They hit the road early the next morning, taking the bag of bloodied blankets and towels with them. After putting a little over a hundred miles behind them, Sam pulled over and dumped the bag in a shallow ditch, poured lighter fluid on it and set it ablaze. He stood over the fire for an hour as the evidence of their hunt went up in smoke, then returned to the car, where Dean was watching from the back seat, silent and cranky because his ankle kept him from driving and needed to be elevated.
Sam drove another hundred and fifty miles before stopping at a Motel 6. He half dragged, half carried his brother into the room after checking in, using a different alias than the previous stop, then walked the half-mile down the road to the town's only diner to collect take-out bags for their early supper. He needed the exercise after being cooped up in the car all day; truth was, Sam was feeling snappish and on edge and pissed off at Dean for no real reason other than he was sick of Dean's grumpy behavior. Dean had never been a good patient, yet this time he was aiming his frustration at Sam, as if it were Sam's fault he had to spend so much time on his stomach with his ankle elevated, needed a hand every time he had to get up to go the bathroom. Then there was the fact that Sam had just driven his car almost three hundred miles with Dean in the back seat.
"You wanna explain that, Sam?" Dean demanded once Sam returned to the room with the take-out bags and beer.
"Explain what?" Sam shrugged, setting out the food so he didn't have to look at Dean, who was propped up on one of the beds, ankle elevated on a stack of pillows. Probably soaking through his bandages, Sam thought irritably.
"That – that get-away drive," Dean spouted. "Not exactly standard procedure."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sam hedged. "And you should be lying on your stomach. You're gonna bleed right through another perfectly good pair of jeans."
"You should've thought about that before you shoved us into the car this morning," Dean shot back. "Making me sit on my injuries all day isn't really the best healing strategy, bitch."
"Jerk," Sam grumbled, handing Dean an opened beer, which he took with a frown, fingers brushing Sam's deliberately, the asshole. "And you were mostly lying on your side. That's why I brought the pillow."
"Yeah, well, being in the back seat gives me the heeby-jeebies," Dean complained. "Dad used to make me ride back there when I was a kid. He used to drive through the night, and I was supposed to sleep. I hated it."
Sam had a sudden image of a little tow-headed boy, huddled in the back seat of the Impala with a blanket and pillow, lonely and miserable.
Sam took a sip of his beer, sat down on the other bed, ignoring the food for the moment. "I have good memories of the back seat," he revealed. "You and me, sharing that ratty old blue sleeping bag, fighting over who gets the pillow, but not really cause you always shared. The back of Dad's head, his profile when he turned to smile at Mom. Mom smiling back, glancing over her shoulder to check on us."
"You remember Mom?" Dean stared, frowning.
Sam nodded. "She was there sometimes, in my dreams. Not a lot, but once in a while. They were both there. I mean, I guess they were always there, but the only times I remember actually seeing them were when we were in the car together. Driving home at night after going to see the fireworks, driving out to the lake for the day."
"You never told me that." Dean was still staring at him, his eyes big and round, making him look much younger than his twenty-three years.
Sam shrugged, took another swig of his beer. "Didn't seem like it mattered." He clenched his teeth, shaking his head a little. "It didn't really happen. None of it did. The fact is, your childhood was shitty. So was mine."
"But you remember Mom," Dean breathed, then shook his head a little. "That – that's what kept me going sometimes, when I was little. She was my rock. I would dream about her, after all the fire nightmares stopped happening so much, and she would tell me everything was gonna be all right. She'd tell me to just hang in there and be strong, and everything would work out." Dean took a sip of his beer, smacked his lips. "Didn't believe her, of course," he added.
"You were that for me," Sam shrugged, looked down at his beer. "You were my rock. You weren't even real, but believing in you got me through the shit-storm. Mostly."
"Jury's still out on that one," Dean smirked, and Sam grinned, although it felt more like a grimace.
"Your bandages need changing," he reminded Dean, and now it was Dean's turn to make a face.
"No way I'm letting you touch my ass," he muttered, struggling to pull himself off the bed.
"A little late for that, don'tcha think?" Sam reached out, let Dean practically climb onto his shoulder so Sam could half-carry Dean to the table, slipping a pillow under him to sit on.
"Next hunt, no claws. No teeth," Dean pronounced as he reached for the first take out container, rejected it and passed it to Sam after he opened it, saw that it was full of vegetables. "Maybe just a nice, ordinary vengeful spirit or two."
"Yeah, about that." Sam took a deep breath, pushed his food aside in favor of another swig of his beer. "I think maybe we oughta just lay low for a few days. Maybe a week or two."
"What?" Dean stared at him around a mouthful of burger. "What are you talking about? We're on a roll here, Sam. Takin' down evil and kickin' it in the ass. Mostly." He glanced down at his swollen ankle, propped up on another chair. "We can't stop."
"Well, we have to stop for a while anyway," Sam hedged, flicking his eyes up to Dean's for a moment before looking down at his beer again. "You're injured. You need at least a week to recover."
"Three days, tops," Dean argued. "Ankle's just sprained, not broken. I'll be running around again by the end of the week."
Sam shifted uncomfortably on the hard chair, glanced up at Dean, then back at his beer, unable to hold Dean's gaze for more than a moment.
"What?" Dean's voice took on that deep, commanding tone Sam knew too well. "What is it, Sam? You having more of your freaky dreams? Is that what this is about?"
"Oh my God, no!" Sam protested, but it sounded lame even to his ears.
"Sam," Dean warned, and Sam was reminded, not for the first time, that Dean could read him like a book sometimes, even without reading his mind.
Sam took a deep breath, let it out slow. "Not dreams, exactly," he admitted. "More like – like a feeling."
"A feeling," Dean repeated, skeptical.
"When I woke up this morning, I could hear voices," Sam said in a rush, just getting it out there. "I think something's looking for me. Something – not good."
"Voices," Dean clung to the first part of Sam's confession, ignoring the last thing. "Now you're hearing voices."
Sam winced, ducked his head, took a last swallow of his beer, emptying the bottle. He set the empty bottle on the table and grabbed another. He twisted the cap off and offered it to Dean, who shook his head, so Sam took a quick swig for himself.
"I just think we should lay low for a while," Sam shrugged. "Maybe our hunting has triggered its attention. Maybe that's what it was waiting for. Waiting for me to come out of the closet and start hunting again. Maybe it's attracted to supernatural activity."
"That's a lot of maybes, Sam," Dean reminded him, taking another bite of his burger.
Sam took another deep breath. "You said Dad was going to try to hypnotize me," he voiced what he'd been turning over in his head ever since Dean had said it. "He thought maybe he could get more information about the Yellow-Eyed Demon that way."
Dean frowned. "Yeah, but you said – I mean, you thought out loud at me with that freaky thought projection power of yours – you didn't think that would work."
"Now I'm thinking maybe it's worth a shot." Sam clenched his jaw, teeth grinding as he concentrated. "Maybe there's a way to channel my memories, project them to you. Maybe we can learn more about what the demon was doing that way."
"You think it's still after you," Dean suggested.
"Oh, I know it is," Sam nodded. "It thinks it owns me. It stole me from my crib that night and raised me the way it wanted me raised, until you and Dad rescued me. But I'm not the only one, Dean. There were others at that clinic in Lawrence. I remember that much. Other kids with psychic abilities. We owe it to them to find out what happened to them. I've got a feeling they were kidnapped too. There'll be records. Babies that supposedly died in fires around the same time as the fire at our house, or just disappeared from their cribs mysteriously."
Dean nodded. "Dad's already done the research," he said. "He found six other kids that fit the profile. Four house fires in which the babies apparently died. Two cases in which the babies disappeared without a trace. The parents were charged with murder in at least one of those cases, of course..."
Sam stared. "And you were going to tell me this when, exactly?"
Dean shifted uncomfortably, not looking Sam in the eye, and Sam let him squirm for the moment, knowing his ass was probably killing him, but suddenly not sorry at all.
"You know Dad, Sam," Dean shrugged. "Of course he looked into it, as soon as he found out who you really were. You're his son, but you're also the biggest clue to finding the thing that destroyed his family. Killed Mom. He's not letting that go anytime soon."
"I can't believe you didn't tell me," Sam shook his head. "He must be dying to find out if he can get any more information from me." A thought struck Sam suddenly, and he cast a horrified look at his brother. "Wait, he didn't send you, did he? Did he send you to get me? Is that what all of this is about?"
"Sam..." Dean shifted uncomfortably again but couldn't meet his eyes, so Sam knew he was right. Knew he'd hit the nail on the head.
Rage flowed hot and hard through Sam's veins. He surged to his feet, pushing his chair back so fast it fell over.
"It is, isn't it?" he demanded. "He sent you. He gave you an order, and you followed it, just like you always do. You were supposed to keep an eye on me this summer, make sure I didn't go dark side or something. Am I right? Dean, am I right?"
Dean licked his lips, shifted on the chair again. "That's not – I didn't mean – "
But Sam was on a roll now, pacing back and forth in front of Dean like a caged animal, breathing hard.
"All this hunting and bonding and learning to be brothers was just a cover for your real mission, wasn't it?" he accused. "You're just Dad's spy! You're just obeying orders!"
"No, Sam, that's not all this is," Dean insisted, gruff and defensive. "Dad may have said something to me about looking out for you this summer, but then when I had those – visions – and right after that the hospital called, said you were sick...I had to fix things between us, Sam, or die trying. I swear to you, that's what this is. It's not just Dad telling me what to do."
"I don't believe you," Sam huffed. "You always do what he tells you. As if he cares. As if by following John's orders, you could finally get him to pay attention to you."
"Sam," Dean warned.
"Nothing will ever matter to that man more than getting his revenge," Sam barreled ahead, ignoring Dean's tight jaw and deep growl. "He's a monomaniacal sociopath, Dean! He can't care about anything or anyone but himself."
"That's not true, Sam," Dean shook his head.
"Yeah, it is," Sam insisted, clenching his fists, frustration making him cruel. "I can read his mind, I know how he thinks. He's incapable of caring about anything except his quest. His mission."
"He loves us, Sam," Dean insisted. "We're all he's got. We're his family."
"Family. Right," Sam scoffed, needing to hit something. Or someone. "That's his excuse. He tells himself that's why he's doing it, why he raised you to be a hunter. But he's just using you. He uses the family bond to get you to do his little jobs for him, the dirty work he won't do himself." Sam stopped pacing, glared down at Dean, consumed with the need to make Dean see the truth, no matter how much it might hurt.
Then a sudden thought sent ice water through his pulsing veins, and he spoke in a rush, just to get it out.
"Did he tell you to kill me if I go dark-side? Huh? Did he say that too?"
"Sam!" Dean's eyes grew wide with shock. "Of course he didn't say that!"
Sam glared, resisting the urge to grab Dean by his lapels and shake him. Maybe even punch him. Just knock some sense into him. Then Sam was hit with an image of Dean on the floor, beaten and bloodied, and Sam almost gasped, horrified. The thought of physically hurting Dean filled him with dread, made him nauseous.
"Yeah, well, he will," Sam deflated a little, suddenly bone-tired, repulsed and exhausted by his own violent thoughts. He backed off a little, ran a hand through his hair and stared at the window before turning his gaze on his brother again. "It's only a matter of time. Especially now that he's got those visions of yours, confirming for him exactly how this is gonna go. I'm surprised he didn't just off me himself, when you told him."
Dean shook his head, looked down at his beer, tipped it back and took a long swallow, not looking at Sam, his cheeks flushed all the way to the tips of his ears.
Sam stared. He knew the signs, knew Dean's tells. Dean was lying again, or at least keeping a secret.
"You – " Sam sucked in a breath. "You didn't tell him about the visions?" he suggested tentatively.
The idea of Dean withholding that kind of vital information from his father just took all the wind right out of Sam's sails. It didn't make sense, made Sam's head spin with a heady rush of adrenaline, like he was ten years old and just got away with smoking, or stealing. What could make Dean do something so out of character?
Sam took his time retrieving the chair from where it lay on the floor on its side, then set it down next to the table, right in front of Dean, so that when he sat in it, their knees touched. Or at least the one of Dean's knees that wasn't propped on the other chair.
Three chairs, Sam thought idly. What table has only three chairs? One must have broken.
"So you didn't tell Dad you were having visions," Sam confirmed. "He doesn't know you saw me – well, future me – all pumped up and demon-possessed and killing people. He doesn't know. Wow."
Dean took a breath, let it out slow, like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Then he gave a shaky laugh. "I couldn't tell him," he admitted, still not looking at Sam. "With all the stuff he just found out about you, he didn't need to know his oldest son was a freak, too."
"You never bothered to mention to him that you're psychic?" Sam stared, and Dean winced, shifted on his seat again. It was answer enough; Dean didn't have to say a thing.
Sam took a deep breath, let it out, let his knee brush Dean's casually.
"Okay, then," Sam breathed, more relieved than anything. Euphoric, even. Sharing this with Dean, keeping it from John, was exhilarating. It changed things, shifted the power in the family dynamic. Suddenly the bond the brothers shared was even deeper, more intense. Suddenly there wasn't a John-shaped space between them anymore. Dean had made his choice.
"Well, John still thinks I'm the biggest piece of evidence he has in this case, Dean," Sam said. "He's not gonna let me go."
"Then we'll just have to figure this out before he does," Dean said, finally raising his eyes. The fierce, protective determination in his face practically took Sam's breath away. "Cuz like I told you before, Sam, I ain't letting anything bad happen to you, and that's a promise."
There was a time when Sam would've gathered Dean into his arms and kissed him at a moment like this, would've touched him with gratitude and reverence, would've laid him down and undressed him and made love to him until he cried out, lost and drowning in the pleasure only Sam knew how to give him.
But now all Sam could do was convey his gratitude in a look, in a light touch to Dean's knee. Dean gazed back at him for almost a full minute, and Sam could sense the longing there, felt Dean's love for him like a warm blanket, the strength of their bond like something physical.
Then Dean's eyes lowered and his cheeks flushed pink, breaking the magic of the soul-bond, of whatever emotional connection Sam couldn't help projecting. Dean shifted a little on his seat, and Sam squeezed Dean's knee, then leaned forward.
"Let's get you back on the bed," Sam suggested, his voice slightly hoarse. "Need to change those bandages."
And Dean let himself be helped over to the bed, where he stripped to his shorts and lay down on his stomach, allowing Sam to touch him, to peel off blood-soaked bandages and re-dress the wounds with gentle, confident hands. They didn't speak, and when Sam helped Dean up again so he could limp to the bathroom, Sam didn't push, didn't try to prolong the physical contact.
Nevertheless, there was something new between them now, something almost as physical as sex, and they both felt it, of that Sam was convinced.
Sam called Missouri Moseley in the morning, briefly explained about the voices, asked if she thought there was a way for Sam to retrieve the memories of his kidnapping.
"You gonna need to come see me in person, you need answers to questions like that, boy," Missouri scolded. "You know I don't do readings over the phone."
Sam sighed. Yes, he knew, but he was hoping for something a little more definite before he dragged Missouri into the middle of their shit.
"There's things following me around again," Sam explained. "Dean and I have been hunting, and I think we've caught the attention of something. I don't want to bring it to your house."
"You let me worry 'bout that," Missouri said. "You just get your skinny rear-ends down here so I can take a look at you."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam agreed before he could stop himself, more relieved than he wanted to be to share the burden of their current situation with the older psychic. Missouri's understanding and advice over the years had been invaluable to Sam as he dealt with the freaky stresses of his psychic abilities, and he had learned to depend on her more than he was willing to admit. Usually a phone call was all it took to settle Sam's jangling nerves whenever a psychic experience rattled him, as it had at least two or three times in the past few years. Plus, Missouri knew about Sam and Dean, knew their secrets, and it was comforting just to talk to her.
This was the first time she had insisted Sam come visit, though. It made him uncomfortable because he knew Missouri could read his mind, although there wasn't anything in Sam's head that she didn't already know. Nothing important, anyway. And if she could access that part of his mind where his earliest memories were hidden, maybe it would help them find the thing that took Sam and the other kids.
And Sam knew he should want that, that solving the mystery of what had happened to him and why should be the most important goal right now. And it was, in a way. But Sam knew that Missouri would also read Sam's hesitation, his reluctance to find out the truth, his conviction that whatever had happened must be his fault, that he was marked for evil from birth, that Mary Winchester had died trying to defend someone who didn't deserve to be saved. And Missouri would read Sam's mind and know that Sam feared losing Dean more than anything, feared that if Dean ever found out that Sam's destiny was the cause of his mother's death, it would destroy their bond forever.
Dean was not excited to spend another six hours in the back seat of the car. He whined and bitched and complained until Sam threatened to call Missouri back and tell her they weren't coming, that Dean needed a few days to recover first. That shut Dean up, and he let himself be lowered into the back seat on his side, pillows propped along his back and against the doors to keep him upright on his side and to keep his ankle elevated. He insisted that "injured party picks the music," and demanded back-to-back Zeppelin albums on the drive down to Lawrence until Sam decided that shooting himself might be preferable to listening to one more hour of Robert Plant. Luckily, they pulled up in front of Missouri's house just in time to save Sam from flipping the Zeppelin IV tape for the third time, and all thoughts of throwing the cassettes out the window disappeared in the face of Sam's sudden anxiety.
"Well, don't just stand there," Missouri yelled at them from the porch once Sam had manhandled Dean out of the back of the car and stood staring up at the house, stooped a little so Dean could sling his arm across Sam's shoulders, Sam's arm wrapped around Dean's waist, supporting his weight. "Come on in here where I can get a look at you."
Dean shook him off as Sam tried to help Dean up the steps, preferring to use the hand-rail to lean on until they got to the porch, batting at Sam irritably until Sam was tempted to just pick him up and carry him.
"Let your brother help you, boy," Missouri scolded Dean. "You got nothin' to be ashamed of. Taking down a Black Dog isn't child's play."
"You get that from my mind or his?" Dean asked, letting Sam settle him into one of the cushioned chairs on the front porch, propping his injured ankle on the stool Sam pulled up for him.
"Yours, of course," Missouri shook her head. "All you want to do is find another one so you can bite it right back, show it who's boss."
"Damn straight," Dean nodded, grim smile not quite reaching his eyes. "Not literally, of course."
"And I'll thank you to watch your language in my house, Dean Winchester," Missouri reminded him sharply.
"Yes, ma'am," Dean mumbled, deflating just a little.
Missouri shook her head. "I'll get us some lemonade. Sam, you come give me a hand, now."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam shot a helpless look at Dean as he followed Missouri into the house. He was rewarded by a genuine grin as Dean leaned back in his comfortable chair and lifted his eyebrows, obviously amused.
"The answer to your question is yes, boy," Missouri said when they reached the kitchen at the back of the house and Missouri started pulling out glasses. "And don't you think for a minute that you can't believe anything I tell you now cuz you think I missed the brother thing. You two have the most intense soul-bond of any two people I ever met, and that cancels out every other tie, you hear me? You are first and foremost each other's other half. Nothing else is as important as that. Not even being brothers."
She opened the refrigerator, pulled out the pitcher of freshly-made lemonade, then began arranging homemade snickerdoodles on a plate.
"Made these fresh this morning, just before you called," Missouri said. "Had a feeling you were on your way here."
"But we hadn't decided that yet," Sam protested. "I, for one, was feeling really conflicted about it. How could you guess which choice we'd make?"
"Some choices are made for us," Missouri said pointedly as she handed Sam the plate of cookies. "Others, we get to make for ourselves. Guess which kind your choice to come here was?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "I don't know if I can change it. What Dean saw in his visions, I mean. I don't know how to stop that from happening."
"Oh yes, you sure do," Missouri nodded, wiping her hands on her apron. "You're doing it right now. Changing things. Dean stopped having those visions, didn't he?"
Sam shook his head again. "I don't know," he repeated.
"You know what you need, Sam?" Missouri put her hands on her hips, leaned forward. "You need to have a little faith. Your brother loves you. He's not gonna leave you, ever, no matter what happened to you when you were a baby. No matter what that demon has planned for you. No matter if you stop being such prudes and get over yourselves and your old-fashioned notions of morality and social decency."
Sam blushed to the tips of his ears, ducked his head and looked down at the floor. "I knew better, and I let it happen," he almost whispers, he says it so quietly. "Dean never would've, if he'd known. But I knew. There's something wrong with me."
"Aw, honey, there ain't nothin' wrong with you," Missouri insisted. "You remember I told you the answer to your question? It's yes, boy. You've still got that pure heart I sensed first time I met you. That sure hasn't changed. Hasn't gone all dark and evil like you're afraid it has. All that's in your head, Sam. That's how the Devil messes with you, trying to sow the seeds of self-doubt and uncertainty, so you'll go down the wrong path cuz you think it's what you're meant to do. But that's not your destiny, Sam. That's not who you are."
Missouri opened her freezer, started pulling out ice-cube trays and breaking them open in a bowl, dropping ice into the glasses as she went on. "Remember when you were here that first time and I told you you were a survivor? You had the means to overcome what happened to you then, and you still have it now. You're a good person, Sam. Your soul is a huge ball of light that practically bursts right out of you every time you move. I've never seen so much goodness in one person before, so much love."
Sam shook his head. "I corrupted Dean," he insisted. "He never would have been with me if I hadn't pushed him into it. Never would've crossed that line. Incest is – It's wrong."
Missouri pulled out a tray, put the three glasses on it, poured lemonade into each one as she shook her head. "Well, I don't know about incest. Even the Bible contradicts itself on that one. But what I do know is, the love between you two boys is strong, and pure, and good. There's white light all around you two, and when you're together it gets even brighter. That's good enough for me. Now let's take these out to your brother. I think we gave him enough time to make his phone call."
Sure enough, when they got out to the porch, Dean was just putting his phone away.
"Just checking in with Dad," he answered Sam's frown. "Letting him know what we're up to."
Sam set the plate of cookies down a little too hard, and Dean jumped, shot a wide-eyed glance at Sam as he took the glass of lemonade Missouri offered.
"Thank you," he said, sending a look of gratitude at the older psychic, who rolled her eyes as she sat down in the chair opposite.
"Boys," she muttered, shaking her head. "You think just cuz you're so big and tough on the outside, nobody can see what corn muffins you are on the inside. Huh." Missouri snorted, took a sip of her lemonade, and set it down.
Sam and Dean exchanged sheepish glances, sipped their lemonade in silence.
"No, I can't do that," Missouri said after a moment, as if one of them had asked a question. Sam had a wild thought that maybe they could sit here and do that, the three of them, reading each other's minds without ever having to say a word. Except Sam wouldn't read Missouri's mind, out of respect, and he suspected he couldn't even if he wanted to anyway. She knew how to shut him out just as well as Dean did. And Dean had already established that he wasn't reading anybody's mind, period. "But I know someone who can."
* // *
Pamela Barnes lived with her boyfriend Jesse on the top floor of an old warehouse that had been partially converted into loft spaces in Pontiac, Illinois. Jesse was the lead guitarist for the grunge band Nuvo-Nirvana, but he was out playing a gig when Sam and Dean arrived a few days after their visit with Missouri. They had taken the time for Dean's ankle to heal, and Sam had been just as grateful he hadn't heard any more demon voices whispering. He'd kept them moving around, though, just in case.
Pamela looked them up and down when she opened the door, then stepped aside to let them enter. Sam could feel her eyes on their backsides, heard her voice as clear as day in his head: I think my kinkiest fantasies just came true.
"Well, aren't you two a sight for sore eyes," she said out-loud, smirking as they turned to face her. She was picturing them naked and spread out on her bed now, Sam on top.
"You know I can see and hear everything you're thinking," Sam noted, slamming his mind shut on the psychic porn she was throwing at him.
Pamela smiled, slow and seductive. "I'm counting on it," she purred.
"Don't you have a boyfriend?" Dean demanded, and Sam wondered if he was picking up on Pamela's thoughts, or if he was just reading her body language.
"He can join us when he gets back," she shrugged. "He likes pretty boys almost as much as I do."
"Yeah, well, thanks for the invitation, but we think we'll pass," Dean said, and Sam glanced sharply at him. It wasn't like Dean to pass up sex. "We're working." He threw a frowning glance back at Sam, and Sam remembered exactly why there could be no threesome with Pamela.
"Ah well, your loss," Pamela sighed, crossing the room to a small refrigerator after gesturing for them to sit on the couch. "Beer?"
"I could step out, leave you two alone," Sam murmured low into Dean's ear, and Dean glared at him as they sat down. "You know, after we're done here."
"You know I can hear everything you're saying," Pamela noted as she brought the beers to them, then sank cross-legged onto a huge bean bag chair across from the couch.
"I'm counting on it," Sam tried to smirk, going for the same flirtatious manner she was using with them. "My brother's just playing a little hard to get."
Pamela took a sip of her beer, regarded them shrewdly for a moment. "Oh, I think your brother knows exactly what he wants," she noted. "And it's not some casual roll in the hay." She looked pointedly from one to the other of her guests, then shook her head. "Wow, you two are in so deep with each other, I pity the poor girl who thinks she can squeeze in between, no matter how much fun it might be to try."
Sam felt his cheeks heat and he lowered his eyes, unable to keep the satisfied grin off his face.
Dean was scowling. "Look, Missouri said you could do this hypnosis thing," he shifted uncomfortably next to Sam, making Sam think about Dean's ass and the fact that it probably still hurt, even if the swelling had finally gone down on his ankle. "So how about it?"
"Straight to business," Pamela nodded. "I can do that." She took another sip of her beer, then reached for the ashtray on the low table next to her seat. She picked up the roach lying there and brought it to her lips, then lit it, taking a long drag and holding it before offering it to Sam and Dean, who both shook their heads. The cloying sweet smell of marijuana wafted through the air, making Sam's head feel light. His limbs grew heavy, and his whole body seemed to be sinking into the couch. Pamela was speaking, but her voice was far away and tinny-sounding, like it was coming from the radio with the volume turned down. Sam's head felt like it was floating, lifting right off his body, hovering over the couch, watching his body sitting next to Dean, his eyes half-closed and unfocused. He looked stoned, Sam decided as he watched himself. Time was passing slowly. Sam wondered if he should worry about Dean, if Dean was worried about Sam; Sam could see Dean sitting next to Sam's body, a transfixed expression on his handsome face, green eyes staring and unseeing, and Sam felt a wave of love so strong it sucked him down, right back into his body, hard and fast so that he was suddenly gasping, blinking because his eyes felt dry, his throat sore.
"What – what happened?" he croaked, disoriented and off-balance. He reached out to steady himself, grabbing hold of Dean leg with one hand, the arm of the couch with the other. Pamela was staring at him, wide-eyed, all traces of her former smirking self-confidence wiped completely off her face, replaced by a pale, spooked look that was definitely freaking Sam out.
Then her gaze shifted to Dean and she practically flinched. Dean was sitting so still it was as if he had turned to stone. His eyes were still open, eyelids at half-mast, unseeing, his lips parted and slightly damp, as if he'd been licking them.
"Dean?" Sam took hold of his brother's shoulder, shook him, gently at first, then harder when Dean didn't react. "What's wrong with him?" he demanded, patting Dean's cheek, then snapping his fingers in front of his face, all to no avail. "Dean? Hey, hey, come on, man, wake up!"
He glanced at Pamela over his shoulder, hating to take his eyes off Dean for even a moment. "What the hell happened here? Why is he the one in a trance? You were supposed to hypnotize me, not him."
"I did," Pamela answered, shaking her head as if to clear it. "I did hypnotize you. Then he – he started speaking in this horrible voice, like something out of The Exorcist. I kid you not. Vile. And he was cursing and spitting like he was possessed..."
"Dean? Come on, big brother, snap out of it." Sam took Dean's hands and slid to the floor between Dean's knees, pressing Dean's hands to Sam's cheeks and leaning up so he was right in Dean's face, so that Sam filled Dean's field of vision completely. "Come on, Dean, come back to me. Come on!" Sam leaned in, closing his eyes, and touched his forehead to his brother's, holding Dean's hands against his cheeks and breathing deep. "Come on, Dean. It's me. It's Sammy. Wake up, man! Please!"
For another long moment, nothing happened; Dean was still and silent as Sam focused on projecting his voice deep into Dean's mind, silently pleading with him to wake up, ignoring the terror pumping through his veins, the fear that in the process of recovering Sam's memories, they had inadvertently broken something in Dean.
Sam could feel the moment Dean's consciousness returned. His body jerked backwards, and in the split second before he moved, Sam could hear Dean's voice in his head. Sammy? What the hell?
"Oh thank God," Sam breathed, sitting back on his heels, pulling his face out of Dean's hands as Dean blinked at him, frowning. His eyes darted around the room, stared at Pamela, then back at Sam as he got his bearings. When Dean looked down at their still-clasped hands, Sam squeezed once before releasing them, then rose smoothly to his feet, wiping his leaking eyes with the back of his hand. Now that the crisis was past, Sam's relief was palpable, the emotional release uncontrollable.
"Azazel," Dean said nonsensically, his voice slightly hoarse.
"What?" Sam blinked, confused by the unfamiliar word.
"The demon's name," Dean cleared his throat, tried again. "Azazel. He – he was talking to you, in your memory. He called himself your father. Gave you his blood."
"He what? Sam felt the shock like a slap in the face.
"He whispered his plan to you, Sammy," Dean went on, talking fast. "To baby you. He said – he said you're his favorite because you were born with so much power in you already. He has other human children, but you're special. You – you're gonna open the gates someday."
"The gates?" Sam repeated. "What gates, Dean? What did he mean?"
Dean lifted his eyes to Sam's, and they were huge, round pools of green, translucent, like sunlight through water. Sam was drowning in them, in Dean's memory of Sam's baby memories.
"The Gates of Hell," Dean said with a little shake of his head, still appearing dazed, almost babbling, like he wasn't understanding the words coming out but he couldn't stop them. "You're supposed to let all the demons out."
"Jesus H. Christ on a stick," Pamela gasped, and both brothers jumped. Sam for one had almost forgotten she was there.
Dean glanced at Pamela, then stared back at Sam, his eyes getting wider, wilder, as he replayed the memory in his mind, realized what he'd just said out loud without being able to control it.
"We have to get out of here," he said, starting to hyperventilate. He jumped up, sudden and unbalanced, and would have gone crashing down across the coffee table if Sam hadn't leapt up to catch him.
"Whoa, hey, hang on, Dean." Sam had one arm around Dean's waist, the other hand grasping the front of his jacket, hauling him back up to standing. Dean spun around, his weight sending him hard into Sam, hand on Sam's chest in an effort to free himself, to put some distance between them. His face was turning colors, then going pale, and his whole body heaved, like he was fighting the urge to throw up.
"Think I'm gonna hurl," he croaked, and Sam shot a glance at Pamela.
"Bathroom?" he asked over Dean's head as he struggled to keep Dean upright.
"Through there," she pointed, watching them with a mixture of fascinated horror and – okay, if Sam had to describe the way Pamela was looking at them, he would have to admit that this entire display seemed to be actually turning her on, which was wrong on so many levels Sam couldn't even stop to think about it.
He concentrated on half-dragging, half-guiding Dean to the door Pamela indicated, then letting Dean push him away to stumble into the bathroom and slam the door behind him. Sam backed up from the door as the sound of Dean retching violently filled the silence; he turned and exchanged glances with Pamela, trying to decide if he was being more helpful by letting Dean have his privacy, or if he ought to be doing something. Pamela tilted her head and raised her eyebrows, letting her eyes slide to the king-size bed in a darkened corner of the large space, then raise in a look of open invitation.
Sam only had a moment to open his mouth, ready with an indignant protest, when the bathroom door was flung open and Dean stumbled out, face wet from the water he'd obviously been splashing on it.
"Let's get out of here," he demanded, trying to charge past Sam in his rush to get to the door, but stumbling so badly on his weak ankle Sam had to grab him again, had to slip his arm around his waist to keep him upright.
"You can send us the bill," Dean barked at Pamela as they stumbled to the front door. She got up, maybe to protest, maybe to see them out, Sam never found out because at that moment the front door opened and a young man with long, dark hair walked in. He was clad in a black leather jacket, black leather pants, and black boots with silver studs across them. He was carrying a guitar case in one hand, a guitar stand in the other, and he looked momentarily surprised to see them.
Jesse, Pamela's mind provided helpfully.
"Hey," Dean nodded. "How're ya doin'? We were just leaving."
Jesse frowned at them, and Pamela said, "Clients, Jess. They're just clients."
"I'll bet," Jesse muttered, glaring from one to the other of the Winchesters, pausing in the doorway just long enough to make his point – this was his home, Pamela was his girlfriend – before he stepped aside, letting them pass, Dean doing his best to shake loose of Sam's supporting arm to swagger toward the stairs, failing abysmally.
"How was the gig?" Pamela's voice was asking as Jesse closed the door.
Sam didn't hesitate, just shoved Dean against the wall and held him there, shaking him a little to get him to focus.
"Dude, that guy's a demon," Sam breathed quietly. "We need to get holy water and draw a devil's trap outside that door. Pamela's in danger."
"Shit," Dean muttered, closing his eyes and drawing in a deep breath to steady himself. When he opened his eyes the wild look was gone; he seemed centered and self-aware again. In command. "Okay. You get the holy water, I'll draw the trap."
Sam didn't like the idea of leaving Dean, even for the few minutes it would take him to run to the car, but there was no getting past the urgency of the situation. Plus, Dean was the one who carried chalk in his pocket. Sam didn't even stop to think about how weird that was, given that the number of actual run-ins with demons over the years had added up to exactly three, and one of those they had only heard about after the fact. But then, given their dad's ultimate mission, it made sense. Someday, there would be demons.
Sam had barely managed to grab the flask and the small book of Latin rites, then barrel back up the stairs of the building, before Dean had the devil's trap drawn. As soon as Sam rounded the corner onto the landing, he could see that Dean was ready, on his feet, fist raised to pound on the door of Pamela's apartment.
Sam got into position to one side of the door, open flask in one hand, open book with the exorcism rite in the other. He gave Dean a nod just as a crash was heard from inside and Pamela screamed.
"Jesse?" Dean pounded on the door, boomed in his loudest, most commanding voice. "Jesse Bookman? We need to talk to you!"
There was silence on the other side of the door, and Sam glanced up at Dean, fearing the worst. Plan B was to storm the apartment, of course, try to rescue the girl with sheer brute force, which probably wasn't a great idea since demons were strong and Sam and Dean were most likely going to get themselves pretty badly beaten if they did that. But if they couldn't get it to come out...
Then the door was flung open and Jesse stormed out, not even hesitating, foolhardy to a fault, which was so lucky Sam didn't even stop to think about it, didn't even stop to watch the look of surprise on Jesse's face as he realized he couldn't move, as he looked down and saw the trap he had walked into.
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immendus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas..."
Sam splashed the holy water into Jesse's face, began reciting the exorcism rite as Jesse howled, flesh sizzling, eyes going obsidian black, fists flying. He managed to clip Dean in the jaw, sent him flying against the opposite wall, where he collapsed in a heap, stunned but still moving. Sam barreled on, keeping his voice steady when every ounce of strength in his body was screaming at him to go to Dean, make sure he was okay.
"We're keeping an eye on you, Sam Winchester!" Jesse growled, turning his black gaze in Sam's direction. "Our father knows where you are! He's coming for you!"
Sam resisted the urge to question the demon, knowing instinctively that his only chance against it was to exorcise it, that if he let it talk him into having a conversation, its chances of escape went up by about a thousand percent, and Sam couldn't afford that. He couldn't afford to let the demon go when it had probably just killed Pamela, had tried to kill Dean.
"...Ergo, draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica..."
Jesse threw his head back and howled, clenching his fists, shaking violently, all the muscles in his neck strained, making his face turn red.
Sam raised his voice above Jesse's howls, continued on, grateful now that he'd taken the time to memorize the rite so he barely had to glance at the book.
"Don't you want to know what he has planned for you?" Jesse stopped howling, turning his black-eyed gaze on Sam again. "Don't you want to know why you were chosen? What makes you so special?"
Sam paused for a second and the demon grasped its advantage, speaking fast. "You're still too young now, but in three more years, when you've come of age, he'll come for you, Sam. There's nothing you can do to stop it. It's your destiny."
Sam clenched his fists, glared fiercely at the creature as he continued the rite, the only response the demon deserved, the only response it was gonna get. ...Vade, santana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciae..."
"No! Sam! I can help you! You need me! Don't send me back to Hell, Sam! Let me help you!"
Too late, asshole, Sam projected silently, watching in satisfaction as the demon got the message, the look of shocked surprise that crossed Jesse's handsome features the moment before he threw his head back and opened his mouth. Black smoke rolled forth in a steady stream, still caught in the trap and with nowhere to go but down, sinking through the floorboards and straight back to Hell, accompanied by that impressive display of stormy rushing wind that Sam had felt before, when this happened in Bobby's basement three years ago. Sam heard the voices, just like before, the moaning and sobbing of tortured souls begging for release. The air was filled with the sharp rotten smell of sulfur, and Sam had the sensation of a tunnel reaching up and sucking the demon right back where it belonged, then closing off with an almost-audible clanging sound, as of a heavy iron door being shut, hard.
Jesse collapsed to the ground, dead or unconscious, but in the sudden silence Sam's first thought was for his brother.
"Dean!" Sam dropped the book and the flask, crossed the hall in two giant strides and knelt next to Dean, who had managed to prop himself up to sitting against the wall.
"I'm all right, Sam," Dean insisted, barely tolerating Sam's anxious touch as he checked Dean over for injuries. "Nothing broken, just a little bruised. Maybe a concussion. Go check on Pamela and her boyfriend."
Dean's slurred speech confirmed the concussion, which was what worried Sam most.
"Don't go to sleep," he commanded, hating to leave Dean even for the few minutes it would take him to check on Pamela, but he did it.
Pamela was lying in a pool of her own blood in a pile of broken furniture on the far side of the loft. She managed to open her eyes when Sam knelt down to check her pulse, noted that she had been stabbed in the abdomen. There were bruises on her neck in the shape of fingers.
"I didn't tell him about the gates," she croaked hoarsely. "Or the name. The name is important, Sam. You have the demon's name. I didn't tell."
"Okay, okay," Sam tried to shush her, pulled out his phone so he could dial 911. "Just rest. Help is on the way."
Jesse was dead, blessedly; his neck had been broken, probably some time ago, the demon inside him the only thing that kept him alive as long as it did. Sam left him where he had fallen, inside the devil's trap, leaving that for the authorities to try to figure out as he helped Dean down the stairs and out to the car.
"Pamela..." Dean croaked, and Sam shook his head.
"She's lost a lot of blood, but she'll make it, as long as they get here soon," Sam answered, settling Dean into the front seat of the car. The sound of sirens wailing in the distance was enough to make Sam hurry; they couldn't be here when the police arrived. Sam had gathered the Latin book and holy water flask, even Dean's chalk, on his way out of the building, and he was fairly sure there wouldn't be any other evidence of what had gone down here. The devil's trap would mystify the authorities, but when they found out that Pamela was a palm-reader and then found the bloody knife Jesse had used to try to kill her, it would seem to be a fairly open-and-shut case of domestic violence gone weird, of that Sam was pretty confident. Nobody would go looking for the two young men in the black car who were leaving the scene just before the police arrived, and that was just the way it should be.
BACK TO MASTERPOST | ON TO CHAPTER FIVE