I am not suited for concert giving; the public intimidates me, their looks, only stimulated by curiosity, paralyze me, their strange faces oppress me, their breath stifles me. But you — you are destined for it. For when you do not gain your public, you have the force to assault, to overwhelm, to control, to compel them.
The bunker is so quiet, sound of Sam’s bare feet on the concrete almost impossibly loud in the silence.
He shivers a little as he pushes Dean’s door open, goosebumps pebbling the skin on his arms as he stands in the doorway. It’s cold, living underground. Chill in the air that’s hard to shake, no matter how much they run the heat.
It’s pitch black in Dean’s room and Sam hadn’t bothered to turn on the light in the hall, but he doesn’t need to see to know that Dean’s awake, can feel his eyes on him in the dark like it’s a physical thing, hear his ragged breaths in oppressive quiet.
He hesitates, and Dean hesitates, and they hang there for a second, suspended, and then Sam hears the rustling of fabric, sees Dean’s vague outline move on the bed, shifting the covers back.
Sam lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and shuffles over, slides under the covers and curls up on his side, not touching, but close. The bed is body-warm under him and he lets himself feel comforted, just for a minute.
“I don’t want the rocking chair to be empty, Dean.” He feels so old, usually, but tonight the terrified kid at the center of him is pushing at his insides, making his chest tight and his stomach heavy and his heart all achy under his ribs. He wants his brother, misses him so bad that his throat clogs up and his eyes prickle. It reminds him of being 14, Dean out on a hunt with Dad while Sam sat at home and hoped desperately that they came back alive, totally powerless to contain the terrible fear at the possibility of living the rest of his life without his brother and he hates it, hates how needy, vulnerable it makes him feel.
Sam hears Dean’s breath catch, throat working as he swallows it down. “I know. I don’t. Tell me what to do, Sammy. Tell me what you need.”
Sam’s hand slides across the sheets, closes the distance between them until his fingers just brush the bare skin of Dean’s hip and Dean sucks in a breath. It’s the first time they’ve touched for no reason in a long time. “You fucked up. I need you to understand how.”
Dean shifts onto his side, faces Sam in the dark. “I won’t apologize for saving you. I’m not sorry that you’re alive.”
Sam shakes his head. “That’s not what got us here, Dean.”
“You can’t decide for me. You can’t lie to me. You can’t-” Sam swallows. “You just can’t. Please, Dean. I can’t prove to you that you can trust me. I’ve been trying for years. I can’t force you to treat me like an equal, like a person. I know you want to protect me, but the things you do… they aren’t protecting me, Dean. They’re killing me. I can’t force you, but if you don’t-” He closes his eyes, breathes in slow. “I don’t want the rocking chair to be empty.”
Sam opens his eyes when he feels Dean’s fingers bump against his.
“I’m sorry.” Dean says, voice rough and wavering.
Sam brushes his thumb over Dean’s knuckles. “You fucked up, Dean. You fucked me up. Us up.”
“I know.” Dean’s voice grates on itself, bends and cracks and makes Sam’s chest hurt. “I’m sorry. I’m really. God, Sam. I never wanted this.”
Dean doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t try to justify it or explain himself - Sam knows the reasons, and for the first time Dean seems sincere. Like he’s beginning to get it.
It’s a start.
Sam shifts closer, hooks their fingers together between them. “I’ll let you prove it.”
Dean breathes out, ragged. “Okay.”
It’s the best he can do. Things are broken between them, and no amount of duct tape and safety pins is gonna fix it. It’s going to take time, and it’s going to hurt, but maybe this time they’ll get it right.
“Okay.” Sam says, and when Dean ducks forward to press a kiss to his forehead, Sam lets him.
You sit on a park bench as the sunlight fades, replacing the once-bright sky with an oppressive darkness. Your breath billows out before you in a white cloud, and you suppress the shivers that wrack your body, drawing your coat closer around you. The people passing you don’t seem to want to look at you, and you avoid eye contact with any and all.
You had just been kicked out of your apartment again by your foster father for being “disobedient”. You knew it was unsafe to go back now, but you were freezing. You sighed and tucked your hands into their sleeves. Thankfully you had brought a book, namely A Higher Call by Adam Makos. It was about how a chance meeting had changed and saved the lives of several individuals fighting through WWII.
As you flipped through the pages, you tried to ignore the shaking of your fingers. The tips appeared to be turning white. You drew your legs in closer to your body, trying to retain as much heat as possible. The temperature only continued to plunge, but you were stubborn. You couldn’t go back to the apartment. Not now.
The shout rose above the general clamor of the crowd, but you ignored it and tried to focus on the words on the page, illuminated by a single lamppost to your right.
There it was, persistent. Exasperated, you dragged your eyes from the blurring words, peering through the people passing by to see who was the source of the commotion.
A man stood not far from you, looking directly at you. You felt your eyes widen. He was young, probably in his mid-twenties. He wore a purple sweater along with khakis. A red scarf (that clashed terribly) was draped around his neck. His brown eyes seemed to glitter in the light of the lampposts around you. When your eyes met with his, he began to thread his way towards you.
You weren’t the best at social interactions, often preferring to bury your nose in books or videos. You braced yourself as he neared you, ready for him to yell at you. Or get angry. Or think you were weird. Or—
“What’s your name?” he asked, dragging you out of your thoughts with suddenness.
“Ah! (F/N)!” you gasped out, still quite startled. You readjusted yourself and took a somewhat deep breath, trying to still your panicked heart. His piercing brown eyes seemed to gaze into you. “Sorry, sir, but what did you want?”
“Don’t call me sir,” the young man said, rolling his eyes. A small smirk played on his face, and you could feel the friendliness radiating off of him. “My name’s Barney—well, kind of.”
Barney…like the childhood character? Even so, you weren’t one to judge. In fact, you watched a YouTuber whose very name was also—
The young man took your silence as an invitation to sit down next to you, and you turned your bewildered gaze to him. It couldn’t be…but it was. How had you not recognized him before? Well, granted, he didn’t have the silly accent he used in videos, but…
“Y-You’re ThatGuyBarney!” you stammered out, feeling strangely detached. “W-What’re you doing here?”
Barney looked at you, surprised. “You know me?” He shook his head, laughing. “What a coincidence! I’m here visiting some relatives of mine. I was just returning from a Christmas shopping trip.”
Countless questions bubbled under the surface, but you suppressed them. You couldn’t show how excited you were to see him. He would think you were weird, or just like any other fan.
“Oh…what did you want, again?” you asked as your excitement settled. “I doubt a famous YouTuber would sit on a bench with a stranger for no reason.”
“No, actually…” Barney dug through a shopping bag that was by his feet. “I originally bought this for Red, but…” He shook his head again. Then the corners of his mouth twitched upward. “You looked like you were colder. So…consider this an early Christmas present.”
He handed you a soft, fuzzy red sweater, a little t-rex patterned on the front. You smiled at the design and the warmth of the sweater, and couldn’t help but notice that as Barney handed it to you, your hands brushed.
“I…I can’t accept this,” you quickly said, trying to hand it back to him. “You got this for Red—go ahead and give it to him!”
“You’re freezing,” Barney stated, sympathetic. “Come on. Just keep it. Seriously—I’ll get Red something else. Red can wait.”
You didn’t need much more persuading. You shook your coat off, revealing the t-shirt you wore underneath. Quickly, you slipped into the sweater and shrugged your coat back on, suddenly feeling much better. Zipping up the front of the coat, you couldn’t help but compare yourself to a marshmallow.
“Thanks,” you said softly, not looking at him. “I… Thank you.”
“Why are you out here, anyways?” Barney asked gently, nothing but concern held on his features as you brought yourself to look at him. “It’s awfully cold. Are you going to go home?”
You muttered something.
“Sorry?” he asked, tilting his head to the side, his eyes once more catching in the lamppost light. It was mesmerizing.
“I can’t,” you whispered, louder. “I’ll be yelled at.”
Barney bit his lip and leaned back. “We can’t have that happening. Do you want to come with me? Red and I are sharing a hotel room with two beds. And although it’s not the best, we can let you stay for a bit, if you want… The hotel rents per room, not per person.”
Immediately, you balked. “No, no it’s okay, really! I’ll be fine! Thank you so much, though, Barney.” You can’t…I promise I’ll be all right.”
“And I promise you it’s not a big deal, (F/N),” Barney said, standing and offering you his hand. After a few moments, you accepted it, letting him pull you to your feet. You couldn’t help but notice how warm his hand was compared to his.
He didn’t let go of your hand as he scooped up his bags in one hand, walking with the other. You walked alongside him as he lead you through the park and to the busy city. The walk to the hotel wasn’t too long, and it was fairly close to your apartment complex.
Wait…hotels. You were immediately nervous. Barney wouldn’t try anything, would he? He had just picked a stranger—you—off the street, and was now taking you back to his hotel room… But Red was there. Surely Barney wouldn’t try anything. But even so…Barney didn’t seem like the type of person to try anything.
You arrived at the hotel, which was nice but not fancy. You sighed as the warmth of the interior washed over you, and let Barney lead you to the elevator, where he pressed the button for the fifth floor. You and Barney walked down the hallways, Barney using the key card to get into a room: 523.
“Red! I’ve brought someone!” Barney called ahead, causing a great deal of sound to commence. You heard a loud thump! along with a strange curse (what in the world were banana chestnuts?). A pattering of footsteps accompanied the noises, along with a loud slam!
“Not sure if it’s safe yet,” Barney admitted to you, making you laugh. He raised his voice. “Red? We’re coming in!”
There was no response in the suddenly quiet hotel room. Cautiously, you peered over Barney’s shoulder. Red was sprawled on the bed in a onesie, covering what appeared to be a large pile of fruit. You couldn’t help but laugh as you entered the room with Barney.
“Red, what’re you doing?” Barney asked, shaking his head and chuckling. “Get up, bro.”
Red sheepishly stood, rubbing the back of his neck. “Wasn’t expecting anyone. Who’re you?”
“I’m (F/N),” you said shyly, reaching forward and accepting Red’s loose handshake.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Red responded, nodding to the fruits on the bed. “Don’t mind that. Are you staying awhile? Should I skedaddle?”
“No!” you and Barney both exclaim at the same time.
“(F/N)’s just staying here for the night,” Barney said, his face growing red. You could feel yours heating up as well. “Which means we’re sharing a bed, Red.”
“Really?!” Red exclaimed. “Last time we did, you sleep-threw me off the bed!”
“You what?” you found yourself giggling. “I have to hear this.”
“Oh trust me,” Red said, shaking his head. “You’ll hear all about it tonight. Come on, let’s go!”
The remainder of the night found Barney growing increasingly scarlet as Red told embarrassing stories about him to you. You laughed, unable to wipe the smile from your face.
Late at night, you couldn’t help but feel your emotions flare up, settling into a bubbly feeling. Was that…?
Barney’s inviting chocolate eyes lingered in your mind.