Ghosts Don't Sleep by bloodwrites

Part 1 of the Ghosts Don't Sleep series.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Chapter 1

It's just an old lady. An elderly woman who's been haunting a derelict house somewhere in Missouri for maybe the last fifty years, though you never can tell with old people. She might have had that housedress in her closet all this time.

But she's got moves. Like she's been at this more than a few years, winks out just as Sam swings the fire iron he found rusting by the dusty fireplace. Dean watches as Sam slices through thin air, then he swings around, salt-loaded sawed-off clutched in sweat-slick hands.

"There," Sam yells, and then grunts. "Shit, Dean. Look out." There's panic in his voice, too much panic, then a blur, like an arrow coming at him, a translucent old lady with a manic expression on her face behind it.

Fire rips through Dean's thigh, tears a gasp from his throat, and the impact knocks him to the floor. Wet warmth spreads out over his jeans and he wonders, briefly, if he's pissed himself. But there's just enough light in here to see the blood, spreading quick—too quick—in a dark stain over the denim where Sam's rusty fire iron pierces his thigh. "Oh, shit," he says, because he's not stupid. "Sam." He reaches out for his brother, all thoughts of the ghost gone from his mind. "Sammy."

Sam stumbles to the floor, too big, too tall, to do anything so graceful as a fluid crouch. There's panic on his face as his eyes skip over Dean's crumpled body, his hands reaching out to surround the slim column of metal sticking out of Dean's leg. "No, no, no," he chants, then puts pressure on the wound.

Dean screams in pain and blood bubbles up, pours over Sam's fingers. "It's too late," he croaks. "Sammy, it's too late."

The panic turns to horror on Sam's face. He shakes his head. "I can't—"

Jo died like this, or she would have if they hadn't blown her up first. "You can," he says. "You have to."

Sam's face screws up and it's weird how all Dean sees when Sammy cries is a fourteen year old kid who doesn't fit in. "Come here, you big crybaby." His words are slurring already, but he takes a hold of Sam's jacket with weak fingers, and holds on. "I love you, Sammy," he mumbles into Sam's massive, warm chest, gasps in his last chance at inhaling Sam's scent. It's cheap soap and gun oil and worn cotton and Dean breathes it in like it might save his life. "You get her for me, Sammy. You get the bitch."

Sam pulls back. His face is streaked with tears. He nods. "I love you, too," he says, then lifts the sawed-off from the floor where it fell and swings around, roaring all his pain and grief into the room. Dean sees him get off one shot, sees the ghost swirl into nothing, before everything goes black.

He's cold. He curls in on himself before he's really aware, feels stiff, as if he's been lying in the same position too long.

Then his eyes snap open as his death comes flooding back.

The ceiling is the same as a thousand other motel ceilings. Greying fiber tiles, a spreading patch of damp, the faint bootprint of the guy who installed them probably fifty years ago. "Sam," he growls, trying, failing to keep the anger out of his voice. "Sam, what did you do?"

"Dean?" Sam appears, like he's been sitting at the foot of the bed Dean's lying on. "Dean, it's okay." His face is open, his eyes are wide, and he's staring like he doesn't believe it himself.

Dean pushes himself up. His joints protest, but there's no pain, he's just stiff. His upper thigh feels tight, like it's wrapped, bandaged beneath the clean, intact pair of jeans he's wearing. "What the hell did you do, Sam?" He slides his hand over his thigh, feels the edge of the bandage beneath the denim. His hand looks pale, almost grey, fingernails blanched almost white. "I was done for. We were way out in the sticks, there's no way you got me to the hospital in time." His head snaps up. "I was dead, Sam. Don't lie to me and tell me I wasn't."

"I won't," Sam says.

Dean presses his lips together tight, breathes in and out, slow and noisy, through his nose. The air feels warm. He shivers and sighs. "When is this going to stop, Sam? Are we just going to keep bringing each other back to life until we're in the old hunter's home? I have a heart attack in my rocking chair and you make a deal to get it pumping again?"

"No deals," Sam says.

"Whatever." Dean swings his legs off the edge of the bed, bends his knees a few times. It feels like they've seized. How long was he out? "I was dead, now I'm alive—"

"You're not." Sam rises carefully from the chair at the end of the bed, half-crouches in front of Dean. "No angels, so no—" He presses two fingers gently to Dean's forehead. "And the demons are gone, too, so no deals. You're still dead, Dean. Just..." His eyes flick to the ceiling, like he's looking for guidance. "Conscious."

"Huh," Dean says. "Funny, 'cause I don't remember Hell being this stupid." He cocks his head to the side. "Heaven, maybe, but that would mean—"

"You're not in Heaven." Sam shrugs. "Louisiana."

Dean blinks. "Hoodoo?" He chokes and coughs. His hand flies to his chest, and then he can't remember if he could feel his own heart beating before. His fingers search out a pulse in his wrist, and find nothing. "I'm— Oh god. I'm a zombie."

Sam reaches out, drags Dean's hand away, wraps his own hands around Dean's wrists. "You're not a zombie, Dean, you're just on hold for a little while. It's just giving us some time to get this figured out."

"Don't kid yourself, Sam. How much do you trust the guy who did this? How long before I get the urge to munch on some brains? I'm a ticking time bomb and you know it. Are you even going to have the balls to finish it when it happens?"

Sam drops one of Dean's arms, reaches behind him. He pulls a pistol out of the back of his jeans, lies it on his knee with a loose grip. He drops his eyes down. "I trust the guy, yeah. Made damn sure he thought I'd come after him if something went wrong. But just in case."

Dean takes the gun out of Sam's hand, checks the clip, then slides it back in. "Do I even want to ask why there's only two rounds in this gun, Sam?"

Sam shakes his head, slow. "One for you. And one for me." He looks away, stares at the wall. He looks like he's blinking back tears. "But that won't happen." He looks back at Dean. His eyes are wet. "You're here. That's all that matters right now." He takes the gun back off Dean and slides it into the back of his jeans. "And we've got work to do."

"I can't believe you didn't finish her off." Dean flexes his fists as he turns the steering wheel with the heels of his hands. "You drove through two states and left the job behind?"

Sam stares out the window as they cross yet another state line. "I had other things on my mind." He glances up, eyes on Dean's hands. "If you don't want to dig, Dean, just say it."

Dean shakes his head. "Bit stiff is all. Doesn't hurt." He shakes his hands out, one at a time. It's possible he was completely in rigor by the time Sam got him to the hoodoo guy. "It'll ease up, right?"

"Yeah," Sam says. He doesn't sound completely convinced himself. "Yeah, I'm sure it will."

Hours driving, and six foot into the ground, and Dean's hands aren't just stiff, they're cold. The chill goes right into his bones. He watches Sam salt the bones, pour on the lighter fluid, then passes him the lighter. There's no way he's going to be able to strike it. He shoves his hands into his jacket, puts them underneath his arms, but it doesn't help.

Once the bones are burning, he sits down on the edge of the grave, holds them out to warm them over the flames. "That should have been me, Sammy," he says. "Hunter's funeral, little brother." He lifts his head, looks up at Sam towering over him. "Am I out there somewhere? Ghost-Dean, haunting that old lady's house until I go batshit? All because you didn't do what you should have done."

Sam shakes his head. "You're here. Your spirit's been bound to your body."

Dean blinks. Then he pulls himself up, and slowly gets in Sam's face. He doesn't care that Sam's so much taller, he lifts his chin and glares. "I'm a ghost?" he says. "Am I getting this right, Sam? I'm a ghost, wearing my own meat suit?"

Sam bites his lip and closes his eyes. His head drops, a fraction of an inch in a reluctant nod. "It's temporary, Dean. Until we find another way."

"And if we don't? I'm just going to live out my entire lack of life like this?"

This time Sam shakes his head. "It's a limited time offer. The magic won't last forever. You might be able to consciously hold on a little bit longer, but eventually you won't be able to."

"And then what, Sammy? Then what happens to me?"

"You'll move on. Or you won't. If it comes to that, I swear to god, Dean. I'm coming with you."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" The gun tucked into the back of Sam's jeans is loaded with only two bullets.

Sam shakes his head and looks away. "I'm not doing this without you."

Dean swallows. His throat is dry. "How long have we got?"

"A month," Sam says, still looking off into the darkness.

Chapter 2

Day and night bleed into each other in the bunker. The lights are always on, and the light from the lamp beside Dean on the table is constant.

So he starts when Sam appears in the doorway, a large, dark shape at the edge of Dean's vision.

Dean scrubs a hand over his face and looks up.

"Have you been up all night?" Sam says, surprise in his voice as he crosses the floor.

Dean nods, stretches his arms over his head, not because he's tired, but because his joints stiffen when he doesn't move. He pushes the ledgers and files across the table and reaches for his coffee. "Ghosts don't sleep, Sammy."

The coffee is cold, and tastes of nothing.

Dean's dead. He doesn't need to sleep, or eat, or drink, or fuck anymore. Sex would probably be the same, no taste, no passion.

He sighs, pushes himself to his feet. Hot coffee will at least keep the chill from his hands, warm his insides. He shoves at the research on the table as he moves toward the kitchen. "Nothing so far. The usual angel healing and demon deals, but they're no good to us since we kicked those bastards out. Vague reference to a fountain of youth, but nothing we can work with."

"That's it? I left you there four hours ago. There's got to be more than that." Sam lifts down a cereal bowl from the cupboard. He's eating some weird organic muesli every morning at the moment. It probably tastes like cardboard to a living person.

"Get me some of that?" Dean says. "I've got the coffee."

Sam stares. "You feeling okay?"

Dean shakes his head. "Everything tastes like crap. I might as well enjoy something the way it's intended."

Sam fights a smile and grabs a second bowl. "Okay," he says. "Anything else I should know?"

"I want to be able to taste my goddamn burger, Sam." Dean watches coffee drip into the pot. "I'd like to put my feet up and watch some TV without having to unstick my joints at the end of it. I'd like to not be cold just for a second. I mean, don't we have heating in here?" He pulls two cups down, fills them, brings his own to his lips and closes his eyes as the warmth seeps slowly into his hands. "I'd like to have sex one last time before I start glitching out of my own meat suit and it's all over for good. But I can't see that happening." He turns around, opens his eyes. "Pale and dead probably not going to be topping anyone's list of kinks anytime soon."

"I don't know about that, Dean. You could always tell them you're a vampire," Sam says, and forces a smile. "A lot of women like that kind of thing."

"Angsty teenage girls like that kind of shit, and no. Hell, my dick probably doesn't even work anymore. I don't know why I'm even worried about it. I'd settle for being warm, seriously." He sits in front of a bowl of nuts and seeds, drinks his coffee, and it warms his throat, just for a second. He shivers as the cold returns. "Seriously."

Sam puts down his spoon and reaches across the table. The heat of his hand as he lays it against Dean's cheek is shocking. "Jesus, Dean. You're freezing."

"Cold as the grave, Sammy." Dean tips his head to the side, but won't pull away. Even just a little shared body heat helps. "Think I'd cook if I sat on the radiator? Long pig, anyone?"

Sam pulls a disgusted face and pulls his hand back. "Don't do that." He stirs his spoon around in his bowl, but doesn't eat. "You need body heat. I mean, I don't think it would hurt you to be cold, but if it's making you miserable—"

"And we're back to no one's going to want to tap this, Sammy."

"I mean, like, survival, Dean. If you're in danger of hypothermia, you strip down and share a sleeping bag. It's not about sex."

"And who do you propose I have naked cuddles with to keep warm?" Dean looks pointedly around the kitchen, but it's just the two of them, there's no one else.

Sam stares right back at him, tips his head to the side, like he's waiting.

Dean blinks. "Fuck my life," he says. "No, seriously. Just fuck it."

They bring more coffee back out when they hit the books again. The words are starting to swim in front of Dean's eyes, the old fashioned script of some long-dead Man of Letter's handwritten missives dry and boring. He glances at Sam's printed book, reaches over and grabs it out from under him, shoves his own file into its place. "Switch. You're better at reading that crap than I am."

"Hey." Sam is about to reach out to take it back when the phone at his elbow chimes. He reaches for it. His thumb moves over the screen a couple times, then he stares, reading.

"What's up?" Dean asks.

"Job," Sam says. "Three bodies in Amarillo. Drained of blood. Vampires?"

"Probably," Dean says.

Sam turns the phone screen off, stands, and starts sweeping paper into a pile. Then he looks down at Dean. "You coming?"

Dean stares. He looks down at the book in front of him, open to something about King Arthur, then back up at Sam. "Time's ticking, dude. We're just going to drop this for a few vamps?"

"People are dead, Dean. This is what we do. We can't just stop. And we've been at this hours. The job will clear our heads, it'll get you moving—"

Dean stretches his legs. His knees creak, and he cringes as the sound registers on Sam's face. "Shut up."

"Half of that is probably the cold, you realize?"

"Yeah, and going out into it isn't going to help, Sammy. Amarillo is like, seven hours from here. Seven hours in the car, motel with crappy heating, seven hours back—"

Sam sighs. "Fine. I'll do it myself. You just stay here by yourself and—"

Dean shoves up out of his chair. "Probably go batshit. Okay, I'm coming." He grabs his bag from the corner and opens it up, checks to make sure his favorite machete is still safe inside. "But I'm dead, dude. I look dead. You're doing the talking. I might just sit in the car with the heating turned all the way up until we find the bad guys."

True to his word, Dean sits in the car while Sam dons the suit and goes into the Police Station alone. It's a busy station, and Dean keeps his head down to hide his face. He probably looks suspicious, but looking dead would be worse.

Sam comes back out, shrugs off his jacket, and slides into the drivers seat. "They're covered in bites. Definitely vampires. All three vics were last seen at this bar." He holds a card out, trapped between forefinger and middle finger, waits for Dean to take it from him before he starts the car. "Guess where we're going."

"Skooterz Motorsportz," Dean reads. "Skooterzzzz. With a 'Z'. Classy."

"Yep." The steering wheel slides under Sam's palm as he turns a corner.

"Famous for our pizza and hot wingzzz," Dean says. He flips the card over and reads the back. "There's not a single 'S' on this card where there should be, Sammy. I got to wonder at the people running this place."

"All we have to worry about are the vampires." Sam's eyes are focused on the road.

"You mean the vampirezzz." Dean pulls a face as he stumbles over the extra sounds in a word that usually rolls off of his tongue.

There's a girl sitting at the end of the bar. She's looking at Dean.

"So if you see anyone like that," Sam says to the bartender. "Here's my card. Just give us a call."

Out of habit, Dean smiles at the girl, lifts his eyes in a greeting. She's cute, blonde in a wholesome, girl-next-door kind of way. She returns a tight smile and then drops her eyes. Dean's made a mistake. It shouldn't be so easy, when ten minutes ago he was chilled to the bone, when he's not even breathing because the beer smells good and he's got to block it out to avoid disappointment.

His eyes linger on her as Sam drifts away from the bar, heads toward the back of the building. She peeks up, her forehead lined with a frown, her lips pressed tightly together. She shifts on her stool, sinks back into it, and is still for a few moments.

Then she lifts her head, looks right at him. Stares, makes eye contact. She smiles, then tips her head back in a gesture of welcome.

Dean grins back, spirits lifting. Maybe this dead thing won't be so bad after all. He slips through the gathering crowd at the bar, and moves toward her. "Hey," he says, leaning forward so she can hear him over the sounds of squealing tires coming from the big screen TV.

She pulls back a little. Looks up into his face, eyes moving quickly over his features. "Hi," she says. It's friendly, but not overly warm. "Are you feeling okay? Because you look kinda sick."

Dean takes a step back. "Huh," he says, as the breath he was holding knocks out of him. "Damn."

She gives him that tight-lipped smile again. "I'm a nurse," she says. "And you look like you should be in the hospital."

Dean looks up, searches for Sam, finds him through the mass of shifting bodies, too far away to flee to quickly. "It's a bit late for that, lady." The front door is closer, and Dean pushes off the bar, heads for freedom, for the car, for safety.

It's warm inside with the press of bodies, but Dean pushes open the glass door and stumbles out into the cold. It hits him like the blast wave of a bomb going off, and he staggers under the sudden chill. "Sam," he says, even though Sam can't hear him from where he is right now. "Sammy, I should've stayed home."

"Yeah," someone to his right says. The voice is low and gravelly. "Yeah, you probably should've, Winchester."

Dean turns his head, nice and slow. It's a long time since he was afraid of a vampire, but he's wary, always wary. Even with Benny, even when he trusted him, he was wary. Vampires are too primal, too close to their hunger. "And miss this?" he says, bravado easing into his voice so naturally. He shakes his head. "Nah." His fingers itch to reach for a weapon, but the machete is in the car, and beheading vamps isn't something he should be doing in the well-lit entrance of a busy bar, anyway. "You and your buddies been hunting 'round here?"

The vamp, a young-looking, dark haired guy, grins, exposing rows of wet fangs. "Easy pickings, eh, boys?"

From the shadows, others appear, all of them young, all of them male, all of them grinning, showing their teeth. Dean's not afraid, even as he makes a headcount, even though there's seven vampires against one human—

Technically, Dean's not human. Not now, not anymore. He's a ghost, something a little like them. He's still capable of swinging a blade, though, still has the skills he learned growning up, honed in Purgatory. But without a weapon, he's vulnerable. He needs time. Needs to give Sam a chance to get the gear and back him up. "What are we doing here, boys?" He pulls himself up to his full height, jerks his head back at the door of the bar. "Shall we get a beer and talk about this?" He grins, holds his hands out to the sides. "It's on me."

The vampires all laugh, nod their heads, and then, as one, their lips tighten, close over the fangs, and their eyes all settle on him. The first one to appear when Dean came out the door speaks. "I think we should go back to our place for a drink." His eyes travel around the circle of his buddies, and his grin reappears. "On you."

Dean's eyes flick to where the car is parked. His gear is in the trunk, it's right there, but he can't get to it. He gives the vamp a bright smile. "Sure. We'll take my car."

"We've got our own," the vampire says, and reaches for Dean.

If it had just been the one, Dean could have twisted out of his grip easy, if it had been two vamps, still, no problem. Seven vampires at once, though, all grabbing hold of a part of him, he can't fight that. He gets out one word before a hand comes down over his mouth.

"Sam," he yells.

Chapter 3

"What is it with bad guys and abandoned warehouses?" Dean says as they pull up outside a dilapidated building on the edge of town. "Seriously, dude, it's becoming cliche."

The first vampire, the dark haired kid with the pretty face, pats Dean on the cheek. "It's not abandoned, dumbass," he says. Then he grabs Dean by the upper arm and when the back doors of the van they're in open, he drags Dean out.

Dean could make a run for it now, but he doesn't. There are enough of the vampires around that he wouldn't make it. If he just waits, Sam will find him.

Sam will find him.

"Whoa," Dean says, when they go through a door at the side of the building, his breath huffing out of him as he takes it all in. The smell of motor oil and grease and tire rubber overtakes him, and he breathes it in deep. "Sweet," he says, as his eyes travel over the garage he's walked into.

"Right?" the vampire still gripping his upper arm says. "This is why you're here, Dean. We laid the breadcrumbs, and you followed them."

Dean's head jerks around. "You what? You killed people so me and my brother would come here? That's messed up."

"You, Dean. Just you. You belong to us now." He lets go of Dean's arm, and walks out into the middle of the vast space, toward the bare bones of a race car, a skeleton, but Dean can already see the car it will become.

Sparks fly as a vampire in overalls welds the firewall in. Other guys mill around, vampires with dirty hands and tools. Dean's fingers itch to have something in his hands, to get closer to the massive engine block sitting on the concrete floor off to one side of the room. "What do you need me for?"

The vampire looks back at him. "The boss will be here soon. He'll explain everything. You're going to be one of us, Dean. It's going to be sweet."

"Um," Dean says.

A door opens high above their heads, and the workshop goes quiet. The background noises, the clanging of steel against steel, the harsh squeal of the welding apparatus, and the chatter, all fades away, and all eyes turn to the mezzanine above.

Dean follows their gaze.

A man, older-looking than the vampires in the shop, leans against the railing and looks down. "Dean Winchester," he says. "You look like shit."

The hair on the back of Dean's neck rises. "Who the hell are you?"

The guy doesn't flinch. "I'm the boss." His eyes track over the shop, the car parts, the vampires in overalls. "I made all this. Turned the best people. I have everything I want here, and we're making a good car. But I need you."

"What the hell for?"

"You're going to be my driver."

Dean chokes. "Hey dude, sorry to burst your bubble, but you'd be better off handing me a wrench. I'm no race driver."

"A vampire, with a hunter's reflexes?" The boss grins, closes his eyes, tips his head back. "No. A vampire with a Winchester's reflexes." He drops his head back down, and his eyes snap open. He looks right through Dean. "It's perfect."

Dean coughs. "You're... Oh my god, you want to turn me." He laughs, shakes his head. "Sorry to break it to you, boss man, but someone already tried that. Didn't take."

The boss narrows his eyes. "Bring him up here."

The young vamp grabs Dean's arm again, tugs him toward the stairs. Dean rolls his eyes and allows himself to be led up onto the mezzanine, dragged along until he's standing right in front of the boss.

The boss tips his head to the side and studies Dean. "I think I'm going to do it now. You should turn in time for your brother to come rescue you, I think. He'll be a perfect first meal."

"What?" Dean starts to struggle, throws off the young guys grip, but two others come up behind him, and he stops. "No frickin way. You're not turning me into a monster and then feeding my brother to me." He blinks. "Even if you could. The moment he sees that I'm not human, he'll take my head off, I guarantee it."

But that's not true. He cured Dean when he was turned before. He brought him back when he died, bound his spirit to his dead body. Dean's not human now. He's dead. There's dead blood in his veins. He laughs out loud, laughs harder when he sees the puzzled look on the boss's face.

"Yeah," Dean says, and though he fights his laughter, he can't suppress his smile. He drops his eyes so he doesn't have to look at the vampire's face, so he can hold it together. "Okay." He takes a deep breath, lets it out slow, then looks up. "Well, I can see you're determined. No point to delaying the inevitable." He tips his head to the side, exposes his throat. "Go nuts, boss. Bite me. It'll be fun."

The boss narrows his eyes, but takes a step forward. A vampire behind Dean holds his arms immobile, and Dean shrugs, because there's no way he's going to miss this.

The boss gets close enough to bite, and then freezes. Long moments pass, and then he lets out a growl and jerks back. "Your heart's not beating," he says.

"Damn," Dean says. "I was kinda hoping you wouldn't notice."

"You're dead," the vampire says. "How are you dead?"

Dean lifts an eyebrow. "Wrong end of a pointy thing, lots of blood, you would have loved it." He pats his bandaged leg. "But I'm better now. Pretty sure I'm not going to turn, though, so—"

There's a sound, downstairs, like a door ripping off it's hinges. "Dean?" Sam's urgent yell comes up from below, along with the whistle of a machete moving through the air, and the shouts of vampires below.

"Up here, Sammy," Dean says, and looks over. Sam's machete flies again, blood sprays across the concrete floor, and the head of a vampire bounces. "Nice one," Dean says.

Sam looks up. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Oh. Right." Dean turns to the boss. "Sorry, man," he says. "You just came in last." He squats down, grabs the guy by the legs, and heaves him over the railing.

"Jesus, Dean," Sam says, as he sprints toward the vamp, writhing in pain and frothing at the mouth in anger. "Thanks a lot."

"You can handle it," Dean says, and tosses the other vampires from the mezzanine before he turns and runs for the stairs. He looks around for a weapon, picks up a large wrench, takes out a couple vamps as they run at him, then he looks around.

Sam drops the machete. It's slick with blood. He hunches over, hands on his knees, gasping for breath. "You okay?" he rasps.

Dean hasn't even broken a sweat, nor is he winded. Sure, he didn't do as much as Sam did, but the run downstairs should at least have got his heart pumping a little—

"Huh," he says. "Yeah. Good. Apparently better than good. Ghosts don't get tired."

Sam looks up at him from beneath his hair. "Be careful," he says, then pushes himself up to his full height, still panting. "You can overdo it, you know."

Dean grins and swings his arms. "I'm good, Sammy. Besides, you did all the hard work. My hero." He winks.

Sam grimaces and shakes his head. Then, as if for the first time, he looks around. "Oh my god, Dean. Did they lure you here with promises of car parts and grease?"

Dean grins. "They wanted me to drive a race car."

Sam's eyebrows draw together in confusion. "Monsters have no standards anymore."

"Right?" Dean scoops up the machete from the floor and wipes it down on the overalls of the closest headless vampire, and then heads for the door with it slung over his shoulder.

The heating in the motel is almost non-existent. Dean rubs his arms and shivers as he stretches out on the bed on his side of the room, a book from the Men of Letters archives open in his lap.

"Cold?" Sam asks. He's spread out likewise, but his feet reach almost to the end of the small bed, even sitting up with pillows stuffed behind his back.

Dean shrugs. He shivers again. "How do you suppose vamps deal with it?" he asks. "Being cold all the time?"

"They probably take warmth from their victims," Sam says. "I never thought of it before, but it makes sense."

"Yeah." Vampires, surviving not only on the blood, but on the warmth, the body heat, of their victims. It's not necessary for their survival, though. Benny kept his donated blood in a cooler. Did Benny feel like this, all the time? It must have been incredibly hard, not only fighting the hunger, the blood lust, but the cold as well.

Dean tries to push away the sick feeling in his gut, but it won't go. That last, desperate hug, before Dean cut off his head. Was Benny savoring the last warmth he might ever feel?

He looks sideways at Sam, head down again, one large hand splayed out on the page as he reads the other. Dean looks at his own hand, compares the color.

His skin is pale, bloodless. His fingernails are blanched almost white. Sam's skin, by contrast, is flushed and healthy. Dean shoves his book to the side and twitches off the bed, comes down on the edge of Sam's.

"What, Dean?" Sam says, but Dean ignores him. He puts his own hand over Sam's, almost twitches back at the heat in that simple touch.

"Holy crap," Dean says, and twines his fingers between Sam's, pulls his hand off the page. He turns it over, presses his other hand around it. "You're so hot."

"Well, thanks," Sam says with a laugh. He's grinning when Dean jerks his head up.

"Shut up," Dean says. "I'm frickin freezing to death over here, okay? Or I would be if I was still alive."

The smile slides off Sam's face. "I know." He puts his book to the side, brings his other hand up, and encloses Dean's hands in his own. Sam's hands are larger, Dean's hands seem tiny wrapped up in them, and the chill in Dean's fingers, in his knuckles, slowly seeps away.

"That's good," Dean says, but now he can feel the chill in the rest of his body more keenly. He fights the shiver that starts in his shoulders first, but fails. His teeth chatter together.

"Jesus, Dean," Sam says, and pulls him closer, sliding his hands up Dean's arms, spreading them out over his biceps. "Why didn't you tell me? God, you're freezing."

"Well, I'm not actually going to die of it, right? It's only because I'm stuck in this corpse, ghosts don't usually feel the cold, do they?"

Sam shakes his head, slides one hand up to wrap around the back of Dean's neck. "I don't know. I don't think so." He pulls Dean closer, into a hug, wraps the other arm around his back.

Dean just melts into it, into the warmth, taking heat and comfort from Sam's body. "This is going to get weird really soon, little brother," he says, but he can't bring himself to pull away.

"It's fine," Sam says, and he doesn't move, either. His body is relaxed, and surely he'd stiffen up if he wasn't comfortable with this. So Dean takes it, lets Sam hold him for long moments.

Then Sam yawns, his hold tightening for a moment, then releasing. "I should get some sleep," he says. "Take a shower, hell, take a long one and warm up." He shrugs and looks down at his own small bed. "If you want, you can— You're welcome to—"

Dean pulls back and blinks. "Weird," he says, and then he slides off the edge of Sam's bed, and heads for the bathroom.

Dean plans to stay in the shower until the water runs cold. It won't take long, motel hot water is always limited.

It's never happened in the bunker. Probably won't, though Dean's never tested his theory that it'll just go on and on and never end. He's going to do that as soon as they get back.

Soap bubbles slide over his bare flesh. He probably wouldn't even need to shower if it wasn't for the cold. He doesn't sweat now, and Sam said something about Dean being 'on hold'. It's like he's frozen in time, preserved at the moment of his death, and his spirit is locked inside, unable to move on.

He's haunting his own goddamn body.

Bobby attached to that beat up old flask, but it wasn't a genie in the bottle deal. If that was all this was, Dean should be able to leave his body behind, just teleport out and away from the cold every now and then.

He closes his eyes and concentrates.

Nothing happens.

It might just take some practice. It's been a day, one day, and ghosts sometimes linger for years before they can go far from whatever they're linked to. He shouldn't leave his naked body here, anyway. The last thing he needs is to crack his skull open on the edge of the bathtub.

He slides soap over the bloodless wound on his thigh, avoids looking at it, because it's totally gross.

Sam didn't bother stitching it up. Most of Dean's blood is gone, left behind on that old lady's living room floor, so it's not like it's going to bleed.

But it's not going to heal, either.

There's a matching hole on the back of Dean's thigh, where the iron poker went right through, severing his femoral artery on the way. Sam had to take a saw to it to get it out without messing up Dean's body any more than it already was.

The water temperature drops. Dean climbs out of the shower, dries himself off and wraps a fresh bandage around his thigh, just to keep it clean. A hunter's life, you never know where you're going to end up, what kind of dirt and goo you're going to be covered in from one day to the next. No need to be picking grave dirt out of there.

Still warm, a little damp, he leaves the bathroom in a cloud of steam. Sam's under the blankets already, unmoving. Dean sighs and collapses on his own bed, picks up his book again, but can't help glancing over at Sam's back. Before long, Dean will be cold again.

Sam's blanket flicks back, and he looks back over his shoulder. "It's not that weird, Dean."

Dean drops his eyes to his book. "Dude, it's totally weird. I'm not sleeping with you."

Sam sits up. "Dean, it's not—"

"Weird." Dean keeps his eyes on his book.

"Fine," Sam says, lies down, turns away, and yanks the blankets up to his neck. "Freeze. See if I care."

"You care," Dean says, still not lifting his eyes. "You brought me back. You care too much."

Sam shoves the blankets back again as he turns over to face Dean. "Right. You're right. I brought you back. So yeah, I care about you, I care so much that I refused to do this without you. Hunting, life, it's just not worth it. I care, and sure, it's not forever, but I don't want you to be miserable the whole time. I don't want you to be cold. This is my fault, it was my idea, so can you just suck up your pride for one second and let me help you?"

Dean lifts his head from the words swimming in front of his eyes. He moves slow, because there's anguish in Sam's voice, and seeing it on his face hurts. But he looks, and something twists inside him. He looks down, to where Sam's shifted to the side of the bed, where he's pulled the blankets back to invite Dean in.

"Ghosts don't sleep, Sammy," he says.

"Bring your book."

"You're going to snore in my ear—"

"Dean. Jesus."

Dean swallows. His core temperature has already dropped a couple degrees. He puts a finger in his book to mark his place and slides one leg onto the floor.

Sam sits up and peels his shirt off, tosses it across the room. "Strip down to your shorts," he says.

"Sammy," Dean whines.

"Body heat, Dean. Clothes will just get in the way."

Dean rolls his eyes to the ceiling, but then he pulls off his shirt, shivers in the cool air, and steps out of his jeans. Then he closes his eyes, and stiffly climbs into bed beside Sam.

As Sam sighs, he pulls the blankets back over them, and immediately Dean begins to feel the warmth from Sam's body. There's air between them, still, but then Sam wraps an arm around Dean's waist, and presses his knees into the back of Dean's legs.

"I feel wood," Dean says, "and I am out of here, you understand?"

"Deal," Sam says, and his grin is evident in the sound of his voice and the way he holds Dean to him just a little bit tighter.

He doesn't relax until Sam's asleep and snoring in his ear. Once that happens, Dean actually finds the sound reassuring, and it's like an oven in here, body heat definitely a valid method of keeping a corpse nice and toasty.

He finds that when he's warm, his mind works better, his joints don't stiffen, even though he's barely moving. He lies on his side, Sam's hand on his bare stomach, Sam's long leg thrown over his own, Sam's heart beating against his back, and he reads.

He turns a page every few minutes, eyes scanning the text for something they can use.

And then there it is, right in front of his eyes.

The Men of Letters found the Holy Grail.

Chapter 4

Books tower in stacks on the ends of the table. There's a lamp between them, and the journal Dean was reading in the motel sits open beneath it. Dean jabs his finger at the passage he was reading only moments before he flailed out of Sam's bed and landed on the floor. "The Holy Grail," he says, voice pleading, almost hoarse. "It says right here, 'The Cup of Life', and the Men of Letters found it. You can't just blow that off."

"All it says is that they discovered the location, Dean. There's like, one sentence, and it doesn't even say where that is." Sam sighs, runs his fingers through his hair. "I want this to end just as much as you do. More, I swear to god. But we can't get our hopes up about this. People have been searching for the Holy Grail for hundreds of years. It's never been found."

"That you know of," Dean says. "It's never been found as far as you know. Come on, Sammy. There's a lot of stuff we never knew about until we found out about the Men of Letters. We just got to go through these books, find out where it is, and go pick it up."

"Hang on, Dean," Sam says. "If they found it, wouldn't they have brought it here? Something like that in the wrong hands could be disastrous. They'd bring it here, to keep it safe, I'm sure of it."

Dean pulls a face. "Urgh," he says. "Yeah. You're right. Or people would go around resurrecting Hitler and stuff."

Sam lifts an eyebrow, then glances down at the book. "That was written in the 1930's, Dean."

Dean shrugs. "What? Like they didn't go back and dig it up after the war just to make sure." He shoves out away from the table, chair legs screeching across the floor, then stands. "Come on, Sammy. We've got some storerooms to check out."

When they moved in, while they explored, half the time they'd get a door open, figure out it was full of books or objects or jars of weird stuff on dusty shelves, and just shut it up again. There's always something going on more important than digging through piles of crap that may or may not be useful.

So in the first room they enter, there's not even a trail of footprints in the dust on the floor to prove they've even entered before. Sam doesn't seem to notice, wanders right in, drags his big feet through thick dust, and walks right up to a wall of shelves. "Come on," he says. "This one's all vessels of some kind or another." He waves his hand across the shelf at eye level. "It doesn't have to be a cup, you know."

"Yeah," Dean says. He takes a step forward, or tries to, at least. He can't move over the threshold. "What the hell—?"

Sam looks up. He puts the wooden bowl he's holding back on the shelf, and tips his head to the side as he walks back toward the door. "What's wrong?"

Dean lifts his foot, tries to move into the room again. Something pushes back, something invisible, like the doorway is a magnet and Dean is the opposite pole. "There's something keeping me out, Sammy." He can't keep the panic out of his voice, even though it's illogical. It's just one room, nothing inside but a bunch of dusty old artifacts, and it's not like Sam couldn't bring everything out if necessary.

Sam walks back to the doorway, drops into a crouch. He brushes his fingers over the floor at the base of the open doorway, sweeps away decades of dust. It reveals a strip of what looks like glass along the threshold, some kind of narrow glass case set into the floor. "There's salt in it," Sam says. "It's full of rock salt."

"Jesus." Dean turns away from the room, slides down to the floor with his back to the wall outside. "It's got to be here. There's salt embedded in the floor—they're trying to keep something out, demons, monsters. There's good stuff in this room, Sammy."

"Have you been in any of these rooms since—" Sam trails off. "They might all be protected."

"I don't know." Dean shakes his head. "Not the ones with the books, that's for sure. Just look, Sam. It's somewhere in the bunker, I can feel it."

"Okay." Sam heads back into the room, and for a few moments there's just the sound of dust shifting on ancient wood, on the shelves, on the floor beneath Sam's feet. Then: "Uh, Dean?"

"Yeah, Sammy?" There's hope in his voice, futile, perhaps, but it's there. "What've you got?"

"I don't think the salt is meant to keep things out of this room," Sam says.

Dean turns, crawls to the threshold of the door, feels the push of the barrier once again. He looks up at Sam, and there's a jar in Sam's hands, transparent glass covered in dust, but where the dust has been swept away by Sam's fingers, Dean can see that within, there is a swirling, glitching mist.

Dean scrambles to his feet, staring across the space. "There's a ghost in that jar," he says. "It's a ghost."

"Yup." Sam turns back to the shelves, places the jar carefully there, reaches for an ornate metal flask. It looks like it's made of silver, but it's black with decades worth of tarnish. There's a paper label around the neck of it, and he lifts it to read. "Demon extracted from one 'Timothy White', age 5 years."

"They kept demons and ghosts," Dean says. "That's sick."

"I don't know," Sam says. "Maybe it's like cryogenics, all those people who had their heads frozen in the eighties, believing that one day technology would be able to bring them back to life. Maybe they thought that one day, they'd be able to help them. Like, curing the demons. Like you."

"They bound a ghost to a jar instead of a meat suit?" Dean eyes the jar, the contents swirling and flashing inside. "Maybe you should have done that." He looks up at Sam and tries to grin. "You could have carried me around in your pocket."

"It wouldn't have been the same. I need you Dean. I need you talking, I need you here." Sam shakes his head. "I wouldn't put you in a bottle." Sam frowns, looks back at the shelves. "I bet there are Djinn here. It's got to be where the whole genie in a lamp myth came from, the practice of storing monsters in jars and stuff."

"Thinking you might make a wish?"

Sam grins and shakes his head. "Hell no."

Sam crouches at the threshold of the next room, sweeps away the dust from the floor. "No salt," he says, as he exposes bare floor boards.

"Sweet," Dean says, and walks into the room before Sam is back up on his feet.

Something hits him as he passes under the door frame. He shudders, all the breath knocked out of him, and he gasps, freezes, stares forward for a moment. Then he sucks in a breath.

He feels different. He's not cold anymore. He feels lighter, almost as if he might drift away.

"Dean," Sam says, and with all they've seen, Sam's voice doesn't sound like that often. Like horror, like disbelief.

Dean turns on the ball of one foot. "Oh, holy shit." He blinks, stares, because while he's inside the room, he's also in Sam's arms on the other side of the doorway.

"Dean," Sam says.

Dean looks down at his own hands. They look solid, seem solid, feel, solid. But there's color in them, they're not white like they have been since he woke up dead. His outfit doesn't match the clothes he put on this morning, and there's no bandage on his thigh. "Whoa," he says, then looks back up at Sam, Dean's dead body in his arms. "I'm a ghost," he says. "Like, just a ghost. Non-corporeal spook." He takes a step back. "What do I do, Sam? Sammy? What do I do?"

"Um," Sam says, eyes wide, staring up at Dean and then down at the body in his arms. "Um." He looks back up. "Come back out. You were... I bound you to your body. There's got to be something in the door—" He looks up at the door frame, reaches out to touch it. Dust comes away under his fingertips, exposing arcane symbols carved into the wood. "Must be some kind of dispossession. It's not an exorcism, but it's probably meant for demons. It'd probably work on angels as well, but, um, ghost possession too, apparently." He looks up. "Come back out, Dean."

Dean looks down at his hands again. He clenches his fists, watches as the simulation of blood moves beneath his skin. The cold doesn't reach him, and the stiffness of his joints doesn't exist anymore.

"Dean," Sam says. "I bound you before a reaper could come. I don't know what will happen if you stay like that, if you don't come back."

This isn't real. This is what Dean is now, but staying here, remaining outside his body would be like giving up, like accepting that he's just going to move on and leave Sam alone, and Dean's not ready for that.

He looks up, looks into Sam's eyes. "Yeah," he says. "Okay." He takes a step forward. "I'm coming out."

One step at a time, Dean approaches the doorway. His body still lies limp in Sam's arms, neck bent, head back against Sam's shoulder. His eyes are still open, staring at the ceiling, blank and dead. There are dark circles beneath his eyes, and he looks... Dean looks dead.

"Look at me, Sammy," Dean says. "Look at me now. Remember what I look like now." He nods at the body in Sam's arms. "In case that's all I ever am. Remember me now."

Sam nods. "I will," he says, voice breaking as he sucks in air between the words. "I already do, Dean."

Dean takes a breath, and then he steps through the door.

As soon as his body passes the threshold, something grabs him in the chest, and jerks him forward. When he stepped into the room, it was like a release, this time, it's a violent pull. The corridor blurs around him, and then he's cold, and stiff, but wrapped in warmth. He takes a breath and blinks at the ceiling, and he goes heavy in Sam's arms.

Sam sinks to the floor with Dean in his arms, and Dean just goes with him. He doesn't feel right in his skin, not yet, it's like waking up all over again. He doesn't have the strength to move yet.

"Dean?" Sam says, and his breath washes, warm, over Dean's cheek. "Dean, are you okay?"

"I'm good, Sammy," Dean says, and he gets one arm moving, reaches up and covers Sam's arm with his own. "I'm back."

They stay like that for long minutes. Dean breathes, and absorbs Sam's warmth, and stares back into the room that pulled him out of his meat suit.

"I'm not going in there," Dean says, as he leans carefully on the outside of the door frame of yet another storage room. "Not in the mood to get kicked out of my meat suit again."

Sam turns from his examination of the wood framing. His face is pained. "Can you stop calling it that? It's your own body, you haven't stolen it from anyone, it's not a vessel. It's where you're supposed to be."

Dean gives Sam a wry smile. "No. It's where you wanted me. I should be in heaven, or in hell, or in the veil." He sighs, because he's inviting Sam to start talking about that second bullet again. "Never mind. Just, see if the grail is in here so we can move on."

Sam purses his lips and returns to his examination of the doorway. "There's nothing. No salt, no symbols. I think you're safe."

Dean narrows his eyes. "What if I explode this time?"

Sam shakes his head. "I'm 99% sure you won't."

Dean crosses his arms over his chest and lifts his chin. "I'm going with the safe 1%, little brother."

Sam tips his head in a shrug and crosses the threshold. He approaches a shelf and blows dust off the artifacts there. "Dean," he says, as his eyes move over them. "There are cups here."

Dean trips over the threshold before he can think better of it. Then he turns, looks back, but he's still in one piece. "If I'm stuck in here for all eternity, Sammy, I'm blaming you."

"Cups and bowls and all kinds of things, Dean," Sam says. He scratches at the label on a shelf as Dean comes up behind him. The plates are tarnished and crusted with grime. "These have been here a while, Dean."

If his heart could beat, it would probably damn near explode. Dean reaches out for the first cup he sees, a wide, shallow vessel on a foot, lifts it off the shelf. It's got weight behind it, but it's too coated in dust and grime to know what it's made of, to make out the designs that bump the outer surface. He holds it in his hands and looks inside.

Sam scrubs at the label on the edge of the shelf where it sat. "Whoa," he says.

"What?" Dean turns the cup in his hands, instinctively pulls it toward his chest. "Is this it? Is this the one, Sammy? Tell me it's the one."

Sam stands up and licks his lips, bites the lower one as he tries to hide a smile. "Dean, if you drink from that, you'll probably get pregnant."

Dean blinks, almost loses his grip on the cup. "What?"

Sam runs his finger along the edge of the shelf, then turns to the shelves on the back wall and blows dust off the artifacts stored there. "These are all fertility relics."

Dean shoves the cup at Sam, turns his attention to the back wall. "Huh," he says, and reaches for the largest of the relics there. He holds it up in front of him, grins at Sam. "Mine's bigger than yours," he says.

Sam blushes and looks from the large marble phallus in Dean's hands, then down at the vessel he holds in his own. He quickly shoves the bowl back onto the shelf behind him. "Dean, god." He grabs the phallus from Dean's hands and then puts it back on the shelf. "Don't mess with the mystical artifacts," he says. "If the Men of Letters hid them away here, they did it for a reason. This stuff could be dangerous."

The words are barely out of Sam's mouth before Dean feels a tingle way down. He lifts an eyebrow, and looks down. Slowly, his dick fills, eventually starts straining against the fly of his jeans. "Huh," he says. "I didn't even think that would work considering my current condition." He looks up. "That thing is mystical viagra."

Sam looks profoundly uncomfortable, and turns away, hands fisted on his thighs. He clears his throat. "Uh. Yeah. Dammit."

Dean laughs. "You touched it too. Awesome." His jeans are too tight now, and he steps around his dick as he makes for the door.

"Where are you going?" Sam says, panic in his voice.

"I'm going to jerk off," Dean says. "I'd figured that was a pleasure no longer within my grasp, due to my entire lack of blood, so I'm making the most of this." He looks back over his shoulder. "Don't lock the room up. I might be back." He winks, and then heads for the shower.

"Dean, we've got work to do," Sam calls after him.

"Twenty minutes, Sammy."

It's only been a few days, but for Dean, it's a long time to go without getting off. And he had figured it was all over for him as far as sex was concerned. For one thing, he looks like what he is—a goddamn corpse. No one's going to want to hit that. But the days when he would wander into a bar and find a woman for a night just to get off are long past.

Lately, he just started the day with a shower and an orgasm, but he figured his dick didn't work anymore. You need blood for that, right?

Yet, Dean lies on his own bed—the bed he hasn't slept in since the night before he died—and looks down at the chub poking out of his unzipped fly, and it's hard. "So cool," he says to himself, and then trails his finger up the underside from the base to the leaking tip. "So goddamn cool." He hasn't been this excited about an erection since he was twelve years old.

The skin is still pale, so it must be mystical. When he wraps his hand around it, the pulsing heat he's accustomed to isn't there, either. Still, it feels good, small shivers of pleasure tightening his balls, twisting in his belly.

There are shivers of cold, too. Lying here like this, immobile but for the shifting of his hand over his cock, he feels it more than when he's moving around. He should probably jump in the shower, get off surrounded in warm water, but right now he's just going to do this. He's in no hurry, and wants to make it last, because he's probably said goodbye to the spontaneous arousal he was so used to experiencing before he died.

His mind keeps flicking back to warmth, though. To being heated right to the core, and unfortunately, the shower doesn't do it like being wrapped up in Sam's bed does.

Sparks shoot up Dean's spine and he doubles over with the intensity of his arousal. He pulls his hand off his dick and slams both palms down on the bed beside his hips. "Awkward," he says, staring at his feet and gasping for breath. "Nope. No. I'm not going to think about that." He closes his eyes, takes a breath in, and consciously shifts his mind to thoughts of the warmth and sound of hot water beating down on his skin. It works, imagines the high pressure shower heads in the bunker—not the wimpy pressure of most motel showers—on his nipples, and then he returns his hand to his dick.

He's almost there, lost in the so-close, not-quite, need of his impending orgasm, and then the shower is gone and there's warm flesh pressed against him, a large warm hand on his belly, but it's too late to pull back, to stop.

He cries out, makes a strangled sound that is half pleasure, half horror, as he starts to come, something cold and sticky spilling out over his fingers and streaking up his belly.

Dean opens his eyes and looks down. "Oh, shit," he says.

Chapter 5

Sam seems weirdly stiff, sitting back at the table surrounded by all the books they pulled out when they got back from Amarillo. Dean stands at the door without announcing his presence, and he shouldn't be watching like this. Not now.

He clears his throat and walks into the room, slumps down in the chair across from Sam, pulls a book toward him, a random book, and flips it open to the middle. "Right," he says, and coughs. "Should we go check out the other rooms now? Or—"

"I did it already," Sam says, and there's snark in his voice. "While you were—"

Dean looks up, and it's a mistake, because Sam is staring at him, one eyebrow raised. Dean would blush if he had any blood left. He chokes, clears his throat again and drops his eyes back down to the book, feigning casual disinterest. "Come on, man. got to make sure everything's still working." He presses his lips together to hide the grin that threatens to spread across his face. "Everything's still working." He won't meet Sam's eyes though, because despite the logic, who's to say that it's not written all over Dean's face that he was thinking of his brother when he came all over his belly.

Sam clears his own throat. "Glad to hear it," he says, and he actually sounds pleased, in a subdued sort of way. "So there's nothing in the other rooms. Nothing we're looking for, anyway." He shifts in his chair, like he's uncomfortable. "It's not in the bunker, Dean. I'm still not convinced it even exists." He moves again, sinks down further in his seat, spreads his long legs. "Dammit."

Dean jerks his head up. "You didn't—?"

Sam shakes his head. "I didn't. I thought it would be better to get on with the search, because I know my stuff works." He gives Dean an apologetic look.

If the ground would open and swallow Dean up, he would be okay with it.

"I figured it would just go away," Sam continues. "But it hasn't."

"Mystical viagra," Dean nods. He stares down at the vintage print on the page in front of him, reads the same sentence over and over again, refusing to be distracted by the thought of his brother's hard-on. "Go take care of it, Sam. Right now."

"We need to figure out whether we're going to pursue this or move on, Dean."

"Later." Dean glances at his phone, presses the button to light the screen and check the time. "And then you might as well hit the hay. I'll keep looking. See you in the morning."

Sam closes his book and shoves it to the side, then drags himself up off his chair. Dean's eyes briefly flick up, then back down to the page, and the way his brother's pants tent out in the crotch is burned into his memory.

Dean stares at words that make no sense. Not when Sam's down the hall 'taking care of it'. It's not something Dean's ever given much consideration, but he's staying up tonight. The warmth of Sam's body was too much, and Dean knew it would get weird.

Because now Dean can't sit still, not for the images that flick into his mind, the lingering memory of heat, of bare skin, of someone else's sweat.

His dick gets hard again. That damn fertility statue. It's the last time Dean's touching a fake cock, like, ever again. Jerking off only helped for a short time, because now it's back and he can't think for needing to take care of his own little problem.

He can't. Not after last time. Not after Sam featured during the big ending, not after Dean stroked out the last drops onto his belly with the memory of his brother's hot breath on the back of his neck.

"Fuck everything," Dean says, and shoves away from the table. He stares down at the book, type blurring in front of his eyes as he hovers between getting up and going to his room and waiting, hoping it subsides.

Five minutes later, Dean's panting, but he's still sitting in his seat. "Just do it," he says.

"Just do what?"

Dean's head jerks up. Sam's in the doorway, and there's fresh color in his cheeks, and his hair is mussed and he won't meet Dean's eyes. "Oh crap," he says, and then he launches himself out of the chair.

His shoulder brushes against Sam's arm as he pushes past in his hurry to get out of the room. The heat and the clean smell of Sam's sweat hits him like a brick wall and he leans against his door frame before he crosses the threshold. He doesn't need to breathe, but god, he's got to catch his breath before he goes in.

"Dean?" Sam says, pressing a palm against the wall and leaning there, towering over Dean as he hangs his head and hunches over the stiff cock trapped in his jeans.

"You'd better go back and lock the door of that room after all, Sammy," Dean croaks. "I got a temporary reprieve, but it's—" He waves his hand over his crotch. "It's back with a vengeance." He lifts his head. "Am I going to be jerking off for the rest of this unlife?"

Sam frowns, and then his eyes unfocus, like he's lost to a little bit of introspection for a while. "It's got to be a coincidence, Dean." He shrugs. "I'm fine." Then he grins. "Now."

Dean grips the door handle and gives it a twist. "Give it time. It'll be back. This ain't no coincidence, because really? I'm dead. There's no way this would be happening to me if it wasn't for some mystical dick statue." Then he looks up as he pushes the door open, and he gets stuck there.

Because Sam's giving him his pity face, all scrunched up brow and pursed lips, and Dean can feel the warmth of Sam's body as he leans close. "Fuck," Dean says, and then falls through the door and pulls it closed behind him.

He leans against it and unzips his jeans, gets his hand around his cock. It's too cold, but Sam's on the other side of the door and is he imagining that he can feel his warmth through the solid wood?

"Dean?" Sam's voice is muffled but why didn't the Men of Letters soundproof the rooms for fucks sake? "Dean, are you okay?"

Dean jerks his dick, hard and fast. "Not helping, Sammy."

"Sorry," Sam says. "I'll just— Sorry."

Dull footsteps, fading, but there's still warmth through the door, and it doesn't even take as long this time, before Dean is hunching over his hand as it works his orgasm out of him.

Then he goes limp, and sinks to the floor, cock still wet in his hand. "This is messed up," he says.

The hot water in the bunker never runs out. Dean has proof. He's beginning to get a little pruney, though, and all over. That's probably not a good thing. Also, unattractive. Not that things can get much worse in that regard. He's seen himself in the bathroom mirror too many times over the last few hours to have any misconceptions as of the current state of his appearance.

Hot showers not really an efficient way of staying warm, after all. But he tried. He really tried.

At least his erection hasn't made a reappearance. At least he's not cursed to be eternally hard as well as dead—or at least for the duration of his remaining entire-lack-of-life.

But that calls into question the cause of his second 'rise', brings into focus the events that preceded it.

It's got to be something to do with being dead. With being a ghost trapped inside his own corpse. If he dared share this with a shrink, there'd be assumptions made about the fucked up way the two of them were raised, about the times they've each gone to extremes to avoid having to go on without the other.

Lack of sleep can't be good for a person. It leads to thinking, and there's nothing worse. How do ghosts do it? How did Sam do it, when he was soulless? Is Dean soulless? Is that the problem? Is there some kind of moral compass that he's missing?

Dean bolts up from the bed, limbs stiff and cold, but he stumbles out the door and down the hall.

He bangs on Sam's door. Shouts through the wood. "There's something wrong with me, Sammy."

Sam's feet slide across the floor, and the door swings open. Sam is wearing his sleepy expression. His hair is a mess and there's moisture at the corner of his lips that might be drool. "Dean? What the hell—"

"You brought me back wrong, Sam." Dean grabs at him, presses his palm to Sam's chest, digs his fingers in. His fingers are pale, freckles standing out like stark blots, nails blanched bright white. The heat of Sam's body burns beneath his touch. "I'm broken. There's a bit of me in the veil, like when your soul was stuck in hell."

Sam wraps his fingers around Dean's wrist. He's alert now, wide awake. "No," he says. "You're fine. You're all here, every part." He pulls Dean into the room, into a hug, wraps him in warmth. "Jesus, Dean. You're freezing."

Dean holds onto Sam tight. "My compass got twisted, Sammy." He breathes Sam in, nose close to Sam's throat. "I want... Things. The things I think about—"

Sam pulls him down to sit on the edge of the bed, pushes him out to arms length and his eyes move over Dean's face. "Breathe, Dean." He takes shallow breaths, sucks them in, hisses air out between his teeth. "You've got to calm down."

Dean shakes his head, so far from calm he's shaking. "Help me, Sammy." He twists his fingers into the front of the t-shirt Sam wore to sleep in, pulls him close. "You've got to help me."

"Okay," Sam says, and nods. He puts his hands, one on each side of Dean's face, and it's warm, so warm. He drags his thumbs across Dean's cheekbones, stroking slowly. "You need to hold on, Dean." He sucks his lower lip into his mouth, drags his teeth across it as he releases. His eyes widen as he leans closer, and their noses almost touch. "Stay with me. Promise me."

Dean nods, but scrunches his eyes in confusion. "I'm not going anywhere."

Sam nods again. "You're losing it. You've got to stay human." He slides his hands down the sides of Dean's neck, presses down on his shoulders. "Stay with me, Dean."

Dean blinks. He lets out a breath, long and slow. It feels like he's been gulping air. "Jesus, Sam," he whispers. "I'm losing it, aren't I?"

Sam's lips curve in a painful mockery of a smile. "Little bit, yeah."

"Oh, crap," Dean says. He looks down at his hands, takes deep, even breaths. Then he laughs. "Why am I breathing, man?" He looks up into Sam's eyes. They're sad, make Sam look like a big lonely puppy. Dean shakes his head and gives Sam a wry grin. "I don't need to breathe."

Sam mimics Dean's head shake. "Keep breathing, Dean. You keep breathing for me, okay?"

The smile falls away from Dean's face. "Yeah, Sammy." He relaxes his hands, eyes falling to them once again. He splays them out over Sam's chest, it's warm and solid. He breathes in, lets it out. "You'll keep me warm?"

"Of course." Sam shifts on the bed, shoves back the blankets. He climbs in, leaves space for Dean. There's no way two grown men should fit together in a single, especially when one is as big as Sam, but they do it.

A hot shower might be quick, and all over, but it's not this good. Wrapped up in Sam's arms again, Sam's even, shallow, sleeping breath in his ear, against the back of his neck, Dean is warm. It's still weird. It'll never not be weird, but he's not on the edge of batshit anymore. Maybe that's why ghosts go nuts, in the end, sooner or later—there's nothing to touch, nowhere to feel like you belong.

Dean feels like he belongs here, in Sam's bed, and isn't that just the weirdest thing he never thought he'd say. Slowly, carefully, so he doesn't wake Sam, he rolls over to face his brother. He holds his breath, so there's no cold breeze on Sam's face to wake him, and he just looks.

He used to watch Sammy sleep when they were kids. Used to sneak into the room to check on him, to make sure some monster couldn't get in and hurt his baby brother, couldn't take Sammy away.

Sam's always been the most important person in the world to Dean. Even if his father had never said it outright, Dean always thought of Sam first, from that first night, the panicked flight from the house in flames. Ever since, Dean's just been trying to protect Sam.

The tide probably turned a long time ago, long years ago, and Dean never caught on. Dean's never let himself be the vulnerable one, never admitted to it, but it's all wrong.

Sam's the strong one. A sob builds in Dean's chest, but he refuses to let it out. Jesus Christ. When did his world flip over without him realizing it?

If he stared like this during the day, it would be weird. But Sam's asleep, and Dean can't sleep. He looks all he can, sees everything. Memorizes everything.

Because the grail isn't in the bunker. There's time, still, but the chances of finding a way to give Dean his life back are slim. This might be all he gets.

Chapter 6

This chapter is chock full of in-jokes from my trip to the US in 2012.

It's still weird. Five, maybe six nights, Dean's spent in his brother's bed, and it'll never not be weird. That's why he slips out when he starts to feel Sam waking up, makes sure he's gone before that awkward morning conversation.

He makes coffee. Dumps the grounds in the filter, dumps the filter in the machine, pulls two mugs off a shelf, stands and watches as it burbles and drips and pings. Wonders how long it'll really be until he's making shit like that happen with his ghostly powers in a desperate attempt to communicate.

He scratches the back of his neck as he waits. He's got, three weeks, at most, Sam said. Three weeks before the magic holding him to his body shits itself and he just drifts away. His reaper might come back for him, might not. Dean can't count on anything.

Except a little old lady in Maryville, Missouri. He doesn't know her, doesn't know anything about her, except that she's the granddaughter of Terence Bryant, the Man of Letters who, or so his journals say, found the location of the Holy Grail back in the Twenties. And the fact that she's living in the house he retired to, and when Sam called her, she told him there's still a locked trunk in the attic, with her grandfather's name on it.

So that's what they're doing. With three weeks left on Dean's limited time offer, they're driving to Missouri.


Dean looks up. Sam stands in the doorway, boots dangling from one hand, a wry smile on his face. His hair is still wet, he looks damp and warm, and Dean's already willing the coffee machine to be done so he can wrap his chilled fingers around a steaming mug. "Hey," he says. "Coffee's almost done."

"Good." It's early, early for a day they wake in the bunker, anyway, and Sam's eyelids are heavy with interrupted sleep. He dumps his boots by the table and drags himself toward the counter where Dean stands and the coffee maker burbles its last. It's almost natural, the way he fits himself into Dean's side, like it's normal.

It has been, at least the last few days. Sam's cautious, his eyes always on Dean, he follows him from room to room, like he's afraid to leave Dean alone. Afraid Dean's going to go batshit on him.

Dean leans back. It'll never not be weird, but it's warm, and he still feels like he should be the one looking out for Sam, but the truth is, Dean feels safe tucked up beside him like that. He pours the coffee, pushes one mug sideways along the counter, and when Sam slides his fingers into the handle, their fingers touch.

It'll never not be weird that there's a tingle in that accidental brush of skin, especially when Sam's practically got his arm around Dean and they sleep together now.

Sam sleeps. Dean lies awake and stares at the soft curve of Sam's mouth as he breathes.

"So," Dean says, as he turns away and bends to pick up his bag from the floor. He dumps it on the table, yanks it open, even though he knows exactly what it contains. He looks inside, runs his finger down the barrel of his favorite sawed-off, counts the salt rounds. "We ready to roll?"

"Whenever you are," Sam says, slumping into a chair and forcing one foot into a boot. He tugs the laces. "We get there by nine, turn around, back before dinner, right?"

"We are stopping on the way," Dean says. "For breakfast."

Sam closes his eyes and smiles. "You don't need to eat, but you keep trying."

"I want pie," Dean says. "I miss pie." He yanks his bag closed and looks down at Sam. "I'm getting pie."

"Whatever you want, Dean," Sam says, and he smiles.

Sam sleeps most of the trip, Dean drives, and when he pulls into a diner in some blink and you'll miss it town when they're three hours down the road, his mouth waters. He's prepared for the ultimate disappointment, but goddammit, he misses pie.

"Wake up, Sammy," he says, but he doesn't shake his brother like he might have before. No, he slides his hand over Sam's shoulder, while he's still sleeping he lets the warmth sink into his fingers through Sam's shirt, and he feels the solid muscle beneath. He lies awake every night with his palm on Sam's shoulder, like he can't get enough. "Goddammit, Sammy. Wake up."

Sam opens his eyes, blinks away sleep, wipes at the corner of his mouth with the pad of his thumb. "Are we here?"

Dean shakes his head. "Nah. Some hick town. There's a bar, and a diner, and a court house bigger than the entire main street, and that's about it." He waves his hand out the window. "This is the main street." There's half a dozen stores on each side of the road. "It's the only street."

Sam pulls himself up. He huffs out a laugh and drops his eyes. "Okay. And we're stopped here why?"

Dean lifts his chin, pointing with it out the front window. "Pie," he says.

There's a sign on the front window of the diner they're parked in front of. "Best Ho-made Pies," Sam reads, then he turns to Dean. "Um."

"Don't care who makes 'em." Dean pops the door open and slides out. "Come on, Sammy. Pie."

So they head inside, and the bright morning sunlight fades as they step down into a half-basement diner.

Sam's head barely clears the low ceiling. Dean's lips curve up in a smile, and Sam gives him a look he knows from when they were kids. When they were kids, Sam would have followed that look with sticking out his tongue, now, it's more of a sneer.

They turn their attention to the interior of the diner. Dean's eyes slowly adjust to the small amount of light coming in through high, grimy windows, and then he can see the counter. There's a grizzled old dude sitting on a stool, hunched over a coffee mug. The server, a large woman well past her prime, pours coffee that looks as thick and dark as mud. She looks up, catches their eyes, then flicks them toward a couple of booths close to the door.

The vinyl is sticky with grime. Sam pulls a face and wipes his hands on his shirt. "You sure about this, Dean? This place is like, where slasher movies start. Car breaks down, and you're never heard from again."

Dean slides in opposite. There are decades old cigarette burns on his seat, they scratch at his hands as he presses them to the seat beside his thighs. "Look, Sammy." He puts his elbows on the table, flicks the menu down so he can read the back. "One, I know Baby inside and out, and there's nothing I can't fix. Two," He grins. "We're the guys who come in at the end and clean up the mess, so I think we'll be okay." He looks down, his eyes scanning down the list on the back of the menu. "I'm having one of everything."

Their feet settle under the table, Sam's longer legs stretching right across and tucking beneath Dean's seat. Dean presses his calf to Sam's, just for the warmth, and he flicks his eyes away while he does it, because most of the time they just don't acknowledge the way they touch each other now. He catches the eye of the woman behind the counter, and she puts down her coffee pot.

There's a hand written tag on her ample breast, almost lost in the busy floral pattern of her blouse. Dean squints, but the script is faded, but there might be an 'F'. "Morning... Flo?" he says, but her face is impassive, neither confirming, nor denying, his wild guess. "Coffee all 'round, and pie. One of everything you have."

She stares down at him, pencil hovering over her hand. "You alright, honey? You look like death."

"Funny you should say that—" Dean starts.

Sam butts in. "He has the flu."

Flo narrows her eyes, leans back enough that Dean notices. "Swine flu?"

Sam shakes his head. "Regular flu. Coffee is fine, thanks, that's everything."

She turns and leaves, and Dean grins over at Sam. "That's everything please go away now?"

"Yeah." Sam looks around. "This place makes me nervous."

"Relax, Sammy." Dean rubs his leg against Sam's, and it's meant to be a gesture of comfort, but for once Dean holds eye contact. Sam's pupils expand, and his cheeks color, and he sucks in a breath as his lips twitch in an almost smile. Dean swallows. "Everything's going to be fine." He looks away, along the line of the counter, down to the end of the diner where there's a big sign for the restroom. Beside the door, though, there's something that catches Dean's eye. "Dude," he says. "There's a life size plastic cowboy."

Sam looks horrified.

Dean grins up at him. "I'm sure it's not the mummified body of the last guy who broke down in town."

"Dean," Sam says. "God, stop it."

This time, it's intentional. Dean locks his eyes on Sam's face, and he traps Sam's leg between his feet, and he watches as Sam's eyes go black, as blood vessels in his face swell, as Sam opens his mouth on a gasp. Dean smiles before he drops his eyes, and it's not victory, it's not about making Sam squirm, it's about having the balls to do it in the first place.

He's fucked. They're both fucked, but since when have their lives been any different? From the moment Dean ran from their burning house in Laurence, his baby brother in his arms, nothing about the way they've lived has been normal. They're all they've got, and they've only got each other.

Still, the smile slips from Dean's face, and he looks up, and Sam's got his sad eyes on again.

Sam swallows. "You look like I feel," he says. "What are you thinking about?"

Dean gives Sam a scathing look. "We're talking about our feelings now? Really, Sam?"

"No." Sam shakes his head. "Just thoughts."

"Huh." Dean scrubs his hand over his face. "Thoughts. My actual thoughts." He looks up, into Sam's eyes, and Sam's pupils swell again. "Our lives were fucked from the beginning. Look how messed up we are, Sam. Our lives are blood and pain and death on repeat. Kinda makes you wonder why we keep coming back."

Flo appears, dumps coffee mugs down on the table, sloshes coffee into them. "Pie's not far," she says, and then she moves away again.

"Okay, so that's not exactly what I was thinking, but it's true." Dean wraps his hands around the warm mug in front of him, and then he looks up at Sam. "Isn't it."

"We do it because it's worth it," Sam says. He drops his eyes, shakes his head. "It's worth it, Dean. The blood, the pain, even the death. It's worth going through."

Dean sighs. "Because we help people," he recites.

"No." Sam's hand crosses the table. He's not stupid, they're in a hick town and even though no one here knows they're brothers, two men holding hands isn't exactly going to get a positive reaction. His knuckles, though, graze the back of Dean's hand. "What I did. I did it because I need you. And it's messed up, anyone else would let go, anyone else would have said goodbye and gotten on with their life a long time ago. But I can't, Dean. Not without you. And I'm scared. If this lead doesn't pan out, I don't know what I'm going to do, what we're going to do. All the other options are dead ends."

Sam's terrified. It's in his voice, in his face, in the fact that he reached out to Dean, to touch him in a way they never used to touch.

"It's all over, isn't it?" Dean stares down into his cup. A thin film of grease floats on top of the coffee. He drinks it anyway, and it tastes of nothing. "If we don't find the grail thing, if it doesn't exist, I'm finished."

"Dean," Sam says, his voice breaking. He lifts his hand to his face, but the motion is aborted when Flo returns.

"Best pie in Kansas," she says, sliding four plates onto the table and then drifting away.

Dean reaches for the pecan first. He grabs a fork, stabs it into the top of the pie, and then pushes it toward Sam. "I need you to eat this for me."

Sam frowns. "What?"

Dean shrugs. "I eat it, all I get is a nasty cardboard aftertaste. You need to eat my pie. Tell me what it tastes like. I want to watch you eat it." His mouth waters as the combined smell of four kinds of pie fills his senses and it's so goddamn unfair that he can smell the good stuff but not taste it.

"Dude," Sam says. "That's weird."

"No weirder than anything else we've been doing lately," Dean says, and there, he's done it, he's called attention to the fact he's been lying in Sam's bed while Sam sleeps. With effort, he holds Sam's gaze, even when Sam drops his eyes away, Dean keeps looking at his face.

"Right," Sam says, and he picks up the fork, pulls a chunk of pie out from the middle, and puts it in his mouth.

It's all very quick, all very perfunctory, until Sam starts to chew. He makes a sound, a deep rumble that's half way between whimper and grunt, and all pleasure. His eyes flick up to Dean, and go wide, and the makes the sound again before he puts the fork back into the pie for more. "This is really good," he says, before filling his mouth again.

Dean can't breathe. He doesn't need to, but he can't. There's something about the sounds Sam makes that vibrate right inside Dean, twisting him up, and he can't take his eyes off Sam's lips as he drags his tongue across the lower one, as he drags the fork from between them.

"Now the apple," Dean says, when Sam finishes the pecan pie. He pushes it toward him, and swallows hard, as this time, Sam keeps his eyes on Dean's face as he digs in. They keep eye contact the whole time, and Sam's totally hamming it up, exaggerating every expression of pleasure and taste.

"I can't eat any more," Sam says, when the apple's all gone and there's bits and pieces of chocolate and cherry on the plates in front of him. His lips are stained with cherry filling, and under the table, his legs are spread wide.

So are Dean's. His jeans are far too tight now, and he's got no idea how's he's going to get out of here without it showing.

Sam sinks back in his seat, slides down in it. His hand goes to his belly, disappearing over the edge of the table. "Jesus, Dean," he says. "I hope that was good for you, because I feel like I'm going to explode."

Dean makes a strangled noise, nods as he chews on his lower lip. His eyes track the length of Sam's arm, settles on the point where it disappears underneath the table, notes the way it moves. Dean tips his head to the side, as if it might afford him the ability to see below.

Sam clears his throat. There's a streak of color across each cheek again, and he's sucked his lower lip into his mouth. "Dean," he says, and gives his head the slightest shake. "I—"

Dean mimics the movement, then nods and looks away. "Yeah. See, Sammy? I shouldn't be here. Maybe we should just let it happen."

Sam sits up abruptly. The table shakes beneath them. "No," he says, short and sharp and definite. "No."

It's wrong, really wrong, the way he's looking at his brother lately. Dean shakes his head again, looks down at the floor. "Thanks," he says. "For the pie. I didn't mean— It wasn't supposed to—"

"It's fine," Sam says. Just as sharp, just as definite. "Dean, I—"

Flo swans by the table and drops the check. She gives them a pointed look, and then leaves.

"Okay then," Sam says, and slides out from the booth, snagging the check in two fingers as he heads to the counter. Dean takes a few moments, and then heads for the door.

He blinks in the brighter light outside, and it takes a while for his eyes to adjust. Then he stares, at the bare piece of street in front of the diner.

"Dean," Sam says, as his feet hit the pavement behind him. "Dean. Where's the car?"

Chapter 7

"You parked in a no parking zone?" Sam stalks the pavement underneath the sign, then he turns. "Why the hell did you park in a no parking zone?"

"I didn't know it was a no parking zone," Dean insists. He's almost certain it wasn't there when he parked, when they got out of the car. Maybe he was just so focused on pie that he didn't notice. "This is the main street, Sam. How was I to know half of it was no parking?"

Sam lifts his arm and points upward, to the sign over his head. Then he drops his arm and sighs. "Okay. Too late now. We go to wherever they do the red tape around here, pay the fine, and get moving."

Dean nods. "Where's that then?"

"Sheriff's office?"

Dean nods, brushes his hands on his jeans, and starts walking.

There's not a whole lot of town, so in just a few minutes, they end up outside a red brick building. Usually, they walk into these places and show their fake badges, and get a little respect. This time it's different. "They've got Baby," Dean says. "What if they hurt her."

"They're not going to hurt the car, Dean. We just have to find out where the impound lot is, pay the fine, and get the hell out of here."

"You're awfully calm about this, Sam," Dean says. "I'm freaking out."

Sam tries to hide a smile, and then he steps onto the ramp outside the office. "Come on, Dean."

Dean stays back, lets Sam do the talking. He probably should have stayed outside. The deputy behind the counter keeps stealing glances at him between telling them the bad news.

They can't pick her up until tomorrow.

"Between eight and ten?" Sam says, and his voice is strained. "It's barely ten now."

"And the lot is closed from ten," the deputy says. "There's no one there."

"But we need the car," Sam says. "We're just passing through, we can't stay here tonight."

The deputy looks up. "I guess you'll have to. And next time you're passing through, you won't park in a no parking zone." He grins.

Dean clenches his fists hard, digging his fingernails into his palms in an effort to control his anger. He can't flip out now.

"Fine," Sam says, the word hissing through his teeth. "Then could you point us in the direction of a motel?"

"Next town over is the closest accommodation. 'Bout half an hours drive."

Sam slams his fist down on the counter. "We don't have a car."

Dean grabs him by the back of his shirt, drags him backward out of the office. "Chill, Sammy. We're cool."

Sam whirls around on the pavement outside. "No, we're not. Where the hell are we supposed to stay? We're going to sleep rough? You'll freeze. And Ms. Bryant is expecting us today."

Dean starts walking away. "Call her. Tell her we'll be a little late, but we'll see her this afternoon." He stops, grins up at Sam. "The impound lot is closed, right? Sammy, there's no one there."

"Oh," Sam says, eyes widening.

The sun is pretty high when they get there. The impound lot is on the edge of town, the last thing before everything is farmland and long, open roads. There's not much to it, a prefab office and space for a couple dozen cars, surrounded by a high chain link fence topped with barbed wire.

And there, right in the middle of an almost empty lot, is the Impala.

"Baby," Dean says, fingers clawing at the fence between him and his car. "They locked you up, Baby."

"There's a camera," Sam says, nodding at a blinking box mounted on the end of the office. "But I don't see an alarm system."

"You reckon it feeds to the sheriff station?" Dean asks. His eyes track in the direction the camera is pointed—right at the entrance, around the corner from where they're standing. "Are they watching?"

"We have to assume they are," Sam says. "But I can't see anymore. It looks pretty basic. If they can't angle it remotely, we might be okay, if we can get through the fence out of the camera's line of sight."

Dean steps back from the fence, looks it up and down. "So, how do we get in? There's wire cutters in the trunk, but they're not going to do us much good from out here."

Sam looks up. He pulls a face. "Climb the fence? Cut our way out?"

Dean slowly nods. "That's an option. Whoever goes over, though, is going to get cut to shit on that wire."

"I'll go," Sam says, and locks the fingers of one hand high in the mesh.

"What?" Dean glares at Sam, eyes wide. "Why do you get to go?" He locks his fingers into the back of Sam's jacket and pulls him back down to earth.

Sam sighs. "Because if I get cut, at least I can heal. Whatever happens to you, Dean, you're stuck with for the next three weeks."

"Yeah." Dean nods. "And then, if everything goes our way, it all magically disappears. You get cut up, and you'll be healing a lot longer. Plus, you'll bleed all over the upholstery. No chance of that happening to me." He grins, and holds his arms out wide. "And if I fall, at least I won't die. Again."

The distinctive sound of a round chambering clicks behind them. "You boys weren't thinking of breaking into that impound lot for your car, were you?"

Sam's head whips around, and Dean turns to see the deputy they spoke to at the sheriff's office behind them. "Oh, shit," he says, staring down the barrel of a gun, and none of his own to counter with.

"See, I had a feeling about you two. So I followed you." He turns to the car parked on the road behind him. "I got to wonder why you boys didn't just high tail it out of here in your stolen car."

Dean looks at the car, a beat up old Toyota, then looks back at the Impala behind the fence. "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Look," Sam says, holding his hands out, palm forward and taking a step toward the cop. "We just want our car. We don't want any trouble, just the car."

"And if you bastards weren't so stuck up your own asses," Dean says, "We would've paid the fine and been out of your hair, but no, you had to go and—"

"Shut up," the deputy says, lifting his gun just a bit higher. He reaches back with his free hand, pulls a pair of cuffs from his belt. "You're already in trouble. The three of us are going back to town, and you boys are going to have a nice hard bed for the night after all, because I got you on grand theft auto, and I heard you planning to climb that fence with my own ears."

Dean starts to feel very warm. "We're not going anywhere with you."

"Dean," Sam says, turning toward him, one hand out as if to hold him back.

But Dean's skin is burning. "I'm going to get my car," he growls, "and I'm leaving this shithole."

Sam grabs hold of Dean's arm. "Dean, no, it's not worth it."

Dean throws him off, fire under his skin, blistering, like it should be peeling off. All he can see is the deputy, the way his hand shakes, the movement of the barrel foremost in Dean's focus. He's buzzing, trying to break out of his meat suit, fritzing against the magic that holds him there.

He wants out, wants out like when he walked through that door in the bunker. There's so much at his fingertips but he's locked inside this heavy lump of flesh and he needs to get out.

"Calm down," the deputy says, voice deep and forceful, but it's not enough. "Or I will shoot you, mister."

Dean pushes, but he can't break through. Puts all his energy into it, closes his eyes and—

He can't get out. He feels it there, like he's almost through, but he can't. What's left of his blood boils inside him, and there's not much left than rage. It sizzles under his skin.

Then he lets it out, a split second before it goes, barely clinging to enough consciousness to focus that explosion of energy.

With a great tearing of metal, the fence screeches behind them. A whole section peels away and falls into the lot. Dean fishes in his pocket, tosses Sam the keys. "Get the car," he says, eyes still on the deputy.

Sam's boots crunch as he crashes over the fallen chain link.

The deputy's mouth is wide open. His eyes are wide and he's gaping like a fish. The gun in his hand is shaking hard now, but swinging toward Sam, and his finger is tightening.

Dean moves. The heat searing off his flesh is still there, a red hot rage that somehow gives him power. He moves fast, rushes at the cop, speed checked only by the weight of the body he wears.

Something hits him hard in the chest, followed by a loud crack that rings in his ears. He stumbles back, then looks down. There's a perfect round hole in his jacket, right over his heart. Sam screams.

Dean regains his footing. There's nothing, nothing but rage now, no thought, nothing. He roars.

A great wave explodes out from inside him, makes the air ripple and the dust fly. The deputy is thrown back, like he caught a wrecking ball in the stomach, and the dust settles around him.

"Dean, oh my god, Dean." Sam's feet rattle across the wire mesh again, and then Sam's hands are on him, large and warm and strong and right where they should be. His eyes are on the hole in Dean's jacket, his fingers pick at the broken threads. "Dean."

Dean looks up. There are tears on Sam's face. The heat dissipates. "I'm okay," Dean says. "I'm okay, Sammy. Can't kill a dead man."

Sam swallows and nods, then looks over at the fallen deputy. "Is he—?"

Dean can feel it, the life still in the man. "Knocked out." He turns and looks toward the Impala, drivers door hanging open. "We should go."

Sam nods, and wipes tears from his cheeks with the heels of his hands. "I'm going to drive, okay?"

"What the hell happened back there, Dean?" Sam's eyes are focused on the road, and his knuckles are white on the steering wheel.

Dean stares out the window. "I got shot," he says. "By a dick." He's cold again, but nothing seems real. It's all a bit blurry around the edges, just a little bit soft. He swallows hard as the sound of tearing chain link echoes in his mind. "I don't know, Sammy. I don't know."

The Impala's engine roars as Sam pushes her past the speed limit. Who knows how long the deputy will be out, how long it'll be before they've got sirens in their dust. No one says anything more until they cross into Missouri, and then Sam eases off the throttle. Not that it'll make much difference. They were close enough to the state line that the APB will follow them—or the car, at least.

"Are you okay, now?" Sam says. "Is everything— Is it under control?"

Dean turns to him. "Yeah. It's gone."

"You tore down a goddamn fence, Dean. What the hell does that even mean?"

Dean turns back to the window. "I was trying to get out."

"Out?" Sam's foot gets heavier for a moment. "Out of what?"

"Out of this body." Dean's head hits the window.

"Why the hell would you—?"

"Because I felt helpless, Sam. I can feel all this stuff I should be able to do, but I can't, because I'm stuck in here. How does that help us, huh?"

"It's not supposed to. You're not supposed to be a ghost, Dean, that's why I bound you to your body. We're supposed to get you fixed up so we can go back to normal."

Dean's head jerks around. "We're not normal, Sammy. We're never normal, we've never been normal and we'll never be normal. And I am a ghost. I died, and I was either supposed to move on, or get stuck haunting some crappy house or, god, this car. If I'm here, then I'm supposed to be a goddamn ghost, with all the bullshit that goes with being a ghost. Throwing shit around and scaring the crap out of some dipshit deputy."

"You mean, going vengeful spirit?"

Dean cringes. He's going to disappear, get replaced by some remnant of his anger. "Yeah, maybe, Sammy. You know what happens. Enough time, the right situation. Everyone goes batshit. It shouldn't be surprising. I'm already as fucked up as a ghost can be, and I think you know that."

Sam goes silent. Dean goes back to staring out the window. The open farmland starts to get broken up by the occasional farmhouse as they get closer to the city.

The Maryville sign appears, zips past.

"It's not just you," Sam says.

It's not news, but it's got to be something to do with what's wrong with Dean. Somehow, he's got to be causing it. "It's not your fault, Sammy," Dean says to the window.

"Well, it's not yours either."

Dean sets his jaw and stays silent.

"I think we should talk about it."

"I think we should get this goddamn box out of this little old lady's attic, and get our ass back to the bunker."

Sam slows the car as they pass into town, pulls into a motel surrounded in big, leafy trees.

"What the hell are you doing, Sammy?"

Sam turns the engine off. "We're staying the night."

"No. We're going back to the bunker."

"We're picking up a box of papers that belonged to the guy who found the holy grail, Dean. You really want to sit in the car for another seven hours before we get to take a look?"

Dean's fingers itch just thinking about it. "Fine," he says. "But we bring the police scanner with us."

Sam nods. "Definitely. We don't have time to go to jail right now." He pops the door open and unfolds out of the car.

Dean sits and waits.

Chapter 8

Sam puts down the phone. "Ms. Bryant says she's fine with us coming up after dinner," he says.

"Good." Dean stares at the lettuce leaves and the tiny, halved tomatoes inside the clear plastic take out container on Sam's side of the table.

He pushes, with that coiling piece of warmth inside him, and a half tomato tumbles from the top to the edge.

"What the hell are you doing?" Sam says, his feet heavy on the floor as he towers over the table.

Dean's head jerks up. "Nothing."

"Well, stop doing it to my dinner." Sam sinks down into the chair and pops the lid off the salad. He stabs the fallen tomato with a plastic fork, and holds it up between them. "You know poltergeists, Dean? They're not even people anymore."

Dean swallows. "Yeah, I know that, Sam."

"Then why—"

"Because I'm cold. I'm always cold, because I'm stuck inside this dead thing. And when I do it, there's something warm in there, Sammy." He beats his chest with his fist. "And it feels good."

"That's not the good kind of heat, Dean," Sam says. He drops his fork, leans forward in his chair, and the legs scrape loudly on the linoleum floor. He reaches out, holds Dean's cheek in his palm, and it's warm too, and Dean can tell the difference. "I can keep you warm."

Dean twitches, almost flinches away, but he wants to lean into it. He can feel how right it is, but it's a mistake. "That's not the good kind of warm either, Sammy," he croaks.

Sam drops his hand, drops his eyes away. "I don't care."

"Then we are both so far off the reservation that there is no saving us anymore."

"I'm okay with that," Sam says, still staring at the floor. "I just want you to know."

"Then what the hell are we doing? The Holy Grail, Sam?" He pushes out from the table and stands up. "You know what? You're right. It's a myth. There's nothing that can put me back together, and that's okay. So you—" He stops, chokes on the lump in his throat. "You just— You get that magic undone, Sammy, and you let me go."

"What?" Sam's chair hits the floor as he lurches to his feet. "That's not— You know that's not what I meant." He rounds the edge of the table, reaches Dean in one long stride.

Dean backs away, shaking his head. "You've lost your mind if you think what you're suggesting is okay."

Sam keeps coming. He backs Dean against the wall, uses his hip to pin Dean there. He cups Dean's cheek again, and leans so close Dean could get drunk on the way Sam smells. "You're the only person I care about in the world, Dean."

"Because everyone else is dead, and I'm the only one you could bring back."

Sam shakes his head. "You're the only one I can't live without." There are tears on his cheeks again, and he's so close now that each soft, shallow breath tickles the corner of Dean's mouth. He drops his head again, the tiniest fraction of an inch.

Dean turns away. There's a longing, a need, twisting in his belly, but he's got to try to resist. The way Sam's lips graze his cheek, a feather's brush, it burns worse than the way his skin blistered today when he tore down the fence.

"Dean," Sam says, all kinds of pain and anguish in his voice. "Dean, please."

Dean chokes when he tries to get words out. He lifts his eyes, and Sam's begging him, not just with his words, but with the pain written on his face as well. And Dean gives. He gives in. Gives up. And he turns back to Sam, and he lifts his chin. "Jesus, Sammy," he whispers, his throat closing up on the words, so they're a harsh rasp.

Then he's burning all over again. Flames lick at his skin, burst up his spine. Sam makes a noise, a strangled moan that's muffled as he drags his lips, desperate, over Dean's mouth.

"Sam," Dean moans, sound rumbling up from deep in his chest. "Oh, god, Sammy." He twists his hand into the front of Sam's shirt, and he arches his neck, and he leans in and just lets go.

There's a funny grey shadow behind the mirror. It spreads like damp from the top right corner, consumes the edge, puddles at the bottom. Paint flakes away from the wooden cabinet surround, litters the porcelain sink with off-white dust. There's probably lead in it. Dean drags his finger through the fine powder, then rinses it under the tap.

The house is falling down around the old woman downstairs.

Dean looks up as he washes his hands. He doesn't look at himself in the mirror anymore, not if he can help it, but he's got to see if anything's changed. He can't look past his lips, like they're the most significant part of his body right now. He can still feel it, searing heat, he can taste it, forbidden desperation. He presses the pad of his middle finger, still wet, to his lower lip. He spreads the water across the fullest part.

It creates the illusion of life, just for a moment. Then it dries, and his lips are the color of bleached bone again. There's something wrong with Sam. There's got to be.

The only child of an only child, Dora Bryant inherited the house Terence Bryant retired to when he left the Men of Letters.

"He had the dementia," she says, a thumbnail painted pearly pink grinding over and over, against a stained chip on the edge of her teacup. "But I remember him telling me about his work. My father didn't want him to." She looks up. Her eyes are watery, but sparkle with life. "He didn't go into the same business, you see. It was expected, and so they argued a lot. But my grandfather would get me alone, and he would tell me stories of magic and monsters."

"And you believed him," Sam says.

"Of course I believed him," Dora says. "I was a child. I thought it was wonderful. I dreamed of the day I would be old enough to do the same things he talked about. But by the time I was, my grandfather was gone, and my father wouldn't hear of it."

"We didn't know," Sam says. "But we're legacies, like you. We found some of your grandfather's journals in the archives. They're incomplete. We were hoping we could take a look at some of his papers you told me about."

Dora smiles. She turns her eyes on Dean, gives him a look that is all pity, as though she knows he doesn't just have the flu. Maybe she does. "I won't be here forever, boys. His things should be together, where they're complete, and safe. Where someone can make use of them. If they stay here, when I'm gone, someone will come and throw them away." She puts her teacup down on the table. "But you'll have to see yourself up to the attic. I haven't been able to manage the stairs in years." She smiles again. "Anything that was his, you're welcome to."

There's a bare bulb swinging from the ceiling, the wire threaded through a chain, thick with dust. Everything is covered with it, and they leave tracks behind them when they enter.

Ancient crates made of wood line the walls. The markings on them are faded and indistinct. There are broken lamps, wrapped rectangles that might contain priceless artworks. There's a coat rack, old furs in cracking vinyl covers hanging askew.

"Where's this trunk?" Dean says. Now that they're alone again, Dean's chest feels empty and wrong. His heart should be pounding in there, there should be sweat on his brow. The hyper-awareness is incongruous with the lack of physical reaction.

Sam shines his flashlight into each corner. "Here," he says, as it stills. He scrambles forward, ducking to avoid hitting his head on the angled ceiling, and he falls to his knees. He wipes the thick blanket of dust off the top, then blows on it, to scatter the remainder. "This is it," he says.

Dean steps closer. He shines his flashlight on the top of the box. The Aquarian Star is stamped on top, like two arrow heads, one inverted. Beneath that is Terence's name. "Open it up."

Sam looks up at Dean. His lips move, as though he's about to speak, but no sound comes out.

"Just do it, Sam," Dean says.

Sam nods. He turns back, examines the lock, and then breaks the rusted catch with the butt of his flashlight. He lifts the lid.

Dean shines his flashlight inside. It's filled to the top with paper and books and files. Dean lunges forward, lifts a pile out. "I suppose it'd be too much to hope that it might be in here."

"Yeah," Sam says. "Probably." He slides his hand down the back edge, down the sides, the front. "It's all paper." He turns, pushes himself to his feet, ducks until he's in the center of the room where the ceiling is highest. "But he took this stuff from the Men of Letters when he left. There's got to be a reason for that."

"So we take it back. Go through everything." Dean flips the lid back on, turns to scan the room. "Those crates," he says. "Maybe he swiped more than his notes."

Sam runs his finger along the edge of one. "John Bryant," he reads. "No. They belonged to Dora's dad. There's nothing we need there."

Dean nods, then he bends to grasp the handle on one end of the trunk. "Come on, then. Work to do, Sammy."

There's so much, it's going to take them days to go through it all, to read every word, and it's the early hours of the morning before Sam drains the last of the coffee from his cup and pushes away from the pile of paper in front of him.

Dean barely glances up, quick, deliberately casual, then back down again at the journal in front of him.

"Time to hit the hay, Dean," Sam says.

Dean glances up, forces a smile. "You go ahead. I don't need to sleep."

Sam moves behind him. He puts his hands on Dean's shoulders, gets his thumbs into Dean's shoulder blades and rubs. "You should rest, at least."

He could lean back, he could melt into the feeling of Sam's hands on him, he could surrender, but so much conflicts with it. "Sam," Dean says. "I don't think—"

"I know." Sam's hands slide down, palms press, one over the other, over Dean's heart. "I thought I was watching you die again today," he says. "One way or another, I thought it was over. You went vengeful spirit, Dean, and then he shot you, and I thought I wasn't going to get you back from that."

"I'm not going anywhere," Dean says. He looks up, tips his head back to rest on Sam's hard stomach. "I'm still here." When he lifts his hand, there's so much that tells him to put it back down, two urges warring with one another. But he puts his hand over Sam's, over the hole in his heart where the bullet went clean through and drew no blood because there's no blood left. And he squeezes. "But I'm freaking out, Sammy. Me, I'm dead, I'm a ghost. There ain't nothing natural about me anymore. But you." He grips Sam's hand tighter and twists, presses his cheek against Sam's belly and closes his eyes. "I'm scared. It's not right. It's not normal. It's not natural. You shouldn't want any of this." He drops his head, drops his voice to a whisper. "I'm your brother. And I'm a fucking corpse. I don't understand."

"I don't see that part," Sam says, then he drops to his knees. Dean refuses to open his eyes, even though he can feel Sam's breath on his face. Sam's hand on his cheek holds him there so he can't turn away. "You're my brother. You'll always be my brother, Dean," Sam says. "And it's messed up, but I don't care. You're a real person, the same person who's been the only one to look out for me since I was six months old. All I see is my big brother, the one I always trusted to look out for me." He tips Dean's face up, traces his lower lip with his thumb. Then he brushes his lips over Dean's mouth, quick, barely touching. "Dean, I—"

"Don't, Sammy."

"I need you, Dean," Sam finishes.

Dean opens his eyes. His blood should be pumping quick and fast through his veins, his heart should be pounding. It's not. Pinpricks of cold flash over his skin, though, and if that's all the nerves he's going to get, he'll take it. "Sam."

"Come to bed. Let me keep you warm."

Dean shakes his head. His lips quiver as he fights with himself.

"Yeah." Sam nods his head, as if that can negate Dean's reluctance. He rises to his feet, grabs Dean's hand to pull him up. "Come on."

Long moments pass in which Dean just stares up into Sam's eyes, in which his heart and his mind fight against each other.

Then he caves, and he tells himself it's because his fingers are numb and his joints are stiff from the cold, and he lets Sam pull him to his feet.

Under the blankets, Sam pressed against his back like a gigantic space heater, Sam's lips on his shoulder, Sam's hands, sliding over his bare chest, Dean shakes.

Chapter 9

Dean sits on Sam's bed, back against the wall. He's naked to the waist.

Sam sits on the edge of the bed beside him. There's a bandage in his left hand, and he tears tape off a roll with his teeth before he slaps the bandage over the perfectly circular hole that runs right through Dean's heart. "You don't need to come, Dean. We need someone here going through Terry's journals. We've been reading for close to a week, and we're only half way through. We can't spare the both of us for a job right now."

"Bullshit." Dean stares down as Sam smooths his fingers carefully over the tape. Every time Sam's skin touches his, there's a tingle of fire in it's wake. It's any wonder why he doesn't combust every night, with so much of Sam's skin touching his. "You don't want me there because it's a poltergeist. You're afraid I'm going to go nuts if I see it in action. Like, I'm going to think, hey, that looks like fun, I'm going to give it a go."

"That's not it," Sam says. His fingers still, and he presses his palms flat to Dean's chest. He bends his head, leaning in, and it'll never not be weird, but it's a little less strange when they kiss now. Sam's lips are a flare of heat over Dean's mouth, quick, and then gone again. "Mom took out a poltergeist, remember? She did it to protect us, and destroyed herself in the process. You'd do the same for me, if it came down to it, Dean, you know you would."

He can't deny it. Can't lie to Sam, not anymore, not to his face, anyway. So he says nothing.

"I thought so," Sam whispers. He leans in again, this time wraps his hand around the back of Dean's neck, tips his head back. There's just a little bit more heat in the kiss this time, a different kind of heat.

It makes Dean want to grab on and never let go, to press his body close, to wrap himself around Sam just to feel. "I'm coming," he says, pulling away. "What happens if you don't come back? I'd be stuck down here forever. I'd have to watch my body rot while I wait for you for the next hundred years."

"I'm coming back," Sam smiles. "I can handle this, I swear. You don't have to worry about me. I'll be gone, two days, tops."

Dean shrugs. "Two days. I could go crazy in two days. You'll come back and I'll be off my rocker. Hell, I might go into the dispossession room just for kicks, sit in there and look at my body outside in the corridor, and see how long it takes to bloat up and—"

"Fine," Sam spits. "God, sometimes I hate you, Dean."

"No you don't," Dean grins. "You love me."

He almost regrets it, as soon as the word is out of his mouth. It's true, he knows that, and it goes both ways, but they don't say it. Things are too complicated now, because neither of them ever knows just what that means anymore.

"Yeah," Sam says. He goes very serious, very quickly. This time, when he kisses Dean, it's not soft, it's not fleeting. It's hard, and desperate, the closest they've come to the first time.

Dean's hips twitch involuntarily and he twists his fingers into the bedsheets to stop himself from clutching at Sam in a desperation that he can't control.

"Promise me," Sam says, breaking the kiss only to come back harder, hotter. "You're not going to do what Mom did, Dean. Promise me."

"You'd do the same," Dean says, gasping against Sam's cheek. "Sammy, you'd do the same thing."

Sam pants in Dean's ear. His hands on Dean's chest clench and release. "I need you, Dean. You do that, I can't follow you and I need to be able to follow you."

Sam's words punch all the air out of Dean's chest. "Fuck, Sammy." Dean lets go of the sheets, and he grabs on, needing all the contact he can get. He twists the fingers of one hand in the front of Sam's shirt, wraps the other around Sam's neck, pulls him closer. "It's wrong," he says, and it's the understatement of the century. "Everything about this is wrong."

"It's too late for that." Sam sits back, stares down at Dean. His chest rises and falls with rapid, harsh breaths. His eyes track from Dean's face, slowly down his body, settle on his hips. Sam bites his lip.

Dean feels exposed. He should cover himself, grab a pillow for his lap. The urge is there to hide, to be ashamed of how his body reacts to being kissed by his brother.

Sam's eyes flick back to his face. "Pandora's box," he says. "We've opened it. It's not something you can close. It's not going to go away when this is over. You're what I want."

Dean shakes his head, always shakes his head when Sam skirts too close to the natural progression of things. Dean's come to terms with kissing his brother, with kissing his brother with the kind of heat that makes him hard and aching. He's not ready to even consider the next step. "No, Sammy."

Sam licks his lips. "Sure, Dean," he says. "Sure."

There's a stack of Terence's journals in the back seat. Dean's going to read all night, nothing Sam says is going to stop him.

Sam's asleep in the passenger seat. Another six hour drive, half way across the country. This is normal, always moving, always looking for the next fight.

Dean glances over at Sam. When he's sleeping, he looks younger than he is. All the battles, all the loss, and pain, and death, melts away from his face. He's fucking beautiful, and that's a fact, but the way Dean looks at him, it's not something a brother should notice, or think too hard about.

All the wrong in their lives doesn't give them the right to ignore this, but Sammy wants to. And Dean could put his own sick thoughts down to being dead, to being trapped on earth while he's supposed to have gone straight to hell, but Sammy...

Dean blinks. He yanks a flask of holy water from under the seat, sprinkles a few drops on Sam's hand where it lies on his thigh. Sam twitches in his sleep, but nothing happens. And the demons are all gone, but it would have somehow felt better to pin it on them.

There's a lot of monsters still in the world. But Dean would feel it if it wasn't Sam. He'd know.

Still, he reaches back and grabs a silver knife, holds the blade to Sam's bare skin. Nothing.

"What the hell, Dean?" Sam groans as he rubs his hand over his face. "What are you doing?"

"Just checking," Dean says, and stows the knife with his eyes on the road.

"You think I'm possessed." Sam pulls himself up into a sitting position, wipes the back of his hand on his pants. "I'm not possessed."

"I know," Dean says. "Now."

Sam stares out the window. "You're just as messed up as I am, Dean, you're just more uptight. You can't let yourself have something good—"

"It's not good, Sam. It's not."

"It could be." Sam turns away from the window, and his gaze makes the hairs on the back of Dean's neck rise. "We don't get white picket fences, Dean. We don't get the wife and the two point four kids. We don't get nine to fives or a steady pay check. This is all we get. We get to chase the next monster. We get to survive. But we've got each other. And that's all the love we're going to get." He leans back against the window, but his eyes are still on Dean. "That's all the comfort we're going to get."

Dean stares straight ahead, and his foot gets just a little heavier. Damn Sam for making sense of chaos. They've gone a few miles before Dean takes a breath, sucking air in through his nostrils. "I hear you, Sammy." Another breath, sucked way down deep before he has the courage to say his next words. "Well, if you're desperate enough to hit a corpse, then I guess—" He turns his head, hint of a smile already on his lips as he attempts to lighten the mood.

But Sam's asleep.

Dean can see it. He's pretty sure Sam can't, but Dean can. He watches the twisted thing that might have been a living human being once, vanish under a barrage of rock salt, and the missiles flying around the room fall to the floor in a rain of silverware. "Look out," he shouts, as a knife comes perilously close to Sam's foot. He yanks a fork out of the muscle of his upper arm, throws it to the ground.

"You okay?" Sam asks, head thrown back over his shoulder as he pauses in his task of peeling back linoleum from the kitchen floor of a hotel restaurant.

"Don't you worry about me, Sammy," Dean says, eyes tracking around the room, because this fucker is resilient. A little salt doesn't put him out of the game for long. "You just get that hole dug."

From the corner of his eye, he catches the flash of steel, snatches a meat cleaver, spinning end over end, out of the air before he reaches its target. How messy that might have been, how heartbreaking—Dean can see his greatest fear, Sam's head split open like a melon. He raises his sawed-off, points it at the shadowy humanoid shape by the ovens. It's glitching, fading in and out in ways that hurts Dean's eyes to look at, darting up and down the narrow aisle. "Stand still, fucker," he says, and then he hears the muffled cracking of old wood.

"Almost there," Sam says. There's a box of salt on the floor beside him, and while he cuts at the floorboards with the axe in his right hand, he fishes in his pocket for a lighter with his left.

Dean fires, but misses as the poltergeist rushes him. Instinctively, he steps out of its way, but Sam's right behind him, and he's the one disturbing the ghosts grave.

Dean moves as fast as he can, drops the gun, and just grabs on. There's no logic to it, he shouldn't have come up with anything in his arms, but there's a struggling form within his solid grip. It starts screaming in his head, starts flinging fallen cutlery at him. A soup spoon hits him in the temple, but he holds on because Sam's almost there.

Sam salts the bones, then looks back, wide eyed, at what must seem to be Dean, struggling with thin air.

"Do it, Sammy," Dean growls. "Burn the bastard."

And Sam does. His eyes are still on Dean when he strikes the flint and holds a twist of paper napkin to the flame. He throws it in, and Dean can feel the fire inside the circle of his arms. The screaming gets louder, till he thinks his brain will explode, and then it cuts out, leaving his arms empty and his ears ringing.

He collapses to the floor, legs suddenly so weak he can't hold himself up. "Holy shit," he says.

Chapter 10

"You held onto it," Sam says. They're in a 5-star hotel suite, courtesy of the hotel manager, as thanks for getting rid of the ghost that's been terrorizing both staff and guests. "With your arms. You held it."

Dean shrugs. He takes the top bun off his burger, peels a rasher of bacon out of the filling, chews on the end in hopes that some time or another, something will have some taste. There's nothing. It turns to ash in his mouth, and he throws it down in disgust. "I guess ghosts can mess with other ghosts."

"How'd you know it wouldn't take you with it when it burned?" There's tension in Sam's voice, but Dean isn't in the mood for another argument.

"Didn't think of that."

Sam sits down across from him. "Maybe it would have, if you weren't bound to your body."

Dean looks up. "Maybe."

Sam offers him a tight smile. "That could be pretty useful, you know." He picks up the piece of discarded bacon, puts it in his mouth and chews. "Mmm. It's good."

Dean stares at Sam's mouth. There's a smear of grease at the corner, and something pulls him to try tasting it again, right from where it lies. He doesn't move, but when Sam reaches for pie, he speaks. "Try the cherry."

Sam puts down the apple pie, and goes for the other one. It's on a delicate plate, a shining silver fork to eat it with.

If he was in Sam's place, he'd ham it up. He'd tease, exaggerate every sound, he'd lick his lips. To Sam's credit, he doesn't, but he nods when he slides each morsel into his mouth, makes a soft sound of approval.

When cherry filling stains his lips, he wipes it away with the pad of his thumb, and when he sucks it clean there's nothing sexy about it.

But Dean's hard in his jeans. "Sam?" He glances at the bed. It's a king, the hotel manager doesn't know they're brothers, and when the usual assumption was made, neither of them corrected him.

Sam turns and follows his gaze. "Yeah, Dean?"

"I'm dead."

Sam's head jerks back around. "I know."

"I look dead."

Sam's face grows pained. "I don't care."

Dean sucks up his courage. "I should be worried about never having sex again, no one ever wanting a piece of this again. Two weeks, Sammy. I got two weeks left like this, and if we don't find this thing, that's all I'll ever have before I'm sucked into the veil, or sent up or down or wherever the hell I'm going. I should be worried about never having sex again. Instead, I'm more concerned about not being able to taste that pie."

"That's okay," Sam says. "I don't care about—"

"I do give a crap about you, Sam," Dean continues. "About not being here for you. Because I get it, I totally get it. How many times have I done almost exactly the same thing, because I was afraid of being alone?"


"Shut up, Sammy," Dean says. "I'm not going to try to convince you to let me go. I'm doing everything I damn well can to stick around, because I know what you'll do if I don't. I don't want you to do that, even though I get it. I get why you'd do that, try to follow me. I might do the same thing, if there was no other way. I've tried it alone, and you can kid yourself for a while, but it always comes back to there being something missing. And that's you."

Sam doesn't try to speak this time. He reaches out, though, shoves the pie to the side, and wraps his hand around Dean's wrist. His thumb rubs circles over the bone.

"There's something wrong with us." Dean shakes his head. "Don't fucking argue with me, Sammy. You can't say it's not true. I think it's been there a long time. This isn't new. It's not because I died, it's not because my options are currently limited. It's always been there, just that recent events have meant that we've had to admit some things to ourselves."

"You didn't want to listen to yourself," Sam says.

Dean shakes his head. "Still don't, not really. Doesn't make it any less true. We need each other. Like air, maybe more than that."

"So, what do we do, Dean?"

Dean shrugs. "We find the goddamn cup of Jesus and we fix me up. Or we die trying."

Sam's lips curl into a smile. "And until then?"

Dean pushes the pie back in front of Sam. "Until then, you eat my pie and I try to figure out why a certain part of my anatomy still works when there's no blood left in my body and my heart isn't pumping even if there was."

Color flares across Sam's cheekbones and he looks down at the table.


Sam looks up. "The spell I used to bind you to your body? It's an ancient form of the posthumous fatherhood thing. A woman's husband dies, she brings him back, and they have a month to conceive. Obviously, some things that wouldn't normally work after death, need to work."

"You brought me back with a dead baby daddy spell? Really, Sam?"

"I was running out of time," Sam says. "I took what I could get, bought us some time. Just don't assume you don't need to practice safe sex, just because you're dead." He grins, but there's a tightness to his smile.

"Right, Sammy. Because everyone wants a piece of this right now." Dean rolls his eyes.

Sam lifts an eyebrow.

Dean grimaces. "Here. Have a piece of this instead," he says, and pushes the pie under Sam's nose.

They're sitting opposite each other on the king sized bed, cross-legged with books spread out between and around them. There's more space here than on the table, and it's more comfortable than the floor. They read, mostly in silence, except for the moments when Dean passes Sam a book and asks a question, generally something like, "What in the hell does this mean?"

Dean's not tired, he doesn't get tired, not anymore, but there's a heavy fatigue setting in after he finishes scanning the third book and sets it aside. He doesn't open another one. Sam doesn't seem to notice, with his head down, eyes flicking back and forth down the page.

"Put the book down," Dean says. There's a little more heat to his voice than he intended, but he owns it, reaching out and pushing the journal out of Sam's hands. It falls to the floor when Sam looks up, and there's a question in his eyes, a little irritation, but it fades quick.

Fingers twisted into the front of Sam's shirt, Dean pulls him in. Something bursts inside him when he hears the noise Sam makes, a surprised gasp that's almost a whimper, and just a little too high pitched for his brother.

Sam's lips sear Dean's mouth with their heat. He dips into Sam's mouth with his tongue, wishes he could taste something, anything at all, but all he feels is hot and cold, hard and soft, wet and dry.

He makes the most of it. Sucks Sam's tongue into his mouth, licks at his lips. Starts tearing at the buttons of Sam's shirt to get to warm flesh.

They've been almost naked a lot of nights as Sam forces Dean to strip down and accept his warmth, and they've had heated kisses, all spit and teeth, but they've never had this.

Dean shoves Sam's shirt back over his shoulders and pushes him down onto his back. His eyes track down over hard muscle, warm, olive skin, follow sharply carved hip bones. He could strip Sam bare, touch him everywhere. Make him hard and find out what sounds he makes when he comes.


Dean's eyes flick back to Sam's face. His eyes are wide, pupils big and black. His lips are pink and wet and kiss-swollen.

"Come on, Dean," he says, jaw set. He presses his shoulders back into the mattress, shifts his hips. "Come on."

Dean half-covers Sam with his body, tries to kiss the challenge off his lips. Leaves just enough space between them to let Sam tug at his shirt. Something tears, threads break as a seam rips open, and Dean lifts himself up just enough to drag his arms out of his sleeves and toss the shirt across the room.

He stares at the inside of his forearm. The skin is pale, almost gray. Bloodless and dead, and when his eyes track up his arm, there's a clean wound where the fork got him though he never bothered to clean it. He glances down at his chest, a neat square bandage over the bullet hole. If he gets his jeans off, if that's a thing that's about to happen, there's a clean bandage around his thigh, covering the wound that killed him. The wound that still looks as fresh as the day he died. "You're sleeping with a dead man," he says.

"It's okay." Sam's voice is rough, almost broken. He pulls Dean back down, and it's hot, bare, living flesh against him and strong hands on the back of his neck.

Dean's elbows dig into the mattress either side of Sam's head, and he slides a knee between Sam's thighs. Sam's hot all over, but there's a hot, thick, hard length against his hip, and when he grinds against it, Sam groans and arches his back off the bed.

Hot, quick kisses are mere punctuation. Most of the time they stare into each other's eyes. Sam's are almost black, huge and liquid, and pleading as he pants and gasps. Dean growls as he thrusts against Sam's thigh, and fuck normal and fuck wrong and fuck everything, because this is like nothing Dean's ever felt before. Maybe it's the thrill of the forbidden, maybe the fact that everything is new, but it's good.

He might not be able to taste, but he can still smell, and he gets lost in Sam, cherry pie and sweat, old paper and fresh ink, and, Jesus, he smells like dick, and it's not something Dean would have dreamed he'd find arousing before, but it's going to make him insane.

"Come on," Sam says, like those are the only two words he knows. He gets a hand between them, tugs at the button of Dean's jeans. "Come on, come on."

Dean bites his lip, bites it hard, because Sam's hand is too close to his dick and he's going to explode. "Fuck, Sammy," he spits, as Sam gets his fly open, gets his hand in there.

There's hot skin around his dick in a tight grip, the same around his wrist as Sam pulls it down, slides it into the front of his pants, and then hot, hard, pulsing flesh in his hand. "Holy fuck, Sam," he rasps, because he's got his brother's cock in his hand.

"Dean," Sam moans, thrusting into Dean's hand. "Dean."

Somehow, Dean gets his knees under him, just enough so that he's got the freedom to move, to rock his hips into his brother's grip, so he can move his arm. He twists his fist over the head of Sam's dick, sucks at Sam's lower lip as he throws his head back and groans like he's in pain. "Come on, little brother," he says, with a sick kind of thrill. "Let me hear you."

Sam jerks beneath him, hips coming off the mattress, shaking the bed when he comes back down. His body goes still, arching up, and the heat contained in Dean's hand seems to double. It pulses, pumps, spills out, and Dean's skin should blister and peel with the intense heat. He looks down between them, watches Sam paint stripes over his fingers, over his own belly. "It's fucking beautiful," he hisses from between clenched teeth, and then pleasure coils at the base of his spine, fuses his vertebrae, makes his eyes roll back in his head.

He sees flashes, gray-white stripes on Sam's hip bones, Sam's hand from a different angle, wiping his fingers clean on the tail of his shirt, Sam's face from above as he bends his head into a kiss then pulls back, a crease between his brows. He hears snatches out of place.


Dean blinks. Shakes his head a little, reaches down to tuck himself back into his jeans. He looks up at the ceiling from where he's lying on his back. "Yeah."

Sam is up on his elbow, looking down. "You sure?"

Dean nods. Something's wrong. Something's missing. "Did we really just—?"

Sam bites his lip. He looks concerned, like he's waiting for bad news.

Dean shakes his head. "It's okay." He pulls himself up onto his elbows, looks around the room. "It's cool."

Sam still looks worried, so Dean reaches out, pulls him into a kiss, soft and slow, almost sleepy, clumsy and messy. "I'm good," he whispers, lips moving against Sam's jawline. "Just processing."

Sam drops his head, nuzzles into Dean's shoulder. "Yeah," he says. "I think I know what you mean." He pulls back, and he gives Dean a slow, lopsided smile, before he hauls himself up and swings his legs over the side of the bed.

Dean should probably say something about his missing moments. He stares at Sam's back, now bare, shirt gone somewhere, watches the muscles move.

Sees the moment Sam stiffens.

"What?" Dean says, suddenly alert.

Sam bends, picks up the book that fell when Dean pushed it away. It's open to a page with a pencil sketch of a hill with a tower on the top. "Oh my god," Sam says.

"It's meant to be bullshit," Sam says, this time crouched on the floor beside the bed, the book still open to Terence's pencil sketch. "Avalon. It's supposed to be a myth."

Dean pulls his shirt back on, starts on the buttons, because he feels strangely out of place. There's research, and there's sex with his brother, and those are two things that just don't fit together. Or shouldn't. "The holy grail is supposed to be a myth, Sammy. And we've been kind of counting on it being real. So why not Avalon, King Arthur, his knights and all that crap."

Sam turns his head to look up at Dean sitting on the edge of the bed. "That's the thing," he says, and he lifts the book so Dean can see the picture better. "This is where they found King Arthur's grave."

Dean closes his eyes, turns his head to the side. Maybe he heard wrong, because he never heard that before. "You're telling me they actually found a body? King Arthur? I thought that was just a story."

Sam laughs. "The holy grail is just a story, Dean. It's part of Arthurian Legend. If the grail exists, there's no reason Arthur didn't. And this," he says, shaking the book. "This is the Isle of Avalon."

"Shit," Dean says. If his heart could beat, he'd be able to hear it in his temples right now. There's a kind of nervous energy flowing through him, as if his body is still pumping adrenaline through his system. Maybe it is. "Hang about." He takes the book from Sam's hand, looks closer at the simple crosshatching of the sketch. It's a conical hill, with a tower on top, and at it's base, there are trees, and buildings. "I thought Avalon was a lake or something. Not a hill in the middle of the countryside. Something doesn't fit."

"According to the stories, Dean, the grail was hidden there two thousand years ago. That hill was surrounded by water then."

Dean shrugs. "Okay. So where's the grail now? It's not in the bunker, so where is it? If Terence figured out where it was, wouldn't he have brought it back?"

Sam takes the book back and flicks a few pages, to where he's tucked a sticky note in as a bookmark. "I am very disappointed," he reads. "Policy is to leave artifacts in the country of origin, when not located in the continental United States. If possible, in situ, and not to disturb them at all. I prepare to abandon my search, though I believe the Grail to be beneath the Glastonbury Tor, in Somerset, England, as it has been all along."

"Whoa," Dean says. "He left it there?"

Sam nods. His face seems about to split into a grin. "I think it's still there, Dean." His chest rises and falls rapidly in his excitement. "We know where it is. We just have to go and get it."

"One problem I can see," Dean says. "Since we're apparently going to England. How the hell do we get me on a plane? They're going to take one look at me and decide I'm Patient Zero, toss me out of there in case of zombie outbreak."

Chapter 11

"If you ever tell anyone I did this," Dean says, as he scrubs his face with a washcloth in a blue tiled bathroom. "I will kill you."

Sam stands in the open bathroom door, leans against the door jam. He's got an amused smile on his face, and he looks tired. "It worked, didn't it? Your face when that stewardess slipped you her number—"

"Her face when you grabbed my ass," Dean says, barely resisting the urge to stick out his tongue. "Don't forget our passports are real, Sammy. Same last name? Like that isn't going to ring any alarm bells?"

Sam's face falls, the smile melting away. "They'll assume we're married," Sam says.

"And I'm the one wearing the makeup," Dean says, wiping the last of it from his jawline. It was the only way to cover up the fact that he looks dead. "I'm not sure I like what that says about us."

It'll never not be weird, no, but when time is ticking away, people get used to letting things go. There's always a little bit of awkward, a little bit of fear, of the wrongness of the situation, in the back of Dean's mind, but there are some things you just accept.

"It doesn't say anything," Sam says. "Nothing has to say anything at all. We just are, Dean."

There's so much of him that wants to resist. There's no time for that anymore. He's approaching the three week mark, he's running out of time, and if this doesn't work, he's got to make the most of it. "Yeah," Dean says. The smile he gives Sam isn't even forced. "Yeah, we are."

Despite the time limit, Sam sleeps the day away. Jet lag isn't something they've spent much time dealing with, as hunters, so even long years of working on four hours a night doesn't help him.

They curl together, limbs entwined, in a bed far too comfortable and clean to belong to any motel anywhere in the world, and Dean watches Sam sleep until the room darkens and the sun slips away.

Then he wakes him gently, a fingertip tracing the edge of his lips, kisses that trail down the line of his bare shoulder. "The night awaits, Sammy," he whispers, and then grins as Sam opens his eyes.

Sam scrubs a hand over his face. "Why'd you let me sleep so long?" he asks.

"You needed it. I need you sharp. You're the brains of the operation."

Sam pulls himself up to a sitting position. He shakes his head. "Terence dropped his research, remember? We've got nothing to go on other than the stories, which are fiction, and even if they weren't, they're on record, common knowledge. Everyone else who ever came looking for the thing would have already looked in those places. We're here, but I've got no idea where to start."

"So we start with the stories," Dean says. "Joseph something or other brought it here, put his walking stick in the hill, and it sprouted, right?"


"But what did he do with the cup?"

"He hid it beneath the well." Sam swings his legs over the edge of the bed, raises his arms high over his head as he stretches.

Dean tips his head to the side to admire the muscles moving in his brothers back. He scoots up behind him, puts his hands on Sam's shoulders, drops his lips to the back of Sam's neck. "So we just got to go get it," he says, lips moving softly over Sam's skin. "Let's go."

Sam drops his arms, rests them on his thighs. "You think it's going to be that simple, Dean?"

"It'd be nice if it was, for a change."

"Yeah." Sam sighs. "It's not a well like you're thinking. We're not going to lower a bucket and fish out the grail." He half turns to look Dean in the eye. "It's a spring, and there's evidence that it's been in use for at least the last two thousand years."

"That backs up the story," Dean says.

"Yeah. Dean, the water runs red. They say when Joseph put the grail there, it ran red with the blood of Christ."

Dean shrugs. Sam's probably getting at something, but it escapes Dean right now. "So?"

"So it might not be the grail we need at all, Dean. It could be the water."

"Magic water? How come none of those stories talk about magic water?"

"The stories are about the relic. Relics, holy relics, they were what people cared about. Now, though, it's believed that the water has healing properties. We should at least try it."

They're standing in the center of a winding lane, barely wide enough for a couple of cars if one sneaks up onto the grassed edge.

There's a low wall in front of them, running down one side of the lane. It's five courses high, made of rough stone, and maybe it's been there hundreds of years, maybe it's just meant to look that way. There's yellow moss in the mortar, green slime beneath the mouth of the lion's head. Water pours forth from the open mouth, splashes down onto a round stone beneath, stained red with iron.

"That's it?" Dean says.

Sam shrugs. "It comes from the well. It's the same water." He steps forward, flicking the stopper out of a flask usually used for holy water, and he holds it under the stream.

Dean waits until Sam steps back. Then he crouches, rocks on the balls of his feet as he reaches forward, hands cupped under the flow.

"Shit," he says. The water is warm, and Sam told him that already, but he's not prepared for the chill in his fingers to dissipate quite so quickly. "Jesus, Sammy. I could stay here all night."

"Better not," Sam says, as he looks toward a light that tells them there's a car winding it's way up the lane. "Drink up, Dean."

Dean brings his cupped hands to his lips, sucks it down. It tastes of nothing, but it warms him like coffee does as it goes down, and he'd sit here all night just for that.

The car comes around the corner and bathes them in light. Dean blinks and ducks his head until it passes. Then he stands up and wipes droplets from his lips. "I'm not holding my breath," he says. "If it was the magical fountain of whatever, it wouldn't be sitting out here in the open, would it?"

A gentle smile forms on Sam's lips. "Probably not, no." He puts his hand on Dean's upper arm, slides it around to his back, then guides him across the lane to where their rental is parked. "The well itself is better protected, maybe that's why. Maybe the source is where the real power is."

"So how to we get to it?"

Sam grins. "They open the gates during the day. We'll go check it out tomorrow."

Dean pushes him away from the drivers side—which feels like the passenger side, but whatever—because he still looks trashed. He should have let Sam sleep longer.

"Left side," Sam says, as Dean pulls out.

"There is no left side," Dean says. "No right, either. This road here? There's only middle."

As they wander down the main street, cobbled pavement under their feet, there are still lights on in some of the stores. Every second one is a new age business of some kind or another, one sells crystals, another books. "Check it out," he says. "They're really rocking the spiritual tourism thing. Have you ever seen any town with more new age stores?"

"Lily Dale," Sam says.

"True." Dean stops, staring at the lower part of a window as he passes a store entrance. "But how many of them had hunter's signs in the window?"

Sam frowns, then follows Dean's eyes. "Huh."

Dean jerks his head in the direction of the doorway. "What the hell, huh? Go see how they do it on this side of the pond?"

Sam shrugs and gives Dean his 'why not' face, and follows him inside.

This store is bigger than stores that cater to hunters back home, bigger than those they're used to. Dean wanders aisles of books, mostly new age religion stuff with glossy paperback covers. He makes his way to the counter, where Sam is idly turning a rotary stand of postcards, some showing the Tor, others the well, there's even one with the Lion's Head on it, the fountain Dean drank from just a short time ago.

There's a kid behind the counter. He's got a stud in his nose and his hair is dyed black. "Alright?" he says, lifting his chin in a greeting.

"Where do you keep the good stuff?" Dean says.

The kid shakes his head. "Sorry?"

"The real books," Dean says. His eyes scan the items inside the glass counter, settle on an ornamental dagger. "Is that real silver?"

"Yeah, it is," the kid says, reaching down and sliding out the drawer to retrieve it. His forehead is still furrowed, and he's got one eye still on Dean, though from time to time, his gaze flicks over to Sam.

"So you got any real knives in silver?" Dean grins.

The kid stops. His eyes are locked to Dean, stay on him even as he turns his head to the side. He looks quickly at Sam, then back to Dean. "What do you mean, real?"

Sam steps back from the postcard rack, bends, and taps the glass behind the door where several sigils are painted in black on the inside of the glass. There's a pentagram there, and the Aquarian star. "Where we come from," he says, "these mean you have what we're looking for."

The kid's eyes go very wide. "Mum," he yells.

The bead curtain that shuts off the back of the store rattles behind the counter. A woman appears. She's got hair to her waist, and she's wearing so much purple crushed velvet that Dean doesn't know where to let his eyes settle. "Upstairs, Tony."

The kid scuttles into the back, disappears. His mother comes out of the doorway, looks Sam up and down, then eyes Dean. "Is there something here?"

Sam steps up to the counter. "No ma'am. Not as far as we know, anyway. But we saw the signs." He points back at the window. "We didn't know there were hunters in England at all."

"I haven't seen one since I was a girl," the woman says. "And they were rare then. Not a lot of work for them anymore." She smiles. "My dad said they were too good at what they did. Wiped out all the nasties."

"Whoa," Dean says.

Sam steps forward. "Hang on. What about ghosts? You can't wipe out ghosts." He looks up at the high ceiling. "And you've got some really old buildings in this country. You've got to have ghosts."

"We let our ghosts be," she says. "I suggest you do, too."

"Whoa," Dean repeats. "No ganking ghosts in England, check."

"Check," Sam echoes.

The woman drags her eyes from Dean, lets her gaze settle on Sam. "Your friend is a ghost, you know that, right?"

Sam's eyes go wide, and his jaw drops. "Yeah. That's... That's kind of why we're here."

Her eyes flick back to Dean, then to Sam again. "Good luck," she says.

Chapter 12

They leave the store with lighter pockets than they went in with. The stock was dusty, brought out in boxes that had been stored for decades, but it was still good. Dean feels better with a silver knife stashed inside his jacket, and Sam came away with a couple of ancient books, leather bound, with a more detailed history of the Tor and the well, and their connection to Avalon, Arthur, and the Holy Grail.

Dean's knife is well hidden. The last thing they need right now is to get arrested in a foreign country.

Sam, however, can open up his books, spread them out on the scarred wooden table in the pub they wander into.

Dean leans on the bar. "None of that warm stuff," he says, and the girl behind the bar smirks as she pours two cold beers. He glances up at the menu behind her, chalk on a blackboard. "What the hell is 'mash', and why would you serve it with pie?"

"Dean," Sam says. "Come here."

Dean grabs both beers and turns back. Sam is focused on the book in front of him. "There's a cave," he says, as Dean slides into the chair opposite. "Below the well." He wraps his hand around the glass in front of him, and lifts it to his lips. "Thing is, the area around it has been excavated. There's no cave there."

Dean looks at the glass in front of him. It's dripping with condensation. Maybe he should have asked for the warm beer instead. "Come on, Sammy. There's a lot of places that don't exist where you get into them. Or out of them. The cage. Purgatory. Magnus' place. Just because it's not there, doesn't mean it's not... There."

Sam looks up. He narrows his eyes. "You think there could be some kind of portal? It's got nothing to do with the water at all?"

Dean shrugs. "That's better than trying to find the bottom of a well of magic water that isn't actually a well at all but a spring."

Sam's lips tug up a little at the corner. "Right. So, shall we go take a look?" He presses his hands down on the table, as if he's ready to go, right then and there.

"Let's leave it until tomorrow, Sammy," Dean says. "You look beat. One good thing about being dead? No jet lag."

Sam drops his eyes to the table, hiding a smile, and then he shuts his books, tucks them into his chest and stands up.

Dean follows.

The air is cool outside, and Dean walks close to Sam's shoulder, taking every bit of warmth he can get. "So, tomorrow we check out the well. See if we can figure out how to get in."

"Yeah," Sam says. He sounds exhausted, and Dean leans against him, holds him up. He could put his arm around Sam, take more warmth from him, give him some support, but he doesn't.

Sam sits down heavily on the bed, pulls the flask out of his pocket, hands it to Dean before he starts tugging at the button of his jeans.

It's warm. It's been close to Sam's body, absorbing his heat, since they left the narrow, hedge lined lane. "I don't feel any different," Dean says, even as he screws off the cap and brings it to his lips.

"Worth a try," Sam says. His words are slurred, and his fingers fumble with his zip.

Dean takes a quick swig and puts the flask down on the bed side table. "You're dead on your feet," he says, and gives Sam a push in the center of his chest. Sam falls back with a groan, closes his eyes. Dean sighs and crawls up onto the bed beside him. "Here, let me," he says, and lifts Sam's limp hand from his hip, lies it on the mattress.

"'M fine," Sammy slurs.

"No," Dean says. "You're not." He slides down to the floor, tugs off Sam's boots, then climbs back up. There's a soft snore coming from Sam now, and his head has fallen to the side. It wouldn't be the first time either of them have fallen asleep in their clothes, not by a long shot, but Dean's gotten used to having his brother's warm, near naked body behind him at night.

Slowly, inch by inch, because Sam's big and he's heavy, Dean works his jeans off. Sam's asleep, so he takes his time, memorizing every inch of his skin. There's something inside Dean that still doesn't believe that they're ever going to find the grail, that they're ever going to be able to give him his life back, so he catalogs everything. Soaks in the sight of Sam, the smell of him, the feel of him against his lips as he presses them to each sharp hipbone in turn.

He swings a leg over Sam's hips to get his shirt off. One button at a time. Sam almost wakes, wakes just enough to murmur Dean's name, to lift his arms for Dean to get his arms out, and to grab hold of Dean's hips, fingers pressing into the bare skin under his shirt, to effect a weak roll of his own hips and a soft moan before he relaxes again and his head falls back to the side.

But this, this thing that Sam probably won't even remember doing in the morning, leaves Dean gasping for air, leaves him hard and aching inside his jeans. They haven't— They haven't done anything since the poltergeist job in the hotel, since Dean decided to just grab on to whatever he could get, and if that was his brother, to hell with it. They haven't done anything, not because they didn't want to, or need to, but they've been busy. Reading, booking flights, wandering around England with no fucking clue how to fix this.

They haven't talked about it, Dean's barely had time to think about it. He had sex with his brother. He goes to bed with his brother, for warmth, yeah, and maybe that's how this happened. There's a lot of intimacy in that, being wrapped up in someone's arms all night, and maybe it's that that made it seem as if being kissed by his brother was okay. Being jerked off by his brother was okay, jerking off onto his brother's warm stomach was okay.

It'll never not be weird, but somehow those things have become almost okay. If it's something they both want, if they're not hurting each other, or anyone else, it's almost okay.

One thing always leads to another. Sharing body heat led to kisses, the kisses led to their hands on each other's cocks, and that... Eventually, if they have time, if Dean doesn't die...

He pulls Sam up the bed, strips down to his shorts, and then pulls the big puffy quilt up over them both. Sam moans again, rolls over to wrap Dean up in his arms and press his hips against Dean's ass. He squeezes Dean tight, groans and rolls his hips, and then relaxes into sleep again.

Dean's breath comes quick and fast. He presses his palm against his dick, just for a little relief. It doesn't help.

Sooner or later, Dean's going to let his little brother fuck him. He might even beg for it.

"You know," Dean says, as they walk up a cobbled path, the gardens around them just a little too manicured to ever be called 'wild'. "I almost feel like a tourist." He looks up the path, turns his head to look down. "Surrounded by tourists, paying entry fees, doing touristy things."

"Shut up, Dean," Sam says. There's a little bit of a laugh in his voice, a smile on his face, though he tries to hide it. "We're here for a reason."

"Right." Dean drops his eyes to the path. "Recon." They need to know how to get in after dark, but it's not like this place is locked up tight or anything. It'll help them to know where they're going, to check out the area around the well, see what it's going to take to get in, and hopefully get some kind of idea of how to open the portal.

"Though," Sam says. "I would like to walk to the top of the Tor while we're here."

Dean looks at him and narrows his eyes. "Why? The portal is here."

Sam lifts an eyebrow. "That's Avalon, Dean. The real Avalon. You can't tell me you don't want to be able to say 'I've been to Avalon'?"

"Pfft," Dean says. "What's Avalon when you've been to Hell, Purgatory, Heaven and back. I mean, I've been to fairy land. Avalon's nothing."

Sam drops his eyes and smiles. "I want to go up. You don't have to come."

"I'll come," Dean says. The sun is shining, and it's warm on his skin and on his face. "Once we get this figured out."

Sam grins and lifts his head.

The landscaping gets wilder as they move closer to their target. The trees over head shade the sun, and Dean shivers.

As if he's aware, Sam moves a little closer. He puts his hand on Dean's back, palm flat and warm through his shirt against the curve, just above his ass. It's unbelievably intimate, and probably looks from the outside as if they're lovers.

Dean picks his way carefully down the stone steps toward the well. It sits in a cobble-lined depression in the ground, a round hole covered by a black grate, the decorative cover pushed back to reveal a mass of ferns and moss and rocks, and water, iron deposits floating like thick foam around the edges.

Sam takes his hand off Dean to crouch down beside the well. He sits on the edge of the raised wall around it, and puts his hand on the grate. He goes very still for a moment, and then looks up. "Come here," he says, and pats the stone beside him.

Dean looks back up the path. The tourists that followed have disappeared, as though waiting their turn. There is something about this site, a feeling of a sacred space, that Dean doesn't feel in many places anymore, and he figures they're respecting that.

He looks back at Sam. "That's iron," he says. "The grate, the cover. It's all made of iron." He drops down to sit on the edge, and can already feel it. He holds his hand over the grate, but he can't push it down. It's as if he's a magnet, and the iron covering the well is the opposite pole. "I can't touch it."

"I'll take it out," Sam says, still staring down into the well.

"Is this even it?" Dean looks up, looks around, but somehow he knows. Apart from the repelling iron, there's something here that almost shimmers at the edge of his consciousness.

"That's where the book said the cave is," Sam says. "We've just got to trust it."

"How do we open the portal?"

"I've got more reading to do. But we know where it is, and we know we can get in." Sam runs his finger around the edge of the grate. "I can get this out with a crow bar. Maybe it's even the iron that's holding it closed."

"Doesn't that mean someone knows? Someone other than us?"

Sam shakes his head. "It's to stop people throwing their garbage in, climbing in. Surely." He looks up. "Right?" His brow is furrowed, a deep crease between his eyebrows. "God, Dean. What if this doesn't work. What if we can't get in?"

If they can't get in, Dean's dead. Really dead. He'll drift away, or end up haunting Sam and going batshit in the process. Or he'll have to watch his brother blow his own brains out, helpless to stop him. "It's going to be fine, Sammy," he says. "You'll see."

Sam reaches out, fist clenching in the front of Dean's shirt. "Promise?" he says. "Promise me."

"I promise," Dean says, but he's scared. He's scared because Sam is scared, but he's going to lie to Sam, just like he always does.

Chapter 13

Dean starts to warm up again, under the gentle sun. It lifts his spirits, and in the slow trudge up the gentle slope, one step at a time, he's actually smiling by the time they reach the top.

Sam isn't. He's quiet, almost silent. He's not showing any sign of fatigue, though, so it's not the jet lag.

They get to the top, and Sam stands in the shadow of the tower, stares up at it.

Dean looks up at him. "Finally found something bigger than you," he says. "Must be a rush."

Sam looks down, gives him a fond smile. It's the first time he's smiled since they left the well. "People have treated this place as sacred for a thousand years, Dean. Probably far longer. There's got to be something to it, right? It's not just stories?"

Dean raises an eyebrow. "Dude. King frickin Arthur is buried just over there." He points in an arbitrary direction.

Sam smiles and shakes his head. "It could be a thousand year old hoax, Dean. It could all be bullshit. It's just a pile of dirt, a natural hot spring. What if there's no cave, no portal, what if there's nothing? What if we came here for nothing?"

Something twists in Dean's stomach. "Sam," he says, and shakes his head. "Jesus, Sam." It's cold in the shadow of the tower, and Dean steps closer to Sam, presses himself into Sam's side to absorb some of his warmth. "All the things we've seen over the years, all the shit we deal with, and this you don't believe?"

This time, Sam wraps his arm around Dean's waist, pulls him into his side. He lifts his eyes back to the tower, and there's a streak of moisture running down one cheek. "I'm scared, Dean."

Sam can probably tell that Dean's eyes are on him, but he doesn't react. He should never have brought Dean back, that much is true, but Dean's here, but for the grace of— Some hoodoo in Louisiana.

And he needs to stay here. For Sam. Once again, Dean's going to stay, for Sam. If it kills him, he's going to stay. "It'll work, Sammy," he says. "We're going to find it. And we're going to finish this. Then we're going to go home, and I'm going to eat pie until I barf, and then I'm going to sleep for a week. And we'll look back on this and you'll wonder what you were ever worried about. We can do this, Sammy. We've done way harder stuff than this before."

Slowly, Sam turns back to Dean. He stares at him for a long time.

"What?" Dean says.

Sam shakes his head, smiles. He puts his hand on the back of Dean's neck, and he bends his head, and he brushes his lips over Dean's mouth, right there on top of a magic hill in England.

Dean tries to pull away at first. Tries to push Sam off him, because they're in public, and they're brothers, and this is wrong as far as the entire world is concerned.

Sam won't let him go.

He steps forward as Dean steps back, wraps one hand around his waist, holds him firm by the neck. Sam's hands on him are strong and warm. His mouth is wet, intense, hungry. Dean makes an involuntary noise, and then gives in. He relaxes in Sam's arms, wraps his arms around Sam's neck and he kisses Sam back, like he can't get enough.

Sam pulls back. "You're cold," he says, sliding his hands up Dean's arms, sliding them onto Dean's neck, thumbs tucking under his chin, lifting it. He presses another kiss to Dean's lips, then starts walking backwards, still with his arms around him, his hands on him.

He pulls Dean into the sunshine, out of the shadow of the tower, and then he turns to the view of the town below. "It's beautiful," he says. "We never do this."

"Do what?"

"We never stop, and just look. We've spent our whole lives chasing things, fighting. Have we ever had a single vacation? Something that wasn't Dad dropping us off at Bobby's so he could go do a job?"

"Nope," Dean says.

"I wish we had more time," Sam says. "I want to stop."

"Stop hunting? Because we've both tried that, Sammy. Doesn't work."

Sam shakes his head. "No. Just, take a break." He looks down at Dean. "Spend time..."

Dean turns back to the view. There's something stuck in his throat that he can't swallow back. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I know what you mean."

They came here with nothing. They couldn't exactly bring weapons and tools on an international flight, and Dean misses the Impala, her trunk full of anything they might need to break, enter, and pry the cast iron grate off of a magic well to get at the portal inside.

They found a hardware store on the way back from the Tor. Sam went in alone, faked a British accent so as not to ring any alarm bells, and bought a crow bar. He leaves it in the rental car.

Now, they're back in their motel room. Sam has books and files spread out on the small table. There are the books he bought in town, and he's cross referencing the details to Terence's research.

Some of it matches. Some of it doesn't. There's little more than speculation in Terence's journals to indicate how the grail might cure or heal someone. He probably didn't care. It wasn't for that that he searched for it. He wanted it because he wanted to know.

"Blood of Christ," Sam murmurs, then he looks up at Dean. "No surprise there, right?"

"Huh," Dean says. He's cross legged in the center of the bed, paper spread out around him. The words are starting to dance in front of his eyes. "I got blood of a dead man." He waves the sheet of paper and barely resists the urge to throw it back over his shoulder. He puts it down carefully and picks up another. "And my blood." He tosses it down on the first. "Twofer, but good luck filling a cup with it, because the tank is empty." He frowns. "Also, why blood? That's just gross."

"Blood is life," Sam says, and he looks back down at his books. "Got anything on portals?"

"Nah. Fairyland, Oz, Heaven, Hell, advanced wormhole theory, blah blah. No caves under magic wells."

Sam's head jerks up. "What?"

Dean sighs. "The wormhole thing might not have been in there."

"No. Fairies. What does it say about fairies?"

Dean shuffles his pile, finds the right piece of paper. "Um, Wells often feature in Welsh and Irish mythology as gateways to the spirit world?" He puts the paper down. "Hang on, that's not it." He rummages through them, looks around himself, because maybe he tossed that one, but there's nothing. "There was something about fairies, I swear to god."

"Of course," Sam says, though, anything but disappointed. He flicks through the pages of the book in front of him, then stops, and his finger runs along the line of text as he reads. "Dean, fairy lore features in a lot of the Arthurian Legends. Fairies and Avalon just go together." He looks up and shrugs. "It doesn't really go with the blood of Christ stuff, but..."

"But we might be dealing with fairies." Dean sighs. "I fucking hate fairies, Sam. They probably hate me, too. I microwaved one."

Sam flips his book shut, leans back in his chair. "We have no idea what we're dealing with, and no idea how to open the portal, even if we can find it." He sighs, and seems to deflate.

Dean scrambles down off the bed, bends over the table to bring himself down to Sam's level. "It's cool," he says. "It's going to be okay, remember?"

Sam shakes his head. "It's been three weeks, Dean. The month is almost up. If we can't figure this out—"

"No," Dean says. "We're going to figure it out, we're going to go in there tonight, and we're going to get through, I swear to god, because I am not leaving you, Sammy. I'm not, okay. You just need to believe that."

Sam looks square in Dean's eyes, and he shakes his head.

Dean twists away from the table, snatches one of his discarded bits of paper, and brings it back. He sinks to his knees between Sam's feet. "Gateways to the spirit world, Sammy. What do we know about the spirit world?"

Sam shakes his head again, but a little less definitely this time. "The veil. Most of the time it's just like here, but you have to die to get there."

Dean blinks.

Sam blinks back. "Oh my god, Dean."

"I'm the only one who can go."

Sam shakes his head, and he's definite this time, but with a little more panic. "No. You can't. You're bound to your body, you exist here."

"I've left it before."

"That was an accident. How do you know you'll even be able to leave on purpose? You're supposed to be locked in there for another week, and even if you can, what if you can't get back in? What if you find the cup, and it's all for nothing because you can't get back in?"

"Shh, Sammy." Dean slides his hands up and down Sam's thighs in an attempt to soothe him. "I can try. It's either that, or give up now."

Sam shakes his head. "No, Dean."

"It's all we got, Sammy, and I promised, didn't I? I'm not leaving you."

Sam takes deep, gasping breaths, and he reaches out and wraps one hand around the back of Dean's neck, combs the fingers of the other through Dean's hair. He pulls Dean's head back, and bends to kiss him. "You'd better not," he says, and he's trying to be fierce, forceful, but it just comes out desperate. "You'd better fucking not leave me, Dean."

Dean answers by kissing him back, by opening up and taking Sam's tongue into his mouth. The kiss gets heated fast, testament to Sam's desperation. Dean's hands slide further up Sam's thighs, his thumbs brush against the growing bulge in Sam's jeans.

"Dean," Sam says, his voice a strangled moan. "I need you alive." His thumb presses against the side of Dean's throat, the other hand slides down over his chest, lies flat against the bandage under his shirt. "I've got to feel your heart beat again. I want to feel your pulse racing when I touch you."

"Oh god, Sammy." Dean looks up into Sam's eyes. They're dark, the pupils enormous. They're beautiful, caught up in a conflict of desire and desperation. But the cock twitching against his thumbs is enthralling, too, and he slides his hand over it, and then flicks open the button of Sam's jeans.

They're not kissing anymore. Dean can't drag his eyes from Sam's face. But there's a cock in his hand, hot and damp, and the smell is heady, intoxicating. He could taste it, and if it tastes of nothing, at least he would be filled with heat in a way that might keep him from begging for things he's not yet ready for.

But he'd have to drag his eyes from Sam's face. No. He can't do that.

Dean puts a hand flat to Sam's chest, and pushes him back. "No," he says, when an apology appears in Sam's eyes and he bites at his lip. "No, I want— Oh god, Sammy, please let me."

Without losing eye contact, Dean sinks lower. He sits on his heels between Sam's thighs, gets right down so he can see the length of Sam's cock, poking out of his jeans, hard against his stomach. And he can see Sam's eyes, wide and pleading. "Yeah," he says, and he rises up, never breaking eye contact, and he drags his tongue experimentally up the length of Sam's cock.

Sam sucks in air like he's drowning. "Oh, god. Dean."

The heat is phenomenal. All Sam's body heat seems to be concentrated in his dick. "So hot," Dean moans, and then sucks the head of Sam's cock into his mouth. He takes in a little more, and more, as far as he can go without choking.

And what if Sam was to come in his mouth? If he were to swallow? All that warmth, and the look in Sam's eyes as well, that want, that need, that desire. The sounds Sam makes, small, choked off whimpers, loud, guttural groans. Dean would do anything for more of that.

"Give it to me, Sammy," he spits as he pulls off, just for a moment. He bobs his head, slicking the length of Sam's dick in saliva. "Give me all of it."

Sam moans and his head rolls back on his neck. Eye contact is only broken for a moment, though, and when he lifts his head and looks back down into Dean's eyes, he threads his fingers through Dean's hair as well.

Just a little bit of pressure. "Please," he whispers, and then guides Dean's head. Dean goes with it. "So good, Dean," Sam continues. "Feels so good."

Sam's fingers tighten in Dean's hair, his jaw drops open, and his eyes go wide, just a single moment before he starts to come. There's a fresh flood of warmth on the back of Dean's tongue, and he barely has a second to prepare himself for the surge.

Sam's harsh grunt echoes in Dean's ears, and heat fills his throat. He'd choke if he needed to breathe, but he doesn't. It sears his throat when he swallows, warms him from the inside. Would being fucked be like this? Would it warm him like this? He swallows again, moans around Sam's pulsing dick. He's going to ask for it, soon. He's going to beg for it. Wrapped up in Sam's arms, slick with sweat under the duvet, he's going to want it.

Sam pushes him off. He's still staring down into Dean's eyes. Dean wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He bites his lip, because Sam's eyes are wide and incredulous. Whose idea was that? Who made the first move? It'll never not be weird, this thing between the two of them, but was it too much? Has Dean made a mistake?

"I want to spend days in bed, Dean," Sam says, leaning over with his elbows on his thighs. "I want to go home, forget all of this." He pulls Dean into a kiss, slides his tongue into Dean's mouth and moans. He must be able to taste his own come.

Dean wants that, wants to be able to taste Sam, all of him. "Yeah," he says, when Sam takes a breath. "We're going to do that. Soon as this is over we're going to do that." He clutches at Sam's arms, hands sliding down over strong, muscular biceps and forearms. He's hard, aching, after sucking Sam's dick, after hearing the sounds Sam made. He needs, and all he wants to do right now is drag Sam into bed, rub against him until he comes. "Fuck, Sam. We're going to do a lot of that." He pushes up onto his knees, wedges himself between Sam's thighs, slides his hands up and over Sam's chest, under his shirt. All that heat. "Jesus, Sammy." He rubs himself against the inside of Sam's thigh. "I want— I need—"

Sam tugs at Dean's shirt, yanks it up over his head and throws it aside. He slides down to the floor, pushing Dean down onto his back. Dean's legs tangle in the chair legs, Sam's half under it, but Dean raises his knees, spreads his thighs to let Sam in. There's nothing between him and the cold linoleum, and he shivers, but nothing will make him shift from here. He tightens his thighs around Sam's hips, rocks up against him. "I want you to—"

"Shh," Sam says, hands either side of Dean's face as he kisses away the words. He pushes himself up onto his knees, knocking the chair back with a clatter, and he slides his hand down and pops open the button of Dean's jeans, tugs at them to open the zip.

And then Sam's hand is on his dick, a hot, firm grip, slicking the way with precome that leaks from the tip. "Just don't leave me," Sam says. "Whatever you do, don't leave me."

Dean arches up off the floor, thrusting his cock into Sam's hand. "I promise. Yes." He holds Sam's shoulders, uses the grip as leverage to jerk his hips up off the floor. "Jesus, Sammy. Anything. Just don't stop."

Sam kisses him then, swallows his words and cries. Trails kisses down his throat when he throws his head back as sparks flare up his spine.

He misses the start of his orgasm. The next thing he knows, he's already coming, Sam's half words in his ear, a rush of release already washing over him. It's like a strobe light without the dark between, Sam moves, his face, his hands, aren't where he left them.


And again, like a kind of jump, a few moments forward in time, and he's done, a cold puddle on his belly, dripping down his side and onto the floor. He sits up, tucks himself back into his jeans, shifts out from under Sam and his furrowed brow. "What the hell?"

"What?" Sam says.

"What just happened?" Dean grabs for his shirt, scrubs at his belly with it, then drops it back to the floor. "What the hell was that?"

"What was what?" Sam's face falls, and he sinks back onto his heels. He tips his head to the side, eyes all scrunched up like he's trying to understand. "Dean, we—" He lifts his eyes to the ceiling, then covers them with his hand. "What are you asking me, Dean?"

"Jesus, Sam," Dean says, pushing himself up off the floor. "I'm not talking about the sex, okay?" He puts his hand out, pulls Sam to his feet and then lets go. "Something weird is happening—still not talking about the sex, by the way, though that's never not going to be weird. The poltergeist job, afterward, when we— Well it happened then, too. I think."

"What is it?" Sam says. "What's happening?"

Dean bites his lip and shakes his head. "I don't know. There's moments when... when I'm just not there for a second. Like, interference. I think I'm glitching, Sammy."

Sam shakes his head. "No. You've got another week. You're supposed to be bound to your body for another week."

Dean shrugs. "The magic is winding down, Sam. Getting ready to let go. I don't know." He lifts his eyes to the ceiling, and then shivers. He looks around for a clean shirt, finds one and pulls it on. "I don't know. We don't have time to worry about it right now." The sun is setting, and it will be dark soon. "We've got to find this cup."

Chapter 14

There's a high stone wall dripping with ivy on the same narrow lane where they crouched and collected water from the lion's head. They go over, both of them silent.

Trees cover them. Dean holds his phone out in front of him, the dim light of the lit screen barely enough to pick their way through and find the well.

Sam carries the crow bar with his left hand, keeps his right on Dean at all times. He keeps touching him, hasn't stopped since they left the hotel. It's like he's afraid that Dean might just disappear.

He won't. It's only happened twice, flickering out, then back again, like a ghost trying to hold onto its form under stress. There's nothing conscious about it, he's just gone one second, back the next. And it's only happened twice.

This body is holding him together, holding him here. He's got to lose it tonight, he's got to break free of his body, and just hope like hell that it'll take him back once he's got the cup.

If he can't get out, they're screwed. If he can't pass through the portal into the cave, they're screwed. Even if he can do both and get the cup, if he can't get back into his body again, they're pretty much screwed. It'll screw Sam up completely.

Dean doesn't voice any of it. Sam's twitchy, nervous. Even without any words exchanged, it's not hard to tell.

Down the steps, and they stand beside the well. The lid is down, but Sam pops the lock in seconds and lifts the cover off. Then he crouches down and tucks the crow bar into the edge of the grate. He glances up at Dean, standing over him with his hands in his jacket pockets, and then he looks back and heaves.

It comes out slow, with a grating of iron against stone that hurts Dean's ears. It's loud in the still silence of night, but they don't have time to worry about anyone hearing.

Finally, Sam lifts the circular grate out, and props it against the low stone wall surrounding the well. Then he steps back, and he looks at Dean.

"My turn," Dean says, and he looks down at the stone cobbled floor. He scuffs it with the toe of his boot, and then looks up.

Sam's eyes are all scrunched up, and his lips are tight. He steps back and sits down on the wall. "You'd better sit down," he says.

Dean sits right beside him, doesn't complain when Sam wraps an arm tight around him, fingers splayed out over his chest.

Dean leans into Sam, takes up some of his warmth. He closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath, lets it out slow.

Then he pushes against the confines of his body.

It's like one of those dreams where you're stuck in the dark and you can't find the way out. He's not supposed to be in here, not like this, but this is the first time it's felt like a prison.

Then, right on the edges, he can feel the tingle of the magic that's keeping him in. It's still strong, but starting to weaken in places. It's coming to the end of it's life, so there's soft spots. "I think..." he says, and puts his hand over Sam's where it lies on his chest. "Yeah. Hold on, Sammy. I'm going to need this after."

He pushes through.

It's a rush, and it's hard, because his body tries to hold on to him. But then he's out, and he has to fight against the magic pulling him back in.

Dean opens his eyes, and he grins down at Sam, still sitting on the wall, a corpse in his arms. His eyes are focused on Dean's face—no. On the washed out face of a dead body. "Hey, Sammy?" Dean says.

Sam's head jerks up and his whole body jolts. He recovers, clings tighter to Dean's body, holds the head against his chest. "Dean," he says, voice shaky and breath quick. "Jesus, Dean."

"It's a rush, Sammy." He shoves his hands deep into the pockets of the jacket he died in and rocks on the balls of his feet. "But it's a lot of work. My meat suit is trying to pull me back in."

Sam jerks his head toward the well. "Then get on with it. I don't know what'll happen if you burn out, Dean."

Dean nods. He looks at the hole in the ground, steps up to it and looks down inside. It's nothing more than a spring that seeps up over rocks, there's no way a living person could hope to just climb inside, but he crouches beside it, and then hangs his legs over the edge as he sits on the edge. His feet disappear amongst the water and rock and ferns. It doesn't even feel cold. He doesn't feel cold at all, now that he's not stuck in his meat suit.

"Down the rabbit hole," he says, and then looks up at Sam. "Here goes nothing."

"Just make sure you come back," Sam says, as he combs his fingers through the hair of the corpse in his arms. "You promised."

Dean nods, and forces a smile. "Yeah, Sammy. I promise."

Then he pushes off the edge, and slides into the hole.

He slips through darkness, his fingertips sliding over wet rock, slick with moss. His feet hit solid ground without impact, but he rolls with it anyway out of instinct, dropping into a crouch as he comes down into dim light.

There is no light source that he can see. And he's a ghost, he shouldn't have to wait for his eyes to adjust. Maybe it's same thing that gives him his form now that really, he's just spirit. He expects it, and so it happens.

Slowly, the room comes into focus.

It's made of stone, a cave, but with no entrance that he can discern. When he looks up, there's a curved ceiling of stone. How's he going to get out?

But he came here for the cup. For the grail. Everything else has been right. The well, the gateway, the cave. He looks around, sweeps the interior with his eyes. It should be here. It's got to be here.

Dean swallows back the taste of bile. And why he can taste anything now, when his body is upstairs with Sam, it makes no sense. Neither does the roiling wash of feeling in the pit of his stomach. But there's nothing in here, nothing except for himself and a stone pedestal in the center of the cave.

He crosses the space and lays his hand on the flat surface. It's been hewn from the rock, there's no way something like this occurs in nature—not that he's even in a place that's real. This isn't part of the earth that humanity knows. It's some kind of spirit world, like purgatory with its funky lighting and heaven with its personalized bits of paradise.

There's a shape beneath his hand. He lifts it, runs his finger around the rim of a shallow depression, a circle.

The bottom falls out of his stomach. If ghosts could throw up, that's what Dean would be doing. The cup is gone. Someone found the Holy Grail before they did.

He can't fight the pull of his body anymore. He glitches, even though nothing can change around him, he's doing it, can feel it. There are snapshots as he turns, bits of wall. Then he's on the other side of the cave, looking back at the pedestal from a distance.

Then he's just gone.

He feels heavy. Weighted down, as if gravity isn't playing by the rules. He's not where he should be, probably not when he should be, either. He's cold. Colder than he's felt in weeks.

Dean opens his eyes. He's staring at another plaster ceiling. He turns his head toward a sound.

"Sam," he says, and his voice is a rasp.

Sam is sitting in a chair beside the bed Dean is laid out on. His head hangs down, cradled by his hands. But when Dean speaks, his head jerks up. His eyes are bloodshot, tired. Tears run tracks down his face, crusted with salt. His mouth hangs open in disbelief. "Dean?" he says, and then, hands scrabbling at the edge of the mattress, he falls down onto his knees, reaches out and clings to Dean's arm. "Oh my god, Dean?"

"Sammy." He barely gets a whisper out, and when he tries to reach for him, his joints are stiff and it's hard to move. "Cold, Sammy. I'm so cold."

Sam scrambles to his feet, starts stripping off his clothes. He lies down on the bed, half covers Dean with his body, and pulls a spare blanket up over the two of them. "I thought you were gone," he says, as he wraps Dean's hands up in his own, and breathes hot breath against Dean's throat, wetting Dean's skin with fresh, hot tears. "I thought you'd moved on. I thought you'd left me behind."

"Never," Dean says, and twists his hands into Sam's. "Jesus, Sammy. What the hell happened?"

"Nothing," Sam says, and there's a hitch in his voice. "Absolutely nothing, from the moment you went into the well, Dean. I waited for hours—"

"Hours?" Dean turns his head, and his lips graze over Sam's morning scruff. There's light through the curtains. "How long was I out?"

"The sun was going to come up, Dean. I had to get you out of there." He strokes his fingers over Dean's face, across his brow, down his jaw line. "So we hit the books again. Find another way in."

Dean turns his head away, closes his eyes. "I got in, Sam. The lore is right. There's a cave, and I got in. But there's nothing there. Someone got to the cup before we did." He pulls his hand away, out of the blankets, covers his eyes. "I must have blacked out. It was too much, too hard to keep it together. I'm sorry, Sammy."

"No." A fresh flood of Sam's tears falls onto Dean's throat. "No."

"We'll find another way, Sam. We'll go home, and we'll find something else."

"There's not enough time." Sam twists his fingers into Dean's shirt, as though, in his desperation, he can keep him here that way. "There's not enough time."

Chapter 15

okay so Dean's a ghost possessing his own dead body so there's some suggestion of a kind of necrophilia in the coming chapters, just FYI

The bunker is cold and empty and silent. Neither of them make a sound, and it's just their foot falls on the stairs that echoes out into the vast space when they enter.

Dean feels dirty. He heads straight for the shower, to wash the crap off his face he used to get on the plane. Sam follows behind, in the subdued silent trance he's been in since Dean told him the grail was gone.

Sam stands in the corner of the bathroom, watches Dean as he strips off his clothes. His eyes linger on every bit of freshly exposed flesh as Dean reveals it. His face is blank, impassive.

"Starting to get a little creepy, there, Sam," Dean says, as he shucks off his jeans and shorts and climbs in under the steaming spray of water.

"Do you want me to leave?"

There's so much fear in Sam's voice that Dean couldn't tell him to go even if he'd wanted it. "Nah. Get in here. Keep my back warm."

Sam seems to take a long time, and Dean watches his camouflage wash down the drain before he feels Sam get into the shower behind him. Then there are large, warm hands on his waist, Sam's broad chest pressed against his back, lips on the back of his neck.

Dean leans back, until he can feel Sam's hips pressing against his ass. Sam's dick is soft, but still impressive, and it feels good nestled between Dean's cheeks. "Come on, Sammy," Dean whispers, as his cock starts to harden.

Sam lets out something like a wet sob, and, fingers tightening in Dean's hips, he pushes forward. He kisses down the line of Dean's shoulder, then comes back up to suck and bite at his throat. His dick starts to harden between the cheeks of Dean's ass, and he rolls his hips. "I need you, Dean," he says, voice catching.

Dean presses his palms against the tiled wall, closes his eyes against the water raining down over him. "I know," he says. "Same here, little brother." He arches his back, pushing his ass out, blatantly inviting. "I need you, right now."

Sam's breath huffs out over Dean's shoulder, in quick, hot puffs. "What?"

Dean spreads his feet apart. "Do it, Sam."

Sam, shudders, then takes one hand from Dean's hip, wraps it around the base of his cock. It's fully hard now, and twitching, as he drags it down the cleft of Dean's ass, and over his hole. "Jesus, Dean." He slides a thumb after it, presses, but not hard enough to push inside. "I don't wanna hurt you."

There's a bottle of body wash on the shelf in the corner. Dean grabs it, passes it back. "I took a bullet through the heart, Sammy. It barely slowed me down. I want to feel it when you fuck me."

"God." Sam gasps for breath, shakes as he snaps the cap off the bottle. There's a filthy squirt sound, and then hot, hard pressure against Dean's hole. "You're sure?"

"Make me feel it, Sam," Dean says.

Sam pushes forward. His fingers dig deep into Dean's hip, and he leans into it.

Dean groans as the tip of Sam's cock stretches him open, as the entire head slips inside. Sam stops, gasps against the back of Dean's neck, as Dean shudders with the pressure holding him open.

"Dean," Sam says. "Oh my god, Dean."

"Keep going." Dean arches back, pushes back. "Give me all of it, Sammy."

Sam's hips jerk forward. The entire hot, hard length of his cock fills Dean, and Sam's hips slap against Dean's ass. "Fuck."

"Yeah," Dean moans. He's surrounded in heat, the water on his face, Sam's skin against his back, the steady pulse of Sam's cock stuffed up his ass. He feels stretched, filled, lightheaded. "You hold onto me, Sammy. You keep me from bashing my head in when I black out, okay?"

"Stay with me," Sam says, voice thin and desperate. "Stay with me, Dean."

"For as long as I can, I promise. Now, move, because you're killing me here."

Sam moans and rocks his hips. All it does is drive his cock deeper inside Dean's body. His head drops down onto Dean's shoulder, and he pulls out then, slowly drawing back, inch by inch.

It feels like a loss, to Dean. It makes him feel empty, makes him clench up to stop losing any more. Sam thrusts back inside, a long, slow slide accompanied by a drawn out moan. Dean grunts when Sam's all the way inside again, squeezes as though he can keep Sam there. But he wants him to move again, and the conflict between one and the other makes him shake.

"Dean, Dean," Sam says, urgent and desperate. His arms wrap around Dean's chest, his hips snap forward, fall back, snap forward again. "Can I—? I need to come Dean, I'm going to come."

Dean could say something about stamina, or lack of it, but he doesn't. Instead, he gives Sam another squeeze, covers Sam's hand with his own."Do it, Sammy. Give it to me."

"Inside?" Sam whimpers, as he thrusts forward. "Dean, can I—?"

"Yes, Sam," Dean growls. "Swear to god, if you pull out now, I will kill you."

Sam lets out a strangled laugh against the back of Dean's neck. "Not yet, Dean. I won't ask you to do that yet." He lets out a sob, and then he tightens his grip around Dean, and he picks up the pace.

Dean's elbows threaten to go out from under him under the punishing rhythm of Sam's thrusts. The push and pull of Sam's cock inside him absorbs all of his attention, the warmth, the heat, the pressure, it all consumes him.

He blanks, the sound of the water raining down, the rhythm of Sam's thrusts into his body, his grip on the wall, cut up like a CD skipping over a scratch. "Hold onto me, Sammy," he says. It happens again, and his arms have fallen away, and Sam's arms are tight across his chest.

Sam groans and thrusts again. "You with me, Dean?"


Sam bites into the meat of Dean's shoulder, grunts, and rocks his hips. He moves inside Dean, twitches. The heat inside him increases, along with a long, drawn out groan from Sam.

Dean flickers. Snapshots of Sam's orgasm hit him, hard and fast. He clings to here, holds on as tight as he can, but it's too hard.

Then he's on the tiled floor, on his knees, hanging limp in Sam's arms. "No, he grunts, because he's empty, he missed the end, and chances are he's never going to have a heart beat again, and how is that fair? That he gets this, he gets Sam, but he doesn't get all of it? Bits and pieces, always something missing, and in between? Sam's left fucking a corpse. "Goddammit. No."

The bathroom door rattles and bangs open. Then it slams shut.

"Shh, Dean. It's okay."

The mirror shakes and explodes out into the room. "No, it's not, Sam. It's not."

He's trapped inside this body, something to fall when he glitches out, a dead lump of meat that's going to break Sam's heart over and over again, until he can't stand it anymore and blows his brains out. "Let me go," he says. "Let me go, Sammy."

Sam's grip on him loosens. He stands, turns the water off, and then holds a hand out to Dean to help him up.

Dean wants to hang his head, to shiver here in the cold. But he takes Sam's hand, lets Sam pull him to his feet. "I'm ready to go, Sam," he says, standing in a kind of daze as Sam rubs him dry with a towel.

Sam shakes his head. "We've got five days," he says. "And I'm not ready to let you go."

"I'm going nuts," Dean says. He looks up at the broken mirror, down at the glass littering the floor. "I'm getting dangerous."

"I'm not letting you go until I have to, Dean." Sam's eyes are on his work as he pats droplets of moisture from the skin around the bullet hole in Dean's chest. "I've got five days. And there's a pattern."

"What we're doing is wrong," Dean whispers. "And there's something trying to drag my ass to hell for it."

"That's not it," Sam says. He looks up, drops the towel onto the floor, then takes Dean by the hand.

They're both completely naked, but Sam pulls him out of the bathroom, down the hall, and into Dean's room. It's the closest. He yanks back the covers on the bed, and pulls Dean in with him. When they're in their usual place, Sam wrapped around Dean from behind, his face tucked into the back of Dean's neck, he speaks.

"It's emotion, Dean. When you tore down that fence, you were scared. That cop had his gun on me, and you lost it. Just now, you were upset because you blacked out..." He lowers his voice, breathes the next words against the back of Dean's neck. "While I was coming." His hand slides up Dean's chest, wraps around his throat. "Thank you." The words are a hot tingle, and they make something twist in Dean's belly. "You felt so good. Thank you for letting me."

"Anytime," Dean croaks. He swallows hard. He'd let Sam do it again, because now he's always going to be chasing that ending, and his own ending. But there's something else there, right at the edge of his awareness. He's never going to get it. "God, Sammy. No. I take it back. We can't."

"Because you get pissed when you black out," Sam says. "The blackouts are tied to emotion, too. Ghosts get angry, that's when you get interference. They overdo it, they black out for a while, like when we hit them with salt or iron."

"So I should stay chilled." Dean rolls over so he's facing Sam. He tips his head up, parts his lips, and waits for Sam to kiss him. It's so slow and gentle he wants to scream. Parts of him are tearing him up inside, fighting against each other. He could pull Sam down on top of him, part his thighs and beg Sam to do it again. Again and again and again, for the next five days, until he just fades away. Or he could find his shorts, climb back in here to keep warm, and forget about kissing his brother just so he can be a little more human for those five days. "I don't know what to do, Sammy. We were supposed to bring the cup back. We're supposed to be figuring out how to make it work now, not this."

Sam's face screws up as though he's about to cry again. "I don't know, either, Dean."

"But we got options, right? We're not just going to lie here, are we?"

Sam's chin trembles. "That's one option. You know I'm coming with you, Dean."

Dean shakes his head. "We keep looking. There's got to be information on something in this dump that isn't a crossroads deal or a angel thing or a whatever-the-fuck. There's got to be something."

"We've used up all our lives, Dean. I'm sorry. I should never have done this to you in the first place."

"I'm not going to let you shoot yourself, Sam." Dean wipes the tears from Sam's face with his thumbs, and he tries something else. "You don't need me. So I'm done. I've been done over and over and over again. I went to hell, and you dealt. I went to purgatory, and you dealt. You can do it again."

Sam shakes his head. "I didn't. I tried to, but I couldn't. I swear to god, Dean. The day you die and I can't bring you back, I'm swallowing a bullet. There's nothing you can do, nothing you can say that's going to stop me. I need you. I always have. I always will."

Dean brushes his lips over Sam's mouth, and then rolls over. "Okay, Sammy. Okay."

Dean stands over the bed, looks down at Sam wrapped around a corpse. He's asleep, and it's Dean's body lying there in his arms, eyes open and staring blankly at nothing.

Dean can't even close his own eyes. When he tries, his fingers go through his head, and he knows how to do things, how to move things on the physical plane, but it was a long time ago he learned how, and he doesn't want to summon that kind of anger right now.

His eyes will feel like sandpaper when he climbs back into his meat suit, but he doesn't have time to worry about that now.

He walks right through the closed door, heads for the archives.

He's glitching, but it doesn't even slow him down like this. He's lighter, quicker, if anything he's more in control. He passes through walls, doors to get where he's going, taking shortcuts and detours.

It wasn't hard to get out this time. He knew where the chink in the magic was, a little bigger now that he's already busted through once. Now it's probably wider still.

He slips into the room with all the books. The filing system is standard Dewey, and if only the Men of Letters had stuck around long enough to go digital, because what he wouldn't give for a search box right now. 'Raise the dead' would be a good start, with a '-zombie' to go with it, because so far he's not had a hankering for brains, and he's got no interest in starting.

This time he channels a little of that negative emotion, using his fear for Sam, because if he's got Sam in mind, hopefully he won't bring the whole bunker down on top of them.

Hours later, surrounded by books with nothing in them, Dean thinks about the lengths they've gone to in the past to bring each other back to life. He sold his soul, got a measly year, to bring Sam back. He wouldn't let Sam do it now, even if it was an option. Once, he would have prayed to Cas, get him to come do his thing, but Cas is gone now, too.

Even with the vast knowledge of the Men of Letters at their disposal, there's nothing. Nothing that won't have him eating brains and still walking around without a heartbeat.

Dean's ready to go. He's had a life. Not a particularly long one, but he's seen and done things most men only dream about in their worst nightmares. And maybe that shouldn't seem like an achievement, but it does. He survived, over and over and over again. He fought, even when he was shitting his pants with fear, because it was the right thing to do.

But Sam's going to eat a bullet. And that's not right. As fucked up as they are, and they're pretty fucked up, always have been, even more fucked up now, it's not right.

Dean can't save himself. But maybe he can save Sam.

He blinks, and then he's standing over his brother's sleeping body again. Over his own corpse, eyes still wide and staring. It's kind of disgusting, really, all that bloodless flesh, heavy, awkward, cold. He's been wearing it around for close to a month, and it's gross. Sam fucked that body, and if Dean had stomach contents, he'd probably lose them.

He waits, watches over Sam until he starts to stir, and only then does he let the magic pull him back into his meat suit.

Chapter 16

Breakfast. The birdseed and oats Sam usually eats hasn't been touched. Instead, he mainlines coffee and looks wrecked, even though he slept solid through the night. At least, if he didn't, he hasn't said anything about Dean's nocturnal wanderings without his body.

Dean hasn't told Sam yet. After the first night, he gave up on trying to find a way to get his life back. Last night he spent hours just wandering through the bunker, then more hours honing the art of interacting with the physical world without destroying the place. He's got three days now, all that's left of the magic that keeps drawing him back to his body. After that he's free of it. It won't be preserved any longer, it'll start to decompose, and Dean's not going to let Sam eat a bullet when that happens.

He wraps one cold dead hand around his coffee cup, spreads out the morning paper with the other. He scans for potential jobs out of habit. The weird stuff isn't usually on the front page, jobs are usually tucked away in the dark, ignored corners. This time, it's not. It's staring at him from the front page, a big bold headline. "This sound like a rugaru to you, Sammy?" he says, and then slides the paper across the table.

"Jesus," Sam says, and at least there's still some kind of feeling in him. "Those poor kids."

"Yep." Dean pulls the paper back, looks for the fine detail in the small print. "Watching their teacher eat the principal during class will put them in therapy until they're in the old folks home, pretty much." He pushes out his chair, the legs screeching over the floor. "So, we on it?"

Sam's head jerks up. "What?"

"It's still at large, Sammy. You want to wait until it crawls out of whatever hole it crawled into and eats someone else before we move?"

"Dean," Sam says, his voice full of anguish. "Three days, Dean. You've got three days. You want to waste that time on a hunt?"

"It's what we do, Sammy. We hunt." Dean stands, folds the paper, shoves it under his arm and heads for the door. "You don't want to come, that's fine. I'm going to do my job."

Sam's out of his seat in seconds, his hand flat on Dean's chest as he he pins him to the wall. "Please," he says, and his eyes are rimmed with red, wet. He bends his head, brushes his lips over Dean's mouth. "Please."

Dean turns his head away. "Don't, Sam."

Sam flinches back like he's been burned. "Dean." He looks hurt, mortified, cut by the sharp sting of rejection. "Dean?"

Dean shakes his head. "It's not that, Sammy. I want to. I do." He looks up into Sam's eyes. "You're kissing a corpse. It's gross."

"No." Sam puts his hands on Dean again, both hands on his chest. "It's not like that. You might not have a heartbeat, but you're not that."

He barely has to try now. He just does it. A second later, he's standing off to one side, and watching as his body slides down the wall to the floor, Sam's cry of dismay as he tries to hold it up echoing off the walls.

"Kiss me now, Sammy," he says. "Try it now, and see how it feels."

Sam swings around, gapes at Dean. One step at a time he crosses the floor and reaches out. His fingers slide right through Dean's cheek, nothing there to touch. Dean glitches, because the look on Sam's face hurts.

"I can't," Sam says. "I can't even touch you."

"I know." Dean sighs, closes his eyes. "But I'm still here. And I swear, Sammy. I'm not going anywhere. This doesn't have to be the end."

"I need to be able to touch you, Dean. I need to be able to hold you. I can't watch you lose it, because it'll happen. It always happens."

"You'll keep me human. You'll keep me connected. We can do this. Together." He reaches out, channels the affection he has for Sam as an emotion, and he touches him, drags the pad of his thumb over Sam's lower lip.

Sam gasps, shudders. Makes a sound like want and terror all at once.

"Yeah, Sammy," Dean whispers. "I can touch." He drags his lips over Sam's mouth, and feels a kind of need that he can't satisfy without a body when Sam whimpers. When he moves a hand down Sam's body to touch him through his pants, it's just to help his focus, and when Sam moans, Dean flickers.

Sam reaches out again, and his hand slides straight through Dean's shoulder. Dean feels it, but it's like a shimmer, a warmth, and then nothing. Sam lets out a whine, and then pulls away. "I can't," he says, and then he turns, and his eyes fall on Dean's body, slumped against the wall. "I'll do the job, but please. Just give me these three days."

Dean lets go, opens his eyes and pushes himself up off the floor. He's cold, heavy, claustrophobic. "Okay, Sammy," he says. "Okay."

They find the rugaru in the boiler room beneath the school. It stinks of leftovers, advanced human decomp, bits saved for later. It'd be easier for Dean if his sense of smell were as dead as his sense of taste, but at least he doesn't retch like Sam does when they get the door open.

"I got this," Dean says, taking the lead into the darkness. His only weapon is a blowtorch, but he's still got the silver knife he bought in Glastonbury, tucked safely inside his jacket. Sam's almost silent steps are audible behind him.

It leaps out at them from behind a stack of cardboard boxes, gaping red maw in the light from Dean's blowtorch. It swings, knocks the torch from Dean's hand, and it goes out before it hits the floor.

They're plunged into darkness. Something hits Dean from the side, knocks him down. "Sam," he cries out, in an almost panic, and he glitches.

There's a flash of sudden light, half-words shouted, then intense pressure in his side as he struggles against the heavy weight on him. Then it's gone, and there's a roar of pain as the thing explodes into flame and flails. It lights the room.

"I told you this was a bad idea," Sam says, almost panic in his voice. His hands are on Dean, pushing up his shirt. "Jesus." His hands are warm on Dean's skin, and the come away clean, though Dean expects a lot of blood.

He's still flickering.

"—with me, Dean?"

"Yeah," he manages to get out. "More or less. Goddammit— The bastard's fast."

"I got him," Sam says, and the light seems to dim. "He took a bite out of you, Dean." Sam swallows hard, seems to hold back another retch.

"I'm okay," Dean says. He's all here, now, at least mostly. The flashes are brief, barely cut Sam's words. He sits up, ignoring Sam's hand trying to hold him down, tugs at the hem of his shirt to see the damage.

There's a chunk of flesh missing just below his rib cage, a bite shaped piece carved out of him, edges ragged and bloodless. "Yuck," he says. He should probably feel squeamish, light headed, but he doesn't. He looks up at Sam, gives him a weak smile. "Nothing a band aid won't cure, huh?"

"Dean," Sam says, looking as pained as if it was him that bought it.

There might be a part missing, but you can hardly tell when it's covered up. Sam slides careful fingers around the tape on the edges of the bandage, yet another to match the one wrapping his thigh, the one over his heart, the exit wound on his back. "You can't hunt like this," Sam whispers, eyes on his work. "You get in a fight and start blacking out? We should never have come here."

"You're right," Dean says, eyes on the downturned corner of Sam's mouth. It's not because he's worried about the part of him that's currently smoldering along with the rugaru corpse back in the boiler room. He doesn't care about this body anymore. The expiry date is a little over forty eight hours away, and he won't need it then. But he put Sam in danger today. Sam thought Dean was there, and he wasn't. "I'm sorry."

Sam looks up. His eyes are always wet now, always on the verge of messy, ugly tears. "I want to go home, Dean," he says.

Dean looks around the crappy motel room they checked into before going after the rugaru. "Home?"

"The bunker, Dean, okay? I want to go there, and I want to lock ourselves in where we're safe, until it's over."

Dean swallows hard. "There doesn't have to be an over, Sammy. I'm not going anywhere."

"You're going to haunt me?" Sam's face is incredulous. "That's not how it works, Dean. You don't get to choose."

"Who says? We both know enough to make sure the conditions are right." He looks down at himself, at his body. It's just a shell, something to hold him, trap him. "This doesn't mean anything to me," he says. "Human remains? Bones? Nah. I'm sticking with you, little brother. There's nothing in the world that means more to me than you. I say I get to choose. Reaper comes? Death himself? I'm telling that bastard to get lost. I'm staying."

"I can't." Sam pushes himself to his feet, stands over Dean sitting on the edge of the bed. "I can't be like this if you're a ghost. I can't touch you, I can't—"

"Sammy, if this is about not being able to get me off, I swear to god I'll—"

"It's not." Sam's voice is firm, even hard. "I can't stand by and watch you lose yourself, Dean. You can't guarantee that it won't happen. You can't tell me that. It might take years, it might take just a few months. But you'll go crazy, and I won't watch it."

Dean shakes his head. "So you're just going to check out? Quit, Sammy? You're a quitter, now?"

Sam stares down at him, unblinking. A fat tear, just one, breaks free of his lashes and rolls down his cheek. "Yeah," he says, softer than before. "Yeah, I'm going to quit. Because I used up all my second chances a long time ago. We both did. I want to finish up knowing you're still you. That I'm still me. I'm done, Dean. Without you, I'm out."

He's so certain, so definite. A heavy weight settles on Dean's chest, and he looks away, blinking hard. "God, Sammy," he says, and the words come out shaky and distorted. "Oh, Sam."

And then it's too much. Tears run cold down his cheeks, and sobs wrack his chest. He keeps his head high, though, eyes fixed on a water stain on the wall. He doesn't know how he's going to do it, how he's going to stand there and watch Sam put a bullet in his brain. If anything, that'll be the thing that makes him lose his mind.

He jerks his head around, hard. "Fine," he says. "That's what you want. But I am not letting you shoot yourself, Sam. So here's the thing." He wipes the tears off his face, dries his hands off on his jeans. "Blaze of glory, Sammy. We go out fighting, just like we're meant to. Just like we were born to do." He shakes his head. "Now I'm not saying we walk into a vamp nest and just stand there and let them take us out, we're going to take some of those bastards with us, thin the herd a little. But we pick a fight no hunter ever would, something we can't possibly win. And we do it together."

Sam stares down at him for long moments. He swallows, hard. "Someone will hear about it. Other hunters. Someone will find us, give us a proper hunter's funeral."

"Right," Dean says, even as he shakes his head. "We'll move on. Go wherever we're supposed to go. "We'll be done."

Sam blinks, then he sucks in a deep breath. "Deal," he says.

Chapter 17

Sam presses his thumb against the screen, ending the call, and puts down the phone. He takes a deep breath, lets it out slow. "Got one," he says, and then he lifts his eyes. A faint smile curves his lips, then he presses his mouth together into a hard line. "Vamp nest just outside of Wichita. He reckons there's forty plus living on a fortified compound. They run it like a cult, and they're on the Fed's radar, but the Fed's have never been able to make anything stick long enough to get in. No hunter will touch it without an army of backup."

"And organizing hunters is like herding cats, yeah." Dean looks down at his own list. "Best I have is a haunted sorority house in Chicago."

"And we've been at this all day, Dean. We don't have time to keep looking."

Dean glances at his watch. It flicks over to midnight in front of his eyes. "Yeah," he says, and his head lolls back. "Twenty four hours left." He looks back at Sam. "You should get some sleep."

"I don't think it matters," Sam says. "Do you?"

Dean's given up trying to swallow back the lump in his throat. "Nah. Probably not."

"Dean," Sam whispers into the darkness.

"Yeah, Sammy."

Sam's breath is hot on the back of his neck. Quick puffs that cool the places where Sam leaves kisses at the base of his skull. "Dean." He's not even hard, pressed against the back of Dean's thigh, but there's heat in his voice that can't mean anything else.

"Spit it out, Sammy. We're way past the point where we need to be coy."

Sam's swallow is loud, very audible. "I'm scared, Dean."

Dean freezes. "Jesus, Sam." He rolls over to face his brother. He touches Sam's face with gentle fingers, looking for tears, but there's nothing there. "And here I thought you were going to ask if you could fuck me."

Sam whines and lunges, capturing Dean's lips in a wet, desperate kiss. "Please."

Dean shakes his head, confused. "Sammy, what?"

Sam rolls them both so Dean's on his back and Sam's hovering above him on his elbows. The tips of his hair tickles Dean's face and he halts his kisses only to speak. "I won't get this again," he says. "I need to feel you." He lets out a tiny grunt. "I need to be inside you, Dean."

"Fuck, Sammy." Dean gets his hands on Sam's shoulders, digs his fingers in. His cock is rapidly filling, and he can't help wanting it, even though he knows he's more likely to miss the best part than anything else. Still, his thighs part almost of their own accord, and he locks his ankles around Sam's calves and thrusts up against him. "But I'm going to black out again," he says, the words coming out in a rush. "I'll be gone and you'll be fucking a corpse, Sammy. Don't you know how wrong that is?"

Sam rolls his hips, slides his cock, now rock hard and slick with precome, up the inside of Dean's thigh. "I'm going to fuck my brother, Dean. I don't give a shit about wrong anymore." Sam's voice is hot and breathy, words punctuated with rough gasps.

It shouldn't make him harder, but it does, need coiling, twisting, in the pit of his stomach, sparking out to his fingertips, his toes. He arches up and lifts his knees, plants his feet on the bed. It's purely involuntary, as is the sound he makes, a desperate, guttural moan. "'Kay, Sammy," Dean says. "Yeah, oh god."

When Sam finds lube and slides a slick hand between his spread thighs, Dean gasps for air. He doesn't need it, but god, he wants it, because for the first time in a month, he feels too hot. Something inside him buzzes, like he's on the verge of exploding. Then Sam pushes fingers inside him, two at once, and Dean grunts. It's a soft sound, but it shakes his whole body.

Sam's in a hurry. He moans and shakes, like he's trying to slow down.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean says. "It's okay." He groans and arches his back as Sam pushes a third finger inside, just a little too quick, just a little too rough. "I'm okay."

Sam thrusts against Dean's thigh and mouths at his jaw. "Please, Dean," he moans. "Oh god, please."

Dean flickers, Sam's cut off moan his only clue. "Do it, Sam," he rushes out, afraid it'll come out in a stutter. Then he breathes out slow, trying to pull himself together. "I'm here, Sammy. I'm okay. Do it."

Sam slides his fingers out and Dean is left feeling cold and empty. "Hurry up," Dean says. "Hurry up, Sammy, come on."

Sam lines himself up, and then he leans over, presses his forehead to Dean's. Tears fall onto Dean's face, hot tears that land on his cheeks and roll down to his lips. He licks at them, and can't even taste the salt. He winks out, just for a second, not long enough for Sam to notice, but when he comes back, Sam's pushing into him.

"Oh, god, Sammy." He flickers again. "Oh my god."

"Stay with me," Sam says, and he's still crying, probably can't stop. Each breath he takes is a harsh shudder. "Stay with me, Dean." He pushes in further.

Dean twists his hands into the sheets, and it's futile, but gives him something to focus on, something to hold on to. Every series of flickers leaves him slightly disoriented, blinking to fix his eyes back on Sam's face. "Damn it. Sam, give it to me."

Sam slams his hips home, filling Dean in one thrust. Dean arches up, head flung back, cries out. It's more sensation than he's felt in a month, since the poker slid through his flesh like a hot knife through butter. It's more than the gunshot, more than the mouthful the rugaru took, more than the realization that the grail was already gone.

Sam gasps and stares down at him, eyes wide, lashes suddenly dry. "Dean," he grunts, and then circles his hips.

No sensation leads organically to another. To Dean, it's like a series of unconnected feelings, the hint of stretch, a sharp, cut off burn, the nudge of Sam's cock against his prostate and then it's gone. His hands fly to Sam's shoulders and his fingers dig in. "Stop. Just... Just, Sammy, stop."

Sam freezes. He whines and starts to pull away.

"No." Dean digs his nails into Sam's shoulders to hold him there. "Just... Stay." He wraps his arms around Sam's shoulders and pulls him down. Sam's heavy on his chest, but Dean doesn't need to breathe. He puts his nose into Sam's hair and inhales. "I've got to hold on," he whispers. "Just trying to hold on."

They lie there, Dean holding Sam to his chest, breathing in his scent, until the flickers subside. They're still there, but not constant. He doesn't feel as though he's going to slip away anymore. He rocks his hips, rolls them upward.

Sam sighs and lifts himself up. He stares down into Dean's eyes and breathes.

"Slow," Dean says. "I want to be here for this."

Sam just nods, and then slowly starts to thrust. So slow it's almost maddening, but the gentle slope up helps Dean to hold on, to be present. Flickers are regular, but not constant. His need to desperately hold on doesn't distract him from where he is, where Sam is.

So the tension that appears between Sam's brows is gradual. Dean watches him climb closer, approach his orgasm. "That's it, Sammy," he whispers. "That's it."

"I want to feel you," Sam breathes. "Want to feel you come. Want to feel it, Dean."

Dean lifts his eyes in acknowledgment and slides a hand between them. It forces Sam to shift his angle, just a little, just enough, and the slow, gentle, regular pressure against Dean's prostate coupled with his own hand on his dick brings him to the brink quickly, almost too quickly.

He glitches, once, twice. "No." He's here. In this body. With Sam. With his brother. Dean's brother is inside him, and again, that shouldn't get him off, but it's starting to. The wrongness, the idea that the normal rules don't apply to them. They're special, the two of them. They're the Winchesters, and they're different.

He almost lets go of that when he starts to come, clings on only because he's staring into Sam's eyes. He holds on to the look in them. And he won't say it out loud, but he knows that Sam loves him more than a brother should, and it's okay.

Sam stares down at him, hips still, as Dean shudders through the last spasms. He kisses away Dean's final whimpers, and then pulls out, still hard.

"What?" Dean's fingers scrabble at Sam's shoulders, confused. "What's wrong?"

Sam shakes his head, a faint smile on his lips, and he kisses away Dean's words. Then he pushes at Dean's shoulder, pushes him until he, still loose limbed and boneless, turns over onto his hands and knees.

Sam drops a kiss to the small of Dean's back, up his spine. Dean is exposed like this, vulnerable. But there's no one he trusts more than Sammy, and so when Sam pulls back and slides his hands over the fleshy globes of Dean's ass, he doesn't flinch away.

"You're amazing," Sam says, and there's a hint of regret in his voice. "Beautiful." His thumbs slide into the cleft, tug at the edges of his stretched hole.

It sends shivers through Dean's body, and he moans. "What are you doing, Sammy?"

"Making sure I remember," Sam says, and then he lines up his cock and slowly, so slow, pushes back inside.

It's a completely different angle, and it makes Dean shudder. He rocks back against Sam. "Come on," he says. "You make sure I don't forget, little brother."

Sam grunts and jerks his hips. He grabs Dean by the hips, fingers digging into Dean's flesh, and slides home. "I love you, Dean. I'm not leaving it until tomorrow. I'm not leaving it until it's too late to tell you. I love you."

Dean remembers the last time Sam said it, the last time Dean said it, and he feels a flare of anger. He pushes upright, leans back and grabs Sam around the back of the neck. "Don't you say goodbye to me yet, Sammy," he hisses. "Don't you say goodbye." Then he turns his head and finds Sam's lips. "We've got all night."

Sam sucks in air and wraps his arms around Dean's waist. He pulls Dean down onto his lap, and thrusts up. Once, twice. "Damn you," he spits, and then he starts to come, moaning and jerking as he fills Dean's insides with warmth.

Chapter 18

CW: some talk of suicide in the next few chapters because the boys are morbidly codependent

They're staring at eight foot high chain link fences again, but this time there's no barbed wire on top. It's almost as if they're not trying very hard to keep people out.

"Why would they?" Sam says, and his voice is pitched low, rough. He's barely slept, and he's quiet, subdued. Dean doesn't blame him. "Anyone that goes over is a free meal, right?"

"Right," Dean says, trying not to think about the fact that that's why they're here. The vampires might not find him particularly palatable, but the whole reason they've come here is so that Dean can feed his brother to a nest of vamps.

He puts the toe of his boot into one of the links, and hauls himself up.

Sam follows, and their feet hit the ground on the other side almost at the same time. "Right," he says. "Now what."

A twig snaps. Thick woods belt the edge of the compound, and Dean goes on high alert. His hand settles on the handle of his machete, ready to swing.

"Wait," Sam says, as two guys step out of the trees.

They look like Dean expects, like a couple of commune rejects from the 70's, homespun shirts and drawstring pants. They're both big, tall and muscular. The only thing that sets them apart from the usual compound sentries is they have no guns.

Who needs them, when they've got a set of teeth.

"Take me to your leader," Dean says with a smirk, but then thinks better of it. "Never mind. I'll find him myself." He swings, and the head of one hippy vampire rolls off broad shoulders and bounces off the trunk of a tree.

The other guy roars, rushes Dean, but he's not too bright, because his head bounces off the ground seconds later.

Dean turns to Sam. "Where do they usually keep the boss in a place like this?"

"Dean," Sam says, face twisting up in disapproval tinged a little too much with pain for Dean to take it seriously. "They could have taken us right to the guy."

"Thin the herd, remember, Sammy?" Dean starts to walk through the trees. "This might be a hopeless case, but if you're just going to walk up to the guy and bare your neck for him, we might as well have done this back at home." He stops and turns, as much to check that Sam's following as to make his point. "We're going to put a dent in them, Sam. So other hunters can come and finish them off when we're gone."

Sam drops his head and nods, but the fight has gone out of him. He's already given up.

The information Sam got was crap. They get all the way up to the house, vamps only ever coming at them in twos and threes, and whether it's because Sam and Dean have been doing this since they were kids, or that the heavies this cult leader vampire is turning are as thick as pig shit, it's probably too late to find out. There are seven headless bodies on the ground when they get to the guarded door, and then they make it nine.

Sam looks concerned, brow furrowed, mouth turned down.

Dean gives him a weak smile. "Cheer up, Sammy," he says. "Maybe your guy was really wrong, and there's actually a hundred of these bastards inside."

Sam lifts his eyes and he offers Dean a weak smile, huffs out a soft laugh. "Maybe," he says.

Dean kicks in the door. "Oh, look," he says, as his eyes scan the interior. The building is one vast room constructed of cinder block, and every spare bit of floor is taken up by vampires, either standing in groups or lounging on large cushions. Every single one turns to him, and then all he can see is teeth. "We're in luck."

"There must be..." Sam's eyes flick around as he hovers in the doorway. "Yeah, a hundred. Maybe more. Dean?"

Dean's head snaps around. There's fear on Sam's face, uncertainty. "We can walk out of here right now, Sammy. You just say the word."

Sam looks back at the approaching vampires, swallows hard. Then he shakes his head.

"I mean it, Sammy. I don't want this. I don't want you to die."

Sam shakes his head again and raises his machete. "No. We're doing this, Dean." He glances quickly at Dean. "I'm ready." Then he throws himself into the mass.

Dean follows, and there's blood, and a vicious, outraged screaming in his ears. He loses count of the ones he takes out. Someone tries to take a bite out of him, but lets go quick. Dean throws his head back and laughs, and all the time, he's got one eye on Sam.

Then it's too much. There are too many of them. Dean's machete is wrenched out of his hand. Sam comes at him, takes out another three on the way before his is gone too, and then the room goes quiet except for the curses Dean throws. Sam is silent, his eyes on Dean, gives an occasional ineffective struggle.

"Bring them to me."

"Huh?" Dean's head jerks around to to the source of the sound, to the direction the voice is coming from. And there, on a raised platform at the far end of the room, is a girl. "What the hell?"

"Were you expecting something a little more David Koresh, Dean?" Sam says, and there's a mirthless laugh in his voice. "She's a vampire. Probably one or two generations removed from the alpha. And would that surprise you?"

Dean shakes his head, nice and slow. He's dragged, along with Sam, to the edge of the platform, then forced down to his knees.

She looks about fourteen. "You're hunters?" she says, head tipped to the side, curious. "What are your names?"

Dean lifts his chin defiantly. "Sam and Dean Winchester."

There isn't even a flicker of recognition on her face. Dean blinks. "Are you fucking kidding me? You don't know who we are?"

"Should I?" she says, and then she crouches down to bring herself eye to eye with Dean. "You think you're special, don't you? Different from the rest? Hunters have come in here before, lots of them, over the twenty years I've been building my family. I like hunters. I keep them for myself." She grins, a row of vampire fangs almost completely obscuring her human ones. "I think they taste better."

She leans in toward him as one of her people pulls Dean's head to the side to expose his throat. Then she pulls back, narrows her eyes accusingly. "But you're already dead." She gives him a shove, and he sprawls back onto his ass.

Then she turns to Sam. "You know, your boyfriend's already dead."

"He's my brother," Sam says, voice breathy and rough.

Her smile comes back, spreads wider than before. "Well. You're a little more than that, aren't you?" She breathes in through her nose. "Yeah. Close family."

"You shut the hell up," Dean spits, shoving off the hands that seek to hold him down and scrambling to his feet. "You don't know anything about us."

The girl just smiles at him. "Apparently, I do." She looks up, at the vampires who have grasped hold of his arms to hold him again. "Bring him back here."

They push Dean forward again, force him down with heavy hands on his shoulders. He kneels, shoulder to shoulder with Sam. The girl hops down to sit on the edge of the platform, legs dangling between them.

"So, Dead Dean. What's your story?"

Dean stares straight ahead, shakes his head. "No story. Died. But kicking your ass was on my bucket list."

She smirks. "Cute." Then she turns to Sam. "Your heart's beating, though. It's beating fast. You scared, Sammy?"

Sam jerks his head to face her. "You don't get to call me that."

She purses her lips, then beams at him. "I like you." She puts her hand on the back of his neck and pulls him toward her. "I'm looking forward to this."

Dean stares as she bares her teeth, opening her mouth wide to bite. Tendons stand out on Sam's neck as he strains, perhaps away, perhaps to stop himself from fighting.

"No," Dean says, and struggles in the grip of the vampires holding him. "No." He starts to push, to slither out of his body, instinct not allowing himself to simply watch.

Sam's eyes are on him. Dean sees the pain in them, the wince as she bites down, hears the crunch of sharp teeth breaking skin and sinking into muscle. Sam doesn't fight. "It's okay, Dean," he says. "It's okay." And then he's fucking crying again, and those words are on his lips and Dean can't, he can't— "You can go," Sam says. "You can go now, Dean. It's what I want." His voice grows thin and his eyelids flicker as the audible suck and swallow of the vampire in his throat continues. "Go, Dean."

Dean slides out of his body, watches from the platform as the vampires holding it let him fall to the floor.

Sam goes limp, would have fallen if it wasn't for the vampire holding him. Dean flickers uncontrollably as he watches his brother die. "No," he says, and it's all he can think. He needs the girl to get off his brother, to get her fangs out of Sam's throat, and when he rushes her, his intent is to beat the girl to death, and the fact that he doesn't have a solid form, doesn't have solid fists to hit her with, doesn't even occur to him.

She jerks back before he's even reached her, thrown away from Sam. The vampires holding him jerk back away as if something yanks them from behind. The girl lets out a cry of rage as she climbs to her feet, baring her teeth in a bloody snarl. And that's Sam's blood on her lips, Sam's life.

"What are you?" she screams at him.

Dean bears down on her, not walking, not running, all he does is will it, and she cringes back. "Never seen a ghost before, bitch?" He throws all the rage he can muster at her. It rolls out of him like a wave, and then crashes down, swift, powerful, violent.

It hits her where she stands, and she crumples. She's still moving, though, twitching, making pathetic little mewling sounds. Something cracks, and she stretches out an arm, healing fast.

Dean looks up, locates his machete in the hand of a vampire halfway down the room. With a thought, he wrenches it free, pulls it through the air. It whistles as it flies, the sound reminiscent of the fire iron before it ended Dean's life.

It severs her neck with a sickening crunch, and she goes still and quiet. All the air seems to suck out of the room, and then explodes back in with a wave of sound and motion.

There's pandemonium. Vampires screaming, bodies just a roiling mass. They crawl over each other to get out of the room, dozens of them, running scared.

Dean wants to collapse, but all that happens when he lets go is a slow pull back to one of the bodies on the floor. He ignores it, instead crouching beside Sam's body. He wants to cry, doesn't even know if he can. There's a tightness in his chest that shouldn't be possible. "Sam," he cries, and it's almost a wail. "Oh, god, Sam."

Sam moves.

His finger twitches. He moans, and his head lolls on his neck. Then he goes still again.

"You're alive?" Dean reaches out, but his fingers go through Sam's body, through his face, and he can't even feel for a pulse.

With a thought, Dean's back in his meat suit, picking himself up off the floor. There's a pulse, steady, strong. Sam's just out. The relief that washes over Dean almost brings him to his knees.

He picks Sam up, and he carries him out of there.

Dean shouldn't even be driving, not with the way he's glitching, winking out and back in only to find the landscape twitching past him like a jerky silent film. He stares straight ahead, doesn't glance Sam's way, if he's lucky Sam will stay passed out the whole way home.

Dean's not lucky.

Sam moans and lifts his head. He winces, and his hand goes to his throat, the vampires bite not bleeding anymore, but still open and ragged. Then he jerks, stares out the window, and then turns to Dean.

"What did you do, Dean?" he hisses, gasping for air between the words. "What the hell did you do?"

Dean swallows and shrugs. He keeps his eyes on the road. "I lost it, Sammy. I lost it."

From the corner of his eye, Dean can see Sam gaping at him. "Are they all dead? Did you take them all out?"

Dean shakes his head. "Just her. I thought you were dead, I thought you were gone, and I just... I lost control. The rest of them ran. I let them go."

Sam drops his head, stares at his feet, still gasping for air. "You should have left me, or... Or you should have finished it yourself."

Dean shakes his head. "No."

Sam reaches out and pops open the glove box. They always keep a gun in there, and he pulls it out, checks the clip. "Stop the car, Dean."

Dean shakes his head again. "You're not blowing your brains out on the side of the road, Sam. We'll be home soon. With about an hour to spare. If you still want to do it—"

"I still want to do it," Sam says.

Dean swallows back the lump in his throat. "I won't let you."

Sam swallows hard, and then he fits the barrel of the gun up under his chin. His finger tightens on the trigger.

"Jesus, Sam. No." Dean reaches out to grab for the gun and glitches. The car swerves, and he barely corrects while fighting Sam for control of the gun. "I'll do it," he says. "I'm going to be the one to pull the trigger, okay? Because I can't let you do that to yourself. I won't. Please give me the goddamn gun, Sammy."

Sam turns, relaxes his hand, lets Dean take it from him. "You don't have to do that."

"I don't care," Dean says. He stows the gun beneath his seat, out of the way. "What, you think I'm just going to leave you to do that shit by yourself?" He shakes his head. "No, Sammy. I mean, we've always said it, right? Either of us needs putting down, we'd do it? Whether I think you need it or not, you seem think so. So I'm going to do it."

"Thank you," Sam says. "Thank you, Dean."

Chapter 19

Dean keeps checking the time. They get back to the bunker exactly fifty three minutes to midnight. At forty five minutes to midnight, they're on Dean's bed and Sam is kissing him desperately.

Dean starts to tug at Sam's clothes, the buttons of his shirt, the fly of his jeans. "There's time," he says, when Sam grabs hold of both of his hands, stills them. "We've got time."

Sam pulls away, shakes his head. Tears streak his cheeks, but he's calm, and his voice is even. "Did you bring the gun?"

"The bag under the bed," Dean says. "Not yet, Sammy. Please. We've got time. Not yet."

Sam leans over the edge of the bed. "I just want to be ready," he says, and then drags the bag out from under the bed.

It gives a familiar rattle, guns and blades and boxes of ammo, knocking against one another. Then it settles, goes silent, but there's another sound. A ringing, like metal rolling on wooden floor boards. Sam freezes, his hand in the bag.

"What the hell is that?" Dean says. He compulsively checks his watch. Thirty nine minutes.

Sam reaches beneath the bed, the ringing turns into a scraping, and then Sam sets whatever it is square down on the floor.

Dean leans over. "Sam?"

"It's a cup," Sam says. His voice is flat, almost emotionless. "Dean, there's a cup under your bed."

It is a cup. A grubby looking metal goblet thing, wide, squat, and it's not immediately clear what kind of metal it's made from. It's a kind of dirty brown, a little greenish around the edge of the base. "It's not—"

"What's the time, Dean?"

Dean glances at his watch. "Almost half eleven."

Sam grabs the cup and springs to his feet. "Where did you find it?" His eyes are wide, almost manic as he drops his head and sniffs. "Jesus, Dean. If you were drinking whiskey out of the Holy Grail I'm going to hit you over the head with it." His head jerks up. "Where did you find it?"

Dean almost falls off the bed in his haste. "No, you're not," he says. "Because if that's Jesus' juice cup, I don't have to shoot my brother." He meets Sam's eyes. "I was drunk. The kitchen. Maybe under the sink? I was really drunk."

Sam flies for the door, and Dean follows behind him. The interference has somehow replaced Dean's pulse, his heartbeat, in that it's faster, more intense, when he's excited. If he ditched the meat suit, he wouldn't have to lug it around while he's glitching constantly, but he needs it right now, needs to— "How does it even work? Do we even know what to do?"

Sam shrugs, no mean feat while he's almost running to the kitchen. "I ditched the research when we didn't find it. I don't know if there's enough time, Dean."

"Something about blood, right?" Dean sinks to his knees beside Sam as Sam pulls open the cupboard beneath the kitchen counter. "I can't bleed in that thing, Sammy."

From behind fallen bottles and jars of decades old cleaning products, Sam drags out a wooden box. It's a small crate, dusty, dirty. There's a cloth, not much more than a rag, bunched up and stuffed in a corner, and Dean has a vague recollection of tugging it from around the cup, screwing it up in his fist and shoving it in the corner of the box. It's stained red in places, red, not the dark brown of old blood.

Sam tips the box upside down on the floor. There are dusty worn notebooks, and, wrapped in another piece of cloth, something that clunks when it hits the floor.

Sam unwraps it. It's a bottle of wine, the glass a green so dark it's almost black. Sam gapes at it and then turns it to show Dean the label.

In a swirling script, beneath the brand name and logo, is the word: SACRAMENTAL

Dean shrugs. "Okay?"

Sam shakes the bottle. "This is the Blood of Christ, Dean." He pushes to his feet, runs the water and shoves the cup under the faucet, scrubs out the traces of whiskey from Dean's binge weeks before.

Dean scoops up one of the notebooks for a closer look. The cover is blank, but when he flicks it open, the pages are filled with a familiar script. "Terence," he breathes. "Oh my god, Sam. He found it. Somehow, he found it."

Sam looks as though he's about to pop a blood vessel when he pulls the cork free. He sloshes a generous amount into the cup, and then shoves it in Dean's face. "Drink," he says. "We don't have time to be more specific about the method. Just drink it."

Dean holds it in both hands, stares down into swirling red liquid. There's a film shimmering on the surface, a few specks of dust. It smells old, earthy. Then he lifts his eyes, and stares at Sam over the rim. "Here goes nothing," he whispers, and throws it back.

It's cool going down, but tastes of nothing. Dean slams the cup down on the counter like he's doing shots, then looks at Sam.

Sam stares back at him expectantly. Long moments pass.

Dean looks at his watch. "I don't feel any different, Sammy. Still dead, and about to get deader in twenty three minutes. I don't think this is the right cup."

Sam scoops up the notebooks, spreads them out on the counter. He flicks through them, one at a time. "This is the end," he says, when he finds one that is only half full. He starts to read. "The Blood of Christ is the only answer, but the wine does not work. My mind is still muddled, confused. I can only conclude that the vessel is not the Holy Grail. Years of work for nothing, and I will soon lose my reason. My work is over." Sam looks up. "That's it." He puts the book down, attempts a smile. "I'm sorry, Dean."

Dean wipes a drop of wine off his lower lip with the back of his hand. "Back to plan A, then." He drops his eyes and turns to walk away.


Sam's hand is warm on his shoulder. Dean turns and forces a smile. "Hey, it's okay. Yeah, I got my hopes up, but—" He shrugs and grins. "So I wasn't drinking whiskey out of the holy cup after all. We can't win 'em all, right?"

"I should never have brought you back," Sam says. "I'm sorry, Dean. I should have ended it right then and there."

Dean flickers, watches Sam breathe in jerky, stop motion fashion. He shakes his head. "No. If it keeps you alive, Sammy. You just keep bringing me back."

"It's too late."

Dean nods. "I know." Then he wraps his hand around the back of Sam's neck, tips his head up, and brushes his lips over Sam's mouth. "But at least we got this, right? This never would have happened if we hadn't had the last month together."

"If we hadn't been desperate," Sam says, and kisses Dean harder.

"If I hadn't been so fucking cold—"

"How much time do we have?"

Dean pulls his watch up so he can see it. "Seventeen minutes." His eyes flick up to Sam. "I can totally—"

Sam doesn't waste any time. He gets his jeans open, tugging the zip down and then pulling Dean close. He freezes with his hand in Dean's pants, mid stroke to get him hard. "Where's the gun?"

Dean jerks his head. "Still in the bag, Sammy."

They run.

There's not enough time to get their clothes off. They kneel on the bed, Dean's hand wrapped around both their cocks, Sam's wrapped around his, and they stroke together for the last time. Their kisses are desperate, wet and messy, breaking off just long enough to let a few words tumble out.

"—love you, Sammy," Dean says, and his heart might not be beating, but it hurts. It hurts, bad. His eyes fall on the gun on the mattress beside them, one bullet in the clip, and it's all they'll need. Dean knows just where to put it to make sure it's quick and final.

Dean's name keeps tumbling out of Sam's mouth, over and over again, the tone higher pitched, more desperate with every passing moment. He comes first, hot and wet over Dean's fist, and Dean follows close behind. They keep kissing, slow and wet as the shudders subside, and then they both sink down onto their heels.

"Time," Sam eventually says, when he's caught his breath.

"Three minutes," Dean says.

"Now's good," Sam says, and he lies down on his back, head on the pillow. "Dean."

Dean stares at the gun. He picks it up. It feels heavier than it should in his hand. He flickers, almost drops it, then focuses himself. "Yeah, Sam." Then he lies down, puts his head on Sam's shoulder. He takes a deep breath, slides the gun up beneath Sam's chin, and lets his breath out slow. "You wait for me, Sammy," he says. "That reaper turns up, you tell him to wait for me, all right?"

"Yeah." Sam sucks in air, pushes it out of his lungs in shallow huffs. "Yeah, Dean."

"We should have spent the whole month in bed," Dean whispers. "Instead you drag me to England, force me to drink some dirty water bubbling up out of the ground—" His finger tightens on the trigger. "But I forgive you." He leans over, presses one last kiss to Sam's lips, and then pulls back. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Dean," Sam says, and gives Dean a small nod.

Dean takes another deep breath, sucks warm air right down into his lungs. Then he lets it out slow, and he never takes his eyes from Sam's. He starts to pull the trigger.

Sam's eyes fly open wide, and he simultaneously shoves the gun away from his head and sits bolt upright. "Water."

Dean just stares up at him, blinking, flickering. The gun is still in his hand, his finger still tight on the trigger. "What the hell?"

Sam turns and looks down at him, eyes still wide, unblinking. "The water, Dean. The water from the Lion's Head."

Dean's eyes flick toward the bag he brought back from England, still sitting on the floor in the corner of the room, just as it was when they arrived home. He didn't bother unpacking. "The flask." He looks back up at Sam. "What the hell, Sammy? I almost shot you. We've got like, a minute and a half, what the hell are you doing?"

Sam talks fast as he swings his legs over the edge of the bed and heads for the door. "When the Holy Grail was hidden beneath the well, Dean, the water ran red with the blood of Christ. It's not the wine, it's the water. Get the flask, Dean, I'll get the cup. We don't have much time."

Dean tears open the bag, pulls out dirty clothes, finds the flask in the bottom of the bag. It's still about half full. He yanks it out as Sam bursts back in through the door.

"Get it open," Sam says, holding out the cup as he sinks to his knees on the floor.

Dean's hands shake as he screws off the top. "Glitching hard here, Sammy," he manages to get out, feeling the magic holding him inside his body loosening already. "Cutting it too close."

Sam takes the flask off him, empties the contents into the cup, and then holds it up, holds Dean with an arm wrapped around his waist. He presses the cup to Dean's lips. "Drink," he says. "Goddammit, Dean. Drink."

Dean chokes it back, feels it spill over the sides of his lips, eyes on Sam as he jumps around in flickers, like static images flashing in front of his eyes. Then those flashes come with pain, increasing in rapid, extreme jumps.

His skin feels like it's on fire, the flesh of his thigh feels like it's been torn open all over again. His heart burns, and the rest of him burns along with it until it's all too much and he's just gone.

"Mmm, pie," Dean murmurs.

That's what wakes him. The sound of his own voice, and the memory of taste. The realization that he's been sleeping. Not just out, but actually sleeping.

And he's warm, but there's none of the damp sweat sensation of Sam's body pressed against him.

Dean opens his eyes, stares up at the familiar ceiling of his room in the bunker. Turns his head, blinks away the blurriness of waking, focuses on Sam's face.

"Hey," Sam says, and there's a soft, genuine, relaxed smile on his face.

"Hey," Dean says, and pushes himself up into a sitting position.

He's not wearing much. A pair of clean boxer shorts, and no shirt, and there's no bandage over his heart, no wound, no scar, no mark at all. He runs his fingers over it, then slides a hand beneath the sheet and it's as if he never caught that fateful fire iron through his femoral artery in the first place. "Whoa," he says, and then looks up at Sam. "It worked." He blinks, because he can feel his heart beating in his chest, can feel the pulse in his wrists, can see the color in the flesh on his arms. "Either that or I just had the weirdest dream."

Sam smiles wider and nods. "It worked."

"Whoa," Dean repeats. "Dude. We found the Holy Grail."

Sam grins. "Terence found the Grail, Dean. I've been reading."

"How long was I out?"

"Hours. I watched you for the first hour, your wounds healing, all your blood coming back. I felt your heart start to beat, heard you start breathing. Then you were just asleep. I figured you had a bit to catch up on."

"I was dreaming," Dean said. "About pie."

"I heard." Sam pushes himself up out of the chair he's sitting in. "You want to go get some?"

Dean's eyes go wide and he nods emphatically. "Oh, yeah." He swings his legs over the edge of the bed, catches the pair of jeans Sam throws him. "You're having some, too, right, Sammy?"

Sam grins and nods. "Yeah, Dean."

Chapter 20

"Give me all the pie," Dean says. "All of it."

The waitress raises her eyebrows, but says nothing. She looks at Sam.

"Just coffee, thanks," he says. "And two forks."

Dean drops his eyes to the table. "You going to have some pie, Sammy?"

"I thought I might," Sam says. Heat enters his voice, and he leans back in his chair, stretches his legs out under the table. "Since you seemed to enjoy it so much last time."

Dean snorts and stretches out, too, lifting his gaze to meet Sam's across the table. He licks his lips to wet them. "So, we're still..."

A crease appears between Sam's brows. "Do you want to stop? Now that you're okay? Now that things are going back to normal?"

"Do you?"

Sam shakes his head, a small movement, but coupled with his eyes, a kind of desperate need behind them, there's a lot of meaning there.

Dean relaxes. "So we're still..." He smiles, wets his lower lip with the tip of his tongue, and then drags his teeth across it. "Good. That's good."

Pie appears on the table in front of them, four different flavors, two forks, two cups of coffee. Dean snags the pecan for himself, because he's not sharing that with anyone, not even his brother.

He pushes the cherry toward Sam, and he lifts his eyes, looking up from beneath his lashes. Watching, waiting.

Sam digs his fork into the center, and so slow it could be torture, he slides the whole bite into his mouth. He makes a sound, the same sound he makes when he's coming, but different. It's lighter, happier, and with just a touch of tease to it.

Dean realizes that he's only ever heard Sam make that sound when they both thought they were going to die, and this is different, and this thing between them is different.

Sam draws the fork out from between his lips slow, licks at it to catch every bit of flavor. He looks at Dean likes he's starving.

"Yeah, we're going to get this all to go," he says, as he shoves his chair away from the table with a harsh screech of metal on linoleum.

Dean lets Sam drive, eats the pecan pie on the way home, then pulls the cherry pie apart with his fingers and hand feeds it to a laughing Sam, piece by sticky piece. He moans when Sam sucks the juice off his fingers, and considers attempting road head, but figures Sam won't let him, considering it's daylight.

Next time they go out at night, though, he's so doing that.

Dean dives out of the passenger seat before Sam's even turned off the engine, meets him when he climbs out. He's still laughing as Dean unbuttons his shirt, laughs into the kiss Dean lays on him right before he sinks down to his knees on the hard concrete floor.

"Fuck, I could taste that pie, Sammy," he says, and then pushes his face into Sam's crotch. He inhales, and this is familiar, but he could taste the pie and now he wants to taste Sam.

Sam throws his head back, laughing, moaning at the same time. "The pecan, or the cherry?"

"Both." Dean tugs open the button of Sam's pants, draws down the zip, gets his hand in there. Sam's already hard, damp and sticky at the tip like he's been hard for a while. He's not the only one. Dean breathes over Sam's cock, just staring, and then he looks up.

Sam's looking down. He's not laughing anymore, but the intensity in his eyes makes Dean's heart beat just a little bit faster. Dean can't bear to drag his eyes away, but he wants to look at Sam's dick as well, and god, it's not fair.

He sinks down onto his heels, and then he's got both in his line of sight. He lets Sam's cock fall onto his lips, head pressing against them. He mouths at the underside, tongue darting out—

Sam's salty sweet flavor bursts on his tongue and he moans, eyelids fluttering as his eyes roll back in his head.

"You're killing me, Dean," Sam says. "Jesus."

Dean opens his lips and sucks Sam's dick into his mouth. Sam's hips jerk forward, and his cock hits Dean at the back of the throat. He chokes and coughs as he pulls off, but he laughs, because he has a gag reflex now, and for some reason—for all the reasons—that's a good thing.

Sam's face is priceless. He won't let Dean suck him back down, puts his palm on Dean's forehead to push him away as he tucks himself back into his pants. "Not here," he says.

Dean pushes himself to his feet. "We're going to do it in every goddamn room in the bunker, Sammy." He throws his arms around Sam's neck, tips his chin up to capture Sam's mouth in a kiss that he can actually taste. "I was going to shoot you, and I've got to say, little brother. I'm relieved."

Sam relaxes a bit, doesn't really kiss back. It's not a rejection, or anything like that, he's not trying to push Dean away, and Dean doesn't feel anything negative from him. "What?" Dean asks.

Sam shakes his head. "Nothing." He wraps his arms around Dean, slides a palm, fingers spread wide, up his spine, cradles the back of his head. "I don't want to stop sleeping together, Dean."

Dean frowns, confused. He instinctively tries to take a step back, but Sam won't let him go. "What?"

"I'm not talking about sex, Dean." Sam blushes, drops his eyes, bites his lip. "I don't want that to stop, either, but I don't expect it. I just need you to know that. But I like falling asleep with you. I really want to wake up and watch you sleep, actually."

"Oh," Dean says, because he'd just assumed things would stay the same. "Yeah. Yeah. I could get on board with that."

"We'll keep separate rooms, of course. If we have someone down here—"

"Oh," Dean says. "Right. Yeah. Secret. Because we're brothers. Can't have anyone finding out we're fucking."

Sam almost flinches at the expletive. Almost. "It might be a little awkward."

Dean nods. "You're right. Yeah, you're right, Sammy. I mean, this'll never not be weird, right? And you know sometimes we both need a little space—"

"I think half our problem when we need space is we couldn't admit we needed this, Dean."

Dean drops his head to hide his grin. "I didn't even know I needed this. If anyone had told me I'd want this one day, I'd have told them they were crazy." The smile slides off his face, and he looks up. "Did you know? Sam? Did you want this?"

"Maybe not consciously. But I couldn't let you go, Dean. That's not normal. You're not supposed to fight death. I couldn't ever let you go. That told me a lot."

"Huh." Dean drops his eyes again, shakes his head. "I've never been able to let you go, Sammy. Never tried to deny it, either." He looks up. "But fuck that, Sam. We got the Holy Grail now. I'm not saying we pull a stunt like Wichita again, but, if it happens, I'll do it. I'll keep doing it. I need my brother." He leans in, kisses his brother, soft and slow. "Now," he says. "Can we go inside and lose the clothes? I kind of want you to fuck me over the map table."

"Holy shit, Dean," Sam says, as he starts to walk Dean backward toward the door. "You can't say things like that to me."

Dean lets himself be steered out of the garage. "Fuck me, Sam," he says, unable to keep the grin off his face. "Fuck me, little brother."


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I'm bloodwrites, and I've been knocking around the fandom internets since the early 2000s. I write fic, almost exclusively slash. I like Dean Winchester, vampires, pirates, and CSS. Some people know me as vamp.

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