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It's All About the Journey

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Sam kept in touch with Charlie Crews. Not often, mind you, but enough to keep things interesting. More often than not, Charlie would leave a line of Zen something and Sam a sentence of traveling nothing, though sometimes Sam would respond with a Zen something of his own that sometimes held more truth than he’d like.

For instance, on November 12th 2008 Charlie Crews wrote:

Is the Earth moving or are we? Don’t tell me it’s because I live in California in an area prone to earthquakes, that the Earth is, of course, moving as a result of that. But what if it isn’t? What if it’s all perception? Maybe we are. Maybe oranges shake themselves off the trees and land on the ground just ready for someone to come by and take one. Tasty, ripe for the taking.

Also, I think I was more attached to my car than I thought. Is it no longer cool to drive a Maserati if it’s riddled with bullet holes? Like only a couple of clips worth? Just two full clips?

To which Sam replied:

To: zendetective@gmail.com
From: desolate.traveler@gmail.com
CC:
Subject: Re: Celestial mutterings

The Earth can be moved if it’s willing to be moved, though the why is often hard to pin down. It can be moved with a shovel or even some ones’ own hands. Sometimes, the sky opens up and does the very thing that you had come to believe as completely impossible, moving terra and expectations. But to what end? Or what beginning?

Maybe it’s because of your location. Maybe your brain got a bit rattled with the recent tremors.

Also, maybe you’ll look more badass that way. My brother thinks it’s a horrible way to treat a car.

Eggs are another way to abuse a car. Fresh eggs on gleaming black paint wielded by a kid in an astronaut suit. It doesn’t make for a pleasant afternoon, let me tell ya.

Charlie was really good at reading between the lines and it didn’t take him long to track down Sam’s new cell phone number.

***

Bobby was not prone to getting phone calls about the Winchesters—well, at least not from funny talkin’ California detectives. But there’s a first time for everything, Bobby guessed, and it caught him off guard enough he let it pass.

“Singer Salvage,” he answered.

“Bobby? Bobby Singer?” a cheerful-sounding fellow asked.

“You got him.” Bobby found his patience wearing thin already.

“Super. This is Detective Charlie Crews with the LAPD and before you hang up, because you strike me as the type to abruptly end phone conversations, I want you to know that that doesn’t mean anything and there won’t be any trouble. Ellen Harvelle made me swear I wouldn’t be any bother, not to the boys and especially not to you. So I’m not. I just need a few questions answered and was pointed in your direction.”

Bobby considered this.

“Mr. Singer?” the voice asked, checking to make sure Bobby hadn’t hung up. The voice that sounded so earnest. Almost sounded like he cared.

“I’m still here. Keep talkin’,” Bobby gruffed, and knew exactly who he meant by those boys though he didn’t know how he felt about the whole detective thing.

“Good.” A relieved exhale. “I just need to find a way to contact Sam Winchester. He was out this direction over the summer and our paths crossed. Some things were explained to me, but not everything. And now, his cell number no longer works and I haven’t been able to trace it back to any known aliases. I need to talk to him now. I heard some news.”

“The boy’s fine,” Bobby said and started to hang up. He had a feeling where the conversation was going.

“Fine for someone whose brother is back from the dead?” Crews asked, getting right to the point.

“Hmmph.” That’s the thing about Winchesters. They get under your skin like that. If you’re not careful you end up irrevocably involved. Crews sounded involved, sure enough. If anyone so determined could get through to that boy, then Bobby guessed he wouldn’t stop him. “You know you’ll have hell to pay if I find out you’ve brought any trouble.”

“Of course, Mr. Singer. I would expect no less. Trouble is the absence of balance. I seem to currently be an expert on trouble, but only for myself. I try to be selfish with my trouble.”
Singer rolled his eyes and rattled off the number.

***

“Mr. 67 Chevy Impala,” Charlie said with his same easygoing, pleasant voice from all those months ago.

“Detective,” Sam said and found himself smiling despite himself. “Charlie, how are you?”

“You know that hobby of mine? It’s not going so great. Or maybe it’s going too great. That’s the problem,” Charlie answered, in a way that might seem cryptic to someone who didn’t know he was digging into the conspiracy that put him in prison.

“That sounds serious,” Sam said, sensing it was going to be one of those typical Charlie Crews conversations. Lots of information, a dose of philosophy, not so much coherence. Sam covered a chuckle, thinking of the freckled cop, and pretended to clear his throat.

“I’ve had to send my niece—well she’s not really my niece, except she kinda is—back on the run. Ted’s back in jail because the FBI caught him breaking his parole—which he really hadn’t. You’ve met Ted. You know he wouldn’t. Or at least one guy from the FBI, who is also sometimes from Homeland Security, caught him. FBI-man also seems to be in bed with the Russian Mob. Though not literally in bed. That would make things even more unsettling. If you saw him it would be unsettling.”

Charlie was on a roll. “And Reese is sleeping with our boss. Which is only on occasion weird, like when the Captain calls the hotel we were staying at and starts wanting to know what I’m wearing because he thinks that he’s talking to Dani. But he wasn’t.”

“Shit, Charlie,” Sam whistled. “Anything I can do?”

“Don’t answer any phones that you know my boss could be on the other line of? Otherwise, not really. Thanks, though. A ghost or something really would top all this off. Are you sure my house isn’t haunted? It’s probably too empty to haunt. No one’s here. Maybe I’ll get shot or something. It’d be great if all of this wasn’t really here. You know, like physics. You are not here. I am not here. This phone isn’t really here. But it’s not like physics. Not really. It’s here and I am dealing with it.”

“I’d expect no less.” Sam said still trying to wrap his head around all that.

“Speaking of things that aren’t really here, or weren’t,” Crews took a breath. “Did you change the unchangeable, Sam?” Charlie asked with a genuine curiosity. “Because I saw the most interesting blog about two brothers saving a girl in Pennsylvania from a ‘Dracula shapeshifter guy.’”

Sam almost dropped the phone. Leave it to Charlie Crews to find out that his brother was back from the dead and call to ask him about it. Sam knew he should hang up. Change the subject. But he couldn’t.

“I didn’t,” Sam spoke instead, his voice small, distant and filled with all types of regret. Charlie had that effect on him—making him to say things he didn’t mean to say but needed to.

“But you wanted to. You wanted it to be you and it wasn’t.” It isn’t a question. “You were looking for a way the whole time. Thinking about where you had to go next and it wasn’t you.”

Sam doesn’t respond.

“It’s okay that it wasn’t you, Sam.” Charlie stated with absolute conviction.

“No, it isn’t,” Sam whispered and his vision blurred.

“Yes it is,” Charlie insisted and Sam felt that he could almost believe it. “Sam, don’t be in the past and don’t think where you have to go next. In this moment, know that you’re brother is alive and though you didn’t bring him back, you can try to keep him that way.”

Sam nodded then remembered that Charlie couldn’t see it. “Sure, yeah.”

“And look at it this way. At least you don’t have to deal with the Russian mob. If there was someone I wished wasn’t really here, it’s that mob boss.” Charlie said sagely. “And between you and me, he’s kinda like a robot—or at least looks like he plays one on tv.”

“At least,” Sam agreed, in that way he just got used to agreeing with Crews. The detective was soothing like that. Sam could just listen.

“You’re not alone, Sam. Remember that,” Charlie said, drawing their conversation to a close.

“You’re not either, Charlie. Even if it seems like you are.”

“Sure, yeah.” Charlie sounded lost in his own head. “Good-bye, Sam.”

***

Detective Charlie Crews realized that he had a lot of strange conversations recently. For instance, he seemed to inquire about demons to Sam Winchester more and more often, sometimes seeking stories of the more colorful adventures of his youth. A lot of those tales revolved around his brother Dean without Sam having to say too much. But that could not have prepared him for where his niece ended up and the talk they had about it.

“What do you mean you ‘hitched a ride to South Dakota’?” Charlie asked his niece - well she was practically his niece, if you counted technicalities. And he was, even when she didn’t.

“That’s exactly what I said, Uncle Charlie. I don’t see what‘s such a big deal,” Rachel dismissed. “That’s where the guy was heading and I thought it would be far enough away. I lost my tail in New Mexico.”

When she said things like that, he hated himself a little bit more. She shouldn’t have to know about how to hide and running. She shouldn’t have to be so hard. Of course, if she was anything else he would never have sent her away. He shouldn’t have sent her away anyway. He hated that even a year out of jail with his life back, he’s still trapped by those years and the people that took it away. He sent her away to protect her and he can’t decide if he couldn’t have done something better. At least she’s not spending the night with ‘Guitar Guy,’ he thinks to himself.

“I know it’s all about the journey, Rachel. But, well, if I had known you’d be hitchhiking and getting into vehicles with the crazed and desolate travelers on the lonesome highways of America—taking unnecessary risks with your life—then I would have let you stay here,” Crews argued.

“And I probably would have been shot like you. And you would have never forgiven yourself, and blah, blah, blah. I’m fine Charlie,” Rachel reasoned. “Besides, you know the guy.”

“I do?” Charlie found himself genuinely puzzled. He didn’t remember talking to anyone who would be heading to South Dakota. Unless. “Bobby Singer? You’re at Bobby Singer’s place?”

“Yep. And he muttered something about being out of his mind for taking me in after your name was mentioned,” Rachel said. Charlie imagined her twirling her dark hair. He could see her looking at him with her stormy eyes and trying to hold in a self-sacrificing sigh at his very existence.

“I seem to have that effect on people.” Charlie remembered speaking to Bobby Singer on the phone. He’d only spoken with him twice. Both conversations were memorable. Once when he called Bobby to get in touch with Sam Winchester the first time and once when Bobby called him about Dean Winchester to warn him that the eldest Winchester meant to cross paths—Dean wasn’t as angry as Bobby led him to believe. The drive probably calmed him down. With Dean’s car, Charlie could understand that.

Bobby lived the hunter’s life, monsters and demons, and now his niece just happened on it. She’d seen enough evil. Charlie’s heart dropped at the thought. He had to get her to another safe place. Like somewhere that doesn’t have human monsters that are Russian or part of the conspiracy that ruined his life for 12 years. Or monsters of the actual will eat-you-in- your-sleep kind. The storm seemed over for now, or at least, things were quieter. She should be safe here at home. Or at least safer than there.

“Rachel. I know you’ve put up with a lot of my paranoia—and it’s not just that I’ve been alone too long. Or maybe I can’t be quiet for my thoughts, but—.”

“Charlie, I’ll be fine. It seems to be more of the stuff you aren’t telling me. And Bobby seems mostly cool with me being around for a few days,” Rachel said.

“Rachel, that’s not it.” Charlie tried to find the right words.

“And Bobby said to tell you that he won’t tell me anything that I don’t need to know—whatever that means. Which doesn’t matter, because you want to talk to him anyway, right?” Rachel stated simply.

“You betcha. Put Mr. Singer on please, Rachel,” Charlie asked.

Charlie listened to the jostling of the phone followed by Bobby’s gruff voice. “Singer.”

“Mr. Singer, I’m real sorry about this.” Crews started. Leading with apologies worked last time.

“I’m sure you are, ya eejit, but that’s not going to do either of us a bit of good,” Bobby muttered.

“I guess not,” Charlie agreed.

“In a few days, I’ll have Jo Harvelle pick Rachel up and take her to her mom’s. Ellen is mean enough to thwart any kind a trouble and will watch after the girl for a spell.” Bobby explained.
Charlie had spoken to Ellen. She seemed to be mean enough to fight both demons and the Russian mob. She certainly had given him an earful and that was just so he could find Sam Winchester. He couldn’t imagine what she’d say to him over this. Whatever verbal beating he got would be worth it, though, as long as Rachel was safe. God help him if he ever met that woman in
person.

“Thank you, Bobby.” Charlie felt some of the tension in his chest ease. One less thing to worry about. “I don’t know how to repay you,” Charlie admitted.

“Just don’t get yourself killed or make a habit of it. She seems to be a good kid.” Bobby dropped the volume of his voice, “’Sides, Sam would probably never let me hear the end of it. And, don’t worry. I’ll try to make sure the last place she ends up is in that car with those boys. That is a sure fire way into trouble.”

Charlie laughed. He knows exactly who Bobby is talking about with those boys. Inside that car is right in the heart of a storm in more ways than one. “I don’t disagree on any particular point.”

Over the phone he heard the familiar rumble of a classic car engine. He’d know it anywhere. For Charlie, it was the sound of summer.

“Ah hell,” Bobby muttered, answering Charlie’s suspicions. “Gotta go, Crews.”

“Mr. Singer?” Charlie heard the phone disconnect and stared at his cell phone in his hand. He was pretty sure he knew where Rachel would want to end up and he could not bring himself to be mad about it. Actually he was pretty hopeful. Things had been too quiet in LA for awhile—actually, suspiciously quiet.

***

 

Bobby knew exactly why he wasn’t making enough of a fuss to keep from sending Rachel off with those boys—well, he was pretty sure. It had something to do with that damn detective and how he was worried about the boys. He thought back to a couple weeks ago when Dean had found out about Sam’s conversations with the Detective. Bobby’d been glad that Sam was at least talking to someone—since he wasn’t talking to him or Dean. Dean, on the other hand, didn’t seem to feel the same way.

See, Bobby wasn’t prone to making phone calls about the Winchesters, at least not calls warning other folks about ‘em. He felt protective of those boys, but there had been something funny about Dean finding out about the detective. Bobby couldn’t tell if Dean was angry or not. Something was just… off. Out of his realm of understanding.

There had been yelling—between Sam and Dean. But it didn’t last as long as he thought it would. More secrets and lies. The boys dancing around each other like uneasy strangers.
Anyway, he decided he couldn’t not warn the man once he found out where Dean was storming off to.

“Detective Crews,” that cheerful voice of before had answered.

“Charlie. This is Bobby.”

“Mr. Singer, I can honestly say I never thought I’d hear from you again,” Charlie had said, sounding genuinely surprised. “Anything I can do for you? And I’m sorry in advance for anything that—.”

“Actually, I called to warn you that Dean would be paying you a visit. He didn’t seem to be in the best of spirits about the whole thing, if you catch my drift,” Bobby had explained, hoping to finish the call soon before he could fully contemplate the whole thing. There were just some things you don’t want to think about boys you’ve come to think of as sons.

“Oh,” Charlie said quietly into the phone. “Thanks for the heads-up Bobby.”

“Yeah,” Bobby had hung up and tried to decide how best to console the moping youngest Winchester that was sitting on his porch steps. He ended up with the tried-and-true method of having Sam go through some tomes that needing looking through until Dean came back quieter three days later—a thoughtful silence.

Far as Bobby could tell, the previous visit didn’t hurt, so what was the harm in another? Both boys could use a few days off at least.

***

Dean didn’t know exactly how he got roped into this—well, that might be a bit of a lie. He was doing it because Sam asked him to and it wasn’t often that he told his brother no. Besides, he’s off his game. Just one look—that face that’s all pleading, puppy dog, and earnest. It wasn’t fair, giving a guy who still hasn’t gotten used to his return to earthly life that kind of look-though he did try to resist.

“Dude, this is stupid! She wants to go the exact opposite direction of where we’re headed,” Dean pointed out.

“She’s Charlie’s niece.” Sam had insisted and a little of his patented bitchface shown through.
And didn’t that just top it. She’s the niece of a Detective in LA that kept Sam from completely going darkside over the summer—not that Sam didn’t make a good run of it anyway. But Dean hated to think who he would have met when he came out of Hell if it weren’t for Charlie. Sure, Sam was harder now—the softer lines edged out leaving something, someone, completely different. He’s not the little brother Dean left—not his Sammy, exactly. But it could have been worse. Dean was sure that it could have been much worse. Somehow, he owed Charlie Crews for that.

It was hard, reconnecting with Sam. He was starting to wonder if that good time last year, when it was hard to tell where one of them ended and the other began… maybe it was just a fluke. That maybe his brother was just placating a dying man. That his brother thinks there is only Sam and Dean not SamandDean. In a way, he thought that might be a little of Charlie Crews’s fault too.

Hell, he even saw the cute redhead himself just a couple weeks ago. At the time, he was sure he was going to give the Detective a piece of his mind and maybe his fist, but Charlie completely and totally sidetracked him. That blue eyed bastard even tried to help him, which was mostly unwanted help. Help without provocation, not even expecting any payback. Who does that?

Crews defied Dean’s logic. He had a habit of rambling on about seemingly nothing only to stealthily get right to the heart of the problem, making Dean think that there might be some way off of this slippery slope he was on. After all, there was only so much self-loathing and punishing guilt a guy could take, even if he truly deserved it. And he was pretty sure he deserved it. It was selfish to ever come off the rack.

Then there was this dark-haired, light-eyed girl looking at him and Sam expectantly—like California might be on the way from South Dakota, even if they were thinking of heading to Maine. She also looks lonely and maybe a little lost. But that is probably a whole other can of worms. He knows he isn’t equipped to deal with another person. He’s barely dealing with himself and Sam.

“Dean, please,” Sam gave him that puppy look again, then looked at Bobby.

“Aw, hell,” Dean said and looked at Bobby to refute the whole thing. Bobby wouldn’t fail him on this.

“Well, I don’t see why she couldn’t tag along, at least to Ellen’s,” Bobby spoke carefully, conveniently forgetting that whole opposite directions thing.
Dean felt himself deflate and he tried to think of all the reason why this shouldn’t fly. Heaven and Hell had been quiet for awhile, but that didn’t mean anything. They had been hunting for four weeks straight, relentlessly. They didn’t really have a job lined up at the moment, but Dean was hoping Bobby had something. And even though he didn’t really want to deal with any chick-flick moments between himself and Sam, he couldn’t see how there was room for a third wheel. But then he remembered the conversation earlier after dinner when they had arrived at Bobby’s.

See, Dean knew the score. Charlie Crews was a cop that had been framed for murder and sent away for twelve years. Now that he was out, he’d been trying to unravel who was behind the setup. Apparently, even the Russian mafia was involved, and that’s why he wanted Rachael safely away. The girl had made it as far as Bobby’s without a scratch and it’s anyone’s guess if she should go back to LA, but the place for her certainly wasn’t in a world with hunters and monsters. Dean knew that much.

“The closer she is to the danger, the farther she is from harm,” Sam reasoned.

“Dude, don’t quote Tolkien at me. And that’s bullshit and you know it,” Dean argued back.

“Actually,” Rachel hedged. “You both seem like guys who are pretty good at dropping off the radar and taking care of yourselves. I read some of Charlie’s research and it seems like if I can hitch a ride with anyone, I could do a lot worse.”

“Rachel, I’d really rather if you waited for Jo to pick you up,” Bobby stated and there was something in his tone that Dean couldn’t be sure of. Something like defeat or maybe Crews has gotten to Bobby too.

“And all I’m saying is that, I’d rather not. I really appreciate it Bobby, I do,” Rachel said, sincerity ringing through every word. “But I shouldn’t have left in the first place. Charlie is the only family I’ve got left. And right now he’s alone. He shouldn’t be alone.”
Dean knew that he was in for it right there. If there was one way to make Dean do something stupid and risky, it was to mention it was for family’s sake.

“Fine,” he said surprising himself. Maybe the girl—Rachel—would keep him from dealing with his own stuff for a few more days. “We’ll leave in the morning.”

The smile she gave back was blinding. He was so screwed.

****

Dean had every intention of driving straight to Ellen’s then back in the opposite direction just as fast as he could. Funny how Dean’s plans never seemed to carry through like they were supposed to.

When Dean came downstairs just after first of the sun’s rays had crept above the snow-capped mountains in the distance, Sam was already at the kitchen table armed with coffee, his laptop, and his look of trouble brewing.

“Dude, what?” Dean asked after he took the first sip of coffee and rubbed a little sleep out of his eyes.

“Omens,” Sam said in the tired tone that they both had adapted toward any sort of demon activity.

“Do I even want to guess where?” Dean asked, knowing he was not going to like the answer at all.
Sam shook his head. “California,” he said anyway.

“Well that’s just great.”

“What is?” Rachel asked appearing like a ghost in the kitchen doorway.

“Looks like you’ll get to go straight home after all,” Dean said.

“Which wasn’t in your plan,” Rachel said crossing her arms in front of her. “What about omens?”
Sam looked at him with one of those earnest concerned looks which Dean met with a pointed lifted eyebrow.

“Guys,” Rachel insisted, “I’m not a kid and I’ve read Charlie’s whole file about you. Tell me. Is Charlie in danger?”

“No,” Sam answered quickly.

“No more than usual,” Dean clarified.

“You haven’t answered my question,” Rachel said with all the stubbornness of a teenager.

“And I hope we never have to,” Sam spoke sincerely and with finality.

Rachel scowled and looked to Dean to get him to elaborate. Dean met her eyes without flinching, armed with a calm certainty from years of hunting. Some things you just don’t wanna know, kid. Trust me on this one, he thought. As if in response, the girl sighed and picked up a coffee mug.

***

For the most part, the ride out to California was uneventful, which was a blessing and a curse. They mainly drove in shifts, turning what would be a three-day drive for anyone sane, into a relentless day-and-a-half truckstop tour. But it still gave Dean too much time to think, and Rachel too much time to study him.

“Don’t you sleep? We’ve been driving forever. Don’t you think you should rest?” Rachel asked.

“Nope, yep, nope,” Dean answered, giving her a glance in the rearview and expected a scowl but instead got a thoughtful look. “No rest for the wicked, sweetheart.”

“Sam, is your brother always this pigheaded?” she asked with a tilt of the head and a twinkle in her eye. Dean had a feeling that she could see right through him.

Sam stifled a laugh. “Every day.” He said with an up most serious tone, but his eyes were full of mirth.

“How’s Crews related to you, exactly?” Dean had asked, deflecting—he told himself it was from complete and utter boredom. He wasn’t curious. ‘Course not.

“He’s not. Not really.” She said with that quite tone of someone who had survived something horrible, tucking her stray bangs behind her ear then leaning on the back of the front seat. “My parents were his best friends before they were killed. He was like an Uncle to me then—before. He’d chase me and my brother around the house yelling about being ‘the tickle monster,’ he’d come over for dinner, he’d tell us stories. We were happy. I guess he never figured to think any different. And I don’t want him to think any different now, either.” She shrugged, playing with the frayed hem of her sleeve. “Death has a way of making people family.”

“No doubt about that,” Sam said with a faraway look in his eyes as he looked out the Impala’s window. Dean didn’t know if he were talking about Ruby or Crews.

Dean thought it was the latter, or at least he hoped it was the latter. Sure, Ruby might have saved his brother’s life but she was also the one who convinced Sam to use his freaky antichrist mojo. Dean got it, sure. He got that Sam was doing what he thought he had to do to survive. He just never thought that Sammy—okay, he’s not Sammy anymore. Not really. Not the kid with college dreams and a future with a career and a white picket fence.

Just Sam now, who’d been napping on and off. Dean could not decide if Sam’s gentle snores made him tired or made him want to drive even longer. They drove in a more-or-less peaceful silence after that for a couple hours, until he felt like his eyes would cross. His head hurt. He had been driving for a little over fifteen hours, despite squawks of protest from his brother. Sam had been trying to stare a hole into the side of his head for the last forty-three minutes.

Rachel was either asleep in the back or doing a very good job of ignoring the both of them. Being a teenager, both were likely. Before her solitude, she did tell him that for apparent bad-asses they were relatively boring and any appreciation of Led Zep didn’t make anyone more interesting by default. Thank you very much.

He stopped at a fill-up joint when he felt that the Impala had been hovering close to “E” long enough. He could’ve sworn he heard Sam mutter, “Finally,” but he didn’t look, didn’t ask. Acknowledgment would’ve just led to conversation and that was not going to help his aching head.
Stretching out the kinks in his back as he walked to the rear of the car, he took in the stillness of the early morning. It was too early for the birds to chirp, but too late for any sane person to be out on a Wednesday. It was almost too peaceful, but nothing struck him as off exactly as he put the nozzle in the tank, turned the pump on and went in the station to piss and get some coffee.

He pushed through the store’s door and nodded to the clerk on his way in with the understood meaning of, “Filling up on that pump there. I’ll pay in a minute. Bathroom that way?” The clerk nodded and gestured absently toward the back of the store barely looking up from her magazine, hair twirling and gum popping.

The bathroom was not as filthy as some he had seen, but it could have been a lot better. He tried to decipher some of the more colorful graffiti as he relieved himself; nothing particularly original, but there were a few amusing back-and-forth arguments about who had been there and who hadn’t. He had barely gotten done washing his hands when Sam charged into the bathroom and maneuvered him into the handicap stall, shoes squeaking on the wet floor, Dean’s head pushed ungently against tile that was once that terrible avocado color from the seventies.

“Dude, what’re—?” Dean started to ask, and then Sam was kissing him like it was necessary to his very existence; desperate and wanting, his tongue plunging into Dean’s mouth. Dean kissed back without thinking, responding as he had a long time ago. It had been months, but the territory was still familiar as he delved his tongue inside his brother’s mouth.

They had been dancing around each other for weeks, unsure. He had too much in his head and couldn’t even begin to accept any solace Sam was offering. He was telling the truth when he said to Sam that he could never make him understand. He’d only been able to offer him little catastrophic breadcrumbs to prove to Sam that he didn’t deserve any consolation, no matter how much he wanted it. So he did want it, so what. But he kept pushing Sam further away. It hadn’t helped that he had slept with that angel either. Anyway. Dean had been coping. Sort of.

But in that moment, with Sam’s attention so focused on him, Dean couldn’t control the moan that escaped his lips in response. This was a surprise, unexpected and everything he remembered, more, everything he wouldn’t let himself remember, everything he didn’t think he deserved to remember. He had forgotten how much he had missed this, even if it was somewhat angry, frustrated kissing.

Any kiss was always better than no kiss from Sam. Sammy’s kisses always tried to speak volumes. Dean knew that Sam was trying to say something, trying to make him understand, but all Dean could hear was his own need, want, take and feel the blood filling his cock making it hard for him to concentrate on anything but those lips and where he wanted them to be next.

“Missed this, miss you,” Sam whispered into Dean’s ear, his face pressed into Dean’s cheek and his hands reached for Dean’s belt. He kissed Dean again before he could say anything in response. Like he could even think of anything to say as Sam’s hands undid his zipper and pulled his cock from the confines of his boxers.

“Mnhmp,” Dean groaned at the feel of Sam’s hands stroking the shaft to full hardness barely breaking the kiss. He could feel Sam smile into his own lips and kiss. His brother pulled back, lips swollen, eyes hungry, and a hint of something else. Uncertainty maybe? Dean wasn’t sure and sure as hell wasn’t going to think about it.

Sam smirked, removing any doubt about his thoughts, and went down onto his knees. If Dean had been a girl, he might have swooned, especially once Sam took a tentative lick down the shaft and tonguing the slit, causing Dean to buck his hips uncontrollably. It had been too long. He put one hand on top of Sam’s head to steady himself.

His brother placed his hands on Dean’s hips to firmly hold him in place as he hollowed out his cheeks and proceeded to suck like a starving man who’d just discovered a surprisingly thick milkshake, making appreciative noises all the while. Dean tried to stifle his groan with each tease of tongue against his sensitive vein and underside of his dick.

It lasted forever and no time at all. Soon, Dean was trying to make shallow thrusts. Sam responded immediately, taking his entire length. The hot tightness of his brother’s throat caused him to come with a shout that he mostly stifled with his hand to his mouth.

Dean sagged bonelessly against the dirty tile, while Sam put him back in his pants then ghosted out of the bathroom while Dean’s upstairs brain tried to catch up to what just happened—not that he wanted it to. He wasn’t having a lot of success, which, he decided, was maybe because he was more tired than he thought.

After he felt like his legs would carry him, he left the bathroom and decided maybe some sustenance was in order.

Rachel met him with a knowing smile in the candy aisle with a slight blush to her cheeks.
“What?” he asked, not as harshly as he had meant to, but still not in the friendliest of tones. He didn’t feel as embarrassed as he thought he might be, that apparently this kid had heard the whole thing in the bathroom with his little brother and found it amusing.

She gave a little shake of the head causing her dark hair to fall back into her eyes. “Nothing,” she said giving her full attention to the selection to the chocolate before her.
Dean gave a grunt meaning nothing in particular and scratched the back of his neck and pretended to be engrossed in the merits of peanut butter verses actual peanuts. His limbs felt so heavy. That little bathroom excursion had worn him out. It was almost like old times. He did not know what it meant now. Right, not thinking about it.

Sam was probably just trying to get him to take a break from driving. Sneaky bastard. Either way he was not thinking about it—that whole thing that just happened—till at least he had some sleep. He glanced out the window and saw Sam, mop of messy hair and all, sitting in the driver’s seat of the Impala. He would bet his boots that Sam would want to talk about this whole thing later. Dean sighed.

“You should probably take a nap for awhile,” Rachel suggested, grabbing a few of the things Dean had been staring at and hooking her arm around his elbow. She gently led him to the counter, paid for their things—even with the clerk giving them the oddest look—and led them towards the door.

“Did you two plan this?” Dean asked trying to bring them to a halt and failing. Little sprite was stronger than she looked or maybe it’s exhaustion. Totally exhaustion.

“It wasn’t like you didn’t need it,” she shrugged, dragging him to the car and opening his door. “Are you sure you’re really brothers?”

He sputtered unable to answer and she stared at him with a careful, almost earnest look on her face. They quietly stared at each other until she seemed to draw her own conclusion with an eye roll. Then, he laughed, randomly, uncontrollably, till tears ran down his cheeks and his ribs hurt. He didn’t know why it was funny or even what to say to her. She only furrowed her eyebrows at him then gave a small smile. Being around Crews must have made her calm about crazy people with strange sexual habits.

“What?” Sam asked, all bitch-faced, as soon as Dean could control himself enough to climb into the backseat with no more than a smirk. Neither one of them offered any explanation, leaving Sam to scowl for nearly a hundred miles. Not that Dean was awake for more than three of them.

*****

Charlie couldn’t decide if he was, indeed, surprised to find the Winchesters in his driveway when he and Ted pulled up. He knew they were coming—at least he was pretty sure they would come. It was something else entirely for them to be standing there with his niece. Sam, with that shy, half-dimpled smile that Crews had first seen when he pulled him over for a busted tail-light over the summer, was standing with hunched shoulders. Dean was leaned against the Impala with much the same swaggered air he had the last time he saw him. He made it look good, but it was a front. Charlie knew because he remembered the talk he had with Dean and what Sam had told him.

Charlie Crews could safely say that he had been surprised at who was standing leaning up against his car as he came out of his favorite coffee shop a month ago. It’s one thing to be warned you’re going to have a visitor, but it’s entirely another when the visitor actually shows up.

The man had looked younger than he thought he would, unless you looked at his eyes too long—startling green. Dirty blonde short hair, which he self-consciously ruffled, like maybe he thought that this wasn’t such a good idea. Cute, regardless. Scruffy but cute. And not nearly as mad-looking.

“Hi there,” Charlie said giving his best disarming smile. “I must say, I didn’t expect to see you around, Dean Winchester.”

“I didn’t expect to see me around either, Detective.” Dean said and gestured to the side of the car. “Hell of a way to treat a Maserati. Did this yourself, I hear?” He examined one of the bullet holes.

“Call me Charlie. My partner helped. The bad guy needed to escape, and making the rich guy shoot his car was the way to go. He killed a kid, it’s really not a big leap to make a guy kill his car, I guess. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as you think it’d be. I was more attached to this car then I thought I was. Though not as attached as you are to your car. Now that is a sweet ride.” Charlie grinned with genuine appreciation.

“Dude, I don’t want you anywhere near her,” Dean said. It was an open threat.

“I guess not.” Charlie sobered. “Why are you here, Dean?” Charlie got right to the point. He couldn’t help that he was curious too.

“What, no spiel? No Zen meditation? Why are any of us here? Are we even here? What’s the price of tea in China? I don’t know if I should be disappointed, Charlie,” Dean deflected.

“Nope. Unless you want me to. Sometimes it’s hard to just be Zen. It can be a lot of work. I miss my accountant. I got shot recently. I think I had an out of body experience. Death hurts. You think it wouldn’t hurt. But it hurt even there. Thousands hours spent in that cell. I was at death’s door, and I was in that cell again and all I wanted was to be here. I wasn’t sure before,” Charlie shrugged and pulled a couple apples from his suit pocket. “Of course, I could have just been imagining that. Getting shot will do that to you, if it’s in the right spot and is enough of a surprise.”

Dean lifted an eyebrow, perhaps to examine how crazy he thought the man before him was. Charlie had gotten that look before. He was practically an expert on that look. That look, and how it was delivered, could tell you a lot about a person.

“Are you here now, Dean? Are you in this moment—in the present? I don’t think you are. And before you start to give me a speech on how it is none of my business saying such Zen nonsense to you about you about nothing I should know or speak of, give me a minute. Because I think it’s something you need to hear and I haven’t been the only one to say it,” Charlie cautioned a pause.

Dean stood, his face a mask of blank indifference, but his eyes fought to remain steely. Charlie accepted his silence as permission to continue.

“I was in prison for a while. Twelve years. A cop in the place with people he helped to lock up. I thought I had known human cruelty before. I thought I knew everything that people could do to each other. I didn’t think I could be surprised. I didn’t realize how much finding out would change me. Innocence—knowing that I didn’t really deserve that fate— isn’t much comfort. Having yourself torn apart and remade into something harder, something without hope, didn’t take as long as you’d think it might. But it happened. It should be ancient history. Should not touch us anymore. Should be as easy to cast off like a stone into water—ripple out to not touch us again.”

“It’s not,” Dean’s voice was gruff and he looked so far away, his jaw muscle tense.

“Nope.” Charlie agreed.

Dean laughed. “Dude, not what I expected you to say.”

Charlie shrugged. “Apple?” he offered. “I did not grow this apple myself, though I picked it out myself from a neighbors’ tree. Stolen apples are always better.”

“Unless you’re dealing with a pagan god. In which case, avoid the grove altogether.” Dean
said, not knowing entirely why, and accepted an apple. It did look pretty tasty. He shined it on his coat then took a zealous bite.

They munched in silence for several minutes. Charlie let his thoughts drift and came back to where he had wanted to go with the conversation.

“I’m not telling you to drop that experience Dean,” Charlie said, which caused Dean to roll his eyes.

“Come on Charlie. I thought we had this heart to heart. Shared an apple. I thought we were done here.” Dean said, exasperated, but quieted to look at Charlie with eyes searching.

“I’m not telling you to force yourself to forget,” Charlie continued. “You don’t have to talk to me about it. You don’t have to talk to Sam about it. We would be glad to help you carry it. Find something to channel it through. But don’t let it be all that’s inside you. You’ll end up empty. You are too important to too many people to end up empty, Dean Winchester.”

“Dude, we are not hugging.” Dean said in response, shifting self-consciously after a beat of being quiet too long.

“You don’t strike me as the hug type.” Charlie mused with a wink. “And you certainly didn’t come here for me to give you ‘some Zen spiel.’”

Dean sighed and looked everywhere but at Charlie.

“Of course, I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.” Charlie said conversationally and leaned against the side of his car beside Dean.

“Wrong is just not being right, or something.” Dean said in the same tone. He chewed the last of the apple, getting down to the core, wiping the juice from his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Exactly.” Charlie grinned and proceeded to wait the Winchester out.

“I just wanted to say to you—about last summer, with Sam. I…” Dean said finally after several minutes doing his best not to look anywhere near Charlie.

“You’re welcome,” Charlie replied.

Dean gave a half-smile and met the detective’s eyes. “Well, my chariot awaits,” Dean said and pushed off the car.

“He doesn’t know you’re here,” Charlie realized out loud, and couldn’t decide if he was offended.

Dean shrugged and started to walk towards the end of the block. “See ya, Detective.”

“I hope so.” Charlie said, more to himself than the figure disappearing in the distance. He had not spoken to Dean since, nor heard him in the background of any of the phone conversations he had with Sam.

But he was here now, hanging back behind his brother as Rachel ran to greet Charlie. Both boys looked haggard—and maybe a little easily spooked. He imagined that was their default setting, at least around him. On the other hand, they had just braved LA freeway traffic.
Ted said as much as he came to stand beside Crews to wait his turn. Charlie was glad he was back; he picked him up from jail earlier in the afternoon. He had been frowning a lot, but lit up when Rachel pulled him into a tight hug.

“I’m glad you’re alright, Rachel,” he said, smoothing her hair and smiling with his eyes.

“Me too,” she said and grinned at him. Then her face slid to concerned. “Are you?”

“I’m getting there,” Ted spoke with a half smile and she gave him a little kiss on the cheek. Charlie was always amazed at the ease Ted had with Rachel. It could be because he had more time to pay attention to her. Charlie knew he should make more time himself. Time is all we have, he thought.

They turned and looked at the Winchesters. Charlie couldn’t help but grin at them and their obvious discomfort.

“So, you’re coming in, right?” Ted asked. “I’ll make stew or whatever you want, I can’t wait to see my refrigerator again,” he said like that settled it, which it probably did.
Sam looked to his brother to gauge what he should say. Both exchanged an array of looks, eyebrow quirks and eye rolls that seemed to encompass a whole conversation. Dean seemed to
perk up at the mention of food, though.

“We’ve got to take care of something,” Dean said, making his tone uncompromising.

“Sure,” Sam agreed.

“I wasn’t leaving it open for discussion. You can take care of it just as well later,” Ted said leaving no room for arguments and muttered, “I thought the cover of darkness was more your style anyway. And you’ll want to avoid rush hour anyway.”

“Fine,” both Winchesters said at once.

Charlie moved to motion everyone inside and thought that no matter what happened it would probably be far from boring.

***

Dinner came and went with many appreciative and satisfied noises about Ted’s culinary skills. Both boys ate a lions’ share each. There was even pie, which probably endeared Ted to Dean for eternity. Also, as it turned out, the boys needed to do a bit more research before heading downtown.

Omens turned out to be a little more than any of them bargained for. Sam worked on his laptop at the kitchen island to pinpoint more of an exact location and Dean paced circles around him. While Ted and Rachel had gone out to buy ice cream, Crews got a phone call. Not just any phone call.

“Crews,” Charlie answered in his usual tone of good cheer.

“Detective,” a heavily accented voice slithered across the airwaves. “It has been awhile, no?”

“Roman, I would think you would be too busy trafficking in human cargo and locking people in cages to call. But, you know, I could be wrong. I bet you can be quite the planner—super organized and all that.” Charlie’s tone was aloof but his brow furrowed and he became perfectly still. “Anyway, last I checked, we put you in jail. What are you doing calling me from jail, Roman?”

Dean lifted an eyebrow in Sam’s direction and Sam mouthed “Mob Boss,” causing Dean to nod in acknowledgment and give a concerned look of his own. Charlie put the call on speaker, motioning for the brothers to remain silent.

“Detective, you flatter me,” Roman said, his voice sounding a little tinny through the speaker. Charlie could imagine the Russian looking at his nails in disinterest. “But I did not call for flattery. And I hear jail could be considered a state of mind.”

“Of course not. I thought you might have a point. Generally, you have a point,” Charlie spoke and dreaded whatever Roman was going to say. “It would be great if you got to the point, Roman.”

“Detective Crews, I know that you have visitors in that big empty house of yours. The brothers Winchester, I know they’re there,” Roman paused. “I’m sure my father would have said hello if you had not killed him. But bigger fish to fry these days, you know.”
Sam and Dean shared a look—one of those looks that a whole conversation could be conveyed—ending with Sam looking resolved and Dean grim. Charlie could safely say this was one of the weirdest conversations that he has had with Nevikov.

“That isn’t your point,” Charlie said trying to focus his thoughts on the present. It couldn’t help to think about the dangers of harboring Winchesters. He had been pretty sure what he was getting into. It wouldn’t help to backpedal.

“My point, Detective, is that I have something that belongs to you—two someones, act-u-al-ly.” Roman said, tone nonchalant. Charlie supposed that he would have that tone towards kidnapping too if it were a normal everyday occurrence. It took all he had to not throw the phone, or hang up, or start shouting.

Dean slipped out of the kitchen silently, with cell phone in tow. Sam met Charlie’s eyes and tried his very best to keep them free of pain and sadness.

“Roman, didn’t your momma ever tell you that you shouldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you?” Charlie asked. “Proof of a poor foundation. You have to start with a good foundation. Where are my someones, Roman?”

“Let the Boy King find me,” Roman clucked. “I imagine he has it narrowed down by now. We will trade. It will be like old times. Do not call your FBI friend. He was my friend first. And you will not contact anyone, especially that little bitch partner of yours. I would hate for anything to happen to her.” The call disconnected as Dean came back into the room.

“Rachel isn’t answering her phone,” he supplied.

Charlie tried dialing Ted’s cell, which went straight to voicemail. “What did Roman mean, his father would say hello if he weren’t dead? Roman’s father is alive back in Russia.”
Both Winchesters looked at Charlie, their faces tired.

“Is this about a demon?” Charlie asked. “Is Roman a demon? Because that would explain a lot.”

“Charlie, sometimes people are just evil,” Dean said, but he looked like he was a million miles away.

“That isn’t much of a reassurance,” Charlie said as he watched the boys packing up their stuff to go. “So you know where he is?” Charlie checked his gun and put it in his holster then grabbed his jacket.

“You ain’t goin’,” Dean said, giving Charlie a hard look.

“The hell I’m not. They are my family.” Charlie shot back leaving you are my family unspoken. “You don’t get to trade yourselves or go in with crazy heroics without backup—even if backup is just me.”

“You don’t know anything about demons, Charlie,” Sam pleaded, and started to walk briskly towards the door, Dean following.

“I can learn. Give me a crash course in the car, I’m a good listener.” Charlie trailed after.

“Sam, he’ll just follow us in that jacked up car of his,” Dean stated once they all reached the Impala.

Sam gave a long hard look at Charlie. “You’re right.” He got into the trunk of the car and got a couple things from the trunk—an anti-possession charm and a flask of holy water he handed to Charlie. “Try not to do anything too stupid?”

“Sure, right, yeah,” Charlie nodded and tried to ignore the sheer terror that was building inside of him.

***

Charlie did not do anything too stupid when they finally reached the abandoned warehouse that Sam had narrowed it down to. How Sam managed it Charlie wasn’t quite sure. Judging by how antsy it made Dean, it must have had something to do with Sam’s psychic powers.

A quick check of the place revealed Rachel and Ted tied to a beam in the center of the warehouse by some scratchy looking rope. Neither was hurt, but looked a little worse for wear. There were only two goons—three if you counted Roman—and they were guarding the front door. The back door being chained shut, Charlie thought that was relatively logical. The plan was simple. Sam and Dean would take out the two guards at the front and hope that Charlie could provide enough of a distraction for Roman. Unfortunately, nothing’s that simple when the Winchesters are involved.

As soon as Charlie stepped through the door, the guard to the left knocked him over the head. The next thing he knew, Dean was standing over him gently shaking his shoulder.

“Well that went well,” Charlie said sarcastically and took the hand Dean offered. “How long was I out?”

“Long enough for these imbeciles to tie me to this chair,” Roman answered. “I do not like being tied. The ropes burn.”His voice was slurred. Crews wondered how hard the Russian was hit in the head and whether he should hit him again.

Crews looked and found that to be true—those ropes looked pretty scratchy. Roman also was sitting inside a circle of somewhat intricate designs.

“You call them imbeciles,” Charlie said, turning to look the warehouse over and found the two guards incapacitated on the floor nearby, looking not quite alive. Ted and Rachel were missing too. They were probably in the car. It was a sweet ride. “But it seems they got the best of you.” Charlie turned back to Roman and smiled a genuine smile.

Roman scowled in return. “You know, Detective we really should quit meeting like this. Why is it that I am tied to a chair?”

“He doesn’t know?” Charlie asked Dean.
“Once the demon has been exorcised memory loss isn’t uncommon,” Dean shrugged. “He still seem like himself?” Dean started to walk away, following his brother. They must have already gotten rid of any signs of their presence.

“Detective, it would be in your best interest to untie me.” Roman stated, his voice returning to its normal arrogant tenor.

“Oh yeah. Charming as ever.” Charlie said following, leaving Roman to call him very rude names in their wake as they pulled and chained the door shut.

“Don’t ignore me Detective. Jail could not keep me. If you do not help me out of this chair, than your little conspiracy theory will be the least of your worries. I will destroy you and take what you love.” Roman threatened.

Charlie froze where he stood. It would be so easy to end this. After all, he found a way out of prison. He would probably just get out again. Charlie could stop it before it started. He could turn around and step back. It would be effortless. But that wasn’t the way to a peaceful soul. To keep walking, to make an anonymous call to his fellow uniforms, that would be the way. But maybe a peaceful soul wasn’t what Charlie truly needed.

The Winchesters were outside, backlit with the sunset.

“Charlie,” Sam called, maybe sensing the true nature of Crews’ hesitation. Charlie fell back in step and didn’t look back as Ted slid the warehouse door shut.

“Yeah, sometimes people are just evil.” Charlie finished for him.

“Yeah, I don’t imagine he’ll repent his rotten ways and start volunteering to fight for world peace and save starving children,” Ted agreed rubbing his wrists where they had been tied. Ted must have heard their conversation.

“Guys like that—like Roman—don’t change. They move countries or try a different means of illegal activity, but don’t change,” Charlie said, sounding a little defeatist. He also felt like he was missing something. Dean was keeping his distance from Sam. His shoulders held a line of anger—or tension maybe. He bet something had happened while he was unconscious. He hoped that they would stay a few days and sort things out with each other.

“Well, it’s been fun,” Dean started. “We’ll drop you all off back at the house and—.”
“You are not driving any more for at least a day. You both look dead on your feet and I’d like to make sure Roman is back to his normal evil self in jail before you jettison out of town,” Charlie said, tone matching Ted’s from earlier. “Gotta land sometime, boys, and I’m sure a couple days off wouldn’t hurt.”

Charlie left the Winchesters looking a little dumbfounded at those orders as he went to scoot into the backseat of the car. Rachel leaned over him and stuck her head out the window.
“How about we stop standing around a potential crime scene, guys?” she asked, jostling the boys back into action. They climbed quietly into the car and the engine roared to life. Charlie allowed himself a small smile.

***

Sam was pretty sure that Dean had been avoiding him. Whenever he would walk into a room that Dean was occupying, Dean would vanish like a ninja, becoming one with the shadows and twice as elusive. So Sam decided to wait him out—a change of tactic. At first, he would sit outside and soak up the sun. He practiced that mediation technique Ruby suggested, at least until he started to feel a little guilty from taking enjoyment of it when he could feel Dean’s nervous energy. He switched to the living room after that and tried not to think and hoped Dean would choose not to think with him. Finally, he settled in the kitchen to sit at the island. He felt stupid for not thinking of it sooner. Dean had to eat—loved to eat. He would have to come to the kitchen and by making himself available in the kitchen, Sam exponentially increased his chances that Dean might talk to him.

Of course, that didn’t mean that Dean would be prone to making conversations involving any degree of substance. Sam didn’t care. He really would take anything, from an ill-tempered jab about his hair to an ill-tempered jab about the weather in California being too nice. Anything. Instead of his plan working, Dean seemed to be avoiding the kitchen. Frustrated, he went back to sitting outside. But Charlie was not avoiding him.

Charlie had wandered outside to enjoy the sunset. Sometimes being inside, even in such an open house, was too much. The sky was ablaze with reds and purples. He wasn’t surprised to find Sam sitting outside worrying a rock with his foot. He hadn’t really gotten a chance to talk to Sam yet because of work. Dean was leaving them both alone and Charlie was not sure if he wanted him to. He didn’t know how he felt about how close the brothers seemed to be either.
He had a feeling that that was the very last thing Sam wanted to talk about, though. The youngest Winchester’s brow was furrowed and he barely glanced at Crews when the detective walked over and sat down next to him. He waited Sam out and it didn’t take long.

“I made a decision and I’m sticking by it,” Sam declared, seeming to try and convince himself as much as Crews.

“Bully for you.” Charlie stated, then quirked a knowing eyebrow. “So what’s the problem?”

“Don’t you want to hear the decision?” Sam diverted.

“Sure, but that isn’t what the problem is. What’s the problem, Sam?”

“Dean gave up everything—shit, his soul—for me. This decision is the same thing. To Hell with Heaven. I can’t live with myself if at the end of this—the apocalypse—if I lost him because I didn’t do everything in my power—when I have the power, even with everyone telling me no. I can’t do that Charlie. I can’t not use this when it doesn’t feel wrong.” Sam struggled to get there. Charlie let him.

This was not the first time Sam has talked about his powers. Not that he’d ever gone into much detail. He’d rather prattle on about their current cases, or Dean’s non-sleeping habit, or even the weather. The last he had spoken about them, he swore that he was done using them.

“Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to do the right thing,” Charlie said making sense of what Sam was saying, encouraging him to continue.

“Yes,” Sam nodded.

“But that isn’t what you want to say?” Charlie spoke, turning his blue eyes on Sam trying to see where the conversation was going. Sam wouldn’t look back.

“No,” Sam answered.

Charlie waited. Looked Sam in the eye again and Sam looked back with his hazel eyes. Sam’s face was all earnest and urgent trying to will Charlie into understanding. Charlie was pretty sure he got it. But Sam needed to say it.

“I can never tell Dean. He wouldn’t understand. Not really understand. He shouldn’t have to worry about it. He has enough going on inside of his head—stuff I can’t begin to understand how to help him with. He doesn’t need anything else to worry about me. I’ve told him everything I can. He wouldn’t want me sacrificing anything for him, whether he thinks he deserves it or not. And I might lose him because of this, but I could fix it. I can’t fix it if he dies because of something I could have done.

“I don’t know how much of myself I’ll lose to this either. This might very well destroy me. And if it’s wrong, maybe it should. But I can’t bring Dean down with me. I can’t. I won’t. I don’t know how to keep this from him and fix things with him. He has done nothing but try to protect me my whole life. He’s my whole world. I know I can make this work.”
Sam looked away. A tear slid down his cheek. Charlie reached out and wiped the tear from Sam’s cheek. His hand cupping Sam’s face, he turned Sam’s face back to face his.

“Having those thoughts should give you hope,” Charlie said. “When you stop worrying if you’ve gone too far then you have gone too far. When the means overwhelm the end, it’s gone too far. When you’re overwhelmed with where you’re going next you can’t realize where you are. You have to always realize where you are, Sam.”

“Be here, now?” Sam asked.

“There is only now, Sam. There is no then or where you’re going next. There is only now.” Charlie stated, mouth smiling and eyes sad. “Maybe you don’t have to tell Dean everything. Maybe you just have to let him know that you love him—that you are there for him. That might have to be enough. Something is better than nothing. Especially with now being so short.”
Sam leaned his head against Charlie’s hand, feeling those calluses there and remembering what those hands can do. “Right now…” Sam breathed, rubbing his cheek against that hand. “I really want to kiss you.”

“I’d really like to,” Charlie grinned then face grew serious.

“I sense a ‘but’ here, Charlie.” Sam looked a little grim.

“Not a ‘but’, just a rain check,” Charlie clarified, rubbing Sam’s cheek with his thumb.

“That sounds a lot like a ‘but,’” Sam objected, resigned.

“I have to go back to the station and you really need to talk to Dean.”

“You know talking to Dean is like talking to a wall, right?” Sam asked and stood. He turned and extended a hand to Crews.

Crews too his hand and said, “Yes. I’ve found that I don’t necessarily mind talking to walls. They’re great listeners, and mostly they don’t talk back.”

To Sam’s credit, he only rolled his eyes a little at that statement, and Crews grinned in response.

***

Sam didn’t expect that Dean would find him, especially since he hadn’t exactly gotten everything straightened out in his head. His guard was down from his confession with Charlie. Besides, he was still reeling from Dean’s avoidance after that blowjob in the bathroom. Sam had had every intention of talking to Dean after his brother slept in the car, but after a three hour nap Dean was back at the helm driving and avoiding Sam and most topics of conversation. Hell, it’d been like since they hit the state line Sam had, somehow, become ‘off limits’ in Dean’s mind. Maybe this was Dean’s way of waving a white flag to Charlie. Of course, it could simply be that Dean was avoiding everything altogether. Leave it to Dean to take the first almost-sex they’d gotten after Dean’s return and believe it was simply a means to an end -- thinking that maybe Sam was using him just to get him to rest or satisfy his oral fixation. Or whatever.

Anyway, Sam had wandered upstairs to see if Charlie had found any more furniture since he had been here and discovered the house was still mostly sparse. He did find a deep brown, slick, leather chair sitting in the center of an otherwise empty room facing the large curtainless windows. It was the right height for just about anything. He let his hand slide along the back of it and turned to be completely surprised to find Dean standing oh so close to him.
But Dean wasn’t avoiding him now. Sam was pretty sure avoidance could not be considered with
Dean’s mouth on his, his brother’s tongue down his throat.

He broke the kiss and grasped his brother’s face with his large calloused hands. God, he wanted this—he’d wanted this since before and he had it now. Dean was going to give it to him, or take it from him. He wasn’t sure. He wanted to be sure. They couldn’t keep taking from each other without giving a little back. If they weren’t careful, there’d be nothing left to give. Against all his desire to the contrary, Sam found his voice.

“Dean, we should talk,” Sam said, and it sounded a little gruffer than he would have liked.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to,” Dean said with uncharacteristic honesty.

Sam was surprised. Well, a deflection with truth is still a deflection.

Dean took advantage of Sam’s gawking to steal a kiss.

“We are going to talk,” Sam commanded, breaking the kiss again and causing Dean to groan. He rested his forehead against Sam’s. It was warm, even against Sam’s hair. Here was Dean leaned against him; tangible and real. For four months he thought that maybe Dean would never be real again. He forced his thoughts back to the present.

“I thought I was already saying everything I needed to by finding you here,” Dean said vaguely.

“What exactly are you saying, Dean? Because I don’t get it,” Sam countered. He thought he got it, but lately he wasn’t as sure as he used to be. Dean was still Dean, but he was even more reluctant to say anything post-Hell.

“This,” Dean said and moved his hand to stroke Sam’s length through his pants. Sam’s blood started to head south. “I want this and what we had before, but it’s not like before.” His eyes are closed, squeezed shut. Eyes open would be too personal, too confessional. Sam was surprised he was even saying this.

“Clean slate?” Sam asked, giving them both a way out. Neither of them wanted to talk about anything. Not really. For Winchesters, the need to talk never quite managed to lead to the desire to talk. Maybe it was denial, or stubbornness, or maybe they were just convinced that talking would only postpone the inevitable. But this could be a start. It would not solve a damn thing, but it would be a start.

Dean opened his eyes and moved his face to look at Sam. He pursed his lips. “What’s the catch?”

“No catch,” Sam said. There wasn’t. Not really—unless never talking about their secrets toward each other counted as a catch. He rocked his crotch against Dean’s hand letting him feel the hardness there. “I want this too. I’ve missed this.”

“Good,” Dean’s tone was indescribable. He was saying so much more than good and not the word at all. Even still, he ended their conversation with a kiss his hands moving to get Sam out of his pants.

“What do you want?” Sam asked breaking the kiss and nuzzling at his brother’s neck.

“I want to be inside of you,” Dean said simply and reached for the lube in his pocket. Sam wasn’t surprised that he was packing it given the amount of non-talking he’d wanted to do from the get-go.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Sam smiled, a dirty smile.

He stole another kiss as Dean slid out of his pants and boxers. Quickly, Sam divested himself his own clothing. Then, Dean gently turned Sam to bend over the chair, spreading his legs just so. Two of his slick fingers pushed slowly into Sam, letting him get used to the burn and gently pulsing and scissoring to make room.

“Fuck,” Sam cursed drawing the word out, fighting to remain still, then pushing into Dean’s deft fingers. He squeezed his eyes shut to concentrate.

“So tight,” Dean muttered against the back of Sam’s neck.

“I don’t whore around for just anyone, Dean,” Sam gasped as Dean added some more lube and a third finger, kissing his shoulder. He didn’t mean for it to come out so harsh. He couldn’t help the moan that escaped his mouth when Dean finally brushed against the prostate, either.

“Fuckin’ fuck me already.” He pushed against Dean’s hand once more.

“Impatient fucker,” Dean smiled and lubed up his hard length. He took care, not just because he wanted Sam to be comfortable, but because he wanted both of them to feel every fraction of an inch. Sam gasped when his brother’s balls brushed his ass cheeks, then breathed out slowly in a sigh of contentment.

If Dean hadn’t been so totally overwhelmed with the sensation of Sam—being so intimately inside him, he totally would’ve made a crack about Sam being a girl for that sigh.
Finally, Dean slid out and slid back in, so slowly, but Sam felt everything, his precum warm and wet on the soft leather, the sweat beginning to trickle down Dean’s belly, and Dean… the viselike pressure on his hips from Dean’s fingers, the heartbeat pulse of Dean’s cock twitching inside, like the rest of his body knew what it wanted but his brain wasn’t letting go. It was driving Sam insane.

“Dean, fuck, pleaseyesIwant---fuck!” he cried as Dean finally began to thrust in earnest. They were reduced to grunts, groans, and the mutterings of curses as Dean’s fingers only dug harder into Sam and Sam’s fingers dug into the arms of the chair. Sam needed what Dean gave, and Dean kept pounding him harder, their breaths rasping rhythmically. Dean made himself open his eyes to look at their reflection in the window to see if Sam was enjoying this as much as he was.

Dean met Sam’s sexed-out gaze and nearly spilled his load at the raw need in his brother’s face. They looked at each other’s eyes reflected in the glass for what felt like a small tortured eternity, thrust after thrust, ‘till Sam squeezed his eyes shut nearing his own climax. Dean shifted his attention to the other set of eyes watching. Charlie’s reflection was awash in desire, he licked his lips. Dean winked then let himself go with a shout. He could only imagine the mess Sam had made of the back of the chair. When he opened his eyes once more, Crews was gone.

***

For the first thirty-six hours, despite having driven nearly twenty hours straight and handling a few demons downtown, Dean ghosted about the house, never settling on one particular spot, drifting from room to room and the garage with restlessness or boredom or spite or curiousness. Maybe he walked the halls like a sentinel to keep watch—there were an awful lot of windows—or maybe he was trying to out walk his thoughts. Charlie couldn’t say for certain. Anytime Charlie found him still for a moment, Dean would scratch the back of his neck, then vacate the space. If Charlie weren’t so preoccupied with thoughts of Sam, he might have thought Dean was avoiding him.

See, Sam had been the opposite. Any time Charlie looked for him he’d either parked at the kitchen island or stretched out on the couch or sat in the sun beside the pool. The kid didn’t flinch, didn’t blink when Charlie pulled up a seat next to him. He always gave that shy half smile and went back to brooding and Charlie had been content to brood equally. They had finally talked last evening—well, if ‘talking’ could be defined as ‘a Winchester confession and the determination to do something that might be stupid’.

Charlie would be the first to admit that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. He knew they stayed because he had asked them to – and especially because Sam wanted to. Despite his loud protestations, Dean didn’t want to go anywhere without Sam. It’d been two days. The first day they took care of that demon problem they had heard about, and then took up this holding pattern—except for the recent break.

Now Dean and Charlie’s niece were in his kitchen making dinner. Ted usually made dinner. Tonight, however, he opted to work, and let Dean take the culinary responsibilities. Surely his accountant would know what to do with two wayward demon hunters, a lost girl, and his own troubling thoughts, so Charlie trusted that the current setup was Ted-approved.

“You are sautéing far too many onions,” Rachel insisted for the second time since they had started cooking and Crews started listening. She nibbled on an orange slice while she looked at Dean with a concerned, somewhat exasperated face.

Charlie was glad to be home. He’d been out working a case all day with Reece hazarding concerned glances when she thought he wasn’t looking. It looked like the natives became restless in his absence and decided to use the stocked kitchen. Better them than Charlie. He could barely order pizza most of the time.

“Actually, I don’t think I’m making nearly enough,” Dean winked with a grin and flipped the burgers in the copper-bottomed pan beside the onion filled one. And it was full to the brim with onions—perhaps as much as three Vidalias had been sacrificed to the burger gods for this meal.

“You’re disgusting,” Rachel sighed, and Dean shrugged good-naturedly. He seemed lighter somehow, though whether it was from the distraction of working with his hands or whether he had worked something out for himself during his solitude, Crews couldn’t begin to guess. Of course, it could have something to do with the sex Dean and Sam had had last night in the upstairs study. That would be bound to relax anybody—except for Crews, who felt his cock start to sit up and take notice at the memory of finding the brothers so entwined. He shifted his thoughts elsewhere. Contrary to popular opinion, he was a grown man who could control himself.
To the mere passerby, it would seem like some sort of usual banter—easy, normal. But Charlie wasn’t just a passerby. This companionable exchange had been earned, from Rachel charming the brothers Winchester, to Ted’s reassurance, to Charlie patiently waiting for them to figure things out.

“Out of all the fruit and vegetables to be found in this kitchen, the entire house, all you can be bothered with is onions.” Sam stated with a roll of his eyes and a shake of his head as he leaned on his elbows on the kitchen island.

“I’ve got a surprising variety of mushrooms on the back burner and potatoes in the oven,” Dean spoke defensively. “Besides, I don’t see you killing yourself to help here, Sammy.”

Sam pouted at the accusation. Ted gestured to the bowl of tomatoes and pears in a bowl in the middle of the kitchen island and lifted an eyebrow at Sam, while barely containing his smile.

“I’ll slice a tomato,” Sam placated and proceeded to go through the bowl fresh fruit on the kitchen island checking for firmness and smelling every other one. “And I know that you know how to make more than burgers and some form of potatoes.”

“Still,” Rachel chirped with a coy smile, “I get the feeling that your culinary expertise is greatly exaggerated.”

“You’re not wrong,” Dean agreed with a private smile.

“I know some peppers, stuffed with risotto, that would disagree,” Sam offered an example, slicing both a yellow and red tomato onto a plate.

“That sounds tasty,” Ted said with a face that looked as though he was filing the idea away to try later.

“That doesn’t count. The risotto was instant from a box. Crews could make it,” Dean refuted.

“Aha!” Sam gave a satisfied exclamation. “Only those capable of risotto preparation would knock the imitation risotto.”

“Yes dear,” Dean chirped in his most saccharine tone, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, even Charlie can make it,” Crews said, making his presence known. “Why am I the default cooking idiot? Is it because I wasn’t here to defend myself?”

“Nope,” Dean said and gave a look to Rachel.

“I told them you burn water,” Rachel explained with traitorous glee.

“It’s not a lie,” Sam added and looked at Ted who had the nerve to look a touch sheepish. He would know. He witnessed a small disaster involving plantains over the summer.

“I can’t argue with that. But I do make some tasty pancakes,” Charlie shrugged. “It smells delicious.” He shrugged out of his suit jacket and loosened his tie, draped both over the back of one of the kitchen table chairs.

“Even the onions?” Rachel made a somewhat disgusted sneer. Dean lifted an eyebrow, face all masked defiance.

“Especially the onions,” Charlie took another appreciative sniff of the air.

“Use some of your ungrateful teenage angst and attitude to help plate up the burgers,” Dean ordered with an underlying good humor.

Rachel rolled her eyes but did as she was told. Chalk up another one to Winchester charm, Charlie thought. But he reckoned it might be more than that. Dean had been able to connect to Rachel in a way that Charlie couldn’t. They had an easy rapport, complete with friendly insults—a camaraderie. Dean wasn’t as on guard with her. Maybe because she was younger, and had also experienced great loss. Sam had told him that Dean was always better when he was dealing with kids. Although Rachel wasn’t a kid, she was young in so many ways and old in others. They were all like that though—broken in some ways and hardened in others, all with their weak spots and strong points.

As they were in that moment, a passing glance would reveal a family. Charlie found himself smiling at the thought. He met Ted’s eyes and Ted was smiling too.

***

 

After diner, Charlie sought the eldest Winchester out. He had questions—well not questions exactly, just something he really wondered about. Though, he didn’t realize that he actually planned to ask about it till the words were out of his mouth.

Dean leaned against the counter beside the sink, having just finished putting away the freshly-cleaned pans, when Charlie found him. An opened beer, wet with condensation and mostly empty, was in his hand and a contented look was on his face.

“I took the liberty,” he said and tipped the bottle in Crews direction. “Didn’t figure you’d mind.”

“So, you’re brothers?” he asked, without segue or warning, and fought the urge not to slap his hand over his mouth. Though, he was proud of how casual and level his voice sounded when he asked. Way to ease into the whole thing, Charlie berated himself.

“You’ve done the research and you still ask that question?” Dean looked less content. “Crews, I thought you were a smarter guy than that.”

“It’s not about smarts. Actually, I may be avoiding thinking about that whole thing altogether. What I know is that you both love each other—and it’s not just to do with catching you in the upstairs study. I’ve seen the both of you watch each other when you think the other isn’t looking. It might be just this side of weird for me. The word taboo comes to mind. See, I’m not judging that—or anything. You’re a unit. I’m happy just to bear witness and I don’t mean to intrude.”

“Are you trying, in your roundabout way, to ask if we were raised like Romans and if you can join in?” Dean asked, calm and a little grim despite the joking nature of his question.

“No,” Crews abashed mostly joking. “You weren’t, right?”

Dean gave a mirthless laugh, “Raised like Romans? No. It was never like that. I can’t even think of what dad would say…” He grew quiet.

Charlie was patient, and waited, keeping his face as neutral and open as possible. He knew that sometimes you have to let the person you are talking to fill in those silences. Sometimes a person needed a minute to compose their thoughts or gather courage or see if you were still willing to listen. Charlie knew he had to listen and he couldn’t balk on this conversation—especially since he started it. He couldn’t risk tearing down any walls here that he didn’t have a right to touch, especially if he didn’t have the balls to follow through.

“It was something I thought we had grown out of after he went to Stanford,” Dean confessed, after a couple minutes of staring a hole into the kitchen island. “Then last year…It was one of those things—an inexcusable thing. That I’m not sorry for—I thought I was. We rely too much on each other. I’ve let it go too far even if right now it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. And I’d really like if we never talked about this again.”

“Yeah, sure.” Crews nodded companionably, “Keep forgetting you’re not really a talker. Sure, you’ll yap from car parts to the perfect pie crust. But not a talker. Do you want another beer? I find it’s easy to not-talk with beer.” Crews got up and opened the fridge door, giving him space.

“To answer your other question, Crews,” Dean drawled, causing Charlie to freeze and stare at the jar of strawberry preserves on the shelf with the beer.

Charlie swallowed, and didn’t breathe, safe behind the fridge door. “Yeah?”

“I wouldn’t mind if you intruded.” Dean said it offhandedly, but Crews recognized the weight of those words and found a smile on his face. He turned to Dean with his twinkling blue eyes full of mischief. Dean scratched the back of his neck. Of course, that would be the minute Charlie’s cell phone rang, spoiling his plans. Charlie turned and frowned at it as it tried to vibrate its way off the kitchen counter.

“Aren’t you gonna get that?” Dean asked, with a little smile.

“Somebody’s probably just dead.” Crews muttered, sounding somewhere between bummed and impatient.

“That’s sorta your job, Crews.” Dean pointed out, smiling crookedly.

“Yes it is. Can we finish not-talking about all this later? You will be here later, right?” Charlie could not help how hopeful he sounded.

Dean gave Charlie a cocky grin full of promise and something wicked in response. Charlie smiled and answered his phone.

***

When Charlie got back to the house in the wee hours of the morning, he found it to be quite empty. On the kitchen counter was a note from Rachel informing him that she was at Aunt Jennifer’s. He left his suit jacket beside that slip of paper. Ted was in his apartment above the garage and the Winchesters were nowhere on the first floor. Charlie thought that he would find them in the spare room, but the bed was made with military precision and empty.
He knew that they hadn’t left because their car was still in the garage, but that didn’t prepare him for where he did find them. Both were entangled in the sheets, and each other, on his California King bed. One of the bedside lamps was the only light in the room. Sam was doing his best impression of an octopus with arms and legs wrapped around his brother. Dean’s head was nestled against Sam’s shoulder right beside that nifty protection tattoo. The crème sheets were strategically covering the most interesting parts. Both looked a lot younger when they slept, even with their scars.

Charlie could not, for the life of him, decide what he wanted to do with this situation. Sure it was his bed and there were things that he would like to do—and by things, he meant hot and dirty things, to be sure—but he knew that they didn’t rest like this. He’d seen how neither of them could just take time to rest, and here they were, resting.

He scratched his forehead, loosened his tie, and then turned to go sleep in the guest bedroom.
“Where ya goin’, detective?” the eldest Winchester asked, his quiet voice slightly slurred with sleep.

“Almost looks like you were going somewhere else,” the youngest Winchester agreed.

“You’d think he’d be all about the merits of here,” Dean mused, giving his best Crews impression. Charlie could practically hear the air quotes.

“Yeah,” Sam matched his tone. “As opposed to there, where we are not. Unless we are all everywhere at once, in which case all bets are probably off.”

Charlie turned to find green and hazel eyes watching him with hungry interest and Cheshire grins. He tilted his head and held his breath. They looked wanton, decadent, laying there wrapped in each other and his bedclothes. He waited.

“I woulda figured he’d want to be here, now, wouldn’t you Sammy?” Dean asked, never taking his eyes off Crews.

“Yeah, certainly not there. There is not here at all.” Sam agreed.

“Now, you’re both just making fun of me,” Charlie exhaled and tried not to smile with his hands on his hips. He could wonder if he really was so predictable and if he cared, but he was hoping to be very busy, very soon—too busy to entertain such thoughts.

“We can’t help that you have this cadence about you,” Sam dismissed.

“What he said,” Dean agreed. “You know, he’s awfully overdressed for someone who’s still here.”

“You don’t say,” Sam mused.

“Think somethin’ should be done about that?” Dean asked, then moved to meet Sam’s eyes, as if to make sure they were going to go through with this. Crews devoutly hoped they’d talked about all the ways they wanted to take scandalous advantage of him, or let him take scandalous advantage of them. Being an equal-opportunity guy, Crews would gladly roll with whatever they chose. He’d wanted something with either of them since seeing them both together—hell, especially since catching them in the upstairs study. He just didn’t believe he was going to get it. The thought must have occurred to Ted and Rachel; otherwise they’d made themselves conveniently scarce for no reason. He believed there was a reason, though. There was always reason. Without reason, there was nothing.

All his doubt and hope was confirmed when, at last, the two boys untangled themselves from his sheets and approached him with smooth, predatory grace. The sight took his breath away. They were both so beautiful, especially with their collective scars and absence of clothes leaving nothing to the imagination. He hadn’t realized how much he missed looking at Sam like this and how much he’d been missing not being able to look at Dean too. The contrast between the two was striking.

Where Sam was all scars, Dean was distinctly not. Freckles seemed to take the place of scars, reminding Charlie that he lost all of those marks when he was brought back from the dead. He was certainly alive now; he could not help but notice the flush of Dean’s cheeks and half-hard cock as Dean looked him over with a smirk. Charlie met it with a smirk of his own and lifted an eyebrow at Dean as if to say, This is your rodeo. What do you want?

Dean took the invitation and reached out and pulled Charlie’s dress shirt that had been tucked into his pants and started on the buttons on the bottom of it. He methodically unbuttoned each one, carefully not looking Charlie in the eyes though he could easily if he wanted. They were both the same height. When his hands reached the topmost button and unfastened it, he carefully and gently stroked either side of Crews neck seemingly trying to decide where he wanted to go next or maybe even if he did. Charlie patiently waited, enjoying Dean’s warm hands and their thoughts. Sam looked on, worrying his lip.

At last Dean looked at him with those green eyes; his brow was furrowed thinking and his hands still ghosting against Charlie’s throat. He was a million miles away, drifting in the ether, as far as Charlie could tell.

“Where are you, Dean?” Charlie asked quietly. “Are you here?”

“Oh, I’m here,” Dean said with a smirk, but his face was still thoughtful, a bit of doubt still lingering around the corners.

“Remember who you are,” Charlie said calmly. He didn’t think the doubt was about anything they would do here in this room, but he had to say something. It was just his way. You had to talk to fill the silence or the fear in your head or try to figure out everything. Sam moved to stand closer to them, his shoulder almost brushing Crews’ shoulder.

“You gotta be ready for what’s coming,” Charlie continued. “There’s no future. There’s only now, but you gotta be ready anyway. If you’re not ready, your whole world goes away. So your whole world already went away, Dean. That’s okay. You’re still here, still going. The world keeps turning. You don’t know how to do anything else but turn with it. You persevere, damn the consequences and move on and hang tight to what you think you have to. I admire that. It’s you. This is about you. Dean, what do you want?”

Dean’s focus snapped completely back to the immediate time and place and his face relaxed, looking peaceful for a moment. He gave a little smile his hands moving to frame Charlie’s face. “I want…” his voice trailed off as he moved in for a kiss. His lips were tentative at first, testing new territory, but quickly deepened, mouth opening, asking for more. Charlie answered with his own open mouth, delving his tongue inside. Sam gasped, whether at the mere sight, or longing, or satisfaction at the turn of events, Crews couldn’t be sure.

It didn’t take long for Dean’s hands to make it down to Charlie’s belt. Charlie’s cock certainly took notice of those deft hands making quick work of the buckle, button, zipper, and fly. He let his pants fall to the floor and stepped out of them. Sam stepped up behind him and slid his briefs down his legs, letting his fingers trail along Charlie’s calves.
Once they were on even ground, so to speak, Charlie guided them all to the bed, retrieving the lube from the bedside table along with the box of condoms.

“Such a boy scout,” Dean mumbled, kissing and sucking Crews’s neck as Sam reached for the supplies.

“I was, actually,” Charlie answered, then groaned with pleasure as Dean grazed his teeth over one of his nipples. Dean moaned against Charlie’s chest as Sam started to open Dean up with his slick fingers. Charlie had ideas of his own and reached for Dean’s hard cock.

“Shit,” Dean gasped against the redhead’s shoulder. His breath was hot against the skin there. Charlie chose that moment to cup Dean’s balls and give them a gentle squeeze.

“Nnnnghh,” was the most intelligent response Dean could come up with and Charlie allowed himself a little smile, which he found mirrored in Sam’s face. The taller Winchester looked at the detective with an evil grin and a question in his eyes. Crews nodded at the unspoken question, and began to cultivate an evil grin of his own.

Meanwhile, under their ministrations, Dean been concentrating so hard on not spilling his load, he didn’t protest being maneuvered closer to the bed. In fact, he might not have entirely noticed.

Sam sat on the bed’s edge, sliding his fingers from Dean’s hole, and gripped Dean’s hips with gentle familiarity, drawing Dean down onto his own hard cock—slowly; the inner muscles tight from where his fingers could not reach. All the while, Charlie was still working Dean’s balls and teasing the shaft. Dean was all moans and loud, somewhat unintelligible curses. Sam kissed along Dean’s shoulder blades, willing him to relax.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to do…” Charlie hinted, his thumb massaging the tip of Dean’s cock and smearing the pre-cum leaking out of it. Dean fought to remain still, when all he wanted to do was buck into either of their touches. His breath came in gasps. Sam’s fingers dug into his sides, grounding him.

Charlie sank down onto his knees and gave Dean’s shaft a tentative lick, down and back up. Dean thrusted forward into the touch of the redhead’s tongue and pushed back down onto his brother’s cock with a not so elegant grunt escaping his lips.

“Fu-ck,” Dean drawled the word out into two syllables. Charlie chose that moment to take Dean’s entire length into his mouth, the tip hitting the back of his throat. Dean moaned, his eyes closing, head tilting back, and Charlie grinned despite himself. Charlie hollowed out his mouth, allowing Dean to thrust into it while Sam thrusted into Dean. They hit a rhythm, Sam and Dean interchanging gasps and moans.

Dean came with a wordless shout and Charlie greedily swallowed every drop. When he pulled away he resisted the urge to wipe his lips. He met Sam’s sexed-out eyes and the young man gasped. Sam came soon after with Dean’s name on his lips.

Sam and Charlie gently eased Dean onto the bed. Charlie kissed Dean below his navel and rested his head on Dean’s thigh, his weight mostly on his side and his full cock very visible.

“Give me a minute there, old man,” Dean grumbled, blissed out with heavy- lidded eyes.

“Not rushing anything, young man. Plenty of time. Time is relative, after all.” Charlie mused, his hand splayed on the eldest Winchester’s stomach. “There’s a lot of you to take in, all of it is beautiful. All of it loved, even the parts you are least proud of.”

Dean’s eyed were clear and a touch disbelieving. Charlie smiled and continued to hold Dean’s gaze when at last the eldest Winchester smirked sliding over any heavier emotions.

“Maybe we should do something about that,” Dean drawled.

“I can think of at least one thing,” Sam agreed.

“Is it the same thing I’m thinking of?” Charlie asked conversationally. “Because if it is that would be—.”

“Charlie, just fuck me already. If you keep rambling, Dean ‘n I’ll just fall asleep.” Sam chuckled, reaching for the redhead who leaned in for a kiss, meeting each other halfway. Dean sat up and nuzzled at Charlie’s neck, mouth settling on the pulse point and sucking at it making Charlie groan against Sam’s lips.

The next part was like a dance as they moved as one, barely coming up for air. Dean reached Charlie a condom and the lube. Sam lay pliant under the coaxing of Charlie’s fingers, moaned while Dean mapped out a few of Charlie’s scars with his tongue and the graze of his teeth.
As Charlie slid into Sam with a grunt, he gasped in pleased surprised as Dean slid a slick finger into him. Charlie started a rhythm slowly at first, while Dean worked two more fingers in and ground against the prostate. Charlie’s rhythm faltered for a couple strokes with Dean coaxing inside of him. He recovered, pushing against that hand and back into Sam, whose moans became increasingly erratic with each thrust.

Charlie came in waves, knees weak. Dean’s arm was around him, keeping him from falling boneless to the bed on top of his brother. The eldest Winchester rested his head against Charlie’s cheek. Sam met Dean’s eyes and Charlie would swear that for a minute he almost
looked happy. Dean moved away from Crews and Charlie missed the warmth.

“Looks like we wore you out, old man,” Dean said smugly, as he pulled the covers away from the bed and retrieved a towel that was on the floor where Charlie had carelessly dropped it earlier.

“It does look like,” Charlie said, a kind smile on his face as Dean gently wiped Charlie down then smacked his ass.

“Get in bed, stud,” Dean said, with his usual mirth and gave Sam a gentle rub down before tossing the towel back toward the bathroom.

“Speak for yourself,” Sam muttered, trying to find the energy to move just enough to get under the cover.

“Oh, I know I’m a stud,” Dean said, cocky assurance still intact as he held his brother’s storkish legs in the air with one arm and pulled the cover with the other.
Sam and Charlie chuckled. Dean only quirked an eyebrow as he crawled in between them, pulling the cover up behind him. They sorted themselves into a comfortable pile. Of course, no one said a word about the cuddle fest that their romp had become.

Charlie turned off the bedside lamp and draped his arm over Dean, his hand resting on Sam’s waist. Both boys were already drifting off to sleep, and he hoped that tonight and their time there had been enough of a reprieve to carry them through.

***

The next morning was surprisingly not awkward. Charlie woke first, showered, and found the Winchesters to be just waking up when he was done. Dean cracked an eye open and looked Crews over then asked the all-important question, “Didn’t you say you make good pancakes?”

“Yep,” Charlie grinned. “The greatest.”

“I’m gonna need some pancakes,” Dean decided, smiling back at Charlie.

“Me too,” Sam agreed.

“Bitch,” Dean called his brother with a surprising fondness.

“Jerk,” Sam matched his tone.

So Charlie went to make pancakes, feeling honored to having witnessed such a loving exchange between the two of them, and maybe a little like someone who snuck a glimpse at something he was never meant to see.

After breakfast was had - with a lot of surprised praises of his culinary skills - and the boys were packing up their things, Charlie was busy with tidying up the kitchen. It was something Ted normally would do, but he’d run off to teach and Rachel was off doing her aloof thing in her room, which seemed to involve her guitar. He was pretty sure that her strumming could be considered music, or at least it wanted to be.

With one last swipe of the counter, Charlie turned and tossed the soiled dish rag in the direction of the washroom near the kitchen. He narrowly missed a dark-haired, very blue eyed, solemn looking man wearing a very battered trench coat and a very rumpled suit staring at Charlie as if he had been quietly studying him for some time.

Charlie had the gun pulled and aimed at the man’s heart before the rag hit the floor across the room. This was not the first time an intruder had ever been in his house, nor was it the first time he’d pointed a gun at them. This may be the first time he’d shot someone in his house that wasn’t family though. His father really should have called first.

The man tilted his head to the side in response, perhaps considering Crews very existence. The young man had an air about him and there was something larger—mythic—lurking behind his gaze. It was possible, anything was possible. Charlie would know and strongly suspected something supernatural was standing in his kitchen, but it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t try to agitate it.

It was his nature to question.

“You know, polite people knock. Or at least have the nerve to make a bit more noise when approaching an officer of the law,” Charlie said, his voice cheerful and gun unwavering. “Care to tell me why such a rumpled looking accountant is in my kitchen? I already have an accountant. I don’t need a spare rumpled one.”

“I serve a higher order than your law, Charlie Crews,” the man spoke and his voice matched the energy surrounding him as he ignored Charlie’s joke.

“We all serve a higher order in order to achieve a balance of soul and self so as to serve our fellow man—or ourselves, but that’s a little greedy. I only try to be greedy with things like revenge and my own trouble. You’re not here for revenge are you, because I’ve kinda got more than my fair share?” Charlie asked.

“You are harboring the Winchesters,” the man said enigmatically.

“That a crime? I don’t remember any law being written along those lines,” Charlie shrugged,
“Of course I’m not exactly a follow the law to-the-T kinda guy. Would you like some leftover pancakes while you try to stare me into compliance? Everything is better with pancakes.”

“I do not have time for such inane questions. I need to speak to Dean.”

“Cas, seriously? You turn perfectly good pancakes down and only have time for the doom and gloom apocalypse.” Dean entered the kitchen and leaned against the fridge. “You really need to get your priorities straight.”

“Perhaps I could say the same of you.” Cas turned to Dean. “You and your brother missed ample opportunity to gain further insight into the Azazel’s plan from one of his children. The seals are still being broken. You must always remember how important this all is.”

“Cas? Like Castiel, the Angel of Thursday?” Charlie asked and was promptly ignored by the angel standing in his kitchen and everyone else for that matter.

“Cas, that’s all we know—how important it all is,” Sam stated coming to stand behind his brother. “We kinda are in the middle of the storm.”

Castiel glanced at the youngest Winchester, then returned his focus to Dean. “You should both head back East. There is work to be done.” Castiel’s gazed turned back to Charlie. “Your partner is in trouble in more ways than one.”

The angel disappeared before their eyes with the flutter of wings. At least Charlie was pretty sure that’s what happened, though he thought he might have blinked and imagined the whole thing.

“There was an angel in my kitchen,” Charlie said, working it out. “A real warrior angel, refuter of pancakes, giving me a cryptic warning about my partner.” He holstered his gun.

“Yep,” Sam confirmed.

“But which partner? Why did he have to be so vague? Are higher law abiders intentionally vague? Maybe it’s Angel Bureaucracy.” Charlie crossed his arms over his chest.

“Charlie, just have an apple and stop thinking about it,” Dean said rubbing his face. “You’ll feel better.”

Sam quirked a tired smile at that.

“This is where you go save the world, right?” Charlie asked feeling like an immeasurable weight was settling on the Winchesters. It probably was, actually. He closed the distance between them.

“’Fraid so,” Dean said, quietly.

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, looking determined.

Charlie reached out and touched Dean’s face, hand cupping the stubble-lined jaw. He leaned in for a kiss and met no resistance. Dean tasted of black coffee, lingering traces of maple syrup, and maybe more than a little fear. As Charlie pulled away, his thumb idly stroking Dean’s cheek, he couldn’t think of the words that might help them. Instead he moved to reach Sam, tipping his chin down with his other hand for a kiss. The youngest tasted of coffee, cream, and orange juice.

“You’re both welcome here anytime, whether you save the world or not,” Charlie said, leaving no room for argument. “The door’s almost always open and I’m sure you could easily pick the lock and override the security system if it isn’t. Locked doors and high-tech systems are really what make anyone feel safe anyway. Sometimes that feeling is hard to find, since maybe none of us are really all that safe. But it’s not about being safe, it’s about carrying on. There is only now, and what you can do with it. Don’t think about where you’re going next. Think about now and how you have each other—you aren’t alone even if it feels like you are. Everything is connected. Nothing is nothing.”

“There’s the crazy talk I was missing out of my morning,” Dean said, his bravado turned back up to 11 as he winked at Charlie. “Come on Sam, we’re burning daylight.” He turned, pulling away from Charlie’s hand, and walking towards the front door with a sure stride.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Good-bye, Charlie.” He smiled that shy smile at Charlie and pulled away.

“Thanks,” he said with a look over his shoulder.

Charlie watched them walk away, out the door shutting. it behind them. He heard the engine turn over, rumbling hungrily for open highways or to scare the neighbors. He closed his eyes and listen as the sound moved away, down the driveway, and to the end of the street.

When he opened his eyes, Rachel was standing across the island from him, her face awash in emotions.

“They’ll be okay, right?” she asked, shades of doubt in her eyes.

“I sure hope so,” Charlie said giving her his best Zen positive smile, which she didn’t roll her eyes at, though she may have wanted to. He said a little prayer hoping it was true, but he was afraid that he’s positive they won’t be. He can hope, though. Maybe that would have to be enough.