Spoilers: Devil's Trap
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Kripke owns me.
Notes: Song title is from CCR's "Bad Moon Rising." This is an A/U . . . everything happened except the car crash.

With ridiculous amounts of gratitude to Faye and Kaly for their suggestions and proofing and encouragement and obsession-sharing! All mistakes are mine.

Looks Like We're in for Nasty Weather

They were running again – southwest and fast, not waiting for the cover of darkness. Not that it would have made a difference, but there was still some comfort in the old habits.

Considering who they had learned those habits from, though, the comfort was quickly growing cold and nebulous.

Dean drove, hands clenched at ten and two. Sam literally rode shotgun, the salt-loaded sawed-off resting on one knee with a finger curled around the trigger.

Sam's eyes met Dean's, wide but unflinching, and Dean sat a little straighter.



His foot pressed against the gas pedal and the speedometer needle crept further right.

They exited in Decatur, avoiding the truck stops in favor of a small, rundown motel a few miles off the highway. Sam grabbed the weapons bag and Dean had the salt out, ready to pour as soon as they had the key. He hovered outside of number 14, knowing Sam would request an end room close to the parking lot.

Dean stepped aside so Sam could open the door, both freezing as a figure emerged from the shadowed depths of the room.

"Hello, boys."

The figure cracked a smile that was welcoming for all the wrong reasons. Sam unshouldered the weapons bag and shot Dean a quick, sad look of apology as Dean uncapped the canister and poured a circle around them.

"Hey, Dad. Miss us?" Dean's mouth snaked into an almost-smile as Sam lifted the shotgun to aim at his father. Dean pulled the Colt from his waistband and raised his arm to join his brother's.

They thought they were finally safe – or if not safe, at least together, and that was more important. Neither of them realized the truth until they were at the cabin and it was nearly too late. After all, Sam had forced the issue with the holy water, even though Dean had not understood why at the time. Dad's reaction had been normal – Why are you splashing me with water, Sammy? – and they'd had bigger fish to fry. Like trying to climb out of the apartment without being captured by the two demon guards and trying to keep Sam from being beaten to death and trying to find a safe place where they could either hole up or make their stand.

But Dean had felt his hackles rise the moment John had asked for the gun.

If he were honest, he had known even before that. Praise was definitely not what he had expected for using one of the three precious bullets. Even as the words had smoothed over him like a balm against his self-recriminations, they'd rung false and hollow. He knew his father better than anyone; John would never have let him off the hook so easily.

Sam's stricken expression had mirrored Dean's. There was a moment of indecision and Dean couldn't help but be relieved when Sam stepped next to him.

That was the first time he or Sam had held a gun on their father. Before the night was over, they would each have a turn. Dean still couldn't regret that he hadn't pulled the trigger. Sam would spend nearly every day from that point forward wishing he had aimed for the heart.

The demon had vacated John's body in a rush of black energy and escaped, diving down through the floorboards. John had made his astonished disappointment – his betrayal – evident to Sam. But all Sam could hear was Dean whispering don't you do it, and all he could see was the man he still loved with all his heart, in spite of (because of?) everything.

They still had the gun and one last bullet. They'd find the demon again, and this time, there would be no hesitation. But for now, there were more pressing issues, like the blood that covered Dean everywhere and the bullet lodged in John's thigh and the fact that Sam had been seeing not just stars but whole constellations since early afternoon.

They made a rare triple appearance at the county hospital and spent the next two weeks licking their wounds and regrouping.

For a little while, everything seemed normal. Sam later felt, although he never said, that that should have been a dead giveaway.

The subtler signs had been there, if they'd wanted to see them. But it took a steady wave of visions for Sam to really understand. Dean hadn't wanted to be convinced, and though he knew better, Sam couldn't blame him. After all, Dad's possessed again were not words he had ever expected to use without a heavy dose of sarcasm and an accompanying dramatic eye roll.

Even before Dean could bring himself to agree, they'd protected themselves. Dean clung with dangerous tenacity to his illusions, but his father hadn't raised any fools. Holy water didn't work but salt's powers dated back to the beginnings of the earth. They made sure to never be without it.

Sam kept the Colt in the Impala's trunk and made sure the symbols didn't fade.

The signs turned less than subtle on another black night. Dean had come back from a dinner run to find his brother nearly choked to death, his neck squeezed between their father's heavy hands. Even through the litany of thisisnothappening, Dean felt his legs running back to the car, felt his hand slide around the Colt's narrow grip, heard himself screaming get out, you're not my father and let him go.

But he still couldn't pull the trigger.

It was Sam who saved them, whispering the binding spell through his bruised larynx and giving them time to escape. Dean grabbed his brother and pulled him free, Sam's hands and feet scrabbling against scarred wood as they backed out the door.

For the first time, they ran. Ran as if the hounds of hell were at their heels – because, this time, they really were.

Dean saw the truth in Sam's eyes but still couldn't accept it. We'll find a way, he said. Dad'll be all right, you'll see. And Sam saw beneath the words and didn't argue. It wouldn't have made a difference, and his voice was gone anyway.

Three days went by before the first message. Coordinates. North Dakota. Sam looked at Dean and Dean looked at Sam and they were on their way as soon as they could pack the car.

It couldn't really be a trap if they knew what was coming, but Dad had always found a way to surprise them. The poltergeist was real, the family average and terrified. He'd been waiting for them as soon as they'd finished the exorcism.

Facing the image of his father over the wrong end of the demon-killer didn't feel any better the third time around. Sam stood beside him, tense and coiled like a steel spring. Reined in. Ready. Dean's hand didn't shake as he pulled the trigger back by fractions of millimeters.

But at the last moment, Dean faltered. For an instant, that thing had disappeared and John's – the real John's – eyes had shone through, agonized and begging. Dean heard Sam's sharp gasp and felt his own breath leave him. His aim wavered and the gun returned slowly to his side.

John stood before them, his hands open in supplication. When neither son moved toward him, he slumped, gaze sliding to the floor. A combination of hatred and smugness marked the features of Dad-who-wasn't when he raised his eyes to them again.

Dean felt himself start to move, flung toward the wall, and knew that it was over. They would not be allowed to escape again. If he were honest, part of him didn't even want to. But at the last moment, his movement paused and his direction changed, pulling him out the door.

His body at last his own to control again, Dean looked to find his brother standing beside him.

Dean heard a laugh, mirth tinged with brimstone, and the voice that was not their father's boomed behind them.

"Not bad, Sammy. Not bad."

Sam was wide-eyed and pale, his hand reaching out to Dean, turning him. "Run. I can't hold on much longer."

Run they did, stumbling and sliding as they sprinted to the car. Dean floored the gas pedal before Sam's door was even shut. Miles sped beneath them with no other sounds but harsh breathing and the groan of the engine as it was pushed to its limit.

Sam was still shaking, his skin waxy and damp and when Dean asked him if he was okay, he only blinked and jutted his chin forward. They didn't stop until they hit the Montana border.

They fortified the room with every ward they could think of – salt and runes and burnt herbs and protection spells in three dead languages. They turned on all the lights and kept their boots on, weapons at the ready and poised for battle. The beds sat untouched as they kept watch, backs to the wall.

Sam felt Dean's eyes on him and answered his unasked question. "I don't know how it happened. I just wanted us out of there."

Dean stared for a moment and then nodded. "Works for me."

It didn't come after them again – not that night.

Instead, weeks passed. They were jumpy, off-balance, out of synch. True sleep became a foreign thing, and it wasn't unusual for one to wake and find the other walking sentry or researching again. Looking for answers. Looking for solutions.

It was wearing them down.

By the fourth week, Dean couldn't look Sam in the eye. Sam let it go for a day or two and then quietly rose from his bed to stand before his brother, who was watching the door with intent.

"It's not your fault."

Dean almost didn't acknowledge him, suddenly finding his gun barrel more than interesting. Sam didn't budge.

"I should have let you shoot him."

"It's not your fault."

Dean did look at him then, his eyes bright and haunted. "Why can't I let him go?"

Sam leaned in, pressing his forehead to Dean's and saying nothing. Dean stood rigid for a long moment, and then sighed. He pressed gently back and then moved away.

Neither of them slept that night.

They were outside Columbus in the middle of a plowed-over field of winter wheat, searching for the last of a score of mutilated cows, when Sam stilled. He nudged Dean's shoulder and reached for his gun.

"What is it?"

Sam didn't answer, but kept scanning, seeking.

Then, at last, "He's here."

Dean threw a sharp glance his way and Sam focused on him, enunciating carefully. "I can feel him."

Dean felt the breath leave his lungs as the air around them plunged from cold to freezing. The Colt was in the Impala, secured in the magic lockbox of a trunk.

"Can you – "

"I don't know." Sam was shaking again.

And then, he was there.

"Got caught with your pants around your ankles this time, didn't you, boys?"

It took every ounce of control they had not to flinch at the sound of that voice, at the sight of those eyes, at the knowledge that their father was still a prisoner.

Dean felt something – a frisson of air swirling over his skin – and the demon laughed. The weapons were wrenched away and strewn at their feet.

"Parlor tricks won't work this time, Sammy."

Sam felt a sudden burst of pain push its way from the base of his skull and whiteness covered his vision. He swayed, putting a hand out to Dean to keep himself from falling. Dean grabbed his elbow and held on.

"Come on, kiddo. You really didn't think I'd fall for that twice, did you?"

Dean could feel Sam panting under the strain of whatever – nonono – the demon was doing to him. Bile crept up Dean's esophagus as his organs remembered what those demon fingers had felt like, twisting his insides and making him bleed. Knowing it was happening to Sam this time was even worse.

Sam felt Dean's grip tighten and he willed himself to keep standing.

"Haven't figured it out yet, have you, Psychic Boy? I really gave you far too much credit. You're mine. And your brother's dead. And there's nothing either of you can do about it."

Corkscrews of pain burrowed into Sam's temples, so intense he couldn't see. Dean watched Sam's nose start to bleed and felt the pressure building in his own chest, and for the third time in his life, he knew raw fear.

"You thought you could save dear old Daddy? You thought you could defeat me?"

Sam was shaking so hard that he could barely keep his feet and Dean could feel the blood in the back of his own throat, its new-penny taste overwhelming.

The demon laughed as though mocking them, their family, their lives, was its true and greatest joy. "You're too weak. Separately, you're pitiable. But together – you're pathetic. All this twisted love of family and sacrificing yourselves for each other. You've made it so easy."

He was so close now he could have touched them. It was only a matter of time.

Sam let himself go limp, falling away from Dean and ignoring Dean's panicked shout. Somehow, the shotgun that had been tossed away from them found Sam's hand and he was firing. Twin explosions and the demon lurched, John's body stuttering in mid-step before it fell. A horrible, inhuman sound filled the air, torturous against their ears, and they watched their father's body writhe.

Once again, they ran, Dean half-dragging a Sam whose legs all but refused to cooperate.

They collapsed on the front seat of the car. Dean spun the tires, speeding half a mile in reverse before he reached a decent turnaround.

They didn't stop until the car was nearly out of gas. Sam was a wreck – his face bloody, his skin drawn and translucent. His vision had returned, but he couldn't speak, could barely hold his head up. He fisted his hands in his jeans to try and calm the tremors.

Dean was scarcely better. Like Sam, his face was bloody. It coated his tongue and the corners of his mouth and he could feel the thickness of it in his windpipe. His chest ached and every time he breathed, a band seemed to tighten across it. He wouldn't draw a full breath for days after.

They limped into the motel room, the manager's suspicious gaze following them, each dropping to his respective mattress as soon as the door was locked.

Silence reigned, but it wasn't easy or peaceful. Dean waited for Sam to break it, but when he met Sam's eyes, he realized that Sam was waiting for him. Still, words failed him.

Sam sighed and rolled back on the bed, his body too tired to hold him up anymore. Dean wanted to pace but lacked the energy so he settled for twisting a pillow in his hands and watching his brother shiver.

"I know," Dean began, and Sam nodded. It wasn't encouragement but acknowledgement. At this point, there was really nothing else that Dean could say. He was finally ready to do what needed to be done.

For the next two days they rested, gathering strength and making a plan.

On the third day, they rose before the sun and headed out.

"Hello, boys."

The figure cracked a smile that was welcoming for all the wrong reasons. Sam unshouldered the weapons bag and shot Dean a quick, sad look of apology as Dean uncapped the canister and poured a circle around them.

"Hey, Dad. Miss us?" Dean's mouth snaked into an almost-smile as Sam lifted the shotgun to aim at his father. Dean pulled the Colt from his waistband and raised his arm to join his brother's.

Sam could feel Dean hesitate beside him, his body tense and coiled like a steel spring. Reined in. Ready.

He waited, holding his breath, and then finally felt Dean shift. "Bye, Dad."

Dean aimed for the heart.