Chapter 1: Hands All Over
It’s the quiet that first alerts Dean to the fact that something is wrong.
He lifts his head and peers around the living room with groggy blinks. Heat is everywhere, panting against his skin like a living thing. Not even a faint breeze stirs the dingy curtains that fringe the open windows. All of the lights are off, and so is the TV, although Dean left Sam parked in front of it when he lay down on the couch to take a nap.
Dean frowns, sitting up the rest of the way, and scans the living room floor for his brother. There’s an empty glass with traces of milk at the bottom, a plate littered with cookie crumbs, and a coloring book, all stacked neatly in front of the blank TV screen. There’s a scatter of crayons, left less neatly in the center of the floor.
No sign of Sam.
“Sammy?” Dean calls. “Sammy, you’re s’pposed to stay where I can see you.”
Dean isn’t too worried, though. Not yet. The little squirt’s weirdly mature at times, but he’s still three years old, and three is too small to work the doors leading outside.
But what if someone came in and took him?
“What if nothing,” Dean mutters back, although his skin is prickling now.
Dad left him in charge, and that makes Sam his responsibility, but that isn’t really what’s scaring him.
What if someone did take Sam? Or something?
A sound from the apartment’s short hallway has Dean moving in that direction without thinking twice. He isn’t armed, because Dad says he’s not old enough for a gun of his own yet, but Dad’s been teaching him to punch. He’s pretty sure he can handle whatever’s making that stealthy noise.
It’s probably just Sam anyway.
“Sammy? That you?”
He comes across a scatter of markers in the hallway, and a moment later notices some of Sam’s stick figures low on the walls. Dad’s going to tan Dean’s hide for that when he gets home, and never mind that it was Dad who decided to indulge Sam’s newfound passion to be the next Rembrandt.
Anger scatters Dean’s fear and he bends to collect the markers as he heads for the door to their room, where he’s certain Sam is doing even more things Dean’s going to catch heat for.
“You’re in big trouble, fart-breath!”
There’s a giggle from their bedroom.
Dean squares his shoulders, markers clenched in his fists, and rounds the doorframe.
Sammy colored in front of the TV until he got tired of his crayons. Then he moved into the hallway with his markers, and all the while Dean slept on in a heat-induced stupor.
Then Sam moved into the bedroom and broke out the fingerpaint.
The stuff is everywhere: a riot of color on the walls and the bedspreads and the dresser. Clumsy yellow flowers cover the closet door; red stick figures march underneath the bedroom windowsill. Sammy went abstract with both bedframes, covering them with garish splotches of magenta and cerulean.
Sammy, sitting in the middle of the mess, hasn’t escaped his own whirlwind of creativity. There’s paint in his hair and all over his clothes. His skin is streaked in green and purple like some sort of bizarre war paint.
Dean’s blood washes deliriously cold for a single instant, then goes back to boiling.
“Oh, you…” he says, and then stops, at a loss for words. He’s sure Dad would know the proper swears for this sort of apocalyptic mess, but he’s still learning and he doesn’t trust himself to be expressive enough to get the point across.
Sammy grins up at him. His chubby face beams with pride at his accomplishments. Giggling, he holds up something so coated in multi-colored Sammy handprints that it looks like a solid sheet of paint.
“Made you pwesent!”
“Made me…” Dean shuts his mouth again on a sudden, horrified suspicion. He darts a glance at the dresser again, noting the fourth drawer up—Sammy can barely reach it, but he somehow managed not only to reach but to pull it open. “What did you do?”
Sammy giggles again and shakes the paint-smeared thing in his grimy hands. “Pwesent fuh Dean.”
Horror tightens Dean’s throat, but he has to know. Dropping the pens, he dashes forward and jerks the dripping cloth from Sam’s hands.
It is. Oh God, it is.
Sam claps his hands, sending a cast off spray of paint onto the rug. “Pwetty collaws!” he crows, and all Dean can do is stare at the giggling imp with wide, disbelieving eyes.
Sam has violated Dean’s official Led Zeppelin ‘Day on the Green’ t-shirt, signed by John Bonham himself. He mutilated it.
Dean already knew Sammy was a pain in the ass, but this is the first time he realizes that his brother is, in fact, the Antichrist.
His voice comes back in a rush with the realization.
“You ruined it!” he shouts, darting forward and shaking the shirt in Sam’s startled face. “You little shit, you ruined my shirt!”
Sam’s eyes widen so dramatically Dean almost thinks they’re in danger of falling out, and then he starts bawling.
And that, of course, is when Dad gets home.
Infuriatingly enough, Dad seems more amused than anything else by the mess. He brushes aside Dean’s insistence that they take Sammy to Pastor Jim for an exorcism (not that Dean is all that certain one of those will work on the Antichrist), proclaims that Dean’s shirt will be fine once it’s been washed (it isn’t; a splotch of blue on the hem in the shape of Sam’s hand never does come completely off), and then picks Sammy up and carries him into the bathroom for a bath.
Dean forks two fingers at his eyes and then points them at Sam as Dad carries him away in clear warning. I’m watching you, punk. Sam stares back with wide, tearful eyes and a trembling bottom lip until he and Dad vanish around the corner.
Muttering to himself in disgust, Dean starts figuring out how to clean some of this mess up.
That night, as Dean is trying to sleep amid the too-strong scent of cleaning fluids, there’s a rustle and an unwelcome weight on his bed. Pulling the sheet higher, he rolls onto his side.
“Dean.” Sam’s pudgy hands grab his hip and shake. “Dean.”
Dean jerks his hip free from Sam’s hold. “Get out of my bed. Stupid Antichrist.”
Sam’s quiet for a long moment, and then he says in a tiny, sad voice, “Sowwy.”
“Sorry-lookin’,” Dean mutters.
Dean rolls his eyes. “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
“Sowwy, Dean,” Sam repeats. His voice hitches, breath speeding, and in a few moments he’ll be at full wail.
Dean rolls over hastily. Before he can say anything, Sam is plastered to his front, clinging to Dean like Dean’s an oversized teddy bear. He sniffles and whispers apologies and is generally so pathetic that Dean feels a sting of guilt despite himself. Grudgingly, he lifts a hand and pats Sam’s back. When Sam responds by burrowing closer, Dean rolls his eyes but doesn’t protest.
“For the Antichrist, you’re sort of pathetic,” he points out.
Sam sticks his thumb in his mouth and sucks on it contentedly as he watches Dean with wide, trusting eyes.
“This doesn’t mean I forgive you,” Dean warns. “I just don’t want you waking up Dad.”
The smile Sam gives Dean around his thumb says he knows better. “G’night, Dean.”
Sighing, Dean resigns himself to the inevitable. “G’night, squirt. Try not to end the world while I’m asleep.”
Miracle of miracles, he doesn’t.
Chapter 2: Wake Up Call
Dean’s least favorite part of the day is waking up, especially in summer. It’s only to be expected, considering Dad keeps him up all hours of the night training—sometimes on actual hunts. He usually doesn’t see the cool side of his pillow (or any side of it, really) until after four—three at the earliest. Which would be fine if he could then sleep until, oh say, the sun goes down again.
But Sam. Sam never goes along on Dad’s little post-midnight excursions.
And Sam is a morning person.
At first, Dean totally buys into Sam’s sheepish, ‘I’m so exuberant at six in the morning I can’t help myself’ apologies. Especially when they’re tendered with hot mugs of coffee and boxes of chocolate-covered doughnuts from the nearest corner market.
Then he nods off when he isn’t supposed to—not in the middle of a hunt, thank God, but as Dad points out afterwards, it could have been. Dean gets left home the next night, and the next. ‘To recharge,’ Dad says, but it feels like a punishment.
And Sam, the self-satisfied little shit, beams the entire time.
On the third day of Dean’s exile, Dean pulls Sam aside and threatens him, on pain of endless noogies and wedgies, not to wake him up again. Sam isn’t to make so much as a peep before noon or his ass is grass.
Sam agrees with a solemn expression that Dean doesn’t trust one bit. Still, it isn’t like Dad’s going to okay maiming Sam so Dean can get a little shuteye. Dean’s just going to have to hope Sam has a better sense of morality and honor than Dean expects.
Dad brings Dean out again that night, and when they get back, Sam appears to be fast asleep. He actually looks even more innocent with drool leaking out of his open mouth to pool on the pillow.
Keeping his own movements as quiet as he can, Dean pulls the shade on their shared window. Then, offering a silent prayer, he drops back into bed to sleep the sleep of the righteous.
And wakes up at the crack of dawn with the sun glaring directly into his eyes.
Sam swears he didn’t raise the shade. He swears up and down and sideways.
Dean grumbles and blearily blinks his way through breakfast.
Dean would retaliate, but he’s too tired to do anything but glare and make impotent threats. Anyway, all he has to do is survive until September. Then they’ll be back in school, and Dad’s after hours excursions will drop off to sporadic outings on the weekends.
Little as Dean is excited by that prospect, he is looking forward to the world reclaiming its definition. Come September, Dean will once more be able to think himself out of a cardboard box. He won’t have Sam clambering over him all morning, afternoon and evening.
Then comes Franklin, Nevada.
Dread-tinged confusion makes him sigh, but his deep inhalation turns into an explosive coughing jag. The wet towel feeling in his arms and legs doesn’t fall away so much as it ceases to matter. Dean comes out of the bed in a dervish of sheets and flailing limbs, all the while doing his best to hack up his lungs and the rancid air within them. He presses one hand over his mouth and nose, trying to keep from breathing in—fuck, that’s foul—and spots Sammy peering at him around the edge of the mostly closed door.
“Ugh,” he manages, then clamps his mouth shut again as his stomach heaves. He starts for the door, his only concern getting out of this stink-infested room.
Sam must read dismemberment in Dean’s approach, though, because his one visible eye widens and the door slams shut. It’s easily yanked open again, of course—Sam can’t lock it from the outside—but it takes Dean precious seconds to manage the trick. By the time he makes it out into the hall, he’s bent over and gasping for clean air. He pulls the door shut behind him again as an effort at quarantine and staggers into the bathroom. There, he leans over the toilet with one hand braced on the tank for support, and brings up a thin string of bile that looks about as appealing as the air in his bedroom smelled.
Dean takes his time steadying himself from the attack—washes his face and brushes his teeth with near fanatic care, then strips down to his boxers. He’d pull those off too, only he heard the back door slam when he was decontaminating himself, and he figures he’s going to have to leave the run down shack that’s passing itself off as a house to deal with Sam. Seeing as Dean’s other clothes are inside the stink cloud, he’ll have to settle for the fact that his boxers are far away enough from his nose that he can’t quite scent the stench clinging to them.
He blows through the kitchen, registering the open cans of baked beans with a mixture of admiration and fury. There are close to ten empties on the counter; after stuffing himself so much, it’s a wonder Sam hasn’t exploded like an overfed tick.
Dean bursts out into the weed-choked backyard expecting to have to hunt his brother down, but Sam is crouched a few feet away from the door. His legs are pulled tight to his chest and his face is pressed against his knees. He’s sobbing quietly, which would normally give Dean pause. Today, his mercy is somewhat diminished by the sound of Sam letting off yet another good one.
Thank God they’re both outside for this one.
“Seriously, Sammy,” Dean growls in an admirably restrained tone. “What the fuck?”
Through his tears, Sam mumbles something into his knees.
Dean takes a step closer. “I’m gonna need a gas mask to get back in there. Hell, Dad’s probably gonna have to call in a fumigator.”
Sam mumbles something again.
“What was that? For fuck’s sake, Sam, speak up!”
When Sam finally lifts his head, his face is a splotchy mess. “I duh-don’t want you to—to get huh-hurt.”
Dean blinks, nonplussed. He’s admittedly not functioning at his best right now, but Sam’s logic is also not like other people’s logic.
“What the fuck do you think is gonna happen to me if I’m running around exhausted all the time, nimrod?”
Sam sniffs and drags a hand beneath his nose. “Dad’ll have to leave you home,” he says. “He can’t—he can’t bring you on hunts if you’re tired.”
“And who the fuck is gonna watch his back, huh? Who’s gonna watch out for Dad if I get benched? You want Dad hurt? Or dead? Because that’s exactly what’s gonna happen.”
Sam flinches, like the thought never occurred to him. He stares up at Dean for a moment longer and then his expression crumples. He drops his head again and goes back to crying into his knees.
Crying isn’t going to cut it, though. It isn’t going to get Sam out of this when Sam was fucking around with something that could get Dean or Dad hurt—or killed. Dean opens his mouth to say as much…
…and Sam farts again.
The complete absurdity of the situation hits him then—Sam plotting this morning’s attack, getting his hands on can after can of beans, eating them all in one go and then…what? Sticking his butt up against the cracked door and letting loose?
The mental image of Sam doing just that hits Dean hard and he can’t help laughing. Maybe it’s the exhaustion, maybe the act of laughing itself, but his anger collapses. He takes the last few steps forward and then slides down the side of the house to sit next to his brother—carefully upwind, of course.
Sam’s resistant at first when Dean slings an arm around his shoulder to pull him in, but he doesn’t put up too much of a fight. Dean lets Sam cry against his chest until he figures the kid’s been at it enough and then, after Sam lets off another prizewinner, mutters, “Boom.”
Sam hiccups, caught between a sob and a giggle.
“Seriously,” Dean adds. “Those are, like, apocalyptic farts. Seriously Antichrist worthy.” He shifts back slightly and peers down at Sam. “You sure you ain’t him?”
Laughing harder, Sam punches Dean in the stomach before settling back in against his side. “Jerk.”
Sam punches him again—or tries to—and Dean responds by tickling his brother into submission. The rocket flares Sam keeps launching off only make Sam laugh harder.
“Uncle!” Sam cries finally. “Uncle!”
Dean relents mostly because he’s too worn out to hold his advantage and they both end up leaning against the house next to each other and looking out at the rundown yard. Dean scuffs his bare foot in the dirt, then drops his head back against the siding and closes his eyes, letting the sun’s warmth beat down on his upturned face.
“You’re washing all my stuff today,” he says after a few quiet moments. “That stink’s never coming out otherwise.”
“You wish,” Sam shoots back, but he’ll do it. Dean can tell. He stretches his legs out in front of him and crosses them at the ankles.
“My wish is your command.” He expects Sam to snort and proclaim otherwise, but instead—in a little, lost voice—Sam repeats his earlier confession.
“I don’t want to lose you.”
Dean cracks an eye and glances down. Sam’s not crying yet, but it’s a near thing. Lifting an arm, he drops it over Sam’s shoulders.
“Hey. I’m not going anywhere, dude. I don’t care if you are the Antichrist.”
“Dean,” Sam protests, scrunching his face up.
“That smell? Not natural. I’m just saying.” Dean drops a hand on Sam’s head and ruffles his hair. “Now come on, let’s go air out the gas chamber.”
Chapter 3: Runaway
Sam vanishes at Flagstaff, and he isn’t at all apologetic when Dad finally hunts him down and drags him back. He pretends Dean isn’t there when they pile into the Impala and head out again, which is just fine with Dean. He doesn’t really feel like talking to Sam right now either.
What hurts is how Dad won’t look straight at him. What hurts is the confirmation that Dean fucked up again, that he just blew his second shot at keeping Sam safe and that Dad isn’t going to give him a chance to strike out.
Flagstaff hurts. It burns Dean down to the bones—all that worry tying him up into nauseous knots, Dad yelling at him for what seemed like hours, and nightmare after nightmare of Sam broken and dying alone in a ditch somewhere.
In the weeks afterwards, as Sam warms up to his usual contentious self and starts butting heads with Dad again (and taking pot shots at Dean while he’s at it), Dean takes it upon himself to try self-medication. He isn’t quite old enough to buy anything legally, but he has plenty of fake IDs and if he smiles widely enough, the girls behind the bars don’t look too closely at his license.
Drinking at the bars works fine. It keeps him out from under foot and away from Dad’s disappointed eyes. It also lets Dad and Sam get up some good steam while they rip at each other, which is what they both seem to want anyway.
Drinking at home is the mistake. Dean knows it just as soon as Sam wanders out into the kitchen for a midnight snack and spots him sitting at the table sharing out a bottle of gin with himself. Sam’s mouth pulls down. His nose wrinkles with disgust.
“Gross,” he mutters. “You smell like a bar.”
Dean pours himself another and doesn’t answer.
Sam passes him—making a wide detour, like he thinks what Dean has might be catching—and starts pouring himself some milk from the carton in the refrigerator.
“There’s quicker ways to kill yourself.”
Dean’s too drunk to smother the bitter laugh that comes in reply. He can feel Sam looking at him. “You know what, Sammy? Fuck you.” He takes a drink.
“You’re turning into a drunk. It’s pathetic. I mean, Jesus, Dean—don’t you have any self respect?”
Dean studiously watches the gin flowing from the bottle into his glass. He has to concentrate so as not to spill anything.
“Hey. I’m talking to you.”
Something hits his shoulder—Sam hits his shoulder—and the bottle jags. Gin spills out over the tabletop. Dean stops pouring and puts the bottle down with a muttered curse.
“Now look what you did,” he spits, shoving up from his chair before the pool of liquor can spill off the table’s edge and into his lap.
“Good. Better on the table than in you. Dean, man…”
Sam grips Dean’s arm and Dean jerks loose with a violent shake. “Don’t touch me.”
“You never even.” Dean stops, confused, and then picks up the thread of his point again. “You never even thought, did you? You just. Poof. Gone. Could’ve been anywhere. Could’ve. You could’ve been. Been.”
Even drunk, he can’t bring himself to say it aloud.
“Hey,” Sam says, softer. “Dean.”
“Do you even have a soul?” Dean blurts, jerking away from the hand Sam has extended toward him. “I mean, fuck. Manson would’ve called his family. Fucking. Two weeks. You don’t. People don’t do that.”
He rubs a hand over his face, then staggers a step to the side as the kitchen floor moves on him. Sam doesn’t move to help him. He doesn’t speak.
“Hell, maybe you really are the Antichrist.”
It might be another thoughtless slap. It might be a lame attempt to heal the breach that has sprung up between them—the accusation always used to make Sam laugh when they were younger, after all. Dean’s too fucked up right now to recognize just which of those motivations is driving him.
Not that it matters.
Sam at sixteen isn’t anything like Sam at eleven. He doesn’t crack a smile. His shoulders pull tight and unhappy. For a moment, there’s silence.
If Dean could string two coherent thoughts together, he might apologize. He might.
Then Sam says, “Tell you what, man. If you ever sober up and want to talk without all this bullshit, you know where to find me.”
He pushes past Dean, knocking Dean’s shoulder hard with his own and spinning Dean sideways against the counter. Dean just manages to keep his feet and clings there until the room stops moving.
When he looks around, Sam is gone but the glass of milk he poured is still on the counter, untouched and forgotten.
But he and Sam don’t talk. Not really. Not more than two soldiers stuck in the same trench have to.
When Sam cuts loose for Stanford two years later, Dean can’t really say he’s surprised.
Chapter 4: Ladykiller
Dean gives it a good six months. After all, Sam has a right to mourn. Then his best brotherly instincts kick in and he starts nudging his extras in Sam’s direction. The kid might not be quite in Dean’s league, but he’s grown up pretty well.
He still can’t close the deal, though. That much hasn’t changed.
Dean watches as long as he can stand the embarrassment and then, finally, he does what any good brother would.
It’s time to call in the professionals.
When she shows at the bar that night (Sam’s choice; Dean figures buttering the kid up first won’t hurt), Candy is dressed in a fair approximation of college girl slut, just like Dean requested. She looks good. She looks smart, which isn’t necessarily a turn on when Dean wants a quick fuck, but turns out to be hot as hell when combined with the knowledge that she’s a sure thing.
Dean is tempted to take her out for a test drive himself before sending her along to Sam, but he hasn’t had a chance to do much hustling and they’re mostly running on fumes. What’s left in the kitty isn’t quite enough to spring for a two-fer.
So Dean contents himself with the knowledge of his own magnanimity. He excuses himself to the bar for another beer and then watches while Candy makes her way over and slides into what used to be Dean’s seat at Sam’s left.
Sam’s eyes flit from Candy’s face down to her low-cut shirt and then back up again. Sam smiles, says something. Candy leans closer.
Yes, this is it! Sam’s going to send this one right down the third baseline and into home.
“’Atta boy, Sammy,” Dean murmurs under his breath.
Then Candy pecks Sam on the cheek and slides right back off the chair. Dean stares, wide-eyed, while she sashays across the bar and over to him.
“What?” he says, looking back and forth between her and Sam. “No, seriously. What the hell, Candy? Is this some kind of renegotiation tactic or something?”
She grins at him—smart, slutty and feral, which is enough to make Dean’s heart stutter in his chest.
“C’mon, tiger,” she purrs and, gripping his coat with both hands, draws him off the stool.
Dean casts a quick look at his brother as Candy tugs him toward the back door. This feels like kind of a dick move, especially since he bought the girl for Sammy.
But Sam tips his beer in clear permission, so Dean stops dragging his feet. Candy’s bought and paid for, after all. There’s no point in wasting the fifty dollars.
Dean wants some bang for his hard-earned buck, damn it.
“I’m rooting for you two,” she says.
Dean blinks, confused. In his defense, most of his brain is still stuck somewhere down around his gut.
Candy grins. “I think you’d look super hot together.”
Oh. Oh gross.
“No,” Dean explains hastily. “Hey, no. He’s my brother.”
Candy laughs, kisses him again, and then struts off, waggling her fingers over her shoulder as she goes.
Dean is thoroughly disgruntled when he makes his way back inside and stomps over to their table. Sam has the laptop out—in a bar—and is blithely clicking around on the keyboard.
“What the hell did you say to her?” Dean demands.
Sam glances up briefly before returning his gaze to the screen. “You’ve got a hickey.”
Dean reaches up, feeling at his neck, and then scowls and drops his hand back down on the table. “Dude. She thought we were fucking. Or that we wanted to fuck.”
“Well, which is it?”
“Something! Both!” Dean grimaces. “Come on, Sam. Aren’t you, I don’t know, severely creeped out by this?”
“Unlike you, I’m secure in my masculinity.” Sam takes a sip from his beer and twirls the computer around. “Might be a job over in Pittsburg.”
No wonder Sam wanted to come to this bar. It has wi-fi.
Dean stares at the screen without registering any of its contents. His brain is mostly stuck on how Sam seems to think Dean has a problem with the gayness of Candy’s assumption. Like he hasn’t even noticed the other issue. The huge, honking incestuous one.
Dean struggles manfully with himself and then reaches across the table and steals the beer from Sam’s hand. Tipping it back, he washes the taste of Candy’s completely incorrect—and ludicrous—assumption from his mouth.
His brain is clamoring for him to keep at it, to make Sam answer him—or at least share in his righteous indignation—but a growing fluttering in his stomach begs him to let sleeping dogs lie. There’s less chance of getting bitten.
Dean drops the bottle heavily back on the table and wipes his mouth with the back of one hand. “Pittsburg, huh?”
“Does that mean their burgers smell like pitts?”
Sam wrinkles his nose fussily and tosses a crumpled up napkin at Dean, but the edges of his mouth turn up when he thinks Dean isn’t looking.
It’s the little victories, really.
Honestly, it isn’t his fault. Sam is kind of ridiculous, even with the floppy hair. During his time at Stanford, he got less beanpole and more lean wolf. There’s the potential for real bulk there, too, if he works for it. And he’s got this grin that he hardly ever flashes for strangers, but which warms Dean from the gut outward whenever he sees it.
It’s a little unsettling to realize that he finds his brother mildly attractive.
Logically enough, Dean responds to his new preoccupation by kicking his quest to get Sammy laid into high gear.
He tries everything. Tall girls, short girls, chubby girls, twiggy girls, college chicks, cougars. Blondes, brunettes, redheads.
He tries a guy.
Sam turns the dude down with the same soft smile he gives the ladies, although he looks at Dean strangely for the rest of the night. He’s talking just as normal as ever, but his eyes feel weird on Dean’s skin. Heavy, somehow.
Dean controls himself until they’re in the Impala. But locked in a confined space with this tingling tension in his body, he can’t keep quiet any longer.
“What the fuck does it take to get you laid?”
Sam turns in the passenger seat so that he’s facing Dean. Lifting one elbow up, he leans it against the dash. He’s smiling in a way that makes Dean’s stomach twist.
“Maybe you’re using the wrong bait,” Sam suggests.
Dean’s skin prickles cold and then hot. He flushes, sensing some sort of terrifying drop just out of sight, and quickly backpedals away from the precipice.
“Shouldn’t you have some sort of, like, biological imperative to spawn? Make lots of little Antichrist babies or something?”
Sam snorts and rolls his eyes, and the moment is broken. OhthankGod.
“What is it with you and the Antichrist?”
“I think the real question here, Sammy, is what is it with you and the Antichrist?”
Sam settles back in his seat with a wry grin. “I’m just… not in the mood, okay? Trust me. When I want to get laid, I’ll get laid.”
Dean looks at his brother’s profile for a moment. The slope of Sam’s nose, the long line of his neck. The flat run of chest and stomach down to…
Dean turns abruptly, tightening his hands on the wheel. His skin feels shivery and hot.
“Yeah,” he says. His mouth is dry but his voice sounds normal enough, which is a relief. “You and what army?”
“Mine, apparently,” Sam answers. When Dean chances another glance in his brother’s direction, Sam has one eye open and is peering back at him with a grin. “Since I’m the Antichrist and all.”
But there’s none of that weird intensity to Sam now, and the rest of Dean’s uncertainty slips away. He blows a raspberry as he starts the engine.
“Bitch, please. You couldn’t destroy an anthill, let alone the world. Some sorry excuse for the Antichrist.”
They bicker the rest of the way home.
Chapter 5: If I Never See Your Face Again
“No, really. You can tell me.”
“Dean. Shut up.”
Dean tries, he really does. But he’s a little stressed himself right now, and there’s no better way to blow off steam than needling Sam.
“Seriously, it’s cool. I mean, having the Antichrist as my brother might actually smooth things over Downstai—”
Dean doesn’t get the rest of that word out because Sam whirls on him. Sam grabs him by the collar, and they’re close enough to the Impala for Sam to jerk Dean around and slam him back up against it.
The throw hurts less than it should, probably because of the new padding Dean’s sporting back there.
When Sam looms over him, though, it’s difficult not to be cowed. Dean’s used to looking up to meet his brother’s eyes, but he isn’t used to that sullen, red glare coming from them. Or to the black spiraling horns protruding from Sam’s temples. Something moves jerkily at the edge of Dean’s vision and he realizes with a surreal jolt that it’s Sam’s tail. Forked at its red tip and everything.
“Don’t.” Just like everything else Sam has said with his new serpent’s tongue, the word comes out a little slurry, but the fury vibrating Sam’s voice is clear enough. Sam’s eyes flick from Dean’s face up above his head and Dean knows what he’s looking at. He knows what those stupid new appendages are making Sam think about. His stomach drops like someone yanked the earth out from underfoot.
Six months left, Dean thinks with a mild sense of disbelief and a whole hell of a lot of dread. Jesus, really? Just half a year?
Sam’s proximity is a welcome distraction, even changed as he is after their little run-in with the fabled Pool of Destiny—Pool of Bullshit, if anyone asks Dean. The dunkings they took haven’t transformed Sam’s body at all, which means that there’s a long, hard line of muscle pressed up against Dean’s front. It’s a bad idea to concentrate on that too much, but it’s better than thinking of Hell, so Dean lets his mind wander down friskier paths.
Luckily, Sam swears and steps away from him before there are any embarrassing developments.
Dean swallows and then says, “Sammy—”
“No. We aren’t.” Sam clears his throat. “We aren’t talking about this. Just—let’s go back to the motel room and wait for this to wear off.”
If it wears off, Dean thinks but doesn’t say. He steps gingerly away from the car, shakes himself off, and turns to get behind the wheel. Then he stops.
“What now?” Sam wants to know, standing on the other side of the car with his tail lashing behind him and his eyes glowing like embers in the darkness.
“I don’t think I can drive like this.” The admission burns, but it has to be done. Dean isn’t going to fit in the front seat with his new… additions.
Sam stares at him long enough for Dean to start shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. Then he pushes the passenger door shut again and comes around the front of the car.
“Get in the backseat. I’ll drive. And keep your head down, for God’s sake.”
“Ha ha,” Dean jokes, but he keeps his voice down and his eyes lowered.
Sam’s ticked off enough as it is. Dean really doesn’t want to find out if the fires burning in his brother’s eyes are literal or metaphorical.
His baby doesn’t have fire insurance.
“Sam? Can I come in?”
Dean tries the knob and it turns smoothly under his hand. When he pushes the door open, Sam is gripping the sink with both hands and staring into his reflection. His tail keeps batting agitatedly against the shower curtain.
“Was it the ‘n’ or the ‘o’ that threw you off?”
Dean snorts. “Like I’m going to leave you alone in here to emo yourself into a meltdown.”
“Why’d you even bother asking then?”
“It was rhetorical.” Dean considers joining Sam inside the bathroom, then eyes the ceiling clearance and stays where he is. “I’m sure it’ll wear off, man. And hey, look at the bright side. If it doesn’t, you can have your choice of Satan worshippers. I hear those chicks are real demons in the sack.”
Sam glares at him.
“Not funny, huh?”
But Sam’s ire is easier to deal with than the expression his face is falling into now—mournful as a damn hound dog’s.
Dean scrambles to head him off at the pass. “Seriously, man, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this whole ‘reveal your destiny’ crap. I mean…it missed the boat by a whole freaking afterlife as far as I’m concerned.”
A mental flex opens his own additions to their full span, which must look pretty impressive if the dumbstruck expression on Sam’s face is any indication. The wings snap when Dean shrugs, which is a little more emphasis than he wanted, but he’s had them for all of an hour. He figures he’s doing well for such a short learning curve.
Dean fixes a cynical smirk on his face and adds, “We both know I’m not getting fitted for a harp.”
Sam stares at him for a long moment, and the next thing Dean knows he has his hands full of overheated muscle. Sam is on him, shoving him back out of the doorway, and Sam’s mouth is…
Sam breaks the kiss before Dean can really get on board, although he doesn’t let Dean go.
“Don’t say that. Don’t you—don’t you dare joke about it. We said no more masks. We said—”
Sam buries his face against Dean’s shoulder, and Dean is uncomfortably aware of his missing shirt, torn from him when the wings erupted from his shoulder blades. Sam’s crying, though, so he ignores his own self-consciousness in favor of putting his arms around his brother and holding him close. The wings fold forward too, enclosing them both in a white cocoon that smells a little like incense and warmed wood.
They feel lighter by the time Sam has gotten hold of himself. Less substantial. Looks like this really is a temporary rig.
“I’m sorry,” Sam says as he straightens and pulls away. Dean lets him go reluctantly, parting the wings so that Sam can step back through them. “I don’t. I just don’t like hearing you talk like that. I shouldn’t have. Done that.”
He won’t look at Dean.
Emergency triage is clearly required.
“Aw, hey, man, whatever. You’re, like, the fifth Antichrist that’s kissed me this month.”
Sam laughs. The sound is a little hollow, but the glance he chances in Dean’s direction cautiously becomes a longer look. His eyes have gone back to their normal brown, and one of the horns is unraveling from the top down.
“The fifth, huh?”
Dean shrugs, then rolls his shoulders at the weird tingle that’s accompanying the wings’ departure. “What can I say? I’m easy on the eyes. Everyone wants a piece of this.”
Sam laughs again, and this time the sound is warmer. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Unbelievably awesome,” Dean corrects. He turns away to rummage through his bag for a fresh shirt. “Come on. This de-winged angel wants pizza. You can buy. I don’t put out like that for free, you know.”
Sam is relaxed and grinning when they head out ten minutes later. His face is his own and the whole… whatever that almost happened has been not just forgotten but locked in a chest and buried below the high tide line.
Dean just wishes he could ditch the sharp tug of longing beneath his ribcage as easily.
Bad idea, he reminds himself as he watches Sam walk out to the car. You’re checking out in six months. You really want to leave him to deal with that kind of debris?
Sam stops by the passenger door to look back at him and it hits Dean that these moments are limited to him now. He has six months to meet that familiar gaze. To see Sam’s goofy smile.
He wants to walk over there, crowd Sam up against the Impala and lay one on him. Fuck the pizza.
Dean fixes a wide grin on his face. “Just checking out your tail.”
“What? It came back?” Sam spins, alarmed, and pats at his tail-less ass.
Dean cackles laughter on his own way to the car.
Chapter 6: Out of Goodbyes
Dean catches up with Sam in a coffee shop in Illinois. The place still smells like coffee and baked goods, never mind that the entire city was evacuated weeks ago. Sam’s been very good about only leveling cities with no people in them.
Sam doesn’t look around when Dean crosses the empty room and sits down next to him. He just keeps on staring down into the empty coffee mug on the counter in front of him. There’s a cobweb woven inside.
“I hope you weren’t planning on drinking that.”
Sam huffs something that might have been a laugh if it weren’t so godawful weary.
Clearing his throat, Dean shifts tactics. “So. Turns out you really are the Antichrist. Who knew?”
Sam is silent this time. Dean isn’t sure whether that’s an improvement or not.
“Does it come with dental?”
Sam gives his head a slight shake. “Dean.”
Dean blows his breath out on a low exhale. “Yeah.”
They sit in silence for several minutes, and Dean isn’t thinking about much of anything. He’s just basking in the fact that he’s elbow to elbow with Sam again, just the two of them sitting here at the end of the world.
Then Sam says, “Just do it already.”
Dean blinks over at him. “Do what?”
When Sam angles a glance over, his eyes aren’t so much yellow as they are golden. It’s enough of a difference from Dean’s hallucinations in Hell that his stomach doesn’t so much as dip. Anyway, the Sam that visited him in Hell wasn’t ever this much of a crybaby.
Sam looks over at Dean with those eyes and, gold or not, they’re expressive as ever. Mournful and deliberate.
“Dude,” Dean manages after a moment. “I’m not going to kill you.”
“Yeah, well,” Dean says, and then falls quiet again.
“Did you ever think it would come to this?” Sam asks finally. Turning his head, he looks out the coffee place’s front windows at the deserted street.
“To what? You moping around like a little bitch?”
Dean guesses it’s his flippant tone that surprises Sam into turning all the way back around and facing him fully. It’s been months since Sam split, and he hasn’t been taking care of himself too well. He’s thinner than he should be. Looks almost gaunt.
Dean resists the urge to cluck his tongue disapprovingly.
“In case you didn’t notice, Dean, I’m—”
“The Antichrist. Yeah. We covered that.”
Sam’s brow knits into a familiar glower. “It’s not funny.”
“Do I look like I’m laughing?”
Sam studies him with obvious suspicion that falters into confusion. “Dean, I don’t—this is my destiny. Don’t you get that? I mean. Christ, you should have walked in here and blown me away before I could turn around.”
“Yeah, probably,” Dean agrees—and then, before Sam can get properly worked up over the concession, he adds, “I guess I’m just all out of goodbyes. Mom, Dad, Ellen, Jo. Bobby. Cas. Shit, Sammy, I’ve had to watch you take a dive I don’t know how many fucking times. I just. I’m done.”
Sam’s eyes glisten with fresh tears. “I can’t stop if you don’t stop me. I’ve tried. I. God, I’ve tried so hard.”
Dean nods while resting one hand on the counter. “You ever think maybe that what you have here is a lack of imagination?”
Sam shakes his head, frowning. “I don’t—Dean, what—”
“So you’re the Antichrist. Big whoop. You’ve got some kind of fucked up compulsion to lead Hell’s army out of the gate so you can tear the world apart.” Dean fixes Sam with a level gaze. “But no one ever said you had to leave it that way.”
After a few seconds it sinks in. Sam’s mouth falls open.
Following up on his advantage, Dean adds, “I mean, I’m not saying it’ll be easy. But seriously, man. When have our lives ever been easy?”
Sam stares down at the coffee cup again, considering. Funny how he’s been crowned the Antichrist by the Legions of Hell and he still manages to look like a prissy, constipated tax accountant.
Finally, Sam says, “The demons aren’t going to like this.”
Dean snorts and waves the concern away with one hand. “They’re demons. If they’re enjoying themselves, then the Grand Poo-Bah of Hell is doing something wrong.” He nudges Sam’s shoulder with his own. “The Grand Poo-Bah is you, by the way.”
“Yeah, I got that, Dean. Thanks.” Sam runs a distracted hand through his hair. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“Then we’ll figure something else out.”
Sam opens his mouth to argue—Dean can see one of Sam’s ‘buts’ coming from a mile away; it’s a gift he has—and Dean quickly reaches over and rests one hand on the back of Sam’s neck. That shuts Sam’s mouth quickly enough. When Dean runs his thumb through the lower fringe of Sam’s hair, Sam’s eyes slide partially shut and he shivers.
Dean grins to himself. Yeah. He’s still got it.
Then Sam reaches up and takes hold of Dean’s wrist, drawing his hand away with clear reluctance. “You can’t stay with me. I still. I want. I want things from you, and my control is—it’s pretty crappy, these days.”
Sam’s hold on Dean’s wrist tightens in surprise. His eyes snap wide.
Dean grins at him insolently.
“So. You gonna kiss me or what?”
It takes longer than Dean expects for the question to sink in. Then—slowly, as though expecting Dean to turn into a mirage at any second—Sam leans forward. His hold on Dean’s wrist shifts from confinement to a caress.
The initial press of his lips is nothing more than a brush; his breath wafts hesitant and uncertain over Dean’s mouth. Thinking too much as usual. Luckily, that isn’t a problem Dean suffers from.
Before Sam can draw away, Dean surges forward and parts his lips. Sam’s mouth tastes just as good as he remembers, and he immediately wants more. Grabbing Sam’s hip with his free hand, Dean tugs him forward and then slides off his own stool as Sam gets up from his.
It’s debatable which is more surreal: having to tilt his head up for a kiss or the fact that he’s kissing his brother, the Antichrist.
Probably tilting his head up.
Sam is breathless when Dean finally lets him go. Dean isn’t all that steady himself, but he does have a reputation to maintain. So he keeps his smile wolfish as Sam looks down at him—at his lips—with stunned eyes.
After a few seconds, Sam recovers enough to say, “So. How was that?”
“Meh. The last Antichrist I kissed was better.”
Sam stares, eyes wide and gold. His nostrils flare slightly. His color is high.
“What?” Dean says innocently. “You didn’t think you were the first—whoa!”
He flails out, clutching at Sam’s biceps as Sam grips his waist and hoists him up onto the bar, knocking the coffee cup onto the floor. Sam steps in close, dragging Dean to the edge, and mashes their mouths back together.
It’s dirty this time. It’s years worth of repressed longing funneled into fire and demand and a blinding need that has Dean grinding against Sam with short, hard jerks of his hips.
Sam’s gaze is a challenge when he finally lifts his head.
Breathless as Dean is, he can’t help but respond. “Better. But you might want to try a little more finesse on the approach. If you—”
For a while.