and forth as he tried to look everywhere but at Sam.
"Uh, Sammy? If you're gonna lay one on me, I'd just as soon you got it over with."
"Oh, I'll lay one on you alright," Sam muttered, and before Dean got a chance to have more than the beginnings of a panic, Sam leaned forward and kissed him back.
Dean, unlike Sam, was not incapacitated by shock. He hesitated for a tiny moment, a noticeable is-this-really-happening pause, and then gave what Sam knew from long experience was a "fuck it" shrug and then went for it.
Three minutes later Sam found himself flat on his back with his brother stretched out above him, pressed against every inch, hands buried in his too-long hair and kissing him beyond breathless. Sam didn't care about little things like needing to breathe, because- Dean. Kissing. Him. Who needed oxygen?
Finally Sam regained enough of his thought processes to shove at Dean's shoulders, and Dean let Sam roll him over. They were dangerously close to edge of the tiny motel bed, now, but neither of them seemed to care because honestly, they had better things to be thinking about.
It took some fumbling but Sam got their jeans open. Of course, he would have managed it faster if Dean hadn't been trying to "help," and instead just getting in the way. Sam finally batted his hands out of the way and did the job himself, sighing with relief when his cock was finally freed from its denim prison.
His sigh of relief immediately turned into a choked moan as Dean got his hand between them again and took his cock in a firm grip. Dean jacked him quickly and expertly, his own cock rubbing into the hollow of Sam's hip. His rhythm started to deteriorate as they both got closer to coming, and minutes later Sam was panting and thrusting into Dean's grip through the throes of his orgasm. Dean followed him not long after, spilling over Sam's skin and the waistband of his jeans.
Sam collapsed onto the bed beside his brother, panting loudly in the quiet of the motel room. Neither one of them said anything for several minutes, just lay there and recovered as their breathing evened out a little.
"Well," Dean said finally. "That was different."
And just like that, Sam was laughing. "You're such a dick," he said, shoving at Dean halfheartedly with one shoulder. Dean teetered and almost fell off the bed, but at the last minute he whipped one hand out and clung to Sam's hip for balance, and managed to pull himself back onto the bed.
"You weren't complaining about it five minutes ago," he muttered, then shoved at Sam. "Scoot over; I'm fallin' off the bed here."
"Whatever," Sam said, but he moved over. They both wriggled out of their shirts and jeans, and then Dean moved after him and plastered himself against Sam's side, one leg thrust between his and one arm sprawled possessively over his stomach, his head resting on Sam's chest and his warm breath fluttering against Sam's nipple with every exhalation. Sam couldn't help but laugh at him. "Man, who knew you were a cuddler?"
"Fuck off," Dean said, without any real heat. "I'll move when you can make me, bitch."
"Nah, it's good," Sam said, still chuckling a little. They fell into silence for a minute, before Sam remembered a question that he'd had before he'd gotten distracted. "Have you really wanted me since I was sixteen?"
Dean laughed. "Yeah," he said. "You'd finally grown into your long legs and shit, but you were hot. I was such a perv. I would have been arrested for it even if you weren't my brother, you know, because you were fucking sixteen and I was almost old enough to drink, and then there was the part where we were brothers, so I just ignored it and locked it away."
Sam thought about it for a second. Now that he was seeing things in a different light, he could definitely remember the time when he was sixteen when Dean changed around him, stopped touching him so much, and stopped letting Sam crawl into his bed when he had nightmares that he didn't yet realize weren't always nightmares.
"That was when you stopped calling me Sammy," he realized out loud.
"You weren't a kid anymore," Dean said. "Me noticing you like that proved it, if nothing else. So I stopped treating you like one."
"So why call me Sammy now?"
"I don't call you Sammy now."
"Not unless you're pissed about something, no, but before. On the first job. You called me Sammy. Why?"
"To remind myself that you were my kid brother," Sam mumbled into his chest. Sam thought for a second that he'd heard him wrong, but when he poked Dean and Dean lifted up his head a little, Dean was blushing, which pretty much confirmed it. Plus, it had to be the cutest thing ever- Dean never blushed.
"What?" Dean demanded, in response to Sam's look. "You filled out. Okay?"
"Sure," Sam said, and Dean laid his head back down, grumbling to himself. Sam smiled a little and added, "I wasn't the only one who filled out, you know."
"What was that?" Dean said, not bothering to lift his head up so that he could hear better. Prick.
"I said, I wasn't the only one who filled out. You've got some meat on you now, bro," Sam said, letting one hand curl around Dean's bicep. "What, you hit a growth spurt while I was gone?"
"I'm twenty six fucking years old, Sam," Dean said in a long suffering voice. "I'm done with growth spurts."
"You're twenty-seven. Don't think I'd forgotten that your birthday was last month."
"Thanks for fucking reminding me," Dean groaned. "And I just hunted more, was all. Need muscle if I'm going to be wrestling with werewolves or whatever." He lifted his head up to glare at Sam. "If you knew my birthday was last month, then where was my fucking present, huh?"
"I saved your life," Sam said dryly. Dean tilted his head quizzically. "The banshee, remember?"
"Oh yeah," Dean said. "But that doesn't count. We save each other's lives every other week, practically."
"So, what, I still owe you a present?"
"Goddamn right," Dean said. "Preferably something leather."
Sam smiled at him, though it came out more of a happy grin than the leer he'd intended, and tugged Dean up for a kiss. "I'll see what I can do," he whispered against Dean's mouth, and Dean smiled back at him before giving him a kiss.
Later, when Dean was conked out across Sam's body and Sam was laying awake at night, he thought about how things had changed. About how goddamn lucky he was, to have Dean. About how for once, he wasn't awake fighting insomnia, but was fighting to stay awake, because he didn't want the day to end.
"Stop thinking," Dean said muzzily against his throat. "'S keeping me awake."
Sam grinned down at him in the dark and pressed a kiss to the top of his forehead. Dean shifted sleepily in response. "Goodnight, Dean," he whispered. "Sweet dreams."
"You too," Dean said, and then was asleep again. Sam thought about it for a minute, then smiled to himself. Sweet dreams, huh?
Tonight, he just might.