It had been a long night, if the half-eaten pizza crusts, the emptied beer bottles, and shattered glass could tell anything. Sheets were ripped from the bed, not from passionate lovemaking, but rather in an attempt to cocoon a man whose entire being could only be described as “eggshell fine,” that level of completion that looks much sturdier than it truly is; one wrong move and everything could crumble to dust. The clock on Dean’s phone gleamed 6:27 AM at him, straining his sleep-deprived eyes as he glared at it, resigning himself to the fact that he’s going to get shit for sleep. Nothing substantial, not with how worried he was about the man curled up against him on the couch, clinging to the thin hotel sheets like they were armor.
Dean had left the arena after his match was done, doing his level best to avoid any sort of contact, wanting a quiet night to himself where he could just relax, eat some crappy food, have some sub-par alcohol, and sprawl out on a bed. However, at around 12:45 AM, a slow knock on his door called his attention away from the terrible porn he had found on the television. He shut it off without even a second thought, padding over to the door.
“What in the hell do you want…” was all he had managed to get out before he saw Seth standing there, hunched over, eyes red rimmed, and the streaks of tears along his cheek.
“Shit… alright, come in, fuck…”
Dean hadn’t asked Seth what the cause of this breakdown was, namely because Seth didn’t have the energy in him to speak, not fully, not in a way that Dean could comprehend. He had collapsed in Dean’s arms, crying to the point of shuddering hyperventilation, the only words in his lexicon being apologies and needing a drink. This was a mental breakdown in its critical moments, and Dean knew, from his own experience, what worked to calm them down.
He had given him a bottle of water, and a slice of pizza, and watched as he huddled into the corner of the couch, nibbling on an edge of crust before he could wheeze out that he wanted a beer, that he wanted to break something, that he just wanted to give up, that he was sorry. He was garbage, he was the worst of the worst, he was surprised anyone still loved him or cared about him, that he didn’t deserve anything good in his life. Each word was hiccupped, repetitious, and finally Dean found himself ducking as Seth grabbed the nearest thing him and chucked it at the decorative mirror on the opposite wall, flinching at the sound of shattering glass.
It was then that Dean rushed him, grabbing anything and everything he could to place them outside of Seth’s reach, and instead grabbing the blankets from the bed, tugging sheets in his hastiness, and promptly wrapped them, along with his arms, tightly around Seth, shushing him into silence, his only response a wheezing mantra of “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, oh god…”
Here he was, nearing six hours later, idly rubbing his hand up and down Seth’s back, his breathing evened out by the overwhelming exhaustion that comes with pouring out twenty-odd years of frustration and fears and irritation. Seth had just started blabbering it out, Dean honestly didn’t want to know, but he felt that if Seth needed it aired out, who was he to argue. Maybe it would make him feel better.
Instead, he was witness to Seth spiraling further, discussing his parents and their unhappiness with his career choice, not knowing his biological father, the problems he had with friendships and relationships and how some of those lines blurred in uncomfortable and inconvenient ways, of constantly fighting against something that ate at his nerves, that he never felt strong enough to truly battle it. How he wanted to make things better, wanted to mend things, but instead only makes them worse, and -, and -, and-...
Dean had only sighed, letting Seth burrow in against him. Why was he even doing this? They weren’t friends, they weren’t lovers, and they sure as hell weren’t brothers, and yet Dean had opened the door for Seth, allowing him in for comfort. Maybe he was just a sucker. Maybe he still had a spot carved out - rotten out, hollowed out - for Seth to squirm his way into, irritating the healing edges and bringing him all that much more pain when he would leave again.
His phone flashed 7:02AM and while he didn’t have travel plans for the day, he did want to go for a walk, or something, to clear his brain. Scooping up Seth’s sleeping form, he carried him over to the bed, gently placing him down before taking a moment to look at him, truly watching him. His face was still puffy from the drinking and the crying, his hair in shambles, curled up so tightly into the fetal position that Dean didn’t think he’d ever get the blankets back.
He took the momentary reprieve from cuddle duty to check his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. The exhaustion had taken hold of him, if his pale-and-splotchy complexion had anything to say about it. His eyes were squinting, the bags dark and heavy beneath his eyes. He felt like he’d been run over by a truck, and as much as he needed the mental space of a walk, what he needed more was sleep.
The walk towards the bed felt like the Green Mile; foreboding, the path to his demise. Surely he could sleep in the same bed and not feel this constriction around his throat and his guts, this tension of “what the fuck are you doing” in his muscles. At the dip in the mattress, a sleep-heavy murmur crept out of the heap of blankets and sheets that was Seth Rollins.
“Shush, yeah, it’s me, go back to sleep.”
An arm snaked its way out of the blankets, a tired hand grasping weakly at open air.
“What. Go to bed.”
Seth poked his head out of the sheets, his doe eyes hazy with fatigue, half aware of his words. “Just stay here.”
“I’m not going anywhere, you idiot, go back to sleep.”
“I know. You never go anywhere. You never leave. That’s what I do.”
Dean felt his eyes close tightly in aggravation. “Seth, we’re not doing this again, I don’t think you have enough water in your system to cry again, please, go the fuck back to sleep.”
“Dean… please… You can pretend to hate me outside the door, in real life, but for now? Just… Right now I need…” Seth ended with a hum, a sound of confusion or realization or nervousness. What did Seth need? What did Seth consider him?
“We’re not like that anymore. You don’t just get to ask me for that.”
“I’m not. Not for that. Just. I need… this. I need this.” Seth stuck his other arm out of the blanket, holding his arms open as if he were a small child asking to be held.
He was asking to be held.
Dean wanted to dump him unceremoniously outside the hotel room, but instead found himself shrugging in defeat, his limbs too tired to do anything except rest against the comfort of the mattress. With a lazily lifted arm, he let Seth nuzzle his way into close contact, his face resting against his neck, his hand back to trailing lazy spirals along the column of Seth’s spine. It felt weird, and foreign, and so overwhelmingly correct, he wanted to vomit.
Here was a man he wanted to rip limb from limb, to send to the depths of Hell itself, and instead he was nurturing him like an injured baby animal. Someone who had ripped his heart to shreds, and yet here they were, limbs entwined in a hotel bed in the early dredges of the morning, breathing heavy like more than just simple snuggling was going on. Dean wanted to press the lips he had bruised and the tongue he had bitten against every centimeter of Seth’s skin, to leave bruises of love over bruises of hatred.
Instead, he was just the soil for Seth to sow his emotional seeds; seeds of love, seeds of hate, confusion, terror, understanding, camaraderie. He grew all the things that Seth lacked, and allowed him to pluck them out of him like crops for harvest.
“You can hate me later, when the door is open. But for now, please.”
Dean only nodded, pulling the blankets from Seth’s body to instead cover the both of them, his palms smoothing over goosepimpled skin, warming it under his touch, before letting the steady breathing of Seth’s guide him into sleep.