Dean can hear Seth’s music the second he steps out of the elevator. The door to the gym is wide open, and even though it’s going on two in the morning every light is on and Seth’s got whatever shit he’s listening to these days pounding through the speakers.
Dean knew he would find Seth here. Whenever they used to lose a match Dean and Roman would want to go out after, drink away their feelings until their egos and bruises weren’t as sore, but Seth wasn’t like them. He’d want to go straight back to the hotel and work out, practice. Try and figure out how to make himself better for next time. Try and get himself stronger so next time they would win.
The fact that Seth lost tonight to Dean is probably making everything worse for him. Dean thinks he should feel bad about this but he just...doesn’t. It’s taken awhile but Dean is finally in a place where he fully believes that Seth gets whatever he deserves, whether good or bad. When things work out for him, great. He’s probably earned it. And when things go bad, well. Seth most likely deserves that too.
Fuck knows when it comes to to the two of them Seth deserves every bit of pain Dean can manage to give him.
The gym is hot and bright, the damp smell of chlorine filtering in from the pool on the other side of the wall. Dean nods at the kid behind the desk and gives him a little wave. The kid’s got his head propped in his hand and is watching something on his phone. He nods at Dean, eyes going a little wide when he seems to recognize him, and then his eyes flicker just the smallest amount toward the corner of the room.
Dean grins. He crosses his arms over his chest and cocks one hip against the counter. His jeans are hanging low on his hips, and his shirt rides up when he leans back.
“He been here long?” Dean asks. He jerks his head to where Seth is balancing on a big rubber ball, doing some sort of strength training bullshit. Dean can remember Seth carrying on in his nasally voice to him and Roman for hours on end about the benefits of crossfit and how to strengthen his core. Dean gets a visceral urge to walk over and beat the shit out of Seth right here. Just walk up, punch him square in the face, and turn around and walk away.
He’s not going to do it. Not yet at least.
“About an hour or so?” the kid says.
Dean snaps on his gum and grins. He digs into his pocket and pulls out all the bills he has. The kids eyes go wide when Dean hands them over, mouth hanging open when Dean nods towards the door.
“Can you go find me a water?” Dean asks him. The kid opens his mouth and Dean shakes his head. He’s probably worried about getting getting in trouble but Dean will take whatever heat the kid might get for leaving him alone with Seth for a while. Whatever it is it’ll be worth it.
“Promise it’s all right,” Dean tells him. The kid watches him suspiciously but he’s standing up at least, and eyeing the door. “I really did forget my water. If anyone says anything to you tell them I said it was ok, all right?”
“Uhm. Yeah. All right,” the kid says. He backs up slowly, eyes glancing toward Seth again before coming back to Dean.
Dean raises his hands palms up. “I’ll be good,” he says and smiles, wide and bright. The kid looks a little scared still, but Dean adds, “I swear I won’t kill him.” Not right away, at least. What fun would that be.
The kid leaves and Dean waits another minute, just watching Seth grunt and sweat with his push ups and weights. He’s not sure how he wants to play this yet. Should he yell something at the top of his lungs and hope Seth gets so freaked out he rolls off his ridiculous exercise ball and crack his head on the floor? Should he sneak around quietly and fuck with everything in Seth’s vicinity until he notices on his own that Dean is there?
The possibilities are endless. It’s like fucking Christmas.
In the end he decides to go with the sneak attack. He wanders around the gym until he finds where Seth’s got his music connected to the speakers, and waits until Seth is balanced in the worst position possible - all his weight on his hands and his head on the floor upside down in the corner of the room - before flicking off the volume and the lights all at once.
“Fuck!” Seth yelps. Dean hears a scuffle and then a thump as Seth most likely topples over and falls onto the floor. Dean laughs so hard he’s got to bend over at the waist to catch his breath.
“What the--” Seth stammers. “What the fuck?”
Dean waits another minute before turning the lights back on. Part of him would like to stand in the dark for hours, watching Seth stumble around and trip over things trying to find the lights, but he’s got to be reasonable. Plus, if the lights are on it’ll be easier to pummel Seth into the ground when he inevitably pisses Dean off.
Seth is kneeling on the floor when Dean spots him, both hands braced on his thighs. He whips his head around frantically looking to see who’s in the gym with him and Dean snickers quietly. Seth’s hair is damp and pulled back away from his face in a low bun. His cheeks and chest are flushed. He finally catches sight of Dean and glares, eyes narrowing into slits.
“Ambrose,” Seth grunts.
Dean grins and wiggles his fingers in a wave. “Hello, princess.”
Dean gasps and presses a hand against his chest. Seth looks like he wants to murder Dean about fifty times over. First the win tonight and now this. It’s officially the best night ever.
“Now, now. Don’t you even mind me,” Dean says. He takes the towel off from where he’s got it slung around his neck and tosses it on the floor. The punching bag is just a few feet away from where Seth is still kneeling, and Dean snaps his gum and pats Seth on the head as he passes by. “I’m just here for a little post victory workout.”
“You’re not even dressed right,” Seth says, glaring at Dean’s jeans.
Dean tsks quietly. “Huh.”
“Leave, Ambrose,” Seth spits.
Dean scrunches his face up and pretends to think about it. He rubs his chin. “Nah.”
“I’m not joking,” Seth says angrily. He’s jumped up to his feet and his fingers are clenching in and out of fists. Dean remembers how easy it always was to rile Seth up. He used to pretend that he was totally zen about things, that he could deal with the shit they were given and just roll with it. He tried so hard over and over again to keep everything inside until he allowed it to come out like Roman does, but he never really could. Seth was always more like Dean than he ever wanted to admit. Every single thing Seth’s ever thought or felt could always be seen, right there on his face.
“I was here first,” Seth adds petulantly.
Dean laughs and shakes his head. This is ridiculous. Seth is the same as always: the whiniest pissbaby ever. “Are you twelve? I was here first,” Dean mimics. Seth takes a step closer and Dean does back up a little, giving Seth some space. “All right, all right. I’m just--” he jerks his head toward the bag in the corner of the room. “I’m just going to be over there.”
Seth’s nostrils flare. His teeth are clenched and he looks like he wants to scream and yell and throw a tantrum. Fuck knows he’s been doing that enough lately. In the end though he just drops his head and lets out a long, ragged breath. “Fine. Just. Just fine.”
Seth stalks over to where his music is and puts it back on, but lowers it so it’s not quite the same screaming nonsense Dean heard when he first walked in. Dean kicks the bag a little. It spins in circles and every time it swings back and forth Dean goes from being able to see Seth to having him fall just out of his line of vision. Seth is doing lunges now. His thigh muscles stretch in his shiny pants and Dean has to bite on his tongue to keep from making any one of the thousand jokes that are begging to be let out of his mouth.
It’s not a surprise when the music stops and he looks over to find Seth standing a few feet away from him, hands planted on his hips and glaring.
“What?” Seth snaps.
“Nothing.” Dean takes the bag in his hands and swings it out hard enough Seth has to take a step back.
“I know your face,” Seth bites out. “It’s not nothing.”
“Hey, I’ve got a joke for you,” Dean says. He pokes his tongue out and smirks. “How do you know when someone does crossfit?”
Seth shakes his head. “What?”
“How do you know,” Dean asks again slowly. “When someone does crossfit?”
Seth huffs. Dean’s so familiar with the look in Seth’s eyes it almost feels like old times. He looks like part of him wants to kill Dean and the other part is hanging on his every word. Dean’s missed Seth looking at him like that. He hates himself for it but he misses it all the same.
“I don’t know, Ambrose. How do you know?”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Dean says smugly. “They’ll make sure to tell you.”
Dean lets his smile break wide when Seth sqwaks in indignation and Dean laughs at him. Seth’s still so easy. He’s still so predictable and it sends a shiver up Dean’s spine. He wonders what else Seth is predictable about. Would he still like it if Dean shoved him around a little bit? Would he still do whatever Dean wanted if he was laid out under Dean’s hands?
“You’re such an asshole,” Seth says. He’s come closer again and this time Dean lets him. They’re the only ones in the gym and there’s little to no chance anyone else is going to come in. It’s so goddamned late that anyone they’re with at the hotel is smarter than they are and probably dead asleep by now, and Dean gave the kid enough money before to pretty much guarantee he fucks off until Dean decides to leave for the night.
“I am,” Dean agrees. He flicks the hair off his forehead and pokes his tongue out. “I’m fucking great at it.”
“You didn’t win that fight clean tonight,” Seth bites out. He’s yanked the rubber band out from his hair and it falls loose around his face. There’s so little of the blond left and something twists up hard in Dean’s chest the same as it does every time he notices it.
He remembers the day Seth dyed it. He remembers Seth’s grin and Roman’s confused look and the way he wanted to touch it even then, even though everything was still so new. He wanted to know what Seth’s hair felt like in his fingers. He wanted to pull on it to see if Seth’s face would do that thing when he’s in the ring and something hurts but in the very best way possible.
“Like you’ve had a clean fight anytime in the last year,” Dean says and snorts. “Like you would even know what a clean fight was.”
“But you beat me because I was distracted,” Seth insists. “I just - I wasn’t paying attention and you fucking - you fucking used that and--”
“Seth,” Dean interrupts. His voice is loud and he uses it, pitches it over Seth’s until it rings out in the room. “Seth, let me explain something to you, ok? Because the difference--”
“I don’t need you to--”
“The difference between you and me,” Dean continues, not even stopping when Seth tries to get him to stop. “Is that I don’t need help to kick your ass. I could do it all on my own.”
Seth is closer now. He’s so close Dean could beat the crap out of him right here. His fingers itch to do it. He could crush Seth’s nose into his pretty fucking face and leave him a beaten up mess on the gym floor.
He thinks about it. He does. He watches Seth staring at him and thinks about taking him out right now then finishing his workout. He’d go back up to the room after and take a shower like nothing happened. Tomorrow Roman will ask him how his night was and Dean will smile, and say it was great, and pretend not to notice the way his knuckles still sting or the way his fist is still shaped to the curves and angles of Seth’s cheekbone and jaw.
Seth says something though before Dean can do it. He shakes his head and laughs a little. The hair falls over his eyes and Dean wants to pull on it. Wants to yank until there’s not a piece of blond left. Until there’s nothing of his Seth standing here, because his Seth never would have done this.
“Remember when we didn’t do this?” Seth asks.
Dean sucks in a breath and holds it. He lets it out and the urge to tear Seth limb from limb dissipates slowly. “Shut up. We always did this.”
“Yeah but.” Seth steps back and when he looks at Dean his eyes have gone soft. “We didn’t do only this. Remember?”
Dean remembers. He remembers riding in the car with Seth and Roman, the three of them arguing over the music and stopping at every rest stop so Roman could get out and stretch his legs. He remembers watching football in bars and drinking too many beers and kicking Seth’s ass mercilessly at pool wherever they went. He remembers lying on the bed in their hotel room, talking about their last match. He remembers Seth holding ice on Dean’s shoulder and wrapping his cuts and keeping Dean warm under the covers that night in Seattle when the heating was busted.
He remembers kissing Seth in the shower and waking up to Seth’s nose tucked against his back. He remembers Seth’s hands - always Seth’s hands and mouth taking Dean apart night after night after night.
“I remember you hitting me in the back with a fucking chair,” is what Dean says, though, because none of this is Seth’s fucking business. He doesn’t get to know what Dean remembers. Not anymore. “I remember you kicking my head through a pile of cinder blocks.”
“Oh my god,” Seth says and groans. “Get over it.”
“Yeah, you know, you see, Seth, that’s where you’re not understanding me.” Dean cracks his knuckles, curling one hand until it’s tucked into the other and squeezes. “Because I’m not ever going to get over wanting to make you pay for what you did to us. I’m never going to get over what you did to me and Roman.” Seth’s closer now, so close Dean can smell him. He can feel Seth’s breath where it hits Dean’s collarbone. He wants to touch Seth’s face. Wants to pull on his hair and scratch his nails over Seth’s skin until he’s bruised red and raw. Until he can’t move without feeling what Dean’s done to him.
“I’m never going to get over standing in the ring and having to watch you walk at me and not with me,” Dean says quietly, as he shoves past him to walk away.
He’s barely two steps gone when he feels Seth’s hand on his arm, yanking him back. Anger flares up fast and hot, and Dean swings around, fingers already clenched into a fist, the sense memory of Seth’s skin against his making his palm tingle. He’s expecting a punch so when Seth grabs Dean’s hair he tenses, his entire body freezing up as Seth kisses him instead.
It’s the same, is the first thing Dean thinks. He’s wondered all this time if he ever had the chance again, if he ever had Seth again, would it feel the same or would Dean be able to taste all the months of betrayal in his mouth.
Seth was never more honest than when he and Dean were together, though, and it seems like that at least hasn’t changed. Every time Dean had kissed him, sucked him off, fucked him hard in their locker room after a match or long and drawn out in their bed back at the hotel, every single time Dean knew Seth better. He got to understand him more, got so deep into his head and heart that Dean’s never been able to get past the fact that he didn’t know what Seth was going to do. That’s what’s killed him the most after all this time. The fact that Seth kept it from him, that he lied like that. Dean never thought Seth had it in him.
“Fuck, fuck,” Seth mutters against Dean’s mouth. He’s pulling on Dean’s shoulders, dragging him so it forces Dean to crowd Seth back against a wall. He gets Dean against him and then his hands drop, his shoulders going limp as he tilts his head back and lets Dean just take.
Dean curves his fingers around Seth’s chin and angles his head up. He kisses him so hard he can taste blood, Seth’s lip split open from Dean hitting him before in the ring. Seth whimpers against him and Dean swallows it down, kissing him like he wants to fuck; hard and fast and dirty.
“This wasn’t - I wasn’t--” Seth is sputtering. His eyes are wide, pupils blown dark. Dean shakes his head and looks down. He can’t stand Seth looking at him like that, like Dean still matters. Like he still matters to Seth. “I didn’t plan on this to happen.”
“Shut up,” Dean mumbles. He shoves his hand down the front of Seth’s pants. Seth is hard against Dean’s hip and he makes a broken sound in the back of his throat when Dean curls his fingers around him and starts jerking him off.
“Dean, I just--”
“Shut up,” Dean hisses. Seth’s body is achingly familiar under his hands. It’s been so long, it’s been forever it feels like, but apparently Dean will never forget just how to bite at Seth’s skin like he’s doing right now. Maybe he’s going to remember forever how to twist his wrist and let Seth fuck into his hand until Seth is closing his eyes and shuddering, coming all over Dean’s fingers and fist in the middle of an empty gym at two in the morning.
The idea of that scares the shit out of Dean. The idea that he might never be able to shake this, that Seth is going to be Seth for him until the end of fucking time is enough to make Dean want to throw himself off the roof of the goddamned hotel.
“Hey, c’mere,” Seth mumbles, his body going almost limp after coming. His breath is ragged where it fans across Dean’s cheek. Dean looks down and tries to shake his head out of the funk he’s gotten himself into. His own dick is hard but when Seth goes to touch him Dean moves back a little, wiping his hands off on the front of Seth’s pants. He’s just - he’s good. By the time he leaves the gym he’ll be fine to go jerk off in the hotel room or something and he just. This was enough right now. Dean doesn’t need to give away anything more to Seth than he already has.
“Hey,” Seth says quietly when Dean takes another step back. “Dean, man, come on.”
“Nah. I’m, uh. I’m good.” Seth opens his mouth to argue but Dean shakes his head sharply. Seth snaps his mouth shut and tilts his chin almost defiantly. His eyes flicker and go still and his expression closes off like someone’s swung a curtain closed to block out a window.
He’s back to the old Seth now. Dean can barely recognize him again.
“Yeah, well. In that case,” Seth says. He rubs the back of his neck and straightens out his pants. His hair is still loose and knotted but he pulls it back, ties it up with the rubber band he’d had around his wrist and Dean feels a bone deep urge to leave. He’s got to get out. He’s got to get away first before Seth has the chance to walk away from him again.
“I’ll let you get back to your workout,” Seth finishes.
Dean laughs, low and sad in his throat. He lifts his hand to do something - touch Seth’s hair or pat his shoulder or who knows what - but Seth flinches when he does it and that’s enough of a cue for Dean to go.
He never should have come here. Tomorrow when he tells Roman what he’s done Roman is going to kick his ass six ways from Sunday.
“Nah,” Dean says, reaching down to pick up his discarded towel and sling it around his neck. Seth is still watching him carefully, and Dean thinks that maybe if he tried again, maybe if he made an effort to be nice right now, in this very second, maybe things could start to be okay between them.
“I’ll leave all the fancy lunges to you, princess,” Dean says instead. Seth’s expression closes off. His eyes go dull again and Dean thinks how sad it is, that this is the Seth he recognizes these days.
“It’s amazing, really,” Seth says quietly. He sounds resigned. “You’re never going to change, are you.”
Dean thinks about who’s changed more between them. He thinks about who is more like the person they always were. Which one of them has never faltered, has never turned his back on the others. He thinks about how much Seth has changed and thinks that if Seth thinks it’s a bad thing, how Dean is still the same, how he’s still the same person who has his last brother’s back, then fuck it, you know? Dean’s not the one who’s fucked up here.
“Probably not, champ,” Dean says and turns toward the door. He can feel Seth’s eyes on him the entire time he watches Dean walk away.