Author's Note: This is a plot bunny that just hasn't left me alone, so I finally had to get it on the page. I have a general idea of where it's going, but canon is having some influence on how that's going to play out. And please feed the author; comments and criticisms are craved!

Warnings: The main events in this story take place between 6.14 and 6.15, though spoilers in this chapter are only through 6.12.

Disclaimer: Supernatural isn't mine. I'm just happy to play in the sandbox and promise to put the toys back when I'm done.

Chapter 1

Dead Men Walking

"You sure?" A pause. "Yeah, alright."

Walt looked up from his beer as Roy flipped his cell shut. He raised an eyebrow at his partner, but Roy shook his head minutely, stopping at the bar to grab another beer before joining Walt again. The other hunter flopped down across from Walt, dropping his phone with a thunk onto the wood table and pressed his face into his hands. Walt frowned.


"Tim and Reggie," Roy supplied without looking up. He pulled the cap off his new beer but just stared at it.

"What about 'em?" Walt demanded. He and Roy had worked the odd job or two with Tim, Reggie, and Steve. Good hunters, the three of them. They worked well both solo and as a team, not something often found among hunters. But Steve had been killed by demons in Oklahoma during the Apocalypse and he hadn't heard from Tim and Reggie since. Even though the Apocalypse had been averted a year and a half before, hunters had been spread pretty thin since, what with the weird monster behavior and all. No shortage of hunts, that was for sure.

"Said…" Roy trailed off, taking a long draught of his beer.

"Said what?" Walt prodded. He was getting a bad feeling from his partner's prolonged silence.

Roy finally looked up. There was something on his face Walt couldn't quite identify. "The Winchesters were seen in Portland two days ago."

Walt stared a moment, not digesting the words. Roy's gaze dropped back into his beer. "The Winchesters?"

Roy nodded silently.

"Sam and Dean Winchester," Walt clarified flatly.

Roy nodded again.

"The same Sam and Dean Winchester we shot two years ago." Nod. "With a shotgun." Nod. "Point blank." Miserable nod.

"That's not poss—" A memory jolted Walt into silence.

"But I'm gonna warn you, when I come back, I'm gonna be pissed."

He'd just thought that was Dean's bravado talking at the time. They'd just killed his little brother, and any hunter who knew something about anything knew about the bond between Sam and Dean Winchester. Those boys had made a name for themselves, gaining quite the reputation in the year before their daddy had died, though many a hunter had known of them from their childhood. Hunter children were a rarity that the community took note of. John Winchester, another name any hunter worth his salt knew, had raised two dangerous warriors; more than that, he had raised two brothers who would do anything for each other.

Apparently that included coming back from the dead. And if that didn't mean something supernatural, then Walt'd eat his own shotgun.

Rumor had it right that Sam Winchester had started the Apocalypse. He'd been a marked man for years, starting when Gordon Walker tried to spread the news that Sam was some kind of psychic meant to unleash Hell on Earth. No one had dared believe him, or at least act on it; not when Dean Winchester stood in their way. But after the Devil had risen, well, those seemingly crazy ramblings of Gordon's had started to make more sense.

Sam hadn't denied it, either, when they'd confronted him. Dean either.

So if they were both in on the whole Apocalypse deal—because they were pretty much a package deal—and were back from the dead, it had to mean something. Something big.

"What'd Tim and Reggie think?" Walt asked after a long moment.

They'd been the ones to alert him and Roy about the Winchesters—about Sam. Said they'd run into him in Oklahoma, learned all about him and his demon blood powers. And that he owned starting the Apocalypse. Hell, they'd alerted pretty much the whole hunting community since word got 'round fast. This news was the type that was bound to spread like wildfire, too.

Roy swallowed, obviously trying to make sense of what he had just heard. "Didn't know. Surprised as hell, though."

Walt snorted. Yeah, the dead rising, especially those who were apparently in league with Hell somehow, tended to do that to a person. Zombies were one thing but coming completely back from the dead? Well that sure wasn't human either. "And?"

"And they wanted to meet. Figured we'd have a better chance of taking care of it as a group," Roy said, taking another gulp of beer.

Walt nodded and took another swig of his own beer. "Alright. Looks like we've got a hunt."

Sam groaned, dropping the book with a thump onto the desk. Dean looked up from his own book, raising an eyebrow at his brother, who shook his head. "We're not getting anywhere like this," he said, rubbing his temple between his thumb and forefinger. "There are all kinds of mothers of races of creatures in lore, from just about every culture imaginable. We need more parameters. Or something."

Dean snorted. "Don't tell me you're getting tired of research, Sam. Never thought I'd see the day our resident geek boy got sick of books."

Sam rolled his eyes exasperatedly, a trademark Sam expression Dean had sorely missed while his soulless non-brother had been around. "Funny, Dean. How's it coming on your end?"

Dean's humor faded into a scowl, all the answer Sam needed. He was running into the same problems as his brother. He'd run into a few references to Lilith as the mother of demons but had quickly skipped past them, not wanting to dredge up those memories.

"How's it going, Bobby?" Dean called out, not sure where the older hunter had gotten to during the Winchester study hall.

"Don't you think I'd have told you if I came up with something, ya idjits?" Bobby's growl came from somewhere upstairs.

Dean looked over at Sam, who shrugged. Bobby was still keeping his distance from Sam, and Sam, for his part, was doing his best not to make Bobby uncomfortable since no number of 'I'm sorry I tried to kill you while I was soulless' apologies were going to make things better. Dean could see that the distance hurt his brother, especially since he didn't actually remember doing what he did—and why would he? As far as Dean was concerned, this Sam was still in Hell when it had happened. The last time this Sam had seen Bobby, he'd had to watch, feel, Lucifer snap his neck. Bobby knew all that, too, but it was taking him time to work through the whole thing.

"He'll come around," Dean said after a minute. "Just needs some time."

Sam flinched, getting the meaning behind the non-sequitur. "Yeah. I know."

Dean frowned and shut the book he'd been reading. That was a road they didn't need to keep on right now. He hated that Sam knew as much as he did already; he hated that he had to worry that anything could trigger a meltdown in the wall.

So he focused back on the hunt instead. "Guess we don't have much to go on until Bobby translates some more of the dragons' skin book." He shuddered at the memory of the pages' feel under his fingers. Why did monsters have to be so friggin' disgusting?

Sam nodded, leaning back in his chair. "Guess so," he agreed.

Dean pushed himself to his feet. "Get some sleep, Sammy. You look like shit."

Sam glowered, but it was true. He looked tired. It probably didn't help that his body hadn't slept in a year and a half, and despite the ten day nap after Death had returned his soul, that wasn't a deficit that was going away any time soon. The bitter guilt Dean could practically taste radiating off his younger brother, though, had to be what was exhausting Sam the most. But no amount of 'It wasn't you' assurances were going to make that guilt go away, either.

Especially not when Sam wasn't taking the offered out.

It sucked, but that was just Sam.

That was the Sam that Dean loved more than his own life and would do anything—had sacrificed everything—for.

So his brother might look like and feel like shit right now, but he was here—not in Hell with Michael and Lucifer—and Dean wouldn't trade him, or any moment he got with him now, for the world.

"You don't look much better," his brother pointed out quietly.

Dean blinked at the tone before grinning. "I'm good."

He could tell by Sam's dubious expression he hadn't bought the flimsy cover. Sam was probably right; all the revelations in the past few days had left Dean reeling and unsure of how to proceed. How did one deal with a recently re-souled and amnesiac brother who'd returned from Hell? Or the fact that there was some big new supernatural threat rising in the West, taking poor girls who hadn't even gotten laid yet for god knows what. Oh, not to mention the disgruntled father-figure that couldn't look said re-souled and amnesiac brother in the face?

Dean ran a hand across his face. "Yeah, alright. I'll get some sleep if you do."

He couldn't count the number of times he'd used that deal on Sam when they'd been younger and Sam had been too stubborn to go to bed when Dean had been up with John, usually working on a hunt. For all that Dean had been ingrained to protect Sam since age four, Sam's mother hen instincts had been there from his own early childhood, never satisfied if Dean wasn't resting well enough, either. John had often been forced to let Dean off for the night just so Sammy would sleep. Even as a squirt, he'd been a sneaky kid.

Sam's lip twitched, the same memories playing across his face momentarily, and he nodded. "'Kay."

When Sam woke up the next morning, sunlight streaming in through the window of the bedroom he and Dean had taken over as their own when they'd been kids and simply continued to use after reconnecting with Bobby in adulthood, he rolled over to find Dean's bed empty. His breath caught in his throat and he was momentarily terrified everything from the last several days had been a dream; that he wasn't really back with his brother after all, before he realized the covers were thrown over the edge of the bed. The bed had been slept in, he realized in relief. And that's when he heard the soft voices coming from the downstairs: Dean and Bobby.

Sam felt his entire body relax and he flopped back onto his pillow. He closed his eyes again, just for the moment savoring the feeling of being among the familiar. After everything, he could still wake up in a room he and his brother had shared, knowing Dean was nearby. From the moment he'd even considered saying yes to Lucifer, the thought that he might get to live this moment afterwards had never occurred to him.

He'd been at peace with his decision to jump.

But damn if this wasn't better.

And that's when the memories of what Dean and Cas had told him about his missing year and a half came rushing back, the truth hitting him as if with a baseball bat. While he didn't have any memory of the things he'd been told, somehow the words had seemed right. He'd known they were true without knowing why; they'd apparently resonated with whatever memories of that time were hiding behind Death's wall, the ever-present itch at the back of his consciousness he couldn't scratch.

Sam swallowed and opened his eyes again, blinking against the sun. Shoving the darker thoughts away for later, he realized the bright sunlight meant it must be at least midmorning, if not close to noon. Dean and Bobby had let him sleep in, for which he was grateful. Pulling himself out of bed, Sam followed the familiar sounds of Dean's and Bobby's voices.

As he descended the steps, he could tell they were in the kitchen. He paused at the bottom of the steps, wondering if he should intrude and make Bobby uncomfortable—even being in the same room had been setting the older hunter on edge around him, and Sam couldn't blame him for it; knowing what he'd done to Bobby and to Dean… He didn't know how he was ever going to make that right, if he even could. The least he could do was keep out of Bobby's way until the older man could bear to share oxygen with him.

And Dean… He didn't know how Dean could even look at him after what'd done to him. But his brother had refused his apology, telling him that it hadn't been him. And no matter Sam's protests to the contrary, refused to acknowledge the issue. So Sam dropped it. Dean seemed content just to have Sam near, but Sam was going to find a way, something, to make up for the problems he'd caused his loved ones whether they wanted to hear it or not.

Deciding he'd risk breaking up whatever Dean and Bobby were talking about, Sam shoved his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants and walked into the kitchen. There he found Dean leaning against the counter with a cup of coffee in his hands and Bobby sitting at the table, a newspaper open in front of him. Dean looked up as he entered and a small smile played at his lips. Sam smiled back, the warmth he felt from seeing Dean's soft expression—a look he had so seldom worn leading up to Sam's jump into the Pit but looked good on him—drowning out the darker thoughts from only moments before.

"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," Dean said, raising his mug to his brother.

Sam felt his own lips twitch. "Morning," he replied, heading over to the coffee maker. He pulled a mug out of the cabinet and poured himself a cup, inhaling the familiar scent of precious caffeine. He took a sip, content just to be around his family, when he realized Bobby probably didn't want him in the kitchen. Sam frowned and his grip tightened around the mug in his fingers; he sensed more than saw Dean's body language shift at his own change in mood.

Sam hesitated, considering making a break for the living room, but one of Bobby's phones chose that moment to ring and both brothers relaxed as Bobby was distracted by answering.

"Singer," he answered gruffly, once he'd identified the ringing phone. It was his hunter line, Sam noticed. As he listened to whoever was on the other side of the line, Bobby's features deepened into a frown as he looked over at Sam and Dean.

"What?" Dean demanded.

Bobby just shook his head and moved into the living room. Sam glanced over at Dean, who looked just as confused as Sam felt. Dean shrugged and Sam took another gulp of coffee. They could both make out Bobby's muffled grumbles whenever he spoke, but nothing distinct. Several tense minutes passed before Bobby shuffled back into the kitchen, the phone dangling limply in his grip. Sam looked over at Dean, who put his mug on the counter and straightened. Bobby never shuffled anywhere.

"Bobby?" Dean asked.

The older hunter dropped the phone onto the kitchen table before rounding on the brothers. "That was Walt Mason."

Sam's stomach clenched and he felt Dean tense next to him. Sam had to keep his hand from moving to his chest to feel for the long since-healed shotgun wounds that had killed him nearly two years before. Waking up with a major hangover and a shotgun in his face for his part in starting the Apocalypse wasn't exactly an easily forgotten memory.

"What'd he want?" Dean asked carefully.

"Said he and Roy'd heard you idjits were hunting in Portland couple a days ago," Bobby replied tersely. "When they were certain you were dead."

Oh, that can't be good. They'd told Bobby that they'd been to Heaven and about meeting Joshua, but neither had been willing to share how they'd earned that ticket upstairs. They weren't proud of second rate hunters getting the jump on them, much less killing them. Plus, with Bobby still dealing with the aftermath of the dead rising in Sioux Falls, well, they hadn't had the heart to share the gory details. Everything had pretty much snowballed after that point anyway. Sam was jumping into the Pit and Dean was getting out of the life; it didn't seem important.

"Wanted to know if I'd seen you or knew why you were back from the dead."

"What'd you say?" Sam asked quietly.

"That I had no idea what he was talking about," Bobby snapped. "And that he was an idjit for interrupting me for something stupid."

Sam nodded and he heard Dean breathe out. Bobby had already become a target of their enemies—both Meg and Lucifer by proxy of Death had both gone after him because he was so close to them—and they didn't want to see anything else happen to him.

Not when you're doing a good enough job of that yourself, apparently, a voice snarked from the back of Sam's mind. Sam grimaced but shoved the voice back down.

"Did he believe you?" Dean pressed.

"Doubt it. But ain't no one really knows what happened a year and a half ago," Bobby replied with a shrug. No one but three hunters, two archangels, one innocent bystander, and one angel had been witness to the averting of the Apocalypse. And the only ones left standing of those had been one hunter who'd left the game, one older but active hunter who wasn't talking, and one angel who had returned to Heaven to take part in a civil war.

"Sam's been hunting for almost all that time, though," Dean pointed out. He spared a glance for his bother. "Or, at least, the other Sam was."

Bobby's lips thinned at Dean's comment and Sam couldn't help but agree with the older man; Dean was the only one in the room who really thought that other Sam hadn't been at least part him and refused to blame him. Sam felt equally parts touched and concerned by the thought, but that wasn't the point at the moment.

"Wouldn't someone have seen him to raise some red flags with other hunters?" Dean continued, pointedly ignoring the looks.

"I was hunting with the Campbells, right?" Sam spoke up. Dean nodded and Sam directed his comments to his brother. "We had no idea that we had hunters in our family, Dean. And for Dad not to have known about them? Or Bobby?"

Bobby hadn't known about the Campbells, he said, until Sam had told him about Samuel and the gathered group of his estranged kin when the older hunter had expressed concern about him hunting alone. Bobby was a veritable font of information when it came to the hunting community, so for him not to know about an entire clan of hunters?

"They had to have worked way below the radar," Sam concluded.

Bobby nodded. "It's hard for hunters to work that far below the radar, but if the Campbell line goes back as far as they say it does, then they're damn shadows. Sam working with them? No one'd find him if he didn't want to be found."

Or at least live to tell about it, the traitorous voice commented. And from what he'd pieced together about himself while he was soulless, the thought didn't seem too far off. And that scared the hell out of Sam.

"Sam and I hunted for another six months, though, without Samuel," Dean pointed out. His tone twisted bitterly at their grandfather's name. "I might have been off the radar for a year, but…"

"We were also working for Crowley, right?" Sam pointed out.

Even knowing about his soulless self's penchant for doing things with no concern for a moral compass, finding out that he and Dean had been working for a demon had hurt. After the havoc Ruby had caused—and the issues that continued to fester just out of sight for them all—it pained Sam to think that was a lesson his soulless, unemotional self had so easily disregarded. And that Dean had done it as well for what he thought was the sake of getting his brother's soul back… It was almost too much. So he tried not to think about it—just like everything else.

"Yeah," Dean replied warily, clearly unsure of where his brother's train of thought was headed.

"Crowley probably didn't want it broadcasted that he had hunters working for him," Sam replied with a shrug. "Demons hate hunters, and we're not exactly on any demon's Christmas card list after caging Satan back up. So if Crowley was trying to shore up his place as King of Hell…"

"Then being in league with hunters would be a terrible move," Dean finished with a thoughtful nod. "You think he covered our tracks?"

"I doubt Crowley would've want Lucifer sympathizers knowin' about his alpha project, either," Bobby added thoughtfully.

"Or Purgatory," Sam added quietly. A hush fell over the three hunters, the words from the dragon book ringing loud, if unspoken, through the kitchen.

"Okay, so Sam and I are supposed to be dead according to other hunters," Dean said slowly. "So what? Shit happens. Not like we're gonna stop hunting, not now."

"Just watch your asses," Bobby said with a defeated sigh. "I don't know what Walt is up to, but another hunter'll make you just as dead as a monster."

"We've noticed," Dean replied wryly, though the smirk didn't quite reach his eyes.