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“Tails are pretentious.”

“Yes. They are.”

“Pretentious as fuck.”

“Just stay still, Dean.”

“Why can’t I wear a god damn tie?”

“Bowties are more appropriate—I said stay still.”

“You know what a bowtie on guys our age means?”

“I don’t wanna know but I’m sure you’re gonna tell me anyway.”

“It says to the world: I can’t get it up.”

“Is everything related to your dick?”

“You know it, Sammy. Hey, you wanna see the proof that I can get it up?”

“Nope.” Sam swats Dean’s ass and turns around to grab a set of silver cufflinks off the dresser. “Wrists, please.”

No other pout in history could be as profound as the one in this moment. Dean tugs at his bowtie with his right hand while Sam has his left. “Sammy, tell me we only have to stay there for a little while. Don’t make it like last time.”

Cufflinks in place, Sam takes one last look at Dean. His shoes are polished, suit pressed, bowtie tied for the most part, and lapels smoothed out. This is the effort of two hours spent chasing Dean around the house, wrenching him off the couch and shoving him into the shower, pressing his outfit, helping him into it, and finally, brushing out the slightest wrinkles.

“You look good,” Sam exhales, proudly admiring his efforts and the man underneath the suit. He fixes a piece of Dean’s hair. The proximity of their bodies allows for a quick inhale of Dean’s cologne; it’s spicier than Sam’s.

“You know,” he murmurs, hands on Dean’s lapels, “you clean up real nice.”

The pleased look on Dean’s face is visible from space.

 

Every May, the Queer Lawyers of Chicago Guild hosts a gala at the Trump Tower and Hotel.

Situated downtown—on Wabash and Wacker, off of the Chicago River—the building is gaudy and grand like its namesake.  

The most successful queer lawyers in Chicago turn out for this event. Although Sam can appreciate a four course, gourmet meal replete with filet mignon, scallops, and bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue being poured like water, tails are pretentious. He feels like a giant penguin.

In and out of circles, Sam makes small talk, holding the arm of his date, squeezing when he needs an out.

Thomas Mueller, an older lawyer, a man proud of his bottled boats collection, goes on and on about how the mayor is crap, the city is crap, and the profession of law is crap. Sam initiates the signal of get me out of this; Dean clears his throat and points to a random spot in the room.

“Sam,” he says, loud enough for even someone like Thomas to hear, “isn’t that… you know… what’s his face?”

Nodding, Sam looks over the crowd of people sipping on twenty dollar cocktails. “You know what? I think it is. That’s Nick.” Not a second later, Sam shakes Thomas’ hand. “My apologies, Thomas, for cutting our conversation so short, but I must say hello to Nick. Excuse me.”

Dean was pointing to the expansive set of buffet tables.

Safe for now, they load up one plate of appetizers and finger food to share while they wait for dinner to be served. Sushi is on tonight’s menu—gluten free, vegan, and locally sourced. Most of the menu is like that, until Dean discovers something like a cocktail weenie wrapped in bacon, except the bacon is shaped like wings.

“Someone had to make this,” he murmurs, holding the toothpick and food up. “I want that job.”

“You’d mess up on purpose and eat all your profits.”

For the moment, Dean withholds a reply. He stuffs his mouth with a flock of unfortunate bacon swans. With chipmunk cheeks, he looks around at the crowd of lawyers all around them. Green eyes flit from person to person, clique to clique, taking in every necessary detail—all at the same time more bacon swans succumb to the same fate as their comrades.

Sam pulls Dean away from the buffet.

The band sucks.

All they’re playing is the kind of watered down stuff that would make elevator music seem exciting. Adding to the insult, the piano is incredibly out of tune. Behind the noise from the band, people chatter on and on about accomplishments that wouldn’t mean shit if the zombie apocalypse started and slapped them in the face. This might be a nice event if it was followed up by charity work, but it’s not. Tonight remains purely self-congratulatory.  

This is another excuse to dress up and dine on lobster. Sam hears indifference in the voice of many to whom he speaks throughout the night.

Green eyes miss nothing.

“I think we’re done here,” Dean announces, holding his arm out for Sam to take.

Graciously, Sam accepts the escort. “Oh yeah.”

And then, the next three words give Sam a jolt of excitement.

“Just follow me.”

 

Al Capone used to frequent this bar during the height of Prohibition.

It’s a short ride to Uptown, and doesn’t look like much on Broadway. Right outside is a bus stop, next door there’s Broadway Pizza Place. The bright white and green lights of the sign out front look like they haven’t been touched since those Capone days. Lit up, the name of the place is the opposite of where they’ve just come from. This is the Green Mill.

Packed on a Saturday, the bouncer in the entryway shakes Dean’s hand.

Saved the guy from a spirit once—back when Dean wore John’s leather jacket and ganked shit solo.

“Capone used to sit there,” Dean reports as they work their way through a crowd of people. There’s everyone from students to old timers like themselves; some dressed up for a night on the town and some dressed to relax at a table off the dance floor. The band on stage takes a break at the bar, where Dean stops for a moment to grab a bottle. Sam can’t see what the bottle is, but he’s pretty sure it’s not going to be mineral water.

“Right in the middle, so he could see who came in from both entryways.”

The booth is unoccupied, roped off to preserve the memories of the gangster days. They don’t linger. Bottle in hand, Dean continues to weave through the Saturday night regulars.

“Mob hits went down in this place. Even Charlie Chaplin hung out here.”

Behind the bar there’s a tattered three-ring binder filled with newspaper clippings about the Green Mill. As they climb up a flight of stairs, two floors at least, the tap of Dean’s cane joins the rhythm of a steady drum line. The gentle tremor of a piano follows, in tune, subtle, and beautiful. Rising above the club, the band grows distant, but no less provocative or alluring. The drums pick up—tzz, tzz, tzz, tzz. The piano tickles higher notes—da da da da. And making its grand entrance, a trumpet punches out haunting, reverberating echoes of grief, joy, and excitement in one burst of sound—bawahaaa.

The stairwell is dark. They come to a door. Dean pushes it open with his cane.

Near midnight, Chicago greets them on the rooftop of the Green Mill. Neon signs and traffic lights glimmer. A cool, May breeze keeps the circulation of all things, makes Chicago cozy and light. In a month, humidity will block the path of every breeze, gust, and inhale of fresh air.

But not tonight.

Sam’s eyes follow the sway of hips he could play like that trumpet.

Grief, joy, and excitement rolled into one.

At the end of this arrangement, the piano stretches to high, vulnerable notes, tinkling like a leaf about to snap and let loose in the wind. The drums play nervously—will it happen or not? Only the trumpet gives the answer.

Dean places the bottle on the wall at the edge of the building.

Later in the summer, the club opens this space up for afternoon rooftop gatherings. Tonight, it’s theirs.

They stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with the bottle in between them. Condensation trickles down the neck, running over the label.

In the next smooth, soft murmur from Dean, Sam expects more Capone.

What he gets is something very different.

 

*

They would have met in the palaestra. .

Maybe they would have been brothers. Maybe not. In some instances, that makes a difference; and in others, it doesn’t. The thread between them benefits from the connection, but is not wholly necessary. Dean knows that now—as deep as the warming hum in his bones as he paints pictures of Grecian landscapes. Lush, gently rolling hills, far away from the city would be the border of everyday life. Sam would run out to the edge of the city whenever he could, away from the crowded streets of Athens. Some days he would mill around the city walls; better days he would sneak past the guards with a smile or a long look and run until his legs ached.

But here—in the center of the city—their paths would cross.

Nearing the age of a proper youth, Sam’s tutor might lead him there. Or perhaps he would sneak away on an afternoon when his tutor grew tired of his questions and debate.

Dean would have seen Sam first.

Because it’s not in Sam’s nature to notice people. He might notice Dean’s sandals, the shape of his muscles, or a certain move against a larger opponent. But Sam is forever a daydreamer. No. It was Dean who truly saw Sam, and later, Dean who approached him after a winning match.

“I’ve won,” Dean said to the youth with elegant eyes. His chest rises with excitement from the conversation and the rhythm of the match still thrumming through him. “I take it you saw.”

“I do happen to have eyes,” Sam replied, not appearing to take any particular interest in Dean.

The challenge would have amused Dean. Sam’s good opinion would not be won as easily as a match in the palaestra. Being nude would also not work to his advantage with the youth. His attention would be worth the earning.

“You escape from your tutor often to be in the company of older men?” A flash of anger appeared in hazel eyes, but Dean continued before another bolt struck. “You’ve been here three times already this week. Am I to take it that you are here to fill those eyes or maybe for some other reason?”

“What I fill my eyes with is no one’s business, least of all yours.”

“That is true,” Dean said with a nod, stepping backwards, arms held out. “Though allow me to be bold and give your eyes a pleasing view before you go back to your tutor.”

Of course, Dean’s mouth would get the best of him.

Seconds later, as he turned, he tripped on a stray leather strap, stepping on it and losing his balance all together. Dust and powder kicked up from the fall he took. Even worse than the inelegance displayed by a wrestler, was the laughter he heard from the hazel-eyed youth.

Light footsteps sounded on the palaestra floor.

Laughing still, Sam extended a hand.

“A pleasing view indeed,” Sam murmured with a smile. “Don’t look so hurt, athlete. Your knee has suffered more your pride.”

Dean accepted the hand and the smile. Standing again, this time closer, and without relinquishing his hold on Sam’s hand, he kept his voice down, “I would suffer through every bone in my body to keep your fine company.”

Sharp eyes sought something out in Dean’s. Cautiously, Sam squeezed Dean’s hand.

“Well, I don’t ask that. But you have scraped your knee. Maybe I can tend to it, if you give your consent.”

“Freely. Do you?”

“As freely as I can.”

In the palaestra, Sam took care of him.

 

There were rules to the dance.

And Dean followed them all.

He brought Sam gifts—oils, flowers, loaves of freshly baked bread from the market, figs and fruit, and as many scrolls as he could get a hold of. He had a small series of poems written just for Sam, simple and not too flowery. Every other day, after Sam’s tutoring and Dean’s time in the palaestra, Dean would buy him sweet cakes drizzled in honey, covered in toasted nuts.

After a month of receiving these gifts, Sam broke the rules.

In the palaestra, out of sight from other contenders, Sam presents Dean with a silver ring, blessed at the temple of Hermes.

Holding the ring, Dean looks at it, confused and hurt.

“Do I do wrong by you?”

“No, not at all,” Sam rushes to say. “Never.”

“Then why?” he holds the ring up. “Are the things I bring you too humble? Too practical? Does another bring you better?”

Letting out a huff, Sam shakes his head and clasps his hand over Dean’s. “There is no one else. I adore the things you bring me. I am a practical person. I have no need for frivolity.” Sam lives in a spacious estate inside Athens, the only son of a well-respected Senator. Whatever he wanted or needed, it was always given.

Clasping his hands over Dean’s, Sam presses. “But when I saw this, I knew it to be yours. Please, accept this one thing from me, along with my smiles.”

Uneasy by the gesture, Dean hesitates.

He is not as comfortable in life as Sam. Although a citizen, he is still a soldier. Peacetime keeps him here, training every day for hours in the palaestra. He is by no means a professional, but it helps maintain his form. Every eromenos of age in the city has at least three admirers; Dean is not the first admirer to vie for Sam’s attention.

But he trusts Sam.

“You keep an active life,” Sam breathes, his lips close to Dean’s ear. “I would wish the same.”

Every day they walk the city.

And once a week they walk to a farm outside of Athens. Dean is secretly saving to purchase Sam a baby goat from there, one who would not stop licking Sam’s cheek and searching for his hand.

It is Dean’s job as the erastes to present gifts to Sam, the eromenos. This is tradition.

Yet, Sam is of the mind that they do not always have to stick to the ways of their fathers. Dean is expected to marry soon, and while his relationship with Sam can continue after, there will be one day when Sam will also need to marry. And from there, they will be too occupied with their families to continue what they have now. But what if—Sam is fond of asking, late at night on their walks—neither of them find companionship as good as this?

What if there is no one else in the world that Sam would die for?

“I will treasure it,” Dean answers, slipping on the ring. “Always.”

“Good,” Sam says with a confident nod. “Now, one more matter of business, if you will.”

“Such as?”

“The matter of my bed, of course.”

“What about it? Is it broken?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Then what is it?”

“Really? You can’t guess?”

“…is it your linens? Do you need new linens?”

“No!”

“Well then I don’t… oh. Oh.”

“You promised. A month.”

“I say many things.”

“You do, but you won’t go back on this. I know you.”

“So you think.”

“No. I know.”

“How well?”

“Let me show you.” Sam sweeps Dean’s hand into his. “Give me the opportunity to welcome you to my bed.”

Dean keeps his word.

 

In Crete, youth are abducted.

The erastes captures the eromenos and leads him into the woods—with the permission of the youth’s father, of course. In Athens there is no such custom.

There are, however, more rules still.

Sam’s father does not approve of the connection, but he has given up on talking any sense into his only son. Sam could do worse, his father has said outright to Dean. At least he didn’t pick a philosopher. No. He only picked a soldier. Connections to larger, more influential families are not in Dean’s possession. But he lives in easy comfort and keeps a small, but hearty, farm. Men in the center of town know and make way for him. His last campaign yielded wealth enough to keep him through the winter and more.

This match, unlike marriage, is based on want.

Dean has always wanted Sam.

From his smiles to his charm to the stubborn, unwavering conviction that there is good in all men, Dean has wanted to the point of aching.

Yet he has practiced restraint and self-control.

With every gift, he placed tiny kisses over the tip of Sam’s nose. He would press their foreheads together and ask of him for the honor of accepting his token of deep affection.

There was never any question about it—not once, not even at the palaestra where they first met—that Dean was created by the gods to adore this youth. It is his responsibility to guide Sam into manhood, to educate him in the ways of citizenship, and to provide honorable friendship, advice, and assistance in any way possible.

He is to tend to the needs of his beloved at all costs.

And here, Dean opens the purse of his affections in the form of languid, lingering kisses.

Sam’s bedchamber is the coolest space in the villa, removed from others to afford him privacy. The setting sun makes no difference to their plans; Sam lights a long candle. When that goes out, they will have the milky moon for company.

On the edge of Sam’s soft, plush bed, they remain perched, trading kisses and sighs.

Here, the eromenos should look down at the floor in deference.

Sam keeps his eyes set on Dean’s.

In exchange, Dean cups Sam’s chin and closes the distance between them. He captures Sam’s mouth—hot and sweet. A breeze climbs in, stirring the scrolls on Sam’s desk, brushing his hair, running over the tender, exposed skin on his shoulder.

The light of the candle dances. They take it as a signal.

Hazel eyes and a dimpled smirk present the offer: Sam’s chiton opens.

During one campaign to the North, Dean was struck by an arrow. It left him with a scar on his chest, left of his heart. On another campaign, he met with the sword of the enemy; two inches deeper and the blade would have struck true. Both scars together have formed a distinct shape. In between feathered kisses, Sam traces over them, first with his fingertips, then with his lips.

Every eromenos is a treasure.

But not all treasure is the same.

Wealthy beyond expression in this moment, Dean lays them down over silk linens and plush pillows. Sam is pale, lean, and perfect. Dean skims the pink, tight peaks of Sam’s nipples with his fingers. Mouths pressed together, Sam lets out a whine. As Dean rolls his fingers and pushes each peak with his thumb, he claims every noise. Darkness lowers its veil across the room, but Dean’s eyes and hands adjust. He rubs his hands over the sumptuous thighs of his beloved, kissing him deeper as his touch inches up.

“Don’t,” Sam whispers, his chest heaving. “Please, don’t tease me.”

With care, Dean listens.

He runs two fingers up and down the length of Sam’s hard, flushed cock, which twitches at the sensation. Sam’s thighs tremble and his legs buck; he muffles a cry when Dean lines their hips up, positioning their cocks against each other. The rub is good. The friction is better. Holding himself up with his arms, Dean rocks them together, building pressure, dipping down so that the bloated tip of his cock meets with the most tender part of Sam.

Beneath them, the bed creaks.

A vial of oil appears, gifted to Dean, followed by a fragile kiss.

“No.” Dean does not accept. “I cannot.”

“You can,” the eromenos replies. “You will. For me.”

“…”

“Only me.”

The eromenos must never be made to feel less of a man while he is with the erastes. Doing this would imply… that Sam is not his equal.

“I’ve never...” Dean starts.

“Neither have I,” Sam finishes.

Poured over Dean’s right hand, the oil retains a spicy fragrance to it. How Sam must have gotten this, Dean would like to know—later. There will come a time when Sam must follow neither Dean nor his father. Though, it seems to Dean, that the process is already started.

Slick from three strokes of his hand, his cock aches as Sam repositions them. Face to face, chest to chest, Sam situates himself on Dean’s lap. He maintains his arms around Dean’s shoulders, nose to nose. Hazel eyes ask wordless questions. Dean moves them both as easy and calm as possible.

Distantly, music plays. He can’t pinpoint the instrument, but it matches the beat of Sam’s heart—tzz tzz da da tzz.

Sam lifts his hips. Eyes closed, he exposes the long, elegant line of his throat, reveling in the sensation of Dean between his legs, nudging against the sensitive, tight muscle there. Pain hovers close. Dean keeps his hands over the curved swell of Sam’s hips. There is no pain he would not endure for this youth. Fifty campaigns would be nothing to know that Sam is safe and has what he needs. Peacetime is a luxury. He doesn’t want to hurt Sam.

“Talk to me,” Sam sighs, his hips positioned, the muscles in his thighs tense and bracing.

The candlelight flickers once again. A cold spot hovers. Dean pushes Sam’s hips down and lifts his own hips up. Pain strikes them both, but the cold dissipates, replaced by a deeper hurt and a more powerful longing. Dean says nothing about the simultaneous burn against his cock and the finger over which his ring lays.

They rise and fall together.

Dean captures Sam’s mouth and swallows the moan mixed with ache and pleasure. Between them, Sam’s cock bumps against Dean’s middle. With his left hand, Dean offers relief and distraction from any twinge of discomfort, gripping the base of Sam and stroking up, running his thumb underneath the responsive, twitching crown. Sam shudders. He takes another inch beautifully.

Their breathing turned ragged and desperate, they begin to move, balanced and somewhat disciplined. Sam cloaks the sting of their fusion in his expressions, but he cannot hide the temperance of his muscles. Dean slows their movements, eases Sam’s weight into his, and presses his mouth against Sam’s cheek.

Voice muted, Dean speaks.

“In him.” Push up.

“My twin likeness.” Kiss, sigh, lean back.

“All flesh a mirror.” Squeeze. Grope. Arch.

 “Pentimento.” Buried to the swollen hilt. “All traces.”

Inside Sam is nothing but downy, supple, heat. Every inhale Sam takes, every tilt and twist of his hips, every clench of his smooth, pale thighs or pert, curved ass—Dean feels it all in the most intimate way.

His hands draw away from Sam’s hips and concentrate on his chest, fingers flicking over flushed, fair peaks, rolling and pinching with just enough force to extract a few desperate yips.

The pressure and ache in the small of Dean’s back forces out a growl.

“His hands hold mine, keep me standing firm.” Grope, slap, thrust.

“Ground my heart. The angel eye of love stands guard, protects our union.”

Rolling, clenching, grinding, Sam controls the rotation of his hips—the city, the state, the foundation of everything Dean means to pass on. Oil flows once more; the result yields sticky, slick, squelching sensations. Lifted up, Sam takes a deep breath, the rim of him puckered over the leaking head of Dean’s cock. Long lashes flutter in the shadow of candlelight before Sam slips his hips down in one smoldering swing. The space of him tightens, and after a swivel of his hips, a heady kiss, Dean lets out a cry otherwise unknown to the world.

Sam works himself over the heavy length of Dean’s cock. He relishes every swell and twitch that Dean gives, preferring those long, punching thrusts that stroke his inner walls until his every muscle is pliant.

Keeping in time, Dean meets every downward plunge with taut thrusts upwards. He feared hurting his beloved. Fear has nothing to do with this now—there is only incendiary hunger.

The bed takes the abuse of their combined weight.

Crying out, Sam buries his face in the crook of Dean’s shoulder and allows—for one perfect minute—Dean to have complete control. He takes the lead, kissing Sam’s cheek, moving his hands down to Sam’s ass. He smacks his hand across both generous globes, bringing his palm down hard enough to leave the skin there pink, turning red. Sam can only moan, nonsense escapes his lips, and his cock, bound between them gives a stuttering jolt.

One, two, three, Dean’s hand claps against the rounded, rosy swell of Sam’s ass.

His next move occurs out of desperation, fueled by his own need to come. He tilts Sam’s hips up, only slightly, and brings both hands over his ass, holding him open and spread.

Hours have been spent on the campaign trail, walking, marching, running—sometimes begging for death.

Dean may not be as formidable in size as some of his opponents in war or in the palaestra. But his form is that of his father’s, and his father’s father—solid muscle built into a tight, lean form. He can toss a man twice his size off of him with the push of his legs.

Here, in this stately, quiet, luxurious room, he pounds into Sam, thrusting up, using every bit of muscle and stamina he has to give, shaking them both.

The final push of it all lies within an audible element.

His voice is gravel.

“We are too much one.” Capture, kiss, release. “Too much each other.”

No longer shy about the noise they make, Sam seizes with a scream, seated in Dean’s lap, his eyes squeeze shut, tears running down his handsome face. His brow is veiled in sweat, his chest rises and falls, and the muscles in his thighs, ass, and lower stomach work in rolling waves. He comes over and around Dean’s cock, hands gripping onto Dean’s shoulders, gasping when the first few ropes of come strike out of him. The ropes are thick, white as marble, and seemingly endless. Dean’s stomach and chest are coated in stripe after stripe, and Sam’s eyes roll back. His hips quake and again, his cock responds, completely untouched, spurting out another thick load.

Youth—Dean thinks, before his own mind goes blank.

He comes from making Sam come.

He comes deep and uninhibited, primal and desperate. He fucks into Sam—reaching safe, blissful harbor.

Sighing into Sam’s hair, Dean shudders, emptied and sated.

This is more maddening and addictive than any match, march, or war.

Tzz tzz tzz. There, that music plays again, illusive and pure. Sam’s fingertips trace over Dean’s scars. Their breathing rattles in tune with the mysterious instrument that seems to clap and sizzle.

They will not part yet.

And when they do, Dean will lay Sam down on his back, slip out, and clean him up. He will fetch them water, some cool linens, and turn out the light. Only the moon will be left.

The cold spot from before returns, but in a different place. Hairs on Dean’s right arm rise. For a moment, he gets a sensation similar to when he loses in the palaestra or on the field. Typically, it’s bitter. But now, it has twisted into something sinister and foul. This is more than grief. His upper lip curls.

“Don’t take it off,” a quiet voice whispers. “Don’t, promise me?”

Fingers float over Dean’s jaw, gliding down to his scars, settling over his arms. How does Sam know where to touch?

Dean brushes Sam’s hair back with his left hand, steadying Sam with his right.

The ring glimmers against the candlelight.

“I promise you.”

There are no more cold spots.

Dean could die this warm.

 

Jazz draws them back to the rooftop of the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.

Looking up at the stars, Sam exhales at the same time Louis Armstrong sings.

“Old empty bed, springs all of lead. Feel like old Ned. Wish I was dead. All my life through, I’ve been so black and blue. Even the mouse ran from my house. They laugh at you and scorn you too. What did I do then, to be so black and blue?”

Sam and Dean are sprawled out over their coats, shirts undone, and bowties long since discarded.

Every tzz tzz tzz has a da da da and a bawaaahwahwah. It matched—from then to here. Except here, they are a little more breathless and a little more sore after moving that much against rooftop concrete.

Their lives are different and yet the same. The same and yet different. Even in the same lifetime, their story looks nothing like the beginning. The Impala picks up a thousand miles a month on its meter. Dean eats vegetables—though not always willingly or knowingly. The leather jacket and decades of archives, evidence, and experience are tucked away in trunks and fireproof, demon-proof boxes stored away in the garage and a storage unit in on 18th.

Louis Armstrong was a genius.

“Oh, I’m white, inside, but that don’t help my case. ‘Cause I can’t hide what is in my face. How will it end? ain’t got a friend. My only sin is in my skin.”

Even on a good day, Sam wouldn’t call himself a genius. He knows what his soul looks like. He knows what Dean’s soul looks like.

Here—after sex on a rooftop of a bar that Al Capone used to frequent and where Louis Armstrong might’ve played once back in the days when jazz was young—Sam knows what to do.

“What did I do? To be so black and blue?”

With Dean on his left, Sam reaches out.

His fingers settle over Dean’s right arm.