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An Occasional Matter of Family

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Timeline; this is in season 2, around episode “Bloodlust”. That means John has been dead for only a week at the beginning and Jessica died about nine months ago.

 

Dean came out of the bathroom toweling water out of his hair to find Sam sprawled on one of the motel beds intently studying John Winchester’s journal. He still had his shoes on, feet hanging off the atrociously patterned bedspread.

“You’re up for the shower.” Dean smacked Sam’s legs with the towel, flopping down on the other bed in the room. Sam just hummed in his general direction, toed his shoes off without moving from his position, and kept looking at the journal. He broke the silence a few seconds later, rolling over to face his brother.

“Do you know anything about a hunter named ‘Tony’?”

Dean’s eyebrows shot up. “Friend of Dad’s?”

“Yeah. In his little ‘contacts’ section, look.” Sam held out the journal, the familiar handwriting knotting Dean’s stomach for a moment as he took the leather book. Sure enough, just under the inked names “Bobby Singer” and “Ellen Harvelle” was written “Tony, California” followed by an unfamiliar telephone number.

“Do you know it?” Sam asked. His brother frowned and shook his head.

“Nope. Dad never mentioned anyone named Tony. But you know how tight he is about information.” Dean looked down, handing back the journal. The “is” hung painfully in the air for a moment, neither brother wanting to correct it.

“It’s right there under Ellen, but why wouldn’t Dad have mentioned him before? Plus, why no last name?” Sam looked doubtful as to the accuracy of the name and number; Dean just shrugged.

“Never gave out anything he didn’t need to. Not until it was important,” he added as he flipped onto his back. “Which it must not be. Don’t worry about it. We can ask Bobby sometime, see if he knows.”

“Fine.” Sam stood, closing the journal and stowing it in his bag before levering himself up off the bed and heading to the shower.

“Hurry up, man. I’m starving.”

But despite Dean’s words, Sam didn’t forget about the name and number, and after they got back to the motel at two in the morning, dappled with salt and smelling like smoke, he quietly flipped open his phone and added “Hunter(?) Tony” to his contacts anyway.

Two weeks later, he was glad he had.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The demon slammed Dean backwards into the shattered tombstone, the hunter grunting as the air was forced from his lungs and the broken stone edges slashed deep into his thigh and side. Perilously close to the open grave and the fire within, Dean tried to roll sideways but was stopped by the stocky man.

“Dean!” Sam lunged forward at the demon standing over his brother, slashing downward with the container of holy water and sending the creature reeling momentarily. “Exorcizamus te, omnis…” the younger hunter started chanting. The demon rushed him; Sam sent another wave of holy water flying, but the demon’s momentum carried it forward despite the burning skin, slamming him into Sam and crushing him against the ground. “Omnis congregatio,” Sam wheezed against the weight, “et secta diabolica…” The demon hit him across the jaw and Sam struggled to keep chanting.

Dean tackled the demon off of him, landing on its chest and punching once, twice, before it managed to reach up, stabbing its fingers into the deep cuts in Dean’s side and pulling. Dean yelled, twisting away, the sound ripped from his throat by the agony of already torn skin and muscle stretching further apart. But the noise was almost drowned out by Sam’s rushed chanting through shaky breaths as he finished the exorcism.

The demon released its hold on Dean’s leg and threw its head back, the familiar cloud of black smoke pouring from its mouth. The body crumpled to the ground and Sam slid over to check the man’s pulse. There was none.

“Sam.” Dean’s tight voice cut off his examination.

The younger brother’s eyes widened as he took in his sibling’s appearance. Blood was soaking Dean’s jeans and jacket despite the hands clamped over the gashes, some of the cuts visible through the slashes in the fabric. “Let me see,” Sam demanded.

He peeled up the edges of Dean’s t-shirt, frown deepening as the cuts came into view. “We’re going to need more medical supplies than we’ve got in the Impala. There’s no way you’re getting away without a lot of stitches.” He glanced at Dean’s leg to find it in worse shape than his side. “Can you walk?”

Dean rolled his eyes at him. “Of course I can walk, Sammy.”

But when Sam slipped a shoulder under his arm and helped pull Dean to his feet, the rest of the color drained from Dean’s face and he almost fell over.

“So that’s a no for walking,” Sam muttered. He yanked off his jacket and shirt, ignoring his twinging ribs (which were rapidly changing colors) and put the jacket back on, ripping the bottom off the shirt and wadding up the rest into a pad before tying it to Dean’s leg as best he could in the light of the burning grave. But it wasn’t going to be enough.

“Dean? Dean, look at me.” Somewhere in the last minute, Dean’s eyes had drifted shut. He blinked them open enough to glare mulishly at Sam. “Keep as much pressure on this as you can. I’m going to call an ambulance. There’s no way I can get you into the Impala.”

Dean frowned. “We can’t pay for that. Besides, what are you going to say? We were out digging up a grave because there was a ghost but apparently there was a demon we didn’t know about and it tried to kill us and that’s why there’s a dead body and a skeleton on fire?” His voice lacked some of its usual sarcasm and beligerence, but the point was sound.

“I could come up with something.” But Sam couldn’t deny that Dean was right-- they didn’t have money for an ambulance ride, much less a hospital after that. And calling authorities to the place they were burning a body wasn’t a great idea either. “Fine. Let me call Bobby, see if he knows anyone in the area who can get here quick. Hold onto this, okay?” Dean flipped him the bird, then clamped the hand onto the padding folded onto his leg and side. Sam rocked back on his heels and pulled out his phone.

He dialed. It rang three, four, five times. “C’mon, Bobby… pick up.” Voicemail. “Damn.” He dialed again, this time Ellen’s number. No answer.

“Sam.” He looked over and a fresh wave of urgency washed over him as Dean lifted one hand weakly. It was covered in blood-- the shirt was already soaked through and Dean was getting paler by the minute.

“Oh God.” Sam reached out and added pressure to Dean’s leg, ignoring his usually-stoic brother’s grunt of pain. Frantically, he scrolled through his phone contacts with his other hand.

There. “Hunter(?) Tony” and a subnote of “California.” Beyond caring if he knew who he was calling, Sam hit the call icon. The number rang… and the call connected.

“Um… hello?” The voice on the other end answered, probably wondering who the hell was calling him at two in the morning.

“This is Sam Winchester. Your name was in our father John’s journal. I don’t know who you are. We don’t know anything about you, but my brother needs help. We can’t go to a hospital and if you really know our father, you know why.”

There was silence on the end of the line. Dean, injured and blood-deprived as he was, still managed to pull a hand off his bloody side and make a throat-cutting “end call” gesture. Sam snatched his hand and shoved it back to the cuts, listening for a response.

“Listen, Dean is bleeding out on the ground so you need to figure out--”

“Where are you?” Tony interrupted. “Do you have a car?”

“Just north of Malibu, Larkhill Cemetery. And yes, but there’s no way Dean’s getting to it without more help.”

“Right. Be ready to move, I’ll be there in three minutes.”

“Wait, did you say three--” the line clicked off. Sam shoved the phone in his pocket. “Be ready to move. Three minutes.”

“Three?” Dean repeated.

“Apparently.” Sam reached out and retrieved the holy water flask, throwing it in the nearby bag along with a knife and Dean’s shotgun. Carefully, he took a cheap knife from their bag, stabbing the dead man with a twinge of regret and arranging the corpse’s hand on the knife handle so it looked self-inflicted. It wouldn’t fool any high level investigator-- the person who had been possessed probably had been dead much longer than a the evidence showed and had fresh bruises where he had clearly been punched-- but it would probably work for a local investigator. He flicked the flashlight towards the Impala, listening for car tires. “Where are your keys?”

“Other pocket.” The younger Winchester reached into the non-shredded jacket pocket, grabbing the car keys and stuffing them into his jeans.

“Shhhh.” Dean went still under his hands.

Sam stopped moving and could hear it, too; a faint roar, rapidly growing louder with each second. But instead of coming from the old road to the cemetery, it was coming from the sky above the palm trees

“Shit. Shit.” Sam didn’t know what it was, but it wasn’t something he recognized. Dean could see his brother’s face go from “worried” to “a little worried but mostly dead focused” in half a second. Keeping one hand over the biggest cut, Dean scrambled to find a pistol.

By the time the source of the noise cleared the trees, Dean was leaning heavily against a tombstone, white as a sheet but with a handgun in a steady palm and Sam was standing over him, shotgun cocked and ready.

Not much shocked Sam anymore, but a second later Sam almost dropped the shotgun in surprise because Iron Man was coming to a landing ten yards away. Dean kept the pistol trained on the metal head; Sam glanced at him. “It won’t do any good.”

“No, it won’t.” The faceplate of the armour slid up and both brothers immediately aimed at the human beneath the metal. Iron Man raised his hands in surrender. “Woah, there. Are you Sam and Dean Winchester?”

Sam cocked the shotgun.

“You called me three minutes ago. Your dad is John Winchester, husband of the late Mary Winchester. They lived in Lawrence, Kansas, which is where both of you were born.”

Dean dropped his gun, but one look at him told Sam that it was probably more from the blood loss than an overwhelming trust of the man. “Christo.”

Tony raised his eyebrows but didn’t react otherwise. Sam clicked the safety on and stowed the shotgun and Dean’s handgun back in the bag. Accepting for the moment the weirdness that was their life, Sam raised his own eyebrows at Iron Man. “Gonna help or not?”

The fancy suit hovered over, landing next to him. “I’ll carry him to the car. You get the door.” Sam nodded, scooping up the weapons bag and wincing in sympathy as Dean let out a groan as Iron Man picked him up, the metal of the suit pressing into the gashes.

“This is humiliating,” Dean mumbled under his breath. Sam had to stifle a smile, despite the severity of the situation; Dean looked almost tiny in the arms of the suit. Sam opened the back door and carefully helped Tony lay Dean across the back seat. A moment later, his mouth was open in awe as the Iron Man suit peeled off of Tony and into a small suitcase which the genius set on the floor by Dean’s feet.

“Right.” Sam got into the driver’s seat, gesturing to the passenger’s side. Tony slid in, clearly admiring the car, and immediately turned around in the seat, ignoring the seatbelt in favor of putting pressure on Dean’s side with one hand. The other whipped out a phone, which he held to his ear.

“Jarvis, we’re going to be at the house in ten minutes. I need prep for a transfusion of-- what’s your blood type?”

“AB,” Sam answered for Dean.

“Type AB or O, that’s universal, right? Get the nurse from last time, she was good. Tell her to bring a good suture kit.” He gestured as the car reached the road and they sped off, Sam pushing the speed limit anytime he looked in the rearview mirror at Dean. Sam wasn’t sure where the line was between “bleeding a lot” and “bleeding out” but between the blood on his own hands, Tony’s hands, and coating Dean they had to be getting pretty close to crossing it. “Turn left,” Tony threw in Sam’s direction before returning to Dean and the phone call. “Jarvis, we’re coming up on the main entrance. Black Chevy Impala.”

A set of large (and heavily but subtly fortified) gates loomed, sliding open as Sam drove up. There wasn’t time to ask questions; he continued through just as Tony announced “He’s out.” Sam craned around to look at his brother, who was now an unhealthy shade of grey and completely unconscious.

“Dean? DEAN?” Sam pressed harder on the gas pedal, the car speeding up the long driveway and coming to a halt where Tony indicated in an area that looked like a closed entrance to the world’s most expensive parking garage. Hands shaking, he turned off the car, flinging open the door and running back to the rear of the car. “Dean? Come on, wake up.” He gave his brother’s shoulders a little shake, looking frantically up at Tony.

“Let’s get him in the house, a doctor should be here any minute.” Sure enough, headlights were approaching in the distance and Sam caved.

“Okay. Grab his other side.” Carefully, they slid Dean out of the car, Sam supporting him as Tony activated the Iron Man armour and became fully encased in the suit. He scooped up Dean and hovered towards the mansion, the unconscious man in his arms.

Sam stnatched the weapons bag and hurried behind him, ignoring the fancy house in favor of keeping his eyes on his brother. To his mild surprise, however, they entered through the garage. The huge door opened in front of them within a second, Tony entering and laying Dean on an out of place dentist-looking chair off to the side, then landing on a platform which peeled the armour off of him, stowing in in the floor.

Dropping the bag on the floor, Sam grabbed Dean’s hand, the frown on his face becoming deeper as he felt how cold the skin was. “Can you make it warmer? He’s freezing.”

“Jarvis.” Tony waved in a vague manner and Sam raised his eyebrows, but a moment later he could hear the air swish on, noticeably warmer.

“Okay then,” he muttered, only to be interrupted by the arrival of a petite young lady with a medical kit.

She took one look at Dean and immediately started an IV of fluids and a blood transfusion, running the lines into the arm on his non-mangled side. Sam helped her carefully peel off the layers of blood-crusted fabric on his side and leg, the dried blood flaking off and the semi-wet t-shirt leaving stains on their hands. The Doctor pulled out a pair of shears and cut off the remains of Dean’s t-shirt (Sam winced; it was one of Dean’s favorites), leaving him topless except for the amulet, hanging on its leather cord. Tony brought over a biohazard bag, dumping the soiled cloth in it and holding it open for the wipes as the doctor gingerly began to clean around the slashes in Dean’s side.

Thirty minutes into the transfusion, Dean’s hand was warming up in Sam’s and the frown lines in his forehead were beginning to feel less permanant. The doctor (who introduced herself halfway through the stitches as Dr Avery Talita) had just exchanged IV bags, pumping Dean full of warmed blood and antibiotics.

“So, Sam,” she looked at him with raised eyebrows. “What exactly took this big chunk out of your brother here?”

“We were doing a night climb on one of the cliffs,” Sam lied smoothly. “Closer to Mr Stark’s mansion than we thought, luckily. Dean’s rope slipped and he got gashed on some rocks. I would have had to climb up to get my phone but Mr Stark had apparently been monitoring us since we accidentally got closer to his house and he figured out there was a problem and came to the rescue. He cut Dean out of the harness, called you, got us to the top.”

Tony nodded. Apparently he was willing to back Sam up, probably because he didn’t want to explain how he came to rescue a pair of brothers from a graveyard. “Well, he certainly hit the wrong rocks on the way down. You should double check all your equipment next time.” Dr Talita reprimanded. She finished the last stitch, wiping the area with another cloth before covering the still-unconscious Dean with a blanket and handing a plastic prescription container to Sam. “You seem to be responsible, despite the nighttime rock climbing. He needs two of these every twelve hours to help prevent infection. Call if it gets worse.” Sam nodded.

“Thanks,” Tony shook the Doctor’s hand. “I’ll transfer the payment, per usual.” She scooped up her bag and headed towards the door.

Sam took Dean’s hand again-- it was warming up nicely-- before letting him be and turning to Tony. “Got another blanket? I’d like to take this off and my clothing’s in the car.” The genius nodded, turning to cross the room and pull another fleece from a cabinet near a mini kitchen. The moment he turned, Sam sat and dropped one hand in to the duffel at his feet, pulling out another container of holy water and unscrewed it, holding it behind his leg where it couldn’t be seen. Tony patted-- was that a robot?-- on the head and held the blanket out to Sam.

As soon as his arm was extended, Sam’s hand flashed out, gripping Tony’s wrist and pouring a splash of holy water over the exposed skin of his arm. The other yanked his hand back, but it was in surprise, not pain. “What the hell?!”

“Sorry,” Sam screwed the lid back on the flask and dropped it into the bag. “Had to check.”

“Check what? Does this have anything to do with you burning a corpse and calling me for help from a graveyard in the middle of the night?” The younger Winchester looked up in surprise.

“Check for possession. You know the drill, right?”

“Um, no?”

Sam’s guard went back up.

“You’re not a hunter?” Tony opened his mouth, but Sam cut him off. “Actually, start at the beginning. How do you know our dad? Why is your name in his journal?”

It was Tony’s turn for surprise. “You don’t know?”

Sam just raised his eyebrows and made a “continue” gesture before stripping off his blood crusted jacket and shirt. He heard Tony hiss lightly at the sight of his ribs, which were now a brilliant purple, but Sam ignored him in favor of wrapping the blanket around his shoulders

Tony sighed. “I’m your cousin.”

“Excuse me?!” Out of all the things Sam would have been expecting to hear, that had not been among them.

“Your dad is my cousin, actually. You’re like, my first cousin once removed or something.” Tony took in Sam’s confused face. “Your grandmother Millie Winchester, your dad’s mom, was my dad’s sister. She was a Stark before she married Henry Winchester.” Tony laughed. “You should see some of the pictures of John and I at the same age- we looked a lot alike.”

Tony stood, crossing the room again to grab two bottles of water, handing one to Sam before sitting back down. “We were as close as we could be for two kids so far apart in age; John’s fifteen years older than I am so he was more like an older brother. My dad was a crappy parent when he was at home but he wasn’t home most of the time, especially when I was younger. The family butler, Jarvis, would sneak me out of the house and take me on weekends to see your dad.”

He shrugged. “But soon Howard was home more and more and wanted his son to be putting his brain to use building things instead of visiting relatives that we were only related to by marriage, not blood. John and I sort of fell apart and John pretty much disappeared. I didn’t look for him; right about then my parents and Jarvis died in a car accident and I just…” Tony shook his head. Something in his voice told Sam he didn’t care very much for his father, but his mother and Jarvis were another story.

“But John showed up at the house where I was living in New York twenty-and-a-few years ago. You must have been one or two, Dean a few years older… five maybe. I couldn’t get much out of John except that Mary had died in a fire. He was talking crazy, about a demon he was hunting. You all stayed with me for a day, repacked the car, and then vanished again after asking me not to keep track of him.”

Tony shook his head. “If I had been the person I am now, I might have offered to take you two from him. I’m never going to be a good parent, if that ever happens, but he seemed a little obsessed and not particularly parent-y either and maybe I could have helped. Then again, what do I know?” He took a deep breath and a sip of water. “I don’t know what happened to him. John had always been pretty level headed but that night… uh-uh.”

The genius looked at Sam for a moment, as if expecting an explanation, but none was forthcoming. Internally, Sam was reeling. They were related to Tony Stark-- they, Sam and Dean Winchester, who spent their days hunting down monsters and hustling pool to make enough money for motel rooms and diner food, were related to Tony Stark, who was owner of a huge corporation and was Iron Man in his free time. And who apparently had a childhood friendship with older cousin John Winchester.

Tony, apparently oblivious to Sam’s mental struggle, went ahead with the story. “So I stayed away and the rest is history. John apparently raised you two without killing either of you. I pretty much became an alcoholic, took over Stark Industries, got kidnapped, shrapnel, Iron Man, the whole thing.” He tapped the shining power source in his chest, which Sam didn’t know very much about. “Never thought I‘d hear from John again and I’m surprised he even told you about me. Where is he, anyway?”

Sam took a deep breath. This was only the third or fourth time he’d had to tell someone, but it wasn’t getting any easier. “He’s dead. Three weeks ago.”

Tony winced, setting his water on the workbench nearby and looking down. “I’m sorry,” he said. “What happened? If you don’t mind me asking.”

The younger Winchester reached up to rub his temple, hesitating. Tony studied the young man for a moment. He was tall, taller than Tony was. The brown hair was long on his neck and curled around his ears and there were lines and bags around his eyes, evidence of a lot of sleepless nights. A necklace hanging on a leather cord held a circular metal amulet inscribed with a five-pointed star surrounded by flames. Sam opened his mouth to talk, but Tony held up a hand.

“You know what? Never mind. I never thought I’d say this, but forget I asked, for now. You need to sleep, so tell me in the morning.” A readout flashed near Tony; it was almost 3:30 am. “Later in the morning,” Tony amended.

“Look, we can’t stay here.” Sam wanted nothing more than to sleep for eight or ten hours on one of Tony’s (probably excellent) beds. But they hadn’t been expecting that demon in the graveyard and anytime they didn’t expect one, there were probably several more working together and gunning to get them for some reason or the other. “It’s not safe.”

Tony laughed out loud at that. “Kid, I’m Iron Man. There’s an AI watching the whole house. I think you’ll be fine to sleep for a while. Right, Jarvis?”

Sam didn’t jump when a metallic voice responded. “Of course, Sir.” He couldn’t argue with Tony’s logic, just nodded, scooping up his jacket and the duffle, swinging it over his shoulder and standing.

“Can we move him? To a bed?” Sam asked, gesturing at Dean. Tony considered for a second, then nodded. Sam reached out and shook Dean’s shoulder and to his mild surprise his brother’s eyes fluttered open. Apparently Dean had moved from unconscious to just sleeping at some point during his and Tony’s conversation. “Hey, Dean. Can you help us out a little? We want you in a real bed.”

“We?” Dean’s eyes flicked around, homing in on Tony and making his whole body tense.

“Relax, I checked him,” Sam soothed. “Dean. It’s fine. I’ll explain later.” He added when Dean didn’t move.

Dean’s shoulders remained tense, but a slight tremor in his hands betrayed how tired he really was. Tony held up his hands, wiggling the fingers in a “I come in peace” gesture before reaching forward and deftly removing the empty transfusion lines from Dean’s arms, attaching a cotton ball to the punctures with a few strips of medical tape.

The older Winchester swung his legs off the dentist chair and stood. “Woah.” Sam quickly shoved a shoulder under Dean’s arm and Tony took the side he had just removed the line from, steadying the man as he swayed on his feet.

“This way.” Tony guided them towards a glass wall, the smooth glass door sliding open as they approached. Sam frowned at the long, winding staircase, but Tony moved the trio past them and to a small recessed elevator. It was a short ride from there to the floor above. Sam paused a moment to take in the modern but comfortable looking furniture, the floor to ceiling windows, the edges of a fancy kitchen around the corner, the huge wallscreen that probably cost more than he and Dean could make in several months.

Dean tugged on his arm and he started moving again, Tony leading down the hall to a guest room with two beds. They settled Dean on the one closest to the window, Sam kneeling to pull off his brother’s boots. Tony produced another bottle of water and the container of medication, which Sam had forgotten, handing two pills to Dean. To Sam’s surprise, he took them without much protest. “Thank you,” Sam said to Tony, sitting on the other bed. “We’ll be out of your hair tomorrow.”

“We’ll see about that,” Tony grinned and winked. “You owe me a story.”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Dean Winchester opened his eyes and groaned. His mouth was dry. His side hurt. And he was hungry.

“Sam?” He rolled over to look at where he had left his brother and shot upright, then went back down to his elbow, clutching his side. “Sammy?” This was definitely not the room in the motel. The walls were white and painted with tasteful accents. The bedding was clean and not atrociously patterned. One wall was floor to ceiling windows and looked out over the ocean.

“Good morning, Mr Winchester. The time is 11:34 am.”

“What the hell?” Dean scanned the room again, hoping beyond hope that this was some weird dream. “Sam?” he repeated. His side twinged again and he patted at it, feeling a layer of bandages he didn’t remember before.

He tossed his legs to the side and stood, taking a step and almost tripping on Sam’s duffle bag and the weapons duffle. Dean swore a blue streak but it was mixed with relief- the bag meant Sam was here somewhere. Carefully, he reached down and unzipped the top, pulling out a handgun and flicking off the safety.

“Mr Winchester, your brother requests your presence in the dining room.” The voice spoke again.

“Who are you.” It wasn’t a question.

“I am Jarvis, Mr Stark’s personal assistant.”

“Cut the crap and come out where I can see you,” Dean hissed.

“I’m afraid that is quite impossible; I am an AI created by Sir and have no physical form.”

An AI? Dean’s head was spinning, but he nodded, keeping his doubts to himself.
“Where am I going?”

“To the left and down the hall, Mr Winchester.”

One hand still gripping the handgun, the other pressed on his aching side, Dean made his way down the hall. He stopped about ten yards from what looked like an open living area, relief washing over him as he caught the sound of Sam’s voice.

“...and he told me to shoot him and kill him and the demon, but I, uh, couldn’t. And so the demon left and we were headed to go find it again when we got hit by an eighteen wheeler. Ended up in the hospital, all of us, but I was best off, then Dad, then Dean. Dean wouldn’t even wake up; Dad went off to run some errands and then back to his room. Dean woke up, I went to get a cup of coffee and came back to find Dad on the floor.”

Dean could hear the pain rising in Sam’s voice and cut in before he could go any further. “Sam?” he called, his voice rasping as he raised it. Continuing down the hallway, he looked up when the light at the end grew dim, only to see Sam and the other man (Tony Stark? Really?) standing there.

Dean lifted the pistol, hand steady from years of practice, aiming it at Stark. “Dean, no!” Sam lifted his hands in a placating gesture. “I checked him, he’s fine.”

“You sure?” Dean growled at the pair. Stark simply lifted his hands and his eyebrows, apparently not very perturbed by the gun being pointed at his head.

“Dean.” Sam’s voice was serious, if a little exasperated. “Tony’s good.”

Stark dropped his hands as Dean lowered the handgun. “Thanks, Sammy,” he said, tone amused.

“Only Dean gets to call me that.”

“I’m the only one who calls him that.”

The brothers spoke in unison, then exchanged a glance.

“Woah there, no need to get testy.” Stark flashed a hundred watt smile. “Why don’t you shower, Dean, while Sam fills you in. I’ll make breakfast-- or lunch -- and then we can sit and have a Q and A session.”

It wasn’t really a question at all but Dean nodded, turning where he stood and heading back down the hallway. He waited until the door shut behind Sam before snapping, eyes wide. “What’s going on?”

“Well.” Sam looked at him for a second. “We were digging up a grave and a demon came out of nowhere and attacked us. We finished the salt-and-burn and both got thrown around while I was trying to exorcise it. You were bleeding out on the ground but refused to let me call an ambulance, so I called people until someone answered and that someone happened to be the “Tony” in Dad’s journal and Tony happens to be Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.” The younger hunter said it all in one breath, preventing Dean from interjecting. “You passed out, we brought you back here, I checked him for demonic possession. He filled me in a little while you got stitched up. Get this; turns out we’re related to one of the richest guys on the planet.”

“Hold on.” Dean squinted at Sam. “Did you just say we’re related to Tony Stark?”

Sam shrugged. “I’ll get you the details while you’re in the shower but long story short, he’s dad’s cousin. I told him we’re leaving today -- no sense hanging out here if there’re demons but we don’t know why -- and I’m filling him in on what’s going on.”

“Does he hunt? Does he know anything about hunting at all?”

“Um, no.” Sam rubbed the back of his head with one hand. “He actually thought Dad was raving mad when he showed up at Stark’s house not long after Mom died. But he saw the cemetery last night and I’ve given him an overview. He seems to accept it, but you know…”

Dean nodded. “There’s a whole different level between thinking you understand and seeing it for yourself, right.” He turned, carefully peeling off his ripped jeans and heading for the (very nice) shower. “I just hope he doesn’t have to see it.”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Unfortunately, they were not that lucky; Sam and Dean were only on their third plate of pancakes when the shit hit the fan.

Having cleaned up, changed, and subtly armed themselves (like always) the brothers had joined Tony back in the kitchen/dining room, where the billionaire had managed to make quite the stack of pancakes.

“Help yourself,” he nodded at the plates. And they hadn’t hesitated. Tony sat down with a cup of coffee and looked at Dean.

“So. Sam filled you in?”

“Yeah.” Dean swallowed his mouthful, then set down his fork and held out a hand. “And I guess we haven’t been properly introduced. Dean Winchester.”

“Tony Stark.” They shook hands, Dean noting the calluses, scars, and rough edges of Tony’s hands. A billionaire he may have been, but a sissy keep-your-hands-clean man he surely wasn’t.

“Sam told me about your dad. I’m sorry to hear it. We hadn’t talked in years, but he always was good to me when we were kids.” Dean nodded his thanks, mouth full again, and Tony took a gulp of coffee before pulling a tablet across the table and clicking it on and sliding it to Dean. “Here’s this, by the way. I knew I had this photo somewhere.” Dean’s throat tightened a little around the pancakes because the picture was undoubtedly John Winchester and Tony Stark. His father’s face was younger and his hair was dark and not streaked by the grey that Dean had always known. He had to have been a few years older than Dean was now; his early thirties, perhaps. Tony was young, seventeen or so, and he grinned up at John as if he could move the world.

Dean knew the expression well, could feel it forming on his young face as he shot perfect bullseyes in a row of bottles years before everything had gone to hell in a handbasket.

“What were you doing last night? Some…” Tony’s forehead creased. “Otherworldly thing?”

Sam grinned at the genius’ phrasing. “Trust me, if you were us it would be a whole lot believable.”

“Which is why we’re not staying more than a few hours,” Dean tacked on. “That demon last night? We weren’t expecting him. And where there’s one unexpected demon, there’s probably going to be a whole bunch trying to kill us and we’re not exactly miles and miles from the cemetery, right?”

Tony nodded slowly. “Do you need help? I’m Iron Man, that has to count for something?”

The older Winchester shook his head. “No.” Sam opened his mouth, probably to argue. “No, Sam. I get that this is Tony Stark and that he’s Iron Man. Hell, I even understand that he’s our cousin, which is weird enough. And that’s saying something. But he doesn’t know anything about hunting and I’m sure as hell not going to drag him into it, too.”

“Too late for that, Dean.” Dean’s heart plummeted as he whipped around to find a petite redheaded woman standing in the doorway.

“Pepper?” There was quite a bit of confusion in Tony’s voice and it rapidly turned to fear as the redhead “Pepper” looked at him, her eyes sliding into blackness in a way that was utterly familiar to the Winchesters.

“You know her?” Dean asked, sliding one hand into a pocket.

The genius nodded. “My CEO. And girlfriend.”

“Son of a bitch,” Dean swore.

“Dean?” Sam looked at his brother for the plan.

“Stay back, Tony.” He slid the container of holy water out of his pocket, unscrewing the lid and holding it at the ready. Addressing the demon, he kept his voice level. “What do you want?”

“Why, Dean,” the demon exclaimed in a teasing tone. “We want you, of course. And your brother. And maybe now your new friend, whoever he is.”

“Why?” Sam asked suddenly. “Why now?”

“We’ve always wanted you boys.” She grinned, a feral expression for what appeared to be a rather kind face. “But now that daddy dearest is out of the way…” Pepper stepped forwards. “It’s just easier.” She reached out to him, as if to take his hand.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw Sam grab Tony’s wrist and slink out of the room, down the hallway to where they had spent the night.

“Well, you know what?” Dean took his own step. “You ain’t going to get us.”

He splashed her outstretched arm with holy water and she hissed, flailing backwards. Dean took the time to run down the hallway, charging through the door and over the salt line, only to dodge a swipe of Sam’s knife.

“What the hell!”

“Sorry, sorry! I can’t find the spray paint!”

Dean looked around frantically. There was nothing in the weapons bag and they were running out of time. He snatched the salt container from Tony, who was holding it with wide, lost, eyes and used it to draw a large circle on the floor by the foot of the bed.

“Get in the circle!” he barked at Tony, who complied quickly.

“Got something!” Sam had finally found a permanent marker in the bottom of the bag and began drawing a devil’s trap on the hardwood floor. He finished marking the familiar lines just as the Pepper demon appeared, gliding through the doorway where Dean had scattered the salt in his frantic dodge of Sam’s knife.

Somehow, they lucked out; focused on Dean, Sam, and Tony as she was, the demon didn’t look down and stepped right into the circle, smirk fading from her pretty face when she realized she was trapped. “Tricky, boys. I should have remembered that Daddy would have taught you everything.”

Sam stepped out of the salt circle, but pushed Tony back when he tried to join the hunter. “Stay there.”

She leveled a glare at Sam. “Why do you want us?” He asked, knife in one hand, holy water in the other as he stepped in front of Tony.

“Well, it’s not you so much, Sammy,” she practically purred, flicking her eyes over him. “It’s more Dean. He should have been ours, you know. Except John had to step in and make a bargain. Not that he was worth it. Neither of you were really worth much, you know. Your soul, his,” she made a throw away gesture. “Worthless. Couldn’t trade them for more than a few minutes of life. That’s not something you knew, was it Dean? That your soul isn’t worth any more to Hell than his. But that your Daddy is paying for your life in Hell anyway?”

“Shut up.” Dean’s voice was barely more than a whisper. His hands, which had been so steady through his massive blood loss the night before, were now shaking lightly, the tremors amplified by the silver knife he was clutching so tightly his knuckles were white.

“It is too bad, really it is.” She shook her head and tsked. “He would be here, alive and trying to kill Azazel and get his revenge instead of smouldering in the pit. You’d be dead, but who would miss you, Dean, really?”

“SHUT UP!” Sam roared. And then Sam and Dean’s voices were overlapping, chanting the latin exorcism at the top of their lungs.

Pepper threw her arms and head back, black smoke flowing from her mouth and into the ceiling before she collapsed on the floor. “Not yet.” Sam shoved Tony back again as he tried to leave the circle, holding him until Dean checked the woman.

But it wasn’t necessary; even as the older Winchester knelt to see if she had a pulse, Pepper began to stir. Sam let go of Tony and an instant later, he was on the floor next to the woman, scooping her up and laying her on the bed with more gentleness than Sam would have expected. He turned his back on the billionaire and turned to his brother.

“Dean?” His brother didn’t react, lines of tension still wrapping his shoulders and arms. “Dean.”

Sam reached out and grabbed Dean’s arm. “Dean. Look at me.” His brother turned his head, eyes empty. “Dean. She was a demon. She doesn’t know. She was lying. It’s not true, any of it.”

“Dad’s not here, Sam. And I am. That’s real enough.” Dean reared back and for an instant Sam wasn’t sure where the knife was going to end up. A second later, it was quivering in the wall opposite, Tony’s head had snapped up with such speed that Sam hadn’t even blinked, and Dean was gone from the room.

Sam groaned and crouched, running his hands over his head and gripping his hair in frustration. “Damn it.”

“Sam?” Tony asked quietly. “Is Pepper going to be okay?”

The hunter exhaled. “Yeah, she should be. She’s alive, she wasn’t possessed very long, and she didn’t kill anyone or anything crazy while she was under.”

Sam stood and walked over to get a better look at the woman slowly waking up on the bed. She was at least ten inches shorter than him, but then again so were most people, Tony included. Her hair, although he had been calling it “red,” was more of a strawberry blonde. The neat skirt and suit jacket she was wearing were mussed and damp from the salt and holy water but still looked good on her frame.

“We’ll have to explain everything to her; she’ll remember being possessed and it’ll be weird.” Sam shrugged. “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”

Tony looked up at him. “What about Dean? Will he be okay.”

The younger Winchester brother frowned. “I don’t know that one.”

“Tony?” A new voice interrupted their conversation and Sam looked down to find Pepper looking up at them. “What happened to me?”

“Don’t worry, Pep.” Tony picked up one of her hands, lifting it gently to his lips. “We’ve got it well in hand.”

To Sam’s relief,the CEO sat up slowly and rolled her eyes. “That’s worrying when you say it. Who’s ‘we’?” In response, Sam took a step forward and held out a hand to shake.

“Sam Winchester, Ma’am. Nice to meet you. My brother Dean is… around, also.”

“Nice to meet you too, Sam. Call me Pepper.” Her handshake was firm. “Did you get rid of…” Lifting one hand to her forehead, she tapped it twice. “Whatever it was?”

“Yep. I’m impressed; you’re not freaking out as much as most people after they get possessed.”

“Possessed?” At that, Pepper’s voice seemed to rise an octave.

“I’ll let Tony explain it. I need to find Dean so we can get out of here.”

“You’re not going anywhere until after dinner.” Tony said firmly. “Feeding you boys another good meal is the least we can do.”

“Look, Tony. I know you’re Iron Man and all but you’re all in danger while we’re here. You heard her, they want Dean and me and they want us bad.”

“I get it, Sam. But another few hours aren’t going to kill us and you’re going to need it to figure out what to do with Dean anyway.”

Sam hesitated.

“May I also remind you that it has been three hours past the recommended time to change the older Mr Winchester’s bandages and that he will soon require another dose of painkillers?” Jarvis chimed in.

“Fine. We’ll stay for dinner, but then we’re out of here.” Sam glanced at the floor marred by the devil’s trap. “Sorry about that. I’ll give you some tips before we head out.” He pushed off the edge of the bed and took a few steps towards the door before turning to retrieve Dean’s thrown knife. “And Tony?”

The billionaire raised his eyebrows.

“Dean likes pie.”

There wasn’t a request, but Tony grinned and snapped a salute in Sam’s direction. “Understood.”

Sam wandered out to the living room to find Dean sitting on a large balcony overhanging the ocean, beer in hand. He sighed mentally; painkillers and alcohol weren’t exactly what Dean needed right now. “Hey.”

“Hey, Sammy.”

Dean didn’t even look at his brother, just kept his eyes on the ocean.

“Don’t want to talk about it.”

Sam sighed, out loud this time. “Okay. Can I look at your side?”

“No.”

“Dean.”

“Fine.”

Dean rolled his eyes and pulled off his shirt, balling it up in one hand while Sam started picking at the medical tape holding the gauze to Dean’s side.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Five hours later, Dean was still on the balcony.

Sam had decided to just try and wait it out and had taken Pepper up on her offer of the laundry machine for their dirty clothing and Tony up on a tour of the house. (He had to admit that even though he didn’t know too much about machines Tony’s workshop was amazing. And yes, maybe he had stared at the Iron Man suit more than was strictly necessary.)

Now he was cleaning and organizing their weapons collection from the night before on Tony’s fancy coffee table (what the hell, this is Tony Stark’s coffee table) while Tony bombarded him with questions about the supernatural as fast as he could think of them.

“So they emit an electromagnetic frequency? But only ghosts?” Sam nodded.

“We don’t know why. Power varies with anger and proximity of ghost, more or less.” He ran a cloth down the barrel of his favorite shotgun and laid it down with the others.

“Food’s here!” Pepper called from the entryway, entering the room laden with pizza boxes and pastry containers. She started stacking them on the coffee table as Sam hastily cleared it of weapons and looked over his shoulder outside.

“Dean, food,” he called.

“Not hungry.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “That’s a load of bullshit, Dean. You eat more than I do half the time.”

“Sam. I’m not hungry.” The younger Winchester threw his hands in the air.

“Fine,” he threw his hands in the air. “I give.”

Tony looked at him. “How much do you guys eat, anyway?”

“A lot. Hunting’s a hungry business.” Sam loaded his plate with pizza. “You’d be amazed how many small town diners there are across the United States.”

“How do you pay to eat?” The billionaire asked. “Hunting is probably not the highest income business?”

Sam snorted and looked down. He wasn’t always a big fan of the levels he and Dean stooped to in order to eat. Especially when he was sitting across from Tony Stark. “Credit card scams. Pool hustling. Usually works out okay.”

Pepper had been watching the exchange quietly but suddenly stood, stacking pizza on a plate and walking out to join Dean, sliding the porch door closed behind her. She set one plate on the table by the young man’s hand, settling with her own plate on her lap. Dean looked at her and smiled, but she could see how fake it was.

“So.” She kept her voice light, knowing it wouldn’t carry through the door and into the house. “You think you’re not worth anything.” Dean didn’t answer, didn’t even react. “Do you think Sam is worth it?” At that, his head snapped up. “Do you think that Sam would sell his soul for you? Make a deal?”

“Probably.” Dean’s voice was rough. “But it looks like that’s what Dad did a few weeks ago and now he’s burning in Hell for me. And Sam deserves better than that.”

“But you don’t?”

They sat for a few moments, Dean finally reaching out and half-heartedly snagging a slice of pizza.

Pepper sighed. “I got permission from Tony to tell you a few things. And he doesn’t tell anyone these things so you know he trusts you.” Dean snorted. Pepper ignored him. “When Tony was in Afghanistan, he was being held with a man named Yinsen. During their escape, Yinsen went ahead to buy Tony more time. He was shot, several times, and died in Tony’s arms.”

She reached out to cup the younger man’s cheek, gently forcing him to look at her. “He told Tony not to waste his life. Tony’s life meant something to Yinsen and since then Tony’s been making an effort to turn it around to repay some of that debt. I don’t know your whole story or even half the parts, but I know that your father would want you to use your life well, Dean Winchester.”

The CEO stood, leaving Dean looking at her, mouth slightly open. “Now stop worrying your brother by feeling inadequate and sorry for yourself and come eat more pizza and some pie.” She swept back into the house without waiting.

“Huh.” Dean glared at his pizza for a moment then ran a hand over his face, shivering slightly as a cool breeze came off the ocean.

Sam watched from inside the house as his brother sat for a few more moments and almost melted into the couch from relief when Dean finally stood, mindful of his side, and strode back into his house. His eyes were still slightly more shadowed than Sam would have liked, but low self esteem was verging on a family hallmark now and there was no helping that.

“Pie?”

Sam rolled his eyes. Dean was clearly feeling better. “Not until you eat more.”

Dean rolled his own eyes in return. “Bitch.”

“Jerk,” Sam grinned.

Tony’s eyebrow inched up but he didn’t comment, just handed over the pizza box in front of Pepper, who was smiling unashamedly in Dean’s direction.

 

(They ended up staying until the next morning and when they got to their new motel the following night, neither Sam nor Dean were particularly surprised that both of their wallets now contained Stark Industries credit cards with notes telling them not to bother worrying about the limit (within reason) or that their phones had been seriously upgraded and now contained “Tony, the coolest cousin ever (also Iron Man)” and “Pepper Potts” along with a second note reminding them to pop in sometime when they were in the area.)