Title: Once He Hears to His Heart's Content
Spoilers: Vaguely for S5.
Summary: Futurefic, somewhat post-apocoplyptic. Today they're hunting Sirens.
A/N: This is my first slash. Title from The Odyssey.
From inside, the afternoon looks hot. Late, blazing sun that turns the sky a frenzied blue and glints sharply off the bright metal hoods of cars lined up in the parking lot, like bathers at the water’s edge. Sam can’t see the ocean from the window of the motel, but he can feel it, just a mile away and breathing steadily. Everything’s bright and glittering and clear and it’s easy to pretend that it’s mid-July, salt on the humid breeze and softening tar on the cracks in the road.
“It’s so fucking cold I think I just heard my balls jingle.”
Sam sighs. So much for his make-believe summer.
“Let’s make a fire,” Dean continues. “Look at this desk, this desk is a piece of crap. We burn this, no one’s gonna notice.”
Sam turns from the window to see Dean thump a scarred fist down on the flimsy wood, a creak of protest coming from the desk or from Dean’s joints, Sam can’t tell, but he is sympathetic even as he shakes his head. It is too cold, always too goddamn cold. He remembers lying awake under rough wool blankets and bitching about the incessant clank of a heater or the hiss and rattle of a radiator, Dean in the next bed mumbling sleepy platitudes, but these days Sam would give anything to hear the clatter of old pipes in the walls.
No, he wouldn’t give anything. What he’s got has been fought for, has been won, has drawn blood and nearly drained him dry. What he’s got, he’s not giving up.
There are some places left that still have heat, still have some semblance of electricity, but those places are few and far between and cater only to the very rich. Running water has been the main priority of most towns, and maybe someday the electrical lines will go back up, now that they aren’t a conduit for storms and fire and hordes of demons, but for now everything is mostly dark, and cold.
“You ready?” Sam asks, pulling on a pair of gloves before he reaches for his jacket. Dean gives the desk one last regretful punch, then heads to the bed to snag his coat, shrugging into it carefully. Dean moves slower than he used to, burned from the inside by angelfire and frozen from the outside by this new, heatless world. Sam watches as he tugs on an old woolen hat and winds a scarf around his neck, movements studied and unhurried as he fits his stiff fingers into his gloves. His nose is red from the cold, and against the brown hat and green scarf his eyes are very bright, skin the pale of perpetual winter. He looks, Sam thinks, like a kid bundled up to play in the snow.
“I was born ready,” Dean says, too late.
The beach is empty save for rocks and shells and sand. They walk along the surf, heads down, Dean holding the EMF loosely in one hand. The sun shrieks soundlessly. The ocean is very loud, in-time with itself.
“Should we walk out on those rocks, do you think?” Dean asks, raising an arm to point. There’s a jut of boulders that winds into the water, about half a mile from where they stand now.
“Probably,” Sam says, and they keep walking. Dean stops once to cautiously lean down and pick up a sand dollar, one hand on his knee for support, and when he straightens he flicks it at Sam. A white disc with a rough star pattern, edges worn soft. Sam doesn’t know what Dean means for him to do, so he puts it in his pocket.
“You gonna make a necklace outta that?” Dean asks, as if Sam was the one who plucked it from the sand.
“No,” Sam says, “I’m gonna put it on a headband,” and pulls his hair back from his face and bats his lashes just so he can watch Dean snort and roll his eyes.
“I thought it was bone,” Dean says, excusing himself.
It’s seven o’clock and the sun is beginning to set. Dean looks good in fading light, Sam thinks, even under so many layers he glows. And then he thinks he shouldn’t think that, and doesn’t.
These days they hunt in daylight and they’re not really ever afraid. They’re just tying up loose ends. As far as they can tell, there are no longer ghosts; the war between heaven and hell seems to have shifted the afterlife to some previously nonexistent realm, and Sam doesn’t know anymore where people go when they die. They don’t go to the Garden and they don’t go to the Pit and they don’t stick around. They just go. It’s only monsters left now, monsters so old that they somehow escaped The Cleanse, too engrained in the fabric of the world to register as aberrations.
Today they’re hunting Sirens. These Sirens are old Sirens, sweet-voiced and confined to the ocean and not the warped, modern version that had almost broken Sam and Dean apart at a strip club all that time ago. Bodies of young men have been washing up on the shore, their faces blissful and their eyes wide open, enraptured. Sam and Dean have wax in their pockets and silver bullets in their guns. Silver kills most everything, these days. They don’t know why. All the new creatures are gone. Strip clubs are still around, though.
“You think these Sirens are gonna be hot?” Dean asks. “The last one – he wasn’t so hot.”
“I think they’re gonna be naked,” Sam says.
“It’s not their beauty you have to worry about,” Sam reminds him. “It’s their song.”
“I’m telling you,” Dean says, chuffing his hands together and sticking them under his armpits as he walks. “We shoulda brought a boombox, we could blast some Zeppelin II. That’s how Orpheus killed ‘em, right? Played them a song more rockin’ than theirs.”
“You’re right,” Sam says, “damn. We’ll never catch them now.”
Dean rolls a shoulder into Sam’s, throws him off-balance for a moment, more because of the unexpected contact than the strength of the shove.
“Hey, we should put the wax in,” Dean says, one hand going to Sam’s back to steady him, a half-apology. Sam shrugs him off, not because he doesn’t like the weight of Dean’s palm at his spine, but because he does like it. He scowls.
“Jesus, it’s just a little wax,” Dean says, misreading Sam’s look. He pulls off his gloves so he can start rolling the wax between his palms, heating it up to shape into cylinders that will fit in his ears. Sam looks for a moment at the shiny scars winding their way up his brother’s fingers, a gift from heaven. They’d bathed Dean’s body in baptismal fire to bring him back to life perfectly clean, but in some places they were overzealous. Sam can’t bring himself to be angry, though. He’d seen Dean’s body when Michael was finished, and wishes he hadn’t. The angels gave him back and that is what matters now, at the end.
They climb the rocks, slippery with algae, and Dean fists a hand in the sleeve of Sam’s jacket to try and keep his balance.
“Dude, you’re gonna bring me down with you,” Sam says, his own voice muffled and resounding through the wax in his ears, and he regrets it immediately, because Dean withdraws his hand. Dean’s been reaching out more ever since the war, a literal reaching out – always grabbing for Sam, rustling his hair, smacking his arm, patting his knee. At first it was by necessity, because Dean couldn’t really get around all that well on his own, and he spent the first couple months leaning on Sam’s arm, shuffling back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom in the house Bobby had left them. But he got stronger, got better, and he didn’t need Sam anymore. But still he kept reaching out, and Sam found that he wanted more than anything to lean into Dean’s touch, to meet him halfway, and so he trained himself to pull away. Is still training himself. It’s no good to want that from anyone; Sam’s learned that lesson.
He moves too fast away from Dean, trying to move away from his own thoughts, and he pauses, guilty, when he sees that Dean has fallen far behind, is trying to move faster than his body will allow in order to keep up, climbing precariously over the rocks, stiff knees and all. Sam stops at the edge of a rock and pretends to survey the ocean in front of him, rubs his cheeks to try and warm them, reaches to remove the wax in his ear and re-adjust it.
He has one ear free when the singing begins.
It comes from Sam’s feet and he looks down, sees, bobbing in the freezing water, a woman. She is as naked as he predicted, but he didn’t predict the blue scales that cover her lithe body, the long clouds of sunlit green hair that float around her shoulders. He didn’t predict how close she would be. She’s so close.
His hand is at his gun but his head is somewhere else, and while one part of him feels the slick rock beneath his feet and the bite of the frigid air, another piece of him is floating, is rocking and warm and cosseted, buffered on music that wraps him in its arms and holds him close and offers a thaw. Hot sun. Hot skin. Hot breath. An end to the cold.
Sam wants it.
He takes a step forward, just to get a little closer to the warmth, to the promise, he knows something’s wrong he knows it’s not right but there she is so beautiful lying in wait for him, just for him, a world where he won’t get cold, a world with the most glorious music a voice like an angel’s voice the way he’d imagined it as a child comforting and diamond-clear and full of love for him and forgiveness for all that he’s done and soft hands and gentleness and an end to the cold forever.
He hears someone shout his name but his name doesn’t matter. There’s more shouting, distant and nowhere near as beautiful as the voice of this woman – but something about it makes him blink, gives him pause – and suddenly it changes. From a shout to a song.
“Well it’s been ten years and maybe more since I first set eyes on you! The best years of my life gone by, here I am alone and blue!”
Sam stops, feet at the edge of the rock, feels the warm haze of his mind begin to lift, and the cold begins to creep back.
“Sam!” the other voice shouts, and he turns his head slowly, sees his brother struggling towards him, slipping and panting.
“Sam,” the woman coos, and her song grows louder, intoxicatingly lovely, and he smiles down into it and Dean will be warm too and there’s no need to worry –
“Some people cry!” Dean holler-sings, and some remote part of Sam notes that he’s out of breath. “Some people die! By the wicked ways of love! But I’ll just keep on rollin’ on! With the grace of – the Lord above!”
It’s not a warm song – it’s not like this beautiful woman’s song – it’s not a voice that promises him anything other than things he already has, like cold and roads and a hand on his shoulder once in a while – but something about it calls him just as strongly, and he frowns, caught.
“Your gun, Sam!” Dean shouts, and Sam frowns hard, feels the metal still beneath his fingers, knows his hand is there for a reason.
The music is louder, is all around him, and Sam shakes his head furiously, trying to get some thought back in, trying to clear himself, and all he can hear is the roar of the ocean and the pound of the music and –
“People talkin’ all around! About the way you left me flat! I don't care what the people say! I know where their jive is at!”
Heat and sun and the hum of the water and harmonies and rhythm and wholeness and –
“One thing I got on my mind! If you can clarify please do! It's the way you call me – another guy's name – when I try to make love to you!”
The shot is instantaneous and straight to the heart and the music stops short with a screech like a burnt-out engine. The melody crashes down and the warmth comes crashing down with it, and Sam is on his knees at the edge of the water, gun still pointed trembling in his hand, freezing fucking cold as always.
“Fuck yeah, Sam!” Dean says, reaching him at last and falling to his knees beside him. “Sam, you with me?”
The Siren’s body floats in the water, still beautiful, but as he watches she seems to shrivel and shrink, the tide pushing her up against the rocks like a dead fish belly-up. All the dead women, they never stop dying.
“Sammy? Sammy, you with me?”
A hand settles on the back of Sam’s neck, and the world is cold but Dean’s palm is warm and sure. He doesn’t want to shake it off and so he doesn’t.
“With me,” Sam repeats.
It’s wet work, pulling the siren from the water and over the rocks. By the time they’re finished they’re both shivering hard, and Dean collapses in the sand and tugs out the flask from his jacket pocket – whiskey and not holy water, because no monster these days is under the jurisdiction of the Christian god. He takes a long swig and then offers it to Sam, who drops the soggy body of the Siren and takes his own gulp. Alcohol is warm and that’s a danger these days. Anything warm is a danger.
“I saw a big-ass pile of driftwood back that way,” Dean says. “Help me up.”
He reaches up and Sam grips his hand, heaves him to his feet as Dean groans dramatically with the ascension. He lists for a moment against Sam’s chest and then takes a shaky step in the direction of the driftwood.
“Looks like you’re gonna get your fire after all,” Sam says, and Dean shoots him a smirk over his shoulder, one foot sliding a little in the loose sand.
The driftwood is bone-dry but it spits salt as the flames begin to catch, and a bonfire surges up before long, huge and bright. They heave the Siren’s body onto it and the smell of dead fish fills the air, but it’s so hot and feels so good that they can’t bring themselves to back away, so they dry their damp gloves over it until the wool steams. The Siren burns much faster than humans, and soon is nothing but a charred skeleton.
“Kinda fucking morbid,” Dean comments, but still they don’t leave.
“Wish we brought some marshmallows,” Sam says, and for some reason this sends his brother into a choked fit of laughter. They drag over a driftwood log and hunker down in front of the fire, and Dean spins open the cap of the flask once more. It’s dark by now, even colder, and the thought of trekking all the way back to the Impala is unwelcome.
“Told you Led Zeppelin’d do it,” Dean says, knocks a knee into Sam’s knee and then leaves his leg there, thigh a hot line that Sam fixates on instantly but tries to ignore.
“Yeah,” Sam says, and Dean passes him the flask. The liquor is warm in his throat but not as warm as Dean, and as he thinks it Dean shifts closer.
“It’s cold,” Dean says when Sam looks at him.
“It’s always cold.”
They drink in silence for a while, watching the flames flicker and sigh, the embers floating like glittering eyes up into the night to join the stars. Sam imagines all of a sudden a birds-eye view of their pyre; he and Dean pressed so close to one another on a vast, endless stretch of beach, the blaze of their fire the only light for miles. It’s been this way forever, he thinks, and with that thought it’s easy.
“It wasn’t Led Zeppelin,” Sam says.
“What? Yes it was. Heartbreaker, 1969 – it’s the first song on side two.”
“No, I mean, yeah, but – it wasn’t the song you chose, Dean.”
Dean is quiet, puts the flask to his mouth, and Sam watches him take a drink, lick his lips, tuck his chin down into his scarf. “I can keep a tune,” Dean says finally, “but I won’t be quittin’ my day job anytime soon.”
“It was beautiful, you know,” Sam says. “Her song. But it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Wasn’t what I ever want to hear.”
“No, stop. I’m just saying. Thanks. For singing me back. Every time.”
Dean snorts and makes to turn his head, but Sam is quicker, catches Dean’s chin in one gloved hand, and won’t let him look away. And that’s the point of no return: Dean’s breath catching audibly in his throat, his eyes wide and fearful and dark, and Sam hovers there, on the precipice, on the rock between water and land – and then he falls.
The song goes on and on and it calls him forward forever.