Warnings: The following is a work of fiction. It is meant for mature adults and deals with mature and possibly disturbing themes. Forced to a category, it would be dark fiction and containing both violence and sexual violence. It is a horror story.  It's also a love story.

The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.

My thanks to Vega Rin and to Meghan Black for the support and contributions and hand holding. The artwork is by Meg. All errors in canon, editing, grammar and punctuation are mine.

For more specific notes or warnings, go here:

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False Comforts
by Maygra


The first night it happened, Dean tensed up, ready to wake Sam from whatever nightmare he was fighting. Except after a second, he realized Sam's moans didn't exactly sound like he was scared or distressed. Or not distressed from fear or dread.

So he hesitated, lifted his head and watched his brother twist the sheets in his hands and listened to him gasp softly.

Dean didn't get embarrassed by much but he felt his face go hot when Sam suddenly fell silent and relaxed. No way to misunderstand that particular aroma.

The second time it happened, Dean pulled a pillow over his head. Sam was louder this time, and he could give the hotel bed's Magic Fingers a run for their money, he was shaking so bad. Dean was not getting turned on by his brother's whimpers, but shit, he did have some sympathy, and his hand crept into his shorts.

He supposed wet dreams were better than nightmares, but, man. He thought Sam had outgrown them at sixteen.

He went totally still when Sam suddenly sat straight up, wide awake, panting harshly. Dean pretended to be asleep. He heard Sam's breathing ease and listened to him get out of bed, cross the room and go into the bath. He cracked an eye open just as Sam closed the door. His own urges subsided and he sighed. This was better than the screaming Sam had been doing, at least. He fell asleep before Sam came back out of the bathroom.

Wet dreams or nightmares, Sam still didn't look like he was getting enough sleep, and where having a nice, erotic, arousing dream did Dean a lot of good and eased all kinds of tension, they seemed to have the opposite effect on Sam. His brother really was a freak.

Only that wasn't fair and Dean knew it. Being glad Sam was with him was one thing. Being happy about why Sam was now his constant companion was something else entirely. Never in a million years would Dean have wished this kind of grief on his little brother.

They were on the move again shortly afterward and the dreams seemed to subside. It was nearly a month before it happened again.  They were low on cash and nothing had jumped up on their radar. They stopped in Milwaukee and Sam found a job at a coffee bar while Dean found a job at a local nursery unloading spring plants.

They slept in the car the first week, showering at the Y, before they gathered enough cash to rent a room by the week from a couple of college professors. Dean had to admire his brother's smooth approach -- or maybe it was just familiarity. Drs. Leda and Jeremy Owen usually only rented to students attending U of W. Sam's story was truthful as far as it went -- that he'd been at Stanford, pre-law.  That he was thinking of changing both degrees and school and was looking at the University of Wisconsin with an eye toward a degree in education instead.

Either Sam's earnestness (it had its uses), or the fact that the room was unoccupied  mid-term, swayed them. Dean figured the cash up front didn't hurt much either. The room was on the second floor, was comfortably large and had its own bathroom. Currently it had only a single bed but there was a sleeper sofa, and a separate entrance out a side door that led to a long, steep staircase attached to the outside of the house. It gave them some added independence and freedom of movement but Dean was seriously glad it was May and not November. Breakfast was included. Dean figured the single meal alone was probably worth the rent. Well, that and the fact that the queen-sized sleeper sofa was more comfortable than some of the hotel beds he'd slept in. He took the sofa and let Sam have the single.

Sam went back to working out something in his dreams and Dean ignored it as best he could, didn't mention it. It was better than screaming, better than Sam staying up all night staring into space. The downside was that Dean, really, really wanted to get laid.

The routine of it all nearly drove Dean crazy. They got up, ate, went to work, returned home, studied a little, maybe caught a movie. Sam slept more than he had in weeks, but Dean was ready to hunt up something to relieve the tedium.

He didn't actually expect Sam to be the solution.

On weekends, Sam worked later, the wannabe-Starbuck's staying open until midnight. Sam liked the work, liked his coworkers and he made a kick-ass cappuccino. As bored as Dean was, he couldn't deny that Sam seemed to thrive when things were, well…normal. Not for the first time, he acknowledged that Sam wasn't like him, or like Dad. It didn't change anything, really, but Dean could regret it in private.

Three weeks in, on a Saturday night and Dean was reading when Sam came in. Sam gave him a look and asked if Dean had been waiting up for him. Dean denied it. Sam didn’t buy it and looked a little put out. Dean couldn’t help it and he didn't intend to mother, but he worried anyway. Despite Sam's little nightly fantasies and even though they hadn't heard the slightest hint of anything paranormal in this burg since they'd arrived, Sam seemed almost too relaxed. It bothered Dean and he worried.

Sam brought him a slice of key lime pie from the shop and then ducked into the shower.  "I'm off tomorrow. You want to go into town?" he asked when he came out, toweling himself dry.

Dean shrugged and nodded. "Something different."

Sam smiled at him and pulled on sweat pants before dropping into bed. "Sounds like a plan," he said. He was asleep a few minutes later.

Dean finished the chapter of his book, reminded himself to check out club recs in Milwaukee. A little beer, maybe some dancing. Maybe he'd get lucky. He seriously needed to get lucky. He glanced at Sam and chewed on his lip. Sam could find his own fun.

Not two hours after he fell into bed, Sam's whimpers woke him up again. He sighed and stared at his brother’s shape in the darkness. Maybe he should make sure Sam got laid in Milwaukee. He wasn't sure how well that would fly, but it wasn't Jessica's name Sam was murmuring in his sleep and Dean was glad of it, if he were honest. The last thing he wanted was for Sam to be haunted by his dead lover forever. But the fact that Sam was back on this again was, well, disturbing on a lot of levels.

He rolled over and tried to shut the sounds out, Sam's breathing going short and fast and his flailing all the more obvious in the single bed.

It went on a little too long and Dean sighed and pushed up, not entirely sure how to handle this. If Sam were twelve again, he'd have kicked him back to sleep. Sam was a lot more likely to come up swinging at twenty-two.

"Sam…Sam…" he said it in a normal voice, moving to the edge of Sam's bed and Dean was really, seriously glad the room was dark. Sam was still thrashing slightly, making guttural noise in his throat, and it took Dean a minute to realize that while Sam was twisting against the sheets, his arms were held rigidly at his sides, and his legs equally as locked, spread wide under the blankets.

Not moans of pleasure or even desire or frustration. Sam, honest to God, sounded like he was choking.

Any qualms about embarrassing Sam or himself vanished and Dean gripped his shoulders, shaking him hard. "Sam!" he yelled and hauled Sam upward, thwacking him hard between the shoulder blades. Sam coughed harshly and gasped for air and Dean dared leave him for the half-second it took to turn on a light.

Sam's face was red and he was holding his throat, eyes blinking confusedly. The lighting was bad but Dean would have sworn Sam's lips had a bluish tinge to them. And despite the gasping and the obvious disorientation, Sam curled up, groaned, and pressed the heel of his hand to his crotch. His brother was still working through a pretty impressive boner.

"Sam?" Dean asked, not touching him but ducking his head to see Sam's face. "That was a hell of a nightmare," he said. He twisted around and snagged the bottle of water Sam always kept by the bed and offered it to him. Sam took it and cautiously took a swallow.

"I don't remember…a nightmare. Shit," he said and curled up further. "Sorry. What? Did I wake you up?"

Pretty much every night for the last month, Dean thought, but didn't say it. Now was not the time to bring it up and Sam looked really confused and uncertain. The shock of waking him up had probably chased the substance of whatever the dream or nightmare was away and Dean stood up. "More the other way around. You -- you were choking."

Sam rubbed his throat again, but he was relaxing, the tension bleeding out little by little.  "Thanks. Swallowed wrong, I guess," he said and moved carefully to the side of the bed.

He seemed steady enough and Dean dropped back on his own bed while Sam made his way to the bathroom. Dean rolled over and closed his eyes when he heard the shower start up.

Sam seemed fine in the morning. He looked tired but that wasn't anything new and he was still up for Milwaukee.

Dean was just happy to be on the road again, if only for a day.

They were still hoarding their money but cheap entertainment was easy to find if you knew how, and Dean could have watched the pretty girls all day. Sam had an unnatural propensity for bookstores and computer centers but he traded off when Dean wanted to hit a couple of pawn shops in case anything interesting turned up.

"I have found some of my best charms in pawn shops," Dean said, at the second one. "People have no idea what they are giving up."

They also found a pretty impressive array of computer hardware that Sam treated like they had magic of their own.

"Oh my God, you're such a geek," Dean said after Sam had excitedly identified a half dozen apparently hard-to-find bits of hardware. They all looked like futuristic movie props to Dean.

Sam eyed the long-barreled classic Colt in Dean's hand and raised an eyebrow. "So says Rambo."

They grabbed burgers at a place that wasn't McDonalds and Dean tapped the tender of the quiet bar there for some place to expend a little energy. Armed with the names of three local clubs and directions, he was ready to stretch a little. Sam didn't look entirely sold but he didn't object, which really, was about the best Dean had hoped for.

"Did you not party at all, at college?" Dean asked him as they drove. It was early yet but he wanted to know where he was going.

"I did," Sam said, and he was a little defensive but it drained away quickly. "Not so much before Jess. She…she liked to go out," he said and it could have all stopped there but for once Dean pressed on, not sure if it was right or wise. Sam rarely talked about Jessica at all and pop psych or not, Dean didn't think that was normal. It was a flip of the coin to press though. Sam's mood could go sour fast.

"So, you danced, you went to classes a little hung over," he urged.

Sam struggled with it. Dean could see it in his face but finally he nodded. "Yeah, sometimes. Pre-law can be….sometimes I needed to get out of the library or implode," he offered.

Dean gave him a wink. "I knew we were related. So, that's the plan. Find a club, have a few beers, go a little deaf, check out the local talent."

Same gave him a half smile. "I'm really cramping your style, aren't I?"

"Naw, Sammy. I've got plenty of style. Way more than you can cramp. Ever."

Sam's smile broadened at that and Dean gave himself a mental score for that. Maybe he should be pressing harder to get Sam out of his head more often.

They were way early for the bars, and spent a little time in a local discounter, restocking the trunk of the car with the more mundane necessities of life like peroxide, bandaids, and bottled water. For Dean it was as much second nature as anything -- you stayed prepared. When you moved around as much as they did, sometimes there were a lot of miles between K-Marts. Sam got a little quieter and Dean rushed through it, then steered Sam toward a real Starbucks just to get his mind off everything else.

It was still early when they hit the first club and Dean wasn't inclined to linger too long. The music was loud but the crowd sparse. Still, the first beer tasted good and Sam relaxed again, tapped his feet to the music.

Dean nearly dropped his beer when Sam was the first to hit the barely occupied floor.  It was one dance and Sam didn't embarrass himself. In fact, for someone who always seemed to look like his body was too long for comfort, he was pretty smooth.

"I did not know you had it in you," Dean said when, after two dances, Sam walked the girl back to her friends.

Sam shrugged, took a sip of his warming beer. "I liked the songs."

Dean had never heard either song before.

An hour later the place was filling up a bit more and Dean put his brother's obvious social adeptness out of his mind, found himself a nice leggy brunette and took his own turn. She was easy to chat up, easy on the eyes but it was way too early to even try for more than a dance or two. Dean bought her a beer and talked to her for a while, took another dance and looked for Sam.

He wasn't dancing but he was talking and Dean saw him differently, maybe for the first time. Sam was easy with people in a way Dean wasn't. Dean could talk and flirt and wisecrack. He could play the cop, the consultant, or reporter. He could get the information he needed and be done. He didn’t doubt his own skills and he didn't make any promises he couldn't keep. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually just sat down and talked to somebody just for the conversation

Sam actually talked to people; standing in the corner near the edge of the floor, where the music wasn't so loud, a couple of girls and one with a boy friend, but the guy looked less threatened by Sam than kind of willing to know him better.

Dean didn't usually get that reaction from women's boyfriends.

Two hours in and they both needed to step outside and let the pounding in their ears subside a little. The club was nice but not quite the array of wide possibilities Dean was looking for.

"You've got a litmus test for clubs?"

"I've got a litmus test for the people who go to them," Dean said as they walked back to the car. "Nicely built, no hang-ups, lives within 10 miles…"

Sam rolled his eyes. "And if you get lucky?"

"It's never luck, Sam," Dean said confidently. "It's skill and a gift and what makes life worth living."

It was the wrong thing to say. Dean knew it the minute it fell out of his mouth and silently kicked himself. "Don't worry. If I get lucky, I'll find you a nice, all-night diner."

Sam pulled it together pretty well, giving Dean a look Dean wasn't sure how to interpret. "Where now?" The question had all the enthusiasm of wet noodles.

Dean let out a mental sigh. "There's a club called Three, supposed to be the spot."

Sam settled in the seat with his head back. "As long as the beer's cold."

Cranking the car, Dean glanced over at him. "You want me to take you back? I can come back up by myself."

For a second Dean thought Sam would take him up on it -- almost hoped for it. The only thing worse than knowing Sam was miserable was watching him be miserable.

His brother was made of stronger stuff. "Naw. Let's go. I know you've been going crazy. Change of pace is good for both of us."

"Sam," Dean said with mock admiration. "That's a surprisingly mature observation for one so young."

"Just drive, Jeeves," Sam waved a hand and Dean snorted with laughter. Sam's smile was small but genuine.

Club Three was the place. Dean knew it as soon as he walked in. The cover was a little steeper than he'd planned so he crossed the third club off his list without a qualm.  Nothing fancy, painted industrial fittings, a bar that could sleep twenty or more and a multilevel dance floor and table space that offered the best of both worlds -- a place to sit and watch and an appetizer buffet. It was almost more upscale than Dean was comfortable with or knew what to do with, but he did like a challenge.

To Dean's mind the ratio was perfect. Plenty of couples, groups of friends but like any really popular club there were slightly more women than men, all sizes and shapes. A different kind of buffet. The downside was it could get expensive fast, the way less-popular, road house type bars weren't.

In some ways having Sam there made it easier and Dean took advantage of Sam's willingness to have a good time. It could get awkward when a woman came in with a friend and he had to pick one or the other. Usually he'd dance with both but in some weird girl language he knew who he picked first was always a gamble and could be a deal breaker.

He spotted a pair of them near the end of the bar, practically dancing together but wanting to look available. "Blonde or brunette?" Dean asked.

"Brunette," Sam said without hesitation. A closer look and Dean figured he could have pegged it -- yeah, the similarities were in coloring and build, not so much in the details, but too much like Jess for Sam to deal. Lydia and Amanda said yes practically before they finished asking the question.

Worked for him though and he felt positively blessed when after a single frenetic bit of techno pop, he got a ballad. Lydia talked some, the inevitable questions, not seeming put out or off when Dean told her no, they weren't from the area, just passing through. He managed to not look for Sam once during the whole long dance, was further encouraged when Lydia made her fingers at home in the belt loops on his jeans

They stayed there until the beat changed.

She was willing to cut from the floor for after that dance, to grab a drink and a corner of an already crowded table. Unlike Dean, she did check for her friend and they found Sam and Amanda sitting at the bar, also drinking and once more Sam had that look on his face like Amanda was possibly the most interesting person he'd ever met.

Dean gave him a silent, "go, Sammy," before pressing his own interests.

Lydia gave every indication of being willing but she wanted to be wooed a little and Dean obliged. A few more dances, and he was rethinking his plan for Sam and the diner -- he should give Sam the keys and tell him to come back in a couple of days.

She didn't live far but she did have to get Amanda home and Dean thanked any kind spirits in the vicinity when she told him that no, she and Amanda did not share an apartment, they were just friends.

By the time they reached the bar, Amanda was looking slightly put out and Sam was oblivious while he talked to another woman.

The second girl was a little goth-chic for either Dean's tastes or the club. She looked up at Dean through narrow, tinted glasses that seemed out of place in a semi-dark club. But she had the look down in her all black and deep purple garb, hair too black to be real and he wondered what her real hair color was. Hard to tell under a make-up job that was pretty obviously meant to make her look paler.

"You picking up a fan club, bro'?" Dean asked while Lydia pulled Amanda aside.

Sam's smile was easy and he was still clueless as to how much of a crimp he actually was putting in Dean's evening. "Dean, this is Kerry. Kerry, my brother, Dean. Kerry's a regular at the cafe."

"Nice to meet you," Kerry said, and smiled when Dean did. Dean would be hard pressed to say which of them was less impressed than the other, but she offered her hand and he took it. She had a surprisingly strong grip.

"Same. Sam," Dean tossed his head and Sam excused himself, stepping aside.

"I'm going to take Lydia and Amanda home," he said and Sam stared at him blankly for a long moment before he caught on.

"Oh, okay…uh," he shrugged and glanced back at the bar. "Okay. Let me uh…" he pulled away and Dean turned back to Lydia, once more thanking whatever karma he had when Lydia gave him an encouraging smile.

Then Sam was back, Kerry at his elbow. "Okay, so Kerry was supposed to meet a friend who didn't show. She's headed back and I can…catch a ride."

"Thanks, Kerry," Dean said and meant it. Dean didn't even question it. Didn’t think about it. And not until they had split up in the parking lot and he watched Sam walking off with Kerry toward her car did it even occur to him that maybe he should have.

He didn't think about it again until hours later. Lydia was no more shy in bed than she had been in the club and even had the sex not been good, Dean would probably have appreciated her for the firm mattress and clean sheets. Any other time, he might have fallen asleep, offered to cook breakfast but even after Lydia had drifted off, he found himself staring at the ceiling. Carefully he slipped from the bed and found his jeans, moving silently through Lydia's bedroom as if he were hunting something. Just outside her door he pulled his phone out and dialed.

It took Sam maybe six rings to pick up, just a couple shy of when Dean might have started to worry.

Sam's voice was thick with sleep. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Yeah, I do. It's right here on my phone," Dean said.

"Why are you calling me? Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Dean said, caught off guard that Sam would ask. Not that Sam would care, but that he asked at all. It had been along time since that had been someone else's job rather than Dean's.

"Yeah, I'm good. I'm just -- I'm headed back. Didn't want to get there and have you try and douse me with holy water or something."

"Would it work?"

"Funny. Funny guy."

"So, did you have--"

"--I had great sex--"

"--fun?" Sam finished with a snort of laughter. "I'm glad for you."

"I'm glad for me too," Dean said as he jiggled his keys in his hand. "You have fun with Kelly?"

"Kerry. She drove me back. We talked a little. She's just someone I know, Dean," Sam said.

"I know. But she seems to like you--"

"Dean," Sam's voice had gone flat. "Just…don't. I'm fine. Don't wake me up when you come in."

"Okay," Dean said but Sam was gone. It was late (or early) and he'd pushed too hard, finally. And Sam had been sleeping which was a kind of hallowed ground in and of itself anymore.

He half thought he should have left Lydia a note then dismissed it, concentrating on the road. No expectations, no regrets. A couple more weeks and he and Sam would be hitting the road anyway.

When Dean parked, there was a light on in the window of the room he and Sam were renting. He sat in the car for a minute staring up at it -- torn between guilt and aggravation. He shouldn't have called, even though Sam would probably have woken up when he got in anyway.

Sam was in bed, but he was reading. He looked up when Dean let himself into the room.

Dean spread his hands wide. "Sorry, man."

Sam shrugged. "It's okay."

It probably was. A couple of hours was better than none.

"You gonna see her again?" Sam asked as Dean shed his coat and shirt, going into the bathroom get ready for bed.

"Nah. She's nice. Very, but…I like keeping my options open." He half expected Sam to come back with something but his brother was silent. Dean flicked his gaze against the mirror, the angle letting him just barely see Sam. The far too common disapproval wasn't there, instead Sam just looked thoughtful, the book he'd been reading laying flat and wide in his lap.

"Your friend, Kerry -- she's a geek isn't she?" he asked and saw a ghost of a smile on Sam's face.

"Yeah, pretty much. But we're not friends."

Wiping his face with a towel Dean stepped back into the room. "You can make friends, Sam."

"Kind of pointless if you don't stay around long enough to keep them isn't it?" Sam didn't look angry about it, but he closed the book and set it on the table. "Besides, you probably owe her a coffee or something for clearing your way to Lydia."

"I was doing just fine, thanks."

"Hanging out in a diner would not have been my idea of a good time," Sam warned and slid down between the sheets.

Dean almost pointed out to him that Amanda had seemed pretty willing too, but he was not, not going to pick at that particular scab. He rubbed at his face then stripped down to his boxers, emulating Sam's example. A few more hours of sleep would be good. He turned out the light.

"Did you have a good time?" he asked into the darkness. He hadn't asked before.

"Yeah, I did. It was good. We should take breaks more often." Sam sounded like he was trying not to laugh at him and Dean grinned into the darkness before rolling over to sleep.


Sam envied Dean's ability to apparently sleep anytime, anywhere. It wasn't exactly true but there was enough contrast between Dean's somnambulistic abilities and Sam's, that envy of it bothered Sam less than the other things about his brother. Of course, the number of enviables stacked up pretty substantially against the number of personality quirks and behaviors and attitudes Dean had that occasionally drove Sam bat-shit insane. Some of them were new, some of them were accompanied by the oldest memories Sam could claim as his own.

Dean was a little harder and sometimes colder than Sam remembered. It didn't actually bother him, per se, just something he'd noticed early on. He didn't have to look far to find out why it was, but it was a constant reminder of the wide gulf between them they had yet to breach entirely. Sam wasn't planning on laying all the effort there at Dean's feet, either. He was pretty clear who had dug that trench and put the distance there in the first place.

No, that was on him, pretty much, and it didn't really matter that Dean had been the one to drag him back into this -- as much as Sam wanted it to be. Dean had rarely asked him for anything in their lives together, and the one thing he had asked for, Sam couldn't give him. That was four years ago and even long after he'd left his father and brother behind, it never even crossed Sam's mind that if he needed Dean, his brother wouldn't be there. He'd give Sam all kinds of shit about it, but he'd be there. It was a kind of loyalty Sam wasn't sure he deserved, but he didn't doubt it at all.

Dean dropped off to sleep almost instantly. He was a light sleeper at the best of times -- that hadn't changed. Sam had been once too, a long time ago. In the last couple of years though, between classes and studying and working and all the various strains and stresses that went along with college life, he'd learned to sleep deep. Jess used to tease him when she'd wake him in the morning, that he slept like the dead.

More than once he'd held back from telling her, that a lot of times, the dead didn't sleep so well.  He never had though. He'd never commented on how the frivolity of occasions like hallowe'en parties mocked the reality of fact and fates that weren’t funny at all. But to resist it at all would have opened him to questions of why and would have required that he explain a lot more about his life before college than he was ready to divulge. Jessica hadn't liked it or understood it -- and more than once Sam thought he might lose her over it. You couldn't have a relationship without trust and Sam knew that as well, if not better, than anyone. After all, no matter how estranged from his family he'd been, he'd never not trusted his brother. Sam knew all about trust.

He hadn't trusted Jessica enough to risk being called for the freak he actually knew he was. And now she was gone because of it and he wasn't sure he'd ever risk letting someone that close again. He'd always thought Dean was more like their father -- now he wasn't so sure.

And knowing all of that, Dean was still pushing him toward making "friends". That wasn't what he really meant and Sam knew it. As smart as Dean could be when he wasn't being a total pain in the ass, he was really missing the exit on this one by a mile.

Dean might be fooling the world with his attitude but Sam wasn't fooled and he wasn't blind, and he wasn't stupid. Dean wasn't as self-contained or selfish as he appeared and he never had been. Sam of all people, knew that.

Kerry had missed it. Sam wasn't surprised and he hadn't risen harshly to Dean's defense when, during the drive back, Kerry had looked him and said, "Your brother's kind of a jerk."

The observation had amused Sam more than insulted him. "You just met him. He's all right. He's a good guy."

"I guess. I mean, I know he's your brother and all, Sam, but…" She'd fallen silent and Sam had been willing to let it go. Women either liked Dean immediately, were taken in by his good-looks and charm and bad-boy attitude, or they weren't. Those that weren't tended to find him obnoxious and self-centered. Kerry, apparently, fell into the latter category.

"He just…you know, he reminds me of my…brother," she said.

"I didn't know you had a brother," Sam said, willing to change the subject or at least redirect. He hadn't needed course in pre-law to know how to do it either.

"Yeah. Just, you know, always looking at what…he doesn't have instead of what he does. Wanting something and thinking he deserves it."

There was a bitterness to her tone that made Sam sit up a little straighter. "I don't know him, Kerry, but there's nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself. At least I don't think so." At least he hadn't thought so, four years ago. He was no longer as sure as he sounded.

"There is when you sacrifice your whole family to get it," she said and Sam found himself staring out the window, throat tightening a little.  "Sorry," she said. "Really, Sam, I'm sorry. You're right. I don't know your brother. He just reminds me of mine and that's probably not fair."

"It's okay," he said. "But Dean, he's  -- family is really important to him. The rest is just…"

"Macho, testosterone-driven posturing?" she asked and one of the things Sam liked about Kerry was her quick, small grins.

He let a small chuckle escape. "Something like that, yeah."

"Well, I guess he can't be all bad. He's got you for a brother," she said and Sam only smiled at her, not sure what to say. He hadn't lied to Dean. He barely knew her at all. She came into the café nearly every day, usually in the hours they were the slowest, between four and six in the afternoon. She sat at the same brightly lit table, usually with her books. She ordered the same thing, which after the first few times, Sam had ready for her the minute she walked in. She liked that and he always got one of those quick smiles. They'd exchanged maybe a thousand words in the last few weeks. She was student, preparing for pre-law which gave them some basis of conversation, but she didn't flirt with Sam the way some of the female students and not a few of the guys who frequented the shop did. She didn't socialize. She looked out of place in the bright café with her dark hair and dark clothes and pale face, and the narrow dark-blue tinged glasses. She was a dark outsider in a brighter world and Sam understood and could empathize with that much.

"My sister would love him," she said out of the blue when they were nearly back to Sam's rooms.

"You have a sister too?" Sam asked. Better to talk about her family than his.

"Mmmm. Big family. Everyone always vying for attention," she was smiling again, but the bitterness in her tone was back.

"Maybe that's the difference," Sam said, without really meaning to. "It's just me and Dean." And their father if you stretched the point.

She was pulling onto his street, driving a few miles under the speed limit as she had the whole way back from town. She drove carefully, like she didn't do it very often which was probably true. Most of the students lived on campus or close by. "Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be an only child," she said and carefully nudged the car next to the curb.

"You don't get along with any of your siblings?" he asked her, hand on the door. The conversation was uncomfortable but Kerry obviously needed to talk to someone. Sam didn't think that was the reason behind her offer to give him a ride, but it didn't stop his urge to listen. He'd known girls like her in Stanford -- once upon a time he'd thought they'd be the ones he'd be interested in, the ones more interested in learning than marriage, more comfortable in observing than participating. His own social skills had been adequate but not stellar. Too earnest, too concentrated on carving a life out for himself, rather than taking advantage of the life college offered him -- like he had to prove he'd made the right choice before he could enjoy it.

"Some better than others," she shrugged. "Family is family."

"Yeah, yeah it is. Even brothers," Sam said and gave her a smile. "Maybe yours will come around," he offered and pulled on the door handle.

She stared at him for a long moment before turning away. "No. not likely. He…he's dead."

"Oh, Kerry, I'm sorry," he said and at the same time felt a chill up his spine. Was this a side affect of his returning to this life, that he was going to keep being drawn to people who had lost people they loved, that they cared about? Like Laurie, like Andrea and Lucas. It came with the territory, he knew, but it was a slap in the face to be reminded that there was a reason why he and Dean did this. Their father too. Or maybe he was just more aware of their losses in the reflection of his own.

His hand slipped off the door handle. "Do you…do you want to talk about it? What happened? How long ago?"

She shrugged. "A couple of months and no. Thanks, Sam. I'm still kind of pissed off I guess -- mostly at…him. He tangled with someone cockier than himself and lost. If he'd stayed with us…"

It took Sam a second to get over the shock, not sure he'd heard her right. Before he could ask though she gave him another fast grin and shook her head. "You're sweet, but no, and it's late. I'll see you, Sam."

"Uh, okay. Thanks for the ride."


He got out but leaned back in. "Kerry, if you ever do want to talk about it--"

She smiled again. A longer one, showing teeth. "I know where to find you, Sam. See you."

He stepped back and closed the door and watched as she pulled away. He wiped at his face and headed inside.

A shower helped clear his head and relaxed him but he was still twisting over Kerry's story when he finally turned the light out and fell into bed. He'd meant it when he'd offered to let her talk -- he wasn't sure if he should have. He wasn't willing to talk about Jess, or that loss and really, it wasn't the same, but it was close if he'd understood Kerry correctly. Her brother had died suddenly, murdered, no time to reconcile, and not the cold comfort of a random accident. No less painful, but for a long time he lay in the dark wondering what he'd do if he lost Dean. Yeah, Kerry apparently had a big family and all the problems that could cause, but all the comforts too -- the shared grief, but it didn't mean the loss of her brother cut any less deeply. He wondered if all her dark attire weren't more mourning than attitude and what she'd been like before. He could only barely remember what he'd been like before Jess's death. Not the same, certainly.

For once sleep hadn't eluded him or tortured him and when Dean called, he'd had to struggle to wake up. He hadn't expected it -- hadn't expected to see his brother again until he got off work.

But maybe he should have, he thought after he'd hung up on Dean, feeling annoyed and guilty.

Maybe Kerry could be a friend or maybe she was just someone who needed a willing ear. He'd offered to let her talk but really, he'd had no business doing so. A few more weeks and he was pretty sure Dean would be ready to hit the road whether they had a reason or not. Being tied to one place didn't sit well with his brother, like he was almost afraid that if he did get comfortable he wouldn't want to leave. Why that scared Dean so much, Sam couldn't begin to understand. But at the same time, as much as he liked it, he wasn't willing to stay either. His father, Jess's killer -- those things still haunted him waking or sleeping. Staying here had only made it less of a thing that tore at his awareness and gave him room to let him focus. He'd spent a lot of time in the U of W library researching fire demons, fire starters,  pyromaniacal creatures of all kinds -- ground he was sure his father had covered at some point. Whatever it was wasn't an anomaly and obviously not tied to one place, like their old house in Kansas.

That it was tied to him Sam tried really, really, hard not to think about for too long or too hard or he'd start making he and Dean get separate rooms when they stopped.

As often as the dreams of Jess's death have cut through him, there have been times on waking when he'd been pretty sure it was Dean pinned to the ceiling by blood and fire. A couple of times it had been himself.

He didn't know what it meant, hadn't known in those weeks before Jess's death. He'd kept silent then, chalking it up to his finals and his impending graduation, to the internship he wanted so desperately.

Recently though, those nightmares were coming less frequently. He wasn't sure the ones replacing them were any better except they were harder to hold onto. He didn't need to remember the details to be aware of their effect, though, and he was pretty sure Dean was aware too, though he'd said nothing. Sam had tried to ease them by jacking off in the shower, only to find waking, his body wasn't nearly as interested in even that simple pleasure as it seemed to be when he was sleeping.

Or maybe it was because even wide awake and touching his dick left him tense and shaking and not in a good way. There was dread too, like after so long, rather than release, his body was steeling itself against unseen blows and horrors he didn't remember and didn't understand. He woke expecting to find bruises or blood, joints stiff and painful. So much so that at first he'd wondered if he weren't coming down with the flu or something.

But they were dreams, nightmares, night terrors. He couldn’t get himself out of them usually and he only knew they'd gotten bad when Dean had started waking him up again. The previous night had been the worst and Sam rubbed at his throat, like he could still feel hands strangling him.

He heard Dean move restlessly, turning his head to see his brother sprawled crosswise on the sofa bed. It hadn't taken Dean long to fall asleep once he'd gotten back from Lydia's and Sam let a quiet sigh pass his lips. It wasn't that unexpected -- Dean had always been a little overprotective where Sam was concerned. Sometimes it was okay; it actually felt good. But Sam was neither helpless nor a child any longer and as far as Sam could tell, now that Dean had made himsel Sam's selfiappointed protector again, he spent far less time than he should looking out for himself.

Or maybe Dean had just gotten more reckless in the last four years. Or Sam had gotten old enough, mature enough, to recognize that Dean, for all he knew, all his instincts, still tended to rush in where better angels feared to tread.

Maybe Dean had a guardian angel. They both could sure as hell use one.

Sleep took its time coming to him but he could feel it, seductive and soft, and gave in after a couple of false starts, blinking at the thin, filtered light coming from the street through the curtains until he knew he was still seeing it through closed eyes.

There was that point, half-asleep and half dreaming, that Sam always thought was opportunity to mold dreams even while sleeping. He'd read about it -- structured dreaming. Had practiced the techniques as much because having a plan -- any plan -- was better than flinging himself into sleep knowing what was waiting for him even when he couldn't remember the details. It had taken awhile to find an image and a direction that didn't threaten to pull his mind down paths he wasn't ready to walk. Like Jessica. He would love to dream of her as he had before he lost her. Now the reality of losing her was more likely the fuel for his worst nightmares.

He'd tried dreaming of the Pacific Ocean. Most of his life had been spent in the Midwest with a  few runs down to the Gulf. The Pacific was vast and unending, always moving. Not forbidding but secretive. Like the night skies above the Midwest, Sam could be hypnotized by the darkness, by the constant movement; white froth on waves, luminous in the dark. Stars that glittered and faded, vanished behind clouds so high he couldn't see them. He held that one as long as he could, hoping that amid all that vastness, whatever hunted him in his sleep would be unable to find him.

It didn't work that way, of course. The ocean called him and he waded in, feeling the cold slap of waves against his skin, soaking his clothes, dragging him down. The water turned thick and warm but with an underlying chill and a greasiness that made him think of oil spills and pollution; the oceans despoiled, the beaches awash with refuse. Too late, he could feel the dread building and couldn't change course in his dreams. He was held still and struggling against the grip of the thickened water. Not drowning, only mired, like his dreams had stopped time. He could only wait, try to press back against the cloying, thickened darkness.

It swept over him and he gagged, sucked it into his lungs, that thick feeling of repression and filth filling his mouth and ears, blinding his eyes, seeping through his clothes to his skin and into his blood. Except he was already tainted and poisonous, his own thoughts whispered to him.

When rescue came, there was no thought of denying the release it offered.

It was almost painful to feel gentle, warm hands peel the filth laden clothing from his body, to strip him naked and bathe him. Had his mother done this when he was a baby? She must have, supporting his head and his neck, wiping him down with warm cloth, whispering to him so that he concentrated on hearing her voice rather than the cloth wiping his face, across his belly, between his legs. He was clean and warm and held firmly, securely, eased over with a hand supporting his chest and warm water sluiced across his back.

The voice that spoke to him so reassuringly wasn't his mother's; it was too deep. The hands were too large, too strong. His father maybe, or Dean and he could remember being in a bathtub in a hotel somewhere, with Dean sitting on the edge, pouring cup after cup of water over his soapy head until Sam was screaming with laughter and splashing back. And later when Sam was old enough to take a shower, Dean had still waited outside, ready with a towel and a grin. Shutting off the shower head because Sam wasn’t tall enough yet to reach it.

Dean's hands on his back when Sam had taken a nasty lashing from a phantom coachman who had left welts on his back and scars across his hip. Welts that had swollen and left him gasping in pain. His father had dressed his wounds and been gentle, but it had been Dean who stayed up with him, rubbing him between his shoulders to keep the tension of abused muscles from creeping higher. Had fed him tea and whiskey long after their father had fallen asleep. Sam always thought it funny that his first drink had truly been medicinal.

That same comfort spread across his back now. Hands that could ease pains or distract. The slide from comfort to something else was so gradual Sam didn't even notice it even as some part of his mind knew that this was dreaming too, that Dean would never touch him that way, had never touched him that way.

The hand between his legs was knowing and firm, easing him toward arousal, gentle and sure. Even so, he tensed against it, the unerring wrongness of it laying in his subconscious even as his body reacted to the dream like it always did. You couldn't be guilty of sins committed in dreams.

Except Sam was. His dreams had warned him of Jessica's death and he'd ignored them. His dreams could show him what he needed to know, led him to what was needed and wanted. The sin was in not acknowledging them, not confronting them.

He fought this one as he had the others, pushing it back, not wanting to know. Body and mind at war when neither was actually part of any of this. Weight pressed him down, held his arms and legs, like the thickening, foul, nightmarish ocean, Sam found his limbs held fast, his body not his to control. Not for pleasure and he could feel it swelling in his groin at the insistent pressure along his dick, a hand stroking him, urging him to give in. Lips ghosted across his neck and down his shoulder, teeth scraping the bone. Weight settled along his ribs and his legs. He was stretched long and hard against the oily but oddly firm sea. If the phantom behind him let go, he'd sink into that darkness and drown. The foulness below him would fill his mouth and his nose and the fear of that was stronger than the fear of the wrongness behind him.

It was his decision that tipped the distressing dream into a nightmare. He lifted himself, tried, to, away from the muck, from the foulness below him, not wanting the violation of that in his body.

The violation came anyway. Pressure between his legs, against his buttocks and he'd have sunk back into the slime save he was held fast. There was a sharp, startling pain in his ass, and the slick feel of flesh pressing into his own. He tried twisting away but an arm encircled his throat, cutting off air and voice. Teeth bit harshly at his shoulder and he gasped, sucking the foul-tasting slime into his mouth. He struggled to lift his head, found air. "No..please…don't do this… "

"A little late to not want this now, Sammy."  The voice was terrifyingly familiar, laughing at him, mocking him and then shoving him back down, into the muck, pressing his face into it as his body was ruthlessly and viciously assaulted. He didn't dare breathe, couldn't find purchase or leverage. Even inside the shock of panic and fear and pain, his lungs straining and his heart pounding, his own dick grew hard, the ache in his groin increased, pressure building in his balls.

"I knew you wanted this." Dean's voice again, chill and hard and satisfied.

When he hit the point where he was going to pass out or explode or both, he was released.

Sam came up swinging. His fist connected solidly with his tormentor's face, the solid feel of bone against flesh. He sucked in the air his body and mind demanded, and lashed out again.

"Jesus, Sam!" That solid connection of bone against bone worked both ways and Sam's head snapped back and he stumbled, the back of his legs hitting the bed and he tripped, twisting to catch himself.  Dean was on him in a flash, hard thighs trapping Sam's hips, both arms used to trap his head and shoulders, pressing him down to the bed.

The bed registered even as Sam reached up to buck Dean off. Bed, not muck, not foul, mud-slimed water. Dean's thighs were encased in cotton as were his own.

Sam got a hand under him, ready to heave backward, and saw a spatter of blood hit the sheets. Bright and red, it soaked in immediately as did the next drop. Panic rather than anger took him and gave him the strength to push up and back, and the pressure on his throat eased before Dean could snap his neck, Sam rolling them over so he could stare upward.

The ceiling was bare. White. There was no one pinned to it. There was no fire. No blood dripping down.

"Sam, Sam…come on, snap out of it," Dean's voice was as close to begging as Sam had ever heard. His brother's legs were wrapped around his own, his arms still keeping Sam from striking out fully. He had the reach on Dean. When they wrestled, Dean always tried to minimize those extra couple of inches Sam had on him.

It was relief as much as realization that made Sam go limp. To stop fighting.

He could still feel it. Deep in his body, the pressure and pain of being forced to something he didn't want. The room smelled of sweat and semen and blood.

"Sam?" Dean's grip eased, his voice steadied.

"I'm awake," Sam said, not recognizing the tight hoarseness of his own voice. Dean's grip eased, became less restraining but still cautious. "I'm awake, Dean."

Beneath him, Dean went limp with a wet, sniffling sigh. His hands rested on Sam's arms for another second and Dean squeezed his shoulders before pulling them back. "You think you could get me a towel?" he asked in a thick, nasally voice.

Sam pulled himself upright and turned. Dean lay back on the bed, blood on his face, fingers pressed to his still bleeding nose. He gave Sam a look that was half relieved, half annoyed.

Sam got up and turned on the light. Dean blinked and then closed his eyes, trying to staunch the blood flow by pinching his nostrils shut.

Moving stiffly, pain in places he didn't even want to think about, Sam headed for the bathroom. He wet a towel and found a second dry one. A glimpse in the mirror revealed no mud or oil on his face although he was going to have a great bruise on his left cheekbone.

The front of his sweat pants were damp and fulsome. He wanted to gag, almost did, but he pulled it together and took the towels back out.

Dean was still lying on his bed, head back and eyes closed. Carefully, Sam sat beside him, offering the towels in mute apology.

"Thanks," Dean said and wiped at his face with the wet cloth, then held it against his nose.

"Did I break it?"

Dean tested it and winced. "I don’t think so." He eyed Sam. "Well, that was different. Not fun, but different."

"I'm sorry.  Dean--"

"It was nightmare. I know," Dean said and closed his eyes briefly. "Do you remember it? Any of it?"

Sam swallowed and shook his head. "No. No… You want the shower?"

Dean gave him a hard look and shook his head slightly. "Go ahead. I'll wait for this to stop."

Sam tried to move carefully, rather than run to the bathroom. Run from the room, from this town. From his brother.

"Sam? You sure you don't remember anything? You were…you kept saying," Dean hesitated. "You were begging me to--"

"I don't remember anything," Sam said firmly. This lie was easier to tell than most.

Dean nodded and put his head back again.

Sam closed the bathroom door and leaned over the sink, wanting to throw up but fighting the urge. Willing his body -- this time -- to obey him. Covering his mouth, he started the water, gave it second, then flushed the toilet.

To the sound of rushing water he lost the fight again.


Different didn't begin to describe it.

Dean heard the water, heard the flush, and almost got up when he heard the barely masked barfing. It didn't last long. Sam was done before Dean got to his feet. It wasn't difficult to tell when Sam stepped into the shower -- the pattern of the falling water changed.

Dean used the dry towel to wipe at his face again. Folded over the wet one and used the small mirror over the dresser to wipe at the blood, eradicating the traces of it that spread from cheek to chin and onto his chest. His nose felt swollen and hurt like a motherfucker but he didn't actually think it was broken and other than some redness it didn't seem to be swelling either. Yet. It trickled blood again and he pressed the dry towel to it and tilted his head back.

Sam waking up terrified wasn't new. Sam waking up and shoving at Dean, or warding off something from his sleep wasn't new either.

Sam coming up like he was fighting for his life was new. He hadn't been screaming or crying out. It had started like the other dreams and Dean had felt that same ripple of embarrassment when Sam's murmurs had turned to moans, then to whimpers, when his body moved against an unseen lover.

It had been his own name on his brother's lips that had brought Dean out of his bed to crouch next to Sam's. If Sam had called out to him that would be one thing…but for Sam to be begging him for something, begging him like it was killing him, had alarmed Dean even more than Sam choking. The last time he'd heard Sam's voice that broken and hollow had been just after he'd pulled him from the burning ruin of his apartment, away from Jessica. It had taken every ounce of strength Dean had to keep Sam from going back inside and Sam had begged him then, to let him go, to stop. The "No, don't--" still left him feeling useless.

It might have made some sense had Sam been crying or fighting to get back somewhere. But no matter how weird and twisted dreams could get, Dean had a hard time believing his brother had come in his pants while watching his girlfriend burn to death. Even in his dreams.

At least he hadn't thought it possible. But Sam was lying to him. Maybe he hadn't been before but he was now. And maybe it had been just that sick and twisted -- so much so, Sam couldn't talk about it. It made Dean a little queasy thinking about it.

It still didn't fit though, not entirely. Because Sam had been fighting. Not just struggling; fighting Dean like he fought any number of terrifyingly evil things -- like Dean was the enemy. Like Dean was the cause of his pain and horror. Like Sam knew what and who he was trying to beat the shit out of.

Dean sat down on the end of his own bed and put his head in his hands. Maybe he was. Maybe Sam resented or hated Dean for pulling him away from Jessica that weekend more than Dean realized. Maybe even more than Sam realized. That made more sense. The juxtaposition of Sam's wet dreams involving his girlfriend, mixed in with a solid dose of Dean dragging him away him from her while she died.

If that were true, his brother was seriously, seriously fucked up.

The water shut off and Dean lifted his head, watched Sam come out with a towel around his hips, his hair still wet, and his clothes wrapped up tightly in a bundle. He met Dean's gaze steadily, never flinching, like he was making sure this was real. There was a splash of red across one cheekbone that would go dark later when the bruise set.

"You okay?" Dean asked him and Sam's jaw twitched but he nodded and shoved his clothes into the bag they used for laundry.

"Yeah. There's still hot water," Sam said and stared at the wreck of his bed. Without another word, he started stripping the sheets.

There were extra linens in the bottom drawer of the dresser and Dean bent over to get them, the pressure along his sinuses and in his face making his eyes sting and water. He came up again, sheets in hand, but pressed a thumb and forefinger on either side of his nose to push the pressure further back into his skull.

His vision cleared and he came up behind Sam to offer him the sheets and stared…

Sam's shoulder was tanned, still covered in drops of moisture. But it was marked, the darkening double arc perfectly placed on the ball of his shoulder and just underneath, where bone gave way to muscle.

Dean had been bitten often enough to know teeth marks when he saw them.


Sam jerked a little and turned, but he saw the sheets and took them. He didn't flinch when Dean reached up to his shoulder, rubbing a thumb across the wound, only Dean couldn't feel anything except warm skin. "Where did you get that?"

"What?" Sam asked, twisting his neck around but it was out of his range of vision.

"Come here," Dean said and nudged him toward the bathroom, using a hand towel to wipe steam from the mirror. "There…it's a bite."

Sam had to twist again, his fingers tracing where Dean's had been. "I don’t feel anything," he said, confusion straining his voice.

Dean didn't either. There were no indentations where the pressure of teeth had compressed the skin. The skin wasn't broken, but small crescents of blood showed just below the surface. It didn't feel any warmer or hotter than the rest of Sam's skin. But even as they both looked, the marks were fading, like the pressure of fingers alone had banished them.

"Have you noticed anything else? Scratches?  Scrapes you don't remember getting?" Dean asked, feeling like an answer had finally presented itself. He hoped so, horrible as it was, but a succubus was something he could deal with. Dreams and nightmares were much harder.

"No," Sam said looking confused, still staring. The marks were almost gone. "What are you thinking--"

Dean didn't wait for the question, only went to his bag and pulled out his father's journal, flipping through it. There wasn't much and Dean had to flip through several sections to find the references. He really needed to index this thing a little better.

Sam came up behind him, peering over his shoulder. "A succubus?" he said, not believing.

"Fits," Dean said, offering the journal turning to face Sam while his brother read over their father's notes. Like vampires of the soul, succubi would tease men's bodies and leave them weak and tired, steal their seed to give birth to little half-human demons of their own. But they were rare.

Sam read and flipped the pages, mouth setting into a hard line. "It's not," he said finally, closing the book and handing it back.

"What do you mean it's not?" Dean asked more harshly than he intended. Harshly because Sam sounded so sure. "Sam, you've been having wet dreams for weeks. You've been putting more mileage on your dick in your sleep than I could manage wide awake and in a room full of sexed up beauty queens."

Color stained Sam's cheeks, obliterating the mark where Dean had hit him.

"It's not…" Sam started again and stopped, his jaw working, he turned away, found a clean pair of jeans and underwear in the drawer and put them on.

Dean wanted to hit him again. "How can you be so sure? You're asleep! You don't even remember," he reminded Sam viciously, because this scared him in ways he didn't know he could be scared. In all his father's notes, there was no sure way to get rid of one.  Holy water, salt: they had that here now, spread around the room at the doors and windows. It hadn't kept this thing out and if Sam's recent encounters were anything to go by, it might even be pissing the haggish bitch off.

Sam glared at him and Dean held his ground.

"You don't get to tell me these are just nightmares, or just wet dreams, Sam. Not anymore," Dean said and tossed the bloody towel at him.

Sam caught it, stared at the cloth with its pink and brown stains. He folded the towel up and stuck it in the laundry bag. He pulled on a dark blue t-shirt and grabbed up a flannel one to wear over it before picking up the laundry. The laundry room was in the basement but Sam had to go outside to get to it. Outside where it was probably 40 degrees and his hair was still soaking wet.

Dean clenched his jaw, glanced at the clock. "It's seven o'clock in the fucking morning, Sam."

"Not like I'm going back to sleep."

"Just tell me why you're so sure. Why you won't even consider this?"

Sam rubbed at his eyes and couldn't look at Dean. "Succubus are female demons, female spirits, right?" He said it reasonably, calmly. "Succubus are female demons who attack men. Incubus are male demons that rape women. This… nightmare…isn't female, Dean. If it's looking to get pregnant from me, it's going about it the wrong way. It's a nightmare. That's all."

It took a second for that to sink in, for Dean to let the thought really penetrate his brain, to watch as Sam twitched and looked anywhere but at Dean.

The rest of it settled in more slowly and despite knowing he hadn't done anything to Sam other than try not to get his nose broken, suddenly he couldn't look at Sam. The bite mark on the back of his shoulder was gone, along with Sam's nightmare, along with Sam's begging, his protests, his struggles…"No, don't…"

"I'm going to do the laundry," Sam said and left. Dean didn't stop him.


The cold shocked him. For a minute he stood on the landing outside the door and just let it sink in. It did a lot to clear his head, took the heat out of his face; let him blame the shaking in his limbs on the chill in the air.

He headed downstairs. He could have gone through the house. Chances were their landlords were up already, but Sam wasn't sure he could face even the most casual of small talk.

He should have agreed with Dean. He should have just said, "Maybe…maybe it is…" a succubus. He could have left it at that and said nothing else. Dean would have gone on a hunt to find a way to get rid of it and Sam could pretend that was the answer.

He didn't know why he was so sure it wasn't. To all appearances, yes, everything he'd been experiencing would more or less fit the legends and myths surrounding succubi and incubi.  Sexual torment, arousal, obscured and vague dreams. Except from everything Sam did know, succubi weren't normally given to gender confusion, when they had genders at all. And their trademark was seduction, not the violence he'd felt -- could still feel.

The outside door to the basement was unlocked and he shivered again when he opened it. It was noticeably warmer, here; the basement finished, if utilitarian. Steps on the far side let up to the Owens's kitchen. Leda kept a second large freezer down here, Jeremy kept his tools. The washer and dryer were next to the water heater and a utility sink.

Sam had come to appreciate the convenience of having a washer and dryer that was pretty much available all the time and didn't require every spare bit of change he could find.

On automatic he emptied the bag into the washer and dumped in detergent. Somewhere, some time, someone had told him that it was better to wash out blood in cold water.

He set the controls to hot and eyed the bleach, then managed to get a grip. It wasn't like he and Dean had an endless wardrobe or money to replace what they did have, and Leda Owen probably wouldn't appreciate him ruining her sheets.

He knew he should head back upstairs, talk to Dean. Telling him only as much as he had, had been cruel and callous. But he couldn't deny the satisfaction he'd felt on seeing Dean's face when he put the pieces together. Dean didn't know everything and maybe there were some things he'd be better off not knowing.

But the satisfaction hadn't lasted. Whatever was taunting him, tormenting him in his sleep wasn't Dean. Dreams and nightmares had a way of twisting familiar things into unrecognizable frameworks. The thing that had…raped…

He could barely get his thoughts past the word, but that was what it was. It didn't matter what seriously screwed up part of his brain was causing that particular bit of violence to surface but Sam could still feel it: a dull ache in his lower back, the muscles of his thighs still feeling like he'd run a marathon.

The thing that had attacked him in his dreams had been no more Dean than the ocean he'd waded into had been the Pacific. He knew it. Why his own mind would summon such a visceral betrayal he didn't know, but he really, really wished it would stop, that he could work it out -- be it guilt or anger. At this point he'd settle for repressed and latent homosexual desires just to give a form to this particular madness.

No, this thing was inside him, somehow. Psychology was a required course for an undergrad degree but Sam didn't actually need the class or the degree to know that dreams were most usually remnants of deeply repressed emotions. He could tick them off on his hand, where the guilt and betrayal were coming from. And while he was pretty sure Dean would tell him that getting laid would do him a world of good, Sam wasn't sure he could buy into frustrated sexual desire showing up quite like this.

He leaned down on the washer and forced his fingers through his hair, separating the tangled, wet strands.

Maybe he should give Dean's theory another chance. He still felt like it wasn't the cause, but that didn't mean there weren't other nasty things out there with similar proclivities. And it had been going on for weeks, long before they got to Milwaukee, although the dreams, the impressions he could recall, had gotten increasingly violent in the past week or so.

He was lucky he hadn't broken Dean's nose.

The door to the basement opened and Sam glanced up, not surprised to see Dean standing there. He'd changed but he looked as uneasy as Sam felt. "I still don't think it's a succubus," Sam said. "But maybe something like one." It didn't matter that Sam still thought this was in his head. If Dean had something to chew on, maybe Sam could figure out his own twisted psyche on his own.

Dean was still by the door, though he'd closed it. He moved over to Jeremy's work bench, looking at the tools but not touching them.

"Is it really me…in, uh, your dreams?"

Sam didn't want to talk about this. Not this. "It's still a dream, Dean. It doesn't mean anything--"

"Is it me?" Dean said, voice low and rough. He sounded pissed off. Sam looked away.

"Yeah. It's you."

"Every time?"

Sam took a breath, and found the back of the laundry detergent box a really interesting read. "I don't know. This -- last night. It's the first one I've remembered the…details of it, any of it," he said firmly but his stomach gave a sour twist. "But they feel the same, if that makes sense. Familiar. Déjà vu…"

"And it's me…touching--"

"Dean!" Sam said turning around. "The details don't matter."

Dean picked up a retractable tape measure, pulling the metal tab out and pressing the button to retract it with a snap. "The details always matter, Sam." His quick smile was forced. "That's where the devil is." He set the tape measure down and stuck his hands in his pockets. "I can't help if you won't talk to me. I can't read your mind."

Be glad, be very, very glad, Sam thought. "It's dreams, Dean. Nightmares. It makes no sense. I'm in the ocean, then I'm not. I'm feeling…" he cleared his throat. "Warm and safe and cared for and then…I'm not."

"Warm and safe," Dean said and went back to the workbench, staring out through the low, ground-level window. He spread his hands on the table, hunched his shoulders. "Warm and safe is good."

"Yeah, it is…and that's you too, Dean," Sam said, realizing he could tell Dean that much. "That's how it starts…" he felt the heat rise in his cheeks. Shit. Admitting that he'd had dreams of being a baby was almost worse than the rest. Sam moved up behind him.

"Dean, whatever this is, you're just the …metaphor…for whatever's bugging me."

"Maybe." Dean turned around and put his back to the table, crossed his arms over his chest. He looked so somber Sam felt embarrassed. Dean was seriously thrown off stride by this. Maybe as much as Sam. "Sam, you know I'd never hurt you, right? I'd never do anything you didn't want?"

Sam frowned. "Yeah. I know that."

Dean nodded and relaxed, gave Sam one of his cocky little smiles. "But, you know…if you wanted it--"

Dean's hand reached out and caught Sam at the hips, pulled him in closer before Sam could even register the move.

And then suddenly Dean's leg hooked around his own and Dean shoved him. Sam went down so fast he barely had time to catch himself and even so, he felt his wrist twinge and pain lance up his arm before his head connected with the concrete floor. For a second he thought he might pass out and his vision blurred. Then Dean was on top of him, dropping his weight on Sam's hips, straddling him. His hand hooked around Sam's neck while he was still stunned.

Dean's mouth pressed hard to his, grinding lips and teeth together painfully. His knees pressed hard against Sam's thighs, his weight sinking down almost brutally. "You're my blood. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you," Dean said, a wolfish grin on his face.

For one panicked moment Sam thought maybe he was still caught in a nightmare, that he'd only shifted the geography. But it wasn't -- couldn't be. Sam twisted then, shoved upward. Dean's fist caught him full in the jaw, making him taste blood. He struck back and was blocked. Dean had the leverage and the angle and darkness skittered around Sam's peripheral vision when he was hit again.

The weight on his pelvis rocked back and Sam surged upward. He heard the clatter of tools, Dean laughing at him and couldn't get his hands up fast enough to stop Dean from pistol whipping him with a hand drill.

Dean leaned over him and licked the blood from his cheek. "Payback's a bitch, Sammy," Dean whispered in his ear and then Sam found hands on his throat. He caught them and pushed back.  Staring up at Dean's gloating face, he though he saw a flicker of something in his eyes before it all exploded into white.


The sound of a car engine starting pulled Dean out of his head and he glanced out the window to see the Owens's late model Ford backing down the drive. There was actually a good amount of traffic on the street for a non-workday. His eyes narrowed and then he realized it was Sunday. Catholics. Church. Early Mass. Sermons. Breakfast bar at Shoney's. God, someone save him from suburbia.

Churches weirded him out. They had their uses, especially the older ones, the ones built on sanctified ground when that actually meant something. Somewhere in the back of his car he had a pouch of sanctified dirt from the grounds of a church in Tulsa that was now a parking lot. For someone who didn't put a lot of personal reliance in any higher deity, Dean could definitely appreciate the power of faith when it worked to his advantage.

Maybe he should try a good-old fashioned exorcism on Sam and see if that worked. It probably wouldn't hurt.

Avoidance, thy name is Dean Winchester, he thought silently. Sam's little bombshell had sent his mind into a tailspin that he couldn't quite regain control over.

No wonder Sam was so freaked out. Dean wasn't even the one having the nightmares and he was freaking out. That Sam had been dreaming about him doing things that made Sam beg and be so damned scared--

No. not dreams. Nightmares. Really horrific nightmares that gave Dean a chill, a visceral twist of revulsion in parts of himself that he thought completely buffered and barricaded by his own sense of identity. And nothing in Sam's behavior had indicated that he was anything except as firmly heterosexual as Dean was.

He swallowed, edging around the thought that wouldn't leave him alone. Except, except…this wasn't about whether Sam might like men the way he liked women. Not Dean's thing, but in their very weird world, that would be about the least weird thing Dean could think of.

But what Sam had said…what he hadn't said, the fact that he came up fighting as he had, this wasn't just subconscious sexual desires gone horribly, badly wrong. Something was assaulting Sam in his sleep. Something with Dean's face.

He stared at his father's journal, picked it up and flipped to the marked places. The information was slim, not something his father had encountered, only heard about. Not something Dean had encountered as far as he knew, although he'd met a few women he maybe should have wondered about. Succubi were lesser demons, death and destruction wasn't usually their forte. The only tried and true cure was prayer and abstinence.

Well, Sam had the abstinence part down really well. And if prayer were a cure, Dean would happily say a week's worth of Novenas and Hail Marys to be rid of it.

And if Sam were right? If this really was just nightmares, just his own subconscious working shit out? Dean didn't shy from the thought that their upbringing had been truly bizarre, that there were layers upon layers of fucked up shit for both of them to deal with. Mommy issues. Daddy issues. Brother issues. They had issues enough between them to start a whole separate field of psychiatric study.

If it were -- it couldn't be. Dean kept stalling the thought. Because if it were… If it were just Sam trying to deal in truly strange ways with all that had happened to him, there was nothing Dean could do except be there. Only he wasn't sure how long he could stand to watch his brother tear himself up in guilt or despair or vengeance or whatever the hell else Sam was ripping himself apart with. It had been hard enough watching their father do it. But then, he could only barely remember when John Winchester wasn't that tortured. Sam though. Sam, even in the midst of their nomadic life, growing up facing things most people paid nine bucks to see in a movie theatre, Sam had still…he'd been a kid. He'd laughed, he'd played. He'd struggled with English. He'd hated girls until he was ten and then tried to kiss one when he turned eleven. He'd carried a floppy-eared carnival prize dog around with him as easily as he learned to carry a handgun. He'd been perfectly happy to eat the weirdest shit imaginable just so Dean would make faces at him.

No, it hadn't been a normal life. But both of them had finished high school and Sam at least, had done so with good enough grades to get a scholarship to Stanford. It was a hardship grant, yeah, but Sam still had the grades. As shocked as Dean had been at Sam's announcement, as angry, a betrayed -- once it had all settled, he couldn't help but be proud of his brother and yes, envious. It took a hefty set of balls to do what Sam had done and then, despite the odds, make good on it.

A lawyer. His brother, a lawyer. He still couldn't get his brain around it. Not because it was Sam but because Sam would be good at it. Of course, he'd probably be the poorest lawyer ever. Sam was a soft touch. Heart on his sleeve.

Except not always, because Sam could throw up walls between them faster than Dean could pull them down.

So, maybe it was time he spent a little time of his own in the U of W library. And maybe amid the research books on the paranormal and newspaper clippings, he might sneak in a few books on dream interpretation and psychology.

It was as close to a plan as he was going to get. It would work for now.

He rubbed at his face and winced at the pain in his still tender nose. A shower first and then maybe he'd head downstairs and snag some ice. His nose wasn't swelling but it would probably bruise. He made a face and grabbed towels. Chicks might dig scars but bruised, swollen noses? Not so much.

His shower was unfairly short and he swore when the water started running cool before he'd finished washing his hair. Sam and the laundry.  Great. This day was starting off great.

He was chilled when he finished, checked his face again, and went for a cold washcloth instead of raiding the Owens's kitchen. What he needed to do was grab Sam and get them both out of the house. Neutral territory and coffee. Coffee would be good. Sam had to be at work this afternoon but Dean was off, which meant he could spend the afternoon at the library.

He was carefully pulling a shirt on over his head -- 'ware the nose -- when Sam came back. Play it normal, play it cool. "I thought we'd go grab some breakfast," he said. "The Owens left for church, I think."

"I saw them," Sam said. He was still out of sorts, staring around the room, his hands stuck into his back pockets hard enough to pull his jeans down so his underwear showed. Too narrow in the waist and once Sam had started his growth spurt, Dean could remember long hours in Goodwill and other thrift shops, trying to find clothes to fit him. Sam picked up the journal and flipped through it while Dean pulled on his shoes.

When he finished, he worked the sheath of his knife onto his belt. "So, you up for some grub?"

Sam glanced at him, eyes unreadable, his face curiously blank. Still freaked out then. "Sam…Look this is all very weird, I know. But weird… we know weird. We can handle this."

Sam's expression hardened. "We? We? When has it ever been, 'we', Dean and not just you?"

He hadn't expected that. "Whoa…whoa!" Dean said getting up, hands spread wide. "Nightmare…succubi…it's not me, Sam. You said it."

"I know what I said. But it is you, pushing me to do what you want. Go where you go…be what you are," Sam said, the last spat out.

Dean stared at him, feeling his own anger rise up and shoving it down hard. Apparently, Sam's time in the basement had been just long enough for him to shift from being scared out of his mind to being pissed off. Great. Just great.  Okay, but Sam was…not himself. He was still totally freaked out and Sam tended to lash out when he was scared. Dean knew this.

Only he didn't know what to say. It wasn't all totally untrue, it just sounded a whole lot worse laid out like that. "You see me holding you here?" he said evenly. "The door's there, Sam. Pick a destination and I'll drop you at the bus stop. You can walk out anytime."

"That worked so well the last time," Sam said.

Okay, both of them in a pissing contest was just going to get nasty. "What do you want me to say, Sam? Is this about last night, or last week. Jess, your entire life? Give me a place to start. You chose to get back on this ride."

"Because you asked me to," Sam hissed out, getting right in front of Dean, towering over him. Dean didn't back off and only barely lifted his chin. Sam might be taller but Dean could still kick his ass six ways to Sundays. "To find Dad. Well guess what? We haven't found him. I'm not even sure you're looking that hard."

That one cut close to the bone. "Bullshit."

Sam stared at him then backed up a little. "I don't think you want to find him. I think you've got what you want," he said.

"Oh, really?" Dean put as much scorn into his tone as he could. "And that would be what, Sam, to listen to you bitch 24/7?" Dean snapped back and all the while the more rational part of his brain was telling him to back off and take a deep breath. Sam could piss him off faster than anyone else on the planet. It had always been true.

"No…no. But you got me, and that's what you really wanted. Me, right back beside you, following your lead, playing sidekick to Big Bad Dean Winchester, King of the Demon Hunters. It was a good gig when I was twelve, " Sam said with enough venom that Dean was pretty sure that whatever had tripped Sam's usually tight-lipped mouth open was more truth than not. Sam glared at him and then turned away, stripping off his flannel shirt and his shoes.

Obviously breakfast together was off the table.

"You,  know…whatever," Dean said. "Some bug has crawled up your ass, Sam, but I didn't put it there," Dean said an almost winced at his own choice of words given what Sam had been going through. He took a deep breath, pressed his hand to his face and flinched at the pain there. He couldn't think straight, and really, this whole thing was spiraling out of control. He stared at Sam's back, at the set of his shoulders. His little brother wasn't so little anymore and hadn't been for awhile. Maybe Dean needed to remember that, but man, it was hard when Sam was acting like a petulant little girl.

"Sam, man…I'd like nothing better than to help you deal with this, but I can't fight it and you. If -- you want to handle it on your own or at least give it a shot, I'll step back, but you can't keep going like this, bro." And I can't either, but this was about Sam. "Just know, I'll do anything I can to help -- you just let me know when, okay?" Sam said nothing and Dean bit his lip. He'd put the offer on the table. He couldn't make Sam take it. He found his coat. "Look, I'm going to grab coffee and breakfast. I'll bring you something back…"

Sam still didn't speak, didn't turn, until Dean picked up his keys and reached for the door.


"Yeah, Sam…"

"You mean it? You'll do anything? Even if I asked you to… to go on. To leave me here?"

"Sam…" Oh, shit. He couldn't believe he was hearing this. He didn't want to hear it. "If…if that's what you want…" he couldn't look at his brother. He'd offered and Sam had asked. Four years felt like four minutes; Sam asking Dean to let him go again. "Is that what you want?"

"I'm asking if you would. If you could."

"Yes," Dean said, finally meeting Sam's gaze, to see the intense look there, the hooded expression. Sam didn't look any happier about the asking than Dean did the answering. "If that's what you want. Not forever…" he said because he couldn't. "But leave you here when I'm doing…whatever." He wanted Sam in his life. He knew it. Wanted it more than anything but he couldn't say it. He wouldn't ask again.

"Would you stay here? Give it up, the hunting?" Sam asked him taking a couple of steps closer.

He was serious. Dean could see it in his face. Door number one, door number two, or the envelope Carol Merrill is holding. It was unfair. "Is this some kind of test, Sam, because I gotta tell you, I didn't study for it," Dean said, making a conscious effort to moderate his tone. Blowing Sam off or screaming at him wasn't what would work and he utterly sucked at these little heart to hearts. "Stay and do what? Leave dad out there, doing whatever, in whatever kind of trouble he may be in? Leave the rest of the world to the mercy of the shit we hunt? Work in a fucking garden center for the rest of my life?"

The muscle in Sam's jaw jumped and he looked away. Dean rubbed the back of his neck and then lifted his head. "Sam…I don't know what I'd do…if it really came to a choice. And you can't make them for me, just like I couldn't make it for you. We do what we do and deal with what comes after, after. I don't know any other way to be about any of it. But whatever it is,  we're still family. We always have been, we always will be…Nothing. Nothing changes that. Ever."

Sam looked at him sharply and then smiled. Just a little one, it was almost goofy, like he was trying to be sly. Sam never could pull that look off. Some of the tension in Dean's stomach eased up. "So, what do you want to do? You want time? You want breakfast…"

"I want…"

Sam pushed Dean back up against the door, following the shove with his body. His head jerked down and Dean grabbed at his shirt as Sam's mouth covered his. Sam jammed his knee up against Dean's crotch hard enough to make Dean gasp.

Then Sam's tongue was in his mouth, seeking out Dean's, sucking greedily on his lower lip.

It was all instinct that made Dean shove back, bring his arms in and his weight forward,  twisting as he drove his knee into Sam's stomach. Sam went down on a grunt of pain clutching his middle.

"What the fuck was that?" Dean snarled at him, body still ready, tense. "Jesus Christ, Sam!"

"Blasphemy on a Sunday? You really do belong in Hell," Sam said and looked up, and there was sly cast to his features. Blood stained his lips and he wiped at it, smearing it on his white t-shirt.

White…white… Sam was still staring at him a smile curving his lips.

He'd been wearing dark blue. A dark blue Stanford t-shirt when he'd gone downstairs.

Carefully, Sam put a hand to the floor and pushed himself upward. "Bet you're hell in a bar fight," Sam said and grinned showing his teeth. Across his eyes, usually green and warm  (and troubled)…a glow flickered, draining the color, turning Sam into something not quite human…

Dean didn't think about it or process it, he just moved. He shifted his weight again and rushed forward with a bellow of rage, catching the thing in his brother's body mid-chest, and driving it backward, across the floor to slam him …it…down on Sam's bed. No. No…it was dead…he'd killed the damned thing himself…they'd buried it with his name.

It didn't resist at all, didn't fight Dean when he leaned down, pressing his weight against its body and pulled his knife. He pressed his forearm across its throat and let it see the blade. "You see this, you shape-shifting son of a bitch?" he snarled at the thing with Sam's face. "It's not a silver bullet, but it is blessed. I think it will do the trick."

"Probably," the thing said hoarsely, taking in air in a raspy gasp. Dean wasn't inclined to help it get more air. "But if you kill me…you'll never find him. Never. Alive or dead."

Dean stared at it, at the total lack of fear in its face, in its eyes. The smug look alone made him want to cut its throat. "Where is he?" he demanded, and eased up on the thing's throat fractionally so it could talk. And God it was killing him to be doing this to Sam, only it wasn't…it wasn't his brother. That became his mantra. "Where the hell is he?"

"Safe. As safe as he can be with you," it said and grinned. "Come on, Dean…show some of that fuck-the-world backbone. Go ahead and kill me, like you did my sister…" it hissed and the expression went cold, but it was still smiling.

Sister? Sister to the thing that had…but it had been male…

…and I thought my family was screwed up…

Had he heard that? Remembered it? Sam had told him…when the thing was taunting him, tormenting Sam, while Dean was struggling to regain consciousness. "Your sister."

"Sister, brother…" The thing flexed its body -- Sam's body -- sinuously. Not even trying to escape, more like getting comfortable with Dean's weight pressing it down. "We're not all that picky…although, I can see the appeal, here," it said and ground its pelvis against Dean's.

It was all Dean could do not to fling himself off the thing. Pressed to his thigh, he could feel its dick -- Sam's -- hard as a rock. He gritted his teeth and pressed the edge of the blade to its throat. "Where is he?"

"I told you. With you…although, not really. Just like he's not really here with you, except he is," it said, amused by its own riddles. "Interesting man, your brother. Open-minded. Emotional. Feels a little too deeply. Takes things a little too personally." It dipped its chin and rubbed its jaw along the blade edge until a line of blood appeared. "You, you're a little more distant, a lot more closed minded. We could knock, knock, knock all day on your mind and you'd never hear us. Never know we were there, rooting around in your brain, your memories. Sam though…Sam's got the gift. We can whisper things in his ear and he can hear us. We can open the door in his mind and just make ourselves comfortable. He's susceptible that way…"

It didn't register, not entirely, what it meant, what it was saying...Sam susceptible to what? And, God, please let this thing be lying, that Sam was still downstairs, ruining the laundry. Only Dean couldn't quite make himself believe it. "What do you want?" Dean asked, pulling the blade back. Sam or not Sam, the sight of blood running down his brother's throat was disturbing, almost as disturbing as the evidence that this thing was getting off on the whole situation. He could only barely stand to look at it, at the sloe-eyed glances it gave him, the wanton way it rubbed against him without trying to escape.

"Right now, I'd like to get up," it said. "Not that this isn't fun…" it added and thrust up against him.

"Cut it out," Dean snarled and drove his hand between them to grip the thing's nuts. It hissed and grunted, arched back and tears, real tears, leaked from the suddenly blue-green eyes again.

"What I feel, he feels," it said tightly, glaring up at him. "And what you do, my sister knows…You hurt me, she hurts him -- all the while wearing your face."

Shit…another sister? We. More than one…Oh, Christ. And the others had Sam.

A family. A nest of them.   And they had Sam. "So, you've got what? A psychic chat line going on with your whole family?" he asked but eased his grip.

"Something like that. Get off me…before I have her do something your brother really won't like."

Dean didn't know if he could believe it or not. But Sam had said it, that the thing in St.Louis had downloaded Dean's memories somehow, knew some or all of what Dean knew, made some kind of psychic connection with Dean's mind, only he hadn't know it or felt it. And the thing had twisted what it knew, turned it viciously around on Sam. On Becca. But this thing made it sound like Sam, at least, caught the backlash, that the connection could be two-way if a mind was… was open enough.

"Don’t worry, Dean. I'm not planning on escaping. That's never been the plan," it said and carefully Dean eased back, he didn't put the knife away though.

"So, what do you want?"

"Easy," it said sitting up, stretching limbs, in a way that only Sam could. Raking fingers through Sam's hair. It got to its feet slowly, spreading its hands like it was the most harmless thing in the world. "And eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth, a brother for a brother."

"That's not going to happen."

"Hate to bust the news to you, genius. It already has," it said, all traces of mocking humor gone, but in a perfect imitation of Sam's most dismissive tone of voice. Right this second, it looked about as pissed off as Dean felt. "He's gone. Want to go downstairs and check? I'll wait," it taunted. "I'd say you'd find what's left of your face down there…but…" it shrugged. "Skins don't last long. They tend to rot fast when we shed them. But, please, check. Really. I wouldn't want you to make a choice without all the facts."

Dean hesitated. Sam could be there -- there was nothing this thing said that he could trust. "If that's what you wanted, why come to me…you could have just…" He couldn’t say it.

"Killed him? Thought about it…really. Following you. We had plenty of opportunities; that hotel in Des Moines. The truckstop in Rockford. Taken him or you out, any time.  But no, because that's too easy," it said, using Sam's face to sneer at him,  then mock him. "That would be too easy on you. Momma dies, you move on. Father disappears, you keep going. Jessica dies…you don’t even pause and you haul me with you. Their deaths don't touch you, don't matter…but Sam…Sam matters. Sam matters to you as much as anything can."

Biting back the denial, Dean shook his head. "I can't believe anything you say and you don't know anything. Nothing about us."

It looked at him and gave him a wry smile, Sam at his most thoughtful. "When you were twelve, your father was tracking a firestarter in Wyoming. The fires scared you. So much so that you wet your pants. You told Sam you'd kill him if he told your father or anyone." It leaned in a little and Dean tensed. "He believed you, Dean. He was scared to death of you. He still is."

"Liar," Dean said firmly but the pants-wetting thing was true and after that one time, neither of them had ever spoken of it.

"When you killed my brother, we all felt him die. All of us…" it said, and its eyes flickered again, cold and alien. Dean did not like the way it said "us". "When Sam dies, you think you're going to know the exact moment? Are you going to know his life is over? It already could be…"

Dean flipped the knife around, like he would throw it. "If he is, then there's no reason to keep you around, is there?"

It smiled again and it was the most infuriating thing Dean could think of. It came closer, arms spread wide, still grinning at him. "Then do it. Go ahead…but you won't know, Dean. You won't know when it happens. But my family will know when I die. And what do you think they'll do to him, in retribution? What he's been dreaming…" Its tone dropped, almost whispering, like it was telling Dean a secret. "We've only been messing with his head…with his mind. That will feel like a sinus headache compared to what we'll do to him when he can really bleed, when he doesn't scream just in his head. My sister is already, very, very fond of him…she might like to keep him, play with him. And maybe you'll find him, but we'd know you were coming.  He'll die in pieces, screaming -- and the last thing he'll see, is you."

The last thing Sam had nearly seen before had been Dean as well, and if even part of what this thing was saying was true… Dean had no doubts about the creature's ability to be vicious and cruel. And they'd been stalking him and Sam for weeks…Sam's dreams, the nightmares. Jesus.  Too easy to recall the phantom bite on the back of Sam's shoulder, like something had held him down and…. Oh, God, Sam… And this one was like its sister, brother -- just as twisted as its sibling, who'd  brutalized and murdered those women.

That was not going to happen to Sam, not if Dean could stop it. And he would, whatever it took.

The thing was within arm's reach and Dean lifted the blade, gripped it and offered the hilt to the monster with Sam's face.

"Why not come after me? I'm the one that killed your brother," he said flatly, daring it.

It took the blade and twisted around, tossing it on the bed then looked at him, slouching back, hands in its jeans. The blood on its throat and shirt had dried. "We did come after you -- the only way we could. The only way that would actually make you…pay." It smiled and spread its arms again, wide. "What better way to get to you than through Sam? It's sweet really. How much you love him, care about him…too bad you never bothered to tell him."

Dean ground his teeth together. "What do you want from me?"

"Not much," it said, sauntering forward. "We never meant to keep you apart for long…but we wanted you on your best behavior. You've got a nasty, unpredictable streak."

Dean filed that away. Unpredictable. Knew what he knew but not how he thought.

"Let's go then. Anywhere you want. I'll be docile as a lamb."

It eyed him and stepped closer, and blinked, closing its eyes for a moment. When it opened them again, it looked amused. "Ah…well, price to pay after all. I'll take you right to him, but first, my sister would like a favor."

"What? What does she want?" Dean said and tensed when the thing's hands came up to cup his face. The touch was gentle, Sam's fingers long and slender, stretching across his jaw. He pulled his head back.

Nails dug into his skin. "Ah, ah…" it said, shaking its head. "Christ, Dean. You'd die for him but you won't give him a little kiss?"

He didn't want to think about it…about the half dozen legends of things sucking souls out through breath, that this thing could be different than the one he'd killed. That it looked like Sam made it worse and Dean had to close his eyes, hold his body rigidly, when the thing kissed him. Gently, easily, just a brushing of lips against his own. It wasn't Sam, couldn't be.

Moist, open lips coaxed his own and he could feel the heat between their bodies. His hands clenched into fists and he steeled himself not to pull away, all the time ready in case it tried anything else. He knew now how Sam had felt in the middle of his nightmares; unable to move, frozen in place while this thing…these monsters did things to him in his sleep…

It should taste foul. It should be uncertain and hesitant because Dean couldn't for a minute picture his brother kissing him -- or anyone -- like this. It was almost obscene the way its tongue traced every tooth, licked across his hard palate, hummed happily against his lips.

He wanted to gag. He almost did, his breathing coming short and fast and shallow when the thing introduced its tongue into his mouth, deepening the kiss, fingers threading through his hair, one hand kneading his shoulder, like a cat. A hard, male body (Sam's body) pressed closer, pushed him back against the door, getting as close as it possibly could. Dean squeezed his eyes shut more tightly, didn't engage or reciprocate but didn't deny it either. The thump of his heart increased, pounding hard and fast, and he felt tremors start in his legs, knew the thing could feel him shaking. How could it not? Thighs, groin, chest, all pressed hard against Dean's own like the thing was trying to sink into him. The thought of it made him want to pull away or lash out.

He jerked away. Not entirely out of its grasp, although that would be easy. Bile rose in his throat, and heat in his face but he turned his head back, meeting the thing's eyes steadily. "Guess I'm still a frog," he grated out.

It chuckled at him, sounding so much like Sam Dean's chest hurt. "Guess so. But seriously Dean, I guess at least some of that monumental ego of yours is deserved. And you weren't even trying."

He glared at it. "Fuck you. Where's my brother?"

It stepped back and picked up Sam's flannel shirt and Dean found himself staring at the smear of blood on Sam's -- its -- white shirt. The smear was vivid and right across Sam's heart. It shrugged into the flannel and grinned. "Keys…I'll drive," it said and Dean only hesitated for a second before handing them over.

It gestured him to the door and Dean went. Behind him the thing laughed. It sounded exactly like Sam at his happiest.


He could hear water dripping. Small waves lapped softly against something solid; bigger ones made a slapping sound against stone or metal, the sound hollow and deep. Beneath him, the ground was hard and damp and cold. The harsh burning scent of oil and gasoline, of ammonia and chlorine, of rotting fish, and garbage along with must and mold assaulted him. Between that and the pounding in his head and the sharper pain that arced across his face, he gagged. He choked on his own bile, tried to roll so he could spit it out, but he couldn't move.

He choked again and swallowed, which only made it worse, made it so he couldn't breathe.

Strong hands rolled him to his side and gave his back a harsh thumping. It helped and he spit out what was trapped in his throat, coughed, and nearly choked again. A firm hand lifted his head, pressed a bottle to his lips and he drank, tasting water only to spit it out again and cough some more. The queasiness only abated slightly.

Someone patted his back as if to comfort him, then moved away. He could hear his companion moving and light flared, sharp and bright, against his closed eyes, but it wasn't constant. The scent of smoked mixed in with the other smells. He blinked and found himself on his side against rough stone; industrial-grade fill-rock. It was slimed with water and time and it took him only a moment more to recognize the smell.

The riverfront; somewhere near the docks if the lingering odor of chemicals and fuels and brackish water were anything to go by. Distantly he heard a boat horn echoing against the stone and even further away, channel markers sounded hollowly. Above him, a concrete slab cut off the light, trapped in the chill and damp. The ground beneath sloped slightly, and he could see daylight beyond, the gap between the ceiling and the ground narrowing the further you went in. Below the docks, then; beneath one of the long solid platforms for barges along the river.

"Here." His head was held up again and the bottle offered. This time he took a sip and kept it down, blinked, and then jerked away so violently, consciousness threatened to quit him again.

"Get the fuck away from me," he snarled out, although it came out more like a whisper, his throat raw, and -- shit…a rope around his neck. Must be a family fascination. He flexed his hands, and found them tied behind him, his upper arms bound tightly to his sides.

"You're only going to hurt yourself," Dean said, but Sam didn't even need to see the flicker of gold in its eyes to know it wasn't his brother. His brother would not be caught dead in a Barry Manilow t-shirt.

It crouched within his line of vision, the bottle of water held loosely in its hands.

"Better me than you," Sam spat out. "Get away from me. You aren't Dean."

"No. I'm not," it said and regarded him somberly. "But it doesn't matter who I am, really."

"Only what you want? Shouldn't you be dead?" he demanded.

The expression on Dean's face hardened and it rose up and stepped closer to Sam.

Sam tried to roll, to deflect the booted foot that came at him. He supposed he was lucky it caught him in the shoulder instead of the face. He was pretty sure his cheekbone couldn't take another solid hit.

The blow knocked him onto his back and the rocks dug into his arms, into his wrists. His shoulder ached and spasmed sharply like it might be broken or dislocated.

"So easy for you to say. Shouldn't I be dead? But for your brother, Sam, you would be dead. Ironic, isn't it? But because of your brother, my sister is dead. Now, exactly how do you think you'd feel if things were the other way around?"

Sam stared upward, then flinched when Dean dropped the bottle by his head. The plastic split and shattered, splashing water on his face. The thing just looked at him before reaching down to pull the offensive t-shirt over its head, leaving it bare-chested; its torso and arms a perfect replica of Dean, down to the scars and the tan he'd picked up the last few weeks working outside. The boots came off next, and Sam gave half a thought to using his legs to…to…do something, anything, as the creature continued to strip in front of him. Nude, it set its clothes aside carefully, neatly, and crouched again.

Dean's callused fingers reached up to touch his face, tracing the gash across his cheek, feather-light. It pushed the hair off his forehead, and all Sam could think was it was studying him in order to become him. To go after Dean. "He'll know you're not me."

"It took him longer than we expected," it said, and Sam almost missed the "we" when the thing's fingers tracked across his face and down along his jaw, before pressing spread fingers against his chest. One knee pressed to Sam's thigh, creating a new ache. Balancing itself carefully, it tugged at Sam's shirt, lifting it to expose his stomach, then reached down to unfasten his belt before pulling the zipper down on his jeans.

"We?" Sam said, anything to distract it. He swallowed to fight his nausea. The smells, the sound of lapping water, the oily, cold, wet pressure of the rocks beneath him; this was too much like his nightmare -- was his nightmare, made real.

"My sister and me. She's with Dean now…looking like you." For a second it rocked back, eyes closing, hand coming to its forehead in a gesture so familiar Sam wanted to scream.  "She's half hoping he'll try something, because she'd love to make him suffer in as many ways as possible."


"He killed our sister," it said patiently, like Sam was an idiot child.

"Your sister was torturing and murdering women in St. Louis. Including the girlfriend of a friend of mine."

"I know all that…," it smiled at him and caught his jaw again, leaning down. "I know everything your brother does. And my sister knows everything you do. There's not a single secret you can keep from us, ever again. I know how your mother died. Your girlfriend; that they died the same way, gutted and pinned to a ceiling and burned alive," it said and Sam squeezed his eyes shut. "I know your brother thinks your nightmares are being caused by succubi, and you think that's not quite right." Sam opened his eyes again and stared. It sat back and tucked fingers under the waistband of his underwear. "And I know how you could die, Sam," it murmured, caressing the skin there, gentle as a mother's hand. "Now, I want a little something from you…"

"Fuck you."

It smiled; Dean's casual, cocky, you-are-so-full-of-shit smile. "My sister is with your brother…and he's in about the same position as you are, only she has his knife -- Pressed. Right. Here," it said and used its thumb to trace a line along his carotid artery. "Fight me, and he'll bleed to death where he is…it only takes a thought…"

It was a trick. Sam knew it. And at the same time, he believed it. Believed this thing could speak to its sister without words, just as its sister had plucked thoughts from Dean's mind without breaking a sweat. And lie or not, Dean would be looking for him if he wasn't already a prisoner as Sam was. Staying alive was the only weapon Sam had.


"Nothing hard," it said, and leaned down, just as it had in the basement, only this time it didn't try to force his mouth open, only coaxed with its mouth and the thumb of one hand stroking his lower lip. "Just a little brotherly kiss."

"My brother and I don't kiss," he hissed out.

It slapped him, hard. "Maybe you should try it. You might get along better," it said. "Come on, Sam. I like you. I really, really do," it said with a quick smile.  "And Dean likes you. Maybe more than he should," it said, the last whispered. "And that's what bothers you, isn't it? He bothers you." It sat back and looked thoughtful, expression shifting to one of distaste. "He bothers me too. What a total jerk," it said and Sam felt a different nausea sweep through him. "You want me to strip off this skin and change into your girlfriend? Into Jessica? Would that make it easier?" it asked. "You could have her back for a little while…just as she was."

Oh, God, no… Sam tore his gaze away from the mocking face, flexed his numbing hands and the thing waited, waited with that irritating Dean smirk. "Just…whatever you're going to do, just do it." He startled himself with how absolute he sounded about it.

"Aww, Sam. It's not supposed to hurt," it said and breathed against his mouth, warm air fanning over his cheek. "Just pretend I'm someone else. Someone you like. Think of a nice girl."

He wanted to scream, wanted to bite down on the tongue that swept between his lips and over his teeth. He did neither, not even when the fingers stroking over his belly pressed further down, across his groin, touched him like it knew what he liked and how he liked it…

It did know. The firm stroke didn't get much of a reaction, but Sam could feel it, his dick not really caring that he was both repulsed and furious. He could feel it smiling against his mouth, pleased with his reaction. "Nice to know I've still got the magic," it said.

It shifted its position and Sam could feel the hard length of Dean's dick against his thigh. The fingers curled around his jeans and tugged.

It was too much, more than enough, and he tensed, jerking his legs up. His knees caught the thing across the ass and sent it sprawling across him and against the rocks. Feet on the ground, he heaved upward and rolled.

There was no give in the ropes and Sam choked as the thing shoved him on his stomach and grabbed the bindings, the rope at his neck pulling tight. It dragged him forward, further back under the docks, where light flickered. The rocks tore at his stomach and chest and he scrabbled to get his feet under him, his knees, anything to take the pressure off his throat.  A tumble of boxes with supplies and clothing blocked the low fire, casting odd shadows. It was all Sam could take in before the edges of his vision started to darken.

He was dropped suddenly and he hacked and coughed and tried to drag air into his lungs through his bruised throat.

"Now see what you did?" it said above him and Sam let his eyes track upward, still gasping for breath. The thing was examining its forearm; the skin abraded from the rocks when it had fallen. The wounds bled, but it was a sickly yellow ichor, like pus, oozing from a particularly deep gash that held Sam's fascination -- horrifying as it was. The skin was splitting, peeling back like an overripe fruit that had split.

"And this was a fresh skin," it said idly, annoyed. It dug fingers into the cut, pulling the skin back. Below it, not bone, but grayish yellow flesh, spattered with red blood and more yellow, slid underneath the top layer of skin.

Sam was going to be sick. He tried not to look, closing his eyes and tucking his chin and still he thought he might go crazy at the sound of it; the sound of wet flesh being peeled back, the sodden plop of it when the thing discarded pieces of itself on the rocks. Bones cracked, and he winced in involuntary sympathy when it hissed and snarled and moaned. Something harder than flesh pinged off the stone and bounced off Sam's face and he opened his eyes. A couple of teeth lay on the stone, fully realized to the root, but even as he stared at them, the hard shapes began to collapse, the enamel melting off like ice and the bone beneath fracturing, like it was aging incredibly quickly.

Another slough of skin dropped beside him and Sam gagged and shut his eyes tightly, not able to deny the features in the hollow, eyeless face, even distorted as it was, he knew the shape of the nose, the curve of the lips:  Dean's face cast aside like a discarded carnival mask. Something else brushed his thigh and he jerked again, rolling back to get away from it. The thing hissed out something that sounded like relief and Sam dared another glance and wished he hadn't.

Used and dying skin still hung off it in strips, the yellowish gore glistening on the grayish skin like sweat. Human shaped but only barely, with arms and legs that seemed overlarge, the fingers long and with too many joints, too many knuckles.

The thing twisted and looked at him and Sam scrabbled back as much as he was able, until the rocks cut harshly into his skin. The feet were long and flat, only a hint of toes at all. The knees were doubly articulated, so that it stood oddly, weight shifting constantly. Vestigial genitals were exposed above legs that were swollen at the joints. It had breasts but no nipples and the rib cage was distended and moving oddly under its pale, grayish skin.

The distance in diameter between head and neck was almost non-existent, just a faint narrowing between the rounded shoulders and the truncated jaw. There was only a slash of a mouth, no lips and no teeth, and the nostrils flared wide and high, with only the vaguest rise to even mark where the nose should be. Small, oval eyes blinked at him with no lashes, the gold color predominant, flickering to near total black. Wisps of hair clung to its skull like a cancer patient's, and its skin looked as if it had never seen the sun. It had no trace of pigment at all so that veins and tendons pulsed and moved like shadows under its skin.

He didn't want to look but he could only stare. There was no trace of any distinguishing feature at all, in its face -- the only intelligence showed in the narrowed eyes. The urge to look away was like a compulsion but the idea that it might do something, reach for him and him not know it was more frightening. This was the kind of thing people feared in the dark, in damp places. It was just human enough to be familiar, but inhuman enough to be terrifying just to look at.

It stared at him, lipless mouth gaped slightly open. An equally pallid tongue darted out quickly to tease at a bit of hanging skin at the corner of its mouth before it lifted a misshapen hand to pull it away

"Our mother called us grubs," it said, with a voice that sounded normal, even pleasant, and really strange coming from such a repulsive creature. It walked with a shuffling uneven gait, but weirdly graceful when it moved to stand over him, the large flattened feet contouring to the unevenness of the rocks, curling to grip them, like a monkey. It crouched, steadying itself on Sam's chest again. It blinked at him and lifted pale, wet fingers to his face.  He tensed up and it hesitated, drew its hand back. "This is what we are. Your brother wasn't entirely wrong," it said. "Succubi, inccubi…same thing. Only they are what they are, always…we…are never quite one or the other.  Humans and demons really don't mix all that well…"

"Your mother," Sam said, trying to kick his brain into gear again and grabbing at anything.

"The sons and daughters of Lilith. She was our grandmother. If it had been my mother in your dreams, Sam, she'd have sucked you dry and left you wasting away waiting for her to come back. But you would have died happy. We're not so gifted, but we want the same things. Love, desire…fear," it said.

It settled its weight on him, the long fingers tugging at his jeans, his underwear. Sam struggled again and the long fingers closed around his throat, stronger than a human hand and longer too. It only needed one to hold him still, cut off his air. Then suddenly it rocked back, still straddling him but no longer touching him except where its weight settled across his thighs. The yellowish sweat soaked into the denim of his jeans.

"Not so appealing, am I?" it asked him, blinking rapidly. "So, I can be your brother again…I could be you," it offered and the mouth stretched wide in a parody of a grin, exposing the toothless gums.  "Think your brother could tell us apart?" it asked him and then tilted its head back and laughed. "He doesn’t know what to do with one of you…what would he do with three?" It grinned at Sam. "No?  then…maybe someone who won't scare you. And you're scared, Sam. You're too smart not to be," it said and seemed to think for a moment before nodding to itself and going so still, it barely seemed to breathe.

The yellowish ichor stopped dripping, seemed to jell and firm, like glue. It was still translucent, but grew darker, taking on color and texture. The arms changed first, firmer skin sliding over the misshapen limbs, along the hands. The thing's fingers almost seem to retract, pull themselves back into the casing being created, like stuffing a small sausage. The skin took on color and luster, still pale but not sickly-corpse pale. Underneath the freshly made skin, tissues swelled, defining the limbs and sheathing the muscles.

It didn't make a sound, only dropped it arms and lifted its head as the skin expanded, stretched along its chest and throat, and down across the ribs and belly. Small breasts bloomed and swelled, nipples dark, then fading to rose. The throat narrowed, tightened, and the thing gurgled but went still as the changes swept over its face, filling in the jaw.

And Sam realized he should move, do something -- that maybe the creature was weakest when it was changing. He heaved upward only to find a smaller, but no less strong hand at his throat. It stared down at him, glared. Wet its lips which were pale but pinking and the rest of its features filled in, hair growing in like rapid photography.

He knew the face, the smile. He didn't recognize the expression in Kerry's eyes and wasn't sure he wanted to. "Like me better like this, Sam?" she asked him.

She was no more Kerry than she was Dean. "Did you kill her -- the girl you stole this body from?" he demanded and she squeezed his throat a little then let him go.

"No. she's still wasting her mind and her time hanging out at the Goth clubs, getting stoned and wondering how she can get absinthe, or laid, or both. She's a pretty vapid little bitch," Kerry said. "But she's not stupid and better, she never comes to this part of town. We don't imitate the dead very well."


"Not my name," she said. "But for now, it's okay…

"Your story about your brother--"

"My story, not hers. Interesting that she gets nearly as many stares for her looks as I would if I went out as myself…only she got to choose to look odd and out of place." She reached up and pushed a strand of black hair behind her ear. Her eyes flickered gold. "They expect her to be strange…" She tilted her head up, like she as listening. "They'll be here soon; my sister and your brother. He's coming to save you, Sam," she added and looked down at him. "He can't, but he has to try. I could almost admire that about him."

"Why? Because you couldn't save your brother?" he demanded. "Did you try?"

Her small hand managed quite the punch.

"Sister. We're all sisters. All of Lilith's grandchildren are sisters, even when we're brothers," she said, examining her knuckles. A smear of Sam's blood painted the pale skin and she licked at it. "We tried everything to get her to stay. Everything she wanted us to do; were anything she wanted us to be...it wasn't enough," she hissed at him. "But you know how that feels, don't you, Sam? Never being quite good enough, never satisfied, always the shadow. It's no wonder she liked being your brother so much -- out for himself, trusting no one. And that's your fault, Sam. You left him…you were all he had and you left him."

Sam could only barely focus on what she was saying -- the half truths, the twisting of what he thought and felt, and what Dean thought and felt, underlying truths maybe but mangled and distorted. He tried to catch anything in what she said that made sense, that could be of use. But it was hard to know who or what was talking about -- herself, him? Kerry or Dean? It was like she was channeling some part of all of them.

And maybe she was. Maybe that was the problem – they were walking, talking, personality disorders, split and fractured -- not isolated by physical trauma but torn by all they knew, all the people they became.

But there had to be a core personality, didn't there? One he could reach…maybe. Please, God. Maybe.  "Kerry, your sister was killing people -- people that had done nothing to her."

"Nothing?" she said and rose up. "Nothing? Nothing but flirt and flaunt and change. Pretend to love her, then be disgusted. She didn't change, they did. You all do," she said. "You think we don't know what we are, how repulsive we are? To everyone but each other…She tried…she tried so hard to be like one of those women, to be one of you. She thought being male would be easier…more choices. All she found were different kinds of lies. Over and over, finding someone…then them turning on her…"

Sam could guess. How long could they imitate someone? The skins were fragile, apparently. They needed to be replaced, maybe in hours or days.  How long could one of them try to be someone before they were caught shedding, or accidentally tearing a skin? "They found her out…"

"Yes. Eventually. And you can imagine what happens…how we have to protect ourselves. Our kind are always hunted. Demons, monsters. And we burn so pretty," she said bitterly.

"But you could live apart--"

"Sam…Sam…,” she said shaking her head. “You really are sweet. But really? How could we, with people like your brother and your father hunting us down wherever we settle?" she said. "That's what they do," she said and spat on him. Saliva struck his face and he flinched. Her anger faded that fast and she leaned over to wipe it away carefully with the edge of her hand. Her alternately vicious and gentle reactions left him off balance and cautious.

Kerry’s words, her sudden shifts of mood…it was like she was fractured, randomly picking up pieces of herself to try on and see if they fit the moment. "I never wanted it to be you," she said more calmly. "It should have been him, your brother. It should have been his dreams we took, but he couldn't hear us. His mind is too closed…too hard unless we become him.  You were easy, Sam. So easy, so open and easy to whisper to," she said and Sam felt queasy all over again

She was in his dreams. Dean had been more right than wrong. Kerry, or her sister, had been what -- who -- had been attacking him, going after him because they couldn't get to Dean.

He never wanted another dream in his life. It sobered him to realize that wish might come true.

"It took both of us, you know. To make you remember," she said. "The mind remembers, but the body can too. You can make it remember," she said and sighed. "I wish I'd picked someone else to be, to get to know you…someone…someone maybe you could like a little more," she said, sounding wistful.

"I like you fine," Sam said, quickly. Please, please… Was she human enough to still feel? To doubt? There had to be a way to use that and he tried not to think about how easily he was proving her point. "You're smart and funny…"

"But not beautiful," she said, looking down on him. "Not like your Jessica.  I tried to be, Sam. I can see her face…what she looked like, how she looked at you. I'd be her if I could. But the dead can't be shaped as easily. The skins don't last…" She sounded regretful, apologetic, like he would want that -- to have something that looked like Jessica but wasn't her.

"I'd rather get to know you," he said.

"Liar," she said but there was no heat. "Shall I change back? You want to get to know that me? The one under this," she asked, gesturing at the body she wore. "Want to meet me for coffee like that? Oh, I could wear a hat, some stylish clothes, maybe some make up like they make for burn victims. And people would try not to stare and think how kind you are to be spending time with that poor, deformed, ugly thing. Not even woman or man, just a thing," she said bitterly. "Why do you think we do this?" she asked.

"I…Kerry, I understand why. That you want to fit in, be accepted, to be normal--" Sam said, reaching for some kind of common ground. It was there -- weak -- but there. If she could use what she knew about him and Dean against him, he could do the same thing.

"You would understand that," she said and reached out to stroke his face, studying him intently. "See? I knew that. I've been you, you know," she said, almost shyly. "I know how you feel, know how you think…you don't feel normal, but it's only on the inside, Sam. Outside…no one notices but you."

"Been me? That's why you've been hanging out…"

"No. Not really. I just liked being there, watching you. People like you, Sam. You don't seem to know why, but they do. But being you…" She pulled back. "I know what you're afraid of…I know what hurts you, and what doesn't," she said and her fingers drifted low across his groin. "She lets me be Dean sometimes, when you're dreaming. He's still a jerk, but he knows what to do with his hands, his mouth." She said it like it was the most normal thing in the world.

She leaned over him and Sam tensed up again, when she lowered her mouth to his. "I learned a lot from him…and this is better, isn't it? Him kissing you…touching you? Scares you… but I'm not Dean. I'm just Kerry. And she doesn't scare you at all."

She scared him to death, but he didn't try to pull away, didn't encourage her, when her lips brushed across his. Didn't deny her when her tongue pressed into his mouth. He couldn't make himself respond, but he could keep himself from reacting. She kissed him like she enjoyed it, pulling back only reluctantly.

“See? Not scary,” she said and looked pleased, happy even.

"Kerry…what you want to do -- to me. To Dean, that scares me," he said. Admitting it wouldn't surprise her. "Kerry, please. I know you lost your sister. I know you're grieving. I know what it feels like to lose someone. Don't do this...please," he begged.

“Don’t beg,” she said, It seemed to disturb her. “You shouldn’t have to beg.”

He'd lie, beg and pray she wouldn't see through it. But it was hard, harder than it should be to concentrate and focus. His head was pounding and he'd lost the feeling in his arms. "We'll leave you alone. We won't hunt you…you can live like you want. Because you said it -- you are -- you didn't have to hurt the girl you are imitating. You could be her. Maybe only alone…with your sister. But you could live out in the open. We don't hunt what doesn't hurt," he said.

She was watching his face, brow furrowed, like she wanted to believe. She bit her lip and looked away. He could almost feel it, how much she wanted what he offered, to be able to move around like anyone else.  But the feeling faded and her expression hardened. "Maybe you would…but one of us will slip. One of us will have to hurt and will you understand then, Sam?  You make it sound so easy. So simple. But it's not." Her eyes flickered gold. "We're still part demon, Sam. Our mother's blood will tell."

"Does it have to?" he asked desperately, wondering if it were even possible to separate her from her siblings, or were they so tightly intertwined that none of them really had an identity of their own. "Kerry, you haven't hurt anyone. You haven't hurt me. You can stop yourself. And your mother isn't here, is she? She left you to fend for yourself."

She shook her head. "We aren't beautiful, like our mothers," she said. "And we aren't human." She stretched out against him and he winced at the added pressure her body put on his arms. She wasn't actively trying to hurt him. If anything, she almost sounded like she was testing the idea. "Most people never know we're here. We don't reveal ourselves much…but my sister. My sister -- she wanted more than living in darkness and borrowing other people's bodies," she said and pushed up. "I understand that…I did. Do you?"

"I'm trying to, Kerry. It's not the changing…it's what she did. To want to be someone else, even for a little while --  I understand that. You can have that…can't you? Isn't that what you're doing now? I only know you as Kerry. I don't know the woman you borrowed this face and body from -- I only know you."

"And you like me?"

"I thought we were friends…" he said and watched suspicion cross her features. "That maybe we could be if I got to know you a little better." Christ, it was hard to lie to someone who'd been crawling around in your brain and she obviously had -- in Dean's as well. "That's why you changed into her just now, isn't it? Because we know each other. Because you knew I liked her – you, just as you are.”

She nodded slowly, looking troubled.

Sam pushed, trying to be careful, not to misspeak. "Kerry, please…I know you miss your sister.  I'm sorry she's dead. I am," he said and at the moment he was. Not that they had killed a murderer, but that Kerry had lost someone she loved, no matter how that person had behaved.

She tensed suddenly and got to her feet. "They're almost here," she whispered and glanced back at Sam. "I can…I can talk to her. I can try," she said sounding desperate, her eyes narrowing, slitting like a cat's.

Her head snapped back like she'd been struck and she pressed her fingers to her temples. "I'm sorry…I'm sorry…" she was gasping now. She dropped to her knees, face contorted in pain, her broken apology not aimed at him at all. She sobbed and gasped once more, then drew back into herself. She went still for a moment, face blank and then she frowned. She held up her left arm and started scraping at the flesh there until it peeled. "Your brother has to pay…he has to suffer like we do," she said in a rush, echoing someone, shedding a long strip of skin.

Sam didn't know what had happened, but he saw his opportunity sliding away, being stripped away as easily as Kerry peeled the flesh from her arm. "Kerry, you don’t…Please, please, whatever it is, don't do this," he said desperate to reach some part of her, of it. "You don't have to be like her, like them," he said desperately. "You can be yourself, whoever that is, whoever you want to be. You could leave here…leave them."

"Like you'd leave your brother? Again? You did, and look what happened to him," she said angrily. "Or are you going to promise to stay?" she asked. "That's next isn't it? To offer to stay with me, help me. Be my friend?"

He couldn't. She knew it and there was no way to make it true or even possible.

Her gaze softened fractionally and she caught the sides of his face and lifted his head. "She's what I have…all I have. I'd do anything for her," Kerry said and kissed him, lightly, like a sister, before letting him go. "We're not so different." More skin fell away as she tore it from her hands, calmer now. "Just like you'd do for your brother, anything…"

Sam closed his eyes and turned away, unable to watch her peel the tormented face from her skull. Maybe if he kept his eyes closed long enough, it would just be over because he couldn't think anymore, was having a hard time remembering what it felt like not to hurt or to be so exhausted, it was hard to keep breathing.

The sound of bones shifting and cracking made him ill, all of it playing over in his mind and he kept his eyes tightly shut.

"You can't even look at me," it said somewhere in between the tearing of flesh and the raspy sound of its own breath.

The accusation was bitter and on target. Sam couldn't. Dean would kill him if he knew Sam felt one jot of sympathy for these things, but he couldn't help it.

It hadn't killed. Not yet. Not this one. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. No guarantees that it never would though. What was the breaking point of madness for a creature born already half-mad by its own existence?

"You can look now, Sam," it said and he didn't want to look even now, with Dean's voice coaxing him and Dean's face staring down at him. He did it anyway, unreassured by the warm hazel gaze meeting his own, chilled by Dean's nakedness, not because he was naked, but because he was hard. His dick was rising under the stroke of a hand that had shaken Sam out of more nightmares than he could count, that had bandaged his wounds, clapped his shoulder, held him when he was grieving.

It was entirely possible Sam might go mad first and there was some comfort in that thought. He couldn't hold the fear back any longer.

"Kerry, please…don't do this," he said with a suddenly dry mouth.

"She's gone, Sam. She won't be back," it said quietly. "She won't even be a shape I'll remember. Family is all there is. You know it…you just don't want to believe it," it said, Dean's voice, calm and sure, absolute, unwilling to argue. "Nothing changes that. Nothing. Not ever."

What it said wasn't true but Kerry was right; Sam didn't believe it. "Families change all the time," Sam said. "New lives, deaths. Nothing stays the same, Kerry…if you try to make it stay the same…it breaks," he said.

Dean's gaze was almost sorrowful but he took a breath and stared toward the open space beyond the concrete shadow. "You should know…this was never about you. It's always been about Dean," it said calmly and pulled its gaze back to Sam. It crouched down and stroked fingers through his hair. "Just like the rest of your life. This isn't any different, and dying won't change it."

There was no hesitation in its tone, in its body. Whatever window of opportunity Sam had found had passed. Did it know? It had to, had to know that if it killed him, Dean would never stop, would hunt it and all its sisters down until the last one was dead or he'd die trying. He'd have his own quest, something else to cut across his soul like their mother's death had.

And if he survived this but lost Dean? He wouldn't stop either, not knowing what he knew. They were starting a war that might never end, feud that might last forever.

Sam stared up at it, at the familiar face. It wasn't Dean. That was all he needed to know. No matter what it did. He tried to believe that.

It stared back at him and frowned, the eyes flickering gold. "So be it. We're all freaks, Sam," it said and stood up and reached for him.

Sam choked again as he was dragged further up the shallow incline. Foul smelling cloth was the first thing he noticed when he could actually take a breath. He could still feel the rocks beneath, but at least they didn't cut at him.

A glint of light made him look and being cut by rocks suddenly seemed preferable.

The knife was long -- not a perfect replica of Dean's hunting blade, but close enough. Sam couldn't stop from closing his eyes and flinching when it slashed down.

There was no pain and that made him hiss in reaction more than anything, but his shirt was pulled tight, away from his skin, and he opened his eyes again to see Dean's face concentrating on the blade cutting through his shirt. It pulled the cloth from under the ropes, all the way to his chest. A wash of chilled air made him shiver when his skin was exposed, the dampness seeping into his flesh.

The knife flicked up along his arm and shoulder, the cloth giving way easily under the sharp edge, and scraped his throat as the collar of his shirt was sliced apart.

A couple of harsh tugs cleared the fabric from his chest and back, leaving friction burns on his shoulders, robbing him of the protection of cloth from the ropes that bound him. Now they cut into his skin, chafed and rubbed him raw as the thing shifted and moved him to strip him bare to the waist. He tried to kick out when it tugged at his jeans again, but he only got a solid punch to his kidneys for the effort that left him gasping and coughing and unable to even curl up to protect himself. The cold air washed over his ass and groin, but the hand that spanned his thigh was warm, strong.

All resolution faltered. Dying would be better. It didn't actually help knowing this was all for Dean's benefit…to torture him maybe even more than Sam. He wanted for it not to matter, willed himself to remember it wasn't his brother doing this, wasn't any fault of his own.

It was harder than he thought possible.

 "Shhhh. Shhh. It's okay…Sammy," it said and Sam remembered that tone from a million restless nights when he was younger. It rubbed his back, still reassuring, and Sam realized he was whimpering, making embarrassingly frightened noises in his throat. He stopped, bit his lip and steeled himself when the hand moved lower, skimming over his ass and between his legs.

He could hear the water still. Could hear the waves as a constant shush of sound. He couldn't move even when the thing with Dean's face and Dean's body stretched out along his own and brushed a kiss along his shoulder. He was held fast by bindings he couldn't break, paralyzed by fear, just as in his nightmares.

There was going to be no waking up from this, Sam knew. There would be no vagueness to this particular memory.

"You aren't Dean," he said, scared by how weak his voice sounded. "You aren't my brother," he said it more strongly and squeezed his eyes shut when the hand pressed between his legs fondled him, found his hole. The pain wasn't sharp but the pressure was as unwelcome as the  finger that slid inside him.

"Of course I'm not," it said reassuringly. "Your brother doesn't know what he's got, doesn't even know this is on offer, because he doesn't need you, Sam. Wants you, yes…but need? He doesn't need anything or anybody. That's what he tells himself.  He doesn't know what that feels like…stays distant."

Protecting himself, Sam thought but wouldn't say it, wouldn't defend his brother against this thing… not when it twisted and distorted everything. And it was, it was still trying, as its sister had, to make him doubt, to make him question Dean, to question himself.

It would have been better maybe, if it hadn't been so gentle, careful, like wearing Dean's skin checked the urge to violence, or that Kerry still lurked under there somewhere. Its sister hadn't had that problem. "But you love him more than anything in the world. More than your father, more than even your Jessica. And he knows it. Knows that when he asked you to choose between him and her, you went with him…and she died." Sam's eyes flashed open, to see only the dirty cloth, the darkness beyond. Tricks. Lies, but there was truth in it, the words echoing so closely to his own thoughts that he felt ashamed. "She died, Sam…because there's nothing you wouldn't do for your brother. Nothing you wouldn't give him. Not even this." Its hand pressed down on his hip and a knee nudged his legs apart.

Fighting back was all instinct, but the rope at his throat was pulled tight in warning, robbing him of strength as his body was robbed of oxygen. He couldn't stop this, now, here, any more than he'd been able to do in his nightmares.

He couldn’t stop the scream in his throat but he buried it in the filthy cloths, tried desperately to reject the hard flesh pressing into his ass, stretching him open and tearing his skin. It pushed in hard, the pain not worse than anything else but he couldn’t shut it out, couldn't outrun or ignore it. Sam groaned, bit his lip until he tasted blood.

"You know why this, Sam?" it whispered, moving inside him, touching him like it cared. Sam knew he was going to throw up, choke on his own vomit. "Killing you really was never the plan, Sam. This was, though. I’ve spent my whole life protecting you, mostly from myself. From Dad. From monsters. Only, I’m the monster, Sam…the killer. I can’t protect you from myself or from them….they can reach you any time, any place -- take you right from under my nose …”  Everything in its voice, in its tone sounded like Dean,  hesitant and breathy, like when Dean found it difficult to tell him something important.

That Dean would do this to him wasn’t something Sam believed even while it was happening. Denying that Dean might think or feel these things…that was harder.

This scares me, Sam. You scare me…I’ve wanted you for so long, watched you. It killed me to let you go and I’m not doing it again.” Dean’s lips brushed over Sam’s ear, nuzzled him and he whispered; a secret for just the two of them. “But I never thought you’d give me this…so I’m taking it. Just this once…you can deny me everything else, little brother. Hate me. Leave me. But I’ll get this part of you...”

Lips brushed across shoulder again, and the hips pressing against him moved faster, pressing him down harder until Sam could feel the rocks below, even through the soiled pallet. "I’m not different than them, Sam…I’m a freak and I still want someone to love me. You’re the only one that ever has. So, I have to take what I can get.”

No...no…no… Lies all of it, and Sam shook his head, tried to relax, to ease the pain and pressure. "You're not my brother. You're not my brother…" over and over to drown out the sound of flesh against flesh, to shut out the lies…and mostly, to mask the sound of his own sobs.


It took no chances with him at all, and Dean could almost appreciate the thing's caution and craftiness except he could really use a break here. It also freaked him out that when the thing opened the trunk, it knew where to find exactly what it was looking for -- including a set of standard issue police handcuffs. They weren't enspelled or blessed, but they were still pretty damned effective when it snapped them around his wrists and through door handle of the car.

And he definitely had a bad moment when it found his gun -- one of them -- and checked the rounds, testing several until it found the ones it was looking for. "I'm guessing silver bullets don't do much more than just kill humans?" it said and loaded the gun, then pressed the muzzle to Dean's temple. "Silver or lead, I'm pretty sure this would splatter your brains all over the car. Sam's too," it said, and waited, like it expected Dean to flinch.

As if.

After a moment, it pulled the gun back and reset the safety, then tucked it into the back of its jeans.

Even after it had him locked down, it went back, rummaging through the trunk, returning with a small carry bag, that it tossed in the back seat.

"And a thief too," Dean said and the thing chuckled as it started the car.

"Once you've stolen a few bodies…car jacking is just no challenge," it said, and Dean gritted his teeth when it ground the shift into reverse, exactly the way Sam always did.

"So, maybe I don't really want to know this, but is there a plan here?" Dean asked after about five minutes of driving. Normally he didn't talk to monsters, but this one…there had to be something he could use. It wasn't a manifestation or restless spirit. He wasn't entirely sure what it was, but he knew how to kill them if he got the chance. And he needed the chance.

They were headed toward the river, residential neighborhoods giving way to businesses and later to industrial complexes, portages and docks. "You wanted me, you got me. You used my brother to get me… and I'm pretty much guessing this ends up with me or him or both, dead, right?"

"I really do have all the imagination, don't I?" it said, never taking its eyes off the road.

"You're not Sam," Dean said flatly.

"You know that now…but will you be able to tell the difference in a month, six months…a year?" it asked, glancing over at him.

"You plan on being a regular visitor? Because really, the house is always a mess and we never know what to do with company--"

Its hand shot out and gripped his throat, thumb digging in brutally just above his Adam's apple. "You really can't ever stop, can you? Everything's a joke…nothing deserves even a moment of serious consideration. God, I don't know how he stands it."

It let him go and Dean swallowed and really, seriously needed to rub at his throat. He cleared it instead. "Sam's got a way better developed sense of humor than you."

It smiled and Dean didn't like the look on its face at all.

"I can pretty much promise you that when you see him, he won't be laughing," it said.

Dean said nothing, but hooked his fingers around the door handle to see if there was any give at all. He could probably pull it out of the door panel if he jerked it hard enough, but no way to do it without being noticed.

"So, there hasn't been a string of brutally murdered women in Milwaukee lately. That not your thing?" he asked.

"Looking for a conscience in me, Dean? Don't strain yourself.  That's a human failing, not one of ours," it said then slouched back in the seat, driving with one hand. "Or really…you hunt monsters. Ghosts, phantoms. All the things that lurk in the corners and shadows, crawl or fly in the night. Does it really surprise you that sometimes, they might hunt you back?  Who knows? The thing that killed your mother and Jessica -- maybe it's a first cousin or something."

"We hunt what kills. We didn't start this thing with your sister," Dean snapped out.

"Really? You think so? You think we'd look like you or your brother or anyone else if we could live among you like we are, and not be hunted? Reviled? Murdered," it sneered. "You may not be the smart one, but the ghosts you hunt -- battered souls. In living they were wronged, betrayed, murdered. Why shouldn't they come back to even the score? Why don't you hunt the human monsters among your own kind? Answer me that, Dean," it said and waited.

Dean tried to find a snappy come back, something clever and off hand. He couldn't. "It wasn't a human monster that killed my mother," he said.

It snorted and gave him a dismissive glance. "Your hypocrisy is despicable."

Don't listen, Dean warned himself, but it was difficult; just as difficult as if it had been Sam talking to him. Over-thinking this, playing into its manipulations and lies was dangerous, deadly. It didn't operate by human rules, human motives, but God, it certainly had a seriously twisted handle on both.

He could smell the water, see it glinting between buildings. He'd never explored this part of town, wasn't entirely sure he could find his way back. Looking at row after row of similar structures -- warehouses and storage sheds, office complexes -- he'd never have found Sam here.

It pulled the car in between two older structures, following the parking lot, and through the gate of a chain link fence that looked closed but gave way easily when it was nudged with the bumper. Asphalt gave way to gravel then muddy dirt. An uneven, pitted road made the suspension squeak and heave, scraping bottom on a couple of deeper ruts.

The local businesses were obviously using this as an unofficial dump, but it was well hidden by the road and even the river could only be barely seen a few hundred yards away.

But then the dirt gave way to more gravel, or rock; the dark, perpetually water-soaked granite and slate used to shore up the river bank so it could be built on. Broken concrete had fallen onto the bank, but above it another flat level rose, the far end of the port and docks, the waterway curving away from this remote corner of Milwaukee's Riverfront.

The pylons were low here, rising steadily toward where Dean could only barely see the cranes used to load and unload barges on the seaway.

They pulled up under a dangerously cracked and tilting piece of concrete; exposed rebar rusty and sticking up like the jaggedly bent tines of a giant fork. The thing got out and came around to open Dean's door. Before Dean could do more than follow the drag of the door handle he found himself looking down the barrel of his own gun again.

"Remember what I said, Dean. Attack me and I will kill you, and if you're dead…trust me. I will make Sam pay for a very long time. And he'll die alone. Like my sister did."

Dean's heart pounded in his chest. This was different, not so mocking, much less like Sam. He couldn't imagine his brother ever sounding this hard or to look in Sam's eyes and see the gaze of a stone-cold killer. The thing was deadly serious, Sam's voice lending a gravity and coldness that Dean couldn't deny. He leaned forward and spread his fingers. "Just let him go…anything you want, anything from me. Just --" he couldn't do it. It wasn't the begging. He'd beg for Sam's life on his knees if he thought it would help, but he didn't think it would.

The thing had to look down to unlock Dean's hands, but the gun remained steady. One cuff fell off Dean's wrist and he pulled the chain through and stood up when Sam's double beckoned him away from the car.

"Take your belt off," it said and Dean hesitated until he heard the gun cock. Moving carefully, he did as he was told, pulling it free of his belt loops.  "Make a loop," it instructed. "And put it over your head."

Every step, every move and Dean watched the gun and the thing's chest. The leather of his belt was thick but not so much he had to tilt his head back; it made a pretty effective leash.

"Hands," it said and Dean held them out.

It had to put the gun away to redo the cuffs and Dean saw his chance a half second before it happened. His arms were already locked in front of him, palms spread wide. Just as it gripped his wrist, Dean grabbed its arm, twisting down and under and coming up beneath it with a thrust of his shoulder. He stepped into the thing's body, throwing it off balance. He'd dumped Sam on his ass a dozen times with the same move but Sam had learned and so had this thing -- shoving its weight forward.

Dropping low and twisting, Dean let its own weight carry it forward, feeling the sharp burn along his shoulder as he almost dislocated it. Center of balance…center. A million hours of getting his ass kicked by trainers, in bar fights, picking up moves. It wasn't the moves, it was why they worked; something Sam still hadn't learned.  Using every ounce of strength in his legs, he pushed up and flipped the thing over his shoulder. It landed hard on its back on the stone, and Dean dropped. He felt the rib cage give; heard the crack of bone, the sudden "whoof" of air and he reached under it, scraping his hands against the rocks, but his fingers closed over the gun and he pulled it free, whipping it around.  He pressed the gun to the thing's forehead, trying to ignore the wide-eyed sense of betrayal in Sam's eyes. He didn't hesitate, didn't second guess himself. The trigger was as familiar as Sam's face. God, Sam, forgive me if I'm wrong.

The report echoed against the stone and concrete. Dean pressed the gun to the thing's chest and pumped another round into its heart. He pulled his belt from his neck and, without even stopping to check on the thing on the ground, was up and running toward the darkened overhang.

He'd gotten in maybe a hundred yards when he heard the screaming and he ran toward it, shutting out the fact that it was his own voice, and not Sam's, that was screaming in anger and fear and grief.

The sound bounced and echoed but despite being wide, the overhang wasn't that deep and got progressively shallower. The flickering light guided him further and he came in, gun ready.

A thing with Dean's face crouched over Sam, an already bloodied knife poised over Sam's unprotected back. Dean fired and a bullet ripped through the thing's shoulder, spinning it away. Dean closed the distance but it barely seemed to notice the gouge in it's arm as it twisted around and dragged Sam up, using his body as a shield.

He couldn't even tell if Sam was alive, only that he was bound and naked and bloodied and he couldn't, wouldn't, think about why that was so. It would make him blind and stupid and God knew, they could not afford stupid right now. Right now, he needed every bit of his "unpredictable" streak to do him proud. "Come on!" he screamed at it. "That's two of you I've sent to hell…come and get me, you freak!" he taunted.

"I'll cut his heart out!" it screamed, the blade dragging up along Sam's chest, leaving a bloody furrow. Sam's head lolled back and rocked forward, eyes open but staring blankly, not even flickering toward Dean.

Sam was still bleeding and Dean dared breathe again. It meant Sam was alive.

He spread his hands out, the gun dangling from a finger. "Wouldn't you rather cut out mine?" he said. "Come on…come on. Here," he tossed the gun to the side, watched it hesitate, his own eyes narrowing and then widening and it smiled, sneered, and brought the blade up to Sam's throat.

"Sam, Left!" Dean yelled, not even sure Sam was conscious enough to hear him, or understand him.

But Sam did. He jerked left; years of hunting with Dean leaving instincts as ingrained as breathing. Sam twisted as he did and the blade skittered off his chest and shoulder rather than his throat.

It was enough. Enough for Dean to close the distance, to launch himself into a tackle that sent all three of them sprawling. Then he was grappling himself for the blade and he had no compunctions at all about driving his knee into his double's groin. His double howled but wasn't nearly as incapacitated as Dean would have been by the same vicious move. The blade raked across his chest deeply enough to cut through his shirt and into flesh. And then it was on its feet.

There was a downside to fighting himself: same weight, same muscle mass, and damned if this one didn't know everything, every move he knew. And everything anyone else it had ever been knew too, apparently.

Too close at one point, and Dean found his hands slipping on suddenly slick skin, the flesh peeling away under his fingers. If he hadn't been fighting for his own life and Sam's he might have completely tossed his cookies.

He tried to grip an arm and twist it behind the thing, only to have the skin slough off in one gory, slimy piece. An elbow smacked into his face, and renewed pain exploded through his nose and face again, almost blinding him. Blood flowed and then it had him down; long, strong fingers strangled him and he felt the blade under his chin.

He heard Sam scream and barely caught a blur of movement. His double went sprawling and Dean sucked in air only to find Sam stretched out across him. Sam's face was white under streaks of blood, jaw set, and he was still tied. How he had gotten to his feet at all, Dean had no idea but he took the opportunity offered.

Metal glinted and Dean shoved Sam away and dove, rolling as his fingers closed over his gun and he sighted.

It was déjà vu to see the two rounds enter the thing's body, to see it slump: Only part of it still looked like him at all, and for some reason, even watching his own face register shock and surprise and pain, he was glad it was his face and not whatever lay beneath. The arms, part of its chest, and one thigh were torn, exposing grey-white skin that even as it collapsed onto the rocks, was turning yellowish, like jaundice.

Dean pulled himself up to one knee, breathing harshly, gun still held steady as he moved to check on Sam. The knife lay on the rocks and Dean kicked it away from the yellowing, dying body, before picking it up. He almost passed out when he bent over -- blood rushing to his face, filling his nose and mouth and he lifted his head, tilted it back, and wiped at it, before turning to Sam.

Sam flinched when he touched him, staring back at him with wide, panicked eyes, breathing so fast from either pain or fear he was going to make himself pass out -- which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, Dean thought. He tried to assess how badly Sam was hurt but it was hard to tell. Blood flowed freely across his chest and down one arm, a deep slice across the back of Sam's shoulder was bleeding steadily and soaking the ropes around his chest. His face was bruised and bleeding, but pale beneath.

"Sam…Sam…calm down. Just breathe, man, okay?" Dean's voice was nowhere near as steady as he wanted it to be. "I'm going to cut you loose, okay?" It took Sam a minute to take the deeper breath he needed and give him a cautious nod.

Dean needed both hands to cut through the ropes without hurting Sam further, but he kept the gun close by, checking the stretched-out body ten feet away. When Sam was free he got up to check on the shape-shifter. It wasn't moving now, but it was still bleeding slowly; eyes glassy but still glowing. Dean watched it and saw the chest rise weakly. He raised the gun again.

"No. Dean. No," Sam said, flatly, and Dean glanced back, saw a warning in Sam's face, in his body, that made him wait. Sam was hunched over, one hand pressed to the deep gash in his shoulder. But he was staring at Dean intently. "Mine," he said softly.

Oh, God, Sam…what did they do? The look he'd never expected to see, it was right there, in Sam's eyes. He'd seen that same gaze stare back at him from a mirror a thousand times, and he'd seen only minutes ago on the face of Sam's double. The thought that Sam could become more like one of them made Dean wonder if he'd been too late before he even got here. He'd never heard or seen Sam look so cold or so ruthless. But all he could do was give Sam a small nod to let him know he'd heard and clench his jaw to keep from screaming.

Dean backed up, keeping the gun on the shape-shifter, and poked through the boxes and bags of supplies. He found a shirt and pair of sweats that weren't disgusting, still folded up in plastic shopping bags. He tucked them under his arm and used another shirt to wipe at his face, trying not to breathe through his nose. He could taste blood at the back of his throat and his whole face felt swollen.

He brought the clothes back and offered them to Sam. Sam looked up at him; God, he was a mess.

"Sam," he said and started to crouch, only Sam mirrored his stance. He had the knife, ready to use it, eyeing Dean with obvious mistrust.

Dean couldn't breathe, and the thickness in his throat had less to do with the blood running down his face, than the emotion that choked him. "Sam…it's me. Honest to God...swear on my Van Halen tapes…"

"Put it down…" Sam said and didn't sound like himself.

It took Dean a second to realize Sam mean the gun, that despite diving into the middle of a fight, he still wasn't entirely sure if Dean were really his brother or not. And that did not bode well for whatever had happened to him before Dean got here. And Sam had kept him from putting the murderous thing out of its misery.

Doubt flickered through his mind. There were two, there could be more and if this wasn't Sam in front of him, bleeding and acting like a wounded animal…Dean was in serious trouble.

It was more faith than reason that made Dean set the clothes down and then place the gun on top of them and back off. He crouched a few feet away. If he was wrong, he was dead and so was Sam. For the first time in a long time, Dean really and sincerely prayed.

Sam picked up the gun but he didn't turn it on Dean. Dean wanted to be proud when Sam checked the gun first to see how many rounds were left, before dragging the sweats across his lap, but pride didn't have any place here. Sam was functioning on automatic, moving stiffly, like everything hurt, and there was blood and muck and streaks of filth on him that Dean didn't want to think about how they had gotten where they did. Sam getting to his feet was a struggle and Dean twitched to help him when Sam had to kneel first, already scraped and bleeding knees and calves pressed to the stone. But he made it, backing into the crates and boxes so he was out of Dean's reach as he pulled on the sweat pants.

He looked like he might fall over and he didn't even try for the shirt but he did stumble toward the shape-shifter.

"Sam--," Dean warned him, unfolding his legs until the gun swung around to cover him and he sat back on his calves and held up his hands. Sam shifted his attention again. He stood over the shape-shifter and Dean tensed up at the look on Sam's face.

Sam's gun hand was steady, unwavering. "How many, Kerry?" he asked, and Dean swore softly, staring at the thing. Kerry…Kerry who he hadn't liked and had let drive Sam home while Dean was fucking his brains out.

Sam wasn't done yet, and he wanted something: his voice was hoarse, staring at the partially exposed shifter. "How many more? Where are they, Kerry?"

It coughed and smiled, some of the teeth had fallen out and Dean didn't remember hitting it that hard, but blood coated its gums. "God, I almost believed you, Sam, but you are just like your brother," it rasped out on a wheezy breath and glared at Sam. "We are legion," it said, with a hoarse replica of Dean's own chuckle. "And we all know you…we know all about you, Sam…what you like and what you're scared of." Its head tilted and it stared at Dean. "We win. Killing you was never the plan--"

Whatever it might have said was cut off when Sam fired a shot into its heart and another into its head before swinging the gun around to Dean. His hand was shaking but his aim was steady enough. "Seven rounds. There's one left."

Dean stared at him, shocked and ready to try and convince Sam but what could he say? If it were him, he might have shot Sam already. "I don't know how to prove to you I'm me, Sam. I got no idea."

The gun wavered and Sam took a deep breath. "The skins don't last," he said and glanced down at the knife.

It took a second but Dean glanced at the dead shifter, at the strips of hanging skin and exposed flesh. "Done," he said and let Sam back off so he could pick up the blade. He stared at his own arms before settling on the outside of his left elbow. He wiped the blade on his pants and stared at it. "I'm so going to need a tetanus shot for this," he said, and thought maybe something besides distrust flickered in Sam's eyes, but it was emotion, not a flickering glow, and Dean didn't hesitate. Sam was holding onto his sanity by his fingertips. If he fell now, chances were he'd take Dean with him, he was that close to breaking.

The blade was definitely sharp, though not quite razor sharp. Even so, Dean almost bit through his tongue as it sank into his flesh. The only good thing was that it took his attention away from his face for a few seconds. He tried not to go so deep that he'd slice muscle -- crippling himself wasn't exactly his first choice, but he yelped anyway and swore, fist clenching as he sliced his own skin.

"Shit…" he said as the blood welled, dripped down his arm and he looked at Sam, not entirely sure what his brother was looking for. The shifters could and did bleed.

Sam stared for a long moment, before taking a step closer and Dean tensed up again when the gun was pressed to his neck while Sam checked the wound.

Sam wasn't rough but it still hurt like hell as he used his thumb and forefinger to stretch the gash wide. More blood welled, staining Sam's hands.

Dean wasn't prepared for Sam to dig his fingers into the cut and pull and it took all Dean had not to shove Sam away or pull away himself.

His skin didn't peel or tear, and the blood was red.  Sam finally closed his hand over the wound, squeezing Dean's arm, applying pressure. "Sorry." It was barely a whisper. Sam let his other arm fall, the gun clattering to the stone. He stared at the blood welling between his fingers, not lifting his head even when Dean lifted his other hand to cup the back of his neck, but he tensed up at first, flinched…only to relax again.

"It's okay," Dean said and it was. Not one word about scars.

This had been easier when Sam was young, small, and Dean couldn't for the life of him remember when he had stopped hugging Sam or when Sam had started squirming away when he did. He tried to pull Sam toward him, but Sam resisted and Dean backed off. He laid his hand under Sam's to press on the wound. "First aid kit's in the car, Sam," he said and took a step back. Then another. Sam nodded and crouched to retrieve the gun, fingering it, then followed Dean

It took them longer to walk back to the car than it had to fight and kill two shape shifters. The other one lay where it had fallen and for a couple of minutes Sam stared at it; at his own face staring sightlessly up at the sky. Death didn't change them. The skins stayed intact, but Dean didn't even want to guess for how long.

Dealing with the bodies was the last thing he wanted to do, the last thing he wanted Sam to have to deal with, but the bodies had their faces -- something that was getting old really fast. They couldn't leave them for someone else to find. Dean looked to the river and saw Sam do the same thing.

Patch up first, though. Sam wrapped Dean's arm carefully, almost too gently. The wound in Sam's shoulder was still bleeding but not as heavily, and Dean pressed a gauze pad over the bloody flap of skin for the time being. It would need stitches, maybe a lot of them, and it was already swelling.

Once Sam had been bandaged, put his shoes on, and found a shirt, he looked steadier and more resolute. He'd said barely a dozen words and Dean didn't know what or how to ask him about any of it and every time he tried, Sam just looked away

The current was deep and swift and there was enough broken concrete and scraps of sheets and cloth and rope in the nest to weight the bodies down. Dean did all the wrapping and let Sam keep an eye out. They used the car to move them because Dean was pretty sure that neither of them were in any shape to drag bodies several hundred yards -- not to mention the longer it took, the more likely other were to be seen by a passing boat or some over cautious security patrol. By the time they were done, they were both shaking in exhaustion.

The bodies sank quickly. When they were gone, and they were sure they wouldn't rise up again, Sam lifted his head and met Dean's eyes for the first time. "Can we go?" he asked. He was still pale, voice uneven, but Dean didn't know if was from shock or cold or both.

"Yeah, we're gone, man. We're gone," Dean promised.

"No. I mean…can we just go? Leave Milwaukee. Just--"

"Yeah. Yes," Dean said. "We've got stuff at the house but we can leave it…"

"No. We can get that…Dad's journal and clothes and they're still in the washer--" Where he'd been silent before, now the words seemed to fall out of Sam like he couldn’t stop them. Dean lifted his hands and Sam went still when Dean carefully laid them on his shoulders, lightly, squeezing the uninjured one.

"Sam, look at me," he said and waited until Sam did. "Listen up. Every town's got a Laundromat. We can wash them again. We'll be fast, in and out an on the road. Whatever you want to do, bro. Done. It's done. We're gone. Okay?"

It took Sam a minute but he nodded and Dean nudged him toward the car and inside, passing him a bottle of water.  Sam moved stiffly, carefully, but Dean wasn't feeling any too spry himself. He almost groaned when he finally sat down.

Sam was silent for the drive, slumped down in the seat, arms crossed over his chest, his head back and eyes closed but there was no way he was sleeping. Halfway back he cleared his throat and looked over at Dean.

"I think…I think I need a hospital, Dean."

Dean gave him a quick assessment. Where Sam had been pale now he was pale and clammy looking, sweat on his face even in the cool air. He reached over and gripped Sam's shoulder, squeezed it again. "Hospital it is, little brother. Coming right up," he promised.

Sam almost smiled then closed his eyes again, while Dean turned the car toward town and St. Francis's public hospital. "Sam…before we get there…"

"Mugged. Just tell them we were mugged."

"I'm not sure they'll buy that," Dean said carefully. That would mean a police report.

"They won't have to…just tell them. They'll figure it out," Sam said but offered no more.

For a public hospital, it wasn't too busy, but the nurse doing the triage tried to take Dean back first since he was the one obviously dripping blood in a couple of places and Sam, while pale, was still steady on his feet. Dean stopped her. "Trust me, ma'am," he said with his most disarming and sincere expression, neither of which was faked. "My brother needs to see a doctor pretty quick if you've got one." She didn't look entirely convinced but Dean took the clipboard with the forms from her. "I'll fill out for both of us, okay?"

Twenty minutes later they called Dean back. He didn't see Sam and when he checked, the nurse told him he'd been taken down to x-ray.

Dean got his nose packed with cotton and the lovely news that, yes, his nose was broken. There would be bruising and swelling but the break was clean and probably wouldn't need to be reset or be obviously broken once it healed. His arm got eight stitches and his chest covered in butterfly bandages.

Then he had to wait, which didn’t sit well. He snagged coffee from the nurse's station and silently thanked anyone who was listening that it was Sunday and the billing office was closed. He had to give the Owens's number but the admission's clerk seemed satisfied when she called to verify the address and length of residence and actually got someone to pick up the phone. She was a whole lot friendlier after that.

"Mr. Winchester? Dean Winchester?" the doctor who called him back was a woman, dark skinned, looking like she was from the middle east but her English was accented only by a Midwest upbringing. "Your brother said I should talk to you," she said and led him to the rear of the treatment rooms, into a real office. Sam wasn't there and Dean felt a whole different kind of fear shake him--that Sam had been hurt worse, that those things had done something else, infected him with God knew what.

She gestured him to a chair and closed the door. "Mr. Winchester, first, your brother's going to be fine. None of his injuries are dangerous in and of themselves," she said carefully.

"Sorry, Doc but that doesn't actually reassure me. Where is he?"

"Just getting a couple of additional tests. Blood work mostly. And we're giving him a liter of fluids. He's a little shocky. He asked me to talk to you. That you know he was r--"

"Go on." He didn't want to hear the word. Not at all.

"We’re going to give him a sedative before he leaves. He's going to need to rest. His shoulder is going to be painful -- we'll put him on a course of antibiotics for a few days, give him a sling. Make sure he uses it. He might need a therapist but there will be a treatment sheet with some gentle exercise. He's got a couple of fractured ribs -- there's nothing we can do for them, really. Wrap them if he becomes too uncomfortable, but mostly he needs rest. As for the other…" Dark eyes flicked up at him, the sympathy so obvious, Dean thought it should be flashing on her forehead.

"We did a fast HIV test, but he should check back in a couple of weeks for more extensive results," she said and handed him a sheet of paper. It was instructions and a phone number and Dean's vision blurred. He didn't want to know this. He'd already known it but now it was too real. "It's a secure phone number; that's the id," she said pointing at a hand written number at the top of the sheet.

"He's okay?" he said and tasted blood in the back of his throat again.

"Physically, there was no damage to worry about. But this is difficult for anyone and he's likely to be -- "

"A little all over the map?" Dean said brightly.

"Yes," she said and smiled and handed him two more sheets of paper, a business card, and a pamphlet that he immediately flipped over so he wouldn't have to read the title. "Mr. Winchester--"


"Dean. There's some very good counseling centers -- and the university has support groups. I strongly recommend both you and your brother check them out.  Sam doesn't want to file a police report and I know it's difficult…but you might want to rethink it. We did a rape kit--"

"Can I see him?"

She studied him and then nodded. "I'll check. You wait here." She left him.

"No, thank you, Doc. The police won't be necessary," he said quietly to himself when she was gone. He stared at the contact sheets and pamphlet, then carefully slid all but the test result line information under the  desk blotter.

She came back and Dean got up, followed her to a curtained cubicle.

Sam had some color back in his face. He was almost done with the IV and every wound Dean could see had been cleaned and bandaged. He still looked like shit but his gaze was steadier. It swept over Dean's face, taking in the bandages, the swelling. His eyes darted down to look at Dean's arm then back up to Dean's face.

"That's really not a good look on you," Sam observed.

Smiling hurt but it didn't stop Dean from doing it. He carefully touched his nose. "Yeah, well, I'm trying to think of it as an exercise in humility," he said.

Sam considered it. "You could use the practice," he said. A weak jab, but any jab in a storm, Dean thought.

"You could use a lot fewer bruises yourself," he said and suddenly none of it was funny and it seemed obscene to make jokes. He looked down, fingered the bandage on his arm and stared at the sheet of paper he still held. "Sam--" he took a deep breath, not sure he could even talk about it.

"You talked to Dr. Badesher," Sam said, saving him from his own fear.

"Yeah. We talked," Dean said. He folded the paper up carefully, stuck it in his pocket and left his hand there. He came closer to the gurney and gripped the rail with his other hand. "She thinks you should talk to someone."

Sam gave him half a smile and fiddled with the IV needle in the back of his hand.

"You pull that out and we'll have stay here longer," Dean warned and then dropped his gaze. "Although that may not be a bad idea. Sam--"

"I don't want to stay," Sam interrupted. "And I don't want to talk about it just yet."

"I'd listen." Dean meant it. He wouldn't want to, but he'd do it.

"I know. And you may be -- I'm thinking maybe the nightmares aren't exactly going to stop."

"Not all of them…" Dean agreed and pressed his fingers to his eyes. His sinuses felt packed with cement.

"Dean…one thing," Sam said

Dean made himself listen. This wasn't a promise he was going to break at the first test.

"I knew it wasn't you."

Dean didn't even know badly he needed to hear that before Sam said it. Guilt wasn't something Dean gave into very often. He felt it often enough, but refused to give into it. He couldn’t. How Sam could and keep going, Dean had no idea. He reached out and smoothed the tape down over the IV needle. When Sam neither flinched nor pulled away, Dean curved his hand over the back of Sam's. A second later, Sam lay back against the gurney and closed his eyes. His fingers tightened around Dean's.

Sam was sometimes a whole lot braver than Dean gave him credit for. Teasing aside, his brother had never backed down from anything because of fear alone, only fear combined with stupidity. Dean liked to think he countered a lot of that with skill and determination, but sometimes…maybe even most of the time, he was just damned lucky.  And his luck usually seemed to spill over onto Sam.

Not this time.

Dean had to check to make sure no one was around because -- well, he had to. But no one was and he pressed his other hand to the bed beside Sam's head and Sam opened his eyes at the movement. Dean leaned in slowly so Sam would know, and did what he hadn't in maybe ten years. He pressed his lips to Sam's forehead.

Sam squeezed his hand and Dean held it for a moment before pulling away. "I'm going to see about getting us out of here," Dean said quietly.

"Get me good drugs, okay?" Sam said.

"Only the best for you, Sam."


They were forty miles from the Kansas border when Sam woke. No nightmares, no screaming. Dean glanced at him and gave him an approving and slightly smug smile and Sam let it slide.

He'd set the sling aside for the final time a week ago. His shoulder was still tight, and got sore easily, but it didn't ache all the time.

Dean's face had been puffy and sporting some truly interesting colors for about a week before the swelling finally subsided. There were still lingering bruises around his eyes but they were fading. Mostly what they did was make Dean look perpetually tired.

The nightmares were easing. Not gone entirely and Sam had added few new ones to his repertoire.

They'd stayed in Milwaukee for a few days after all. The drugs had been very, very good. The Owens's had been appalled and sympathetic and truly kind; feeding them more than the promised breakfast and when Sam told them they were leaving, they'd even refunded a week's rent. It gave them both time to give notice at their jobs and to pick up final checks. They didn't have nearly as much money as they wanted to keep moving, but it was enough to start.

Nothing hit the news that they could find. No bodies had floated to the surface that they'd heard of, the police hadn't come knocking. Somewhere, that counted as a win.

Two weeks later, at a gas station in Illinois, Sam called the toll free number and entered his id while Dean waited outside the phone booth. He let Dean listen to the recorded message when it repeated.

He was clear. The line suggested retesting in six months and Dean wrote the date down in the back of their father's journal.

Two poltergeists, one ghostly roadside hitchhiker, and a case of imps that turned out to be squirrels, later, Sam finally stopped panicking whenever he saw someone he thought he'd seen before. Every time it happened Dean would put as many miles between Sam's fear and them as he could without question. They were running. Dean wouldn't admit it and Sam didn't say it, but it was true. Finally, Sam stopped telling him.

Sam watched Dean chat up two waitresses and a motel clerk during their more or less random driving. All three seemed more than willing but Sam saw the flicker of doubt in Dean's eyes, the way he checked them out -- and he wasn't checking out their feminine assets. The encounters went nowhere and Sam learned to live with the fact that they were rarely out of each other's sight for longer than it took to go to the bathroom.

One night, Dean lingered a little too long in the shower and despite his best efforts to tell himself it was nothing to worry about, Sam got up to check. It took him only a minute to understand why. Dean was trying to be quiet and the water distorted sound, but Sam knew Dean well enough and had jacked off himself enough to know the sound and rhythm of his brother's hand on his dick; to recognize the muffled groan of release. Before any of this, Dean wouldn't have thought twice about doing himself in the room, in his bed.

A particularly flirty waiter mildly hitting on Sam in a coffee shop in Canton almost got Dean arrested for assault.

Driving out of town, all Sam could think was things had to change -- or they'd break.

Dean was still listening. Sam knew he was, but so far, Sam hadn't had anything to say. They had talked about their respective shifters, compared notes, and edged around the painful details like championship ballroom dancers. Sam had found a blank section in their father's journal and written down everything they could both remember.

After a month they turned toward Kansas. "Time to check the mail," Dean said and Sam thought it was a milestone of sorts. They'd had no word from their father, but it was possible there might be something waiting for them at the post office in Topeka.

When they found a major library they stopped. The shape shifter had been right. The information on Lilith's half-human grandchildren was pretty thin on the ground, but Dean knew of a gypsy fortune-teller in Ulysses. After they picked up the mail, that was their next stop.

Lawrence was only a thirty minute drive from Topeka but they bypassed it. Dean avoided it and it wasn't home to either of them any longer -- it never had been to Sam.

They reached the post office just before closing time on a Friday afternoon. Dean brought the mail out and they sat on the hood of the car in the parking lot to read through it. There wasn't much; junk mail, some paranormal newsletters, a few research papers Dean had requested. A couple of postcards from people Dean or their father had helped. Sam looked at them and realized that Dean wasn't quite as averse to contact as he'd thought. There was a letter from Stanford, reminding Sam that he hadn't fulfilled his graduation requirements. Dean had looked at it. "How long?"

"Two classes I dropped and an internship. Six months," Sam said. "I'll file for an extension." And he would. An extension would leave the door open.

There were two cards, identical, one addressed to Sam and the other to Dean, off-the-shelf "Thank You" notes with no return address.

Sam's had a simple white card and he didn't even read the note, his eyes stuck on the signature.

"Sam…" Dean's voice sounded strangled. He also had a card and Polaroid from a self-developing camera. It was a picture of both of them outside a truck stop in Urbana, Illinois from three weeks back.

Sam passed his note to Dean. Dean cleared his throat; "'And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit -- And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.' Mark 5:2 and 5:9. Love, Kerry," he read. "Oh, she's a sweetheart."

Sam didn't bother pointing out to him that she was also dead.

Dean's note was a little more obscene and Dean went white-mouthed on reading it. Sam glanced at it and then at his brother, saw the fear and the revulsion and the barely checked rage. He also saw guilt, but it was gone that fast.

Dean took the picture, the notes, and the envelopes to the corner of the parking lot and burned them, then doused them with salt and holy water. He spit on the ashes for good measure. Sam wasn't sure Dean's spit had any particularly relevant cleansing properties but he was reassured by it anyway. When Dean came back he seemed pretty calm. "So, Ulysses?"

Sam nodded. "Ulysses."

It was too late when they got there to meet with Dean's contact, or so Dean said. Sam didn’t argue with him.

Sam found himself giving all kinds of names to what lay between them now. After the notes, Kerry's Curse seemed pretty apt but he kept the name to himself.  In a bizarre way, it was kind of a relief. It was one thing to always be looking over your shoulder because you were afraid something might be following you. The notes pretty much validated their paranoia. The enemy was real. The notes had only been sent a couple of weeks ago, the post mark from Detroit, Michigan. Kerry and her sister were dead. The shape shifter in St. Louis was dead.

Which meant there had been as much truth as lies in what Kerry had told him, and what her sister had told Dean. There were more and they knew who Dean and Sam were down to their Post Office Box number.

That night it was Dean who woke to a nightmare.  He didn't so much scream as squeak but Sam heard him, rolling out of bed to turn on the light only to find Dean already awake. He stared at Sam like he was a ghost, until Sam moved to sit on the end of Dean's bed. He looked like he might be sick and Sam got up and got him water and brought the trash can closer -- just in case.

"You remember it?" Sam asked him. He didn't need the details and he wouldn't ask.

Dean rubbed his face and nodded. "Pretty much," he said and the guilty look came back to his face. He would only meet Sam's eyes briefly. "Sorry I woke you."

Sam considered it and nodded. "It wasn't you."

"Did you have a nightmare too?"

"It wasn't you."

Dean stared at him long and hard but then something relaxed in his face. "Okay."

Sam got up and went back to his own bed and turned out the light. Chances were he wouldn't get much more sleep, but it was always worth a try.

"Sam…" it was easier to talk in the darkness. "Did you always know when it wasn't me?"

"Not always, but it never took long. I'm not scared of you, Dean. I never have been. They pretty much scare the shit out of me."

"I was totally suckered."

Sam grinned. It wasn't really all that funny, but there was something pretty endearing about the Dean's incredulity. Lack of confidence was not a problem Dean had. It had been shaken, but underneath, he was still pretty sure he wasn't often wrong.

Sam got up again and crossed the room, climbing into the bed next to his brother.

"Uh, Sam?" Dean asked when Sam pulled up his fair share of the covers and lay back down. "Did you wet the bed?"

"Shut up. And go to sleep," Sam said and rolled over, putting his back to him. Sharing a bed wasn't new or uncommon and they'd done a lot of it as kids, but both of them tended to sprawl and they were grown men…there were other reasons not to as well, maybe, but Sam wasn't particularly worried about it. There was as much truth as lies in what the shape shifters had said and Sam hadn't forgotten a word of it.

It took Dean a good fifteen minutes to settle and he still seemed stiff, trying to leave as much room between them as possible. "Not you. Not scared," Sam whispered and heard Dean sigh. Then his brother rolled over closer to the middle of the bed dropped an arm over Sam's waist on top of the blankets and relaxed.

Reassurances aside, it didn't take Sam long to know he wasn't going to fall asleep easily.

"The last time you got in bed with me when you had a bed of your own, I think you were eleven," Dean said quietly.



"Oklahoma…outside of Little. There were tornados."

"I remember that. In the basement. I don't think that counts. There was only the one cot."

"Which you hogged."

"Dibs, man," Dean said and Sam could hear the smile in his voice. "I thought you were being a brat."

"I was scared," Sam said.

Dean awkwardly patted his arm. "Me too, bro. Man, all I can remember is how loud it was when it passed over." He was quiet for a few seconds. "Are you scared, now?" he asked.


"I mean it's okay. It's weird as hell...but it's okay."

"I'm not scared of you, Dean," Sam said patiently.

"I didn't say you were. I mean, there's no reason for you to be…"

"I wasn't scared at fifteen or eleven or eight…and I'm not scared now. Not of you."

Dean was silent but drew his arm back.

Sam ignored the withdrawal. "There was never a time when I was little that I knew I couldn't come to you. There was never a time, not when we were hunting, not if I was hurt, not when I was scared. Even when we were fighting, nothing you ever did or said scared me. Pissed me off, yeah. Hurt my feelings, sometimes. But not scared, Dean. And if I scared you, you hid it really well."

He wasn't sure Dean actually wanted to hear any of this. But they were in this together and long past secrets. "They dug deep into your mind, pulled up things you'd forgotten. Things you don’t even remember wanting."

Dean suddenly pulled away, sat up on the edge of the bed, his back to Sam. Sam didn't move.

He didn't stop either. "Monsters, ghosts, wraiths, demons…Dad's bad moods, my own. You've protected me from all of them at one time or another. And you've always protected me from yourself. It never occurred to me."

He didn't think he was wrong. The guilt on Dean's face on waking was pretty much the same he'd seen in the parking lot. Truth and lies. Lies and truth.

"Sam-- I never… it was never an issue."

"I know." Sam rolled over, staring at Dean's back, at the muscles and scars, the shadows painting Dean's tense shoulders silver."It wasn't. It's still not."

"It was never more than dreams."

Sam had figured that. It had taken awhile -- a few weeks, a lot of miles. The note today had only clinched what he'd suspected.

He's just as good as you always dreamed he would be.

Dean dug the heel of one hand into his left eye and got up, went to the bathroom, and closed the door. Sam  rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling.

Sam could remember having wet dreams about guys when he was younger, had a few later than that even into college. At nine, he barely knew what to do with girls, wasn't even sure he liked them at all -- just on general principle. Catching Dean masturbating…and Dean yelling at him for a little privacy, had let him know that touching himself wasn't bad or strange. It made sense when he was eleven, and emulating Dean was as normal as anything else in his life. Maybe a little late to the game, but he'd gotten used to comparing himself to other guys in school, in gym class.

He'd even talked to Dean about it, embarrassed and awkward. And Dean had told him not to worry about it. That since Sam's only experience with it had been his own hand, then of course he'd dream about what he knew. Kiss a few girls, Sammy. It gets better, he'd said with all the wisdom of an eighteen year old.

That had probably been a seriously weird conversation for Dean to have with him and Sam never really considered that Dean spoke from experience.

It had never been an issue. For all Sam knew, Dean was still having them. He half suspected that might be the case, making it worse for Dean, to know that they'd used him against Sam that way. Barely remembered dreams that a hormonal teenager had about his little brother. They'd probably freaked Dean out, scared him into thinking he was sick or twisted.

That was the point. It had confused Sam, when he could edge his thoughts around it. Why that? Why use Dean against him that way? Only that wasn't what they'd done -- not really. They'd used Dean against himself, Sam was just the stage.

But for Sam, it made things a whole lot clearer. Made it easier -- or as easy as it could be. It had kept him sane. It had kept him from making a mistake that would have been harder to recover from than being raped. If he had killed Dean in that damp, dark place, Sam wasn't sure he would have recovered, or would have wanted to. But some part of him knew that Dean wouldn't hurt him. Kick his ass if it needed kicking, yes. They could make him doubt or question; they couldn't make him believe that Dean would ever do anything but look out for Sam, protect him -- even from himself. And he had.

Sam had wanted them all, any that were listening in on those dying thoughts, to know he'd been the one to put a bullet in Kerry's brain. Sympathy and empathy aside, he wanted them to know if they wanted Dean they'd have to go through Sam. The reverse had always been true.

Dean came out of the bathroom and sat on the edge of Sam's bed.

"This is severely fucked up, Sam," Dean said finally.

"I don't disagree. But we are not fucked up. Or at least, no more than we were before," Sam said and sat up as well.

"Maybe you should go finish that degree," Dean said quietly.

Sam chewed on his lip and got up, crossed the space between them and crouched, laying a hand on Dean's neck to steady himself. Dean didn't flinch but he was already as tense as a bowstring stretched tight.  Sam looked up at him and Dean met his gaze. His eyes were suspiciously bright in the darkness but it might have been the light. "I only mean that at school you could--"

Before he could talk himself out of it, Sam stretched up and pulled Dean's mouth down to his own. Dean's mouth was open and Sam took advantage of it. It was awkward. Strange. A little embarrassing to move his lips over his brother's mouth. He kept his tongue to himself.  It took Dean a second to realize it was happening, to jerk his head back. Sam pulled him back into the kiss until Dean reached up to tug Sam's hand away.

He didn't shove Sam, didn't suddenly jump up or twist away.

"Sam, what are you doing?"

"Proving something. Actually, a couple of things."

"Like what?"

Sam sank to his knees. "One, if it had been any other guy but me that did that, I think you'd have decked him." Sam wasn't entirely sure that was true -- he'd have to ask Dean later -- much later. "Two, that I know you're you."

Dean took a deep breath, and glared at him. "Okay, I'll probably give you number one, but two?"

"If I wasn't sure you are my brother, do you think I'd have done that?" Sam asked seriously. "I know you're you. I'm not so sure about anybody else."

"Sam, if kissing people is how you prove to yourself they aren't shapeshifters, we've got a serious problem here."

Sam smiled. "That wasn't exactly the plan."

"Okay. But if kissing me is how you prove to yourself that I'm me, we've still got a problem."

"I already knew you were you. That's why I kissed you. So you'd know I know."

Dean squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his face. "Sam, your logic's making my head hurt."

"I did it because even if you wanted to kiss me back, you wouldn't."

Dean studied his face, dropped his gaze, and rubbed his hands together. Each movement distinct, separate. "Okay, so you think you know…Sam, what if you're wrong?"

"Then I'll be wrong. It won't be you. I still think I'd know."

Dean looked disturbed by that, troubled. "And if I did kiss you back? Really, if it was me?"

Sam took a breath. "Then…I think I'd still be okay."

"Jesus, Sam!" Dean said, and stood up suddenly, making a space between them, pacing the distance between the beds and the door. "Okay…shit. I should have held on to those damn sheets. That card."

Sam twisted around and sat on the floor. "What sheets?"

"The one's the doctor gave me -- counseling and support centers…"

"In Milwaukee?" Sam said, completely incredulously. "You go back to Milwaukee, you're on your own. I'm planning on boycotting even their breweries."

"Sam, this is not funny," Dean said which only made it funnier to Sam. "You can not tell me that before those…before this, you'd ever given two seconds thought to any of this."

"And you'd be right. Mostly," Sam tempered. He hadn't spent four years at Stanford and never been hit on by guys -- or having been hit on, never actually given it some considerations. "But this did happen…"

"Which did not turn you queer."

"No. It didn't," Sam said firmly. "And it didn't suddenly leave me with the hots for you, either."

"Then what the fuck is this all about?" Dean said and came back, standing over him. Sam looked up,  and suddenly Dean dropped to his knees. "Sam…you know that even having this discussion is totally nuts, right? Let me spell it out for you. Four big bullet points," Dean said holding up his hand and four fingers. "One. You are my brother. Two. You are my little brother.  Three. You are the youngest son of our Father and Mother. Four. You're my brother.

"I think that's really three."

"Pretty much the first one will do," Dean said flatly.

Sam looked away, then drew his knees up and folded his arms across them. All he could see were the shadows in the corner of the room, a slice of light coming through the window, and beyond that a world of people that he couldn't trust to be who they appeared to be. "You're not going to hurt me," he said finally. "It's the only thing I'm sure of."

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Dean drop his chin, then move slowly until he was sitting next to Sam, his own knees drawn up, shoulder pressing against Sam's. He laid his head back on the bed, stretched his legs out and sighed.

They sat there in silence for awhile; ten minutes, twenty, Sam wasn't sure. But he felt tired and closed his eyes.

The slice of light across the bed expanded, became a glimpse of sunlight beyond concrete pylons and black stone. The damp sank into his bones, the smell of mold and brackish water scared him. He wasn't bound or tied or sinking into thickened water, but he couldn't turn around and look at the shadows behind him. He couldn't move toward the daylight.


The daylight grew brighter.


It moved toward him. He just had to wait for it.

"Sam." Dean's hand rubbed gently between his shoulder blades, easing him out of sleep. "Come on, bro'. Let's get you to bed."

His limbs felt stiff, and from Dean's grunt he was stiff too. Sam half woke and found himself stretched out over Dean's thighs, twisted around, both of them still on the floor. Dean's thigh didn't make the greatest pillow and his brother's hiss told Sam Dean's leg had fallen asleep.

But it was short climb to the bed and Sam fell into it face down. Dean got up more slowly, then tried to get Sam back under the sheets. Sam reached out and tugged at him. Between being bent over and his leg, Dean almost fell on top of him.

"Sam…"  he started and then sighed. The mattress dipped when Dean just dropped onto his back beside him.

Sam was so sleepy the thought almost escaped him. "Dean…"


"I'm never gonna hurt you either."

Sam was halfway asleep when Dean rolled on to his side. His arm rested on Sam's lower back and his hand rubbed lightly between his shoulders. "I know, Sam. I figured that one out all by myself."

Sam slept without worry.


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Author's notes & further warnings: This story covers a lot of ground and brushes up against societal taboos more than once. Warnings for violence, rape, non-consensul sex, and emotional and physical manipulation. This story is meant for Mature Audiences only.

I've taken great license with the myths of Lilith and her grandchildren (sometimes called the Lilim). Lilith was, in some accounts, the first and far more headstrong first wife of the Biblical Adam. She was created as Adam was, from the earth, as opposed to Eve, who was created from Adam's rib. I'm not going to comment on the possible revisionist history of early old testament authors. In some traditions because of her refusal to do what the angels of God told her, Lilith was cursed by the death of a thousand of her children a day. In some myths (which are also possibly revisionist) it's the daughters of Lilith and Adam that married and gave children to Cain, the outcast, murdering son of Adam and Eve. In some accounts, the Succubi and Incubi of legend are her children.

In most references I could find, Succubi and Incubi are manifestations of the same creature -- i.e. the demon itself has no specific gender, it's just generally remarked that the demons who visit women are incubi and the ones that visit men are succubi. Their purpose is the same...to seduce and/or have sex with mortals, usually while they sleep. They are the original gender-swapping-at-will demons. Some version of Lilith and her children and grandchildren appear in the cultures of most civilizations. The scope of powers they possess really depends on which culture you're looking at but nearly all are creatures of great sexual appetities, who may or may not visit permanent harm on their victims. Tradition has it that Succubi (who are known to visit men) are of fewer numbers than Incubi (who are known to tease and seduce and rape women). Succubi and Incubi are considered demons, which in general lore means their purposes for existence are often tied to how they exist.

One interesting footnote I read among many is that in rare chance of offspring being born between Succubi/Incubi and thier mortal lovers, the offspring often commit suicide. They are unstable from the start, torn between two vastly different planes of existance. That note and the episode Skin, obviously contributed  a great deal to the mythology used in this particular story. The shapeshifters are not spritis or manifestations of spirits as many of the creatures encountered in the show -- they have a physical presence and are not bound to a particular place. They can move about, blend in, and go unnoticed for the most part unless one of them does something to bring attention to itself.

It wasn't that much of a stretch to make them psychic -- the episode did it first, but I thought it interesing that Dean was unaware of the link. There's soem hint that Sam is at least mildly psychic, if only in his dreams, that the ability is nascent and untrained, played heavily into this.

But pretty much the rest of it? I totally made up.