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Lion Lay Down With Me

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Samuel ran, faster than he’d ever run before. Into the dark forest past the crisscrossed logs that had always been the final boundary marker, straight into the unknown depths of the forest where he wasn’t supposed to ever venture. His promises to his father were long forgotten in the heat of escape. He had no thoughts of stopping and considering if this was the right course.

There was nothing for it, he had to flee, with the witch hunters right on his tail.

Without turning around he could hear them, could tell they were gaining on him. It made no matter how fast he ran, still they grew closer. Zig-zagging through the trees got harder and harder as he continued his breakneck pace, the trees growing larger and closer together, filled in with thick brush that tore at his clothes.

“I see him Roy! There, you are the closest! Get him! Get that witch!”

“Walt I cannot, he is too fast, you must do it! Catch him!”

Samuel ran faster and faster, the land beginning to slope uphill, his legs pounded into the forest duff, feet dodging the rocks and branches, brush tearing at his long hair.  “I’ve lost my hat,” he thought with a crazed laugh, no worries about hats when you’re going to be beheaded or burned at the stake. There was only the need to escape, to survive, to outwit them just one more time.

His feet flew over all the obstacles, clad only in the soft leather shoes his father had made him just before he’d been captured. Their red laces shone and flashed as he ran up through the forest dodging and weaving, straining to hear if the witch hunters were still tracking him. Their voices sounded fainter, the hooves of their horses seemed to have stopped echoing off the rocky cliffs far above. Samuel ducked behind a tree and stood against it panting for breath, wishing he had a water skin.

Then, just behind him he heard, “Walt! The witch is over here! To me, ride to me!”

Samuel took off up the hill, pleased at seeing how steep it was ahead of him, hoping against all hope that it would be too steep for the plodding horses of the noblemen chasing him. His smaller horse, Émeute, would have had no problem at all taking this challenge on. If only he had Émeute here right now! He thought of how nimble she always had been, how she’d move her feet just so delicately, choosing the right path every time. He tried to emulate Émeute now, channeling the memory of his beloved horse to help him make his escape.

The witch hunter again faded back, his horse protesting in a loud bellow of pain. “Roy! My horse will not ascend this hill, follow him, don’t lose that witch!”

Samuel glanced back once to see the second witch hunter passing the first, his horse smaller and possibly more agile. The man looked at him with intense beady eyes and an animal scowl. “Witch, stop this running away, we will only make it harder on you.”

Samuel didn’t answer but turned and set himself back to the task of ascending the now rockier and steeper hillside. With every step he took, rocks would loosen and roll down the hill knocking into the horses below him. They were gaining on him though, steadily and surely, even though he was fleet of foot, he still was a man afoot and not a horse. And running for what seemed an age already had tired him so much that the panic and adrenaline was beginning to wear off. 

He gasped for breath, hoping that there would be something he could push down onto the witch hunters down the hill. He moved towards a cluster of boulders that had a tree trunk precariously balanced on top of it with that idea in mind, already beginning to decide in which direction to roll it. Samuel stopped paying close enough attention to the placement of his feet, and tripped on one of the large loops of tree roots protruding from the cliff side.

For a moment he thought he’d just fall there and stay, but no, luck was not his today. He fell sideways and after a wrenching of the ankle that was caught in the root, began an accelerating tumble down the mountain side. He tried to not cry out, but it was impossible; every time he struck the rocks or trees, a sound would punch out of him. He flew past the two riders, startling them with his speed. He couldn’t see how they reacted or hear if they turned to follow him, but of course they would. He was after all, their prey.

Samuel rolled and tumbled and crashed down the mountain back into the more crowded forest below. His descent was finally stopped by the trunk of a large pine.  He tried to stand and keep running, but was unable to rise. The wind knocked out of him as well as his legs no longer holding his weight. He crumpled up into as small a shape as he could manage and hoped they would not see him. But his brightly dyed linen shirt betrayed him in the gloom of the forest, it was hard to hide that bright of a blue. His tears started then, when he realized this was it, he was caught, after everything his father had taught him, after all his running, he had failed.

The triumph in the witch hunters whoops made him ill. The smaller of the two of them said, “We have done it, the lord will be mightily pleased.”

“Roy, you tie him up with the fetters, and we will drag him behind both our horses.”

“No, you do it Walt, I am too tired to get off this horse even one more time than necessary.”

“Fine, but you owe me an extra tankard of mead when we return to our lodgings.” Walt dismounted and led his horse over to stand over the ball of human misery that was their quarry, he snatched up the leather straps and cuffs and began to loop them around Samuel’s wrists.

“Ho there. What is this?” A new voice asked.

The witch hunters looked up in surprise at a man, obviously a Lord by his dress, seated on an impressively large black horse, “Oh Lord Villeneuve, we were not expecting you out this far,” said Roy.

“It is still my land is it not?” asked Lord Villeneuve, gesturing with one hand at land surrounding them.

Roy nodded, “Yes, yes my lord, of course it is.”

“And so why are you two here? And what are you doing to that poor man?” Lord Villeneuve pointed at the man tied to the horses.

“He is a witch sire, we are bringing him to the trials in Valais,” Roy answered, trying not to show his rising fear in his voice.

“A witch? How do you know this?” Lord Villeneuve asked.

“Everyone knows, he is a seer, he brings death. His father tried to hide him, but we searched him out,” Walt said, finally finding his voice and enough courage to use it.

“Let me guess, there is some sort of reward involved?” Lord Villeneuve sneered.

Walt stood up taller under the Lord’s disapproval, attempting to act as bravely as possible. “Well, perhaps there is, but that is not the reason that we have ridden for days in pursuit.”

“You’ve been chasing this poor man for days you say? How barbaric.  If he was such a powerful witch, would he not have brought you down by now?  Let him go,” Lord Villeneuve said, as if he expected to be obeyed immediately, flicking one finger at their captive.

“No sire, we have been asked by Lord Martigny to find all the witches in the area. The trials in Valais have been very successful to date. Over a hundred of these evil ones have been found and dealt with,” Walt said, sounding as proud as if he’d caught them all himself.

“You mean murdered,” Lord Villeneuve sneered again with real disdain, bringing his horse closer to the other two.

Walt shook his head and waved his hands, “No, set free from the hands of Satan and his minions.”

Lord Villeneuve sat up straighter in his seat and came forward another few steps. His whole face seemed to change into hard-set stone, “Again, I say let him go. He is on my lands, and is thus under my control.”

Roy moved his horse between the Lord and Walt’s. “But sire, it is very important that we bring him back immediately. Lord Martigny is expecting us.”

Lord Villeneuve frowned at the blatant blocking maneuver and stepped his black steed nimbly around Roy’s. “I will deal with Martigny, leave that to me. Untie him now, or I shall be forced to take drastic measures.”

Roy and Walt looked at each other in panic. Roy answered still atop his own horse, “No sire, we will not.”

Lord Villeneuve’s green eyes flashed dangerously, and his hand went immediately to the hilt of his sword drawing it out slowly. Roy drew his also, but he was much too slow, Lord Villeneuve had slashed the leather straps binding the man to Walt’s horse.  “You will leave my lands immediately,” Lord Villeneuve commanded, the point of his sword at Walt’s throat.

“Lord Villeneuve, please, just let us take the witch, we will not ever come back,” Roy asked.

“No. He is not going with you. Your choice is to either leave or die,” Lord Villeneuve pressed the sharp point deeper into the soft flesh of Walt’s neck drawing blood.

 “No, the witch must burn,” Walt said, with the fire in his eye of the truly deluded.

“So be it,” Lord Villeneuve said softly, and also slit Walt’s throat to the bone.

Walt crumpled into a heap below his startled horse as Lord Villeneuve swept the limp body of the supposed witch up onto the saddle of his horse. He stared at Roy in challenge. “You may inform Lord Martigny of what has transpired here today. Please tell him that I do not appreciate trespassing nor witch hunting in my lands.”

“Yes sire, of course,” Roy mumbled, lowering his eyes, and trying not to cry for his dead brother lying on the ground in front of him.

Lord Villeneuve settled the newly freed man across his legs and held onto his shoulders with one arm, the reins of his black horse in the hand of the other and sped down the hill out of view.

Roy knelt on the blood-soaked ground holding his brother’s face, “As God is my witness, I will avenge you Walt, I swear it. That witch will still burn and that Lord Villeneuve will pay.”

As Lord Villeneuve rode away, the second thoughts and hesitations that he probably should have considered before impulsively killing a man came into his mind. But then he rode out into the sun and he looked at the man he held and was struck all over again with his beauty.

He had watched the chase for a short while this morning, it was hard to miss with those two buffoons crashing about his forest after all. The man they chased had caught his eye as being so very graceful, the power of his strong legs carrying him effortlessly through the trees, the strength of his arms pulling him forward, and the beautiful long hair flowing behind him as he ran from his pursuers. But seeing his face this close, the sharp nose, the cutting cheekbones, the strong chin and prominent high forehead. They were all so perfectly formed. Lord Villeneuve slowed his horse and stopped at a small creek side to let her drink her fill of the cool mountain water and to drink his fill of this man’s ethereal beauty. 

The man began to stir when they came to a complete stop, sensing the change even though he had seemed to be unconscious. Slowly his eyes fluttered open to meet the lord’s.

“You’re so beautiful,” the man sleepily, with a small smile, then seemed to come back to himself, asking sharply, “Who are you?”

Lord Villeneuve smiled at the man he held, “Be calm sir. I am Dean Leon de Villeneuve, lord of these lands you’ve been running through. The witch hunters have been dispatched.”

“But why would you save me?” The escapee asked, struggling a little against the strong arms that supported him.

Lord Villeneuve loosened his hold a bit as the man he held struggled. “Settle sir, I will not drop you. I saved you, because I do not hold with trespassers, nor witch-hunters in my lands.”

“But they mean to kill me lord,” the escapee said with wide eyes conveying how scared he was at the prospect.

Lord Villeneuve shook his head, almost angrily, “Not on my land they won’t, and certainly not without a proper trial.”

“You would do this for me, a complete stranger? One who they accuse of being a witch?” The man asked, searching the stranger’s face who held him for the truth about this essential question.

Lord Villeneuve smiled again at the man’s searching eyes, and tried to project how deeply he believed in what he was about to say, “Yes, there is something wrong with this whole witch-trial business, it stinks of corruption and I do not believe in it at all. May I know your name sir?” He felt the man relax in his arms, becoming heavier, but in a way that made him want to still offer him the comfort of his arms.

“Oh, yes, uh, of course, I am Samuel de Marietta. My family is from Martigny,” Samuel said, relieved to finally be asked to introduce himself to his rescuer.

 “Well met Samuel. They have hunted you all this distance?” Lord Villeneuve asked.

Samuel closed his eyes and took a few breaths, as if he was reliving his panicked flight, then seemed to steady himself so that he could answer, “Yes, it has been a journey.”

Lord Villeneuve heard the tiredness and the fear in Samuel’s voice and chastised himself for not noticing earlier, “It is so rude of me, you must need sustenance. Here, have some wine.”

“If you wouldn’t mind sire, I’d like to drink from the stream,” Samuel said, turning his head against Lord Villeneuve’s arm to peer at the twinkling water below.

Dean realized that he was still cradling this man on his lap, holding him close in his arms, and was suddenly reluctant to let go of him. But he did not want to frighten this man any further today. “Of course Samuel, of course, I’ll lower you down the side of Pala, here you go.” He slowly released Samuel down until his feet could touch the rocks of the creek bank.

“Ow! Oh no!” Samuel cried out, losing his balance and falling to his knees, hands splashing into the water.

Dean instantly felt terrible that he’d injured this man further, and quickly slipped from the back of his mount, coming to Samuel’s side with a hand gently on his back.  “Are you quite alright Samuel?”

“No, my ankle is more injured than I’d though. When I stepped upon it, I could not stand,” Samuel answered, his head bowing down further towards the water’s surface. He lowered it the rest of the way dunking it under the clear flowing water, submerging his whole head, then drinking deeply.  He tossed his hair back, inadvertently flipping water all over Dean and then looked up.

Dean’s breath caught, because again the beauty of this man stole it away, the sunlight hit the water droplets on the planes of Samuel’s face, and lit up the many colors of his unusual tilted eyes.

“What is it lord?” Samuel asked Dean stared at him.

“You. You are beautiful,” Dean said in a voice strangled with the effort to not actually say out loud what he was finding himself saying. “And I should not have said that, I apologize. Just returning the compliment. Let me help you with your ankle.”  Dean ducked his head in embarrassment, attending to removing the cleverly made, soft soled leather boots that Samuel wore, untying the jaunty red laces. “These are lovely boots by the way.”

“My father made them for me. Before they…” Samuel said, softly touching the boots that Dean still held.

“Oh Samuel no, did they take your father too?” Dean asked with true concern.

Samuel busied himself with removing his hose from the injured foot, finally answering, “Yes, he was…in trouble with them, for trying to hide me.”

“What they said, about you seeing the future, is it true?” Dean asked, hoping that Samuel would answer truthfully.

Samuel considered all that Dean had done for him already, and what he’d said about the witch trials and decided to trust him with the truth. “Yes, not all the time, I only see people dying in horrible ways. And I can never do anything about it.”

“Are they people you know?” Dean asked, knowing that it must have taken a lot for Samuel to answer that first question honestly, it only seemed right to continue the conversation as if what they were discussing were completely normal.

Samuel shook his head, then looked at Dean with sadness written on his face, knowing he could never communicate how awful the visions were, “Not so far. I can never help them. Just watch them die.”

Dean put one hand on Samuel’s shoulder, hoping to somehow console him. “That seems a terrible gift. Not one that a witch would bring upon themselves, for it would not serve a purpose.”

“I don’t know why I’m like this. I just am. Ever since my birthday two years ago,” Samuel said with a small shrug, feeling the heat from Dean’s hand soaking into his sore shoulder.

Dean moved Samuel’s foot so that it was submerged in the cold water, and leaned down to roll up the pant leg so it wouldn’t get soaked. His fingers burned at the touch of Samuel’s over-heated skin.  He gently massaged the calf and examined the ankle, probing with his fingertips. Samuel gasped at the touch, the intimacy of it surprising him, then the pain flooded through him once more as his ankle was moved. He cried out again.

“We’ll have to wrap it, I’ll take you back to my house and my doctor will attend to you,” Dean said, frowning with concern at Samuel’s pain.

Samuel realized he had not thanked his rescuer yet, and burst out with a hurried thanks, “Thank you Lord Villeneuve, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you.”

Dean patted Samuel’s shoulder again, squeezing it a little, hoping that it would calm the man’s nerves down a bit. “Samuel, please call me Dean, and you shall repay me by sharing my company as you recuperate.”

“Pardon me sire, I mean Dean. That is no sort of payment,” Samuel insisted, hoping that Dean understood that he was not going to just take all of this largesse being offered without attempting to repay him in some manner.

“After you’ve lived in my house for a while, I think you’ll understand what I mean. It is very lonely there. And I have no other company to even dine with, only a few servants,” Dean said, as if he hoped that would explain it all to Samuel’s satisfaction.

“You mean you have no family?” Samuel asked with true surprise.

“No, I do not. My mother died when I was quite young in a fire, and my father recently died, leaving me alone in the house and with all the duties,” Dean said with a voice tinged with regret and tiredness.

“But you have no wife or children?” Samuel asked, because he wanted to be sure Dean was not leaving anything out in the explanation of his strange household. It sounded so improbable.

“No. Life has not gone that way for me it seems,” Dean answered, sounding very neutral about the subject, as if he’d trained himself to not give away his real feelings on the topic.

“It does sound lonely if you don’t mind me agreeing with you.”

Dean laughed, a little bitterly at the thought, then a more genuine laugh as he saw Samuel’s reaction, giving himself over to a full belly sort of laugh. “No of course not.”

“Well, I’m making you laugh at least,” Samuel said, laughing a little himself.

Dean grew suddenly serious, “That is not a requirement of me helping you Samuel.”

“I know, I wouldn’t think that of you, and I’m much too tall to become a court jester. But with a laugh like yours, I do believe I would take on that job just to hear it more.”

Samuel’s reward was another surprisingly loud laugh from Dean, his eyes crinkling up at the corners and his white teeth flashing in a grin.

Dean removed a thick silk scarf from his neck and wrapped Samuel’s ankle, tied the boots to Pala’s harness and lifted Samuel once more to hold him in front of him on the saddle. They rode in a pleasant, companionable silence until Samuel’s eyes drooped lower and lower, finally his body relaxed into sleep.  Samuel’s head relaxed back onto Dean’s arms. Dean chuckled to himself that he was like a small boy all worn out from playing too hard, but then sobered at the thought that this man he held had run for his life for days. He had lost everything he’d ever known. Dean held him a little tighter then, some instinct of wanting to protect and shelter Samuel awakening deep within him. He mused to himself, perhaps you are a witch Samuel, you have put me under your spell so quickly.

Shaking his dead-asleep companion awake took several attempts. “Samuel, wake up, we are almost there, I’d like you to see my home.”

Samuel lifted his head from where it rested on Dean’s shoulder, following where Dean was pointing and whistled admiringly, “I am not surprised to find it’s the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen.”

“Even nicer than Martigny’s?” Dean asked with a disbelieving chuckle.

Samuel nodded in excitement, “Yes Dean, my goodness the view from up there must be amazing.”

“You shall soon see for yourself. On Pala, let’s get home!” Dean shouted with more joy in his voice and heart than he’d had since his father’s passing.

The man on his lap had made him happy just by being there and giving him a chance to help someone, but there was something more, some spark between them already that he’d never felt before with any man. Enjoying Samuel’s oohs and aahs about the scenery surrounding his estate, and the lush manicured gardens was a new thing. It was the first time he’d really had the experience of being proud of the fact that this was all his now.

A short, brown-haired man with mischievous hazel was waiting for them on the front steps of the main house. “Filou, thank you my good man. Here, please help my guest Samuel down, he is injured.”

“Yes my lord, of course.” Filou steadied Samuel as Dean lowered him down to the ground, helping him balance on one foot on the steps.

Dean dismounted and handed Pala’s reins to Filou, “I’ll see to Samuel if you’ll take Pala to Louis in the stables.”

“Yes my lord, right away. Will you be needing baths or refreshments?”

“Both, as soon as you can manage. I’ll be putting Samuel in the room that adjoins mine.”

“Very good sir, we’ll see to the bath water first thing.”

“Samuel, would you rather try and hop, or shall I just carry you up?”

“My pride says I should attempt the hopping, but my ankle says otherwise. If you wouldn’t mind terribly?”

“Not a problem, I’m not the one that’s been running for my life for days,” Dean said, scooping Samuel up into his arms.

Samuel looped his own arms around Dean’s neck to hold on and steady himself as Dean carried them up the steps and through the front door into the entry way.  The high ceiling and chandeliers were impressive, but not as impressive as the sweeping staircase or Dean’s strong arms holding him close.

“All the way up there? Isn’t there a servant’s quarters downstairs you could put me in sire?”

“It’s Dean. Remember you promised? And no guest of mine is staying in the servant’s quarters, as nice as they are, you need to be more comfortable.”

“It is your house, I shall argue no further, Dean.”

“Good, now hold on, we’re heading up and I don’t want us to tumble down the stairs and make you worse.”

Dean ascended the stairs as quickly as he could manage. As wonderful as it was holding Samuel so close, he was rather bulky, and it was a good challenge. He took them past the doorway to his own chambers, to the smaller one next door and gently set Samuel down on the high four poster bed. The deep blue canopy and draperies shook with the movement. Samuel groaned as he lay back on the bed, lifting his injured foot up carefully. Dean found some extra cushions from a chair and placed them underneath it.  “How’s that?”

“It’s lovely, your whole home is, of course it is. Thank you so much,” Samuel said, settling himself back into the softness of the bed.

“Eventually you will have to stop thanking me,” Dean said sounding a little bit exasperated with all the excessive thanks.

“No, no I don’t believe I will,” Samuel responded with a cheeky grin.

“Here is a bit of lunch for you sir,” Filou announced at the doorway, “Would you like me to serve your guest in here, and you in chambers?”

“No, if it’s acceptable to Samuel, I’d like to join him in breaking our fast here.”

“Yes, of course, thank you very much Filou, it all looks wonderful, is that some sort of pastry I spy?” Samuel asked, pointing at a puffy sickle moon shaped dessert with jam on top. 

“Yes, my own invention, never can have a meal without something sweet I say,” Filou said brightly, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“Filou loves his pastries, he’ll fatten you right up Samuel. Just you wait and see.”

“Don’t listen to him, I’ve known this boy all my life and he’s never said no to one of my desserts. Not one! The bathwater will be coming up as soon as the kitchen boy can manage,” Filou said, backing through the doorway and closing the door quietly.

“Thank you Filou,” Samuel called out, hoping the friendly servant heard him.

Dean pushed the tray a little closer to Samuel, and sat on the edge of the bed. “Would you like a bit of wine to wash down that sweet?”

“Yes, that would be great.”

Dean poured a glass and handed it to Samuel, their fingers brushing. They both hesitated at the touch and their eyes met for a long moment. Unasked questions passed between them, both wondering if the other felt it too. Samuel smiled and sipped at the wine, eyes still searching Dean’s face. Dean drank from his own glass, using the moment to enjoy cataloging all the wonderful expressiveness of Samuel’s face while he thought of how to break the somewhat awkward lengthening silence without embarrassing either of them.

“Tell me Samuel, how often do your visions come?” Dean finally asked, wanting to know more about his guest’s affliction.

Samuel finished chewing the pastry that he was eating. “Oh. Well, they are very unpredictable. I would say once a moon or so.”

“A moon, do you mean a month?” Dean asked, intrigued to hear Samuel use that phrase.

“Yes, oh that’s just how my father referred to it, I am sorry if I said the wrong thing.”

“Was your father a witch Samuel?” Dean asked, thinking that there may be more truth to be told.

“My father a witch? No sire, no he was not, he was just a shoemaker, and his father before him,” Samuel explained, hoping that Dean would believe him, because there was no way he could prove it now.

“Those beautiful shoes you wear, you said he made those?” Dean asked, pointing down the length of Samuel’s body towards his feet propped up on the pillow, only one shoe still on his uninjured foot.

“Yes, right before they took him…” Samuel’s voice disappeared into a suppressed sob.

Dean laid his hand over Samuel’s, squeezing it gently, “I’m sorry Samuel, I should not have asked.”

“No, no it’s alright. He… he worked very hard on them, they were a gift for my birth day. I’m glad I have something that he made here with me,” Samuel said, squeezing Dean’s hand back to thank him for his sympathy.

Dean didn’t let go of Samuel’s hand to ask one more question, “You have nothing else?”

Samuel looked over to meet Dean’s eyes, and saw that this man really did care about him for whatever reason. So he took strength from that support and simply answered, “No, they burned our home to the ground.”

Dean listened and sighed a little at Samuel’s response. He closed his eyes and took a few slow breaths, remembering what he was about to share, he had never told another living soul. But for some reason, Samuel’s honesty even though he was in such pain from his injury and the loss of his family and home inspired him to also decide to be truthful.  “Samuel, I know this may sound strange to you. But I am sure that we were meant to meet in the forest today. Filou has been in my household for my entire life, he practically raised me. And he has a touch of the sight as some call it. He has always told me I’d meet and rescue and befriend a tall stranger in need. So if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to call you my friend and offer you a place in my home for as long as you would like to live here.”

Samuel’s jaw dropped open in surprise, and he hesitated, not sure if the lord was making a joke, or if he hadn’t completely understood the offer Dean had made, “I don’t know what to say. You shame me with your offer sir.”

“How so?” Dean asked, tilting his head to one side, as he was considered what Samuel could mean.

“It is so generous, and I don’t know what it is that you expect from me,” Samuel finally managed to stammer out, blushing bright red at all the thoughts that sped through his mind. Not that he minded those thoughts, not at all, having had a few of them about Dean today already. But how could Dean have possibly known that? So Samuel felt that he had to at least ask the question to see how Dean would answer.

Dean turned a matching shade of red, closing his eyes briefly against the embarrassment. He dropped his hold on Samuel’s hand and put both of his up in the air in a surrender gesture. “Only your friendship Samuel, I assure you. That is all. I am an honorable man.”

Samuel shook his head, mad at himself for upsetting his kind host, but only more confused at his answer. “No, I did not mean to imply that you would take advantage, or anything of the sort. Please believe me, I am just confused by your generosity. That is all.”

“I understand, I take no offense then. I’ll leave you now, Filou will assist you in bathing. Rest, and we’ll eat dinner later this evening,” Dean said, rising from the bed and moving the tray to the table where Samuel could still reach it from the bed. He began to turn to leave the room.

Samuel reached out and caught Dean’s wrist, holding it firmly. He looked up at Dean and asked, “Dean, please don’t go. I didn’t mean to ruin everything.”

Dean patted Samuel’s hand that encircled his wrist gently, and looked him in the eye, willing his blush to be faded at least a bit. “You didn’t ruin a thing Samuel, if you would like me to stay, I will, of course.”

“I’ve had a terrible few days, and I just don’t want to be alone. Talk to me about anything besides witch-hunters, please?”

Dean sat back down on the bed, and picked up a hunk of bread with some creamed butter, ate for a while, and then launched into telling a tale about how he had chosen Pala to be his horse. This distracted and entertained Samuel enough that his worries about why Dean was helping him and what would be expected of him in this beautiful home were soon forgotten.

Finally they were interrupted by the kitchen boy bringing in the bath water together with Filou.  They poured it into a large copper tub set in front of the fire which they also stoked up higher. Filou left some neatly folded clothes with a wooden comb on top of several towels on the chair nearest the tub and left without a word.

“Would you rather if I helped you to bathe? Or would you like me to call Filou back?” Dean asked, standing up and brushing the bread crumbs from his lap.

Samuel was distracted by watching as Dean’s hands moved over his own body and shook himself out of it. Then he realized Dean was asking about the bath and he remembered why it might be an issue besides his injured ankle. “I…I haven’t had a bath like this before. We always just bathed in the river.”

“Oh, well it’s just like that, but warmer and without the sand and fish and slimy stuff at the bottom stuck on the sharp rocks that hurt your bare feet, come let me help you.”

Samuel smiled at that description and nodded yes.

Dean reached over and lifted Samuel up off the bed and carried him across the room, and set him down gently so that he could hold onto the fireplace mantel. “First we’ll take off these torn and dirty clothes and then get you into the warm water. Then I will comb the leaves out of your hair and we’ll wash it with the soap.”

Samuel just nodded, suddenly ashamed to be disrobing in front of this fine nobleman, surely his body would be unsightly to him. And he was even more ashamed at wanting it to be the opposite.  He pulled his jerkin and tunic off first, then chanced a quick look at Dean. He had the same expression on his face as he’d had at the river when he’d told Samuel that he was beautiful. The light of the fire flickered over the planes of Dean’s face and Samuel remembered that he’d also told Dean the same thing.  That somehow made this better, gave him courage to disrobe the rest of the way, the torn-up leggings coming off, except for over his non-injured foot.

“I cannot do this part myself,” Samuel finally admitted.

“Oh, of course, let me,” Dean said as one coming out of a trance, bending down to assist Samuel. “Here, brace yourself on me and lift up your foot, I’ll pull it off.”  Samuel’s hand grasped at his shoulder, and Dean bore his weight for a moment, the closeness to all that naked skin exhilarating. He pulled off the stocking and held Samuel steady as he arose to stand in front of him. “Alright now, into the water with you.” He lifted Samuel quickly into the tub of steaming flower scented water.

Samuel made a strange squeaking sound, his eyes shut tight in fear.

“Samuel, are you alright in there? Is it too hot?” Dean asked with worry in his voice, his hands instinctively going to Samuel’s shoulders to hold him steady.

Samuel craned his neck back, looking at Dean upside-down, standing behind him, beautiful even from this strange angle, and smiled at the feel of Dean’s hands on his now wet shoulders. “No. It’s not what I expected. The warmth is nice.”

Dean patted Samuel’s shoulders and sat back on his heels, grabbing the comb off the chair.  “Lie back and relax, I’ll comb your hair out for you.”

Samuel leaned his head against the edge of the high tub and valiantly tried not to purr as Dean worked the comb and his fingers through his very unruly long hair.  The tugs and pulls at his scalp were the only thing keeping him tethered to the planet, he felt himself drifting away on a rose-scented warm cloud.

“Now to wash that mop of yours, dunk your head in the water,” Dean said, pushing Samuel’s head gently down under the water,then pulling him back up after a moment. He reached for the bar of soap and lathered his hands up, and then ran them through Samuel’s hair several times, paying a lot of attention to scratching thoroughly at his scalp.

The purring could no longer be contained at the scalp scratching, the noise that came out of Samuel surprised them both into laughter.  “You sounded like one of the barn cats there for a moment,” Dean laughed his breath brushing teasingly against the back of Samuel’s wet neck.

“I did, didn’t I? I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything quite like that,” Samuel admitted.

“Okay, done, now dunk again to rinse off the soap,” Dean said, pushing at the top of Samuel’s head. He slowly sank under the water and Dean ran his hands through Samuel’s floating hair one last time. Instantly regretting the moment his hands were off of his new friend, but containing himself enough to rise and dry his hands on a towel.  “I’ll leave you to enjoy the warm water and wash yourself, call me when the water cools and I’ll help you out of the tub.”

“Thank you again Dean. For everything,” Samuel said. He smiled as he sank back into the tub, submerging himself up to his nose again, so that he couldn’t make any more potentially embarrassing noises.

“You are welcome Samuel, it is my pleasure,” Dean said, exiting the room as quickly as he could manage.  He leaned against the closed door separating their rooms and thunked his head against the wood.  His whole body thrummed with the desire awakened by having held Samuel’s beautiful naked body in the brief moments it took to deposit him in the bath tub.  His hands clenched and opened rhythmically as he remembered the feeling of all that glorious hair entwined around his fingers, swaying in the warm bathwater like so much swaying riverweed.

The man was everything Dean truly wanted and never let himself have, not since his father had passed, and not more than a few times before that. He’d always held his desires in check, not letting them near the surface where they could trouble his image and standing. But this Samuel, this man was upsetting all of that control and balance. Dean had only known him for one brief, though dramatic day, but he felt ready to rearrange his life to accommodate Samuel. To make a place for him, just to have the chance to be near him for a little while longer.  Dean breathed steadily in and out, calming himself, regaining control, until he heard Samuel call out, “Dean?”

“Are you ready to get out Samuel?” Dean asked, re-entering the room with no noise so that he could approach the tub and look his fill of a naked, wet Samuel standing in the tub, facing towards the fireplace, lit only by firelight.  Dean’s eyes traced slowly up and down the fine body, memorizing the shape and definition of his perfectly muscled back, the curve and imagined heft of his ass.

Samuel turned to face Dean when he heard his host’s voice, “Yes, I’m not sure I can without some assistance. I wouldn’t want to knock this tub over and flood the room,” Samuel said, talking quickly to fill up the space between them which was becoming strange and volatile.

Dean couldn’t speak, not with seeing the front of Samuel, in all his perfection, the expansive chest that looked built to withstand anything, and the rippling muscles of his stomach, individually highlighted with droplets of water, leading his eye to Samuel’s manhood, partially erect, but already so sizeable his mind went abuzz further imagining all the things he could do with him.  He forcibly ripped his gaze away from Samuel, knowing he had gone too far already and tipped his hand, likely made his guest feel even more uncomfortable. He spent more time than necessary gathering up the towels that Filou had left on the chair before turning back towards Samuel. 

He wrapped Samuel in the largest towel and then lifted him out of the bath, standing him next to the fireplace where he could be warmest. He still had no words, being this close to Samuel, he wordlessly placed the smaller towel on Samuel’s head and dried his hair as gently as he could. He found that he liked the sensation of having to reach up so high to reach the top of Samuel’s head. Then Dean just stood there watching as Samuel dried his body with the towel, dropping it to the floor, balancing on one foot.

“Are those clothes meant for me?” Samuel finally asked, just to break the silence that had finally gone from uncomfortable to weird.

“Uh, yes, sorry, here, let me help you with the pants,” Dean knelt at Samuel’s feet and held the pant leg out for him to step into as Samuel balanced his weight on Dean’s shoulder and the mantle.

Samuel said nothing as he pulled the pants up and fastened them as Dean remained at his feet with his head bowed. Finally he touched the top of Dean’s head, “Are you alright Dean?” he asked curious as to why his host was behaving so strangely. 

Dean looked up at him in surprise, at the question or at the touch, or both perhaps. “Yes, I’m fine, let’s get you to bed now, you need to stay off of that foot.”

He smiled to reassure Samuel, or perhaps himself and slowly arose back to standing. He scooped the now fully dressed Samuel up in his arms and walked slowly across the room towards the bed. He hesitated a moment longer than truly necessary before laying him gently down and rearranging the pillows. His hands lingered as he smoothed the bedclothes down over Samuel’s body.

Finally Samuel stilled Dean’s nervously moving hands by grasping both of them. “Thank you for the bath Dean. I almost feel myself again.”

“Uh, I’m glad, that’s good, I’ll just leave you to rest until dinner,” Dean said, standing up abruptly, poised to leave.

“I wouldn’t mind some company, I have a tendency to get bored if I have to lie around too much,” Samuel said with a grin, guessing that Dean would take the excuse he was offering.

“Well, of course, I could read to you,” Dean offered, marveling at how the smile Samuel was giving him changed his whole face into something even more indescribably beautiful. Maybe he wouldn’t make too much of a fool of himself if he was looking at the book that he would be reading instead of making lovesick moon-eyes at this man.  He pulled over one of the overstuffed chairs to be nearer to the bedside and chose one of the books from the shelf. “I think you’ll enjoy this one, it is a collection of folk tales.”

“Just nothing with witches in it okay?” Samuel asked in a voice filled with weariness.

“Of course, fairies or trolls only,” Dean said before beginning to read out loud.

Samuel felt himself settle deeper into the bed as Dean’s voice washed over him. It seemed so familiar somehow, as if they’d done it a hundred times before. The silly notion passed quickly and made Samuel smile to himself, because of course it could not possibly be true, but he settled into the comfortable familiarity without caring any longer where it came from. He was with Dean, and he felt safe once again. He fell asleep while being mesmerized watching this beautiful man’s face, all the expressions that crossed his visage as he read, each one being catalogued and remembered. Samuel’s eyes reluctantly closed but still, all he could see and feel was Dean.

Dean read for a while longer before realizing that Samuel has drifted off to sleep with a beatific smile on his face. He closed his book and relaxed a little more knowing that he wasn’t being watched so closely. Now it was his turn to watch his guest drift deeper into sleep, all the pain faded from Samuel’s face as he relaxed deeper into sleep. He found his mind straying to all the times they had touched today, and how each time the tingle of their contact had struck something so familiar, so deep within himself. Taking care of Samuel, guarding him, reading to him, and even bathing him had seemed like things he’d been practicing his whole life. But how could that be? 

“Samuel, wake up Samuel, please,” Dean pleaded, wanting to put a stop to the man’s terror as he held his shaking body close to his own. Samuel’s loud screams of “No! Dean, no!” still ringing in the otherwise quiet bedroom.

Finally Samuel awakened, still dazed, then was instantly embarrassed for having awoken Dean.

“Was that a vision that you were experiencing?” Dean asked, gently stroking Samuel’s hair while he searched his face for clues to how to help this man.

Before Samuel could answer Dean, he knew that he had a choice to make. According to the vision that still lingered at the edges of his mind, Dean’s life was at stake. To Samuel his vision was proof of that, Dean would die a fiery, bloody death. But in it, Roy the witch hunter and Lord Martigny also would die.

He knew that he could say nothing here. Could let fate roll past and take this beautiful, brave man away from him. He would be avenging the loss of his home and his father and all he’d known in one fell swoop by letting his vision come to pass. But he would be losing the only living person who had ever seen him at his worst and not run away in fear. For Dean had just seen the real him and was still there, holding him. The look on Dean’s face was what made his decision for him, no one had ever looked at him with that intensity and acceptance.

 “Yes, it was. It was a vision of your death, Dean. You were being torn apart by dogs that the witch hunters had set upon you. They were laughing, there were flames, all around you, but then Roy the witch hunter was caught up in them as well as Lord Martigny. All of you died. The dogs howling as they burned. It was terrible,” Samuel finished with a muffled sob, burying his face in his Dean’s night shirt.

Dean just held him for a while, gently moving one hand in massaging circles on Samuel’s upper back. Finally he interrupted the silence, “You’re sure this wasn’t just a nightmare though?”

“No Dean. It was not. They’re very different, my mouth tastes of copper when I come out of one. Like there should be blood but there isn’t. And that is what I’m tasting now.”

Dean released him and settled him back against the pillows, reaching to the table for a glass of wine. “Here, some watered wine to wash the taste out. Your vision will not come to pass Samuel. We are safe here. Try to go back to sleep.”

Samuel drained the glass to stall for time, hoping that he could calm himself enough to ever sleep again. “Can you stay here Dean? I am loathe to admit that I am frightened, but seeing you torn apart like that, watching you die was, well, it was heart-rending.”

“Of course Samuel,” Dean said, his own heart feeling rent at the sadness he heard in Samuel’s voice. He laid down alongside him on top of the duvet and placed his hand on Samuel’s chest, over his heart. It was still thumping in rapid terror speed.  “Your heart has not calmed.”

“No, it will take a while. Would you speak to me of other things, please Dean,” Samuel asked.

Dean thought for a while as he rubbed his hand in a slow steady circle over Samuel’s heart, and then began to tell a story of the first archery tournament he had entered with his father and how they’d almost beaten the reigning champion father and son team.  Samuel had fallen back asleep before Dean had reached the end of the tale, but Dean did not get up and go back to his bed. He chose to stay there beside Samuel, hand still in place feeling the steady slowing heartbeat under his palm. Dean drifted off to sleep himself, his own heart becoming attuned to the rhythm of his new friend’s.

Over the next few days, which were thankfully free of visions, Sam talked wistfully about his horse, Émeute, wishing he could ride her instead of the mount Dean provided for their easy-going rides through the forest while Samuel recuperated.  “It is not that I do not enjoy riding Grand Frère, he is a wonderful horse, and you are most generous to allow me the use of him while I recuperate.  It is just that I miss my Émeute, she was mine from the day she was born. In a way she was my best friend.”

This conversation and the wistful sadness prompted Dean to send a messenger to quietly contact the people remaining in Samuel’s village. The messenger was lucky to quickly find a former neighbor who’d worked for the family, a small landholder named Joshua who had captured and kept Émeute in the hope that Samuel would return at some point. Joshua had been persuaded by the messenger to journey to Dean’s home to surprise Samuel in a few days. Those days waiting for Joshua’s arrival were some of the best in Dean’s recent memory.  When they were not taking short rides around Dean’s land, the two spent almost all their time together in Dean’s comfortable rooms, either deep in conversation or just sitting side by side reading.

Finally the day arrived, and Dean awakened early, the anticipation of the surprise buzzing in his veins. “Samuel, I believe you may want to arise a little early this morn, I’ve brought you a tray.”

“Why thank you very much, you are too kind Dean.  And why would I need to be up this early?”

“There is a surprise arriving and I want you to be downstairs to see its approach up the hill,” Dean answered as he made a quick exit out of Samuel’s room.  And when did it become Samuel’s room he asked himself, and answered with a wry smile, the very moment he arrived.

Samuel made quick work of the breakfast tray and attempted to carry it himself as he crutched his way slowly down the stairs, it fell when he was about halfway down with a terrible clanging.  Dean’s worried face appeared at the kitchen door below, “Are you quite alright Samuel? I thought you had fallen down these stairs!”

“No, no just attempting to make myself useful by bringing down the tray, and now I’ve ruined everything. The rug, the dishes all broken. I’ll just go back up where I won’t ruin everything.”

“Stop right there, it was solely an accident that none could blame you for. You haven’t ruined a thing. Please make your way down here, and rest in the parlor. You are halfway here already, and I want you to see this surprise.”

“Maybe I was hurrying a little bit because I am intrigued by your talk of a surprise.”

“Oh so it is my fault now, I see,” Dean said in a teasing voice.

“I thought there was no blame to be had,” Samuel mock protested.

“I was just attempting to…oh devil take it. I give up,” Dean threw up his hands and turned to leave.

“Dean, please, come back, I was just teasing,” Samuel pleaded as Dean stomped out of the parlor towards the kitchen.  He sat uneasily on the chair, wondering if he’d ruined the surprise as well as the breakfast dishes.

“Lord Dean tells me you’ve decided to redecorate the front hall Samuel,” Filou said as he breezed into view carrying a broom and pan.

“I am so sorry Filou, I was trying to be helpful and I made more work for you I’m afraid.”

“Not a problem, I was meant to sweep the front hall this week at some point anyways, it’s just a little crunchier than usual,” Filou answered with a smile, beginning to clean up the shattered crockery.

“Is he very angry with me?” Samuel asked.

“Who? Lord Dean? No, I do not believe so. He is much too excited about your surprise this morning,” Filou answered, flicking his always mischievous eyes to the front door.

“Is it time for me to go outside and look?” Samuel asked, sounding like an excited schoolboy.

“I do believe so, he wants you out on the front steps. Can you make it with your crutch, or do you need an arm?”

“Let me try myself first,” Samuel said, moving slowly across the entry hall with his crutch.

“You are a stubborn one are you not? Never want to let anyone help you, ever. One would think you had an older brother the way you act,” Filou observed.

“I always wished that I had,” Samuel mused, thinking of all the times he’d said that very thing to his father.

They stopped their conversation about imaginary older siblings when they heard Dean’s footsteps approaching from the kitchen gardens, he arrived on the bottom step and looked up at Samuel, holding a bunch of carrots in his hand, covered in dirt. Bright orange with feathery green leaf tops still attached.

“What are the carrots for?” Samuel asked after a few awkward moments of silence where he debated apologizing again and then talked himself out of it for fear of upsetting Dean again.

“You will soon see, be patient,” Dean answered, with a face schooled into passive non-expression.

“Are you angry with me Dean?” Samuel asked, shifting his weight to lean a little more on the hand he had on Dean’s shoulder than his crutch.

Dean turned his head and looked up at Samuel for a long moment, examining the big eyes, and the worried expression complete with a line between his eyebrows. He finally answered him with a grin, “No Samuel, no I am most definitely not angry with you. I was only frustrated that you did not understand my attempt at levity earlier.”

Before Samuel could explain that he was joking also, there was the sound of an animal in the distance, maybe two, some jingling of harness and clopping of hooves. Samuel stood balanced on his one good foot and the crutch and lifted his other hand from Dean’s shoulder to shade his eyes against the strong morning sun. A distant rider appeared at the bottom of the hill, with another riderless horse following close behind.

“Who is it Dean? Someone I need to hide from?”

“Samuel, why would I ask you to stand out here if I thought it unsafe? Of course not. It is someone I do believe you will be most delighted to see.”

The rider made his way up the steep road, picking his way over the wagon ruts with care, the trailing horse moving even more elegantly than the first. “That second horse moves so beautifully,” Samuel said with a sigh.

“Does she remind you of a horse in particular Samuel?”

Samuel watched the horse approach even closer and then gasped in happy surprise, “Yes, she moves just like my… Émeute? How is it? And that’s Joshua! How could they be here?”

“I had them found for you, I thought you could stand to see a friendly face,” Dean said smiling widely at Samuel’s reaction.

“Ho there, Lord Villeneuve! And my Samuel, there you are!” Joshua shouted as he got within hearing distance.

“Ah, I want to run to them, but I cannot,” Samuel said, hopping a little in his frustration.

“Here, let me help you down the stairs at least, they will come to you,” Dean offered, taking Samuel’s elbow and helping him down the slick stone steps.

“Welcome Joshua, and Émeute of course,” Dean said, coming forward to shake Joshua’s hand, “Sir, I thank you for making this long trip, it is good to make your acquaintance.”

“And yours Lord Villeneuve, I am delighted to be here and to see that you have taken such good care of Samuel.”

“Joshua, I never thought I would see you again,” Samuel said as he hugged Joshua with a desperate fierceness. “And you brought me Émeute, how did you even manage to find her? I set her loose when I had to run from the witch hunters.”

“She came home within a day of your leaving, young sir, and as the house was no longer there, she was nosing at my barn gate in the morning.”

“How can I ever repay you? She means the world to me,” Samuel said, holding onto Joshua’s shoulders and smiling down at the man. 

Joshua reached up and patted both of Samuel’s cheeks, “I know Samuel, I know. Your joy is payment enough.”

“Would you like to ride her later this day after she’s had a few oats and a rest?” Dean asked, as he fed the bunch of carrots to a very happy Émeute.

“Yes, oh very much yes. Will Pala mind riding with her?”

“Why, because she’s a beautiful mare? No Samuel, Pala can control himself for an afternoon I believe. Joshua, please come inside and rest yourself after your long journey,” Dean said, gesturing towards the front door and re-taking his place at Samuel’s elbow.  “Allow me?” he asked.

Samuel smiled, because Dean was asking to help him, instead of just assuming he was helpless all the time. He linked his arm through Dean’s and pulled himself closer so that their hips bumped. “Thank you for your help Dean.”

Joshua seated himself in the main room at Dean’s insistence, and called for Filou to bring them some refreshments.

Samuel examined the deeply creased face of his old friend, seeing his tiredness and worry, “Joshua, tell me what has happened in our town since I fled. Have the witch hunters returned?”

Joshua saw Samuel’s worry and he smiled back at his friend, eyes twinkling as they always had, “It has been a nightmare, most people are keeping to themselves, but yes the witch hunters returned and prowled through all of your neighbor’s lands searching for you.  They were mightily disappointed to not find you. You did a splendid job of disappearing Samuel. Your father would have been very proud.”

“It was not easy. And I would not be alive were it not for Dean, uh, I mean Lord Villeneuve.”

“Joshua, when you made your way through my lands, were the witch hunters nearby at all?” Dean asked.

“No Lord Villeneuve, no one saw me make my way here,” answered Joshua.

“You are quite sure?” Dean asked with more intensity that he meant to show.

“Yes, as I said before, the witch hunters have the countryside in an uproar and most gentlefolk seem to be keeping to their own holdings. But they were nowhere to be seen as I traveled here. You have my word sir,” Joshua said, realizing that the Lord seemed to care quite a lot for Samuel.

“Lord Villeneuve, why do you ask?” Samuel asked.

“Samuel, if they were to find you here, I would not necessarily be able to protect you. Especially if they were to raise a mob of some kind to follow them. But it sounds as if that is not likely.”

“I will return home under cover of night then, just to be safe,” Joshua said, nodding in agreement at Dean’s statement.

Samuel went quiet then, obviously pondering Dean’s observations in earnest. Joshua and Dean conversed about horses for a bit and then Dean suddenly arose, “Well, Samuel, would you like to take that ride now?”

Samuel shook his head to break himself out of his clouded thinking and carefully stood up smiling, “Yes I would, very much.”

“Joshua will you be joining us?” Dean asked.

“No kind sir, if it would not be too much of an imposition, I should like to stay here and rest for my return journey this evening.”

“Very well, ring for Filou if you require anything at all. We shall return in a few hours,” Dean said as he steered Samuel out the front door, easily assisting him as if it were a long-established routine.

“Oh, the horses are already here,” Samuel said in surprise.

“I guess Filou has been busy, and it seems he has packed us some provisions as well, what I would do without him, I can’t imagine,” Dean said, helping Samuel to his horse.

“Now how am I going to do this Dean?”

Dean made Émeute stand next to the steps where he stood with Samuel, who he suddenly lifted around the waist and set side saddle on her back.  Émeute stood steady as Dean assisted Samuel to move his injured leg until it was comfortably in the stirrups.

“Are you alright up there?” Dean asked, looking up and up and up at Samuel happily seated on Émeute’s back, noticing Samuel’s beautiful hair outlined in the sun, his smile seeming even wider than usual.

Samuel boldly reached down to touch Dean’s cheek softly, “Yes Dean, thanks to you.”

Samuel’s fingertips seemed to hold the warmth from the brief touch to Dean’s skin. His sides still tingling from Dean’s grasp, his body remembering again being held close when he was hurt, and being cleaned in the bath. All of Dean’s soft touches had added up and this was his start to repaying them the only way he could.

Dean leaned slightly into Samuel’s touch, he couldn’t help himself and he could see how much it seemed to mean to Samuel also. The side of his face warmed, lifting his spirits when he felt the connection they seemed to be making. He said nothing as he mounted his Pala, and set off towards the easier trail through the hills near his home.  Dean knew without asking that Samuel would rather go up the mountain, but it wasn’t possible yet with his injury. They rode in silence for a while, side by side, looking at each other occasionally, smiling briefly. The easy companionship between them felt simple and easy, like a lifetime’s worth.

“Someday I would like to take you up to the top of my mountain,” Dean said, pointing up the peak far behind his home.

“I would love that Dean,” Samuel answered, thinking about all that statement might possibly entail, some sort of future, some expectation that he might stay here with Dean past just healing from his injury. His brain went into overdrive, thinking about all the possibilities and what Dean might expect from him and he began to frown. How could he possibly have anything to offer this man who seemed to have everything?

“Is something the matter Samuel? You are frowning,” Dean finally asked.

“Could we stop near some water soon? I think Émeute would like a drink, and I need to rest my ankle from the pressure,” Samuel said in lieu of actually answering the question.

Dean heard Samuel’s non-answer and went quiet, and led them towards a path that curved through a meadow and a copse of closely growing pines. Eventually, they came into a willow grove that surrounded a sparkling pond. 

“Will this do?” Dean asked, somehow knowing that Samuel would love this spot as much as he did.

“Is that a bench that I spy?” Samuel asked, pointing around the far edge of the pond.

“Yes, I come out here quite a lot, so I built myself a bench to make it more comfortable, would you like to sit there? We could prop your leg up for a bit,” Dean offered.

Samuel nodded and guided Émeute around the pond’s edge. Several turtles were sunning on rocks near the center and four pairs of ducks were paddling around occupied with hunting.  He could hear frogs, crickets and many birds.  The sun felt soft and comfortable on his skin, and then there were familiar hands around his waist, as Dean who stood upon the bench lifted him down from his horse setting him below on the bench. He hopped down and took the bridles off both horses.

“She’ll stay near us right?” Dean asked. “I don’t need to tie her?”

“No, she is a good girl, we will not have to worry about chasing her down,” Samuel answered with a small laugh, imagining Dean racing across the meadow after a speeding Émeute, with Pala on his tail.

Dean smiled at the sound of Samuel’s laugh echoing over the pond’s quiet surface. It had been a long time since any laughter had rung out in this place.  No matter how happy it made him here, he’d never laughed alone, not since his father had passed.  But having Samuel here made him want to hear more laughter, maybe even find out if he could laugh more himself. He returned to the bench with the parcel of provisions, “Let us see what Filou has sent us off with.”

“Are those cream puffs?” Samuel asked. “I have always wanted to try one.”

Dean grinned when he saw Samuel’s eyes lit up with wonder at the sight of the dessert. “Yes, one of his specialties, here have one,” Dean offered one to Samuel who took it into his mouth right off Dean’s hand, his lips briefly grazing the tips of Dean’s fingers. Dean shivered slightly at the contact but was then too wrapped up in watching Samuel consume the pastry, his face changing from surprise to pleasure, the moan of ecstasy that escaped him, then the red flush on his cheeks as he realized he’d been making quite a lot of noise over a mere pastry.

“Hmmm, I see you enjoy them also,” Dean laughed with delight.

Samuel scooped one of the cream puffs up and brought it to Dean’s lips. He fed it to him just as Dean had fed him. Dean held Samuel’s eyes as he opened his mouth and accepted the treat, licking purposefully at Samuel’s fingers before he could withdraw them. Samuel gasped quietly, but then traced his fingertips along the bow of Dean’s lips.

“How are your lips so beautiful?” Samuel whispered, then clapped his hands over his face in embarrassment, “Oh forgive me Lord. I did not mean to say that aloud.”

Dean gently pulled each hand off of Samuel’s face holding them in one of his, then used his other hand to lift Samuel’s chin up. “Samuel, look at me.”  Samuel shook his head even as Dean held his chin.  “Please Samuel,” Dean said with quiet, steady patience.  Samuel took a deep breath and then raised his head, his eyes meeting Dean’s hesitantly. “Please know that you may say anything to me, I swear it, as long as you do not call me Lord again.”

Samuel’s eyes widened first in surprise and then in enchantment as he took in the look on Dean’s face.  He had never had anyone look at him like this, but he was pretty sure it meant something good was going to happen.

Dean still held Samuel’s chin loosely, “Samuel, I would like to kiss you now if I may.”

Samuel nodded yes and leaned forward into Dean, his arms going around Dean’s neck. Dean slid his hand from Samuel’s chin to cup the back of his head and tipped him at the perfect angle to then draw him in for a gentle kiss. At the first brush of their lips together, Samuel responded by opening instantly to Dean, drawing him in closer, licking at his lips.

Dean felt swept away by the strength and immediacy of Samuel’s response and moaned in happiness, closing his eyes to sink into the man he held in his arms. They lost track of time as they sat on the bench kissing like it was a new form of breathing. Necessary and part of them and something they could not do without for a second.  Until finally they were interrupted by Pala nosing at the open packet of food beside them.  Dean unwrapped one of his hands from Samuel’s hair and pushed her snout away, then returned to kissing Samuel like it was his mission in life to learn everything about how this man needed to be kissed. Finally, after the sun was a bit lower in the sky they parted, lips red and shiny, eyes sparkling with desire.

“Have you ever made love?” Dean asked, pulling back from their embrace and searching Samuel’s face for the truth.

“No, well, not with a man,” Samuel answered, blushing red with sudden shyness.

“Then I will not push you further this day, we will take our time,” Dean said, kissing the corner of Samuel’s mouth and stroking his blush-warm cheek.

“If that is what you want,” Samuel said, sounding disappointed, and a bit desperate.

“You misunderstand me Samuel, what I want is to take you right here and now with our horses and the pond turtles as witness, but you are still hurt, and a virgin as well.”

“As you wish,” Samuel said, now sounding like he understood.

“I can almost hear you add the ‘my lord’, what is it that you want Samuel?” Dean asked.

“That was, well it was what I was frowning about earlier. I confess that I am confused. I do not know what you expect of me. I owe you a great debt for saving me and sheltering me here. You take a great risk just having me in your home.  And I can’t repay that debt, most likely ever. All I have to offer is me. But I don’t know if that is what you need or want Dean.”

Dean pulled Samuel back into his arms, holding him tightly. He moved them apart so that he could meet Samuel’s eyes. “I wouldn’t want you to offer yourself to me in that way Samuel, not ever,” Dean said. “I expect you to stay in my home until you are healed, and I honestly do not expect payment of any sort. Truly. I confess that I do not understand why I am so comfortable with you or feel such a need to help you. But I would be sad to see you go.”

“You are a most generous man Dean, I do not think I deserve this. Not from one such as you.”

“What do you mean? One such as me?” Dean asked, truly not understanding Samuel’s words.

Samuel pulled himself out of Dean’s grasp and gestured at him with both hands. “You are this perfect, beautiful, rich, lord, and I am but a vision-cursed, homeless, hunted commoner. I have nothing. I am nothing.”

Dean’s mouth opened and closed several times as he was lost for words in astonishment. Finally he gathered his wits enough to answer, “That is not true! You are a beautiful, exceptionally smart, caring man, who I now am privileged to call my friend. So you have that, you have my friendship. Does that not matter to you? Does that count for nothing?”

“Yes, yes of course it does. But what is it you want?” Samuel asked, still not getting what Dean was saying.

Dean sighed and looked down at his hands for a moment. Then he raised his head and gently held Samuel’s face between his hands, meeting his eyes. “You Samuel. Anything you want to offer me. Be it your friendship, your kisses, anything or nothing more. But not in payment to settle a debt. Only if you truly want to give them. Understand?”

Samuel took in his words, making a serious face, near a frown.  Finally he smiled and nodded as if he was making a deal with himself. “Yes, Dean, yes I do understand.  And I want to give you all of my kisses, and whatever else men do to make love. All of that is yours. That is if you want it?”

Dean crushed Samuel into his embrace, holding him tightly, and breathing in the scent of his sun-warmed hair. This is how it feels to finally get what you’ve always wanted he thought to himself. He turned into the side of Samuel’s face and kissed his way over to nibble at his ear. “I think that might be the silliest question you’ve yet asked of me Samuel,” Dean murmured into Samuel’s ear.

They returned later that afternoon to find Joshua and Filou laughing in the kitchen, making some sort of complicated berry dessert, flour dusting all the surfaces and the tips of their noses. “I told you that it would work Filou, we only needed to get them together someplace they’d never been before,” Joshua said, laughing at Filou’s protestations and dusting the flour out of his own curly black hair.

Dean hated to interrupt their merry-making, but he needed to get Samuel squared away upstairs, “Looks like you gentlemen have had a fun day.”

“I was just showing Joshua here my trick for getting the fluffiest crust, and he spilled some flour and one thing led to another. We will clean it up Lord, I am sorry,” Filou said, looking not at all sorry.

“Nothing to be sorry for Filou, I’m sure you’ve got it under control. I trust you. I’m just going to bring Samuel back upstairs, his leg needs a rest after all the riding today,” Dean said.

“Yes all that riding, very good sir, we will call you for dinner,” Filou said as Dean left the room, suppressing a laugh and elbowing Joshua in his ribs and raising his eyebrows. Joshua just smiled back at him in agreement.

Samuel was waiting on a bench in the front hall. When Dean appeared in the doorway he paused to look at Samuel from across the room. Their eyes met and Dean could see the dark desire flare up in Samuel’s eyes once again. He crossed the distance between them in a few steps, scooped Samuel up in his arms, enjoying the weight of him even more, now that he knew that Samuel’s desires matched his own.

 Samuel put his arms around Dean’s neck to hold on and to bring their faces together, he buried his lips at Dean’s throat, proceeding to suck and bite as Dean staggered up the staircase. But Dean didn’t tell Samuel to stop, just held him tighter and tried to walk faster.  Finally they arrived at the threshold of Dean’s room, and he stepped in, bumped the door closed with his hip, and lowered Samuel gently to the bed.

“I want you in my own room, in my bed, from now on Samuel, every night,” Dean said with all seriousness, searching Samuel’s widened eyes for agreement.

Samuel lifted his arms up to pull Dean down to cover him, and answered his yes with fervent kisses all over Dean’s face. They laid entwined for a while, kissing until their lips were sore and reddened, and barely a breath was left between them.

Samuel’s hands pushed up the layers of Dean’s shirts until he finally reached Dean’s skin. He gasped at the softness of the skin on Dean’s lower back, finally getting to put his hands to the curve that he’d never stopped noticing. He ran his hands lower, pulling Dean closer into him, relishing the extra friction. He could feel Dean’s hardness rub against his own. His hands covered the globes of Dean’s ass almost completely, each filled his hand perfectly. He pressed and massaged them, pulling them apart and pressing them together.

Dean went a little wild when he felt Samuel’s strength, holding them pressed so close together, moving him where he wanted him to be on his body. Even though he had been the one carrying Samuel about this last week, it was arousing to know that this man was even stronger than he. He looked up into Samuel’s eyes, no longer searching for understanding or acceptance, but just to confirm that Samuel wanted this just as much as he does. And he saw that want no longer hidden in Samuel’s eyes, plain in his open mouth, red lips and darkened eyes.

“Why do you look at me like that Dean?”

“I am just looking because I can now, don’t have to hide it, feel like I’ve been hiding this from you forever,” Dean groaned as Samuel hitched his legs up around his waist, bringing their hardnesses together.

“I feel the same, it seems a long time coming, longer than I’ve known you somehow,” Samuel panted out as Dean sped up their grinding rhythm.

“Wait, Samuel, wait, I want,” Dean interrupted.

“What is it?” Samuel asked as Dean pulled himself up to sitting underneath him.

“I want to see you, all of you,” Dean said, unlacing Samuel’s riding breeches.  Samuel quickly got the idea and pulled his shirt off over his head. “You are the most beautiful man I think I’ve ever seen,” Dean said, pressing his lips to one of Samuel’s nipples. Samuel groaned deeply and held Dean’s head close so that he wouldn’t stop.

“Dean, you too, want to see you,” Samuel said, rolling off of Dean so that he could begin untying Dean’s breeches.  Dean raised himself up so that they could be pulled off.  Samuel licked his lips at the sight of Dean’s flushed and ready cock. “Can I?” Samuel asked, sounding so eager and breathless.

Dean laughed and spread his legs so that Samuel could kneel between them. He bent to kiss the tip of Dean’s cock, very lightly, just a brush of the lips and Dean felt himself begin to shake, like he was falling apart from the sense of finally finally finally. Samuel then licked all the way up and down Dean’s hard length, making the most deliciously filthy sounds, “Dean, you taste so good to me.”

There was no answer from Dean, he was entranced by the sight of Samuel’s wide mouth engulfing him, lips stretched around his cock moving tortuously slow.

“Am I doing this right?” Samuel asked, the rumble of his voice hitting Dean deep inside somewhere, he almost felt himself come right then.

“Yes, oh yes, anything feels good, just don’t stop,” Dean managed to answer.

Samuel grinned in response and breathed out over Dean’s now spit shiny cock, making Dean shiver at the sensation. After resuming his sucking rhythm with enthusiasm, feeling emboldened by Dean’s response, he reached out to touch Dean’s balls, holding each one gently, rolling them between his fingers so softly. Finally he chanced running one finger gently down to Dean’s entrance. Just to see what Dean would do.

The response to that touch was Dean widening his legs even further, and his hands reaching into Samuel’s hair on either side of his head, holding him in place and beginning to fuck up into Samuel’s mouth. Samuel wasn’t quite ready for that and spluttered a bit, but then figured out what Dean meant to do and relaxed his jaw, breathing through his nose and letting the spit just flow down to keep everything as wet and messy as possible.

“Your mouth, god your mouth Samuel, always wanted to know what it would feel like, ‘s so good,” Dean panted out, fingers curling into Samuel’s hair even tighter, then trying to pull him off. But Samuel wouldn’t let him, he just laughed, the deep rumbling vibration giving Dean enough stimulus to put him over the edge, coming hot down Samuel’s throat.

Samuel attempted to swallow it all, but there was too much. Some of Dean’s come leaked out, tracing its way down Samuel’s chin. Dean looked down at him, flushed, panting, and pulled him back up to kiss and lick the taste of himself off Samuel’s face and out of his mouth. Samuel began thrusting against Dean’s thigh and Dean reached down to help him, fist closing around his cock and tightening. Samuel moaned at the feeling and sped up his thrusts.

“Samuel, want you to cover me in it, come on Samuel,” Dean said, not letting go of Samuel’s cock, but moving his hand even faster.

“Dean,” Samuel managed to say as he came, sounding like he was praying, cursing and singing all at once.  He looked down to see the mess he’d made of them and laughed. “I hope that’s what you meant.”

Dean was speechless with the joy and wonder of seeing how this man in his bed, looked like he’d always belonged there, and felt like he’d always been there. “It’s exactly what I meant, and exactly what I needed. Thank you Samuel.”

Samuel reached over to the bedside table and grabbed an embroidered linen napkin, and gently cleaned Dean up. “Dean, thank you for not making me wait,” he said.

Dean reached down to tip Samuel’s chin up with his fingers, waiting until their eyes met to speak, “Samuel, I was willing to wait as long as you needed to, but believe me I have wanted you from the first day we met.”

“Well now you have me,” Samuel said, leaning forward to kiss Dean.

“And you me,” Dean murmured into Samuel’s ear, making him shiver. 

Several weeks later Dean walked into their sitting room, where Samuel was reading. Dean held a paper scroll in his fingertips, but looked at it as if he wanted to throw it into the fireplace.

“What is it Dean, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost?” Samuel asked, worried once he’d seen the expression on Dean’s face.

Dean shook his head and tightened his fingers on the scroll. “No, not a ghost, just a message from Martigny.”

“May I read it?” Samuel asked.

“Yes, as it concerns you, go ahead,” Dean answered, voice filled with dread, and handed him the paper.

Samuel took it and read it as quickly as he dared, “Will you do as Lord Martigny commands?”

“No! He is not able to command me, and I would never give you up to him. Not at the cost of my life or my lands. But I must go see him, in person as he states in the message. There is no avoiding that I’m afraid, I’ll be leaving in an hour,” Dean answered.

“You cannot go alone, I couldn’t bear it Dean. Not after my vision. Please, you must let me come with you,” Samuel begged.

“Alright, alright, but we must fool them into thinking that I’ve come alone, that I’ve left you here. They’ll be listening for two horses, we must ride double, Émeute will be safe here with Filou until we return,” Dean assured the fretting Samuel.

“So we must appear as one large rider eh? The whole way there I shall become one with your back, maybe this will be a better ride than I’d thought,” Samuel teased, trying to break the tension that was mounting between them.

“Lord Martigny will never suspect you are there if we play this correctly,” Dean said.

“I’ll go along with your plan, do not fear Dean, you know this man much better than I,” Samuel said.

They rode through the silent night forest alert to any movement or noise, but saw and heard nothing but each other’s breathing and Pala’s soft whickers and hoofbeats.


Lord Zacharie Martigny stood at the edge of the glen, eyes searching the forest where he assumed Lord Villeneuve would appear. The sun shone off the top of his bald head and the silver on his doughy shoulders. The witch hunter Roy hid behind him in the trees along with ten other mounted swordsmen and four leashed hunting dogs. 

“Villeneuve, it is the appointed time, I know you are here!” Zacharie bellowed.

Dean heard his call and kissed Samuel. “Wait here until my signal, do not come out before then, his men will be hidden in the forest behind him, you cannot show yourself, promise me, no matter what Samuel.”

“I promise Dean, I do, just don’t do anything too fool-hardy, at least not more than usual,” Samuel said with a hushed laugh.

Dean laughed quietly and kissed Samuel once more, mounting up on Pala. He rode forward without a second glance behind him, squaring his shoulders to the confrontation ahead. When Zacharie saw him emerge from the deep dark of the forest’s edge he too urged his horse forward. They eventually met in the middle of the vast flat grassland. Their horses sniffed at one another then bent their heads to the ground.

“You sent a message, and here I am Lord Martigny, what did you need to speak to me about in person?”

“Lord Villeneuve, may I call you Dean? Please call me Zacharie.  I am here to offer you a truce of sorts. We know that you harbor the witch that fled from my lands, his name is Samuel de Marietta. In return for you handing him over to me, I will call off the raids of the witch hunters on the edge of your lands, as well as offer you the hand of my daughter Lisa in marriage.”

“That is a most generous offer Zacharie. But no, I am not going to accept it. Samuel is staying with me. And that is how it is. He is not a witch. He has done nothing wrong to anyone, and I’ll go before the king to plead his case before I’d turn him over to your foul justice.”

“And you also refuse my daughter?”

“Yes, Zacharie, I do. I have no wish to tie myself closer to you, and I am not in the market for a wife.”

“But you have no one in your household after your father’s passing. She is a beautiful girl, sure to give you a family, she will make you happy,” Zacharie wheedled.

“No, I must decline. I appreciate your offer Zacharie, but no, my household is fine and I am quite happy with the addition of Samuel,” Dean answered firmly.

“So it is true what they say then? You are one of those men that sticks to his own kind,” Zacharie sneered.

“It is no concern of yours. Good day sir,” Dean said, turning Pala back the way he came and cantering off.

Dean drew closer to the edge of the forest and Samuel appeared, running as fast as his injured ankle would allow, the witch hunter right behind him, almost near enough to scoop him up off his feet. 

“Samuel! No!” Dean shouted, urging Pala on faster.

Dean withdrew his sword and slashed at Roy, knocking him off his horse. He reached Samuel’s side and dismounted in a rush, pulling Samuel up off the ground where he’d collapsed after his awkward sprint. Roy remounted and drove his horse back to Lord Martigny, once he reached him, he began talking to him urgently.

“I will never let you take him, not while I am alive,” Dean declared, holding tight to Sam’s waist, standing tall and staring down both Roy and Lord Martigny across the glen.

“Very well then we will arrange that, release the hounds, and after them again men!” shouted Lord Martigny. Four large black wolfhounds were loosed and ran ahead of the group, snarling and baying for blood. The horses of Lord Martigny charged forward, all their riders raising torches high and shouting, “Forward, after them! Kill the witch, burn them both!”

Dean and Samuel quickly mounted Pala and took off in the direction to return to Dean’s stronghold, speeding across the scrubby grassland.  Martigny’s men close behind in a jostling pack.

“Dean, I cannot do this. I cannot let you risk everything for me. This is just like in my vision. The torches, the dogs. Please, just let me go. You must let me go. Run away as fast as you can, save yourself,” Samuel pounded on Dean’s back and began pushing at him like he was trying to jump off the horse.

Dean reached behind him and held Samuel’s arm tightly, “No Samuel, I will not let you go. I have no other choice.”

Samuel stopped struggling once Dean’s hand closed around his arm, “Why? I don’t understand.”

Dean turned his head as far as he could, to be able to see Samuel’s face in the dusk, “I love you. I don’t know if you feel the same as I. But I cannot lose you Samuel, you are everything to me.”

Samuel squeezed Dean’s waist with his other arm, “I’d rather have them burn me at the stake than see you hurt. I love you too Dean.”

“Well then we had better ride like the wind then,” Dean said, strapping the reins at Pala urging her onwards even faster.  Samuel held tightly to Dean’s waist, moving with him in unison in the saddle as they fairly flew across the countryside, the horses of Martigny’s riders soon disappearing behind them.

“Where will we go?” Samuel asked.

“Back to the Future boys!” Filou crowed, appearing suddenly in their path. He made a big show of snapping his fingers, and then it all disappeared in a blink. Pala beneath them, their 15th century clothes, the scenery, all that remained was the adrenaline in their blood and the sweat on their bodies which were now clothed in their usual familiar 21st century clothing. 

Sam let go of Dean’s waist and stepped away from behind him, they looked around at their surroundings, another motel room, this one a little nicer than usual, decorated in black and white, with one red overstuffed chair. And one familiar occupant in the room, sprawled in that chair.

“Gabriel?” They both asked in unison.

“Hello you lordly chumps, enjoy your historical vacay?” Gabriel smirked.

“Uh no, not so much, they were trying to burn me at the stake,” Sam said, sitting down on the bed across from Gabriel.

“Yeah yeah I know, he’s a witch, burn him, saw the movie.  But you-know-who over here saved your pretty little ass, didn’t he? And didn’t you save his, too?”

“Yes I did, and Dean did, he saved me,” Sam answered.

“Of course I did, what else was I supposed to do? Let you get burned at the stake for crying out loud?” Dean yelled.

“Oh I don’t know, given him up to the witch hunters and kept on being lord of your lands, accepting Martigny’s treaty, and the arranged marriage with his beautiful daughter Lisa?” Gabriel said, laughing to himself.

“Wait a minute that was the offer he made you Dean, out on the field?” Sam asked, grabbing Dean’s elbow to get his attention.

Dean shook off Sam’s hand. “It was all like a movie or something Sam, didn’t count.”

“Nope. That’s where you’re wrong big boy. If you’d ended up dead there, it would have stuck. Even I’m not that powerful,” Gabriel said.

“I wasn’t going to marry her, no way, not if it meant letting Sam get killed,” Dean answered, sitting down on the bed next to Sam.

“But you could have had a life with her Dean. She was beautiful, she was everything you’d ever want,” Sam said, still confused at why Dean had made the choice to run with him.

Dean said nothing in answer, just scowled and pulled his arms tighter against himself. Gabriel interrupted Dean’s non-response, “What was it you said Dean?  Oh yeah, pretty sure I heard something like, ‘Samuel, I have no other choice. I love you. I don’t know if you feel the same as I. But I cannot lose you Samuel, you are everything to me.’ Beautifully put, especially for you.”

His face blushing red, Dean demanded, “What is this angel instant replay or something? So let me get this straight. You stuck us in that hellhole to what? Prove that we belong together?”

“Yup, pretty much. And you can’t deny it now can you Dean?” Gabriel said with a wink.

Dean spluttered incoherently, not coming up with anything to counter that statement.

Sam interrupted, “Gabriel, was this some kind of counterpoint thing to what Zachariah did to us, putting us up in Heaven?”

“Yeah Sam, exactly. That jerk wad was not playing by the rules, we aren’t supposed to ever mess with a human soul’s heaven. That’s one of the big no-no’s. Even I never thought of doing something that bad.  And when I saw what it did to you guys… what you’re thinking of doing now because of it Dean? I mean come on? I’m just supposed to ignore that after everything I’ve done for you guys? Yeah right!”

“Wait a minute, what do you mean about what he did to our heaven?” Sam asked, completely lost in all the angel-speak.

“Haven’t you guys figured this out yet? No? Ah, that explains a lot. He messed with the memories you guys saw. They were all memories that were supposed to be there, but he only showed you the ones that would mess you up. All the ones that would be sure to make Dean think you don’t care about your family like he does. Which is not at all true Dean by the way, obviously you moron,” Gabriel answered.

“But it’s not true, he knows that. Don’t you, Dean?” Sam asked, turning a little to look at Dean.

Dean didn’t answer Sam, instead he asked Gabriel, “So we gotta stick together to play our roles? That’s what you’re still trying to get us to figure out?”

“Yeah, that and more than just sticking together. Did you miss the part about how you always choose each other?" Gabriel looked at each of them in turn, and then shifted forward in his chair, hands gesturing at both of them,  "Guys, since the angels started messing with you, you’ve been to your past, Dean you’ve gone twice. And you’ve been to two alternate universes, you’ve been to three Dean, and oh yeah, Heaven. And each and every time, without fail, you choose to be together. Over everything else that “normal” brothers would normally choose. You choose each other. Sensing a theme? Hello? Am I reaching anyone?”

“Is this how you think we can, what, win against the angels and Lucifer?” Sam asked.

Gabriel smirked and clapped his hands, pointing at Sam. “Bingo. Give that man a prize. It’s pretty much your only chance guys. Don’t you get it? God screwed up this time making you two soul mates. It’s never happened this way before. And I don’t know if it’s his little “experiment” or whatever. But I see the possibility that the outcome can actually be different this time. And who knows, maybe that’s what the Big Guy wants? Not to have to tear it all down for the zillionth time and start again. Gets a little old after a while you know?”

“So just because you say there’s a chance of not screwin’ the pooch on this, we’re just supposed to believe you that what, the power of love is gonna save the whole world?” Dean asked.

“Dude, I’m a being created of love, don’t you think I’d know a little something about its power?” Gabriel asked, sounding completely exasperated and like he was starting to come unhinged.

“We’ll uh, we’ll talk about it Gabriel,” Sam said, hoping that the promise will give them a little time to deal with all of this stuff he’s thrown at them.

“Oh yeah, sure you will. Cause you guys are such great communicators and all. I swear I should just put you back in my TV Land funhouse until you get this worked out. I’ll come up with an Oprah type of show, she’ll get you to talk, no maybe Dr. Phil instead,” Gabriel threatened.

“No! No, you don’t need to do that, really you don’t, we swear we’ll talk about it,” Sam promised.

“I’ll know if you don’t. Can’t fool an archangel. See you when I see you,” Gabriel said, snapping his fingers loudly and disappearing in a sound of rushing feathers.

“Wait! Oh man, he’s gone already!” Dean yelled.

“What did you want to ask him?” Sam asked.

“Where the hell my baby is for starters!” Dean hollered, waving his arms over his head to emphasize his words.

Sam pulled one of Dean’s arms down and patted him on the shoulder. “Okay, calm down, we’ll figure it out.”

Dean’s keys appeared with a metallic jingle on the bed between them, and they heard the Impala’s horn honk twice right outside the motel room.  “Guess he’s still listening. Hey he fixed my ankle, cool,” Sam said.

“Good, I won’t have to haul your ass around anymore. Well, so what do we have to talk about? I mean it seems kinda obvious doesn’t it?” Dean asked.

Sam could feel Dean pulling away from the prospect of actually talking about things, just as Gabriel predicted. He knew it was up to him to make sure they didn’t end up back in TV world. It was going to take some pushing though. “Hey, uh...Dean, what was it that Gabriel was hinting at, that you’re thinking of doing because of what we saw in Heaven?”

Dean went still under Sam’s hand, and answered in a reluctant voice. “Saying yes.”

“Who? You saying yes? To Michael?” Sam asked, hand falling off of Dean’s shoulder.

Dean looked away, at anything but Sam, knowing how disappointed his brother was going to be at his answer. “Yeah.”

Sam took a deep breath like he was trying his hardest not to get mad, “But I thought we decided no one was doing that, we were figuring out another way, together.”

“Well, we haven’t gotten real far on that have we Sam? And I don’t see another way outta this situation. If there’s something else, then Gabriel should have told us that instead of dragging us back to whatever freak show that was supposed to be.”

“Fifteenth century France or Switzerland, not exactly a freak show,” Sam countered.

“Well, whatever lesson he was tryin’ to teach me, I didn’t get it,” Dean said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Sam snorted, “Yeah obviously.”

“What the hell dude?” Dean bristled at Sam’s derision.

Sam slapped him in the middle of the chest to break him out of the deflecting, wall-building mode he was obviously falling into. “You don’t remember what you did there? The choice you made when you didn’t even know who I was?”

“I saved your ass. Just like always. Big whoop,” Dean said with a shrug, rubbing at where Sam had slapped him, but definitely thinking about what Sam was saying.

Sam thought about how to answer, to get Dean to dig deeper into what he was avoiding admitting. He turned his head to see the stubborn set of Dean’s jaw as he stared out the window, hand still rubbing his chest.  There was no way to do this but to steamroll him, it was the only thing that ever worked on his big brother. “Yeah, let’s see, just like Gabriel said. You picked saving me over everything else. Your lordship, all your subjects, what the church and society was telling you was right, having a chance to marry Lisa, all of it, you just jettisoned it all. For me, Dean. For you and me to be together.”

“Well, what can I say, I’m a broken record. Stuck on you or some shit like that,” Dean said with another shrug, the hand that had been rubbing at where Sam had slapped him flexed into a fist and then relaxed, joining the other, clasped between his knees.

Sam saw his brother clasping his hands so tightly, one of his tells when he was trying to keep it all in like he always had. He reached over and put one hand on top of Dean’s white knuckled tangle, squeezing them gently. “That’s kinda what his point is. We’re always going to choose each other in the end, when it comes down to a do or die situation, so instead of letting the angels get us into that situation, he’s trying to get us to acknowledge it ahead of time.”

Dean looked down at Sam’s hand on top of his as he thought about what his brother was saying. He knew he had to probably say something here that he usually wouldn’t let out. And he could tell by Sam’s hand not moving off his that Sam wouldn’t take an ‘uh-huh’ as an answer this time.  Finally deciding what to say, he unclasped his hands and knocked Sam’s off. “What admit that we’ve got a weakness, and that’ll make us stronger?”

Sam smiled at seeing that it had worked and gotten an answer out of Dean. He rubbed the hand that had held Dean’s on his own knee, letting Dean’s warmth soak into him to give him the courage to keep going. “Yeah, exactly, like maybe we could plan ahead somehow. I remember you said something a long time ago, that we’re each other’s weak spots. And I thought that had maybe changed for you because of Ruby and the blood and all. But…well, you tell me, is it still true, here in this world?”

Dean’s breath caught a little at the mention of Ruby and the blood, something they avoided talking about at all costs. He looked at Sam’s bowed head, his hair hanging down to cover his face and couldn’t do anything but be honest in return. He had no defense against Sam and they both knew it. “I guess before our little side trip to cuckoo clock land, I might not have had a good straight answer. But I see it now. It’s pretty damn clear really, something I don’t like admitting, that I have this built in weakness when it comes to you.”

“So you still do then?” Sam asked, raising his head and turning to look at Dean, his eyes brimming with unabashed hope.

Dean’s eyes took in Sam’s expression, which reminded him of his brother as an eight year old hoping for Dean to make it all better, and smiled because this time he could.  “Yeah Sammy, course I do. Always did, was just tryin’ to fool myself into thinking I could forget it, ‘cause I was hurt.”

“I’m sorry for that. For hurting you like that. And I don’t know if I can make it up to you, ever, but I hope I can, that you’ll let me at least try,” Sam said, looking at Dean and hoping, however foolishly, that he’d finally listen.

Dean didn’t say anything, just kind of nodded in acknowledgement, looking down at the floor, but then he raised his eyes up to meet Sam’s, his green eyes suddenly blazing with intensity. “So you still feel that way about me?”

“Yes Dean, I always have, that never stopped, I’d do anything for you, to save you, anything,” Sam said, wondering at the intensity in his brother’s eyes and what it might mean.

“Like what you did back there, telling me your vision instead of letting it just happen so you could get your revenge on the people who tried to kill you and took your family away?” Dean asked in a short, clipped voice.

“Exactly, yes. You’re worth more than any revenge, I’ve learned that lesson a couple times now. And…uh...listen, I know what we…uh…did there’s gotta stay there. You’re already thinking it’s like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas right?” Sam asked, thinking that this might be at the root of what has been bothering Dean the most since they got back.

“If that’s what you want,” Dean answered evasively, hand rubbing the back of his neck, but daring to look at Sam to see his reaction.

Sam saw the fleeting look of hope on Dean’s face, and it gave him the courage to be honest, even though it could mean the end of them if he was wrong, he answered with his heart in his throat, “No, it’s really really not.”

Dean’s eyes widened in shock as Sam’s words sunk in. He breathed in and out deeply a few times thinking about the strength it took for Sam to say that out loud. To put it all on the line, not knowing how the hell he’d react.  Dean couldn’t think of anything sappy to come back with, so he said with the most straight face he could manage, “Only if you call me Lord every now and then.”

“I think I can put up with that as long as I can get you to wear tights when I’m doing it,” Sam answered with mock seriousness. Then he burst into laughter, so infectious and relieved, that Dean couldn’t help but start laughing too.

They fell into each other on the bed and finally gave into everything that they had ignored between them all these years.  Sam pulled Dean in for their first kiss back in the real world, which maybe, no definitely was much better than the one in their alternative history.  As they explored each other all over again, they vaguely heard the Impala honk once more. 

“Guess that’s our reward for actually talking, angel approved brother-kissing, huh Sammy?” Dean asked as he kissed his way down the side of Sam’s neck, biting lightly at the tendon beneath Sam’s warm skin.

“God it’s good to hear that again,” Sam said, tipping his head to the side so that Dean could have more room.

“What? The Impala honking? Yeah, I know I missed her too. Although Pala was pretty kickass for a horse,” Dean said, quickly returning to sucking red marks into the side of Sam’s sensitive neck.

Sam pushed Dean up off him so that he could see his face. “No, I missed hearing my name. I got tired of Samuel, it didn’t fit me right or something.”

Dean’s eyes crinkled with sudden happiness, “All those years of telling me to call you Sam, now I know the truth, you do like bein’ called Sammy.”

“Not all the time, just when you mean it, and only by you,” Sam answered.

“Got it Sammy.  So you really liked the tights huh?” Dean teased, not able to hold in his laughter when he saw Sam’s reaction to that question.

Sam wallowed in the teasing and the laughter and the Sammy’s for a long moment. “Oh yes my Lord, yes,” Sam answered with a laugh.