Thank you guys for your awesome support of this story. I have to admit I am sad to see it end but here it is. The last chapter. I hope you enjoy it.
Dean knew Sam was freaking out before he even hung up with Bobby and regretted not drugging the kid and leaving him behind, safe, in a nearby motel room. But his brother had been insistent about being there and, in the end, Dean knew the younger man had to be part of this. Sam needed closure and a chance to regain his dignity and self-respect. This was the only way he was going to get it. Putting on his best I got this all figured out grin, Dean forced all his own doubts, worries, and concerns behind his carefully measured expression and cocked an eyebrow. "Ready?"
Sam gave him a panicked Do I look like I'm ready? look.
Dean grimaced. "Okay, wrong choice of words…" His brother's gaze was so intense, it actually hurt. "Sam—" He sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face before twisting around to look back out the front window. "Look, I don't like it, but we can wait if you want us to, give it another day or something."
"No, Dean." Sam's voice was strained. "If we leave now, we won't be coming back."
Dean didn't agree but kept his mouth shut.
"I just… I need to know there's a plan. Please, tell me there's a plan."
"There's a plan." Dean wasn't lying; he just wasn't sure it was thought-out enough to satisfy his brother. Sam desperately needed something concrete to hold on to right now. "We go in, together, get a couple of beers and wait. From what you've said, it sounds like they wanted you gone and fast, so they aren't going to be able to just ignore you coming back."
"So? What?" Sam asked, his eyes darting between the bar and Dean. "We wait for them to do something?"
Dean shrugged. "Pretty much. Bobby's going to wait about ten minutes, then follow us in. They won't be expecting him."
"I don't know." His brother was skeptical. "They might have seen Bobby."
"I didn't say it was a perfect plan. But the three of us against them have to be good odds, right? Besides, I was kind of an ass the last time we were here, figured I owe you a drink, at least." He watched Sam carefully as the kid chewed it around a bit, recognizing the long overdue apology for what it was.
"Well," Sam offered his own absolution, an appreciative blush giving faint color to his face, "they did have to drug me first, and even then it took half the bar to bring me down."
A hint of bashful pride made Dean's chest swell for brother. Sammy was a tough cookie, that was for sure. Then he frowned, his eyebrows drawing together in a furrow. "Half the bar? You never mentioned that before."
"Didn't I?" Now it was Sam who frowned. "Sorry. I thought I did. But yeah, it's pretty fuzzy, but I remember that once I got outside there were other people there."
The older hunter didn't like that. To be honest, he wasn't keen on this plan to begin with. He hated using Sam as bait, and it was going to be a hell of a lot harder if the whole bar was against them. He'd actually been counting on the majority being indifferent. "Maybe we need to rethink this," he decided, thumbing Bobby's number on the cell, "call Joshua or someone else in to back us up—" His words were cut off when Sam made a horrible strangled sound. It might have been Dean's name. Following his brother's line of sight, Dean stiffened. "Or not."
Striding toward the car, their eyes firmly fixed on Sam, was the bitch and three big guys.
"9-1-1," was all Dean said when Bobby answered, knowing the older man would know to get his ass back here. Now. Then he dropped his phone, grabbed his Glock, and shoved open the driver's side door.
"What the hell are you doing back here?" Rachel sneered, her pretty face twisted into something truly ugly. "Are you stupid, too?"
Sam stiffened as he slowly pulled himself from the car and straightened up. His heart was pounding but he sucked in a breath and moved to stand next to his brother.
Dean's growl helped, and Sam focused on him.
"Sam's not stupid. Now, messing with my brother? That's stupid." Dean barked a laugh, the gun coming up to point steadily at the group. "A death wish, actually."
Rachel didn't even look at Dean, her hateful glare centered on Sam. She opened her mouth, but Dean cut her off.
"Don't," Dean snarled, the Glock now singularly aimed at her. "Don't you even dare talk to him." She looked at him. "Reverse it," the incensed hunter demanded. "Reverse the damn spell."
Sam's mouth was dry, his body tense as he fought to keep from hyperventilating, but he'd die before he'd leave Dean alone. And he knew his brother would kill before letting them hurt Sam again. That helped, but not much. Not when the curse's potency threaded fear through his soul and squeezed with unnatural strength, suffocating his courage and unmasking his resolve. His fear was visceral and he fought every instinct for self-preservation to stand tall. And he did.
"Spell?" Her laugh could have cut glass. "We didn't put a spell on him. We cured him."
"Some cure." Bobby's voice made them jump as the seasoned hunter appeared soundlessly behind Sam's abductors. He pumped a big-assed shotgun for effect. "Sounds more like kidnapping and aggravated assault to me."
Dean was positively beaming now, obviously buoyed by the backup and the way a flicker of fear passed over Rachel's and her group's faces. "Let me tell you again. Reverse. The. Spell."
Sam's fingers twitched and he held his breath.
"Rach?" Tiny's voice held uncertainty.
The beautiful woman slowly turned to look at the new threat. Bobby's face was hard to read as he met the scrutiny.
"It's not worth dying for," Skinhead added, fidgeting nervously.
Rachel finally sighed dramatically and shrugged her shoulders, turning back to the Winchesters. "Fine," she huffed, her eyes back on Sam. "Whatever."
Sam traded a quick look with his brother. Fine? That was it? He'd been expecting it to be a bit harder than that, and from the wary look on Dean's face, his brother had been thinking the same.
"Okay, then," Bobby prompted, "do it." He didn't seem concerned. That was reassuring.
"Yeah, well, c'mon," Dean tipped his chin, "get it done."
Sam tensed, not exactly sure what this was going to entail, as his memories of the original cursing were scattered at best. He didn't even realize he was holding his breath until he heard a growled, "Dude, breathe," and let it out in a wheezing huff.
Rachel started to move toward Sam; Dean stepped in front of him. She looked at Dean, finally realizing where the danger lay. "I need to touch him," she said, pointing at Sam.
Dean stiffened. Sam's heart pounded. Finally, Dean gave a curt nod, then added before she could move, "You hurt him or do anything I don't like, you won't even hear the shot that'll kill you. Understood?"
The woman gave the older Winchester a disbelieving look. "Are you for real?"
Something feral twisted Dean's features, and his low snarl sent chills down Sam's spine. "You really want to find out?"
"Rachel." Tiny sounded very nervous now. Even if she didn't take Dean seriously, it was very obvious that Sam's other tormentors did. "Just do it."
Sam's heart pounded so hard now, white spots danced across his vision as Rachel came to stand in front of him. The smell of her perfume made him nauseated, and he staggered back, pressing against the Impala. The world started to narrow down to a dimly lit shed…
Dean's voice grounded him. "I-I'm all right." He forced himself to keep from recoiling when she reached out to touch the side of his forehead. Sam's chest stuttered with each breath as a hard shiver of panic tore through his body. Oh, God, he couldn't do this. He couldn't let her touch him again…
And then she did, her fingers a frigid stroke against his skin as words he didn't understand spun around him. He braced a trembling hand against the car, but still her fingers pressed against him, harder now like they were trying to drive through his skull. A sudden, searing bolt of pain wrenched a scream from his lips and he dropped heavily to his knees, his hands fisting against his head as he keened and rocked violently. Someone yelled something, but still the pain came, searing, intruding, until, just as abruptly as it had started, it stopped and his voice cut off in a muted whimper. Oh, God.
Slowly, he started to fold forward, his shaking body too clumsy to catch itself, too spent to respond.
Just before his face hit the gravel, someone grabbed him. Sam stiffened, expecting more pain as he was pulled back. But instead, he felt strength, gentleness, a heat pressing against his back that warmed instead of scalded as a murmured voice tickled his skin. Sam smiled, weak but relieved. Dean.
Call him a big girl, but Sam soaked in the comfort and leaned, just for a moment, against his brother, gasping and clutching at Dean as the last of the pain drained from him. He had missed this so much, this part of Dean that wasn't offered to just anyone, and had been missed and craved more than air.
"Sammy?" Dean's whisper ghosted the side of his face, concerned and questioning.
Gathering his strength and his senses, Sam gave a slight nod and started to push away from Dean, missing the contact almost immediately. They still had to take care of the witch and her friends.
His brother, ever perceptive in all things Sam, kept a supportive grip on his arm as he helped him to his feet, then waited a moment before letting go. Probably just to make sure Sam wasn't about to face-plant again…or maybe not. Sam didn't care; he needed it.
He turned to face the witch.
"Can we go now?" the woman asked as she moved back to stand with her friends. "The spell's broken."
Dean almost rolled his eyes. If she was lying, Dean would have known the instant he'd grabbed his brother. But after a brief stiffening, Sam had sagged back against him so hard, Dean had felt his eyes burn, shocked by how much he'd missed being able to touch his brother, to offer him that kind of support.
"No." It was his brother's voice, rough and weary sounding, that answered. "'S not good enough."
"Sammy?" Dean shifted closer, insanely pleased that he could.
"No, Dean," the younger man continued, staring at Rachel. "They'll just keep doing it. To someone else. Some other guy. I can't…" His resolve strengthened. "I won't let that happen."
"We were trying to help people," the woman insisted.
Dean snorted bitterly at her. "Yeah, some awesome bedside manner you got going there. Talk about a cure-'em-or–kill-'em solution. Excuse me if I never sign up for your support group."
"Dean." Sam's soft admonition had him narrowing his eyes but he shut up. It had been Sam they'd hurt, so he'd follow his brother's lead on this. "Source of power." Sam ignored the look. "Every witch has a source of power. Without it, they're harmless. A ring, a spell book…"
Sam's words tapered off, and Dean followed his brother's suddenly enlightened gaze, noticing that Rachel was fingering an odd-shaped stone on the end of a gold necklace chain. As he looked at it, the stone's color changed from black to red. Ooh… His eyebrows rose.
"Or a crystal…" Sam amended.
"She ain't no witch," Gray Man said, shaking his head. "It was just a bit of hypnotism. That's all."
"Bullshit." Bobby snorted, then tipped his head toward Sam. "The kid's right. We want the necklace."
"Rachel?" Tiny leaned in close to the woman. "They right? You a witch?"
It never occurred to Dean that her three cohorts didn't know she'd been using witchcraft. He wondered if anyone else knew. Would the townspeople have been so quick to help her when they'd turned on Sam that night? "Of course she's a witch," he scoffed. "Now can we get on with this? Give me the damn necklace."
"And if I say no?" the woman challenged, ignoring her increasingly nervous friends.
"Then I get to kill you. Either way, lady, we get the rock." The coldness in Dean's voice had Sam glancing at him.
"Stop fooling around," Bobby interrupted, obviously worn by this. "I'm almost at the point of just shooting you for the hell of it, and I'm the patient one."
It was actually Tiny who ended the standoff. Without waiting for permission, he yanked the chain, tearing it from Rachel's neck, and tossing it to Sam who quickly dropped it onto the ground, and ground his heel into it, shattering the fragile crystal.
The woman turned on her friend. "You stupid asshole!" she shrieked. "Do you know what you've just done!"
The three men were looking at her oddly, as if seeing her for the first time. Dean couldn't help but wonder if she had had them under some sort of spell as well. It would certainly explain their gullibility.
"Yeah." It was the Gray Man who answered. He looked disgusted as he shook his head. "Saving our asses." He looked from the Winchesters to Bobby. "Are we done now or do you still want to shoot us first?"
Tiny muttered an agreement, but Skinhead shifted uncomfortably as he looked at Sam.
"Sorry 'bout the hair, man," he offered, his cheeks pink with embarrassment. "I don't know what came over me. I don't even like hair. Baldness is beautiful."
Sam swallowed hard and gave a small nod in recognition of the apology.
"It'll grow back," Dean reminded his brother quietly.
Sam gave him an appreciative glance then cleared his throat. "It's okay." It wasn't really, but Dean let it slide. "You can…you can go." For now, he silently added, knowing the police were going to be getting an anonymous tip about all this. Well, minus the witchcraft crap of course.
The three guys were gone like a shot. Rachel turned to follow, her face dark with hatred, but Bobby grabbed her arm and yanked her to a stop. "Some friendly advice, lady," he growled. "You're walking away this time. There won't be a next time, you hear me?"
For the first time, Dean saw genuine, unmasked fear on the woman's face. She finally got it. Finally. Looking at Dean and then at Sam nervously, she pulled her arm free and nodded. "Yeah, I get it." Then she hurried away.
As soon as she was gone, Dean felt Sam sag against his shoulder. He glanced at his brother. "Hell of a week, huh?"
Sam snorted wearily. "Can we just go now?"
"Sure." Dean grinned, nudging the solid shoulder next to him. Man, that felt good. "C'mon, I'll even let you choose where we stay tonight."
"I'm not picky, man." His brother smothered a yawn. "Anywhere with a bed'll be fine by me."
Bobby walked over to them, shouldering the shotgun and glancing around to make sure there were no prying eyes. "You boys heading back my way?" he asked.
"We never finished the roof," Sam commented on another yawn.
"Would you stop that?" Dean mirrored the action. "You're making me yawn!"
"Not sure I want Dean on my roof," Bobby commented, eyeing the older Winchester carefully.
"Hey," Dean grunted indignantly. Not that he was eager to get back on the roof, but he still had his pride. Geez, a guy falls off one roof…
"I could nail his feet down." Sam tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Or use super glue—"
"Not listening." Dean turned his back on them and yanked open the car door. "I'm leaving now."
"Bubblewrap could work—"
"This is me getting ready to drive away." He started the car.
"Bobby, do you have a bungee cord?"
That made him pause; that actually sounded like fun.
Then Sam was sliding into the passenger seat and giving him a full grin. "Thought you might like that one."
Man, his brother knew him way too well. "Shuddup," Dean snipped, then rolled down his window to say good-bye to Bobby. "We'll catch up with you tomorrow." He tipped his head toward his brother as Sam leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes with an exhausted sigh. "Kid needs a nap."
Sam didn't even open his eyes, just whacked him.
Dean grinned as he rubbed his arm and glared at his brother. "Ow."
"Idjits." Bobby shook his head at them, then started walking back to his own car. "Drive safe," he called over his shoulder.
"He likes us," Dean crowed as he put the car into Drive.
"We've grown on him," Sam agreed, each word dragging with exhaustion.
"Yeah," the older man gloated, "like fungus."