Notes: This fic takes place between 1x11 “Scarecrow” and 1x12 “Faith.”
The title is taken from the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Night Flight”: “I just jumped a train that never stops, / So now somehow I'll know I never finished payin' for my ride / Just n' someone pushed a gun into my hand / Tell me I'm the type of man to fight the fight that I'll require.”
I so did not mean to make this fic as fucked up and angsty as it is (or as long, Jesus H. Christ), but along with the above mentioned warnings there are passing mentions of topics in this fic which some readers may find disturbing, uncomfortable, or triggering. None of the following are represented extensively or graphically in this fic, however, they do appear: alcoholism, consent issues due to one or both sexual partners being underage, fetishized animal roleplay (pony play), parental neglect and implied emotional and verbal abuse directed at a child, self-harm at the urging of peers, something like infidelity, sexual relationships between a teacher and underage student, and bullying.
Readers should exercise personal discretion.
The first time they kissed they were sitting out on the hood of the Impala under a sky full of stars brighter than any either of them had ever seen. It was warm out and nearly silent in the high, dry California desert that looked like a generic set for a John Wayne movie during the day and turned into a stunning celestial display as the sun began to set over the mountains--the smog from Los Angeles leafing the edge of every cloud gold--and the stars, God, had there always been so many?
Even years later they remembered it almost exactly the same, though they had not talked about it since it happened.
Maybe Dean remembered Sam's enthusiasm as he recounted the legends of the constellations above them--seemingly right above them--in more detail. Maybe on a clear night when the stars were bright (though they were never as bright as that night again) he could recall word for word Sam's retelling of the story of Andromeda, set out to be sacrificed to a horrific sea monster by her very own father, and her rescuer Perseus who used the head of the Gorgon Medusa to turn the monster to stone. Maybe it still pained him a little to hear in Sam's phrasing the accusation that John had exposed Sam to the appetites of so many monsters, leaving Dean to swoop in on his winged sandals and turn them to stone, spiriting Sam out of their clutches just in time.
Maybe Sam remembered how the silence of the night had pressed in close once the car's engine had cooled better than Dean did. Maybe, when he closed his eyes, he could remember exactly how it felt to be up against Dean--not for warmth or for comfort, but simply to be touching. How it seemed in that moment that they were the only two people in all of existence. Just the two of them under the incredible array of stars that stretched into eternity in all directions above them.
But they remembered the kiss the same way. The shifting as they hitched themselves back up the hood of the Impala, the slope making it impossible to sit on without eventually sliding down, and ending up closer together than before. Closer than either of them intended. And how it seemed right, under that sea of stars, so close to earth, that Dean cup Sam's face in his hand, that Sam reach inside Dean's leather jacket and latch onto Dean's shirt, feeling his heart beat beneath it, that they kiss and kiss, long and sweet and slow until they both had to pull back to breathe and press their foreheads together because they didn't need to look each other in the eyes to know that, in that moment, they were feeling exactly the same thing.
They had not touched since El Paso.
It was quite a feat--two grown men packed onto the bench seat of the Impala for the twenty-seven hour drive to Stanton, Virginia. But they'd had so much practice: first on John's insistence that they share the backseat without bothering each other, then in the awkward dance of trying to determine how much physical affection was normal between teenage boys and how much would send up red flags.
They hadn't touched after Jess died either, but that was different.
Sam hadn't touched anyone then. Not since Dean reached out and pulled him from the fire begun above the only bed he'd shared with someone who wasn't Dean. Not since Dean had saved him for the umpteenth time; not since Sam realized it was the first time he hadn't wanted to be saved.
Sam was too aware of everything Dean's hands had given and even more acutely aware of what he had missed, had forsaken, had sacrificed for the simple touch of Dean's hands. And Dean, so often the instigator, held back waiting for Sam to give him bearings, let him know where they stood.
And Sam had not intended to touch again, consigning himself to this half life where everything hurt, but nothing could be made to hurt worse because he would not let it.
But it came back like riding a bike: Dean stroking Sam's cheek, Sam crowding Dean against a wall, a clap on the back, a poke, a pinch, a light-hearted punch, a skillful checkup performed solely by touch; both of them holding back, afraid of what would happen if they became what they had once been. What they had been before Stanford, before Jess, before oceans stretched wide between them, blinding in the sunlight and unfathomably dark by night.
Until El Paso.
Which is why they passed the two and a half hours between the shitty El Paso motel that they stumbled out of like they'd been drunk as fuck the night before instead of just fucked and Socorro, New Mexico in complete silence, perpetuating the time-honored Winchester tradition of not talking about things until the only way to talk about it was spitting blood and insults.
The silence was broken as they passed the list of fast food joints on the Socorro exit by an altogether too-cheerful whistle from Sam's phone. Sam checked the message, smiled slightly, and texted back, keys clicking loudly even with Metallica thudding in the Impala's speakers.
Dean wasn't going to ask. He really wasn't and he wouldn't have except Sam got an almost immediate reply and responded with another hasty message and an honest-to-God grin.
At any other point in their lives--any point before Sam lost Jess--Dean would've jostled Sam with his elbow, asked, "Got yourself a girl, Sammy?" but as things were Dean didn't dare touch him and knew Sam'd kick his ass if he called him Sammy. So he asked, "Who's that?"
Sam's face changed between looking at his phone--sweet smile, dimples deep--and facing Dean--no emotion, like Sam was gone, a vacancy sign along a quiet highway.
"Missouri," his voice scratched like tree branches on Baby's roof, like it always had when he hadn't spoken for a couple hours (or had been fucked until he screamed the night before).
"Since when are you two penpals?"
Sam made a face, but there was nothing real behind it, vacancy light still lit, still going through the expected little brother exasperation. "She's got a case for us."
"Yeah, Dean, a case."
At any other point in their lives--any point before Sam left every remnant of Dean he could bear to let go in the hope of finding something safer--Sam would've elaborated, would've "You know, monsters? Vengeful spirits?," would've imitated Dean or John, but as things were he just read the text. "Stanton, Virginia. Ritualistic deaths spanning three months. Sigils cut into the victims' foreheads, cuts filled with some kind of ink-"
"They're marked on their foreheads? How do we know this is our kind of weird and not just some freaky cult thing?"
"What cult has ever-"
"The mark of the beast is on a dude’s forehead, right?"
Sam almost asked how Dean knew that since the extent of Dean's Bible study had taken place on his knees, head under the teacher's skirt when they were enrolled in a Catholic school for two months, but another whistle from his phone distracted him.
"She says to trust her,"
"Why'd you tell her I said anything-"
"Right, ok." Dean still, squinting at the road like he was trying to figure something out. "Virginia, huh?"
"She couldn't have told us this while we were still in Indiana? Hell, while we were still on that side of the country?"
The next text arrived before Dean had even finished speaking.
Sam's smile was audible. "She says not to sass her."
"That's fucking creepy, dude."
"Watch your language."
Dean shot Sam a glance. "Since when have you given a shit if I-"
Sam held up his phone. The latest text read: Boy, don't make me wash your mouth out.
Dean huffed a laugh. "Right. All right. Lunch, then on to Vermont."
Both Sam and Missouri knew Dean too well to give him the satisfaction of correcting him.
They ate lunch sitting across from each other in the booth, carefully avoiding eye contact, hyper aware of the gazes that fell on them, wondering how much Missouri had seen, how much she could see. How much she knew about them and the chasm between them. How much she knew about El Paso.
They tried not to think about it--afraid Missouri could pluck the thoughts from their heads like apples from a tree--but they both did.
Dean flirted with the waitress--Bethany--and thought about how they hadn’t said each other’s names, not once, from the moment he’d reached up and snarled his fingers in Sam’s hair, pulled him down into a wet kiss until they were gasping and sticky with each other. As if, in the dark, if they didn’t say each other’s names they could be any two people. Like they weren’t men, like they weren’t brothers, like the years and the women and the distance didn't matter.
He said Bethany’s name over and over as if saying it cleansed his tongue of the times he should said Sam’s name, would’ve whispered Sam’s name, could’ve gasped and shook and cried out, invoking Sam’s name. As if Bethany and her sweet smile and her plain name could make him forget that he knew the taste of Sam’s name and body better than any brother had business to.
Sam rubbed his palms on his jeans and tried to ignore the grating sound of Dean saying, “Bethany, honey,” the way he should only say, “Sammy, God, Sam,” to some success, but only due to his having no luck whatsoever in ignoring how the touch-memory of scrubbing his palms against his jeans called up the rasp of his jeans against Dean’s.
He closed his eyes and heard the more welcome noise of Dean swearing at his button fly, tearing at it until he could press bare against Sam. At one time Sam would have teased, would have poked fun at Dean's attachment to button flies, refusing to come into the modern age where undoing your pants wasn't a chore. But he had just pressed back against Dean, both of them sucking in a breath like it hurt, Sam's jeans and boxerbriefs pulled down under the curve of his ass, Dean's jeans not even down that far, zipper teeth snagging painfully, rubbing together until their muscles seized and they could no longer do anything but gasp, resisting the urge to call out each other’s names.
Dean tried to call John about ten hours into the drive. It was dark, and Dean didn’t try to explain to Sam--they still weren’t talking--but Sam knew who he was hoping would pick up.
When it went straight to voicemail Dean snapped his phone closed and chucked it into Sam’s footwell.
“Nothing,” Dean pressed a fist to his mouth like he always did when he was feeling emotions too intense to fall under a single category, when he could hit someone or cry or drink himself stupid, then returning it to the wheel.
"Did you really expect him to answer?"
Dean didn't look at him.
They drove through the night and stopped for breakfast on the border of Oklahoma and Tennessee as the little town was just waking up.
Dean still wouldn’t look at Sam. All he said was, "Get me some pie," and Sam went to get food from a diner that should have looked retro, but instead just looked old, while Dean filled the Impala's tank.
Once Sam sucked Dean off while he was driving. Sam remembered that they were on their way from Maine to Nebraska, Dean just remembered that they were pretty far east. Exact location had never held as much significance for him as it had for Sam.
The highway'd stretched endless and empty in front of them and Sam was trying to prove a point. They both remembered that, but they remembered the actual event very differently.
Sam remembered that he was pissed off and needed to talk about it. He needed Dean to acknowledge the betrayal he was feeling in the wake of Dean’s latest romantic infraction. Sam remembered her name: Ashley. She was tiny, curvy, full, soft in a way he could never hope to be. He never knew if Dean had fucked her, but that didn’t really matter. What mattered was that they’d been fucking since Sam was sixteen and messing around for longer and Dean still didn’t see anything wrong with rubbing up against the Ashleys of the world, whispering sweet like he never did to Sam, touching them in broad daylight the way he would never be able to touch Sam.
Sam remembered that they’d driven in absolute silence because the Impala’s radio needed some tweaking. He remembered the quiet weighing on his chest so heavy he couldn’t breathe and reaching over the front seat, rubbing along the seam of Dean’s jeans, tugging his button fly open and taking him right there on the highway.
Sam remembered that it hadn’t solved anything. He never knew why, had never figured out exactly what had fouled up his brilliant plan.
Dean didn’t remember that there had even been a tiny, soft Ashley that he’d touched in ways that made Sam burn angry and jealous. He didn’t remember that they hadn’t been talking or that the radio hadn’t been blasting “Hair of the Dog” like it so often was.
He did remember Sam leaning across the expanse of the front seat, pulling his soft cock out, and deep throating him right there on the open road. He remembered trying to stay between the lines as he hardened under Sam’s ministrations and failing. He remembered grabbing at Sam, hips jerking involuntarily.
He remembered pulling Sam’s hair, forcing Sam to take him deep, then deeper. He remembered how Sam just took it, so fucking good. He remembered realizing that this would mark the first time he’d come from being blown in the front seat of the car, instead of the back. But it hadn’t because he didn’t come.
A truck passed them, a beater with a great engine under its rust spots. A truck just like John drove. And Dean remembered turning ice cold, cock gone soft; swerving off the road and parking the car, shoving Sam off him, telling Sam he couldn’t do things like that because it was too dangerous.
Sam never saw it, but even after the truck was gone along with its unsuspecting driver, even after they’d pulled off to the side and safely parked the car Dean wouldn’t let Sam finish. Wouldn’t let Sam touch him.
Dean remembered being terrified that no matter where they were, no matter where John was, he wasn’t safe to touch Sam. Not safe to tuck stray hair behind an ear for fear of someone suspecting, not safe to catch Sam when he stumbled in case his hand grazed Sam’s ass, not safe to hug him or pat him on the shoulder or look at him too long or kiss him because John might see, might find out.
When the scenery changed to the rolling green hills of the Appalachian mountains, they both remembered. But they didn’t talk about it.
They arrived in Stanton early that afternoon and retrieved the case files under the guise of FBI agents, working together like a well oiled machine, just like they always had, like they always did, their movements completely in sync, in spite of not having spoken to each other for upward of twelve hours. In spite of having fucked less than forty-eight hours before.
Of the victims’ families, two of the four that were actually willing and available to be interviewed were only a few streets over from their motel. The others lived in the neighboring towns.
Sam, who had called the families to arrange the interviews, gave Dean the shortest overview he could without Dean going in entirely blind: "Two of the first victims--Tim Rhodes and Keith Addams--were found together. They grew up on the same street, they'd dated for years, and they planned to get married in a few months. The police labeled their deaths a double suicide. We'll talk to Rhodes' parents first, the Addams family should be back by the time we finish the interview."
Dean forgot for a moment that they weren't speaking, hummed the tune of the the Addams Family theme song, and snapped his fingers, looking over for Sam to laugh or call him twelve. Sam didn't even put on a Bitchface; he didn't look up from the Rhodes-Addams case file.
The Rhodes welcomed them into a small house, painted faded yellow and sat them both on a too-short sofa.
Sam asked them if they’d noticed anything strange about their son’s behavior before his death and Tim Rhodes’ father answered with a sermon on the evils of the Addams’ family and their godless faggot son who’d seduced Tim, who’d pulled him away from his family, who’d yanked him out of range of God’s watchful eye, who’d killed him. Tim Rhodes’ mother didn’t say a word the entire interview.
When they left Dean had to linger by the porch by the trash waiting to be picked up to thank the Rhodes for seeing them because Sam had walked straight to the car, too angry to speak.
“Shit. Those poor kids,” Dean said and he looked at Sam for something, but Sam was staring out the window, eyes full of angry tears. If they had been speaking, Dean would have reached for Sam’s hand, would’ve held him close, would’ve let him cry about it or scream about it or taken him out to shoot something, but they weren’t. Their disgust hung thick in the air between them, shared, but unacknowledged.
When Sam was newly sixteen they squatted in an abandoned apartment in a complex on the bad side of town. A group of boy from the complex had chased Sam down, cat-called to him, “Fucking freak,” “Little faggot,” “C’mere, bitch, how ‘bout you get down on all fours and suck me?” and even though Sam could’ve killed each and every one of them with his bare hands without breaking a sweat he let them catch up to him and break his wrist and kick his ribs in.
Dean had called Sam “bitch” since he’d found out. It was his way of gauging the damage, of changing the slur into something positive, making it a pet name instead of a point of shame as best he could.
Now Sam scoffed, now Sam retorted with “jerk” quick as anything, but they both knew that it was an injury that would never fully heal, still open under the teasing, under the laughter. Because no matter how right this thing was between them, a part of Sam would always believe that those shitheads from Bumfuck, Nowhere were right about him.
The Addams’ house was just down the street, around a wide bend in the road. It was whitewashed with a blue door, innocuous, though both of them had to fight the urge to take each other’s hands and squeeze and they came up the walk.
Mrs. Addams offered them lemonade and sat them on a wicker couch that groaned under their combined weight while they waited for her husband who had just finished up work and was minutes away. Kids ran in and out of the room, scolded gently when they came too close to knocking the lemonade pitcher off the coffee table.
“You’re here about Tim and Keith, I know, but I’m not sure I can be of help. I’ve told the police everything I can think of.”
Sam was still shaking mad--couldn’t even pick up his lemonade--so Dean took the lead.
“Just routine questions, m’am. Did you notice anything unusual about Keith’s behavior before his death?”
“No, not really. I mean, they were both so excited, which was a good look for the both of them--they were in the midst of planning their wedding, you know? In the spring--but they came and went just about as usual. They’ve been a great help around the house; they’ve watched the little ones for us every Friday since Tim moved in to give me ‘n’ Mr. Addams a little respite.”
“Tim was living with you?”
“Oh, yes,” Mrs. Addams took a long sip of her lemonade and smacked her lips. “Last year--when they came out, you know?--well, the Rhodes have never been the most . . .”
“Tolerant?” Sam suggested bitingly.
“Logical,” she corrected. “They said Keith turned Tim gay and that he couldn’t be their son if he was going to live in sin with another man. Have you met them?”
“Well, then you know what I mean. Bless their hearts, there’s not a good brain between the two of them. Anyone could see the boys were good for each other. I’ve never seen them happier and we’ve lived just down from the Rhodes since they were toddlers.”
Dean glanced at Sam and, for once, Sam was looking back.
“Mrs. Addams, the police have ruled Keith and Tim’s deaths suicides, do you think-”
“I think the police, for all their badges and cars, couldn’t understand a person different than them if their lives depended on it, agents.”
“So you disagree?” Sam prompted.
“Those boys did not kill themselves, Agent Hillman. Sure, they had worries, just like anybody--you know, they thought they might have to change the wedding date, told me something was off about the timing, unlucky or something--but they were happy.”
“Thank you, m’am, you’ve been a great help.”
Sam and Dean bowed out, turning down the gracious offer to wait for Mr. Addams’ arrival and join the family for supper.
They drove back to the motel in silence.
They took shifts in the motel shower, sleeping in two hour bouts, studying the pictures in the files.
They didn’t touch. They didn’t speak.
Dean called out for pizza when he got hungry and, even though he knew Sam’s pizza preferences better than his own, he didn’t order anything for Sam. Sam walked to a quaint Thai restaurant down the street. Usually he would have complained that Dean had left his empty pizza box on a bed, but for once Dean had left it on his own bed so Sam ignored it.
They passed files between the queen beds without acknowledging each other’s presence.
The click of laptop keys as Sam compared the symbols--apparently carved into the victims’ foreheads and then filled with ink--with known sigils and the whir of the ancient radiator in the corner were deafening.
But, as always happened when silence fell between them, there came a point where they forgot or got confused or irritated enough with a case to ask for the other’s input. This time, by the time Sam was frustrated enough with his comparison to ask for Dean’s opinion, Dean had forgotten that he wasn’t supposed to be talking to Sam. Again.
“I can’t find this fucking sigil anywhere--it’s not a known rune, it doesn’t show up in any witchcraft symbology that I can find,” Sam brandished the photograph in Dean’s general direction.
Dean glanced up from his collection of the Rhodes-Addams crime scene pictures wherein the boys lay side by side, holding hands, a different symbol etched into each forehead. He squinted at the picture in Sam’s hands. His eyes widened.
“That’s not a sigil--it’s Cancer.”
Sam eyed him like he’d lost his, arguably apt to roll away, marbles. “Pretty sure you can’t give someone cancer with a scalpel and ink, Dean.”
Dean swung his legs off the bed, leaning close, closer than he’d intentionally been since El Paso. “No, I mean, it’s a zodiac sign.”
Sam glanced at the picture again then back at Dean, eyebrows raised. “How do you know that?”
“Dated this chick once,”
Sam’s expression turned incredulous.
“Okay, fucked this chick once,” Dean amended. “Totally nutballs. She came to the conclusion that we would never work because we were ‘too different.’ Apparently Aquarius and Cancer are only barely compatible. Didn’t stop us from fucking a couple more times before we left town--she said she wasn’t a ‘fully actualized Cancer’ which made her prone to clinginess,” Dean shrugged.
“Passing over your hitherto unknown, and frankly inexplicable, knowledge of astrological compatibility,”
Dean opened his mouth to protest that his knowledge came through the only acceptable channel for such girly trivia--conquest--but Sam continued, “Are any of the others zodiac signs?”
Dean shuffled the pictures in his lap. “I dunno, man, they look as much like random squiggles to me as they do to you.”
The silence pulled taut between them as they each stared down at their collection of photographs and snapped when Dean mused, “You know what these look like?”
Sam resumed Bitchface 174--the “Dean, you’re nuts.”
“Remember those idiot kids in California who tattooed themselves at a bonfire? Maybe you wouldn’t, you were only, what? Eleven? They cut themselves and poured ballpoint ink into it. Kid who was doing it wanted to give me a dragon right here,” Dean rubbed his right forearm.
He had a scar there now, right where the kid had pressed his drawing to Dean’s skin. Nasty poltergeist with a tendency to hurl cutlery through the air; happened later the same year.
“Don’t tell me you almost let him do it.”
“Thought about it. Tattoos are cool.”
“How old were you? Fifteen?”
Dean ignored him.
“Dude’s drawing was terrible, though. Looked a lot like this,” Dean held up another picture. The victim had two parallel zigzag lines cut into her forehead. “That’s an Aquarius, I think, and this one,” he pointed to one of teenage boy’s heads. “That’s you. Taurus.”
“The bull. Stubborn, loyal, tactile.”
Dean looked nothing short of thunderstruck.
“Fucked a girl once,” Sam shrugged. “Got weird though: she wanted to wear a matador outfit and wave a red sheet at me.”
“You always did know how to pick them,” The statement was almost a question, Dean clearly trying to process the fact that Sam had also come by his knowledge of girly trivia via the proper channels.
“I’m kidding, Dean,” Sam looked concerned that Dean, apparently, had believed him. “I just googled it.”
“God, Sam, that’s too weird--the first story you come up with is animal roleplay? That’s just sick.”
“C’mon, Dean, I’ve walked in on you fucking a girl in a bridle and wearing assless chaps. It’s not my fucked up fetish,”
“That was one goddamn time,”
And, just like that, things were back to normal. Or as normal as they ever were.
They stayed up late, matching up all the symbols to zodiac signs, divvying up victims’ families for interviews the next day, drinking beer and speculating on what would leave astrological signs on the foreheads of corpses and no other evidence. Dean stuck with his cult theory while Sam argued that the case had pagan god written all over it. And when they got hungry late in the night, Dean went to the nearest gas station and came back with more beer and box macaroni and cheese that he made on the room’s hot plate.