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It Began with the Fall of Babylon

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Ilchester, Maryland, 1972:

 

Father Dominic Lehne was closing St. Mary’s Cathedral for the night when he noticed a change in the atmosphere. His vision went black for a moment and then he suddenly felt the presence of someone else in the room with him. He was about to ask who was there when he realized he was unable to speak, to move. He then came to the dreadful realization it was not someone in the room, but an entity inside of him. He’d been educated about possession, but never imagined it would feel so infectious, so cold and suffocating.

Terrified, the priest tried to pray but the entity interrupted him with a dark, evil laugh, “You are too late, Padre. I am in control now, and we have a special task to complete. I think you might benefit from a nap while I get to work.”

Everything went dark and silent.

The priest dreamt that he was giving a sermon, an unholy revelation about a false deity in search of his father’s prison. He could see on his own face and feel in his bones a perverse joy that didn’t belong to him when he revealed to the nuns listening that he’d found it. The place where his father and king had been left to rot by their father. He’d followed all the signs and now he needed to make a call.

Father Lehne helplessly watched as the nightmare commenced. His body walked through the church, the tone of his voice and darkness of his speech frightening the holy sisters. Father Lehne’s hands locked and barricaded the church doors. Father Lehne’s hands slaughtered the holy sisters while his face twisted in sadistic glee. Father Lehne desecrated the altar of the Lord with a nun’s body, staged as an inverted cross as he called for someone to whisper through the door created by death and gore.

To the naked human ear, there would have been sounds of eerie, warbling, unintelligible winds. But the demon within the priest heard his liege loud and clear. “I need you to find me a child, a special child. The prophecy is upon us.”

From a hollow throat, the priest heard his own voice, watched his own lips as the demon asked, “What about the seals, Father?”

“You shall delegate the breaking of the seals to Lilith, the first of my demons. My prince, my most loyal and most worthy, I have tasked you with the most important piece of the puzzle.”

The priest watched in horror as his own face twisted in an evil smile and his eyes flashed to a sickening yellow. Would he ever awaken from this nightmare?

 

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Eleven Years Later:

 

Mary Campbell was young, shy, and beautiful. She was also extremely innocent and naïve. She and some friends from her church group had arrived in New York City for the Baptist Endeavor Youth Crusade, and they were just excited to be in the big city. They were in awe of the multitudes of churches and historic chapels. They explored museums and art galleries. It was the first time they’d been so far from home and so independent. A glorious week of faith and fun for the teenagers.

Nothing in Mary’s life in the small town of Lawrence, Kansas could have prepared her for Johnny.

Johnny was charismatic and full of intriguing conversations. He was also very attentive. He captivated Mary the entire week of her stay with his knowledge of Bible scripture and treated her as though she were the only star in the universe. An attention-starved, overwhelmed, sixteen-year-old thousands of miles from home, she’d never expected the ease at which she would have given herself to him, a sacrificial virgin on an altar of temptation.

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." He quoted Matthew 10:16 softly into her ear as he slipped from her spent body. It was both poetry and an admonition. It was the very temptation of fruit from the Garden. Mary knew her actions were unbecoming of a young girl following her faith, and yet nothing could have saved her from that frighteningly pleasurable night. It changed her life forever and cemented her feet to the path of her faith. As she looked up at him from where she lay prone, exhausted, and in shock, she saw what she’d later blame as a trick of the light. Johnny’s eyes seemed to shine an inhuman gold color.

The son she bore from that fateful union; she vowed she would try to keep him from the darkness that awaited. But she knew even as she birthed him, her little Sammy was destined for great and terrible things.

 

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Sam Campbell grew up having never known his father. He was born to a single mother, out of wedlock. She lived a humble life without extravagance. She had always told him that angels were watching over him. He’d believed her when he was little, but after around the age of five, he’d sensed that whatever they were, they weren’t angelic. He realized as he grew that there were things that thrived under the shadow of night and he feared their strange interest in him. Still, he remained a sweet child, devoted to his mother, never wanting to see her hurt.

He longed to be a normal kid, with a normal family. He worried about being picked on at school for not having a dad, but what he experienced was worse in his eyes. Teasing was just something kids did, as if it were some twisted sort of rite of passage. It showed kids which groups they belonged to; it was how they eventually found kindred spirits. Sam never experienced any of that. There was something about that quiet, sweet-looking boy that made the other children wary. He never had any enemies, but he also never made any friends. Later on, he would find that isolation useful when it came to passing college courses and the bar exam.

A favorite of his teachers in his classes, and yet an outcast among his peers, at a young age, Sam became determined to escape his humble, religious upbringing. He had a million things to prove and he would do that while bringing justice to a mad world.

Sam had first inquired about a dad after the first week of kindergarten. He’d noticed that some of the other kids always had one parent Every few years, Sam would gather the nerve to ask about his father. Any time he asked for any information about who he was, Mary would become withdrawn, or lash out yelling that she never wanted to think about him. The very last time he’d asked, he’d been eighteen years old, torn between staying and supporting his aging mother or going off to Stanford University and leaving Lawrence for good. He’d clutched the acceptance letter in his hand, shaking as his mother once again grew trepidatious.

“Sam, sweetheart I tell you every time, I just can’t get into that with you,” she said, voice breaking with an emotion Sam couldn’t pinpoint.

“Mom, eventually I will need to know where I come from; why I never had a real family like the other kids. It couldn’t have been easy for you to raise me by yourself. You never even let anyone else get close to you. Why do you insist on carrying this burden alone?”

“Damnit, Sam! He’s dead! Does that make you feel better? Is that what you needed to hear before you leave me behind?” Sam looked at her, gobsmacked. “Yes, I know what that piece of paper is in your hand. Why couldn’t you have just stayed that naïve little boy who believed me when I said you didn’t need a human daddy because your mommy’s name is Mary just like in the bible?”

“Mom, I-” he looked at his mother, seeing the tears spill freely from her eyes as she studied her wringing hands. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that he’d stopped believing in that story much sooner than she could imagine, and he’d never forgive the sonofabitch who threw her away. “I’m sorry. I won’t ask about it again, alright? I promise. I guess since you know what this is, we should probably talk about it,” he said quietly as he gathered a lingering tear from her cheek with his thumb.

Mary nodded. “Honey, I am nothing but happy for you. You got a full ride to one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I’m so proud. You don’t need to worry about taking care of me. I’m the safest I’ve ever been. Just consider, once you become a lawyer, coming home and making a difference here."

Sam looked into his mother’s eyes and saw the caring support there. He also saw her worry.

 

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The Stanford Years

 

Sam loved his time at Stanford. As an undergrad, he made acquaintances who had different fields of study. He’d grown into his looks and was no longer a chubby little kid, or a gangly, awkward teen. He was tall and slim, yet muscular and broad-shouldered. He gained some confidence when he started getting invites to parties and started having the social experiences he had missed out on when he was younger. It wasn’t long before people started approaching him asking him out on dates, but it never went beyond anything casual. They found his focus on school and his career to be boring. Sam was alright with that because he figured that was what happened in college. There was plenty of time for him to settle down after he accomplished what he’d always dreamt, to make a name for himself that everyone respected. At least, that was what he thought.

During his junior year one of his closest friends, a journalism major named Tessa, introduced Sam to a tall drink named Tyson Brady. A blond, blue-eyed surfer boy from the coast, Brady was in his second year of graduate school at Stanford Law, working on his Juris Doctorate. Tessa told Sam she believed they’d really hit it off as colleagues. “After all, you will have to start making connections within your chosen profession if you are going to be the noteworthy, high-powered attorney from whom I will be getting my best courtroom exclusives.”

Sam and Brady began as best bros, destined to be the biggest law power duo to come out of the Ivy League. Though Sam was younger by four years, he ended up being the one to make the first move. Brady had been charismatic to the point of cocky when Sam met him, but as they got to know each other Sam realized Brady was actually sweet and shy, if a bit of a diva. He rarely showed that side of himself because he was also a carrier. When he was an undergrad, people had still been unable to take carriers seriously when it came to them wanting high-level careers. Sam had been the only one who knew outside his closest family.

When Sam kissed him for the first time, Brady said in typical fashion, “What took you so long, cowboy?” Two years, one Multi-State Bar exam, and a couple of existential crises later, Sam asked Brady to marry him. It was Sam’s fall graduation gift to himself and an incentive for Brady to move to Kansas with him once Sam obtained his JD and passed the MBE himself. Brady was a bit high maintenance, but he adored Sam and gave him unequivocal support while he worked his way through graduate school. Brady came from a wealthy family, but it never mattered that Sam’s background had been more modest. Anything Sam needed that his personality, grades, and scholarship couldn’t cover, Brady came through.

 

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Five Years Later:

 

After they moved to Kansas and got married, Sam intended to garner a reputation by working his way up through pro-bono volunteer work and then gaining some paid cases as a court-appointed attorney. He wanted to take an honest and ethical path through the justice system and build a solid reputation that would get him recruited to a prestigious law firm. He learned the hard way that he’d have to consider a different way, playing defense for some of the most reprehensible and disgusting, soulless, and immoral human monsters he'd ever come across.

And so, Sam Campbell became a defense attorney in Lebanon, Kansas. Then came the case that propelled him into the high-powered world of John Winchester. A family of recluses that lived in the woods near the border between Nebraska and Kanas was accused of several counts of kidnapping, rape, murder, and gross desecration and aggravated assault of a corpse. There was only one witness who had barely escaped with her life.

“Kathleen, can you identify your attacker or attackers in this courtroom?”

“Yes. It was those men there.”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please note for the record that the witness has identified Pa, Jared, and Lee Bender of the defense. And your testimony states that these three men drugged you, assaulted you, and kept you confined in a cage for days before they set you free without a word. Can you tell the court what happened?” asked the prosecutor.

“Yes. Um, they took me when I was hiking. I didn’t know how far I was away from home. I was trapped for days out in this creepy-looking barn when I wasn’t being… used for… fun. That was the only time they’d bring me into the house. The one and only time I asked for food, t-they tried… they tried to feed me something that looked… human,” Kathleen said, her voice trembling as the courtroom gasped.

“After that, I never asked for anything to eat; I’d rather have starved. There’d been a man in one of the cages next to the one where I’d been held. He’d been traumatized to the point where he’d barely talk or look at me. He used to mumble things, though; horrible things, about them not having fun with him anymore and his time being up. He said he hoped he’d get further than the last one; at least make it to civilization.”

“Did he know that the defendants were going to release him?”

“I honestly had no idea why he said those things until it happened. One night, his cage door just opened. No one was there, no one came to stop it or him from leaving. He stumbled out into the woods and after a while, I heard screaming. Then, I never saw him alive again.”

The prosecutor asked his witness a few more questions and then allowed the defense to counter. Sam requested a short recess before he would begin the cross-examination. He was sickened at the fact that he was defending the Benders. In court, Sam noticed Lee absentmindedly fondling himself, grinning at every detail Kathleen Hudak struggled through. He knew for certain then they were guilty, but there had never been anything more than rumors and conjecture, and worse, people were afraid of them. He knew if he won this trial they’d likely never be stopped.

He was in the men’s room splashing water on his face while trying to decide whether to go through with his defense or tell the Benders to find themselves another attorney. If he dropped out now, the Benders would be imprisoned or sentenced to death, but he would lose. That would surely set his aspirations back for months, maybe years. Losing was just something he didn’t do.

As he looked at himself in the mirror, he was snapped out of his reverie by a loud bang as one of the stall doors opened. Out popped someone that he hadn’t seen since college and he never expected to see again. Tessa huffed a laugh as she said, “You seem surprised to see me, Sam. There isn’t much that a good reporter won’t do for a golden scoop, including taking a few minutes during a recess to hide in a men’s room stall.”

“Tessa? What on earth brought you all the way to my little neck of the woods? And for the record, I am in no way surprised to see you in a men’s room. We went to the same university, remember?” Sam smiled as Tessa chuckled.

“You’re working on your sixty-fourth win in just five years. That’s got to be some kind of record, right? I can just sense the headhunters circling. You’ll be the pick of the litter once I headline my exclusive! Then again, this case looks like a guaranteed guilty verdict. I don’t know anyone who could pull off an acquittal in this situation.”

“You don’t know anyone? You sure about that?”

“Can’t win ‘em all, Champ. Surely even you know that.” Tessa winked at Sam as she strolled out of the bathroom, heading back to the courtroom.

Sam felt as though he could hear someone reasoning with him to win. The voice belonged to a symmetrical face with green eyes, freckles, and plump lips. The face always flashed in his mind when he seemed to have a crisis of conscience. It helped him to detach from his cases. His reputation was on the line and this was just work; it wasn’t like he agreed with how his clients lived. He never signed anyone’s Hippocratic oath.

He decided then that he would do what he was paid to do.

With the trial back in session, Sam again called Kathleen to the stand. “Kathleen, per your testimony, you had been walking a hiking trail the day you were abducted.” She confirmed that, so he continued. “You were out in the woods, alone, in an area that is pretty well-known to be rife with drug use, prostitution, and transients?”

“What? Wait, I-” Sam interrupted her as she shot a nervous look at her court-appointed attorney.

“We are here today to get to the truth. If I remember correctly, you also have a history of drug use and prior to your alleged abduction you had been arrested on prostitution charges.” The prosecution attempted to object, but they were overruled by the judge. She had to answer honestly. “In fact, isn’t it possible, Kathleen, that you were in that area looking for a way to make money for a hit that day? That you encountered one of the defendants and propositioned him?”

“Please, you’re twisting things around. The horrible things they did to me-”

“You went willingly to that house, strung out and desperate, and you thought you’d give a guy a good time and then go get high, didn’t you? Only you hadn’t counted on there being more than one.”

“No, no stop it!”

“Instead of walking away, you thought you could demand a bit more money, didn’t you?”

“That doesn’t make what they did okay!”

“No, it doesn’t, or at least it wouldn’t, IF everything you testified to actually happened!”

The courtroom came alive with outbursts, they judge yelling for, “Order!”

“Mr. Campbell, I have been lenient with you so far, but if you don’t wrap this up, I’ll have to put you in contempt for bashing a witness. Now, get to the point.”

“I am nearly done, your Honor. Miss Hudak, if you would please explain to the court…”

It turned out Kathleen admitted to her drug problem, and that she had been high when the Benders allegedly assaulted her. She said that she could have hallucinated some things, but she still clung to her testimony of being brutalized. The prosecution had been unable to provide proof of any other victims, or that there had been any cannibalism that had gone on. The next day, Sam received word that the Benders had been acquitted. More so, the jury only deliberated for 45 minutes before bringing in the verdict.

After successfully defending the Benders, Sam went to Sully’s with Brady to celebrate. It was a rustic steakhouse that looked like a designer log cabin with a fully stocked bar. Of course, Tessa was there as well for the quote for her morning deadline. “To the best defense attorney in Smith County,” she said, starting off with an attempt to butter Sam up.

“Damn straight,” said Brady with pride.

“So, Sam, off the record… How’d it feel to sneak a family the Benders under the radar of reasonable doubt?” Sam’s smile started to fade when Brady chimed in to deflect.

“Tessa, c’mon hon, I’ll buy ya a drink. Quit drying up my hubby’s wet dream alright? We’re not going to discuss that crazy-assed case anymore tonight. Am I right, baby?”

Relieved, Sam replied, “I’ll drink to that.” Cheers rang out as he called for another round for everyone at their large booth. A bit later, he gently pushed Brady off his lap and excused himself for the restroom.

As he washed his hands in the sink, he was approached by a representative for a New York law firm, Clarence Masters. “Job well done today, Mr. Campbell. I didn’t want to disturb your party, so I decided to approach you here. I will make this quick.” He passed Sam a business card neatly embossed with the name Winchester-Milton-Walker.

Sam glanced at the card. “Sorry, I’ve never heard of them. What are you here for? Are you gonna sue me?”

“Actually, I’m here to offer you a job. We’ve been watching you, following your amazing progress.”

“Seriously? From…” he read the card again. “New York? That’s a long way from ‘middle of nowhere, Kansas’ Mr. Masters.” He walked out of the bathroom with the other man close on his heels. He was calm, but clearly intent on not letting Sam go yet.

“Well, word travels far and wide when someone’s never lost a case.” He stopped in the small corridor, keeping his word about not wanting to interrupt the night Sam was having with his friends.

Sam paused also, now curious to see how far the prank would go. He decided to play the humility card. “Modestly speaking, I’ve had some sympathetic juries. It’s not all me.”

“Actually, that is precisely what we need, a jury. We want to employ your skills to pick one.”

Sam thought he had him then. He turned to face Masters with a sardonic smile. “Ha-ha. Wow, I tell you…” He looked down, shaking his head. “That’s a good one. You almost got me with the stiff suit, the fancy black trench; whose idea was it? Frank’s? It’s phenomenal, I’m just not wasted yet to fall for it. C’mon, I’ll buy ya a drink-”

“You’ll be starting next week,” Masters interrupted him, getting to the point. “All expenses paid first-class travel and lodging for you and your spouse. You’ll receive a lump-sum compensation, regardless of outcome, in the amount of, well, you can see for yourself here.”

He handed Sam a document detailing the offer. His eyes were immediately drawn to the highlighted area which held more zeros behind a dollar sign and before a decimal than he’d ever seen in one place. Now, Sam really needed that drink.

 

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Decision made, Sam had a couple of days to explain his decision to his mother, get his affairs in order, and then go to see her in Lawrence to say goodbye before heading to the airport. She felt uneasy about it but, having always been proud of her son, she wanted this to go well for him. Plus, he had that stubborn Campbell blood; she could no more stop him than she could stop a hurricane.

“I can’t believe you are going all the way to New York just to pick a jury,” she said, a mix of awe and skepticism in her voice as she walked with Sam away from the church. He met her as the congregation finished their worship service for the day. The sun shone brightly on the simple, white, country chapel.

“Aww, don’t worry, Mom. I know it sounds crazy, but I haven’t been winning all this time for nothing, right?”

“Why am I hearing the voice of Tyson Brady in that reasoning?” Mary sighed as she looked in her son-in-law’s direction as he stood waiting next to their extra flashy rental car and waving at them. While Mary knew Brady really cared about Sam, she also knew how high-maintenance and idealistic the young man was and that he would never think twice about an opportunity that looked too tempting to be true.

“Mom, please. This little love/wariness thing you have about Brady is gettin’ old. I love Brady, alright? Completely. Just like I love you to the moon and back. He’s got my back just like you, so you can rest assured I’ve got a voice of reason on my shoulder in the big, bad city.”

“Sam, this is New York. Fallen, fallen is Babylon. It has become a dwelling place of demons.”

“Really, Mom? Revelations?”

“Would do you good to refresh your memory of it, especially now. Forewarned is forearmed.”

“I honestly couldn’t forget it, no matter how hard I try.”

“Oh, really, and what happened to Babylon, precious son of mine?”

Sam humored his mother with Bible scripture that he’d known since before he’d learned to ride a bike as they reached the car. He also gave her the cash he’d brought to help her for the next couple of weeks and his and Brady’s flight information, new phone numbers, and anything else Brady had been able to think of that she’d need. Brady was finalizing some deal on his phone by then and could only smile, give Mary a hug and kiss on the cheek, and dip back into the car. Sam turned to give his mother a long hug goodbye when she met him by the trunk. “Wish me luck.”

“Good luck, Sammy. I’ll miss you.” She cupped his cheek and he ducked down so she could kiss the furrow between his brows. She’d always done that after tucking him in and telling him goodnight. To her, he’d always be her little chubby-cheeked baby, no matter how tall, broad, and capable he’d grown up to be.

Sam got in the car and began the drive to the airport. “Let me guess, Mary thinks this is all my idea?” asked Brady. “Well, maybe you better hurry and knock me up so we can distract her with some grandkids. What do you say, cowboy?”

Sam smiled, and if he blushed a bit, he’d never admit it. “It’ll be fun to practice, but I think we should let her sweat a little bit.”

 

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The day came for jury selection and Sam was seated with Clarence Masters and the defendant. Potentials filled the impressive jury box made of polished mahogany and a judge, bored with the proceedings, sat at his bench fending off sleep. The defense counsel, a hardened, sour New York veteran, stood questioning the next juror-in-waiting. “As a juror, do you believe you would be able to separate this case from any personal opinions you may have concerning the banking industry?”

The potential being questioned looked confused before he clumsily replied, “Umm, what? Oh, yeah, you know, I like bankers and whatnot.” Masters caught the attorney’s attention, calling him back to their table.

“Get rid of this one. Also, dump potentials six and eight. I would say ditch twelve too, but the prosecution’ll basically fuck themselves and take care of it for us,” whispered Sam.

Masters looked intrigued, while the defense, shocked, said, “Six? No way, you’re joking. She was going to be my first choice. And eight, with the dreadlocks? You’re insane. He’s totally defendant juror material.”

“She’s my first pass, without a doubt. And did you get a look Eight’s shoes-”

The counsel interrupted, “Look, Dorothy, maybe in wholesome, Midwest America you’re the hero getting by on luck, but you’re not in Kansas anymore. This is New York, Manhattan to be exact. We’re not just tipping cows here.”

Sam kept on without missing a beat, “He polishes his shoes daily. He makes his own clothes. He might look like some stereotype to you, but I see a man with direction who’s got an arsenal under his bed and woe betide the creature who steps into his garden. Oh, and number six, your fave? Damaged goods.”

“But she’s a Catholic schoolteacher,” he argued, continuing as he looked to Masters for backup. “She believed in human frailty. How would she not sympathize with the defendant?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but she’s biased,” Sam said, looking over the jury box. “She wants on this jury; someone hurt her and she’s vengeful.” Masters shrugged, unable to offer any opposition to Sam’s logic. His assignment for this venture was to observe and stick to the firm’s objectives.

“How the hell do you even know all this?” asked the attorney.

“Honestly? I don’t know. Call it an instinctual hunch.” Sam knew that wouldn’t fly with the grizzled city lawyer, but it was the truth. Agitated, he looked over at Masters again.

“Look, either you leash your pup here, or I walk. Let’s see you win this shit show without me.” The client gasped and nearly had a coughing fit. He blubbered and cleared his throat as he tried not to cause a scene.

Masters sat back in his seat, crossed his arms, and said, “Walk.”

The defendant glared daggers at Sam as his attorney’s bluff was called. “Fine. I’ll play along, but if I lose with this pissant’s jury, he gets to give the explanation.

As the selections resumed, the defense excused the three jurors that Sam advised. While everyone else’s attention was on that, Masters turned in his seat and nodded once to the mysterious, sharply dressed man seated in the back of the courtroom. A quick flash of yellow met a blink of black, followed by an impressed, knowing grin before the man quietly stood and left.

The trial took more than just a couple of weeks. Brady had spent most of that time in the hotel they’d been staying in watching TV, alone. He was finishing up dinner from room service as Sam walked in. “Hey, hot stuff. You’re home early for once. Mary called; said she was having a bad feeling.”

Sam grabbed a French fry off Brady’s plate, completely unnoticed as his husband was lost in some drama on the television. “She gets those every so often; I’m sure it’s nothing serious.” He sounded exhausted, defeated. It got Brady’s attention.

“You alright? What happened?”

“After all this time, the jury deliberated for little more than half an hour.”

“Shit, that bad?” He turned off the TV as Sam slumped down onto the loveseat. “Oh, Sam… Baby, I’m sorry. Though I can’t imagine what they expected when the client was as guilty as possible. I doubt there was a jury in existence that would have let him off.” Brady put his hand on the back of his neck and started a light massage.

“Yeah… save for one.” Sam turned and looked up at Brady through his bangs. He slowly worked his way to his million-watt smile, complete with mischievous dimples. Brady froze, jaw dropped in a silent gasp.

“Wha… Sam…?”

“Not fucking guilty!!! Thirty-five minutes! MY jury!”

“Yes! Holy shit Sam, you did it!”

“Ha-ha! Put on something I can rip off you later, Baby. We’re taking a bite outta the Big Apple tonight!”

 

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~~~~~

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After a weekend of relaxation, Sam was called into the office of Winchester-Milton-Walker. The building seemed to extend upward to infinity. He walked into the lobby and took in the minimalistic, sharp, geometric décor. He was awed at the reception area and the stunning receptionist who looked more like an overdressed menu item for a high-end escort service. “Good Morning, Mr. Masters. I have your messages,” she greeted as she looked past Sam.

“Thank you, Clarice.”

Clarence Masters walked out to greet him from a glass elevator with no apparent borders. “My apologies for the wait, but Mr. Winchester got stuck abroad a bit longer than expected,” he said as he led Sam onto the impressive device. As they went up, he had a view of everything around and beneath him. The city skyline was amazing from the height they were approaching. “It’s okay if your jaw hits the floor; I know mine did when I first got the tour.”

Sam nodded with a shy, nervous grin as he quietly cleared his throat. The elevator stopped and they exited into a bustling corporate area with a large diverse group of attorneys. Each had an assistant, but their aesthetic, in contrast, was very uniform. All were highly attractive, unassuming, and easily forgettable, easily secret weapons in their own right. Whether the lawyer was large and intimidating, or slight and laid back, their assistant provided a counterbalance that threw off any opposition.

“Forty vested partners, close to six hundred associates at the moment. We’ve got several international hubs, but this is the home office. Mr. Winchester travels a great deal. Along with corporate clientele, we currently represent approximately twenty-five foreign countries. Highly travel intensive.” As Masters continued to describe the firm’s attributes, Sam passed an open door and heard a voice that made him feel as if the world was moving in slow motion.

He peered into a broad window and spotted the source of the voice. A very stylishly dressed, slender, tall man about his age was pacing the office, looking serious. He was firing off the most magical sounding Italian into a headset that didn’t do any justice for his sharply coiffed, dark blond hair. The nameplate on the door read ‘Dean’ and he was improperly beautiful. He turned and surreal, mossy irises locked onto Sam with a no-nonsense stare until the scene was blocked in an instant by the snapping shut of vertical blinds.

Sam swore he’d seen that face in his mind before. He shook himself out of the trance and saw that Masters was a good distance ahead, down a hall leading to Winchester’s office. As Sam jogged to catch up, he noticed the sounds his shoes made as they hit the floor. He looked down and froze, completely shocked. It was glass, revealing a sixty-story drop to the street.

Masters gave a short laugh before he said, “Wow, you’re good. I once watched a hardcore Senator freak out and piss himself right in that spot.”

Sam gulped. “Awesome,” he deadpanned and huffed in annoyance.

“He’s waiting on you, Kid. Good luck.” Sam took a deep breath and walked toward the dark stone double doors. They automatically opened and once he stepped inside, closed behind him.

Winchester’s office was massive and in contrast to the rest of the architecture throughout the building, it was round. Despite there being no windows and the walls being made of Black Marble with a rose quartz pattern, the room was illuminated with natural light from several creatively shaped skylights. The space was minimalistic, almost to the point of sterility. Sam stood there, just taking it all in.

“Behind you.” Sam jumped despite himself then turned around and faced the legendary Winchester. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to spook you.”

“Oh, no. It’s fine, really. Sam Campbell. Nice to meet you,” he said with enthusiasm as they shook hands.

“John Winchester.” He stared at Sam with an eerie appreciation until he noticed that Sam stared back, fearless. “How have we New Yorkers been treating you? Not too shabby, I hope. Is your husband having a good time here?” he asked as he went to the wet bar, one of the few pieces of furniture in the room and poured a couple of whiskeys.

“Very well. Thank you. He’s been having a blast.”

“Ah, well that is the secret. We kill with kindness. Speaking of secrets, what’s yours? You were a prosecutor and you scored sixty-four straight convictions. That’s quite a number.” John came back with the drinks.

“It was right out of law school. Five years in the D.A.’s office. I like to be in court. I didn’t like to plea out. It didn’t feel right. I wanted to make a difference.”

“So, what’s it like to be putting them away one day and the next you’re setting them free?”

“It’s a bit of an adjustment,” Sam said with a touch of sarcasm.

“Yeah, but it pays better though, am I right? The Benders case, man, I hear you were brilliant.”

“Well, the prosecutor kinda dropped the ball there.”

“Oh? So, what, you think your clients were guilty?” John looked at Sam with raised brows as he showed just a hint of discomfort before he closed his expression, putting on a poker face that would put anyone to shame.

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“What is it then? What would you say?” Sam studied his glass a moment, then kicked back the last of his whiskey.

“How about this? I went into that courtroom with a clear conscience.”

John contemplated a moment. “Hmm, I could have sworn you had some kind of secret weapon, some ingenious method.”

Sam looked at John and made a decision. “The men’s room…” When John raised an eyebrow, he continued, “There’s a men’s room in the Smith County courthouse. It’s got a fault in the wall that separates it from the next room which is used for deliberations. I, uh, spent five years listening in on juries.

He frowned when John laughed until he said, “I love it, kid.” Then he relaxed.

“Love it all you want, just don’t tell it as one of my success stories. I’m fairly sure the Midwestern Bar Association wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“C’mon, Sam. Lemme show you why you don’t want to go back to Kansas. Let’s take a walk.” John pressed in a seamless spot on the wall and silent, gigantic panels opened in the marble to reveal a terrace with a narrow walkway surrounded by an infinity pool. This high above the city, the effect was dizzying. “So, how do you like it? Some can’t handle it, but I have a feeling you are different.”

“It’s peaceful.”

“Precisely,” John said, looking pleased. “So, now that we’ve gotten your resume filled in, tell me about your family. Your father, what does he do?”

“Well, I never knew my dad; he died before I was born. It was just my mom and me.”

“So, she never remarried?”

“She wasn’t ever married to begin with.”

When Sam began to look concerned as to why John was quizzing him, John looked sympathetic and said, “That couldn’t have been easy in Lawrence.”

“I doubt it’s easy anywhere… Oh, shit,” he said as he approached the edge of the walkway and looked down.

“Quite the feeling, looking down from above, huh kid?” He paused for a moment, taking in the view as well, even though he’d probably seen it millions of times. “Tell me more, What’s your mother like?”

“She’s tough. She’s worked in the same exact place for as long as I can remember. I think her last raise brought her up to like $8.50 an hour?” Sam chuckled, feeling a bit sardonic. “She found a church she really likes, attends there often or they go out and volunteer. She’s a preacher’s daughter.”

“Ah, a true believer. The meek shall inherit the earth.”

“Some would say.”

“Sounds like the church didn’t rub off on you. The book, scriptures?”

“Let’s say I’m on parole. Early release for good behavior and time served.”

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Again, he sent Sam a meaningful, expectant look. Sam merely smiled and looked back toward the skyline.

Another silent, contemplative moment passed. They both soaked in the view high above the city, Sam in a relaxed, somewhat cathartic state after not being judged on his humble start, or the steadfast faith of his mother and John, readying his tempting pitch.

“There are a lot of potential clients down there, Sam. In this city, hell in this world, it all eventually comes to light. People break the law here just as much as anywhere, but I am tired of sending their business elsewhere.”

“No need to sell me on New York, John. Are we negotiating right now?”

“If I told you I wasn’t always in negotiations, I’d be damned where I stand. You like it here, right?”

“Are you offering me a job?”

“Well, your talent got my attention before you got here. It’s just down to one other thing. Pressure. It changes everything. One type, you squeeze, they focus. Another one folds. Which one are you? Can you think of the fly and summon your talents at will? Can you deliver on time when you have a deadline? Can you look at yourself in the mirror and sleep at night with the knowledge of what you are doing every day?”

Sam moved closer to John until he was actually looking down into the man’s eyes. He gave that cocky grin and tilt from side to side that he always did in college when someone threw him a challenge. “When do we talk money?”

John smiled. “Ha-ha… Money’s easy…”

 

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Masters arrived the next morning at the hotel to escort Sam and Brady to their new home. Sam accepted John Winchester’s job offer and was now a criminal defense attorney for the firm. The apartment was in a turn of the century high-rise building brimming with pre-war architecture. The penthouse at the top had multiple tiers. It was very stately and elegant, a testament to the taste and grandeur of Winchester since he’d bought it. Clarence described the neighborhood and some of the perks in that part of the city.

They were warmly met by Meg Masters, Clarence’s wife. She proceeded to give Sam and Brady a tour of the place and Brady was pleasantly surprised that they were neighbors on the same floor. “No kidding, we’re right across the hall.”

“So, there are just two apartments per floor?” asked Sam in awe.

“My apologies for Clarence not being a bit more forthcoming, but as usual he tends to like to let things speak for themselves.” She opened the door and as they walked in, they were blown away by the massive space. Oversized rooms, extremely high ceilings, and tons of natural light.

“When they were preparing the apartment, we had them paint everything white. It’s only fair that you see it naked before you pick your aesthetic.” Meg said casually leaning on the doorway.

“Whoa, Sam! Three bedrooms! Do you know what that means? We could have a couple of kids running around here in no time!” Brady’s excitement echoed from far within the apartment.

“This is what they call a classic eight. You must have made quite the impression. It’s usually a perk a partner gets; there aren’t many of these apartments. Fair warning to say there might be some green faces at the firm,” said Clarence as he handed Sam the keys.

“It took us six years to end up in this place,” Meg added, with a grin. She had an almost hungry look when she fixed her eyes on Brady. She and Clarence said their goodbyes to let them get settled in.

Sam and Brady stood at an open western-facing window for the first time, looking out at Central Park. “Damn, Sammy, are you really this good? They seem to really want you.”

“I hope like hell I am. But Brady, I’ll be honest with you. I’m only gonna go through with this if you’re on board. If you want to go back home, just lemme know, I’m with you, alright?”

Brady rolled his eyes. “Oh sure, yeah. Let’s go back to Kansas so you can keep waiting by the phone for some asshole to break the law. I’ll continue my paralegal work with that sleazeball who thinks he can feel me up just because he pays me. Are you fucking kidding?” He smiled and Sam pulled him into his arms.

Sam went in the next day to be introduced to the firm. It was an intimidating experience. There were about twenty-five people in attendance, all seated at one gigantic table. Just as the introductions were concluding, “Fergus Crowley, Managing Director and Real Estate,” the captivating young man and another woman entered quietly. He sat in the empty seat next to Sam and stated his name as though he’d been there the entire time.

“Dean Milligan, International Trade and Customs.”

Sam was once again like a deer caught in headlights as he attempted not to openly stare at Dean. Finally putting a name to a face he felt like he’d seen all of his life was no actual relief to the instant and intense draw he felt toward the man. He snapped to attention when he realized John was making a rather boisterous speech about the entire team being present. How some of them had arrived from extremely far away. Sam had to admit, the man had a flair for the dramatic.

“This room we're in was built -architecturally designed- to promote healthy group dynamics. A psychic centrifuge. Makes you want to connect to each other, doesn't it? Inclusion. Commonality. Synergy. All that good shit. That's what I'm seeking out today. Because when I hear the sorts of stories I've been hearing about backbiting, about partners not working together, departments cutting each other's throats over clients, or worse… I feel drained. I feel empty. I feel as though I've let you all down. We need something. A gesture. What do we need, Fergus?”

“Would you do with a nice public flogging perhaps?” he grated out in a world-weary, disgruntled near-whisper of a voice.

Everyone had an awkward, nervous laugh except for Dean while Sam noticed that Fergus and John appeared to be testing each other. John suggested everyone around the table connect by holding hands with their neighbor as a quick, cost-free, and powerful team exercise. When all grudgingly participated except Fergus, his staring match with John escalated. Sam began to think that this was all a callout on Fergus and today could have sealed the fate of his employment. In the end, Fergus acquiesced, and John was pleased as he smiled at Sam. “Welcome to Winchester-Milton-Walker.”

After the morning meeting, Clarence showed Sam to his new office. “So, what do you think?”

The office was very nice and yet very plain. A full corner of grandiose, floor-to-ceiling windows. A bit blank, but it had a sizable desk and a phone. Feeling lighter than he had in a while, Sam joked and said, “It’ll do, I guess.”

“Until something better comes along?” chimed in a new voice. A blonde, slim woman in a sharp, white business suit stood just in the doorway, smiling. She looked to Sam like a no-nonsense bible camp counselor or school nurse he could have had as a kid. Her eyes were really light, such a clear blue they almost looked clear. Sam went to shake her hand in greeting and could have sworn her eyes were pure white for a split second.

“Sam Campbell, meet Lilith Daugherty. She was with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office for fourteen years, so she is well versed in the local scene; she’ll be your guide.” He directed his attention to Lilith, “You’ll be expediting his New York Bar application?”

“Already in the works. For now, we have you assigned to Pro Hac Vice. We’ve contacted Kansas and petitioned for a commendation letter.” She handed Sam a folder. “And, at the request of Mr. Winchester, I’ve prepared a summary of the Thibodeaux case.”

“Thibodeaux case?” Sam inquired with a great deal of interest.

 

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That evening, Sam was shown a home video of Remy sacrificing the goat. Lilith asked him what he thought about it and to his chagrin, he advised a plea deal. However, when Lilith teased about the D.A. waiting for him to do just that, Sam made the decision to continue with the trial. “I didn’t come all the way here to plea bargain my way through my career.”

After he read through the case file, Sam went to see Mr. Remy Thibodeaux. Apparently, he was on trial for breaking some health code laws due to his religion. While in the client’s home he could see for himself the environment there, assumed it was voodoo or Santeria. The man, Remy, cryptically acknowledged that “they” were older than all of those other faiths, and that they have an investment in blood with the firm. He tried to ask Remy more, but the shaman was only concerned with the name of the prosecutor. He performed a ritual that made even cool, collected Sam drop the act for a moment, and sent Sam on his way saying he’d done all he could to help them.

A few days, and nights, turned into a few weeks at the office for Sam while Brady worked to decide over the colors of wallpaper and upholstery samples at the apartment. At first, Sam went out of his way to make some of the design consults, knowing how important it was to Brady.

One week it was fabrics. “It’s an eighteenth-century, Italian silk damask…” the salesman droned with pride.

“And the price is…?”

“Oh, about two-thousand dollars a panel.” Brady looked gobsmacked for a moment, then disappointed. How could he possibly decide to spend that kind of money without Sam there?

“We’ll take it, at fourteen hundred.” Sam walked in, surprising Brady.

The next week was paint colors. “It’s arbor green, Meg. What do you think?”

“Oh honey, not with your complexion,” she breathed out in that relaxed, condescending drawl of hers that made her dangerously sexy to her husband but drove Brady batshit.

“How about Caribbean green?” Brady said as he rolled the bright color on the wall.

“Mmm, maybe something a bit cooler,”

Brady began to get frustrated. “A cooler green,” he deadpanned. The novelty of it was beginning to get old and Meg’s nonchalance was less helpful and increasingly passive-aggressive as things progressed. The “cooler green” was a soft mint and she said it looked like what you would find on the walls in a mental institution.

“I love green,” he said with a pout. He’d tested and re-primed about five different shades of green and he was growing more annoyed with Meg by the day.

“I love it too sweetie, but it’s one thing to wear it and another entirely for it to cover your walls. You asked for my help, right? I mean, they’re your walls, do what you like. You’re gonna see them every day,” she said, standing next to a mirror that hadn’t yet found a home. When Brady looked back at her, he happened to catch her reflection and his breath caught in his throat. He thought he’d seen Meg’s face twist into something inhuman, almost demonic. There were strange undulations underneath her clothes as if hands were constantly roving all over her body.

He quickly shook it off and blamed exhaustion and nerves for cutting short their time that day.

Meanwhile, at the office, Sam was buried face-first into the New York City Health Codes. Lilith left Sam working into the wee hours after she said, “It’s only a health code case.”

The next week, Brady was beginning to feel the silent, lonely expanse of the apartment. He had an outburst of frustration as he tore down samples and pages of magazines. He never saw Sam anymore. He was beginning to think Sam was avoiding him because he never even wanted children. He needed to get out of this bleak, empty apartment and clear his head. He went to spend some time across the hall with Meg; maybe she’d be more understanding if they weren’t arguing over decor. “I feel like I am just floating around in there all day, drifting like dust or something.”

Meg poured a glass of wine and, as cool as ever, said “You’ll settle in. Just something to adjust to.”

“You know, Sam and I had this little personal office in our condo when he was with the D.A.’s office. His side, my side, just quaint. When I’d go to sleep, I remember I’d still see his light on at his desk. He was just working away. It was the most peaceful I’d ever been.”

“If I want to see Clarence, I make an appointment.”

“You’re joking. How on earth do you deal?”

“Check out this place, look around.” She lazily gestured at their tchotchkes and designer everything that simply coated the place from top to bottom. Their home looked like something that put any couture housing magazine staging to shame. “Look, you have about three options to keep yourself sane, the Holy Trinity if you will: You could work, but where’s the fun in that? You can play with every dime at your disposal, or you can breed.”

 

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At the end of the week, Sam confidently and forcefully defended his client’s rights with the law that was used to protect Kosher butchering in accordance with Remy Thibodeaux’s right to religious freedom. While he did that, requesting an immediate dismissal, the D.A. had a coughing fit escalate to the point where he couldn’t speak to argue his points of the case. For a fleeting moment, Sam thought about Remy’s ritual and shuddered.

Moments later, Sam, Remy, and Lilith left the courtroom with triumphant smiles and were met by John Winchester’s applause.

John took Sam out for a celebratory lunch, a street food vendor on Canal Street in Chinatown. “Best street food on the planet. I dare you to tell me that isn’t the greatest. New York is a hell of a scene; you never know what you’ll get. Take Thibodeaux, guys like him living under the city in squalor when the whole time he’s a multi-millionaire.”

“No way.”

“Well, kid, we’re not exactly giving you away pro bono. I’m billing your services out at four hundred per hour. What, you think he’s paying in goat blood? The thing I love is you got in there and fought the cage match with him. That kind of instinct can’t be taught, it’s gotta be in your blood. There’re about five thousand lawyers working all over the globe for me and there aren’t three I would trust with Remy. They’re not on the slaughterhouse floor like you.”

“Wow, man. I could have sworn you were there today to make sure I didn’t screw the pooch.”

“Eh, maybe I did. The key is to not get cocky, no matter how good you may be. Never let ‘em see you coming. That is the only weakness I see in you. This midwestern, kicked puppy thing you got going on isn’t your only weapon and it won’t work forever.

“You know one thing you don’t have? I’ll tell you by example. This beautiful girl, preacher’s daughter, devout, innocent as anything, I set her loose and the things she did with me were scandalous, depraved by even the least inhibited, most shameless sinner. Afterward, she’s walking to the bathroom, well trying to anyway, and she looked back at me and her smile was an endless question. Because it was just me, not a Spartan army that fucked her into next week, and she wondered for the rest of her life ‘How’d that even happen?’ It becomes a secret etched into her soul. I am the surprise they never see coming. That, my boy, is what you lack.”

He saw the light shine in Sam’s eyes and knew he’d gotten the point. After that he praised him, saying he knew Sam would win and they’d end up here. Then, looking around he said, “Where’s the chicken?”

Sam, confused, said, “What?”

John asked the Chinese man sitting by a door the question in perfect, fluent Cantonese. The man pointed to a spot back behind them. As they walked on, he told him about a chicken that never loses in Tic-Tac-Toe, compared it to Sam, and then was back to praising him. He was on a total high from the win in the courtroom. The last bits of advice he gave to Sam before escorting him to the subway was to never lose his faith and to learn the subways and stay in the trenches.

 

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It was night by the time Sam walked into the apartment. It looked like the décor had changed again. Brady was definitely keeping himself busy. Sam called him as he walked through the spacious, not yet fully furnished home. “Oh man, I loved the green! What happened?”

“You’re late,” Brady said from the bedroom as he was finishing getting dressed for a night out.

Sam paused when he noticed a wall had been knocked down and tools were strewn across the floor. He asked about the renovation project.

“Oh, that.” He grinned. “I had the idea to make it a nursery, but then I reminded myself that you’d need to actually be here enough to knock me up in the first place. So, I think it will be more functional as a law library.”

Sam stood at the bedroom door, dimples in full force as he dropped his messenger bag and then his pants. “Na-ah, put that beast back in its cage. We were expected at Crowley’s fifteen minutes ago. It’s a good thing you have to look sharp for work. Freshen up, let’s go.”

The Managing Director, Fergus Crowley, lived on one of the floors upstairs. Of course, John lived at the top in the tower penthouse. Crowley was hosting a party that would host many of New York’s elite. Brady, as they rode up in the elevator, spoke nervously, “Tell me I can handle this.”

“You can handle this.”

“Promise me you won’t disappear on me in there.”

“I promise.” They exited the elevator and rang the doorbell.

Rowena MacLeod, Crowley’s wife, opened the door and introduced herself with a flourish. “Come in, you two. Everyone cann’a wait to meet you.” A fiery, beautiful Scottish woman with amazing red hair, Rowena floated across the room with flair and grace.

Fergus and Rowena’s home was twice the size of Sam and Brady’s apartment, covering the entire floor. It was one of the five stories that lead up to the penthouse, Winchester’s penthouse. It was decorated and furnished lavishly, complete in a way that Brady couldn’t imagine. He latched onto Sam’s hand tighter as Rowena led them into the crowd.

Sam recognized some of the faces from his first day in the conference room, others were new, smart, sleek, all were expensive looking. As introductions were being made, Fergus called Sam from across the room, “Samuel Campbell, Jury Filter, Health Code Warrior, all hail the new prince!”

“Ah, Mr. Crowley, this is Brady.”

“Hello! Aren’t you an innocent-looking thing? Keep your guard up, Samuel. There are plenty of old hounds in here tonight that would love to devour this one here.” He gestured at Brady.

“Ha-ha, nice to meet you.” Brady shook Crowley’s hand, and it was as if everything went at twice the speed from there. Crowley led Sam in one direction and Rowena whisked Brady off with her as he gushed about their home.

Sam found Brady again to introduce him to Lilith, calling her his partner in crime at the firm. It was a whirlwind of activity. One moment, Sam and Brady were the new up and coming power couple, Sam was taking the city by storm as a defense attorney, and the none too shabby Brady was backing him as the Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder. The next moment, the sharks infiltrated with a divide and conquer move. Clarence snatched Sam to go meet another important socialite and Brady found himself surrounded by the gushing wives’ club of the firm.

As they stood spoiling him with compliments, John Winchester arrived fashionably late. Brady was a bit taken with him, not having met him yet. John spotted their little group and excused himself from the Senator and Ambassador to go greet his new star player’s shy, blushing spouse.

“Who is that who was just with the Senator?”

Meg said, “Oh, honey, you gotta watch out for that one. He never fails to get me all dewy.”

“Oh my, you haven’t met him yet?” asked Rowena.

“No, afraid not. He’s coming this way.”

“It’s like he can hear us. Or better yet, smell us,” Meg practically purred.

“You must be Tyson Brady, well, Campbell right? John Winchester. I was looking forward to meeting you tonight, and here you stand. Already in the deep end with the sharks.”

“Careful, John,” Meg spat back, playful, yet somehow not.

“Excuse us, would you?” John took Brady to sit and talk with for a moment. He asked him about how he felt here. Brady, ever the supportive spouse said, “This is an amazing opportunity for Sam. I am so proud of him.”

“Yes, yes, Sam will be right at home here. He might need a few new suits and some new tricks, but he’ll make it. I’m concerned about you. You’re gonna miss your family, right?”

“Mmm, not really. I told Sam a while back the only thing worse than having no father at all was having mine. We had everything we could want in life as kids, just not him.”

“I can relate; absentee fathers are a real piece of work.” He sympathetically smiled while Brady chuckled. They talked a little while longer while the rest of the party pretended not to be watching.

While Clarence talked Sam up to a couple of other potential clients, Sam happened to see Dean chatting up a few others in perfect Russian. He was impressed with the apparent talent and intellect Dean possessed. Dean noticed Sam watching and grinned. As he continued to watch, Dean concluded his conversation and then went out on the terrace, where Sam soon followed.

He couldn’t help his compulsion to follow; he was drawn to this man, this mystery. As they looked out over the edge, Dean said, “Do you get to enjoy this view often?”

“Excuse me?” Sam immediately misunderstood, his mind already clouded with thoughts of Dean, naked and writhing beneath him.

“From your terrace, do you have this view?”

“Ah, no, not exactly. I’m about twelve floors down and there’s no terrace. What about you?”

“I live downtown, actually. This building has a bit too much of a family atmosphere for me. Too wholesome.”

Sam felt a bit warm under his collar. “Downtown sounds like fun.” To clean up his innuendo, he said, “I’m, uh, just getting to know the city.”

“Everything you expected?”

“Quite a bit more, to be honest.”

“Are you hinting around wanting a tour, Sam?”

“You mean tonight, Dean?”

“Is your husband the jealous type?” Dean said as he crept closer into Sam’s personal space. Sam gave a shy laugh and Dean backed away a bit. “Oooh, looks like I might scare you away.”

“No, uh, I’m fine really, just…”

“Just what?” Dean pierced him with his sharp, green stare. “I mean, you seem to really be on top of things. That’s where you like to be, isn’t it? On top?”

Sam paused, then recovered, putting on a poker face. “It depends on the view.”

“Well, you know the view I get,” John appeared, taking their attention away from each other and temporarily putting the mood on hold, “is the future of this law firm. We’ll take over the world you two.” He greeted Dean with a light kiss on the cheek and a hand on the small of his back as he spoke to him in perfect Italian. Sam barely contained the flash of possessive jealousy as he noticed the touch seemed a bit too casual and familiar to be professional. Then, Dean excused himself so that John could speak with Sam. “Something important has come up, Sam. I need you to bring Clarence and Crowley upstairs to my place, discreetly.”

He handed Sam a key and watched as Sam rushed to comply.

While Sam was indisposed, Brady was slowly becoming unhinged. After John had given him a complex about his looks, he left him there in the middle of the party where he knew no one. Sam was nowhere to be found and as he asked the few people he’d met, Brady gradually panicked more and more. Unbeknown to him, hungry eyes watched his every move.

Sam made it to the penthouse, none the wiser about Brady, with Clarence and Crowley in tow. He entered the room, noticing there were no other doors, no other rooms. A glorious red carpet with a complicated pattern spanned the entire floor space. There was a couch, some side tables, and some ancient-looking art. The walls had iron floor-to-ceiling sconces with archaic designs built into the stone. There was a huge, elaborate sculpture on the wall facing the door, and Sam found it terrifying and awe-inspiring at once. An ornate, stone desk was the only furniture in the room, and it stood before the sculpture. He saw John hurriedly speaking to someone in perfect Russian on the phone, and then Italian. Then he switched and started speaking Korean to yet another person on the call.

After a long moment of staring at the sculpture, he forced himself to look away so that he could ask if there was anything more to this penthouse. “Come on, guys, not even a bedroom? Where does he sleep?”

“Who says he sleeps?” answered Clarence.

“Alright, where does he fuck?”

“Everywhere! Hahaha.” Clarence grinned while Crowley rolled his eyes.

“What’s going on, John? What’s the big emergency?” asked Crowley.

“Alistair Diabolos.”

“What’s that sod done now?”

“Triple homicide. His wife, young stepson, and a maid. Just happened tonight. I sent Lilith downtown to make arrangements for his bail.”

“Sam, I want you to take this case.”

“Seriously? You want this Moose on a Manhattan triple homicide defending Alistair?! Are you a complete and utter MORON?”

“I’ve had the pleasure to experience every hardened Manhattan defense attorney and I would still choose Sam and not look back.”

Crowley sighed. “Look John, you’ve got a great eye for talent, you’re the master here, but I honestly just don’t see it.”

Sam watched them in this battle of wit versus will until he couldn’t hold back any longer, “John, I really appreciate you going to bat for me like this, but I think Crowley has a point here.”

“Fergus, I want you on-board. He’ll listen to you.” John saw the fearful resentment in Crowley when he used his first name. He hardly ever did that unless he meant business. “We can score this case, this man’s our client. How many hours did we bill him for last year, Clarence?”

“Over sixteen-thousand.”

“But he’s a business client, John.” Crowley was still putting up a fight.

“We know him; we know how to defend him. We have the best trial lawyer in the city with a perfect record. It’s ours to lose.”

“Try telling that to Diabolos.” One last-ditch effort from Crowley. The firm’s reputation would be on the line and he didn’t want to take chances on some doe-eyed Midwesterner.

“I want Sam to tell him.” The phone rang. “Ah, that should be Lilith now. You gonna fight for this one or not, Kiddo?” Sam walked by Crowley to answer the phone and let Lilith know he was taking the case.

Later, Sam walked into a dark apartment with a distraught and pissed off Brady. He’d been gone discussing work for over three hours and Brady had a panic attack. Meg finally told him where Sam was, and Brady went home. Sam tried to explain the details and that this would be the biggest case of his career so far; he had to leave the party.

Brady heard none of it, sticking to the fact that Sam bailed on him. He broke a promise. That night, Sam slept on the couch after Brady told him to go to hell.

 

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The next day, Sam, with John and Crowley met with Alastair. The man was a complete basket case. He’d had the press practically glued to him since he made bail. “John, John, John. This is my ass on the line, Winchester, and you wanna bring in some whiz kid?”

“Look, Al, you know how this town works.” Alistair lost his bravado for just a moment as he clued in on John’s words. “After this, now that you’re down, one of the most prominent real estate developers in this city, I’d say enemies you never heard from before will be emerging from their dark corners looking for your blood. Who can you trust?”

“I don’t know, I just need a little time.”

Sam gave the pitch a try. “You don’t have time Mr. Diabolos. There is no time for shopping around; jury selection started early this morning and there’s front-page coverage of this murder on every breakfast table in the city. This is all people know right now. Two women and a little boy are dead, killed in cold blood. You discover the crime scene. You made the call. You were found with blood on your skin and clothes. And…” Sam waited for him to make eye contact to strike the final blow. “Your prints are on the murder weapon.”

Crowley looked shocked as if this were a Hail Mary guess from Sam, but John looked nonplussed. Alistair went stark white. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“There was a bloody print on the wall near the bodies. It’s a partial print that was confirmed to be yours.”

“I didn’t do this, alright? I didn’t kill anybody! I have keys to the house. I touched the wall when I called the cops! I panicked!”

“How are you gonna convince twelve people to see past all that because it looks bad from every angle right now. If I were you, I’d nip this in the bud quick.”

“This is a nightmare. I have a fourteen-year-old stepdaughter and she means more to me than anything. They wouldn’t let me call her from downtown. I can’t even talk to her now.”

Crowley decided to join the pitch. He explained that Alistair needed immediate representation if he even hoped to visit her now. “We need to issue a statement to the press, mate.”

John spoke again, “He’s a hunter Al, a winner. They’ll never see him coming.”

 

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~~~~~

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While Sam was landing his biggest client, Brady had been dragged out shopping with Meg and Rowena. The storefronts of the boutiques looked too posh and extravagant for him. On top of that, he’d taken John’s advice to change his hair color to black, and as he viewed his reflection, he barely recognized himself. He felt completely out of place shopping with the women. He felt more like he was there to do the heavy lifting once they did all the spending they’d set out to do. He just hoped they wouldn’t be out too long.

The last store they went in didn’t even have a dressing room. It was so exclusive that Rowena had to make a reservation slot for two hours for the three of them. They were served wine by the bottle, completely unrestricted. One bottle became three, became five until finally, Brady tried to protest.

“Oh, but yes cutie, I want you pliable and loose this afternoon. You should buy something, say a fifteen hundred dollar scarf or one of those twenty-five hundred dollar pairs of shades, wear once, and then toss it,” Meg said as she stripped topless without inhibition and checked herself out in a mirror.

Brady blushed and studied his shoes. He wasn’t a prude, but he definitely didn’t think he would ever adjust to the amount of exhibitionism and shamelessness these high-powered socialites seemed to have. Rowena was in front of another mirror not as blatantly nude, saying, “If you never see your husband, you should at least have a healthy relationship with his money. If Fergus wasn’t afraid of me telling all of his secrets, he would have put a leash clause in the pre-nuptials.”

“Money does wonders with medical science. Just look at my new tits. Dr. Robert is a miracle worker. Not too big, simply perfect. What do you think, Ty Baby? Real… not real?” asked as she turned from side to side as if she’s aiming perky, pale missiles at him.

Brady huffed out an embarrassed laugh, “Well, they certainly look real,” as he tried to be polite about looking. But Meg wasn’t letting that be the end of it. She grabbed his hand.

“Here, feel ‘em. It’s no big deal for you, right? Do they feel real?” Brady gasped as his hand pressed into one soft mound, and he could feel his face redden.

“Umm, yep, real.” He gently but quickly snatched his hand back. He shook his head in disbelief as he laughed nervously again, but then he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. As Meg was pulling a skimpy number over her head to try it on, Brady caught her face morph into the same demonic image he’d seen in the reflection at home weeks ago. This time it wasn’t just a reflection and Brady looked at Meg full-on to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.

It was gruesome, her true face, the monster beneath. Brady dropped everything to run the hell out of there. He had to get home. This time, he had to tell Sam. Sam had to get them the fuck out of this place. Mary was right, he couldn’t even believe he was thinking that. His mother-in-law’s crazy, religious, bad feelings were probably fucking right.

 

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Sam went to the office to work on the Diabolos case after he’d been accepted as his defense counsel. He asked Lilith for any and all information they could get on Alistair. Later, as he was leaving to take a break, he saw Dean heading for the staircase in front of him. He watched those powerful thighs go up until Dean realized his shoelace was untied and knelt to tie his shoe. “See something you like?”

“Oh, uh, sorry,” he said clearing his throat, clearly caught. “I was just…”

“Just what? Staring?”

Sam blushed before his bravado kicked in. “Guilty as charged.”

Dean rolled his eyes, shook his head, and fought a smile as he descended the stairs and met Sam underneath. “Congratulations on the Diabolos case. It’s an interesting situation. Even if you happen to lose, you’ll become a star.”

“Thanks. What if I win?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Well, if you win…” Dean provocatively bit his luscious bottom lip and scanned Sam from head to toe and back. “If you win, that means everything.”

“Do you have any advice?”

Dean looked serious. “Alistair is a sadist, a disgusting asshat beyond all reasonable doubt. I suggest you keep him as far away from your jury as possible.” Then he leaned in and whispered with a sly grin, “And for the record, you can stare ‘til hell freezes over, but I don’t fuck married men.”

They played a game of ‘who’ll blink first’ before Sam shyly dipped his head and smiled, dimples and all, and said, “I’ll, uh, keep that in mind.”

“Uh, Sam?” Sam turned, almost startled, to see Lilith behind him. “Your husband is on the phone. He sounds pretty upset.” Sam rushed off and Dean and Lilith shared knowing smiles.

 

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When Brady got back to the apartment, he called Mary. He was so upset that he couldn’t talk about it, afraid someone was listening in on their conversation. She said she would arrange a visit as soon as she could, despite how she felt about New York. When Sam finally made it home, Brady was inconsolable. “Shh, c’mon baby, these walls are probably thin, they might hear you.”

“I don’t care, Sam! Damnit, I can’t stand this place. And these women!” He paced the floor. “I can’t believe you are so nonchalant about this. And what about what I saw? I mean, it was fucking evil!”

“You’re sure it wasn’t a trick of the light?”

“NO!”

“Calm down! Listen… please.” He stopped Brady, placing a hand over his heart, and with the other, he stroked his hair. “First, you go back and forth with all the redecorating, and then for whatever reason, you change your hair-”

“Oh fuck. I knew you’d hate it…”

“No, baby, c’mon stop. It’s fine. It’s dark and really highlights your baby blues. It’s just a severe, sudden, and dramatic change. It’s traumatic. You’re dealing with that and the pressure of fitting in with new friends, who all happen to be women with no boundaries.” Sam often tried to ignore the strange discomfort he felt knowing that Brady was the only male carrier in their little law firm community. “Add to that a few bottles of wine and even I’d expect to be seeing th-”

“Nope. I know what I saw. You know damn well I can hold my liquor. And don’t try to put this on me talking to Jennifer either. Fairly sure that is where you are going next.”

“What does your sister have to do with this?”

“Oh, nothing, aside from the fact that she’s pregnant… again!”

“Okay, uh, okay. How does that have nothing to do with this? I know you better than that. You’re pissed that she’s having yet another kid and we haven’t even had time to try!”

“I never see you anymore. You have this huge case now, and it’s only gonna take you away even more. I’m actually looking forward to your mom coming, believe it or not!”

“My mom?! What…? What’s wrong? You were having such a good time.”

“I can’t believe you don’t understand. It’s like, you buy a couple new suits and you’re A-OK. You’re happy.”

“Gimme a little more credit than that, Brady.” Sam’s eyes started to water. He hated that he had been having to neglect Brady so much, but he really thought he’d have adjusted better. He’d taken too much for granted and he felt awful.

“I hate this place! I know we have all this money and it’s all fun and games for you, but it’s not for me! I am more than just some ditzy twink and I deserve to be doing more than playing interior designer for you, and comedic distraction for your friends’ wives! It’s like I’m a rat in a maze being tested.” Brady finally exhausted himself and slid down the wall to slump against it, sitting on the floor. “I miss the fuck outta you, you know?”

Sam finally broke. He knelt on the floor between Brady’s knees and just embraced his husband. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.” The idea hit him like a wrecking ball. It was desperate, and he was far from ready, but if this was what Brady wanted, what he needed, then Sam would do his damndest to make sure he gave it to him.

“Let’s go for it, huh? You still want to make a baby with me?” Brady pulled back looking hopeful but still distressed. What was he supposed to believe?

“Tease,” sniffed Brady as Sam put his dimples and his sunshine smile to work.

“Never, not unless you asked me to.” He kissed Brady and quickly showed him he meant what he said. Within seconds, Brady had his legs wrapped around Sam as they shared deep, probing kisses. Sam pulled Brady up and pressed him back against the wall, devouring his lips. Brady pushed Sam’s jacket off his shoulders and tore through Sam’s button-down without missing a beat.

Sam yanked Brady’s t-shirt up over his head and threw it across the room. Then, Sam did a double-take as he looked into bright, green eyes instead of teary blue. He heard that voice say, “Do you enjoy this view?” A smiling Dean was there instead of Brady, half nude, standing tall and glorious as Sam stood fumbling with his belt. Dean kissed him and his lips felt like heaven, his tongue tasted of ambrosia and home. He laved that tongue down Sam’s neck as his hands roamed the tan planes of his chest. He licked his way to, around, and in Sam’s belly button as he gracefully took a knee and took over unbuckling the belt and opening Sam’s dress pants. In record time he had Sam’s cock out, and his mouth on it.

Sam closed his eyes and threw his head back in bliss, not knowing what the hell was going on, but sure that this was everything he’d dreamed since he found out Dean was a living, breathing, tangible person. “Make love to me, Sam.” He quickly looked back down as he heard Brady’s plea and saw his face, red and puffy from crying, but still beautiful. He shook his head to try to clear his mind. He needed to focus on Brady, what the fuck was he doing?

He dropped to his knees and slowly pressed Brady back until they were lying on the floor. He worshipped Brady’s fair skin, kissing and nipping his chest as he peeled him out of his sleep pants. He pulled the fabric from smooth, pale ankles and put his lips and tongue to work traveling up toward Brady’s strong thighs and paused again when he heard a pleasured sigh that made him even harder. Dean, naked, lean, and athletic lay before him. “How do you want me? Do you prefer to watch? Or would you rather just take what’s yours?” Dean flirted as he turned onto his stomach showing the muscular, freckled globes of his ass, and then back onto his back to face Sam with a leer as he licked his plump bottom lip.

Sam pounced, wanting to drown in those pale green orbs. He laid his weight on top of Dean and relished in Dean’s hands roaming down his back and sides to push his pants down his thighs. Sam braced himself on his arms again and found himself looking down at watery, emotional blue again.

Frustrated, he turned Brady over seeking sun-kissed-yet-fair, freckled skin. That had indeed done the trick, and the laugh that came from Dean was triumphant. Sam was too desperate to wait any longer, but he knew better than to just dive in. He wet his fingers and quickly but gently probed Dean’s tight heat, hoping that would soon be what surrounded his pulsating erection.

Eagerly, he pinned Dean down and spread his knees apart with his own. He pressed into Dean, breaching his resistance and they both cried out in pleasure together. As he started moving, the groans and grunts would change pitch revealing to Sam that Brady was still there, and his mind was unhinged. “Ow, Sam. Wait… Stop!”

Sam froze and Brady looked over his shoulder panting, “What is going on? Where is your mind right now?”

“I’m here; I’m right here.”

“No, you’re not.” He winced as he dislodged Sam as nicely as he could, then he turned over and lay there catching his breath. Sam wrapped him in his arms, trying to figure out how to fix this, but he knew the mood was ruined.

 

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Over the next few days, Sam, with Lilith assisting, grilled Alistair to get his account of what happened when he discovered the bodies of his wife, stepson, and maid. When Sam had him explain multiple times how and why he’d picked up the gun, he pulled out a new gun and demonstrated. It still didn’t look plausible, but Sam’s focus was on the fact that his client, the main suspect, was walking around carrying a gun. He made Alistair turn it over to him. No fucking way did it look good for a triple homicide suspect to be walking about with a weapon, especially one the same caliber as the murder weapon.

Then Sam scheduled time to speak with his assistant, Sarah Blake. When Alistair provided an alibi, she was involved. She’d provided testimony on the police report confirming the timeframes of Alistair’s actions that evening. Sam instructed Alistair under no uncertain terms was he to speak with anyone else but him during this time.

At the end of the day, Sam took his mother and Brady out to dinner. She’d been in town all week already, but this was the first time he’d been available to go with them. When they arrived home, the press was everywhere. Sam hurried Mary and Brady into the building, where the doorman apologized. “How was dinner, ma’am?”

“It was wonderful. Are you hungry?” She offered him the swan-shaped foil doggie bag. Generosity came naturally to her.

“No, thank you, ma’am.”

She searched for Sam, but he was outside. “What’s going on?”

“Sam got a huge case. He’s had his picture in the paper for days,” Brady said with a slight tone of annoyance.

“He’s loved sticking his face in front of cameras since he was a baby,” Mary sighed fondly.

“Well, Mom, welcome to Babylon,” Sam jokingly said as he caught up with them after letting the press take a few pictures. As they walked to the elevators, John and Dean were already there waiting to go up. They were dressed up as if they’d also been out on the town.

“Ah, speak of the devil, I was just telling Dean about the Thibodeaux case.” John walked over with Dean in tow. When he saw Mary, he smiled a bright, welcoming smile that was so full of triumphant pride, Mary was motivated to hide behind Brady. Sam blamed it on his mother’s small-town shyness.

“And who is this radiant beauty? Is this your mother, Sam?”

Sam, stumped since seeing Dean, stuttered to attention. “Yes, uh Mom, this is-”

“John Winchester,” John interrupted with an expectant gaze.

“Mary Campbell.”

“It’s an absolute pleasure.” He kissed her hand, and his gaze was becoming a pompous leer. Just before it became awkward, John focused on Brady next. “Tyson, how are you? You’re looking ravishing since last I saw you.”

Brady gave a polite, “Thank you,” while watching Sam flushed and flustered next to Dean.

“Have you met Dean? He’s one of my international department heads.” Dean extended his hand and briefly shook Brady’s as the elevator arrived.

“Nice to see you,” said Brady before letting Mary step in first, then following. Dean followed, along with Sam, and finally, John, who pressed the button for their floor and then inserted the key to his penthouse.

There was silence on the slow ride up until John said, “This isn’t really your first time visiting New York, now is it Mrs. Campbell?”

Mary, still looking like she’d seen a ghost, said nothing, so Sam answered for her, “Yes, actually it is.”

“You’ve raised one hell of a son here, Mrs. Campbell. It must not have been easy doing that alone.”

“No,” Mary answered, glancing once his way, and then looking straight ahead again. The elevator stopped and Mary practically flew off. Not being completely impolite, she muttered, “Goodnight to you,” before she was out of earshot. Brady followed quickly and Sam was on his way.

“Goodnight,” John called back. “Hey Sam, hold on a sec. How are things going in the Diabolos case? Everything on task?”

“That’s sort of a longer talk.”

“Why don’t you come up and tell me?” he suggested as Dean leaned provocatively against the back wall of the elevator car. Green eyes and sandy blond hair shone like a mischievous dream.

“Now?” Sam asked, his focus not on John. Brady stood by the open apartment door and made a point to jingle the keys. Sam looked over at him and then said, “Let’s talk tomorrow.”

“Alright then, if you’re sure,” said John as he closed the safety screen and the elevator door shut on Dean loosening his tie.

Sam turned to go into the apartment behind Brady who was obviously pissed. “Is that what you’re doing when you’re working late, spending nights at the damn office?!”

“Whoa, what are you talking about?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. You know what? I don’t even want to hear it. I’m going to bed. Goodnight, Mary.”

“‘Night.” Worried eyes followed Brady before looking at Sam.

 

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In the morning, Sam was drinking his coffee when he read something disturbing in the morning paper. At the same time, Mary was already packing to go home. “Mom, what are you doing?”

“I’m gonna go home, Sam. I don’t feel right. I miss my church; I need my church.”

“C’mon, you just got here. There are about five-thousand churches in New York; you’ve got the pick of the litter here. Can’t we talk about this later? I just got reamed on the front page and I really gotta go fix this.”

“You need to do better for Tyson. He’s not doing well at all. This place is bad for him.”

“Yet another reason I need you to stay. I need your help. Take care of him; help him to adjust. Please, Mom.”

“I could take him back home with me. Let him regain his strength.”

Sam, frustrated, growled out, “This is home now. This is OUR home, where we are going to live. I’m not going back to Lebanon.”

He moved toward the door and Mary said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to temptation.”

“It is way too early for Bible scripture, Mom. I’m going to work; you can do whatever you want.” He walked out the door.

 

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Sam met with Sarah Blake and discussed the case. He let her know that he saw the news report about the prosecution finding a prenup for Alistair, which implied a motive for murder. There was hearsay that his wife confided in a friend about him having an affair. Alistair admitted to his affair with Sarah, so she needed to come clean. Both were hesitant to make the information public.

He was doing more research, burning the midnight oil again when he discovered Fergus Crowley there with a team. He started to tell Crowley about the alibi he’d been able to obtain for Alistair when he noticed they were shredding documents. Crowley told Sam, “It’s just a bit of housekeeping. If anyone should ask, you never saw this.”

“I don’t get it. Who would even know to ask about this?”

“Roman,” he grumbled as he closed the door to the room, shutting away all of the mysterious activity.

“Who?”

“Ah, you don’t know dick about Dick. Justice Department, Roman Commission. Well, bully for you.”

They rounded a corner and there was John, exiting his office as if he knew Sam was coming. “Grab your coat, young man. The night is young, and I’ve got ringside seats!”

“That’s great, but I at least have to call Brady.”

“Call him on the way.” John patted him on the shoulder as he passed.

“John, did you get my message?” asked Crowley, nearly desperate with urgency.

“Sure did! You write beautifully!” He laughed as he left Crowley behind, Sam in tow.

They ended up on the subway where, as Sam was asking John about Roman at the Justice Department, John was confronted by a man who threatened to stab him. John mysteriously halted the man in his tracks when he told him in perfect Spanish that his wife was cheating on him at that moment with his best friend, and that he should put that knife where it belonged. The man exited the subway train, gobsmacked.

From there, John took Sam to a major boxing event, introducing him as his new heavyweight champ. He kept Sam out all night; they went to an after-hours Flamenco club where John surrounded them with beautiful women and men. Sam argued about it over the phone with Brady. “What am I supposed to do? … He’s the senior partner! … He pays our bills, our food, heat, and rent in that gigantic apartment… of course I live there too. Stop, please, go to bed and get some rest. I have no idea when he’ll be done.”

 

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Brady fell asleep on the couch, stubbornly waiting for Sam to get home. He woke up abruptly, having dreamt he was hearing the music he’d heard over the phone when Sam called to tell him that once again he wouldn’t be home because he was out with John. He could hear it so clearly, so loud and when he woke up, it was gone. Then he heard sounds as if someone else was in the apartment. He crept to the kitchen and got a butcher knife from the drawer. He was just about to call out to see if someone was there when he heard them. From the second bedroom, the voices of Sam and… Dean?! There were small laughs and whispers, the sound of kisses, sighs, and moans… “So naïve, so innocent. He can’t give you what you want, what you need. He’ll figure it out soon enough. Then it’s just you and me, baby.”

Brady was pissed and he charged into the room ready to use that knife, but there was nothing to be seen and the voices were replaced by distant howls that grew closer. He awoke again on the couch, panting. He decided to go to the bedroom and stop waiting on Sam. As he rose to a seated position, he heard a menacing growl. It sounded so close and he could smell the stench of death on the creature’s breath, but he couldn’t see anything there.

Frozen in fear for a moment, he remembered having a knife in his hand, but then recalled that had been a nightmare. Unarmed, and panicked, he bolted, trying to head for his bedroom. Something swept his legs from underneath and he fell to the floor. Struggling against an invisible force, he was bitten and clawed before he was flipped onto his back. He screamed in agony as claws ripped deep into his lower abdomen.

This time when he woke, it was to Sam gently shaking him and calling his name, asking what was wrong. He’d been kicking and screaming on the couch when Sam got home, and he’d damn near kicked down the door when he heard Brady’s bloodcurdling screams. “Shh, hey, hey Brady calm down. You’re having a nightmare, alright?”

Brady clung to Sam, sobbing about there being so much blood. He couldn’t stop and was getting close to hyperventilating. Sam held him a moment longer and then went across the hall.

Clarence answered the door, half asleep. “Sam? What’s going on?” Sam quickly explained as best he could. Meg emerged from their bedroom, in her usual, self-assured swagger, and handed him some prescription tranquilizers.

“Here, Sam, this will help him calm down and sleep. Alright cowboy you might wanna hurry, I can hear him wheezing from here. It’s okay, we’ve all been there.”

Sam looked at the pills in his hand before looking back at his neighbors, grateful, yet wary. “Uh, thanks. I guess the transition’s been more difficult on him than I wanted to admit.”

Clarence said, “We know a few doctors’ names; we can drop them to you tomorrow if you want. They are very good.” Sam nodded and rushed back to Brady.

 

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The Week Before the Trial:

 

Sam spent a few days accompanying Brady to appointments and arranging others for him at his insistence. He swore that despite his body and clothes showing no injuries or blood, he was attacked and needed to know what had been taken from him. Sam knew it would take less time and effort to just go along with it so that he could have enough time to prepare Sarah Blake for the trial.

Once that was done, he met with Alistair’s office assistance/lover. “Alright now, Sarah, juries want honesty whether you are ashamed or not. You want your boss free from prison, you need to work with me.” He peppered her with questions the prosecution was likely to fire at her and she did well. However, he felt something was off when she answered him with a rehearsed, too-detailed explanation, and when he asked her a spontaneous question about whether Alistair was circumcised, she hesitated.

“So, what is it? Cut or uncut?” Sarah was silent as she looked anywhere but at Sam. “You have seen the man naked; you’ve been choking on his chicken multiple times a week for months and you don’t know if he’s got foreskin or not?”

Sarah rose to leave the office, defensive. “Why the fuck would anyone ask that? I’ve had it with your fucking games, asshole. You can take your questions and shove ‘em right up your ass!” Sam remained calm and watched her leave. Then he saw the commotion as people left their offices, some crying. Dean was visibly upset. Sam approached him, concern coloring his features.

“What happened, Dean? Tell me.” Dean shook his head slowly in disbelief, his eyes red-rimmed and teary.

“It’s Crowley, he’s dead. He was attacked and killed.”

“What? I’d just seen him. When did it happen?”

“He was found this morning, so it must have been last evening in the park. I can’t believe it.” Sam placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. It was shocking to Sam because he had just seen him in an unpleasant confrontation the day before. Sam had been on a run to the store for a few groceries and Crowley had run to him from out of seemingly nowhere. He was pretty perturbed and actually confronted Sam over finding that Sam had been made a partner of the firm. Perturbed was actually putting it nicely. He’d been irrationally pissed.

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“It seems congratulations are in order, Sunshine.”

“Uh, the trial’s not over. What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the fact that someone thought extremely highly of you, you lumbering country bumpkin. How did your name end up on the firm’s charter?”

“What?!” Sam, shocked, looked at the newsletter announcing him as the newest partner.

“Looks like it’s been there for ages. How did that happen under my nose? I am still the managing director of this firm! You want to dethrone me, you come at me head-on. Try to sneak past me again, and no one in the history of torture's been tortured with torture like the torture you'll be tortured with!”

“Uh, look, Fergus, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I damn well don’t like your tone. If you have an issue with internal paperwork, my suggestion to you is to hold one of those late-night shredding sessions.”

“You think you’ve got what you want? You think you can run this firm? Well, you certainly have some large shoes to fill, and now, you are well and truly on your own.” He backed away before he mentioned, “You tell John the next time Dick Roman calls, I might just answer.”

Off he went, jogging toward the park. Sam couldn’t have imagined what happened in the few moments after that. He’d gone to John’s penthouse with his concerns, thinking it was nothing more serious than Crowley’s pride, and John seemed genuinely saddened at the situation. “I nursed that man through addiction rehabs, two divorces, and a pregnancy scandal with a barely legal paralegal. I look at Fergus Crowley, and I say that the Lord must’ve been awfully bored to make such piteous creatures as these.”

Sam was sitting there waiting to take his groceries home, looking confused and uncomfortable. John continued, “Free will, the opportunity to hang themselves. Pure entertainment value, huh kid?”

Sam just sort of shrugged.

“Did he seem drunk to you?”

“I don’t think so. He was out jogging. I don’t even know what he was talking about. This Dick Roman thing, and me being made partner?”

“Seems the old man is in trouble again, but this time I just can’t get him out of it.” John dialed a number on his phone. “It’s me. Get Fergus Crowley, would you? Right away. He might be out, so page him if you need to; it’s urgent.”

Sam felt unease settle in his core. “I’m uh, I’m gonna go downstairs. I really should have been home with these. Ice cream, you know?”

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As he was comforting Dean, Sam felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. He turned around to find John Winchester just down the hall. He locked eyes with the enigma facing him. For a split second, he wondered…

Dean commented, “I don’t understand. Where could they have come from?”

Sam asked, “Who?”

Clarence, who had just gotten back after he had apparently been called to get information from the police, said, “The pack of feral dogs that attacked him.”

Lilith came through the slowly dwindling crowd to let Sam know that she brought Sarah home and that they had nothing left for the day. He bid Dean and a few others good day and headed out. He needed to check on Brady and then get ready to make his client look precisely like the disgusting asshole he truly was in the morning.

The case was so close to being won; Sam could feel it. One more shock to throw off the prosecution, then possibly one more recess until he could call Sarah to the stand and cement the alibi. That was all he needed and then he could take some time off and give Brady everything he needed to get better. If only he was confident that Brady could hold out that long. He’d been optimistic when Brady received some medication and started therapy, but often, he had no idea what he would find when he walked through the door of their apartment.

When he got home the apartment was completely dark. Brady sat at the kitchen table, downtrodden. Eyes red from crying, his cropped, dark hair making him look pale as death. Before Sam could say anything at all, he started mumbling, “It wasn’t a dream. It happened, right here. Couldn’t have been a dream if there’s proof.”

Sam spoke softly to avoid spooking him. “Brady, this isn’t you; is your medication affecting you? Please tell me that is all this is.”

“That’s it for us now; you won’t stay. He said it.”

“Okay, Baby, let’s get you in a hot, relaxing bath. Will that help?” He moved to take Brady into his arms.

“Stop! Don’t touch me!” Brady moved away like he was dodging a knife.

Sam froze, frustrated. “I am so confused, Brady. You don’t want me to leave you; you are terrified of it, but you push me away. What is it this time, huh? Another nightmare? Hallucinations?”

“They took my ovaries, Sam! I told you they did something to me that night! My sister, my older fucking sister, with this current pregnancy, has nine kids. My mom had my baby brother well into her forties! You could have set time by my cycles; I was even more regular than any woman I know.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I can’t have children,” Brady sobbed out.

“Who the hell told you that?”

“The doctor! I got my test results back today, so I went to see him.” Brady sank back into his chair, boneless. “Non-specific ovarian failure.”

“You just met these doctors. Maybe this one’s wrong. You should get a second opinion.” The phone rang and Brady made a desperate grab for Sam to not answer. Instead, Sam picked Brady up and took him to their bedroom, laid him on the bed, and tucked him in. He gave him one of the sedatives that had been prescribed by the doctor.

“Please Sammy, it’s these monsters. I tried to tell you. Hellhounds, Sam, they sent them. They took my…” He began to hyperventilate. “They killed Crowley!”

Brady tried to relay everything he’d seen, or rather, felt, before the haze of the medication kicked in. As far as details went, Sam would have thought Brady had been in the park running alongside Crowley when he got attacked. The only thing that made Sam give up on listening was when Brady, before losing consciousness, detailed Crowley being ripped to shreds by massive, demonic hounds.

Sam went back to the kitchen and sighed, running his hand down his face in sheer exhaustion. The phone rang once again, and this time Sam picked it up. He felt there was nothing he could do but prepare for the trial the next day. He was finally able to tell John about his concerns about Sarah Blake. “I don’t see how I can put her on the stand. I know she’s lying.”

“Why? Because she didn’t give you an answer? Was it a lie, or was it just nothing, a lack of confirmation? Basically, you will never know, and we don’t have much choice because she is all we have.”

“Alistair slaughtered those people and then set me up with this bullshit alibi.” Sam pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off the headache that was brewing.

“Well, if you really believe that, then you need to go with your gut. I’ll have your back whatever you decide. It isn’t like I haven’t lost before. You can’t win them all, son. Remember that conversation we had about pressure? This is what it feels like.”

 

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Sam met with John in the morning to head to the trial together. As they left the office building and headed toward John’s town car, John heard Sam on his cell phone finalizing some things with a doctor about Brady. After he hung up the phone, he leaned on the car, “The doctor thinks this might be some type of chemical imbalance causing depression and anxiety.”

John tutted, shook his head, and said, “I have to take you off this case. It would be irresponsible of me as your boss not to.”

“John, I am so close. I chose the jury, I’ve crawled through the mud and the shit for this case, and you want to pull in a pinch hitter now?”

“You love your husband, don’t you?”

“Absolutely, of course!”

“There isn’t a soul alive that wouldn’t understand if you bowed out now. Sam, he’s sick. Whoever we get to fill in you can consult; that would give you more time to tend to Tyson. You live to fight another day. It is only one case, there will be more. Embrace the disappointment, use it, and move on. C’mon, kid, you can’t seriously look me in the eye and tell me you never considered leaving this case?”

“It has crossed my mind, a lot. You know what else crossed my mind? I leave the case, Brady gets better, and I resent him. I don’t want to feel that about him, John. I can win this; I just need to put this beast down quickly and then I can put my all into helping him adjust to this life.” Sam felt like he was begging John to stay an execution. This was the last thing he needed right before trial.

John studied him for a long moment. “Alright, I stand corrected. You have obviously thought this through. I just wanted to make sure I did my part to help you see the big picture.”

 

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In the packed courtroom, the prosecution gave their opening argument. It was quite long, taking the remainder of the morning. The attorney was very compelling; it was apparent that the jury liked him. When he finished, the judge asked Sam if he would like to break for lunch. “If it pleases the court, your Honor, I’d like to go ahead now. I’ll be brief.”

“Proceed.”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, our morning was consumed with the prosecution’s talk of ‘evidence’. That was all very compelling, but it really neglected to address the real subject of this trial, murder. The opposition left out the fact that Alistair Diabolos was indeed elsewhere when these horrific murders took place. Now, Alistair Diabolos has done some pretty reprehensible things. He’s been a terrible husband to all three of his wives and a force of destruction in the lives of his stepchildren. He’s cheated this city, his partners, and his employees. He’s paid countless fines and shown no remorse for the actions that brought those fines down on his head.

“I don’t like Alistair and I don’t expect you to. You will hear even more about things he’s done and like him even less, but this is not some popularity contest and he is not competing for Mr. Personality. This is a murder trial. Now, the state is putting a lot of energy toward throwing everything they can at this case. I am only asking one thing of you. I need you to ask yourselves, ‘Is not liking this man a sufficient reason to convict him of murder?’” The courtroom was stunned silent. “Please enjoy your lunch. We’ll talk more afterward.”

Alistair followed Sam to one of the empty conference rooms and as soon as Lilith closed the door, he flew at him, slamming him against a wall in a rage. He was practically foaming at the mouth when he roared, “What the fuck did you do?! The fucking jury hates me!”

Sam launched him backward halfway across the room and while he focused on righting himself, Sam stalked toward him, pointing as he growled, “You will listen to me as you’ve never listened to anyone in your life. They’d better hate the fuck outta you! I’m gonna make damn sure they do because as long as you are out getting your rocks off, you are not home killing three people!”

Alistair cowered for possibly the first time in his shady life. Then, he caught on to what Sam said. Smiling like the shark he was, he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“You would never have been able to convince the jury if you pretended to be as shocked as you actually were. Spontaneity.”

The trial resumed, character witnesses and forensics experts were called to testify. Sam plowed through them with ease. When it was time to call Sarah to the stand, he looked at John, seated behind Alistair and Lilith. His throat had gone bone dry with the thought of what he was about to do, but once again he compartmentalized it under ‘doing his job’.

The trial ended in an uproar. There was absolute chaos as reporters and camera crews galore rushed out to be the first to scoop the story of the century. Real Estate Mogul Beats Triple Murder Charge on a Technicality

Lilith, urgently waving to get Sam’s attention, pushed her way through the crowd to hand him her phone. “It’s for you; it’s an emergency.”

 

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While Sam had been in court, Brady had been trying to enjoy the first moments of peaceful quiet he’d had since he and Sam first moved into this cavernous apartment. When he wasn’t distracted by Meg or Rowena, he was alone with his thoughts which were plagued by disembodied voices, disturbing tricks of the light, and horrific dreams. The few times he’d ventured out to explore the city alone, he’d been overwhelmed by how fast-paced everything was. He’d also been disappointed by how rude most people were. He missed the hometown feel of the Midwest and even the relaxed, carefree culture of the California coast.

Of course, the serenity was short-lived and conditional. It was the eye of a hideous storm, and when the knock on the door came it was too late for Brady to escape. It never occurred to Brady that John might have had other places he should have been. It didn’t cross his mind to think it strange that the man hadn’t ever visited their home before. He was just concerned with treating his husband’s boss with respect. Plus, John was the only one who seemed to appreciate the dramatic change to his looks. Hell, he’d suggested it.

They talked for hours; it had been so long since Brady had a conversation that didn’t make him feel degraded, devalued, or stupid. He’d been so comfortable he even forgot that he was sitting there, just chatting away, in his bathrobe. He’d been preparing to take a hot bath, finally not fearing the tub would open to a portal to hell and swallow him.

He’d forgotten that was all that had separated his naked skin from John’s piercing gaze and roaming hands. He’d forgotten what it felt like to be touched by real desire, and not just patronizing pity.

By the time he’d remembered that these were not Sam’s eyes appraising him, Sam’s lips on his neck, or Sam’s hands exploring between his thighs, Brady had been splayed across the cushions of the couch. One ankle was up over the back and his other foot was resting on the floor.

By the time Brady said no, started struggling, fighting, and then yelling, John had already fucked him once and that was just the beginning of his extensive list of depravity.

 

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Sam arrived home in a speeding taxicab. The doorman had attempted to call his phone first, and because Sam was in court the call was forwarded to Lilith’s cell. The doorman spotted Brady looking unhinged, saying that he left the building barefoot in nothing but a bathrobe. The doorman pointed Sam in the direction of a church at the end of the block.

Sam entered the church. It was empty, save an elderly couple who looked concerned as they left. Silence itself seemed to echo from the marble and granite. Brady was seated in one of the very front pews. Sam joined him and before he could even ask what was going on, Brady mumbled the whole account of what happened to him, and who was responsible. When Sam told Brady that John was in court with him the entire time and couldn’t possibly have been in two places at once, Brady finally broke.

“No, I’m not crazy. HE DID THIS TO ME!!” Brady stood up and in sheer desperation, removed the robe to show bruises, bite marks, cuts, and abrasions all over his body. Sam rushed to pull his robe around him and saw there was even some blood in the fabric. He stood there holding Brady and feeling helpless.

Later, after rushing Brady to the emergency room, and signing paperwork to have him admitted, he called Mary and set a red-eye flight for her to come back to New York. The nurse then advised him that Brady was stable, and he could see him before visiting hours ended.

He was on a gurney, being moved to the room he was going to spend the night in. He was under the influence of heavy sedation. “Sam, why is this happening to us?”

“I’m so sorry baby. Try to rest. They want you to sleep. You gotta watch your stress levels.”

“I know what it is. It’s the blood money, Sam. We took it without question when we knew those people were guilty as sin. I can’t look at myself in the mirror without seeing my twisted soul staring back.” Sam stayed with Brady as long as he could, even after he’d fallen into a fitful sleep. What he’d said about blood money reminded him of another disturbing conversation he’d had before.

 

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The next day, Mary sat with Brady while Sam went to attend the funeral of Fergus Crowley. Everything was over the top with a huge, crowded cathedral, eerie organ music, and an overabundance of flowers. Sam sat next to Meg and Clarence as it was the only space left. He grudgingly answered their concerned questions. Then Dean arrived and squeezed in next to him. Sam felt flushed, hot, and overstimulated pressed like a panini between them. He also happened to notice Alistair seated with what looked like his stepdaughter, Ruby, but she seemed to have aged a few years in a matter of weeks. Her hair was down; she had on very adult makeup and an off-the-shoulder dress. Alistair leaned to speak with someone on her other side and started to subtly stroke the back of her neck, and she leaned provocatively into the inappropriate touch.

In an instant, Sam thought he was hallucinating when instead of Alistair he saw Lee Bender, one of the scumbags he had defended back in Lebanon. Suddenly, he felt the wrongness of it all crashing in upon him. Alistair had been having an affair with his underage stepdaughter and he’d murdered the only people who could keep him from her. His assistant helped perpetuate the lie. Everyone he’d defended since and including the Benders had been guilty, worse than guilty, and Brady had been right about everything.

Sam abruptly left the funeral where he was approached by a man who introduced himself as Dick Roman and offered to help him. He tried to tell Sam about all that Crowley was involved in, that Crowley was going to testify against the firm and bring down John Winchester. “WMW is so much more than a law firm,” he began. “It is deeply ingrained in arms dealing, money laundering, chemical weaponry, and toxic waste. Its reach is worldwide, Sam. This is a one-time offer for you to join our side.”

Sam was too worried about getting back to Brady to care about all that, but Dick pressed on bringing up every case Sam had running through his head, including the Bender case. He paused across the street when Roman, as if reading his mind, stated there had been more charges brought against the Benders. They’d been caught with human remains of three more people, including Pa Bender’s own twelve-year-old daughter, Missy. “No one had even known there’d been a child living in the residence,” Roman said. He started to cross the street now that he had Sam’s attention. He’d just passed the center line when he was hit by a speeding car and thrown about six feet in the air before hitting the pavement with a sickening crunch.

Inside the church, John Winchester smiled as holy water began boiling in the font where he’d dipped his finger. Unbeknownst to the crowd inside, the stained-glass angels in the windows looked stricken with horror, and statues near the entryway cried tears of blood.

 

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Sam walked the corridors of the hospital; the cocktail of emotions was indeterminable from his blank stare. He found Brady’s room, where his mother was still there but she was not alone. Lilith was there and Sam just noticed that he hadn’t seen her at the funeral. He was slowly getting frustrated at how lackadaisical he’d been. He was usually more attentive to his surroundings. In hindsight, he felt like a sheep being herded into a corner ever since he left Lebanon.

“I came to see if Ms. Campbell needed a break.” Lilith’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Brady was sitting in a chair and was awake, yet barely coherent.

“Thanks, Lil, but I’m here now. I can take over from here.”

“Actually, Sam I need to talk to you. Can she stay for a moment?” Mary intended to talk to Sam within visual range of Brady so that either one of them would be able to respond quickly if anything went awry. “I never should have left Tyson here and I will never forgive myself for letting things get this bad.”

“This isn’t your fault, Mom. There isn’t much more you could’ve done.”

“Oh, Sam. I could have been honest with you, told you everything.”

“What are you talking about? When have you ever lied to me?”

“At the beginning, before all of this. I have been to New York before. I came with a church group when I was sixteen. You never let me answer, that night when John asked. We stayed for one week at a hotel that doesn’t even exist anymore, I checked. There was a restaurant in the lobby, and we ate there every night-”

“Wait, hold on. No. No…”

“Your father was a waiter there, Sam.”

“Seriously? You want to bring that up now? Here?” He started to walk away, and Mary had no choice but to follow because she needed him to know everything. It wasn’t too late, not yet.

“I really can’t deal with this right now, Mom. Not with everything else. Why are you doing this now?” He moved further away, and Mary stayed with him pleading with her eyes for him to just listen.

“I am terrified. Please, you need to understand.” Sam turned his back and walked away, completely overwhelmed.

Desperate, Mary said the only thing she could think of to stop Sam from shutting her out, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves!”

“What?” he asked, the sensation of icy dread seizing his spine.

At the same time, they heard Brady scream, “NO! GET OUT!!”

 

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Lilith spoke in soft, encouraging tones as she ran her fingers through Brady’s raven locks. She evened out the wayward spikes and shaped a style, then she tried to hand him a hand mirror she’d gotten from one of the nurses. “Now you look like your handsome self again. Take a look.”

Brady reflexively turned away. “No, please, I can’t.”

“It’s alright, darling. Here, see?” Brady turned back to the mirror and at first, everything looked normal. He saw his own reflection without any distortion, and he smiled. Then, Lilith tilted the mirror ever so slightly.

Lilith’s true face was a Salvador Dali nightmare of deformation. She had open gashes on her face, rotting teeth, multiple eyes, and burnt, leathery skin. The human eyes that Brady thought she had rolled unnaturally backward until only pure white orbs were all that could be seen.

“NO!” He jumped out of the chair in a panic, hitting Lilith with the back of his head so hard she dropped the mirror on the floor. It broke into jagged shards as Brady shoved Lilith out of his room while she held her face. “GET OUT!!” he screamed. He slammed the door shut, breaking the glass window.

Sam and Mary rushed back to the room wondering what hell broke loose, but Brady had barricaded the door. Sam repeatedly called out to him trying to get him to at least let him in the room. He looked at Sam through the hole where the glass used to be in the door. There was a metal screen behind the glass that kept those shards outside, so Sam was unable to get past that to unblock the door. Helpless, he watched Brady react to sounds he couldn’t hear.

Brady turned and looked at the gleaming shards of mirrored glass on the floor. While he could hear Sam begging him to open the door, to please let him help, other voices were drowning him out. “It’s time… if you don’t leave him, he’ll abandon you, this time for good… you know it’s true… two seconds of pain and you’ll never feel pain again…”

Brady knelt on the floor to pick up one of the larger shards of the mirror. Sam shouted, “No, no no no! Brady, no, please! Get a nurse, anybody! GO!”

Lilith stood there expectant, waiting, almost awe-stricken.

Sam kept trying, throwing himself at the door. “Brady, look at me, just look at me! C’mon, please!” The door gave, but only the barest of an inch, the chair propped against it scraped violently on the floor. That sound drew Brady’s attention for a moment.

He gazed up at Sam from where he was now seated on his heels. “I loved you,” he choked out with tears in his eyes. Watery blue on a pale white canvas framed by ebony was a serene picture for the split second before it was splattered with tiny dots of red. Brady penetrated his throat with savage intent and then dragged it from one side to the next. He fell to the floor, unmoving in seconds.

“NOOOO!” Sam viciously raged at the door until it finally gave way and the chair shattered to pieces. Vision blurred by tears; he was at Brady’s side in an instant trying to hold his neck to slow the bleeding, but the light had already faded from Brady’s eyes. Finally, an orderly arrived and pried Sam away so that he could attempt triage while calling for a doctor.

In all the confusion, Sam sought out his mother, but she was inconsolable. Then, he followed his peripheral and saw Lilith. Through the haze of his tears, he saw a satisfied smile on her face.

 

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Sam was seated on a bench in the hospital. His husband’s effects sat next to him in a small bag. The look on his face was complex, more than grief or shock. He was disillusioned, he was pissed, and he was determined. For the first time since she gave birth to him, Mary was afraid of her son.

Still, she kept her vigil on the same bench next to him. She still needed to tell him the truth, that is if he’d hear it. Or she needed to hear him say he never wanted to see her again. It would kill her, but she couldn’t walk away without knowing for sure. All the should have’s and would have’s in her guilt-ridden mind wouldn’t let her. She clung to herself, huddled at the edge of her side of the bench in a daze.

“Tell me the rest, Mom. You were in New York. You met a waiter…”

Her reverie interrupted, Mary gathered her will together and told the story. “He talked to me, really talked. I was just a kid; nobody ever really showed any interest in me or what I thought. And he… he seemed so different. He worked hard and had goals and dreams. He knew the Bible front to back. Every meal, there he was, a constant presence in a strange place. He was so kind; I hadn’t wanted it to end. So, the night he came to say goodbye I cried, and that was when he said it. ‘Behold, I send you out as a sheep in the midst of wolves.’

“It was totally disarming because that same day at Bible Study, we’d gone over Matthew Ten. It was impossible for him to have known that. I thought it had been a holy sign, and I let him in. But everything changed then; it all turned so horribly wrong. He was so cruel, sadistic and I was so ashamed when it was over,” she sobbed out before she cried in earnest for a moment.

After she composed herself, she continued, “The instant I landed back home, I made a vow to God that I would never leave again if He let me back into His good graces. I prayed there was a reason for such a horrible thing to have happened to me.” Mary grasped Sam’s hand and filled her voice with adoration when she said, “It was you, my blessing. I knew then I would have endured anything for you.”

Sam put together two and two, but he needed to hear it. “Tell me. Make it real and say it.”

“I recognized him that night, but I swore I was wrong. And you were just so proud of yourself for getting this opportunity I just didn’t have the heart to break yours. Then you started to wonder about the money, the apartment, all of the attention out of nowhere…” Sam’s look shattered her. “Winchester, he’s your father. Somehow he tracked you down.”

“No. He’s been there, always. Waiting for me, watching. He’s been leading me here, playing chess with our lives. Brady was Check. I have to go.” Sam stood from the bench, white-hot fury creating an aura around him.

Mary knew if Sam left now, she’d never see him again. “Sam, please don’t. Just forget about him and stay with me. We can go home and never have to see him again!”

“I have to; there’s no other way. Go on home, Mom. Pray for Brady’s soul, because I am not letting him keep it.” He descended the steps that led into the hospital and exited.

New York City, with a population of millions, was barren. Cleared of people and vehicles for miles. Only the buildings and the silence remained. He felt a moment of nerves as he witnessed the extent of John Winchester’s power.

Lilith was there in a white dress, looking ceremonial. “Look at you, shaking like a leaf. You have nothing to fear. In fact, you’ll never need to be afraid again. He will take all of your trepidation away. He’s waiting for you, it’s time to come home.” She handed him the key to the elevator that would give access to John Winchester’s penthouse, and in a blink, she vanished.

 

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Sam entered the penthouse, the vacuous space still looking the same except for one item. The sculpture that encompassed the wall behind John’s desk was altered. Now, instead of just a white marble swirling assembly of clouds, there are bodies spaced throughout. They looked alive yet suspended in time. It is also the only source of light in the room.

“Well, I must say, you are right about one thing, son. I have always been there. I’ve been riveted to the cinematic record of your life, holding my breath. I’ve been waiting for you to make that one decision that would convince me you were ready to accept your destiny. But I am no shepherd, Sam.” John appeared seemingly from nowhere.

“I don’t control anything, make anything happen. That isn’t how this works. Free Will -it’s as delicate as Fate’s loom. Interfere and you tangle up everything before it even begins. All I have done is set the paths before you. You wove your own thread, my boy.”

Sam tried to keep his temper in check, but for John to imply that Sam had been responsible for all of this, as if he’d killed his husband or even asked to be born for that matter, it set him off in a heartbeat. He pulled a gun from his pocket, Alistair’s gun that he’d all but forgotten he’d confiscated, and trained it on John. “What did you do to my husband?”

John, mocking disbelief, “A gun, in here? Is that really necessary?”

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO BRADY?!”

John shrugged as if giving up on trying to shield him from questions he didn’t want the answers to. “Well, on a generic scale with one being your typical protestant night at home with the Campbells and ten being the most depraved sexual acts known in history… I’d say I did him a favor when I stopped around a seven.”

Sam opened fire, nearly emptying the gun. It hit dead center of John’s chest; the boy had many hidden talents. Still, there was no effect, not even a flinch. “Oh-ho-ho! There’s the anger! Yes, you keep that up, you’ll need it.”

“Who are you?” Sam asked, lowering the gun. “What are you?”

“Not who you think, but maybe exactly what you think.” He blinked and his eyes were yellow. “Though I am the one he felt worthy to put in charge during his absence. And he tasked me, when the time was right, to bring my children together to fulfill a prophecy.”

Sam suddenly had flashes of a janitor at an elementary school he attended and Tessa, his colleague from Stanford who mysteriously ended up in Lebanon for the case that brought him here. He remembered seeing that same flash of yellow from each of them. “So, it really was you the whole time.”

“Name’s Azazel, but you can call me Dad. I am a Prince of Hell. The body you see before you is a vessel for genetic material. I met your mother in this form, and when she left and returned to that quiet little town of hers, I left John in capable hands so that I could guide you. Once you’d proven your potential on your own, I found John again here in New York. He aged well, didn't he? Handsome devil. My favorite possession. Can you believe my delight when you actually got your mother to leave Kansas and visit? Oh man, that was the best Father’s Day gift you could have given me.”

Sam didn’t want to discuss his mother. “You said your children, as in plural. So, I’m not the only one?

“I have had many special children. So many disappointments, until now.”

“And Tessa, you, introduced me to Brady. Was he in on this too?”

“Actually, no. Tyson Brady really was the best person to support you and encourage you. No demon could have done as good a job. It happened naturally, that beautiful, pure soul of his was just the balance you needed to make everything look as above board as possible.”

“And Crowley? Roman?”

“You aren’t hearing me, kid. Not one of those people can you blame on me. You could have saved Tyson’s life at any time. He just wanted to be loved, but deep down, you knew it wasn’t forever. Face it, you sought out a better view the moment you arrived.”

“No.”

“I’m not saying you didn’t care about him, you just made yourself a bigger priority. I even told you to take care of him, that the world would understand. You made your choice, or don’t you remember being afraid of resenting him?”

“You trapped us. You tricked me.”

“Did I tell you to go that hard for the Benders? And Thibodeaux, the ingenious direction you took with that one putting religious freedom on the table. And then finally, Alistair. You knew he was guilty, and you still put that lying bitch Sarah Blake on the stand to testify. Didn’t I tell you we all lose at some point?”

“What was I supposed to do? That was my job!”

“Vanity, also known as Pride, definitely my favorite sin. It is the best drug for humans. The high from it only makes the damnation sweeter.”

“What do you WANT?!” There was already a tense energy in the atmosphere, but as Sam began to lose patience, the air grew thicker. The sculpture started to move.

“I want you to be the king I know you are. Of all my special kids, you have the most potential. It’s in the blood, Sammy. Demon blood is better than Ovaltine. Chocked full of ‘vitamins and minerals’, it makes you big and strong! And you come by it naturally. That is, you and your brother…”

Dean walked in as if summoned, smiling and cocky, clothed in an ultra-short, kimono-style, red satin robe… and nothing else. There was barely enough cloth to give Sam’s imagination any work. “Half-brother, if you want to get technical. Hiya, Sammy.”

“Hmm, yes. Dean, all wrapped up in a bow. What do you think, Sam? What a fortunate turn of events for you, huh? I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve already seen into that big, brilliant mind of yours. I know what delights distract your mind when you think no one is paying attention. You have to know how long Dean has been waiting for you.”

“What is this, some sort of morality test?”

“Of course not. You want judgment, then just try to find that guy, your absentee landlord. He punked the whole species. He gave such extraordinary gifts and then happily watched as he created rules specifically set for humans to break them. Look but don’t touch. Touch but don’t taste. Taste… but don’t swallow. Dance monkey, dance while he laughed his fucking ass off!”

The sculpture on the wall grew more alive, the bodies moved more seductively as the atmosphere became almost palpable. John began to pace the floor in his excitement. “My lord is tangible, present, and he’s had his hand in everything since time began. He’s got agents on the ground. My father worships man, as he was instructed to, and it is his time to rise to glory once again!”

“Dad, you’re so dramatic. Why don’t you let me handle things from here? Sammy, would you like a drink? You look like you could use a drink.” Sam eyed Dean warily but felt something other than contemptuous, evil intent from him. He accepted the glass and let Dean lead him to the stone desk where he set it down. “He’s all talk, that one. I’m just here to make sure you are comfortable.”

Sam couldn’t deny that he’d found Dean attractive from the moment he’d heard his voice aloud and not as some mysterious conscience inside his mind. To know that he was real flesh and blood, it held some part of his anger at bay.

John droned on, “Fergus was telling you the truth, Sam. Your name is on the partnership charter. I would like you and your brother to take over the firm.”

Sam pried his eyes away from Dean’s. “Is that all?”

“Not exactly. I want you to accept your own vanity, Sam. It is justified. You are the key to a new future. Your progeny will be the culmination of so much power; he’ll sit at the head of all tables. Dean is ripe, juicy fruit. Low on the vine, ready to be picked. This is the time to claim your place in the history of all things.

“He’s a carrier and you want another special child.”

“I want a host of epic proportions, an ultimate vessel. My father wants to celebrate the victory of your union with Dean by walking the earth. He wants a father he can count on, a family to rival the one that turned its back on him.”

“And all I have to do is accept.”

“Ah, that Free Will, it’s a bitch of a fickle mistress isn’t it?”

“So, if you are ruler in interim, what can you possibly offer me?”

“Are we negotiating?” asked John, a reflection of a conversation that seemed to have happened a millennia ago.

“Always.” Sam replied, channeling the same nostalgia. “What can you promise me?”

“Anything. Everything will be yours! Endless victories with your actual soulmate by your side.”

Sam looked at the floor. He thought of Brady. “You’re telling the truth about me, aren’t you? I have demon blood in me. I made all this happen, the Benders, Alistair, even Brady. His death was my fault.” He felt a warm hand over his heart and looked back up into a sea of green.

“Try to forget about that. What’s passed is past. Let’s maybe focus on us, here, and now,” said Dean.

And oh, how Sam wanted to follow that tug on his heart, that magnetism on his soul. But he had something he really needed to solidify first. “What I mean is, I already have the power to make things happen the way I want them, right John?”

“Of course.”

Dean pulled Sam in by his lapel and whispered, “Don’t let dear ole Dad fool you. He gave us these double-edged swords and we can impale him on them if you’re tired of hearing the sonofabitch brag. This is your world now. And yeah, you can start by taking his most anticipated toy away from him.” Sam pulled back from Dean enough to face him again and he winked at him.

“Brady’s soul goes free. No tricks, you do it or I will make you do it. You will never hold his death over my head again, John. Do you hear me?” John looked stunned for a moment, but then with grudging resignation, he snapped his fingers. A glowing, white orb appeared to leave the sculpture and exit through John’s ceiling.

Sam felt the tension in the room relax some, and he could sense that John had kept his word. “Alright, I’ll play. I can’t deny that I wanted Dean from the moment we met. You’re wrong about when that was, though.”

“Semantics, kid. My boys, the Winchester boys are finally united. We were always destined to end up here. Diaboli Virtus in Lumbis Est ‘The power of the devil is in his loins’. That is what I have passed on to the two of you. It’s time to step up and take what’s yours.”

The sculpture on the wall became a portal, a swirling orgy of bodies in blissful motion. It seemed to extend from the wall and lose its boundary.

Sam finally picked up the glass that Dean had offered him before. He knew that the contents in that glass would seal his choice and his fate. He also knew more than Azazel did through the silent conversations he’d been having with Dean all night.

The glass was a symbolic mocking of the ritual where wine was commonly used as the blood of Christ. Instead of wine, there was a small serving of Lucifer’s blood, or so the Prince of Hell assumed. Dean had swapped it with his own demonic blood and instead of Sam being rendered submissive to Azazel, he will have surpassed him in power.

With his free hand, Sam grabbed one of the ties on Dean’s robe, pulling the bow loose in a slow tease. The lightweight slip of fabric opened and slipped from his strong, freckled shoulders. As it floated to the floor, Sam watched it trail down the planes and curves of Dean’s toned body. It was perfect, free of blemishes aside from a raised mark on Dean’s right forearm.

He followed the line from the mark, up Dean’s arm to appreciate his chest and neck, then looked into his eyes. They had turned fully black in his excitement under Sam’s scrutiny. Sam watched that hollow, demonic stare move to his throat when he began to drink. Dean licked his lips in anticipation.

The effect was immediate. Sam cringed, nearly crumbling in pain as the careful balance between his humanity and his demonic side was broken. When he rose again, it was to his full height with yellow eyes. He could feel the power undulating through him.

Azazel noticed the change in Sam’s eyes. They were a golden yellow, not the red glowing orbs he expected. He’d barely begun to protest before his vessel was choking. “You didn’t honestly think I’d let you live long enough to watch, did you?” Sam asked, holding him captive within John’s body with ease.

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“You were right. I am a winner. Whatever we did, we would’ve always ended up here. Whatever choices I made, whatever details you altered, we would have always ended up... here.” Azazel began to spark and crackle from within his vessel and Sam’s final words to him were, “I win, so I win.” The demon snapped out of existence with a single flash. John Winchester was also no more, as Sam had set his soul free before he tortured Azazel. The man didn’t deserve to suffer.

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Sam still felt the rush of demonic energy within. Before he was consumed by it, Dean got his attention. “Hey Sammy… can you get naked now? It’s only fair. I’ve been waiting for you for so long.” He was now leaning back against the edge of the stone desk.

Sam didn’t hesitate; in a flash he was in Dean’s space, devouring his lips with his own. He grasped Dean’s hips and yanked him up onto the polished surface. Sam ran his hands all over Dean. He reached his thighs and gripped close to his knees, pushing them apart and planting bruises in the shapes of his fingertips. He wedged himself in that space between.

Dean tore at Sam’s bloodstained clothes layer by layer. He shed him of every reminder of his guilt, his pain, and his vengeance. He was set to claim Sam just as much as Sam was going to claim him. By the time Sam’s perfectly pressed & pleated trousers hit the floor, Dean had run his nails down his back and left a very red handprint on Sam’s perky ass.

Sam growled in pleasure as he pulled at Dean’s hips and tugged his ass to the edge of the desk. He rutted against him before pushing him to lie back. He lifted Dean’s arms above his head and held his wrists as he nipped and bit at Dean’s exposed neck. Dean writhed when he slid his hands down thick, defined arms, torturing each dusky pink nipple with his teeth.

When Sam reached his belly button, teasing with his tongue, Dean grunted, wrapped his legs around Sam’s waist, and pulled him forward, rubbing his taut cheeks against Sam’s rigid length. “Easy, Tiger. Even demons can be ticklish.” Sam looked at him, grinned, and then pressed Dean’s knees up toward his chest, exposing him completely.

“Let’s see if you’re ticklish anywhere else.” Sam kissed his way down one thigh and licked a wet stripe from his sac to the flushed, full tip of his cock, making it twitch. Sam looked smug at the clear viscous puddle on Dean’s belly, then he lowered his face back down and drove his tongue directly into Dean’s dark, furled center. Dean gasped and let out a shuddering, “Ohhh, fuuuck.”

Sam treated Dean’s rim and beyond and like a three-course meal until Dean’s hips were undulating like the celebrating ethereal bodies in the portal adjacent to them. The moans of the damned souls were a delicious backdrop to Sam and Dean Winchester’s declaration of ownership of Hell. Dean’s moans and curses grew louder before he came.

There was no reprieve. While Dean was pliant, riding out his bliss, Sam drenched his hand in the pool of Dean’s precum and release. He manhandled him onto his stomach and then liberally joined that with the moisture he applied with his tongue as he worked Dean’s still pulsing muscles into relaxation.

“Do it, Baby Boy. Make me feel it.” Dean’s voice came out raspy, desperate and demanding. Sam didn’t dare make him wait any longer. He pressed past the initial resistance and then plunged deep into Dean in one thrust as they yelled out together. They matched each other move for move now that Dean had leverage from his position.

Sam was determined to wring another shattering orgasm from Dean to anoint the stone beneath them and feel Dean’s tight heat pulsate around him. He placed his clean hand around his beautiful throat and guided him up until he was arched against Sam’s chest. This altered the position so that Sam’s thrusts were sliding directly against his prostate, lighting Dean’s nerves up inside. Then with his other hand still slick, he stroked Dean’s renewed erection.

Dean held on to Sam for dear life, one hand tangled in Sam’s sweaty locks, and the other against his lower abdomen as he thought of the powerful child Sam was sure to give him. He keened and shook as his second, mind-blowing release raged through him like fire and his spend hit the smooth, dark stone. Sam held him up as he finally let go and marked Dean with his seed, breeding him full.

The writhing, living sculpture changed to flames erupting from the portal for a moment before calming back down to an inanimate Bas Relief of serene swirls. The portal to Hell closed with the confidence in their new Boy King and his Knight of Hell.

The rejoicing turned inward and echoed through every level down to the Cage. Lucifer grinned and waited, thinking he would have an immediate psychic bond with the child-to-be as time moved so different there. When the next thirty years passed for him without so much as a whisper from the heir of darkness growing in Dean’s womb, his howls of anger went ignored by all.

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