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Wicked Twisted Road

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"I'll be back Monday," Dad said as he shouldered his big black bag. "I'll bring home some of those little square hamburgers you like, and we'll watch MacGyver. Two days, Dean-O."

It was Saturday morning, and Sammy was curled up in a blanket on the couch, half-asleep and watching Pee Wee's Playhouse. He sniffled and wiped his nose from a tissue from the box he was cradling.

“Two days isn’t long, sir.”

"Take care of Sammy," Dad said, and stooped down to hug Dean, ruffling his hair as he stood again.

"Yes Sir," Dean replied, and watched solemnly as their father walked out the door.

Two days passed, and Dad didn't come home. Dean and Sammy watched MacGyver together. Dean paid attention to the hot-wiring part. He might need to borrow a car for something once he started hunting with Dad.

After two more days, Sam's sniffles turned into a cough. There was a bottle of red syrup that tasted like plastic cherries that Dad had given Dean when he was sick the last time. Dean read the directions, every word, and gave some to Sam.

Two more days went by and the medicine ran out. Dean brought Sam chips of ice, and glasses of juice, and tried to make him eat soup, but it didn't help. He didn't know what else to do; he didn’t know anybody close that Dad trusted. Bobby had always been nice to them, and he was the last one of Dad’s friends they’d seen so Dean called him, even if he lived way-far away. Bobby sounded worried, and kept asking if Dean knew where John had gone, what he was hunting, and was Dean sure he'd said two days, not nine.

After Dean hung up the phone it started ringing again, but it wasn't the right ring-wait-ring code, so he hid under the kitchen sink with Sam until it stopped.

Sam was too sick to cry, but sometimes he coughed and couldn’t stop until he was choking so hard he peed himself.

The next day the phone rang again, but the code was right that time, so Dean answered it. Pastor Jim, and Dean had never been so happy to hear someone before. He was way-far away too, but he asked a lot of questions about Sammy, how sick he was, how high his fever was, and how hard it was for him to breathe. He sighed when Dean told him.

"Sammy needs a hospital," Jim said. "Right away. I'm going to call some nice people, and they'll come take care of you two."

The worst thing Dean could imagine was people—strangers—taking Sammy. “Can’t you come get us? Can’t you help us?”

Pastor Jim said no, that he was too far away, and Dean cried and begged and pleaded. He tried to explain that Sammy was too sick to wait that long, to wait even half a day, but Dean couldn’t understand it.

“I have to hang up now,” Jim said, “So I can get you help. It’ll be okay, Dean. I will be down to get you soon, I promise.”

When the phone went dead, Dean started to move. He pulled Dad's biggest empty bag, the one with hockey guys on the side, over to the corner and put Sam in it, then piled a bunch of the camping gear against it. He crawled in next to Sammy's dry-hot skin and zipped them up. He pulled the big knife out of its sheath and waited for the strangers to come.

He could have hid forever, through the cops kicking in the door, through them searching the little apartment. They would have probably never even come close, except that Sammy couldn't stop coughing, even when Dean rubbed his chest and petted his hair.

The bag unzipped and Dean fought. He'd go down swinging and he didn't care what happened to him. He stabbed one man in the leg before they saw the knife, but then there were too many hands on him, grabbing him, holding him. His eyes were wet and he couldn’t see right.

He kicked and screamed and called them every bad word he knew while they took Sammy out of the bag and put him on one of those ambulance-bed-things--a mask over his face and the paramedic saying "Come on, little guy, don't do this to me tonight." They came back with a shot for Dean's arm, and he didn't know what came after that.

He woke up in a hospital bed with straps on his arms to keep him still. Doctors came and went--the kind that checks your temperature and heart and stuff, and the kind that talks to you about your feelings. They told him Sam would be okay, but they never let Dean go see him.

He couldn't win if he fought them while they were ready for it, so he said he was sorry he stabbed the nice officer, that he was just scared, and he'd never do something like that again. They moved him the next day, and he thought it'd be to a different place in the hospital that'd be easier to get out of, but instead it was like a jail for little boys. It was hard, but he didn't get into any fights or any trouble, and two days later a foster-family came and got him.

It was a man and a woman and two girls, one younger than Dean and one older. He was the only boy so he had his own room in their cheery little apartment.

He started working on his escape the day after he got there. He braced his feet against opposite walls in his closet and climbed up to the top shelf. He used a pair of scissors to poke a hole in the ceiling. It took a few days, and he had to be quiet and clean. The hole wasn't much bigger than his head. He waited until everybody was asleep and then climbed up and into the crawl-space. His little flashlight wasn't much to see with, but he counted the spaces between the rafters. After twenty, he started looking around for a door down. When he found it, it wasn't the kind with stairs, just a piece of wood in the ceiling, but that was okay. He hung from the opening in the dark, and dropped silently down.

The man who lived in the apartment he'd broken into caught him when he knocked over a lamp as he tried to move a chair over so he could get to the chain on the door. The man called the people he lived with and they came to get him. He tried to fight but they just held him and told him everything would be alright.

The Andersons took him to the library the next week. Pastor Jim was there; he told Dean that they were working on getting him back but it was hard since Jim lived in another state and John had lost his temper in front of the judge when the child advocate said the boys were abandoned, neglected and abused. He didn’t smile like he usually did when he was teasing Dad about being stupid or stubborn.

Dean went to court once, dressed in a suit that itched his neck and was too tight across his shoulders. Dean sat in a big chair next to the judge’s high desk. The advocate asked him questions, and every time Dean tried to say the right thing, it came out wrong. He tried to tell them how much Dad loved him and Sammy, but nothing came out right.

Dad’s lawyer asked questions too, about how they’re doing in school and other stupid stuff. He looked bored and dumb and Dean hated him for not being as good as the other one.

The judge was a big fat man like Santa Clause, and his eyes were sad. He told Dean he was a good boy and had done the right thing. It didn’t seem right. Dean asked if he’d get to see Dad or Sammy soon, and the Judge said he couldn’t promise anything. Dean wanted to cry, but he held it in until they let him go to the bathroom. Dad would have wanted him to be strong.

Dean had to plan for a while before he tried to get away again; there was a lock on his door and the people checked his room every day for a new tunnel. A couple days later, he used rubber-bands to keep toilet paper pressed tight up against the light-bulb of his desk lamp, and buried it in a box of loosely packed notebook paper. When it started to smoke, he opened the window and leaned out. He used a pair of jeans to hook the neighbor's balcony, and hung there with his toes on the window sill while he closed the window behind him. He made it to the neighbor's balcony, and then used the jeans to dangle down to the one below.

He got to the third story without falling, but when he landed on the second-story balcony he slipped and fell.

His arm was broken between the wrist and elbow. They caught him when he asked a bus-driver if the bus went to the hospital. They thought he was trying to get his arm fixed, but he had been trying to get back to Sam.

They put his arm in a cast and sent him back. The Andersons were nice, but sad then, like they didn't understand him or know how to fix him.

A couple days later, there was a knock on the door. "John Wilkins, Child Protective Services," he heard as the lady opened the door. He started grabbing what he wanted to take with him, a few sets of clothes, not much else. He waited in the hall, listening for his cue to come out.

Dad talked with the woman, telling her about a transfer, that they wanted to move Dean to somewhere he'd be safer from himself.

"Just let me call and confirm that," Mrs. Anderson said, and Dad's voice went all serious.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, I can't let you do that." Dad's gun clicked and the woman gasped. "Dean, come on, time to go!"

Dean came running out and towards the door, careful to stay out of Dad's line of fire. He wanted to apologize to the lady as Dad blocked her in the closet with a chair. She had tried to be nice, she just didn't understand.

They got in the car and Dad drove them away. He looked different, old and thin, and it scared Dean in ways he didn’t understand. A few miles later Dad stopped the car and leaned over and hugged Dean so hard it hurt.

"Where's Sammy?" Dean asked when he could breathe. "Is he far?"

"Don't worry," Dad said and hugged Dean again. "We'll find him. I promise, we'll find him."

And no, that couldn't be right. You only had to find things if they're lost, and if Sammy was lost, it was because Dean let the people take him.

Dad gave him that look like he knew what Dean was thinking. "You did good, Dean. You took care of Sammy for as long as anybody could have. This isn't your fault. I should have been there."

Dean frowned and nodded and looked out the front window. Dad loved him enough to lie, and that was okay, but Sammy was gone, and it was his fault. No matter what it would take, he'd find him.

 

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CHAPTER 2

Dean knew that losing Sammy had changed him. He heard it in the voices of their friends, Bobby asking, "That boy gonna be alright, John?" And Pastor Jim's "Maybe you should leave him here for a while, John, let him get some counseling."

Waitresses in diners, that would have said "My, aren't you the lady-killer?" a year before started to say things like "What a serious little guy," when he would read the newspaper instead of looking at them. They always thought he was imitating his dad but he wasn't. Dad looked for monsters in the lines between the type. Dean looked for Sammy.

Two whole years went by, and Dean was ten, and he never stopped looking for Sammy.

Dad had people looking too; Dean knew that much. Calls came to the house at all hours, and he could always hear it in dad's voice when it was about his brother. He'd creep down the hall to whichever phone dad wasn't using and pick up so smooth and quiet it wouldn't click. It seemed like everybody was looking for Sammy, but it was hard to get news. Since Dad took Dean, the "system" that had Sammy had been even more careful.

Then one night the phone rang, and Dad answered it. Dean crept to the kitchen, and lifted the receiver.

"...Sammy, where is he?" Dad was saying, as Dean made his breathing all quiet so he wouldn't be heard.

"John, it's not good news." That's Pastor Jim, and Dean bit down hard on his lip because people like them didn't say "not good news" when it was a little thing that had gone wrong. Dad came home all the time with cuts and scrapes and limping, and he always said it was a good day.

"He's fallen through the system," Jim says, and Dean doesn’t understand why that's bad, because if Sammy got away, he should be easier to find.

"His case-worker was fabricating his monthly visit to Samuel's foster-family for the first eight months he was supposedly with them. The family disappeared a month after he was placed.” Jim's voice was slow; the pauses between the words were long. “The police have a missing person's report on all of them, but the trail's two years cold now. It looks like the father had some problems with a loan-shark. There's also speculation that you may have taken him."

"Fire?" Dad asks after a long time.

"Not that anyone can tell."

"Thank you," Dad says, and Dean hates how broken his voice sounds. "Please keep looking. He has to turn up somewhere."

That night was the first time Dean heard his father cry since Mom died.

After that, the years seemed to blur by. He couldn't go to school, so they moved around a lot so nobody noticed. He learned everything Dad learned about monsters. He read through the papers every morning, and the maps to figure how far the trips were and how long it would take to get places.

He learned Latin from Pastor Jim and woodlore from Bobby. Dad taught him to fight and play poker and how to get money out of a man at a pool table and not leave him so mad he comes at you with a gun in the parking lot.

He was twelve when dad started to take him hunting sometimes. That October they got rid of a ghost that had been smothering babies in their beds "to keep them safe forever," and Dean made a decision--that this is what he wanted to do, to hunt the things that hurt little kids.

For Dean's thirteenth birthday, Dad took him to a park and sat him down, and gave him "the talk." He was really bad at it, saying things like funny feelings and special girl and whatever you do, make sure you use a condom. Dean had already heard it from the sitcom dads, and there was this pretty boy playing football with his friends just past Dad's left shoulder. He must have been sixteen or so--older than Dean was, but he still seemed younger, so bright with his big smile and dark hair and tan skin.

Dean was eighteen when he and Dad went on the hunt for something that was taking little girls from housing projects and leaving them spread out and eviscerated over ten feet of chain-link fence. They'd split up, desperately trying to find the monster before it finished off its latest victim.

Dean got there first--too late, but first. It was just a guy with a van and a knife. Not possessed. Not a shifter. A shot-gun full of rock salt to the face still put him on the ground, and the bastard's own blade finished him off.

Dean killing a person resulted in the first and only time he fought with his father. Dad said it was wrong, that they were hunting monsters, not people, and Dean just couldn’t agree that something that made the choice to hurt a child wasn't a monster.

In the end he was given the keys to the Impala, half the weapons, half the emergency cash. "They'll go after you," Dad warned him, "The authorities. You cover your tracks like I taught you and for god's sake don't keep a journal." They couldn't agree, but it didn't make them any less family.

Dean drifted, following his calling. He killed more of what his dad would call monsters than he killed people by far--a Huldra in Seattle, a Nix in South Carolina, a Polundnisa in Iowa. In New York, he stood shoulder to shoulder with a cop named McNamara and put down an honest to God Boogey-Man.

Most human monsters he could stop without killing--an anonymous tip here, a leading clue moved to there. He killed two more men in the next three years, one of them twice, when his hungry spirit picked up where the murderous flesh left off. Dean was careful, left no clue he didn't mean to, no pattern, no connections.

Through it all, Dean kept searching for Sammy, making contacts, bargaining favors, seeing the shadow of him in the smile of every dark-haired, green-eyed child he met. McNamara was able to get him an update on Sammy's file. The step-father had been arrested a few years after they'd skipped town, robbing a convenience store for money to buy meth. He said they'd taken the kids with them out of love, but couldn't manage to stay on the run and keep them all fed, so he and his wife dropped them off one by one in four different churches between Virginia Beach and Miami.

The trail was twelve years cold, but Dean worked it, staying on the east coast as much as he could. He sweet-talked or lock-picked his way into records rooms and offices down the path the foster family took. Everywhere he found the same crap--child services agents with too much work and not enough time, files piled haphazardly into boxes or just dumped into closets.

After a few months of digging for paperwork that might have been destroyed for an adoption that might never have existed, Dean realized he would have had better luck running into Sammy at a 7-11. When he got a call about a freaky series of crimes in Daytona Beach, he was more than ready to be distracted from the hopeless research by the promise of a chance to kill something bad.

Dean had the files faxed to him at a 24-hour Kinkos in Savannah. He sat in the car to look through them. It was some of the worst he'd seen--four known victims, young men between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, they'd been sexually assaulted, hospital-stay bad, one-of-them-died bad. All four said it was a monster, a black man with black wings like a bat. All of the attacks had been outside, after dark. The semen recovered from the scene was of non-human origin, though the lab was still trying to narrow down what type of animal it was.

Dean started the Impala and pointed her nose south. These were the ones he hated--walking into a situation where kids where bleeding and dying without having a clue what the hell he was hunting.

 

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Dean drove the night through and exited the interstate with an hour to spare before he was to meet the DBPD detective that McNamara set him up with. The sign on a Krispy Kreme that looked older than the Impala said "Hot Donuts Now!" Dean couldn't think of a better way to meet a cop than with a steaming box of sugary goodness, so he stopped in.

The girl in front of him in line couldn't have been more than fifteen, half-dressed in short-shorts and a backless tank-top. She was skinny and could have used a good bath, and there was rug-marks burned down the knobs of her spine.

When he got back to the Impala, the smell of fried pastry made him ill and he tossed the box into the curbside garbage can before he got back on the road.

It was just as well; detective Blanchette didn't seem the donuts type. He was a short, well built, military-looking young man, prematurely grey at the temples. He was homophobic in a careless way that grated on Dean's nerves but attractive enough that in different circumstances Dean might have pushed to see if it was a front. His desire to stop these kids from getting hurt seemed real enough though, and Dean wasn’t willing to lose a contact over a slim chance to get laid.

Unfortunately, Blanchette didn't have much to add to the files, just a reiteration that the boys who'd been hurt had seemed terrified of not telling their stories in such exact detail, so terrified that they'd told anyone who'd listen.

All the reports agreed that the attacks came after dark, so Dean went looking for a motel to stay at for the duration. He'd seen some crappy hotels in his day, but the row of just-off-the-beach places were phenomenally bad, even by Winchester standards. There should be a maximum density for this kind of thing, only so many shitty motels on one five-mile strip of land, but there was just one after another. He picked a place that didn't look like it rented rooms by the hour and checked in.

Dean slept until nightfall then headed out to the Boardwalk. He had the names of the victims and wanted to see if there was something they didn’t tell the police. Looking at their records, he guessed they were all runaways, street kids, and juvenile delinquents. Boys like that were seldom forthcoming during questioning.

The boardwalk was a cacophony of noise and night. Arcade games blinked bright flashes of color; every sign was lit. Music blared from clubs, restaurants, shops, the songs overlapping into chaos. A ratty-looking man on the corner played guitar and harmonica but few of the vacationers dropped money into his hat.

Dean started working through the crowd. Twenty-something locals cruised through excited little groups of spring breakers. Less-shiny teens drifted at the fringes, their eyes lost or jaded or angry. Dean could always pick them out, the way their clothes hadn’t been washed recently enough, the way they were less frantic to pack every bit of excitement into the time they had down there.

As the night wore on, the crowds got wilder, drunker, louder. People brushed against him and more than a few speculative glances were shot his way. “You lookin’ to party?” One of the kids he questioned asked. “Lookin’ for drugs? Sex? I can hook ya up.”

And yeah, the boy wasn’t old enough to shave yet, and Dean wasn’t sick that way so he said no, but the offer made him think, “You know any of these guys? Are they hustlin’?”

The kid smirked and turned to go. “They sure ain’t workin’ at Burger King.”

Around eleven he told himself one more hour before he called it quits. He regretted that decision a minute later when a tall young man walking in the opposite direction bumped into him hard enough to rock his balance.

“Whoa, are you alright? Sorry man, my bad,” the guy babbled at him as he grabbed Dean’s arm to steady him.

His hands were huge, his shoulders promised to be broad and strong when he finished filling out. Hair that looked black lit by neon and a surfer’s dark tan made Dean expect brown Hispanic eyes but when he caught a glimpse of them under long bangs they were a bright green-hazel. They reminded Dean of that girl on the cover of National Geographic, too striking to be real.

“Hey, no problem,” Dean said and the man gave him a slow perusal down and then up again. The combination of arousal and challenge in those eyes shot straight to Dean’s crotch.

One hour, his conscience reminded him. By the time his dick told it to shut up and mind its own business, tall dark and striking had disappeared back into the crowd.

CHAPTER 3

“Daddy, my feet hurt. My tummy hurts. I want a t-shirt. I want to go home.”

Sam watched the harried weekend dad juggle a stuffed animal he could have bought for half the price it’d taken to win it, a half-eaten hotdog and a big-bag sized cotton candy. It wasn’t an easy task to do while trying to keep up with his whining child’s location as the crowd crushed in, denser and noisier.

Sam could have counted down the seconds as the man’s frustrations grew and how much he valued the junk food shrank. It wasn’t much work at all to be a step away when they hotdog and candy were dumped into the garbage can. Sam snagged the food before it hit the side of the can; the garbage container wasn’t much dirtier than the counters where the stuff was made anyway.

Dinner in hand, Sam drifted through the masses of people. Not even midnight yet and it was a good night. The cash from three stolen wallets was pressed between his left ankle and the inside of his work boot. The wad of money is a pleasant lump that makes him feel safe in a completely different way than the box cutter down his right boot. He’d been tempted as always to use the credit cards, but like always he dumped them. Too risky to use or sell, more risky than stealing them had been. Still, ninety bucks was ninety bucks. Put together with the forty some tourist paid to suck Sam’s dick, the tightly folded green was a week that he could be sick and still eat or a few days of winter that he wouldn’t have to be cold and hungry.

He was still thinking of what he could spend the money on as he found a quieter spot at the corner of the arcade where he could watch for his next job—it didn’t make much difference if it was purse that wasn’t being watched very well or some loser cruising for sex.

Sam knew crowds, the predictable way they flowed around each other, their different paths crossing and merging. With the advantage of his height it wasn’t difficult for him to spot the anomaly as one person stopped groups and individuals, halting their momentum for a moment before moving on.

One of the other boys had mentioned him to Sam earlier in the night, and the guy was everything KC said he was. He wasn’t as tall as Sam, but he was taller than most. He looked too young to be a cop, despite the severe haircut and five-o-clock shadow he wore. PI maybe, Sam thought. He lost himself in contemplation for a moment. The guy was also so pretty he could be some millionaire’s best kept secret, handsome like an actor trying to get into a role or something, slumming down in that neighborhood.

Sam kept an eye on him as he finished off the cotton candy. He knew the man was asking questions about the boys that got hurt. What he couldn’t figure out was why. None of the guys were long lost princes or secretly the son of a millionaire. Just a bunch of fucked up kids like Sam was; their homes to go back to were nonexistent or worse than living on the street. No way in hell anybody would come looking for Sam if he ended up raped or murdered. It just didn’t make any sense.

All of which made this guy asking questions weird, and Sam had been around long enough to not like weird. Weird fucks you when you’re not expecting it. The only way to avoid that happening? Fuck weird first.

Sam put on his best frat-guy half-drunk grin and pushed away from the wall. The closer he got, the better the guy looked, like seriously, man. Classic profile, expressive eyes, a mouth to die for (or in).

Sam made the bump and snatch clean. As he was smoothly delivering his fumbling lines he saw a spark in the other man’s eyes, a flash of attraction that he ran with, smirking and flirting. The guy wanted him, without even knowing he could just buy him for the night, maybe because he didn’t know.

And God, if there was ever a time when Sam had been tempted to do one for free, this was it, or would have been if he hadn’t just stolen the guy’s wallet.

His eyes slid over the man one last time, storing the image away for the next time some fat fuck had him bent over a rail or some pasty-skinned tourist wanted to watch him get off.

Then he turned and lost himself in the crowd, slouching to disguise his height. He put the tightest, noisiest groups between himself and possible pursuit and didn’t stop moving until almost two miles were behind him. It was further than he would have gone on a normal day, but this guy wasn’t a normal mark.

He ended up in a neighborhood of old houses that had been split up into smaller apartments. In somebody’s side yard, he hunkered down between two bushes and opened the wallet. The badge gave him a quick stab of fear, because stealing from the cops is always a bad idea, but then he saw it was from somewhere called Robbinsville. It wasn’t even from Florida, and he relaxed again.

Besides the badge, he found twenty three dollars in cash, two driver’s licenses in different names, two credit cards that matched Robert Zimmerman and four more that didn’t match anything, not even each other. Who the hell is this guy? He wondered. He wasn’t a cop, wasn’t a PI. Con men didn’t ask questions, they avoided them. Taking the guy’s stuff had created more questions than it had answered.

He searched through one last time, looking in every compartment, behind every flap. He felt the stiff piece of paper before he saw it, tucked in between two of the thin leather partitions. He pulled the photo free; its colors were mellowed with age and the corners rounded by frequent handling. He turned it towards the porch light to better see the two boys. The image showed them sitting on the hood of some old black car. It looked like a shot from a hunting trip maybe, since they were both in camo. Sam thought they both seemed young for that sort of thing, the smaller one probably preschool age, the other one a couple years older. They looked happy though; the older boy’s arms were around the younger one’s chest, keeping him from sliding off the hood of the car.

A dog barked down the street and Sam snapped out of his contemplation. One quick glance revealed the back of the picture was blank and he smiled. He could decide later which of the two kids was him and pick out a name for the other boy. He slid the photo into his back pocket and tossed the wallet under the crawl-space of one of the houses.

He thought about running the night’s scores up to Ron and Henry’s place before he could get rolled or something and lose it, but it was probably too late for them to be up. Besides, he wanted to hold onto the picture for a while more before he put it in the cigar box with the rest of his family photos.

He wasn’t hungry anymore and he could catch a shower by the pool of one of the classy hotels if he woke up early enough in the morning. That just left a place to sleep. He glanced around and slid out of his hiding place, down the alley and back to the road. Maybe he’d check under the deck at that biker bar that’d closed, see if anybody was crashing there yet. It’d be nice, quiet and far enough from anybody that there wouldn’t be trouble if he had a nightmare and started screaming in his sleep again.

 

It wasn’t really the loss of his wallet that bugged Dean. The wallet itself was just a cheap leather thing he’d bought at a gas station somewhere. He wasn’t worried about the credit cards or ID. It had been sort of nice to have one set where all the names matched, but he could get another without too much work.

No, the thing that pissed him off was the photo of him and Sammy that had been tucked under the little flap, one of the last photos of them together, sitting on the Impala, grinning up at dad like everything was right in their little world. Losing that picture felt like one more piece of his brother had been taken away and Dean needed to find that snapshot, to save it.

He spent the next two days searching for the winged evil whatever-the-hell-it-is by night, and for the punk who stole his wallet by day.

Driving the Impala through the dark maze of back alleys and parking lots for the bars, restaurants and motels, he saw a shadow over the palm trees and turned to follow. His instincts told him it was hunting, and he ignored the blaring horns of other drivers as he pulled out onto Main after it.

He ended up in a church parking lot and there was no sign of the thing. He tucked a shotgun under his jacket and stepped out on foot. Stupid cheating flying bullshit is what it is, he thought.

“Get the fuck off of me! I will fucking kill you!” For a moment the voice echoed between the buildings, disembodied and panicked. The rush of adrenaline hit, the hunter’s high. This ends tonight, he thought, opening every sense for the way to find the monster.

There was a crash, like garbage cans being dumped over and Dean had a goal. He ran through the dark lot and pushed between a chain link fence and a coquina rock wall. The church backed up against the deck of some boarded-up honky tonk.

Dean turned the corner and saw his target for the first time. It was busy beating the shit out of some guy. There was no doubt that what he was looking at was what had hurt those boys. Big leathery wings flexed and arched like a contestant in a cock-fight. There were no feathers though; its skin was a dusty, scaly-looking black that reminded him of nothing so much as a water moccasin.

Dean closed the distance as fast as he could. The monster was playing with its victim, letting him almost fight his way free before it smashed him down again. Dean took advantage of the distraction to get close, because firing too early wouldn’t help either of them.

The instant he was in effective range for what he had in the shotgun he called the creature’s attention to himself with a “Hey! Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size?”

It turned on him and whoa, Dean wasn’t its size. Porn-stars weren’t its size. That shit just wasn’t proportional. It moved toward him and Dean pulled the trigger, shooting it in the dick with the all-purpose monster-repellent rounds of rock-salt, silver, iron and oak.

It screeched, an inhumanly resonant sound and covered itself with clawed hands. Its mouth was a weird vertical slit in its face. The tongue that slithered whipped around like it was searching for something resembled an octopus’ tentacle without the suckers. Dean kept the gun pointed at it and stepped forward. The demon-looking thing wasn’t in the mood to be shot there twice, and it turned to flap off, leaving its victim behind.

The kid was face-down and not moving at all when Dean reached his side. As much as he wanted to follow the monster and see where it went to ground, he couldn’t just leave. He kept his head up and his gun in his right hand and reached to check for a pulse with his left.

He found one, which was a relief and a problem both. Now he had a second person to get out of there if the creature returned.

He did a quick evaluation of the damage. From the back, he couldn’t see much beyond the shallow scratches where the critter broke skin when it tore the boy’s clothes off. The t-shirt the young man had been wearing hung from his shoulders, the jeans had been torn until there was little left but rags hanging from his boots. If he’d been wearing underwear it was long gone.

There was no sign of actual penetration. Dean was pretty sure if the boy had been violated by that, the evidence would have been impossible to miss.

Nice and easy, he rolled the boy over onto his back. It looked like the kid had been punched a few times and then slammed face-first into the deck. His features were covered in blood, from his nose, mouth and running sluggishly from a split eyebrow. His nose was so badly broken that even though he was taking in air through his mouth, there was a wet sound when he breathed. Every inhale was a struggle against the blood pooling at the back of his throat.

Dean pushed the boy’s dark floppy hair back from his face. Familiar hazel eyes stared back at him, glazed and barely conscious. It would have appealed to Dean’s sense of justice, but there was no way stealing a wallet deserved that harsh of a punishment.

“Hey,” Dean said; his voice projected calm reassurance. He ran a hand over the younger man’s torso, looking for broken bones or dangerous swelling. “Hey, stay with me.”

There was a choking half-cough and then the boy managed to focus on Dean’s face. “Stay with me, dude. You’re gonna be okay.” Dean glanced around again for the fucker who had done this. “I’ll call you an ambulance.”

He was reluctant to take his hand off the kid’s shoulder to go for his phone but he sure as hell wasn’t setting the gun down.

A bloodied hand reached up to grip Dean’s wrist with surprising strength. “N’ hos’tal” the kid managed to gasp out. “N’ cops.”

Dean groaned because really, he didn’t need complications in his life right then. “Look, that’s not gonna work for me, cause y’know? If you don’t go to a hospital, you’re not going to be okay.”

The young man rolled onto his side, away from Dean. “N’ cops,” he repeated and dragged himself a few inches along the ground. “Fuck off.”

“Son of a bitch!” Dean growled. “You are the biggest pain in my ass.”

But he turned the once-again limp form over, crossed the boy’s arms over his chest and dragged him back to the car. The winged ugly didn’t reappear and Dean got the almost naked man back to his salted and warded motel room without incident.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he whispered to himself. The boy had lost consciousness again. Dean took a little more time with the triage the second time around. He decided there probably wasn’t any internal bleeding. The nose was definitely broken along with two fingers on his left hand. The kid had put up a hell of a fight judging by the swelling of all his knuckles. Dean taped his nose and fingers as best he could and put a butterfly suture on to hold his eyebrow together.

While he treated the recent injuries, part of his brain couldn’t help but catalog the older ones—the yellowed bruise across the front of his hips, the melted skin effect of a burn scar that crossed his back from his ribs on the right side to hip bone on his left. There was a clean straight scar across the heel of his right hand and a long jagged one on his left shin.

There were no track marks though, not on his arms or any of the more hidden places. No crack-pipe burns on his fingertips, no evidence on his teeth of meth or heroin.

The patient kept slipping in and out of consciousness and that worried him more than anything. Dean kept checking his pupils; if there was a concussion, Dean guessed it was mild.

He got the boy awake for just long enough to swallow a Percoset. He took care of the rudiments of cleaning him up, wiping some of the blood off and removing the remains of his clothes. When he took the guy’s boots off he found almost two hundred dollars in one and a blade in the other. He went through the jeans pockets before he threw them away, hoping to find his wallet. He frowned when he found nothing but the single photo of himself and Sammy. Of all the things to keep, the kid had held onto that, and Dean didn’t know what to make of it.

He pulled a pair of his own boxers up over his annoyance’s hips and threw the comforter from the spare bed over him. Like somehow that was better than having a fully naked young man unconscious in his bed.

With the kid as comfortable as he could be, Dean started making some calls. An hour in, he got his first hit. “Popo Bawa,” Mikey told him in his usual brusque manner. “East African Djinn, minor demon on par with your traditional incubus or succubus. Their MO is to attack in the victim’s home, so this outdoors thing is a little weird. Where they come from, conquering warlords or warring villages will summon them and bind them to attack their enemies. Nasty business.”

Mikey promised to do more research and hung up. Dean put fresh ice packs on the kid’s injuries and watched him sleep for a while. He couldn’t help but admire the display of stubborn strength in fighting that thing so hard, and arguing with Dean even when he was beaten almost unconscious. There was something familiar about the young man’s features, even as battered as they were. Dean smoothed a strand of hair back from the scraped cheek. He was sure he hadn’t seen that face before the night his wallet was stolen. He’d have remembered, and besides, where would their paths have crossed, anyway?

It was less than an hour later when Mikey called back. “Bad news, man. Looks like the thing’s a long-distance, long-term feeder. Theory has it that it starts by putting a psychic link into the victim, and then causes the initial trauma. After that, it sits back and slurps up the pain and shame for days or weeks. If it didn’t finish the job, it’s wasted all that work for no reward. I’m guessing it’ll be looking for your boy for round two.”

“He’s not my boy,” Dean growled. “What are my options here?”

“Purifying ritual,” Mikey replied, “The closer to its original culture the better. I called in some favors and there’s a lady out in Cassadaga with the supplies for you. I’ll e-mail her with the instructions; you just have to run out and pick it up.”

Which meant leaving the kid alone and risking him disappearing, or bringing him along and maybe getting attacked by a flying demon-thing on the forty minute drive out of town.

Dean decided on a modified version of option one. The kid woke up as the cold of the handcuff closed around his wrist. “Fucker,” he muttered, not fully aware. “Kink’s extra, cheap son of a bitch.”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Dean said as he clicked the other end to the bed frame. “And I’m not gonna fuck you. I just need you to stay here until I get back, because if you leave, that sick flying fucker is going to find you and finish what he started.

Hazel eyes blinked and Dean wasn’t sure how with it the kid was. “I’ll be back in about two hours. I’m not gonna gag you, cause I know you want the cops involved even less than I do, so keep it down, okay?”

“Yeah,” the kid promised, “I’ll be quiet.” Dean wondered just what the hell he’d done to be so worried about the police showing up. He left a single pain pill on the bedside table with a paper cup of water. There wasn’t much else that Dean could do for him besides get out and get back quick, so he made sure the door was locked and the “Do Not Disturb” sign was in place.

 

CHAPTER 4

Dean made the trip inland for ritual supplies and back to the beachside in good time. There were no flashing lights in the parking lot when he got back; the outside of the motel looked as quiet as it had when he left Sam there two hours ago. He put the key in the lock and heard a muffled banging from inside. If someone had come in and taken advantage, if the kid had been hurt because Dean left him helpless, he’d have never forgiven himself. One hand on his gun, he swung the door open.

The young man was alone in the room, furiously trying to kick the bed-frame apart to get the handcuffs free. The exertion had started his nose bleeding again and dark wet smudges circled his wrist where the metal had cut in. Desperate eyes looked up at the sound of the door and Dean’s hostage cowered against the headboard.

“I’m sorry,” he protested as he balled his body up, defensive. “I’m sorry, please don’t hurt me.” His good eye was wide and Dean almost forgave him for being such a freakin’ faker earlier.

“I’m not gonna hurt you,” Dean said and he knew it wasn’t too convincing since he was tearing the spare sheet into wide strips as he said it. “I know you don’t believe me, but I swear I won’t hurt you.”

“Look,” the young man tried for reasonable. “I can get your wallet back. Fair and square, right? No harm, no foul?”

“This isn’t about a wallet.” Dean needed a large patch of skin to put the symbols on. Chest or back would work. He reached for the guy’s leg and was caught by surprise when a foot lashed out and cracked him across the jaw. Not drawing back in fear then—bringing Dean into effective striking range. Before he could recover, ankles locked behind Dean’s neck. A hard shinbone pressed in on both sides of his neck under his jaw, cutting off the blood supply to his brain faster than stopping him from breathing would have done. Adrenaline flooded his system; the kid was trying to choke him out.

“Fuck you,” the young man hissed. There was nothing of the poor frightened thing that had cowered away just a minute before. Dean put the words “Damn good liar” on the mental chart he carried around in his head. “You aren’t gonna hurt me because I’m not letting you.” Dean gasped for breath and tried to pry the legs off of his windpipe. “Give me the fucking key, asshole.”

It wasn’t the way Dean wanted it to go down, but he was running out of options as fast as his brain ran out of air. He curled his fist up and frogged the long muscles of the guy’s thigh—two, three, four times before he finally got free. He kept hold of one leg and flipped the kid face-down on the bed. The strip of sheet was close enough to grab and he tied the ankle to the bed’s frame.

The whole time they were struggling, the punk was kicking and thrashing and swearing, but all under his breath, so quiet it was almost eerie. No matter how scared he was of Dean, he was more scared of police attention.

“There wasn’t nearly enough in your wallet to cover this,” and Dean almost laughed because the guy sounded so much more pissed off than afraid. He kept up a steady stream of abuse as Dean got his other leg and arm secured, pinning him face-down on the mattress. “Done some weird shit before, but you’re a fucking freak, man.”

There was no sort of diplomacy that would make it better so Dean just kept his mouth shut and worked as fast as he could. The marker jumped a little as it crossed over scar-rippled skin, but it looked close enough to work. “Hold still,” he ordered as the kid moved. Dean gripped him by the back of the neck and put his knee in the small of his back to keep him down. The protective symbols needed be legible.

Dean wasn’t sure if the guy was as good at pretending to be not-afraid as he was at pretending to be afraid, but he didn’t seem scared as Dean started the ritual. Dean didn’t even want to think about what the boy had seen in his life if Dean chanting in a foreign language over him wasn’t registering high on his fear-o-meter.

Then he lit the candle and the young man went white under his bruises. “No,” he breathed, the tiny flame reflecting off of his eyes, “Oh God, don’t you fucking burn me,” and he started to thrash. If Dean could have safely stopped then, he’d have been tempted to, but he was unfamiliar with this particular spell, and couldn’t take the chance. All he could do was read the words off of the printout and get it done as fast as he could.

He dripped the first drop of wax onto the back of his own hand to make sure it wouldn’t hurt. Pain wasn’t a requirement, and even if it had been, the kid was hurting himself enough struggling against his restraints to cover it.

Four drops at the cardinal points, four drops at the secondary points. Eight at the intersections of the lines and it was over. There was no burst of light, no visible change, but the boy relaxed on the bed like he knew it was done before Dean did. He just laid there like he was half stunned while Dean cleaned the dried wax off of his back. Dean didn’t quite trust him to be free so he left both legs and the one arm tied while he unlocked the cuff. He tried to be gentle as he cleaned and bandaged the abrasions, but the kid didn’t seem to feel it.

He was done taking chances though, and locked the cuff again around the gauze-wrapped wrist, leaving him face-up on the bed. He sat back and considered, and then seemed as good a time as any for what he needed to ask, so he said, “Hey kid, you awake?”

There was more annoyance than real heat in the young man’s voice as he said “My name is Sam. I’m almost twenty, dude. You can stop with the ‘kid’ shit.”

Dean couldn’t help but do the math, the quick “If I’m this age, my Sammy would be that age,” equation he had done hundreds of times since the summer he lost his brother. The numbers told him this guy couldn’t have been the Sammy he had been looking so long for. Considering what this Sam looked like he’d been through in life, Dean wasn’t sure if he was more comforted or disappointed that it wasn’t Sammy.

“Okay, fine, whatever. Sam.” Dean stared down at the young man tied to his bed. “Here’s the deal. I want to cut you loose. I just can’t take the chance that I’d be letting a killer or rapist or child molester free into society.”

Sam just scowled up at him.

“I need you to tell me why you’re so worried about the police showing up. I want you to tell me the truth, and if it’s something I can live with, we’ll go get my wallet and never see each other again.”

“Fuck you,” Sam growled. “Fucking call them then. You won’t believe me anyway.” There was something hurt, betrayed, in the young man’s eyes. “Look,” his tone turned cajoling, “You can fuck me if you’ll let me go. Come on, I’ll make it good, I promise.” He licked his lips and Dean winced in sympathy at how painful that seemed.

“Have you looked at yourself lately?” He knew he was being insulting, but he wanted that option taken off the table as soon as possible.

Sam smirked his amusement. “Rough trade not your thing? Hey, I’m still pretty from the back.” He tipped his head, like he was trying to see through Dean. “Or I could fuck you instead and it wouldn’t really matter much.” He did this stretch twist writhe thing against the bed, and even with half his face beaten to hamburger he still had the charisma to get Dean’s dick interested.

“Stop,” Dean ordered before he could be more than mildly tempted. “Tell me the truth. Don’t lie to me and I’ll believe you.”

Sam deflated against the bed, turned his head and stared off into space for long enough that Dean started to think he was never going to talk. When he did, his voice was soft, lost. “So I came up in foster care, okay? And there were—there were fires. Three in eight years.” He swallowed and moistened his cracked lips again.

His next words dropped to a whisper, “Four people died.” He still didn’t look at Dean, his eyes focused far beyond the pastel walls of the motel room. “One’s a tragedy, you know? Two’s a sad coincidence. Three would have been my fifteen year old ass being tried as an adult. Public defender, me being the only one there that lived that last time, I’d have ended up in a psyche ward at best, electric chair when I turned eighteen at worst. This is Florida, man. I wasn’t stupid, so I split as soon as I could walk out of the hospital bed.”

Dark lashes fluttered down over hazel eyes. “I couldn’t tell them what I’d seen, so I ran.”

Dean thought he believed it, the whole story. That last bit though, that caught his attention. “What did you see, Sam?” He pitched his voice low, supportive. “They might not believe you but I will.”

Sam shivered. “There was a man at all three fires. He looked different but he was the same man, I can’t explain it. He’s always there, when the burning starts, when…” he swallowed hard, “When people start dying. The last time, I remember him just standing there with the fire climbing around him and Carol’s blood dripping down on him.”

His eyes met Dean’s then, and the kid might be a great liar, but Dean was pretty sure the fear he saw there was as real as it gets. “He held his hand out to me. His fucking clothes were on fire and he held his hand out to me like I was supposed to take it and stand with him in the fire and blood.”

Blood, dripping down, “Where was Carol, Sam?” Dean asked, trying to keep his voice calm, trying to keep himself from hoping. God, how many kids could this demon be stalking? This Sam has the right eyes, the right hair. He could have said the wrong age because he was telling Dean what he thought Dean wanted to hear or maybe because he just didn’t know.

Sam was shaking, and Dean pulled a sheet over him. “She was on the ceiling,” he gasped, and Dean got the impression he was the first person to hear those words from Sam’s lips. “She was on the ceiling and she was burning and bleeding and this guy was just waiting for me to go with him.”

“It’s okay,” Dean said and reached out a hand to smooth over dark tangled hair. Sam jerked away so hard he hit the headboard—so fearful, so filled with mistrust. “I believe you.”

He couldn’t just say “Hey, relax, I’m your brother that’s been looking for you for fourteen damn years.” He wasn’t even sure he believed it himself. Don’t fuck this up, became his mantra, one shot, don’t fuck it up.

This wasn’t what he’d been planning on, but he could be flexible. He gave his priorities a quick re-arrange—kill the Popo Bawa, because he couldn’t leave it here to rape more young men, young men like Sam. After that, he had to get Sam to dad, avoiding outright kidnapping if possible. If forced to, he’d figure out a way to kidnap the kid and not get caught. He started working on getting the fabric restraints off, but the knots had been pulled too tight to be untied.

Sam looked like he didn’t know whether to be relieved that somebody believed him or horrified to be captive of somebody crazy enough to believe him. Dean sorta figured that was fair. Even with all the crazy shit he’d seen, he wasn’t sure even he’d have believed it without having such personal experience.

His phone rang as he was giving up on untying the strips of sheet. He checked the caller ID and answered. “Mikey! Tell me you’ve figured out how to get rid of this thing,” he said as he tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder. He reached into his boot and pulled out a knife. Sam’s good eye went wide and Dean made a ‘relax’ gesture with his free hand.

“Here’s the best I could do,” Mikey offered, “There’s a spell of banishment but it’s tricky and you’ll have to physically restrain the thing first.”

Dean groaned because catching something like that wasn’t a one man job.

“Of course…” Mikey continued “You could kill it if you wanted.”

“Yeah?” That sounded like good news to Dean. Something about sending evil sons of bitches back to their home plane just never sat right with him.

“Here’s the deal,” Mikey explained, “There’s no info on killing this particular creature, but it’s a Djinn. The usual way to eliminate one of those is to ‘strike a death blow with the stone of a fruit.’”

“Are you kidding me?” Dean muttered as he sawed through the knot at Sam’s left ankle. “So I have to what, hit it with a peach pit or cherry seed hard enough to kill it?” He shifted the phone to his other shoulder, the better to hold Sam’s leg still while he cut.

“That’s the method,” Mikey agreed and Dean sighed because he had been joking. “Oh, and I have an idea on why it’s hitting these boys outdoors. I think somebody tried to neuter the thing by putting a geas on it to not go inside. It can only attack its victims in their homes. It had to find prey who’s homes are outdoors. That or it’s using the thing to clean up the streets.” And while Dean processed that, he said “Call me if you need anything else.” The phone went dead and Dean had some choice words for whoever taught the man his manners.

When Sam was free except for the one metal cuff, Dean still hadn’t fleshed out his non-kidnapping plan. He was tired though, and smelled bad. There was too much of the kid’s blood on him to be seen in daylight, so at the moment “Stall for time, take shower, think better,” was the best he could come up with.

“I’m gonna take the first shower then we’ll go get my wallet,” he announced. Sam shrugged and looked away, like he didn’t believe a word Dean had to say so why should he care. “You alright out here? Need anything?”

Sam shook his head and Dean got his things together. God, the thought of putting on a fresh t-shirt was almost orgasmic.

He was headed for the bathroom when Sam stopped him with a “Wait, Dean. Hey.” He looked back and Sam propped himself up a little against the headboard. “Could you at least leave me the remote?”

What could be the harm in that? “Yeah, sure.” He took it off the top of the TV and tossed it over. “Keep it down though.”

The motel might be a roach pit but the water was hot and the tile not so mildewed that he was afraid to touch it. He stood under the spray and let his mind go blank. His thoughts wandered from the Popo Bawa to how he was gonna find dad to how he was going to talk Sam into going with him. It wasn’t like he had a glamorous lifestyle to tempt the boy with.

He heard the TV in the other room go on, channels flipping. It wasn’t so loud that the neighbors would complain or Dean couldn’t hear if Sam tried breaking the bed to get free again.

God, Sam, his Sammy alone on the streets, fifteen years old and alone. The ache of failure clenched deep in Dean’s chest. He could hardly breathe for thinking about it and Jesus, he wished he had a reason to think this fucked up kid wasn’t his brother. He remembered his childhood fantasies, of finding Sammy in a big white house with a woman who drove him to school in a minivan and a man who played catch with him in the back yard in the afternoons. In his imagination Sammy had always recognized him, run to him and dad and rode off into the sunset with them in the Impala.

Life—life was nothing like his fantasy. Life kicked him in the nuts and laughed when he pissed blood. He refused cry, damnit. He was twenty two years old. He had killed men and monsters and none of it mattered at all because Sammy had been lost and hurt and alone.

And something, something about Sam nagged at him. The remote, or what Sam said when asking for … “I never told you my name so how the hell--” Did Sammy know? Had he offered to fuck knowing Dean was his brother? Dean stomped down on that spark of confusion by reminding himself Or it’s a demon or some possessed kid fucking with your head, waiting for you to come out and play.

He got out of the shower sopping wet and pulled on his jeans. He broke the towel-bar off of the rack so he’d have a weapon at least (and yeah, that was so going on his bill). He took a deep breath and flung open the door, fully prepared to look stupid if Sam was just sitting there watching television.

The abandoned room greets him with silence, the only sign that Sam had been there was the cuffs hanging empty on the bed. Dean rushed to the door and looked out, but the younger man was nowhere to be seen. He resisted the urge to punch the doorframe and went back inside.

The TV remote lay on the pillow, the back of it pried off and the little spiral wire that held the battery in had been straightened out and used as a lock-pick. The contents of Dean’s duffle bag were strewn across the other bed. A quick inventory revealed three things missing: a change of clothes, all of Deans cash plus all that had been in Sam’s boot, and the photo of Dean and Sammy.

“Son of a bitch!” Dean swore again. “You are starting to really piss me off.”

-----------

 

CHAPTER 5

He spent the morning driving around looking for Sam, and the afternoon catching up on missed sleep. He went back on the hunt, for the Djinn by night, for Sam by day. He felt like he was only one small step up from square one. He pushed himself hard for a week. The creature didn’t feed again and nobody he talked to had seen Sam either. He started to think that maybe they’d both left town.

With the loss of most of his credit cards and the cash that Sam took, he was running low on funds. He spent an evening at a pool table, didn’t leave until well after last call. He was stumbling-tired when he got back to the car, had a few beers in him but not so many that he had a hard time with the Impala’s door lock. By all rights he should have sensed the Popo Bawa gliding above him, but shit happens and it swooped down from above the streetlights and slammed him against the side of the car before he knew it was there.

“Mine,” the cheating bastard of a winged monster hissed in his ear as it held him face-down against the car’s paint job. That slick tentacle of a tongue caressed Dean’s cheek, scalding hot and damp against his skin. The creature’s words were thickly coated with an accent that reminded Dean of the ritual he’d done over Sam as it said “Took mine, I kill you now.” Claws punctured the skin on the sides of his neck and he could see the stock of the cherry-pit loaded shotgun, just out of arm’s reach.

“Hey, fucktard!” a distressingly familiar voice called out. Dean just hoped he’d have time to get the gun before Sam got his dumb ass killed or worse. He struggled against the monster’s inhuman strength.

Then there was a meaty wet thwack and the creature’s weight bounced off of his back before falling away. He scrambled for the weapon then turned. Sam was fighting it alone, a warty-looking baseball bat in his hands. His back was to Dean, fouling his shot. He circled around, trying to get a good angle, and the damn punk circled too, whether he meant to or not.

“Fuck you,” Sam growled with every swing. The creature took a swipe at him with its claws and he shattered its hand.

“Fuck you.” Sam’s voice was louder as he sent its jaw sideways. The Bawa’s tongue was chopped off by its own teeth; it flopped around on the ground like a headless snake.

“Fuck you!” It was a good thing they were out of casual hearing range as Sam doubled it over with a blow to its crotch.

“Fuck you” he said over and over until its skull was caved in and it wasn’t even twitching any more, until he was out of breath and strength.

When it was over, Sam stood in the sudden quiet, his chest heaving as he caught his breath. The black corpse started to bubble and melt into the packed shell surface of the parking lot. Dean figured salt and lighter fluid would probably have been overkill, and besides, not freaking Sam out with fire was sort of a priority.

He slowly brought the muzzle of the shotgun down. His hand was shaking and blood was running into his right eye from where he’d hit the car.

“And you,” Sam said, bringing the tip of the bat up again.

Huh, Dean thought, epoxy and plum seeds over a Louisville Slugger. How come I don’t have one of those?

“No more tying me up, you hear me?” And that—sorta sounded like he planned to stick around.

“Okay,” said Dean, because cooperation was always better than kidnapping.

“I mean it,” Sam reiterated even as he walked up and tossed his beat-stick in the back seat of the Impala. He bent down and picked the keys up off the ground. A week had done wonders for is injuries; his nose might never be quite straight again, but the swelling had gone down and the bruises faded to green and yellow shadows. Most of the cuts were closed to pink scars, the worst still scabbed over.

“Slide,” Sam ordered as he nudged Dean across the seat. “You’re not driving like that,” and he shot Dean such a look of pure stubbornness that arguing seemed like way too much work to do on the wrong side of a shower and good night’s rest.

-----------------

Sam drove the Impala like he stole it, which meant with his hands at ten and two, at three miles under the speed limit and his turn signal blinking every time he changed lanes, whether there was another car within fifty feet or not. Dean was very proud of himself for having the presence of mind to not bust out laughing.

Sam followed Dean into the motel room when they got there, just far enough behind him to be out of range of being hit or grabbed. Dean pretended not to notice as he sat the first aid kit up on the bathroom counter and Sam stood in the door way, watching in the mirror as Dean cleaned himself up and got his eye to stop bleeding.

“Here,” Sam said when Dean turned. He held his hand out and Dean took the wallet he was offering. “Fair and square, right?” Dean opened it up and flipped through it. Besides the cash, everything was where it belonged except one.

“There was a photo. Two kids on a car.”

He didn’t get it when Sam glowered at him and pulled it out of his pocked. Dean felt like he’d kicked a puppy when he took it. “I wouldn’t carry the damn thing if it wasn’t important.”

“We’re even now though, right?” Sam asked and Dean nodded, waiting to see where the kid was going with all this. Sam relaxed a little more.

“I want to make a deal.”

Dean felt his eyebrow arch up. “Oh yeah?”

Sam nodded and leaned back against the doorframe. “Yeah. So you’re leaving soon. Take me with you.” His gaze was direct, challenging. “Let me come with you and you can fuck me whenever you want. Or whatever. Only you though,” and Dean knew it wasn’t a promise of fidelity but a refusal to let Dean be his new pimp. “And condoms every time, but besides that man, whatever you’re into. Good sex too, I swear you won’t be disappointed.”

When Dean didn’t jump on the offer fast enough Sam lowered his voice to a deep rich tone that went straight to Dean’s dick. Seriously, the boy could have made a killing doing phone sex. “Blowjobs in the front seat of that car out front. You fuck me or I fuck you. Anything.”

Part of Dean couldn’t believe his luck, that the kid was trying to talk Dean into taking him instead of having to be kidnapped into it. The rest of him was torn apart because this could be Sammy, his brother, lost and used until he had no way to survive except by trading his body. And God he wanted it, to his shame. Even knowing Sam could be his blood, he wanted to have him, touch him, keep him safe forever, but not as a damn transaction. The idea of having sex with somebody who saw it as their only way out of something was almost as bad as having sex with somebody who was passed out drunk or under a spell that wouldn’t let them say no.

“You saved my life tonight, Sam,” he said, because I wanted to take you to talk to my dad about hunting down a demon that makes what we fought tonight look like a leg-humping Chihuahua anyway. Also, he might be your dad too, so this works out great didn’t have a nice ring to it. “If you want to ride shotgun, I owe you that much at least.”

Sam’s features shifted, became a little colder, a little harder. “Whatever. Your loss, man. You gonna be around for half an hour or so?”

Dean headed for his duffle bag and a clean change of clothes. “Yeah, until morning at least.”

Sam nodded. “There’s some guys holding some stuff of mine; I need to get it before I leave town.”

Dean had to admire the way Sam had played it—forcing the trust issue early on, see if Dean would be there when he got back, make Dean let him go and wait for him to return. As much as he didn’t want Sam out of his sight, he had to nod. “Sure. Just knock. I sleep light.”

 

Dean got almost three hours of sleep before Sam came tapping at his door like a damn raven or something. He opened the door but left the chain, because he couldn’t be too careful. Sam was right there, inches away from his face, leaning against the coral-pink cinderblock. His smile was wide and lazy, his eyes half-lidded, fucked out, Dean thought. And for just a second he had to force down the ridiculous surge of jealousy, before he could remind himself that the kid in front of him was his brother maybe, and that Dean had said no, and what the hell had he expected?

“Hey,” Sam sighed, alcohol scent in Dean’s face. “You gonna let me in?”

Dean glanced beyond Sam’s shoulder but the young man was alone. “Yeah,” he murmured, closing the door for just long enough to get the chain off.

“I’m a little drunk,” Sam said as he dropped a backpack off of his shoulder.

Dean gave him an ‘of course you are, dumb-ass’ glare in response. He put the safety back on the handgun and slid it back in the nightstand drawer.

While Dean was busy with that, Sam toed off his shoes and sprawled himself across the bed Dean had been sleeping on, stretched out against the body-warmed sheets. “I told them I was leaving, Ron and Howard. Had to throw me a party.” His smile was almost fond. “Pair of old queens, man.”

“Get out of my bed,” Dean said, his voice flat and tired. He knew he had no claim but he really wasn’t in the mood to hear this.

“They didn’t fuck me,” Sam blurted out. “They’ve never fucked me; they’re monogamous. They just like a floor show when they’re together sometimes, make sure their friends have fun at parties. Stuff like that.”

Dean tried not to look at him but the slow slide of one hand from Sam’s chest, down his side and onto his thigh drew his gaze like the gravity of a black hole. Brother, his conscience reminded him. Maybe, his desire answered, just maybe.

“Nobody’s fucked me since the night you saved me from that thing.”

And Dean was no moron. He knew when he was being seduced, he just couldn’t quite figure out what to do about it. He settled down in one of the turquoise vinyl chairs, felt his erection tenting the front of his boxers. He was too tired for conversation and the kid was doing a fine job of filling the silence all on his own.

Sam slithered out of his jeans, kicked the worn denim to the floor. There was nothing but tan skin and white briefs underneath, so incongruous it pushed an innocence-kink button Dean didn’t even know he had.

“I told them I was leaving,” Sam said again. “They wanted me to stay, offered me my own room, a little money.” He never looked away from Dean’s eyes. He made the contact a challenge, and Dean couldn’t, wouldn’t, be the one to back down first.

“I told them I’d rather be with you.” He stroked himself through white cotton, his hips rolled up to meet his own hand. “If you want me.”

Dean was having a hard time breathing steady; he gripped onto the arms of the chair, felt his knuckles go white. Wrong, wrong, wrong, a voice in the back of his head whispered, he just couldn’t remember what it was talking about. Sam’s words made it feel so tenuous, like he’ll leave if Dean doesn’t, like he’ll disappear onto the streets again so deep Dean won’t be able to find him.

“Dean,” Sam whispered like it could make everything right, “All I know how to do is steal and fuck and I couldn’t steal leaving with you.” He slid his hand up under the hem of his t-shirt. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to fuck you.”

“I don’t want a whore,” Dean rasped, and his voice was so strange he almost didn’t recognize it as his own.

Sam’s smiled, bright and sharp like a camera’s flash. His voice was hard, warning. “Is that all I can be to you?” and Dean felt himself shaking his head, moving to his feet, crossing the yard of empty space between the chair and bed.

“No, it’s not.” He couldn’t remember ever hearing his own voice sound so ragged.

The situation was twisted in more ways than he could put into words. He crawled over the lean body in his bed, slid his hand over wiry leg hair up to the smooth skin of Sam’s hip. Those hazel-green eyes just watched him come, and Sam rose off of the bed to meet him. Their lips touched; Dean kissed Sam with a tenderness that was intended to hurt, to crack the younger man open, bore through his defenses. If Dean was going to get broken over this, he wanted it to be sooner, before he could get attached, before it could be something more.

Sam tasted like toothpaste under the alcohol and smelled like shampoo. Yeah right, just picking up his stuff. Still, it was flattering in a way, that Sam wanted a shower before they did this. He kept waiting to hear that Sam didn’t kiss on the mouth or something, but the protest never came. Sam was either genuinely into it, or a hell of an actor. Dean spilled his orgasm over Sam’s fist, with Sam’s teeth grazing his collarbone and it was somehow more intimate than his mouth or ass would have been—Dean could believe without reservation that this was what Sam wanted to give, wanted to feel.

It wasn’t until it was all over and Dean was pulling the comforter over them both that he could focus on what he’d done. He’d had sex, or near enough to count, with a man that could be his brother. He still had to take him to their father, the only man Dean knew who might have had a clue how to protect Sam from the demon.

Dean took a deep breath and resigned himself to seeing it through to the end. If Sam was Sammy, dad would take care of him. It would be worth the death of whatever relationship Dean had with them both. Keeping Sammy safe? Would be the only thing worth losing him again.