Title: If you prick him, do I not bleed?

Author: Wysawyg

Disclaimer: I own nowt but my soul and some comfy walking boots. All else belongs to their owners, in the Winchester case, this is the Kripkeeper and the CW.

Author notes: Written for spndailylife challenge. Prompt was Red and white roses symbolising Unity.

Mostly humour with a side-serving of angst. Set post-Season 2 finale. Beta'd by the wonderful TraSan.

Summary: A thorny encounter with a rose bush leaves the Winchester brothers a little close for comfort.

Begin

"A rose garden?" The disbelieving words came from Dean Winchester who was currently stretched out on one of the two motel beds in the room, working a kink out of his back.

"You are the one who said he wanted different hunts," Sam Winchester was hunched over the small table, tapping away at his laptop and looking well on the way to a backache of his own.

"But a rose garden?" Dean protested, finally rolling up to a seated position, propping his head against the carved headboard of the bed. The fact that the headboard had prancing unicorns inlaid into it was a fact Dean refused to acknowledge, much like he ignored the rest of the mostly mythical creatures twirling in the wallpaper and upholstery of their latest fiasco of a motel room.

Sam made a sour face to his brother, "I have researched this." He spun the laptop around to face his brother, even if Dean could only make out a few lines and squiggles from this distance. "Over the last hundred years, twenty four have died after visiting this rose garden. Over a hundred others have gone missing shortly afterwards. Another almost two hundred have had 'something strange' happen and that's just the reported cases."

"Huh," Dean said. "Sure is popular for a rose garden."

"Some people like flowers," Sam grumbled. "Either way, I think it's something we should investigate."

"Freaking rose garden," Dean grumbled as he edged off the bed, gingerly resting his weight on his right leg. In some ways it was good that the Yellow-Eyed Demon being dead and all hadn't changed everything in his life but he would have appreciated it if it had broken his nasty 'get tossed into walls' habit, especially when said wall isn't that steady and decided to crumple onto its assailant. "So, evil roses?"

Sam gestured excitedly to the webpage he was looking at. "I found this tourist site. The garden was planted in 1872 by an English Immigrant named William Rose."

Dean cocked an eyebrow, "How appropriate."

"Not really," Sam argued. "Apparently speculation runs that that wasn't his true name and that he was running from England to escape persecution for Witchcraft."

Dean snorted, "Yeah 'cos they still burnt witches back then." His tone was heavy with sarcasm. "So we got a possible witch came over here and… what, planted a bunch of roses? It's not exactly high on the scale of world domination."

"Maybe not but the roses aren't doing too badly on the death toll," Sam pointed out. "Plus he would have thought it humorous. Roses are usually symbols of love or innocence."

Dean paused, "So we're really dealing with an evil witch?" That sounded a much more appealing hunt than a rose garden.

"Well, the witch in question is long dead. He was killed in a suspicious fire at his home not long after the disappearance of a local girl, Martha Betworthy. The girl's body was later found in the woods close to the witches' home. The first death was a few weeks later."

"Evil witch gets murdered for killing a girl and takes revenge with… roses?" Dean scowled. "What a wuss."

"We don't know that he killed the girl, Dean," Sam said. "In fact I looked it up on wikipedia and popular opinion suspects the local blacksmith, Ted Rightly."

"But he was a witch," Dean pointed out.

Sam rolled his eyes, "He was certainly a practioner of Wicca but that hardly makes him evil. Wicca predates Christianity by a long way and is said to have roots in the worship of nature and all natural things, long before Christianity falsely attached it to Satanism."

"Evil roses," Dean pointed out. "Unless popular opinion suspects the blacksmith for that too."

"So are we taking this hunt or not?" Sam turned puppy-dog eyes on Dean.

"Fine but you tell Bobby about this and I'll tell him exactly what happened to his whiskey that time we visited there when you were twelve."

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

Sam was like a kid in a giant petalled playground once they reach the rose garden, barely letting Dean dump his duffel in the hideous motel room—seriously, who wants to stare at paisley?—before dragging his brother out to the rose garden. Once there, they paid an exorbitant entrance fee and get a 'guided tour' by a woman who made such long pauses that Dean wondered if she'd died mid-sentence each time.

Sam paused halfway through the tour and stared, "Is that a black rose?"

The old woman looked flustered, the first bit of colour in her grey-toned face manifesting as twin spots of bright red on her cheeks. "Of course not," She said hastily, a high fluttering of panic in her voice. "Black roses are impossible. It's just very dark red."

Sam frowned and peered closer. Dean gripped the back of Sam's hoody and yanked backwards, hissing, "Don't get up close and personal with the murderous flora, idiot," into his brother's ear.

Sam had the good grace to look a little sheepish, "Sorry." He leant a little closer to the rose, keeping a safe distance between himself and the petals, "Certainly looks black."

"Well, it's not," The woman snapped. "Now, the next flower…" She haughtily marched off to the next group of flowers.

Dean shrugged at his brother and followed the old woman. If his brother's suspicions were right then it was a good idea to get this tour over as quickly as possible and then nip back to the garden later to burn the rose bush.

When Sam exclaimed, "That's impossible," Dean was right about ready to smack his brother. Dean followed the path of Sam's gaze, finding it resting on an innocuous rose bush with deep red and white flowers.

This time the woman didn't look in the slightest flustered, almost as if she had already prepared her response, Dean mused. "It's just grafted," She answered. "A red rose bush and a white rose bush mixed together. Admittedly it's more common with fruit trees but we are all allowed our vanities."

"Surely this technique wasn't available when the garden was first planted," Sam argued while Dean chanted 'shut up, shut up, shut up' in his head.

"Probably not," The woman stated without breaking a sweat. "That rose bush is a more recent addition to the flora here."

Which marked it as safe in Dean's book. "So how does this grafting thing work?" Dean asked, crouching down in front of the plant. He ignored the flowers and poked his hand through the stems to try and find the join. "Ow," He yelped, tugging his hand back and frowning at the tiny bead of blood formed on the pad of his thumb.

"Sadly we can't do anything about the thorns," The old woman said, an oddly amused look in her pale grey eyes.

Dean jammed his thumb into his mouth and sucked at the injury.

"Idiot," Sam whispered in his ear.

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

The tour continued until Dean thought he knew more about roses than anyone could possibly want to know. They headed out of the garden as soon as it was over, going back to the motel room.

"So, burn the black?" Dean asked, flumping down on his bed and trying to pretend he didn't see the paisley.

Sam took a more cautious seat on the edge of his bed, idly rubbing his thumb against the side of his hand. "I think so but we need some way to be sure what we've done has worked."

Dean nodded his agreement at that and leaned back against the headboard to think. He was distracted by the constant movement out of the corner of his eye and he turned his head to where Sam was still rubbing his thumb against the side of his head. It didn't take long for the worst case scenario to occur and he rocketed forward, crossing the gap between the two beds and gripping his brother's hand in his. There, clear on the pad of Sam's thumb, was a tiny pin prick, the surrounding skin reddened from irritation. "Sam!" Dean hissed. "Which rose did you get this from?"

"I didn't," Sam protested, pulling his hand back and placing it flat against his chest.

"Doesn't look like that to me," Dean growled, retrieving his brother's hand and inspecting the miniscule injury. "Damn it, Sam."

"I swear to you, Dean, I didn't touch the roses."

Dean frowned. He had kept a cautious eye on his brother after the near-miss with the black rose bush and he certainly hadn't seen Sam reaching for any. "So if you didn't touch any roses, how did you get pricked by a thorn?"

"I don't know," Sam said miserably.

Dean rubbed a thumb over the tiny dot as if that simple action could erase it, "Maybe the evil roses don't require the intended victim to touch them." It was the only solution Dean could come up with even if it was hardly plausible.

"Maybe," Sam didn't sound happy about it either though that could have just been the implied consequence.

"You know, Sam, when you said we needed a way to be sure if the attack on the rose bush worked, I didn't think you'd take such a practical approach."

Sam's reply was made using his unmarked right middle finger.

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

"So, I googled evil roses," Sam remarked from where he now sat with the laptop perched precariously across his legs. "The only hits seem to be an all-female wrestling game."

"Really?" Dean perked up and shifted beds to peer over his brother's shoulder at the screencaps. "Nice, we should buy that."

"Dean, we don't have a Playstation 2 and, even if we did, we don't usually have a TV." He closed the site before his brother could get any more distracted. "There's nothing on roses themselves being evil."

"Evil had an original thought for once," Dean mused. "Fine, we'll just have to find our own solution. I said 'burn the roses!'" Dean demonstrated by flicking open his lighter and waving his hand over the flame, "We'll give her black roses."

Sam felt an uncomfortable prickling sensation in his fingers and rubbed at the warm skin. That prickling became an outright feeling of doom when Dean closed the lighter and the sensation went away. He glanced at his thumb again, at the barely visible wound. "Dean, give me your hand."

"If you are asking me to marry you, dude, I'll give you the same response as I did when you were five, it just ain't legal between brothers."

Sam would usually at least pay lip service to Dean's blather but he wasn't in the mood, "Dean, give me your hand."

Dean held out his hand and Sam gripped it, turning it over to inspect Dean's thorn wound. Just as Sam had feared, it was in the exact same space as Sam's own. Sam dug a nail into the palm of Dean's hand and felt the painful echoing bite of his own.

"What the fuck, Sammy?" Dean withdrew his palm and rubbed at the crescent imprint.

In response, Sam dug a nail into his own palm and watched Dean flinch.

Dean wasn't slow, despite what Sam might sometimes tease, and his eyes lit with understanding, "Aw shit." He thrummed his fingers on his knee and Sam could almost feel the ghost sensations, unsure how much of that was his imagination playing tricks. "At least it wasn't the black rose bush?" He offered sheepishly.

Sam glowered, "Don't touch the roses, Sammy. Hey, I know what I'll do. Why don't I touch the fucking roses?!" Sam was half-tempted to punch his fist into the wall just so his brother would feel it. "Now what do we do?"

"Same thing as we were planning to do before. Torch the roses, just torch all of them this time."

Sam shook his head, "That doesn't work. If it's more than just one rose bush then it might be something in the soil."

"Evil soil?" Dean asked. "This hunt just gets more and more nuts with every moment."

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

Dean Winchester was not having a good day. For one, hunting rose bushes was not in the Winchester guts and glory creed. For two, getting cursed by evil rose bushes was just plain embarrassing. Added on top of that, he had to deal with the aches and pains of being Sam Winchester: the lingering headache of staring at the computer screen too long, the ache in shoulders and back from hunching over. He was half-sure Sam had stubbed his toe deliberately too.

"Saaam," He whined. "Can we just go burn the bushes now?"

Sam shot an annoyed look towards Dean and Dean felt his own spike of annoyance in return. Why wouldn't his little brother listen to him for once? Dean had four years more demon-hunting experience age-wise and another four on top from while Sam had been playing normal at Stanford. Sam should be treating him like some sort of hunting God… preferably with a few virgin sacrifices… or non-virgin, Dean was hardly picky.

His mind meandered off to his most recent liaison. Unlike Sam, Dean completely understood the concept of enjoying the fruits of your labour and when the girl they'd so recently rescued from a pixie horde—goddamn pixies!—decided that she wanted to reward Dean in a special way, hell no was he turning down that offer.

She'd been a bit taller than him which had been a little off-putting but then, there was something sexy 'bout a woman you could look up to. She'd real blonde hair, curtains and carpeting matching and all, and the kind of come-hither blue eyes that just screamed to him. Not to mention her tits were fabulous.

Dean noticed Sam shifting a little uncomfortably on the bed opposite but didn't bother asking. Sam would start griping as soon as he reached to the appropriate level of pissy.

Back to Emma or was it Saffron? He knew there was one girl rescued from pixies and the other from that creepy stalker who turned out to have a demon pact. He was fairly sure the blonde had been Emma. Anyway, Emma had been very grateful and incredibly flexible. Dean would've sworn he'd actually learnt some new tricks from their encounter and it'd been a good few years since that had happened.

Sam just definitely twitchy now, shuffling back and forth on the bed and huffing a little.

Dean dragged his mind away from Emma (or Saffron) and turned to his brother, "What is it?"

Sam's face flooded with crimson as soon as Dean asked that, "Nothing."

"Come on, the last time your face went like that was when you googled Black Dogs and found beastiality porn instead."

"It's nothing," Sam insisted but he shifted the laptop off his lap and headed into the bathroom, a brisk, urgent step.

Dean frowned and took up position just outside the door in case his little brother was in need of assistance. He couldn't feel anything particularly odd going on, just felt a bit embarrassed for his brother. "Sam, you alright in there?" He hollered through the door.

"Dean, go away." Sam's voice was tight.

"Come on, what's wrong? For all we know, it'll start affecting me in a minute. I need some warning, little brother."

"Dean, get lost. I mean it." Sam's voice just sounded more agitated, much like the time Dean had walked in on Sam and his little girlfriend getting to third base.

That spawned a thought in Dean, "Dude, are you whacking off in there?"

The silence was all the answer Dean needed and he hastily retreated from the door. There were enough things he had to share with his little brother without adding that to the list. It seemed a little unfair. Dean was the one reliving his greatest moments and Sam was the one in the bathroom. He peered over at the open laptop page but it was just another page on Botany. Dean really hoped he wasn't discovering strange new facts about his brother.

The door opened slowly and Sam slunk out.

"No need to be ashamed, bro," Dean called out, "It's a perfectly natural biological imperative."

Sam, however, carried on hanging down his face as he walked across the room, retrieved the laptop and stared down at the screen as if it held the answers to life, the universe and everything.

Dean let it go for a while but then the question kept creeping up in his mind and he couldn't resist turning over to Sam and asking, "So, since when do plants get you horny?"

The red flush on Sam's face was about all the answer he needed. "I'm not embarrassed, Dean." Sam gritted out between his teeth. "It's just a bit… odd."

"My brother whacking off to plants is odd?" Dean asked.

"I wasn't whacking off… I wasn't doing that to the fucking plants, Dean," Sam bit out.

"Then what was it?" Dean thought maybe he was crossing the line of how much he really needed to know about his brother but curiosity overwhelmed common sense.

"I really don't know. I was just sitting there researching as normal and then it was just, you know, there."

"You mean my little brother is finally growing into a man?"

"It's not funny, Dean," Sam growled and Dean felt his irritation grow. Wait, irritation grow? Since when was he feeling irritated? He thought he was amused. Winding up little brothers was a national sport of the Winchester clan. Dean was never really one to examine his emotions in too close detail but he felt now deserved the attention.

He examined the root of his irritation and quickly discovered it was Sam… but really not in the way he usually found. "Aw shit."

"What?"

Dean rubbed a hand back through his hair. It was one thing to tease your brother about getting unaccountably horny, it was quite another to tell him it was your fault. "You see, I think the thing is, I was kinda day-dreaming a little, about, you know, Emma or Saffron." He paused to take a breath. "The girl from the pixies and I was kinda thinking a little about, you know, after."

Sam wasn't a slow boy but it seemed to take unfeasibly long for that sequence of events to percolate through his over-sized skull. It was obviously the moment it did as Sam's mouth dropped open and he turned three shades redder than Dean would've thought possible. "You mean I was 'cos you were?"

Dean just nodded his head.

"Shit." Dean was glad his brother concurred with his assessment. "I think we should declare thinking about stuff like that off-limits until we get this sorted," Sam clinically stated.

"That's not really something I can control, Sammy," Dean admitted. "My attention just drifts a little sometimes. Like that girl in Santa Monica…"

"Stop it!" Sam said, tugging at the collar of his t-shirt. "Just try to control yourself for once and we'll go burn all the rose bushes in a minute."

Dean tried to force his mind onto other things. Driving the Impala, that was fairly safe. The thrum of the engine reverberating through the seats, the tug of the steering wheel as his baby tried to decide where she wanted to go, the rush of air from the cracked open window and the music filling up the empty space.

"Dean, I mean, stop it."

"Dude, I'm thinking about the car."

There was a long pause and Sam just muttered, "Not touching that with a ten-foot pole."

Dean finally stood up, having had enough, "Let's go burn those bushes."

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

Five hours later, the brother Winchester stumbled back into the motel room, stinking of smoke and failure.

"Maybe we missed a bush?" Dean suggested, feeling the combined swell of disappointment beating against the fragile enclosure of his mind.

"Even if we did, burning our bush should've freed us," Sam moped.

"So it's not the rose bushes."

"I told you that," Sam snapped.

"Don't get mad at me."

"Why not?"

"Because I can damn well feel it and it's really fucking annoying. Seriously, Sam, I knew you were king of the emo boys but enough is enough."

The brothers settled back into scowling silence.

"Plan B?" Sam asked.

"Burn more things."

"What's left to burn?"

"I don't know. I just really, really want to burn things, lots of things."

"Maybe that old woman knows something."

"Slight flaw in that plan, Sammy. 'Hi, we burnt down your rose bushes last night, fancy telling us about them?'"

"She won't know it was us," Sam pointed out.

"It might be a bit suspicious."

"You got a better plan?"

"Burn the old lady?" Dean said with a hopeful grin.

Sam just shot him a look which combined with a wave of irritation ably made the point.

"Call Bobby?" Sam suggested.

"You promised we wouldn't have to tell Bobby about this."

"That's before you got us cursed by the evil rose bush."

"Hey, if you'd touched the black rose bush, we'd likely both be dead."

"No, probably just me," Sam said morosely which was enough to depress Dean too.

"Same difference," Dean muttered.

Another long silence filled the air.

"What if this is permanent?" Sam ventured.

"It's not," Dean replied, refusing to consider the possibility that the remaining eight months of his life would be spent feeling surrogate emotions from his brother, not to mention that hunting would be out considering the shared injury syndrome.

"But what if it is?" Sam obviously didn't know when to let go of a point.

"Then I'll kill myself and you can go back to normal." Dean meant the words as a joke but they tasted sour in his mouth and hung limpid in the air.

"That's not funny."

"Do I feel amused?"

"No, but…"

"No buts, Sammy," Dean interrupted. "We are going to find the root of this, we are going to kick its ass and then I am going to get seriously laid without an audience. At least one thing hasn't changed, little brother."

"What's that?"

"You've always been a thorn in my side."

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

"Ma'am, could we have a word?" Sam and Dean had debated the issue for hours before deciding their only plan was to talk to the old lady. They returned to the scene of their crime, feigning surprise at the scorched debris.

"Now isn't a good time," The old lady snapped, sounding far less fragile than she had mere hours before.

"It has to be," Dean said and Sam could hear and feel the edge of desperation leaking through. For all that Dean called Sam the king of emo, Sam had ended up becoming well-acquainted with some of Dean's more repressed emotions.

The old woman took another good look at them, wrinkled her nose and then motioned towards the small building, "I think perhaps we should talk."

The brothers followed her in though Sam was getting more and more suspicious of the old lady as each moment passed and began to wonder if perhaps one of them should stay outside to haul the other out.

"Quit fretting," Dean hissed in his head. "You're making me nervous."

Once they were inside, the old lady motioned to a small table and took a seat opposite, "Are you two responsible for that fire?"

Sam put his best offended innocence face on and saw Dean doing his impression of utter confusion, "Sorry?"

"My rose garden? The one that got burnt? You two are the ones responsible, yes?"

"What makes you think that?" Sam hoped he got the right note of disgust and annoyance.

"One, because that one there fell afoul of the red and white roses. Two, because you are the only guests we have today. Three, because you turned up mysteriously close to the fire and you don't look like the kind of people that'd visit a rose garden once let alone twice."

It was point one that fascinated Sam the most though fascination wasn't quite the right phrase, more like horrified. "You know what those rose bushes do?" He could see Dean's hands curling into fists and he stayed ready to hold Dean back in case he was tempted to commit elder abuse.

The woman looked regretful, "Those roses have been the pride of my family for generations and will be about the only legacy I can leave my daughter and my grandchildren. So some of they have a few little tricks."

"Little tricks?" Dean squeaked. "Those roses kill people!"

"Only the black one and I would have stopped your friend from touching it if you hadn't."

"Generations?" Sam asked. "Are you a descendant of William Rose?"

The old woman nodded, "His grand-daughter, Isabelle Rose."

"That's nice," Dean interrupted before Sam could get any more useful information. "But hardly helps me and Sam break the curse on us and stop those roses from hurting anyone else. I assume you have tried to destroy the black rose bush before?" Dean's tone implied that if Isabelle hadn't then they'd be having words.

"They grow back every time," Isabelle said forlornly. "Come tomorrow those burnt ones will be back. Why do you think there weren't police swarming about?"

"Your grandfather was a witch, wasn't he?" Sam asked, continuing at Isabelle's nod. "Do you have any of his talent? Can you undo what he did?"

"I have some small talent," Isabelle admitted. "But nothing compared to my grandfather. I wouldn't even know where to start undoing what he did. Please understand, I don't believe that my grandfather intended this."

"Your grandfather's intentions don't mean a fig to a fairy," Dean replied. "Look, you need to keep this place closed until Sam and me can find a way to stop the roses killing people."

Isabelle scowled, "I have to anyway until the roses repair themselves."

"Fine. Come on, Sammy. I think we need to consult Dad's journal."

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

Dad's journal had only listed one contact who could be of any help and it wasn't a name that Dean had seen before. He dialled the number with some hesitance, leaning over to Sam so his brother could hear part of the conversation.

"Good evening, Jekka's herbs and potions," A voice with a Louisiana lilt answered.

"Hi, this is Dean Winchester."

"John's boy?" Jekka answered brightly. Dean had begun to wonder if anyone in the community actually knew his name as anything other than John's boy. "Never thought I'd hear from you."

Dean cleared his throat, feeling a little discombobulated, "Yeah, well, I found your name in my father's journal. I've got a bit of a problem of a witchy nature and was hoping that you could help me out."

A slurring laugh sounded down the line, "Witchy? Some apples don't fall far from the tree. I prefer the term 'Pagan', 'Wiccan' if you must but I prefer the non-institutionalised term."

"Fine. Pagan problem," Dean rolled his eyes at his brother. "Either that, we've got a pagan curse here causing problems and we need a way to remove it."

He heard a familiar chime in the background, following by the rhythmic tapping of fingers on a keyboard. "Okee-doke. What's the cursed object?"

"Are you using a computer?"

"Yes. I'm cross-referencing my database."

"Isn't that a little modern?"

"Not all witches live in the dark ages," Jekka didn't sound too amused.

Sam apparently concurred as he gave Dean a bitchy look. "We need her help," He told Dean and poked him in the shoulder. The only problem is that Sam literally poked Dean in the shoulder. His finger slid smoothly into his brother's flesh, melding as if it was perfectly normal part of Dean's arm.

Both brothers gaped. Dean shifted away from his brother but the finger, firmly embedded into Dean, followed. Dean brought the phone up to his mouth, "Just got a slight problem. I'll call you back." He switched off the cell.

"Sam… What the hell did you do?" Dean twisted but Sam's finger stayed lodged, only causing a tearing pain in Dean's shoulder which led to him stilling.

"I didn't do anything," Sam's face was white and his eyes were fixed on the disappeared tip of his finger.

"Okay, on the count of three, yank it out."

"Dean! You can't just yank it out. The flesh is fused."

"It's not fused enough," Dean said. "Just yank, Sam. Count of three?"

Sam visibly flinched, "Fine."

"One. Two. Three." Dean shoved sideways just as Sam pulled back and with a slick pop, the brothers separated. Dean clutched a hand to the circular hole in his shoulder, repressing the urge to let out a manly grunt of pain. Even in the pained haze, he glanced to where Sam was wrapped his hand around the bloodied tip of his finger.

Dean reached towards his brother to check the injury and Sam drew back so fast he almost fell off the bed. "Dean. You can't touch me or this'll happen again."

Dean drew back like someone had set his hand on fire, "Shit." He stood and began pacing the small area of the motel room, "Shit, shit, shit, fucking damn. How am I supposed to patch that up?" He motioned to the tip of Sam's finger. It was then that Dean noticed an unusual amount of blood on his finger. It didn't feel painful like his shoulder, more like it itched.

"I'll do it myself, it'll just be awkward." Sam was half-cradling the injury.

"You and me both," Dean held up his finger to Sam's inspection and Sam peered around at his shoulder where a hole identical to Dean's was sluggishly leaking blood.

Still, Sam's injuries were worse than Dean's. "I'll get the supplies," Dean hurried into the bathroom and retrieved the first-aid kit. He pulled out a bandage for his own arm and put the rest down for Sam, being careful to avoid any possible contact with his brother. Dean had never been the touchy-feely type but the enforced lack of contact was going to make things difficult.

Sam's fumbled attempts to wrap a bandage about the bloodied finger made Dean itch to take the task over but patching up that wound with no physical contact was be an impossibility. Finally Sam secured the gauze on using half a roll of tape.

It wasn't that difficult for Dean to patch his own wound up, just swiped some antiseptic over it, secured a square of gauze with some tape. The injury stung now more than hurt. The fingertip he left alone hoping that the air would heal the more minor wound naturally. "Guess we need to speed up the solution to this." Dean picked up his phone and re-dialled Jekka's number.

"Jekka's herbs and potions," She answered after just three rings.

"It's Dean again."

"Ah, John's boy." The voice sounded warmer than the last time. "Have you sorted the issue you were dealing with?"

"Not really," Dean had to resist his hand strayed to the covered wound and rubbing at it. "That curse I told you about? It's kinda me and my brother that've fallen foul of it, along with several other people."

"So, what does it do?"

Dean scrubbed a hand through his hair, wincing as coarse hair scraped across a sensitive fingertip. "That's complicated. At first, it was just him getting an injury I got and vice versa then we could feel each other's emotions. It's gotten worse, when I hung up on you, Sam'd poked me in the shoulder."

"Sibling rivalry could hardly be put down to a curse, I've heard it's hardly uncommon."

"You don't understand. He poked his finger into my shoulder, it merged right in," Dean couldn't suppress a shudder at the memory of seeing a finger blending seamlessly into his arm.

"Oh," Jekka said and Dean hoped for a minute that she had some kind of solution until she followed it up with, "Ew."

"Any idea how I can remove this?" Dean asked.

"You never answered what the cursed object is."

Dean cleared his throat, "Rosebush."

There was no hiding the peel of laugh that rang down the phone, "A rose bush?"

"Several rose bushes," Dean said though he didn't think that made it much better. "As far as I can tell, each different rose bush does a different thing. The one I touched had red and white roses on."

More laughter greeted his ears and Dean scowled. "Sorry," Jekka apologised. "It's just… red and white rose bushes typically symbolise unity so, well, it's ironic."

"I'm laughing on the inside," Dean snorted, explaining the situation quickly in an aside to Sam. "Any chance you could stop laughing and start helping me out?"

"I'm sorry, Dean," Jekka at least sounded sincere. "I'll get to working on a counter-curse and some herbs to purify the ground and something for you to drink but it might take me a few days to mix up, not to mention the shipping time."

"What the hell are we supposed to do for 'a few days'?" Dean wanted to yell. Just sitting there and waiting for his case to solve itself wasn't his favourite thing to do.

He could almost hear the suppressed laughter down the line. "Well, tag's right out."

"I'm going out," Dean announced suddenly and Sam peered up from his laptop to where his brother was already tugging on his boots.

"You can't go out."

"Watch me."

"Dean," Sam grumbled, he should have known it'd be far too difficult for his half-ferret brother to actually sit still for longer than two hours. "I mean you shouldn't go out. Until we know everything that this rose bush does, it's too dangerous."

"Or maybe getting away from each other might lessen the effects and I can get some peace without your thinking grinding away in my skull," Dean retorted, not even slowly from tightening up his boot laces.

"Where are you going?" Sam knew it wasn't going to win this argument on stubbornness alone. Fortunately he could usually trick his brother into giving him enough ammunition to use against him. Not that Sam was particularly thrilled either with being stuck in a motel room with Dean's boredom drilling into him.

"The bar." Bingo!

"A bar? Dean, what part of that seems like a good idea?" Sam was perfectly capable of getting drunk on his own without the aid of second-hand intoxication, not to mention if his brother decided to pick up some slutty blonde.

"The part where we're stuck in this motel room for another four days at least and our credit cards are nearly maxed to the limit," Dean replied casually.

'Damn,' Sam thought. He hated it when he walked smack into a verbal trap his brother laid. "So just a couple of pool games then?"

"Why, you want to know what time to expect me home?" Sam felt Dean was just being churlish now. "Yes, just a couple of pool games, maybe a beer so I don't look too suspicious to the people I'm fleecing. Promise I'll be home by midnight."

Sam could already see that he'd lost from the stubborn set of Dean's jaw and shoulder that said, clear as day, that his brother had the next argument off. The only thing left was to retain some dignity, "Sure. See you later then."

"Sam, don't be…" His brother paused mid-counter argument, a linguistic flail as he realised he had nothing to rail again. "Fine. Okay." He quickly fastened the last lace and headed out the door.

Sam peered out the window as his brother's retreating back then pulled out a bunch of materials he'd been gathering from libraries they passed from. Reading up on demonic deals in Dean's eye line always lead to arguments so Sam had had to resort to either waiting 'til his brother left the room or hiding sheets of paper in innocuous books.

So far all the research Sam had found had been a whole heap of nothing. There was plenty of literature of people who had been said to sell their souls but most of it ended with that person's gruesome death. If the individual did get out the deal then there was never any mention of how except one when the person had escaped by giving their entire family up to the devil instead; Sam was sure Dean wouldn't see that as a viable solution.

It was two hours into his research that Sam realised there was a problem. The problem came in the form of two bright red spots on his paper. He raised a hand to the source and found blood dripping from a broken nose. He muttered a few stuffy curses against too-damn-stubborn older brothers and grabbed a tissue, holding it to his nose in one hand while the other sought out his room keys and headed to the door.

The first bar he went into was calm and peaceful and Sam got a few strange looks for the scarlet-tinged tissue jammed in his nose. He was beginning to hope it was just a one-off blow when he felt the tell-tale swelling out his eye and felt the sting of a split eyebrow. He hurried his step, his brother was obviously holding his own but Sam didn't know how long that'd last.

When he opened the second bar door and heard the sound of breaking glass, he knew he was in the right place. He could see a crowd of men gathered around the combatants, yelling and jeering. The breaking glass turned out to be a bottle on Dean's opponent's hand and Sam had to act quickly to stop his brother—and himself by associated—from getting shivved.

Sam kicked out at the back of the man's legs and wrestled the bottle out of his hand, earning a groan of disappointment from the gatherers who assumed that meant fight over. The man apparently hadn't got the news flash as he used his new angle to headbutt at Dean, only his brother's swift side-step preventing the blow from landing in a sensitive area.

That action renewed interest in the fight and also from one of the man's buddies who joined in with an uppercut to Sam's chin. White dots danced in Sam's vision and he cursed himself for letting his guard down. He instinctively moved to stand back to back to Dean, taking a moment to process why his brother shifted away from him with a scowl.

"Dean, you can't do this fight alone," Sam hissed towards his brother.

Dean stubbornly shook his head, "Get out of it, Sam. I can't watch out for you and fight."

"You don't need to watch out for me," Sam could feel his own anger merging with Dean's reflected ire and knew it was just seconds before the brothers would be fighting each other rather than the burly men nearby.

Perhaps fortunately one of the men chose that moment to restart the fight, Dean barely dodging a ham fist headed straight for his skull. Sam instinctively struck out at his brother's opponent as Dean veered away, only the barest gasp of air between the two siblings.

Fighting was something that Sam had always been good at, as much as he resented that part of his childhood, but a good part of it had always been about letting himself go, letting instinct take over. This fight wasn't like that, Sam had to force his mind to stay in the here and now, hyper-aware of his brother's position, of any exposed skin that could turn the Winchester brothers into conjoined twins.

The adrenalin buzz mutated into a thrumming tension just beneath the surface as Sam ducked under a badly swung arm of his attacker and used the man's own momentum to plough him into his buddy.

Sam grabbed Dean's fortunately jacket-covered shoulder without thinking, "Let's get out of here."

Dean shrunk back from Sam as if the hand had been scalding hot and then looked at the tangled pile of attacker that was showing signs of coordinating enough to get back in the fight. "Fine," Dean didn't sound enthused at the prospect of leaving a fight half-done but Sam was too glad his brother was going to see sense for once and headed for the door before Dean could change his mind.

-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-S-

True to Jekka's word, it was four days later that an express delivery package arrived. The Brothers Winchester headed straight out to the rose garden and sprinkled the packets onto the completely re-grown garden. The black rose bush immediately shrivelled and died but the rest of the rose bushes survived, much to the delight of Isabelle who proclaimed that she'd never liked that one anyway.

They waited until they were in the safety of the motel room before drinking the potion. It tasted bitter and Dean's stomach immediately rebelled and tried to bring it up again. The green tinge to Sam's skin suggested his little brother was having a similar issue.

"So, how do we know if it worked?" Dean asked, looking at the pinkish, irritated skin of his finger which showed no sign of change.

"Erm, do you feel anything which doesn't feel like something you should be feeling?" Sam asked.

Dean took a moment to try and parse that question, "I don't think so."

"I've got an idea," Sam said and Dean felt his stomach twinge again though he wasn't sure the effect was entirely down to the potion.

"What?" Dean asked warily then barely had time to duck as his brother's fist flew at him, hitting him squarely in the cheek. Fortunately fist and cheek detached. Unfortunately the blow was hard and unexpected enough to send Dean careering into the wall.

Sam loomed over his fallen brother and Dean had never hated their difference in height as much as in that moment. Sam took a moment to take in his victory and then a hand was offered down. "It worked."

Dean glowered, ignoring the hand and levering himself up a little awkward, "And if it hadn't?"

"Well, at least I would have got some enjoyment out of it." Dean rubbed his cheek where he could feel the sting of a bruise forming, "What the hell was that for?"

"Two words for you, Dean," Sam answered smugly. "Bar fight."

Dean took that in for a moment then hooked a foot around Sam's ankle and tugged, off-balancing his brother enough that a shove left Sam in a similar position as Dean moments before. He glanced down at his grouchy little brother, "Two words for you, Sam. Fucking rosebushes."