The afternoon that forever changes everything
The year Dean turns seventeen the government finally collapses, a militant splinter group breaks away from the Mother’s Union, causing his mother to descend into an extended bout of depression, and Sam moves another class ahead of him into the specialized Science and Technology College attached to the school.
Geneticore officially takes over state duties, which is pretty much just a formality as an independent government hasn’t existed for years. But the public announcement makes it official in a way that people could pretend it wasn’t before and there’s a lot of emotional symbolism in lowering the old national flag outside of administrative buildings—at least Geneticore isn’t crass enough to raise a new one with their logo splashed across it—so demonstrations and then later riots spark up in cities across the country.
Civil unrest is quickly quashed. A national state of emergency comes into force, any semblance left of an independent media is completely dismantled and public assembly is rigorously regulated.
These are all things that don’t really affect Dean. They are peripheral to his own narrow life, which still centers on school, the clearing at the biopark, and on Sam.
Elephant Man dies in the summer of that year. Dean finds him. One hot afternoon he sees this fabric covered hump some distance away on the dirt road that skirts the park. He ignores it, follows his usual route to the clearing but turns around as soon as he gets there, the sight of that thing nagging at him.
He doesn’t like being out in the open at the biopark’s borders but hesitates for a long time where he is at the intersection of the path into the wild interior and the exposed road, watching for any movement from the shape in the distance.
Some part of him had subconsciously known as soon as he’d seen it. He could have ignored it, but that’s not what people do. He approaches the body warily and kneels next to it. It’s collapsed on its back over the grassy ridge between the parallel dirt tracks. Dean lifts the dignity-mask and draws in a sharp breath at how distorted the features are. Recovering from his initial shock, he is able to recognize the very human old man beneath the mutation and suddenly he’s overcome with the most intense sadness, feels suffocated by it and has to stand up quickly, dizzy and swaying slightly.
There’s nothing he can do. It was probably a heart attack or a stroke or something. There are no obvious wounds on the body. He actually looks quite peaceful, so Dean gently lowers the mask and walks away.
The body lies there for two days before it disappears.
Dean wants to talk to Sam about the body—he must’ve seen it—but he doesn’t because he’s waiting for Sam to say something first. An impossible thing. So he shoots arrows at things instead.
Brian had given Dean a high-powered, military-grade compound bow for his birthday, another one of his gifts that is a perk of his secret position in the military division of Geneticore. Dean’s mom pretends to her Mother’s Union friends that he works for a small research company. Not that it matters. Most people seem to be employed by Geneticore or one of its subsidiaries.
Dean practices with the bow all the time at the clearing until he is able to hit anything he targets absolutely dead on. He becomes obsessed with the synchronicity of it, the message relayed from his eyes to his brain to the anticipating muscles in his arms; the suspended, breathless moment before the arrow is unleashed; and the sound it makes powering itself through the resistant air and into the object of impact.
He even dreams about it. Sometimes he’s the arrow, everything a blur except for the target, the moment of impact an orgasmic oblivion.
That summer the temperatures hover above thirty degrees Celsius every day. The biopark is a sweaty jungle filled with biting insects. Everything irritates Dean and feels resistant to his presence. But it’s Sam that irritates him the most, his cool disregard for the heat and his indifference to Dean’s presence, the way he buries himself in textbooks, making notes in the margins that make no sense to Dean when he looks over his shoulder, always thinking, always distracted.
It starts out ordinarily enough, the afternoon that forever changes everything. They play a game of chess, shirtless because of the heat, sitting cross-legged on the ground underneath the tree house. Sam looks like an engraving Dean once saw in an old book of a young Native American warrior. He must have shot up at least four inches this past year, has lengthened into long, lean lines and hollowed cheekbones. Dean plays recklessly, irritated by his own incompetence and Sam’s superficial seriousness. It’s not like he doesn’t know Sam is wishing for a smarter opponent.
He loses quickly and catastrophically. Sam gives him an arched-eyebrow look after sweeping his Queen off the board, and Dean just gets up and stalks away to pick up his bow. It’s because Sam is a clone, of course, that he misses the nuances of social interaction. A real person would realize that losing occasionally is a necessary part of maintaining a friendship. Dean starts pounding arrows into a tree across the clearing, creating his own neat bulls-eye bristling with arrows. Thwack, thwack, thwack. One after the other.
He turns to see Sam leaning back against a tree obliviously reading a book. Uncontrolled anger bursts red hot through Dean’s chest. Without thinking, he picks up another arrow, fits it into the bow and releases it. It hits one of a pair of apples lying with some sandwiches just next to Sam, shattering it into pieces and splattering Sam and the book he was reading with pulp. Part of the apple with the arrow lodged in it rolls off to the side and lies there like an accusation.
Sam raises his eyes slowly from the book and takes his time wiping his face with the back of his hand, pretending to be unaware of the enormity of the situation. Dean’s heart feels like it’s going to jackhammer its way out of his chest. A few inches off and the razor-sharp metal tip of the arrow would have ripped into Sam’s flesh.
Sam looks at him steadily before wordlessly getting up and picking up the other apple. He stands up straight against the tree and carefully balances the apple on his head, aiming a challenging look at Dean across the clearing.
Dean raises his bow, the challenge immediately accepted, but allows a couple of hesitant seconds to set in and solidify. His hand shakes and sweat breaks out in hot beads on his face. He lowers the bow and breathes slowly in and out, biting his bottom lip. He feels hot enough to spontaneously ignite. Sam doesn’t move, calm and cool as a marble statue. Dean lifts the bow again, ignores the distraction of Sam’s face –the apple, a single, fixed object in his sightline.
It explodes into pieces as the arrow bursts through it and buries itself into the tree, quivering briefly just above Sam’s head.
Realizing he hasn’t been breathing for at least a minute, Dean gulps for air, light-headed from the lack of oxygen and shakily lowers the bow. Sam persists in reacting inappropriately to the situation. He gives Dean this little smirk and then suddenly takes off at a sprint across the clearing. At the edge, he turns and gives Dean a heated, inviting look over his shoulder before plunging into the forest.
Dean doesn’t think about it, just drops the bow and takes off after him.
He can hear Sam ahead of him crashing through the undergrowth. Branches slap and scratch his bare arms and chest, vines turn into twisted traps for his feet, but he runs on, barely noticing.
They’ve been running together the past few months since Dean joined the long distance running team at school. Clones can’t compete but a lot of them still train with the originals. Dean isn’t really all that interested in the competitive side of it but he likes running alongside Sam, just the two of them, the burning challenge of trying to keep up with him, the mental clearing, the physical exertion, the endorphin high. He feels intimately connected to Sam when they’re running together.
But this is different. He’s chasing Sam. They are separate, competitive entities. He feels predatory. Adrenalin surges through his body, his face burns with overheated blood and sweat pours from his skin.
He hears Sam veering left ahead of him, figures he’s trying to avoid the thorn-covered bushes growing alongside the river snaking through the park. He adjusts his course and speeds up, knows that if he pushes himself hard enough he can cut Sam off. His thigh muscles are on fire.
The trees clear a little and he can see Sam ahead of him. He puts every last reserve of energy he has into a final spurt that brings him up just behind Sam. He probably wouldn’t have caught him, he’s got nothing left to give and he thinks he may have burst a blood vessel in his head, except Sam turns to glance over his shoulder and stumbles over something in his way. Dean launches himself and tackles Sam around the waist. They go down in a tangle of limbs and hit the ground hard, the wind knocked out of them.
Dean holds on when Sam starts fiercely struggling. They’re both slippery with sweat and blood from where they’ve been scratched by branches as they’d madly raced through the forest. They roll over and over, pushing and shoving, their breathing harsh and animalistic. Dean finally manages to pin Sam to the ground, grins down at him and crows in victory. Sam sets his jaw and bucks violently, unseating him, and they roll over again. Sam locks his legs around Dean’s hips and Dean mindlessly thrusts against him. Sam makes this wounded noise and rocks his hips up.
And then they just stop, both of them realizing what’s going on. Their crotches are locked together and they’re both hard. Dean gasps, hides his head in Sam’s neck and blindly writhes against his body. They’re wrapped tightly together and are panting for breath, squirming against each other, desperate for something. Dean turns his head, closes his eyes against the expression on Sam’s face and locks his mouth onto Sam’s. Their mouths are so dry, their faces wet with sweat. Dean shoves his tongue into Sam’s mouth and Sam arches, body taut as a bow for a few seconds before he shudders against Dean, making desperate noises against his lips, fingers clenched around Dean’s biceps. Dean lifts up slightly, pushes his hand into his own shorts and squeezes his dick just once. Awareness disappears into a white flare of release.
When he can see again, he rolls off Sam and lies next to him, drinking in the heavy, muggy air until his breathing and heart-rate slow down. He turns his head. Sam has a stunned expression on his face as he stares up at the sky above them. There’s a wet mark on the front of his grey pants.
“You shouldn’t ignore me all the time. I can’t deal with it anymore.” It comes out sounding both wounded and belligerent. Dean hasn’t even begun to process what just happened, is reeling from shock, but underneath that he’s still feeling really angry, something that’s been there for years now.
Sam turns his head to the side and Dean swallows hard at the openness of his expression. “I never ignore you. I’m always aware of you. Where you are, what you’re doing and everything you say. And I think about you all the time when I’m not with you.”
Dean looks up at the glimpses of blue through the branches of the trees and lets that echo around in his head for a minute.
“Okay,” he says quietly. “Okay, that’s good.”
He doesn’t know what else to say.
The time after the first time
It was inevitable, of course. If Dean thinks back, retraces his way through the past few years: it was always leading them to this. He just couldn’t see it because he was in the middle of it, living it, and therefore blind to its inevitability.
Sex is a revelation for him. He knew it was going to be good. Of course. Jerking off feels good, therefore having sex with someone else will, by deduction, feel even better. It follows. What he isn’t expecting is the closeness of it, the sense of being connected to another person, to Sam.
Sam can’t hide away from him when they’re naked and touching each other. He can’t be guarded when he’s desperately whispering Dean’s name, holding onto him and opening himself up to him. Dean still doesn’t feel as if he’s close enough to Sam, as if he has reached the center of where Sam hides himself, but he’s nearer now, a whole lot nearer.
Sometimes he gets this strange sense, though, that whatever it is lying at the core of Sam’s being, whatever makes up the essence of who he is, it’s not the same as what lies inside himself or anyone else Dean’s ever known. It’s something different. Sam is not like other people. Maybe it’s the same with all the clones. Dean doesn’t know.
It’s tentative and nerve-wracking their first time in the tree house, nothing like the rough and clumsy coupling in the forest.
(As with all things, though, it got easier with practice.)
When Dean arrives at the clearing the day after the desperate chase in the forest, Sam is already in the tree house waiting for him, lying on the air-mattress that Dean always thinks of as belonging to him, as if Sam’s staking a claim of some sort. He’s shirtless in the summer heat, reading. Dean pauses in the doorway after climbing up the rope ladder and nervously bites his lip at the sight of Sam half-clothed and sprawled on the mattress.
“Do you want to read with me?”
The question hangs in the air between them, this weighted, coded thing.
“Yeah, okay,” Dean answers and strips off his t-shirt—no point in being the only one wearing all his clothes—and lies down next to Sam. “It’s been a while since we did that.” He thinks about it and realizes it’s been almost two years since they’d stopped reading together. “It’s not something really boring like quantum mechanics or something, though, is it?”
(At the time he’d been pretending to be casually oblivious to the charged, claustrophobic tension in the tree house, pretending he didn’t know what it looked like when Sam orgasmed. Years later, when they find each other again and they’re lying together in the dark one night talking about how it had all started, Dean tells Sam how nervous he’d been that day and Sam laughs and says, “You think I didn’t know, Dean?”)
Sam smiles. “No, Dean, it isn’t quantum mechanics.” His voice sounds breathless. Dean glances quickly at him and realizes they haven’t met each other’s eyes since he arrived.
Sam looks down quickly and starts to read, and Dean realizes after a couple of sentences that it’s the same story they had been reading just before the supervisor got killed at the institution. Sam’s reading from the exact point where they stopped before.
The hero is still in bed with the blue-skinned alien woman getting his dick sucked. It sounds kind of silly now, but the remembered excitement and desire from that day when they were so much younger hangs heavily over Dean. He can hear the amused embarrassment in Sam’s voice as he reads. Dean studiously avoids looking directly at Sam, lying on his back and staring at his own legs and feet and at Sam’s legs and feet next to his. Sam’s feet are long and tanned and slim. Dean’s look pale and square in comparison. Sam’s calf muscles are longer than his, his legs slightly hairier.
The hero finally manages to get out of bed to rejoin the rebel resistance. There’s some sort of aircraft skirmish going on between them and the patrician pilots of the ruling minority. Dean isn’t really listening. He’s decided that sci-fi is pretty far removed from reality and briefly wonders what happened to the Literature teacher who got arrested at school and what he would’ve gotten out of reading a book like this.
Mostly Dean’s just listening to the sound of Sam’s voice, rather than the words, watching the rise and fall of his chest out of the corner of his eye. They are breathing in time with each other. Only an inch of space separates them, not even that, because all the hair on Dean’s body feels statically charged, rising up and reaching out to lightly touch Sam’s skin.
Sam reaches down to briefly scratch his thigh and Dean just places his hand over Sam’s and holds it there.
Sam’s voice dies away. Dean squeezes his hand and Sam squeezes back. Their fingers tangle together. Both of them are looking down at their joined hands. It’s easier that way, not to meet each other’s eyes, to hold on tight without looking.
Eventually, Dean lets go and trails his hand across Sam’s stomach, from the ridge of one sharp hipbone across the flat plane of his belly, a finger catching in his bellybutton, across to the corresponding ridge of Sam’s other hipbone. Fascinated, he watches the way Sam’s stomach muscles tighten and flutter under his touch. Even more fascinating is the way the front of Sam’s grey pants starts to tent. He lowers his hand and strokes over the growing bulge under the thin fabric. Sam makes a choked off sound and his hips jerk. So Dean does it again.
Sam is breathing hard. Dean glances up quickly, takes in his parted lips and the red flags on his cheekbones that make him look like he’s got a fever, looking down again before Sam can meet his eyes. He takes a deep breath and inches his fingers under Sam’s waistband. Sam sucks his stomach in and holds his breath, his body tense. Dean strokes his thigh reassuringly and lifts himself up onto his elbow so he can lean over Sam’s body. He pushes his hand into Sam’s underwear and wraps his hand around his dick, surprised, impressed, really turned on—in that order—by how big he is, warm and hard, silky skin, sticky wetness at the end.
The high, nervous note in Sam’s voice makes Dean stop immediately. He looks up. Sam’s eyes are wide, his pupils are blown and his bottom lip is chewed red.
Dean keeps his hand where it is and moves up the mattress. “Hey,” he says quietly, surprised by how calm he suddenly feels. “It’s okay.” He leans forward and presses his mouth to Sam’s, closes his hand tighter around Sam’s dick and starts gently jerking him off. Sam thrusts into his grip, opens his mouth to let Dean’s tongue in, making soft moaning sounds into his mouth. Their tongues tangle together and Dean shifts closer, drapes his leg over Sam’s and rubs himself against Sam’s hip.
Sam stiffens and arches his body. He starts repeating Dean’s name, choked-off, desperate repetitions. “Dean, Dean, Dean.” He’s clenching Dean’s arm. Clench and release, clench and release - a rhythm like a pulse. Dean shifts back a little so he can see Sam’s face. He grips tighter and speeds up. Sam grits his teeth, his eyes rolling back, body lifting off the mattress, stiff and on a knife-edge, before dropping off it and coming wet and so hot in Dean’s hand, his expression completely unguarded, lost in the moment. Dean is open-mouthed with wonder at it. Sam gives a final shudder and reaches down to stop the movement of Dean’s hand.
Letting go, Dean whispers, “Sorry,” even though there’s no need for him whisper. Sam’s eyelids are heavy and at half-mast as he stares back at Dean. He raises his hand, seems to forget what he was going to do to with it and clumsily pats the side of Dean’s head. His arm flops back behind him, boneless, his armpit exposed. Dean feels dizzy with the smell of Sam’s sweat and release. He reaches into his shorts with his wet hand, but, before he can do more than that, Sam grips his forearm. “Wait,” he says softly.
“Okay.” Dean pulls his hand out and lets it fall on the mattress between them, like it doesn’t belong to him. He’s both intensely aware of his own body and totally removed from it, as if he’s in an immersive virtual reality environment. The dusky orange light around them and the silence makes the world new and unreal. Sam’s face, so familiar, is so changed.
Sam sits up and pushes against Dean’s shoulder until he’s lying flat on his back. He runs his eyes down Dean’s body and Dean can feel it, heated and tangible against his skin. It makes him feel shy, but, because it doesn’t feel real, he’s able to lift his hips to push down his shorts so he’s naked and exposed to Sam’s gaze. Sam gives him another heavy-lidded look, shifts and moves lower. Dean parts his legs and Sam settles between them.
Sam’s mouth is a hot, moist cave that Dean disappears into, losing himself. With his eyes closed, he can only feel, physical sensation washing away the real world. Sam’s lips, his tongue, the soft suction, the light scrape of teeth. A warm breeze enters through the tree house doorway and whispers across Dean’s skin, bringing him partly back to himself, and he reaches down to card his fingers through Sam’s hair, cradles his head, feeling the heat of his scalp and the wetness of his sweat-soaked hair. Sam’s teeth lightly graze his sensitive flesh again and he shudders. His orgasm begins as a warm wave cresting inside him. He clutches at the back of Sam’s head until he sits up and takes Dean in his hand, stroking him through the drowning pleasure.
When Dean opens his eyes, Sam is still sitting between his legs, looking at him as if he has never seen him before. Dean reaches out, takes Sam’s hand and pulls him down next to him. He wraps his arms around Sam and holds him close.
Sam lets himself be held and a promise forms in Dean’s mind. He is never going to allow anything to take this away from him.
I Think Therefore I Am 3/7
The afternoon that forever changes everything