“Are you sure he’s the one?”
Sam follows his brother’s gaze as Dean takes in the long, lean lines of the young man lounging against the fireplace mantel. Sam guesses his age to be around 18 or 19. He’s definitely not fully formed. His features are regular, if a little angular, his hair styled carefully, clothing fashionable without being flashy.
He looks a little like Sam did at that age, but shorter.
Dean nods. “He’s the one, all right. Only child of an ailing parent, who will soon perish in an untimely accident. Grieving sons are my specialty, after all.”
Sam shivers. Their father’s death still haunts him, and his ghost isn’t at rest, either. Sam’s psychic sensibilities allow him to sense ghosts, even to talk to them. It’s one of the ways the Winchesters make their living, traveling from town to town, holding séances and psychic readings. Sam’s good at it. He’s a hit, and their reputations precede them everywhere they go. They should be rolling in dough.
But of course Dean’s mechanical projects require a continual influx of cash. He’s a talented inventor. Brilliant, really. It was Dean’s idea to wire the house with electricity and power it with a homemade generator. He built their horseless carriage from scratch. He built an elevator, a moving staircase, washing machines for laundry and dishes, and a drying machine for their clothes. He built an intercom system with speakers and microphones in every room of their mansion, and he’s been working on a machine which will turn the red-tinged clay of their property in Kansas into fuel for the generator. He’s also been working on a flying machine.
It was Dean’s idea to appeal to wealthy investors. With his devastating good looks and charm, he’s the natural front man for the brothers’ company, Winchester Ventures. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the success he hoped for. Targeting wealthy individual investors, on the other hand, has been proving quite lucrative.
Young Colin Ford is Dean’s fourth wealthy friend over the past decade. He has a knack for attracting them, especially the lonely ones.
Sam takes care of the rest.
“Do you think he’s related to Henry Ford?” Dean muses now. The room is starting to fill up with well-dressed people sipping cocktails. The string quartet begins to play.
Sam shakes his head. “Different family,” he says. “But Colin’s prospects are substantial.”
“So you approve,” Dean notes, taking a sip of his drink.
Sam makes a face. “He’s very young.”
“Sometimes the young ones are easier,” Dean says. “More susceptible.”
Sam shrugs. He doesn’t like to let Dean see how jealous he is. He’s doing this for Dean, he reminds himself. Dean deserves everything. He practically raised Sam, took care of him, kept him safe when they were kids. Saved him after their father died.
The State would have locked Sam up for life and thrown away the key, but Dean got him out. Brought him home. Loved him despite everything he’d done, everything he was. Everything he is.
Dean deserves to be supported in all his projects. He deserves all of Sam’s love. Sam would do anything for his brother.
Sam ducks his head, blushing bashfully. “No, no,” he says. “I’m not that kind of psychic.”
The group of young women who have cornered Sam make him nervous. He can see his brother across the room, speaking low and quiet to Colin Ford, and Sam wishes he could hear. He wishes the young women would leave him alone.
“But you can speak to ghosts,” Eileen clarifies.
Sam nods. “Sometimes,” he agrees. “If the ghost wants to communicate.”
“If?” another woman repeats. Sylvia.
“Well, not all ghosts want to connect to the living,” Sam explains patiently. “Some of them are happy to be left alone.”
“They tell you that?” Eileen presses.
“Not always in words, no,” Sam says. “Sometimes they just convey a desire for privacy. A kind of non-verbal ‘Back off!’, essentially.”
He shivers. Just last week, he’d done a séance for a family who desperately wanted to talk to their dearly departed mother and grandmother, to find out her wishes regarding certain beloved family heirlooms.
The woman’s ghost had responded with an angry blast of cold air that sank deep into Sam’s bones. He’d stopped the séance and sent the family home, disappointed but properly spooked. Sam was pretty sure they’d be leaving grandma alone henceforth.
Sam watches as Dean pats Colin Ford’s shoulder, looks up to meet Sam’s eye, and winks. He watches as Dean leaves the young man to rejoin his brother. Even from across the room, Sam can see the slight flush on Colin’s cheeks. Dean’s done it again.
“Excuse me, ladies.” Dean smiles as he sidles up next to Sam, puts a hand lightly on the small of Sam’s back. “I need to speak to my brother for a moment.”
The women giggle and blush. They close ranks in a gossipy circle as Sam and Dean move away to a corner of the room where a half-drawn curtain hides them from view.
“Got us an invite for tomorrow night,” Dean murmurs, keeping his voice deliberately low. “Colin and his father live alone, so it’ll just be the four of us, plus Eileen Leahy and her parents.”
“Oh no, Dean,” Sam whines. “Not Eileen!”
“Why not? She likes you. It’ll be great.” Dean pats him on the chest, goes up on tiptoe to leave a quick kiss on his cheek. “Besides. You know how you get when I flirt with other people. I need you like that, Sammy.”
Sam huffs out a disgusted breath but gets hard at the same time. Of course Dean pushes his buttons. He always knows exactly what it takes to make Sam get all hot and bothered.
The fact that Dean needs him that way only makes Sam harder.
“Come on,” Dean urges, stepping away. “Let’s join the party.”
The Leahys have invited their entire social circle to this introductory reception in honor of their guests, the Dukes of Winchester. They’re not real royalty, of course, but the stories of their eccentric lifestyle have given them an aristocratic aura that suits them. That evening, Sam performs the first of three scheduled séances, and Dean demonstrates some of his mechanical skills: a small-scale model of a drill he’s building back in Kansas for the adults, a remote-controlled mechanical bird that sings and flies for a gathering of children.
As Dean finishes his performance, Sam can’t help noticing Colin Ford standing off to one side, watching. He’s obviously already completely infatuated with Dean. Sam’s blood boils, but he keeps it hidden as he waits for his brother to rejoin him.
“How did it go?” Dean asks in the carriage on their way back to the hotel.
Sam nods. “It went well. I think Mrs. Leahy was pleased.” The séance briefly reunited Mrs. Leahy with a child she lost before Eileen was born. Sam could feel the woman’s gratitude, even through her grief. It’s what Sam does best, giving his clients a chance to say goodbye, to confirm that their loved ones are at peace.
“You’re glad it’s over,” Dean notes, placing his hand on Sam’s knee and giving it a warm squeeze.
“You know I am,” Sam admits. “I hate those things. Too many people.”
“We’ll be home by the end of the week,” Dean promises. “This time, if all goes well, we should be set for at least the next couple of years.”
Sam nods. He prefers the quiet life they lead at home, just the two of them. Dean’s more social. He actually enjoys these little forays into society. He’s good at them.
Sam can’t wait for the week to be over so he can get home again. The boy will come with them, of course. That’s how it works. Once he’s signed his assets over to Dean, he’ll sign his life over to Sam.
Just like always.
Only Colin’s father is unamused. He glowers at Dean throughout dinner, asks him for a word alone afterwards in his study.
“What was that about?” Sam asks in the carriage afterwards.
Dean shakes his head. “He doesn’t like me,” he says with a scowl. “Figures I’m some kind of con man.”
“Well...” Sam raises an eyebrow.
“Called me a toymaker,” Dean goes on. “Like it’s an insult.”
Sam grins. “He’s got your number.”
“Something tells me he’s about to fall down that rickety flight of stairs at his office,” Dean growls. “Soon.”
Sam nods sagely. “Fair enough.”
After the funeral, Dean convinces Colin to accompany the Winchesters to their home in Kansas.
“It’ll do you good,” Dean tells him. “Change of pace, start fresh, leave this place with all its sad connotations.”
Colin agrees, leaving the sale of the house and arrangements for wiring his inheritance to a bank in Lawrence to his lawyer.
Sam lets Eileen Leahy down none-too-gently. It always vaguely disgusts him when women find him attractive. He’s got no sympathy for the little look of surprise that crosses her face when he tells her he’s leaving.
As if it wasn’t obvious that Sam’s in love with somebody else. That she thinks of herself as intelligent yet can’t see that Sam’s taken almost makes him want to tell her, just to see the look of shock followed by horror in her big brown eyes.
Just as Dean promised, the Winchesters and their new friend are on their way home by the end of the week.
Colin stands in the entryway to Winchester Manor and stares.
Sam and Dean exchange glances. It had been Dean’s idea when the roof fell in over the great hall about four years ago not to repair it, but instead to leave it open to the elements. Now the space acts as a courtyard, stairs winding away to the upper floors along one wall, working elevator straight ahead. Snow falls softly.
Fire blazes in the sitting and dining room fireplace, off to the left. Dean does all the cooking. He wired ahead for food to be delivered so they could eat when they arrived. Bobby, their only servant, acts mostly as a gofer and handyman, assisting Dean with his projects when needed. He met them when they arrived at the train station, barely glancing at Colin as he was introduced. After Dean drove them home in their horseless carriage, Bobby unpacked it for them before driving it off to the stables.
“You don’t keep horses?” Colin asks.
“Don’t need ‘em,” Dean answers proudly. “Baby gets us everywhere we want to go. Or at least, she gets us to the train station when we need to head East. Bobby takes care of her while we’re gone.”
“Will you teach me to drive her?” Colin asks.
“Sure, kid, sure,” Dean answers smoothly.
Sam knows full well Dean will never let anyone but Bobby drive Baby. She’s his.
“Let me show you your room while Dean gets supper on for us,” Sam says, leading the way to the elevator. Colin follows, lugging his suitcases awkwardly.
Sam holds the elevator door, gestures for Colin to precede him inside, then slides the door shut behind them. As the elevator rises, Colin gazes around, wide-eyed.
“How many rooms does this place have?”
Sam shrugs. “No idea. We only live in about six of them. Your room has a bathroom and a sitting room with a small library. You shouldn’t need anything else while you’re here, but you’re welcome to look around. I’ll warn you, though. The rest of the house is unheated and uncared-for, except Dean’s workshop in the attic. And, of course, our living quarters.”
“Your father built this place?”
Sam nods. “Thirty-five years ago, when he brought our mother here, it was just a sod house in the middle of the prairie. Dad had all the building materials brought in by train.”
“What happened to her?” Colin asks, following Sam down the hallway when they reach the fourth floor.
“There was a fire in my nursery, when I was about six months old,” Sam says. “She died.”
Colin’s eyes widen. “I’m so sorry.”
Sam shrugs. “Dean misses her, but I never knew her.”
He opens the door to Colin’s suite and is met by a flurry of wings. A little yellow canary flies out of the room, fluttering away down the hall.
“Huh,” Sam says, staring after the bird with a frown. “I thought it was dead.”
Sam shows Colin where he can put his clothes, then he shows him how to use the bathroom.
“There’s plenty of hot water,” Sam says, gesturing to the bathtub. “Feel free to take a bath and clean yourself up before supper. There are clean towels in the closet. “Heating pipes in the walls keep the rooms up here nice and warm. Dean installed them.”
“Is there anything Dean can’t do?” Colin asks, a bit breathlessly.
Sam stops in the doorway, thinking a minute, then shakes his head. “Nope.”
Colin follows Dean around like a puppy and Dean tolerates him, even gives him fond smiles once in awhile, which drives Sam to distraction. At night, Sam pushes Dean up against a wall and reminds him who’s first in his heart, and his bed.
Nevertheless, Sam’s jealousy gets the better of him sometimes.
“Do you wish I was still 19, Dean? Is that what this is about?”
“What? No!” Dean insists. “You’re you, Sam. Doesn’t matter how old you are, I swear!”
“But you showed him your workshop! You let him play with your toys!”
“Stop it, Sammy.” Dean pushes him down on the bed, crawls between his legs, leans down to kiss him. “You’ll always be it for me. Any other relationship is just temporary and you know it. You’re my brother.”
The word slips from Dean’s lips like an endearment, and Sam knows what Dean means. What Sam and Dean have between them is sacred. It’s devotional. It’s a blessing and a curse in one.
When Colin learns the truth about them, it’s almost a relief. Sam had wanted to tell him, to make it clear who Dean belongs to, since the first day Dean laid eyes on the kid.
So the night Colin comes bursting through the door to Dean’s bedroom — their bedroom — scared to death because he’s just seen a ghost, only to find Sam and Dean nearly naked and making love — Sam raises his eyes to Colin in triumph. He watches the look of horror contort Colin’s smooth, young features. He watches as Colin stumbles backwards away from them, into the flimsy railing of the landing. He sees the moment Colin loses his balance, crashing headlong backwards over the railing, falling four floors to the courtyard below.
“Our dad used to beat Dean till he couldn’t walk,” Sam tells Colin. “I healed him, tending him just like this, until he was well enough to get up out of bed again. Then Dad would get drunk, beat the hell out of him again. Round and round we went. Until one day, he went too far.”
Tears rise to Sam’s eyes. He takes a minute (Colin’s got time), dips the washcloth in the bowl of cool water, rings it dry again before applying it to Colin’s dry-hot forehead. Fever. He’s probably delirious at this point, dreaming. Maybe even enjoying Sam’s ministrations.
“What he did to Dean that day, it’s embossed in my memory. I’ll never be able to forget it.”
He takes a long, shuddering breath, wipes his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Dean had to pull me off him, take the knife from my hand.” Sam shakes his head at the memory. “The blood was so red, and there was so much of it, red and sticky and smelling of copper.”
Colin watches him, unable to move or speak, unable to react except to blink.
“Dean was beautiful,” Sam says with a sigh. “When he was sixteen, he was the most gorgeous creature you can imagine. Like an angel. I thought he was an angel, sent to protect me, to take care of me and protect me from our father.”
Sam straightens the sheets over Colin’s chest. How easy it would be to pull them up over his face, to put the pillow over it and press.
“I didn’t understand until later that Dean had been protecting me the whole time,” Sam says, hands clutching the sheets reflectively. “Dad tried to kill me, when I was small. I don’t even remember, but apparently he hated me because he thought it was my fault Mom died. He thought I started the fire that killed her.”
He looks up, into Colin’s eyes, sees the tears there. Colin understands. His mother died because of him, too.
“I had her psychic power, you see. I inherited her abilities. Dad knew she was a psychic when he married her. He brought her all the way out to Kansas, thinking she would be fine, so far away from other people. Out here, maybe she wouldn’t be dangerous.”
Sam looks up again. Colin stares, wide-eyed. Terrified.
“But there was something wrong with her,” Sam continues. “She wasn’t quite sane. After Dean was born, Dad tried to have her committed. I’ve seen the records.”
Sam reaches for the pillow, pulls it close against his chest, like a comfort object.
“I think she set the fire, after I was born,” he confides, voice soft. “I think she wanted us both to die. She saw the evil in me, recognized it because it was in her, too. But Dean saved me.”
Sam closes his eyes, unable to recall that night but remembering what Dean told him. He imagines little four-year-old Dean, terrified out of his mind, clutching the bundle of blankets that contained his little brother, running out the front door of the mansion in his bare feet. Sam imagines Dean turning back to look up at the nursery window in the moment before it explodes, sending flames and shattered glass into the snow and cold.
The snow came early that year, too.
“After Dad died, I spent two years in the insane asylum where Mom was supposed to go. Then Dean turned 18 and he got me out. We’ve been living here ever since.”
Sam puts the pillow down, gets up, and crosses to the window to watch the snow fall. He drops his fingers to the desk, to the financial papers signing over all of Colin’s assets. He’s been forging Colin’s signature on them, a few at a time so it’s not too obvious.
“You’ve probably figured out that you’re not the first of Dean’s friends,” Sam says without turning. “After Mom’s death, Dad burned through most of her fortune as well as his own before he died. There wasn’t much left when we moved back here. I had my psychic act, and for a few years that kept us from starving. But Dean needed his work.”
Sam lifts his eyes to the reflection of Colin in the dark glass of the window.
“The first one was a beautiful Italian heiress named Genevieve,” Sam reveals. “She was with us just three weeks, not much longer than you. She left us so much, we didn’t want for funding for nearly three years.”
Sam reaches for the decanter, pours himself a glass of whiskey, sips thoughtfully.
“The second one was a young Englishman. Mark. He was with us almost a month before he took a dive off the same landing you did. He didn’t survive.”
Sam crosses to the fire, pokes it with the iron, adds a log before turning toward the bed.
“The next was another Italian, a young widow with a child. You’ve probably seen their ghosts.” Sam lets his fingers skim along the edge of the sheet. “The child died of natural causes, I want you to understand. I could never harm a child. After her death, her mother took to drink, fell down a flight of stairs to her own death. Very sad.”
Sam’s fingers trace Colin’s face gently. “Then there was you.” Sam draws a deep breath, lets it out slow. “He chose you because you resemble me, did you know that? We could almost be brothers.”
Sam leans down, presses a soft kiss to Colin’s slack lips.
“He probably would’ve loved to watch us together,” Sam whispers with a smirk. He shivers as he draws back, grateful the thought hadn’t crossed his mind before. He might have to confront Dean about it later, though. Can’t have Dean thinking he’d share him with anyone, even just for a hot show.
Colin’s eyelids flutter. Sam can tell that he’s having trouble breathing. His lips are blue. He doesn’t have long to live.
“How’s he doing?” Dean’s voice fills the room and Sam turns, smiles to see his brother in the doorway, leaning on the frame.
“Not long now,” Sam says. “We’ve just been having a little chat.”
Dean raises an eyebrow. “Not going soft on me now, are you, Sammy?”
Sam grabs Dean’s lapels, shoves him up against the doorframe. “Tell me you never fantasized about him and me together,” he hisses. “Tell me that’s not why you picked him.”
Dean frowns, then blinks up at him innocently. Sam presses a knee between his legs, feels Dean’s dick harden in his velvet trousers.
“I never, Sammy,” Dean mumbles, voice rough with desire. “You’re the only one for me. You know that!”
Sam stares at him for another moment, then dips his head and kisses him dirty.
“You better not be lying,” Sam hisses when he comes up for air. “You know I’ll never share you with anyone, ever!”
“I know that, Sam,” Dean croaks as Sam shakes him, cutting off his air supply. “I’m yours, you know that.”
Sam nods, then gives Dean another brutal kiss, making his lips look stung and swollen, just the way Sam likes them. When he’s finally satisfied, he turns his head to see Colin watching them, eyes at half-mast. Maybe he’s turned on.
On second glance, though, it’s obvious that he’s just dead.
“So much for your exhibitionist kink,” Sam notes with a roll of his eyes.
Dean raises an eyebrow, smirks.
“There’s always next time, Sammy.”
The winter passes uneventfully. Dean works on his indoor projects in his workshop while Sam reads, works on his spells, and talks to the ghosts. None of them seem to remember how they died, or at least if they do they don’t blame Sam. Much.
It’s a good life.
In the spring, the Winchesters will go into town, get Colin’s bank accounts transferred to Winchester Ventures. By then, the townspeople will have forgotten Colin was with them when they arrived at the train station from the East.
The bank manager is so happy for their business, he never questions their oddly-timed influxes of cash, just accepts the money transfers with gratitude, without batting an eye.
Sometimes Sam spreads Dean open on their bed, takes him apart as the fire roars in the fireplace and the snow falls in the courtyard. Sometimes he takes Dean slow, but most of the time he’s greedy, pounds into Dean with noisy, possessive abandon. He likes to think of the ghosts watching, listening. He likes to think they’re jealous.
He’s got Dean. Dean is his.
They failed. They died.
He falls asleep with Dean spooned against his chest, idly stroking Dean’s stomach. The skin is smooth and warm, slightly tacky where he missed a spot when he cleaned Dean up after Dean came all over himself earlier.
It feels like blood.