Back to Chapter Seven
Dean ignores the crackle of his radio on the ride back to the base. He ignores the looks from his team. He ignores everything but the shaking in his own body and the shaking in his brother’s body where Sam’s pressed up hard against him.
Jackson pulls up safely on the other side of the wall and Dean hustles Sam to his feet and off the Jeep. He slams his fist against the side of the cab; Bryce pokes his head out and stares at him. “Boss, what the hell is going on?”
Dean avoids his eyes, barks out the order: “Take them in. Make the report to Sanders. Tell him what happened.”
“Just do it!”
He pulls Sam in closer, feeling his almost catatonic brother fall into him. “You still carrying?” he says.
Dazedly, Sam nods, pulls a .45 out of his pocket, hands it to Dean. Dean takes it, holds it out to Bryce. Bryce hesitates and Dean jerks his hand.
Silently, Bryce takes it.
“C’mon, Sam, let’s go.”
He makes for the lab. If Sam realizes where they’re going he doesn’t say anything. He’s in shock, Dean thinks. He hasn’t processed it yet. He can’t have. Regular Sammy wouldn’t act like this, regular Sammy would already be pulling away from him, demanding that his big brother put the gun to his head and finish him.
Sam’s leaning on him, his gait stiff and awkward, breath coming hard, in high wheezing pants, a step away from hyperventilating. He’s not got his cane and Dean slows their pace, threads his arm around his brother’s back to hold him up, help him move. Sam winces and leans harder into him, the trembling funneling through his body and into Dean’s, though that could just be Dean, just his own body reacting to something he hasn’t yet dared to process.
They stop outside the lab and he hisses: “Your pass card, Sam, gotta let us in.”
With trembling fingers, Sam fumbles his card from his pocket and hands it to Dean. Dean swipes the lock, watching the security light flash from red to green. He pushes the door open and they limp through.
The lab is empty except for Suzie, peering into a microscope as always. She looks up as they enter, eyebrows going up in confusion.
“Hey, I thought you guys were out on a mission –“
“We were!” Dean snaps, cutting her off.
He drags Sam towards the doors that lead down to the cages, fumbling for the pass card again. Sam finally seems to wake up, to throw off whatever catatonic trance he’s been in. He pulls away from Dean, staggers, catches himself against the wall. He staggers again, braces himself against it.
“Dean, no! Whatever you’re thinking – no – you can’t – you –“
Dean ignores the words spilling from his brother’s mouth. He grabs for his uninjured arm, trying to pry him off the wall.
“Move! C’mon, Sam!”
But Sam’s gone still, stubbornly refusing to move, setting his feet and not budging.
“No,” he repeats. “No, Dean. You gotta do it. You should’ve done it already. You promised.”
“I promised nothing!” Dean retorts.
“Yeah, yeah, you did. Remember? Three years ago? When we were out there? You were gonna do it. I was in the trap and they were gonna get us and you were gonna –“
“That was different!” Dean gives his brother’s arm another tug, but Sam is not moving, shaking his head and pressing his lips together and making that face that means he’s gonna fight this – goddamn him – goddamn his stupid stubborn brother. “And anyway I wouldn’t – I couldn’t –“ he trails off, bows his head, feeling the blood pound, his breathing hard and fast. He swears, lifts his head again: “Goddamnit, Sam! C’mon! Move! Now!”
“No! I’m bit, Dean. I’m bit. I’m gonna change. You have to do it. You have to put a bullet in me. You gotta do it now!”
“What? No!” Suzie’s voice startles them both. Dean spins around to see her staring at them, gripping the edge of the bench. “Sam is it – are you – bit?”
Sam nods, his expression stark, defeated. “Yeah. They got me.” Suzie chokes out a sob, bows her head, bangs falling across her eyes to hide her expression. “I’m sorry,” Sam adds.
Dean turns back to his brother, sees him swallow, tears making his eyes shiny. “Sammy, please. I’m beggin’ you. Please, come with me. I need you to do this. Just trust me.”
Sam looks at him, and Dean sees the hopelessness and desperation etched into his brother’s face. Finally, Sam nods, giving in. He holds out his hand and lets Dean tug him through the doors.
The cages seem busier than ever, mutants snarling and screaming, silenced by the sound-proof, bullet-proof glass. They walk side by side down the corridor. Dean reaches down, takes his brother’s hand, and entwines their fingers together. Sam doesn’t resist, and when Dean squeezes his hand, Sam even squeezes back.
Together, Dean thinks, we’re together. This could be the end – if this doesn’t work – if he’s got it all wrong –
Then at least they’ll be together; they’ll go out together. It’s all that matters really.
“Stop! Stop right there!”
Robinson is standing at the end of the corridor, arms crossed, staring at them with cold hard contempt.
“Weiner radioed me. He said you’d gone psycho, Winchester. You fucked up the entire mission. You fucked up everything. You’re done for here.” He turns and spits off to one side. “You two…” his eyes run over them, lingering on the place where they’re holding hands, where Sam’s leaning heavily into Dean. “You make me wanna puke. Fucking pair of inbred perverts. I thought you were okay, Sam, but you’re as perverted as your brother.”
“Give us the code to one of these cells,” Dean says.
Robinson sneers harder and shakes his head. “Go fuck yourself, pedo. Or go fuck your brother. You like that, don’t you?”
Dean slides his .45 out his holster, takes aim, and shoots. The bullet smashes into Robinson’s right kneecap, and he goes down, crumpling to the floor and screaming in agony.
“Oh my God! Dean – what the fuck did you do?” Sam cries, wrenching his hand from Dean’s grasp and stumbling forward.
“He got what he deserved,” Dean says flatly.
He sees Sam shake his head, mouth open and close in shocked disbelief. “I can’t believe that you! Jesus Christ, Dean!”
Dean ignores him; he takes a couple of steps forward to loom over Robinson, the guy rolling and writhing in pain on the disgusting floor.
“You gonna give us the code now or shall I put the next one in your head?”
Robinson pants, words seeping through clenched teeth: “You – you – wouldn’t fuckin’ dare –“
“Oh, I would. My brother’s been bit. You think I care about anything right now?”
He can see the oh-shit realization register on Robinson’s face, the false bravado fade away until he’s shaking, blubbering: “Okay, okay.”
Dean clicks off the safety on his gun. “I’m waiting, asshole.”
“One, two, three, four,” he gasps.
Dean raises his gun again. “Is that a joke? ‘Cause I ain’t joking, sweetheart.”
“No, no, I promise, I swear it’s true!” Robinson pleads. “I - I didn’t change it, the password for my computer is password, I just – I can’t remember things.”
Dean turns around, looks at his brother. “Is he telling the truth?”
“Yeah, yeah, I think so. One, two, three, four, seriously?” Sam lets out a high incredulous laugh.
“Jesus,” Dean snorts contemptuously. “So fuckin’ dumb.”
He grabs onto Sam again, Robinson completely forgotten as he drags his brother towards the nearest empty cell. Sam doesn’t fight back, a resigned set to his face and mouth. He keeps one arm around Sam’s shoulders as he keys in the access code. The door swishes open and he pushes Sam inside, following in quick after him.
The door snaps closed behind them.
Sam stumbles around and gapes at him. He shakes his head, his mouth scrunching up like discarded paper.
“Dean, no, they don’t – they don’t open from the inside.”
“No, Dean, you don’t get it. You’re locked in here! Robinson won’t let you out, not after what you did! You’re locked in here with me, and I’m gonna change.”
“I know that, Sam.”
He can see the tears now, see them rolling down his brother’s face, messy and dirty and no different from when he was four years old.
“Dean, please, you can’t – you can’t do this.”
“It’ll be okay. We can fix this,” he says simply. Before Sam can protest, he holds up a hand. “I’m gonna call Cas.”
“What? No! Dean, Cas ain’t listening anymore! We don’t even know if he’s still alive! They left! They all left us!”
“No, no – listen, Sam. All those dreams I’ve been having. Last night, what I dreamed! It was Cas and he was trying to tell me something. He’s still out there, he’s still watching us. I know he is. And he’ll – he’ll come. This time he’ll come.”
He bores his eyes into Sam’s, trying to get him to see, to believe. He knows now, he can feel it. What Cas was trying to tell him. They’re not alone, not abandoned. And he will come. Sam will be okay.
Sam holds his gaze, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Sammy, it’ll be okay,” he tells him. He tries to smile, weak but reassuring, he moves forward to cradle his brother’s face, thumb away his tears.
Sam closes his eyes, leans into Dean’s hands, eyelashes feathery against Dean’s fingers. “Okay,” he whispers, “okay, Dean, do it.”
Dean takes a breath, presses a kiss to his brother’s forehead. “Okay,” he says. “Okay, Sammy.” He drops his hands from Sam’s face, takes a couple of steps back and squeezes his eyes shut. He tries to visualize Castiel, remember all those last-minute reprieves they’ve had over the years thanks to the angel, all those times he’s come through for them.
He can’t fail them now. Not now.
“Cas – Castiel, it’s Dean, we – uh – we need you, man. I’m not askin’ you to fix the world or do anything about those mutant motherfuckers, this is just for us. For Sam. This is a personal thing, man. I’m beggin’ you. Please, Cas, we need you. You gotta –“
“It’s okay, Dean.”
He snaps his eyes open, not quite daring to believe that it worked. Their own version of a Hail Mary pass. But it’s Castiel, it’s really Cas. Standing right in front of them and wearing that trench coat, that same damn trench coat; blinking and looking around the small disgusting cell with a disconcerted expression on his face.
“Jesus, I wasn’t sure you’d come. What the fuck’ve you been doin’ all this time?” he breathes.
Castiel levels his gaze on Dean. “I’ve been trying to contact you for a long time, Dean. But the lines of the communication between heaven and earth are not as simple as they once were. Much has changed. Heaven is – not as it used to be. However, I gather you called me here for a reason. What can I do for you, Dean?”
Dean gulps, jerks his gaze to his brother. Sam’s staring incredulously at Castiel, a faint spark of hope flittering across his face.
“It’s Sam. You gotta fix Sam. He was bit. By a mutant. If you don’t – if – he could change. You gotta stop it.”
Castiel narrows his eyes and turns to regard Sam.
“Please,” Dean pleads, his voice breaking over the word.
When Castiel finally answers he sounds genuinely regretful. “I’m sorry but I can’t reverse what has been done. This isn’t something I can do.”
“Can’t or won’t?” Dean spits.
“Both.” He turns his head, looks directly at Dean, blue eyes burning. “Dean, listen to me. You must have faith. Both of you must have faith.”
“Faith! What the fuck use is faith? We should just kill ourselves now! Put a bullet in each other’s heads before we both change!”
“No, no! You must not do that!” Castiel interrupts. He takes a step forward, hesitates, caught in the tiny cell. He widens his eyes, his expression getting intense, even more intense, voice deeper, imploring: “It is crucial to the survival of the human race that you do not do that! Listen to me. Sam, Dean, do not give in, both of you. Do not kill yourselves.”
“I’m going to change,” Sam murmurs desperately from the corner where he’s slumped down to the floor, his bitten arm cradled against his chest.
Castiel turns to him and softens his tone. “Sam, if you ever valued me as a friend before then listen to me now: have faith, do not give in.” He looks up, meets Dean’s hostile gaze. “You think I have abandoned you both all this time, but I haven’t. It’s true that I have been unable to act directly. What happened here was of your own doing and we could do nothing to reverse it. But I have followed you. I have followed this colony and I have followed you both. What you’re doing here is good work. It is righteous work. But you two are important. This colony cannot survive without you.” He holds out his hands in appeal. “Dean, this is what I’ve been trying to tell you. You must protect your brother at all costs. Sam is special. You are both special, there is a reason you are still here. Trust me on this. Just – have faith. Both of you.”
Dean’s about to respond, mouth open to retort about just where Cas can cram his fucking faith when the angel vanishes.
“Shit! Motherfucker! Goddamn him! God fucking –“
“Dean! Dean!” Sam interrupts, clambering to his feet. He falls against Dean, fingers locking around his forearm. “Dean, don’t you hear what he said? Don’t you get it?”
“Hear what? That you’re special? That we’re special? We’ve heard all that crap before, Sammy!”
Sam smiles, a small tentative quirk of his lips. “No, no. That’s not what it means. That’s not what he meant. I’m gonna be okay, Dean. I’m not gonna change.”
“Sam, no –“ he shakes his head, trying to pull his arm from his brother’s grasp. “He didn’t say that. Sam –“
“Croatoan,” Sam insists. “Remember Croatoan, Dean? I got infected with that virus. Do you remember? You stayed with me like a stupid dumbass, you refused to leave me. But it was okay – I was okay in the end. I had immunity because my blood was different. Everything that Yellow Eyes did to me, the demon blood. It gave me immunity.”
“That was a demon virus, that was demon crap. This is different – this – the mutants –“
“It’s been forty six minutes!” Sam blurts.
Dean blinks, stares into his brother’s face. The change takes between twenty minutes to an hour. He’s never known it to be longer than an hour, never less than twenty minutes. Forty six minutes. If Sam – if he – if he holds out for another fourteen minutes.
He twists his arm from his brother’s grip, makes fists in his blood-stained camo jacket, and yanks him in. Sam falls into him, breath squeezed from his chest as their bodies collide. Dean tussles, pulls him closer, the two of them sinking to the floor in a messy sprawl of arms and legs and panted incoherent words.
He pushes Sam onto his back and looms over him, his fingers still knotted tight in Sam’s jacket. Slowly he untangles them, smoothes his palms down Sam’s front, straightening his shirt, then he leans in and kisses him.
Sam surges up into it. He grips Dean’s shoulders, pulling him in so tight that the bones of their bodies grind together. Dean lets himself go; he wants to suffocate in Sam. If this is the end then he wants to go out like this, with Sam under him and around him, the only thing he can see for miles.
He slides his hands off his brother’s body, plants them palm-side down on the floor either side of his head and gazes down at him. Sam looks flushed, debauched, razor-burn and a wild kinda crazy in his eyes.
“I wanted to fuck you when you were fourteen,” Dean says.
He grins, wicked and self-deprecating. “You were fourteen, you were so scrawny. You were like five foot of nothing and I wanted you so much. I used to fantasize about putting you across my knee and spanking your cute little ass till it was red raw, till your skinny little cock was leaking all over my jeans. You should know that.”
“Jesus,” Sam breathes, “why the fuck didn’t you?”
He lets out a harsh bark of a laugh, bitter and amused. “’Cause it was wrong, ‘cause I hated myself. ‘Cause I knew I was one sick puppy. No one should want that with their little brother.”
“The first time I wanted you I was ten,” Sam responds. “I used to spy on you in the shower and I used to think about getting in there with you. My first wet dream was about you.”
Dean looks down at him and smiles, soft and affectionate. He brushes the hair back off Sam’s face. “Well, you always were an early-starter. Such an overachiever, Sammy.”
Sam shrugs. “Yeah, I guess. Hey, Dean.”
“Get offa me. My leg’s fuckin’ killing.”
He helps Sam remove the prosthetic, doesn’t let himself think about anything as his fingers work through the familiar motions, loosening and sliding off the straps and fastenings. He doesn’t let himself think about how this could be the last time he does this for his brother.
They sit together after that, Sam leaning against him, head pillowed on Dean’s chest. Dean places one hand on his brother’s thigh, curls his fingers around the end of his stump, swallowed up in the baggy combat pants.
“I wish things could’ve been different,” he murmurs.
Sam snorts, derision and genuine humor in the sound. “Yeah, you and me both.”
Dean turns his face to nuzzle at his brother’s neck, bury his nose in the soft wisps and curls of hair. “I mean with your leg. I wish we could’ve – if we could’ve gotten you one of those modern prosthetics. You know, like you used to see those Special Olympics athletes using, something that actually fucking fit you right and meant that you could still – that you could –“ he takes a breath, feels the words sticking in his throat. “I’ve missed you out there. It wasn’t the same.”
“Nothing’s the same,” Sam says.
They both go silent again. Dean closes his eyes, listens to Sam breathing, feels his chest rising and falling, his heart beating steadily under his palm. It’s uncomfortable sitting like this, Sam’s weight pressing him back into the disgusting bloodstained wall, and there’s some part of him that vaguely recalls that they’re on camera, that Robinson and Wiener and all those other sonsofbitches can see them like this and are probably watching right fucking now; well, probably not Robinson, not after what he did to him. But still, so much for discretion.
He opens his mouth against Sam’s neck, feels the rapid flutter of his brother’s pulse under his lips. He kisses him again, tasting his sweat. Please, he thinks, please be right, Sammy. Please don’t leave me.
“Fifty eight minutes,” Sam announces.
His eyes snap open, and he tenses, tightens his hold on his brother. It’s not gonna happen, he thinks wildly. It’s not gonna happen. That’s what Cas meant, it’s the only thing that makes sense. Sam will be okay, he’ll have immunity. His blood. Sam is special.
“Kiss me,” he pleads, “Sam, kiss me.”
They kiss, and kiss, and kiss. He’s unaware of time, unaware of the outside world, the security cameras, only his brother, his brother’s mouth. If Sam is gonna change, if Sam is wrong, if Cas’s cryptic bullshit means something else, if this is it then he’s not going to be the first to let go. He’s not.
Sam tries to pull away and Dean resists, clutches tighter, murmurs something desperate and unintelligible, but Sam is trying to say something too, his voice choked up.
“Seventy – seventy-four minutes,” Sam croaks. “And it’s – the bite – look, Dean!” He fumbles with his sleeve, pushing it up his arm, exposing the mark where the mutant bit him. “It’s fading. It doesn’t even hurt anymore.”
Dean stares down at his brother’s arm, then back up into his face, into his flushed cheeks and shining eyes, clammy, sticky lashes stuck in clumps, his bruised mouth and the razor burn all over his chin and lips.
“You’re immune. That’s what Cas meant. You’re immune.”
“I’m gonna be okay, I’m really gonna be okay,” Sam murmurs, half disbelieving.
“Yes! Yes, you are,” Dean insists. “Like you said. The blood, Sam. The fuckin’ demon blood. Just like Croatoan!”
Sam laughs, his body shaking, trembling. “We gotta tell someone. We gotta let them know. I have to research this; I have to see what’s there – in my blood. The vaccine, Dean – it’s not just a pipedream anymore! We can really do this!”
“Yes!” Dean cries, joining in his brother’s crazy, incredulous laughter. He turns and raises his hands to Sam’s face, fingers spanning his cheeks, thumbs on his jaw, forefingers grazing his cheekbones. “You are special, Sam. All this time, you were right! You can figure out the vaccine. You can save us.”
“So, we’re gonna stay? We’re gonna see this through?”
“We ain’t going anywhere!” He leans in, presses a quick kiss to Sam’s lips, then he pulls away, fumbles at his utility belt for his switched-off radio.
Sam stills him, places his hand on Dean’s wrist, curling his fingers around it. Dean raises his eyes to his brother’s face; sees the slow, dawning smile.
“Not just me, Dean. Both of us. You and me, man. We can do this. We can figure it out – how to kill them – how to save everybody. But I can’t do it without you.”
“You don’t gotta. Anyway, don’t we always solve the case? Get the bad guy?” he says, smirk edging at the corner of his mouth.
Sam licks his lips, smile widening. “Yeah, I guess we do. But, oh shit, Dean, what about Robinson? What about the mission? What will Sanders say?”
Dean bites his lip, glancing down at the radio in his hand. He guesses he really screwed the pooch there. Did he seriously shoot Robinson in the kneecap? Fuck. Sanders will not be happy, one of his commanders going rogue like that, not to mention the way he abandoned Sagna and the rest of Gold Team back in the forest, or the fact that his and Sam’s relationship is probably compound common knowledge by now, thanks to their little on-camera floor-show earlier.
But on the other hand, is Sanders – is anybody – really gonna give a crap about any of that when they hear what they’ve just discovered?
Sam is immune. Sam got bit and he didn’t change.
This isn’t just about him and Sam anymore. This could change everything.
“He’ll get over it,” he says finally. “And I – uh – I guess I can apologize to Robinson.” He makes a face and sees Sam’s mouth twitch a little at the corners, his little brother eying him with that familiar and indulgent look, the one that’s all, my brother’s such a loser but I totally love him anyway. Dean knows that look and Sam’s not fooling anyone.
“Yeah, you should do that. Jesus, Dean. Sometimes you –“ he breaks off, shakes his head. “You’re fuckin’ unbelievable, man.”
Dean grins at him, flashing his teeth. “I like to think so.”
“Go on. Just radio it in. I am so ready to get out of here.”
Dean nods, flicks the switch on his radio, watching it crackle to life. He puts it up to his mouth and speaks, eyes locked on his brother’s face, on that goddamn beautiful smile.
“Come in, Command, this is Red Leader. Come in, Command. You’re gonna want to hear this.”