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DELTA, OHIO

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I see her.

All the time.

Out of the corner of my eye.

The first time was in Toledo.

A vision in white.

My Jess.

Dean and I are in this greasy little pizza parlor near the motel. Pisanello's, the best that Delta, Ohio has to offer, apparently. Dean's on the laptop, and from the sound of it he's cruising porn sites. Asshole. And he's always the one to bust my eggs. I'm tearing up a napkin, waiting for our double meat double cheese supreme to arrive. I reach for the pitcher to re-fill my glass with Bud, and there she is.

I should be surprised, but I'm not.

I see her on street corners, in laundromats, truck stops and convenience stores. I see her in other cars we pass on the highway. Sometimes she's the waitress, or another customer, or a passerby on the sidewalk. Other times, she's right there next to me, all in white, smiling.

This time she's with a group of teenagers seated at a large table on the other side of the dining room. She's dressed like a local, pastel yellow, low cut t-shirt and skin-tight jeans, long hair pulled back into a ponytail. She stands up and stares at me, smiling.

She always smiles.

I fill my glass and take several swallows of beer. She's at our table in an impossible instant, and I already know Dean doesn't see her. I look up, and her form shimmers and wavers, suddenly the vision in white that never fails to haunt me, to find me, no matter where I am, asleep or awake.

I feel cold, and I guzzle my beer, hoping she'll go away.

She never does.

Then she speaks, and while it sounds like her, I know it's really not. She says things Jess couldn't possibly know. Things I don't want to know, either. She talks and talks, and Dean never notices.

And that's when I look up at her again, or the thing that looks like her.

Jess, the demon with dead, glassyblack eyes.

Right. It's totally fucked and cliché, but hey, it's beyond my control.

"You killed me," she says.

"No."

"Oh yes," she continues. "You lied. You kept the truth from me. You deceived me, consigned me to eternal pain and torment. You know that, right?"

I gaze over at Dean then, but no matter where I look, she's there.

"She's here, with us," the thing says. "We have her, and we're never letting her go."

"Leave me alone."

"Too easy, Sam," she replies. "And you don't want to be left alone. You want answers."

"You're not Jess."

"Details, details." She's touching me by now, her skin cold, clammy, moist. No matter how hard I try, I can't pull away. Dean's totally oblivious, as always, and for some reason, I don't even try to call out to him. He never answers.

The pizza joint blinks out and we're back in our apartment at Stanford, in our bedroom, in the dark.

"Leave me the fuck alone."

"Can't do that, Sam," she says. "You're one of us. A child of the Dark. You know it. You always have."

"Fuck you."

"In good time," she says.

I close my eyes, and then she's all over me, her hands pulling at my clothes, her nails incredibly sharp against my skin.

"You'll be one with us, soon." Her icy lips find my own. "Very soon, Sammy."

I try to thrust myself away from her, but she's incredibly strong. I stare at her, and it still surprises me when her eyes go yellow. There are other shapes in the room now, standing around the bed. They step closer, silhouettes with glowing, golden eyes. I know who they are before they even speak.

Mom. Dad.

And Dean.

"We're waiting for you Sammy," they chant, their voices low, raspy.

The Jess-thing pulls away and stands up, draping herself over Demon-Dean.

"You can't avoid your destiny, Sammy," she says, shoving one hand down Demon-Dean's jeans while claiming his lips with her own.

I watch with a morbid fascination as the room goes colder still. They close in on me then, and I finally open my mouth to scream...

...gasping for air, my throat's rough and dry. I sit up, looking about frantically in the gloom, half expecting the dark shadows to still be standing there.

They're not, and my mind slowly clears, the cobwebs falling away.

I'm in our motel room, Dean's fast asleep next to me, and there's nothing in the room with us save for the strangely comforting blink, blink, blink of the red neon outside wafting through the thin curtains.

I lay back down, taking deep breaths.

If only I didn't keep having the dreams...if I didn't keep seeing her. The dreams are almost always the same. Except this time...tonight...there was an added bonus. Dean's never been in them before. Does that mean I'll drag him down with me, along with everyone else?

I'm pretty certain that I didn't call out this time; I know I have before. I can tell I've made a mess of the bed, and I must have thrashed around quite a bit.

But Dean sure as hell seems fast asleep. Did he notice? Does he know? Hell, he never says anything in the mornings, even if he does...

I don't know what it all means. I know I need to figure it out, though, and I can't do it alone.

I need him. Without Dean, I'm lost. I know that for a fact.

When I first started seeing Jess, I'd thought then that I was still messed up after the shit with Bloody Mary. I mean, that hunt brought things a little too close to home. I'd kept it a secret, the dreams. Visions. Whatever the hell they are. That's all I thought they were. Weird nightmares.

I knew what Dean's reaction would be if I told him about them...

How the hell could I have known they were premonitions? Maybe part of me knew that, though. Deep down. The part of me that I'd been running from ever since I left Dad and Dean for Stanford.

So I ignored them, passed them off as nothing.

Man, was I wrong.

And even though I know that it's not really my fault, that it wasn't because of me that Jess is dead, it's still hard not to feel like I could have...should have...done something.

Isn't that the way of it, though? I can't count the times I've gone over it in my head, how it would be if things had gone just a bit differently.

If I'd mentioned the visions to Jess. Or Dean.

If we'd gotten back to Stanford from Jericho an hour earlier.

Would it have mattered? Could I have saved her?

And even if I'd managed to keep the Demon from murdering her, then what? Would I have stayed with her? These days, I can't imagine not being with Dean. Without me, he'd be totally on his own, completely alone.

He needs me.

And I need him.

Man, it really scares me just how much.

So, even if I'd managed to save Jess, I'd have lost her anyway. I know now that I'm supposed to be here, with Dean, hunting, searching. The family business, as he says.

He's right, as much as I hate to admit it.

So that's why Jess keeps coming to me, I think. Or the thing that looks like her, that is. I failed her. I shut her out, kept the real me from her. I never told her about my past, Mom, Dad, all the dark shit. She didn't have a clue.

And I'd have left her anyway.

Fuck.

I roll over onto my back, careful not to take the sheets with me. Dean's the real cover hog, although he says I am. I glance over at him, next to me in the gloom, his slow, even snoring more comforting that it has a right to be. I reach over, gently laying my hand on his.

Man, sometimes I just need to touch him...to feel him. Like I said, it's fucking scary.

He's been all weirded out since The Talk, as he refers to it. That he even mentions it at all should be a positive thing, I guess.

I don't want to push, though. I want to give him his space, 'cause Dean needs that sort of thing. But it's been nearly a month, and it's like there's this big, ugly something hanging in the air between us. It'll go away if we want it to...if we only just talk about it.

I know he's not sure what to do about it. About us. He's pretty tight lipped about everything, and I can almost see this new weight on his shoulders. I hate the idea that I've somehow added to his burden, but I had to say it. I don't know how it became so complicated. But then that's the Winchester way, I suppose.

And I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to hold out...

I sit up, shoving the flat pillows against the headboard as I try to get comfortable. I can never really get back to sleep after one of the dreams. I don't seem to need much sleep these days, anyway. I fumble for my watch on the nightstand, pressing the tiny button on the side: four fifty-one. Not bad; at least I managed four hours tonight...

I wasn't sure exactly what I was asking of him back in Indiana. I know I was mostly trying to tell him that he wouldn't be alone. That I'd stick with him, no matter what. That he wouldn't have to worry about being left alone again.

Deep down, I knew there was more to it than that. That somehow, someway, I'd developed this need, this desire for him, that wasn't at all brotherly. I was terrified to let any of that out then. I mean, I know Dean's not queer. And neither am I. Or at least I hadn't thought I was.

But the more time goes on, I can't deny the way I feel about him. The way I want...no, need him. Man, but he's fucking beautiful, and I don't just mean on the outside. He's blinding, and sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who knows it. Like I'm the only one who can see it.

And he's mine.

All mine.

I reach over, barely running my hand though his hair. He moans a bit and shifts around, turning to face me and flopping an arm across my lap.

I couldn't believe all the stuff he'd kept from me, all the stuff that went down when we were kids. The depth of it all, everything that he kept inside. I mean, he acted like there was something wrong with what he did...as if it was something he wasn't proud of.

Okay, sure, the shit with the striga was messed up. But he was twelve. Twelve fucking years old, for chrissakes! And I understand, totally, really. But then that's Dean, though. Always ready to take the blame, to go down with the ship.

All I'd like to do is to be able to tell him how much I appreciate all he did for me. How much I'm so fucking glad he was there for me. I want to tell him, but he hates it when I get all chick flick on him.

A few years ago, words would've been enough. Now, though...fuck, I just wanna hold him and never let go.

Totally messed up, I know. But that's how I feel.

I mean, damn, he was so into helping those kids in Fitchburg. I've never seen him so focused, so determined. Yeah, the striga had to die, no doubt about it. And I don't think I've ever been prouder of Dean than when he dusted that soul-sucking bitch.

And yeah, he saved my life, too.

Again.

I stretch and yawn, straightening out the sheets as I lay back down. I look over at Dean, his face so damn restful, at peace. The red light from outside pulses smoothly, illuminating his features, and I can't stop myself from leaning over and kissing his forehead. I want to do more, to hold him, to feel him close, to devour him and never fucking let him go.

Somehow I resist, flopping onto my back, my right hand stroking my hard cock through the fabric of my underwear. My fingers slide under the waistband, curling tightly around my erection. I moan softly as I begin to stroke myself, Dean's whispered name on my lips as I fall once more into the depths of my need...

 

~~~~~~ ~ ~~~~~~

 

The door slams and I sit up, swinging my legs over the side of the bed and fumbling for the loaded gun on the night stand. The curtains clank open, and cool, grey light floods our room. I blink furiously, trying to clear my vision.

"About time," the shadow in front of the windows says. "I know you like your beauty sleep, Sam, but shit, dude, it's nearly eleven." Dean stands there, smirking, holding a cardboard tray with two huge cups of coffee in one hand, and I notice a McDonald's bag on the small table by the door. "I got tired of waiting for you to get up, so I went out and grabbed us some chow." He sets the coffee next to the bag of food, shrugging out of his leather jacket. "Man, you don't know what I had to go through to get your damned McMuffins after ten frickin' o'clock. Fucking fast food nazis." Dean picks up one of the garish coffee cups. "You okay?"

"Yeah," I manage, almost standing before I realize that I'm sporting a crotch full of morning wood. I pull the sheets over my waist, hoping Dean didn't notice. "Why didn't you wake me up?"

Dean shrugs as he ambles over, holding out the cup of coffee. "You haven't been sleeping much lately, so I let you alone." He stands there, his knee touching mine. He's staring at me a little too intently, his brow furrowed the slightest bit.

"What?" I ask.

"Nothin'," he says with a shrug.

I take the coffee, carefully taking a sip. Not bad for Mickey D's. And Dean added the double cream and sugar. Like always. He's too good to me.

"Thanks, man," I reply as Dean roots about in the bag, pulling out McMuffins and hash browns. I take advantage of his back being turned, quickly grabbing my jeans from the floor and pulling them on. I gasp slightly as I shove my still hard cock into them, fumbling with the buttons of the fly. I walk toward him, and he's just standing there, McMuffin in hand, staring at it like it's some arcane artifact we'd just dug up.

"Dean?"

"When were you going to tell me?" he says.

"Tell you what?"

He drops the McMuffin and turns to face me, his eyes wide, almost sad. "You know what."

I jam my hands in my pockets, suddenly feeling exposed, naked. "I don't, man." He lowers his gaze, and I watch as he takes a deep breath.

"The dreams, Sam. When were you gonna tell me about the dreams?"

"That's all they are," I murmur in response.

"Bullshit!" he shoots back. "That's total, complete bullshit, Sammy! You of all people know that dreams always mean more than they appear to! Especially yours, what with you having the Shine and all." He looks back up to me then, his pale green eyes ablaze. "I hear you, man. I hear you calling her name. And mine."

"They're dreams, nothing more," I say, moving to push past him and throw on a shirt.

Dean reaches out and clamps his hand on my right bicep. "Talk to me, man," he growls. "It could be important. It could help us find Dad. Don't hide shit from me, Sam."

I glare at his hand on my arm, and he releases me. "Oh yeah, you're one to talk about that," I reply, feeling the flush heat my neck and flow to my face. "There's so much shit you're keeping from me it isn't funny!"

He doesn't answer right away, his jaw clenching as he considers what to say. I mean, I'm right, and he knows it. He's kept more from me than I've ever hidden from him; who knows how much more he isn't telling me?

"I'm not hiding anything," he says through gritted teeth. He turns and moves away, and I'm right behind him.

"That's crap and you know it," I shoot back, my voice rising. "Would you have ever told me about the striga nearly sucking out my soul if Dad hadn't sent us to Fitchburg for that last hunt? Would you?" I clamp my hand on his shoulder.

Dean whirls around, and he's right in front of me, the muscles in his neck taut and straining. "No, Sammy, I wouldn't have!" he says, his voice barely under control. "I nearly got you killed! Why the hell would I want to tell you about that? How I fucked up? How I let you down?"

"You didn't let me down, Dean. You never let me down. But I want to know," I reply. "I need to know. I was young, and I don't remember a lot, but you do. It's my life too, man. I want to know everything, Dean, all of it, the good and the bad."

"No, you don't."

I step closer, and he doesn't move away. I can feel my anger draining out of me like water down a storm drain. "Yeah, I do. I want to know what it was like for you. I can imagine, and I know I must've been a real pain in the ass to raise..."

Dean looks away and says something, but it's so soft and low I can't catch it.

"What?"

He looks back up at me, and he's smiling, just the slightest bit. "I said, you weren't. A pain in the ass, that is. You didn't always clean your plate or want to finish your homework before TV, but you were a good kid." He nods. "Real good." Then, the shields go back up, and his expression hardens. "Let's eat before it gets cold." He brushes past me to stand at the table, and I just watch as he unwraps a McMuffin and starts to eat.

I take him in, from his broad shoulders beneath the threadbare t-shirt to his slim waist, grinning slightly at how his worn, cheap denims never fail to fit him perfectly. He's got a great ass, and I can stare at those muscular, slightly bowed legs of his for hours.

When did all this happen? When did I start staring at my own brother like this?

Fuck it.

Doesn't matter anymore. It is what it is.

But damn, it's no wonder every chick in every dive bar wants him. And a few of the guys, too; I've started noticing that lately. Man, that would really torque him off if I started pointing that out...

Dean's more beautiful than he could ever imagine. He's way too hard on himself. Somehow, someway, I've got to figure out a way to tell him, to make him understand just how awesome he is.

"Dean, I'm sorry."

He doesn't turn but simply holds up his free hand. "Save it, man. It's cool."

I step right up behind him, and he tenses immediately. "I see Jess. I dream about her. I see her when I'm awake, too."

He turns his head slightly so that he can see me out of the corner of his eye. "How long?"

"Since Toledo. Since Bloody Mary."

He nods. "Man, I just fucking hate Ohio. Nothing but nasty shit, no matter where you go." He licks his lips. "Okay. Go on."

"She says things. I know it's not really her, but she tells me it's all my fault. That I lied, hid the truth about me. That she's in Hell because of me..."

"Sam—"

"No, you were right, Dean, about everything. We're different. I'm different. Not like normal folks, and now I know I'll never be. But I didn't want to accept it then, and because of that, Jess is dead." I try to chuckle, but it comes out all broken. "I never should of left you and Dad. If I hadn't denied the real me, if I'd accepted things, I'd've never met Jess, and she'd...she'd still be here. You were right, man."

Dean turns around, placing both hands on my bare shoulders. "Listen to me, 'cause I'm only gonna say this once, okay?" He squeezes me firmly for emphasis. "Jess was killed by a Demon, a screwed up manifestation of darkness and evil that's been around forever. It does what it does for its own sick reasons. You couldn't have stopped it, any more than I could have. It's...not...your...fault!"

I start to say something but he cuts me off.

"Don't, man, okay? These things exist to fuck with our heads, to plant doubt and confuse us, to keep us from finding the truth. Don't fucking pay attention to a single word that Jess thing says, you got that? It's not her, and deep down, you know it. Right?"

I nod, horrified to feel the sting of tears. Fuck, that's all I need right now, to start crying like a little kid. I nod vigorously, taking a deep breath. "I know, I know. But there's more."

Dean shrugs, his hands still on me. "Well?"

I swallow hard. "I see Mom in the dreams. And Dad too."

His eyes go a bit wider. "What do they say?"

"The same thing Jess says. That they're all in Hell, and I'm going to join them."

"Damn," Dean says, shaking his head.

"And last night, you were in it, too."

His head jerks up. "For real?"

"Yeah." I press closer, and my stomach touches his. Dean backs up, but can't go very far as the table's in the way. "So I don't know what to do, Dean. What if there's more to it than just bad dreams? What if they're like the visions, the premonitions? I don't want anything to happen to Dad...to you. I couldn't fuckin' take it, Dean, I know it..."

Dean looks away, nodding, his hands falling to his sides. "Don't worry, Sammy. They're dreams, fucked up dreams, that's all. The visions have always focused on the other kids like you. So far, anyway." He flashes me a thin smile. "The Demon's screwing around with you. We'll give Missouri a call later and see what she has to say about it. And Bobby's got loads of books on dream imagery, too, if we need more info."

"Okay," I say, feeling better at just having talked about it. Dean knows what to do. He always does.

He makes to move away, but I grab him by the shoulders.

"Sam," he says.

"There's more we need to talk about," I say, surprised at how low and rumbly my voice sounds.

Dean won't look at me. "Yeah, well, I've got to use the can right now, so..."

"This won't take long."

"Sam."

"About Indiana."

"Oh, fuck." He shakes his head and tries to move away.

"We've got to clear the air, man."

"Not now, Sammy," he growls as he wrenches himself away.

I lunge for him, grabbing his right shoulder. He yanks it out from under my grip, losing his balance as he goes. I grab his other shoulder and spin him around.

"What the fuck!" he yelps as I push him up against the wall.

"Now, Dean," I say, holding him tighter as he starts to struggle. "I can't take this shit any longer. I know it's eating away at you, too. Don't try to fucking deny it."

"Let me go," he murmurs, his lips a thin line. He's making an effort to struggle, but I can tell he's not putting his full strength into it. I can hold my own with him, but if he really wanted to get away...

"About Indiana."

"What about it?" he spits out.

"Dean," I say, pressing my body fully against his. He gasps, but that's all. He's breathing heavily, and so am I, our chests heaving in an oddly syncopated rhythm. I'm starting to sweat at the effort from holding him, and I can feel my erect cock rubbing against his waist. "Dean, man, it's okay. I know. I know." I lean my forehead to his, and he gasps again.

"Fuck," he replies, a strangled wheeze, and while one of his hands is pushing against my shoulder, the other has fallen to my side, his fingers gliding across my skin, wrapping themselves around my hip. "We can't. Not right."

I turn my head, and he does the same, and I kiss his temple, slowly working my way down the side of his face, along his jaw line, daring to run the tip of my tongue along the stubble there. "Yeah, man, we can. We can."

He tenses again, and he stops pushing me away. I can feel that he's hard now too, and as I nuzzle and nibble lightly at his neck, my hands drop down and begin fumbling with his belt. Dean moans as the buckle comes loose, clinking softly. "I want you, man," I whisper, "Need you so bad, Dean." I move my lips over his. "Want to make you feel good, man." I press our mouths together and I manage to unbutton his jeans.

Dean holds his breath, and I just slip my tongue through his lips and over his teeth.

The next instant I'm stumbling backward, and Dean's storming away. I regain my balance, catching him by the bathroom door. I grab for him, catching only a handful of t-shirt. He jerks away, and the shirt rips apart.

"Damn it!" he wails, and I barely duck in time as he throws a huge roundhouse my way.

I bend down and jump at him as his other fist connects with the left side of my face. I see stars as I tackle him, and I wrap my arms about his waist and push with my legs as hard as I can. He's flailing at me full force, his fists pounding at my back and shoulders as we fall onto the unmade bed.

"Get the fuck off me, I'm warning you," he splutters, the force of his blows slowly ebbing away. "Leave me alone."

I lift my head then, feeling the trickle of blood from the corner of my mouth. I shake my head and lift myself up, my hands planted at his sides. I bring my legs up and sit on him, and he just stares back at me.

"Please, Sam," he whispers, and I shake my head again.

"No."

"We can't do this."

"Who says?"

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "Sammy..."

"It's okay, man," I say, and he opens his eyes again.

"Sorry." He reaches up and touches the corner of my bleeding mouth. "Didn't mean to hurt you. Never want to hurt you."

"I know."

I shift a bit, and he slowly runs his hand down the middle of my chest. I sit up and back on my legs, and Dean's hands, both of them now, are ghosting across my stomach and sides, almost as if he's cataloguing every inch, every curve.

I slowly run a hand over the front of his unbuckled jeans, up and under his torn, sweaty t-shirt. His skin feels smooth, firm, fucking wonderful. I can't believe that I'm finally touching him, that my hands are on him, on Dean, my Dean.

My other hand joins the first one, and I'm surprised, almost as if they're acting on their own. I slide his t-shirt up, taking a deep breath at the expanse of taut skin and muscle there. My fingers trace the thin line of light hairs that run along the center of Dean's stomach, disappearing into the waistband of his jeans.

Dean sits up on his elbows, and we fumble a bit to get his shirt off.

"God, Sammy," he breathes, and I'm leaning down, those pale green eyes so beautiful that I could almost drown in them.

"Ssshhhh."

Dean lays back down, and I just sit there, staring at him. I've seen him naked countless times, but never from this close. My fingers once again find themselves gliding across his skin, his stomach and sides and chest and shoulders. They linger on each scar and bruise...Dean's literally covered with scars, some large, some small, each one a testament to the hunts. I know where some of them came from, but others, like the long, jagged one that runs along the length of his right collarbone...

"Sammy."

I jolt out of my reverie, Dean's calloused hand caressing my cheek. So gentle. I'm in awe; those strong hands, so adept at dispatching demons and dark creatures, so skillful with knives and bows, at cleaning weapons, are also so very careful, so tentative.

His other hand rubs along the length of my hard dick, still straining and trapped in my jeans. He licks his lips, and I hoist myself off the bed. I shove my jeans and boxer briefs down, and Dean's eyes are all over me, watching my erection bob around as I climb back onto the bed.

He lifts his hips off the mattress, and I carefully pull his jeans down to his thighs, leaving his boxers in place. He makes as if he's going to say something, but I cover him with my body, aligning our erections together and mashing my lips to his.

Dean groans into my mouth as I grind my dick into him, and he responds in kind. His hands fly up and grab my ass, and he's pulling me into him, matching the rhythm of my thrusts perfectly. His thick cock feels fantastic against mine, the thin cotton of his boxers incredibly smooth.

Both of my hands are cradling his head as we writhe and buck about, our teeth clacking together as our tongues battle each other for dominion. Dean actually nips my bottom lip, and I can taste blood, warm, thick and coppery.

I pull away slightly, more for air than anything else.

"Dean, man," I murmur, "I—"

Before I can finish, he jerks his head up, crashing our mouths together again. He's thrusting into me like a madman, his breath coming in shorter and shorter bursts.

I somehow manage to slide one of my hands down between us, pushing into his shorts and teasing the head of his cock. Dean gasps some more, and the next instant, his back arches and his come is spurting over my fingers. I twirl them around, spreading the slick spunk all over the now hyper-sensitive head of his dick. Dean's pulled away now, his head thrashing back and forth, mumbling gibberish as I grasp and pull on his spent cock smoothly, firmly.

I thrust against him a few more times, the sensation of my own cock against his damp under shorts pushing me to release.

"Oh, fuck, Dean!" I cry out, "Dean!"

I lift myself up slightly, my release pumping out of me and coating Dean's belly. I collapse onto him, burying my head in the crook of his neck.

I feel his hands slide up my lower back, strong, steady and firm.

We lie there for what seems like forever.

"Dean."

No answer.

"Dean?"

"What."

"Dean, I—"

"Don't. Don't say it."

"Why not?"

No answer.

"I do, then. You know I do."

"Yeah, Sammy. I know you do."

 

~~~~~~ ~ ~~~~~~

 

The rest of our stay in room 113 at the Edge-O-Town Motel in Delta, Ohio could best be summed up in one word: awkward.

I suppose I should have expected as much. Dean puts on his hard-ass facade as soon as I roll off of him.

He bolts into the bathroom, leaving me naked and sticky, standing there next to the bed and feeling like a complete idiot. I pull on my jeans, shoving down the cold Mickey D's while he showers.

I look at myself in the mirror over the dresser; my cheek's already bruising up where Dean clocked me. I put some ice on it, but I'll probably have a black eye anyway.

We pause as we pass each other at the bathroom door, and he gives me a wan smile as he moves by, toweling his hair dry.

That's cool. I know that we have a chance, then. I can't push things, not like this, not with Dean. I mean, he left me a dry towel and some hot water too, so I knew he wasn't too pissed off at me. Little things, I know, but they all add up.

Dean's on the laptop when I'm finished with my shower. He gives me a quick glance and a nod, and fills me in on what he thinks might be going on with our next hunt in New Paltz. He's also been searching Dad's journal for clues, but hasn't found anything yet.

I dress and we pack up, Dean pointing the Impala east on Ohio Route Two.

Traffic's light, the day cool, everything strangely subdued under the oppressive, low-hanging canopy of dull, grey clouds. We stop at a signal, and I absently gaze out the passenger window. I even manage a little chuckle as I see Jess standing there on the corner, all in white, smiling that smile.

She watches me, and I go cold; then, some big guy in a suit walks in front of her, and she's gone after he passes by. The light changes, and we head out of town.

We drive in silence, which is a bit odd. I scan through Dad's journal as we drive, losing myself in the pages.

A few minutes later, the Impala turns sharply, and I look up, surprised to see us on a ramp headed onto Interstate 80/90. Dean avoids interstates like the plague.

"Yo, Dean, what's up?" I say, gesturing vaguely.

He shrugs, steering the Impala across two lanes and accelerating to eighty-five. "Don't want to spend anymore time in Ohio than we have to. Place gives me the fuckin' creeps, especially this northeastern part." He nods to Dad's journal. "Flip to the back there. Dad's got a whole chapter about this state. There's something wrong with this place, and it goes way back."

"Really?" I thumb to the back, and sure enough, I find what Dean referred to. "Get out," I say, unable to hide my smile as I flip pages. "Werewolves? Killer lampreys? Corn Wraiths? No-Face Dolls? Hellhounds? Damn."

"No shit," he replies, one hand rooting about in the box of cassettes on the seat between us. "Ohio's the fucking werewolf capital of the world, man. Don't ever want to be out at night during the full moon here. And the lake...well, some nasty shit lurking about out there."

"Okay, that's cool, but take it easy, leadfoot," I say. "The last thing we need is a ticket."

"Yeah."

"Dean?"

"What?"

"We okay?"

Dean looks at me and arches an eyebrow. "Yeah, Sammy. We're okay." He grins at me as he shoves a tape into the player. A second later, "Roadhouse Blues" by the Doors blares from the speakers. He gives my knee a light squeeze before he puts both hands back on the steering wheel, his fingers tapping about in time to the music.

A while ago, I'd have given him shit for calling me Sammy. Now, though, I don't mind that he says it. He's the only one who can.

I stare out the window as the Ohio countryside flies by, amused and amazed at the same time. It all looks so normal, so dull, so white bread.

But then again, looks can be deceiving.

Hell, look at us.

I chuckle and dive back into Dad's journal, allowing myself the luxury of feeling good, if only for a little while.

We might just be okay, after all...

 

 

~ fin ~