Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.

Spoilers: None for the true arc of the show.

A/N: We've come to the final part of the last VS story I'll be posting. Thank you for hanging with me, and I hope you enjoy!

Four Corners Tours Airplane Hangar, late afternoonish

The sound of the hammer, the cold steel of the barrel against his aching head, and the insanely strong arm working to separate his head from his shoulders combined to trigger an instinctive fight or flight reaction inside of Dean. And flight was simply not in his vocabulary.

Curling his fingers in an iron grip on the Navajo's arm, Dean stepped back, hard, driving his heel onto the top of the skin walker's foot, simultaneously forcing his right elbow back against the man's ribs. He succeeded in off-setting the skin walker's balance for a fraction of a second. The arm that was wrapped around his neck tightened, the muzzle of the gun bruised his temple with the pressure, pushing his face to the side.

"Ni'we'!" Don't. The Navajo's voice was a deep rumble against Dean's ear.

Pulling in a thin breath through his tingling lips in an attempt to feed his oxygen-deprived muscles, Dean locked eyes with Sam long enough to see the scary level of determination swimming in his little brother's blue-green gaze. Sam was not going to lose this fight. Dean wasn't going to let him.

"Let him go," Sam said, his voice low and dangerous, his finger hovering calmly on the outside of the trigger guard.

The barrel of the gun was aimed at the Navajo, but the skin walker's head was so close to Dean that both brothers knew if Sam pulled the trigger, Dean was as good as dead. The skin walker didn't move, his silverfish eyes flashing at Sam in the waning light of the day.

"NOW!" Sam bellowed, dropping his chin, checking the sight on his gun.

"You have killed him," the skin walker said, pulling his head back slightly as his finger curled around the trigger.

"Adóó shanántíní!" Leave him alone!

Eugene's voice echoed through the hanger like a portent of doom.

It was raspy, it shook with anger and rot, and it was the most beautiful sound Dean had ever heard. The skin walker jerked, startled, turning awkwardly to the side and giving Dean the leverage he needed to twist loose enough to shoot the palm of his hand up and knock the gun away from his head just as the skin walker pulled the trigger.

Dean gasped for breath, the deafening roar of the bullet leaving the chamber ringing through his ears, his lips, fingers, eyes tingling as air rushed into his tortured lungs. In disbelief he watched the bullet slice a hot furrow through Eugene's chest and bury itself in the steel wall behind him.

Eugene blinked at Dean, dropping his eyes slowly as smoke curled up from the perfectly round hole in his sternum. Dean and the skin walker froze, staring at the ghoul in shock and horror.


Sam's voice shook them all out of their stupor and instinct overtook Dean. He grabbed the skin walker's wrist, violently twisting his hand and pushing him back against the interior of the hangar. The skin walker's eyes were still pinned to Eugene in shock.

"Eugene!" Dean called, blood rushing to his pounding head as he worked to hold the Navajo in place.

"Y-yeah…" Eugene's voice shook; death was charging a toll for the extra time he'd been afforded.

"You still with me?" Dean forced out as the skin walker came back to himself and struggled against Dean's restraining hands.

Eugene didn't answer for a beat. "He still got his head?"

Dean grunted as the skin walker managed to gain an advantage in the struggle. He turned Dean to the side, slamming him against the wall as they wrestled for control of the gun.

"U-unf-fortunately…" Dean managed, catching Sam out of the corner of his eyes as his brother moved to get into position for a shot. He'd dropped one gun in the dirt and was supporting the other with his left hand tucked under his right.

"Then I'm not going anywhere," Eugene called back.

Dean growled, pulling free a fist and cracking it hard across the Navajo's jaw. It was like punching a brick wall. The impact jarred Dean, reverberating back through his arm and zinging his shoulder. He stumbled back and away from the skin walker, holding his fist and blinking in astonishment.

"You're doing great!" Eugene called from the doorway. He hadn't moved since the bullet perforated him. "Keep it up, champ!"

When the skin walker reared back an arm to return the blow, Dean knew without a doubt that it would break his jaw. He took a breath and ducked beneath the swing, dropping to the ground and rolling on his side, then jumping up behind the Navajo. He shot his eyes over to Sam.

"What the hell are you waiting for?!" He bellowed, voice cracking with effort as he dodged another blow.

"A clean shot!"

"What do you call this?!" Dean bobbed away from the big man's fists, turning him in a circle.

"You—getting in the way!" Sam yelled back. Every time he was able to draw a bead on the skin walker, Dean's struggles brought him directly in the line of fire.

Dean glanced once at Sam, momentarily breaking his pattern of avoidance and the Navajo took advantage. His fist caught Dean on the jaw, lifting him off the ground and landing him in a heap nearly at Sam's feet.

Sound ceased. He was wrapped in darkness. He floated in an airless vacuum.

And then suddenly life returned with a roar of light and the distinct sound of Sam's rage-filled voice.

"…shape-shifting son of a BITCH!"

"Yeah, kid! Kick his ass!"

Eugene's echo of Sam's scream brought clarity back with a vengeance and Dean shook his head roughly.

He was laying on his back, staring at the dark gray corrugated roof of the hangar, the coppery taste of blood filling his mouth. Rolling to his side and spitting, he brought his dizzy eyes up, catching sight of Sam held fast in the skin walker's grip. In the space of a heartbeat, the Navajo lifted Sam by the front of his T-shirt, rushing past him toward the side of an airplane.

"Sam—" Dean started, working to push himself up. His voice was a strangled cry and his jaw felt like loose glass beneath skin stretched too tight.

"Ah!" Sam cried out as he was slammed, hard, against the side of the plan.

"Oohh… not good," Eugene commented from his position at the opening of the hanger. "Gotta keep your fists up, kid."

Dean made it to his knees, looking over at Eugene. Golden light from the setting sun shone through the hole in Eugene's body like a spotlight, narrowing the focus of the light on Sam's struggle with the skin walker.

As the skin walker pulled his massive fist back, intent on burying it in Sam's dazed face, Dean shot to his feet. With a growl he launched himself at the skin walker's back, wrapping his arms around the man's neck and using his own muscle to lend weight to his grip as he pulled the Navajo back and away from Sam.

Sam dropped in a loose-limbed heap to the hangar floor, pressing the flat of his hands on the ground and pulling in great lungfuls of air as the earth slowed its crazy rotation. He shook his head, trying to clear it.

"Arrrggghhh!" Dean yelled as the skin walker worked to dislodge his unwanted passenger. He swung his arms on either side of his body, smacking Dean, hard, on his sides. The Navajo backed up swiftly toward the wall and slammed Dean between his muscular body and the steel wall. With a massive uuufff, air emptied from Dean's lungs.

"Sam—" Dean gasped, gripping his right wrist in his left and wrapping his legs around the skin walker's sides. "Sam…"

"Hey," Eugene broke free from the safety of the hangar entrance and hurried over to Sam. "Kid, get up, c'mon," he clapped his hands in front of Sam's unseeing eyes. "Let's go," he stood, sweeping his arms toward Dean. "Sam to the rescue! HEY! C'mon, Sam. GET THE HELL UP!"

"Sam!" Dean called again, desperately this time as the Navajo began to press him back against the wall. "G-get up!"

Eugene glanced over at Dean. "Seriously, kid, or… your brother's gonna be a whole lot thinner…"

Sam coughed once, his hand clumsily grabbing for one of the discarded guns on the hanger floor. Using the wheel braces of the plane for support, Sam managed to get to his feet. He blinked bleary eyes, searching the increasing darkness of the hangar and found his brother struggling to hold on to the skin walker's neck, the man's supernatural strength slowly getting the best of Dean.

"Hey," Sam tried, his voice a thin mockery of its normal strength. He raised the gun as he approached on rubbery legs. "Hey!" He forced out again.

"Atta boy," Eugene and Dean whispered in unison.

"You should have let me go," the Navajo snapped at Sam, venom dripping from each word as he tightened his grip on Dean's arms, still clinging to his neck. "I will kill you all."

"All two of us, huh?" Sam swallowed, steadying the gun. "Step away from the wall."

"Or what?" The Navajo sneered. Dean groaned as the man worked to crush him against the hangar wall. "You are no match for me… and that abomination cannot touch me."

"The…wha—" Sam ticked his head to the side, trying to track the direction of the skin walker's eyes.

"HEY!" Eugene barked in affronted outrage. "That's me you're talking about! You created this abomination, you sick bastard!" Eugene stepped away from the plane and crossed the hangar, stepping between Sam's gun and the skin walker. "You did this!"

"S-sam… shoot him," Dean pleaded, his face scrunched up tight in a grimace of pain.

"Where?" Sam's eyes darted to find a place that wouldn't also hit his brother.

"Anywhere!" Dean gasped.

Sam aimed at the skin walker's chest, his jaw tightening. He changed his mind and shifted his aim to the man's legs, afraid the bullet would crash through the Navajo's chest and into Dean. He's too close… Dean's legs shifted behind the skin walker trying for leverage. I'll hit him! Sam started to move again when the Navajo suddenly screamed at what appeared to be… air.

"You are unnatural!" The skin walker bellowed at Eugene. Sam blinked as he leaned forward with the effort. "You do not belong here!"

"I'm unnatural?!" Eugene stepped forward, his decaying face inches from the Navajo's angry features. "What the hell are you then? Mama Skin Walker's bouncing baby boy?"

Sam steadied the gun as the Navajo suddenly stepped away from the wall. He heard Dean pull in a breath, watched as his brother's grip loosened, then tightened once more with a renewed effort.

"You shame your people," Eugene's voice dropped dangerously low and he took a step back. "You are nothing but a killer. You have no honor. You don't belong here anymore than I do."

"You tell 'im, Eugene," Dean gasped.

With a frustrated snarl, the skin walker reached behind him and with an inhuman display of strength, grabbed the back of Dean's T-shirt, pulling him forward and ducking as he sent Dean flying over his head with a cry of surprise, landing him in a heap on the hangar floor.

Directly on top of Sam's discarded gun.

"NOW SAM!" Eugene screamed.

As if he heard the ghoul's cue, Sam fired, his bullet catching the Navajo on the shoulder and sending him stumbling back. Dean rolled to his knees, grabbing his gun as he came up, and fired. The Navajo jerked again, Dean's bullet hitting his leg.

Sam reached for Dean's arm, helping his brother to his feet. They started to approach the wounded skin walker when a howl split the half-light of the evening. Dean froze, thrusting his hand out to stop Sam's advance. In the shadows of the hanger, the Navajo began to writhe.

Bones cracked and twisted, skin stretched, fingers extended, and teeth drew down, long and lethal.

"Holy shit…" the three witnesses breathed in unison.

Dean took a step back, pressing Sam with him by the flat of his hand. Man turned to wolf before their eyes. Staring in silence-inducing shock, Dean continued to move Sam away until the wolf stood before them, soot-colored coat blending with the shadows, wild eyes staring out at them with hatred.

Dean brought up his gun, firing twice. The wolf bounded away, disappearing through the open hangar door.

"What the hell?" Dean looked after it, incredulous. "Is the freakin' thing bullet-proof?!"

Sam shook his head, staring after the escaped creature. "We hit it—I know we hit it."

"We hit the man…" Dean ejected his clip, checking the load. "We still gotta catch the wolf." He slammed the clip back into the butt of his gun.

"Dude, that was—" Sam swallowed, shaking his head. He reached up slowly, blinking wide eyes, and rubbed at the lump swelling on the back of his head. "I've never seen anything like that."

"THANK YOU!" Eugene suddenly spoke up. Dean jumped, looking over at him, raising his gun before he realized what he was doing. "Now do you get why it freaked me the hell out?! Swear to God it was like… American Werewolf in London or something!"

Dean huffed out a shaky laugh. "You did good," he said, lowering his gun. "For an abomination."

"Really freakin' funny," Eugene grumbled. "You should be kissing my ass… since I saved yours." He stepped past Dean and headed to the hangar entrance.

"Whatever," Dean replied, following. Sam watched him go, shoving his gun in to his waistband. "I had him right where I wanted him… was just waiting for the right moment."

They headed out of the hangar and moved swiftly past the destroyed car, tracking the massive paw prints as best they could. The darkness grew thicker, broken with shimmering light from the myriad of stars climbing through the black.

"Eugene distracted it—er, him—didn't he?" Sam asked.

"Yeah," Dean replied, reluctantly. "But… we had him…" he continued half-heartedly.

"Dude, we were getting our asses handed to us," Sam said. "You should see your face."

Dean brought his hand up to his bleeding mouth. "What's wrong with my face?" He spit out more blood, touching the tender edge of his jaw.

"Nothing a little humility won't fix," Eugene grumbled, then suddenly stopped walking.

"What?" Dean asked, puzzled when Eugene simply stood beside the end of the hangar.

"Well, unless you're planning on revealing your superpowers to the world tonight and… ripping its head off with your bare hands…" Eugene sneered, one side of his mouth splitting back to join the gaping hole in his cheek with the motion, "you're gonna need this." He kicked at the machete still implanted in the earth where Sam had left it.

"Oh, good," Sam said, bending down and picking up the machete. "I was afraid we wouldn't be able to find it."

Dean stared at Eugene a moment more, then sighed, stuffing his .45 in the front of his waistband and bent over to pick up his shotgun. "Eugene found it," he said.

Sam glanced around, staring into the darkness to his left. "Thanks," he called.

"Sam," Dean bumped him with his elbow.

"Yeah?" Sam looked over at him. Dean pointed with the barrel of his shotgun to Sam's right. "Oh. Um… thanks, Eugene," Sam said, looking at the ghoul.

"Okay, that's just weird," Eugene muttered, waving his clump of a hand slowly in front of Sam's eyes. Sam didn't even blink. "Nothin'…"

"He says you're welcome," Dean said. "C'mon. It can't have gotten far."

They took off across the open expanse of desert, following the paw prints illuminated by the welcome starlight, their steps in tempo, their breath panting out in a symbiotic rhythm, one clutching a shotgun, then other a machete. Eugene followed, his bond with Dean making it effortless to stay close. The now-brilliant starlight shone a pale blue-white light on their faces, accenting the bruises and the blood, illuminating the determination in their eyes.

Eugene felt the sudden, eerie, warning silence of the desert only seconds before the brother's did. He stretched out an arm to grab Dean's arm and stop him, but before he could wrap his remaining fingers in the cloth of Dean's T-shirt, Dean pulled up short, grabbing Sam and stopping him.

Dean's green eyes were intent on something in the distance, his chest heaving with the effort to keep his body fueled with air. Eugene followed his eye line and saw a rock outcropping bordered by several Joshua Trees. Standing at the base of one of the trees, hackles raised in warning, lips pulled away from its deadly teeth, stood the wolf.

If Eugene had need for air, he would have gasped. If his flesh still responded to stimuli he would have felt goosebumps crawl along his arms. If the heart that the skin walker had not taken still beat, it would have been pounding at the base of his throat. This is it…

He looked back at the brothers and watched with fascinated awe as their bodies dropped into a crouched approach, their movements practically synchronized. Dean dropped the shotgun to the dirt, wisely deciding against the firepower this time. Without looking at Sam, he reached out his left hand and Sam slid the machete into his grip.

Sam pulled his gun from his waistband, and Eugene could tell by the set of the kid's jaw that he knew exactly how many bullets his weapon of choice held, how many times he would need to fire to give his brother the opportunity to end the skin walker's bloody reign of terror.

It's all gonna be over…

Eugene felt the now-familiar pull as Dean approached the wolf and he followed, watching with admiration the near-telepathic communication that signaled Sam to approach from one direction as Dean moved in the other. Eugene kept his eyes on the man he'd been bound to, the man who had promised to save him.

Dean moved like the wolf—each movement purposeful, smooth, deadly. He gripped the machete in his left hand, held low and steady, his right poised above the butt of his gun, ready to switch weapons at a moment's notice. His legs were slightly bent as he moved, causing his shoulders to roll in a stealthy cadence, the black of his T-shirt pulling as he curled his shoulders forward. As Eugene tracked him, he watched Dean's bruised profile harden, his jaw a granite line, his eyes intent on his prey.

He was a hunter.

Dean's eyes shifted once across the flat land to Sam as his brother ducked behind one of the prickly Joshua Trees, his gun ready, his eyes on Dean. Eugene wanted to breathe. He wanted to pull this moment in. He wanted to remember as the skin walker remembered. He wanted to know these two when he was no longer falling apart. When he was… whatever he would become when it was over…

The wolf howled. It wasn't the wild, lonely cry of an animal, but a desperate keen of a creature that knew its time was at hand. A creature that wasn't ready to go.

"Careful," Eugene whispered, his voice barely a breath of air. "Be careful…"

Dean's shoulders shifted. He'd heard him, Eugene realized. He'd listened for him. He'd actually fought for him—sure, he'd lost, but he'd fought for him. Eugene had never known anyone like these two before. He swallowed, eyes darting from Dean's coiled poise to Sam's steady stance. I'm… actually gonna miss them, he thought. Dammit… talk about a chick-flick moment…

With a snarl, the wolf moved from the shelter of the Joshua Tree. Toward Sam.

"Sammy!" Dean called.

"I see it," Sam replied, lowering his gun, aiming.

The wolf lunged at Sam and with that leap, Dean was motion. He pulled his gun, firing on the run. The wolf slammed into Sam and Eugene watched as he rolled with the creature, yelling as he struggled. Dean echoed his brother's cry and as Sam rolled free, Dean fired again. The wolf yelped this time, moving off—slowly—into the dark.

Eugene knew it wasn't going far. He could feel it. He could feel time speeding up. He could feel the beating of the skin walker's heart in his own chest. He stumbled slightly with that realization, pressing what was left of his hand against the hole in his chest.

"Sam!" Dean barked, fear manifesting itself in anger as he reached for his brother's arm.

"'M okay," Sam panted, grasping Dean's wrist and using his brother's strength to gain his footing. "I'm okay, Dean."

"Did it bite you?" Dean was checking his brother's arms, shoulders, neck, face with quick hands and searching eyes.

"No, I'm okay," Sam shook his head. "I swear—no new holes."

Eugene watched Dean swallow, watched a tiny bit of the tension that roped his face into a clenched, bruised knot ease slightly with the knowledge that Sam was okay. Sam was okay. He was standing. He was here.

You get it… Eugene thought, watching as Dean drew in a shaking breath. You know how good you have it… you know what it means to have each other… to have someone out there watching your back…

"Better not be," Dean grumbled, turning toward the rock outcropping. "I'm not going into that damn sweat tent again for you."

Eugene looked between Dean and the shadow that was hiding the wolf. He stepped closer, inadvertently putting himself between Dean and Sam. He felt the beat of the skin walker's heart increase. It's watching…

"It's watching you," Eugene whispered, surprised to find that he couldn't force more volume. Dean heard him, though. He was listening for him. Eugene watched as the green eyes shot around the dark, finding him, searching him. "It's waiting… for… something."

Dean frowned. "What? You get a tremor through the Force?"

Eugene nodded, pressing his lump of a hand to the hole in his chest once more, feeling the hard thrum of fear and pain from the skin walker as he'd never felt fear and pain before. He didn't react in sympathy to this pain; he wanted Dean to end it. To end it all…

Dean's frown turned from cynical to concerned when Eugene didn't snap back a quick retort. "Eugene? What's—"

The flash of silver eyes caught Dean's attention. The wolf was closer than any of them had realized. It moved in slow, halting steps. Their bullets had slowed it enough that running was no longer an option. It was trapped. Its time was over, and Dean knew that it planned to take one of them with it.

"Now, Dean," Sam said.

With a flick of his wrist, Dean dropped the .45 in the sand, raising the machete like a Louisville Slugger over his shoulder. The wolf's eyes shifted from Dean to Sam and Dean took a step forward. This had to be done just right or he could make their situation a whole lot worse.

The wolf's eyes shifted to Eugene and Dean saw it crouch, its shoulders shifting, rolling, preparing to launch. He heard Sam pull back the hammer of his gun and he shifted his weight to his inside leg preparing to swing.

"What the hell are you waiting for?" Sam's urgent whisper shot through him and Dean lifted his eyes.

But instead of Sam's familiar green-blue eyes, he saw Eugene's jaundiced, protruding orbs, sunken in a decaying, tortured face. This is it… Dean realized. And oddly, his breath hitched in his tightening chest. With one swing, he would finally keep his promise.

"It's okay, man," Eugene reassured him. "I'm going to pieces anyway."

"Dean!" Sam's voice was frantic as he darted his eyes from the wolf about to pounce on one of them and his brother's seemingly frozen stance.

"You know," Eugene said softly. "It's ironic. I looked for a hero my whole life and I had to die to find one."

Dean tightened his grip on the machete. "Bye, Clint."

Eugene smiled. The wolf leapt. Dean swung.

The blade of the machete cut cleanly through the neck of the skin walker. As the wolf's head flew free of its body, Dean felt fire shoot through the cuts on his side, shaking him violently and dropping him to his knees. He cried out in surprise, grabbing instinctively for the pain, his gaze taking in the image of Sam also going to his knees, clutching his arm to his chest, and Eugene…

Eugene cried out, a sound of release and redemption, of denial and peace, of curiosity and trepidation. His arms flung wide, his head falling back, a blinding white light emanating from each torn bit of skin and missing appendage culminating in a brilliant, pearly-white beam from the hole though his chest. For a moment, Dean thought he heard the beat of a heart, quick, loud, powerful.

And then darkness took him down to the sand, wrapping him in a cloak of stillness.


Desert somewhere outside of the Four Corners Airplane Hangar, night

There was sand in his mouth. He pulled in a breath through his nose, his mouth hurting too bad at the moment to try to open it. Sand shifted with that breath, following the air into his nose. With a low groan he turned his head slowly, feeling the cool grit of sand dig into his forehead. His head felt muddy, sounds were muted, and his whole body ached. What the hell…

Blinking his eyes open, Dean reached up with a clumsy hand to brush the sand from his lashes and eyebrows. It was dark; starlight tickled his dazed eyes with false promises of warmth. Licking his dry lips, he felt the ache that had been dispersed evenly through his body suddenly culminate at his jaw line, causing him to move his hand swiftly from his eyes to his mouth.

Blood had dried there and the side of his face felt as if pieces of a jigsaw puzzle had replaced bone and then scattered. He gingerly touched the wounded area, swallowing, working to bring the world into focus.

Like flashes from a ViewMaster, the last few moments of consciousness returned with ferocity. Shape shifting… stalking through the desert night… lunging for Sam… Eugene… decapitating a wolf…

"Sam?" His voice was low, gravely, slurred with the struggle to open his lips wide enough. He cleared his throat and tried again, turning his head to the left, looking through the starlit night for his brother. "Sammy?"

The answering silence was like a shot of adrenaline. He pushed himself to rest on his elbow. Sam lay in a heap several feet away, face-down in the sand. Dean tried to roll to his knees, but the world shifted beneath him, denying him that leverage. Never one to give the world more of a break that the world gave him, Dean started to pull himself toward his brother by his arms, hitching his legs through the sand like a gecko.

He reached Sam's still body, wrapping his fingers in the sleeve of his brother's T-shirt and managed to pull himself to a sitting position. He gently rolled Sam to his back, brushing the sand from Sam's face with the tips of his fingers. This motion teased Sam's eyes open; he blinked up with confusion at Dean's face.

"Dean?" Sam's voice was an echo of Dean's rasp.

"'Bout time, Princess."

"Wha—" Sam blinked, coughing sand from his mouth. He pushed himself up on trembling arms, managing to come to a slumped sitting position, his shoulder against Dean's. "What happened?"

Dean shook his head mutely and started to look around them. Not far from Sam's feet lay the naked body of the skin walker—in human form. Dean looked back over his shoulder, feeling Sam twist as he did the same. Behind them lay the skin walker's head, eyes white, mouth open, blood soaking into the sand beneath it.

"Eww," they breathed in unison.

Realization struck Dean and he looked around again, scanning the darkness behind them, on the other side of Sam, back by where he'd woken up. Nothing… he's gone… it's over…

"Dean? What…"

"He's gone," Dean whispered.

"Who?" Sam blinked, confused. Then realization dawned. "You mean Eugene?"

Dean nodded, feeling an odd sort of pang deep in his chest. He rubbed at his ribs distractedly.

"Your side okay?" Sam asked.

"Yeah," Dean looked over at Sam's punctured arm. "Your arm?"

"Yeah," Sam nodded watching Dean rub his chest. "Did you… are you hurt?"

Dean pulled is head back, confused by Sam's query, then looked down, realizing that he was still rubbing at the ache in his chest. "Oh," he dropped his hand into his lap. "Nah, I'm alright."

"You're gonna miss him," Sam said, wonder coloring his tone.

Dean didn't say anything for a minute. Sam waited, leaning against Dean even as he supported his brother's weight.

Dean snorted. "Miss a rotting corpse that tagged along with me everywhere… never shut up?" He dropped his eyes. "Yeah," he finally confessed. "I think I am."

Sam huffed out a soft laugh. "I guess it just goes to show…"

Dean shifted around until he was on his knees, pushing himself slowly to his feet. He held a hand out to Sam. "Goes to show what?"

Sam reached up and grasped his brother's hand, using Dean's counterbalance to haul himself to his feet. "No telling who you might care about."

Dean rolled his eyes. "That's it, I'm monitoring your daytime TV," he grumbled looking down at the body.

"Y'know… we need to stop chasing bad guys into the middle of nowhere." He looked up at Sam and watched as his brother brushed some of the sand from his jeans. "We always have to go back for supplies to burn the bodies."

Sighing, Sam nodded, twisting his arm to look at the fading bite marks. "Just once I'd like to walk away. Let someone else worry about it."

Dean dropped his eyes. I looked for a hero all of my life… The corner of his mouth pulled up in a tiny smile. "That's not what heroes do, Sam," he said softly, his voice directed at the sand, his hands hanging loose at his sides, his eyes years away.

"Yeah, I know." Sam said. He looked around. "Any idea where the car is?"

Dean brought his head up. "Huh," he turned in place. "Any idea where we are?"

"Oh, great," Sam grumbled, following Dean's rotation. "That's just great, Dean."

"Hey, don't put this on me," Dean looked at him. "I didn't see you grabbing your compass when we left the hangar."

Sam sighed. "You're right," he rubbed the back of his neck. "Okay, so…" He looked over his shoulder. "So we just… face the rock, right? And the hangar should behind us…"

Dean turned, following Sam's stuttered instructions. "Okay, so if the hangar is back that way… that means that the car is…"

They turned in opposite directions, Dean pointing west, Sam east.

"Over there," they said, then jerked their eyes over their shoulders toward each other.

Dean started to laugh.

"This isn't funny, Dean," Sam protested, dropping his arm and facing his brother, a scowl bisecting his brow.

Dean laughed harder, his bruised jaw relaxing with the motion, his eyes twinkling in the starlight.

"I'm serious!" Sam tried, but he was crumbling in the face of his brother's genuine mirth.

Tears started to gather in the crinkles at the corners of Dean's eyes and he bent slightly at the waist, his laughter stealing his breath. Sam chuckled, resting a hand on his hip and looking off into the distance with a shake of his head. Dean drew in a breath, worked to sober up, and then looked over at Sam.

"Go on," Sam said. "Get it out of your system."

Dean felt the laughter bubble up from some place inside of him that he thought had atrophied long ago. He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hands. "S-sorry, Sam…" he tried, then bent again, leaning his hands on the tops of his knees.

He didn't even know what was so funny except that… they were lost in the middle of the Utah desert, the decapitated body of a skin walker at their feet, no way to finish the job… and he found himself listening for the voice of a dead writer to cut in with a dry jab or sarcastic observation.

Fanfriggintastic… I got used to the guy, dammit…

Finally, Dean straightened, took a breath, and grinned at Sam. "Okay," he said. "I'm good. We can go."


"Pick a direction," Dean said, waving his hands on either side of his body. "What's the worst that could happen?"

"Uh…" Sam tilted his head, his eyes snapping. "We could get lost, die of thirst, bake in the sun, get bit by a snake, get eaten by desert animals…"

Dean felt his mouth quirk with barely suppressed amusement once again.

"Don't you start that again," Sam said, shaking his head. "This is serious, Dean."

Dean bit the insides of his cheeks. "Serious. Right."

"Stop laughing," Sam's lips quirked.

"No laughing," Dean shook his head, his lips ticking up in a grin. "Zero laughter. Hunts are serious business…" Then the rest of his sentence was lost.

Sam shook his head and dropped down in the sand, watching as Dean grappled with his sense of humor, working to get control of himself again.

"It's hysteria, that's what it is," Sam said. "You're hysterical."

"I know," Dean wheezed. "I am…"

"No, I meant… oh, forget it." Sam shook his head, but he was smiling. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Dean laugh… genuinely, honestly, laugh until he was weak from it. He didn't know what brought it on, but he decided to shut up and enjoy it while it lasted.

Soon, Dean was able to take a breath, his grin still haunting the corners of his mouth, but the laughter under control. He moved slowly around the body of the skin walker and gathered their weapons, stuffing his .45 in his back waistband, Sam's gun in his front, hefting the machete in his left hand, the shotgun in his right.

Thus burdened, he turned to Sam, holding the shotgun and machete up. "Ready?"

Sam closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Okay, Mad Max…"

"Don't worry, Sammy… I got a sixth sense when it comes to finding my baby," Dean grinned, tapping his temple with the blood-stained tip of the machete. "We'll be okay."

Sam pushed himself to his feet and walked over to Dean. Giving him a look of tolerant frustration, Sam took the machete from him.

"Gonna poke your eye out," he grumbled good-naturedly.

Dean turned, heading west. Sam followed, silently. They walked in single file for about five minutes until Dean purposely slowed his stride to match Sam's weary one. The night sounds enhanced the quiet between them.

"It's really dark out here," Sam finally said. The starlight seemed to diffuse light as they continued on, making the dark seem darker, taunting them with the idea of shadows.

"Scared?" Dean teased, unwilling to admit that he was scanning the desert floor with wide eyes, looking for anything that would be rather… unpleasant to step on.

"'Course not," Sam replied. "Just… pointing out the lack of… light—watch out!"

Sam grabbed Dean's arm just before he walked directly into the side of rock formation. Dean skidded to a halt, looking up and the looming figure—oddly suffocating in its size and sudden appearance in the darkness.

"Holy shit, Sammy," Dean breathed. "How the hell did you see that?"

"Dunno," Sam said. "But… it looks… familiar…"

Dean's eyebrows went up and he put one hand on the side of the rock, using it as a guide, traveling carefully around until he reached the other side. There in the starlight, its black body dulled slightly by the desert sand, sat the Impala.

"Oh, baby," Dean practically groaned, stepping up to the side of the car, pressing himself against the door and laying his head on the roof. "I promise I'll never leave you again."

"I can't believe you found her," Sam said, shaking his head with awe.

Dean straightened, turned and grinned. "You gotta have faith, man!"

Sam stepped up to the trunk. "Right," he said. He looked up at Dean. "Keys?"

Dean tossed him the keys and Sam opened the trunk, dropping in the machete. Dean joined him and set the shotgun in the trunk.

"Gee, I'm so glad we brought that shotgun, Dean. I mean, it really came in handy." Sam's voice dripped with sarcasm.

"Oh, shut up," Dean said, reaching for the lighter fluid and matches. "Took the car out of the equation, didn't it?"

"Damn near took you out of the equation," Sam shook his head, grabbing the shovel. He chuckled suddenly. "You were like one of those stunt men in a John Woo movie… BAM! Right off your feet…"

"Funny," Dean grumbled, ruefully rubbing the tender spot at the back of his head from where he'd slammed against the side of the hanger. He stepped back from the trunk and closed the lid.

They turned from the car and took two steps into the darkness. Suddenly Dean stopped, staring at the matches in his hand. Sam stopped, looking over at him.

"What the hell are we doin'?" Dean asked, exasperated with himself.

He looked at the shovel in Sam's hands. Sam looked at the lighter fluid in Dean's. Shaking their heads, they turned back to the car, dropped the supplies on the back seat, and got into the car.

Sam rubbed at his aching head. "We aren't thinking straight, man."

"Just need some real sleep is all," Dean said, rolling his neck.

He started up the car, backed away from the rock formation and headed slowly back in the direction they'd just walked from. Without thinking, he glanced into the rearview mirror at the back seat, empty except for the shovel, lighter fluid, and matches. No Eugene. Dean shook his head. Sam didn't notice.

After a bit, the Impala's headlights hit the Joshua Trees and Dean stopped the car. He flipped the toggle on the dashboard, turning on the spotlight fixed next to the side view mirror. Shutting off the car, but leaving the lights on, Dean stepped out and opened the passenger door. Sam joined him, retrieving the lighter fluid, matches, and shovel once more. As they stepped back around the car, Dean paused at the spot light and began to adjust the beam to find the body of the skin walker.

The light hit the figure of a man, standing over the body.

"Jesus Christ!" Dean yelped, jumping back and bouncing off of Sam.

The man looked up at them, his face in shadow, but Dean still recognized him.


"You have finished it," the shaman's voice was low and sad.

"How the hell did you know—" Sam's voice cracked slightly with surprise and disbelief.

"I have been watching," Manuelito said, looking back down at the headless body that had once been his son.

Dean frowned, moving forward. "You were… watching?"

"He knew I was watching," Manuelito said. His lips barely moved, but his voice seemed to fill the night.

"You watched," Sam said, stepping forward. Dean shot his eyes to the side, sensing indignation in Sam's tone. "You watched him?"

"I am his father."

Sam thrust his chin forward. "He almost killed us!" He pointed to his chest. "He killed Eugene—cursed him to haunt my brother!" He pointed to Dean.

Manuelito raised his head, his eyes directed at Dean. "It was the writer's destiny to be bound to you," he said softly.

"Yeah?" Dean pulled his head back. "And what if your son had killed my brother, huh?"

Manuelito lifted his shoulder. "It would have been his destiny."

"Yeah, well," Dean shook his head, tightening his sore jaw. "I'm pretty damn sick of destiny…"

Manuelito looked back down at the body.

Sam's shoulders dropped slightly. "We… we have to finish this, man."

"No," Manuelito shook his head. "I will take care of him."

"I'm not so sure…" Dean said, shifting his stance slightly so that the lighter fluid and matches were both in his left hand, his right free to grab the gun tucked in the front of his waistband. "You knew what he was doing. You didn't do a thing to stop it."

"It was not my place."

"Your place?" Sam bleated.

"It was not my choice. My son had to live after his own purpose."

"What, killing people?" Sam scoffed.

Manuelito looked up at Sam, the light from the Impala's spot beam catching his eyes. Sam involuntarily gasped as he saw the quicksilver flash. Dean pulled his gun at Sam's gasp, holding it out, but low.

"You?" Dean said, disbelief hardening his voice. "You're one of them? But… you… healed Sam…"

Manuelito looked at him. "To live a life where you see all… hear all… and not be able to truly do anything about it… it is nothing short of hell on earth."

Dean's eyes narrowed and he tilted his head to the side, waiting, listening, ready to bring the gun up and do what had to be done.

"My son had to taste the power, but in the end… he couldn't contain it. The power controlled him," Manuelito finished sadly. "I healed your brother to balance that power."

Dean's eyes darted in thought. "You've… you've been there every time, haven't you?"

Manuelito nodded, looking from Dean's bruised face to Sam's angry eyes.

Without warning, he opened his mouth and let out a screech. Before Sam and Dean could do more than draw breath, Manuelito's body began to shift, suddenly bending, twisting, snapping. His widespread arms became wings, his nose and mouth elongating and hardening, eyes widening. With another shrill cry that shook through the brothers, Manuelito assumed the form of a huge screech owl, powerful wings lifting, beating the air as he disappearing into the night.

Dean blinked, lowering his gun.

Sam took a shaky breath, looking over at him. "Do you believe that just happened?" he asked, his eyes suddenly very young.

Dean looked over at him, shook his head wordlessly. His eyes moved back to the body on the ground. Hesitantly, they started forward, intent on finishing the job. As if a product of the night, the screech owl swooped low, screaming at them. Holding their hands up in surrender, Dean and Sam backed away from the body, leaving the skin walker to his father and returned to the car.

Dean started the engine, turning off the spotlight. He looked over at Sam.

"Which way?"

Without hesitating, Sam pointed to Dean's left.

"You sure?"

"Trust me, Dean," Sam grinned, tapping his temple with his index finger. "I got a sixth sense when it comes to finding motel rooms we stole from dead guys."

Dean chuckled, rolled down his window, and headed in the direction Sam indicated. He was tired. More than tired. Weary. Exhausted. He reached over and turned up the radio. AC/DC's Shake a Leg echoed through the otherwise silent interior of the car.

Dean blinked heavy eyes, letting the soft night air flow like a wave over the back of his hand as it rested on the windowsill, travel up his bare arm, and fill his T-shirt sleeve. He felt it caress his bruised jaw and he'd almost closed his eyes in pleasure when Sam's voice suddenly called him back to the present.

"How bad did it get?" Sam asked.

"How bad did what get?"

"Eugene and his… uh…" Sam moved his hand up and down the side of his face.

"Oh, Dude, seriously…" Dean shook his head. "Bad."

"He was really falling apart, huh?"

Dean grimaced. "Yeah, but… y'know he kinda… rolled with it."

"Well, what choice did he have, really?"

"Good point."

"Think we should," Sam shrugged. "I don't know… call someone?"

Dean sighed. "I've been thinking about that," he said. "There's no body to bury, but… someone's gotta be out there… wondering what happened to him."

"We'll look around his room when we get back."

Dean nodded. "I never even knew his last name, man."

"Wasn't it… Eastwood?"

Dean chuckled. "No… no that was his…"

"Alias?" Sam supplied, smiling softly.

Dean nodded. "We have his wallet, though."

"Yeah," Sam nodded. "Forgot about that."

They continued on letting the music fill the silence, too weary to talk.

Kokopelli Inn, dawn

The sun had begun its slow ascent to take over the edge of the horizon as they entered the motel room. Dean closed the door, leaning against it, dropping his head back. His eyes felt weighted.

"I could sleep for a week," he sighed. "Wonder how long Eugene had this room?"

"No offense, man, but…" Sam moved over to the table and grabbed a bottle of water from the bag of food he'd purchased the morning before. "I want out of here as soon as we've caught a few hours of sleep."

Dean nodded, his hair rubbing against the door. He looked at the bed in front of him. What was that, five feet? He could make five feet. He proved that fact to himself, dropping down heavily and toed off his boots. He started to slump to the side when Sam's voice caught his attention.

"Dean." Sam held out his hand. "Guns."

"Oh, right," Dean sighed, pulling the gun from the front of his jeans and handing it to his brother. Sam tossed it in the weapons bag then held out his hand. "Oh, right," Dean said again, reaching behind him and pulling free his .45 and handing it to Sam.

He looked at Sam, his eyes burning with the desire to close and stay that way for hours. "Happy?" he said, flopping sideways on the bed, pulling his legs up and groaning as he straightened his weary body onto the bed.

Sam nodded, toeing off his own boots where he stood, leaning on the table for balance. As he straightened, his hand brushed the edge of papers Eugene had stacked on the table. Picking up the sheet on top, Sam sat on the edge of Dean's bed.

"Listen to this, man," Sam said. Dean lifted an eyebrow to indicate he was still conscious.

"…Navajo Code Talkers… ranks exceed 400 during the course of World War II… Were eventually credited with saving countless lives and hastening the end of the war… during the time they served, they were silent, invisible. They fought for people who knew nothing of their struggle, they protected people who had no knowledge of their existence… they were essential and yet unseen…"

"Yeah," Dean said softly, eyes still closed. "He told me about them. He was writing a book."

"He has a lot of notes here, Dean," Sam said. "He'd done a lot of work on this."

Dean rolled to his side, opening his eyes. "Sam," he said. "Hand me his wallet. It's there, on the table."

Sam grabbed the leather wallet and handed it to him. Dean sat up slowly, working his sore jaw.

"Your face is a mess, man," Sam said softly, watching him. "You look worse than Apollo Creed in Rocky IV."

Dean glanced up, his eyebrows quirking. "How much TV have you been watching lately, man?"

Sam just shrugged.

Dean looked back at the wallet. "Finch."


"Eugene Finch. From Indiana." Dean looked at the picture on the driver's license of an awkward smile overshadowed by thick, black-rimmed glasses. "Nice to have met you, Eugene."

"There an address?"

"Yeah," Dean nodded.

"We could have Bobby find his family, ask the motel lady to send his things," Sam suggested. "At the very least his book, anyway."

"Immortality," Dean said softly.


"It was his immortality," Dean said. "That book."

Sam was quiet for a moment. "Like Dad's journal," he said softly.

Dean brought his head up, surprised. "Yeah," he said. "That's what I thought, too."

"You think anyone will remember us, Dean?" Sam asked, his back to his brother, his shoulders curved forward.

"I don't know, man," Dean said, watching Sam. "Maybe. Maybe not. But… you know it… it doesn't mean we stop. Bobby was right, Sam. There's a war coming and… well…"

Sam turned his head, not quite looking at Dean. "We have to keep the code, huh?"

Dean felt a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth. "Something like that."

"Would still be nice if someone knew what we did once in awhile," Sam said, standing and pulling his T-shirt off, dropping it on top of his boots, then heading to the second bed.

"I don't know, Sam," Dean lay back on the bed, resting one hand on the flat of his stomach, tucking the other under his pillow. "I think sometimes that the less people know about what we do… the safer we are. There are a lot of bad guys out there…" He yawned.

"Get some sleep, man," Sam said softly.


Three days later, Four Corners Monument, noonish

"The Four Corners Monument was originally surveyed and established by the US Government Surveyors and Astronomers in 1868 with the survey of Colorado's southern boundary. Surveys followed of New Mexico's west boundary and Utah's east boundary in 1878," Sam stopped reading and looked over his shoulder.

Dean was standing on the raised platform of the monument, shifting his feet from Arizona to Utah to Colorado to New Mexico. He looked up when Sam stopped reading, the grin on his face denying the reality of his years.

"Are you even listening to me?" Sam asked.

"Sure, Sam," Dean said, scissoring his feet and spinning around slightly like an extra from Fame. "Surveyors and Astronomers did some looking around and something about borders… Dude, this is awesome… I'm standing in two states right now."

Sam shook his head. "Who are you and what have you done with my brother?"

"Hey mister," came a voice from their left. Dean turned as a dark-haired boy of about eight came up the sloping steps and headed toward him. "Watch this."

Dean's eyebrows bounced up as the boy dropped into a push-up position, one hand in Arizona, the other New Mexico, and each foot in Utah and Colorado.

"Sweet!" Dean grinned. "Let me try."

"Dean!" Sam called him away, shaking his head with a tolerant grin.

Dean jogged to the edge of the cement platform and looked out across the mesa to the mountains in the distance.

"Sam, you wanted to sight see? Well… look around, man!" Dean tossed his arm across his body, glancing back to see Sam approaching him. "I mean, we drive all over this freakin' country, hunting evil, getting our asses kicked, and I can't remember if I've ever just… looked around."

He turned to face another direction, shaking his head. He couldn't seem to get his eyes wide enough to take in what there was to see. It was vast, almost unimaginable. It was hard to believe that he was looking at something real.

"Look at this… the mountains… the mesas… I mean, dude, the sky goes on for freakin' ever!"

Sam chuckled, watching Dean more than the scenery. "You okay?"

Dean turned to him, his green eyes alight with something that Sam hadn't seen in a long time… not since… not since Missouri, before Haris' eyes stared out at them from their father's face. That moment had been the beginning of Dean's tailspin.

That moment, when Haris had started to slowly break his brother down, ripping him up from the inside out, Sam had watched hope begin to disappear. It vanished further when Haris took Dean again, torturing him, possessing him, trapping him. It left Dean completely when that poison bullet ripped through Sam.

But standing here, in the center of God's country, surrounded by nothing but openness, Sam saw hope shining in Dean's eyes again. It took his breath away.

"We've been through hell, Sam," Dean said. "HELL, y'know?"

Sam nodded silently.

"And we're still here," Dean pointed at Sam's chest. "We're still standing."

"Yeah, well," Sam cautioned. "It's not over yet, Dean."

Dean shook his head, frowning slightly. He turned from Sam and started down the steps toward the stone plaques that surrounded the raised Four Corners seal.

"It's never going to be over, Sam," Dean said. "Not really. Even if we do manage to kick Haris' ass back to Hell… there will always be something to fight… something to hunt. Maybe even worse than that yellow-eyed bastard, but…" Dean pulled up short, forcing Sam to stop or run into his back. He turned to face Sam. "Eugene had a point."

"This I gotta hear," Sam said.

"He waited his whole life to see something and only saw it after he died," Dean shook his head. "Sam, I… I just wanna live, man. Live our lives. Whatever that means for us. I don't want to… wait to live until whatever it is we gotta stop or gotta kill or… I don't want to wait until it's over to find out that… it's over."

Sam blinked, speechless. He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard honesty like this pour from Dean that hadn't been brought on by fever or pain. This was Dean. This was his brother.

Sam smiled. He looked over his shoulder at the mountains in the distance. "This make you wonder what the Grand Canyon looks like?"

Dean's eyes lit up. "Dude! We so gotta go to the Grand Canyon!"

He stepped up next to Sam, following his brother's gaze across the scenery. Breathing deep, he closed his eyes, holding the moment, pulling it in.

Living is easy with eyes closed…

The lyrics from the old Beatles song flitted through his memory, a quiet reminder that time was an illusion, reality was filled with rough edges, and life enjoyed tossing the Winchesters around. But for this moment, he was happy. He had his brother, they were both breathing, and he planned to keep them that way.

As he opened his eyes, he realized that he could smell… food. Hotdogs, to be exact… and… onions. His mouth instantly watered and he turned, eyes scanning the Native American food vendors set up around the monument until they caught the hotdog stand.

Sam noticed his search and turned. He saw the hotdog stand at the same time as Dean. Five, four, three, two…

"Dude, I'll be right back," Dean said, moving forward. He looked over at Sam, quickly. "You want?" He asked, gesturing to the stand.

Sam opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the ring tone on his cell phone. Holding up his hand, he fished the phone from his pocket, looking at the name of the caller.

"It's Bobby," he said.

"Good—maybe we can see if Eugene's stuff made it back to Indiana," Dean said, heading to the hotdog stand. Sam followed at a distance, the cell phone pressed to his ear.

Dean approached the food vendor, grin firmly in place. Food, freedom, his car, his brother… for Dean Winchester, for this moment, this was real. This was his life.

And he planned on living the hell out of it.

The End

a/n: Thank you so much for indulging me and reading these stories. I appreciate your time and any reviews.

I'm taking a short break to get some stuff in order and then I'll being posting a new Season 1 fic called Desolation Angels. If you read, I hope you enjoy.