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“Keep your head down. Keep to yourself. And for heaven’s sake keep your nose clean. You heard the judge. Possibility for parole in eighteen months. Don’t fuck it up, kid.”

Bobby had cuffed him on the ear softly and then pulled him into a quick bear hug, working to hide the tears that were gathering in the corners of his eyes.

His father, he noted, hadn’t come. He was ashamed. Unlike his Uncle Bobby, his father had believed everything they had said about Dean. The lack of faith the man had in him was unsurprising but his absence in the courtroom had still stung a little more than Dean had anticipated.

“I’ll… It’ll be okay, Bobby. I can take care of myself. You did a real good job making sure of that.”

Bobby nodded against his shoulder and pushed him gently away, walking out of the courtroom where Dean’s life had just been rearranged, reconfigured, and more or less ruined.

The guards chained his hands and feet, the shackles hanging heavy and cold against his skin, and walked him slowly out of the courthouse and directly to a transport van. They were wasting no time. He would be firmly ensconced at the Joseph F Bolt Correctional Facility by the end of the day.

They weren’t taking any chances with such a dangerous criminal.

The thought nearly made Dean laugh out loud. The sheer irony, not to mention stupidity, of the situation… How the Hell did he get there? Oh yeah, he had trusted the wrong people. That had gotten him in plenty of trouble in the past. He had always been way too trusting, especially when a pretty face was involved. It had always been a quirk, a slight character flaw maybe, but never had he seen it as one day leading him to a maximum security penitentiary.

He pressed his face against the smooth glass of the van window and watched the scenery pass by – trees, houses, a school where kids were chasing one another on the playground, warehouses, coffee shop, grocery stores, empty lots, more houses… Eventually the cityscape gave way to small farms, pastures where cows stood grazing, and the occasional house set far from the road. These were images he had never given much thought to. He had taken the world around him for granted and now his eyes hungrily drank it all in, the things he knew he would no longer see. At least not for a year or so…if he was lucky.

As they arrived at their destination, he noted the tall metal fences topped with what seemed like miles and miles of looping razor wire. The compound was a muted grey concrete and steel structure that sprawled out before him like a living tomb. Dean’s stomach dropped at the site and scale of it all.

“Prisoner Number 211B653,” The guard read off as they pushed, pulled, urged, and yanked him through processing. He was photographed by a woman that barely looked his way, violated by a man who seemed to enjoy having a gloved hand up his ass way too much, and shoved into a processing cell unceremoniously by an overweight guard that looked like he was working on a short fuse and would beat him to a pulp should he dare to step an inch out of line.

A change of clothes (another delightful bright orange jumpsuit), a thin cotton blanket, a pitiful cloth covered lump that was to serve as a pillow, a plastic sack containing a new toothbrush, soap, and a roll of toilet paper was shoved into his arms. “211B653. Follow me,” The grumpy guard barked.

Clutching his new belongings tightly, Dean gritted his teeth and tried to hold his head up. He would not walk in to this like a scared child. No, he would show no fear. He wouldn’t give anything away or give any of them the satisfaction of seeing him flinch. He might be a fool and a victim but he would be damned if this place made him even more of one.

Head down.

Keep to yourself.

Nose clean.

Eighteen months.

## 2 1 1 B 6 5 3 ##

“Wesson! Got a new roommate for ya,” Sam heard Cappy bellow.

Asshole.

Cappy (or Crappy the Craptastic Crapman as most of the inmates called him behind his back) was possibly one of the worst correctional officers Sam had ever seen. Besides being bitchy ninety-eight percent of the time, he liked to belittle, he was slow to respond to anything that meant a prisoner was in trouble, and he seemed to delight in the discomfort and pain of others. Sam seethed anytime he saw the man.

The fact that the lump of a man came bearing the news of a new “roommate” just made him all the more detestable.

“Yeah? Thought I paid extra for a single suite,” Sam replied snarkily, tossing the book he’d been reading down onto his bunk.

He knew it had been coming. Wasn’t like they would keep the bunk empty for long since the prison was typically at or above capacity. If it were a motel, there would be a no-vacancy sign constantly lit. The last guy that had been in the cell with him kept to himself mostly but he was kind of an ass. Branson had been a serial arsonist and all it took was one good toilet fire in the middle of the night to (a) make Sam question his own life expectancy and (b) get the dude thrown into a stricter unit (one where they searched you daily for drugs, weapons and apparently matches). He had been rather enjoying the luxury of a silent pod. No snoring, no weird smells, no forced conversation… Guess nothing lasted forever.

Moving to the doorway, he leaned an arm against it, peering out at the sight before him. Just beyond Cappy’s wide girth stood a man who couldn’t have been older than twenty-four or twenty-five, clutching his little crap-pile of a 'welcome gift' to his chest and staring at Sam, wide-eyed.

The staring. Yeah, Sam got that a lot. It was his size (6’4”, taller than the average sasquatch), his hair (which he kept slightly longer than strictly fashionable), or the nasty scowl that seemed to be permanently affixed to his face these days.

He watched slightly amused as the guy worked to control his reaction, turning his head away and breaking eye contact before standing up a little straighter, his chin jutting out in an attempt to look unaffected.

“Winchester, Wesson.” The C.O. nodded back and forth between then curtly. “Wesson’ll show you the ropes.”

“Do I get a say in this?” Sam asked the guard’s already retreating form.

“Yeah, Wesson. I’m just gonna run and get us some coffee then we’ll sit down and discuss what you would like to happen here.” Cappy snorted condescendingly and shook his head.

When they were alone – or as alone as you can get in a unit with twenty-eight other inmates - Sam turned and looked his cellmate over.

There was no denying the man was strikingly handsome, even he had to admit. He was only maybe a few inches shorter than Sam, maybe six foot or six-one. He had green eyes, he noted. They were the color of new leaves and made Sam instantly think of warm Spring days – his favorite time of year. A slight curve in the bridge of his nose denoted a past break but did nothing to mar his good looks. It occurred to Sam that the man also had what was likely the sexiest mouth he had seen on anyone male or female. It just…begged to be bitten or licked or wrapped…

“Uh… hi. I’m Dean. Dean Winchester,” the new guy stuck out his hand, breaking Sam’s inappropriate train of thought and planting him right back in the present.

He blinked at the innocent gesture. It was so rare. You didn’t touch here unless you were fighting, slipping contraband or maybe if you were playing basketball or something. On the outside, Sam would have taken that hand and shaken it amiably. Smiled and said something banal like ‘very nice to meet you, Dean’ before introducing himself and welcoming him into his home.

But here they were, in the middle of a pod, in the middle of a unit, in the middle of a prison, in the middle of nowhere. And all Sam could see was a guy that was trying really hard to look tough when even he knew he was walking into a lion’s den completely unarmed. After seeing so many hardened criminals walk thru with an almost comical amount of ego on parade, the lack of bravado was refreshing. It was almost endearing and Sam’s first instinct was to comfort the guy - assure him it would be okay - but he wouldn’t. Time and experience were definitely something he had gotten plenty of there and he wasn’t going to get involved. Besides, for all he knew the guy was a serial killer or a rapist.

Of course, he didn’t believe that for a second. He was good at reading people, always had been. Some said Sam was the best and it helped a lot in his line of work. When he looked at Winchester, something in the man’s eyes was too clear, too honest. Not totally innocent but certainly not evil.

Sam sneered before his face could even have the chance to form the smile that it naturally wanted to and he looked down at the proffered hand. “Sam Wesson.” He turned and walked further into the pod.

“I’m bottom. You’re top.” He glanced back in time to see Dean blushing, his eyes widened to the size of saucers, and his plump fuck-me lips being pulled in between his teeth and Sam had to close his eyes.

Shit! He hadn’t meant it to sound sexual but Dean’s reaction had him biting back a groan. He wished conjugal visits included girlfriends. He could seriously do with seeing Jess. Of course Jess didn’t even know where he was. He hadn’t been able to speak to her for four months other than through Joe.

Dean, finally understanding what Sam was referring to, tossed his pillow and blanket on the top bunk and Sam indicated he should put his extra uniform, soap, and toilet paper on the small inset shelf beside the mini-sink.

“Toilet,” he pointed towards the obviously exposed metal toilet in the corner of the pod, “sink, bunk bed,” he spread his arms over the small expanse of space around them. “Welcome to the Ritz.”

Dean chuffed at that and Sam could tell the other man was tense as Hell. Keeping him isolated in there wasn’t going to help any of that so he pushed on. “Alright, now for the grand tour.” Sam led the way back out into the common room.

“So, this is Unit A, your new home away from home.”

As Sam watched Dean take in the scene before him, the old man passed by muttering in response to Sam’s words. “A” for appeal, “a” for alleged, “a” for…ass-rape!”

“Deluca, how about we tone down the crazy right now, okay man? This is Winchester.”

Deluca spared the new guy a small nod and then inched his way into Sam’s personal space, his lined face pinched. “Did you get it for me, Wesson? Please tell me ya got it.”

Sam hated hearing the old man beg. He hated hearing anyone like that, but Deluca was a good guy. “Yeah ‘course. Here,” He reached in his pocket and palmed the item casually to the guy. Putting a finger in his face, Sam glared at him. “Don’t get caught. You know you aren’t supposed to have that and if any of the geniuses around here get a’hold of it there is no tellin’ what’ll happen.”

“Just for emergencies. Go hide it now,” he mumbled heading into the cell next to his and Dean’s.

“That was George Deluca. He’s more or less bat-shit crazy but he really is a good dude. He’s in for larceny. Used to make a living stealing cars but I think he found himself on the wrong end of a police chase, some bad shit happened, and… well he’s here.”

“What did you give him?” Dean asked.

Sam could tell it took a lot of courage for the question to work it’s way out of his mouth and he gave the man a little more respect for managing the words without sounding terrified. Yet as much as he didn’t want to be a caretaker, there was no way he could, in good conscious, let Dean get killed - or worse – because he didn’t educate him.

“First off, don’t ask questions like that. EVER!” He got in Dean’s face. “I am a freaking day in the park compared to some of the bastards around here. They will cut your dick off for looking at them wrong much less asking questions like that. Just keep your nose out of people’s dealings, got it?

Dean nodded, swallowing visibly. “G-Got it.”

Sam softened if just a bit. “Also, get that ‘scared straight’ look out of your eyes, man.” He glanced to see if anyone was looking their way. “Guys around here are gonna know you’re new. They sense that you’re scared and it’ll be like blood in the water. You will become their new entertainment and the torment won’t end for a good long while. I’ve seen it happen. We have a whole lot of hours in the day here and you don’t want all that time filled with watchin’ your back and wondering how they’re gonna get you next.”

Dean shook his head, staying mute. He straightened up and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, it was like a whole new person was standing before him. His chest was out, shoulders back, head up and a look of steely indifference was on his face.

Sam nodded and smiled at the change but quickly covered it with his own brand of apathy.

“So like I was saying, this is Unit A. It’s divided into fifteen cells or pods; five upstairs across from the guard platform there, and the other ten down here on the main floor. Five on each side of the unit. Two guests per room, making for thirty current residents, for anyone not keeping up with the math portion of our tour.”

Dean smiled at his aside and Sam almost tripped. If possible, Dean was even more beautiful when he smiled. And that wasn’t even a big smile. That was a miniscule humoring smirk. Sam wasn’t that funny - at all - but he thought he might gladly start working on a stand-up routine for a the chance of having a grin leveled at him.

Wait! WHAT?!

He shook his head firmly. Obviously he was loosing his mind.

“Alright. Now, that corner is for television,” he indicated a small flatscreen bolted to the wall behind a sheet of plexiglass. There were four or five guys sitting in front of it watching an episode of what looked to be ‘The Golden Girls’. “We are only allowed half an hour a day but the C.O.s are usually not hard-asses about it if we go over.

“If the boob tube isn’t your thing, we have a library but you have to request the visit and a C.O. has to walk you there and back. Also we have a small gym; same process to get there.

“Laundry room there and next to it are the showers,” he indicated a glass wall that looked in on a blue tiled room. There were six showerheads spread out along the wall and a waist high partition running in front of them to give a small semblance of privacy. Of course it was all bullshit. There was no privacy in this place.

“Where do we eat?”

“Cafeteria is a short walk. It’s just like school – our unit goes together at seven, noon, and six-thirty. Have they assigned you a job yet?”

“No. Not…not that I know of.”

Sam nodded. “Probably waiting for you to see the overseer.”

“Overseer?”

“S’what we call the guy in charge of us. Our councilor. His name is Stanton.”

“Oh yeah. I have a meeting with him tomorrow morning.”

Sam nodded. “He handles our work assignments, talks to us if they think we’re having any ‘issues’, helps us find resources if we want to work on getting a degree or if you’re working on filing an appeal. Things like that. He also arranges conjugals. You…gonna have need for that, Winchester?”

After a beat of silence, Sam started coughing and sputtering at his own question. How the hell had his mouth managed to slip that one past his brain?

Dean slapped him on the back several times until his breathing returned to somewhat normal. Even then, he felt Dean’s hand steady and still pressed between his shoulder blades. The hand was warm and large and firm and Sam felt it with laser focus. He didn’t like to be touched. He abhorred being touched under these circumstances. But he found himself leaning back unconsciously towards the other man’s touch.

“You okay?”

He blinked at Dean’s question and then had the good sense to elbow his arm away, shrugging it off roughly. “M’fine,” he spat.

Seeming undaunted by Sam’s harsh reaction, Dean shrugged and a corner of his mouth lifted in a sad half-smile. “And, since you asked… No conjugals. Don’t think they let exes visit and wouldn’t bother with that dickhead even if they did.”

So Winchester was unattached. Possibly referring to a male ex. Typically one didn’t refer to women as a dickhead but then again Sam didn’t really know Dean. Still the hint of this information satisfied him.

Until he started asking himself why on God’s green Earth it should matter.

And why the hell were they just standing there staring at each other?

And why the hell did it feel like someone let a jar of butterflies loose in his stomach?

Way too many thoughts were swimming through Sam’s head, all of them involving the man in front of him and things he’d not done with another man in a very long time. Abruptly, he turned on his heels and marched quickly back to their pod and threw himself back onto the bottom bunk, picking up his book and managing to keep his eyes and most of his brain there until it was time for dinner.

## 2 1 1 B 6 5 3 ##

Dean was scared. He stared at the structure before him and timidly poked at it with his finger as if it might fall apart upon contact. He grimaced. How was he ever going to do this?

“Just get up on the damn bed already,” Sam snapped from where he was already sprawled on the bottom bunk, reading a novel in the subdued lighting.

Dean sighed. The guards had called lights out ten minutes before and after fumbling around brushing his teeth and splashing water on his face, Dean had pulled his jumpsuit off and was standing there staring apprehensively at the bunk wearing only his boxers and a white t-shirt.

He’d never felt so vulnerable in his life. After coming back from a tense first dinner, he had actually been relieved when they had been locked in their pod for the night. If he thought too hard about it, he would probably freak out and get claustrophobic in the small 8 foot by 10 foot room. He wouldn’t think that hard about it though. He couldn’t afford to flip his lid. He needed to see it as a ‘base’ of sorts. He needed it to be his safe zone.

He could see through the glass panel door and floor-to-ceiling window that looked out into the common area, that the guards were walking past at regular intervals to check that everything was Kosher. This reassured him to some extent, although he noticed most of the correctional officers seemed more or less indifferent about what the inmates did as long as blood wasn’t being shed on their watch.

He had witnessed this first hand when he saw some guy being bullied in the vestibule on the way back from dinner. There were three burly white guys, all with shorn heads and visible swastika tattoos, crowding a younger and much smaller man who looked like he just wanted someone to put him out of his misery. It was glaringly obvious that they were tormenting the man but even as one of the bigger men wrapped his arms around him from behind and one of his cohorts proceeded to grind lewdly against the young man as they laughed, the guard nearest just rolled his eyes. Foster, the only female C.O. in the unit that he’d seen so far, watched from the tower, merely seeming bemused.

Dean cringed. He hoped the younger guy was okay. He’d heard stories, he’d seen prison dramas on tv and he knew rape and brutality was not a myth in lock-up. With that thought in mind, he had started towards the scene in hopes of breaking it up but Sam had apparently seen his direction and he’d found himself being yanked by the collar towards his own pod. “Best not, newbie,” was all Sam said.

It had been the first thing Sam had said to him since he'd abruptly concluded their unit 'tour'.

Finally sucking it up, Dean put his foot on the horizontal side bar at the end of the bunk and pulled himself up onto the top. He shifted and shimmied a little, bounced up and down for a second, rocked from side to side…

“What in the name of all that’s holy are you doing up there?”

Dean froze. He had momentarily forgotten himself. “Uh…sorry. I was just wondering… Is this mattress actually a mattress? Or maybe just a sack full of old sweat socks?”

He heard Sam chuckle and tried to ignore the warmth and relief that spread through him at the nearly friendly sound. “I’ve been thinkin’ maybe it was a sack of old jumpsuits. If you cut it open, maybe it would bleed that nauseating orange color."

Dean smiled, stretched out and tried to find a comfortable position.

“So, what are you in for, Dean?”

Dean was a little shocked by the query since he had been lectured, not three hours ago, about getting into people’s business. Still, he liked Sam for some reason (other than the glaringly obvious fact that the man looked like sex on a stick) and he felt inclined to answer the softly spoken question.

“Honestly?” He cleared his throat. “They think I killed someone.”

“They think? So you didn’t do it?”

Dean laughed mirthlessly. “I know, cliché right? Sitting in prison, saying I’m innocent. That must be a pretty standard tune around here.”

“You’d be surprised. Some of these guys are proud of what they did. Get them in the right mood and they’ll start telling you about shit that they were never even convicted for. It’s… a little unnerving.”

He stared at the ceiling and clasped his hands behind his head, contemplating what Sam had just said. “Well, I didn’t do it. I was trying to help. Sometimes you just… you don’t get there in time.”

“Yeah,” a whisper floated up from below him and Dean felt the melancholy that surrounded the word.

“What are you here for?”

“That’s none-,” the words began harshly but were quickly silenced. Dean braced for more, waiting to be chastised by Sam Wesson once more. It didn’t come however. Sam just sighed heavily. “Same.”

“You mean you don’t deserve to be here either?”

“Yes and no. Killed someone. Was accidental though.”

Dean believed Sam. There was a strong honesty in his voice and Dean was usually a pro at sniffing out liars and dirtbags. Sam was neither. He might even stake his life on it.

“You got family?”

“Dude, are you always this talkative?”

“You started it!” He rolled his eyes and scratched his fingers through his short crop of hair. “You think this is talkative?”

Sam snorted. “Is when I’m trying to read.”

“Well…sorry. Won’t say another word.”

After another minute, he heard what sounded like the book hitting the floor and he heard Sam shift below him. “No real family. My parents died a while back. But I have … some friends. Have a girlfriend too.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean’s heart sank a bit at this information, though he couldn’t have said why. It wasn’t like he was in prison as a means to date. He snorted loudly.

“What’s so funny?”

“I was,” he laughed at himself, “I was just thinking… Had a million dollar idea.”

“Okay. Gonna share? Swear I won’t steal it.”

“I’m just going to ignore the doubt and condescension that I hear in your tone and allow you to be in on this genius scheme.”

“So benevolent. Please do go on.”

“I was just thinking I should start up a prison dating site. Put all the inmates on there and list likes, dislikes… favorite yard activity?”

Sam laughed out loud and Dean almost melted at the sound, shocked though he was. “That would be awesome. You could call it P-Harmony.”

“Oh-ho-ho… Sammy you’re good. For that I’ll cut you in for five percent.”

“I always knew I’d be a millionaire one day. Just never thought that would be how.”

“Stick with me, kid and you’ll go far.”

Dean reveled in the feeling of normalcy that surrounded the conversation. For a moment, he tried to pretend that they weren’t in this place. He imagined meeting Sam elsewhere. Maybe Sam was another hunter and they were commiserating in the hunter hostel that Ellen, his dad’s friend, kept in a shack behind her bar. The bunker there was not unlike the pod so it actually worked as far as fantasies went. Maybe they would have a beer or two, shoot the shit, one thing would lead to another…

“What about you, Winchester?” Sam broke the silence, shoving Dean out of the burgeoning daydream. “Got family on the outside?”

Dean closed his eyes tightly, the question bringing back the rejection of his father that was still fresh in his mind. “Mom left when I was little. Got a dad, but… he’s not really speaking to me right now, I guess. My uncle Bobby is probably the closest thing to family I have these days.”

“Dad’s or Mom’s?”

“What?”

“Is he your dad’s or mom’s brother?”

“Neither. He’s… a family friend I guess you could say. Best man I know. He’s wicked smart and, even though he’s got a nasty temper on him he’s probably the biggest pushover you’d ever meet. Like a big ole teddy bear. He runs a salvage yard and taught me nearly everything I know about cars.”

“Sounds like an interesting guy.” Dean could hear the smile in Sam’s voice and had to resist leaning over the side of the bed so that he might finally be able to see it.

“That’s an understatement.”

He heard Sam yawn and almost instantaneously he yawned in response. It had been a pretty draining day. Dean sniffed, pulled his thin blanket up to his chest and settled back into his pillow and his bag of sweat socks.

“Hey… Dean?”

Dean dramatically feigned a sigh. “Do you always talk this much?”

Ignoring Dean’s poke at him, “ That thing I slipped Deluca…?”

“Yeah. The thing you said I should not ask about upon pain of castration?”

“Uh… I don’t think that was exactly what I said, but… Anyway, just wanted you to know…,”

“What is it?”

“It was an e-cig.”

“A what now?”

“An electronic cigarette. It wasn’t drugs. I know you probably thought it was.” Dean actually had wondered but really, after growing up with the nomadic lifestyle that he had, he knew better than to jump to conclusions.

“That’s… that’s weird. Why would you give him an e-cig?”

“They’re considered contraband here. Cigarettes you can have but e-cigs not so much. Makes no sense. Deluca… well, his health is iffy right now. He wanted to stop smoking but was having trouble and they wouldn’t give him anything to curb the cravings so…”

“So you snuck him a little cessation aide.”

“Yeah.”

Dean wondered about the guy lying on the bunk below him. He had seemed like such a hard ass mere hours ago. Dean had been a little nervous that they were going to be stuck in a pod together. Now he wasn’t really sure what to make of Sam. His instincts were telling him he was a good guy. Maybe he just took a little time to warm up to people.

On a whim, Dean did finally lean over the side of the bunk and smiled widely down at his ‘roommate’. Sam had his arms crossed and his eyes fluttered open at the sound of movement. Seeing Dean, he bit his lip, a frown on his face. After a moment, he gifted Dean with a slow smile of his own. It wasn’t a grin, but it was just as gorgeous as Dean had imagined it would be.

“Goodnight, roommie,” he said with a quick wink.

“G'night, Dean.”