After they help clean up dinner, Dean practically drags Sam out to the car Bobby’s letting him borrow. He gets directions from the older hunter and all of a sudden they’re driving. They’re driving to a private beach where they’ll be mostly (if not, completely) alone together. Panic starts to well in Sam’s throat. It’s one thing to control his urges in front of people or in fear of being caught by Bobby.
But to have such unreserved access to Dean while fucking fireworks explode above their heads, it’s too much to ask of Sam’s self-control. He bites the inside of his cheeks until he can taste blood. He rubs nervously at the scars on his neck and wonders if it wouldn’t have been better that those fangs completed their task.
They don’t talk as they drive. Dean plays classic rock tapes at a soft volume and rolls down the windows, giving Sam that damn smile and Sam’s completely lost. Was it not just a few weeks ago that they were avoiding each other? Dean could barely look at him. But, apparently, his brother’s undergone some weird transformation because that smile isn’t one he’s ever seen before and the more he sees it, the harder it gets to keep a hold on his urges (you would want him anyway, though, wouldn’t you? he could hate you and you’d still think the sun rises and sets with him). He can’t make sense of any of it.
He doesn’t know why he tries. Dean’s obviously undergone some psychological reconstruction and it’s fair to think that while Sam’s been agonizing over his problems, Dean’s dealt with some of his own. What frustrates Sam is that he doesn’t know what conclusion Dean’s come to or what the problem was in the first place.
All he knows is that the more Dean smiles at him like that, the more his resolve weakens and that’s dangerous for everyone involved.
But he doesn’t ask Dean to stop or to turn around. On some level, he’s excited and that’s even worse. He’s missed being alone with Dean, regardless of how hard it gets to control himself. He’ll repress his urges until he snaps before he denies Dean anything.
When they pull up to the beach, Sam tries to shake off his melancholy attitude, trying to match Dean’s enthusiasm with his own. He comes up short, obviously, but manages a convincing enough smile when Dean asks him if he’s excited.
They get out of the car and Dean grabs a large paper bag from the trunk and then they head off in the direction of the beach. The sky is almost completely dark now, still a hazy purplish color right after sunset. There are a few other cars in the parking lot and Sam can see a few bodies scattered among the beach, people laying out on towels and one couple that’s swimming in the waves of the water.
The sight of people makes Sam less antsy and once they get down closer to the water, a lot of his previous anxiety has melted away. What was he so scared of anyway? This is just what they’ve always done. It’s the Fourth of July. It’s always been a special night for them. This isn’t something he needs to agonize over. He’s overreacting, he knows. He’s tired, stretched too thin with too many things on his plate. Without meaning to, he’s projected these feelings onto Dean.
To be fair, Dean is acting really weird which doesn’t help Sam’s situation at all.
“Don’t mean to--uh…just why are we doing this?” Sam asks once they’ve chosen a spot on the sand to sit and watch the coming firework show.
“Whattya mean, Sammy? It’s the Fourth of July! I thought we could celebrate,” Dean says smiling, but it melts away abruptly and his eyebrows draw together in something akin to sadness. “You used to like it…the fireworks.”
(you used to like fireworks. before you fell in love. before Flagstaff. before the wolves and the scars and those haunting eyes. you can’t give him before, though, can you? you can’t take it back, any of it. you can’t run from what’s inside you.)
Sam feels like an asshole. He’s been sitting here, worrying about himself and didn’t think about Dean’s feelings. He’s just so lost. Being around Dean is too confusing and too overwhelming and he can’t think straight when they’re alone together. But he’s the one making it complicated. Dean’s just trying to spend time with his brother. Sam’s the one whose sick urges make him want to do things that he wouldn’t ever be able to atone for.
“Sorry,” Sam mutters, “I guess it’s just been awhile.”
“Yeah,” Dean agrees, “but things are gonna change, Sammy. I’m not scared anymore.”
“Of what?” Sam asks, caught off guard.
Dean looks at him and, again, his face turns kind of sad. But his mouth is smiling, pink lips crooked upward at the corners. He looks resolved, like he’s accepted some fate that Sam has no idea about. It’s infuriating.
Sam doesn’t have anything to say to that, just more irritation at the fact that he has no idea where Dean’s attitude stems from. Why is he suddenly determined to get Sam alone? And what was he afraid of before that he isn’t afraid of anymore? He could, reasonably, ask Dean but that wouldn’t get him anywhere. If there’s one thing about Dean that won’t ever change, it’s that he doesn’t like to talk about his feelings. Whatever this is, Dean clearly has it figured out already.
Silence overtakes them and the sky darkens steadily.
The first firework goes off at eight and Dean lets out whoop before grabbing the paper bag he brought with him and pulling its contents out.
“Here,” he says, handing Sam a package. They’re sparklers. Dean bought them fucking sparklers. It’s so childish and silly but Sam smiles, big, and rips the flimsy cardboard packaging to pieces, yanking out two sticks and handing one to Dean.
Dean pulls out his zippo lighter from his pocket and lights them both. Sam holds his out in front of him and watches the sparks fly. He looks at Dean who has his lit and is holding it a bit closer to his face. The bright light casts shadows across his features and makes his eyes glimmer. He’s looking at Sam with some emotion that the younger boy can’t quite identify but, for once, he doesn’t let it bother him. He can’t give Dean the past. But he can give him right now.
Suddenly, Sam can see himself, always looking up at his big brother, the light of his world. He can see himself, at every age, at every precipice where he stood here: looking at his brother like the whole world is right there, in those bottle green eyes (every version of you has loved every version of him. sweet but twisted. bittersweet, at best). And he wants to keep this, keep what feels like a profound knowledge of himself. He’s loved Dean since he could breathe and even if that’s all it ever is (gasping, choking, and begging for oxygen), he’ll take it. It’s all he’ll ever be allowed to take.
The fireworks become more consistent and the sparklers die out. Sam plucks another two out and gives one to Dean. Dean lights them but holds Sam gaze and, very suddenly, they’re standing really close (entirely too close. don’t do this now, please. you’ll ruin everything). Dean meets his eyes and Sam’s never seen him like this before. It’s unsettling but it’s Dean and he trusts Dean with is life. So he doesn’t back up, even though having Dean so near makes him crazy. He stays put and holds Dean’s gaze, unwavering.
“Remember what Dad used to say to us whenever we were afraid that a monster was gonna get us?” Dean asks. He has to talk loud, to speak over the booming fireworks that are becoming more and more consistent. The finale is probably coming soon, Sam thinks. They should watch that. But he can’t move his eyes from Dean’s.
“There’s nothing to fear but fear itself,” Sam repeats the old saying. It’s one of Dad’s favorites and had been a maxim of their childhood. It wasn’t an encouragement, but a rule to live by.
“Right,” Dean says, nodding. He licks his lip and Sam catches the action, can’t help but look at Dean’s mouth.
The fireworks are definitely nearing their finale stage as the booms get quicker and the lights get brighter.
“What are you afraid of Sam?” Dean asks over the sound of the show.
(him. monsters. everything. yourself.)
Sam doesn’t get to answer the question. He doesn’t get to even open his mouth to try. Dean’s close, then he’s too close, and then his lips are on Sam’s.
Dean is kissing him. The roar of the last fireworks is completely mute to Sam because Dean is kissing him. Sam kisses back. Of course he kisses back. Not kissing back would be heinous, unthinkable. Even as his whole world gets tilted on its axis and everything he’s ever known comes crashing down around him, he still kisses back.
Then, Dean pulls away.
“I’m sorry, Sammy,” Dean says softly. For what? For kissing him? Or for the incest thing? Sam should be on the moon right now, should stand here and tell Dean that this is everything he’s ever wanted because it is.
But he can’t manage that. He just feels numb. His mouth is dry and his lips are swollen and he doesn’t know what to do here.
“It’s okay,” he says instead.
It’s not, though.
Sam doesn’t really know how they get back to the house or how he gets back to his bedroom. But he’s here now, in the dark, his lips tingling with the memory of Dean’s lips. It’s insane, wild, fucking perplexing. This was never the plan. This was never ever supposed to happen. It was supposed to stay a secret, one that he was ready to take to his grave. And all he can think now is how did he fucking miss it?
Dean’s felt this way, presumably for a while, and Sam had been completely oblivious to. Beyond oblivious. He’s an idiot and it shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter how it happened or why. He should just be happy that it did. All the things he was so afraid of shouldn’t be scary anymore.
He can’t help but feel betrayed.
This was supposed to be Sam’s burden to bear (don’t you be a martyr now, boy). He was the sick one. He was the one who had it wrong (your burden, your love). Dean wasn’t—isn’t supposed to return these feelings. And even if he did, he’s the one with iron-clad control. Dean should’ve…should’ve stopped himself because it’s not supposed to be like this.
There’s a knock on his door. Dean comes in.
Sam hadn’t said anything while they drove back. Dean had obviously been tense and nervous and losing his shit. But Sam didn’t know what to do, how to assure him. He still doesn’t know how to feel.
“I’m so sorry Sammy,” Dean says and his voice sounds wobbly like he might cry which just makes Sam feel worse. “I only did it because I was going crazy. I know it’s fucked up but—.”
“Why now?” Sam asks and he finds that that is what he really wants to know. They were barely speaking to each other a few weeks ago. So why now? What changed? “I mean…we were barely talking before so…”
“That day on the pier,” Dean sighs, as if he’s letting loose some big confession, “when I went with that girl behind the arcade. She—uh, well, I’m guessing you don’t want the details. But when I, uh, finished, I said your name.”
Suddenly, a lot of things make sense. And Sam, yet again, can’t believe he didn’t see it before. It seems so obvious now. Maybe if he saw it earlier, he would’ve been able to stop it (incest is wrong). But who is he kidding? He wouldn’t have stopped it just like he didn’t stop it tonight and won’t stop it if it happens again. It’s wrong. It’s sick. It’s everything he’s ever wanted.
“It freaked me out,” Dean continues. “I mean…I’ve had these…urges for a while but I thought they’d pass, ya know? I didn’t think it was that big a deal. And then that happened and I thought that putting distance between us would be best. But you were so miserable and I didn’t want you to blame yourself so I thought I could just put it all aside. I was afraid of what would happen if you ever found out. But the more I wanted you, the less I could stand it. I was tired of being scared of the consequences. I figured you’d hate me afterward but I couldn’t just…not do anything anymore. And I realized that you hating me would probably be best. It would make it easier, ya know? I wouldn’t have to…”
He trails off and Sam realizes this is most Dean’s ever talked about his own emotions and Sam still feels betrayed. Here Dean is, admitting that he couldn’t control himself. He’s lucky that Sam feels the same way. What if he really did hate him? (don’t start blaming him for your own mistakes. he gave you exactly what you wanted). He figures the exception has been made but it’s still surprising. This level of honesty from Dean is incredible. He still doesn’t know what to say, though. On the one hand, he wants to just have this. On the other, it’s wrong. It’s…It’s…but the excuses are getting weaker. He wants this, no matter how twisted it is. He wants it far too much and he’s tired of not allowing himself to have the things he wants.
“You caught me off guard,” Sam admits. “But…I feel the same way.” It’s not what the confession should feel like. He doesn’t feel ten pounds lighter for having said it. Dean’s smile, however, is almost enough.
“So you wanna try…this? Us?” Dean asks. Three weeks ago, the idea of having this conversation made Sam snort derisively. It was just a silly fantasy, a pipe dream, something that he hoped would eventually fade. It’s real now and he still isn’t exactly sure how they got here.“Yeah,” he says quietly, “I do.”