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Dean watches Sam sleep because he can’t anymore; regret, anger, and something else he doesn’t dare name eddies the dust on the three feet of floor boards between their hotel beds. He tore his way out of the earth four months ago today, today, today. Dean lets the words echo in his head to the rhythm of Sam’s gentle breath and feels a moment of lightness in his chest, when that bleak hole that usually roils like a pit of vipers is replaced by something else. He gives himself a moment to remember the brightness in Sam’s eyes when he realized it was really Dean, not a demon or a shape shifter or some kind of fucked up wish fulfillment, but Dean.

Dean feels his eyes burn and rubs his face against his pillow for the coolness and reality of it. He shudders because he carries Alastair inside him now. Every slice, every time he plucked a soul from the pit and dared Dean to go a little farther, embrace the brutality; all that monstrosity lives inside Dean now. The violence, his violence exists in his pores, he sweats it at night and it leeches the color from the air around him during the day. Dean will bite his fist until he bleeds to keep from screaming or cut on the insides of his thigh with a hunting knife just to feel normal, just to shock his body into the present.

The cutting started after the ghost sickness, after he saw Lilith’s pale, angel-pie face again. After she chanted along with the beat of his heart, faster and faster and faster until it felt like he was going to die, going to go back. And then he saw the pale yellow glint in Sam’s eyes later that same day, a trick of the light he told himself. It was after Bobby left them, drinking beer in the fading afternoon. He saw that flicker, the same one he’d seen in his hallucination when he was addled by fear. No, it wasn’t just that he saw it, he felt it, and he wanted to rip it out of Sam. He couldn’t bleed the evil from himself, he sure as fuck wasn’t going to let it infect the only person in this world he truly loved.

And there was the word. The word that Alastair used to slice through his heart again and again when he was downstairs. A slash and burn torture more effective than white-hot razor wire snarled in his gut.

A wretched sob breaks through Dean’s lips, his pulse races, and his face is bathed in tears. Sam stirs.

“Dean? What’s wrong?” Shock, concern and sleep battle for dominance in Sam’s voice.

“Nothing, Sammy.” Dean turns his back on his brother and tries to remember last Christmas, when things felt whole. Yes, he was dying and frightened, but he was still Dean, still as sure of his brother and his place in the world as he was of the rumbling growl of the Impala or the sweet taste of sweat on a woman’s breast. He was a Winchester, a warrior, a soldier. If he was going out, then it was meant to be and he was going to protect his brother, at all costs, because that is what defined Dean Winchester. It had snowed in Michigan, he didn’t see a yellow glint in Sam’s eye, and a candy bar and a pint of motor oil were enough to make everything feel okay, just for a night.

He feels the bed shift behind him and Sam’s hand slides onto his shoulder, the quiet concern in his voice enough to make Dean want to die inside of the comfort of Sam’s touch. A touch he can’t trust, a touch he loves and fears because Alastair wore that same beautiful face so many times during that first decade in hell. He would shift into Sam’s shape and murmur tales of future horrors walking in the light of day above while he filleted Dean’s tortured soul.

“Dean. You can’t…what is…are you…?” The unfinished questions come in fits and starts and Sam is pulling at Dean’s shoulder now, trying to look in his eyes. But Dean can’t let that happen, if he does, if he relents for one second, all his courage and strength will run and smear like sidewalk chalk after a summer rain. But he wants to, oh God, he wants to let go just once.

In that moment of weakness and panic, he feels Sam’s lips against his ear. Sam whispers into the hollow of hurt “Dean, please. Let me help you. Just tell me what to do.” It’s the pleading heat in Sam’s voice that finally becomes an insurmountable urge Dean can no longer, will no longer, fight. Four long months without a shred of comfort and he doesn’t care anymore who this body is next to him. He craves the live warmth of another human. That this human is a man, that it is his brother, doesn’t matter. At least that’s what Dean tells himself as he rolls toward Sam, grasps at the soft brown waves of hair and opens his mouth against the wonder of Sam’s lips.

Sam freezes for a moment, unsure, then pulls away to look in Dean’s eyes. The loneliness he sees there is unbearable. The man that crawled from the grave is no longer recognizable as his brother; they have changed so much in these past few years, moved so far beyond the rules that govern most human interactions that this expression of love doesn’t cause him to writhe in disgust at his own unrequited want, something he has buried and hidden since he felt it's first stirrings when he was fourteen. Dean’s body straining against his feels natural, like they were made to fit together in this way.


Dean says the name and knows that the fire in his gut and the hardness in his body are more than just a physical need to be dealt with and forgotten. He moves slowly now, edging his lips closer to Sam’s and this time Sam doesn’t pull away. Dean’s tongue gently slips across Sam’s upper lip and Sam feels a shudder of heat ripple through his body, and he clasps Dean’s shoulders and answers with a guttural moan of pleasure.

The glide into each other like music and Sam is the voice that sings light into Dean’s skin. Sam’s lips discover pleasure and need he never thought existed. Dean feels alive in his own body for the first time in months as Sam kisses the scars on the inside of his thighs, kisses them like he has known all along of the self-mutilation but never thought that he could heal Dean with his tongue, with his passion and forgiveness.

When it’s over, Dean stares at the ceiling, running his hand along Sam’s bare back.

“I…” he begins, trying to find a way to tell Sam that this is his fault, that if he needs to leave to escape the sickness that Dean has introduced into their lives, that he understands. The guilt of this moment of peace he purchased with his brother’s body is on him like a hell hound, tearing his flesh apart.

But Sam doesn’t move because Sam is trying to find a way to explain that they have entered a new country as deepest night shifted to gunmetal dawn. Sam knows that they have passed the stalwart ramparts of relation that the sane, rational world insists must exist, because nothing in their lives has ever been sane or rational.

“Dean, I love you. Just, let that be enough tonight.”

“Tonight, it will have to be.” Dean whispers and turns to Sam again, eyes bright with tears. He kisses him tenderly and feels that lightness spread like sunlight across his body. Tonight this is enough to ease the pain. Tonight, for the first night in months, Dean thinks maybe, maybe I’ll sleep.