When Seth is nine, Dean is blindingly bright. He’s always there, mostly when Seth’s parents are at work and the babysitter is sitting downstairs watching awful costume dramas. Sometimes they play chess, other times they build lego planes and cars.
Tonight though, they’re sitting on the garage roof looking at the stars. Inside the house, Seth parents argue about something that Seth can’t really understand, because why should his mom be angry that his dad went to dinner with a friend?
“I think I’d make a good star.” Dean says, foot kicking Seth’s just because he can. Seth laughs and nudges Dean’s shoulder.
“Why? You can’t sit still and stars don’t travel across the sky at a million, gazillion miles an hour.”
“Because I’m wonderful, and that’s what stars are. They’re wonderful.” Seth can see his point, stars really are wonderful, and so is Dean, really.
When Seth’s eleven, Dean shimmers. He’s sitting on his bed when he comes home from school, and Seth throws himself beside him, face pressed into the covers.
“How was school?” Dean lays back, looking towards the ceiling, hands clenched across his stomach. Seth shuffles closer to him and turns his head so he’s looking at his only friend.
“Terrible. I hate it, I hate everyone.”
“Why?” Seth is silent for a moment before rolling over so he’s no longer on his stomach, and pulls up his tee shirt. There are a few bruises littering his delicate tanned skin, and Dean’s hand reaches out and touches them gently.
“They called me a fag. I don’t even know what that means.” Seth huffs, fidgeting when Dean’s touches start to tickle.
“Neither do I, but it sounds mean.”
Seth’s called down for dinner when they’re in the middle of playing chess and he tells Dean he’ll be back as soon as he can. While he’s eating, Seth tells his parents about school. He still doesn’t understand what it means, because all his dad says is, “I better hope you’re not.” Seth stays quiet after that, and thinks about what move he should do next to beat Dean at chess. Dean’s good at chess. Dean’s good at a lot of things.
When Seth’s fifteen, Dean’s like a hologram. Seth can see through him now, and he doesn’t see a lot of him anymore. Sometimes when Seth’s bored, and he’s finished all his homework and done the dishes, they play chess.
Dean’s still good at it, but Seth’s gotten better over time. Knows what moves to do to make sure Dean can’t win anymore and after a while, winning isn’t fun.
When Seth’s sixteen, Dean’s barely visible. Seth’s at a house party and he sees him standing in a corner. Seth approaches him in his mildly intoxicated state and glares at him.
“Fuck off.” Seth hisses and Dean shrugs.
Seth doesn’t see Dean again.
When Seth is twenty five, Dean Ambrose is like an exploding firework. When Seth sees him for the first time, he shoves his hand in his pockets and pulls out his car keys. Attached to a tatty, frayed piece of string is a chess piece, a knight to be exact, with the letter D carved into its flat bottom. Seth doesn’t think he’s real – because he never was – but when Dean calls him out, wants to wrestle him; Seth knows he’s real.
And it’s sort of strange, how stunningly bright Dean is. The first time they step into the ring together (after Seth had spent a long night trying play a game of chess by himself) Seth feels like Dean explodes beside him every time they touch.
Dean can wrestle. Like he can play chess, he’s unpredictable and has no style. But Seth’s not sure if Dean Ambrose can play chess, because it’s not actually Dean, right?
When neither of them manage to win a match between each other, Seth decides that beating Dean at chess when they were kids is much more fun.
When Seth’s twenty eight, Dean is a supernova. He’s so blindingly beautiful, that sometimes he wonders whether he’ll suddenly just burn so bright he’ll erupt into flames and disappear. Seth half expects him too, because he’s disappeared before.
Seth always feels guilty, though, when Dean tells him to fuck off. Because in his head, he’s sixteen again, telling Dean to fuck off. But most of the time, when Dean tells him to fuck off, he does so with a fond smile on his face and gently shoves his shoulder, because he can.
When Seth kisses Dean for the first time, Seth feels like he’s on fire, skin shimmering and flickering as Dean’s hands curl around his waist, pulling him into his own flames. Together, they’re one big ball of beautiful, blinding light and Seth can feel every fibre in his body come alive.
The fire still burns when Dean pulls away, hands sliding up to take Seth’s face between his hands.
“You know,” Dean says a little breathlessly, “I don’t think we ever got to finish our last chess game.”