The silence in the car was thick and heavy around them. Another job done, people were saved, and Sam was pouting in the passenger seat.
Dean didn’t know what to think, in times like that he could only guess what was with Sam, and usually didn’t get that right. He glanced at him from time to time, trying to figure out what was wrong, but when he couldn’t bear it anymore – there were at least another hour and half of drive, and he didn’t want to spend it in a pointless angst – he sighed.
« You gonna tell me what’s up or we’re just sitting here pretending we’re not being awkward? » he asked, eyes on the road.
« Nothing, » Sam replied, staring in front of himself without really seeing anything.
« You’re not talking to me from when we found that son of a bitch, hell even before that, so what’s wrong? » Dean snapped.
« Everything’s fine, Dean, » Sam sighed, not moving. His tone was flat, not an inflexion in it.
« Why are you going to make me say it? Don’t make me go chick-flick on you. » Dean tried the I-already-know-so-don’t-you-dare-deny-it tone, but wasn’t sure it would work out. Most of times it did, but when Sam started to think things over and over, it wouldn’t. He gave it a shot, though.
« Why, what do you think it is? » Sam said, his tone ironic.
Dean just looked at him for a long instant, his gaze wandering over his entire body, his tenseness, so unusual after a well-done hunt, and for a moment he didn’t know what to do.
He turned to look at the road, lips pursuing in an attempt not to snap – again – at his brother.
Minutes passed, the humming of the engine the only sound around them.
Dean was trying to work out what he had done wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Not this time. At some point, he decided to give in. He couldn’t bear a not talkative Sam, a silent Sam, not when the cause of the silence seemed to go between the two of them and distance them, even just the tiniest bit. He placed a hand on Sam’s knee, squeezing just so, a mute I’m sorry even if I don’t know why.
He really hoped Sam would get it.
He did. « He always comes when you call him, » Sam muttered under his breath, the words leaving him with a slight effort, and he didn’t have to specify.
Relief washed through him. At least he really didn’t do anything.
He had two options: talk about his and Sam’s sentiments, explaining and convincing and opening himself, or turning it into a joke. The choice didn’t need pre-thinking. « Jealous, Sammy? » he joked lightly, smirking just so.
« No way in hell, » Sam replied automatically. His answer wasn’t entirely lacking of over thinking, tough.
Dean faced him, and when he got that Sam wasn’t over this, he just smiled, shaking his head, squeezing his hand just a little more. Sam turned and faced him. « He’s just a friend. He means nothing that way. »
Sam kept his mouth closed for a moment, a hint of insecurity palpable in his look. «He’s powerful, naive and honest, and you’re not related in any—» he started then, only to be cut off by Dean.
« When have I given a fuck that we’re related, Sam? » he interrupted him in disbelief.
When his brother didn’t reply and turned to look at the road, he almost pulled over. « Sam. » His tone was steady, meaning he wanted Sam to look at him, no, he had to have Sam looking at him.
Sam did, reluctantly, and pursued his lips closer together. Dean’s heart missed a beat at the sight. « You know I’d give everything up for you. This includes him, and every single thing you think I would put in front of you. I wouldn’t. Not a single thing. » Dean meant it, his voice sincere and clear. He didn’t bother turning it into a joke now, he had to get Sam understand that. How could he ever doubt his love, after all that time, after all they’d been through? Had him that a low opinion of himself?
Sam’s eyes softened a bit hearing that words, and a little smile crept up his mouth, forcing his way through his lips. He returned his eyes on the road, and so did Dean, both of their heart lighter now.
After a while, Sam’s left hand covered Dean’s. He just left it there, warmth spreading between them as a reassuring truth and certainty.
« I love you, » Sam murmured, eyes not leaving the road ahead of them.
Dean turned to him, smiling, knowing. « I know, baby boy. » He loved that nickname, and he knew Sam did too, so he used it every time he could.
Sam flushed just the tiniest bit, and squeezed Dean’s hand under him. Dean turned his palm and interlaced his fingers with Sam’s, reciprocating the grip.
He stared at the road too, content now. « I love you too. »
Sam’s heart missed a beat.