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Kiss Me, Son of God

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I built a little empire
out of some crazy garbage
called the blood
of the exploited working class,
but they've overcome their shyness
now they're calling me your highness
and the world screams:
"Kiss me, son of God!"

-- "Kiss Me, Son of God" by They Might Be Giants

* * *

Sam stepped out of the bathroom in a towel, drying his hair, looked over at Dean, blinked, and thought is this because I switched shampoos?

That's not as absurd a thought as it might sound. Sam had been using the same brand of shampoo since he got to Stanford. Even on the road, where his preferred deodorant brand tended to be "whatever's cheapest that won't give me a rash" and his soap was "motel brand", he still insisted on buying the same shampoo. Even if it did mean Dean accused him of being "girly" and "co-dependent". (The first time he'd whipped that one out, Sam had wondered if he even knew the meaning of the word. Then, when he found out about the deal, Sam decided that Dean was the meaning of the word.) But with the recent stress of finding a way out of Dean's deal and figuring out Ruby's plans and wondering when Dean would finally just break down and admit that he wanted Bela to be the Leia to his Han, he'd let himself run out and the local stores didn't have his brand.

Okay, so that last one wasn't so much stressful as something Sam was dying to hold over Dean's head. Of course, in the Star Wars metaphor for their lives, Sam knew he'd have to be Luke (and maybe Bobby was Chewbacca. And the Impala was the Millennium Falcon. . . .). But that didn't really work, because Sam and Dean were related, not Sam and Bela. So maybe Bela was Han, and Sam and Dean were Luke and Leia. Only without incestuous overtones.

Speaking of. . . .

"Dude." Sam peered down at Dean from under his towel as he dried his hair. "What the hell?"

Dean didn't answer, just kept his head bent down over his folded hands, which were resting on the butt of the rifle he'd been cleaning when Sam exited the bathroom. He was on one knee, his other leg bent with his foot next to the rifle's barrel. His entire body was trembling, as though with some intense emotion.

"Dude," Sam tried again. "What are you doing?"

Dean mumbled something into his hands. Sam couldn't quite catch it.

"Okay, gonna need you to talk a little bit louder than that,"

And Dean pounced on the end of Sam's sentence without lifting his head, like he'd been waiting for permission to speak up. "I can't get up!"

Sam stared. "What? Did you -- are you hurt? Did you fall? Is this from Gordon biting you? Shit, Dean, why didn't you tell me you were hurt?!"

"I said I can't get up. I'm not hurt, I didn't fall, it's got nothing to do with Gordon biting me, and I didn't tell you because there was nothing to freaking tell!" Dean was trembling harder, and Sam suddenly realized it wasn't emotion. He was trying to move. Sam dropped into a crouch, twisting his head to try and meet Dean's eye.

". . . You just answered my questions in order. And in complete sentences,"

Dean didn't move.

"You seriously can't move?"

"No," Dean growled. "I can't."

"Huh." Sam rubbed his chin. "That's weird."

No answer from Dean. There was a pattern, there. . . .

"Don't you think that's weird?"

"Yes, Sam, I think that's weird."

"Can you talk when I'm not asking you a question?"

A sigh. And Dean still hadn't lifted his head.

"No, I can't."

Iiiiiiiiinteresting. Sam sat back.

"Dude, that's fucked up."

Not a question, so Dean didn't answer. Sam had an idea.

"Speak freely."

Dean was quiet for a moment longer, his shoulders shaking, and Sam wondered if he was wrong. Then Dean spoke.

"Dude, my knee is really starting to fucking hurt. This carpet sucks. And this can't be good for the rifle."

So it had worked. "Dude, this is so fucked up."

"No freaking shit, Sam. Would you tell me I can get up already?"

"Why do I have to tell you to get up?"

"Couldn't freaking talk until you told me to, dumbass. What do you think?"

So fucked up. "Right. Um. Get up, Dean."

Dean let out a breath and unfolded, dropping the rifle and settling back on the floor. He sat for a moment, just catching his breath, his face flushed, eyes looking at just about anything but Sam.

"Do you think this is 'cause I switched shampoos?"

Dean threw his gun brush at him.

* * *

"I'm just saying, Dean, it's not every day I come out of the bathroom to find you prostrating yourself before me."

Dean made a face, not taking his eyes off the road. "Dude! I was not --"

"Prostrate, Dean, not 'prostate'! It means 'to put oneself in a humble and submissive posture or state'."

"I knew that."

"Sure."

"I did."

"Of course."

"Dude." Dean shot him a glance that never quite made it all the way to Sam's face before being turned back toward the road. "'To put oneself' -- did you memorize the freaking dictionary?"

Sam frowned. "Why aren't you looking at me?"

"It's called 'driving', Sam."

"Dude, I know that. But you haven't looked me in the eye since -- you're averting your gaze!"

"I am not!"

"You totally are! What the hell?!" Sam twisted in the passenger seat to face Dean directly, folding his arms. "Look at me, Dean."

Dean turned his head and looked at Sam. He looked annoyed. Had that particular arch of the eyebrow that let the person he was looking at know that if they weren't careful, he would be kicking their ass into the next county. Sam got that look a lot. And he had plenty of time to study it right now because Dean wasn't looking away.

"Dude, the road! Watch the fucking road!"

Dean snapped his gaze back forward, swearing as he wrenched the car to the right and back into the proper lane. His hands were clenched tight on the wheel. Sam's were clenched on the dashboard.

"Jesus Christ!" He shot Dean a glare. "What, did you forget you were freaking driving?!"

"I didn't forget." Dean's jaw clenched. Sam could see the muscle jumping in his cheek.

"Then what the hell, Dean? You could've gotten us --"

"You said to look at you."

"What?"

"You told me to look at you." Dean pronounced each syllable carefully through clenched teeth.

Sam opened his mouth to ask what that had to do with anything, then paused, going back over the events of the day so far. "Oh shit."

"Yeah."

"I didn't -- do you think this is like what Andy could do? Mind control?"

"You're not mind-controlling me, Sam."

"But I'm controlling you,"

"It's not the same thing. Trust me."

Sam wanted to press, but then Dean was pulling into the parking lot of a diner and getting out of the car. He supposed it could wait until they'd ordered.

Dean lead the way into the diner, holding the door open casually for Sam to enter and step in front of him, as though he did that all the time. Sam stared at him, but Dean was back to not looking at him, just staring out over the diner. Sam shook his head and turned to the hostess to request a table -- and froze.

The hostess stood in a deep curtsy, holding the seams of her black trousers like they were a skirt, head bent to stare at the tops of Sam's shoes. Dean cleared his throat and jerked his head toward the rest of the restaurant.

Every person in the place was either curtsying or taking a knee, looking at the floor. Dean and Sam were the only two standing. Sam sighed. "Dude. This is so fucked up."

* * *

After the diner incident, they decided it might be best to just avoid large crowds of people, sticking mostly to the car and debating what their first step should be.

"Come on. It'll be one quick stop and then maybe the whole thing will be fixed."

"It's not the shampoo, Sam."

"How do you know?"

"Because it's shampoo? Not exactly an agent of evil!"

"People are bowing at me! Uncontrollably!"

"And we'll find out why and fix it, but, come on. Shampoo?"

Sam sighed and shifted in his seat, staring out the window. "At least pull off at the rest stop so I can rinse my hair?"

Dean dipped his head and waved his hand in circles in the air, smirking. "Yes, your highness,"

Sam glared. "Not funny."

Dean just grinned.

The thing was, Sam discovered, was that he wasn't just "freakishly tall", like Dean liked to tell him. He was proportionately large, which meant, among other things, that he had a fairly big head. And cramming that head under the faucets in a rest stop men's room was no easy task, but he was bound and determined. So while Dean grabbed himself a bag of m&ms out of the vending machine and waited by the car, Sam bent nearly double over the sink and used an empty soda bottle to poor lukewarm water over his head.

Not the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Still, when he came out fifteen minutes later, his hair plastered to the back of his neck, his shirt drenched and sticking to his shoulders and back, he felt like he might be more in control. He had a problem, sure. But he was doing something about it.

That feeling lasted until he rounded the corner and started for the car, and watched his brother look up, spot him coming, and drop to one knee on the asphalt.

"Dude, that's not funny!"

Dean didn't answer. Lacking a rifle to bow over, he had his hands folded on his raised knee. His head wasn't bent as far forward as the last time, but his gaze was fixed firmly on the ground.

"Seriously, man, you're embarrassing me."

Dean only twitched his shoulders.

"You're embarrassing yourself,"

No response.

"Come on!" That last came out in Sam's patented whine, guaranteed to get a reaction out of Dean no matter how determined he was to ignore him. But Dean didn't so much as shift his weight.

Sam grumbled something impolite about Dean's supposed deviant sexual behaviors with hooved mammals and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Get up, Dean."

His brother surged to his feet, crumpling his m&m bag in one fist and stomping back to the car.

To the passenger side. Where he opened the door and then stepped back, looking anywhere but at Sam.

Sam's brows drew together, even as the edges of his mouth curled up. "Thanks, Jeeves,"

Dean twisted his head to give him a "bitch, please" look. Or, rather, give the air next to Sam's left hip a "bitch, please" look. Still, it was a look of considerable power, considering that Dean was still holding the door open for him.

"Hey," Sam said as he climbed into the car. "Might as well make the most of it, right?"

Dean shut the door a bit harder than was strictly necessary and then circled the car again to get in, himself. He wrenched the key in the ignition, jerked the car into reverse, and peeled out of the parking spot, already doing 50 by the time they were leaving the parking lot.

Sam swallowed. Dean was pissed.

"So, um, where to?"

"Bobby's."

"Right, good idea. He's got . . . books. . . ."

Dean didn't reply, just stared forward at the road and pressed the accelerator to the floor. They drove in silence for a good twenty minutes before Sam realized what was wrong.

"You, uh, you can talk if you want."

Dean only grunted, but Sam saw some of the tension flow out of his shoulders.

* * *

By the time they pulled into the yard at Singer's Auto Salvage, Sam was almost used to the sight of people genuflecting. The gas station attendant 100 miles back had even tried to kiss his hand. Still, when Bobby's most recent rottweiler stretched out its front paws and dropped its head onto to them, hindquarters up and tail wagging, he had to stop and stare.

"This is getting ridiculous."

"Oh, we're way past ridiculous." Dean was already making a beeline for the front door. Whether it was because he was actually in a hurry to get to Bobby or if he was making sure he got there first so he could play door-man, Sam wasn't sure.

Maybe he just wanted to get a good spot to get a look at Bobby's face when he opened the door and found himself bowing. And, Sam was mildly disturbed to note when the door was opened, removing his hat. Sam got a great view of the thinning hair the battered cap usually covered before he managed to huff out an amused "At ease," a phrase which, they'd discovered, nicely covered letting the person stand up, look at him, and talk.

Didn't stop Dean the Amazing Door-man, though. Much to Sam's amusement and Dean's chagrin.

"What the hell was that?!" Bobby demanded the instant he was back on his feet -- getting there took a bit longer than it had been taking Dean.

"We were kinda hoping you could tell us. It's been happening all day."

Bobby stared from Sam to Dean with much the same expression as he'd worn when they'd shown up on his doorstep after Cold Oak. "Right. Guess we got our work cut out for us, then." He stepped back a few paces to let them come in. Sam thought he might have an embolism when Dean ducked his head and held the door open for his brother.

"Don't ask," Dean growled, shifting to peer into the yard. "Dog's up,"

"What about my dog?"

"Sam's apparently king of the jungle, too."

"Christ."

"Yep."

"We think it's the shampoo," Sam offered.

Dean groaned.

* * *

As far as Sam could tell, there was nothing in Bobby's books about every living creature suddenly treating him like royalty. He sighed, thumping the book he'd been skimming through shut, and rubbed his nose. They'd been at it for hours. "There's nothing here." He stood up, stretching his back.

Dean and Bobby both scrambled to their feet immediately. Sam sighed again. "Sit down, guys."

They did.

"I'm going to the bathroom. You don't --" he hurried on when Dean made to stand again "-- need to hold the door for me."

Dean relaxed back, scowling. "Screw you, piggy,"

Sam had to wonder at the fact that, despite the shampoo curse, or whatever it was, Dean was still able to insult, tease, and belittle him at every turn. Well, every turn that he wasn't only answering Sam's direct questions. Apparently, being an ass to one's younger brother usurped paying the proper respect to one's liege.

Bobby and Dean apparently debated a few ideas while Sam was gone; he could hear them arguing as he walked back down the hall. Dean was pretty adamant that whatever Bobby had suggested was a really bad idea. They shut up the moment Sam came back in, though. He called out a hasty "at ease!", catching them both half way to the floor. Dean stood gracefully back up and Bobby fell over backwards.

Genuflecting really was hell on the knees, and Bobby's just weren't what they once were.

Released from the obligation of being prostrate, they picked the conversation right back up where they left off.

"I'm calling her," Bobby insisted, as soon as he'd regained his balance.

"You're damned well not,"

"She might be able to help, Dean. Goddammit, I can't take that much more of this."

"You can't? I've been at it all damned day!"

"Woah!" Sam raised his hands and bit back a sigh when both men immediately fell silent. "Call who?"

"The conniving, mercenary bitch," Dean folded his arms petulantly.

Ah, Sam thought. Han. He tried not to smirk to obviously.

"I don't want her anywhere near us, Bobby."

"She's got more connections, living and dead, than the three of us combined, Dean. She could help."

"I don't care! She almost got Sam killed, twice!"

"Guys!" Again, immediate silence. Sam thought he could probably get used to that. "Look, it's getting late, why don't we sleep on it?"

"There's nothing to sleep on. We're not calling Bela."

Bobby rolled his eyes. "Fine. But you're paying for my knee replacements."

* * *

Sam woke up the next morning to find Dean curled up on the rug at the foot of his bed.

When he woke him up to release him from whatever the hell duty this was, Dean sat up, rubbed his neck, looked around, and pulled out his cellphone.

"What are you doing?"

"Calling Bela."

* * *

Surprisingly enough, Bela didn't ask for money in return for coming out to meet them. Even more surprising, though, was that when she showed up at the field at the specified time (Bobby might've been insistent that they contact her, but he wasn't dumb enough to invite her over to his house), she didn't kneel. She didn't curtsy. Even as Dean and Bobby raced each other to the passenger seat door of the Impala (Bobby won, but only 'cause he was closer and Dean wouldn't risk scratching the impala's paint job by sliding across the hood when he had a gun tucked into his waistband), Bela only stood there with her arms crossed, waiting with one raised eyebrow and her customary smirk.

"This is well-worth my trip," she smirked wider, eyes flashing when Dean let out a low growl. Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"Bela," Bobby said, with his usual mixture of congeniality and suspicion. Sam figured he was playing it cool.

Dean sure as hell wasn't. "Why the hell aren't you prostating yourself?"

Bela's smirk seemed to take over the lower half of her face and Sam thought she might even be holding back a laugh. "I'm sure I don't have the right equipment."

"Prostrate, Dean, two Rs!"

"I knew that," Dean shifted so he was leaning back against the Impala and seemed to draw strength from the very presence of the car. "Why the hell aren't you prostrating yourself?"

"I've come prepared."

"How the fuck did you know what to come prepared for? I sure as hell didn't tell you!" Dean shot a dangerous look toward Bobby, who shrugged. He hadn't told her, either.

"Really, now, Dean. Why do you even bother to ask any more?"

"The fucking spirits."

"Oooo, language,"

"What'd you do, scry for answers as soon as I called you?"

"No need." Bela leaned against her own car, matching Dean posture for posture. Sam shot Bobby a knowing look, and found it returned. As a matter of fact, Sam was pretty sure the only person who didn't sense the sexual tension between Dean and Bela was Dean himself. "It would have taken far too long to get the ingredients before I arrived, even if I had gone about it that way. No, I've known for days."

"It hasn't even been happening for days."

"Funny, that."

Dean pushed himself off the car and stalked over to Bela, stopping when his face was inches from hers. Sam resisted the urge to yell for him to "heel" like a disobedient puppy.

"How, Bela?"

"I told you they said to let you boys know not to go after Gordon, right?" Bela shrugged nonchalantly, a move carefully orchestrated to piss Dean off further. "Really, you should have guessed that I didn't tell you everything they told me."

Sam saw the decision just before the movement, and called out a sharp "Dean!" before his brother could actually try to deck Bela. Dean froze, hand fisted by his side, then backed off a respectable distance, his jaw clenched and twitching. Sam was going to pay for that one later, he knew. Well, he'd deal with it when it came. For now, he strode forward, eyes intent on Bela's. It was something of a relief to actually be able to look someone in the eye for once. Even Dean was still averting his gaze unless Sam specifically told him not to.

"Tell us what you're doing to stop . . . this." He gestured lamely from himself to Dean and Bobby, who'd stepped up to flank him like a court in waiting.

"Hmmm, no." Bela shook her head, her expression teasing and somehow . . . hungry. Feral.

Dean choked back another growl.

"Why not?" Sam demanded.

"You don't have nearly enough money."

Dean lunged forward, but Sam shot out an arm, stopping his brother in his tracks.

"I'm going to fucking kill her, Sam," Dean was chomping at the bit, every bit as wild as Bela. But while the thief was like a mongoose, weasel-ish and coiled, Dean was a coyote, compact, but powerful -- and fucking hell, when did Sam start thinking of people in terms of rodents and dogs? Okay, so mongooses -- mongeese -- weren't rodents, they were part of the Feliformia sub-order. Cats, essentially.

He was getting off track. Where was he? Ah, right, Coyote-Dean about to try to rip apart Mongoose-Bela. And probably fall off a cliff or blow himself up with his own trap or something, because the score, so far as Sam could tell, was Dean: 2, Bela: 50 billion. Sure, Dean had tricked her with the rabbit's foot and saved her life with the ghost ship. But Bela seemed to score on him every single time she opened her mouth, not to mention when she stole the lotto tickets and then the hand of glory. So here they were, Dean threatening to kill Bela and Bela looking like she'd just eaten a whole vivarium of canaries.

"No," she said. "You won't. Not over a little harmless bowing."

And he wouldn't. All four of them knew that, no matter how much Dean growled. "Dean," Sam said again. The low noise his brother had been making deep in his throat cut off sharply and Dean's gaze turned to the ground.

Sam hated that. He spun his gaze back to Bela, stepping forward to take full advantage of his height and loom over her. "What do you want? For the information."

Bela tilted her head to look up at him, her pale eyes dancing. "You boys can't afford me. Unless . . ." She shifted her gaze down and over to Dean. Sam saw her smirk twitch. "I'm sure we could come to some sort of agreement."

He was tempted to order Dean to kiss her. Instead, he fell back a step and nodded. "What do you want?"

"The colt."

Dean shook his head sharply. "Not happening."

Bela sighed. "Fine. If you can't take that reasonable fee. . . . There's a certain . . . acquisition I've been just dying to make. And you boys helped out so much with the hand of glory,"

Sam glanced back at Dean to see his brother scowling. Dean let his gaze trail hesitantly up to Sam, and they nodded simultaneously.

"Fine," Dean grumbled. "But no fucking way am I wearing another tux."

* * *

"I can't believe she didn't fucking bow."

"I know, Dean."

"Every other damned creature we've gotten near has bowed."

"I know."

"Hell, even when one of us leaves and comes back, I fucking bow."

"Yep."

"And she didn't fucking bow."

"I know. I was there."

"Why didn't she bow?"

"That's what we're trying to find out."

"It was the only thing that made it worth it. Having to call her and ask her for help. . . . That she'd fucking have to bow. . . ."

"Dean, seriously, shut up."

Dean did.

But my oh my, did he glare.

Seemingly at Sam's left ear.

* * *

They retreated back to a safe house not far from Bobby's and split up to secure the premises before further negotiations. For Bobby and Sam, that meant salting all the doors and windows. For Dean and Bela . . . well, from what Sam could hear, apparently that meant standing around in the kitchen and bickering. Sam was getting pretty tired of it, which was the only reason he didn't call an immediate "at ease!" as he came back into the room.

Dean was right up in Bela's face, but stopped abruptly and swept down onto one knee facing the door as soon as he caught sight of Sam. Bela held her ground and, if possible, smirked even wider as she looked down at Dean.

"Well now, that is charming." She trailed her fingers along the nape of Dean's neck in a way that made Sam want to turn and walk back out of the room. Instead, he cleared his throat and coughed out a quick command to let Dean get up.

Dean didn't move, except to arch his neck slightly into Bela's touch.

Sam tried again. "Dude, get up!"

Dean startled and stumbled to his feet, twisting his neck and head out of Bela's reach. He scratched absently at the spot where her fingers had trailed and Sam caught a flash of disappointment across Bela's face.

"Anyway," Sam let his gaze flick from one to the other one more time and then came the rest of the way into the room. "Doors and windows are covered. Bobby should be back in a minute. We should get down to business." Before you two have another little Meg Ryan moment.

"Right. Yes." Dean lead the way to the small, circular table tucked into the corner and pulled out one of the chairs, looking anywhere but at Sam or Bela. As though holding doors hadn't been bad enough. . . . When Bela grinned and plopped into the chair before Sam could get there, Dean's hands clenched on the back of the chair as though he might yank it out from under her at any moment. Instead, he turned to pull out one of the other chairs.

Bela leaned her forearms on the table and smiled broadly over at Sam. "Are you sure you want this fixed, Sam? You've actually managed to turn your brother into a gentleman."

Dean mocked her in a childish, sing-song voice.

"Well, almost. Hello, Bobby!"

Sam let out a sigh. "At ease!" He could hear Bobby grumbling curses as he got to his feet behind them.

Finally, all four of them were gathered around the table. "Right. What exactly do you want us to steal, here?"

"Well." Bela leaned in, as though she were worried about someone else listening in. "Rumor has it that there's a hunter, one that's been seen with our Sam here, who's carrying a knife that can kill demons."

Sam, Dean, and Bobby all exchanged looks and leaned back in their seats simultaneously. Bela frowned.

"What?" She sat back herself. "It's not cursed and my having it won't result in anyone getting killed. It's exactly the sort of thing you lot approve of. What's the problem."

They exchanged looks again, and it was Dean who finally opened his mouth. "The, uh, 'hunter' who's got the knife is a demon, Bela."

"Well, then, I should imagine you'll want even more to get it out of her hands."

Sam shook his head. "We're not doing it."

Bela lifted one immaculately trimmed eyebrow. Dean lifted both of his.

"Sam --"

"No, Dean. You're just going to have to . . . buy kneepads or something. I'm not doing it."

"Sam, don't be an idiot --"

"She's helping me, Bobby. I'm not going to screw that up."

"Dude, don't make me deck you." Dean shoved his chair back and stood up to start pacing. "Besides, can't you just . . . use your freaky mojo on her? Order her to hand it over?"

"We have no idea if this . . . thing even works on demons! I'm not risking your future just for --"

"Just for what, Sam? Just so the next time you come in during a fight, I'm suddenly on my knees until you tell me otherwise? We're doing this."

"No, we're not."

"Yes, we are!"

"No, we're not! Now sit down and shut up!"

And Dean did, immediately, glaring bloody murder down at the table top. Bobby stared from Sam to Dean and back again, and even Bela had the grace to look chagrined. Sam swallowed.

"Dean, I'm sorry --" He cut himself off, expecting a snappy rejoinder from his brother, but Dean just kept looking down at the table top.

"I got . . . business . . . to take care of," Bobby said after a long moment. "I'll leave you young folk alone." He gave Sam another long, wary look without ever making eye contact, then hurried out of the room. Sam sighed and put his hands in his hair, watching his brother. Bela pursed her lips and tapped her nails on the table. Dean continued to threaten the table with his eyes.

The moment stretched on for an eternity, then Sam finally turned his head to stare at Bela.

She sat up straighter, eyes widening. "Oh, right, I'll go powder my nose or something, shall I?" She stood and started from the room, brushing her fingers casually along the backs of Dean's shoulders as she went. Dean didn't so much as flinch.

And then they were alone in the room, the door to the rest of the house firmly shut. Sam folded his arms on the table and rested his chin on them, trying to look Dean in the face. Dean caught his glance for a moment, then quickly looked to the side. He took a breath, then let it out silently. Sam grimaced.

"Seriously, Dean, I'm sorry. You can talk, man. Just --"

"This how it's gonna be from now on, Sam?" Dean met his gaze again, holding it for longer, this time. "You calling the shots, now?"

"No, Dean --"

"Or maybe when the hellhounds show up for me, you'll just order me not to go. See if that works."

"It's not like that, Dean --"

"Then what's it like, Sam? What's it look like from your end?"

"I'm not going to let you die. If Ruby can help --"

"She's a demon! Since when do we trust them, huh? Hell, we've still got the FBI and any of Gordon's friends who might still be out there to watch out for, and they're supposed to be the good guys! But we're gonna trust the bad guys now, 'cause they said they can help. Demons lie, Sam, it's what they do!"

"You think I don't know that? I'm trying, Dean! I'm trying to get you out of this on my own, but I'm not going to burn any bridges, here! So just let me do this!"

"That another order?"

"Dean. . . ."

"'Cause I'm real good at following orders, you know."

"Come on, man,"

"But I seem to recall that you hated that. Hell, hated it so bad you woulda shot me in the face for it. Or did you only hate me following Dad's orders?"

"This isn't about Dad, Dean, it's about --"

"You. Yeah, it's always about you. It's always been about you, Sam, since I was four! Maybe that's what this thing is! Maybe the fact that you're the center of the universe is finally catching up with you. The demon messiah's come to bring all the humans to their knees. . . ."

The words hit Sam like a semi (and hey, lucky him, he happened to know exactly what that felt like. . . .). He shoved himself back from the table and paced to the opposite wall to the sound of Dean's chair scraping the rough wooden floors as he stood up as well.

Because he couldn't help it.

Demon messiah stands, so must the world, right? He walks into a room you bow. He goes through a door, you hold it for him. He asks a question, you answer, he tells you to do something, you do it.

Thing was, that sort of blind obedience was making this demon messiah sick.

"I'm, um. I'm still kinda hoping it's just the shampoo."

He heard Dean laugh weakly behind him, and wondered if he was only doing it because when the demon messiah cracks a joke, you laugh, no matter how much it sucks.

"It's not the shampoo, man."

"Yeah, I know." Sam finally turned around. Dean was standing in front of his chair at the table, bracing his weight on his hands. "Ruby might be the only thing I got that can save you."

"If she is then I don't want saving, Sam. We're not going to owe anything to any demons."

"Else."

"What?"

"Anything else."

Dean nodded, smiling weakly. "Yeah. Else. Come on, lets go make sure Bobby and Bela haven't conned each other out of their worldly goods."

"Dean, wait."

Dean stopped in the doorway and turned a questioning look at Sam.

"If we can't get her to accept anything else, we'll get the knife."

"Damn straight." Dean slapped his palm against the door frame. "Now come on, Samantha, we're wasting time." He pushed through the door to the front room of the old house without a backward glance to see if Sam was following. The door swung back and almost smacked Sam in the nose.

Which meant. . . . Sam shoved on the door and hurried into the next room. Dean, Bobby, and Bela all turned to look at him.

Directly at him.

Sam almost whooped for joy. "Dude! You're not kneeling!"

The three looked at each other, then Bobby and Dean looked at their knees.

"Hey, look at that."

* * *

"All clear, boys?"

"Yep. A bookstore, a diner, and two gas stations. No one bowed, averted their gazes, nothing. I think one of the waitresses even spit in his food." Dean grinned like the Cheshire Cat, and Sam resisted the dueling urges to smack him and grin right back.

"Never thought that'd be good news," Bobby shook his head and adjusted the brim of his hat. "'Fraid I still got nothing in my books on this."

Sam shrugged. "Maybe the shampoo wore off."

"Dude, for the last time, it wasn't the freaking shampoo. Right, Bobby?"

"Damned if I know, kid. But I'd sure as hell make sure he's always well stocked on his brand,"

"That won't be necessary."

All three of them twisted in their seats to look at Bela, who'd appeared without warning in Bobby's doorway.

"Goddammit, how the hell did you get past my dogs?!"

Bela held up an empty bag of milkbones. "I have my resources. Speaking of which, I believe I might have turned up an answer or two for you, Sam."

"Great." Dean scowled. "How much is that gonna cost us?"

"Oh, it's already paid for. My spirit friend offered up the location of a very valuable artifact in return for me reporting back to you."

Sam blinked. What spirit would be willing to make deals for them? He glanced over at Dean, who merely shrugged. "Spill it."

"It seems like this whole ordeal of yours was another side-effect of your friend Azazel, which I suppose is a name that's going to mean something to you lot. Apparently, all that was required to set it off was a symbolic crowning of sorts."

"Crowning?" Sam looked to Dean, then Bobby. "But Azazel's been dead for awhile now. If I was supposed to inherit something from him, shouldn't it have happened at the Devil's Gate?"

Dean let out a breath and shook his head. "I don't know, man. This shit has never made sense to me. Unless it was. . . . Well, you know. With Gordon,"

Sam leaned forward, going over the events of the last week carefully in his mind, trying to pick out if there was any moment of real change. The vampires, the club, Gordon and the warehouse, the razor wire, the -- "Oh shit. No way."

"What?"

"The socket wrench!"

"The what now?" Dean shot glances to Bobby and Bela. "Dude, you wanna clear that up for those of us playing the home game?"

"You let me fix your car, Dean."

"So?"

"So you don't let anybody touch your car. You handed over the responsibility. Let me make the decisions on it."

Bobby blinked and sat up straighter. Bela's eyes widened, and her smirk grew to amazing proportions. "The car. That's the Winchester crown, the car?" A glint of white teeth appeared between her lips. "You must be joking."

Sam shrugged, still looking at his brother. "It makes sense, Dean. Dad passed it on to you when you turned 18, right? Now you passed it on to me, kinda."

"Dude, I let you fix the carburetor! I didn't hand over the title!"

"Still. You've never let me do that before. You gave me the responsibility."

"Fine, whatever, then how come we're not still all 'kiss me, son of God' at you?"

"Does it really matter?" Bela tilted her head. "You're not bowing any more, and you're a man of very simple tastes. . . ."

Dean shook his head at her. "Why are you even still here?"

"You amuse me."

Sam sat back. "We have to make sure it doesn't happen again."

"Well then, perhaps it had something to do with that little row of yours." She looked between the two of them. "Oh, terribly sorry, was I not supposed to overhear that? You were being rather loud."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Dude. Sam and I argue all the time. If that's all it took, this thing woulda been over before it started."

Sam frowned. "We don't -- yeah, whatever." He pushed himself to his feet, smiling slightly when Bobby and Dean didn't follow suit. "Come on, Dean, let's hit the sack. I'm exhausted. Bobby, Bela," Sam nodded and headed for the back, hearing Dean start after him.

"Shit, and you're not even the one who's had to do all the grunt work -- mmmmph!"

Sam blinked and turned to see that Bela had grabbed hold of Dean's overshirt and pulled him into a fierce kiss. Dean was . . . well, he sure as hell wasn't pulling back yet. Sam glanced at Bobby, who rolled his eyes and cleared his throat.

"You two done?"

Bela pulled back, leaving Dean looking slightly dazed. "Quite." She patted Dean on the chest. "I'll be seeing you around." And with one final smirk, she left.

Dean raised his hand to wipe gently at his lips and watched her go.

"Yeah, well . . . not if I see you first!" He looked down at his hand, then back up at the door, then back down at his hand. "Do you think she cursed me? Why the hell did she kiss me?"

"I dunno, Dean," Sam shrugged with a smirk of his own. "Maybe she just likes you."

"Pretty sure that means you're screwed, boy," Bobby offered. "Tomorrow morning, you both are helping me ward the hell out of this house. I don't want her coming back and stealing all my books." And with that, the older hunter headed off to bed, leaving Sam and Dean alone in the living room.

Dean's hand was back by his mouth again, and he had a slightly faraway look in his eye. "No way she likes me. No way,"

"Good point," Sam agreed easily. "After all, she's got taste,"

Dean reached up to smack him upside the head. Sam grinned.

Bela had been wrong. It wasn't the argument that had changed everything back, not really. It was just the reminder to them both that this wasn't about just about Sam. Wasn't just about Dean, either. It was the story about two brothers and everything they'd do for one another. One might be a blue collar jackass with a taste for strong minded women who could kick his ass and one might be the demon messiah, but together, not a single thing, on earth or in hell, could stop them.

The End