The gun felt heavier than usual. Colder in his hand too, even on this warm night. Maybe it was all the practicing, his arm was leagues past tired. But it was probably the distraction of the beautiful boy watching him. No, not just a boy, but a man, or at least close to being one, just like himself. Pity he was not much more than a fatherless peasant, as the man watching him was of a much higher station being the son of the newly arrived Forester.
It could’t hurt to look though, and maybe impress him with my shooting. His name, maybe if I could at least be brave enough to ask his name, I could concentrate on shooting practice. No one expects me to win, but my whole future is riding on it.
The thudding of the ax continued to interrupt his thoughts with it’s rhythmic fall against the wood. A quick glance told Sam that the man had removed his outer garments, wood cutting was hard work. The body that it had given him though was perfection; and was most definitely the body of a man, not a boy. The water jug that Jo had brought out to him was still cold enough that sweat was running down its silvery sides. Grasping the jug and two of the cups on the tray, Sam strode across the clearing and into the forest towards the man he’d been obsessing over for days.
He hit one of the cups into the jug making a metallic clang ring out through the forest glade. The man set his ax down between his feet and looked up at Sam.
“Would you care to join me for some cold water?” Sam asked, heart in his throat as the man’s green eyes seemed to take hold of his own ability to breathe as his body was examined from head to toe.
The man smiled, a little lopsided, brilliant white teeth shining through the gloom, but stayed silent. Sam stepped forward offering a cup and noticed the beautiful crinkles around the eyes that hadn’t yet left his face. “Here you are. Jo brought it to me, fresh from the well. You look as if you need it after all the chopping.”
The man accepted the cup, briefly pausing as their fingertips grazed and seemed to catch and almost merge. Their eyes both widened at the feeling that seemed to be mutual and the man drank deeply from the cup, tipping his head back so that Sam could admire the long stretch of the tan column. Sam gulped loudly, unable to avoid picturing it adorned with some of his own marks.
“You the other forester that works for my father?” the man asked, handing the cup back to Sam.
Their fingertips again engaged in the strange connection as they briefly touched, time seemed to stop as they held the small contact.
“Yes I do, my name is Sam.”
“I’m Dean. It’s nice to actually meet you,” Dean answered, finally letting go of the contact of their fingertips.
“Guess your father’s put you to work already,” Sam observed with a wry grin at all the perfectly chopped wood surrounding them.
“Yeah, he’s always after me to keep busy. Mostly he just wants me out of his hair so he can do his job. But I don’t mind. Everyone needs firewood.”
“That we do, it gets much cooler in the winter here once the snows begin. How was it in the region you lived in?”
“It rained a lot during the winter, not much snow at all. Different trees too, that’s my favorite thing about my father’s job.”
“What? The trees?” Sam asked, surprised that trees would be on anyone’s favorites list.
“Yeah, they’re different, everywhere we go. And I…uh….I like learning about them, drawing them, stuff like that.”
“Your father told me he’d lived here a long while ago, so he already knows these trees I suppose,” Sam said.
“That was the year when I was four, but all I remember about being here is the fire. I don’t remember the trees as well as I wish I could, but I’m getting to know them again,” Dean said, running one sturdy hand up and down the ash tree trunk.
Sam watched Dean’s hand move, entranced with the gentle strength he could see in the rhythmic movements. “A fire? The one that burned the forester’s cabin and all the surrounding ones, seventeen years ago?”
“Yes, it killed my mother and we…uh…we had to leave, and we’ve been on the road ever since, traveling around, there’s always another forest that needs a Forester,” Dean said, hand stilling against the tree bark, knuckles going white as he gripped it harder, obviously trying to control his emotions.
“I…I’m so sorry. That’s awful, Dean,” Sam said.
“What’s done is done. No use dwelling, that’s what the old man’s always saying anyway,” Dean said with a shrug, taking his hand away from the tree and clasping it behind his neck.
“So I’ve noticed,” Sam said with a smile.
“You lived here long?” Dean asked, hesitantly returning the smile.
“All my life, I was a foundling. Ellen, the house manager found me at the edge of the forest the night of that fire, wrapped up in a blanket, said I was around six months old. She named me Sam, and I’ve lived here ever since.”
Dean paused for a long moment, as if he was trying to puzzle something out. Then he abruptly asked, “Why have you been firing the pistol all day, Sam?”
“Oh, was the noise bothering you? I’m sorry. I just…I have to practice, for the tournament,” Sam said, nervous all of a sudden, wishing he had put his pistol away before he’d come over with the water.
“The noise wasn’t a problem, cutting wood ain’t exactly quiet. What tournament?” Dean asked.
“The one that will set me on my path, to officially become your father’s apprentice ranger. The person who wins, gets the job. If I lose, then my future is lost,” Sam said, trying and failing to keep the worry out of his voice.
“My father said you were the best shot around, that you were pretty much a sure thing.”
“He did? Really?” Sam asked, feeling instantly better at the second-hand praise.
“Yeah, and from what I just saw, he’s right,” Dean said, sounding completely sure of what he was saying.
“You were—uh—watching me?” Sam asked, feeling shy just at the tone of Dean’s voice.
Dean just grinned and picked up his ax, holding the handle firmly in his large, competent hands. Sam watched as he slid one hand up to the tip and gripped it harder. “Yeah, you’re a sure thing, Sam.”
Sam felt his knees go weak at the provocative implication of Dean’s words and gestures, but tried to steady his hand that still held his pistol. “You going to be there tomorrow, at the contest?”
“I wasn’t planning on it, but now that I’ve seen you in action—yeah I’ll be there.”
“Good, I’ll see you—,” Sam said, interrupted by a familiar voice shouting his name from the woods. “That’s your father calling for me, I gotta go.”
“Bye, Sam,” Dean said softly as Sam turned to leave. “Thanks for the water.”
Sam turned back for a moment and looked at Dean. “You’re welcome, Dean. I’m glad I finally got to meet you.” He blushed when he saw Dean’s color come up, flooding his sharp cheekbones with a beautiful red stain. Stopping himself before he did something stupid like kiss him, he turned and ran towards the impatient sounds that John was making deeper in the forest.
The next day came too soon for Sam, he woke from an intense dream starring the green-eyed man he’d drooled over yesterday. Dean’s plush lips had been busy mapping out his body, while his own hands slid across Dean’s powerful, ax-wielding shoulders. He rolled over on his bed, dislodging the straw and strewing herbs, his face ending up on the cold metal of his pistol. What a way to wake up, thoughts of a beautiful man taking him apart and a cold gun in the face. At least the gun would warm up and win him a future today, even if he never stood a chance with Dean.
After several rounds of shooting, it was down to Sam and a younger peasant named Gordon. Sam looked over the top of Gordon’s tightly curled, black hair, searching the crowd for the eyes he wanted to see watching him. Finally he located Dean, near the back, standing beside Dean’s father and his own boss, John Winchester. There was something about seeing the two of them standing together watching him that sent a shiver up his spine. Some thrill of recognition of something experienced but not quite remembered.
The command to shoot broke Sam out of his aimless musings, he flashed a grin across the field to Dean who instantly returned it. Sam stood up straighter and taller, rolling his shoulders and centering himself. He counted down to himself, blew out his breath, took aim and fired. The bullet flew straight and true, landing almost dead center on the target. Loud cheers and whoops rang through the air.
One more shot left to Gordon, this one would determine the outcome of the contest. Sam watched as the younger man lifted his slightly rusty pistol and braced himself to shoot, the loud retort pierced his ears and the crowd gasped. Gordon’s shot had landed dead center on his target. There was no need to measure, he’d clearly won. Sam gritted his teeth and shook Gordon’s hand in congratulations, assuring the older man that it was well deserved.
Sam stalked off the field away from the crowd that had spilled out onto the contest grounds. He crashed through the forest, still hearing the singing and cheering that broke out behind him, something about Gordon being “King of Marksmen.” That only made him begin to move into a faster trot, soon heading up the small mountain behind the castle, to one of the only places he ever felt at peace.
Sam burst into the small clearing and flopped down onto the flat granite boulder that stood at the cliff’s edge. He stared up into the early evening summer sky and tried to fight back the tears of frustration. There was nothing he’d needed more than to win that contest. It was his only pathway out of this life of dull servitude. He’d wanted to become the Forester someday, more than anything, there didn’t seem to be anything left to hope for. The tears finally came on, bursting forth and carving familiar tracks through the day’s dust on his face.
“Here, let me,” a voice said from behind him, shadow blocking out the early stars and light of the rising moon. A soft cloth was pressed to the sides of his face, absorbing his tears. He opened his eyes and was shocked to see Dean looking down at him with a face full of concern. “Are you all right, Sam?”
“Yeah, uh, I guess,” Sam muttered, body flooding with embarrassment at being discovered crying after such a humiliating loss.
“I thought you did really well today,” Dean said, sitting down next to him on the sun-warmed granite.
Sam momentarily thought about getting up and walking away, avoiding this gut-churning humiliation for one more minute, but then he saw Dean’s eyes, how open they were, how wide and beautiful. He felt himself fall into them, even though he was lying down looking up at Dean, he fell and fell further still into their endless depths and nothing hurt and nothing was disappointing and all he could feel was safe and loved and finally at home. He came back to himself when Dean’s warm hand was stroking his cheek.
“Hey, Sam, snap out of it,” Dean’s warm voice enveloped him, bringing him back to the now of being laid out flat on his back next to this beautiful man who was still carefully drying his tears.
“Dean, I’ve got nothing now, there’s nothing for me, nowhere to go, I can’t…” Sam said, starting to cry again despite his best efforts.
“Hey, c’mon now, it’s gonna be okay, Sam,” Dean said, scooping Sam up to lay across his lap and nestle in his arms. Sam began to move away in protest, but Dean just held him closer. “It’ll all turn out, you’ll see, Sammy.”
The name, that name, Sammy, seemed to ring truer than anything else he’d ever heard in his life. Dean’s voice sounding so familiar, so perfect, so right, calling him Sammy, like he had been doing it his whole life, or like he should have been. It was like the thing that had been missing that Sam had never figured out. And now Dean was holding him and he couldn’t stop crying.
“You just get it all out. I know that was disappointing to lose like that. But there will be something else that’s the right thing for you, and you’ll win, you’ll see, Sammy.”
Sam heard it again, the rightness of the name off of that tongue, out of that beautiful mouth. He rubbed his face dry against the roughness of the linen and flax shirt Dean wore and then looked up at him. More stars had risen along with the moon and Dean looked like an unearthly, faery being, too gloriously perfect to be real. Sam shivered with the idea.
“Hey, you okay? You cold?” Dean asked, concern troubling his brow.
Sam just stared, slightly open-mouthed up at this boy, this man who held him, watching his lips move, wondering what they’d feel like on his. “I…I’m okay, yeah,” Sam finally managed to say. He began to try and sit up and get out of the strange position across Dean’s lap, but Dean’s arms tightened around him holding him there. He looked at Dean again, watching his eyes closely. “You called me Sammy, no one ever calls me that.”
“It suits you somehow, I dunno, it felt right. But I won’t call you that if you don’t like it.”
“No! I mean, no, it’s good. I…uh…I liked it.”
“What else do you like, Sammy?” Dean asked, eyes twinkling with a mischievous challenge.
Sam saw that look and heard what Dean was really asking. “You holding me like this, makes me feel better.”
“Good,” Dean said, leaning down towards Sam.
Sam closed his eyes as Dean got too close to look at, he groaned when he felt Dean’s lips brush his gently. His hands tightened around Dean, and he surged up for a harder kiss, their mouths met in a furious tangle of bruising teeth against lips, gently swirling tongues and delicious noises from both of them. The kiss seemed to go on forever and Sam had given up all hope of anything ever feeling better in the whole world when Dean’s hands moved down to grip him under his ass, hauling him upright to sprawl across Dean’s lap.
Dean kissed his way down the side of Sam’s neck, and Sam could feel his heart speed up like it was trying to race its way out of his ribcage. Dean stopped at the juncture of his neck and shoulder and bit down on the tender skin just above Sam’s collarbone, suckling hard at the same time. Sam lost all sense of time and space, for all he’d known he’d fallen off the rock and down into the castle garden hundreds of feet below. Dean finally released him and licked over the spot until Sam whined in the back of his throat.
“Sammy, can you feel it?” Dean asked, sounding winded and out of breath.
Sam realized that there was something different, like they were surrounded in a cloud of invisible dandelion fluff, the air felt soft and gently spiky. “Yeah, I can. It’s everywhere around us. What is it, Dean?”
“It’s you and me, we’re doing that,” Dean murmured, hips beginning to move in an insistent rhythm beneath Sam. Sam tightened his legs around Dean’s hips and met him, thrust for thrust, both of them groaning at the feeling surging up between their moving bodies.
Sam didn’t care about whatever the strange feeling in the air meant, all that mattered was the man beneath him, making him feel things he’d never imagined. Things like mine, mine mine. He wanted this forever with Dean. He never wanted to stop, and the words tumbled out of him and he pressed closer into Dean’s body, wanted to be one with him and he didn’t care that he might be saying all that out loud, he just wanted Dean.
“Sammy,” Dean groaned, as his whole body stiffened under Sam, his hands pulling Sam even closer and that extra pressure pulled Sam over the edge with him. They fell against each other, wrecked and momentarily sated; panting a little, breaths blowing the fluff in the air in a swirl that they couldn’t quite see. Then it all seemed to rise up and blow away on the evening wind into the trees, being replaced by a distant call coming up the mountain in an all-too familiar voice. “Dean! Where the hell are you? Dean!”
Dean crushed Sam to him, kissing him furiously as if it was all of their first and last times at once. Finally he broke away, moving Sam off his lap, and attempting to stand. Sam pushed him up a little and then stood himself.
Dean looked up at him, moonlight gilding Dean’s forehead and cheekbones, that ethereal otherness glowing out of him. “That’s my father calling, I’m sorry, I gotta go.”
Not knowing what to say or do after an encounter like this, Sam stuck out his hand to shake and was surprised when instead Dean pulled him into a full body hug, murmuring against his neck, “You’re a real goof aren’t you? I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And then Dean was gone down the forest path and Sam was alone in the moonlight with his heart full of something that he knew from all the minstrel stories had to be love. He cleaned himself up as quickly as he could and sat down again to think. This was his safe place, none of the other castle people ever found him up here, but Dean had. Dean, unlike anyone he’d ever met, but somehow the most familiar and instantly beloved. Sam had never known that you could connect with someone like that, so quickly and completely.
There was no space left in his brain, it was all filled with thoughts of Dean. All the worries of losing the contest were gone as if they’d never troubled him. He’d never felt so happy, so this was what it really felt like then, to be happy, to want to be with someone, so this was love, it’d found him after all. Here he’d resigned himself to only ever being a lonely not-even an apprentice forester, content to wander the duke’s land, looking after the animals for the duke the rest of his life. But now there was Dean, and he had changed everything.