“Dean!” Sam buries his face in Dean’s neck, hugs him so tight he cuts off Dean’s airflow.
His neck. Azazel snapped his neck.
“Sammy? You’re choking me,” he gasps.
“Okay, okay, sorry,” Sam murmurs, easing off so that Dean can sit up.
Castiel stands awkwardly a few feet away. He blinks and narrows his eyes when Dean looks up at him.
“He brought you back, Dean,” Sam says. “You were dead. The demon snapped your neck, and Castiel brought you back to life.”
Dean nods at the angel. “Thanks.” He looks up at Sam. “The demon?”
“We got him, Dean,” Sam glows, dimples on full display. “The plan worked like a dream. Well, except for getting you killed. But you distracted him so I could shoot him, just like we planned. He’s dead, Dean. Really dead.”
“I’m fine, Dean,” Mary says from somewhere off to his left.
Dean twists around, climbs to his feet, shaking off Sam’s helping hand.
“He was gonna take Sam!” Dean accuses. “You said he wanted you! You said Meg lied to us, but she didn’t. He wanted Sam!” He’s shaking with fury, beyond angry. He stalks closer to her, clenching his fists. “You used Sam as bait, and you knew it!”
Mary doesn’t seem particularly fazed by his anger, but at least she has the decency to lower her eyes. “I didn’t know for sure if it would work, Dean. I took a chance.”
“You were willing to sacrifice Sammy to get your revenge,” Dean hisses. He thinks a moment, then adds, “Both of us. You were willing to sacrifice both of your sons to get what you want. What kind of person does that?”
Sam rises to his feet behind him, silent and towering, his body a solid warm wall at Dean’s back.
“We still have work to do,” Mary says after glancing up at them. She’s nervous, but getting her focus back. “We’ve got to stop those angels. What they’re doing is horrible. It’s evil!”
“I will return to Heaven and speak with Michael,” Castiel says. Dean watches him slide something into the sleeve of his coat, realizes what it is before Castiel continues. “Now that I have my blade back, I can explain what’s happened here. I believe Michael will make Zachariah cease his operation.”
“I thought you said they won’t listen to you,” Dean says.
“I do not believe Michael would condone Zachariah’s tactics, if he knew,” Castiel says. “Besides, now that the threat of Hell’s Gates opening has been neutralized, there is no longer a need for the soul-sealant.”
“I hope you’re right,” Mary says.
Castiel turns his cool, blue eyes on her, studying her for a moment before he says, “I am certain of it. But now I must go.”
“So I guess this is goodbye,” Dean says. He’s reluctant to express his gratitude to the angel, but he can’t say he’s minded his company, once he learned to give Sam and Dean their privacy.
“Yes,” Castiel agrees.
“Will you come back?” Sam asks.
“There may be a time when I am assigned to Earth again,” Castiel acknowledges. “I am under no orders to do so currently, however.”
“So we won’t see you again,” Dean clarifies.
“It is unlikely that I would return during the course of your lifetimes, even if I was reassigned to Earth,” Castiel agrees.
Dean frowns. “And you’ll give this guy back his life? Jimmy whats-his-name?”
“Yes,” Castiel agrees.
“Can you track down his family? See if they’re still alive? They might like him back,” Sam says. “I know I would.”
Castiel seems surprised. “I can do that,” he agrees.
And just like that, the angel disappears.
“Not even a goodbye,” Dean remarks.
“Good riddance,” Mary says, shuddering. “Those things are horrible. Totally lacking in human sympathy, putting their missions above human lives. If I never see one again, it’ll be too soon.”
“I guess you’re right,” Dean agrees. But he’d be lying if he said he won’t miss Cas. The angel was a friend to them, however unintentionally.
For the first time in their lives, they’d known a monster who wasn’t all bad.
Mary leaves as soon as Azazel’s body is burned.
“It’s not his body,” she reminds the boys. “He was possessing somebody, just like your angel was doing.”
“So where are you headed?” Dean asks as Mary swings into her saddle.
“Back to Oregon,” she says. “There’s hunter training camps that need my help. It’s what I do best.”
Dean can’t argue with her there. Mary’s always been best at looking after other people’s kids.
Dean takes her journal from his saddle bag, starts to hand it to her, but she shakes her head.
“You keep it,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything I need anymore anyway.” She glances at Sam, who’s packing his horse, just out of earshot. She’s already said her goodbyes to her youngest son. “Look after him, Dean. Vengeance is a jealous god. Spending your life going after the things that took your life from you, that’s a sad way to live.”
“I’ll always look after Sam, you don’t need to worry about that,” Dean says, biting back his bitterness. “Anyway, we’ve got a couple of demons loose that need hunting. We’ll be busy doing that for a while.”
Mary nods. “Good luck. Stay safe.”
“Always,” Dean says.
Mary agrees to stop in Sioux Falls on her way to Oregon, to let Bobby know how things worked out, to let him know they’re okay.
The brothers stand side-by-side with their horses, watching as their mother rides out west on the road they came in on. Sam doesn’t seem as bitter about the way she raised him as Dean is. Sam seems grateful for the time he had with her.
Dean wishes he could feel that way. Maybe someday, he will.
“So, after we hunt down Meg and Brady, will you come back to Lawrence with me?”
They’re headed east, bound for Chicago, then on to Boston. Dean doubts the demons will still be there, but it’s a starting place. There are still five demon-killing bullets in the Colt.
“I know some folks there who’d be mighty glad to have you on the team, Sam,” Dean goes on.
Sam smiles and shakes his head. “You know I’m not one for settling down. I’m happy to visit once in a while if you need some extra spell work done, but that’s about it.”
Dean nods. The air is warmer today. It feels like the climate is heading toward spring again. There’s a lark singing in the meadow, a soft breeze carries the scent of overturned soil.
The thought of separation makes Dean’s chest clench painfully. He won’t survive without Sam, not now. That’s just how he’s made. Somehow, he’s got to convince Sam that they should stay together. It’s the only thing he can think about.
“We make one hell of a team, Sam,” Dean says.
Sam nods. “Yeah.”
“Maybe we can do that thing you mentioned before,” Dean says. “You know, roaming around, hunting things, helping people, checking in with the folks in Lawrence and Sioux Falls once in a while.”
Sam thinks about that, nods. “Yeah, maybe,” he agrees. “But Dean, I know you. You’re a settler at heart. A natural homesteader. You’re good with the land. You make crops grow, you bring life to dead soil. I watched you while we were growing up. Hell, I wanted to be you.”
Dean huffs out a chuckle. “Seems to me you found your own calling, Sammy. You’re the Gypsy. The Magic Man.”
“I don’t know,” Sam shakes his head. “I keep thinking about that thing Azazel said, about me being a perfect vessel for his master. What if that’s my true destiny? What if everything that’s happened to me is just leading me deeper and deeper down some dark path?”
Dean clenches his jaw and shakes his head sharply. “No way, Sam. Azazel’s dead. You killed him. Whatever he had planned for you died right along with him. It’s over.”
“Demons kept tabs on me, Dean,” Sam goes on like he didn’t hear. “What if that’s always been true? What if there were demons watching me when I was little? When I lived with you? While I spent those six years in the Oregon training camps?” Sam’s eyes widen. “What if there are demons in Sioux Falls and Lawrence, keeping watch over me?”
“Now you’re just being paranoid,” Dean insists. “You know damn well there aren’t any demons in Lawrence. I would know.”
“Maybe,” Sam mutters, biting his bottom lip dubiously.
“Anyway, the demons don’t seem interested in me, so I guess you’ll just have to keep me around as your good luck charm. Your bodyguard.” Dean winks, trying to lighten Sam’s mood. “We’re like a force of nature together.”
Sam tips his chin skeptically. “Oh yeah?”
“Sure.” Dean’s on a roll. “We’re good for each other. A natural team. I’ll be your rock and you can be my eagle. The Earth and the Sky. The Homesteader and the Master Mage. The Sheriff and the Gunslinger. They’ll write stories about us.”
Sam huffs out a laugh. “Chuck Shurley’s already doing that,” he notes. “For what it’s worth.”
Dean chuckles. “We’ll be legends of the West, like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.”
When Sam smiles, dimples creasing his cheeks, slanted multi-colored eyes sparkling, Dean figures that’s all he needs.
He wins, for now.
They bed down side-by-side in the open that night, next to a warded campfire, stars shining brightly overhead. It’s definitely warmer.
Dean turns his head, studies Sam’s perfect profile for a moment. His brother lies perfectly still, staring at the sky, and Dean can feel his thoughts. They make Dean uncomfortable, on edge. There’s something nagging at the base of his skull.
“You’re thinking again,” Dean warns.
“Yeah, I know.” Sam’s face screws up. “I was just thinking of that thing Castiel said. About how we were created as soulmates, before we were born.”
Dean frowns. “Castiel said that?”
Sam nods. “On that first day out of Sioux Falls. You were taking care of the horses while I fixed supper, and I asked him about souls, about the thing he said about how powerful they are.”
“Yeah, I remember that part,” Dean says with a nod. “And out of the blue he told you we were soulmates from before birth?”
Sam nods. “Yeah, pretty much. He said God made us this way for a reason.”
Dean’s eyes go wide. “God made us this way? What the hell, Sam?”
Sam shrugs. “I don’t know, Dean. That’s just what he said.”
“Not sure I like the sound of that,” Dean admits.
“Yeah,” Sam agrees. “It’s like we were set up by God and the angels all along.”
Dean thinks about that for a moment. “They sure went to a lot of trouble just to kill one demon,” he notes doubtfully.
“I’m not sure that’s all it was about,” Sam says. “I got a feeling there’s more to it than just that one mission.”
“You mean, we’re like sleeper agents for the angel secret service?” Dean suggests. “Whenever they need some dirty work done, they’ll send another angel in with another prophecy for us?”
“I don’t know,” Sam admits. “Maybe.”
Dean huffs out a disgusted breath. “Well, I gotta say, I’m not too excited about that idea.”
“Me, neither.” Sam shifts, scoots closer. “I just get a feeling they’re not done with us, you know?”
A shiver goes up Dean’s spine. “You think Castiel managed to shut down the soul harvesting?”
“I hope so,” Sam says.
His hand finds Dean’s under the blanket and they tangle their fingers together.
Dean tries not to think too deeply about what Sam said. The idea of being anyone’s puppet makes Dean’s hackles go up, but the thought that the angels have plans for Sam makes him especially defensive. Protective.
Those bastards can’t have him, any more than Azazel could.
Sam belongs to Dean.
A few days later, they get the answer to Dean’s question.
A group of humanoid monsters ambushes the Winchesters as they’re leaving camp one morning. It’s not immediately apparent what they are, since they look human, and it isn’t until after Sam shoots one that they realize that the creatures are, in fact, human.
The creatures mostly scatter after their companion goes down, but Dean manages to grab hold of one before he can get away. It’s a young man, not quite full grown. He shrinks away, cowering in fear as Dean shoves him up against a tree and holds him there, pinned.
“What the hell’s going on here?”
“Don’t hurt me, mister!” The boy cries. “I ain’t gonna kill anybody! I promise! The others — they made me join them!”
Dean eases up on his hold. “Who are you people? Where the hell did you come from?”
“We — we got away,” the boy stammers. “Or maybe they let us go. Not too sure about that.”
“Who?” Dean demands. “Who let you go?”
“The angels,” the boy says. “They had us penned in on a farm near Milwaukee. We were penned in like cattle. They took my folks, did something to them so that they went crazy, started attacking people, trying to kill anybody they could get hold of. I — I ran. Fell in with this group a couple of days ago. I swear I didn’t know they were crazy too!”
Sam moves into his field of vision, and Dean reads the shock on his face, reads the thoughts in his mind before he speaks.
“They’re just people, Dean,” he says. “I just killed an innocent person!”
Dean steps back, lets his arm drop from across the kid’s throat.
“What’s your name, son?”
“Alan,” the kid says, rubbing his neck. “Alan Corbett.”
“Well, Alan Corbett, I’m gonna guess that you’ve been keeping company with a pack of soulless crazies. Now, you’re welcome to ride with us for a while if you want. We’re headed to Chicago, or at least the vicinity of that town, since I’m guessing there’s not much of anybody still alive there. Then we’re pushing on east to Boston.”
The kid gives Sam a dubious look. “I’ve got an aunt and uncle in Cleveland,” he says.
“Well then,” Dean nods, reassuring. “We’ll drop you off in Cleveland.”
Alan nods, but he doesn’t look happy, or appreciative.
They take time to bury the body in the softening ground before heading east again. Dean and Sam trade off letting Alan ride while they walk beside him. The boy seems shaken up, and he’s rightfully suspicious of them, but he’s happy to tell them all he knows about the angels and their soul-harvesting operation.
“They herded us like cattle,” he says. “They had special blades, and if one of us got out of line, they used some kind of smiting power that burned the eyes right out of our heads. Nobody crossed them after seeing that happen.”
“How long ago did they — collect you?” Dean asks.
“About six months or so,” Alan says. “It took us over a month just to walk to the farm. They kept collecting more people as we went. They set a brutal pace because they didn’t sleep, and they rarely let us rest. Old people fell behind, and the angels — I think they might have reaped their souls right on the spot. Left the bodies by the road to rot.”
Sam and Dean exchange glances. Sam’s sorrow is etched into his beautiful face, and it makes Dean’s chest ache.
“When we got to the farm, they penned us in, left food and water in troughs. We slept on boards on the ground, huddled together for warmth. There were guards everywhere. Werewolves prowled the perimeter, in case we managed to escape.”
Alan takes a deep breath, pauses for a minute, and Dean waits.
“They came for us in groups of ten or twelve at a time,” Alan says finally. “My mother hid me under the boards, in the mud, to keep me safe, when the angels came for us. I stayed behind. When my parents returned, they weren’t my parents any more.”
Dean glances at Sam, whose jaw clenches angrily.
“The ones who were changed were let go,” Alan says. “But some of them stayed at the farm, out of some kind of primal need for community or something. The pens got more and more murderous. My parents — ”
He shudders, and Dean holds his breath, thinking maybe the kid won’t finish his story.
“Anyway, about a week ago, a bunch of us got out,” Alan concludes. “We just ran and ran. The changed ones didn’t seem to even know where they were going. The group I was with, they were quieter than most. Seemed to be able to co-exist without killing each other, and they didn’t seem to mind me tagging along, so I thought they were okay. I guess I was wrong.”
Sam and Dean exchange glances. They’re not sure how much of the boy’s story to believe. He’s been traumatized, that’s obvious. He’s seen his own parents kill and be killed. He probably did whatever he needed to do to fit in with the group he’d been with, maybe even including killing, but the Winchesters decide to let it go. Out here, in the wilderness, the laws of civilization just don’t apply anymore.
“One thing’s pretty clear,” Dean says to Sam. “That guy you killed back there, he’d probably done some killing himself, and in my book that means he wasn’t an innocent. Y’hear me?”
Sam nods, but his face is full of misery. “He was still human.”
“If you can call it human once you don’t have a soul,” Dean says, shaking his head. “Seems to me that guy wasn’t even the same person he used to be before he had his soul ripped out of him. He might have been a decent person once, but afterwards, he was something else.”
Dean thinks for a minute, then huffs out a breath. “Damn. Chuck was right. There’s things worse than being dead.”
They bed down in an old barn that night, sharing their food with Alan. He watches with wide eyes as Sam wards their camp, silently crosses himself when Sam’s magic causes the fire to flare and flicker. He settles warily into a corner of the barn where he’s not too close to the brothers. He obviously doesn’t trust them.
When Dean wakes up the next morning, Alan’s gone.
Sam shakes his head. “He took the last of our food. I’ll need to do a little hunting before we can head out.”
Sam’s as good with a bow and arrow as he is with a gun. The Winchesters are on their way again by noon, bellies full, alert to any more roving bands of soulless humans. They give Chicago a wide berth just before sundown, find an abandoned meat-packing plant to camp out in for the night. Sometime in the night they’re awakened by gunshots, followed by screams that are abruptly cut off. Sam starts to get up to investigate, but Dean grabs his arm, shakes his head.
The brothers lie awake the rest of the night, but hear nothing more. In the morning they smell smoke, find the horizon obscured by haze to the north, where Chicago lies.
“More crazies, pillaging and looting,” Dean notes.
Sam shakes his head. “We shouldn’t call them ‘crazies,’” he says. “They’re not mentally ill. Being soulless isn’t an illness.”
“They’re sure as hell not healthy,” Dean says.
“How many of them are out there, do you think?”
“Who knows?” Dean shrugs. “Alan made it sound like hundreds. Maybe a couple thousand or so, maybe more.”
“Great,” Sam says. “First monsters, then demons and angels, now soulless humans.”
Dean shrugs again. “So we’ve got our work cut out for us. Nothing new.”
They bed down that night in the open, under the stars, and Sam has a dream that terrifies both of them. In it, Sam stands in front of a mirror wearing a white suit and holding a red rose. He gazes at himself, appraising, his expression at once confident and seductive.
“Hello, Sam,” says the Sam in the mirror.
Sam and Dean wake up simultaneously and stare at each other in horror.
“That wasn’t me,” Sam chokes out.
Dean nods. “I know.”
They don’t talk about the dream, and it doesn’t come again, but they both know it wasn’t just a dream.
The sooner they kill those demons, the better.
When they arrive at the western gates of Cleveland, Rufus Turner lets them in.
“Missouri said you’d be coming today,” he says as he greets them with gruff hand shakes and back slaps.
Rufus was an old family friend, someone who’d been in Dean’s life as long as he could remember. He and Bobby were hunting partners, back before Dean was born, before his parents were married. Whatever happened to separate them, Dean never knew.
“Heard you were King of Cleveland,” Dean says, grinning. “Keeping this place alive, that’s the word out west.”
“We’re all out west, son,” Rufus reminds him. “This city stays alive because we keep out the monsters. And because we’ve got a working railroad.”
The place is unlike anything Dean’s ever seen. The streets are bustling with carts and carriages and people, even a few motor vehicles. Rufus leads them down a side street to the hotel he runs on Ontario Street, which has a view of the lake and the river both. It’s the most luxurious place Dean’s ever seen, with indoor plumping, electricity, and private livery stables for the horses. The grounds include a groomed park with trees, shrubs, and flowers. Well-dressed guests stroll the pathways with parasols and fashionable hats.
Dean’s never seen so many people in one place.
“Missouri says you killed a demon,” Rufus says as he shows them into the hotel bar.
“Sam did,” Dean says proudly. “He’s got quite a reputation out west.”
“The Gunslinger,” Rufus nods, signaling the waiter to take their drink order. “So I’ve heard.”
When Dean explains about the angel soul-harvesting farm and its aftermath, Rufus gives a low whistle.
“That’s some nasty business,” he comments. “I’ve heard about roving gangs of bandits, but this sounds like nothing but murder and mayhem. We’ll keep an eye out in case any of them decide to try to break in here.”
“We had a young man traveling with us, name of Alan Corbett,” Dean says. “Said his aunt and uncle live here.”
“Corbett, Corbett...” Rufus thinks for a moment as the drinks arrive. “Man who runs the hardware store on Superior had a sister who married a Corbett. Went west by wagon train about ten years ago. They had a little boy, I believe.”
“Well, if he makes it here alive, he’s okay,” Dean says. “His parents didn’t make it, though.”
“Funny you should mention angels,” Rufus says, taking a long sip of his whisky. “We had a guy show up here from the west about a week ago. Said he’d been possessed by an angel for the past few years and he was looking for his family.”
Sam and Dean exchange glances.
“Castiel?” Dean asks. “He’s here?”
“That’s the angel’s name,” Rufus says. “He’s gone, but the guy he possessed is here. He lives on Bond Street, right behind Grace Church. I think he was a minister before he got possessed.”
Dean’s not sure how to feel about Jimmy Novak. He feels bad about what happened to him, but he owes Castiel his life.
Sam gets it. He leans across the table, catches Dean’s eye.
“We don’t have to see him,” he says softly. “Castiel kept his promise, gave Jimmy his life back. That’s good enough.”
“He’s probably not going to want to see us, anyway,” Dean agrees. “We’re the reason Castiel possessed him in the first place.”
“Novak told us you set him free,” Rufus says, taking another sip of whisky. “He seemed pretty grateful.”
“Nah, we’re good,” Dean assures him. “We’re headed out tomorrow anyway. On to Boston. Got us a coupla demons to track down.”
Rufus insists they stay in the hotel at his expense. “It’s not often I get to host heroes of the Wild West in my own hotel,” he says. “Now I can say sheriff Dean Winchester and Sam Campbell the Gunslinger slept here. It’ll attract customers.”
Dean rolls his eyes, then catches Sam’s dimpled grin and smiles despite himself.
The hotel room is like Dean imagines Heaven to be. He strips down to try the shower almost before he shuts the door. He washes off weeks of road-dirt and grime, watches the water around his feet turn from dark gray to clear in the clean ceramic bathtub. He takes his time shaving, uses the toilet with utter fascination. He flips all the light switches, just to watch the room flood instantaneously with bright, electric light. The hotel has radiated heat, but it’s too warm out to need it. He wonders what it would be like to sleep in a room that was constantly and automatically heated in the winter.
Sam rolls his eyes when Dean finally exits the bathroom, a new man from head to toe.
“Your turn, Sammy!”
They take the elevator to the lobby for dinner, just because they can and Dean’s never been in one before.
Rufus meets them in the lobby, escorts them into the hotel restaurant for dinner. There are white cloths on all the tables, candles and flowers and china as well. Dean feels like a country fool. At Sam’s direction, he left his hat in his room, and his head feels naked. Exposed. His boots clomp noisily on the hardwood floors. They leave dust on the Persian rugs.
Rufus escorts them to a table, and the three men settle into delicate spindly chairs that Dean thinks he could probably break in half with one hand.
Dean starts at the sound of a familiar voice behind him, and when he turns, for a moment he thinks he’s seeing the angel he thought he’d never see again.
“Cas?” The word slips out before he realizes.
The man blushes, smiles nervously, and Dean sees his mistake. This isn’t Castiel.
“It’s Jimmy Novak, Mr. Winchester,” the man says softly, and Dean sees the difference right away. Unlike the confident, arrogant angel, this man is shy and retiring. Reflective.
“I heard you were here, and I just wanted to come by and say thank you,” Novak says. He glances at Sam. “To both of you. I thought I’d never see my family again, and they’d pretty much given up on me, too.”
“We’re dining right over there, with Amelia’s parents,” Novak says, indicating a table just a few feet away, where an older couple, a pretty blonde woman and a teenager who looks like an older version of the little girl in the picture Dean saw all those years ago. They look like nice people, just like Novak himself.
Dean shifts awkwardly and glances at Sam, whose forehead wrinkles have wrinkles. He’s as much at a loss as Dean is.
“You — you remember everything?” Dean asks because he can’t help himself. “About being possessed, I mean.”
“Not all of it,” Novak replies. “A lot of the time, I just slept, I think. Being possessed by an angel is — overwhelming. It’s a little like being strapped to a comet. But there were moments when I was aware of what was happening. When you told Castiel to find my family and let me go, he did. I’m not sure it would have occurred to him otherwise. So thank you.”
He backs up, obsequious. “I’ll leave you to your dinner.”
Silence reigns after he leaves for several seconds until Dean finally says, “Well, that was awkward.”
“I think we need drinks,” Sam suggests, and Dean shoots him a grateful look.
Dinner conversation turns to monster-hunting, the situation on the ground in the west, and updates on the monster infestations in various East Coast cities. Hunter militia seem to be keeping things under control in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, but Washington, D.C. and several cities in the south have been overrun and abandoned. The word from across the pond is similar, with the U.K. and Ireland doing better than the continent by virtue of being islands.
“Most monsters don’t like to swim,” Rufus notes. “And werewolves and vampires make terrible steamship passengers. Most port authorities catch them before they can even board a boat.”
“You’re doing so well here,” Sam says, glancing around the room at the dark wood paneling and chandeliers. “Are there any other midwestern cities that survived?”
“Not that I know of,” Rufus admits. “I know St. Louis is down, Indianapolis, too. Toledo. Detroit. Columbus.”
“Columbus?” Sam’s surprised. “I passed through there on my way to Boston four years ago and they were holding their own then.”
Rufus shrugs. “I don’t know what to tell you. We had scouts going there periodically, checking on things, but this last time, they didn’t come back. Sent another pair, same thing. If Columbus is still alive, then the country between here and there has gone to the monsters.”
“Pittsburgh’s still alive and kicking,” Rufus says.
“So trains are getting through,” Sam clarifies.
“Oh hell yes,” Rufus nods. “That’s how you’ll go east tomorrow, I take it? Sure takes a lot of time off your travel. Your horses can ride, too. You’ll be in New York in less than a day’s ride by rail.”
Sam’s gaze wanders, and Dean catches him watching the Novaks. Something clenches in Dean’s belly, and despite the excellent food he’s suddenly not hungry. He skips dessert, has another whisky instead, and he and Sam retire early so they can be up for the train ride in the morning.
Dean’s excitement about train travel dampens when he thinks about Sam’s face as he watches the Novaks. Sam looks wistful, maybe rueful. He’s got regrets.
“You can go find her, you know,” Dean says later, when they’re back in their room getting ready for bed. “After we gank the demons, you should go find her. Tell her you’re sorry. Beg her to take you back.”
Sam looks up from his book, startled. He’s stripped down to nothing, sitting up in bed with a lamp and a book, sheet pulled up to his waist. It breaks Dean’s heart just to look at him.
“What?” It takes Sam a moment to catch up, but then he gets it. “Dean, you know that’s not happening. I already told you that.”
Dean sits down on his side of the bed to pull his boots off, then stands up to unbutton his pants.
“Sammy, I saw the way you looked at the Novaks tonight,” he says as he takes his suspenders off, drops his pants and steps out of them. “I saw that look of longing. You miss her.”
“Well, of course I miss her, Dean,” Sam says. “Don’t you miss Cassie? Don’t you sometimes wish things could’ve been different?”
Dean doesn’t, so it’s hard to relate. Dean’s always only ever wanted Sam. Only Sam.
“You can still have that, is all I’m saying,” Dean says. “A family, I mean. You don’t have to spend your life on the road.”
Dean pulls his shirt off, leaving his underwear on as he climbs into bed next to Sam. Sam’s more comfortable in his skin than Dean is; always has been. Dean’s always been a little less sure of himself, a little more insecure about his body. It’s something about Sam that he envies, but he loves it, too.
“With you,” Sam finishes Dean’s sentence. “I don’t have to spend my life on the road with you.”
Dean’s heart sinks. His cheeks flush and his eyelids flutter nervously. He can’t look at Sam to save his life.
“Well, yeah,” he stutters. “I — I guess. You can spend your life on the road alone, if you want to...”
“Jesus, Dean!” Sam slams the book down on the bed between them and Dean jumps. “Why you gotta be this way?”
“What way?” Dean’s eyes widen. “What am I doing?”
Sam rubs his jaw and shakes his head. “Like you can’t believe you’re as lovable as you are. Like you can’t believe you’re lovable at all!”
“I — I don’t know what you mean...”
“Damn it!” Sam reaches across the bed, takes Dean’s face between his big paws and holds it steady as he stares into Dean’s eyes. “I wanna spend my life with you, Dean,” he hisses. “I choose you, don’t you get that yet? It’s always been you. I don’t know what I thought I was doing, trying to live some normal life with Jessica, but it didn’t take, y’hear? I couldn’t do it because I’m in love with you, you idiot!”
Dean eyes fall to Sam’s lips, his own lips parting automatically.
“Damn you,” Sam growls, pulling Dean against him with one arm, still holding his face with the other. Sam’s kiss is possessive, devouring, thorough. Sam rolls him over so that he’s almost on top of Dean, nudging his legs apart impatiently as Dean scrambles to hold on.
“Mine,” Sam growls against Dean’s lips, his jaw, his neck. He kisses bruisingly down the column of Dean’s throat, tugging on his clothes, yanking them out of the way so he can kiss down Dean’s bare chest and back up to his neck. He nips along Dean’s jaw to his ear, sucks the tender earlobe into his mouth and bites it, making Dean yelp.
“You’ll always be mine,” Sam pants into Dean’s ear. “I’ll always be yours. Soulmates or not, we’re a force of nature together, like you said. There’s nobody I’d rather spend my life with, you hear me?”
“Y — Yeah,” Dean stutters, choking on the waves of lust and emotion he can read in Sam’s mind, unable to separate what he feels from Sam’s feelings, overwhelmed by both. He trembles, wraps his legs around Sam’s waist and holds on for dear life as Sam’s hands and mouth work him over till he’s a quivering mess of nerve-endings.
Later, when Sam’s pushing inside him, it’s like the first time they did this, all those years ago, that time Dean pushed into Sam’s body for the first time and felt like he was finally home. Sam growls and possesses and devours, fiercely taking what he wants, intent on making Dean feel owned and wanted and loved, and it’s like a beginning, all over again.
Sam and Dean are the Alpha and the Omega, the Yin and Yang, the two energy forces that make something new when they combine. Something strong. Something greater than the whole.
When they finally lie quiet, sated and exhausted, Dean runs his fingertips lightly over Sam’s veined arms, over his powerful shoulders and chest. He floats on a blanket of love and tenderness so exquisite, so perfect, it doesn’t feel real. It occurs to him that there must be other Sams and Deans in other universes, on other Earths, in other timelines. There’s too much love between them for just two men to contain.
As Dean drifts off to sleep, he recalls the fearful vision of the man in the white suit and he’s not afraid. He’s confident they can win out against anything, no matter how evil. With this love, Sam and Dean will conquer all.
Those scary sons-of-bitches ain’t got a chance in Hell.