Mary found the information on the god that the Men of Letters had chosen to guard the South the next evening after they’d finished the takeout Mexican she’d brought for dinner.
“So get this,” Mary said, waving a binder full of indexed pages over Sam’s bent head. He’d looked up from what he was reading, surprised to hear his own phrase come out of his mother’s mouth. “I found the deity they used in the South, it’s Apedemak.”
“Huh, sounds Egyptian,” Sam said, drinking down the last of his tea, long-since gone cold. It had been an epic night of research, he hadn’t even bothered trying to sleep.
“Yeah, he’s the Egyptian god of war and protection. This says he’s the lion of the South, and strong of arm.”
Sam held up his tablet so Mary could see the pictures on the screen. “This look like him? Lion-headed man, or lion-headed snake, not sure which is worse.”
“Yeah, that’s him, he’s associated with the South, hawks, wheat, and is ‘the one who makes protection.’ It’s no wonder they used him, huh?”
“What do you think it’s gonna take to appease this dude?” Sam asked.
“Sheaves of wheat and a hawk?” Mary guessed.
“No lions, huh?”
“I don’t think we’re equipped for that kind of animal-wrangling, Sam, sorry,” Mary said with a grin.
“I just wanted to see Dean’s face when he shows up and there’s a lion in the back seat of the Impala,” Sam said, laughing uncontrollably at the idea. Mary joined him, unable to hold back.
The next morning, Dean was on his third cup of coffee, the bacon wasn’t quite ready yet, and he wasn’t even hungry for it. He was reading over the information on Apedemak that Sam had left for him.
“What’s that song, the one you were humming?” Mary asked.
“Uh, just something I picked up somewhere,” Dean said, feeling that same possessive impulse over the tune that he and Sam had learned from Mater Matuta. It was theirs, and no one else’s.
“I thought you had to bury the rings,” Mary said, her eye zeroed in on the silver ring on Dean’s left hand.
“Ullr, he…uh, gave them back to us, to help us remember our vow,” Dean said.
Mary frowned at the reminder of her son’s vows. “Jack and I are heading out to get the bundles of wheat that you need for Apedemak. We’ll be back tomorrow if all goes well.”
“Can’t we just go sneak into one of the fields and cut some?” Dean asked.
“Nope, not at this time of year,” Mary said. “So we’re going up to the Wheat Farming Commission office up in Mandan, North Dakota. It’s about ten hours one way, so we’ll split up the driving and make it back here tomorrow. Supposedly they’ve got a display of all the kinds of wheat grown in the US, hopefully that’ll be enough to make Apedemak happy.”
“We haven’t met him yet, so who knows,” Dean said. “Have a good trip. Keep an eye on Jack’s driving, he doesn’t have a whole lot of practice yet.”
“It’s good that it’s mostly two lane roads then,” Mary said as she headed down the hallway. “Tell Sam I said to cancel the lion tamer, okay?”
“Will do, bye, Mom,” Dean said with a wave she couldn’t possibly see. Lion tamer, what was that about? He was very glad that she wasn’t going to be around today while they dealt with Hespera.
Cas was the one who found the information on Hespera, the deity the Men of Letters had asked to guard the West. He’d told them how she was the Grecian goddess of the dusk, one of the Hesperides. She was the keeper of the golden apples, which were a bridal gift from the Earth to Zeus and Hera. According to the records, she had been promised offerings of apples every month, and prayers every evening. So they had a lot to make up for.
Sam had dug up her statue the day before and asked for specifics on what she’d require. According to him, she was very specific, she would only be appeased by a marriage and a marriage night.
Sam had relayed the conversation he’d had with Hespera to Dean, not leaving out any of the difficult parts.
“I know that you are soulmates, so a marriage night should not be so difficult a thing,” Hespera said.
“You don’t know us though. We’re brothers, so it is a big ask. And anyway, we can’t be together during the night…you know, for a marriage night,” Sam said.
“Ah yes, my sister goddess, Mater Matuta has you divided in the hours. You shall give me the time between dusk and twilight and I will count it as done.”
“But first we have to be married, actually married, right?”
“Yes, I shall need to see both the marriage as well as the marriage night, or in your case, marriage hour. As to details for that, as long as it consists of some type of normal human coupling, I shall leave those details up to you,” Hespera said.
Dean hadn’t said much after hearing all that except for a scathing, “At least it’s not sacrificing a human life, right?”
Sam made a call to the plant nursery again, asked for nine bare-root golden delicious apple trees. Cas picked them up in the truck and helped Dean plant them in a circle on the side of the road near the location of Hespera’s statue. He sang the familiar song of the dawn under his breath as he worked, the words soothing him, “A crown above and a crown below.”
“What is that song you’re singing?” Cas asked.
“Just something I picked up,” Dean said, not wanting to share this with his friend, it was something only he and Sam knew. It seemed important to keep it that way.
“It will be dusk soon,” Cas said. “Are you ready for this?”
Dean had been thinking about it all day, that they were being married tonight, and then consecrating their marriage in the usual way. Dean scowled and patted the dirt around the base of the last tree with his shovel. He stood up and brushed the dirt from his knees. “I don’t think so, but it’s happening.”
“Do you not want to go through with the marriage? I don’t believe I should carry out the ceremony if you are hesitating,” Cas said, his face smushed up into the worried look that Sam had always joked looked more like constipation.
“I’m not hesitating, just the usual marriage jitters or whatever I guess,” Dean said. He stalked over to the truck and pulled out the camping mattresses and sleeping bags. Cas watched as he arranged them in the center of the newly planted apple trees. He lit nine small pillar candles and set one in front of each tree.
Sam shimmered into being as Dean had just finished the candle lighting.
“It looks beautiful, Dean,” Sam said.
Dean turned around and saw Sam, still glistening with that fine coating of shimmer and shine left from being with the goddess of the Dawn for twelve hours. He barely stopped himself from saying something cheesy like not as beautiful as you.
“Hey, Cas, thanks for doing this,” Sam said.
“Of course, Sam, I am actually quite honored that you asked,” Cas said.
“Who the hell else was there? Who were we going to ask, Mom or Jack?” Dean said with a sarcastic snort.
“Dean, let’s just get through this,” Sam said.
“Right—we’ll get through it,” Dean muttered.
“Why don’t you start, we’ve only got so much time to get all this done,” Sam said, hoping Dean would get on board and make this bearable. Sam twisted off his ring, and handed it to Cas. Dean scowled and did the same.
Cas clinked the two rings together on his palm, cleared his throat, and began the short ceremony he’d chosen. “In the normal course of human couplings, this would not occur. But in my experience, over thousands of years, you two are unique. The bond you share, the love you have for each other, it shines as a beacon that blinds those who look closely. A ceremony of marriage is but a formality in my opinion. You were made, two souls, two bodies, but soulmates from the beginning.”
Cas turned to look at Sam. “As a representative of Heaven here on Earth, I ask you, Samuel Winchester, do you take this man, Dean Winchester to be your husband, will you wed him here this day, and be with him for the rest of your lives?”
“Yes, I will,” Sam said, voice choked with emotion.
Cas turned to look at Dean. Dean was looking only at Sam. Sam smiled and took Dean’s hand in his. Dean’s shoulders relaxed and he turned slightly to look at Cas.
“Dean Winchester, I ask you as a representative of Heaven here on Earth, do you take this man, Samuel Winchester to be your husband, will you wed him here this day, and be with him for the rest of your lives?”
Dean nodded first, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. He opened them to look at Sam, and smiled. “Yes, I will,” Dean said, voice strong and clear in the evening dusk.
“These rings you have used in a vow to never leave the other, now you use in this ceremony of marriage to mark your union. I confer upon them all the grace that they can absorb. May they always remind you that Heaven looks down upon your union with favor.”
Sam took the rings from Cas’ outstretched hand. He handed Dean the smaller ring, even though Sam was a lot taller, Dean still had much larger fingers. Sam took up Dean’s left hand and slipped the larger ring onto his finger. Dean did the same, they held their hands together and Cas stepped forward to place his hands over their joined ones. Sam could feel the subtle warmth of angel grace flowing into them.
“Hespera, hear me now, I now pronounce these two men to be joined in marriage,” Cas said, squeezing their joined hands and then releasing them to step back.
“Thanks, Cas,” Sam said with a wave. Cas nodded and blinked away out of sight.
Sam turned back to Dean and saw how uncomfortable he was, he had to get this over with.
“Hespera, we offer to you in tribute, this grove of apple trees, the witnessing of our marriage, and our first joining as married people.”
“Is this where we…uh, Sammy?” Dean asked, clutching at the back of his neck.
“Yeah, let’s just—“ Sam interrupted his own nervous babbling before it could get too far out of hand and pulled Dean into a kiss. It was their first as married people, and after so many years together (off and on), it still did truly feel like a first. They were hesitant at first, as if they’d been transformed by the ceremony. Dean felt larger in his arms, like they’d been equalized somehow by being married. It wasn’t possible, and Sam didn’t want to think about it anymore, he wanted to feel, wanted to have, wanted to give.
His hands roamed over Dean’s body, possessive and grasping, pulling his clothes away as Dean did the same. Dean pulled him down to the makeshift bed, their marriage bed, and kissed the breath and life back into him. This was why they were still fighting this fight to get back to each other, this connection, this thing between them that lived and breathed and never ever died even if one of them did.
“Love you so much, Dean,” Sam said, grasping the two of them in his palm. Dean closed his hand around Sam’s, making the friction perfect.
“Love you too, Sam, can’t believe you’re my husband now,” Dean whispered, thrusting in time with Sam.
Just hearing Dean whisper, hearing the words said out loud, no matter how quietly, set off fireworks in Sam’s mind, everything exploded into a roar of bliss and he heard Dean do the same. It was heaven.
Hespera shimmered into being, with a roar of light and an apple-scented breeze that made them shiver with pleasure. She ran her hands over the small branches of the new apple trees. Sam rolled over onto Dean to cover him from her view.
“I thank you for this offering, and for these trees. I have missed the scent of apples for so very long.”
“I’m glad you like them,” Sam said, wishing he could put his clothes on to face her.
“I will watch over them and make sure they grow strong and true,” Hespera said.
“Did you really have to be here for this part?” Dean asked.
Hespera smiled, slow and a bit wry. “Can you blame me? You two together are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Truly an offering of divine love and divine beauty, I thank you. I was the one who told Mater Matuta that you are anima genimae. It is nothing to be ashamed of, Dean.”
Dean pushed Sam off, and stood up, naked and proud, still wet with the evidence of their coupling. “I am not ashamed, not of who we are or what we just did. Honestly, I’m just feeling interrupted here.” Dean gestured down at Sam who had stayed where he was, sprawled out on their bed.
Hespera grinned, and nodded. She disappeared in a rush of light turning to sparkles of dusk twilight. It settled over Dean’s body, making him twinkle in the dim light left of the dusk. Sam couldn’t speak, he was so damn beautiful, how was it possible that this man was his now? Dean folded himself back over Sam’s body, pressing him into the bed, into the earth, and made Sam wish he was a younger man. They were both still aroused but neither of them could recover that quickly, especially after being interrupted by a goddess. It still felt amazing to have Dean’s naked skin against his own, he never wanted to go without this again.
“Thanks,” Sam said, grateful that Dean had stood up to Hespera to give them the last few moments of twilight alone.
“I really just wanted you all to myself,” Dean said.
“I pretty much always want that,” Sam said with a grin.
Dean kissed his smiling lips, licking his way inside his mouth where he belonged. Sam held him close, enjoying the feeling of Dean’s weight holding him down, such a comfort to feel so safe for this moment. Dean faded away into the twilight then, leaving Sam’s arms empty but still left in the shape of the curve of Dean’s body.
Sam pressed his head back into the camping mattress and tried not to cry at the loss. He looked up at the stars which got a little blurry but then cleared. He shivered in the cold and gathered his clothes up, getting dressed in a few seconds. The nine candles he left to burn themselves out, each at the foot of one of the new apple trees. The mattresses and sleeping bags got tossed into the truck and he drove back to the empty bunker, a newly married, but very lonely man.
Mary and Jack brought back a whole trunk-full of wheat bundles that next morning. They were all shades of brown and gold, some of them were even a pale green. Cas also returned with a trained hunting hawk they had bought on Craig’s List. The hawk had a little hood on, and leather traces fastened around his ankles. The hawk seller had thrown in a big leather padded glove as well. The little guy took to Dean right away and sat on his shoulder while they prepared things.
Dean was relieved that Mary didn’t seem to notice anything different about him, and she didn’t ask about what they’d had to do to appease the goddess to the West. Better left unsaid was what Dean decided, it wasn’t something he felt up to having a conversation with his mother about, especially without Sam at his side. Hopefully at some point, after all this was over they’d be able to try to be a little more honest with her.