A lot of them think he is a trick, a Trojan Horse, that Lucifer is still behind the wheel, and it shows.
Nobody sits with him at meal times, unless Cas is back from a foray, or sober or flying low enough to remember he has to eat.
Sam used to take him food on those times when he was back in camp but didn’t show up, because otherwise someone would take his share, and because he felt safer with Cas than he did by himself in a room full of people who hated him.
He stopped doing that when he walked into Cas in the middle of a fuck pile, being held down and taking it, not in need of rescue, just writhing in pleasure while the stink of weed hung like a cloud in the air.
He’s never been in Cas’s cabin since, and Cas doesn’t seem to mind if he misses out on food.
But even the ones who do believe he is no longer harbouring the devil don’t care; to them, he’s the enemy, the brother who said yes and brought about the ruin of the world.
Lucifer would still be in his inferior vessel.
He would still be limited, less emboldened.
The Croatoan virus would never have happened and they wouldn’t be scraping an existence in this fucking disaster.
So Sam can’t really blame them for loathing him, fearing him, wanting him dead or gone.
Only the fact that they all need Dean, and at least three quarters of the camp is afraid of him, is what got him allowed inside in the first place, and is all that’s keeping him here.
Well, stopping him from getting kicked out or murdered in his sleep, anyway.
It’s Cas who finds him, Cas who though human must still have some angelic senses left.
Sam wonders, while he recovers after, if that’s why Cas drinks and takes whatever pills or drugs he can find or make, to drown out whatever remains because it hurts too much to be even a one hundredth of what he was before.
Or maybe it’s to try and find something to fill the hollow left behind.
To be honest, Sam’s kind of surprised that Dean hasn’t done that. He’d assumed...back before he said the three letter word and killed a few billion people because of it…
He knows Dean, knew him, and he could see the way he was curving towards the angel, that every sacrifice Cas made for them was like stripping layers off his big brother.
But then here they are, and the more time Sam spends around them, the more he realises that Cas is too human for Dean now. Too easily broken and beyond Dean’s ability to fix.
But he’s not too human to find Sam, and haul his dumb ass up out of the tub, back into air, and grab his shirt and rip it in two and bind up his wrists while yelling like crazy for Dean, for help.
Sam thinks it was maybe his near death hallucination but he remembers a few people coming in to watch him and then walking away. He presumes they told no one, and learns later than Dean kicked every single one of them out of the camp, even the guy with kids.
The kids got to stay, obviously, since they didn’t do anything.
How can he still be so much like Dean and such a different person at the same time?
Still, he comes daily to Sam, now, and gets Sam in his grip. He holds on, and he tells Sam if he ever tries that again, he’ll kick his ass.
Sam says, rawly honest, that if he tries it again, he’ll succeed, and from then on in, Dean orders Cas to never leave Sam’s side.
It means Sam is there when Cas hits withdrawal, and mops the sweat from his body, and holds a bucket for him to puke into, and chases away the people who’d benefitted from Cas’s literal fall from Grace.
Perhaps, he thinks, that’s why Dean did it. He couldn’t save Sam, or Cas, but maybe they could save each other.
It’s still too early to tell.
Come winter, Sam still doesn’t want to live.
He still only has Cas and Dean, maybe Chuck, who seems to get the weight of having your entire future pre decided for you, but the sky always seems dark and now darker still, and it’s so bleak.
Part of him thinks he should stay here, and suffer with the rest of them, but he also thinks he’s taking up valuable resources he doesn’t deserve.
Room. Food. Dean and Cas’s time and energy when they’re needed by others.
Cas makes him promise that if he is every going to try again, he will come find him first.
Sam promises, but it’s a lie, and at any rate Dean starts arranging things so that he and Cas are never on a mission together, which lets Cas stay with him when Dean isn’t there.
But even when Dean is, Sam will often not see him day to day, even if he can feel his presence, close enough to watch, to guard, but nothing else.
By the middle of November, that changes.
Dean notices that Sam’s sexual interest in anything has dropped to zero.
How, Sam isn’t sure, but he suspects that he has spies. Not Cas - Sam overheard an argument between them where Dean wanted to know things and Cas angrily told him if he did, then he should ask the right person and after that they didn’t speak for days - but somebody.
Or maybe he just knows him.
It’s not like there’s anybody here interested in him. Cas doesn’t sleep with anybody now, and Sam’s glad, because there are other viruses to be worried about than the one that turns people into bloodthirsty maniacs.
But he also doesn’t sleep with Sam, because...just, no. To Sam, Cas is his little brother, and he can’t forget that Cas is an angel, always will be even if the Grace of Heaven that used to course through him got switched up off.
Sam’s desecrated enough, he won’t taint Cas as well.
But it’s when Cas is gone for three days, overdue along with the others who left with him, that Dean finds his way to their house.
He looks like shit, and Sam’s wondering how much longer he can keep going. Propping everybody up, running this place and making sure they all (or most of them) survive another day.
Keeping everybody in line.
But it isn’t why Dean’s here, not for solace.
He seems resigned to the possibility that Cas won’t return, and Sam realises this is their life. Anything could get any one of them at any time, and fearing it is just wasting emotional strength they can’t afford.
Not that Sam thinks it wouldn’t break him or Cas to lose the other, but they would have to keep going.
So Dean’s here for another reason.
It’s been a long time since Sam’s seen him nervous; in this camp it’s like he’s made of steel, cold and hard and never bending under the weight of everything thrust upon him.
But Dean being nervous makes him nervous, and he wonders if this is finally it; some faction demanding his exile from the camp has won Dean over, or gained control somehow.
He doesn’t want to live, but he doesn’t want to die out there alone, especially not torn apart by feral humans.
It’s only when Dean pulls himself together and strides across the room to pull Sam to his feet and kiss him that he realises what Dean does want.
If anybody sees this, Sam knows how it will go.
They’ll be vindicated in their conviction that Sam is evil; after all, who lets their own brother come on to him?
And, worse: he’s clearly contaminated Dean too, and maybe they both get tossed out of camp.
But Dean doesn’t seem to care, and he pushes Sam down onto the big bed he shares with Cas because neither of them was prepared to let the other sleep on the floor, and he undoes Sam’s shirt, and pushes up his tee and presses hot kisses to his little brother’s skin.
It isn’t because it’s Dean that Sam’s body stays cold and inert. There’s different rules in place these days, and Sam wants his body to thaw, wants it to wake up to how Dean is treating him like something valuable to be cherished, but since he walked away from Lucifer….
...miles on miles, stumbling hungry and thirsty and with bleeding feet because he has no shoes, and doesn’t understand why, finally reaching the camp and standing there, bleary eyed and confused until someone went to fetch Dean…
He’s a shell, and he knows it. Lucifer was like a Brillo pad to his insides, steel wool scraping him raw. He supposes he should consider himself lucky that he isn’t a mindless wreck, drooling in a corner because surely he would be dead of neglect and not lying in a bed while his brother tongue fucks his mouth as he clumsily fists Sam’s dick.
But that seems fairer, and at least if it had been the outcome of Lucifer’s possession, he wouldn’t be the broken burden he is now, and maybe his penance would be part way paid.
Maybe he says that aloud, because Dean pauses long enough to peer up at him.
He clearly doesn’t know what to say, and that’s a new one; making things up like this (it’s a goal Sam isn’t sure he’ll ever truly achieve) is too difficult and takes too long.
He wants to make it all right, but he can’t. He can’t by his body reacting like a rock to his brother’s attempt to spark some life into it, into him, and he can’t by trying to kill himself (though he knows he will probably keep trying to achieve absolution by that method because at least if it doesn’t work, he won’t be a burden to anyone here).
It’s pointless, just like Dean’s efforts to anchor him down like a tarpaulin he thinks will blow away in the wind.
Dean sits back after a while, frustrated and afraid, and Sam can only offer him a weak smile, because they both know this will never work.
Sam’s on his hands and knees, staring at the wall.
Dean’s behind him, fucking Sam’s ass with his fingers, crooking them just right, just where he needs to and Sam should go off like a rocket, but he stays limp, his balls hanging there impotent and empty, but it doesn’t derail Dean from his mission.
In the end, all it does is start to hurt, but Sam doesn’t tell him (and appreciates the irony that he’s numb to the pleasure but oh, he can feel the pain), though Dean must figure it out when he withdraws his fingers out and there’s more than lube on his skin.
He storms out after that, leaving Sam to limp home, and Sam doesn’t see him for a few days.
If you want to shower, there’s a communal area towards the rear of the camp. Ladies get it in the morning, men in the early evening, and within that, there’s a rota system.
It works out as one shower a fortnight and everybody seems used to the fug of body odour that hangs around the camp as a result.
Everybody seems more or less the same so nobody makes a thing out of it.
But Sam’s day comes, and he washes up fast, because when the water from the overhead bucket runs out, that’s it.
It’s hard to clean up with just cold water and no soap, but he manages, and then towels himself down with his dirty shirt before pulling on that fortnight’s clothes.
Or tries to.
He’s still butt naked when somebody grabs him, and turns him around, and Dean’s there, pushing him, back towards the trees that provide the only real cover in the whole place.
The needles and leaves are a soft if cold blanket he gets laid down on, and he tries to tell Dean he’s wasting his time as his brother stands over him, stripping off, but then Dean’s down beside him.
He takes his belt and he ties off Sam’s hands, and his touch is bruising and angry as if he’s tired of not being able to fix this, fix Sam, and he’s finally taking that anger out on the right person.
Maybe not just the anger over that. Maybe the anger over everything, because everything is Sam’s fault, and if this is another part of his penance, he’ll gladly endure.
Dean hoists Sam’s legs up, thighs flat against his chest, and fucks him like he’s pounding rock with a hammer.
It hurts, but not as bad as the pleas from Dean’s mouth. For Sam to try, to not give up, to be more present, because even as hellish as this world is, Dean needs Sam in it or it will be without anything to make it worth saving.
As always...everything boils down to him, and Sam wishes it didn’t, not when it’s because of him the world is like this.
Because of him that Dean had no chance to live, instead being chained to their family and made to look after a kid when he was a kid himself, sacrificing everything Sam didn’t have to sacrifice anything.
He knows Dean will disagree, but isn’t the proof of it right here, when Dean’s committing that most taboo of acts, fucking his brother in some attempt to crack open his shell and bring him back from wherever he’s gotten trapped?
But Sam’s beginning to realise he owes penance for more than killing the world. He owes it for every time Dean went hungry, and got their dad’s belt because he told John he broken the gun, or snuck the puppy into their room, or ate too much and left them with no food for the next day.
Every time Dean had a chance and his obligation to their family, their jobs, ripped it from him.
His ledger can never be balanced, but he knows Dean needs to try and he isn’t so cruel that he won’t let him.
Dean comes, a broken release, because it was never about him getting off.
He slumps over Sam’s body, and then pushes up on his arms enough to look down at this brother, and there are tears in his eyes, and he looks so helpless that Sam finds himself wishing he had never survived that death march to the camp.
It would have been more merciful all around.
But he did survive it and he is here, and Dean unties his hands, and gets dressed, and goes.
Sam takes his time getting up, getting dressed, and finding his way back to the house he shares with Cas.
Maybe, he starts to think, he has it wrong.
This is his penance: letting Dean try to mend him when he knows he is something that can never be fixed.