Sam finds Cain more easily than he had expected to. Lucifer's former first lieutenant is outside, tending his bees, when Sam pulls up in Castiel's cadillac, and when he sees the car he stops to watch Sam get out before striding across the yard to greet him, pulling off his hood and gloves so Sam could get a good look at the demon who cursed his brother.
"Sam Winchester," Cain says. "I was wondering when you'd get here."
"You gave your Mark to my brother and now he's a demon," Sam accuses abruptly and without preamble. "I need to know how to fix him."
Cain shakes his head. "There is no fixing, Sam. Dean bears the Mark until he can find someone worthy of it who is also willing to accept it from him. You know this."
"Then I'll take the Mark myself," Sam persists desperately. "Just tell me how."
Cain raises his eyebrows, considers Sam for a moment.
"You are brave," Cain comments. "Clearly your brother isn't the only worthy Winchester. But I can't help you, Sam. It's up to Dean to pass on the Mark, and somehow I think you would be last on his list of candidates."
"You offered yourself in your brother's place," Sam's feeling reckless now, panicked. "When Lucifer wanted Abel, you took his place. I can do that. I'm offering that now."
"Sam, that's not how it works," Cain shakes his head. "I'm not Lucifer. I can't make that kind of deal."
"But you worked for him," Sam insists. "You know how he did it. You know why he did it. So you can help me make the same deal. If you can't, I'll -- I'll go to Lucifer himself if I have to."
Cain is staring, narrowing his eyes as if he sees something suddenly that he hadn't seen clearly till now.
"You -- " Cain blue eyes are sharp with accusation. "You're Lucifer's vessel."
Sam takes a deep breath, braces himself, then gives a short nod.
"Yeah, that's right," he says, trying to look tougher than he feels. "He was in my head. I know how he thinks. When he did this to you, he was inflicting the ultimate punishment, separating you permanently from your brother."
"Abel's in Heaven," Cain frowns. "It's where he belongs. I can't ever go there. It's fitting."
"For who, for Abel?" Sam huffs out a breath. "You think he would have let you do this if you'd given him a choice?"
Cain shakes his head. "Lucifer was gonna possess Abel, gonna make him his personal plaything, just to spite God. Just because God loved Abel. You of all people know what that's like, Sam. I couldn't let Abel do that."
"So you made his choice for him," Sam clarifies.
"I saved him," Cain insists.
"Maybe he didn't want to be saved, if being saved meant losing you," Sam accuses hotly.
Cain smiles then, shakes his head.
"Ah, Sam, you speak like a man in love. And you see, I loved my brother, but I wasn't in love with him. You and Dean -- that's something else. You don't just die for each other, you go to Hell for the other one. But now, the only way for you to be together is for you to give up Heaven. Make the choice Abel didn't, the choice I made for him, because he wouldn't have chosen me over God. He would always choose God first.
"You can't have both, Sam. You can't be both pure and in love with a demon."
"Watch me," Sam hisses. "I'm gonna fix him, if it takes the rest of my life."
Cain shakes his head. "You'll never make it, Sam," he says. "You can't live locked in an ivory tower all your life. And Dean's need to protect you won't allow you to hunt. So what are you going to do? Drink each other's blood?"
Sam's memory flashes to Dean's mouth, smeared with his blood, and he shakes his head violently.
"Not gonna happen," he insists fiercely.
Cain shrugs. "Balance of power, Sam. You could weaken him, he could make you stronger. Of course, you drink his blood, you lose Heaven."
"You think like a demon," Sam says. "For Dean and me, there's always another way. We don't follow rules very well."
Cain smiles, watches a bee wind its way around Sam's hair, hover over his shoulder, before taking off in search of something brighter and more colorful.
"I find beekeeping to be very restful," he says, abruptly changing the subject. "The bees have no free will. All they know how to do is to work together to serve the queen, to fulfill their single purpose. They're the ultimate cooperators. Yet the product of all that mindless toil is so sweet, so perfect. Not that they're aware of that, of course. For them it's all about being a cog in a wheel. Nothing like humanity, with all its discord and sibling rivalries. So -- not restful."
He looks up at Sam, squints a little against the sun shining around Sam's head.
"You tell that brother of yours he needs to keep his promises," Cain says. "It's time for me to rest."
He turns to go, starts putting his gloves back on, then has another thought.
"I understand true love better than you think, Sam," he says. "My true love once told me I shouldn't be afraid to follow my heart, and I was stupid enough to mock her, to believe my heart was nothing but a dry, hard piece of burned-up coal.
"But she was right, Sam. She was right. The road to redemption is a hard one, but when you have love in your heart, well, that's a powerful thing."
He turns away then, and Sam watches him as he moves off across the field, fitting his hood into place as he rejoins his bees, moving like a man who knows he's walking on the moon and feels right at home there.
When Sam gets back to the bunker, Dean's already there. He leans on the kitchen door frame, arms and ankles crossed, as Sam pulls a beer out of the icebox and starts making himself a sandwich. Sam ignores him, tries not to let the little hairs on his neck rise as he feels Dean's heated gaze on him as he moves around the kitchen, sits down at the table, takes a bite of his sandwich and swallows it down with a swig of beer.
"What?" he asks finally, when it becomes painfully obvious Dean isn't going to speak first.
"You left the church," Dean accuses.
Sam gives a short huff of breath.
"Yeah," he says. "Obviously."
"I told you to stay put," Dean shakes his head. "What part of 'stay there until I come get you' did you not understand, Sam?"
"Seriously?" Sam's incredulous. "You think I should've just waited for you to come get me. Like I'm five years old."
"Yeah," Dean nods. "No, I know you're not five. Ten, maybe. Definitely pre-adolescent."
Sam clenches his jaw, purses his lips, knows he's giving Dean "that look" but doesn't give a shit. He finishes his sandwich, gets up and takes his plate to the sink, turns slowly so he's facing his brother, struck again by Dean's beauty, his perfection somehow amplified in this new form, and Sam wonders how the hell that's even possible, since Dean has always been the most beautiful thing in Sam's life.
And now he's smirking a little because he can see Sam's love for him in his eyes, giving Dean the upper hand as usual.
"Look, Dean, you can't leave me locked up in a church someplace every time you need to go off on a killing spree," Sam says, leaning back on the counter behind him for support. "I'm a hunter, not a princess."
Dean's definitely smirking now.
"Oh come on, you're a little princessy," he teases. "All you need are a couple of sparkly bows in your hair and you're there."
"Shut up," Sam protests. "You know what I mean."
Dean tries to sober up, but his face won't stop smirking. He moves away from the doorway, though, closer, letting his arms swing loosely.
"You want me to take you along when I go on killing sprees," he clarifies.
"No, Dean," Sam frowns. "I want us to be partners. We hunt together, or not at all. No killing sprees. If we're gonna be hunters, then that's what we do. You don't just leave me behind while you take care of demon business."
"I'm not taking you with me to Hell," Dean warns.
"So don't go to Hell," Sam says. "Stay here. Work with me. Be with me."
Dean's gaze turns fond for a minute, then he shakes his head.
"I can't be what I'm not, Sam," he says finally.
"So be who you are, just do it as part of your job," Sam says. "I'm not saying don't use your powers or pretend you're not pumped full of demon blood. I get it. I remember how it felt to have all that power rushing through my veins. But you said it yourself, Dean; you can control it. You don't have to give into it all the time."
Dean lowers his eyes, shifts his feet, puts his hands on his hips.
"Maybe not all the time, Sam, but the Mark won't let me just sit around playing house forever."
"So use it," Sam insists. "Use it to do your job. Just don't let it use you. That's all I'm saying. I believe in you, Dean. I think you can do this. I think you're strong enough to control it."
Dean keeps his eyes lowered, doesn't look up when he starts to speak, which is how Sam knows it's gonna be something big.
"I'm immortal now, Sam. Gonna live forever if something doesn't kill me. and I can't do it without you. I need you with me. Wherever, whatever, it's gotta be together."
Sam takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly.
"Yeah, I know," he says softly, shifting away from the counter, and now they're facing each other, only a foot apart. "Me too. But we're just gonna have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Gonna have to figure it out as we go. I can't predict how this is gonna play out -- it's not like anything that's happened before, and it looks impossible on the surface, like crazy impossible. You're a demon. I'm human. Castiel's an angel. It's not exactly business as usual."
"Sounds like a bad joke, is what it sounds like," Dean says, but he's smiling a little, looking up at Sam hopefully.
Sam smiles too, nods.
"Yeah," Sam agrees. "Yeah, I guess it does."
"So you're not gonna try to fix me after all," Dean suggests tentatively. "I don't have to worry I'm gonna get stuck with a needle full of purified Sammy when I'm least expecting it."
"As long as you don't slice your arm open and drip your demon blood into my mouth while I sleep," Sam quips. "And don't think I'm not still gonna try to fix you. I am. I'm gonna find a way. Just -- nothing involving blood drinking. Our life is not some bad episode of the Vampire Diaries."
"Thank God for small favors," Dean says, his eyes dropping to Sam's mouth as he takes another step, and now their bodies are almost touching, and Sam can feel his brother's heat.
"And we need Cas, so try to be nice to him," Sam says, pressing a hand flat against Dean's chest. "He's doing his best to adjust. It's not like every day your best friend and number one crush turns into a hell-raising master demon. Especially when it's the guy you raised from perdition."
Sam slides his hand up Dean's chest to his shoulder, pulls their bodies flush against each other as he cups the back of Dean's head with his other hand, angles in with parted lips as Dean tilts his head back and closes his eyes.
"Shut up and kiss me," Dean orders.
And Sam does, figures that's one order he doesn't mind following. He can think of a few more, but his upstairs brain is starting to get a little fuzzy as Dean's sinful lips do what they do best, and he figures it's probably time to just let it all go.
* * *
The Grand Canyon is beautiful. They find a quiet look-out point and watch the sun rise, watch the colors change on the walls of the canyon. Sam thinks about Castiel, remembering the angel telling him that he had once been on a road trip with the angel who made this place, which is just crazy enough to be true. They hike down an old trail along the rim, find a cool dark cave where Dean puts down a blanket, hands Sam some bread and cheese and water from his pack, sits with him in companionable silence as he eats. When Sam's done Dean cleans up after him, starts to get up to move out again but Sam grabs his wrist, pulls him down onto the blanket, and Dean lets Sam kiss him and undress him and fuck into him slow and sweet, just taking his time so that he can show Dean how much this means to him, how good this is. It's lazy and sexy and perfect, and Sam feels stupidly sentimental, doesn't want to spoil the mood by saying something sappy so he says nothing at all, and Dean lets him drape himself all over his brother when they're done, lets Sam rest his head on Dean's chest and stroke slow circles on his belly while Dean plays idly with Sam's hair.
It's the middle of the day, but Sam's feeling so warm and relaxed he drifts off to sleep with the feel of Dean's heart pounding steady and strong against his cheek, under his ear.
When he wakes up Dean's still there, still holding him, and Sam presses his lips against Dean's warm skin before he lifts his head, looks up into Dean's eyes, grasping at his dream as it flits away from his consciousness. Something about bees and a sun-splashed porch on an old Missouri farmstead.
"My purified blood had no effect on you at all, did it?" Sam says. It's been two weeks but he still remembers the feel of Dean's lips gently moving over his, remembers Dean's tongue licking into his mouth, lapping up the blood there.
Dean's eyes are hooded and dark, but Sam's learned to tell the difference between the black-eyed demon thing and Dean's lust-blown normal gaze, and this is definitely the latter.
"None at all," Dean acknowledges. "Can't blame a guy for trying, though."
"So you would've taken the cure," Sam clarifies now. "If it had worked, you would've done it and become human again."
"'Course I would, Sammy," Dean says. "I know it's what you want. And if my heart wasn't so black and evil, I'm sure I'd want it too."
Sam places a soft kiss on Dean's chest, just above his heart.
"Your heart isn't black and evil, Dean," he says softly. "It's just a heart. It just knows what it wants, is all."
Dean smoothes the stress lines on Sam's brow, lets his thumb outline his brother's cheekbones, whisper across his lips.
"Okay, Sammy," he says. "Okay."
For the first time, but probably not for the last, Sam feels sure he's doing the right thing here. Even if Dean has totally embraced this darker version of himself, feels he deserved to become the thing he most hated, has only a vague notion that he should be cured -- it's Sam's belief that Dean will ultimately redeem himself, just because he's Dean. That despite his demon nature, despite all the fucked-up influences of their dysfunctional childhood and everything that's happened to them since -- Dean is still pure of heart, beneath it all. Nothing can change that fundamental fact. Not even this.
This is what Sam knows, with all his heart and soul. This is what Sam believes.
And that's good enough. For now.
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