It goes ding when there's stuff (cleflink) wrote,
It goes ding when there's stuff
cleflink

17 A.W. (After Winchester) 3/3

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The next time he saw Dean, it was two full clicks later and the Impala was deep inside the ice rings of Tegrin. Massive frozen spires drifted aimlessly through the silence, looming in on all sides and slowing the Impala's progress to barely a crawl. Sam could hear the steady, ponderous creak of the ice even through the ship's paneling. Every now and then a jumble of spires would collide together with a noise like thunder and fire, sending shards as long as the Impala plummeting through the void, tearing chunks off other spires as they fell before slowing, shifting, catching themselves and rejoining the drifting circle to become the heart of a new spire.

"How are we going to find anything in here?" Sam demanded. "We'll never get a decent reading."

"He is correct," Castiel said, from where he was watching the navigation console. "The ice is affecting the equipment." A quick glance at the holofeed. "And Sam's map is of no further use now that we cannot refine it further."

Dean's hands, Sam noticed, were white-knuckled on the controls. "Yeah," he said. "I know."

"Dean?" That was Bobby, a weight to his voice that was clearly meant for Dean alone.

And one that Dean clearly understood.

"Fuck," he said succinctly, rubbing at the back of his neck. "You'd better take over for me, Bobby. Keep 'em off our tail for as long as you can. "

Bobby nodded, shifting behind the controls as Dean stood. "Where do you want me to let you out?"

"Anywhere around here's good," Dean said to Bobby. He clapped him on the shoulder and stepped back. "Give Sam and me five minutes to get ready."

"Got it," Bobby said and Dean turned to Castiel.

"Cas, Bobby's in charge while I'm gone. Don't let it go to his head. And for fuck's sake, don't let him break my ship."

"Understood."

"Thanks." Dean headed for the door, obviously expecting Sam to follow. Sam spared a wistful thought for a day when he could do the leading, then squared his shoulders and jogged after Dean.

Sam caught up to him just outside the door to the control deck. "Where are we going?" he asked, falling into step.

"The Deamhanan can't be far behind us but even with the ring they won't be able to get a good reading either. Which means they'll try and get us to lead them to the Titan. Bobby and Cas'll keep them occupied while we sneak in."

"And we're going to do that how?"

Dean grinned at him and pressed his palm against one of the few security pads that Sam's clearance hadn't unlocked. "Fly. How else?"

The door opened onto a room that was a strange mix of auto shop and hangar bay. Sam figured he should have known that Dean would be mechanically inclined.

"You got anything in here that isn't in pieces?" Sam asked, looking around at the stripped-down one seaters, escape pods and space racers scattered in various stages of junk all around the room.

"Should make you float there, bitch." Dean stepped forward and pulled a tarp off a long shape near the bay doors. "We're taking this one."

Sam stared. "What is that?"

Dean rolled his eyes. "What's it look like, genius?"

"A motorcycle," said Sam, because it did. Not that he'd ever seen one outside of books, of course. "Which seems really frigging useless in outer space, if you ask me."

"You know," said Dean, almost mildly. "Just once, it'd be nice if you had some faith in me." He slung a leg over the seat and gave Sam an imperious don't-fuck-with-me look. "Get the hell on."

Sam hesitated. "Can't Castiel just port us there?" he asked, disappointed but not really surprised when Dean shook his head.

"Titan's shielded against any kind of molecular shifting," he explained. "And Castiel's aim isn't always that great. Now stop being a pussy and get on the damn bike."

Gingerly, Sam settled himself behind Dean, hands resting awkwardly on Dean's hips. "Aren't we going to put on space suits?"

"Don't need 'em," Dean said, blithely ignoring the press of Sam all along his back. A kick of his leg spurred the engine to life and Dean flicked on his communicator. "Ready when you are, Bobby."

"Got it," Bobby's voice crackled out and Dean threw a grin over his shoulder.

"Better hold on. And don't let those gargantuan limbs of yours dangle out of the air field."

"The-" Sam started, but the sudden whoosh of a containment shield arching in a sphere around them answered the question for him.

The hangar doors creaked open and Dean gunned the engine. They roared down the ramp and jolted out into open space, falling for a few heart stopping seconds before the bike's jets caught them.

Dean wasted no time weaving into the mess of ice clusters, moving away from the ship as quickly as possible. Sam twisted round to see the Impala continuing on its careful way without them, hangar door already closed.

Their little bike was light and fast and Dean seemed to know exactly where he was going. They zipped through the ice field at a dizzying speed and Sam could only imagine how often Dean'd raced on bikes like these just for the thrill, his hands steady on the controls and fire tripping through his veins.

They drove for long enough that Sam's ass started protesting the hardness of the seat under them. He'd long since given up trying to track their progress, unable to keep his bearings amid the constantly shifting ice.

"I hope you know what you're doing!" he yelled to Dean over the roar of icy wind in his ears. Dean let go of the handlebar long enough to give Sam a comforting, albeit condescending, pat on the arm. Trust me.

Sam figured he'd been doing that since he'd left Stan-4-D with him.

Dean swerved round a chunk of ice and the Titan's hull loomed suddenly in front of them, so close that Sam could hardly believe he hadn't seen it sooner. It drifted silent and dark amid the clustered ice crystals, little more than a shadow in a glittering sea.

The Titan was easily three times the size of the Impala, its hull spherical and seamless. Dean edged them carefully closer, head twisting as he looked for an entrance. Catching a glimpse of a docking bay above them, Sam tapped Dean's shoulder and gestured towards it. He was rewarded with a nod from Dean and a boost in the bike's bottom thrusters to bring them higher.

They drove into the airlock and Sam was relieved to see that the Titan's support systems were still functioning even after nearly two decades of neglect. Dean dropped the bike's shield once the airlock's oxygen levels had leveled out, then elbowed Sam until he unfolded himself and got up.

"Come on," he said, once they were both upright and the bike was safely stowed in one of the hangars. "Let's go do this thing."

There was a digital lock set into the inner door but Dean barely glanced at it.

"It won't work. Your dad disabled them all." He gestured at the security pad on the wall next to the door. "After you."

"Why would dad be worried about the Deamhanan getting into the Titan?" asked Sam. The pad tingled when he pressed his hand against it, warming against his skin for a moment before something clicked and the door slid open. They stepped through, Dean in the lead. "Won't they just blow it up?"

Dean shrugged. "If they have to, yeah. But it'd make a lot more sense for them to figure out how to defend themselves against your dad's weapon. That way they'll be prepared if some other species figures it out a couple dozen years down the road."

They walked down the corridor in semi-darkness, the Titan's emergency lights just bright enough to throw half of Dean's face in sharp relief and hide the rest in shadows. The corridors were curved to match the shape of the hull, Sam noticed, and meticulously laid out. The whole ship had a precise, regimented feel to it that made Sam think, bizarrely, of Star Trek.

"This is a military vessel," he realized, sudden and sure. Dean's careful not-surprise told him the rest of the story. "A battleship?"

"Well, where else would you keep a weapon of mass destruction?" Dean asked, and Sam had to concede the point. They passed a corridor lined with rows of identical doorways and Dean made a negligent gesture towards it. "The Titan was built to house two full regiments - not that it ever got staffed."

Sam thought about that. "Why did my dad choose to hide the Titan instead of fighting? Before the Deamhanan destroyed the Earth, I mean."

"No time." Dean took a right, their footfalls echoing in the musty quiet. "The Deamhanan struck sooner and harder than anyone expected. And there wasn't enough of a military presence left After Earth to launch any kind of resistance. So your dad did the only thing he could do - stashed the Titan somewhere safe and made damn sure that there wasn't any way for the Deamhanan to find it."

"But you knew how to find it." Sam glanced at Dean, struck suddenly by the absolute ease with which he was navigating the labyrinthine halls. "And you know your way through the ship."

"Maybe I'm just getting us lost," Dean suggested, pausing while Sam let them through another door. The corridor they entered was wider than the one they'd just left, comm stations placed at regular intervals on either side. "It wouldn't be the first time."

"Dean." Sam stopped walking, waiting until Dean stopped, sighed and turned to face him. "How do you know so much about the Titan when no one's seen it for seventeen years? And none of your evasive bullshit."

"You never give up, do you?" Dean asked, though it was more to himself than to Sam. He sighed again, jaw squaring as he looked Sam straight in the eyes. "I know because I've been here before. Now will you move your ass before the Deamhanan decide to blow us to Hell after all?"

"You..." Sam stared and Dean met his shock unflinchingly. "Seriously?"

Dean's hand gripped him by the elbow and tugged insistently. "I know walking and talking at the same time is hard for you, Sam, but can you please give it the old college try? We're kind of on a deadline here."

Sam let Dean propel them both into motion again, mind swirling.

"Your dad brought me," Dean admitted before Sam could ask, which was very nearly as shocking as the words themselves. "That's why I know my way around. Hand."

"But," Sam pressed his palm against the pad on autopilot, only absently noting that the doors were getting more frequent. "Why would he do that?"

Dean shrugged, talking to the hallway rather than Sam. "Insurance? Wouldn't do the human race much good if he got himself killed fighting the good fight and no one knew what to do with his ace in the hole once they found it."

"Maybe." Sam frowned. "Couldn't you have started the fight when he brought you here? Brought the weapon back and led your revolution?"

"No, we couldn't." Dean took a deep breath, eyes closing as he said, "Because I was nine and the Earth had just blown up. He brought me with him when he escaped."

"What? " Sam gaped at him, incredulous. "But- I thought he knew you through Ellen! You said you weren't adopted until After Earth!"

"I wasn't."

"Then how? Why?"

"Here we are," Dean said suddenly, stopping in front of a door with an insignia etched into it that Sam didn't recognize. He tilted a glance at Sam without making eye contact. "Care to do the honours?"

Sam huffed out an irritated breath. "Dammit Dean, would you stop-"

"Sam." Dean's face was implacable. "We are trying to save the universe. Now is not the time for a click flick moment. Open the damn door."

An angry retort rose immediately on Sam's tongue but he forced it back down. As much as he hated to admit it, Dean was right.

"Don't think I'm going to forget about this," he warned Dean, and pressed his hand against the panel.

The door opened to a dark room, the emergency lights doing little to illuminate what seemed like an incredibly large space. Dean led the way in, hand on his pistol for no reason Sam could determine, and Sam followed behind, squinting through the dim. There was a control console set into the floor several feet in front of them, large enough to be the main flight system except for the fact that there were deep in the heart of the Titan.

Sam stepped further into the room, aware of Dean's footfalls veering off from him at an oblique angle. Deciding that it was safe enough to split up for the time being, he walked curiously up to the console.

It was definitely a major command centre, Sam noticed right away, although with no power running through the systems it was difficult to tell what type. As he leaned in closer, squinting in the dim, a glint of light off metal caught his eye. He turned and found a blaster lying on top of the console, its shape long, narrow and, somehow, vaguely familiar. He picked it up, registering the surprisingly substantial heft to it, and turned around. "Dean?"

"Whatcha got there, Sam?" Dean's voice called from somewhere in the dark.

"It's a gun," Sam said dumbly, feeling strangely disappointed. "It's just a gun."

"Actually-"

Something clunked loudly in the darkness and the lights flickered on to reveal a room a good three stories high and long enough to park a mid-sized cargo ship in it. Every inch of every wall was lined with rows and rows of gleaming blasters, all identical to the one in Sam's hands. Dean stepped forward from where he'd triggered the power and grinned at him, fiercely exultant. "It's a whole lot of guns."

Sam gaped and Dean laughed.

"Oh come on, Sammy. You really think you'd need a battleship this size for one measly cannon or something? We're trying to start a revolution, not celebrate the Fourth of July."

"You are far too amused by out-of-date metaphors." Now that the lights were on, Sam looked again at the weapon in his hands, taking in the details. "This looks like your emergency blaster," he realized suddenly, with a startled glance at Dean.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah." Dean's hand went to the small of his back and pulled out the blaster in question, hefting it idly. "That's cause this one's the prototype. Luckily the real ones work better."

"The..." Sam laughed a little, disbelievingly. "Do you ever run out of secrets?"

The expression on Dean's face was unexpectedly sober as he shrugged. "Guess not."

"So," Sam said, after a brief, awkward silence. "Now what?"

"Now we get this baby up and running and try not to get ice-speared to death on the way out." Dean gestured at the still-dark console in the middle of the floor. "You wanna get that thing started for us?"

Sam nodded, then paused as a thought struck him. "Wait. How'd you turn on the lights?"

"Cheated," Dean answered, which wasn't any kind of an answer at all. His eyebrow arched. "You just gonna stand there all day?"

"Maybe," Sam shot back, already moving towards the console. The Titan's filtration systems had obviously kept running while it had been in hiding; the console was spotlessly clean, no layer of dust marring the gleaming chrome. Sam let his hands drift across the surface and watched as the holofeeds and panels came to immediate life under his fingertips.

"Wow," he said, leaning in to take a closer look. "This is a gorgeous piece of technology."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dean shrug. "It was the star of the Earth space fleet."

The words were hardly out of his mouth when one of the panels flared, bright enough to make Sam's eyes water. "Voice activated?" he guessed.

"Looks like," Dean agreed tightly, wariness etched into every limb.

The brightness dimmed and resolved itself into a holographic image, blurry around the edges, of a man with a dark beard and the solid bearing of a soldier. Exactly like Sam remembered him.

"Dean," said the image of Sam's dad. "I am so, so sorry."

The hologram flickered, then vanished altogether, and Sam felt a brief flare of anger at the fact that the man couldn't have bothered to leave a longer message. Then he glanced over at Dean and forgot about it entirely.

Dean looked wrecked, body tense and eyes stormy. He was literally vibrating with emotion, though Sam couldn't tell if it was rage or anguish.

"Dean?" he asked carefully. "You okay?"

Dean gave himself an abrupt shake and plastered on a careless face. "You finished feeling up the computer?" he asked, with patently false cheer and absolutely no attempt at subtlety. "Or were you planning on buying it dinner?"

"Jerk," Sam shot back, giving Dean the out he was asking for. Anything to drive the hurt out of his eyes. "Like you haven't been drooling over the Impala for years."

"Piloting's different." Dean's hand waved at the console. "This stuff is way beyond my level of expertise."

Sam frowned. "I'm sure you could-"

Noise brayed suddenly through the room, ear-splittingly loud in the silence, and Sam jumped. "What's...?"

Dean swore. "Proximity alert. They've found us."

He vaulted over the console and started scanning the data displayed there, the quick, competent dart of his eyes putting the lie to his claim of ineptitude. "Most of the ship's systems are still shut off," he said. "We've got to get the shields up before they blow us out of the sky."

"Here." Sam leaned in and Dean let him, easing back to give Sam access. "I can't get them running from here," Sam said after a moment, fingers flying across the keys. "This terminal's not tied into the defense system."

"Can you figure out which one is?"

"One sec." Sam bit his lip, willing the holofeed to process faster as he dove headfirst into the ship's schematics.

"Running out of time here, Sam..."

"Just about... got it!" Sam looked over at Dean. "The defense system's linked to the main control board."

"Which is where?" Dean asked.

"The bridge."

"Great." Dean paced a line across the floor. "Can you get the shields up if you get access to the main control board?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah."

"Then that's where we're going. Saddle up."

A hollow thud shook the floor and Sam's stomach twisted. "Are they firing on the Titan?"

Dean shook his head, already frowning. "If they were attacking you'd know it. That was one of the airlocks getting blown in. They're on board the ship."

Sam felt himself pale. "What are we going to do?"

"Fight." Dean squared his shoulders. "You get to the bridge and get the shields up. Keep any more of those bastards from getting aboard. The schematics show you how to get there?"

"Yeah, but," Sam watched Dean stride over to the wall and pull down a blaster. "What are you going to do?"

Dean glanced at him over the barrel. "Buy you some time."

"But-"

"I'll get Bobby and Cas to run interference on the outside," Dean added, right over Sam's attempts to argue. "Keep 'em too busy to land another group." Dean switched out his emergency blaster for the new one and reached up for another to replace the one in his thigh holster.

"But you can't open any of the doors!" Sam protested, more concerned than he would have expected by the sight of Dean arming himself. "What if you get trapped?"

Dean's grin was at once manic and determined. "Then I'll have something to put my back against. Now get moving. We haven't got much time."

Sam swallowed hard, then nodded and leaned back over the console to memorize the route before turning. "Shouldn't take long once I get there," he told Dean, who was hoisting another pair of blasters in his hands. He looked like a combat ready Ken doll. "I'll come find you when I'm done."

"Not if I find you first. Hey, Sam?"

Sam turned and nearly got hit in the face with the blaster Dean lobbed at him.

"Hasn't been charged in over fifteen years," Dean warned him. "So you've probably only got a handful of shots. Make 'em count."

"Right." Sam took a deep breath. "Don't you dare get yourself killed."

The arch of Dean's grin made something in Sam's chest flip over. "Likewise. Now move it. We've got work to do."

---

Sam flew down the corridor, blaster held close to his chest and his brain whirring with the memory of the route he was supposed to be taking. The steady thud of his feet echoed back at him as he ran, leaving him hyperconscious of how easy it would be for anyone within hearing distance to track him down. He'd vaguely heard Dean sprint away in the opposite direction and his mind supplied images of Dean pounding through the ship, armed to the teeth and making enough noise to raise the dead. Literally.

Sam hoped like fuck they both survived this.

Most of the Titan's basic operations, including the running lights, had kicked in when Sam had rebooted the system and Sam was glad of the increased visibility as he careened through the corridors, hardly slowing to slap his hand on the security pads as he charged through door after door after door. Nothing got in the way, not the slightest flicker of life crossing his path, but Sam held on ruthlessly to the fear ratcheting up his heartbeat, trusting it to keep him vigilant.

His pulse spiked when he rounded a corner to find the stairs up to the bridge, just where he'd expected them to be, and he fought for calm as he charged up and palmed his way through the door at the top. Now was not the time to lose his head.

The bridge was lit by the same white-tinged lights as the rest of the ship; a glance to the side revealed that the safety shutters had been lowered, blocking the viewports. Sam could still hear the creak of the ice spires drifting around the ship, vast and patient.

The door clicked shut behind him and Sam jerked his attention back to the task at hand. The main control board sprawled across a good third of the room, dead and cold. Sam took a page out of Dean's book and vaulted right into the middle of it, shoving the blaster into his waistband and spreading his hands wide. The sound of the computer engaging itself hummed through the air, sending Sam's ears to ringing.

The panel flared to whirring, blinking life and Sam dove in headfirst, a steady litany of 'defense systems, defense systems' tripping through his brain as he jumped hurriedly from function to function, spiraling ever deeper into the code.

A lifetime later, Sam finally tracked down the program he needed and wasted no time in activating it. He nearly ended up on his knees at the tremor that shook through the ship as the shields engaged.

"At least there's no way Dean'll have missed that," he muttered to himself.

The impulse to go help Dean was nearly overwhelming, but Sam resisted it favour of locking the shields down so tightly that no one without Winchester DNA would be able to deactivate them without a miracle and a whole lot of technological savvy. Hopefully Bobby and Castiel wouldn't mind being locked out until Sam had time to undo it.

The whirr of the computer was loud in his ears as he worked and, at first, Sam didn't notice the extra echo of sound threading through that steady pulse. When he finally recognized the steady tread of boots on the stairs for what it was, he scarcely had time to punch in the final string of numbers, wheel around and bring his blaster up before the metal door dented in like someone had just driven a head-sized fist into it. The screeching of hydraulics filled the air as a second impact sent the door buckling inward, revealing the mismatched collection of black-eyed figures on the other side, Azazel at their head.

Azazel tutted reprovingly. "Sam, Sam, Sam," he sighed, stepping through the twisted remains of the door with a half dozen Deamhanan at his back. "And here I thought you were a smart boy."

"Back off," Sam warned him, blaster rock steady in his hands.

Azazel looked amused. "Now really, Sam, haven't we had about enough of this? Your heroic captain tried that on me once before, remember? It's not going to work any better this time."

Confusion washed over Sam for a split second before he realized; Azazel thought he was carrying Dean's blaster. Which meant he had no idea what sort of weapon the Titan was hiding.

Sam shifted his grip, allowing just a touch of uncertainty to bleed into the set of his shoulders. "Maybe not, but we both know it hurts like a son of a bitch. You wanna see how many shots it takes to have you on the floor?"

"Not really." Azazel's smile was mild enough to border on frightening. "So I hope you don't mind if I take matters into my own hands." A nod of his head propelled his flunkies into motion, their black eyes fixing on Sam with single-minded intensity.

Sam reacted instantly. His blaster retorted sharply, two, three, four times and the front line of Deamhanan collapsed, the blaster holes smoking fire-bright while viscous black smoke leaked out of ears and eyes and mouths. Sam was moving before the other two had a chance to realize what was going on, tuck-rolling out of the way and coming up shooting.

They thudded to the ground nearly in tandem and Sam eased out of his crouch, blaster muzzle aimed once again at Azazel.

Whose eyebrow was arched nearly to his hairline. "Now how," he said, in a voice that made Sam's heart stutter. "Did you do that?"

Sam put his back to the console instinctively, fear jangling belatedly down his spine and turning his limbs to lead. Threatening in a way Sam had never realized any living thing could be, Azazel glided closer, step by careful step.

"That's not the same gun," Azazel noted, absent like it wasn't a surprise. He chuckled and the sound shuddered like ice through Sam's veins. "So that's what's been aboard the Titan all these years. To think, all this trouble for a little pistol." He smiled indulgently. "Hardly worth dying for, is it Sam?"

His hands were shaking, Sam realized. He made an effort towards stilling them, gritting his teeth against the instinctive urge to flee. "This little pistol's enough to kill you, Azazel."

Azazel's smile widened. "Perhaps. But only if you can hit me before I kill you. You'd be better off begging for mercy."

"Deamhanan don't have any mercy."

"Now, Sammy, that's just hurtful. You're a very special kid, you know that? Your daddy was smart to try and hide you, even if it did ruin your life. Too bad he didn't do a very good job of keeping you safe."

Sam squeezed out a scoff. "We've been through all this before, Azazel. Why the hell do you think I'd trust you to-"

Azazel's laughter cut him off. "Well, who do you trust, Sam? Dean? You know he's keeping things from you. Never tells you anything, does he?"

Something must have shown on Sam's face because it made Azazel smile, slow and self-assured. "Poor Sammy. How does it feel, knowing that the only person you trust in the entire universe doesn't trust you enough to tell you the truth?"

"Shut up."

Azazel ignored him, voice dropping conspiratorially. "How long do you think he's going to keep you hanging around now that he's got the Titan? It's not like he needs you anymore."

He never did, Sam thought to himself, surprised to find that the thought was comforting rather than hurtful. But he wanted me around anyway.

"You know what?" he said to Azazel. "I think I'll take my chances with Dean."

And then he fired.

Showing off a speed that couldn't possibly be natural, Azazel shifted smoothly out of the way of the blast and moved, flashing into Sam's space before Sam could blink. Sam backpedalled hurriedly, the memory of how easily Azazel had snapped his wrist pain-sharp in his mind. Azazel's fist glanced off his shoulder as he twisted away and Sam bit back a curse as the ache thrummed through his entire arm. He fired three more shots in rapid succession, trying to keep out of range.

Azazel just smiled that chilling smile again and lunged in, hands raised to strike.

Panting and desperate with the knowledge that he couldn't avoid Azazel for long, Sam changed direction mid-step and drove forward, ducking under Azazel's guard and driving his entire weight into Azazel's gut. Azazel barely faltered but Sam didn't let that stop him, using the same move he'd tried on Dean to twine their legs together, trapping Azazel in place with the blaster's muzzle right against his chest.

Azazel stared at him, something like surprise rounding out his mouth. Sam glared into yellow eyes and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

A heartbeat's worth of shock and then the world was spinning crazily, Sam's breath knocking against the back of his teeth as his back hit the floor and Azazel's foot jammed into his throat with bruising force.

"Oh dear, Sammy," Azazel chided while Sam gagged, spots swimming in front of his eyes. "And I had such high hopes for you. At least you'll make an admirable vessel."

His heel pressed in harder, cutting off Sam's air, and Sam thrashed helplessly, hands scrabbling at Azazel's ankle. His vision started going dark.

And then he heard footsteps.

"Hey," said a very familiar voice, "Zombie breath."

The pressure on Sam's throat eased slightly and Sam rolled his eyes back to see a blood-covered Dean standing in the doorway, shirt in tatters and one arm handing limp at his side. His thigh holster and hands were both empty.

"De-" Sam croaked.

Somehow, Dean managed to smile. "Hey, Sam." And then, to Azazel, "We have got to stop meeting like this."

"Mr. Harvelle," Azazel said calmly, like he didn't have his foot jammed up against Sam's windpipe. "You're just in time to watch me kill poor little Sammy."

Dean's body language didn't change. "Now see," he said. "That's where you're wrong."

"Oh really?" Azazel glanced up and over towards the door, a parody of polite interest on his face. "And why's that?"

"Because you killed my dad, you son of a bitch," Dean growled. "And there's no way in hell I'm letting you get your hands on Sam too."

Dean's hand flashed to the small of his back and Sam grabbed instinctively at Azazel's leg, holding him in place with all the strength he could muster. Azazel cursed, eyes flicking briefly down and giving Dean all the opening he needed.

The shot took Azazel square in the forehead and he staggered, shock and pain scrawled openly across his face. He toppled backwards, liquid smoke painting his face black and Sam rolled hurriedly, bashing his shoulder against the console in his haste to get away from the Deamhan's thrashing limbs. Dean strode forward and matter-of-factly fired another half dozen shots into Azazel's gut, waiting until the last of the smoke had boiled into dust and Azazel's yellow eyes had gone blank and glassy before he drew a long, shuddering breath and let the blaster slip from his fingers to clatter across the floor.

Sam sat up with a grimace of pain and Dean was across the room in an instant. He hauled Sam to his feet and crushed him against his chest in a hug so tight Sam didn't think he could have got out of even if he wanted to.

"God dammit, Sam," Dean said roughly, ignorant of his own wounds as he held Sam tight. "Thought I was gonna lose you again."

Dean pulled back and abruptly dragged Sam down into a kiss, mouth slanting desperate and hungry against Sam's lips and his good arm wrapping around Sam's neck like he never wanted to let go.

Sam let himself get swept away by the urgency in Dean's kiss, allowing the ravenous sweep of Dean's tongue for several long moments before kissing back hard, eating hungrily at Dean's mouth and feeling soft lips turning bruised and swollen under his assault. His own arms wrapped around Dean's waist, keeping him close, fingers skating lightly across Dean's lower back.

Then the heel of his hand brushed across a gash in Dean's side and Dean hissed and yanked himself away, eyes wide and colour high on his cheeks.

They stood there for a long moment, chests heaving and faces scarce inches apart. There was hunger in Dean's eyes, and fear, all tied up in a creeping self-loathing that Sam couldn't even begin to understand.

"Dean?" he tried, and Dean's face turned abruptly away.

"Sorry," he muttered, untangling himself from Sam. "I didn't- that wasn't-" He drew a shaky breath. "Sorry."

He retreated a few steps and Sam followed him, his eyes never leaving Dean's face.

Dean coughed. "Guess we'd better let Cas and Bobby know we're not dead."

"Dean..."

Dean flicked on his communicator without so much as glancing Sam's way, pain furrowing his brow as he hauled up his broken arm to speak into the receiver. "Bobby, you still alive?"

"Just about," came Bobby's reply, the connection thin enough to suggest that he and Cas were a good distance away. "You?"

"Could be worse. Azazel's dead, which pretty much makes my millennium. How's it going with you? You'd better not have scratched my baby's paint."

Sam heard Bobby sigh. "Like I can avoid that in a firefight, idjit. Seeing as you're not dead, you'll have plenty of time to fix her up later. Sam with you?"

"Hi, Bobby," Sam managed, not moving out of Dean's personal space.

"Good to hear you, son." Bobby cursed abruptly, the sound of Castiel telling him to watch where he was driving just vaguely audible in the background. "Gotta go. Give us five to finish up here and then we'll circle back your way."

"Thanks, Bobby," Dean said, then cut the connection and stared at a spot on the wall.

"Are we going to talk about this?" Sam asked.

"We might as well get the rest of the comms up and running while we're waiting," Dean said, tone defiantly light. "And drop the shields so they can bring the Impala in. The hangar's big enough."

A frustrated huff escaped Sam's chest. "Would you just-"

Dean ignored him and stepped over to the console, sending his fingers flashing over the buttons and screens with a steady ease that was only slightly hampered by his current inability to use his left hand.

Sam stared. "But-"

"Hey," said Dean without looking up, ignorant of the way Sam's eyes were practically bugging out of his head. "You wanna haul yourself up off the floor and do this for me, you go right ahead. Who the hell taught you to relink command systems, anyway? This is a fucking mess."

"Dean."

"Remind me to show you how to do this shit proper- ah, there you are you little fucker." A rapid series of keystrokes and Sam listened to the shields powering down with something frighteningly close to despair.

"Dean. "

"Fuck my arm hurts. Should have told Bobby to bring a medkit. And some clean pants." Dean half turned his way. "What's up with that face?"

"You-" Sam glanced at the console and back at Dean, sure that everything he was feeling was splashed across his face. "But I-"

Dean frowned. "What's wrong, Sammy?"

"I locked the controls," Sam told him and Dean's eyes rolled.

"Is that what you call that? That's just embarrassing."

"No, Dean... you don't understand. I locked the controls using the same protocol my dad set up for the rest of the ship." Sam looked up at Dean and watched the colour drain out of his face as realization set in. Sam's voice was whisper soft as he added, "The only people who should have been able to access the shield controls are me and my dad."

They stared at each other for what felt like a year to Sam's drum-taut nerves.

Finally, Dean hoisted his arm up again. "Bobby?" he said. "Take your time heading over - me and Sam need to have a talk."

Sam vaguely thought he heard Bobby mutter 'about fucking time' before Dean cut the connection and they both went back to staring at each other.

"So I lied before," Dean said, shoulders squaring like he was preparing for battle. "About your dad getting me adopted by Ellen. It wasn't him who did it."

"What? Then who...?"

"Bobby. As a favour to my dad."

"Your dad?" Sam leaned forward, watching emotions he couldn't even begin to name swirl inside the fear in Dean's eyes. "Bobby knew your dad?"

"Yeah."

"You said Azazel killed him," Sam remembered suddenly. "Is that why you joined the resistance?"

Dean shook his head. "I'd been in the resistance a long time before that happened."

"But," Sam frowned, enough of the puzzle falling into place to leave the remaining holes even more obvious. "If your dad was alive when you joined the resistance why did Ellen Harvelle adopt you? Couldn't you have just stayed with him?"

"I did." Dean's mouth twisted, something dark and aching in his face as he continued, "But as far as the whole universe knows, John Winchester only had one son so it wasn't quite the same."

Sam's breath caught in his throat. "What?"

"My real name," said Dean, almost calmly. "Is Dean Winchester. I'm the son of John and Mary Winchester and the older brother of Samuel Winchester. You."

"You can't be." The words left Sam's mouth unthinkingly and he wished he could bite them back when he saw Dean flinch in response. "Wait no, I didn't mean-"

"Yes, you did. But it's still true." Dean smiled and it didn't reach his eyes. "Sorry Sammy."

"But I never had a brother!" Sam was on his feet without any memory of getting there, limbs trembling with the force of the shock rolling through him. "Even before the Earth was destroyed, it was always just me and Dad!"

The shake of Dean's head was resigned, sad. "That's just what you're supposed to believe. Bobby fixed it so that nobody except him and me would ever know or remember that there'd ever been a Dean Winchester. Not even you or Dad."

"Bobby? What does he-"

"He's a Venator," Dean shrugged. "They can do all sorts of nifty things with the right materials and a willing sacrifice."

"Willing?" Sam couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You willingly erased your entire existence? You let me forget that I had a brother? How could you do that?"

"You think I had much of a choice?!" Dean demanded, hurt and anger making his voice crack. "Dad knew that he needed to find a way to keep you and me safe from the Deamhanan and he'd already decided that it was too dangerous for Pastor Jim to take both of us. I couldn't stay with you and the only way I was going to get to stay with dad and not get shipped off to the first available drifter colony was to let the whole goddamn universe forget I existed! You try making that decision when you're nine years old and you've just lost your little brother and your entire fucking planet just got blown out of the sky!"

"Dean," Sam breathed, horrified.

Dean checked himself with obvious effort. "Don't you go feeling sorry for me, Sammy. It was the smartest choice. You were safe and I didn't have to put up with a lifetime of being a liability." He shrugged in a poor display of nonchalance. "Not to mention that then there was a backup Winchester in case anything ever happened to you."

"So- wait. If you knew you were my brother, why did come looking for me? You could have found the Titan yourself!"

"Yeah, well," Dean said gruffly. "Just because you forgot about me doesn't mean I ever forgot about you. I wasn't about to let those fucking Deamhanan get their hands on you. Not to mention that I wanted to see what my pain in the ass little brother had done with himself." His expression shifted, something between pride and awe spilling into his eyes. "You grew up good, Sammy."

Sam's head was spinning. "Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded.

"Gee, Sam," Dean said. "Maybe because that would defeat the entire point of keeping it a goddamn secret in the first place? And let's not forget that you've spending the last five clicks trying to get into my pants! I didn't figure you'd want to know you were hot for your big brother!"

Something in that gave Sam pause. "But you knew," he said slowly, edging towards a realization that threatened to rearrange his worldview in a staggering way.

Dean scoffed. "That you were jonesing for some unintentional incest? Yeah, and wasn't that just a fucking pi-"

"No," Sam cut in. "You knew that you were hot for your brother."

Dean stilled. "You don't want to go there."

"That's why you've been running hot and cold this entire time. Because you knew I was your brother and you didn't want to want me."

Dean's smile was grim. "Well I guess that means I'm even more of a fuckup than I thought. Bobby and Cas'll be here before long," he said then, gaze shifting to the hand he had spread across the spotless chrome of the command console. "Get 'em to take you wherever you wanna go, on my orders. Tell 'em I'll wait here till they get back."

Sam froze. "What?"

"And make sure Cas gives you my share of the cash from the Telacorax job as well as what you already got," Dean continued, determinedly not looking in Sam's direction. "S'not a lot but it should be enough to get you settled till you figure out what you wanna do with yourself. With Azazel dead and the Titan back in business, I doubt the Deamhanan'll be bothered about coming after you anymore."

"No."

Dean's eyebrows flew up. "This isn't a debate, Sam."

"No it's not," Sam agreed, suddenly more sure of himself than he'd been in a long time. "Because it's my life and I can do what I want with it. And you're not getting rid of me that easy."

Dean frowned. "Sam..."

"No, Dean. It's your turn to listen. You're the one who got me into this mess and you've got absolutely no say if I decide to stay instead of fucking off to some drifter colony and pretending I don't know that you're fighting a war."

Dean's face paled. "Sam, no, you don't want that."

"And how the fuck would you know?" Sam stepped forward, close enough that their chests brushed. "News flash, Dean! I'm not a little kid anymore. And I don't need you to protect me from the big bad world. But that's not why you're trying to get rid of me, is it?"

"I don't know what you're t-"

"The hell you don’t," Sam spat, riding right over Dean's attempt to distract him. "The truth is that you're too fucking afraid to deal with me now that I know your secret. What was it, Dean? Did you really think I'd never want to see you again when I learned you were my brother? Because I think you've spent so long beating yourself up over the fact that you weren't there for me as a kid that you can't even see that the situation's changed."

Dean's face was thundercloud dark. "Don’t push me, Sam," he warned, hand fisting in Sam's shirt like he was about to shove him away.

Sam just pressed in closer, trapping Dean against the console and not so incidentally trapping Dean's legs between his own. "I'll push you as hard as I damn well please. It's my decision whether or not I stay and help you fight this war and it's my decision how to react to finding out that you're my brother." His righteous indignation faltered slightly and Sam sighed. "I don't blame you, Dean," he said, breath gusting against Dean's temple. "Even if I'd known you were out there, I still wouldn't have blamed you."

"You sure as hell blamed Dad," Dean said, voice sounding like it had gone through a garbage disposal.

"That's different. He made these lives for us. We’re the ones who had to make the best of them. It doesn't change anything," he added, soft as though Dean would bolt if he raised his voice. "That you're my brother. You still drive me mad and amaze me and make me want to kick ass and take names all over the galaxy." Dean's mouth crooked slightly at that and Sam took a deep breath. "And it doesn't change the fact that I still want to fuck you through the floor at the first possible opportunity if you'll let me."

Dean turned to stone. "Sam, don't-"

"I'm not going to force you, Dean," Sam said, unable to resist the impulse to keep Dean close for just a little bit longer. "I don't want that if you're not willing. But I'm not leaving and I'm not going to stop wanting you. I've never fit so well with someone else before and, yeah, maybe that's because we're brothers, but genetics can't explain the way you make me feel. And I know you feel it too. But it's your choice."

Dean's expression was anguished. "Don't make me choose this, Sammy. I can't."

Sam shrugged with a nonchalance he didn't feel. "Then don't. But you're gonna have to get used to it because it's not going away." He caught Dean's chin in his hand and leaned in for the barest brush of their mouths. "And neither am I."

He shifted away from the console to give Dean some space only to have Dean's hand tighten in his shirt and to find himself nearly jerked off his feet as Dean hauled him back in.

"You," Dean growled, apparently ignorant of the way Sam's hands had fallen to bracket his hips when he stumbled. "Are such a pain in my ass."

Sam offered him a hopeful little smile. "Little brother, right? I think it comes with the territory."

"Christ," Dean said, with an involuntary-sounding half laugh. "That is so weird, hearing you say that."

Dean fell silent, staring at Sam like he was trying to see straight through him. Sam waited.

Finally, Dean spoke. "It's - I'm not saying no," he said, hushed in a way Sam had never heard him before. "But it might take me a while to get used to the whole, y'know, incest thing."

The absent gesture that Dean made to accompany that made Sam chuckle. "I can handle that," he said, and dragged Dean into a full-body hug. Dean stilled but didn't object and Sam reveled just a little bit when Dean's good arm came up to wrap around his waist, holding him just as close.

"Right," Dean coughed, after an indeterminate time of them just holding each other. He shoved at Sam's shoulders and Sam gave ground easily, giving Dean the space to slip free. "Now that you've had your embarrassing chick flick moment, I think we've left Cas and Bobby circling the ice rings for long enough. I'm gonna-"

"I can reprogram the computer to remove the genetic locks," Sam said, taking advantage of the sudden absence of Dean to spread his hands wide across the console. Dean raised an eyebrow at him and Sam threw an innocent look over his shoulder. "Wouldn't want you to blow your cover, Mr. Harvelle."

"Oh yeah?" Dean demanded, already back to his usual larger-than-life egoistic self. "And what do you expect me to do while you're communing with the computer?"

Sam very carefully didn't smile. "Well, we've got a whole ship full of bodies to get rid of."

Dean stared at him for a minute then laughed, a real, full bodied sound that made Sam's stomach flop. "We're going to drive each other nuts," he said, and Sam couldn't tell whether that was supposed to be a bad thing or not.

"Yeah," he agreed, grinning. "And I think it’s just what we both need."

~fin

A/N: And for anyone who's interested:
Ange (pl. Anges) - French for 'angel'
Deamhan (pl. Deamhanan) - Gaelic for 'demon'
Venator (pl. Venatores) - Latin for 'hunter'
I am such a dork.
Tags: challenge: spn_cinema, fandom: supernatural, genre: au, pairing: sam/dean
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