Life Used to Be So HardAuthor: roque_clasiqueRecipient: of_carabasRating:
PG-13 (for language) Warnings:
It’s only their second month, but the girl at the grocery store recognizes Dean as he plonks his purchases on the checkout counter and starts tugging his wallet out of his jeans pocket.
It’s only their second month, but the girl at the grocery store recognizes Dean as he plonks his purchases on the checkout counter and starts tugging his wallet out of his jeans pocket.
“Hello again,” she says, tucks her gum into her cheek so she can give him a bright smile.
He grins back. “How’s it goin’?”
“Ah, you know.” She slides a few discounted steaks through the scanner. “Ring; bag; repeat. But, hey, everybody’s got somethin’ they’d rather be doing.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“Quite a selection you’ve got here,” she continues, waggling an enormous shank bone at him. “We don’t normally carry these without special request.”
“Well,” he says, leans forward a little, smiles. “I ‘specially requested.”
She puts the bone into the bag next to a rack of past-due ribs. “You know these are all pretty much expired, right?”
She cocks her head, resumes her gum-chewing. “You got a dog, or something?”
He snags his bag from the counter and lowers his sunglasses back over his eyes. “Or something,” he says. “You take care now, sweetheart.”
“Have a great day,” she calls as he pushes through the doors and out into the hot July sun. “Thanks for shopping at Cub.”
As houses go, this one’s all right. A compact, turn-of-the-century farmhouse with a dark wood interior and a decent yellow paint job on the outside, near enough to town that it’s not completely removed, but far enough out on the prairie that it’s not going to cause any problems with the neighbors. There’s a big eat-in kitchen and a roomy den downstairs with a tiny room off to one side, and then two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The bathroom’s got shiny new faucet fixtures and a new toilet, but that’s about where the “new” part of the house ends – the fridge has to be from the sixties, at least, a hulking avocado beast that hums and whirs even louder than Sam snores, and the furniture that was left behind – a couch and two armchairs – is even worse, all three of them a mustard-colored flowered brocade that makes the backs of Dean’s eyes ache.
Not that any of that matters – the mortgage is incredibly cheap, probably due to the fact that it’s in Northern Minnesota but somehow has no heating system aside from a wood stove, and the cellar is huge, and strong, and soundproof. That’s all they need.
“Which room do you want?” Dean asks Sam the day they close the deal with the real estate agent. They’re upstairs, in the smaller, multi-angled room, a skylight wedged into the sloped ceiling. Sam’s at the window, chintzy blue curtain pulled aside, staring out at the wheat field that’s rippling gold in the distance and clearly not listening to a word Dean’s saying.
“Earth to Sam,” Dean says, gives him a poke in the ribs.
“Which room d’you want?”
Sam wrinkles up his nose. “Dude, it doesn’t matter to me. Not like I’m gonna be sleeping in it.”
“Just choose,” Dean says impatiently.
Sam sighs. “Let’s look at the other one again.”
The other room is bigger, but not by much, and it’s perfectly square, with two huge windows set in its side. They’re both nice rooms, bright and airy, but Dean doesn’t like how this one’s so symmetrical. Freaks him out.
“This one’s larger,” Sam says, watching Dean.
“It’s a little darker.”
“But it’s not shaped weird like the other one.”
Dean lets out an exasperated breath. “I’ve got eyes, Sam.”
“I’m just… reviewing,” Sam says slowly.
“Is it really that hard to pick a room?”
“Is it really that hard to not be a fuckin’ dick about it?” Sam counters, and Dean grins.
“I want this one, anyway,” Sam says after a moment.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Sam says. “You’re funny-shaped. You take the funny-shaped room.”
Dean pretends to grumble, but – truth is, he likes that little room. It’s stupid, because it’s not like they’re gonna be here all that often, but still – Dean hasn’t had his own room, his own bed, for – shit, who the fuck knows how long. Maybe since he was fifteen and they were staying in Colorado for the summer in that big, breezy house outside of Boulder, and John caved and put down the cash for a waterbed because Dean wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it. Dean spent that whole summer seasick and nauseous and gloriously happy.
Well, he’s sure as hell not gonna get a waterbed this time. He and Sam picked up a couple futons, and those’ll do just fine. Find some sheets, some blankets, voila. No point in getting a bunch of furniture for just a few dozen days out of the year.
But even though Dean knows that the house is purely for practical purposes, it still feels like a big deal somehow, when he’s sitting on the front step with a beer and watching Sam walk the perimeter, bend down to peer in the dusty flowerbeds, poke his sneakered toe into a stretch of dirt that must have been a garden, once. The yard is nice, with a couple big, shady trees – cottonwood, the real estate agent said – and Dean swears he can hear the whoosh and burble of water from the river about a quarter mile out from their house. It’s all monocrops around here, brilliant blonde wheat or lush green soy, and Dean can see the fields laid out in patterns, rolling up to the highway and then disappearing over a brief slope in the land.
“Hey,” Sam calls from where he’s crouched down by the sideboard of the house.
“There’s a window here, leads to the cellar,” Sam says. “I don’t think it’s big enough to get through, but…”
“We’ll board it up tomorrow, play it safe,” Dean says.
“And we’re gonna have to padlock this door,” Sam says, stands and gives the flaking red metal a resounding kick. “You sure it’ll hold?”
“Only one way to find out.”
“I just don’t want to take any chances,” Sam says, pushes a hand through his hair and leaves a dusty streak on his forehead. “After what – I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Dean nods, realizes he’s rubbing his scar unconsciously and yanks his hand down. It’s almost fully healed, but it still looks lurid and painful, curving down over his collarbone to just above his belly button, signature of the gash that nearly gutted him.
“We’ll padlock it, and we can hammer up some boards on the inside,” Dean relents. “To be sure.”
Sam nods, folds his arms. Gazes off down towards the river.
“Hey,” Dean says, wanting to cut that brooding, it’s-all-my-fault look right in the bud. “You want a beer?”
Sam hesitates, then smiles reluctantly. “Sure.”
Dean pops the cap off a Summit and hands it over as Sam sinks down on the step next to him.
“Here’s to our new status as homeowners,” Dean says solemnly, and he and Sam toast, take a long drink each.
“So,” Dean says, clanks his ring thoughtfully against the glass bottle. “I was thinking, tomorrow we can hit the nearest Bed ‘n’ Bath, get some sheets, some towels. You know, they do monograms there for free, in like, any color thread you want. Sammy Winchester – it’d look good in baby blue, whaddaya say?”
Sam stares over incredulously, and Dean blinks back at him, all innocent, until he can’t take it anymore and blurts a laugh, chokes on his beer.
“Your face, dude!” Dean says, waggles a finger at him. “Admit it, you wanted it, you totally wanted that monogrammed towel.”
“Not in baby blue, I don’t,” Sam grumbles, but he’s smiling into his bottle, and Dean settles back against the step, watches as the sun starts its molasses-slow decline.
It’s a hassle, sure, to have to stay in one place every month, but – this? It’s not so bad. He could get used to this.
They’re both gonna have to get used to this.
The arrangement works okay for the first few months, mostly because they’re cautious about it, give themselves plenty of time to drive to the house from whatever job they’ve been working, usually end up with one or two extra nights to just hang out.
Dean sucks it up and buys a T.V., and they sit in their living room and watch shitty action movies and drink beer on the hideous flowered sofa. Once, Dean gets together the ingredients for a lasagna and coaxes the shitty stove to life and they eat the whole pan, plop it between them on the couch and dig in with the plastic forks they pilfered from McDonalds. And it’s… okay, it’s not nice
, because there’s nothing nice
about Sam’s – about their
situation… but it’s not so bad, having a place to slow it down a couple days out of the month, to stitch what needs stitching and ice what needs icing, a place where they don’t have to fill out a log book or break out the fake credit just to get a decent night’s sleep.
Not, Dean thinks that first night, lying on his futon and listening to the clatters and muffled howl-screams coming from downstairs, that he’s going to be getting much sleep. But he gets used to it surprisingly fast, and soon it’s not an effort to tune out the noise and just drift, wake to the sound of birds chirping and the sun streaming through the skylight.
They’ve gone a little further than usual, gotten a little too confident, gone all the way down to Texas to blow out a nest of chupacabras – and now they’ve got a flat tire by the side of Highway 35 outside of Des Moines, Iowa, and roughly ten hours to book it back up to Culver, Minnesota.
“How long did they say it’d take?” Sam asks as Dean snaps his phone shut with a tense, huffed breath.
“An hour to tow the car, another two hours to find the right tire and change it out,” Dean says. “At least.”
Sam nods, stuffs his hands in his jacket pocket and starts chewing on his lip ferociously, clearly trying not to freak out. “Okay,” he says. “Okay.”
“Fuck,” Dean curses, slams a hand down hard on the Impala’s roof. “I knew I shoulda replaced our spare tire when we blew it out in August. Fuck, I’m a fuckin’ idiot.”
“It’s not your fault,” Sam says. “But Dean – if – what are we gonna do if –”
“I don’t fuckin’ know, Sam,” Dean barks, rubs roughly at the back of his head. “Fuck. We know anyone who lives around here?”
“No one who’s gonna – no one who’s gonna be understanding about our situation.”
“Yeah,” Dean says, gazes up at the sky. “I could call Bobby, see if he – if he knows –”
“Dean,” Sam says, voice reaching that high, exaggeratedly-patient register that means he’s this close
to full-blown panic. “We agreed that no one was gonna know about this besides you, me, and Bobby. We agreed that—”
“I know what we agreed, Sam,” Dean says, whirls away from him and stares out at the highway. “Shut up for a second and let me think about this, okay?”
Sam is silent for a moment, then tries, “Dean –”
“We’ve got the etorphine,” Sam presses. “We’ve got – enough, I think, to get me through a night. If we get the tire changed, drive as much as we can and then get a motel room – well, a couple of rooms – we should be okay. Then we can keep going ‘til we get home.”
Dean drags a palm over his face, rubs roughly and swallows around the clench in his chest.
“I just – I hate – I fucking hate giving you that shit.”
“Better than shooting me,” Sam says bluntly, and Dean winces.
“Don’t say that,” he mutters, because it’s too real, too close. “No one’s shootin’ anyone, here.”
Sam shrugs halfheartedly, turns his head towards the highway as a truck comes barreling by, tires screeching, dust rising in a thick, choking cloud.
“Hey,” Dean says loudly, snaps in Sam’s face. “Don’t think about that shit. All right?”
“I’m not,” Sam says. “I just –”
“You want a beer?” Dean demands, turning towards the car. “We’ve got some beer.”
Sam sighs, but lets Dean press a cold bottle into his hand, leans back against the car and tugs his flannel shirt a little closer around his body. It’s chilly, a fall breeze ruffling through the drying grass by the side of the pavement; a rattling, whispered sound like the cough of a parched throat.
“Tow truck’ll be here soon,” Dean says, almost to himself, squints down the highway where the sun hovers smoldering orange above the horizon.
“Be here soon,” Sam repeats.
Sam gets himself settled on the motel bed before he rolls up his sleeve and has Dean inject the etorphine, pumped through a pilfered syringe into the crook of his arm. He goes limp almost immediately, slumping back against the pillows, eyes glazed over and mouth hanging slack, and Dean grits his teeth and flexes his hands over his knees, wants so bad not to have to see this.
“Dean,” Sam slurs, before he loses all muscle control, and he paws clumsily at Dean’s sleeve. “I…”
“What’s up?” Dean asks, sinks down on the bed next to him. “You need some water? Another pillow? What?”
Sam tangles his fingers in the hem of Dean’s t-shirt, works his mouth like any minute now he’s gonna remember how to form words.
“What?” Dean snaps, tension and nerves coming out as annoyance, and he tempers his voice, puts a hand on his brother’s wrist. “Sam?”
But Sam is out for the count, eyes drooping closed, limbs motionless, and Dean may as well be alone in the room.
Dean doesn’t sleep that night, can’t. He sits on the bed with his back to the thin wall that separates him from Sam, chews caffeine pills and works his slow way through a six-pack of PBR tallboys. Flips half-heartedly through some newspapers, boots up Sam’s laptop and tries to beat his score in Spider Solitaire and then Minesweeper. His neck starts aching at around three a.m. from keeping his left ear tilted towards the wall, so he switches over to his right.
There’s no sound, nothing, which is good
, but it’s all Dean can do to keep himself from booking it over there and seeing for himself that Sam’s still breathing. They’ve got the doses measured out perfectly – just enough to sedate Sam completely without killing him – but it’s such a close thing, a few bare milliliters away from respiratory failure and a total system shutdown.
“All right,” Dean says aloud, claps his hands, because he really does not need to be thinking about shit he can’t do anything about. He shuts the laptop and sets it aside, rolls his neck, cracks his shoulders. His head is buzzing from the mixture of caffeine and beer, and his joints ache from not moving, muscles tense.
This needs to never fuckin’ happen again.
He goes out for some air, buys a bag of Doritos from the crappy vending machine and stands outside of Sam’s room in the sallow parking-lot light to eat them. Dusts neon cheese off his hands and stares hard at Sam’s door.
He slots the key carefully into the lock, too-aware of the pistol in the back of his jeans, and he eases Sam’s door open as silently, as carefully as he can. Don’t check on me
, Sam had said.
But who’s the big brother here, huh? Sam doesn’t get to tell him what to do.
Dean leans into the darkness, and it may be his imagination but he thinks his brother’s room smells different – muskier, harsher. Or maybe it’s just the dirty-laundry duffle Dean knows is sitting in the corner.
He leans in further, strains his ears, hears nothing, and for one, wild moment, he’s sure his brother has stopped breathing and Dean’s heart screeches to a stop in his chest then steps on the gas so fast his vision goes blurry – but then he hears the ragged, snuffled sound of air through nostrils, and his knees go weak with relief.
He stays there for a few more minutes, leaning against the doorjamb and listening to the whoosh of Sam’s breath, a steady, rattled in-and-out that calms Dean down quicker than a shot of Jack. It doesn’t sound like Sam, isn’t the familiar cadence that Dean has grown up listening for, but it’s constant and it’s deep and after a while Dean can close his brother’s door again and lock it and go back to his own room.
He still doesn’t sleep.
After that, things change. They don’t venture as far from Minnesota; pass on the long, complicated cases that could keep them away from home for too long – and Dean doesn’t know quite when they went from calling it “the house” to calling it “home,” but one morning he looks up and realizes he’s frying eggs in a fluffy blue bathrobe and has slept in the same bed for a week and a half.
He blinks down at the frying pan. It’s still two days before “that time of the month,” as Dean likes to call it, and they’ve only handled one case these past three weeks, a simple poltergeist down in Milwaukee that took all of four days.
“Sam!” Dean hollers.
He hears Sam pad down the hall, poke his head into the kitchen.
“Breakfast?” he asks, hopeful.
“Waitin’ on the toast,” Dean says impatiently. “Dude, listen. I’ve been thinking. If we’re – I mean, it’s been almost six months, and – are we – staying here?”
Sam sits down warily at the kitchen table. “What do you mean?”
“I mean…” Dean folds his arms. He doesn’t know quite what he means.
Sam sighs, zips up the poofy jacket he’s taken to wearing indoors. The wood stove works all right, but they still haven’t quite gotten into the swing (heh) of chopping firewood every morning, and it turns out Minnesota is fucking freezing
in early November.
“We bought the house, Dean,” Sam reminds him.
“I know,” Dean says, irritated, because that’s not what he’s talking about. “I just – should I get a job?”
“Should you get a job,” Sam repeats, still clearly trying to keep up.
“Well, the bar is hiring line cooks,” Dean says, carefully examines his spatula. “I saw the sign a couple nights ago.”
“Wait, Dean,” Sam says, starting to smile. “Are you asking – if we live here?”
Dean carefully flips the eggs without breaking any yolks. He could totally line cook. “Yeah. I guess.”
“We still spend more time away than we do here,” Sam points out.
“Yeah,” Dean says, shrugs. “But it’s gonna start snowing hardcore pretty soon. Make it tougher to get around, since we can’t drive South like we normally do, and the Impala’s not exactly tricked-out for handling big-ass snowdrifts.”
“That’s true,” Sam says slowly. “So, what – you’re saying you wanna hole up here permanently?”
“Not permanently,” Dean says quickly. “Just for the winter.”
“Hibernate,” Sam says.
“Fuck no,” Dean says, as the toast pops up with a ding. “You have to get fat to hibernate. I’m not gettin’ fat.”
Sam snorts, accepts the plate Dean sets down in front of him and pulls his hands out of his sleeves to reach for the pepper shaker.
“Hey,” Dean says, bats his hands down. “I spiced ‘em already. You’re gonna drown out the flavor.”
“Just ‘cause you don’t like things spicy,” Sam grumbles. “You’ve got a weak palate.”
“Have some orange juice,” Dean says aggressively.
They eat in silence for a moment, and then Sam says, “Well, sure. I mean, if they’re hiring – may as well fill out an application.”
Dean nods, chews. “Guess I’ll go in later.”
Sam shovels a forkful of egg into his mouth, grins up at Dean through his bangs. “Think you get a discount if you work at the bar?”
Dean cocks an eyebrow.
He hadn’t even thought of that.
Turns out he does get a discount, and all the free Fryolator food he can eat. He works a lot, to keep himself busy and to legally keep up on the mortgage payments, so he pretty much exists on a steady diet of beer, French fries, chicken fingers, and these incredibly delicious little crispy onion rings that he can’t help but eat by the handful, even though he gets told off because they’re supposed to go on top of the burgers.
Sam finds a part-time job with a local used bookseller, spends all day sorting through huge stacks of old, dusty books and comes to the bar for dinner every night with dust in his hair and ancient bookbinding glue under his nails.
“Dude,” Sam says when Dean comes out from the kitchen to give him his burger (Dean tries not to think too hard about the fact that Sam’s started asking for them rare), “I don’t think I’ve seen you 100% sober since you started working here.”
“Bullshit,” Dean says dismissively, pours himself another beer from the tap and comes out from behind the bar to slide onto the stool next to Sam and tuck into his own double-cheeseburger.
Sam shakes his head. “I’m just sayin’, man. It may be free, but that doesn’t mean it’s not gonna cost you.”
Dean furrows his brow. “The fuck are you talking about.”
“Hibernation,” Sam says, and cracks up, won’t say another word about it even when Dean smacks him on the back of the head and threatens to pour beer on his burger.
Except, okay, Dean knows what Sam was hinting at. A constant supply of beer and fried food maybe isn’t doing the greatest things for his waistline, or his ability to fit into his jeans the way he used to. He’s been rocking the sweatpants in a way he’s never quite rocked them before – but, he reflects, examining himself in the mirror, at least he’s rocking
them. Hell, he looks good
Looks better in jeans, though.
“What’re you gonna do if you meet a girl and wanna bring her home for more than one night?” Sam asks one evening after Dean gets off work and they’re at a booth in the back, empty bottles littering the table and a basket of fries between them that Dean may or may not be completely monopolizing.
gonna do if you meet a girl?” Dean counters.
Sam takes a swig of his beer, waggles his head. “I asked first.”
“You’re the one who wants to get all married ‘n shit. Have a screened-in porch, walk-in closets, 2.5 kids.”
“Is it genetic, you think?” Sam asks after a pause, and Dean can tell, even through the veil of six beers, that this is a question Sam’s been worrying at for a while.
“What, getting married?” Dean tries, but Sam levels him with a glare, and he relents. “I don’t know, dude,” he says, busies himself with a handful of fries, because he doesn’t know how to talk about this kind of shit beyond discussions of the basic necessities. Whether or not the locks on the cellar are gonna hold, whether or not they have enough tranquilizers in the case of an emergency.
“I’ve been looking around,” Sam says, “when books come in, you know? And online. But – I haven’t found anything about whether or not my kids’ll be affected.” He picks up his beer, rolls it between his hands. “Someone tends to kill us before we have a chance to – make babies. To breed
“No one’s gonna kill you,” Dean says, bangs a fist down on the table so hard it sends a couple nervous glances their way. Dean doesn’t want to get fired, so he lowers his voice, but he still feels like yelling. “I’m not gonna let anyone fuckin’ kill you, Sam. Jesus.”
Sam looks away, takes another long drink of his beer, and Dean stabs a fry violently into a puddle of ketchup, wishes they could just drop this, handle it when they need to handle it and not whine about shit that may never happen.
“I just – I’m not gonna have kids if I think there’s a chance they could be like me,” Sam says, and Dean jerks his head up, because this he’s not gonna listen to.
“Sam,” he says honestly. “No kid could ask for more than to turn out like you.”
Sam’s eyes go wide, and Dean stuffs another handful of fries into his mouth, scowls at the tabletop.
“Dean,” Sam says in wonderment. “You are so sweet
“Shut the fuck up,” Dean mutters.
“You love me,” Sam coos, reaching across the table for Dean’s face. “You really love me.”
It’s not Dean’s fault that Sam’s hair is so stupidly long, but it may sort of
be Dean’s fault that it takes him a half hour to shampoo all the ketchup and bits of French fry out.
The real kicker is, it turns out Dean’s kind of allergic to dogs.
The winter is long and frigidly, painfully cold, and Dean spends a few sleepless, moonbright nights worrying himself that Sam’s gonna catch his death down in the basement, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Dean’s the one who’s sneezing his brains out, eyes red and watering, and it’s the kitchen manager who first clues him in.
“You got a dog?” Jim asks one day, out of the blue, while Dean’s chopping carrots.
“No!” Dean says, stiffening. “What?”
Jim reaches over, and Dean has to make a conscious effort not to parry his hand away as he plucks something off Dean’s shoulder and holds it up for him to see.
It’s a hair, long and coarse, and Dean just stares at it for a moment.
“Looks like a dog hair,” Jim says unnecessarily.
“Huh,” Dean says. “Wouldya look at that.”
“You got friends with dogs?”
“Yeah,” Dean says, points a finger at him. “That must be it.”
“That why you’ve been sniffling all over the place?” Jim asks, and Dean cocks his head.
“Sneezin’ and rubbin’ at your eyes,” Jim says, demonstrates on his own face. “My boy was allergic to our cat Cindy, and he did just like you do. We had to get rid of Cindy. Broke my wife’s heart, but health is health.”
“Yeah,” Dean says, stomach dropping. “It is.”
When Sam comes into the bar at seven, like every night, Dean pulls him aside with a glare.
“What?” Sam says, bewildered. “What’d I do?”
“Have you been bringin’ shit up from the basement?”
“Like, clothes and shit. Blankets. Do you roll around in shit and then bring it upstairs?”
“Uh,” Sam says. “I mean, when I don’t fucking eat it, yeah, I bring it back upstairs. Why? What the hell does it matter?”
“’Cause I got little hairs all over my clothes,” Dean snaps. “And I think I’m allergic
Sam’s hand comes up to cover his mouth, and for a moment Dean’s fooled into thinking it’s a gesture of contrition. But no, the little fucker is laughing
“There’s nothing funny about this!”
“Is that why you’ve been, like, snotting everywhere? Always wheezing?”
“I haven’t been wheezing,” Dean says indignantly, “it’s just been a little tough to breathe, is all. Dammit, Sam, keep your fur offa me, okay?”
“I just thought you were out of shape,” Sam cackles, and Dean punches him hard.
“Swear to god, dude,” he warns as Sam holds up his hands in surrender, still laughing.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “I’m sorry, that sucks, man. Seriously.”
“Yeah, well,” Dean says, mollified.
“I’ll be more careful,” Sam promises. “And we can buy one of those roller-things that – that cat ladies have –” and then he’s laughing again, and Dean’s still on the clock and he doesn’t have time for this shit, so he turns on his heel and stomps back into the kitchen. Eats a couple handfuls of onion rings and feels better until he starts sneezing and gets banished into the storeroom until he can get it together, where he finds another hair clinging to the leg of his pants.
Maybe they should get a roller-thing.
They get a roller-thing.
It helps, kind of, and so does doing regular laundry and vacuuming, so they invest in a dustbuster and Dean finds himself doing a biweekly, top-to-bottom house cleaning against his will.
“Sam,” Dean growls down the staircase one Saturday.
“Your lameass fucking hair is what. It’s clogging the drain again
, and I am not gonna be the one to clean it. Get the fuck up here.”
Sam climbs the stairs obediently, stands next to Dean and frowns down at the soggy lump in the bathroom drain.
“Dude, that could be your hair, too,” he protests.
“Are you kidding? I have a crew cut, Sam.”
“You have pubes,” Sam points out, and Dean reels back dramatically.
“I didn’t get you up here to yammer about my pubes, I got you up here to get that shit out of the drain.”
“Why do I have to—”
“Sam,” Dean says, does his best not to punch his little brother in the face. “I work fifty hours a week, okay? I chop vegetables fifty fucking hours a week, and when I come home, I’m fucking tired. But still I clean the house because I’m allergic
to you – got that? I’m allergic to you, but I’m
the one cleaning. And I ask you for one thing, for one fucking thing
, and you’re gonna say no?”
“No,” Sam says, trying to backpedal, face a picture of guilt, “no, I’ll clean it.”
“Damn straight, you’ll clean it,” Dean says, steps back and folds his arms as Sam moves forward with a washcloth.
“Dean,” Sam says as he’s bent over the tub, face obscured.
“You know you just gave me the wife speech, right?”
Sam straightens, shakes bangs out of his face, a grin twitching at the corners of his mouth. “I work all day,” he says, voice pitched four tones higher than normal. “I work my ass off and I raise our children and –”
“You don’t appreciate me!” Dean wails. “I wear nice clothes for you—”
“I cook your dinners—”
“I do cook your fucking dinners,” Dean reminds him in his normal voice.
“I know,” Sam says, looks guilty again. “I should clean more. I will clean more. I’ll vacuum from now on.”
“Deal,” Dean says immediately, shoves the vacuum into Sam’s hand. “You start immediately.”
“What’re you gonna do?” Sam whines.
“Pick up some beer.”
“You drink too much,” Sam squeaks, bats his eyelashes.
“Can it, Alice.”
Sam laughs him out the door.
It’s funny, at first, but after a few days it stops being funny and edges into a passive-aggressive territory that’s just a little too real.
“You ignore me,” Sam complains in a falsetto, when Dean tunes him out as he’s bitching about a third-edition Robinson Crusoe
he’s been searching for at work. “You never listen to what I want.”
“You take me for granted,” Dean flutes when Sam leaves a slobber-coated, hair-sprinkled blanket on the couch and Dean has to wrestle it into the washing machine, eyes red and itching, nose running.
“You don’t take care of yourself,” Sam natters when he comes home and Dean’s wasted on the coach at 2 p.m., eating leftover pizza and watching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.
“Fuck you,” Dean slurs. “This show has redheaded lesbians.”
“Get your feet off the couch.”
“Get your face off your face.”
“Fuck you, Pillsbury.”
“Wolverine is awesome, Dean. I’m taking that as a compliment.”
Dean balls up his McDonald’s wrapper and chucks it at Sam’s head. “I’m bored,” he whines. “Take me out somewhere nice.”
“We need to go food shopping,” Sam offers, and Dean gapes incredulously.
“That’s your idea of fun?”
And that’s how they end up at Cub, Sam practicing his best damage control as Dean attempts to ride down the aisle on the edge of the grocery cart.
“We need lettuce,” Dean directs, hopping off, ignores Sam’s hovering, nervous hand. “We gotta make a salad.”
“Why, you gonna go on a diet?” Sam asks, but Dean takes the high road and ignores him, just drops the lettuce into the cart with a bundle of carrots. Sam sighs, adds a few cucumbers and a bag of grapes.
“Hey, hey,” Dean says, snatches the grapes back out. “Where the fuck did you learn to buy expensive
“Gotta comparison shop,” Dean says, enunciating. “See, you got the red grapes. But Sam – the green grapes are cheaper. Okay?”
“Okay,” Sam says patiently, and Dean blurts out a laugh.
“What?” Sam says, ready to share the joke. “What’s funny?”
“Nothing,” Dean says, “just –” he waves his hand, tries to encompass it all: the fluorescent lights of the store, the fresh vegetables, the fact that they’re there at all. “Every full moon you go hardcore fuzzy fang boy, you know? You’re more of a freak than ever.”
“Hey,” Sam says, “I—”
“No, no,” Dean says, winces, waves a drunken hand. “That’s not what I meant. I mean – I did. You’re a freak. What happened to you, it’s fucked even by our standards, you know? But, dude – we’re in a grocery store. We’re talking about grapes
“Yeah,” Sam says, starts to grin. “This morning I baked a loaf of bread.”
“It’s just funny,” Dean says, shakes his head. “You’ve been a sucker for normal all your life, Sammy, ever since when you were a kid. But this is the closest to picket-fence normal you’ve ever been…”
“And I’m a total freak,” Sam finishes, tosses back his head and laughs. “Jesus.”
“There’s a moral in that, Sam,” Dean says, reaches over to take the grocery cart again.
“What,” Sam says. “There is no normal
“No,” Dean says. “Life is always fuckin’ stupid
Sam shakes his head, follows as Dean starts back down the aisle.
“Look, Sam,” Dean says, holds up a kiwi. “It’s furry. Just like you.”
“Look,” Sam says, holds up a tomato. “It’s—”
“Don’t fuckin’ say it,” Dean grumbles.
Sam grins. His incisors are a little sharper than they used to be, Dean’s noticed, and he does this weird thing where he sniffs every piece of food before he puts it in their cart – but he’s just as freakish as he’s always been, really. A little less laptop, a little more lapping up raw meat, but, hey, it may even be an improvement. Dean’s heard if you keep laptops on your lap for too long, your sperm gets fried. And he does not
want a little brother with fried sperm. Fuck no.
Well, whatever. Fried sperm, fuzzy sperm – and why the fuck Dean’s thinking about Sam’s sperm, he’s not sure – it doesn’t matter.
Sam is Sam.
Dean’ll take him however he comes.
And fuck if that didn’t sound really
“Dude,” Sam says. “What’re you snickering about?”
“Nothin’,” Dean says, realizes he’s still holding the kiwi, slips it into his pocket instead of tossing it into the cart.
It’ll be safe in there.
He’ll keep it safe.