Title: On the Snap
By: Emily Brunson
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Dean hustles pool, Sam watches, it will all end in tears.

“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” (“Fast” Eddie Felson)

The guy’s in for four hundred, and Dean’s thinking he might be in trouble. This is the beauty and the hell of hustling: if he busts this shot, he’s toast. He has a dusty five and three ones in his wallet, all that’s left after this slowly escalating game, and the eight ball’s frozen, gleaming like a black pearl across acres of green. They got a motel room to pay for, gas to buy, and it might be nice to eat sometime this week.

The pressure’s like a drug. He likes it, and hates it. Banishes all the clatter, the jukebox rattling something slow and annoying and country, doesn’t think about the guy he’s hustling, the one who’s already put his hand on Dean’s ass twice, who would, he thinks, not be averse to taking the four hundred out in trade.

He does not look at Sam, whose glower can be felt from across the room, dark and disgusted and something else Dean doesn’t quite want to see.

Smooching the cue ball and watching it glide, and knowing long before that trip is finished that training is his friend, cool and calm under pressure, dude, and the eight tips sweetly into the corner pocket. He doesn’t smile, chalks the cue and sinks the nine fast, no tricks, no fancy banks. Done.

The mark slides over the stack of money, and keeps his hand on it when Dean reaches for it. It isn’t anger on his face. Just calculation, and Dean doesn’t like it.

“There’s more where this came from,” the man says. He’s older than most of the clientele, not a college kid or twentysomething but somewhere within shouting distance of forty. He has a big bald spot he’s trying to hide, and a gut he sucked in when he saw Dean. Dressed expensively, the first thing Dean noticed. Perking up like a goddamn bird dog, because this was the kind of mark he could take for bigger bucks than usual.

He tastes regret like bile in his mouth, and nods. “Probably. Sorry, I got plans.” He slips the bills into his pocket and lays the bar cue on the table. “Thanks for the games, man.”

The man’s lips twitch, and he gives a spastic nod.

Because he’s weirdly pissed, because it’s in his nature, probably, Dean grabs his half-empty bottle of beer and makes sure he swings his ass a little on the way to the bar. Feeling that creepy mark’s eyes on him, knowing the guy’ll probably jerk off tonight thinking about him. He doesn’t like it, but a part of him does, and he’s okay with that. Has to be. That’s life.

Sam’s face is thunderous, angry in a completely different way when Dean slings himself onto the stool. “Sometimes,” Sam says, but doesn’t keep going.

“What?” Dean swigs a little beer and smiles at the tired-looking bartender chick. “Sometimes what?”


Dean cocks him a look, then shrugs. “Whatever, dude. You ready?”

Sam’s staring down into his drink. “Sure,” he says, barely loud enough to hear over the twanging music.

“Pit stop, and we’re outta here.”

He drops one of Baldy’s twenties on the bar and heads for the can. He’s getting used to this weird-ass behavior from Sam. Not really liking it, but what the fuck, it’s Sammy, they’ll work it out eventually. Dude needs to get laid or something. Maybe kick some serious vampire ass. A good fight’s almost as good as sex, sometimes better. Dad would have understood.

But it’s kind of getting on Dean’s nerves. No reason for it he can pick out, nothing, just a few weeks ago, this sour thing, this silent brooding mood, and Dean’s tried to joke him out of him, tried to piss him off out of it, but nothing’s worked. Doesn’t help that they haven’t been doing anything much in the way of hunting. Well, it’s August; maybe the demons are on vacation. He pictures a bunch of formless shapes trying to hit a volleyball on a beach, and snorts softly. Yeah. Maybe Sam just needs a vacation.

He goes into the restroom, wrinkles his nose at the smell of piss. At least it isn’t vomit. Not yet, at least, that’ll happen after midnight. He unzips and looks himself in the eye in the mirror. Still got it, Deano. Got the cash, got what passes for flash.

He closes his eyes and thinks about a zombie going for the ace, putrefied arm exploding with a nice squishy plot, and someone grabs him by the back of the neck and pushes his face right into the mirror.

He feels his nose bending off to the side, please god don’t break my NOSE, and the guy snarls, “Fucking CUNT, you don’t take that much money and not PUT OUT, you fucking PUSSY.”

It’s not supposed to be this way, he’s always kept his eye open for the ones who get dangerous once they’ve lost, and he’s had to fight more than a few, but this one wasn’t gonna BE like that, he was a loser, they’re all losers but this one majorly, and he’s not supposed to FIGHT. Dean’s standing there kissing the mirror with his pants starting to droop down his thighs, one foot in the urinal and the other sliding on slippery tile and a greedy hand on his ass while the mark slams into him, that heavy body mashing him against cold porcelain, digging into his belly and Dean reaches around but can’t get a grip on anything, fucking bald head, no HAIR.

He twists savagely, and the mark racks him, hard, and Dean draws a deep breath and tastes vomit in his throat, thinks, Maybe a little before midnight.

Then the mark vanishes, and Dean hears a snarl like that time outside Memphis, Dad and himself and Sammy safe in the car and the first werewolf Dean ever saw up close and personal. His nuts are screaming, and he would be too if he could make his lungs work, and it takes everything he has to turn his head enough to see what just happened.

To see Sam, face unrecognizable, a kind of rage Dean has never, ever seen on his little brother’s face, holding the mark by the collar and pounding his fist into the guy’s face. One, two, three, four, pop pop pop and the guy’s nose is gushing blood, jaw canted off to a funny angle and eyes closing, sagging in Sam’s iron grip.

“Sam,” Dean tries to say, and then leans over and barfs into the next urinal.


The motel’s almost empty, and Dean’s glad of it while he limps from the car inside. His balls are a hot angry mass between his legs, and he can still taste puke on his tongue. Can still smell the mark’s brassy blood in his nostrils.

Sam hasn’t said a word, not since he picked Dean up from his slump over that brimming urinal, got Dean’s pants up and fastened and hauled his ass out of there. His face is grim, that incandescent anger vanished but no warmth there, either, nothing Dean can see as concern, whatever, just this tight look that’s so like their father’s Dean feels a funny superstitious quiver in his stomach.

“Go clean up,” Sam tells him, flat and businesslike. “You smell like shit.”

“Whatever,” Dean says, but he sidles away from Sam because now that they’re at what passes for home, it’s all starting to creep him out a little. Sam going all Samuel L. Jackson on that mark, and before that Dean letting the asshole get the drop on him like that, it’s all way out of character, all of it, and he needs to regroup, rediscover his calm before something else happens. He puts his hand over his crotch and wobbles to the bathroom, shuts the door and does his level best not to look in this mirror at all. His nose is aching, his nuts feel like they’ve been in a vise, and he’s mortified, Sam saw it ALL, fuck, how fucking embarrassing.

He showers and wraps himself up in a towel, brushes his teeth a couple of times, and outside he sees Sam sitting by the window, staring out at the empty parking lot.

“Next,” Dean says, trying for light, feeling it not working. Sam doesn’t even twitch. Fine. Par for the course these days, apparently.

At least he’s got the cash. It’s all worth it, right? Even Sam can see that. You gotta get money, without it nobody’s going nowhere, and pool beats blowjobs in alleys. He wonders briefly if that scary-as-shit look would return to Sam’s face if he knew what else that mark had offered, back at the table. Wonders if Sam thinks Dean would take it.

He puts on clean shorts and a tee shirt, and eases himself down on the far bed. Pain’s better now, manageable, but now he’s tired, and he glances over finally and says, “Man, you got blood all over you. You’re skanky. Go –“

“Shut the fuck up.”

Dean’s mouth closes with a snap, opens and closes again. Sam still hasn’t moved. Just glaring out, like he’s expecting company, only ain’t nobody coming to this shitty place tonight, Dean could tell him that much. Too far from the bars to do the one-hour trade, too far from the interstate to draw in families or generic travelers. Big part of the reason Dean chose it in the first place.

“You could have killed that guy,” Dean says, out of nowhere, and Sam turns slowly, fixes him with that flat, disgusted look again.

“I wanted to.”

“Had it all under control, Sammy, just needed –“

“What?” Sam snaps. “What did you need, Dean? Huh?” He springs from the chair, stalks over to stand at the foot of the bed. “Some kind of fucked-up affirmation? Everyone wants you? Well, congratulations, man. Looks like everyone does. Sure did you a lot of good, didn’t it?”

Dean blinks up at him. Even the pain of his damaged balls is fading, whited out by the heat of Sam’s anger. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“That wasn’t pool you were hustling in there. Was it? That was YOU, Dean. YOU. Dean hustling DEAN. Okay?”

“You are so full of sh—“

“That’s how you do it, isn’t it?” Sam’s bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands clenched into fists, still dark with that mark’s blood. His eyes dance, too, zeroed in on Dean until he feels it like energy, this hot eager whatever, baking off Sam in waves. “All this time, see? I thought you really were just playing pool. But that’s not what you’re doing. That isn’t it at all.”

Dean watches, wary now, and Sam swallows audibly. “He was gonna RAPE you, Dean,” he says hoarsely. Still jigging and twitching, all that energy with nowhere to go. “You FUCKER.”

Dean sits up, realizes he has absolutely no spit in his mouth and chews his cheek a couple of times to make some. “Aw, Sammy.”

“Don’t you ‘aw Sammy’ me, for Christ’s sake, not NOW. Not when I’m this close to killing you, Dean. God!”

Dean nods slowly. “So, okay. What, you want me to admit it? I work it a little. Fuck, Sam, that’s the way it works. It’s a game, that’s all.”

“So you shake your ass at some fat guy with money, play POOL with him, and that’s not –“ Sam closes his mouth, eyes brimming with fury and hurt.

“That’s not what? What do you think it is?” Dean asks. He’s standing, and wishing to God Sam weren’t so much taller than he is. Only person on the planet save one who can make him feel small like this. Sam doesn’t say a word, and Dean snorts. He’s tired, out of nowhere, so tired his legs tremble under him, and he locks his knees. “I’m not out turning tricks, if that’s what you’re saying,” he says. “That IS what you’re saying, right? Did I catch that right?”

Sam looks away, face twisting like he can’t decide now whether to be pissed, or start crying or some shit. “Jesus, Dean,” he whispers.

“Look, we got cash now, and hopefully that guy isn’t dead. I’m fine. You’re fine. Let’s just –“

“What? Let’s just what?” Sam turns, faces him with tragic eyes. “Pretend it didn’t happen? Just go sleep, tomorrow’s another day, Scarlett?”

A shiver of ice knifes through Dean’s gut. He rolls his eyes, and then bats his eyelashes. “Fiddle-dee-dee,” he says, and Sam’s moving, long body arrowing over the end of the bed and hitting Dean hard in the chest, sending him sprawling back on the mattress with Sam snarling on top of him.

“You push and push and push,” Sam says, two inches from Dean’s face, so close Dean can’t even tell what expression he’s wearing. The procession’s been a little dizzying anyway. Sam’s voice cracks. “Goddamn it, I can’t -- I can’t DO this anymore, don’t you see? I can’t!”

Dean stares up at him. “Do what? Do the work? Fuck, you always –“

“No!” Sam grabs his shoulders and actually shakes him, fingers colder than a shade’s. “God, you’re such a fucking IDIOT.”

“Don’t mince words, Sammy,” Dean says dryly. “Say what you really –“

Sam ducks down and presses a fast, hard kiss on Dean’s mouth.

Dean freezes. And Sam’s rearing back, flinging himself off Dean and then staggering off the bed, and there’s no mistaking this expression now, nossir, this mix of elation and revulsion and panic. Sam backs up until his ass hits the television set, careens off it and reels over back to the chair. Puts his face in his hands.

Dean lies very still. He can still feel Sam’s body against his own, that lean length, all elbows and muscles and knobby knees. Feel Sam’s breath against his face. His lips burn, feel weirdly numb. He touches them with his fingers, and can’t feel it.

“I have to go,” Sam says, strangled and very soft. “I have to leave, Dean.”

Dean sits up slowly. The AC’s kicked on, and it’s cold inside the room. His wet hair is freezing. “No, you don’t,” he hears himself say.

“Yes. I do.”


“I was going to kill him. For touching you, for DARING.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” Dean stands, finds his balance and walks tiredly between the beds, around to sit near Sam. Leans forward, elbows on his knees. “I’d have done the same thing. If somebody’d been pawing you like that guy was.”

“No. It’s not the same.”

The thick misery in Sam’s voice does bad things to Dean, inside, makes him feel twisted up, tangled in knots. “Come on, man,” he says. “It’s not that bad. We just – keep going, that’s all.”

Sam raises his face from his hands, and the look in his eyes is hollow, so utterly without any life at all that the AC is nothing next to the chill that lances down Dean’s spine. “You don’t understand,” Sam says. “You never have.”

“Well, maybe I don’t, but that doesn’t mean –“

“I got away from you once. I can’t do this again, Dean. I thought maybe I could. But I can’t. I’m done.”

Dean stares at him. “Got away from me?” It stings, makes him sit up straight. “What the hell does that mean?”

Sam shakes his head slowly. “I just kissed you and you gotta ASK?”

“What, that? Aw, man. No, that was just –“

“What? What do you think that just was?”

Dean swallows. “Just -- You were freaked out. People do weird things when they’re freaked.”

“Dean, I’ve wanted to do weird things for six years.”

“You’re just –“

“Weird things with YOU. Get it? Is any of this getting through to you? Weird things like fucking KISS you, Dean.”

Caught on Sam’s suddenly fiery gaze, Dean can’t look away. “Oh,” he says after a moment.

Sam snorts, and Dean can’t think of a single goddamn thing to say. Sam’s wanted to kiss him? It’s – weird. Yeah. Very weird. Maybe not as weird as it should be, but definitely pegging high on the weird meter.

And Sam isn’t letting him process it. This is old news to him, apparently, and he’s just plowing right on, getting up and going to the dresser, actually taking out his shit. “Look, if you need me,” he says, holding a stack of clean underwear, “all you gotta do is call. I’ll help. I will.”

Dean watches him, mouth open, flailing. “Sam, what the FUCK?”

“Besides, splitting up, and with Dad working on this too, well. We can cover more ground. It’s better, really.”

“Who the fuck is splitting up? You’re not going anywhere.”

Sam casts a tired, sweet smile his direction. “Yeah, Dean,” he says evenly. “I am.”

“No,” Dean says. “You can’t.”

“Watch me.”

And he does, still frozen on the edge of the bed, a rivulet of water dripping down his cheek from his wet hair and shivering in the air conditioner’s blast, while Sam shoves crap into his bag, zips it briskly. Sam is leaving. Sam is leaving HIM. Again. It has the flavor of memory to it, dull and nauseatingly familiar. But he can’t move. If he moves, something inside him will break, something he can’t put together again, patch up and Bondo and pretend is all right again. If he stays very, very still, he won’t break.

Sam’s still got the mark’s blood all over him. It’s dried now, to a brown crud smearing his knuckles, his palms. Dabs of it on his shirt, hard to see over the tee shirt’s loud logo. “When the Bogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.” It made Sam laugh, and that’s why Dean bought it for him, back in June. Because it was good to see Sam laugh. Didn’t get that very often.

“I’m sorry,” Sam whispers. He has his bag dangling from his hand. Those big hands, took him forever to grow into his hands and feet, like a Great Dane puppy or something. They fit now. Sam seems larger than life, and his huge hands hold everything Dean is, everything he has, wants.

Sam puts his hand on the doorknob, and Dean says, “Don’t.”

“It’s better. For the best, reall—“

“Don’t go,” Dean says in his broken-glass voice. “Don’t you leave me. Sammy.”

Sam turns his sad eyes back to him. “Dean.” Patient. Done deal.

It hurts, this breaking. It hurts more than being racked in the balls, hurts more than knowing a fat forty-year-old with a desk job and a hard-on snuck up on him in a goddamn bar restroom, hurts more than anything Dean has felt in the past five years, since that godawful other pain, rending him until he didn’t think he could possibly stand up, torn in half as he was. Only this is worse, because the first time he’d had illusions, and those are gone. This time, Sam won’t come back. Not ever.

He wants to cry, but his eyes are dry. Wants to scream, and all he can manage is this breathy voice that doesn’t even sound like him. “You can have it. Whatever it is you want.” He’s on his feet but doesn’t remember getting there, just all of a sudden he’s standing with his hand on the door, holding it closed, and Sam’s face is twisted with surprise while Dean reaches up to touch his cheek, and then Dean says, “I don’t mind, I don’t,” and Sam flinches away, steps back.

His face is white and horrified, and Dean’s broken parts scrape against each other while Sam whispers, “I don’t want it like that. I don’t. Jesus Christ, who do you think I am, Dean?”

Dean’s knees sag, and he falls back against the door, catches himself.

“You – bastard, you think I’d –“ Sam gives a little glurking sound, puts his hand over his mouth. “GodDAMN it.”

“I don’t mean. I want to. I do.”

“No,” Sam says hoarsely. “You don’t. It’s not the same. I won’t make you do that. I won’t LET you do that.”

“It’s my choice,” Dean says, and Sam’s nostrils flare.

“And this is mine,” he says crisply, but his eyes are filled with anguish. “The things I want, Dean, you can’t give me. Not without giving up parts of yourself, too, and I can’t –“ His voice wavers, and he shakes his head. “I can’t let you do that. Not for me or anyone. Don’t you get it? Tonight. I won’t watch you do that again. Never.”

“You always walk,” Dean says, voice like a rusty hinge. “You’re always walking away from me, Sammy. You never even gave me a chance.”

“A chance to what? Wrap your head around it?”

“You’re a quitter,” Dean says, and now his knees are stronger. “You throw shit at me and leave.” His voice feels more like his own now, but nothing touches the pain inside. He wonders if even Sam could, now. “So fucking go, then,” he says, and makes it to the bed, sits and hears the springs creak. “Run away again. God forbid you should face whatever it is and deal with it.”

“I tried that,” Sam says, remote as Saturn. “See where it got me.”

“Where did you want it to get you, Sam? Huh? You wanna fuck me? You running away now because you want to fuck your own brother?”

Sam’s face is flushed, eyes narrow and sparking new anger. “You’re saying it doesn’t knock you out? Because don’t fucking try that on me, Dean. I SEE it.”

“That what this was tonight? Jealousy?” Dean coughs a caw of a laugh, shakes his head. “That’s some little problem you got there, I tell you what. You were JEALOUS of that shithead?”

“Maybe you ought to think about what it is that makes you beg me not to leave,” Sam snarls, dropping the bag on the floor. “Huh, how about that? What is it YOU want, Dean? One big happy family? Or is that just your cover story? Inside you’re just as fucked up as me, BROTHER. Face it.”

“Maybe so. At least I don’t cut and run every time I –“

Sam’s fist comes out of nowhere, right cut, and Dean thinks dizzily about second time he’s gotten suckered tonight while his jaw flares with pain and his head snaps around.

“Fuck you you don’t know you don’t KNOW,” words running together like a hand smearing fresh ink. Sam’s breathing is so loud it’s audible over the clank of the AC, fist still clenched. “You don’t know what it’s LIKE.”

Dean touches his jaw, and says, “So stay and show me.”

Sam takes a step back, saying nothing, and Dean climbs to his feet. His jaw hurts, his nuts hurt, and a headache has started behind his eyes, sharp and knifelike, and Sam doesn’t move when Dean claws his hand into the Norris tee shirt, twists and says, “Fucking SHOW ME. For once in your goddamn life.”

Sam’s eyes are wide and dark and shocked, and his mouth is open under Dean’s, slack and warm. Dean tastes beer on Sam’s tongue, and slides his hand up to clasp Sam’s shoulder.

He’s not sure what he’s waiting for, maybe some sort of fireworks or whatever, but he is where he suddenly, desperately wants to be, and it can’t be what’s torturing Sam but maybe it is, Dean doesn’t know. But Sam gives a broken sound, a noise that exactly matches the broken pieces inside Dean’s body, and his hands come up and squeeze Dean’s cheeks, his kiss hungry and huge and desperate, and Dean relaxes for the first time in longer than he can remember, lets himself go, and thinks that maybe in some weird way they’re both broken, and they can’t be fixed but they can be broken together. It’s all he asks.