Title: Misery Loves Company

Rating: Adult

Warning: Language, sex and violence. Non-consensual sex acts. Incest. Emotional torture. Hurt! Sam. Misuse of literature. Sam/Jess, Sam/Not!Dean and Sam/Dean. Pre-series, so there are no spoilers.

Summary: Sam becomes entangled in a curse that will use what he loves most to destroy him. Completely cut off from everyone who can help him, he struggles to find his way free.

This story is the sequel to Not Against Their Will Do Brave Youths Ride . While Not Against Their Will Do Brave Youths Ride was primarily a story about Sam and Jess with elements of Sam and Dean, Misery Loves Company is primarily a story about Sam and Dean with elements of Sam and Jess. Take that as you will.

Notes: My beautiful wifey kkscatnip is to be thanked for performing betaing duties.

All errors of myth, grammar or structure are mine.

Also, I really love feedback of all stripes. But who doesn't?

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Misery Loves Company

Let not thy divining heart

Forethinke me any ill,

Destiny may take thy part,

And may thy feares fulfill;

But thinke that wee

Are but turn'd aside to sleepe;

They who one another keepe

Alive, ne'r parted bee.

-John Donne

Yokohama, Japan

The phone rang at five minutes before two in the fucking morning, and it was all Shelly could do not to kill it. Too bad she needed the thing.

"Moshi moshi," she hissed into the line, saying just by tone that this better be fucking good. Better be excellent.

"Shelly? Shelly is that you?" the voice at the other end came through as if it were buried under waves of hoarseness and distortion. "Shelly, it's Mike."

Shelly blinked. Pure annoyance warred with the faintest stirrings of disgusted curiosity. She'd left Mike behind two continents and year ago and hoped never to hear from him again. "Mike? The fuck? How did you get this number? Do you know what time it is here? The fuck?"

"I found it. I had to. Shelly, you have to stop." Through the static of the line, he sounded like he was crying. "Please, Shelly, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, but you have to stop."

Shelly rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and stared blankly at the blinking clock. She had a class to teach in less than five hours and a crazed ex-boyfriend calling her from somewhere. "Have to stop what? I haven't seen you in a year. I'm not doing anything," she said as calmly as she could, before placing the phone back on the receiver.

It rang again. A third time. A seventh. Shelly groaned and covered her head with her pillow. She reached out to unplug it from the jack, but somehow- she didn't know, she just picked it up.

"You have to stop killing them, Shelly. I swear, I didn't mean it," Mike sobbed into the phone. "I left NYU, I did everything you wanted. I'm sorry, but you can't keep killing them."

Shelly was suddenly very awake and wondering why she hadn't pulled that damned phone jack. Lousy luck. "You're too far away for me to beat this out of you, so explain, and start with small words. What the fuck are you talking about?"

"I'm here with the body right now. I know I said they were annoying, but oh my god, Shelly," he wailed. "All the blood."

Shelly swallowed hard. "Mike. Listen. I'm in Japan, okay. Very, very far away from where you are now. Which is where, exactly?"

"I saw you. I saw you do it," he whispered. "I tried to unmake it, I tried all the solas, but it was too late and I saw you do it." The static over the line raised to a nasty squealing sound and Shelly flinched, pulling the phone from her ear. When she had it back Mike was still talking. "I left NYU," he said. "I'm finishing my degree at Stanford. I thought that was what you wanted. Shelly-"

Shelly hung up the phone and stumbled over to her laptop on the desk. Once it booted she went straight for the search engine and entered the Palo Alto police department. "Dumb fucking idiot," she muttered as she typed. It was probably nothing. It was probably just a nasty prank from a nasty ex.

But something about that distortion over the line sent a wave of something cold right through her. Because if she listened closely enough, it had sounded like words, like Latin words, of all the craziness out there.

"Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris, that's fucking cute," she whispered to herself and it really did feel that much colder in the room. Shelly refused to call it fear.


Palo Alto, California. Six months later.

Sam had seen a lot of weird in eighteen years of life, but even he never considered the existence of certain phenomena until he met Jess. Like, for instance, the guys currently swarming around their living room. He didn't even know what to call them. Math groupies?

Jess had a white board pinned to the wall and was writing it on with firm strokes, hands gesturing wildly between motions. Something about the position of N as related to a Mersenne Prime.

Whatever it was, Sam figured it must be very exciting because Jess was punctuating every word with little chopping motions and a bunch of guys in thick glasses wearing T-shirts that said things like "Math Ninja!" and "Got Root?" in shiny bold print were leaning forward and looking glassy eyed. And drooling.

Apparently math groupies were like werewolves, ghosts and demons, at least in the sense they all really did exist.

Sam managed to smoother the bewildered giggles that kept trying to escape him every time he looked up with the back of his hand. He leaned back in his chair, just short of tipping it over, and pretended to read Marlowe's Faust, drink coffee and generally not pay attention to his surroundings. Really he couldn't pay attention to anything but.

It was wild, the way Jess was so different from that quiet, still girl with the big eyes he sat down next to on a Greyhound bus all those months ago. Now when she moved she took up all the space in the room and when she laughed it was so free it made Sam ache.

Stanford agreed with her.

"You're an idiot, Roger!" Jess shouted. She sounded operatic shouting, Brunhilde with wild, pale hair streaming around her. And okay, the streaming hair effect was maybe, partly, because Sam left the kitchen window open and caused a draft, but still, it was just hot.

Sam, peered out at her from under a line that said 'all is dross that is not Helena'. He figured it could just as easily be about Jess. "All is dross that is not Jessica," he murmured under his breath and grinned.

He wasn't at all surprised that Jess glared at him for no obvious reason and he could almost hear her hiss, 'It's Jess, you asshole. Only my mother and my kindergarten teacher called me Jessica', if only in his imagination.

Sam just grinned wider and waved, though, and hoped his grin wasn't too much like the one that meant he'd replaced her highlighter with nail glitter and was waiting for the look on her face when she figured it out. To his relief Jess glared for just a moment more and then started yelling something about Fermat and pounding one booted foot against the already scarred coffee table. The math groupies whimpered in unison and Sam turned back to pretending to read Faust.

Pretending lasted a long moment more until he turned the page on 'I will be Paris and for love of thee, Instead of Troy, shall Wittenberg be sack'd' and instead of the next line a faded, yellowing piece of paper slid out onto his lap.

Sam figured it was probably someone's long forgotten class notes. That kind of thing happened when you bought your textbooks used, and hey, sometimes last semester's people had good insight.

He unfolded the paper.

"Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris," Sam whispered out loud. The paper was so thin, rubbed raw, like a very old book or onionskin. Like it was older than last semester, for sure. "Huh." But why even write that in your class notes? It was already in the play.

Sam gave a little half shrug and actually tuned out Jess and her groupies to trace the messy cursive script on the page and wonder who wrote it. At the very bottom there was more writing.

"Sola fide, Sola scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola gratia, Soli deo gloria." Apparently someone was messing up their Elizabethan literature with a dose of reformation theology. Weird, but not exactly offensive.

Sam thumbed the next page of the book open and then just stared for a long moment, unable to say a word. Barely able to think one. There it was in that same disastrous, expansive script, right in the margins. A summoning ritual. A fucking demonic summoning ritual, right down to the incantations and the phases of the moon.

Sam shoved the note back inside and slammed the book shut, as hard as you could with a paperback, anyway.

"Hey! You all right there, Sam?" Jess had detached herself from whatever mathematical truth she'd been sketching and she was looking at him again. Not annoyed anymore, just surprised and maybe mildly concerned. Sam hadn't even realized she was still paying attention to him in his corner.

The math groupies looked annoyed enough for her and Sam forced a weak smile. "Yeah. I think I had some bad Indian at the caf, you know?"

"Really? I told you not to eat there." Jess settled down on the arm of the chair and peered down at him, like she was going to try to check for a fever with her palm or something. Sam thought about really telling her what was there in the book.

Jess would understand it. He knew that, he remembered things that he couldn't erase no matter how hard he tried. Things like a yellowed old woman telling him 'She was afraid to be alone and ignorant, so she cast a spell to bewitch and enslave. She will pay for it.'

So there was pretty much no way he was talking to Jess. He shrugged instead, putting every ounce of sincerity into his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I know, dumb of me. I just like their tandoori. Anyway, I think I'm gonna go lie down for a while. You guys can keep demonstrating your mathematical genius or whatever."

And that worked because Jess outright laughed and tilted her head toward some skinny kid in a T-shirt that said, 'Mathematicians do it in Klingon' which, actually, Sam was half tempted to buy and mail to Dean, assuming he could figure out where Dean was. "Me and Jake here are the only mathematical genius in the room. The rest of these morons make you look like Feynman, liberal arts boy."

Sam snickered while the Klingon kid, Jake, blushed and looked proud and the other math groupies began to protest loudly. "Isn't he a physicist?" Sam demanded between giggles.

"Yes, smart ass! Now go! Lie down!" Jess pushed him hard and Sam just laughed and went without further protest, Faust tucked safely under his arm.

As he walked out the door he heard the guy, Jake, laughing and saying something about how math majors did it better, which just made Sam grin to himself.

His grin faded instantly when he shut the bedroom door closed behind him and he settled on the bed, thumbing open the book to the ritual. Somehow he wasn't remotely surprised when the next pages had dried brown splatters that might have been anything, but was probably blood.

Sam could hear the shouting and laughter from the living room. Bright and warm and alive. He could toss the book out, pick up another copy for the class. Burn it first, so the ritual couldn't be used again. He didn't have to look into this any further.

Sam shut his eyes tightly and turned the page anyway.

Help. Written in thick block letters and underlined three times. Help. Please. Sam let out the breath he'd been holding and his hands shook.

"Okay," he muttered to himself. "Okay, then."

A few minutes later there was a soft knock on the door and Jess let herself in before Sam had a chance to say anything. He couldn't place the expression on her face as she settled down on the bed next to him, crosslegged and regarding him steadily.

"Something up?" she asked. She propped her elbows on her knees and waited for a response,

"Nah, I told you, it's bad food. I swear I'll live," Sam said, letting the book slide shut and putting away as unobtrusively as he could.

Jess shrugged. "Well, if you say so." She leaned forward and pressed a light kiss to his temple. "I just wanted to let you know, the guys and I are gonna run down and grab some pizza, maybe reconvene the study group down in the quad."

"Oh, sure whatever," Sam smiled and waved her away.

At that, she seemed to relax and smiled back. "You're just the coolest boyfriend in the world, baby. Anyone else would get all pissy if their girl ran off with a bunch of eligible gentlemen."

Sam blinked. "The math groupies? Why, do you have a crush on one of them?"

Jess just laughed and batted her eyelashes before leaning in to steal a kiss. "I could have. But not as long as you're all mine."

"So, I'm stuck with you, huh?" Sam asked lightly, still grinning.

"Yup. At least once I get back from study group. Unless I run off with my harem of math groupies."

Sam closed his eyes and pretended to think about it. "Huh. Well, that's cool either way, I guess," he said. It was mostly a tease. Jess laughed, smacked him on the back of the head and told him she'd be back later.

Once she was gone Sam pulled the book back out. Help, huh? Maybe he could do that. Just this once.


The girl at the counter of the school bookstore was round and plush looking with a huge smile and Sam launched right into it. "Hey," he murmured, ducking his chin and playing it for nervous embarrassment. "Maybe you can help me? I got this copy of Faust here."

"Yeah?" the girl pulled the pen she was holding out from between her teeth and gave the book and Sam a considering glance. "Is it missing pages? It's too late in the semester for you to get a full refund, but we can replace it if it's missing pages."

"Uh, no, it's-" Sam leaned, and looked around, still playing the nervous guy for all he was worth. The girl gave him a smile she must have thought was reassuring, but actually came out sort of predatory. "See, I found a note that seemed kind of personal in between the pages, and maybe there was a way I could send it to whoever had it last? I mean… personal." Sam felt his cheek warming in a blush and managed to stifle a grin. One of his better performances.

The girl behind the desk tried, she really did. Smiling at Sam and leaning down so that her loose blouse slid away from her breasts, which was more the way girls had always acted around Dean, not him, at least before he got to Stanford.

"Well. There's nothing about the owner on the system," she said, typing away on her computer and occasionally pausing to look up at Sam and lick her lips. "Seriously, like, how personal?"

Sam forced the blush back and looked at her from under his lashes. "Personal," he whispered.

"That's too creepy, huh? You're just wicked nice, trying to find whoever. Let me try one more thing." She shook her head and went back to typing. "Sometimes we track student Ids when books get sold back to us. You know, keeps us from inadvertently accepting stolen books or whatever. Let me just-"

Sam watched her while pretending not to. She definitely knew how to pick those blouses. Sometimes he really did kind of wish he could pull a Dean here.

"Sorry," she finally said, dropping her hands from the keyboard and shaking her head. "Nada. Poor bastard will have to live without their personal item."

Sam nodded and made a sad, sympathetic face. "Yeah. I just- here." Sam tugged the pen from her hand and a scrap of paper from his pocket, writing out his cell number and handing it to her. Jess would kill him. Unless he told her what it was for. But- he could just picture that conversation and he didn't want to have it.

"If you do find anything-" Sam began.

"Don't worry. I'll call you!" the bookstore girl trilled. "Who knows, I might call you anyway."

Sam smiled and nodded, giving a heartfelt, "Thanks," before hurrying back outside.


Sam's next step was the registrar's office. Whoever had the book had taken the class, and if they really had used the ritual, it must have left some kind of trace of something. No way a demonic summoning went down with no effect whatsoever on the summoner or the people around him.

If it did, Sam told himself as he pushed in through the double doors of the office. If it did, he could just let this one go or something. No harm, no foul.

He walked out the door half an hour later, having learned more than he wanted to about how much life in the registrar's office sucked, how much the students sucked, and how much the world sucked, and also with the secretary's cell phone number. He assumed the guy was trying to figure out how well he sucked, and it made him sort of snigger under his breath in the way he'd learned to since Dean wasn't here to do it for him.

Sam also had the class list tucked under his arm, so that was something. He dragged it with him to a computer terminal and settled in. It didn't take much of a search to turn up what he was already afraid of.

The class list wasn't a big one, and three of the people on it had committed messy, bloody suicides, reasons unknown. A little bit of digging got Sam the name of the only connection. The guy who had found all of the bodies.

The class' TA, one Mike Briar, as it happened, whose trail went cold when he dropped out of school for medical reasons.


Sam went back to his place after class, a stack of research material in his bag. Finding the caster was at least at a temporary dead end even if it was the TA. Sam could probably track down what happened to him, but he doubted he could do it legally, and he wasn't sure he was ready to risk getting caught doing it any other way.

Instead Sam went back to the text of the summoning. It had the basic structure of some very typical demon magic, but when he took a longer look, he found he had no idea what exactly it was set up to call.

The ritual itself confused him. The elements were there for some very formal demon summoning magic. A mass in reverse, a handful of crossroad dirt, and the calling all four quarters. But most of that was scribbled into the margin notes. A lot of what was in the middle of the page was purely incomprehensible at first glance.

A longer run through the text told Sam something else. What he'd assumed were simply unreadable Latin words, either badly misspelled, or just impossible to make out because of fading, were nothing like that. Transliterated Hebrew and something else, maybe Aramaic.

He drew them out on some scrap paper of his own, toying with the symbols and trying to recreate how the ritual would go in his mind. Sam snapped a pencil in half, just staring down at the page, thinking it through. No way was this going to summon a demon.

There was something here he was missing and he really didn't like the feel of it. Sam muttered to himself and drew doodles of the shape of the summoning circle on his notebook, reinforcing the lines with hard pen strokes until they dark and gouged deep enough to cut through the page. Then he turned back to his laptop for ideas.

"Right," he said out loud. Longer than he wanted to spend with some primitive translation software gave him what he hoped was the basic meaning of the transliterated words.

"Look in the circle and think of your heart's desire," he whispered to himself. Without thinking about it he looked back at the symbols he'd drawn, the ink so black it was nearly leaping off the page.

Sam was hit with one image, pure and golden. Just him and Dean, sitting on the hood of the Impala, spread out and sloppy, annihilation drunk. Dean's laughter in his ears. Dean's hand on his chin, turning his face around, cradling his cheek and pulling him into a wet, messy kiss.

"Poor, poor lonely boy," Dean's voice murmured. Sam jumped, grabbing at the page and staring all around the room. The room which was just as empty as it had been a moment before. Nothing, no sulfur scent, no hint it was anything other than in his own head making him hear things.

He hadn't actually done anything, had he? There was no way a summoning ritual could be that simple or stupid.

Still. Those words had been full of echoes in Sam's head, like someone speaking in a vast, empty room. Sam could have sworn the voice was Dean's except Dean would never say anything like that.

Sam thought maybe he could really use a break from all of this before he ended up any crazier than he already was. Dean would probably bust himself laughing if he knew Sam was hearing things that sounded just like him.


Sam woke up the next morning late for class and with a nasty headache and a head full of fuzzy, half remembered nightmares. A cup of coffee and a few Tylenol had the headache receding, but he was late enough to make going pointless, so he went back to the ritual instead, as if staring was going to make it yield its secrets.

He couldn't make anything else out of it even after a few more hours of research and the headache just increased. It was too much like being hungover without a night before worth speaking of.

He had to leave the room eventually, if only because Jess was expecting him for lunch and the last thing he needed was more questions from her, so Sam figured he might as well see if fresh air worked as a cure and went out.

It was sunny enough to induce headache on the quad even without a pseudo hangover, but Sam still had an hour to kill before he was supposed to meet Jess for a picnic lunch, so Sam let himself be prodded into a pick-up basketball game. It was always a good way to shut off his brain and just let go. Lay-ups and blocks and laughing guys who were more than willing to make Sam use every inch of his height for an advantage.

He didn't notice anything was up until afterwards, when he sprawled out on a bench, all loose limbed and sweaty, and Jess nowhere in sight.

It was there. Just out of the corner of his eye, but so vivid he flinched. A face, fair skinned and green-eyed. Freckles like blotches in milk. Head tilted back like he was laughing. The tattoo on the small of his back itched like it hadn't since he'd first got it.

"Dean," he hissed, jumping to his feet and almost crashing into some kid tugging a rolling backpack over a hill. "Dean!" But when Sam got there the whole hill was empty except for a few girls playing Frisbee who stopped to look at him like he'd maybe lost it.

Sam started forward anyway, sure that if he just looked hard enough Dean might reappear. But there was nothing else there and Sam told himself he was being silly and turned back to the bench where he was supposed to meet Jess.

She was already there and caught up to him in a few quick paces, striding close enough to link her arm through his. She wrinkled her nose at the smell. "Yo, Sam! Where were you, the sauna? You look like a sweat bomb went off."

Sam opened his mouth to explain but she looked so happy and free in the sunlight he couldn't do it. Anyway, when he turned around again there was nothing on the hill that looked anything like Dean. He shook his head. Fuck. The heat and the game, the left over pounding of the headache and thinking he heard Dean before- all of that had to be getting to him. No point bothering Jess with stuff straight out of his overworked imagination.

"Nah, man. Just a quick game of hoops. Don't you love me all manly and sweaty?" Sam gave a hopeful grin and scratched at the small of his back.

And Jess laughed and tapped him lightly in the shoulder with her knuckle. "Sure thing, Tarzan. Now, come on, lunch, I'm starving."


It was after lunch, when Jess ran off to chase down her study group, babbling mindless into her cell about axis and asymptotes, that Sam's phone rang.

"Hi, Sam, right?" A girl's voice came through the line, bright and cheerful in the summer sun. "It's me, Amy, from the bookstore." And then her voice wavered, like nerves had entered the picture.

Sam hadn't really expected anything from that corner, so this was a pleasant surprise and he knew it showed in his tone. "Hey, Amy, good to hear from you. You find something for me?"

He heard a soft exhalation on the phone, as if the rush of words were going to be reluctant. "Look, I don't know what you found, about thing that were, you know personal in the margins of that book. It's just I found something out about that class, not even at work, just totally by accident."

"Something, wait- like what?" Sam found himself holding his breath too. Probably just on edge from imagining Dean out on the quad, but still.

"I was thinking, you said what was on the book was really, massively weird. Well, get this. Get this. My friend Sharon was in that class last semester and she said that like half the class just lost it. I mean, big time, suicides. It was scary. And then there was the TA."

"The TA? Wait, I've heard about this. He had a nervous breakdown and had to leave school, right?" Sam stared down at his notebook, paused in the act of scribbling down notes.

"Checked into a mental hospital. Yeah, but Sharon said on his last day, he was, you know, running around the room, like, ranting. About his dead girlfriend coming in and killing people. I mean, like he thought that. He thought she was killing those people instead of suicide." Amy's voice still had the rushed, nervous excitement of a bearer of gruesome news. Sam could almost picture her bouncing a little in a low cut blouse, and the image made him smile inspite of himself.

"Oh wow," Sam replied, trying to put the appropriate amount of shock and horrified sympathy in his voice. "That's really freaky. You think- I mean you think maybe this copy was his?"

"I don't know, right? Maybe. I just wanted to tell you, you know. Cause if it is you probably could just, I don't know. Not worry about it. Burn it or something. Seriously, I'd just buy a new copy if I were you."

Sam just rubbed his fingers over his eyelids and sighed. "Yeah, you know that probably is a good idea." Too bad he hadn't thought of that earlier.

He hung up the phone and pulled his notes back out, barely noticing when someone settled down next to him on the bench.

"Dude, you're looking particularly geeky today," an achingly familiar voice said. Sam could feel the breath on his ear. "Why don't you go steal your girlfriend back from her groupies and try having a little fun?"

"Shut up, Dean, some of us actually-" Sam stopped mid-sentence, the instinctive words still on the tip of his tongue. He looked up, huge eyed and shaky. This couldn't be happening.

But there he was. Dean smiled at him, all white teeth and lazy good humor. "Or maybe you want to forget her and have some fun with me? I missed you, Sam my man."

"Dean," Sam whispered. Just that.

Then he blinked and found himself staring at a very confused looking Asian boy where Dean had been. A boy who was edging away slowly, like Sam's insanity might be contagious.

"Sorry, sorry," Sam mumbled, hurriedly collecting his notes. "I just- studying too hard. You know?"

The Asian kid gave a relieved half smile and a wave. "Yeah, tell me about it man," he said to Sam's retreating back.

So, the TA had a nervous breakdown? Sam was starting to really get that. He scrubbed at his face with his hands and hurried down the path. Class would distract him, even from the way he could feel Dean's hands on his upper arms, like they were gripping him there.


Sam heard Jess' voice down the hall before he even got all the way up the staircase to their place. She was laughing, bright and happy and the sound made him grin and duck his head, push the worry of the day and everything else right out of his head.

Happy Jess meant a warm girl who was prone to climbing in his lap. And possibly making cookies.

Right. Cookies. He smirked and dug his keys out of his pocket and pushed them into the door before he heard a second voice. Male, pitched lower and familiar. One of Jess' friends, which probably meant a quickie on the kitchen table was a no go.

He shrugged and pushed open the door just as the tone of Jess' voice changed.

"No, man. I have a boyfriend and you know that," she said, sharp annoyance coloring her tone.

"-lame, Jess," the boy's voice half shouted. And, yeah, Sam knew him. Skinny Klingon kid. Right. He rolled his eyes and tried to decide what would make more sense, coming in to interrupt or just sneaking out and hoping they never knew he was there. And then, "I like you! I really, really like you and all you want is that Neanderthal English major. Is it the cave man effect? What?"

"Jesus, Jake," Jess hissed and Sam gave a heartfelt sigh and shut the door behind him. Oh, this was fun.

"Neanderthal?" he said, and had to keep his grin down to twitches when they both just about jumped out of his skin when he walked into the kitchen. "Seriously? Anyway, it's History, not English."

Sam watched the magic trick of the irritation fighting laughter in Jess' face. Pretty. He gave her a winning smile before turning to the kid. "So, by the way, hi Jake. How's tricks?"

Jake had turned this amazing shade of fluorescent maroon and Sam had to cover his mouth when he stuttered something incoherent.

"You sure you won't stay for coffee, man?" Sam called after his retreating back and didn't even flinch when Jess reached up and smacked him one over the back of the head.

"Men suck," she pronounced mournfully.

Sam would have laughed and kissed her but when he looked up past her he was staring right into Dean's grinning face.

"Don't worry, Sammy," Dean murmured in the faux-soothing voice that meant that Sam was going to find pink Barbie socks superglued to his sandals. "No one picks up my baby brother's girl. Except maybe me."

Sam wouldn't even have realized he was staring except Jess' hand was on his shoulder, shaking it. The room was empty, just the two of them in it. "Sam? You okay?" she asked. When he looked down she was still and pale, the laughter worried right out of her.

"Yeah. Sorry, weird day," he muttered and reached down to cover her hand with his, squeezing it tight. So there went any possibility of the ignore it and might go away plan.

From somewhere, he heard a whisper, tender and soft. "I'm going to mess you up so bad before I forgive you, Sammy. Make you all turned around and all alone. Just like you left me alone." But all Sam could see was Jess, looking at him.


The clerk at student health, better known as student death to anyone who actually needed to use it, had the reddest hair Sam had ever seen come out of a dye bottle. Sam was pale and shaky from not enough sleep and seeing imaginary Dean out of the corner of his eye constantly, but looking unwell and unhappy was only going to work for him here.

He forced a smile and watched her lean closer and pat his hand in a maternal way, like she was more than five years older than him. Like she felt so sorry for the boy whose good, good 'friend', Mike Briar, had vanished somewhere into the medical system a few months ago.

"God, that's awful," she said softly, shaking his head. "And he didn't even leave you a forwarding address?"

"No," Sam said, eyes downcast and watching her from under his lashes. "I'm not sure who to ask. He left his stuff… left it at my place, and wow. Mike was. I thought he'd be back before now, you know?"

"God," she repeated and squeezed her fingers around his. "Men. It's enough to make me wanna be a dyke or something."

"Yeah," Sam said weakly. And if Dean ever found out about this, the teasing would never, never end. Which would actually be okay. "Can you just, I don't, tell me where to find him? Just so I know he's okay."

The girl gave a quick, decisive nod and two minutes later Sam was holding a print out explaining that Mike Briar had been voluntarily been admitted to the psychiatric ward of the Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. A few calls about visiting hours and a weak cover story about being a school buddy later and somehow Sam found himself sitting in a small room with a shaky, white faced boy in hospital scrubs.

Sam had time to say "I think I inherited your copy of Faust from the student bookstore-" and that was it, Mike just sat down next to him and grabbed his hand by the wrist.

"It's following you too, now, isn't it?" he whispered.

Sam just stared for a moment. "Um. It?"

"It's all a lie, you know," Mike whispered, fingers clenching and unclenching against Sam's wrist. Sam fought the urge to just knock his grip off and took slow, even breaths.

"What's a lie?" Sam asked, forcing his voice to gentleness he didn't feel.

"The book. It says, think of your heart's desire like it'll give it to you. Gives you your heart's desire. Gives it to you wrong. Gives it to you poisoned." Mike shivered and his eyes were very green and very wide. In hospital pajamas he looked about twelve, and terrified. It would have been easy to feel sympathy, except where this was all possibly Mike's fault.

Well, his and now Sam's. Sam took another deep breath and carefully disentangled Mike's clutching hand from his. "What happened, Mike?"

"It was Shelly. I missed her. Fuck, I missed her so bad, but she was gone. All I wanted was Shelly." Mike stared at his now empty hand and gave a harsh, dry laugh. "This is so crazy, right? My girlfriend's gone and I'm a fucking nutjob."

"So, what, you brought your girlfriend back from the dead?" Sam asked, leaning in so that his voice was pitched too low to be heard by anyone but Mike.

Mike's laughter got louder, incredulous. He pushed his palm up against his mouth, but that didn't stifle it. "Dude, what, like a ghost? No. Shelly's not dead. She just dumped me back at NYU. It was- it was my fault. She fucked off to Japan to teach English or whatever, so sayonara, baby. Fuck."

"So, you summoned your not dead girlfriend-" Which made sense, because if Dean were dead, Sam was sure someone would have told him. He hoped. So Dean was alive and Sam was seeing things.

"I'm telling you, it wasn't really Shelly, okay. Shelly would have kicked my ass if she- it wasn't her. It was my just my heart's desire. Except, who knew, my heart's desire was evil." Mike laughed, a shiny, high-pitched laugh right on the edge of breaking.

"The students in your class-"

"Yeah. I used to complain about them getting to me. Sucks to teach undergrads. I didn't want that." Mike made a soft bewildered face. "I wish I could just... just take it back."

"Teaching undergrads?" Sam asked, slow and carefully, even though he already knew the answer to that question.

"No. Wishing they would die. I didn't mean it. I didn't." Mike had his arms around his stomach and he let himself rock back and forth. "I take it back. Shelly can go wherever she wants. And they can live. Please."

Sam drew back away, out of touching range, and tried to pretend he wasn't doing it. He still wanted to feel sorry, to feel sad for Mike, but he wondered if he wasn't feeling sorrier for himself.

"How did you do it?" Sam asked. He looked Mike right in the eye and tapped a pen against his notebook. "How did you get your heart's desire?"

"I told you. Or maybe I didn't," Mike frowned and pursed his lips, like he was trying to remember. "It was in Faust. Did I tell you that's what my dissertation is about? Faust."

"Uh huh." Sam pressed his hands to his temples and smiled as hard as he could. "You got the idea from Faust?"

"Nooooo," Mike drew out, shaking his head. "No. I mean, it was in Faust. Like I said, right in my copy. The paper fell right out and whoops! I thought it was cool, so I translated it."

"Whoops," Sam agreed dryly.

"Were you doing something with Faust? Oh, right, you're in the class. You have the book. Watch out for the margin notes." Mike gave a half smile back and then sort of twitched. Before Sam could come up with a response he walked over to a narrow desk and pulled out a notebook.

"Here," he said, pressing it into Sam's hands.

"What's this?" Sam asked, but he was already sliding it open. It almost looked like a hunter's journal, tiny crabbed script, mostly in Latin.

"My notes. Once I realized it wasn't a joke. That Shelly- once I knew, I tried to figure it out, you know? Maybe you can work on that." Mike gave a sad little shrug. "It might as well do someone some good. Unless I'm just crazy." He laughed but it was more of a cackle, wild and humorless.

"Yeah. Unless that," Sam said and tucked the notebook into his bag. He gave Mike a half nod and pretended not to hear when a voice called down the hall after him.

"Hey, come back and visit me! No one visits me, I might be dead before anyone comes to see me again," Mike's thin, fading voice called after him.

As he walked out the door, hands stuffed in his pocket to still the shaking, Sam thought he could hear Dean laughing. "You better watch out, they're probably saving you a bed next to poor Mikey already," he said in a singsong kind of stage whisper. Sam forced himself not to wince where anyone could see it.

He turned around and there Dean was, dressed in white hospital scrubs that hugged his ass and chest, smiling and waving at him.

"Are you all right, sir?" A woman in pink scrubs asked gently keeping a respectful distance from Sam. Dean blew Sam a kiss.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Sam whispered, but he kept his eyes right on Dean until he had to blink. Between motions of his eyelids, Dean was gone.


Sam called a few of his friends and asked them for a copy of their notes, made up a twisted half truth about a research project. There had to be something he could. Last semester there'd been deaths. Suicides.

Sam rubbed his wrists over and over and holed up in his usual corner of the library, pulling books on demons, Faust, heart's desire, anything. The ritual from his copy of Faust was just a mish-mash of nonsense and however he looked at it, it shouldn't have worked. Not like this. Not at all, no more than a couple of kids listening to Sabbath under an inverted cross could summon Lucifer.

Sam covered his face with his hands and just stared at his futile pile of notes and trash. He should be able to work this out. He'd triggered the damn thing, hadn't he?

His eyelids clenched and then smoothed. He'd triggered it. Right.

"Fuck," he hissed, loud enough to draw some nasty stares from the other students. "Fuck."

He reached for one of the books he'd stacked in the chair next to him, but he didn't get a chance to pull it out. A sharp wailing hit him hard enough to make him wince and he looked up.

Everyone was staring and whispering and it was Jake the Klingon of all people. Wailing. And utterly naked, with skinny, pimpled limbs flailing everywhere. Sam couldn't help it, he stared too for a long moment before pushing to his feet.

"Jake? Jake, are you okay?" he asked, already walking up to the other boy.

The poor kid was shaking like a dying leaf, everywhere under his skin and Sam slid out of his jacket without a second thought, pulling it over the Jake's bony shoulders. Sam couldn't help wanting to laugh and he felt like kind of an asshole for it, so he was especially gentle.

Jake just stared at him and shook his head. "He had a gun," he whispered. "He took my stuff, he had a gun. Oh god, oh god."

Sam nodded, steering Jake to a seat and mouthing "Call the cops," to a girl with a cell phone. "Who had a gun?" he asked softly. "Did you see who it was?"

"There wasn't anybody," a tall girl called from a nearby table. "I saw him. He was just in the stacks by himself and he took his clothes off. Freak!"

"There was!" Jake wailed. "There was. He had a gun. Oh god, he had these eyes. These creepy green eyes. I'll never forget."

"You're a psycho," the girl said. "Dude, just leave him 'til the cops get here, the guy's a psycho."

Sam slid his chair up next to Jake, keeping both hands very carefully in the open. There was a crowd gathering around them, whispering and pointing and Jake was all but blubbering, thin face twisted with it. "Come, on breathe, man," Sam said. "This guy with the gun, did you know him?"

Jake shook his head hard, making the snot drip out of his nose. "No. No. But he said something. Something about… about Jess."

Sam could almost feel the blood draining from flesh. He nodded. Pure impulse made him reach down into his wallet, digging it out of his pocket and flipping it open to where he kept two snapshots. "The guy. Was this him?" he asked, tugging out the one of Dean, barely sober and grinning, at Sam's seventeenth birthday party.

Jake stopped crying for a moment to stare, like it was suddenly all clear. "Oh my god, that is. That was him. You know him? Did you do this to get back at me for Jess, or something? Oh my god!"

Sam didn't bother to answer. He just slapped his wallet shut and shoved it down, ignoring Jake's screams of accusation and making a twisting gesture to indicate crazy with his hands to the onlookers. They let him slide right through just as the campus police were arriving.


When Sam got back to their place Jess wasn't there and he felt a sharp twinge of half-guilty relief. He really didn't want to explain what happened with her friend, for one thing. For another, whatever was imitating Dean was going into action and Sam seriously has no desire to see Jake the Klingon or anyone else like that ever again. Or a whole hell of a lot worse.

Of course Jess was probably in class, which was where Sam ought to be, especially given he'd missed about a week of classes fucking around with this, but he tried not to think about it. Paper deadlines seemed more minor than normal at the moment, funny that.

Instead he opened Mike's journal, this time from the wrong side, and found the notes on the last page. The script had deteriorated almost into total illegibility, but Sam had experience with faded old texts. This was far from the worst he'd gone through with less motivation.

The page was smeared with brownish stains that Sam tried not to worry about as he squinted at it.

Its not her. Shelly. Not Shelly. I found her and it can't be her. Shelly, go away please, I'm so sorry. Shelly.

Then at the bottom of the page, the same words Sam had read scribbled in Faust. Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris. And then. Help. Help me. Please. And finally, an international phone number. Sam started up his laptop, his knees knocking restlessly against the table while he waited for the damned slow piece of junk to just move.

It was a cell phone number. In Japan. Sam rubbed the back of his neck and finally just shrugged. Fuck the phone bill, this had to be worth a try. He was dialing a moment later and then a girl's grumpy voice was answering him what sounded like badly accented Japanese even to his untrained ear.

"You're Shelly? Shelly Ingrudson?" Sam said into the phone.

The girl's voice was surprisingly low and angrier than anyone Sam has ever heard. He could feel the heat of directionless rage through the line, like it was spilling over right from Japan or wherever.

"Yeah, that's me. And you want what? And do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Sorry, ma'am, I'm calling from California. I was hoping to talk to you. About your ex. A Mike Briar," Sam said. He was going for calm. Official. The kind of person you didn't ask to identify themselves because they just sounded right, not like a fucked out of his mind college kid who was waiting for people to start dying.

"Jesus. I already talked to the police," Shelly said. The rage and irritation didn't dim, but she kept talking, which was enough for Sam. "The guy lost it, or something. He called me in the middle of the night and started mumbling about dead bodies I allegedly killed from another time zone. Very fucking attractive."

Sam scratched at the paper in front of him and scribbled something in messy crib notes. "See, here's the thing. You didn't kill them, but something did. And it wasn't Mike."

"I was told they were suicides." Sam could almost hear the irritation fade into what sounded like curiosity. That was a surprise, but he'd take it if he could get it.

"Maybe. Kind of messy suicides," he said, fingers clenched around the phone. Finding pictures of the dead had been tough to the point of impossible, but what he knew about the deaths, they were about as violent as something could be and still be self-inflicted.

"Yeah, fine," she snapped. Sam could half hear her snorting the word, messy. "What is it you want from me, exactly?"

Sam took a long breath. He wasn't sure himself. "Mike called you. I want to know if there was anything… anything strange about the call?"

"Like, what, the ex I never wanted to even hear about for the rest of my life calling me up to accuse me of murder strange? No, nothing. Why are you wasting my time?"

"Please. Look this- I think something happened. If you know anything-"

There was an audible sigh. When she spoke again she sounded more tired than angry. "Okay, there was one thing. And it could be nothing. Could be bad sushi or whatever."

Sam bit down on his lower lip. "Tell me."

"I heard something weird on the line. Static, distortion, something."

"EMF," Sam said, mostly to himself. "Could be EMF."

"What? Speak English, if you even can," Shelly snapped.

"Nothing, sorry. You say you heard distortion on the line," Sam said, trying not to hope, to feel too hopeful. This was something. This had to be something.

"Yeah," she said, sounding like she was back to tired again. "Except, it almost seemed like, well, words in there. Words in Latin."

"You speak Latin?" That seemed almost too much to hope for.

"I had one of those useless history majors were you need to. Anyway, it sounded like Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris."

Sam winced. That again. "Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris," he muttered. "Misery loves company, very cute. Direct quote from Faust." Directly from the damned note slid into that damned book. That had to mean something. It had to.

"Exactly." She sounded surprised to hear him say it. "Who did you say you were working for again? I didn't know cops were allowed to be literate."

Sam shook his head, as if that were visible over the phone. "Yeah, they are, go figure. Could you pick out anything else it said?"

"It? There's an 'it' now? Oh fuck this." There was an audible hiss over the phone.

"Please, Shelly, anything you could tell me might help," Sam said, and he knew he was begging and felt kind of shameless about it.

"Oh, come on, it was just crazy talk," Shelly said, and then there was a hesitant breath. "But. If you believe crazy talk. I mean, he was going on about unmaking it. He talked about solas."

"Solas?" Sam repeated, trying that thought out himself.

"Yeah. Professions of faith. Oh, fuck this is stupid. Why am I talking to you when I could be sleeping? Go quote fucking sutras for all I care." There was an audible click.

Sam gave a little sigh as the phone went dead in his hands. Great, hung up on by the rude girl. He went back to the notebook. Unmaking. He had to think about this, there had to be a way to do this.

It was in the paper, he scribbled onto his own notes. Stared at the words. "Fuck," he hissed out loud. Of course, of course, he already knew this, had been half way to figuring it out when Jake broke his train of though. The reason that there was no real ritual to summon- whatever the thing playing Dean was. The ritual had probably been done ages ago and it was set right into the paper in the Faust text, waiting to be triggered.

"Great, you're a genius, geek boy, but how are you gonna get rid of it?" A light, mocking voice asked and Sam's head snapped up, but he didn't see Dean, just heard the voice. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head. He needed to figure this out.

Sam fell asleep at his desk between making notes and woke up with Jess prodding him and an imprint of his keyboard on his cheeks.

"You've been skipping class," she said right in his face before backing up enough so that she could sit on the edge of the desk.

Sam groaned and rubbed his aching neck. "I've been busy, Jess," he muttered.

"You haven't been sleeping. And you've been skipping class," Jess continued, with no mercy for his throbbing head. She was glaring. "Did you know there's a voice mail from your Athenian Law TA on our machine? About how if you miss one more class that's an automatic fail."

"Jess," Sam whispered. "I-"

"You, Sam. Automatic fail. You, Sam, have a scholarship. You want to keep it, right?" She was in his face again. Sam drew back, wincing from her tone. It made him just want to rage back and that would be pretty useless. He forced himself to take a deep breath and while he was doing that, her hard expression crumbled. "God, I'm sorry, I don't mean- Jesus, I'm really worried about you, Sam. Do you have any idea what you look like?"

Sam forced a smile. "Like I fell asleep with my face in the keyboard?"

Jess smiled back for a moment before the expression smoothed away. "Are you sick? If you're sick and you go down to meet with the TA, explain-"

Sam nodded before she got another word out, because that sounded perfect to him. "Yeah, you're right. God, you're right, Jess. I'll go now."

Jess frowned and reached out to push some of Sam's hair behind his ear. "Shower first, you stink," she murmured. "You need to go down to Student Health after? Or before, it would probably help if you have a doctor's note."

Sam gave a weak smile. "No student death for me, I'll try my luck with a shower. But, yeah, thanks. For waking me."

Jess rolled her eyes. "Sure, sure, I just don't want to be the girlfriend of the guy who got kicked out of Stanford for slacking. Now go, go." She smacked him lightly in the shoulder and Sam went, trying to stretch out the kinks as he walked.

The shower left him feeling almost awake and a short walk later he was feeling almost human even with the dark circles under his eyes and shaky limbs. Which probably supported the sick idea, which was a plus. He knocked on the TA's office door and pasted on a sickly smile.

He could sort of hear the voices coming from inside, Ian, the TA, was always kind of loud, especially when he was ranting. "Acting good. Like a good person. Isn't that enough? If you behave honorably, your actions are bound to… to imprint or something, right? On your soul."

"Dude, did you just make that up just now?" the other voice said back, thick and skeptical. Sam rolled his yes in sympathy. Ian was kind of a blow hard.

And then he heard Ian's sharp voice, calling, "Come in already." Sam steeled himself and walked through the door. The other person, a tall, skinny guy in a Grateful Dead T-shirt gave him a sympathetic smile on his way out.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't Sam Winchester," Ian said, with that stupid, smarmy smile that made Sam want to grit his teeth. "I thought I might never see you again."

"Sorry, Ian," Sam said, and tried to look sorry. It couldn't be that hard with the visible eye circles and yellow skin. "I'm really sorry. I've been pretty sick."

"The syllabus says you get three absences before you grade drops a point. Four and it's an automatic fail," Ian said briskly, still smiling. "You missed three last week. And one before that."

Sam nodded. "Yes, I know. Like I said-"

"If you're sick, you need to call in ahead of time, Sam. That's in the syllabus too," Ian said. His lips smacked like he was chewing gum and he looked Sam over from head to toe before smiling again and adjusting his glasses. "Participation is critical in this class. I was against even having a Sophomore enroll to begin with, we usually limit it to Juniors and Seniors."

Sam struggled with not glaring or saying anything he would regret. "Professor Landry felt comfortable with me being in the class."

Ian shook his head sadly. "And yet, here we are. Come on, Sam, this isn't a survey class. If you're serious about your major you have to actually turn up to class."

"I'm sorry, Ian," Sam said, even though his fists were feeling pretty itchy at this point. "I'll talk to Professor Landry."

Ian rubbed his hands together. "Oh, no, there's no need for that," he all but crooned. "You and I could work something out. I know you're on a scholarship and I'd hate to threaten that." And Sam suddenly realized where all this was going with a nasty, stomach sinking twist. Jesus, why him and why now? Dean was supposed to be the pretty one. Jesus. Dean.

"I don't mind talking to him," Sam gritted out.

"The rules are pretty strict. Once I report the absences, I don't know how much the Professor can do even if she wants to," Ian murmured, still smiling. "Come on, Sam. I can be a really friendly guy, you might want to think about trying to get along with me."

Sam closed his eyes. "Right. Okay. Get along how?"

Ian slid his seat back and kind of adjusted his crotch. Sam stared and took a long, slow breath. "You could be nice to me. You have a nice mouth, and I like that," Ian said.

Less than a minute later the door had slammed behind Sam and he was rubbing bruised, sore knuckles and just kind of glaring straight ahead. He wondered what the academic probation board or whoever else Ian was planning to bring him up before would consider breaking a TA's nose and jaw worthy of automatic expulsion or at least losing a scholarship, and right now he pretty much didn't care.

Or so he told himself. "I don't care," he said out loud, while his knuckles throbbed and he walked down the hall. He was almost to the end when the noise came.

Loud and unmistakable, right from Ian's office. Completely shattering the afternoon. A pistol, unsilenced. Sam stopped where he stood and turned around slowly, needing to go back and not sure if he wanted to. He took slow, unsteady steps.

Ian's office door squealed open before he had a chance to touch it. Ian's eyes didn't look smarmy anymore; they didn't look anything but surprised.

He had the gun clutched tightly in his own hand, a neat hole under his chin and a messier one from the exit wound. Sam took a step back and then another, until he was facing away, and then facing the door to the staircase instead.

He didn't know why he turned around to look back at Ian's office, but he did. Right down the hall by Ian's door, Sam could see Dean, striding away with a happy smile, gun held lightly and expertly in his hand.

When Dean saw Sam looking he grinned and waved, took a little bow. "For you, baby brother. Don't you get an automatic A when the Professor eats his own gun? Don't worry, that's what they'll think happened, I promise. Tragedy. Ha ha."

Sam shook his head, like a man trapped, suspended.

Dean just gave a crisp salute and then he blew over the top of the gun, as if blowing away imaginary smoke. The gesture so Dean like that Sam almost screamed. Before he had a chance, Dean was gone. Sam turned and ran like he was still being chased.

Anything not to go back there. Anything.

When Sam got back home, he didn't say anything, just kicked off his shoes and strode in barefoot.

Jess was in the kitchen, kneading dough with strong, practiced fingers. Sam settled down on a folding chair and just watched her from the corner. It was soothing to watch Jess bake, watch the goo turn into dough, turn into cookies or cakes or bread. Even now, like this, it was soothing.

She always whispered to it, as if she had the power to make it do what she wanted just with words. Sam thought maybe she did. It certainly worked on him.

Jess didn't say anything for a while, not until what she was making- pie crust, it looked like, was safely on a greased pan and in the oven. Then she turned and smiled at him, smiled like it was hard work to do it, but she would anyway. Wiped flour off her forehead with the back of her hand, or tried to. Spread flour around her skin, really.

"Hey, Sam," she said softly. "How'd it go with your TA?"

"Jess," he replied, just as soft. Not saying another word.

"What happened? Something's wrong again, this is like last fall, isn't it?" Jess said and she sat down next to him. When she was that close the illusion of calm was obviously just that, illusory. Her hands were tightly clenched at her sides and her eyes were big and nervous like they haven't been in months. "Something is wrong and you need to tell me what it is."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Sam muttered. He tilted his head back down to his notebook so he wouldn't have to meet her eyes.

"It's kind of amazing," Jess said. Her fingernails tapped lightly against the cheap metal table in a percussive pattern. "You're this incredibly good liar, Sam, and I grew up around scammers so I know from liars. It's actually amazing how bad at it you're being right now."

"Yeah," Sam said and gave a shallow, uncomfortable shrug. "Stop asking me about this and I won't have to lie."

Jess laughed outright at that, like it was a joke. Like she was high on nerves and sheer gaul instead of drugs. "Nice. Seriously. Nice. Now tell me what's going on, Sam."

"It's none of your business, okay? Nothing to do with you," Sam spat. Then he stopped, shocked by how angry he sounded. He hadn't even known he was that angry. Not with Jess. Jesus, not with Jess.

"Oh yeah? Look at me, Sam. Just look." He didn't want to, but there was something in her tone. Outrage shading back into fear. Sam reluctantly raised his head to find that Jess was rolling down her sleeves to reveal her wrists.

There were broad, black fingershaped bruises pressed right up near the bone. Sam exhaled noisily. "Jesus," he hissed. "Jess. What happened?"

Jess tugged back her hand, wrenching it from his grasp to get it free, and stuffed it into her pocket. Her eyes were all pupil, dark and miserable. "Your brother- have you got a picture of your brother?"

It ought to be such a non-sequitor, but of course it was obvious. Sam had been thinking- he didn't know what, but it really was obvious. Still, he could only blink. "What? Why?"

"Because, damn it. What's he look like, Sam? This is serious," Jess said, the fear in her voice getting thicker. Not as thick as Sam's. "This guy, there was this guy and I think-"

"And you think it was Dean?" Sam cut her off explosively. It was fear that made him talk. Fear. And the sure knowledge that this was not Dean, no matter what it looked, sounded, smelled like. And no one, absolutely no one could think that it was. "You're telling me that you think that Dean-"

"Sam, please-"

"I haven't been near Dean in a year, Jess. And we both know why that is, don't we?" Sam hissed. She went white and shook her head and Sam jumped back, hands falling to his sides. They hadn't spoken about- that. Not ever. That was the deal. But then they hadn't spoken about last Fall either. Jess broke the deal first.

"Yeah. It's my fault. What do you want me to do about it now?" Jess asked softly. Her head bowed down, chin to chest and hair slid over her face, concealing it.

"I don't know, what can you do?" Sam whispered. He bit his lower lip, as if to keep the words in, but there was no point now. He'd already said the worst thing he could think of.

"Nothing," she whispered. She looked even more tired than he felt, skin stretched and sallow under white streaks of flour "And you know that. Not a damned thing. So let me help you."

Sam rocked back on his heels and saw Ian, brains and blood spattered like a horror movie. That could have been, could still be Jess. "I don't need your help, Jess, not with this," he muttered, looking at her forehead so he wouldn't need to meet her eyes. "Look, you don't have to be scared. Whatever this is, I'll figure it out."

She shook her head, pushing the hair back. "Come on, Winchester, have you even looked in the mirror lately? You look half-dead. Don't tell me about the help you don't need."

"And whatever this is, other people are already a lot more than half dead," Sam muttered. He reached out and grabbed her elbow, tugging her arm from the pocket where she'd hidden it. Fingers on the bruised wrist. She winced, but his grip was too solid for her to pull out.

"Let me go, damn you." Her eyes blazed with something like outrage. She was Brunhilde again, surrounded by her groupies and it almost made Sam smile in spite of everything. "You think I won't protect you? Sam, you- you're you. It's you and me here, you think I'm too much of a coward to step up when you need me?"

Sam dropped her wrist like it was on fire. "I never asked you to protect me," he said. His tone so much calmer than the rest of him.

"No," she said, just as calm, her body just as stiff. "But I will. I'd put my body between you and anything else, and if you don't know that, you should."

"What if I don't want that?" Sam said, hands fisting up. Stretched somewhere between anger and pleading. "What if all I want is just for you to be safe?"

"Tell me what's wrong, Sam," Jess said steadily, as if he hadn't said a word or she just hadn't heard a word. Sam just shook his head. "Well then tell me who you would let help you?"

"No," Sam whispered. He could almost feel the phantom itch of the tattoo on his back. Two intertwined letters, a last teenage gesture of, well, something. Dean's initials, engraved into the skin above his ass. His Dean and not the thing that wasn't Dean at all. "No."

Sam pushed up to his feet, pivoted and walked out the door.

"Sam," Jess called at his back, but he was already gone. He didn't stop until he was down in the parking lot and slid into a classmate he knew was out of town for the week's junker of a car. It took all of a minute to hot-wire and then Sam was gone.

The drive was soothing, his classmate even had a stack of old Alice Cooper and Metallica tapes and Sam turned them up loud, like Dean was the one in the drivers seat subjecting him to them. The other one- he didn't show up. That helped.

When he strode into Sequoia Hospital he knew he looked more like a patient than a visitor, but the staff spoke to him gently inspite of that. Or maybe because of that.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Winchester," the woman at the admission's desk said and she actually did look sorry. "It was terrible, what happened."

"What happened?" Sam whispered, but he already knew. Dean was standing over the woman's shoulder, holding a rope made of bedsheets in his hands.

"He well. It was terrible. Your friend hung himself in his room, just yesterday. And we are so sorry for your loss." Sam didn't even look at her.

"Open bed for you now, Sammy," Dean said and grinned brightly. He paused for just a moment and blew Sam a kiss before disappearing down the hall.


It was late as hell on a sticky October LA evening. A man lay flat on his stomach on a rock hard motel mattress, staring at the photographic image of what might have been a zombie when the phone rang. He almost ignored it, but not that many people had the number, and it had to be important.

He almost dropped the phone when the name on the caller ID flashed on the screen while he fumbled to answer it.

"Sam? Sam, is that you?" he all but shouted into the line, like he wasn't sure whether to be pissed or terrified.

Instead he got disappointment when the voice on the other end was female, light and tentative. "Is this Dean? Dean Winchester?"

Dean glared. Okay, he liked getting chicks on the phone as much as anyone, but calling him from Sam's phone was a little much. Unless something actually was wrong. "What? Who is this?"

"Are you Dean? I need to talk to Dean," the girl on the other end pressed. She sounded nervous and Dean felt the prickle of fear and hope that had risen when he saw Sam's name on the ID come up again.

"Yeah, I'm Dean. Jesus, who is this? Why do you have Sam's phone?" He hated how unsteady he sounded, but damnit, he needed some answers. And this had better not be Sammy pulling a bitch routine somewhere.

"You're Dean? Good, listen to me."

"I'm listening. Where's Sam? Is this some lame college brat prank? Do you know what time-" he demanded, only to be cut off.

"It's four am here. Look, we don't- Sam doesn't have a lot of time."

"Sam doesn't- what do you mean? Who the fuck are you?" Dean could hear his pitch lowering to something like a growl, but couldn't much care. "I don't need cryptic, I need answers."

"Palo Alto," the girl seemed to have caught on to his impatience. "Stanford campus. I'm sure you know where that is. You can find him in the campus directory. When can you get here?"

Dean was already on his feet and grabbing things to stuff into his duffel without any regard for neatness or order. "You'd better tell me what the hell is going on. Lady, you-"

"Just get here soon, Dean. I mean it," she said.

"Sure. All right. Fuck. Who- Hello? Hello? Lady?" Dean winced when he heard the dial tone.

"Fuck," he hissed, grabbed the half-full duffel and ran out the door. The motel would just have to deal with 'Mr. Takaya', the name on Dean's current credit card, not bothering to stop to check out.


Sam wasn't sure how he got home, never mind to bed. He knew that he must have because he was dreaming. Knew he was dreaming.

Dean was there, watching him, and still smiling, always smiling in the way that made the corners of his eyes crease. Sam's hands flexed in their bonds before he realized that they were bound, definitely bound, with solid, unyielding steel.

"You're all mine now, Sammy," Dean said, a brilliant, wicked gleam in his eyes. The kind that was usually reserved for the Impala, acts of pyromania, and really wild sex. Sam stared and twitched, only then realizing that his ankles were both bound too, trapping him well and truly to the headboard.

"You're not Dean," he told the thing with his brother's face, when it leaned down to caress his cheek. He reared his head back to take a bite out of the petting hand. It tasted of nothing, sawdust instead of flesh and blood. Sam choked.

It laughed and then slapped him hard, back and forth, until his ears rung. "I'm all the Dean you'll ever see again, so you might as well enjoy it," it murmured. Hands slid between his legs, a stroke, followed by a hard slap across his balls that made him scream helplessly.

Sam woke up, hoarse but still screaming, arms and legs tangled in the sheets too much to move. Jess was on the floor beside him, wild eyed and loose limbed, like she'd just been shoved off her feet.

"Jesus. Sam. Wake up," she hissed. "Wake the fuck up."

"I'm awake," Sam whispered, limbs already drawing in, almost into a fetal position.

Pale morning light was harsh on Jess' face as she stumbled to her feet. There were thick, greening bruises all down her neck that made Sam gasp. Like they'd been made with huge hands. "What? Did I do that?"

She shook her head sharply and then winced like it hurt. "No. It was him," she whispered, and Sam understood why her voice sounded so rough. "We have to do something, Sam."

Sam nodded. Wordlessly, he held out his hand and she took it, sliding into bed next to him. She was wearing street clothes, jeans and a shirt, unrumpled, like she'd never been to bed at all. Her eyes were red rimmed as she climbed onto his lap and kissed him, hard.

Sam shuddered and shook his head. "Not now," he said, and she nodded, sliding up to straddle him, but gentling her kisses into something soothing instead of arousing.

They stayed like that for a longer time than Sam was sure they had. He didn't cry and neither did she, but there were tight, finger shaped bruises all down his spine to match her hands and she never stopped shaking no matter what he did.

"I'll get you something to drink," he whispered into her hair. Breathing in the scent of her. Soap and fresh dough and Jess. "Calm you down. Let you sleep."

"I'm not going to sleep, Sam. We need to do something," she said and her teeth chattered as she spoke. Sam couldn't remember her ever looking more tired than she does now, but he thought he might look the same if he dared a mirror.

"Yeah, but something to drink is still good," he soothed. He had to physically unwrap her arms and legs where they clung to him to get out of bed and go to the kitchen.

He stopped in the bathroom along the way, to the medicine cabinet. He ruthlessly crushed anything like guilt when he pulled a sleeping pill out of a small orange bottle. It was Jess' prescription, so he wasn't worried when he crushed a pill into her soda and carried it back to her.

She kissed him, slow and sleepy and miserable while he petted her hair until her breathing evened into sleep. Once she was out Sam made a ring of salt around the bed, strong and thick, and hung every crucifix he had around the headboard, whispering every prayer he knew as he moved.

He managed a tiny smile when he thought about that angry girl on the phone and murmured a final sutra, just in case.

"Just keep her safe," he mumbled, looking back at Jess from the doorway. "Nothing else matters. Just keep her safe and I'll finish this."

The ritual he was going to use was makeshift, crazy, but it would be crazier to do nothing and Sam had two weeks of almost constant research with one of the most extensive libraries in the country behind him. He told himself that this was bound to work and it wasn't like he had a lot of choice.


There was a storage room in the basement of their building, one that was normally kept locked solid, but if Sam knew anything it was locks and this one was easy enough. The room was near soundproof, big enough and empty. Easy. Maybe another hunter would be able to guess what was going on there if they saw the flicker lights under the doorway, but no one else would have a clue and Sam was the only hunter here.

No matter how empty it was, Sam knew very well that it would try to stop him. He didn't even have to wait. There was laughter, thick and awful as Sam set the parameters for the ritual in chalk on the cement floor and spilled protection with salt.

He refused to even look up at it, because of course it was still wearing Dean's face. Dean's smiling, shining face, like he's just come back from an incredible hunt and crawled into bed with Sam. Only the words that spilled out of its mouth so easily were poisoned.

"You'll die alone, Sam. That's what you wanted, isn't it?" the creature who is not Dean sounded so happy when it spoke. Sam could only whimper.

He lifted the knife to the East and whispered the first invocation. The creature took a step forward and stopped at the salt barrier, abruptly, like it had hit a wall.

"Or isn't it what you want? I can be with you," the creature crooned, holding out its arms when Sam was stupid enough to finally look at it. Dean's arms, as if tempting Sam to come to him. And Sam could only stare, wide eyed, enraptured.

Even with however much better he knew, it looked like Dean. It had Dean's voice, low and dark and pleased. Sam hadn't heard or seen his brother in a year, outside of a blurry photograph crumbled in his wallet, and now he can smell him he's so close.

"Dean," he whispered, thick with misery. Then he turned to the West, knife clutched in fist and choked on wishes.

"I'll be with you, Sammy. All you have to do is let me in. Won't you let me in?" Dean murmured, eyes so green, like spring leaves, grown wild on radiation poisoning.

"You're not my brother," Sam told the Western Quarter, as he drew the symbol of banishment in the air. He didn't look at the Dean creature, couldn't. "He's not here. He's off hunting monsters somewhere, not here."

"Poor Sammy." When Sam turned to the South, Dean was there, face pressed right up to the circle, right inside. Sam stared, swallowed bile. The smell was perfect, Dean's aftershave and clean sweat. Dean's amused but sympathetic eyes. "You're right. But is that so bad, your Dean not being here? You're cursed, you know."

Sam gritted his teeth and turned away, but Dean was there too, moving so fast, so smooth, like water. "You're cursed, Sammy. Remember mom? She died because of you, protecting you. And she's only the first one."

"Shut up, shut up, shut up," Sam mumbled as he finished off the invocation of the South and turned North. Last quarter. This would work or it wouldn't.

"You'd better stay far, far away from your precious brother if you want him to live," Dean's voice came in a teasing, smoky sing-song. "But you've already made sure that he wouldn't want to get near you, running away. Leaving. Never, never calling him and lying and telling yourself you can't."

Sam forced himself not to hear, like he had cotton in his ears. Forced this not Dean thing to recede, the way he'd once forced the real Dean to recede. One more quarter.

He was so busy not listening to Dean's taunts that he didn't hear when the taunting became a chant, didn't hear anything until the winds picked up, fast and hideous, sending salt in harsh bursts, like it was being thrown in Sam's face.

Sam flinched away from the salt and tried to ignore it, tried to hide from the sting on his skin. So close to the end. He just had to finish before the circle broke.

He breathed in and opened his mouth, last phrase already on his lips, before the impact of something against his chest drove all the air from his lungs. The wind kept howling, half deafening him and Sam looked up, squinting through salt and wind at Dean straddling his chest.

"Poor little Sammy," Dean crooned, face twisted into a perfect replica of Dean when he's mocking sympathy. "Don't worry. I won't leave you alone the way you left me. I'll always be with you. Always, for the rest of your life."

"Fuck you," Sam hissed, hands tight in fists and drove one upward, but at eighteen he hasn't quite filled out to match his frame. He had height on Dean, but Dean had mass and a better angle. And strength, more strength than the real Dean ever had.

And Dean smiled his blinding, happy smile and caught Sam's wrists in his hands, pressing them down over Sam's head. "Aw, did you want to play? Well, it has been a while."

Sam opened his mouth to deny it, to swear, to finish the damned ritual and send this thing that mocked his brother's skin back to hell where it belonged. Instead it arched down, lightening swift, and caught his mouth with its. A rough, claiming sort of kiss that tasted of ashes and sawdust, not Dean at all. Sam tried to pull away and cracked the back of his head against the rough cement of the floor. It took a moment before there was even pain. Just crazy, head spinning dizziness, and then it was there, on him. It had his lower lip between its teeth and bit down, hard.

When Sam could see straight again it was licking his blood off its tongue in neat, catlike motions. Its thighs pressed close and he could feel how hard it was, too familiar, and all wrong, right up against his belly. He whimpered and closed his eyes so he didn't have to see it look at him anymore.

"You sent everyone away, Sammy," it said, voice low and rough and still full of that hideous sympathy while Sam tasted his own blood trickling down his throat. The wind had died down, just little spurts of breeze left now, like someone had left a window open. "No one left to save you now."

It licked his ear and then bit down again until he stifled a scream. He could feel the warm spit and more blood, slippery on his skin.

He was going to die, with this thing that wasn't his brother holding him down and laughing in his ear. Sam tried to knock it back, tried to get some kind of leverage, but he couldn't seem to budge it. Going to have this happen, on the floor by this mockery of everything and dying would be better than this. He screamed and it laughed at him.

Sam didn't know he was crying until a thumb, hot and hard rubbed the tear off his cheek. And oh fuck, so exactly familiar from elementary school skinned knees and on to later, when it was like sex, like this.

"Shhh, it's okay. This is what you wanted," it murmured, voice hot and strangely gentle. The hand that had him shoved down by the hip was anything but gentle as it ripped at his jeans like the denim was nothing.

"Let go. Let go. Let go," Sam chanted, pushing at it, like it was really Dean, like it was really going to help him. "Dean."

"Oh, poor Sammy. Dean's gonna make it all better. Now why don't you spread a little more for me? How about a last fuck before dying?" And Sam wanted to die. If it would just stop touching him, he was fucking fine with dying.

And then there was another voice, coming from somewhere by the door. Not coming from right up against Sam's face, with that stink of charcoal on its breath. Except weird, because it was still... still Dean's voice.

"Dude. How about you get some better lines. Where did you get that, the vaudeville villain correspondence school for demons?"

Dean. Sam mouthed the name, not really daring to hope. "Dean," he whispered, like it was everything.

The sound of a shotgun was the best thing that Sam has heard in a good goddamned year, and he could hear the not Dean creature howl in a voice that sounded nothing like his brother's and smell the rounds.

Sam reacted fast, reflexes trained since he could remember fast, kicking it off him and grabbing the ritual knife where it has clattered to the floor just above his head. He didn't look at the thing that was not his brother, still close enough to smell, still laughing at him and the way his torn jeans hobbled every movement. Not even when the person who probably was his brother, slammed into it with hollow rounds.

Even hit, it was faster though, and Sam almost choked when it got its arm around his neck, wrenching him around and forcing his chin up so that he was looking right at Dean. He could hear it snickering, as if the holy water and the bullets didn't hurt a bit.

"So look at that, big brother comes through," it crooned. Sam felt the press of his own knife against his neck but the weight of Dean's stare was worse. Sam could barely read the expression there at all, vision blurred by the hit on the head and the arm cutting off his air supply. "Shoot me again and my hand might slip on the knife. Wouldn't want that, would we?"

"Let go of him or me shooting you is gonna be the last thing you need to worry about," Dean said, still so expressionless. Sam would look anywhere but at him, if the thing that had him would just let him move his head.

"Dean," he croaked, but there wasn't enough air behind the word for anyone but the thing to hear him and it just laughed and pulled him back against it's hips so he could feel just how damned hard it still was. Sam whimpered and Dean's eyes went narrow from across the room.

"You let him go," Dean hissed and took a large step closer.

"Well, what would be the fun in that?" it said. Sam gasped when the knife pressed in against skin and he could feel the sticky heat of blood trickling down his chin. Sam's hands fluttered down, twitching, almost out of his control, sliding into his pockets. "Now, put that gun down, slowly, or baby brother gets the closest shave he ever had." He couldn't believe he'd ever, ever thought its voice sounded like Dean's. No comparison.

Dean's eyes on him and the expression on his face were the only things Sam let himself see. Dean's pale, still face as he let the gun slide down. Sam's fingers spasmed in his pockets even as they closed around a small flask. Stoppered, thank fuck, not screw topped, so he could maybe pull it open with one hand. Maybe.

He hissed and lost his grip when it tightened its arm around his neck. His vision went black around the edges and all he could feel was it, smelling like and unlike his brother, breathing hot against him. It was so easy to lose track of his thoughts, it felt like they were tumbling everywhere without him.

"Relax there, sparky, I'm lowering it. See. I'm lowering it," Dean said from somewhere very far away. For the first time that Sam could remember since… ever, really, ever, his brother's voice shook. Sam found himself wondering in a distant sort of way what it was that was scaring Dean so much now.

Dean was scared, and that, that had to stop. Sam's fingers scrambled back down, tugging desperately at the stopper until the moment it pulled loose. It was a matter of pure reflex motion between that moment and the next when he tossed a flask full of holy water into the face of the thing that had him.

It was enough. It flinched and the knife and Sam both clattered from its grasp. Sam sucked in a hissing, strangled breath of air and grabbed for the knife, barely hearing anything around him. He didn't even try to get back to his feet, just forced himself to his knees.

There were more gunshots and Sam could feel it, the thing, coming for him again, but he blocked it out. He turned his body toward the northern quarter, and spat out the final words of the ritual.

"Sola fide, Sola scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola gratia, Soli deo gloria," Sam called. He heard it scream and watched while Dean emptied round after round into the air where the thing that had worn his face was dissolving into dust.

Sam just kept watching, eyes wide and blank fixed on it until it was gone, like it had never been there. Dean kept shooting at the nothing anyway, but Sam figured he'd run out of bullets soon and then- something would happen.

He shut his eyes tight and let himself slide back down off his bruised knees and curl into a ball on the floor. Sam's arms wrapped up around himself and he didn't look anymore, not even to see if Dean was actually there and actually Dean. If this had even worked, and if it had, what came next.

"Sam," Dean whispered, and he was right there, right close. "Sammy. Sammy. Are you okay?"

Sam couldn't speak, couldn't open his eyes to make sure this was the right Dean. He wasn't sure if he cared if it killed him if it were the wrong Dean. Out of nowhere, he could feel a tearing sob rush through him, but he didn't know why. He wasn't sad. His eyes were just wet.

"Sammy. Open your eyes, okay? That- it got you good. I need to see if you have a concussion." Dean's hands were on him, gentle and careful, like a thousand times after a thousand lesser injuries. Brushing Sam's hair back from his forehead, tucking Sam's head into Dean's lap like he was a little kid again.

Sam blinked his eyes open. There was terror in Dean's face. Whatever else that thing who wasn't Dean had been, it had never been afraid. Sam was the one who had been afraid. "Dean," he croaked. "It's you?"

"I swear to fuck, man," Dean whispered. "It's okay now. It really is. Can you track my fingers with your eyes? How many am I holding up?"

Sam shook his head and then winced at how dizzy that made him. "S'gone? That?"

"Yeah. Yeah, it is so gone, it will never get near you again. I swear," Dean said, and he sounded sure, if far from steady. Sam nodded and closed his eyes again.

He let the world go dark.


Sam woke up some indeterminate time later. It was dark and he could smell cheap motel sheets under his skin. His head was pounding hard enough to kill. There was a warm, hard body wrapped around him, whispering the most absolute nonsense Sam could ever remember hearing.

He gave a weak, painful smile. "Dean," he mumbled and closed his eyes again, falling back asleep. He didn't dream at all.

The next time he woke up there was sun on his skin and he could smell coffee, rich and hot and milky. When he moved, Dean was right there, nestled next to him.

"Hey, Sammy," he said in that gentle voice that only came out when Sam was really sick or badly hurt. "How you feeling there?"

"Better," Sam said, and his voice came out in a croak, but he did actually feel better. He shifted up into a seating position and it only made him a little dizzy. He was still steady enough to take the coffee Dean pressed into his hand. "Thanks."

Dean grinned at him and Sam's breath caught with how much it looked like that thing, and how it was so absolutely different. "Saving your ass is a full time job, I swear. " It was almost physically painful when the grin faded and Dean said, "You didn't- I mean, you were in trouble like that and you didn't call me."

Sam closed his eyes, fingers tangling in the sheets next to Dean's hand. "I wanted to," he said. "I wanted you to come."

"You didn't call," Dean repeated, soft and slow, like he was thinking something through, putting it together. "That thing… it had my face. Did you think-"

"No! No, no, I didn't," Sam hissed, eyes popping open and frantically shaking his head. "I just figured you were off somewhere with Dad. It was nothing like you." Except for the parts that were.

For a moment, Sam thought Dean might push it, watched his brother's face as he struggled with just that, while Sam pretended to drink his coffee. "What the hell was that thing, anyway?" was all Dean said when he finally did speak.

"Demonic construct," Sam said. The hot liquid of the coffee soothed his throat and his voice was closer to normal. "I triggered some kind of set spell that focused it on me. Cursed textbook or something. Stupid, but there you go."

"Well, at least it choose a handsome body to mimic, huh?" Dean said and Sam could hear the layers of fake in his tone. It made him roll his eyes, and never mind his headache.

"Don't flatter yourself," he muttered. He finished off the coffee in a last gulp and put it down. Dean was still so close, but not quite touching and Sam half wondered if maybe he didn't want to. Or if maybe he was afraid, like Sam was.

With a slow, tentative motion he shifted over and let his head sink down against Dean's shoulder. Feeling warmth and muscle, so solid, so right here with him. He let out the breath he'd been holding when Dean didn't pull away. When he let his hand rest against the back of Sam's neck, almost stroking. He would probably be embarrassed about this any other time, but he pretty much was already humiliated for the next decade because of this whole thing, so a little more wouldn't hurt.

"Hey, there must be a reason it chose my face, right?" Dean said, the lightness in his tone painfully aggressive enough to make Sam want to flinch. He was just too tired and battered to talk about this now. Didn't even have the energy to make something up or deny it, not to Dean, not today.

"Heart's desire. It perverted whatever its victims wanted the most," he said softly. Then he closed his eyes and pretended to fall asleep. Dean let him, just settling in close and stroking Sam's hair softly, over and over until Sam stopped pretending.


They sat together on the hood of the Impala. It felt warm and unyielding under Sam's ass, and the solidity of it was the only thing that kept him from screaming. He had his hands in his lap and his head bent so that hair covered his eyes.

"You look shaggy. Are you a pot head or something now? Cause you have pot head hair," Dean muttered. He reached out and ruffled the bangs away from Sam's forehead and Sam almost jumped out of his skin to draw back.

"Don't-" he hissed, before he stopped himself, pressing fingers to his mouth.

When he looked up again Dean's face was white. Sour milk white. "Sorry," he whispered and that look on his face made Sam want to do something, say something to make it better, even as Dean kept apologizing. "Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"I'm not scared," Sam said, before Dean could finish. He made himself meet Dean's eyes. "You don't scare me."

Dean nodded, but didn't look convinced. The smile was the fakest thing Sam had ever seen, and Dean was sort of the expert on phony. "You sure? I'm a scary son of a bitch, Sammy. You never know where your next Nair shampoo is coming from when I'm around."

Sam smiled back, and it was a little more real. "Yeah, asshole. You know what I mean. That thing in there, I knew it wasn't you. So don't worry about it, okay."

Dean actually laughed and gave one of those irritated eye rolls that Sam could never quite copy. "Dude, it's my job to worry. Just shut up."

After that they went back to just being quiet and Sam shifted over a little so that his hip was pressing up against Dean's. It still didn't feel real, that was the problem. It couldn't be real. Dean was here. Dean was here and Sam could touch him and it would be okay. Everything that had been so far from okay might possibly be better.

Except, if Sam weren't still trying to fool himself, he'd remember it hadn't been okay before either.

"How did you even know to come here anyway?" Sam asked suddenly, the question just occurring to him as he asked it. Head injuries were good at scrambling his brain, apparently.

Dean frowned and gave a small half-shrug. "Good instincts, I guess. I was lucky."

Instincts. Sam shivered and pressed his cheek to Dean's shoulder. So, just totally random chance then. Fuck. "I wanted to see you, even before this. I've wanted to see you since… a while."

Dean just shrugged again, palms up, but not a broad enough gesture to dislodge Sam. "You had my number. You could have called."

Sam swallowed, tasting the sour spit. He wondered what Dean would do if Sam told him. Dean and Jess in one room. Wondering was probably better than actually letting that happen. "Yeah. You had mine too," Sam whispered.

"Yeah, well, here I am." Dean's arm slid around Sam's shoulder, hands soothing down his side, and Sam leaned right back into it. Just instinct making his body move. It had been so long since he was last safe.

"Here you are," he agreed softly. "Thank you."

"Yeah, yeah, gimme some thankful head, if you really wanna thank me," Dean said, grinning for just a second before he stopped. Tried to draw back, but Sam caught his hand and kept it pressed to his shoulder. "Sorry. I didn't mean it like that," Dean said, suddenly white faced and white knuckled.

Sam shook his head. He wondered what Dean was remembering to make him look so sorry. Seeing him, like that, on the floor, hobbled with his own jeans while that thing… Sam shuddered, shook his head. "It's okay. It didn't hurt me, not like that. It wasn't you anyway." And that was what had actually hurt.

"Still. I'm sorry." Dean's fingers spread out to cover the small of Sam's back, slow and gentle.

"I do want you," Sam said after a moment of saying nothing. Thinking too much. "I want you to be here. Now. Only if you want to."

He could feel Dean's breath draw in, that's how close they sat. "Yeah, no kidding I want to," Dean whispered. Sam waited to be asked if he's sure or something equally stupid, but Dean just clambered up to his feet and into the back seat for a moment to get the lube.

Sam sat where he was, on the hood, hugging himself, shivering from the cold, until Dean's hands were on him again, standing him up and pressing him down and around, until he was spread out and canted at the right angle. Flat, stomach flush against the hood of the Impala.

It was slow. It had to be, Sam was too bruised and fucked over every which way for it to be anything else. Slow, but not that gentle, Sam's cheek pressed against the hot surface the hood, legs spreading wider with each exploratory thrust. Whimpering, with Dean's hand pressed against his mouth.

It slipped in deep. Dean went in deep and hard, in stuttering, unsteady strokes. It should have hurt more than it did. Sam hadn't been fucked in something like a year, and the last time it had been Dean too, white faced and angry and saying goodbye and that had hurt like dying. It felt so good, to come back to this kind of dying. Felt like home.

Sam's palms scrabbled on the smooth metal and it was only the fact that Dean would butcher him if he screwed up the paint that kept it from being nails.

Dean sunk in further, deeper, until Sam could feel his balls pressed up against his ass. Hear the skin sound of flesh slapping up against flesh with each thrust. Dean whispered to him all through it, babbles and torrents of nonsense, and Sam drank it in, let the sound wash him clean all the way through.

After, Sam was too sore to sit back down on the hood, so Dean spread his jacket like a blanket and they settled into the soft grass. Sam stayed close enough to touch, as if being out of skin contact was the worst thing that could happen to him.

"So now what?" Dean asked softly.

"I dunno," Sam muttered. "I just. I don't know."

"You were supposed to be safe here. That was the idea," Dean said. There was sharpness in his voice that would have made Sam wince if the hands on him weren't so very gentle.

"Mostly I am," Sam said. He let the back of his neck press down against Dean's shoulder and watched the sky spread out, blue and endless. "I like it here. Everyone is just really, normal, I guess, all the time. Better than normal. And there's a girl."

"A girl, huh?" Dean said and Sam could actually hear the smile without seeing it. "She hot? You sharing?"

Sam rolled his eyes. Amazing how put upon Dean could make him feel in five seconds. Like he's six and someone ate the last bowl of Lucky Charms, or twelve and someone stole his Nirvana CD and replaced it with yet more sad bastard music for old people. "No. Jesus. I haven't shared one since, what, Abby Bronson?"

"The cheerleader. Yeah, that was fun." Dean stopped talking after that and Sam took the opportunity to just listen to him breathe. He almost wanted to sleep again, even though he'd spent most of the last two days asleep and knew it. He had some serious catching up to do.

"So, what if I asked you to come with me?" Dean's voice, when it came again, was so soft and unsteady Sam almost missed what he said.

"I don't know," Sam admitted, because lying would actually hurt more. Now, like this, so very naked with Dean. "Are you asking me to?"

He could feel Dean's shrug against his shoulder. "Not yet, if you're good here. Not unless you really want. Maybe. I might, though. Sometime."

Sam closed his eyes and breathed out. He could almost feel his body unknot. It was not remotely okay. Sam's still bruised and fucked up and hurt. "Okay," he said anyway, as though it was. "Let me know."

"I will," Dean said, and leaned over, catching Sam's chin in his palm and pulling him into a lazy kiss. Felt warm, and Sam pushed into it until he could taste Dean all the way through. When the kiss broke, Dean was grinning at him. "Dude," he said.

"What?" Sam mumbled. He let his hand slide down Dean's spine and under his shirt.

"Dude, you have my name on your ass," Dean said, smiling, white toothed and bright, like he had won some kind of prize. "When did you get my name tattooed on your ass?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "You gotta let me have some secrets," he grumbled. "Anyway." Before Dean could ask anyway what, Sam had hands on either cheek and was tugging him into another kiss.

"Anyway, I wouldn't share," Sam whispered. Dean's eyes shone, supernaturally green, like new leaves. Like he was the one that wasn't human, not the thing they killed. Beautiful. "I wouldn't share you with her."

Dean smiled and pressed his thumb against the tip of Sam's nose. "Dude, you're lame," he said, but didn't protest.

It got chilly around sun down, and without talking about it they climbed into the car together. Talking would have been silly, pointless, so they just sat there, listening to Metallica rage on the tape deck while Dean drove them back toward Sam's place.

"How did you find me anyway? I mean, good instincts, yeah, but here and now, how did you know?" Sam asked suddenly, as they pulled up to the front of the building. He honestly hadn't even thought about it before. He'd needed Dean and Dean had come. Except, it had been a year of needing Dean and Dean couldn't have known.

Dean gave a shrug even more awkward than his smile. "You wouldn't believe it if I told you."

Sam laughed at that. "Yeah, you know I probably would."

"I got this weirdass anonymous phone call. Well, not anonymous. Some chick called me from your phone." Dean lifted his palms in his normal, 'chicks, go figure' gesture.

Sam frowned, brow wrinkling. "Huh," was all he said.

"You think about this shit too much. It's what gets you into trouble," Dean said after a moment of just watching him. Then he looked over his shoulder, as if he was checking to see if the street was empty. Sam realized he was when he leaned in to kiss him.

Hard and hungry and Dean. Sam grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him closer, right across the seat. Dean's mouth. He thought he might die wanting this. Had to smirk at himself for being gothic and stupid when the kiss broke.

"What?" Dean demanded at his expression, but Sam just shook his head.

"It's fine," he said and Dean rolled his eyes.

"Yeah. Next time the evil monster with my face tries to destroy your life, how about you call me?" Dean said. Sam nodded even though it was a lie.

"Sure," he said. He took another breath and popped the lock. Got out of the car. His knees shook a little and he looked at Dean over his shoulder.

"I'll see you," Dean called through the window at Sam's retreating back. Sam waved at him without turning around and went inside, climbing the stairs two at a time.

Jess was still asleep in the bed, as if it had only been a few hours since Sam had left instead of days. Only the fact that the line of salt around the bed was broken showed otherwise. Sam sighed and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. She shifted, lashes fluttering, but didn't wake.

Sam kicked off his shoes and jeans and was about to climb into bed when he saw his cell phone, gleaming by the nightstand table. He scrolled through the outgoing calls and wasn't particularly surprised when the last one was to Dean.

After a quick nod, just to himself, Sam put the phone back down and sat down on the edge of the bed, just watching Jess sleep.

"You don't need to protect me," he whispered. "I swear, you don't need to."

If she heard him in her sleep she didn't stir.



End Notes: This was very much the SPN story I've been working myself up to tell. It's also the first story I've written from an outline so it's a lot less messy than almost anything else I've written of this length. That's in part because the plot entered my brain almost full flegded and in part because I had to know the ending to be able to write the middle.

My undying fangirl devotion goes to Christopher Marlowe who wrote The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. The creature in this story had a lot less to do with Mephistophilis than I had originally hoped, but it still somehow seemed a perfect starting point.

Oh, and credit goes to any reader who gets the kind of sort of crack crossover story element. Because, yeah, Shelly is that Shelly.