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“I've been thinking about something,” Sam said.

Dean looked up from the massive tome about Hell he’d been perusing, which had many graphic depictions of known torture methods and absolutely nothing about its gates or any trials that could close them. He felt grateful for the distraction. He was not enjoying the trip down memory lane.

“What?” he asked. Sam was frowning. He looked even more serious than usual.

“Adam,” he said quietly.

Dean shut the book and pursed his lips. “Wow,” he said. “Shit, I haven’t thought about him in…” He shook his head. “Too long. Fuck.” He sucked his teeth. “We’re shitty half-brothers, huh?”

Sam smiled slightly, looking pained. “Kind of,” he said. “I mean…So much is always happening, and it was almost impossible to get me out of the cage, even…”

“Not to mention what happened after we did. Both halves of you.”

Sam nodded.

“So what brought this on?” Dean asked.

“Gilda.”

Dean frowned. “That fairy Charlie hooked up with?”

“Yeah.”

“Uh…why?”

“I remembered something.” Sam took a deep breath. “It was from when I was soulless. The thing is, even after I remembered what I did when I didn’t have a soul, and – “ He paused and swallowed. “And the Cage. I remember it – all of it – I mean, I can remember it. But I don’t really try to.”

“Sure,” Dean replied. “I mean, why would you want to?”

“Yeah.” Sam fell silent for a moment, then took another breath. “Anyway. Those memories aren’t always that close to the surface, if that makes sense. But, when we saw Gilda – you remember the last time we tangled with fairies?”

Dean froze for a second, then sat back in his chair, affecting nonchalance. “Sure,” he said. “My super fun abduction experience.” He grabbed the beer sitting on the table near him and took a big swig.

“Good times,” he concluded, banging the bottle down.

Sam gave him a brief frown, then nodded. “Right. That time. I was thinking about it, and I remembered something the leprechaun said to me.”

“Oh?”

“He said he could get my soul from the Cage.”

Dean nodded. “I remember that too. But you didn’t take the deal.”

Sam shrugged. “I figured it was bullshit,” he said. “Or not worth whatever he’d ask in return. And, soulless me wasn’t entirely sure he even wanted his soul back at that point.”

“Yeah,” Dean muttered. “I could tell.”

“Anyway, that worked out – as well as things tend to for us – and I never thought about it again. But now…”

“You’re wondering if he could get Adam out,” Dean finished for him. Sam nodded. “I mean…soulless you probably had the right instinct, don’t you think? Whatever he’d want for payment, it wouldn’t be good.”

“Probably not,” Sam agreed. “But – it seems like something we should at least look into.” His jaw set. “It’s not right, just leaving Adam in there. He’s our brother. And even if he wasn’t, he doesn’t deserve to rot in the Cage forever.”

Dean nodded slowly. “You’re not wrong,” he said. “And I guess we’ve got some time, while Kevin works on deciphering the trials. But, I mean – where do we even start?”

“Summon the leprechaun?” Sam said. “See what he has to say?”

“If we summon him, won’t he try and take all the firstborns again, or whatever?”

Sam shook his head. “Not if we don’t make a deal, I don't think. There’s risk, obviously, but…” He swallowed. “We have to try, Dean. I can’t stop thinking about Adam being stuck in the Cage. With Lucifer.” He looked at Dean with pleading eyes.

“Okay,” Dean said quickly. “Okay, man.” He glanced around the library. “Well, we’ve got all these fucking books. There’s gotta be a fairy summoning spell in here somewhere, right?”

***

“What’s his name?” Dean asked, an hour later. He was nose-deep in one of the books on fairy lore they’d found in the Men of Letters’ collections.

“What?”

“The leprechaun. What’s his name?”

Sam thought for a moment. “Um…when he was pretending to be human, he was going as Wayne. Wayne Whittaker.”

“Doesn’t really sound like a fairy name.”

“Not so much. Why?”

“This book has a few summoning spells, but you need the fairy’s name for it.”

“Makes sense,” Sam said. “All the lore I’m reading says names are a big deal to fairies. There’s power in them. That’s partly where the story of Rumpelstiltskin comes from.”

“Damn it,” Dean muttered. He shoved the book aside and opened another.

Hours later, they still hadn’t found a summoning spell that would work without the fairy’s name.

Dean slammed his book shut and rubbed his face. “God damn it,” he said.

Sam sighed and pushed his own book a couple inches away. He stared into space, brow furrowed.

“What about Gilda?” he said suddenly.

“What? What about her?”

Sam shrugged. “We know her name – I mean, I think we do. Maybe we should try summoning her. We helped free her from that LARPing creep who was siccing her on people. From what I’ve read, owing someone a favor is pretty important in fairy culture. Maybe she’d help us get Adam. Or at least find Wayne.”

Dean blinked. “Huh…” he said. “That’s not a bad idea.”

Sam smiled. Dean could feel his own spirits rising a little, just seeing Sam’s face brighten.

“I should do a grocery run,” Dean said. “Get some cream. Maybe it’ll put her in a good mood. Everything says they love that shit.”

“Yeah,” Sam said. “Remember how much the watchmaker was buying?”

“Exactly.” Dean got up from the table. “Okay, I’ll get the cream. You go through the Men of Letters’ stores, see if they’ve got everything we need. Text me if there’s anything I can grab at the store.”

***

Sam finished the incantation. Almost immediately, Gilda appeared in the circle he’d drawn. She looked surprised when she saw them.

“Hello,” she said, confusedly. “You’re Charlie’s friends, aren’t you? Sam and Dean?”

“That’s us,” Dean said. He held out a mug of fresh cream. “Um, you want some refreshments?”

Her eyebrows went up, but she accepted the mug and took a small sip. “Thank you,” she said. “Is everything all right? I was just with you the other day.” She frowned, looking worried. “Is Charlie okay?”

“She’s fine,” Sam assured her.

“What do you mean, you were just with us?” Dean asked. “That was weeks ago.”

“Oh, yes.” Gilda’s faced relaxed. “Time moves differently between our realms. How silly of me.” She raised her mug at them. “I’m a lightweight.” She giggled prettily.

Dean grinned, charmed. From the corner of his eye, he saw Sam shoot him a look, but he didn’t look back.

“Gilda, we were hoping you could help us with something,” Sam said.

“Of course,” she said immediately. “I am in your debt. I know you helped free me, even if Charlie did most of the work.” She smiled fondly, looking down.

Dean grinned wider. “Yeah, she did.”

“And,” Gilda continued, “I owe you an apology, for helping my former master attack you.” Her smile was gone, and she looked at them solemnly. “I am so sorry. If there is some service I can do to make it up to you, I would be very glad.”

“We know it wasn’t your fault,” Sam said quickly.

“Yeah,” Dean agreed. “But we do still need a favor.”

“Name it, please,” Gilda said earnestly. “If it is in my power to grant it, I would like to assist you.”

“Can you pull people out of Hell?” Dean blurted out.

“It’s our brother,” Sam said. “He’s stuck in this cage in Hell, with two archangels. We…we have to get him out.” Dean’s throat felt tight at the look of desperation on his brother’s face.

Gilda looked serious. “I know of the Cage you speak of,” she said. “I’m sorry, but it’s beyond my power to rescue him.”

Sam sighed. “Well, there might be a second option,” he said. “We met another fairy once. A leprechaun. He may be able to help us.”

“Do you know his name?” Gilda asked.

“No, or we would have just summoned him,” Sam said. “But he went by Wayne Whittaker when we met him. He was posing as a human – a UFO enthusiast.”

Gilda nodded slowly. “I think I know who you mean,” she said. She paused. “He…he is not a good fairy, as I am. Are you sure you want his help?”

“Hell no, we’re not sure,” Dean put in. “But we have to talk to him. See if we can strike a deal that’d be worth it.”

“I understand,” Gilda said. “I will take you to his castle, if you are determined to go there. Shall we leave tomorrow morning?”

“Our tomorrow morning, or yours?” Sam asked.

Gilda laughed, a sound like chimes tinkling. “Yours! I will be sure to track the time carefully. Say, dawn?”

“How about nine a.m.?” Dean said quickly. Sam rolled his eyes, but Gilda nodded.

“Very well,” she said. She drained her glass and handed the cup back to Dean and curtsied. “Thank you for your hospitality.

“Tomorrow morning, do we need to summon you, or…?” Sam asked.

“Oh, no,” Gilda said brightly. She glanced around the library. “I have been here. I can find my way back.”

“This place is warded – ” Sam started, but she shook her head.

“Not against me,” she said. “But I will need you to release me from the circle.”

Sam glanced at Dean, who hesitated but gave a quick nod. Sam smudged the circle with his toe. Gilda smiled at them and curtsied again, then vanished.

Dean looked at Sam. “Guess we better pack,” he said, a little grimly. They moved as one towards their rooms.

“You think that was a good idea?” Dean continued.

“I think we can trust her,” Sam replied. “She’s given us no reason not to.”

“Still,” Dean muttered. “She says she’s good, we’re just supposed to assume that’s true?”

Sam shrugged helplessly. “What other choice do we have?”

Dean made a disapproving noise. “The second we get back from Fairyland, we need to look into warding this place against those sparkly motherfuckers.”

***

That evening, Dean came into the library to find Sam hunched over at the table with a glass of whiskey in one hand. His chin rested in the other.

“Uh oh,” Dean said. “Don’t think I don’t recognize those brooding and pensive shoulders.”

Sam didn’t say anything. Dean felt slightly more alarmed. He quickly poured himself a drink and sat down across from his brother with affected nonchalance.

“All right, what’s up, mopey?” he asked.

“We should be going at dawn,” Sam muttered.

“What?”

“Gilda offered to take us at dawn. We should’ve said yes.”

“Hey, I need my beauty sleep. Anyway, it’s only like four hours later. What the fuck difference does it make?”

“Time differences,” Sam said, so softly Dean strained to hear him.

“What – between here and the fairy realm?”

Sam shook his head. “Four hours is…” He finally raised his eyes to Dean’s, and the pain in them made Dean’s stomach hurt. “It’s so much longer in Hell.”

Dean shivered reflexively. He took a quick drink, swallowing the memories as he swallowed the whiskey, burning as it went down his throat.

“I know, man,” he said. “Look, I feel shitty about Adam, too. But we’re doing something, okay? It probably wouldn’t get him out any faster, anyway.”

Sam sighed and nodded. “I just…we have to be careful, Dean.”

“Of the fairies? Yeah, of course. We won’t take the deal if it’s obviously crap, and we’ll look for tricky loopholes and shit that they might try to – ”

“No,” Sam interrupted. “Of us. We have to be careful. We get so wrapped up in each other’s stuff – ”

“Oh, don’t get into that codependent crap,” Dean groaned. “The way we were raised, it’s just – we are what we are, right? And look, I gave you an out. You could’ve gone back to Amelia.” His stomach lurched as a painful possibility occurred to him. “What, are you wishing you’d made a different decision?”

Sam’s face was so sad. “No, Dean,” he said sincerely. “I don’t wish that at all. I chose this. I want to be here with you.”

Dean’s insides unclenched a little as he nodded to Sam in acknowledgement. It was a relief to hear, especially when he was enjoying settling into the Men of Letter’s bunker with Sam so much.

“I just don’t want other people to get caught in the crossfire,” Sam continued. “I mean…I want to avoid it as much as possible. We should try and be careful. The way we get tunnel vision when it comes to each other. That’s why it’s taken so long for us to get to Adam.”

“Well, there was also saving the world a couple times,” Dean pointed out.

Sam nodded in agreement and downed the rest of his drink. He rose from the table.

“I’m going to try to get some sleep,” Sam said. He patted Dean’s shoulder as he walked by.

Dean felt a little warm as he watched Sam leave; from the alcohol, he figured. He knew he should try and get some rest too, but something in him didn’t want to go to sleep. He stayed up for another hour, drinking and surfing the Internet before finally heading to bed.

As he slept, Dean dreamed.

A bright white light shone around him from above. Suddenly he found himself in an unfamiliar room, mostly dark, with a stone table off to the side. He spun around wildly, slashing with his knife, but he stopped when he saw Sam.

Sam smiled. The familiar sight of it made Dean’s chest ache. It had been so long since Sam had smiled like that; since Sam had been himself.

But hands were pulling him towards the table. Dean started hacking with his knife again and firing off shots.

***

Promptly at nine a.m., Gilda reappeared in the bunker’s library. Sam and Dean were waiting for her, duffel bags slung over their shoulders.

“Good morning,” Gilda said with a pleasant smile. “Ready?” They nodded. She took hold of one of each of their biceps.

The bunker dissolved. There was a bright light and a sound like rushing air. When the light faded, they were standing at the edge of a dense forest. There was a castle about a quarter-mile away. It was dusk in the fairy realm, a startling contrast to their expectations. Sam and Dean looked around, getting their bearings.

“Does it look like you remember?” Sam asked Dean, smiling slightly. Dean didn’t smile back.

“I just saw the inside of some room,” he replied gruffly. He realized that Gilda was staring at him with wide eyes.

“You’ve been here before?” she asked.

“Yeah, some fuckers tried to abduct me from a cornfield. I mean – they did abduct me, but I was too much trouble, and they gave me back.”

Gilda’s hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, no,” she said. “This is very bad.”

“What?” Sam and Dean asked together. In the distance, they heard the baying of hounds. Gilda grabbed their hands.

“Run!” she said, pulling them down a small dirt path towards the castle. Sam and Dean followed as quickly as they could. Despite the fact that they were much taller than she was, they found themselves short of breath as they tried to keep up.

Dean risked a look behind him to see large goblins with clubs emerging from the trees. There were dogs with them, scenting the air. The dogs barked and bounded after them.

Dean’s heart seized with panic at the sight of the dogs. He plunged a hand into his pocket, which he’d filled with salt before they left – maybe it would work on fairy dogs, too, or at least slow down the goblins – only to find it empty. He cursed and forced himself to put on another burst of speed.

“Sanctuary!” Gilda called, as they pounded into the castle’s courtyard. “Please, I claim sanctuary for the Hollow Forest!”

“Granted,” said a tiny voice, coming from a spot of light hovering in the air a few feet away from them. Dean glared at it, remembering his last encounter with a fairy like that. He tried to see if this one was bare-breasted, too, but it was too far away.

“I will fetch my lord,” the fairy continued. It vanished.

Dean groaned, bending over with his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. “I hate those things,” he growled.

“What just happened?” Sam asked Gilda. She looked distressed.

“Your brother has been claimed,” she said. “Marked as fairy property.”

“Excuse me?!” Dean interrupted.

“You were taken, from a land that was under an agreement? First-borns were to be sacrificed?”

“Something like that,” Dean admitted.

“If it was the leprechaun you described, you were taken for Oberon.” Dean stiffened at the name. Sam frowned at his reaction, but Dean didn’t meet his eyes. “Oberon is the great king of all of the fairy realm. His power is practically limitless. He will want to take you into his service. It was his enforcers and his dogs that were chasing after us.”

“Nuh-uh,” Dean said, shaking his head. “They sent me back.”

“And never came after you again?”

Dean hesitated. “Well…there was one of those little Tinkerbell-looking ones with nipples that I had to take care of. And then a redcap.”

“But we reversed the spell,” Sam said. “We sent the fairies back. And that was two years ago, and we haven’t had any run-ins since.”

“Two years in the mortal realm is not long for us,” Gilda said. “I expect that they simply had not gotten around to it yet. But they would have sensed you coming into our world.”

“Fuck,” Dean said, feeling his face pale.

“And what was the sanctuary thing?” Sam asked.

Gilda pressed her lips together. “It is an ancient law of fairy hospitality. For three days, we will be protected here. No one can harm us and they will not be able to give you up to Oberon. They will have to protect us if his hunters come calling, even. But we cannot leave during that time, and nothing prevents the lord here from telling Oberon to be ready when your three days are up. And we cannot harm anyone here, either, or the sanctuary is void.”

“Hear that?” Sam said to Dean.

Dean’s eyes widened. “Why are you asking if I heard that?” he demanded.

Sam sighed. “It’s just, you can be a little trigger-happy,” he said. “And you always want to fight everyone.”

Dean glared at him. “I do not!”

“Fine,” Sam said. “Just try to keep a lid on things, okay? I don’t want to offend someone and get you offered up to service Oberon before we even have a chance to try and come up with a plan!”

“Do you two ever have an actual plan?” came a voice from behind them. They whirled around to see the leprechaun they’d known as Wayne Whittaker. He pushed off from the wall he’d been leaning against and looked at them with his head cocked. “As I recall, you – ” he glanced at Dean “ – were just wandering around a cornfield when we found you.” He looked at Sam and his expression turned sour. “And you have a lot of nerve, showing up here after you sent me away from the land of Indiana like that.”

“You were kidnapping people!” Sam said.

“Which I had every right to do, under the terms of the deal I had struck.” The leprechaun narrowed his eyes, gaze raking Sam up and down. “I see you have your soul back. Is that why you’ve become so much more foolish?”

“That’s kind of what we’re here to talk about,” Sam said. “We want to – we are considering making a deal with you. If you can get us what we want and if you want something we’re willing to give.”

The leprechaun raised his eyebrows and his face suddenly broke into a wide salesman’s smile. “A deal? Well, why didn’t you say so?” He clapped his hands on their shoulders. Dean made a face. “Come in, my boys, come in! You and your fair escort. Let’s make you comfortable.”

***

The leprechaun led the three of them to a small room hung with richly colored tapestries. Dean noticed that if he stared at the scenes on the tapestries for too long, the figures started to move. He quickly looked away.

In the middle of the room was a sofa and several armchairs around a low table.

“What should we call you?” Sam asked, as the leprechaun motioned to them to take a seat. He and Dean took the sofa, which was small enough that they were basically hip-to-hip.

Dean tried to give Sam a little elbow room – the dude was so damn tall that his elbows never fit anywhere – but gave it up after a few seconds. It felt kind of better to have his brother close, anyway. Dean was really not enjoying his return trip to the fairy realm. This Oberon issue was going to give him an ulcer.

Gilda sat in an armchair off to the side and the leprechaun took one across from the sofa. He smiled pleasantly at them.

“You knew me as Wayne, didn’t you?” he said in response to Sam’s question. “Let’s stick with that.”

“Is that your real name?” Dean asked. Wayne’s smile widened. He shook his head.

“So, tell me,” he said. “What is it you’d like to strike a deal for?”

“When we met a couple years ago, you told me you could get my soul from the Cage,” Sam said. “Was that true?”

“Yes, it was,” Wayne replied. Sam and Dean glanced at Gilda for confirmation.

“He would not lie about a trade he was hoping to make,” she said. “And he could not strike a bargain he was unable to complete.”

“But you already have your soul,” Wayne said. “That’s obvious to anyone with eyes.”

“Not that we’re agreeing to anything yet,” Sam said. “But our brother is still in there. Theoretically – could you get him out?”

“Of course,” Wayne said immediately. “Any other terms?”

Sam and Dean glanced at each other.

“Alive,” Dean said quickly.

“Body and soul,” Sam said. “We need both, not just one.”

“Oh, and Lucifer and Michael are in there, too,” Dean added. He grimaced. “You can go ahead and just leave them where they are.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed. “Adam Milligan, alive and whole, with no angel tagalongs.” He glanced at Gilda. “Can you think of anything we missed?” She shook her head. Sam looked back to Wayne. “Could you do it?”

Wayne considered it briefly. “I could,” he said. “If the price was right.”

“What do you want, Bob Barker?” Dean said. “Don’t think we’re going to give you any of that fruit of the land crap.”

“Oh, no no no,” Wayne said, waving a hand dismissively. “I know you wouldn’t fall for that. And you seem like the heroic type, so I won’t be foolish enough to ask for something that isn’t a sacrifice of your own.” His eyes flicked back and forth between them, looking them up and down. A smile began to play about his lips.

“Ahhh,” he said. “I see something I want.”

Dean’s eyes widened. “Dude, we’re not gonna – I don’t know what you think we’re going to do, but – ”

“Hush, hush,” Wayne interrupted, his tone soothing. “I’m not going to ask you to do anything. But there is something I want to know.”

“What?” Sam asked.

Wayne’s eyes sparkled. “You two share a secret,” he said. “Some deep, dark truth. The same for both of you. I can see it – ” He pointed with two fingers at their chests. “Just there. But I don’t know what it is.” He narrowed his eyes. A greedy look flashed across his face. “I want it.”

Dean laughed. “That’s it?” he said incredulously. “Some secret?”

“Not some secret,” Wayne snapped. “A specific secret. Buried especially deep inside of you. You may not even be aware that you have it.” He glanced at Sam. “I think your brother knows, though.”

Dean looked at Sam, but his face was neutral.

“Will we remember the secret after we give it to you?” Sam asked Wayne.

Wayne laughed. “Of course! I don’t want the memory.”

“Will we be able to tell others later if we need to, or would it belong to you alone?”

Wayne sighed. “You should be a lawyer,” he said. The corners of Sam’s mouth tugged upward just a little. “No, it is this initial revelation of the secret which gives it its power. It’s a very rare and valuable spell ingredient. I know several buyers who would probably quickly get into a bidding war over it.” He grinned. “Any other questions?”

Sam and Dean looked at Gilda. She shook her head.

“How long do we have to decide, and figure out what it is?” Dean asked.

“I’ll give you a day,” Wayne said.

“What about Dean?” Sam demanded. “He’s supposed to be bound to Oberon, or something – “

Wayne rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner. “One deal at a time, young men! We have three whole days to discuss that issue.” He rose. “I’ll call someone to take you to your rooms.” He turned away from them.

“Dude, this is great,” Dean said quietly in Sam’s ear. “We can tell him any stupid thing we make up and get Adam sprung!”

“I hope it goes without saying,” Wayne said, turning back to them, “that you cannot lie to me. I will know if the secret you present is not true.”

Dean huffed impatiently. “Okay,” he said to Sam. “But still, this is good! Way better than the crappy deals we’ve made before. No one has to die or go to Hell…”

Sam was frowning. “I guess,” he said. “I have a bad feeling this is going to come with a price we don’t want to pay. But I guess we always knew a fairy deal was going to be a risk.” He sighed. “If this is what it takes, this is what it takes.”

“You’re crazy,” Dean declared. “This is going to be so easy.”

***

“Why is this so hard?” Dean moaned.

It was hours later. They were in the room that had been given to Dean. Their rooms were right next to each other, but Dean had still complained. (“Shouldn’t castles have suites, with a little kitchenette or something?”) The room had blonde wood paneling and light blue wallpaper, a big window hung with cream-colored curtains, and a large bed in a shining brass frame. Vines with blooming golden flowers climbed the walls, filling the room with a sweet, mild scent. There was even an ensuite bathroom. Dean had scoffed at the décor – especially the flowers – but secretly he thought it was kind of bright and inviting. Nothing he’d want to live in permanently, but nice to visit.

Gilda had retired to a room across the hall, exhorting them to knock on her door if they needed anything. Sam and Dean had been talking since they’d said good night to her. They’d both revealed several embarrassing childhood and teenage thoughts and misbehaviors in the hopes that they had them in common, but nothing had been a match. Dean was pacing the room impatiently as he tried to think.

“I mean, Wayne said it was buried,” Sam said. He was sitting on the bed, back against the wall, one long leg outstretched and the other bent up. “It’s probably something we don’t even think about much.”

“Ugh.” Dean flopped onto the bed and lay on his back next to Sam. “This is ridiculous. How can we have a secret we don’t even know?”

“I have no idea. Anyway, he said you’re the one who might not know. Apparently, I do.” They both fell silent for a moment.

Dean sat up and patted Sam’s bent knee. Sam jumped, looking at him with a guarded expression. His startle threshold had been so low since the Cage, Dean had noticed. And that shit must be all at the surface right now.

“Don’t worry, man,” Dean said. “We’ll figure it out. We always do, right? Two of us against the world.” He snorted, leaning his head back against the wall and folding his arms. “Against the whole goddamn fairy realm.”

Sam was staring at him. After a moment, Dean looked back.

“What?”

Sam looked away. “Nothing,” he said. His face was carefully neutral as he swung himself with measured slowness off the bed. “Listen, I’m beat. I’m going to turn in. We can pick this up in the morning. Okay?”

Dean frowned. “Sure,” he said. “You okay, Sammy?”

Sam, who was already halfway to the door, turned back and looked at him, mouth slightly agape. For just a second there was something unreadable but unmistakably vulnerable in his eyes.

As quickly as the expression appeared, it was gone. “Just tired,” he said. “This has me all spun out. I’ll be okay after I get some sleep.” He gave Dean a smile that seemed forced, and then he was gone.

“Okay, I guess,” Dean muttered to his empty room.

***

Dean dreamed.

Sam was smiling. The familiar sight of it made Dean’s chest ache. It had been so long since he’d seen Sam smile like that; since Sam had looked like himself. But it was him, really him, not the soulless stranger with dead shark eyes Dean had been travelling with for months.

“Sammy?” Dean said, heart pounding.

“It’s me,” Sam said. “It’s okay. Lie down.”

Hands were pulling him towards a table, away from Sam. Dean lashed out with his knife, fired off a few rounds –

Dean awoke with a start, covered in sweat and breathing hard. He ran a hand through his hair and rubbed his eyes. Grabbing his phone from the bedside table, he saw that it was 8:07. Earlier than he liked to get up if he didn’t have to, but he wasn’t going to go back to sleep and risk falling into that dream again. With a sigh, he got up and padded into the bathroom. He downed a glass of water, then looked warily at what he thought must be the shower.

Half of the bathroom looked relatively normal: a modern toilet, a mirror on the wall above a white sink. The walls and floor were tiled in white and aqua. The fixtures were old brass. The faucet was shaped like a dolphin’s head, the water streaming out of its open mouth, and the handles looked like starfish, but otherwise, pretty standard. The shower area, on the other hand…

It looked like a tiny cove had been stuck into the bathroom. The tile ended and the walls became rock. The floor was sand, with an inch-deep pool of water which lapped gently in tiny waves. Green plants grew in small deposits of earth on the rock walls. On a little outcropping of rock were a few little glass bottles which, Dean was relieved to see, were labelled toiletries.

But there was no clear way to turn the thing into a shower. Dean undressed anyway and stepped onto the sand, hoping he could figure out when he got a closer look. He would feel like a freaking idiot asking Gilda how to work the damn bathroom.

When his feet hit the fine, soft sand, a stream of water started trickling from above. Dean blinked and took another step into the cove, and the water intensified into a cascade. Suddenly concerned about flooding the bathroom, he jumped back and checked the floor. But the sand at the edge was still dry.

Dean had to admit that sometimes, magic had its perks.

He stepped forward again. The water had stopped flowing when he’d moved away, but as soon as he was back in the cove, it started up again. Dean stood under the waterfall and let it run over him, making a pleased noise at the heat and pressure. He had morning wood, and the feeling of the water on his cock made his hips jerk forward a little, involuntarily, looking for more stimulation. Well, he could do that. He poured a little bit of conditioner into his hand and palmed the underside of his cock gently, sucking in a breath when he reached the sensitive head. He curled his hand around his length completely and gave it a slow tug. Dean let his eyes fall shut –

– and he saw Sam’s eyes, remembered that lurch of painful wanting from the dream. He’d missed the real Sammy so much back then… And then Dean remembered hands grabbing at him from all directions. His eyes flew open and he rinsed his hands off, grimly continuing with his shower and ignoring his erection. It’d go away on its own soon enough.

***

Half an hour later, he was pounding on Sam’s door.

“Sammy,” he shouted. “You awake?”

The door opened to reveal Sam, rumpled and red-eyed. Dean blinked at him.

“Dude, did you sleep?” he demanded.

“A little,” Sam muttered. “Come in.”

Dean went in and shut the door behind him. Sam’s room had dark wood paneling and dark red wallpaper, except interrupting that normality was the curve of several large silvery-gray tree trunks that seemed to be part of the walls. The trunks had deep recesses which formed shelves. They somehow looked natural and didn’t appear to be affecting the health of the trees. These shelves were filled with old books. The window curtains were heavy and a green that was almost black. Sam’s bed was a four-poster in wood nearly as dark as the walls. It looked to be at least as big as a California king, which Sam should really be appreciating after a lifetime of too-short motel queens. Dean thought the room’s color scheme was kind of depressing, but maybe the books were keeping his dork brother happy.

Sam already had jeans on, but he pulled off yesterday’s shirt and threw it on the bed. Dean watched him rummage through his duffel for a new one.

That was weird. Usually Sam was the one to unpack like a prissy motherfucker the second they arrived in a motel room.

“Dean,” Sam said.

Dean realized he’d been gazing at Sam’s chest, spaced out as he thought. “Yeah?” he said, meeting Sam’s eyes. Sam was looking at him intently, like Dean was a puzzle he was trying to solve.

“What?” Sam said.

“What?”

“You were staring.”

Dean laughed. “I was just thinking, man. Put your damn shirt on, would you? I’m starving. And I want coffee. Do you think fairies have coffee?”

Gilda’s door opened just as they were approaching it to knock. She smiled brilliantly at them, looking perfectly put together.

“Morning,” Sam said politely.

“Any idea where we can get some breakfast?” Dean asked.

“I called for someone to show us the way,” she said. A man in livery came around the corner as she spoke.

Five minutes later, they were seated at a long table with a deep purple cloth. The table was piled high with fruit, pastries, eggs, breakfast meats, juices, and – Dean was deeply happy to find – really, really good coffee. Everything was really good, in fact.

“Oh my god,” Dean moaned, as best he could around the huge amount of food currently in his mouth. “This is amazing.”

He noticed that Sam had taken hardly any food and was now picking at it, although he seemed to be drinking his coffee well enough.

“What’s wrong, dude?” he asked. Sam’s leg was jiggling, even though there was no way the caffeine had hit him yet.

“I’m fine,” Sam said. “I have to talk to you when you’re done.”

Dean tried to read his face, but Sam was staring into his coffee cup. “Did you figure out the secret?” he asked.

A muscle in Sam’s jaw clenched. “Maybe,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Dean put his fork down. “Dude, is it really that bad? You’re freaking me out.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sam said. “It’ll be worth it if we can get Adam out of the Cage.”

Dean shrugged and resumed eating, keeping half an eye on Sam. He tried to ignore the worry gnawing at his stomach. He’d find out what was up soon enough. There was no reason to let a meal like this go to waste.

“Where’s the salt?” he asked, craning his neck to peer down the long table. A hush fell over the crowded table. His eyes widened.

“Salt is carefully controlled in our realm,” Gilda said softly. She motioned to a servant standing nearby and he came over. He was holding a salt shaker delicately, as though it might explode. Dean tried to take it from him, but he pulled it away.

“What requires salting, sir?” the servant asked. Dean stared at him, then looked at Sam, who shrugged.

“Uh, the eggs,” Dean replied.

“Very good.” The servant positioned the salt over Dean’s eggs and looked away. “Tell me when.” He looked away before turning the shaker over, gently sprinkling salt until Dean told him to stop.

Dean looked at Gilda as the servant walked away. She had turned away too. She didn’t look at him until she heard the servant’s retreating steps.

“What the actual fuck was that?” Dean demanded.

“Their salt thing,” Sam said, sound fascinated. “Right?”

“Yes,” Gilda said. “We must count each grain if it is spilled in front of us. So we are cautious with it. And its transport here is heavily regulated. It must be spelled in a specific way to be brought into this realm.”

Dean snapped his fingers. “That’s why mine disappeared!” In all the drama, he’d forgotten his empty pocket from the previous day. Gilda nodded. Dean rolled his eyes. “Awesome.”

“What about sugar?” Sam asked. “It’s the same deal with counting the grains, isn’t it?”

“It’s forbidden,” Gilda replied. “We use substitutes – honey, syrup, nectar…” She smiled. “We find ways. Fairies have a sweet tooth.”

“Yeah, I sure as hell can’t complain about these,” Dean said, snagging another cheese Danish from the plate in front of him.

***

In Dean’s room after breakfast, Sam sat on the edge of the bed. HIs elbows rested on his knees and his hands were clasped between them.

“So?” Dean said, after a long silence. “You gonna tell me what you think it is?”

Sam sighed and shut his eyes. When he opened them again, he looked into Dean’s face with a determined expression. “Dean, why did you sell your soul for me?”

Dean blinked, nonplussed. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Please,” Sam said quietly. “Just answer the question.”

Dean shrugged and spread his hands. “Dude, it was years ago.” Sam just kept looking at him expectantly. Dean sighed, rolling his eyes. “I don’t know, man! We’ve been over this. I was just – I couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s how Dad raised us with me being in charge of taking care of you all the time, but whatever it was, I couldn’t just let you stay dead. I couldn’t, Sammy.” Dean remembered the sight of Sam lying on that bed, cold and empty. His eyes prickled with hot tears and he swallowed hard. “I couldn’t keep going without you.”

He finally looked back at Sam, who nodded slowly, his expression sad. “I get it,” he said. His voice was thick with emotion. He took a deep, shuddering breath. When he spoke again, he sounded more normal. “I think I know what the secret is.”

“Great,” Dean said, although he still felt too confused to be really enthusiastic. “What is it?”

Sam shook his head as he got up from the bed. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’m going to see if Gilda knows who we talk to about seeing Wayne.”

He was out the door before Dean knew what was happening. Dean followed and waited impatiently while Sam spoke to Gilda. She invited them into her room and touched a mirror hanging on the wall. The surface shimmered. After a few seconds, the face of one of the liveried servants appeared.

“Sam and Dean are ready for their meeting,” she said.

“My lord will be ready to see them at seven p.m., a day after their initial conversation, as agreed,” the man said crisply. His face disappeared from the mirror.

“Dick,” Dean muttered. He turned to Sam. “Great, so, we have time. Tell me what it is.”

For a second, Sam looked panicked. Dean’s guts twisted. What the hell did he think it was?

“No,” Sam said, his expression turning to pure stubbornness. He glanced at Gilda. “Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.”

He strode out of the room. Dean followed him. “Dude! Come on, you gotta tell me so we can make sure it’s the right one.”

Sam’s mouth was set in a grim line. “It’s the right one,” he said. “I was up all night and I can’t think of anything else. But hey, you feel free to try, if you want to. I’m going to see if I can nap until it’s time to meet with Wayne.”

“That’s hours from now,” Dean protested as Sam went into his room and shut the door. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Whatever you want,” Sam said. Dean heard the lock on Sam’s door click. He glared at the door and considered pounding on it, but it was clear Sam was going to be an asshole about this for some reason. He just hoped Sam had the right fucking idea. Who knew what the hell would happen to them or how they’d ever get Adam out if they couldn’t make this deal.

***

Dean slammed the door of his room shut, looked around, then yanked the door open again and stepped back out into the hall. No way was he going to spend the next nine hours cooped up in his room while Sam slept or pretended to sleep. Dean felt jittery with nerves. What the fuck could have Sam so wrecked?

Dean wandered down the hall looking at the art lining its walls: paintings, tapestries and statues. He hadn’t paid much attention to it before. He thought of fine art as Sam’s thing, but he kind of liked fairy taste. Almost all the figures were naked and gorgeous, even if sometimes it was in a weird way. They had skin in every color of the rainbow – not just human skin colors, but orange and green and violet and everything – and all different body types and weird animal parts incorporated in them. There was something compelling about them all, even when they were outside his usual type. Even way outside, like the woman with the scorpion tail. She had beautiful nut-brown skin and a fantastic rack and Dean found himself staring long enough to see her cover a giggle with a hand on her mouth.

After that, Dean resolved not to look for more than a few seconds anymore.

He kept walking, glancing at the art. He was about to turn a corner when one of the Tinkerbell fairies came whizzing around the bend, screeching. It stopped short when it saw him, hovering a few feet in front of his face.

“Dean Winchester?” it demanded.

“Uh, yeah,” Dean said.

“BLOOD VENGEANCE!” screamed the fairy, diving-bombing at Dean’s face. Its tinny voice and the sound of jingling bells which accompanied its movements rather undercut the fierce words, but Dean felt a hot line of pain on his cheekbone. He slapped at his face reflexively, but the fairy was already gone. Dean’s fingers came away wet. He saw blood smeared on them.

“OW!” he said. “What the hell?!” The cut was shallow, but somehow the surprise and insult of being injured by this little being made it feel a lot worse. Dean peered into the light and saw a tiny man, naked from the waist up. He had sea green skin, purple hair spiked up into a fauxhawk, and iridescent wings like a dragonfly’s. He was re-sheathing a rapier the size of a needle with a self-satisfied air.

“My revenge is complete,” the fairy said. He bowed. “Barnabas, at your service.”

“Revenge?” Dean said. “What the hell did I ever do to you?”

“Not to me! To my sister!” Barnabas glared at him. “You microwaved her!”

That little – ” Dean caught himself, but glared right back. “She was attacking me!”

Barnabas humphed. “It’s the principal of the thing! But, the vengeance is done.”

Dean brushed another drop of blood from his cheek. “Yeah?” he asked cautiously. He didn’t want to point out that a little scratch on the cheek was not exactly the same as exploding someone in a microwave, but he didn’t want any more surprise cuts, either. Or worse.

Barnabas waved a hand. “Yes, blood for blood. It’s all right. She was on my top ten list of most annoying siblings, anyway.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Top ten? How many siblings do you have?”

“About a hundred.”

Dean blanched. “Motherfuck – are they all gonna want to cut me?!”

“No, no, I was put in charge of this. We can’t all seek revenge for every sibling that gets swatted or microwaved or flies into a car window while on a trip to your world,” Barnabas said cheerfully. “So! What brings you to our realm? Here to give your service to Oberon?”

“No!” Dean said. “I’m – it’s family stuff.”

Barnabas looked intrigued. He flew an inch closer. “Do tell!”

“It’s none of your business,” Dean growled.

Barnabas pouted. “Fine,” he said, in a resigned tone. “But if you’re here as a guest of my lord, you will tell me if there’s anything I can do for you, won’t you?” He looked hopeful. “I’m free all day.”

“No, I’m – ” Dean stopped. He did need some way to occupy himself besides brooding over Sam. “Well, so am I, actually. We’re meeting Wayne at seven, but until then I have fuck all to do. What do you people do for fun around here?”

Barnabas did a gleeful backflip in the air. “Hooray! Do you like sex? We could fill our time that way!”

Dean blinked at him. “I – what? Together?”

“Of course!”

“How would that even work?”

Barnabas flew still closer. Dean saw him wink. “I am very creative! You aren’t my first large person.”

Dean stared at him for a moment, wondering what exactly the little man had in mind. He quickly snapped himself out of it. “Um, look, thanks, but, uh – how about you just show me around the castle or something?”

Barnabas sighed dramatically. “Very well. But do let me know if you change your mind.” He swooped in and kissed Dean’s cheek. The sting from the cut disappeared. When Dean looked in the mirror later, he found that it was completely healed.

Barnabas zoomed away. “Follow me!”

Dean followed the speck of light and the sound of bells, shaking his head. “Fairies, man,” he muttered.

***

Barnabas turned out to be a surprisingly good tour guide, regaling Dean with stories about various goings-on in the castle. Many of the tales were violent, pornographic, or a terrifying combination of both. Dean couldn’t help but be enthralled. He didn’t have a proper lunch, but there were mountains of delicious food seemingly everywhere, so Dean grazed (or more than grazed) to his heart’s content.

The hours flew by, and Dean was actually surprised when Barnabas announced that it was almost time for Dean to meet with “my esteemed lord.” He guided Dean back to his room. Dean stuck out his hand without thinking about it, and Barnabas enthusiastically shook Dean’s index finger.

“I’m sure I’ll see you again!” he trilled. “Your sanctuary lasts another two days, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah…” Dean muttered. He was remembering everything he’d managed to put out of his head all afternoon; the deal with Wayne, the thing with Oberon.

He shook his head slightly and steeled himself. “Yeah, I’ll see you around, man. Thanks for keeping me company today.”

Barnabas waved cheerily and flew away. Dean took a deep breath and knocked on Sam’s door.

Sam opened it immediately. He looked like he’d showered, but he was pale and haggard, his eyes still red and puffy. Had he been crying? Dean felt a sinking dread.

“Hey, Sammy,” he said uncertainly. “You, uh…you okay?”

“Yeah,” Sam said. He came out into the hallway and shut the door behind him. “Let’s go.”

He started to walk off, but Dean grabbed his arm. “Hold up,” he said. Sam flinched. Dean let him go and looked at him searchingly. “Listen, man, you look like hell. If this thing is eating you up so bad, maybe – maybe we shouldn’t take the deal.”

“No,” Sam said.

“It’s okay. I’ll go tell Wayne we couldn’t come up with anything and we’ll find another way. We always find a way, right?”

A pained expression flashed across Sam’s features. He shook his head emphatically. “No, Dean,” he said. “We’re doing this. We have to get him out.”

He set off down the hall again, head high but shoulders tense. Dean pressed his lips together and shook his head, but followed after Sam.

In a few minutes, they were entering the parlor where they’d talked to Wayne the day before. Gilda was already there. She and Wayne were sitting in the same chairs they’d taken yesterday, chatting politely. On the table in front of them was a small crystal orb and a clear flask. Dean sat down on the sofa again. Sam took a chair – an uncomfortable-looking one which was obviously too small for him – instead of joining Dean. Dean frowned in Sam’s direction, but Sam wasn’t looking at him.

“Greetings!” Wayne said, smiling smarmily at them both. “I hope you’ve been comfortable in my home?” Dean rolled his eyes.

“Yeah,” Sam said. “Thank you for your, uh, hospitality.”

“And have you worked out the secret?” Wayne said, his eyes gleaming with anticipation. Sam nodded. Wayne clapped his hands together. “Excellent! Excellent.”

He pointed at the flask on the table. “Now, when I speak the spell, and you tell your secret, this will collect it.” He pointed to the orb. “This will glow white if you’re telling the correct secret, and red if you’re not. Sound good?”

“Fine,” Sam said. He took a breath. “I’d – look, if it’s all right, I’d like to say it alone. Can we have the room? You and me?”

What?” Dean spluttered.

Wayne was shaking his head. “I’m sorry, dear boy, but your brother must be present in order for the truth ball to work correctly.”

“Truth ball?” Dean muttered, shooting a look at Sam. The smile dropped from his face when he saw Sam’s expression. He looked like he was going to throw up.

“Okay,” Sam muttered. “Okay.” He looked at Gilda. “Gilda, I’m sorry – can you give us some privacy?”

“Of course,” Gilda said softly. “Please feel free to come to me later if you would like to talk, or if I can do anything to help.” She rose and glided out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

“Are you ready?” Wayne asked. Sam took a deep breath and nodded. Wayne picked up the flask and spoke a few words in a strange language.

Dean glanced at Sam, who was avoiding his eyes. He was starting to feel as sick as Sam looked.

Wayne put down the cup and nodded at Sam.

“The secret…” Sam shut his eyes for a second, then opened them again. “The secret is that Dean and I are in love with each other.” He swallowed hard, tears showing bright in his eyes. “More than brothers, I mean. Romantically. S…sexually.”

When he stopped talking, Dean laughed out loud; a short, incredulous bark of laughter which seemed to burst from his mouth. Finally, Sam looked at him. Dean raised his eyebrows.

“Come on, Sammy,” he said. “You can’t expect a lie that ridiculous to work. He’s got that orb thing – ” Dean gestured towards the truth ball, looking at it as he did.

It was glowing white.

Dean stopped talking abruptly. He felt like he’d been punched in the gut. It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t. Sam must have done something; some spell to fool it.

“Delicious,” Wayne murmured, smiling. He picked up the flask, which was now filled with a thick, shimmering, multi-colored liquid, or something that looked like a liquid. Green, red, and black swirls collided with one another. After examining the contents for a moment, Wayne placed it back on the table. He rubbed his hands together.

“I’ll be fulfilling my end of the bargain post-haste,” he said. “I’ll need some time to prepare, but I think you can reasonably expect to have your brother back in, hmm, between fifteen and eighteen hours, if I don’t run into any trouble.”

“Thank you,” Sam said, rising. “See you then.” He beat a hasty retreat towards the door. Dean jumped to his feet and charged after him.

Sam was already halfway down the hall. His shoulders were still tense and his head was down now. Dean ignored the alarms going off in his head which said to be careful. He had to know what Sam had done. He jogged to catch up with him.

“Dude,” Dean said in a loud whisper, when he reached Sam. “How did you do that?”

“Do what?” Sam said, avoiding Dean’s eyes again.

“Make the truth thingy say you were telling the secret! And hey, way to come up with a juicy lie. I was hanging out with a fairy today and believe me, if Barnabas is anything to go by, that was the perfect way to sell it.”

Sam stopped in his tracks and stared at Dean for a long moment. “I didn’t do anything to the truth ball,” he said. “I didn’t even know that was how Wayne was going to determine we were telling the right secret.”

Dean fought the sinking feeling in his stomach. Of course Sam couldn’t admit to what he’d done; Wayne might have spies or listening spells in every corner of this place. “Right, right, right,” he nodded. “Of course! You had no way to trick him. That was totally the secret.” He grinned and winked at Sam.

All the color drained from Sam’s face. Dean was horrified to see tears fill his eyes again. Even worse was the resigned look, the slumping of Sam’s shoulders.

“Yeah,” Sam said, voice barely a whisper. “Sure, Dean.” He turned and started practically power-walking away. Dean stood frozen for a second, then chased after him.

He couldn’t think of what to say as they walked back to their rooms side-by-side. He felt like he wasn’t really processing what was happening here. Sam was not a good enough actor to be selling this story so hard. Which meant Sam was really upset. Which meant that he thought he was in love with Dean, at least. Which was fucked up, but well, they could talk about it. They’d gotten through so much crap before, they could get through Sam’s weird crush.

Except Wayne said this was a shared secret. So Sam thought Dean was in love with him, too. And that stupid orb had agreed. But that was a ludicrous idea. Sam was his brother.

No, Dean thought quickly, it couldn’t possibly be true. Something had to be wrong with the truth ball thing. It had to be. There was no other reasonable explanation. Never trust a glowing orb, that’s what he always said.

But Sam was upset. Something had to be done.

So when they reached their doors, Dean cleared his throat. “So, uh, you wanna…talk about this?” He waited, half-hoping Sam would say no.

Sam looked at him appraisingly. Dean did his best to appear like he wasn’t completely freaking out in his head. Finally, Sam nodded. He unlocked the door to his room and motioned Dean inside.

Dean started pacing while Sam sank down onto the bed, his eyes fixed on Dean.

“So!” Dean said, too loudly and way too cheerfully. He winced and shook his head slightly. “Uh, so. You think you’re in love with me?”

Sam’s brows drew together. “We,” he said. “We’re in love with each other. That’s what the secret was.”

Dean waved a hand. “Whatever, that truth ball was definitely not working right.” Sam’s gaze was steady and sad. Dean stopped pacing. “Dude, I’m not in love with you!”

Sam sighed. “Yes, you are, Dean,” he replied. “I think we’ve both been in love with each other for a very long time.”

“Jesus, Sam, we’re brothers!” Dean shook his head incredulously. “That’s so fucked up!”

“Yeah,” Sam said, a slight edge to this voice. “Because our lives are always so normal, and never fucked up at all.” Dean blinked at him. Sam shrugged. “Look, I struggled with it, too. I still do. But it hardly seems like the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.”

Dean felt suddenly furious, which was a bit of a relief. Familiar territory, at last. “Okay, let me get this straight. Let me see if I understand this correctly.” Sam looked wary at Dean’s hard tone. “You loved me so much, and for so long, but you still didn’t bother to look for me when I was in Purgatory?”

Sam looked so sad and lost at the accusation that Dean regretted it immediately, but he shoved the feeling aside. This would convince Sam that he was being absurd.

Sam looked down at his hands. “It was after you disappeared that I figured out how I felt,” he said quietly. “I…I freaked out. I missed you so much, and I wanted to look for you – ” Dean snorted. “ – I did, Dean – but I was upset, just like you are now. I was afraid to see you again. I never, ever thought you’d feel the same way. I tried to run from what I was feeling; straight into a relationship where we were both trying to hide from the past.” Sam looked up at Dean again, eyes pleading. “I’m so sorry. I wish I’d made a different choice. But can’t you understand what I was going through? Same thing that you are now.”

Dean took a step back, fury rising again. It overrode the sympathy and the urge to make it better that always came up when Sam gave him those eyes. “I am absolutely not going through the same thing!”

“Dean, after what just happened, you can’t honestly deny – “

“Oh, I can deny it,” Dean interrupted. “I can deny it all goddamn day long. And you know why, Sammy? Because it’s not true. It’s fucking sick and insane and maybe you’re that fucked up, but I’m certainly not.” The pain in Sam’s face cut Dean like a knife, but he ignored it. He whirled around and headed for the door. He suddenly felt like he couldn’t even breathe the same air as Sam. Not when Sam was going to accuse him of all kinds of stupid shit that was absolutely one hundred percent impossible.

“Dean, please,” Sam said. He sounded desperate, like he was begging, but Dean forced himself to keep going. He left the room, slamming the door behind him.

Dean turned towards his own door, but quickly thought better of it. The last thing he wanted was to be cooped up thinking about Sam in the next room with just a wall separating them; wondering what Sam was doing, how he was feeling…god, he had sounded so wrecked…

No. No. He was not going to enable Sam’s delusions. Dean set off down the hall, popping into various common areas he’d visited that afternoon until he found the little glowing light he was looking for.

“Barnabas!” he called. The tiny fairy flew to him immediately, hovering at talking distance in front of his eyes.

“Dean!” he said happily. “Have you reconsidered my offer of sex?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “No,” he said. “But I thought you would probably be the best person to direct me towards some booze.”

Barnabas did a happy backflip, which Dean had quickly realized was his habit when he was excited. “Of course! Follow me!” He flew away. Dean walked rapidly after him.

***

They ended up in a room which looked something like a Victorian saloon. The walls were hung with carmine silk. There were gleaming brass fixtures and a long bar made of rich wood with reddish tones. The room was full of fairies, and like the art that decorated the castle, they were human-shaped to varying degrees. Dean got a triple whiskey and found a table in a relatively dim, quiet corner. He sat down with his back to the wall, eyeing the assembly but quickly concluding that no one was paying him the slightest bit of attention, much less offering any danger. He got down to the business of drinking, letting a third of the alcohol slide down his throat in one swallow. It was smoky and sweet and burned in a familiar, comforting way.

Barnabas appeared a moment later, a bottle of whiskey ten times his size gripped in the crook of one elbow and a cup smaller than a thimble in his other hand. Dean couldn’t understand how he was flying straight, but he seemed to be having no trouble at all with his burden.

“Thirsty?” Dean said, as Barnabas set the bottle down on the table. Barnabas laughed.

“This is for you! So you don’t have to go back and forth to the bar every time you want more. I prefer nectar-based alcohols. Cheers!” He clinked his tiny glass against Dean’s.

“Yeah, cheers,” Dean said, without any real enthusiasm. He drank again, then looked warily at the whisky bottle. “Wait, how am I going to pay for that?” He looked at the drink in his hand. “For that matter, how am I going to pay for this?”

Barnabas looked shocked. “You are a guest! Drink your fill. Enjoy!”

“I’m not a guest, I’m a prisoner,” Dean muttered, but he finished his drink and poured himself another.

“You are sad,” Barnabas observed.

Dean glared at him. “What? No, I’m not.”

“You are! I can tell,” Barnabas countered. “Your aura is very clouded. Mostly grey with pain, but I see some red from anger, as well. This afternoon you were only dark blue with worry.” He cocked his head at Dean. “There is still plenty of that, but I think it is your default.”

Dean spluttered. “Dude, what – you don’t know me! Stop spying on my aura or whatever!”

He could just make out the frown on Barnabas’ small face. “Well, I haven’t known you for long, but we are still friends! If you are sad, I want to help.”

“Then mind your own business,” Dean snapped.

Barnabas looked at him for a long moment, and then flew to perch on Dean’s shoulder. Dean felt a slight pressure on his neck, and realized Barnabas was hugging him.

For fuck’s sake. Dean tried to stay annoyed, but the obnoxious little thing was trying so hard.

“All right, all right, already. Stop that, and I’ll tell you a little about it,” Dean said, voice rough as he attempted to keep his cool.

Barnabas made a pleased sound and flew into Dean’s line of vision again. Dean sighed and took another drink of whiskey, trying to figure out how to talk about this without really talking about it. Barnabas bobbed in the air impatiently as he waited for Dean to speak.

“So,” Dean said finally. “You’ve got a million siblings – ”

“Just a hundred or so!,” Barnabas interrupted. Dean rolled his eyes.

“Yeah yeah yeah, the point is, you have a fuckton.”

“Yes!”

“So, you must fight with them sometimes, right?”

“Oh, certainly,” Barnabas said brightly. “There are five I won’t even speak to anymore.” His face darkened. “They know what they did.”

Dean’s eyebrows went up, but he decided it would be better not to ask. “Uh, okay, right,” he said.

“Did you fight with Sam?” Barnabas’ eyes, which always seemed big in his face, were now huge with sympathy.

“Yeah,” Dean acknowledged. “And the thing is…” He felt that heavy dread in his stomach again, and he took another sip of whiskey, hoping to wash it away. “Unlike you, I don’t have dozens of other siblings to fall back on. I…I don’t even have a lot of other people in my life.” He swallowed, blinking back the tears pricking at his eyes. “It’s pretty much just Sam. And we just got this place together, kind of, and I thought we were maybe building, like, a non-mobile second home, and now I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Barnabas made a sympathetic sound. As Dean raised his glass to his lips again, Barnabas darted forward and put his arms around Dean’s wrist. Dean paused, confused – if the fairy was trying to stop him from drinking, why hadn’t he put any force behind it? He was certainly strong enough. Then, Dean realized he was being hugged again. He chuckled and took a drink, Barnabas still clutching his wrist.

Barnabas let him go and picked up his own drink again. “I’m sorry you and your brother are fighting. But I am sure you’ll make it up! If it is only the two of you, you must love each other too much to let anything come between you.”

Pretty sure loving each other too much is our problem, Dean thought with a sick feeling. He immediately pushed the thought away and poured himself another drink.

***

It was hours later. Barnabas had dragged Dean by his collar back to his room and yelled at him in his tinny voice until Dean finally clambered up onto the bed, rolled over on his side, and fell into a drunken sleep.

Dean dreamed.

Sam was smiling, and the familiar sight of it made Dean’s chest ache. Dean had missed that smile like it was a part of his own body for almost a year and a half now.

“Sammy?” Dean said, heart pounding.

“It’s okay, Dean,” Sam said. “You can pretend it’s me. A year and a day of service. That’s all we ask.”

“What?” Dean croaked. Something was wrong. Something in Sam’s eyes. They weren’t his soulless killer eyes, but they weren’t right, either. Dean blinked rapidly, trying to see better. When his eyes were half-closed he saw the flash of something beneath the Sammy veneer. Something with olive green skin, pointy ears, and antlers growing out of its head.

“You’re not Sam,” Dean said. Not-Sam took a step closer, looking amused.

“No,” he said. “I’m Oberon, King of the Fairies. But we try to make your involuntary solitude more pleasant. A year and a day – just a few months or so in your world. You can spare that, can’t you? And to make things easier for you – ” Oberon gestured at his body. “You’ll only see me in this form. I’ll appear to you as the person you love most in the world.”

He smiled, flashing Sam’s dimples, as he drew still closer to Dean. He reached out and cupped Dean’s face, brushing Dean’s cheekbone with his thumb. Dean froze and his breath caught. Somehow, Oberon even smelled like Sam.

“I think you’ll enjoy serving me,” Oberon said. “If I keep this handsome glamour on, hmm?”

For a strange, fleeting second, Dean found himself wanting to agree. Something about Sam – no, damn it, Oberon – looking at him that way…

“Lie down,” Oberon said. Unfamiliar hands gripped Dean’s shoulders, started pulling him towards a table. Dean came back to himself with a start. He looked automatically at the beings that were holding him, but they were blazing with light, too bright to see. Dean yelled and started firing off shots and slashing at them with his knife. They released him.

“Your Majesty?” said an uncertain voice.

Sam’s laugh. “Let him go.” Sam’s voice, sounding amused. The room started to dissolve. “…deal with him later…”

Dean’s head was pounding as he came slowly back to consciousness. Eventually, he realized that part of the pounding was someone knocking on his door.

“Dean?” Sam’s voice, sounding worried. “Dean!”

“Jesus fuck, I hate everything,” Dean groaned. He looked at his phone; it was just after noon. Dean rolled out of bed, lurched across the room, and opened the door. “What?! My head hurts. I don’t wanna fight with you more right now.”

Sam took in Dean’s disheveled appearance. His mouth set in a disapproving line. “Wayne’s back with Adam,” he snapped. “Thought you might care.”

“Oh.” Dean blinked. “Right. Shit…” He looked down at himself. He was still in yesterday’s clothes.

“Is everything all right?” came Gilda’s voice from behind Sam.

“He’s just hung over,” Sam said. Gilda came up behind him, and he moved aside.

She looked at Dean, her brow furrowed with concern. “Oh, dear. Fairy liquor is very strong. No wonder it overwhelmed you.”

“It didn’t – ” Dean started, but she was already reaching out with both hands.

“Let me help,” she said in a tone which brooked no argument. “So you can see your brother sooner.” Her fingers landed on Dean’s temples. Light flared at the edges of his vision. It felt like a cool wave passed through his body. The aches in his head and muscles disappeared. Even his mouth tasted normal again.

“Wow,” Dean said, blinking at her as her hands dropped away. “What did you do?”

“I have a natural gift for healing,” Gilda said.

“I’ll say. Uh – thanks.”

She gave him a small smile and nodded. “Shall we go see about your brother?”

“Yeah,” Sam said. He sounded a little hoarse and Dean realized that he looked pinched and worried. Guilt flooded Dean. Sam had obviously been upset about this Adam situation for awhile. And last night, instead of taking care of him while they waited to see if Wayne was successful, Dean had made it all about himself. And then abandoned Sam. Fuck.

Well, there was nothing he could do about it now. “Let’s go,” Dean said.

***

Wayne met them outside the sitting room where they’d made their deal. He smiled when he saw them, although he looked a little wary.

“Your brother is inside, body and soul, as promised,” he said. He pursed his lips. “I don’t want you blaming me for the state of his mind, however.”

“What – ” Dean started, fear and anger rising in him.

“It’s okay,” Sam said quickly. “That wasn’t part of our deal. We know what time locked up with Lucifer does to someone.” He grimaced.

“Good, I’m glad we all understand the circumstances,” Wayne said. He started to walk away. Dean grabbed his arm.

“I know what the Cage does to people,” he said in a low voice. “But if I found out you did anything that could have made things worse for him – ”

Wayne jerked away. Anger flashed across his face, but it was quickly replaced by a smooth smile. “My dear boy, I’m not a sadist. I’m a pragmatist. Hurting him would do nothing for me, and I’m not eager to make enemies of you or your brother. Besides – ” His smile turned subtly nasty. “You’re still under my hospitality. You have a day and a half of sanctuary left. But let’s discuss your servitude to Oberon later.”

Dean felt cold as Wayne walked away. Sam looked concerned.

“We’ll figure it out,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Dean said quickly. “Not right now.” He nodded at the door. “Let’s see how he’s doing.”

Sam knocked softly on the closed door, then turned the handle. “Adam?” he said gently, as he opened the door. “It’s Sam and Dean…”

They entered the room, Sam going first. Adam was in an armchair, knees drawn up to his chest. He wore the same clothes they’d seen him in when he was Michael’s vessel; when he’d fallen into the Cage. Adam’s eyes were wide and red-rimmed. The second his gaze fell on Sam, he gave a low moan and threw up his arm to shield his face.

“Please,” he said. His voice was hoarse. “Please, leave me alone. I’m sorry I let Michael in, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

Dean glanced at Sam, who looked sad but unsurprised. “What’s wrong with him?” Dean asked.

“He thinks I’m Lucifer,” Sam said. “Lucifer used to make himself look like me a lot. He’d – ” He stopped talking abruptly and shook his head. “You go talk to him.”

“Fuck,” Dean muttered. He took a couple steps closer to Adam and cleared his throat. “Hey, man,” he said. “It’s Dean. I don’t know if you remember me.”

“Dean was supposed to be the Michaelsword,” Adam muttered.

“Right,” Dean said. He cleared his throat again, nervously. “Right, that’s me. And I’m – I’m sorry you did it instead, man. But look, hey – you’re out of the Cage, okay? You’re safe. I’m here, and over there, that’s Sam, not Lucifer. I swear.”

Adam peered out between his fingers and examined Sam. His eyes shifted.

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“That’s Gilda,” Dean said. She’d come in behind them. Her hand was on Sam’s shoulder, her palm glowing faintly. “She’s a friend. She helped us get you out.”

Gilda walked forward. “It’s nice to meet you, Adam,” she said. She held out a hand to him. Adam stared at it for too long before reaching out his own shaking hand towards hers.

White light flared where they touched. Adam gasped, clinging tightly to her. A few tears rolled down his cheeks, but his eyes looked a little clearer.

“Her,” he said. “I want to sit with her.”

“Sit wherever you like, dude,” Dean said.

Gilda guided Adam to the small sofa. He clung to her hand like a small child. When she sat down, he lay his head in her lap. She put her free hand on his shoulder.

“Uh, okay if we sit down, too?” Dean asked when they were settled. Adam nodded. Dean sat down across from him. Sam took another chair, leaving an empty one between himself and Dean. Dean’s chest ached at the choice, but he ignored it. It wasn’t the time for him and Sam and all their crap.

“Do you know who we are?” Sam asked. Adam flinched at the sound of his voice, but nodded.

“Sam and Dean,” he said. “My half-brothers.”

“You’re in the fairy realm,” Sam continued. “We made a deal to get you out of Hell.”

Adam grimaced. “What kind of deal?”

Dean glanced at Sam, who did not look back. “Don’t worry about it,” Sam said. “We had to tell Wayne – the fairy that got you – something, that’s all. It’s over. We’re safe, and so are you.”

“Well, you two are,” Dean muttered. He regretted the words immediately.

Adam looked at him, frowning. “What are you talking about?”

“Nothing,” Dean said, flapping a hand. “I’m supposed to, uh, serve the king of the fairies or whatever. We’re working on it. It’ll be fine.”

“How are you feeling?” Sam asked.

Adam shrugged. “About how you’d expect.” His eyes dulled. “Exhausted, actually. This is…weird. Being somewhere besides the Cage.”

“Would you like to rest?” Gilda asked. Adam squeezed her hand tighter.

“Will you stay with me?” He looked vulnerable and sounded lost. Dean had to look away, choking down a surge of guilt. Sam was right; they shouldn’t have left him for so long. They didn’t really know the guy, but he was still family.

“Of course I will,” Gilda was saying. Adam sat up slowly; she rose and helped him to stand. He swayed a little on his feet. Sam immediately stepped towards him, hand outstretched, but Adam flinched again, violently. Sam stopped.

Adam was shaking his head. “I’m sorry,” he said to Sam. “I know you’re not – him – but he looked like you so much of the time…”

“It’s okay,” Sam said quickly. He finally looked at Dean and jerked his head towards Adam.

Dean went to Adam’s side and got an arm around him. Adam leaned on him. The kid weighed nothing. It was as if he had hollow bones like a bird. Dean wondered how long it had been since he’d eaten. There couldn’t have been food in the Cage. It must have been magic keeping him going.

The four of them walked silently to their rooms. Dean supported Adam and Gilda walked beside them, a hand on Adam’s shoulder. Sam followed behind.

Dean hesitated when they reached their hallway, not sure where to bring Adam.

“Uh, me and Sam have our own rooms,” he said. “Wayne’d probably give you one, if – ”

“Hers,” Adam said, looking at Gilda. “I want to stay with her.” His eyes half-closed, and he seemed to force them open with an effort of will. “If that’s okay.”

“Of course,” Gilda said. She unlocked her door and motioned them in.

Dean helped Adam lie down on the bed. Gilda was there immediately, taking off Adam’s shoes and pulling a quilt up over him. He was silent and pale, moving when she told him to. His eyes kept closing.

“We can stay – ” Dean started.

“Or just Dean can stay,” Sam added. “It’s okay.”

Adam opened his eyes again. He shook his head wearily. “Can I just – I just want to sleep for awhile,” he said. “You two can…whatever.”

“Sure thing, man,” Dean said. He felt totally at a loss. It seemed like giving Adam what he wanted was their best option. “Get some shut-eye. We’ll see you later.”

Gilda had drawn a chair up next to the bed and taken Adam’s hand again. She gave Dean and Sam a sad smile.

“I will care for your brother,” she said. “Never fear. I’ll send someone to find you when he’s ready to see you again.”

Dean and Sam nodded and left the room.

“They have kind of a vibe, huh?” Dean said as soon as the door closed behind them. “Seems like there’s a Florence Nightingale syndrome thing going on.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “She’s gay, Dean.”

“Just because she went for Charlie? Hey, some people play for both teams,” Dean said.

“I talked to her last night,” Sam said absently. “She’s only interested in women.” He was staring into the middle distance, frowning deeply.

“You did?” Dean asked, surprised. Sam finally looked at him, for a beat too long, then away again.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Oh.” Dean felt suddenly very, very uncomfortable. Had Sam told her the secret? Dean tried to ignore the feeling. This still wasn’t the time.

“Hey, I’m starving,” he said, with forced casualness. “Come get some breakfast with me.”

“It’s after one p.m.,” Sam pointed out.

“Fine, come get some lunch with me.”

“I’m not really hungry,” Sam mumbled. Dean looked closely at him. He could tell Sam was not okay, and his instinct to take care of Sammy kicked in immediately.

“How long has it been since you ate?” Dean said.

Sam sighed. “I don’t know, Dean. Last night, I think. I had something with Gilda.”

“What did you have?”

Sam glared at him. Dean could almost see his petulant six-year-old brother in that expression. “I’m fine, Dean.”

That definitely meant he had not eaten enough. “Whatever it was, you’re six foot four and you need to keep that gargantuan body upright. Come on.”

Dean took a couple steps down the hall. When he didn’t hear Sam following him, he turned around. Sam was still glaring at him. Time for the trump card.

“You want to be ready to help Adam if he needs us, don’t you?” Dean said. “You can’t be there for him if you’re fainting like a Victorian lady who laced her corset too tight.”

Sam exhaled sharply, looking annoyed, but he started moving forward. Dean grinned.

“Atta boy,” he said.

***

Dean lingered over lunch for ages. It was partly to make sure that Sam, who was picking at his food again, ate enough. And it was partly to try and fill the time. He had no idea how long Adam would sleep. Maybe they wouldn’t even see him until the next morning. Dean had come out of Hell kinda wired, but he figured that had something to do with all the healing crap Cas had done to him – fixing his scars and everything. Cas must’ve recharged him, too. He had no idea how Sam had felt when he crawled out of the Cage, but it probably wouldn’t be the same anyway, since soulless Sam hadn’t needed to sleep. Anyway, Adam had looked totally exhausted and Dean figured it could be hours.

Dean kept up a steady stream of mindless chatter while they ate. He was trying to drown out his own thoughts as well as divert Sam’s attention from whatever emo shit he was focusing on. It felt forced even to him, but he didn’t let up. Every time he stopped talking for more than a few seconds, he could feel the silence between them like it was a tangible thing, heavy and awkward. He finally got what “a pregnant pause” meant (a phrase he’d thought was absolutely hilarious when he was a teenager and ran across it in English class). The outed secret and their fight the previous night seemed to stand between them in a thin bubble, ready to pop at any moment. Dean couldn’t let that happen.

After Dean judged that Sam had eaten enough – if not as much as Dean would have liked – he took Sam on a tour of the castle. He parroted as many of Barnabas’ stories as he could remember. They were good stories, but Sam didn’t seem like he was paying much attention. He was largely silent, looking worried and sad. Dean hated to see him like that, but he didn’t know what he could do besides try to distract him.

He dragged Sam to dinner, but Sam ate even less than he had at lunch. He said he wasn’t hungry, though they’d been walking around for ages. Dean cajoled him into having something but wasn’t particularly satisfied with his success.

After dinner, Dean tried to get Sam to come meet Barnabas, but Sam said he wasn’t in the mood. So Dean walked back to their rooms with him. They both looked at Gilda’s door when they arrived.

“You think we should knock?” Dean asked uncertainly. Sam shook his head.

“I don’t want to interrupt his rest. Gilda said she’d find us when he was ready,” he said. He looked frustrated. “I just wish there was something I could do.”

“At least he’s out,” Dean offered.

“Yeah,” Sam said. He didn’t sound comforted. “Look, I think I’m going to turn in.”

“Turn in? It’s barely seven,” Dean said, trying to keep his tone cheerful.

Sam sighed. “I want to be rested if Adam wakes up in the night,” he said. “And I…” He swallowed and looked down. “Look, I’m not trying to start a fight. But it’s still kind of hard to be around you right now. We spent the afternoon together. Isn’t that enough?”

Dean realized with a sinking feeling that while he’d been trying to make Sam feel better, Sam had been doing the same thing for him. Which meant neither of them really wanted to be together right now. Or, rather, Dean wanted to – he almost always wanted to be around Sam – but it seemed like he didn’t know how to be around him anymore.

“Oh,” was all he managed to say. “Right.” He tried desperately to keep his expression neutral, but something must have shown through, because Sam looked even sadder.

“I don’t want it to be hard,” he said. “I want things to be okay between us. I just…” He ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know what to do, Dean. I’d…I mean, I’d talk about it. If you wanted to. But we have to really talk. You can’t just call me sick and storm out like last night.”

Dean’s stomach hurt and he suddenly wished he hadn’t eaten so much at dinner. Had he really said that?

“I can try,” he said hoarsely, ignoring the little voice in his head screaming at him to run away and get trashed again. He had to figure this out, for Sam’s sake. It killed him to see Sammy looking like that and knowing he was at least part of the cause. That he’d made Sam feel that horrible.

Sam examined him for a long moment. “Okay,” he said finally. He unlocked his door and they went inside.

Sam sat on the bed again. Dean stayed standing up, because he absolutely could not be on a bed with his brother right now.

“You’re going to have to start us off,” Sam said. “I don’t even know where you are with all this right now.”

Dean felt like something was squeezing his chest, making it hard to breathe. “You think I do?” he said, voice cracking. He cleared his throat. “I don’t – how am I supposed to feel?”

Sam blew out a breath. “I don’t know,” he said. “There isn’t really a guidebook for this kind of thing.” His eyes were like lasers. Dean felt like Sam could see straight through him. “Do – do you still think the secret wasn’t true?”

Dean’s breath was coming in fast, panicky gulps as he tried to force himself to answer the question truthfully. The answer was in his mind; he’d been trying to ignore it all day. It was like trying to ignore an air raid siren, but Dean had always been exceptionally good at compartmentalization and denial.

He opened his mouth, and at first, nothing came out. His muscles were so tense he was twitching a little. Sam started to look alarmed. That snapped him out of it.

“No.” Dean forced the word out. He felt like he was going to choke on it. It was a relief to admit it, and it was worse. “No. I know it’s true.”

He exhaled in a shuddering breath. Sam looked pained.

“Dean,” he said. “It’s okay if – ”

“I’ve been having these dreams?” Dean interrupted, because if Sam tried to give him an out right now he was scared to death he’d take it and they would be stuck like this forever. “I’ve been having these dreams, right? Ever since we decided to come here. About – about when the fairies kidnapped me. I had sort of repressed what happened, you know? Like I hadn’t forgotten, exactly, but I put it away and I never thought about it. The Winchester way, right?”

Sam frowned, puzzled. “What does that – ”

“He looked like you,” Dean barreled on. “Oberon. He looked like you, but he was acting like you with your soul, kind of. And he said he’d look like that to me, like the person I loved most. That I’d like – that I’d like serving him, if he looked like that.” He looked at Sam, anguished. “I missed you so much, then – the real you. But he touched me and I knew what he meant by serving him, and that was when I freaked out, because of course it was insane to think I’d want to – with my own brother, or even someone who looked like him – ”

Sam rose from the bed and put his hands on Dean’s shoulders. “It’s okay, Dean,” he said. “Deep breaths.”

Dean realized he’d been breathing shallowly and that he was shaking. He forced himself to take a long breath and felt a little calmer. But it wasn’t just the deep breathing that was making him feel better, he realized; it was Sam near him, the warmth of Sam’s hands on his shoulders.

“We’ll figure it out,” Sam was saying. “You won’t have to stay with him.”

For a second Dean had no idea what Sam was talking about. He managed a hollow laugh when he figured it out.

“Not the point of the story,” he said.

“I know,” Sam replied. He stared into Dean’s face with a concerned expression. His thumbs were stroking Dean’s collarbones in a soothing gesture. Dean wondered if he was even aware of it. Sam suddenly pressed his forehead against Dean’s. Dean’s heart start to pound with anxiety and something else, something Dean was afraid to acknowledge. He didn’t move.

“It’ll be okay,” Sam said. “I swear, Dean, it’ll be all right.” There was so much fear and yearning in his voice that it hurt to hear. He took a shaky breath.

“It’ll be okay,” Sam repeated softly, determined now, and somehow Dean knew with certainty what was coming. Sam leaned in with excruciating slowness, giving Dean more than enough time to stop him. Dean froze, wanting to pull away and not wanting to pull away at all.

Sam’s lips landed on his, warm and dry and chaste. Dean’s eyes closed and he thought no going back now, because it was true, they could never un-kiss each other.

And he was kissing Sam back, so natural it was like breathing. Like kissing anyone, right? Except that was Sam sighing against his mouth, and Sam putting an arm around Dean’s waist so slow and careful, and this was like nothing that had ever happened before in the history of the world.

Dean’s hand was rising of its own volition to land on Sam’s neck. All he could think about was how long he’d wanted this and how long he’d never, ever let himself know how much he wanted it. He’d channeled it into dumb jokes about Sam’s sex life and an inordinate obsession with Sam’s well-being and a consuming desire to have Sam close. He’d made Sam the center of his world and blinded himself as surely as if he’d pierced his own eyes with one of his knives.

He couldn’t unsee it any more than he could un-kiss Sam, any more than he could forget Sam’s mouth on his, Sam’s hands on his back. It was staggering, overwhelming. Dean felt like he was falling into an abyss of warmth and darkness, need flooding through his veins. He made a muffled noise; just an involuntary sound as his brain tried to catch up with what was happening. But it must have sounded like a protest, because Sam pulled away abruptly. His hands were on Dean’s elbows, and Dean instinctively grabbed the front of his shirt.

“I’m sorry,” Sam gasped. “Dean, I’m so sorry, I didn’t ask, I know you’re not – ” He looked stricken. “I know you can’t, not now, maybe not ever – ”

“Can.” Dean forced the word out. His throat ached with unshed tears and it was practically impossible to talk about any of this, but he felt like if they stopped, they might lose something and never get it back. Like a wall would go up between them that couldn’t be torn down again. Dean felt like if Sam stopped touching him he might shake apart.

“Dean…” Sam looked like maybe he was going to insist they stop, that they have a long talk about this. Dean couldn’t. This was the only way he could think of to process what he was feeling.

“Sam,” he burst out, “would you just shut up already and – and – ” Kiss me, he wanted to say, but the words seemed to be lodged in his throat. He hoped his parted lips and pleading eyes would do the talking for him. Evidently they did, because Sam pulled him close and – thank fucking god – kissed him again.

Sam kissed harder this time, although Dean could feel the muscles in Sam’s back twitching under his hands, like Sam was still holding back. The thought sent a wave of arousal through Dean’s whole body, head to toe, but he didn’t try to make Sam let himself go. Not yet, anyway. This was more than overwhelming enough.

Dean let his mouth fall open; Sam took the invitation. The feeling of his tongue sliding against Dean’s went right to Dean’s dick. Dean groaned helplessly, clinging tightly to Sam’s shirt. A shudder ran through Sam. Immediately his hands went from Dean’s back to his hips and he pulled them closer together. Dean’s pelvis jerked, because his cock was suddenly pressing against Sam’s thigh. And he was pretty sure that thing poking into his lower abdomen was…

Oh, god, he was in so far over his head.

Nope. Nope. In for a penny, in for a pound. Dean slid his hand into Sam’s hair, oh, fuck, it was soft and Dean never wanted to stop touching it. Sam was pulling him towards the bed, still kissing him, and Dean felt like his heart was going to explode. He hadn’t been this nervous about sex since he was a freaking teenager and just starting out with it. What if he fucked this up? He could come too soon or not be able to come at all or he might do something Sam hated – what if Sam had some unexpected hard limit Dean would never guess? With all the trauma they’d been through, it could be anything.

Sam broke the kiss and pulled Dean onto the bed with him, both of them still sitting up. He looked at Dean with a concerned expression.

“Dean, it’s okay,” he said, so soft. Dean realized his breath was coming in those panicked gulps again, and he forced himself to slow it down, to suck some air deep into his lungs.

“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” Sam was saying. “We don’t have to do more than kiss. Or – or less. We could just…I don’t know.” He reached out hesitantly and put his hand on Dean’s, peering into Dean’s eyes.

“Shoes,” Dean said. Sam blinked, frowning at him in confusion.

Dean cleared his throat. “Uh.” He still didn’t know what to say, so he just toed his shoes off. Sam watched him, then followed suit silently.

“Dean – ” he started.

“Sammy, shut up,” Dean interrupted. He grabbed Sam’s neck and crashed their lips together before he could think better of it. Sam made a sound that was basically a whimper and it made Dean kiss him tighter, pull him nearer, because Sam sounded vulnerable and Dean could not let him down.

Sam’s fingers were digging into Dean’s back and even though he was scared out of his mind, all Dean could think about was getting closer, getting more. He found himself straddling Sam’s leg, still kissing him, afraid to stop. Sam’s hands slipped under Dean’s shirt, impossibly warm on his bare skin. Dean’s cock jerked in his pants. He shrugged out of his overshirt and started unbuttoning Sam’s, felt the rise and fall of Sam’s chest under his hands.

The second he had it unbuttoned, Sam shrugged it off and pulled his t-shirt over his head, tossing it carelessly onto the floor next to them. He slid his hands under Dean’s t-shirt again, looking up at Dean silently with a questioning expression. Dean took a deep breath and nodded, and let Sam help him get his shirt off.

Sam pulled him close again for a long kiss, half-reclining on the pillows now. The skin-on-skin sensation of his chest pressed to Sam’s made Dean ache with a strange combination of desire and fulfillment. It was so much more than he’d even known he’d wanted, and it was nowhere near enough.

Sam was kissing Dean’s neck, then his collarbone, mouthing along his shoulder. “Dean, Dean,” he murmured. He sounded awed. Dean clung to him and tried not to come apart at the seams.

Sam’s hand was in his hair, fingertips stroking gently. “It’s okay,” he said.

“Sammy,” Dean croaked. He could feel Sam rock-hard against his thigh, and every drag of friction against his own erection sent sparks of pleasure through him. Fuck, he wanted more, but he didn’t know how to take that next step.

He couldn’t say any of this aloud, but Sam must have gotten the gist somehow, because he was still stroking Dean’s hair. He nuzzled Dean’s neck.

“It’s okay,” Sam repeated. “For once, let me take care of you, huh?”

Dean let out a shuddery exhale, not trusting his voice to answer. Sam didn’t seem to need one, though. He pressed a kiss to a spot just under Dean’s earlobe.

“Lie down,” he whispered, and Dean did, feeling terrified and safe all at once as he stared up at his brother. Sam kissed him softly and ran his hand down Dean’s chest. When he moved over the bulge in Dean’s jeans, Dean’s hips rose into his touch. Sam pulled away and stared down at him, mouth slightly open. The look of desire on his face made Dean flush.

Sam popped the button on Dean’s fly expertly with one hand, then slowly pulled down the zipper. He hesitated, looking at Dean. Dean forced himself to give a short nod, even though his breath was coming too fast again. When Sam slid his hand into Dean’s boxers and wrapped around his erection, Dean’s back arched so fast he banged his head against the headboard.

“Fuck,” he swore, but it wasn’t about the pain; it had barely been a bump, especially by their standards.

“Dean – ” Sam sounded worried.

“I’m fine,” Dean gasped out, although he felt anything but, because somehow Sam’s hand was on his dick and it felt so good he was sort of afraid he was going to just come in an instant like he was fifteen again. Especially when Sam swiped his thumb across the slit, making him groan aloud.

A couple of gentle tugs had Dean’s back arching again.

“God, Dean,” Sam said. That awed tone was back in his voice. “I can’t believe you’re – letting me – ” He leaned down and kissed Dean again, like he was trying to stop his own words. Dean did his best to let himself go, hips working against the movement of Sam’s fist.

Dean realized suddenly that Sam was getting nothing right now. It was unacceptable, and he pulled away and grabbed Sam’s wrist.

Sam paused, and Dean could breathe again, think again. “You,” he said. “Gotta do – you’re not – I’m not – ” He stared up at Sam, begging silently.

Thank god for Sam’s preternatural understanding of him. Sam’s smile was gentle and a little sad. “I thought you were gonna let me take care of you,” he said.

“Sammy – ” Dean started, but Sam silenced him with a kiss and then rolled off the bed, unbuttoning his jeans. Dean shimmied out of the rest of his own clothes, watching Sam out of the corner of his eye. He nearly choked on his own saliva when he saw Sam’s dick, big and flushed dark with blood, jutting out from his body.

Dean recovered himself just as Sam started to turn back towards him and managed to finish kicking his pants off. Sam’s eyes raked down his body with a fierce, hungry expression. Dean tried not to think about the fact that he was naked with his own fucking brother. Sex naked, not innocent naked like when they were little kids and used to take baths together.

Sam lay down next to Dean and pulled him close, rolling Dean onto his side so they were facing each other. Sam slid an arm between Dean’s neck and the bed. His palm landed between Dean’s shoulder blades, moving minutely. It reminded Dean to take a breath; just in time, because Sam tangled their legs together and suddenly that was his dick right up against Dean’s. Sam licked his other hand in a gesture so obscene and beautiful that all Dean could do was stare at him, and then Sam was wrapping that hand around both of their cocks at once.

“Oh fuck,” Dean said. “Oh, fuck.” He squirmed a little in Sam’s grip, the sensations overwhelming and really, really good.

“You all right?” Sam asked, voice strained. Dean nodded quickly.

“Sammy – ” he started, but he didn’t know what to say, so he just shook his head, slung an arm around Sam’s waist, and buried his face in Sam’s chest.

“Dean,” Sam breathed, and then fell silent except for soft puffs of breath as he started moving his hand, jerking them both together.

Dean’s head was swimming as the pleasure built slowly. He felt like he was drowning in Sam, Sam’s smell and the sounds he made and the taste of his skin under Dean’s lips. The feeling of him. The impossibility of what was happening between them. Dean still felt like it wasn’t real, even as heat coiled low in his pelvis and he started thrusting with abandon into Sam’s tight grip.

“Sammy, Sammy,” he heard himself saying. It seemed to be coming from a long way away.

“Yeah, Dean, yeah, it’s okay, come on,” Sam said. His tone was soothing but Dean could hear the strain in his voice, the need, and it pushed him over the edge before he knew what was happening, gasping as he spilled over his brother’s fingers.

“Dean, oh, god, Dean,” Sam was saying. His grip on them was a little uncomfortable for Dean now, but he just gritted his teeth. Sam was right behind him anyway, moaning as his cock pulsed against Dean’s.

“You okay?” they asked each other in unison. Sam laughed and Dean smiled even though he could feel something black and ugly hovering at the corners of his mind, ready to pounce now that the haze of lust had abated.

“I’m good,” Sam said. “You?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Dean lied. Only sort of a lie; at the moment he was kind of okay. He held onto that as Sam kissed him gently, as Sam pulled down the covers for them and pulled Dean into his arms, insisting on being the big spoon. Dean refused to look at the darkness gathering on the horizon of his soul. He couldn’t let Sam down that way. Not now, not after…what had just happened.

Dean clung to Sam’s forearm and when Sam pressed a kiss to the back of his neck, Dean forced himself to relax instead of tense. He thought about nothing except Sam’s heat and how good it felt to be curled up with him like this. Between that and the orgasm and the minimal amount of rest he’d gotten the night before, it didn’t take long for him to fall asleep.

***

Dean woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He’d had nightmares all night. He couldn’t remember any details, but he knew Oberon had been in them, and Sam, and Oberon-as-Sam.

Guilt and horror flooded his mind as he thought about what had happened the previous evening. How could he have let himself do that to Sam? He should never have touched him. And he couldn’t ever do it again; how could he? Sam was his brother. And Dean had ruined everything. What if Sam couldn’t take it and left him again?

Dean’s heart was racing and he felt so nauseous he was afraid he might throw up. Sam had rolled away from him in the night, thank fucking god. Dean slipped out of the bed and started throwing on his clothes as quickly and quietly as he could. He didn’t put his shoes on, and as he stared down as them in his hands, he remembered saying, shoes.

Sam had been trying to give him an out right before that. Sam had given him so many opportunities to say no. Fuck, maybe Sam hadn’t even wanted to – do what they’d done. Maybe he’d been doing it because he thought that was what Dean wanted.

Dean shivered, sickening dread gnawing at his insides. Couldn’t he get anything right? All he’d ever tried to do was take care of Sammy, and now he’d done something so twisted and wrong…Sam might never forgive him, when he woke up and remembered what had happened.

Dean wanted to sprint for the door, but he made himself pad quietly towards it. He turned the handle slowly and carefully, but it clicked, the sound loud in the hushed room. Dean heard Sam stir.

“Dean?” Sam said, voice heavy with sleep.

“Go back to sleep, Sammy,” Dean said, fighting to keep his voice normal. He didn’t turn around. He couldn’t look at Sam right now.

“Dean, where are you going?” Sam asked, sounding so worried that Dean almost turned around. But he couldn’t make himself. He heard the sheets rustling – Sam must be getting up – and Dean opened the door.

“Dean, wait,” Sam said, a frantic edge to his voice. Dean swallowed hard, really afraid he was going to throw up now. He stepped into the hallway, but Sam was just a step behind him.

“Dean – “

The door opposite Sam’s opened and Adam stepped out. Dean stared at him. Adam stared back, his eyes flicking back and forth between Dean and Sam.

“It’s not what it looks like,” Dean burst out. He risked a glance at Sam. Sam, thankfully, had pulled on boxer briefs, but his face was a mask of horror. Dean’s stomach dropped. Just like he’d thought – Sam was totally freaked out by what had happened, too.

Dean looked back at Adam, whose face was ashen. “You – you two are – “ Adam stuttered.

“No, no, man, it’s nothing, it’s nothing,” Dean babbled. Dimly, he was aware that he couldn’t possibly be helping their case with this reaction.

Adam looked at him, then at Sam again. “Lucifer used to tell me you were in love with your brother,” he said hollowly. “He said that was what I come from. A family of twisted perverts – “

“Lucifer lies with the truth,” Sam said. He sounded angry now. “We’re not monsters.”

Adam shook his head and backed up into Gilda’s room, head still shaking like he couldn’t stop. The door slammed shut.

“Fuck!” Sam shouted, hitting the doorframe with his fist. Dean stared at him for a frozen moment. When Sam looked up at him, the anger drained away. He took a step forward.

“Dean, I – ”

Dean stumbled back, suddenly terrified to have Sam touch him or even look at him.

“I gotta shower,” he managed to get out. He fled into his room, shutting the door fast behind him. He leaned against it, breathing hard, wondering if Sam was going to start pounding on it, demanding to be let in. He wasn’t sure what he would do if Sam tried it. He wasn’t sure if he wanted Sam to do it or not.

After a moment, he heard Sam’s door close.

Dean’s vision blurred, his eyes burning with tears. He tried to blink them away, tried to swallow down the lump in his throat, but a choked sob escaped him. He walked slowly to the bathroom, stripping his clothes off again as he did. He stepped into the shower, wishing he knew how to set it very hot. To his surprise and relief, it was much hotter than last time, seemingly responding to his unvoiced thought. Dean stood under the water and cried until he ran out of tears.

***

After he’d gotten out of the shower and dressed, Dean wandered out of his room in a haze. He stared at Gilda’s closed door, then Sam’s. He turned and headed down the hall. He walked through the castle until he found a back exit Barnabas had shown him the other day. It led to a lush garden in full bloom. Dean went through the opening in some tall hedges which would provide at least a little privacy. In the middle of the hedged-in expanse of lawn and flowerbeds was a burbling fountain. The statue in the middle was a huge, monstrous creature with a dozen tentacles which Dean found unsettling even though he usually had kind of a thing for tentacle monsters. He avoided looking at it, focusing on the soothing sound of the water instead.

Wishing he could go for a drive, Dean sprawled on the grass in the morning sun and flung an arm over his eyes. The air felt warm and mild, but not overly hot. He wondered what season it was in the fairy realm. He couldn’t really remember what season it was in the human world, either.

The human world, where he lived with Sam, in Baby and in motel rooms and maybe in the bunker now. Or used to, anyway. Dean wrenched his thoughts away from that and tried not to think about anything at all. He really should find some alcohol, but he didn’t want to move. He felt numb and far away from himself.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been lying there when he heard the sound of softly ringing bells.

“Dean? What’s wrong?” asked a tiny voice. It sounded very worried.

“Nothing, Barnabas,” Dean said.

“But your aura is black,” Barnabas said. “You must be very upset!”

“Leave me alone,” Dean mumbled. After a beat, he felt a small weight land on his sternum. He considered waving the fairy away, but he didn’t even think he could make himself move his arm right now.

He felt Barnabas’ light steps walking up his chest. Something sharp jabbed him under the chin. Dean’s eyes flew open and he started up so he was leaning on one elbow.

“Ow! Dude, what the hell?” Dean demanded. He wiped his chin and found a spot of blood on his finger. He glared at Barnabas, who was holding his rapier.

Barnabas glared right back at him. “You are being very foolish!” he trilled. “How can you expect to go on if you won’t take help when it is offered to you?”

The rush of surprise and annoyance which had animated Dean was already fading. He flopped back onto the ground. “There’s nothing you can do to help,” he said. “There’s nothing anyone can do.”

Barnabas flew next to his ear and pinched it severely.

“Fuckin’ stop that!” Dean said, managing to wave a shooing hand at the fairy this time. Barnabas dodged him easily. He hovered in front of Dean’s face.

“You are wallowing,” he informed Dean. “It’s very unattractive, even on you. Have you had breakfast today?”

“I’m not hungry,” Dean said. It was a lie. He was hungry, he just didn't want to eat.

Even after just a couple days, Barnabas had evidently gotten sufficiently acquainted with Dean’s appetite to look more worried at this. He flew back and forth a couple inches in consternation.

“You are probably too sad to know that you are hungry,” he declared. “I will bring you food and then you will realize it.”

“Barnabas – ” Dean started. He really wasn’t in the mood to try and force food down.

“You see?” Barnabas said brightly. “There is something I can do!” He zoomed away. Dean sighed and shut his eyes again. Maybe it was just as well that Barnabas was insisting on trying to help. At least it was a distraction from the ugly thoughts rattling around in his head.

Ten minutes later, Dean made himself sit up when he heard the tinkling bells which signaled Barnabas’ return. He saw a loaded tray floating towards him as if it were moving of its own volition. Dean blinked, wondering if it was fairy magic. He glanced around for Barnabas, but quickly realized that the tiny fairy was carrying the tray. It made him smile, just a little bit. He reached out to take it off his friend’s hands.

As Dean set the tray on the ground, Barnabas flew up till he was level with Dean’s face again. “I hope I brought enough,” he said anxiously.

Dean raised an eyebrow as he surveyed the food. “Yeah, I think you brought enough for a small army,” he said. There were plates piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns, one plate full of what looked like half a loaf’s worth of toast, another with six different pastries, and assorted little pots with butter, jams, and jellies. Best of all, there was a huge mug of steaming black coffee. Dean grabbed it immediately and added some cream – he often had it black, but he wasn’t sure if his stomach could take that today. He wrapped his hands around the mug, relishing the slight burn, and sipped it gratefully.

Barnabas watched Dean swallow coffee for a couple minutes before bouncing in the air. Even the bells which accompanied the movement managed to sound impatient.

“Food,” he said insistently. “You must eat, my friend!”

“Gimme a minute,” Dean muttered. Barnabas flew down to the tray, picked up the knife, and started buttering a piece of toast. Though his strength was more than equal to the task, the difference in scale obviously made it laborious.

“All right, all right,” Dean said irritably. He put down the coffee and took the knife from Barnabas. When the toast was buttered, he made himself nibble at it as he drank the coffee.

Evidently this wasn’t good enough. A few minutes later, as he was staring off at nothing in particular, a piece of bacon floated into Dean’s field of vision. Barnabas flew it at him, pointing towards Dean’s mouth.

“Open wide!” he shouted enthusiastically.

“Dude!” Dean grabbed the bacon. “You don’t have to feed me like I’m an infant.”

“Apparently, I do!” Barnabas looked pointedly at the buttered triangle of toast on the tray, only half-eaten. Dean rolled his eyes and took a bite of the bacon. It was amazing, of course. The food in the fairy realm was really something, and it stayed hot no matter how long it had been sitting out. Still, Dean didn’t really want it. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was vaguely aware that he should be alarmed to find himself uninterested in great bacon. But he couldn’t seem to care.

Barnabas kept hovering near Dean’s face until Dean had eaten two pieces of bacon and a whole slice of toast. Finally, the fairy sat down on the edge of the tray with an air of triumph. He began pulling off and consuming handfuls of croissant, the pastry nearest to him. Dean settled back on one elbow again and worked on his coffee. He felt somehow better and worse at the same time. He was a little more grounded, his head clearer. But the haze he’d been in before had been somewhat easier to deal with. Now, it was hard to avoid the harsh realities staring him in the face.

“Did you fight more with your brother?” Barnabas asked suddenly. Dean’s stomach lurched and he swallowed hard as the food and coffee in his stomach threatened to exit it very quickly.

“No,” he said, when he could speak without fear of throwing up. “Not exactly.” He could hear the anguished tones of his own voice. He shut his eyes and rubbed his temples, hoping fervently that Barnabas would take the hint.

But that hardly seemed to be the little fairy’s style. “What do you mean?” he asked curiously. “You can talk to me!”

Dean’s eyes blurred at Barnabas’ guileless sympathy. Suddenly, he just wanted to tell him. What did it matter, anyway? Barnabas was something like a friend, but not one he was likely to keep in touch with. Who cared what he thought?

In another corner of his mind, Dean thought that it would actually hurt quite a bit to see this simple, kind, weird little creature turn from him in disgust. With an ugly feeling in his chest, Dean knew that just made him want to tell him more. Barnabas should be disgusted. He should abandon him. It was what Dean deserved.

He made himself say it.

“Me and Sam had sex last night.” His own voice, shaping those words, sounded so wrong.

Barnabas was silent for a long moment. Dean kept his eyes on the grass, not wanting to see Barnabas’ face grow cold.

There was a tinkle of bells, and Barnabas flew into Dean’s sightline. He looked faintly puzzled.

“Is that all?” he asked.

Dean blinked at him. “Sam is my brother,” he reminded the fairy. He’d found that Barnabas could be quite forgetful.

Barnabas gave an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “I know who Sam is,” he said in a tone of withering scorn. “So what?”

Dean shook his head slightly in an attempt to clear it. “So – so he’s my brother! I had sex with my own brother.” Barnabas was still staring at him blankly. “Dude, that’s incest! It’s – it’s sick! I’m a freaking monster!”

Barnabas’ expression cleared. “Oh!” he said. “I’d forgotten about you humans and your incest taboo. We don’t have that here.” He smiled cheekily. “It’s considered a little bit naughty, you know, but all well and good amongst consenting partners! I’ve had sex with a couple dozen of my siblings. It’s fun.”

Dean tried to process this. “But like – dude, what if one of the girls gets pregnant? You could have mutant babies.”

Barnabas waved dismissively. “She just chooses not to get pregnant! If she does and wants to keep the baby, magic will make sure nothing is off.”

After his time among fairies, Dean wondered if anyone would be able to tell if a fairy was ‘off,’ but decided not to ask.

“But I recall now that humans have imperfect birth control, and a dearth of magic.” Barnabas peered into Dean’s face. “Is that the problem? Are you or your brother afraid of getting pregnant?”

Dean blinked at him. “What – no! Jesus, can male fairies get pregnant?!”

“They can if they have a uterus,” Barnabas said. “All right, so pregnancy is not a fear. Why can’t you have sex with your brother?”

Dean’s jaw dropped open. “He’s my brother!” he said. “Look, maybe it’s not a big thing for fairies, but among humans, it’s just fucking wrong.”

“Why?”

“Just – just – it is!” Dean spluttered. “It just is, okay? That’s the deal. It’s sick and wrong and that’s how it is.”

Barnabas shrugged. “Okay, but that seems very silly to me. You said you and your brother have only each other, or near enough. You obviously love him. I’m sure he must love you, because you are wonderful.” He beamed at Dean. “So, your love has taken a new form! This should be celebrated, not mourned.”

Dean’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. He tried to think of what to say. After a moment, Barnabas flew forward, put his hands under Dean’s chin, and gently shut his jaw. Dean felt him press a feather-light kiss to the corner of his mouth.

“Why don’t you talk to him?” Barnabas said. “You are so sad. He is probably sad, too, and misses you.” Dean closed his eyes and shook his head.

“I can’t,” he said hollowly. “You don’t understand, man. It’s not that simple for us.”

Barnabas hummed sympathetically. “Well, then I will wait with you until you are ready.”

Dean sighed and lay back on the grass again, head in his clasped hands. Barnabas settled on his chest. You might be waiting a long freaking time, dude, Dean thought.

***

Memories of last night and Barnabas’ words swirled around in Dean’s head. Despite his churning mind, the warm sun did its work and he eventually fell into a miserable doze. He woke up with a jolt awhile later, hearing Sam calling his name. He sat up, blinking blearily.

“That’s him, isn’t it?” Barnabas said. “I’ll get him!”

“Don’t talk to him about what I told you!” Dean called after him, sick with fear that Barnabas was about to offer Sam some well-intentioned and deeply inappropriate advice about sleeping with your own siblings.

A moment later Barnabas reappeared, holding Sam’s index finger and pulling Sam along after him. Dean looked up at Sam, his heart in his throat. Sam looked haggard, even worse than he had for most of this trip.

“Dean, I was looking everywhere for you,” Sam said. Dean looked at the ground.

“I just needed some time,” he mumbled.

“Come on. We have to go find Gilda and talk to Wayne.”

Dean looked up at him again. “What’s wrong? Is it Adam?”

Sam stared at him like he was nuts for a moment, and then shook his head. “No, Dean, you! The sanctuary will be up in a few hours. We have to figure out this whole service thing.”

“Oh. Right, that.” Dean had completely forgotten about his Oberon problems. He got up, rising more quickly that he had expected to. He realized it was because Barnabas was pulling on his shirt to help him.

“Okay,” Dean said. “Let’s find Gilda.”

***

They were silent on the way back to their rooms. Dean wanted to say something, but his brain felt slow and empty. He could barely look at Sam.

Sam raised his fist to knock on Gilda’s door, but before he could, it swung open. Wayne stood before them.

“Oh, Winchesters,” he said, oozing pleasantness. “I was just coming to let you know your service to Oberon is all taken care of. I assume you’ll be heading home soon, now that you’ve gotten what you came for.”

“What?” Sam said blankly.

“How?” Dean asked at the same time, deeply suspicious.

Wayne waved a hand. “You’ve given him something in return. I’m sure your friend and your brother will tell you all about it.” He smirked. “I hope your stay in my home has been a pleasant one. Let me know if you ever want to do business again. You give good secret. My buyer was very pleased.”

“Hang on – ” Dean said, but Wayne brushed past them, and Dean found himself somehow unable to stop him. Wayne walked off down the hall, whistling merrily.

“Gilda, what happened?” Sam asked, looking into her room. She was standing a few feet inside and had watched the exchange.

“Come in,” Gilda said. “Let us explain.” Sam and Dean stepped into the room, pausing when they saw Adam. He was sitting in an armchair – Gilda’s room was equipped with a couple of armchairs and a small sofa around a low table.

Adam was wrapped in a quilt. He looked pale but composed. “It’s all right,” he said. “You can come in.”

They entered slowly. Sam sat down on the sofa. Dean dithered for a beat about whether to sit next to him or in the armchair – both seemed like equally bad ideas – and finally decided to just remain standing.

Gilda stood next to him and put a hand on the small of his back. Dean startled and looked down at her. She smiled kindly at him. Her hand was warm and Dean could feel himself relaxing marginally. The fog of pain that had been clouding his mind all day eased off a little. He remembered how Adam had reacted to her healing magic and decided to just let her do it if she wanted to. God knew he could use it.

“We traded with Oberon in exchange for your service,” Gilda started.

“What?” Sam asked immediately.

“Me,” Adam said.

Dean could feel his heartrate shoot up. “What?! No, no fucking way! Get Wayne back here, tell him fuck no.” He glared at Gilda. “How could you let this happen? And get off me!” His body jerked, throwing her hand from his back.

“Please,” Gilda said in soothing tones. “Let me explain.”

“I don’t know how you could possibly explain this in a way that makes it okay,” Dean spat. “No one is taking a bullet for me, especially not the guy who just got out of Hell!”

“Dean, calm down,” Sam said. “Let her talk.” His eyes were beseeching. He jerked his head minutely towards Adam. Dean looked at their half-brother; Adam’s eyes were wide and he had drawn the quilt closer around himself. He was shaking.

Dean took a breath and nodded. “Okay, okay,” he said, more quietly this time. “Sorry.”

“We traded your service for Adam’s,” Gilda began.

“That’s not an option,” Dean said, forcing himself to keep his voice calm.

“That is not the end of the story,” Gilda said patiently. “Do not think I would let someone in such need of healing and rest be forced into servitude.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Sam said quietly. “What’s the rest?”

“Oberon agreed to the trade because though Adam is not your father’s first-born son, he is his mother’s, and fairies trace ancestry through the matrilineal line,” Gilda explained. “We agreed to make the trade because Oberon accepted my family’s offer to buy Adam’s service. With us, he will be servant in name only. He will be able to rest in our home, and I will be able to continue helping him to heal.”

“That’s how Gilda thought of it,” Adam said. “I said I didn’t want to leave her and she realized we could solve your problem if I stayed in the fairy realm, if Oberon would agree.” He smiled tiredly. “She’s very clever.”

“I don’t know,” Dean said immediately. “This seems like it has the potential to backfire somehow.” He grimaced. “Shit tends to backfire for us.”

“I’m willing to take the risk,” Adam said firmly. “You two got me out of the Cage. Let me repay the favor.”

“If you’re sure it’s what you want,” Sam said quietly. His expression was sad. Adam looked at him for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you want to help. But – and it’s not your fault – you still look like Lucifer to me. Even though I know you’re nothing like him. I can’t be around you all the time. Not yet.”

“I get it,” Sam said, his voice almost inaudible.

“And…” Adam hesitated. “It seems like you two have, um…stuff of your own to deal with.”

Dean could feel his face getting hot. He clenched his jaw and stared at the floor so he wouldn’t have to make eye contact with anybody in the room.

“I can’t say I really get it,” Adam continued. “But Gilda had kind of a different perspective on…your sort of situation. It’s given me a lot to think about.”

Dean rubbed his temples, trying not to completely freak out that Gilda knew. She didn’t seem to be repulsed, anyway. She probably had the same weird views on it that Barnabas did.

“So maybe…maybe in a little while, you two can visit me.” Dean looked up at that, surprised. Adam shrugged, meeting his eyes briefly and then looking away. “When we’re all in a better state.”

“I’d like that,” Sam said. “When you’re ready.”

“Yeah, man,” Dean said uncomfortably. “Um, whenever you want.”

Adam managed a tiny smile before letting his head fall back against the back of the chair. He closed his eyes. It seemed like putting that many words together in a row had taken all his energy.

Sam and Dean took their cue and headed for the door.

“I’ll come for you in an hour to return you both to your realm,” Gilda said. They nodded their thanks and went to their separate rooms. Dean couldn’t decide if he was more relieved or more upset that Sam didn’t try to say anything to him.

His bag was packed in less than fifteen minutes. Dean set off into the castle again, looking for Barnabas. When he found him and told him they were heading home, Barnabas made distressed movements in the air.

“Oh,” he said sadly in his high voice. “I will miss you, my friend!”

“Miss you too, man,” Dean said. He coughed to clear the hoarseness from his voice. He actually was going to miss the little fucker quite a bit. He felt like he was leaving his only friend in the world, which was a bit of an overstatement even for him. Probably it was because Barnabas knew the truth about him and Sam.

“I am glad to see your aura has lightened to grey, though that still indicates distress,” Barnabas said. “Have you not spoken with your brother yet?”

Dean opened his mouth to tell the little fairy to mind his own beeswax, but instead he said, “I guess I will when we get home.”

Barnabas brightened, his light literally growing a little stronger. “Good! He is handsome and very large and his aura is full of love and concern for you. I think you fit each other well.”

Dean swallowed down another lump of emotion in his throat. “Thanks, man. For everything.”

Barnabas beamed and flew close to kiss his cheek. “It was good to meet you, Dean Winchester! Perhaps I will come visit you sometime, when you and your brother are happy together. And then we will all have sex with each other!” He flew away backwards, waving merrily. Dean grinned, deciding it would be more trouble than it was worth to argue.

***

Sam thanked Gilda for her help over and over after she dropped them off at the bunker. His eyes were huge, full of gratitude and sincerity. Dean realized again just how upset he must have been about Adam. Of course, there was also the mysterious talk Sam had said he’d had with her. Dean tried to put aside his deep discomfort with the fact that she definitely knew about them now, whether she and Sam had discussed it or not.

He watched Sam hug her. He gave her a hug himself, with a gruff “thank you.” It was far less than she deserved, but he hoped she’d get that he meant it. He thought she might; her eyes were bright and sympathetic as she squeezed his arm and wished him well. Dean felt a little bit of that healing energy thing she had flow into him. His shoulders relaxed a fraction. Gilda left them a talisman and a spell that would allow them to communicate with her or Adam if someone needed to get into contact.

She disappeared. The sudden silence was deafening. Sam glanced at Dean, then away.

“I’m going to go unpack,” he said.

“Yeah, okay,” Dean said, trying to force himself to sound normal. But he could tell his tone was strained.

He watched Sam disappear down the hallway. He glanced around the library. Everything looked the same, but nothing felt the same.

Dean clomped off to his own room and threw his duffel bag on his bed. He unzipped it, but found himself staring at the contents for about five minutes without unpacking anything. Finally he sat on his bed and gazed about the room. His chest ached as he thought about how much he liked this room; how he’d been daydreaming about fixing it up, getting things just the way he wanted them, and turning the bunker into not just a home base, but a home – someplace to come back to.

With Sam. He wanted it to be with Sam, of course. No place could possibly be home without Sam.

Dean swallowed hard and stood up. He walked down the hall to Sam’s room. The door was closed. Dean hesitated, then knocked resolutely.

For a second there was silence. Dean’s heart was in his throat. Finally he heard Sam say, “Come in.”

Dean opened the door and took a step inside, warily. Sam was at his dresser, back to Dean, folding a shirt. Those were his brooding shoulders again, damn it.

“Hey,” Dean said awkwardly.

“Hey,” Sam replied, not turning around.

“Man, we gotta talk or do something,” Dean burst out. “I don’t – I can’t – we can’t go on like this.”

Sam stopped folding and bowed his head. “I know,” he said, voice pained. “What do you want to do about it?”

“I – ” Dean stopped and bit his lip, making himself think about what he wanted to say. “Look, the last couple days have been some of the worst of my life.”

Sam finally faced him at that, his brow drawn with concern. “I’m so sorry, Dean,” he said. “I – listen, if…” He took a deep breath. “If it’s too much, then we can just…not talk about it. Just forget it.”

Dean blanched. “Is that what you want?”

Sam avoided his eyes. “It’s what I’m willing to do. If it means…” He shook his head slightly. “If it means not losing you.”

Dean took a step closer to him automatically. “Sammy, you’re not going to lose me,” he said incredulously. It had never occurred to him that Sam would worry about him leaving. “That’s not even a thing.”

Sam looked up, his eyes brimming. “Okay,” he said quietly. He sniffed and blinked rapidly. “Good. Thank you.” He turned away again, pulling another shirt out of his bag.

Dean grabbed Sam's arm, saw him flinch, and let him go quickly. “What do you actually want?” he asked.

Sam swallowed. “Don’t ask me that, Dean,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll like the answer.”

Dean’s heart felt like it might pop out of his chest. “I’m asking,” he said roughly.

Sam pressed his lips together for a moment, then nodded once. “In my ideal world, we’d be together,” he said bluntly. “Together together. I love you, Dean. I want – something more with you.” He sighed. “But I’m okay with things as they are. As long as you’re still in my life.”

He looked so fragile. Dean ached for him. All he wanted to do was touch Sam’s face and smooth away the pain.

So, after a second, he did. He stepped forward and cupped Sam’s chin in one hand, his other hand ghosting over Sam’s cheek and hair.

Sam inhaled sharply, half-closing his eyes and turning into Dean’s touch. “Dean?” he said tremulously.

“It’s okay, Sammy,” Dean said soothingly, all his caretaker instincts coming to bear in the moment.

“Dean, you can’t do this just for me,” Sam said desperately. A tear fell from his eye. “I can’t let you do that.”

“It’s not,” Dean said hoarsely. “Sure, it’s because you need it that I can let it happen. I couldn’t have just for me, but…fuck, I want it too, Sam.”

Sam looked down at him, the vulnerability in his expression heartrending. “Are you sure?” he whispered.

Dean nodded fast. “I mean – look, it’s not always going to be easy. I still feel pretty fucked in the head about this, and I probably will sometimes for awhile. Maybe a long time.” He tried to smile. “Just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. I’ve got enough issues to rival National Geographic.”

Sam’s dimples showed. Dean felt a surge of triumph that he’d coaxed a smile out of his brother.

“But I want to try,” he continued. “I want to try and be good to you, Sammy.”

“You’re always good to me,” Sam murmured. He stepped in closer, their bodies nearly flush now. One of his hands settled on Dean’s hip, hot even through the fabric of Dean’s t-shirt.

Dean shook his head. “No, I know I totally fucked up the beginning of this,” he said. “That’s on me.”

“It’s on me, too,” Sam said quickly. “I shouldn’t’ve let it come out in the room with Wayne like that.” He winced. “I should’ve given you a head’s up. I thought maybe you wouldn’t have to know. I was so afraid you’d hate me for it.”

Dean shook his head emphatically. “Couldn’t ever hate you, Sammy,” he said. He tipped his face up towards Sam, exerting the slightest pressure on Sam’s neck. Sam responded slowly, inclining his head like he was trying to give Dean a chance to turn away.

Dean didn’t turn. When Sam’s lips met his, he felt a shock wave of sensation and emotion pass through him. It was like breathing; it was the most natural thing in the world. Sam’s lips parted, and Dean felt like he was drowning in something sweet and warm and he never, ever wanted it to stop.

It finally did, though. They were both breathing hard. Somewhere in the kiss they had pressed their bodies together at last and now Sam was clinging to him.

“So, you want to try this?” Dean asked, determined to be sure before this went any further. “Even though I’m probably going to be an idiot douche about it sometimes?”

Sam smiled. “Yeah,” he said fervently. “I want to. I want to.” He kissed Dean again, his fingers digging into Dean’s shoulder blades. Dean buried his hand in Sam’s hair, drinking in the soft feeling and the sound of Sam’s little gasps against his lips.

It felt like a dream as they undressed each other, but not in the hazy, out-of-body way it had seemed the other night. Dean was acutely aware of every inch of Sam’s skin against his; of the press of his mouth, the scratch of his stubble. He couldn’t stop looking at Sam’s eyes, bright and soft, or at his muscular body. He touched Sam everywhere and felt Sam relaxing by inches, somehow seeming peaceful even as he arched with pleasure when Dean hit the right spot.

Sam’s cock was ridiculously big for his mouth, but Dean wouldn’t stop, couldn’t stop. He felt like he was drunk on Sam’s moans of pleasure, the salty taste of him, the sound of Sam crying out his name. Practically the second he was done Sam was getting up. Idiot didn’t know how to relax in post-orgasm glow. Dean’d have to teach him about that. Sam pushed Dean down onto the bed, pinning Dean’s wrists for a moment when Dean tried to pull Sam down with him. Dean went limp automatically and thought he’d like to look into that further at some point.

Sam swallowing him down made every single thought fly out of Dean’s head. If he’d still had the capacity, he might’ve been embarrassed by the way he totally lost control, hips jerking till Sam had to hold him still, saying stupid shit over and over again. “Sammy, Sammy, oh my god, oh fuck, oh my fucking god,” over and over in an amazed voice that barely even sounded like his own. It didn’t help that Sam wouldn’t stop moaning. Dean didn’t even care that he came way faster than he usually did, except for how it meant that Sam stopped sucking him.

“Fucking fuck,” Dean muttered, when his head had stopped spinning and he’d regained the power of speech. He groped blindly for Sam and hauled him up to kiss him. They didn’t stop kissing for a long time. When they finally did, they ended up lying there together with their legs tangled up and Sam holding Dean so tight that Dean’s face was shoved into Sam’s chest. Sam's scent enveloped him, and even though he could barely breathe, he didn’t want to move an inch because it felt so good.

Dean thought about how this was really happening, and how they could do this kind of thing whenever they wanted to now. They could make out like teenagers and fuck in every room in the bunker if they felt like it, and in Baby, backseat or front – hell, Dean would probably climb in the trunk for it if Sam wanted him to – and in every goddamn motel room. It was unimaginable. Dean tried to come to terms with the fact that it was really true, but his brain gave him nothing but a row of question marks and a series of heart-eye emojis.

“Stop thinking,” Sam said softly, stroking his back. “I can feel you thinking too much.” He sounded a little worried. Dean chuckled, moving his head so Sam could actually hear him when he spoke.

“Yeah, but I’m happy,” he said, every bit of the surprise he was feeling audible in his voice.

Sam peeled back a little so he could scrutinize Dean’s face. “Really?” he said.

“Yeah,” Dean replied, still feeling astonished. “I – I think this might actually work.” He could feel a big, dopey grin spreading across his face and didn’t even try to hide it. What the fuck was the point?

Sam’s answering smile was dazzling. His lips on Dean’s felt like coming home.