The hotel bar is closed when Dean goes down after his shower so he heads out the front doors instead, striding out in the late summer night. The air is cool - almost chilly even though it’s the second week of June - and Dean is glad he’s got his jacket. He zips it up close to his neck, then ducks his head and shoves his hands deep into the pockets. He’s not too sure where he’s going. He remembers seeing a bar pretty close to the hotel when Roman had pulled them into the parking lot earlier this afternoon though, and he figures it’s worth a shot to check.
He was going to say something to Roman about it then - maybe make a joke about how good it was that there was a bar within stumbling distance to the hotel - but when he’d looked over in the rental car Roman’s face was dark. His jaw was set and his mouth was tight and it’s like everything else has been in the past week. The minute Dean starts to feel like things are ok, like maybe they’re starting to feel even the littlest bit normal, something will happen to remind Dean just how fucked up everything really is. How things are as far from ok as they’ve ever been.
He turns on his heel and starts walking, the wind blowing quietly past his ears. He can see the flickering light of the bar up ahead and he picks up his pace, covering the distance quickly. The bar door is heavy when Dean pulls it open, the dull clink of glasses and the tinny sound of Fleetwood Mac playing from the speakers of the jukebox. He steps in and lets the door swing closed behind him. He spots a barstool by itself in the corner and he wanders over, shrugging off his jacket and hanging it on the back of the chair before he sits down.
The bar smells like cheap beer, the scent of burnt fries and oil hanging thick in the air. Dean’s stomach growls and it reminds him of how after Raw every week him and Roman would go out straight from the venue for food while Seth complained loudly from the backseat. He’d whine on and on in his nasally drawl about saturated fats and how they should be treating their bodies like temples and all other sorts of shit.
Roman would just roll his eyes and laugh quietly while Dean would throw whatever he’d have lying in the front seat over into the back hard enough to hit Seth in the head. His sneakers, Roman’s hair ties, sometimes a sweaty t-shirt. Seth would splutter and yelp and they’d drop him off at the hotel to go do his crossfit bullshit while him and Roman would go out and find something to eat, and drink, and talk about their matches from the night.
They wouldn’t stay out long, and on the way back Dean would make Roman stop someplace to get Seth a bottle of water and some fruit or a nutrition bar. Seth would be awake when they got back to the room, Dean and Roman still sweaty from the show and stinking like bar food and beer. Seth would be damp and freshly showered, his hair wet and dripping all over the sheets and pillows of one of the beds.
Dean would toss Seth’s snacks at him and Seth would look up, his eyes wide and dark and so fucking surprised every damn week that Dean thought of him when he’d been out. Dean would roll his eyes and shove Seth’s foot where it was hanging off the bed. His skin would be bare, bruises dotting the arch of his foot and ankle, and Roman would start singing low under his breath as he wandered around the room picking up the clothes they’d scattered there before they left for the night. He’d already be digging through his pants to call back home, and Dean would throw himself on top of Seth on the bed, rubbing his sweaty skin against Seth’s, covering Seth’s mouth with his hand when Seth would start yelling and complaining.
It feels like it’s been a hundred years ago since Dean’s had that, but it also feels like Seth’s just left. Every day Dean’s woken up in the past week he’s forgotten at first what’s happened. He keeps waking up thinking that everything’s fine, that everything is normal, but then he’ll look over and see just Roman on the other side of the room. He’ll notice Seth’s bags missing from the foot of the beds. He’ll remember he’s not heard Seth up and walking around at the crack of dawn, that he hasn’t heard him sneeze ten times in a row after his morning shower, and it’ll hit Dean all over again, his chest so heavy it feels like it’s caving in on itself day after day after day.
It’s only been a week. One week. Dean has no idea how he’s supposed to go on like this forever.
“You need a drink?” the bartender asks. He’s a young guy, long dark hair pulled back from his neck in a ponytail. If he recognizes who Dean is he doesn’t let on.
Dean nods and orders a beer and a shot of whiskey. The bartender brings Dean his drinks then goes to walk away, but Dean shakes his head and rolls his hand in the air. “You can just leave that here,” he says, and takes the bottle from the bartender’s hand.
It’s quiet for a second after the bartender walks away. All Dean can hear is the soft thump of darts hitting the dartboard in the back corner. A girls high pitched laugh, the clink of glasses on wood and water running behind the bar to clean dishes.
“The whole bottle?” Dean hears from behind him, The voice is nasally and quiet and so familiar every bone in Dean’s body aches. “Really?”
Dean doesn’t turn to look. He curls his fingers around the neck of the bottle. When he pours another shot his hand is steady. “Fuck off.”
“Aww, come on. Be nice.” Dean can see Seth moving next to him from the corner of his eye. He can smell Seth’s cologne and his shampoo, can feel the press of Seth’s thigh against his when he sits down. Dean tries to ignore him but his body is moving closer to Seth on instinct, as if his bones don’t remember that his heart’s been broken into a million pieces.
“Fuck off,” Dean grunts. He pours another shot then makes sure to look directly at Seth when he drinks it, lips curling over his teeth in a smile. “Go away. Get the fuck outta my face.” Seth just holds his stare, dark eyes unblinking, and Dean sneers at him.
“Where’s Roman?” Seth asks.
Dean’s fingers twitch. He curls them into a fist and has to physically shove his hand under his leg to keep from punching Seth’s teeth in right here in the middle of a bar in who the fuck knows where, Minnesota.
“You don’t get to ask that,” Dean says flatly. He picks up his beer and drains half of it in one go. It’s too cold and hurts his teeth, the back of his throat burning when he swallows. “You don’t get to know about us anymore.”
“I was just curious,” Seth says. He almost sounds like he’s pouting. He’s in a yellow zip up hoodie and drinking a bottle of water. Dean wants to choke him and drown him with his own drink.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” Dean tells him. He grins brightly and pours another shot. “Here’s to hoping the same happens to you.”
Seth’s face goes pink at that, two spots of color flushing up high on his cheeks. He drops his eyes and looks away. “You don’t mean that,” he says softly.
Dean thinks about it as he stands up and pulls his wallet out from his jeans. Seth was his partner and his best friend and his brother. He was a part of Dean like no one else has ever been. Dean loved him - fuck, he still loves him - and Seth threw that away. He lied to Dean and left him.
Dean’s never going to get over that. He can’t.
He drops some money on the bar and drapes his arm over the back of Seth’s seat, the tips of his fingers touching the edges of Seth’s hair.
“The hell I don’t,” Dean says quietly. He pats Seth on the cheek as he snaps his gum and walks away.
Dean can’t sleep that night. When he gets back Roman’s got the air in the room on too high and it makes Dean shiver from his bones on out. His clothes still smell like Seth, like his skin and his cologne, and Dean wants to take them off and burn them but he also wants to wear them forever. He wishes Seth had never been born.
“Where’d you get to last night?” Roman asks when Dean wakes up later that morning.
He’s already got his workout clothes on and his hair tied back in a bun. Roman’s been just as hurt by Seth, maybe more if Dean’s being honest. Dean’s the kind of person who’s always expecting things to not work out, for people to fuck him over. Roman’s not. In the week since Seth left them Dean’s not been able to breathe Seth’s name around Roman without him falling completely silent, his face going dark and eyebrows crumpling.
Dean tells himself that it’s that reason right there that’s got him shrugging and dropping his eyes when he answers. “Nowhere, really,” Dean mumbles. “Just out for a few drinks.”
“Nice,” Roman says. “Anyone else out?”
Roman is barely looking at him, wandering around the room and scooping up his things for the gym: his phone and towel and a bottle of water. He believes Dean completely. He trusts him. There’s no reason for him not to. Dean should just tell Roman that he’d seen Seth at the bar. He can tell Roman and they can talk about it and then maybe Dean cat get rid of this itch that’s been burrowing itself under his skin all night. Maybe he can get the smell of Seth out from his nostrils, can stop feeling the phantom press of his thigh against Dean’s.
“Nah,” Dean says. The word feels thick on his tongue. “Just little old me.”
Roman nods. He comes over and rubs Dean’s head, messing up his hair and knocking his skull around. Tell him. The words roll around in Dean’s brain but he just - he can’t. He doesn’t know why but the fact that he saw Seth, that he talked to him, that they spoke, seems so big right now when he’s sitting here in his hotel bed with the morning light shining through the windows. He doesn’t want to let it out into the world. He just. He wants to keep it for himself, just this one thing. Just for a little bit.
“Don’t stay in bed all day,” Roman tells him, pointing in his face and kicking at the bed when he goes past. “We’ve got to head out for Smackdown by noon, all right?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dean rolls his eyes and pretends to be annoyed. Roman grins at him and Dean smiles back. “I’ll be ready.”
Roman leaves a few minutes later, and all the breath comes out of Dean’s chest in a whoosh. His hands shake and he clenches his fingers into fists. He wants to punch Seth’s teeth in. He wants to put his hands around Seth’s throat for making him feel this way again.
He fumbles his phone of his his jeans and opens his messages. There’s barely any because Dean’s hates texting and sending messages. He hates using his phone. He wants to see someone’s face and hear their voice when he talks to them.
He scrolls through until he finds his most recent texts with Seth. It’s from a week ago last Sunday. The day before Raw. The day before Seth ruined everything.
Let me know when you’re up, I have to talk to you, Seth had sent. Dean had never answered him. He’d never asked Seth what he was going to talk to him about. He’d never got the chance.
Dean’s chest is tight when his thumb hovers over the screen. He wants to ask Seth what he’d wanted to say to him that day. He wants to ask Seth if he meant it, when he came at Dean and Roman from behind their backs. He wants to ask him if it was worth it. He wants to know if it was easy, to leave him. To leave him and Roman both. He wants to know if Seth’s happy. He wants to know if Seth could do it over, would he do it again.
Why? is what Dean finally texts, and before Seth has a chance to answer he texts again. I really want to hate you.
Dean waits twenty minutes but Seth never texts him back. He locks his phone before he gets out of bed to go take a shower.
The week after Minnesota, Raw is in Ohio. Dean drives in by himself because Roman had gone home for a few days and he’s flying in late Monday morning. Dean’s got nothing to do after the house show on Sunday so he gets a head start on getting them checked in.
He gets their keys and texts Roman the room number so Roman can go straight up when he gets there on Monday. It’s late but Dean is keyed up, restless, twisted around in the worst sort of way.
He sits on the edge of the bed and flicks on the TV. He fiddles with the remote and zips through the channels, not finding anything he wants to watch. There’s noise in the hallway - the sound of a door banging shut and two people laughing as they stumble down the hallway. He jumps back up to his feet and goes to grab his jacket when his phone buzzes with a text. He’s expecting it to be from Roman, letting Dean know when he’s getting in and what time they have to leave for Raw the next day.
The text lights up the screen and Dean’s fingers curl tight around the phone when it’s Seth’s name and not Roman’s staring back at him.
are you at the hotel?
Dean wants to be surprised, but he’s not. Not really. He’s expected Seth to text him all week after Dean sent him that last message but Seth never has.
Dean could lie. He could tell Seth he’s not here. He knows if he tells Seth he is then Seth is going to want to see him, to talk, and Dean doesn’t know if he should do that. He doesn’t know if he can.
want to talk to you, Seth sends back, quick as anything. Dean wishes he was strong enough to tell Seth to fuck off. He wishes he was strong enough to tell Seth that he hates him and actually mean it.
we can’t tell anyone but I want to see you, Seth sends. Dean’s heart gets twisted up in his chest. Seth hurt him more than anyone Dean’s ever known, but he was only able to hurt him so badly because Dean loved him more than he’s ever loved anyone in his life.
Same thing, really.
want to tell you why I did it, Seth sends again. Dean. Please
Dean knows he shouldn’t. He knows he should tell Seth to go away. To leave him the fuck alone. If he does this he can’t tell anyone. He can’t tell anyone they work with. He can’t tell Roman. He can’t tell anyone who knows anything about them that he’s spoken one word to Seth since the minute Seth came at them from behind and hit them both in the back with a fucking chair.
Dean knows. He knows he knows he knows. It doesn’t matter though. Nothing’s ever mattered to him as much as Seth.
tell me where, Dean sends. I’ll come.