Dean had always been a very big believer in the reward system.
When Sammy was a kid, Dean had taught him to read with Cheerios. Sammy would pretty much do anything for Cheerios, and that included trying to muddle through seven-year-old Dean’s attempts to teach the difference between ‘A’ and ‘B’. Later on, spelling was rewarded with special ‘Sleep With Your Older Brother’ nights. These were big motivators, and more often than not, Dean found himself cuddled up to a minty fresh Sammy in second-hand pjs, dodging cold toes uncomplainingly while he basked in the glow of hero worship. Sammy’s first composition was, ‘why Dean is the best.’
As they both grew, and sleeping with your older brother became less of a draw and Dean was no longer the best, Dean stuck more with rewarding himself. A town cleared of pixies equated to a night at the bar, practising his pick-up lines and his right hooks and letting the feeling of hero buzz through him all night, invisible under his skin.
When the Impala had taken them gently over the shitty dirt road leading from the middle of Old Man Jenkins’ crazy zombie meatfarm to Hamburg County General in record time while ten-year-old Sam panicked and John bled out in her back seat, Dean had spent five hours the next day detailing her, inside out, crooning sweet nothings into her grill.
Every vampire he decapitated meant a longneck at the local bar, unless that bar was run by vampires. In which case, one dead vampire meant an extra slice of pie, bought and paid with real money at the next diner they hit up, no matter what time of the day it was.
Beating an old gun-cleaning record led to an extra fifteen minutes of sleep in the morning. Hitting perfect in target practise or running an extra mile or finding a new way to please his dad were almost good enough in and of themselves, so Dean only gave himself a half hour to watch whatever he wanted to watch on TV about half the time, and stuck with letting himself feel proud the other half.
Managing the money John left properly, stretching out too little for too long meant he’d let his mind go where it wanted to when he beat off. It was a good incentive, usually, but Sammy was getting to be all long limbs filling out and stretching up, and now the money was gone way too fast. So Dean let his mind wander where it would – and it always went to the same place that ate up all the grocery money – but only after he’d hustled up some change.
Pretty much everything in Dean’s world balanced out nicely. His brother, he knew, didn’t work like that. Sammy, now seventeen and demanding to be called Sam, expected the best from himself, so his world was made out of punishments rather than rewards. Dean, twenty-one and rewarding himself for every time he remembered ‘Sam,’ thought this method was fucking stupid.
So when Sam was about ready to set things on fire, not for the fun of it but out of sheer frustration over history homework, Dean decided that the reward system was exactly what was called for.
“Sam,” Dean said, plopping onto the couch and mentally added another donut to his running tally.
Sam grimly rode the waves as the shitty old couch resettled and clutched at his textbooks. “What do you want, Dean?” He said it like it hurt, and Dean ramped up the power behind his grin.
“Whatcha doing?” he asked, leaning forward to shuffle some papers around.
“Don’t touch those,” Sam told him angrily, snatching them back. Dean sighed mentally and outwardly kept the grin going strong. Prissily, Sam continued, “They’re study notes. Some of us are actually planning on finishing high school with something better than a D minus average, which requires a bit of effort , and hence the books.”
Dean whistled. “Hence, huh? Well shit, Sammy, whut does that thar word mean?”
Sam grinned despite himself, quick as a flash, then said sternly, “It’s Sam , okay? Not Sammy. Sammy’s a kid’s name.”
“Right, right, sorry,” Dean said, and grabbed the papers back. Sam sat back into the corner of the couch as Dean flicked through them. “Oooh, the Road to German Unification, sounds exciting.”
“It’s really not,” Sam sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with bony fingers. “It fucking sucks. And the test’s tomorrow, but I can’t concentrate.”
“Probably the hormones,” Dean said wisely, remembering his own teenage years. “Some cute little number caught your eye?”
“Shut up, fart-knocker,” Sam muttered, and made to grab the papers back.
Dean planted the heel of his free hand on Sam’s forehead and held the papers out of reach with the other, trying to ignore how Sam’s arm almost reached them anyway. “Hold on there, Tonto, how about I give you a hand?”
Sam huffed and eyed him sceptically. “Dean, you can’t just say, ‘What year did unification take place,’ and when I get it right you say we’re finished. If you’re gonna help, you actually need to help.”
“I can help,” Dean said defensively. “You just need a new strategy. Rewards, Sammy, that’s the key.”
“Sam,” Sam corrected automatically, “and what about rewards?”
“Like, you get the answer right, I reward you with something,” Dean told him, talking slowly.
Sam flipped him off and settled back into the corner of the couch. “Like what? I don’t want your sticky old porno mags, man.”
Dean held a hand to his heart and did his best to look offended. “Excuse me, you were gagging for that stuff only a couple years ago.”
Sam blushed and muttered something and quickly said, “Fine, you can help,” before Dean could investigate further.
“Sweet,” Dean said. “Gimme a minute to look through this. Take a walk, or something.”
Sam huffed and flung himself standing, then strolled out of the room as Dean got jabbed in the spine with a stray spring.
Oh man, German unification had been a long time ago. And Dean had been kinda busy practising eyesex with one of the chicks in his class. He smirked a little to himself as he read through Sam’s notes, remembering. Was it Brenda? Or Barbara? Celine? Something like that.
And thank whatever that John wasn’t home, or else there’d be some comments about priorities, and the fact that Sam was at an age where he didn’t legally have to be in school anymore, and Sam would get all pissed off, and Dean would get dragged in somewhere, and Sam would storm out and they wouldn’t see him until after the test.
“All right, Sam, c’mon back,” Dean hollered, and stuffed the notes in the side of the couch, pertinent information identified and assimilated.
“Dude, I’m right here,” Sam said, and gangled his way out of the bathroom. Dean was constantly stuck trying to reconcile his mental image of Sammy, the chubby twelve-year-old kid brother who still thought his big brother was pretty awesome, to Sam, the guy in front of him, all lanky height and knobbly joints and hair.
“Okay, we’re playing for donuts,” Dean told him, having given the reward a bit of thought. Sam rolled his eyes so far back Dean was half-hoping they’d plop out the back of his head, but gave a half-shrug that was apparently supposed to be agreement.
Dean cleared his throat officiously. “What year,” he said dramatically, “did German unification become official?”
Sam looked disgusted and shot up, said, “Okay, seriously, what did I just say? You never fucking listen, I’m gonna study by myse-”
“Shut up, asswipe,” Dean snarled, and yanked him back down. “Jeez, overreact much? I’m starting you off easy, you little nosebleed.”
“Germany was officially united in 1871, on the 18 th of January,” Sam spat out condescendingly, the little fucker.
“Correct. One donut to the prissy bitch in the front row,” Dean said graciously, ignoring the bird Sam flipped at him. “Next question,” he paused for dramatic effect. “Where did the official ceremony and junk take place?”
The answer was damn near immediate: “The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France.” Sam looked smug.
“Good job,” Dean said, trying real hard to be cheerful, and not violent. He ended up with violently cheerful, which was better than nothing. “That’s two donuts for the little man with the test tomorrow.”
Sam, ever the emotional roller coaster, cracked a half smile. “You channelling your inner carnie, or something?”
“I think I’d make a great carnie.”
“Yeah, you got the lack-of-teeth thing down.”
“Oh, har de har har,” Dean deadpanned. “Question thuh-ree. What were –”
“Are we still playing for fucking donuts?” Sam whined. “Because if I wanted donuts I’d smack you on the head, steal your wallet, and take a stroll down to the coffee shop on the corner.”
“You’re missing the point,” he said, trying not to sound hurt. Donuts were a pretty good prize, dammit, and also? No way would Sam win that fight.
“Well, jeez, how about a better reward,” Sam griped, and slouched lower on the couch. Dean scowled and very deliberately decided he wasn’t hurt by the comments.
“What, you want a pony?” Dean asked, punching it full of sarcasm. At Sam’s sullen look, he continued. “A puppy, maybe? A car? Some sort of fucking sexual favour?” And whoa, he’d spat that last one out sort of by accident, but it hit Sam like a punch in the throat. He turned red and coughed a lot and stared at the floor, and the temperature in the little apartment ratcheted up a few notches. In a completely different tone, Dean repeated, “You want something sexy?”
Sam gave a weird twitch, a half-shoulder jerk, and went tight around the mouth.
“Well, Sammy,” Dean said, deliberately light. “You want a piece of this action?” He flexed, just a little.
“Shut up, Dean,” Sam said, voice getting snarled up somewhere on the way out.
“Cuz, we could play for favours,” Dean continued, softly now that he knew where they stood, and yeah, Sam was looking at him. Eyes shiny with hope and lust and a healthy dollop of mistrust.
“Like what?” Sam asked, voice squeaking up on the last consonant, and Dean smirked, tried not to show how off-balance he was.
“Well, I guess we start where these things always do,” he said, and watched the tips of Sam’s ears turn red. “Is that a yes?”
And Sam. Sam gave an almost imperceptible nod, but so fast Dean felt his breath grow short.
Clearing his throat, he shifted positions, turning to half-face his brother, drawing one knee up onto the cushions and laying a casual arm along the back of the couch. “So,” he said firmly, “question three. What were three contributing factors for unification?”
Sam swallowed audibly. “Uh, one. A collective German fear of weakness compared to the rest of Europe.”
“That’s one,” Dean agreed, and moved the arm along the sofa-back until his fingers were just brushing the skin beneath Sam’s ear.
Sam took a deep breath, leaning only slightly into the touch. “Second cause, the resistance of the Prussian Landtag to submit to the military budget of Wilhelm, leading to the involvement of Otto von Bismarck.”
Dean whistled appreciatively, and cupped the back of Sam’s skull, weaving his fingers through his hair and pulling him slowly forward. “And three?”
“Uh, three. Right,” Sam agreed, eyes flicking to Dean’s lips, then to somewhere over his right shoulder, and back again. Dean raised his eyebrows expectantly. “Oh! Right. Three: the three Prussian wars.”
“Excellent,” Dean rumbled, and leaned in. Sam came with him eagerly, breath puffing briefly over Dean’s face. And then Sam’s lips were on his, eager and hesitant and firm and soft all at once, oxymorons and juxtapositions flying everywhere. They were both of them silent, and Dean wanted nothing more than to deepen the kiss and bring every near-forbidden fantasy he’d had to life.
Sam leaned in harder, pushing Dean into giving more ground, and the couch gave a groan and a crackle of papers and then Dean was pulling off fast.
“Next question,” Dean said quickly, but it came out as a rasp. He cleared his throat, willing his breathing to slow and his mind to shut down, and tried again. “Name the wars,” he said, and watched a smile play over Sam’s lips.
“The Prusso-Danish war,” he said, and stopped, leaning forward expectantly. Dean came to him, he always came to him, and started pressing little kisses along the corners of his mouth. “The Austro-Prussian war,” Sam sighed, lips moving against Dean’s, and Dean covered them fully with his own. When he pulled back, he didn’t go far.
Sam, meanwhile, was at a loss. His lips moved soundlessly and his forehead crumpled. Dean slid his lips gently along Sam’s jaw line and let him think. He was very fucking careful not to leave a mark. He had his hand planted between Sam’s crossed legs for balance and was trailing encouraging nibbles along his neck when Sam finally spoke up.
“The third was the Franco-Prussian war,” he said triumphantly, and grabbed Dean’s ear to turn him, and victoriously shoved his tongue down Dean’s throat.
Dean backed off with a half-laugh and schooled his face into a frown. Sam grinned back at him, puppy-eager. “Dude,” Dean wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Less tongue, okay? Jeez.”
“Okay,” Sam mumbled happily, already pulling him back.
Kissing Sam wasn’t like kissing a girl; no real surprise there. Kissing Sam felt like something Dean was born to do, and hell, for all he knew, maybe he was. Well, actually, probably not, but still. His mind was railing against it, shouting commands to stop, to end it, to bludgeon this thing to death before he was gone forever, before Sam got dirty, but his body fell into it like breathing. The smell, the little turned-on noises that Sam was making, hell, even the taste , it was all familiar, like he’d been here a million times before. They’d always been close, even if Sam had been drifting away the last few years, and Dean, well. He’d wanted this for so long, he’d forgotten what it was like, before.
So Dean licked into Sam’s mouth, and ran his tongue over his teeth, and made desperate noises he couldn’t seem to stop, and felt a freaky sense of peace struggling to overcome the shame and the need that had reigned supreme for so fucking long.
Sam groaned and Dean nuzzled into his neck, feeling the pounding pulse under his lips and the panting breaths gusting in his ear.
“When did they take place?” he said, voice muffled by Sam’s throat.
“When did what?” Sam asked, breathless above him.
Dean ghosted a kiss over his collarbone. “The wars, doofus.”
“Oh, right. Uh, 1864, 1866, and 1870-71,” Sam replied promptly, and they were back at each other double-time, lips and tongues and hot hot breath. Sam was shifting, hips twitching restlessly forward until they met with Dean’s arm, still planted between them, and he broke off with a hiss. Dean moaned, resting his forehead against Sam’s, and watching his kid fucking brother hump his arm.
“Ah, hell,” Dean growled, and pulled away completely. Sam whined and opened his eyes, but Dean wasn’t going far, could never go far. “What was the crisis of the Landtag?”
Sam was clearly on edge, arms trembling as he leaned back on them. Dean, from the mighty age of 21, remembered fondly the days of being a teenager, that sense of lust pounding under your skin at the least provocation, everything tight and full and throbbing. He leaned back to watch as Sam thought through the question, stroking a hand lightly against the side of his neck.
After what seemed like an eternity to Dean, and probably a hell of a lot longer for Sam, Sam burst out with, “They wouldn’t approve Wilhelm’s military budget.”
“Right in one,” Dean murmured, and yanked Sam’s shirt over his head, ratty around the edges and three grubby dollars at the local thrift store.
“ Finally ,” Sam groaned, and tangled his fingers in Dean’s as he worked to get Sam’s pants off. Sam was thin, almost skinny, bones poking out where lean muscle was stretched too-thin over a frame that had just about doubled in size less than a year ago. Dean took it all in, fair skin and tight nipples, the plain grey boxers over narrow hips, and Dean looked sharply back up to Sam’s face and winked.
“When did the crisis take place?” he smirked, as Sam’s head dropped back onto the armrest.
“Dude, you’re killing me here,” he grumbled, so Dean pushed his palm against the cock straining against thinning cotton and held it there, heat and pressure and not much else.
“Answer the question, Beevis,” Dean said imperiously.
“In 1862,” Sam told him, no space between question and answer. “And also, you realise that makes you Butthead, right?”
“1862 is correct,” Dean said, shuffling closer and pulling the head of Sam’s cock out of his boxers and swearing it wasn’t going to go any further. Except Sam kept talking, reciting the facts of the wars with half-mast eyes, and Dean couldn’t just leave it at pressure, not when Sam was trying so hard. Rewards, he thought feverishly, and started to stroke, keeping it light, keeping his motions limited.
Sam moaned and panted and thrust, and Dean. Well. Dean couldn’t ignore his own cock anymore, hard as iron and throbbing like Poe’s heart, reminding him of his own selfish reasons behind the fucking rewards. He pressed the heel of his palm to his jeans, fought not to grind down against it as Sam muttered something about the wars ensuring the military budget was passed; talking for the sake of having something to say besides dirty nothings. Dean tuned in enough to confirm he was headed in the right direction, and stroked Sam’s cock a little harder.
Sam hiccoughed a sob and broke off in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war.
Desperate, not wanting to stop, not wanting it all to end, Dean stroked a hand down Sam’s bare side and urged him on. “Tell me about Kleindeutschland,” he rasped, mangling the pronunciation and not giving a flying fuck.
Sam was past the point of thinking, hips moving mindlessly.
Dean rubbed little circles under the head of Sam’s cock with his thumb, fingers a tight ring. He licked his lips as a bead of precum rolled out, Sam hissing out a breath.
“C’mon baby, tell me about Little Germany,” Dean murmured, voice husky.
Sam’s hips twitched and his head dropped back onto the arm of the couch. “I don’t know, Dean, nono, don’t stop,” he breathed, little gasps as punctuation, and Dean almost said fuck it to fucking Bismarck. Sam was right on the edge, tremor running through his body, hands shaking as they fisted on the cushions, and Dean. Dean was fighting to keep it slow, thumb rubbing firm and steady. He was ignoring how fucking wet Sam was, beading up and shaking for it, breath stumbling out of his pink mouth and Jesus .
“Prussian nationalism feared Austria was too strong; Bismarck wanted to ensure that Prussia was in control of Germany, so Austria was kept out,” Sam gasped out finally, eyes wide open, and Dean’s thumb rolled slick over the head, speeding up just a little.
“That’s good, Sam, that’s real good,” he said, feeling stretched out and weird, grasping for another question, something to keep this going.
“ Dean ,” Sam ground out, voice undercut with a whine Dean felt in his toes , for Chrissake. “Enough studying, enough, oh fuck, just. Dean. Just –” he broke off, straining off the couch, chest flushed clear up to his forehead and hair standing up in clumps.
He reached out then, hands still big and new, and rasped them through Dean’s hair. And Dean rocked forward, forgetting every reward he’d ever promised himself for leaving Sam alone, keeping him free of it, letting him drift away, and fucking dove into the kiss. He flung his leg over Sam’s hips and licked, growling into his mouth, teeth clicking together and lips sliding everywhere, everything too wet and hard and fucking dirty, and Dean was panting and rubbing closer closer closer –
“Ah, shit, get them, Dean, get off ,” Sam muttered, and Dean slammed back like he’d been tossed by a poltergeist, but Sam was following, shifting after him. His hands were groping at Dean’s fly, popping open the button and fumbling with the zipper. Dean watched, wide-eyed and panting, promising himself anythinganything not touching not sucking not biting, and then his jeans were down, pushed to his ankles and caught up with his socks, and Sam – Sam was back, long lean body sweaty over his, bony fingers in his boxers and Dean thrust and broke and healed whole, moaning “samsamsam” and knowing he’d always be Sam’s, alwaysalways always .
With a final lunging heave, Sam came warm on his belly, sweaty bangs trailing over Dean’s nose. They were still for a minute, Dean ready to zip and tuck but Sam was shifting again, wedging himself between Dean and the back of the couch and stroking , barely-there gun calluses dragging rough over Dean’s cock, catching slightly on the flared edge of the head. Dean hissed and moaned and tried to make it last, but then Sam was hitching a leg over his and pulling him wide, opening him up, and Dean lost it, hands twisted into the skanky couch.
“Oh man,” Sam breathed, wiping his hand on Dean’s boxers. “I’m gonna nail that test tomorrow.”
Dean gusted out a laugh, barely enough energy left for that. John was at the back of his head, pushing him to get up get dressed get ready for anything, but Sam was real and at his side, fingertips resting on the back of Dean’s hand. So Dean shifted over slightly, until he felt his ass teetering on the edge of the cushion, and sifted his free hand through Sam’s hair.