The morning after the first time he had sex with Dean, Sam woke up alone in bed, his whole body aching. There was a bite mark on the inside of his thigh, and probably another one on his collarbone—he couldn't see it, but the skin felt hot and tender there.
"Grmphng," Sam said, and rolled over to squint at the alarm clock. It was almost noon. Dean's car was still parked outside their room, so at least he hadn't freaked out and bolted in the night—or maybe he had, maybe he was so freaked out he'd forgotten his car keys and was walking down the highway, or hitch-hiking. Maybe he was dead in a ditch.
Sam rolled over again and groaned. Maybe he was the one who was freaking out. He buried his face in one of the pillows. It smelled like Dean's hair gel.
He heard keys jingling outside, and the sound of Dean swearing. The door opened. Sam sat up in bed, trying not to look like he was in the midst of a crisis.
"Morning, sunshine," Dean said, kicking the door closed. He was carrying two cups of coffee and a paper bag. "Spilled the fuckin' coffee all over myself, I should sue their asses—" He set his things down on the table and stomped into the bathroom, muttering to himself. The tap cut on.
Sam leaned over the side of the bed and fished his boxers off the floor. He was starving. The paper bag smelled like sausage and egg biscuits, and maybe a little bit like hash browns. He went over to the table and opened it up—sausage biscuits and hash browns, and fruit salad. Dean had gone all out.
"I got you a girly coffee," Dean said, coming back into the room. "With some of that nut syrup or whatever."
"Hazelnut," Sam said.
"Whatever," Dean said. He pulled the lid off one of the paper cups and handed it to Sam. "Drink up, Sammy. We gotta make it to Shelby by nightfall."
"That's like, three hours from here," Sam said.
"Well, yeah, but we gotta stop at the world's largest Ten Commandments on the way," Dean said, grinning.
Sam rolled his eyes. He was well aware of Dean's obsession with cheesy roadside tourist traps, but that didn't make it any less annoying. "Whatever," he said, and took a sip of his coffee. He touched the sore place on his collarbone.
Dean looked away, his ears turning pink.
Shelby had a ghoul problem.
Sam didn't really mind ghouls. They were smelly, yeah, and it was a huge pain in the ass to track them all down and burn out the nest, but they were so dumb that even Dean couldn't get himself injured without really working at it. Mostly they wandered around slobbering and gnawing on each other.
Dean hated the things. Sam had no idea why—some early traumatic experience, maybe, or maybe Dean was just a huge drama queen. One of the ghouls got a little too close to Dean and brushed up against him, and Dean started flipping out and yelling about how he'd gotten ghoul-juice on him and his limbs were going to shrivel up and fall off.
"Seriously?" Sam asked, using his machete to lop off the head of another ghoul. "Are you seriously doing this?"
"YES," Dean shouted.
By the time they got back to their motel, Sam was sweaty, covered in various ghoul-related secretions, and ready to murder Dean if he so much as breathed too loud. "I call first shower," Sam said, and slammed into the bathroom before Dean had time to protest.
The shower calmed him down. Halfway through washing his hair, he started feeling bad for yelling at Dean so much. Maybe it was like the airplane thing, maybe Dean couldn't help being scared of ghouls. It wasn't like he was being useless on purpose. Dean knew more about hunting than Sam ever would, for all that he liked to pretend he was clueless just to piss Sam off, and he wouldn't have dropped the ball like that unless he was seriously freaked out.
By the time he got out of the shower, towel wrapped snugly around his waist, there was a pizza box sitting on one of the beds, and then Sam felt even worse. "You, uh. You ordered pizza," he said.
"Yeah," Dean said, and opened the box up so Sam could see: pineapple and green peppers, and Christ, Sam felt like the biggest jerk on the planet.
"I left you some hot water," Sam said. He started digging around in his bag for some clean boxers. It was time for another laundromat run—he was down to a pair of tighty whities and the banana split boxers that Dean had gotten him as a joke. He hesitated, boxers clutched in one hand. "Dean, are you—do we—"
Dean grunted. "I don't care about your feelings," he said. "Eat this before it gets cold." He kicked off his boots and went into the bathroom, his socks leaving damp imprints on the carpet.
Sam pulled on his banana split boxers and sat down on the bed to eat. The pizza tasted like ashes and sorrow in his mouth.
"We need to do laundry," Sam announced the next morning.
"Yeah, I know, you're down to the banana split boxers," Dean said absently, rooting through his bag of snacks. He made a pleased noise and pulled out a Twinkie.
"I can't believe you're going to eat that first thing in the morning," Sam said.
"Don't hate on my stomach of iron," Dean said.
There was a laundromat a few blocks away, so they walked, their duffel bags full of dirty clothes slung over their shoulders. Dean held the door for Sam.
"Uh, thanks," Sam said.
"You're welcome," Dean said placidly.
The place was pretty run-down, but it was deserted, which was all Sam cared about. He didn't feel like listening to screaming kids while he washed his clothes. He and Dean sat side-by-side in uncomfortable plastic chairs and watched their laundry tumble around in the machines.
Dean put his hand on Sam's knee.
"Um," Sam said, but it was really kind of nice, the warm weight of Dean's palm spread over his kneecap.
"Hmm?" Dean asked. He wasn't even looking at Sam; he was staring at the dryer. Watching clothes dry had some sort of weird sedative effect on Dean, and he would sit there for the entire cycle, eyes glazed over, and watch his clothes go around and around.
"Nothing," Sam said. "Lost my train of thought." He picked at his cuticles. "Actually, uh. About last night. I probably shouldn't have yelled at you so much."
"Ugh, spare me the heart-to-heart," Dean said, but moved his hand from Sam's knee to the back of his neck. "Hey."
Sam turned to look at him, feeling Dean's ring slide cool against his skin. "Yeah?"
"Hey," Dean said again, and leaned in to kiss Sam, dry and careful. He pulled back after just a handful of seconds.
"Oh," Sam said. He could feel his cheeks going hot.
"Dude, you look like a startled moose," Dean said, and Sam scowled and said, "You've never even seen a moose," and Dean said, "That's not true, I saw one up in Maine that one time," and things devolved into a good-natured argument about what common wildlife Dean had and had not seen. (Raccoon, yes; rabid grizzly bear, not so much, no matter how much Dean insisted that he had.)
Dean held the door again on their way out.
The thing was, Sam really wasn't any good at figuring out Dean's emotionally stunted nonverbal communication, so it took him a few days to realize what was going on. The sausage biscuits were the first hint, and then the pizza, and then the cinnamon buns, and the mango-papaya smoothies; but it wasn't until they went to dinner at an actual sit-down restaurant outside Philadelphia that Sam finally bought a clue.
Their table was in the back of the restaurant, right by the window. Dean didn't sit down right away; he hovered by the table, waiting for Sam to quit gawking at a fancy light fixture. That was the first sign. The second was when Dean pulled Sam's chair out for him.
"Uh, thanks," Sam said, raising his eyebrows, "but I think I know how to pull out my own chair, dude."
"Oh," Dean said. "Um. Sorry."
So Dean was a freak, but that wasn't news. Sam let it go and examined his menu.
"What are you gonna get?" Dean asked after a few minutes.
"Gardenburger," Sam said, and at Dean's skeptical look, "I can't keep eating all this red meat, dude, it's killing me."
"Just don't start eating that tofu shit," Dean said.
Sam thought that was the end of it, but when their waitress showed up with her notepad, Dean ordered a cheesesteak and fries, and then said, "And he'll have a Gardenburger."
The waitress left. Sam leaned forward across the table, eyes narrowed. "Dude. Why did you just order my meal for me?"
Dean rubbed a hand over the back of his head. "Uh. I don't know?"
"Oh my God," Sam said, the horrible truth dawning on him at last. "Oh my God, Dean, do you think we're dating?"
It all made sense, in retrospect. Sam knew for a fact that Dean equated food with love, and plus, he had seen Dean with women he was interested in for more than just a one-night stand, so he should have been able to figure out what all the door-holding and you-have-first-shower-please-I-insisting-i
Sam would have gotten really irritated about the whole situation, except Dean didn't seem to realize he was doing it. One night they went to Blockbuster in search of zombie movies, and after they'd suffered through the checkout line and finally escaped out into the parking lot, Dean went around to the passenger side of the car and opened Sam's door for him.
"Dude," Sam said, "Dean, have you lost your mind?"
"What?" Dean asked, bewildered, and then looked down at his hand on the door, and at the steering wheel on the other side of the car, and said, "Oh. Uh. Sorry?"
"How are you seriously this oblivious?" Sam asked. "Are you mentally retarded and nobody ever figured it out?"
Dean scowled. "That's not politically correct."
"Neither are you!" Sam snapped. "It's the twenty-first century, Dean! Women don't need to be treated like delicate flowers! And since I'm not a woman, the fact that you're acting like I am is pretty damn offensive!"
"Jeez, sorry," Dean said. "You know this is, uh, new to me, I'm just—"
"Okay, just because you've never done anything with guys—"
"Neither have you!" Dean said. "So quit acting like you're some sort of expert! I don't see you making any sort of effort, you just leave it all up to me and then bitch when you think I'm doing it wrong—"
"That's not true," Sam said, but it kind of was. He sighed. "Fine, okay. Just. Knock it off."
He could see Dean making a valiant effort for a few days, snatching his hand away from door handles or the bill for lunch, before he backslid. Sam didn't say anything. Dean was just so clueless, it was like kicking a puppy. Sam didn't have the heart. So he let Dean hold his hand in the car and kiss him by the sink in the mornings.
It was really kind of nice.
And Dean was right, anyway: it wasn't like Sam had any clue what he was doing. The whole Oh My God I'm Kissing My Brother thing was bad enough; add the Holy Crap He's Also A Dude thing on top of that, and Sam felt like he was back in high school, trying to figure out the lay of the land beneath his girlfriend's panties. He and Dean had done okay the first time, but Sam was nervous about trying it again. What if Dean wanted to... put things inside him? Sam felt a little queasy just thinking about it.
"Okay, this is getting ridiculous," Sam said one night, watching Dean lick popcorn butter off his fingers.
"Hmm? What's that?" Dean asked.
"This," Sam said, waving his hands around. "We haven't—you know. I think we should."
"What's that, Sammy?" Dean asked. He was smirking, the bastard. "Do you need something?"
"Stop acting like you don't know what I'm talking about," Sam snapped, embarrassed.
"Fine. But don't think you're putting your dick in my ass, I've seen the size of that thing," Dean said.
Sam rolled his eyes. "You sure know how to set the mood, Dean."
"Since when do you need a mood?" Dean asked, sneering.
"Forget it," Sam said, flopping down onto the mattress. "It was a stupid idea anyway."
"No, hey," Dean said. He wiped his fingers on the comforter and rolled onto his side, propped up on one elbow. "You're right. I think we should. Just, uh. Nothing fancy, okay?"
"No, that's fine," Sam said, relieved. "That's a good idea."
Sam thought they would just cut to the chase, but Dean seemed content to make out for a long time, sucking on Sam's tongue and sliding his hands underneath Sam's shirt. Nothing fancy, but it got Sam so worked up he was squirming around on the mattress and clawing at Dean's back.
"Dean," he gasped, "come on, would you just—"
"Impatient, huh," Dean said, mouthing at Sam's throat. "You want something?"
"For Christ's sake," Sam said. He braced one arm on the bed and flipped them, and then Dean was beneath him, flushed and grinning. "You make me insane," Sam said.
"Yeah, but in a good way," Dean said.
"Shut up," Sam said, and opened Dean's pants far enough to stick his hand inside, and this part Sam knew: how to roll his thumb just right to make Dean moan.
"Christ," Dean said, and "Fuck," and Sam hid his grin against Dean's neck.
If anything, Dean got worse after that. Their usual morning shuffle in front of the sink, shaving and brushing their teeth, started to include Dean's hand on Sam's ass more often than not. In Starbucks one day, Dean responded to Sam's "You want me to get you anything?" with an absent-minded "Just regular coffee, babe." Sam stood there for another minute, staring at him, but Dean was intent on his newspaper clippings and didn't seem to notice.
Standing there at the counter while the person ahead of him in line hemmed and hawed over skim versus low-fat milk, Sam had a terrible epiphany: he was the girl in the relationship.
The thought made him feel guilty. He knew that it was horrible and wrong to equate penetrative sex with female-ness and submission, but the thing was, Dean's notions of sex and masculinity had been taken straight from the 1950s. Dean was the least bigoted person Sam knew, but he thought in terms of binaries: in every relationship, one person was the man and the other was the woman, and the woman was the one who took it up the ass.
"Oh God," Sam said to the startled barista. "I'm doomed."
"You want coffee to go along with that certain demise?" the barista asked.
It was weird, though: Sam kept thinking about it after that: what it would be like to have Dean touch him there, his fingers, maybe—maybe more. He figured it had to feel at least kind of good, or else why would anyone keep doing it? He wondered what it would be like to just. Try it.
Normally Sam didn't mind long car trips, but staring out the window for hours on end meant there was plenty of time for his mind to wander, and lately he wasn't sure he was comfortable with where it was wandering to. His pants were too tight, and the car was too hot, and he knew it wouldn't take long before Dean realized what was happening.
It didn't. "Need a rest stop?" Dean asked, smirking.
"No," Sam said, even though he really, really did.
He tried it the next morning in the shower, when Dean was still drooling onto his pillow: slicked his fingers with Dean's hair conditioner and pressed one finger back and in, all the way to the knuckle. It was kind of—it didn't hurt, but it felt weird. Intrusive. He added a second finger, and that felt even weirder, but also—
Sam shifted his hips, testing the sensation, and that was—he felt—
"Oh," Sam said.
Dean banged on the door. "Sammy? What are you doing in there?"
"I'm taking a shower," Sam yelled back. "Go away."
"Yeah, 'taking a shower,'" Dean said, and Sam could hear the air-quotes in his voice. He sighed and pulled his fingers out. So much for that idea.
He still thought about it, though, and kept testing the theory whenever he had ten minutes to himself, which happened, like, once a week, if he was lucky. Dean held his hand in public and gave him a couple of hesitant blowjobs, and then some more enthusiastic ones, and things were great, but Sam still couldn't shake the thought.
He mentioned it to Dean, finally, after weeks of dithering. He waited until Dean was sprawled on the mattress beside him, face-down and post-coital, and then said, "So, uh. I was thinking, maybe—maybe you could fuck me?"
Dean's leg twitched. "You. What?"
"Forget it," Sam muttered, and turned over to face the wall. "It was just an idea."
"Whoa, hold up," Dean said. He touched Sam's hip. "Slow down, Sammy, are you fuckin' kidding me? Like I'm ever gonna say no to that." His fingers slid up Sam's side, bumped over his ribs. "Fuck, I'd do it tonight, if I weren't so—"
"Is that an admission of weakness?" Sam asked, amused.
Dean snorted. "You just take a lot outta me."
They were at a drug store the next day, picking up shampoo and rubber bands and batteries, and Dean pointedly tossed condoms and lube into the basket, smirked at the cashier while Sam turned red and tried to make himself as small as possible.
After dinner, Dean said, "You still wanna do this?"
"I. Yeah," Sam said, and swallowed. "But I don't want you to—this doesn't make me the girl, Dean, okay."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "Dude, I'm pretty sure there's no way I could ever mistake you for a girl."
"I'm serious," Sam said.
"So am I," said Dean.
Dean stripped him naked and spread him out on the bed. The air in the room was cool on his skin. Sam buried his face in one of the pillows, listening to the rustling noises Dean was making, the song he was humming.
"Metallica?" Sam asked.
"You know it," Dean said. He settled one hand in the small of Sam's back and said, "Take a breath," and his fingers were pressing in, two of them, cold and slick, and Sam gasped and tensed up, his nerves firing so many different signals that he wasn't even sure what he was feeling.
Dean was careful and slow, and he worked his fingers in and out until Sam's toes were curling of their own volition, and then he said, "Hey, hey, you ready?"
"Yeah," Sam said, more an exhale than actual words, and then there was more rustling, and Dean's hands, Dean shoving into him, and it was so good that Sam felt like his spine was melting out of his body.
In the morning, Sam woke up to the smell of fresh coffee, and when he rolled over, Dean was sitting at the table reading the newspaper and eating a bagel.
"Did you get a blueberry one for me?" Sam asked.
"Christ, you're so fuckin' demanding," Dean said. "Yes, I got you a blueberry one, and cream cheese, so shut up."
"Good," Sam said. He rolled out of bed, wincing, and pulled on his boxers before he joined Dean at the table. "My ass hurts."
"So when is it my turn?" Sam asked.
Dean stared at him, eyes wide. "Dude, what? I'm not the girl, here."
"You're an asshole," Sam said, kicking at Dean under the table. He took a sip of his coffee: cream and two sugars.
"I made it the way you like it, quit actin' all suspicious," Dean said.
"Thanks," Sam said.
Dean looked at him and smiled, no posturing for once, his expression open and happy. "You're welcome," he said.