Dean walked to the backdoor of the warehouse, silent as ever, but with bright alertness. He loved that part of his work. The adrenaline was running high, all of his senses were at their most shrewd and his brother was waiting a few feet away, ready to pounce if the thief tried to run. His eyes met one of Sam's (he should really get a haircut, the guy looked like Bobby's old English sheepdog, half-blinded by his bangs and large as a small house) in the semi-darkness and he saw the small nod. It was all he needed before working the door open.

It was difficult to walk. The place was cramped and the only light came from one of the corners. A shadow was obscuring it. Dean smiled. This job was one of the easiest... Well it had taken some time to find any lead and once again they had to ask for the police help, using the totally-fake-but-totally-convincing FBI's badge that was tucked away in his pocket. It was astounding how just wearing a good-looking suit helped with the charade. They had gotten a lead, then a name, Ruby, and after a harsh look-around, they were ready to take action.

The gun he pressed against her neck was a very real one, not FBI issued but terribly effective and discreet. Ruby tried to shake him away and they struggled for a while until Sam came to his rescue. Dean was panting, angry but amazed too, to meet a woman that strong. He was about to make a comment about that when he saw Sam's eyes open up wide:

"Kristy?"

The good part was that "Ruby/Kristy" stopped fidgeting, staring back at Sam with the same shocked eyes. The bad part was that Dean had no idea whatsoever who that girl was and that was weird. Had she met Sam in college? It was about the only time the brothers had been apart.

He smirked :Not that I want to interrupt your class reunions, guys, but we have a painting to find, remember Sam?"

Ruby turned to him, frowning but Dean barely paid attention.

Sam's neck was reddening and he was looking very embarrassed:

"It's not... We didn't..." Sam was full blushing now.

Dean barked "You didn't what? Who's this girl Sammy? And why do you look like you're about to pee on the carpet?"

His brother's expression thankfully turned to one of his usual bitch face. Dean felt more in his element but then he heard a laugh:

"Oh, come on, Sam... You didn't tell your old brother here what happened? Too ashamed for that?"

Thankfully for him, Dean was cautious and didn't let Ruby take advantage of his confusion to flee. In fact, he crushed her hands as tight as he could, feeling an undefined anger build in his chest:

"Sam, come on, what's going on?"

Finally he got an answer and he didn't like it:

"Remember the Vermeer case...?"

Oh God, yes, Dean remembered. They had found where the painting was, like the awesome private detectives they were (in the art scene they were even referred as "hunters" who always got their prey, or masterpiece, rather) and Bam! Everything had gone to shit as someone else had stolen the painting before they got to it.

Sami was still talking, all guilty-looking and annoyed, while Ruby smirked:

"I might have told Kristy about it..."

"You told an art thief about a stolen painting?"

"No, I told a waitress..."

"Of course, you fucking spend your time in bars blabbering about our cases! Like I'd believe that!"

Sami looked down and mumbled defensively:

"Not at the bar, no... In her bed..."

Ruby was gloating now:

"Best sale I ever made. I went on a grand vacation after that. Plus it was a nice lay, which is always a fine bonus."

She said the last with a poorly disguised wink in Sam's direction. Dean saw the wink and didn't know which one he wanted to hit more at that moment. He took a deep steadying breath and managed to utter a professional:

"We're not here to discuss the past. Crowley is getting impatient, let's hurry."

It was as if someone had ripped away the woman's smile. Her pupils were blown and her breathing fast:

"Crowley? What about him?"

Sam replied coldly:

"I don't know, Ruby... Maybe the fact that you stole from him? He is mighty pissed and is paying us good money. You'd better hand it now."

"Hand what?"

"Don't play dumb, sweetie" Dean growled, feeling in charge of the situation once again "You know what we're talking about. Where is it?"

If the witnesses and the lead hadn't been so damning, Dean would have hesitated. The girl had to be a consummate liar in addition to her seducing venom, but she sounded sincere as she cried to his brother:

"I didn't take anything from Crowley, I'm not crazy! The guy's a creep... I heard he tortured a thief that was trying to rob his mansion."

Nevertheless, Dean and Sam looked for the painting. Hard. It wasn't anywhere and Ruby wouldn't tell who she had sold it to. So Dean decided to act on her fear to get her to confess:

"Let's take her to Crowley. That way he'll know we found her and there's a good chance she'll talk."

Sam wasn't convinced:

"I don't know Dean... What if she's really innocent?"

It was Dean's turn to give him a bitch face and he was sure he had managed a nice one:

"Yeah, right, defend your girlfriend, Sam."

They yelled at each other all through the drive to Crowley's place, sending the usual insults, but this time there was no playfulness behind them. Dean felt fucking betrayed. Sam was intelligent and tough and for him to fall into that kind of trap... He even thought about threatening to talk to Jess about it (He didn't say it aloud. There were lines you didn't cross. Sam hadn't cheated on his fiancée, it had taken place years before they met.) just as they parked next to the pretentious gate.

The room they were in offered a striking contrast with Ruby's hiding place. Even the walls were covered with luxurious drapes and they were art pieces everywhere you looked. It made Dean want to walk away fast. Too ostentatious, too tacky. It seemed Crowley was using his wealth as a way to gain power and intimidate his visitors (Maybe because he wasn't impressive himself. Dean felt better in his presence because the man was smaller than him so he didn't feel as dwarfed by his own little brother). There was a pair of velvet curtains that Dean could have used to cover a king size bed and he would still have plenty left.

Crowley looked like a cat with cream all over his ugly mug. He was eyeing Ruby with his tongue licking his lips and Dean took a step back, taking the art thief with him. He didn't play that kind of game. Their team was clean even though they work a little outside the law. There were two goons next to the man, like demon watchdogs, not moving a muscle and yet terribly threatening.

But Dean just focused on his client, explaining they hadn't found anything:

"You need us to find out who bought it? It's gonna cost you extra, Crowley."

But the tycoon shook his head slowly:

"Must be out of the country now. You guys aren't as good as I've been told, it seems. Took you too long. But I'm a man of my word so I'll write your check."

"Right and we take her away too."

Crowley shot his hands in the air:

"Sure! A nice pair of legs, hey Dean? I'll leave her into your capable hands."

The wink that followed made Dean feel dirty, even though the idea of sleeping with one of his brother's ex hook-ups had never entered his mind.

Crowley came and handed the check to Sammy who looked thoughtful, turning the paper over and over. He spoke in a low voice that made Dean shiver

"I don't get it. You sounded enraged and horrified that your painting had been stolen and now, just like that, you're over it."

He stole a glance at Ruby, then added:

"Unless the insurance money is more interesting... Did it really get stolen? I'd rather check. Maybe it's still in the house somewhere..."

Dean acted fast, all on instinct. He released his grip on Ruby, letting her go, then ducked behind a curtain. He just had the time to see Sam being shot in the chest. The "No" he let out brought the attention of Crowley's men. Next there was a white flash.

He didn't remember what happened after that, just that he found himself outside, limping and sobbing hard. "Sammy..." His brother hated that nickname but now Dean wished he could hear his brother bitch about it. He could still see the blood when he closed his eyes. Sam had fallen down in silence.

He had no idea where Ruby was, nor where he was parked but he kept on walking until a hand fell on his shoulder:

"Are you okay?"

Dean collapsed.

"I'm Agent Henriksen. Did you get shot?"

Dean groaned. Just his luck, a real federal agent. He nodded as he pondered whether to identify as just Dean Winchester or as agent Anderson. But the man kept talking:

"I heard about you and your partner looking at an art theft. I was curious why it was a federal business so I came to help."

But Dean didn't want to lie. If they were found out in fraud, they risked... he risked (oh fuck, it hurt to think about Sammy again...) too much. So he let the truth come out of his mouth, in small broken bursts, not caring much about the shock on the agent's face. He needed him to go investigate, arrest Crowley, or at least chase him. For Sammy. For revenge.

But it never happened. A phone rang and suddenly Dean was doomed. Crowley was calling for help. He had almost been murdered by two brothers, the Winchesters, who didn't hesitate to pass as FBI agents to get close to him. He had narrowly escaped, thanks to his brave body guards. Agent Henriksen looked torn. Dean felt like Ruby, desperately needing to be trusted and yet with his actions speaking against him. He felt weak too, ready to black out any minute. He sent a desperate look that he hoped would convey his innocence.

The other man acted fast. He grabbed Dean and led him away from the car lights. Once in the dark, he whispered:

"I don't like impersonators, but I hate men like Crowley. I had him under the radar for a while, I even thought you guys were secretly working on exposing him. But right now, you're a fugitive and it's his word against yours. You need medical help."

Dean ground his teeth. He couldn't feel his left leg anymore but he didn't think he was fatally wounded. Not like Sam... Dean felt a powerful rage run through him, urging him to hop back in the mansion, look for Sammy.

He focused, whispering:

"I'll manage. My brother was shot too, you got to find his... his body, before they get rid of it." He had just said "it" about his little brother... "I just need a safe place, please."

Henriksen sighed:

"I can't put you under FBI protection. Let me think for a second..."

Dean let him think. He was discreetly tossed in a car trunk. That's when he lost consciousness.

He had a fever now but he was pretty sure the posters with dogs and cats skeleton were real as was the man wearing a white blouse poking at his leg. He had a cloth in his mouth and recognized the situation. A rudimentary medical procedure. The guy must be a vet. He was good though and soon Dean felt slightly better. He dozed off till he was delivered like a beaten parcel to another guy. Dean could swear he could hear the sound of running waters. In his drug-induced state he vaguely heard:

"Thanks Castiel, be prudent."

Those were the last words he heard before he slept for a very long time. He slept on and on. It was way better than waking up and facing the god-awful truth: he didn't have a brother anymore.