Pairing: implied Sam/Dean (can be read as gen)
Word Count: 1,447
Summary: Neither of them have ever been any good at keeping secrets from each other for long.
A/N: Written for maerhys for the Fall Fandom Free for All. She asked for Sam choosing Dean over Stanford. Betaed by the wonderful alwaysenduphere. Title from "Here Son" by Ryan Star.
Dean feels Sam before he hears him. He’s excitedly yapping about his Biology assignment, something about a feedback loop. Dean only pays half attention as Sam chatters on about cause and effect and circular pathways.
He rolls his eyes, cuffing Sam in the back of his head. "Dude, you can't use us as an analogy for your homework."
Sam's ears redden and he mumbles, "Wasn't gonna," as he picks up his pencil, but the way he chews on the eraser is a dead-giveaway that he's lying.
Dean nudges at that invisible thread between them that feels like Sammy, like home, and sinks in familiar and easy as breathing. Sam's frown turns into a scowl and Dean shoulders him so he tips towards the edge of the couch before righting himself. His brother’s been irritable for days, more-so than usual, twitching every time Dean so much as breathes too hard near him. Dean’s been tempted to poke around in his head for answers, but figures Sam will tell him what crawled up his ass eventually.
Neither of them have ever been any good at keeping secrets from each other for long.
Sam stares down at his notebook, concentrating hard on the words, and suddenly, Dean can’t feel him anymore, as though someone’s pulled the wool over his eyes. Losing that sixth sense feels equally as disorienting.
Dean’s smile disappears and he sighs. "Aw, come on, Sammy, don't be like that." Dean was the first to complain about privacy, but he absolutely detests when his little brother turns the tables and blocks him out; he nudges, trying to find the cracks in the wall keeping him away.
"Then stop poking around in my head," Sam snaps, then stiffens, eyes widening as he slowly lifts his gaze from his notebook to stare at his brother.
Dean could count the number of times he’s said variations of those words aloud to Sam on one hand, guesses the number of times he’s said them in his head is just as few. Sam’s never said them, though - at all, ever.
His eyes widen with disbelief before narrowing, fists clenching against his thighs. Sam winces, standing just as Dean gets to his feet.
"I'm going out," Dean says quickly, bowling over him. He grabs his jacket off the back of the couch and leaves the house. Sam jumps when the door slams behind him.
For all that Dean complains about personal space and privacy, he never learned to shield his thoughts as well as Sam. However, Sam will be the first to admit they are total opposites when emotions become involved.
While the two of them are arguing, Sam often transmits more than he means to, mental blocks slipping with his anger. Dean, on the other hand, shuts down, his mind a fortress not even Sam can penetrate.
When Dean slams out of the house, he slams the door between them as well, but not before Sam feels betrayal and hurt wash over him in a cold rush.
Sam tips his head against the back of the couch and stares at the ceiling blankly until John nudges his knees, tells him to clear off the kitchen table. His father learned long ago not to interfere when he and Dean fight unless one of them throws a punch, and usually he clears out long before one or the other even raises their voice - mostly because he’s frustrated he doesn’t know what they’re fighting about until then.
Dean comes back within the hour, loose-limbed and hair wind-blown. Sam curls his hand around the edge of the table, fist clenching in the empty pocket of his jeans. He closes his eyes and shuts Dean out as best he can.
Dean stares at him all through dinner, shifting in his chair until John kicks at his leg and tells him to sit still or run off his goddamn nervous energy. Dean huffs but slouches backwards and stares down at his food, eyes flitting to Sam every few moments until Sam stands and carries his plate to the sink.
"I'm going out," Dad says, John-speak for I'm going to the bar, going to have a few drinks, hopefully hustle up some pool. Sam doesn't need to read his father’s mind to know what he means after all of these years. "Don't leave the house and don't wait up. We have an early day tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," Dean says, and Sam nods his head.
Sam waits until the door closes to sigh, stretching his arms over his head before bracing his hands against the lip of the kitchen sink.
Dean stays seated at the table, but Sam feels a thread of anticipation just before he says, "Okay, you wanna tell me what the hell is going on?"
Sam arches an eyebrow, turning to face Dean with his arms folded. "I don't know what you're talking about."
A sliver of irritation trickles through, and Dean rolls his eyes. "Bullshit. You're trying too hard to keep me out. If I wanted to, I could have barreled through whatever crappy shields you put up days ago."
Sam frowns and stares down at his hands. "So why didn't you?"
Dean shrugs and stands, slowly approaching Sam. "Wanted to see how long you would hold out. Figured if it was important enough to keep from me, it must be a pretty big deal." He smirks, trying to play off his apprehension with a joke. "So, what? You fail a class? There a little Sammy running around somewhere I should know about?"
Sam digs his fingers into the sleeves of his shirt. "I got into Stanford," he says quietly.
Dean inhales sharply; a moment of silence permeates the kitchen, thick and heavy and tinged with shared anxiety.
He exhales, giving Sam a wide, fake smile. "That's - that's great, Sammy," Dean says breathlessly, and Sam shakes his head.
"Don't lie," he says hoarsely. "You think it's the end of the fucking world."
Dean glares and runs a hand through his hair to rest at the back of his neck - a gesture Sam long ago learned means Stay out of my goddamn head. He doesn’t say the phrase anymore, never even dares think it, but every so often, when candid thoughts are said aloud, the words are there almost-formed, blatant in a gesture and a single glance.
"Dean..." Dean turns, eyes narrowed and wary. Shuttered.
Sam takes a deep breath and lets the wall drop.
Sam twists the sheet of paper in his hands, stares down at the Stanford logo, though the words are already burned across his mind, welcome and acceptance and full scholarship standing out in equal measure.
He stares and stares at the letter until his eyes water, then exhales deep, takes Dean’s zippo out of his pocket, and lights the edge. He keeps the sheet of paper in his hand until it’s too hot to hold, flames licking at his fingers. The ashes blow away on the breeze.
Dean turns his eyes up to Sam, disbelief warring with an uneasy hope, warmth that Sam feels down to his toes and shuts his eyes against because damn it, this is what he wants, but that doesn't mean it doesn't fucking hurt.
Dean clasps his shoulder and Sam shakes his head against the unasked question - I am not okay. He feels raw and open in a way he hasn't since he was young, five years old and overwhelmed with emotion that didn’t belong to him. But not scared, never scared, not when the voice inside of his head belonged to Dean.
You didn't have to do that, you know.
Sam swallows and yanks Dean forward, burrowing into his brother's shoulder, breathing him in - sweat and wind and gun oil, something wild and uniquely Dean that smells like home. Dean doesn't complain for once; he just holds Sam close.
"Yeah, I did," Sam says quietly, the whisper echoing as loud as his heartbeat in the otherwise silence of the room.