glovered: (highway)
[personal profile] glovered
Title: Man of Steel
Words: 7,400
Summary: Sam, strong and immovable at the worst of times, was at the end of the day just a man. And so was Dean.



There was a good explanation for all of it. Pen between his teeth, Thursday afternoon, Dean was innocently reading a semi-credible interview about a bigfoot sighting, just minding his own business. If he’d glanced up a second later, he might never have seen it, might never have realized. If he hadn’t looked up when he did, he would have continued perusing the details of bigfoot’s foot-speed until Sam was done with his haircut. Then they would have left to investigate the case and things would have stayed much the same. Dean would have lived on in ignorance. He would have been happy.

But as it was, life as he knew it ended there in the hair salon. While Dean chewed the cap of the pen in thought, Sam laughed. Dean’s eyes flicked up at that golden sound just in time to fully appreciate the stretch of Sam’s long, long legs, the pull of his stupid, ratty t-shirt over his chest, and the breadth of that smile, one that recalled to mind childhood mischief, lazy summer days spent splashing in lakes, and sundry secrets whispered in the dark for Dean’s ears only. He could almost hear the buzz of fireflies over the hard beat of his heart in his throat, and he forgot to take his next breath until he was light-headed with lack of oxygen.

Meanwhile, the hairdresser, a tattooed woman in her thirties, was combing out Sam’s wet hair and chatting about what plans she had for the mullet before her. Sam nodded in agreement and indicated the length he wanted cut. All the while Dean could do nothing but stare fixedly at the long line of Sam’s neck and wonder what the fuck he was going to do now that all the puzzle pieces of his existence had clicked into place and the picture was finally clear. Live a long and healthy life, probably, one of endless pain and misery.

"Well shit," he swore out loud, causing the woman next to him to start a little.

He glanced back down to the newspaper clutched in his sweaty hands but the eyewitness account of the large creature lurking near the community park no longer held the same appeal as it had just a moment ago. The gravity of his big, world-ending Feelings for Sam eclipsed it all.

Sam’s voice carried over the mix of salon conversations. "Yeah, just a little off the ends," he told the hairdresser, who nodded and combed her fingers through his wet bangs in a way that was a little intimate for Dean’s liking and—

Had that growl come from him?

The woman next to Dean took her magazine to a seat farther away. He sent her an apologetic smile but she had her face hidden firmly behind Teen Vogue and didn’t see it.

When Dean looked back, the hairdresser had Sam tipped back in the chair. Her mini-scissors gleamed menacingly as she made a show of shearing bits of Sam’s hair off, but really just seemed to be using her job as an excuse to drag her glittering red nails through Sam’s locks at intervals. Sam’s eyes fluttered closed even as Dean watched.

Dean didn’t fault him for it; Sam, strong and immovable at the worst of times, was at the end of the day, just a man.

And so was Dean. He knew his attention should be on the potential case, one that, if solved, could very well save multiple small children and one nice old lady, but instead he leaned forward, mouth growing dry as he watched Sam smile sleepily out from under his wet forelocks.

"That feel nice?" the woman asked.

"Mmm," Sam agreed sensually.

"Oh sweet virgin baby jesus," said Dean.

The haircut continued along that track until Sam had all but melted into the chair. Dean, no longer even trying to just do his job, found himself scandalized by the quiet groan that reached his ears, just audible across the salon.

And when the hairdresser told Sam, "I’m off at three today if you don’t have any plans," it was the final straw.

Dean stood, throwing his folded paper down onto the chair.

"What— Dean!"

Dean dragged Sam bodily out of the chair, across the shop, and out of range of possible paramours, dropping a twenty on the counter as he hustled him out.

"It’s ok, I was done anyway," the hairdresser called.

Out on the sidewalk, Sam glared at him, but what was worse he looked honestly a little bewildered. "What the hell, Dean?"

Dean felt bewildered himself. "It’s nothing," he said. The smile he attempted felt watered-down. "Let’s just hit the road."

Sam agreed but sent him surreptitious looks of concern for the whole ride until Dean switched on some soft rock that sent him right to sleep. After which Dean sent him surreptitious looks of his own, and once moved a stray lock of hair off his cheek to make him more comfortable.

The road stretched on forever, and Dean avoided the rearview mirror as he drove. Didn’t want to look himself in the eyes much today was all. This one was gonna take some getting used to.







Dean threw himself into his work, he really did.

He found case after case, saving what felt like half the midwest in the month of November alone, and had absolutely no time to explore whatever feelings he may or may not have at one point entertained. It had been but a fleeting moment in a long history of bad ideas.

He tracked a formidable monster to its lair under some kid’s bed in Oklahoma, making sure not to notice how heroic Sam looked wiping the now-dead monster’s blood off his machete, ruining the kid’s spaceman sheets. They saved an athlete from a cursed gold medal and Dean totally didn’t get pissed when the passably attractive runner thanked Sam with a hug that lasted a little too long. And after wrestling a grotesque creature with many legs around Thanksgiving, Dean proved his inner strength and totally normal feelings for Sam when he declined a shirtless back massage that Sam (big-hearted, strangely persistent Sam) offered to give him. He congratulated himself on being the very paragon of self-restraint, who always did the Right Thing.

He smiled fraternally when Sam got caught up in the computer cord and face planted onto one of the motel beds, and complained with real annoyance when Sam ate the last of his french fries right off his plate, the bastard.

He held onto this conviction with great tenacity well into December in fact, nary a stray thought passing his mind save the normal brotherly type.

Life was completely, utterly back to normal.







Libraries on weekdays were quiet. On the second Wednesday of December, Dean was the only customer in the downtown library in Albuquerque where he navigated the microfiche with earned ease.

He gathered all the information he needed for their current case, feeling optimistic about life. An eternity had passed (six weeks, two days) from his dangerous epiphany about Sam, crisis past. The skies weren’t going to split open to smite him with a lightning bolt or any such nonsense. That harrowing feeling of stress was gone almost entirely. In fact, Dean had all but forgotten his moment of weak in the knees-ness and soon it would be so far behind him that he wouldn’t even have to feel impressed at himself for forgetting it.

"Done and done," he said as he ripped the pertinent notes off the library notepad.

He crumpled the rest and tossed it toward the trash can. It went wide, bouncing off the rim, but that was ok because the sole librarian was smiling over a romance novel at the front desk, which meant Dean got away scott free.

The sidewalk was wet with frost and frozen leaves when he stepped outside. They’d driven into New Mexico last night and Dean still hadn’t gotten used to the change of climate.

Done much earlier in afternoon than he’d expected and feeling invigorated by the biting quality of the air, Dean was struck with a sudden inspiration. Why head back to the motel when he could pay Sam a surprise visit at the morgue? He could bring them early dinner. Buying each other dinner was a perfectly normal thing that they did, he reminded himself, and then ignored the thing that had made him call his motives into question in the first place.

He found the trendiest burger place just off the square downtown, and got Sam a menu item that was so loaded up with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sprouts, cucumbers, and who knew what else that it was almost all vegetable. Sam was going to be friggin’ ecstatic.

"Excuse me, sir, do you have access to—" asked the woman at the morgue check-in desk, but subsided and went back to her crossword when Dean flashed his FBI badge.

He could see Sam through the glass of the viewing room, gesturing wildly with a look of unholy nerdy delight on his face. And when Dean managed to open the door with the hand clutching the milkshake, he quickly realized Sam was enthusing about blood spatter, the morgue guy completely engrossed in the discussion and hanging off Sam’s every word.

"—which is how I knew he was average height," Sam said. "Probably five eleven, six flat."

"Wow, you got all that from one spatter pattern?" asked the morgue guy, who had his chin on his hands like a lovesick coed. "My department could use a guy like you on the team."

"And there’s more," Sam said, with the air of one getting to the good part of the story. "When even that didn’t add up, I realized the blood droplets—"

"Hey," Dean interrupted, putting the bag on the table. "Cool it, Dexter. I brought you dinner."

The morgue guy snatched up the bag with two fingers like it was contaminated. "Dude, not on the tools."

Dean raised an eyebrow. "Not on the tools?" he repeated. "I’m not worried about a little blood and guts. Man, the things we’ve been exposed to...your little autopsy knives don’t even phase me and Sam here." Dean didn’t specify which things they’d been exposed to, instead leaving it up to the imagination.

"I was actually worried about your takeout contaminating the scalpels and skull saws," the guy clarified, a touch snidely. "Which will be in contact with the body? Which, you know, is the primary evidence in your open investigation?"

Dean returned the look, refusing to give him the satisfaction of backing down.

"Fine," the guy said, standing. "We’re done here, anyway."

He looked to Sam, peevish expression softening. "Unless you have anything else you need from me," hesitating before saying, "My number, perhaps?"

"Don’t worry, I pulled your office number from the website," said Sam. "If we have any further questions, we’ll give you a call."

Dean didn’t quite manage to hold back his smirk. "Looks like we’re done here," he said. "We’ll show ourselves out."

The guy sent Sam a last lingering glance. But obviously realizing Sam didn’t have time to pursue awkward romance with a random dude, he just nodded. "Agent Fishburn."

Sam nodded back and Dean took immense satisfaction as he led Sam out, hand on his lower back in a protective, brotherly fashion.

"Jeez, Sam," he chided. "Can’t take you anywhere."

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. So," Dean smirked and held the bag up. "Food?"

Sam snapped off a latex glove as they exited the lab. "Sure. I could eat."

"How about a drive through the afternoon shower?" They reached the front doors where it was indeed sprinkling outside. "Maybe we could park by that lake off the highway until the sun comes out again. It’s really fresh."

"Fresh?" Sam cast him a queer look, which made Dean examine his words for possible lurid meaning. On second thought, it was probably best to forgo the seemingly innocent drive through a romantic rainstorm. That was a slippery slope that could lead to ill-advised thoughts of necking in the back seat.

"Actually, why don’t we just walk," Dean quickly amended, causing Sam to shoot him another look, this one more suspicious than the last. But he agreed, not because he trusted Dean but because he could use the exercise.

This plan quickly proved disastrous when the light shower turned into a frozen sleety downpour, and they ended up having to take refuge under the awning of a hardware depot, still a whole mile from the lake, the sunset completely occluded by pregnant black clouds and the paper takeout bag wet despite Dean’s efforts to shield it under his jacket.

"This is crazy. Let’s stop here," Sam said, shaking water from his hair and sitting on the slight outcropping of a windowsill.

Dean leaned next to him and avoiding a puddle, trying to find the silver lining. He passed Sam his food and they unwrapped the burgers in silence.

"I didn’t realize how hungry I was," Sam said through a mouthful.

"You’re welcome," said Dean, and smiled as Sam rolled his eyes at him but hummed happily, eating the pickle slices off his sandwich one by one.

"You finish up at the library?"

"Yeah, I got everything we need." Dean nudged him briefly. "Your big bro’s got it covered."

He watched Sam with a smile, feeling fond over the dimple in his cheek. Then he froze, burger halfway to his mouth, realizing his thoughts had strayed somewhere past the line of decent brotherly affection once more.

"What is up with you today?" Sam asked.

"Nothing," said Dean, leaning away. "Just eat the damn burger. Actually you know what? It looks like the rain is letting up," said Dean gruffly, "Let’s head back to the car."

"But we’re not even done eating!"

Dean tossed the remains of his burger trashcan-ways and missed by a mile. His stomach was in knots.

"Dude," Sam said frowning, and ventured out from their shelter to pick it up and deposit it in the trash can. Dean walked on in shame, not waiting for Sam.

The strange mix of guilt and shame heightened when Sam spent half the night sick in the bathroom. Dean sat next to him on the old tile.

"It’s not your fault," said Sam. His shoulders shifted under Dean’s hands, his skin letting out a crazy amount of heat.

Dean frowned. "I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that place. They asked if I wanted sriracha! And the soda was all handcrafted and— sorry, I’ll shut up now."

It was eleven before Sam left the bathroom, and he looked grateful when Dean tucked in the sheets around him. Worn out and pale, but better.

"Dean?" he said, after Dean had settled into bed himself.

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

Dean took a few steadying breaths, feeling lost in the small room. "I almost killed you."

"I mean it, you’re the best." And when Sam’s eyelids fluttered closed, he looked like a delicate creature that Dean had to protect. Stupid Sam and his stupid face.














It would all be bearable if the whole rest of the world didn’t seem to share his same big feelings. Dean’s mettle was truly tested when they spent a weekend on a hunt along the Gulf of Mexico, impeded by an overly interested cop by the name of Stu.

"People round here just like a good story," Stu told Sam. "I’d love to help the FBI in any way I can but I think you’ll find it’s all just your average shark attacks. No funny business, monsters or what have you. Bunch of scared tourists, blaming it on a story."

"Funny," Dean said. "I’ve done a little research and it looks like there’s local legend ranging back two decades about an ocean-dwelling monster that sucks brains out of swimmers’ noses."

Stu waved a hand, dismissing this. "Just a tiny legend."

Sam eagerly listened to the rest of what he had to say on the matter while Dean stood by the sidelines wondering what kind of grown man went by a name like Stu. He was young, defied all donut stereotypes, and held his hat by his side like a cowboy as he looked up at Sam through dark lashes. "As I said, I’d like to help you out here. Anything you need. Anything, anything at all."

"Ahem," Dean said, affronted.

"And maybe we could grab a drink tonight at the local watering hole. Maybe find you a few more witnesses to these mysterious events," Stu said, clearly not expecting anything to come of it save getting Sam into the back seat of his cop car.

Sam nodded. "Sure, it would be good to talk to the locals." He missed the reaction, the way Captain Stu’s smile widened like sunlight dawning all over his symmetrical features. But Dean saw it.

"Unfortunately we already have witnesses lined up and so very little time," he said, managing a tight smile. "So your help isn’t needed at this time."

"Dean," Sam said out of the corner of his mouth.

"Incredibly sorry," Dean said, clapping a hand on Sam’s shoulder and practically shoving him out of the station. "But duty calls, I’m sure you understand."

Stu managed to slip Sam his card as Dean got them out of there.

Dean’s shoulders felt tense as they drove toward the local beach where the bodies had been found. When they got there, there was no sign of what had occurred, just young couples enjoying the sunset on damp towels and kids kicking over what was left of sand castles.

Dean stared out at the surf, clenching his jaw. He’d gotten Sam away from Officer Grabby Hands, but how long would he be able to keep fending off Sam’s many other admirers? He knew it was a dick move, that Sam had every right to live his life. He’d seen him file Stu’s card away in his wallet, maybe he was interested, won over. But at the end of the day, this Stu character was just one more unremarkable man of the law, swiftly to be forgotten once they solved the case of the disgusting brainsucking beast and got back on the road. Sam deserved someone of character, someone as smart as he was. Super hot, not just good-looking. Kind and brave, someone who would—

"Dude," Sam said. "I can hear you grinding your teeth from here."

"Nothing," said Dean. "It’s nothing."

He forced himself to let it go. Buffeted gently by ocean air, he let out a long breath, stretching his arms over his head.

"Ah, this is the life," he said. "Just you and me and a sand monster somewhere on the prowl."

He elbowed Sam when he didn’t respond.

"Uh, yeah," said Sam, walking along side him with his hands shoved in his pockets.

The sun sunk another inch down the horizon, bleeding out over the edge of the earth and the long walk on the beach felt nothing short of the most romantic thing Dean had done with anyone, ever. He was itching to take Sam’s hand in his and tell him how beautiful he looked this evening, how happy he made him every day, and how everything was going to be alright. In a platonic way of course.

Sam’s brow was deeply furrowed when he finally spoke. "Hey, Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"Something on your mind?"

"What do you mean?" Dean kicked some sand with his boot.

"Well, you’ve been kind of...on edge lately. I thought there might be something you wanted to get off your chest?"

Dean held up his hands. "Who me? Nothing to see here. I’m totally normal." The way Sam looked at him made Dean wonder if he knew. "Uh, what’s up with you lately?"

Sam seemed to be searching his face for something, but sighed and turned back to walking with a muttered "never mind." Dean winced behind his back, but took comfort in the fact that Sam’s suspicions had been averted. He was going to have to try harder.

Sam kicked a sand dollar across the sand and words unspoken stretched between them as they both watched it get eaten up by the low surf.

"Sammy…" It was totally normal for two guys to tell each other how much they cared about each other. Hell, he’d told Sam a time or two. Or twenty. He cleared his throat. "There is something."

Sam’s eyes lit up as he turned. "Yeah?"

How to phrase it, was the problem. Dean scratched the back of his neck. "Well, you know I’ve always—"

Luck seemed to be in Dean’s corner, as just then the deranged brainsucker beast reared up from the ocean shallows, flinging wet sand in all directions and interrupting what would have proved an ill-advised confession of feelings and what have you.

"Oh thank god," Dean said, drawing his machete.

After he’d decapitated the beast, it morphed back to its very human form. And look who it was — good ol’ Stu. Not that Dean was happy about it, but, well, two birds with one stone.

"And that," he said, stepping on the lifeless head so it didn’t roll back out with the waves. "Is why you never trust a cop."

"Dude, Jody’s a cop," said a voice somewhere behind him.

Dean grinned to himself. "Shut up, Sam."









Not all of Dean’s plans played out the way he hoped they did, but his plan to squash down his feelings until they were invisible to even himself had been carried out to perfection. He had to admit, he was pretty amazing. Sam had no idea that just months ago Dean had had an epiphany that rocked his self-image and nearly compromised his heart.

But the plan was working too well, was the thing. No one they met could read his feelings for Sam on Dean’s face, no one gave him relationship advice or offered him pity drinks when Sam spent an entire hour in conversation about Game of Thrones with the dark-haired girl in the low-cut shirt at the bar, even when Dean ordered the fifth of whiskey all to himself. The motel clerks didn’t offer them king-sized beds lately. And he and Sam were always offered a king-sized bed.

It should all be perfect, but he kind of wanted someone to at least feel sympathy for him. It was like Dean was programmed to be dissatisfied with things.

"I’m jumping in the shower," Sam told Dean, who was mulling over his life and poor choices on one of their current motel’s twin beds.

Dean didn’t answer him, staring at the wall until he heard the soft click of the bathroom door closing.

He fell back onto the stiff sheets then, trying to clear his mind, carefully avoiding thoughts of Sam — tall, naked Sam — glistening under a warm rain of water. There, just behind the thin wall. Ten feet away.

When moments later he heard the unmistakable sound of Sam dropping a shampoo bottle, which meant Sam was going to bend over to pick it up, he let out a whimper.

"Can’t you cut a guy a break?" Dean asked the ceiling, even though he knew literally no one was listening anymore.

The ceiling didn’t answer.

He could hear sounds of other people from the adjacent rooms, a low argument and the unmistakable sound of baseball on TV. It was late afternoon, and suddenly the room felt stifling with its worn carpet and heavy, orange drapes. They needed to go get drinks or something. Get out of here. Sneak into a movie like they were kids.

Dean felt worn at the edges, and generally kind of, well, sad. Nothing dramatic, just a little. And only generally.

He supposed it might be because he was...pining, maybe. Or whatever you’d call it. In a manly and strong way of course. And Sam just thought things were business as usual. Which was all well and good, but what was Dean supposed to do now? Just continue carrying out his plan for...what? The rest of his life? That didn’t seem right. He was a friggin hero! Not to toot his own horn too much, but come on, hero gets the girl, everyone knew that.

Somehow he hadn’t thought this plan entirely through.

When Sam stepped out into the room he had just the small motel-issue towel wrapped around his slim waist. He said some words that were impossible to concentrate on, as Dean was expending all of his energy keeping his eyes off the rivulets of water that sluiced down Sam’s impossibly tanned pecs and abs. There was only so much he could do.

"Are you even listening to me?" Sam finally said loudly, sounding cranky.

Dean made a grab for sanity. "Hey, let’s go out."

Sam was silent for a long moment, color high in his cheeks from the heat probably. "Um, by go out do you mean—"

"I mean, out of the motel. To go do something. Duh."

"But the case —"

"To hell with the case! We deserve a night off. Let’s something fun."

"Fun?" Sam repeated, like it was a foreign concept.

"Yeah, fun, Sammy. Let’s have it!" Dean jumped to his feet, grabbing his jacket where he’d dropped it on the table with his keys. "There’s a fair down the road, let’s check it out."

"You mean the one I pointed out as we drove into town? And you ignored me?"

Dean’s only recollection of the drive into town had been his urgent need to get out of the car, after ten hours straight cooped up with Sam.

"Whatever," said Dean. "We’re going."

A fair was just what they needed. Dean needed some time off without Sam handling weapons with his bulging muscles, not to mention the heroics. Good, clean fun, cheesy lights and crowds of people. He shrugged on his jacket and paused at the door.

"I’ll be in the car. And for the love of god, clothe yourself."

"You are so strange," Sam told him, but complied, dropping the towel. Dean made his retreat.

He realized just what a great idea he’d had when not only was it five dollar ticket night, but the second they walked in they were met with a bunch of those ring toss games. Sam’s eyes lit up.

Stopping at one with lily pads and rubber ducks, Sam dug around in his pocket for cash. "Three out of five?" he asked Dean over his shoulder, taking the rings.

"You’re on."

It was the shooting range next, which Dean had to agree was pretty awesome. Dean was aware he was showing off with his ability to shoot every moving target without effort, not to mention alarming the teenager running the stand. Sam was all smiles from dominating the duck pond and winning the largest teddy bear ever, which he’d given to a wide-eyed child, and his shoulder was warm where it pressed against Dean’s. It was accidental, the booth crowded, but Dean could still enjoy it.

On their way to get Sam cotton candy, they passed the Man of Steel, where a buff dude was twirling a hammer with no effort, calling out, "Step right up folks and test your strength!"

Dean wasn’t going to bite, until the guy looked directly at Sam and said, "You sure you don’t want to give it a try? You look like a real man of steel."

Dean felt wholly insulted on Sam’s behalf. "Dude, he just objectified you."

Sam shrugged, eyes instead fixed on the rides where people were screaming their heads off. "He’s just telling it like it is, Dean. Can we hit that spinny upside down thing next?"

But Dean wasn’t listening. Filled with the sudden need to defend his brother’s honor, he stomped up to the guy.

"Dean," Sam said, dragging on his arm. "It’s like five bucks to swing a hammer."

Dean shook him off. "Don’t worry Sammy, I got this. Hey kid, I’ll give it a try. You first."

"I only run the booth," he said. "I’m not supposed to—"

"Enough chit chat. Take your swing."

The guy shook his head. "Sure man…"

He stepped up and hit the target with the hammer in a lackluster manner, and the puck shot upward to barely tap the bell. Then turned back to Dean.

"You next?" he said uncertainly.

He was obviously a pro because he worked the damn station. Dean stepped up, grumbling something to that effect and pulling out a rumpled bill that he hoped didn’t have human blood on it. "Alright, hand over the hammer."

He adjusted his stance and tested the grip in both hands, aware of Sam’s eyes on him. Or at least rolling his eyes, but Dean didn’t let it phase him — instead it added fire to his swing. When hammer hit target, the puck shot up to hit the bell with a loud clang.

"Woo!" Dean pumped his fist and spun around. "That’s what I’m talking about!" He dropped the hammer back in the guy’s hand. "Suck it!"

"I deeply apologize for him," Sam told the guy.

The guy shrugged. "No worries. I’ve seen my share of macho guys with something to prove."

"Hey!" Dean said.

"This is just my job over winter break so I can afford to stay living on campus," he told Sam.

Sam’s ears perked up. "You go to school up here?"

Dean shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and stood back, basically invisible while they talked about whatever college was in the area. So zealous in his attempts to impress Sam with muscle, it looked like Dean had forgotten that Sam valued brains over brawn.

"I’ll be right back," he said, and left the two of them to go pick up the cotton candy. When he returned, the conversation was still going strong, the kid paying more attention to Sam than the people attempting to be the next man of steel.

"Here." Dean shoved the pink one at Sam and then handed the blue out in the other direction, pursing his lips. "You too, beefcake."

The guy took the cotton candy, frowning. "Um, why do I get one?"

"Do you want it or not?" Dean barked.

"Sure, sure! I want it. Thanks, man."

"Whatever." Dean tore off a giant piece and shoved it into his mouth. He caught Sam’s eyes shining a little, with cotton candy on his face.

"You’ve got some—" he motioned and Sam’s hand came up to the opposite corner of his mouth.

Dean reached up. "Here." He wiped away the fluff.

Sam laughed, somewhat self-consciously. His eyes flicked to the other guy, and Dean pulled his hand away.

"Come on," he said, and walked on ahead, not waiting to see if Sam was following, acting like it had been nothing when inside he was cursing himself.

Stupid. Stupid. The cotton candy would have melted almost immediately, no need to wipe it off Sam’s face like a lovesick teenager.

The night wasn’t ruined. Chances were slight (non-existent, more like it) that Sam had even noticed, probably was just happy his big brother saved him from looking like an idiot with food on his face in front of the hot college dude.

Sam caught up to him easily, and yanked him between some nearby stalls and through the dark. "Let’s hit the ferris wheel."

About a mile up, the fair was just an island of bright light with the dark world stretching all around. Dean’s feet swung sickeningly and he tipped back in his seat, taking a deep breath and remembering at this very inconvenient moment that he was afraid of heights.

"Don’t worry," Sam said in his ear. "I’ll protect you."

Dean could hear the edge of amusement in his tone. "Fuck you," he said, then cursed his inconvenient choice of words.

Sam just laughed in his ear, the jerk, and slung an arm loosely around the back of the cart.

Dean smiled a little, despite himself. Up here there was no one to see.

Of course the ferris wheel broke. The problem with being stuck on a ferris wheel was usually do I kiss her or what? But that was only when you were on an actual date, and only when you got stuck at the top, the scene romantic, wind in the girl’s hair. Getting stuck second from the bottom with your brother, however, was kind of awkward. The line of people stared at them like it was their fault somehow that the wait was so long.

"This is embarrassing," Dean said.

"Dean," Sam said. The lights from the ride were painting his face in blues, purples, oranges.

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"For what?" said Dean.

"Tonight’s been really fun."

His hand brushed Dean’s on the seat, and Dean jerked away, laughing too loudly. "Great! Yeah. Um, look over there at that kid picking his nose! Ha ha!"

Sam ignored him. "I know you’ve been trying lately."

"Huh?"

"Oh, you know. You’re always cheering me up. Making effort. I want to show my gratitude."

Somehow that last bit had sounded very suggestive coming from Sam’s mouth. Dean cast about wildly for another topic. "So what next. Food?

"Sure," said Sam easily. "Let me take you out. To thank you."

If Dean wasn’t mistaken, Sam had waggled his eyebrows at that last part. "Huh?"

"I said, ok. Let’s grab dinner."

"Dinner," Dean repeated with meaningful emphasis.

"Yes," said Sam, with similar emphasis, but then added, "As we do every night."

"Ah," said Dean. He seemed to have lost the plot somewhere. "Yes."

Sam held up a hand. "Say no more. I know just the place."

"But we’ve never been to this town before," Dean said.

The ferris wheel picked up speed then and deposited them on the platform. They headed to the exit.

"Just meet me at the restaurant at eight," Sam said when they’d left the crowds behind. "I’ll text you the address. I have to...ah...go pick something up first."

"What?" said Dean again, but Sam had called a cab or something and left him in the parking lot. For lack of anything else to do, Dean went back to the motel.









What to wear. It wasn’t a date, he reminded himself. Nice jeans and a clean shave was enough, anything else was pushing it. Adjusting the sleeves of his dark button-down, Dean surveyed himself in the mirror.

"Hello," he said to his reflection. Then cleared his throat and stood up straighter. "Hello, uh, Sammy." Dean frowned. He felt like a creep. The only way this wouldn’t be weird is if he made sure it wasn’t. "Good evening, Samuel," he said, winking.

When he got to the restaurant early, Sam was already loitering by the door.

"Ah," said Dean. "Good evening."

"What?" Sam said.

"Nothing. Food?" He nodded to the door and Sam opened it, then waited to let Dean walk in first. Dean gave him a leery eye. Had Sam just held the door for him?

It wasn’t an expensive place, but it was cozy, and the fact that they were surrounded mainly by couples made Dean very glad that he’d worn something nice. Sam was wearing a button down that wasn’t hideous flannel and shoes that weren’t boots, and Dean was very aware of the proximity of his long legs under the table. The candlelight gave his face a soft glow, and from the way Sam looked somewhat uncertain and from how Dean himself felt like he might pass out with nerves, he was almost a hundred percent sure that this at least bore striking resemblance to something approximating a date.

When the waiter asked for drink orders, Sam ordered a bottle of the house red. Dean’s eyebrows crawled up his forehead but Sam only looked down at the menu, like ordering was the most important thing in the world right now.

"—date?" he said a minute later, bringing Dean back to reality.

He jerked his head up from his own menu, choking on a sip of wine. "What?"

"What’s today’s date?" Sam repeated slowly.

"The twenty-fourth," Dean said. "Christmas eve."

Sam nodded to the window. "Huh, so that’s why there’s the, you know, carolers and the guy that just walked by dressed as Santa."

Dean followed his gaze and saw Santa idling by the restaurant smoking a cigarette.

"Ha," said Dean and ordered spaghetti and meatballs when the waiter asked him something in Italian.

He regretted ordering it almost immediately when he had a hard time not splashing red sauce on his shirtfront. Then he only just stopped himself from making a really lame joke about big meatballs. He rubbed his clammy palms on his thighs under the table and watched as Sam took a dainty bite of ravioli. Damn, he was nervous.

Dean speared a ball but realized he couldn’t shove it in his mouth in a place like this, so dropped it to his plate to cut a tiny piece. "So," he asked. "What did you have to go and buy earlier?"

Sam took a moment to answer. "Nothing, don’t worry about it."

He had the air of one who was trying to get something past Dean.

"What’s up, Sam?"

"Look," Sam blurted. "Things have gotten...awkward, to say the least. So I just thought I could take you out, talk about...things."

"Things?" Dean gulped. Sam was looking at him with those puppy dog eyes and suddenly Dean realized this could be bad. This could be really bad. "Oh."

It occurred to him then that maybe the reason they were at a nice place, the reason Sam had asked him so awkwardly and had dressed so nicely, wasn’t that he somehow returned Dean’s deep abiding affections but that he was here with bad news. That maybe he was onto Dean at last and wanted to let him down easy.

Dean poured them both out another glass of wine and drank his in one.

"Dean—"

"I can explain," he said. When Sam paused for him to continue though, he amended, "On second thought, sorry for interrupting. Why don’t you go first."

Sam flushed. "Ok. In the past I've considered bringing it up...and you weren’t getting it when…" he took a deep breath. "I just thought I should finally…talk to you about it."

Dean had never been good at riddles. This one was making his head hurt, but he understood enough to know that what he was hearing wasn’t good.

"So now you know," Sam said. "Or I think you know, I mean. Do you know?"

Dean nodded slowly.

Sam barrelled on, trying to make things better, obviously taking Dean’s silence as a deep agony of shame and sadness. "I’m sorry if this puts you in a weird...position. Let me know and I won’t bring it up ever again. That is, if you’re even...aware of...I mean, if you get what I’m saying. Either way, feel free to ignore this ever happened. Oh god, this is embarrassing."

Sam subsided into silence himself and stared at his food.

"So…" Dean said. "Now I know. You know, and I know, and we can just drop the subject."

"Yes," Sam nodded. "Sure. If that’s what you want."

"And nothing will have to change and we can still—" his voice cracked. "Hunt together, and everything."

Sam looked shocked. "Of course," he said. "Oh god, Dean. I mean, I can understand not wanting to given the...circumstances. But, please believe me that this doesn’t have to change anything. I won’t do anything or say anything, just…"

"How long?" Dean asked. He wasn’t going to lie, this was a real blow, but he had to know how long Sam had suspected. How long he’d been making a fool of himself, and making Sam so uncomfortable that he had to stage a mediation just to fix things.

Sam looked him in the eyes then, biting his lip. "All my life."

Dean froze. "Oh."

How had Sam…? When Dean himself hadn’t even realized...? Well, Sam always had been more insightful than he was. And it had been a slow burn, Dean saw that now in hindsight. His feelings for Sam were deep like the ocean, endless and just as terrifying.

Sam looked vastly uncomfortable and it made Dean’s chest hurt. Dean had been selfish, putting this all on Sam, who couldn’t be happy to be having this conversation about his brother’s unnatural affections toward him.

"Look," he said. "Sam, it’s not a big deal. It was probably all that childhood trauma, or something. And whoo, how many concussions do we get on the job? That’s bound to have a weird effect on the brain." He was aware he was rambling.

"Oh," Sam said, looking down into his lap. Dean’s stab at humor hadn’t really helped. In fact, now Sam just looked like he was about to cry.

The waiter came over then to ask if the kind sirs would like the check, and Sam grabbed it first and Dean just watched in silence, thoughts chaotic, but somehow still managed to feel fond of Sam’s terrible handwriting.

They left the restaurant, Dean trailing behind Sam, wondering how he could make this right. He hadn’t thought this far, to the moment when Sam found out and it ruined them. He hadn’t let himself. His plan had been working, goddammit.

Now it was on him to make amends. He owed it to Sam.

Dean caught up, drawing Sam under a trellised archway in front of a closed restaurant. "Hey, look at me," he said quietly. "I can stop. I’ll try harder. I promise."

He brushed aside a rose that was too close to his face. Sam already had petals in his hair, he was too tall.

"No, it’s just…" Sam took a deep, wet breath. "I’ve been trying for, uh, so long. Not to do anything about it. Not to make you uncomfortable."

Dean nudged him. "How do I even deserve a brother like you, huh?"

Sam laughed. "You totally don’t," he agreed.

His sad smile was bright under the white sparkly lights of the trellis. Dean’s chest tightened a little.

Sam took a deep breath, like he was composing himself. "It’s ok. I’ll get over you, and everything will be fine."

"Yeah," Dean agreed, then faltered when the words caught up to his brain. "You can—wait. What?"

"Get over you," Sam repeated. He sniffed.

Dean clung onto reality like a drowning man. "Wait, you’re...into me? You? Into me?"

"Um. Yes?" Sam’s eyes went wide. "Hold on, what did you think we were talking about? Jesus, Dean!"

"But!" said Dean. From where they were standing, the car was in sight and Dean had the overwhelming urge to just get in and drive. He plunged in his pocket for the keys but just held them, like a lifeline, and said, "No you’re not! I would have known! Right?"

Sam’s shoulders hunched. "You don’t have to be a dick about it."

"No, I mean." Dean reorganized his thoughts, the previous conversation taking on a whole new light. "Ok, what? This is great! I mean, if I understand you! Which I am having a hard time doing!"

Sam frowned.

"Look," Dean said, and when he laughed a little wildly, Sam looked at him warily like maybe he was worried Dean had gone off the rails. Dean ignored him. "Look. Sammy. All that back there, I was talking about me, and how I feel about you. I’m...all I want for Christmas is you, ok?" The words just came out, and he knew they were totally true.

"What?" Sam asked, and swayed forward when Dean grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a gentle shake.

"I’ve been trying for months!" Dean said. "For forever! My plan worked in a weird backward way. I am amazing! This is great!"

A slow smile was taking over Sam’s face, his eyes squinting in happiness. "Oh."

"Yeah," said Dean and, feeling emboldened, he brushed the flower petals from Sam’s hair.

He left his hand on Sam’s arm, because Sam had feelings for him, too. The summer memories and fireflies were back now, buzzing around, a warm glow in Dean’s chest. And Dean thought fuck it, and leaned in close and found Sam’s mouth. The entire scene took on the ethereal quality of a happily ever after fairy tale, so much so that when Sam kissed him back, Dean had to wonder if he were dreaming.

"Sorry," Sam said when they pulled back, shaking his bangs out of both of their eyes.

Dean grinned. "You need another haircut."

Sam laughed. "Yeah."

"But let me do it for you this time."

"Like I’d trust you with scissors."

"Oh come on, Sammy."

"Oh, I got this for you." Sam fished around in his pocket and pulled out a flower and tucked it into Dean’s hand. "Um. Here."

It was a really lame, adorable gesture, and Dean gave himself a mental pat on the back for being correct that yes, tonight had actually been a date.

"Thanks, I love it," he said. And it wasn’t the only thing he loved, either.

"Me, too," Sam said, and slipped his hand in Dean’s back pocket and pulled him back in for a kiss. Dean’s heart grew two sizes that year.

Date: 2016-12-28 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dancing-adrift.livejournal.com
Aw, that was really sweet. And lol, poor Dean and all his trying. I also particularly enjoyed when Dean had all but forgotten his moment of weak in the knees-ness. Lol. Lots of good moments of awkward humor. And then Sammy - "All my life." GUH ♥ Loved it!

Date: 2016-12-31 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
I'm so glad you enjoyed this! Dean tries so hard, and he's so oblivious (IN CANON AND IN FIC :)))))))))

Date: 2016-12-29 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mdlaw.livejournal.com
This is so cute and bumbling. Made me laugh out loud. m :)

Date: 2016-12-31 04:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
I'm so happy to hear that! Dean's life is a tragicomedy.

Date: 2016-12-29 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imaginecoolname.livejournal.com
Gosh, this was so, so adorable and lovely and sweet and wonderfully awkward at times - I absolutely loved it! Your writing is spot-on and completely awesome. Thank you so much for sharing and making me smile in giddy delight. :D ♥

Date: 2016-12-31 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
You're welcome :D I had so much fun writing this.

Date: 2016-12-29 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oddishly.livejournal.com
I JUST REREAD THIS AND I AM LAUGHING AND LAUGHING. I love all the people hitting on Sam and Dean's tortured I DON'T LIKE IT! BUT I GET IT! YOU GO SAMMY! JUST NOT WITH THEM! and that every single time, Dean trying to react accordingly/appropriately backfires on him. His sadness at not being offered king-sized beds anymore and ALL OF THIS

What to wear. It wasn’t a date, he reminded himself. Nice jeans and a clean shave was enough, anything else was pushing it. Adjusting the sleeves of his dark button-down, Dean surveyed himself in the mirror.

"Hello," he said to his reflection. Then cleared his throat and stood up straighter. "Hello, uh, Sammy." Dean frowned. He felt like a creep. The only way this wouldn’t be weird is if he made sure it wasn’t. "Good evening, Samuel," he said, winking.

When he got to the restaurant early, Sam was already loitering by the door.

"Ah," said Dean. "Good evening."

"What?" Sam said.

"Nothing. Food?"
I AM CRYINGGGGGG. Their talking at cross-purposes at the table and their mutual internal struggle to be normal and not weird and Sam's shock when Dean implies that they might not hunt together anymore ♥♥♥ I LOVE THIS FIC SO MUCH. THANK YOU FOR WRITING IT YOU ARE THE BEST EVER.

Date: 2016-12-31 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP CREATING THIS STRANGE TALE OF TRUE LOVE AND FAILINESS

Date: 2017-01-02 04:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] runedgirl.livejournal.com
OMG this was absolutely perfect and delicious and I enjoyed every single second of it - thank you so much! The characterization was spot on, the dialogue rang completely true, and I laughed out loud more than once. This is the Dean and Sam I love. Please don't ever stop writing these boys the way you do, ok? :)

Date: 2017-01-03 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
I'm so happy the characterization worked for you and that I could make you irl lol! I really enjoyed writing this as well :)

Date: 2017-01-02 08:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peepingdru.livejournal.com
boysssssssssssssssssssssssssss,,,lol,,,<3

Date: 2017-01-03 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
Right? <3333333

Date: 2017-01-02 06:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aerynsun5.livejournal.com
Could not have loved this more. The secretly-in-love-with-each-other-and-too-clueless-to-get-it is one of my very favorites. And I loved how people kept hitting on Sam. I'm surprised Dean hasn't ground his teeth to powder.

Date: 2017-01-03 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
I love people hitting on Sam! I have no idea why, but it is my favorite thing.

Date: 2017-01-03 11:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amypond45.livejournal.com
OMG this story is wonderful! You write them so perfectly -- in character, adoring and devoted to each other and doing everything to pretend they're not. I laughed out loud more than once and got all warm and fuzzy at the end. Thank you so much for this wonderful thing! I feel like I've just been given the best Christmas present ever!

Date: 2017-01-06 07:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glovered.livejournal.com
Aw thank youuuu. Glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2017-01-08 01:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matchboximpala.livejournal.com
You have Sam and Dean spot-on and I can so picture all of this. It left me feeling warm and happy and yet so sad that I will never seen this on the show.

Date: 2017-03-15 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] masja-17.livejournal.com
Your Sam'n'Dean are so well written! And of course they misunderstand one another!

Well done!

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