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The Time Traveler's Brother

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It's almost two more months before Old Sam appears again.

Dean's out in the woods, hunting wild game because – well, John didn't make it back and they're stranded here with no car, no phone and their stay at the cabin has become another wilderness training exercise, whether John intended that or not. Luckily, the well hasn't run dry, plus they have the lake, so there's plenty of water. The propane tank ran out a month ago, though, so they've been cooking outside – it's early spring, and the snow is almost gone, and although it gets cold in the cabin at night there are plenty of blankets and as long as they huddle together for warmth –

At least the lights are still working.

With Sammy's help, Dean used the hedge-clippers in the cellar to help remove his casts a week ago. The white, puckered skin of his legs makes them look weak and useless, but the bone seems healed and he can stand without crutches now. He does exercises to force his atrophied muscles to work again, takes long walks in the woods. When the weather warms up a bit he'll go swimming in the lake.

Sam builds traps and they've had rabbit stew for the past month. They found a bag of potatoes in the cellar, even dug up some frozen carrots that had been left in the garden from last year's harvest. The fact that somebody planted them, tended them, then left for the winter is somehow encouraging to Dean. The cabin still gets used occasionally, he tells himself, and maybe whoever used it last year will be back when the weather gets warmer, so they won't have to try to walk out on their own.

Dean's deer-hunting because he's getting a little tired of rabbit. No, scratch that. He's getting a little tired of Sam providing all the food. Getting the casts off was a huge step toward reclaiming his rightful place as the head of this family – well, as the older brother, anyway. The stream leading into the lake is a major draw for large game, so all Dean really has to do is hike up far enough away from the cabin that there are no more cooking smells on the breeze, conceal himself in the underbrush, and wait.

Dean hears a twig break before he sees anything. He raises his gun, holds it steady, waits again. Branches sway as something brushes them and Dean keeps his eyes trained in that direction, still waiting. Something camel-colored moves behind a tree, brushes a branch, and another twig breaks. It's big, Dean's sure of that, and the right color –

The branches part and Old Sam is standing there, across the stream, staring at him. He's dressed as he usually is, in layers of flannel and canvas, baggy jeans and stupidly long, unkempt hair, and Dean is so relieved to see him he almost cries. He looks older, thinner, almost emaciated, like he's been sick, and he watches Dean warily as Dean puts his gun away, shakes his head at him.

"Thought you were a deer," he says as he stands up.

Old Sam takes a step back, puts his hands up like he expects Dean to attack him. He's got this wild-eyed, almost panicked look on his face, confused and frowning and more than a little disoriented.

"Sam? You okay?" Dean's sure this is his Old Sam this time, but something isn't quite right. Again.

"Where am I?" Old Sam asks, still half-turned away, like he means to make a break for it if Dean tries anything.

"It's 1995, Sam," Dean answers. "Blue Star, Michigan. The spring after the car accident. Remember?"

Old Sam's frown deepens, like he's making a serious effort to understand, like he doesn't even recognize Dean, much less hear what he's saying.

"What's going on, Sam? You hit your head or something?"

Dean takes a step closer, puts his hands out like he's approaching a wild animal and doesn't want to startle him. Old Sam twitches, a look of panic flitting across his face, and Dean thinks he might just bolt, take off into the woods at a dead run and never be seen again – Which is crazy scary and Dean doesn't even want to think about when in the future Sam becomes so terrified of his own brother –

At the last moment, Old Sam's face clears, like he suddenly recognizes Dean, and his body language completely changes, relaxes.

"Dean?" he asks hopefully.

"Yeah, buddy, it's me," Dean nods encouragingly. "What's going on with you, huh? You okay?"

Old Sam shakes his head a little, looks around like he's realized where he is for the first time, like he didn't even notice before. Dean steps over the stream, moves right into Old Sam's personal space so he can smell him, takes a deep breath.

Brother. All brother.

He's so relieved he doesn't even stop to think, just grabs Old Sam and pulls him in, wraps his arms around him and buries his face in his neck, gulping in deep breaths of Sam's sweat-soaked, spicy scent.

"Good to see you, buddy," Dean murmurs against Sam's warm skin. "So good. Where you been, huh? Where the hell you been?"

Dean pulls back so he can look up into Old Sam's face; he pushes the hair back from his eyes and leaves his hand there, brushes his thumb across Old Sam's soft, pink lips. Old Sam gazes back at him, eyes glistening with emotion, forehead wrinkled with that familiar compassionate look of his...

Damn, Dean loves this man. Loves him so much it's like he can't even breathe when he's not there, like all his breaths are shallow whispers of the way he breathes when Sam's in his arms like this. He curls his fingers around the back of Old Sam's neck, coaxes him to lean his face down so Dean can kiss those soft lips, so he can run his hand through Sam's silky dark hair as he does it. He slides his tongue into Sam's warm, wet mouth and grinds his hips against Sam's thigh, hearing himself moan low in his throat. Old Sam has his arms completely wrapped around Dean's body, one hand clenched around Dean's shoulder, kneading the muscle, holding him steady as Dean plunders his mouth.

"Been so long, Sam," Dean gasps when he finally pulls back to catch a breath, dragging Sam's scent deep into his lungs. "Missed you so much."

"Right here, Dean," Old Sam murmurs as Dean mouths his jaw. "Always right here."

"Need you," Dean grinds his hips into Sam's leg, so his meaning is clear. "Wanna fuck you, Sam."

Old Sam shivers, slips one huge hand behind Dean's head and turns his face so he can capture Dean's mouth, silences him with a kiss in which Sam takes the lead, holding Dean where he wants him so he can plunge his tongue into Dean's mouth, sucks and nips at his lips until they're sore and swollen. But when Dean works his hand down between their bodies so he can palm Old Sam's dick, Old Sam pulls away, grabbing Dean's biceps so he can hold him at a distance.

"No – I – no," Old Sam gasps. He's breathing hard, face flushed and pupils blown, and Dean could swear he was getting the right signals, so –

"I'm sixteen now," Dean reminds him. "You said – I thought – "

Old Sam grimaces, shakes his head.

"Could we just – I mean, I – It's fuckin' freezing out here, dude," Old Sam hems and haws, finally falling back on the obvious as he pulls his jacket closed, shoves his hands into his armpits, stomps his feet.

Dean raises his eyebrows, steps close again, lowering his eyelids then raising them slowly with a look that usually gets him what he wants.

"Well, I know a way to warm up," he drawls suggestively, slipping his hands under Old Sam's jacket so he can grab his belt loops and pull him in again.

But Old Sam isn't having it. He pulls back, shaking his head, blushing furiously but unable to look at Dean.

"I can't," he says. "I want to – God, Dean, you have to believe I want to – but I – I just can't."

"What now?" Dean demands, throwing his hands up in frustration. "You afraid of knocking me up or something? Cuz I got protection, Sam, I promise."

"Oh my God, Dean," Old Sam protests. "No. That's not it. It's – it's not you, okay?"

Dean frowns, confused and more than a little hurt by Old Sam's rejection.

"So we're back to 'let's just be friends,' Sam? Is that it? Cuz you seemed pretty into it a couple of minutes ago."

Old Sam shakes his head, chewing on his bottom lip in that distracted, pained way he has that pushes all of Dean's protective buttons because something is definitely not right here. It reminds him of something, and now he can't get it out of his head, so he shifts his feet, widening his stance and squaring his shoulders, and just goes ahead and asks the thing.

"Does this have anything to do with what happened last month?"

Old Sam's eyes flick up to Dean's and he stares.

"Last month?" Old Sam echoes, confused.

Now it's Dean's turn to look away, shift uncomfortably. "Yeah, you – Well, not you – definitely not you – when I was – when I had my casts on and you – "

The look of horror that slowly spreads across Old Sam's expressive face is as fascinating as it is terrifying, and Dean can't help staring, clearing his throat nervously.

"Oh my God," Old Sam whispers. "Tell me I didn't – I didn't hurt you, did I, Dean?"

"Wait." Now Dean is completely confused. "So that was you? That thing with the clothes and the hair and the – the smell – That was you?"

Old Sam looks so pained and unhappy that Dean steps closer again, the instinct to protect and comfort overriding even his own embarrassment. Something is seriously wrong, because if that thing on his bed last month was really Sam...

"Sam, you have to explain this to me," Dean goes all commanding big brother because he is really worried now. "I'm sorry about the whole 'I can't tell because it might change the timeline thing,' but this is seriously fucked up, man, so if you don't tell me what the hell happened to you – if something happened that made my little brother turn into a fuckin' zombie..."

"I went to Hell," Old Sam says in a rush, his eyes wide and glittering like he's half-crazed and afraid if he doesn't just burst out and say the thing that needs saying he won't be able to say it at all. "I spent over a year-and-a-half in Hell. Well, my soul did. Now I'm back, but I'm a mess – I can't even remember half the things that happened, and I keep hallucinating – I thought you were a hallucination, at first – and that thing you saw that night? It was me, but without my soul. I don't remember that. Oh God, Dean, please tell me I didn't hurt you!"

"You didn't, okay? You didn't," Dean steps closer, reaches up, slips one hand behind Old Sam's head, the other around his waist, pulls him in and rests their foreheads together, just making contact. Old Sam lets out a long, shaky sigh, nods a little as he closes his eyes, leans into Dean's touch.

"Okay," he sighs, obviously relieved. "Okay."

They stand together like that for a solid minute, maybe more, breathing each other's air, letting the physical contact soothe Old Sam until he stops shaking, until he's calmer.

"So – Hell, huh?" Dean prompts finally, trying to keep his voice light, trying not to let on how terrified he is.

Old Sam hesitates, and Dean's half-afraid he won't say anything more, half-afraid he will. Old Sam nods finally, sighs, and Dean hurts because he can feel how much Sam is hurting, stays still so Sam can say what he needs to say if he needs to because it's Sam, for God's sake, and this horrible thing happened to his beautiful little brother and Dean is beyond appalled, beyond horrified, and he just wants to do what he can to fix it.

"Yeah," Old Sam breathes. "It sucked."

Dean lifts his head, pulling Old Sam's head back so he can look into his face. Old Sam avoids his eyes, but when Dean uses both hands to hold his face, just holding him warm and steady, studying the deep circles under his eyes, the lines on his forehead – the signs of aging and sleeplessness and ill-health that radiate from Old Sam's body like an infection – Old Sam finally lifts his eyes and looks back, tearing up immediately, closing them again and sucking in a shaky breath.

"I'm guessing I wasn't there," Dean says, clenching his teeth in an effort to fight back the anger he's feeling. "I'm guessing I didn't go with you to this Hell place."

Old Sam shakes his head and a great heaving sob wracks his giant body and that's it. That is just it, damn it.

"You were alone," Dean grits out, anger rising like a wave in his chest, making his head hot.

Old Sam lifts his eyes to Dean's, and the misery and suffering mirrored there is like nothing Dean's ever seen – it's worse than the look that doe gave him when he brought her down last fall and he only realized after she was dead that she had a faun, who would of course die without her – it's worse than that because this is Sam, this is the little brother he's supposed to protect and keep safe and somehow his older self really fucked up.

"Not alone," Old Sam says miserably. "It might have been bearable if I was alone."

And just like that, without Old Sam having to say another word, Dean understands.

He's not thinking clearly, not rational anymore, going on pure instinct now as he mutters, "Oh shit. Oh fuck," and pulls Old Sam against him, holding him like he's a four-year-old again, rocking him a little like he's that tiny baby again, pressing his lips against his cheek and his ear, murmuring to him and running his hands up and down his back, into his hair.

"Damn it, Sam, damn it, I'm sorry, buddy. I'm so sorry. Fuck. Oh shit, Sammy, I'm so sorry."

Dean's crying now, overwhelmed by the helplessness of the situation, his inability to go back and fix this terrible thing that happened to Sam, his terror of becoming a man who could have let such a thing happen to his beautiful baby brother, his determination to never let it happen to that loving, tender-hearted boy who is at this moment peeling potatoes and stoking the fire –

"Come on, let's get you back to the cabin, get you warmed up," he urges, because it's the only thing he can do for this damaged, broken version of his brother.

"I – I can't. I – Sammy's there. I don't think – "

"Sammy'll be just fine," Dean insists. "He'll be glad to see you."

Old Sam huffs out a breath, shaking his head dubiously. "I doubt that," he says, but he lets himself be led, lets Dean pull him along, then take the lead so he can follow.

Dean looks back over his shoulder a couple of times to make sure Old Sam is still there, and when he looks the third time and he's not Dean tries not to feel relieved but he can't help it.

There's no way he'll let that happen to Sammy. No way in Hell.

*
When John finally makes it back, he drops them off in a safe house outside Albany, New York so he can take off on his own again, something he's been doing so much of lately that it's more normal than not. Dean's skills as a petty thief have kept them fed and clothed at least half the time over the past two years, and this time is no exception, although getting caught was not part of the plan, and neither was getting sent to a boys home in the Catskills for two months. He doesn't bother explaining to John that the food money he left them wouldn't have lasted anyway, even if he hadn't lost it playing pool. John never leaves them enough. Dean always has to hustle or steal to feed Sammy, who is finally showing signs of growing and Dean is grateful for that, really he is, because he was starting to worry that Old Sam was just a figment of his imagination and not really the older version of his little brother after all.

By the time John picks him up from Sonny's, Sam's twelfth birthday has come and gone. Dean watches his little brother like a hawk, waiting for the signs of confusion and disorientation that he expects to see as soon as Sam starts traveling. But when two months go by and everything still seems fine, Dean begins to relax. He knows the day will come, and he's ready to explain it all to Sam when it does, really he is, but he doesn't mind putting it off as long as possible because why go asking for trouble? And Sammy time-traveling without him – or time-traveling to that older version of himself that he's learned not to trust – isn't something Dean's looking forward to.

Then Sammy travels for the first time, and all Hell breaks loose.

They're in another safe house – this time in Idaho, near a little town that has exactly one high school and two grocery stores – and Dean's shooting hoops in the driveway because the house has a driveway and a basketball hoop and it's so stupidly suburban-perfect he can't help himself.

Suddenly Sammy's there. He stumbles backwards, falls on his ass, and Dean grabs the ball and turns to look down at him, ball wedged between his arm and his hip.

"Kinda graceful there, Sammy," Dean comments, waiting for Sam to get a grip on himself, which he does after the initial shock wears off.

"Damn it, Dean," Sam glares up at his brother, then scrambles to his feet. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Dean lifts his eyebrows, tilts his head.

"Nothin' to tell," he shrugs. "Figured you'd find out when you found out. Figured it was easier that way."

"Easier for who?" Sam demands. "You? 'Cuz I gotta say, it might've helped just a tiny bit to know before I suddenly go hurtling through time, end up in some strange guy's bedroom in the middle of the night!"

Dean frowns. He wasn't expecting that. Old Sam hadn't exactly described his first time that way.

"He touch you?" Dean demands, suddenly furious.

Sam shakes his head. "No," he mutters, his frustration dissipating in the wake of Dean's righteous anger. "He made me hot chocolate and a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich."

"Of course he did," Dean nods, relieved. "He's me."

"He's really grumpy," Sam notes, shaking his head a little. "And old."

"So what's the future like, Sammy?" Dean turns away, going for nonchalant, lines up a shot and shoots, watches the ball swish through the hoop and bounce back to him before he turns to Sam again with a smirk.

Sam's shaking his head, grinning, all dimples and sunshine.

"He said you'd ask. He made me promise not to tell," he says.

"Huh," Dean grunts, purses his lips. "Did you see yourself? Big guy, about ten-feet tall, cries a lot?"

Sam shakes his head. "I wasn't there," he says. "I get the feeling I haven't been there for a long time. Old Dean seemed pretty lonely."

Dean shrugs. "That's probably because Old Sam spends so much time with us, when we were little."

"Yeah, about that – " Sam frowns. "How come you never told me about Old Sam?"

Dean shrugs again. "Nothin' to tell," he says again. "He was our friend. Looked out for us when Dad was gone. Saved our lives more than once."

"Yeah, I remember," Sam frowns, gives his head a little shake like he's clearing it, like he's rearranging his memories to accommodate his new knowledge. "I think I always knew, that's the weird thing. I just didn't think about it. He was more your friend than mine, so I just accepted him. It's been so long since he's been around, I almost forgot about him."

Dean cocks an eyebrow. "I haven't seen the old guy in almost six months," he confides with more than a little unease. "It's starting to bother me, to be honest. He wasn't in very good shape last time."

But Sam is much more concerned with learning how to control his new power, and he's a stubborn little bitch, so there's no telling him it's no use – Dean already knows his little brother can't control it. Sam goes straight to the library, desperate to dig up anything on time-travel, on Samael the Archangel of Death, on prophecies about time-travelers who can alter reality.

Dean tags along, sits in a corner on the floor with his Sony Walkman and his headphones, lets Zeppelin blast his mind off the whole thing. Because, seriously, the idea of his little brother flying around through time without him is making Dean need to kill something. He doesn't give a shit if Sam always ends up with some future version of his big brother. It makes Dean's head hurt because he can't do anything about it, and he hates that. Hates feeling out of control and useless. Stupid.

When the library closes and they finally walk home, Sam won't go to sleep, spends most of the night calling their dad's friends, asking endless questions about protectors and hunters and time-shifters until Dean wants to throw up.

"Come on, Sam, time for bed," Dean says for the fifth time since midnight. "You can't keep calling people in the middle of the night. Nobody will want to talk to you ever again."

"I need answers, Dean," Sam complains. "I have to figure out what's happening to me."

"What's happening to you is that you're exhausting yourself. And me," Dean chastens. "Tomorrow's a school day. Remember school? That place where you always get straight As? Where you're earning a ticket out of this shit-hole life and into something better?"

"I can't think about school right now," Sam shakes his head. "I've got to figure this out."

"Sam, if you don't go to bed right now, I swear I'm gonna spike your cocoa with sleeping pills from now on."

Sam shakes his head, makes a little dismissive noise.

"You wouldn't do that," he mutters.

"Try me," Dean counters sternly.

It isn't easy, not that night nor the nights that follow, for Dean to get Sam to let go of his new toy, but after about a month without getting anywhere, and not another time-traveling incident, Sam finally relents enough to focus on school again, after he makes Dean promise he'll get Sam right away if the older version of himself shows up because he has some questions for the dude.

Yeah, I'll bet you do, Dean thinks as he collapses on the couch after getting Sam registered for school in their new town a month later.

They've moved again, of course. John comes home like a shot when he hears the news about Sam time-traveling, swoops them up and deposits them in a two-bedroom rental house near Grants Pass, Oregon, then takes off again almost immediately. John's looking tired these days; he tells Dean he's on the trail of the thing that killed their mother and he doesn't want it coming anywhere near the boys, so he'll be gone longer than usual this time.

So Dean's in charge. It's the first time he's tried to pass as Sam's guardian, with a fake i.d. that says he's twenty-one and Sam's sole living relative, and it makes him feel old. Tired. He drags a heavy arm over his eyes and sinks further into the couch, telling himself he'll just rest for fifteen minutes, then get up to take care of business, get himself over to the local high school maybe.

The air does that familiar shimmering thing, rousing Dean from the edge of sleep. Old Sam's presence is a balm to Dean's tired nerves, and for several minutes Dean lies still with his eyes closed, just feeling his brother's grown up self in the room with him, and it's such a relief he almost drifts off to sleep, knowing Old Sam is watching out for him.

"Can feel you staring, Sam," he murmurs finally, keeping his eyes closed.

Old Sam huffs out a breath but says nothing.

"Where ya been?" Dean lets his eyes slide open, turns his head to face Old Sam. He's in the armchair, legs akimbo, elbows resting on the chair's arms, looking like he just fell out of the sky and landed there all sprawled out and oversized. His hair is longer than Dean's ever seen it, and he looks scruffy and unwashed, shirt buttoned wrong, eyes bleary and tired.

"You okay?" Dean's fully awake now, on alert because Sam's not well, There's something wrong. Again.

Old Sam shakes his head a little, his eyes glistening with a film of tears, and he smiles so sadly it just about breaks Dean's heart.

"I am now," Sam says, and his voice is so broken, sounding like he hasn't spoken for awhile,

"Sam," Dean sits up, staring, shaking his head. "You look like shit." He leans closer, gets a whiff. "You smell like shit too."

Sam huffs out a short laugh, dimples showing even through all the scruff, and that's the last straw.

"You sick or something, Sam?" Dean asks. "Something bad happen to you?" Again, he thinks but doesn't add because really. This has been an incredibly shitty year for Old Sam, at least from Dean's point of view, and that's just not okay.

Something in Dean's tone sets Old Sam off and suddenly he's crying, huge wet tears running down his face and big heaving sobs wracking his giant body, and Dean's reminded of that time two years ago when Old Sam had a breakdown like this right in front of him, and it was because –

"Jesus, Sam, am I dead again?" Dean guesses wildly.

"Oh God!" Old Sam sobs, trying to wipe his face with his hands, only succeeding in making a bigger mess of his face. "I don't know, Dean! You're just – you're gone! And I don't know where you are – " Old Sam buries his face in his hands and sobs, long, wrenching, body-shaking sobs that go on and on and Dean is so done with this shit.

"Fuck," Dean mutters as he gets up and crosses the room, lays a hand on Old Sam's head, gently petting the greasy strands. "I'm right here, Sam. Right here, okay? I'm okay." Dean knows that's not entirely accurate from Old Sam's point of view, that Old Sam's missing the Dean from his time who apparently keeps leaving inexplicably, which just makes no sense. There is nothing Dean can imagine that would ever make him leave Sam, not willingly.

Then he remembers what Old Sam told him two years ago. About the Hell hounds.

Okay, so not willingly.

Old Sam reacts to Dean's touch like a starving man, reaching up to wrap his long arms around Dean's body, pulling him in so he's caught between Old Sam's legs, almost sitting on his lap. It's an awkward angle, and when Old Sam buries his face against Dean's stomach Dean's aware again of how much bigger Old Sam is, how weird and even a little ridiculous it is to have this giant man trying to cuddle against him like he's a four-year-old boy.

"Come on, Sam, let's get you cleaned up," Dean pats Old Sam's shoulder, his greasy head, doing his best to comfort and quiet him while fighting with his downstairs brain, which is almost painfully on board with being wrapped in Old Sam's arms this way. "I'll make you some soup. Come on."

Old Sam lets himself be led down the hall to the bathroom, where Dean leaves him with a clean towel.

"I'll be right here," he promises when Old Sam seems momentarily panicked at the idea of Dean leaving him alone. "Not going anywhere, okay?"

He finds his largest, baggiest pair of sweatpants and one of Dad's old tee-shirts, lays them on the chair outside the bathroom door where he can already hear the shower running.

Good.

Dean's in the kitchen, finishing the breakfast dishes and stirring the soup, when Old Sam pads in, looking predictably ridiculous in Dean's clothes, tee-shirt stretched tight over his chest and shoulders, sweatpants hugging his ass and thighs, exposing his hairy shins and bare feet. He's washed and scrubbed and his hair is wet and he's heart-breakingly gorgeous and it makes Dean gasp before he can stop himself.

"Hey," Dean tears his eyes away, turns back to the stove, tries not to shiver with anticipation as Old Sam crosses the room, moves up behind him, slips his arms around Dean and presses his face into Dean's neck.

Dean lets out a long sigh, leans back against his huge brother, melts into him a little. He's so horny it almost hurts to be touched like this, and it's hard to think with Old Sam's lips on his skin, just under his ear where he's so sensitive –

He puts the pan down, turns in Old Sam's arms, slips his arms around the big body and tips his face up to be kissed. Old Sam holds his head in one of his giant paws, brushes his fingers along Dean's cheek with the other hand, the gesture both reverent and deeply erotic, and Dean parts his lips, his eyes fall closed, and his entire body trembles with anticipation.

And still Old Sam doesn't kiss him.

"Where's Sam?" he asks softly.

"At school," Dean answers, opening his eyes to look up at Old Sam, makes sure he's conveying his meaning loud and clear. "For hours."

Old Sam nods shortly and his lips part as his eyes drop to Dean's mouth.

"So help me God, Sam, if you tell me I'm young and beautiful I may have to go all Revenge of the Nerds on your ass," Dean threatens.

Old Sam grins, eyes sparkling, dimples and teeth evident, and Dean takes a moment to feel proud of the fact that he always made Sam brush his teeth and now look how strong and white they are!

"Is that a promise?" Dean's brother asks, and Dean rolls his eyes.

"Shut up and kiss me," he orders, and Old Sam does.

Finally. Fuckin' finally, because it's been almost eight months since that time in the woods and Dean is so done waiting for this.

Old Sam tastes like coffee and toothpaste and blood, like he's been chewing on the inside of his mouth recently. His lips are soft and warm and he opens willingly enough for Dean's tongue, deepens the kiss with only the barest resistance, the tiniest of moans, the sound going straight to Dean's dick. He's been hard for a while, aching really, but now he feels Old Sam's hard length pressed against his stomach and he wants it with an intensity he can barely control.

But after last time he doesn't want to scare the big guy off, so he takes his time kissing Old Sam into submission first, stroking up his back and shoulders, re-learning the muscles there, feeling them move beneath his hands before he pushes the edge of the tee-shirt up, finds Old Sam's warm, smooth skin. Old Sam moans as Dean touches him, runs his hands under the tee-shirt and along the waist-band of the ridiculously tight sweatpants. Old Sam's tongue is greedier, more demanding, and he's grinding his hips against Dean now, so Dean feels bold enough to slip his hands down over Old Sam's ass and damn, his ass is perfect. Two tight, rounded melons that fit into Dean's hands like they were meant to be there.

Old Sam growls low in his throat, still holding Dean's head with one hand, moving the other down Dean's back, fingers spread so that when he cups Dean's ass he's shoving his long middle finger into Dean's crack, rubbing through his jeans as he grinds his hips against Dean's. Dean gasps as Old Sam's hand clutches his ass, spreading his ass-cheeks and hauling him up against Old Sam's body so that all Dean can do is spread his legs and wrap them around Old Sam's waist. From this angle he's got a little more leverage, a little more height, so he takes Old Sam's face in his hands and kisses into him, sucking and biting and plunging his tongue as Old Sam grinds and moans and gasps. Dean runs his hand into Old Sam's hair, grabbing a handful and yanking sharply as he bites Old Sam's lip and the big guy shudders, cries out against his mouth. Dean feels Old Sam's body tense up as his orgasm hits him, and Dean deliberately pulls back a little so he can see the look on Old Sam's face as he comes, mouth soft and glistening with spit and a drop of blood where Dean bit him, eyes at half-mast and unseeing, cheeks flushed dusky pink.

It's the most beautiful thing Dean's ever seen, and Old Sam has shown him a lot of beautiful over the years.

"Huh," Old Sam blinks finally, focuses on Dean, sees something in his face that makes Old Sam blush even more and lower his eyes, shifting backwards to let Dean slide to the floor.

"Sorry," he murmurs. "It's been awhile."

"Yeah, I get that," Dean smiles reassuringly as Old Sam takes another step back, licking the blood off his lip – which is so incredibly sexy it's making Dean's legs go all weak and wobbly, makes his dick leak. He's still hard and aching and fighting the urge to palm himself and jerk off right here in front of Old Sam, or beg him for a blow job, which he's pretty sure he could get. He's not exactly sure why he didn't let himself come, except that he's taking care of Old Sam's needs first.

"Hey, why don't you – go clean yourself up," Dean offers, trying to keep his voice steady. "Your clothes are in the washer; they can probably go in the dryer now. I'll finish the soup. Get you fed next."

Taking care of one need at a time.

"Okay," Old Sam agrees, and Dean is struck again by how easily this older version of his brother falls into his role as the younger brother, the child Dean raised. It's Old Sam's comfort zone, his happy place, being Dean's little brother, and somehow that makes Dean so sad he has to stop thinking about it.

*

This time when Old Sam returns from the bathroom he's got the towel wrapped around his waist because his clothes are still damp and Dean's literally got nothing else that could possibly fit him.

Old Sam sitting at the kitchen table, eating chicken noodle soup in a tight tee-shirt and towel is a memory Dean swears he will cherish for-fucking-ever. Dean sits at the table and watches until Old Sam finishes every drop, just like he always does, making sure the kid gets enough to eat, even though the kid has obviously been a full-grown man for several years now.

When he's done Dean lays his hand over Old Sam's, squeezes reassuringly.

"You alright with this, Sam?" he asks, needing to hear Old Sam say it. "Cuz last time I saw you, you'd been through something pretty bad, and you weren't exactly itchin' to dance."

Old Sam frowns, then shakes his head. "Oh my God, Dean," he huffs out a breath in apparent disbelief. "You're the virgin, and you're asking me?"

Dean feels his cheeks grow hot, lowers his eyes but doesn't let Old Sam's hand go.

"Yeah," he admits, clearing his throat. "Yeah, I guess I am."

Old Sam shakes his head again. "What happened to me," he says, his voice low. "What I went through – I don't think about it, okay? It's what you do. You've been in Hell, I've been in Hell, we just don't think about it. That's how we deal. It's the only way we keep going."

Dean stares, searching Old Sam's face for evidence of the horror he's describing, of suffering so intense and prolonged it couldn't possibly be real, couldn't possibly leave this beautiful man without a visible scar, some visual evidence of the torture he's endured.

Suddenly all Dean wants to do is go to bed. Take this huge, suffering brother-man with him. Stay there.

In the bedroom Old Sam lets Dean undress him, remove the towel and tee-shirt and lay him out on the bed, then stands over him as he gets undressed, leaves his clothes folded neatly on the armchair before he climbs into bed, pulls the covers up over both their bodies, lets Old Sam's heat wash over him like the wave of affection and comfort and home that it is.

They lie still and gaze at each other for awhile, on their sides, barely touching, just observing, just basking in the power of being together that is still so new to Dean but also feels completely comfortable, like it's always been. Dean touches the tattoo on Old Sam's chest, looks up into Old Sam's eyes with a questioning gaze, but Old Sam lowers his eyes, flushing a little.

"Never mind," he says softly. "Turns out it doesn't really work that well anyway."

He sounds so defeated, so resigned to the misery of his life, and it just makes Dean's chest hurt in a kind of unconscious sympathy.

"I don't know if I can do this, Sam," Dean hears himself say, although he's not sure what made him say it; he's not even sure what he means until Old Sam smiles a little, touches his cheek.

"Do what, Dean?" he prompts.

"I'm not sure I can let my little brother go into that future," Dean says. "Where you come from."

Old Sam traces Dean's cheek with the tips of his fingers.

"I'm afraid you don't have much choice," he comments. "It's already happened."

"It fuckin' sucks, is what it does," Dean says.

"Yeah, it does," Old Sam agrees. "But it could be worse."

"How?" Dean is genuinely curious, because that just doesn't make sense. "How could it possibly be worse?"

"Well, most of the time, we're together," Old Sam says. "When you're gone, it's worse. Trust me."

"Like right now?" Dean says. "In your time, I'm gone. You're alone. What the hell kind of future is that? You go to Hell, I go to Hell, everybody gets violated and tortured, then we disappear on each other for what – months at a time?"

"Years," Old Sam mutters miserably. "Sometimes it's years."

"Nope," Dean says firmly. "Not letting Sammy go. That's final."

Old Sam slides the pad of his thumb along Dean's lower lip, takes a deep breath, then lets it out slowly, eyes watching his own fingers as he touches and caresses Dean's face. His fingers slide down Dean's neck, touch the leather cord and the little pendant hanging there.

"You kept this," Old Sam murmurs dreamily, like he's talking to someone else, like he's forgotten he's in the past.

"Course I did," Dean frowns. "Always. I never take it off. You know that."

A single tear slides down Old Sam's cheek, making his lashes wet, and he keeps his eyes down, fingering the little brass talisman like it's the key to the universe, like it's the answer to everything.

"I thought you were supposed to be the one that would save us all," Dean says when it's clear Old Sam isn't going to say anything.

Old Sam raises his eyes to Dean's, frowns a little, like he doesn't get Dean's meaning.

"You know, the time-traveler who fixes everything," Dean prompts, fighting down the doubt at the edges of his consciousness. "The prophecy."

Old Sam shakes his head, sad and weary and suddenly looking very old.

"Pretty sure that's just a myth," he says softly, letting the pendant drop back onto Dean's chest, pulling his hand away.

"What are you talking about?" Dean frowns, confused now. "That was supposed to be the whole deal. You were the Great New Hope or something."

Old Sam is shaking his head. "No, Dean, it's not me."

"What do you mean, it's not you?" Dean demands. "It's what Dad's fighting for. Uncle Bobby too. It's why they do what they do."

"Dean, I don't know what they told you, but I am not any kind of savior," Old Sam shakes his head. "Believe me. It's not me. Dad and Bobby did – they do what they do because it's their jobs, not because of me."

Dean stares silently for a moment, trying to remember that night at Bobby's house when Dad explained all this to him, when he felt so sure he understood. When he felt he was part of something important, something that made all their suffering and sacrifice – even Mom's death – meaningful.

"So they got it wrong?" Dean breathes. "It's all for nothing after all?"

Old Sam leans in then, kisses him, slips his hand down Dean's body and pulls him close, so their bodies are flush together from shoulder to hip. The warmth and softness of Sam's skin, the hardness of his muscles and bones floods Dean's senses, makes everything else fade as his downstairs brain goes instantly on-line.

"Not nothing," Old Sam murmurs against his mouth. "Not nothing."

Old Sam's love-making is careful, reverential; he cherishes Dean's body as if he's never had it before, as if he'll never have it again. Whenever Dean tries to increase the pace, get a little wilder the way he suspects Sam likes it, Sam slows him down again, shushes him, soothes the bite marks on his skin with his lips and tongue. He takes his time licking and sucking, then finally opening Dean's body, sensitizing every inch of his skin and giving him the best blow job of his young life. When Old Sam lubes himself up and finally fucks into Dean, first with his fingers, then with his dick, he goes slow and careful, giving Dean what he never knew he needed. It's a revelation to Dean, letting Old Sam take control, so that Dean can relinquish all responsibility, so that Dean can transfer his heavy load to his little brother's broad shoulders and just let it all go. When his orgasm surges through him he's on his back, gazing up through tear-filled eyes as Old Sam thrusts against his prostate, watching Dean's face and going rigid only a moment after Dean, thrusting shallowly as he lowers his forehead to Dean's, kissing his swollen lips as he moans through his aftershocks.

Afterwards, Dean's too fucked out to move, so Old Sam gets up to clean them off, spreads a clean sheet beneath him, then spoons in behind him, kissing the back of his neck until he drifts off to sleep, warm and content and more sore than he cares to think about.

Old Sam visits regularly for awhile, and somehow his timing is nearly perfect for Dean to pull him into bed, and for several months Dean experiences a state of bliss that can only result from being both sexually and emotionally fulfilled, a state of reality that gave rise to the idea of honeymoon, since it's pretty sticky sometimes, although, at least in Dean's case, it has nothing to do with the moon, since Old Sam's visits happen during daylight, while Sammy's in school.

"Purgatory," Old Sam explains when he reveals that Old Dean has finally returned again in his time.

Dean marvels at how linear Old Sam's visits have been lately, although sometimes he arrives at an earlier point in the month than the last time, so this particular visit happens before one in which Dean is able to reveal to Old Sam that his older self is, in fact, in Purgatory this time.

"Not Hell," Dean clarifies. "It's not nearly as bad as Hell. Less raping and torturing, if you can keep from getting caught, which of course I can."

Old Sam's eyes glisten with tears, but his relief is palpable, and their love-making is a little more heated, a little more intense than usual because Old Sam knows he's getting his brother back soon – his older brother – which means his time in the past, with this younger Dean, is coming to an end. Dean tries not to think about how that means he'll be losing Old Sam soon, losing him to that older version of himself. And Dean tries to be happy for the guy when a month goes by and he hasn't shown up. Old Dean getting back from Purgatory is a good thing, he reasons. Something to look forward to.

Yeah, right.