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The first time Dean sees him is during Mass.

He isn’t officiating, doesn’t have time for that crap these days, but he still attends every morning, regular as clockwork. It isn’t so much about connecting with God (he can manage that on his own, thanks) as it’s about connecting with the Church, and reminding himself what he’s fighting for. He takes a seat in his usual spot, slipping into the back pew a couple of minutes late (he's always figured it’s quality and not quantity that matters with the man upstairs), and lets the familiar ritual wash over him.

Dean’s good with rituals—knows at least sixty he could ramble off at the drop of a pin (or the flash of black in some poor schmuck’s eyes). More importantly, Dean likes rituals, likes how steady and dependable they are. He likes them well enough that he has a few of his own—swig of whisky before bed, three Hail Maries for every dead body that crosses his path, genuflect when exiting and entering a church, bless the water and the guns first thing after his morning prayer. The ritual he’s jonesing for on this particular Wednesday morning comes about two seconds after he steps foot outside, with the communion wafer and wine still mingling in his mouth.

Fuck, he needs that smoke.

He probably should have had one before he came in, but he was running even later than usual (that last exorcism was a bitch and a half, left him with a bloodied gash along his ribs that he’ll have to see to later) and he didn’t want to miss Cal’s homily, since he helped his brother piece it together over supper last night.

Now that he’s here, though, Dean can’t settle. It feels like there are eyes on him, even though he’s sitting in the very back of the nave, and he finds himself scanning the five or six other churchgoers, all of whom are far more absorbed in the Mass than Dean himself is managing to be.

Finally, with a soft grunt of annoyance, Dean twists in the pew and sees him.

The shadowy figure of a man is standing just inside the heavy wooden doors and dabbling one hand in the font like it isn’t anything but tap water. Dean’s tempted to go over there and shove the idiot’s face into the font, show him some proper respect for God’s house, but in the end he settles for turning his back on the guy instead. He has to do enough penance this week already, and he doesn’t feel like adding to the four hours he’ll already be spending on his knees on the cold, stone floor of the rectory.

With a little effort, Dean manages to get back into the Mass just as Cal launches them into the Lord’s Prayer. He lifts himself to his feet with the rest, ignoring the way his left knee twinges—rain soon, or maybe just another one of those beetle-eyed bastards lurking about—and feels the grace of God settle back down on his shoulders. It isn’t a real weight—not like the leather jacket he wears, collar turned up to hide the mark of his calling when he’s in unfriendly waters—but it’s substantial all the same, warm and familiar as sunlight.

John might have laughed and given it a week when Dean declared his intention to join the seminary, but it turns out that the swearing and the smoking and the alcohol and the rock and roll are all pretty fine as far as God’s concerned. Minor indiscretions, sure, but Dean’s gotten good enough at offering atonement that he’d miss the extra prayers if he quit any one of his vices. And as for the other—woman’s body underneath his, heat in his mouth—well, the feeling that fills him when he prays is more satisfying than any of those brief, emotionless encounters.

Swearing off sex is a small sacrifice, if it means he has a right to the all-encompassing love and trust that he feels whenever he turns his mind to his True Father. Communing with his God is the only time Dean ever feels whole. It’s only time he ever has since the shadows came to life in his little brother’s nursery and ripped his tiny body—and Dean’s world—apart.

The small crowd at the front of the church has begun the rite of peace, exchanging handshakes and hugs. Dean blows Cal a kiss from the back, sees the amused glint in his brother’s eyes and smiles to himself. Then, unexpectedly, there’s a light, wet ghosting of fingertips across the nape of Dean’s neck and he whirls, jerked rudely from worship to war. His hand is already dipping for the gun at the small of his back before he realizes that it’s just a man standing behind him—the same man, judging from the wet fingers, who was playing with the font.

The man is tall—taller than Dean, who towers over most of his brothers at a respectable six foot three. He has shaggy, dark hair falling around his face—not so untamed that it obscures his features, though, which are vulpine in the morning light: high cheekbones, narrow nose, slanted eyes. Dean can’t be sure what color the man’s eyes are—honey, he thinks one moment: hazel, the next. There’s a scar running up the man’s cheek and cutting across his right eyebrow—looks like a knife-wound but somehow Dean is certain it’s from a sulfur-reeking claw.

A hunter.

No wonder he has no fucking manners.

“Peace,” the man says. Then his eyes dip to the white collar peeking out above the black button-down Dean’s wearing (not because it’s tradition: black just shows blood less than anything else) and his lips quirk. “Father,” he adds belatedly. It sounds a little like an insult, or maybe a challenge, and Dean was going to offer a hug for the sake of the ritual but he finds himself holding out a hand instead.

“Peace,” he says.

The hunter looks at his hand, amusement in every line of his face, and then leans in and kisses him.

It’s technically permissible, but Dean knows from the first brush of their lips that the man’s mind isn’t on anything chaste. He tenses, ready to jerk back, but the hunter beats him to it—offers just that light brush and then retreats, wandering away to lean against the back wall. Dean looks at him for a moment longer, not sure whether to be insulted on his own behalf or on God’s, and then Cal’s sweet, high voice starts in on the Agnus Dei.

Dean turns his back on the hunter with a certainty he doesn’t feel, wrapping his hands around the back of the pew in front of his and picking up the refrain with his own, rougher voice. His internal peace has been shattered, though, and he almost doesn’t join the line of worshippers waiting for communion. But his need for reassurance outweighs the unprepared, secular drag of his mind—just like it always has in the past, three or four other times he’s been troubled—and in the end he files down the aisle with everyone else.

When he kneels at Cal’s feet, looking up and opening his mouth, Cal rests a hand on his shoulder. It’s a question—you okay?—that Dean has no answer for, so he doesn’t respond, closing his mouth around the wafer Cal placed on his tongue and crossing himself before standing to take the chalice in his own hands.

When he turns toward the back of the church again, ready to return to his pew, the hunter is gone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It’s a week before he sees the hunter again, this time on the steps outside St. Matthews just after Mass lets out. Dean steps outside, already popping a cigarette into his mouth and fishing in his jacket pocket for his lighter. He’s scanning the street for signs of trouble—seems like there’re more demons hanging around these days than parishioners—and yet, somehow, he doesn’t know that he has company until the hunter’s voice smirks over his left shoulder.

“Thought priests weren’t supposed to have any vices.”

Dean refuses to let the hunter know he got the drop on him. He finishes lighting his cigarette and takes a slow, deep drag before pocketing the lighter again and glancing back towards the voice. It’s Wednesday again, and he thinks for no good reason about the rhyme he learned as a child, the one that claims to tell the future. It’s just a superstition, of course (and a heathen one at that, for all it mentions the Sabbath Day), but for some reason it stuck.

“Wednesday’s child is full of woe,” he recites aloud, not caring if it makes any sense. He doesn’t actually intend to drum up a conversation with a hunter of all things, anyway. They’re laymen dabbling in God’s business: have no real place behind the trenches of a holy war, especially when they spend most of their time thumbing their noses at God’s chosen warriors while ‘liberating’ His water and rituals for their own purposes.

Dean’s sick and fucking tired of hauling their asses out of the fire and getting mocked for his piety after the fact.

“What day were you born, Father?” the hunter asks.

Dean rolls his eyes—figures he’d get a hunter with a head for nursery rhymes instead of one who’d be willing to assume he’s crazy—and turns away, taking another drag on his cigarette as he does so. “Fuck you, that’s when,” he replies, heading down the steps.

The hunter, of course, follows after him. “Quite the mouth on you for a priest,” he says.

Dean’s steps falter at that. Because he’s almost positive the hunter meant the swearing—Dean’ll take the extra penance any day of the week, if it means he doesn’t have to watch his tongue—but there’s a sly, subtle twist to the man’s voice that makes him wonder if it’s the other. Makes him think of the kiss, and how he could practically smell all of the hunter’s sinful thoughts coming off his skin.

The hunter comes up on Dean’s left with a long-legged, ground-eating stride that makes Dean antsy. He’s corralling Dean in against the church fence with a casualness that could be accidental, but likely isn’t anything of the sort.

“Christo,” Dean says, watching the hunter’s reaction from the corner of his eyes.

The man’s hair is hanging in his face again, but he turns his head at that—lets Dean get a good look at him. His eyes are hazel, Dean sees now, although tending toward tawny enough that he can see where he got his initial, honeyed impression. No sign of demon in him. Dean hadn’t though there would be, since he caught the man playing with the holy water in the font, but it never hurts to check.

He realizes that he stopped walking and starts again, hurrying his stride to pull ahead of the hunter.

“So,” the hunter says as he catches up with frustrating ease. “You gonna tell me when you were born or what?”

“I don’t mess with hunters,” Dean answers, taking another drag. Man, this asshole is really killing his buzz.

“Good thing I’m not a hunter, then.”

Dean stops again, deliberately this time, and looks the man up and down. Notices the breadth of the chest beneath the pea coat and the hint of a bulge at his right hip where he’s carrying a knife or a gun. Heavy boots on his feet, jeans stained with something that’s either engine oil or blood.

Dean’s bet is on blood.

“Really,” he snorts, moving forward again.

“Would you believe boy scout?” the hunter asks.

Dean laughs a little as he raises the cigarette to his lips—the asshole’s persistent, Dean’ll give him that—and then grunts as the hunter shoves him sideways into a high hedge hard enough that Dean can feel twigs poking in places they have no fucking right to poke. He loves all of God’s creations, of course, just ... not quite this much. Also, his cigarette is now officially M.I.A.

“Get off me!” he snaps, lashing out. He’ll take the extra hour of penance if it means he can slug the son of a bitch a good one.

“Shh,” the hunter snaps. “Dean, stay still, damn it.”

It’s the sound of his name that gets Dean. The amount of people Dean knows well enough to let them call him by his given name can be numbered on one hand, and tall dark and rude is definitely not one of them. Then he hears the eerie growling and freezes for a whole different reason.

“Is that a fucking hellhound?” he demands, craning his neck around to try and get a look.

“Don’t. Move.”

Dean swears under his breath and tries to get at his gun. It’s a little difficult, considering the hedge is pretty much embedded in his skin at this point, and the squirming gets him another growl and an elbow in the ribs from the hunter.

“Motherfucker,” Dean spits. “Move and let me get it.”

But the hunter continues to block him in, more like a wall of stone than a man, and after a few seconds Dean swears he can feel the air heat. There’s a whimper from the direction of the hound and then something that sounds like claws scrambling on pavement. Retreat.

The hunter steps forward finally, letting Dean out of the hedge, and Dean separates himself with a few choice words. He has a scratch on his cheek from a particularly sharp twig, and he’s pretty sure he’ll be picking leaves out of his hair for hours. He doesn’t really care. Not after the show he just got.

“What was that?” he demands.

“You said it,” the hunter answers, watching him with flat eyes. “Hellhound.”

“I know what it was,” Dean responds. “I meant you. You just ... what? What did you do? Who are you, really?”

Slowly, the hunter smiles. “I’m the guy who just saved your ass.”

Dean bristles with an automatic ingrained rush of pride he’s been trying to stomp out for years. “I could’ve taken it,” he points out. “I am armed.”

“Oh please, you didn’t even know it was there.”

Ignoring the fact that the hunter’s right, Dean adds, “And how’d you know my name?”

He expects to hear the same, tired ‘knew your daddy’ crap he gets from time to time—a line that inevitably ends with the hunter suggesting Dean do something worthwhile with his life, as though he’s the type of priest who lets himself be benched and watches the War from the sidelines. No one ever seems to remember that God needs warriors as well. No one seems to know that, sometimes, the Vatican encourages that.

Usually, Dean’s happy with things that way. It’s just when he has to deal with assholes like this that it grates.

But the glint in the hunter’s eyes isn’t any kind of scorn Dean’s ever seen. No, that's heat. Interest.

“You’d be surprised what I know about you, Dean.”

“God hates a stalker, buddy,” Dean mutters, disgusted with himself for being unsettled by nothing more than a smile and a hungry look. It isn’t like he hasn’t ever gotten them before, after all. He’s even been propositioned on occasion. Had to flash the collar and, a couple of times, the gun.

But the hunter doesn’t look phased at all by the hostility in his voice, stepping close again and backing Dean up against the hedge. Dean sort of wants to throw a punch, but the hunter isn’t actively doing anything wrong. He’s just ... he’s treating Dean’s personal space like it’s his own and looking at Dean with a familiarity that’s making Dean’s heart pound in an unnerving way. Dean could’ve punched him before, when it was maybe an attack. Now? Now he’s stuck doing the turn the other cheek number.

It’s about as easy as it always is.

The hunter leans in close enough that Dean can feel the man’s breath on his lips and then pauses, eyes flicking here and there over Dean’s face. He seems to like whatever he sees there, because his grin widens and his tongue darts out to wet his lips. Dean tenses as the hunter leans even closer, but the expected kiss doesn’t come. Instead, the man adjusts his course and brushes his mouth against the shell of Dean’s ear.

“I’m gonna guess it was a Monday,” he breathes, and now there’s a kiss of sorts—light flick of tongue over Dean’s earlobe—before he pulls away.

Dean’s shocked enough by the responsive, shuddering heat in his gut that he doesn’t do anything but stand there and watch as the hunter strolls off with both hands shoved in his pockets.

Monday’s child, his dazed brain reminds him, is fair of face.

It isn’t until two hours later, when he reaches for another one, that he realizes the smug son of a bitch stole his smokes.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dean’s knees are still smarting from all the praying he had to do to atone for his uncharitable thoughts on their last encounter when he sees the hunter again—the guy’s waiting for him on the stoop of the apartment building where Dean just finished laying a spirit. Dean’s body flushes when he spots the hunter, his stride slowing almost to a standstill. By the time he gets his legs going again, the hunter is up and ready to fall in beside him.

Dean tries ignoring him for a moment and then, nettled by the oppressive silence, asks, “You here to return my cigarettes?”

“Smoking’s bad for your health.”

“Yeah, well, stealing’s a sin. Bad for your soul.”

The hunter laughs, bumping their shoulders together like it’s a shared joke. Dean isn’t sure he likes the way the laughter makes him feel, all shivery and unsettled. He offers a silent prayer in his head in an attempt to regain his equilibrium.

It mostly works.

“So,” the hunter says after a moment. “You figure out why someone sent a hellhound after you yet?”

“Who said it was after me?” Dean asks without missing a beat. “Maybe that mutt was looking to chomp on your sorry ass.” He doesn’t actually buy it, though, and he can tell that the hunter doesn’t either, so after a few moments he shrugs and admits, “There’s a pretty long line of demons I’ve pissed off. Could be any of them.”

“You aren’t even going to check into it?” the hunter demands, sounding a little offended.

Dean doesn’t know why the man cares so much, but he shrugs again and explains, “They’ll send something else after me or they won’t. I’ll get it or I won’t. If I don’t, Vatican’ll send another Georgian out to send the son of a bitch back to Hell.”

An oversized hand on his arm draws him up short. For the first time, when Dean looks up into the hunter’s face, there’s no trace of teasing there. Only genuine distress and something that looks a little like anger.

“You don’t even care, do you? You don’t care whether you live or die?”

Dean offers the hunter the same, placid smile he uses whenever he’s counseling possession survivors and says, “I’m a priest, buddy. Dying isn’t exactly something I’m afraid of. I know where I’m headed.”

If anything, the hunter looks even more distressed at that and Dean feels unaccountably guilty. He reaches across his body and covers the hunter’s hand on his arm with a hand of his own.

“You eaten yet?” he offers. “I know this great pizza place.”

The hunter’s hand twists, catches Dean’s in a loose hold. Dean reminds himself that there’s nothing wrong with the touch, nothing that’s anywhere near breaking his vows. But his heartbeat is still racing, and for the first time since he put it on, the white collar around his neck feels restrictive. Clearing his throat, he pulls his hand free and shoves it in his pocket.

“Just got a quick stop to make first.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The kids are happy to see him as usual, climbing all over his legs and back and getting underfoot and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The hunter hangs back at the orphanage’s gate while Dean eases his way into a pick-up game with some of the older boys and proceeds to soundly kick their asses. He never lets them win, although they have on occasion. Cal asked him about that once, and Dean explained that he doesn’t believe in lies of any sort—and anyway, he knows what kind of life they’re likely to have. If he can help teach them the importance of speed and agility, so much the better.

Eventually, he gets around to what he came here to do—dropping off a couple hundred in donations to Emily in the main office—and then collects the hunter again on his way out.

His unwanted companion gives a troubled look over his shoulder as they leave and Dean raises an eyebrow as he takes out his cigarettes. “What?”

“You know most of them are gonna grow up to be thieves and gang bangers,” the hunter points out.

In this neighborhood, it’s a fair bet.

Dean shrugs. “God loves thieves and murders same as He loves everybody else.”

“But not demons,” the hunter says slowly.

“Buddy,” Dean laughs. “Nobody loves demons.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Turns out the hunter’s name is John.

“My dad’s name is John,” Dean says immediately afterward, and then frowns a little. He hasn’t talked about his dad in a long time. Never willingly since their last meeting, John Winchester bloodless and cold in the bottom of a box. Dean hadn’t officiated, although apparently the man wanted him to. He hadn’t cried either.

“He why you don’t like hunters?” John asks, peering at Dean with odd intensity, like he’s trying to worm his way into Dean’s brain.

“Naw,” Dean says, waving the moment—and the memory—away. “That’s just cause you’re all a bunch of assholes.”

John laughs and buys the next round.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dean’s maybe a little drunk when he gets back to the rectory later that night, leaning on John the whole way. He pauses outside, squinting up at the lights doubtfully. His brothers are used to him showing up less than his best—they’ve finally decided to chalk his drinking (and other minor indulgences) down to his being Georgian, decided that God’s warrior sect needs a little more leeway to cut loose every once in a while. Dean’s met other Georgians, though, and he’s about as like that dour-faced bunch as a stray mongrel is to a bunch of uptight show dogs.

No, this is just him. Just the last, faint vestiges of the fuck-up who let his brother die.

Shouldn’t have had so much to drink. Not with a virtual stranger, and especially not with John Winchester’s memory so strong within him.

Beside him, the other John stirs and gives Dean’s arm a little squeeze. “Got an extra bed in my motel room, if you want,” he offers. “You can use the shower tomorrow morning, clean up a little.”

It’s definitely not a good idea—and not just because Dean’s becoming more and more aware of how good the hunter smells. Dean still has no idea what the guy did to the hellhound, after all, or what he wants with Dean in the first place. The former question keeps getting lost in a nonsensical comment about Dean’s eyes, or his lashes, or his mouth. The latter never seems to make it past Dean’s lips.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass. Mass’s early tomorrow.”

“You really go every day?” John asks, looking at him with the same, perplexed expression he wore when Dean paused to pray over the pizza.

“You breathe every day?” Dean replies. “Same thing.”

“You don’t need God to live, dude,” John answers, which is such a preposterous statement that Dean laughs. He laughs until John shoves their mouths together—not chaste at all this time, but wet and hungry—and then turns his face aside, instantly sober.

“Ask me,” John pants, resting his forehead on the side of Dean’s face. “Ask me why I’m here and I’ll tell you.”

But Dean’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to know. Shaking his head, he detaches himself from John’s arms and reaches out to touch the side of the church with one hand. Grounding himself.

“I think you should leave,” he says. The ‘and not come back’ is implied strongly enough that he feels no need to articulate it.

But John doesn’t move and Dean’s heart rate picks up. He’s sure, suddenly, that the hunter isn’t going to let himself be sent away. That he’s going to shove Dean up against the side of the church and ... and what? Kiss him again? Something worse?

Then something shifts—some invisible, uncertain balance falls down just right and John turns away. “Yeah,” he mutters.

“Go with God,” Dean offers, belatedly. His own inadequacies aren’t actually John’s fault, after all, and hunters need the blessing more than most. Even if they’re the ones who always seem to want it the least.

John’s bitter, answering laugh crawls into Dean’s bed with him half an hour later and pollutes his dreams.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The hunter stays away for two weeks after that, only to reappear when Dean’s flat on his back with something snarling and vaguely-child-shaped tearing at his chest. Then he appears like he stepped out of the air and holds up one hand, palm extended outward as though he’s about to offer benediction. Instead, the air fills with heat, snapping, and Dean watches with wide eyes as the creature on his chest flakes into burnt pieces of light that drift away on a nonexistent breeze.

Breathing hard, John lowers his hand. There’s a trickle of blood running from one of his nostrils, and his eyes look darker than they usually do. Not quite human.

Dean lies on the floor without even bothering to try to get up—and not because his chest is a fucking mess, either. If his gun were in hand and not halfway across the room, he’d have it trained and steady right between John’s alien, too-dark eyes. He reminds himself that he isn’t unarmed—not with God backing him up—and gets his voice working so he can ask, “What the fuck are you?”

John lowers his gaze, and when he looks up again his eyes are back to normal. Softer around the edges, though: almost tentative. Trustworthy eyes, if Dean wants to buy into that kind of thing when it’s so very, very obviously not the case.

“I can explain, Dean, but can you—will you let me fix you up first?”

Dean looks down at his chest—fuck that’s a lot of blood—and then the pain hits and he drops into unconsciousness.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Demon blood, John tells him when he comes around again. It wasn’t the hunter’s idea, apparently: happened when he wasn’t anything more than a baby and unable to give informed consent. This is why the Church invented the rite of confirmation. Dean isn’t sure where John’s unusual baptism leaves him on the scale of the damned, and it worries him, if only because souls are kind of his thing.

The hunter keeps shooting him glances while he patches Dean up—Dean sitting on the bed he declined during their last meeting—and Dean has to bite his cheek to resist the urge to run a reassuring hand through John’s hair. He didn’t notice before, too taken in by John’s certainty and swagger, but he’s pretty sure that the hunter’s no more than twenty-one. Still just a child, really, not tarnished through any fault of his own and looking to Dean for reassurance.

“Why me?” Dean asks finally, as John’s hands smooth a bulky bandage down over his chest. “What’re you doing here, John?”

“I dreamed about you,” John whispers. “That you were in trouble. I wanted to help.”

God save Dean from well-intentioned fools.

“And what do you want me to do here?” he demands. “What do you want from me?”

The pressure of John’s hands on Dean’s skin shifts. Becomes softer—more of a caress than anything else. “You know what I want.”

Dean doesn’t have the energy to shove him away. Instead, he looks up and says, “I’m a fucking priest, John.”

John bites his lower lip, a hint of that invitation back in his eyes. “Then it shouldn’t be a problem,” he jokes. Only it’s more of a demand, really, because he’s already pushing his hand lower, down onto Dean’s stomach.

Dean does move now, knocking the hand away and standing with a poorly concealed grimace of pain. “I can’t help you with that,” he says. “You want absolution, I’ll take your confession. You want a refill on some holy water, I’ll bless it for you. Otherwise, you’re shit out of luck.”

Turning away, he reaches for his shirt only to find his wrist grabbed by an oversized hand.

“Don’t.”

But John doesn’t let go. “You want me too,” he says fiercely, stepping into Dean’s space. “Don’t even try and tell me you don’t.”

“Of course I do.”

John’s surprised enough by the admission that he releases Dean’s wrist, giving him enough room to maneuver away. “Then why—”

“Because I made a vow. I don’t know about you, buddy, but my word means something. It’s a bond. And I’ll take my bond with God over a quick and dirty fuck any day of the week.”

“It wouldn’t be like that,” John protests, sounding wounded. “You know it wouldn’t.”

But he doesn’t touch Dean again, and he doesn’t try to stop him when he walks out the door. Dean just wishes it felt more like the right thing to do.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dean dreams after that, every night for a whole month straight. John stays away in the daylight, but it doesn’t matter when he’s all Dean sees at night, when John’s touch is the only thing he feels even in the middle of his prayers. Dean has never felt this alone before, not since he first felt God’s grace in a rundown church in Idaho when he was all of thirteen, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

He tries talking to Cal once or twice—Cal’s come to him about women no less than six times over the past two years: no one ever said a vow of chastity was going to be easy—but he can’t ever seem to get the right words out. He stretches his patrols further, although he really has enough within the city limits to keep his hands full, and it still isn’t enough. He fasts and offers lengthy penance—needs help to get back to his feet afterward, both legs gone numb and cold from the floor—but that confident place inside that’s been filled up with God’s light for years has finally gone dark and empty, and there doesn’t seem to be anything he can do to call it back.

Finally, Cal suggests that maybe taking a more active role in the daily routines of the church might help, and Dean shoulders duties he normally leaves to others, sweeping the nave and polishing the candles. He even takes over for Peter in the confessional, listening to petty sins and doling out absolution that he can’t seem to find for himself.

It’s the confessional where his downfall catches up to him again—Dean smells him before John says a word, isn’t surprised when the familiar voice whispers, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

He runs through any number of responses in his head, offering up one final prayer for guidance, and then, finally, says, “I told you no.”

“You said I could ask for absolution. I’m asking.”

Dean can tell from the amusement in John’s voice that John isn’t doing anything of the sort, but he doesn’t feel righteous enough these days himself to call the hunter out for lying. “Fine,” he says instead. “Then you need to start with ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.’”

“You’ve been thinking about me, too,” John says, and there’s a shift behind the divider. Dean imagines that the hunter is touching the partition, trailing his hand down the wood the way he moved it down Dean’s chest in the motel room, and feels his skin heat.

“No.” It’s a lie. Dean’s first in God only knows how long. He bites the inside of his cheek.

“You have,” John repeats, sounding smug. “You’ve been dreaming about me, haven’t you? About me touching you. You want to know what I dream about, Father?”

“John, please.”

“I dream about your cock,” John whispers. “Dream about licking it wet and then sucking it down. I dream about your ass, too—fingering you open and then fucking you until you scream. I’d fuck you right on the altar if you’d let me.”

Dean’s breath punches out as though he’s been struck. He feels faint and feverish, as though one of his dreams has slunk into the daylight and infected him with its venom.

“You think that’s the demon in me?” John asks with false contrition. “Or am I already damned enough on my own that it’s just me being wicked?”

“You need to stop,” Dean manages.

“I can’t.”

They’re simple words, spoken like fact, and Dean shuts his eyes with a muttered prayer.

“I need you, Dean,” John continues. “It’s like I’m burning, all the time. I need to be near you, I need to—please, just. If you just let me kiss you—just for a little while, like, half an hour tops—maybe I could move on.”

Dean should be defrocked even for considering it, but he’s desperate. He wants to be able to sleep without seeing John’s face, wants to be able to pray without hearing the hunter’s voice. Licking his lips, he says, “Half an hour and you’ll go? Not just—not the whole yo-yo trick you’ve been pulling, but you’ll leave? For good?”

“Other side of the fucking country, I promise, just. Please, Dean.”

“Fine. Tonight, then. Your place tonight at eight.”

It shouldn’t be so easy to say, but somehow it is.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

John’s on him even before Dean finishes stepping in the door, all demanding mouth and wandering hands. Dean kisses back for a moment before turning his face away and gasping out a reminder—“Just kissing.”

The hunter makes a grunt of agreement, but his hands are tugging the white collar away from Dean’s throat and working the buttons of his shirt open and Dean isn’t stopping him. He isn’t stopping him because none of this feels real—it’s just another nightmare if a little more vivid than most. Or maybe he isn’t stopping him because he can’t remember how to make his hands work.

“Dean,” John groans, finding Dean’s throat with his mouth and latching on.

Dean grunts, arching his back, and finds John’s thigh pressed up hard and steady between his legs. It’s too much, all of Dean’s vows crumbling down around him, and he shakes helplessly as John pushes the shirt from his shoulders.

“So pretty,” John whispers. “Fuck, Dean, I need—on the bed. On the bed now.”

Dean’s there before he knows what he’s doing, head swimming and fogged. He drops onto his stomach at first, then rolls at a commanding brush from John’s hand, mouth turned up so that John can take it when he blankets Dean’s body with his own. Dean lifts one leg, foot flat on the bed, and John grabs his thigh with one hand without missing a twist of his tongue. Shifting his weight, the hunter forces Dean’s leg higher—off the bed and over John’s hip—and the new position feels even filthier than the old one.

“Mmph,” Dean manages, shaking his head to get his mouth free. “No, just kissing. You—you said just—”

Then John’s there again, hot and demanding as he squirms a hand between them and starts pulling at the buckle of Dean’s pants. Dean realizes he should be putting up more of a fight than this, but it seems so futile, when he wants this just as much as the hunter does.

“Mine,” John tells him, before nudging Dean’s head back and biting down on his throat. “Fucking mine.”

That doesn’t seem right to Dean, even as he ruts his body up against the hunter’s. He isn’t John’s, he’s God’s. He gave himself to God. He delivered himself up.

“This’s wrong,” he gasps. “John. John, stop.”

John growls, catching the weak hands Dean’s using to push at his chest and pinning them above his head. “It’s Sam,” he says, holding Dean’s wrists with one hand while pushing the other inside Dean’s pants to grip his cock. Dean moans with the strength of the fever that floods him at the touch, easing his legs wider to give the hunter room.

“S-Sam?” he manages a moment later. Something about that name sets off alarm bells, and he fights to think through the haze.

John—no, Sam, he says his name is Sam—laughs, harsh and a little wild, and scrapes his teeth against Dean’s collarbone. “Sam Winchester,” he says, pulling harder at Dean’s cock, and Dean’s eyes widen in understanding a moment before he spills.

It’s his first deliberate orgasm in seven years—wet dreams don’t count—and it isn’t until afterward that he realizes God hadn’t truly abandoned him. It isn’t until he feels that connection—which was buried beneath his confusion but still present and humming—snap irrevocably in the blurred aftermath of pleasure. He’s cold inside. He’s cold and dark as a used-up cinder.

He lies there, unresisting, as Sam works his pants off.

When Sam’s weight returns, skin against skin, Dean rouses a little, but his chest aches too fiercely to put up much of a fight and Sam has him pinned again within moments, looking down with hunger and smug satisfaction in his eyes.

Dean knows, deep in the marrow of his desecrated bones, that he’s looking at his brother. His brother should be dead—the demons took him, they came and they tore into his flesh and they took him away—but instead he’s here. Instead he’s draped over Dean and ruining him in the vilest way possible.

“Oh God,” Dean breathes, and it’s a prayer that gets trapped in the heat between their bodies.

Sam chuckles, rocking against Dean and sending little fissions of arousal through his cock, which should be spent and seems harder than ever. “Waited so long,” he whispers. “Wanted to take you that first day, bend you right over the pew and fuck you there.”

“Wh-why didn’t you?”

Sam’s hand tugs at Dean’s legs again, moving them up to hook around his bare hips, and Dean knows what’s coming next but he’s going to let it happen anyway. There doesn’t seem to be a reason to resist.

“Needed you to come to me willingly,” Sam answers, catching Dean’s mouth in another kiss. “You had to damn yourself, Dean. Wasn’t—oh, fuck—wasn’t gonna let Heaven have you. You were mine first.”

No, Dean was God’s first. He was God’s, and then he was Sam’s, and then God took him in again. But there’s no coming back from this, not from his broken, shattered vows—and with his brother, too: with his own flesh and blood. Dean is sullied inside, and all the penance in the world isn’t going to wash that pollution clean.

His vision blurs with unshed tears as he feels Sam’s cock prod at him, demanding entrance. “Our Father,” he whispers. “Who art in Heaven.”

Sam’s hand blankets his mouth, rough and angry. “No. You don’t talk to Him. You talk to me. He’s thrown you away, Dean. He doesn’t want you anymore.”

Dean isn’t sure that’s true—he’s the one who spat in God’s face, not the other way around—but tears are slipping down his cheeks anyway as he tilts his ass up for Sam and feels the head of his brother’s cock pop inside.

It hurts. It hurts just as much as Dean thinks it should.

“Say it,” Sam demands, releasing Dean’s mouth and planting his hand on the mattress instead. He uses the extra leverage to push deeper, driving the breath from Dean’s lungs and even the memory of grace from his mind. “Say my name.”

“Sam,” Dean pants.

“Sammy.” Correcting. Demanding.

Shutting his eyes—good as blind now, nothing worth looking at with the light of God gone from his face—Dean lets his brother into his body and whispers, “S-Sammy.”

He prays with every piece of his filthy soul that it’ll stop feeling good at any moment, that he’ll stop wanting it now that he knows. But it doesn’t. He doesn’t.

“Fuck, Dean,” Sam groans as he sinks into the hilt. “Needed you for so long. Needed this. Couldn’t stand the thought of you on your knees for Him. You’re better than that. So much better.”

Even in the midst of his despair, Dean laughs. He can feel himself hardening inside, closing off the parts of himself that can’t handle this. The best parts.

“Wanted me—on my knees—for you—you mean,” he replies between thrusts.

Sam makes an incoherent, hungry noise at the notion and loses any sense of rhythm, fucking into Dean with nothing more than a mindless desire to claim. Dean rides it out, enjoying the friction and the throb of arousal—smaller pleasures left to him now that the greater rapture of communion is gone. He comes before Sam, ass clenching down on his brother’s cock and bringing him over as well.

Sam collapses on top of him when he’s finished, breathing hard and sweating. Eventually, he stirs but doesn’t move away, lying there while he hums a happy, contented tune and draws circles on Dean’s chest with one finger. Dean shifts a little, ticklish, but doesn’t pull away. He just lies still and stares up at the dingy, watermarked ceiling and lets himself adjust to the aching sensation of loss inside.

When he’s sure he can manage it without his voice cracking, he announces, “I’ll never love you like I love Him.”

“I know,” Sam replies, snuggling closer with a grin. “You’ll love me better.”