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“I’m out of practice at yelling at you,” Dean said to his brother.

Sam blinked hard and compressed his lips, so the soft answer that came out of his mouth wouldn’t fool anyone, let alone the man who raised him. “You really shouldn’t, anyway,” Sam replied. Now they were glaring at each other across the coffee table. 

“She really pissed me off, Sam,” Dean said.

“She was trying to make a point.”

“Right, by dragging me into an argument you two are having about me, and by entrapping me, yeah – Sam, I gotta say that was a new one on me – someone who wants to marry into my family – treating me like a CI gone bad on a shitty cop show!” Dean closed his eyes, shook his head once, and pivoted to turn his back on his brother. Sam could see him making a face; his reflection in the curio cabinet they’d inherited from Grandma Deanna showed up perfectly.

“Here we go,” Sam said under his breath. He closed his eyes and waited; Dean was winding up for more scolding, probably at a quieter volume, in a more manipulative tone of voice. They were fighting over Sam’s girlfriend, because she was slowly pushing Dean out of Sam’s confidence, or so it seemed to Dean.

She did a better job than Dean of keeping his secrets. She was a lot less manipulative. And he kept having this dream, a dream with three children. He thought he might have a panic attack, trying to keep his breathing steady, trying to keep Dean from suspecting anything, that perhaps Sam was angry in lieu of feeling nothing.

 

Sam wanted to break up with Ruby, and he was terrified of breaking up with Ruby. He didn’t actually want to break up with Ruby, because despite his lying to her, he loved her more than was comfortable, rational or sensible. When she said she loved him, he believed, hard as it was that anyone but family could ever love him.

He knew that his future was with her, but at the same time, he couldn’t see how to get there. And poor Dean was getting dragged around by Sam’s lies. There was no good way to talk about it was happening inside him. He’d been lying so long, it was normal. So he didn’t talk about it, not even to the shrink he’d briefly had. And he mocked Dean for being uncommunicative; it was kind of their thing. All the while, he lied. When Dean found out, Sam had no idea how he’d react, except that it would be bad.

 

Breaking up with Ruby would be easy, a well-trodden path. Fights, door-slamming. Eventually this issue with Dean - how the two people he loved the most got off on sniping at each other - would make Ruby want to move out of his life, but as long as he had her, he didn’t have to acknowledge it.

“It.”

The thing in his life he’d been ignoring and dancing around and pushing out of his mind for years. He was tired of being torn down the middle. Or maybe the right metaphor was that he was being ground to powder, or completely crushed by his secret; wanting men, sexually, and never doing anything about it.

Nothing - until a few weeks ago. A blow job in a bath house was not a meet cute, it was just him and Punch - he mentally called him Punch because he looked like the English children’s character - sucking hard and grunting a lot. It had overwhelmed him. The lid was off. He went home in a daze and he could hear the man whispering in his ear, with suppressed laughter, “Damn, that was fun,” and then, more concerned, “You’re shaking.”

“Yeah. Yeah,” Sam said. He shouldn’t have said what he said next, which was, “That was my first.”

“Hope it met expectations,” the man whispered.

“And exceeded.” Sam lay back on the bench and closed his eyes, and when he opened them he was gone.

“Shit.”

But he met up with him again next to his locker on the way out, and the man presented him with a Hershey’s kiss on a small doily.

“Such an occasion should be commemorated,” he said, expressionless, like a waiter, or functionary.

Sam never ate sweets, but he was not going to turn it down. He made a production of it, sucking on it and putting his finger to his mouth. Punch was still chuckling as he pushed his way out the locker room door, and he turned and waved back to Sam with a merry smile on his face.

 

He couldn’t think about that. He kept thinking about it. He could not actually stop thinking about it. Round and round, the thoughts went, the recollected sensations; the feel of his cock disappearing into that beard made him tremble again.

 

The future was him and if not Ruby, some other woman, someone who would put up with his incalculable internal pain and the mundane coping mechanisms he’d put into place in his life just to keep going. Fighting for others, being an attorney, working on becoming a better person; that made it easier to hide from everything else. He was a good guy. Some days that was enough to cover the fact that to himself, he was a hollow guy.

 

Someone banged on the door. “That’s probably for me,” Sam said, opening his eyes after closing them to drift away from Dean’s pissiness, and Dean said, “What?”

Grumbling, Dean went to answer it. Sam heard his intern’s voice. Clients rarely thought he was an intern. Cass was ten years older than Sam. “Hi, is Sam Winchester here?” 

Sam shook his head. He could have predicted it, he could have set his watch by it; Dean was stalling Cass at the door, probably flirting with him. Sam thought that his brother was incorrigible, with that special family feeling that starts as irritation and ends as resignation. 

He was not surprised to see Dean had turned on the charm and insisted that Cass step in and join them for a coffee. Wonderful! Dean didn’t want to fight right now, and thank God for that; he’d grabbed the first opportunity to perform this act of his, to go into ‘I Wanna Impress You’ mode. Cass gave him that little frown, which Sam knew from observation could mean almost anything, since it was Cass’ default facial expression, when he was thinking hard. It was as if he had no idea what Dean was doing, and Dean nodded and sauntered into the kitchen and started coffee and batted his lashes at Cass, as Sam and Cass talked about the documents he was delivering. Cass seemed oblivious, but Sam got an eyeful of Dean peacocking, and it was quite something. Dean was irritating but entertaining, sometimes.

After the coffee was on, Dean was doing everything but strut up and down the living room to get Cass’ attention and all that garnered was Cass shooting him nervous little frowns, which poor Dean started to interpret as lack of approval. Or so Sam observed. He had the advantage of knowing both men well. 

So, Dean quit standing around gawking, and sat down like a civilized host, only rising to get the coffee. They talked about trivial things, and Cass might have smiled once or twice, which he didn’t normally, being a serious person.

Cass burned his mouth drinking his coffee and left after exactly ten minutes.

“Tell me about Cass,” Dean said, holding back the curtain and watching him drive away.

Sam was familiar with Dean’s variable enthusiasms, but this seemed more than the usual interest. “I dunno, Dean; I’m afraid you might, you know, swoon or something.”

“Yeah, well, I might,” Dean said. “You said you had a new intern, you didn’t say he was – ” and here Dean paused.

“Yes, Dean, he’s gay, but he’s not going to be interested in his boss’s brother. Find another distraction.”

“We’re both adults.”

“I made him sign a code of conduct. Fucking my brother is not on the list.”

“You didn’t.” Dean was all bug-eyed, believing his brother was dicking with him, but he was not one-hundred-per-cent sure.

“It would serve you right if I did.”

Sam escaped while he could, but not before Dean packed him a thermos of coffee, as if he was still in law school, and Sam even said thanks. He was all the way out to the car before he realized he’d left the next couple of days’ worth of clothing in his duffle bag, and Dean called him ‘a genius!’ with true brotherly sarcasm as he left the second time. “Don’t forget to bring the thermos back!”

 

Ruby told Sam to move the rest of his stuff out of Dean’s house into her place, which her folks owned outright and she only paid nominal rent on. Sam was growling at her by the time she finally took the hint. She thanked him for staying overnight and, while he sweated nervously, she used his body to satisfy herself, and he thought about the man at the bath house, and his dick got harder and now his sweat felt like lust. “Oh yeah babe,” he managed as he came, anything small to make her feel like he was communicating, that they were connected, because he felt as disconnected as he’d ever been.

She knew he was distracted. She didn’t say anything.

Ruby was expecting him to ask him to marry her. He’d actually looked at rings. This shadow state, where he was trudging through every day, looking for a reason not to end what was happening inside him, as every good feeling inside him was hunted down and swallowed whole, or stomped on, by his depression, (or Dean emotionally dive bombing him, incessantly) never ceased. He wasn’t allowed to be depressed. He had to manage this, and he dozed, with his eyes open, through brushing his teeth and cleaning himself up afterward.

Dean had very useful physiology, where he could sleep without hesitation. Sam wasn’t like that. The moonlight had wandered a yard across the floor before he finally conked out. He slept through Ruby lying next to him and weeping and if anyone had ever told him about it and asked him how felt about it, he would have said they were both better off, in the way they were not understanding each other just then.

 

In the morning he woke up and looked at Ruby and felt dead inside. A little voice said, “The only reason you don’t kill yourself is you’re afraid Dean will follow you,” and it was eerie how being depressed can make you quite ill and not hearing things right, or hearing things that aren’t there. He knew that was the case. He told himself again that the only reason he hadn’t killed himself was because he was scared his brother would follow him, because he hadn’t hurt himself enough the first time he’d thought it.

Dean would get drunk and follow him into suicide, and picturing it frightened Sam. Then he told himself that none of this was true, he had to shake himself loose from those thoughts.

He told himself, “I’m not drinking. The depression isn’t really in me hard unless I’m drinking, that’s when the hole opens up, the hole opens up.” He was already in the bathroom and Ruby was a door away in the kitchen, clattering the way women do when they’re sad and their eyes are screwed up from crying so much, so they’re clumsy. He thought maybe she didn’t hear him puke. He almost puked again at the smell of coffee, but he knew better than to refuse coffee, because when he started to refuse coffee it was a sign that he was crashing hard; that he no longer wanted anything that would make him feel more lively, and then he’d go still, and get thirsty for oblivion, and start drinking bourbon.

 

If he did that he’d get blackout drunk, and suddenly there was blood, and Dean’s worried face, and being told over and over again, “You can’t sleep here, you can’t sleep here,” and he’d be crying, “But it’s the first time I’ve really slept in weeks, maybe months!” and it was never better the second time, waking up in the drunk tank, when he still had reason to cry. He had to not drink. Whatever happened it was really important not to respond with alcohol, plus Ruby said they’d break up, and he wasn’t ready for it, and she was scared, too; he might try to kill himself, he’d almost managed once before.

 

He gave a hiccup of laughter, but anyone listening wouldn’t have believed he was thinking anything funny.

 

“Did you sleep at all last night?” Ruby asked; there were greyish-purple semicircles under his eyes and he felt rubbery, and tacky, and dead inside, so it was a reasonable question.

“Some, not a lot,” he answered. He was being honest, stalwart. And he was going to go to the bath house on the way home from work. It was a Thursday. Maybe he’d be there. 

 

All day he alternated between feeling elated at the possibility that he’d see him, and feeling sorry for himself in anticipation, because of course he wouldn’t be there.

He wasn’t, when he first got there, and just as he was packing up to leave, having rebuffed, smiling, a couple of other men, after watching a couple of middle-aged guys jerk each other off, the solid little bearded man showed up. Sam made a sound like a whimper tucked into a growl and picked him up bodily and kissed him, which was nuts, but Punch wasn’t complaining. He responded by wrapping his legs around Sam and that was when Sam learned for himself how big and strong that tongue was, a tongue that had already lollipopped up and down his dick a couple of times – was now giving a convincing demonstrating of the further talents of its owner. Sam’s grip on him, as he faded into submission of the kiss, faded as well. Punch bounced down onto the ground and looked up at Sam. “I wanna fuck you so bad,” the man said, and the look on his face was what he wanted to see, intense interest without the hint of a leer. Nobody looked at him like that. Ruby looked worried and speculative behind her tight smiles, Dean looked worried and smug. Punch looked like happiness within reach. “But not here. And I’ve got no privacy at home.”

“Me either, that’s why it’s here. You want a regular thing,” Sam whispered.

“An appointment, oh yeah,” Punch said chuckling, and then they kissed some more and jerked each other off in an alcove next to the steam room, sweating hard. Punch’s grunts as he came in his hand were what he wanted as the soundtrack for a new life, a life in which something good could finally happen. Oh God that tongue is going to be in my ass, and it was really hard not to come after that.

“My name’s Gabe,” and Sam shuddered, because Gabe’s lips were on his ear and he shouldn’t feel this horny when he’d just blown his load. “Sam,” he whispered back. “Can you make Tuesday at the same time,” Gabe whispered, and Sam shook his head.

“How about Sunday?”

Sam sucked in his breath. Skipping Sunday dinner with Dean? Dean would fly around after him like a damn woodpecker, until he chiselled the truth out of him, so now Sam had to come up with a lie.

“Oh, so you have to lie to the fam, right?” the man said, reading his face like a newspaper. It was fucking uncanny, and Sam sort of loved it. Someone was paying attention. He then misread Sam’s follow up expression when he said, impishly, but resigned, “Yeah. Well.”

Sam was adamant. “No, I want to, I do, I just need to arrange some things first.” They exchanged phone numbers.

“I’ll see you then,” and the kiss Gabe pulled Sam down into echoed through his very soul.

 

“Dean, I can’t make Sunday.”

“Seriously? I got plans for that Tofurkey.”

“You’re mocking me,” Sam said. “Ruby wants a fancy meal.”

“That a fact,” Dean said. He knew Sam and Ruby were having troubles, but found a minute to doubt his baby bro.

“Dean, you’re not each other’s fave person right now, can you just leave it for the time being?” Sam pleaded.

His plan was that at the last minute he and Ruby would have a fight, because he’d pick a fight. He’d leave in a pretend huff, and join Gabe at the motel. It was a cheap and dirty lie and Dean would be furious and Ruby even angrier - if she knew - and the depression said who cares, isn’t Dean always furious and aren’t you always giving him something to be angry about. Like Ruby. Finding a girlfriend specifically to piss off your brother, that’s considered Premium Quality Family Dysfunction.

You can believe a lot of stuff that’s not true when you’re depressed. He loved Ruby. He had dreams about her giving him children, not one but three children. In the dreams the children begged him to live, because they were not yet born. He’d wake up crying, Ruby would be shaking him and then he’d tell a little lie, that they had kids in his dream and they were so beautiful he cried. “It didn’t sound like happy crying to me,” Ruby said dubiously. “You keep having that dream.”

“Three kids,” This is no place for children, I should never be a father, a voice inside him said.

 

At the motel, when they finally met, the mattress was new and so were the sheets; he’d expected something grubby, but  it was spartan and clean.

After an awkward make-out session just inside the door, which became steadily more sexual, Gabe gave him a back rub. Sam had been expecting him to go straight for sex, and at the diversion, Sam once again found himself feeling something, something that got through the depression. Sam knew how to cry without sobbing or sighing, (when he was awake, anyway) so he leaked for most of it. Gabe pushed a tissue gently into one of his hands and he realized that Gabe was paying closer attention to him than anyone but Ruby ever did and it made him feel cherished and even more naked than he already was and the depression said, You have to tell him about me.   

“No,” Sam said aloud, and Gabe stopped touching him abruptly, and got off him and sat next to him. Sam panted a couple of times, starting to panic, thinking he was driving Gabe away by behaving irrationally, and so he grabbed Gabe and kissed him. When he came up for air he said, “I’m fighting demons in my head,” and Gabe said, “What kind of demons?” in a warm, conversational way, and Sam said, “I’m suicidally depressed.”

“Oh,” Gabe said, and his normal cheerful expression was completely gone. He said, quietly, “Do you feel that way right now?”

“No,” Sam said,” and he was surprised to hear himself say it. “I’m dead inside, though,”

“You’re very alive on the outside,” Gabe said. “You probably should start saving some for yourself.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Do you have a therapist?”

“I’m dumping my entire suite of mental health problems on a hookup and you have to ask? She went into private practice in another state.”

“God bless America,” Gabe said, without emphasis. “I think you’re amazingly sexy and smart and – I think I might have mentioned that your dick is a work of art, a couple of days ago.”

“Are you trying to distract me?”

“We don’t have to do anything,” Gabe said helplessly.

“Oh, yes we do,” Sam said, and he pulled Gabe into his lap like he was a rag doll and rubbed his dick against him while kissing him hard. He tried to boss Gabe around, but it was impossible. Gabe was the top in this duo and Sam would have to learn to deal with it. Within minutes, Gabe’s tongue was putting him into a dreamy, floaty, horny state, and then they took a break to suck on each other’s nipples, taking turns, experimenting, giggling sometimes and moaning sometimes, and the whole time Sam’s dick was leaking, and Gabe’s dick was leaking.

“Feel like getting your ass licked?” Gabe asked.

“Um, yeah,” Sam said, and put his ass in the air for a guy for the first time. He groaned into the pillow like he was in pain for the next few minutes. Gabe seemed to have it figured out that he was actually enjoying himself; so when Gabe said, “Feel like getting a finger in your ass?” he said a muffled, “Yes, please,” so Gabe would know he had enthusiastic consent, and would not stop the amazing parade of sensations that was making Sam’s depression shut the fuck up for a wonderfully long time.

Once the lube was opened, Sam felt like there was no going back. If Gabe wanted to fuck him in the ass, Sam was going to support the idea by begging him for it – cheerleading if necessary. Gabe gently stroked and stretched him, while Sam shuddered and willed himself to relax.

Gabe said, “Are you okay with me putting on a condom and fucking you in the ass?”

“How long before you make me start begging for it?” Sam countered.

“Sassy,” Gabe said. “I like that. I like you a lot, Sam, and it would make me and my dick extremely happy to play in your ass.” After a few seconds the condom was on and Sam felt Gabe’s groan through his whole body as he eased into his ass. He sank down into Sam and shifted, gently.

Playing with dildos does not teach you how hot and full and springy a great big dick is, and so Sam was overwhelmed from the beginning. Gabe shifted around a lot at first, but cued by Sam’s startled whimpers, started to find a tempo and a rhythm that had a mind-blowing effect.

Sam felt heat pulsing through his ass and coursing through his body in waves. He felt his balls and dick bounce with every thrust.  Muscled arms held him tight, as Gabe stopped to press kisses on his back. Sam pitched his ass around and growled.

“Oh, Sam, I’m going to come so hard in your luscious ass,” Gabe responded with a purr, and he fucked Sam with jackhammer strokes until he arched his back and came.

He collected himself after about ten seconds, and slowly pulled out, while Sam protested wordlessly. He groaned himself as he said, “Yeah, but I’m trying to be responsible here.”

Sam said, “Mf.”

Gabe cleaned them up. Sam was past the point of caring what his face looked like, eyes closed, mouth slightly ajar. He still looked exhausted, but he no longer looked sad; he looked like he’d perked up quite a bit. Gabe grinned to himself, but as he looked at Sam’s beautiful, memorable face, his grin faded.

Gabe thought about saying something to Sam about feeling like killing himself and decided against it. “Are you a cuddler?” Gabe said.

“C’mere,” Sam said.

Within minutes they were overheating and sweaty, and Gabe drew back and ran his hands lightly over Sam’s whole body to cool them both off. Twenty minutes later, Sam was almost dozing. “I feel so lazy,” Sam murmured. “Like I just want to soak this up until I can’t any more.”

“We got time for seconds,” Gabe said.

Sam’s phone dinged out a notification. Then another. Then another.

“Goddamnit, Dean,” Sam said, muffled.

“May I know who Dean is?”

“My brother,” Sam said shortly. He sat up and fumbled for his phone, and then sat up even straighter.

“Fuck,” Sam said.

Ruby had not sulked alone; she and Dean had called each other, apparently, and shared their worries.

And Ruby had put a tracker on his phone, at which point, “What the fuck, Ruby!” slammed out of Sam’s mouth.

“Ruby’s the girlfriend, I take it.” Gabe lay back on the bed.

“They know I’m here. They both know I’m here and they want to know which skank I’m shacked up with.” Sam sounded panic-stricken, even to himself.

“Geez, Sam, I know you haven’t known me that long, but would you really categorize me as a ‘skank’?”

“Not really,” Sam said.

“I totally am,” Gabe said solemnly. He popped his eyebrows. “So tell them the skank’s name is Gabe and I’d be happy to meet everyone but – but I don’t really do as well in group settings as I used to.” He waggled his eyebrows again.

“I’m not sure my brother or Ruby would appreciate the humor in that, seeing how it’s a little much for me, even, and we’re – having sex, uh, regularly.”

“It’s true,” Gabe said. “I am a little much to be bringing home after the first motel hookup; but the way my life works, looking the woman in the eye who was so fuckin’ presumptuous as to put a tracking app on your phone - without your permission - has rocketed up my to-do list.”

“You’re angry with her?”

Gabe was comically astonished. “You’re not? Good fuckin’ God. What, did you make a deal with the devil and she was part of it?”

“I love Ruby – it’s getting harder and harder to lie to her. She’s pretty stuck on the idea of me being her man.”

Gabe said, “Does she know that her wanting it isn’t enough?”

There was a little pause. “Do we know each other that well?”

Gabe seemed surprised. “Not if you don’t think so.” He began to get dressed, since that’s what a gentleman did if his presence was no longer welcome.

“Where are you going?” Sam said, and now the ache in his voice was obvious.”

“I wasn’t feeling welcome, so I was going to breeze it.” Gabe jerked a thumb toward the door.

“Please come back to bed, I’m fucked up. I didn’t expect fucking to be this – “

“I’m just so expectant, regarding your next word,” Gabe said into the pause.

“– mind-expanding.”

“Mind-expanding. The word you chose was mind-expanding.” Gabe slid under the sheets and into Sam’s arms.

“I didn’t know there was going to be a test,” Sam said, his voice muffled in Gabe’s neck.

“I’m not mocking, I’m a little expanded in the mind department myself,” Gabe said, also not very loud.

“You’re just saying that to be agreeable.”

“Fuck you.”

“Again, and soon.”

“Not like that, I mean I’m not just trying to be agreeable. I start fucking you and the whole time I know exactly what’s going on, what you’re feeling. I can make you see stars, I’m completely the boss of your ass, I’m your ass’s god, and you know it and I know it.”

“Maybe,” Sam managed.

“Aw fuck you, you keep that up and I’m going to have to ask you to suck my dick.”

“Maybe I want to,” Sam said.

“I’ll suck yours first. Or maybe you can let me sit on your dick.”

“Can I come on you?”

“What? You want to jerk off on me?”

Sam felt paralyzed, even though he knew he could ask Gabe for anything and he’d at least consider it. He said it as a quiet suggestion. “Suck me ’til I’m close, let me come on your chest.”

“Oh, yeah,” Gabe said and that deft, insanely strong tongue, and that vacuum cleaner mouth, and that fucking scarily open jaw slid over his dick again like Sam was fucking his tonsils. His ass was still loose and happy from being fucked so he had to tighten things up a little to come, and he imagined fucking Gabe, doing all the things to him that he’d done, tightening himself. He imagined licking his ass, god, thinking about it as Gabe sucked him was insane, and then he thought of opening Gabe’s ass with his finger and aw shit! there was Gabe’s finger, lubed again. He hadn’t realized how close he was, keyed up for so many long minutes. “Close,” he gasped, and Gabe promptly pulled off and two steaming hard jets of come slammed into Gabe’s sternum and four more laced across his stomach while Gabe laughed in admiration. “Came like a porn star. How much fun can one guy be?”

Sam was gasping, and didn’t move.

They both took a breath.

“I’m beginning to detect a trend.” Gabe pretended to frown, and started the clean-up. “You’re a bit of lazybones.”

The response was a mumbled, “Am not, can’t help it if you fucked me into submission.”

Gabe gave an evil grin, and then bent to sweetly drift his lips across Sam’s right ear. Sam trembled and chuckled softly. Gabe said, “That sounds pretty good, truth be told. But you still have an angry girlfriend and a disappointed brother to go deal with.”

“I wish I didn’t.”

“Cuddles, and then boots and saddles?”

“Sounds kinky,” Sam said. He was smiling again despite the chaos in him, all around him. He couldn’t help himself. The weirdest part was not having to force himself to smile.

“You can’t live like this.”

You can’t take me home, either,” Sam pointed out.

“Well, no,” Gabe said awkwardly. “You’re my brother’s boss.”

Sam was sitting up straight so fast he looked like a reanimated zombie in a jump scare.

“Fuck!” Gabe said, startled.

“When the hell didja find this out?”

“When I went home, after I learned your name,” Gabe said. “Sorry, I was going to tell you –”

“After you fucked me,” Sam said in a poisonous voice.

Gabe decided to remind Sam who he really was.

He walked to and then kneeled across the bed, pushed Sam down, and grabbed and put his hands above his head, so his eyes and mouth were inches from Sam’s. “You wanted it, you consented to it, and you would have wanted it and consented to it, even after I told you that.”

Sam pulled his face away.

“Huh,” Gabe said, and startled licking Sam’s neck while Sam tried to roll over on top of Gabe. They wrestled for five minutes, inconclusively and playfully - Gabe, despite the weight and reach differential, was a cunning wrestler - and finally Sam pinned him and said. “So what if that’s true.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but you’re the hottest man I’ve ever seen, let alone whacked my rock-hard dick against, and I wasn’t going to upset you first.” Gabe let go and lay back. Sam lay on his side, looking down, and then got weirded out about how intense that was, looking right into Gabe’s eyes, and he put his face into Gabe’s neck.

There was another pause. Sam’s voice breathed in Gabe’s ear, light, and nervous. “You’re scaring the fuck out of me.”

Gabe was scared too, and older, so he had a better grasp on how shitty things could get. “How so? I’m just trying to be honest and get laid, and man, you have no idea how much fucking trouble it is to carry both of those off.”

Sam began helplessly to laugh.

“You make it sound like all I have to do is fuck you and tell Ruby the truth and everything will be magically fixed.”

“I dunno. Are you bisexual, or pan, or closeted, or what?” Gabe asked. “You kinda need to tell yourself the truth first. I don’t need to know, just tell me if things change from how they are. I mean – I’ve had my tongue in your ass and – I thought I’d mention, I consent to you very bossily ordering me to do it again.”

“Why are you like this?” Sam asked after a pause, during which he vividly remembered ten minutes of Gabe’s hot tongue going at his ass with the kind of attentive enthusiasm that doesn’t feel fake.

“Because I can’t help it?” Gabe replied, as if he didn’t think the response would please Sam much.

Sam stammered a little as he elaborated. “Just, just so accepting.”

Gabe splayed his arms in an immense shrug, banging his forearm into Sam’s chest. Then he turned his hand around and pretended to grope around Sam’s stomach and groin. “I’m hot for your bod! I’d do handsprings to the racetrack if it meant I could suck your dick when I got there.”

Sam chuckled, but Gabe could tell after his brief hormonal high, he was panicking again.

Gabe knew he’d be sorry later if he pretended things were fine now, so he did the hard thing. “You’re suicidally depressed, your brother and your girlfriend are pissed with you, you haven’t had two days off in a row in months, and your only relief is when some lunatic pounds you in the ass until you forget your name. Did I miss something?”

“What are you, a recording angel,” Sam said lugubriously.

“Who sucks dick,” Gabe said.

Sam said, “I feel like I’m doomed, except there’s this amazing sex happening.”

“I’m glad you think so. I sure was impressed. I could go on for at least eight inches about it,” and here he rolled and started rubbing his chubby against Sam’s leg. “Jesus,” Sam said.

Really, Sam thought dreamily, while Gabe stuck a pillow under his knees, Gabe’s dick was pretty much the perfect size. The head of his cock finished swelling in his mouth and he gave it everything, all of his attention and effort and suction because, in this place, he wasn’t a piece of human mendacity, he was the truth in his own skin, finally.

He could drop the act and he was so hungry for it he let the metaphor be real and acted as if he wanted to consume Gabe. Anytime he dared to look up, Gabe was looking right into his eyes like he was amazed by the view, or had his head tipped back as his hair shook and his body shuddered in ecstasy.

“I wanna swallow,” Sam whispered during a brief break, and then got back to it.

“Oh God,” Gabe roared. He came down Sam’s throat and Sam gagged, but he held on, and then swallowed. Gabe reluctantly let go of the back of his head.

“Fuck,” they both said at the same time, and then they laughed. This time they slid into each other’s arms and cuddled like puppies. Sam did not give a shit how corny it was, how much teasing he’d get from Dean if he was so unfortunate as to have his eyes ‘smote out of his head’ by such an ungodly sight. Gabe seemed really to not give a shit about anything but his own satisfaction, and Sam’s, which seemed kinda boss, somehow.

But they needed to get out of the room. They dressed, Sam much more slowly than Gabe.

“I want more,” Sam said abruptly.

“I’m flattered,” Gabe said. “But we have quite a few issues to settle.”

“Do you need to be exclusive?” Sam asked. He looked as if he was expecting trouble for even asking.

“Why don’t you put your clothes on and ask me that again?” Gabe suggested.

Sam finished dressing.

“No,” Gabe said, before Sam could speak. “I don’t think I do. Do you mean to tell me you want to try to romance the girl and fuck the guy and live happily ever after?”

“I want kids and you’re too old to adopt.”

Gabe’s eyebrows parkoured up his forehead and stopped at their highest extent. “Oh, you can most sincerely get fucked for that ageist, insulting remark. I have more energy than you and my brother put together and if I don’t want to put it toward either adopting more kids or finding someone with an overwhelming requirement for my genetic material, that’s on me. And I was really liking you too, goddamnit.”

Sam said, knowing that he sounded very disturbed, “I think I’m still at risk of suicide even if I have kids and I think the kids would do better with a mother.”

“Oh! I suppose you think you’re being rational and practical, but all you’re doing is throwing sexism and mental health issues on the pile. Or is this you just choking off any chance of us being regular, by being a complete dick to me while you still have my jizz in your mouth? Jesus. I hate to be the bearer of bad clichés, but seriously, you don’t get to bail on all of your responsibilities as a human being just because you’re suicidal.” Gabe said.  Without changing his tone of voice he said, “Can I expect you to pay for the room next time?”

“Yes,” Sam said. He had to have this again or he would die, he knew it. He couldn’t make this feeling of sudden freedom all about Gabe, but the feeling was still within him, as if he could still feel it flowing out of his pores, this magic that Gabe had drowned him in. He gasped a little at the intensity of it and for a second Gabe looked uneasy. His eyes flashed at him. Are you okay? Sam looked at him with his thoughts as clear as he could make them in his face. Can I trust you? Will you let me down easily?

There was no way he could speak.

Gabe sounded reasonable. “I’m going to text you. Are you going to answer, or are you gonna pretend I’m not here?”

“During the day I can be in court. I can’t answer during meals, if I’m home, Dean goes snake – the rest of the time I’ll answer as fast as I safely can.”

“Seriously?”

“I want to do this again,” Sam said helplessly. “That means communicating with you, even if I’m shitty at it.”

Gabe collected his kiss goodbye. It would have made a saint squeal in dismay to break that kiss, and Sam was no saint, and he swore softly. Gabe kissed his cheek and said, “’Til we meet again,” and slipped out of the room.

Sam left a few minutes later, but not before he looked at the ravaged bed and said aloud, “What the hell am I going to tell Dean?”

 

“Dean,” Sam said.

Dean had a hand up before he was even completely through the door. “I’m not the person you need to talk to. You need to make things right with Ruby.”

“That may not be possible.”

Dean was trying to be the adult, and it felt strange. “I’m not crazy about her, but she’s good for you.”

“She’s a fighter,” Sam said. “Whether a relationship with me is something she thinks is worth fighting for, remains to be seen.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean? And who the hell were you seeing at that dive motel?”

“His name’s Gabe,” Sam said, “And he’s my intern’s older brother.”

Dean’s mouth opened and his eyes flashed wide. After a second, Dean exhaled noisily. “Sammy,” Dean said. “That’s a lot to take in. Are you okay? I mean, what’s going on?”

It burst out of Sam in a loud torrent. “I’m bisexual and I don’t think I’m monogamous and I really need you to be okay with that.”

There was a long pause. Sam looked up after a while, and there was Dean with his hound dog face on.

“Does it run in families?”

“Dean, honestly,” Sam said. If Dean could make it about himself, he would. He was too tired to hit his brother, or spin around on his heel to bail out from this horrible conversation.

“Well, does it? I sometimes wonder if I’m that way too.”

“I suppose,” Sam said, with that deep feeling of familial disappointment again, “Our conversation couldn’t just be about how I feel.”

Dean was trying to be supportive while crossing his own emotional morass, and it was painful to witness. “No, man, I’m – I’m just jealous, you figured it out – go you!”

Sam drew Dean’s attention away from himself, never an easy chore, especially when he was thinking new thoughts about old problems. “Listen, this isn’t a TV episode where the broken shit can magically reset because it was all a guided hallucination.”

Dean snorted. “If only.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “As far as Ruby’s concerned, me not telling her about my sexuality is me fucking with her life. I need to get what I’m telling her, and why, lined up in my head, so I don’t blow it for both of us.”

Dean looked at him like he thought his poor, dear brother’s brains were rotting. He spoke with hesitance. “Sammy, you’re fucking a guy. You and Ruby are about to spectacularly blow up.”

“Not if I can help it,” Sam said. “All this time I’ve been treating Ruby like she isn’t really a grownup – not capable of understanding what’s going on with me because, ‘how could she?’ I can’t hold that idea in my head at the same time as thinking that she’s the only woman I ever met that I wanna have kids with. One of those ideas has got to go, and I know which one.”

“Seriously, dude,” Dean said.

“What kind of mother do you think she’d be?” Sam said.

There was a pause. “I dunno, good, probably, you know, fierce,” Dean mumbled.

Sam glared at his brother. “You are such an ass.”

“You’re a bitch-faced moralizing do-gooder who likes to suck dick,” and as the world’s smallest, but still bro-detectable smile crossed Sam’s face, Dean said, with a massive leer, “Called it.”

“I don’t intend to stay in the closet,” Sam said, “Unlike you.”

Dean’s smile turned into a glare. “What the fuck, I have other concerns, I’m in a much more masculine work environment.”

“I wear a suit to work. If you want to wear a bisexual plaid jumpsuit with gold rococo trim what’s the fucking worst that could happen?”

“I’d never wear that color combination, you know I do better in muted colors,” Dean protested.

“Yet because of my hair, I’m the girly one. Admit it, Dean, you like sucking dick too, but you want to hate yourself for it afterward.”

“I do not!” Dean said hotly.

“Prove it,” Sam said, clipped and dismissive, and called Ruby.

 

Ruby had been crying, but she’d also put forty-five minutes of brute force and MAC Full Coverage into her face before Sam caught up with her. She was wearing her prettiest top and her skinniest jeans and she looked better than fine.

He sat at her table - he hadn’t really officially moved in - and watched her perch on the bar stool next to the kitchen island. He shrugged internally. If she wanted the psychological advantage of being above him he would sit here calmly, and try to make this deal.

He spoke quietly. “If you’re lucky, your parents raise you so you come into an understanding of who you are, and by the time you’re in your mid-twenties, you have a pretty good idea.”

Her voice was husky, and measured. This was generally a sign that she was irate and keeping a lid on it. “That does not sound like an apology, Sam.”

“You’re not going to get one until we both agree what it is I’m apologizing for, and we’re not there yet,” Sam said in a controlled voice.

“I can’t believe this,” Ruby said. “I didn’t think I had a reason to be tracking you, but I had to be sure. Do you have any idea how that felt?”

“Like you want to own me,” Sam said. “You don’t get to do that. If we stay in each other’s lives, it’s because we choose it. I don’t own you, and I will never own you, and you cannot own me.”

A tremor ran across her face. “Is that where we are, Sam? Breaking up?”

“I don’t want to,” Sam said. “But I’m tired of lying.”

“As long as this isn’t going to happen again,” Ruby said, not knowing that Sam was uninterested in either lying or continuing to conform to her idealized standard of a perfect boyfriend.

Sam stood up. Then he realized he looked like he wanted to run away from the conversation, so he sat back down, reluctantly. He sighed.

“I’m bisexual and I don’t think I’m monogamous,” Sam said. “I love you, and I want to marry you, and I want to raise children with you. Unless you can deal with me occasionally wanting to have non-casual sex with men, we’re going to be living a lie.”

“You want to marry me,” Ruby said, her face a mask of shock. “In the middle of telling me you’re gay.”

Sam didn’t bother to correct her, and stuck with his goal. “Up until today, you wanted to marry me too, right? You were certainly hinting at it enough, and we’ve been dating eighteen months,” Sam said drily.

“You make it sound like a – like a business deal,” Ruby said, appalled.

“I don’t want to find another life partner. But if you don’t want to deal with my sexuality –“

“What did you mean by non-casual sex?” Ruby asked, a frown line in her forehead.

“I’m not interested in a random hookup. Whoever he is, he’s going to be part of my life and I won’t be ashamed of him or hide him.”

Her chin trembled. Her voice was controlled. “So really you’re that poly thing, polyamorous.”

“I think so, probably. Maybe you think it would be better if I didn’t care about him and he was some rando, but I can’t be that close to someone without a connection. Anyway, there it is. I am so sorry I lied - you will never, ever know how much, and I’m even sorrier I hurt you, and I don’t want or need an answer today.”

She looked mulish. “I want to meet him.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“He thinks I’m insane for even suggesting it to you.”

“Would you be less…” she said hesitantly after a pause.

“I don’t know,” Sam said, assuming she was talking about his depression. “But I feel better than I have in years. Carrying this, being afraid of what everyone would say, has been quietly destroying me.”

There was a long pause.

“Sam, I can’t do this.”

“Will you give yourself some time to think about it?”

“What could possibly be in it for me, Sam?”

Sam’s mouth opened. He made a little gasping noise as if he couldn’t believe it.

Ruby said, “You made it sound like a deal, but it’s not.”

Sam frowned. When he finally spoke, his voice was almost too quiet to be heard. “I never believed for one minute you’d go for it, Ruby, but – you’re a grown woman, and you deserved the truth. Maybe you can get the tracking app off my phone while I get some of my stuff out of your apartment.”

Despairing, Ruby wailed, “How would it work, Sam? It just sounds like a recipe for humiliation and gossip. Why would I want to bring children into that? You’re trading you not lying about it, for me lying about it for you.”

“You’re right,” Sam said. “It’s too much to ask, for me to tell the woman I want to be life partners with the truth of my situation, so that we can come up with strategies to deal with it.” He handed her his phone. His bitterness overwhelmed him, and the cruel words came pouring out. “We’re both too stupid and immature to do that, and we don’t love each other enough to make it worthwhile anyway, so, why don’t you just be glad that you will have the perfect narrative for all of your friends, and for social media, that I was a cheating bastard with mental health problems and you had a lucky escape.”

“Get out,” Ruby said, voice shaking with fury.

“Get the fucking tracking app off my phone, Ruby, and deal in some small way with how you’ve contributed to this situation blowing up in your face.”

“Now it’s my fault?”

“I fucked someone else, that’s on me, but you undermined my trust in a way that’s very hard to walk back, and if you take that kind of attitude into your next relationship you’re –” and here, Sam decided to shut the fuck up.

“Jesus, you’re an asshole sometimes,” Ruby said. She complied with his request, and he said, “I’ll come back later.”

“With your boyfriend?” Ruby said, trying to sound sarcastic and angry, but the effect was scared and sad.

“He’s not my boyfriend, he’s my lover, and no, that would be mean. Do you want a hug or do you want me out of here?”

Ruby turned her face away and Sam took the apartment keys off his key ring and left them in the bowl by the front door. “Lock up after me,” he said, and he was gone.

 

She was damned if she was going to start crying and smudge her face, and if she got on the phone and called Dani or Meg or Jo she would definitely be ‘calling it’, and it was The End, and her relationship, which up until a few hours ago had been heading straight to a wedding date and at least two cute children, was conclusively over.

There was one small problem. Up until today, she would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that Sam loved her as much as she loved him, which was more than she would have believed possible.

He was kind, and not just when people were watching. He only had to be told things a few times before he improved his behaviour. He was clean, and while not exactly tidy, his more bachelor-style habits weren’t too disgusting.

With his clothes off or on he was better looking than a movie star, and he could stay hard for half an hour without any difficulty. You could see he ran and worked out – and his diet was better than hers, something they’d had joking arguments about. She never had to feel ashamed of him in public (going out as a couple with Dean drove her crazy, to the point that she sometimes yelled at him about his table manners) and in the entire time they’d been dating she’d never once felt the need to complain about his driving and she’d actually said to him once that he was the best driver she’d ever been in a car with; that was right after he’d kept them out of a ditch with some serious counter-steering.

He had no fucking right to be bisexual. She wasn’t going to share him. He was hers.

And if she didn’t share him, she’d lose it. She’d lose not just Sam, who was kind, and sexy, and made her feel precious and safe and loved, but all the future she had in mind, Christmases and babies and college and their own house, a little house that Sam would indulgently let her decorate as long as the metal moose sculpture he’d gotten from Dean had a place of honor.

She’d been thinking about leisurely breakfasts after long evenings of making love. Sam burying his face in her crotch and not coming up until she was squirting. His face, the first time that happened, was so funny; despite her mood she snickered, remembering.

“I thought squirting was a myth. Oh my god,” Sam said, with reverence. “This is amazing. You are amazing.”

Ruby had once been ghosted by a man who thought she’d urinated on him. Sam’s reaction was, “More, more, more!”

She’d never felt so accepted by a man. He didn’t squick about periods, or complain about how long she took in the bathroom, or expect her to cook every meal or do all the grocery shopping. She thought of the times he’d known something bad, or difficult, was happening at work and sent a brief and comforting text. He didn’t sext - he said it was wise not to treat phones as secure, which given that she’d put a tracking app on his phone without permission had been spookily prescient - but he sent occasional texts in which he told her what he liked about her. Most of the time he said stuff about what kind of person she was. She’d never met a man who spent more time thinking about how to phrase a compliment so that it would land exactly the way it was supposed to.

And she loved him.

Right now she didn’t want to.

And he was so depressed he might kill himself.

She really didn’t want him to do that, either.

“And he loves me,” she said out loud. “He still wants to marry me. He wants -“ and she started crying, damnit. “He wants kids with me.”

She spent a long time thinking about it. She remembered that he said she was an adult. He liked it about her. She’d get mad about something, and then calm down and think, and when she was done, they’d have another talk, and they’d work it out.

“You don’t just ‘work out’ your almost-fiancé having sex with some guy in a motel room, for Chrissakes,” Ruby said to her bathroom tiles. The makeup was off and half a bottle of wine was in her stomach and she was now soaking in the tub.

But if she did… if she tried to work it out with Sam. What would it look like?

She finished the bottle - she hadn’t even bothered with a glass - and made a list.

By the time she was done, there were six big concerns

 

  • STDs
  • Him falling in love with this man, or some other and leaving her
  • Dean being difficult
  • The effect of public perception of Sam as being out, bisexual, a father, with lovers, especially since people already think lawyers are sketchy and this was the freaking Bible Belt.
  • Her parents and family, especially her brother, who’d just finished rehab for opioids for the third time, and would love for someone else in the family to be the human stain.
  • Feeling like she was second best in his life and never being able to keep up and not understanding why he couldn’t just not do that, whatever that thing was he was doing, with this man.

 

Ruby was a talented artist, and she illustrated the list. The sketches were a little sloppy, but quite effective.

She drew bacteria and viruses and put ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE in scary letters in a dripping rainbow above the word STD.

She drew a black hole, pulling Sam in, next to the words ‘falling in love’.

Dean shaking a finger at her, surrounded by angry words. You’re not smart enough for my brother. You could have worked it out.

Sam on his knees in front of a scolding preacher for the next item.

Her brother scolding Sam, for the next one. A door being slammed.

Her sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees, being lonely, for the next item.

The wine was talking, obviously, but something inside Ruby shifted. Objectively, Sam was the best man she’d ever met; the best overall package of smart, sexy, daddy-like and loving. She thought about his recurrent dream. A very small smile blossomed on her face. If he wanted to made a deal, she’d better make sure the terms were clear.

She called him the next day, sober (Sam was such an adult that he wouldn’t have discussions on anything more exciting than tonight’s Netflix lineup if either of them had been drinking) and he sounded surprised to hear from her.

“Hi, Ruby,” Sam said.

“I’ve thought about it,” she said abruptly.

“And – ?” he asked softly.

“Are you okay with us not using birth control any more?”

“What? Um, I - Ruby if you want us to have kids together I’m the proudest man alive. You wanna go for it?”

“I’m going to talk to my doctor, but yeah.”

“Will work be okay?”

“I can work part time to full time after - but I want to take at least a year off.”

“Of course,” Sam said. “Oh, my god. Dean is going to croak.”

Ruby sighed. “Maybe we can’t get pregnant, and it’s all debatable.”

“I still want you for my partner whether we can make kids together or not,” Sam said. He meant it. But he knew they were going to have kids, and his heart started pounding.

“I know. But I don’t want to make a decision on what-ifs. I’m twenty-eight and I want my kids before I’m thirty, so, a few bumps but it’s still the plan.”

“Definitely still the plan,” Sam said.

“But before the Running of the Ovaries and the, um, flood of tourists,” at which point Sam giggled in relief that Ruby Was Still Talking to Him and Sexy-times of Great Sexiness Were ‘Coming’, “I need you and your friend to get tested.”

“Of course. We all should. I’ll take care of my end.”

“Does Dean know about it being a man?”

“Yes. There’s more I need to tell you about that.”

“What - possibly - Jesus, Sam this is a bit much.” She was laughing in spite of himself.

“The man I’m seeing is Cass’ brother.”

“Your older gay intern has an older gay brother?” Ruby had been picturing some hot twink, not some wrinkly dude. Maybe Sam had more daddy issues than he was letting on?

“Gabe is pan, I mean, genuinely pan, which I’ve never met before and it’s, let’s just say I’m being forced to confront some prejudices.”

“I can totally believe he’d call himself pan to have sex with you. How about you?Are you confronting those prejudices before or after munching ass?”

Now he sounded like his foster dad, Bobby. “You are the sweetest-faced woman I ever met but the shit that comes outta your mouth sometimes…” Sam said, shaking his head and chuckling for a moment.

“You walked into that one,” Ruby said, no quarter given. “So – Dean’s okay with it?”

“What? No! he wants to date Cass and thinks me running you off with my ‘horndog, lying lies’ and being involved with Gabe is a sign that I’ve blown a head valve.”

“But you don’t think we’re crazy.”

“Ruby, we’re talking. Today, right now, is better than it was ten minutes ago. If you think we can work this out and you want to commit us both to a long term relationship that neither of us will ever be able to back out of because, hey, we have a kid, or kids together, I’m ready to parachute into hell with you.”

“Hell?” Ruby asked delicately.

“I’ve been told that once the Lego hits the floor you’re pretty much fucked, as far as domestic hellscapes go,” Sam said. Suddenly she could hear that he was losing it. Sam cried. Most men when they cry are disgusting drunken wallowers, and Sam didn’t wallow, or make it your problem. He’d cry, wipe his face, move on, like a sensible woman. Ha ha. Like you did for the last two days.

“Oh, Ruby,” he said, and the relief in his voice moved her, “Do you really still want to have kids with me?”

“Who’s going to teach them that everybody poops, but Daddy’s farts are worst?”

It was, unfortunately, true. Ruby was living in a world where her man’s farts were more of a problem than his sexual preferences.

Sam was laughing helplessly. “Daddy,” he said after a minute. “Oh God,” and he was sniffling again.

“We’ll have to come up with a strategy for my family.”

Sam sniffed, but you could also hear him take a serious breath as his brain kicked back into gear. “If you’re pregnant first…”

“That’s what I was thinking. If I make babies before Jamie does, it’s gonna take the wind out of my parents’ sails for sure.” Ruby sounded smug.

“Jesus, every time I think I’m smart you come along and say three words and I’m humbled. Never turn that brain against me, I’m doomed if you do.”

“And I have to meet him.”

“Seriously? I thought you were joking.”

“Not about this. It doesn’t have to be right away, just… it’s on the list. What does he look like?”

“He’s fifty-ish, sandy hair receding a bit but not much, five eight maybe, golden brown eyes.”

“He’s short!”

“He’s like you – after the first two seconds, nobody notices,” Sam said.

“So, bossy.”

“Very. But also kind, and funny - like, really funny, witty as hell - and he’s not a liar, which is a big fucking deal, given how I was drowning in lies when I met him.”

“Where?”

“A bath house.”

“Like where gay men go to have sex,” Ruby said, and the squick came through in her voice.

Sam let it ride. “I met him three weeks ago. I hadn’t actually done more with men than drunken necking in senior year and I thought I’ll just get it over with, it doesn’t have to be meaningful – ”

“Just get your rocks off.”

“But I can’t do that. I got attached to him. Fortunately he’s not giving me a hard time about it. He’s more worldly, what can I say.” Ruby could see his face as he said it, rueful and self-mocking.

“Do you think he’d ever try to take advantage of you?”

“Um. If he was that kind of person I wouldn’t have had sex with him the second time,” Sam said.

Ruby laughed. “Now I have to meet him. Sam, are you in love with him?”

“No. And he’s aromantic, or so he tells me. He doesn’t get romantic feelings towards anyone, but he’s been married because he sort of went along with what she wanted.”

“Kids?”

“Yeah, but he rarely sees them; they live in Edmonton with the ex, and her hockey coach husband.”

“Oh, that sucks.”

“Could be us in fifteen years,” Sam said.

“You were doing so well.”

“I’ve been up and down,” Sam admitted.

“Well, try to stay somewhat level, maybe we’ll get stupid lucky and knock me up right away. And I still have a list of things we need to discuss.”

“Are you okay with doing this over the phone?” Sam asked.

 

A month later …

 

Dean got his job back. Bobby didn’t say anything and neither did he.

 

Two months later …

 

Ruby woke Sam out of a sound sleep and said, “Sam. Sam. Sam. I can feel the baby implanting.”

“Nobody can feel the baby implanting,” Sam said to the pillow. “But I’m sure it’s a good sign,” he added hastily and hugged her.

Ruby wrote the date down. The doctor said afterward, when they lined all the days up, that it was, “Remarkable.”

 

 

Three months after that….

 

Dean Winchester was not a happy man. He had been furiously angry on Ruby’s behalf when he’d learned his o-so-moral brother was getting fucked in the ass by some old guy, and ready to throw hands at his brother for being such a dick to his girlfriend.

Then, practically overnight, Ruby was pregnant, she and Sam had worked something out, and Sam had his job, and his honey, and his bun in the oven. and his side piece, who was a middle-aged card named Gabe, who was, very inconveniently, the brother of the guy Dean was crushing on.

Cass had blown like Vesuvius when he learned of his brother’s dalliance with Sam. It had an effect on Dean, not a good one; Cass had been persuaded to date Dean, but only once, no sex, not even a good night kiss; then he backed off, and Dean had balls bluer than Cass’s eyes. He called Cass, and Cass said, “It’s not appropriate for us to date. Maybe when I’m not interning for your brother we can revisit it,” and he was adamant, and he wouldn’t see Dean or return texts.

 

“I knew he would be pissed,” Gabe said, recounting it to Sam afterward. “But holy shit, I haven’t seen him like that since I put itching powder under his saddle when he was ten and he got thrown into a manure pile with his mouth open.”

He tried to imitate his brother’s gravelly, precise voice. “Of all the inconsiderate, ill-advised, selfish, churlish, sophomoric, louche fucking things you’ve ever done.”

“Louche? I guess Cass is the kinda guy to use louche in a sentence.”

“About me,” Gabe said, with fake sadness. Sam was wanting to top Gabe, and he already had a finger in his ass.

“Ah,” Gabe said, a little breathy wail.

“Struck oil?”

“A gusher,” Gabe murmured.

 

“I like it. But I like you fucking me better,” Sam said.

“Good, good, my sweet little bottom, everything is going to plan.”

“What plan would that be?” Sam asked obediently.

“You being my sex slave, every Thursday, until my dick falls off, so halp me God.”

“We don’t have to just have sex.”

Gabe laughed. “If I try to spend a minute more with you than Ruby’s measuring out she’s going to lecture me. Honestly, I never would have believed she’d go for it.”

“No, I meant – that we could do something else, like a date.”

Gabe sighed. “Take me out to dinner for my birthday, if you’re insisting on being like that.”

“What way is that.”

“Fuckin’ near perfect, you goddamned moose that walks like a man. We still have a problem, though.”

“I don’t have a problem.”

“Dean and Cass.”

“Oh. I guess we do have a problem.”

Gabe stuck a piece of gum in his mouth. “Now all we have to do is figure out how we’re going to stage manage Dean and Cass into becoming each others’ fave fuck toy.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Mmm,” Gabe said. Sam was cuddling him from behind. “Actually, I think it will be really difficult. You have no idea how stubborn Cass is - you get to see him as a cheerful employee who can’t complain to your face on Friday mornings - when he knows you and I have been mega-boinking - not my mean-as-a-rattler brother.”

“I’ll work on Dean.”

“Yeah,” Gabe said. “They won’t know what’s hit them,” and he smiled as he felt Sam press a kiss into the back of his neck.

 

Dean had bugged him about Gabe when they came out about their relationship. He had issues of his own with Cass. Cass had told Sam, but Dean hadn’t, that he was stalking Cass.

“So what’s the attraction?” Dean kvetched. Gabe didn’t look like much to him. Sam was living with Ruby full-time; the backing and forthing should have stopped. He was free of the nest. Still he trudged back here, dreading what would happen if he stopped coming. Dean would melt down.

The depression had lifted for months. He’d done such a good job of hiding it from other people. Now he realized that the feeling he had when he got up in the morning was just having slept properly and he was giving his brain a break from his sea of anxious chemicals.

It had been going on since he was twelve, the depressive bouts. Each time climbing closer to the top, creeping closer to the edge.

He needed medication, he knew it. During the last suicidal breakdown, which had been almost invisible to the people around him, his feelings of anguish had been so intense that more than once he’d believed he was having a heart attack.

Yoga didn’t touch shit like this, although god knows it helped. He needed medication.

And yet, like his father before him, he resisted. He was strong. He could weather it.

“Well, we started having sex and my depression lifted and I stopped feeling suicidal.”

“You got a new puppy and cheered up,” Dean said dismissively. “I’m talking about before that, when you first laid eyes on the little pipsqueak.”

“Fuck, Dean,” Sam said, and blew his lips like a horse. “Why would I talk about intimate things with you, when I can’t trust what you’ll do with the information?”

“That’s not fair.”

“You told me that almost word for word about our own Dad, Dean – you’re a fucking hypocrite, and you’re needling me instead of sharing things with me because you don’t want me asking you about Cass.”

“I spoke to him the other day.”

“What, in person?” Sam was horrified.

“He told me to stop stalking him.”

Sam shrugged and tried to put a calmer face on. It was a reasonable thing for Cass to ask; Dean was stalking him.

“You’re used to getting your own way with people when it comes to sex, Dean, and Cass is right to back away.”

“I know. He told me I was thinking magically, and I had to start thinking about him as someone with his own life.”

“You can’t blame him, can you?”

“No.” Dean sounded defeated. “Bobby fired me.”

Sam had heard from Bobby that Dean was struggling at work with absences, but not the details. He started to feel sick to his stomach.

“Dude. What happened.”

“I missed too much work, and I screwed up an order for one of the fleet customers.”

“Bobby is trying to grow that side of the business,” Sam said.

“Yeah, which is why I’m unemployed.”

“And you’d rather be talking about my love life than any part of your life, because it’s a smoking crater. Did you fall apart just because I’m getting my shit together?”

“Yup, Sam, it’s all about you,” but Dean, strangely calm, didn’t even raise his voice. “He touched me.”

“What? Dean, you’re not making a lot of sense. Who touched you, Bobby?”

“No; Cass. He came and sat down with me in the donut shop and he reached his hand across and covered mine. You know what he said? He said that I was not a bad person. I just needed to learn how to handle rejection. Then I went back to work and Bobby fired me because I’ve been booking off so much, so I cleaned out my locker and I’m here.”

“The house is paid for and you’ve got a little money saved,” Sam said. At least Dean was coherent again, which was good.

“You got everything, Sam. You got everything,” Dean whispered. “Everything I want from life you got and it doesn’t seem fair.”

“Because you sacrificed everything to stay with me and raise me. I know. It’s a hard thing for me to be part of. I don’t want to be forced to be grateful to you all the time. I want to show my gratitude in everyday ways, and you won’t let me. I’m thinking about the baby and I’m panicking, it’s only another couple of months to go and my life is already so crappy.”

There was a long pause.

“I just had my worst day in ever and that’s what you say to me,” Dean said.

“Shit comes in threes. What are you going to do? I know what I’m going to do.”

“What the fuck would that be, Sam?”

“I’m going to ask for your permission to put all the alcohol in the house in a cardboard box and remove it.”

“Leave four beers,” Dean said.

“I can do that. And if you call the liquor delivery place I will so fucking check the credit card statement, don’t even think about it.”

“I got cash.”

“Just don’t, Dean, and don’t go to a bar and don’t drive drunk, I have enough shit to worry about.”

“I think I broke this time, Sam,” Dean said. “He just looked so tired, and so kind, like a saint giving me his blessing. I had it backward the whole time. I thought he should want me and I didn’t think me making a big deal about that would make him feel unsafe, I thought… Wow. Yeah I think I need to just not be around people for a while.”

“So you’re going to stop stalking him.”

“Oh yeah,” Dean said, as if he was thinking about something else. He sat up. “I won’t even apologize, I’ll just evaporate. Gabe can carry messages, or you can, I guess, I don’t have to speak to him again. Shit, this has been quite a day.” There was another pause. “You still haven’t told me what made you look at him twice.”

“I’m glad to know that my sex life is of such incredible interest to you, you sick, foolish, asshole,” Sam said, “And I’m no closer to telling you. If you want an x-rated rant, why don’t you ask Gabe the same question?”

Dean made a throat-clearing noise of disgust. “I don’t think so. I don’t give a shit about his feelings; after the first time I heard him say something about climbing you like a bunk bed, I quit taking an interest.”

 

Dean, too, had insisted on meeting Gabe. Sam tried to warn Gabe but no, he was apparently fine with standing in the full force of Dean pecking at him, like a conversational chicken. It was after that conversation that Sam had to stop pretending the two of them were friends with benefits. It was about a month before Sarah was born and he was already in a maelstrom of feelings about the arrival of the baby and he and Ruby were having super-intense conversations about childrearing styles. The conversations never got heated, but they sure brought up the feels, and Ruby, who needed a lot to push her away from her usual cheerful calm, got weepy. Which set Sam off, and he got drippy too; maybe it was his virtual pregnancy hormones.

 

The emotions got him thinking, and the next time he was with Gabe. “I know this’ll be inconvenient,” Sam said. “But I have to tell you something.”

Gabe was a very even-tempered guy, not given to freaking out, but this sounded like the warm-up for a brush-off, so he said, “Okay,” and tried not to make it obvious that he was holding his breath.

“I love you.”

Gabe’s mobile face broke into a shocked smile. “I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that. Now I’m really scared that you want to break up with me. Long experience tells me that people usually overcompensate just before they break up with you.”

Sam looked stricken. “Gabe, no!”

“So you love me, and you don’t want to break up with me.”

“Yes, and yes.”

“That’s a relief! I’ve grown accustomed to your ass,” Gabe said in his well-rehearsed game-show-host imitation.

“You don’t have to say anything. You never have to say anything,” Sam said. “Especially if you’re going to sound like my fucking brother during an ‘intimate moment’.”

Gabe chuckled softly. “You have to admit that I’ll probably say something, eventually; folks do call me chatty.” After a minute, his voice, even softer, said, “So what do you mean when you say that?”

“That you’re someone worth loving, so much, that I can’t really help it.”

“Your woman is eight months preg-a-nent,” Gabe said in a chiding tone.

“Technically she’s not mine, even if she did agree to marry me and quit blocking my sperm,” Sam said.

“You like things complicated.”

“I got things complicated, I’m not crazy about them being complicated,” Sam sighed. Gabe didn’t say, ‘I love you’ back, and it didn’t matter, because he was Gabe.

 

 

It felt inevitable, afterward, that Sam crashed, and crashed hard. He had been fine, but with the lack of sleep he struggled to keep all the balls in the air. A month after Sarah was born, he couldn’t get out of bed, and one day abed turned into four, and Ruby put Sarah in the car seat and drove her husband to hospital.

Then she called Dean. Dean always took Sam’s depression personally, so she got off the phone with him fast, because otherwise he’d spin for an hour and cry ‘woe is me!’ while she was changing Sarah and nursing her and saying, ‘unh huh, yeah, mmm… right’. And she called Gabe, who said, like a human, after a quiet word about his sympathy for her situation, “I’m not available for overnights because I have to start baking at two a.m., but how be if I come over at suppertime and either cook dinner or watch her so you can have some you-time or grab a shower?”

After Dean’s sourly offered help, Gabe’s open-hearted, specific offer was like hearing Sam reflected in another man’s voice. New motherhood had made Ruby ‘even more annoyingly intuitive’ as Sam had drily put it, and she said, “Yes, please, tomorrow so you can line things up for your day properly.”

He came every day for two weeks. She spent hours on the phone telling her mother not to come. Her mother was amazing but if she didn’t come with her husband to control her she’d turn into Monster Mommy and Ruby couldn’t deal with that. Gabe lived in town. He was there.

It was impossible to describe how she felt about him at the end of that time - he stayed overnight a couple of times on his days off when it seemed like Sarah ‘the Terrah’, as he called her, was about to tip into colic. Then, between the two of them, they coaxed her into a regular feeding schedule. Gabe was there when she got mastitis and ran a fever of a hundred and one. Gabe got on-line, vaguely remembered a friend of his ex-wife’s getting it and then going ‘Holy shit! in that comically scratchy voice he used sometimes. She was really uncomfortable for a day but Gabe got her through it and got the antibiotics and everything so she didn’t have to drive. Gabe saved her fucking life. The man who pounded her baby-daddy’s ass twice a month, and more often when possible, saved her fucking life.

There was no one she could tell.

She was living in a European domestic comedy, and she was loving it, at least when Sarah was cooperating.

When Sam called a couple of days later she was able to say, “Sarah and I are fine. I had a shower less than twelve hours ago, our kitchen is clean and your daughter is asleep or close to it and recently changed. Your trust in me as a mother has been repaid so far.”

There was honest trepidation. “You make it sound like I’m surplus to requirements.”

Ruby laughed. “Well, I hope you feel well enough to come home soon, because your brother’s crush and your boyfriend have pretty much moved in here and much as I’m loving the adult company, you’re the one I can actually have sex with, and I’m now officially so horny from having those two around all day…” she trailed off suggestively.

Sam tried to sound relaxed. “You could ask Gabe, I’m sure he’d oblige.”

“We talked it out; neither of us feel okay with it. Nice to know you’d approve, though,” Ruby said.

The woman who had cried so hard when Sam said he was bisexual was gone, and this chill, honest person had taken her place, joking about how weird things were. He said, “And Cass is there?”

“You have no idea,” she chortled. “He has this supernatural effect on Sarah. If I hadn’t seen it four times with my own eyes I’d say it was crap, but he’s pure magic.”

“Dean’s staying away?”

“Once he heard Cass might be here he made himself scarce; before that he was bringing home made burritos and chili, which was awesome, and advice – ”

“Which was less so,” Sam said.

“I know I’ve been a dick to your brother and we were really mending fences a couple of weeks after Sarah was born – but you should have seen him when Cass turned up! Beet red, into his boots and out the door! He said he’d come back for the casserole dish, but he hasn’t been seen since.”

“Dean’s such an idiot. All he has to do is act like a decent human being and Cass would forgive him, even if he’d still never date him. They could at least interact.”

“Dean’s well beyond believing that would ever happen. I think he’s still crushing on him hard and doesn’t want to be caught doing it - you know how he looks at Cass, you’re the one who told me about it! - and after the first time I handed Sarah to Cass, I’m glad he didn’t see the magic because that would not kill a crush. I just gave birth and my ovaries started bouncing around like Billie Eilish.”

“Really?”

She said, in a low and solemn voice, “Sam, I said he’s a baby whisperer and I do not exaggerate. She was crying and I needed a break and in desperation I asked Cass and handed her off just so I could be further away from her crying - this was during that sort of colic thing that happened - and she went quiet within thirty seconds. Snuffle, snuffle, zonk, like Gabe said.”

“That’s amazing, although the more I hang around with Cass, the easier that is to believe. He’s kinda special.”

“Yeah. I understand why Dean’s, you know, emotional about him, but he just needs to calm down and see him as a friend.”

“I’d have a really hard time learning to see you that way,” Sam said.

“Duly noted,” Ruby said. “Anyway, your employee and your boyfriend are holding up your end of our family right now. I feel bad about telling you all this.” Her tone of voice suggested the exact opposite.

“I want to get home and thank you, and them. Things here are going well. I feel kinda blank still but the doc’s optimistic and that seems to be the last sign that I’m ready to leave.”

“Yeah,” Ruby said. “Probably best if you don’t come home unless you’re horny. Really, really horny.” Her tone of voice suggested that it was fine if he wasn’t.

“Oooh, sounds like a threat,” Sam said, “I’ll have to think about what that might mean.”

She made a little growling sound he liked and he laughed and hung up.

He didn’t miss her, now that he’d spoken to her. He missed Gabe.

“Hey,” he said, when he could make the call.

Gabe sounded slow at first, but he sped up fast. “I’m supposed to be asleep at this time of day, numbnuts.”

“Sorry,” Sam said guiltily.

“Yeah, yeah, you just didn’t have the self control to call me at a more decent hour.”

“I miss you.”

“Then you have something to look forward to, ‘cause I miss ya too, ya big lummox.”

 

Sam came home, and life went back to normal. Sort of. Ruby came into her own as a mom, kept friendships going with other new moms, became as fierce in her advocacy of Sarah as Dean had foreseen she would. While gazing into her daughter’s eyes, holding her and feeling the strawberries Cass had cut up for her turn into milk, she had an epiphany that Sam’s dreams were true, that they were going to have three kids, and she was just going to have to hang on for the ride and trust fate and the incredible gang that Sam had assembled on her behalf.

She began to have the sneaking suspicion that some of the most successful women in history had husbands who had sex with men. If you could corral another man into acting as a functioning member of your household, with keys to the cars and the shed and Sam’s toolbox, which was really Dean’s toolbox, but they didn’t talk about that, without doing more than feeding and fucking him, that was a good deal for everyone.

Sam took a month off when Sarah was weaned, so Ruby could take a recertification course a state away. Some nights there would be four men and a baby in the house and the guys would play cards and shoot the shit, or watch TV, or argue (for longer than the running time of the movie) about which movie to watch.

It was stupid how fast it became normal. Cass knew where all the cutlery was and how Ruby liked things put away in the fridge better than Sam did; Gabe had more experience diapering than any of them; Dean made food happen, while Gabe kibitzed, if he was there, and Sam got to hold his daughter or play with her or put her down for a nap while an ever changing cohort of friends and family blew through the house.

Cass decided that they wouldn’t drink when they were over at Sam and Ruby’s. Dean was grudging about it but he understood that they were all responsible for a little girl and it made sense. Cass preferred tea anyway; Dean drank soda water, apparently to preserve his figure.

Dean knew that Sam wasn’t supposed to drink at all, and Gabe was fine drinking elsewhere. So it was settled. Sam didn’t have to fight temptation in his own house when he was stressed out, and he started to relax, having more confidence in his ability to cope. Ruby had the occasional glass of wine.

They shared, some Sundays and weeknights, a little old fashioned idea of a family, with a lot of quirks and bends in the road. Dean refused to call Sarah a baby. He said she was a little girl, from the day she was born. Ruby heard Dean make pronouncements about her kid and rolled her eyes. Dean had strange ideas sometimes, who knew where he got them. Sam asked him how he was going to feel when Sarah turned out to be trans, and after Dean quit spluttering he said, shortly, “We’ll know soon enough when she tells us, I mean, when they tell us,” and you could hear Cass cackling in the next room, leaving Sam to wonder why Cass thought it was so funny.

 

Sam threw himself into work while he was at work and left it at the front door when he came home. Sometimes he had supper and left again. But it was okay; Ruby believed Sam when he said she’d have her turn. God knows she hadn’t dated any other man she could believe that promise from.

Sometimes Sam couldn’t believe how lucky he was, until Gabe reminded him that he’d asked for everything, and subsequently worked his ass off to maintain it. Ruby was his partner, but Gabe’s role in his life was more like a co-conspirator.  He had an opinion on everything, and rarely offered it, and the sex continued to be thought-provokingly spectacular, without adding a lot of drama to his life.

Ruby told him that she wanted to go back to school, after all their kids were born, to get her Master’s degree. “I want the kids to see how important education is, and I think it will be easier if I have you on board.”

Dean started making noises about going back to school. He was so transparent sometimes it went beyond annoying.  “I wanna design things, and I want to learn about CAD and CNC programming.” He probably did, but timing it two days after Ruby’s announcement was, well, it was Dean. Dean was Dean, his ball and chain even more effectively than Ruby, some days.

Cass didn’t mock him for his dreams, but he said, “If I never set foot again in an educational institution except for mandated legal continuing ed, I’ll be happy as a pig in a pen.”

Gabe said, “I can make profiteroles, fuck all y’all.”

And Sam said, “I really can’t argue with any of that.”

And they still had to organize a wedding; Ruby’s parents were agitating on a weekly basis to visit and help start wedding planning, which was Mom-speak for ‘We’re going to criticize your child-rearing non-stop while we sorrow over your complete failure to get down the aisle before you got pregnant.’

Ruby was not interested in that. She was interested in having a goal after the kids were born. Sam living his truth had forced her to live her own. She wasn’t going to be able to throw herself wholeheartedly into being a stay-at-home mom unless and until she had a graceful exit strategy. Sam said, ’Sure!’ and she could stop worrying, because she and Sam had managed every challenge so far

They weren’t using birth control. Ruby loved not being on the pill. Sam didn’t mind. She seemed genuinely happier and more energetic, even though she had a six month old kid hanging off her most of the time, and if she was willing to take the risk of getting pregnant again so soon, that was on her.

She came out of the bathroom ten months after Sarah was born and said, “Sam, we are pregnant again.”

 

“Twins!” Dean roared. “Son of a bitch! Are you two going to get married before you’re too big to get stuffed into a wedding dress!?”

 

It was a lovely wedding. Dean was the best man and Gabe and Cass were groomsmen. Jo and Meg and Dani stood up with Ruby. Everybody but Ruby got shit-faced at the reception and Sam and their posse danced in a sloppy, huggy circle around the visibly pregnant Ruby while a gaggle of older folks minded Sarah.

 

Cass and Dean seemed to be getting along fine, the little bobble at the beginning of their acquaintance having been dealt with, and if it hadn’t, it wasn’t bothering anyone but them. They had taken to teasing each other, Dean usually saying something like, ‘how can you resist all this adorable’ and Cass usually mocking Dean’s taste - and bickering, usually about the best way to do anything with Sarah, but it was better than what had been happening previously, with the awkward subject changes that devolved into even more awkward silences whenever those two were in the same room.

Months passed. Things were going great; Sarah was thriving, Sam was teasing Ruby to get a dog, at which point she said, in a sepulchral groan, “I’m not taking on twins and a puppy in the same year, Samuel William Winchester!”; they were all having a family dinner together once a week and they had started to talk about a group vacation (like a ‘frickin’ cult’ as Gabe said) and then Cass, of all people, had to screw it up by breaking their unspoken truce and asking Dean out.

 

Ruby’s first clue came after texting Cass about chili night and receiving his terse response, “Sorry, can’t make it.”

She texted Dean and his pingback was, “Is Cass going to be there.”

“No.”

“See you on Thursday then.”

“What the heck?” Ruby said to herself. 

 

She pulled Dean aside on his next visit and said, “What did you do to Cass?”

“Nothing!” he said, but he looked guilty as hell.

She stared at him and narrowed her eyes for a while.

“We, uh, we had words.”

“Obviously, but what about?”

Dean was not happy to be interrogated. “Cass asked me out on a date and I turned him down.”

Ruby gaped. “What? Why?”

“He’s too good for me,” Dean said after a moment.

“What on earth did you say to him? I mean, you were stalking him and he forgave you, what did you do this time?”

“I told the truth! I told him our friendship is very important to me and I wouldn’t want that screwed up, and he got all huffy and said he was the best judge of that and that it seemed obvious that we have, I dunno, chemistry or something.”

“Or something,” Ruby said, with industrial grade sarcasm.

“I know he, uh, finds me attractive,” Dean said, struggling. He was looking at the floor. “But I told him that I don’t really have a lot to offer him, I mean he’s a lawyer, and super smart, and you know him. I mean, he’s the nicest person I ever met, and I’m an asshole.”

“So,” Ruby said. “To recap.”

“You sound like Sam.”

“I ought to. He’s a problem solver, and I like that in other human beings…. to recap. Cass has finally realized that if he doesn’t ask you out someone else will figure out you’re single and he’ll never get another chance with you. Your immediate response is to say, ‘poor me! poor me! I’m such a fucking scrub!’”

“Language,” Dean said, looking at her belly.

“Cass tries to help you with your self-esteem problems by saying that doesn’t matter, but I guess he doesn’t say the magic spell in exactly the right order and you send him away.”

“Uh,” Dean said. He fell silent, trying to organize his thoughts. “I’m trying to do the right thing. I want him to be happy. He’s just so awesome, and I’m, well, I’ll be okay if he is.”

“You could be great, together, but you’ll only ever be just ‘okay’, apart,” Ruby said.

“Christ, you’re mean,” Dean said. He breathed out slowly through his mouth and Ruby, horrified, realized that he was crying. “I love him but he’s out of my league.”

“No, he isn’t,” Ruby said. “If you drive the baby whisperer out of my life when I have twins due in six weeks I will kill you and bury you in an unmarked grave and tell Sam you stepped out for a beer.”

“What?” Dean said. He tried to laugh. “Very funny.”

Ruby sounded like a goddamned drill sergeant. How anyone so small could be so terrifying blew Dean’s mind. “Look at this face. See all the humor. I’m all about the laughs.”

“What do you want me to do?” Dean sighed.

“Go to him, apologize, and tell him you’ll do whatever he wants. And don’t come back here until you’ve fixed things, I need zero drama in my life right now.”

“Ruby, I – ”

“Shut up, Dean, just don’t. Go get him, and by that I am very specifically saying go to him and fuck his brains clean out of his body. Now. Now, I mean it, go.”

“What if he says no?”

Ruby glared at him.  “Then beg!”

Dean looked at her with entreaty in his eyes.

“Beat it, go get your man. Because he is, you know. He is your man. Everybody knows it but you.”

 

Dean drove to Cass and Gabe’s place in the twilight and sat out front for a while. Gabe came to the door, made a face at Dean and came out to the Impala.

“What the fuck, dude?” Gabe said colloquially. “Are you coming in? I was just leaving.”

“Really?” Dean said.

“Ruby called. Either you two are going to have the saddest goodbye in cinematic history, or I’m going to need to clean Cassie’s room with bleach when you’re done. Go get ‘em tiger. Us brother-bangers got to stick together.”

With that, Gabe stuck a purple lollipop in his mouth and ambled away.

Dean banged on the door.

“Oh,” Cass said, answering.  He was standing in Dean’s way, and he didn’t look welcoming.

“I was wrong,” Dean said. “I’m sorry. I should have said yes.”

“What do you want me to do, fall at your feet?” Cass asked.

“I thought you felt sorry for me,” Dean said.

There was a long pause, during which Cass looked confused. Then, face livid, he grabbed Dean by the hand, yanked him into the house and slammed the door.

Cass lost it.

“Sorry for you? You ass, you total, fucking ass, why don’t you feel sorry for me? I’ve been in love with you for months now! I want you so bad you make me feel like a teenager with social anxiety! I finally scrape enough courage to ask you out and you blew me off with your noble speech about how you’re not good enough for me – ”

“That’s enough,” Dean said, and kissed Cass. After about five seconds, Cass broke free and said, in the same waspish voice, “And now you’re probably going to want to be friends with benefits, right? Keep it light, keep it casual, just like Gabe and Sam, with their perfect easy thing they have going, so you can look around and find your Ruby.”

“Wow,” Dean said.

“Well?” Cass said.

“We aren’t Gabe and Sammy,” Dean said, shaking his head slightly. “We’re us. What do you want?”

Cass laughed, a little hysterical. “I’m supposed to be a rational person. A problem solver. I can’t solve the fact that you don’t love me, but instead of having enough balls to say you’re not interested in me as a potential partner, you pull this unbelievable bullshit of being unworthy of me.”

It was Dean’s turn to frown. “Well, I am, but you’ve got it wrong. I’ve loved you from the moment you asked me to stop stalking you, and I understood in that moment just how amazing you are, as a person. And I couldn’t act interested in you as a potential partner, because I just put it out of my mind that it could ever happen. I concentrated on trying to be a good friend to make up for my original fuck-up.”

Cass’s mouth opened a little.

“What?” he said. “You don’t love me, you’re just saying that.”

“Right,” Dean said. He was having so much pain in his chest it might as well have been a heart attack. “I-I’ll just go, then. I’m sorry I did or said anything to hurt you. More than anything else I want you to be happy and it seems pretty clear from this conversation that I can have no part in that.”

For some reason Cass didn’t look mad any more. He looked sad.

“You’re serious. You’re going to tell me you love me and then leave?”

“My love isn’t worth anything,” Dean said, shrugging. He turned toward the door.

“Goddamn you,” Cass said. “I don’t think that; I can’t.” Just as Dean put his hand out to open the door, Cass spun him around, shoved him against the door, and kissed him.

 

An hour later, Gabe came through the door, and there was his brother (starkers) and Dean (clad in a single sock) tangled together on the sofa, which was likely now a biohazard site.

“Everything come out okay?” Gabe said, in his greasy game show host voice.

A chorus of hilarious profanity was the response, and Gabe pulled out his phone and took a picture and texted it to Ruby and Sam.

Gabe’s phone rang not thirty seconds later, and Dean said, quietly to Cass, “Ruh-roh!” when Gabe put it on speaker.

“Gabe, my eyes! you nearly started my labor with that photo!” came Ruby’s exaggeratedly distraught voice; but whatever she wanted to say next was buried under gales of raucous laughter.

Sam looked at his wife and at Sarah, who was cruising around the coffee table with a determined expression, trying to get to the phone in front of her mother, and he thought, I may just be contented right now, and it’s really weird, but good.

“So,” Sam said casually, joining the conversation, “When are you two getting married?” and now it was his turn to laugh, hearing Dean and Cass squawk in protest.