Alright, well, here it is. I kid you not people, I rewrote this chapter at least six times. It wasn't coming out right, but hopefully I did it justice in the end! This is the final chapter, and while I am glad to be done with this fic (it was originally supposed to be ten chapters, and it totally grew out of my control) I'm also sad to see it end. Thank you everyone who read this and thought it was worth their time, and I hope you guys enjoy the final chapter!

A thousand special thanks to my super-powered beta, Deartabbie, who patiently read everything I sent her and did not murder me. If you see her on the street, please shower her with sugar and kittens.

Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to richer people than me.

Warnings: Uh, angst. Much man angst. Swearing, mentions of violence and rape, etc. etc. If you've made it this far, you're gonna be fine.


Morning shifts sucked, there was no way around it. The barely-visible dawn was illuminating the skyline of Milwaukee in dusky orange, and cheerful birdsong was beginning to gather strength in the few trees planted along the sidewalks lining the road. At first, Jessica hadn't minded when Carlos had asked her to pick up his shifts at the clinic that week — four days waking up at five-fucking-o'clock, no problem, right — but now that it was Saturday, her last day of double shifts, the novelty of the sunrise was down to zero.

The clinic was a small building, tucked away between an abandoned office complex and a rundown flower shop. The complex was a breeding ground for crack addicts, and Jessica was positive that the flower shop was a mafia safehouse, but the rent was dirt cheap. Gotta take what you can get in this economy, Jessica supposed. She dug into her pocket for the clinic keys, cursing to herself as she bobbled both the keys and her sack lunch, all while trying to balance her jumbo-sized (it was a perfectly reasonable size, thank you Starbucks) mug of coffee in the crook of her elbow. "Dammit," she cursed, wrestling the door open. Ha. And Carlos said she couldn't function in the morning.

She dumped her lunch but took her mug with her as she moved through the clinic, leaving the front room dark for now. The clinic wouldn't open until eight. Before then, Jessica needed to catalogue their inventory and check the few machines that they had were up and running. She gulped at her coffee. Fucking morning shift. The damn machines had all been working fine yesterday, hadn't they? Carlos was an anal bastard.

She padded down the hallway, sneakers noiseless against the tiled floor, yawning into her palm. She reached the apothecary and nudged the open (and that was strange, hadn't she closed it yesterday before leaving?) door with a toe, fumbling for the lightswitch. The overhead strips sputtered to life. "The fuck?" Jessica said dumbly. There was a junkie rifling through the stacks of drawers. He jumped as the lights flipped on and spun to face her, drawing a gun from underneath his suit jacket.

For maybe five seconds they gawked at each other, too stunned to react. The guy — and what kind of junkie wore a suit when they were going on a drug run? — looked absolutely wrecked. His dark hair was knotted and his eyes were bloodshot. Tired shadows rode high on his cheekbones, and there was a swollen bruise marring the left side of his jaw, as though he'd recently been punched.

Then the man's hands lifted, which meant his gun was lifting towards her forehead, so Jessica went with her first instinct and threw her mug of coffee at the guy's nose.

"Fuck!" the junkie shouted. Hot coffee splashed across his neck and chest, but he didn't lose his grip on the gun. Jessica bolted. She made it as far as the second examination room down the hall before another man appeared in the doorway to block her path. Jessica's momentum plowed her into the man's chest, and it was like crashing into a steel post. What the hell did this guy eat for breakfast, monkey wrenches? Jessica bounced to the floor, head ringing as it smacked the tiles, shoulder aching from slamming into The Terminator, and all she could think was fuck you Carlos, I'm not getting paid enough for this shit. She didn't even have any coffee to drink before Junkie #2 shot her, because she'd hurled it all over Junkie #1's rumpled suit.

But no gunshot rang out. Hardly daring to breathe, Jessica squinted one eye open and peeked up at Junkie #2. He seemed about as strung out as Junkie #1, with the same dark hair and deep hollows under his eyes. This one was older though, with lines edging his forehead and the corners of his mouth, like the adult version of Junkie #1. More Al Pacino than James Dean.

Jessica stamped down on that corner of her brain with a wince. Not the time.

Junkie #2 let out a frustrated, despairing groan. "Of fucking course," he grumbled to himself. Like Junkie #1, he was wearing a suit and tie, though the jacket was unbuttoned and there were large stains dotted across the front. Sweet Jesus, was that blood? Well, why not? Jessica thought hysterically, feeling her own blood drain from her face. I really am getting shot by Al Pacino.

"Dad!" shouted a voice from behind her, and oh good, Junkie #1 was joining the party. She'd always wanted an audience for her death. Why hadn't Junkie #2 just shot her already? No use dragging it out.

"Would you stand up?"

Jessica peered at Junkie #2, who was pinching the bridge of his nose and looking exasperated. His gun had been slotted into its holster at his side. "I- what?" Jessica squeaked.

"Get up. Christ, we're not gonna hurt you."

Jessica scrambled to her feet. Her hands were shaking slightly from the residual adrenaline. "Um, thank you?" She said lamely. You, ah… If you're junkies, our funding is pretty crappy so I think Tramadol's the strongest drug we have…" She trailed off as Junkie #2's expression clouded.

"We're not here for a fix," he growled.

Jessica's heart jackrabbited back to its frantic, we're-gonna-die pace and she slammed her eyes shut. "Please, please don't kidnap me and sell my organs on the black market," she gasped out, proud of how steady her words were. "I mean, I don't exercise. Ever. Most of what I eat is ramen noodles, so it's like damaged goods right? No one wants shitty, ramen kidneys. It'd be bad for your business rep, and, and-"

"Please stop talking." Not-junkie #2 interrupted. "We're not here to steal your organs either."

Oh thank God.

Not-junkie #1 stepped past her, rubbing at the angry red patches on his neck and jaw where the hot coffee had splashed him. He gave her a baleful glare. "Why the hell are you here so early?" he snapped. "This place isn't supposed to be open until eight."

"Uh, I have to do inventory and… stuff," Jessica said, squinting at the two of them defensively. "Why am I explaining myself to you! What're you doing here?" she spluttered. "I fucking work here, what's your excuse?"

Not-junkie #1 opened his mouth, most likely to say something rude judging from his scowl, but Not-junkie #2 put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. "You're a doctor?" he asked, examining her shrewdly.

Jessica nodded, her spine straightening. These guys really were stupid if they'd broken into a free clinic for the medicine and not the free medical care, but whatever. She'd chosen this job for a reason, and it definitely wasn't for the salary. "Is one of you injured?" she said reluctantly.

The two men swapped unreadable glances. "Not one of us," Not-junkie #2 answered. He muttered something that sounded like "Christo," scanning her face with strange intensity. Jessica raised an eyebrow, wondering if he was on drugs after all.

"Uh, so why do you need a doctor?" she pressed, once it became clear that Not-junkie #2 wasn't going to elaborate. Not-junkie #1 cleared his throat and jerked his head in the direction of exam room two, where Not-junkie #2 had appeared from. Jessica swallowed but followed him through the doorway.

She stopped at the sight of the kid laid out on the exam table and wondered why the hell she'd gotten out of bed that morning. The kid was motionless and pale, obviously malnourished, and wearing only a pair of ill fitting dress pants. For reasons Jessica couldn't even begin to guess at, he was covered in gold glitter, and his back was a riot of red and yellow paint. "Party gone wrong?" she said dubiously, because she couldn't imagine any other scenario.

Not-junkie #1's mouth thinned. "You could say that."

"What's wrong with him?" Jessica questioned, grabbing a stethoscope from a hook on the wall and moving to the kid's side.

"He was drugged." Not-junkie #2 crowded into the room behind them. He rubbed a weary hand across his eyes, steeling himself. "And raped. Maybe other injuries we don't know about."

Jessica's head whipped up. "What?" she said in a strangled voice. "Why the hell did you bring him here? He should be in a goddamn emergency room!"

"We can't go to a hospital," Not-junkie #2 glowered back. "They'd call the cops before they'd checked him into a room!"

Jessica blinked hard, remembering that this guy had a gun stashed under his jacket. "Right," she said, and decided not to ask why he was so determined to avoid the police. Carlos couldn't fight plausible deniability.

"So you can help him?" Not-junkie #1 was staring at her keenly. She looked between the three of them, finally seeing the desperation in the two men's postures, the way they hovered over the third with furious concern. Not-junkie #2's jaw was clenched so hard she half-expected to hear the cracking sound of teeth breaking. Not-junkie #1 was shaky and wan, one hand wrapped around the kid's wrist as though to ground himself. She cursed the bleeding heart that had driven her to take this job.

"Well, that is the point of a free clinic," Jessica said slowly. Both not-junkies relaxed by increments. "But," she continued, "I wasn't lying about the Tramadol. We're not very well funded, so there's only so much I can do and we're not equipped for emergency situations."

Not-junkie #2 nodded. "Thank you," he said.

Jessica focused back on her newest patient. "There are plastic bins in the corner of the supply room," she said over her shoulder. "Could you bring one in here and fill it with warm water? We need to clean him up before I can fully examine him."

Not-junkie #2 left the room as she began taking the kid's vitals. She checked his heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and pupil response, all with the lurking presence of Not-junkie #1 in the background. He had yet to let go of the kid's wrist, but he kept his mouth shut and stayed out of the way, so Jessica didn't object.

"What's his name?" she asked gently, breaking the silence that stretched between them.

Not-junkie #1's red-rimmed eyes flicked up to meet her own. "Sam," he mumbled. "And I'm Dean."

"I'm Jessica," she told him. "And your friend is…?"

"Uh, John," Dean said stiffly. "He's our dad."

Well, that explained a few things. Jessica replaced her stethoscope and hesitated before glancing at Dean. "I'm assuming there's more to this that just an out of control party," she hedged. She held up her hands as Dean's grip tightened defensively around Sam's wrist. "I'm not asking what happened," she said hurriedly. "But if you can tell me anything about his condition, it would help."

Dean shook his head, chewing his lip. "I don't- I don't know anything more." He seemed to shrink into himself.

"Okay. That's okay. Don't worry about it."

The sloshing of water preceded John's reappearance. He shouldered in through the door and set the tub on a chair beside Sam.

"Thank you," Jessica said. "Now, um…" she paused, unsure of what to say. She'd never had an unconscious rape victim to deal with before, much less his intimidating and potentially unstable family members. Fuck it, she thought. Bluntness had worked up to this point. "I'm not sure if you want to be here for this," she told them. "I'm going to need to undress and bathe him, so if you two want to wait in the hall?" She nearly quailed under the blank stare Dean gave her. "Or not! Or we can all stay in here, that works too."

She directed Dean to the cabinets for sponges, and had John lift Sam so that she could slide him out of his dress pants. "And these?" she asked, pointing to one of the thick bracelets Sam was wearing. "How do these come off?"

John swore under his breath. "They're uh, locked on," he said, anger poorly hidden in his tone. Jessica bit the inside of her cheek and counted to ten in her mind. Even if Dean and John weren't telling her the details, it was hard to ignore the picture that was forming. It made her heart pound even as outrage bubbled in her stomach. "Is there a hardware store nearby?" John asked. "One that would sell a soldering iron?"

"None that would be open. There's one on Marine Street, but you'd have to wait another hour or two-" She cut herself off as John waved her concerns away and strode off down the hallway. Men with guns, she reminded herself. Just deal with Sam first. Then cops. Maybe.

Meanwhile, Dean had dumped a pile of sponges into the tub of water. "He'll be back soon," he assured her.

"Right." Jessica shook herself and reached for a sponge. The first swipe across Sam's shoulder lifted with it a broad line of gold, and before long the water in the tub was opaque and sparkling with glitter. Dean helped her for a time, cleaning off Sam's arms and working at the giant, fiery phoenix painted across Sam's back. However, once he'd uncovered the large, bootprint-shaped bruise between Sam's shoulder blades, he dropped his sponge and retreated to the side of the room, snorting like a distressed bull.

"These, um, piercings," Jessica ventured after a time, flinching as Dean's glare snapped onto her. "They're pretty new. Did he want them or…?"

A green tint colored Dean's cheeks. "Get them off," he croaked. His gaze lingered on Sam's chest and then caught on the Prince Albert. He shoved a hand over his eyes, breaths coming choppy and short. "Please. Get them off now."

Jessica did as he asked. As she took over where Dean had left off, the painted phoenix blurred and smeared under the strokes of her sponge. Watery red droplets ran in trickles down Sam's sides, pooling on the table below.


Images flash past my eyelids like disjointed scenes from a grainy, water-spotted film.

A woman, laughing as she dances, dress flaring about her.

A man's grinning mouth, red lips stretching grotesquely.

Blood caught in the crevices of Cheverill's gleaming nails.

Where am I?

Pain bursts without warning, lights exploding in sparkling fireworks, lighting up the darkness. My back arches up. My throat seizes. What is happening? I've been good. Why is he punishing me?

"Jesus Christ! What the hell was that?"

The pain fades, but my neck is stinging and my body feels so light. Unmoored. As though my bones have been hollowed out. Marrow replaced with smoke and froth.

"We can't explain now. Get the next one off."

"Did you know this would happen?"

"No. Maybe Cheverill installed a failsafe?"

The voices make no sense. Is the party not over? I'm trying to be good, but there's heat searing against my left wrist and then pain, pain, pain. It sinks hooks into my chest, drives serrated wire under my skin and into my blood. My face is wet. I think I might be screaming.

"Shh, Sam, it's okay!"

"Jesus, stop! You're going to kill him!"

"Listen, Doc, I know you're trying to help, but we've gotta do this."

Something is buzzing. I wish I could move, get away from the horrible noise. The smoke is still here though, coiling in my joints and cementing them in place. Locked inside my own skeleton. The buzzing grows louder, and the heat returns, centered over my right wrist. A click. For the third time, pain, everywhere, blotting out my thoughts.

Time passes. Does it? I can't tell. It's so dark, like a coffin. I don't like coffins. They remind me of Cheverill's box. But I'm not there anymore, right? There was a party. Champagne flutes glittering in the diamond light cast by a chandelier. Blood spraying in a fan across the wooden floor. Everywhere, people laughing, laughing, laughing. Two shapes above me with melted edges, urgent voices drifting like the smoke in my hollow bones. Rough touches. Gentle touches.

The smoke is thinner. I can feel my body, wiggle my fingers and toes. I'm lying down. There's something… soft? Like hospital scrubs. I'm wearing hospital scrubs. Why?

Someone sighs from beside my left hip. A hand is holding mine in a slack grip, and the knuckles are tough with callouses. A jolt of adrenaline stabs through me and I recoil, a pair of green eyes meeting mine as I fall backwards, down, down, down...


"Sam!"

Dean hadn't meant to fall asleep, dammit. He'd rested his forehead on the mattress for two seconds, and next thing he knew, Sam was skidding off the side of the cot and crashing to the polished floor. Dean leapt to his feet and stepped around the bed frame. "Sam?"

Sam stared up at him, long hair framing his sickly face and his hazel eyes wild. His palms were pressed to the tiled floor, polished nails scratching against the tile floor with a grating, scraping noise. "Sam?" Dean repeated. Sam met his gaze feverishly. Dean held out his hands, making himself as small as possible, like he was calming a spooked dog. His heart pounded in the base of his throat, so painfully obvious he was sure Sam could see it.

Sam looked from Dean's face to his hands, still staring. Emotions flickered behind his eyes, too fast for Dean too make out. His arms started to tremble. "Dean?" he finally whispered.

"Yeah, Sammy," Dean rasped hoarsely. "It's me. Dad's here too. We got you out, remember?"

Sam's expression shuttered uncertainly. "This is real?" he asked, his voice cracking.

Dean felt his face crumple. Footsteps pounded down the hallway before he could answer, and a moment later John had barrelled through the doorway. "Are you okay?" he demanded, body tense as though expecting a fight and, bizarrely, a canister of salt clutched in his right hand. "I heard a thud and…" He noticed Sam and his voice shook as it died away. "Sam?" he said.

Sam blinked at him. "Hi, Dad," he said quietly.

For once, John seemed lost for words. "You, um. How are you feeling?" he stuttered. John never stuttered.

Sam swallowed, his throat clicking. "I'm…. Could I have some water?"

"Of course," John nodded, dredging up a smile. He looked at Sam, an odd furrow between his brows, before vanishing back the way he'd came.

"Sam?" Dean said again. His throat was too tight, like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room. Sam glanced up at him, bangs hanging in front of his eyes. Are you okay? Dean wanted to ask, and I was worried. I missed you. You're safe now. But he couldn't force the words past his tongue. "Do you want to get back on the bed?" he asked instead.

Sam sat up gingerly. "Okay," he said. He reached up to grab the bedframe, and Dean hurried forward to slide under his shoulder for support. His shirt brushed Sam's armpit and Sam lurched away from him with a growl. "I don't need any fucking help!" he snarled, dragging himself back onto the bed without meeting Dean's eyes.

Dean dropped his arms immediately. "I'm sorry," he cringed. "I just… the doc said your feet were a bit messed up, so I thought…"

"No, it's okay," Sam said, picking at the blankets between his legs. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I yelled like that."

John reappeared in the doorway, a glass of water in one hand and the salt canister nowhere in sight. The doctor followed behind him as he stepped into the room. "This is Doctor Sands," John told Sam, holding out the water for him to take. "She'd like to check you over, if that's okay? To make sure the drugs are working their way out of your system."

Sam snuck a glance at John from under his lashes. "Uh, yeah, okay," he mumbled, sounding surprised. "Go for it."

Dr. Sands drew a chair up beside the bed and pulled a small flashlight from her breast pocket. "This'll be fast," she assured Sam, smiling faintly. She rechecked Sam's pupils and motor functions, then had him answer a series of question and recorded her results on her chart. "You seem to have slept off the worst of it," she said kindly. She gestured to the water, and Sam took an obedient sip. "Drinking that will make you feel better, but the drugs don't appear to have any adverse effects." To John, Dr. Sands said, "If you want to wait for the results of the blood tests, it shouldn't be too much longer." She left, closing the door behind her.

Sam went back to twisting the cheap, hospital sheets between clenched fingers. "So," he said, a blush rising up his neck. "What… what happened? How'd you guys find me?" He kept his eyes firmly on his hands.

John cleared his throat and slumped into the chair that Dr. Sands had vacated. "We tracked down those men that grabbed you," he shrugged, sharing a vindictive look with Dean. "They won't be getting out of jail anytime soon, by the way. They told us where to find Cheverill."

"Okay." Sam sank farther back on his pillows, tone weary beyond description.

"Cheverill's gone too," Dean blurted out. "He's dead." He waited for a smile, maybe, or a breath of relief. Any reaction at all. Sam only blinked.

"Dead?" he checked, brushing his fingers over his left wrist, where Dr. Sands had bandaged over the burns the cuffs had left behind. Sam went rigid, then yanked his arm up to gape at his wrist in disbelief.

"Sam, no, stop!" John barked, but Sam ignored him. He tore at the bandages, ripping them away from his skin, revealing the strange, swirling runes branded into his skin. A strange sound escaped from his throat. His face was shocked, eyes huge and glassy.

"Dammit, we're gonna have to rewrap that," Dad snapped. He went to the cabinets to cast around for another set of bandages.

"Dead," Dean confirmed resolutely, plowing through the interruption. "And he's not coming back either."

Sam blinked again and went back to picking at the blankets beneath him.

"He's dead, Sam," Dean said again. Had Sam heard him?

"Okay," Sam replied. He sounded blank. The threads creaked beneath his fingers as John came back to tape fresh bandages over his wrists.


Sam's test results came back negative for STD's, positive for an unknown cocktail of benzodiazepines. Sam avoided eye contact with everyone as the doctor explained how to prevent his piercing sites from becoming infected, and to stay off his feet for a couple more days until they'd had a chance to heal. She helped them roll Sam out to the Impala in a rickety wheelchair and sent them on their way, glad to see the backs of them.

Dean changed out of his coffee-stained suit and climbed into the back with Sam, peeking over at him every so often as John put more miles between them and Marquette. They passed out of Wisconsin and into Iowa, and the silence was stifling. Sam stared unseeing out the window, barely grunting when they stopped at a 7-11 to grab food and gas. He took the danish and granola bar that Dean tossed to him, then resumed his vigil at the window, the snacks lying forgotten in his lap.

"C'mon, Sam," Dean tried, as they approached the Iowa-Nebraska border. "You've gotta be hungry. When was the last time you ate?"

Sam jerked his attention away from the passing scenery and ducked his head, shrugging. "M'not hungry," he said lowly.

"I know it's not one of your prissy salads, but better than cheetos, right?" Dean said, aiming for his usual, teasing tone. The words fell flat and forced. Sam shrugged again, picking at the wrapper of the danish with his manicured nails. Dean made a mental note to buy some polish remover at the next supermarket they passed. "You've gotta eat something, Sam," he pleaded.

Sam caught John's eyes, watching the exchange through the rearview mirror, and reluctantly peeled the plastic off of the granola bar. He took a wooden bite and turned back to the window.

They crossed into Nebraska not long afterwards. When they reached Lincoln, John booked them into the first Quality Inn they came across. Under normal circumstances, Dean would have been thrilled; John never shelled out the cash for accommodations like these. But the novelty of stain-free walls was lost as Dean carried both his and Sam's duffles into the room, then returned to the car to help Sam himself limp across the parking lot. John had already dumped his duffle on bed nearest the door and was busy lining the windows liberally with salt. Dean set Sam down gently on the end of their own mattress and flopped down beside him, as close as he dared.

"Thanks," Sam said to his lap, and Dean forced himself to smile.

"No problem. You ah, want to shower or have a bath or anything? We cleaned you up as best we could at the clinic, but…" He trailed off. Sam was blushing miserably, still refusing to lift his head.

"Right, yeah. Sorry. I'll shower," he muttered. His head dipped, if possible, even lower. "Could you, um-" He waved vaguely at the distance between them and the bathroom.

"Course!" Dean said immediately. He hooked one arm under Sam's shoulders and supported him off the bed, relieved beyond measure that Sam was okay with being touched. He'd asked to be touched. That was good, right? One less hurdle for Sam to jump so he could put all this behind him?

They staggered into the bathroom together, and Dean flipped the toilet seat down so Sam could sit while he started the water. This close, Dean could smell the remnants of paint and perfume on Sam's skin, the lingering saltiness of sex and sweat and blood. There was nothing of Sam, no scent of cheap detergent or tang of pine. No woody sweetness of old paper. Dean bit his cheek, careful to keep his smile fixed and his expression mild. "Do you want me to stay in case you need anything?" he offered.

"No," Sam answered, so firmly that Dean couldn't argue. "Thanks though."

"I'll leave some clothes for you inside the door. Yell for me when you're done so we can rewrap your rib and get some clean bandages on your wrists."

Sam shrugged, but it wasn't a no, so Dean took his cue and left him to it. He emerged into the main room to the hiss of spray paint. John was tracing a strange symbol on the ceiling above the door, similar to a pentagram but more intricate. "Dad," Dean said tentatively. "What is that?"

"Nothing," John grunted. "Just a protective sigil. Can't be too careful."

"Is that necessary?" Dean moved to Sam's duffle and unzipped it, sifting through the clothes for Sam's favorite sweatpants and hoodie. "I mean, Cheverill's dead. He's not coming after us."

"Humor me," John snapped shortly. He completed the design and chucked the bottle of spray paint back into his bag. Dean wondered what the maids were going to think next time they came to clean the room.

"Sam's showering," he said, letting the topic drop for now. "So if you have a plan for what we should do, now would be a great time to share with the class." Dean didn't have the slightest clue for what was supposed to happen next. He'd been so fixated on saving Sam that he hadn't considered any steps beyond that. Rationally, he'd known that Sam would need time to recover, but imagining it was a far cry from having Sam in front of him, with feet too bruised to walk and cheekbones protruding from a sallow face.

"For tonight, the plan is for you to stay here while I go out and get us some real food," John said. "After that, we'll lay low. Maybe head up to Sioux Falls to see Bobby, give Sam a couple weeks to get back into the swing of things."

"'The swing of things'?" Dean repeated.

"He can start a modified training schedule in the next week or so, but I'm thinking he'll only do research until he's back to one hundred percent," John said, frowning sternly. Dean got the feeling that he'd missed a crucial element of the conversation. "He needs to gain back muscle mass before he can come hunting with us again."

It took a moment for Dean to realize that his jaw was hanging open. "Are you kidding me?" he coughed out. "Hunting? You want to go right back to hunting? It hasn't even been twenty four hours since we got him back, Dad! He needs time to fucking heal!"

"And that's why he'll only be doing research," John said reasonably, sounding irritated.

"That's not the point!" Dean shouted, struggling to keep his voice down. John was so goddamn calm, Dean wanted to grab his shoulders and shake some sense into him.

"We're going to Bobby's first, remember? I'm not suggesting we throw Sam in front of a rawhead, for God's sake." John held up a hand as Dean started to speak, making Dean grind his teeth together in frustration. It was like arguing with a brick wall. "Not up for debate, Dean. Sam is going to be fine. I'll be back in an hour, maybe two. I'll pick up some supplies for us while I'm out." Keys jangling in one hand, John vanished out the door before Dean knew what was happening.

"What. The. Hell." Dean snarled into the empty room. The shower was still running, so he left Sam's clothes in a pile on the bathroom sink and dug through to the bottom of his own duffle.

When Sam emerged from his shower ten minutes later, he found Dean outside, sitting on the concrete and leaning back against the wall of the motel. Cigarette smoke was curling from between his lips, and the freshly opened pack was lying on the ground by his hip.

"Didn't know you smoked," Sam greeted him.

Dean hadn't noticed the hinges squeak open. He jerked in surprise, twisting to see Sam kneeling on the carpet just inside the doorway, wet hair leaving damp spots on the collar of his hoodie. "Didn't know you had such a vested interest in my lungs," he replied, and Sam's mouth quirked up. Almost a fucking smile. "Yeah, that's right," Dean bragged, emboldened. "'Vested'. You're not the only one who knows big words, Geekboy."

Sam's almost-smile dimmed, but then he rolled his eyes and the knot of tension eased in Dean's chest. "Vested isn't even that big of a word," Sam said, the "you idiot" evident in his tone.

Dean brushed his skepticism aside. "You wanna come sit out here?" he asked. He patted the ground beside him invitingly.

"Uh sure," Sam said. His chin was lowered, overlong hair shielding his eyes. "Sorry. Could you give me a hand? Sorry." Even with the hair, Dean could see the bitter helplessness tugging at the corner of his lips.

"C'mon," Dean said, standing. He allowed Sam to use him as a crutch over to the wall, and together they sat, looking out over the parking lot.

The sun was setting. Dean stretched out his legs, enjoying the loud cracking in his knees. He'd been in a car for thirteen of the past eighteen hours, and the cool evening was heaven against his skin. Beside him, Sam turned his face into the light breeze blowing through the lot, the wind tousling his damp hair. He inhaled greedily, as though the air was a fine wine that he'd only get to savor once. Cars buzzed by on the highway just out of view, and a chattering family was hauling suitcases from their car to the unit four doors away from where they were sitting.

Who the hell comes to Lincoln for a vacation anyway? Dean thought, snorting to himself. Give him Florida anyday. He flicked his lighter on and off absently.

Out of the blue, Sam said, "You can keep smoking, you know. I don't mind."

Dean froze guiltily, his finger on the wheel of the lighter, and considered Sam for a moment. "You better not tell Dad," he warned, and Sam raised an innocent eyebrow.

"He probably already knows. You reek."

"Eh, shaddup." Dean popped out another cigarette and lit it, its tip flaring crimson in the darkening twilight.

"When did you start?" Sam asked, watching as Dean took a long drag. The tip brightened until it was glowing a rich, cherry red.

Dean's lips parted and he exhaled, letting the smoke billow from them to be caught and shredded by the breeze. "Week and a half ago, give or take," he admitted. "I was pissed off. Dad was so on edge, I couldn't stand to be around him. I told him I was going for a walk and he damn near exploded. It was a bad night. Your trail was going cold and he'd been drinking harder than usual."

Sam was silent, a granite silhouette beside him.

"He started yelling, so I started yelling back, and it all just kind of fell apart from there. I left, because one of us needed to and it sure as hell wasn't gonna be Dad." Dean stared at his cigarette, spinning it around between his fingers before lifting it to take another puff. "I don't think we've ever had a fight like that. Anyway, some guy on the street offered me one, said it looked like I needed it, and I thought, why not? It was… I liked it. Something to distract me, I guess."

"Those things'll kill ya," Sam said, mouth twitching in that almost-smile.

Dean grinned. "If I live long enough to be worried about lung cancer, that'll be a miracle right there."

They fell quiet, allowing the hum of traffic and the occasional barking of dogs to fill the space between them. The sun was nudging at the horizon, painting the clouds a creamy rose and staining the blue sky with violet. Shadows stretched long and spindly across the ground. Down the hall, the family finished moving in and their babbling conversation cut off with a snap as their door swung closed.

"So," Dean began. Sam's shoulders hunched inwards, and Dean scrambled for the words that wouldn't fuck things up magnificently. "I don't know how much you remember. Of last night."

Sam focused determinedly on his lap, the fingers of one hand tracing the faint runes seared into his opposite wrist. "Not much," he answered at last, feigning nonchalance. "It's all kind of a blur."

"Oh. Hey, I forgot, we should dress your wrists. We have some burn cream to put on them, make 'em heal faster."

"How did you kill him?" Sam blurted. He spat the question as though his lips were bloody, slices left from its jagged edges. "Cheverill, I mean. How did he die?"

Dean shifted uncomfortably. "It wasn't even us that did it, really," he said hesitantly. "I mean, we tried of course, put about twelve rounds into the bastard, but he healed too damn quickly. In the end it was-"

"Wait, wait, wait." Sam put up his hands, utterly bewildered. "What do you mean, 'healed too quickly'?"

Dean sighed and launched into an extremely cliff-notes version of the story, leaving out the details he didn't think Sam needed. The extent of Cheverill's mauling, for example. How Dean and John had found Sam, being passed around the circle of Cheverill's guests, or later, pressed against the wall with Cheverill panting above him. The memories made Dean's fists clench, and he pushed them away hard. No, Sam didn't need to know those things.

Yet despite Dean's editing, by the time his story concluded Sam's face was white. "A warlock," he said distantly.

"Yeah, what a freak, right? I suppose it's good, in a way, that all those ghosts stuck around in his backyard until they got their chance to off him. If it hadn't been for them, I don't think we could've…" Dean's voice dwindled as he caught sight of Sam's expression. "You didn't know," he realized.

"I knew about the ghosts," Sam said, fingers still outlining the runes around his wrist. "Not about the warlock bit." His fingers spasmed, digging into the branded skin. "A lot of things make sense now though. I should have worked it out earlier."

Dean reached over and gently pried Sam's hand away from his arm. "I know I'm maybe not the best person for stuff like this," he said carefully. "But if you ever need to-"

"No, Dean."

"You didn't even let me-"

"No." Sam lifted his head and met Dean's eyes squarely for the first time since he'd woken up that morning. "Just, no. I don't want to talk about it, and you sure as hell don't want to hear it."

Dammit, Dean really did suck at this. "That doesn't mean you can just box this away," he maintained doggedly.

"Bet that hurt to say," Sam shot back. Ouch.

"I've never been through something like this!" Dean growled. "Yeah, great, I've got Mommy issues, I grew up too fast, whatever. I've never been…"

"Raped?" Sam said harshly. Dean flinched but didn't back down, matching Sam's angry scowl with one of his own.

"Never been tortured by a psychopath for over a week. Never been kidnapped and drugged and sold. That's not the sort of shit you can just shake off, Sammy."

"What the fuck do you want me to say?" Sam demanded, voice rising. "You want me to talk about how horrible it was? Yeah, Dean, it sucked. Big surprise."

"You know that's not what I-"

"You want me to say I was scared?" Sam was glaring now. His chest heaved as he gasped for air, jaw clenched tightly. "That what you wanna hear Dean? How fucking terrifying it was every time he held me down or tied me up or shocked me until I pissed myself?"

"Sam," Dean said weakly, his stomach clenching and a syrupy, clogged wetness blocking his airways.

"This is what you asked for, isn't it?" Sam's voice broke and he spread his arms to either side. "Here it is Dean. I'm sharing my fucking feelings like you wanted me to."

Dean bit his lip until blood spread sweet and coppery over his tongue. "You're right," he said, ignoring the ugly rasp in his throat. "I asked. I'm listening Sam, whatever you need, whatever you say, I'm right here."

Sam's teeth clicked shut. He stared at Dean, gathering shadows caught in the indents of his cheekbones. Above them, the sky was fading into a velvety, royal blue. The first silver star was visible over the rooftops.

"Sam?" Dean said in concern. And, inexplicably, Sam started to laugh. His eyes squeezed shut and his head tipped back, shoulders shaking uncontrollably. Tiny snorts snagged in his nose, air wheezing in and out of his lungs. He laughed until his cheeks were red and tears were spilling from beneath his closed eyelids, until the laughter sounded barbed and painful, and sobs were ripping through his chest instead. Haltingly, Dean shifted to press his hip against Sam's, half-raising one arm in wordless invitation. Sam leaned into him blindly, so Dean wrapped his arm around his brother's shoulders and tucked Sam tightly to his side. "S'okay," Dean murmured into Sam's hair. "I gotcha."

He sat there, Sam curled against him, until the sun had vanished beneath the horizon and the wind was biting through the gaps in his clothing. He sat until Sam fell asleep, exhausted from the events of the day and drooling all over Dean's shirt. Dean didn't mind. He stubbed the remains of his cigarette against the ground, Sam's weight warm against him, and watched the evening stars sparkle in the last of the dying sunlight.


Massacre In Marquette

Oct 17. Over 100 bodies were discovered last night in a manor house outside of Marquette, MI. The property, belonging to businessman Alexandre Cheverill, was visited by police after an anonymous tip was placed at 2:37 a.m. to 911 operators. As of yet, no suspects for this slaughter have been named. According to Officer Donald Mills, police believe that this may have been a mass suicide.

"I've never seen anything like it," says Officer Mills, describing the scene. "It was like something out of a horror movie."

Among the bodies discovered were several prominent community members, including Governor Harris Durden and CEO of SteelPro Industries™, Kathleen Roberts. No further names have been released, though the host, Alexandre Cheverill, has yet to be found.

"Until we can gather further evidence, we're assuming that these are the actions of some kind of cult," says Officer Mills. Many of the wounds found on the bodies are believed to be ritualistically self-inflicted, which has lead the police to this conclusion.

Forensic work performed on several of the bodies has revealed a large amount of sulfur at the scene, baffling analysts as to why

Cont. A4 MASSACRE

John refolded the newspaper and tossed it onto the barstool next to him, not bothering to read the rest of the article. It was all bullshit anyway. Cult activity. John snorted in derision, lifting his whiskey to take another gulp. The things people told themselves to avoid the truth.

He leaned his elbows on the counter and hunched over his drink, staring into its amber depths like a psychic reading tea leaves. Fucking demons. Nearly eighteen years he'd been tracking their movements with the pathetic information he had, and all of a sudden they'd decided to surface. For Sam. John threw his drink back and motioned the bartender for another. He planned to be far more drunk by the time he tackled those thoughts.

"Whoa, slow down there, Tiger. You keep brooding like this and you'll get wrinkles." Somebody hopped into the stool next to him, picking up the paper he'd left there and surveying the front page. "Tragic, isn't it? All those poor people."

John fought down his annoyance. "Look, buddy," he said, turning to the speaker. "I'm just trying to have a drink, okay? I'm not in the mood…" His voice died away. Devon was smirking at him, one eyebrow raised sardonically.

"I'm hurt Johnny, really I am," Devon pouted. "I thought we'd bonded last night. You're not even going to buy me a drink?"

"What the fuck are you doing here?" John hissed, reaching automatically for the gun hidden at the small of his back.

"Put that away," Devon said, catching the bartender's eye. "Stop threatening to shoot me in public places. It's getting irritating. One Pink Raspberry Cosmo, please," he told the bartender. She shrugged and began pulling bottles of alcohol from the shelves behind her.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't exorcise you right here," John snarled under his breath. "You attacked my son. You murdered God knows how many people last night. Innocents."

"For one, you wouldn't be able to finish your exorcism before I slit your throat," Devon said, smiling pleasantly. "Secondly, I was extremely gentle with Dean last night. I could have given him so much worse than just a bruised jaw and a headache. You should probably be thanking me for showing the restraint that I did."

John scowled, hand still twitching towards the butt of his gun. "Why are you here?" he demanded. "And why are demons so interested in Sam? What do you want from him?"

The bartender slid a revoltingly pink cocktail in front of Devon, who winked at her and tipped an invisible hat in thanks. "So many questions," he said, taking a delicate sip.

"What the fuck are you drinking."

"Aw Johnny, relax why don't you? You can stop defending your masculinity, pink doesn't actually shrivel your dick. Live a little! You want some? It's scrumptious. Like me." Devon wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at John and offered him the glass.

"Why are you so interested in Sam?" John repeated.

Devon pulled his drink back, sulking. "You're no fun," he told John. "And as I said before, that's classified. Very hush hush, you know how it is. I'm sure you'll find out in due time, whenever my boss decides to move the plan forward."

"What plan? Stop fucking toying with me and give me some answers!"

"Shh," Devon scolded him. He gave the bartender an apologetic wave. "Don't be so rude, Johnny. It's unnecessary. If you must know, I'm here to give you a message."

John stiffened and cast a suspicious glare around the rest of the bar. It was decently crowded for a Saturday night, with a scattering of groups dispersed around the tables. There were five or six other people hovering around the long counter, nursing their drinks or chatting to the person beside them. None were within earshot.

"This message from your boss?" he said, reaching for his forgotten whiskey. The liquor burned in his throat and stomach as he took a long swallow.

Devon licked at the pink and white sugar crusted around the lip of his glass. "Yessir," he confirmed. He pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket and passed it across the table to John. "This is an address. The woman who lives there is a specialist, and you're gonna need her talents."

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"Oh come on," Devon rolled his eyes. "Surely you don't believe that Cheverill picked Sammy out by accident?"

John went cold. "What are you saying?" he asked, clenching his fist around his whiskey. Christ, he sounded like a broken record.

"Sammy's special!" Devon cried. "I mean, seriously, you've had to have noticed by now. Sam's got power, Johnny. It's not that hard to work out. Cheverill saw it, even if he didn't know what it meant, but that's not a good sign. Sam's, what, seventeen? He's maturing, which means his power is gonna start bleeding through more and more. Soon, Cheverill won't be the only one who's taking notice." He tapped the piece of paper. "Go see her. She'll be able to mask Sam's powers for a few more years at least."

"You're heading off competition for who might get Sam," John said with dawning realization. "You don't want anyone getting to him before your boss is ready."

"Always knew you were smart," Devon grinned. He took a last, dainty sip of his pink monstrosity, stood, and pinned a twenty dollar bill under his empty glass. "Glad we had this heart to heart," he said.

"Can't say I feel the same."

"Oh John, how you wound me."

"Fuck you. Stay away from my son."

Devon put a hand on John's knee and bent in close, mouth nearly touching John's ear. John leaned away instinctively, but he was blocked by the counter at his back. "I'm going to be crystal clear," Devon purred, breath puffing against John's neck and fingers clenching painfully into the joint of his knee. "Sammy doesn't belong to you. We're letting you keep him, for now, because it's not time to collect. But as soon as we're ready, he's ours, you understand? Better you accept it sooner rather than later. Don't get too attached, Johnny." Devon patted John's cheek affectionately and trotted out of the bar, the rotten smell of sulfur lingering in the air behind him.

John sagged against the bar, clutching his whiskey in nerveless fingers. The liquor winked up at him as he swirled it around the glass, trapping the dim lights of the bar in layers of amber.

"You doing alright, honey?" the bartender asked, coming over to pick up Devon's glass. "You're looking a bit upset."

"Long night," John said, tilting back the last of his whiskey. He set the tumbler down on the dark, polished bar and stretched, rolling the tension out of his shoulders. "Just one of those days, you know?"

The bartender hummed in agreement. "This yours?" she asked. She flicked the piece of paper still lying on the table. John hesitated for a brief moment before nodding and sweeping the paper into his jacket. "Another?" the bartender offered, lifting the bottle of whiskey from the shelves behind her.

John shook his head. "No, thanks. I'm just gonna head home. Got both my sons waiting for me."

End


And there it is! For people who still want more (which is apparently many of you! I'd have thought you all would be sick of me!), I'm planning a sequel to this story, which will follow some of Sam's recovery. However, I don't know when that will be appearing, because I'm going to college in the fall so I will probably be floundering with life for the foreseeable future... But keep an eye out! I already have a title and everything so it will be happening, cross my heart.

Once again, thank you to everyone who followed, favorited, and reviewed! (This story is past 500 reviews, like what? I thought I'd get maybe 15 reviews when I started this fic). If you wanna leave me feedback or comments, I will love you forever. I actually read them all and have a little mini freakout everytime I see that someone has left me a review. Cause knowing you guys are happy makes me happy. Thank you guys again for sticking with this story to the end!