Sam put down the box he was carrying and accepted the bottle of water Jessica offered him.
"Why do you say that?" Sam raised his eyebrows, running his sweaty arm over his forehead to push back his bangs.
Jessica smiled fondly but didn't answer right away. Instead she reached up and pushed his hair back with long, delicate fingers, tucking some of it behind Sam's ear.
"You should really let me cut your hair," she said. "Just a trim. Just to get it out of your eyes."
Sam huffed out a laugh, dipping his chin to his chest as he grinned bashfully. Jess was a natural caregiver. She always made him feel cared about, treasured. Sam had never had a mom or a big sister, but he imagined this was what it was like. Jessica was genuinely fond of him, her friendship and kindness offered freely, with no strings attached, and Sam appreciated her more than he could express sometimes.
Of course, it was a purely platonic relationship. Sam had been very upfront about his sexual orientation from the moment they met, so he knew there could be no confusion or false expectations from the start between them. Sam had never had a female friend his age before, and he had discovered that he liked it. There was a softness about Jessica; she smiled easily and expressed herself without reservation, never holding back her feelings about anything. After six months of friendship, Sam felt like he knew her as well as any human being could know another person. He and Jessica were remarkably compatible; he felt comfortable around her and honestly thought of her as his best friend.
Which is why they had decided to move in together. The dorms were noisy and not conducive to serious study, and Jessica needed a studio for her art. They both agreed they could live more cheaply and probably more healthfully off-campus. Sharing an apartment meant saving money for both of them, although it also meant adjusting Sam's financial aid package too, so ultimately it didn't make much difference. It made Jessica really, really happy, though, so Sam counted that as a win. When Jessica was happy, the whole world felt brighter. If Sam hadn't been gay, he was sure he would've been in love with her.
"He tried to hit on me," Jessica shook her head with a little frown. She began pulling books out of a box on the table, lining them up in the bookcase against the near wall.
"He what?" Sam choked out, shocked. "Are you sure?"
Jessica arched an eyebrow at him. "I think I know when I'm being hit on, Sam," she said with a smirk.
"Yeah, but – I mean, Brady's about as straight as a rainbow," Sam shook his head as he started to open another box. "I'm just surprised, is all."
"Yeah, well, you're not the only one," Jessica nodded. "He seems to be on some kind of girls-only diet at the moment. Like he's trying to fuck himself straight or something."
Sam tipped his head skeptically. "You do realize that's impossible, right? Unless he's discovered some bi-sexual tendencies he never admitted before, even to himself."
"Yeah, I know," Jessica sighed. "I used to really enjoy hanging around with him because I never had to feel like he might be attracted to me. But I'm telling you, he's into girls now. And that's not all. Girls, booze, recreational drugs that I don't even want to know about – "
"Brady?" Sam looked up from unpacking dishes to stare. "We're talking about Mr. Straight-'A's-Who-Studies-All-The-Time-a
Jessica reached up to the top shelf to place a little ceramic figurine there – an angel, Sam realized – and her shirt rode up on her flat belly, reminding Sam that Jess was a very attractive girl who would probably be just his type if he wasn't so certain of his sexual identity.
"I know," she frowned as she stood back, admiring her handiwork. "Like I say. There's something wrong."
* // *
Brady was possessed.
Sam could see it the minute he caught sight of his old roommate across the crowded room at the party in the house Brady shared with three other guys. Sam didn't need to see Brady's black eyes, although he imagined the flash of obsidian as Brady looked up when Sam walked into the room.
Sam could feel the demon, its dark, coiling rage and spite, the special delight it was taking in corrupting Tyson Brady.
"Sammy!" the demon called, lifting the plastic cup in Brady's hand, smiling seductively with Brady's handsome face. "Great to see you, man!"
Sam could hear the derision in the demon's taunting tone, and he could feel something else, something not-demonic. Brady was still in there, frightened and appalled, watching helplessly as his arm circled the waist of the petite brunette crowded up next to him, as he dipped his mouth to hers for a deep, alcohol-infused kiss.
Sam slipped a protective arm around Jessica's waist and pulled her close. "Let's get out of here," he murmured directly into her ear, aware that Brady was watching him. Sam could read Jessica's surprise and hesitation, could feel her stiffen and start to push away from him.
"We just got here!" she protested, leaning away from him so she could look him in the eye.
"Just trust me, okay?" Sam begged, giving her his most pleading look, still holding her close against him so he could feel the moment she relented, melting against him with a little confused smile that showed her dimples.
"Yeah, okay," she agreed with a shrug.
Sam glanced over her shoulder at Brady, who raised his red plastic cup in a silent salute, smirking as Sam turned away, keeping his arm around Jessica as they moved quickly toward the front door. When they reached the porch, out of the crowd and the pounding music, Sam didn't stop; he moved ahead of Jessica and grabbed her hand, pulling her after him down the steps and across the front lawn.
"Woah, woah, wait a minute," she protested, letting herself be yanked along only as far as the sidewalk, where she dug in her heels and pulled her hand away. "What's wrong? Sam? Why are we leaving?"
Sam was grateful, not for the first time, that Jessica's mind was unreadable. He'd liked that about her from the moment they met. Not that she was hard to understand; Jess was as open and expressive a person as Sam had ever met, and it wasn't really necessary for Sam to know what she was thinking and feeling most of the time. He liked that about her, but he was also glad her mind was so quiet. He could be around her without the constant mental noise he usually picked up from most people's minds. It was a relief, and one of the reasons they had grown so close in such a short amount of time.
That, and the fact that Jessica was so sensitive to Sam's moods and feelings, it was almost like she could read his mind.
And right now, she was concerned for him. Sam could see that in her expression, in her body language as Sam dug his phone out and punched the first number on his speed dial.
"Just hang on," he gestured urgently to Jessica before turning his back on her to focus on the call.
Dean's deep voice splashed over Sam's soul like warm seawater, making his skin tingle and his heart pound. Sam had to close his eyes against the shivery sensations that shot up his spine.
"Dean," he breathed into the phone, endorphins flooding his system just from the thought of his brother on the other end of the line.
"Sammy, you okay?" Dean sounded concerned, then incredulous. "You drunk?"
"What? No!" Sam protested. "I'm at a party. Outside. Listen to me." He took a deep breath, glanced back at Jessica, made sure she wasn't listening before hissing into the phone. "Dean, there's a demon here. It's – it's in my old roommate. Brady."
"The one who had the hots for you last year?"
Leave it to Dean to get right to the meat of the matter.
"Yeah. No!" Sam huffed out an irritated breath. "Doesn't matter. Except, yeah, maybe it's not just a coincidence."
"Oh, ya think?" Dean sounded angry.
"The point is, we need to exorcise the demon. Save Brady."
Dean was silent, and Sam wished he could see his face, wished he could see that little shake of the head Dean was probably making.
"You know, your friend may not survive," Dean reminded him after a pause. "These things can really beat up on the bodies they possess."
"I know that," Sam nodded. "But I have to try. He was – Brady and I were close, man. More than friends. And I brought this evil thing to his doorstep. It's my fault this has happened to him. This is on me, Dean, and I have to try to fix it."
Dean was quiet for another moment, and Sam was almost afraid he'd lost him. Then he heard Dean take a deep breath, let it out slow.
"Okay," Dean spoke finally. "I'm about an hour away. You just stay put, keep an eye on your boyfriend but don't get too close, ya hear me? We'll figure it out when I get there."
"He's not my boyfriend," Sam grumbled.
"Ex-boyfriend, then," Dean acquiesced. "Whatever. Anyway, just sit tight, ya got me?"
Sam nodded, knowing Dean couldn't see him. "Yeah, I hear you."
When he put the phone away and turned around, Jessica was staring at him, lips turned up in a slight smile.
"Who was that?" she asked, tilting her head quizzically.
"My brother," Sam answered smoothly. "He's gonna be here in about an hour."
"You just invited your brother to a college party?" Jessica lifted her eyebrows. "Why?"
"He – he specializes in things like this," Sam said. "He and I worked together before I started school. With our dad. It's kind of a family business."
"What kind of business?" Jessica was obviously totally confused now. "Party planning?"
Sam huffed out a laugh, dug his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and dipped his chin down to his chest, looking up at her through his bangs.
"No," he chuckled. "More like helping people who are in over their heads. Like what's happened to Brady. Crisis intervention."
There. It wasn't a lie, it just wasn't the whole truth.
Jessica's eyes widened. "So you're saying you think Brady has an addiction problem," she suggested.
"Something like that," Sam hedged.
"That would explain the violent mood swings, the erratic behavior, the reckless sex," Jessica nodded. "And you and your brother can provide some kind of emergency treatment?"
"You could say that," Sam agreed. "It's really more of a cure. Kind of like an instant detox."
Jessica stared in disbelief, obviously waiting for Sam to admit he was joking.
"You do realize that's an oxymoron," she said finally. "There is no way to detox instantly. Even going cold turkey, there's withdrawal. It can take weeks to get clean."
Sam shifted his feet, chewed on the inside of his cheek, unable to meet Jessica's eyes.
"My brother and I know a way," he insisted. "But we need to get Brady alone, away from all these people."
Jessica stared at him for another moment, like she was struggling with her own instinct to trust him, and Sam could almost sense it the moment she decided to just go with it, to just go with him.
"Well, that's easy," Jessica huffed out a breath. "I'll just tell him you want to see him. At our place. For a private party."
"What? No way," Sam stared, shocked. "He's not going to want to see me."
"Oh, you're wrong," Jessica shook her head. "When I ran into him the other day he was all over me, but all he wanted to talk about was you. 'How's Sam? What's Sam up to? Do you think I still have a shot with him?' I kid you not. I'm certain he would come if I told him you were willing to meet with him, especially alone."
Then Sam understood. It was the demon, not Brady, that wanted to see Sam.
And Sam was more than willing to be the bait, to lure the demon somewhere away from all these people, someplace where a devil's trap would already be waiting, of course.
There was no way in hell he could let Jessica be the lure, though. It was too dangerous. He couldn't let her be part of this, couldn't put her at risk that way. Their apartment wasn't good, either, since other people lived there.
But aside from knocking her out, tying her up and giving her the scare of her life, which Sam wasn't about to do, Sam knew there wasn't an easy way to convince Jessica to leave now, to just get the hell out of the way and let Sam and Dean handle this by themselves. If there was one thing Sam had learned about Jessica Moore after six months of friendship, it was that she was almost as stubborn and tenacious as he was.
"Okay, he already saw us here tonight," Sam nodded and bit his bottom lip. "Maybe you could text him to tell him I've been re-thinking the way we left things between us, and I came tonight to talk to him about it but chickened out because there's so many people and he seemed so busy."
He paused as Jessica recognized some people she knew, raised a hand to greet them. Sam put one hand on his hip, ran his hand through his hair and licked his lips.
"So I went over to the library to study," Sam went on. "The special corner in the basement where I usually go when I need to be alone. He knows where. But you can tell I really want to talk to him, and you're being a good friend and intervening behind my back a little because you can see how much it would mean to me to patch things up between me and him."
Jessica shook her head, blond curls bouncing. "You're a piece of work, Sam Winchester," she said, smiling mischievously. "It's like you lie for a living or something, you're so good at it."
Sam flushed, lowering his eyes and tipping his chin down to hide his wince.
"Just give me a fifteen minute head-start," he said. "And when my brother gets here, you can tell him where we are."
"You think it's a good idea to do this without your brother?" Jessica frowned.
"I don't want to risk Brady leaving before I get a chance to talk to him," Sam nodded. "Anyway, Dean's just back-up. I could do this myself if I had to."
Something in his tone obviously worried Jessica. She put her hand on his arm and shook her head a little, clearly struggling with her instinct that something about this was wrong and probably dangerous.
"Be careful," she admonished doubtfully.
Her trust in him almost broke Sam, almost made him want to tell her what he was really doing. The urge to share with someone what he and Dean did was almost overwhelming sometimes, and this was one of those times. Sam knew the risks in what he was about to do, knew there was a very real possibility that things could go south, that he could end up dead and Jessica would never know why.
But as much as Sam might owe it to Jessica to let her in on what he did, he owed it to her even more to keep her alive and protected from all the evil that seemed to follow Sam wherever he went. So he smiled and nodded, returning her worried look with as much confidence and reassurance as he could muster.
"Always," he promised. "Fifteen minutes, okay?"
Jessica hesitated another moment, searching his gaze for something that Sam just couldn't give her, clearly confused by the feeling of foreboding that Sam could easily read in her eyes. Sam could see the moment she relented, shaking her head and smiling at her own foolishness.
"Yeah, sure," she agreed. "Okay."
Sam didn't waste another minute. He took off on a sprint across the street and down the block to the apartment to gather the tools he needed, then jogged to the library. He estimated it would take Brady about fifteen minutes to walk there from the party after Jessica relayed Sam's message, so Sam had thirty minutes to lay his trap. As he stood on a table drawing the devil's trap in chalk on the basement ceiling, it occurred to Sam that Jessica might not recognize Dean. Sam had never shown her the photograph he kept in his wallet, and Jessica hadn't been around when Dean had picked him up for Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
Then he remembered about six weeks into the fall semester when Dean dropped by unexpectedly. Well, not totally unexpectedly. Sam had been having nightmares in which he lost Dean in a smoke-filled house, a recurring nightmare from which Sam woke up sweating and shaking. Dean had come when Sam called him one morning, crying and needing to be sure Dean was alright.
And of course he was. Of course, once Dean arrived, teasing and brash and as cocksure as ever, Sam felt like a fool for letting his fear get the better of him. They went out for breakfast together, knocking knees under the table, brushing shoulders as they crowded in and out of the little cafe, Dean full of snarky quips about the granola-crunching atmosphere and the vegetarian menu. While Dean was using the facilities, Jessica happened to stop by on her way to class, just to say hi. Their friendship was fairly new then, but Sam was glad to see her, watching her weave her way through the little tables on her way to the door as Dean returned from the bathroom.
He followed Sam's gaze and smirked as he gave Jessica's retreating form an approving once-over.
"Who's the leggy blonde?" he asked, gesturing with his thumb as he slid back into his chair.
"Just a friend," Sam answered, frowning. He wasn't sure if the stab of annoyance in his gut was jealousy or protectiveness. "Trust me. She's not your type."
Dean had let it go, which almost surprised Sam at the time. There was a time when Dean would've teased Sam about his "girlfriend," even though he knew Sam was gay. It would've been Dean's way of covering up his own attraction to the girl, designed to get a rise out of his brother but also a way of transferring his attraction to Sam onto someone Sam couldn't feel attracted to. It was Dean's backwards way of flirting with Sam that Sam was used to, or had been long ago, before Sam and Dean had admitted their feelings for each other.
But that was also before they knew they were brothers. Things changed after that, and Dean resorted to his earlier teasing manner, and for a while that worked, even if it made Sam so frustrated sometimes he felt like he might explode. He could never tell if Dean was flirting with girls and teasing Sam about them because he thought it was a normal way for brothers to behave with each other, and Dean was trying hard to be "normal" after their earlier relationship had turned out to be incestuous. Or was Dean subverting his attraction to Sam this way, deliberately provoking Sam to react, maybe even wishing he would? If that was the case, Sam had learned he could be pushed only so far before he snapped, as he did one night last summer, grabbing Dean and pushing him up against the wall and showing him exactly how much of a rise Dean could get out of Sam when he wanted to.
After that night, Dean had been more careful. He didn't tease Sam directly anymore, clamped down on his boisterous, flirtatious comments, stifled himself almost mid-sentence sometimes to keep from accidentally tripping into dangerous territory.
The result had been awkward at best, downright tense the rest of the time. Sam felt wound tight all the time, skin pulled thin over his bones, tamped down and repressed so much when Dean was around it made him snappish, angry, more pissed off at Dean than he had a right to be. But they managed. Somehow they found a detente that almost worked, most of the time. It sure beat that first year, which they'd spent mostly apart and more miserable than either of them ever wanted to think about.
So Dean knew what Jessica looked like, more or less.
The clang of the big metal door at the top of the stairs let Sam know someone was coming. Brady, he hoped.
Sam had already pulled the table back, dimmed the light so that only two of the little desk lights were burning. Very few students ever came here to study; it was deep in the stacks, unknown to most, and pretty dark most of the time, since it was underground. Not the kind of place native Californians would seek out. Sam had discovered it early in his first semester and made it his home. One day Brady had followed him, bringing his barely-contained crush on Sam with him, and at first Sam wasn't sure he could stand it. He wasn't sure he could study with Brady there, oozing lust and need and unrequited desire.
But Brady was a serious student, like Sam, and Sam tolerated his company, learned to shut out the lustful thoughts bursting from Brady's brain so he could study in relative peace. They never spoke, and Brady didn't make it a habit so much that he made himself a nuisance, so it worked out.
Now Sam could hear footsteps on the stair, slow and heavy, like Brady was taking his time.
Or like he was carrying something.
Sure enough, when he reached the bottom of the stairs and turned toward where Sam was hiding, Sam could see that Brady carried a body over his shoulder, fireman-style, long, blonde hair swinging almost down to his knees.
Sam closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, forcing himself to relax. When he opened them again Brady had stopped, just out of the ring of light from one of the tables, so that his face was still in shadow.
"Hey, Sammy, I know you're down here," Brady called out, waiting a beat to see if Sam would answer. When he didn't, Brady shifted his feet and bent forward a little, letting Jessica slide from his shoulder and onto the floor, right there in the light where Sam could see that she was unconscious.
"I brought your little friend along," Brady stated the obvious. "Well, not exactly little. This girl is almost as tall as you, Sammy."
Sam let his breath out slow, focusing on Brady's use of the present tense to describe Jessica. Not dead, then.
"Let her go," Sam growled through gritted teeth, staying where he was in the shadows for the moment.
Brady tilted his handsome head, focused his attention on the direction of Sam's voice, letting his lips curl up in a small smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
"I will, after we have our little talk," he agreed. "For now, she's insurance."
"Against what?" Sam asked, vying for time, waiting for Brady to move closer.
"You know what, Sammy," Brady answered, smooth and cocksure.
Good. Let his over-confidence be his undoing.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sam spit out, struggling to control the urge to move, to jump this bastard and shake him out of Brady's body.
Sam could feel Brady inside, desperate with fear, fighting to stay sane after the things the demon had been making him do; Sam glimpsed some of Brady's memories, and it made his stomach roil. Brought tears to his eyes.
Focus. Need to stay focused.
"Oh, I think you do, Sammy," the demon purred, taking a step closer. "You think you're the big hero, don't you? Think you're going to save your friend. But you know what? He's already dead. I'm the only thing keeping him alive."
Sam closed his eyes, fighting the despair and guilt that welled up in him at the demon's words.
"But don't worry, Sammy," the demon went on. "I like it here. It's fun. Brady had a lot of friends, a lot of people who liked him and trusted him. I'm having way too much fun defiling every single one of them."
He took another step, then turned back to gesture at Jessica. "I might even decide to play with this sweet morsel here," the demon grinned, and Sam could feel the malevolent lust rolling through Brady's body, making Brady's dick twitch and harden. "She's got such a thing for you, Sammy. She's so hot for you, she'd probably let me fuck her just because I've fucked you. She'd probably beg for it."
"Stay away from her!" Sam ground out, gritting his teeth so hard it made his jaw ache.
"Well now, that's up to you, Sammy," the demon said. "Why don't you come on out here where I can see you so we can talk about it?"
Sam could hear the implicit threat in the demon's voice. He took a deep breath, clenched and unclenched his fists, then took a step forward, out of the dark and into the pool of light cast by the nearby desk light, taking a wide-legged stance so the demon could see he was unarmed.
"What do you want?" Sam demanded.
The demon took his time answering, letting his gaze run up and down Sam's body appreciatively, letting Sam read the unadulterated lust in his eyes.
"I think you know, Sammy," the demon smirked, licking his bottom lip slowly. "We're impressed. You can see us. Your abilities have grown, just as our father knew they would. You couldn't do that when you were younger, but now you can tell right away when a person's possessed. It's a skill we were hoping you'd develop."
"Why?" Sam shook his head. "What difference does it make if I can see demons or not? Why does that matter to you?"
"Everything about you matters to me, Sammy," the demon hissed, taking another step, and Sam had to force himself not to glance up at the devil's trap, or at the invisible line in the floor where he needed Brady to stand for the trap to work. "You're special. Our father has plans for you. And in the meantime, you and I can be besties again, just like before. There's so much you still need to learn, and I'm a master. I can teach you."
"You want to be my teacher," Sam scoffed. "Right."
Brady's slow grin made Sam's skin crawl. "My father's blood runs in your veins. You're one of us, Sammy," he purred, voice low and dark. "You're meant to serve a higher purpose. Or a lower one, if you know what I mean. With my help, you can learn to be the superstar you were always meant to be."
Sam felt a cold snake of fear slide up his spine at the demon's words, touching the darkness that had always been deep inside him, reminding him that he was unclean. Impure. Wrong.
"Oh, come on, Sammy," the demon coaxed, giving Sam the teasing shoulder-roll that Brady often used when he was being his most convincing. "You and me, we could have so much fun together! Just like old times. What do you say?"
When Sam didn't answer, just drew in a shaky breath and closed his eyes against his own self-disgust, the demon continued.
"I remember, Sam. I remember how good you felt, in my mouth."
Sam cheeks flushed hot; the demon sounded so much like Brady, despite his words, and Sam couldn't help remembering how much he liked it when Brady touched him, when Brady kissed him. Brady used just this tone of voice when he was trying to get Sam to loosen up, to come out of his shell for a minute and live a little, stop all his brooding and just hang out. Be a normal guy for once.
The demon must've read the hesitation in Sam's face, must've been encouraged by it. He took one more step, putting his hand out as if to encourage Sam to take it, to come to him.
Just as Sam had hoped, the demon's over-confidence was his undoing. That last step put him squarely inside the devil's trap, and Sam couldn't help the little triumphant smile that crept along his lips.
The moment he realized he was trapped, the demon's expression changed, first to a look of shock, then grimacing rage. He looked up at the trap on the ceiling above his head, then scowled at Sam, eyes gone pure black, clenching his fists and his jaw as he made a deep growling noise, inhuman and grating.
The demon didn't look like Brady anymore, and Sam was grateful.
"You can't hold me," the demon growled as Sam stepped back, pulled out his vial of holy water and the little Latin book with the exorcism rite.
Sam ignored him as he began the rite, tossing holy water into the demon's face as much to remind himself that this wasn't Brady as to distract it.
Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas...
"You can't exorcise me, Sam," the demon panted after shaking off the effects of the water from its hissing face.
"Watch me," Sam muttered before continuing the rite.
"Brady will die!" the demon insisted. "You'll kill your best friend!"
Sam steeled himself, tossing another splash of holy water into the demon's face as he went on with the rite, holding the little Latin book in front of himself more as a way to stay focused than because he needed it. The lines were already memorized.
Omnis incursio infernalis adversarii...
"Listen to me, Sam," the demon was starting to struggle, starting to slip. Sam could feel it. "If you do this, you'll never know what's coming. I can help you. My father sent me here after you showed us what you could do last summer. Jesse was wrong, Sam. Plan's changed. You don't have three years! Shit's coming down the pike for you soon, kid! Real soon! I can help you prepare for it. Help make sure you're ready."
Sam could feel Brady's consciousness stirring deep inside his demon-possessed mind, hope rising as the demon began losing control, its hold on Brady beginning to weaken in response to the rite. Sam couldn't stop now. He owed it to Brady to set him free, no matter the consequences.
Ergo, draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica...
"No, Sam! This isn't how it's supposed to be! You need me!" The demon threw it's head back and howled with rage, clenched fists opening wide. "Father! You promised! You said I could have this!"
Vade, santana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciae...
The now-familiar rumbling began under Sam's feet, over his head, all around him; Sam braced himself on wide-spread legs, dropping the holy water so he could reach out and grab hold of a bookshelf as the ground began to shake.
Brady turned demon-crazed eyes on Sam, mouth a rictus of hysterical laughter.
"My father is coming for me," he growled. "He's coming to save me! He won't let you do this!"
Sam took a steadying breath, ignoring the surge of terror he felt at the demon's words.
Humiliare sub potenti manu Dei...
Dean's voice cut through the sound of rumbling, the demon's howling, and Sam spared a glance behind the struggling demon, who had fallen to his knees as if in frantic prayer now.
Dean stood at the bottom of the stairs, taking in the scene with a look of open-mouthed horror as the demon inside Brady rushed out of him in a burst of sparks and roiling black smoke. An overwhelming smell of sulfur filled the room as the demon's wails continued, amplified till Sam worried that his ear-drums would split. He glimpsed Dean covering his ears and cowering as the cloud inside the devil's trap began shooting tongues of flame. Sam could hear the now-familiar groaning of a huge metal door opening, then the moans of thousands of suffering souls carried on the rush of hot air as Hell opened up to swallow the demon and take it back down where it belonged.
The demon continued to wail, disembodied echoes ringing in Sam's ears long after the sound of an iron door slammed shut. Sam heard heavy iron bolts slide into place as the invisible door to Hell closed again and the smoke dissipated, leaving the crumpled form of Tyson Brady on the floor at Sam's feet. The rumbling continued for another minute or two, and the smell of sulfur lingered in the air. Then everything was still, quiet again the way only a library basement can be.
Sam dropped the Latin book and holy water flask and sank to his knees next to his former best friend, his former roommate, his former lover.
"Sam!" Dean's voice sounded choked, like he was struggling to breath through the cloud of sulfur. Like he was on the verge of tears.
"Check Jessica," Sam gasped as he reached out to press his fingers against Brady's neck, overcoming his own fear and hesitation. The demon was gone, but Brady's life was waning, Sam could sense it even before he found the weak pulse in Brady's carotid artery.
Brady's eyes fluttered open as Sam ran careful hands over his body, looking for injuries. He found a golf-ball sized bump on the back of Brady's head that began oozing blood as Sam touched it. Blood gurgled up Brady's throat and trickled out of his mouth, making him cough as he tried to focus his gaze on Sam's face.
"Shh, shh, lie still," Sam commanded softly, courage fading at the evidence of internal bleeding, of serious skull fracture. "Help is on the way."
Sam spared a glance at Dean, who was making the 911 call as he knelt next to Jessica and pressed two fingers to her throat. He nodded to Sam, silently communicating that Jessica was alive, just unconscious. Not dead.
"Sam," Brady gasped, his voice wrecked and shredded, struggling to speak through the blood welling up in his mouth. He waited till Sam looked up, forcing himself to focus with what Sam could see was great effort. "Thank you."
Sam's eyes teared up, his chest clenched as he shook his head. "No, no, you're gonna be fine, the doctors are gonna patch you up. You're okay, Brades, I promise."
Brady closed his eyes, clenched his hands in Sam's jacket as he tried to take a breath, causing more blood to well forth between his lips, trickling down his chin. "Sam, please..."
Sam could sense Brady's desperation, his fear as he faced his own death, physical pain overwhelming his ability to speak, threatening to pull him down into blessed unconsciousness.
Sam slipped his hand through Brady's hair, cradling him gently, overwhelmed with compassion for this man who had been his first friend here in this friendless place, this place where Sam had been lonely and grieving and missing his brother like a hole in his heart that couldn't be filled.
"Tell my mother I love her," Brady whispered, voice so soft and abused Sam had to bend close to hear him.
"Sure," Sam nodded, tears rolling down his cheeks unnoticed. "Sure, Brady. Of course."
Brady sucked in a sharp breath, his body shuddering with the effort, and tears leaked out the corners of his eyes; Sam could feel his pain, his fading consciousness, his struggle to comprehend Sam's words. His last coherent thought was relief that the demon was gone, and it was this thought that Sam held onto as Brady breathed his last, his final, bloody breath leaving his dead body on a choppy wet gurgle.
Sam lost track of time, kneeling on the cement floor, cradling Brady's body, his senses straining for one more thought, one more whisper from Brady's mind. But all was still. Brady was gone.
"Sam?" Jessica's voice, groggy and confused, cut through Sam's grief, Sam's crushing sense of failure.
Sam glanced up. Dean was still kneeling next to Jessica, who had regained consciousness and was struggling to sit up.
"Hey, it's okay," Dean soothed. "You're gonna be fine."
"What happened?" Jessica asked as she put her hand to her obviously aching head.
Then she saw Brady.
"Oh my God, Sam, what happened?"
Sam's eyes spilled, tears rolling down his cheeks as he shook his head. "He's gone," he said brokenly. "I couldn't save him."
"Okay now, listen to me." Dean snapped into command mode like he was born to it. "The cops are coming. There's nothing more we can do here, but if we stay it won't be good. You know the drill, Sam. We cover our tracks and get out."
Sam clenched his jaw, nodded. He lowered Brady's body to the floor gently, cradling his head as carefully as he could. He took one long, last look at the body of his former friend, then took a deep breath and rose to his feet, rubbing his blood-covered hands on the front of his jeans.
"What?" Jessica stared. "You're leaving? You – you can't just leave the scene of a crime! What are you talking about? Sam?"
"Jess, listen to me," Sam crossed the room, helped Jessica to her feet. "We can't stay here. My brother and I – what we do is kind of unorthodox."
"Illegal, you mean?" Jessica leaned on Sam, held onto him like she was suddenly afraid he would bolt. "What the hell just happened here?"
"I don't have time to explain," Sam said. He was aware that Dean was cleaning the room, gathering his holy water flask and Latin book, erasing any sign of their presence here. "I have to go, and I probably won't be back. Just – just tell the cops you found Brady here, just like that. Okay? They'll believe you."
"No," Jessica shook her head, clenching her jaw. She pushed away from Sam so she could look up into his face. "No way, Sam. I need to know what happened. Brady's my friend! He's your friend! You can't just walk out on what happened here! You have to tell me what's going on!"
"Jess – " Sam started to protest, formulating a lie that would make sense to her, knowing how desperately they needed to get away.
Then Dean barged in, reaching around from behind Sam to slip his flask back into his jacket pocket.
"He was possessed by a demon," Dean said curtly, pressing up against Sam's back so Sam could feel his heat. "Sam exorcised the demon, but the thing had already killed your friend there. Probably made him cart-wheel off a roof while he was high on something. That's what demons do. They possess you, and then they kill you."
"Dean!" Sam started to turn, to face his brother, but Dean had his hands on Sam's shoulders, holding him still, facing Jessica. "You can't just tell her that!"
"I just did, Sammy," Dean shrugged. "And the really sick part of this is, one of those things is probably coming for her next. So I say we all get the hell out of here and let the cops try to figure this one out on their own. What d'ya say?"
Jessica's mouth had dropped open at Dean's first words; she searched Sam's face for confirmation and seemed to find it there in his annoyed indignation, his shocked surprise that his brother would break their cardinal rule never to tell civilians what they did. Jessica frowned; she glanced at Brady's body, still lying inside the devil's trap, and Sam could see her mind working back over the months since she met Sam, suddenly making sense of his secretive nature, his mood-swings and nightmares, the sigils and saltings and odd paraphernalia she found lying around their apartment...
"This is what you do," Jessica whispered, half to herself. "You're like the Exorcist."
Sirens wailed in the distance, drawing closer.
"Not exactly," Sam shook his head, reaching for Jessica's arm. She let him take it, let him guide her toward the stairs, quickly and steadily, Dean following close behind. "Look, I'll explain everything. Let's just get out of here."