Summary: Sam Winchester's life has never been normal. He tried getting away from it and what he found was that he was even less normal than he had thought. Because missing your brother is one thing; suddenly wishing he could kiss you is something else entirely.
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural and I am not making any kind of profit out of this. It's purely for the entertainment of the fans.
A/N: Unfortunately, this is unbeta'd. I really hope there aren't too many mistakes. Any good kind of criticism is rather welcomed! Enjoy…
Sam is nineteen years old the first time he realizes he's in love with Dean.
He's been at Stanford for a year now and life is good. It's more than that actually, it's great and everything he had hoped it would be. Two weeks ago he met Jessica, the best friend anyone could ever ask for; sweet, witty, pretty Jessica. Days go by and he thinks he has never met anyone like her—only, he really has—and yesterday she had called him, had asked him if he would accompany her to the movies ("no one else would want to watch Frankenstein with me, Sam! Save me from my Neanderthal friends"). Sam had smiled and shaken his head and he had said of course, how could he miss it?
They had met up in the theatre after that and she had beamed at him and Sam had found butterflies having suddenly taken residence in his stomach and when she had called loud and happy, "hey, Sam!" his breath had caught and his knees had gone weak. He had found himself giddy around her for the rest of the evening, nervous, too, and delirious from all the happiness floating around them.
And when Becky asks today, "so, how'd it go?" he can't help but grin and gush out everything, recounting every little detail and she chuckles and pats his head like he's five years old while he makes a face at her and she says the five words that turn his world upside down.
"Somebody's got a crush!"
"No," he's quick to reply, because honestly, they did have an awesome time yesterday and yes, Jess is pretty hot, he has to admit that, but really, "it's not like that…"
"Uh-huh, sure," is all she says, completely unconvinced, "coz you didn't just act like a fifteen year old girl who got hit on by the school's heartthrob."
"No, yeah- I mean, it's not like that, really, we're friends."
"Sam, I'm pretty sure you're falling for her…"
"Oh, come on, Becky, that's just how I am when people get really close to me."
"Denial is nice, Sam, but you might wanna get over it, coz Jess is a great girl and really into you. You are kinda in love, you idiot."
"Sam, have you ever been in love?"
"Really? Haven't you ever felt like needing someone like your life depended on it, pined for her company and attention? You know, smiling just from being with just that girl or simply feeling like you couldn't breathe without her?" Becky asks like the questions are as important as sweet oxygen is and Sam knows what she means, kind of, he's not stupid, but that's not about falling in love, not exclusively. Because these are supposed to be pretty common feelings amongst family members, right?
"No, well, yeah but-"
"You know," Becky goes on ignoring him, "that one special girl that makes you act irrationally or stupidly and you still don't want to stop being with her. Feeling happy but sad, frustrated but confident, too. You know, being completely crazy around her."
"Uh- yeah, sure, but that was- that's- it was my-" Sam stops, a nervous, utterly mirthless laugh escaping his tight throat because there's never been a girl like that, never, just-
And that's where he freezes, realizing there is an obvious answer to all this, but- but…
This isn't about falling in love, is it? Is it? Cause it can't. It shouldn't.
His mind goes blank and he hasn't thought about that for a long time, thoughts and names and feelings he has tried to bury so deep inside that it comes as a shock now that the door has been opened without his consent, without him agreeing to let everything in.
A deep black hole opens up in his chest and it aches, it aches and cries out and he can't think, can't breathe, can't feel a damn thing but that ache that grows by the second, and why didn't he see it? How blind could he have been? How- why-? Everything in his mind collapses and his heart swells because the feeling is consuming him, and even though somehow it's always been there, barely acknowledged, lurking underneath layers of self-righteousness and pride and stubbornness, right now he needs space to take it in, accept it, because—God!—it's always been there, always, and how blind, how stupid-
The blood is pounding in his ears and he feels like he's ten feet underwater, completely unaware of his surroundings, the only thought left in his mind is that there's no logical explanation for the pressure he feels smothering him, pushing him under; a stupid, fleeting moment where he wonders if that's what an astronaut feels when he's in the space with no equipment and then he notices he can actually breathe and that's weird, because it sure as hell feels like there's no oxygen getting to his brain. And really, honestly, he's supposed to be smart, he's read a hundred books, has watched a million movies even if he had always kind of thought that they were exaggerating, artistic license or some shit, but he should've looked closer maybe, he should've seen it, realized that-
Sam knows a panic attack when he sees and especially when he's close to one and right now he's on the verge panicking, his brain going full on emergency mode and he thinks he might even start hyperventilating.
"Sam?" comes Becky's voice and he starts because she's right there, how could he have forgotten she's right there, not even five feet from him and still, her voice comes from far away, from another space and time; from another life.
"I-I, sorry, Becky, I got- uh…I just remembered I got this- this thing…" he stands awkwardly and clumsily, like he's fifteen years old all over again, full of limbs and angles and a body that doesn't belong to him.
"Sam? Are you okay?" Becky asks now worriedly and he reassures her as best as he can and the next minutes pass in a daze as he tries to hold on to some shred of sanity, because he's falling apart and he needs some time alone—how could he have been so blind? How could he have missed all the signs? Why didn't he see it?
He finds himself in a room—his own, he notes detachedly—alone, and his mind is reeling, it's all spinning out of control and he hates that—having no control.
Eleven months and sixteen days.
He usually pretends he doesn't count, but he does. He counts every single day since he up and left; since he was kicked out; since he last saw Dean.
And he misses him—so damn much. Every single one of those three hundred and fifty days he's missed his brother in all the ways he never expected, but he's a stubborn son of a bitch. He doesn't deny it, he hasn't ever tried to. He's a stubborn—too stubborn, a voice in his mind hisses—son of a bitch and when he left he didn't do it on a spur of a moment. He left because he had wanted it, planned it, chased it. And yeah, Dean had said as he had been packing before leaving in that low, private voice between them, "call me if you need anything—anything, Sammy," but Sam had been okay. He is okay. He hasn't needed anything from his brother. He hasn't needed him—yet…
He does. Always will. He hadn't even known how to be without him at first, angry that the lingering sense of Dean followed him around, making him feel small and hopeless and still not his own person. But he had slowly learnt; opened a deep hole in his heart and buried everything as deep as they would go. And still, he misses him so much when he cares to admit it and he has to wonder that really, who could ever compare to Dean?
No one is like his brother. No one could ever be—yet, Sam has always believed his brother is essentially everything every man should be—everything he had hoped in some ways to become, everything he had admired and respected when growing up.
He wants to see Dean now, the need and ache in his chest growing with every stupid little memory his mind supplies him with and he wants to see him so he can punch him for being rooted so deeply in him. Tears well in his eyes, because—fuck—he loves him; he loves him so much that he doesn't know how to breathe now he has realized it.
His hand automatically flies to his phone and his finger hovers over the speed dial—number one. Dean has always been number one and with a start he realizes how absolutely true that is. It's always been Dean. Everything he did or didn't do was because of or for Dean. Dad may have given the orders, but it was always Dean that asked Sam to follow them. If it weren't for Dean, Sam would have probably ignored his Dad until sense was beaten into him or simply ran away and stayed gone. The one and only time he had tried to do the latter an impulse based on frustration mixing bad with hormones at thirteen years old, he had gone back and didn't do it again because Dean, maybe for the very first time, had let Sam see the fear in his eyes, the anger and disappointment.
His finger hovers over the button and his breath catches, realizes he's going to hear his brother's voice and an other panic attack comes right then and he suddenly can't function at all because, damn—his brother.
He's deeply in love with his brother. His brother who infuriates him and makes him wanna punch something; the brother who's always protected him and been there for every painful step of the way, never asking for anything for himself; the brother who teases him and still sees him as a kid; the brother who's loved him no matter what.
He's in love with Dean and he's ready to call him and tell him- what exactly? It's not like anything has changed. Sam's still in college and planning his life ahead, a life he doesn't want to abandon, and Dean's still living the same fucking life Sam sacrificed everything to leave behind—still living the life he chose over Sam.
And that's when the stubbornness and anger kicks in again and he shudders because the hole in his chest refuses to diminish, instead it darkens and deepens and he needs, he needs like a starved man, but still, he puts his phone back in his pocket and closes his eyes.
But before he even has time to pull his hand away, the phone rings and he starts, a shiver running down his spine as he pulls the phone out, blinking three times to make sure that his eyes are not playing any tricks, because right there, on the light green screen of his cell phone, is his brother's name.
He picks it up and pushes the phone against his ear. He doesn't speak, he thinks he doesn't breathe either; he just waits.
"Sammy?" and that's when he lets himself take a deep breath because he feels like he's been too long underwater and Dean's voice along with the nickname are oxygen; pure, beloved, needed-more-than-anything oxygen.
"Hey, Dean," he says back and doesn't know what else to say, what else to do and he feels so stupid and young all of a sudden.
"Hey. Sam? Is-? How's…um…Is everything okay?" it doesn't make much sense and Sam's confused because Dean is never like that, he never stutters.
"Uh, yeah. Yes, why? Is everything okay with you? Has anything-?"
"What? No, no. No, everything's just fine. I just- I uh…never mind. Had this stupid feeling. So. How you been?" Sam considers the possibilities; he's lived too long with the supernatural a constant presence in his life to believe in coincidences. He doesn't say anything, though—like he could admit to Dean of all people how much he really needed him.
"I'm…good. Really. Everything is going really good."
"Yeah? That's great, Sammy. How's school?"
"It's interesting. You know, new people, new subjects, new environment. Kinda tiring me out, but, yeah, it's good, man."
"Glad to hear it, Sam. You did alright with the exams, right?" Dean states more than asks and Sam thinks it's a strange way to phrase this, and how could he have known?
"Yeah, I really did…How'd you know?"
"Never thought you wouldn't, geek-boy," and he can see Dean smiling, eyes crinkling at the corners with mirth, always enjoying teasing Sam, calling him stupid names, mostly proving that it's Dean who's the immature one. And Sam's heart clenches painfully, because he'd give anything to be right next to him in the Impala and punch his shoulder and watch as Dean laughs his throaty laughter that comes right from his heart.
"'M not a geek," he replies lamely and wants to kick himself for giving ammunition to his brother to call him a snot-nosed kid.
"Whatever you say Sammy…"
"So, where are you? Are you with- uh…are you on a hunt?" Yeah, that was subtle.
He can hear Dean's sigh and he's sorry, he rarely acknowledges it and when he does he feels guilty with every fiber of his being, and right now it's one of these moments—moments where he wishes he didn't put Dean in the middle of his and Dad's fights.
"Just finished up a job, southern Utah, ugliest fucking town you've ever seen. I swear these people put an effort on making a bad impression."
"Like it's the first one…"
"Nope, not the first one, bet not even the last one," Dean adds and then there's a prolonged silence, a battle of wills maybe. Dean waits for Sam to ask for real and Sam waits for Dean to say it either way. It's not a surprise when Dean breaks first. Sam doesn't think his brother has ever actively denied him anything.
"He's doing good, Sam. Left yesterday to see Pastor Jim. He misses you, you know. Maybe you should call him some time."
"He hasn't called me," Sam says stubbornly and he's positive he sounds like a reluctant ten-year-old. Dean's second sigh confirms it.
"Yeah, well he wasn't the one to leave."
"He was the one to kick me out."
"Okay, suit yourself. Doesn't matter really."
The way Dean says that makes Sam suddenly ill, sadness overwhelming him as if he's watching a car heading to a cliff and noting that there's nothing he can do to help save the situation, like he's announcing a death, an irrevocable bad ending. He doesn't want to think of it like that, but it's true that he's never done anything to change the way things are—except for shouting and breaking things and banging doors. In retrospect, that may not have been the best way to make himself be heard, to make himself be understood.
He wants to ask Dean if he'll come visit him and almost snorts. Yeah, that'd be a field day. He wants to tell him he misses him, wants to ask Dean again why he chooses to stick with that god-awful life…he thinks that might be an even worse idea than the first one. "I went to see Frankenstein yesterday," he says instead.
"Yeah?" Dean says and there's a small laugh accompanying the word and Sam wants to bury himself in that sound, crawl underneath Dean's skin and live there, hearing and feeling every little laugh his brother makes. "What a movie, man…Remember that town outside Michigan? Swear to God, that was the creepiest theatre to watch Frankenstein in."
"Yeah, I remember," he responds softly and he does, like it was yesterday. He was clutching Dean's hand so tight, a gesture he wasn't embarrassed about at nine years old, the theatre looming over them with half the lights out and the other half barely shedding any light. He had felt excited that Dean was taking him to such a grown-up movie and since he had no idea how his brother had managed it, his complete hero-worship grew to even larger dimensions. The guy at the tickets had scared the crap out of him, and Dean, to this day, still insists he had whimpered, but then he had done the right big-brother thing to do, making fun of the monster throughout the whole movie, trying to keep Sam's (and his own, Sam is pretty sure) fear at bay. "I've never laughed so much while being scared shitless," Sam admits with a chuckle.
"I hear you, man…so did you make fun of it or tried to protect some chick's delicate senses?" he can hear Dean's usual leer in his voice, but there's something strained about it, like he's not sure he wants to know.
Sam thinks back on the night with Jess in the theatre and somehow it seems like it was a million years ago. It was fun, Jess doesn't scare easily, yet she wasn't all that relaxed either during the movie, grabbing Sam's hand a couple of times and squeezing until she calmed down and then withdrawing it gently almost shyly. He hadn't made fun of it though, hadn't laughed and pointed and recited the dialogue in funny voices like the last time he had done when he had watched it with Dean, almost two summers ago, in a surprisingly big town for their usual standards.
"No, no making fun and there was no need to protect anyone's delicate senses. Just a night at the cinema with a friend," he has no idea why he doesn't mention Jess by name or how fun the whole night had been. He suspects that it has something to do with how much he doesn't want Dean to think he could ever have a better time with anyone in a movie than with him, but he doesn't try to analyze it any more than that. "So, where are you headed now?" he asks instead of continuing that pointless conversation, fully aware of the fact that he's changing the subject on purpose before his brother asks any more questions he doesn't know how to answer, maybe even expecting Dean to ask if he wants to come by, refusing to ask himself.
He figures it's not his fault that he can't bring himself to ask for such a stupidly simple thing, he has barely ever needed to ask anything from Dean. Somehow his big brother has always known what Sam needed and gave it to him before Sam had even began thinking of how to ask.
"Don't know, Las Vegas isn't so far away…for either one of us, you know. Wanna come up for some gambling and good ol' hustling?"
Sam almost chuckles, of course Dean would think of Las Vegas being so close to him. He remembers him bitching for hours when they'd be close but not close enough, wondering why there are never any ghosts in Las Vegas. He doesn't say yes, though, the thought of Dean surrounded by all that luxe and money and beautiful women makes his stomach turn for some reason.
And the depression crashes him with all its force; the impossibility of the situation taking him almost by surprise, the need to see his brother, crawl in a bed beside him and ask him every little annoying question that will keep Dean from sleeping, laughing at his expense, rolling on top of him to crash him with all his weight and the sudden vision of Dean kissing him that has him staring dumbly at his left foot, the newness of the image a strange mix of want and sickness, because it's his brother—his big brother—and he probably has felt this for so long that he didn't acknowledged it as anything unusual because there was nothing else to compare it to. And yet, he doesn't know how to approach Dean, having lived with him for eighteen solid years, and he doesn't know how to cross the bridge, tell him he wants to see him, when he doesn't want to want it, because he just shouldn't, not like the way he does now, anyway.
Sam can feel a headache coming and it's a welcome distraction from all the confusing thoughts. He also realizes that Dean is probably waiting for an answer because he really wasn't kidding about Las Vegas.
"You know I hate gambling, Dean. Besides, I'm not so good at hustling," it's a poor excuse and they both know it.
"Sure you're good at hustling. I taught you, you're one of the best!"
"How could I forget?" Nobody has ever claimed his brother is a modest guy and Dean has never tried to prove himself otherwise.
"I get it, Sammy, it's okay," Dean answers and Sam wishes he knew how to make Dean not sound so defeated, knew how to find the strength to ask him to visit. "Besides," Dean goes on, "Dad will probably need me in a couple of days, so I'd better be ready to get on the road."
"Are you going out tonight?" Sam asks because he can't think of anything else that he considers a safe topic for conversation and he doesn't want to hang up, not yet.
"Nuh…I have this nasty bruise all over my back and I'm not too keen on moving right now," he says it so casually that anyone could believe that it really is nothing serious at all. But Sam knows his brother, he knows him better than anyone and the casual way he says it means he doesn't want to worry Sam because his back is completely fucked up.
"What happened, Dean? Why didn't you mention it? Am I keeping you up? You need to sleep?" he can't help it, the words are purring out of his mouth without checking with his brain first and he wonders how bad Dean really is and if Sam had said yes, would Dean have come all the way to Las Vegas to see him even in the state he was?
"Chill, dude. It's nothing too bad. Just landed on the wrong side of the graveyard when I pissed off a spirit. It's not like I've never been injured before."
"And Dad left you like that? What if it gets worse, what if you needed something?"
"Sam." Dean's voice is stern and Sam shuts up, an immediate reaction to that tone of his brother's voice. He's annoyed he obeys so easily. "It's nothing. You think it's the first time I get hurt on a job since you left? I can manage on my own, Sam. I don't need somebody to watch over me like I'm some kind of invalid. It's just some bruises, relax."
And he feels stupid again because it's obvious that Dean doesn't need someone to watch over him; it's Dean who always watches over someone else. And of course he's been injured before; just because Sam stopped talking to him doesn't mean that suddenly Dean stopped being the reckless idiot he's always been. The jobs are almost always dangerous, that's the main reason he wanted out. But he hadn't thought that while he was living his safe life, Dean's own was still in danger every other day. The thought of him lying in a hospital while Sam was out for a drink with his friends, strikes him out of the blue and he has the sudden urge to drive all the way out to Utah, just to make sure he's okay, that he hasn't been injured too bad while Sam wasn't around to stitch him up.
"Stop emoing, Sam. I can feel it all the way over here. I'm fine, I can send you my medical records of the past year to make sure if you want."
"Don't joke about things like that, Dean. You could've broken your back!"
"I know, Sam, and it's still my choice to keep doing the job. That's why you left, isn't it? Stay away from the dangers and the worrying and be normal? So, stop worrying, it's not like it's the first—or the last—time," Dean says and he's not really angry, it's just crystal clear that he's not happy with the way this conversation is heading.
Sam is not angry either. He's just very much irritated because Dean is right, again. He just doesn't want to admit it because that would mean he's even more selfish than he had thought and right now he doesn't need any more self-hate than he already has. The word 'incest' making sure he doesn't forget that.
"Fine," he says with resignation, "you're right, sorry for worrying if my big brother is okay!" He hadn't planned on saying anything, let alone snapping at Dean and he's stunned at how easily the words came out of his mouth, bitter and acerbate.
"Don't talk to me like that, Sam, like you really care…One year—one fucking year—and you didn't call not once. I could've been a million times in the hospital, we could have died, Sam, and you wouldn't know! So, don't talk to me like you have the right to lecture me on how I take care of myself!" This time Dean is angry and Sam wonders how he manages to always bring them right here, every single time, he finds a way to mess them up even more than they already are.
"I do care. I- fuck, Dean. I do care, you know I do," he says and his voice sounds soft and young and it's more like he's pleading than stating the love and worry he carries around inside him, buried most of the time underneath everything else.
There is a pregnant silence and Sam, for a few horrible moments, thinks that this is it; that Dean is not going to respond and he'll just hang up on him. Then he hears Dean breathe out and he lets himself relax a fraction more.
"Yeah, I know," is all Dean says in a voice that's too much like Sam's own.
Sam doesn't understand it. He can't figure out for the life of him, why he feels the way he does. It's impossible. He can't even have a civilized conversation with Dean anymore. He infuriates him, he really, really does. He feels like he has to scream for Dean to get what he says and he would need physical force to make him see his point of view, make him understand. Dean angers Sam in ways no one else ever has, not even Dad, simply because it's Dean and he should be able to get him, agree with him. Yet, no matter what, Sam still can't understand how he had never seen how much he loved his brother, how much in love he was with him. It doesn't make sense. He can't want Dean as much as he does when he also wants to actually beat reason into him. He shouldn't want him as much as he does; he simply shouldn't.
"I gotta go, Sammy. I- look, it was good talking to you. I'm glad you're doing fine."
"Yeah, it was good talking to you, too, Dean." Call me again is all he wants to add and he tries to force the words out, but they get stuck somewhere in his throat and all he manages is a weird sound like he's choking.
"Take care of yourself, Sammy. Call me if you need anything, yeah?" and it's so casual, like they only saw each other the other day and Sam wonders how Dean does it, how he finds the words and he wants to hug him because he doesn't have any words of his own right now to offer.
"Yeah, take care of yourself and Dad, too, okay?"
"You know I always do, Sam."
"Yeah…you always do," Sam says and they don't say good-bye, they don't say 'talk to you soon', there's no point. They hung up at the same time and Sam stares for a long moment at his phone wondering how his so very neat and carefully built world has turned upside down so suddenly.
He goes to bed that night and dreams of Dean running in a forest, through a graveyard, down the corridor of a messed up house; Dean chasing something, being chased by something, getting hurt, getting stitched up, running again and again. It's not the first time and he knows it won't be the last.
It's the first time, though, he dreams of Dean leaning into him, pressing soft lips against the corner of his mouth, taking Sam's face in his hands and backing him against a wall and kissing him and holding him close as if he were something precious and fragile; something to take good care of. He suspects it won't be the last time, either.
The next day he gets up and after he goes through his morning routine he calls Jessica and officially asks her out. He figures, if he's going to live the normal, apple-pie life, he may as well start with having strong feelings for someone who is not related to him and can actually be with him.
His big brother who insists on hunting monsters doesn't fit the bill. Sam doesn't think that means he'll ever stop being in love with Dean.