They'd awoken to an empty motel room a few hours before, the darkness just beginning surrender to the gray, pre-dawn light. Bela had left a note saying she'd been called away, and Sam figured she had to have been in one hell of a good mood, because she left a few hex bags in her wake. They were good ones, too, he noticed as he examined them. Dean couldn't care less about the gesture – he was just glad she hadn't fleeced them down to the lint in their pockets – but Sam was curious about the woman, and where she'd learned so much, being so young. Sam bet she could give Bobby a run for his money in the supernatural knowledge department.
Dean was locked and loaded to give Hypnos what he wanted, but Sam was extremely doubtful of his trustworthiness. He supposed it was possible that a pagan god could keep a soul out of hell, but he got the distinct feeling there was quite a bit more to the arrangement than Hypnos had told them. What really worried him was Dean's apparent lack of skepticism about this whole thing – his brother was usually the one telling him that chatting with monsters was a bad idea.
"This is your soul we're talking about here, Dean – "
"I know – "
"Do you? Because you're taking a liking to this plan awfully fast – "
"Yeah, well, you'll have to friggin' forgive me for being in such a damn hurry."
"That's not what I mean – "
"This could work, man!"
"It could, but…" Sam sighed and ran a hand over his jawline. "At what cost? There's no way this doesn't come back to bite us – hard."
"Do you really think I haven't thought about that, Sam?"
"I think you're scared," Sam said. "And I think you're desperate, but we shouldn't go through with this unless we're a hundred percent sure what we're getting ourselves into."
Dean snorted. "We aren't going to hell if we can't find a way to break this contract. We aren't screwed. I am. And believe me, I know exactly what I'm getting into. And out of."
"Do you really think whoever holds your contract is gonna let go that easily? And you heard what Hypnos said. Whatever's after him had no problem offing the rest of his family – what's gonna happen when they finally get around to him? And what about the tribute he needs? Are we really gonna toss human souls to this thing to eat?"
Sam watched a variety of emotions cross Dean's face as he tried to think of a retort. Finally, he shook his head, walking away.
"Nah, you're right," Dean said. "It was a stupid plan, anyway. Dunno what the hell I was thinking."
"Don't – "
"Gimme a ring when Bobby gets here, huh? I'm going out."
He snatched the keys from the table and headed out the motel room door.
It was a quiet morning.
The sun hovered just below the horizon, casting subtle rays of light onto the deep periwinkle sky. The last of the stars were fading, and soon, alarm clocks would go off and people would wake.
She didn't have much time.
Ruby walked briskly down the street, listening intently for the sound of motion and speech. Every house she passed had someone awake inside, and she cursed as she traversed block after block, unable to find a house where everyone was still at rest.
God, why were these people up so goddamn early?
The forty-seventh house proved to be an exception.
She moved soundlessly though the dewy grass, trotting along the side of the small adobe house, listening. There were three people inside, still asleep.
And one of them was a small child.
She smiled, picking a bearded lily off a nearby bush before vanishing from sight.
"Near as I can tell, bastard was telling the truth."
It was almost eight in the morning, and Dean was still out. Bobby had arrived about an hour earlier, and he and Sam were bent over a pile of books and paperwork on the small kitchenette table. Bobby looked exhausted – he was coming right off a hunt and probably hadn't had a chance to sleep yet. Sam poured more coffee into his foam cup.
"Don't make me repeat myself, boy," he said wearily. "I just forged Barry Johnson's signature on a ticket to get on a flight so rough I need a goddamn chiropractor to straighten my back out."
"You flew here?"
"Course I flew here," he said matter-of-factly. "When your fool brother called asking me about soul trades with ancient Greek gods, I knew I had to hightail it here before he pulled a Persephone."
"How'd you get all your hunting stuff here? No way they let you take all these guns on the plane."
"Checked bags," he said. "Not that it helped much. TSA damn near gave me a colonoscopy."
Sam winced. "Thanks, Bobby."
Bobby waved him off, turning a page in the book in front of him. "Anyway, this Hypnos is the real deal. He's cooled his jets quite a bit since his heyday, but he can still swing a spell like the one he offered your brother."
Sam could hardly believe it. Is this really gonna work? "So Dean says uncle, and his soul's safe, just like that?"
"Well, safety's relative," Bobby added. "These Greeks ain't like the Christians. You don't get a one-way ticket to heaven or hell for all eternity; these gods can move mortals around whenever they feel the itch. And as far as where souls get to after they die? Well, there's a lotta options, and the attics ain't always better than the basements, if you know what I mean."
"But he can keep Dean safe from his deal? Keep him from going to hell?"
Bobby nodded. "Same deal he offers everyone, really. Lifetime of service, sweet dreams and happy endings when your eyes finally close for good. Course, you're his slave for your whole life, but it's the best thing on the menu in y'all's case."
Sam shook his head. "I can't believe it's come to this," he said. "I mean, is this who we are now? Sacrificing people to save our own skins? Working with monsters?"
Bobby shrugged. "This is the big leagues, son. Gotta pay to play. Your brother did a major thing, bringing you back from yonder. Ain't gonna be no easy outs."
He sighed. "And it might not pan out after all, even if we actually do this."
"Why not?" Bobby asked.
"Something's after these gods. The ones in Hypnos' family, at least. And he wants us to protect him somewhow."
"What makes you say that?"
"He told us. All of his family's dead, save his brother and son. Something with a lot of mojo is taking them out, and now they're hiding out in Morpheus' dream world so whatever it is can't find them. Only a matter of time, though."
"Other hunters, maybe?"
Sam shook his head. "Nah, he would have said so. He doesn't know what the hell is after them, but it packs a hell of a punch. I mean, it's got a death god hiding from it. What could do that? And what's gonna happen when it finds out we're hiding its targets?"
Bobby looked thoughtful, turning another page in his book.
"Hypnos and Thanatos are some of the most powerful sons of bitches in the pantheon," Bobby says. "There's only a couple of things powerful enough to have them quaking in their togas."
Sam waited, but Bobby didn't answer, instead reading some fine print at the bottom of a page. On it, there was a picture of a long-haired man in flowing white and gold robes, wielding an enormous sword over the devil.