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by firelight

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Ben stares into the flames, curled up near the fire. He’s mostly warm, but his back is to the wilds and he’s slightly nervous.

“Don’t worry,” his older self says without turning, face towards the darkness. “Nothin’ will bother us tonight.”

Ben doesn’t react. He trusts his older self—mostly. Surely the Lady wouldn’t have sent him a dangerous guide.   But he’s been on his own for over two years. Since the escape. And his older self is… frightening. He’s already fought off half a dozen nomlies while Ben froze. (their eyes, their eyes, color of a midnight sky, color of bone, bright, bright as sunlight) But his older self simply waded into them and ripped them apart, quick as lightning and quieter than the cat in their shared blood.

“Call me Dean,” his older self said, covered in gore. “It’ll keep things simple.”

They’ve traveled together for six days and nights now. Once, Ben woke up curled next to his older self, with Dean’s arm around his shoulder, hand over Ben’s heart. He stayed still until Dean moved away, but he thought about that moment almost constantly. He felt—safe. Warm, where Dean touched him.

He wonders how it would feel to let Dean hold him like he’s seen normal parents hold normal children.

But instead of saying anything like that, so weak and childish, he asks, “Why are we going northwest?” He knows this is the way he fled in a panic, barely remembering his training to evade recapture. He would have never come back, except his older self has steadily gone west, gone north since he saved Ben from the nomlies. (he’s young, he’s strong, he’s oursoursours, brimstone and starlight)

“You have a twin still in that place,” Dean says. His voice is sharp, the words clipped. Ben knows his hands are clenched into fists and he’s glaring at something. Nomlies in his past, maybe.

“We’re going to get him out,” Dean continues. “And then…”

Ben uncurls and goes to him, leaning into his side. Dean looks down, and his eyes soften. He loosens his fists and Ben stands still as he lifts a hand to place it on Ben’s head.

“What happens after we save him?” Ben asks.

His older self smiles. “Then I start another war,” he says. “Just as futile, but hopefully not as endless."

He shoots one more look around their camp then glances back at Ben.    “C’mon, Benji,” he says. “Let’s get some sleep. Nothin’ll bother us ‘til sunup.”

Ben lets Dean steer him back to the fire. Dean waits while Ben finds another comfortable spot and drops next to him, barely touching him.

Dean seems to hesitate before saying, “It might get cold tonight.”

Ben thinks for a moment, watching his older self from the corner of his eye. He remembers his siblings, how they piled together. He slept better those nights.

So he shifts closers to Dean, and Dean wraps his arms around Ben, cheek against the crown of Ben’s head, and Ben dreams that night of he and his twin, battling nomlies, and Dean back-to-back with a man he calls Sammy, laughing so loud it fills the sky.