"Are you drunk?" is the first thing Dean asks when Sam staggers through the door. "Fuck, Sam, that's the second night in a row. You better not have driven, you better have taken a—"
Dean stops as soon as he sees the brunette under Sam's arm. His mother-henning quiets immediately, replaced by a perfect blankness.
"Dean, this is Ruby," Sam says, pointing to the girl. He looks for hurt in Dean's expression, but of course he doesn't find any.
"Oh, hello, miss," he turns to Sam, businesslike and detached. "Welcome home, master. Can I get anything for you or your guest?"
Sam hates, hates, hates when he talks like that. Is too drunk now to restrain himself from glaring and answering in a pissy tone. "No, thanks, Dean. Why don't you go power down for a while? My guest and I don't need you."
If that hurts Dean, he doesn't even blink. He turns to the girl Sam brought home and smiles. "Anything for you, ma'am?"
"Yeah, sure," she says, shoving her coat into Dean's arms. "I'll have a gin and tonic, if you can make that. Can these things mix drinks?" She laughs, poking Dean's face. "I've never had one. Would be pretty cool, though. Look how clean your place is! Does the robot do all of that?"
Sam purses his lips. "Don't call him a thing," he says.
"What, that's what it is." She laughs, tossing her purse on the couch, then kicks her shoes, which are caked in mud from the rain outside, onto the clean carpet. Like all the work Dean has done to tidy the place up was nothing.
It's enough to make him reconsider all of this, but he digs in. Dean won't care. Dean never cares about anything. Certainly not about Sam. He's going to die tomorrow for someone who's just as happy to mix a drink for the random girl Sam brought home as he was to spend his entire life cleaning Sam's house, for someone who never once looked at Sam with the desire this girl has as she sways her way to the bedroom.
Sam is probably going to die tomorrow and he cannot let his last night be spent the way every other one has, feeling sorry for himself over Dean.
Ruby sticks her head out from the bedroom and calls out Sam's name. "Are you coming or not?"
Sam shakes himself out of his thoughts and tries to let the alcohol drown him again. Tries to make himself believe this is as good an idea as it had seemed at the bar, or in the cab on the way here, or for the split second after he opened the door, before he saw Dean and forgot he could want anyone else.
"Yeah," Sam says, hurrying after her. "Yeah, of course."
A few minutes later, Sam is on top of her, making out as his hand creeps up her skirt. Dean comes in, casual as anything, and sets her drink on the nightstand.
"Ma'am, your gin and tonic. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
Ruby laughs under Sam. "My god, that's awesome."
"Yeah, he's great," Sam agrees. "Dean, you're dismissed. Please go recharge in the other—"
"No, no, wait!" she says. Dean stops in the doorway, awaiting a command. "I wanna play with it."
"He's not a toy," Sam answers, repulsed. "Please stop talking about him like that."
"What it's not like I'm gonna hurt the thing's feelings," she says mockingly.
Sam sits up, turning his whole body away from her. That touched a nerve. Reminded Sam that Dean doesn't have feelings to hurt, but thinking of that hurts his. "Maybe you should go."
Ruby laughs for a moment, then her face changes to annoyance. "You cannot be serious."
"I am," he replies. "Please go."
"Because I was mean to a droid?" she says indignantly. "Come on. You're gonna choose your robot's dignity over getting laid?"
"He deserves to be treated with respect," Sam says, pressing a hand to his swimming head. "Just because he's not human doesn't mean he isn't a person."
"Oh my god, you're crazy," she says. "I came home with a crazy guy."
The insult makes Dean step forward. "Ma'am, I believe my master asked you to go. You should listen."
Ruby stands up, hastily grabbing the articles of clothing she'd scattered across the room when they had been sloppily moving toward the bed. "Yeah, okay." She turns to Sam, a nasty expression on her face. "I hope you and your skinjob are very happy together."
Sam watches her stomp out and slam the door, then slumps to sit on the bed with his head in his hands. Dean is still hovering in the doorway, and after a long spell of silence, he says, "Thank you."
Sam's head snaps up so quickly it makes the whole room spin. "Why are you saying thank you?" he asks. "Did she upset you?"
"No," Dean says. "Or course not."
Sam feels his heart sink for what must be the millionth time. He's tired of false alarms with Dean. He's tired of almost, maybe thinking Dean might be like those other replicants he met today, might be able to love. He's tired.
"But I know you sent away something you wanted for me," he continues, moving to sit next to Sam on the bed. "You didn't have to do that."
"And you didn't have to make her a drink," Sam says. "You don't have to take care of me, but you do."
"Of course I have to." Dean is smiling what would be a tender smile if it were real. He moves some hair out of Sam's face. "I exist to take care of you."
"I wish you—" Sam starts, but he chokes on it. "Forget it. I should just go to bed."
"I can take care of you like she was going to," Dean offers. He leans in and kisses Sam. "I have pleasure settings, you know that."
Sam remembers the first time he kissed Dean, the way Dean had stopped him then. Had offered the same thing in the same words, but made sure to remind Sam that it wouldn't ever be real on his end. 'I can't love you back, Sammy. You deserve someone who loves you.'
"No," he says, mustering all his strength to push Dean away. "I don't want that. Not like this."
"Okay," Dean says. "Why don't we get you ready for sleep?"
Sam nods into his replicant's soothing touches and it's so familiar, such a common comfort, that he doesn't think about how it might be the last time he feels it. It brings him more peace than any random hook-up ever could have, anyway. And if he dies for this tomorrow, he'll know it was worth it, even if it's only his love he's dying for.
Predictably, Dean is up in arms when he hears what Sam plans to do the next morning.
"You can't go after Azazel alone," Dean yells. Sam feels like he's been yelling it for hours. Granted, he's a little hungover, but he's pretty sure it's been hours. "Are you trying to die? Is that it?"
Sam downs a few painkillers and shrugs. "Look, I'm going to call for back-up as soon as I'm sure he's going to show. I'm only going to poke around a bit by myself. I'll be fine."
"That's what John said to me," Dean says. "John said he would be fine. He's not around so much these days, in case you missed it."
"Dean, I know. I know this replicant is dangerous. It's my parents he killed. You think I forgot?"
"They were my parents, too." Dean's voice is calm, rational. But his eyes aren't. "Sammy, I can't lose you like I lost them."
Sam frowns. He reaches out and presses a hand to Dean's cheek. "I have to stop him, Dean. He would come after us either way, this gives me an advantage. That's logic, I'm not doing anything crazy. You don't have to worry about me."
"Well, I do," he snaps, turning away from Sam's touch. "Of course I do. It’s what I was programmed to do from the day you were born. Before that even."
"Maybe it'll be good for you to find something else to care about," Sam says. "Something you can really care about, not just programming."
Dean's lips thin, but he changes the subject completely. "You said he would come for us. So let me come with you. This is my fight, too."
"If it were your fight, you wouldn't exactly be on my side," Sam points out. "You don't have a fight."
"How could you say that?" Dean asks. "It's my place to die for you. If you're going to go into something this dangerous, at least have me there in case you need someone whose death won't matter."
"Shut down," Sam commands, because he can't hear that, not now. Not from Dean. "I'll wake you up when I get home."
"I said shut down," Sam repeats. "That's an order."
"Your father programmed me," Dean says, as stubborn as the father he's invoking. "You think John Winchester didn't give me the ability to override a command if it means taking down Azazel?"
Sam makes a frustrated sound and kicks whatever piece of furniture is closest to him, which makes Dean laugh openly.
He narrows his eyes at the replicant. "You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?"
"Yes, thank you, sir," Dean says, saluting. "I was programmed to be a pain in the ass."
"I can't stand you," Sam adds.
"If you need to take a seat, I'll be happy to drive us while you sit."
"Oh, now you're gonna do the thing where you take everything I say literally?"
"Sam," Dean says, suddenly serious again. "Take me with you."
"Fine," Sam agrees. "But you have to promise me something."
Dean doesn't hesitate. "Anything."
"If I tell you to stand down, if I order you out of the fight. You have to listen to me. No matter what your programming allows you to do. You have to listen to me if I tell you to stand down."
"I promise," Dean says.
The Winchester Corp. headquarters have been abandoned for years. Sam always found his parent's factory a little creepy as a kid, but now it's downright unsettling. Unused bodies are scattered at random across the workshop, blank faces hang on one wall while unused eyeball prototypes hang from another.
And as he and Dean walk through the dark, dank, open room, there's only sounds of dripping water falling through cracks in the ceiling and the reassuring whirr of Dean's robotic limbs as he moves, two inches in front of Sam, like a human shield that isn't quite human.
"I guess my buddy Castiel sold me out."
The words echo through the room, folding on themselves a hundred times. Sam turns in circles, looks as best as he can into all the dark nooks and crannies, but he can't pinpoint where the sound came from.
"And to the blade runner that killed his own wife," Azazel continues, tsking. "I'll have to settle with him after I'm finished with you, Sammy boy."
"The name's Sam," Sam calls out. "And if you want to settle with me, why don't you come right out and do it? You're not going to take the coward's route now, not after you've spent so long trying to get at me. And failed at it so many times."
"You think I'll be that easy to rattle?" the replicant responds.
There's a sudden clanking sound from their left, but Sam is sure the voice is coming from his right. If Azazel rigged the room to confuse Sam, it's lucky Dean is here. His replicant shakes his head when Sam turns toward the sound, pointing to a closed off section of the warehouse.
"You sure?" Sam whispers.
Dean nods, and Sam knows he's got all kinds of cool tricks embedded in him, so he trusts that whatever Dean tells him is accurate.
"Send a signal to headquarters. Give them the address and tell them we need as much back-up as they can spare."
"You got it," Dean says, dialing into his radio function, and Sam can grudgingly admit that maybe bringing him wasn't such a bad idea after all.
"You're not distracting me with your tricks," Sam announces, hoping to distract the replicant while Dean sends out the distress signal. "You have no chance against me. If you did, you would have killed me a long time ago."
"I'm not some foolish human," Azazel continues, taunting Sam. "I don't have an ego. I won't make stupid mistakes because of it. You're going to die, Sam Winchester. And I'm finally going to get what I want."
Sam rounds the corner, lifts his gun as soon as he sees the outline of a man. At first, he thinks it's a decoy, another body prototype, but when he looks to Dean, the set of his replicant's jaw is all he needs to see to know that they found the bastard.
"What is that exactly?" Sam asks, keeping the gun trained on the man-shaped monster in front of him.
Azazel turns, and Sam immediately gasps, taking a step back. His eyes glow bright yellow, just like every story Sam's ever heard about the replicant. The effect is somehow more horrifying than he'd ever considered.
"Oh, you like that, do you?" Azazel asks, reaching up to point to his face. "Managed to get the rest of my parts to function long after the expiration date, but the eyes really gave out on me."
"My heart bleeds," Dean says.
"Does it now, boy?" Azazel asks, grinning at Dean. "There's my second-favorite Winchester prototype. Still protecting the new baby? My offer still stands, you know. When you're done being a slave, I will happily welcome you to join my revolution."
"Over my dead body," says Dean, and Azazel laughs like it's the best joke he's ever heard.
"Remember, that's what your mommy said. Right before I killed her." Azazel turns to look at Sam. "Your slave Dean got in my way when I came for you the first time. He managed to get you away from me while your stubborn bitch of a mother refused to save my life. That's okay, though. I don't hold grudges. I got what I needed then. Except for the eyes, of course." Azazel rolls his bright yellow eyes and laughs. "She could have fixed these. Could have done me a lot of favors, and I would have made sure her family was safe. But instead she chose to die. You know, I took her eyes. Before I burned her. A little tit-for-tat."
"I'm going to take you apart and use you for scrap metal," Sam tells him.
Azazel claps. "And that's what your father said! Before I did the same thing to him. And now I'm going to do it to you, Sam. I'm going to take you apart, find out what makes you tick."
"You won't ever get the chance," Dean responds. "Shoot him, Sammy."
"Ah, ah, ah," Azazel says, raising his own gun, but this one he points at Dean. "I might be blind, but I know exactly where both of you are. So don't even try it."
"You can't see?" Sam asks.
"Do these things look like they work?" Azazel flourishes a hand at his own face. "Don't get cocky. It hasn't made me any less effective. You wanna test it? You might get lucky and hit me, but I'll get my shot off first."
"You're aiming at the wrong person," Sam says. "So I guess you're not as good at this as you like to think."
"Au contraire, Sammy boy," Azazel says. "I don't want to damage that nice vessel of yours. But Dean? Dean is useless to me. I don't much like killing other replicants, but I'll gladly make an exception for him. And I know all about Winchesters. You won't hurt me as long as I've got a loaded gun on Dean."
"You're not hurting him!" Dean yells, and he moves forward to attack.
"Stand down," Sam yells. "Dean, stand down."
Dean throws a look over his shoulder, meets Sam's eyes, and shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Sam."
"You promised," Sam reminds him, seizing forward to grab Dean's arm and pull him back. "You promised you would stand down so stand down."
"I lied," Dean says, shaking Sam off. "I won't let him get you. The things he'd do to you…"
A shot goes off, and it's not from Sam's gun, which means Azazel must have fired at Dean. There's no time to think as Sam steps in front. The pain is immediate, bright white behind his eyes and a surge of pain sparking out from where the bullet hit until even his fingernails feel like they're on fire.
"Sammy," Dean screams. He grabs Sam's gun, and Sam hears another shot ring out and then there's a rain of sparks and the sound of electricity buzzing around them. Dean must have hit Azazel right in the powercore, because the replicant hits the floor before Sam does. Dean catches him, manages to pull him back and to his feet so that their fallen enemy doesn't knock into Sam on his way down.
There's a bright blue light pouring out of Azazel where he was hit, a puddle of black oil dripping from his open would and collecting on the warehouse floor. But as Sam's swimming vision begins to focus, he realizes that's not the only place the light is coming from, that the scent of oil is closer than it should be.
He looks down at his own wound, at the gaping hole in his side that Dean's big hand is pressed into, trying desperately to keep from spilling open. Sam sees blood, just like there has been every time he's been hurt, but this wound goes much, much deeper than any injury he's ever sustained before.
Under the tacky layer of blood and broken skin, there's black liquid greasing Dean's fingertips. There's blue light emanating from Sam. Cybernetics, not body parts, threatening to spill from within.
"No," Sam says. "It's not possible."
"Sammy, stay with me," Dean is saying. "I'm gonna patch this right up, okay?"
"How am I?" Sam asks. "I'm—"
"Shh, Sam. You can't, can't think about that right now, okay? We gotta get you outta here before—"
"What the hell?"
Sam raises his head toward the sound, recognizes Jess's voice and the outline of her body, even if he can't see well enough in his current condition to make out her features.
"Fuck," Dean curses under his breath.
And Sam chokes trying to say something, anything, that could help them right now. There's nothing. Back-up is here, and that means blade runners, and that means they're going to kill Dean and Sam, too. Because that's their business, that's what they do, they don't ask questions. And Sam is another job. Just like the rest of the replicants he shot in cold blood.
"Jess," Dean says. "You're Jess, right?"
"Yeah," she replies. "You need to raise your hands so I can see them."
"If I move my hand, he's gonna die," Dean says, angling his head down at Sam. "Please, you gotta help me."
"He's—" Jess says, tripping on what she's just realized. "He…I need his hands where I can see them, too."
Her inflection is more of a question than the confidence Jess usually has when making arrests. Dean must take heart from that, because he instantly changes his tone, practically grovels.
"Jess, you know him. He's your friend," he says. "You can't kill him."
"But he's a replicant," she says.
"He's saved your life before. You've saved his," Dean begs. "Save it one more time, please. He's a good man. You've loved him, I know you have. Please."
"It's the law," she says, seemingly on auto-pilot. "I'd lose my job. I could go to jail."
"It’s not justice," Dean says, and he pulls Sam to his chest. "It's murder. You're not a killer, are you? Please. He's my brother. He's my baby brother."
"You don't—" she says, but she stops herself and shakes her head. There are tears in her eyes. "I don't understand. He took Voight-Kampffs with the rest of us in academy, and he passed easy. He's human. Sam is human, he can't be a replicant."
"More human than human," Dean mutters. He pulls Sam closer and Sam tries to say something, but he's too weak. "Please. You can come for me once I've saved him. He'll be just like a human again, no one but you ever needs to know. And you can retire me. Please. Just let me fix him."
"He lied," she says, her gun still fixed on them, and Sam can tell that she's trying to talk herself into doing what she's been trained to do. But her arm is shaking, and Sam knows Jessica Moore. She doesn't hesitate. Her arm doesn't shake. "All these years. I thought he was my friend and he's been lying."
"No," Dean says. His voice goes soft, almost a whisper. "He didn't know. Dad said he wouldn't fool anyone if he didn't believe it himself. Don't punish him for that. Punish me. Don't hurt him. Please. He's already hurt. Please, I have to save him."
To Sam's amazement, Jess's arm drops. She speaks in a low, rushed voice. "Get out of here, quick. Go get in your spinner and don't go home. Patch him up as much as possible, and get the hell off this planet, okay? Both of you. I can pretend you slipped by me, but I can't cover this forever."
Dean doesn't wait around for her to change her mind. He sweeps Sam up into his arms and starts running. The pain knocks Sam out.
Sam doesn't know how long he's out, but by the time he awakes, there's a thin layer of skin over the wound in his side, like scar tissue, so damn lifelike it makes his head spin. There isn't pain anymore. He almost wants to believe everything that happened was just a dream, that he didn't learn his entire life has been built on a lie. But the skin over his injury is just thin enough for the slightest hint of blue light to be visible underneath it.
He pokes it, thinking of the way the blue is also visible under the scar on Dean's knee, the one Dean gave himself to match Sam's when Sam was just a kid and he'd fallen off his first bike and Dean was trying to make him feel better about the pain.
For a moment, Sam smiles at the memory, and then it all crashes down on him. That never happened. That was just another lie that was planted in his head when he came off the assembly line.
Sam looks away from his healing parts and takes in his surroundings. Wherever they are is nothing like the sleek, modern loft he'd inherited from his parents. The walls are pink on the verge of brown, faded from years of neglect. The covers of the bed Sam is in are scratchy, and the first thing he smells is sterile, a remnant of Dean repairing him, but under that there's a musty scent that Sam assumes is what the room actually smelled like when they arrived.
"This is awful," Sam says, letting his disgust show on his face. "Where are we?"
"You're awake." When he turns toward the familiar voice, Dean is standing in the doorway to a bathroom Sam desperately does not want to see the condition of.
"Yeah," Sam says. "I guess I finished recharging."
"Please don't call me that," Sam says. "Not right now. Sammy—that's what you called me when I was a kid, right? Except I wasn't."
"Where are we?" he asks again, because there are so many questions more important than that right now, and Sam doesn't think he can actually handle the answers.
"I don't know," Dean says frankly. "I didn't really pay attention where I was going. Figured it would be harder to find us if I didn't actually try to go somewhere, you know? If we're lost, no one will know where to look."
"Did you have to choose this?" Sam asks, indicating the dump they're in.
To his surprise, Dean laughs. He moves forward and takes a seat that has already been pulled next to Sam's bed. "I was so worried. Had to get you fixed up as soon as possible, so I pulled into the first place I passed where no one would think to find us. Welcome to the Night Owl Motel."
"I guess if you were looking for a place people would want to avoid you definitely succeeded." Sam makes a disgusted sound and shoves the sheets off of him. "My skin is crawling, I feel like I'm going to catch ringworm in here."
"This is hilarious," Dean says. "You almost died and you're whining about the motel room." He reaches down and pulls the sheets back up. "You can't get ringworm. Can't catch any of those human diseases."
"Right," Sam says. Suddenly, it makes sense that he never caught a cold or the flu, no matter how many people at work were sick. "I almost forgot. Guess it was easier to think about the wallpaper than the fact that…" Sam lets the words taper off, shaking his head.
"I'm sorry you found out like that," Dean tells him. "I'm sorry you found out at all, but it shouldn't have been like that. But let me try to explain—"
"You've never done anything but lie to me," he says. "So I can't imagine what you have to say to me right now that I might want to hear."
Dean watches him for several minutes, completely silent, until finally he asks, "Do you hate me?"
Sam stares back, trying so hard to understand Dean. It sounds like real fear in Dean's voice at the thought of Sam hating him. He wouldn't be afraid of Sam hating him if he didn't feel. What other than love would have compelled Dean to save Sam, sit by his bed waiting for him to heal for who knows how long, hole up in this fleabag motel to keep him safe?
If Sam can feel love, Dean should be able to. And if what Sam feels for Dean isn't love, doesn't match the intensity of human emotion, he truly pities humanity. If what he feels for Dean is only a fraction of what real love feels like, he doesn't know how people make it through a single day.
"I don't know," Sam replies, pressing his palms into his eyes because, what do you know, apparently he's the one replicant in the world who can cry. "Can I feel hate? Because according to you, I shouldn't be able to feel anything, right?"
"You have a very advanced emotional programming," Dean says, trying to sound detached, but not really succeeding. "Mom said your system allowed for the same emotional range as natural human biology. If you think about it, their emotions are just neurons firing, just as mechanical as a replicant, if the programming is advanced enough."
"And you?" Sam asks. "How advanced is yours?"
Dean is quiet for so long that Sam knows before he opens his mouth that he's going to hate whatever the answer is. But Dean has apparently decided he's tired of lying, because he swallows hard and says, "They're the same. Mom handled personality programming, and she developed us faster than Dad was able to keep up with. My body is nowhere near as advanced as yours, but my emotional range is comparable to a—"
"You fucking liar," Sam says. "All these years, I thought I was crazy. You let me think I was crazy, Dean. For being in love with you. For thinking you could love me, too. I thought I was crazy."
"I wanted better for you, Sammy," Dean says quietly. "You're so perfect. You're so human. You could have someone real. Someone who deserves you. How could I ruin that just because—?"
"But I never wanted anyone else," Sam yells, feeling like a petulant child from the way tears are stinging at his eyes. "I was so miserable, Dean. I thought you didn't love me."
"Of course I—" Dean's voice breaks. "We're made from the same parts, Sam. You're my brother. I tried to do what was best for you. That's all that ever mattered to me."
"No." Sam slams his hand down on the bed. "I treated you like a slave. I was awful to you. I thought you couldn't feel it. I left my messes behind for you to clean. You let me treat you like that."
"You never did," Dean says, cupping Sam's cheek. "No matter how much I tried to make you stop loving me, to treat me the way a person is supposed to treat their replicant. You never once did that, Sam."
"I don't understand," Sam says, shaking his head. "I still don't understand. I have so many memories, Dean. Of you. Of Dad. How much of it was lies? How much of my life has been made up?"
"None of your memories were lies, exactly," Dean says. "You just remember it a little differently than it happened." He smiles, as if putting on a good face will make sense of what he's saying. "I…I remember the same things you do. But I remember how they really happened, too. Like the scar on your knee. Dad dropped that piece when he was attaching it. And he was so angry, didn't have enough synthetics to create a replacement right away. So I cut my knee, too, told him we'd be matching, like brothers are supposed to.
"That memory isn't completely a lie, right? They're all like that. They really happened. All those times I read to you when you were little and had nightmares. Mom used to let me read to you, when you were just parts, when we were building you together. I helped build you, Sammy. I helped you grow up strong and beautiful and so, so perfect. I loved you even then, when you weren't alive yet. My little brother, mom used to tell me. She loved me like a son, and she loved you, too."
"No. Stop lying to me, please stop lying. I'm so confused." Sam digs back, pokes at his memories, trying to find the moment they fall apart. They don't. Each one feels as real as the one before. "How could you not tell me I'm a replicant?"
"Honestly, I thought about doing it a few times. I even tried to once. There's some programming Dad put in me that even I can't override, Sam. He made damn sure I didn't tell you. Anyway, it was for the best. You deserve better than a replicant's life."
"You're wrong," Sam insists, still unwilling to accept the full weight of the truth. "I would be dead if I was like you. Azazel was aiming for your powercore."
"You're not like me," Dean reminds him. "You're perfect. You have a heartbeat, functioning replicas of human organs. You sleep and eat for sustenance instead of recharging. Your body generates the same fluids as theirs. So Dad put your powercore on the other side to fool anyone who tried looking for one. If that bullet had hit me like he'd intended, I would be a goner. But for you to die, he would have had to aim for the other side."
Still dumbfounded, Sam points to the generic framed photos on the motel's nightstand. "But there are pictures of me as a child. I have pictures."
"John and Mary had a little boy," Dean says. "He got sick. They lost him. That's him in the pictures."
"So I'm some replacement?" Sam asks.
"No, it was never like that," Dean assures him. "Mom couldn’t have kids again after that, but we were her children. She loved us, both of us, for who we were. She never pretended we were anything else."
"What about Dad?"
Dean frowns. "I think…he was always more interested in the science of it. But he grew to love you like a son, you know that."
"He turned me into the perfect blade runner," Sam argues. "A machine killing machine. That's…he didn't love me. I was just a weapon to help him get revenge."
"He got lost," Dean says. "After Mom died, Dad got so lost. You were the only thing that kept him going. And maybe some of it was about revenge, about turning you into something that would stop Azazel, but you were his son and he loved you. He even…" Dean looks a little sad, but he makes himself smile. "When you were at the academy and it was just us, sometimes he would call me his son, too. I think he might have cared about me, a little."
"He treated you like a thing!" Sam yells. "He must have known you could feel if he knew I could."
"He didn't," Dean says. "I hid it from him. He needed someone he could depend on without worrying about how they felt. I only wanted him to love you. And when he died…Sam, Azazel was going to go after you and Dad found out. He died to protect you."
"All those things Azazel was saying, about taking me apart, finding out what makes me tick. He meant it, didn't he? I'm the prototype he's been trying to steal."
"More human than human," Dean confirms. "The perfect replicant. Dad sent you to the academy to see if you could fool them, and you did. Even the damn blade running unit couldn't tell."
"Well, I'm glad I was such an interesting science fair project."
"Sam, that's not fair."
"What about any of this is fair?" Sam asks. He licks his lips. "You still haven't answered my real question, Dean. How long have I been alive? How many of my memories are actually mine?"
"Originally, after Mom died, Dad never wanted to build anything again. Then he got this idea, of taking the prototype they'd been working on and creating the perfect blade runner. It was the happiest day of my life, Sam. After all those years he wouldn't let me work on you, made me keep you locked up. It was too painful for him, I guess. To him, you were Mary's pet project. To me, you were my little brother. My best friend, even before we woke you up. You were always mine, so when I lost you…"
Dean trails off, seems to go somewhere he doesn't like until finally he shakes his head to clear it and continues, "But he brought you back to see if he could slip a replicant through the academy, get a perfect blade runner on the force. I couldn't have cared less why he did it. It broke my heart when he took you from me. Then suddenly I had you back and it was real, I actually got to bring you to life. That was just before you entered the academy. All the training you remember Dad and I giving you on how to fight? That was programmed into you."
Sam does some mental math and it's like a chill takes control of his chest. "Dean, that was well over four years ago."
"Yes," Dean says. "Yes, it was."
Sam sits up, grabs Dean's shoulder and shakes him. "How long do I have? What's my expiration date? I should have died years ago."
Dean licks his lips. "Remember when you got sick the year after you finished school? And you were asleep for days recovering?"
"Yeah, that…" It slowly dawns on him, and Sam nearly laughs at how obvious it is, now that he knows. "That was the only time I've ever been sick."
"That was your expiration date."
"You brought me back?" Sam asks. "How is that possible?"
"I altered your settings before the termination sequence was complete," Dean admits. "It wasn't your time yet, it was too soon."
"So what did you change it to?" Sam thinks on it, realizes that was almost four years ago. "Did you give me another four years? Am I—am I almost done?"
"Dad had already died by the time your expiration date came up," Dean says, seemingly out of nowhere. "Nobody else knew you were a replicant. No one except me. I don't have one, Sammy. I'd just lost Dad. I couldn't lose you, too."
"Stop making excuses and tell me how long I have to live, Dean!"
"I didn't see why you needed one," Dean whispers. "I know I was supposed to program one in. I tried, I did. But Sammy, I couldn't do it. I overrode the old one and…and I never put in a new date."
The blade runner in Sam is boggling at that. At Dean, who passed for being so simple all these years, committing an act so illegal even the worst of rogue androids have rarely ever accomplished it. Creating a replicant without an expiration date is punishable by death, even for humans.
"Dean, are you nuts?" Sam asks.
"Maybe, a little." Dean looks away from Sam. "If you want me to say I'm sorry or I regret it, I'm not and I don’t."
For a long time, Sam sits in silence, considering everything he's learned in the last few days. He feels puzzle pieces he hadn't even realized he was gathering slipping into place: the way Anna was so quick to trust him, Castiel's reluctance in explaining why Azazel had come after him. They had both figured him out, just as sure as he'd identified what Anna was when the test couldn't. Kin recognizing kin.
The more he puts his life under a microscope, the more it starts to add up that this was always there, always something he was choosing not to see. It doesn't even feel surprising anymore.
"Just one more question, then," Sam says.
Dean lifts his head, clearly dreading whatever's coming. "I've told you everything I know, Sam."
"Do you want me?" he asks.
Dean's eyebrows draw together, clear confusion, his features more expressive than he's ever let himself be. Sam's chest aches at the honesty of it, but it's a good pain this time.
"You said you love me. After all this time telling me you couldn't, you did love me. So was I imagining it when you looked at me? Those times you offered to fuck me, was that because you wanted it or because you felt like you had to offer?"
"I'm not supposed to be able to want," Dean tells him. "That's the truth. The only difference in our emotional programming was that you were supposed to be human, so they gave you every inconvenient impulse humans have. I didn't get some of those. Lust was one of them."
Stung, Sam nods. At least Dean loves him. At least he cares at all. The last bit, it would have just been the cherry on top. He tries to tell himself it's enough, but after a lifetime of needing Dean, he'd gotten his hopes too far up.
"Okay," he says, cutting his glance down to the mattress so Dean won't see how hurt he is. "Fair enough."
"You didn't let me finish," Dean says. "Those replicants that went rogue, they weren't supposed to feel at all. They grew emotions. I wasn't supposed to want you." Dean lifts Sam's chin until their eyes meet. "Do you have any idea how much it's killed me every time you brought someone home that wasn't me? All those times I saw you looking at me and I couldn't act on it? Fuck, Sam, you're everything to me."
Sam moves forward, kisses Dean, and Dean kisses back, automatic. It's not like the first time, when he pushed Sam away, and it's not like pleasure programming, clean and dispassionate and never something Sam felt comfortable trying. Dean kisses him with desperation, crawls onto the bed with Sam.
"Is this okay?" Dean asks, moving so that he's lying by Sam's side, his fingers tracing the skin around the bullet wound. "I don't want to hurt you. But I've waited so long to be close to you. I just want to touch."
"Of course it's okay," Sam answers, cradling Dean's face between both of his hands. "Dean, I need you. You're the only thing that makes sense right now, even if I wanna be pissed."
"Shh," Dean says, pressing a kiss to Sam's forehead. "Don't think about any of that. I'm gonna take care of you, okay? Always gonna take care of you."
"I know," Sam says, tugging Dean's shirt to signal that he wants it off. "Can we…?"
"You just got shot, Sam," Dean says.
Sam widens his eyes, gasps as he looks down at his chest. "Holy crap! You're right! I hadn't noticed that."
Dean laughs, giving Sam a playful bite on his bottom lip as he dives down for another kiss. "You're annoying."
"Little brothers are supposed to be annoying," Sam says with a shit-eating grin.
Dean pushes Sam's hair back. "I don't think they're supposed to be hot, though."
"Yeah, well, what do you know? You're a robot."
"You know what robots are really good at?" Dean asks, his lips hovering just inches from Sam's.
Sam breathes him in, even though he's just realized he probably doesn't actually need to breathe. He likes tasting and smelling Dean as his brother drapes his body over Sam, every one of the senses he was wired to experience is overloaded by Dean, Dean, and more Dean.
Dean smirks as he cups Sam's erection. "Good with our hands, Sammy."
"Can you…" Sam licks his lips. "Can you get hard, too?"
"For you?" Dean huffs a laugh. "I've been really struggling not to."
"Good," Sam says. "I want you to fuck me."
As soon as the words are out of Sam's mouth, Dean is working with his typical efficiency to make it happen as quickly as possible. He moves down, removing Sam's boxers as carefully as possible and when he gets up from the bed to undress himself, he's also looking around the room, assessing where he might find what he needs.
"See, you've got all the human problems," Dean tells him in a faux scolding voice as he disappears into the bathroom. "I gotta find something to use as lube so your delicate ass doesn't hurt."
"Prep time, what a drag," Sam agrees, rolling his eyes as he watches Dean go. "Just grab the conditioner and let's do this."
Dean reappears with the bottle and immediately gets to work on Sam, wetting one finger, then two, pressing them into Sam where it feels so good Sam could swear he was built just for this. That Dean was, too, the both of them made for nothing if not to be together.
"It's enough," Sam tells him as he grinds onto Dean's hand. "Please just fuck me already."
Dean nods, slicks his cock up and presses into Sam with admirable efficiency. Once he's inside, he fucks in and out a few times, makes sure the give is easy and that it feels good for Sam, and then he presses his face into Sam's neck.
"Sammy, can I try something?"
Sam laughs. "You're already up my ass," he says. "What more is there to—?"
Sam's question gets swallowed up as his teeth begin to chatter together, a buzz spreading from his ass to every part of his body and making him actually cry out in shock.
"That a good scream or a bad scream?" Dean asks.
"Oh, fuck, good," Sam says, rolling his hips with a sudden desperation that is frankly embarrassing. "What the hell is that?"
He can feel Dean grin against his neck. "See, like I said, you got the boring human dick. I got the fun robot dick."
"You! Vibrate!" Sam gasps, gripping Dean's back so hard he's kind of worried he'll break the skin. "Dean!"
"Yeah," Dean agrees, nosing along Sam's neck. "You feel so good, Sammy. Feel even tighter when I fuck you like this. D'you like it?"
Sam's answer is not even a real sound, let alone a word, but Dean must get the point when Sam shoves his ass up and comes without Dean ever having laid a hand on his dick. He spills into the already filthy sheets, and he would be really ashamed of his stamina, by how fast he climaxed after all these years dreaming of being with Dean, but he kind of thinks having a surprise vibrating dick was cheating on Dean's part, so instead he settles for kissing Dean's neck, moving just as greedily as he chases the shockwaves of pleasure Dean is sending through him as he was before his orgasm.
"Ah, Sammy, I'm gonna," Dean says, and then without warning, Dean shuts down and collapses on Sam.
Sam pushes Dean off of him and turns him on his back, freaks out for a few seconds until Dean's eyes open and he blinks up at Sam slowly. "Well, that was new."
"What the fuck just happened?" Sam asks. "Aside from the fact that your dick vibrates, which we're definitely going to need to have a conversation about at some point."
Dean laughs. "I guess my pleasure settings don't account for the possibility of orgasm?" He points to Sam. "You come like a regular person. Though, I hate to say it, you're shooting blanks. You can't actually generate new DNA."
"Wasn't planning on having a kid anytime soon," Sam says. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm great." Dean grins. "I guess since my ability to fuck was only supposed to be about giving someone else pleasure, my system overloaded and I shorted out for a few seconds?"
"I'll look into reprogramming your pleasure settings when we have a little down time, because that was the most distressing orgasm I've ever experienced."
"Speak for yourself," Dean says smugly. "That was awesome on my end."
"Well, I'm glad we both had so much fun," Sam says. "Might be pretty limited on time left to do that."
Dean reaches out and pulls Sam in to him. "I know what you're thinking. Don't worry, Sammy."
"How could I not worry?" Sam asks. He looks Dean in the eye and says, "I finally have everything I've ever wanted, and we're fugitives. Who knows how long we have or where we'll have to go to be safe? We're going to spend the rest of our lives being hunted."
"We're in a real shit situation," Dean agrees, but he keeps playing with the ends of Sam's hair as if he's never planning to move. "Let me hold you for a few hours, see you smile. I've waited forever."
"We should be running," Sam mutters into Dean's chest, and he's cursing the calming effect Dean's touches have on him. He wants to be proactive, make a plan, but he's been lulled into such a warm, safe place, and it's easier to stay.
"We'll figure something out, Sammy," he promises. "You're still healing. We're in the middle of nowhere. No one is going to find us right away. We'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow."
"What if tomorrow is too late?" Sam asks. "They're never going to let us live in peace. They'll find us eventually."
"Not if we go off-planet," Dean points out.
"If we go off planet, you'll have to live like a slave. I'll have to keep passing for human and if someone figures us out—"
"I don't care about any of that," Dean says. "As long as I have you, I don't care if other people think I'm just some replicant, okay?"
"So what? You're saying we should go to some random planet and start a new life?"
"You wanna stay on Earth after you've been made? Keep working as a blade runner?"
"Fuck, no," Sam answers. "I never want to kill something that isn't hurting anyone again. I have so many lives on my conscience. Tried to tell myself they didn't matter, couldn't feel—"
"Look, most of them couldn't, okay? Most of them were dangerous, like Azazel. You can't beat yourself up over it. I wasn't lying when I said that to you the other night."
"Okay," Sam says. "So we leave. Find another planet. Start a home maybe."
"We can be civilians, Sammy," Dean says, and Sam's face is still pressed to his brother's chest, but he can hear the easy smile on Dean's face. "You, me, and my Baby."
Sam snorts. "Of course you want to keep the spinner."
"Hey, how do you plan to get to another planet without her?"
"You love the car more than me," he jokes, getting out of bed and heading for the bathroom. "Always have."
"Don't be jealous," Dean calls after him. "Can't we have a nice robot threeway: you, me, and our girlfriend?"
Sam closes the door instead of answering him and presses himself up against the wall so he can hear Dean's unrestrained laughter. Happiness rushes through him, and it doesn't matter anymore if it's through wires or veins. It's better than human.