"Does it matter?" Sam challenged in the back room of the bunker, where he and Crowley were speaking alone.

"Course it does," said the demon with pinched brows. "Who is it affecting? For how long? How powerful was the hex?"

"Just give us a reversal spell or something, Crowley. You know all these factors don't actually mean anything."

The infamous King of Hell smiled. "You know how I work, Sam. Information is my currency. There are no catch-all reversal spells. Either you let me see this unfortunate bastard, or I head off to attend to my own business. I'm not indebted to you boys."

Cas got up from this seat as the two of them entered, while Dean stayed resolutely still, likely resigned to whatever was in store.

"It's always something or other with the Winchesters and their angel, isn't it?" Crowley mused as he took in the main room. It felt almost unsanitary to have allowed a demon to roam the more frequented areas of their bunker, but there hadn't been any other options.

"Sam, what is he doing here?" Cas asked in a stage whisper.

Before anyone could do much of anything, the demon whistled and snapped his fingers the way a dog owner normally would. Eventually, Dean padded over, but not without a low growl. "Not very friendly, are you, mate? And where might Squirrel be?" As an awkward silence filled the air, he produced a grin. "Right. Does anyone know who did this to our favourite angel colluder?"

Sam breathed in deeply at the mention of what caused his and Dean's split in the first place. There was no point in telling Crowley to shut the hell up, since that only served to encourage his sadistic side. "Look, I've already told you—we don't know anything. Can you help us, or do you plan to stay here and waste the bunker's oxygen?"

The demon sighed. "Yeh, yeh, keep biting the hand that feeds you." He touched a hand to the top of Dean's head, and without anyone being given the chance to move, Sam and Cas were left alone in the bunker.

"Fuck!" Sam took a step forward. "Dammit. I can't believe…" Castiel tilted his head in worry as Sam made his way towards grabbing a jacket. Crowley wasn't about to get away with taking Dean and disappearing. "I should have killed him long ago. I'll murder that son of a bitch!"

"Sam," the angel said, soft but insisting.

He'd just been reaching for keys when a voice piped up from behind. "Hope that satisfies." The younger Winchester whirled around to see Dean, who was back to normal, alongside a winking King of Hell. "Cheers."

In the blink of an eye, Crowley had disappeared. Dean patted himself down and then looked up with a grin, as if he, too, was having a hard time believing that it'd be fixed just like that. Though, his smile began to fade as he made eye contact with Sam. The two brothers held each others' gaze like that for a while in unpleasant fashion, since neither wanted to be the one that glanced away. Eventually Castiel cleared his throat. "It's good to have you back, Dean."

Dean made a quick smile that silently thanked Cas while he strolled up to the table, overlooking the papers and books which had been scattered everywhere throughout the last couple of days. He caught Sam having turned to him, watching his movements, but even after all he'd seen of Sam's struggle as he hunted "alone", Dean hadn't expected to be swooped into a bone-crushing hug.

Sam gripped the material on the back of his jacket for a few prolonged seconds, his chin nestled into Dean's collarbone so that it almost tickled, and the eldest hesitated to say anything due to the mass of hair brushing against his right cheek. But his younger brother probably didn't want to discuss it right now, anyways. They both knew that Dean had overheard enough while he was transformed to recognize exactly how Sam had felt during the separation, and it hadn't been the gushy girlfriend type of wishing that the other person would return and you could make up. Nonetheless, both Sam and Cas had been through a recent scare, and Dean wasn't about to scorn his brother for appreciating his company again. Though he'd left entirely of his own accord, there'd been vehemnance in Sam's voice which served to cement his resolve.

He'd been an idiot. His only hope was that Sam felt the same way, and they moved on—together. Hunting together.

Dean returned the embrace for a moment, before the younger of the two pulled away. "I-I thought you weren't getting back to me because you just… really hated me or something." Sam smiled slightly, but his gaze reflected the true feelings those memories evoked. "I should have done something sooner."

He waved it off. "Don't get all sappy on me. I got myself into the mess."

His brother grinned a bit past the obvious flush of emotion. "You really scared us for a second."

Cas had inched around to Sam's side, as if trying to slide his way into a group circle. Which reminded him… "Where's the car?" If he knew anything about punk teenagers and car mechanics, his baby would still need a lot of tuning up.

OOOOO

Things seemed easy while he fixed up the Impala's various small issues, feeding into the facade of the siblings getting along quite well again if they only discussed what groceries to grab or which tools should be replaced. He would have liked to continue patching things up without the worry of what lurked outside the bunker—or the growing feel of unrest and another one of Sam's pissy explosions. Everything felt easy at the moment, but nothing remains lax for long.

"Hey," Sam greeted as he entered the garage, his voice slightly muffled while Dean remained under the car to tweak some stuff. "Remember that case I mentioned, with the 'ghost caught on film'?"

He grunted a response.

"Well, it doesn't look like anyone's picked it up. There was a second death while we tore up the library, and the leaked security footage shows the same kind of ghoul… except that it's at an entirely different location, attacking an unrelated victim."

Dean took Sam's expectant silence with a sigh and rolled out from under the Impala. "And you want me to come with?"

"Of course," was the reply, though its accompanying tone was uncertain.

He stood up to collect tools littering the surrounding area and shut the hood after one more inspection. "Those kids handled the bulk of the damage pretty well. There's just a bit of touching up left."

"So she's good to go?" Sam asked quietly, calling the car by "she" as though it would better convince him to take the job.

"Cas drove her all the way back. I sure hope so." He shrugged. "I can load up for a ghoul hunt. You positive the girl's photo wasn't edited? It could just be, y'know, some axe murderer."

Sam seemed to mull it over for a second, but he couldn't contain the hint of a grin. "It's possible that someone orchestrated this on paw-pose."

Breathe in, breathe out, make a bitch face, and carry on wiping your hands with a worn rag as if your brother didn't just make the same pun for a third time today. "Bite me. Nobody catches a ghost on film."

"Mutt as well confurm it."

This had become so bad that even Cas had made an attempt at it once when they passed each other in the library, scouring for information on witch gangs or something of the sort to find the identity of the red-haired witch, though they never ended up successful. Needless to say, the angel's endeavors to make a proper pun hadn't worked out so far.

Some time later, the brothers were on their way to deal with a simple hunt. No new leads were cropping up about either demon or angel armies, nor had the leaders of such left anything to follow on their whereabouts. And so they had hopped in the Impala, driving off to yet another small town plagued with a killer—whether it was a supernatural entity had not yet been determined.

Sam finished his call with the local police, having set a time to review footage and confiscated items from the crime scenes. "Alright, there's been nothing new. As for motives, they've already dug through the deceased's list of contacts, and there's been no woof."

Dean ground his jaws together. "Would you cut that out? I can't even understand you anymore."

"Sorry. But you did bring it on yourself."

"I don't remember asking for some cheap puns you found on the internet."

"I mean, yeah, but not only did you take her hexbag, you invited a witch inside the house with you—alone, without equipment. What did you think was gonna happen?"

He tilted his head a bit and stayed resolutely fixated on the road. "I'll tell you what—I didn't expect to be left in the middle of nowhere while my car gets totalled." His anger at being pestered day and night with questions, "war" plans, and bad jokes morphed into a tired acceptance. "Good thing I had someplace to go, huh?"

"You looked like shit when I found you."

"Yeah, well, you try being a dog for a while. Ain't fun."

Trees passed them in the blink of an eye, their current location far removed from any kind of street sign or stoplight. The painted lines along the road were worn almost to invisibility and bled into one stream as they sped past, some things hidden under shadow, and others lit up in the fiery red of morning. "Euh," Sam shivered. "I don't want to try imagining it. And, uh, if I gave you a hard time during that… I didn't mean to."

Dean stole a glance towards his brother, nefariously smirking. "Those times you wanted to make a call—did you actually miss me?"

"I—" Sam frowned like he'd tasted something foul. "When did I mention wanting to call you?"

"Aw, c'mon, you played with that phone more than you played with your hair."

"I don't play with... Okay, yeah, I wanted a partner. You were being really petty and you know it."

Petty? "You gave me that big speech in the church and then tried to go dying on me." One hand came off the steering wheel to emphasize his points. "Then when I save your ass, you get all pissed off. I figured if you're acting like a chick, might as well treat you like one and give you some space."

"You tricked me into doing something against my will-!"

Sam was flicking his hair in a classically indignant way when Dean held up a hand. The car fell into silence for a minute, the radio having been off while they were making calls, and now with both brothers stewing in their resentments. Sam's gaze found its way to staring down the passing bushes with a ferocity, while Dean kept a steady practice of checking the mirrors and keeping the car's course from wavering. "I did some pretty dumb stuff. I know that," Dean admitted. "But overall, I'm pretty proud of how that ghost case turned out. You were so lost in that apartment without me…"

"Ha. You should have seen your face after visiting the vet's," Sam fired back.

They traded looks in unison, each trying to determine what the other was hinting at as they sped down a country road long forgotten.


A/N:

Sam: 0_0

Dean: 0_0

Cas: *coughs awkwardly*

Hey everyone! Hope you enjoyed the little adventure. Dean wouldn't have wanted to get any dog hair on his Baby, but he's back at it again now. ;) I had more ideas for this, but ended up reducing the whole thing down to only about ten thousand words after self-doubt began creeping in. If you'd like to see a second part to this, or you had critique, I'd love to hear about it as a review! (and thank you Wildfire's Flame, Blondie 20000, Black Fungus, and Shazza 19 for even more reviews) ^-^

Thanks for reading, everyone!