It all starts when Dean is seventeen. Well, really, it depends on how you look at it. It might have started when he was four and told to look after his brother, or maybe when Sam was thirteen, because Sammy said that’s when it started for him. But for Dean, it starts when he seventeen.
Dean doesn’t plan to ever do anything about the fact that he’d much rather have his little brother spread out underneath him instead of the skeevy waitress that he flirts with out of habit. Dean knows his family is weird, but there’s weird and then there’s incest-weird and Dean doesn’t even want to think about how weird that is.
But Sam, Sam’s a stubborn kid when he makes up his mind and he definitely did then. Funnily enough, a week after Dean decides… that whole thing, that he won’t even give a name in the privacy of his own mind, Sammy makes his move. Or, well, he just blurts out “I love you” which has Dean blinking for a moment, trying to comprehend and then laughing just slightly hysterically and making a joke involving the word Samantha.
“I’m serious,” he tells Dean, “and I mean in the not-healthy way.”
Dean stands there, and watches his brother approaching in the small room that passes for dining room, living room and kitchen. Sammy walks, slowly but not hesitantly, like Dean’s a horse that’s about to bolt. He doesn’t, though, and when Sam kisses him Dean goes along easily.
The things is, he and Sammy, they’re too tangled up into each other. For whatever reason, they are and it really only makes sense when they start to do more than just sleeping in their beds in motel rooms all across America.
It’s always a different room, a different creature they hunt, a different school, a different Dad depending on his mood but they are a constant. No matter what, Sam can count on Dean being there when he’s pissed at Dad and sick of this life, and Dean knows that Sam will always be there to make dinner when he gets back from work, tired and sore from working on cars.
Dean is pretty sure there isn’t a thing about Sammy he doesn’t know, from his distaste for black coffee to the mole on the back of his thigh, and it might have been weird but Dean won’t let it be. It still is some days, and those days he disappears for the night, and Sam gives Dean some space in the morning but it’s always Dean who pulls his little brother back for a kiss.
Sam and Dean Winchester function like one human being, but that’s not a good thing.
Sam sighs and stares out of the window. He isn’t even sure what class he’s having, which isn’t normally like him but he’s antsy, because today is Friday, the shortest day of the week and that always makes it seem so much longer. He’s sick of sitting around behind books while the sun shines fierce and bright outside, he wants to outside and feel the sun on the back of his neck and the palm of his hand.
Mr. Huber tells him something with a sharp voice and Sam hums noncommittally, turning to look at him and pretend he’s paying attention.
When the bell rings the students all disappear, slowly flowing into the hallways. Sam walks in the middle of the mass of bodies, backpack slung over one shoulder as he makes his way to the door.
Out in the parking lot, Dean is waiting. The Impala is standing in the parking lot, shining brightly in the sunlight, Dean beside, just as radiant. As soon as Sam thinks it he laughs at himself; he’s so clichéd where Dean is concerned.
Sam walks down the stairs, approaching his brother. They’ve got the entire weekend ahead of them, and the weatherman predicted sunshine and blue skies and Sam's pretty sure Dad won't be around for another week, and it feels like a vacation.
“Hey,” Sam says, throwing his backpack down in the backseat. They get into the car at the same time and Dean starts her up, turns to look at Sam for a moment.
“You wanna go to the apartment?” he asks, because it’s never ‘home’ but always ‘the apartment’ or ‘the room’.
“Sure.” Sam nods. The car is hot, because it's summer and they're in the southern Oklahoma and Sam looks out of the window and tries not to feel the sweat gathering on the leather upholstery.
Their dad never knows, of course. When John is even around, they’re careful and it’s John who insists they share a room anyway. Dean is pretty sure he’d flip his shit if he ever found out, but for now he doesn’t so what does it matter?
Sam sometimes wishes Dad would find out, Dean knows. Can tell by the way he drags the kisses on for just a bit too long when Dad is putting the key in the lock, back from a hunt. Dean never asks why because he isn’t entirely sure he wants to know. And somewhere, he thinks he already does. Sammy’s got a possessive streak a mile wide when it comes to Dean, because Dean spent his childhood protecting that kid and never letting him out of sight. Because Sammy grew up with Dean taking care of his every wish, caught up in his childish neediness.
It disturbs Dean sometimes, that he’s blowing the same kid that used to clutch at his sleeves when they met strangers, that Dean used to tuck in and read about a family of superheroes that were out to kill the evil guys. But it really only makes sense, Dean thinks at times like that, and that is that.
The point is, Dean kind of knows what it is. Sammy wants their Dad to know that, even though Dean will follow Dad’s every order with a “Yes, sir,” and look up to Dad even when he neglects his children, Dean is Sam’s.
“Dean,” Sam whines, pencil scribbling furiously over the paper. He’s trying to work, but Dean’s being annoying. It’s Saturday and Sam was going crazy with his homework in the tiny apartment, so Dean drove the two of them out to some field to do his homework. Sam has to admit it worked although he was initially distracted by the scenery; short green grass that meets the horizon far in the distance, with trees here and there.
“Sam,” Dean whines back, mockingly, against the skin of Sam’s neck. Sam is sitting, cross-legged, with his books in his lap. Dean was sitting next to him, but got sick of that and has now plastered himself to Sam’s back.
“I’m serious, I’ve got to finish this,” Sam says but Dean’s a Winchester, there’s no deterring those when they’ve made up their mind.
“Come on,” Dean breathes, nosing at Sam’s hair in a way that is barely there, but still enough to be distracting. “What’s the point of going to an abandoned place if we’re not gonna fool around?” Dean asks, probably entirely serious as well.
Sam isn’t sure if he should laugh or be worried.
“We went here so I wouldn’t go crazy. And who says ‘fool around’ anyway?” Sam asks but at this point he knows he’s already lost and anyway, he can finish this later, he decides. So Sam puts away his history book and doesn’t resist when Dean, who’s sprawled out on the grass and looking up at him now, drags him down.
“You’re awesome,” Dean says, grinning.
The problem is that sometimes they get too tangled up in each other, that sometimes they blur together. Because Sam and Dean, they are practically one person. Everything they do, from hunting to fucking to lying sprawled out on the couch at two AM, everything is done with the same practiced ease that makes them seem like one single person.
And okay, Dean is willing to admit that sometimes it scares him. That sometimes, when Sammy makes Dean coffee in the morning before Dean can ask, wakes him just when he’s about to have a nightmare, it’s not comforting. It’s scary and Dean feels claustrophobic, skin too tight and room, world, universe too small to possibly contain the two of them.
So Dean bolts, like he once vowed that he wouldn’t, when Sammy had kissed him breathless for the first time. Whenever it happens, Dean bolts, goes to a bar, a different universe where he isn’t pressed up against Sam 24/7. Dean finds a girl, fucks her, and he shows up in their motel at 5 AM. Finds Sam asleep, feels guilt wash over him. He sits on the bedside and pulls the covers up because Sam always throws them off in his sleep, before taking a deep breath, getting up and taking a shower. Dean doesn’t want some random woman’s perfume all over his Sammy.
Because even when the universe can’t possibly contain the two of them, Dean won’t have Sammy hurt.
Sam’s eyes feel gritty and he wants to rub it out, but that would mean moving and he’s sort of comfortable here, in the dark. Well, except for the TV that keeps flickering blue lights at him and making noise, Sam can’t figure out what because his one ear is pressed into the couch and the other is covered by Dean’s hand. Sam’s pretty sure they both started sitting upright, but somewhere along the line Sam fell over and then Dean fell over, and now they’re a tangle of limbs that can’t be separated.
Sam knows Dean is still awake, although he wouldn’t be able to tell you how he does. It’s just something he knows, like he knows everything about Dean.
Sam’s pretty sure he’s about to fall asleep, so the gritty eyes don’t bother him that much, and he sighs heavily. Dean is dragging the hand over his ear down, across his jaw and neck and it settles on his scalp.
It looks like we’re getting the same hot weather tomorrow, same cold temperatures at night. Tom, why don’t you tell us some more? the TV goes, and Sam can hear it now, wants it off. He makes grabby hands at the table in front of him, and Dean groans – he’d just fallen asleep.
“Remote?” Sam asks, and Dean mumbles something into Sam’s hair. Sam’s got his head tucked under Dean’s chin more out of habit than anything, because he’s catching up on Dean with his height and they’re pretty much about the same height. It means that his feet are half hanging off the couch, and his sweats don’t reach beyond his calves but it’s okay, Dean’s a warm line at his back and he’s comfortable.
Sam grabs around Dean’s back, slow since his mind is hazy with sleep, and feels around the top of the coffee table and under the couch, which is where he eventually finds the remote. The TV goes off with a decisive click and Dean stretches, yawns and his teeth get caught in Sam’s head. It’s not very painful and Sam gives a sleepy giggle, pulling the hand on his scalp into his own, and laying it down beside his chest. Dean’s snoring behind him.
Another problem, because they can’t seem to get enough of those, is this: Sammy hates Dad. Dean knows, because he’s seen Sammy looking at Dad like he would gladly punch him in the face. Dean knows, because Sam doesn’t shy away from talking about his problems with Dad. They don’t do it often, because to Dean, problems with Dad means problems with Dean and they’re just too tangled up, and that means Dean has problems with Dad. (Which he doesn’t, honest to God he doesn’t.)
But sometimes, when Dad leaves overnight because some big hunt came up, Sam tells Dean. Cool and cold, no boiling rage that might cause him to not be thinking correctly, just calculated hatred. And whenever that happens, Dean just feels so helpless, like his family is slipping away between his fingers. Why can’t they just get along, why do they have to hate each other like this, leaving Dean to play the mediator between two opposing forces of nature.
Sam just doesn’t get it, how Dad works hard every night, how every kill is to keep his boys safe. Sam hasn’t seen Dad stumble in after midnight, battered and bruised and broken, arms wrapped around broken ribs or bleeding shoulders. Whenever it happens, Dean ushers Dad to the couch, sure to be quiet ‘cause Sammy’s asleep, and gets the disinfectant and the scotch.
He stitches his father up and watches him, the bags under his eyes and the old scars that litter his body, all walls down in those few moments, and he’s just an ordinary guy trying to keep his sons safe. But Sammy never sees that, and (stupid, stubborn) Dad never lets him, and so Sammy never knows.
It’s sometime just after seven, and Sam’s just putting to bowls of cereal – the only thing they have for breakfast – on the table when Dean stumbles in. He’s always hated getting up early, would sleep until three in the afternoon if he could, but today’s Monday and that means work at the garage.
Dean’s been working at garages and bars since he was fifteen, when they just didn’t have the money to make it until Dad got back from his hunt. He quit school for it, so he could actually buy food instead of steal it. It’s not really something Dean minds, Sam knows, because school never did anything for him.
“Morning,” Sam greets, sitting down.
“M’rnin’,” Dean says, grumbles, scrubbing a hand across his face. He takes a seat behind the table, pulling a face.
Sam smiles affectionately.
Dean takes a few spoonfuls of cereal, before blinking like he just woke up. “Dad called,” he says, voice sleep-rough and Sam feels the smile fall from his face. Dean carefully doesn’t look up from his food. “He’s gonna be back tonight.”
“Alright,” Sam’s smile is bright, taut, fake. “I guess we’ll be leaving soon tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Dean says softly. “You know, I’m fixing up this car for a guy, he was talking about some scientific discovery they made. Reminded me of all your scientific talk.”
Sam accepts the obvious change of subject thankfully, knowing that it’s just his brother. He plasters on a face of mock-indignation and replies, “Jesus, you never listen to me, do you?”
Dean looks stupidly grateful that Sam doesn’t push. “Don’t even know half the words you use,” he says proudly.
The problem is, that though Sam and Dean are probably the closest siblings on the planet, they’re entirely different people. If it weren’t for the long history they share, they would be so incompatible they’d probably never want to see each other. They’re just different people.
Because Sam, he’s a neat person. Doesn’t like everything being messy and whines when Dean tosses his shirt in some random direction. Sam doesn’t get how Dean can live in that unorganized chaos, because how are you supposed to find anything like that?
Dean doesn’t get Sam’s thing for health food, because it isn’t like they don’t get enough exercise in their daily lives, so what’s the big deal? Sam doesn’t like the way Dean will ignore everything and Dean doesn’t like Sam’s pushiness.
Their problem is that Sam is too cautious and Dean too reckless. They make it work when they hunt, keeping each other in check just right, but in the moments they aren’t hunting they’re a tangle that shouldn’t work. Dean has the scary feeling that maybe they really don’t.
John comes home at 6 o’clock on a Monday, a lot earlier than he usually does, but it’s been a good hunt. No wounds aside from some scrapes, and everyone made it out alive.
He walks around the building, heading for the door to the kind of pathetic apartment that he’s rented for the boys. He catches sight of them through one of the windows and pauses for a second.
John supposes he should be angry, disappointed, anything, but he can’t find it in himself to be anything but glad. Because there’s no mistaking what his boys are to each other, not anymore, and that should be a bad thing.
Sam is sitting on the couch, writing what is presumably his homework, which happens to be sitting on Dean’s chest. Dean himself is lying on his back on the couch, half over Sam’s lap, eyes closed. His hands are stained with grease, still dressed in black-stained overalls and John supposes he must’ve had a long day of work.
Sam seems to be having some trouble concentrating on his work, because his gaze keeps falling from his books down to his brother’s face, smiling fondly. After a second he puts his books away and sighs, shaking his head at himself. Dean seems to wake up, blinking groggily. His smiles a bit, and lazily reaches up to put an arm around Sam’s neck.
John watches it, feeling oddly detached. He should mind, probably, should barge in there and take Sammy to Bobby’s and Dean to pastor Jim, but he can’t blame his boys for being happy.
Still, as he turns around to get some dinner and give his boys some time, he feels just slightly sad, can’t help but think of the flyers to Stanford University that he saw lying around. The way Sammy had framed his brother’s face, the same way Mary had before John left to Vietnam, had been sad and slow, like it was a goodbye.