They wake up several times during the night, touching and kissing each other, and by morning they’ve both come twice more. Now that the floodgates are open on their feelings for each other, their desire and pleasure in each other’s bodies grows and grows. Dean can feel Sam in his sleep, his smooth, warm skin under Dean’s hands, his hair tickling Dean’s nose, his breath on Dean’s skin.
Sam’s there in his dreams, smiling up at him as he did when they were kids. Dean dreams of holding young child Sam as he sleeps, his small body fitting in Dean’s arms like a warm, comforting reminder of home. Little Sam shivers in his sleep, and Dean kisses the top of his head and rubs his back, soothing the boy after one of Sam’s many nightmares.
When Dean wakes up, grown Sam is cuddled in his arms, sleeping, just as he had been in the dream. Dean’s heart surges with love for the boy Sam once was, as well as for the man he’s become. Sam used magic to keep the fire going while they slept, and it’s warm and snug here under the blanket with the love of his life.
Dean wonders idly why his mother would bind them that way. Could she see this happening? Did she ensure that the boys would love each other like this when she did her binding magic? Why would she do that? What kind of mother does that to her children?
Dean shakes his head. He can’t imagine she intended for this to happen. It just doesn’t make sense.
Sam stirs in his arms, shifts onto his back. Dean follows, gazing down into his face as the first rays of the rising sun touch Sam’s skin, making it glow.
“What?” Sam blinks up at him, wiping the sleep from his eyes.
“Your mother wasn’t a demon,” Dean says firmly. “I don’t know much, but I know that.”
At least he can tell Sam that. He can’t tell him the truth, at least not now, but he can tell him that. He can assure Sam of that one thing.
Sam stares up at him blankly for a moment as Dean’s words sink in, then he lowers his eyes and huffs out an embarrassed laugh, dimples creasing his cheeks.
“I guess I knew just what to say to get you to fuck me,” he teases.
Dean frowns. “You didn’t just say that stuff to get me to go to bed with you.” He’s momentarily shocked by the idea that Sam could be so manipulative, then tosses that thought aside. It just doesn’t matter. “I can tell there’s not an evil bone in your body. I know.”
Sam’s gaze turns soft, fond. “When you tell me that, I feel like I believe it. I believe you.”
“Good.” Dean pats Sam’s chest, lets his thumb rub over his nipple. “Now, let’s get moving, huh? You said we had another day’s walk ahead of us.”
They stumble around each other as they clean up the camp, giddy with emotion and lack of sleep. Dean can’t stop touching Sam, and Sam can’t stop grinning and blushing when he does, which makes Dean touch him more. They eat and wash up as best they can, given their limited supplies, and start out toward the trees on the other side of the meadow as the sun rises warm on their backs.
It’s going to be a beautiful day.
Although there’s still no visible trail, Sam seems to know exactly where to go. Dean’s learned to trust him in the three days since their reunion. Although Sam swears he’s never been this way before, he has an innate sense of direction, and he never hesitates as they make their way up steep inclines and across heavily-forested plateaus.
When they stop to eat at midday they’re deep in the woods. The earth smells clean and rich, bird song echoes in the cool air, and Sam tastes like mint and rosemary when Dean kisses him.
“Herbs,” Sam explains as he opens a pouch to reveal a small stash of dried leaves. “They keep meat fresh and tasting good.”
“I know what herbs are,” Dean huffs. “I didn’t grow up on a farm for nothing. Ellen kept an herb garden outside the kitchen door.”
“I remember that,” Sam says softly.
“You remember those zucchini loaves she used to bake?”
Sam nods. “She used honey to sweeten them.”
“And wild onion for spice.” Dean’s mouth waters. “Man, it’s been years since I’ve tasted Ellen’s baking.”
“Maybe we can drop by her roadhouse one of these days.”
Dean thinks about that for a minute. It’s been three years since he’s been in Lawrence, almost six months since he last talked to a hunter who’d been through there. He assumes Ellen’s roadhouse has survived the raids that have been happening at greater rates over the past few years, but he can’t be sure. Since the U.S. government decided to withdraw its cavalry and close it’s forts West of the Mississippi, conditions have rapidly deteriorated. News is sporadic at best.
“Yeah, maybe,” Dean shrugs.
The sun is sinking low by the time Sam and Dean cross the final ridge into the meadow below Long Mountain. The log cabin that sits in the center of the meadow beside an icy stream isn’t what they expected, but until that moment Dean’s not sure what he thought they’d find. A cave, maybe. Or a little hut, like something a hermit would live in. Smoke rises from the stone chimney, and a warm light shines from one of the open front windows. A rocking chair sits on the ample front porch, facing the best view from the house.
“Downright homey,” Dean comments as they pause to take in the scene. Dean leans on his walking stick, acquired this morning as soon as he could see that they would spend the day climbing again. He tries not to pant, but the air is thin up here. He’s heard that the mountain peaks in this part of the Rockies are tall enough to reach the sky, and he believes it.
“Huh,” Sam answers, agreeing with Dean’s assessment. The place is definitely not what he expected, either.
“So, do we knock?” Dean asks. “Or call out so he knows we’re friendly?”
“I’m guessing he doesn’t get many visitors,” Sam answers, not really answering at all.
“You think the werewolves leave him alone?” Dean asks. “I mean, this place looks like a big ol’ welcome mat to non-humankind, don’t you think?”
They draw their weapons on instinct as they move cautiously closer, aware that they’re sitting ducks if the occupants of the cabin decide to start firing at them. They’re about to split up, to circle the cabin in order to cover it better when the door opens and a man steps out onto the porch.
The man wears a long tan duster, a string tie and shiny black boots with steel toes, but no hat. His hair is cut short and he’s clean-shaven, a luxury in these parts so far from civilization. His hands hang loose at his sides, no weapon present that Dean can see. He squints into the sun, tilts his head quizzically, and waits for them to approach.
“Castiel?” Dean calls out, keeping his gun raised and aimed. “Are you Castiel?”
“I am,” the man answers. “And you are Sam and Dean Winchester.”
“Campbell,” Sam corrects automatically. “I’m Sam Campbell.”
Castiel tilts his head and squints.
“So you’re a psychic,” Dean accuses.
Castiel fixes his inscrutable gaze on Dean and Dean tries not to shiver. There’s something alien about the man, something not human.
“I am an Angel of the Lord,” Castiel says. “The Prophecy says that an Angel of the Lord will be visited by Sam and Dean Winchester in the year 1901. I have been waiting for you.”
“Well, that’s not creepy,” Dean mutters, and Sam nods grimly.
Castiel steps sideways, sweeping an arm toward the open door of the cabin in a gesture of welcome. “Come. You are safe here.”
Sam and Dean exchange glances, and Dean keeps his gun raised.
“How do we know this isn’t some kind of trap?” he accuses.
“I can assure you, this is not a trap,” Castiel says.
“You alone here?”
“I am alone,” Castiel confirms. “The humans who lived here left long ago.”
“Left?” Dean glares. “You mean you killed them?”
Castiel lowers his eyes for a moment, and Dean gets the impression he’s trying to contain his irritation.
“I did not kill them,” Castiel assures him. “They left shortly after I took this vessel.” He gestures down at himself.
Dean gapes. “You’re possessing some poor bastard?” Castiel’s alienness makes more sense suddenly.
“He gave up this vessel willingly,” Castiel says. “Jimmy Novak was a devout man. He prayed for this.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet he did,” Dean growls. “He still in there?”
“He is,” Castiel nods. “I have him locked inside a simulacrum of the frontier life he lived with his family before I arrived. He is happy.”
“I’ll bet he is,” Dean huffs. “Now, release him!”
Castiel frowns. “If I release him, you will not receive the answers you seek.”
“I don’t care,” Dean insists. “We’ll find another way.”
“Mary Winchester is alive,” Castiel says. “I can tell you where to find her.”
Dean hesitates. He glances at Sam, who gives him the okay to make the decision for both of them on this. He follows Dean’s lead just as easily as he did when they were kids. Besides, Mary’s Dean’s mother. Dean’s the one who needs to find her, needs her to release him from his promise to keep Sam’s true identity from him.
Of course, now Dean’s not so sure he wants Sam to know. He’s pretty sure if Sam finds out Dean’s been holding out on him and keeping such a big secret from him, Sam won’t want him anymore. Sam will leave, run away from Dean as fast and as far as he can, and Dean wouldn’t blame him if he did.
“No,” Dean says firmly. “We’ll find her ourselves, you bastard. Now, release the man you’re possessing. Do it!”
He cocks his gun and aims at Castiel’s head, but of course Dean won’t shoot now that he knows this is a real human being, and Castiel knows it. The angel narrows his eyes again, glancing from Sam to Dean.
“Aren’t you curious about your destiny?” Castiel says. “Don’t you want to know why I was sent here to wait for you?”
“I don’t care!” Dean insists. The truth is, he’s terrified of the notion that this creature knows anything about him, but he’s not going to let Castiel see that.
“You and Sam are very special, Dean,” Castiel goes on. “Your parents have raised you well. Between your father’s training as a warrior and farmer, and your mother’s schooling in the psychic and magic arts, you are both well prepared for the coming battle.”
“Shut up!” Dean shouts. He feels Sam’s worried glance but ignores it. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything you have to say to us. All I see is a lying, manipulative monster that calls itself an angel to justify destroying some poor guy’s life. You’re no better than the evil things we kill every goddamn day.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Dean.” For a moment, the angel seems genuinely contrite. “I wish you luck finding your mother.” He hesitates, then adds, “And if you change your mind, pray to me. I will hear you.”
The angel’s eyes flash with a bright, white light, and for a moment Dean assumes the worst. He tightens his finger on the trigger, but in the next moment the angel’s gone. Sam and Dean are left alone with the echo of flapping wings and the impression of a huge wing-like shadow extending behind the angel before he disappeared, taking his human vessel with him.
They search the grounds and the cabin, finding only the remnants of a human family but no sign of the angel.
“I guess that’s it, then,” Dean comments as he tucks his gun away. “He’s gone.”
Sam nods. “Think he’ll be back?”
Dean frowns. “What do you think? We threatened to end him.”
Sam picks up a photograph from a side table. “I guess the family’s long gone.”
Dean glances at the photograph, which shows a beautiful blonde woman and a pretty blonde child with the man who used to be Jimmy Novak. The trio stare into the camera, unsmiling, but there’s a warmth in Novak’s eyes that hadn’t been there when Sam and Dean spoke to the angel Castiel.
“How long has it been, do you think?”
“Well, the story about Castiel is at least five years old,” Sam says. “I first heard about him a little after Mary brought me to her training camp. A couple of hunters had been attacked by werewolves near here, and Castiel healed them.”
“Nobody bothered to mention that he’d possessed a human.”
Sam shakes his head. “Apparently, he told the hunters that he was very old. They got the impression that he wasn’t human, but that’s all.”
“So he didn’t tell them what he told us,” Dean says. “All that Angel of the Lord crap. Nothing about prophecies and destinies and waiting for them.”
“I get the feeling that was just about us, Dean,” Sam says softly.
“Yeah, me too,” Dean growls. It makes his skin crawl, the thought of Castiel having intel on him and Sam specifically. It makes him wish he’d killed the angel while he had the chance.
Sam shakes his head. “I’ve never even seen a demon,” he says. “And now, angels?”
“Just another monster, Sam,” Dean reminds him. “Just another thing that takes human beings and uses or kills them.”
“Yeah, but an Angel of the Lord?” Sam whistles. “You think God’s real, too?”
Dean shrugs. “Maybe? Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change anything. We still keep doing what we do, fighting the things that try to kill us.”
“Yeah, but if there’s some grand plan behind all of this, don’t you want to know what it is? Aren’t you curious?”
“Doesn’t change a thing, Sam,” Dean repeats. “We still gotta do our jobs. We’re in the middle of a war, and those things are winning. We can’t spend time and energy worrying about some mythical grand scheme. That’s got nothing to do with us.”
“You sure about that? ‘Cuz from what Castiel said...”
“Doesn’t matter! Sam, the guy probably lied. He was manipulating us.”
“He knew our names... Well, your name, anyway.”
“He reads minds. He’s a psychic. We’ve come across monsters that can do that. The Djinn, for example. It’s just a thing some monsters can do. Come on, Sam. You’re reading too much into this. Castiel is just another monster, just another thing we can’t trust because he’s one of them.”
“I guess.” Sam seems reluctant, so Dean grabs him, plants one on him, anything to shut him up. Sam won’t let this go, Dean knows. It’s the way he is.
They decide to spend the night before heading East the next morning. The cupboards are full of food and the fire makes the house warm and snug. The angel has left a heated bath for them, so they take turns bathing, shaving, and warding the house before curling up together in the large feather bed nestled in the loft under the eaves of the little house. It’s the first real bed Dean’s slept in for over a year, and he falls into a deep sleep almost as soon as his head hits the pillow.
He dreams of a prison camp where humans are guarded by men and women whose eyes glow white like Castiel’s eyes. The humans are herded like cattle, lined up for feeding in a long, low building that looks like a stable. They go in on one end of the building but they don’t come out. A bright light flashes between the slats of the walls at regular intervals, and Dean gets the impression the humans are being killed, one by one. He imagines the scene on the inside of the slaughterhouse as each human enters, gets his soul ripped out of him in a blast of white light while his body collapses into a big hole in the ground, empty and dead.
Dean wakes up gasping, eyes blinking open in the semi-darkness, Sam stirring in the bed next to him.
“Hey,” Sam breathes. His big hand brushes against Dean’s cheek, and Dean realizes he’s been crying in his sleep. “Bad dream?”
“They’re harvesting human souls,” Dean whispers, still half-asleep.
Sam’s thumb soothes over Dean’s cheekbone, just under his eye.
“The angels,” Dean whispers, fearful of being overheard, although he knows there’s no one here but them. “It’s like Mom’s vision, the one you told me about. The people with white eyes. They’re angels, Sam. Like Castiel.”
Sam props himself up on one elbow and gazes down into Dean’s face. The only light comes from the dying embers of the fire, but Dean catches a flash of Sam’s eyes. He leans into the warmth of Sam’s hand on his cheek.
“Was it a vision?” Sam asks softly. “Or just a dream?”
“I don’t know!” Dean whines. “Visions come with headaches, don’t they? They’re painful. This just felt like a dream. A really vivid one. And fucking sad, man. Super sad. Like end-of-the-world sad.”
Sam nods. His long hair swings around his face, shadowing his eyes.
“I think it’s the future,” Sam says. “I don’t think it’s happening yet. Castiel’s like an emissary, or a herald. He’s been sent ahead to warn us about what’s coming.”
Sam’s words sound true and terrifying at the same time, and Dean starts shivering uncontrollably.
“Just a dream, Sammy, I swear,” he says, teeth chattering.
“Did it feel like just a dream?”
Damn Sam for pushing it.
Dean says nothing. He can’t stop shaking. He’s never had a vision before, and he doesn’t like the idea of having one now. He wonders if it was triggered by the angel.
He really hates that notion.
Sam wraps his arms and legs around Dean and pulls him close, holding him almost too tight until his shivering subsides, until Sam’s body heat replaces the cold in Dean’s bones.
“Need you,” Sam whispers, pressing his lips to Dean’s temple. “Need your goodness inside me, chasing away the dark.”
Dean pushes back till he can look Sam in the eye. “There’s nothing dark inside you,” he says firmly. “You hear me, Sam?”
“Fuck me,” Sam pleads.
For a moment, Dean hesitates. They haven’t done that yet. It’s not because Dean hasn’t wanted to, or because he’s slightly panicked that Sam’s a virgin. Both of those things are true, of course, but the bigger reason is because Dean’s a coward and a liar and Sam deserves better. And somehow, in Dean’s sick, twisted mind, if they don’t consummate this thing between them with actual penetrative intercourse, maybe it’s not really as bad as all that.
But Dean can’t refuse Sam anything. They both know that. Sam’s naked and begging, his beautiful body stretched out on a soft bed, smooth skin bathed in shadows and firelight, and it’s more than Dean can withstand. He’s not capable of resisting that kind of temptation.
They take it slow, use plenty of oil for lube, and Dean stops to let Sam adjust more than Sam would like, but eventually Dean’s fully sheathed inside Sam’s body. He rubs and soothes the small of Sam’s back until Sam starts bucking back, demanding more, and Dean gives it to him, sliding in and out with care at first, then with greater force as Sam writhes and grunts beneath him. He reaches around to work Sam’s dick with one hand, holds onto Sam’s hip with the other, and they come more or less together.
They lie tangled together afterwards, too sated and tired to move. Just before Dean slips into unconsciousness it occurs to him that Sam had taken Dean’s mind off the disturbing dream-vision deliberately. Sam’s empathy and understanding would strike Dean as uncanny if he didn’t know him as well as he does.