A/N: This is a oneshot AU, a twisted take on Dean's deal coming due. It would not leave me alone, so here it is.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, darn it.

Summary: She can bring Sam back. That's all Dean cares about. To hell with everything else.


Ruby shows up one night in Bobby's yard, like a bad memory.

"You're turning," Ruby says flatly. She stands toe to toe with him, staring at his face. Dean cocks his head to one side slightly as he leans in. She arches against him, pulls him in close, and from the way she angles her body Dean knows she's one heart beat away from pulling that dagger of hers.

"That's why she gave you a year," Ruby murmurs between bites and kisses. "One whole year, twelve months to tear Sam down, and at the end of it, he'll be useless. She'll have you. He won't fight you, and Lillith knows it."

"I did this for Sam," Dean says softly as he pulls back a little. "I don't have to justify myself to a lying demon skank like you, bitch."

Ruby smirks. "Well now. This little puppy likes to snap and snarl, don't you, Dean? Because that's all you really are, you know. I should have made you disappear the first time I laid eyes on you." Her hand drops to the hilt of her knife.

She's quick, but Dean's quicker, and it was so damn ridiculous of her to think that she ever really had a chance.

A few days pass. Sam tries to summon Ruby, but she doesn't show. Dean bitches about it, just enough so that Sam doesn't get suspicious.

Disappear. Huh. Well, a good idea is a good idea.

000

He thinks it's just a bruise at first, a red tender soft spot above his left hipbone.

It hurts like a sonofabitch, all the way down to the bone, but what the hell. He's been hurt so many times before, what's one more bump, cut or bruise? This is nothing, small stuff, less than nothing. Dean tries to shrug it off like he does everything else that doesn't help him live day to day. He limps a little, favors his left side, but he walks it off, stubborn and determined.

They've got work to do, all of them, him and Sam and Bobby and Ellen. The war's coming, and they have to track down the bastards that escaped from the Devil's Gate.

Sam watches him like a hawk in that intense, quiet way of his, and it gets pretty damn tiresome after the first day or so.

Dean snarls at him, and Sam's not so obvious after that.

000

My name's Lillith, Dean.

Her mouth doesn't move when she talks to him.

Or maybe it does, and he just doesn't notice.

The first time Dean sees her is out in the yard, standing next to this old rusted out yellow school bus Bobby keeps out back.

I've got something that belongs to you.

She's just a kid after all, just some little brown eyed girl wearing jeans and a Hello Kitty t-shirt. She walks up to him and takes him by the hand, and Dean doesn't pull back from her, just goes with the flow as they walk along.

I'll understand if you don't want to go through with this. I'll release you from your contract.

"No," Dean whispers hoarsely.

No? Lillith tilts her head to one side.

"He's…he's my brother. I can't let him die."

Lillith's smile is bright and unpleasant. Dean just sits there, unafraid, staring straight into those large white eyes. He barely flinches as she gently strokes the side of his face.

"I gave you my word, bitch. Why isn't that enough?"

She flows into the air around him, darkens it with dried red blood and howling madness. It sinks into his skin, burns its way right down to his bones. He doesn't scream out.

He won't.

You're special, Dean. You're just right for this new big thing I have in mind.

When his sight clears Dean can't remember how he got out in the yard.

000

He doesn't feel tired anymore. Time was his muscles ached, his body stretched wide like one long protracted scream of agony, his bones brittle like old glass. Not any more. There's a spring in his muscles, strong and eternal. He hasn't felt this damn good in years.

The scent and the smell of everything drives him nearly crazy these days, and he's careful not to show it in front of Sam or Bobby. Sometimes the way they look at him, with thinly disguised pity, pisses Dean off to no end, so he sure as hell is not gonna give them any more ammunition by opening up to them. He has even less use for chick flick moments than he had before.

I'm okay, he wants to tell them. I'm fine. Better than fine.

But he promised Her, so he doesn't.

Dean doesn't mean to eavesdrop on Sam's conversations with Bobby. It just happens that way. They're trying to "save" him, trying to break the deal, and Dean doesn't give a damn. It's not going to work. None of it is.

He won't let it.

Sometimes Dean's eyes glow bright greenish gold when it gets to be too much. He wants to declare himself, wants to howl at the open sky.

It's nothing to worry Sam about. Dean sits there and quiets himself until the mood passes.

They leave Bobby's about a week later.

000

They hunt a soucouyant in Little Rock, Arkansas. The bitch shrivels up and dies after Sam and Dean load her skin with rock salt.

That black dog down in Atlanta actually whimpers and goes submissive in front of Dean. He kills it anyway.

Some of the things they hunt howl and shriek at Dean in recognition, and they seem puzzled when he doesn't respond or ignores them. Some of them have learned new tricks. They zig when they should zag, but none of it does them any good.

He won't let anything near Sam. That much hasn't changed.

Gordon Walker disappears. So do Rufus Turner, and Kubrick and Creedie.

No body, no trace.

Maybe it was a mistake to leave Bobby Singer alive, but Dean hasn't gotten the bad word on the old hunter, so Dean leaves him be.

The time he and Sam spend together is good, almost as good as before, when Dad was here, before chubby-cheeked Sammy became Sam, tall and gangly, full of righteous anger, and it was just the three of them on the road. They're a family again, smaller than before, a little broken and cracked around the edges, but that's all right.

Sam's here, and he's not leaving.

000

Dean hunts at night. People mostly. Other hunters sometimes. A priest, once.

Deals come due all the time. Dean knows that.

His fur flows auburn sleek over his solid, well-muscled body; his teeth are bright white and sharp. He stays two-legged sometimes. It's his idea to pose as a priest and Lillith smiles when she sees him dressed in that black suit with the white collar. Dean turns on the charm, and it's blinding, warm and friendly, impossible to resist. The damned invite him into their houses and they don't realize they're dead until it's too late.

Some of the folks who've made deals have become educated. They try to stave off the inevitable with devil's shoestring herbs, holy relics.

None of it works on Dean. As far as he can tell, he's the first of his kind, and he knows he won't be the last.

It's not so bad, is it? Lillith whispers one night.

Dean's ears prick alertly to catch the sound of Sam's breathing as he sleeps peacefully in the other bed.

No, it isn't.

If Dean has to choose between himself and the world or Sam, well, that's no choice at all.

000

Dean scents blood in the air as soon as he turns onto the parking lot of the Sunnydale Restaurant.

The man sitting in the station wagon two spaces down listens intently to that voice inside his head. Go out back and chain the back doors shut. Then you can take your gun, walk in there and teach them a lesson. They shouldn't have fired you, Ronnie. That was mean…

Dean sighs and says that he feels like chinese today. Says he wants to put a hurting for certain on the nearest Chinese buffet that would dare put "All You Can Eat" on the menu while Dean Winchester is around. Fuck the almighty profit margin.

Sam cracks up laughing, relief shining in his eyes. It's been a hard couple of weeks for him, full of dead ends and leads that just didn't pan out. Four months until the deal's due, and they've still got time. They do. Sam has to believe that, otherwise what's the damn point?

Sun's shining overhead, and for today at least Sam can pretend that everything's fine. Dean's still here, all obnoxious and snarky and pure Dean, so they drive down to that Chinese restaurant down the road instead.

They're halfway through the first course as the first responders rush by on their way to the scene down the street. Thirty seven people die, including the gunman.

Two nights later Dean crouches on all fours. Lillith's a beautiful little blonde girl with white eyes this time, and he loves the way she smiles at him.

Some of the big people in the house were mean to her, so he brought her their heads.

She's so pleased with what he's done. She claps her little hands together and giggles. She runs her fingers down the side of his face and tells him he's a good boy, such a sweet boy.

000

Sam reeks of murder the night he comes back from the crossroads. Shock and amazement from the saleswoman, surprise that Sam actually had enough balls to pull the trigger. Sam's full of regret and sadness for killing the demon's host. He would have died happy if he had dropped dead right after he ganked her. Dean would have been free from the deal.

We'll have none of that, Lillith croons in Dean's ear. Hours later Dean stumbles out of bed and into the bathroom when nature calls. He barely glances at the tattoo on his left hip. It's a pawprint, about three inches wide. Dark red, perfectly detailed.

000

Dean sees Lillith's people everywhere on the streets. There's a pecking order, and his kind has a higher place than some of the rest. Some of the insecure ones who've made deals have this wary, haunted look, especially around their eyes.

Then there are the devoted ones like him, the ones who've made deals and fully intend to honor their side of the bargain. The hangers-on are at the bottom. The wanna-bes, the ones who have nothing to offer but hang around in the vague hope that they'll get some scraps, at least.

Dean's two blocks away from the motel they're staying in near Flagstaff. There's an electric buzz in the air out here. He can feel it in the earth, surging up through the bedrock, through his boots, right into the soles of his feet.

Sam's too busy tracking down leads about Dean's deal to sense it.

Dean sits at the bus stop bench, closes his eyes, turns his face up to the bright, warm sun.

He hears the dude, smells him before he even gets within twelve feet. He's twitchy. Reminds Dean of some nervous, yellow spastic little bird, so Dean mentally christens him Tweety.

Tweety perches on the edge of the wooden bench twitching and jerking like any moment Dean is going to turn and grab him.

Dean might do just that. Wolves love to play with birds sometimes.

Dean just sits there instead. The sun warms his skin and he's feeling lazy, for once. Be too much trouble to reach out and wring Tweety's neck.

"She got you, right? Made a deal, huh? Don't blame ya. Damn, I wish I had something to trade like you did." Tweety looks Dean up and down enviously. "You got a hell of a deal, dude. Hell of a deal. She's the next big thing, man. Gonna change it all."

Sam walks up and that's all it takes for Tweety to scurry off in the opposite direction, quick fast and in a hurry. Sam's frowning, like he's seeing something he's not quite sure of.

"Hey. Dean. Who was that?"

Lulled by the sunlight, Dean tries not to yawn in Sam's face.

"Oh, him?" Dean shrugs. "He's nobody, Sam. I'm hungry. Wanna grab some lunch?"

000

Her name's Bela.

She's a bright new thing too, alpha female to Dean's alpha male. Dean hunts with her several times, all over the country. They show up on the doorstep of that convent one night. We're newlyweds, and please could we use your phone? Our car broke down on the road out there.

Dean smiles, and Bela's charming. The nuns invite them in.

No one's left alive when they leave the place.

000

It never ends the way you think it will.

They're at a rest stop just outside Henderson, Nevada, four months before the deal comes due Dean's around the corner, on his way back from the men's room. He's focused on Sam, of course, knows that there's nothing bad around him, nothing or no one that he has to kill. Sam sits at the wooden picnic table and picks listlessly at his food. He hasn't been sleeping well lately. Dean'

Sam's phone goes off, and at the same time Dean feels Her hand on his shoulder.

Dean? Stop.

"Bobby? Uh, yeah, we are. No, he's not. What?" Sam's voice sharpens with just that one word, and Dean gets it immediately.

Bobby knows.

Sam won't understand. Any of this. He'll take you back to Bobby's. They'll try to save you, and Sam will die. Do you want that, Dean? Do you?

"No." Dean shakes his head slowly.

I know it's hard. You have to leave. Now.

"I need…I need to say goodbye."

You can't. You have to leave him now.

"Please…"

We'll keep him safe. We will. Come now, Dean.

Half an hour later Sam finds the keys to the Impala gently placed on the car's windshield, the metal still warm from Dean's skin.

000

It's been over a year now.

There are reports of something new in this tired old world, a different kind of hellhound that runs on two legs sometimes. There are a lot of new things around these days, Bobby thinks to himself.

Sam's one of them.

Bobby knows that Sam's read some of those dark books Bobby stashed in the yard. He doesn't know how the kid found them, but he did. Some of the things hiding in those books demand blood sacrifices, an ounce of flesh at the very least. Sam pays the price, gladly, and he dares Bobby to say something when Bobby sees Sam limp, or bleed.

Sam looks older now. There are days when he radiates with power, a certain hard yellow glint in his eyes, and days when he just looks plain tired, ground down to the bone.

Something in the Winchester blood, Bobby imagines. Something that drives them to go to extremes for each other. John for Dean. Dean for Sam.

It's Sam's turn now. Sam doesn't speak much of Dean these days.

Sam doesn't have to.

There are days when it's hard being around the kid, days when the air around Sam vibrates with so much rage it rattles Bobby's teeth. Those are the days when Bobby really feels his age, but he won't leave Sam's side, and he won't quit.

There's too much work to do.