Title: Rituals
By: nancy
Pairing; Sam/Dean
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: INCEST, angst, violence, spoilers, language, Future!fic, eventual MPREG
Summary: Dean's contract comes due.

It happened at midnight, as expected, and Dean didn’t try to run. It seemed fitting that his death would come in a simple hotel room, the same kind that he’d lived in his entire life. Almost everything of significance in his life had happened in or at hotel. He’d learned to hunt. He’d learned to fight. He’d learned to drive and work on cars. He’d learned to shoot.

He’d learned to love.

Dean stared at Sam from across the hotel room and told him simply, “I regret nothing, Sammy. I love you and that’s never gonna change.”

Sam’s eyes were dry, which Dean hadn’t expected, and he vowed, “I’ll get you back, Dean. I swear to God, I’m bringing you back. Hold onto me, okay? Hold onto the thought of me and don’t ever let me go.”

And then the world vanished, Sam vanished, replaced by a full-bodied agony that set Dean instantly to screaming.

Hell, it turned out, was just as bad as the legends said.

*  *  *  *

The echo of Dean’s soul-dark scream lingered in Sam’s mind like a cancer as he immediately set up the ritual. He drew the runes into the floor with charcoal from the remains of a burned down cathedral. He spoke in ancient Hebrew, his accent flawless. He pulled out the dagger of a Knight Templar that he’d hunted down on his own and then had blessed by a Bishop, setting it on the floor just outside the circle.

Stripping, Sam consecrated his body with incense and continuously murmured in Hebrew, furthering both the ceremony and his focus. There was a limited time to do this simply because the torture would drive him from Dean’s thoughts fast. As much as he wanted to believe that Dean would hold out longer than most, Sam knew better. Hell was Hell and no one could withstand its inhuman legacy.

Stepping along the lines he’d drawn within the circle, he continued in Hebrew, “I call upon the God of All to show Mercy. I call upon the Angels to intervene. I beseech the Light to shine in the darkest of places. I offer my devotion, and my life, in Service.”

So saying, Sam cut a line over his heart with the dagger, cutting a little into his tattoo.

Nothing happened, but he remained calm and open, simply walking the lines again and repeating the ritual. It wasn’t until the fifth time that Sam felt a charge in the air; a sense that spoke of something else in the room with him. Ignoring it, Sam cut a sixth line in his chest and began walking the lines again.

The tenth time he performed the ritual, Sam began to feel dizzy from the blood loss. His body was streaked with it, the smell of copper strong in his nose. He swayed on his feet, but forced them to keep going. If this didn’t work, Sam would literally die trying because there was nothing else the world over that even had a shot of bringing Dean back. He’d researched until his eyes had felt glue open, exhausted every resource and called in every favor anyone had ever owed their family. If this didn’t work, he didn’t want to live in a world without his brother…without his lover…so bleeding to death was just fine by him.

It was that last which had given Sam pause on first finding the ritual. The Judeo-Christian God wasn’t exactly a proponent of gay sex, although not as rabid about it as The Church wanted everyone to believe. Add to that the incest and Sam had no idea what kind of response, if any, the ritual might get. For all he knew, the ‘sin’ he and Dean committed just by loving one another meant that Sam would join his brother when he died the next time.

On cut number fifteen, Sam dropped to his knees, smudging one of the lines and jarring his spine. He struggled back to his feet and put one foot in front of the other, stepping in trails of his own blood as he walked the lines yet again.

Dean, he thought, his soul yearning for its mate. Dean.

His breathing came with more difficulty as his body tried to pump blood that just wasn’t there anymore. Still Sam spoke the words, meaning every single one if it would bring Dean back. He would happily serve the Good or Light or God, whatever It might be, even without a bargain; had been doing it his whole life, really. Sam considered this merely a formality, an induction as it were, an acknowledgement of his life’s work and his destiny.

By the time the blade sliced twenty times over his mutilated chest, Sam couldn’t even see straight. He gasped for air between words and swayed with every step, but fought to keep going. His own body betrayed him in the end, which wasn’t entirely unexpected. Sam toppled over, the dagger rolling from nerveless fingers to stop a few feet outside the circle. It caught the overhead light, blinding him, and the room disappeared from around him.



Putrid flesh.



All of it slammed into Sam at once and he gagged with the force of it, dry heaving on his knees. Stumbling to his feet, Sam looked around and saw bodies everywhere. Souls being tortured in every way imaginable and some Sam thought might drive him mad just by witnessing. And then he heard Dean screaming his name and hope burst deep inside.

Sam moved in an invisible filth that mired his feet, but he moved. He fought off demons, the dagger somehow back in hand, and kept slogging his way towards Dean. The screams rent his soul, the pain and fear and loss in that one, continuous sound telling him that it wouldn’t be long before his brother no longer remembered his own name, let alone Sam’s.

It might have taken an eternity, Sam didn’t know, but he found Dean at last. The demons were flaying the skin from his brother’s body with a whip. Tunnels of blood furrowed over Dean’s back and Sam saw the whip was actually a longer cat-o-nine tail with spurs at intervals. Snarling in fury, he cut the throat of one and gutted the second when it came at him.

Sam knew it wouldn’t take long for the demons to reform and bring reinforcements. He cut Dean down from the ropes that dug into his wrists and cradled him close, breathing his love to his brother’s ear in a single word…


Bloodshot green eyes opened at the whisper and recognition lit Dean’s face. He tried to smile, but half his cheek was gone from some horrific torture that had happened before Sam’s arrival. Dean’s mouth made the form of, “Sammy,’ but no sound escaped.

“Hold onto me, Dean,” Sam ordered. “Hold on tight.”

He kissed his brother then, not in the least fazed by the blood and mucus, buoyed by love and need and right that held him up. This was true. This was love. Nothing could take this from them and he believed it with everything he had, even after the demons started cutting on him for fun. He buried his face against Dean’s shoulder, but covered the rest of his brother protectively, taking the punishment for them both.

One of the demons grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head back so that Lilith filled his field of vision. It as a bizarre sight, her little-girl body at despicable odds to her surroundings.

“Two for the price of one,” she said almost primly. “I’ll take that bargain.”

Sam smiled at her and replied, “You get nothing. Dean fulfilled his bargain. You took him from me and now I’m taking him back.”

“How?” she asked, contemptuous.

Closing his eyes, Sam whispered, “With Faith, Love, and Hope.”

The screams around him changed in hue, taking on the edge of fury. It wasn’t until the sounds disappeared that Sam reopened his eyes to discover them back in the hotel room. EMTs and police filled the room and he saw Dean already strapped into a gurney, out cold. Reaching a hand towards his brother, he apparently scared the EMT directly above him.

The woman exclaimed, “Jesus Christ! He’s alive! Get oxygen over here now! Sir? Sir, can you hear me?”

Sam blinked at her and drew in a huge gasp of air, coughing as his body suddenly remembered that it needed to breathe. A mask settled over his face and the oxygen flowed, rich and clean. The pain in his shoulder throbbed angrily and his entire body felt as though it had been thrown from a moving car, but they were both alive. Sam swallowed against a dry throat and asked, “My brother? How’s my brother?”

“Someone tore his back up good, but he’s going to be fine,” she answered. “You just concentrate on yourself, okay?”

Not like I have a choice, Sam thought, fading into unconsciousness.

“Someone get me a bag of O Positive!”

The good news about going to Hell was that Sam was no longer scared of the dark. Not just because he knew exactly what could lie in wait, but because he knew an even Higher power backed him. Of course, even if he had still been afraid of the dark, he wouldn’t have been able to keep from sliding down into it.

*  *  *  *

It was the antiseptic smell that told Dean he was in the hospital. He breathed it in, slow and easy, and floated on the comfortable wave of really good drugs, probably morphine. For some reason, Dean couldn’t remember how he’d gotten there, but he didn’t let that upset him. He’d had short-term amnesia from too many knocks to the head to let it worry him. The memories would come back or not and there was nothing he could do about it.

Opening his eyes, Dean saw Sam sprawled in the bed next to his and frowned, wondering why Sam was in the hospital, too. Or, he tried to frown until pain hit, causing him to gasp. There was something seriously wrong with his face and panic lit through him. This was more than just a knock on the head and he thought, What the fuck happened?

As if sensing the scrutiny, or maybe the fear, Sam yawned and looked over at him. His brother sat up and scrambled out of the bed. Sam sat on the bed and gripped his hand, holding tight as he said, “You’re okay, Dean, we’re both fine.”

“Not fine,” Dean tried to say, though what came out was a slurred, “No’ iiine

Sam’s hand curved over Dean’s hair and he promised, “You will be. Don’t try to talk, okay? You’re scheduled for surgery in a couple of hours, but they wanted to check you out first, make sure, make sure that you were okay.”

Dean kept his face expressionless as he demanded, “Wha’ppened?”

“Hell, Dean, remember?” Sam prompted softly.

A flash of something…horrorfearpaindespair…sliced through Dean hard enough to trip his heart monitor and a nurse rushed in.

“Mr. Daley, it’s good to see you awake,” she greeted, smiling warmly. “Excuse me, Sam, let me just get at your brother for a minute.”

Sam stepped back, letting go of Dean’s hand to let the nurse work.

Still smiling, the nurse took hold of Dean’s wrist and asked, “Now then, just take it easy for me, okay? We’ve got you on a morphine drip but, more importantly, we’ve numbed your face so you don’t tear the muscle.”

Muscle? What about the skin?

Dean begged her to tell him what had happened with just his eyes and she apparently got the message. She glanced at Sam briefly, who gave a helpless shrug, and then she explained, “The police found you and Sam cut up pretty bad in a hotel room. They’re looking for who did this right now and we’ve got security in case they try for you again.

“They got your back with a whip and your face with a knife of some kind. They removed a portion of your skin, but your muscles are intact and that’s the important thing. We’re bringing you to surgery in a couple of hours to replace the skin with some taken from other places on your body, probably your thigh. And not to worry, we’ve contacted the best surgeon in the state to handle this. He’ll be here shortly to check you over.”

It was all delivered in a kind, but completely professional tone, which Dean appreciated. It was bad enough to look over at Sam and see tears in his brother’s eyes. If the nurse had been anything less than totally professional, Dean was sure that he would’ve lost it.

“When the surgeon’s done, you’ll be just as pretty as a picture again, but in the meantime, I have to ask you not to talk,” she finished.

Dean nodded his understanding.

“Good. All right, Sam. He’s all yours. Just sit with him for now and let us know if you need anything,” she told him on the way out, rubbing Sam’s shoulder briefly.

Sam resumed his spot on the edge of the bed and took Dean’s hand again. He kissed the palm and said softly, “God, Dean, I’m sorry. I should’ve, should’ve gotten to you sooner.”

Dean rolled his eyes as expressively as he could and lightly smacked Sam in the face, since his hand was right there.

A laugh escaped Sam and he nodded, ducking his head briefly before answering, “Yeah, I guess that’s stupid, huh? Look, before anyone else comes in…I love you so much. You don’t have to worry about anything, okay? Nothing, Dean. The Contract is done and gone now.”

Dean wanted to ask how it had happened, what Sam had done, but the door opened again and an older man with dark hair walked in, his bad wardrobe screaming ‘local cop.’

The man gave them a sober look as he introduced, “I’m Detective Sanderson, Mr. Daley, and I’m in charge of your case. I know you can’t talk right now, but I wanted to assure you that I’ve got a protection detail right in the hall. You and your brother are safe.”

The irony of being protected by cops against demons made Dean want to laugh, but he restrained himself; not easy to do considering all the drugs giving him the floaty, stuffy-headed sensation. He nodded silently, instead.

“Detective, can I talk to you outside?” Sam asked.

Sanderson nodded and they left the room.

Dean struggled to stay awake until Sam came back, but the drugs took him down into oblivion.

*  *  *  *

Staring into the hand mirror, Dean wanted to grimace at the horrific series of stitches that held the right side of his face together, but didn’t dare. He had no idea how it worked, but supposedly he’d be in one piece in a month or so. There would only be a semi-circular scar along the outer edges to indicate that the skin there had been taken from his ass. He mentally laughed at being able to tell Sam to kiss his ass and just turn his cheek to make it so.

In the meantime, he looked like friggin’ Frankenstein. He sighed and muttered, “Frankenstein,” without moving his mouth.

Sam didn’t even look up from his book when he said, “Frankenstein’s monster.”

Dean blinked in confusion and looked over at Sam. “Huh?”

Putting down the book, Sam met his gaze and said calmly, “You were thinking that you looked like Frankenstein, but it’s really Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein was the scientist who created the monster.”

“Freak,” Dean told him, even if he couldn’t properly say the ‘fr.’

Sam grinned. “Yeah, well, don’t even think about telling me to kiss your ass, or I’ll start calling you butt-breath.”

Dean rolled his eyes and looked in the mirror again. The skin was all bruised and puffy and the scars hideously red-black, probably just like his back, though he hadn’t been able to see that yet. He squawked in protest when Sam plucked the mirror from him.

Shaking his head, Sam stated, “You are not going to drive yourself into a depression because you can’t currently score free drinks. As soon as the swelling and bruising goes down, trust me, you’ll be back in the saddle. Girls like scars, isn’t that what you’ve always told me?”

Dean brightened at that, because it was true.

“Anyhow,” Sam continued. “You need to rest, not work yourself up.”

Dean shifted uncomfortably, trying to loosen his neck muscles a little. Lying on his stomach might have been his favorite sleeping position, but he was sick of it even after only two days. It wasn’t like he had the strength to do anything, but he really wanted to get up for more than damn potty breaks. He also wanted details on what the hell Sam had done and why he wasn’t being consumed by hellfire and torture. Not that he remembered anything yet, but he assumed that that’s what had been happening when Sam had done whatever he’d done.

And there was something different about his brother, but Dean didn’t know what. He was just…way too easy-going. It was like he hadn’t just gone willingly into hell and brought back a condemned soul; more like he’d gone Zen or something at a monastery. Even for Sam, this was freaky calm and collected.

The day passed slowly in a mostly drug-filled haze. There was dinner through a tube, which was a joy, and television to add to the numbness. It was when the clock hit midnight, that Dean finally remembered. His mind shied away from details, but he distinctly remembered the hotel vanishing and agony in every part of his body.

Sam’s hands cupped his face, suddenly just there, and a hazel gaze bore into his own, dragging him from the panic swamping Dean. Panting through the fear, he demanded as best he could, “What did you do?”

“I brought you back,” Sam answered simply, combing fingers through Dean’s hair. “Found a ritual that gave me a shot at bringing you back and I took it.”

Knowing that there had to be a price for that kind of mojo, Dean questioned harshly, “What did you give up, Sammy?”

Sam smiled serenely and said, “Nothing. I…I found my destiny, Dean, and you are very, very much a part of it. No one’s ever going to split us up again.”

Dean couldn’t help worrying despite Sam’s confidence and silently made a note to drag the whole story out of him later. For the time being, the drugs worked against him staying awake any longer and he managed to slur, “Love you, Sammy.”

“I love you, Dean,” Sam answered, the words and soft touches sending him down into sleep.

*  *  *  *

Dean spent a week in the hospital, which was about six days too long for Dean’s comfort, what with the cops coming and going. But the doctors had been firm about his chances of infection if he left too soon and Sam had put his foot down. Despite the lingering pain and increasing itch of healing skin on his back and cheek, he refused morphine after the second day. The need to be alert outweighed the desire for pain-free sleep.

Sam gave him an annoyed look when he’d told the nurse to stop the pain meds, but didn’t comment. He couldn’t, really, since he’d stopped the day before with his own painkillers. Of course, Sam tried to downplay it, saying that his injury wasn’t nearly as extensive as Dean’s. It was an assurance that rang hollow, because Dean had as yet to see what was wrong with Sam in the first place.

Sam had been officially discharged on the third day, though he spent most of his time with Dean anyhow. He’d overheard the doctor talking to Sam about skin grafts, but didn’t think that his brother hadn’t been burned, and so was confused. It would have to wait until they had privacy, once he was released from the hospital.

Detective Sanderson showed up the morning of Dean’s release, knocking lightly just as Sam laced up Dean’s boot. They both looked over at the dark-haired man and Dean gave him a minor wave.

“I’d like to tell you that we’ll find whoever did this to you boys,” the older man started. “But it’s entirely probable that we won’t.”

Sam shrugged and told him, “We figured. We know you did your best, so thanks for that.”

Dean managed not to grin at Sam’s woebegone face even as he admired how his brother could look so sincere. It wasn’t something Dean had ever managed to master.

Sanderson nodded and continued, “You’ve got our number, so if your memories come back and you get a description, give me a call. You’ve got my numbers.”

Dean nodded in a lie and said, sounding almost normal, “Thanks.”

They all shook hands and the cop left, looking as troubled as he had the first day. Not that Dean blamed the man. Demonic activity left a bad taste in his mouth, too. Sanderson thought some psycho devil worshippers had tried to sacrifice Sam and Dean, which was close enough.

Sam looked at him and asked, “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Dean answered.

Dean took his brother’s hand and levered himself onto his feet, hissing as the movement shifted muscles that would be weeks getting back to normal. The one time he’d looked in the mirror towards the beginning of the hospital stay had shown ugly, ugly rows of destroyed flesh held together with hundreds of stitches. Some of the bigger tears had been held together with dull metal sutures which had only been removed a couple of days before. The rest of the stitches needed to be removed in three to five days.

He walked slowly over to the wheelchair and sank into it with Sam’s help, feeling like an old man. How he would be hours in a car to Bobby’s, Dean hadn’t a clue, but that was their destination and he couldn’t wait to get there. He felt vulnerable, unable to defend himself, and even though Sam was better, he wasn’t exactly at full strength, either.

Sam pushed the wheelchair into the hall where Dean said his flirty goodbyes to all the nurses; most of them were pretty and all of them were very nice. They’d taken great care of him and Sam, so for that alone he gave them his best performance on the way out, making every one of them smile and admonish him.

The Impala stood bright and shining and perfectly clean in the sun directly outside the small hospital. Dean groaned in pure pleasure at seeing her and didn’t even wait for Sam to help him up. He stood and walked the few steps to run his hands over the smooth, sun-warmed metal.

“Seriously. You two need a room?” Sam teased.

Dean didn’t even make a face at him, too happy to be reunited with his baby. Sam might be his soulmate, but the Impala was his pride and joy. He walked around to the passenger’s side without argument, knowing he was in no shape to drive. Damn it.

When he got to the other side, he wasn’t surprised to find a cushion in place along the back of the seat and slid carefully into place. Even with the cushion there, it was painful to lean back and he was grateful that Sam had followed him to first buckle Dean in and then shut the heavy door for him. In one way, it was humiliating not to be able to do even those simple tasks but, on the other hand, it made him feel cared for, loved.

Sam jogged back around and climbed into the driver’s seat, starting the engine as soon as he was buckled. Looking over at Dean, he warned, “It’s a thirteen hour drive to Bobby’s and we’re stopping every hour whether you want to or not. You need to get up and take the pressure off your back. And I want you to stretch out in the back, too. There’s no need for you to sit up the entire ride there.”

Rolling his eyes at the overprotective declaration, Dean retorted, “Every three hours, ‘n if you drive like’n ole lady, beatcha senseless.”

Sam looked at him for a second and then broke out into a grin as he put the car in drive and pulled away from the curb. “You’re still getting into the back for a few hours later.”

“Whatever,” Dean muttered, secretly pleased.

The drive became torture around hour two and Dean had to ask Sam to pull over. His brother shot a worried look his way and stopped at the next rest area. Dean waited for Sam to open the door for him, knowing he didn’t have the strength to do it himself. When it stood open, he swiveled carefully sideways and groaned in relief at the lack of pressure on his back.

“Let me look at your back.”

Dean took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Wait.”

Sam waited patiently until Dean put his hands out and then took both in his, gently pulling Dean to his feet. They walked to the restroom which, thankfully, was clean and in good shape. Dean unbuttoned his shirt and let it slide partially down his arms. Sam peeled some of the bandage away along the top and looked underneath for a few seconds before sealing it back up.

He pulled the shirt back up for Dean and told him, “No bleeding that I could see so you’re okay.”

Dean slowly buttoned his shirt. “Yours now.”

Sam’s jaw flexed, but he shook his head and replied, “Later.”

Squinting suspiciously at his brother, Dean finally nodded and they used the urinals while they were there. After washing up, they headed out to raid the junk food and soda machines before returning to the car. Dean climbed into the back without protest and Sam pulled a pillow out from a plastic bag. Dean took it, but grumbled, “Sick of sleeping on just my stomach.”

“Not too much longer, Dean,” Sam placated. “Another week or so.”

Dean stretched out, wishing he could make a real face at his brother. Sam thoughtfully put on one of Dean’s mix tapes and turned up the volume. He grinned and thought, Got him well trained. Well, mostly.

The rest of the trip was a mix of not seeing any scenery because he was flat on his stomach in the back, and waves of pain ranging from minor to serious, depending on how long he pushed it. Sam didn’t badger him, though, maybe sensing Dean’s need to test himself.

There was still a big blank in his mind about the time he’d spent in Hell, but he knew, even without really knowing, that he’d punked out. And sure, it was Hell, but Dean still felt weak, like a coward. Sam had figured out that Dean had spent almost two hours in Hell, while he himself had been there about a half hour. So very little time and yet Dean knew that he’d given in to whatever had been done to him. It caused a shame that he hadn’t ever felt before. The only thing he could compare it to was when he’d first realized how he’d felt about Sam, years ago.

The Impala stopped and Sam looked over the bench seat at him to say, “We’re here.”

Dean grimaced and began the process of getting upright again. He half-turned, half-pushed into a sitting position and then sat up straight. Sam helped him out of the backseat and steadied him on his feet. He leaned against Sam, resting on his brother and breathing in the intimately recognized scent. Sam’s hand rested on his hip, letting him get his bearings, but then they both heard the all-too-familiar sound of a shotgun being primed and stiffened.

“Bobby, don’t shoot! It’s us!” Sam called out.

Dean turned, stepping away from Sam to find Bobby on the porch, backlit by the light coming from the living room. Even from that distance, the uncertainty on the older man’s face was plain. Limping forward slowly, Dean slurred, “Get the holy water so I c’n sit th’hell down.”

Bobby’s eyes widened when Dean walked into the lighted area and he said hoarsely, “Jesus, Dean, you look like crap!”

Snorting in dark amusement, Dean replied, “Feel it, too.”

Bobby lowered the shotgun, but didn’t put it down as they all went inside. Dean wanted nothing more than to lean on Sam again, or collapse, but forced himself to keep walking until they reached the kitchen. Bobby pulled out a larger bottle of holy water and Dean took it first, gulping down half since he was really thirsty. He handed it off to Sam without comment and sat, leaning forward to rest his arms, and then his head, on the table. It stretched out his back uncomfortably, but he was too tired to care.

Sam sat beside him, a hand resting on Dean’s arm. “Sorry to scare you like that, Bobby, but we figured a phone call just wouldn’t cut it.”

“Damn right, it wouldn’t have. I can barely believe my own eyes!” Bobby exclaimed, voice stunned. “Dean, you ah, you should be in Hell?”

“Been there, done that,” Dean sighed.

Sam’s hand rubbed gently along Dean’s arm as he explained, “I found a ritual that brought him back. And since Dean fulfilled his side of the bargain by letting them take him, they couldn’t do anything to me. No one said anything about not breaking him out after.”

Bobby still sounded astonished as he said, “Well I’ll be a sonuvabitch. Sam, you outsmarted the devil!”

Sam shrugged. “A devil, anyhow. So. Mind if we regroup here a while?”

Don’t be an idiot,” Bobby snorted. “You stay as long as you want. I’m just so damn glad to see you both here and in one piece.”

Dean grunted, “Relatively.”

“Speaking of which, I need to check his bandages and then we’ll just hit the sack,” Sam said.

Groaning, Dean asked, “Do I need t’move?”

Sam chuckled. “You really do. C’mon, Dean. Not long now. And you are taking a pain pill tonight.”

Bobby jumped in with, “If he’s on medication, he needs food. I’ll rustle something up for you boys.”

Dean looked the other man over for the first time since they’d arrived and he was shocked by how old Bobby looked. An air of defeat hovered over him, even as Dean saw him straightening up and taking heart again. Their assumed deaths had cut deep into Bobby, that much was obvious. He acted without thinking and wrapped his arms around their surrogate father, holding tight until Bobby’s arms went around him as well. Dean ignored the pain in favor of whatever support he could give Bobby.

The other man shook for a few long seconds and then drew back, wiping a hand across his eyes before giving Dean a broad grin and ordering, “Go and get yourselves cleaned up. I’m bringing you boys up some burgers tonight, oh, ah, can you eat burgers, Dean?”

Dean rolled his eyes and said, “No bun. Cut it up.”

Bobby nodded, obviously making a mental note as he continued, “I’ll make your favorite chili for tomorrow. And don’t you lift a damn finger while you’re here, got it?”

Dean grinned as best he could and agreed, “Got it,” as he took Sam’s arm. They walked across the cluttered room to the stairs and he groaned at the sight of them.

“Lean on me,” Sam said softly.

Nodding, Dean put his arm around Sam’s waist and did just that. Sam’s hand held firm to Dean’s hip to keep him steady and they took the stairs one at a time. Dean was about ready to pass out by the top step and panted harshly against both pain and exhaustion. After the long travel day they’d had, Dean wasn’t going to refuse a pain pill or three.

They walked into the bathroom first where Dean leaned on the sink to catch his breath. It was as small and crowded as the rest of the house, but comfortable, too. This was somewhere they’d spent a good portion of their growing-up over the years. They knew every creaking floorboard and every hole in the ceiling. No one could sneak up on them at Bobby’s and that kind of peace of mind relaxed Dean in a way that no other place, no matter how fortified, ever would.

Dean took off the facial bandage first trying not to be depressed by the sight yet again and failing. Sam unbuttoned Dean’s shirt then, distracting him, and Dean turned to give him access to his back. The bandages would stay off for the night to let the air at it so the scabs could heal over even more. He winced as the tape tugged at sensitive, if unmarred, skin. Once they were off, Sam dumped them in the trash and just looked at Dean’s back. Just when Dean was about to ask what he was doing, lips pressed against the center of his spine, between the shoulder blades.

Sam’s hands covered Dean’s on the sink, fingers lacing together as he whispered, “I almost lost you for good.”

Dean let him have the minor freak out for a few minutes and then turned. He unbuttoned Sam’s shirt and carefully pulled off the bandage covering a large patch over his brother’s chest. Part of the tattoo was gone, mutilated by thick, angry scabs sliced directly over the heart in every direction. Some lines were thinner than others, which told Dean that the hand holding the blade had been steadier at certain times, able to cut more neatly.

He counted twenty altogether and God only knew how many stitches held Sam together in such a small area. No wonder the doctor had mentioned skin grafts. It was small enough an area to be given plastic surgery without too much trouble, unlike Dean’s back. Lifting his gaze to Sam’s, Dean cupped his brother’s face and swore, “I’ll always come for you.”

“I know,” Sam whispered.

A knock interrupted and Dean sighed at Bobby’s timing. Letting go of Sam, he half turned to the door and said, “We’re decent.”

Bobby opened the door with a teasing, “That’s new, then,” only to gaze in open horror at them and breathe out, “Holy Mother of God.”

Awkward and embarrassed, Dean looked away to hide his cut cheek and reached for his shirt, but Sam caught his hand and said, “Leave it off. The air needs to get to it.”

Bobby stepped forward and gripped Dean’s shoulder, stating, “Don’t ever be ashamed of your scars, Son. You’ve more than earned the respect they’ll bring you. You just…took me by surprise there.”

Dean offered a mangled smile and replied, “Thanks, Bobby.”

“Okay then. Time for food. I put the burgers in your room and changed the sheets on the beds for you,” Bobby announced.

Dean smiled faintly and said, “Thanks, man. I could eat.”

So they trooped into the bedroom with its twin beds and Dean laughed as he thought about him and Sam sharing one of them. Grinning at his brother, he commented, “Your back’s gonna hurt in the morning, Samzilla.”

Sam made a face at him and retorted, “Thanks for the sympathy, Dean.”

“Anytime, bro,” Dean replied, sitting slowly. He took one of the plates off the nightstand table and used the fork to score a piece. He chewed slow and careful, groaning in pleasure at the explosion of flavor. Chewing enthusiastically, he swallowed and exclaimed, “Good stuff! Thanks, man!”

Bobby waved him off and said, “Enjoy your dinner. Give a yell if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Bobby,” Sam replied.

Once he’d left, the only sound was of Dean and Sam chowing down on Bobby’s food, the burgers satisfying in a truly solid way, even if he couldn’t get hands on like usual. Hospital food left a lot to be desired, even when it wasn’t total crap. It wouldn’t be too long before he could start eating and talking like normal, which was good, but what he really and truly missed was making out with Sam. He even drank the full glass of milk through a straw with only a mildly sarcastic, “How old am I?”

Sam rolled his eyes and said, “Be grateful that it’ll coat your stomach.”

Right. The pain pills that made him loopy. Dean sighed, but at least he was somewhere no one could get to them easily and Bobby was there for backup. He took the two horse pills Sam handed him a few minutes later and washed them down with a fresh glass of water.

Sam moved to stand between his legs, resting his hands on Dean’s shoulders and lightly rubbing them as he said, “We should probably sleep in separate beds while we’re here.”

“Screw that,” Dean said flatly. He spoke slow, but clear, wanting to get his point across. “If Bobby doesn’t already know, he’s going to find out. I’m never not being with you again unless absolutely necessary. And Bobby loves us. He ain’t going to kick us out.”

“Dean, I’m just saying…”

“And I’m saying no.”

Sam gazed down at him for a long moment before nodding slowly and leaning in for a lingering, soft kiss against his temple. Dean’s hands gripped the backs of Sam’s thighs, keeping him close, wishing for so much more. He wanted nothing more than a real kiss, but his face wouldn’t yet stand for that, and his back twinged painfully when they moved wrong. He sighed and said, “I better get ready to sleep ‘fore I’m knocked out.”

Stepping back, Sam helped him stand and then started clearing the dishes.

Dean made it to the bathroom under his own steam and found a new toothbrush to use, glad Bobby always kept the bathroom stocked for unexpected visitors. He splashed some water on his face and wished for a shower as he grabbed a facecloth and washed what parts of himself he could reach. Drying off, he wrapped a towel around his waist and walked back to the bedroom, but stopped on hearing Sam and Bobby talking.

“…stupid thing for you to do.”

“He’s my brother, Bobby. I wasn’t going to lose him, too.”

“You still don’t know how it might’ve affected you! That’s a damn powerful rite you cast.”

“I know, but it doesn’t matter. And really, what’s the difference? I’ll be doing what I always did; fighting evil things.”

“Yeah, but now you’re practically doing it in Someone else’s name. And what about…”

“What about what?”

Bobby cleared his throat, an uncomfortable sound, and asked, “What about the parts where you ain’t just brothers?”

Dean smirked to himself and thought, I knew he knew.

It was Sam’s turn to clear his throat and he answered, “It doesn’t matter, when it comes right down to it. Bobby, our love is what got him back.”

A few seconds passed before Bobby ordered gruffly “Yeah, well, no hanky-panky under my roof, got it?”

Dean chose that moment to walk back in the room and say, “Your roof, your rules. I think we c’n keep’r hands off each other.”

Sam turning beat red wasn’t nearly as much fun as Bobby doing the exact same thing.

Dean laughed out loud, even though it hurt, and continued, “Definitely moving the beds together, or I’m not th’only one with a bad back.”

Bobby scowled at him and wagged a finger in his direction. “Just because you’re back from Hell, don’t think I won’t whup your ass for being a smartmouth.”

God, it was good to be home.

*  *  *  *

Dean might’ve promised to keep his hands to himself, but Sam didn’t, not with Bobby’s tacit permission to be open about their relationship. They did move the beds together, although that didn’t do anything for the length that Sam’s feet hung over the end. The best thing was finally, finally being able to hold Dean in his arms all night and not worry about anything. The Contract was over and done with. No doctors or nurses waited to take vitals or change bandages. They were safe and comfortable and in the one place that had been home to them all along.

Sam lay on his back while Dean slept draped over him, breathing slow and easy. Sam’s right hand rested on Dean’s ass, the other wrapped lightly around his brother’s arm. His usual motion of rubbing Dean’s back wouldn’t be on the menu for a while, unfortunately, so he made do with brushing his thumb back and forth over the bare skin of Dean’s arm.

Bobby’s words ran through Sam’s head as he stared at nothing in the barely-there light of the dawn. It honestly didn’t matter if he was now some kind of Paladin or nouveau Knight Templar. The only thing that mattered to him was that he had Dean back and they could have a life together. Sam knew that Dean would be at least a month recovering, maybe longer depending on how much he pushed. For himself, Sam was practically in fighting condition again. He felt good, other than a minor ache and itchiness in his chest as the skin healed.

Sam’s bladder made itself felt and he grimaced, not wanting to disturb Dean. His brother had slept restlessly, nightmares hitting throughout the night. Sam had banished them with soft words and gentle touches, but it told him a lot about his brother’s mental health. The memories of Hell were there, just buried deep where Dean couldn’t access them while awake. He wondered if they could find a hypnotist or shaman to block the memories, maybe erase them altogether.

He finally had to get up and relieve himself, sliding carefully out from under Dean. Sam decided on a quick shower while he was up and groaned in pleasure just from washing his hair. The stitches got wet, but he dried them carefully and didn’t worry about it. There weren’t nearly as many as Dean had, it just seemed like a lot because it was in such a small area.

Sam almost bumped into Bobby in the hall and an awkward silence lingered before Sam asked suddenly, “Hey, how’s Ellen?”

“She’ll probably be better when she knows you’re both alive,” Bobby answered. “Want me to have her come on down?”

Sam nodded, immediately liking the idea. “Yeah, that sounds great. I know Dean’ll love seeing her again. Do we know where Jo is?”

Bobby shook his head and told him, “Ellen heard from her a couple months back, but nothing since. Or, not that I know of anyhow. She’s been stayin’ with a couple friends while trying to get the insurance company to cough up money to rebuild.”

Surprised, Sam asked, “She’s going to rebuild the roadhouse?”

“Well yeah. You didn’t think she’d just sit on her ass or slink away, didja?”

Put that way, of course not. Sam half-grinned and said, “Sorry. I guess I’ve been so wrapped up in saving Dean the last few months I hadn’t thought about anything or anyone else.”

“You’re allowed,” Bobby replied kindly. “You want breakfast?”

Sam grinned outright. “Definitely.”

“Well, get your ass downstairs then. I’ll be down directly to rustle something up.”

Sam walked back to the room and found Dean still sound asleep. He smiled at the sight of him sprawled akimbo, face pressed into Sam’s pillow. Walking to the bed, he leaned down and kissed the top of Dean’s head and then went to join Bobby downstairs.

Bobby seemed to take their newly revealed relationship with his usual aplomb; he and Sam talked about everything but. The other man cooked up eggs, bacon, hash browns, and even tossed Sam an apple to munch on while he waited, which meant he’d gone out at dawn or earlier to pick up supplies. The kitchen had seemed very empty the night before, almost forlorn.

Bobby caught Sam up on the status of most of the other hunters in their common circle while they ate. There’d been a lot of demon activity the last couple of months, as if the Hellspawn were stepping up their plans to take over. This, of course, made a bumper crop of new hunters as everyday people searched for answers and vengeance for the death of their loved ones. Thankfully, there were enough experienced hunters to guide the newbies in their first steps.

“You know,” Sam mused. “It’s too bad there’s no central place for information. I can’t tell you the number of times I would’ve given my eyeteeth just to pick up the phone and call someone for help. I mean, we always had you and Father Jim and Dad, but a lot of people just starting out don’t have that option. And now, well, it’s just you.”

Shrugging, Bobby pointed out, “And you. Listen Sam, you and Dean are well-respected in the hunter community and you know it.”

“Not respected enough for people to stop helping Gordon,” Sam countered, somewhat bitter.

Bobby held up a hand and said, “That was a lifetime ago, in the world of a hunter. People know better now. They know you better now and would not only give you help if you needed it, but would probably like to ask for your help, too.”

Something that had honestly never occurred to him.

Bobby continued, “Maybe I can spread the word that you’re a little more…approachable now?”

Sam nodded slowly, but warned, “Not until Dean’s back to full strength.”

“That won’t be long,” Dean himself said from behind.

Instantly on his feet, Sam walked over to help Dean to the table. His brother looked wan with the effort of having tackled getting into new jeans and then the stairs on his own. The scars on his face stood out in stark relief, like someone had used a magic marker on the otherwise pale skin. “You should’ve called me.”

Dean snapped, “I’m fine, Sam.”

Knowing that Dean was angry with his limitations, Sam just asked, “Breakfast?”

Grumbling under his breath, Dean let Sam help him sit down and then said to Bobby, “Mornin.’ What’s to eat in this joint?”

“Your shorts, if you don’t mind your manners,” Bobby retorted, even as he stood up.

Dean’s head ducked down and he apologized, “Sorry. Woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

Sam brushed a hand over his brother’s head and teased, “You just haven’t had caffeine in too long.”

Dean’s eyes got big and he exclaimed, “Oh, yeah! Coffee! Bobby, got the good stuff?!”

Bobby chuckled. “I do, but I don’t know if you deserve it now.”

Dean’s grin would be terrifying to small children, but Sam loved it since it showed his brother on the mend. And obviously he knew that Bobby would deny him very little at that point.

Sam settled in and let the easy flow of conversation wash over him. It was so good to just be somewhere without needing to worry about anything. Almost like the vacation he and Dean had never taken. He had the sudden urge to drive Dean to the Grand Canyon and made a point to get him there sometime soon.

“So what are you boys going to do?” Bobby asked.

Sam looked at Dean, who shrugged. Sam glanced back at Bobby and answered, “Nothing. Well, if you need help with anything, but otherwise, Dean just needs to get his strength back and I think I’ll sleep for a week.”

Bobby chuckled and drained his coffee mug. “You do whatever you want to do. This is your house, too.”

*  *  *  *

The second day at Bobby’s, the older man surprised Dean with a chocolate milkshake. He took it and said, “Thanks. What’s up?”

“Don’t be so damn suspicious. It’s a milkshake. Just drink it, will ya?” Bobby ordered, scowling and walking away.

Dean looked over at Sam, who shrugged and told him, “He’s trying to be nice, Dean.”

Eyebrows lifting, Dean took a tentative sip on the straw and was rewarded by intense chocolate that made him groan in pleasure. He finished the shake in record time. Bobby had made it thin enough not to need any effort to drink, but not so thin that it was like milk. With a full stomach and very happy taste buds, he stretched out on the sofa, putting his legs over Sam’s lap and turned his head to rest on the pillow while watching a basketball game in China.

Bobby’s satellite dish rocked.

He drifted into sleep somewhere in the fourth quarter and when he woke, Sam was gone. He stood carefully and stretched the same way, wishing in vain for the days when he would just bend backwards and turn every which way to stretch. It would be a while before he could do that again.

Sam was in the kitchen dishing out chili into bowls and turned with a smile at Dean’s entrance. “Good timing. Bobby had to go into town to do something and said to go ahead and eat. Of course, that was an hour ago, so he’ll be back any time now.”

Dean sat and asked, skeptical, “Left you in charge of chili?”

Rolling his eyes, Sam retorted, “I do know how to stir.”

Sam set a bowl in front of Dean and then casually kissed the top of his head before sitting across from him. For some reason, the kiss startled Dean. They weren’t very touchy-feely, never had been with how they’d been raised. Generally, kissing between them was an invitation to sex, not a sign of affection.

Pausing at Dean’s stare, Sam asked, “What?”

“You kissed me,” Dean answered.


Dean shook his head, unwilling to make a fuss about something that he really hoped continued. If he let it go, Sam might do it again. If it became a huge deal, chances were fifty-fifty that it wouldn’t. Instead, he leaned forward and smelled the spicy goodness that was Bobby’s homemade chili. His stomach rumbled fiercely and he picked up a spoon, scooping up a big chunk to shovel in. Just as he enthusiastically opened his mouth, Sam exclaimed, “Dean! Take small…” and pain shot through the right side of his face.

Dean dropped the spoon to clutch his cheek, groaning at the angry throbbing of his stitches. Sam rushed to his side, rubbing his shoulder while Dean just breathed through the pain. When it died down to a muted pulse, uncomfortable but manageable, he waved his brother off and sighed. “I’m fine. Go eat.”

Sam gave him a worried look, and said, “Let me check your stitches.”

Dean suffered through the examination and then, thankfully, Sam went to sit back down.

The front door opened and Bobby called out, “Sam? I could use some help here!”

Sam stood again and hurried out of the kitchen while Dean pushed his chili around in the bowl, dejected. They were using an antibiotic cream on his face and back that was supposed to double as a skin softener, but it didn’t seem to be working. It was probably too early to expect anything, but Dean couldn’t help it.

Bobby and Sam entered the kitchen carrying a ton of bags. Dean definitely didn’t grin as he automatically would have, since his cheek still hurt. He just asked, “Didja buy th’store?”

“As a matter of fact, I might’ve,” Bobby answered. “You boys’ll be here a while, so I thought I would stock up.”

Dean watched as they put mostly dry goods away like pasta and beans, but there was also an inordinate amount of Dean’s favorite ice cream flavors among the cold stuff. It looked like there would be a lot more shakes in his future. Even though the thought of Bobby caring so much warmed him all the way through, Dean protested, “You didn’t have to…”

“Don’t you finish that sentence boy, or I really will beat you,” Bobby ordered. “Shut up and eat your chili.”

And then Sam kissed the top of his head on the way by to the cupboard, completing the crazy but great feeling of his world being complete. Ducking his head so they wouldn’t see the moisture threatening to become tears, Dean cleared his throat and went back to eating his chili.

With small bites.

*  *  *  *

The next four days held no kind of pattern at all, they just relaxed, which was something Sam couldn’t remember ever doing. They slept whenever they got tired, ate when hungry, and did nothing but read or watch television. Dean was awed at the number of sports stations Bobby got on his satellite dish and hunkered down on the living room sofa without a single protest. Sam sat down with him, generally using Dean’s calves to rest a book on as he worked his way through pleasure reading like Shakespeare, Dickens, Moliere, and Grisham.

Sam lay on his back, dozing in the summer warmth with Dean sleeping over him full-length like a blanket, his back bare because he couldn’t stand anything against his skin anymore. He heard footsteps come into the room but didn’t think anything of it, since Bobby hadn’t even once asked them to tone it down. Not that they’d been making out in front of him or anything, but they’d both found constant contact of some kind necessary.

Except it was Ellen who came into view, not Bobby. Sam tensed, but didn’t move his hands, one of which rested on Dean’s ass while the other combed through Dean’s hair. She looked at them silently for a long minute and then turned around and left.

Dean shifted and yawned, likely woken by Sam tensing up. “What?”

“Ellen’s here,” Sam answered, kissing his temple. “Let’s get up.”

Grumbling, Dean let Sam help him upright and they walked out to look for Ellen. She stood on the porch staring out at the junk yard. Dean tried to pull his hand away, but Sam wouldn’t let it go. Instead, Sam asked, “You okay?”

Ellen faced them, lips pursed like she tasted something unpleasant, and then said, “I think I was expecting this, when Bobby said you were both alive and told me what ritual you used, Sam, but…seeing it in front of me like that…Don’t get me wrong, boys, I am so happy that you’re both alive and whole and well, but…”

Sam nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but Dean beat him to it with a simple, “This is us, now, Ellen. You can take it, or leave it.”

She scowled at Dean, but ultimately snapped, “Don’t give me an ultimatum, Dean Winchester, or I’ll put you over my knee, wounded or not.”

Sam turned his laugh into a cough when she glared at him. Clearing his throat, he said, “Sorry. Think I need something to drink. Anyone else want a drink?”

Ellen held the glare a moment longer, but then a smile peeked out and she shook her head. “You boys are going to be the death of me.”

“That’s what I said, pretty much,” Bobby announced through the screen door. “C’mon in, Ellen.”

She went inside and, when they followed, Sam was surprised by Dean squeezing his hand. Looking at his brother, he found a crooked grin in place and couldn’t help but let out a slow sigh. The only people who mattered to them in the world now knew and accepted them. It could only get better from there.

*  *  *  *

Ellen stayed only overnight and then left with stern words to take it easy until Dean was back on his feet. Sam hugged her goodbye, as did Dean, and they watched her leave from the porch. Bobby had gone into town earlier to do some food shopping so once Ellen was gone, they had the place to themselves. It was the first time they’d been truly alone for any real length of time since before the Contract had come due.

Dean looked at him and wriggled his eyebrows. “So…alone at last.”

Sam rolled his eyes and said, “And we’re going to watch tv or read, just like every other day.”

Groaning, Dean told him, “I’m going to go jerk off. You want to join me? Great. If not, enjoy your book. Freak.”

Sam caught him before he could go anywhere, wrapping a hand around Dean’s wrist to stop him and then pull him in close. Leaning in, he breathed deep and murmured, “I miss kissing you. Miss pushing my tongue in your mouth and just going for it, taking your mouth like my cock does your ass. God, I miss making you get hard because you have an oral fixation like no one’s business and only I can satisfy it. I want to make out with you right in front of Bobby just so I can show him how it’s done.”

Dean’s hands grew tighter and tighter on Sam’s hip, his breathing getting shallow as Sam maneuvered him against the wall so their bodies touched at most points, but especially their dicks. He was careful, however, not to actually push Dean’s back against the wall, instead putting his arm against it as a kind of bumper for Dean’s shoulders to rest on. Then he spoke right against Dean’s ear, nibbling the lobe to emphasize certain points.  

“But you know,” he continued, licking a stripe along Dean’s neck and then back up to the ear. “I really miss sucking your cock. When’s the last time I went all the way down, huh Dean? Remember? Night before…well, the night before. I sucked you down until you came what, three times? I made you come until you cried with it, trying to make me stop. But then, then I had to have you and I fucked you so good you begged me for more. And I gave it to you, remember? All night.”

“Oh God…” Dean gasped, jerking against Sam’s hip and then collapsing against Sam’s arm.

Sam was hard as a rock, but he could wait. He nuzzled against Dean’s throat a moment and then kissed his way up to his brother’s mouth. Pressing his lips ever-so-gently against Dean’s, Sam groaned when the lips parted and he could swipe his tongue inside for a quick taste. Leaning his forehead against his brother’s, Sam forced himself to breathe slow and deep until he could pull back and grin at Dean’s somewhat dazed expression.

Dean focused on him at last and said succinctly, “Bastard.”

Sam laughed out loud.

*  *  *  *

The doctor was a friend of Bobby’s, but even so Sam found it hard not to hover. Dr. Dreyer was a big man, easily Sam’s height, but his body had gone to middle-age with a big beer belly and his hair was mostly white. Dark, serious eyes remained on Dean with a focus that was reassuring and large hands moved nimbly with scissors and tweezers to remove the stitches lining Dean’s back. Every time one was removed, Dean twitched, though he didn’t make a sound during the long process.

Sam stood right beside the bed, just out of the doctor’s way, with only the occasional pace to relieve his stress. He’d gone first, so the minor throbbing in upper chest was a distraction, but not much of one. Watching his brother go through so much more made him want to hit something. And there was still half of his back left to go. At least Dean’s face was already taken care of and Sam was astounded by how much better his brother already looked. Bobby poked his head in now and again to check on them, but otherwise let Dreyer work and Sam worry.

It was finally over and Dreyer told him, “He needs to let the air get at it as much as he can and keep up with the antibiotics. You too, for that matter. I’ll call in extra prescriptions for the both of you in town. He should just rest for today and tomorrow.”

“What about physical therapy?” Dean rumbled, sounding exhausted.

Dreyer’s lips pursed and he said, “I’d wait another week or so before doing anything. There’s a girl in town that does good work. I’ll give her a call and let her know you’ll be showing up at some point for an assessment. She works in my building.”

Dean sighed and said, “Thanks.”

Sam echoed, “Yes, thank you, Dr. Dreyer. We appreciate everything you’ve done here.”

“Don’t lookit me,” he replied, smiling. “The one who stitched the two of you up deserves a medal. Did a job that was easy to follow. Can’t help the scarring on your brother’s back, the damage was too severe, but the face will be near as it was before, from what I see.”

“Still, thanks anyhow,” Sam said, shaking his hand.

The doctor showed himself out and Sam immediately sat on the bed. Cupping the back of Dean’s head, Sam took in the sight of the scabbed and slightly bleeding cheek and wondered what the doctor saw that he couldn’t. Not that it mattered to Sam in the least. Dean could look just like he did right then for the rest of his life and Sam wouldn’t care.

One green eye opened to look at Sam and Dean muttered, “Really tired, Sammy.”

“I know. I’m going to get you a pain pill to help you sleep,” Sam told him.

Dean nodded instead of arguing, which told Sam just how bad he felt. He stood and went to the bathroom for a glass of water and the pill bottle, returning with both. Sam sat on the bed and helped Dean lean sideways so he could wash the giant pill down. Once that was done, he sat with Dean, stroking a hand over his head, slow and soothing to help him get to sleep faster. It took only about five minutes before his brother relaxed all at once into the mattress and pillow, mouth opening slightly as his breathing deepened.

Sam stayed where he was for another few minutes and then walked silently out of the bedroom. He joined Bobby downstairs and collapsed into a kitchen chair, folding his arms onto the table and resting his head on them.

“How’s he doing?”

Sitting up, Sam answered, “Sleeping. I gave him a painkiller.”

Bobby nodded and said, “Best thing for him right now. How’re you doing?”

“Me?” Sam repeated. “I’m fine.”

But Bobby just looked at him harder and said, “Dean’s not the only one who wound up in Hell, Sam. Whatever you saw down there, I know it’s got to be eating you up inside. And when you’re done with fussin’ over Dean twenty-four-seven, it’s gonna blindside you.”

Flashes of the madness he’d witnessed down there ran through Sam’s mind and he forcibly blanked them out. Taking a deep breath, Sam said, “What I went through isn’t nearly as bad as what Dean did.”

“Maybe not, but it was bad anyhow,” Bobby countered. “And you’re going to have to deal with it before it bites you on the ass.”

Sam sighed and told him, “I’ve been thinking about Missouri.”

Bobby’s eyebrows rose. “You wanna go on a roadtrip?”

Laughing a little as he realized Bobby thought he meant the state, Sam corrected, “Family friend who’s a psychic. Her name’s Missouri.”

“Oh, yeah. I know Missouri, she’s a great lady. What about her?”

“Well, I want to find a way to erase Dean’s memories of what happened to him down there. Maybe she knows a way, or knows someone who can,” Sam explained.

Bobby shook his head. “That’s no way to handle this, Sam.”

Sam met his gaze and said, “Unless you’ve been there, Bobby, I really don’t think you can tell us how to deal.”

To that, Bobby had nothing to say.

*  *  *  *

They went to see Lena Reynolds the following week for the assessment. Dean loved his brother, but was about to strangle him if he didn’t back off. The last week had been uncomfortable, but he felt over the actively painful part of recovery. He could eat almost normally and sitting upright wasn’t a problem unless it was for extended periods. He couldn’t sleep on his back yet, but could lie on it if he wanted. Sam didn’t seem to notice the improvements, hovering whenever possible, which was all the damn time.

He was still butt ugly, even with the swelling and bruising on his face gone, but since he could move around fairly well, he wasn’t really complaining. The scars on his back would scare anyone away except Sam and, really, he was the only one who mattered.

Dean glanced over at Sam and found the annoyed expression still very much there. He’d snagged the keys from Sam when they’d left the house and then spent the next five minutes arguing with Sam about how he was perfectly all right to drive. Finally, he’d just told his brother to shut up and get in the car or stay home. Sam had gotten into the passenger’s side and not said another word since, arms crossed over his chest and slouched into the seat.

Rolling his eyes, Dean turned his attention back to the road since they were in the town proper now and there was actual traffic to consider. It was small, with about thirty thousand residents; enough for traffic lights and a McDonalds, but not enough for a mall or real movie theater. Pulling into the parking lot of the building that held Dr. Dreyer and Lena Reynolds’ offices, he parked right near the door. There were only a few other cars present, which was good because Dean didn’t feel like being a freakshow for a lot of people.

Dean climbed out of the Impala with only a minor twinge in his back. Closing the heavy door took more effort and caused a slightly more serious flash, but he ignored it and walked around to the front.

Sam met him there and said, “You’re a jerk.”

Dean snorted. “That’s original.”

Sam nudged him with an elbow, which made Dean grin and relax. It hadn’t been a hard nudge, true, but he’d take any sense of normalcy he could get. They went inside the smallish, one-story brick building and read the names on the doors in the long hallway. Lena Reynolds was at the back and Dean entered the office precisely at ten a.m., his appointment time.

The receptionist was a pretty young girl with soft blond hair and deep blue eyes, didn’t look more than eighteen. She looked up with a smile and, to her credit, didn’t react to Dean’s scars with anything other than a welcoming, “Good morning! Mr. Winchester?”

“That’s me,” Dean confirmed. He nodded at Sam and said, “Him, too. I’m Dean, that’s Sam.”

She held out a clipboard with papers and a pen. “It’s real nice to meet you. I’m Sara. If you could fill these out, that’d be just great.”

Dean took both, but handed them over to Sam. They sat in one of the wooden chairs and he looked around while Sam filled out all the forms. Not that Dean couldn’t, but he’d have to look shit up while Sam had everything memorized in his freakishly big brain. The office was comfortable without being cloying, neither male nor female, but somewhere the two sexes could meet and hang out. It had a good vibe and, on top of Sara’s accepting manner, Dean relaxed a little.

Sam finished the paperwork in short order and handed it back to Sara, who was on the phone apparently making an appointment for someone. Sitting next to Dean again, he said, “Seems nice enough here.”

Dean picked up a sports magazine and nodded. “Yeah. I like it.”

It was only about five minutes later that the door to the medical area opened and a woman called, “Dean Winchester?”

Looking over, Dean found a tall, Native American woman with black hair and dark eyes dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt. Surprised, he stood and answered, “That’s me.”

“Well come on in then,” she said, smiling. “I’ve got some paces to put you through.”

Dean walked over to her and shook hands, liking the firm grip and ready smile. He introduced, “This is my brother, Sam.”

Sam and Lena shook hands and then she escorted them down a short hall to a large, open-aired back room. There were all kinds of exercise equipment, no surprise, but also a bunch of wards built into the walls, and that was surprising. Although maybe it shouldn’t have been since Bobby knew her. 

She waved them over to a bench and asked Sam, “I assume you’ll be working with him at home?”

Sam nodded and then said hesitantly, “I ah, I kinda need some help too.”

Dean gave him a sharp look. “What do you mean? What kind of help?”

“Well, I don’t have a full range of motion anymore on my left shoulder and arm,” Sam admitted. Catching Dean’s pissed expression, he added hastily, “Not near as bad as yours, but, well, it’s there.”

Fuming that Sam hadn’t ever let on, Dean opened his mouth to tear him a new one, but Lena preempted him with, “It’s good that you spoke up. Thank you, Sam. Now, if the both of you will take off your shirts so I can see what we’re working with?”

Dean unbuttoned his shirt, maintaining his glare at Sam. He fully intended to let his brother have it once they were in private. From the way Sam wouldn’t meet his gaze, Sam knew it, too.


Glancing over at Lena, he answered, “Yeah?”

“You can stop flaying Sam with your eyes any time now,” Lena told him, dark eyes kind, maybe a little amused. “He asked for help and that’s enough, isn’t it?”

Since he couldn’t very well answer, “Well yeah, but he asked you,” Dean shrugged.

Lena moved to look at his back and then light fingers trailed over the scabs, making him shiver. She walked around to his front and did the same with the circle on his face. She walked silently to Sam and touched the scars over his heart and then the mangled tattoo, nodding to herself before returning to Dean. “You’ve both done something terrible and wonderful, though I don’t know what. Your auras are…damaged…tainted…but still yours.”

The aura talk startled Dean, but he stayed quiet.

“Something haunts you, deep within, and we will work here to excise the demons dogging your steps, both literally and figuratively. We will restore the balance you have both lost. I don’t claim to cure and you may never be whole again, but if you work with me, if you try your best, I think we’ll get as close as possible.”

Dean looked to Sam, who looked back with a small smile. He reached out and cuffed Sam lightly upside the head and muttered, “Loser,” before giving Lena a nod. “Count us in.”

She smiled, broad features lighting up as she replied with a wink, “Great! I haven’t had any hot guys to ogle for a while.”

Dean laughed and quipped, “Honey, you’ve got the best, right here.”

“Dean!” Sam exclaimed, reproving.

Still chuckling, Dean relished the normal.

*  *  *  *

“That woman. Is a sadist,” Dean groaned, collapsing face first on the bed.

Sam would’ve laughed, but he hadn’t been spared and flopped down right next to his brother. Lena proved to be as hard a taskmaster as their father had been, despite being a hell of a lot prettier. For the last three weeks the exercises had progressed from light stretches to increase flexibility to actual strength-building. They were at Lena’s office twice a week and even though they did the same exercises every day, there was something different when they worked out at her office. Something that made everything seem three times harder.

Maybe she had a ward somewhere that increased the gravity.

Dean shifted closer, putting his chin on Sam’s arm as he ordered, “Put some lotion on my back.”

Something else Lena had started. She’d given them a homeopathic lotion that was supposed to help with scarring. The deep lines in Dean’s back and Sam’s chest were obvious to see, but not nearly as ugly as the red-black scabs of before. Sam snorted. “Please, can I?”

“No need to beg, Sammy. Of course, you can put lotion on my back!” Dean told him, grinning.

Sam shoved him off, but rolled into a sitting position to get the lotion while Dean pulled his shirt off and stretched out for real. Straddling Dean’s hips, he squirted some of the lotion into his palm, warming it before starting a slow slide up his brother’s back. He hadn’t yet figured out all of what was in it, but a bouquet of aromas lingered in the air whenever they used it and he breathed in deep.

The first few times he’d identified lavender and vanilla, both soothing to the senses which, combined with his massage, had sent Dean off to sleep after the workouts. But then they had faded somehow and now whatever he smelled went straight to his gut in a way that was definitely not soothing.

“Is that a pencil in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” Dean teased through a yawn.

Sam grit his teeth and ignored his hard-on in favor of running his hands up and down Dean’s back. He squeezed the muscles and worked at getting out the knots, loving the way his brother just sighed into the caresses and relaxed under his hands. The texture of skin was new, but not rough like it had been. The new skin was baby soft and extra sensitive, as he knew from experience with his own.

Without thought, he bent forward and licked over one of the particularly deep scars. Dean instantly broke out in gooseflesh, shivering violently. When there was no protest, Sam licked along the scar, tracing it with his tongue all the way up to a shoulder blade. Resting on his palms and knees, Sam explored the new skin slowly with his mouth. He alternated tongue and lips, kissing the starbursts that showed where one of the cat-o-nines had dug into Dean’s back.

He’d killed the demons too fucking fast.

As if sensing the dark turn Sam’s thoughts had taken, Dean turned over and gripped the back of Sam’s head. Staring into his eyes, Dean quietly told him, “I’m yours, Sammy, always have been.”

“Better fucking believe it,” Sam said roughly, trailing a finger over the circular scar on Dean’s cheek. “Tell me if I hurt you.”

Dean gave a crooked grin, the only kind he could now, and answered, “I’m tougher than I look.”

Bending down, Sam kissed him. It was tentative at first since he wasn’t sure how much pressure Dean could take, but then his brother’s tongue pushed into his mouth and he was lost. Sam stretched out on top of Dean and devoured him. It had been so long and he was so damn hungry for the contact.

Dean’s arms wrapped around Sam’s back, fingers easily sliding under the sweats to grip the curve of his ass. Sam hissed in pleasure and broke off the kiss to bite gently at Dean’s jaw and then down at his throat. He sucked on the nipple over his brother’s heart and thrilled at the groan it provoked, switching to the other one.

“Sam, oh God, Sam, give me more, please give me more,” Dean begged, arching up.

He bit sharply at the hard nipple and promised, “Oh you’re going to get it, don’t worry.”

Dean laughed breathlessly. “Ooh. I’m scared.”

Sam growled and flipped Dean onto his stomach in one move. Dean yelped in surprise and then moaned when Sam yanked down the sweats and buried his face in his brother’s ass. He couldn’t believe how desperate he was for Dean, like he was starving for every single different taste; the sweet curve under his ear, the salt sweat along his collarbone, and the sour musk of his hole. Sam thrust his tongue in as far as it could go and Dean gave a strangled shout, like the noise had been cut off by a hand over his own mouth.

Scooping up the lotion, he squirted more onto his fingers and then pushed one inside Dean. His cock ached with need, but he took his time preparing Dean. They hadn’t done this in over a month and it showed in the way his brother tensed at the finger moving inside him. It took a while, but Dean relaxed eventually and then Sam replaced one with two. That took even more time, but Sam waited until the muscles stopped clenching before adding a third.

Dean moaned and complained, “Stop with the prep already and fuck me! I want to feel you, okay?”

Sam bit his lip until it hurt just to keep control of himself.

Looking over his shoulder, Dean insisted, “I mean it! I want you to wale on me, okay? Just do it. I want to feel your dick in my throat, Sammy.”

Sam nodded and squirted the lotion onto his shaft with shaking hands. It took all he had not to come while slicking himself up, but he managed it. Barely. And then he pushed inside Dean’s hole, forcing his cock into the insanely tight space and not stopping until he was balls-deep. Panting with the effort not to come, Sam rested on Dean’s ass and his palms before lowering down to blanket his brother all over. Their legs twined together and then their hands, fingers lacing tight, knuckle to knuckle.

Sam moaned in pure ecstasy and mouthed Dean’s throat, humping slowly into his brother’s ass, just rocking them together.

Fuck, Sam, give me more, I need it,” Dean ordered, ass squeezing around Sam’s cock.

Pushing onto his elbows, Sam told him, “You’re going to feel this for days,” and then did just what Dean had asked. He thrust, hard, in and out of his brother’s body. His cock worked at stabbing in as deep as it could go, grinding down every other time. Sam levered up onto his knees, bringing Dean with him, and took his brother harder than he could ever remember doing and reveled in the pure, physical intimacy.

In five minutes, Dean cried out, apparently not caring that Bobby would probably hear them. In ten minutes, words fell unheeded from him, begging for more and begging for it to stop, just like the night before the Contract had come due. Sam came shortly after that, chest heaving with exertion and dripping sweat onto Dean’s back.

“No, Sam, come on!” Dean exclaimed, sounding pissed.

Sam just chuckled and assured him, “Oh, there’s more where that came from.”

And there was. Sam rocked back to full hardness and simply continued fucking Dean at various depths, angles, and speeds until his brother just lay there and took it. Sam came three more times, but every time Dean approached orgasm, and Sam could tell by the way he tensed and squirmed, Sam would slow down and reach below to squeeze his brother’s dick and keep him from coming.

There was something, Sam wasn’t even sure what, but something that told him Dean had reached his limit. Long after they’d started, with his dick on fire in a not very pleasant way, Sam drove himself home and this time didn’t stop until Dean screamed with it. This time, Sam let him come and, seconds later, groaned brokenly and followed him over the edge one more time.

Dean was completely out of it when Sam used the last of his strength to withdraw from his brother’s body. He vaguely thought about covering them up with something, but then decided that there was no way Bobby could have missed what they’d been doing. Seeing them naked wouldn’t even faze him after that kind of display. So he rolled over and tugged Dean onto him, wrapping an arm over his brother’s shoulder and letting himself drift into sleep.

*  *  *  *

The pain in Dean’s ass was enough to make him not want to move ever again. He stayed very still and thought, I need a tattoo that says, ‘shut the fuck up.’

His entire body ached with the ways Sam had twisted and turned and moved him like he’d been some kind of blowup doll the night before. If his gut weren’t cramping like a sonuvabitch, there was no way he’d be moving, but it did, and he forced himself to crawl off the bed and stumble to the bathroom. Once he’d taken care of some nasty business, he swallowed a pain pill and climbed into the shower.

The sun was up when he walked slowly back to the bedroom and pulled on the sweats Sam had partially torn in his hurry to get laid the night before. Grimacing, he found a t-shirt and walked carefully down the stairs to make some coffee. Bobby already sat at the table, nursing a mug, and Dean stopped short on seeing him there. He knew there was no way that Bobby didn’t know exactly what had happened the night before.

Bobby looked up and gave a neutral grunt without saying much of anything.

Relieved, Dean poured himself a cup and then leaned against the counter to drink it. No chance of him sitting on any hard surfaces, no sirree bob.

“So. Physical therapy’s going well, I guess.”

Dean blushed to his roots, something he hadn’t done since his dad had walked in on him having sex with a girl his senior year in high school. Brushing a hand over his head, Dean cleared his throat and managed, “Yeah. Lena’s ah, she’s really good.”

S’what I hear.” Bobby paused and then added, “You can wash or burn the sheets, I don’t care which, but I don’t ever want to hear you two goin’ at it like that ever fuckin’ again.”

“Yes, Sir,” Dean agreed and then hid his face in his coffee mug.

He made a note to do something evil to Sam for not being there to share in the morning-after lecture, even as short as it had been.

*  *  *  *

If Sam had been able to choose, vampires would not have been his first pick for their first hunt. Unfortunately, three girls had gone missing in a small town just over the state line and one had turned up drained of blood with puncture marks in her throat. Since there was no telling how many vampires they might be dealing with, Bobby decided to go with them.

It made for a quieter drive than usual, since they couldn’t talk about things they usually did while alone, but Sam felt better. He knew Dean was fine, good even, but that was under normal circumstances. And while Lena had mercilessly driven both him and Dean over the last month, Sam just…he wasn’t sure where his brother was in terms of hunting readiness. He didn’t want to doubt Dean, but when he saw those scars on his back every day, it was hard to believe there was real strength beneath.

So Sam made general conversation with Bobby and let Dean drive in peace. He knew from his brother’s frown that Dean had his own doubts about the coming hunt and didn’t want to add to any self-induced pressure. They reached the town in a couple of hours and split up to track down more info about the girls. Sam didn’t want to, but Dean glared at him without a word and he backed down. There was, after all, a limited amount of time before sunset and they had to move fast before another girl was taken. They agreed to meet back at the car in an hour with whatever information they might’ve gleaned and went in separate directions.

Sam visited the family of the dead victim, outvoted by both Bobby and Dean who felt he’d be the most convincing of them. He hemmed and hawed his way into the house, uncomfortable as he always was with the lying, but determined to find out as much as he could. The wake was still going, so there were plenty of kids he could ply for information about the victim. He spent several minutes with the grieving sister, who knew a lot more than anyone gave her credit for, despite being only twelve.

Wiping at her eyes, Sophie said, “I told her not to go with him, he gave me the creeps the first second I saw him.”

Sam nodded sympathetically and asked, “So, what did he look like?”

“He had the whole Goth thing going on,” Sophie said. “Black hair, pale skin, dead eyes. Everything.”

Pretty observant for a little girl, Sam thought. Out loud, he said, “How dead?”

Sophie shivered, crossing thin arms over her chest. Meeting Sam’s gaze with her own, she answered, “Very seriously dead.”

Sam nodded slowly and then noticed Sophie’s father frowning in their direction. Taking that as his cue, he told her, “I’ll find the guy who did this, Sophie, I promise.”

“Good. Get him,” she said viciously. “Make sure he doesn’t do it to anyone else.”

As he left the house, Sam admired her simple directive and her understanding of what Sam had meant. She was a smart kid, no doubt about it. When he met up with Dean and Bobby back at the Impala, Bobby had tracked down a possible location for the nest and Dean had a little more information about the town itself.

There’s been fifteen missing persons cases in the last year,” Dean related. “But because five were homeless, five were white trash, and two were troublemakers, no one cared. It wasn’t until the pretty people started disappearing that it even made the news.”

Sam grimaced and said, “We’re not here to pass judgment on these people, Dean.”

“Speak for yourself,” Dean muttered.

Bobby snorted. “We should go check out the old school while there’s daylight to burn.”

So they drove to the edge of town where a decrepit building that used to be a school sat on an otherwise vacant lot. It had to be at least fifty years old, maybe more, with the brick face coming out in chunks and the windows all boarded up. They pulled out wooden stakes, UV flashlights, machetes, accelerant and waterproof matches, gearing up individually. Sam took one side of Dean while Bobby took the other but if his brother noticed their protective positions, he didn’t comment.

They worked the front door open and then left it open all the way to get extra light inside. On went the flashlights and in they stepped. The smell hit Sam first and he grimaced, pulling his shirt over his mouth until he got used to it; urine, blood, sweat, and terror. They’d found the right place, no doubt about that.

Working room to room, they pulled down boards and literally let the sun shine in. Worst came to worst, it broadened their escape plan to have as much sunlight available as possible. They went first floor to the second and found nothing, which wasn’t a big surprise. The nest would likely be in the basement to make it as difficult as possible to get caught by surprise or burned by sunlight breaking through a window.

“We should just burn them out,” Bobby whispered.

Dean looked at Sam and agreed, “These aren’t good vamps, not if there are fifteen dead. They aren’t living off the cows around here, they’re feeding and terrorizing their victims.”

Sam knew they were right, but pointed out, “We can’t be sure burning the place will get them. It’s brick.”

Bobby and Dean exchanged a look and then they started towards the basement door. Sam pushed passed Dean to take the lead, ignoring the hiss of anger his action provoked. He walked down the stairs slowly, keeping a firm grip on his machete and flashlight. The stench increased as he descended until it was just shy of gagging him. Forcing his mind beyond the awful smells, he looked around the large, open-area and landed flat on his ass seconds later, something having slammed into him.

From there, it was chaos and pain and noise. He flashed back to Hell about fifteen minutes into the whole thing and screamed for Dean, slicing madly through vampire after vampire to get to his brother. None of them stood a chance. Maybe twenty-five minutes after they’d started, Sam had Dean pinned behind him against a wall while all he saw were demons using Bobby’s voice, though they were careful to stay out of reach.

It was Dean’s voice and touch that finally got through to him. Between one blink and the next, the demonic Hellscape vanished, replaced by a dark, stone basement and a frightened Bobby with a black eye and bloody nose. Moaning in despair, Sam dropped to the floor and wrapped his arms around his knees, hiding his head. Dean covered him, arms going tight around Sam as he slowly rocked him back and forth, murmuring soothing, nonsense words right against his ear.

Finally, Sam drew in a shaky breath and lifted his head. Dean wiped his eyes and then used his sleeve to clean Sam’s face before kissing him on the forehead and promising, “You’ll be okay, Sammy, we both will.”

Sam cleared his throat and said, “We need help, Dean. I need help. I think…I think we should see Missouri.”

Dean stiffened, as if he was going to protest, but then he deflated and gave a nod. “Yeah. Okay. If that’s what you want, Sam.”

Nodding, Sam let himself cling to Dean for a moment longer and then started to stand up, letting his brother help.

Dean put an arm around Sam’s waist and told Bobby, “I guess we’re gonna head out in the morning. Gotta see a psychic about my boy, here.”

Bobby nodded soberly and followed them out of the gore-strewn basement.

*  *  *  *

Missouri took one look at them walking up the front path and held up a hand. “Don’t you come no closer, you stop right there.”

Dean stopped short, as did Sam, and waited while the black woman looked them over, lips pursed suspiciously. She walked off the porch and got right up in Dean’s face, giving him a look so sharp he was a little surprised not to bleed.

Missouri’s arms crossed over her ample chest and she informed him, “I’ve seen sorrier sights, but not by much. Humph.” Then she walked over to Sam and peered even harder, leaning up to glare at him. “And you, boy, have a lot to answer for.”

She turned and stalked back onto the porch. Pausing at the door, she looked back at them and demanded, “Well? What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Get your asses in this house right this damn minute!”

Dean scrambled to obey and heard Sam mutter, “Yes, ma’am,” as he did the same. Inside hadn’t changed a bit since last time and they followed her into the kitchen, sitting at the table when she pointed to it. She bustled around the kitchen making tea and sandwiches, setting plates in front of them without asking if they were hungry and then coming back again a minute later with steaming mugs.

At her pointed glare, Dean picked up the sandwich and started eating, not caring what it was.

Missouri sat opposite then and didn’t say anything for a long moment. And then she said, “I wish I could help you boys, God knows you deserve it, but I can’t. Memories just aren’t my thing.”

Dean didn’t even bother to ask how she knew what they’d been going to ask her to do.

“There’s an old witch you should go see about this,” she continued. “Name’s Shandon Miller and she lives in Topeka. Good woman. Her specialty is all things to do with the mind, but she’s not a psychic. I don’t know if she can block the memories permanently or just yank ‘em altogether, but if anyone can help you, she can.”

“Are we doing the right thing?” Sam asked suddenly, looking troubled. “Bobby said…maybe we should just work through the memories and live with them. It feels like…”

“Like we’re punking out,” Dean supplied, unhappy about the whole situation.

Sam nodded agreement.

Missouri stood and walked over to him, resting a hand on his shoulder as she said, “Baby boy, there are things that just aren’t meant to be known to the living and what’s waitin’ in Hell, is a big one. Now, Bobby’s a good man, but he doesn’t know what he’s talkin’ about. Not with this.”

Dean wished her words could make him feel better, but they didn’t. At least Sam looked a little easier about the whole thing.

Facing him, Missouri stated, “And as for you, Dean Winchester, what you went through isn’t anything the living should have any part of, never mind remember. I don’t know how Sam brought you back and I don’t want to know. What I do know is that if you aren’t real careful, everything will have been for nothing.”

A chill ran down his spine and Dean demanded, “What do you mean?”

“I mean that you’re headed smack for a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour without a seatbelt if you don’t get rid of what’s in you, and you’re takin’ Sammy with you. Now, do you want that?”

“What’s in me?” Dean whispered.

She bent in close, cupping his face and answering just as quietly, “Evil, baby boy, pure evil. Now, it’s not you, and you can get rid of it, but this is a limited time offer. Eventually, it’s going to seep out from behind those shields you got it locked up tight behind and then you’ll be done. And Sam will never leave you, so imagine what you’ll do to him once it gets out.”

Dean shuddered in revulsion and she nodded, straightening up and walking back to her seat. Putting some sugar in her tea, she finished, “You go on and finish your lunch and then go see Shandon. She’ll take good care of you boys.”

The rest of the sandwich tasted like so much ash in his mouth, but the wooden-spoon threat hung unsaid in the air and no way was Dean risking that.

*  *  *  *

Sam didn’t talk on the drive to Topeka, engrossed in what Missouri had said in the kitchen. For a long time, he’d thought of having the capacity to go darkside because of the demon’s blood in him. And really, the capacity was still there since his blood hadn’t changed with the demon’s destruction. But Dean…the idea that his brother could have pure evil locked deep inside was an anathema to him.

Dean pulled into the driveway of a small house on the outskirts of Topeka and then didn’t move.

When Sam looked at him, it was to find a far-away expression in place that prompted him to ask hesitantly, “Dean? You okay?”

“Peachy,” Dean muttered. “Let’s get this over with.”

Sam wanted to reassure him, but knew nothing would help. He remembered being sure that he would wind up hurting Dean because of what he was and figured his brother to be in the same headspace. After the bombshell about what their dad had told Dean, Sam had been in a really dark place. He climbed out of the Impala and met Dean around the front, falling easily into step with him on the walk to the front door. He stayed back, letting Dean handle the situation however he wanted.

Shandon Miller turned out to be about five foot naught with pure white hair pulled back in a bun and blind with obvious cataracts. Her face was oddly smooth but her hands were gnarled with age. And she either had really good dentures or all of her teeth when she smiled at them in greeting and said, “Dean and Sam Winchester. Come in, boys, come in.”

Sam followed Dean inside and discovered a small, cozy interior with typical little old lady accents of doilies on a gleaming wooden coffee table and plastic covering the furniture. The carpeting was pinkish and a red rug overlaid it, clashing badly, as a kind of walkway to the sofa.

A small white dog rushed over to them, yapping fiercely.

“Whoa, Cujo, easy,” Dean muttered.

Sam hid a grin and crouched down, holding out a hand. The dog sniffed suspiciously at his fingers and then nipped sharply at them. He hissed in pained surprise and yanked his hand back.

“That’s Melville,” Shandon introduced. “He’s a wonderful judge of people and once you’ve been cleansed, I’m sure you’ll get on famously.”

Dean snickered and said, “Don’t count on it.”

Sam made a face at him and asked her, “Can you help us?”

She reached for him, fingers curled in on themselves, and touched his face, mapping it out. Tsking to herself, she muttered something too quiet to catch and then shifted to do the same to Dean. She finally said, “We can take care of this, but it’s not going to be pretty. Come with me.”

They trailed after her into the dining room, through the kitchen and out the back. Melville followed as they crossed the yard, nipping alternately at Sam’s and Dean’s heels. There was a good sized shed out back, about ten by fifteen, and inside was practically another world. Sam’s eyes widened as he took in all the holy relics and rare spices and herbs in their neatly labeled jars on racks nailed to the walls. It was only dimly lit with four thick candles burning at each directional point. A wooden altar took up most of the space right in the center of the room.

“We’ll take care of Sam first, since he’s not as badly compromised,” Shandon said matter-of-factly. “Up you go, son, let’s get this done before dark if we can.”

Now that it was time, a case of nerves attacked Sam and he backed towards the door. “I ah, maybe this isn’t such a, a good idea. We can…”

Shandon interrupted with a chant of some kind and agony spiked through Sam’s head, dropping him to his knees.

“Sam!” Dean shouted, rushing to his side. “Sam, are you okay?”

“Make her stop,” Sam groaned, clutching his head.

Shandon stopped on her own, though, and then said, “Get him on the altar, Dean. I told you this wouldn’t be pretty and I meant it, but if we don’t do this, the both of you might as well have stayed in Hell.”

Sam struggled against his brother’s strong grip, but whatever Shandon had done, had weakened him. Within minutes, he lay on the altar, strapped down with strong leather restraints. He pulled hard at them, but to no avail. He wasn’t going anywhere.

When the small, fragile seeming woman made the Sign of the Cross against Sam’s forehead and murmured, “In nomine patri, et fili, et spiritu sancti, amen,” pure electricity sliced through him and he jerked violently, crying out in pain.

That was when Sam realized that he was possessed and met Dean’s horrified gaze with one of his own.

*  *  *  *

It wasn’t until after Sam was bound on the table that Dean noticed the Devil’s Trap inlaid on the wooden floor. Really, he wouldn’t be surprised to find another, bigger one under the structure itself. Shandon sure seemed to know what she was doing.

Those white eyes turned to him and she said, “Now, your brother’s just got a little passenger along for the ride so it shouldn’t be too hard to get rid of it, though he’s not going to be happy about it. You just stand by in case I need some help.”

Dean fought with himself to stay where he was while the old woman performed the exorcism. The way Sam thrashed and moaned in what sounded like pure agony cut through him like a dull knife, but he knew it would go faster if he didn’t interrupt. He did wonder, though, about just what might be inside him if Sam was the lesser compromised of them. Did he have more than one demon? A higher-level one? Something else entirely that he didn’t want to know about?

The whole exorcism only took about twenty minutes, but it felt like an eternity until the black smoke left Sam in a rush to explode into nothing. Dean spared a glance for Shandon, noticing that she looked shaken and a little sweaty, but otherwise okay. His main focus, though, was on Sam, who simply lay unconscious on the altar.

“Now for the easy part,” Shandon sighed, moving to rummage through her spices and herbs.

Dean combed fingers through Sam’s damp, tangled hair and wanted nothing more than to untie his brother and haul him out of there. Shandon hadn’t said they were done, though, so he did nothing except touch gently and pray for the best.

Shandon returned a few minutes later with a handful of burning incense and sage packet, which she waved over Sam while murmuring in a language he didn’t know at all. It didn’t sound anything like Latin, so he hadn’t a clue what she was up to, especially since the possession was over. This continued for a good ten minutes with her going counter-clockwise around the altar, right until the sage and incense finished burning.

Instead of growing to a crescendo, the words just tapered off into a whisper and then stopped with the ash. Shandon blew over her hands and slapped them lightly together, brushing them so the dust and ash filtered into the air over Sam’s head.

Sam coughed and opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as he looked around. Dean stepped forward and his brother sighed in apparent relief, sinking back down on the altar. Then he frowned and looked over at Dean to ask, “Where are we?”

Alarmed, Dean rushed to his side and said, “Shandon Miller’s place, remember?”

“He won’t remember,” Shandon announced, sounding tired. “He won’t remember much for a few days and the memories immediately surrounding Hell will never come back because they’re no longer there. I cast them out, same as I would any other evil.”

Sam lifted frightened eyes to Dean and exclaimed, “Hell? What’s she talking about? Dean, your face! What happened?”

“Can I let him out?” Dean demanded.

Shandon nodded and he instantly unbuckled the thick leather straps. Sam rolled off the altar and into his arms, holding him tight and shaking in reaction to what had been done to him. Dean rubbed a hand up and down his brother’s back and waited for Sam to settle down a little. After a few minutes, he pulled back and cupped Sam’s face, telling him, “Contract came due, Sammy, but you brought me back. You went into Hell to get me. Unfortunately, we brought something back with us and Shandon over there took care of you. She exorcised you and took your memories.”

“But, why the memories?” Sam asked, confused.

Dean half-smiled and told him, “They weren’t anything we wanted to remember, trust me, Sammy. And now it’s my turn.”

Sam wouldn’t let him go, though, and questioned, “Your turn for what? Are you possessed too?”

Swallowing against his fear, Dean admitted, “I don’t know. I was in Hell for almost two hours, Sam. Whatever happened to me…well, time to deal with it. I want you to listen to Shandon, okay? Do whatever she says. No matter what, you got me?”

Still looking frightened, Sam nodded. “Okay, sure, Dean.”

Dean climbed onto the altar and Sam bound him with the restraints. He caught at Sam’s fingers with his own and whispered, “Sam?”

Sam immediately complied with the unspoken request, pressing a brief, hard kiss on Dean’s mouth and then curved a hand around the back of Dean’s head. “You’re going to be fine, Dean. I didn’t go down into Hell to lose you now.”

Letting out a shaky breath, Dean closed his eyes and said clearly, “I’m ready.”

*  *  *  *

Sam watched in a combination of worry and fascination as the old woman moved nimbly around her workshop. The altar was easily as old as she, maybe older with Celtic details etched into it, which made perfect sense given her name. “What are you doing?”

White eyes met his as Shandon answered, “Your brother…he’s a kind of human gateway right now and I need to close him down. If I don’t, five, ten years from now, something big will latch onto him and take him over. Don’t know what, exactly, but nothing we want hanging around.”

Sam immediately thought of Lilith and his stomach clenched even tighter.

“Plus, I need to get rid of his memories, too. No one needs to know what’s really down there in Hell, leastways two good boys like you. Now, you just set yourself down on that chair over there and don’t do anything to distract me. This’ll be hard enough without you jumpin’ all around,” she finished firmly.

Sam sat on the small wooden stool against the wall with the only window, feeling like he’d been sent to the corner. He wasn’t used to letting others do the fighting and it didn’t sit well with him. It didn’t matter than he didn’t know what spell or rite she was doing or in which language, though he assumed Celtic. This was his brother and he should be leading the charge.

She laid a heavy-looking ceramic necklace over Dean’s throat and kept murmuring in that unknown language. Dean went into convulsions at that and Sam tried to leap to his side only to discover he couldn’t move. He struggled in vain for a few minutes and then relaxed against the stool, gasping for air. All he could do was watch as Shandon waved incense over Dean and spoke in that lilting, soft language that slid like warm water down his back, soothing and tickly at once.

Speaking in tongues followed the convulsions and Dean screamed curses at Shandon, eyes rolling up in their sockets. Blood dripped onto the floor from where the leather cuffs had scraped away skin in Dean’s fight to free himself.

Shandon’s voice never rose above that quiet, steady tone no matter how loud Dean got. Once the incense burned down, she held Dean’s head down with surprising strength and forced him to drink from a crude, also ceramic mug. Dean spluttered and spat whatever it was back at her, but apparently drank enough to satisfy Shandon. The old woman put the mug aside and went back to waving incense over his brother and continuing her chanting.

Sam didn’t know how long the fight for Dean’s body and soul went on, but there were definite stages to the battle. Shandon stopped to rest at different times, calmly drinking water and eating dried fruit. She gave some to Sam, but he was too upset to eat. There was more speaking in tongues, more convulsions, more cursing, and one spine-cracking arch that made Sam wince and pray for no permanent damage to his brother’s body.

It was with the first rays of dawn that things finally ended. Dean looked right at Sam with utterly black eyes as he said in an altered voice, “I shall find another way,” and then collapsed without further movement.

“It’s about damn time,” Shandon sighed, wiping a shaking hand over her forehead. “Now for the memories.”

Sam watched, numb, as Shandon did whatever it was she did to get rid of the Hell memories from his brother. It was a surprisingly short time later that she smiled at him and said, “He’s all yours, Sam, take good care of him. You’re both good boys and important in ways you don’t know yet.”

Standing, released by a signal he obviously didn’t spot, Sam walked towards the altar just as she collapsed. He rushed to her side, but it was too late. There was no pulse when he touched her slender throat. Sam sighed in a mix of sadness and frustration. He was deeply grateful for what she’d done, but so very tired of people saying he that had a Destiny.

Shaking his head, Sam stood and began unbuckling Dean. The scar on his brother’s face still took him by surprise; it wasn’t an ugly scar, just unusual. A pale line circling over the cheek and down along the jawline. As he traced it, Dean’s eyes opened, startling him. Relieved at the normal green of his brother’s eyes, he smiled and greeted, “Hey.”

Dean blinked at him a few times and replied, “Hey. Where the hell are we?”

“No idea,” Sam answered. “Some woman named Shandon Miller was apparently exorcising demons we picked up down in Hell after your Contract came due. She’s dead, so she can’t fill in the blanks.”

Dean snorted, observing, “Figures I’d go to Hell and come back with some kind of STD.”

Sam frowned at him. “That’s not funny.”

“Soul transmitted demon? Sure it is,” Dean quipped. “Now get me the hell loose.”

Rolling his eyes, Sam unbuckled the restraints and hissed at the damage done to his brother’s wrists.

“Yeah, hurts like a sonuvabitch, too,” Dean confirmed, slowly sitting up.

Sam put his arm around Dean’s waist and helped him off the altar.

Dean looked down at Shandon and shook his head. “Nope. Don’t remember her at all.”

“She took our memories, too.”


Leaning on him, Dean sighed and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

“What about…”

“We’ll call the cops after we’re gone.”

Sam nodded and helped Dean the out of the shed. They were immediately pounced on by a small white dog who yipped at them insistently before rushing into the shed. He looked back and found the little thing nudging at Shandon and whimpering. Glancing back at his brother prompted Dean to exclaim, “Not a chance! I’m not the kinda guy who owns a yippy dog!”

“We can’t just leave it,” Sam countered. “It’s our fault his owner died!”

Dean groaned and said, “Fine. But if it pees in the Impala, your ass is grass.”

Sam entered the shed and picked up the dog, who immediately burrowed against him, shaking. He pet it soothingly and followed Dean to the Impala out front, not really surprised when his brother tossed the keys at him. Dean looked wan and paler than he should, not to mention his wrists were still sticky with blood. They would have to stop at the first hotel they found to get cleaned up.

Or, that was his plan until he saw a town sign and realized they were in Topeka, exclaiming, “I bet Missouri sent us here! We’re not that far from her.”

Dean snored in response.

Looking over, Sam grinned at the sight of Dean zonked out, mouth open, with the dog curled up asleep on his lap. He snickered and pulled out his cell to take a picture and then called Missouri.

*  *  *  *

Sam was really tired by the time they got to Missouri’s home; as in worried he might fall asleep at the wheel, tired. He pulled up to her curb with relief and put the Impala in park, leaning his head back on the headrest. What felt like only a second later, someone tapped on his window and he jerked awake to find Missouri standing outside the car. He reached over and shook Dean awake before climbing out and rubbing his eyes.

“Oh, honey. You look ready to drop,” she greeted, shaking her head. “Come on in now and get some real sleep.”

He wound up pulling Dean from the car, passing the dog to Missouri first and then putting Dean’s arm over his shoulder and lifting. His brother grunted, but didn’t really wake as he took some of his own weight, letting Sam control the trajectory. They followed Missouri inside and upstairs to her guest room where Sam let Dean fall onto the bed and then pushed his brother’s legs onto it.

“You get some sleep yourself now, Sam,” Missouri admonished. “I called friends to help with Shandon.”

Nodding, he crawled onto the bed and flopped down next to Dean. The next time he opened his eyes, it was still light out, but he was alone in the bed. A look at the clock showed that it was 8:13 a.m. Frowning, he pushed upright and climbed off the bed, leaving the room to find the bathroom. After taking care of business and splashing some water on his face, he wandered downstairs to find Dean and Missouri talking quietly at the kitchen table.

Dean looked his way with a grin as he greeted, “There you are, princess! I was about to put ice down your drawers to wake you up.”

Sitting at the table, Sam yawned and accused, “You’ve had coffee.”

“Yes, yes I have. And damn fine coffee it was, too,” Dean confirmed.

Sam rested his head on the table and muttered, “I hate you.”

Dean’s hand slid over his back in a comfortable gesture. “Sure you do. Here, have some caffeine.”

Sitting back up, Sam took the mug and sipped at it, surprised to find it with just the right amount of sugar and milk. He glanced at Dean, but his brother just winked and asked, “What happened while I was out of it?”

Sam scrubbed fingers through his hair and thought a second, trying to put together what he could remember. His mind felt jumbled, disturbingly empty other than waking up on the altar and after. “She said that you’d become some kind of doorway that something big could get through years down the road. She put you through some kind of Celtic ritual and at the end, something said…it said that it would find another way. To do what, I don’t know. Then Shandon got rid of your memories, told me we were both important and collapsed without explaining how or to who.”

Dean scowled at the last part, not that Sam blamed him.

Missouri asked, “Did she say anything else?”

Sam shook his head. “No. Well, she called us ‘good boys,’ but that was it. Why? Is it important?”

“Anything could be,” Missouri answered, shrugging. “But we’ll work on that a little later. For now, it’s time for breakfast. Who’s hungry?”

Suddenly realizing that he was starving, Sam answered emphatically, “I am.”

“Damn skippy,” Dean agreed.

Missouri slapped Dean upside the back of the head on her way to the stove. “No cursing in my house!”

Rubbing his head, Dean muttered, “Sorry.”

Sam hid a grin and drank more of his coffee. His cell rang and he picked it up to find Bobby on the ID. Surprised, he met Dean’s curious gaze and answered, “Hey, Bobby.”

“Sam? What’s going on? Are you boys okay? What happened once you got to Missouri’s?”

Realizing that they must’ve seen Bobby before heading to Missouri’s house, Sam answered, “We’re fine. Missouri sent us to a friend of hers who took care of the problem.”

“So, no more memories?”

“No. Not so far anyhow. Actually, neither of us remembers anything back to before the Contract came due,” Sam told him, lifting his eyebrows at Dean, who nodded confirmation. “Did we stop by your place?”

Bobby paused and said, “You came here to crash and heal up over a month ago. Spent the last three weeks going to PT and getting back to full speed.”

Sam frowned and asked, “And you never saw any hint that I was possessed by a demon?”

“Possessed!” Bobby exclaimed. “Sam, first thing the two of you did was drink down half a bottle of holy water each!”

Shocked by the revelation, Sam didn’t know how to respond.

Dean plucked the phone from his hand and asked, “What’s going on, Bobby? Yeah? Huh. Sure, I get that. Will do.”

Missouri set a plate in front of Sam with, “Eat up, honey. You’re too skinny.”

But Sam kept his gaze on Dean, waiting for the punchline.

“Bobby says he’s got nothin,’” Dean said, shrugging and putting the cell on the table. “All demons get noticed with holy water. He’s never heard otherwise. It’s like, Cardinal Rule.”

Which Sam knew, of course. “But how does that explain…”

Dean cut in, “Means it must not have been a demon.”

“But what could it have been?” Sam asked, breaking out in goosebumps. Bad enough to have a demon riding shotgun, but something else? Something they didn’t know? Not even something Sam wanted to think about.

Dean gripped his shoulder and stated flatly, “It’s gone now, so it doesn’t matter.”

“But Dean, what if I’m more susceptible to ow!” Sam exclaimed at Missouri’s slap to his head.

She glared at him and announced, “No ‘what if’s’ at my table. It leads to indigestion, which is an insult to my cooking. Now eat, boy!”

Chastened, Sam picked up his fork. He wasn’t scared of Missouri, not really, but he had no intention of taking Dean’s spot as her least favorite, either.

Breakfast was quiet with everyone seemingly engrossed in their own thoughts. Sam couldn’t get over the idea that something potentially worse than a demon had apparently been inside him without anyone the wiser. Was he more susceptible to possession because of the demon’s blood? Should he redo the tattoo to make sure it couldn’t happen again? Or did the tattoo only work against demonic and spirit possession?

Okie dokey! Time for us to head out,” Dean announced abruptly.

Startled, Sam looked over at his brother and asked, “Why?”

Dean shrugged, “No reason to stick around, is there? We’re memory free, possession and gateway free, up to full strength, and I, at least, am rarin’ to go.”

Sam rolled his eyes, but Dean was right. There wasn’t any pressing need to stay at Missouri’s any longer. Or return to Bobby’s for that matter. Their lives were their own again and they could do whatever they wanted. There was no Yellow-Eyed Demon, the Contract was over and there wasn’t anything to be done about Lilith. Suddenly feeling lost with no quest or vengeance to drive him, Sam gave his brother a helpless look.

Standing, Dean said, “Thanks for everything, Missouri, but we should make tracks.”

She nodded, also getting to her feet. “That sounds like a good idea. Now, you say hello to your folks for me on the way out of town and take care of yourselves.”

Sam stood as she gave Dean a hug and then got one himself. He returned the embrace with affection and pulled back with a smile and a sincere, “Thank you.”

Missouri patted his face and told him, “Anytime, honey. Oh, but you might want to slow down a bit next time.”

“Slow down?” he repeated, mystified.

A slight smile surfaced as she clarified softly, “Dean might be all spitfire and vinegar up front, but underneath all that bluster, I think a romantic waits to be coaxed out.”

Sam blushed instantly, all the way to his ears, and coughed. “Ah, right. Okay.”

She laughed, a warm, mischievous sound.

*  *  *  *

Dean hadn’t even realized that he’d been thinking of his parents until Missouri brought it up. It made sense. It was the first time they actually had time to honor their dead in over a year. Not since the encounter with the zombie, other than their dad’s funeral pyre. He pulled into the cemetery and climbed out of the Impala, wincing at the pull on his freshly wrapped wrists. Sam trailed behind him to their mother’s gravesite, strangely quiet as they walked, obviously still caught up in thoughts of what had happened and blaming himself for it.

He stared down at the simple headstone while Sam began some simple pruning, cleaning up the area immediately around it. Dean stayed silent for a few minutes and then asked, “What do you think about getting Dad a marker?”

Sam gave him a startled look, asking, “You want to?”

Dean shrugged, uncomfortable. “It’d be nice, right? Isn’t that what kids do? Make sure both parents have markers?”

Standing, Sam put an arm around Dean’s waist and rested his chin on Dean’s shoulder as he answered, “I think it’s a great idea.”

They stood there a few minutes before Dean asked, “So, where next?”

“Where do you want to go?” Sam countered. “Like you said, we’re pretty much free of everything right now.”

The casual tone didn’t fool Dean one bit. He knew just how panicked his brother had been on realizing that they had nothing to do and nowhere they needed to be. Leaning on Sam a little, he questioned, “You want to go back to school?”

Sam jerked upright, eyes wide as he demanded, “What?”

Dean shrugged, pointing out, “Why not? Mom and Dad are at rest, now. I’m out of trouble. You should go back to school.”

Sam’s gaze narrowed at him and he stated, “I’m not going anywhere without you, Dean. You are stuck with me for the rest of our lives.”

“Who said anything about without me? I could totally do the surfer thing,” Dean retorted, grinning to hide his relief.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right. Look. Let’s just get some lunch and look through the local papers to see if there are any hunts around.”

Dean guided Sam back towards the car and countered, “How about we take a few days off and recover from the whole loss of memory thing first? Find a nice hotel with a pool, hang out, order room service, dirty up the bed a little…”

Laughing, Sam shook his head. “You’re not funny.”

“Sure I am,” Dean declared.

As they parted ways at the car, Dean looked back towards the gravesite and stopped short. For a second, and it had to be a trick of the light, he could’ve sworn that he’d seen two shadows above the headstone. Two very familiar shadows.


Shaking it off, Dean finished walking around to the driver’s side of the car. As he did, though, he couldn’t help but feel better about everything in general. It was almost as though they’d gotten some kind of parental blessing, as stupid as that sounded, even to himself. Dean kept it to himself as he started the Impala and put it in drive while keeping his foot on the brake. He looked over at Sam. “Ready to go, Sammy?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I really am,” Sam agreed, taking his hand.

Dean winked at him and drove out of the cemetery to parts unknown.

Next story in series - Rites.