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Five Times That Shouldn't Have Happened and One Time That Should

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2007

Sam wakes with his cock halfway down someone's throat, shooting as they swallow around him, tight emptying waves, his knees shaking, his heart a thunderclap. Dead ahead of him is a woman, gold chain hanging between her breasts, pendant down at her navel, thick blonde v below that and his cock gives another twitch and his hands tighten in someone's hair, shoving as deep as he can. Fuck, it's good. It's so good.

“Well, it'll do,” she says, in a rich otherworld accent, her lips full and crimson, her eyes smudged with kohl, and raises her hands and is bathed in a light from above. Shackles fall from her wrists. She begins to fade. “Cheers, kid.”

Dean pulls off him violently, choking, catching his teeth on the tip as he goes and Sam yelps and doubles over and Dean – Dean's hands are tied behind his back and he's face down in the dirt trying to rise to his knees but he can't because his hands are tied and he's throwing up, emptying his stomach and it's dark out here in the ring of stones but the flashlight, dropped but still working, combs through the grass, shines on half-digested burger.

Sam's own stomach revolts. Hurls itself two feet to the side and he stumbles with the force of it, gags. He can't catch his breath. He's sweating.

He's trying to catch his balance here in the night and the air still smells like her, like sex, womanly, and he has strands of Dean's hair caught between his fingers and he doesn't – he doesn't understand.

Dean is turned away from him, still on the ground, shoulders tight and wrenched back and his chest heaving and his hands curled into fists. A black bootlace stands out around his wrists. Sam doesn't know how it got there.

He looks down. One of his boots is. He's missing a lace.

“Some weird sex stuff,” Sam had said three hours ago, frowning down at the witness report, and Dean had waggled his eyebrows and taken a debauched bite of his burger, sauce dripping down his chin.

“I'm in,” he said, food on his tongue. Sam wrinkled his nose.

“I don't want to get into weird sex stuff,” Sam said, rubbed his palms on his jeans, looked around for the waitress.

“That's always been your problem, Sammy,” Dean said. Sam's lips had tightened and he cast his eyes down and said nothing.

Their father has been dead three months now. Dean still has these moments where he thinks his grief gives him licence to dig at whatever he wants to. Like he's more assured than ever that Sam will stay, and maybe thinks a little less of Sam because of it. Like he knows something Sam doesn't.

But he – he already knows everything. He knows too much.

Dean has made it to his feet, unsteady, bent over for balance. Sam steps in, grabs his jacket to keep him up. Catches a glint of water in his eyelashes, spit dangling from his mouth before he wrenches his face to the side, hides himself.

Sam slits the lace around Dean's wrists and his arms break around to his front and he whimpers and then the whimper catches in his throat and he coughs, raw and hacking. Jerks out of Sam's grasp and holds his stomach and staggers right out into the dark, between the trees. He doesn't look at Sam once.

He disappears in seconds. He's still coughing.

Sam's knees finally give and he thuds into the dirt, cord in one hand, knife in the other.

His cock is still hanging out his pants, drying, limp and ugly. He folds his knife closed and puts it in his pocket. Tucks himself back in mechanically.

His ass is wet, damp from the ground. His face is dry, when he touches his cheeks. His hands are shaking. He's so cold.

They'd been walking down into the hollow, gun-over-flashlight, the oaks creaking. There'd been a clearing ahead. Dean had said something about dead rabbits. And then. Blank.

Blank, until.

He'd said, he'd said this was a bad idea. He's got too much to protect himself from to get into a sex stuff hunt.

It's Dean's fault.

His phone buzzes.

u coming?

It's not like Dean to include a question mark. Maybe he really isn't sure.

on my way Sam types, pressing each button deliberate and slow, watching the letters cycle on the screen, his fingers numb. He pushes himself to his feet. Turns in a circle a few times, looking for a path into the trees, back to the car. His brain can't sort it out.

He doesn't know how he got here.

Dean is leaning against the driver's side, facing out to the road. He's tipping a half-empty Gatorade up to his mouth. One of the dark colours. Sam hears him gargle, slosh it around. He bends over to spit it out. Gives no sign he notices Sam approach.

Sam's hand closes around the chrome of the handle the same way it always has. He'd almost thought it might not – fit him anymore. Or burn under his touch. Something like that.

They sit pushed about as far from each other on the seat as they can. The window winder digs into Sam's thigh. The car has never felt so small.

Dean puts his hand to the key and hangs on a moment.

Sam is staring out the front window and can see him swallow in his periphery. Can see the wince.

“Say it,” Dean says. His voice is horrendous, in shreds. Sam thinks that he might throw up after all. “Whatever you got to say, say it. Last time offer.”

He's serious. He's more serious about this than anything he's said to Sam in a long time.

“I'm sorry,” Sam whispers, and feels it start to rise in him, tears, terror. His nose runs and he sniffs, swipes at it, presses his hand against his eyes. “I'm so sorry, I don't, I don't know what happened, I just – I don't know, we were walking and then, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.”

“Yeah,” Dean rasps. It doesn't sound friendly or forgiving. Sam darts a glance at his profile. Sees his lips tremble. They're very red, even in the duotone moonlight. Still swollen. He's so pale.

“It wasn't me,” Sam says. “I would never have.”

Dean doesn't look convinced.

Sam doesn't know what do with how much this is starting to hurt.

“Are you okay?” he says, at a loss.

“Time's up,” Dean says, and turns the key.

::

1998

Shirts & Skins B-Ball Troub-Ball!! reads the caption, in Comic Sans MS. Awful. Just awful. Embarrassing, even. It's familiar enough that Sam can ignore it.

The mattress creaks tellingly as Sam puts his pillow against the wall and settles back, flicks a glance at the bedroom door. The latch still sits up and to the left. Locked. Definitely locked.

He undoes his fly.

Mo Harding is credited with this photo. She had taken most of the 1997 Camden West High yearbook in fact, the only one who really cared to, traipsing around the clubs and the classrooms, on the sidelines at every match. She'd had a thing for staged candids, obviously fake, letting Bethany and Travis and Candace and Mike contort themselves around lunch tables and lockers, brace-faced and hilarious in their false innocence.

Shirts & Skins is not staged.

Sam had tipped her off about the game, encouraged her to cover it – had been half ready to slip her ten bucks to do it – and some chick on the yearbook committee had obviously agreed with both himself and Mo that this image in particular was worthy of inclusion, worthy of a whole quarter page, even with the glossy paper and the size bringing out how bad that crappy scanner was, moire rings and glass-bed scratches like creases on the right-hand corner.

And real creases from where Sam has held it, over time. And a broken spine. The book falls open to this page, now.

Darius Cantrell is the hero of the varsity basketball team, six foot four of gleaming dark limbs and tall socks and a huge white grin, joyous, mid-air, dunking. His fingers get coverage like he's pitching baseball.

His house was only a few streets out from the guy they'd been living with at the time. Sam and Dean and their dad were at the edge of town. It was the only upside to staying with Brian, who had two overgrown rustbuckets up on blocks in his yard next to a heap of trash picked up off the road, other people's discards, fenceposts and busted patio furniture and a concrete birdbath with chipped, spread-winged eagle on one side. Every afternoon as Sam had trudged back there he could feel a weight settle over his shoulders, feel himself grow as ugly and poor as his surrounds.

He'd never invited anyone over back when they'd lived in Camden West.

Sometimes Sam would end up meeting Darius as they walked along to the bus stop. Darius would call him little fella and ask how much school Dean was skipping today and talk about how a UT scout would be at the next game. The day they left Sam caught rumours that he'd ended up with a full ride. Sam was happy for him. He deserved it.

He was the most popular guy in school. Everyone loved him.

Even Dean loved him, and Dean had hated everything about that town as much as Sam, for a change.

Dean had loved Darius enough to play pickup with him, sometimes, at lunch, managing to set aside the dangerous loner thing he'd been cultivating the last year or two.

Dean pretended he couldn't do sport. He pretended he couldn't do school. He pretended he couldn't do girlfriends, only girls. He pretended he wasn't made for anything but what their dad was trying to make him into.

Dean is a Skin.

His ratty sneakers are a foot off the ground, and his torso is long, stretched, his arm reaching in vain to slap the ball out of Darius's hand, too slow. His face fixed and fierce, like Sam sees him on hunts.

Sam can see his armpit hair.

Sam can see his nipples and the hollow of his belly.

Sam can see the bulge of his cock under his thin blue shorts.

Sam lives with him and this picture feels more intimate than any other time he gets to see Dean. More adult.

Sam's brother is nineteen-and-a-half and he stinks and farts and takes Dad's side all the time and eats all the fucking Doritos without sharing and every day he's a little bit more the most beautiful thing Sam has ever seen.

It's no good for Sam. He can feel his world closing in.

Mo Harding had whispered to him, a year ago, you can tell me if you got a crush, it's no problem. He knows he'd blushed. He doesn't remember if he'd said anything back.

It's a very big problem.

He plays with himself a while, thinks about what happens after the photograph, Dean hitting the ground, Darius's arms wrapping around him, thumping his back, mocking. Comrades. Standing close, their chests rubbing together. Sam spits on his hand and goes back to tracing the lines of his brother's chest, the width of his shoulders, his thighs, his shorts riding up on the left. His bow legs. Power. So much power in him. He could hold Sam down easily. He does, when they spar.

Every time Sam does this his thoughts get dirtier.

Every time he does this it stretches out a little longer. Touching himself, thinking about Dean coming over to him on the bleachers, sweaty, slick, happy Sam's there and then they're underneath, grinding, blistering hot and Dean's cock is huge and it's in Sam and they're moving like a fight, like Dean cares, like he really wants to take care of Sam. And Sam can touch him.

And thinking of that is how he comes, into his hand, and coming like that is how Dean finds him, as he opens the door easily, casually, like the end of the world.

Sam shrieks, wordless, snatches a pillow to cover himself. Dean freezes, shocked, and cracks up, leans backwards with his mouth yawping open in a huge laugh.

“Oh, my god,” he says, in hysterics, his eyes all squinty. “Hang a sock, kid, didn't I teach you anything?”

“I locked the door!” he squeaks, and Dean keeps chuckling.

“Lock broke yesterday.” Dean's gaze turns wicked and Sam's heart sinks, he's gonna make a thing of it, he's not gonna let this go. Last time he caught Sam, taking too long in the shower, he'd given Sam a long excruciating lecture on technique and girls and Sam swallows and readies himself for it and then Dean's eyes drop to the bed, and Sam's stomach flips and hits the ground.

“Is that a yearbook?” Dean says, confused, and Sam makes a grab for it with the hand that's holding the pillow but Dean's too quick, yanks it from beneath his fingers.

His grin fades, slowly, looking over the photo. The text, and sports-themed clipart that surrounds it. He checks over the page at a picture of the chess club and looks back and the rest of his grin drops right away and keeps on going into a frown.

“Darius,” he says, low and flat. Sam tries not to understand and Dean shoots him an unimpressed look, something urgent behind it. “Tell me Darius.”

“I don't,” Sam says, quiet.

“Tell me it's Darius.”

Sam swallows and waits for the words to happen, yes, yes of course, stupid, who else, who else, and they don't come, his tongue paralysed, his lungs. Rabbit in the headlights.

Dean pulls the pillow out of Sam's lap and tosses it away as Sam covers himself with his hands.

Dean grabs one of them too and yanks it up, turns it over.

“Dean,” he says, thin, thready, pleading, trying to tug away. Dean's eyes are huge, colour blooming on his cheeks.

“No,” he says, distant. “No, Sam, no, no, no.”

But he's still holding Sam's wrist, so strong, and his thumb swipes through the mess on Sam's palm and he's breathing deep and harsh and Sam's cock gives a weak pulse and he can feel a little more dribble out because he's still half hard because his body doesn't know anymore how to react around his brother. When his brother is touching his come.

Dean drops Sam's hand and raises his thumb to Sam's lips and Sam feels his mouth open and then Dean has snatched away and he's – got his thumb in his own mouth.

Sam moans. His fingers curl in the sheets. Dean pulls his thumb from between his lips, shining and clean, his jaw working as he, as he tastes. He stares at his hand like it belongs to someone else. At Sam like he's never seen Sam before in his life. He closes his eyes, briefly.

“Don't ever do that again,” he says, hoarse, shellshocked.

“You,” Sam starts, and doesn't know what else to say. You could have more, maybe. You could have it all. He bites his lip to keep it in.

Dean is still standing there. He looks ill.

“You're fifteen,” he says, and shakes his head, like he never meant to say it. “Don't ever do that again.”

“Don't tell me what to do,” Sam says, and Dean glares at him, glares like he could happily set Sam on fire with his eyes, disgusted twist to his lips, and then he's gone, the door closing firmly behind him. Sam glares right back.

Sam will do what he wants.

Later that night he burns the yearbook in the bathtub, and makes himself a promise.

::

2012

“Nice ass,” Lucifer says, contemplative, pulling at his bottom lip. “Ten out of ten. Bet it comes up sweet and red when you slap it.”

Sam turns another page. Lovecraft, he's reading Lovecraft. It's important.

“I don't understand how I can buy fuckin fifteen pairs of jocks last week and now all there are are these saggy nightmares,” Dean bitches, his duffel exploded on the bed, digging through. His towel is low on his hips, his t-shirt spotting through. He's still wet under there.

“You know he gave it up down there, don't you? Sammy?”

Monsters of the deep. Unplumbable. Unfathomable. Leviathan.

“Are they in your shit?”

“Gave it up or had it taken.”

Dean grabs Sam's bag off the floor by his bed and begins dismantling it. All Sam's stuff gets mixed in with Dean's. It makes his skin crawl. It's too messy.

Sam should call Bobby and ask about-- ask about something, he's forgotten. There was something he was supposed to ask.

No. Bobby's dead.

“Gave it up and had it taken,” Lucifer says, strolling over. Dean is hunched forward reaching for their ammo bag on the far side of the bed and Lucifer stands by his side and starts dancing, a drunk coed dance with his hips fucking up, absurd and raunchy, his arms raised, his face turned to Sam, mouth in a party-lust rictus.

Sam looks back down and turns the page and tries to make the words make sense. Tries to figure if they're in English. He wishes Dean would straighten up, put some, put some fucking clothes on, he's too vulnerable like his, he doesn't know who watches him like prey. His ankles are bare and hairy.

The light in this room is very red.

“Did I buy them or put them back on the shelf?” Dean says, and looks at Sam like he has an answer.

Sam shrugs. Uses the movement to put his hands under the table. Presses into his palm.

“Can you go check the trunk?”

“Ask him to check your trunk,” Lucifer says, and winks at Sam.

How did they end up in this motel? Sam can't remember. Time blurs so much. All roads are the same. The place has a grimy cheap bordello feel, flocked wallpaper and velour throws the colour of old blood. On the dresser rests a huge ornate mirror, frosted glass decoration at the edges, petals that rise like flames.

When he looks in it he can see his thumb pressing into the scar, under the table. He can't hide the movement. Desperate. Futile.

Over his shoulder is a cross, plain and painted, the half-hearted distressed look of a faux-vintage import. It has nails but Sam doesn't think anyone's strung up on it.

He's too frightened to look behind himself to see if it's really there.

“It's below frozen,” Dean says, and uses his foot to kick-throw a discarded jacket into the air, catches it smoothly and holds it out at him. “Can you go? My nuts will fall off.”

Lucifer covers his mouth, mock tragedy. “Can't have that, Sammy. Do the boy a favour.”

In the cage it had amused Lucifer occasionally to take Dean's face. Those had been bad times. He put them away where they couldn't hurt him. He put them behind the wall.

No. The wall is dead.

Lucifer's wearing his normal face, too mobile to be human. Too petulant to be worth responding to. He crouches in front of Sam now, fingers on the table, chin on his fingers, mouth curling up at the corners.

“Sammy,” he says, singsong. “Sam, Sammy, Sam.”

Sam closes his eyes.

“Sam,” Lucifer says, and touches his shoulder, cautious. “Sam?”

Sam gets his thumbnail into the scar and feels something give. His name is still in the air, raising alarm, trying to catch on something, trying to have meaning. It's close. It's close, when Dean says it. Dean says the word like it might have weight. Sam spends too much time floating these days.

His face snaps to the side, slapped, bright and vicious and sharp, and he opens his eyes and gasps water into his lungs and raises his hand to his cheek. Dean is shaking him, hands high and tight on his shoulders. They're standing, in the bathroom. In the—in the tub, he flails and loses his balance and grabs at the curtain and yanks it down with plastic rings spitting like broken teeth against tile and there's cold water pounding him and Dean is holding him upright.

His hair is plastered to his face.

He's so cold, he's freezing, numb, he feels blue, he's blue all over, white-ice blue. Antarctic. A wasteland.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Dean is saying, “you're here, you're in Boise, Sam, fuckin Idaho, the Red Rose motel, offa Highway 44. You're in the shower. I'm here.”

Sam shakes, with his whole body, a shiver, almost topples again, water in a cascade over his face. Dean's teeth are chattering. Sam touches his chin, looks at him. He's naked.

“Yeah, it's fucking cold, Sam, you, you, you.” Dean's jaw clenches. He reaches behind Sam and Sam doesn't move so Dean has to press right up against him.

Sam's naked too, he realises.

The water turns hot. Only warm really but the contrast is scalding.

He looks out at the bathroom, harsh white light, towel on the floor. Their clothes are in a pile, the plastic curtain a flopped corpse, channelling water from the shower right onto them so they get soaked. Messy together and soaked all wrong.

There's no one else. They're alone.

Dean knocks on his temple and Sam looks at him, blinks through the water. It's getting warmer, getting good. He can feel his blood again, rising in his skin.

There's steam coming up, and they're naked together, sliding together.

“Earth to Sam,” Dean whispers, drops spraying off his lips, eyes wide and green, so green, go, go, go, and Sam finds a handful of his ass and pulls him closer, feels Dean's cock start to fill and his ass would be red if Sam slapped it. If Sam hurt him.

How is Sam so hard already, how does his brother do this to him?

“You're in Boise with me,” Dean says again, but Dean wouldn't be doing this. Dean wouldn't be so close. Wouldn't be touching him, gently, Sam's belly, Sam's cock, getting him harder. “See? See? You're here, you're okay,” he murmurs, his one hand at Sam's neck, firm, solid, his other hand slick with water, pulling up Sam so earnest, so fine it makes Sam's toes curl on the old dirty porcelain. “See?”

“That's nice,” Sam says, water sweet on his tongue, and Dean smiles, tentative. Sam still has a handful of ass and he thinks he oughta do something with his other hand, he lost it for a minute but he finds it again near the other, in the dip of Dean's back. He puts it up to Dean's face. It really is an extraordinary face. He feels lucky just getting to see it.

Whoever's wearing it is a lucky man.

He keeps jerking Sam and Sam tells him it's nice, again, and he smiles, again, knocks their foreheads together. His breath hits Sam's lips. He's pressed in warm and skintight to Sam and he wants Sam to believe. He wants Sam to believe so bad. He's so kind.

“Who are you?” Sam whispers, so he knows who to thank, and Dean's eyes fly wide and he rockets back, his jaw dropping, his mouth open, black and unhappy. Worse than unhappy. He lets Sam go, in all ways, and stumbles out of the water, into the air.

Sam would miss him but he's wised up now. He nods. Dean turns away from him, but not before Sam sees.

His eyes are gold.

::

2014

“Put some fucking codeine in there at least,” Dean gasps, his head thrown back, grimacing, straining at his chains, racked with pain. Sam pulls the needle and steps away, back to the table.

He stabs himself trying to recap the needle one-handed and unsteady, a bead of blood appearing at the tip of his finger. He wipes it on his sling and waits for Dean to make a comment. Something that will dig. Something that will hurt, but Dean's still gasping, shaking. The chains are a constant rattle.

Sam is trying smaller doses, more concentrated. Some with a fair slug of his own blood blended with the donor supply. It's hurting Dean more than he'd expected.

It's been a long day today, after a long yesterday, after a long six weeks. He wants this over. He wants this done.

He's not coping very well.

He picks up and prepares the next needle, holds it in his bound arm and flicks it as best as he can. Last thing he wants is to give Dean an embolism and he needs to be. He needs to be careful. He hasn't set himself up for an optimal outcome, here.

He's woozy from lack of sleep and blood and the triple he'd had for dinner. Pushing the shelves aside and coming in he'd known that the booze was a mistake. The animal in Dean's eyes had lit up and his nostrils had flared. Scenting weakness.

Dean's head is hanging, his breath a sharp wheeze. They're not even halfway there. Looking at him, pale, eyes red-rimmed, his hair weirdly long, gripping the chair arms white-knuckled like human blood burns him, Sam suspects strongly that he is messing it up. Dean acts like it's torture and Sam can't tell most of the time if it's the truth.

Sam never felt pain like this as a vessel, but Dean isn't a vessel. He's something new. He needs more blood than Crowley ever did. Sam's flying them into uncharted territory, here.

He's starting to wonder if it might not kill them both.

Hell, maybe that's the optimal outcome.

He comes back in and stands over his brother, one leg between his knees, and turns his head, finds a bare spot that shouldn't do too much damage.

Dean hisses and tries to jerk away, but maybe his veins are ready or maybe this dose has enough of Sam in it to make it go down easier. He takes it with a bare and unsuppressed shudder, and there's enough give in the chains circling Dean's ankles that Dean can hook the toe of his boot around Sam's calf.

He pulls Sam in off balance, nuzzles at his stomach, the front of his jeans.

“Been a while, hasn't it, brother?”

“Stop it,” Sam says, distracted. He still has the needle in Dean's neck. He pulls it as carefully as he can, swipes at the blood with a knuckle and Dean curls back his lips and pulls the tail of Sam's belt through the loop with his teeth, leaves it hanging limp in front. Smirks at it and looks up at Sam, wide-eyed and innocent.

“You know, I used to jerk off to that memory. Of when you raped me.”

Sam's heart thuds once and disappears, vacant in his chest. He sways, lightheaded. I didn't, he wants to say. But it's not true. Not really.

His mouth is dry. He closes his eyes and hears Dean's grin anyway.

“Pretty pathetic, huh? And why? You're not bad, Sam, but.” He nuzzles again, into what he can reach, plucking at Sam's jeans with the tips of his fingers. “I've had better.”

Sam swallows and tries to get a handle on himself, draws away, rubs his face. He's an idiot, a grade-A dumbass. No one in their right mind would let this thing's teeth near their junk.

“You never had me,” he says, aiming for flippant and falling short. And it's not like it's true. It's about the least true thing he's ever said.

He finds his bottle of water on the table and takes a long drink.

“There's time yet,” Dean says. Tilts his head. His eyes aren't demon black but they might as well be, cold and brutal. Excited. “When you're dead I'm gonna fuck your skull.”

Sam could cry.

“Maybe before you're dead.”

“Fuck off,” he blurts, involuntary, revolted. Nonsensical. He's got his brother chained here.

“Just say the word,” Dean says. “Turn the key. I'll go. Although, I might take a souvenir or two with me.”

Sam breathes deep, sets the bottle down firm.

“Say what you like. Try what you like. This is gonna happen. Get used to the idea.”

“No means no, Sammy,” Dean says, and shifts, chains clinking. “Not that you ever cared.”

He's not going to respond. Not any more. He's going to do this and he'll get his brother back and this will all be a bad dream. A really, really, fucking greatest-of-all-time bad dream.

He hangs back a bit more this time, gauging the effects of the latest dose, reaching to get his fingers to the strong pulse in Dean's neck, to put his hand to Dean's forehead. He's running hot and sweating too, and Sam steps away for a washcloth and his legs are yanked from under him and he hits the ground hard, on his bad shoulder and the pain takes a couple of searing seconds out of linear time and a couple of years off his life.

When he can think Dean has a foot free and a hand free and he's reaching forward for Sam, arm stretched out to its limit, snatches him by the end of his belt and drags him back in. Sam kicks at his shoulder and he takes it with a grunt.

“See,” Dean says, and twists the belt around his hand in a quick twirl. “You couldn't bear to mess up this face. That's why I'll win, brother. I've got your number.”

One of the manacles has a needle sticking out of it. He's so dumb, he's so dumb.

He brings a leg up and around Dean's arm, tries to break his grip but Christ, Dean's strong, he's just hauling his own hips off the ground, forcing Dean's hand in close against him and Dean grins and grabs his cock through his jeans and Sam's balls just about shoot back up into his body in terror.

“Got just about every part of you,” he says, and gives Sam a long massaging tug, as much as he can with the leather filling his palm and maybe it's Sam's fucked-up response to fear or maybe it's because heart is beating so hard but it's working on him and he feels his cheeks flood with shame and he kicks in reflex, at Dean's bound shin and Dean winces and closes his hand tight.

no, Sam bites down before it comes out in a whimper.

“Sure you really need this?” Dean hisses, teeth bared. “Never see you use it. Fucking pervert. No point if you can't use it on me, huh?”

Dean's boot is planted on Sam's other leg, his thigh, not enough leverage or weight and Sam spits Christo at him and he flinches and Sam has both legs free, grabs his belt and shoves back, thinks he hears something break in Dean's hand before Dean lets him go.

He skids out of the circle on his ass, comes to a stop by the table. Lets his head hit the ground. Resists the urge to touch his cock and make sure it's still there.

His shoulder is screaming. He might have to get it looked at again.

He levers himself to his feet sore and slow. Braces himself on the table until the pain drops down to bearable and the dizziness ebbs, what's left of the fear. His hair is stuck to his face, in the sweat. He pushes it behind his ears, opens the jug of holy water and picks up another set of cuffs that chime gently in his shaking hands.

When he looks Dean is sitting back up in his chair. He shrugs. He seems bored.

“Can't blame a guy for trying,” he says.

::

2005

Dean takes him home.

They stop for chicken in Susanville, eat in the car in the sunset corner of the lot, light falling grey and soft around them. Sam can only stomach a couple of wings, a mouthful of unpleasant slush that's trying to be grits 1000 miles out of place. He uses up the napkins, swipes his fingers on his jeans and flips his phone open.

“Hey babe,” she says, after two rings, and her voice opens up a wave and wealth of relief in his chest. In the corner of his eye Dean's knee is jumping.

“Hey,” Sam says, tries not to sound too sappy, and hears clinking on the other end, like she's doing the dishes. He smiles, thinking of her eating at the same time as him, half a state away and still together.

“You find your dad?”

“No,” he says, and she says, oh, sweetie. “He'll be all right, Dean will find him.”

She huffs a laugh. “Yeah, I get the feeling Dean gets just about whatever he wants.”

Dean snorts, scornful, listening in. Sam bites his lip, looks away out the passenger window, contemplates getting out. It's a big lot for a small roadside chicken shack. An empty thickshake cup rolls across like a tumbleweed in the wind and he gets a weird feeling like if he goes out there he might just blow away as well.

“Sam?” Concern in her voice.

“I'm here,” he says. “Sorry, got – I think we'll be another five or so hours.” He darts a look at Dean and Dean nods.

“I've missed you,” she says. “Isn't that funny?”

“No,” Sam says, quiet, and resentment flares in him, at both of them, Dean for being here to listen, her for making him say it in earshot. “I missed you too.”

“Yeah.” She's smiling. “See you soon babe, drive safe.”

“Always do,” Sam says. Lies. All he does is lie to her. It shouldn't be so easy.

She makes a couple of extravagant kissy noises into the phone and hangs up and he blushes. It's an inside joke, ironic, but with Dean here it feels sincere and lame and like – does Dean think that's who they are, together?

“You like her,” Dean says, dumping the last drumstick in the bag and tossing it over his shoulder, licking his fingers clean.

“Yeah,” Sam says, looking down at the phone, cheeks still burning. Her name glows another second and blacks out.

“Fuckin typical,” Dean says, on the edge of fond, on the edge of cruel. “You're such a soft touch. She's way out of your league.”

“Tell me about it.” Sam turns his phone over a couple of times, puts it in his pocket, looks back out the window. The shack's lit up like an oasis in the dark, the night finally arrived. The trees are bare shivering silhouettes.

“She figured you out yet?”

“I haven't told her about hunting. That's how I want it.”

“Didn't tell her much about me, though, did you?”

“I told her I've got an asshole for a brother,” Sam says, and flicks a glance at him. Tries a smile that gets him nowhere. Scratches his nose and looks away and gives voice to something he's been contemplating for the last hour. “Guess you'll have to show her otherwise.”

“Huh?”

“I mean, when you visit.”

Dean is silent a while.

“You want me to visit?”

“Yeah, I mean. Maybe it would be--”

“Let me get this straight. You left us and Dad's missing and you want me to drive around by myself looking for him and drop in every Sunday for high tea?”

“Dean--”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“What would be so bad?”

“Hanging out in California with you and your girlfriend while people are dying out here?”

Fiancée, Sam almost says, but it's not true. Not yet. “Whatever,” he mutters, instead.

Dean laughs, bitter, bleak.

“Don't ever change, kiddo.”

It doesn't even hurt anymore, Sam thinks, feeling it press behind his eyes, knot in his throat. It doesn't hurt.

“Whatever,” he says, again, and can't hide the strain. “Let's go.”

Dean is shaking his head, angry.

“You make me so-- you drive me fuckin nuts, Sam, I can't--” His voice is tight and his hands are in Sam's hoodie, pulling Sam all out of place, his guts sliding queasy and anticipatory and Dean's breathing loud and Sam's not sure what's happening here.

Dean gets a knee on the seat and comes at Sam hunched and doubled over, a dire light in his eye and Sam sinks down to get away from him and gets a clue real fast.

“Let me,” Dean whispers, scrabbling at his jeans and Sam makes the worst kind of wanton sound in the back of his throat and shoves him back. Sprawls him out against the driver's door, his elbow jammed in the wheel.

Colour in his cheeks, his lips and his eyes hot and desperate and Sam breathes deep and looks at him.

Something in him twisted and wrong whispers: interview tomorrow, Jessica tomorrow, the rest of his life tomorrow, last chance, last chance, to see Dean, to see Dean, to have him the way Sam wants him, and he makes another kind of sound, a greedy oh kind of sound and his mouth floods with need and his whole body reaches for his brother, fingers fumbling Dean's fly open.

He touches Dean, brings him out as he gasps, pants, already panting so fast. Dean's cock is as gorgeous as the rest of him and darker, purer, unhidden, and it's so hot, leaking, it feels so good, he doesn't wanna, he doesn't wanna touch anything else in the world ever again.

He twists his hand and brings it down on the wrong side of tight. Dean whimpers, winces, and a flower of dirty satisfaction blooms in Sam's chest, sends its roots deep, turns him into someone who could look at his brother with punishment in mind.

He settles down closer and licks his lips.

Sam, his brother's mouth shapes, riot on his face, worry and want and too much for Sam to decipher. Sam jacks him base to tip and watches the pleasure ride him, subside and then he says, out loud this time and hoarse like it's hurting him, “no, Sam, wait.”

“You started this,” Sam says, a growl, and Dean shakes his head wide-eyed and wordless and all of that macho shit he pours on has disappeared into terror. Sam's brother is afraid of him or afraid of this maybe, and still his cock is straining up under Sam's hand, jumping almost like it wants into Sam and Sam blinks and wakes into shock, like he's been doused with cold water.

What is he doing?

He turns his head and rests it on Dean's thigh and claws in the dark for his reason. Tentative fingers light down on the back of his head, barely there, and his guts clench and his cock throbs in his jeans and he groans and ducks from under, pulls away.

He doesn't want this.

He doesn't want Dean to be the only thing he ever sees. He doesn't think it's sustainable. He doesn't think his love can survive that. He doesn't think his soul can.

And he's got. He's got Jess now.

He pushes himself upright and back onto his side of the car, back into the space he's supposed to occupy. Wipes his hand on his jeans, adjusts himself as covertly as he can, pulls his shirt and hoodie down.

He's so tired. He closes his eyes so he doesn't have to see anything more. He hears rustling, a zip. The seat shifts under him. Dean is breathing heavy still but out of anger or blue balls Sam can't tell. He rests his elbow against the window and puts his face in his hand. He can smell his brother on his skin and a stupid pitiful hope flits through him that it's sunk in so deep it will never wash away.

“Take me home,” he says, and there's a long pause. Endless and silent. A minute or two, and then Dean knocks the back of his hand to the side of Sam's thigh, as he's done a million times, and starts the car.

::

2018

The bunker burns too brightly, too intensely, for anything natural. That would be the wards fighting the spells. And the thing they've trapped in there fighting them both.

It's late afternoon, and cold. A fine day for a fire.

Dean stands next to him, hands in his pockets, staring steadfast. He's got a couple of days of stubble on him lit up copper by the flames and a lifetime's worth of care in the weary set of his mouth, the creases by his eyes.

The car, on the other side of Dean, glows orange, light sliding along her unsteady and inconstant.

A scream starts up from inside, piercing, unearthly and doubled, layered, harmonising in a minor key. The antichrist has a good voice, Sam thinks. He checks Dean for sign of a flinch or pain but if it was there Sam missed it.

Still he knows Dean's feeling the loss on multiple fronts, and that's mostly Sam's fault. Dean had never wanted Jack in the first place. Sam had brought him home. Sam had thought they could do good by him. He'd hoped. He'd really – he'd really hoped that the kid would turn out all right.

It hadn't lasted long. Sam gave up on him pretty quick. He knows what unredeemable looks like.

Dean had held out longer, stubborn and committed now that he was in it. Always picking up where Sam left off. Trying to clean up Sam's messes. Maybe that was why he'd tried to stop Sam bringing him home in the first place; some sense that he'd wind up entangled against his will. That there'd be a cost they'd have to fight not to pay.

The bunker.

Sam mourns his books. He mourns his bed. He mourns the coffee machine.

Dean is mourning something bigger than that, he thinks.

It's been burning half an hour now, the smoke high in the sky. It's never quite the blue-grey of a house or woodfire, and it seems too heavy. There's a wind pushing Sam's hair awry, lifting his collar, rustling the leaves behind him, but the smoke billows straight up, in a column.

Any early worries he'd had about sparks and the fire spreading are gone now. It is very contained. Eating their home thoroughly, methodically, carefully. It doesn't care for grass, trees, brush; it's not interested in such mundanities. It wants power.

It's hot, though.

They pull back fifty feet, Sam walking, Dean idling in first, off the road and down into the field, the ground half-frozen.

Winter's come three months early to northern Kansas. Every last person in the state has gone into shock over it.

That's Sam's fault too.

Dean sits in the car a moment to make sure she's not sinking, turns her off and saunters across the collapsed rotting soy back to Sam.

They watch again. Dean's closer this time, their sleeves brushing.

Jack's song stops; starts again and peters out, death perhaps or just drowned by the wildfire roar, the collapse of a wall. They can hear glass shatter from here, a remote cheery tinkle.

“Guess it had to happen eventually,” Dean says, quiet and dry. He's not showing much, which is how Sam knows it's gone deep.

Sam looks at him.

“I'm sorry,” he says, and the corner of Dean's mouth lifts, tender, and he sighs through his nose like Sam is a lost cause.

“Sam,” he says, a little warmer. “No. You don't have anything to be sorry about.”

“I'm still sorry.” It sits heavy in his chest, years of it, years and years and centuries of sorry. His eyes fill with it. His body aches, too small for it.

Dean nudges him with his elbow and turns his head, meets Sam's gaze steady and unwavering and Sam thinks that he's never seen his brother so quiet in his skin, so pared down, absent anger or fight, mischief or glee or hurt, absent everything except being. Being in sorrow.

“Hey,” Sam murmurs, and cuffs him on the cheek, and holds him a moment. Dean lets him. His eyes are so clear.

Every now and then Sam realises all over again how beautiful his brother is.

He thumbs along Dean's cheekbone.

A siren floats in on the wind.

Dean closes his eyes, breathes deep. His lips part fractionally.

He's waiting, Sam knows. Sam's been waiting himself, but now – he doesn't want it out of grief, he's never, he's never kissed Dean before and to have it taste like grief might honestly be too much for Sam, might break him right in two. It's always gone so badly.

Don't they deserve better?

He smooths Dean's cheek again and drops his hand and Dean opens his eyes and looks back to the bunker. The moment passes, and regret hits Sam like a bullet, grinding deep and wounding.

Mistake. Another mistake. Add it to the pile. He could have held Dean, could have cared for him, been what he needed and that would have been good, would have inflected the grief, transformed it. That's what Dean deserves.

He puts his hand in his pocket, still warm from Dean's skin, still tingling with the prickle of his stubble. Dean takes a long last look at the home where he'd woken up that morning and folds away; Sam watches him walk to the car, his tread heavy, his shoulders bowed under his jacket, and Sam's hands ache to comfort, too slow to reach out again.

Sam takes his own last look at the fire, still blazing, particoloured, a temple raised and aflame in the desert.

Sam's lost a home before. He's lost plenty of homes before. He can do it again.

He turns his back on it. Inside the car Dean is futzing with the tapedeck, searching for a soundtrack to a brave new world.

In the car they'll be close. They'll have hours before they stop.

Next time, he thinks, and closes his hand around the lingering feel of his brother, and makes it a vow. Next time.

::

The end