Sam wasn’t sure why, but it just seemed like a bad idea.
He couldn’t explain it, though—every time he tried in his head he sounded whiny and jealous, even to himself. So when Dean asked him again if he’d had a chance to think about it, if it was cool with him, he took the path of least resistance and said, “Yeah, okay.”
The look of genuine delight on Dean’s face made him decide that the niggling sense of doubt was ridiculous, that this was worth it.
Dean just looked so damn pleased with himself when he presented Cas with the papers. Crowing, “Congratulations, you’re a real boy now,” and then more softly, “You’re one of us now.” And Sam did feel happy, because they were happy: Dean with a bounce in his step that hadn’t been there in years; Cas wearing a wide grin that still looked strange on his face. But good. The atmosphere in the room was just all very good, and maybe Sam’s problem was he’d forgotten what that felt like. Couldn’t even recognize it anymore.
Yet when he listened to their former angel pronounce his new official human name over and over, first giddy, then reverent—“Cas Winchester, Cas Winchester”—Sam couldn’t shake the feeling that this was somehow going to come back and bite them in the ass.
Having two older brothers was not, in practice, much different from having one older brother. Dean was still Dean—was Dean again—and Cas fit in surprisingly well. Not into some preexisting space left vacant by Dad or by Adam: Dad was Dad, and poor Adam had sadly been more of an idea than anything real. But into a space he carved out for himself, Cas fit, with his quiet curiosity and sly sense of humor that possibly shouldn’t have surprised them quite so much. And it didn’t hurt that he took Sam’s side as often as not—score one for Team Geek.
More family was a good thing, ran Sam’s thinking after several months on the road as a threesome. It was when his and Dean’s worlds both narrowed to a single point that things got dangerous for them. Broader was better. Bobby and Jo and Ellen and Rufus and Cas—that was better.
It was Sam who suggested that they set up some sort of home base—not too far from Bobby’s, but not so close he stopped being happy to see them. (After their apocalyptic year, it was possible Bobby needed a break from All Things Winchester for a while.) So: a house, he suggested. Something small and low-maintenance. A town small enough to be comfortable (Dean got claustrophobic in cities) but not so small that their oddness would become overly apparent. Often Sam couldn’t believe that after what had happened last year, the majority of people were still oblivious to what lurked in the darkness; nevertheless, he was back to agreeing with Dean that for the most part they should try to keep it that way.
When it came to putting down roots and picking out curtains, it was Dean who needed persuading, however. Cas seized onto Sam’s idea almost immediately—he was anxious to try out almost anything human, and apparently that included playing house. Double-teamed by both him and Cas, Dean would have no choice but to give in eventually, Sam knew: the combination of Cas’ quiet, unassuming eagerness and Sam’s best puppy-dog looks would prove too much for him. Had Sam mentioned that having Cas take his side was awesome?
It was awesome, too, to have a bed all his own to sink into at the end of a long day, to have walls separating him from the weird snuffling sounds Dean sometimes made in his sleep and Cas’ little issue with walking into things when he tried to get to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night. (Apparently angels could see in the dark and Cas hadn’t yet fully adjusted to the loss.) It was awesome to have a real kitchen to cook in and a yard to mess around in and the ability to hang onto more than, like, four books at a time. And once Dean came around, he seemed to realize it was awesome, too: tricking out the garage with a wall full of tools and buying a barbeque that he only managed to scorch his eyebrows with once. (So far.)
Cas bought a lot of plants and helped Sam build bookcases and bickered good-naturedly with Dean over whose turn it was to use the hammock they’d set up in the backyard. Sam wasn’t sure what his big issue had been: it was good, it kept getting better, and when they came home from hunts, sweaty and high from adrenaline and the rush of victory, it was the best Sam could remember it being in a long while.
Their neighbors even seemed to like them: an elderly couple, the Bakers, to their right, and a young family, the Tanakas, to their left. If any of them had been surprised to encounter three adult brothers shacking up together, they’d kept it to themselves, and Sam couldn’t say he missed having to explain to everyone that he and Dean weren’t a gay couple. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but Sam would like to go on an actual date again, sometime this decade. With a woman.
With a particular woman, in fact.
Dean had gotten a part-time job at a record store, supposedly by entering said store and insulting the musical taste of everyone who worked there; Cas, meanwhile, had secured a job as an archivist at the local historical society, a position that had remained open until he appeared to fill it because everyone else in the world apparently found it too boring. Sam had been the only one unable to find employ commensurate with his skill set—“can kill with brain; almost-a-lawyer” didn’t make for a very good even mostly-faked resume—so he was bagging groceries at the local A&P three days a week. On a temporary basis, however, he didn’t really mind it—almost being responsible for the destruction of human life on the planet kind of puts mundane tasks in perspective. Besides, it meant he got to see a lot of Rachel.
Sam first met Rachel because she was a friend of the Tanakas who babysat sometimes for their children when she wasn’t teaching medieval history at the local college. They got to talking while the kids ran around under the sprinkler and, almost as loud and rowdy, Dean tried to show a politely interested Cas the pleasures of working on the Impala. After that, Rachel started coming into the store more and more often, always on days he was working, and Sam himself became much more interested in front lawn maintenance. He was just about feeling ready to get back on the horse (“Yeah, you wanna ride her, all right.” “So not helpful, Dean”)—had planned out the perfect first date and everything—when disaster struck.
Sam didn’t understand it at first. A couple days passed at work without him seeing Rachel, but although he was disappointed, he didn’t think too much of it—people did get busy, after all. But then he subbed on one of his days off for another bagger, Doug, only to see Rachel come in, stop dead in her tracks when she caught sight of him, and proceed to snub him completely, even going so far as to choose another—longer—check-out line.
“What did I do?” Sam usually made a habit of never, ever asking his brother for advice about women, but in his utter bafflement, the question slipped out.
“Probably waited too long to make your move, dude,” Dean suggested, taking a swig of his beer and handing Sam one. “You gotta be decisive about this stuff, don’t angst around like some…whiny French poet. Just pounce.”
Sam sighed heavily. “Cas, if you ever decide you want to start dating, don’t take advice from Dean.”
Dean snorted; Cas continued chopping onion intently. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Okay, here’s a radical suggestion, then,” Dean offered. “Why don’t you just ask her? I think she’s babysitting right now, so why don’t you go next door and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or whatever people do?” He paused. “Or you could ask for some sugar…”
“Everything he says,” Sam told Cas emphatically. “Ignore it.” He then immediately undercut his own advice by taking a long swig of his beer and heading next door.
Rachel opened the door not long after he rang the bell. Her neutral expression folded instantly into a frown. “Yes?”
“Hey.” It was times like these that Sam became overly aware of his height: it became something that no amount of shoulder hunching or head hanging could hide. “I haven’t seen you for a while.”
“No. I mean, yes.” She paused, her lips a thin line of consideration. “I think that’s for the best.”
Sam didn’t even— As rejections went, he felt sure this one was unusually bizarre and it kind of failed to process for him. “Why?” he managed eventually.
She pursed her lips: her fingers were firm on the door, and the gap between it and the frame was slowly but unsubtly narrowing. “Look, it may not be you, specifically, but I,” she swallowed, “I saw what your brothers were doing in the backyard. I mean, Christ, Sam, there are little kids here.” She shook her head, her face now the only thing visible in the scant inches of open doorway. “I think you should go.”
He went, wandering back across the fresh green lawns in a daze.
He let his own front door slam closed and walked back into the kitchen. Dean and Cas were still innocently preparing dinner; Dean was even whistling to himself a little. Sam looked between them questioningly. “Were you guys doing target practice in the backyard or something?”
They swung, almost in unison, to look at him. “What? No,” Dean said. “Are you kidding me? There are little kids next door.”
Sam shifted awkwardly. “So you weren’t…cleaning your guns on the deck or anything?”
“What did I just say? Thin fence, small children. I’m not an idiot, Sammy. Besides, that’s what the living room is for.” He started laying their weird miscellany of chipped plates out on the table. “What’s with the sudden firearms safety lesson?”
Try as he might, Sam couldn’t quite keep a hint of a whine out of his voice. “Rachel says she saw you guys doing something in the backyard and now she doesn’t want to go out with me anymore.”
“Uh…” They exchanged a look. It was a definite look. And at the end of it, the tips of Cas’ ears turned pink.
Sam stepped forward, folding his arms over his chest. “Okay, seriously, what did you do?”
Another look, another bout of silent communication. Sam knew he should have felt more wary about that type of thing, but he’d figured it was just another sign they were working well as a team.
“We, uh.” Dean scratched at the back of his head. “We might have taken a nap in the hammock.”
“A nap.” No way was this about a nap.
“Yeah, a nap.” Dean looked to Cas for confirmation.
“There was a nap,” he said carefully, before becoming fascinated by the contents of the sauté pan again.
Sam just looked at them. Dean in particular.
Unsurprisingly, Dean cracked. “All right, and before the nap, we might have, you know.” He was blushing now, a rosy flush highlighting his cheeks, making him look very young. “Made out a little.”
“What?” The single word couldn’t really convey the full force of what Sam was feeling. He didn’t think anything in English could.
“Strictly PG-rated!” Dean held up his palms, placating. “We’re talking hands above the waist, here.”
“Well,” said Cas, blushing also, but honest to a fault. “I may have, you know—” He made a motion with his hands that Sam needed to immediately strike from his memory.
Dean nodded, admitting it. “Cas may have helped himself to a squeeze or two of the old behind.” He chuckled, nervously. “But really, who could blame him, am I right?”
Sam was not capable of much more than glaring at this point, so he continued to go with that.
Dean sobered. “Look, I’m sorry if your lady friend was offended, but if she’s such a, a—homophobe, I don’t think you want to be dating her anyway, right, Sam?”
And that was when Sam lost it.
“She thinks you’re brothers, Dean! She thinks you and Cas—who are apparently, what? Fuckbuddies now?—she thinks you’re brothers, she thinks all three of us are, and what the hell, Dean? This was your goddamn idea!”
Dean squared his shoulders defensively. “Well, at the time, I didn’t know that I wanted to, you know…”
“Pounce,” supplied Cas, helpfully.
“Right. Yes. Thank you. I didn’t know, Sammy! I just thought that what I was feeling was, was—” And now Dean looked embarrassed—really truly embarrassed. “Brotherly,” he squeaked out.
“Ew, Dean!” So much therapy; Sam was going to need so much therapy. “What am I supposed to make of that?”
“What? I’m sorry, okay? I don’t have a lot of experience with strong…feelings of that—” He stopped, suddenly; pivoted. “Cas was making out with his ‘brother’ too! He groped my ass!”
Cas bit his lip. “Human emotions,” he began tentatively, “are sometimes still very difficult for me to understand—”
“Dude, seriously,” said Sam. “We stopped buying that months ago. Come up with something new.”
Cas dropped the pretense and rolled his eyes. “Fine. It felt really good.”
“Yeah, great. I’m sure whatever’s between you two seems so wrong and yet feels so right.” Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “But now we’re gonna have to move!”
“Wait.” Dean held up a hand. “I’m sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation that we could make up. Can’t we just tell her that, um.”
“Perhaps I was giving Dean CPR.” Cas had gotten CPR-certified not long after becoming human because he was extremely conscientious—except, apparently, when it came to making out with a man who was legally his brother in front of people Sam was trying to date.
“You were giving him CPR, in a hammock, while groping his ass?” Sam just wanted to get this straight.
“It’s better than ‘I tripped and fell on him,’” Dean pointed out.
“Or maybe something fell in your mouth and I was trying to get it out again,” Cas suggested.
Dean grinned. “Yeah, with your tongue.”
Fantastic, they were flirting now. “Hey! This isn’t funny, guys!”
“Aww, c’mon, Sammy—it’s a little funny.”
Cas held up two fingers a small distance apart to indicate the size of the situation’s humorousness. “A tad.”
“Maybe a smidgeon.”
“Right, the fact that I’m never going to get laid again is hilarious.”
Dean took a step forward and smacked him gently on the shoulder. “Sam, think about who you’re talking to! This is me here. I can get you laid, no problem.”
“Uh, I’m pretty sure I don’t want sex tips from you, Dean. Turns out you’re into all kinds of kinky incest shit. The fangirls were totally right about you.”
Dean shuddered and made a face. All right, maybe it was a little funny.
Sam pulled out one of the kitchen chairs and sank onto it. “You could have at least told me,” he said, much more gently now.
Dean’s expression grew suddenly serious. He exchanged a look with Cas, who turned off the stove and came and sat down across from Sam. Dean sat down next to him. Anyone looking at them from outside would have seen a scene that was suddenly and ridiculously domestic.
Dean’s shoulders rose and fell in a small shrug. “It’s all kind of new,” he said. “This,” gesturing around the room, the house, the town, the resurrected world, “it’s all really new, Sammy.”
They sat and contemplated that for a moment in not-entirely-uncomfortable silence.
Cas was the first to break it, touching Dean lightly on the arm. “I could marry you.”
Dean went white. “Whoa, Cas… Not that I don’t… That’s a little sudden, man.”
Cas did an admirable job of not bursting out laughing, biting his lip. “No, I mean, we could be married and I could have taken your name.”
Sam leaned forward eagerly. “You’re right! I don’t think we actually told people that you and Dean are related by blood, and if I mentioned to anyone that you’re my brother, Cas, then obviously I just meant my brother-in-law.”
Cas nodded. “You can tell Rachel that her assumption was incorrect. That she was being…heteronormative.”
Sam relaxed back into his chair. “This is perfect! I can go back over there, explain everything, tell her all about the adorable ceremony you two had… I’m thinking barefoot? Under an arbor?”
“I hate you,” Dean said, stabbing his finger in Sam’s direction, then adding, when Cas chuckled, “Both of you.”
“That’s not what you said when I proposed.” Cas smiled beatifically.
Sam propped his chin up on his hand. “Aww, did you get down on one knee?”
“Yes. Well, first I filled the backseat of the Impala with rose petals…Dean swooned a little.”
“Hate,” Dean said. Glaring at both of them, he took his beer to the back door, shouting, “The hammock’s mine for a week, bitch!” over his shoulder.
Cas smiled fondly at the sound of the door slamming shut. “He’ll be back soon. Dinner’s almost ready.”
“You think I have time to mock up some fake wedding pictures in Photoshop?” Sam asked.
He did. One of them went in his wallet, which came in handy as a visual aid when he patched things up with Rachel. One repeatedly appeared framed on the mantelpiece, only to be scowled at and taken down every time Dean found it. And one was possibly spotted tucked into the Impala’s driver-side visor. Possibly.
For the sake of brotherly harmony, Sam wasn’t going to push the point.