Title: Shades of Comfort

Author: ghost4

Disclaimer: I don't own them. And yet, here we are. Huh. The world's a funny ol' place, isn't it?

Author's Note: One of my chat buddies wanted another scene. And I do want to write it… but it didn't really fit in the fic as it is (sorry, hun.) If anyone else feels that something's missing, let me know.

As always: All comments, good, bad, or indifferent are welcome.


**

In the end it was simple.

Sam leaned against the wall, fighting a slow cycle of pain – first it would well up from his side, making him gasp, which would make his throat tighten up and it would throb, making his breath hitch, which set off his side again – and watched tiredly as Dean told Owen and Gillian to clean up and hide the spell equipment, then call for help.

"Tell them that you broke in to go ghost hunting. Trespassing's only a misdemeanor. Tell them that a couple of homeless guys jumped you. They're the ones who hurt Derek – not you, Gillian. You never stabbed him. Understand?" Dean waited for her wide-eyed nod. "Do not tell them about the shades or about us." He continued. "No one will believe you anyway, and you'll end up locked in a place not much different than this one."

Gillian bit her lip. "What if Derek tells them what happened?"

Dean shrugged. Beside him, Sam pushed harder against the sluggishly bleeding wound in his side, hoping the support might ease the pain. "So what?" Dean said. "If he lives and he talks, he tells them a couple of strange guys jumped him – which is the same story you've told them. If he goes on about the shades and the spell… he gets locked away in a place not too different than this one. Either way, you two are safe."

Owen swallowed. "We can do that. We can keep our mouths shut."

"Good," Dean snapped. "And you better keep away from the magic crap, too, Owen. Next time, we might decide you're part of the problem."

They wouldn't, but Owen was way too unstable to deal with magic… he'd wind up getting himself killed eventually. Better scared then dead.

Owen paled. But he nodded. "No more, I promise."

Dean nodded back. He put a hand on Sam's shoulder, ready to take his weight if he should stumble. "Okay. Give use three minutes to get to the car, and then call. Have a good life, guys. C'mon, Sam."

And that had been that.

**

TWO DAYS LATER

**

Dean was munching on a ham sandwich as Bobby poured over the tiny book.

"Interesting, ain't it," Dean observed – and Sam winced at what he could observe in Dean's open maw.

Bobby glanced up, glaring. "Would have been a little more interesting if you hadn't perforated it."

"Better it than me," Sam croaked, spinning a kitchen chair to sit on it backwards. He was getting better, both his throat and his side – but he still had some pain if he leaned against his back. He'd spent the first night straddling a motel chair much like he was now – hunched over the back while Dean stitched up his side, unable to make a noise because of his torn throat.

Now his side was healing and his voice was back, even though he sounded like a fourteen-year old with a bad case of strep. He and Dean had crashed at Bobby's for the week, anyway. There was no question of going on another hunt until Sam was up to par.

Bobby had the grace to look slightly contrite. "True. And it was a damn good thing that that boy chose the spell he did. There's shit in here that would have been like setting off a spiritual a-bomb."

Dean swallowed. "What are you going to do with it?"

"Lock it up," Bobby said, slamming the book closed. "Stick it in a curse box and forget it's here."

Dean looked surprised. "You're not going to burn it?"

Bobby shook his head slowly. "If this book exists, then so might the other three copies. If someone should happen to find one and use a spell out of it, then it's best that we have our own copy. That way we'll know what we're up against."

Bobby set the tiny volume on the table. It's blank, yellowed cover seeming vaguely malevolent – like a sign warning of the plague.

Dean eyed it warily. "I'm not sure if I like the idea of it being in this house, Bobby," he said quietly.

"Didn't say I was going to keep it in the house, boy. Do I look stupid to you?"

Sam felt something in him unknot. "Good," he said in his ragged voice. "That thing's nasty." He felt it every time he touched it, a undercurrent of hatred and fear that radiated from the pages like a low-grade fever. And like a fever, holding it for too long made him feel shivery and overly sensitive.

Bobby nodded his understanding. "I'll keep it safe – and locked away. You boys just keep your eyes open for the other copies."

"And isn't that just a thought to keep me awake at night," Dean groused. "The idea of one of these things in the hands of someone competent. Thanks for that image, Bobby." He made a face at what was left of his sandwich, and got up to toss it in the trash.

"Wait, let me check – well, no, it ain't exactly in my job description to make you feel all warm and secure, now is it?" Bobby sneered. "And quit wasting good food."

"Good may be an overstatement," Dean replied mournfully. "How old was that ham?"

"Bobby," Sam interjected, nodding at the book. "Do you really think there are more of those things out there? After all this time?"

"Probably not," Bobby admitted, but his expression was guarded, almost nervous. "It has been a long time. They were most likely destroyed."

"But what if?" Dean asked, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter. "What do we do if the other copies are still out there?"

Bobby looked at them both. "We hope to hell that nobody ever finds them."

Sam and Dean shared a look – Dean tried to look like he was unimpressed with Bobby's words, but his eyes seemed almost drawn to the volume on the table and he swallowed. Sam's own eyes wandered back to the inert, little book. Such an unassuming package to contain such treacherous knowledge.

Sam watched Bobby put the book into the curse box, knowing that Bobby was probably right. The other copies were probably long since destroyed. Almost certainly the one sitting in front of them was the last one in existence. And it would be safely locked away in its curse box, and, with luck, would never be opened again.

But there was a little voice in the back of Sam's head, counting up the amount of 'if's and 'probably's and 'hope's… and add in the Winchester luck…

Bobby locked the box.

And Sam really hoped that would be the last of it…

But hope had never gotten him very far.

*

~end