Title: Rites
By: nancy
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: NC-17
Series: 1) Rituals
Warning: INCEST, angst, violence, spoilers, language, Future!fic, eventual MPREG
Summary: Dean goes solo on a hunt and runs into more than he bargained for.

It was shades of Gordon Walker and that pissed Dean off more ways than he could count. He glared at the oblivious people in the mall food court and then looked back at Ellen. “Are you sure?”

“No, I really just need your opinion on a new pair of shoes,” she retorted.

Dean deadpanned, “Then you should’ve called Sammy.”

Rolling her eyes, Ellen snapped, “I called you, now get your head out of your ass and tell me what you’re going to do about it!”

“Go after him, what else?” Dean answered sharply. “I’ll find him and stop him.”

“What will you tell Sam?”

Good question, Dean thought, sighing. Not for the first time, he thought that Sam’s appendix bursting was a serious stroke of bad luck. Aside from the fact that he’d almost died from a completely bizarrely human reason, they’d had to steal insurance yet again. “I’ll have to tell him the truth.”

“He’ll hate you to go alone.”

“No choice.”

Ellen looked like she’d swallowed something unpleasant, but agreed, “I know. Look, that’s all the information I have on Rick. It’s a place to start, but you’ll have to find him on your own.”

He reached out and briefly squeezed her hand. “I’ll find him before he hurts anyone else.”

At that, her lips twisted into a half-grin and she stood, saying, “If anyone can, it’s you. Good luck, Dean.”

Dean watched her leave and drank the rest of his soda as he read over the scant information Ellen had on Rick Jefferson. Twenty-eight years old, single, parents murdered in front of him by a vampire and held hostage, fed from, for a week before an older hunter had freed him. Word had him as an obsessed fanatic who acted without complete information. He was of the, ‘kill first, ask questions after,’ school where it was better to kill a few innocents than let any evil escape.

Dark amusement rose up and Dean thought, Wonder what he’d make of me and Sam?

The man’s latest hunt was tracking down all the members of a harmless cult to a barely-known demi-goddess that had the potential to destroy the world to remake in her own image. Personally, Dean had the idea that might not be such a bad idea. If a God had made the current one with all the evil in it, supernatural and manmade, a Goddess damn sure couldn’t do any worse, blasphemous as the thought was.

Snorting, Dean stood and strode out of the food court, tossing his empty soda cup out on the way. It was bitter cold outside and he zipped his leather jacket up tight for the short walk to the car. Jefferson was currently on the trail of the supposed High Priestess of the cult. From what Ellen had found out, the cult went around spouting new age nonsense and the goodness of reformation. The man had destroyed the one makeshift temple in an abandoned building in the Chicago waterfront and currently tracked the Priestess with a relentlessness that also reminded Dean of Gordon.

He drove to the hospital and found Sam sound asleep with a book open on his chest. Dean grinned at the Latin text and made a note to pick up some magazines when he got back. Then he noticed the beads of sweat on his brother’s face and frowned. Palming Sam’s forehead, Dean found it hot to the touch and worried knotted in the pit of his stomach.

“Mr. Smithson?”

Turning at the soft call of his assumed name, Dean found Sam’s nurse, Jeanie, standing in the doorway. He walked over to her, following outside and asking, “What happened? He’s worse?”

“I’m afraid Sam’s developed a fever,” Jeanie told him. “Nothing to worry about, not really, but we’ll be keeping him another day or so to make sure everything works out fine.”

Dean hissed under his breath and said, “An emergency came up and I have to leave.”

“Oh, he’ll be fine. There’s nothing you can do about it anyhow. You’d probably just sit there and drive him crazy,” Jeanie teased.

A rueful grin surfaced at her comment. She’d had their number the second day of Sam’s stay and promised not to tell the doctors that Dean wasn’t really Sam’s brother, assuming from how they’d touched that they were lovers instead. He wasn’t about to tell her they were both, especially if it meant he got to take more personal care of Sam than a brother likely would.

“You’ll keep an eye on him for me?” Dean asked, giving her the big-eyed look that worked on Sam every time.

She blushed and waved him away. “Of course, it’s my job after all. You go take care of your emergency and I’ll call if there’s any problems with Sam.”

He smiled warmly and said, “Thank you, Jeanie.”

The blush intensified and she nodded before hurrying back to the nurses’ station.

Chuckling, Dean went back into the room and this time, Sam was awake, if groggy. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he took Sam’s hand in one and combed his fingers through the damp hair with his other. “You look like crap, man.”

Sam leaned into his touch without a snappy comeback, instead just sighing out a, “Yeah.”

That, of course, really made Dean worry even more. He palmed Sam’s forehead again and observed, “Trust you to get sick in a hospital.”

“Half the people who go into a hospital, get sick or come out with something other than their original problem,” Sam muttered, shifting restlessly.

Dean frowned. “Now you tell me.”

Hazy eyes blinked owlishly at him and Sam asked, “Where were you? I woke up and you were gone.”

Dean winced at the accusation, not forgetting that Sam could be a royal clingy pain in the ass while sick. “Ellen called with a job.”

“But I’m sick!” Sam complained.

Oh yeah. There’s the whine, Dean thought. “I know and I’m sorry, Sammy, but there’s an innocent girl who could wind up dead if I don’t get to her first.”

Sam glared at him and then looked away and refused to meet his gaze, tugging his hand free of Dean’s. “You really can’t wait to go somewhere without me, can you?”

Dean bit back the urge to go, “Could you be any more of a girl?” and instead took a deep breath.

“Mr. Smithson! I hear you’re leaving us,” came Dr. Tora’s jovial exclamation from behind.

Dean grimaced at the interruption and the fakeness the older man practically exuded. He knew if it were up to Tora, and Dean had had a fit of laughter over the name at first, the man would have barred him from Sam’s room. Another reason he appreciated Jeanie’s discretion.

“Dean has to work,” Sam snapped. “Because work is so important he would leave his brother alone in a hospital.”

Gritting his teeth, Dean opened his mouth to say something he would probably regret, but Tora beat him to the punch.

“Well, everyone needs to do what they need to do, right Mr. Smithson?”

Dean restrained the urge to punch the man in the head, but barely. Deciding it would be better to get out of the madhouse before he drank the cool-aid, Dean said brightly, “That’s right. Sam, I’ll see you in a few days. Call Ellen if you need anything, okay? She’s in town.”

“Of course she’s here. You went to see her didn’t you?” Sam demanded, sullen.

Lips pursed, Dean said, “Okie dokey then, I’m outta here. See ya, Doc. Sam, behave yourself. I mean it.”

Tora’s face clouded over at the order.

Sam looked like he was ready to burst into tears, turning big eyes on Dean.

Dean made a very undignified jump for the door before either could do or say anything more.

*  *  *  *

Though he would never admit it to Sam, the open road and a full tank of gas with a mix tape was heaven for Dean. Not that his brother didn’t already suspect this, but there was no way Dean would confirm it. Sometimes, he really did need space from Sam and figured that was a good thing. They’d been together almost constantly for the last eight months and it had been filled with awesome sex, plenty of hunt action, and more intimacy than he’d ever had. And while he loved knowing what made Sam tick on all levels, he’d pretty much studied the subject his entire life so a break now and again was a good thing.

Dean enjoyed the hell out of every minute of the drive to Chicago as long as he didn’t think about why he was going there in the first place. Despite the snowfall and the frigid temperatures, the time on his own was welcome. There were a few places he could start and he picked the most obvious; Jefferson’s aunt, who’d raised him after his parents’ deaths.

The old lady was mean and pickled enough for Dean to smell it on her even though she wasn’t drunk. Maybe the crispness of the air made it easier to smell.

“Why would I know where that psycho is?” she demanded. “I ain’t seen the little bastard in over three years and I wanna keep it that way.”

Dean forced himself to smile and asked, “Do you know if he has any friends that he would stay with if he was in town, ma’am?”

Sneering, she said, “He ain’t got no friends. He was voted ‘Most Likely To Climb a Clocktower.’ I bet you can guess what that means, smart boy like you.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you,” Dean muttered, heading back down the front steps to the car. “Y’old bitch.”

Climbing into the car, he started her up and drove to the next name on the list; Father Mason of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Jefferson had become a devout Catholic upon his return from vamp camp, not that Dean blamed him. The Cathedral was the old stone kind with a faded, but venerable air to it that made Dean Cross himself once inside, even though he was as far from a Catholic as someone could get.

It was even colder inside and he shivered at the lowered temp and increase in the dampness of the air. Prayer candles burned in a couple of alcoves to the side and there were even a few gray-hairs in the pews with their kerchiefs over their heads. Hard-core old school, which Dean usually liked, most were no-nonsense and well-acquainted with their countries’ superstitions.

“Can I help you?”

Dean turned towards the male voice and found that it belonged to a surprisingly young black man. “Father Mason?”

“No, I’m sorry. Father Mason passed away a few months ago,” the young priest answered. “Can I help you?”

Dean bit back a curse and shook his head. “No, well maybe. I was looking for an old altar boy of his by the name of Rick Jefferson.”

Looking startled, the priest said, “He was here a couple of days ago, also looking for Father Mason.”

Stiffening in surprise, Dean repeated, “He was? Did he mention where he was staying, or what he was doing here?”

“May I see some identification?” the priest asked suddenly.

Fortunately, Dean had a badge of some kind with him and he pulled it out of his inside jacket pocket to show the man. “What can you tell me?”

“Well, he was really ranting about some kind of demon girl, saying how he needed holy water and help in an exorcism. It was very…disconcerting.”

Dean snorted to himself and thought, Imagine how disconcerting if you knew he meant every word. Out loud, he said, “I’m sure it was. Listen, Father, any chance he said where he was staying?”

“Well, he did mention the old rectory.”

“Where is that?”

“Corner of Elm and Ware.”

“Great, thanks Father!”


Dean turned back, giving the man a curious look.

The priest bit his lip and warned, “Be careful, Detective. I saw a gun under his jacket.”

Dean was sure that Jefferson had more than just a single gun, but replied, “Thanks, Father, I appreciate the heads-up.”

It only took ten minutes to find the old rectory not five blocks away. He could just imagine in the old days the priests and nuns walking in their black uniforms and heavy coats just to get out of the weather and into the cathedral. It was for damn sure the old, four-story walk-up that was the previous rectory didn’t have any mod-cons like central heating or air. The windows were mostly boarded up and the fairly large yard buried under a couple feet of snow.

Even if there hadn’t been an old Toyota that had seen better days at the curb, Dean would easily have seen the footsteps in the snow. He walked around to the Impala’s trunk to pull out his pistol, sawed-off shotgun, and flashlight. The old place definitely had no electricity anymore. Pulling on gloves so his hands didn’t freeze to the metal, Dean headed inside, pushing the pistol in the back of his pants and taking a good hold on the shotgun.

Getting through the snow was a bitch and he had a treacherous moment on the porch steps when the snow hid a lack of an actual stair. He finally nudged in the front door and peered around the empty main foyer. He went inside and looked in the living room, but saw no one there, either. All he found in the front sitting room was a forgotten Cross on the wall, so he moved cautiously to the back rooms. The kitchen was next and also empty, which was starting to get on Dean’s nerves.

A scream pierced the air and Dean bolted for the stairs at the front foyer. He took two steps at a time, going as fast as he could on hearing another scream and a lower, masculine shout filled with rage. Reaching the top of the stairs, he walked swiftly and silently towards the noise and wound up in front of the door at the end of the hall.

Dean inched the door open and found a girl hanging from the ceiling by ropes. Blood inched down her arms from where she’d scraped herself raw to get free as well as from shallow, even cuts along her stomach. Fury lit through him as he thought about the ritual cuts on Sam’s chest; the sight filled Dean with rage even months later. He’d had to reassure Sam hundreds of times that they didn’t bother him, despite the fact that they did, although not in any kind of vain way. No, he just hated the reminder of what Sam had done to save his sorry soul.

He had to take a breath to calm down and that was his undoing. Dean moved just a hair and that caused the old floor to creak. Jefferson, whose back had been towards Dean, spun in his direction and lifted a semi-automatic gun. Dean leaped out of the way a split second before the other man opened fire.

Jefferson! Jefferson, stop! I’m not the cops, but you’re gonna bring them down on both our heads if you keep that up!” Dean shouted when the bullets stopped. Leaning in the scant protection of the next doorway down, he waited for an answer.

“Who are you?”

“Dean Winchester. Now, can we talk?”

There was silence and then Jefferson demanded, “Why’re you here, Winchester?”

“Because we need to talk,” Dean answered. “Look, that girl you have is just a girl. She’s not any kind of demon or evil anything!”

“She’s got everyone fooled!” Jefferson shouted.

The girl screamed in response to something Jefferson did and Dean’s jaw clenched. “She’s just a girl, Jefferson, I swear! C’mon, man, it doesn’t have to go down like this! There’s real evil out there that needs fighting! She’s just a girl!”

“Help! Please, please mister, help me!”

Dean’s eyes closed at the pain in her voice. “ Jefferson?”

No answer.

Fuck!” he hissed, priming the shotgun.

Dean walked silently down the hall, back towards the room where Jefferson held the girl, heart pounding against his chest. He would have one chance to nail the bastard and could only hope it wouldn’t be somewhere fatal. Not that Dean would lose all that much sleep over killing a guy who got his kicks out of cutting up little girls, but he’d like to be able to tell Sam that he did everything he could to spare the jerkoff.

Standing to the side, Dean lifted his foot and kicked the door in backwards. He let the burst of bullets whiz passed him, one close enough to burn his arm, and then spun inside. He shot twice in rapid succession, catching Jefferson high in the chest. Unfortunately, this tripped the man’s trigger finger and the arm was already aimed at the girl hanging helpless from the ceiling.

Dean acted completely without thought except to save the girl. He dove in front of her and felt the puncture of at least five bullets at various points in his torso. Slamming without control onto the floor, he panted harshly into the suddenly silence. It scared him that he felt no pain when he knew there should be out of control agony, having been hit so many times.

His heart pounded faster and faster and Dean couldn’t catch his breath, his vision narrowing to a single, tunnel-like point...

*  *  *  *

Jeanie dropped the tray of medication at the scream that came from Sam’s room; high and filled with despair and loss. She was running before the sound even faded and hit the room just as Sam burst from it. They collided and she grabbed at him, but couldn’t hold him. He shook her off easy, as though she weighed nothing, and shouted Dean’s name again before taking off down the hall.

From her vantage point on the floor, winded and bruised from impacting the doorframe, Jeanie watched as security overtook Sam at the stairwell. He fought them like a wild thing, screaming for Dean the entire time. Grabbing one of the syringes of sedatives from her dropped tray, Jeanie scrambled to her feet and ran down the hall as more nurses and personnel rushed in to help hold Sam down.

When she got there, his gown was soaked with blood, he had to have torn his stitches out completely with how hard he still fought. She got clipped in the face by a foot and spun again, but someone caught her before she hit another wall. She thrust the syringe at whoever it was and gasped, “Sedative! Give it to him!”

The nurse stabbed Sam in the thigh with it and gave him the full dose. It took almost a minute, which was unheard of, and he fought the entire time, struggling violently to get free and still crying out for Dean in the most heartbreaking way. The drug finally hit and Sam sagged against the floor, sobbing his way to passing out.

The sudden quiet was almost unnerving. Gathering her composure, Jeanie ordered sharply, “Stop his bleeding and get him to his room! Restrain him!”

The orderlies obeyed instantly, packing Sam’s wound with fresh bandages and then all four men hauling him between them to the room back down the hall.

“Jeanie? You okay?” from Myra, the nurse who’d sedated Sam.

Letting herself shake and feel the bruises that were going to seriously hurt the next day, Jeanie took the offered hands of the nurses still there and let out a long breath. Shaking her head, Jeanie said, “I’d be better if that hadn’t just happened.”

The dark-haired woman asked, “Shit, what did just happen?”

Worried, Jeanie commented, “Nothing good.”

*  *  *  *

Dean’s entire chest was one massive ache. Groaning, he rolled onto his side and pushed slowly into a sitting position. Looking down showed six holes in his shirt and blood pretty much everywhere, which matched with his memories, but there were no actual holes in his body. Just to make sure, he yanked off his shirt. Breathing a sigh of relief at the clear skin, he already had too many scars, Dean suddenly remembered the girl.

Looking around, he found her kneeling over Jefferson. Some kind of glow emanated from her hands and he began to rethink the idea that she was just a girl. Still, she’d healed him and didn’t seem to be carving psycho-boy into little pieces, so he would give her the benefit of the doubt. He stood and walked over to her, peering down curiously to watch the buckshot pellets pull out of Jefferson’s chest with multiple sucking sounds that completely grossed him out.

She glanced up at him with a smile on the pretty young face, deep blue eyes sparkling mischievously. “Everything you’ve seen and done, and that grosses you out?”

“Lots of things do,” he replied gruffly. “So…who’re you?”


Dean blinked, his mind momentarily confounded. He finally came up with, “As in, the Norse Goddess of beauty and love?”

She grinned and confirmed, “Among other things.”

“So you let him carve you up because…?”

“That was Loki’s idea of fun,” Freyja said, acidic. “And when I find him, he’s going to get more than just a piece of my mind, believe me.”

Dean definitely believed her. “Well. Ah, if you don’t need me anymore, I guess I’ll just be heading out now.”

She stood, suddenly much taller than before, tall and willowy and beautiful in a cool, classic way. Looking at him intently, she asked, “What do you want, Dean Winchester?”

He blinked in surprise. “What? Nothing. No, no that was, you know, part of the job.”

Freyja smiled and assured him, “I’m not trying to trick you or make you beholden to me in any way. You did me a favor by releasing me from my imprisonment and I wish to reward you for that. If you hadn’t sacrificed yourself for me, I would have suffered greatly at that man’s hands and then been born yet again to the mortal coil.”

“I’m good, honest,” Dean told her, backing slowly away. “No need for…”

She vanished before he even finished the sentence and he jumped in surprise. Something bitterly cold moved through him forwards and then again backwards and he shuddered violently in reaction. It felt like Sam had finally repaid him all those whitewashes from when they were kids, burying his face in the snow and then dumping more down his back for added measure. The memory made him smile until Jefferson groaned from across the room.

Stalking over to him, Dean kicked the man in the gut and snapped, “Don’t you ever shoot me again, dickwad!”

*  *  *  *

All of Sam’s stitches, every single one of them, had been ripped out during his altercation with what must have been the entire orderly staff. And not only did his fever spike before he even woke up from the first sedative, but he’d cracked a couple of ribs in the fight and one of his eyes was swollen shut. He felt numb and wrapped in a haze of mercifully strong drugs, his mind anchored on only one thought, refusing to give way; Dean was dead.

His brother had died at 5:37 p.m. the day before while it was dark out because of the short, winter days. Sam had felt the searing pain in multiple places in his chest. His vision had narrowed down to a single point of light. That essential part of himself that was Dean had slipped from his grasp from across hundreds of miles.

Nothing mattered anymore and Sam stared into space or closed his eyes and looked at nothing. He knew the medical staff were worried about him and didn’t care about that, either. He silently encouraged the infection to take over and kill him so that he could meet up with Dean on the other side, no matter where that was.

It was late in the day, still drugged to the gills and restrained to his bed, that Sam started hallucinating. He heard Dean’s voice in the hall, angry and sharp. He heard the familiar stride of boots on linoleum. And then his brother’s face appeared in his line of sight, pinched tight with fear and worry.

“Sammy? C’mon, baby, talk to me,” Dean murmured, sitting on the bed. “What’s going on with you? Jeanie says you scared the crap out of everyone yesterday, that you completely flipped out on them. And with the shiners you’re both sporting, I believe her.”

Sam sighed and pressed against his brother’s hand cupping his face, a sensation he remembered from so many times before. His focus remained fuzzy, his gaze resting on the bedspread.

“Jesus, Sam, snap out of it!”

The slap across his face stung and pushed Sam’s head into the pillows. There were two other slaps before he heard Dr. Tora exclaimed, “Mr. Smithson! Stop that right now! Your brother is already traumatized, we don’t need you adding to it!”

“What the fuck did you do to him, you quack?” Dean snarled. “He was fine when I left, God damn it! What did you do?!”

Sam frowned, not sure why he would hallucinate a pissed-off Dean. The sound of a scuffle and a yelp from Tora caused him to slowly turn his head towards the noise. Dean had the taller man pinned to the wall, face mashed against it and his arm twisted around his back. He looked livid, almost panicked, and about ready to break the doctor’s arm.

The frown increased and he struggled against the drugs to ask, “Dean?”

Dean immediately released Tora and rushed back to Sam. “Sammy? It’s me. You’re okay now, I’m back. Can you tell me what happened?”

Confused, Dean seemed so real, Sam answered, “You died yesterday. I felt you die, Dean. Are you a vengeful spirit? A death omen? Why are you here?”

Dean’s eyes closed in a pained expression and then he cupped Sam’s face, telling him, “I’m not dead, Sammy. I’m alive, okay? I swear I’m real. No one’s going to give you any more drugs and then you’ll really know that I’m here and not a ghost.”

Sam sighed deeply and drifted again thinking that that would be really nice.

*  *  *  *

Once Sam faded back to unconsciousness, Dean turned his full fury on the hapless Dr. Tora, advancing on the man and shoving him out, into the hall as he snarled, “How much shit did you pump into him? What was it? I am going to sue your ass into the God damned ground for this!”

“Dean! Dean, calm down,” Jeanie exclaimed, suddenly just there. She stepped between them and took his arm, telling him, “Sam lost it, Dean, we had to sedate him. And when he woke this morning, he was extremely confused and his fever had spiked so we all felt it was best to keep him quiet so he wouldn’t hurt himself more than he already had.”

Still wanting to hit something, preferably Tora, Dean bared his teeth at the man over Jeanie’s shoulder and then strode back into Sam’s room. He stopped at the door and stabbed a finger at Tora. “Don’t you fucking come near my brother again, you got it? I want another doctor right now, or I call a lawyer.”

Jeanie held up a hand and promised, “I’ll find Sam another doctor. Why don’t you just stay with him for now? That was the most responsive he’s been since the episode yesterday.”

Dean glared at the now-pale doctor and then closed the door to Sam’s room. He walked over to the bed and unbuckled the restraints, rubbing circulation back into his brother’s big hand. Dean walked to the foot of the bed and did the same to his brother’s feet. He circled around and finally released the last one, rubbing not only the wrist but the palm and fingers in an impromptu massage.

Sitting on the bed, he kissed the palm and told Sam, “I am so sorry, Sam. I didn’t know. Jesus, if I’d known you’d felt any of that, I would’ve hightailed it back last night, right away. But I’m here now, so you sleep it off and come back to me, okay?”

About twenty minutes later, probably the amount of time it took to get the administrator and the hospital lawyer to see if Dean had a legitimate claim, a new doctor walked into the room. He was tall and blond, in his mid-thirties probably, with deep blue eyes and an honest smile. Dean gave him a wary look and didn’t move from Sam’s bed.

“Mr. Smithson, I’m Dr. Luke Halstead,” the man greeted, holding out a hand.

Dean took it reluctantly. “Dean Smithson.”

Halstead started, “I’ve talked with Dr. Tora about the situation and reviewed your brother’s charts. Honestly, I won’t say he handled things in the best fashion, but he didn’t do anything wrong, either. Your brother was out of control and caused considerable injury to the staff. Even injured, he’s a very strong man. I think the restraints went overboard, but I probably would have sedated him until the fever came down, too. It’s within your rights to request another doctor, but I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to work with you to help your brother recover.”

Squinting at him suspiciously, Dean ultimately nodded and told him, “All right. But I’m keepin’ a damn close eye on all of you.”

Halstead actually grinned. “I’m sure you will. The drugs should wear off in another couple of hours at the most. If you would let the nurses know when he wakes up, I’ll come back and see what kind of damage he did to himself.”

Dean nodded again and watched him go, somewhat mollified by the man’s forthright manner. He sat there for three hours before Sam shifted in a waking-up kind of way, his brow furrowing and lips twitching. Dean reached up to brush the hair off Sam’s forehead and said, “Sammy? You want to wake up for me?”

It took a few more minutes, but when Sam finally woke, he woke up completely. His eyes snapped open, locking on Dean, and then he sat up and grabbed Dean into a crushing hug.

Dean returned it, but told him, “Sammy, come on, you have to lie back or you’re going to hurt yourself again. I’m not going anywhere, okay?”

Sam slowly lay back down against the pillows, but his hands stayed tight on Dean’s forearms. He said, low and urgent, “I felt you die, Dean. What happened?”

“Well, I kinda rescued a Goddess by throwing myself in front of a semi-auto pistol,” Dean admitted.

Sam’s grip squeezed even tighter, what little color he had bleeding out fast from his face.

The strength in the hands around his arms made Dean wince, though he didn’t complain. He explained, “She healed me and then offered me a reward, no, I didn’t take it, I’m not stupid.”

The protest died unsaid on Sam’s tongue, relief washing over his face. “Good. So, you’re really okay?”

Dean nodded and said, “Got some killer bruises, but otherwise cool. Turns out Jefferson had all kinds of evidence in his car about girls he’d killed before getting to Freyja, so I trussed him up and called the cops to pick him up.”

Sam’s eyes popped almost out of his head in a comical way as he exclaimed, “Freyja?!”

Smirking a little, Dean said, “Yeah. And man, those Nordic chicks are hot!”

Sam rolled his eyes and opened his mouth, probably to lecture him, but fortunately, Jeanie interrupted. She stopped short and greeted, “Sam! You’re awake!”

Looking over at her, he frowned and asked, “What happened to you?”

She snorted and walked over to start taking his vitals. “You did. You freaked out on us yesterday, Sam, and your foot got acquainted with my face.”

“Jeanie, I am so sorry!” Sam exclaimed.

Waving him off, Jeanie smiled and assured him, “Comes with the territory. If I had a nickel for every time someone hit, puked on, bit at, or flirted with me during a sponge bath, I’d be a very rich woman. Now, I’m going to go get Dr. Halstead and he’ll take a look at your incision.”

Dean did keep a close eye on Halstead as the man examined Sam, but it looked like the man knew what he was doing. As a bonus, he didn’t seem to care that Dean stuck around and didn’t talk down to him like Tora had.

“Well, the good news is that your fever is down and you didn’t do yourself too bad a turn yesterday,” Halstead reported at the end.

Sam asked, “And the bad news?”

Lips pursed, Halstead said, “I’m afraid you’re going to be here another couple of days. I just don’t want to risk a repeat of yesterday.”

Dean’s jaw flexed as he thought about insurance investigations. They’d already been there for too long. Someone would call the hospital in the next day or so to get confirmation that Sam was who he said he was and then they’d be screwed.

As if reading his thoughts, Sam asked, “Strictly speaking, though, I’m fine, right? No infection, no fever, and no reason to think I won’t heal just as fine lying in bed at home as opposed to here?”

Halstead grimaced, but agreed, “No reason you shouldn’t, but I highly recommend you stay at least another forty-eight hours.”

Sam shook his head and said, “I want to go home. No offense to you, but this hasn’t been a stellar experience for me.”

“And I completely understand, but Dr. Tora isn’t your doctor any longer,” Halstead reminded. “I’m not only a better doctor, but way nicer.”

Sam chuckled, and even Dean grinned, but insisted, “I’m sure you are, but I’m going home. Can you put the paperwork together?”

Halstead looked unhappy, but nodded. “All right. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”

Dean went to get Sam’s clothes in the small closet and then helped his brother get dressed. It was a slow, painstaking process with Sam gasping and biting back his pain to get the job done. By the time Halstead returned with the paperwork and an orderly with a wheelchair, Sam was flat on his back on the bed, but fully clothed.

Shaking his head, Halstead said, “I hope you know what you’re doing,” and handed Sam the clipboard.

Sam gave him a rueful smile as he replied, “I’ve had worse, Doc, believe me.”

“Oh, I do,” Halstead responded softly.

Flushing, Sam signed the papers without further comment.

Dean waited for Halstead and the orderly to leave and then helped Sam to the wheelchair. That Sam didn’t protest told him just how bad his brother felt. Sam stayed quiet as Dean pushed the wheelchair to the main entrance and went to get the Impala, pulling up smoothly to the curb. He jumped out to help Sam into the car before the idiot could tear out his stitches out again by doing things himself.

Dean drove to a new hotel, one that had truly clean beds and steady water pressure, not that Sam would be enjoying that for a while. It also had room service, which would come in handy the first couple of days. He checked them in with Sam leaning on the counter looking like death warmed over, the desk clerk giving them worried looks.

“My appendix burst last week,” Sam explained before the woman could get up her nerve to ask. “I’m fine, really. Just need some rest.”

“Oh honey, you shouldn’t even be on your feet then! Why, my mother had that happen just last year and she was laid out for a month!” the woman exclaimed.

Sam gave her a smile. “I’ll be fine.”

She gave him a dubious look but only said, “You call down if you need anything, all right? I’ll leave word that you’re priority guests.”

Sweet, Dean thought happily, hiding a grin. There was something about Sam that brought out every woman’s mothering instinct.

They got up to the room a few minutes later and by then, Sam leaned heavily on Dean. He just about made it to the bed under his own steam and Dean carefully helped him stretch out before going back to get their bags and shut the door. That done, he pulled out the salt and took care of the windows, not bothering with the door until after they’d gotten dinner. Shrugging out of his jacket, Dean tossed it on a chair and went to check on Sam, who snored softly, already out cold.

Grinning fondly, he unlaced Sam’s sneakers and pulled off his socks before covering his brother with a blanket. He yawned, still a little wiped from the day before and then the emotional turmoil of the hospital. Picking up the phone, he ordered a couple of hamburgers and fries with drinks and then turned the tv on with the volume down low. The food came about fifteen minutes later and Dean was up and across the room before the third knock. He motioned for the delivery guy to be quiet and signed the room service thing, bringing the tray in himself.

Dean brought the tray to the bed and then gently shook Sam awake. Confused hazel eyes met his for a moment and then Sam smiled through a yawn and hitched himself semi-upright against pillows. Dean handed him a plate and then took his own to sit on the bed beside Sam. They ate in a comfortable silence, watching the news and concentrating on eating.

Sam stretched out again when he was done, resting his head on Dean’s lap and drifting back asleep in no time. Dean pulled out his cell and called Ellen, fingers combing through Sam’s hair as the phone rang.

“Dean? How’d it go?” she asked.

Dean snorted. “Well, let’s just say Jefferson’s a lunatic who is officially where he belongs. Sam and I are at a hotel for the next few days while he recovers a little more from the surgery.”

A frown darkened her tone as she questioned, “He’s not on his feet already?”

“He got an infection,” Dean answered. “But he’s going to be fine now. Had to spring him AMA, though.”

“Well, if you boys need a place to stay, you just let me know.”

“I will, thanks.”

Hanging up, he tossed the phone lightly onto the bedside table and slouched further down onto the bed, careful not to wake his brother. Folding an arm behind his head, Dean stared up at the ceiling and thought about the day before. It wasn’t every day a Goddess crossed his path, after all. Once he’d left Jefferson trussed up for the cops, he’d just about made it driving away from the scene before a wave of exhaustion had hit hard. He’d found a quiet neighborhood street and stretched out in the backseat.

Had he known what Sam had gone through, and he still didn’t know how that had happened, Dean would’ve sucked down as much caffeine as his stomach could take and burned rubber back to the hospital. As it was, he slept from early evening all the way to the next morning without once waking up. He was pretty sure a bomb could’ve gone off and he wouldn’t have felt it, never mind woken.

Did she do something to me, or is that what happens when you come back from the dead? he wondered. The first time he’d been brought back, Dean had still been weak from his other injuries sustained in the car wreck. He didn’t really know how much had been from the resurrection and how much from the injuries. All he really knew was that he’d woken sore all over and sluggish, but apparently fine.

What would a Goddess consider a reward? Dean probably didn’t want to know, but couldn’t help thinking about it. He had no idea what had been running through his mind at the time other than, Holy shit please don’t screw me with this reward thing. What might have been going on below the surface in his subconscious, he had no idea.

Sighing deeply, Dean let himself relax towards sleep. There was nothing that needed doing and he was right where he wanted to be; with Sam.

*  *  *  *

The next that Dean knew, sun streamed in the windows, one patch hitting him square in the face. He grumbled to himself and rolled over, burying his face against Sam’s shoulder and hitching a leg over his brother’s hip.

“‘M not a pillow,” Sam mumbled, swatting at him. “Go’way.”

Dean snorted and didn’t move. Predictably, Sam fell back asleep, his arm now draped over Dean’s head. Drowsing for another half-hour or so until his stomach rumbled angrily, Dean finally gave up and got out of bed. He walked over to the bathroom to take care of business and then ordered room service.

Then, of course, he realized that he had to go to the drugstore at some point because Sam didn’t have enough meds for more than a couple of days. He pulled on some clean jeans and a t-shirt, turning on the laptop to check email while waiting for the food to arrive. Sam stirred at the knock on the door, but Dean let him wake up on his own since cold eggs never hurt anyone. He ate while going through emails and stopped short on finding one from Cassie. Opening it cautiously, he breathed a sigh of relief on finding it to be a general, ‘How are you?’ catch-up kind of thing.


Looking over at Sam’s sleepy call of his name, Dean grinned at the bedhead and teased, “It’s aliiive!”

Sam made a face and pushed upright with a grimace. “Funny. Why didn’t you wake me?”

“Because you need to sleep,” Dean replied easily.

Climbing slowly out of the bed, Sam walked over to the table and sat opposite him. He dished himself some eggs and grabbed some toast as he asked, “Anything going on?”

Dean shook his head, answering, “Not right now.”

“Would you tell me if there were?”

“Probably not.”

Sam rolled his eyes, but only started eating.

Dean continued, “So, I figure we’ve got another day here before we have to get out. I was thinking we could take Ellen up on her offer and stay with her a week or so.”

Sam swallowed his mouthful and pointed out, “We could leave today.”

“No, I think we’re good for at least a couple of days,” Dean countered. “Different name than the hospital has, so we don’t have to worry about them tracking us down here.”

Sighing, Sam said, “I wish we didn’t have to keep doing this.”

Privately, Dean wanted that exact same thing. He would love to be able to use their own name when checking in somewhere, stay with their own credit cards, have a way to pay for everything, and be together. A real family with nothing to hide. That was something Dean wanted more than anything else. Being on the run sucked and even though the FBI thought they were dead, there was no sense in running the risk of them finding out otherwise.

A sharp pain sliced simultaneously into his gut and his head, blinding in its intensity and Dean toppled onto the floor with a cry. He vaguely heard Sam call his name, but all Dean could concentrate on was the excruciating pain, curled up in a ball and trying to ride it out. Strong hands gripped his shoulder and then Sam pressed up along his back. Sam held him, asking something in an urgent voice, something Dean just could not make out over the pain and noise in his head.

It seemed an eternity before the world returned. The agony of whatever it was faded enough to find himself panting and shaking from the exertion. Sam’s arms remained tight around him, his face pressed to Dean’s throat as he murmured nonsense words of comfort over and over. Dean took a tentative breath and then let it out. Finding that didn’t hurt, he took a deeper one to try and give his beating heart a break and then rubbed a hand over Sam’s arm. “I’m okay. I’m good now.”

They untangled and sat up, though Sam kept a firm grip on his shoulder as he demanded, “What just happened?”

“I don’t know,” Dean answered honestly. “Just…pain, a shitload of it in my gut and my head.”

The worry etched into Sam’s face deepened and he said, “We should get you checked out.”

“I feel fine.”

“Dean, please. What just happened was not normal.”

“Well no, but…”


Dean grimaced, but nodded acknowledgment. “All right, all right. I’ll hit a clinic while I’m out getting your meds.”

“I’m going too,” Sam stated flatly.

Rolling his eyes, Dean said, “I feel fine now, Sam, and you still need to rest. Matter of fact, you shouldn’t be on the floor like this.”

Sam let Dean help him stand, but then repeated, “I’m going with you.”

Taking in the stubborn cast to his brother’s expression, Dean sighed and knew it was a fight he wouldn’t win.

*  *  *  *

Sam ignored the dull pain in his stomach on the walk through the hotel to the car. It was actually much better than even the day before, so apparently sleeping a night solid had helped a lot. His stitches hurt in a more aggravating way than the surgery site itself, the rubbing of fabric over them a constant irritation despite the bandage. The drive to a mid-level clinic was worse than walking, especially when Dean hit an unavoidable pothole.

When they got inside and the receptionist asked what the problem was, Dean answered, “I had some stomach pains and, well, I guess a headache.”

Sam rolled his eyes at the typical downplay and interjected, “He collapsed from the pain and he couldn’t even hear me talking to him.”

The woman’s eyebrows rose and she asked, “And you didn’t go to the hospital?”

Sam flushed, not wanting to admit he’d been too panicked to do anything except hold onto Dean at the time.

Dean stepped in and said, “I feel fine. I’m only here because he told me to come.”

She gave him a dubious look, but held out a clipboard and ordered, “Fill this out. It’ll probably be a good half-hour before someone’s free to look at you.”

Sam took the clipboard and followed Dean over to the waiting area. He spent a good five minutes filling out Dean’s medical history, the pertinent parts anyhow, and then turned the forms back in. Dean wandered off to the pharmacy area down the hall and Sam just sat in the chair and waited for him to return. He wanted to be there just in case Dean’s name got called early.

It wasn’t, of course. Forty-five minutes later, they had Sam’s filled prescriptions as well as snacks from the pharmacy, but were still waiting. Finally, a nurse called out Dean’s name and they followed her into the exam area. She gave Sam a curious look as he sat in the chair against the wall, but only took Dean’s vitals and told them the doctor would be in shortly. That, naturally, translated into a ten minute wait where Sam spent the time stopping Dean from messing with the medical equipment.

The door opened and a young, dark-haired man about Dean’s age walked in. He stopped short on seeing Sam and asked, “Mr. Franklin?”

Dean smiled and held out a hand. “Dean Franklin, hi there. This is my partner, Sam.”

People they didn’t care about and would probably never see again got the ‘partner’ introduction. It just saved on the explanations and raised eyebrows if they forgot themselves.

“Ah. Well, I’m Dr. Welsh. I see here you’re complaining of stomach and head pains?”

Dean nodded uncomfortably and said, “It knocked me down. No idea what caused it, but it lasted, how long, Sam?”

“Almost ten minutes,” Sam answered tightly.

Dr. Welsh motioned towards Dean’s shirt, which Dean promptly pulled off and tossed at Sam. The doctor started feeling around Dean’s stomach area and then listened to his heart, telling him to take deep breaths. When he moved to do the same to Dean’s back, a gasp escaped and it took a few seconds before Welsh could question, “May I ask what happened to your back?”

“Serial killer who didn’t finish the job,” Dean answered wryly.

The man looked at Sam, who shrugged and pulled aside his shirt to show his own scars. Clearly shocked, it took a few seconds before Welsh regained his composure and continued the exam. Sam gave him points for not bombarding them with questions, as had happened in the past by well-meaning medical personnel.

At the end, Welsh admitted, “Everything seems fine to me. I’ll have the nurse draw some blood for testing, but I don’t see anything wrong on first glance. I want to put you into an MRI to check for clots or other trauma that might not be evident.”

“No, I don’t think…”

Sam cut him off with, “Thank you, Dr. Welsh, that would be great.”

Dean glared at him and retorted, “It’s my body.”

“And you’re going to get it completely checked out right now,” Sam informed him, not relinquishing his gaze.

Not looking away either, Dean said, “Dr. Welsh, can you give us a few minutes?”

“Um, sure. Just call for the nurse when you’re ready.”

Once the man beat a hasty retreat, Sam pulled out the big guns. Softening his expression, he crossed over to Dean and took his hands, giving him big eyes as he pleaded, “Please, Dean. Just so I know there’s nothing wrong? You don’t know how scared I was when you collapsed earlier.”

Dean gave him a sour look. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing there with those eyes of yours.”

“Please?” Sam repeated.

Jaw flexing, Dean finally acquiesced, “Fine! Stop it with the damn puppy dog eyes already.”

Sam flashed him a grin and said, “I’ll get the nurse.”

“I hate you,” Dean muttered.

Still grinning, Sam opened the door and called for the nurse.

*  *  *  *

The MRI was scheduled for that afternoon, thanks to a cancellation and pointed comment by Dean that he wasn’t coming back for more tests no matter what. Sam had his doubts about that, but didn’t want to push things by commenting. He waited anxiously in the hospital lobby while his brother went through the testing. He’d given in to Dean’s demand earlier that he take a painkiller, and the antibiotics were a given, so he wasn’t in pain, but his stomach was somewhat queasy.

Just as he was about to go to the cafeteria, his cell rang and he answered it without looking. “Hello?”

“Sam? How are you feeling?” Bobby asked.

Smiling, Sam answered, “I’m fine, Bobby, thanks. How’re things with you?”

Bobby huffed in apparent amusement and replied, “Same old, you know. I just hadn’t heard from you or Dean since after the surgery, so I wanted to make sure things were good.”

Sam debated telling Bobby about Dean’s collapse and then decided against it. No sense in worrying him over what might be nothing. “Yeah. I got out of the hospital yesterday and we’re staying at a hotel until tomorrow. Not sure what we’re doing after that, though. Maybe go to Ellen’s for a few days.”

“Well, you shouldn’t travel around a lot so soon,” Bobby told him. “You can always stay here, if you like.”

Sam nodded into the phone and agreed, “I know. And thanks, Bobby.”

“Say, where is your brother, anyhow? I called him first and he didn’t answer.”

So much for sparing him, Sam thought, grimacing. “He’s getting an MRI.”

There was a brief pause and then Bobby demanded, “Excuse me?”

Sam winced and explained, “He had some kind of incident this morning. Stomach and head pain, but the doctor didn’t find anything wrong, so he thought an MRI would be a good idea.”

“And you weren’t going to tell me?!” Bobby exclaimed.

Sam sighed. “I didn’t want to worry you if it turned out to be nothing. Which I’m sure it is. Nothing, I mean.”

Bobby muttered something too low to hear and then ordered, “You call me back just as soon as you get those damn test results, you understand?”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam agreed.

“All right. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bye, Bobby.”

“Bye Sam.”

Sam disconnected and then stood to get something to eat to settle his stomach, maybe some toast or crackers. The elevator doors opened on Dean, though, so he stopped in surprise and backed up, asking, “Dean? What happened?”

“I’m clean,” Dean told him, shrugging. “Doc couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”

Sam squinted at him suspiciously.

Rolling his eyes, Dean said, “I’m not lyin’ Sam. You can call him if you want.”

Deciding that Dean wouldn’t bluff with such an easy call, Sam shook his head and replied, “I wish you’d shown up three minutes ago. Bobby called.”

“You’re such a wuss,” Dean teased. “Can’t lie worth shit, either.”

Dean pulled out his phone as they headed for the hospital exit and Sam concentrated on not throwing up right in the lobby. Figuring the car ride would be worse than walking, he waited until Dean was done reassuring Bobby that there was nothing wrong and had hung up before saying, “I need to get something in my stomach. I don’t feel so hot.”

Nodding in understanding, Dean said, “There’s a strip mall just down the road. We’ll stop there and get you something. Hang on ‘til then?”

Sam thought about it and then nodded. Thankfully it was a short ride and he made it to the convenience store without embarrassing himself. They picked up some soda and crackers for Sam, and Dean grabbed himself some junkfood for later. He ate the crackers while they waited in a surprisingly long line and after slowly drinking some of the ginger ale, started feeling better.

The trip back to the hotel was uneventful and Sam started dozing just as they pulled up. He sighed when Dean shook his shoulder, but climbed out of the Impala without complaint knowing that a bed waited inside for him. It was a cold walk to the hotel, but they were immediately suffused with heat upon entering. Once they got to the room, he suffered through Dean inspecting his stitches and then climbed under the covers, more than ready to go to sleep.

“Uh-uh, Sammy, you got meds to take first,” Dean announced, poking him gently.

Sam groaned and pushed upright to take the giant pills Dean held out and washed them down with milk, even though he didn’t remember Dean buying any. Finally, he was able to stretch out again and this time, Dean pulled the covers up around him, sitting on the edge of the bed. He smiled at the sensation of his brother’s fingers combing through his hair, drifting happily into sleep.

*  *  *  *

There wasn’t a lot for Dean to do while Sam slept, so he put the tv on low and started cleaning their weapons. His hands moved automatically, stripping and cleaning and oiling in a rhythm long established. Late afternoon progressed into evening as he worked, so he turned on a couple of lights. Sam got up once to stumble to the bathroom, but went right back to bed.

Dean went online to see how things were in the world and found a couple of hunts nearby that he sighed and wrote up to research. He would give them to Ellen to pass on to other hunters, the woman somehow still right in the middle of what was left of the hunting world. She might not have a bar where people could stop and drink and eat, but the woman knew everyone who was left and could connect new hunters to the veterans and pass on information.

He stopped around eight and woke Sam up to find out what he wanted for dinner. It took a few minutes for his brother to actually progress to more than grunts and glares, but eventually Sam sat up, scrubbing hands over his face and yawning. Dean had already repacked their weapons’ bag, so everything looked the same when Sam asked, “What did you do while I was out?”

“Just relaxed and watched tv,” Dean answered.

Which was true, since maintaining the guns was soothing to him. Dean really didn’t want to know what that said about his subconscious. Sam heaved a sigh and climbed out of bed to go to the bathroom again. The water ran long enough that Dean knew he was making do with a quick wash so he called out, “What do you want to eat?”

“Something not fried!” Sam answered loudly.

Dean snorted at the pointed tone and called to place the order, chicken and vegetables for them both, just to make Sam happy. He also ordered apple pie for dessert to make himself happy. When Sam came out of the bathroom, his hair was wet and he looked a little clearer, to Dean’s relief.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Sam asked, “So where are we going tomorrow?”

Not having really thought about it, Dean answered, “Ellen’s, I guess. We could go to Bobby’s, but…”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, he’s done enough for us.”

And it wasn’t like they thought they would wear out their welcome, but Dean knew Sam felt the same as he did about being a burden to any one person. Especially Bobby, with how the man had become a second dad to them. He’d always been a favorite uncle of sorts, but ever since their father had died, the other man had really stepped up and given them a lot of guidance; not to mention smacks to the head when necessary.

Dean watched with a grin as Sam stripped to his boxers and then rooted around his bag for clean clothes. “You know, you’re just going back to bed in a couple hours.”

Sam made a face at him and retorted, “I’d still like not to smell.”

“Too late for that, Princess,” Dean teased.

Room service knocked at the door before Sam could comment. Grinning, Dean answered the door and pulled in the cart, giving a tip to the guy in cash. It wouldn’t be nice to stiff him once the hotel realized they couldn’t get paid. Sam looked surprised at the food Dean put on the table so he asked defensively, “What? You said not fried.”

Sam held up his hands and answered, “Nothing. It looks good.”

Dean gave him a suspicious look, waiting for more, but sat and started eating. They didn’t talk much while chowing down, just a few comments here and there about what was on the television or the food. When all that was left was the still-warm pie, Dean asked, “So how do you feel? Really.”

Sam half-grinned and answered, “I should ask you that, but I’m fine. Sore, but not enough to need much more time off.”

“Well tough. You’re off your feet at least another week,” Dean informed him.

Sam countered firmly, “There’s no way I’ll need that, Dean.”

“You’re going to get it anyhow.”

“Dean, I’m not going to just stay in bed for the next week.”

“You wanna bet?”

Sam clearly bit back further argument and started eating his pie.

Dean wasn’t going to let it go, but he would wait until a better time to make his point. So he ate his own pie in silence, stabbing his fork at the pastry to clink against the plate.

Sam finally asked, “So what do you think happened this morning? And for that matter, what happened when you went to find Jefferson? You never gave me any details.”

So Dean gave him the rundown of what had happened at the abandoned rectory. Sam shivered when he talked about Freyja, obviously not liking that part of it at all. Not that Dean blamed him. All lore from every culture spoke consistently about the unpredictable nature of Gods and Goddesses, even the lesser ones. Honestly, Dean didn’t know whether to think of the pantheon of the nature of the mythical beings, whether they were higher level spirits or what, but he knew the ones that existed had power.

“And she didn’t actually do anything to you?” Sam asked.

Dean shook his head. “Not that I can tell, anyhow. And I know you’re thinking about this morning, but there’s no way that was a reward.”

Sam snorted and told him, “Not unless you’re a masochist.”

“Which I’m not,” Dean agreed. “Anyhow, I tied Jefferson up and checked out his car. Don’t worry, I didn’t leave any fingerprints. I did, however, find a whole bunch of nasty shit to do with other murders so I called the cops anonymously and took off.”

“Then?” Sam prompted.

Dean shrugged and answered, “Then I slept. I was wiped out. Which you look right now, so take your meds and go back to bed.”

Sam looked like he wanted to argue, but also looked like he was getting tired again for real. He stood and walked the short distance to Dean, bending down for a slow, lingering kiss that sent a shiver of arousal through Dean. Putting his hands on Sam’s waist and ass, Dean rubbed slowly as he returned the kiss with tongue.

Pulling back, Sam brushed a hand over Dean’s head and promised, “Soon.”

“You bet your sweet ass, soon,” Dean quipped, grinning.

Chuckling, Sam went to take his medicine, got undressed and climbed back under the covers. He fell asleep to a Friends rerun and Dean quietly mocking Chandler.

*  *  *  *

They made it to Ellen’s apartment in good time, not hitting any traffic on the highways or main streets. She lived in a mid-sized building in a mid-sized city, drove a normal car, knew her neighbors and held down a job at a local restaurant while battling the damn insurance company. Dean parked on the street, noting the ‘No parking between 4-6pm on Tuesdays’ sign as he climbed out. He would also have to keep an eye out if it snowed and great amount. He grabbed the bags from the back and walked around the car to join Sam on the path to the front door.

Dean pressed the buzzer and waited for her to answer.

“Yeah? Who is it?”

“It’s us, Ellen.”

The door unlocked and he grabbed it, holding open the door for Sam to precede him. He got a dirty look in return, but Sam walked through ahead of him. Dean followed to the elevator and they rode up to the third floor, going to apartment 306 to find Ellen waiting for them. She smiled broadly and gathered them individually into tight hugs.

“Well I’m glad you came by,” she greeted. “Drop your stuff and have a seat.”

Dean looked around and found the apartment bare of most personal effects, other than a couple of pictures of Ellen and Jo on a short bookcase. The furniture was easily second-hand and the whole setup had a very temporary feel to it. He sat at the kitchen table with Sam, catching the beer bottle she slid over to him.

“So how are you feeling, Sam? You need to stretch out?” Ellen asked with concern.

Sam smiled and shook his head. “I’m fine. A little sore, is all.”

Dean stated, “He’ll be going to bed good and early tonight, though.”

“Dean, I swear to God, if you start up again…!” Sam exclaimed.

Ellen snorted. “Oh, it’s going to be a barrel of laughs with you two here, I can just tell.’

Making a face, Dean said, “Sam’s just being stubborn because he knows I’m right.”

Sam’s jaw flexed and he told Ellen, “I’m going to take a shower, if that’s all right?”

It’s fine,” she replied, motioning towards it. “Knock yourself out.”

Dean called after him, “Keep your damn stitches dry!”

“Bite me!” Sam shouted back.

Grumbling to himself, Dean took a long pull on the beer only to find Ellen shaking her head. He asked her, “What?”

Half-grinning, she answered, “Nothing. Just…you two are a joy to have. I can’t wait to see you guys in a few days.”

Dean made a vague gesture at nothing as he assured her, “We’re fine, really. Once Sam gets his head out of his ass, we’ll be even better.”

*  *  *  *

It turned out that Sam decided his ass was a good place for his head to be; which under normal circumstances, Dean would find hilarious just thinking. Unfortunately, they were in tight quarters with a woman they both cared about deeply, someone Dean definitely didn’t feel comfortable doing anything around. One or the other would’ve been okay, but not both.

It had been too long since they’d had any real time together where one of them wasn’t in pain of some kind. Before Sam’s surgery-gone-wrong, Dean had been down with a serious chest cold for a month, which had taken them both by surprise. Before that, Sam had fallen down a flight of stairs, cracking a couple of ribs and spraining his wrist. And that had been a bitch because Sam hadn’t been able to write and slow typing made him extra pissy.

By day four, Ellen set down the law with, “The next one of you that snipes at anything takes their bag and stays elsewhere. I’m done. I don’t care if tonight is New Year’s Eve.”

Dean closed his mouth on the snide remark that he’d been about to make.

Ellen took off to work even though it was a holiday, so they had the apartment to themselves for a change. When Dean opened the fridge to rifle around for dinner, he found a bottle of champagne with a note that said, “Please get drunk and fool around before I kill you both. See you late tomorrow.”

Snickering, Dean left the bottle in the fridge and decided to order Chinese food in the tradition of Americans. It was only five, but he figured there would be a huge wait so he called Ellen’s favorite place and ordered a ton of finger food. It would be delivered in about an hour and a half, which was better than Dean expected. He found Sam in the living room with his nose in a book and said, “Food’ll be a while.”

“I figured,” Sam replied, not looking at him.

Dean grinned as he plucked the book from Sam’s hands and repeated, “The food will be a while.”

Sam glared at him for all of thirty seconds before it faded into a cautious expression. “Okay. And?”

“And Ellen’s not coming back until late tomorrow,” Dean informed him.

Sam’s mouth dropped into an ‘O’ that instantly made Dean think very dirty thoughts.

Licking his lips, Dean asked, “How about a shower? Think you can handle that?”

Starting to get into the spirit of things, Sam stood and grabbed Dean’s shirt, hauling him in close and licking a stripe up his throat, ending at his ear with, “Think you can handle it?”

Dean groaned and nodded. “Hell yeah, move your ass.”

It didn’t take too long to get Sam’s bandage covered with plastic and then they were naked and in the shower together, making out under the hot water spray. They made out for a long time, hands roaming everywhere while tongues slid back and forth between mouths. Dean loved the way their bodies fit together, Sam leaning on him, cocks rubbing slow and easy as the tension of the last few weeks finally drifted away.

There wasn’t nearly enough friction to get off without hands involved, so he took hold of Sam’s dick and started stroking. Dean moaned when his brother did the same for him and their rhythms synched. His balls tightened at the pleasure surging through him, rising with greater urgency. It had been so long that he didn’t even care that this wasn’t going to last long. He was just glad to get his hands on Sam in any way that didn’t require medical assistance.

“Oh God, Dean, a little harder,” Sam breathed against his ear and then sucked on his throat.

Dean’s breath hitched as Sam continued to mark him, biting and sucking on his throat. He obliged, tightening his grip and pulling harder on the shaft in his hand, twisting a little as he did. Sam grunted suddenly, teeth biting hard as come splattered all over Dean, his brother’s hips jerking until he shuddered and leaned heavily on Dean.

“Jesus, Sam, don’t stop!” Dean complained, panting.

That roused Sam enough to get him back to jerking Dean off. A slick finger pushed inside Dean’s ass and started fucking him while Sam’s other hand continued to pump. That was enough to send a shock of pleasure through him and finish him off, coming hard. Shaking from the release, he stood there, the two of them leaning on each other as orgasm slowly receded.

A few minutes later, Sam nudged him against the wall and started kissing him again, long, deep kisses that Dean returned just as lazily. They washed each other’s backs, and fronts, barely drying off before the deliveryman showed with the food.

Settling on the sofa with the food spread out like a feast on the coffee table, they watched a marathon of action flicks on television while making fun of the stunts. Sam wanted to watch the New Year’s Countdown, big chick that he was, but Dean didn’t put up too much of a fuss. They’d pretty much missed Christmas altogether, thanks to Sam’s ill-timed appendix burst, so Dean didn’t mind hanging out and playing footsie while gorging on Chinese food.

Sam fell asleep long before midnight actually struck, a limp weight sprawled out on Dean and snoring lightly. A soft smile surfaced as he watched the ball drop on television, people freezing their asses off in NYC. Dean kissed his brother’s temple, fingers carding through the soft hair as he murmured, “Happy New Year, little brother.”

*  *  *  *

The really good news came on day eight of their stay with Ellen and they went to get Sam’s stitches looked at. Dean waited in the cramped waiting area of the rundown clinic who took cash and didn’t ask questions. Sam came out with a big grin on his face and Dean just knew they were good to go. He jumped to his feet and asked, “Everything good?”

“Everything’s great,” Sam answered, still grinning. “He said no heavy lifting for another week or so, but other than that, I’m fine. Why don’t we leave Ellen’s tonight and find a hotel somewhere to celebrate?”

Dean looked at the sky and said, “Hallelujah, there is a God! Sammy, that sounds like a great fuckin’ plan to me.”

To say thanks, they brought Ellen out to dinner that night at a nice restaurant and even paid with their own money. Dean had all he could do not to mess with Sam at the table, but kept his hands and feet to himself. They offered to drive Ellen back to her apartment but, maybe sick of them both by then, she insisted on a cab.

“Try not to kill each other on the road,” she ordered dryly, giving Sam a hug.

Dean grinned. “I claim the Fifth.”

She snorted and gave him a hug, too. “Call me if you need anything.”

And just like that, they were on the road.

They found a crappy motel about a half-hour later, unspoken agreement taking them outside the city limits of where Ellen lived. Sam’s hand stayed on Dean’s thigh the entire ride, heavy and warm, a promise of things to come that kept him distracted and barely able to focus on the road. Miraculously, there was no smartassed comment from the bored night clerk who passed a key over the counter while barely even looking at them.

They got into the room and managed to salt the doors and windows before Sam jumped Dean, plowing him into the bed. It groaned with an alarming noise, but held as Sam wriggled over him like an overgrown puppy, kissing and biting and licking whatever part of Dean he could find. Dean finally caught his breath enough to protest, “Kidney! Breathing! Off!”

Sam bit at his throat before kneeling up and off enough for Dean to turn over and haul himself properly onto the bed. Sam followed him almost instantly, large hands sliding over Dean’s stomach, under his shirt to lift it up. Dean pulled himself half-up to let him tug the shirt off altogether and sat up all the way to do the same to Sam’s shirt. He gripped Sam by the waist to concentrate on mapping out his brother’s chest, paying special attention to his newest scar.

Shivering visibly, Sam cupped Dean’s face and lifted it to kiss him, devouring him slow and gentle in that intense way he got that totally curled Dean’s toes. Not that he would ever admit that to Sam. His fingers dug into thick muscle and he opened to the loving onslaught, groaning hungrily into it and then pushing his tongue into Sam’s mouth. They battled for control of the kiss, but eventually, Dean succumbed to the wet, drugging quality and gave it up.

Sam moaned and pressed him back, down onto the mattress and they made out rubbing against one another. Dean was sure he’d come a few times that night and damn sure planned on making Sam do the same. They’d had nothing but awkwardly positioned hand and blowjobs, well, and New Year’s in the shower, or nothing at all, for way the hell too long.

One of Sam’s hands snaked between them to cover Dean’s crotch, cupping him hard. Gasping, Dean thrust into the hand and just barely remembered his manners, doing the same to his brother until Sam bit his own lip, their foreheads pressed together. It didn’t take long for them to come like that, the sheer need for relief overtaking them fast. Sam collapsed on him, panting, and Dean grinned without care as he tossed an arm over Sam’s back, fingers tangling in his brother’s hair.

A few minutes later, Dean asked suddenly, “You know what I want?”

“What?” Sam asked, licking slowly along his collarbone.

Dean repressed a shiver and focused enough to say, “I want to suck you and then ride you.”

Sam bit him hard at that, pushing onto his forearm to stare down at Dean. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Chuckling, Dean pushed him over and straddled him. Staring down at his brother, he took in the size of him, like some new and improved version of Hercules; all those muscles and yet still sleek. Dean’s hands stroked up and down that broad chest, exploring the lines of him, pausing to tweak already hard nipples. He met Sam’s gaze and smiled, so full of love that he knew he should feel embarrassed, but couldn’t care less. With Sam, he didn’t have to hide anything and Dean knew just how damn lucky he was to have that.

Dean bent forward and kissed the re-inked tattoo and then each faded scar over Sam’s heart. They were still plainly visible, though not textured the way Dean’s back had remained. Sam gasped, hand tightening on Dean’s hip in response. Sliding down slowly, Dean licked and pressed soft kisses to the warm, smooth flesh on his way down his brother’s body. He reached Sam’s pants and undid them, pulling them easily down the long legs and tossing them aside, grinning when he saw Sam had gone commando.

He flashed Sam a grin and scolded, “You dog, you!”

Sam just rolled his eyes and put an arm behind his head to watch whatever Dean did next.

Dean took the opportunity to get rid of his own pants and briefs. He was self-conscious about his scars around everyone but Sam. If he could avoid public showers the rest of his life, he’d be a very happy man. With Sam, though, he didn’t even think about them as he climbed back on the bed eagerly. His fingers drifted over those long legs on the way up and Dean stretched out between his brother’s legs. He breathed in the thick scent and licked slowly along the length, tracing the veins and then going back down with the tip of his tongue.

Sam’s hand curved around his head, resting there with intent, though he didn’t push Dean towards anything. It was just there. Waiting.

Dean shuddered in pure lust and started sucking. He took his time, something they hadn’t done in too long, and sucked on his brother’s dick until he drooled a little. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he returned to the shaft and bobbed up and down slowly, taking more and more of it in until he’d gone all the way down.

“Dean, oh fuck,” Sam moaned, hips jerking.

He deep-throated Sam a few more times before the tension in his brother’s body told Dean it was getting too close to keep going. He went down one last time and swallowed, loving the strangled shout of his name and fully planning to razz Sam about it later. Pulling off for the last time, Dean drank in the sight of him greedily, muscles taut and straining, breathing harsh and fast as Sam strove for control.

Giving Sam some time to recover, Dean walked shakily to his bag and took out the lube. He walked back to the bed and squawked when Sam grabbed and yanked him down, flipping him to land on his back, and then devouring his mouth again, the kisses this time frantic and deep and sending Dean’s body instantly into overdrive. Sam’s finger pushed inside Dean seconds later, slick with lube, and he blessed his brother’s ability to multitask like nobody’s business.

Sam left Dean’s mouth to trail kisses down his throat, lingering on his Adam’s apple. He continued to a nipple, sucking there while slowly finger fucking Dean, sending ripples of sensation through his body. Dean shuddered and put an arm over Sam’s shoulder, holding him in place and groaning in pleasure. One finger became two and then he really groaned as Sam stretched him, careful but steady. It had been a while since they’d been able to do this and he suddenly had the thought that riding Sam would be a good idea, since he’d be able to control things better.

As if reading his mind, Sam moved to sit beside him, licking his lips as he rasped, “You wanted to ride me?”

Dean gave him a feral grin and shifted smoothly onto his knees and straddled Sam, first rubbing their cocks together and loving the way Sam’s eyes squeezed shut. He knelt up and took the lube from Sam to squirt some on his hand and wrap it around his brother’s dick, slicking it up good. Positioning over it, Dean lowered himself onto the thick shaft with a wince, forcing it inside and then taking his time to push all the way down.

Sam’s hands took his, their fingers lacing together, and he said roughly, “You don’t know how much I love you.”

Dean squeezed experimentally with his ass and gasped, “Oh, I think I do,” before he started to move. The burn felt damn good and he undulated on the cock with greater strength. It wasn’t going to take long this time, either, his cock hard and aching, dripping onto Sam’s abs, staining the new scar with precome. Sweat added to the overall sensation of sliding on his brother’s body, the heat between them incredible and his body already straining to come. He moved up and down, fucking himself on Sam’s dick hard, but unhurried, wanting to remember all of it.

Sam unexpectedly sat up, wrapping one arm around Dean’s back to hold him in tight, a hand plastered dead center between his shoulder blades, and bracing himself with the other. He thrust up when Dean pushed down, adding to the force. Dean’s eyes rolled back when his prostate got nicked, electricity jolting through him and stealing his breath altogether.

“That’s it, that’s it, isn’t it, Dean?” Sam growled, pumping into him from below. “I’ve got you now, don’t I? Fuck, you’re so tight! God, you feel so fucking good, I’m going to love you like this forever.”

Dean shuddered and took Sam’s mouth in a deep, deep kiss to stop the words. Sliding his tongue inside, he licked along his brother’s palate and tangled their tongues together. It almost seemed separate from the building drive of the rest of their bodies, rocking together, Dean’s cock dragging back and forth over Sam’s abs with every thrust.

It couldn’t last, not with everything going on at once. Dean came first, hands squeezing tight on Sam’s back as he jerked and shuddered violently in Sam’s arm. He panted into his brother’s mouth, barely able to feel anything except the twitching of his own body as come spurted onto Sam. Just as he started to regain his senses, the world literally moved, Sam rolling them, pinning Dean into the mattress as he humped as deep as he could go and then spilled inside him.

This time when Sam collapsed on him, Dean knew neither of them would be moving any time soon. He grinned tiredly and stretched luxuriously, sated right down to the bone. Brushing Sam’s sweaty hair back, Dean kissed under his ear and murmured, “Love you too, Sammy.”

*  *  *  *

The minor pain at Sam’s incision site told him that he’d done too much the night before, but it had totally been worth it. He nuzzled at Dean’s throat, still draped over his brother’s smaller body like a blanket. This was what had been missing for too long. Their lack of intimacy had driven usually teasing jokes to serious, cutting comments reminiscent of the time they’d been at each other’s throats because of the trickster.

He couldn’t remember a time that he hadn’t been wrapped up in Dean, even if the physical portion hadn’t happened until after Jess. A name that made him smile with bittersweet fondness. He knew, now, that they wouldn’t have lasted. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, hunting was in his bones and even if she’d lived, Dean would’ve come by for help one time too many before he’d given up the ghost of a ‘normal’ life. Not that he couldn’t help wishing for one even now, but with Dean it made perfect sense. He wanted to give the sense of stability and love to his brother that he’d experienced with Jess.

Knowing from his brother’s breathing that Dean would be out of it for a long time to come, Sam carefully climbed off the bed. He winced at a flash of pain and took a second to breathe through it.

No more painkillers, he decided on his way to the bathroom. Can’t feel enough to know what might hurt for real.

Taking a shower was complete heaven and he groaned in pleasure at the pounding of the surprisingly good water pressure on his back. Sam took his time, as opposed to the quick rinse at Ellen’s before dinner. He’d just finished his hair when Dean shuffled into the bathroom. Sam didn’t say anything as his brother went through his routine and then just joined him in the shower. It was crowded, but he pulled Dean in close and kissed him, enjoying the minty taste.

Dean pulled back and complained, “Why don’t you ever brush your teeth before getting in the shower?”

“Just so you suffer,” Sam replied, grinning.

He took Dean’s mouth in a long, deep kiss to cut off whatever might get said next. He pressed his brother up against the wet tiles, lazily rubbing their dicks together while his fingers pushed inside Dean’s hole. Dean shuddered against him, but made no move to stop him so Sam gently finger fucked him, adding another and then a third, arching his fingers in deep until Dean jerked hard against him, coming without warning.

Sam wanted more, though, and whispered against Dean’s ear, “Can I fuck you again?”

“God yeah,” Dean answered thickly, turning and spreading his legs as he rested on the wall.

After slicking his cock with soap, Sam watched avidly where his shaft disappeared inside his brother’s body. Taking his time with this, too, Sam impaled Dean inch by inch, relishing the sensation of tight heat around him. At last balls-deep in him, Sam mouthed Dean’s shoulder and started moving in long, smooth strokes.

Dean moaned, “Fuck, Sammy, so good. Need you so bad. Come in me, please Sammy, come in me!”

The sheer want in his brother’s voice slithered through Sam and he moved faster, driving harder into the willing flesh. Reaching around, Sam found Dean already more than half-hard and helped him along. He jerked Dean counter to his thrusts and it was mere minutes before they worked in concert towards orgasm. Sam wanted it to keep going, but that just wasn’t going to happen. Dean shuddered under him, ass squeezing especially tight and the world exploded around him.

Panting, Sam stayed where he was as he came in spurts, filling Dean again and never wanting to leave his brother’s body. For a long time, neither moved aside from the flexing of Dean’s ass and Sam’s cock continuing to spit more come inside him. Sam wrapped both arms around his brother and squeezed tight, pressing kisses along the curve of his throat and murmured, “Love you so much, Dean, can’t get enough of you. I want to go right back to bed and love you all day. Map you out with my tongue. Mark you with my teeth.”

Jesus. Sam. Shut up already or I’ll get hard again and I really don’t want to right now,” Dean gasped, thrusting back on Sam’s dick.

Taking pity on his brother, Sam slowly pulled out even though he could easily have gone again right then and there. Dean turned and they went back to making out under the shower. Fortunately, they were mostly rinsed when the water went lukewarm and then cooled off. Dean shut it off and they got out of the tub. Sam dried Dean with a crappy towel that barely deserved the name and had to resist following the path his hands took with his mouth. When he was on his knees to get Dean’s calves and feet, his brother’s dick so temptingly close, Sam leaned forward to suck him off.

Dean had other ideas, though, and jumped back. Nuh uh. No more nookie for you until I get fed. Move it or lose it, Samzilla, I’m freakin’ starving.”

Sam gave his best pout and Dean hesitated, but then turned and resolutely walked out of the bathroom.

“And brush your damn teeth!”

Snorting, the mood well and truly broken, Sam stood and got ready for the day.

*  *  *  *

They spent about a week at that hotel just watching bad daytime tv, eating takeout, making love, and letting Sam recover more fully. From there, they wandered a little south, just enjoying the road with both of them in one piece. There was a minor exorcism that didn’t take too much effort their part. A week passed while they drove back east to Ohio and a strange case that turned out to not be a case at all, but a damn good hoax. They left the perpetrators tied up and hanging from the ceiling for the cops.

Every now and then, Sam got a bad feeling when he looked at Dean. Something was going on with him, but whenever Sam asked about it, his brother clammed up. He heard Dean groan a couple of times, soft and hidden in the bathroom, and that made him worry even more, but without a hint of what might be going on, there was nothing he could do.

Life went on, as it always did, and they got caught up in a vampire blood feud that made them both want to duck and cover. Between the blood and violence and death, Sam was ready to write off the entire human existence, never mind vampires. Dean took it too much to heart, maybe reminded of the first time he’d realized not all vampires were blood sucking ghouls who thrived on human misery. It was two weeks they would never get back and he felt almost violated by the time the dust settled.

By then, Bobby had broken his ankle and needed some help at the junk yard. They hightailed it back to his place and spent the next couple of weeks doing everything they could for him. Valentine’s Day passed with a notable quickie in the bathroom where the chocolate sauce would just wash down the drain. Dean smacked him upside the back of the head on finding the teddy bear in the Impala’s driver’s seat, but the bear wound up in the trunk with the rest of the important personal stuff, so Sam figured that he did good.

Bobby finally kicked them out towards the end of the second week, claiming to be able to do for himself without any trouble. Sam had his doubts, but the older man’s pride had clearly determined that enough was enough, so they packed up and headed out.

Going south where it would hopefully be warmer, they wound up in Nevada and found an actual Desert Devil to chase down and kill. It had taken to killing the tourists who traveled along the canyons.

Dean finally got to see the Grand Canyon.

Sam stood with him at the edge, watching him instead of the landscape. Dean just stood there, completely engrossed with taking in the vast, natural phenomenon a look of true awe on his face. Not wanting to disturb him, Sam quietly backed away and went to go interview one of the park rangers about the deaths and disappearances. He took his time not just to give Dean space, but to get as much detail as he could.

When he got back to the Impala, Dean sat on the hood despite the cold air, still staring out at the canyon. Sam climbed on next to him and shared the silence with him, content to let the time go so Dean could realize one of his dreams.

Dean finally roused himself a good half-hour later to ask, “What did you find out?”

They spent the next three weeks living in a tiny cabin and figuring out exactly what was going on as they learned all about desert living the hard way. They spent the bitter cold nights wrapped around each other for warmth, the tiny heater definitely not doing its job. By the time they got a clear pattern of attack, two more women had gone missing and a man’s mutilated body was discovered.

And through it all, Sam knew something was still up with Dean. Some mornings it was like he could barely get out of bed and others he threw up even though there was nothing in his stomach first thing. Sam was anxious to finish the job and get back to civilization, because his brother wouldn’t think of leaving until they’d destroyed the creature before it went into hibernation for another ten years.

It was a real bitch killing the thing, but a month after they’d arrived, they finally managed it. Sam sported three new gashes along his midriff from the thing’s claws and Dean limped all the way out of the canyon, but it was done. More than happy to leave the Grand Canyon in the rearview mirror, Sam nonetheless gave Dean time to say his goodbye without pressuring to get out of there.

When they left, Sam pretended not to notice his brother’s forlorn expression, putting a Zeppelin tape in without complaint.

*  *  *  *

They crisscrossed back east and wound up tracking down a werewolf in Mississippi. Dean felt like shit, but did his best to ignore what had to be the worst case of the flu in his life. He also ignored Sam’s worried expressions and tried to vomit as little as possible in his brother’s hearing. Usually he managed to be done with it before Sam woke up and he could usually keep his stomach under control until they’d separated to track things down.

The werewolf case had Sam in emotional lockdown, for which Dean was actually grateful, since it meant he wouldn’t be as observant as he could be. Now that they knew exactly what the case would entail, neither wanted to get into the victim’s life in any kind of way. They spent a week narrowing it down to the school teacher, a young woman in her early-twenties.

Thank God Sam didn’t argue when Dean told him to stay in the car while he took care of it. The girl never knew what hit her, which was all he could do to make it merciful. Dean walked up to her as she left a restaurant and shot her point blank in the back of the head and then calmly walked away. He’d turned the corner before hearing the shouts for help and to call 9-1-1, but kept a steady pace, knowing that it would take the cops at least fifteen to twenty minutes to get on the scene, thanks to slashing their tires earlier.

Knowing they needed a break after that, Dean drove for Florida. Spring break hadn’t happened yet, so they would pretty much have the beaches to themselves. Sam didn’t talk about the werewolf case at all and Dean didn’t try to get him to do so. It took the entire trip, but by the time they reached Miami, Sam was back to his usual, mother-hen personality.

They rented a cabana on the beach in the Keys and played at being beach bums for a week. Dean soaked in the sun and Sam did a lot of swimming. There was a lot of love making and even more quiet moments. Thankfully, Dean’s nausea seemed to vanish while they were there. Maybe because they stayed in one place and didn’t go anywhere that wasn’t in walking distance. It was a definite change and one they both needed.

Leaving the sun and sand was somewhat depressing, but Dean was ready to get on the road again.

“You were cursed with itchy feet,” Sam muttered as they drove up the main artery.

Dean shot him a curious look. “What do you mean?”

Shaking his head, Sam rested his head back and answered, “You really can’t stay in one place for long without feeling the need to leave, can you?”

Dean thought back to the patches of time when they were growing up, half a year here, a year there, and shrugged. “I don’t know, I think I could settle down at some point.”

“Oh, yeah? What would make you settle down?” Sam questioned.

Unable to come up with anything, Dean poked Sam in the side and grinned as he replied, “That’s for me to know and you to find out. C’mon, Sammy, I spy with my little eye…”

“Oh God. Kill me now.”

Dean laughed.

*  *  *  *

Four days later, they traveled aimlessly across Montana when Sam found a hunt in the Pacific Northwest. It gave him pause, though. The last time they’d been in that particular area, it had been around the whole Croatoan thing. That entire situation still left a bad taste in his mouth; the same went for Dean, he knew for a fact.

“You know, I’m already starting to feel like this is the one that got away,” Dean had said at the time.

Dean’s hand squeezed his thigh, breaking into Sam’s thoughts and he jumped, startled. Looking into his brother’s green eyes, he asked, “What?”

Dean’s eyebrows rose and he replied, “I was just going to ask you that. You look like someone just smashed your laptop. What’s up?”

Leaning back in the booth, Sam sighed and admitted, “I found a haunting, but it’s just south of Portland.”

Dean stiffened. “As in Oregon?”

Sam nodded and said, “We’d actually have to drive by River Grove to get to this one.”

Jaw flexing, Dean looked away, fingers drumming an angry tattoo on the table.

“We don’t have to,” Sam offered. “I can forward the info to Ellen for someone else to take care of.”

Dean sighed explosively and shook his head as he said, “We’re only a state and a half away. Two days’ trip, max. Doesn’t make sense to farm it out.”

True enough, but nothing was worth the haunted look now on Dean’s face. Sam put his hand discretely on his brother’s knee and told him softly, “We don’t have to take this one, Dean. No one’s keeping score.”

Wanna bet?” Dean retorted. He stood and said, “I’ve lost my appetite. I’ll see you in the car.”

Sam sighed and finished his soda before tossing a twenty on the table and heading out after Dean. It had been a strangely restless and yet quiet trip, driving back towards the Pacific. He knew that his brother didn’t think he’d noticed, but Sam had heard the vomiting in the early morning again. Whatever he’d had in Nevada had reappeared with a vengeance and that kept a tight pit of worry in Sam’s stomach.

When he got to the car, Dean was nowhere to be found. Frowning, Sam looked around at the nearly empty parking lot and called out, “Dean?”

There was no response and Sam took a breath, forcing himself to stay calm. For all he knew, Dean had just walked over to the convenience store part of the gas station area. He headed that way and, thankfully, met up with Dean on the way back. Then his frown deepened because Dean looked like crap, pale and sweaty. Taking his brother’s arm, he asked, “What happened?”

“Guess the food didn’t agree with me because I just flushed it down the toilet,” Dean answered, grimacing.

Sam hesitated and then suggested, “Maybe you should take it easy. Let me drive for a while.”

Dean scowled at him and exclaimed, “Hell no! A little indigestion isn’t going to put you in the driver’s seat.”

Sam sighed and followed him back to the car, trying not to think of things like cancer and HIV.

*  *  *  *

They stopped in Sidewinder to track down Amanda before continuing on, although by then Sam had doubts about whether they would actually get to the haunting. They made it to Sidewinder on the third day instead of the second because Dean kept getting sick and needing to stop to throw up. After the second time in four hours, Sam started talking about going to a hospital, but Dean wouldn’t hear of it.

The only reason Sam didn’t insist was because he could get Amanda to check Dean out once they got there. She’d been smart enough to figure out the virus in River Grove, so that was smart enough for Sam. He only found two listings of ‘A. Lee’ so there wouldn’t be much elimination to do.

Sam wound up driving the entire last day there with Dean stretched out in the back sleeping. He looked haggard with dark circles under his eyes and his jeans hung a little loose with the weight he’d lost from so much vomiting. There hadn’t yet been any blood in the bile, not that Dean had admitted to at least, so Sam’s fear and worry only ate at him at a steady pace instead of consuming him.

The only good news was finding Amanda on the first try. Sam watched her pull into the driveway of a small, comfortable house and get out of a sturdy jeep, pulling groceries out from the back. Looking into the backseat showed Dean out like a light so Sam very carefully got out of the car and shut the door without even a noise. He jogged across the street and called out, “Amanda!”

She jumped and dropped one of the bags. A smile surfaced almost immediately, recognition lighting her face. “Sam! It’s good to see you!”

“You too,” he replied, taking her hand in a firm grip. “How are you?”

Amanda ran a hand through her hand and answered, “Settled in. I’ve got a new practice, new patients, new friends…wait, you’re not here because of another outbreak, are you?”

Sam hated that he was associated with death and fear for this woman, but accepted it. Shaking his head, he promised, “No, nothing like that. Actually, we were passing through to another job when Dean got sick. He won’t see anyone, so I’m really hoping to impose on you to check him over.”

“Of course! Hey, why don’t you follow me back to my office?” she suggested.

Dean was still sleeping when Sam got back to the car, though it didn’t look particularly restful. He followed Amanda through the town to a medical office building and parked. Reaching back, he gently shook Dean and didn’t get a response. Climbing out of the front seat, he opened the back door and knelt on the seat by Dean’s head, shaking his brother’s shoulder again and saying, “Dean? Dean, wake up!”

Mumbling, Dean pushed onto his elbows and squinted up at Sam. “The hell, dude? I was sleeping!”

Sam breathed a little easier at the querulous response and climbed out of the car with, “We’re here.”

Dean rubbed his eyes as he sat up and then got out of the car, too. “We’re at a doctor’s office.”

“My office,” Amanda said, joining them.

Blinking in surprise, Dean asked, “When did you get here?”

She smiled. “Actually, you guys showed up at my house about fifteen minutes ago. Sam thought it might be a good idea for me to take a look at you and I have to agree.”

Scowling at Sam, Dean stated, “You little bitch.”

“Dean, c’mon,” Sam protested. “You’ve been sleeping for most of the last fourteen hours, other than bathroom breaks and throwing up! That’s not normal!”

“You’re here now, so why not just let me take a quick look at you?” Amanda placated.

Dean folded his arms over his chest, but said, “Fine.”

Which meant that Dean felt worse than he looked, because Sam wouldn’t have gotten away with such a high-handed maneuver otherwise. They followed Amanda into the new, neat building and by the time they got there, Sam was worried that Dean would just collapse, he was so pale. He stayed close, ignoring the pissed looks his brother kept sending his way.

Once they were in an exam room, Amanda told Sam, “I can take it from here. Your brother’s in good hands, I promise”

Sam caught Dean’s gaze and his brother grimaced, but then nodded. Clearing his throat, feeling more than a little awkward, Sam explained, “We’re partners too, Amanda. Anything that happens to one of us, the other needs to know.”

Amanda frowned in confusion but, before he had to go into detail, she figured it out with an, “Oh! Oh, okay! Okay then. Um, Dean, if you could take off your shirt, I’ll start with a regular exam and then take some blood for tests.”

Sam sat off to the side while she did the same things that the clinic doctor had. He was grateful that she didn't mention the incest factor. Sam didn't know what her ethics were telling her about that little bombshell, but couldn't let it bother him. She was apparently taking it in stride, or at least not letting it affect her professionalism. Her reaction to Dean’s back was simply a thinning of the lips without comment. There was, however, a distinct frown when she palpated Dean’s stomach. “Dean, could you lie back for me?”

Dean glanced at Sam before obeying and Sam instantly stood to walk over to him. Resting a hand on his brother’s shoulder, he asked her, “What’s wrong?”

Amanda replied slowly, “I’m not sure. There’s something…I think we should do an x-ray.”

“You have the equipment here?” Sam questioned, surprised.

She nodded and then amended, “Before I do, actually, I need to ask you a, uh, rather personal question.”

Dean snorted, putting an arm behind his head as he observed, “I’m half-naked, doc, can’t get too much more personal unless you want me to bend over and cough.”

“Dean!” Sam admonished.

A fleeting smile crossed Amanda’s face, but she sobered almost immediately. “No, this is, well, awkward to say the least, especially given the circumstances, but…have you always been a man, or are you transgendered?”

Dean blinked at her a few times, jaw gaping. Then he sat up and exclaimed, “What the hell makes you ask that?! Of course I’ve always been a man! That’s it, I’m outta here!”

“Dean, wait!” Amanda exclaimed. “I’m sorry, truly, but it feels like you have ovaries!”

Dean stopped halfway off the exam table and repeated incredulously, “Ovaries! Are you serious?”

She nodded and said, “That’s why I’m hesitant to do an x-ray. If you’ll just be patient and let me do an ultrasound?”

Stunned, Sam’s mind raced and suddenly, he knew exactly where Amanda was going with the ultrasound. Dean’s symptoms fit perfectly with that of a pregnant woman. And then his mind skipped to Frejya and he gripped Dean’s shoulder hard, exclaiming hoarsely, “Dean! Freyja! Goddess of fertility and childbirth.”

Dean’s eyes went round, a hand going to his stomach even as he shook his head. “No! No freakin’ way! It’s not possible!”

“Dean, she’s a Goddess, she can do whatever she wants,” Sam pointed out.

Throwing his hands in the air, Dean shouted, “This is no reward! I’m a man, damn it! What the fuck?!”

Amanda looked between them, bewildered, and asked, “What about Freyja?”

Sam sighed. “Dean released her from imprisonment in a human girl’s body. Loki had apparently cast her there in some kind of practical joke and Dean saved her from a serial killer.”

Amanda’s mouth opened and then shut again.

Dean had literally backed himself into a wall and Sam walked faced him, ignoring Amanda for the time being. Gripping both of his brother’s shoulders, Sam said softly, “Think about it. What have we both wanted our whole lives? A home. A family. To a goddess like Freyja, the best reward for that is a child.”

You’re my family. You’re my home, Sam, I don’t need a kid to give me that!” Dean protested.

Warming all the way through at those words, Sam couldn’t help the big smile that spread over his face at his brother’s statement.

“Oh, shut up,” Dean muttered. “Pussy.”

Schooling his features to a more acceptable expression of mere love instead of dotage, Sam suggested, “Let Amanda do the ultrasound. Maybe she’s wrong.”

Dean glowered at him. “Damn well better be.”

But she wasn’t. An hour plus sixty ounces of water later, Dean lay on a different exam bed with Sam again standing beside him. He held one of Dean’s hands doing his best to stay calm. They looked at a smallish screen while Amanda pointed out a fully-functional set of female reproductive organs.

“And the reason I know that everything’s functional is because that, is a fetus. You’ve got a placenta, the embryonic membranes look good, and the heart’s beating, so you’re about five weeks along, maybe a little more,” she finished.

Dean put an arm over his face and the hand that Sam’s tightened painfully. Sam couldn’t even begin to sort his emotions from the mix of joy, fear, shock, and awe. The refrain, Dean’s pregnant with my baby, played over and over in his head. He couldn’t even imagine what might be going through Dean’s.

Amanda said quietly, “Take as much time as you need,” and left them alone.

Breathing deep, Sam let it out slow and brought Dean’s hand up to his lips, kissing the back of it. “Dean, I…honest to God, I don’t know what to say.”

Dean didn’t move for a few minutes and then he sighed deeply and put his arm down. Green eyes held Sam’s as Dean asked, “Are you…do you want it?”

Sam answered immediately, “Only if you do. And only if it’s safe for you.”

“That’s a copout,” Dean snapped. “Do you want this baby, or not?”

Sam wanted to protest that it wasn’t a copout, but maybe it was. Even after only a few minutes of knowing about it, everything inside him wanted this baby more than he’d wanted anything else in his life, aside from Dean himself. Resting his chin on Dean’s hand, Sam thought about the question for real.

Their lives would have to change drastically, because no way would he take a child out on the road. Their own childhoods had severely lacked in stability and, while he no longer held his father in anger for that, Sam wouldn’t inflict that kind of life on his own child. They would somehow have to settle down and find a way to live, a way to provide, that didn’t involve credit card scams and stealing from others.

It would be a radical one-eighty from how they currently lived and pretty much all Sam had wanted since he’d been old enough to understand that most people didn’t have to live on the road. Finally, he nodded and told his brother, “Yeah, I really do. But Dean, as much as I want it, I won’t put you in danger for it. I’ve lost you before and I won’t do it again, not over something we can control.”

“You mean abortion,” Dean said, looking away, up at the ceiling.

Sam nodded again. “If we have to; if Amanda can’t think of a safe way to deliver it. Better now than seven months from now when it might kill you and the baby. And…it is your body, Dean. It might sound like a cliché or a copout, but this really is your decision. Do you want it? Whatever you want to do, I’ll support, no matter what.”

Dean’s arm went over his face again and he said, muffled, “I don’t know. I just…I don’t know, Sammy.”

Sam kissed his brother’s hand again and asked, “How about we call Amanda back in here and see what our timeline is? When she needs a decision about, uh, an abortion. And all our options. See what she thinks about the whole situation.”

“Yeah. Okay,” Dean agreed.

Letting go of Dean’s hand, Sam walked to the door and opened it, his mind in a whirl. He would support any decision, no matter what, but he was praying that Dean decided to try and that it would be safe for him to do so. Not only did he want a stable home for the baby, but for Dean too, who’d never known that kind of life. Sam had had a taste of it with Jess and would give anything to share it with Dean.

Sam opened the door and found Amanda standing a short distance away. He gave a half-hearted smile and said, “We’re ready.”

Next story in series - Rewards.