Title: a haven in a heartless world
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: R
Word Count: 72,000 total
Summary: [Alternate season 1] A lot can happen in four years. People grow and change and life goes on. Sam sees Dean for the first time in four years at his graduation from Stanford. This sets of a chain of events that make them acknowledge past mistakes, present desires, and future plans. They both have secrets—some big, some small; some tiny and fragile and the biggest secret of them all—not to mention a wealth of history between them. But family is the only haven in a heartless world, and no one knows this better than the Winchesters.
Warnings: language; slashy sexy times; canon character death
A/N: In its full form, this is an NC-17 fic. However, certain parts have been edited/redacted to conform with 's TOS.This story has already been completed; I will be posting it in parts fairly regularly.


Prologue:

"Something's coming. Darkness on the horizon." Missouri Mosely turns troubled eyes to the shadowed figure in her doorway.

"You feel it too?" John Winchester's voice comes out low and gravely, heavy with exhaustion and fear.

"I do." Missouri offers her tarot deck, watching as John chooses a card at random. She knows what it is even before he throws the Ten of Pentacles in reverse. Family Misfortune. Caution.

John stares at it, and a cold feeling of foreboding crawls up his spine.

***

"Hey, beautiful," Dean murmurs. Sleepy eyes blink up at him, and Dean can't help but run his hands through her hair, light brown curls tangling in his fingers. "I gotta go now, but I'll be back soon, okay?"

"Okay," she mumbles thickly, leaning into his hand. She smiles at him, lazy and wide, and Dean gives into the urge to lean down and press a kiss to her forehead.

"I love you," he whispers. Part of him wants to crawl into bed with her and never let go, but he needs to do this, so he pulls himself away from her, forces himself to leave. He pauses at the bedroom door to watch Mer snuggle back in his bed, looking small and fragile. His need to protect her, keep her safe, wells up in him, makes his head spin. He wants to leave so he can fight anything that might harm her; he wants to stay so he can protect her from the world.

He checks the salt lines on the window sill and the protective runes painted on the walls one last time before he goes, closing the door softly behind him.

It never gets any easier.


Chapter 1

"Clark Waits. Melody Weathers. Teagan White. Samuel Winchester."

Dean shoves his hands further into his pockets as he catches his first look at Sam in nearly four years. His brother is taller that when he left, a little broader. Grew into his gangly teenage body. But the most obvious change is his smile. Open and carefree and happy. Content.

A group of people in the audience whoop and cheer as Sam receives his diploma, a bright white piece of paper tied with a bow. Four years of separation, all for this moment. Sam pumps his fist triumphantly in the air as he exits the stage and retakes his seat, still grinning broadly, rolled scrap of paper clutched in his hand.

Dean spends the rest of the graduation ceremony staring at the back of Sam's head, thankful that their last name is close to the end of the alphabet. Otherwise, he'd loose his mind waiting for the rest of the world to have their moment in the limelight.

The people around him are making him itch: the bored siblings who have either been there, done that or are secretly yearning for their chance; weepy mommas, this moment bittersweet as their chicks really do grow up; proud puffed-up poppas who are busy pretending not to be weepy.

"Thank fuck," he grumbles when it's finally over. He wades through the crowd, trying to get a glimpse of Sammy. He has no idea what he'll say after four years of silence, but Sam deserves to know someone was here to see him graduate. That they hadn't deserted him, even if Sam had jumped ship without a backwards glance.

Dean almost runs over him. He turns around and Sam's right behind him, kissing some bottle blond with great tits, hands sliding down down down. Dean watches, frozen, as Sam and his girl are mobbed by enthusiastic college kids and recent graduates.

There it is, right in front of him: Sammy living the life he's always wanted. Normal. Wife, 2.5 kids, white picket fence, clean-cut friends with no dark pasts. The dog Dad never let them have.

Promises of the future that Dean can't give him.

Dean backs away and heads for his car, proud to say he watched Sam walk at his college graduation. He sincerely hopes Sammy enjoys normal, has a wonderful life. That it doesn't disappoint him.

----

"Samuel Winchester, Stanford grad!" Mike crows, pulling Sam into a giant bear hug. Sam laughs and messes up Mike's carefully gelled hair. Then Jess is there, looking gorgeous and happy. He ignores the catcalls and jeers when she kisses him, raking her nails against his scalp. He slides his hands under her ass, the cheap nylon of her graduation gown thin enough that he can feel the lack of underwear under her dress. She giggles into the kiss when he groans and they break apart gasping for air, goofy grins on their faces.

"Jeeze, dude!" Jerry punches him in the shoulder and Sam tenses. Not even four years of college have broken him of his father's conditioning. "Hot people shouldn't be allowed to get together. Y'all drove that dude away! He took one look at you and vamoosed, couldn't take the heat." Jerry licks his finger and touches it to Sam's ass, making a sizzling noise. Sam rolls his eyes and glances over his shoulder where Jerry pointed. He doesn't see anyone at first, but the crowd parts just right and Sam forgets how to breathe. He only catches a fleeting glimpse of his brother's back, but Sam would know Dean anywhere.

"I'll be right back," Sam mutters, taking off after Dean.

"Sam? Where ya going? Dude! Sam!" Jerry yells. But Sam's gone, daily runs at bumfuck in the morning serving him well.

Sam stumbles when he catches his first good look at Dean, in profile, waiting for the light to change. Dean looks...like Dean. Ancient beat-up leather jacket, worn jeans, short hair.

"Dean!"

Dean is waiting to cross the street when he hears someone call his name. His heart rate picks up, and he stares at the light, commanding it to change. Fuck it, he's in California. Pedestrian has the right of way, right? He jogs across the street, ignoring the increasingly loud calls.

"Dean!" Sam's hand lands hot and heavy on Dean's shoulder, and he pauses to savor the touch and collect himself before turning around. They both ignore the fact that he was running away.

"Hey, Sammy," he says, cocky grin firmly in place, his tone insolent and breezy.

"Dean," Sam breathes, his hand clutching his brother's shoulder. His brother. Who's here. After four years. Sam tries to think of something—anything—to say, but his mind is still caught on Dean being here. At his graduation.

"Um...Sam?" Dean glances at the hand on his shoulder pointedly.

Sam blushes and yanks his hand away. "So, uh, what are you doing? Here, I mean."

Dean shrugs nonchalantly. "Was in the area." They both know it's a complete and utter lie. They both let it go and subside into an awkward silence. Dean shifts from foot to foot, hands jammed deep in his jacket pockets, eyes skittering around. It never used to be this hard. He has too much to say; doesn't know where to start. "So, I'm gonna just—"

"Stay," Sam blurts before Dean can make his excuses and leave. If Dean disappears now Sam is pretty sure it'll be another four years before they see each other again. It's painfully obvious Dean had never meant for Sam to know he was here. "There's this party. At my place. Tonight. I'd, uh..."

"Okay," Dean agrees. He doesn't allow himself to think about how easy it had been to make that decision. Sam's smile makes him feel...well, just feel.

****

"Sam, what's up with you tonight?" Jess laughs. Sam has developed some kind of weird OCD in the three hours since he graduated, checking and rechecking everything in the apartment. He's even vacuumed. Before today, Jess would've sworn up one side and down the other that Sam was allergic to cleaning.

"Do we have the Jack Daniel's and Johnnie Walker Black Label?" Sam asks. Jess watches in amazed horror as Sam actually moves the couch so he can get underneath it.

"Seriously, Sam, what the hell's going on?"

Sam pauses in his frenetic cleaning, eyeing Jess speculatively. "Ah, well. At graduation? I ran into...there was...Dean."

"Dean?" Jess purrs suggestively, sidling up to Sam. Her hands travel over Sam's pecs, down to his abs. "And who is Dean? An ex?" She licks Sam's ear and chuckles when he gasps.

Sam groans, old memories struggling towards the surface. "He's...oh God, he's my..." Sam growls and kisses her, tumbling them both onto the couch. Jess giggles and wraps her legs around his waist. "Off, off!" Sam paws at her jeans and she laughs at him again, muttering something about cavemen. Jess, with her marvelous, wonderful fingers, unzips her jeans and Sam wedges his hand in the snug material of her panties. Lacy, frilly things that are smokin' hot but hide all the best parts. She tries to tug his shirt off, but he's only willing to give up the one arm, so it hangs haphazardly on his body. He's just about to get to the good stuff when the fucking doorbell rings.

He and Jess curse in unison. Someone starts banging on the door and ringing bell incessantly.

"Hey! Lovebirds! Stop fucking on the couch and open the door!"

"I hate Mike," Sam growls. Jess giggles and bites him right above his nipple. He kisses her hungrily, because he loves Jess's kinks and his cock pulses hungrily between his legs and he can. "Seriously. Loath."

"Oooooh, you're pulling out the big words!" Jess says breathlessly.

"It's five letters," Sam jokes, smiling down at her.

"Come on, open the goddamn door or I'm looking through the windows!" Mike hollers.

"I bet they're on the floor," Jerry muses helpfully. "It always takes them longer when they're on the floor."

Sam swears viciously, pulling his shirt back on and watching sadly as Jess zips herself back up.

"Later tonight," she promises huskily. Sam whimpers; Jess always keeps her promises. She sashays to the door with an extra swish to her hips. Sam's idiot friends—because she sure as hell isn't claiming them right now—grin at her from the stoop.

"Damn, girl, it's about time. Did he at least get you off?"

"Shut the hell up, Mikey," Jess warns.

"I'm just sayin'," Mike protests, pushing his way inside, arms full of alcohol, "that we gotta make sure Sam's taking care of his girl half as good as his boys."

"Haha," Sam grumbles sarcastically, stealing one of Mike's beers. He's been dating Jess since sophomore year, and he's only had two—no, one sort-of boyfriend.

"Dude! Not cool!" Mike protests. Sam sticks his tongue out at his friend.

"Jesus, Jess, you really went overboard with the cleaning," Jerry observes. "You and Sam realize you hadn't christened the rug under the couch or something?"

Before Sam has a chance to respond, the doorbell rings again. Jerry and Mike stare at the door with narrowed, offended eyes.

"You suddenly have a couple of other best friends who're willing to annoy you early, Sambo?" Mike asks with mock affront.

"I'd need a couple of best friends first," Sam fires back, tossing his empty beer can at Mike's head. Jess rolls her eyes at their antics and goes to answer the door. God DAMN.

The guy standing on her doorstep is gorgeous. He's shorter than Sam (who isn't?), with beautiful green eyes and a tight, hot body. He's exactly Sam's type, and she lets her eyes travel over him. Nice. Very nice.

"You must be Dean." The guy smiles at her, and Jess feels her body react to him of its own accord. Oh yeah, definitely Sam's type. She leans against the doorjamb, molding to it in the way that had driven Sam into her bed the first time. Dean gives her a slow, appreciative once-over.

"Sam sure knows how to pick 'em," she says with a grin, and Dean couldn't agree more.

"Jess? Who's at the door?" Sam comes around the bend and stops when he sees his brother. Dean is actually here. Sam blinks, but Dean's still standing there. He knows he's staring but he can't stop. Dean came.

"I got bored," Dean offers, and Sam can hear the veiled undercurrent of discomfort. Sam smiles softly at him, a warm glow that fills the empty spaces in Dean's chest.

"Yeah?" Sam asks, unable to stop the goofy smile on his face. Jess glances between the two of them, feeling the undercurrent of something deep jump between them. She briefly wonders if things are good enough between them for a threesome. They can't be so bad off if Dean showed up for Sam's graduation, right?

"Why don't you come in, I'm sure we can unbore you," Jess offers and motions Dean in. The air of vulnerability disappears behind a smooth mask of cocky self-assurance.

****

Dean relaxes in his seat, half-full tumbler of Black Label in his hand. He lets the chatter of Sam's college friends flow around him. They're alright people, harmless enough. Completely naïve, babes in the woods, but that's probably why Sammy likes them. And he can tell they truly like Sam, which puts them a step above the majority of fucktards in the world.

Sam keeps stealing little glances at him. If he thinks Dean isn't catching them, Sam is sorely out of practice. Or college has made him dumber. That's always a possibility.

"So Dean, tell us something." Dean turns his attention to Mike, a red-headed cut-up with an easy smile. Dean takes a sip of his whisky, raising his eyebrows in expectation. "When'd you date Sambo here?" Dean chokes on his drink, the alcohol burning his throat as it works its way down his windpipe. He turns and glares at Sam. Jess's flirting makes so much more sense now. And it means Sam has never told his friends about him. They probably don't even know Sam has a brother. Sam catches the look and glances away.

"Yeah," Jess adds, "I thought I knew about all his boys."

"Dean's not my..." Sam trails off, because...no. Sam clears his throat. "Dean's my brother."

"Your what now?" Jerry asks.

"Oh my God," Jess breaths, looking at Dean with awed eyes. Dean shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "Oh my God, this...this is your older brother?" Jess smacks Sam with a pillow. "You should have told me! Jesus, Sam!" She turns to Dean, her eyes alight with questions. Dean knows what's coming, and Jess will be sorely disappointed if she honestly thinks he'll tell her anything about their past. "You're about the only part of his family he's ever talked about. And it took me two years to pry the information out of him." Sam blushes and covers his face with his hands. He does not need Dean hearing these things, knowing that Sam's affections run this deep.

"Yeah?" Dean asks, smirking. The information leaves a sour taste in his mouth. He tries to wash it away with Scotch whisky, but not even Johnny can cut the taste of bitter disappointment. "Like what?"

"You have a brother?" Mike explodes staring at Dean like it's his fault Sam's a bastard.

"He does," Dean says smoothly. "He doesn't like that I'm hotter, so he doesn't talk about me much." Sam resists the urge to throw his beer bottle at Dean's head.

----

Jess corners Sam when they party is in full swing and Dean is occupied hitting on all of Jess's attractive friends (of which there are many).

"Why didn't you tell me it was him?" she hisses, dumping an armful of cans in the recycling bin. "You let me think he was...and I was..." Sam turns and presses her against the refrigerator.

"You may recall," he says in her ear, "that I was trying to tell you when you distracted me!" Jess's express turns sultry and minx-like.

"Oh, I distracted you, did I?" Sam nods, nibbling at her full lips. "Then I think I should apologize." She cups Sam through his jeans, massaging his half-hard cock through the layers.

"Whoa, sorry, just wanted another beer," Dean says, not sounding sorry at all. Sam glares at Dean, who holds his hands up, all innocence and apology. Sam snorts. Dean, innocent. Yeah, right.

Jess slips from beneath Sam, heading back towards the party. "You boys catch up. I'm going to be a good hostess."

For the first time, Dean and Sam are well and truly alone.

"Girl's hot, dude. My little Sammy, all growned up." Dean tilts his head back and chugs, emptying almost a whole beer straight into his stomach. When he rights himself, Sam's eyes are focused on his chin where one errant drop has escaped.

Sam clears his throat and his head. "Yeah, Jess is...she's great."

Dean quenches the jealousy at San's butter-soft tone, eyes gazing off into the distance and looking like the penultimate chick-flick Fabio with his long flowing hair. Dean reaches down to check his manhood. Still there, thank God. He pops open another beer.

"She's a little out of your league though, Sammy."

"Shut up," Sam says, blushing. It's not strictly untrue. They subside into awkward silence, neither of them sure of what to say. Four years is a long time.

"What about you?" Sam asks. "You got..." he waves his hands expressively, trailing off because this is Dean. God's gift to women and the occasional very lucky guy. Sam had been Dean's only—he cuts that thought off before it even has a chance to form.

"I do." Sam almost misses the soft admission, uttered with reverence.

Sam blinks. "...you do?" To say Sam is shocked doesn't quite cover it. And he doesn't think about the knot that's developed in his stomach.

"Yeah, she's my—"

"Saaaaaaaaaaaambo!" Two drunk-looking frat boys burst into the small room looking for Sam to do a keg stand, and the moment is gone.