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Reflex

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Through the tinny reception of his phone Sam can vaguely hear Dean crank up the volume on the AC/DC tape in the Impala radio. He smiles subconsciously at the noise before plugging the ear that wasn’t glued onto the receiver and ducking into a somewhat quiet corner of the streets he was wandering through. The flickering vacancy sign of their current motel was already in sight.

“It’s just a little cut.” Sam explains through the phone, referring to the gash on the forehead he had received during their last hunt. Dean’s incredulous tuts falls through the earpiece.

“Just get back to the hotel, okay, Sammy? Don’t want you to bleed to death!” Dean barks.

“Dean, it’s just a little–”

“Ever told you that you suck at lying?” Dean inquires teasingly. Sam rolls his eyes as his smile takes a u-turn.

“I think you did, probably the same time you told me that I throw like a five-year-old girl.” Sam retorts and taps his fingertips impatiently against the phone.

The silence coursing through the phone indicates that Dean clearly doesn’t have a witty comment to reply with. For once in his life, he doesn’t have an argument. Sam grins.

“I’ll see you soon.” Dean says gruffly.

“Yeah, bye,” Sam mutters, and then, out of nowhere, almost as though it were a reflex, he adds the unexpected and entirely unnecessary, “I love you.”

He bites down on his lower lip hard enough to draw blood the moment after he feels the words slip from his lips like an unstoppable flow of water. He curses silently into his fist. Sam wants to crush to phone in his fingers as he can practically hear Dean gaping on the other end of the conversation.

“Uh… Dean?” he murmurs quietly. He’s almost afraid to hold the phone close to his ear. The thought of simply hanging up crosses his mind, but Sam really doesn’t want to deal with the fallout in person at the motel.

What even made him say such a thing? Married couples said things like that to each other at the end of middle-of-the-day phone calls to the point where it was daily and almost meaningless because it just came out as a routinely timed reflex. Things like that slipped out if people were holding back well-kept secrets and accidentally felt the privacy of their personal life fall from their grips as a mistake.

Even if this was Sam’s epiphany to realize that Dean was more than just his brother in his deep, deep, never-been-dug-up-before subconscious, the only thing scaring Sam right now was the unspoken reply he was waiting for. He expected shouting, nervous laughter, real laughter, disgust, pity, but definitely not understanding. Dean was not notoriously known as a glorified therapist.

“Dean, say something, please.” Someone had turned the volume down on the typically rowdy streets around him. He shut his eyes tightly. The worst-case scenario was Dean’s repulsion, which would hence create irreparable tension between the two brothers while the best-case scenario was Dean to brush it off lightly with the infamous joke of chick-flick moment, dude. Sam prays silently for the latter.

“Yeah, I know, Sammy.” Dean’s voice finally answers.

Sam doesn’t know whether to be relieved, confused, or slightly irked. He raises his eyebrows even though he knows the phone won’t pick up his movements.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Sam ventures. A second later he regrets asking.

The other end of the line is silent once again until at last, Dean sighs heavily.

“You just gotta make it cheesy, don’t you, Sammy?”

Sam chuckles timidly, raking his fingers through his hair.

“It’s my specialty.” He responds dryly.

Dean’s next reply is brimming with unbridled potential, even though the younger man knows that it can go downhill. Some hills are steeper than others. He twirls a lock of hair around his thumb nervously.

“It means I love you too.”

A smile that could make the whole world sunny without contributing to global warming rips at Sam’s lips unstoppably. Not that Sam even understands why, this is creepy and wrong, but it definitely beats rejection. He grips the receiver with a sweaty palm and grins.

“For some twisted reason.” Dean adds playfully. Sam tuts.

“You are a friggin’ jerk.” He insults through his smile.

“Love you too, bitch.”