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Sam stared up into the sky until the brilliance of the blue made his eyes hurt.

He didn’t get many moments like this, anymore. Quiet. Undirected. It had to be Sunday; Castiel only ever left them this long on Sundays. Flocks to lead; blasphemers to smite.

Sam closed his eyes and let the warmth of the sunshine soak into his skin, running his fingers through the grass beneath him.

The grasses were tall, already, lush from a wetter spring than usual. It would be a few more weeks before they were tall enough to scythe for the cows for winter, but they were tall enough for the illusion of blissful privacy, to make the world nothing but a fringe of green and endless sky. His back itched and his thighs prickled, and he wasn’t sure if it was from stiff stalks or bugs, but he wasn’t going to move for anything less than the threat of a beating, right now. Ticks and chiggers barely registered when you had an angry god to contend with.

When his cheeks began to sting from the heat, Sam sighed and rolled onto his belly. He pillowed his head on one arm, shaking his hair from its braid to spread over his face for a sunscreen. The scrap of fabric that had tied it had been part of an ancient plaid shirt, once, long since worked to death. Nothing inherently valuable, but he twined it around his fingers so he wouldn’t lose it, just the same. They’d figured out years ago that things like that wouldn’t be replaced if they wore out. It didn’t pay to be wasteful with anything, however trivial. Even sunshine. Even time.

Sam woke—he didn’t remember drifting—when a cool shadow stretched across his back. Dean. Fingers clumsy with sleep, he fumbled the curtain of hair behind an ear, blinking his eyes clear.

Dean was crouched beside him, brow knit tight with some unspoken concern, and Sam tried to say with a soft smile that it was all right—whatever it was, it would be all right. Dean tried to smile back, but it was weak and thin as water.

Yeah, thought Sam. Me, too.

Dean had taken to the slow destruction of his modesty with less visible distress than Sam; Sam still managed to cobble together a crude loincloth, most days, the remains of a flour sack or a t-shirt, but Dean had been naked for longer than Sam could quite remember, burning in the sun over and over until finally his freckles were dark as molten copper, never fading.

Peter Pan, Sam thought. Or a Lost Boy. Crouching naked as a child, wild-haired and sharp-eyed, in the grass.

Dean prodded his shoulder gently—time to get up. Sam sighed, and turned his face into the grass, offering the hair tie up to Dean. It could wait, but Sam would cling to those few more moments in the field however he could. Dean obliged him, sinking to his knees.

Sam could have rebraided it himself, but there was something about the tiny act of care that had grabbed hold of Dean and he’d guarded it jealously since. Sam had taken to clumsily braiding it behind his neck when it had started getting in his way, but it wasn’t more than a week—Sam hadn’t even realized Dean had been watching—before Dean had picked up the basics and taken over, batting his hands out of the way any time Sam went to braid it on his own.

Sam didn't have the heart to take it from him. Human contact was precious, too.

Dean’s fingers were permanently stained with grime and calloused beyond recognition, but when they sank into Sam’s hair, they were gentle, combing through cautiously before dividing and plaiting in slow, easy motions. It hung halfway down his back, now, sunstreaked with gold, from what Sam could tell. Their only mirror had been window glass for so long that he didn’t even know if they were good braids, straight or lopsided, but when Castiel had noticed one the first time, he’d smiled, wrapping it around his fingers fondly. “Veh-var-beh-seh,” he’d said. Sam had held very still; he’d heard that one in the cage, usually when his insides were on the outside. He thought it meant ‘beautiful.’ With his stomach still turning at the memory, he’d let Castiel use it as an anchor to draw Sam into his arms. Better a memory than a hallucination. Always better.

Dean hadn’t learned that lesson as quickly as Sam had. The scars had stopped bothering to heal. But Castiel knew them, maybe better than anyone else in the world apart from each other. Once Sam was the one paying for Dean’s disobedience, Dean learned fast. Now, when their god commanded worship, they worshipped.

The end of the braid fell heavy between Sam’s shoulders, and Sam’s reprieve was up. He pushed up to his hands and knees, arching to stretch, before letting Dean give him a hand up from the earth. He dusted off with broad strokes.

Sam raised his eyebrows in question, nodding toward the house, but Dean shook his head. Castiel wasn’t back, then. Sam frowned, curious, but waited for Dean to lead the way.

Embarrassment put a little color in Dean’s face, but he made a shooing gesture, to send Sam off further afield ahead of him. Sam must have let his what-the-hell? face show, because Dean grunted, frustrated. Sam capitulated, raising his palms. Okay, okay. Show me.

Shyer now, Dean gestured off into the distance again and gave him a little push.

Unsure how he was supposed to lead when he didn’t know where they were going, Sam tried an “after you” gesture, but it only got him another grunt, this one louder and rawer. He could almost pretend Dean was barking his name, could almost hear the familiar scolding. But it had been years since either of them had heard any voice but Castiel’s, any language but Enochian.

(“The tongue can no man tame,” their god had said—in English, for the last time, James 3:8. “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” And like it was a blessing, like it was peace, he’d touched both their mouths and made them “dumb as the beasts of the field,” and closed them into their barn for the night. Dean had shouted wordlessly, pounding his fists into the walls, until his voice gave out.)

Dean’s hands were balled into fists again, eyes darting restlessly. After a long, teeth-grinding moment, he crouched low, like a sprinter waiting for the pistol. Run.

When Sam still hesitated, Dean gave him another nudge forward, but stayed hovering, ready to leap. Chase.

Sam felt relief wash over him, partly for understanding, partly for knowing there wasn’t some pressing danger or discovery ahead. If Dean just needed to let off steam, there were worse ways than a race. Better than the times Dean just tackled him without notice, itching to spar, to get out of his head at the point of Sam’s fists. Better than the times he glared into the eyes of a god and dared him wordlessly to take it out of Dean's hide.

Sam reached out, giving Dean’s shoulder a long touch. Just to make contact. I understand, he meant, or something like it. I’m here.

Dean’s fingers curled tight around Sam’s wrist, bracing. He was still coiled tight as a spring, but something had softened in his eyes. The smile he gave when he let go, giving Sam another light push, seemed genuine. It took years off of his face, and weight off of Sam’s shoulders.

Lost Boys, Sam thought again, and took off at a run.

***

Sam was faster, but the sleep was still in his joints, making them sluggish and watery, and they were almost to the river when Dean barreled into him, knocking him down into the clover and dandelion. He was pretty sure he’d be scraped up, but the soft sawing in his chest—was he laughing? he couldn’t remember what it felt like, anymore—made him think it was worth it.

Dean was panting on top of him, so Sam gave him time to catch his breath, reaching out to pinch one of the clover flowers off between his fingers to suck the sweet sap. Maybe he’d gather dandelion greens to add to dinner, yellow flowers to strew over Castiel’s table (details like that sometimes earned a few hours or days of softness), maybe tuck one into his own hair to see if he could make Dean laugh, too—

Dean was stiff as a board, on Sam’s back, tensed all over. That was wrong. Sam twisted his neck to see, half turning his body, but Dean dug his fingers into Sam’s shoulders to hold him down, not ready to let him up.

Sam frowned, and started plucking the tender leaves he could reach without moving, an illusion of distraction. Dean’s face was tucked into the crook of Sam’s shoulder, damp with sweat, his breath coming in hot puffs down Sam’s neck.

Sam had enough greens for salad and soup besides, when Dean finally steeled himself and rolled off. Before Sam had even finished gathering the greens into his loincloth, Dean had plunged himself neck-deep into the cold creek.

***

Sam managed to tuck at least a dozen yellow and white flowers into his and Dean’s hair before they’d finished their walk back to the barn. He didn’t get a laugh for it—Dean was brooding, and Sam couldn’t tell why—but when they caught their dim reflections in a window, Dean did crack a real smile, and bumped a shoulder into his side. Even Dean’s hair could be Peter Pan’s, now, shaggy and sticking out at odd angles, full of flora. (He’d never tolerated it touching his neck, so Sam had done what he could to keep it shorn, along with their beards, but no crude barn tool could do what a barber could, no matter how long they spent with whetstones.)

Sam sent Dean to the well while he entered the old farmhouse through the kitchen. He wanted to get the greens out of his loincloth and washed in a bowl as soon as possible; he’d rather not send any mixed signals by flashing Castiel when he came in. (Castiel would do what he would do, but he seemed to prefer the illusion of his pets worshipping freely in their new Eden, when he could get it.)

No such luck. Castiel looked up from quiet contemplation of the large wooden table as soon as Sam let himself in, and the surprised twinkle in his eyes made Sam sure he’d taken in the skin that was still dewy from a dip in the river, the flowers, and the flash of Sam’s nakedness before he could hastily drop the cloth. Sam knelt quickly to gather the leaves from the floor, trying not to regret his morning, whatever it made of his afternoon.

“Sam,” Castiel said, fondly, and "veh-var-beh-seh dar-bess," which Sam was pretty sure was praise—for his beauty, for his obedience. Sam didn’t look up, tried to look too concerned with his mess. But their god liked them on their knees, and soon Castiel was standing over him, one hand gentle on the back of Sam’s skull.

The door swung open too fast, knocking into Sam and barely opening wide enough to let Dean through with his pail of water. When he saw Sam rocking forward into Castiel’s knee, Dean froze, gaping.

Castiel quietly commanded, "Dean, tah-leh-hoh," though he must know as well as Sam did that Dean wouldn’t understand. Sam quickly mimed a bowl, and Dean broke to get one, crouching back down beside Sam to help. There was a brittle moment, their hands bumping over the bowl as they both scooped leaves from the floor, where Dean’s eyes darted restlessly between Sam’s face, Sam’s hands (which were shaking a little), and Castiel’s hand in his hair, and Sam was sure he was teetering over some decision. He almost forgot to wish he could ask what it was.

Sam could tell the moment when the decision was made, though, from the way Dean's face set but his eyes wouldn't meet Sam's. When the last leaf was up, Dean pushed the bowl firmly into Sam’s hands and nudged him away toward the pail of water, and before Sam could even give a nervous glance up toward Castiel, Dean had gotten down on both knees and placed his body between them.

Castiel’s hand lingered on Sam’s hair for a long moment, but Dean was curling both hands around Castiel’s wrists, bumping his cheek against one, a passable show of affection. With the flowers in his wild hair and his brave little look up from under his lashes, Sam didn’t think anyone would have been able to resist. Not even God.

Sam crept away to wash the greens as soon as Castiel’s hand left him, drifting instead to cup Dean’s face. There was a look of awe, of quiet pleasure, and then they were gone in a flutter of wings, leaving Sam alone with his survivor’s guilt.

***

Sam cooked, but couldn’t eat. When he ran out of useful work, he cleaned what didn’t need to be cleaned, ground grain they wouldn’t need for a week. But dusk fell with no sign of Dean reemerging, so he lit the lanterns, retired to the barn with enough food for two, and huddled in the hay under two blankets, even though it was a warm night. Soon he was up again, though, whittling nervously at the needle he'd been trying to carve from a piece of bone. He gave up when he kept catching his thumb on the blade.

All he could see was Dean on his knees, stupid and beautiful, protecting Sam with his body. A sacrifice on the altar.

He’d lain awake another hour, the lantern barely more than a flicker, when the barn door finally groaned on its hinges.

It took all of his effort, but Sam pretended to sleep, eyes shut tight, to give Dean the imagined dignity of no witnesses. But Dean let out a strange little sound to call his attention, needy and shapeless, and Sam lurched upright, alarmed.

Dean’s mouth was slack, but his brow was knit tight, and Sam thought he must be hurting, must be in pain. He reached out, beckoning Dean into the soft circle of light from the lantern. But when he reached it, the only damage Sam could see was a littering of faint dark spots over his hips that would be bruises by morning, and a mouth a little swollen and flushed with use. A thin sheen of sweat covered him all over, leaving him glittering in the lamplight, and though most of the flowers had fallen from his hair, he still looked strangely beautiful, otherworldly.

There was a moment of hovering while Dean curled and uncurled his fists, at the edge of some new precipice, and Sam tried to promise with his eyes that he was there, that whatever Dean needed, he could give. Anything; he would give anything.

Sam thought Dean must have understood. The need was so naked in his eyes that it made Sam’s chest ache, and all at once Dean surged forward onto his knees, butting their foreheads together and grappling aimlessly over Sam’s waist, skin clammy from the cooling sweat. Sam tried to draw him into a hug, into warmth, humming mindless comfort, but Dean leaned hard until he’d tipped them down together into the hay, belly to belly and nose to nose.

Sam thought of the morning, of how sharp Dean’s eyes had been, of that frisson of tension running through him while he lay on Sam’s back. He thought of the wild chase through sun and meadow like they were hare or deer, wound tight with need and trembling with the onset of spring.

Oh, he thought. Oh.

Spring.

Sam smiled faintly and wrapped a hand, suddenly clumsy with nerves (but not doubt, not even a little doubt) around the back of Dean’s neck, an arm around his waist, and tipped their foreheads together again until their mouths were so close that their breath mingled warm between them. Dean's was sour and sweet with Castiel's wine, and Sam could smell traces of incense on his skin with the sweat.

Dean closed his eyes tight and let out a sharp breath, fingers digging tight into Sam's hip, Sam's shoulder, like he was the last anchor Dean had to the world. Maybe he was.

Gentle as he could, Sam pressed their mouths together.

Spring.

Dean let out a sound like pain, like grief and mourning, and broke open, pushing into Sam's mouth, all tongue and teeth. Sam tried tentatively to twist his tongue up to Dean's but it was like swimming against a dam break, so he suckled Dean's tongue and tried to make soothing noises, to pet at Dean's back, to calm and defuse. But Dean was too raw, too close to coming apart, maybe, and only latched on tighter in return, digging a hand painfully into Sam's hair and grinding his hips down hard into Sam's.

It felt like Help me. It felt like scared, like falling, like catch me. So Sam tried.

Fingers still a little numb, Sam fiddled at his hip to find the tie that held his would-be garment together, but when Dean caught on, he grappled his fist into the fabric and tore until stitches gave and they were skin to skin. Sam huffed frustration--every repair would lose fabric, would lose cover--but when Dean's fingers got between them, nudging blindly until their lengths were pressed flush together, lined up hard and damp with sweat, it evaporated.

Sam tried fleetingly to remember the last time he'd had sex for his own sake, and then tried not to. It had been too long since he'd been with any body but Castiel's, and the act felt foreign, clumsy and strange, like trying to remember the words of a song you hadn't heard in years. He felt like a teenager again, awkward and nervous while they tangled legs and arms and mouths, but hungry, too, like Dean's need was infectious, or maybe the instinct for spring was, beckoning bodies to join, to chase and catch and rut and thrill to it.

Dean hitched one of Sam's legs up onto his hip and rolled down against him, and the pinch of skin catching and dragging made him jerk sharply, but that pulse of lust, of want, left him drunk and careless. He groaned into Dean's mouth, head tipping back until the kiss broke, but that just made Dean fall on his neck like a thing starved, mouthing and biting just a little harder than Sam liked, but not harder than he wanted. In that moment, Dean could have broken the skin and it might not have been enough to quiet the desperation in either of them, the will to be closer than close, merged until every edge blurred into the other.

Dean hissed after another grind of his hips pinched them both wrong, but when he lifted off, reaching to fumble behind the hay where they lay, Sam couldn't fathom why, suddenly couldn't stand the space between them. Grabbing desperately with his hands, with his legs, Sam tried to drag Dean back down on top of him, but Dean batted him down, impatient. The need felt like pain, now, and Sam might have been embarrassed by the whine in his throat if it hadn't made Dean shoot him a ghost of the smile Sam hadn't seen in years, the one full of promise and bravado that said, Hang on, that said, you ain't seen nothin' yet, an ignition roaring to life or a poised machete or a girl in the backseat.

Sam's eyes sank shut and he groaned low in his chest, savoring the promise in that smile, but he clutched at Dean to keep contact, running the flat plane of his palm firm up along his flank. Errant modesty made him stop before he reached Dean's hip, but then seconds passed and Dean still wasn't back on top of him, so he steeled himself and slipped his hand inward, trembling fingertips brushing up, brushing between, glancing over the skin of his sac where it was cool but soft as silk. The sound Dean made was somewhere between a gasp and a gulp, and his body went so tense and taut he was almost shaking with it.

It made Sam dizzy with want and the power of such a small touch. More, he thought, and muscled up onto his knees behind Dean, dipping his face between Dean's thighs until he could swipe his tongue up along the crease of the sac and punch all the air out of Dean on a loud sigh.

There was a scrape and suddenly Dean was up, and Sam found himself landing on his back in the hay, unsure of exactly how Dean had managed it. Dean crawled over him again, this time upright on his knees, unscrewing a jar of oil Sam had been looking for for at least a month. He looked so self-satisfied Sam couldn't help but give him a look of scolding (Really? You hid my lamp oil to jerk off with?) but when Dean's fingers came up dripping with the syrupy slick stuff he was pretty sure his mouth went slack.

Sam nodded, shrugging his eyebrows (Fair enough), then reached both arms up, greedy as a child. Come back, he pleaded with the arch of his belly. Now, he begged with his fingertips. And Dean obeyed.

The jar abandoned, Dean's glossy fist nudged between them, smearing both shafts with the thick oil before squeezing them together. It was messy, and the oil smelled too animal, and the act was strange, but it felt like pure bliss just the same, slipperier than the inside of a girl and tighter. Pressed between the unyielding line of Dean's shaft and Dean's fingers, Sam didn't think he'd ever felt so enclosed, so clutched, as their bellies, wet and heaving, mashed together.

Dean milked them together, strong hand able and wet, and Sam felt like he was drowning, like he couldn't fill his lungs with enough air through the weight of it all. He wrapped his legs up around Dean's body to keep from slipping under.

There was a sound in Dean's mouth then that Sam knew like breathing, even if it took no shape. It was a sigh and a groan at once, tender and aching, affirming and a little frightened and sacred, all in two syllables.

Sammy, he heard, even when he didn't, and delved wildly up into Dean's mouth like he could swallow him from the inside by doing it. He couldn't make himself ease back, even as he split his own lip, mingling metal in with the red wine and the sour tinge of adrenaline, and when Dean's fingers twisted up in Sam's braid tight enough to make his eyes sting, his voice broke in his throat.

Dean twisted his mouth away, but only as far as Sam's jaw, his neck, his shoulder, and that soft sound kept repeating, like Dean was trying to pray Sam's name into his skin. Sammy, always Sammy, and mine, and always.

Sam spilled onto his own belly, stifling a cry in Dean's hair, and then Dean was growling, curling down his body and licking stripes up his skin, nipping and mouthing until Sam was raw and shaking and pleading wordlessly for him to stop. When he finally let up and breathed out hot into Sam's navel, Sam sighed, pet trembling over his scalp, his face, all wonder and ache.

When his hands felt steady enough, Sam tried to pull Dean back up his body, but Dean wouldn't budge, contrary and nosing into the hair low on his belly. Sam sighed soft and let him. He supposed he understood. Their god had taken so much control out of their hands; Sam could give up a little to Dean, now, when he needed it so badly, would gladly ebb so Dean could surge into the space it left.

So when Dean finally pushed up to his hands and knees and rolled Sam bodily onto his belly, Sam went, a nervous twitch in his spine and his gut clenching, but thrumming with the will to give.

The lid scraped off of the jar again, and then the cool, slick gel was smearing over the knot of Sam's tailbone, trickling into the crease of his behind. He sucked a breath, willing his body to relax, to unwind, to remember that this was Dean nestling down onto his back and not Castiel, that in this moment and in this place they could be one another's and no one else's, not even god's.

The thought felt like honey, like heat and sunshine and fresh cream and his brother's fingers in his hair, and Sam melted into the hay, one arm folded under his cheek and the other snaking back to touch Dean, to grip his hip and touch his skin and rub lazy circles into the muscle.

Dean pressed himself flat onto Sam's body, like he could meld them together into one thing, knees slipping down to either side of Sam's thighs and crushing them snug together. The curl of his toes over Sam's calves felt strangely intimate, shy for all of Dean's pushing and gripping, and Sam sent a small smile over his shoulder, reassurance and warmth while he swallowed down at his nerves.

But Dean was gentle as the meadow, now, kissing open mouthed and feverish over Sam's shoulder, the fingers that weren't still wet with oil brushing up over his cheek, his mouth. His erection was rigid and hot, but it was nestled between the swell of muscles, rubbing at the base of Sam's spine in easy circles, and Sam wondered why he felt a little disappointed. He nipped at Dean's fingertips in encouragement just the same.

Dean growled again, a groan gone all dark and low and hungry, and the sound made Sam's spine arch, eager even beneath the heaviness of satiation. When the fingers breached into Sam's mouth, salty on his tongue, he sucked, goading.

Dean could rut on him tonight, beastly and groaning, but Sam would swallow him down in the morning if Dean so much as batted an eye. He promised it with his tongue, with his fingernails scraping light over Dean's hip, with the hitch in his breath, and Dean bit down into his shoulder, muffling an animal sound in Sam's flesh.

The gentleness scattered and Dean ground against him rough, the wet sucking sound of belly and back and cock sliding together obscene in the quiet of the barn. Sam grazed his teeth along Dean's knuckles, sinking into the pulsing pain in his shoulder under Dean's mouth, but trying to feel everything, to etch every second and every sensation onto his skin like the pentagram that was slowly fading on his chest, to make it all now and forever both--their sweat making their skin slide and catch by turns; the increasingly rough slap of Dean's sac against his skin cool but leaving heat behind; the sound of Dean's breath catching and short; the needy grip of his elbows and knees.

When Dean came over his spine, the sound he made was like dying, but Sam's skin felt like it was coming alive, every warm drop and jet making it jolt electric. Dean collapsed against him, heedless of the mess, and his hand shook when he pulled it from Sam's mouth to pet it over his hair, gratitude and relief washing off of him in waves, palpable and overwhelming.

Sam tried for the thousandth time, the hundred-thousandth, to say his brother's name, but it was always a sigh on his tongue. He kissed blindly over Dean's wrist when it came close enough, twisted his arm so the backs of his knuckles could just settle in the dip at the small of Dean's back, and hoped it was enough.

Dean's sigh and nuzzling into his shoulder made him think it might be.

There was a shifting and the lantern snuffed out, and Sam slipped fast into sleep with Dean still heavy and warm on his back. He dreamed of flowers, of deer, of running and flight and spring.