Tender Threads Exquisitely Finding
(you pray it all away but it continues to grow)

Vamp's Sweet Charity Fic

Note: This fic has been edited to conform to FF net's TOS. A graphic scene has been redacted and 'cleaned up.' To find the uncensored version, please visit the author's personal website. Link provided on profile page.

1.

Something broke while Dean was in hell.

While he's the last person who wants sappy homecomings and overly emotional reunions, he'd expected more than a single hug. And Sam's disappearing every night, keeping secrets and coming home smelling like sulfur and blood and Hell. Dean has to fight down nausea and bile every time Sam comes home because while he doesn't remember anything about being in Hell, he remembers.

Dean can fix a lot of things. He's been rebuilding cars since he was nine and Dad asked him to pass the spanner. He can look at an engine and see how the pieces fit together, figure out what's wrong and make it better. He doesn't know how to fix what's broken between him and Sam. He can't even find the edges of what's wrong. He's no good with words and Sam has stopped talking.

Dean watches Sam pull into himself, brooding and moody during the day and staying out longer and longer each night. Dean tries to talk to Sam once and gets shutdown so thoroughly he half convinces himself the conversation never even started. And Dean does something so uncharacteristic he doesn't even realize what he's done until it's too late: he gives up.

For the first time in his life, Dean gives up on his family. Turns over in his bed when Sam comes home and ignores the fire and brimstone. Doesn't ask, doesn't make Sam tell. He plays angels and demons with Castiel (when he shows up), acts his part with Bobby (when the significant looks pile up and Dean feels frayed around the edges), and stays strong for Sam (in the increasingly infrequent moments when he actually looks at Dean).

Dean blames it all on Hell and figures when they've healed a little, when time's started to mend whatever's broken, they'll figure this out.

And then Sam disappears and Dean's run out of time.

2.

He wonders where the concept of pain comes from in relation to his existence. He's never known anything else, so he shouldn't have a word for how he feels that implies existence without. He tries to imagine that, the absence of pain, but can't come up with anything. He's been hurting for a long time now.

Maybe it's the voices' fault. They whisper pretty promises in sibilant hisses; the assure him not-pain is possible, and they'll show him if only.

If only.

He's pretty sure he deserves this, but the meaning and concept behind such an idea floats away from him and he lets them go. It's too confusing, trying to sort out the before. He's fairly certain he was a person once. With a name.

Something green overtakes in his vision and offers him damnable salvation.

One of the voices gets louder, crawls across his skin and burrows into him. He feels unclean and tainted, and something important has come loose. He can feel it, disconnected where it should be welded close.

He turns away from the promises, sinks down into the pain, accepts his due and something vile slips between his ribs.

3.

Dean searches for Sam with the relentless stubbornness the Winchesters are famous for. He starts with nothing and it rapidly multiplies into a lot of nothing. But Sam's out there, so Dean spends his nights flitting from bar to bar, tracking down every lead that seems even remotely suspicious, and sleeping only when his body refuses to go on anymore.

Two weeks and he's canvassed every square mile of the town they were in and is moving out to the surrounding areas. He doesn't want to leave unless he absolutely has to. Dean hasn't had a chance to get his own cell phone yet, so Sam has no way of contacting him if he leaves. Besides, Sam could come walking in the door any moment with a wide smile and an apologetic shrug for disappearing.

Yeah, Dean's not buying that one either.

At week three, Castiel makes an appearance and reinvents cryptic. Something about halves and wholes, salvation and damnation, love and hate, good and bad. A lot of contradictory words lined up like bowling pins, just waiting for Castiel to knock 'em down. (The apocalypse apparently doesn't have an antonymy. Dean considered suburbia, but that's definitely the first level of hell, so no.) Dean's watched TV. Seen the movies. The message only makes sense when everything's over and done, in which case you might as well not have bothered with that scene. Because right now, not only does Dean not care, he's pretty sure he would've scored more information had Castiel said nothing. It pisses Dean off because on top of that, Castiel says the unthinkable out loud. What would you do if Sam left? Dean qualifies that with a punch to Castiel's jaw. The angel just gives him a knowing, superior look, and quietly disappears, leaving Dean with a throbbing hand and voices reminding him that Sam's left before.

Sam wouldn't leave him. (Right?)

Dean's going quietly insane. He recognizes this in an abstract, uninterested kind of way. He looks like shit, he's not sleeping enough. He's started to name the voices in his head. The only thing that keeps him going is the force of his conviction: Sam. Is. Not. Gone. Sam is not gone. Samisnotgone.

He's almost convinced himself that's the God's honest truth when a chick in a bar looks at Sam's picture and says yeah, she's seen him. Tall dude, gangly, goes by the name of Sam. Dimples.

Dean's entire world spins on its axis.

"You-you've seen him? When? Where'd he go?" He can't even summon up discomfort at the way his voice cracks and his desperation bleeds through.

"Louisiana."

"Louisi..." Dean trails off and his eyes narrow. It's not conjecture on her part, or something overheard. Sam's in Louisiana. Dean'd bet his life on it. And there's something wrong about this meeting. The girl shifts, her lips twisting into an all too familiar smirk and Dean swears low and emphatic.

"Nice to see you again, Dean-o." Well. It's kinda nice to feel something other than blind panic and sheer desperation in connection with Sam. It's a good thing Sam's not dead; Dean's going to kill the lying son of a bitch. Fucking Ruby.

"Ruby," he grinds out, barely restrained.

"You don't look so good, Dean." The need to enact bloody, mindless violence on the bitch wells up inside him and starts running down the sides when he recognizes her as the half-dressed tramp from Sam's hotel room.

"Why is Sam in Louisiana."

"A little beauty sleep couldn't hurt," Ruby says instead of answering. "Though it might not do you any good." Dean doesn't think, just pulls the knife out of its sheath and lunges. Ruby's waiting for him, blocking his swing and pinning his hand to the tabletop. Her eyes are black and her lip curls into a sneer.

"You don't have time to be an idiot, Dean. Sam's in trouble." They glare at each other, hatred simmering between them. But Sam wins. He always wins with Dean. So he sucks it up and drops his eyes, nods once and wrenches his wrist away from Ruby. "Good boy." Dean's seconds away from saying fuck it, Louisiana is more than he had before, he can make do.

"He got himself kidnapped by a coven, one of the most powerful around. Nasty people. They're into dark stuff, old magic. Voodoo, hoodoo, witchcraft—you name it, they've got one dainty little toe in the pool. And right now? They've got a lot of power and they know how to wield it. Whatever they're doing to Sam is setting off alarms from Louisiana to Illinois. We have to get him out." Dean lets the 'we' go because Sam is his and Ruby can fuck right the hell off. Besides, there's something very important Ruby's leaving out.

"Why Sam?" Ruby stares at him, assessing, and Dean wishes he'd ordered something strong because Ruby's about to drop a bomb on him. And if she isn't reveling in it, it's going to be ibad.

"Sam's special."

"Quit with the fucking bullshit, Ruby," Dean sneers. "We don't have time, remember?"

"Your brother's got mad-crazy psychic powers, courtesy of Azazel, and the coven wants to control them. Actually, everyone wants to control them, but they're the first to make a play."

Dean freezes, beer halfway to his lips. Sam's been lying to him. In a major way. Dean wonders if he lost Sam's trust before or after Hell.

4.

A dark figure slinks up to the altar, shuddering as darkness slides along her skin and spins seduction in her mind. The boy, pale and drawn, lay motionless at the eye of the maelstrom, its focus and its anchor. So much power in one place, untapped and waiting to be used. She drags her fingers through the boy's aura, digs in and twists the brilliant light around her fingers. The colors fade and turn dark where she touches. It's easy, so easy, like tissue paper giving underneath her. For all his fight, he's close.

"Oh yes. Dis one's ripe for the takin'. You're a skinny mullet, ain't ya, cherie?" Sabine murmurs. The boy twitches at her touch, trying to flinch away. She wraps tendrils of power around him, her own internal reserves, imprinting herself on the boy. He may be spoken for, the High Priestess' pet, but he'll bow to her as well if she plays this right.

"I bet he's a tayho when he's awake." Sabine glares at her sister-witch, intrusive bitch. She lets her power dissipate around her. Émérant bends over and places a benevolent kiss on the boy's forehead, leaving behind a dark mark that fades into his skin. Sabine bares her teeth, eyes flashing dangerously. The air crackles with dreadful potential, dark and wild as the sisters face off, dogs over a human bone.

"Passé!" The witches scatter, leaving the boy bound to the altar. When the High Priestess commands, they follow without question. Ghislaine ignores their flight in favor of her prize He's well built, her petite boug. Tall and muscled. A beautifully crafted tool, he is, outside ornamentation beautiful enough to belie his functionality. She trails her hand over the silly little symbol on his chest, so easily taken care of. She'll have to punish him for that, marking what's hers. She'll replace it with something else after the ritual. Her brand, perhaps. It's always good to mark one's possessions.

Her fingers ghost over his stomach and down to his groin. His cock rests against a nest of curls and she explores its length and thickness. Even flaccid he's a beauty, and with his powers good to stud. She can smell the puissance in his blood; yes, he'll pass his gifts to any pup he sires. He'll bring her much pleasure and prestige. A familiar worthy of her stature, bound to her soul-deep, weh-weh.

"Soon, cherie." She can feel his soul pulling away, thread by thread. He's coming unwound, one strand at a time, and she holds the shuttle.

5.

Dean double checks the action on his favorite Glock, letting his mind clear of everything but getting Sam back.

"That's not going to do anything," Ruby volunteers. Dean's a little thankful for her because she makes his murderous impulses rise. All the better to kill brother napping Louisiana witches with. "Seriously, the amount of power this coven is using—"

"You can never be too careful," Dean interrupts. He sights along the barrel and pulls the trigger, satisfied with the sharp click of the firing mechanism and automatic slide. He's already got Ruby's knife tucked into his waistband and a shotgun loaded with rock salt strapped to his back.

"You might actually have a brain hidden in there," Ruby says condescendingly. Small leather bags hit him in the chest and fall to the bed. Dean stares at them, then glances at Ruby with a raised brow. "They're protection and defensive gris-gris. Made by some of the most powerful practitioners in Louisiana."

"I'm not wearing that shit."

"Oh? So you're going to waltz into the stronghold of a dark voodoo coven, who're summoning enough dark power to destroy four states, and ask them to, what, hold still while you set off fireworks around them? Great plan, Dean. Let me know how that works." Ruby gets up to leave. Dean grits his teeth because they've done this before. They fight, Ruby threatens to leave, Dean has to swallow his pride and ask for help, Ruby's insufferable. Well, that last one's par for the course but bears noting.

Dean's not playing games anymore. Sam's life is on the line, and Ruby's got some weird hang up about his brother. She's not going to leave. Dean loads himself down with ammo while Ruby takes her sweet ass time getting to the door.

"I walk out this door you won't get Sam out alive."

"I'll get him out." Dean's as sure about that as he was about Sam being alive.

"Yeah, but will he still be Sam?" Dean refuses to rise to the bait. He's not going to ask why. He's tired of playing the ass to Ruby's carrot. "You're a great brother, De—" The knife buries itself in the wall by Ruby's head, quivering with force. It's enough to make Ruby shut the fuck up. Dean stalks over to her and wraps his hand around the hilt, leaning in to look Ruby in the eyes.

"I will wear your stupid charms. I will fight with you to get my brother back because I will do anything to get my brother back. You know more than you're telling me, Ruby. Which puts me at a disadvantage, and my brother in danger. Either you tell me what's up, or I'll make you, and when this is over..."

"What?" Ruby leans forward and the scent of her makes Dean's stomach turn. He can smell the odor of decay underneath everything. "You're gonna kill me? Heard that one before. Gonna cut me out of little Sammy's life? He didn't give me up when you came back. Even lied to protect me. So what, Dean? What are you gonna do?"

"I'm gonna save my brother," Dean hisses. "And you're going to help. Because if he dies, or comes back wrong, I'm going to blame you. And there's no place you'll be able to hide from me. So why don't you tell me what the fuck these voodoo bitches are doing to him."

Ruby pushes him off and Dean lets her, taking a measured step back.

"Binding spell. A big one."

"We talking zombified-Sam, jump-how-high-Sam, what?" Ruby stares at him, almost pitying.

"The reason demons make deals for souls is they're almost impossible to steal. Takes way more mojo than anyone should ever touch. They're walking the line, shaking him loose and worming their way in. They want to own Sam. Completely."

6.

Something's different. He doesn't know what, or how he knows that, but it's the truth. Maybe the pain's more intense. He sees green more these days, and the guilt pours into him, oily and stifling.

The voices are louder. They make his head hurt, different-pain. They're moving together, sliding over one another, grating and jarring. He pulses with the ebb and flow of their sounds: every hard consonant stabs deep inside; every round vowel crawls across the surface. He's wrapped up tight, bound around and around until he can't breathe and his tenuous grasp on the world around him starts slipping more. If he falls further into himself, he may never come back. He may never seen the green again. (He wants to see the green again, even if it hurts.)

Something slithers across his skin.

That place within him rips like tissue paper and he screams.

7.

Dean hears his brother scream and tosses Ruby's carefully formulated plan out the window. Wouldn't have worked anyways. Too predictable.

He kicks the door in, gris-gris swinging from his belt and neck, and blasts the first sunnuvabitch he lays eyes on, salt-silver powder biting into the fucker's body. He pulls the slide and aims at the nearest witch, a tall bald man whose eyes are sunken and sightless. Bastard doesn't seem to need eyes to zero in on Dean.

Dean blasts them while Ruby fights them, spells ripping up her host body even as she keeps on truckin'. Bitch is good cannon fodder at the very least. Dean's working his way towards Sammy, still screaming as some uber-Bitch hovers over him. They're both ablaze with dark fire that hurts Dean's eyes and his head, because it seems to absorb light instead of casting it.

"Hey! Ho-bitch!" Dean yells. The witch looks up from Sam and her eyes glow cat-like in the light. Dean pumps two shells into her lightening quick. Her screams mingle with Sam's, fetid blood dripping down on the pale chest of his brother. Something primal in Dean objects to her blood painting Sam's skin. A lot.

Dean pulls out the Glock and empties his clip into her chest, knocking the witch to the floor. She scrambles up, hissing and bleeding when a normal human would be dead ten times over. The first spell hits him with enough force to stagger backwards, one of the charms on his belt bursting into flames as its power is used up. He switches out his clip as a second hits, and Dean feels unbelievably cold.

He puts the first bullet straight through her mouth. It doesn't kill her, but whatever spell she was building for Dean gets cut off and the power turns on her. Dean watches, repulsed, as her flesh eats away from her bone, spreading out from her mouth. A wounded, animal noise carries through the cabin, and the coven pauses their fight to watch their leader die. The dark flames add injury to injury and start burning away whatever skin it touches. The two spells clash in flashes of red and yellow, consuming the witch and burning her into nothingness.

Dean has flashes of the Wicked Witch of the East saying, "I'm melting! Meeeeelting!"

He only realizes the others have fled when Ruby steps up beside him. The scent of charred meat burns Dean's nose and makes his gorge rise.

"Shit," Ruby hisses.

"Yeah," Dean agrees, nauseated.

"No," Ruby grinds. "Sam's trapped. He's been primed. That circle's the only thing keeping him safe; if we break it he'll bind to the first thing that'll have him."

"Shit."

"Yeah."

Dean starts disarming himself. He familiar enough with spells to know he shouldn't introduce variables. He drops his flask of holy water on the ground.

"What the hell are you doing?" Ruby demands. Dean slips the demons-killing knife from its sheath at his back.

"Going to get m'boy." He's slammed back by demon power and Ruby's up in his face.

"You can't do that, Dean." She sneers his name.

"And you can?" Dean's tone, mild and curious, should have been her first clue.

"Better me than y—" Dean feels strangely empty as her face lights up, skull thrown into sharp relief as Ruby dies. Her limp body slips off the end of his knife, but his eyes are already focused on Sam, writhing and whimpering on top of a dark altar.

He drops the knife on the floor. Time to go get what's his.

8.

He's confused because he sees green, and it doesn't hurt.

9.

Dean hesitates at the circle, sinister lines drawn in what looks like blood. He can feel the power and shudders. If he can feel it, there's a lot of it, and that's not good. Sam whimpers and Dean steps over the line without a second thought.

The world around him freezes. There's no sound, no movement, like everything's wrapped in cotton and foam. Dean glances over his shoulder and thinks, Oh Shit.

There's dark fire building where Dean came through the circle, and he's got seconds before it explodes out. Dean throws himself forward, his body covering Sam's. Heat licks at his back, and everything goes blindingly white. The only thing he knows is that he's got hold of Sammy, and that's all he needs.

10.

Dean wakes up in a clearing, ground charred and surrounding foliage incinerated. It's deja vu all over again. He tries to sit up but his stomach roils and his muscles scream in protest. He ends up gasping on the ground, eyes watering.

He can't feel his right arm.

Dean panics briefly (because that would suck), until he realizes it's just asleep. Something big and heavy's cutting off his circulation. The world swirls away and the next time Dean opens his eyes, Castiel is bending over him.

"You took a great risk to retrieve your brother," he says. Dean's still too wrecked to reply, and he iemphatically does not faint when Castiel picks him up and slings him over broad shoulders. He glimpses Sam, naked and vulnerable on the ground, and tries to protest. The words get stuck in his throat, die unspoken as Dean summons all his energy and reaches out for his...

11.

The second time Dean regains consciousness, he's back in a too-familiar hotel room. His body aches and his eyes feel gritty, but he forces himself up. Sam's tucked into the other bed, skin too pale but breathing deep and even.

He doesn't think about it when he crawls into bed. He needs to know, needs to make sure that Sam's here and real and not going anywhere. It's been too long without him.

12.

He...doesn't understand. This isn't the way the world works. He feels...nothing. No pain, no guilt, not even the voices. Miles and miles of nothing.

He's not sure he likes it.

And then something encroaches on his space. It's a Voice, but it's not like any of the others. This one is low and fluid. It caresses where the others stabbed, makes him feel shiny and light.

When he opens his eyes, he sees the green, and it doesn't hurt either. It's welcome and home and safety and love. All words he doesn't so much know as feel. The green shifts, and there are flecks of gold there too, and he hears Sam and thinks that's right.

He flutters into darkness, and for the first time it's warm and comforting instead of cold and savage.

13.

"You are concerned."

"I just rescued my brother from Twisted Sister and he won't wake up, so yeah. You could say I'm concerned." Dean checks Sam's pulse for the eighth time in as many minutes. He's still on the bed, so unusually pale that Dean can't help the rush of panic insisting Sam's dead.

Castiel leans over and runs his fingers over Sam's forehead. It takes everything in Dean not to rip his hand away. Something in him objects to Castiel touching what's his (expand that to any hypothetical or real person); it's only when the sting of his fingernails digging into his palm and the scent of fresh blood reach him that he forces himself to relax. Castiel glances at him, look inscrutable and assessing.

"He will survive," Castiel says, emotionless and sure. He slowly draws his hand away, so deliberately that it has to be a message, one Dean's not quite receiving.

"Great. Good to know." Dean shifts, unconvinced. He wants to check Sam over, head to toe, and make sure the demon-fuckers didn't carve symbols into his flesh. Wants to press up against him and feel the warmth of his—whoa. Where the hell did that come from? Dean shifts uncomfortably, eyes continuously straying to Sam, and wrenches his gaze to Castiel. His bona fide Angel of the Lord smirks at him, and he knows something he's not telling. Dean thought he got rid of that shit with Ruby.

"What?" he demands sharply. He sounds too defensive, but he's frayed and ragged and wants...wants... Castiel drops his gaze down, and Dean follows him to find that his hand has settled unconsciously on Sam's chest, possessive and protective. He snatches it away, feeling oddly shamed and embarrassed, though he's not quite sure why. He can probably be forgiven his reactions seeing as Sam's been missing for a month and spent that time in the clutches of the queen juju-bee and her skanky minions.

The thought of them touching Sam has Dean breathing harsh and gritting his teeth.

"You're changing," Castiel says. It sounds...expected. Almost satisfied. Dean has the discomforting feeling of being a lab rat, behaviors charted and categorized, predicted and assumed.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Castiel glances at Sam and reaches towards him; Dean does intercept him this time, hand grinding the fine bones in his wrist together. Castiel regards him with a measured calm that annoys the shit out of Dean.

"He's changing as well." Dean locks their gazes together, his grip on Castiel tight and unwavering.

"I'm changing, Sam's a-changin', you're discovering whole new levels of cryptic. Life's just peachy."

"Is this what you humans call sarcasm?"

"From me? Never." Castiel cocks his head to the side like a curious puppy. Dean lets go of his wrist and steps back, closer to Sammy. Castiel nods in approval, and Dean wants to move to the other side of the room just to spite him. But that would leave Sam alone on the bed, and Dean...he can't bear to go any further away than he already is.

"The destination is worthless without the journey," Castiel intones. Dean rolls his eyes.

"You imitating a fortune cookie now?" He looks back and Castiel's gone. Fucking typical.

Sam groans and Castiel's forgotten. Dean looks down at the bed and his stomach does an odd little flip, nothing he's ever felt before. Closest thing he can compare it with was the first time he went on a solo hunt. Faced down a werewolf with his wits and a 9mm: the anticipation, the adrenaline, the life.

Sam's forehead is knotted with strain, eyes squeezed shut. Dean lightly runs his fingertips over the wrinkles, soothing away the tension. Sam sighs and turns into his hand, murmuring nonsense. Changing, huh?

Well as long as Dean's with him, Sam can do whatever the hell he wants.

14.

He wakes up warm and safe and content. It feels amazing, so he just drifts along, rides those feelings and enjoys it.

His name is Sammy. Or Sam, but he prefers Sammy. Kind of. He frowns (and he remembers what that means), because he doesn't like Sammy unless...

Green. He likes it when the green says it. But that's not right. Green isn't a signifier; it's an adjective. It's...

Dean.

With the word comes a torrent of emotion-memory that Sammy can't sort through, but chief amongst them is contentment, bone-deep and abiding. All wrapped up in green-Dean. green Dean Dean green.

"Sammy?" The world is too bright and full and burns his eyes. He moans and turns his face away, into something warm and solid. He likes the smell. When his name rumbles through his pillow, Sammy realizes it's his Dean. "Sammy?"

Sammy likes the hand that cards gently though his hair, not-pulling. When his Dean feels charitable and cuddly, he'll sometimes scratch Sammy's scalp with his nails. Sammy likes that. He pushes his head into it, trying to encourage more, grunting imperiously. His Dean laughs and obliges, blunt nails scritching blissfully.

"Hi Dean," Sammy murmurs, words slurred with pleasure.

"Hey, Sammy." His Dean's voice sounds sad, which doesn't make sense. His Dean should be fine. Happy. Sammy's here. They're together, SammynDean. Sammy nuzzles into his Dean's stomach, wants to be closer than this, but he's tired. So tired.

"'sokay, De," Sammy assures him. "The rivers are bright now."

15.

The next time Sam wakes up, he's himself again—more or less.

"Dean? Dean!" Dean wakes up hitting the ground. Hard.

"What the fuck, Sam?" Dean grumbles from the floor, rubbing his elbow. Sam's peering at him from the bed, hair mussed. Something unidentifiable and unknown rushes through him. It makes Dean shift uncomfortably; he doesn't like unknown emotions. Could do without emotions for the most part anyways.

"Uh, you OK?" Dean glares at Sam and makes a show of rubbing his arm. A brief, stricken look flashes across Sam's face and Dean frowns. "Sorry." God, Sam sounds like Dean just kicked the puppy Dad never let them have. He'll never complain about that goddamned tone of voice ever again.

"Yeah, well, next time keep your feet to yourself."

"Next time?" Sam asks, eyebrow raised. Dean flushes and looks away. Like he said, he could do without all this emotional crap.

"You feelin' alright?" Dean changes the subject. "Any whacky mojo left over?"

"...leftover from what?" Sam asks, confused. He frowns, expression sliding into bitchface. Dean stares at him incredulously, mouth hanging open. "Dean, what is it?"

"You don't remember? Freaky voodoo witches? Big spells? Tied naked to a dark altar? You've been missing for a month, Sam!"

"What?" Sam starts processing that, heart rate jumping. "I didn't...I don't remem—" Sam gasps when the memories come crashing back. His skin crawls with the recollection of hands on his body, laid there without his consent. Of something dark and oily slithering into the deepest parts of him, taunting him with horrible visions and his most carefully guarded secrets. The feeling of someone prying the good and bright out of him, turning the world dark and murky. He can't breathe. He's stifled and held down and it fucking hurts. Pain, so much pain. There's something at his back, holding him down, and Sam starts to fight. Struggles to get away but he can't, he's helpless and caught and tangled in so many things that--

"SAM!" Sam jerks forward, blinks blearily and green-Dean's there, in his face. Green eyes. Peace and safety and home. He's abruptly aware of how close they are. Dean's got one hand on his shoulder and one at the back of Sam's head. He's so close Sam can feel the warmth of Dean's breath. He has an almost irresistible urge to lean in a kiss Dean.

The thought shocks Sam out of his stupor and he pulls away from Dean, who frowns but lets Sam go. It could be Sam's imagination, but Dean's hands seem to linger.

"You OK, man?" Dean asks, looking a little freaked out.

"I just...remembered," Sam mutters. He shudders as the ghost of unwelcome fingers skim over his skin. Dean glances away and fidgets, picking at a thread on the duvet.

"Did they do anything?" Dean feels compelled to ask. He fidgets uncomfortably, looking anywhere but at Sam. "Like, uh, do you need to, to talk about it?" Sam stares at Dean and carefully shakes his head. This day's been weird enough and he's only been awake for fifteen minutes. Actually talking to Dean (and having him listen) would make the day unsalvageable.

"I'm good," Sam says with a forced smile. He can tell Dean isn't convinced, but his brother will let it go. Sam's grateful except for the small part of him that isn't. That wants Dean to push, to make him talk. He pushes everything away, forces it down until he can look Dean in the eye. "Wanna get some food? I'm starving."

16.

Things are weird between them. There's no one thing Sam can point to and go "There. That." It's just a feeling. One he knows Dean feels too. They're both hyper aware of one another. Sam always knows where Dean is, and can predict what Dean wants almost before he wants it. He finds himself reaching for the gun oil or whet stone before Dean asks for it.

And there are the thoughts. Weird, inexplicable ideas that crop up at inopportune times and linger in the back of Sam's mind. He slants his gaze towards Dean and catches the tail end of his brother's glance. They deal with it in typical Winchester fashion—ignoring it until it goes away or one of them explodes and all the dirty laundry gets aired at once—which is working fine right up until they wander into a bar and Dean finds himself a two-beer girlfriend.

Sam watches with a growing sense of anger and iwrongness as she drapes herself artfully over Dean, giggles insipidly at his bad pick up lines and whispers things in his ear. A primal, indefinable force protests Dean's actions and takes hold of Sam. He only snaps out of it when cold beer sloshes over his hand. He's broken his bottle, shattered it under the force of his grip. There's a thin trickle of blood dripping onto the table, mixing with the spilled beer, and the cut stings.

Not enough to drown out the awareness of Dean and his ho-for-the-night.

Sam glances at them and stiffens. She's practically sitting in Dean's lap, trying to crawl into Dean's mouth and devour him with her pouty red lips. Sam's vision tinges red and he imagines punching her in her stupid brother-stealing face. Her hand travels proprietarily down Dean's back and to his ass and that's it.

Sam stands with enough force that his chair topples over and several people glance his way warily. He's caught between storming over there and ripping Dean away and...Sam stumbles back, looks at Dean once, and flees. He did not just think that. About his brother. About Dean.

Sam walks the five miles back to the hotel in a daze; doesn't remember anything about the trip, just comes to in the shower, scrubbing his skin clean. All the weird thoughts and impulses are coming together to paint a really disturbing picture.

17.

All he'd wanted was another beer. Maybe a shot or two, because the past couple of weeks since he got Sammy back have been...stressful. There's something going on between them that's making both of them jumpy, and Dean's increasingly convinced it has something to do with the fuckers that kidnapped Sam.

But like he said, he's wanted a beer and got a lapful of stupid. He grits his teeth as the vapid blond who parked herself on his stool (with him on it) giggles. The laugh grates along his nerves, sets his teeth on edge. He wants to punch her in the face, which Dean'll be the first person to admit is not his average reaction to a fairly attractive blond offering herself up like a sacrificial lamb.

He tries to get away, wants to go back to Sam, but she won't let him go. She sits on him and whispers something in his ear. Dean's too distracted by the stale smell of cigarettes and alcohol on her breath, overwhelmed by her cheap-bad perfume. He wants something cleaner, more masculine and familiar. He smiles, and it's dangerous around the edges, but she's got the survival instincts of a moth at midnight and takes his open mouth as invitation.

It's quite possibly his worst kiss since fifth grade. Her tongue wiggles, and he's pretty sure she just licked his tonsils. He's shocked out of his stupor when she grabs his ass. He stands up and dumps her on the disgusting, drink-sticky floor of the bar. She stares up at him, stunned, and Dean has to fight back a grin at how indignant she looks.

Then she starts shrieking, and Dean decides to cut his losses. He downs his drink to wash the taste of her out and turns to gather Sammy.

His heart skips a beat when Sam's not there. There's broken beer bottle and a puddle of dark liquid on the table top. Dean's nostrils flair and he smells Sam's blood. Adrenaline courses through him and his only coherent thought consists of must find Sam NOW.

He pushes people out of his way getting to the parking lot, trying not to panic. It's the day Sammy disappeared all over again. He yells for Sam, but no one answers. None of the drunken patrons outside the bar have seen him, or remember anyone matching Sam's description. (Dean figures even drunk people should remember Sasquatch.)

They haven't bought him a new cell yet, which Dean plans to rectify immediately upon finding Sam.

Dean drives around for hours, in ever-widening circles, hoping against hope that he'll find something that will lead him to Sam. Every minute that passes drives Dean a little further out of his mind, adrift on a shred of sanity amidst a boiling sea of fear and hysterical apprehension. He can't go through this again. He can't hang on to hope for a month and have Ruby sweep in with the answer at the last minute. He killed her, stabbed her with her own knife.

Vicious, malevolent visions of Sam flicker through his mind's eye like the most morbid of movies: Sam dead in a ditch, body twisted and broken; mauled by a werewolf; drained by a vampire; pinned to the ceiling of an empty room, flames licking around his body. He has to pull over, his vision swimming while he tries to suck in breath. He's working himself into a panic attack, which won't help Sam.

"You have become irrational." Dean twists in his seat, gun drawn and aimed on reflex. Castiel sits in his passenger seat, happy as a clam. Right where Sam should be.

"Where's my brother." Castiel doesn't respond, just watches Dean with inhuman eyes. "Where's Sam?"

"Where do you think he is?" Dean cocks his gun to make a point, aims it straight at Castiel's chest. "You would wound my host to do me harm?" His words have a mocking air to them.

"I'd be doing the poor bastard a favor," Dean says with a razor-sharp smile. He feels unhinged, and judging by the way Castiel's watching him, he looks it.

"Your brother is safe—"

"Where," Dean growls, guttural and primitive.

"In your hotel room." Dean blinks. That...makes sense. Castiel's watching him with that piercing, watching-a-lab-rat gaze that makes Dean certain there's something going on he's not privy to. Castiel's studying him. Trying to piece something together. Dean really really doesn't like it, but he'll have time to worry about that later.

Dean stuffs the (useless) gun back where it belongs and starts the car. Castiel can fuck off or come along for the ride, Dean doesn't care. He knows where Sam is, and the only thing that matters is getting back to him.

18.

Every minute that Dean doesn't come home, Sam tortures himself with graphic images of what he must be doing with the fungible platinum blond. It's ridiculous to be jealous of Dean. Sam knows this; he got over those issues when he was fourteen and awkward and couldn't get anyone to look at him if he paid them.

Sam punches his pillow and ignores the vaguely unsettled and agitated distress that leaks through him. It feels far off, like echoes from some other time, and Sam has no reason to feel this way. Dean's not in any trouble...unless vapid blond is a succubus. (With Sam's luck, she's not.)

Two hours gone and Dean's still not back. Sam bitchily wonders if she's really that good a fuck, then wonders where the hell this is all coming from. Residual issues from his ordeal? He has nightmares that keep him from sleeping, in technicolor surround sound (so like Jess it scares him), so it's not too far fetched. Yeah, he's going with that. Issues from being kidnapped, drugged, and spelled up. Maybe even backlash from whatever dark magics they'd tried to use on him.

There's no other explanation. (Not one he'll ever admit to.)

Sam's just gotten his breathing under control when Dean bursts through the door. The noise sends adrenaline rushing through Sam, fight-or-flight. Dean tackles him on the bed, wraps his arms and legs around Sam and won't let go, just breathes raggedly in Sam's ear and tightens his grip every time Sam moves.

"Dean?" Sam whispers cautiously. Dean grunts and presses closer to him; like he can't get near enough. Sam has one of those 'not thinking about it' thoughts and folds his arms around his brother.

19.

Dean wakes up in Sammy's arms, the vestiges of his panic clinging to him. He inhales, smells his Sammy, and nuzzles into the broad chest beneath him. Sammy smells good. Safe, whole. Unharmed.

Dean rubs himself against Sam, burrows into him. Needs to get closer.

"Dean?" Sammy's voice is sleep-rough and deep. Dean likes it; it makes little bursts of arousal travel down his spine. Sam wiggles beneath him, dislodging Dean's berth. He gently bites down on Sam's neck and growls his ownership to the world, pleased when Sam stills beneath him.

"Dean?" Sam gasps out breathlessly. He feels lightheaded, and Dean's groggy ministrations are making his body react in ways he shouldn't. But something deep, deep inside him reacts powerfully to Dean. It's purring in submission, recognizing Dean's power. Sam's slipping under, losing himself in Dean's unconscious promises. He manages to pull himself together long enough to buck and gasp out, "DEAN!"

Dean wakes up and jerks back, teeth scraping against Sam's neck and leaving a bruise. Awareness finds him throwing himself off the bed and hitting the floor with a thump.

Christ, he has igot to stop falling off beds.

"Dean?" Sam's voice is small and strained. Dean glances up into confused hazel eyes.

"Yeah, Sam."

"Are...are you OK?" Dean closes his eyes. His cock lays full and thick in his pants, and the taste of Sam lingers on his tongue. He can't ignore that there's something fucked up and strange going on anymore.

"You are causing yourselves unnecessary pain. To what end?" Dean doesn't even react to Castiel, but Sam snaps upright and pulls a gun from beneath his pillow. Jesus, and Sam calls him paranoid.

"Who are you?" Sam snaps, easing himself out of the bed and closer to Dean. The gun doesn't waver, and the stranger simply stands there watching them.

"Sam, Castiel. Castiel, Sam," Dean says by way of introduction. Sam's expression slackens into wonder and awe. Dean wants to barf.

"Oh, you're...I'm just...honored. To meet you." Sam takes a step towards Castiel, hand outstretched, and Dean's up with a growl, hauling Sam away from the angel. No one touches his Sammy. No one. Castiel cocks his head, his expression that patently amused look Dean is getting far too familiar with.

"What do you want?" Dean snarls, ignoring Sam's 'you've gone crazy' looks.

"You are ignoring powerful instincts and causing yourselves distress in the process. I wish to understand why, and what purpose your denial serves." Sam and Dean trade wary looks.

"What are we denying?" Dean asks with fake patience.

Castiel's eyebrows raise slightly, a strangely human expression for an angel. Dean takes an involuntary step back because he feels something ghost over him, iinto him, and he doesn't like it. This time, Sam's eyes go dark and he steps between Castiel and Dean, glaring.

"Interesting," Castiel says to himself.

"WHAT?" Dean barks. "What is so goddamned interesting?"

"Did you honestly think your rescue came without consequence?" Dean's blood runs cold at that, and Sam's spine stiffens. "You interrupted powerful dark magic, Dean. And as of yet, you have left the spell unfinished."

"What kind of spell?" Sam asks suspiciously.

Dean doesn't hear him, because he's started connecting the dots. His reactions to Sam. The empty place in his chest that reacts when Sam's in the room, or when they're touching. What Ruby had said about the witches' end game. Fuck. He can't do that. They can't ask him to do that.

"You don't have a choice, Dean. You are both committed; would you wait until you can't control your own actions?"

"That's...how can you suggest..." The thought leaves a hollow pit in his stomach. He won't. Nothing can make him defile Sam like that.

"You are not as you were before," Castiel tells them.

"What the hell is going on?" Sam demands, gaze jumping from Dean to Castiel. He has the feeling that whatever they know he isn't going to like it. Dean's coiled tighter than a spring and he's just spoiling for a fight. Castiel's eyes burn when they fall on him, and Sam fights the urge to shrink away.

"You have—"

"NO," Dean yells, crowding Castiel's space. He grabs the angel by the collar and propels him back into the wall. "Nothing. Changes." He dares Castiel to contradict him, to tell Sam what the witches had been doing. He feels dissected and evaluated when Castiel searches him for answers, but he doesn't care. He'll do whatever it takes to protect Sam, even if it's from himself.

"Your impulses are misguided," Castiel murmurs, but it's not an answer. Dean slams him back into the wall and Castiel shrugs. "As you wish. Though you may not like the consequences of ignoring what is between you." Dean glares—he doesn't care—and releases Castiel. The angel looks over a Sam, then back to Dean, and for once walks out of the room like a civilized human being.

The silence left in his wake is oppressive.

"Dean, what—"

"Let it go, Sam." It's Dad's voice coming from Dean's mouth. There will be no discussion on this. Sam can do nothing but nod as Dean shuts himself in the bathroom.

20.

The following days are excruciating. Dean avoids Sam as much as he can, which is a surprising amount of the time, Sam discovers. It's messing with his head.

The only thing he can think about is Dean. He finds himself watching Dean's hands as he cleans his guns. The way the light hits the muscles of his arms. How Dean's lips wrap around a fork, the sounds he makes eating a slice of apple pie. The worst are the noises Dean makes when he's asleep. Sam can't...he just can't.

He gives up on sleep around day three. (He's fairly sure Dean's not sleeping much either.) He has to force himself to eat on a regular basis, appetite gone the same way as his sleep. Sam starts retreating into himself because he can't think, too caught up in a growing need and desire to touch Dean. To be touched in return.

He's beyond being concerned about where the compulsion is coming from. Beyond evaluating why he might need to feel something. He's to the point where he needs to take the edge off, a junkie jonesing for a fix—at this point, anything will do. So Sam waits until Dean's settled into the restless half-sleep that plagues them and slips out into the night, looking for someone to give him a pale facsimile of what he needs.

21.

Dean doesn't wake up—that would require a sleep cycle and rest—but he does become more aware. His mind snaps into full alert, sense telling him there's something wrong. It takes him a moment to place what's missing: the sound of Sam breathing.

Adrenaline floods Dean's system and he's on his feet without another thought. Higher brain functions take a backseat to the primal urge Dean feels to find what's his and bring it home. There's no place for doubt and restraint here.

Dean barely has the wherewithal to put on a pair of pants before he leaves the room, moving predatorily in the night. There are two bars within walking distance of the motel. Sam's in the one to the right. Dean doesn't question how he knows this.

The bar is smoky and cramped, deep shadows hiding tables and people. Dean smells the stale odor of illicit sex, desperate people trying to find something worthwhile in their lives. Trying to feel alive.

Dean feels ivery alive when he smells Sam. People part for him easily, scared prey who sense a true predator amongst them. Dean follows his senses, winding through tables and people until he comes to the back of the bar. There's a door that opens onto a back alley, and Sam's scent fills the small hall. So does another's, a person who isn't Dean; his arousal, thick and sour, invades Dean's nose and sits heavily on his tongue, the sweeter scent of Sam underlying it.

Dean moves before he's even aware of his intent. He sees Sam's long leg draped around a stranger's hip, fingers fisted into dark hair. Dean growls, low in his throat, and wants blood.

He moves towards Sam, intent on killing the man standing between him and what's his, touching and tasting without permission, but stops when Sam pushes the man away and stares at Dean challengingly.

22.

Sam knows the moment Dean comes for him. Feels it with unquestioning surety deep in his bones, and he smiles.

He grabs the man who's been flirting with him and drags him out back. There's a small part of him that feels bad for this person. Sam's setting him up, using an innocent to get what he wants, but the greater part of him doesn't care. Because he iwants and nothing else matters.

He feels Dean getting closer. He hooks a leg around his mark and draws him in, holds him close.

"God, you're a demanding bitch." The words hold no meaning, Sam doesn't even hear them. Dean's outside the door, so close. So close.

And Dean's there, in the alley, smelling angry and dominant and like Dean. Sam knows the second he turns murderous and pushes the man away; there's still enough of the person Sam was not to want the guy dead. He didn't really do anything wrong. His protests fade into the background with everything else.

Sam straightens his spine and braces himself, meeting Dean squarely. They're poised, on the brink of something major. Dean freezes, every muscle frozen in readiness. His nostrils flare and his pupils swell. Sam sucks in a breath because Dean's scenting him.

Then he's gone. He leaves the alley behind, uses the full breadth of his stride to eat up ground. He laughs into the night, filled with the chase. And Dean is chasing him, Sam can hear his footsteps echoing behind, the harsh panting of his breath.

Sam veers to the left without warning, hurdles over the low fence in his way. He's leading Dean on a merry chase in retribution. Dean's been forcing Sam to chase him for a week, though not in the same way they're doing now. Sam's not giving in without a fight, Dean has to earn this.

He leads them on their second lap, circling tighter than the first time, spiraling towards the motel and their room.

23. (parts of this section removed)

Dean catches Sam on the outskirts of the motel's parking lot. He's had enough and cuts the corner, tackling Sam onto hard-packed dirt and stubby weeds. He doesn't care.

Sam struggles, surges and kicks beneath him, trying to break free. Dean bares his teeth; he appreciates the fire in Sam, his fight. It's right. Worthy. But not what he wants right now.

Dean pins Sam's body to the ground, arms and legs swept in close, and bites against his carotid artery, sharp teeth digging in. Sam stills with a soft whimper, arousal spiked with fear. He sucks on the skin, marks the place with a bruise to remind Sam of this. Sam whimpers, and this time his actions aren't struggle, they're all need.

He knows better than to be fooled.

He lets Sam think he's taken in by the act, relaxes his grip just enough to lull his conquest into a false sense of security. When Sam tries to unseat him and jerk away, Dean pins him on his stomach.

"Mine," Dean growls silkily. Sam whimpers and arches up. Dean threads his hands through Sam's hair and pulls his head back. He licks a trail up Sammy's neck, sharp teeth dangerously close to pulsing veins. "Sammy MINE."

"Yours," Sam agrees, gasping for air and writhing under the heavy body pinning him down. If he thought otherwise, Dean never would have caught him.

Dean rubs his erection against Sammy's ass. His pupils dilate, the world around him going fuzzy. He bends down and sniffs at Sammy's hair. He smells of home and warmth and forever. Mate, his senses tell him. His.

Dean picks Sammy up, muscles straining under the weight, sets Sammy on his feet and propels them backwards. He wants to hide his mate from prying eyes; this is for him and no one else. Dean propels them towards the room; he can feel his control slipping, his ability to reason rapidly being replaced with overwhelming need.

The door slams shut behind them.

Clothes fall away, giving under insistent hands. Sammy rakes his nails along Dean's back, hard enough to break skin. Dean growls and sends them both sprawling to the floor. There's still stuff between them, constricting material that Dean wants gone. Now.

He growls when Sammy tries to touch, pins his hands to the ground and bites down roughly on a nipple. Sammy yelps and arches up off the ground. Dean kisses and bites his way up his mate's chest leaving careless marks in his wake. When they kiss it's a near-violent clash of teeth and tongue, each one fighting and testing. They're evenly matched.

He releases Sammy's hands to twine his fingers in Sammy's hair, pulling back and exposing his mate's neck in supplication. He can see the fast-fast thrum of Sammy's pulse point, blood rushing right beneath the skin. Dean bends and bites down right over it, sharp eyeteeth pressing right over Sammy's carotid. His mate freezes, motionless, the only movement Dean can detect coming from Sammy's heartbeat and breathing. The alpha in Dean is pleased by Sammy's capitulation. He deserves a reward.

Dean lets Sammy go and strips off the rest of their clothes. He growls, seeing his mate for the first time, his arousal evident. Dean leans down and presses his nose close to the place where Sammy's scent is the strongest. He smells like sex and want. Sammy whimpers and touches Dean's hair and face, light butterfly-touches.

Dean's tightens his grip on Sammy's hip, leaves smudged bruises in his wake when own need becomes too much to bear. He wants his mate, completely.

Dean takes what's his, what he's earned with blood and sweat. He fought off all challengers and caught his Sammy-mate. There's a rhythm somewhere in his movements, older than even they are. Sammy growls and slams their lips together, sharp teeth pulling at his lips. They fight, each trying to gain the upper hand, more leverage, more control. Dean snarls; Sammy's holding back on him. He wants it all, everything Sammy-mate has to offer. He twists his wrist, moves his hand unforgivingly up and down. He can feel the muscles tightening around him and Sammy's moans take on a different pitch, airless and urgent.

Green licks at the edges of his vision and Sammy's eyes glow brightly, molten gold swirling in lazy circles. Sammy freezes, eyes sliding shut. Too much sensation, too much stimulation. Sammy's nails rake across his back and leave deep imprints.

Dean finally gives in, finally claims what's rightfully his. The world glows around him, incandescent white, Sammy's eyes twin points of vibrant gold. His chest burns and his skin tingles. Power ebbs and flows effortlessly between them.

For the first time his world is right.

24.

Dean wakes wrapped in warmth, the familiar ache in his chest absent. His higher brain functions come on line slowly, each sense waking up with sluggish inevitability. He wants to stay right where he is and never move again. The night before washes over him in gentle waves, layers of information slowly building a complete picture.

All of his actions were flavored with desperation and need, the uncontrollable impulse to take and mark. The taste of Sam's capitulation, his acceptance of Dean's claim. Judging Dean worthy. Dean feels proud and content. There is no guilt or self-recrimination (Dean did plenty of that before they reached the breaking point). Dean just feels relief and a sense of rightness. That's enough to freak him out a little, cause this should be huge. It should feel huge.

But it doesn't.

For the first time since Sam disappeared, there's no sense of foreboding or disquiet in Dean, nothing interrupting his sleep or whispering dark secrets in his ear. There's contentment here, wrapped around Sam in a cheap motel that smells like sex and brother-home.

Sam shifts, and Dean feels the flutter of eyelashes against his arm.

He can't resist the impulse to nuzzle the back of Sam's neck, to lick the delicate skin behind Sam's ear. Sam moans softly in his sleep and arches into Dean. His ass brushes against Dean's morning erection, and Dean can't help the instinctive thrust, trying to find more friction.

He knows the second Sam wakes up, the way his body stiffens and his breath catches. Dean waits for the explosion, for Sam to pass his judgment. He chokes back a laugh when Sam simply sighs and settles against Dean's chest, pliant and languid.

Dean tightens his embrace and Sam rubs his head cat-like against Dean's arms. They're going to be okay. Whatever the fallout from this, right now they're fine.

They can have this.

25.

The second time Dean wakes up, he's alert and tense. Someone not-family is in the room watching them. Sam's still asleep when Dean reaches for the knife sheathed under his pillow.

"I expected something far more devastating." Dean lets go of the knife but stays vigilant. Castiel sits in a chair tucked in the corner of a room, bathed in shadows. Castiel has certainly destroyed any image he might have of angels as heavenly creatures bathed in light who shit puppies and rainbows. Castiel studies Dean, then drops his gaze to Sam, who's bare to the waist.

Something angry and possessive flares in Dean's chest; he glares and curves protectively over his Sammy-mate. Angel or not, Castiel shouldn't be looking at Sam. Dean holds Castiel's gaze until he looks away, head curved in acknowledgment of Dean's claim. Castiel seems oddly pleased by Dean's actions, a smirk lingering on his lips. Dean doesn't care as long as he's not looking.

"You chose well." Dean rolls his eyes. He's reached the end of his patience for cryptic bullshit for the rest of his life, and having Castiel here is making Dean antsy.

"I had a choice?" Dean rumbles, voice rough. He sounds like he's been out all night on a bender. (Deep in his private thoughts, he thinks he sounds sexy as hell. But he won't be admitting that out loud any time soon.) His hand travels restlessly over Sam's side, using touch to ground himself.

"There is always a choice, Dean Winchester," Castiel intones. It sounds scripted and trite, and Dean just wants him to leave so he can curl back into Sammy and not worry about anything for a while longer. "You made yours; this is the consequence."

"What choice?" Dean hisses. Sam stirs, making soft noises of distress that Dean soothes away with nonsense sounds and gentles caresses. He sniffs Sam's skin, getting only hints of sleep and satisfaction and the underlying smell of sex. Of Dean, seeped into Sammy's very being.

Castiel shifts forward in his seat and Dean goes on high alert. His senses, sharper than they were before, turn outwards; he can smell Castiel, something nothuman in his scent, overpowering the stench of the people who stayed here before. He can see the disconnect between Castiel and his host, the minute moments where intent and action don't quite translate.

"Ruby tried to warn you of the possibilities. The consequences." Dean growls, her very name making his hackles rise and the urge to remark his territory blossom. Castiel has that same amused look in his eye, watching Dean hover protectively over Sam. "You thought you could walk through a powerful binding spell and come out unchanged?" Castiel's tone is mocking. Dean's constrained to ineffectual scowling. When Castiel puts it that way...

"So this is all a spell?" Dean demands. He doesn't believe it for a second. Spells can manufacture a lot of things, but they're never this...deep. Fear, lust, infatuation, rage—quick-fire emotions that burn bright and hot but can't be sustained for any length of time. This thing with Sam is quietly intense, buried deep in his bones. He knows that Sam is his.

"No," Castiel counters. "But that is not the question you want to ask."

"What happened?"

"The impossible."

26.

"Whadee want?" Sam mumbles, pulling the covers over his shoulders. Dean starts and stares down at the tuft of brown hair, the only part of him that Dean can see.

"Um..." Dean, always good with the words. Sam snorts and pushes back into Dean, enjoying the gasp and involuntary tightening of Dean's hand on his hip. He figures one or both of them should be having a giant freak out right about now. Some sort of scrambling out of bed, hiding in the shower, taking a long walk, something. But Dean's playing it cool, and Sam is too satisfied with life to interrupt their cozy morning after—Castiel's visit aside.

He'll analyze everything to death later.

Dean's hand cards through his hair and Sam lets out a contented sigh. Christ, they're like a Lifetime couple basking in the afterglow of their first time. He's surprised Dean hasn't picked up on it and done something to ruin the moment. He has the rankest farts of anyone Sam's ever met.

"How much did you hear?" Dean asks. Sam grunts; he'd tuned out everything but the background murmur of Dean's voice. Hadn't had the energy or inclination to follow anything but the cadence of the conversation. "How'd you do so good in school, college boy?" Sam retaliates with an elbow to Dean's ribs, which Dean reciprocates, and Sam ups with a kick. Soon the sheets are tangled around them, the top cover crumpled on the floor, and they're laughing like they're kids again.

"So, Castiel..." Sam prompts, sprawled over most of the bed.

"You are bound together though powerful forces," Dean says, trying to imitate Castiel but sounding more like an unimpressive Darth Vader. "You have been purified, sanctified, sealed. You are more than you were, greater together than anything I have witnessed."

Silence stretches between them.

"Well he's a pompous douche bag," Sam decides, tucking his hands underneath his head. There's a smile tugging at his lips that breaks free when Dean starts laughing. It's the most carefree sound Sam's heard in a long time. Since well before hell, before Dad. He thinks maybe right before he left for Stanford; the night before he announced his decision, Sam got them both drunk and they relived all the stupid shit they'd done growing up. They'd both laughed so hard they cried, clutching their sides and curled around a bottle of Jack.

"Are we acting weird?" Dean asks, still giggling. He feels...kind of high. Floaty.

"Nnnnnnoooooo." They're both off giggling again, and Dean thinks that maybe they aren't quite in their right minds. They should probably be concerned about that.

27.

Dean feels like he just went three rounds with Jose and his best friend Captain Morgan, then took a punch from their belligerent roommate Jack. He feels tired waking up, his eyes filled with sleep and his mouth covered in fuzz.

"Mmmurgh," Sam groans blearily. Dean would second that sentiment, but he's way too tired. He hears the muffled thump of Sam rolling out of bed and the muted sounds of a shower coming turning on. It takes three seconds for Dean to realize Sammy's out of his sight and in another room. Even if it is just the bathroom.

Dean's up and climbing into the shower behind Sam in seconds.

"Dean?"

"Shut up," Dean commands gruffly, elbowing Sam out from under the spray. He can feel Sam's eyes on him, boring into his back. Dean scrubs his face, feeling rough stubble against his palm. He needs a shave.

They dance around each other in silence, Sam shooting Dean amused looks and Dean pointedly ignoring them. It's harder to ignore the 'accidental' ways Sam brushes against him, his knuckles against Dean's stomach or his arm across Dean's chest. Dean grits his teeth and tries to force his body not to react. Then the scent of Sam's arousal, almost hidden by the shampoo, floats to him.

"Your eyes are really, really green," Sam murmurs.

"Christ, Sammy," Dean whines; nothing like Samantha coming out to play to ruin the moment.

"No. Seriously." Sam cuts off the water and pushes Dean out of the stall. He wipes off the mirror and Dean's eyes are really, really green. His irises are bright green, like sunlight through a leaf, bleeding into a dark hunter green around the edges. Definitely not natural.

His gaze flicks to Sam, who watches him with undisguised hunger. Sam's own eyes glow hot, gold and hazel melding together. Sam watches a drop of water make its way down Dean's chest with an intensity usually reserved for complicated cases and esoteric research.

"Dean," Sam whispers; Dean's not sure he even knows he said it.

"Sammy," Dean growls, promise lacing through his words. Sam meets his gaze in the mirror, holds it. When he turns to run, Dean's ready, spinning on his heel and bringing Sam down before he's halfway to the hotel room door.

They forget to talk about anything for a while.

27.

They spend three days fucking. The manager comes by on the second day because they'd only paid till then. He's scarred for life when a half-naked man, chest covered in scratches and bites and smelling like sex, flings open the door and shoves a handful of hundreds at him.

They're left alone until they're ready to leave.

28.

"Dean!" Sam warns, putting the table between them. (Not that it offered a lot of protection; last time he'd tried this, Dean had ended up fucking him over the table. And under it.)

"Sammy," Dean growls. He likes the way Sam's Adam's apple bobs and his eyes go glassy. He lunges for Sam, who skitters away.

"Look, Dean, this isn't normal!" Dean freezes, his eyes narrowed dangerously. Sam swallows. "N-not in that way! I mean...Dean! We haven't left the room in almost a week!" Sam wants to smack the smug grin off Dean's face, but any contact would probably lead to another day (and several more rounds of) not leaving the room. Which was the entire point of this conversation.

"Dean. Our eyes glow. We're fucking each other six ways to Sunday—"

"It's been way more than that."

"—and we don't care! That's not right!" Dean mumbles something. "I didn't get that."

"Castiel. Said. This. Might. Happen."

"And you waited until now to tell me? Dean!"

"We just have to get it out of our system," Dean says, sounding unbearably reasonable. Sam stares at him, agog (and not taken in; Dean's gonna have to be sneaker than that).

"Get what out of our system?"

"You know," Dean says, waving vaguely.

"Um. NO. I do NOT know!" Sam stares Dean down until he capitulates.

"The mating thing."

"...what 'mating thing'?"

"I don't know," Dean says, exasperated. "I wasn't really paying attention—"

"How could you not pay attention?"

"Do you want me to tell this story?" Dean asks snidely. Dean won't budge until Sam mimes zipping his mouth shut. "He said blah blah blah evil voodoo spell, blah blah blah pure soul and virtuous intentions, higher calling mumbo jumbo and destined mates, lots of sex." Dean frowns. "The only thing I really remember is the lots of sex part. The rest of it's kind of paraphrased."

"You...just...HOW HAVE YOU SURVIVED THIS LONG?"

****

After some coaxing (he gave Dean a blowjob and refused to finish until Dean confessed everything he knew; turns out to be a surprisingly effective interrogation method) and deeper research, Sam mostly figures out what happened. The witches had been casting a very powerful soul-binding spell that would have left Sam completely enslaved to the caster. Dean, in his infinite wisdom, had barreled through it without thinking about the consequences and completely fucked the spell up in some impossible, once-in-a-lifetime kind of way.

"I have no idea how this happened," Sam groans in frustration. Dean ignores him in favor of Oprah and popcorn. "What did you do?"

"I busted in, pulled you out, and woke up in a field."

"You shouldn't have been able to!" Sam protests. "And if you did, I should be a mindless automaton!"

"Automaton? I prefer slave. Fetch me another beer!" Sam glares at him from the computer. "It obviously didn't work." Sam makes a strangled noise and thumps his head on the desk.

"If you're done thinking, we could have sex again."

29.

It takes a couple of months, but Sam lets it go, his unending quest for answers. The ins and outs don't matter. Dean is his and he is Dean's and that's the long and short of it.

They have the requisite freak out a few weeks after the first time they had sex when a little old lady calls them the cutest gay couple she ever done seen. Dean gets drunk and tries to kiss a girl, but ends up vomiting all over her Manolo Blahnik shoes. Sam makes him grovel (and brush his teeth) before hauling him into the bed and making Dean forget his name. They return to life as usual, hunting the things that go bump in the night and making the world a safer place.

And if Dean's eyes occasionally turn bright green, if he seems faster and stronger or more prone to throw Sam down cave-man style, well, Sam doesn't mention it.

And if Sam's eyes occasionally glow gold, if things sometimes moved on their own or Sam sees Dean's caveman stylings as right and necessary, well, Dean's more concerned with keeping other people's hands off his Sammy.

When demons start running away from them...well, Dean always did like a good hunt. And Sammy's easy to distract these days, questions of 'why' and 'how' forgotten with a little help from Dean's talented hands and his dirty, dirty mouth.

This story is complete.