“Tell them what you know, Sam,” Ms. Emily instructed. “Inspire them.”
After the first week, Sam collapsed on the bed and slept for twelve hours straight.
“Teaching is hard,” he complained to Dean when he woke up, hair in a bed-tousled mess around his flushed face. He looked exhausted.
Dean gave him a blow job just to help him relax, since he obviously needed more sleep.
For Dean’s 21st birthday, Victor bought him a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. Alcohol was strictly forbidden at Seven Gables, as was every other recreational drug, but Dean had managed to sneak a few beers and even a small bottle of Jack, thanks to Victor and Christian, who had both learned to drink at college.
“Go easy on it,” Victor instructed. “It’ll last longer. And don’t let Sam have any. It’ll just make him sick.”
“Go slow, Sam!” Dean cried when Sam tipped the bottle to his lips later than evening. He’d already tried a couple of slips, coughing and sputtering adorably, and Dean could tell he was tipsy because he couldn’t stop giggling. Everything was funny.
Dean grabbed the bottle away and Sam coughed and swiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
“Don’t be such a worry-wart,” Sam slurred, blinking as he gazed around the room, his eyes finally focusing on Dean’s face. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Shut up,” Dean rolled his eyes as Sam reached for him, clearly trying to cup Dean’s cheek but falling short and stumbling forward into Dean’s arms instead. “Okay, okay. I’ve got you.”
“Dean, did I ever tell you how much I love you? Why don’t I tell you that more often, huh?”
“I don’t know, Sammy. Maybe because you’re drunk, huh?”
“I am?” Sam giggled. “I like it. It feels so good. You feel so good.” Sam nuzzled into Dean’s neck, pressing his lips behind Dean’s ear. “You smell so good. God, Dean, I’m so horny.”
Dean felt Sam’s hand fumbling down between them, reaching for Dean’s dick.
“Okay,” Dean mumbled, pushing Sam gently down on the bed. “Maybe standing isn’t such a good idea, huh? Or sitting, either.”
“Yeah, let’s lie down,” Sam gasped, wiggling his ass and thrusting his hips up as he pulled Dean down on top of him. “Need you to fuck me, Dean. Need you to. Please? Need you inside me so bad.”
Although Sam’s wanton pleading sent shivers of arousal through Dean’s body, Dean wasn’t sure he could comply with Sam’s request. He’d had a few swallows of the whisky himself, and he was feeling pretty loose.
Besides, Dean wasn’t sure if this was Sam or the whiskey talking. Make that begging. They hadn’t done that yet. Not for lack of wanting to, but because Dean had sworn not to hurt Sam, and he’d been bigger than Sam in every way when their relationship took a sexual turn.
Not so much any more, though. At sixteen-and-a-half, Sam showed every indication of becoming a giant someday, and his hands and feet were already huge. Dean didn’t want to admit how much it turned him on, thinking about Sam’s big hands.
“Come on, Dean! Please!” Sam was wiggling out of his pants, pushing his shirt up, getting naked in record time. “Fuck me! Please fuck me, Dean.”
“Jesus, Sammy, you don’t know what you’re asking,” Dean gasped as Sam’s erection bobbed free, as his long legs and arms wrapped around Dean.
“Too many clothes, Dean,” Sam mumbled. “Need you naked, too.”
Sam pulled and tugged on Dean’s shirt, fumbled ineffectually at his pants, till Dean realized he’d better undress before Sam managed to tear something.
“I finger myself all the time, Dean,” Sam gasped as he tried to help Dean take his clothes off. “Sometimes I think about you fucking me and I come without even touching my dick.”
“Fuck, Sam,” Dean breathed, more than a little overwhelmed but too tipsy to argue.
“Yeah,” Sam went on babbling. “Oh yeah, Dean. Shit, you feel so good.”
Once they were both naked, they rocked against each other, dicks sliding together between their bellies, harder than they should be considering how drunk they were. Dean buried his face in Sam’s neck, licking up the sweat on his skin, sucking at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Sam grabbed Dean’s hand as he hooked his leg over Dean’s hip, making those breathy moaning sounds that Dean loved best.
“Right there,” Sam gasped as he guided Dean’s hand to his hole. “Feel that? I’m all loose and open for you. I do it all the time. So you can fuck me, Dean. You can fuck me and it won’t hurt, I promise.”
“Jesus, Sam,” Dean gasped as his fingers slid through the lubricant around Sam’s hole. How did the kid even know about this stuff? It wasn’t like you could learn about anal sex in the school library. And since Dean had put his foot down and refused this in the early days of their relationship, Sam hadn’t insisted. He’d definitely never begged before.
Apparently the liquor had loosened Sam up, in more ways than one.
“I want you to have it,” Sam was still babbling, forcing Dean’s fingers into his slippery hole. “I want you to fuck me. It’s my birthday present to you, Dean. Please take it.”
How the hell was Dean supposed to resist that?
“Aw, Jesus, Sammy,” Dean protested as his middle finger slipped in to the second knuckle.
Sam jumped and moaned into his ear, and Dean realized he’d hit something in there, something that made Sam feel really, really good.
Beginner’s luck, he thought as he slid the finger out and back in again, crooking his knuckle to find that place again.
“Oh God, that’s it,” Sam gasped, startling and trembling again. The kid threw his head back, and Dean lifted his head to watch Sam’s face as he did it a third time.
Okay, Dean could die now. He’d seen the most beautiful possible sight, and it was Sam when he’s being fingered. Who knew?
“Please,” Sam gasped, his voice ragged and shaky, his hips thrusting against Dean’s hand, all awkward and uncoordinated and involuntary, like he just couldn’t help himself. Dean didn’t even have to do anything, just hold his hand steady while Sam fucked himself on Dean’s finger, clutching the sheets and bucking convulsively. When his hole suddenly clenched tight as Sam’s whole body arched like a bow, Dean had only a moment to realize it before Sam was coming, mouth dropping open in a long, hitched moan as his dick shot long and hard on his belly and chest.
“Jesus, Sam,” Dean breathed reverently. If Sam could come so beautifully and untouched just on Dean’s finger, what would he look like on Dean’s dick?
“Come on, Dean.” Sam sucked in a shuddering breath and rolled over, onto his stomach, pushing his ass up and spreading his legs. “I’m ready. Come on. It won’t hurt, I swear. I’m all loose and relaxed now. This is the best way to do it for the first time. Come on.”
Dean knew he was too tipsy to think straight, but the sight of Sam all spread open and waiting for him was just too much. It was making his head spin and his dick leak.
“This is insane,” he muttered. “I’m not doing this without some lube, Sam.”
Sam reached for the bedside table, slapping at the drawer since he was too far away to open it and couldn’t seem to find the energy to crawl closer. Dean crawled over Sam’s spread leg and opened the drawer, finding a little tube of lubricant inside, just as he had known he would. Sam had planned this, the little bitch.
“Come on,” Sam whined, wiggling his ass and spreading his own cheeks impatiently. “Come on, Dean!”
“Okay, okay, I got this,” Dean mumbled, figuring out how to open the tube so he could drizzle the lube over his fingers, his dick. It was cold, but that was good. Sobered him up a little.
Not enough to stop, though.
When his dick was well-lubed and dripping, he knelt between Sam’s legs, messaging his ass cheeks with one hand as he lined his dick up with Sam’s little pink hole.
“You sure about this, Sammy?” he asked, although he was pretty sure he was too far gone to stop. “This really what you want?”
“Yes!” Sam pushed back as he felt the head of Dean’s dick against his hole, and damn if the whole head didn’t slip right inside. “Fuck!”
Sam was trembling, breathing hard, and Dean held himself perfectly still, letting Sam adjust. His dick felt like it was clenched in a hot, wet vice, and he couldn’t imagine it felt as good as the fingering had felt.
“You okay, Sam? You want me to pull out?” He asked, rubbing along Sam’s spine, over his lower back where he imagined the muscles were cramping, reacting to the strange intrusion.
“No, no, I’m good,” Sam gasped, pushing back again, impaling himself a little more on Dean’s dick. “It’s okay.”
Dean had to close his eyes and clench his teeth against the overwhelming sensation of plunging his dick, however slowly, into the tightest, hottest place it had ever been. Just the thought that it was Sam, that he and Sam were really joined like this, made it almost impossible not to come, and it took every ounce of strength in his body to resist the urge to thrust.
Sam was shaking and panting, pushing back a little then stopping again to catch his breath and adjust. Dean rubbed soothing hands over the boy’s ass and lower back, deep inside now, no longer needing to guide himself at all. It was all up to Sam, which was the only way this could happen, or so Dean told himself. It had to be all up to Sam.
He was so used to the pace and his own ability to adjust to the intense sensation of having his dick slowly sheathed in delicious wet heat that he almost lost it when Sam suddenly shoved back, completely impaling himself with a long, low moan.
“Holy fuck,” Dean hissed, digging his fingers into Sam’s hips harder than he intended. There would be bruises on the smooth flesh tomorrow.
“It’s okay,” Sam panted, his words choked off by a sob. “It’s okay. I can do this. It’s okay.”
“Sammy.” Dean stared down at the place where their bodies were joined and had to close his eyes against the sight. His dick throbbed, and Sam pushed back again, then rocked forward, letting a little of Dean’s dick slip free before pushing back with a gasp that was half-sob, half moan.
“Oh God, that’s it,” Sam babbled as he did it again, then a third time. “Oh God. Oh God, Dean. That’s it.”
Sam’s words became shuddering gasps as he rocked back and forth, hitting the sweet spot inside again and again. Dean leaned forward, wrapping his arms around as he blanketed Sam’s body. He took Sam’s half-hard dick in his hand and stroked it, and Sam buried his face in Dean’s pillow to muffle his cries. Just when Dean thought he couldn’t hold out another second Sam stiffened and arched back in his arms, spilling over his hand as he let out one last hitched breath and collapsed onto his belly, channel clenching around Dean’s dick, and that was it for Dean, too. Dean felt himself spill deep inside Sam’s body, almost blacking out with the force of it. He came to a few moments later with Sam already passed out beneath him, breathing deeply, and he pulled out with a hiss and fell onto the bed beside the boy, asleep before his head hit the pillow.
“You know, in the outside world, what we did last night would be considered statutory rape,” Sam said as they sat together in the garage the next afternoon, huddled together for warmth.
They had nursed their hangovers, then spent most of the day here while Dean tried to get his cold fingers to warm up enough to work on the school’s old van, which had broken down yet again. Ms. Emily expected him to run into town to pick up supplies, but the van was over ten years old, and Dean was beginning to think it would never run again. Sometimes things just got old and died. He knew Ms. Emily didn’t want to hear that, though, so he was doing his best.
“Good thing we’re in here, then,” Dean huffed out a breath, trying to pretend he couldn’t see it crystalize in the cold January air.
“That’s just it,” Sam said, and Dean knew he was in for another lecture. “It wouldn’t matter if we did live out there. The laws don’t apply to us. They don’t protect rape victims if the victim is a clone. We can be raped, tortured, assaulted, even murdered with impunity.”
“I don’t know about that, Sam,” Dean shook his head. “I’m pretty sure there’s laws against murdering clones, or damaging us beyond repair. They need us.”
Sam was silent for a moment, then he shook his head. “I don’t think so, Dean,” he said sadly. “I don’t think you can be prosecuted for harming one of us. You might have to pay something in civil court, but I’d bet there’s no criminal court that would try a human for hurting a clone.”
“Anyway, what we did last night definitely wasn’t rape,” Dean smirked. “If you’d been consenting any harder, I might have had to tie you down.”
Sam grinned. “You can, if you want,” he offered, and Dean shook his head.
“You better be careful what you wish for,” he said. “I might have to spank you.”
“Okay,” Sam grinned even broader, just asking to be tickled, so Dean did, laughing along as Sam collapsed onto the floor and tried to roll away from him, giggling uncontrollably.
When Dean thinks back on the three years he and Sam spent in Austin, working and going to school, he’s still struck by how lucky they were. That period in their lives will always feel golden and unreal, as if Dean’s watching a movie filmed with a special filter. They lived and loved and ate in the little apartment they were assigned to when they moved into town, paid for with money Dean earned working at a local garage. Sam studied at a little desk under the living-room window when he wasn’t in class or running along the lake. Dean watched him grow and change, muscles filling out, limbs lengthening until he was almost a full head taller than Dean by the time he was twenty.
Sometimes, they fought, arguing over money or sex or whether someone either of them had just met was a threat to their relationship or their “cover” as ordinary humans. Sam used the university’s databases to learn everything he could about their predicament, always searching for some way to get them out of their deal. Sometimes they fought about it, sometimes they went days or weeks or even months without thinking much about it.
Dean knew his time was running out. Most clones began donating sometime after their twenty-fifth birthdays. They both knew that the letter could arrive any day, telling Dean to report to a local holding center. Neither of them ever mentioned it, but it was on both of their minds. The air was thick with it.
When the letter finally arrived, it wasn’t what they expected at all.
“They’re shutting down the school,” Sam said. “They want me to report to a holding center in Sacramento. You’re supposed to come with me.”
“What?” Dean grabbed the letter out of Sam’s hands, read over the sentences there. “But – but you’re not done here. You don’t have your degree yet.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Sam shook his head. “They don’t need Tutors anymore.”
Dean was stunned. It wasn’t possible, Seven Gables shutting down. They’d never considered that such a thing could happen.
“But – all those students,” he stammered. “The Tutors. Victor.”
Sam shook his head again. “The students are being sent to other growing centers. The Tutors are going to their assigned holding centers. It’s over.”
“It can’t be,” Dean insisted. “It’s not our time yet.”
Sam licked his lips, clenched his jaw and looked away for a moment, and Dean knew there was something he wasn’t telling Dean. Something he was hiding.
“Sam? What is it?”
Sam took a deep breath, raised his eyes to Dean’s and winced.
“I’ve found him.”
‘What do you mean, you’ve found him? Found who?”
Sam took another deep breath, squaring his shoulders that Dean knew would one day be broad and intimidating. He could just tell. “I found my original.”
“Your – Are you kidding me?” Dean stared. “How? When?”
“About a month ago,” Sam admitted, wincing a little when Dean glared. “I know, I should have told you, but it’s complicated.”
“Why? Sam, what aren’t you telling me? Is your original somebody famous after all?” Dean’s head spun with possibilities, none of them good.
“Infamous, more like,” Sam said, clenching his jaw as if he was fighting back his anger. “He was one of the original supporters of the Cloning Project sixty years ago. Wealthy, successful, just like you said. Degrees from Harvard and Yale. One of the founders of an experimental school for clones, located in Lawrence, Kansas.”
Dean stared, feeling his eyes open impossibly wide. “You’re joking,” he breathed.
Sam shook his head tightly. “Nope. Here’s his picture.” Sam pulled out a folder from the bedside table, and Dean realized it had been lying in there for a while. Dean could have opened the drawer and found it himself. Maybe Sam had hoped he would.
The photograph wasn’t recent; it had obviously been taken in an age when men wore open-necked shirts and polyester suits. It was a fairly standard head-shot of an unusually good-looking man who looked to be in his mid-thirties, his long dark hair brushed back from his face, clean-shaven except for ridiculous sideburns, his slanted hazel eyes staring directly into the camera. A familiar constellation of moles lay in perfect asymmetry across his forehead, cheeks, and chin, the one on his neck barely visible over the collar of his pale gold shirt.
“No way,” Dean said. “That’s not – that can’t be Mister. Can it?”
But Dean knew it was. He remembered the way Mister looked at him, that day back at the school, remembered feeling there was something familiar about him. At the time, he assumed he was just remembering that other time Mister had come to the school, when Dean was little.
But now he realized that Mister was familiar because he looked like Sam.
Sam was smiling grimly, no humor in his eyes whatsoever. “That’s not all,” he said, handing Dean another folder.
Inside was another picture of Mister, this one taken when he was even younger. He was smiling, looking happy and tan and somehow friendlier and more sympathetic than he had in the other picture.
He wasn’t alone. He had his arm draped around a shorter man, a man with huge green eyes and full pink lips, a man who smiled into the camera at Dean as if he were laughing at him.
“Who – ?” Dean’s hand was shaking so he put down the picture and looked up at Sam. He could feel his cheeks flush, his chest and throat tightening so he could barely breathe.
Sam nodded. “His name is Jensen Ackles,” Sam said. “He was born in 1928 in Dallas, Texas. He died in a car accident in 1968, at the age of forty.”
Dean swallowed. “So he and Mister were…”
“Lovers, yeah,” Sam nodded. “Well, back then gays were more closeted. Jensen is referred to as Mister’s ‘friend’ in most of the pictures.”
“There’s more pictures?”
“Mister was heavily involved in the early years of the cloning project, Dean,” Sam said, spitting his words out angrily. “There was a lot of excitement around it, especially when the first infant center was founded in 1958. Mister was there, with Jensen. They weren’t much older than we are now.”
“So my original was one of the monsters who helped create this whole thing,” Dean clarified. “He gave his own DNA to the project.”
“We don’t know that,” Sam shook his head. “Mister might have done it posthumously, after Jensen died. Maybe even without his consent.”
“Either way, he was part of it,” Dean said, anger rising in his chest. “I’m modeled after a monster.”
“No, Dean,” Sam shook his head. “That would be me. You’re modeled after the monster’s lover. Jensen wasn’t a scientist, or an engineer, or even a wealthy supporter. He was just a guy. He went to college to learn to be a physical therapist, working his way through school as a caterer, which is how he and Mister met. Jensen was serving rich people at cocktail parties. At least, that’s what his obituary says. It says he joined Mister’s personal staff when he graduated from college.”
Dean shook his head. “My original went to college,” he said. “I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that.”
“Dean, it doesn’t mean anything!” Sam said, clenching his fists. “You don’t have to be who he was! That’s not what this is about. That’s partly why I didn’t tell you as soon as I found out. I knew you’d start making comparisons. You’re nothing like him!”
“Why? Because I haven’t been whoring myself to some sugar-daddy for the past four years? How do you know I’m not just a gold-digging prostitute at heart, Sam? Huh?”
“Because I know you, Dean,” Sam sighed. “Because you’re a good person. Besides, it looks to me like they were really in love. There’s no evidence Jensen was just along for the ride. Mister dedicated an infant center to him.” Sam raised his eyes to Dean, and Dean could hear it coming almost before the words came out. “The one you were born in, Dean. In Dallas.”
“Of course.” Dean threw his hands up. “This just couldn’t get any more disgusting, could it?”
“Dean.” Sam’s tone was soft, quietly pleading. “This is why I couldn’t tell you. I knew you’d put yourself down over it.”
Dean swiped a hand over his face and stared down at the picture on the bed wordlessly, wishing he could punch something. Or someone.
“So that’s it then,” he said finally. “We have the privilege of knowing who we’re copied from, just before we go off to die. Fuck that, Sam. I would’ve rather died not knowing.”
He knew he was being a dick; he could read the devastated look in Sam’s eyes before the younger man turned away, jaw clenched as he fought back tears. He started stuffing underwear into his bag with his back to Dean, but Dean could see his shoulders heaving, like he was struggling with those powerful emotions he always worked so hard to keep in check.
Dean took a step forward, all anger draining from his body in the face of Sam’s distress. He reached out to put a hand on Sam’s back and Sam jumped, whirling around so fast his hand flew up and slammed into Dean’s jaw, clearly by accident.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry,” Sam said, immediately contrite. “I didn’t mean to hit you!”
“It’s okay,” Dean tried to smile, rubbing his aching jaw. “I’ll try to return the favor when you least expect it.”
Sam tried to smile, too. He stood helplessly, big hands hanging out of the sleeves of his hoodie at his sides, like he didn’t trust himself to keep them under control. Like he had to consciously keep them down where they couldn’t hurt anyone.
“Those things are weapons,” Dean chuckled, still rubbing his jaw.
Sam raised his eyes to Dean, sheepish now. “He lives here in Austin,” he said, and Dean felt as if the air had been sucked out of the room. “I want to try to see him, before we go.”
“You don’t have to come,” Sam said.
Dean stared, knowing how wide-eyed and shocked he looked, with a bruise starting to form on his cheek. He couldn’t think straight. What Sam was suggesting just wasn’t done. Hadn’t ever been done, to his knowledge. Just the idea of it made his stomach churn.
“You’re planning to confront your original,” Dean clarified slowly, sluggish and slow, like he was under water.
“I want answers,” Sam nodded. “Why did he do it? Why clone himself and Jensen? How – “
Sam squeezed his eyes shut against the tears forming there, and Dean waited, speechless with horror.
“How could he do it?” Sam finished, clenching his fists. “How could he make us how we are?”
Dean understood. Their love felt like a sick joke, now that they knew about Mister and Jensen. Their attraction to each other had been genetically predestined. Engineered, like everything else about them.
“I’m coming with you,” he said.
It was the only way.
Jared Padalecki was an old man. His hair was white and receding, his bones showed through his thin, paper-white skin. Dean knew immediately that he was Sam’s original, despite the difference in age. This is how Sam would look one day.
Mister stared at Dean like he was seeing a ghost.
“Jensen?” The word slipped from his thin lips like a whisper, and at first Dean thought he said “Ginseng,” like he was offering them tea.
“Uh, no, we can’t stay,” Dean said. “We just wanted to ask you a few questions, if that’s okay.”
“Yes, of course,” Mister waved them inside, glancing behind them like he was afraid someone might be watching. He returned his gaze to Dean as soon as the door closed behind them, staring a moment too long. His eyes were shiny, his movements hesitant and slightly off-balance. “How can I help you?”
Dean cleared his throat, shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot.
“Look, I know this isn’t exactly protocol…” he began.
“No, no,” Mister shook his head. “I’m glad you came. I always figured one of you would show up, one day.”
“One of us?” Dean repeated. “You mean, there are more?”
Mister looked away, a flush rising in his cheeks. “When I lost Jensen, I donated his DNA to the Project. It was my way of keeping him alive, of letting part of him continue.”
He looked at Sam for the first time, smiling faintly. “They asked for my DNA, too, and of course I gave. I was a romantic, and I hoped…I thought maybe somehow…” He blinked, turning his gaze on Dean again. “What are your names?”
Dean told him, and Mister nodded. “So you were raised together?”
Sam shook his head, and it occurred to Dean that this was weirder for him than it was for Dean. It must feel like looking into a fun-house mirror, seeing yourself aged sixty years.
“They moved me to Seven Gables when I was five,” Sam says. “I tested out of the center where I was before, and they decided I’d do better at the Gables.”
Mister nodded. “Seven Gables was my family home,” he explained. “After Jensen died, I couldn’t stand to live there anymore, so I donated it to the Project on the condition that they raise his clones there.” He gave the same sad, slight smile as before. “I didn’t care where they put my clones. It’s pure coincidence you two ended up together.”
“We prefer to think of it as something a little more than just coincidence,” Sam said, and Dean could feel the anger under his words. “We think somebody set us up.”
“Sam…” Dean put his hand on his brother’s arm, a gentle warning.
“What? He should know,” Sam said, chest puffing up as his anger grew. “Somebody thought it was funny, putting us together. They thought it was fuckin’ hilarious.”
“I assure you, son, there was never any plot to bring you two together,” Mister said.
“We’re soul-mates!” Sam practically shouted, clenching his fists, and Dean realized he’d never seen Sam so angry, which was really saying something. “You must have known when you cloned yourselves that we would eventually find each other. Just like you and Jensen did. You wrote your fucking dissertation on it!”
That was news to Dean. He stared at Sam for a moment, then glanced at Mister.
The man was blinking back tears, for Chrissakes, nodding as if he’d been expecting this.
“Let’s take a seat in the living-room,” he said softly, more evenly than Dean would have expected, given the fact that Mister was now facing two volatile, unpredictable clones with nothing to lose and nobody to witness what might go down.
Then Dean noticed the cameras perched in the corners of the room, red lights glaring at him solidly.
“They’re not connected, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Mister said quietly, and Dean started, staring at Mister for a moment before his gaze shifted to Sam, who clearly had the upper hand. “They’re just recording.”
“Of course,” Sam said, as if he understood. “Because you were hoping this would happen. You’ve been waiting for us.”
Mister poured himself a drink before taking a seat opposite Sam and Dean, and Dean could see his hand shaking as he reached for the remote control on the table between them, pushed the button that switched off the recording device.
“There,” he said softly. “Now no one can see what you do here. Ever.”
“Huh,” Sam said. “So you’re not afraid of us.”
“I’m not afraid to die, Sam,” Mister said softly. “I’ve been living in a self-imposed Hell for over thirty years. I think I’ve earned my rest, wouldn’t you say?”
Sam stared, obviously unwilling to hear what Mister was saying.
“Sam, I think he’s saying he wants to die,” Dean said. “Is that what you’re saying?”
Mister turned his eyes to Dean, drinking him in for a long moment before answering. “When Jensen died, my reason for living died with him,” he said softly. “I think you know exactly what I mean.”
Dean found himself nodding. “Yeah, I think I do,” he said.
“I’ve been going through the motions, doing what I thought I had to do, to honor his memory.” Mister shook his head. “I’m not sure he’d like the way things turned out.”
“He disapproved of the project.” Sam spoke up sharply. “He knew it was wrong.”
Mister took a sip of his drink before answering. “He knew it would fail,” he said finally. “The clones wouldn’t stand for it, ultimately. He foresaw the end of everything I worked for. He warned me.”
“Warned you of what?” Sam demanded, angry again. “What did he tell you about why it would fail?”
“He quoted my own words to me,” Mister said, unable to look at either of them. “He reminded me that my own creations would come looking for me, demanding answers. They would know me too well, and I couldn’t refuse them because I would know.”
“What?” Dean said softly. “What would you know, Jared?”
Mister raised his eyes to Dean, full of the pain and anguish of a man who had survived the death of the love of his life, but hadn’t lived since the day he died. Dean was reminded of how old Mister had looked when he visited Seven Gables, all those years ago. How ancient he had seemed then.
“Jensen knew it wasn’t right,” Mister said. “Creating a race of people who would serve us in every way would ultimately corrupt us. We couldn’t stay good if we did that. He tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t listen.”
“He was your moral compass,” Sam clarified, and Mister nodded.
“Yes. And when I persisted, when I kept going down the road to perdition despite what he said, I paid the ultimate price.”
Sam and Dean were silent for a moment, unable to deny the chill Mister’s words put in their hearts.
“But you didn’t let his death stop you,” Sam clarified. “You didn’t stop the project. You didn’t use your wealth and influence to put a stop to the evil you helped to create.”
Mister took another sip of his drink, shook his head. “No,” he agreed. “I was angry. When Jensen died, the cloning project was only ten years old. The clones were too young to donate the organs that could have saved Jensen’s life. I swore that would never happen to anyone else, ever again.”
“So you founded the infant center in Dallas,” Sam suggested. “In his name. The one where Dean was born.”
Mister lifted his eyes to Dean, and the misery and longing Dean saw there was terrible to see.
“Yes,” Mister agreed. “I wanted Jensen to have another chance. I wanted us to have another chance. I couldn’t bear it that what we had was really over.” He shifted his gaze to Sam, swallowing as his eyes filmed over. “I loved him so much.”
Sam nodded, gaze dropping to the floor. Dean watched as he squared his jaw, figured out what to do next.
Dean loved Sam more in that moment than he had ever done.
“We’re soul-mates, Jared,” Sam accused. “Just as you and Jensen were.”
Mister shook his head. “You can’t be,” he said, almost sadly. “You don’t have souls. It’s just genetic attraction. It’s in your genetic code to be attracted to each other. That’s all it is.”
“Then that’s all it ever was,” Sam said. “For you and Jensen, too.”
Mister frowned, and for a moment Dean could see the reckless, angry young man he once was. “What is it that you want?”
Sam pulled out the letter from the Project and handed it to Mister. “I want a deferral,” he said. “For Dean.”
“A deferral?” Mister blinked. “On what grounds?”
“Dean and I are in love,” Sam said, “which proves we have souls.”
Mister stared at Dean, then shook his head. “I can’t.”
“Yes, you can,” Sam insisted. “You can fix it so he doesn’t have to report until it’s my turn. Then we can go together.”
Mister shook his head. “You don’t understand, Sam,” he said. “It’s too late. The Project is too far along. Millions of people depend on your donations. The current life expectancy for the average American is over 100 years old. Nobody wants to go back to a time before that was possible. No one wants to lose their loved ones before they have to.”
“I understand that,” Sam nodded. “But a deferral for two clones nobody knows or thinks about can’t be that difficult. Not for somebody in your position.”
Mister looked at Dean again. “Is that all you think about?” he asked. “A deferral? Is that really the highest goal you can strive for?”
“What do you think?” Dean snapped. He was getting sick of the way Mister kept looking at him, like he was the answer to Mister’s most intimate prayer. “They’ve got us monitored. They track our movements. It’s not like we can just run away.”
Mister’s gaze dropped to the table; he sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and chewed on it thoughtfully. “Actually, that’s exactly what you can do,” he said.
“What?” Sam and Dean exchanged glances.
Mister took a deep breath, leaned forward and laid his glass on the coffee table so he could dig into the front pocket of his trousers. Dean half-expected the man to pull a gun on them, or pull out a phone and call the cops. He held his breath as Mister pulled out a long metal cylinder that looked like a cross between a medical device and a screwdriver.
“Give me your wrists,” he said, barely glancing up.
Sam caught on before Dean did. His lips parted and his eyes widened as the color drained from his face. He put his hand out and Mister grasped his wrist, pushing the tip of his device into the narrow groove at the top of Sam’s bracelet.
Dean held his breath as the bracelet unclasped and fell onto the table. He half-expected alarms to go off, men in black barging in through the front doors to drag Sam away.
Sam pulled his wrist back, rubbing it with his other hand, and nodded at Dean, who stuck his hand out quickly, before Mister could change his mind. If Sam was going down, Dean would be right there with him.
Mister’s fingers were dry and papery; he held Dean’s wrist almost tenderly, turning it over before sliding his device into the groove on Dean’s bracelet.
“There,” he said as the bracelet fell to the table next to Sam’s. “You’ve now officially completed.”
Dean understood what that meant; ‘completing’ was the term humans used for what happened to clones when their bodies could no longer sustain them after their final donation.
“So we’re dead?” Dean clarified. “But Sam’s only twenty. That never happens.”
“In an emergency, it does,” Mister said. “If there was a car accident and a patient needed an immediate transplant, and Sam was the closest donor, then it could happen.”
“But both of us at once? Won’t that look a little suspicious?”
Mister smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Nobody knows about you two except Emily and me,” he said. “There’s nobody else who might question your simultaneous completions. Clones complete at the same time all over the country, whenever there are natural disasters or accidents, or even naturally. It’s not unusual.”
“Now what?” Dean demanded.
Sam and Mister shared a look, and Dean felt strangely left out as Sam nodded in some kind of silent understanding.
“Now we’re free, Dean,” Sam said softly, like he was afraid to jinx it. “We’re on our own now.”
Mister nodded, reaching into his pocket again to pull out his car keys. “You can take the Impala,” he said. “It was Jensen’s car. He loved that stupid machine, and I kept it running for his sake, but I only drove it once a year, on his birthday, and it’s just sitting in the garage with nobody to look after it.” Mister looked up at Dean and smiled. “It needs a good mechanic.”
Dean felt another chill go up his spine. Today was a strange day that just kept getting stranger.
“There’s cash and credit cards in the glove box,” Mister said. “I think I had some vague notion of driving myself off a cliff one day, but I’m too much of a coward. Turns out I’ve got liver cancer anyway, no surprise there. Doc says I’ve got about six months.”
“Can’t you get a new liver?” Dean frowned, still stuck back on the shock of Mister’s strange gift.
Mister made a face that Dean had seen on Sam more than once, and he realized he was being a little slow.
“I’m seventy-one years old, Dean,” Mister said. “I was thirty-six when I lost Jensen. I’ve lived long enough to see my dream turn into a nightmare, everything Jensen warned me about come true. Seven Gables was the last bastion of an effort to show the world that clones were people, too. But the world doesn’t want to hear it. The world doesn’t want the clones treated humanely or decently. It doesn’t care. Worse than that, the world fears and despises you because you allow yourselves to be treated like cattle. The world doesn’t want to think about that, about what that says about who we are, about what humanity has become. The world would just as soon lock you all up, never let you out again. The world doesn’t want to be reminded of the monsters we’ve become.”
Mister handed the bracelet device to Sam. “Take it. If you want to free other clones, do it. You’ll still find a few of them in the wild. A few clones are still allowed to serve their masters by running errands or earning money to pay their keep. Save as many as you can.”
Sam nodded as he pocketed the device and rose to go. They didn’t shake Mister’s hand. They didn’t say goodbye.
Mister stood in his front yard, watching them drive away, and as Dean glanced in the rearview mirror, Mister raised his glass in a final salute.
Two years have passed, and now when Dean thinks back on the day their lives changed, it’s with an odd combination of relief and regret. Relief that they found Mister before it was too late. Regret that they hadn’t found him earlier.
But in a way it’s for the best. Sam got three solid years of college under his belt, and Dean gained skills that will help them survive. They got the benefit of a solid upbringing and a decent education. They’re better off than 99.99% of their kind, not to mention the humans.
Now they drive from town to town, doing odd jobs, never stopping long enough to draw suspicion or raise questions they can’t answer. They keep an eye out for other clones, and every once in a while they find some, usually a couple like themselves, since clones are rarely allowed to travel away from their holding centers alone. Sometimes there’s a threesome, and Dean thinks about Ruby.
The first time someone turns them down, refuses their offer of freedom, it both confuses and saddens them. The system works too well, and many clones are content to stay where they are, in safe, predictable lives that end before they get old and useless. They’re satisfied with their lot, as Dean once was, proud of their ability to do some good in the world. Dean remembers that feeling. If he’d never met Sam, he’d be just like them.
He often reflects on the irony of Sam’s origins. How could someone who had helped create so much evil (no matter how unwittingly) originate someone as selfless and kind-hearted as Sam? Dean watches as Sam plans, plots, works tirelessly towards ending the cloning system, or at least saving a few clones. Sam has dedicated his life to two things: righting the wrong that is cloning, and Dean.
They read about Mister’s death in the newspaper about six months ago. He had “refused treatment,” the paper said, although he had been an early supporter of the very treatment he refused. The report noted that he was predeceased by his long-time partner, and that he had never re-married. No mention was made of Seven Gables. It was if the place had never existed.
Sometimes, as they’re barreling down a backroad somewhere in Kansas or Nebraska or Oklahoma, Dean thinks back on his time at the school he called home for almost sixteen years. The first few years are a bit cloudy in his mind now, but everything after the day Sam arrived comes back to him in sharp focus. He remembers running across the playing field, in a race with his classmates to reach the far fence. He remembers sitting with Sam under the old oak tree in the side yard, reading to him from the big book of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. He remembers playing hide-and-seek in the house on rainy days, finding Sam and tickling him as he writhed and choked with laughter.
He remembers their first kiss as if it was yesterday, and their many mornings waking up in each other’s arms, listening to the rain on the roof, looking forward to another day of work and school and lovemaking.
It wasn’t such a bad life, Dean thinks, although he knows Sam doesn’t agree. Sometime, Dean hopes they can settle down again, have a home with a little garden, maybe a kitchen where Dean can learn to cook the vegetables he grows.
He’d like that. Growing old someday with Sam sounds like a good plan. Sometimes, he can almost imagine it, two old men sitting on the front porch, watching the sunset, reflecting on the long lives Dean never expected them to have.
Maybe they won’t make it. Maybe they’ll be caught eventually, sent straight to a donation center somewhere. Maybe something will take them out, like a car accident or a fire in one of the ratty motels they stay in. Maybe they’ll be killed by robbers or other drifters looking to steal their car or their money.
But even if they don’t make it, they’ll have had this, Dean thinks. He glances at Sam, whose gaze is fixed on the view through the windshield, on the straight road and the endless landscape interrupted here and there by fenceposts and farm buildings off in the distance down long gravel driveways. Sam seems relaxed, content. He seems happy.
Nothing else really matters, Dean decides. Living in the moment, not knowing when or how it’ll all end, that’s freedom. That’s what humans have always done, if they’re lucky.
Dean’s definitely feeling lucky.