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You See So Clearly Now, Love, In the Caverns of the Blind

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Christ, Dean hurts.

His muscles protest as he shifts against the bed. His ass is… well, it isn’t really something he wants to think about right now. Mostly, though, it’s his throbbing chest that’s bothering him—it feels like Sam tore something inside him during that first fuck, when he burrowed deeper into Dean that he’d ever gone before and tried to—fuck, tried to pull him apart, is what it felt like. It’s that deeper, more vivid pain that makes Dean’s breath hiss out with the slightest movement, or if he thinks too hard, or a stray air current in the room passes over him.

The pain is bad enough that it takes Dean a while to figure out that Sam isn’t on top of him, or even next to him in the bed. It’s morning—the angle of the sunlight streaming in through the sliding doors is proof of that—and Sam’s always here in the morning, unless something has gone wrong. Although that possibility really doesn’t bear thinking about, since Dean is usually the one that Sam comes running to after all the bodies have been ripped into tiny pieces and Sam’s blood (polluted contaminated damned) is up.

Shutting his eyes, Dean sinks more heavily onto the bed and tries to fall back to sleep. His body is crying out with a thousand minor aches, though. His ass burns, and that torn hurt deeper inside continues to throb. Each complaint is a reminder of last night, and the day that preceded it, and the night before that.

Shame, strong and thick, washes through him. It clogs his throat and chokes him. He tries to swallow the lump, and sense memory hits him—Sam’s cock in his mouth, Sam’s hands pushing his thighs wider, Sam’s tongue licking his balls, Sam’s mouth moving lower. Dean had already lost count by then, he’d lost everything, and with Sam working him over, it was impossible to feel anything but rushing heat and ecstasy.

Now, as he’s blindsided by the memory, an echo of pleasure sounds in his groin before traveling northward to knot Dean’s stomach with diffuse, confused arousal. Licking his lower lip (more pain; must be a cut there), he turns his face away from the unwelcome pressure of light on his eyelids and feels a tear force its way past his defenses.

There’s no warning—none of the familiar burning sensation at the back of his eyes. Just that continuous, bruised impression of having been dragged through mud and muck and God knows what else and left to soak in his own filth. And liking it, which is so fucked up and pathetic Dean doesn’t even know how to begin processing the information.

Sam’s going to want to do it again, Dean thinks with a flush of understanding.

The thought brings a moment of fleeting panic, which is in turn followed by trembling excitement and hunger. It’s a toss up whether the fear or his need is stronger, although Dean has no illusions left at this point. The more Sam fucks him, the quieter and briefer these alarms will be. And then, inevitably, the day will come when there’s nothing but the thrill of lust and the need for Sam’s body blanketing his.

Dean’s breath catches as his chest tightens alarmingly. The sound of the door to the suite snicking open is a welcome distraction, and although he knows damn well who it is, he doesn’t bother playing dead.

Dean is facing the entrance to the suite when he opens his eyes, and Sam takes a moment to smile at him. He’s wearing a suit—no tie, and the top few buttons on his white shirt are undone and showing off his tan throat. His hair falls around his face in artful disorder, looking just as soft as Dean remembers it feeling between his fingers at one dizzying point in his reclamation. He probably wouldn’t have dared to initiate that touch, even in the dimness of the room and with Sam between his legs and in his soul, but Sam was thrusting into him like he intended to bury himself in Dean’s ass and Dean needed something to hang onto.

There shouldn’t be any false modesty left in Dean after he spent the last few days sating his brother’s seemingly unquenchable lust, but somehow Dean finds himself flushing and looking down anyway. He watches his fingers move restlessly on the bedspread (changed at some point, apparently, since the bloodstains are gone, although Dean doesn’t remember it happening) while listening to the door close again. A moment later, he hears Sam’s footsteps coming toward him.

Dean expects his brother to crawl across the mattress toward him, but instead Sam walks around the foot of the bed. The mattress dips as he sits on the edge behind Dean.

Dean tenses when gentle fingers trail over his bare back, but only briefly. Despite the open connection between them, Sam is being careful not to flood Dean with power and is instead sending soothing, intangible hands to smooth over Dean’s skin. Combined with Sam’s more physical, cherishing touch, the caress makes it difficult for Dean to do anything but slump loosely against the bed.

Besides, his chest seems to hurts less when he’s relaxed.

“I wanted to be here when you woke up,” Sam says, reproachful.

An apology rises in Dean’s throat, and he just barely manages to keep it locked behind his teeth. Christ, how pathetic is that: feeling guilty for waking up without permission? But he is guilty. He is. The emotion is almost overwhelming in its intensity, and Dean can’t seem to remember how to push it away. Too many of his thoughts are wrapped up in the pain in his chest.

“How are you feeling?”

God, what a question.

But Dean doesn’t want to be difficult—there’s no point in causing anyone more pain when he already caved so spectacularly—so he takes the easy, non-confrontational route and says, “All right.”

“Dean.” Sam’s hand has stilled on Dean’s back. Although he doesn’t sound angry, there’s disapproval in his voice.

Dean licks his sore lips and then, more honestly, admits, “Sore.”

“Mmm,” Sam responds with a warm hum. His hand shifts up onto Dean’s side before easing across his stomach to grip his soft cock.

Arousal shivers in Dean’s gut, but his cock doesn’t so much as twitch. Not that he’s surprised. Considering the amount of use Sam got out of him over the last few days, Dean won’t be surprised if his dick turns out to be permanently broken.

“And how about in here?” Sam asks, with an intimate stroke of power through Dean’s insides.

The unexpected invasion makes Dean clench up reflexively (memory of pain from that first night, Sam sinking deeper than Dean could take, Sam ripping Dean up inside to make room for himself) and the pain sharpens into something bordering on agony. Dean hisses and the brush of power disappears immediately. Sam’s hand moves away from Dean’s cock to rest on his stomach.

“Sorry.”

“S’okay,” Dean mumbles, even though it isn’t, it hasn’t been for a long time and won’t ever be again. Questions tremble at the back of his mind—what were you doing, why, are you going to try it again—but he doesn’t quite dare to ask. He resists the urge to lift a hand and rub at his aching chest. There’s no point in moving when he already knows it won’t do anything to dispel the sharp, torn sensation deep inside.

The mattress shifts as Sam moves, leaning down to rest his chin on Dean’s bicep.

“I didn’t mean to be so rough,” Sam says as he strokes Dean’s stomach. “You just felt so good. It was good, right?”

Memory blindsides Dean at the hesitant, self-conscious question and for an instant he’s twenty years old and back in a crappy apartment in Des Moines with his head pounding from the beers he drank at the bar the night before. His ass is a throbbing burn, inexorable reminder of what he did before the alcohol wore off enough for him to remember the countless reasons he can’t. He’s clean, at least, washed the evidence of his sin from his skin before he came into the kitchen to make breakfast for himself and Sam (got to tell him it was a mistake, just a one-off, won’t happen again), and Sam… Sam comes in so shyly, still reeking of sex, and he asks—

“Dean?”

“Yeah,” Dean answers, just like he answered then. “Yeah, Sammy. It was good.”

He wishes he could pretend it’s a lie, another echo from that other time and place, but… Fuck, even now, with shame and guilt coiling through him—even with the pain and the certainty that if he could see inside himself he’d look like a butchered side of beef—he’s too conscious of his own hunger to try.

Sam’s chin jostles his arm where it’s resting—a smile—and then lifts.

“Let’s get you a shower and some breakfast,” he says, with a chaste kiss to Dean’s bicep.

“Okay.”

“Anything you want,” Sam adds as he stands and gives Dean room to—carefully—roll over and begin the process of getting his weary, pained body up. “Eggs? Bacon? You want some blueberry pancakes?”

Dean’s stomach shifts unhappily at the mention of food. He isn’t certain that he’ll be able to eat anything, actually, although of course he’ll try. There’s no reason to upset Sam over something so trivial.

“Whatever you’re having,” he says, glancing up to meet his brother’s eyes without thinking it through.

Sam’s gaze is just as intent as ever, although Dean doesn’t think he’s ever seen Sam looking quite this… well, happy, since that night in the cemetery. His eyes are lighter than normal, the color of Aspen leaves in autumn, and there’s a brilliant depth of emotion warming his gaze. Having Sam look at him like that pushes all of the pain and the low, crawling feelings to the back of Dean’s mind and he moves without thinking, sitting up and reaching out—no idea what he means to do when he has his hands on Sam, but he knows he needs to touch.

Dean’s abused muscles cramp at the careless motion, and when he flinches in response to that pain, he accidentally clenches up and grimaces at the spike of pain in his well-used ass. Sam’s face pinches with concern and before Dean knows what’s happening, he has been lifted from the bed by weaves of power and is leaning against his brother. Sam gets an arm around him and supports him carefully, but securely. A stray wisp of power sinks in through the tattoo on Dean’s back, both an irritant and a balm against the agony inside him.

“Sam,” Dean gasps, squirming as he tries to figure out if he wants more of that connection or if he needs Sam to stop touching him right fucking now.

Sam makes the decision for him, deliberately flooding him with power that stings on first contact and then settles into a deep throb. Feels a bit like his muscles used to after a particularly good PT run.

“Shh,” Sam says, moving forward and bringing Dean with him. “I know it hurts. Let’s get you to the tub and I’ll see what I can do.”

As if Dean has another option.

Letting his head loll to the side, he concentrates on walking—on the more comfortable physical pain of strained muscles and his overworked ass. The walk still seems to take forever, and Dean wonders in an absurd sort of way whether Sam somehow expanded the suite when Dean was passed out and oblivious to the world. When it finally comes, the feel of carpet giving way to cool tile beneath his feet is a relief.

“Shower or bath?” Sam wants to know.

Dean considers the relative merits of having to support himself on shaking legs or sitting on his aching ass and then says, “Shower, if you can help me.”

Sam’s pleasure at being asked flavors the power inside Dean, and for a moment he tastes honey at the back of his tongue. Then Sam regains control of himself and the emotion dims to a vague awareness, which lingers just beneath Dean’s thoughts. He leaves Dean to lean against a wall while he gets the shower running and undresses, and then retrieves him and helps him step under the spray.

The warm beat of water feels wonderful on Dean’s muscles. Sam’s hands, lathered up with rose-scented soap, feel even better as they move over Dean’s chest and stomach. It’s impossible for Sam to support Dean with his hands and wash him at the same time, so instead Dean feels thick, cushioned bands of power loop around his chest. When he tentatively leans into the bands, taking some of his weight from his shaking thighs, they hold him upright where he should be. Somehow, the combination of thrumming power and Sam’s wandering, oversized hands is more comforting than anything else, and Dean closes his eyes and lets his brother clean him.

Sam’s hands go everywhere, heedless of privacy—he rubs soap into Dean’s limp cock and balls with the same gentle efficiency he uses on Dean’s calves. He takes his time with Dean’s back, following every line of the tattoo while absently kissing the nape of Dean’s neck and the curls of ink that have found their way there. And then, with a contented hum, he moves Dean forward several steps and gets his hands on Dean’s scalp, massaging shampoo into his hair before taking his time washing it out again.

By the time Sam is finished, Dean’s sharper aches have all faded to throbs. His cock, not broken after all, hangs half-hard between his legs.

Sam notices when he towels Dean off—Dean catches him looking with a smug, pleased expression—but, surprisingly enough, he doesn’t comment on it, and his hands don’t linger. Instead, Dean gets a chaste kiss on the cheek and a gentle push in the direction of the sink.

“Brush your teeth, baby.”

Dean is already smearing paste on his toothbrush before he realizes just how mindlessly he obeyed. He pauses, looking down at the crushed tube on the sink, while Sam dresses again behind him.

“Problem?” Sam asks without looking over. There’s no threat to the question, just a hint of disappointment, but Dean pushes the darkening gloom at the edges of his mind away and focuses on doing as he’s been asked.

When he thinks he’s brushed enough, he leans over and spits. Then, after rinsing off the brush and putting it back in its holder, he bends down (back giving a twinge of protest) and drinks from the faucet. When he straightens again, Sam is standing behind him, watching. He’s close enough that Dean’s ass brushes the front of his brother’s suit.

Dean jumps, startled, and then grimaces. When Sam takes a single step forward, his clothing shifts against Dean’s bare skin in an oddly erotic way. His hand closes on Dean’s hip, over a stray curl of tattoo, and as the connection opens between them, he sinks down and inside, like fog curling low across a river valley. He’s taking it easy, but the penetration runs deeper this time and Dean stiffens as the wounded, torn place inside of him spasms.

“Shh,” Sam says. “You’re being so good, Dean. Just keep it up, let me feel you.”

Dean doesn’t intend to say anything—stoic silence is his best bet and he knows it—but then Sam thrusts deeper and the next spasm is even stronger than the first—a frenzy of lashing pain as the wounded bits of himself try to limp away from Sam’s onslaught. He gasps involuntarily, one hand flying over to his brother’s with a half-formed notion of prying Sam’s fingers off his hip.

“Be still!” Sam snaps, and there’s the anger. There’s the petulant boy king, slapping Dean’s hand away with a nonchalant flick of power while he worms himself deeper.

“It hurts,” Dean grunts, trying to jerk forward against the counter in an effort to get at least a little space between them.

“I know,” Sam answers, “but I can’t do anything unless I can get a look at the damage. Which is a little difficult with you squirming away from me.”

Somehow, though, Dean doesn’t think a look at the damage is all Sam wants. Not when he’s rubbing up against every miniscule bit of Dean that he can reach.

A moment later, his suspicions are confirmed when Sam’s cheek drops against his and Sam breathes, “You feel so wonderful, baby—like light. Bright and warm and perfect. And so fucking beautiful I can barely breathe. You’re gonna burn me up someday.”

Dean feels like he’s the one who’s burning, though; Sam’s overwhelming presence is gasoline being poured into an open wound. And then Sam actually starts prodding at the pain—with the clumsy curiosity of someone who doesn’t even remember inflicting the damage—and Dean can’t quite keep from sobbing.

It’s humiliating, but at least Sam does draw back a bit, which lets Dean suck in a much-needed breath.

“Must’ve been even rougher than I thought,” Sam mutters. The accompanying stroke of his free hand through Dean’s wet hair is apologetic. “C’mere.”

Dean feels Sam’s hand on his hip urging him around and turns clumsily, then immediately leans backwards as he realizes just how closely he’s pressed to his brother. Sam’s mouth is an inch from his; Sam’s eyes are close enough for Dean to count the darker burnt amber flecks amidst playful Aspen-yellow. Sam presses a splayed hand against Dean’s shoulder blade and urges him forward while nosing at his cheek.

“You haven’t given me my good morning kiss yet.”

It’s as good as a command and Dean takes it as one, tilting his face up and parting his lips.

Sam’s mouth is warm and soft against his, and the kiss starts out gentle enough that there’s only the mildest sting from Dean’s split lip. Then Sam makes a contented, happy noise and pushes more greedily, tongue slipping into Dean’s mouth and fingers digging into his back. Dean obediently opens wider, tilting his head to one side to slot their mouths firmly together. His chest gives a battered, faithful pulse of love that he’s helpless to control.

Warmth spills from Sam’s mouth to his, making his lips tingle and then trickling down his throat. Alarmed at the sensation—and the memory of what happened the last few times Sam has pushed power into his mouth like this—Dean tries to break the connection by pulling back. Sam follows, though, surging into the kiss. The warmth comes faster now, a torrent pouring into him, and Dean panics for a few seconds before the effects of that warmth register.

Where Sam’s power has passed, the aches of Dean’s body are easing. His muscles are unknotting and relaxing. Bruises stop throbbing. The only places Sam can’t seem to touch are those deeper wounds inside of Dean—the places he feels savaged and torn. Still, without his body clamoring for attention or Sam forcibly pressing against the wounds, even that pain seems bearable.

When Sam finally breaks the kiss and looks down at Dean with a smile, Dean can’t help but smile back.

“Better?” Sam strokes Dean’s cheek.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

“Sorry I can’t do anything about this,” Sam apologizes, with a feather-light brush against that deeper, lingering pain. “We’ll take it easy until you heal up. And I—I’ll try to be more gentle.”

More gentle with what? Dean wants to ask. The question gets further this time—almost to his lips—but Sam’s face is twisted up in an expression that seems more confused than anything, and Dean senses that his brother wouldn’t be able to answer.

The thought that Sam is blundering about blindly with all that power is terrifying.

Terror or not, Dean participates when Sam kisses him again—more briefly, and without the fireworks power display. The swoop that his stomach gives when Sam trails one hand down his stomach and over his cock as he draws away isn’t precisely unhappy.

“Get dressed,” Sam says. “I’ll order us breakfast.”

When Dean opens the wardrobe, Sam’s preference is obvious. Dean’s old clothes haven’t disappeared, but front and center hangs a black suit with a white dress shirt. The pants and jacket are decadently soft against his fingers, but there’s no gleam to the color—cashmere, then. The shirt is white silk, though, and clings to his body when he puts it on. The top three buttons are missing—no, not missing; they’re just not there. He can’t even find the buttonholes they would have gone in.

Looks like the open-throated suit look is in around here.

Sam admires Dean openly as Dean joins him on the balcony. He was busy while Dean was dressing himself: there’s a new iron-wrought table out here, as well as a couple of matching chairs with cushions. The table is set with a carafe of coffee, a plate stacked high with pancakes, one of those glass syrup dispensers with a metal slider on top, a second plate heaped full of bacon, a bowl of scrambled eggs—cheese mingled in too, from the smell—and a basket with croissants and assorted Danish. There’s also a bowl of fruit—blueberries, strawberries, freshly cut banana, kiwi, grapes, and apple wedges. No cantaloupe in sight, but of course there wouldn’t be: Sam knows Dean can’t stand the stuff.

In the center of the table, stands a vase with a single, deep blue rose, bringing to mind memories of reclining on thousands of those petals while Sam slipped bits of food past his lips. Too bad Dean can’t remember the rest of the night.

Fear is suddenly breathlessly, startlingly close. It’s an absurd depth of emotion for such a passing thought, and his inability to rein the terror back only frightens him more. Then, with a stronger throb of pain deep inside his chest, the panic vanishes.

Unsettled by the rapid flip of emotion, Dean takes refuge in the comfort of cynicism. Clearing his throat, he deadpans, “What, no O.J.?”

Sam flushes in an embarrassed way and gestures toward the table with one hand. Dean smells sulfur as his brother rips a hole in reality—there’s a brief, noxious sound and that screaming sense of Hell before the hole redirects—and then Dean is looking at some white and bustling place lined with gleaming steel counters. People are rushing around on the other side of the hole, and there’s a sound of sizzling and clanking and the bewildering scent of a hundred types of food being prepared at once.

“Orange juice,” Sam snaps.

The people in that distant place—a kitchen—fall over themselves in a mad scramble at the sound of his voice. Within moments, crystal glasses and a vase of the requested beverage have been passed through and set in place on the table. The man who lingers to set everything properly, reaching an arm through the hole with white-eyes and sweat on his brow, keeps darting his eyes at Sam like he’s expecting to be ripped to pieces at any moment.

Dean’s beginning to regret his attempt at self-distraction.

He waits until Sam has closed the hole again and motioned for him to sit down—waits until he’s certain that nameless man won’t be caught in the crossfire any more than he already is—and then says, “I was joking about the orange juice. This is—this is great.”

“Don’t make excuses for them, Dean,” Sam says without looking up.

He’s unfolding a napkin and laying it in his lap, so the avoidance could be coincidental. Not that Dean needs to see his brother’s eyes to tell that Sam is upset. Sam’s annoyance is clear enough in the clipped, sharp way he’s filling his plate.

“I told them the works,” Sam continues. “Not much of a fucking breakfast without orange juice, is it?”

Yeah, Dean’s going to think about a billion times before he opens his mouth to say anything flippant in the future. No matter how unsettled he feels.

“Are you going to join me, or is there something else you’re missing?”

Dean realizes belatedly that Sam is watching him with narrowed, impatient eyes. When he looks over the piles of food, his stomach curls in on itself weakly. What he’d really like to do right now is crawl back into bed and sleep for a couple hundred years—or at least until the torn ache in his chest heals. Sam’s expression says that’s going to happen just about never, though.

Left with a choice between going with the flow or prodding Sam into a completely unnecessary meltdown, Dean quietly follows his brother’s example and spoons a little bit of everything onto his plate. It seems to be the right move, if the gradual lessening of the tension in Sam’s shoulders is anything to go by. When Dean finally brings himself to take a bite of food—nothing big, just a couple of strawberries to start—he even gets a small smile.

By the end of the meal, Sam is talking at a good clip. He’s reminding Dean about the one decent place they lived when they were boys—Dean twelve, Sam eight. Dad was hunting down something that was picking off the residents of Wells, on the coast of Maine, and in early March, with spring just getting around to considering the land, they’d been able to rent a coastal cottage for a couple weeks. There was sand in the bathroom, and worn floorboards that creaked, and splotches of suntan oil stains here and there on the walls, but the view had been spectacular, and the sound of the ocean outside at night was soothing.

It’s their stint in that house that Sam recalls now—a game of Parcheesi on the living room floor one evening when it rained (Dad sitting at the table poring over old newspaper clippings he stole from the library); a morning spent racing each other along the abandoned beach; walking into town and finding a grocery store where Dean scored them a couple bags of M&Ms at his usual five finger discount; sitting on the sun-warmed boards of the cottage’s back porch and eating some egg salad sandwiches Dean made earlier that morning.

Dean thinks it’s that makeshift picnic that sparked this particular walk down memory lane. The taste of eggs, and the brisk breeze that’s making Dean particularly aware that his hair is longer than he’d like it—not quite long enough to get into his eyes, but long enough to be tickling the back of his neck and upper coils of his brother’s mark—strike familiar chords. The air is cool, too, just like it was on that day (too cool to be eating out here, really, but Dean notices that none of the food seems to be getting cold), and the sky has the same flat, broad quality that it had when it overhung the sea.

“You remember the night Dad got it?” Dean asks suddenly, speaking into a brief silence when Sam is helping himself to a few more pieces of bacon. “He came back with marshmallows, and we had a fire on the beach?”

Sam’s chewing slows momentarily, and in the slight hardening of his brother’s eyes, Dean realizes that, in all of Sam’s stories, he hasn’t really mentioned Dad. Has been editing around him, actually. Bringing Dad up over this post-coital breakfast probably wasn’t the smartest thing Dean could have done.

Before the fear trickling down Dean’s spine can take hold, though, Sam’s eyes thaw and he says, “I remember you got yelled at for running around with half a dozen flaming marshmallows on a stick.”

“Totally worth it,” Dean replies. His throat tightens with gratitude that Sam has decided to let his misstep slide. “I got you laughing, didn’t I?”

Sam’s mouth quirks into a broad, dimpling smile and he leans back in his chair. “You looked like an idiot.”

“Hey. I’m not the one who had marshmallow smeared on my face, Stay Puff Boy.”

Sam lets out a bray of a laugh at that, looking a little surprised by the sound and by his own amusement but still generally pleased. Dean’s surprised himself at how normal he feels right now—the guilt and shame are there, sure, but mostly the ache in his chest is a pleasant one. He feels like he’s been sick for a long time and is finally on the mend.

He feels like he’s coming back home to Sam where he belongs.

Sam is either tracking Dean’s thoughts (as far as Dean can tell, his brother is keeping his power to himself, but he knows better than to believe he has that strong an awareness when it comes to his brother’s abilities) or Dean has forgotten how to keep his face blank, because Sam’s pleased expression shifts into something a little more victorious. His smile curves with smug confidence as he lets his eyes move across Dean’s face and chest before dropping his gaze lower, as though he can see right through the plates and the table and the pants covering Dean’s crotch. Dean flushes and looks away.

When he glances back a few moments later, Sam’s expression has gone back to doting. Sam wipes his hands on his napkin, takes a quick gulp of coffee, and then stands.

“I have something for you,” he announces, reaching into his pocket. As he comes around the side of the table, he pulls out a small, velvet box—a ring, probably, and Dean shouldn’t be surprised that Sam has somehow remained a sentimentalist even without a soul. He looks at the box without moving as Sam puts it down on the table in front of him, then waits for Sam to elaborate—to put a hand on the back of his neck or to grip his arm or stroke him with a brush of power. Something.

But Sam just stands there, close enough to touch and yet not closing the last few inches of distance. Waiting.

Finally, Dean asks, “What is it?”

Now Sam does reach out with his power, but not in Dean’s direction. Instead, he nudges the velvet box closer to Dean and then goes back to waiting.

Dean continues to hesitate, strangely reluctant to touch even the casing of Sam’s gift. There’s no particular reason for him to feel apprehensive—he’s given Sam everything he wants, he’s been good, there’s nothing to punish him for, as far as he can tell. But maybe there is. He thought Sam was pleased with his behavior during their confrontation with Lucifer, but maybe he should have been smarter, faster, stronger. He got himself hurt, for fuck’s sake, which he knows breaks Sam’s cardinal rule.

Licking his lips again, Dean swallows and then says, “Can’t you just—”

“Open your gift.” Sam’s voice is quiet, not even a hint of anger there, but the air feels charged and Dean doesn’t dare look up to gauge Sam’s mood from his face.

Shutting his eyes, he braces himself as best as he’s able—which is not very, with that torn sensation still prevalent inside him—and then lets out a shaky breath and reaches for the box. There’s an electric zing when his fingertips brush the velvet surface—less than a second of contact before instinctive revulsion pulls his hand back, but even that’s long enough to spark recognition. Dean has felt that crawling, covetous greeting before. He’s felt it close around his neck and lock into place.

“No,” he breathes, clenching his hand into a fist and putting it in his lap.

Sam is a silent, disapproving figure to his left.

“I—I let you,” Dean says into the strained stillness. “You don’t have to—you don’t have to do this. I gave you everything you w-wanted.”

“Almost everything,” Sam corrects.

A ghost of power against the torn place inside of Dean leaves no doubts as to what he means by that, even if Dean remains confused about the end goal. Dean’s soul didn’t tear easily enough for Sam. It didn’t pull wide enough to accommodate enough of his brother—couldn’t make the room for Sam to bury himself in there along with Dean, to stitch them both into a single whole.

Dean hates himself for cringing back, but even that feather-light brush of his brother’s power hurts, and he’s feeling more and more cornered with each beat of his heart. Now Sam does touch Dean, one hand lightly and possessively caressing Dean’s hair and silently urging him to straighten. It feels like the metal bars of a cage drawing in closer around him.

“But this isn’t a punishment, Dean,” Sam adds. “Now. Open your present.

Dean’s hand trembles as it lifts against his will, driven by the command reverberating in his head. The box is a warm, vibrating, alive presence against his fingertips. Dean feels an excited leap as he draws the lid up and he’s nauseated by his inability to tell whether that emotion came from the box in his hands, or from Sam, or from some sick, twisted part of himself.

It isn’t the collar in the box, but then again Dean knew it couldn’t be. This case is far too small to hold that unyielding, smooth circlet of metal. Sam’s gift isn’t a ring either, though. It’s a medallion—silver with gold inlay in the shape of letters that Dean recognizes from long hours of study beneath Dad’s watchful eye. He’s even seen them in this particular arrangement before; it’s practically the first word he learned to write in ancient Aramaic.

Sam reaches down with the hand not occupied with Dean’s hair and touches the medallion’s surface. “Now everyone will know who you belong to.”

“You really think they were confused before?” Dean says without thinking, and Sam’s hand stills in his hair momentarily before pulling away. “I’m sorry,” Dean apologizes as his insides twist with sharper guilt, stirring the torn throb to new heights.

He is sorry, too, and not just because Sam’s bad moods are liable to end in blood. After all, he should be grateful that Sam still loves him enough to want his claim so publicly displayed: Sam’s name hanging from Dean’s throat in a language that no demon will have difficulty reading. He’s just Sam’s weak fuck-up of a brother, after all, just Dad’s mindless soldier.

And beneath his unease at the thrum of power coming from the thing, Dean is grateful. It’s just… that innocuous seeming bit of metal is reminding him way too much of the goddamned collar.

“Good eye,” Sam compliments him, and Dean starts slightly at the awareness of his brother’s mind brushing against his. “I had it melted down and purified to get the metal for this.” Sam lifts the medallion from the box, revealing a short length of silver chain.

With difficulty, Dean lifts his eyes from the medallion and looks at his brother. Despite Dean’s atrocious behavior, Sam doesn’t seem angry. Hopeful, maybe, with a touch of uncertain shyness.

When he sees that he has Dean’s attention, Sam grins from behind his shaggy fringe of hair and says, “I could tell you didn’t like the collar, even before you found it in the drawer. And I wasn’t ever going to make you wear it again, I just… I hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet. I would have told you—I wanted to tell you—but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”

Dean doesn’t know what part of that speech to latch onto first. He keeps getting stuck on the dumbfounded comprehension that Sam believes Dean’s issues with the collar began and ended in its shape—and yeah, okay, that was part of it, Dean has to admit. Talk about a physical reminder of how thoroughly he’s owned: wearing a collar like a damn dog.

It’s more than that, though.

It’s how wide that collar spread his insides for Sam. How deep it allowed Sam to push without trying—without even being in the same state. Sam’s desires and absent thoughts funneled into Dean to become sensory reality, and if Dean has to feel that again—if he has to feel it when he’s like this, when he’s cut open inside and raw and fucked beyond recognition—he’ll…

He’ll what? It isn’t like it’s all that different from what happens when Sam touches the tattoo. So Sam’ll be able to keep in contact with him all day long. So he’ll be able to stretch out and stroke Dean’s insides from the other side of the country. So what? It isn’t like this is actually a choice. No matter how prettily Sam has wrapped his ‘gift’, Dean knows that accepting or refusing the medallion isn’t up to him.

“It’s great,” he says through clumsy, numb lips.

Sam doesn’t seem to notice Dean’s difficulty. Beaming even brighter, he offers, “Here, let me put it on.”

No, don’t.

The words are at the tip of Dean’s tongue, but he bites down on them and remains quiet while Sam steps in close behind him. When the medallion hits the bare V of Dean’s chest revealed by the open throat of his shirt, it’s warmer than it should be. The metal seems to pulse with a phantom heartbeat, a rhythm that the cuffs catch and echo. Despite his best intentions, Dean sits up straighter, trying to pull away.

Before he can get further than the edge of his chair, the catch closes and an invisible shockwave passes through Dean’s body. The last time Sam closed the catch on this sort of thing, Dean’s libido went into overdrive. This time, there’s no obvious spike of arousal, although Dean sort of wishes there was. Arousal would be easier to deal with.

Instead, there’s a sensation like a key turning in a lock. The ghostly awareness of Sam running underneath his skin manacles itself in place—Sam suddenly trapped deep inside of Dean, where Dean isn’t sure he wants his brother. Not constantly. Not always. He rattles at the entry points thoughtlessly, stirring up fresh agony from his torn core, but the bars and bolts hold. All of the windows and doors are welded shut.

“Sam,” Dean whispers, forgetting his determination to make this morning good for Sam, to keep him happy. “Sammy, I can’t—not—not always, you have to—fuck, tell me it comes off.” He lifts a hand, reaching back up where he knows the clasp is, and catches himself and forces it back down with difficulty.

Sam kisses the nape of Dean’s neck—kisses the chain—and answers, “You’ll get used to it, baby. Just wait and see. After a couple of days, it’ll be like I’m not even there.”

That’s an even more terrifying thought, of course—that this invaded, full sensation could become the norm—and Dean jerks up to his feet, the need for air—for space—pounding through him. Before he can move out from between his chair and the table, though, Sam has him by the back of the head and is shoving him down against the table amidst a clatter of plates and silverware. Dean can feel leftover maple syrup from his pancakes soaking into the stomach of his dress shirt.

“Don’t spoil the moment.” Sam’s voice is a low, warning growl. There’s a clatter of the chair being knocked away and then Dean tenses at the sensation of his brother’s crotch pressed up close to his ass.

“I don’t think you understand what a temptation you are,” Sam continues. “You look at me from underneath those lashes and my heart skips. You smile at me and all I can think about is your mouth. You sit there shining with the sun on your skin and I want to touch, and take—I want everything. You’re a compulsion, Dean. A maddening, beautiful compulsion.”

Dean grimaces as Sam’s hand tightens on the back of his head and then thinks, in a disjointed way, of Ben. Christ, he’s going to throw up.

“And,” Sam continues in a darker, hungrier tone, “you don’t want me to even begin describing the things I want to do when you flinch away.”

Dean can guess, actually. Run from a predator and attract its attention: it’s one of the first lessons Dad taught him. And if there’s any word that comes closest to describing what Sam is now, predatory is it. Dean’s attempts to gain some distance—to flee—must be waking every primal, hungry instinct inside of his brother. They must be waking Sam’s need to take and brand and claim and own, and thrusting them to the fore.

Dean has sensed the depth of Sam’s feelings for him. He’s stared into the maelstrom and come away humbled and staggered. He should know better, damn it.

“I’m sorry,” Dean breathes. He doesn’t feel the motion consciously, but he must be shaking because he can hear the plates beneath his stomach and chest clinking faintly. His insides throb and flutter, trembling beneath the near-physical weight of Sam’s presence.

“I think we’re done with breakfast,” Sam comments in reply. “Don’t you?”

Any response Dean makes to that question is going to be incorrect—he can tell from the dangerous thread running through Sam’s voice—so he keeps his mouth shut and waits. After a few, terrifying moments, he’s jerked back up and power crashes over the tabletop, driving the food and dishes onto the floor with a clatter. Dean is yanked around by one arm, then shoved down again, hitting the mesh table top at an awkward angle that makes his lower back spasm. He shifts around in an attempt to get comfortable, but doesn’t try to resist as Sam grips both sides of his shirt and pulls.

The silk, already ruined from the food smeared across the front, tears. Some of the buttons pop off and fly in various directions—Dean’s frantic eyes follow the arc of one stray up and over the edge of balcony, soaring on a path he’s longed to take himself more times than he can count.

A mouth on Dean’s stomach brings him back sharply to the present, and he looks down to see Sam bent over and lapping his skin clean where the syrup soaked through his shirt. Sam grips Dean’s waist with both hands, kneading sensually while stray wisps of power slip down the back of Dean’s pants to rub over his ass. Inside, where the charm has locked Sam intimately, invasively close, more power purrs into Dean: warm, soul-deep vibrations that first burn and then soften the jagged edges on the ache left from the first time Sam had him.

Then Sam tilts Dean’s face up with a curl of power—he finds Dean’s eyes with his own—and Dean is caught by the sight of his brother. Tawny gold eyes framed by tousled hair. Broad shoulders—Christ, the bulk of Sam’s body, the size of his hands where they’re gripping Dean’s sides.

Dean’s groin tightens. His ass throbs where Sam’s power is teasing over his flesh—he wants more, wants deeper, and he wants it in a sharper, more vital way than he has in a long while. Probably because he just broke his fast and actually remembers what Sam’s cock feels like.

The next pass of Sam’s mouth over Dean’s stomach gets Dean a graze of teeth, which drives a hiss from his throat and makes him arch his back.

“Sam,” he groans, reaching down to put his right hand over his brother’s left. Sam resists Dean’s attempt to pry his fingers loose for a few seconds, then relents and allows Dean to pull his hand up. Sam’s head lifts as well, and he watches Dean with narrowed, suspicious eyes.

But he’s letting Dean do this, he’s giving him a chance to prove himself, and a bolt of desire shivers through Dean again, tangled with a pulse of unconditional love.

Dean holds his brother’s gaze as he draws Sam’s hand across his stomach. Sam’s fingers spread on their own, teasing the damp skin, and then still when Dean presses them down against the bulge of his crotch and thrusts up. He’s mortified by his own behavior, and there’s a large part of him that wants to curl up in a convenient corner, but Sam thankfully doesn’t have to be asked twice.

When Dean doesn’t repeat the movement, he tightens his grip on his own, squeezing and tugging and making Dean’s breath come in short, jagged bursts as he reluctantly allows the pleasure to infect him. He isn’t quite writhing against the table yet, but he’s close.

::What do you want?:: The words melt into Dean’s mind and spill a red hot shower of pleasurable sparks through his overheated body. ::Tell me. Show me.::

Dean’s answer is a burst of arousal and a series of frantic, imagined images that jostle against one another in the nonexistent space between their minds.

his pants dangling from one ankle, Sam in close, Dean’s legs up and hitched around his waist, Sam gripping his forearms to hold him down, Sam driving in and forcing him to open up around Sam, forcing him, forcing—

“It’s not forcing you if you want it,” Sam mocks, and the images in Dean’s head shatter into a new alignment.

he’s on his back on the table with Sam rutting into him, but now Sam’s hands are busy helping him rock down into Sam’s thrusts while he alternates between hanging onto one of Sam’s tense forearms and gripping the edge of the table for support, and Sam is taking him, he’s willing, he’s so very willing, and Sam is giving it to him hard just the way he wants it, the way they both want it—

“Honesty is always the best policy,” Sam purrs against Dean’s upturned throat, and Dean’s head spins with need. He’s only vaguely aware that Sam’s hand has gone from working his cock through his pants to opening his belt.

“You just might get what you want,” Sam adds, and then Dean’s pants are open, and Sam is pulling them down and off.

Dean curls his fingers through the iron mesh of the table, gripping tightly as though that’s going to cool his blood to a boil instead of the seething supernova it’s become. Everything is moving far too fast and yet not quickly enough. Dean’s skin is hot, and it seems like the only cure for the burning is more fire, is Sam on top of him, Sam pushing inside him and coating Dean with oil and flame until Dean can’t feel the pain inside anymore, until the sharp agony is consumed by the inferno.

He tilts his head back, looks up at the blindingly blue spring sky overhead, and feels the medallion shift on his chest. It’s a reminder, not that he needs one, that Sam is already inside him—that Sam will always be inside him—and it comes moments before that ghostly sensation of Sam sticking to the underside of his skin seems to unfurl.

Dean gasps, shuddering, and then stills again as his brother’s very physical hands close around his thighs and push them apart. The sensation of Sam moving in close and positioning himself against Dean’s entrance is somehow both immediate and distant—in no way as intimate an invasion as Sam’s power expanding, easing tendrils down into the depths of Dean’s soul. The deeper intrusion makes that torn place inside of him throb, but it feels good too, it feels right. Dean tenses to keep from dragging Sam down against him right fucking now, but nothing he does can keep his hips from twitching needily as his exposed cock starts to leak.

“So sensitive,” Sam murmurs, putting a hand around Dean’s cock and giving him a firm, slow pull. “Sing out for me, baby. I want to hear how good I make you feel.”

A tiny corner of Dean’s brain is still aware that they’re outside on the balcony—and if his voice didn’t carry when he was screaming for Sam over the course of their last marathon session, it sure as hell will now.

“They’ll hear,” he protests faintly, and then gasps as power pushes up inside of him, slick and warm and widening in his ass. Prepping him with steady, deep thrusts he couldn’t lock out even if he wanted to.

“Who’ll hear?” Sam asks. He releases Dean’s cock to run his hand up Dean’s stomach to rest over his heart. The power inside Dean’s ass twists, opening him wider, and the muscles of his ass quiver weakly.

“Everyone,” Dean says, groaning at the sensation. His legs come up of their own accord, thighs spreading as wide as he can get them before he hooks his ankles together at the small of Sam’s back. The new angle slots Sam’s cock against Dean’s ass in a more obvious, pressing way, and Dean gasps as lapping power teases the outer edges of his hole even looser, leaving the muscle stupidly lazy. His nerve endings jitter with static as his rim gives way with Sam’s first, easy push, allowing the head of his brother’s cock to slowly sink in.

“Good,” Sam grunts, sounding a little out of breath and distracted now. “Then they’ll… all know who—who you belong to.”

Dean’s eyes roll back down from the sky and find his brother’s face. Unsurprisingly, Sam’s intent, focused eyes are locked on him. Inside of Dean, the tendrils of Sam’s power sink even deeper. They reach right down to those hurt, wounded places and cradle them. They stroke them, sandpaper tongues on open wounds. Dean cries out in a wordless shout that he can’t categorize as pleasure or pain.

There’s no mistaking the arousal in Sam’s replying moan, not when his eyes are so hot—not when Dean can feel his brother’s desire prowling restlessly inside him like an enraged tiger in a cage. Sam doesn’t hesitate before snapping his hips forward in a rough thrust.

Dean wants to be quiet, he wants to endure this (but is enduring what he’s doing, is it really?) silently and privately, but Sam pulls almost all the way out and then uses his next thrust to somehow fuck in even deeper. Sam fills Dean up, body and soul, and there’s no space left inside him to bury his moans and shouts. They’re forced from his body along with his air, echoing against the side of the building before falling down over the railing to the world below.

Sam bends forward, blanketing Dean’s body with his own and nipping at the lobe of his ear. It’s one minor sensation in a sea of sensuality, and is lost entirely as Dean gives up fighting with himself.

“Ngh!” he grunts, moving his hips in helpless little jerks that are the best attempt he can offer to aid Sam’s smoother, stronger rhythm. Dean’s thighs clench, heels digging into the small of Sam’s back and forcing him closer. One of his hands uncurls from the tabletop and flies to Sam’s arm instead—cloth and bunching muscle beneath his fingers rather than unyielding metal, but Sam doesn’t seem to notice Dean clenching hard enough to leave imprints of his fingers behind after he lets go. If he can ever manage to let go.

“They’re listening,” Sam pants in Dean’s ear. “Everyone down there… demons… slaves… they’re all hearing just how much you enjoy getting fucked.”

Shame and wanton arousal war in Dean’s chest. He bites his lip, is able to keep quiet for a few thrusts until he pushes up and Sam pushes down and something about the angle drives his brother’s cock directly into his prostate. Then he makes some sort of bastardized mix between a moan and a wail, and Sam’s subsequent chuckle dribbles over his skin like honey.

“Louder,” Sam urges. “Say my name. Tell them who you belong to.”

Dean shakes his head with difficulty—noises are one thing, actual words another—and concentrates on fucking back against his brother’s body, on finding that perfect rhythm that will drive Sam in even deeper, harder.

“Say it,” Sam urges as he ruts into Dean at an even faster, brutal clip, and then gives up on speaking and pushes the words directly into Dean’s head.

::Submit, Dean. It’s such a short way left to fall, and then it’ll be over—everyone will know and you won’t need to worry about it anymore, won’t need to be so shamed and shy about how beautifully you love me.::

“Sam,” Dean moans, forcing the word out on a hissed breath, and then, horrified, clenches his teeth shut.

“That’s it,” Sam praises, reaching between their bodies to stroke Dean’s cock. “I need you—I love you. Let them hear how much you love me. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, baby. This is you—this is how you are, it’s how we are. Nothing shameful about following your nature, and you. Love. This.”

The words are punctuated by harder, staccato thrusts that scrape Dean’s back against the wrought-iron tabletop—and, more importantly—by slick strokes against his insides, Sam everywhere, Sam possessing him inside and out. The tiger out of his cage and roaring, lapping everything with shivering, hot swipes—or maybe it’s a dragon Dean feels moving inside him. Maybe it’s the Dragon.

“You love me,” Sam adds as his dark, horribly focused love pours down the connection between them, and Dean doesn’t so much bend beneath the torrent as he breaks, he yields, and oh God forgive him, but he submits.

“Sam!” he shouts, other hand lifting from the table to grip his brother’s shoulder blade. “Christ, Sam! Sammy, harder. H-hard—ngh! Oh fuck!”

It devolves to rutting between them, then. Just hard, sloppy thrusts, with Sam’s rhythm regularly accelerating until he’s pounding into Dean’s ass at a stunning speed. Dean’s cock jerks, and twitches, and finally spills as he cries out. Sam’s hold on Dean tightens as Dean slumps, both hands gripping Dean’s hips and jerking him down to meet each of Sam’s driving thrusts until Sam comes as well with a particularly sharp snap of his hips and an erratic flare of power that echoes through Dean’s insides.

In the momentary quiet afterward, when Sam’s weight crushes Dean against the table and they lie there panting against each other, Dean wants to panic. But there’s only a throb of well-used pleasure from his ass and the languid contentment of Sam’s power spread deep within his soul, where it’s mostly dampening the ache instead of rousing it. The dragon or the tiger or whatever beast his brother’s passion loosed within him is gone without a trace, and the slightly queasy, shamed feeling that Dean thinks will always come after he lets Sam touch him (and enjoys it) isn’t quite as strong as he wants it to be.

He can’t meet his brother’s eyes as Sam finally eases out and steps away.

After a moment of strained silence, Sam says, “Go clean yourself up. I’ll get you another suit.” But Sam doesn’t move, and Dean realizes after almost a minute of waiting that Sam means for him to go in first. Possibly so that Sam can tidy up the mess they made out here on the balcony.

He sits up, uncomfortably aware of how open and wet his ass is, and hesitantly finds his feet. His thighs shake, weak from gripping at Sam’s waist so strongly. He has to bend down to pull the rest of his pants off his left ankle. The medallion swings and bumps his collarbone—it has a shorter chain than the amulet Sam gave him when they were kids, and Dean realizes that it would have been perfectly framed by the silk dress shirt Sam ripped off of him.

It would have been on display.

“Hurry up, Dean,” Sam warns. “I’ve been neglecting my duties for almost a week. I have a lot of catch-up to do.”

Is that how long it was? Dean thinks dazedly.

Sam could be right. Dean was so involved with Sam’s cock and mouth and the power drowning him that a few sunrises and sunsets could have gotten lost in the shuffle.

“All right,” he says softly, and goes.