Late that night, close to morning, Sam wakes with a start.
The motel bed is empty, of course. Dean doesn't sleep. After almost a week Sam is starting to get used to it, although Dean's absence makes it harder for Sam to sleep. Dean always stays with him till he falls asleep, but Sam swears he can tell when he leaves; can feel the sudden cold even from way down in deep slumber.
He misses watching Dean sleep. It was his guiltiest pleasure in the old days, the only time he could stare without Dean sniping at him for being a girl. And Dean's face in sleep was preternaturally beautiful -- full lips parted, long lashes splayed out in stark relief against his pale cheeks, brow finally relaxed in sleep as it almost never was when Dean was awake. Dean looked young and vulnerable when he slept, and it brought out all of Sam's protective instincts. Made Sam's chest ache with love.
Now he gets up to go to the bathroom, trying to ignore his loneliness. He loiters there after he's done, reluctant to return to the empty bed, and is just turning to leave the room when Castiel appears.
"Damn it, Cas," Sam starts, but Castiel puts his finger to his lips, reaches up and puts his hand on Sam's shoulder.
Suddenly they're standing in a church -- it's dark and the church is empty, but Sam still feels ridiculous in his sweatpants and tee-shirt, his shock at the sudden transport only slightly lessened by his relief that at least he put some clothes on before he went into the bathroom.
"What the hell, Cas?" he demands, whispering out of habit, although he can't think for the life of him what he thinks he's disturbing. A church is just a building, right?
"This is hallowed ground, Sam," Castiel reminds him. "We can speak freely here. Dean cannot find us."
"This had better be good, Cas," Sam says, pushing a hand through his messy hair.
"You can fix him, Sam," Castiel says, getting right to the point. "I can help you. It won't be easy, but we can capture him, immobilize him temporarily. You need to fill a syringe with your blood, inject him so that he becomes weak enough for me to hold him, to bring him here."
Sam frowns. "Why here?"
"This church was built on an old Indian burial ground," Castiel explains. "There is ancient magic here, strong enough even to hold a demon of Dean's stature. Once we get him here we can keep him weakened with your blood while we perform the cure."
"How do you know my blood is still pure?" Sam asks. "You said he was probably poisoning me with demon blood."
It pains Sam to think that any of his feelings for Dean might not be real, might be simply a result of the influence of his contaminated blood.
Castiel is looking at him with that deep, penetrating gaze of his, and Sam feels a shiver go up his spine. There was a time when Castiel looked at Dean like that. Sam always assumed Castiel was in love with Dean, in whatever way angels experienced being in love. It had never occurred to him that Castiel might have similar feelings for Sam, especially now that Sam is "pure," which is just all kinds of weird and Sam isn't sure how he feels about that at all.
"Your blood is still clean, Sam," Castiel says now, his voice serious and deep. "For reasons I cannot explain, Dean has not given you any of his blood. Yet."
He frowns, puzzling out a reason for that as Sam closes his eyes and breathes a sigh of relief.
"I'm not certain I understand why he has not attempted to turn you," Castiel says. "From everything I know of Dean, not to mention what I know of demon nature, I assumed he would want you to join him in his new immortality. And I assumed that would have happened by now. I'm not sure I understand what he's doing."
Sam shakes his head, smiling a little.
"I think I do," he says softly. "He's giving me the choice. He wants it to be up to me. He won't force it."
Castiel considers that for a moment, then nods.
"He's letting you have your freedom for a little longer," he agrees. "But Sam, you must understand, this is part of his strategy as a demon. You have experienced this level of manipulation before, with Ruby. This is how demons operate."
Sam stiffens, suddenly angry.
"That's not what this is, Cas," he insists. "Not even close. Dean is nothing like Ruby. He wants me to accept him as he is now, wants me to be okay with him this way."
Castiel shakes his head sadly. "I wish I could believe that, Sam," he says, "But that's not all that's happening here. Even if he hasn't tried to change you yet, to corrupt your soul, he will. That's what demons do. He cannot be other than he is."
It's Sam's turn to shake his head.
"You're wrong, Cas," he says fiercely. "Dean knows me. Knows I have more issues with possession and free will than most people. He wouldn't try to take that from me because he knows that's a sure way to lose me.
"Maybe I can't trust him," Sam goes on. "Not completely. But he's my brother, Cas, and I understand him. I know him. He's showing me how this can work. And I -- I'm starting to think maybe it can."
Castiel considers this, his expression growing darker, and Sam feels all the anger drain from his body as he recognizes the pained look reflected in Castiel's blue eyes.
"If you continue down this path, Sam, I will be unable to help you," Castiel says finally. "You will be lost to me. I will lose you both."
There is something almost like human desperation in Castiel's words, and his voice sounds pleading. Sam has the sudden urge to hug the angel, to reassure him.
"I'm telling you, Cas, he's trying," Sam insists. "He's really trying to control it. He's not trying to hide what he is; he's told me what he can do now, what his abilities are. He's worked hard to get his demon urges under control, and now he's making a real effort to show me he can keep doing that. I have to give him a chance. I have to believe in him. I wish -- I wish you could too."
Castiel is shaking his head, looking away from Sam toward the front of the church, at the crucifix with its suffering human god. He clenches his jaw, another human gesture, and Sam waits, not sure exactly what he's hoping for from the angel, whether he wants Castiel to acquiesce or not.
Then Castiel turns back and his face is a mask of control and determination again.
"I will not attempt to contact you again, Sam," he says. "If you change your mind, you should find hollowed ground and pray, and I will come. I will always come. But if you follow Dean into this and become a demon as well I will no longer hear you."
He turns away again, but not before Sam sees what look like tears in the angel's eyes, and his turning away seems so much like the human fight for control of the waterworks that Sam reaches out instinctively and touches his arm, moves closer.
"Cas," he says softly, and Cas turns his face up and yes, his eyes are sparkling with tears and Sam's chest fills with warmth.
"Sam, I -- " Castiel stutters. "I care too much, I think. You and Dean are so important to me, and this -- this is -- "
"It's painful," Sam nods. "I know. That's what it's like when you care about people. It hurts sometimes."
Castiel stares up at Sam, parts his lips.
"Sam, I love -- "
"Shhh," Sam puts his finger up, barely touching Castiel's parted lips. "We don't use that word with each other in this family, Cas, you know that."
Castiel's gaze softens and he nods, closing his lips. Sam cups the angel's face for a moment, holding his arm with his other hand, and Sam's aware that it's intimate, it's probably the most touching he and Castiel have ever done. He wonders briefly if he could push this, lean in just a little and find out if Castiel's lips are as soft as they look, if they taste as good as they felt when he touched them.
Then Castiel blinks and the moment passes. Sam pats Castiel's cheek and releases him, stepping back.
"I should go," Sam says, trying to smile reassuringly at the angel and failing miserably. "He may come back and wonder where I am."
Castiel nods once, reaches up to touch Sam's forehead.
Sam's back in the motel bathroom, early morning light in the small window, and Dean's already there, probably has been for awhile. He's dressed in his usual black jeans and tee-shirt, looks clean and crisp and makes Sam feel like a slob.
"Where ya been, Sammy?"
Sam doesn't even hesitate, knows that if he does he'll never be able to say it.
"Castiel needed to talk to me," he says. "Alone."
"Yeah?" Dean's smirk turns hard. "Getting a little extra on the side with the angel, are ya, Sam?"
Sam blushes to the roots of his hair, shifts nervously, knows he looks guilty as sin 'cause Dean's eyebrows shoot up in surprise.
"No!" Sam protests. "What -- no! Dean, you're the one he -- God, no!"
"So what, then?" Dean asks. "You two plotting to turn me human again?"
Sam flushes with indignation, shifts his feet, locks gazes with Dean in what he hopes is a look of stern self-confidence.
"Actually, I was trying to convince him that you're okay," Sam says defensively. "He seemed to think you might be trying to turn me into a demon, and I told him you were just trying to be a good hunter again."
Dean considers this for a moment, staring intently into Sam's eyes, looking for signs that Sam's lying to him.
Finally he backs off, nods and presses his lips together, satisfied.
"Huh," he comments. "Guess he wasn't too happy to hear you say that."
"He cried," Sam acknowledges, and Dean's eyebrows shoot up again.
"He figures he's lost us both," Sam goes on. "He cares, Dean. He cares about us."
"He's like a fuckin' puppy, always under foot," Dean says, and Sam shrugs his agreement.
"Like you said yourself not too long ago, he's just a dorky little guy."
Dean raises his finger, takes a step closer so they're almost touching.
"Don't do that again, Sam," he warns. "I couldn't find you. You gotta know, there's things that might try to get to me by taking you, and I can't have you disappearing on me like that."
Sam's spine is tingling with fear again, and he feels his smile falter.
'Dean, I -- "
Dean cuts him off with a bruising kiss, pulling Sam's face down and yanking his body against Dean's in one fluid movement, devouring his mouth hungrily and a little desperately, hands moving possessively in Sam's hair, on Sam's ass.
"On the bed," Dean commands against Sam's mouth when he pulls back enough to say it. "Now."
This time when Dean fucks into him Sam feels cherished, feels Dean's fear of losing him, feels his own fragility and vulnerability, as if he's a small child and Dean is burdened with taking care of him and keeping him safe.
Because he is. That's exactly what this is, Sam thinks as his orgasm builds, as he watches Dean's face tense with his own climax. Dean is protecting him, being big brother on steroids because he's the stronger and more powerful again, just like when they were kids.
So unfair, Sam thinks as he watches Dean come, watches him hold his breath and clench every muscle in his face and neck, watches him still and silent for a moment as his body goes rigid, feels Dean's dick twitch and pump inside him as Dean releases.
It's just not right, he thinks as he lets it all go, aware of Dean watching his face as he comes, hears Dean murmur.
"That's it, little brother. That's it. Come on. I gotcha."
Dean's lips are pressed to his neck when Sam's upstairs brain comes back on line, kissing softly against the marks he's made there earlier. It tickles a little and Sam lets out a low chuckle, feels Dean's lips smile against his skin in response.
"You okay, Sammy?" he murmurs.
"Yeah, it's all good," Sam answers. "Gonna be sore for a week."
"That's my boy," Dean smiles, tucking his head under Sam's chin and laying his cheek against Sam's chest, over his heart. "Need to get you a new anti-possession tat."
Sam doesn't say anything. He's been putting it off, ignored it at first out of sheer stubborn bravado -- as if anything would dare to possess him after all he's been through. Then, when Dean died and disappeared, it was just one of those things Sam let slide because it didn't matter anymore.
Sam thought about it briefly when Dean showed up, not that he was worried Dean might try to possess him -- god, he knows his brother better than that! -- but because he was afraid Dean would take it the wrong way, like Sam was afraid of him or something.
And now -- it's another reminder that Dean's worried about him, fears for his safety. Feels responsible for his little brother, especially now that they' re hunting again.
For the first time in years, Sam wonders if he's a liability.Next Chapter - Back to Masterpost