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We Were More Than Just The Seasons

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Sam knew this was going to be a bad idea.

How many times on the drive through the forest just outside of Conner, Montana had Sam told Dean that they shouldn’t be doing this by themselves, that what they should be doing is waiting to hear back from Bobby about a better way to handle the pack of rogue druids they were currently tracking down?

Too many. Too many fucking times. And did Dean listen? Well, would Sam be crouched behind a rotting log with a knife tucked into his belt and a loaded shotgun in his hands if the answer was yes?

“Dean, this is probably the stupidest thing we’ve done since we deliberately got ourselves arrested in Arkansas last month to help out Deacon.” Sam hisses through his teeth to Dean, who is beside him with his own shotgun open across his knees. Sam watches Dean’s fingers deftly slip fresh bullet casings into the barrel and click it shut before his brother’s eyes are flashing up to meet Sam’s irritated stare.

“Sam, we know what these guys are capable of. They killed two people last December and, if they’re following the pattern we think they are, then the next two are gonna be snuffed out if we don’t haul ass and save them in the next fourteen minutes. Would you just shut up and go with me on this?” Dean’s gaze is hard and level and not budging an inch, so Sam sighs.

“I just don’t like going in without knowing exactly what it is they’re up to,” Sam mutters, shifting around on the balls of his feet to stop his legs from going numb. “All we have is that they made the two sacrifices on the winter solstice and, yeah, a couple went missing in Helena under similar circumstances, but ultimately, we’re just guessing that they’re going to make another sacrifice tonight for the summer one. We’re really going out on a limb here, dude. I mean, druids are supposed to be in tune with nature, so it would make sense for these dates to be important to them, but these guys… they’re way off the books. We don’t know for sure, Dean.”

“You just said it yourself, Sam. Similar circumstances. Coinciding dates. All the more reason to go in there, follow the lead we got from the ranger about these reports of weird activity going on out here and take them out if it ends up being them. Can we go now?”

“I didn’t even know the word ‘coinciding’ was a part of your vocabulary.”

“Shut up, Sam.”

Dean stands up and begins to creep forward. Heaving another much more resigned sigh, Sam follows. It’s not like he’s gonna let Dean run in there guns blazing by himself. Especially with this feeling in his chest, the muddy tendril of fear that has been growing and slowly snaking around to grasp Sam’s heart in its grip since they first turned onto the road leading through the woods. He's tried to ignore it, but the further into the forest that they move, the worse the feeling gets, pulling tighter and tighter with every step. Sam knows he has to stay close to his brother. Whatever this is, it’s gonna take the both of them fighting like hell to stop it.

The path Sam and Dean follow to get to the clearing the ranger had reports about is riddled with gnarled roots and potholes that can twist an ankle if one isn’t watching carefully enough. The air and the ground is damp from a recent rain, the usual dirt floor of the forest now sucking at their boots with each step they take. Sam’s brow furrows as he looks behind them and sees the fairly obvious trail they are leaving behind them. It makes him uneasy, but they don’t have any time left to spare to worry about someone tracking them.

There are seven minutes left until the clock strikes twelve and the date changes to June 21st by the time Sam and Dean make it to the edge of the field.

Harsh voices cut into Sam’s ears, carrying on the wind in a dark, heavy language he can’t recognize. Sam and Dean’s eyes meet and a hot spike of fear runs up the length of Sam’s spine when he realizes they stumbled onto exactly what they were looking for. They both spin and press their backs against the rough bark of the trees that hug the outside ring of the clearing they’re about to charge into.

Powerful energy crackles around them, one that makes the ground vibrate beneath Sam’s feet and pushes the wind into strong currents of air that swirl in one direction only to change in a moment’s notice to blow back the other way. Clouds are roiling overhead, turning charcoal black and skittering lightning across their expanse like electrified snakes. Sam can taste the storm on his tongue. When he turns his head to take in the scene before him, Sam can’t help but feel his jaw tense. This is unlike anything he’s ever seen before.

Eight cloaked figures are standing in a circle with their arms outstretched towards each other, their fingertips barely brushing those of the person next to them. They’re swaying in time with the guttural language floating from their mouths, the words they speak sounding like rocks clashing and fires roaring and ice cracking all at once.

Chills break across Sam’s skin as he manages to get a glimpse of two figures standing in the middle of the ring of rogue druids. It’s a man and a woman; the very same couple that was reported missing from Helena just last week, and the very same couple that Sam and Dean can now confirm are being used as the sacrifices or whatever the hell is going on.

The two are facing each other in the center of the ring, their hands clasped together and raised up towards the mass of black clouds overhead. The man is dressed in a snow white robe with a loop of grey rope dangling around his thin hips. His hood is drawn back to show the stark blonde of his hair, and even from here, Sam can see that his eyes are blue. Not run-of-the-mill blue, with an iris and a pupil and the regular white encompassing it all. They are blue, the entirety of both eyes almost an electrified aqua color that is decidedly inhuman. Opposite him is the woman, who is in a robe that can only be described as forest green laced with lighter earth tones and deep browns with a rope that looks like it was woven from autumn leaves. It all makes her look like she is the embodiment of earth. Her black hair spills down her back in a wild cascade of curls, and her eyes are a terrifying mix of fire red and burnt orange.

“Sam!”

The sound of his name breaks Sam out of his trance, his eyes snapping over to his brother. Dean taps the face of the watch on his wrist twice and gestures at the ring of druids with his shotgun with a look on his face that makes it clear he had been trying to get Sam’s attention for too long. Steeling himself, Sam nods back to Dean and tries to ignore the hairs rising on his arm as a warning.

At four minutes until midnight, Sam and Dean are making a break for it across the field, each with a shotgun cocked against their shoulders as they do their best to aim mid-stride. Even before Sam can fire off his first shot, he’s thrown off balance by the strongest gust of wind he’s ever felt in his life, careening him to the side and into the soft ground below. Dean isn’t fairing much better from what Sam can gather when he lifts his head and finds Dean scrambling to stand from the dirt to get to his gun, which is several feet away.

A searing heat flares down Sam’s spine as he feels the stares of the druids turn on him. Raising his gaze, he’s met with eight pairs of staring milky white eyes that regard him as if he’s nothing more than an irritating gnat to be swatted away.

Yeah. They’re definitely in over their head.

Sam’s thought is confirmed when two pillars of light burst from the clouds gathered above them all and descend to encompass both the man and the woman. The waves of power that emanate from each column takes Sam’s breath away and he just knows that whatever this is, whatever these druids are summoning or harnessing the power of, it’s ancient. The one shining on the man is ice white and looks as if snow is flurrying within the cylinder surrounding the man’s body, and the other that encompasses the woman is yellow and orange, like sunlight on a bright summer’s day. The druids are swaying faster now with their voices rising, turning to face the couple and ignoring the existence of Sam and Dean who have finally got to their feet.

Sam makes to step forward, but trips and falls to his hands and knees. Looking back in a panic, he sees roots curling and thrashing from the ground around him, wrapping around his feet and ankles to keep him anchored in the soft earth.

“Dean!” Sam yells in alarm, kicking as hard as he can to keep the twisting roots from getting ahold of him. It’s only a moment later that Sam feels two hands scoop under his arms and haul backwards, pulling him away from the writhing earth.

“We have to stop this now!” Dean roars in Sam’s ear over the chanting and howling wind. Sam grits his teeth and pulls his knife free from his belt. Their guns are useless, laying somewhere on the ground behind them being bent and broken by more roots that have surfaced to try to hold the two brothers at bay. Sam can feel it in his bones that the grand finale is approaching fast and he really, really doesn’t want to stick around for that.

Together, Sam and Dean launch themselves at the druid nearest to them, plunging their knives up into the center of their backs to sever the spinal cord. Two down, six to go. Now that two of their comrades have fallen, the remaining druids have begun to chant even faster and louder, keeping their arms raised as the columns in front of Sam and Dean brighten to an almost blinding level.

Sam turns to take out the druid beside him, but looking around, he can see that there are mere seconds left before the ritual or sacrifice or whatever the hell is complete. Scanning the semicircle in front of him, Sam knows they won’t be able to kill every last druid in time to stop the spell from being finished. So he makes a quick deduction and a stupid decision. A very stupid decision.

Human sacrifices are obviously needed to make this ritual happen. No human in the weird swirly pillars of light equals no ritual. Right?

Sam is moving before he can think twice and watching his palms raising in front of his chest to reach forward and shove the woman out of the yellowy-red column. She stumbles to the side, her hands falling away from where they were entwined with the man’s as soon as she is free. Sam hears a chorus of screams burst around him from the rogue druids as they lose one of their sacrifices, and winces as the shrieks rise an octave higher when he sees Dean lunge forward and yank the man out of his column of light as well.

Midnight hits and everything stops. The cries of the druids cut off at the exact same time that the two now-empty columns flicker, as if losing connection to whatever power the druids were calling upon. Sam makes the mistake of believing that they were able to stop whatever it is from reaching them here on Earth.

It’s the howls that erupt from the cluster of druids that make Sam’s heart drop like a stone as he sees them fall to their knees and claw at their faces. These cries aren’t the ones of disappointment, but of complete and utter fear. Sam spins on the spot, needing to see his brother, needing to have Dean in his line of sight to just confirm that he’s okay, because the hairs on his arms are rising, the smell of ozone in the air is burning in his nose, his heart is beating a vicious tattoo against his ribs, and he just needs to see that Dean is safe so he can anchor and come back himself.

Dean is only an arm's length from Sam, his eyes wide and his chest heaving as he meets Sam’s worried gaze. That only makes it worse when the flickering blue pillar of light steadies and widens its circle until Dean is entirely consumed by the icy cylinder.

A wordless cry breaks from Sam’s lips as he lurches forward, his hand outstretched to grab his brother and pull him to safety when he is suddenly surrounded by yellow and orange and he can’t see Dean anymore.

Everything is blinding heat. Sam's vision is full of a sweeping expanse of red and gold and bright green all tumbling together in a whirlwind before they explode towards him and then are in him, seeping into his pores and his ears and nose and mouth, and it burns, it burns the airs out of his chest so he can't even scream for his brother because he can't remember how to breathe when flames have plastered themselves into the inside of his lungs like elemental wallpaper. A rush of power soars into his veins and leaves him shaking with it, the tingling energy sweeping out to his fingertips and his toes before bouncing back into his abdomen to curl deep in his stomach. It feels like it takes centuries for the heat to crawl through every last inch of his body, the internal fire so intense that Sam is sure that he is about to spontaneously combust.

Then it's gone. Sam feels an invisible hand tighten around the coil in his stomach and yank his body backwards, and the overwhelming heat and pain disappears as he is thrown out of the column and onto the ground several feet away.

Coughing and gasping to fill his lungs back up with oxygen and not flames, Sam struggles to push up onto his elbows. The angry clouds that had produced the two columns of light are disappearing now, sharp gusts of wind blowing them back over the tops of the trees to produce a half moon that gleams down on the clearing in a muted shade of silver. It is with this faint light that Sam looks around to see what exactly he is lying on. The ground around him is covered in a soft, plushy moss that cocoons his body like a feather bed. Wrinkling his nose, Sam even finds small, thin vines with tiny purple flowers starting to creep up his arms. He knows this hadn't been here when he and Dean first entered the clearing. Sam starts. Dean. His head jerks up to scan the area around him to find the only thing he's ever cared about more than himself.

Dean is flat on his back, spread-eagle and not moving, a few meters in front of Sam. Sam pushes himself up and away from the bed of moss and half stumbles, half falls the remaining distance between him and his brother until he collapses next to Dean in the frozen dirt. Frost has started to cling to the blades of grass around Dean's body and the ground is hard beneath Sam's knees.

"Dean," Sam croaks, shaking his shoulder. "Dean, wake up. C'mon, man, wake up."

Sam can feel Dean's cold, cold skin through his shirt and he grits his teeth to keep the tears that are building behind his eyes at bay.

"No. You're not dead, you bastard. Wake up!" Sam yells through a shredded throat, drawing his arm back to connect his fist with Dean's cheek.

Dean's body bucks up with the huge intake of breath that he sucks in and his arms flail to protect his face.

"Motherf–ow, what was that for?" Dean spits as he sits up and presses a hand gingerly to his bright red cheekbone.

It's all Sam can do to throw his arms around Dean's shoulders and drag him into a tight hug of relief. He really just wants to feel his brother breathing against his chest but instead, a wave of cold washes over his skin and tucks deep into the pit of his abdomen, smothering the new and insistent heat that has yet to fade away. It’s both relieving and alarming, and it all feeds into the feeling that is spiking down Sam's arms, an invisible force dancing through his fingertips to pull Dean even closer to him, to meld their bodies together in a contrast of hot and cold.

Dean lashes out, shoving Sam away to scramble to his feet in a way that makes him look like a clumsy toddler.

"You're a fucking furnace, Sam, what the hell?"

The foreign feeling in his hands is dissipating now that Dean has put some space between them. A wave of irritation and impatience rushes into Sam's chest and he has no idea why. Whatever the reason, he can't help but scowl as he pushes his hair out of his eyes and stands up slowly.

"I thought you were dead, Dean. Sorry for wanting to make sure you were still breathing."

Dean isn't looking at Sam anymore, his forehead creasing as he turns in a slow circle to take in the field around them. Sam mimics his brother, lifting his head to see the remaining druids huddled together, all moaning softly with their faces in their hands.

"Do we kill them or do we ask what the hell just happened?" Dean steps closer to Sam to mutter into his ear. He doesn't think that Dean is aware that their shoulders are brushing.

Squinting at the tight circle, Sam tries to concentrate on hearing if they are saying anything specific about what just went wrong or just wailing about their failed ritual. Almost immediately, roots shoot up from the ground around the druids' feet and wrap around each of their ankles. They all cry out and flail their arms, trying to get free.

"Whoa!" Dean yells just as Sam blinks and brings a hand to his stomach, where that weird curling pit that's been there is warming up and tugging forward as if punching Sam's stomach from the inside. The feeling lessens now that Sam's attention is distracted and he can see the roots slowly start to uncurl and loosen their hold on the druids. A nagging feeling of suspicion tickles the back of Sam's mind as he starts to piece together the scene before him.

Just as he’s beginning to grasp what may have just happened, one of the druids crawls forward on dirty hands and knees until he is in front of Sam and Dean. They both have their spare knives in hand within seconds and Sam braces his muscles in a defensive stance to await the first blow.

What he doesn't expect to happen is for the man, because it is a man now that he has torn back his hood to reveal a bald and heavily tattooed head, gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes, to produce a jagged dagger that glints a heavy red in the moonlight, as if the very blade has been forged from blood. Sam can feel Dean tense beside him, ready to engage in a fight, and Sam shifts one foot forward, raising his knife in front of him as a warning.

Both Sam and Dean jerk back as the druid draws his arms out in front of his chest, turns the dagger towards his body and plunges the weapon into his heart, right up to the hilt. A choke breaks from Sam's lips as the man fixes him in an intense stare, blood slipping from the corner of his mouth. He gasps out one last foreign word, and Sam knows it is directed right at him even if he can't understand it, then keels over with a final exhale.

"What–" Dean starts to say, only to be cut off by the rest of the druids lining up on their knees behind their fallen comrade. All of them produce a dagger of their own, but three of them are a deep blue where the last two are the same red as the first. Each man drives their respective dagger into their hearts, a grotesque version of human dominos unfolding before Sam and Dean as every single one utter the same word as the first before toppling over, dead.

It takes a moment for Sam to close his mouth from gaping in shock at the line of bodies stretching out in front of him and his brother. Turning to meet Dean's equally freaked out stare, it isn't hard to mutually decide to tack this experience on their list of top five strangest things to ever happen to them.

"Okay, now that was fucking weird. What the hell was that all about?" Dean edges forward and nudges the toe of his boot into one of the druids. The corpse doesn't move. "Did they just sacrifice themselves? To us?"

Sam's eyes dart up and down the fallen bodies and zero in on the strange daggers.

"Yeah, Dean," Sam blows out a long, slow breath. "I think they might have."

Dean mutters something that Sam can't hear and backs away while rubbing vigorously over his arms with both hands. As much as he and this weird foreign heat in the bottom of his stomach want to go over and wrap his arms around his brother to keep him warm, and he doesn’t know for certain why Dean would be cold right now since it is the end of June, there's something yanking Sam's attention back to those colored knives. Manoeuvring himself around the corpses, Sam crouches down and pulls the ruby red dagger with a stomach-turning sucking noise from the one who had started the gruesome chain reaction, followed by one of the dark blue ones from the druid right behind the first. Standing up, Sam uses the hem of his shirt to wipe the blood from the two blades.

"Oh, gross, dude." Dean is peering around Sam with the same face he usually reserves for those moments when a Top 40 song starts blaring in the diner they’ve chosen to eat at for the day. Sam's suddenly hyper-aware of the feeling of Dean's chin brushing the top of his shoulder. He has to make a conscious effort to step away from his brother to go and pick up their mangled shotguns, the roots that had bent and twisted the metal barrels no longer breaching the earth. It’s as if they had never been there at all.

"They must have some kind of significance if they all chose to die by these particular blades. I just want to see if there’s anything to research about them and whatever the hell this is." Sam waves his arm around the field before his eyes land on the two sacrifices that he and Dean saved, both lying unconscious a few meters away. Swearing, Sam grabs his shotgun and jogs over to the woman, kneeling by her head to check her pulse. It’s there, thrumming weakly against Sam’s fingers, but it’s there. Sam looks up to see Dean grabbing the guy’s wrist, two fingers pressed tight against the pale skin on the inside of his forearm before meeting Sam’s eyes and nodding.

“We need to get them to a hospital.” Sam blusters out a sigh, tucking his shotgun into his armpit before working his hands underneath the woman’s shoulders and behind the bend of her knees to heave her up as he stands. He blinks in surprise as he registers that she’s barely a burden of weight, and any signs of fatigue that had been threatening to overcome him before he and Dean got sucked into those pillars of light are gone.

Sam feels good, considering. Really good. By the way that Dean jostles the unconscious man over one shoulder, anchoring him with an arm around the back of the man’s thighs, Dean isn’t feeling too drained either. Sharing a mutual shrug, both of them carry their would-be sacrifices and guns back through the trees they came through and start to make their way back to the Impala.

Sam’s skin tingles with every brush of a branch and every crunch of a leaf beneath his feet. Passing through the woods, he finds himself drawn to things he never noticed before; the crackled texture of the bark on every tree, the way the damp earth carries more scents than just dirt like decomposing leaves and the promise of new sprouting plants worming through the nutrient-rich soil. Sam doesn’t even realize he’s slowed down to stare at the closed buds on a bush of flowers until Dean is yelling at Sam to hurry his pansy ass up, Dean’s fuckin’ freezing over here. With an irritated sigh, Sam follows the deep impressions of his brother’s boots until he comes around the corner of the path to find Dean offloading his guy into the backseat of the Impala. Coming around to the other side, Sam does the same with the woman, propping her listless body up as best he can before buckling her in, tossing the mangled shotgun in the space under her feet right afterward.

They both slam the doors shut at the same time and meet each other’s eyes over the roof of the car. Dean leans forward, his hands clasped together on the sleek black metal. His fingers keep opening and closing over the backs of his hands, trying to get the blood flowing, Sam assumes. The deep craving to reach across the roof and cover them with his own sends an uncomfortable thrill down into Sam’s stomach. He shoves his fingers into the back pockets of his jeans, not trusting them to listen to his better judgement.

Sam really fucking wishes he could stop wanting to touch his brother. They’ve always been close, far closer than any other brothers they had run into in their many travels as Dad carted them across the country. Their ‘us against the world’ mentality instilled in them due to their serially absent father certainly helped with that. They know each other inside and out, quirks and pet peeves, buttons and all. Dean’s always been a little overprotective of Sam, an unfortunate habit that has carried on from childhood to the present, and, sure, maybe Sam had a stint of worshipping his older brother and the very ground he walked on, but most siblings have that sort of deal going on between them. In the end, they’re all they have. That’s how it’s always been, and now with Dad gone, it seems that that’s how it’s always going to be. And Sam’s okay with that, because as long as Dean is there, he knows he’s going to be able to keep going, to avenge the deaths of all those dear to their hearts.

That being said, Sam knows that he has never felt something as intense as this before, whatever this is; the burning roiling pit of fire that is urging him to slip up behind his brother and draw Dean into his chest, the invisible force that is prickling under his skin even now to whisper encouragements into his ears, telling him that the unsettling heat in his belly can be diminished if he only just brushes the nape of Dean’s neck, gets his hands on his brother’s body. And God, does Sam wish he could be doused in cold like when he hugged Dean right after they were thrown from the columns of light, because he’s itching with the ever-present tingle of warmth on his skin, a constant hum of just this side of uncomfortable. But rational thought forces Sam to take a deep breath and resist, because somewhere in himself, he knows that these thoughts, these urges, the place that they come from, won’t stop if he just nudges his shoulder against Dean’s. He can sense that he will just crave more and more and more, so it’s better to head it all off now, tell himself it’s not going to happen because this is Dean, this is his brother, and all these stupid feelings can just tuck back into the pit in his stomach and stay there, thanks very much.

“Hey. You with me?” The snapping of fingers pulls Sam’s vision back into focus, his eyes finding Dean staring at him with a weird expression on his face.

“What? Oh. Yeah. Yeah, sorry, I’m here.” Sam relinquishes one of his hands from his pocket to rub over his jaw as he blinks himself back to reality. “Did you say something?”

Dean crosses his arms and tucks his hands under his armpits as he jerks his head back in the direction of the clearing.

“The druids. What’re we supposed to do about them? Just leave them there?”

Sam gnaws on his bottom lip, squinting into the dark spaces between the trees as he rolls over ideas in his head.

“It’s unlikely anyone is gonna come out this way, especially this late. We have to get these two to a hospital, so we can't get rid of the bodies just yet." Sam taps a finger on the roof of the Impala before meeting Dean's stare again. "Let's come back tomorrow, take care of them then."

Dean pauses, forehead crinkling a little as his eyes flick back and forth between both of Sam's before he shrugs and opens the driver's side door.

"Fine with me. Need to take a shower anyway. I look like I just got done participating in a mud wrestling contest, and not the good kind."

Sam slides into the passenger seat, a suppressed smile twitching on his face. At least Dean hasn't changed.

The memory of freezing skin beneath Sam's fingers makes him shiver and turn to look out the window as Dean pulls out onto the road.

Well. Not much, anyway.

-

They drop off the man and woman at the hospital, explaining that they found them unconscious on the side of the road. Unfortunately, since they are the only ones who know the couple and the unconscious pair don't have any identification, the nurses force Sam and Dean to sit in the waiting room under a watchful eye for hours as the man and woman are examined. Doctors keep coming out and asking questions that they don't have the answer to. Sam does most of the talking, and only once they've been informed that the couple are stable and just need time to wake up, they're allowed to leave. It's late morning by the time Sam and Dean make their way back to the motel, Dean grumbling the entire time that he has mud and leaves in places they were never meant to be.

Sam finds that he doesn't mind the blades of grass clinging to his forearms and the back of his neck, idly picking them off to roll between his fingertips as he follows Dean inside their room. Dean is shucking off his jacket and throwing it over the bedspread, rubbing his hands together as if trying to start a fire between his palms. Sam's eyes follow Dean's movements on their own accord, drawn to how pale he looks in the dimly lit room. Sam feels it again, the tug and the want to wrap himself around Dean, craving the coolness that would flood from his brother's skin and into him to douse the roiling flame in the pit of his stomach.

Then Dean has to go and accidentally bump into Sam on his way to the shower. That overwhelming wave of whatever the hell has made its new home in Sam’s body pulses through him at the feeling of Dean’s chest against his own. He can’t stop himself from reaching up to clasp around Dean’s biceps, warring between wanting to draw Dean closer or shove him away.

It turns out he doesn’t have to choose at all, because suddenly there are freezing hands slipping under his shirt, palming the width of Sam’s hips. Sam sucks in a gasp, chills breaking over his skin as Dean’s fingers worm their way up his sides, seeking whatever warmth he can from Sam’s body. It feels just as good as he imagined, the roaring heat inside of Sam smothered down to a bearable level as Dean's calloused fingertips drag over the valleys of Sam's ribs. Sam’s grip on his brother tightens as Dean steps even closer, the cold tip of his nose slipping up the line of Sam’s neck as shallow breaths break from Dean’s mouth to wash over Sam’s collarbone.

Sam’s voice has officially failed him, the only thing in his throat being a lump that is slowly choking off his air. Cool fingers trail up even further, rucking the material of Sam’s shirt up with them as Dean splays his thumbs wide to cover the skin of Sam’s stomach, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Sam shivers as his own hands drag up the length of Dean’s neck to cup his face, panting into the hair just above Dean’s ear. Both of them are trembling as the space between them disappears, their bodies coming together as if it had always been inevitable. Like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, they were meant to merge into one.

It’s when Sam turns his head and slides his lips across the defined line of Dean’s cheekbone that the moment breaks. Dean is off of Sam in record time, stumbling a few steps backwards to put some distance between them as he shoves two hands into his hair and spins around to give Sam a view of his tense back. Letting out a stream of swear words that would make even a sailor cringe, Dean bolts into the bathroom and slams the door hard enough that it opens again, unable to latch from the force that Dean put behind his initial push. A resolute second slam follows and the door stays shut, the loud click of the lock echoing afterward and leaving Sam with an open mouth and empty arms, abandoned in the middle of their motel room.

In true Winchester fashion, they don’t talk about it.

Dean comes out of the shower half an hour later, telling Sam there’s no hot water left and that he’s going to get them some lunch before rushing out of the door like the devil himself is nipping at his heels. All Sam can do is sit on the end of his bed and stare out the window as the Impala rumbles from the parking lot, the once-tampered blaze in his belly now scalding him from the inside out.

Turns out that the lack of hot water is actually a good thing. Sam keeps the shower stream on the coldest setting, the pressure hitting his neck and back like ice pellets. He’s shivering by the end of it, but at least he doesn’t feel like he’s about to melt out of his skin anymore. But like all good things, it doesn’t last nearly long enough. He’s in a pair of loose shorts and a white undershirt by the time Dean returns with two take-out bags, grease dotting the bottom half of the brown paper in dark blotches.

“I ate half of your fries,” Dean comments off-handedly as he sits at the small table across from Sam and starts unloading their food.

Sam glares at him. “Then they can be your fries.”

Dean snorts and shoves the half empty container towards Sam.

“No way, man. With all that new body heat you’re producing, you’ll just burn ‘em off. At least I’ll appreciate them. Maybe put on a little extra padding since I’m goddamn freezing all the time.”

Good. They’re on the topic that Sam’s been mulling over for hours.

“Yeah, about that,” Sam starts, tugging the carton filled with the fries closer to himself, just to have something for his hands to do. “I’ve been thinking–”

“Sammy. C’mon,” Dean protests around a mouthful of beef. “Will you shut up and eat?”

Sam sits back in his chair and works his fingers through the half-dried hair that’s sticking uncomfortably at his temples to shove it all back. He’s getting really sick of being overheated and it hasn’t even been a full day yet.

"You're choosing food over discussing what the hell happened in that field? Over what happened to us?" Sam asks slowly, unable to help the condescending edge to his tone as he stares at his brother in disbelief.

Dean swallows his bite before shrugging. "So we got zapped by some pretty lights and a bunch of dudes drank the Kool-aid. Nothing to lose sleep over, dude."

Sam scoffs, shoving away from the table to stand near the end of his bed as he flaps the front of his shirt to try to air out the sweat that has started to cling to his chest and neck. Dean's always been a little too good at fake nonchalance, falls right into his comfort zone of refusing to see something when he doesn't want to. Gritting his teeth, Sam turns around, arms cast wide.

"God, Dean, I'm probably running a temperature of 104, you're so cold that your hands are white, and you seriously don't think this is worth talking about?"

Dean's face is a blank slate, eyes shuttered down and reserved where they meet Sam's. But Sam knows his brother, knows his tics like the back of his hand, and he sees the muscle in Dean's jaw jumping from how hard he's fighting down words, he sees Dean's leg start bouncing up and down from the pushes off the ball of his foot to get rid of his nervous energy.

Sam takes advantage of it, stalks forward to clap a hand down onto the strong curve of Dean's left shoulder. Immediately, the coil in his abdomen settles as pinpricks of ice dart up Sam's arm from where he and his brother are connected, the imminent sense of this is right blanketing him from head to toe.

"You're telling me you don't feel that?" Sam says, voice rough as he watches Dean's eyes widen and his nostrils flare.

Goosebumps are riddling Sam's arm and, with a sharp thrill, he sees that their contact is making Dean shiver and unconsciously lean into him, seeking Sam's warmth. He's all too happy to provide it, lifting his other hand to settle on the side of Dean's neck, cool skin smooth against the sweaty heat of his palm. Then Dean has to go and do it again, shatter the moment, surging to his feet and past Sam so fast that he has no choice but to let his arms fall limply back to his sides.

"Okay, Sam, Jesus! No, everything's not fine! Is that what you wanted to hear?" Dean shouts, tugging his jacket tightly around him as he works his fingers under his armpits with a scowl. "That doesn't mean you can slap your paws all over me whenever you feel like it, dammit."

With a short, irritated huff of breath from his nose, Sam turns his head to stare at the crappy motel wallpaper. This week's pattern has big, ornate flowers and too many vines, the entire thing a clash of bright petals against a blinding yellow color. It's practically obscene, but Sam makes himself look at it instead of his infuriating brother.

“What, you giving me the silent treatment now?” Dean asks, a mocking twist to his words. “Thought you wanted a big heart-to-heart, Sammy?”

“Yeah, maybe once you stop being a dick,” Sam snaps back, throwing a glare at Dean. He grabs a proper shirt to yank over his current one before shoving his sockless feet into the ratty pair of sneakers that he usually reserves for his runs. “I’m going out. Call me when you’re done PMSing.” With that, Sam scoops up his phone, and this time, he’s the one slamming the door.

Despite the demand of a phone call when Dean gets off his high horse, Sam turns the ringer off on his cell and shoves it in his pocket as he starts around the back of the motel. There’s a dirt path that leads from the edge of the parking lot down into the woods behind the building and he follows it, knowing he’d rather get lost in foliage and his own head than in the streets of the town further down the road.

The trees are high, their canopies linking together overhead like a never-ending bridge of leaves as Sam steps over roots and stray rocks. Eventually, the hush of traffic fades into the background until all Sam can hear is branches sliding together and the rustle of the wind passing through the nature around him. It calms him, smooths that incessant itching beneath his skin as he steps off the path and up a slope littered with wildflowers. When he reaches the top, he finds a boulder turned over to expose a flat side perfect for sitting on. Walking over, he brushes away some of the small pebbles that have collected in the grooves of the stone before heaving himself onto it, toeing off his shoes as he lets his feet hang over the side to brush the ground below. Sam tilts his face back, settles his hands behind him and lets the afternoon sun linger the last of its rays over his cheeks.

The more his concentration wavers, the more he can feel. It’s strange, but it’s as if he can hear everything now; the scurry of squirrels up the trunks of trees, the low chirps of cicadas starting in the distance, how blades of grasses rub together in their own musical song. Everything is alive, even the rock beneath his body, some sort of connection growing bolder and brighter in his very core with the world around him. It verges on overwhelming, but Sam relaxes, lets his body warm him to his bones and just belongs.

Sam loses track of time but he knows that the sky is dark even with his eyes closed because of the way the scent of the air has changed. By the time he shifts himself back to awareness and sits up properly, his muscles are aching from staying in one position so long, protesting when he tries to massage them back to peace. Looking up, he sees storm clouds that must have been brewing for a while, dark and heavy with the rain they’re about to release.

With a sigh, Sam scooches forward to get his shoes back on, eyes sluggishly searching the ground for his discarded sneakers. His throat tightens, squeezing out a small noise of shock when he finds a patch of flowers blooming underneath his toes, similar to the one that had cushioned his fall after he was thrown from the pillar of light in the clearing earlier that day. A thought strikes him then, and he hesitantly moves his leg to step on an empty patch of grass, sucking in a breath when he feels the earth shift to accommodate the new plants that are pushing up through the dirt around his foot.

Panic make Sam cram his shoes back on before taking off down the hill, some sort of internal compass guiding him around the gnarled roots he can sense as the soles of his sneakers slap onto the dirt path that leads back to the motel.

Throwing the door open with his shoulder, Sam pants out “Dean–” right before getting a set of knuckles in the jaw. Sam wheels and slams painfully into the wall as he swears around the blood pooling in his mouth from where his teeth clamped down on his tongue.

“Where the hell have you been?” Cold fists are curled in the front of Sam’s shirt, shaking him hard enough that his head smacks off the plaster behind him.

“Ow, Dean, what the–” Sam swallows past the bright copper taste only to have his words knocked out of him again by another shove from Dean.

“You’ve been gone for hours, Sam! What, did you launch your goddamn phone across the ocean? Forget how to send a fucking text message? I’ve been worried sick!” Thunder claps loudly outside, making Sam startle as his eyes open enough to take in his brother. Dean’s vibrating with his rage, but for the first time since the druid incident, Sam can see color in his face, his cheeks splotched with red and his mouth gnawed into two pink lines.

“So the first thing you do is throw a punch?” Sam finally finds his voice before knocking Dean backwards to free himself and move into the center of the room. “I’m fine, Dean. Just lost track of time.”

Dean looks like he wants to clock Sam again and Sam braces for it, his own hands clenching in preparation for retaliation. But then Dean lets out a long breath, drags a palm down his face as he lances Sam to the core with a narrow-eyed glare.

Seriously not cool, Sam.”

“Sorry,” Sam mutters, shoulders moving up to his ears into a shameful hunch. He knows Dean is right. It was stupid of him to go off for that long without some sort of contact, especially after the events of today and everything weird that happened.

“Yeah, whatever. I'm going to bed.” Dean strides past him to dig through his duffel bag and Sam can’t help but notice that his hair is wet when it should had been nearly dry before he left. Peering into the bathroom, Sam deduces that Dean must have taken a second hot shower if the cloudy mirror is anything to go by.

“Still cold?” Sam voices his thought, watches as his brother pulls a hoodie over his head, the sleeves so long that they reach the second knuckle of Dean’s fingers. With a twinge, he realizes it’s one of his.

“Fuckin’ freezing,” Dean grumbles, rolling the cuffs back so they rest around his wrists. “Shower barely helps. Stupid.” He says the last word under his breath as he tosses the bag to the floor and rips the covers down on his bed, falling into it gracelessly.

Sam knows what will help. He can feel it building in his bones, the little invisible hooks that seem to be caught between him and his brother, always straining to reel him in. He doesn’t offer it though, his pride still stinging from Dean’s two earlier rejections. There’s only so much he can take in a day.

Instead, Sam wriggles out of his two shirts and slips off his shorts to leave him in his underwear before shutting off the lamp and climbing into his own bed. He kicks the heavier duvet cover down to the bottom, just the light top sheet settling around his waist as he lies on his back in the dark. From his spot, Sam can see the storm clouds outside starting to dissipate, opening up the star-filled sky to allow moonlight to break on the hood of the Impala in a silver disc.

“Plants grow under my feet if I walk around barefoot,” Sam offers casually into the silence of the room. Dean is quiet, but Sam knows he’s awake, knows it from the sound of his breathing, how it’s a little too fast and a little too shallow for him to be out.

“I froze my beer,” comes the reply several heartbeats later. Sam turns his head on the pillow, staring into the darkness to find the outline of his brother’s back. “Got pissed off that you weren’t answering your phone. Guess I was holding it a little tight and when I went to take a drink…” Sam watches Dean shrug. “Frozen solid.”

Sam moves his eyes up to the ceiling and sighs slowly.

“Guess it’s time to call Bobby.”

“You think?”

Sam snorts softly, closes his eyes. Dean’s breaths even out eventually and have their usual lullaby effect on him, inviting sleep to weigh Sam down into unconsciousness, the one familiar thing that hasn't been changed by the events of today.

The next time Sam opens his eyes, it's still black outside. Something is depressing the edge of his mattress and he lets out a soft grunt as he rises onto his elbow before a freezing cold palm lands on his chest and pushes him back down.

"Dean?" He rasps, squinting in the dark.

"Go back to sleep, Sammy."

Except Sam can't go back to sleep when his brother is nudging him over and slipping under the sheets of his bed, still wearing his hoodie and sweatpants because he's a goddamn icicle. Sam hisses when Dean toes off his socks and shoves his feet at Sam's calves.

"Jesus, man!"

"Shuddup," Dean grouches, sitting up to reach out and yank the duvet up to his chin. "I'm about to get hypothermia, alright? Just... Just let me warm up. I'll go back when I thaw out."

Sam swallows hard, easing back into the bed  as he watches Dean turn and wiggle under his arm to get into Sam's side, fingers knitted together in front of him like he's praying.

"Gimme those," Sam mutters, folding his free hand over Dean's to unlock them from their grip and pull them down, palms open, to his chest. He sucks in a breath at the chills that make his body tense, but Dean's tucking his face into Sam's neck and his mouth is below Sam's ear and he may have just let out this really breathy moan of relief, so Sam's not about to complain.

"Of course you would be the one to become the mystical space heater."

"They probably saw that stone cold heart of yours. Figured that being an ice cube suited you."

Dean kicks Sam's shin, but then goes and entwines both of his legs around Sam's right one a moment later. Sam has to close his eyes and measure his breaths to keep calm.

They stay like that for a long time, or at least until Dean sits upright and tears the hoodie off once he doesn't need it anymore. He then settles down even tighter against Sam than he was before, sending Sam's heart skyrocketing in his chest. That pesky pit in Sam's stomach that tends to flare up every time Dean breathes seems sated under Dean's touch, burning low in his abdomen, and for the first time since all this happened, Sam almost feels normal. Well. If normal includes wanting to roll over on top of his brother and let his tongue map every inch of his body.

Judging by the tenseness of the back and shoulder muscles Sam can feel under his arm, Dean's ready to bolt if Sam even tries to talk about this. So Sam relaxes instead, tilts his head away from his brother to let Dean live in his illusion that this is merely about warming up again, that this can't be considered cuddling in any way, shape or form.

In the morning, when Sam wakes up and finds Dean still plastered to his side, mouth ajar and snoring softly and drooling all over his shoulder, he untangles himself gently and slips out to get breakfast and coffee. He comes back a half hour later and finds Dean sitting on his own bed, shoving his arms through the sleeves of a third flannel shirt.

They don't talk about it.

-

The druids aren't there when they return to the clearing.

"Are we sure this is the right field?"

"You see any other fields around here, Dean?"

"I'm gettin' real sick of that attitude, Sammy."

Sam stalks forward, letting his memories of the previous night guide him to the place where six druids had sacrificed themselves at his feet. All that remains now is the scene inside Sam's head and the two daggers buried in his duffel bag in the trunk of the car. The ground is clean of blood, not even an outline of crushed grass from the pile of dead bodies they had left behind.

"We really need to go see Bobby," Sam says as he steps away, the hair on the back of his neck standing uneasily at the bizarreness of this entire situation.

"Lead the way, Furnace Boy."

Sam takes a final look around the clearing, eyeing the slope upon which the two pillars had descended, where this entire thing had been centered on.

Bobby will know what to do. Sam makes himself believe that, because right now, everything else he was sure of, like how he felt about his brother, hell, his own sanity, all of it has been thrown into a whirlwind and spat back out more messed up than he ever possibly imagined. So Sam squares his shoulders, jerks his chin at Dean and starts down the path through the woods to get back to the Impala.

The drive to Bobby's is going to take most of the day, so they get on the highway with a vow to stop as sparsely as possible for gas, food and bathroom breaks. It isn't so bad for the first half of the drive because this? This is something they know how to do. They both know how to sink back into the worn leather and feel the hum of the tires against the asphalt and drown out the world with pounding drums and wailing guitars. Dean's more comfortable in the Impala than he has been anywhere else over the last thirty six hours, so Sam allows him to cycle through his cassettes without comment, letting his brother keep his positive mood.

It's starting to bug him, though, the heat that is gleaming off the sleek black metal and reflecting right into Sam's face. He's hot enough as it is and ends up having to start discarding articles of clothing into the backseat to not completely melt.

“I swear to God, Sam, if you try to take off your pants–”

“I’m about to have heat stroke, Dean.”

Dean grumbles something under his breath, casting a wary look from the corner of his eye at Sam sitting in his baggy running shorts and a thin t-shirt like the day before. Sam shifts closer to the door and his open window, the wind blasting his face helping only a little. He groans under his breath and thunks his head against the door frame, closing his eyes as he tries to will his body down to a cooler temperature.

It startles him when it seems to listen, relief pouring through his veins in frigid waves that raise goosebumps on his arms and chest. Snapping his eyes open, Sam is suddenly aware of the palm on the nape of his neck and the fingers that are tentatively threading into the hair at the back of his head.

There’s a suspended moment where Sam wants to turn and stare at his brother, to see what emotion is simmering in those clear green irises, but he thinks better of it. Sam lets his eyelids flutter shut once more, swallowing heavily as he tilts into Dean’s touch. Dean’s hand pauses when Sam moves, so he stops too, counting his heartbeats until he feels Dean relax again. Frosted fingertips slowly scratch up and down on Sam’s scalp and he can’t help the sigh that leaves his parted lips because it feels that good, the chill of Dean’s skin calming the molten heat of his blood to a bearable level.

The music in the car dwindles into its ending notes before Sam hears the cassette click out of the mouth of the tape deck, ready to be replaced by the next album of Dean’s choosing. It isn’t lost on Sam that Dean’s hand doesn’t move away to change it. Instead, it slips down to the junction where Sam’s throat and shoulder meet, brushing there for a moment before moving to cup the side of Sam’s neck. He leans into it, lungs tightening as his face turns into Dean’s wrist, drawn to his brother like a magnet.

Dean’s thumb arches up and rests on Sam’s cheek, stroking slightly as Sam’s head continues to twist until the rough lines of Dean’s palm are skimming the sensitive nerves of his lips. Eyes still closed, Sam lets his mouth fall open further, nudging forward as he breathes out Dean’s name in the drunken stupor that has taken hostage of his senses, blurring the road and the wind, edging everything else out of his awareness until all he can feel is Dean’s hand against his skin and the overwhelming need for more.

Sam.”

Dean’s voice sounds so wrecked that he has to open his eyes, immediately finding Dean’s on him, shining and wide and bright. The coil in Sam’s abdomen practically purrs when he watches Dean’s pupils blanket away his irises until there is a mere halo of green, and Sam is certain that this is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen in his life.

The tires on the right side of the Impala drift off the road and onto the gravel shoulder, sending the entire frame of the car into a violent shudder that makes Dean cuss and tear away to put both hands on the wheel and guide them back onto smooth asphalt.

Sam’s throat works in tense pulses as he tries to find the proper words to say into the heavy silence now hanging in the air, but Dean’s body language makes him think better of it. He’s crammed himself against the driver’s door, a reserved glare keeping his eyes glued to the highway as he gingerly eases the Impala around the next curve like he’s trying to apologize for being careless just a moment earlier. Sam reaches down, takes Led Zeppelin IV from the box at his feet and pushes the tape into the deck with the knuckles of his left hand before sitting back into the leather.

It’s three hours later that they talk again, and it’s only for Dean to say he’s topping up on gas and for Sam to go get them some food from the station. Armed with a credit card and an eyeroll, Sam climbs out of his seat and stretches his back until he hears his joints pop. The air conditioning inside the building is merciful on his perpetually heated skin. Not as relieving as Dean’s fingers, but it’s decent enough, so he takes his time perusing the aisles for snacks. Sam grabs a couple of sandwiches from the refrigerated deli section along with some bottled water and an armful of crinkling chip bags before swiping the card and thanking the cashier with a tight smile on his way back out into the humid day.

Dean has finished pumping gas and is waiting for Sam, leaning back on the trunk of the Impala with his arms crossed and his face turned into the afternoon sun, eyes closed. He’s still in his leather jacket and a pair of jeans, and sweat prickles along Sam’s neck just from looking at him. The two extremes they are experiencing is exhausting. What the hell are they supposed to do about this?

“Got the food,” Sam croaks, raising the white plastic bag like some sort of trophy. Dean opens one eye and peers at him before closing it again and turning back to the sunlight.

“If you bring one of those shakeable salads into my car, I’m gonna toss it out the window.”

A real smile tugs at Sam’s lips this time and he looks down at his feet scuffing the cement near the back tire.

“Wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Dean grunts and relinquishes his spot, uncrossing his arms to move back to the driver’s side. Sam follows suit, stretching one last time before opening his door and sliding in. The unspoken current is still there between them, but something about their banter has made it less severe and allows Sam's lungs to loosen from their vicegrip when he doles out the food as Dean pulls out of the gas station.

Maybe they can do this, live this way until they find a cure or a way to get rid of whatever is residing inside of them that is drawing out temptations they never had to deal with before.

Sam looks over, eyes trailing over the line of his brother’s body, the way he slouches down into the seat, easy as you please with one hand on the wheel, fingers curled loosely around the ridges lining the inside of the vinyl curve. Sam stares and he sees more than just his brother and the flame in his gut surges against the cavern of his stomach.

Okay. Maybe not.

-

"Why is it always you two?"

"I ask myself the same thing every time," Dean says, stepping over the threshold to clap his hand on Bobby's shoulder. "Good to see you, Bobby."

"Did I not tell you boys to wait until I got the rest of the information on that druid circle?" Bobby knocks Dean upside the head, which earns him an indignant yelp, and glares at Sam, who is huddled sheepishly on the doorstep.

"Told you we should have waited," Sam says to Dean, before getting the stink eye in return.

"Don't start bickering already, you've only been here a damn minute. C'mon, get inside, Sam." The fond gruffness to Bobby's words makes Sam smile as he moves into the kitchen. The place is cluttered but clean at the same time, books everywhere but tucked out of the way so they aren't a hazard and there are weapons lying on flat surfaces, ready for anything at a moment's notice. From what Sam can remember, this is how it is day in and day out. It's nice to have something remain constant, anyway.

"How've you been, Bobby?" Sam stoops to hug the older hunter, getting a few slaps on the back before they both stand once more.

"Well, I was fine until you two knuckleheads had to go and mess with things you shouldn't have messed with. Go sit down, I'll grab you boys a beer."

They do as they're told, taking a seat on the main couch. Sam dumps his duffel at his feet and lets his head loll over the top of the couch with a sigh. Bobby thumps around in the kitchen and Sam smiles as he closes his eyes and soaks in the familiar sounds.

There's an almost imperceptible shift, something that forces Sam’s eyes to blink open to try to figure out exactly what changed. A nudge to his right leg that is splayed in front of him makes him roll his head to the side to watch Dean's knee knocking against his own. Lifting his gaze, Sam finds Dean in a similarly relaxed position, but with eyes dark and intense enough to send a shiver down Sam's spine. They hold each other's stare for a length of time far exceeding a casual glance and Sam can practically taste the tension sitting heavy on his tongue. It's so overwhelming that he feels like he's drowning in it, suffocated by the very presence of his brother.

Dull heat pulses low in his abdomen, and suddenly Sam’s body has a mind of its own, his fingers wrapping around the middle of Dean's thigh in a grip that can't be mistaken as anything other than possessive, fingers digging into the worn denim like they belong there. Dean's breath hitches at his touch and his legs fall open even further, giving Sam access if he wants to move, if he wants to claim just a little bit more of Dean’s body, and Sam can't fucking breathe.

"Made you boys somethin'. Hope that's okay." Bobby's voice floats from the kitchen and into his ears like an electric shock. His hand is off Dean's leg and back into his lap in an instant, fingers tangling in the hem of his shirt tight to stop them from betraying him again.

"Thanks, Bobby," Sam says, his voice cracking a little at the end as the panic ebbs away once Bobby comes over the couch to hand off a plate of food and beers for each of them. He must not have noticed whatever just happened between Sam and Dean, because his face is clear of anything suspicious, just open curiosity filling the lines of his face as he sits down at his desk.

"So? Fill me in. What the hell happened out there?"

Sam does the talking around small bites of food, happy to keep himself busy and focused on anything other than his brother, who has contorted himself into some kind of human pretzel on his end of the couch to keep himself as far away from Sam as possible. Sam has enough sense to skip over the whole 'desperate need to climb into my brother's body, heart, and soul' part of their situation, but explains about his experience in the woods, his constant heat and Dean's constant chill, and his tendency to grow a garden under his feet if he goes barefoot.

The bodies of the druids going missing is what troubles Bobby the most, making him sit back in his chair and scratch his beard with a scowl. He shakes his head slowly before raising his eyes to look between Dean and Sam on their opposite sides of the couch.

"You said you boys got caught in pillars of light?"

"Yeah. We're talkin' UFO-type beams, Bobby," Dean drawls before taking a sip of his beer. Sam throws him an incredulous look, before wrinkling his nose a little and shaking his head.

Bobby taps his finger on the surface of his desk, a few papers crinkling softly before sighing. "You boys okay to stay here while I try to round up some more information?"

"'Course," Dean grins. "I can finish that old Camero I started on last year."

"Oh, I almost forgot–" Sam leans forward and unzips his duffel, gingerly taking out the two daggers from where they were wrapped in his pile of clothes. The blades shine dully in the evening light, sapphire and ruby twins. Sam lays them in front of Bobby and sits back down, fingers clasped between his knees. "I pulled these from two of the druids before we left the clearing. It's what they used to sacrifice themselves."

"Some kind of ceremonial daggers, huh?" Bobby inspects one with expert fingers, tilting it towards the lamp sitting on the corner of his desk. "Well this'll definitely help narrow it down. We can start lookin' into it tomorrow."

"Sounds good to me!" Dean says cheerfully, hopping up to meander into the kitchen before calling over his shoulder, "Whiskey, Bobby, where's the whiskey?"

Sam rolls his eyes and tugs at the collar of his shirt to get some air flow down to the perspiration that is sticking on his chest.

"You want an ice pack or somethin'?" Bobby asks quietly, eyeing him from his chair.

"I'm good. Think I might just turn in early. Thanks, Bobby."

“Well you know where the beds are.”

Sam gives Bobby a tired smile as he pushes off the couch with his hands on his knees. Slinging his bag across his back, he pats Bobby’s shoulder as he makes his way to the staircase. The wood creaks under his steps and Sam finds that he needs to hold onto the railing as he ascends, a sudden wave of exhaustion rocking him to the core. He just wants to sleep and get away from the constant pull of wanting his brother in ways he never should. Sam all but stumbles into his bedroom, letting the bag drop with a thump and allowing his body to pitch forward with just as much grace to land face-down in the old mattress.

Sam wants to gather his thoughts, to categorize them into the files in his head like he does for every hunt they take on, but now that he’s a part of the mystery surrounding the events, it’s a lot more daunting. Sam punches the lumps out of his pillow and buries his face in it, a long groan worming out of his throat at his exasperation. Nothing is ever easy for them.

The duvet beneath Sam is too thick to lie under with his ever-constant heat, so he forces his sluggish body to strip down to his underwear and kick the covers to the foot of the bed as usual. Flopping back onto his stomach, Sam lets the cooler air of the room settle on his skin as he closes his eyes and tries to keep his mind blank enough for sleep to take over.

He can hear the faint sounds of glasses clinking and low murmurs from Dean and Bobby floating through the space where he left his door cracked open, and it helps to have a bit of comforting white noise to distract him from everything else. The heavy weight of unconsciousness catches on the backs of his eyelids, burning in a familiar way as the rest of the world fades.

Sam is thoroughly confused when he jerks awake to a dark room for the second night in a row. Then he realizes that the smoldering coals in his abdomen has faded away, doused in a blanket of ice from what Sam assumes is his brother’s hand gliding down the line of his spine.

A confused noise slips out of Sam’s still sleep-laden mouth as he turns his head towards the dip in his mattress, Dean perched on the edge of his bed in the cover of darkness. He’s still dressed, must not have gone to bed yet after finishing his drinks with Bobby, but he looks unkempt, hair sticking up in an array of wild spikes that make him look younger than he has in ages.

Something is different this time. Sam can feel it in the harsh breaths Dean is taking, in the way Dean’s palm has settled into the small of his back. He can’t help but arch up into Dean’s touch, seeking more relief to wash away the lava in his bloodstream.

“Sammy.” The soft whisper is enough to chill him to the bone, a sweet relief from always feeling like his skeleton is going to break open from the flames constantly writhing inside of him.

His lungs aren’t cooperating, so Sam’s left panting by the time that he lifts his face to search for Dean’s eyes in the pitch black of his room. He can see his brother swaying forward then leaning back, an internal battle raging between getting closer to Sam and bolting. Sam can’t take it anymore. He’s frayed like an exposed nerve, wired and goddamn shaking with how badly he needs Dean, so he reaches up and pulls his brother down by the front of his shirt.

The bed’s too small for two grown men who are both over six feet tall, but Sam makes it work by rolling onto his back to allow Dean to brace his arms on the bed to keep his weight off of Sam. Dean is hovering above him like an angel cast in shadows, the planes of his face distorting beautifully in the dark around them. Both of their chests are working hard, brushing with the deep intakes of breath they have to take at finally being so close to each other.

Dean smells of whiskey and leather, of faint aftershave and the sharp scent of ice like a cut to the nose, like everything Sam has been craving with the very cells of his being. Dean shifts his hips back and away from Sam’s body, gritting his teeth with a tense huff as he lets his head hang, shame starting to etch itself into the trembling lines of his shoulders. Sam can’t have that, not after they’ve come this far, not when they are so close to this, whatever this is. He raises his hands, traces up Dean’s neck and uses his thumbs under Dean’s chin to tilt his face until their eyes meet again.

“Dean,” he rasps, the pads of his thumbs now running down the opposite curves of Dean’s jaw in soothing strokes. “It’s okay.”

Dean shakes his head, turns his lips into one of Sam’s palms to pant open-mouthed into the skin, each wave of hot air sending a flood of shivers through him from head to toe.

“We can’t.” He sounds so scared, teetering at the edge of a precipice they both know they won’t be able to come back from. “Sam, we can’t.”

“Yes, we can.” Sam draws Dean closer, cranes his neck to nudge Dean’s cheek with the tip of his nose. He’s so cold, like the pale canvas of his skin is a sheet of ice. Sam just wants to melt it, to feel it give way under his fingers, so he angles them both until their mouths brush. A spark lights along the sensitive skin of Sam’s lips and the molten pool in his abdomen overflows into his every cell and everything is lost from there.

Dean surges forward so fast that his teeth split Sam’s bottom lip, copper blooming like a flower in the shared space between their mouths. Mixing with the faint hint of his blood is the leftover layer of whiskey lining the roof of Dean’s mouth, which Sam desperately tries to taste before Dean battles him back with his tongue. Sam sucks a wild breath in through his nose before just opening himself to the fierceness of Dean’s kiss, knowing that his brother needs it to be desperate and searching and uncontrolled.

His body isn’t allowing him to do much else other than be smothered by Dean, his legs already shifting to make room for the narrow slant of Dean’s hips, arms tightening across Dean’s back to pull him in and just let Dean take and take and take. The tangle of fingers in his hair yanks Sam’s head to the side, Dean’s mouth trailing down to nip and suck at any available inch of the column of his throat. Sam writhes, arches up and gasps at the cold brush of his brother’s lips on his overheated skin until Dean’s hips lock with his and grind him back down into the bed. The drag of rough denim over the thin cotton of Sam’s briefs wrings a surprised moan out of Sam, too loud in the quiet of the house. One of Dean’s hands claps over his mouth, flexing in time with a second thrust that leaves Sam twitching.

“Didn’t figure you to be a loud one, Sammy,” Dean says in a tone that is pure lust and promise, bending his head to get his lips on the shell of Sam’s ear. Sam can’t help but moan again, the sound muffled by the cool palm curving over the lower half of his face. He can barely focus on what Dean is saying because the rhythm they’re picking up together is darkening his vision, his eyes rolling into the back of his head when Dean shifts a little to the left and gets the perfect amount of friction to induce another round of shudders through his body.

That crushing weight of this is how it should be is smothering Sam’s lungs, breaking him down from the inside with the contrast of the chill of Dean’s body lining the hot skin of his own. It’s bordering on terrifying, how strong the connection is, searing into his veins and through the very hairs on his head. It feels monumental, like stars colliding, like the death and birth of something new and so much bigger than either of them. They are merely two bodies moving, but whatever it is that happened to them back in that field, whatever force has made a home in both him and Dean, it’s forging something between them that Sam knows will never leave, even if they do find a way to go back to normal.

It’s the praises pouring out of Dean and into his ear that set Sam off, that make his entire body clench and seize and work up into his brother’s moving hips, the whimpers that want to claw out of his throat restricted by Dean’s hand still sealing his mouth shut. The sparks inside of him have caught on the traces of gasoline in his blood, igniting him from the inside out, the strange heat in his abdomen swirling and expanding and spreading through him until he nearly blacks out.

Coming down from his high is like sinking into a pool, traces of cold shifting over his skin like a lullaby from the final rolls of Dean’s hips as he comes too. Sam gently pries Dean’s hand away and leans up, using his tongue to work the groan out of Dean's mouth, their lips slotting together like puzzle pieces. A softer noise rumbles out of Dean’s chest as they kiss, and Sam can feel Dean’s weight settle on him as his arms give out. It’s oddly satisfying to have Dean on top of him, smothering him with broad chest and firm muscles, restricting his ribs to shallow inhales and exhales. Sam can’t stop the sigh of contentment that he breathes into Dean’s mouth.

Dean makes his lips more gentle against Sam's after that, slow and sensual in the hazy aftermath, and pulls back to breathe before dipping in for another kiss. He repeats this until Sam is boneless and pliant beneath him, then props himself back up on his forearms to stare down at Sam with an unreadable expression. Sam lets him, just blinks slowly up at his brother as he catches his breath and tries to resist the urge to maul Dean’s mouth again. Dean doesn’t say anything and Sam doesn’t try to either, just allows Dean nudge him over to make space for them both on the mattress.

They both lay there for a while. Sam’s eyes are drifting shut, the lull of the darkness and the perfect contrast of his brother’s body against his own comforting him enough to begin to feel sleep hedging at his consciousness. Then Dean breaks the heavy silence.

"Sam."

"Mm."

"This can't happen again."

Sam's eyes open slowly to stare at the ceiling, his brother's words taking a few seconds to claw into his brain with poisonous nails.

"What?" His head falls to the side, trying to find Dean's face in the shadows and understand, because what just happened was probably the closest thing Sam has ever come to having a religious experience. It had been downright otherworldly and everything he had wanted, everything they had wanted, and now Dean was ruining it. "Dean, what are you–"

"Sam." Dean says his name with finality, an attempt to put an end to the conversation before it even starts. Sam can feel it now, the line of tense, unyielding muscles along his side. The first barrier has been thrown up, and of course Dean would be the one to do it, still stuck in his stupid mindset of having to protect Sam from anything and everything. Apparently Dean himself now fits under that umbrella.

"No," Sam hisses, sitting up to glare down at his brother's impassive face. "Fuck you, Dean. You don't get to do this after what we just did."

Dean stares back at him evenly, like Sam’s words don’t faze him, like the fact that he’s effectively crushing Sam’s heart between his fingers is merely a bit of collateral damage that will be easy to come back from. Sam wants to punch his brother until every bone in his hand is shattered.

“Sam,” Dean repeats, saying his name really drawn out and slow, as if Sam has some sort of goddamn mental deficiency. Sometimes he really fucking hates Dean. “It can’t happen again. It can’t. And if I have to spell out the thousand and one reasons why we can’t, then we have an even bigger issue here.”

“I’m not an idiot, you condescending dickhead!” Sam struggles to control his level of his voice but the rage sparking through him is too much, so he shoves Dean’s shoulder hard enough that he has to plant a foot on the floorboards to stop himself from rolling off the mattress. “But I’m not the one who keeps climbing into my brother’s bed, am I? What the hell am I supposed to do when you keep touching me like this, Dean?”

Dean’s eyes flash and suddenly he’s standing, body swaying as he looks down at Sam on the rumpled mess of sheets. Sam sees the argument that Dean’s about to make, can see his mouth about to form the words, so he gets to his feet too, uses his height to tower over his big brother with a tense jaw and narrowed eyes.

“Tell me it’s just because you’re cold, Dean. Tell me it’s just because you want to get warm again. Tell me that’s the only reason.”

Even in the shadows of the room, Sam can see Dean’s throat working, trying to hold back the truth they both know is there.

“You can’t,” Sam's voice drops down to a whisper, softening his eyes as he searches Dean’s dilated pupils, trying to dig past the pools of black to find his brother in the ring of green and gold and convince him that this is mutual. They both need this, crave it in such a way that they can’t go for any extended period of time without touching the other, without seeking some sort of relief in the brush of their brother’s skin. This is so much bigger than them. It’s bigger than the fact that they’re related, that this, what they’re doing, is illegal in most of the continental U.S. He needs Dean to see that.

"You should get some sleep, Sammy." The tone Dean uses is completely devoid of emotion. It makes Sam's shoulders sag, his bones growing heavy under the weight of knowing that Dean is dead set on enforcing this. He gave something unforgettable to Sam, placed it in the goddamn palm of his hand, only to rip it away. Tears are making Sam's vision blur, his brother swimming before him until he can't make out any features on Dean's face.

"Get out," Sam manages to say around the tightening lump in his throat, turning to get back into bed. "Just get out."

He's face-down in his pillow when the door clicks shut, the sound echoing in his ears with the promise that Dean is going to stay gone.

He doesn't realize how right he is until he wakes the next morning to find Bobby's driveway empty and Dean’s bed untouched.

-

The first week is the hardest.

Dean won’t pick up, all four numbers Sam calls reciting the same automated message, just with different aliases, and it makes Sam's jaw tick. Sam hisses his way through the first ten voicemails he leaves, saying how childish Dean is, you idiot, when has running from your problems ever helped you, Dean, we still need to figure out what the hell happened to us, so get your ass back to Bobby’s, okay?

Bobby only questions it once, and he seems skeptical that “It all got to be a little too much for him” is the real reason behind Dean getting the hell out of Dodge, but he lets it go. They both try to reach him, but neither have any luck. If there's one thing Winchesters know how to do, it's disappear. The only way Sam knows that Dean is still alive is because sometimes when he calls, the rings cut off after one or two trills, which means Dean punched the end button, apparently fed up with Sam’s borderline obsessive need to phone him every day. Sam keeps calling. Dean’s going to have to pick up at some point.

It’s at the beginning of the second week that Sam presses his cell to his ear and hears the dreaded message recited in a robotic tone: We're sorry. You have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again. Needless to say, Sam goes out in the lot and takes a crowbar to the doors of a rusting Buick.

Every hour that he and Dean are apart, the heat inside of Sam’s stomach heightens, moving from uncomfortable to irritating to downright unbearable, like an inferno is thrashing inside of him, desperate to disintegrate his skeleton with its flames and eat its way out of his body. He can’t wear more than a thin shirt and shorts at all times and he’s constantly showering to try to get rid of the perspiration that always clings to his skin. Sleeping is just out of the question because of the combination of his churning thoughts and oppressive power and heat thrumming through his veins.

The days get hotter, clouds seeming to have dried up and evaporated with Dean’s absence. The sun is a scorching arc in the sky, unhindered, and the extreme heat leaves Sam more frustrated, more desperate to climb out of his body and into a tub of ice, or his missing brother, with each passing second. Bobby grows more concerned, a perpetual frown marring his face.

“Sam,” he tries one day when Sam is scrawling illegible notes from a book about elemental spirits at the dining room table after another sleepless night. “Maybe you should take a break, son. You’re gonna make yourself sick.”

“No, Bobby,” Sam snaps, gripping his pen so hard that the plastic bites into the inside of his fingers. “I can’t take a break. I need to find out what happened in that field so I can fix us. Then everything can go back to normal.”

If Bobby hears the way Sam’s voice breaks, he doesn’t show any signs of it.

Three weeks after Dean disappeared in the middle of the night, the state of South Dakota issues a drought warning, advising restricted use of water and to stay indoors whenever possible to avoid the relentless rays of the sun that have caused a sharp increase in admissions to hospitals from dehydration and strokes across the region. After a month, the entire Midwest is experiencing a heat wave, crops drying up, wells depleting, and several states have had to go into state of emergencies.

The only reason Sam knows any of this is because Bobby tells it to him while looking over the top of his newspaper, digging his eyes into Sam’s head like Sam is supposed to do something about it. Sam shrugs him off. He doesn’t know how he’s doing whatever it is to the weather and temperature around him and he doesn’t have the first clue how to control it. Besides, why should he care about what’s happening when he’s no closer to finding out the source that the druids had summoned that has maybe, probably, most definitely ruined his and Dean’s relationship for good?

It's edging towards month two of Dean's absence when Bobby tosses a paper into Sam's face with more force than necessary.

“I know where Dean is.”

Sam’s head snaps up so fast that his neck seizes.

“What?”

“Well. At least I know where he's been. Flip to page three.”

His hands are barely working, suddenly numb and fumbling to peel apart the thin sheets of paper. When he gets to the right page, he traces down the text, the inky words leaving a sooty trail on the pads of his fingertips. There’s an article about the upcoming election candidates, a small gossip column in the sidebar and a humanitarian piece that his eyes jump over before landing on a small block near the bottom of the page.

CHRISTMAS COME EARLY? RECORD BREAKING SNOWFALL FROM FREAK BLIZZARD IN LOUISIANA

Sam swallows hard, stares at the black letters until his eyes are swimming with them.

"This is today's paper?" Sam tries to ask, but it comes out more like a pained whisper.

Bobby shakes his head. "Two weeks ago. I had only skimmed over it, but I was thinkin' about it the other day, how you're drying up every speck of water in this half of the States with your–" Here Bobby waves his hand at Sam in some kind of gesture that encompasses his body. "–whatever this is, and then I remembered that you and your brother were always a lot more alike than I gave you credit for. Dug this up and, well, it don't take a genius to put two and two together."

Sam rubs his clean hand over his mouth, his eyes finding the word 'blizzard' again. The heat inside of him thrums once, rocking him forward a bit in his seat as it recognizes this as Dean, as the absent half to Sam's whole. Dean misses Sam as much as Sam misses Dean. That conclusion leaves Sam with a crooked smile and a glimmer of hope. Sam folds the newspaper until just that segment is visible before turning to Bobby again.

"You got any more of these papers?"

Bobby brings out every printed stack he has left lying around the house and lets Sam paw through them, seeking any other odd reports in the region. When ink and paper fail to turn up anything more recent than a week ago at a small amount of snowfall in Kentucky, he turns to the Internet, scouring for weather systems or predictions of unseasonably cold weather. Sam marks down anything that could be remotely related to Dean’s whereabouts down on a notepad, trying to piece every bit together to figure out what kind of path he’s trekking. By the looks of it, the pattern is random, like Dean is just wandering back and forth over state lines on the opposite end of the country.

Nodding to himself, Sam gathers up the array of jotted notes and printed articles into one big pile before tucking it under his arm.

“Where’s the fire?” Bobby calls from his desk.

“I need to find Dean.”

“Do you even know where to begin to look?” The chair legs scrape across the hardwood as Bobby stands and walks over to Sam at the table. His arms are crossed and the bill of his cap is set low over his eyes, which are narrowed and staring expectantly at Sam.

“I’m guessing along the Eastern seaboard would be a good place to start. Look, Bobby, I’m sorry to have dragged you into all of this–”

Bobby cuts Sam off mid-sentence by raising his hand.

“Listen, Sam. I’m happy to help you boys when you need it. You know I am. I just wish we’d picked up on this sooner so you two could cut back on this crazy weather business. But you gotta know I’m not stupid, either. There’s somethin’ more goin’ on between you boys. Now, I don’t have to know what it is. Not sure if I even want to. Just patch things up and get back here as soon as you can so we can finally crack whatever the hell happened back there in Montana, got it?”

It was times like these that floored Sam with how lucky they were to have someone like Bobby in their lives, especially after everything they had been through. He has to bend down to pull Bobby into a tight hug, the papers under his other arm rustling in protest.

“Got it.”

“Good.” Bobby clears his throat all deep and almost embarrassed, stepping away to scratch at his beard. “You go on, then.”

“Alright,” Sam laughs, moving around Bobby to make his way to the stairs to go collect his things. “You mind if I take one of the cars out in the lot?”

“Help yourself. Just don’t take the old Dodge, it’s missing the brake line.”

A sharp knocking draws Sam’s eyes to the front door just as he gets his foot on the first step.

“Bobby? Were you expecting anyone?” Sam asks over his shoulder, moving forward to wrap his hand around the doorknob.

“No. Were you?”

Sam’s gut twists hard at the thought of who it could be, at the possibility of it being the only other person with any reason to come here despite the blistering sun outside. Jerking the door open with more force than necessary, Sam’s eyes fly desperately around the air of the front stoop only to find a young woman standing there instead of his brother, her dark head ducked down as she scuffs a foot on the welcome mat.

“Oh.” Sam hears the disappointment laden in that single syllable and feels bad immediately. He adjusts the papers under his arm with a light flush to his cheeks. “Sorry, I just – I thought you might’ve been someone else. Can I help you?”

The woman smiles and lifts her gaze to meet Sam’s. His spine locks up, freezing him in place as his mouth drops open, the horrible feeling in his abdomen roiling deep inside as he recognizes her as the girl who was supposed to be the original sacrifice. Her eyes are unnaturally shifting between red and orange, not a single trace of iris, pupil or white to make her seem remotely human.

Finally,” the woman sighs, placing her hands on her hips like she’s about to scold Sam for bad behavior. “It took long enough to find you!” The grin stretching across her mouth curls into something far more menacing and Sam still can’t move, something keeping him in place as she leans forward. “I believe you have something of mine.”

The woman lifts her pointer finger, stretches up on her tip-toes and places it in the middle of Sam’s forehead. Sam feels the fire under his skin surge through every inch of his body, an avalanche of lava so overwhelmingly powerful that a scream catches in his throat. Everything goes black.

-

Rising back into consciousness is far more difficult than it should be. Sam spends a good while fuzzing in and out of awareness and regretting it when he does. Each time he comes close to opening his eyes, he feels the bile scorching the back of his throat, ready to burn an acidic escape from his mouth. Sam finally forces himself to swallow it down and blink himself awake.

The first thing he realizes is that he’s bound, hands tied behind his back with enough rope that it reaches his elbows. He tenses his arms, testing their strength, and finds that there is absolutely no give.

The second thing he realizes is that he’s in a trunk. Sam has been hog-tied and thrown into the boot of a car like a good, old fashioned, kidnapping. He can feel the vibrations of the tires against on the road, an itch that has crawled its way into his body to numb his skin from how long he’s spent lying on the floor of the trunk.

Sam groans and shifts until he can get onto his back, staring up blankly as he tries to feel out any possible injuries he might have obtained after blacking out. Nothing hurts except for his arms and from their binds and loss of feeling, but his legs ache from having to stay bent this entire time because of the confined space. As Sam’s eyes roam the lid of the trunk hanging only a few inches from his nose, he can hear his heartbeat start to thud loud and fast in his ears. Sam’s chest tightens and starts working faster, drawing in and expelling hot, shallow breaths as he feels the walls around him start to close in. He's never been very good with tight spaces.

Closing his eyes, Sam makes himself take his air in through his nose and out through his mouth to calm down. Okay. He's in a trunk. Having a breakdown isn't going to get him out of here any sooner. His hands are useless, but his feet can do something. Sam turns once more onto his side to face what he believes is the back of the seats.

"Hey. Hey!" Sam shouts, squirming until his spine is tight against the lid of the trunk before kicking wildly at the seats in front of him. "Let me out of here!"

At first, nothing changes, which pisses Sam off even more, encouraging him to continue to put as much power behind his legs as he can until his feet start cramping in his shoes. The sound of the engine rumbles down to a lower gear and the entire car starts rocking back and forth on the uneven terrain they have apparently pulled over onto before it lurches to a stop. A door opens and shuts, rocking the frame with the strength of the slam. Sam's suddenly aware that his back will be exposed the moment the trunk is popped, so he wrestles to try to turn himself around. Hinges squeak and fresh air rushes in to wash away the stagnant breaths of Sam's near hyperventilation.

"You're a noisy one, aren't you?"

Sam blinks rapidly against the sudden onslaught of light piercing his vision. After a moment, he can make out the woman standing before him with both hands on the edge of the lid, smirking down at him. Her eyes are the same terrifying color, like she has flames trapped inside of her head.

“Where are you taking me?” Sam says, glaring at her as he pulls against his restraints. “Bobby–”

“Your friend is fine,” she sighs, waving a hand flippantly. Sam thinks she rolled her eyes but it’s hard to tell when she doesn’t have any pupils to track. “Just locked up in that fancy sex dungeon he’s got hidden away in the basement.”

“Who are you?”

The woman pulls out that twisted smile again, like she knows something he doesn’t.

“I don’t want to ruin all the fun, now do I? So how about you just sit tight and pipe down? We’re almost there.”

“Where is ‘there’?” Sam asks, his voice rising to a shout to be heard as the woman slams the lid shut, trapping him in the suffocating darkness once more. Swearing heavily, Sam kicks behind him at the seat as a final protest before lying back and focusing on his breathing once again. It’s not like there is anything else he can do besides strain his arms out and in again to try to loosen his bonds.

More than a few hours pass by Sam’s guesstimation and his entire body is hurting when the car finally, mercifully, pulls to a stop. The woman gets out and closes the door behind her, but doesn’t immediately open the lid, which makes Sam wary. Straining his ears, he can hear faint murmuring, someone else speaking to his captor. Suddenly, the trunk pops open and Sam can see two shadows blocking the sunlight that is trying to filter in.

“This is the other one?” A deep male voice rumbles, sending ice prickling down Sam’s spine. Other one? Sam sucks in a breath as realization kicks him right in the gut. Dean. They have Dean.

“He was right where we thought he’d be. Like shooting a fish in… well, a teacup, really. He wasn’t moving around like the first one.”

“Fools.” The man snorts with derision, and Sam can finally make out his face and confirm the suspicion he has that it is, in fact, the male sacrifice they saved.

“If I find out that you hurt my brother, I swear to God, I'll make you wish you'd never been summoned here,” Sam hisses through clenched teeth, his jaw aching from how badly he wants to rip into these guys.

“Brother?” The man seems caught off-guard, turning to his companion with a puzzled look on his face. The woman throws her head backs and laughs, a full-bellied guffaw complete with her laying a hand on her stomach as if it hurt.

“Oh, this is too good,” she giggles, wiping a finger under her eye even though no tear had escaped it. “And honey, I can’t wait to see you try.”

Then she reaches down and, despite Sam squirming backwards as much as the trunk will allow, he can’t escape the tip of her finger that touches that same spot in the middle of his forehead. The heat rushes through him in a torrential wave once more and he’s gone.

-

Sam slips back into reality quicker this time, his body lurching forward against the two sets of hands dragging him over a dirt path.

“He’s awake,” the man complains, his fingers tightening a fraction more around the already aching top of his right arm. Sam thinks he can feel his bones rub together.

“We’re almost there. Patience." The woman's tone is edged in irritation, like the man has been a thorn in her side this entire time. They don't sound unlike an old married couple.

Sam wishes more than anything that he could get his feet under him and just walk, but the hours of being cramped in the fetal position leave his legs useless. Eventually, Sam thinks enough to start looking around to take in his surroundings. The trees lining each side of him look familiar, and once they pass through the final layer of woods and step into a clearing, he realizes why.

They're back in the field where Sam and Dean had been two months earlier to try to stop the ritual. And there, sitting in the middle of the expanse of grass near the top of the slope, is Dean.

Sam's breath whooshes out of his lungs like someone just punched him hard and dug their knuckles into his ribs until bone ground against bone. Laying eyes on his brother after all these weeks is making the flames in his body writhe and flare until he thinks they're going to burst out of his very pores and all he can think of is Dean.

"Sammy?" Dean's voice floats to his ears, wavering and worried, before becoming a harsh bark. "Dammit, Sam! Are you kidding me?"

Shock rocks Sam's head back as if he'd just been slapped.

"You haven't seen me in two months and the first thing you do is get pissed that I got captured by these lunatics, Dean? Seriously?" Sam shouts back. "Who'd they get first, huh?"

"Quiet!" The man twists Sam's arm hard, making him yelp in pain.

"Hey!" Dean roars. "You get your hands off my brother, you son of a bitch!"

Sam feels thin fingers wrap around the column of his throat and start to squeeze as the couple continues to drag him forward.

"Insult my husband again and we'll see how long Sammy here can live without a trachea. Deal?" The woman's words are soft, as if she is making conversation about her favorite kind of tea and not how she's about to mutilate Sam's neck. Sam can see Dean's face lose what little color it has left, leaving him pale enough that his freckles stand out like someone took a brush and flicked a spray of tan paint on his skin.

Sam is thrown down on his side a few feet from Dean, groaning as his face crushes into the exposed dirt and rocks in this particular spot.

"Sammy?" Dean says, quieter now and with a line between his furrowed brows. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Sam grunts, wriggling until he's sitting up. He watches the couple, who seem to be conferring about a meter away with small hand gestures between the two of them. "‘M fine."

The woman is nodding and jerks her chin at the two of them before striding forward with her hands clasped behind her back, a smile on her face.

"So, it's about time that we tell you why we have gathered here today!" She begins brightly, tilting her head down at them.

"You want your powers back," Sam interrupts, knowing he's right when the grin on her face stretches even wider. "Don't you?"

"Oh, you're a smart one, aren't you, Sammy?" The woman coos, bending forward to pinch Sam's cheek and shake his head back and forth like he's a two year old. "That's right, honey. The ones who summoned me and my husband were stupid enough to not take care of you two insects before completing the ritual. So here we are, two poor gods limited by these human bodies while our powers remain locked inside of you."

Sam hasn't felt cold in months now, but the shiver that crawls down his spine chills him to the bone at the edge to her words.

"Windros, dear, would you go fetch the bodies? I think we can begin."

The man, Windros, nods and sets off for the opposite tree line, where Sam can see a large, dark pile just hidden by the shadows of the woods. His throat is suddenly as dry as parchment, scraped clean of any words he may have wanted to offer before.

"You," the woman says, placed her hands on Sam's shoulder and shoving him backwards along the ground until his back is pressed against Dean's and their bound arms are next to each other. "Can stay right here by your brother." She crouches, her disturbing eyes searing between them both. "So. How does it feel? To be touching again?"

Sam has to close his eyes to contain his whimper because, God, does it feel good, the sudden wave of refreshing coolness seeping into his skin and his muscles and his veins, calming the constant burn that's nearly driven him insane in Dean's absence. He can feel Dean tensing along his shoulders and assumes he's just as overwhelmed by the calming effect a simple touch seems to have on each other's extreme states.

"That's what I thought," she says smugly, propping her chin on her hand as she continues to watch. "Oh, I just love that you two had to be brothers, fighting all these yummy urges to touch and feel and take." The grin reappears as she turns her head to look more at Dean. "Must've been especially hard for you, huh, Dean? I know Windros' energy can be very..." She taps her finger on her chin for a moment. "Aggressive. Winter always is, isn't it?"

"Go to hell, bitch," Dean spits through clenched teeth.

"Hell? Pfft," she blows a raspberry with her tongue before standing and placing her hands on her hips. Windros is approaching, each hand wrapped around the wrist of a dead druid from the ritual all those weeks ago. He drops them near Dean and starts back for the next two. "Good one. No, I think we'll just complete the ceremony that these idiots couldn't bother to do right the first time around."

The woman flounces over to the two bodies Windros deposited and starts positioning them on their backs in the beginnings of a circle around Sam and Dean, whistling as she works.

"Gods."

Sam twists his head so he can hear Dean better.

"What?"

"They're gods, Sam. How are we gonna go up against fucking gods?"

Sam ignores Dean, choosing instead to stare at the ground beneath him. Remembering what happened when his bare feet touched the earth in the woods outside of the motel, he pushes his bound hands down until his palms meet the dirt. Closing his eyes, Sam focuses on that pit in his stomach. It expands as it feels his awareness on it, as if it’s alive and pleased that he is acknowledging it. He presses his hands down even harder and conjures up an image of the thorny vines he once saw wrapping around an old Victorian house on a hunt they tackled in Georgia. The ground begins shifting under Sam's fingers and he can't help the smile that breaks across his face when he knows it's working.

"What the–" Dean jumps and tries to turn around.

"Shut up!" Sam hisses as quietly as he can, keeping his eyes shut to concentrate. He wills the vines that are pushing through the earth to direct themselves up the ropes binding his arms, imagining them sawing back and forth so the sharp curves of the thick thorns catch and fray the cords binding both him and Dean. The coil burns hotly in his abdomen, licking at the walls of his stomach as he uses the power that the woman wants to take back from him. When Sam feels a movement jostling their arms, he knows that they're doing just what he wants them to.

"Don't move. Keep your back to mine, okay?" Sam whispers. "Just trust me."

Dean grumbles something under his breath but stays where he is, his body blocking Sam's arms from the view of the two gods who are continuing to bring the bodies around them. Sam can already feel his bonds beginning to loosen, the drag of the sharp thorns catching on the threads of the rope to allow space for Sam to flex outwards.

The two gods have started chanting together now that the dead druids are arranged in a circle around them, the language just as deep and guttural as Sam remembers. He wills the vines to work harder, gritting his teeth as sweat slips from his temples and his abdomen roars with the power he's finally tapping into. When they both produce the blue and red dagger and hold them aloft, Sam sucks in a breath as he realizes they're the ones that were sitting on Bobby's desk. So they are important to the ritual.

The air is hissing overhead as clouds begin to gather, dark and ominous as the sudden humidity makes the hairs on Sam's arms rise. He swears under his breath as the woman moves to stand in front of him, and judging by Dean’s grunt behind him, Windros is moving into his space too. They both continue chanting before abruptly stopping.

The woman steps forward until her feet bracket Sam’s thighs before she drops right down into his lap, taking his chin in her hand as she uses the other to slide the flat of the ruby blade across his cheekbone.

“You boys shouldn't have had these." She eyes the dagger that is edging dangerously close to Sam's eye. "Children shouldn't play with such dangerous things." The serious tone softens as playful malice curls her mouth into a smile. "How ‘bout it, Sammy? You gonna open up all pretty for me so I can get all of my powers back where they belong? It’s no fun being a summer goddess without the perks.” Her words are silk in Sam’s ears, soft and persuasive with a hint of impatience, if the roll of her hips is anything to go by.

“Calista!” A sharp voice barks. “Save your teasing for after we reobtain what’s rightfully ours.”

“You’re no fun anymore!” Calista whines loud enough to be heard over the trees rustling with the growing storm before sighing and looking back down at Sam contemplatively. “Fine. I can always wait to play with my food right before I eat it.”

And with that, she clasps a hand hard on the back of Sam’s head and dives forward, her mouth crushing into Sam’s. He flails, his protest muffled, and he can feel Dean struggling at his back, yelling something that the next lash of wind carries away. Sam thrashes again before gasping into the kiss, which is barely a kiss at all. He can feel Calista’s lips urging his open, only to have her suck in harshly, as if trying to drag the air out of Sam’s lungs. Instead, the persistent heat in Sam’s stomach reacts, flaring and swirling up his chest until it funnels into his throat. It scorches him from the inside out, pouring from of him and into the goddess in one jolting surge until he’s left empty, the cavern in his stomach suddenly hollow and void.

A huge gasp squeezes Sam’s chest as he tries to take in air that seems to have burned away with the draw of power from his body, and Calista leans back with a gleeful cackle as Sam doubles over to heave in his breaths.

“Sam? Sam! What the fuck are you doing to him? Sam?” Dean’s still shouting but Sam can’t respond, his lungs contorting in painful seizures as he tries to get in enough oxygen to clear the black spots sparkling across his vision. Just as Sam manages to gather himself enough to sit back and away from the goddess, who is standing up with her arms outstretched, he feels Dean buck into him.

“Touch me again and I swear to God–” Dean’s voice is abruptly cut off, but Sam can feel his muscles spasming with his attempts to get away.

“Get–” Sam coughs violently, twisting hard enough to catch the view of Windros gripping Dean’s jaw in a white-knuckled grip as he kisses Dean with bruising force. Sam’s heart plummets and rises back up, kicking the words out of his mouth. “You get the hell off of him! Let him go!”

The smirk Sam can see curling at the edge of the god’s mouth just make Sam gnash his teeth and strain against the ropes circling his arms. They’re on the verge of snapping, and Sam was planning to wait for the right time to break free and kill these bastards, but this guy is kissing Dean, kissing his brother, his everything, and he’s enjoying it and Sam needs to rip the man’s jaw from his skull right the fuck now.

Windros must be able to sense Sam is about to blow because he retracts, a languid grin stretching across his face as his disturbingly blue eyes move to meet Sam’s. Bile rises to scald Sam’s throat as he watches Windros lift a hand and drag the pad of his thumb along his glistening bottom lip before dipping it into his mouth, his cheeks hollowing dramatically as he sucks in. Sam’s wrenching his body forward with a wordless cry before he can even register it, every curse he knows bubbling under his skin to break free as he strains to get his hands around the god’s throat.

“Now, now,” Windros chides, his palm suddenly pressing tightly to the top of Sam’s skull as leverage to rise to his feet. “You’re far too rash, young one.”

Sam tosses his head to get rid of the man’s grip, opening his mouth to start in on the god when he feels an elbow to his back.

“Sam, don’t,” Dean mumbles, before horking and spitting to the side with a distinctly revolted look on his face. “They got what they wanted.”

The delighted laughter that floats to Sam’s ears affirms that very fact. He watches as Calista and Windros reunite, their arms twining around each other and their mouths connected in such an intimate way that he has to look away. He makes one final jerk of his sore arm muscles and feels the ropes around them tighten and then slacken, slipping from around his elbows to pool by his wrists. Finally, something was going their way. He can feel Dean’s arms still working to get himself loose, and knows he needs to buy them some more time.

“So what now?” Sam says loudly, a gust of air nearly snatching the words from his throat when it rams directly into his face. He swallows and tries again, desperate to get them talking. “Gonna serve us up as the final sacrifices?”

Calista pulls away from her husband, dropping onto her heels from standing on her tip-toes.

“You’re awful nosy, aren’t you, Sammy?”

Sam grits his teeth at the consistent use of Dean’s nickname for him, the letters clawing against his skin with how wrong they sound falling from her lips.

“No matter,” Calista sighs, waving a hand in the air as if to swipe her previous comment away. “But you got it, kid. We need a little something to complete the ritual, and since the rest of these fools–” Here she kicks a lifeless body of one of the druids. “–had to go and off themselves to you two instead of us, we could use a couple of fresh hearts to cut into.” Her resulting smile is all teeth and her eyes are fire, the shifting colors making Sam’s lungs tighten in fear.

Both she and Windros exchange a look before producing the daggers Sam had pulled from the druids once more, their steps heavy as they move back towards both Sam and Dean. Just then, Sam feels Dean’s ropes slide away.

“Now!” he shouts, lurching to his feet at the same time Dean does. Using the mere seconds of surprise they have over the gods, Sam digs his shoes in the earth and throws himself forward to take Calista out at the knees. Her screech pierces his hearing as their bodies crash to the ground, rocks and hard dirt scraping his chest and arms through his shirt painfully. He unlocks his arms from around her calves to try to scramble up to get the knife, but he can feel her body twist and only just manages to block the downward stab with his forearm catching hers.

“You little scum!” Calista snarls, her other hand wrenching Sam’s head back to expose his neck, the tip of the dagger trembling as they both struggle, her to push the knife down and Sam to hold it at bay. “Why fight the inevitable? You and your brother will never leave this clearing alive!”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Sam grunts, straining against the sharp pain of his hair being yanked from his scalp. Judging by the flare in the goddess’s eyes, he’s bruised her ego, and he takes the moment to surge forward and connect his fist to her jaw, the satisfying crack of knuckles to skin reaching his ears.

He’s stretching now, so close to reaching the hilt of the dagger in her now-slackened grasp, when some invisible force hurls him flat onto his back. Swearing, Sam tries to sit up only to see enormous roots burst forth from the ground on either side of his body and strap him down, dirt spitting into his eyes as smaller ones rise and lash themselves over his wrists, ankles and neck. He can’t even turn his head to blink away the earth blurring his vision.

“Crap,” Sam coughs, only to have the roots squeeze his chest even tighter, restricting his air flow to shallow breaths, not nearly enough for what his body needs.

Calista is looming above him now, her face mimicking the storm still crackling overhead. She kneels at his side, the ruby dagger glinting menacingly as it traces its way up the roots until it hovers just above his pounding heart.

“Stupid boy,” she breathes, pressing the tip down until a sharp pain blossoms on his chest, a yell scraping its way out of Sam’s throat. “You think it’s that easy to overpower me? I am a goddess, you imbecile!” Calista’s sneering down at Sam, like he’s the scum she has unfortunately found on the bottom of her shoe. “You’re human again, a useless ape, and I can’t wait to carve your beating heart from between your ribs.”

Foreign words begin to fall from her mouth, twisting her lips into vicious shapes to spill the chant out into the swirling air around them. Sam struggles to turn his head against the grip of the roots, tries to find Dean in his limited vision but fails to find anything except the slice of grass and dirt in his eyeshot. A shuddering sadness closes Sam’s throat and the familiar burn behind his eyes is scorching hot. When he imagined his death, it had always been at his brother’s side. Even after everything that happened between them, even if the delicate balance they had toed their entire lives was gone, thrown out the window, Sam still wants the last thing he sees to be the clear green of his brother’s eyes.

To find that his final wish is coming true makes Sam gasp, because Dean’s suddenly there, standing behind Calista, his irises hard as flint and his face unforgiving as he fists a hand in her wild hair. With one smooth motion, the goddess’s words are cut off due to the jagged blue blade jutting from her open mouth. Red lightning skitters across her skin and her chest seems to glow, brightening to an almost blinding level before it disappears, like a light switch has been turned off. Sam can hear her gargling, can see the blood pooling around the knife to spill past the corner of her lips before Dean jerks the dagger out of the back of her skull. There’s another stomach-turning sound as Dean plunges the knife back into Calista, but this time straight through her heart, the tip just barely emerging through the front of her shirt before Dean shoves her limp body to the side.

The clouds above them are fading from black to slate grey, the wind that has been whipping around the clearing dying just as fast. Sam’s panting breaths are the loudest sound in the sudden silence, challenged only by the thump of his heartbeat in his ears as his eyes rake over his brother, who is saying something as he kneels and yanks at the roots receding from their hold across Sam’s body.

Dean’s bloody, the entire left half of his face caked in liquid crimson that is still dripping from his chin, and there’s a gash across his collarbones that is soaking his shirt until it looks almost black. Dean is bruised and battered, his hands are trembling as they curl around Sam’s collar and force him to sit up, and Sam still wants to trace each wound with the shape of his mouth until it’s healed. The foreign power that has been feeding this flame in Sam’s heart and soul for these past few months is gone, sucked out of him by the original owner and Sam’s blood still feels like it’s on fire, eating through his veins at the brush of Dean’s fingers on his chest, whispering for him to lean into his brother’s touch and be swept away by his very presence.

"Dean," he chokes out.

"I'm here, Sammy," Dean whispers hoarsely, his hands sliding up to cradle the back of Sam's head and usher him into the space between his neck and shoulder. Sam moves gratefully, pressing the line of his nose against the reassuring pulse of Dean's heartbeat, each vibration adding a stone to Sam's stomach that settles lower and lower, he's alive, Dean's alive, they're okay, until he feels like he is finally anchored back to earth.

"How did you–"

"Bastard was cocky," Dean laughs directly into Sam's ear, making him shiver. "Wasn't expecting me to fight as hard as I did, I guess."

They're both quiet except for their breathing, which is slowly returning to normal. Sam closes his eyes, digs his forehead deeper into Dean's shoulder. It's odd now, to not feel like he's about to erupt like an unstable volcano at all times, to not feel the cool waves wash over him from the mere touch of Dean's skin. All he can feel now is his heart expanding, stretching his muscles and ribcage to the breaking point because of how right it feels to have Dean's arms around him, and it's terrifying. He has to disengage, sit back and run a hand over his face before he does something that drives Dean away again.

Dean is staring at him hard, his brow furrowed and his mouth turned down at the corners. Sam swallows and looks away. He finds the body of Windros, spread eagle on his back, a few meters away with the sapphire dagger jutting out of his chest like a crystallized icicle.

"Who would've thought you could kill gods?" Sam says, his eyes falling on the form of the summer goddess just a foot to his right.

"Think it was those knives. They seemed to be pretty upset that we had them in the first place, which made me think that it might be because they're one of the only things they can get hurt by." Dean shrugs and sits heavily on his butt, leaning back on his hands as he surveys the area, oblivious to the macabre mask covering half of his face.

"Summer and winter, huh?" Sam presses a hand to his abdomen, where the pocket of heat has resided up until a few minutes ago. "Guess it explains all of the, uh," Sam clears his throat and plucks at his shirt to avoid Dean's stare that is burning holes in the side of his head. "It explains a lot."

"Explains a lot of what?" Dean's voice is flat, making Sam wince.

"Opposites attract and all of that." Sam waves his hand around in the air aimlessly, a blush creeping up his cheeks at the memory of Dean's body sliding against his, firm and warm and everything he wanted. Sam pinches his nose between his fingertips. Not anymore. He can't lose Dean again, not for something as selfish as what Sam wants to have between them. He just can't.

Clambering to his feet, Sam rubs his fingers up his arms to make sure the ropes didn't do anything more than bruise the muscles before stepping forward to begin dragging Calista's body towards the crest of the hill.

"What are you doing?" Dean's standing up too, wiping the seat of his jeans as he watches Sam move.

"Can't hurt to burn the bodies. Just in case."

Dean pauses before nodding. He strides over to the other god and drags him over to where Sam is before rifling through the front pocket of Windros' jeans. At Sam's puzzled look, Dean produces his keys, the metal clinking softly together as they dangle from his fingers.

"He practically hijacked my car. That means I get to throw the matches."

A snort of laughter from Sam surprises them both, but at least when Dean walks away to get the supplies, Sam can see the smile edging onto his brother's face.

Sam finishes pulling the rest of the bodies into a mock funeral pyre by the time Dean returns with a gasoline can and a book of matches in hand. They douse the corpses and Sam stands back as Dean deftly strikes the entire book to flame. The fire flickers shadows and light across his face for the moment that he hesitates before he tosses it on the gasoline-soaked shirt of Windros. The entire pile is burning within seconds, a charcoal plume of smoke marring the sky above. It's only a few moments until they have to turn and leave, the smell of burning flesh too strong for them to linger any longer.

Slamming the doors of the Impala shut behind them cuts the air with a sense of finality. It's done. The job is finished, they are back to normal, and everything is fine.

Except everything is not fine, because Sam is looking at Dean and he still can't stop tracing the shape of Dean's mouth with his eyes, can barely stop himself from reaching over to curl his fingers over the column of Dean's neck. He still wants, more than anything else he ever has before, and it's overwhelming and familiar, and he can't help but wonder if this has always been here, the wanting between them in the reassuring touches and brushing of shoulders and spine-bending hugs. He can't help but wonder if the power they temporarily held within them merely broke open the gate they had locked shut themselves, never daring to find the key because of what would be unleashed if the door had been opened.

Dean’s quiet in his seat, his eyes unfocused and staring ahead with the keys swinging gently from the ignition. Sam takes a deep breath, drinks in one last longing look of his brother’s body before turning to stare out the passenger window.

“We should probably check on Bobby.”

Dean jumps and blinks rapidly, throwing a cautious look at Sam before reaching forward to turn the engine over.

“Yeah,” he rasps, checking the rearview as he reverses. “That’s probably a good idea.”

That’s the last that the two of them speak until they get to Bobby’s nearly a day later. He wasn’t too happy when they finally managed to get him out of the safe room and Dean made some sort of comment that at least Bobby can sleep at night knowing that the locks work.

When Sam later recounts the events of the field while Dean is showering upstairs, Bobby swears loudly and slaps a hand to his thigh, making Sam jump.

“Dammit!” Bobby rifles around on his desk before producing a thin book with aged papers, yellow around the corners. Carefully opening it to the page he wants, Bobby hands it over to Sam. “The entire time I was researching, I was only thinking of entities that had to do with nature. But we completely overlooked the idea of seasons. That explains the heat waves and the blizzards when you boys were separated; your energy was imbalanced without the other and completely tipped the scales.” Heaving a sigh, Bobby waves at the dusty pages in Sam’s grasp. “That would be your two gods that you dealt with. I found it a week or two back, but since they were seasonal gods and had no reference to druids, I didn’t even think…” Bobby cusses under his breath again. “I’m a damn fool.”

“Hey,” Sam lays a hand on Bobby’s shoulder, smiling wryly. “You couldn’t have known, Bobby. It’s alright. Hell, I didn’t even pick it up. It’s done now anyway, and you did more than enough to help us like always.”

Bobby grumbles his assent, but Sam can tell it’s still bothering him. He takes the Impala into town to get the liquor store’s best bottle of scotch as a gift, the least he could do for the troubles and stress they put Bobby through over these last few months. When Sam walks back into the house, he finds the television on, rattling about the completely ordinary weather that is predicted to sweep across the country in the next week. Dean gives him the side-eye as he drops the keys on the kitchen table, but a look of understanding dawns on his face when Sam flourishes the liquor to Bobby. Bobby thumps him on the back, grinning, and makes to pull down three glasses, but Sam stops him with a hand held in the air.

“Thanks, Bobby, but I think…” Sam bites the corner of his mouth and glances at Dean before moving back to their friend. “I think we need to head out. Get back on the road, try to shake this off.”

A knowing smile appears from beneath his scruffy beard as Bobby sets the bottle down.

“‘Course. Besides, I can always save this for a rainy day.” Bobby fixes them with a serious glare. “Or until you boys screw up again and come back here with your tail between your legs.”

Sam snorts, bending to pull him into a hug. “Let’s shoot for the rainy day, huh?”

Dean claps Bobby on the back, scooping up his keys with a “Thanks for everything, Bobby,” before lugging their bags out to the car.

Sam’s about to go join him when he feels fingers wrap around his elbow, holding him back.

“Your brother’s been awful quiet since you boys got back. You make sure he’s okay.”

“Always do, Bobby.” Sam’s smile feels too tight, like a rubber band stretched beyond breaking point. “We’ll be fine.”

-

To say that there is tension is an understatement.

The next several days are so quiet that Sam is on the verge of crawling out of his own skin. All conversations are limited to asking about meals, coffee runs, when to stop for gas and what motel they should stop at for the night.

It’s nearly two weeks since the incident in the clearing when Sam and Dean are driving down a scenic highway, the abandoned stretch of road pointing ahead of them like an arrow without a head, just one long, dark shaft that fades into the horizon. Sam’s vision is blurring because he’s loosely focused on the broken yellow line sweeping beneath the hood of the Impala, but he blinks to get rid of it when he realizes the car is slowing down and drifting off onto the shoulder. Sam turns to stare at his brother as Dean casually shifts the gear to park, turns the engine off and sits back in the seat.

Dean’s eyes are still straight ahead, his eyelids shuttering low as his pupils trace the pavement ahead of them. Sam can’t move his own eyes away, can only follow the charcoal curve of Dean’s bottom lashes that skim the top of his cheekbone, and how the light of the afternoon sun reflecting off the hood of the car is catching on the amulet resting on the rise of his chest. Sam keeps his gaze there, running down the black cord that he has never seen missing from his brother’s neck, the same one from all those years ago that had been wrapped in newspaper and used tape that barely had enough stickiness to hold the edges together.

He remembers how his heart had felt just like the Grinch’s that Christmas, growing three sizes too big as he had watched Dean’s mouth part open after unwrapping the gift, the genuine feeling behind his Thank you, Sam, I love it seeping into Sam’s chest with warm fingers to squeeze his heart even tighter. He remembers when he merely thought that he had the best big brother in the world and that it was normal to want to live in the space under his arm, tucked into Dean’s side with his face pressed to Dean’s throat. He remembers the looks they would share, the times where Dean would pause and stare at Sam, speaking volumes in his silence as he just smiled down softly and snared an identical gaze out of Sam, adoration bordering awe.

Sam wonders how it took a failed ritual, the accidental inheritance of power from a god, and a near-death experience for him to realize that he is in love with his big brother. Fate always has had a twisted sense of irony, yanking the carpet out from under Sam just when he thinks he’s getting his bearings, but this is something else entirely.

Sam lets out a long, slow sigh out of his nose as he turns away from Dean, his pulse kicking up from the thoughts swirling in his head. Neither of them has spoken, even though they have been sitting like this for a matter of minutes now. The only sounds are two sets of lungs breathing and the ticking of the engine as the Impala settles, waiting, as always, for them to decide when the next stretch of road will disappear under her wheels.

There’s a familiar creak and Dean is stepping out, his door shutting behind him as he takes a few steps and leans back against the trunk of the car. Sam sits there, staring at the shape of his brother through the driver’s side rear window. He doesn’t know what it is that tells him he needs to go join Dean, but it’s enough to make his fingers curl around the handle and for his feet to meet the gravel scattered on the ground below. It crunches beneath the soles of his shoes as he steps around the back end of the car and shifts into the space Dean seems to have left open for Sam’s body to occupy.

Ahead of them is a cornfield, the rasping of dry husks scraping together with each sweep of wind that moves the stalks in waves reaching Sam’s ears. It’s cool out here, and Sam watches the front of dark clouds that creep closer with the impending storm they had heard about on the radio fifty miles back. It doesn’t matter. They need this right now. Sam worms his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and waits, because he knows that Dean is building up to something, or at least trying to, and he wants to give Dean the chance to speak when he is ready to. It takes a shorter amount of time that he expects before Dean is pushing himself away from the car to turn to Sam, though his head remains bowed to hide his face.

“You fucking terrify me, Sam.”

Sam closes his eyes for a moment, breathes out, turns to stare at his brother.

“I can hardly think straight around you on a good day. And after the druids, it just got worse. I could barely control myself, could barely fucking function, and the thoughts I had–” Dean shakes his head and scuffs his boot across the loose rocks. “You don’t wanna know, Sammy. That’s why I had to leave.” He looks up now, showing the most vulnerable, open shine to the rings of green searing Sam’s vision. “It wasn’t us choosing… choosing to do what we did. Everything was supposed to remain in the fucked up little box in my head. This wasn’t how I wanted it to go.” A weak laugh shudders Dean’s frame. “Hell, this wasn’t what I wanted for you at all.”

“What wasn’t?” Sam stands up straight, his heart in his throat seriously impeding his words but he forces them out all the same. “You think I didn’t want this just as much as you did, Dean?”

“Sam.” Dean tilts his head to the side, a wry smile curling up one side of his mouth. “C’mon.”

“You don’t believe me.” Sam says it slowly, a statement more than a question.

“Did you want this before we got tangled up in this mess, Sammy?”

Sam’s nostrils flare and he presses his lips together in a thin line, the smell of rain heavy in the air now that the storm is closing in above them, yet Sam still can’t be bothered to move.

“See?” Dean chuckles dryly, his shoulders rising and falling in a defeated shrug as he casts his eyes upwards. “It was all just a part of the whole deal, opposites attract and all that.”

Sam’s jaw is clenching and his lungs are constricting painfully, because this is Dean confessing, this is Dean saying that he’s here too, the same page that neither of them have ever dared to step on before their borrowed powers shoved them there together, but he isn’t seeing it, seeing Sam, seeing that this has been never been one-sided, because they’re SamandDean, they’ve always been one and the same, so why would this be any different? How could the amount of the love they have for each other be anything but mutual if they are two halves of a whole?

Sam’s fingers are trembling when they pull out of his pockets and tangle in the front of Dean’s t-shirt, more as a lifeline than anything else.

“What I’ve felt for you my entire life isn’t fake, Dean. It’s always been this way for me. I just didn’t let myself look at it, because having to face the fact that I’m in love with my big brother isn’t exactly easy. But, Dean,” Sam steps forward and the toes of their shoes are nearly brushing, fine dust swirling around their ankles as the wind rises and falls and clatters the cornfield to life. “I know what I want. What I’ve always wanted. This is up to you.”

Sam can feel Dean rock back onto his heels. Dean is finally seeing Sam how he wants Dean to, his eyes peeling away the fear and apprehension that has hindered them both, stripping Sam’s soul to the last layer of skin to see that he means this. That he wants this, wants them.

The first raindrop falls on Sam’s cheek, sliding down to his chin only to be traced by a second, third and fourth in a heartbeat. Sam barely has time to register the increasing drum of rain on the metal of the Impala before he finds his world spinning, his feet nearly slipping on loose gravel before his back is pressing against the driver’s door with Dean’s fists in his collar.

Surprise, not pain, knocks the wind out of him, and the beauty of Dean being thrown into sharp grey relief from the sudden onslaught of rain falling in sheets around them keeps the air out of Sam’s lungs. He’s close to Sam now, so close that their legs are brushing, that even in the downpour soaking into their skin and hair and bones, Sam can still see the green of his brother’s irises through the rain. Sam has only just got his breath back when Dean speaks one more time, his voice cutting through all of the background noise to curl into Sam’s ears.

“I want to try this again. As us, this time. Just us, Sammy.”

Dean’s eyes are on Sam’s mouth, but he’s hesitating, the seam of his own pink lips parting open before closing once again. Sam can be patient, it’s something he has always prided himself on mastering compared to the short tempers of his father and brother, but after all of this, he can’t be. He needs Dean more than he needs his lungs to start working again, more than he needs food to eat or water to drink. All Sam knows is that he needs to kiss his brother, to feel the form of their mouths fusing into one, or he’s going to die.

So he slides his hands up to Dean’s cheeks and stretches his thumb to skim over the rain-slick surface of his bottom lip, unable to hold back the small gasp that leaves him at how willingly Dean’s mouth pushes into his touch. That’s when his resolve crumbles, the hooks Dean has always had anchored in his body reeling him in until their lips are finally touching, pressing, sealing together. Dean lurches forward, plastering himself to Sam’s body until the only barrier between them are the clothes on their bodies and the thin veil of rainwater on their skin. Sam opens up, lets Dean in to truly claim one of the last parts of himself, to chase away the words Sam had been preparing, because right now, kissing his brother against their car in the middle of an abandoned highway, there is nothing else to say.