Writer's Note: Hello! Worked on this story over the weekend. Planning on posting literally every day - the story should be finished and complete within the week.
Chapter 1: Ante Up, Gentleman
"Could you.." Sam batted Dean's hand off his shoulder irritably, "-not?"
"What? I'm just messin' with ya," Dean roughly ruffled Sam's hair, which was still growing out from the Nair incident.
"Dean, Jesus Christ, stop!" Sam hit Dean's hand off him again and turned to stare daggers. Dean snickered.
"Seriously, it's not funny," Sam yelled, furious at his brother's amusement. He was sitting at the small table studying math while Dean had been hovering over him calling out random numbers to throw him off.
At Dean's apparent lack of regard, Sam gave a sharp shove at his brother to push him away. Dean guffawed as he took a mock-step backwards.
"Ah you're weak!" Dean laughed, about to step back into Sam's space. Before he could, Sam stood up to face his brother.
"Dean, seriously, stop it!" Sam shouted just as Dean went in for the kill. Sam backed up against the wall as Dean tried to floor him.
"Stop it! DEAN!" Sam roared, livid, as he struggled against Dean's hold. Dean wasn't taking no for an answer though, and just as he wrapped his leg around Sam's ankles to leverage him down, he felt a hard punch to his temple.
"Ah, what the fuck, Sam?!" Dean grunted, letting go and backing up as he held his head. The back of his knees found the bed and he sat down. "No head shots, you asshole," he whispered vehemently as he blinked at the floor, dazed.
"You know what I would really fucking love, Dean? I would really appreciate it if you just didn't touch me, okay?!" Sam yelled, pissed that he had to resort to punching Dean like that just so he could get through to him that he didn't want to horse around.
"Dude, relax," Dean grumbled tiredly, sore from the hit.
"No! Screw you! I said no and you didn't back off - seriously, just don't touch me. Starting now, okay?!"
"Whatever, man," Dean murmured, lifting himself off the bed and walking into the bathroom. He slammed the door shut. Sam sat back down at the desk and flicked his pencil angrily as he stared at his textbook, seething.
It was the last straw; Dean had been bothering Sam a lot lately and Sam was sick of it. He really wanted the new rule to stick: Dean should leave him alone. Dean shouldn't touch him or his stuff. If Dean could manage it, it'd be really fucking great if Dean could just pretend for one day that Sam didn't exist so that Sam could actually breathe.
It wasn't a lot to ask: Dean had dad, he had hunts, he had bars and women to entertain him. Meanwhile Sam was trying to make friends and keep up his grades as a freshman in high school. Their lives weren't matching up and Sam was pissed that Dean wasn't noticing - that Dean wasn't distancing from him even though every normal sibling would.
Fuck, what Sam wouldn't give just to feel normal.
He resolved that night, gritting his teeth as he stared at his textbook, to emphasize distance between them. It was part of growing up and he was fourteen. He didn't depend on Dean anymore and his own streak of independence ran so strong that he was getting offended every time Dean interacted with him. Everything about Dean reminded him of being treated like a child. He was reaching a point of maturity that bluntly rejected the notion.
The following afternoon, Dean picked Sam up from school. Sam gave unusually glib answers to Dean's questions about his day. Later that evening, Dean gave Sam a small joking punch to his arm and Sam shied away from it.
"What's wrong with you? You're acting weird."
"No, nothing. It's just..." Sam trailed off, unsure.
"Just... What I said yesterday."
"What, about not touching you?" Dean asked, surprised that Sam was referring to the bizarre request he'd made the night before.
"Yeah. I... meant it," Sam said quietly. Inwardly, he was still holding his grudge; still boiling with contempt. He told himself it was for the best, though: siblings grow up to be equals. Dean would never see him as an equal if he kept messing with him and his stuff. Sam needed to draw the line.
Dean's brows furrowed with annoyed confusion, staring at Sam. Sam looked up at Dean, holding his brother's gaze to stress his sincerity. After a couple of beats, Dean's expression went blank and open.
"Uh, okay," Dean said slowly. Sam watched Dean as he visibly let it go and turned around to walk into the kitchen. He pulled the pasta off the stove and moved over to the sink, expertly maneuvering the pot's steaming contents into the colander. Sam held still a second with pursed lips, then looked back down at his textbook to resume his work. A few minutes later Dean announced dinner was ready and Sam padded in to grab a plate.
The following day Dean still asked about Sam's day when he picked him up from school. Sam replied with the same glib answers. Dean stopped asking questions earlier than he had the day before. Usually they chatted all the way back to the motel but halfway through, after hearing several bland monosyllabic responses from his little brother, Dean just fell silent and waited a few beats for Sam to offer anything more in the way of conversation. Sam, happy to keep his day to himself, sighed and looked out the window. Sam felt slightly uneasy but he quickly shrugged it off and relaxed when Dean moved to turn the music up. Sam quirked a smile: maybe this was progress. Maybe they're going to get along better now that they're not telling each other everything. Sam wondered how far it could go - how close to normal they could get.
"You look stressed out," Dean observed, turning his gaze from the TV screen to Sam. His booted feet were on a shelf, casually balancing as he tilted his chair back.
"I am stressed out," Sam replied irritably as he stared at his textbook, tapping his pen against it. Dean waited a few beats, expecting Sam to elaborate. But he didn't.
"What's... going on?" Dean prompted, obviously off-put that he had to ask a follow-up question.
"I have an exam tomorrow," Sam replied quickly, still staring at the textbook.
"Uh huh," Dean trailed, squinting his eyes in annoyance. Sam was making him feel like an interrogator. Sam sighed and reluctantly turned to look at Dean. Dean smothered his resentment in order to listen.
"I'm going over practice questions and I'm not getting the right answers for about a quarter them," Sam brushed his hand through his hair. He looked at the clock and gestured to the time: nine o'clock. "It's so late already too," he murmured.
"S'it before or after lunch?" Dean asked. Sam blinked, recognizing the practical question.
Dean nodded and wobbled his precariously-tilted chair forwards and backwards, thinking.
"Okay well," he landed the chair back down gently and swiveled his body to face Sam. "Let's work on it together," he suggested. Dean stood up and stretched, prepping himself. He approached the table Sam was working on and noticed his little brother's expression.
"What did you even get in geometry?" Sam asked. He knew his skepticism would come off as insulting, but he did it anyway because, well, he just didn't want Dean's help. His grades shouldn't be a group effort. They should be all his.
Dean bit his tongue and didn't take the bait. He shrugged.
"I don't remember. Doesn't matter, though," he said lightly, sitting down across from Sam at the table. "We'll work stuff together. It'll be like Team Sam. You can review alone at lunch tomorrow and then totally ace it, right?" Dean leaned forward and reached to pull Sam's notebook towards him as he spoke. Sam reacted, quickly pulling the papers away from Dean and closer to him. Dean looked up, confused.
"No, Dean. I have to focus-"
"I won't distract you-"
"Yeah. You will," Sam interrupted with a tone of finality. Dean cracked a smile, about to laugh until he looked into Sam's eyes.
The kid was dead serious.
Dean immediately let his hand drop and pulled back from the notebook. He licked his lips and nodded, glancing at the floor as he briefly allowed an expression of hurt confusion to pass.
"Dean it's just that these are my grades, you know? It's not like we're together on it. It's my ass on the line for this. I have to study really hard-" Sam explained as Dean pushed off his chair.
"Yeah yeah, no I get it, Sam," Dean replied, waving at Sam to quit talking as he walked into the kitchen. Sam stopped and watched Dean pull a beer from the fridge. He capped it using his ring and took a swig as he moved to lean against the side of the kitchen's door frame.
"Trust me. Doin' math is not my choice activity anyway," Dean chuckled. Sam gave a weak smile and settled his eyes back down to his work. Dean took another sip of his beer and watched Sam for a few seconds more, thinking as he swayed the bottle from its neck like a pendulum.
Sam felt the hairs raise on the back of his neck, knowing he was being watched.
"Y'know why don't you like, go to a bar or whatever?" Sam suggested innocently, looking up at Dean and finding immediate eye contact. Dean's eyebrows raised in surprise and he opened his mouth for a reply but none came.
"What?" He asked stupidly.
"You know, go out. Have fun. S'it's what you do. I'm just sitting here - I can't be the greatest of company right now," Sam reasoned even as he saw Dean grimace, shrug, and shake his head at the idea.
"Don't really feel like it," Dean replied casually. He walked back to his chair and grabbed the remote.
John arrived for the weekend and noticed how polite and civil his sons were to each other. On the surface, they were perfectly in sync, avoiding conflicts well and engaging in light pieces of general conversation. Nothing dramatic, but also nothing substantial either.
It'd been a couple weeks now, and Sam had noticed that Dean rarely went out anymore. It was driving him nuts even though Dean wasn't directly bothering him. He just... stayed in. Watched TV, read books, worked on the car, did research if their dad called and asked for it.
Dean had stopped asking Sam to do research with him and Sam was happy to be let off the hook on that. He had schoolwork to focus on and if Dean was willing to spare him, Sam was going to take it.
Writer's Note: Thank you so much for reading! What'd you think?! Please review/comment! ~ Alex Kerr