The cell phone rang about fifteen minutes later, scaring the crap out of Sam. Dean had continued to hover, but made no move. Sam snatched the phone up from the table. "Bobby? What have you got?"

"You okay? You sound tense."

"Are you serious?"

"I mean you sound like something's going on, right now."

"Well," Sam looked toward the hall, "that demon in Dean's body keeps staking us out. I can't decide what its intentions are. It hasn't made a move, but it knows something is up. It's like it's in a daze or something."

"Probably not up to full strength yet."

"Full strength? We've seen possessions before, the demon just snaps into a body and then all hell breaks loose."

"Depends. Maybe the transfer isn't complete, maybe it takes time. Without knowing exactly what he did, it's hard to say."

"I guess that's good news. What else you got?"

"Is there a way that Rupert could have established a psychic link between Ernestine and Dean?"

Sam's face tensed. He glanced at Rupert, then took the conversation back outside, closing the door firmly behind him. "Ernestine is dead. How the hell. . .?"

"It can still be done. If this Rupert fella is dead set on keeping her memory alive, then there is all sorts of energy in that room that can be used to set a link between the living and the deceased. All he needs to do is establish a connection between Ernestine and Dean, and the switch is a piece of cake."

"You make it sound easy."

"You know how these things work. Not as easy as it sounds, there's just a simple explanation for it. Now, was anything unusual said when you two visited Rupert?"

Sam thought back. "It would have had to happen fast. Dean felt drained the minute he left that place."

"Something he said, something he touched, saw. . ."

Sam blinked. "He's the one who noticed that symbol." There was silence on the other line. "Bobby?"

"Did he draw it out in Rupert's presence? Make a copy of it? Anything?"

Sam's brow furrowed as he forced himself to think back. "No. No, he didn't do anything. Just stared at it for a long time."

"It might have been enough. If he focused even a little energy on it, Rupert could have picked up on that."

"He did show an interest in it, I was kinda surprised." Sam raked his free hand through his hair. "So he did this without knowing it?"

"He didn't do it. He just gave Rupert a key."

"So how do we fix this?"

"The link has to be severed."

"How? By destroying the symbol?"

"You can destroy the document. But I'd suggest drawing the symbol on the ground where the swap took place, and put the bodies there."

"One on each moon." Sam straightened. "Wait. I think. . .I think it's already there. The cross is at one end. Her crypt is at the other." Sam's eyes widened. "I remember seeing dirt tracks. I thought it was where people just walked a lot, you know, getting to the crypts and back."

"You have to destroy it. Tonight. Crescent moon is still in the sky, barely," Bobby said quickly. "There isn't much time."

"Right. Thanks, Bobby." Sam hung up quickly and returned to the house. He bumped into Rupert in the foyer. "We have to get that demon. We have to go to the crypts."

"Get the – How?"

"Hey, it's your wife! Figure something out!"

"Not my wife." Rupert chewed on his nails in a manner that reminded Sam of Dean, and made his chest ache. "Look, best chance I think is to take – it – for a ride and meet you there."

Sam shook his head. "It's suspicious. I don't think that'll work." And as he spoke, the demon entered the room.

Sam and Rupert froze, each looking at the demon.

Who smiled at them, then scowled.

"Rupert," Sam warned. Then he was airborne, slamming into the large glass curio case to the right of the window. It shattered around him as he fell.

"Sam?" Rupert started to back away, his eyes glued to the demon that slowly advanced. "Sam!"

Sam groaned and forced himself up, pushing glass into his palms in the process, ignoring the pain. The demon had Rupert cornered at the window, and there was no doubt what his intention was. He staggered upright and grabbed a large vase. The demon turned just as he slammed it onto its head

It stumbled, then fell to one knee. Sam hit it again, this time with a broken piece, saw the blood well, and made himself stop. This was Dean's body; there was no telling what damage he'd feel when he returned to it. He backed away as the demon slowly rose, a little tilted, hazel eyes burning. "Rupert! If you know something that'll put this thing to sleep, now's the time!"

"I'm looking!" Rupert was at his desk, digging frantically. He pulled out a notebook and quickly shuffled through the pages. Words filled the air. Words Sam didn't know. Not Latin by any stretch of the imagination. The demon advanced, wrapping familiar hands around Sam's throat, pushing him against the window.

Sam tried to pry away the grip, tried to escape the bend of the glass that was seconds from shattering behind his weight. His cut hands throbbed. Blood covered the demon's grip, making it slick, and Sam managed to twist the hands away, raising a fist to bloody the demon's nose. He frowned as Dean's nose started to bleed.

Rupert's chant continued. The demon looked up, snarled, and lunged at Sam, sending them both crashing through the window.

Sam landed hard on his back, the demon on top of him, glass around them, covering them. He gasped in pain, feeling the shards dig into his back. The demon rose to straddle him, his brother, only not his brother, and Sam suddenly felt he was out of strength, and out of options. Then those hazel eyes rolled, and the demon slid off of him and landed in a heap on the ground.

Rupert climbed out through the busted window, jumping lightly to the ground. "Good thing it was the ground floor," he said quickly, giving Sam a hand up. "Jesus. We've got to get you to a hospital."

"No time," Sam gasped. "Help me." He reached down and pulled Dean's body up. One arm was looped over his shoulder, the other over Rupert's. "What did you do to the demon?"

"What you said. I put it to sleep. I think."

"How long?"

"I don't know."

Sam nodded and staggered to the Impala. He carefully set the body in back, and was about to take the driver's side when Rupert stopped him. He turned as bid, and yelled out at the sudden pain in his back, replaced by pressure. "Sorry," Rupert said. "Glass sticking out of your back."

Sam's head swam. He leaned over the hood of the car, regaining his focus. "Dean," he gritted through his teeth. "We have to get Dean."

Rupert nodded and climbed into the passenger side.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The moon was high, a thin slice of silver in a peaceful sky. On the ground, the situation was anything but peaceful. Sam pulled the body from the back of the car, and the two of them toted it to the cross. "We have to tie him like he was," Sam said. "Help me." Together they propped Dean's body against the cross and bound him tightly. The head slumped forwards, then started to raise.

Sam limped backwards. His brother's body was bleeding, and again, strung up like a sacrifice. Tears stung his eyes, and he blinked rapidly. In a way, it was all too appropriate. He schooled his face and gave Rupert a severe look. "I want your word," he growled, "that you will never, ever, touch this stuff again. Never. You got that?"

Rupert merely nodded, a shadow of the man he was.

Sam nodded back and searched the ground. He glanced up at the sky. "Okay, start talking. Say what that guy was saying the night of the transfer."

"What?"

"Just do it!" Sam snatched up the shovel he had brought with him, and was running as best he could, up the hill. He could hear Rupert's voice chanting, a voice that grew more faint as he crested the top. He stood in the spot where he and Dean had been when they were taken, and looked down.

The pattern was there, as he thought. One triangle pointed to the crypt in the far distance, one pointed to the cross which held Dean. He waited, and the pattern started to glow faintly in the moonlight. It was subtle, something that couldn't be seen from within the circle. But standing over it, the glow was noticeable. Sam waited until he could see the pattern clearly, until there was a sign of power around the cross, until he saw his brother's body jerk as it had done the previous night. In the distance, Ernestine's crypt glowed.

Sam was standing at the top of the circle. He scuffed his boot deep into the ground, drew it back, and scarred it.

There was an audible pop. His head snatched up. The crypt continued to glow, to pulsate, and on the cross, the demon in Dean cried out in anger. "That's it," Sam snarled. "Go back to hell, you bastard." He stabbed the shovel into the ground and pried up a plug of earth, breaking the line.

The demon screamed out. Again it was Dean's voice, but menacing, something he never wanted to hear from his brother ever again. He continued to dig, and the demon continued to cry out, until the glow of the crypt fell dim, and a good six feet of the outer circle was destroyed.

The lines of power surrounding Dean popped and fizzled. Sam limped down the hill, cursing his knee as he tried to gain speed. Rupert was releasing Dean, who seemed to be standing on his own, but only for a moment.

Sam watched in horror as his brother slumped to the ground and didn't move. "Dean!" He ran to the still body, skidding to his knees in the grass and damn, but that hurt. He ignored the pain and quickly cupped his hands around Dean's face, pressing his thumb, then fingers to the side of Dean's neck, feeling for a pulse.

Nothing.

"No. No, no, no, come on, Dean, don't do this." One hand went to Dean's chest, waiting for a heartbeat. Still nothing. "Come on, man, don't make me do CPR on you, you'll never let me live it down. Dammit!" He felt for a pulse again, frantically, then started chest compressions, ignoring the pain in his hands, in his back, his abused knee. He tilted Dean's head back, and breathed for him. Chest compressions. Breathe. Compressions. "Don't you dare leave me," Sam muttered angrily. "This wasn't a part of the deal. You hear me? You're supposed to have a year. And we're going to fix that, too, so don't you dare leave me now. Wake up, dammit!"

Sam glanced up at Rupert while working, and nearly paused. He was walking from the crypt, holding his beloved, stroking her cracked face. His panic increased, because Rupert was staring right into Ernestine's eyes. "Rupert! Is she looking back at you?" Surely this worked. Surely to God it worked.

A tear-stained face raised, and looked across the way, and found his. "What?"

A breath. Compressions. Desperation. "IS SHE LOOKING AT YOU?"

Rupert's voice choked. "No. She was. But not now."

Was? Not now? Sam stopped the compressions and patted Dean's cheek hard, watching as the head lolled slightly. He cursed, his tears making it nearly impossible to see. "Come back, man, come on! Look at me! Open your eyes, dammit!" He started compressions again, and leaned over to breathe.

Hazel eyes flew open, scaring Sam. Dean gasped loudly, his mouth gaping, his eyes darting everywhere. Arms reached out blindly for everything and nothing, and Sam grabbed at them. "Dean! Is it you?" There was rapid blinking, then a frightened and confused look answered the question for him.

"Dean! Oh GOD!" Sam jerked his brother to him by his jacket, engulfing him in a suffocating hug. "Oh, thank God."

Dean coughed violently against his shoulder. Sam clung to him, rubbing his back, saying his name until he heard a voice rough with fear. "Sammy? I – shit."

"Dean. It's okay, you're back. I've got you."

He could feel the heavy breaths, feel his brother's heart pounding. "Is it really you? Say it's you, tell me I'm not. . ." Dean forced the sentence out.

"Yeah, it's me. I've got you, Dean, I've got you. You're okay now. Hear me? You're back, you're okay." And it was a testament to just how frightened his brother had been, that not only did he allow Sam to hold him, but wrapped his arms around his little brother and hugged him back tightly in turn, clutching Sam's shirt in tight fists.

"I – I was dead," Dean whispered. "I was dead. But I wasn't dead. I was just – shit."

"I know," Sam soothed, gripping the back of Dean's neck, holding him close. But he didn't know, he couldn't even imagine it. Sam clung to him, not wanting to visualize the nightmare his brother had lived through.

Dean pulled back slightly, and Sam released his embrace, but held onto Dean's arms, not letting him go, reassuring him through touch and physical presence. He looked into Dean's eyes, not letting him look away, not letting him pull back. His brother looked more steady, still scared but recovering, putting up that barrier between himself and fear that Sam knew so well. He was glad to see it go up, to see a glimmer of the hunter return to Dean. He was even relieved to see that his brother was looking out for him after all he'd been through. Large eyes swiftly ran over Sam's body. "What the hell happened to you?" he coughed out.

The pain was returning. He saw Dean take in his damaged hands. "It's a long story."

"You okay?"

Sam wanted to hug him again. "I'm fine."

Dean looked like he wasn't too sure about that, but he wasn't about to argue. His eyes closed, then opened as he regained his equilibrium. "Where is the evil bastard?" he asked, his voice still rough and harsh.

"Over there," Sam said, nodding to the base of the cross where Rupert clutched the corpse. Rupert's expression was empty, as empty as that of his dead love.

Sam helped Dean to his feet and slowly released him, letting him walk to Rupert, almost as though in a dream. His steps were uncertain and made Sam want to follow, and he did follow halfway, but then he hung back. He was just within earshot of their low conversation.

Dean knelt down beside Rupert and looked at the corpse he'd been trapped in. "Rupert."

Rupert jerked his head round and stared. "Dean. It worked."

"Yeah." Dean pressed his lips together tightly.

Sam shifted, not certain if Dean was going to let the incident go with that comment or throttle the disturbed man.

Dean just winced at the body. A myriad of emotions passed quickly over his face, then vanished. "Rupert," he said softly, shakily, "you've got to let her go, man. It's past time, don't you think?"

"It should've worked," Rupert muttered. "I don't understand what happened."

Dean nodded. Sam continued to watch, knowing that feeling all too well, and the trouble it caused, and he could see that understanding cross over Dean's face in a brief show of sympathy. But he also saw the anger directed towards Rupert, anger so tangible that it was hard for Dean to visibly keep it in check. "Yeah, well, that's the supernatural for you," Dean said. "Things rarely go as planned. Just, let her go, Rupert, please. For all our sakes."

Rupert looked at Dean, then down at his beloved. "She won't come back."

"No."

"She's really gone."

Dean just looked at him.

Rupert gave a shuddering sigh and released the body. It rolled half from his lap with an odd, stiff sound of crinkled material.

Dean stood and helped Rupert to his feet. "Go with Sam," he said. "You don't want to see this." Rupert merely nodded numbly.

Sam closed the distance between them and steered Rupert toward the Impala. "You sure you want to do this?" he asked Dean quietly once Rupert was out of earshot.

"I want this bitch gone," Dean muttered carefully.

Sam's forehead pinched in worry. He hovered. "You okay?"

It was a loaded question, and there was no easy answer to it. "I'm fine. Get him out of here. Take him to the car and wait for me."

Sam took a deep breath, then released it and nodded. He followed Rupert to the car as Dean slowly took a box of matches from his jacket pocket.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"I knew we shouldn't have left." Sam shifted slightly, favoring his wrapped knee. He turned his laptop to face Dean, mindful of his bandaged hands. Both men were cut up and bruised, and earned several cautious looks as they entered the small diner outside Wichita.

Dean looked up from his notebook. A white bandage covered his forehead, but didn't obscure his expression of distaste as he read the name. "Rupert Glassier Grainger found dead." He frowned and leaned forward, reading through the details of the article and summarizing them out loud. "Rupert Glassier, thirty-three, was found dead in his home last night from an apparent suicide. He was shot in the head. No evidence of a break-in or struggle. On his writing desk was a note, 'To my love, I'll see you soon,' I guess he got his wish then. Wonder if he's where she is. I mean, with our luck he'll come back to haunt our asses." He returned to his notebook.

Sam turned the laptop back to him, studying his brother's reaction to the news. "I just hope he's found the peace he wanted."

"Well, I guess if anyone deserved such an end, he did. What?" He glowered at Sam's disapproving gaze, then frowned back down at his notebook.

Well, he couldn't blame Dean for the attitude. "No, it's okay. I get it." Sam leaned over his elbows on the table. He hadn't asked Dean what it was like, and his brother hadn't volunteered any information. The night Dean returned to him he'd been surprisingly calm. There was no discussion, and his sleep was deep, leaving Sam to wonder if his brother ever had nightmares about anything. Maybe his conscious didn't allow it. Maybe he was lucky enough to get what he wanted, and was willing to let it go at that. Maybe if Rupert hadn't waited so long to work his magic – maybe, maybe, maybe. What was dead should stay dead.

Sam was beginning to wonder if that comment still held meaning.

He watched Dean for a moment, then cleared his throat. "I'm just glad it's over. Don't think I could get used to calling you ErnesDean."

Dean's brows rose. "You did not just say that."

"'Fraid so." Sam gave a hopeful smile, and was pleased to see his brother merely shake his head in disgust.

"So," Dean said, sounding rightfully put-out, "I hear there's a gig in Georgia."

"Dean, shouldn't you rest a bit?"

"Pot– kettle, Sam. Besides, people to see, monsters to slay, all that good stuff."

Maybe work would keep him from thinking too much. Sam knew that Dean was a thinker. He was too much of a thinker, actually, very much a doer, and not much for emoting. It was a wonder he didn't have ulcers.

Of course, maybe he did, but just didn't say anything.

Dean was still trying to reel Sam in for the next case. "No graveyards."

Sam decided to bite. "Yeah? That's too bad, because I hear that one in Savannah is a real treat."

Curious brows rose. "Seriously?"

The corner of Sam's mouth quirked. "I thought you said no more graveyards?"

"The dead don't scoff at my jokes like some people I know. You gonna pay this tab, or what?" Dean flung the bill at Sam and sat back in the booth, his fingers threaded behind his head.

Sam just gave an incredulous smile and rose to pay. Dean smirked, but his eyes were haunted.

He'd keep this inside, just like everything else, just like he felt he was expected to do. And Sam would say nothing about it, because he knew that when the time was right, when Dean felt in control again, he would let Sam help him. Then he would feel justified in badgering Dean with the questions until the dam spilled, and after, help him to fortify the barrier that would allow him to function without going insane.

Sam handed the bill to the cashier and glanced back. Dean was watching him intently, fingers still threaded behind his head. Their eyes locked.

Of course, a lot of times there was no need for words, when all the help in the world was available in a mere look. Sam finished the transaction and walked back to the table. Dean grabbed his jacket without a word, but there was a small smile on his lips.

And Sam noticed.

-end-