Dean needed him.

That was all Sam had to know.

He would stay.

He would stay because dying would be taking the easy way out. And because death was more than he deserved, no matter how much he wanted it.

Dean saying it was their responsibility? Their mess?


Dean had broken the first seal after thirty years of horrific, bestial torture. If that wasn't a valid excuse, nothing was.

Sam letting Lucifer out of the cage?

Sheer stupidity.

Base betrayal.

Sam would make sure his brother got out of this alive.

And he would find a way to atone.


Dean could tell by the timbre of Sam's breathing that his brother wasn't asleep. But at least he was resting. He was alive.

He'd persuaded Sam to stay with him. For now, that would have to be enough.

After all, odds were neither of them would make it out of this alive anyway.

Alone against Lucifer and every demon in hell? Against the angels and their self-righteousness?

Yeah, they were toast.

To hell with it. Screw 'em, everyone that had dragged the Winchesters into their lying little passion play, including God.

When they went out, they'd go together.

As brothers.


Four days later . . .

The Winchester brothers – locked, loaded and ready to kick supernatural ass - stared up challengingly at the windows of the haunted house.

Whatever was inside – ghost, demon, witch, shifter - nothing dared to look back at them.

On the front porch, Sam pulled out his lock pick. "I got it."

"Hold on." Dean laid a questioning hand on his shoulder. "Sure you're up for this? Ribs okay?"

"Yeah, Dean. I'm good." Sam smiled at his brother. "We got work to do, right?"

Dean grinned back at him. "Damn straight we do, Sammy. Damn straight."


I am dedicating "Penance" to a friend of mine, Brenda Rozema, who passed a few days ago. Brenda was a good woman with a sweet nature and a loving heart. Generous to a fault. A brilliantly talented artist. And nowhere near done living her life. We'll miss you, Brenda. Be happy.