Dodecagon


(c)2008 gekizetsu

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Turn Of The Wheel – come full circle. Sam and Dean confront the Guardian of the East. Thanks to zenfrodo for giving me the perfect location. 6200 words, R for language and sexual situations of a Sam/Dean nature. And a nature-type nature. Keith Ryan still belongs to Maygra.

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

– Luciano de Crescenzo


-|-

October 30th, 2007

Dean could feel Sam’s eyes on him occasionally, angry and disapproving, and he ignored it.

Outside every store they passed there were pumpkins and hay bales and signs for last chance candy. Halloween in the world, again, and bigger fish to fry this once than watching out for the veil between worlds getting thin. Dean knew he didn’t have an automatic wing appearance to worry about with his part of the cycle complete. It was Sam’s part of things that still hung too heavy over them.

Dean was trying hard not to think about it. He’d agreed to this, had pushed Sam toward it, and Sam’s grim determination told him he’d made the right – the only – decision.

I’m the one who was used to summon the damn thing. I have to be the one to get it close enough to put it back.

He still wasn’t sure what had gone on between Keith and Sam; Sam refused to say a thing, and he wasn’t going to ask Keith about it. What he knew with all certainty was that yeah, the elements were at war, and having a Watchtower guardian break all the way through was going to slam the whole thing wide open. Then they’d have demons and elementals running loose, and really, how much were two Winchesters supposed to save the world from at once?

He just kept driving east because Sam said that was part of the plan, and Dean was willing to let the mystery go a little further before he made Sam tell him what was up. He had asked him for a little too much this time, and he knew it. Sam had had two weeks to prepare for whatever the ritual entailed, and while Dean trusted him, he still wanted to know what the hell was going to happen.

None of your business, Sam had said. You’ll be dead, remember?

Sam had spent a lot of time with Keith on the phone and in email, conversations Dean was not privy to. Sam was burying his emails, if he was keeping them, because Dean wasn’t able to find them on the laptop when he went snooping.

He figured part of the secrecy was Sam’s way of punishing him for being willing to be a sacrifice. He could understand that. Spending two weeks being pissed at him was a little excessive, though, even for Sam.

We’re talking world-ending shit, here, Sam, he’d said. You think I’d suggest it otherwise? Jesus. I’ll be back. We have proof of that.

Still no give from Sam. Living with that kid in a snit was a hell of a pain. That much he’d always known.

There was still a suspicion that the secrecy stemmed from one of Sam’s bright ideas to find another way. There were only so many ways to summon an elemental at all, much less a Watchtower guardian, but it was the part after that was beginning to worry him. Sam was brewing something in that big head. Keith had been specific about the wards that would be used for protection; Dean had heard that much. Sam would be getting windy-headed after midnight, though, and he wasn’t always okay while that was going on.

If it went wrong, he didn’t want Sam getting caught in the aftermath. Or becoming the aftermath. Bobby’s warning about anchors and how killing Sam might become the goal was as daunting as the idea of Sam losing his shit and leveling miles of wherever the hell they were going.

He had his doubts about the part where it would just be the two of them. He would be...well, bleeding out on the ground, and Sam would be trying to ask or banish the damn thing back where it went. By himself.

The kind of power that’ll be raised by sacrificing you in particular a second time – but willingly – will give Sam the advantage.

Keith’s helpful contribution.

My guess is that because of his own power, Sam’ll be able to do whatever the hell he wants – asking be damned – when the whole thing is set up. I really wish you two wouldn’t do this alone. Hell, I wish you wouldn’t do it at all.

Bobby.

Dean had a chance to see a sketch of the final setup, courtesy of Keith, the morning after their big talk at Bobby’s table. It was a circle just inside a twelve sided figure – a dodecagon. The Great Wheel. Twelve points and angles, all equal to each other, with heavy attention paid to the four main cardinal points. A perfect square bordered all of it, corresponding with the cardinal points. It was done in a way meant to invite and offer, but also to create a situation where an equal footing could occur. It was everything the family in Iowa had not done. It was heavy shit meant to call in the big guns, and Dean hoped it didn’t attract anything other than what it was meant to. The shapes themselves in combination were only the foundation, but they would ring true to the right ears. The details would fine tune things.

It made Dean nervous, but he refused to show it.

World-ending shit, here, Sam.

They had to do something. They were the only ones who knew what was really going on.

He wasn’t exactly having second thoughts. He was just wondering if they were really doing the right thing, the best thing, to get rid of it. If Sam asked and it said no...

It wasn’t like there was anyone but Keith to ask, either. Keith had to know what he was talking about, and Dean had to trust in that. He hated that part.

In Carmel, Indiana, Sam told him to pull over suddenly and he sounded so much like their father for a moment that it startled Dean. It didn’t even occur to him to do anything but comply.

“What’re we doing?”

“I’m driving,” Sam said flatly.

“Okay, y’know, this whole mysterious – “

“You agreed to this, Dean,” Sam said. “All of it. Just let me do this. You can’t know about all of it. Just the knowledge could skew the whole thing.”

Sam sounded so deadly calm that Dean let the car idle for a moment on the side of the road and didn’t argue. There was the smell of leather and the hot-plastic tang of the way the dash had warmed from the weak October sun, and Sam was fidgeting. Dean watched him scratch at the threads of a worn spot at the knee of his jeans, watched him give himself away again. It was the pull of the coming Sabbat, Dean knew, and the extra worry of getting things right at midnight. Sam was asking, again, for trust, and Dean didn’t have it in him to say no. He trusted Sam to put a knife to his throat, without blinking.

He got out of the car and left the door open, listening to Sam do the same. They passed each other at the front of the car, crossing paths, hands brushing.

Dean settled himself into the passenger seat and stretched his legs out.

Nothing else to say.

Dean quit looking at road signs.

Three hours later the sun was down, and Dean was startled from a doze by Sam dropping a hand on his shoulder.

“What do you want for your last meal?”

Dean sighed. “Hilarious.” He paused. “Pie.”

“Yeah, I figured.”

They stopped in a diner and Dean didn’t ask where they were, didn’t try to figure it out beyond the fact that they had to be in Ohio, if they’d kept east.

Sam had minestrone and Dean had pie. Peach.

They were quiet, but it no longer felt of anger. Dean could tell Sam was going over something in his head in detail. He wanted to say something to lighten the mood, but he knew that chance had passed. Sam was struggling to keep his head on straight with the Sabbat bearing down on him, and Dean wasn’t sure if he would be any kind of comfort against that. If anything, he was going to be part of the problem, not the solution.

Sam was strong. But the wind, lately, was stronger.

They drove for another hour, passing through several small towns before Sam slowed and then pulled off onto a mountain road. The total loss of any light but the wash of the headlights and the press of trees gave the whole thing an ominous feel. Being in the passenger seat of his car doubled the feeling for Dean. Barely paved, the road wound north and slightly west, as far as Dean could tell. Sam’s face was set in a mask of resolute distress in the glow of the headlights that reflected back from the trees and road, but there was also a slight gleam in his eyes that Dean recognized.

Instead of ratcheting his trepidation up further, it just soothed him.

Whatever happened, he had Sam with him. Wind-headed Sam was still Sam, one way or another, and it was all out of his hands. For once, all out of his hands.

Miles of woods and brush passed, and the road grew a little less sturdy, but it was still clear and had obviously been maintained over the seasons. Dean slumped further into the seat, feeling Sam warm and solid beside him no matter how distant his brother’s mind was.

The road ended in a wide arc, leaving room to turn around. There were no signs, no barricades.

Sam cut the lights and parked. “Stay here,” he said, opening the door and popping the trunk.

“Seriously?” Dean said. “That’s it? Where the hell are you going?”

“To set up,” Sam said, slamming the door behind.

Dean twisted in his seat to watch Sam get into the trunk and haul a box away into the brush.

He got out and shut the trunk, killing the only light he had. He listened carefully and couldn’t hear Sam moving away. That caused him a little pride...and a little zing of anxiety.

He sat on the hood for a while and wondered how long it would take Sam to reconstruct the whole dodecagon, and why the hell he couldn’t help. He wasn’t sure if it was Sam’s decision, or a mandate of the ritual.

He had never felt quite so left out of anything that involved him so damn heavily.

It took him a moment or so to notice, but once he did, he couldn’t focus on anything else. The ground was warm under his feet even though the air held a sharp October chill.

He flicked his lighter and walked around the car in a circle, watching the ground and the closest trees. The dirt was warm through his boots. He knelt down and felt a hint of warmth seep through the denim, and the dirt was warm between his fingers. The ground should have been cold or even close to a first frost, at that time of year. The first snowfalls were due any time.

He glanced around at the trees. Shadows, mostly, backlit by starlight, almost entirely bare of leaves. Whatever it was, he couldn’t tell how it was affecting the trees. For all he knew, they were dead or dying, or just sleeping for the winter. Geothermal or chemical, the place was warm. He didn’t smell anything but damp wood and loam, didn’t see anything but his lighter and the starlight.

He knew they were far from any town or even the most rural of homes. The place was silent, and Dean had to hand it to Sam for picking a ground zero that would buffer the most damage if the zero part became all that was left of the ground.

His lighter became too hot to hold, and he snapped it shut.

If Sam backed out, Dean would not blame him.

He had asked Sam to do something atrocious, regardless of how temporary it was. He was pushing Sam into hurting himself more than he would ever hurt Dean.

He could trust Sam to do whatever it took to shut the guardian down, to pick the best way to do it, to stay smart about it even with a Sabbat riding him. Neither of them were good about keeping their heads while the wings were out, either, but they’d get it done.

He bent his head a little and tried to feel for the mechanism he’d already ruined. What rested beneath was still out of his control but he tried to get a sense of it anyway, to see what it might take to get things moving. There had to be more to it than a complete loss of control, had to take something besides rage or fear or even lust. There had to be more to it than wings.

You have any idea what’s happened to you? What you’re walking around out here waving at everybody?

The demon, from Ord. Now in a box in Bobby’s kitchen. It had known, before he had.

He flicked his lighter to life again and checked his watch. Sam had been gone for twenty minutes. He thought about calling him, but knew he wouldn’t answer even if there was a signal. Sam had himself in a mindframe that Dean recognized. It went beyond stubbornness or even a plan to make Dean feel guilty for what they were going to do. Sam was darkly focused. Dean knew better than to mess with him in the state he was in.

His mind veered back to the puzzle of why the ground was warm. It was easier to think about that than what was coming. He felt as if there was something he should have remembered about where he was, something really damn important that would be relevant, somehow, but the details didn’t come into focus.

He also felt that taking up smoking would have come in handy for situations like the one he was currently in. He would have had something to do with his hands besides run them along the car, something to do besides pace in the dark. Maybe fire elementals would think smoking was funny, if they had any humor at all.

Fire was the only one that hadn’t come after them, for whatever reason. That would have been a clusterfuck of the highest order. One sneeze from those guys, and game over. Easier to be buried or drowned, or have something pull some big-bad-wolf bullshit from above, than to try and put each other out even once. CPR didn’t fix that one, even after a good stop, drop and roll. Maybe fire figured they’d already paid their dues over time.

Maybe everybody would show up the moment they started trying to call the damn guardian, and he and Sam could kiss their asses goodbye along with half the northern hemisphere.

He finally got back in the car and sat slumped in the driver’s seat, hands tucked into jacket pockets. Waiting had never been his strong suit, but he’d give Sam another twenty minutes before he tried to call him or just went after him. He couldn’t have gone that far.

It was a full hour from the time Sam left the car to the time he returned to it, ten after eleven when he swung the driver’s side door open and gestured Dean out.

“Are we going green?” Dean said without moving.

“Out,” Sam said. “Let’s go, Dean.”

Sam didn’t get the ‘Twister’ reference, so Dean sighed and got out without bothering to try and push that angle. There weren’t many good quotes in that movie anyway.

He startled when Sam grabbed him by the scruff of his jacket, but he didn’t try to shake him off right away.

“Whoa, tough guy. This the first phase?”

“Actually, yeah,” Sam said. “The willing part makes a difference, but it doesn’t hurt for the anchor to show a little possession.” He leaned in further. “So keep your mouth shut and do as I say from here on.”

Dean wasn’t sure what it was called when dread and excitement got together and arm wrestled, but he knew what it felt like. It was sort of messed up, but he didn’t mind.

Their eyes were fully used to the dark, so it wasn’t much of a chore to have Sam push him forward between trees and along half-hidden deer trails for nearly a mile.

Dean saw the barest hints of the wide swath of individual flickering lights before they came out of the trees into a wide, flat area with stony soil and sparse vegetation.

Torn out of the thin, bare soil was a twelve-sided circle, the dodecagon, roughly thirty feet across with a shaded candle at each of the twelve points. There were two candles at each of the cardinal points, along with small divots gouged into the ground with salt, feathers and cups of water inside. It represented all the elements. At the very center was a small pile of stones with another shaded candle wedged inside. Just outside the main shape was a standard square, and beyond that a standard circle. Layers, meant as a maze or for extra fortification, Dean figured. He could guess the center of the circle was the thirteenth Esbat, the extra full moon in the cycle.

He was relieved that there was no stake at the center.

Sam let go of him and walked to the edge, his back turned.

“What now?” Dean said.

No response.

Sam looked to be gathering himself for something, so Dean waited a few beats before he tried again.

“How the hell does this go, exactly, Sam?” he said.

“Strip,” Sam said. “Everything.”

Dean came close enough to stand alongside Sam and stare at how precise it all was. It would have taken some kind of concentration to get the twelve sides just so. Some kind of serious full-on geekery with a side of obsession.

“Everything, Dean.”

Dean shrugged. The air was even colder than it had been by the car, but the cold was going to be less of a concern than getting his throat cut. He could deal. He stripped his shirts off and noticed the lack of breeze against his skin even as the cold seemed to press in close. He left everything in a pile outside the edges of the square, the clothing reduced to nothing but empty armor.

He glanced at Sam. “So, how are we gonna get the wings out?”

No answer.

“You gonna piss me off to do it?” Dean said. “That works, right? You’re doin’ it right now anyway.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dean,” Sam said.

The flatness of Sam’s tone, the uninflected way he said his name – Dean wasn’t used to those things.

He wasn’t used to standing around naked in fields getting ready to be sacrificed, either, but hey. It was all relative.

Sam bent and picked something up, and a moment later, Dean saw the glint of candlelight slide off the edge of a blade. It wasn’t a blade Dean recognized; long and thin with a faint curve at the point, heavy-handled.

Dean stepped into the circle, then the square, then into the twelve-sided shape in succession, recognizing the significance of doing so. He stood at the center, eyes on the glowing paper cup protecting the top quarter of the candle.

It wasn’t hard to place all his trust in Sam, but it was hard to leave everything up to him. He was sorry for it but still didn’t see another way.

When Sam began speaking, Dean knew immediately that it wasn’t directed at him even though he couldn’t quite catch the words. He glanced over his shoulder to find Sam beginning to discard his own clothing a piece at a time as he began to circle the very outside of the setup. He recognized the cadence of an incantation, then picked up what sounded like a standard calling of the quarters once Sam had completed the circle once. The cold began to truly settle in, and he began to shiver as he watched Sam pace naked with the blade held down against one leg.

I cast the circle-hedge between the worlds. I call

Sam was nearly whispering, but Dean picked that up clearly enough as Sam passed to his left, the clear air carrying it straight to him.

Earth my body; water my blood; air my breath; fire my spirit. I invoke

A moment later he recognized pyrkagia, aenai, all the old language terms for the elements. The words seemed to be spiraling around him rather than circling. The cold bit harder above but his feet were warm in the stones and coarse dirt. The air felt thinner, and he tried to even out his breathing as he began to feel lightheaded. The candles flickered as one then stilled, too precise for coincidence, and when he tried to turn his head to look at Sam again, he couldn’t move.

The earth, the air, the fire, the water; return, return, return.

The repetition got into his head until he was chanting it along with Sam, until the cold vanished, until the flames around him seemed to echo along each other and make a pattern that joined the points, crossing and crisscrossing in his sight.

He was on his knees in the center without remembering how he got there when Sam started calling him.

The wind was beginning to pick up. It had to be nearly midnight.

Sam was lit up, glowing in the candlelight, drawing it all right to him. He was the light, was the blade he was holding, and Dean couldn’t look away.

“Ask me in, Dean,” Sam said.

Even had he wanted to, Dean was not capable of saying no.

Dean held a hand out, and Sam crossed the circle, the square, and finally stepped into the dodecagon.

Sam was elemental enough to have warded himself out.

He came straight to Dean, hand warm between Dean’s shoulderblades, fingers gentle as they drew together and downward. As if unzipped, the wings spilled out, the rough whisper-slide of feathers failing to mask Dean’s startled gasp for air.

Sam straddled him from behind, settling between the wings, knees pressed into the outsides of Dean’s thighs. He had one hand on Dean’s throat, too tight, possessive, and it didn’t so much as occur to Dean to try and change it, to escape. The stars whirled above, cold air misting with breath coming too quick, the ground warm and rough beneath his knees.

He thought maybe to say Sam’s name, but it was too sacred a thing to say inside the circle, more than he should give or take. Sam was not for anyone else to know.

Shivers and flickers of light caught at the edges of his vision. Sam was a warm, aroused weight against his back; let the stars whirl, let Sam cut his air off, he didn’t mind. He was as safe as he ever got, in a circle made of Sam.

The blade rested close to their right, still catching the light when Sam pressed his free hand low and flat below Dean’s navel, fingers spread. Dean let his head tip back to rest on Sam’s shoulder, invitation and surrender, resting his hands flat against Sam’s thighs, palms pressing in.

He wasn’t expecting it, but he didn’t startle when Sam slid the hand down further and stroked him to hardness, fingers cool but not unwelcome and still Sam no matter what. That was still new, the part of it where Sam was a slide of skin on skin, taste and more than a passing touch, enough so that he couldn’t concentrate past it and maybe never would again. Sam had always been everything.

Sam shook against his back, skin pressed to feathers, murmuring something to him that he couldn’t make out, something low and worried and full of apology. Sam was long fingers and gentle, teasing relentless strokes until Dean wanted to arch into it, knowing he couldn’t and too mindless to care.

He was aware of the sound of wind building around them but didn’t feel it , felt nothing but long minutes of Sam bringing him to the brink and then holding him there until he dug his fingers into the muscles of Sam’s thighs, low moans forming in the back of his throat but inaudible over the gathering wind.

Sam tightened his grip finally and Dean fell into it, shuddered into a release that went beyond the physical as he relaxed into Sam and let it all go.

He was too far away, too submerged in his own euphoria to flinch when he felt the blade press against his throat.

The blade stung in an icy line along his skin, parting it quickly and easily.

He knew immediately that it wasn’t deep enough, that his throat hadn’t been opened. A shallow cut wept a thin, warm trickle of his blood along one collarbone, startling against the chill of his skin, something he’d stopped feeling long minutes earlier. It helped him sharpen his focus again, swept part of the euphoria away.

The air above the easternmost point of the square began to coalesce with light, knotting to a faint and phosphorous center, distant-galaxy ephemeral in Dean’s vision. The wind picked up as it grew, and Dean knew immediately that it wasn’t Sam’s doing; the nearest trees began to bend under the force and the wind stayed outside the outermost circle, leaving the air around them heavy and calm. Grass and topsoil were torn loose as the wind began to scour the ground, leaving the last circle to stand out in glaring relief.

The light lengthened and twisted in a pale borealis of watery yellows, still not bright enough to blind but flashing an intensity only minimally seen with eyes alone, gossamer and nebulous, pulling taffy-like out of the air, leaking from the edges of each free-floating molecule.

Frozen, he watched Sam slash his own arm with the blade.

The blood caught the remaining light and reflected it, absurdly red and sharp-dark-bright. The air pressed against his skin from one side only, from the direction of the glow, trying to move him but failing.

The candles and the fire at the center of the circle went out as if a switch had been flipped.

The air went out of his lungs, down to the last reserve, and it felt as if he’d passed out except that he could still see.

He dreamt of flames instead of feathers on his back, more power than heat, wind whipping at him until he began to lose his shape, something he hadn’t needed anyway; he was fluid and endless, free to consume anything he chose in order to keep lighting the world. He was miles of embers slumbering beneath the earth, finally free, greedily feeding off the air. The circle, the square, the intricacies of the dodecagon, all erupted in flames, the lines stark and perfect, the light imprinted right into the earth. He sealed the world, cauterized the wound that the aenai guardian was trapped in. Still a scar left behind, always a scar, but fire cleansed things, left room for the new.

Embers scattered to the sky as his own flames were banked, dimming but still free.

He opened his eyes from the long waking dream, thinking he smelled smoke but unable to pinpoint it.

He was still kneeling on the ground, naked, the dark and cold offset by the warmth of the dirt and the wrap of wings. He felt like the air around him was no longer resting against him like it should have been, something he’d never had cause to think about; it was always there, always equal. It felt like everything was expanding away from him, the surrounding world blown outward just far enough to make him feel like he needed to grasp for it.

The candles and the fire were long cold in the steady wind.

He glanced around and couldn’t see Sam.

He stood and headed for the edge of the dodecagon, but paused at the scorched edge. He felt the barrier it represented, and knew he was caught until someone or something broke it. Whatever they’d done, they’d made themselves part of it…if they hadn’t been part of it to begin with. The square and then the circle beyond were scorched into the ground as well. It might have been shadows or fatigue, but further than that and the ground seemed scoured, lower by nearly an inch, all vegetation gone. Tree branches had been flung far and wide but had never crossed or damaged the lines.

The scouring began at the eastern side of the setup and spiraled outward, the hallmark of something spinning out of control. The opposite edge ended at Sam.

Sam was standing dozens of yards away, still naked, his back to Dean.

“Sam?”

No response. His voice felt as hoarse as it sounded, a rasp of air in his throat, but he knew it carried even in the wind. There was nothing else to hear out there.

He didn’t continue to try and leave the symbols burned into the ground. He wondered if it was what demons felt inside devil’s traps.

Sam!

Sam turned slowly in the wind as if unwilling to turn his attention completely away from something, hair pulled over his eyes, making him seem like a pale and faceless creature staring across an ever growing space.

Dean took the risk of stretching his wings out, the motion feeling loose and easy like running on muscles that had been warmed up just long enough to be at the peak of their usefulness. He still didn’t feel the wind inside the symbols, but outside it was still a force that would throw him down at the very least.

Sam came to him, arms folding until he could cross arms across chest and grip his own shoulders. He broke the outer circle with one foot, stepping up and over damaged ground to get to it, scuffing an entry with one heel. Likewise with the square, until he could face Dean over the outermost rim of the dodecagon.

They stared at each other for a moment, and Dean was afraid Sam would run, would give in to the compulsion that was so plain in his face, in the way he was standing, even in the dark.

“Sam,” Dean said again. He didn’t mean to make it sound like a plea.

Sam was staring at the wings and looking lost. Then finally, finally, he ruined the edge and let Dean out.

-|-

Back in jeans and boots but not a shirt because of the wings, Dean paced near the driver’s side of the car.

Sam would not get in.

It had been a struggle to get him back into his clothes, and pointless, because Sam had thrown them off again somewhere in the woods. Sam responded to Dean’s voice and to the motion of wings, but otherwise he was hard to corral, and it had been hard to make it back to the car.

It was windy enough to make Dean certain that it was Sam doing it.

Dean rubbed absently at the shallow slice on his own throat again, reacting to the itch before he could think better of it. It had stopped bleeding within minutes of being opened, but the blood that had made it down across his skin had dried and itched until he rubbed it away a slow inch at a time.

Dawn was a long way off, and he didn’t want to spend a cold night out there circling the car and trying to cajole Sam. Especially when he wanted to let him go, just let him run, and follow. No trajectory, no tomorrow, just running with the wind, maybe the chance to burn things as he went…

He shook his head. He wasn’t completely sure what the hell had happened to them out there or what he had really seen, but he knew he wasn’t completely back from it…and Sam had it worse.

Despite thinking otherwise, he knew he would stand out there all night, and a thousand nights after that, before he’d let Sam disappear into whatever had him.

It was first light before Sam would get into the car, and then only into the back seat. Dean got in with him, knowing he couldn’t drive with the wings out, knowing Sam wasn’t capable, yet. He climbed in and locked the doors, and wrapped wings and arms around Sam.

They slept that way for a long while, Sam gripping feathers and breathing against Dean’s skin, anchoring each other.

-|-

Mid morning brought a saner Sam, and a pissed off Dean.

“The square,” Dean said. “Watchtowers and guardians need a square so they can sit on the corners. And that’s how it got trapped.”

Sam nodded shortly, face resolute and grim.

He stood by the front of the Impala, leaning on it, disheveled, more grounded and finally clothed in extras from the trunk.

“You idiot,” Dean said, wings cocked out and up like weapons at the ready, voice dropping into a snarl.

Sam’s face didn’t change.

“You were fucking around with something you didn’t understand!” Dean shouted, coming close enough to get into Sam‘s face. “How much did you actually pick up from Keith, and how much did you fucking make up? Goddamnit, Sam, we’re – “

“You were willing to die for it,” Sam said. The tone was flat and chill.

Dean stared at him, eyes wide with rage. “I knew I’d – ”

“You didn’t,” Sam said, straightening. “You didn’t. Don’t act like it was no big deal. You were willing to die over this, so don’t fuckin’ tell me where we are.” He jabbed a finger at Dean’s chest. “It was okay with you if I cut your throat open in some field, because you thought it might save the world. So fuck your martyr bullshit, Dean.”

“Fuck yours,” Dean said. “You dumbass, you combined sex magick with blood magick and basically offered yourself as bait to a guardian to avoid sacrificing me. You offered me to a goddamn fire elemental. You don’t even realize what you’ve done.

They were inches apart and shouting.

The air felt sharp, hard, pressing them in toward each other.

“I do,” Sam said, soft and deadly, eyes boring into Dean’s. “I get it. And I’d do it again.”

He reached forward and grabbed Dean by the back of his neck, pulling him in, and Dean was too surprised to do more than stumble into hands that knew him well enough to tuck the wings back into hiding with no more than a glide of palms along shoulderblades.

Dean stood, tense and off balance against Sam’s chest, hands gripping biceps like he meant to shove himself away.

He couldn’t do it.

-|-

“So how was it?” Bobby said when they wandered in later that evening looking worse for wear.

He was obviously trying to hide a well deserved reserve of worry. Neither Winchester bought the façade.

Dean shrugged. “It was windy.” He pointed at Sam. “Ask the Last Airbender, over there. How was it, Aang?”

Sam shrugged. “It was windy.”

-|-

Déjà vu and another evening of waiting on Bobby’s back steps; it was Sam out there again, and Dean only approached after he’d had the chance to absorb the details.

He’d figured out that they’d been in Pennsylvania. Somewhere off route 61, out past Centralia, where someone had set a fire in an abandoned mine accidentally or not so accidentally back in 1962. An exposed vein of coal had caught fire, and had continued to burn underground and uninterrupted ever since.

There was nothing but fire for miles underground, sleeping uneasily right underneath the secluded spot where Sam had drawn his elaborate set of symbols, waiting for the right moment. A fire elemental would have been in seventh heaven, there, all-powerful; Sam had known and had chosen it for a reason. The timely interruption by fire, having the upper hand….

There had really been no other way to beat the guardian and cast it back out. Overwhelming it required another element, or a sacrifice so great, that --

Dean shook his head and stared at Sam’s back. He understood, and might have done the same thing, with the positions reversed.

He wished he could say he would have been as brave.

He wished he could remember which parts were real, and which were fever dream.

Instead, he shoved his hand into Sam’s hair without waiting for acknowledgement or considering Sam’s mood; they were one, moreso than ever, and he would take whatever came with that.

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12/31/08

Supernatural:Silver and salt       Gekizetsu.net