Sam’s sixteen years old when his father dies.
“Take your brother and the keys to the car,” John Winchester commands from his deathbed. It’s been over a week since his first symptoms, and already the super-flu is making him cough up blood. “Drive north, as far as you can, until you get to the mountains near Pinewood Lake. There’s a cabin there with enough food and water to last two years.”
He stops to cough, and Sam gives him a towel, the last clean one in the house. He tries to get him to sip some water, but John shakes his head.
“Now listen to me, son,” John gasps when he gets his breath again. “You drive to that cabin without stopping for anything, you hear me?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam nods. He’s terrified, but he knows he needs to be brave, too. Knows it’s what his father expects.
“Once you get there, you lock yourselves in,” John goes on, “and you stay there, you hear? Don’t drive into town, don’t go hiking in the woods. You hunker down and stay there. It’s way the hell out there, so you should be fine, but if anyone or anything comes, you don’t let ‘em in. Shoot ‘em if you have to, but do not let anyone in. You hear me?”
“You keep your brother safe,” John says. “That’s your job now. Focus on keeping Dean safe and you’ll be all right. You’ll make it, as long as you just stay there. Eventually, this thing will blow over, burn itself out, but maybe not for years, you hear me? You and Dean stay put as long as you can. Use the radio to listen to news reports if you have to, but just stay put.”
John gives him more instructions, and Sam memorizes everything he says. He’s always been a good student, always had a near-photographic memory.
John Winchester’s a former Marine, and ever since his wife died he’s been a little crazy.
“Nobody dies in childbirth anymore,” John had insisted when Sam was first old enough to hear the story about how Mary Winchester died. “What happened to your mother was an act of evil. There’s monsters loose in the world, boy, and you have to know how to fight ‘em.”
John’s paranoia had convinced him that there was a thriving underworld of real-life monsters hidden just below the surface of American society. He believed these creatures lived in the shadows and hinterlands at the edges of reality, slowly eroding confidence and stability with insidious attacks on innocent civilians, causing unexplained deaths all over the country. Learning how to fight the monsters had been John’s mission ever since. He was convinced that evil was eating away at the edges of the real world, slowly undermining human habitation, waiting for its moment to take over.
John had raised his boys to be prepared for the day American society unraveled, when the natural world broke down to reveal the evil underneath. When the super-flu epidemic started, John wasn’t surprised. He’d been expecting it, was prepared with evacuation and safe house plans.
He never expected to come down with the virus himself, but as soon as he did, he didn’t hesitate. He began dictating addresses and phone numbers to Sam, making him memorize them because writing anything down was too dangerous. John had storage facilities rented all over the country, cabins stocked with food and water and fuel and weapons. He was ready, and as soon as he realized that he had contracted the virus, he made sure the boys would be primed to survive in his absence.
It was the best he could do, Sam knows that, and although there have been times he resented his paranoid loner of a father, now that something bad’s actually happening, he’s grateful for the preparation. There’s no way he and Dean will die from this thing, not after all John’s done to be sure they’re ready for it.
“You need to go,” John says now. “Tonight. Before they start closing roads and putting neighborhoods and towns in quarantine. Drive, Sam. Drive fast, you got me? Don’t stop for anything.”
“Now, go.” John gives Sam a little push for emphasis, and Sam staggers backwards, momentarily shocked into inaction by his father’s words. His meaning.
“We’re not going to leave you, Dad,” he stammers.
John glares at him, fighting the blurred vision caused by his fever. “Yes, Sam, you dam well are,” he says firmly. “You’re leaving right now with your emergency bags, you hear me? Right now!”
“But what do I tell Dean?” Sam feels like crying, although he knows his dad won’t stand for that.
“You tell him this is the way it is,” John says through gritted teeth.
“But what do I say when he asks where you are?”
“You tell him I had to stay behind to be sure you’d be safe,” John grits out. “You tell him to listen to his big brother and be a good boy. You tell him I’m proud of him. I’m proud of you both.”
Sam’s crying now, sobbing silently, chest heaving. “No, Dad,” he sobs. “Don’t make us leave you.”
John starts coughing again, shakes his head when Sam takes a step toward him. “Do as I say, Sam!” he wheezes when he finally catches his breath again. “Use your head! You know this is the way it’s got to be. I’m counting on you to save your brother. Now, go!”
Sam’s pretty sure he’ll never forgive himself, but he follows his dad’s orders. He knows it’s the right thing to do, the only way for their family to survive. He can see his father can’t be saved. There’s no guarantee he and Dean aren’t already infected, but getting out now is their best shot. His dad’s right.
Sam wipes his eyes and nose on his sleeve as he leaves, trying not to think about the loaded gun his father keeps under his pillow. He packs their emergency bags in the car, double checks their food and water supply. John always kept the gas tank full; even before the epidemic started he’d been planning to flee. He never stayed in one place for more than a month or two anyway, and they’ve been in this town for too long as it is. Everything’s all ready for them.
Dean’s watching TV, curled up on the couch with a blanket and the microwave cheeseburger that serves as dinner tonight. Schools have been closed for a little over a week, and although Dean was excited at first, now he’s just bored all the time. He’s been moody and sullen since their dad fell sick, and Sam knows it’s not just puberty. Dean’s a perceptive kid. He knows something’s up.
“Come on,” Sam says as he flips off the TV. “It’s time to go.”
Dean looks up, startled. “Right now?”
“Yeah,” Sam nods, grateful he doesn’t have to explain what’s happening. Dean’s used to the way his dad suddenly picks them up and moves them; he’s been expecting this, just as Sam has.
Dean gets up and grabs his few prized possessions: the Swiss army knife his dad gave him for his twelfth birthday, the baseball and mitt Uncle Bobby gave him when he was eight, his Game Boy, the Led Zeppelin t-shirt his dad passed down to him. It’s several sizes too big for his slender frame, but he’ll grow into it, and for now it makes a great sleeping shirt.
“Don’t forget your toothbrush,” Sam reminds him as he takes one more look through the kitchen cupboards. He’ll leave the chicken soup, just in case their dad gets up and feels like having some.
“What about Dad?” Dean asks as they head out the door.
“He’s coming later,” Sam lies. He’s already decided it’s better that way. “Kate’ll come by soon to look in on him. He’ll be okay.”
Kate Milligan and her little boy have been an infrequent part of their lives for the past five years. She was a nurse at the hospital, had been one of the early victims of the super-flu, but Dean doesn’t know that. She might have been their dad’s girlfriend, but the relationship wasn’t exactly close. Still, Dean seems to accept it, seems relieved to think that a nurse would be taking care of their dad, and Sam fights down his guilt over lying to him. It’s better this way, he tells himself. Dean’ll find out soon enough.
“Okay,” Dean agrees, climbing into the front seat next to Sam. He loves riding shotgun instead of being relegated to the back seat as usual when their dad drives, so Sam figures he’ll be satisfied for a while.
“Did you go to the bathroom?” Sam asks. “It’s a long drive.”
“‘Course I did,” Dean snaps. “I’m not a baby.”
“No, you’re not,” Sam agrees as he starts the car.
They keep to the back roads, off the main highway, and although it takes longer, they don’t run into any roadblocks. Sam tries to focus on his driving, tries not to think about his dad or what might happen to them if they get stopped. He glances over at Dean, but the kid’s already sleeping. He’s a good kid who knows how to follow directions, idolizes his big brother and their dad, and hasn’t yet shown any of the signs of adolescent rebellion that Sam started feeling at Dean’s age. He’s easily placated, and with his stomach full and his brother driving, Dean’s content, and Sam’s grateful for that. He doesn’t want to answer any more questions right now.
When they arrive at the cabin it’s almost three o’clock in the morning. If Dean was just a couple of years younger, Sam would’ve carried him sleeping into the cabin, but the kid’s twelve-and-a-half now, and it won’t do either of them any good to think Sam can still carry his little brother, even if he would do it in a heartbeat. The kid needs to grow up fast now, faster than he might have if things hadn’t all gone to hell tonight.
Sam wakes Dean gently, leads him into the cabin and settles him into one of the beds before returning to retrieve their bags from the car. He’s already made sure all the cabin’s systems are working, but he’s too tired to do more than lay sleeping bags out on the beds and brush his teeth in the chipped porcelain sink in the kitchen area. The water smells like rotten eggs, but Sam knows better than to be picky. Sulfur in the well-water isn’t deadly, just smelly.
He cries himself to sleep that night, knowing that back home in Lawrence, their dad has already put a bullet through his head.
For the first year, it’s not so bad. There’s plenty of food and water, but Sam and Dean hunt anyway, taking down game and fishing just to keep their reflexes sharp and their skills honed.
They listen to reports of the epidemic as it ravages the world outside, as the National Guard and local militia clash, as quarantine after quarantine fails and the infection spreads. Radio stations go off the air one by one as their cities are decimated. Desperate reports are made at the last minute before popping sounds can be heard, then silence. Static. The reports are disturbing and unreal. Citizens are being dragged from their homes and shot in the streets. Entire cities are on fire with no one to stop the blazes.
When the last radio station goes off the air, the boys sit in silence for several minutes, listening to the static, processing the announcer’s last words.
Dean says, “He’s not coming, is he?”
Sam knows who he’s talking about. He knows it’s useless to pretend now, so he shakes his head, fighting the tears that smart at the backs of his eyes.
Dean nods, gets up, and walks out the front door. Sam follows, watching helplessly as Dean smashes the heck out of his Nintendo Game Boy and all three cartridges with the baseball bat he found in the cabin basement. He pushes Sam out of the way when Sam tries to comfort him, stalks over to a tree and starts banging the shit out of that, too. He yells and curses while he does it, and his thirteen-year-old voice gets hoarse before he’s done.
Sam doesn’t try to stop him. He wishes he could let himself express his rage and grief as violently as Dean does, but it’s just not his way. He has too much rage inside as it is. He takes a deep breath and steadies himself instead, squaring his shoulders for the load he’ll be carrying from now on.
It’s a good thing he’s grown two inches this year.
When Sam hears Dean crying in his sleep that night, he doesn’t hesitate. He climbs out of bed and pads across the floor to the other bed, where Dean’s lying with his back to Sam, curled up in a little ball facing the wall.
“Hey, buddy,” Sam murmurs. He lays his hand on Dean’s back and at first the boy stiffens, then relaxes and starts shaking with a new round of sobs. “He said to tell you he’s real proud of you.”
Sam knows how hard Dean’s tried to please his father. It’s been a bone of contention between them since forever. John never warmed to Dean the way he did to Sam, and Sam thinks it’s because he blamed Dean for his wife’s death, however irrational that might be. Sam remembers specific moments when Dean would try to climb into John’s lap, only to be pushed away as if John couldn’t stand to look at him. John’s rejection made Dean try harder, which only made John irritated and more distant. John and Dean were like oil and water, and there didn’t seem to be anything Dean could do to get John to engage with him in more than a cursory way. Not that Dean ever stopped hoping, trying to get his dad to smile at him and approve of him. It hurts Sam’s heart now that John could never say to Dean’s face what he told Sam before he died. But it hurts even worse to know that John never would’ve said those things at all, if he’d survived.
In the absence of his father’s love and approval, Dean had learned to focus those needs on Sam. Sam wasn’t a natural nurturer; it wasn’t easy for him to fill the emotional void left by their paranoid, grief-stricken father, but he did his best. He always had a feeling of inferiority where Dean was concerned, though. It was too much, trying to be both brother and father to the motherless boy, especially when Sam missed his mother, too. Sam related to his father’s anti-social independence. Sam was a natural loner, too.
It might have been easy for Sam to follow in his father’s footsteps, to push the little boy away and refuse his need for emotional connection as their father did.
But from the first time Dean looked up at him with his big green eyes, Sam’s heart was his. Later he actually wondered if magic was involved, the way he and Dean instantly bonded. It wasn’t like they didn’t have their moments, and sometimes Sam really did need his space. Sometimes he did push Dean away. But it was always temporary, and he felt guilty every time, especially since Dean was usually so good-natured about it. He seemed to understand instinctively that Sam’s need for space didn’t mean Dean wasn’t loved and appreciated. It was just the way Sam was made, the way Dean was made to be the source of all things good in Sam’s life.
Dean lets Sam comfort him for a few minutes, lets Sam rub his back until his sobs subside.
“He never saw what I can make with my knife,” Dean says when his voice stops shaking. Dean’s been carving figures with the Swiss army knife John gave him for his birthday, and he’s gotten pretty good at it, if Sam does say so himself.
Sam doesn’t tell Dean that he bought the knife himself and pretended it was a gift from their dad. He’ll never tell Dean that.
“He’d be real proud if he could see those, Dean, I know he would,” Sam assures him, although he’s pretty sure John wouldn’t give them more than an irritated glance, maybe make some comment about how useless they were.
“He’ll never see me get big like you,” Dean says, turning onto his back to look up at Sam. His eyes are huge pools of sea-green water, and his freckled face is splotchy with tears. “He’ll never see how useful I can be.”
“I know,” Sam nods, fighting his own urge to cry. “I know.”
Later that week Dean says, “Dad thought it was my fault Mom died.”
They’re cleaning their guns, and Dean’s been unusually quiet. Sam knows he’s been processing their father’s death all week, working through all the “what ifs” and “might-have-beens” that loss brings up. This is an old one, though. They’ve been through it before, when Dean was eight and it first occurred to him that his father was chronically angry with him.
“It wasn’t your fault, Dean, you know that,” Sam reminds him now. “You were just a baby.”
“But Dad thought something supernatural killed Mom,” Dean says. “What if there’s something wrong with me? Something bad?”
Sam puts down his cleaning equipment and reaches across the table to grab Dean’s arm, forcing the boy to look at him. Sam shakes his head firmly. “There is nothing wrong with you, you hear me?” he says fiercely. “You’re perfectly normal. What happened to Mom was an accident, despite what Dad said. It had nothing to do with you.”
Dean looks dubious, so Sam holds his gaze, shakes his arm a little for emphasis until Dean finally nods and looks away. “Okay,” he says softly.
“Dean, listen to me,” Sam insists. “You’re a good kid. You were a good son. Dad was messed up in the head over Mom’s death, and that’s why he raised us the way he did. He’s not the big hero you think he is, Dean. He’s just a man who made some mistakes, and the biggest one is blaming you for something you didn’t do. You hear me? You’re a good kid, Dean. The best.”
Sam’s not sure Dean can hear him through his grief and self-loathing, but Sam’s damned if he won’t keep trying. Sam’s had a little over a year to reflect on the choices their father made, and he’s come to terms with the idea that their dad did the best he could, given the cards he’d been dealt. It wasn’t his fault he was delusional, probably mentally ill, and it definitely wasn’t Dean’s fault.
Or Sam’s. Sam understands that much, even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.
Dean tries to run away twice over the next two years.
Sam can’t seem to make him see why they have to stay at the cabin as long as they can. Dean thinks they should be out there, fighting something, helping people. They argue about it, and Dean runs off. Sam goes after him both times, dragging him home kicking and screaming.
“Why do we gotta keep hiding, Sam?” he protests. “There’s people dying out there. We should be helping them, not hiding like cowards!”
“There’s nothing cowardly about laying low until the epidemic runs its course,” Sam explains, gritting his teeth. “We go out there now, we die, just like everybody else. We stay here, we’ve got a fighting chance at survival.”
Sam’s sympathetic, really he is. Dean wants the epidemic to be something he can kill, like the monsters his father insists are out there somewhere. But the truth is, there’s no fighting this monster. Better to stay here as long as they can, let Dean grow up. Let Sam grow some muscles on his tall, skinny frame.
Sam keeps them busy with a daily routine of physical activity, chopping wood and lifting weights, running the path to the lake and back for cardio. They keep up the sparring exercises and weapons training their dad made them do daily, and in the evenings after supper they play chess and cards and study from Sam’s battered high school textbooks. Dean hates studying, but Sam promises to take him hunting as a reward, so he makes the effort.
When they start running low on canned fruits and vegetables, Sam starts a garden in the backyard, tends it daily even when it becomes obvious they’ll need more than what the garden and their hunting can provide to get them through the next winter.
By the time Sam turns nineteen, he knows they can’t hold out much longer.
They open the last can of beans on a Friday in June, warm it over the fire with a little meat from the rabbit Dean trapped the day before. The garden is just pushing up a few small green shoots, and the last of the nuts and dried berries they gathered last summer are long gone.
Sam spreads maps on the table, and they look over them together. The closest town is twenty miles south, along the backroad they drove in on. They’ll start there.
“This is just a foraging mission,” he tells Dean. “We’ll go in, see what we can find, pull out again. We stay together the whole time, keep our weapons ready. We don’t know what we’ll find, so we should be prepared for anything.”
Dean nods solemnly, big green eyes taking over his face like those crazy cartoon images Sam remembers from kids’ lunchboxes. At fifteen-and-a-half, Dean seems impossibly young, small and vulnerable and child-like, with tiny bird-bone wrists and hands that are still too small to hold a gun properly.
Sam should make him stay behind, but he can’t stand the thought of separating. He needs to keep Dean by his side to keep him safe.
The mission goes much better than Sam had expected. There are no people in the little town, just empty buildings and houses full of the detritus of peoples’ lives, left behind in a hurry, probably following a mandatory evacuation order almost two years old now.
The Winchesters find canned food, ammunition, medicine and clean bedding. They find fuel that isn’t stale yet, so they siphon it off into gas cans to bring back to the cabin. They find books. There’s more than they can haul in one trip, so they make several. After five trips they have enough provisions to last them through another winter.
Dean wants to push on. He wants to drive to the next town to see if anyone’s left alive there.
“We could drive an hour each way,” he argues, pumped with the success of their first foray into the world since they arrived at their cabin hideaway. “Just check it out. If there’s nobody left alive, at least we know there are more towns we can pillage, right?”
Sam shakes his head. “We need to take it slow,” he says. “We got lucky this time. The next town could be crawling with infected. It only takes one exposure and we’re both dead.”
“So?” Dean counters, eyes wild. “It’s better than being holed up here for another winter! Better than going crazy!”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.” Sam shakes his head. “If we get infected, the game’s over. We die. Nothing else happens. We stay here one more year, we’ve got that much more head-start on the infection, one more year for it to burn itself out.”
One more year for you to grow, he thinks but doesn’t add out loud. Dean’s still too little to take out there. Just the thought of Dean getting sick and suffering, the mere idea of losing him, is more than Sam can stand.
The garden gives them fresh vegetables that summer, and Dean finally begins to put on a little muscle. His voice gets lower, and his face fills out so he doesn’t look like such a baby.
His eyes are still huge in his too-small face, though, and his lips are full and lush like a girl’s.
Sam rubs off in the dark and imagines a sweet-faced, freckled girl with Dean’s eyes and lips.
That winter it snows six feet in one day, then keeps snowing. The temperature never seems to get above freezing, so the snow keeps piling up.
The boys build sleds and snow-shoes, shovel a path down to the lake so they can go ice fishing. Their fuel runs low so they huddle in front of the fire at night, watching the flames in the dark to save power. They talk, tell stories, make each other laugh.
On Dean’s sixteenth birthday Sam puts a candle in a Snicker’s bar, watches Dean purse his plush lips to blow it out. He watches Dean eat the sugary treat with a combination of pride and something darker that pools in his gut and makes him blush.
Dean notices and smiles at him, eyes sparkling in the firelight. He licks his fingers a little too slowly, one at a time, and Sam swallows hard but can’t look away.
“Thanks, big brother,” Dean says with a smirk. “Best birthday ever.”
Sam flinches at the reminder of their relationship and looks away, staring into the fire again. He tries to ignore his raging boner. It’s been too long, he tells himself. He should really find a way to be alone, spend some quality time cleaning the pipes. It hasn’t been easy this winter in such close quarters without a moment’s privacy.
“You ever kiss a girl?” Dean asks, and it’s out of the blue but it sort of isn’t, and they both know it.
“Uh, yeah, sure.” Sam clears his throat. “Lots of times.” Which isn’t true, of course. He can count the number of girls he’s kissed on one hand.
“What’s it like?”
Oh no. They are not having this conversation.
Sam shoots a disgusted frown at his brother, whose face is so open, so innocent, that Sam second-guesses himself. Maybe Dean doesn’t mean anything at all. Maybe he’s just curious.
“Pretty sure you know,” Sam ventures. “You used to have them line up to kiss you in elementary school.”
It’s true. Dean was always popular with the girls. Boys too, for that matter. He was graceful and athletic, but also gentle and kind. Everybody loved him.
It’s weird to think that’s all over now. All those boys and girls and teachers are probably dead.
“Not like that,” Dean shakes his head. “Like teenagers do it. French kissing.”
“I’m pretty sure you know all that stuff,” Sam says. He hasn’t really explained anything, and he knows Dean was late starting puberty, but he’s heard him jerking off at night. He’s obviously figured out the mechanics of sex, even if he hasn’t exactly had a chance to practice.
The thought of how inexperienced Dean is makes Sam hot all over.
“I just don’t want to die a virgin, that’s all,” Dean sighs. “I’m sixteen and I’ve never even French-kissed a girl. It’s embarrassing.”
“You’ll find somebody,” Sam says, none too confidently. “There’ll be other survivors. There have to be.”
“You figured out the chances of that, Genius?” Dean snorts. “‘Cause from where I’m sitting, I got pretty limited options. I’m guessin’ I’ll be at least twenty-one before I find somebody, now that the world’s ended.”
You’ve got me, Sam thinks but doesn’t say out loud. “Twenty-one’s not that old,” he says instead.
“Legal adult,” Dean shrugs. “Not that it matters anymore.”
“Legal adult’s eighteen,” Sam corrects. “I could legally adopt you now.”
Dean snorts. “You could be my step-daddy,” he smirks, and Sam’s dick throbs. He crosses his legs to try to hide it, and Dean snorts again. “You like that idea, big brother? You like being my daddy as well as my brother? We could have double-incest.”
“Jesus, Dean!” Sam’s so shocked he scoots away, jumps to his feet. “Shut the fuck up!”
Dean grins up at him almost innocently, blinking slowly with his long eyelashes, obviously delighted at the response he’s getting. His eyes drop to Sam’s crotch and he raises his eyebrows, then his eyes to Sam’s face again, lips curled up in a smirk.
He looks like sex personified.
“You can’t say things like that,” Sam sputters, struggling for self-control.
“Why not?” Dean asks. “Does it turn you on?”
Teasing. He’s just teasing. He’s just being a little jerk, that’s all it is. Testing the limits, like he’s always done. It’s just kids’ stuff. He’s not really serious. Sam’s the grown-up here. He can handle this.
“Look, I get that you’re horny, okay?” Sam says finally, going for serious, confident older brother mode. “You want to get laid and I get that. Really, I do. And you’re stuck out here in the middle of nowhere without anybody to experiment with, so.”
“I’ve got you,” Dean says in a parody of Sam’s earlier thought. “It’s just us. Nobody will ever know. We can fool around all we want. It’s not like anybody’s going to tell us we can’t. Not like anybody cares.”
“I care,” Sam insists. “It would be wrong for me to take advantage of you like that.”
“It’s not taking advantage if I want it,” Dean says, licking his lips. “It’s perfectly legal if you have my consent.”
“That doesn’t make it right,” Sam shakes his head. “You’re not old enough to know what you want, Dean. And I’m old enough to know better.”
“Oh come on, Sammy,” Dean wheedles. “It’s my birthday. Why do you gotta be such a prude? Can’t we just have a little fun?”
And that’s it, that’s the problem right there, Sam realizes. Having a little fun is all this would mean to Dean. From Dean’s point of view, fooling around with the only other human being available is just a way to while away the time, to make the long nights a little more bearable.
Sam gets that, he does. And he’s not a prude. Pleasure for its own sake isn’t a bad thing.
But the problem is, Sam wants more. He wants Dean in every way he can have him, and he’s not such a fool as to deny that fact now. He doesn’t just want Dean’s body. He wants his love. Sex isn’t a bad thing, even sex with one’s brother. But it has to mean something. It has to be part of something more.
Dean’s just too young to understand that.
“I can’t do that with you,” Sam shakes his head. “I care about you too much. I care about us too much to fuck things up like that.”
“You don’t want me?” Dean’s eyes widen, and Sam almost relents right there. He can’t stand for Dean to feel rejected. That’s not what this is. Besides, it’s pretty obvious what Sam wants, or at least what his body wants. Dean can’t help noticing.
“It’s not that, Dean, I swear.” Sam sinks to his knees helplessly, willing Dean to understand. “I just don’t want us to do something we’ll regret later. Stuck here in this cabin together for all these years, it does things to your head. Once we’re back out in the world, I don’t want us to feel we made some terrible mistake.” Loving you could never be a terrible mistake, he thinks but can’t say. Dean’s just too young.
“So you love me too much to have sex with me,” Dean shakes his head. “That’s fucked up, Sam, I gotta say.”
“Maybe,” Sam sighs. “But it’s true. You’re beautiful, Dean. You could have anybody. You can do anything. You’re good and kind-hearted and strong and talented. You’ll do great things, once this is over. Once we’re out of here.”
“Pretty sure all I want is you, Sam,” Dean says, and he seems so earnest now, not teasing anymore. Taking Sam seriously. “Pretty sure you’re all I’ll ever want.”
“You say that now,” Sam smiles, feeling his heart breaking in his chest. “But you’ll change your mind when you’re older, I promise. Out there in the world somewhere, there’s someone waiting for you, somebody awesome.”
“You’re awesome,” Dean says, gazing up with innocent sincerity in his big green eyes.
“I’m big and ugly and awkward.” Sam looks down at his hands, blushing despite himself. “I’m hairy and smelly and I have toe jam. You could definitely do so much better.”
“You’re gorgeous,” Dean says. “You’re mine.”
Sam lifts his eyes to Dean’s, and he can see the love and devotion there. He doesn’t doubt that Dean loves him, in his young, inexperienced way. If their ages were reversed, Sam feels sure he could trust that, let it be enough. But as it is, as they are, as the older, wiser brother, Sam can’t let Dean do something he’ll regret later.
And Sam can’t let himself be broken that way. It wouldn’t be fair to either of them.
“Yes, I am,” Sam agrees. “I’ll always be your brother. Nothing can ever change that.”
Dean nods, drops his gaze to Sam’s mouth and licks his lips. “Just one kiss,” he pushes, raising his eyes to Sam’s again, pleading. “Just in case I die when we leave here. Just in case.”
“Dean...” Sam feels tears smart at the backs of his eyes and he blinks them away furiously. “You don’t know what you’re asking. I don’t know if I can stop. I don’t dare let you do that, don’t you understand?”
“It’s just a kiss,” Dean crawls toward him, and Sam freezes, torn between his own desperation and determination. “I promise I’ll stop you from going any further. I promise I’ll stop.”
Dean’s worn him down. He kneels up in front of Sam, and in this position Sam’s only a little taller. Dean looks up at him with those bottomless pools of green water, blown dark with anticipation, and Sam can’t stop himself to save his life.
He’s a goner for this boy. This is the end. The beginning of the fucking end.
When Dean tilts his face up and parts his lips Sam cradles his head in both hands and Dean grabs his biceps, tugging him closer. It’s awkward; they don’t angle their faces right and bump noses, making Dean huff out a little laugh against Sam’s mouth. Then their lips touch and Sam’s lost, just as he knew he would be. He’s being destroyed, dying incrementally as Dean kisses him, sucking on first his top lip, then the bottom one, then opening his mouth wider and sliding his tongue into Sam’s mouth, seeking Sam’s tongue.
Sam hears a moan, realizes it’s his as Dean’s tongue slides along Sam’s, then retreats again, coquettishly. Dean suckles Sam’s lips one at a time again, then withdraws, tipping his head down as their lips part. Sam leans his forehead against Dean’s, breathing hard, keeping his eyes closed another minute as they breathe each other’s air.
“Promise me we’ll do this again,” Dean says. “Let me have that, Sam. Promise me.”
“Oh - okay,” Sam pants, chest heaving as he tries to catch his breath. “Next year. You show me you can wait a year, and if you still want this then, okay.” His hands are trembling as he lets Dean go, sets him back out of reach.
Dean nods, swallowing hard, eyes blown completely black. “Okay.”
They bed down separately, as usual. Dean hasn’t shared his bed since they were little, since Sam started puberty and realized he needed to sleep without his pretty little brother curled up against him all the time, blissfully unaware of his big brother’s dark urges.
Sam tries hard not to think about how he’s infected his innocent little brother, that in running away from the threat of a world-ending virus they’ve fallen prey to the sickness inside Sam.
His lips tingle all night.