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Falls the Shadow

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There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost kingdom.

In the last of meeting places

We grope together

And avoid speech

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river.

-- T.S. Eliot


I took the stars from our eyes, and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you

-- Florence + The Machine



This is a story that begins in gray and ends in every single color--which means that it ends in black.

* * *

It’s a pretty good indicator that shit is fucked up and bullshit when the color leaches out of the world.

Thirty miles outside Flagstaff Dean slows for no readily apparent reason. Later he couldn’t say what he saw first, how he knew. Not quite sixty seconds later, they’re exchanging significant looks. Once they might have been worried, panicked--now it’s all tense weariness.

Here we go again.

No apocalypse today? Don’t sweat it, brah. They’re like fucking buses. Always another one coming along.

The Painted Desert isn’t painted anymore. Sam leans back against the hood of the Impala with a beer sweating into his hand and looks at what isn’t there. The sun goes down, graying, and Sam thinks of aging hair and four-plus billion years and a very tired world.

And they wonder if they have the strength to fight it this time, so strange, so gradual.

* * *

Baby, says the girl behind the bar in Wichita, we’re living in one of those old fucking movies.

She leans forward with her breasts swaying braless in her tank top, and she curls her fingers into Dean’s hair, miles past flirting, and of course Dean doesn’t push her away. Sam clears his throat, would like to look down or away, but it turns out that he can’t look away from those fingers. The nails are lacquered dark--what would they have been, back when shade meant more than a ghost? Black? Burgundy? Deep navy blue? Each of her fingers is clasped by a ring and Sam realizes that he’s actually extremely troubled by the fact that he can’t tell if they’re gold or silver or stainless fucking steel.

How will we know which knives to use?

He tells himself that they’ll know. He tells himself that it’s only temporary anyway.

One of those things, he believes.

* * *

They put out calls, feelers. Nothing solid comes in--not from Bobby, not from anyone. A lot of frantic questions in response. A lot of frantic cursing. From some corners, a kind of frantic silence. It’s not isolated. It’s everywhere. The continental US. Europe. North Africa, then Sub-Saharan. The Middle East. China. India. Russia. In the end they don’t keep a running tally; initially Sam has the idea that if they can find one place where it isn’t happening, maybe they can find out why it’s happening everywhere else.

Two days later he’s given up. He doesn’t announce it. Dean knows and doesn’t ask him why.

* * *

Without the color, without the garishness and the weird juxtapositions and the light hitting the odd shapes in endlessly odd ways, this motel room is somehow every motel room, generic as all the chains. Dean sits on the bed with a neglected cheeseburger still nestled in its wrapper, staring at the TV. Sam lies with his cheek on the rough carpet, staring at nothing.

It’s like the world turned inside out.

If we live long enough, this is what we have to look forward to.

If they live long enough. It’s been a long time and every time he hears it or thinks it Sam wants to laugh like a man going mad.

“It’s getting darker.” Sam rolls onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. The waterstains look like they’re growing before his eyes as the light creeps out of the corners.

“Sun’s going down, Sammy. It happens.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

Dean knows. What can we do? And of course once they actually ask that question, they’ll have to find out that there might not be an answer.

* * *

In all the cities and little shit towns and dying villages, the same. Whispered. Never really said aloud but always there under the surface, under the quiet background level of panic, the profound sense that everything is slipping out of nearly seven billion sets of grasping hands.

The sun is going out .

It’s more than that.

Sam sits crosslegged on the blacktop, back against the side of the car, stares up at the darkness. He’s six years old again and Dean is saying Look, just count all the stars you can see, Sammy, get ‘em all and I’ve got a surprise for you and he’d known even then that it was a distraction, something to keep him busy and quiet, but Dean said it and Dean was more like a god than Dad in those days and he was damned if he was going to say no.

He was damned.

Sam counts the stars until Dean swings out of the backseat, half drunk, sinks down beside him and lays a hand on his shoulder. The blacktop is warm and Dean is warm and Sam is caught between heat and heat, held in balance, leaning toward neither.

He won’t tell Dean that the count is dropping. He won’t tell Dean that the stars are going out one by one.

* * *

The seer in Detroit doesn’t know. She casts bones into a runed circle, slips her fingers among and around them like pale worms. She tilts her head back, her eyes white in the dimness--midday dimness, all the shadows short and hazy and deepening. The factory where she squats is abandoned. Sam is uneasy, watching for the ghosts of wronged Fords and Chevys. Dean is leaning forward, face in shadow and his hands tight like he wants to hit things he can’t see.

Which is Dean. Always, forever, now.

“I can’t find it. It’s hidden.” Then she laughs and twists her body like a snake, like she might be getting ready to strike. “And it’s right in front of me. In front of you.

Dean threatens to hit her until she starts making sense. He doesn’t. And she doesn’t. And Sam rolls to his feet, moves to the high factory window and lays his hands against the cracked glass.

He can look directly at the sun now for minutes at a time. He never wanted to be safe that way.

Sam always feels better when the right things burn.

* * *

Dean builds fights like some men build fires--to keep the cold out, to put color back in the world. Except now all the beat-downs in the world can’t do that last. Hits the man closest to him in the mouth with his pool cue and the man goes down in the shards of his own broken glass and of course there’s blood everywhere. Blood on Dean’s chin, on the back of his hand when he wipes it away. Sam vaults across the table, drops the second one with a single punch. Sam never used to like fighting this way but he always used to like fighting with Dean, moving with Dean like a single being, like a compressed, simplified version of hunting. Two against the world. Against fucking everything.

Two against the dark. The good thing about fighting at night in a bar is it’s already hard to see.

The rest of them are backing off now, more cautious, but everyone’s so on edge, everyone’s so ready to go down in a colorless blaze of faded glory, and Sam knows they can’t count on self-preservation to hold back the hordes anymore.

Dean laughs. It’s crazed. Sam makes an executive decision, grabs him by the collar and drags him into the parking lot, and he’s fully expecting it when Dean’s fist has something very particular to say to his jaw. He stumbles on wet pavement. He spits blood, doesn’t go down. Dean is grinning and his teeth are slick with blood the color of crude oil.

Sam thinks it looks like ectoplasm. Thinks we’re all full of ghosts. Thinks Dean, I’m trying. Thinks I never wanted to let you down. Thinks I can’t fix anything. Thinks I’m forgetting the colors you bled.

“I can barely fucking see you, Sammy.”

Choked. Sam doesn’t want to know with what.

The blind see by touch.

No one is going to look too hard in the shadows, because the shadows are everywhere now. No one is going to see two brothers close enough to breathe each other’s air, memorizing the contours of each other’s faces, fingerpainting black.

* * *

All the fields and forests are dying.

In a distant kind of way, Sam is thinking about mass starvation. He’s thinking about a dying biosphere, about the loss of breathable air. About insects that don’t pollinate because they can no longer see in color. About rainforests and about how it no longer matters how many acres are left untouched. He’s thinking about these things, and he’s really thinking about how he’ll never see another green spring, another autumn shot through with fire-hues.

It’s stupid. It’s fucking stupid and sentimental and they don’t have the time for it. And when he starts to cry with his head leaning against the car’s window, silent and shaking, Dean doesn’t make fun of him. Dean lays a hand against the side of his neck, careful. Keeps driving.

Two hours later they can no longer see the road. Dean doesn’t stop. Sam doesn’t make him.

* * *

They don’t do motel rooms anymore. It just feels too strange.

They avoid newspapers, TV, the internet. It won’t tell them anything they can use. It won’t tell them anything they don’t already know.

* * *

It isn’t fair how Dean oscillates between uncharacteristic patience and impotent rage. Sam understands it but that doesn’t mean it’s fair. It doesn’t mean that he can manage it better than he ever has.

Fights, still, but not for the joy of it and no longer with anyone but Sam. I’m not your fucking punching bag, Dean, Sam screams by the road somewhere in Ohio--right in the middle of the road because it’s not like that many people bother trying to drive anymore. I know we can’t fix it but stop taking it out on me, it’s BULLSHIT .

Words that have nothing to do with colors and light. Words that he could have said years ago. He’s not sure what the point of saying them now is. He feels the air move by his face, catches Dean’s fist in the palm of his hand with a smack that rings through the dark, drags him close enough to pin his arms to his sides.

Sometimes he forgets how much bigger he is than his big brother.

“What time is it?” Dean is yelling. “What fucking time is it?

It’s high noon. It’s so dark.

Sam stumbles on nothing and they go down together in that darkness, Sam’s arms tight across Dean’s back like the absence of light could pull them apart. He closes his eyes and it makes no difference, but he can feel Dean’s breath hot on his neck, the pounding of two hearts, the whooshing expansion of two sets of lungs.

How do we know the world is even here? The darkness has reduced them both to infants. Things can’t be assumed to exist when they can’t be seen. Sam presses his mouth against Dean’s cheekbone so hard it hurts, holds on, and the black world spins around them.

Sleep is not and never was mercy.

* * *

They sleep in the grass by the side of the road. They sleep in thin blankets and they sleep curled around each other, holding on, because in the dark it’s so easy to lose things. It’s so easy to lose everything. At some point Sam is awake and Dean stirs against him and words come at him out of the dark. They don’t even sound like they’re from Dean. They sound like they’re from everywhere. All the lost world, whispering at him.

“I just wish we could fucking fight it. I wish it was something we could kill.”

And of course in the end it would be something that they can’t do either thing to.

Sam turns his head, lips against Dean’s temple. Little lost children, far from a home that never existed at all except in the form of a fast car and an open road and old or dead men on the radio, making too much noise for ghosts.

Except it isn’t that far. It’s barely yards away. Which feel like miles in all that dark.

Sometimes Sam forgets how much bigger he is than his big brother. Then are the times like these, which are not talked about, which don’t really happen, where Sam is the bigger one and the holding one and Dean is smaller than him, tired from running and fighting and out of moves and wisecracks, and Dean is letting himself be held. But Dean treats it like it’s a thing that he hates needing. Like he resents the whole world for it, holds it personally fucking responsible for all the walls he can’t maintain.

We’re going to have to touch each other a lot more now, so get used it to it, man, just fucking deal with it already.

What are you so goddamn scared of, huh. Tell me.

“We can’t fight it,” Sam whispers back. Little boys under the covers, trading cards and secrets and scary stories, but the flashlight batteries went out hours ago. “But there’s gotta be a way.”

* * *

They’re awake to see the dawn. They watch it together in silence.

It’s the last one.

* * *

They have food in the car--some of perishable and some of it not--but now the car is all but useless. Dean hovers around it, circling it with one hand on it at all times. Sam stands and listens to him moving in the dark. He blinks a few times, closes one eye and then the other. Waves a hand back and forth in front of his own face.

A few inches away he thinks he can see movement. Of course, the thinking could be wishful.

“I can’t leave the car,” Dean says in the dark. His voice sounds like it’s hiding the hint of an echo, like they’re in a cave. “I can’t fucking do that, Sammy, that’s just too fucking much.

“We have to walk,” Sam says. “If we drive, we’ll hit something. C’mon, Dean, you know that.”

And where the fuck’re we gonna walk to? Dean is yelling again, roaring fury in the dark, and Sam knows this fury because it’s what comes when Dean is terrified of his own tears. “Where the fuck’re we gonna go? We had one chance to stop this when we could still fucking see, Sam, and we pissed it down our fucking legs.

“Could we have?”


“Could we have stopped it, Dean? Really? You think that?” Sam has both hands braced on the car now, head hanging between his shoulders. He’s thinking that maybe he should just keep his eyes closed now. Maybe it’ll help. Or maybe it won’t matter. “Look. Maybe if we get to Bobby, maybe we can--”

“And how long,” Dean says slow, quietly, “is it gonna take us to get there without the fucking car?

Sam has no answer for that. So he says nothing. He’s hungry, he realizes. Hungry, and they’re going to have to leave the car, the weapons, most of their supplies. And the cities and towns will be full of terrified people who will never see them coming.

“We should carry water,” he whispers.

Dean laughs, dangerously high-pitched. Sam hears boots scuffing on gravel and blacktop. He hears wind in dry grass. He hears the hitching sound of Dean’s breathing, and he imagines halos of body heat in the cool air. He imagines auras. A whole new level of that now.

After a long time he feels that heat moving. Coming up behind him. Dean there, close, not touching him. Touching the car. Sam can feel him grieving. He thinks I never dreamed this. I always dreamed in color.

“Okay,” Dean says at last. He sounds so defeated that it’s all that Sam can do to keep from whirling, pressing close, slamming their bodies together until Dean is angry again. “Okay. Fine.”

* * *

They push the car into the grass. They stumble and once Dean falls, letting out a curse wrapped in a sob and shoving Sam’s groping hand away. They fumble water into packs--regular and holy--and they take salt and silver knives but they leave the guns. The guns are worse than useless with no prospect of aiming them. There are granola bars and protein bars and an old pack of sunflower seeds. Trail mix. A few chocolate bars. Calories, Sam thinks distantly. They’re going to need to think about calories and where the next ones are coming from.

“Okay, baby,” Dean is whispering. Sam is sure that he’s crying now, weeping over the car, and Sam can almost see him, standing with his head tipped forward against the roof, his back bowed. “I’ll come back for you. Promise I will. Fucking promise.”

Sam doesn’t roll his eyes. He doesn’t sigh or turn away. He doesn’t step forward or try to lay a hand on those slumped shoulders. Goodbyes are important things now. They need to cling to every one they get. There are so many things they’ll never get to say goodbye to.

Greasy diner food. Ugly wallpaper. Bad porn.

“Dean,” Sam murmurs finally, and Dean hisses “ I fuckin’ know, ” but Sam knows the ire isn’t directed at him. He hears Dean moving carefully toward him, feeling his way a step at a time, and then a hand against his, too cold, moving as though this is not something it’s in any way used to, fingers slipping between fingers, clasping.

They walk into the darkness hand in hand.

* * *

Dean has a compass but the idea of using it to navigate is a fucking joke. Navigation is a fucking joke. But really, it’s a polite fiction: they aren’t going to discuss how completely screwed they are and how afraid it makes them.

Three hours later Sam smells something burning. It’s distant, chemical. Not woodsmoke. They stand in the dark and listen and they hear nothing but the wind. No birds. No insects. Maybe a barking dog a long, long way off. It sounds like hysterical weeping. Then it sounds like nothing at all.

Five hours later they still haven’t released each other’s hand.

* * *

They find a building--it takes them a full circuit and the tracing of hands to be sure that it’s anything more than a shed, and then they can’t be sure if it’s standing in isolation or in a town. If it’s a town it’s either empty or full of people too terrified to make a sound. One hand in Sam’s, Dean uses his other to fumble at the door, and it comes immediately open.

“Not locked,” Dean murmurs. Then, “Glass panes. Think it’s a store.”

They make their way blindly up and down the aisles, feeling. Collating data. It’s a pharmacy but without being able to read the packaging they have no way of knowing what’s useful and what isn’t. They find the snack aisle when Sam almost falls over a tower of boxes of Coke--or in his mind’s eye he sees it as Coke, cheerful red and white. It might be anything. He fumbles one of the boxes open and the can is lukewarm but he pulls the tab, listens to the hiss of releasing carbonation, gulps at it. It’s sweet enough to make his mouth cramp, and then the rest of him is cramping at it, this taste that is so redolent with the past. It is the past. He wants to slide down to the floor, curl on his side. Dream.

He passes the can to Dean in silence. Calories. The world is still full of them. It’s finding them that’s the trick.

* * *

They load up on what they assume are chips, pretzels, a few more candy bars. Together they hunt around for an employee bathroom or a sink in which they could refill their water but give up when they get the sense that they’re only walking in circles, turning in a tightening orbit around the same useless patch of space.

They both decide without having to discuss it that they don’t want to sleep here. It’s too quiet. Too enclosed. And someone might come back. Now they’re afraid of people because people are all monsters in the dark. Sam realizes that neither of them has spoken about demons in days.

It takes them much too long to find the door.

* * *

Out on the road again, Dean trips over something. He lets out a hard breath and a curse. Sam releases his hand and ignores the ensuing panic, drops into a crouch and runs his hands over the thing in the dark.

It’s a body. It’s cold. Sam can’t find blood.

They move on in silence.

* * *

“Maybe it’s not dark,” Sam says quietly. Dean shifts against his side, half sitting, grass rustling all around them, and the crinkle of cellophane and potato chip crumbs.


“Maybe we thought it was dark but we actually all went blind. Like in that book.”

He can feel the incomprehension. He doesn’t need to see Dean’s face to know that it’s there. Doesn’t need to touch. Suddenly he’s smiling, and the smile hurts the corners of his mouth. “What fucking book?”

“They made it into a movie, Dean. With Julianne Moore.”

“Oh.” Recognition and subtle distaste all in a single word. “I didn’t see it. Looked like artsy shit.”

“I know,” Sam says, and he thinks I’m glad you’re with me, Dean Winchester, here at the end of all things. “Let’s get some sleep.”

* * *

Eyes open in the dark, into terror, into fumbling hands. Because what if it’s true. What if we’re all blind. And the greater terror that comes with the realization--so incredibly clear--that it makes no practical difference, at least not in the short term.

Dean’s hands against his face, tracing every contour. I can’t see you, Sammy. I can’t see you anymore, I can’t see you ever again. Catching his wrists. Tugging them in. Dean in a panic is still the most frightening thing he’s ever seen, ever felt. Because who will look after him if Dean can’t look after himself? And he’s small again and being told that the monsters under his bed aren’t real, that the monsters in his closet aren’t real, that there is nothing in the dark with teeth and claws and ravenous appetite. Dean is telling him. Dean is a messenger angel from a distant God--Dad checked, there’s nothing, now go the hell to sleep--and Sam believes him utterly and without reservation.

And now they both know how hungry the dark is.

I won’t let it take you.

Sam is breathing in great, shuddering gasps--or maybe it’s Dean, or maybe it’s both of them, clinging to each other, chest to chest and hip to hip, spinning through the massive darkness--and when it’s mouth to mouth it feels like the smoothest of transitions. Dean is breathing into him and Sam is pulling in the air that’s given, sending it back again. Their lips make such a perfect seal. None of it is wasted.

Everything slows down. Dean’s lips are moving silently, tracing words across the seam of Sam’s mouth. This is not kissing, Sam tells himself. This is life support.

Sam still dreams in color.

* * *


In the morning--except there is no morning anymore, only sleeping and waking--they Aren’t Talking About It. This is familiar and comfortable. And it’s not like there’s even anything to talk about. It’s not like anything even happened, there in the dark with no one to see it. Not like it counted. Not like it matters.

And Dean is holding onto Sam’s hand a little tighter.

* * *

Sam is no longer trying to estimate the time, which means that time itself is becoming supremely slippery. The past and the future are bleeding into the present, the past edging ever closer and the future increasingly hard to imagine. It’s all just kind of Now, so Sam doesn’t know how long they’ve been walking when they’re stopped by another wave of smell, powerful enough to be almost solid.

Their footsteps have been echoing strangely for a while now; Sam hasn’t wanted to let go of Dean’s hand, hasn’t wanted to ask Dean to let go of his in order to be sure, but he suspects they’re surrounded by buildings, possibly useless cars, and then--an image like a fever dream--by a crowd of silently watching people, their eyes oil slicks.

But now this smell. Sweet and sickening both at once. And finally another sound besides their footsteps and their breathing and the wind: buzzing flies.


“They’re all dead,” Sam whispers. He can’t move. He wants to run, but he thinks of running the wrong way, tripping, falling into a mound of rotting corpses, putting his hand against a slack, dead face. Lost in the dead. Never coming out again.

“Sam.” Dean’s hand tighter around his. “Dude, you don’t know what the fuck it is. Could just be food. Could be fucking roadkill. Calm down.”

“No.” Sam shakes his head; he doesn’t want to believe those things. None of them fit. None of them is bad enough. “They’re all here and they’re all dead.”

Dean doesn’t argue with him again. Sam feels himself being abruptly pulled, his feet shocked into motion, stumbling, caught by Dean’s strong arm, tugged onward. In a new direction. He thinks about empty black eyes and sagging gray flesh, settling fluids and rigor mortis and pits and piles of bodies, but after a while the buzzing and the smell both subside and he feels the world around them opening up again.

And then dark stillness.

* * *

Silent dialogue. Sam can hear it in his head like it’s happening, a conversation that he doesn’t want to have and Dean doesn’t want to have so they aren’t having it but of course it ends up happening anyway.

Maybe this is Hell.

Fuck off. We’re not dead and it’s not Hell .

You can’t know that. Everyone’s dead.

You can’t know that either.

Don’t tell me what I can’t do, Dean.

Someone’s gotta. The fact is, Sam, you don’t know what the fuck this is. No one does. Could be anything. Could all just be a trick. Could be a bad dream.

You’re really going to tell me that it doesn’t feel like we’re being punished for something.

I feel like we’re being punished for things pretty much constantly, Sammy. Felt like that since you were born.



Yeah. Anyway. You know whatever this is, we’re not going to change it. Not at this point.

Yeah. I know.

I really do think everyone is dead out there. All of them. All of them except us. We got left behind.

Maybe we’re just too fucking tough to go down.

Maybe we just don’t know when to quit.

We keep moving, Sam. Always.


Dean. Don’t you dare let go.

* * *

More unspoken agreement: They leave the road. They cut loose from it, break away and cut out across country. They no longer even try to pretend that they’re headed toward anything for any specific purpose. They’re moving, hand in hand, through wastelands and uncut fields. They try to steer clear of forests, try to avoid trees. Sometimes Sam tips his head back to a sky he can no longer see and thinks about the entire universe gone dark and cold, full of little solid balls of frightened, dying creatures. Once he’d read--he no longer remembers where--that at the very end of the universe it’s theoretically possible for all matter to decay to iron-56. Stars of cold, pure iron. A universe profoundly unfriendly even to the last of its ghosts. Nowhere to turn but the emptiness.

“We’re going to die out here,” Sam murmurs, and Dean stops and Sam hears him whirling, feels the movement of the air, smells him so close--sweat and leather and hints of gasoline and oil. He wants to lower his head, press his face against Dean’s neck and inhale.

Dean’s hand is tight enough on his arm to leave bruises that he won’t be able to see.

“You do not fucking go to pieces on me, Sam.” His voice is low. Sam can feel it rumbling between them and he thinks of a vibrating engine. The Impala’s growl. “You don’t fucking do that. Not now. We are not. Going. To die.”

Sam feels something in him wrenching sideways, trying to drag itself out of his body through his ribs, and he reaches up, lays his free hand against the side of Dean’s face, leans their foreheads together. He listens to Dean breathing, matches the breaths with his own. When the sound of the two of them bleeds into one thing it’s like any distinction between them ceases to matter. One fighting, fucked-up creature.

“Yeah. We are.”

* * *


Life support,
Sam thinks again when they end up pressed together, hands shoving up under each other’s shirts, trying to see, palming heartbeats, breathing for each other until the panic passes like a black cloud.

Dean’s mouth tastes like everything he wants to hang onto. It’s nice to have it all so simplified.

* * *

Hours or minutes or seconds after they start walking again, Dean slams into something that makes a sound like metal, hisses a curse, releases Sam’s hand and for all intents and purposes vanishes from his universe but for the sound of breathing. Sam stands there, motionless, waiting.

If we were only blind, he thinks, the world wouldn’t be so quiet. He wonders what it means that it’s taken him this long to think of that. He wonders what it really means at all.


An odd sound. Like wheezing. The sound of someone struggling for breath. Panic lances through him, bright silver, and he fumbles forward in the dark, searching and abruptly too afraid to do so effectively.


His hand finds solid warmth. A shoulder. Shaking. Dean is laughing. Crying. Both. Sam doesn’t know. He drops to his knees, mouth working and hands useless.

Something hits his side. He reaches up, runs fingers along it. It’s familiar enough to overwhelm the panic, at least for a moment, and then he knows, and he knows why Dean is making those sounds, and everything in him decays to pure, cold iron.

“It’s the car,” Dean breathes. “It’s the fucking car.

* * *

If stars can turn to iron, perhaps orbits don’t always decay. Perhaps long after the death of light satellites keep circling, mindless, useless, running endless rings in the dark.

* * *

Sam is expecting the punch. This time he doesn’t catch it, doesn’t dodge. Dean is building a fight to push back the dark, spitting blood and fire, the last of his rage, and Sam drags himself up and opens to it. Pushes back against the car, Dean raining clumsy blows down on his head and shoulders and chest, knuckles digging into his kidneys, screaming wordless obscenity. This isn’t anger anymore. This is insanity. Sam shoves himself forward, back, turning and falling and dragging Dean down with him, rolling in unseen dirt.

None of this counts. None of it matters.

He feels the tears on Dean’s face when he lands his first good punch. He tastes the blood on Dean’s lips when he lands the first hard kiss.

At that point he realizes that he had been wrong about the fire, about the last of the rage, because there’s a whole other level.

Dean is still screaming when Sam straddles him, pushes his shirt up and rakes blunt nails down his chest. Dean is screaming, shoving himself up against it, beating blindly at Sam’s face, but somewhere those hands open and tangle in his hair and drag him back down again into a kiss that’s all teeth. Sam has seen Dean kiss women--coaxing and smooth and not romance but an incredible barroom simulation--and he should have known this would be nothing like that. Kissing Dean is like fighting is like fire and all of it is so fucking dark.

Off, Dean is hissing, twisting at his shirt, at Sam’s, hands moving like his life depends on it. Get it the fuck off. Fingers at his fly, fumbling it down, splintering nails on the zipper. Of course he’s hard, of course they both are; he’s rocking down into Dean’s grasping hand and thinking my brother, thinking the dark, thinking the end of all things. Circles and orbits and how they always come back around.

Skin to skin, teeth at the base of Dean’s throat, biting and then soothing it with his tongue before he makes it hurt again. Sam wonders if they’ll ever find their clothes after this. If it matters. They could die right here.

That might be best.

If I could see you, Dean might be whispering, breath hot against Sam’s ear, tongue tracing its outer shell. If I could. Sam shivers violently and palms the back of Dean’s head, one hand working between them and his fingers already slick.

You can’t.


“God, Sam.

Rolling, spinning like a dead star, rocking their hips together with their jeans halfway down their thighs and Dean’s hand groping at his ass, more marks he won’t be able to see. He wants them, wants bruises and scratches, wants to bleed black, thrusting against Dean’s hard cock and the crook of his thigh. He wants to tear open Dean’s skin and crack his ribs, wants to hollow out his chest and make a home there, compress himself into something heart-shaped and beat for him, all not to be alone, all to keep the dark from eating them both. He bites at Dean’s jaw and Dean lets out a rough cry and comes all over his hand and belly, wrenching under him like a man dying in a seizure. Sam follows. He doesn’t remember doing so.

This isn’t fucking. It isn’t fighting. It isn’t fire.

Baby, we’ll never be made of iron.

* * *

Later: Breathing for each other. Breathing into each other. Dean doesn’t break the seal of their mouths, turns Sam in his arms and presses a slick finger into him and Sam shudders, breathes him, mouths it’s okay, don’t stop.

Dean feels huge, massive, moving inside him, and Sam is still breathing and thinking of being torn open and left for dead, his head pillowed against old leather and his arm around his brother’s neck. He wouldn’t be left for anything. Not like this. Dean is making room for himself. They’re hollowing out new homes for each other inside each other, beating for each other like hearts, and the world might even be bearable this way.

And this time it’s almost gentle.

Sam. Sammy. God, I love you. God, you’re everything. God, don’t leave me.

Okay, so let’s not make a Thing out of this.

Let’s make something, though.

Sam comes without expecting it, without being ready, hard and sharp and twisting in his spine and making him cry out like he’s in pain. Dean curls an arm around his middle, buries his face in the crook of Sam’s neck, rides it out. Rolls over him like a wave. Sam breathes in the dark and everything slows down again.

Sam dreams so bright it’s almost blinding but he doesn’t look away.

* * *

Waking up, Dean pressed against his back, Sam puts a hand out into the dark and knows that it’s keeping its distance.

* * *

Tell me about sunrises.

They happened every day. There were all these colors--red and pink and gold and orange, all of them all at once but bleeding into each other. None of them were ever the same from one moment to the next. None of them was ever the same twice.

Sounds fucking amazing.

It was. Close your eyes. Try to remember.

I can’t remember, Sam.

Try to imagine. Try to see what I’m saying.

I don’t remember that either.



Then I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know how to make it real.

What did they feel like?

They didn’t feel like anything. Warm, I guess. Getting warmer. Moving.

Well, if you could have touched them, what do you think they would have felt like?

I don’t know.

Try to imagine.

You. They would have felt like you.

That’s fucking stupid, Sam.

Doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Touch me, then. Make the sun rise.


There. God... yeah, there. That’s so good.



Oh my God.

What the fuck, Sammy?

I can’t.

Sam. You’re scaring me.