Disclaimer – Not my characters, I just use them improperly.
You like? You don't like? Review and tell me why! (Constructive criticism only please, if you don't like the subject, don't read the story.) This takes place after 'Further And Further Out', so you'll probably want to read that first :)
Okay, this is the end… Hope you guys enjoyed the story, and feel free to skip the author's note at the end, it's a short explanation of the kitsune myth for anyone who doesn't know, and mostly for my own satisfaction :)
Sam was quieter now.
He still smiled, still touched anything that caught his attention, still stopped dead in the middle of a sentence and frowned in confusion because he couldn't remember what he'd been saying. But the pure childlike innocence from the past few months had disappeared after they returned to Pastor Jim's. Dean thought maybe this time it was gone for good.
He was lucid for longer stretches of time, like some tiny thing in his mind had been put back together, or maybe broken irreparably. Dean wasn't sure if he should be glad or not.
This new, more subdued version of less-than-sane Sam still seemed to want Dean though, still pushed his way into his brother's lap whenever he sat down and still curled up with his head on Dean's chest at night.
It was almost anticlimactic to return home from Montana two days after killing the kitsune. It didn't feel like a hunt successfully completed. Instead it felt like the return of weary travellers, all of them older and wiser and somehow humbler than they'd been a week ago.
John had come back with them for a few days. The scene Dean had envisaged of the four of them sitting around a fire with warm chocolate milk hadn't taken place, but then he hadn't really expected it to. Fantasies didn't come true for him. John had stayed as long as the fire in his veins had allowed him, but Dean could see the itch for the road eating at him and making his hands twitch. He left with vague promises to come for a visit in a few weeks. Dean had smiled wistfully and hugged him tight, knowing how it would be; another hunt, another phone call to say sorry.
"Dean, Jerrie needs more food." Sam slipped up behind Dean and spoke directly in his ear as he was washing the dishes in the sink. Dean jerked in surprise, nearly braining his brother as his head flew back. He wouldn't be admitting that the squeak came from him.
"Jesus, Sam! Warn a guy, would you?"
Sam just laughed low and sultry as he wrapped both arms around Dean's waist, pressing up against his back. Dean glanced at the door.
"Jim's gone out." Sam whispered, and for a second Dean's dick perked up. Until Sam noticed what he was doing, and then he found himself pushed aside in favour of Sam's favourite pastime. "Can I help?"
Dean huffed a laugh and waved his dripping hand at the sink. "Knock yourself out, Sammy." Sam grinned brightly at him and stuck both hands in the soapy water, swirling it around until the bubbles grew bigger.
Dean watched his brother, a small smile on his lips. He wondered, in moments like this, if Sam would have really chosen his sanity.
"Jerrie needs food, did you say?"
Sam looked up, his face thoughtful. "Did I? Maybe."
Dean quirked a lip. "I'll check."
They'd returned to Jim's to find the brown and white cat curled up asleep in Jim's easy chair. Dean had tried several times to make it go back to wherever it came from, but it seemed to have adopted them, and he hadn't the heart to take it to the animal shelter in town. Sam had been ecstatic. He'd announced that Jerrie wanted to stay with them, smiling big and petting the damn thing, all the while sending Dean pleading looks every few minutes with big watery eyes.
And that had been that.
"Jerry? Sam, the cat's name was Tom, the mouse was called Jerry."
Rolled eyes. "I know that. It's shortened. From Eliot."
Frown. "Eliot? Who's Eliot? I thought its name was Jerry?"
Jim's surprised look. "I think he means T.S Eliot. Mungojerrie was one of the cats in a poem he wrote."
Dean found it half-amusing, half-reassuring that his brother could remember poetry of all things. It gave him hope.
A wet soapy hand landed on his chest, leaving a dark handprint on his shirt. Sam grinned at him, leaning in to nuzzle under his chin. Dean closed his eyes, enjoying the caress.
"Sam, would you have chosen this?" The question was out before he even knew he was going to say it. He tensed, wanting to take it back. Wanting to block out Sam's answer, if he had one.
"Nothing. Forget it. C'mon, let's dry up before Jim gets back. We can go get cat food, maybe some ice cream for after dinner."
Sam stopped him with a hand, his head cocked to one side. His lower lip protruded in the smallest pout, something he only did when he was trying to concentrate.
"Chosen…this? I had a choice." He frowned harder, like recalling was hard work. "If-if the fox hadn't…"
"Sam, it's not important." Dean said in a rush. "Just forget it, okay?"
"No, no, I want to…I wouldn't have…" Dean's heart sank and he felt sick. Of course Sam wouldn't have chosen this. Sam wanted his normal, wanted school and learning. Wanted a life that didn't make his brother the only safety he could rely on.
Sam leant in, catching his lips in a hard kiss. He tried to pull away, but Sam used his extra four inches of height to back him up until he was pinned between Sam's body and the wall. When Sam pulled away, it was to rest his forehead against Dean's. His hands had snuck under Dean's shirt, long fingers moving over his hips in a gentle caress like butterfly wings brushing his skin.
"I love you."
Dean jerked his head up. "What?"
Sam was smiling softly, his eyes wide and sincere. "I love you. 'Cause you take care of me, and you don't think I'm stupid when I can't remember stuff. And you buy me candy and take me to the park to feed the ducks and take me for rides in the car. I still loved you, even when the fox made my head work properly, 'cause you're my brother." Sam took a big breath after he'd finished speaking, looking pleased with himself.
"Sammy," Dean whispered, feeling his throat clog. "Sammy, brothers aren't supposed to love each other like we do."
Sam blinked and looked down, obviously thinking it through. Then he met Dean's eyes again with a shrug and a happy face. "Don't matter. I still love you."
Dean smiled at him, bittersweet.
"C'mon Sammy, let's get dry those dishes dry."
They worked in silence for a while, Dean drying the dishes and Sam putting them in the cupboards. The late afternoon sun shone through the big windows, making the dark wood of the cabinets and table glow warm and cosy. There was no snow on the ground outside and Dean thought he'd be glad never to see the damned stuff again.
"I wouldn't've gone away." Sam said suddenly, as if they'd been in the middle of a conversation.
Dean looked up, cocking his head. "What?"
"I wouldn't have gone away. If I got better. But you would have." Sam was blinking at him earnestly, trying to make himself understood. Dean frowned.
"Where would I have gone?"
"Hunting, like dad. You wouldn't think I needed you anymore. I don't want to get better if you have to go away."
A lump grew in Dean's throat, sore and aching like he'd swallowed without chewing. His eyes itched.
"I would've said no." Sam continued, a look of deep concentration on his face. "If the fox asked me, I would've said I wanted to stay here, with you and Jim and Jerrie. I'm sorry I didn't stay at the diner like you told me to."
"The fox was my friend though. It didn't want to be mean, but it had to, 'cause those were the rules. But we won't see it ever again because it took its ball and hid in the snow." Sam said, his hair falling in his dark eyes. His face was all of a sudden strange and otherworldly, like a thousand year old mystic. Dean looked hard at his brother, wondering for perhaps the millionth time what Sam really knew, what he couldn't say because it couldn't be said in words.
After the fox had died they'd taken Ben Ellis inside. The boy had been trembling like he was having an epileptic fit and his eyes had been glazed. Jim had prepared warm milky tea for everyone, patiently ignoring John's request for black coffee instead.
Dean had gone back outside after drinking his to bury the fox's body and the remains of the glass ball. It felt proper, somehow, that the fox be put to rest like everyone else.
The body and the fragments of the ball had been gone.
As they'd driven out of the town the next day, Dean had noticed flashes of green on the tall pine trees, peeking out from under puffs of melting snow.
Sam blinked, and like a shadow falling away under the light, the boyish unlined expression of hope was back. "Can we get cat food now?"
Dean grinned, reaching out to squeeze the back of Sam's neck and pull him close. "Yeah Sammy. Let's go get the cat food."
A/N – I took a few artistic licences with the kitsune myth, the main one being the kitsune ball. In the stories, no one actually knows what the ball is for; a few say that it's a power source, which I've used it as here, but some say that it's a toy the kitsune carries around to play with (which someone actually suggested in a review :) ) Kitsunes are Japanese fox-spirits with godlike powers, so they can't actually be killed, but for the sake of the story either Ben or the fox needed to die, so I made up the part about smashing the ball to kill it (if it's really dead:) ) Also, kitsunes have their own moral codes and conventions; if someone took their ball they would offer something for its return, but if whoever didn't give it back, then they'd be honour-bound to get revenge or it would weaken them. Unfortunately Ben had no idea what he was dealing with, and so when the redhead/kitsune had coffee with him like he asked and he didn't keep his end of the deal, he managed to piss it off a lot without knowing what he was doing :) And they can't ask for help for themselves, which is why the kitsune had to kidnap John in exchange for Sam agreeing to help, so it would be a favour-for-a-favour kind of deal.
Oh, and the name Mungojerrie was taken from T. S Eliot's Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats, if anyone was curious, and also I don't own that any more than I own Supernatural, so please no one sue me :)