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The Lie In The Lie

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Dean could still remember the day that Sam and his dad moved into the house two doors down. He'd been seven, and he and his mom had seen the moving van pulling up as she'd walked him home from school.

“Maybe there'll be a little boy for you to play with,” she'd said, and Dean had hoped so too, because the only other kid on the street was Marcy Brown, who was older, and a girl, and useless for playing with.

When he'd met Sam the next day, he was disappointed because Sam was only little, and clearly not going to be any fun.

Their dads got along, though. They worked out they'd been in the Marines at the same time, although they'd never served together, and before long they were going on fishing and hunting trips together, with Uncle Bobby. Sam didn't have a mom, so he used to come stay with Dean and his mom when the men went away. Dean got used to playing with him, even if it was only little kid games.

Time passed, Sam got older, and the games they could play got better, until they were both too old to play games at all. Sam still came over though, to watch TV, lose on Dean's Playstation, and just hang out. He started having arguments with his dad a lot and after he'd stormed out, he'd always came straight over to Dean's and vent all his frustration out.

“He's just so unreasonable,” he'd huff and Dean would nod, commiserate, and suggest a game of GTA.

After he'd had the chance to calm down a bit, Sam would usually start talking about how he was going to get out of town at the first opportunity and never come back. Dean, who tended to think of Lead as some kind of vast extended family and couldn't ever imagine leaving it behind to go somewhere else and starting over fresh, would nod at the right points and keep his opinion to himself.

****

Sam's arguments with his dad just kept getting worse and it was no surprise to anyone when Sam went to Stanford and didn't come back, not even for summer vacation. Dean was already working in his dad's garage by then, but somehow he always thought of Sam leaving as the start of his adult life. It seemed a lot quieter on their street without Sam coming over to bother him all the time and after a couple of months Dean moved into his own place.

He emailed Sam every couple of weeks with the local gossip, keeping him up-to-date with who'd got married, who'd had a baby, and who'd got a puncture on their way out to the old mine and had to have their truck towed back to town. Sam replied with details of his new life – what it was like to live somewhere with so many more people than Lead, the classes he enjoyed most, and the girl he was seeing.

Her name was Jess, and Sam sent Dean pictures of her, telling him how pretty she was, how she made him laugh, how they were moving in together, and, eventually, how Sam wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. For some reason he thought Dean was the best person to ask for advice on how to propose, even though the longest relationship Dean had been in had ended after about a month. He just got bored sleeping with the same person when there were so many other men and women to sample.

Still, he asked his mom how his dad had proposed, and then passed on what she said to Sam.

Make sure you're certain, then plan out a special occasion for it. Nothing too OTT cheesy, but something you'll know she'll like.

He tried not to think about the fact that if Sam married Jess and got into Law School like he was planning, there was a high chance that Dean would never see him again. After all, Sam was a lot like his brother in some ways, and it was natural for siblings to grow apart as they got older.

****
The phone call came at 3 am on a Sunday night, when Dean was fast asleep and dreaming of Eliza Dushku and whipped cream. The moment he heard Sam's quiet, “Dean,” though, he was wide awake.

“What's wrong?” he asked, because he knew that tone of voice.

Sam was silent for a long couple of moments. “It's Jess,” he said eventually. “She...she's dead.” His voice broke, and Dean could hear him swallowing back tears.

“God, Sammy, I'm so sorry,” he said, already calculating how long it would take him to drive down there. For a moment he almost considered flying, before he realised that arriving at Sam's and having a panic attack all over him wouldn't be the most amount of help ever. “I'll be there tomorrow night,” he said. His dad would let him have the time off work if he knew it was for Sam.

“You don't have to come all the way out here,” protested Sam.

“Shut up,” said Dean, getting out of bed and pulling on a pair of jeans with one hand. “You just make sure you've got some decent beer. I'll be there as soon as I can.”

****
It took him twenty hours to drive to Sam's, during which he drank his weight in coffee and passed through three more states than he'd ever even been to before. He was on Sam's doorstep by midnight, travel-worn and sweat-stained, and thinking that having an old friend turn up in the middle of the night, desperate for a place to sleep, was probably the last thing Sam needed right now.

Sam seemed pretty glad to see him though, enveloping him in a hug the minute he opened the door. Dean patted awkwardly at his back, unused to physical affection. Sam seemed to be even taller than he had been when he left Lead and had at least twice as much shoulder as Dean was expecting. When he finally stood back and Dean got his first good look at him in four years, he almost did a double take. Sam had gotten hot. If Dean had seen him sitting in a bar, he'd have given it a try, no matter how likely he was to get a fist in the face.

“Thanks for coming,” Sam said tiredly, and Dean took a second look and noticed the bags under his eyes and the state of his clothes, which was almost worse than Dean's.

“No problem,” he said, and pushed down the rush of attraction. Sam needed him, after all.

****
They slumped on Sam's couch and drank until they were both unconscious, which really didn't take much for either of them. Dean woke up the next morning sprawled over Sam and made sure not to wake Sam up when he carefully extricated himself. He had a shower, then bullied Sam into having one as well, while he cooked bacon and eggs. He forced Sam to eat them and Sam finally told him what had happened.

“She was in a car with her friend Becca, coming back from a weekend trip home, and a truck smashed into the side of them.” He stared hard at his plate while he spoke and his knuckles were white where they were clenched around his cutlery. “Becca's going to be okay – broken leg, concussion – but Jess...she just...” his voice trailed off.

There was a long silence, in which Dean tried to pretend he couldn't see Sam fighting not to cry.

“Her, uh, her parents got here yesterday,” he said after he'd pulled himself together. “They're going to organise the funeral and everything. I spoke to her dad last night, and he said it would probably be on Friday.”

He looked up at Dean then. “Will you stay till then?”

“Of course, man, as long as you want,” said Dean.

Sam nodded. “I want...after that, I want to go home.”

“To Lead?” asked Dean, surprised. As far as he knew, Sam hadn't considered Lead home for four years.

Sam nodded. “I can't stay here,” he said quietly. “I was meant to have an interview for law school yesterday morning, but I just...I can't do the things we planned together without her.”

“Okay,” said Dean. “You can come back with me, stay at my place till you get yourself sorted.” They both knew there was no way in hell that Sam was going to go stay with his dad.

Sam finally looked up from his plate and gave Dean a slightly weak but still grateful smile. “Thanks, man,” he said.

“No problem,” said Dean, wondering how long it would be before he could coax a proper grin out of Sam.

****
Sam packed up all the stuff he wanted to keep and got rid of the rest. They somehow managed to fit it all into Dean's car and they left Palo Alto the minute the funeral was over. Dean didn't drive straight through this time and they stopped at a really dodgy motel in Utah for the night.

When they got back to Lead, Sam spent his time just moping around, sleeping on Dean's couch at night and slumping on it all day, watching crappy TV while Dean was at work. Dean left him to it, not sure what he should be doing to help Sam get through it. He made sure to spend every evening at home though, drinking beer with Sam and talking about nothing.

A couple of weeks had passed when Dean said, “I'm going to dinner with my folks tomorrow night. You should come.” As far as he could tell, Sam hadn't seen anyone except Dean since he'd got to Lead.

Sam looked down at the bottle in his hands for a moment.

“Come on,” said Dean, “My parents would love to see you. You know my mom always liked you more than me.”

Sam gave a half-grin. “Because you were a mouthy shit,” he said. “At least I always remembered my manners.”

“Manners say that you should come,” pointed out Dean.

Sam fiddled with his beer bottle for a moment. “Yeah, okay then,” he said eventually, and Dean relaxed. His mom would know how to help Sam.

****
Dean's mom gave Sam a big hug when they arrived, fed him his favourite food and told him all about the misfortunes of the other people from Sam's graduating class who were still in Lead.

Dean's dad gave Sam an awkward shoulder pat, and waited for a break in the conversation over dessert before asking, “You thinking of going to see your dad soon?”

Sam tensed up. “Not really,” he said.

Dean's dad nodded as if he was expecting that. “You should,” he said. “He'd love to see you, even if he'd never say it. And,” he added in a softer voice, “he knows what it's like to lose the woman you love.”

There was a very tense silence for a minute. Usually, no one mentioned Sam's mother and Dean only really knew that she'd died in a house fire when Sam was a baby.

Sam cleared his throat. “I'll think about it,” he said.

“You do that,” said Dean's dad. “He missed you.”

When Sam and Dean left the house, with more hugs from Dean's mom and a tin full of brownies, Sam hesitated for a long moment before opening the car door, looking down at his old house where his dad still lived.

“He really did miss you,” said Dean, softly. Sam sighed and let go of the car.

“Wait here,” he said, and walked down the road. Dean leaned on his car roof and watched as Sam hesitated before knocking softly on the door.

When Sam's father opened it, they stared at each other for a long moment without saying anything before his dad grabbed Sam in a rough hug. Sam collapsed against him in a way he hadn't when Dean's parents had hugged him, and clung on as if he was drowning.

Dean slipped into his car when Sam went inside the house with only a quick backward glance. He drove home slowly, hoping like hell that Sam's dad would be able to help him get through this, because Dean had no idea where to even start.

****
Sam didn't get back to Dean's till the next morning, when Dean was drinking his coffee and hoping the new radiator would come in today for Mr Robertson's Pontiac.

“Morning,” said Dean.

“Hey,” said Sam. “Uh. Can I borrow your car for the day?”

Dean paused, his coffee halfway to his mouth. He hadn't let anyone else drive the Impala since his dad had given it to him when he was nineteen, and Sam knew it. “What for?” he asked, guardedly.

“Dad said that after...after my mom died, he got through it because he kept going – because he had to, for me.” said Sam softly. “I just...I thought I might see about getting a job, stop mooching off you. My own car as well. Maybe a place to live.”

“You can stay here as long as you want,” said Dean, almost automatically.

“I know,” said Sam, “But your couch is beginning to kill my back.” Dean had to concede that his couch, although awesome for sitting on, probably sucked as a bed. “How about it, man?”

Dean looked at Sam carefully. He was sitting taller than he had since Dean had driven twenty hours across America to find him, and there was a spark of something back in his eyes that looked like it might be hope. He sighed. “If you damage her, I'll end you,” he threatened.

Sam grinned at him, a full, bright, happy grin like Dean hadn't seen since Sam left for college. “Thanks, man.”

Dean couldn't help grinning back, even if the idea of someone else driving his baby was making him a little nervous. It's Sam, he reminded himself. It'll be fine.

****
Sam managed to avoid fucking up Dean's car, and Dean let him take it the next few days as well, until he got himself an old Ford that Dean looked over very carefully before declaring it a good buy. Within a month Sam managed to get himself a job as a law clerk in Spearfish, half an hour's drive from Lead. Dean took him out for a celebratory drink and they met a couple of guys in the bar that Sam had gone to high school with. They got trashed and ended up leaning on each other as they walked home.

“Thanks, man,” slurred Sam when they got back to Dean's, and he collapsed on to the couch. “For everything. Don't know what I'd have done without you.”

Dean shrugged uncomfortably and tried to look away from where Sam's shirt had ridden up and exposed a tanned strip of skin. “That's what I'm here for,” he said.

Sam smiled at him, shut his eyes, and passed out. Dean stared at him for longer than he could really pass off as 'brotherly concern' and then headed to his bedroom.

****
Sam started apartment-hunting the next day. Dean had half-expected him to move to Spearfish to be closer to work, but instead all the places he looked at seemed to be within a few streets of Dean's apartment. Dean looked at a couple with him and had to bite hard at his tongue to stop himself suggesting that they just find a two-bedroom place and move in together.

Sam, after all, had always been dead set on being independent and having his own space, and probably wouldn't want to live with Dean. Besides, Dean's stupid crush thing was starting to get a little out of control, and some distance between them could only help. At the very least he'd be able to go out and get laid more often without Sam being constantly there.

It didn't quite work out like that when Sam did move into a tiny apartment only five minutes walk from Dean's. Sam went back to coming over to Dean's whenever he was bored, and it was a bit like they were kids again, except now Sam was enormous and hot as hell, and Dean had to sometimes work quite hard not to just jump him. He's still mourning his girl, he reminded himself. And he's straight.

Things got into a relaxed pattern of nights spent hanging out, watching crappy old monster movies, or heading out to the nearest bar for a couple of drinks. Sam started to smile more and Dean even managed to make him laugh a few times. They went to dinner with Dean's parents every couple of weeks, and after a while Dean's mom started inviting Sam's dad and Bobby as well. Bobby had always been around when they were kids, after all, and was practically family, even if neither Sam nor Dean called him 'Uncle' Bobby any more.

****
Six months passed. It was a Friday night and Sam and Dean were at the bar, getting wasted while Dean told Sam all about this hot guy who'd come in for an oil change that day. He'd given Dean all the signals, but when Dean made a move, he'd got a fist in the face.

“I'm telling you,” Dean said, maybe slurring a little bit. There'd been some shots earlier in the evening. “It's just not worth being bi somewhere like Lead.”

“Maybe your gaydar just sucks,” said Sam.

Dean spluttered in outrage. “My gaydar is amazing,” he said. “Just everyone round here's so closeted they can't even cope with a quick blowjob.”

“Last week you came on to that guy who'd spent all evening with his hand down his girlfriend's pants,” pointed out Sam.

Dean shrugged. “Yeah, that was different. I just felt like a fight.”

Sam stared at him. “You came on to a guy you knew was straight because you felt like a fight,” he repeated.

“It was that or come on to his girl, and she was ugly as fuck,” said Dean, finishing his beer. “The point is, there's nothing wrong with my gaydar.”

Sam grinned. “Then how come you never guessed I wanted to do this?” he said, and leaned over and kissed Dean, right there in the bar, in front of everyone.

Dean froze in shock before his instincts, the ones he'd been suppressing ever since Sam came back from Stanford, came in to play and he slid one hand into Sam's hair and held him close, opening his mouth to the kiss and twining his tongue around Sam's.

Sam suddenly pulled back. “Shit,” he said, staring at Dean wide-eyed, and Dean got a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Sam,” he said, but it was too late. Sam got up from the table clumsily, knocking his chair back, and fled from the bar.

****
Dean didn't follow him, he just went straight home and got into bed, where he lay awake and tried to work out exactly what had happened. Sam had kissed him, after all, and okay, so it might have been a joke, but then why had he said he wanted to do it? And there'd definitely been a moment there, before Sam freaked out, when it had been a real kiss, when he had been fully in to it.

He tossed and turned and tried not to worry that they'd managed to fuck up their friendship, and when he got up the next morning, he'd managed maybe an hour's sleep maximum. He made himself an extremely strong coffee, and wondered if he should go and find Sam and tell him that it didn't have to mean anything and they could just forget about it if he wanted.

There was a knock at the door and Dean knew without looking who it was. When he opened it, Sam looked even worse than Dean felt and was still wearing his clothes from last night. Dean opened the door wider and let him pass in silence, then fixed him some coffee.

“So,” said Sam, curling his fingers around the mug, “when I was a teenager I had a massive crush on you.” Dean stared at him in surprise, but Sam was looking at his coffee. “You were the reason I figured out I was bi. Well, sort of bi.”

“You never said,” said Dean hoarsely, not sure if he meant about Sam having a crush on him or being bisexual.

Sam shrugged. “There was no point. You thought of me as a kid – you used to call me kiddo all the time.” He grimaced slightly. “It's a massive turn off to know the guy you want thinks of you as a child.”

Dean couldn't argue with that. Somehow, he'd never really thought of Sam as an adult until he'd arrived at Stanford and found he'd turned into a giant.

“So, I went away,” continued Sam, “and I got with Jess.” His voice wavered slightly when he said her name. “And now, I can't...it feels like I'm cheating on her just thinking about it.”

“Sam,” said Dean. “It's not...we don't have to let it mean anything.”

Sam snorted. “It already means something,” he said, then added pointedly, “You haven't called me 'kiddo' since I moved back.”

Dean shrugged uncomfortably. “Seems weird to call someone a foot taller than me 'kiddo.'”

“And that's the only reason,” said Sam, sceptically. Dean looked away.

Sam sighed. “I've been up all night,” he admitted, “Thinking about it. I know Jess wouldn't want me to stop living, that she'd want me to be happy, but...”

“Sam,” interrupted Dean, not wanting to hear the 'let's just be friends' speech. He was painfully aware that this was the first time ever that he hadn't been perfectly happy to just be friends. “You don't have to explain, it's cool. I know how you felt about Jess. We can just stay like we were.”

Sam shook his head. “No, Dean, I...want this. I want to try this. I'm just saying, I might freak out sometimes, like last night, and you'll just have to be patient with me.”

Dean stared at him for a long moment, not quite believing what he was hearing.

“Uh,” said Sam, shifting uncomfortably, “that is, if you want to.”

Dean came back to himself, and carefully put his coffee down. “Oh, I want to,” he said, taking Sam's coffee from him and putting it next to his own. He knotted his hand in Sam's hair and pulled him down so that he could kiss him.

“Good,” murmured Sam happily against his lips and then pulled Dean in close by his hips and kissed him again.

****
They told their parents the next time they all had dinner together, and Dean's parents were happy for them. After years of watching Dean have nothing more than a series of one-night-stands, the idea of him being in a steady relationship that looked to be pretty long-term was clearly a massive relief.

Sam's father was another story. Dean was clearly not the only person that Sam hadn't told he was bisexual.

“Don't be ridiculous, Sam,” he snapped. “Just because one girl dies on you doesn't mean you have to go off them all together.”

Sam went red, then white with rage. “That's not what this is at all,” he hissed. “I still like girls, I just like Dean more.”

Sam's dad scowled. “This is bullshit,” he growled, and stood up.

“It's not,” snapped Sam. “I love Dean and that's not going to change just because you're a dick.”

Dean felt his face go hot, and there seemed to be a ringing in his ears as Sam's dad sneered something and swept out of the house. “You love me?” he repeated numbly.

Sam immediately deflated from anger to awkward embarrassment. “Um,” he said, scratching at the back of his neck. “Too soon to say that?”

“I don't know,” said Dean's mom, clearing away the plates. “You have known each other twenty years.”

Dean was acutely aware of his parents' and Bobby's presence, but he couldn't help himself from leaning over to kiss Sam. “It's okay,” he said quietly. “It's not too soon.” Sam relaxed and smiled at him, and Dean hesitated. “And, uh, you know I...” He paused and took a deep breath. “I do as well.”

Sam grinned at him, and kissed him back, arm snaking round Dean's back.

Dean's dad cleared his throat. “We still have dessert to go,” he pointed out. Dean pulled away, feeling himself flushing red with humiliation, but he couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

****
Two weeks later, they were lying in bed together and Dean was just starting to drift off, one arm draped over Sam's stomach, when Sam said, “So, uh, I've been spending a lot of nights here.”

Dean opened one eye. “Yeah,” he acknowledged. “We've been having a lot of sex.” Sam huffed as if that wasn't the response he was looking for. “It's been awesome,” Dean tried. He was never really at his sharpest after a couple of hours of mind-blowing sex and yet that seemed to be when Sam would pick for these talks.

Sam laughed quietly. “Right,” he agreed. “You know how we could have even more awesome sex?” Dean frowned. Was such a thing possible? “If I moved in,” finished Sam. “I mean,” he said in a rush, “My lease is nearly up, and we could have sex, like, all the time and all over the place, and we did fine when I was staying here before, right? But if you don't want to...”

“I want to,” interrupted Dean. “I want to have sex with you everywhere.”

Sam laughed again. “Okay, good,” he said happily.

“Now, let me sleep,” said Dean. “Then we can have more sex tomorrow, then go pack all your stuff up and bring it back here.”

“That soon?” said Sam.

“Yeah,” replied Dean, letting his eyes fall shut again. “I like having you here. You should always be here.”

Sam put his hand over Dean's and squeezed gently, and Dean fell asleep with a smile on his face.

****
Living together wasn't really that different to not living together, except that it was easier to have sex and Sam was always there when Dean wanted someone to listen to him bitch about the old lady who kept bringing her car in because 'I'm sure it used to go faster.'

Lead was a small town and it wasn't long before word got around that they'd moved in together. Dean wasn't bothered – everyone had known for years that he swung both ways if he had the chance, but for some reason being an actual gay couple as opposed to just being willing to fuck men put a lot more people's backs up. Dean found that he had plenty of opportunities to get into fights without having to come on to straight guys, and Sam learnt how to throw a punch.

Sam got a promotion at his work, and Dean's dad started handing more and more of the business over to him, showing him how to do the books and drum up new business. It wasn't really a secret that he was thinking of retiring soon and giving the garage to Dean.

****
Despite what he'd said, Sam didn't freak out until the first anniversary of Jess's death, nearly six months after they'd moved in together. Dean had been keeping a careful eye on the date, not sure what to expect. He'd offered to take time off and drive Sam down to California to visit her grave, but Sam had thrown the suggestion off with a half shake of his head, then changed the subject.

Sam was fine in the morning, if a bit quiet as they had breakfast together and got ready for work. Dean always left earlier than Sam because he had to open up the garage, and Sam kissed him goodbye as usual, one hand still clinging to his coffee mug.

A couple of hours later, while he was deep in the guts of an old Buick, Dean got a call from Sam's work.

“He's not come in today and he's not answering his cell – is everything okay?”

Dean felt dizzy and light-headed. He babbled some bullshit about Sam having the flu and them both forgetting to ring, then dialled Sam's phone as soon as his boss was off the line. Sam didn't pick up, and he didn't answer their house phone either. Dean grabbed his car keys and rang Sam's phone again as headed out to his car, calling to his dad that he had to go and he wasn't sure when he'd be back.

He drove home fast, running a couple of red lights without really noticing. Their apartment was silent and empty, and Dean sat down hard on the couch, wondering where the hell Sam would go. He called his mom and Bobby, more out of desperation than any real hope that Sam would be at either place, then got back in his car and drove around town for a while, hoping he'd just spot Sam somewhere.

It was another couple of hours before he finally did find him, hunched miserably on a bench in a park near his work. Dean parked his car with a lot less care for his tires than he usually showed, and jumped out. He strode over to Sam, resisting the temptation to break into a run, and stopped awkwardly in front of him. Sam didn't look up.

“Hey,” said Dean, trying to sound calm and not at all like he'd spent the last couple of hours freaking out.

Sam was holding something clutched in his hands, something he didn't take his eyes off even when he returned the greeting.

“Hi,” he said in a voice that sounded stretched and worn. Dean wondered if he'd been crying and crouched down in front of Sam so that he could see his face better. He put one hand on Sam's knee and Sam flinched back slightly. Dean immediately let go, shocked. Sam never moved away from Dean's touch – usually he just moved closer, demanded more.

This is it, said the pessimistic voice in the back of Dean's head that had been predicting this since the second time they'd kissed, hot and so close to perfect. He's going to leave you. Dean felt a sick clench in his stomach that he ignored.

“What's going on?” he asked.

Sam's hands opened slightly so that Dean could see the black velvet of a jewellery box between his fingers. “Do you think she'd have said yes?”

Dean felt sick in a different way. “She'd have been an idiot not to,” he said firmly.

Sam nodded, but Dean wasn't sure he'd heard him. He felt helpless in the face of Sam's grief, with no idea what to do to make it better. He wished there was some way he could just left the burden from Sam's shoulders until he was happy and smiling again.

“She'd have wanted to wait,” said Sam distantly, “until we'd saved up for the big white wedding. All her friends and family would have been there.” He looked up for the first time and met Dean's eyes. “I was going to ask you to be my Best Man.”

Dean felt a warm thrum at that – he'd had no idea he'd meant that much to Sam even after four years of them being separated by three states. “I'd have given an awesome speech,” he said.

That made Sam smile weakly. “You'd have made sure everyone knew my most embarrassing teenage moments,” he corrected.

Dean shrugged slightly. “Exactly,” he said. “It would have been awesome.”

Sam glanced back down at the ring box and his smile faded away as if it had never been. “I'm never going to have it now,” he said softly.

Dean covered Sam's hands with his own. “I'm not sure I'd be a good Best Man after having fucked you,” he joked lamely.

“I'd have married her,” said Sam, ignoring Dean. “And I'd have spent the rest of my life with her, and been happy.” Dean felt a cold knife pierce his heart. He usually tried to ignore the fact that if Jess hadn't died, Sam would still be living a completely different life, one that wouldn't have Dean in it at all, bar the occasional email.

“But you and me,” continued Sam, looking up at Dean again. “It's just...I mean, we moved in together after, what? A month?”

“Three weeks,” said Dean with a dry mouth.

“Yeah,” said Sam. “But it didn't seem too soon at all. It felt...felt like it was meant to be. It's all felt like that.” His voice dropped. “I'd have spent the rest of my life with Jess, but I don't know that it would have ever been as good as things with you are right now.”

Dean couldn't find any words to reply to that – well, nothing that wasn't stupidly girly, anyway – and just squeezed Sam's hands instead. “Dude, if you ask me to marry you, I'm going to have to beat you up,” he joked, then wondered if he'd ruined the moment.

Rather than looking annoyed, though, Sam smiled. “I'm not sure the ring would fit you,” he replied. “Besides, you're the one on your knees.”

That wasn't strictly true – Dean was only crouching - but he appreciated Sam trying to spare him from a chick-flick moment. He was tempted to just let it slip by, but he figured he really should offer Sam something in response. He stared down at their hands, still joined together, and said, softly, “I don't need to marry you to know I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Sam made a soft noise Dean wasn't sure he was meant to hear, and Dean suddenly felt incredibly awkward, crouching in front of his boyfriend in the middle of a park, confessing his feelings.

“Okay,” he said, clearing his throat. “Your boss thinks you have flu, so let's take advantage of your day off.”

“Want to go home and fuck?” asked Sam with a grin.

“Damn straight,” said Dean, and he stood up and pulled Sam to his feet.

****
A year slipped by like nothing. Dean drove Sam out to the nearest woods with a blanket and a picnic on their anniversary. They hiked just far enough that no one would stumble across them, laid the blanket out, and fucked like animals right there in the shade of the trees. Dean came harder than he ever had before, and after that he took every opportunity he could to persuade Sam to have sex with him in the woods.
****
The years continued to pass until Dean was planning where to take Sam for their fourth anniversary. Sam hadn't spoken to his father since the dinner when they'd announced their relationship, even though they both knew that Dean's parents and Bobby kept in touch with him. Sam didn't even want to talk about him, and Dean was happy enough to go along with that. He didn't really want to talk about the bastard either.

Bobby had a salvage yard just outside of town, and Dean went over there every few weeks to have a dig around, in case there was anything he thought he could use at the garage. Sam went with him whenever he was free and then they tended to head out into the woods and take advantage of the isolation.

This time, though, when Dean and Sam knocked on the door of Bobby's house, it was Sam's father who answered. He looked just as surprised to see them as they were to see him.

“Sam,” he managed after a silent moment.

Sam's face shut down and he pinched his lips together. “Tell Bobby we'll come back tomorrow,” he said, and turned around and headed back to Dean's car. Dean tried to follow, but Sam's dad grabbed his arm.

“Dean,” he said. “Can you...”

“No,” Dean interrupted him without waiting for the rest. “I can't.” He shook the hand off and went back to his car, where Sam was already waiting in the passenger seat. He drove off fast, and as soon as they were away from Bobby's, Sam let out a long breath.

“Fuck,” he said, miserably.

“Yeah,” agreed Dean. That was all they said on the drive home.

****
Three days later, Dean came home from the garage to find Sam staring at the phone as if it was going to come alive and bite him.

“My dad called,” he announced.

Dean raised his eyebrows. “What does he want?”

Sam shrugged. “He said he wanted to apologise, but...” he looked up at Dean. “It's been four years. It's kinda late for that.”

Dean nodded, although he wasn't sure that was true. After all, he might be a dick, but he was family. That meant you forgave almost anything.

****
Another couple of days went by, then Dean opened the door to find Sam's dad on the doorstep.

“Hi, Dean,” he said, and Dean started to shut the door on him. He caught it at the last moment. “Please,” he said. “I just want to talk to Sam.”

“Who is it?” asked Sam, coming out of the kitchen. He fell silent when Dean reluctantly opened the door.

“Sam,” said his dad, sounding miserable. “Please, just give me a chance.”

Sam's nostrils flared with anger, and Dean could see him gritting his teeth. “It's a bit late, Dad,” he said. “Maybe if you'd been here four years ago.”

His dad pushed past Dean and came inside. “I know,” he said, “I know, but...I'm a stubborn man, Sam, and I've never known how to admit I was wrong.”

“It's easy,” said Dean. “You just say, 'I was wrong.'”

Sam's dad sighed. “I was wrong,” he said. Over his shoulder, Dean could see Sam's eyes widen in surprise. “I'm sorry, son. I've had a lot of time to think about it, and some good friends who've been pointing out what an ass I've been.”

Sam still looked outwardly sceptical but Dean could see that inside he was caving. Dean quietly shut the front door, and wondered how long it would be before Sam's dad messed up again.

“Look,” said Sam's father, turning to glance at Dean before looking back at Sam. “I didn't realise how serious this thing was – I thought it was just a...a grief thing, after Jess died.”

“Guess we proved you wrong then,” said Sam, bitterly.

“Yeah,” said his dad, looking down at his hands. “I get it, now. If Dean's the one who makes you happy, then...then I'm okay with it.”

“That's big of you,” said Dean sarcastically, and took the chance to go and stand next to Sam, putting his hand supportively on the small of his back.

Sam's dad ignored him. “I want to make it up to you,” he said. “I got you a present. For your anniversary.” He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and held it out to Sam, who just looked at it for a moment before taking it. His father smiled as if that meant everything was forgiven. “I'm gonna go now,” he said, backing towards the door. “But, if you want to come round sometime and have dinner.” He glanced at Dean again. “Both of you. I'd...I'd really like that.”

He left while Sam was still staring at the envelope.

“What's in it?” asked Dean, and Sam shook his head slightly, coming back to himself. He opened it and stared at the contents for a long time, during which Dean itched to just rip them out of his hands and look himself. “Two tickets for a bus tour round Nova Scotia,” said Sam, sounding puzzled.

“What?” said Dean.

“'This cultural and historical tour of Nova Scotia takes in all the sights, as well as the breath-taking scenery of Atlantic Canada',” read out Sam. “Huh. It says it's for gay couples.” He looked up at Dean. “Guess he was trying to prove he's really okay with us.”

“I guess,” said Dean. “Are we going?”

Sam shrugged and Dean didn't push it. “I wonder what prompted this,” said Sam slowly. “I mean, four years is a long time.”

“It's how long you were in California,” pointed out Dean.

Sam nodded, but he was still staring at the tickets and Dean wasn't sure he'd heard. “He can't just buy forgiveness,” he said quietly. “It's not...it doesn't work like that.”

“It's a start,” said Dean, hoping he didn't sound like he was on Sam's dad's side. Sam just replied with a sigh.

****
Dean phoned his dad. “Did you know anything about this?” he asked, after telling him about the tickets. There was a long silence.

“I might have mentioned that he was a damned fool, and it was time to pull his head out of his ass,” he admitted. “He told me he already had, but that he didn't know how to apologise. I mean, I gave him a couple of tips, but I didn't suggest a gay bus tour.” He paused. “I didn't even know they did gay bus tours.”

“Me neither,” admitted Dean.

“Guess he just figured that if he was going to break his stubborn-as-hell, I-never-apologise streak, he was going to do it in style,” said his dad.

Dean passed what his father had said on to Sam, who just frowned and said, “huh,” again, which Dean knew was his default response when his brain was working too fast for him to latch on to any particular emotion.

He didn't mention it again, left it up to Sam to figure out and just made sure he was around in case Sam decided he wanted to talk. It wasn't until they were lying in bed together that Sam said something.

“You know what Canada's got?” he said, slowly.

“What?” asked Dean.

“Lots and lots of woods,” replied Sam.

Dean thought about having miles and miles of woodland to fuck Sam in, and shivered slightly with lust. “We going then?” he asked.

Sam was silent for a moment, then said, “Yeah, guess we are.”

Dean grinned. “Awesome.”