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Welcome to Sunrise Acres

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Melvin Pruss was quite content with his life. He had a good job, a nice house, a Mercedes—the typical American dream. He even had the white picket fence lining his yard, surrounding that little barbeque pit that he’d put in two summers ago. In fact, if he had the pretty blonde wife, 2.5 kids and the dog, his life would be on par with a Normal Rockwell for iconic Americana. Melvin, however, didn’t really swing towards women, blonde or otherwise, disliked dogs and hated kids. So Melvin thought that his life was rather perfect. There were even hints about him making partner at Sawin and Sons and that, Melvin knew, would open up a lot of doors. It might even open up political doors.

Instead of just challenging laws, Melvin would be making them—his life was looking better and better every day.

He closed the door of his Mercedes as he juggled his briefcase to check his watch, wincing at the time. Once again, he was late getting home. At least this time, though, it wasn’t because of the long hours that he’d been putting in at the office—those were coming to an end as the judge was set to give a ruling soon. Tonight had been a celebration of the fact that Melvin was going to win his case. He swayed a little, catching himself on the car as he headed inside, leaving the garage. He was going to win and get piles of money from his well-funded clients as well as make a name for himself for successfully challenging a strangling environmental regulation. So many doors, wide open.

As he passed by the large bay window in his living room, he paused for a minute to bang on the wall to scare off the coyote that was digging up his geraniums—hopefully animal control would make it out soon and catch the pest. For weeks now, it had been making a nuisance of itself, getting into something or other and Melvin was sick of it knocking over his garbage. Dirty, filthy thing. He’d brought it up to Alan Peachtree, the community manager multiple times now. It was a shame to let such a creature spoil as nice a community as Sunrise Acres.

His Gucci shoes clacked on the hardwood flooring as he passed by the potted fern and hung up his black trench coat in the closet. Melvin loved his house—he’d paid a lot for the large two story in the middle of the exclusive, gated Arizona community of Sunrise Acres. It suited him well, he thought. Him, his lifestyle, and his potential future—his bright, shining future.

Melvin smiled as he pulled himself up the stairs. Nothing could stop him now. His newest case was about to gift-wrapped and hand-delivered with a little bow on it to his clients, the same as the last time he’d gone to bat for them. Previously, he’d successfully litigated against an overzealous environmentalist’s wild accusations and damaging slander of illegal dumping. Whether it was true or not, Melvin didn’t really care. What did it matter if a few coyotes died? They were pests, anyway, knocking over his trash and digging up his geraniums. What Melvin had cared about was that the overzealous environmentalist had lived right down the street from Melvin. A hippie living in what should have been a nice, respectable neighborhood. Melvin could have died of shame. Truthfully, when Miguel Foxtail had disappeared, Melvin had been more relieved about his property values than the fact that his opposition had lost most of its will to fight. Melvin knew that the courts would have sided with him in time—he was the only one making sense in the courtroom—coyotes, who cared?

He would win this case, too. The environmental regulation was simply strangling local businesses—standing in the way of progress! By getting it removed, Melvin Pruss would single-handedly save hundreds of potential Arizona jobs once the new mines went into operation. There was no one out there on that land that his clients needed to dump their waste in anyway. He could certainly use the case on his record to show that he was a staunch business defender once he ran for office.

Stripping off his suit jacket and gently laying it on the bed, Melvin moved carefully into the master bathroom of his house, catching a hold of the jamb to steady himself. He grimaced at the harsh glare of the lights and then grimaced again at his reflection in the mirror. He certainly looked like he’d been having a good time. His hair had broken free of its gel and his eyes were bloodshot. Melvin grabbed his toothbrush and set on scrubbing the dark wine off his teeth—he hadn’t spent a small fortune in keeping them white just to slack off.

There’d been protesters outside the courtroom today, holding their signs and shouting. Melvin had curled his upper lip at them as he’d been forced to wade into their midst. They were as bad as Foxtail. If only they’d disappear just like him, off to do their drugs or whatever it was, and painlessly remove themselves from Melvin’s hair. At this rate, he might be tempted to start tearing it out and then all that money spent on regaining it would be wasted.

One of the protesters today had even looked Foxtail—same swarthy face and long dark hair pulled back in a beaded braid. He’d caught a hold of Melvin’s coat sleeve chanting, “Save the Earth! Don’t suck it dry!” and, before Melvin had successfully shaken him off, Melvin had even thought that it was Foxtail. He’d regained his senses after putting some distance between himself and the unwashed hippie. It wasn’t very probable for Foxtail to have returned. The man had been gone for nearly eight months now and there was nothing waiting for him. Even his faithful, grieving partner had moved on, heading back to Canada.

Now that was a tragedy—a good-looking, obviously well-to-do man like Jules wasting his life on the likes of Foxtail. Melvin wouldn’t have minded offering Jules a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. It had been awhile since Melvin had had sex and there was nothing like grief to motivate a person into seeking a little bit of comfort.

Nothing like missed opportunities. Melvin shook his head ruefully and rinsed out his mouth, leaning over the marble sink to spit the toothpaste down the drain. Oh well. In the future, he’d be able to have multiple men like Jules—and he wouldn’t have to pick up the scraps of an unwashed hippie to get them, either. Once he won this case and started working on his political ambitions, he’d have to make sure to hire an aid with Jules’ blue eyes.

Melvin shut off the light of the bathroom as he headed back into the bedroom, knowing the way well enough to walk it blindfolded. He slipped into bed easily and fell asleep, dreaming of the future.

He never saw the eyes that were staring at him in the darkness—but the eyes certainly saw him. He didn’t even have the chance to scream as every drop of moisture was squeezed from his body like how a thirsty cactus sucks up the rain.

Melvin Pruss was left abandoned and alone in the rocky desert sand. The one who put him there, gently setting down his dried corpse, thought that it was a fitting end for a man who’d been sucking the Earth dry as surely as his rich corporate employers.

One week later…

Over the years, it had become some sort of strange game with Dean. Sam was sure that, in his head, Dean was keeping a meticulously detailed record because Dean never failed to remind Sam when they hit a particular goal or mile-marker. Yesterday, he’d brought Sam a beer and sat down next to him on the bed, taking a swig of his can. “Drink up, Sammy.”

Sam looked up from the laptop with all its open tabs of local Arizona newspapers and quickly clicked away from one screen in particular before Dean had a chance to lean over his shoulder and see it. He quirked an eyebrow at the can that Dean was offering him. A can of beer meant that it was cheaper than even what Dean usually bought. Cans were what Dean bought when he was scrounging for change. “Why?”

“Because we’re celebrating.” Dean waved the can at him, grinning invitingly and making it clear that saying no was not an option.

Sam grimaced as the alcohol went down rough and he stared at the can feeling vaguely betrayed. Somehow, the smooth aluminum had fooled him into thinking that the contents were going liquid and not, say, fire. He should have known better—it had come in a can, after all. He smothered a cough. “What are we celebrating?”

Dean took another long pull off his beer and leaned backwards on the bed. “A big moment, Sam. Huge.”

“Huge,” Sam repeated skeptically. He’d learned a long time ago that he and Dean differed widely on what sometimes constituted as a ‘huge’ moment in life. Like Dean considered visiting the world’s largest ball of string to be the highest of life goals.

Dean nodded and looked happily up at the ceiling. …The ceiling that Sam was pretending didn’t exist because it was either that or go stark raving mad from the demented clown faces smiling down at him. “Clowns,” Dean said. Sam shuddered. He’d tried vetoing the idea of staying at Betty’s Circus Tent Motel based on pure principal but Dean, just like with the beer, hadn’t taken no for an answer. Sam had spent half the night dreaming about being surrounded by clowns and nearly suffocating as they crushed him into one of their tiny cars. He blamed Dean for that. “Do you know that this is the tenth time that we have stayed in a clown room? That means tin, Sam.”

Sam frowned. “You’re not…”

“Yeah, I looked it up. 10th anniversaries are tin. Or aluminum. I figured a can of beer would do just fine.”

“Dean, that’s for wedding anniversaries, not…celebrating…bad taste.” Sam couldn’t decide if he was more appalled by Dean wanting to mark the tenth time they’d stayed in a clown room or the fact that he considered a can of beer to be a fitting ‘anniversary’ gift. Then again, considering the former, maybe the latter was fitting. Sam took a long swallow of his beer, not caring how it went down. Something told him that he needed to be drunker for this.

Dean flashed another smile. “Well, Sammy, we’ve outlasted most marriages and taste is just a matter of personal style.”

That was true. Taste came down to personal style and Dean’s personal style personally sucked. The clowns with their maniacal, evilly-scheming grins had haunted Sam last night, too, but yet he’d caught sight of Dean smiling at one this morning—the one that was pretending that it was a lamp. Sam closed his eyes for a brief moment of respite from the clowns. He was glad that he and Dean were leaving them behind very shortly.

Dean peeked his head out from the bathroom, a green toothbrush jutting out of his mouth. “Hey, where we goin’ again?”

“Sunrise Acres,” Sam said, repeating it from memory. He was currently sitting on the garish clown bedspread that was mostly buried in piles of newspapers and assorted paperwork, all of which had “Sunrise Acres” written on them in varying sizes.

Dean snorted and ducked back around the corner. Dean rarely shut the bathroom door if he could help it. It was a hold-over from their childhood. “Should have just called it ‘Desert’ and gotten it over with.”

Sam shrugged. He wasn’t going to comment on the name—even if it was a gated community out in the Arizona desert. In about two hours, he and Dean would be there anyway. There was just one small thing…

They had a little bit of paperwork to complete first. Sam snatched up a neatly clipped stack of paper and flipped through it, using his fingers to mark the various pages that still needed to be signed. He hadn’t asked Dean to sign anything yet, because he had wanted at least one night of peace about the whole situation before Dean started in on the jokes.

Just like with the clowns, Sam didn’t expect Dean to be able to resist. He could hear Dean gargling noisily—more for Sam’s benefit than Dean’s—as he signed his own, fake name to each of the requisite sheets, initialing when he had to. In two hours, Sam Mustaine and Dean Hetfield, domestic partners, were about to become proud new owners of a nicely-sized two-story house in the gated community of Sunrise Acres.

No, Sam didn’t expect Dean to be able to resist that little siren call at all.

They passed a brightly colored billboard, standing almost defiantly against the empty stretch of road. With a large sun hovering in the sky over a perfect little white house and a large expanse of green grass, the board’s picture seemed extremely out of place, framed by the pale yellow of the desert sand. Besides the cacti that dotted the desert, the vibrantly painted grass was the only green that Sam had seen for miles. “Visit Sunrise Acres!” the sign said, part of the marketing plan that the community had just started six months ago. “A Better Way of Living! Turn off in 10 miles.”

“The Housewives of Desert County,” Dean said, grinning at Sam across the seat. “It’s got a nice ring to it. You know, to match that diamond you’ve always been wanting.” Like all of Dean’s other unsubtle jabs since Sam had gotten him to sign the papers, Sam ignored the comment. Dean, of course, thought it was hilarious that Sam had set them up with a cover to be domestic partners. The entirely too long drive to Sunrise had been filled with gleeful declarations of, “Gee, never knew you wanted me that way, Sammy. I’m touched,” and “How long you been harboring these secret desires?” and “You know I top, right?”

Sam just accepted them all with a stoic demeanor. He’d known exactly what was going to happen. It hadn’t exactly taken a psychic to see it coming. And it was better to just take the comments than answer them because…

Because Sam didn’t know how much he’d be able to resist. He didn’t need to let years of hard kept secrets out of the bag just because he wanted to one up Dean. He slanted his eyes over to Dean, taking in Dean’s customary sprawl across the Impala’s seat. Dean could happily drive for hours, completely comfortable behind the wheel.. The Impala and the wide open road were as good as home to him. He was tunelessly humming to himself, tapping his fingers against the casing of the open window with the sleeves of his white dress shirt pushed up around his elbow. The coat and tie of the suit that he liked to pretend he didn’t own was sitting in the seat between him and Sam.

Oblivious. He had no clue. Sam didn’t plan on letting him catch one, either.

They just had to make it in and out of Sunrise Acres. It really wasn’t anything they hadn’t done before. They’d pretended to be a couple in the past and Sam had slipped through with his secret intact if not always his dignity. The job at Sunrise Acres didn’t have to be any different.

“So, we’re sure it’s not a chupacabra?” Dean glanced over at Sam and Sam, grateful that Dean had momentarily dropped the teasing, decided to answer him this time.

“Yeah, we’re sure,” Sam said, giving the joke more recognition than it deserved. “Chupacabras aren’t rumored to turn their victims into corn husks.”

Dean whistled. “That’s too bad. I always wanted to hunt one of those puppies.” Sam rolled his eyes. Truth be told, they had no idea what they really were hunting. Some kind of life-drainer or something, because nothing else explained the mummies. It was Dean’s pet theory that the sun had just dried up the abandoned bodies like grapes turning into raisins but Sam wasn’t taking him seriously. He was ninety-nine percent sure that Dean wasn’t taking himself seriously, either. After two nights in the clown room, though, it was anybody’s guess.

Sam thought more that either the victims had been sucked dry or it was possible that they’d been aged beyond natural means. A stop-over at a morgue in Phoenix—the city that Sunrise Acres sat just outside of—hadn’t yielded any clues, either. The bodies were mummies, plain and simple, and either theory was as good as the other.

The discovery of the bodies—three in the past month—must have shocked the residents of Sunrise Acres. The community, up until now, had boasted of a zero percent crime rate. They had it blazoned across their website complete with citations of local newspapers writing up glowing reviews of the area. There had been no mention, however, of the gruesome news but Sam knew that that little piece of information was just as likely the work of a panicked PR manager than anything else.

With no information coming out of Sunrise Acres, Sam had only stumbled across the reports of mummified bodies by accident. It had been listed on a less-than-reputable superstition website, one that Sam normally took with not just a grain but an entire cup of salt. Sam would have just passed the story on by if it hadn’t been for the one leaked but hastily retracted police report he’d come across earlier. He’d combined that with two reports of disappearances from the community of Sunrise Acres— Miguel Foxtail, an environmentalist who’d worked in Phoenix, and Melvin Pruss, a high-profile lawyer. In the case of Pruss, though, it was debated whether he was truly missing or not. Some claimed that he’d merely accepted another position at another firm out-of-state and moved.

After a bit more digging, Sam had discovered that, yes, there had been human remains found out in the desert, though the local authorities were claiming that they were stolen museum exhibits, left by pranksters. Curiously, no museums in the Phoenix area had reported any break-ins and certainly none were admitting to any mummy thefts. When one plus one plus one didn’t quite add up to be three, Sam had decided that there just might be a job waiting for them in Sunrise.

And they were in luck because only last year had Sunrise Acres started accepted residency applications from the general public. Before then, the community had been an exclusive piece of private property, owned by business tycoon and eccentric billionaire turned social recluse Mr. Steven J. Coldwater and the only residents had been those who Coldwater had personally invited. That had changed in September of last year and now, eight months later, Sunrise Acres was shaping up to be a place where the well-to-do could live in their private little paradise and still be able to commute to Phoenix to work. Sam wondered if Sunrise Acres—and Coldwater—was experiencing some financial problems because the community was all but putting in an express lane for residency. He and Dean had managed to be approved in a matter of days—floated a loan until the bank approved their ‘financing’—instead of the usual weeks or even months.

Sunrise Acres had originally been founded by Coldwater as a place to hide from the media’s ever present eye. Now, it was listed as one of the premiere “gay-friendly” communities as Coldwater had made sure to only allow those that shared, supported or tolerated his lifestyle choices. Coldwater, the owner of a couple of mines that dotted the area and the founder of a company with so many umbrellas and legal twists and turns that Sam had gotten dizzy just looking at them, had been plagued with rumors for the better part of his life. Never one for the ‘apple-pie life,’ Coldwater had been involved with sex scandals galore—interns, hookers, and videotapes, the whole nine yards—all nicely silenced soon after they broke. In other words, the usual standard fare for a man with a lot of money and no idea how to spend it all.

What had caught Sam’s eye, however, were the accusations of Satanic and black magic practices. Most of the rumors had been laughed right out of the tabloids but Sam couldn’t ignore the few auction receipts that he’d managed to dig up with various names of Coldwater’s corporations on them. They showed purchases of old, rare, expensive and powerful books—the exact kind that a rich man believing himself a warlock would buy.

It remained to be seen if Coldwater had secretly turned his private community into his very own coven or if what was happening in Sunrise Acres had nothing to do with him.

Sam stared out the window at the passing desert. Hopefully, they’d get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Sunrise Acres soon enough. In the meantime, he and Dean were running just a little bit late. They’d had an appointment with the manager of Sunrise Acres, Alan Peachtree. Peachtree had sound friendly but busy on the phone and had seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t stand for deviations from the set schedule.

There were two things, though, that Sam had no control over and that was the weather and traffic. The first had been fine but the second… A semi had jack-knifed across three lanes of traffic and had slowed them down to a crawl on the highway. Dean had yanked off the tie that Sam had forced him to wear earlier and pulled off on the back roads of the back roads because, “There’s no fucking way I’m going to let myself be grilled like a fucking steak in this heat waiting for these dumb fucks to move.”

It had set them two hours behind. Sam had called Peachtree who’d sounded extremely doubtful of being able to greet them when they arrived because of the delay. Oh well, Sam figured. Without the manager there ingratiating himself, Sam and Dean had that much more time to set up everything that they needed to.

Personally, Sam was hoping to have the case solved and the hunt over as soon as possible. Sam smoothed out the mortgage papers that he had sitting on his lap, and pulled at his tie. It was getting more than a little uncomfortable, feeling like a noose around his neck while the dry but relentless heat made him want to wilt like a dying plant.

Dean stopped humming as he made a left, turning off the main road by the sign emblazoned with the looming sun over the perfect little house again. The Impala’s wheels kicked up some dirt and dust from the side of the road before Dean pulled it back onto solid pavement. “Got your papers all together?” Dean asked, his eyes dropping to Sam’s lap.

“They’re all set,” Sam said, tapping them against his legs. The poly-blend of the slacks was sticking to his skin in places. As Dean had cheerfully informed Sam awhile back while pulling at his own underwear, Sam’s balls were probably stuck together with nothing but dried sweat.

“Good. Because I can’t wait to see you in a frilly little apron.”

Sam resisted the urge to snap back that if anyone was going to be wearing the apron, it was going to be Dean—and that Sam would love to see that, too. That kind of thing just led to escalation and that was something that Sam would like to avoid because, for Dean, it was just a joke.

“So, everything squared away with Mr. There’s a Stick up My Ass So Keep to the Schedule?”

Sam nodded, letting the insult to Peachtree slide. “We might have a few minutes with him but I doubt it. I figure that we’ll get settled into the house a little and then we can start meeting the neighbors.”

“Can’t hardly wait,” Dean replied. “We’ll get to hear all about the coyote problem.”

Sam snorted, turning his head to look back out the window. The only thing that he’d be able to find on Sunrise Acres that wasn’t pure propaganda or the two missing persons reports had been several complaints of coyotes roaming through residents’ yards. Despite the fact that coyotes in the desert were hardly news, it seemed to be the only perceived problem. “Maybe the coyotes have something to do with it.”

“Yeah,” Dean said wryly. “Maybe they’ve just been secretly wanting some human jerky and have finally decided to start making some.”

They reached yet another large sign with its yellow sun as the road dead-ended at two imposing gates flanked by stone walls that seemed to stretch forever, rising stark and imposing out of the surrounding desert. Dean stopped the car in front of them and glanced over at Sam again, another smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he scratched at his hair. “If I get turned into a Stepford wife, Sammy, I ain’t gonna be happy.”

Sam sighed and thumped his head back against the seat. “Just tell the guard that we’re here.”

Laughing quietly to himself, Dean rolled down the window and smiled at the bored looking security guard sitting in his little booth. “Misters Hetfield and Mustaine?” the guard asked, looking down at his clipboard. He had no less than three fans directly trained on him.

“That would be us,” Dean said, still grinning.

The guard nodded and lifted a page to tear out the one underneath it. “Alan says that he’ll be waiting for you at your new address,” he said, handing over the paper. Apparently, Alan Peachtree had found time for them after all. Dean glanced at the guard’s paper before tossing it over to Sam like the local weather section of a newspaper. He had about the same amount of use for either. Sam frowned, turning the page right side up and peering at it. It listed their new house number—308 Oakview—and pointed out a miniature map. “If you have any questions,” the guard said, “you can call me on the number listed on the bottom. I’m Dave and I’m here until 3. After that, you can talk to Kyle on the night shift.” The man tipped his hat forward and smiled as he pressed the button to buzz them in.

Dean mimicked Dave’s little head tilt as the gates slide soundlessly apart. “Thanks, Dave,” he said, easing the Impala forward.

“Anytime,” Dave replied and retreated back into his box, closing his little window. He picked up his copy of The Enquirer and went back to reading.

Dean rested his arm on the open window again. “You got it, Sam?” he asked. Sam nodded.

“Third street on the right,” Sam said before setting the map down on top of the pile in his lap. “Fourth house on the left.” Since Dave had said that they’d meet Alan there, Sam straightened his tie and tried to pretend like it wasn’t over seventy degrees outside and he wasn’t sweating like Dean trying to tell Dad that he hadn’t drank the last beer. He debated joining Dean on the jacket protest.

Sam looked over at Dean, just to see if he looked less overheated than Sam. If the heat was bothering Dean, though, he wasn’t showing it. Instead, Dean’s attention was focused elsewhere: his eyebrows were rising higher and higher as they kept passing completely identical houses. They were all immaculately white, two-story homes with two car garages and little verandas out front, each one looking that it had been perfectly placed there, stamped onto their little lots. Frankly, Sam could understand what Dean was finding so odd, though he was more marveling at how the signs for Sunrise Acres hadn’t been lying: the grass in front of each house was such a vibrant green that he wondered how much water they had to truck in daily to achieve that. “I’m serious, Sam,” Dean said, an edge of tension in his voice, betraying the fact that he was only mostly joking this time. “If they invite you in for a drink and start leading me downstairs, you haul ass to come and get me, okay? I promise to do the same for you.”

“Dean,” Sam replied, grinning, finally giving in to the laugh that Dean had been relentlessly trying to pull from him all day. “We’re here to check out a couple of cases of mummification. That isn’t exactly Stepford-like, okay?”

Dean didn’t look exactly convinced but he didn’t say anything else. They passed a scruffy brown dog sitting on the sidewalk, its thick furry tail wrapped around its legs. Sam glanced at it curiously, wondering if it was one of the coyotes that they’d been hearing about, before he pointed at the road just behind it. “Turn right,” he said, glancing down at the map again. The dog watched them go before getting up and trotting off, disappearing behind a house. “Fourth drive on the left.”

All the houses looked exactly the same, so Sam was counting the driveways. Dean, though, apparently was not, because he sailed right on past the fourth driveway. “Dean!” The Impala jerked to a stop as Dean slammed on the brakes and stared at Sam like he was snapping out of a daze. Looking straight ahead, though, Sam could see why. Sitting in the fifth driveway on the left, proud as could be was a cherry red Pontiac Firebird with twin white racing stripes running down over its hood. Sam’s eyebrows rose. The car looked to be in mint condition and, with the exception of the paint job, it looked to be a dead ringer from that one TV show he used to watch as a kid. Or rather, the one Dean used to watch and Sam used to sit through.

“I think I’m in love…” Dean mumbled to himself.

Sam pulled his eyes away from the car and turned to look at Dean. He looked about one step away from wolf-whistling. “Dean, do you think we could make it in the driveway, first?”

“Oh, what?” Dean shook himself. “Yeah, sure.” He popped the Impala into reverse and backed it down the road to their own driveway, pulling in to it. As soon as the car was in park, Dean was up out of the Impala and taking a good long look at the Firebird next door. “She’s beautiful… Aw, man, Rockford would be jealous.”

The dog that Sam had seen earlier was now sitting by the Firebird’s front wheel, its tongue lolling out happily and looking like it thought it belonged there. Its tall ears swiveled forward as it quietly regarded the two of them. Sam frowned. He was fairly certain that the contract that he and Dean had signed had specifically mentioned that residents were not allowed to have dogs. “Neighbor’s got a dog,” he said, pointing at the dog. It was either that or it was one hell of a brazen coyote.

Dean shrugged and responded with, “He’s also got a pretty damn sweet car,” like those two things were even remotely the same.

“No, Dean, he’s got a dog.” Maybe repeating it would drive it home. “Complaints of strange dogs?” It was entirely possible that what people had mistaken for a coyote was something entirely else. Sam walked around the front end of the Impala, trying to ignore the heat and watching the dog who was watching them. Sure, they’d laughed at it when they come across the reports but, at this point, Sam was treating everything as a possible clue.

Dean snorted. “Sam, sometimes a dog is just a dog.”

“It’s not if the contract specifically says no pets,” Sam said, holding up the paperwork. He knew that he’d read that somewhere in the stack.

Dean shrugged, turning away from the dog and the car. “So maybe the neighbor got permission.” Sam gave him the point because, yeah, that was possible. And the dog didn’t seem to be anything other than an ordinary dog—scruffy but ordinary. He gave it one last, assessing look before turning away to face the front door of their new house which was opening to show a slender man in a tight-fitting pin-striped suit.

The man looked liked he’d been starched right along with his suit. His straight black hair was glued to his head, his back ramrod straight, and it looked like not only was the heat not affecting him but it didn’t dare. Neither did the sun for that matter: his skin was pale enough to almost blend in with the whiteness of the house. “There you are,” the man said, walking briskly down the steps and across the little provided walkway to greet them. “I’m glad that you could make it.” He stopped in front of Sam and held his hand out stiffly. “I’m Alan Peachtree, Community Manager. Misters Mustaine and Hetfield?”

“That’s us,” Dean said, reaching out to grab Alan Peachtree’s hand. “I’m Dean and this is Sam.”

Sam took the hand after Dean let go and winced as Alan had a deceptively tight grip. “Pleased to meet you.”

Alan smiled at him. It looked as dipped in plastic as the rest of him. “Pleased to meet you. Welcome to Sunrise Acres, a better way of living.” He turned and gestured at the house. The same as the rest in the neighborhood, it had an expanse of vibrantly green lawn in front of its white veranda. “As you can see, we here at Sunrise Acres believe in having only the very best for our residents. I had hoped to have a chance to give you two the grand tour but, regrettably, I must be going. I hope that I’m not inconveniencing you.”

“Oh,” Sam said, holding up his hands. “No, our fault. Sorry that we were so late.” Even if Dean’s normal speed demon act had shaved off about a half hour’s worth of time. “We can show ourselves around.”

“Well, I did leave the homeowner’s manual for you on the kitchen table…”

Dean plastered on his most charming smile. “Ah, don’t worry about it. We’ve shown ourselves around plenty of places!” Sam ducked his head, scratching at his temple as he tried not to laugh. That much was true enough. Random houses, neighborhoods, graveyards…

“Excellent,” Alan said, grabbing Dean’s hand again and pumping it firmly. Dean winced but kept smiling. “I’ll stop by later, once you’ve gotten all settled in just in case you have any questions.”

“That’d…be great,” Dean muttered, carefully extracting his hand from Alan’s.

“Also,” Alan added, straightening out his blue tie, “I am to invite you to the party on Friday.”

Sam tilted his head. “Party?” he asked.

“Mr. Coldwater, the founder of this great community, hosts a party at his house every other Friday. Sort of a ‘community get-together’ if you will. You two are very much invited and it would be a great way to meet the rest of the community.”

“Well, in that case,” Dean said, “we wouldn’t want to miss it.” Sam nodded. It would be a great time to hopefully meet Coldwater, potential warlock, in the flesh.

“Great,” Alan replied and turned to Sam again, pointing down at the paperwork that Sam was still holding onto tightly. “Is that for me?” he asked, grabbing a hold of the top of it.

Sam let him have it. “Uh, yeah. I think everything’s all there.”

Alan was already flipping through the pages, checking them all out before he folded them under his arm. “Again, it was nice meeting you two and thank you much for choosing Sunrise Acres.” He nodded at the both of them before bustling down the driveway and across the street to the powder blue Prius parked against the curb.

Sam stared after him until Dean grabbed a hold of his shoulder. “Ready to check out the house, Sammy?” he asked. “Got a ton of work to do.” They had to scout over the entire house, check every angle, and see if there was a way that they could get away with possibly hiding all the runes and devil’s traps and salt lines… Sam looked at the vast expanses of windows that the house boasted and sighed. That was going to take awhile.

The house was even larger than it appeared from the outside. Sam had stepped inside on the shining hardwood floor and then stopped to stare. The walls were horribly blank—a stark white—but they went on forever. A staircase ran up the left side of the main entry way, the oak railing sweeping up the side, and hallways branched out in either direction. Dean had taken one look at it and whistled.

“Whoa,” Sam said, his own acknowledgement of the house.

Dean grinned, elbowing him. “I bet this place’s got an awesome shower.”

Sam rolled his eyes. Dean had a thing for showers and Sam, for the life of him, would probably never understand it. He was all for being clean but Dean, hedonist that he was, liked to revel in the process itself. Sam could understand “taking a little extra time in the shower” but Dean’s geekiness about the shower itself was confounding. Sam followed the precise, grid-like lines of the flooring and walked to the right, into what he presumed was the kitchen. He stopped in the archway, letting Dean catch up as he glanced around at the fully outfitted room. “I bet this place has a little bit of everything,” Sam said, adding on to Dean’s earlier comment. Dean clicked his tongue in acknowledgement as he walked around the large wooden table that dominated half of the room. The house had come pre-furnished—part of the contract that he and Dean had signed.

Copper pans hung above an island in the center and Sam touched one, making it rock gently on its hook before he turned his attention to the cream countertops took up two entire sides of the room, covering medium oak cupboards. Cabinets of the same color of varnished wood hung above, stopping only for the stove’s gleaming metal hood and a large window above the sink and ending where the huge, stainless steel refrigerator stood.

After flipping through the white booklet on the table—probably the homeowner’s manual—Dean made his way over to the large window on the opposite side of the room and brushed his fingers against the lacey curtains that matched the countertops. “This is ridiculous,” he muttered, shaking the folds of lace. The window that he was standing beside overlooked their perfectly mowed side lawn and their neighbor’s tall wooden fence. Once again, Sam was struck, his mind trying to calculate just how much the monthly water bill for Sunrise Acres had to be.

Dean rubbed his hand against the painted trim of the woodwork, scrutinizing a particular spot, and froze. Sam ducked under the pans to get a better look at him. “Dean?”

Dean’s fingers traced the trim for a few more moments before his head jerked upward and his eyes narrowed. Smiling oddly, he turned to face Sam. “Hey, Sammy,” he said, his tone low and welcoming—and completely suspect. That was not a tone that Dean used with Sam. That was a tone that Dean used to hook his one night stands down at the bar. Knowing that didn’t stop the instinctual surge of lust but Sam did try to suppress it as he walked around the kitchen island. Dean didn’t mean for Sam to take that tone the way that Sam’s body wanted to and it was best to keep that in mind. Dean crooked a finger at him. “C’mere,” he purred and the bottom of Sam’s stomach dropped out from both fear and arousal. It was a heady combination. “Feel like I’m steppin’ into the Twilight Zone, don’t you?”

And there went the arousal. Sam pushed back his fear, flattening it out, as he slid into an easy smile. Dean was quoting Golden Earring. “Feels like a madhouse?” Sam repeated back dutifully, deliberately misquoting. It was a code that they’d worked out when they were kids. Dean smiled and Sam knew that he had it right: Dean thought that there was a camera on them and he wanted Sam to act natural and play along.

Dean waved his hand again, wanting Sam to come closer. “Yeah.” Sam moved within range of Dean’s reach and Dean snagged him, hauling him towards the window. Their bodies aligned, Dean tugging Sam closer to stand between his legs and Dean’s hand slid around the back of Sam’s head. Sam’s heart skipped a beat when Dean pulled him down and gave his jaw a quick nuzzle.

Sam bit back a groan and tried to focus. One of Dean’s hands was sliding around his waist. “Where?” he whispered, his voice meant for just Dean’s ears.

Dean blew on Sam’s ear, making him shiver. “Look up.”

Gasping, Sam jerked his head toward the ceiling, letting his body go through the motions that it wanted. There, in the corner of the window, he finally saw what Dean had seen. Nearly hidden to the untrained eye, behind the blinds of the window, sat a small, barely there, cylindrical camera. “Damn,” Sam whispered and Dean gave him another nuzzle of acknowledgement, his lips grazing Sam’s sensitive skin.

“Yeah,” Dean said. His hands were wandering, putting on a show, and Sam let him as he quickly scanned the rest of the window, looking for more bugs. He didn’t find any but, as Dean would remind him if he could, just because he couldn’t see them didn’t mean that they weren’t there. Sam dropped his own head to the crook of Dean’s neck and thought furiously. Had he and Dean said anything in the house that might have given them away already? Had they done anything?

…Had they not done anything? Sam’s blood went cold. They were being recorded and God knew how many cameras and microphones were scattered throughout the house. That meant that, even behind closed doors, he and Dean still had to pretend that they were an actual couple. The game had changed and Sam’s worst nightmare was coming true. This was different than any other time that they’d pulled this particular scam because they had always been able to disappear behind a closed door and be themselves again. This time, they weren’t going to have that luxury. And later tonight…

Sam closed his eyes. He didn’t look forward to later tonight.

Dean was like a bloodhound when he wanted to be and Sam didn’t know if he’d be able to fool him. It had taken Sam years to master the concept of mere omission and the artful dodge when it came to his feelings.

Dean hands slipped around to cradle Sam’s face and Sam felt his heart start to pound. Dean wasn’t… He wasn’t about to… But they had to. Who knew who was watching? Their lives might very well depend on how well they could fool their audience.

Sam gently ducked his head and pressed his lips against Dean’s, making the choice before he had a chance to second guess himself. There was no turning back now. For a moment, Dean was still underneath him, no doubt recovering from the same shock that Sam was feeling, if for a different reason: This was his brother. Sam was kissing his brother. And his brother was starting to kiss him back.

Dean pushed forward, moving more fully into the kiss and Sam’s eyes slid shut. It was like every fucked, pre-teen fantasy that Sam had ever had was coming true. Sam had grown up with a deep, inseverable attachment to Dean but he hadn’t realized just how deep that attachment went until he’d gotten older. He hadn’t realized just how “unnatural” the rest of the world considered that attachment, either. No, that lesson had been a rather painful revelation when the kids at school had teased him for his hero worship and Sam realized that most siblings weren’t like him and Dean—that most families weren’t like his.

Most regular boys didn’t have wet dreams about their older brothers.

If Sam were normal, he wouldn’t have closed his eyes before kissing Jessica Knell when he was thirteen and pretended that she, with her short hair and puffy lips, was Dean. If Sam were normal, he wouldn’t have spent the next five years sneaking glances at Dean’s body when he wasn’t looking, saving up the memories, imagining what it would feel like. And if Sam were normal, he wouldn’t have secretly looked forward to Dean sometimes coming home battered and bloody because it was one of the few times that Dean let Sam touch him whenever and however he wanted. Sam had felt guilty whenever he’d deliberately wished that Dean would get hurt—just a little bit—so that Sam would have an excuse to run his hands over Dean’s body again.

That same guilt was getting to him now. He was taking advantage of Dean and the situation, the same as he’d always done and he started to pull away. Before he could, though, Dean let him have a quick swipe of tongue that sent an electric shock tingling down Sam’s spine. Sam jerked backward, staring at Dean who stared right on back, his eyes narrowed but his face calm. Sam felt a small dab of fear settle into his stomach and he turned away.

There was no way that Dean knew. No way that he could. Right?


The doorbell echoed through the house and, as one, they turned to look in the direction of the front door before glancing back at each other. Dean shrugged. “Should go answer the door.”

Grateful for the ready-made excuse to escape, Sam headed out of the kitchen and moved to the front door, opening it with its soft woosh of weather-stripping. A couple stood on the porch of the house, two men, and the shorter, blond one waved cheerfully. “Hi!” he said, drawing out the word as long as he possibly could. “We just saw you come in and thought we’d welcome you to the neighborhood!”

Smiling back at the men, Sam pushed his problems to the back of his mind and focused on the job again. Dean was still looking at him strangely but Sam, like all Winchesters, was well-versed in ignoring the elephant in the room. It was practically a family tradition.

Dean was still debating on whether or not Sunrise Acres bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain movie or not. On one hand, he was starting to feel like he was dropped in a maze with how similar everything looked—the perfect houses, the perfect lawns, the perfect streets. On the other, though, he was unsure if Paul Stanley would have made the cut. Paul, their next door neighbor, didn’t exact fit the mold of a perfect Stepford wife. For one, he was fun. It had taken Paul all of five minutes after having been let in the house to show Dean how to access all twenty-three available porn channels—for free. Paul, Dean had decided, was awesome. He might not have a Firebird parked in his front yard like the guy on the other side of the house—the neighbor that Dean had yet to meet—but he was alright. And so Dean figured that between Paul and the guy with the Firebird, it was quite likely that Dean and Sam had at least two awesome neighbors.

Of course, it was entirely possible that Paul and the other guy just hadn’t been led down to the machine yet. Dean was worried about that one because Paul’s partner, Ron Hull, fit the bill for Stepford quite well. He had the kind of bland good looks that were instantly forgettable the moment that you turned away from him and the personality to match it. Looking at Paul standing next to Ron, Dean couldn’t help but wonder if Ron just had a really big dick.

Ron, however, had one thing going for him: he loved to bake. And he’d promised to whip Dean up a blueberry pie as soon as possible after Dean sold him a sob story about how his “Aunt Betsy” used to make the best pie he’d ever tasted. Ron had smiled blandly and wrapped an arm around Paul’s shoulder saying, “We’ll have to make one soon, won’t we, hon?”

It had been right about then that Sam had deflected with the ever-handy, “So, have you guys lived here long?”

Turned out that, in terms of Sunrise Acres, Paul and Ron were practically founders themselves. “Oh, Steven invited us years ago,” Paul said, waving his hand. “We used to work with him. In fact, most of the residents did.”

“Those that came before,” Ron added and Dean could practically here the air quotes around the word. Ron was, of course, talking about the people that had come before Sunrise Acres had been busted open to the public, sort of like the pearly gates of Heaven opening up to just all those wonderful sinners standing outside. Paul elbowed him and shot him a dirty look.

Sam cleared his throat. “So you know Coldwater?” Everything that they’d been able to dig up on one Mr. Steven J. Coldwater had been second-hand accounts at best and pure slander on average.

Paul snorted. “Not really. Steven’s really private. I think the only one he talks to is Alan. Well, anymore at least.”

“Anymore?” Dean asked.

Ron answered him, his hand on Paul’s arm, holding him still. “Steven’s always preferred to keep himself out of the spotlight but he used to be around the neighborhood a lot.”

“I haven’t seen him in maybe a year?” Paul said. “Not even at the parties.”

“How long have you two been together?” Ron asked suddenly.

Dean smiled and let the change of subject slide as he reached out and grabbed Sam’s hand. “Oh, awhile now,” he replied. Sam stared down at his trapped hand like a poleaxed cow before hurriedly glancing away. Dean noted the odd look and filed it. Something was up with Sam and he needed to find out what before it ended up costing them. “Haven’t we, Sam?”

“Yeah,” Sam said, nodding. “Years.” His fingers curled around Dean’s, holding him lightly.

“Stability is good,” Ron replied and it didn’t do anything to help change Dean’s mind about the whole Stepford thing. Something eerie was going on in Sunrise Acres and Dean didn’t just mean the dead bodies. He made a mental note that, if Ron ever did stop by with a pie, to check it for more additives than just preserves. Ron continued on, extolling on the virtues of the neighborhood while Dean studied him closely. Beside him, Sam sat still cradling Dean’s hand like he’d forgotten that he was even holding it but he wasn’t fooling Dean, either.

Dean could feel Sam’s pulse leap every time he slid his thumb over Sam’s wrist.

Sam shook out hand. He could still feel a bit of a phantom warmth from Dean’s touch, even an hour later. Sam had quickly dropped Dean’s hand as soon as Ron and Paul were out the door—much to Dean’s amusement. “Gee, Sammy, I promise I don’t have cooties,” he’d whispered and Sam had growled for Dean to grow up while stalking out to the car.

A quick sweep of a scanner (Sam would never make fun of Dean’s busted-out walkmans again because it was one of the very few pieces of equipment that he’d actually felt safe bringing inside) had revealed no less than ten more bugs. “Well, fuck,” Dean had muttered and they’d left most of the equipment locked in the trunk of the car, only bringing in their duffle bags and the handguns that they could conceal (there was not wanting to risk their cover being blown and then there was going totally naked—one was acceptable, the other was not).

Since that was the only amount of preparations that they were going to be able to get done—the salt lines and runes were definitely out what with cameras watching their every move—Sam and Dean has been left with the choice of what to do with the rest of the day. They could stay in the house and pretend to be a couple or they could go out in public and pretend to be a couple. One of those options included less possible sticky situations for Sam and so it had been no choice at all.

Since they’d already gotten a head start on interviewing the neighbors, Sam figured that they might as well keep on at it. Being new to the neighborhood, they had the perfect excuse to ask questions.

Much to Dean’s disappointment, however, their neighbor with the Firebird was currently out, so they’d ended up walking in the other direction, trying to canvass the neighborhood. They’d met Eli Kilwin who lived in number 312. He’d been polite and friendly, but less than informative. “I don’t get out much,” he’d said and he had no opinion on Steven J. Coldwater—he’d moved in four months ago—nor did he care about mummies. He did, however, invite them in for coffee and talked extensively about how his garden was coming along.

The next two houses didn’t have anyone home—one a Phoenix police officer, Kilwin claimed—so Sam and Dean headed for the house at 318. 318, however, had a problem. It had a bad problem. As they neared it, Sam’s nose started to wrinkle and Dean stopped dead. A distinct odor hung in the air like a thick blanket, covering the near vicinity. Before covering his nose and continuing on, Dean mumbled something about it smelling like a “three day rock concert” and Sam had to agree. The stench was out of place in the idyllic neighborhood, like a dead patch in a flower garden. Sam sucked in a quick breath and tried not to gag as he and Dean jogged up the three steps of the porch and rang the doorbell.

Joshua Mayberry, the man who answered, was a Phoenix city councilman who, like Kilwin, didn’t particularly care about mummies or missing persons. He was too busy glaring at his lawn. Unlike the green grass of the rest of the neighborhood, Mayberry’s lawn was a wet, muddy brown and reeked like an open sewer. “I paid a lot for this house, was personally invited by Steven, and looks what happens!” he snapped, waving his hand at the mess. “Alan assures me that it’s just a ruptured pipe and that it will be fixed soon but this is just unacceptable.” A mud bubble burst at the surface. “Making a good impression is all about having a good lawn and would you look at that? How can a man have a sense of pride about where he lives when his lawn looks like that? I can’t even host a dinner for my donators because of this mess.”

The sewage stopped before Mayberry’s property line but, unfortunately, the smell was still shared by the surrounding houses. Mayberry had wanted to discuss the situation more but Sam vacated the premises, barely stopping until they reached the other side of 320’s yard where he bent over to dry heave behind a bush. Dean didn’t even make fun of him for it because he looked like only pride was keeping him from joining Sam. Luckily for the rest of Sunrise Acres, no one else seemed to be having the same problem as Mayberry.

Actually, aside from the ‘coyote problem’ that many residents wanted to comment on—“The neighborhood’s just not safe with that prowling around,” “Tipped over my trash last night,” “How can we hope to be seen as a good place to live when we have to constantly deal with pests? Property values could fall”—all of the people that Sam and Dean talked to were convinced that Sunrise Acres was the best place in the world to live. Very few seemed to have even heard about the bodies that had been found less than a mile from their community.

Everyone seemed to like living in their nice little house with their perfect lawn. After about three hours of hearing about how great Sunrise Acres was, Dean was scowling at every house, his hands in his pockets. “Law of averages, Sammy. At least one of these people has to be out of their gourd crazy but we haven’t even caught a whiff? Something’s not right about that.” He glared back at the house that they had just left—number 311—as they had since crossed the street and started on their way back down the road. “And these people are entirely too happy.”

Normally, Sam would want to chalk a remark like that up to paranoia but, in this case, he had to agree because it seemed strange that no one cared about the mummies—and the only ones that mentioned it at all were the ones who were apparently attributing it to a ‘bad element’ that had been ‘briefly’ stopping at their door. Like Ali and Cally Jones.

Ali and Cally had, like the Foxtails, married elsewhere despite Arizona state law, and were quite content with their lives. “Miguel,” on the other hand, Ali had said while Cally poured everyone coffee, “was always flighty. I’m not surprised that he just up and disappeared. He probably went to go join his coyotes.”

Dean had liked the Jones but that probably had more to do with Cally’s bust size than anything. He’d practically spent the entire time that they were talking staring at her chest until Sam had elbowed him in the gut. Dean had nodded towards the two women with raised eyebrows and a grin but Sam had been unimpressed. Gay, he had mouthed. As in that was what Dean was supposed to be—not trying to live out the stereotypical straight male fantasy. Dean had rolled his eyes while Cally talked about a creature creeping through their lawn the night before. “Nothing to worry about,” she said. “I’m sure it was just the coyote.”

Ali frowned disapprovingly. “It’s not right to just leave it here. It could get hurt. I kept telling Alan that he needs to have it caught and then released in a wildlife preserve but he never listens. Everyone else just wants to shoot it.”

Cally patted her on the knee. “I’m sure that they’ll do something soon. They have to.”

“I think they’re all Stepford wives,” Dean jokingly theorized, two houses after the Jones’. “Every last one of them has gotten a lobotomy somewhere.” They had made a complete circuit of Oak Street and were on their way back to ‘their’ house. Sam had a hard time wrapping his head around that one. ‘Their’ house. As in his and Dean’s. They might have been just only temporarily borrowing it in reality, but that was still their names down on the deed. Partially.

Henry Fillmore, a retiree who they’d met before, waved at them from his riding lawn mower and Sam waved back. Dean, though, didn’t bother because he was already crossing the street, heading for the one house on Oak Street that they hadn’t been to yet.

“Dean!” Dean kept walking, waving over his shoulder at Sam. “Dean!” Sam called again, but Dean, Sam saw, was making a beeline for the newly arrived Firebird and the guy currently bent over its open hood. Sam rolled his eyes and jogged across the road.

By the time Sam reached the sidewalk, Dean was already chatting with the man who’d been working on the car. The man straightened, pushing some of his dark brown hair out of his eyes and wiped his hands on a brown, grease-stained rag. “Oh, yeah. I heard that you were coming,” he said. He winced at his hands and tried to wipe them on his pants. “Rag’s not too clean…” he muttered. “Name’s Nick Lestrato. I’d shake your hand but…”

Dean waved him off. “Nice car you got here. ’78 was a great year.”

Nick’s face lit up with a wide smile. “I bought her just a few months ago. Been fixing her up.” He rolled his eyes and added, “‘Course, around here, the first thing that they wanted me to do was give her a paint job. Called her an ‘eyesore’ until I did.”

Barking a laugh, Dean leaned over the open hood. “I wouldn’t doubt that a bit. You mind?” He pointed inside the car and Nick shook his head.

“Not at all,” he replied but his eyes weren’t on the car. They were on Dean’s happily waving ass. Of course they were. Because of all the neighbors that they’d met, there had to be at least one for Dean to flirt with and make Sam’s life miserable in the meantime. At least the lesbians hadn’t been flirting back. Sam plastered a fake smile on and joined Dean.

“We met Alan earlier,” he said. He placed himself directly next to Dean, his hand resting lightly on Dean’s bent back. As far as claims went, it was completely unsubtle but Sam figured that he was right in line with keeping up their cover. Dean was warm beneath his fingers and it only cost Sam one odd, considering look from Dean before Dean started ignoring him again. It made Nick wince and straighten a bit more as he dropped his eyes to the concrete driveway.

“Yeah, him,” Nick muttered. Somehow, Sam had known that Alan—a man who looked like he repelled dirt—wouldn’t rate too high on Nick’s list. Nick, with his grease-stained T-shirt, was the Alan antithesis. Nick cleared his throat. “He, uh, he led the crusade for the paint job. Nice guy but…you know.”

“Little stuck on himself?” Dean supplied, turning to look at Nick but still bent over the car.

“Yeah. A little stuck on himself.” And that would also make Nick the first person that they’d met who didn’t have a completely glowing review of Alan Peachtree, Community Manager extraordinaire.

“He probably didn’t like your dog, either,” Sam said, bringing up the dog that he’d seen in Nick’s yard when he and Dean had first arrived. It was a fair bet that a man who didn’t like a rundown classic car in a driveway wouldn’t like a dog running around either.

“Dog?” Nick asked, looking confused. He glanced over at the car, as if thinking that Sam had been referring to it before looking at Sam again. “What dog?”

Sam blinked. “There was a dog in your yard when we first arrived.”

Nick shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t have a dog, though. Alan would have a fit.” He smiled at the thought. “That’d be a whole lot worse than having a classic car with peeling paint sitting in your yard.”

“We heard about some stray dogs,” Dean said, standing up. Sam let his hand slip away. “Well, coyotes. Must have been one of them.”

“Must have,” Nick agreed, nodding slowly. He jabbed a thumb back at his house. “Listen, I got some beers in the fridge if you guys want some.” He glanced between them before settling in on Dean and smiling almost shyly. “Not many of the guys here are big on cars.”

Dean grinned. “I’d love a beer. Sam would too wouldn’t you?” He elbowed Sam in the ribs and Sam nodded.

“Yeah.” Sam rubbed at his side and resisted the urge to hit Dean back. “That’d be great.”

“I’ll go get them,” Nick said, his smile widening as he turned around and headed into the garage. Once he was out of sight, Sam finally gave in and shoved Dean. Jerk.

Dean caught himself on the car and wheeled around to snag Sam’s hands. Sam, expecting a push, was thrown off-balance when, instead, Dean pulled. He stumbled against Dean’s body as Dean held their joined hands out to the side, grinning at Sam. “You jealous, Sammy?” he asked, low and smooth and Sam was stuck, staring at his mouth. He knew that Dean was playing around with him, baiting him, but the response that Sam was tempted to give was not at all what Dean would be expecting. Dean was expecting Sam to throw back a biting insult or struggle at the very least—he wouldn’t be expecting Sam to kiss him again, to see if that electric tingle that Sam had felt had been just a fluke.

When Sam took too long to respond—too busy staring at Dean and thinking of the what ifs—Dean’s grin started to fall. “Sam?”

Sam jerked away, pulling himself free of Dean’s hold and fighting down a flush. “He didn’t seem upset about the coyote,” he said, changing the subject. It was a bad attempt—crippled from the start—but, for some reason, Dean let him get away with it.

“Yeah, well,” Dean answered slowly, “he also didn’t seem to want to crawl up Alan’s ass and live there, either. Maybe he’s just got different standards.” His face plainly said that Sam wasn’t fooling anybody but Sam willing to take Dean’s words as a successful dodge.

They needed to find out what was happening in Sunrise Acres and wrap it up before Sam managed to give away every damn secret that he had.

Dean opened his mouth to say something else but Nick came bounding out the front door, taking the three steps of the front porch in a single jump. “I’ve just got the cheap stuff, but beer is beer, right?” he asked, handing them off to Sam and Dean.

“Damn straight,” Dean replied, tipping his beer respectfully at Nick before taking a swig. Sam frowned down at the bottle of Miller High-Life in his hand. At least it wasn’t in a can. “Sam here, he likes the froofy stuff but I don’t hold that against him.”

Nick laughed. “Then I won’t either,” he said, giving Dean a wink and taking a pull off his own bottle before setting it next to the Firebird’s front tire. “You wouldn’t believe what she looked like when I first got her,” he said proudly. “I’ve spent a small fortune getting her fixed up, but it’s worth it.”

“Yeah?” Dean asked. “So you bought her after you moved in?”

“Oh, no,” Nick said, leaning over the open hood again. “She came with me. I just moved in back in March.”

“So you never met that environmentalist that disappeared?” Sam asked, still holding his beer as he moved closer. Dean was already leaning against the car next to Nick and it made Sam feel just a little out of the loop. He knew next to nothing about cars—only what Dean had taught him growing up—well, the parts that Sam had cared to listen to anyway—but he had grown up a Winchester. He could fake a little car knowledge if he had to. He leaned casually against the car, deliberately placing himself against Dean and staring down Nick.

“That native guy? Nah,” Nick said, grabbing a wrench and twisting at a bolt. “I moved in a day or two after Jules left. He…” He paused, staring downward. “Well, you know.”

Dean nodded and took another drink. His hip was touching Sam’s but he was pretending like it wasn’t. “So, you ever meet the guy that owns this place?”

“Steven?” Nick asked, smiling over at Dean and starting to work the wrench again. “Nah. I’ve gone to his parties a few times but I’ve never seen him. Other people have met him, though. They say that he rarely leaves the mansion. Just sends Alan. I hear he’s got cameras set up all over this place so he knows everything that happens.”

“Whoa!” Dean said, widening his eyes for effect and playing it up like he’d never even heard of a camera before. “That’s creepy.”

“Oh, yeah,” Nick agreed. “But, it’s his place, I guess. As long as he doesn’t have any set up in my shower, I’m okay with it. Providing security’s one thing, but I don’t do free shows.” He winked at Dean again. “Not unless I want to.”

Dean smiled back, his eyes running down over the short sleeves of Nick’s gray, grease-stained shirt and onto the tan skin of his arm. Sam grit his teeth. Dean was well aware of what kind of signals he was sending—he was sending them deliberately, damn it. And Nick—Nick was eating it up with a spoon. He’d already forgotten that Sam even existed. A surge of jealousy flared up in Sam and he set his hand on Dean’s shoulder again. “You haven’t found any, have you?” Sam asked, his voice tense, pretending like it was the cameras that he was worried about. “Inside?”

Nick immediately shook his head and moved away to grab a new wrench from his toolbox, putting some space between him and Sam. “No. Never really looked, either.”

Dean was grinning slyly at Sam and Sam felt a small kernel of apprehension bloom inside of him. He was giving too much away again; he hoped that Dean would chalk it up to either keeping the cover or maybe a bit of latent sibling jealousy on Sam’s part—that kind that can develop between normal siblings who just have a very close relationship and not, say, the result of one of them wanting in the other’s pants. “Sam’s a little paranoid,” Dean said, turning so that he was leaning against Sam’s chest. Sam sucked in a quick breath.

Nick shrugged—a quick roll of his shoulder. “I would be, too.” He glanced over at the two of them and then bent back over the hood again, this time farther away. He kept his eyes trained on the engine.

“Well, if we find any cameras in our house, we’ll let you know,” Dean said.

Nick laughed, a little bit of the tension draining out of his shoulders. “I’d appreciate it.”

“It’s been great meeting you, Nick.” Dean tilted up his bottle and drained it dry before setting it next to Nick’s beside the Firebird’s tire.

“Thanks for the beer,” Sam added wryly, placing his on the ground too, despite the fact that it was still mostly full.

“Anytime,” Nick replied. “And anytime you want to come over at talk again, too.” He looked at Dean again before sliding his eyes over to address the next part to Sam. “Like I said, not too many of the guys here are all that big on cars.”

“Oh, you bet your ass I’ll be over,” Dean assured him. “Especially if I can wrangle out a test drive.”

Nick nodded and tried to wipe his hands on the rag again before realizing it would be just as useless as the last time. He laughed to himself and waved instead. “See ya.”

It was hard to talk about a case without actually talking about it. Sam just felt himself growing frustrated. When they were growing up, he and Dean had worked out a series of code words to use for when they weren’t free to talk (alright, so Dean had worked out most of them and Sam had just accepted them) but, he had to admit, they had a limited usage. They’d already established that there were cameras in the house but, at the moment, they didn’t need “I’ve got a gun on me” or “Pretend everything’s fine” or “Get to the car and stay there” or any of their variations so that weeded out quite a few.

In the end, though, they both knew that they were just biding their time until Friday as it would give them an all access pass to Coldwater’s private mansion and, hopefully, Coldwater himself. There wasn’t much to discuss past that. They’d met the neighbors and with few exceptions—Joshua Mayberry’s yard and Nick Lestrato’s interest in Dean aside—they all had much of the same story. Most had been former coworkers of Coldwater’s but no one had seen much of him in the past year and only a handful claimed to actually know him outside of work.

Dinner had been the leftover sandwiches from the last truck stop they’d passed on the highway. Like the rest of the house, the fridge had come fully stocked—complete with beer much to Dean’s amusement—but neither one of them had felt like doing much besides pulling off a wrapper. At least the food had only been half a day old.

Sam had grabbed the laptop while Dean had turned on the news, flipping it to the local station with the perky blonde news anchor as he sprawled on the couch. Sam tried not to wonder if Dean’s knee touching his was a deliberate move and just generally tried to pretend that this was a normal evening. That they were a normal couple, enjoying a normal evening in their nice, new, normal house.

Sam wished that he had a better idea of what was “normal.” He jumped when Dean’s hand settled on his thigh and Dean grinned. “I scare ya, Sammy?” he asked. “’S all that caffeine.” He nodded at the half-drunk cup of coffee sitting on the little table in front of them.

“Better than beer,” Sam shot back. Dean was casually rubbing circles on Sam’s thigh—like he did this all the time and it was nothing out of the ordinary. Damn Dean and his games, Sam thought. Dean probably just thought that he’d found another one of Sam’s buttons to push—something about Sam being jumpy while pretending to be a couple. No doubt Dean was thinking that it was awkwardness over the fact he was pretending that his brother was his lover—and he’d be half right. Sam was feeling awkward but it was from more than just pretending that his brother was his lover—it was from wanting him to be as well. Sam felt like some kind of bizarre double agent from a spy novel, sitting on the couch pretending to be his brother’s lover while really being his brother’s brother but yet really wanting to be his brother’s lover. It made Sam’s head hurt just to think about it. Worse yet, it made his chest go tight and certain thoughts to sneak past Sam’s tightly held mental borders.

Sam forced himself to ignore Dean’s distracting hand—and not to push it away either. He focused on his laptop where he was spending a bit more time looking into the life of Miguel Foxtail and hoping that the cameras in the room wouldn’t be able to get a good enough look at his screen to read it.

Miguel Foxtail, born to a Hispanic mother and a Native American father, had been in the news on and off for the past few years—at a protest rally here or a court hearing there. He’d been most active in the environmental circles, fighting for wildlife preservation or nature conservation—issues like the coyotes just like Sam had already heard. It was his last appearance, though, which caught Sam’s eye. Miguel Foxtail had been protesting the dumping of waste in an open section of desert by Weatherbold Incorporated, claiming that it was irreparably damaging the area. It was just like any of the other causes that Miguel Foxtail had taken up but, unlike Sam, he’d probably had no idea that Weatherbold was, ultimately, owned by one Steven J. Coldwater—one of his subsidiaries. Sam elbowed Dean.

“What?” Dean asked, innocently, removing his hand. It had been creeping up Sam’s thigh as Dean had realized that Sam was trying to ignore him. Sam shook his head and slid the computer over. Raising an eyebrow, Dean set down the beer that he’d been drinking and pulled the computer into his lap. He frowned as he scrolled downward and Sam waited. When Dean reached the end, he went back up and highlighted a line that Sam had missed when he’d been skimming. Most likely because he hadn’t expected to find it.

Weatherbold Incorporated, represented by attorney Melvin Pruss of Sawin and Sons, denies any wrong doing.

Melvin Pruss, their other missing person. Sam looked at Dean who stared back, his eyebrows raised. So there was a connection between Melvin Pruss and Miguel Foxtail, tentative as it was. Sam just didn’t know if it meant anything. It wouldn’t make much sense for Coldwater to get rid of his lawyer except that maybe the lawyer had found something he shouldn’t have—same as Miguel—and Coldwater was trying to cover it up. Just one more check for Coldwater having something to do with the happenings in Sunrise Acres. Friday couldn’t come soon enough.

Just a little after midnight, Dean finally shut off the TV and stretched. His empty beer bottles were lined up on the coffee table, forming a small fence. “’Bout time to go to bed, Sam,” he said and an uneasiness filled Sam’s stomach. They both knew that there was a camera over the bed. If there was someone watching, then they were most likely expecting…

Sam shut the laptop down. “Right.” He followed Dean upstairs and tried not to feel as if he was marching to his own doom. It was just a bed. He and Dean had slept together before. It was no big deal.

Except for the fact that it was. He’d kissed his brother before, had even done it earlier—the tongue thing, though, that was new—and had posed as a couple with Dean before. What Sam hadn’t done was lay in a bed with Dean and try to convince some billionaire peeping tom that they were really a couple.

The camera, of course, didn’t bother Dean one damn bit—because Dean was an exhibitionist at heart. He stripped down to his boxers without a second thought, pulling his shirt over his head and tossing it in the corner then dropping his jeans right where he stood, while Sam stood there agonizing and trying not to stare for a few minutes. On one hand, there was going to be hours and hours of him almost naked for some voyeur’s sick pleasure but, on the other hand, Dean was crawling into bed nearly naked and daring him to follow suit. “Come on already,” Dean grumbled, slipping in between the sheets and holding them up for Sam to join him. “I’m getting cold.”

Deciding that, for once, he wasn’t going to complicate matters, Sam quickly tugged his shirt over his head. Dean watched him, a grin stretching his mouth, as his eyes moved casually up and down Sam’s body. Sam flushed and turned away. “Fucker,” he swore, trying to blank his mind as he undid his belt. Trust Dean to make a big deal out of something after Sam had already chosen not to.

“You’re the one putting on a free show,” Dean replied, amused. “I’m just enjoying it.” Sam let his jeans drop to the floor and then scooped them up to toss in the corner next to Dean’s shirt before darting underneath the covers that Dean was still holding up. When he was safely in the bed, he tugged the sheets out of Dean’s hand and tucked them around himself while Dean laughed. “And there’s a whole lot of you to enjoy there, Sam.”

Sam rolled to face Dean who had his head propped up on an elbow. “Really?” Sam asked, deadpan. “That’s what you’re going with?”

Dean half-shrugged. “It’s as good as any. What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s stupid for one,” Sam said, rolling his eyes. He flipped onto his back and shifted to make himself more comfortable on the bed as he stared up at the blank ceiling. Somehow, he just knew that sleep was going to be a long time in coming—long as in an eternity long. Long as in he’d probably have better luck trying to sleep in the Impala.

When Dean’s hand touched his chest and all Sam could focus on was the warm press of his fingertips, Sam realized that his predictions of his chances of getting any sleep had been too optimistic. Sam couldn’t even think beyond the fact that Dean was touching him—that Dean was half-naked in a bed and touching him and that Sam’s boxers were entirely too thin. He could feel his dick already starting to push at them. Damn it. “Dean…” He brushed Dean’s hand away, ready to plead a headache and deal with Dean’s teasing for the rest of the, oh, year, but Dean caught his wrist. Sam sucked in a harsh breath as Dean’s thumb traced a small circle on Sam’s skin.

And Sam was angry. Fucking Dean and his fucking games. Seeing the glower forming on Sam’s face—Sam wasn’t even trying to hide it—Dean pressed a finger against Sam’s mouth and shook his head. The usual teasing grin was nowhere in sight and that, more than anything, stopped Sam cold. Dean was right, Sam thought, letting the more rational side of him take over. They had to do something—they had to pretend.

Dean pushed himself up and leaned over Sam, his eyes trained on Sam’s. Dean’s amulet thumped softly against Sam’s chest, connecting them, and Sam couldn’t look away if he tried. He was well and truly caught, just waiting for Dean to come closer as surely as a deer stuck in the headlights, waiting for its demise. The deer would probably have a better chance of making it out alive. “Just go with it,” Dean breathed before his lips touched Sam’s.

It was just a tentative touch, more a brush than an actual kiss—even softer than the one that they’d shared in the kitchen earlier—but it stole Sam’s breath and froze his lungs anyway. Just go with it, Dean had said. The words echoed over and over in Sam’s head as Dean’s hand slid around Sam’s jaw, holding him, and he deepened the kiss, pressing harder. He grabbed Dean’s necklace, winding his fingers around the cord and using it as a lifeline as he felt his world being swept away. Just go with it.

Sam’s hand shot upward to grip Dean’s head but he didn’t know if it was to push Dean away or to pull him closer—not until Dean’s tongue licked against Sam’s bottom lip. Sam groaned and opened his mouth as he pulled Dean off-balance, making him catch himself on the mattress beside Sam. Just go with it. Sam went with it. He sucked on Dean’s tongue and kissed him back, his lips moving against Dean’s and his head turning to get a better angle.

Sam had always known that Dean was a good kisser. It was one of those things that was up there with the sky being blue and Dad being a hard-ass. It just was. There was a reason why girls had always followed Dean around like little lost puppies, never minding that he didn’t make any promises to stay. Sam, though, had just had a chance to fully appreciate why Dean was a good kisser. Dean’s lips were soft and full and Sam would be lying if he claimed that he’d didn’t fantasize about them on about a daily basis but it was all in how Dean used them. Dean kissed as if he was starving for it—as if he’d die if he didn’t get a taste—but with a restraint that said that a taste was all he wanted. He didn’t want to devour, he didn’t want to ravish—he didn’t threaten. Dean kissed like a promise—like the ones that he had made countless times, the ones that assured the best night of your life but nothing more than what you were willing to take. He played, he teased, he didn’t make any demands. Each swipe of his tongue and each nip of his teeth was gentle, easy.

Sam drank it in, took it all, because unlike Dean, Sam didn’t just kiss like he was starving for it—he was starving. When Dean pulled back, Sam followed, his hand still tangled in the the cord around Dean’s neck, tugging until Dean came back down, his breath puffing against Sam’s skin. Sam wasn’t about to let him go—couldn’t even conceive of it. He slid a hand underneath Dean’s side and wrapped around him to splay against the muscles of Dean’s back, his fingers finding every line, every ridge, following Dean’s spine upwards because he didn’t dare go down. He gripped Dean’s shoulder, hanging on tightly.

Dean jerked away, breathing hard and pushed himself upward. Running on pure instinct, Sam chased him until they were both sitting, separated only by the hand that Dean placed against Sam’s chest. “That’s what I thought,” Dean whispered and Sam felt his blood run cold. What did that mean? Dean leaned in close again. “That’s what I thought,” he repeated and kissed Sam again.

He pushed Sam back down on the bed, his hands flattening against the sheets as he leisurely kissed Sam into submission again. Sam took a shuddering breath, exhaling his apprehension: Dean wasn’t going anywhere. And it was going to be a long, long time before Sam got to sleep.

The camera zoomed in on the couple on the bed as they writhed together under the sheets. It was almost sweet the way that the taller one was cradling the face of his partner, like he was afraid that the man might vanish at any second. Sam. His name was Sam. Sam clutched at Dean like a thief held a stolen necklace and it was a very peculiar way to hold an old lover.

They’d, of course, been made as soon as they’d stepped foot in Sunrise Acres. Like a great deal of hunters, they were masters of subterfuge but there were just some things that couldn’t be hidden—and you never played a player.

He had, however, liked them upon sight. There was a certain touch to their aura that was just…delicious. It was too bad, really, what he had to do.

He set the camera to record—no sense in wasting perfectly good footage—and stood up. It was time that he brought this game to its end. Time to wake up the town—a little color never hurt anyone. He’d always been partial to the red, himself.

Morning came like everything else in Sunrise Acres: entirely too cheery. Dean even thought that he could hear birds chirping, though what they’d be doing outside his window, he had no fucking clue. He rolled on the bed and tried to focus his eyes as he glared at the sunshine beaming in from the window.

Beside him, Sam was still fast asleep, his face finally relaxed from all the hard lines that liked to set in when he was awake. It made him look years younger and Dean took a second just to admire the unworried appearance. He gently brushed back Sam’s hair from his face, his fingers grazing Sam’s warm skin. He liked it when Sam smiled and Sam rarely did anymore.

Dean’s lips twisted downward into a moue and he rolled out of bed. There was no use for dwelling in the past when the present was right here and now. And Dean… Dean kind of liked this present. It wasn’t perfect by any means—a long way off—but after last night, he had to admit that it had its moments.

It wasn’t everyday that a guy woke up after a night of making out with one of the key people that had helped define his sexuality and who had been giving him blue balls for years. The fact that that person was also his little brother had caused Dean a lot of guilt in the past but things had changed since then. Sam was not just Dean’s little brother anymore—in many ways, he’d always still be Sammy, but he was also an adult and there was no denying the fact that as much as Dean had wanted last night, Sam had wanted it even more. Faced with that hard fact, Dean figured that any leftover guilt on his part was pretty much wasted. He and Sam were beyond fucked-up according to polite society but, then again, polite society could just go fuck itself. It had never done Sam and him any favors—only given them grief. Kicked them in the balls when they were down, after sucker punching them and trying for a few eye gouges. Dean didn’t put much stock in what society said that he should do.

It wasn’t as though he and Sam would ever have normal lives. At one point, Dean knew that Sam had really resented that fact. He wondered if Sam still did.

Because there wasn’t much normal in wanting to fuck your brother.

That had certainly thrown Dean for a loop—had really opened up his eyes. He’d always known that he’d been fucked up (when your number one jerk off fantasy and go-to instant orgasm scenario is your little brother happening to walk in on you, you know that you’re not exactly right in the head) but he hadn’t realized that Sam was standing right along with him.

Piecing together some clues, though, like Sam’s responses to the kiss, to Nick, to the whole situation, Dean had decided to take a chance—all but begging Sam to just give in and go with it. Dean had seen the wheels in Sam’s massive brain just grinding last night and, for once, he wanted Sam to just stop thinking.

It was all in the guise of keeping their cover, of course, but they both knew that it was more than that. Dean looked down at Sam one last time, hoping that Sam hadn’t just saved all his thinking for today and walked out of the room. Like the guilt, there was no use dwelling in the maybes. The reality of it would happen soon enough and Dean would find out then what cards he was going to have to work with.

He grabbed some clothes and made his way through the entirely too large house, walking down the hallway and down the stairs. The big clock on the wall—the one that spanned almost the entirety of one length of the room—told him that it was almost seven and Dean scratched at his head, wondering if it was worth it to make breakfast or if he should just grab another beer instead. The fridge did have bacon…

Through the frosted glass of the front door, Dean could see a package hanging off the handle and he frowned at it curiously. It was oblong and rounded and he didn’t have a clue what it was doing hanging there. Thinking that it was probably another one of Sunrise Acres’s little oddities, Dean dared to open the door, swinging it inward.

The plastic wrapped newspaper came with the door. “Huh,” Dean said. “Must be some kind of paper boy.” As he pulled the paper free, he wondered how long it took to hang each individual paper off the door instead of just tossing it from the curb on the way by. The Arizona Republic News was blazoned across the top of it as he released it from the plastic and unfurled it, checking out the headlines.

Something fluttered out of the paper with a slinky whisper and dropped to the ground. “Damn ads,” Dean grumbled, rolling the paper back up. He wished that if newspapers were going to insist on stuffing themselves full of half-page glossy ads, then at least they’d put them somewhere in the center of the paper so they wouldn’t slide free. When he bent down to pick up the ads, though, he realized that they weren’t ads at all.

His eyes widened. There on the floor in front of him was a scrap of red lace. Dean gingerly pinched a corner, picking it up and didn’t believe his eyes. “Must be some kind of newspaper…” he muttered as he stared at the pair of red, lacey, apparently complimentary panties. He swallowed.

Maybe he had gotten someone else’s paper by mistake? But who the fuck would be delivering lingerie in the newspaper? …And why did they look exactly like the pair he’d shoplifted out of a Victoria’s Secret back when he was younger and going through an experimental phase? The ones that he’d only ended up keeping for two months before throwing them out in a fit of panic, convinced that either his dad or Sam would find them.

But yet here was an exact replica. In his morning newspaper. He looked suspiciously at the door but didn’t see anyone peeking through the glass at him and then it hit him. The cameras. Oh, that sick fuck, Dean thought. Maybe Steven Coldwater just sent all of his residents lacey lingerie in the hopes that they would try it on for him. Maybe Dean should consider himself lucky that he hadn’t been mailed a teddy.

Still. He rubbed his fingers over the lace. Coldwater had already seen him just about naked...and he remembered what the previous pair had felt like: soft along his cock with just enough tease that each step had been enough to make him want to come.

Dean smiled. Alright. No one even had to know.

There was one room in the house that they hadn’t found any bugs in whatsoever and Dean made a beeline directly for it. He strode down the hallway and around the corner, heading for the garage. His baby wouldn’t tell anyone. She’d kept worse secrets for him.

Dean stepped out onto the cold cement with his bare feet, feeling the chill shivering through him, before quickly stepping over to the car and sitting in the front seat. Anticipation and the little illicit thrill of it all was making his hands shake as he unbuttoned his jeans, pushing them down, boxers and all. He leaned backward to rest against the vinyl of the Impala’s bench seat and lifted his hips to strip himself down, kicking his jeans off once they were past his knees. So close. When Dean had last tried on a pair, he’d been hunting with Dad still, and terrified that his dad was going to find out. Somehow, Dean just didn’t think that his father would have approved of this. That fact made his breath come quicker.

Sam was still asleep upstairs.

Feeling like he was trying to steal a car and seconds away from being caught, Dean held up the underwear, turning them this way and that as he tried to figure out just exactly how they were supposed to go on. There was so little to them that he could barely tell the difference between the front and the back or the leg hole and the waist. He wadded them up and stretched them out again, before deciding that he either had it right or that it wouldn’t matter—he wasn’t going to wait any longer. He pushed himself upright and hunched over, pulling them on one leg at a time. They slithered upward, feeling soft and delicate, and he threw himself back down on the seat as he pulled them up over his ass before tucking his dick down inside them. And shivered.

The little scrap of nothing felt good against him, holding his dick in place as it rubbed against his skin in interesting ways. The little bit of friction combined with the silky smoothness had Dean rolling his hips experimentally, just to get the panties to drag against him some more. “Oh, fuck yeah...” he muttered, looking down at how the red lace was holding his dick. He’d forgotten just how good that felt. The little piece of lace wasn’t enough to contain him completely anymore because he’d gotten hard, the head of his dick poking up over the top, but Dean could still see the shaft completely encased. He licked his lips and ran his hand along the smooth lace, just testing it out, and felt his eyes roll back inside his head. “So fucking good...” There was no fucking way he was taking these things off anytime soon.

And there was just something naughty about wearing them and having nobody the wiser. Dean remembered that before he’d thrown away his previous pair, he’d loved wearing them underneath his jeans when he was just walking around. Dad hadn’t had a fucking clue what Dean was wearing—neither did Sam—and that made it just that much better. Dean licked his lips again and grabbed his jeans. Sam still wasn’t going to have a clue.

He had the jeans halfway on when he realized that that wasn’t going to be an option this time. Some time when Dean had been enjoying the feel of lace around his dick, Sam must have entered the garage because he was standing beside the Impala, staring at Dean, his mouth gaping open. Dean froze, his hands still holding his jeans. “Sam...” Inane phrases like ‘this isn’t what it looks like’ sprang to Dean’s mind but who was he kidding? This was exactly what it looked like! There just wasn’t any other explanation for why he was getting off on wearing panties short of demonic possession and somehow, he didn’t think that Sam would spring for that one.

The flush started at Sam’s neck and slowly worked its way up until it suffused his entire face—but he didn’t look away. Sam keep his eyes focused directly on Dean’s crotch, where the bold red was still brazenly visible, tented with Dean’s dick—his dick, which wasn’t showing any signs of going limp. Not with Sam staring at it like that. It was a damn Catch-22. Sam couldn't stop staring at Dean's panties and Dean couldn't zip up until Sam stopped staring.

Dean stood up and yanked his jeans up, feeling an answering flush start to cover his face. So much for Sam not knowing. Sam swallowed. “Dean...”

“Uh...” Damn it, Sam was still staring at his crotch. Dean turned around. “This is... How...”

Sam cut him off. “How long have you been wearing those?” he asked quietly, his voice tense.

Dean frowned. What did that have to do with the price of tea in China? Why? would have been a better question—but one that Dean wouldn’t have been as readily able to answer. He closed his eyes and tried to tuck himself in as best he could. He’d feel a lot better about this whole thing if he just had his pants on. Hell, he’d feel a lot better about this if he was naked. Anything but wearing a pair of panties.

Fingers ghosted along Dean’s shoulder and when Dean turned, Sam was standing directly behind him, staring intently. “Just go with it,” Sam whispered and Dean had only a fraction of a second to frown in confusion before Sam was kissing him. Sam’s lips moved against Dean’s, his tongue licking inside Dean’s mouth and, stunned, Dean gave in. His back hit the Impala as Sam leaned against him and he clutched at Sam’s shoulders. Well, okay then, he thought.

Both of Sam’s hands reaching downward, his fingers threading through Dean’s belt loops and dragging Dean’s jeans downward. His thumbs skated across Dean’s stomach, rubbing along the newly bared line of the red lace. Dean moaned and spread his legs, giving better access. Apparently, Sam had gotten over whatever had been holding him back.

Dean approved. Right up until Sam suddenly pulled back, breathing hard. Dean shifted, moving forward and trying to catch Sam’s mouth again—that, Dean thought, was a good plan. He was on board with that plan. But Sam pulled away and dropped his head. “We need to talk,” Sam said.

Dean groaned and lolled his head back. ‘Talk.’ Awesome. Yeah, he’d let Sam ‘talk’ and Sam would not only talk the issue to death, he’d talk himself right out of doing what he should. “No,” he said. Sam’s greatest strength was his brain, sure, but sometimes, Dean really thought that Sam just needed to stop thinking.

“Dean, what happened last night...”

“Happened,” Dean said flatly. He was still holding onto Sam’s shoulders but he felt like Sam was slipping right through his fingers. “It just happened.”

Sam unwound his fingers from Dean’s belt loops even though he left the jeans at the same level. Dean didn’t bother tugging them up, figuring he needed every advantage he could get and, if the way that Sam’s eyes kept dropping down to the little flare of red was anything to go by, Dean had a freaking WMD down there. “We need to talk about it.”

Dean was unsure what there was to talk about. He’d liked it, Sam had liked it and the only thing wrong with it as far as Dean was concerned was the fact that their hands had stayed strictly above the belt. Talking about it would just complicate it. Their lives were complicated enough. “Need to go talk to the neighbors again,” Dean said, dropping his hands away from Sam’s shoulders. He buttoned his jeans and fixed his shirt because his boner was fading fast—Sammy Buzzkill, the Amazing Erection Killer.

“Sure,” Sam replied, his tone saying anything but. Despite the attitude, though, he still let Dean slip away.

Dean felt his chest constrict—he hated when Sam was pissed at him—but he ignored it as he came around the car and headed back into the house. “Someone gave us a free paper, too,” he said, throwing it over his shoulder.

Compared to the cement of the garage, the wood panels felt amazingly warm as Dean walked through the house. He could hear Sam coming after him, could feel him trying to burn holes in Dean’s back, but Dean didn’t acknowledge him. There was nothing to talk about. Talking about it would just ruin it and it was far too new for Dean to want to see ruined. He just wanted to bask in it for a little while before Sam popped that particular bubble in his own Sam way.

The paper was right where he’d left it, sitting on the floor in the main room, still partially rolled from when he’d dropped it after the panties had fallen out—the ones that he was currently wearing. Dean fought back a flush and picked up the paper. The very least that he could do was read the damn headlines. Someone had hand-delivered a free paper and, damn it, he might as well do something with it. Arizona District Court to Rule on Regulation Challenge.

“Dean.” Dean stepped to the side as Sam moved in front of him. Apparently, some junkies had been arrested a few nights ago, too. “Dean.

“Drop it, Sam,” Dean snarled. It took two to have a conversation and Dean was going to refuse to hold up his end if Sam kept this up.

Sam huffed, sounding like a cat hacking up a hairball, and grabbed the paper that Dean was attempting to read, turning it around to show Dean the back. “Look.

“Sam, what the hell—” Dean cut himself off as there, in the middle of the page was a paw print in red paint—at least Dean hoped that it was red paint—smeared all over what should have been an ad for a dress company. Dean cocked an eyebrow. “—Is that?”

Taking the paper from him, Sam turned it over and examined it like it might have the secret to the lost city of Atlantis or something instead of a red Blue’s Clue. Dean thought of the red underwear that he was now wearing and winced, wondering if the paw print and the panties were related. This better not come back to bite him in the ass later on...

“It’s a calling card,” Sam muttered. He handed the paper back.

“Calling card? “ Dean snorted, rolling the paper back up. “What, the paper boy’s really that coyote everybody’s been complaining about? Gee, yeah, he seems like a real menace to society, there.”

Sam shot him a dirty look as he moved toward the door. “Whatever it was, it wanted us to find it. How would the paw print end up on the inside, Dean?”

When he failed to come up with a good reply for that, Dean shrugged instead. It actually was a good question. Unless the coyote was in the habit of reading someone’s paper in the middle of the night, rolling it neatly back up and placing it in its little plastic sack in the morning, there was no way that that paw print should have been there. Someone was messing with them.

Sam was already stepping outside when Dean grabbed his boots, trailing after him. Sam paused in the doorway, letting the air conditioning escape into the dry desert heat and Dean grumbled. “In or out, Sam. Make a choice.” Sam stepped forward, still not shutting the door, and Dean sighed as he jerked on his boots. “You’re letting out all the...” Dean trailed off as he finally saw what Sam was staring at.

Screw the newspaper--apparently the entire town had been given a makeover sometime in the middle of the night. By a modern artist with an extreme dislike of the the color white. Vivid colors had been painted over nearly every available surface like a rainbow had exploded over Sunrise Acres. Reds, blues, yellows and every color in between were smeared across the houses, the sidewalks, the road—some with the distinctive paw print design that had been on the newspaper, others with just wide swatches like they’d been applied with an exceptionally large brush. ...And was that glitter? “Son of a bitch...” Dean muttered, stepping out onto the porch beside Sam. Sam grabbed for Dean’s hand, clutching it and giving it a squeeze before releasing it. Dean nodded, still staring around in a stupor at the town that now looked like it was sponsored by Crayola and renegade toddlers.

They weren’t alone in staring at the damage. Paul and Ron were standing on their own deck, Ron shaking his head angrily even as Paul was bouncing with excitement. Cally and Ali had wandered out into the road to examine the paint. Dean touched Sam’s shoulder and jerked his head at the two women and Sam headed out to meet them.

“These are...” Cally was saying, turning slowly to take it all in. “But that’s...”

“Paw prints,” Ali said, bending down to examine one purple spot. “They’re paw prints.”

“In acrylic,” Cally added. “They’re in acrylic. And oil—my paint.”

“Your paint?” Sam asked, hitting that note of concern that Sam was so good at. The one that said ‘I understand. Tell me your life story, you poor, brave, sensitive soul.’ Dean was still working on that one.

Cally turned to face Sam, her pretty blue eyes opened wide. “Someone broke into the house last night... Into the studio. These are mine.”

“Then maybe you should pay to clean it up!” Joshua Mayberry shouted, striding angrily down the sidewalk. “What a waste!”

“And maybe you should shut your mouth!” Ali said back. “Just because its her paint doesn’t mean that she did this!”

“No, that coyote did.” Mayberry stopped in the middle of the street, his hands on his hips, looking rumpled in his wrinkled shirt and dress slacks—like he’d slept in them. “That mangy pest that you don’t think that we should shoot. You think that we should shoot it now? Look what it did!”

“Killing it is not—”

“The studio was locked,” Cally interrupted, her hands balled into fists at her side. “Locked! There’s no way that a coyote could have gotten inside.”

Mayberry sneered. “So you think someone is framing the animal? Don’t be ridiculous. We can all see the proof with our own eyes. Perhaps you just forgot to lock up. I know how you artists are—flighty bunch.”

Cally, despite being nearly a foot shorter than Mayberry, looked ready to climb him like a tree and pull his head off with her bare hands, and Ali was right beside her. Dean stepped between the three of them, feeling a little like he was stepping into a shark tank. “Hey, hey, hey!” he said, holding up his hands. “No one’s blaming anyone here, right? Right?”

Mayberry turned his glare on Dean. “Speak for yourself. This community just hasn’t been the same since certain people came to town.” His eyes raked up and down Dean while his lip curled in distaste. “Bad as the hippies—Alan!” When Mayberry turned towards the community manager who was walking towards them, Dean sneered back, feeling like maybe he should go take a shower from the dirty look Mayberry had been giving him. “Alan, what do you have to say about this!”

Alan Peachtree was looking as flawless and plastic as ever, standing ramrod straight. “I assure you, Mr. Mayberry, that we are doing everything—”

“Obviously not because otherwise you would have shot that pest a long time ago. It’s unacceptable to have it roaming around the streets, spreading its filthy diseases and God knows what else—”

“I can think of something worse than the coyote,” Ali muttered darkly, narrowing her eyes at Mayberry. Cally nodded.

“The fact is,” Ron cut in, finally leaving the relative safety of his porch, “that it’s been making a mess out of this community for quite awhile and this bit of vandalism—”

“It’s an animal,” Ali snapped. “It doesn’t vandalize.

“—Needs to be dealt with,” Ron finished like she hadn’t even spoken.

“It will be dealt with, I assure you,” Alan said.

“It doesn’t need to be ‘dealt with,’ it needs to be respected.”

Cally winced. “You’ve got to admit, this is a little much,” she said quietly, looking around the neighborhood.

“Do you even know how much money its going to cost to clean this up?” Mayberry demanded. “Do you?”

“Do you know how much this paint cost in the first place?” Cally sniped. “Oils aren’t exactly cheap, you know!”

Dean rubbed at his forehead as the others continued to bicker. It was shaping up to be a just awesome day. Sam bumped him with an elbow. “Why paint?” he asked quietly. Dean shook his head. He didn’t have a fucking clue. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Graffiti ain’t exactly mummies,” Dean agreed. “Maybe the coyote just felt like ruining Mayberry’s day?”

“We both know that it wasn’t a coyote that did this.” Sam waved his hand at the town at large and Dean gave him the point. If it had been a coyote, then it had been a very determined and particularly vengeful one because he was pretty sure that the paint was on the rooftops as well. “So why?” Dean shrugged. Maybe it was some kid who resented being stuck in such a boring ass town.

“You are fucking kidding me...” a new voice growled and Dean turned to look behind himself. “You are fucking kidding me!” Nick yelled, throwing up his hands. Dean shifted his attention from Nick to the ‘78 Firebird and felt his heart skip a beat. The beautiful cherry red of the car was now a speckled purple and yellow courtesy of whatever had ransacked the town last night.

Dean breathed a quick, “Thank fuck,” that he’d decided to park the Impala inside last night and jogged over to where Nick was still cursing like a drunken sailor.

“Would you look at that?” Nick snarled as Dean neared, shaking his fist at the car. “Would you fucking look at that? What the fuck is that? Two fucking grand down the damn toilet!” He glared at the mottled Firebird. “I’m going to kill whoever did this.”

Dean felt sympathy curl inside of him, knotting into a tight ball. He understood Nick’s anger. If it had been the Impala, he would have been doing more than just yelling. He probably would have taken a tire iron to something—or somebody—long before now. Hell, the Firebird wasn’t the Impala, but Dean still felt like a friend had been defaced. It was a insult to cars everywhere to have such the Firebird vandalized. It was an insult to Jim Rockford. “Hey,” he said, reaching out to touch the car. He wanted to touch Nick’s shoulder but he didn’t dare. The paint stuck to his fingers, partially coming off. “Still tacky.” That was good.

“Of course it’s fucking tacky,” Nick snapped. “It’s purple and goddamned yellow.”

Dean shook his head and held up his hand, show his now purple splotched fingers. “No, I mean it’s not dry.” They still had a chance. “You got any rubbing alcohol?”

Nick raised an eyebrow. “Maybe a bottle...”

“Go get it. We’ll save the paint job.” Nick nodded and took off, heading inside his house.

“Dean, the entire car is covered in paint,” Sam said.

“Yeah, little rubbing alcohol should take it off. Save the paint underneath...” Dean knelt by the rear wheel well and scrapped his nail against one yellow paw print. “We’re going to need some rags or something... Cotton balls. A whole shitload of cotton balls.

“Dean, that’s going to take all day.” Dean blinked at the car. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Sam couldn’t possibly expect him to just leave the Firebird like this. You never left a soldier behind. He turned on a heel and stared up at Sam, squinting against the sun. “Dean...”

“Oh dear...” Cally tutted, coming up behind Sam. She grazed her hands over Sam’s hips as she gently moved him to the side. “That’s too bad...” She knelt beside Dean, tentatively touching the paint. She rubbed it between her fingers and sniffed it. “At least it’s acrylic. Some rubbing alcohol should help... I’ve got some back in the studio.”

Dean smiled at her even as Sam glared. “Got any cotton balls?”

Cally laughed softly. “You men and your balls... I’ll go get them.” She stood up again and Dean took a quick moment to appreciate the way her jeans fit the curve of her ass as she sashayed away. Damn great view. Especially once she reached Ali and wrapped an arm around her, the two walking side by side. Lesbians. God’s gift right there.

“Dean.” Sam stepped in front of Dean, his face set into hard lines. “We don’t have time for you to be playing Mr. Fix-it with the neighbors.”

Dean rolled his eyes and stood up. “Friday, Sam. We’ve got nothing but time right now.” It was Coldwater that they were after and they weren’t going to get a chance to get to him until Friday. They were just spinning their wheels until then. “And weren’t you the one who wanted to play house? That includes making nice with the neighbors, Sam.” Sam looked suspiciously at Nick’s house and Dean swore softly. This whole jealousy thing of Sam’s was cute back when he first started it. It had the potential, though, to get really old, really fast. He looked back at the speckled Firebird. “And it would be a shame to leave her like this.”

“It’s a car,” Sam said and Dean grimaced. Trust Sam to not understand something like this. For all his smarts, he could really miss the point sometimes.

Dean pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and pulled out a couple of twenties. “Tell you what, Sammy. How about you go get Nick and me some more supplies and then you can search the internet for more dead ends?” They’d already spent days trying to dig deeper into Sunrise Acres and Dean had a feeling that they weren’t going to find anything until they got inside Coldwater’s mansion.

Sam’s eyes narrowed. “While you give the car a sponge bath? Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”

“Yeah, Sam,” Dean shot back. “While I give the car a sponge bath. Hell, I’m thinking maybe later Nick can even fuck me on it, what do you think?” The arrow hit home; Sam turned white and dropped his eyes away. Dean shoved away the little bit of guilt. Sam was being ridiculous.

“Don’t you think that you should change first?” Sam muttered and it took Dean a minute to realize what he meant. Then he smirked.

“Why? You don’t think that Nick will like them?” He dropped the smile and glared. “Store.” Sam turned away, pretending that he was somehow the better man, and Dean couldn’t help but rub it in. “Pick up some booze, too. We might get thirsty. Working up a sweat.” Sam didn’t answer him as he walked away.

Sunrise Acres, in the interest of providing the very best for its residents, had its very own tiny commercial sector—though it was more just a building instead of a sector. The large, sprawling building was designed to complement the houses that surrounded it, with its white-washed walls and large veranda. Inside, it was a combination grocery, hardware, and clothing store. It didn’t have everything, but it aimed to supply the basic necessities. Of course, since this was Sunrise Acres, those necessities apparently included the largest wine selection Sam had ever seen and a fully-stocked gourmet deli. It was the little things in life that mattered.

Sam bypassed the wine and ignored the deli as he stalked toward the back of the store in search of Dean’s rubbing alcohol. Dean was sorely mistaken, though, if he thought that Sam was going to buy him anything else. Sam was getting just the one thing and then he was heading right back to where Dean was probably making eyes at Nick from across the Firebird’s hood and shaking his ass. Just to piss Sam off.

Try as he might, Sam still couldn’t get rid the image of Dean from earlier—Dean laying in the Impala’s front seat in a pair of red lace panties like some kind of wet dream direct from Sam’s private fantasies. The only thing that he’d wanted to do was just drop to his knees and find out how they felt, tasted, and smelled. But ‘just go with it,’ in the light of day, wasn’t enough for Sam to toss aside years of secrets—not to mention the fact that this was his brother. Sam needed more than that. ‘More’ like why had Dean kissed him last night. Where did Sam stand? It was so easy to just fool himself into thinking that this was all just going to be smooth sailing—as if starting an incestuous relationship was ever smooth sailing—but Sam knew better than to be that naive. It was possible that Dean had only kissed him last night as a way of keeping their cover—and it was up to Sam for how far that they were going to take it.

Except Dean didn’t want to talk. Dean never wanted to talk. Dean thought that if he just carried on and ignored everything, then it would just go away. Unlike Sam, Dean thought that if he ignored the elephants that they would disappear. Sam knew better—they’d still be there, waiting.

Just because you wanted something to go away, didn’t mean that it would. Sam had learned that lesson well over the years.

Dean was playing a game with him. Sam knew that much. It was in Dean’s hints and sly smiles and Sam hated guessing. He had no idea where exactly they stood—just that, in the garage, where there were no cameras, Dean had readily gone along with whatever Sam wanted—he’d even seemed to want more. Sam didn’t know what that meant.

The Isopropyl alcohol was located at the back of aisle four and Sam swiped up a few bottles—they would have to be enough—before turning around and heading back up to the front. He wasn’t going to waste any more time then he had to.

“Mr. Mustaine?” Sam kept walking. “Mr. Mustaine?” Oh. Right. That was him. Sam reluctantly turned his head to face the person calling him and sighed as saw Alan Peachtree coming towards him. Alan stopped in front of him, nodding stiffly. “I wanted to check up on you, Mr. Mustaine. Make sure that Sunrise Acres is still to your liking.” Alan lightly cleared his throat. “It was a horrible even what happened this morning and I assure that I am making inquiries and will make sure that it does not happen again.”

Sam ducked his head. “It...”

“Sunrise Acres does not condone vandalism,” Alan continued, his fingers reaching out to graze Sam’s elbow. Sam frowned. His arm hair felt like it was standing on end but he couldn’t decide if that had to do with Alan or just the way that the man was staring intently at Sam, trying to convince him not to immediately pack his bags and leave. “I will get to the bottom of this matter as swiftly as possible.”

“Uh...thanks.” Sam shifted to the left, trying to be subtle as he moved away from Alan’s touch.

“Call me,” Alan said, stepping back into Sam’s personal space, “if there’s anything I can do for you.” He was still staring intently at Sam and Sam wondered if the man ever blinked.

“I, uh, I will.” Alan stared some more. “I promise.”

“It’s been nice talking to you, Mr. Mustaine,” Alan said, nodding his head. He held his hand out expectantly and Sam reluctantly took it.

“Yeah.” Sam winced as Alan pumped his hand firmly before releasing him and heading back into the store. Sam watched the man turn a corner and shook his head. He wasn’t going to worry about it. Alan was just running damage control and Sam really wanted to get back to Dean. Dean who was wearing red lace panties and flirting with Nick Lestrato over Jim Rockford’s Firebird.

Red lace panties, Dean decided, weren’t that great to work in. For one, he was intimately aware of every single move he made, the fabric constricting just so and making sure that he couldn’t forget what he was wearing. Especially when he was kneeling. He shifted uncomfortably as moved a few inches down the car, trying to dislodge the underwear from the crack of his ass without actually shoving his hand down his pants.

It had been worth it, though, for the look on Sam’s face. Dean could have died of embarrassment about Sam finding out about this particular kink but it appeared that they shared it. Dean grinned as he scrubbed off some more of a purple print. Yeah, that hadn’t been bad at all. He wiped his forehead on the back of his arm—with the sun rising high in the sky, Nick’s driveway was starting to reflect the heat and Dean was feeling it. Sweat was starting to bead up along his skin. …And the lace really wasn’t helping with that.

“You ever do this before?” Nick asked. He was working on the trunk of the Firebird, leaning over the back as he wiped carefully at a splotch of yellow. His black hair, falling forward, fluttered in the slight breeze and Dean took a moment to appreciate the handsome planes of Nick’s profile before letting his eyes lazy glance over the rest of Nick’s body. Nick was one of those guys that could really fill out a T-shirt—jeans, too. Dean followed the long lines of Nick’s jeans up to the swell of his ass. Between Nick and Cally, Dean thought, there were a lot of great views in this town. Of course, Cally came with the extra added bonus of Ali of the huge chest and wasn’t that a nice thought to think of the two of them together?

“Once or twice,” Dean answered. There’d been a couple of times that the Impala had been hit—though the time with the paintball, Dean had thought that Dad was going to hit the roof. It had been a prank—some kid thinking that he was going to get back at Dean for stealing his girlfriend (Dean hadn’t stolen her—she’d come all on her own). Must have scared the shit out of the kid to have an ex-Marine come charging out of the darkness behind him and haul him up by the scruff of his neck, growling like a bear. Dean laughed thinking about it though he’d been just as terrified as the kid, convinced that Dad had been going to kill him for messing with the townies again. Hell, he’d probably been even more terrified than the kid because he knew what his father was capable of.

“Don’t think I would have thought about this.” Nick patted his spot dry and moved onto another one, this one closer to Dean. “…Course, I wasn’t really thinking either.”

Dean laughed and shifted again. Damn underwear. “Can’t say as if I blame you,” he said. “If it had been my car, I wouldn’t have been able to keep a cool head either.”

“Means a lot,” Nick said. He was standing close enough to Dean that all Dean would have to do to touch him would be to raise an elbow and it would hit Nick’s thigh. “This car…it’s kind of ridiculous but it’s all I really got right now that means anything to me.”

Dean nodded. “I can understand that.” Next to Sam, the Impala was his best friend—he talked to her more than he did to Bobby for crying out loud.

“Ever since my last relationship ended, you know?”

The cotton ball was a deep violet so Dean switched it out for a fresh one before moving onto a yellow paw print. “Yeah.” Cars were a lot more constant than people. Treat ‘em right and they could be with you forever. Dean barely knew what a stable relationship was—the only ones that he’d ever really had, he’d been related to the people. And the Impala had still stayed with him longer.

Nick bent down, kneeling beside Dean to wipe at the same print that Dean was and Dean glanced over at him in surprise. “Thanks,” Nick said quietly and he was close enough that Dean was starting to get goosebumps, like his skin was trying to join with Nick’s. Dean shivered involuntarily and tried to pull backward, to get some space between himself and the other man because with Nick this close, he couldn’t think. The only thing he could focus on was the fact that Nick’s eyes were really blue and that his low voice was making his dick try to fill out his panties more than what was advisable.

“Y-yeah, no problem,” Dean stuttered, licking his lips. “Anything…anything to help.” And he stayed stock still as Nick kissed him, his body frozen in place on the hard cement of Nick’s driveway with the sun beating down on the both of them. It started as a light press before Nick’s hand came around the back of Dean’s neck and pulled him closer, his thumb tracing along Dean’s jaw, and Dean felt the soft, wet touch to Nick’s tongue against his lips. He tasted like chocolate.

Dean caught Nick’s wrist and pulled it away as he leaned back. “Uh…” His mind tried to shift gears despite how his body was already moving up into overdrive.

“You should work on those mixed signals,” Nick muttered and Dean got the feeling that he was talking more to himself than Dean. He let go of Dean, moving away as he stood up and not meeting Dean’s eyes. “Sorry,” he said. He walked away, his shoes crunching on the little bit of gravel and sand that was in the driveway, brought in on the Firebird’s tires.

Dean searched his mind, trying to think of where exactly he’d fucked up and feeling guilty. “Listen…”

“Good morning, gentlemen.” Dean turned to face Alan Peachtree who was standing at the edge of the driveway, watching them expectantly. Dean forced a flush down—how much had Alan seen?—and stood up.

“Peachtree,” Nick said, his voice sounding like it could frost over Sunrise Acres in the middle of July. “Anything I can help you with?”

“Just checking up on your car, Mr. Lestrato.” Alan walked towards them. “I would hate to think that anything untoward had happened.”

“We’re fixing it,” Nick said flatly and rubbed at another spot. Between the two of them, they’d just about saved the back half of the car as it was. Cally and Ali had promised that they’d show up in a little while, too.

Alan looked disdainfully at the car like he doubted that very much. “There’s also been some complaints of you arriving very late at night. You know how much we try to encourage a sensible curfew and your current employment does not warrant—”

“Am I behind on my mortgage, Peachtree?” Nick asked sharply.

Alan smiled coldly. “If you were, I imagine you’d know.” Dean glanced between the two other men. Alan hadn’t been nearly this reserved and cold dealing with Sam and him—in fact, he could swear that Alan was deliberately baiting Nick which made no sense. Why would a community manager bait one of his residents? They were just one step away from circling each other with bared teeth like two dogs.

“Then how about you get back to whatever it is you do during the day and let me take this paint off my car?”

“As you like. We’ll talk later.” Alan nodded curtly at Nick and more cordially at Dean before heading off.

“Like fuck we will,” Nick muttered, scrubbing hard enough that Dean wondered if he was going to take off more paint than just the acrylic. Considering what had just happened between them, though, he didn’t want to stir up any possible trouble, so he bowed his head and starting working on the car again. They continued together despite the uncomfortable stillness that was hanging between them.

When Sam showed up again, bottles of rubbing alcohol in tow, Dean welcomed the flat glare that Sam level at Nick because it felt friendlier than the awkward quiet. Soon after, too, Cally and Ali put in an appearance, followed quickly by Paul, and between their chattering and joking, it was almost like the last ten minutes he and Nick had spent alone had never happened.

Sam had been thinking that they were going to spend just another quiet night in—or, as quiet as they got that was—but he really should have known better. Dean was an expert at pushing his buttons and now that he’d found one, he was going to mash it for all it was worth.

They’d spent nearly all day saving Nick’s fucking paint job which, Sam had to admit, had been the most productive part of their day. He’d tried talking with the neighbors during and after but all they’d wanted to talk about was the coloring job that had dyed Sunrise Acre’s streets. Frankly, Sam was sick of colors—especially red. It had all he’d been seeing all day and it had nothing to do with being angry and everything to do with Dean. Dean and his usual antics.

When Sam had gotten back from the store, Dean and Nick had, thankfully, been on opposite sides of the Firebird, each apparently focused on the task at hand despite Sam’s earlier suspicions. He’d been so sure that he was, at the very least, going to find them side by side and in each other’s space. Dean probably didn’t think anything of it—just thought that he was playing another angle—while Nick ate it up with a spoon. To find them so far apart had been surprising but it hadn’t stopped Sam from glaring anyway. Dean had grinned at him. “Hey, Sammy,” he’d said, holding out a fresh cotton ball. “What took you so long?”

“Traffic,” Sam had deadpanned and settled in beside him while Dean laughed. Nick had cracked a smile too, easing whatever odd mood had been surrounding them, and that had been that.

Except the part when Sam had happened to glance over and Dean’s shirt had been riding up and his jeans gaping just enough for Sam to see that flash of red. Sam had focused on the car in front of him but there was no escaping that particular color. It was forever seared into his mind now. Funny thing was, though, Dean’s shirt was too long for that little flash to have been anything other than a deliberate tease on his part—it and the six other times Sam happened to catch a glimpse of it. Half the neighborhood had shown up to help strip paint of the car but Dean had still found time in between his flirting with the neighbors to tease the ever-living fuck out of Sam.

Sam had just wanted to curl up somewhere quiet and die peacefully because Dean was going to kill him anyway.

That had been before they’d gone inside and Dean had wrinkled his nose and pronounced them both rank. “Dude. We reek.” He’d steered Sam into the bathroom before Sam had even had a clue what was going on and shucked his clothes faster than Sam could blink—all except those damn panties. Those had come off nice and slow with a sly wink while Sam flushed. Dean had pitched them into the sink. “Gotta hand wash those, bitch,” he’d said and Sam had almost volunteered for the job. Of course, he couldn’t guarantee that Dean wouldn’t get them back dirtier than before.

Sam stood deathly still in the middle of the bathroom, breathing hard as he eyed Dean up and down. In the corner of the room, there was a camera recording everything except for the sound because the rushing water covered normal voices at that distance and Sam was left with a choice again: he could give in to Dean’s game or he could try to insist that they talk again. That wasn’t any choice at all. Screw Nick Lestrato and, for the moment, screw everyone who wasn’t in this bathroom at this exact minute. Sam pulled off his shirt and Dean chuckled. “There you go…”

The water was warm when Sam slipped underneath it but it had nothing on Dean’s heated skin. Using lighter pressure than the water that was pouring down over them, Sam’s fingertips hesitantly grazed Dean’s shoulders, trying to figure out how far to take this before Dean rolled his eyes and hauled Sam in close. “Not this again,” he muttered and kissed Sam.

Sam moaned, his eyes closing as his hands slid down to grip Dean’s waist. He still didn’t know where they stood—how much of this was just playing along and how much was real—but Dean was solid underneath him and Sam just didn’t care anymore. If Dean was playing a game, he wasn’t playing fair but Sam could be just as dirty. Dean had taught him everything he knew, after all.

Giving up any pretense at playing pretend—giving up on putting on a show for the camera and nothing else—Sam moved his hand down to Dean’s ass and squeezed. This was going to mean something whether he wanted it to or not so he might as well enjoy it while he could. His knees shook and he locked them, not about to see this particular childhood fantasy wash itself down the drain just because he couldn’t stand up straight.

Still kissing him, Dean pushed Sam back against the shower wall, the tile slick beneath Sam’s back as Dean moved between Sam’s legs, wet and warm and solid. Dean’s hands slowly ran over Sam’s shoulders and down his chest, pausing for a moment before slipping around to Sam’s back, holding him close. “Yeah, Sammy,” Dean breathed as he broke away from the kiss to mouth at Sam’s neck. Shuddering, Sam tossed his head back and shook the water out of his hair before coming back to nip at Dean’s jaw. He wanted to leave marks. He wanted to mark Dean up—claim him—so that everyone would know just who he belonged to. That no one would dare touch him.

Dean gasped, his hands gripping Sam’s back as Sam sank his teeth down into the sensitive skin of Dean’s throat. “Fuck…” Dean’s hips bucked forward as Dean ground himself against Sam’s thigh and Sam bit down just a little harder, giving Dean that knife-edge of pain to go with his pleasure, but stopping before he managed to draw blood.

When Sam pulled back to look at his handiwork, a bruise was already forming on Dean’s neck and Dean’s eyes were glazed over. Sam shivered and ducked his head to try it again. He liked how the mark looked against Dean’s skin, in amongst the freckles, and he wanted to add more.

Dean caught him and pulled him in for another kiss, his tongue pushing into Sam’s mouth. Sam kissed him back, their tongues winding together as the water sluiced over them.

Dean’s hand wrapped around Sam’s dick, his thumb rubbing along the side, and Sam’s head slammed back against the tile, his knees trembling again. All of his fantasies had just been put to shame by the simple fact that Dean touching him—Dean with his hand on Sam’s dick. And then Dean one-upped them: he licked at Sam’s throat and dropped to his knees. Panting, Sam looked downward, shuddering at the sight of Dean grinning up at him, holding onto Sam’s hips, before he moved his lips over Sam’s dick, rubbing them against the shaft. “Shit,” Sam whispered, his fingers stroking through Dean’s hair. “Dean…”

Water was pouring down on Sam’s body, slicking down his chest, but all Sam could feel was Dean’s hands holding him in place and his soft, warm lips brushing against him. He shook the hair out of his eyes and stared downward, not wanting to miss a moment as Dean slowly swallowed the head of Sam’s cock. Sam gasped, his eyes closing against his will and his head tipping backward. It was too much. He couldn’t take it.

Dean’s fingers formed a tight circle around the base of Sam’s cock, sliding up and down in a steady rhythm that matched the motions of Dean’s mouth, and Sam was desperately grabbing at any part of Dean that he could get a hold of. His hands scrambled over Dean’s shoulders, clasped around the back of his neck, dug into his hair—clutching for anything solid in the hope of keeping his feet on the ground.

It didn’t work.

Sam rolled his hips upward for half a moment, pushing Dean up with them before his entire body tightened and snapped straight. The hard tile dug into Sam’s shoulders as his head banged against it but Sam couldn’t feel the pain through the pleasure surging through his nerves. His world focused and narrowed before shattering into tiny, incoherent fragments and Sam’s knees finally buckled. He slid down the wall to land hard on the shower floor, the water still gushing over both him and Dean, swirling around them to stream down the drain, as he stared straight ahead at Dean’s face.

Dean licked his lips, catching a bit of white that he had missed and Sam was done. His entire body jolted with a painful aftershock and he groaned, rolling his aching head to the side. Dean chuckled. “You okay there, Sam?” he asked.

Responding to the amusement in Dean’s voice, Sam growled. He’d show Dean ‘okay.’ He lashed out and grabbed a hold of Dean’s dick before Dean had a chance to react, his fingers wrapping around the shaft. Dean’s breath stuttered. Keeping his eyes trained on Sam, Dean tentatively placed his hands on Sam’s shoulders, his thumbs rubbing in small circles. As Sam began to stroke, jerking Dean off, Dean gave a half-hearted little moan and closed his eyes, giving himself over to Sam completely. A sense of power filled Sam: it was heady to have Dean so at his mercy—shivering every time Sam ran his thumb over the head of Dean’s dick, his hips rolling in small circles in time with Sam’s strokes, and just so trusting.

Sam liked it.

He felt like he could keep it up for hours, slowly stroking Dean, his eyes watching every minute expression flittering across Dean’s face. Dean, though, didn’t have that kind of stamina. Dean’s breath hitched and his eyelids fluttered as he came, pulsing in Sam’s hand. White strands of come landed on Sam’s stomach only to be washed away by the constant water and Sam watched them go with fascination. He wanted to rub them into his skin, make them permanent.

Dean took a shaky breath and pulled Sam’s hand away. Sam’s fingers brushed against him one last time and Dean jerked to the side. “Fuck, Sam, stop…” he breathed, tugging Sam’s hands outward. “I can’t take that.”

Sam kissed him. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips against Dean’s, his tongue swiping against Dean’s bottom lip in a quick brush before he sucked the lip into his mouth. Dean paused for only half a moment before pushing hungrily back, pinning Sam against the shower wall again, their chests flush together.

They lost track of time, caught up in each other, with the water of the shower forming a cocoon around them. Real, pretend, it didn’t matter. It meant what it meant and they’d both have to deal with that. There was no way that Sam could ever let this go—could ever let Dean go.

Sam had wanted to stay in the shower forever but not even the haze he was lost in could hide wrinkled, pruned skin and it was never smart to sleep under running water. Dean had eventually pushed him away with a growling “Time for bed” that sent a shiver running down Sam’s spine.

Sam had quickly followed Dean out even as he regretted the boxers and jeans that Dean slid on over his naked skin. “I’m just gonna go check on the car,” Dean added, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. Sam rolled his eyes—that explained the jeans. Sam was well aware that Dean wasn’t going to just go check on the car. He was going to check every single door and window in the house. It was a ritual with him.

“I’ll come with you,” Sam said, pulling on his own clothes and Dean didn’t protest as Sam followed him out.

The Impala was still safe and sound in her temporary garage with the door firmly locked. Dean grinned at Sam over her hood and headed back inside, briefly checking each window as they passed it. They made it all the way to the backdoor when Dean stopped. Sam narrowly avoided running into him but kept his mouth shut as he looked over Dean’s shoulder at the dark laundry room that they were standing just outside of. Dean had his head tilted, listening to the dark and then Sam heard it, too—a quiet rustling.

He peered into the blackness of the room, looking around, seeing only the white of the washing machine—but Dean was reaching behind to pull his gun out of his waistband. Sam mimicked him, even getting the safety off before he saw the eyes.

Low to the ground, they were staring back at them like a prism, catching the faint light with a mirror sheen. The rustling stopped. And the eyes bounded away. The creature in the room skittered on the tile, nails scraping against the floor as it darted for the barely open back door. It squeezed through the crack, emerging into the light of the half moon, and Sam caught a glimpse of dark brown fur.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean hissed and then he was chasing after it, darting through the open door into the night. Sam didn’t think twice; he followed Dean.

They pursued the invader around the corner of the house where it quickly outpaced them, running across the yard and into the street. It turned left, running up the road and, in the moonlight, Sam could clearly make out the coyote’s shape.

Dean pounded after it, running up the side yard and turning at the sidewalk. Sam knew that they didn’t have a hope of catching the thing—it was faster than them—but, luckily, they didn’t have to. The coyote turned and ran into the yard of one of the neighbors.

Sam was out of breath by the time he caught up to Dean, who was panting himself, standing in front of 318. Sam gagged and covered his nose. “It…” Dean took a deep breath. “…went inside…” He nodded at Sam, hoping it was enough and Sam nodded back. The door to Joshua Mayberry’s house was wide open. Sam got the message loud and clear.

Mayberry’s house was deathly quiet as they entered, guns drawn. Sam didn’t have a clue what they would say to Mayberry if he found them wandering through his house—extremely dedicated animal control officers?—but that was a problem to worry about if it happened. Right now, he just wanted to know how the animal that they were chasing was able to open doors. He was certain that the backdoor had been shut earlier which meant that either the coyote opened it or something opened it for the creature. Sam tried to breathe shallowly as he crept through the house after Dean.

They quickly searched the bottom of the house before coming back to the stairs in the front. Dean climbed them first, his back to the wall and his gun trying to cover every other angle as Sam came up after him on his flank. Moving quickly to the first, closed door, Dean cracked it open and peeked inside. Finding it empty, he slunk past, creeping over to the next one.

It was already open.

Dean glanced back at Sam and waved at him to come closer. Sam quickly padded up the steps to stand beside him, nodding at Dean to go ahead. Taking point, Dean slipped into the room. “Fuck,” Dean whispered. He crawled forward. “Fuck, fuck, fuck… Found Mayberry.” Sam looked up at Dean who stared grimly back. “And it doesn’t look good.”

Sam moved into the room, crouching beside Dean and saw what he was talking about. There, in the bed, wrapped up in the sheets like maybe it was going to take a nap was the dried husk of what used to be Joshua Mayberry. Sam could still recognize his facial features and his hair. “Fuck,” he said.

“Yeah. Fuck.” Dean looked out the window at the ground below and then walked out of the room to look at the rest of the house. Everything looked pristine, like maybe Mayberry was going to get up any minute now and complain about his lawn again. Speaking of the lawn…

Sam stared out the patio door. Was it…drying up? “Dean.”

“Son of a bitch…” Dean said, standing beside Sam.

“Guess it got what it wanted,” Sam said grimly and Dean nodded.

“And that thing—whatever it is—”

“A coyote,” Sam supplied.

“Yeah, well, it’s gone.”

And, when they came back to examine Joshua Mayberry’s body, it was gone too.


In the background, a perky blonde was informing them about how they, too, could remove stains for only $29.95 plus shipping and handling but neither Sam nor Dean were paying her much attention—they hadn’t been for the past few hours. So much for going to bed.

Sitting on the couch with one leg kicked up on the coffee table, Sam glanced over at Dean before setting the computer on Dean’s lap. Dean, sprawled out over most of the couch, set down his book and pulled the laptop closer. He stared at the headline and read downward a bit before flicking his eyes up to meet Sam’s. Bingo.

It was an article from six months ago, printed in one of the local papers. City Councilman Accused of Accepting Bribes, it read with a picture of Joshua Mayberry underneath.

Phoenix city councilman Joshua Mayberry has been accused of allegedly accepting bribes. Jules Foxtail, a resident of the Sunrise Acres community where Mayberry lives, claims that not only has Mayberry taken cash payments and gifts in exchange for his vote on numerous city matters but also has used his influence to cover up more serious allegations. In a press conference Monday, Mayberry denied the accusations and remarked the Foxtail was “distraught and grieving.”

Foxtail’s significant other, Miguel Foxtail, disappeared two months ago. A search was never conducted despite numerous complaints from Foxtail and Mayberry has gone on record as saying, “We have other matters to focus on to spend all of our time and effort into finding one adult who should be responsible for his own actions.” Jules Foxtail could not be reached for further comment though his lawyer is confident that the case against Mayberry will move forward…

Dean nodded. “I’d say that’s a yes.” Then he handed Sam his book, his finger pointing at a specific page.

His hands sliding over the smooth, worn cover, Sam glanced at the stylized picture with the caption. Coyote, the Native American trickster figure, is a common character in many oral traditions…

“It makes sense,” Sam said, flipping the page. It explained the coyote, the deaths, the disappearances… “It even explains the paint.” He tapped the section that explained Coyote’s love of color and fringe elements. There were still a few things to figure out, like what was it doing here, but, if they were right, they’d dealt with one of these creatures before. Now they just needed to find who in Sunrise Acres had a sweet tooth the size of Mount Everest and shove one of the stakes from the Impala’s trunk through its heart.

…It was going to be next to impossible. If there was one thing that Sam had learned about Trickster demi-gods in the short time that he’d known about them and limited experience, it was that they didn’t go down easily.

“Great,” Dean muttered, sliding the laptop away and pushing himself to his feet. “I’ll go check the stakes.”

Sam smiled tightly and hoped that whoever was watching the cameras just thought that they meant the cuts of meat.

The camera controls were touchy and extra attention was given to make sure that it zoomed in just right on Sam’s face. Far too often, the camera had a habit of shooting straight on past whatever it was you were looking at to focus in with hyper quality on a single blade of grass.

It looked like the boys had figured him out—unusual but not unheard of. He had known that the Winchesters were special the moment that they’d entered his area. It was why he’d taken the time to meet them and figure them out. It was why he’d taken the time to help them figure him out. The paint, he thought, had been a nice touch—really livened up the town.

Actually, he rather liked them. They were cute—in a repressed, unhealthily co-dependant sort of way. Both were too attached to their various forms of denial but he liked to think that he’d helped them out on that regard. He certainly hoped that they’d enjoyed the present that he’d sent them—custom-made, too. He had been rather proud of that, how he’d been able to pick the memory out of Dean’s mind.

Kicking his feet up onto the counter, Coyote grinned as he took a bite of out of a Snicker’s bar, letting the chocolate melt against his tongue. Really, his only regret at the moment was that he hadn’t thought of putting cameras in the garage earlier. The boys had caught him when he’d returned to do just that but he’d decided to let them catch a little “break” in their investigation anyway. Killed two birds with one stone—taking care of Mayberry and getting to play with the Winchesters.

Really, life didn’t get much better. It was just such a shame that the game was almost done—the boys wouldn’t get a chance to figure everything out if this all went according to plan. He hoped that their self-esteem wouldn’t suffer but he was too close to wait anymore.

In the morning, Sam woke up alone. He sat up, looking around the room and only seeing the blankness of the walls and the overly fussy curtains that had come with the house. In the corner, his and Dean’s duffle bags were still sitting against the wall, both of them knowing that they weren’t going to be in the house long enough to unpack and figuring that they could get away with doing so for a few days at least. Dean’s pants from yesterday were still lying on the floor, right where he’d left them and Sam stared at them.

It was hard to believe that the last two days had happened at all. Sam’s entire life felt like it been turned on its ear. He’d spent years hiding and denying himself to just give it all up. Sam ran his hands over the soft sheets of the bed, feeling the residual warmth of Dean’s body, and closed his eyes. There was no going back.

Sam pushed himself out of bed and yanked on a pair of jeans, zipping them up as headed out the bedroom door and down the hall. He tugged a shirt over his head as he made his way to the stairs and head down. There was the unmistakable sizzle of grease frying and Sam took the stairs two at a time.

In the kitchen, Dean was standing by the stove in low-slung jeans and a blue T-shirt, a fork in one hand as he turned strips of bacon. “Morning,” Dean said. He looked completely normal, as if nothing at all unusual had happened just last night. Sam stood in the archway, staring at him. “You hungry?” Dean asked, holding up a plate with a few strips already done.

Just go with it Dean had said. Sam remembered that. Just go with it.

“Yeah,” Sam answered, crossing the space between them. Dean nodded and set the plate down on the counter, obviously expecting Sam to take it but Sam passed it right on by to stand behind Dean instead. Dean turned his head, craning it to the side to look at Sam, as Sam tentatively placed his hands on Dean’s hips. “I am.” He leaned himself up against Dean’s back as Dean smiled and flipped a few more strips.

This, Sam thought, was…nice. It would be entirely too easy to forget where they were, what they were supposed to be doing, because all Sam wanted to do was just pretend that this one moment was going to last forever.

Friday appeared to be the highlight of Sunrise Acres’ social life: there was a suffocating haze hanging in the air outside and it wasn’t just the heat. Dean felt his skin prickle with the intangible hum the moment he stepped out onto the porch. It wrapped around him like a second skin, layering itself with the coat of sweat he was already starting to sport and trickling downward. Many of the neighbors were already out and about, running to and fro though most were still scrubbing paint off their sidewalks. They were like happy little worker bees and, like a lot of things in the community, Dean thought it was just a little bit creepy. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why but the thought was there, irritating him like a mosquito bite.

He waved at Ron next door who scowled back, on his hands and knees in the driveway, bent over and scrubbing at the formerly white cement. Paul was a few feet away, singing as he scrubbed at a fence post. Dean didn’t recognize the tune—something or other about Friday and looking forward to the weekend—but he didn’t want to listen to the nasally voice Paul was singing it in long enough to find out more. Henry, the retiree, was humming quietly to himself too. …Loverboy?

Dean didn’t want to think about how boring life in Sunrise Acres must truly have been that the main entertainment was a block party, preferring instead to hope that Coldwater just threw one hell of a shindig—whether the man of the hour was there or not. Beside him, Sam shifted from one foot to the other. He hadn’t really wanted to come outside—instead half-heartedly trying to talk Dean into staying inside. Dean had been tempted too: Sam had decided to drop his arguments, accepting what it was that he wanted and Dean would be lying if he claimed that he didn’t have any use for that. But, in the end, they still had a job to do. There was still one possibly super-charged demi-god running around in Sunrise Acres taking out such people as corrupt, bribe-taking city councilmen and high-powered lawyers—a demi-god that might be lurking in any of the Mr. Rogers that populated the community, no less. He was already trying to think up neighbors who had a craving for sweets and sugar—Ron came to mind—but, smart money was still on Coldwater or someone close to him. The creature was bound to be somebody who had lots of access to wherever it wanted to go. They just needed to find out who.

A large white truck was parked just down the road with men in white jumpers scrubbing at the colorful mess with large brooms and buckets of paint thinner and working their way up the street. They had a lot of ground to cover if they were going to clean up the entire mess that Coyote—or whatever it was that they were dealing with—had left.

Dean smiled as he caught sight of Cally heading towards her front door, a paper bag balanced on each hip. Leaving Sam for a moment, he jogged up to him, holding his hands out. “Need any help?” he asked, taking one of the bags.

“Oh, I…” Cally shifted the bag that she had left to get herself more in balance. “Thanks!” She tilted her head and smiled at him.

“Just thought I’d help out,” Dean replied. Sam had already caught up to Dean and frowned at him for a moment before grappling the other bag away from Cally.

“I…” Cally looked at the both of them in dismay, her empty hands still pretending that they were holding something. “You know I can actually carry something…” She reached for the bag that Sam was holding but Sam moved out of her way, shrugging.

“I got it,” he said and Dean smirked, some small part of him liking how Sam couldn’t seem to meet either of their eyes.

Cally rolled her eyes. “Men,” she muttered and climbed up the stairs of the porch as Dean and Sam followed her.

“Hey,” Dean asked from the edge of the porch. “You didn’t hear anything last night, did you?”

Cally frowned as she opened the door. “Like another break-in?”

A break-in. A creepy, not!coyote wandering around. One of your neighbors dying horribly… “Yeah.” He smiled. “I thought I heard something last night… You know, heading over to Mayberry’s place?”

“Oh.” Cally shook her head. “No, I didn’t hear anything last night. Did you try asking Joshua?”

“That’s just it,” Dean replied. “He’s not at his house—” He cut himself off short as he ran smack-dab into Ali who looked like she was considering putting him six feet under and planting flowers on top of him. “Uh, hi.”

Cally took her bag back from Dean and pushed past Ali into the house. “Sam and Dean were just helping me carry the groceries,” she said over her shoulder and Dean hastily stepped aside to clearly display Sam.

“Just being neighborly,” Dean said. Ali didn’t look convinced as she took the other bag from Sam and a few seconds later, Dean and Sam found themselves alone on the veranda. Dean rubbed at his nose, having almost just lost it when Ali closed the door on him. “There’s someone we should check out more.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Or maybe you should stop flirting with her wife.”

“Don’t be jealous, Sammy,” Dean said with a smirk. “I’d flirt with you too but you’re no fun.” Mentally calculating the point as Sam just grit his teeth—it was rare enough for Sam not to have a comeback that Dean liked to keep track—Dean headed back across the street, toward where he saw Nick standing next to the Firebird.

“No, hey, I got it!” Nick snarled, coming around the back end of the car to stand on the other side. Alan, once again dressed to the nines despite the heat was following him.

“I really don’t think you—”

“Look, I already told you, I was a little drunk and I got lost, alright? I didn’t know that it would be a big fucking deal.” Nick yanked open the driver’s side door and pulled the seat forward, rummaging behind it.

“Rules are rules, Mr. Lestrato—”

When Nick backed out of the car, he almost slammed into Alan who was standing directly behind him. “Jesus, there, see? Here’s the receipt. I was in town then—I wasn’t ‘prowling around’ or any of your little euphemisms. I bought some fucking candy and a beer. Happy?” He thrust the scrap of paper at Alan who took it reluctantly, holding it between two fingers.

“Mr. Lestrato… This doesn’t prove anything.”

Nick snatched the receipt back and then shoved it into Alan’s face. “Yes, it does. You see that time stamp? 9:34. I was at the store at 9:34 so there’s no way that I could have been skulking around Mayberry’s place and I don’t care what he said.”


“Couldn’t have been up at the mansion now, either, could I? I was down talking with Billy. Maybe doing a little something else, too, so why don’t you go ask him?”

Alan pinched his lips together. “Yes, I understand that you and Mr. Hainsworth occasionally have…relations. That’s hardly the point.”

“Then what is the point here? Because I’m a little lost. All these accusations, they’re starting to get me all confused because I don’t know why anyone would make them and I don’t understand why you’d believe them. I was with Billy last night—”

“We’ll just let the subject drop, yes?” Alan interrupted, cutting off Nick before Nick had a chance to elaborate just exactly what he’d been doing. “I’ve certainly done my duty and it is just something for you to keep in mind, Mr. Lestrato.”

“Oh, certainly,” Nick snapped. “I’ll just make sure not to wander by Joshua Mayberry’s yard anymore because I know how much it distresses him.”

Nick looked ready to start breathing fire but Alan wasn’t melting. He turned, icily perfect, and calmly walked down the driveway. “Have a good day,” he called over his shoulder. He nodded politely at Sam and Dean before crisply making his way down the street to where the cleaners were hard at work.

Dean watched him go for a minute before turning to face Nick, his eyebrows raised. “Whoa.”

Nick sighed, shaking his head. “It’s ridiculous. No fucking right.”

As Dean moved away, he felt Sam grab at his hand but he deftly avoided the attempt. He didn’t need Sam clinging to him like a limpet just because he felt threatened or something. Dean still thought it was odd that a community manager would ever have that kind of reaction to a resident. “He’s kind of a douchebag, isn’t he?” Dean asked. He leaned against the car as Nick just shook his head. “Hey, man, it’s fine—”

Nick shook his head harder. “It’s not worth talking about.”

“Sure,” Dean said, nodding. He knew that he was hitting a brick wall on the issue and it wasn’t worth pursuing if it was just going to shut Nick down. “So how’s the car?” he asked, turning to look at it. “Came out looking pretty good, right?”

“Listen, Dean…” Nick frowned. “I really don’t have time right now.” He scratched his head and tried to force a smile, ending up only halfway there. “Sorry.”

Dean raised his hands and backed up. “Fair enough,” he said and Nick took the words as his cue to leave, heading into his house.

“You were saying something about people to investigate?” Sam asked and Dean turned on him.

“It’s not Nick,” Dean replied, not even bothering to think about it. “Nick moved in after everything started going down, remember?”

“Doesn’t mean that he still couldn’t be involved,” Sam said but Dean shrugged.

“Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk.” Or, more to the point, maybe Nick just didn’t want to talk to Dean. Dean frowned, remembering the kiss from yesterday. It made sense that a guy coming off a fight like Nick and Alan’s wouldn’t want to talk to the person who had rejected him just the day before.

So why were Dean’s instincts wanting to believe Sam’s opinion about there being something off about Nick?

At six, the whole community of Sunrise Acres started a mass migration, the whole town picking itself up and moving down the streets as it compacted itself together. Dean had taken one look at the bizarre little event and pronounced it to be like a herd of lemmings heading towards a cliff—even as he’d forced Sam out into the middle of it. They’d join the laughing, joking crowd on its slow amble, pulled along by some kind of bizarre Pied Piper song that Sam couldn’t hear. It was as if the journey was as much a ritual as the actual party itself.

Dean had taken it in stride, latching on to Cally and nearly dwarfing her as Ali rolled her eyes. Apparently, she was okay with Dean as long as he was in her sight. “You’re supposed to dance with your own date,” Ali said, her hand intertwined with Cally’s. Sam amended his earlier assessment to Ali being okay with Dean as long as he was in her sight and she was firmly attached to Cally. “Not everyone else’s.”

Dean glanced back at Sam and smiled. “Sam doesn’t dance. And he knows where to find me if he wants to.” Sam ignored him, turning instead to watch Dan and Sally Klempf stumbling their way down the sidewalk. Apparently, Sally had started the party a little early but, in her defense, she was just trying to catch up to Dan. Sam nodded tensely as they staggered into him, laughing at each other before leaning on each other and lurching away. An elbow dug into Sam’s side. “Lighten up, Sammy,” Dean whispered. “People are going to think you’re on your way to a funeral.”

With Coyote possibly waiting for them? They just might be. As far as Sam was concerned, Coldwater was still their main suspect but even if he wasn’t, Sam still thought that he’d find some answers at Coldwater’s place.

Sunrise Acres was laid-out in a grid-like formation, the curve of the streets being only window dressing to the orderliness of it all and, centered right smack dab in the middle was Coldwater’s crown jewel. Like a lord’s manor looking over its fiefdom, the mansion itself was a lavish and sprawling affair with its own set of gates surrounding it, but, with the hundreds of people crowded inside of it, even it seemed a bit…small. Stuffed inside, having followed the crowd in, Sam was pushed against the wall of what looked to be a ballroom. The house itself was filled to bursting with people from the community, all drinking and chatting with one another as they wandered from room to room on the ground floor.

There had to have been hundreds of people and Sam only recognized a small percentage. Beside him, Dean was grinning and waving at everybody he knew—or thought he knew—like a small town prom queen with a beer held tightly in one hand. Sam let him run defense on the small talk as Sam focused on scanning the various rooms that they meandered into, looking for a way to escape and slip upstairs where Coldwater had to be hiding.

“Hey, Steve!” Dean said, clasping the hand of one of their neighbors. Sam vaguely remembered that he was a tax accountant. “Where’s Beth?” And that he was married. Steve murmured something about Beth getting more beer but Sam tuned him out because he finally saw his chance. Almost hidden behind a veritable forest of potted plants in the corner of the ballroom, winding up along the right side, was a set of stairs. Sam shifted his weight as he judged his chances of being able to reach the stairs without getting stopped by a neighbor.

Dean nudged him with an elbow. “Think we can make it?” he asked quietly. Sam nodded, trying to casually make his way to the small indoor forest. If he could just get behind it, nobody would be able to see him.

As they neared the plants, Sam saw a growing mini-forest of beer bottles growing in front of the orange pots. Dean added to the collection, setting his bottle next to the others, and glanced around the room. Sam set his own drink next to Dean’s and waved weakly at a passing couple. “Great party,” he muttered and they nodded their agreement as they disappeared into the crowd.

“On the count of three,” Dean whispered and Sam only had a brief moment to stare at him before he hissed out “Three!” and yanked Sam backwards behind the small forest of potted plants. Off-balance, Sam crashed against Dean before catching himself on the railing. Dean grinned at him and steadied him, then climbed up over the railing that they were now beside, settling himself down on the fourth step of the stairs.

“You could have warned me,” Sam muttered, pulling himself up and over as well. The stairs were an off-white with a red runner running down them and mostly hidden from the rest of the room.

“And miss that look on your face?” Dean shot back, quietly, already bounding up the steps. “Hurry up before someone starts looking behind fucking Sherwood Forest there for us.” Sam snorted and followed him, climbing the stairs as fast as he could. When Dean reached the top, he paused for a moment, looking both ways before rounding the corner. The hallway that the stairs opened up into stretched in either direction, looking about a hundred miles long and Sam felt his heart sink. Talk about impossible…

If it wasn’t for all the eyes that he’d been feeling, Sam almost wished that he was back in the ballroom. Speaking of that…

Sam stared up at the ceiling, trying to see if he could spot any tiny cameras but Dean elbowed him. “If they’re there, you’re not going to find them and they already know. Act natural and if we’re caught, just pretend we’ve been looking for the bathroom.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Nobody would ever fall for that.”

“Sure they would,” Dean replied. “You just have to try it.” He walked confidently forward. “Now we just need to figure out which one of these doors that the Wizard of Oz is hiding behind…” He pushed open the first door on the right and peered inside. “Nope.”

This, Sam thought, might take awhile. He stared at the expanse of white wall, broken every now and then by a door or a generic painting. A long, long while. He sighed and tried the first door on the left. Dean was already on his third.

They made it about half the way down the hallway before the door that Sam had been about to try opened itself. Shocked, he could only stand there and stare as Alan Peachtree did a double-take. Alan, about a head shorter than Sam, stared up at him. “Can…can I help you?” he asked.

“Uh…” Sam’s brain stuttered to a stop. Fuck!

“We’re lookin’ for a bathroom,” Dean said and Sam had to glance down at him because Dean’s words were slurred together. Dean slammed up against him, nearly knocking him off balance and Sam caught himself against a door jamb. “I really gotta go.”

Alan forced a smile. It only served to make him look constipated rather than friendly. “The bathrooms downstairs,” he said tensely, sounding like he trying very hard not to be offended by Dean’s drunken act.

“They’re all full!” Dean swayed and Sam caught him, wrapping his arms around Dean’s middle. “And I’ve really gotta go.”

“He’s really got to go,” Sam repeated, mentally crossing his fingers.

Alan winced. “I’m sorry. There’s just no bathrooms on the second floor. Just down the stairs, though, and through the main archway, there’s a small hidden one on the right. I’m sure that it has remained undiscovered.” He pointed back down the stairs and Dean shrugged.

“Sure thing, Captain Hair Gel…” Dean slurred, stumbling his way backward as he leaned heavily on Sam.

Fuck. So much for investigating the upstairs. Maybe they could try again later on? Sam really didn’t want to think about what it would be like trying to break into Coldwater’s place.

“Mr. Mustaine?” Alan called and it took Sam a beat to realize that Alan was referring to him. “Could I have a word? Alone?”

Dean slipped away from Sam, humming tunelessly to himself as he pretended that he still couldn’t walk straight, gripping the railing on his way down the stairs. Sam swallowed, watching him go before joining Alan.

“Your partner seems very given to drinking,” Alan said quietly. Sam frowned. “Not that that’s a problem—we all enjoy a little here and there—but alcoholism can be a disease, Mr. Mustaine.”

“Dean’s not—”

“Of course not, I didn’t mean to imply so. I’m sure he’s just excited about the new move.” Alan placed a hand on Sam’s elbow, ushering him inside the room that he’d just been about to leave. “I’m just concerned is all—and I wanted to tell you about some of the great programs that we here at Sunrise Acres have…”

Sam swallowed, seeing the desk with the mountains of paperwork piled on it. This was going to take longer than the search through the endless hallway of doors, wasn’t it? Sam reluctantly sat down beside the large bowl of candy in the corner.

Well, fuck, Dean thought, joining the milling crowd on the first floor again. There went that way out and now Sam was tied up. Thankfully not literally. Dean glanced with concern back at the mostly hidden staircase. At least he hoped that it wasn’t literally. At any rate, Dean was going to have to find another way upstairs. The good news was that he knew where Alan was skulking around. That put him one up from where he’d been a few minutes ago. He considered saving Sam—Alan would probably bore him to tears with a well-meaning lecture—but, if time had proven anything, Sam was a big boy. He could handle himself.

He always had more of a tolerance for that kind of thing than Dean anyway.

Dean smiled at a few people that smiled back at him—who they were he didn’t have a fucking clue but from the way the blond one was checking him out, he was pretty sure he hadn’t met them before—and moved deeper into the mansion.

That was one thing that Dean couldn’t understand: why would one guy ever need so much space? It was just crazy. Sure, Coldwater threw parties and all, but, most of the time, he lived in this big huge mansion all by himself when Dean was sure that you’d probably be able to house all of Sunrise Acres inside of it.

It probably cost a small fortune to cool the thing in the hot summer months.

He found the bathroom that Alan had mention by accident, stumbling into it while trying to avoid an out of control Conga line. He’d pressed against what he thought was a wall and had just fallen right on in, catching himself on the wall and ending up staring straight down at the toilet seat that he’d almost landed on. Was that…gold?

Who was he kidding? Rich people were crazy. It was completely possible that Steven. J. Coldwater had built the mansion full of rooms that he’d never use just to say that he had them. That was the kind of shit that the obscenely rich lived for. Matter of fact, if Dean got rich one day, he might do the exact same thing, just to say that he had. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Even if that meant building huge, mostly useless mansions with golden toilet seats.

He backed out of the bathroom and turned to view the room at large. He was in another one of Coldwater’s indistinguishable rooms—the kind that never seemed to run out. People that Dean had never seen before were milling, laughing and chatting, but one familiar face stood out.

Nick was striding through the crowd as if it wasn’t even there, heading towards the back with purpose in his step. Dean watched him go, the crowd parting before him like he was Moses, and made a snap decision. Something in his gut was screaming at him to follow.

He pushed through the crowd, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible as he kept his eyes firmly trained on the back of Nick’s head. Nick moved through two more nearly identical rooms, each one less densely packed than the last, until he finally pushed open a door in the back of the house. Dean caught the door before it closed and peeked around it.

Nick had apparently found the kitchen with its stainless steel countertops—though it seemed to be exactly where he wanted to be. He kept moving, walking into one of the pantries. And not coming back out. Dean blinked. What the…?

After a quick glance behind to see if anyone was watching, Dean crept slowly into the kitchen, cautiously making his way over to where Nick had disappeared. His hand reached back behind to grip the handle of the gun that was tucked into his waistband as he inched around the corner to look into the pantry.

There were no pots and pans, no food items, nothing one would expect in a pantry. Instead, Dean found a flight of stairs descending down into darkness. Well son of a bitch…

Metal and sparse, they looked nothing like the rest of the house, seemingly embedded into the wall like pieces of rebar. Knowing that Nick had to be down somewhere in the pitch black and wondering how he’d known about the little passageway, Dean slunk forward down the stairs, crouching after each step and peering into the darkness.

The stairs wound around in a tight circle, doubling back on themselves after only a few feet giving Dean just barely enough room for his head to clear the bottom of the steps above him. A few full circles down and he finally caught sight of a light—a soft flickering blue—like a computer screen.

A shadow moved past the light and Dean froze on the steps, peering through the bars of the railing at the room that he was entering from above. Nick—just barely visible in the faint light—was riffling through a file cabinet on the far side of the room, it’s metal drawers slamming closed each time he failed to find what he was looking for. As Dean watched, Nick moved onto another one, his fingers flying over the tabbed folders. Every now and then, Nick would pull a folder out of the drawer and flip through it before tossing it back. What the hell was he looking for? Dean tilted his head and quietly pulled his gun out of his waistband.

The only thing that he was sure of at the moment was that neither him nor Nick were supposed to be here in this room. With Nick occupied for the time being, Dean turned to find the source of the light that was weakly illuminating the room.

He nearly fell over. Two full banks of computer monitors were mounted on the wall, spanning the length of the room and they looked to be recording Sunrise Acres from every conceivable angle. Beneath them was a control panel complete with all the requisite dials and buttons and Dean swore silently. It was no longer a question of if Coldwater was recording them—it was a money back guarantee.

“Found you,” Nick whispered in the silent room and Dean jumped. Paper crinkled as Nick pulled a form out of the folder in his hand, turning a few pages. “You son of a bitch…” Nick said, his eyes scanning the pages. “I knew it was you.” Keeping the papers, he dropped the folder back into the drawer and slammed it shut and Dean decided that he’d better move his ass before Nick caught him spying on him. He crept up the stairs, hitting the top and re-entering the pantry just in time to hear Nick climbing up after him.

Dean made a break for the door of the kitchen only to see the handle start to turn. Fuck! He reversed, his boots sliding a little with the momentum and darted back to one of the other pantries lining the wall, pushing himself inside as best as he was able, his elbow digging into a large sack of flour. He pulled his lip back into a snarl and shoved at the offending bag as he gripped his gun. He hoped that he was just overreacting but better safe than sorry and he was stuck now, for better or for worse.

“You’re an interesting man, Mr. Mustaine,” Alan suddenly said, turning in his chair. After giving Sam a pamphlet on AA meetings, he’d convinced Sam to sit down at his desk. Sam folded his hands on his lap, wondering if he’d made a mistake. “I trust that you’re liking Sunrise Acres?”

“Oh, yeah,” Sam replied, nodding. “We love it here.” For some reason, he felt compelled to stress that he and Dean were here together and not separately.

Alan smiled briefly. “I hear you’ve been out meeting the neighbors.” He let the end of the statement trail off, waiting for Sam to pick up on it.

“We introduced ourselves to a few,” Sam said. “It’s a big community.”

“That it is…” Alan trailed off again. “I hear that you and your partner have been asking a lot of questions.”

Shit, Sam thought. Shit, shit, shit. This sounded like a talk he’d had a million times before, mostly with suspicious sheriffs in small town everywhere. Sam wondered where Dean was and if he’d found Coldwater. He tried to keep his face neutral as his brain desperately scrambled around for a reply to Alan’s statement. Sam shrugged casually. “We were curious about the area.”

Alan leaned forward. “I wanted to tell you, Mr. Mustaine…” he started, “that we here at Sunrise Acres value our security very highly and we’re doing everything possible to get to the bottom of the situations that we’ve been having. There’s no need to worry. I assure you that the authorities are taking care of it.” He punctuated his sentence with a smile, like he’d just remembered that he should do so. “This is a very good neighborhood and I hope that you feel completely at ease.”

“Oh, we do,” Sam replied, nodding hurriedly. “We do. Completely at ease.”

“Good.” Alan’s hand snaked out and latched onto Sam’s arm. Sam stared at it warily, like it was a viper sinking in its fangs. “Because I wouldn’t want you to worry.”

Clearing his throat, Sam subtly moved away from Alan’s touch. “I, uh, should go check on Dean.”

“Of course,” Alan said, sounding vaguely disappointed. Sam really didn’t want to examine why. He stood.

“So I…” Sam pointed at the closed door of Alan’s office.

“Down the stairs and through the main archway, Mr. Mustaine,” Alan said, leaning back to start stacking some papers. “I trust that you can find the staircase?”

“Oh, yeah. Got it covered.” Sam gave Alan an awkward thumbs up as he backed towards the door and fumbled for the knob. When Alan dropped his eyes to the stack of paper that he was holding, Sam was out the door, bursting into the hallway.

Alan had kept him tied up for awhile. There was hope that Dean had taken advantage of the distraction and started searching the upstairs again. With that in mind, Sam avoided the staircase and headed quickly down the hallway, wanting to near the end before Alan thought to emerge from his office again. At the end of the hall, he turned a corner and at the end of that one, he turned another.

He kept going until he reached a dead end containing two, imposing double doors of a dark, rich wood. Engraved and glossy, they ran from nearly floor to ceiling, looking like they’d just come from a church cathedral instead of a house. After taking a deep, steadying breath, Sam gently tried one and watched it swing open soundlessly. He peeked his head inside to find another empty sitting room but one more ornate than any of the other ones in the mansion. It was also bigger and, for the most part, wide open with a wall that half separated it from yet another room. Curious, Sam slipped inside, closing the door behind him as he padded across the intricately designed rug to the dividing wall to look on the other side.

The room was dark, light just barely filtering through the drawn drapes but Sam could make out a huge bed that dominated the other room, covered with yards and yards of a white gauzy canopy that muted the deep burgundy of the bedspread.

Sam glanced around the room again, finding nothing but ornate wardrobes and paintings with a few bookshelves here and there. There was nothing of pressing interest in the room besides the bed and, as Sam stepped closer, fully entering the room, a slow mechanical beep. As he moved nearer, Sam realized that part of what he thought was the bed was, in fact, a large machine that ran from end to end, tubes of all sizes spilling out from it like a science experiment gone wrong. Sam took another step forward and then froze.

There on the bed, looking hardly alive, was a frail man, deeply asleep, his thin chest lifting slowly with each wheezing, rattling breath. His entire face was sunken, the skin stretched tight and thin around his face, and his gray-speckled hair was lank, plastered against his forehead. The tubes from the machine where connecting to him—oxygen, IVs and other life-sustaining measures—and Sam was willing to bet that the machine next to him was the only thing keeping the man alive. Despite the haggard appearance, Sam recognized the face from the photographs that he and Dean had dug up before arriving in Sunrise Acres. The dying man in front of him was none other than Steven J. Coldwater, billionaire and the founder of Sunrise Acres—Steven J. Coldwater who looked like he already had both feet in the grave.

Sam jerked away in surprise. Jesus. Coldwater looked like he’d put in an oven and baked at about 350, he was so dried out. The bed around him was smoothly made, like Coldwater never disturbed it—like he was in a coma. Sam thought furiously, weighing the possibilities and wondering if he and Dean had been barking up the wrong tree. Coldwater looked as if he hadn’t been healthy in a long time. He couldn’t possibly be the Trickster or even be behind it. There had to be someone else.

Sam scanned the room, looking past the withered man and the bulky machine to the heavy drapes that kept Coldwater’s slowly dying body shut off from the rest of the world. Sam turned and looked behind himself to study the bookshelves against the far wall. They looked like the books that Sam had found the auction receipts on—old, powerful. Dusty.

Wondering if Coldwater had been messing with books beyond his understanding, Sam crept up to the bookcase, tilting his head as he looked at the spines. Not a one seemed to have a title. They were the kind of books that a person was just supposed to know what they contained. If you didn’t, then they weren’t meant for you. Sam reached out and touched one with a dark leather binding, pulling it gently. To his surprise, it seemed to be stuck. Frowning, Sam pulled harder.

Instead of the book coming off the shelf like he expected, Sam jumped backwards as the entire shelf moved backward, sliding into the wall. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Sam said softly. Secret passage ways operated by random books on shelves were supposed to exist only in the movies. Dean would probably geek out if he saw it. Sam swallowed. He still had to find Dean.

He wondered if Dean had found anything as bizarre as Coldwater’s withered body and a secret passage. He wondered if something else had found Dean…

Sam firmed his jaw and entered the passage. Wherever it led, it was sure to be someplace important and he needed to know. The passage way was tight, the walls just barely giving him enough room for his shoulders to pass through and smelled of musk and mold. Sam wondered how long it had been before this hallway had even been used. It must have, however, been built by Coldwater as he was the one who had designed the mansion. He pulled out his cell phone to light the way and gingerly stepped forward.

Sam inched his way along the passageway and every time he reached a stud, he’d have to turn sideways just to get by. It was hard to see in the light glow of his phone and Sam almost pitched face first down the metal stairs when he reached them, not expecting the drop. With no other exits to the passageway, the stairs disappeared into the darkness, swirling downward in a dizzying spiral. Sam firmly gripped the railing as he climbed downward. The stairs seemed to go on forever.

Dean held his breath, firmly tucked away and not daring to make a sound as he heard the door open and the sharp click of dress shoes against the tile. The steps stopped before they reached him, pausing in front of the pantry with the staircase. “What are you…?” Dean swallowed as he recognized Alan’s voice.

“Oh, I was hoping I’d run into you tonight...” Nick purred and Dean heard Alan take a few more quick steps—this time backward.

“What do you mean by that?” Alan asked, sounding oddly breathless. Dean stared at the wooden stud in front of him. There was fear in Alan’s voice. That couldn’t be good.

“You didn’t think I would find out? You didn’t think I’d know? I had you pegged the moment I stepped foot in this town.”

“I have no idea what you’re—put that down.” The last three words came out pinched, almost overlapping each other.

“Nah. Wouldn’t want to get mine all dirty, you see. And you’ve got to pay for what you did to Louie.”

Another few steps and then a pained gasp. “I don’t know a Louie!” Alan hissed.

“Yeah, you do.” Nick sounded calm and collected—dispassionately cool to counteract Alan’s rising panic. “Louie Bravada. You hired him eight months ago to do a job for you. Taking care of some pain-in-the-ass hippie who couldn’t keep his mouth shut.” Miguel, Dean’s mind supplied, slotting a puzzle piece into place. Dean could hear Alan’s breathing now—hard and fast and punchy, like he couldn’t get enough air. “Don’t deny it. I found the contract you and he signed. Don’t know the details but I sure as hell know he didn’t come back from that job.” Dean jumped as a loud thwap! echoed through the room—like a rolled up newspaper hitting a solid surface.

“You don’t think…? That’s ridiculous!”

“Oh, I know you killed him. Or had him killed. I don’t know how a limp-dicked son of a bitch like yourself managed it but I know you did it. Louie would have come back if he wasn’t dead.”

“I didn’t—!”

A scuffle broke out, Nick’s quieter steps mixing in with Alan’s clicks before Alan whimpered. Dean cocked his gun and leaned outward. Nick and Alan were on the other side of the room, Nick nearly bending Alan over with one hand pulling at his hair and holding him in place while the other held a long silver knife to Alan’s wildly bobbing throat. “You know how I know you did it?” Nick asked, a hint of amusement in his voice. He smiled. “Got a phone call from Louie right after the job. Said he was coming back just as soon as he got his payment. That he was going to have to teach some rich snobby bitch his place in life because the bastard was refusing to pay for services rendered. Last time I ever talked to Louie.”

“Please…” Alan’s voice broke on a sob.

“Best damn partner I ever had, too…”

“Please don’t kill me… Whatever you want—!” The knife punctured Alan’s throat, moving in deep enough to sever his vocal cords as Nick placed a hand over his mouth.

“Just want you dead,” Nick said softly and, with the smooth efficiency of someone who’d done it countless times, he began dragging Alan’s body towards the walk-in cooler.

Dean jerked back into the relative safety of the pantry, his eyes wide. Nick… Nick was a hired killer, wasn’t he? And undoubtedly the partner of the guy who had killed Miguel Foxtail eight months ago—Jules had been right. Miguel hadn’t been missing: he was dead.

Just like Alan.

Jesus, Alan was dead. And Dean was going to be next if Nick caught him. Go figure that he and Sam would show up to try and hunt down some creature only to find a fucking serial killer.

Sam. Dean’s thought processes stopped, hung on that one word. He had to go find Sam. Sam had no idea what Nick was capable of. He’d been suspicious, yeah, but there was no way that he could have expected this.

Dean peeked back around the corner to find no trace of Nick or Alan’s body: he wasn’t likely to get a better chance. Pushing off of the bag of floor, he scrambled his way back into the main kitchen and pushed himself to his feet, heading for the door back to the party.

Nick just happened to beat him there. Standing up from where he’d been squatting down, digging through one of the cabinets, Nick cocked his head. “Dean?”

Dean forced himself to start breathing again and hurriedly shoved his gun into his waistband at his back. Letting go of it felt almost painful. “Oh, hey!” he said, putting as much cheer as he could manage into his voice. “Dude, you wouldn’t believe how lost I am. I mean, this is a pretty big place, huh?” He put on what he hoped was an engaging smile but Nick didn’t look like he was buying it: he was staring blankly at Dean.

“Lost?” he asked quietly and Dean nodded.

“Lost,” he repeated. “But, hey, doesn’t that door lead back to the party?” Nick turned to look at the door that Dean was pointing at and then came back to fix Dean with another icy stare. Dean’s skin was crawling but he tried not to let it show. Trying to appear casual, he moved next to Nick, his fingers brushing against the smooth wood. “So if we just go through here…”

Nick’s fingers wrapped around Dean’s wrist, stopping him dead. “How much did you see?” Nick asked, sounding as if he was asking about the weather and not, say, a preliminary question to jabbing a knife into Dean’s neck.

“See?” Dean kept his voice as innocent sounding as he could. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hey, you mind letting me go, that’s starting to hurt…”

Nick’s grip tightened. “Liar,” he whispered, his free hand sliding down Dean’s back to rest against the bulge in Dean’s shirt. Nick’s fingers brushed against Dean’s skin as they pulled the gun free. Dean let himself sag, pretending that he was giving up and Nick took the bait, hook, line and sinker. A small smile crossed his face. “That’s better,” Nick said. “We don’t have to do this the hard way…” Dean jammed his knee into Nick’s groin and, as the man doubled over in pain, Dean socked him in the jaw with his left fist, sending him to the floor. Nick snarled as he slapped against the tile, already starting to push himself up. Dean turned on his heel and darted for one of the many side exits to the kitchen, making a run for it. Where he was going, he didn’t have a clue, but it was obvious that the party wasn’t an option anymore.

The stairs emptied out into a small room and Sam cautiously stepped down into it. Apprehension was gnawing at him and Sam pulled out his gun, needing the weight of it to remind him of where he was and what he was doing. A faint glow of monitors illuminated the room, casting shadows across the console and the lone chair. In the corner, another set of stairs spiraled up to places unknown. It looked to be some kind of security room but why would Coldwater’s bedroom link to a security guard station?

Sam squinted at one of the screens and the answer him like a punch to the gut. A wave of nausea came over him as he finally realized what the room was. He stared from screen to screen, taking in each and every different angle before looking down at the controls. They were probably for switching to all the other cameras that Coldwater had installed over the years. Beside one of the dials sat a half-eaten Snickers, carefully rewrapped and Sam felt his stomach bottom out. It hadn’t been Coldwater watching them—it had been their monster. Watching their every move and laughing at them.

Sam slammed his fist into the control board. They had to have been played as soon as they’d stepped foot into Sunrise Acres. He snarled, looking up at the cameras again—yep, there was the one over their bed back at the house and the monitor underneath that one displayed the kitchen. More had shots of the living room, the hallways, even the damn bathrooms. Nearly half of the monitors were set to display cameras from Dean and Sam’s house—inside and out.

The other half… Sam frowned, recognizing the large expanse of Coldwater’s private yard with the meticulously pruned shrubs and… “Dean?”

Just off center of the screen, Sam could make out Dean barreling across the grass, his arms pumping as he ran for all he was worth. Sam gripped the edge of the monitor. “Dean!” A man was chasing after Dean, his arms reaching out and nearly snagging the flare of Dean’s overshirt. It was just a matter of time before the man managed to catch him—he was outpacing Dean. The man curled a fist around Dean’s shirt, yanking him backwards and Dean stumbled as his momentum was stopped. He twisted, slipping out of the shirt and trying to continue on but he was already down: the man jumped him, taking him to the ground. Dean’s head was slammed into the ground once, twice, three times and then he wasn’t struggling anymore.

Sam’s breath caught in his throat until he saw the weak movements of Dean’s arms. Oh thank God, he was still alive. But probably not for much longer.

The man on top of Dean suddenly turned toward the camera, waving at someone just outside of the cameras range and Sam’s felt sick as he recognized Nick. He knew it. He fucking knew it. Nick was pulling Dean to his feet to half drag him off and Sam shoved himself away from the monitors, heading for the stairs. He had to stop Nick.

Dean shook his head groggily as he came to. Fuck but it hurt. What the hell had he been drinking? And for that matter, his arms felt pinched, like he’d spent the night in a ditch or something. He better not have. He’d kill Sam.

Dean slowly opened his eyes, catching sight of a white tile floor and he stared at it, wondering what it was doing in front of him. Until he realized he was lying on it. “Oh, good. You’re awake,” a voice told him and Dean found himself rolled over, his arms completely useless and bound behind him. Nick smiled down at him. “I really didn’t want to have to do this, Dean,” he said.

Everything came flooding back to Dean—the camera room, Alan’s murder, the mad dash he’d made and Nick catching him. He pushed at the gag in his mouth, trying hard to get his tongue free enough to form words.

“Because I like you,” Nick continued, pushing himself upward and reaching over the kitchen island. “I do. You’re a cool guy. In another life, who knows? We could have been good for each other.” Nick glanced down at Dean. “Of course, you would have had to meet me before Louie. Or, hey, maybe after. Depends on how good you are, really.” Nick knelt back down beside Dean and Dean’s eyes widened as he caught sight of the butcher knife in Nick’s hand. He squirmed backwards, sliding on the floor and Nick dropped a hand to his thigh to drag him back down. “Aw, don’t be that way,” he said. “Look, I promise to make it quick and all. Like I said, I like you. ‘Course, now, I can’t have you going to tell the cops or anything so I have to do this but I don’t really want to.” Nick bit his lip and ran his fingers over Dean’s thigh, moving up to Dean’s hip to find a patch of skin above Dean’s waistband. “We could have some fun before, you know.”

Dean shied away, his body rolling with the revulsion filling him. At one point in time, he’d found Nick attractive. Now he was pretty sure he’d rather go fuck a tree. He knew, though, from the way Nick’s eyes were filling with heat, that ‘no’ really wasn’t going to be an answer.

“Never would have thought that skinny little prick had it in him, would you?” Nick asked, his hand rubbing against Dean’s stomach. “I never would have guessed. I thought for sure it was that rich fatcat, Coldwater. That was before I got a good look at him, the poor bastard. He’s fried.” Nick shrugged and reached for Dean’s belt buckle. “Anyway. Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

Dean shouted, struggling as best as he could in his bonds, trying to get away but Nick just thought that it was all one big game. He grinned, batting Dean to and fro like a playful cat and a bitter wave of frustration washed over Dean, cut through with an edge of helplessness that made him fight harder. No, damn it!

“Would you just—” Glass shattered overtop of them as the kitchen window behind Nick exploded inward. Dean heard a growl and then Nick screamed, rearing backward and clutching at his shoulder. Dean’s heart skipped a beat as he saw a muzzle clamping onto Nick’s skin but there wasn’t any time to react. He was stuck, lying there and watching it happen.

Nick whipped around, slamming his fist against the coyote that was on top of him, pounding at its rib cage, his hits getting more and more desperate each time. No matter how hard he fought, the coyote refused to be shaken loose and, as Dean watched, the skin of Nick’s face became tighter, thinner. His body began to shrink, losing its muscle mass and its tone—like his life was being such right out of him.

Jesus. Using every last bit of strength he had, Dean bucked upward, twisting to roll all three of them—himself, Nick and the coyote. Nick tumbled to the floor, landing on top of the coyote who yipped, finally releasing the man as it struggled to get out from underneath of him. Dean stared down at Nick, barely able to believe his eyes as the shell of the man that Nick had been wheezed beneath him. That was…

Dean struggled to his feet, putting some distance between himself and the creature that was pulling itself out from under the wreckage that was Nick. The coyote stared back at him and, for a moment, it was a stand-off.

A wooden stake stabbed into the coyote’s side, the creature yipping in pain as blood gushed out around the wound and Dean stumbled backwards, wheeling around to find Sam standing next to him, shoving the stake in deeper.

The coyote’s form wavered, slipping from the dog into something vaguely human before evaporating and blowing away like dust. The stake tumbled harmlessly to the tile, clacking against the floor as Sam dropped it and turned to Dean. “Dean,” he said, pulling at the gag in Dean’s mouth. “Are you alright?”

Dean shook his head free of the gag, and scraped his tongue against his teeth, trying to get rid of the taste. “Did we kill it?” he asked. Sam shrugged, already working on the ropes that bound Dean’s arms. “Damn it,” Dean swore. As Sam pulled the knots free, Dean nodded at Nick’s body on the floor. “Did it kill him?” He rubbed at his sore wrists. Nick didn’t look to be breathing anymore. He wasn’t a mummy but he did look like he’d been left out in the sun for a century too long.

Sam knelt down beside Nick, his fingers searching for a pulse point on his neck. “I think so,” he said.

“Fantastic,” Dean muttered. Nick had been killed right in front of him. Granted, Nick apparently hadn’t been the best guy around but Dean still felt useless that he hadn’t even managed to save him.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked, standing up.

Dean scowled. “Of course I am.”

“Because you’re swaying. And your head got pounded into the ground.” Yeah, Dean remembered that. It had sucked.

Sam’s hands brushed over his face and they felt so good that, for once, Dean didn’t bother to complain.

The first thing that Sam did once he got Dean back in the house was check him over for injuries—as much as Dean would allow him to, that was. Even at the best of times, Dean could only put up with so much fussing before he rebelled. As it was, he let Sam get out the flashlight to check for signs of a concussion and waited patiently while Sam brushed his fingers through Dean’s hair, feeling for any signs of damage. But that was it—he pushed Sam away with a grumble when Sam tried to bandage his hair but even Sam had to admit that it was overkill.

At the moment, Sam was wondering if it would be safe to let Dean go to sleep or not. On one hand, possible closed head injuries were never good things but, on the other, Sam hadn’t found any evidence of a concussion and Dean was starting to get cranky due to a lack of sleep. The current dilemma, though, was the reason why they were both awake—some more graciously than others—when the knock on the door came. Sam grabbed his gun and moved to answer the door while Dean held his own—retrieved from Nick’s corpse earlier—and flattened himself against the wall. No good news ever came this late at night.

Sam could see a slim, shadowy figure through the glass of the door and he hid his gun beside his leg as he opened the door. The gun nearly slipped through Sam’s nerveless fingers. Standing at the front door was none other than Alan Peachtree. For a man who’d supposedly died a few hours ago, he was looking remarkably healthy. Sam steadied his gun, aiming it at Alan’s chest and wishing he’d thought to grab a stake.

Alan shook his head. “We both know that’s not going to work, Sam.” The human mask slipped a bit, showing the creature underneath before coming back up. “Now why don’t you tell Dean to come out from behind the door so we can talk?” Sam’s eyes darted over to meet Dean’s and Alan smiled. “Just drop the routine. The ‘I threaten you, you hassle me’ is over and done.” Alan’s familiar speech patterns had dropped away and Sam blinked. “Hey,” the creature said, holding out his arms. “You already know who I am and you know what I can do. Coyote’s been around for a long time guys.”

Sam dropped his gun and, looking distinctly unhappy about it, Dean followed suit. A smile crossed Alan’s face—looking more genuine than any that he’d given them before. “I just wanted to inform you boys that I was leaving.”

“What?” Dean barked.

“And,” the creature added, holding up a finger, “that you should probably leave too. They’ll find Nick’s body eventually, you know. Even if they don’t, someone’s bound to notice that he’s gone missing...”

“So where’s the real Alan Peachtree?” Sam asked point blank. He knew that Alan Peachtree had really existed. He had a history.

“Oh, I killed him,” ‘Alan’ answered with a smile. “He was the second body they found. Right after that slimemold that had killed my Miguel.”

Your Miguel?” Dean demanded and ‘Alan’s’ features shifted, turning softer, the face filling out more and his hair lightening as it curled into a gentle wave.

“My Miguel,” Coyote repeated, wearing the face of Jules Foxtail.

Sam’s eyes narrowed. “Did you kill Jules, too?”

Coyote shook his head. “No. I was Jules. He only existed as part of me.”

“And how are we supposed to believe that?” Dean asked.

Coyote shrugged. “Believe me, don’t believe me. Whatever makes you happy. I buried Jules when I buried Miguel. Jules loved him you know.” Coyote glanced between them. “I loved him. He was meant for such better things than what he got.”

“That’s—” Dean started but Coyote interrupted him.

“So I punished those who took him away from me.” He held up a hand, counting off the people with his fingers. “The slime who was paid to kill Miguel. The maggot who paid him. The toadie who was paid to make it all disappear. The sleazeball who was paid to spread around his influence. And the pig who paid them all.”

Pig who paid them all...? “You killed Coldwater,” Sam said, putting it together. Coldwater had looked one step away from death when Sam had seen him.

Coyote smiled. “Finally. I had to take my time with that one.”

“And so now you just want us to let you go?” Dean asked. “After killing all those people?”

“People,” Coyote said, “who deserved to die. And I did save your life, after all.”

“Yeah,” Dean snarled, “forgive me if I don’t jump for fucking joy over here that you killed somebody else.”

“He was a bad man, Dean. He would have wanted to go out the same way as his partner—I just obliged him.” Coyote stood, the facade of Jules slipping away as he shifted back into Alan’s persona. “My work here is done. Now I suggest that you two move along as well. After Alan Peachtree goes missing, his replacement might just find your paperwork and decide to file it.” Sam stared at the creature in front of him. He’d never even filed their paperwork? He must have known who they were immediately. “You did a good job boys,” Coyote said. “But there’s not much left for you to do now.”

“Ah, still have to kill you,” Dean said and Coyote waved a finger at him.

“Not possible,” he replied, his voice singsongy. “And the cops will be here in the morning. I just came to warn you.” With another wide smirk, Coyote slipped away again, his body dissolving into dust.

“Fuck!” Dean snarled, punching the wall. Sam felt like doing the same thing but he grabbed Dean’s shoulder and pushed him forwards.

“Go pack.” The sooner they got out of Sunrise Acres, the better. Coyote was right: people were going to ask about Nick and seeing as how Nick had last been spotted with Dean... The last thing they needed was yet another murder on their record.

In a matter of hours, Sunrise Acres and it’s ‘better way of living’ was nothing but a distant memory of identical white houses and perfectly mowed lawns as Sam and Dean slipped out in the night. Sam wondered if their former neighbors would miss them or if they would just shrug and move on with life the way they always did. When he commented on that to Dean, Dean had shaken his head.

They had driven across the state border into California where Dean had set his sights on finding the tackiest motel he could (Grandma’s Wacky Wildlife Emporium). It was almost business as usual. Almost. Sunrise Acres might have been just a memory but what had happened there was not. Sam stared at his lap, his thumbnail scratching at his jeans while he waited for Dean to come back with the motel room key, wondering just where he and Dean were supposed to go from here.

There weren’t any cameras anymore, no one to pretend for. They were back in their normal lives—as normal as they got, anyway—and Sam was left with the question of how much of it had been real?

Dean dropped into the driver’s side seat, the door slamming behind him before he put the car in gear, backing it out of the parking spot. “We’re in number 5,” he said. “It’s the dog room.” He pulled into a spot a few car lengths down and put the Impala into park before turning to grin at Sam. “Twenty-fifth time we’ve been in a dog room, Sammy. That means silver.”

“Dean…” Sam couldn’t quite meet Dean’s eyes, analyzing the vinyl of the dashboard instead.

A hand landed on Sam’s thigh, warm and heavy, and Sam jumped. “Or we could go inside and you could fuck me and we’ll say it’s our first.” Sam stared at Dean, dumbfounded, and silence settled between them. Dean squirmed, dropping his head. “If you want,” he added.

It was an invitation that Sam couldn’t refuse. He leaned across the car and pressed a soft, hesitant kiss to Dean’s lips—not that Dean left it that way. Dean pushed Sam backward, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss and Sam obliged him.

They broke apart, breathing heavy, and Dean swallowed, still staring at Sam’s mouth. “Inside,” Dean hissed and they both scrambled out of the car. Dean headed to the trunk to grab the duffle bags—no sense being unprepared—while Sam bounced impatiently. God. It was as if he was dreaming—this kind of stuff didn’t happen except in fantasies, right? Sam was well versed in fantasies. He pinched himself just to make sure that he wasn’t currently in one.

“Son of a bitch…” Dean said, amusement coloring his voice and Sam quirked an eyebrow.


“That bastard.” Mildly curious but mostly just wanting to get inside the damn room already, Sam walked back to where Dean was staring into the trunk. Or rather, where Dean was staring at the red silk that was hanging from the top of the trunk.

Sam tilted his head in puzzlement. “What is that?” Dean snorted.

“Our going away present,” he said, his hand snatching up the silk and pulling it free. “It probably matches, too.”

Now Sam was really confused. “Matches what?” he asked. Dean didn’t answer him. He just glanced downward and then quirked an eyebrow as he shook the slinky red fabric.

And Sam got it. “Oh.” He blinked and then another thought hit him. “How did he…?”

“Well, he’s probably the one who stuffed them in that newspaper,” Dean said, like it wasn’t a big deal. He looked to be more concerned with the silk he was now holding but Sam couldn’t believe his ears.

“You mean you wore something that you just found? Dean!” What if the panties had been, been, been poisoned or something? …That would probably be pretty damn weird but they’d dealt with stranger.

Dean shrugged. “Looked like the pair I used to own,” he confessed and Sam couldn’t think of anything to say to that. He was too busy trying to reply his memories wondering if he’d ever even caught a hint of this fetish from Dean before. Dean took advantage of the lack of argument and unfurled the red silk he was now holding, flattening it against his chest while Sam’s thought processes ground to a sudden stop.

“That’s a…a…”

Dean nodded, his fingers plucking at the short hemline. “Teddy,” he supplied, saying the word as casually as if he’d just remarked on a falling leaf. Sam thought that his eyes were going to drop out of his head—they certainly couldn’t get any wider. Dean furled his eyebrows with concern as he peered at Sam. “Do you think he could read minds?”

Sam tried to form a reply but the only thing that came out was a weak, wordless sound. Dean just nodded to himself, still playing with the silk. “That bastard,” he swore. Then he shrugged. “Well, it’s here now.”

Yes. Yes it was. Sam’s fingers reached out mindlessly to grasp the red silk, using it to yank Dean close while Sam still struggled for something to say. “Twelfth,” he croaked.

“Twelfth?” Dean cocked his head, not understanding.

“Silk,” Sam said and dragged Dean toward the hotel room. It was the best explanation he could give at the moment. He wasn’t sure what twelfth anniversary they could be celebrating but he was sure he could come up with something.