If All Else Perished by bloodwrites

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Chapter 1

The house is in the middle of nowhere, long-abandoned and crumbling. There's nothing for miles but fields of corn and a small town with a name that matches the faded letters on the mailbox.

"They've had four murder-suicides here over the last ten years." Sam has an iron lug wrench in one hand, and his eyes scan the text of the folded newspaper in the other. He lifts his head, looks up at the house. The ancient clapboard is gray and bare, and the front porch sags on the foundations. "The details are almost identical. One kid gets stabbed to death, the other hangs themselves in the attic. Devon James and Skye Miller were reported missing by their parents when they didn't come home Friday night. Cops found their bodies here a few days ago."

Yellow police tape stretches across the front door. The door lists, hinges rotting out of the frame. Most of the paint is long gone, a few narrow flecks clinging to the weathered wood all that remains to prove the house used to be white.

Dean steps up onto the porch. He's holding a sawed-off shotgun loaded with rock salt. "What's the history? Bloody murder way back when people actually lived here?"

"Annabel Rook took a swan dive out of an upstairs window in 1877." Sam drops the newspaper and follows Dean up the steps. "She was sixteen."

"Suicide," Dean says. "Why'd she do it?"

"Dad didn't approve of the boyfriend, by the looks of it. End of the world stuff."

"Teenagers." Dean pulls a face. "So what's she got against these kids?" He tears the tape out of his path, and it flutters to the porch. The door drags on ancient, threadbare carpet as he pushes it open. "This is creepy." The floral wallpaper is faded and water stained. "I like it." He turns, looks back over his shoulder. "You getting anything?"

Sam reaches into his coat. He flicks a switch, and the box he holds lets out a high-pitched squeal. "Yep." He looks up. "Did you notice any power lines coming in?"

Dean shakes his head. "Just cornfields." He lifts the shotgun, the weight reassuring, and continues down the hall.

"Up the stairs," Sam says. "First bedroom on the left."

The closer they get to the top of the stairs, the higher the pitch of the sounds coming from the EMF. When the box starts to emit a tone so shrill that Dean's eye starts to twitch, Sam turns it off.

"Safe to say we got a ghost." Sam stows it back in his coat. "Careful, Dean. This thing means business."

Dean presses his fingertips against one of the doors lining the hall at the top of the stairs. It swings open, the hinges creaking, to reveal an empty room with bare floorboards and peeling wallpaper. Grimy windows filter sunlight into the room, and dust motes swirl in disturbed air.

Masking tape marks the shape of a body on the floor. Blood stains the wood. A fly buzzes.

Dean crouches beside the outline. His fingers hover over old blood, and he wrinkles his nose. He tips his head to the side and peers closer at the edge of the tape.

There's something there, some kind of residue. He scratches at it with a fingernail. "Adhesive," he says. "From the back of the tape. Old." He looks up. "You reckon it's from the last time?"

"The vic falls in the same spot every time?" Sam crouches to look. "That's pretty specific."

Dean shivers as the temperature drops. Mist forms in his breath as he exhales, and he pushes himself to his feet, weighting the gun in his hand as he scans the room. "Heads up, Sammy. We got company."

Sam's head jerks, and something shimmers in the air beside him. Dean pulls the trigger.

Rock salt sprays the wall, the air shifts and something hits Dean hard, knocking the gun from his hand, shoving him back and onto his ass. "Sam," he shouts.

The ghost is fast, erratic, barely a shimmer bending enough light for them to see it. Sam whirls, the wrench swinging as the ghost rushes him. It winks out as the wrench crosses its path.

Dean sucks in a breath of cold air.

"Did I get it—?"

Something hits Sam hard in the chest, cutting off his words. He grunts, flies backward like a puppet on a string, and hits the floor.

He falls inside the tape outline. Dean roars, fingernails digging into the boards as he pulls himself toward Sam. "No," he screams, as the ghost glitches like a bug in a video game, and fades into view.

She's a dark shadow, a shifting shape, fingers tipped with claws as insubstantial hands press Sam into the floor. A knife appears as she lifts one arm high into the air.

Dean gets to his feet and throws himself forward. He stumbles, hits the floor again, coming down beside Sam's wrench. His fingers curl around it.

The blade comes down, once, twice, slashing through Sam's coat, through his shirt. Blood wells up, drops fly off the blade and spatter on the floor. Dean swings as the knife comes down again, and the wrench slides through the ghost, sends it swirling away as the knife clatters to the floor.

Dean keeps his fingers tight on the wrench, drops to his knees beside his brother. "Sam? Come on, Sammy. I'm getting you outta here." Parting the torn edges of Sam's shirt, he finds ragged, bleeding cuts over Sam's ribs and belly.

Sam's eyes dart around the room as he gasps for breath. "She got the jump on us, Dean," he says, voice rough. "How the hell did she do that?"

"Worry about that when we get you somewhere safe." Dean gets an arm under Sam and helps him to his feet. "Because we gotta move before she comes back."

Sam hisses as he peels off his shirt, torn threads already sticking to the wounds. The shirt's ruined, sticky red staining the blue plaid. Another rag to stuff in the motel garbage when they leave.

"Could have been worse." Dean soaks a washcloth and drags it carefully over Sam's skin to take off the blood. "She got you three times, but I think she was just getting warmed up. This one will need a couple stitches, but the others aren't so deep." He pushes back on Sam's shoulder until he's lying flat, then reaches for the whiskey bottle.

"The last vic caught fourteen." Sam cringes as the alcohol washes over the wounds. "What the hell was that knife?"

"Utility," Dean says as he works. "One of those retractable blade box cutter things. It's real." He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a bundle of blood-stained cloth, tosses it on the bed beside Sam's shoulder. "Would've made a hell of a mess. You'd be ground beef before you died of it."

Sam shudders, then winces as the needle pierces his skin. "You saved my life."

Dean keeps his eyes down as he stitches up the slash that grazed Sam's lower rib and carved into the flesh of his belly. "You don't get to check out on a haunting, Sammy. What a crap story that would be." He doesn't look at Sam when he says it, doesn't let him see the way he breathes just a little quicker as his belly clenches up tight in fear.

Sam lets out a soft huff of laughter and relaxes back into the mattress. "Yeah, because that would be the worst part of dying bloody."

"Don't you forget it." Dean pulls the thread into a knot, leans down to break the end off with his teeth. "You're all done, don't embarrass me like that again, you hear me?"

"Deal." Sam sits up, shrugs on a clean shirt, then reaches for his jacket.

It rattles when he picks it up. "That doesn't sound good." He puts his hand into the inside pocket, frowns, and pulls out a bundle of broken plastic and tangled wires. "Shit."

"Is that the EMF?"

Sam nods.

"Is that the only one we brought with us?"


"Damn," Dean says. Then he shrugs. "Be done soon, anyway, and we can get the hell out of here. Where's this girl buried?"

The cemetery is on the outskirts of town, where the last gas station meets farmland. Moss-covered tombstones fade away to shiny marble.

Shovel in hand, Dean follows Sam, his eyes straying to the tall fields of corn that surround them, hide them from any angle but the road. In the distance, a cow calls out to the herd.

Sam stops before a headstone as tall as he is. The inscription is worn and overgrown with moss. He leans in, scrapes away the growth with a fingernail, carves out the name. "Annabel Rook," he reads. "Honor thy father and mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."

"Subtle." Dean drives the shovel deep into the earth. He dumps dirt onto the ground beside Sam's feet.

Slowly, the pile gets bigger, and Dean sinks further into the earth. "Hello, Annabel," he says when he hits wood. He clears the last of the soil away before he passes the shovel up and takes the crowbar from Sam.

The wood splinters as Dean pries off the coffin lid. He grins down at Annabel, nothing more than dust and bones. "Nothing better than a hundred year old corpse."

He climbs up out of there, brushes off the dirt and fishes in his jeans for a box of matches as Sam salts the grave.

Dean tosses in the flame. "Goodbye, Annabel," he says.

Chapter 2

It's dark when Dean wakes, the neon sign outside the motel a faint glow through the curtains. There's a Sam-shaped shadow on the end of the other bed, pulling on a pair of jeans.

"Going somewhere, Sammy?" Dean mumbles, still half asleep.

Sam's head turns, but he says nothing. He stands and walks across the room.

The familiar clink as weapons move against one another jolts Dean fully awake, and he sits upright. "What are you doing?" There's a small bundle of cloth in Sam's fist. "Sam? What the hell, man?"

Sam ignores him and heads for the door.

Dean trips over himself as he leaps out of bed and reaches for his jeans. By the time he catches up, Sam's out on the street. "What the hell are you doing?" He grabs Sam by the arm.

Sam shrugs him off, his long stride carrying him quickly away.

Dean skips ahead. "We're gonna talk about this. We're gonna work this out before I let you go any further."

Sam shoves Dean out of the way, putting all his weight and bulk behind it. Dean stumbles back, rights himself, and stares daggers at Sam's back. "Hell no."

He catches Sam in two strides, grabs his arm and pulls it up behind his back. Dean throws his weight forward, and Sam hits the ground. "Good to know I can still drop you like a stone, little brother."

The street light above them flickers as Sam grunts and tries to throw Dean off. Back at the motel the neon sign fizzes, sparks, and dies.

Sam's struggles cease and he goes limp, cheek hitting the pavement, mouth going slack. The knife rolls out of his hand.

Dean's heart leaps into his throat. "Sam?" He rolls away, turns Sam over. "Sammy?"

Dean dumps Sam onto the bed. There's blood on Sam's shirt, and Dean tears it down the front, cringing when he sees stitches torn clean through flesh. "Damn it."

Sam moans and shifts. "Dean?"

Dean's head jerks up. "Sam? God, don't ever do that again. You scared the crap outta me."

"What the hell happened?" Sam tries to sit up. He stiffens, groans, and lowers himself back down again. "Feels like I got hit by a truck." His hand reaches for his belly, and Dean bats it away.

"You got hit by me. You went AWOL, and it wasn't until the lights went crazy that I figured it out. You had a ghost in you, Sam. It walked you outta here and I had to drop you before you stopped." Dean gets up, comes back with the first aid kit. "Sorry about the stitches."

Sam lifts his head, pulls a face. "She was going back to the house," he says.

Dean cleans the blood off Sam's skin, slow and methodical. "We burned the bones."

"But you brought the knife back with us." Sam closes his eyes, relaxes as Dean works. "And the knife must be what's keeping her here."

"Then how come we aren't mincemeat? She could have hacked us up in our sleep, instead she wears you like a suit and takes off?" His eyes flick to the fabric-wrapped knife on the nightstand. He reaches out, carefully unwraps it.

It's still covered in Sam's blood, threads from his shirt stuck to the blade. On one side of the handle, scratched into the gray paint, are the letters 'JG'. The brand name is embossed on the opposite side. "What the hell is she doing haunting a knife? This wasn't even around when she died." Dean puts a bandage over the wound on Sam's belly. Two of the stitches tore, and it's not worth putting them back in again. "You're gonna need to take it easy."

Sam pulls himself up the bed, sits gingerly against the pillows. "So what now?"

Dean shrugs. "We destroy it." The lights flicker and Dean stiffens. "Or not." He gets up, takes the knife with him, crouches by his bag. He pulls out a tin of salt and peels off the cap.

The light overhead sizzles and pops, and the room goes dark. Dean dumps the entire tin on top of the knife, wraps it back up. "Or we get some sleep and take it back to the house tomorrow, then burn the place to the ground."

They get curious stares when they walk into the only diner in town and find a table. Sam moves carefully, nursing his injuries. He looks tense.

"Chill," Dean says under his breath. "You trying to scare the locals?"

Sam glances down at where Dean's jacket pocket bulges with the weight of the knife. "Why'd you have to bring it with us?"

"It's salted, Sammy. She's not going anywhere, but I need to eat before we go back." Seeing the waitress approach from the corner of his eye, Dean looks up, gives her his brightest smile.

She's young, pretty. Her blue eyes widen, and pink spreads across her cheeks. "Um—"

Dean glances at the name tag pinned to her blouse. "Hi, Anne. Bacon, eggs. And coffee."

"I'll have the same," Sam says, distracted as he swaps the menu for the morning paper. There's a picture of an old house surrounded by cornfields on the front page.

"It's awful, isn't it?" Anne says, pointing at the newspaper with her pen. "Every few years it happens again."

Sam lifts his head. "Did you know the kids who died?"

She shakes her head, blonde ponytail swinging. "Not these two. The ones before that, Bridget and Jake? I knew them. They were like Romeo and Juliet, you know?"

"They weren't allowed to see each other?" Sam leans forward, all his attention on the girl. "Their parents tried to keep them apart." He sounds like he's just had an epiphany.

Anne nods. "It was Bridget's dad. Everyone knows everyone else here. They had to find places where no one would see them. I guess they used to go there. Then the police found their bodies. It was awful."

Dean leans across the table once Anne is gone. "Well, there's her reason. Another girl whose daddy didn't want her going out with the wrong guy."

Sam's eyes are back on the newspaper. "The other three times it happened, they were all boys."

Dean shrugs. "So what's the latest on the latest?"

"The local sheriff has decided it's some kind of suicide pact. They want the house demolished."

"I can't argue with them," Dean says. "It would stop anyone going in. I can't believe they haven't done it yet."

Sam huffs out a laugh, then winces and puts his hand over his stomach where the stitches tore. "Turns out the mayor owns the place, and he doesn't want it torn down."

Dean frowns, leans over the table. "You okay, Sammy?"

Sam nods, but a hint of pain shows on his face. "I'm okay." He swallows, hard. "I think we should talk to the cops before we do anything else, Dean. There's stuff that doesn't add up."

The sheriff's station is a small building, as generic and plain as every other small town sheriff's station they've ever seen. When Sam and Dean go inside, they're met with raised voices drifting out of the back office.

They walk up to the counter and wait as a young deputy answers the ringing phone. He's obviously stressed, and as he speaks into the handset, he looks them up and down, an expression of hope in his eyes.

When the deputy puts down the phone, Dean pulls out the badge that goes with the suits they're wearing and flips it open on the desk. "I figure you know why we're here," he says, trying to keep the smile off his face as the deputy gives him a look that's part terror, part relief.

"The kids that died, right? Nothing else ever happens that the FBI would come here for." He glances back at the office door, then shoots Dean an apologetic look. "The sheriff has the mayor back there. Kids have been dying in that house for ten years, you'd think Mayor Rook would do something." The deputy looks back over his shoulder when the men inside the office go quiet. "I'll let Sheriff Hammond know you're here."

The sheriff eyes Sam and Dean when he appears. He must be in his sixties, at least. He's balding, but solidly built and almost as tall as Sam. "Look, Bill," he says to the man that walks out behind him. "It's the feds come to see why kids keep dying in your house."

The second man is gray-haired and older still, his face a map of lines. He scowls, walks right past Sam and Dean without a backward glance.

"Don't mind him," the sheriff says. "He's got an irrational attachment to a pile of crap that should have been torn down years ago." He looks them up and down. "What can I do for you?"

"We want everything you've got on this house," Dean says. "See if we can't figure out why kids keep dying there, and who's responsible."

A flash of worry appears in the sheriff's eyes. "Look, guys. All we want from Mayor Rook is for him to agree to the demolition. His great-grandfather built the place. It's the oldest house in town and he was born there, so he's attached. It's not his fault these stupid kids think it's cool to off themselves in it."

"We're not looking at him," Dean says. "We just want the truth."

Sam, silent so far, steps forward. "We want to figure out where this all started," he says. "Why it keeps happening. We'd appreciate any help you could give us."

The sheriff stares at him, blank faced. Then he nods. "Anything you need."

The evidence lockup at the sheriff's station is a broom closet with a dead-bolt. Four boxes, each labeled with a date and 'Rook House - Murder-Suicide' come out, and they take them into the sheriff's office.

The young deputy leans against the desk, watching Sam and Dean as, one by one, they lift the lids off and put them aside.

Dean goes straight for the first box. There's a stack of paper on top, and he hands it off to the deputy. "Can we get copies of these?"


Dean pulls a plastic bag out of the box. The label says it should contain the knife used to kill Devon James, but it's empty.

"What the hell?" The deputy peers into the box. He pulls out another empty plastic bag. "Oh my god."

"I've got the same." Sam holds his empty bags up as proof. He takes the stack of paper out of the next box and looks inside. "And again."

Dean checks the last box. "Nothing." He glances at the deputy. "The evidence is gone, man. I hope you got photos."

The deputy's eyes are wide and his face is pale. "Yeah. Yeah, they're right here." He grabs the four stacks of paper, gets to his feet and heads for the door. "I'll get these copied for you."

"Did you take samples?" Sam says before he disappears. "Blood, skin."

The deputy turns. "Yeah. They never went to the lab, though. There was no need."

"Send them," Dean says. "Oh, and Deputy? You ever get weird stuff happen around here? Lights flickering, cold spots, strange noises?"

The deputy gives him a puzzled look. "Had to get the wiring looked at the other day. Turned out there was nothing wrong with it."

"Okay, thanks, Deputy. Could I have a minute with my partner?"

"The knife," Sam says, once they're alone. "It's the same one. For all four killings."

"Yep." The knife in Dean's pocket seems so much heavier now. "She's been riding cops out of here with the stuff. How much you wanna bet the rope's back at the house, too?"

Chapter 3

"It's not pretty," the doctor says as she leads them into the morgue. "Hope you haven't had your breakfast yet."

Dean shoots Sam a look and smirks. "Thanks, Doc, but I think we'll cope."

She shrugs, and pulls back a sheet covering the body on the first of two tables. "Devon James, sixteen years old. Multiple incised wounds to the chest and stomach. Weapon was a short retractable blade, no finesse, a hell of a lot of rage. Broken ribs, punctured lung. He drowned in his own blood."

Dean looks at the mess of ruined flesh and he has to swallow back bile. That might have been Sam if he hadn't been there.

The doctor must notice, because she quickly pulls the sheet back up to cover the dead boy. "It's horrific, I know. Are you okay?"

Dean clears his throat. "Yeah. I'm good." His eyes flick to the other table. "What about that one?"

The doctor studies him for a while, then looks at Sam like she's waiting for his permission to continue. When he nods, she slowly draws the sheet down to expose the second boy's throat. "Skye Miller. Also sixteen. You can see where the rope got him." She hovers a hand over his throat. "These scratches, he did that to himself." She pulls the right arm out from beneath the sheet, presses her thumb to the palm of the hand and splays the fingers out."The skin under his fingernails was his own. That's not uncommon, even in suicides. You try to save yourself, but by that time it's generally too late."

"Shouldn't there be bruising?" Sam steps closer and leans in to look at the dead boy's hand. "If he broke Devon's ribs, the impact alone—"

The doctor nods. "There should be. I can't explain that." She pulls the sheet back up. "I knew these kids. I know their parents. I knew the last two kids and their parents. What the hell is going on here?"

"That's what we're trying to find out. The last two kids..." Sam looks down at his notebook, a few lines scrawled down as he read the paper in the diner. "Bridget Sibley and Jake Hyde? What can you tell us about them?"

The doctor shrugs. "Exactly the same as these two. Same injuries, same everything."

"It was a Romeo and Juliet thing, wasn't it?" Dean asks.

The doctor nods as she moves to a cabinet and pulls out a file. Sam takes it from her and starts to flick through it. "Yeah. Definitely a wrong side of the tracks kind of deal. Bridget's father was on the council at the time, pillar of the town and all that. Jake's family, not so much. Sibley threatened to shoot Jake if he so much as looked at his precious daughter. The kids apparently stopped seeing each other, and the whole thing blew over. Then, months later...just like this."

"Did the cops ever look at Sibley for Jake's murder?"

"Briefly. The theory was that Dad discovered them together and killed Jake in a fit of anger, then Bridget killed herself in grief. But it didn't make any sense. There was no evidence that Sibley had ever been to that house. Everything pointed to Bridget doing it. It could only have been her. No one else was there."

"Jake had broken ribs, too," Sam says. "You think Bridget did that?"

The doctor shrugs. "We had to put it down to adrenaline."

"Was he beating on her?" Dean asks. "Were there bruises, anything?"

"Nothing. They'd recently had sex, but there was no indication that it was anything but consensual. It doesn't make sense, right? I've been obsessing over this case for three years, and then it happens again."

Dean stands over a counter along one wall, the file on Devon and Skye open in front of him. He keeps his eyes on the pages and his voice carefully even. "These two, they were a couple as well?"

The doctor goes silent, and the air in the room thickens.

"The police don't want to know, do they?" Sam says.

She shakes her head. "It's in there." She reaches over, slides a couple of pages away and taps the edge of one of the remaining sheets of paper. "The sheriff is refusing to put it in his official report."

Dean slides the page out and scans the text. "Recent sexual activity. No prior injuries or signs of abuse. So no one knew?"

"God, no. The sheriff asked me to keep it quiet. Up until now, the sheriff and I were the only ones who knew Devon and Skye were sleeping together. Their parents had no idea they even knew each other, and their classmates swear up and down they never spoke."

"Were the other four kids screwing, too?" Dean frowns, because that didn't come out right. "You know, separately."

The doctor pulls another two files. Dean takes one and passes Sam the other.

"Hogan Kelley and Ben Soren," Sam reads. "Healed breaks, prior bruising, old injuries."

"They were on the football team. Nothing surprising there. No one questioned Ben's ability to break a few ribs, either. What didn't make it into the official police report was the drug use."

Dean lifts his eyes from his own file. "Drugs? So they weren't screwing?"

Sam's eyes move down the page. "Performance-enhancing drug use. Huh. Did they test the rest of the team?"

"It was before my time, but I scoured the records. Nothing. The sheriff won't talk to me about it. I think that got hushed up real quick."

Dean lifts his eyebrows. "For a small town, this place sure can keep its secrets."

"Right?" She drops her voice. "You know, I wondered if this wasn't some kind of conspiracy. Someone covering up stuff that might make this place out to be a little less perfect?"

"I like you." Dean sobers when he looks back down at the file in his hands and absorbs the information. "The first two were brothers. Hayden and Alex Graeme. What were they hiding?"

"That one lines up perfectly with the official report. It's like the guy before me sat down with the sheriff and they wrote them at the same time or something."

"What happened back at the morgue, Dean?"

Dean tucks his suit into the trunk of the Impala, then drops to tie his bootlaces. "Our Romeo and Juliet theory went flying out the window?"

"You saw that kid's body, and it got to you. We've seen way worse things. Why that kid?"

Dean scowls. There's something blocking his throat that he can't swallow down, and his voice is thick when he speaks. "That could have been you. Torn up, choking on your own blood. It hurt to think about."

Sam gives him a tight-lipped smile. "I know." He shrugs on a shirt and buttons it up over the bandages. "But I'm okay, Dean. You were there."

Dean tries to clear his throat, but the obstruction won't move. "She tried to bring you back here. So, yeah, I was a little freaked out. Still am." He takes a deep breath, lets it out slow. "I'm putting the knife back, Sam. I think you should stay in the car."

Sam's eyes go wide, and he grabs Dean by the arm. "No."

"I'm not gonna watch you get cut up again."

"What if you get cut, Dean? What if she gets you, and I'm not there to stop her?"

"I'm not going inside. I'm tossing that knife in the door, then I'm gonna burn the place to the ground."

Sam lifts his eyes to the filthy attic window. It's impossible to see what's up there. "What if the rope isn't here? We could burn it down and not stop her. Part of her could survive. She could keep killing."

"We go in there, Sam, it'll happen all over again."

Sam reaches into the trunk, pulls out two shotguns, hands one off to Dean. "We've got to risk it. We know what's coming this time. We can do this."

Dean blinks hard, coughs. Then he clears his throat, blinks again to dry his eyes. He looks down at the gun in his hand, opens the break-action to check the shells. He inhales, lets it out slow, closes the break with a loud, satisfying click. "Fine," he says. "Let's do this."

They climb the rotting steps onto the porch and enter the house. Dean walks ahead, shielding Sam with his body as they make their way upstairs. They head up to the attic, and Dean nudges the door open with the barrel of his gun.

Swinging gently from a beam hangs a thick rope, tied into a noose. There's a stool off to one side, tipped over in the dust. "Okay," Dean says. "It's here." He pulls the knife from his pocket, still in its fabric covering. Salt rattles inside as he places it on the floor and backs away. "Now can we get the hell out?"

The temperature drops, and Dean shivers. His finger tightens on the trigger as his breath becomes visible. A breeze comes from nowhere, and the door slams shut with a bang that rattles the window.

Sam reaches for the door, but the knob just rattles in his hand. "We're locked in," he hisses, then puts his foot on the frame and shoves his weight into pulling the door open, but it doesn't budge.

The wind gets stronger and the noose starts to swing. Something rattles across the floor and draws Dean's attention.

The knife lies exposed, the fabric blown back, the salt scattered. "Oh, shit."

Sam gasps as something shimmers in the air, then flows right into him. He looks down at the gun in his hand, and carefully places it on the floor.


Sam stares at Dean, shakes his head slowly, and then his eyes flick away.

"Annabel?" Dean raises his gun, points it at Sam. "Get the hell out of my brother."

Sam shakes his head again. "You've got it wrong, Dean. Annabel was never here."

Dean's heart beats like it's trying to climb up out of his chest. "I can't lose him," he chokes, finger tightening on the trigger. "I can't lose my brother."

The expression on Sam's face softens in a way that Sam's never would. "You won't. He's safe with me." He steps away from the door. "It's me," he says, but he's not speaking to Dean anymore. His eyes dart around the room as if he's looking for something that isn't there. "Alex, it's me."

Dean's mind works fast, filtering all the information they have on the case so far. Alex was one of the first two kids to die in the house, one of the brothers. "Hayden?" he asks, hedging his bets that the ghost possessing Sam is Hayden Graeme, the older boy. "Your brother killed you. He's been killing you over and over again, and now he's going to kill my brother."

Sam gives him a look of confusion and disbelief, and it's not an expression Dean's ever seen there before. "No," he says. "You don't understand."

It couldn't happen without the knife, but they just brought the damn thing back into the house. Dean turns, already reaching for it, but it's gone. The fabric wrapping lies empty on the floor.

The air shifts, and Alex appears in front of him, perfectly still, not quite solid. He's all pale skin and dark wounds, the bruises around his throat and the self-inflicted scratches standing out in contrast. He's bloody to the elbow, hands slick and shiny red, and he grips the knife tight in one fist.

He turns and rushes at Sam.

Dean screams.

Sam hits the floor hard, and it's yesterday all over again. It was a mistake to come here. If the ghost took Sam for the brother he killed then, with Hayden inside him he's in more danger. Dean swings the gun around, finger tightening on the trigger.

"Stop," Sam cries, hands held out in front of him, palms forward as if he can physically hold the ghost back. "Stop, Alex. It's me."

The knife comes down, and Sam's body jerks. His head falls back onto the floor, and his back arches off the boards as he growls and thrashes.

"Come on, Sammy, kick him out." Dean pulls the trigger, but Alex's head jerks around when he speaks, and he winks away, fritzing like an old TV. The shot misses, and Dean swears, swings the gun as his eyes search the attic.

Sam grunts, one foot bangs against the floor, then he goes still. Dean glances at him from the corner of one eye. "That you, Sam?"

"Sorry, no." Sam sits up, rises to his feet. "Alex," he says, staring at something Dean can't see. "It's me. I need you to see me."

"You're going to get him killed." Dean trains the gun on Sam. "Let go of my brother, or I swear to god—"

Sam's eyes flick to Dean. "You won't hurt him."

Dean sneers. "It's salt. He'll be fine. You on the other hand, are getting evicted."

The corner of Sam's lips twitch up. "He's already hurt. You won't risk it." He turns away, stares at something only he can see. "Alex, please. For once I need you to see me."

A shiver goes up Dean's spine, and something sizzles in the air. Alex appears, transparent, flashing in and out of visibility. "Dead," he spits. "He's dead. Won't touch you again. Keep your dirty little secret. Blood on the floor, blood on my hands, blood on his hands. Hayden's dead, he's gone, he'll never touch you again."

"Yeah," Sam says. "I'm dead. But I'm here, inside this man." He glances at Dean. "That's his brother. I needed you to see me, Alex, to know I'm here. I've always been with you, you just couldn't see."

The air shifts, and Alex zigzags across the room toward Sam, comes to a stop only inches away. The knife, still in his palm, rests on his thigh. He tips his head to the side, looks up into Sam's face. "Cut into ribbons. Blood on his lips." He lets out a sob, then throws his head back and screams.

The sound rips right into Dean's spine, and he shudders. "He's batshit, man, give it up." He trains the gun on Alex. "I get it, I do. He's your brother, but he killed you, and he's killed six innocent people, and now he's just nuts."

Sam's head jerks around, eyes focusing on Dean. "He thought he was alone. I can help him, I'm the only one who can."

"By reminding him of what he did to you? You're making it worse."

Sam shakes his head, drags his eyes back to Alex. "Put the knife down, Alex."

Alex shakes his head, very slow. "You're dead. So much blood. Gone forever."

"You're confused. I understand. You couldn't watch that and be okay, but I'm here, see? Please put the knife down."

Alex lifts the knife, stares at it, then uses it to point to Dean and Sam in turn. "Secrets are bad. Don't keep secrets. Someone finds out and bad things happen."

"They're not like us," Sam says.

Alex turns back to Sam, a manic grin on his face. "You're not looking hard enough."

Sam frowns, glances at Dean, then shakes his head. "I don't want you to kill them. You won't be able to see me if you kill them."

Alex stops fritzing. He looks down at the knife, then he slowly opens his hand. It falls to the floor.

Sam breathes a sigh of relief. A small piece of Dean relaxes, and he loosens his finger on the trigger. Alex seems to sense it, and turns his head to stare down the barrel of the gun.

Then he rushes Dean, too fast for the shot as it sprays rock salt all over the wall.

Alex hits Dean like a wrecking ball, punching all the breath out of him, knocking the gun out of his hand. He stumbles back, dizzy, skin pulsing like it's not big enough, like it's tightening around him. His head throbs as if his brain is swelling and maybe he's dying, maybe it's an aneurysm and any second now he'll start bleeding out his ears.

When it settles, when his skin feels close to normal, when his head stops hurting, there's a soft buzz inside him, like tiny electric shocks and a hum in his ears. He tries to turn, to scan the room, to see where Alex went, but he can't move. "What the—" No sound comes out of his mouth. His lips won't budge.

When he does move, whatever signals are going from his brain to his limbs as he walks across the room aren't coming from him.

"You shouldn't have done that," Sam says. There's a look of worry on his face, a tightening around his eyes.

"You did it," comes out of Dean's mouth, in Dean's voice, but the inflection is all wrong.

The last time these brothers had a pulse, Alex killed Hayden bloody, then hung himself. Watching Sam get cut to pieces would be bad enough. If he does it himself, Dean's going to want to die, which he probably will, if Alex and Hayden are doomed to repeat themselves.

"He's afraid," Alex says, tipping Dean's head to the side, as though he's listening for something. A scene plays through Dean's mind, a memory, but not his own. As Alex's thoughts bleed through, Dean sees a young man on the floor, torso a mess of blood and torn flesh, eyes wide open and staring at nothing. Alex's hands are on him, red to the elbow, and he screams and screams and screams.

Dean twitches, electric shocks bursting under his skin, then his body settles. His head drops down, rolls from side to side. "I can't stay here," Alex moans. "This body is too heavy."

"It takes practice," Sam says, and he puts his hand beneath Dean's chin, pulls his head up and looks down into Dean's eyes. "I love you." Then he leans forward, and his lips touch Dean's. 

Shock makes Dean shrink back inside himself, a spectator in his own body as Alex wraps his arms around Sam's neck and presses close. The kiss starts soft and sweet, but soon turns to heat, to wet, open mouthed kisses, desperate like it's the last kiss either of them will ever have. Soft whines come from deep in Dean's chest, sounds he's sure he's never made before, didn't know his vocal chords were capable of.

Sam pushes him away. "Let him go," he says. "They don't deserve to hurt like we do."

Alex tips Dean's head to the side, and Dean finds himself looking up into Sam's eyes. "No," Alex says. "No, they don't. I can make it stop." He looks up at the noose hanging from the beam above.

"Alex, no." Hayden reaches out to stop him, but Alex's eyes snap around and Hayden goes flying back against the wall.

Dean's lungs tighten in his chest as Alex rights the stool and drags it beneath. He climbs up, grabs the rope, pulls it down around Dean's neck, then kicks the stool away.

In the split second before he falls, Alex leaves Dean's body. Dean tries to scream for Sam, but the rope jerks tight around his throat, cutting off his air and his words. He grabs for the beam, but his fingers slip, and all he can do is rasp and gurgle and kick.

"Alex, please." Hayden grabs Dean around the knees and heaves him up. The rope slackens off, but the noose around Dean's neck gets tighter, cuts off his air, strangles him. Pressure increases in his face. His skin feels too tight, like it's going to split apart. His lungs burn, starved of oxygen, and he starts to panic.

Slumped over Sam's shoulder, he claws at his own throat, at the rope, but it won't budge. His nails leave behind stinging lines over straining tendons, the place where his skin will peel back when it splits to expose the muscle.

The walls start to blur, the room starts to tilt, and he makes a choking sound as his eyelids grow heavy.

"No, Alex," Hayden begs. "We need them. You can see me. I can touch you again."

Long moments pass, and Dean's done for, his vision swimming toward darkness. Then the pressure eases, and the rope loosens, unravels. Dean starts to fall, collapses to the floor wrapped up in Sam's arms. He sucks in air, loud, rough gasps that rattle his lungs. The rope falls on top of him in heavy coils.

Dean passes out.

Chapter 4

Sam's hand is warm and damp on Dean's face. "Wake up," Sam says, as he pats Dean's cheek just a little harder than necessary. "Don't you dare be brain damaged, Dean, I swear to god."

Dean moans, slaps at Sam's wrist. "Get off me," he rasps, and opens his eyes. Sam's face is streaked with drying tears, and his eyes are red and swollen. "You look like shit."

Sam's fingers move over Dean's throat, stinging the scratches and the rope burn. His palm comes to rest, hot and clammy, against Dean's chest. "You too," he says, voice thick, like he's speaking through his nose. "God, Dean. I thought I was going to watch you die. Again."

Dean groans when he moves, as new, tender bruises flare into heat. "Hey, Sammy." His blurry vision clears to reveal the worry on Sam's face, the concerned twist of his mouth.

With his eyes on Sam's lips, flashes of their warmth, their softness, bombard Dean's mind until it's almost impossible to think of anything else. "Oh my god." He presses the tips of his fingers against his own lips. There's too much to process, the stark memory of knowing he was going to die, and all that happened before that. He looks up, and registering the confusion in Sam's eyes, he quickly wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "Did you... Did you kiss me?"

Sam flushes pink. "Hayden kissed Alex. You know what this means?"

"That we can never talk about this, ever?"

"No, Dean. We got it wrong. We burnt the wrong bones. It was never Annabel. Alex Graeme killed his brother, then himself. And he's been doing the same thing to the other kids that died here."

Dean's lips feel full and warm and slightly bruised, and that shouldn't be the most significant feeling right now, considering the ring of pain around his throat. He licks them, but it doesn't help. "Right. Yeah, we messed up." He pushes himself to his feet and turns to look around the attic. The rope lies in a coil on the floor. "They were brothers," he says.

Sam clears his throat. "Devon and Skye, Bridget and Jake. They all fit with Annabel. But Hayden and Alex were brothers. And they were together. Like, together, together. That's why they died. That's why Alex is still killing. He must see something of him and his brother in the other people he killed. In us."

Bile rises up in Dean's throat. "Sam. We're not—"

"Didn't you listen to anything Alex said?"

"Blood was a recurring theme."

"Secrets, Dean. He kept going on about a secret. We've got a pretty big secret, and he must be able to pick up on that."

Dean screws his face up in confusion. "Hunting? We're not ashamed of being hunters."

"No, but we hide it. We're so used to lying about who we are that it's natural, it's a part of us. To a ghost who might blame the secret they kept for what happened to him and his brother, it probably shines like a beacon."

Dean snorts. "For what 'happened'? He happened. He did the nasty with his brother, went nuts, and offed him. That's pretty messed up, even for someone who would do his own brother."

"He's lost. Maybe he's trying to make up for his sins, looking for some kind of redemption. He sees other people keeping secrets, picks up on it like we pick up EMF, and he sees it as his place to stop it."

Dean whines. "This was supposed to be an easy job. And now there's ghost possession and incest and we both almost died and— Holy shit, Sammy. You kissed me. With tongue."

"I thought we weren't going to talk about that?"

Dean looks away, because there might be something in his eyes he doesn't want Sam to see. "We're not. Lets get out of here, before it happens again. Jesus."

When they get back to the motel, Sam pushes Dean down to sit on the edge of his bed. "Get your shirt off," Sam says, as he heads for the bathroom.

Dean does as he's told. He's all but silent, distracted by his own thoughts. That kiss, Sam's mouth on his, and while feeling Alex's emotions. He can't pin down any one as dominant. There was joy, and desire, and fear, and shame, and then an overwhelming need to end it.

But Alex let him go. He was intent on killing Dean, then he just let him go, and Dean can't think too much about why. Facing his own feelings about what the brothers want with them isn't something he's ready for. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Dean lifts his chin, lets Sam clean the scratches on his throat, the rope burn that is one big, painful graze circling his neck. Sam's hand on his shoulder, holding him steady, is a hot, tingling pressure. The fingers and thumb pressing into the flesh make Dean's heart beat harder, faster, and he struggles to catch his breath.

He keeps his eyes carefully downcast. There's blood on the front of Sam's shirt. "He cut you again?"

"I'm fine," Sam whispers. He tosses the washcloth in his hand toward the bathroom, then pulls away.

Dean follows. "Show me, Sammy." He grabs at Sam's shoulder, turns him around and goes for his buttons.

Sam knocks Dean's hands away. He sighs, rolls his eyes up to the ceiling, then unbuttons his shirt. He pulls the fabric away, and there are no new wounds, but there's a bruise blossoming across his collarbone that wasn't there before.

The cuts from yesterday are oozing blood, but crusting over. The bruises surrounding them are dark and painful looking. Still, a wave of relief washes over Dean, because it could have been so much worse.

"Jesus, Sammy," Dean breathes. "We never should have gone back in that house. The knife and the rope are still in there. When are you going to explain to me why you wouldn't let me burn it down?"

Sam buttons his shirt closed. "I dunno. Something doesn't add up. There's got to be something else going on. Couldn't you feel it? How they felt about each other?"

Dean squirms and backs off. "Yeah, Sam. I felt it."

"You can't help who you love," Sam says. "Whether that's another guy or your own brother. I don't doubt that they had it hard. You don't go into that kind of relationship because it's the easy way. If they'd lived, for as long as they were together like that, it would have been painful. They could have left town together and still lived in constant fear that someone would find out. The only reason you subject yourself to something like that is because you can't not."

There's a long moment of silence. Neither of them speak or even move, and the air is thick and heavy.

Then, with a lump in his throat, Dean speaks. "I kind of get what he did. Killing himself, I mean." He struggles to get the words out, every single one like wading through thick mud. "He killed his brother, Sammy. How he felt about Hayden, what he felt when he was gone? If I couldn't make a deal or find an angel to bring you back? I might go crazy, too." He drops his eyes away from Sam's intense, searching gaze. "I'd rather eat a bullet than go on without you."


"Shut up, Sammy. I'm trying to be honest here. I get it, is all. He's nuts, sure, but I understand why he did it. Don't die again and it won't be a problem."

Dean goes on a beer run as Sam is firing up the laptop, comes back with a six-pack and a few bags of chips. He hands a bottle to Sam and stretches out on his bed with his own. "What've you got?"

Sam runs a hand through his hair and leans back in his chair. "We've been looking at it all wrong. We pinned it on the wrong ghost, so we overlooked stuff." He turns the computer around so Dean can see the screen. "Alex Graeme, our vengeful spirit."

There's a yearbook photo of a teenage boy on the screen, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. He looks like a normal kid. "Jesus," Dean says. "What the hell happened?"

Sam lifts an eyebrow. "He killed his brother. We just gotta figure out why."

"Guilt?" Dean offers. "Shame? Fear? All of the above? This town ain't exactly progressive, and Alex made it sound like someone discovered their secret. Maybe they planned it. Decided to quit, rather than face the consequences."

Sam pulls a face and shakes his head. "There are easier ways, you know. I can't believe Hayden would have let it look like Alex killed him, if it really was some kind of suicide pact. If they were together on it, they'd both have hanged themselves."

"Unless they were trying to hide the fact that they planned it. Make it look like sibling rivalry gone insane." Dean finishes his beer, frowns down the neck of the bottle. "Save Mom and Dad the scandal?"

Sam pulls the laptop back toward himself, and taps a few keys. "The parents still live here in town," he says. "Jim and Hope Graeme." He looks up over the top of the screen. "We should go see them."

Sam and Dean stand on the porch of the house belonging to Jim and Hope Graeme. It's small, but tidy, just like the woman who opens the door. Her brown hair is streaked with gray and her eyes are timid. "Yes?" she says as she wipes damp hands on a faded apron. "Can I help you?"

Sam gives her a tight smile as he flashes his fake badge. "We'd like to talk to you and your husband about your sons."

Her eyes go wide, and all the color drains out of her face.

A man's voice comes from down the hall. "Who is it, Hope?"

Hope Graeme twists her hands in her apron. Her voice is shaking when she calls out. "It's the FBI, Jim. They want to talk about the boys."

A grunt echoes from inside the house. Hope tries to smile, but her face is tight and stressed. She steps aside and waves them into the hall, then closes the door behind them.

The sound of the TV hits them before they enter the room. There's a man in an armchair watching a football game, a beer bottle sweating on the table at his elbow. His eyes are cold and hard as he watches Sam and Dean walk in. "You're late," he says. "My boys died ten years ago."

"We're investigating the recent deaths at the Rook house,” Sam says. “That involves going back through the previous incidents, starting with Hayden and Alex. Is there anything you can remember that might help us, perhaps something you didn't tell the police?"

Jim Graeme presses a button on the TV remote, and the screen goes black. "Incidents? One of my kids murders his brother and kills himself, and that's an incident?" He grabs his beer, drains it, hands the empty bottle off to his wife without sparing her a glance. "Alex was a smart kid, had it too easy. Hayden gave him a hard time for it and Alex got fed up and snapped. Must have figured he'd never get away with it, he was smart enough to know that much. He quit."

Hope bites her lip, twists her hands around the empty bottle. Her expression is tight and strained. She shakes her head, a tiny movement from side to side, and Dean only notices because he's staring right at her. "Is there anything you'd like to add, ma'am? Even if it seems like nothing."

Hope opens her mouth, but before she can speak, Jim interrupts her. "Get me another beer, will you, Hope?"

She snaps her jaw shut and scurries from the room like a frightened mouse.

Jim watches her go, then turns back to Sam and Dean. "Seems like they started a trend, huh? My boys? All those kids over all those years, copying them like that? You guys are the experts, what do you think that means?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out, sir," Sam says. "So we can stop it from happening again."

"If Bill Rook would stop being such a goddamn woman about that house it could stop right now."

Hope comes back into the room, puts the beer down on the table, and settles herself on the arm of the couch. There's a benign smile on her face, but she looks stiff and uncomfortable. It's as if she's at attention, and waiting for Jim's next instruction.

Sam's focus shifts away from Hope and back to Jim. "Had your sons ever been in the house before?"

"All the kids did. People think it's haunted. The place is rotting, but it's full of rats, not ghosts." He grins, and there's a mean glint in his eyes. "Back then they'd dare each other to spend the night. Hayden, we couldn't control that kid, he had no respect for authority. Drinking, drugs, trouble with the cops. He went there with those friends of his. Alex, though? All he cared about was school." Jim shakes his head. "Hayden tricked him into going there that day, I'd bet you anything. Probably planned to do something to him, and Alex had to defend himself."

Dean's eyes flick over to Hope. There's a conflicted look on her face, like she wants to speak but can't. Like she's too afraid.

"All right," Dean says, and steps toward the door. "Thank you for your help."

Sam looks at him, a crease of confusion between his brows. Dean lifts his eyebrows and jerks his head at the door. "Yes," Sam says. "Thank you. If we need anything else we'll be in touch."

"I'll see you out," Hope says as the TV turns back on.

Dean turns when he steps out onto the porch. He pitches his voice low. "Hope? Is there something you want to say? Something you need to tell us?"

Her eyes widen, and her lower lip quivers. She shakes her head. "I can't," she whispers, and quickly looks behind her.

"Okay," Dean says, and slides her a card. "If you remember, give us a call."

The door shuts behind them. "What the hell was that, Dean?" Sam says, as they step off the porch. "He was talking."

"He was lying," Dean says. "Everything that came out of his mouth was bull. Mom's the one we need to talk to." His eyes slide along the side of Jim's truck, 'Graeme Construction' painted on the door. The deck is stacked high with lumber. It's tied down with thick rope, and it's remarkably like the one that was wrapped around his neck the night before. "It's getting her alone that'll be the problem, and I really didn't want to be stuck in this town past the weekend." He nods at the rope. "That look the same to you?"

Sam's eyes flick to Dean's throat, but the marks are hidden by his collar. "Maybe. It's still a bit of a blur."

Chapter 5

Dean rips into the bag of food they picked up on the way back to the motel. "So we got a dad who drinks before midday, and a mom who's scared of her own shadow. Not to mention a town deep in denial and a sheriff who covers up anything that might offend the delicate sensibilities of the locals."

"You think he had something to do with this?" Sam says.

Dean shrugs. "Someone knew they were knocking boots." He bites into his burger, and lets out a long, low moan of happiness. "Maybe the doc was right. Nothing sparks a scandal like incest." He puts the burger down on the table and wipes grease from his mouth with the back of his hand. "Hey, Sammy? Do we know Alex killed his brother? Do we really?"

Sam lets out a huff of laughter. "Maybe that's something we should have asked him."

"I was a little busy being scarred for life and trying not to die that day. I'm not going back, so we gotta figure it out ourselves."

"Alex killed the rest of them, though." Sam stabs at one of the tiny tomatoes in his salad with a fork, and pops it into his mouth. "We're on the same page?"

"Yup," Dean says. "All that other stuff? Romeo and Juliet, the football team on steroids, the gay kids? I have no doubt a town even this bigoted would weather that if they couldn't cover it up. But brothers in love? That's the kind of thing that sticks around for a long time. The kind of thing someone might kill to keep quiet."

Sam stares at the computer, his face a constant shift between focus and frustration. It becomes mesmerizing after a couple of hours and several beers. Dean lies on his bed, hands linked beneath his head, somewhere in the place between waking and sleep, and he stares at Sam.

When he pulls himself up into a sitting position without consciously telling his body to do so, he doesn't think much of it. He tries to say: "How're you doing, Sammy?" but nothing comes out.

That's when he starts to panic. "I won't hurt him," he hears himself say, as if that's supposed to be reassuring. Then, a little louder: "Hayden."

Sam looks up. "What about Hayden?"

"I'm waiting for him," Alex says.

Dean pushes at the edge of his own consciousness as his screams echo inside his mind. His eyes are on his hands as Alex turns them over, then balls them into fists. "Stop fighting me," Alex says.

Sam lurches to his feet, and his chair falls back onto the floor. "Dean?"

Alex looks up at Sam from beneath Dean's eyelashes. He shakes his head, slowly. "He's here. Inside." Dean's eyes flick around the room, searching.

"Alex?" Sam shoves past the table, crosses the room to grab Dean by the shoulders. "Let him go. How are you even here?" His eyes flick to their gear, to Dean's pack on the floor beside the bed. "Did Dean bring something? Did he bring that knife back?" Sam shakes his head. "No. He's not that stupid."

"Himself," Alex says. "And you, Sam. Hayden will come."

Dean's head hurts, as if he's got muscles in there working too hard. He wants to close his eyes, but can't. He can't block out the constant shifting of his gaze around the motel room or the sparks that set his nerves on fire. Finally, Alex stops searching, and focuses on a point in the corner. "I knew you'd come."

Hayden doesn't flicker like Alex does. When Alex glitches inside him, it sends shocks through Dean's body, up his spine, into his brain. Hayden looks almost real but for the faint transparency and the ghostly evidence of his wounds. "It's not fair," Hayden says. "Let him go, Alex."

Dean's head shakes. "I wanted to see you. You said I could see you. I still can't see you without him. I see them, though. I hear them, and they're like us."

Hayden glances at Sam. "No. They're not."

Shocks spark through Dean's body, and if they didn't make his brain fuse he might be able to take back control of his own body while Alex is glitching, but he can't. "They are," Alex says, and the way he uses Dean's voice is manic and strained. Dean's fingers twist into the blankets as his body jerks, the ghost inside him flickering. "I can feel it."

"You're wrong," Sam says, eyes flicking from Dean to the ghost in the corner and back again. "We're just brothers, we're not like you at all."

"You tell him, Sam," Dean tries to say, but something else comes out instead. "I'd eat a bullet, Sammy. If I couldn't bring you back? I'd want to die."

Sam shakes his head. "No," he says, and his voice is full of sorrow and pain. "It's not him saying that."

"It's what he feels," Alex cries, tearing at the blankets as he pulls Dean up onto his knees. He crawls to the edge of the bed, swings Dean's legs over the edge. He spreads his thighs and twists a hand into the front of Sam's shirt to pull himself up.

Sam stumbles back, and Dean goes with him, head tipped up, lips grazing Sam's as they part in shock. "Let him in," Alex says. "Tell Hayden you'll let him in. Please, Sammy."

Sam's face falls, lip quivering as Alex uses Dean's voice to plead with him. He looks back over his shoulder at Hayden.

When Hayden steps into Sam's body, shock and panic and disbelief twists Dean up into a space where it almost feels like a dream. It can't be real, but when Sam's lips come down on his mouth, a jolt shoots up his spine, different from Alex's struggle to hold on. Alex has Dean's eyes shut tight up until that moment, then they fly open and Dean drinks in the sight of Sam's face up close, a desperate, hungry look in every curve and crease.

A whimper comes from Dean's throat, and his hands slide over the front of Sam's shirt, muscle shifting beneath the fabric. Alex's excitement and desire bleeds through, heats Dean's blood until his pulse is racing, and his heart beats so hard it might burst.

Sam gasps in pain and pulls away. Alex stares through Dean's eyes as Sam pulls up his shirt, fingers moving over the bandages that cover the wounds and stitches.

Alex reaches out, one fingertip tracing the edge of a bandage where bruises spread outward from beneath. "I did that," he says, meeting Sam's eyes. "I did that to you."

"You did it to Sam," Hayden says, Sam's lips moving in unfamiliar ways as he speaks. "And you did this to Dean." Sam's fingers tug at the collar of Dean's shirt. He pulls it open to expose the scratched and grazed skin. "You tried to kill them, like you killed all those kids."

"I'm sorry." Alex buckles, arms folded over his stomach as he moans. "It hurts. I watched you die. I couldn't stop it."

Dean wants to get his hands on Alex, wants to shake him. "Who killed your brother?" he demands. "Was it you, you little punk?" No sound comes out of his mouth, but he gets an answer in the series of shocks beneath his skin as Alex clings tight to Sam and whimpers.

"Just let me have this," Alex says, and he falls to his knees.

Sam's eyes go wide and his mouth drops open. His hands fall to Dean's shoulders, and he pushes away.

Then he stills. His eyes move, focusing on nothing, as if there's some kind of conversation going on inside his head.

Alex presses Dean's cheek against the front of Sam's jeans. Sam's cock is thickening, twitching, and Alex moans. He presses Dean's mouth to it through the fabric, breathes it in.

The warmth and the smell of Sam, primal and very male, is overwhelming. The want he feels has to be coming from Alex, but Dean feels like he might die if he doesn't get more.

Sam's fingers twist into Dean's shirt and pull him up, and Dean is torn between relief and desperate disappointment. It doesn't last long, however, because then Sam's pushing him back, down onto the bed, crawling up over him, one knee spreading Dean's thighs. "Does he want it?" he hisses into Dean's ear.

"Yes," is the hurried gasp that comes out of Dean's mouth. He wants to argue, wants to tell Hayden that it doesn't matter what he wants because Sam is going to be horrified when this is all over and he's never going to look at Dean the same way again.

Then Sam's thigh presses between Dean's legs and Alex does exactly what Dean wants him to do. He arches up against it, groaning and gasping.

This could be so much worse, and so much better, but all Sam does is press him back into the mattress and grind against him. He licks and sucks at Dean's throat, kisses and bites at his lips. A deep, guttural moan rumbles out of him with each rock of his hips.

The familiar build-up of pressure starts at the base of Dean's spine, but it's mixed with short, sharp shocks that shoot up and out to the tips of his fingers and toes. He ceases to care which part of him is Dean and which is Alex, too consumed by the smell of Sam surrounding him and his desperate need to come.

Sam's lips slide from Dean's throat, and he lifts his head. Eyes wide open, gasping for air, he stares down into Dean's eyes. It's Hayden doing it, but Sam is in there, and he's unable to look away, just like Dean. The connections are more than Dean can fathom, more than he can bear, and the sob that escapes his throat might just be his own as Sam's hips grind against him and he tumbles over the edge.

Dean's spine fuses, and his fingers and toes clench up. There's a sizzling buzz beneath his skin, like he's been struck by lightning. His orgasm peaks, and his cock, trapped inside his jeans, jerks and twitches. He twists his fingers into the back of Sam's shirt, moans as the final spasms make his belly clench up.

"Sam," he says, out loud this time. "Sammy."

He collapses back against the mattress as Sam whimpers above him.

Sam slides off him a moment later, but his eyes are still locked to Dean's. Alex is gone, the focus he needed to lock himself inside Dean's body exhausted.

It's just Dean inside Dean now.

"Oh, god," he says, throwing his arm over his eyes so he doesn't have to see the accusation there.

"I'm still here," Sam says, his voice just wrong enough that Dean knows it's Hayden.

Dean drags his arm away from his eyes. He pulls himself up into a sitting position, grimacing at the warm, wet mess in his jeans. He glares at Hayden. Then he pulls back his arm and lets it fly, catching Sam on the jaw. The blow knocks Sam off the edge of the bed.

Hayden looks up from the floor, holding Sam's jaw. "What was that for?"

"Using Sam like that," Dean growls. "What gives you the right?"

Hayden slowly pulls Sam to his feet. "He wanted me to," he spits.

Dean's heartbeat pounds in his ears. Bile burns his throat and he can't breathe. He opens his mouth, but no words come out. He shakes his head, because he can't believe it, Sam wouldn't— There's no way.

"I'm sorry," Hayden says. Sam's eyes close and he goes still.

In the next moment, his eyes fly open again and he sucks in a huge gasp of air. It's Sam that stares at Dean now, wide eyed, mouth hanging open.

Dean's heart pounds, and adrenaline pumps through his system, but he's frozen solid as he stares back.

Sam moves first. He turns away, and his eyes search the room.


Sam ignores him. He grabs his coat off the back of a chair and makes for the door, though he stops with his hand wrapped around the handle. "I'm sorry," he says, before he slips out.

Across the street from the motel and down a bit, there's a big old church on the corner. The bells wake Dean at nine o'clock, still too early considering he tossed and turned and, once he'd finally accepted that Sam wasn't coming back, drifted off around dawn.

They usually do laundry together. Between jobs, if they can, when there's no hurry to be anywhere or do anything. Lately they don't even bother, hauling their gear back to the bunker because then they get to keep their quarters.

But damned if Dean is going to go the rest of the job with jizz stained boxers stuffed into the bottom of his bag. He had enough of that when he was a teenager. If Sam wants to wander around town all night with come in his jeans, that's his prerogative.

Sam was still Hayden, when he came. Dean was pinned beneath him when it happened, and Alex was already gone. Dean didn't shove Sam off after he regained control of his own body, he held him tighter, even moaned Sam's name. It's no surprise Sam walked away.

Dean eats snacks from the machine outside, and he watches his shirts and jeans and underwear go around in the drier. Sam could be anywhere by now. He didn't take the car, but Sam can take care of himself. After the horror Dean saw in his eyes last night, he wouldn't blame Sam for running as far as he could.

The door to their room is unlatched when he gets back, and he knows he locked it before he left. His heart is in his throat as he reaches for the gun tucked into the back of his jeans and slowly pushes the door open.

Sam's at the table, bits of broken plastic and wires spread out in front of him. Dean breathes a sigh of relief, that Sam's back, that there's not something in here he has to fight, and he steps through the door.

Sam lifts his head when Dean walks in. He looks beat, and a little panicked.

"You're back," Dean says, as he dumps his bag of laundry on the floor. He nods at the table. "I tried fixing it already. The EMF's done, man. Give it up."

Sam's hair is wet, like he's showered, at least. He pushes the broken electronics into a pile in the center of the table. "We should talk."

Dean walks right past Sam and pulls his own bag out from under his bed. "We shouldn't. We were possessed. It wasn't us and there's nothing to talk about." He pulls a bottle of whiskey out, twists off the cap and lifts it, a good swallow of burning liquid warming him almost immediately.

"So you're just going to get drunk?"

"Yes." Dean jumps on his bed, leaning up against the pillows as he pours more alcohol down his throat. "This is exactly the kind of situation getting drunk was invented for."

Sam's eyes stay on him until the bottle is half empty and Dean feels better. Then Sam sighs, pulls back the covers of his bed, and climbs in under them. He probably didn't get any sleep last night.

Dean watches him, notes the moment when the muscles in Sam's back relax and he falls asleep. He keeps watching, until Sam rolls over, then stares at Sam's face, soft and relaxed, until he falls asleep himself.

Dean wakes up with a stiff neck and a taste like old roadkill in his mouth. Sam's at the table again, eating a sandwich out of a plastic box, and he's on the computer. He still looks wrecked.

"Hope called," Sam says, eyes on the screen. "She's willing to meet with us tomorrow. I'm guessing she had to wait until Jim was out of the house."

"Hope," Dean says. "The mom?"

"The mom," Sam confirms.

"You think she knew her kids were keeping it in the family?"

Sam narrows his eyes. "Are you still drunk?"

Dean grins. Yes, he's still drunk, and thank god for that, because wasting half a bottle of whiskey on sleeping it off sucks.

Sam closes the laptop. He looks scared when he crosses the room and sits down on his own bed. "I'm sorry."

"If this is that talking thing that we're not doing, we're not doing it, Sammy."

"We have to. Otherwise things are going to be weird."

"Things are already plenty weird. It'll be weirder if we talk about it, believe me." Dean looks around him, spies the whiskey bottle on the bedside table and reaches for it. "Ghosts lie."

The color drains out of Sam's face, and he looks down at his hands. His mouth works, like he's trying to speak but can't find the words. He takes quick, shallow breaths.

Dean drinks more whiskey. If he can get drunker, then maybe it won't matter what Sam has to say.

"Hayden wasn't lying," Sam says, and his voice is almost a whisper. He keeps his eyes on his hands. He twists them together until his knuckles are white. "I let him in, and nothing he said while he was in control was a lie. I need you to know that, Dean. I just—" His lips curve in a wry smile. "Secrets aren't good."

Dean puts the bottle to his lips, keeps swallowing until Sam reaches out and takes it from him. "No, Sammy. He's messing with your head. Making you feel things that aren't you. We gotta burn that house. Get it done so we can go back to normal."

Sam shakes his head. "It won't work. It's not the knife or the rope or the house anymore. It's us." He turns his head, eyes searching the room. "They're haunting us. They're here, right now. When they possessed us at the house, something took hold, and it's not going to be simple to get rid of them."

Nausea roils in Dean's stomach. "No." He tastes bile, and the alcohol starts to come back up. "No." He swings his legs over the bed, makes it to the bathroom just in time. It burns his throat on the way. When he's done, he stands at the sink and rinses his mouth. Sam's reflected in the mirror as he stands at the open door with concern written all over his face. "No," Dean repeats. "We salt the place down. We do whatever we can to keep them out of us."

"It won't work." Sam comes closer. His arms lift just enough that Dean can see what's coming, and he wants it. But he pushes away when Sam tries to hug him. He shoves against Sam's chest because all it does is give him flashes of the night before. Of Sam, heavy on him, Sam's mouth on his, the desperate need to keep him close, and how he was never close enough. If Dean gives in to this, he'll be one step closer to complete surrender.

"We're gonna get rid of them, Sammy," he says. "Somehow, we're gonna kick those little bastards out."

Sam's hands linger on Dean's upper arms. He squeezes, hard, and he's shaking. "We need to find out who killed Hayden," he says. "I thought if we let them in, maybe they'd talk."

Dean's eyes slide down Sam's body, and with the alcohol still in his bloodstream it doesn't occur to him to stop. "They weren't much interested in talking." He meets Sam's eyes, and his voice goes hard. "Alex gets inside me again, you tell Hayden to stay the fuck away from you, okay?"

Chapter 6

With the curtains open to let the sunlight in, the Graeme's living room is lighter than it was on Saturday. The scent of stale beer is only faintly discernible. It turns Dean's stomach, but taking a day off to eat only candy bars and drink only whiskey will have that effect. His head is pounding, and it's hard to think.

Hope Graeme loved her sons, that much is perfectly clear. They've seen yearbooks and awards, trophies and photographs. Everything comes out of a dusty cardboard box they hauled up from the basement. Dean figures Jim doesn't know this stuff is still in the house.

Everything points to Alex and Hayden being normal brothers, from the black eye Hayden sported at the age of ten when Alex was learning to fight back, to Alex's broken ankle when Hayden dared him to jump off the roof of the garage.

"They fought," Hope says. "All brothers fight, don't they?"

Sam and Dean share a look.

"It's not true what Jim says. My boys loved each other."

Dean studies every nuance of Hope's expression, but there's nothing there that might indicate she knew that how her sons felt about each other far surpassed that of normal siblings.

Something makes him look over at Sam, because in that way, yeah, they are a little like Hayden and Alex. They're not like normal brothers, never have been. His whole life, Dean's focus, his mission, has been Sam. Nothing has ever been more important to him.

As though he can feel Dean's eyes on him, Sam turns his head. At first he looks puzzled, and then, with that same puzzlement still tense in his eyes, he offers Dean a tentative smile.

"Hayden was proud of Alex, how smart he was." Hope reaches into the box again, right down into the bottom. "He had his own computer, you know." She pulls out a boxy laptop, lays it on the coffee table. "I used some of the money my mother left me to buy it for him when he was fourteen. Hayden used his share to put towards a car, but Alex, he had to have this computer."

Sam's fingers twitch as he reaches for it. "Did you find anything on it? Or any journals he kept that might give any indication that there was something between them that led to what happened?"

Hope shakes her head. "Neither of them kept journals. And the computer has a password. It was more than a year before I could bear to look, and I couldn't get it to work anyway."

"Do you mind if we take this? We might be able to get it going. We'll make sure you get it back."

Hope purses her lips, but finally nods. "It's fine. Anything that can stop other parents from having to go through what I went through."

"I need a password," Sam says, tapping his thumb against the edge of the screen. "Any ideas?"

Dean pulls a face at him. "How the hell would I know the password? I thought you knew what you were doing, Sam."

It's hard not to snap, to keep the bitter out of his voice. Dean knows he's closing off, putting up walls. He's not qualified to deal with the feelings he's having, the emotions that flood his body with chemicals whenever he so much as glances at his brother.

Sam seems to understand. Despite Dean's tone, he gives him a small, awkward smile. "I thought maybe... You had Alex in your head. I figure you know him better than I do."

"He's nuts. And a fucking liar."

Sam gives Dean a tight, tolerant smile. His eyes focus on the screen and his fingers tap against the laptop casing.

Dean's chest tightens. Guilt sucks just about as bad as fear. "Try 'Hayden'," he says, because sometimes the first word he thinks when he wakes up in the morning is 'Sam'.

Sam's eyes flick up, questioning.

"Kid was in love with his brother."

Sam types it in, then sighs. "Nope."

"Try it with his birthday."

Sam reaches for the police files. He flicks through until he finds the right page, then taps another series of keys. His eyes go wide and he leans back in the chair. "Bingo."

Dean stands up and drags his chair around to the other side of the table so he can see the screen. Sam clicks an icon on the desktop, a window opens, and a list of files and folders appears. None of the names mean anything to Dean, but Sam opens a file.

The text it reveals seems to be a series of random words and letters and symbols. "What the hell—"

"It's code," Sam explains. "I think he was writing software." He closes the file, opens a folder, and finds more of the same. Every folder he checks holds the same kind of thing.

After a while, Sam sighs and leans back in his chair. "I don't even know what we're looking for."

Dean pulls the computer toward himself. He clicks in the location bar and types 'porn'. Then he hits enter.

Sam lifts an eyebrow.

"Come on, Sammy. He's a teenage boy. And apparently a gigantic nerd. He's gotta have porn on his computer, and where there's porn, there's other stuff he doesn't want people seeing." Dean grins when a folder labeled 'Porn' appears a few seconds later.

He opens it, taking note of the path in the location bar. It's hidden deep, folder within folder within folder. "If he was so smart, you'd think he'd hide it better."

"He probably wasn't counting on someone as familiar as you with hiding porn to be able to get past the password," Sam teases.

Dean grins. Then, before he backtracks to find the folder holding all the things Alex wanted hidden, curiosity makes him click an image file. It takes a few seconds to open, while Sam gapes at him and shoves back in his chair.

Then, filling the screen, is a photograph of two, young, naked men, one on his knees in front of the other.

"Dean," Sam chokes.

The image burns itself into the back of Dean's eyes in the split second before he slaps one hand over the screen and clicks madly with the other. "Go away. Oh my god, please go away."

The window disappears, and Dean's left staring at the folder full of icons. "Whoa," he says.

Sam stares at him, mouth hanging open, eyes wide. "You knew he was into guys, Dean. It didn't occur to you that he might have gay porn on his computer?"

"I didn't think—" Dean stammers. "I don't— I don't know what I was doing." The image is stuck in his brain, the guy on his knees staring up with an expression somewhere between bliss and adoration, lips stretched around the other guy's dick... He shudders.

Sam lifts his eyes to the ceiling and rolls his shoulders. "Just go up a goddamn directory, Dean. This is starting to feel weird."

"Just starting for you?" Dean clicks up, finds the folder named with a random mix of letters and numbers and opens it. "It's been weird since we drove into this town. Aha."

The folder contains only two subdirectories. 'Porn', and another folder, named with a random keysmash of letters. With only a small amount of trepidation, Dean opens it. He groans when all he sees are text files. "More of that code shit? Why's it stuffed way down in here?"

Sam knocks Dean's hand off the mouse and double clicks a file. This time, it's not unintelligible code. It's actual words, the occasional typo that indicates quickly typed notes that may never have been looked at again.

Dean's eyes go to the title bar. "Huh. It's the date." He points at the screen. "He's named them with dates. This one goes back...two years before he died?"

Sam clicks back to the directory window and scans the lists of files. He brings his finger to the screen, drags his fingernail under it. "The last one," he says. "That's a week before he died." He looks at Dean.

"Dude," Dean says. "We found his diary."

Sam lets out a long, slow breath. "There could be something in here, Dean. We've got to read them."

Dean shivers, a cold breeze washing over his skin. Sam's breath turns to mist. Dean turns his head, scanning the room. "Feel that, Sammy?"

Sam nods. "He's not stopping us. We'll know if he really doesn't want us in there."

Cold air swirls around them, and then fades away to nothing. "Dammit. God knows what messed up fantasies he plays out in there."

"I'll take the first shift, see what I can find. I'll go backwards, more likely to be something we can use at the end."

Sam starts reading, and Dean lies down on his bed and rests his eyes. The picture is still burned into the back of his eyelids, and his heart is beating just a little faster than it should be.

"Wake up, Dean."

Dean opens his eyes, and Sam comes into focus. He's a little red in the face, and breathing quick. "My turn?" Dean asks.

Sam nods and heads for the bathroom. "I've marked where I'm up to, just go back from there."

Sam turns the shower on, and with the sound of running water in the background, Dean starts to read.

He gets through three entries filled with teenage angst and school pressure before he realizes Sam is still in the shower. Sam and long showers aren't remarkable, but really long showers? There's only one reason for that.

"What the hell were you reading, Sammy?" Dean mutters. He closes the third file, goes back a few, and opens the last one Sam read before asking Dean to take over.

He's a few sentences in before it becomes clear that this isn't about schoolwork when Alex starts to describe, in lurid detail, the taste of his brothers cock and the way it felt in his mouth.

He should close it. Sam's already read it, Dean doesn't need to skim to the end to see if there's anything important here. But he keeps reading, every filthy detail, the image of the two young men in the photograph lodged firmly in his mind, along with the smell, and the heat, and the feeling of Sam's dick through his jeans as Alex rubbed Dean's face all over it.

When he's done, he can barely breathe. He closes the file when the bathroom door pops open, clouds of steam billowing out as Sam comes through into the room and heads for his own bed.

Dean goes back to what he's supposed to be doing. He reads about their first kiss, Alex's realization that it wasn't just him wanting his brother. Further back, he reads Alex's pining, angst-ridden words, so many of them that he starts to skim. One sticks out, though, forces him to slow down and absorb every word, while Alex writes that he wishes Hayden could be his first, how much he wants to feel Hayden inside him, because he trusts Hayden more than anyone.

Even these few words, nothing as detailed as those that came after, leaves Dean gasping, because he knows how Alex felt. There's no one Dean trusts more than Sam, and if that was something Dean had ever wanted, he might have wished for the same thing.

How would it feel? To be so close like that, to feel Sam's pulse from within, for it to be so intense that he couldn't think.

Sweat beads on Dean's skin, slides down his spine and drips off his upper lip. It cools fast, and he shivers. There's pressure in his chest, his heart is pounding and he can't breathe. It feels like something—someone—trying to force its way in.

"No," he says. "Alex, no." When he tries to speak again, nothing comes out. He screams inside his own head as Alex picks them up off the chair and crosses the room toward the bed where Sam is sleeping. "Hayden," Alex says. "Let me see you. Let me touch you."

Sam shifts and opens his eyes when Alex sits down on the edge of the bed. "Dean?"

"Let him in," Alex says.

Sam's eyes open wide, and he sits bolt upright. "Alex? No." His eyes flick around the room, but they settle on nothing. "I won't," he says. "Hayden, don't you dare, you're not welcome, do you hear me? Dean doesn't want this."

"He does," Alex spits. "Wants it so bad he's about to explode inside." He reaches out, takes Sam's face in his hands and tries to kiss him. "He wants you, that's why I came. This is what he needs."

Sam shoves against him, hard, and Dean's body falls back onto the floor, the breath rushing out of his lungs. Sam is on him in a second, flips him onto his stomach and holds him there. "Let go of my brother," he hisses.

"He knows," Alex whispers. "Dean knows what you were doing in the shower, Sammy. He wants what I had with my brother, wants that with you."

Sam collapses onto Dean's back, a heavy weight holding him down. He breathes, heavy against the back of Dean's neck. "Dean said no," he says, his voice gone rough and desperate.

The tight pressure in Dean's chest and in his head starts to fade. "But he knows," Alex says. "Now you both know."

Then Alex is gone.

Dean's forehead hits the floor. He closes his eyes and tries to breathe past the tightness in his lungs. "It's me, Sam," he says. "Get the hell off."

Sam rolls off, scrambles away to sit with his back against the bed. He wraps his arms around his bent knees and stares at nothing, looking horrified.

Dean pulls himself up onto the edge of the bed. "Sam, he's lying. We can't trust anything he says, okay? We just..." He grasps at anything he can get. "We just pretend it never—"

"Of course." Sam licks his lips. "But Dean, I need you to know—"

"No, Sammy. These ghosts, they're messing with our heads. They're making us feel like this."

Sam throws his head back, laughs, but he's not happy, and it's not funny. "So it'll just go away when this is done?" His posture slumps, and he looks Dean right in the eye. "I don't know if I want it to."

Dean slides down off the bed, hits the floor on his knees. "What the hell are you saying?"

Sam looks up, right into Dean's eyes, his focus so intense it stops Dean in his tracks. He reaches out, wraps his hand around the back of Dean's neck and slowly draws him in.

Dean could pull away, but he doesn't. He's going to regret this in the morning, he's going to regret this when the job is done, when the ghosts are gone, but when Sam's lips brush over Dean's mouth, he doesn't care. He opens his mouth, sighs into a kiss that tastes like the salt of Sam's tears.

Sam pants into Dean's mouth, and he pulls him closer, holds him tighter. Then he lets Dean go. "Sorry," he gasps, as he tries to slide away.

Dean grabs his arm. "It's okay." The taste of Sam lingers on his lips. "Jesus, Sammy."

Sam climbs back into his bed, but he doesn't roll over. His eyes stay on Dean.

"We gotta get this job done," Dean says. "So we can get these goddamn ghosts to move the fuck on, all right?"

"Yeah," Sam whispers, still watching.

Chapter 7

When Dean wakes, Sam is at the table again. Alex's laptop sits in front of him, screen folded down, cords unplugged. Sam's notebook has a few pages flicked back, and as Dean watches, he turns another page over.

"What are you doing?" Dean croaks.

Sam looks up. His brow is creased. "The job, Dean." He looks back down at the notepad. "You didn't take any notes."

It would be easy to make Sam smile. To touch him and make the tension go away. Dean climbs out of bed and pulls on his jeans. "Didn't find anything. The usual teenage angst. Dad's too tough, Mom's too soft, my brother is the only one who understands, and yeah, by the way, I'd really like him to do me."

Sam's lips twitch, like he wants to smile, but it's too hard. "I wouldn't call that the usual."

Dean shrugs, then makes his way across the room in bare feet. "You had better luck?"

"Dad got cruel. To Hayden, not Alex. It began after the brothers started their thing. Mostly verbal abuse, some physical. Jim broke Hayden's arm one time, made him lie about how it happened."

"The knife. It had initials carved into it, right?"

"Yeah." Sam reaches for the police files, the evidence photos, finds the right sheet of paper and slides the file over to Dean. "J.G. Jim Graeme. The cops knew that. Jim claimed that Alex must have taken it to defend himself from Hayden."

"Yeah, 'cause Alex was terrified of Hayden." Dean rolls his eyes. "At the end, were they still..."

"They loved each other," Sam says. "There's no way Alex killed Hayden. Alex would have done anything for him. He was a good kid, Dean. Hayden managed to hold onto a part of his humanity, but something happened in that house that made Alex lose his."

"Sounds to me like he watched his father kill his brother." Dean lifts his head, stares at the ceiling. "So, you think if we can get Jim to come clean, they'll move on?"

Before he can answer, Sam's phone buzzes on the table. He picks it up, swipes at the screen. "Email," he says. "It's from the doc. She's got the test results." He doesn't offer any more information, but his eyes stay locked to the screen as he scrolls with one fingertip.

"Well?" Dean says.

Sam lets out a heavy breath. "There were eight samples. The first, the knife has Hayden's blood on it. The rope has bits of Alex's skin. The second, the knife had Hogan's blood on it, and Hayden's. The rope had both Ben's and Alex's skin on it. And so on. Cumulative evidence. It was the same knife, the same rope, for all four events."

"Romeo and Juliet? They had the previous two kids DNA on the stuff? And the gay kids had the previous three?"

"You got it," Sam says. "It's not a big surprise. We know Hayden had been possessing cops and walking the knife out of the station, and the rope was there, at the house, too."

"And if they tested them now, the knife would have your blood on it, and the rope..." Dean reaches up, brushes his fingers over the rough graze that circles his throat.

"Your DNA, yeah." Sam leans back in his chair and sighs. "But you want to guess who else is in there? Whose DNA is on both of them, in all the tests, from the very first sample?"

Dean frowns. "Jim," he says. "Jim Graeme."

"I haven't passed it on to the sheriff yet." The doctor stands in front of the desk in her office, teeth worrying her lip, fists balled in the pockets of her lab coat.

"Can I ask why?" Sam asks.

"They knew the blade belonged to Jim. It stands to reason his DNA could be on it. I just don't think the sheriff is going to be willing to look at him for this. If there was hard proof, maybe. But I can't see the sheriff dragging Jim in on something he can explain away."

"He admitted to owning it, ten years ago. His prints were on it. But he claimed it disappeared from his truck before his sons died. The cops figured Alex had taken it and kept it on himself for protection. But his fingerprints weren't on it."

The doctor's forehead creases up. "You think Jim killed his boys?" Her eyes widen. "You think he killed all those other kids? Why would he do that?"

Sam and Dean share a conspiratorial look. "We don't know yet," Dean says.

"You know what weirds me out most of all? That they were the same. The blade and the rope. Don't the police have them locked up or something? Surely they didn't just take them back to the house and dump them there."

"We're pretty sure they didn't," Dean says. "Don't worry. We'll get it figured out."

The sheriff opens the file in front of him, eyes skimming down the lines of text. When he's done, he pushes it back into the center of the desk, leans back in his chair, and lets out a long, slow breath. "So what are you thinking?"

There's tension in every muscle of Sam's body when he speaks. "Jim Graeme found out about the relationship between his sons. He blamed Hayden, and killed him. Alex took the rope from his father's truck and hanged himself in the attic out of grief."

The sheriff's face twists into confusion. "Relationship? Those boys didn't get on so good, according to Jim. You think Hayden was beating on the kid?"

Sam shakes his head. "Definitely not. Hayden and Alex Graeme were lovers."

The sheriff's expression morphs into disgust, and his hands grip the arms of his chair, tight, as though he's about to push himself to his feet. "They goddamn well were not."

"Sorry, Sheriff. We have proof that they were." Sam sits up in his chair. His posture is defensive, his body poised on the edge of movement.

The sheriff goes red in the face, and finally shoves himself up to his feet. "Impossible. Wherever you're getting your information, it's wrong. Those boys were... They were..."

"You okay, Sheriff?" Dean says, mildly amused. "You want us to call the doc? Find you your pills?"

The sheriff's eyes lock onto Dean's face, hard and beady. "I won't have you telling Jim and Hope that their boys were queers, you understand me? They don't need to hear disgusting lies like that."

Dean jerks back in disbelief. Then he puts one hand on the desk, and he forces himself to lean forward. "Am I hearing this right? They were brothers, and they were getting it on, but your problem is that they were both dudes? What kind of a hick town is this?"

Sam's arm shoots out to push Dean back into his chair. "Calm down, Agent." He stands up, presses his hands to the desk and leans forward. He towers over Sheriff Hammond. "We've got a job to do, Sheriff, and we'll do it with or without you."

The sheriff glares up at him. "Get out," he says. "Get the hell out of my office."

Dean stands up, brushes himself off. "Sure. Oh, by the way. You might want to think about how the evidence just walked out of your lockup. Not just once, but four times. Kinda looks like an inside job, don't you think? Like someone's encouraging these kids to off themselves. Maybe we need to take a look at that, once we take Graeme in."

He turns to the door, Sam right behind him.

"Would we be bulldozing the house tomorrow if we wanted that?"

Sam turns back. "The mayor caved?"

The sheriff gives him a jerky nod. "It's over, you hear me? And the sooner you two are out of my town, the better."

The sound of sawing, hammers hitting nails, men calling to one another, is familiar, like the memory of a past life. Dean lets it wrap around him like a blanket, something soft and warm and smelling of home. It wasn't really him, because Dean's a hunter, always has been, always will be, but he fit in that life, even if there was always something missing.

Now he's more likely to be carrying a badge—a fake badge, but a badge all the same—than wielding a hammer, smashing in skulls notwithstanding. But he breathes it in, the sawdust, the oil, and he smiles.

"You miss it, huh?" Sam says as they pass Graeme's truck. There's a thick, dusty rope coiled on the lowered tailgate, and the bed is half-full of lumber.

Dean shakes his head. "Nah. I'm a hunter, Sammy. It was safe, is all. Comfortable." He looks up at Sam, but quickly looks away again, because it wasn't hunting that was missing from that life. It was Sam. He stops, backtracks, and fingers the rope on the gate.

Sam comes back to him, hands deep in his pockets. His eyes flick to Dean's throat where the marks hide behind the collar of his shirt.

Gravel crunches under heavy boots. Sam and Dean turn to find Jim Graeme bearing down on them.

"What are you doing here?" Graeme says, his face tight with tension. "I'm working, I don't have time to—"

"Did you tie Alex up so he wouldn't get hurt when you stabbed his brother to death, Jim?" Dean pulls an end of rope, and draws it through his hands. "Did you make him watch?"

Jim's head jerks around, to see if anyone's close enough to hear. When he turns back, there's a mixture of anger and panic on his face. "I don't know what you're talking about. Alex killed Hayden, then himself. Cops closed the case years ago. You got no right to come here with accusations like that."

Sam steps forward, hands still in his pockets, but he's poised, ready. "You caught them together, didn't you? Found out exactly how close they were? For a parent, that's got to be pretty traumatic. I can almost imagine how easy it might be for a man to snap in a situation like that."

Jim's eyes go wide, and he takes a step back. "How did you—?" He shakes his head. "You're crazy. That's disgusting."

"I think the best thing for everyone would be if you went to the sheriff, Mr. Graeme. Tell him the truth. Before it gets out. You know how gossip can spread, and it might turn to speculation. People might think you killed all those other kids, and there's a big difference between a crime of passion and serial premeditated murder in the eyes of the law."

The color drains out of Jim's face. "Are you threatening me?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I think we are."

Jim starts to back away. "Get the hell off my site or I'll have you dragged off."

"We're leaving," Sam says. "We've got all we need."

They head back out onto the road, and in the background they hear Graeme shouting at his men. "You think he'll do it?" Dean asks. "You think he'll confess?"

"I don't know. If he does, I don't know if it'll do any good, if it'll help Hayden and Alex move on. They might be past saving."

"I won't accept that we're stuck with them, Sammy." Dean stares at him over the roof of the Impala. "I'll do anything to get rid of them." He opens the door and slides into the driver's seat.

He waits until Sam's in the passenger seat, waits until the doors are closed and it's just them, isolated from the outside world. "Hey, Sammy?" he says. "I think I've got an idea."

Chapter 8

"You've lost your mind," Sam says.

Dean laughs. "Yeah, I know. But if they go for it, we're done here. With that house coming down, the job's over. We can leave and start repressing."

Sam sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on his knees, hands in his hair. He lifts his head, looks up into Dean's eyes. "Have you got any idea what you're signing up for? You don't know how far it'll go."

"It doesn't matter." Dean has to turn away. He can't face the scrutiny right now, the accusation in Sam's eyes. "It won't be us."

Sam goes very still. "That's it, isn't it? You're not responsible. It's them, not us, so we don't have to feel bad about it. Do you want this, Dean?" He gets up off the bed, grabs Dean by the arm when he tries to back away. "Do you want this to happen?"

"You're missing the point. What I want doesn't matter. They'll be gone, and we can go back to normal."

Sam leans in, fingers tightening on Dean's arm, almost to the point of pain. His breath warms Dean's skin when he speaks. "We do this, and things'll never be normal again."

"Better than having them stuck in our heads for the rest of our lives, making us feel like this."

Sam lets go of Dean's arm, instead putting a hand either side of Dean's face, forcing him to look up. "And what if they're gone, and the way I want you right now doesn't go away?"

Dean groans, and it's a pained, desperate sound. "Jesus, Sammy." Sam leans in closer, and Dean jerks back, just a twitch, not enough to rip his face from Sam's grip.

"Shh," Sam says, pleading with his eyes. Then he softly presses his lips against Dean's. His eyelids slowly close, and they breathe each other's breath, both of them panting, quick and shallow.

Dean sighs into Sam's mouth, moans softly. He opens his mouth, drags his lower lip over Sam's, and Sam lets out an answering whimper. "Dean," Sam whispers against his lips. "Jesus, Dean."

There's no plan to it when Dean wraps his hand around the back of Sam's neck and pulls him closer, but it's Dean. It's all Dean, deepening the kiss, melting into it, surrendering.

That surrender hits Dean like a blow to the chest, and it punches a gasp out of him. He pushes Sam away. "We can't do this." He can barely speak past the lump in his throat. "We've gotta make the deal."

"We don't." Sam drops his head to mouth at the curve of Dean's throat, just above the rope burn. "We don't need them," he whispers. "Dean, you want this? We can do it all on our own."

Dean can barely breathe. "Sam," he rasps.

"Please," Sam sighs, warm breath washing over Dean's skin and making him shudder.

Dean pushes back, wrenches his hand away from Sam's. He shoves him and backs away. "I can't, Sam."

Sam stares at him, looking hurt. "So you'll only do it if you're not responsible?"

"I want them gone, Sam. This isn't real."

"Feels real enough to me."

Dean lifts his eyes to the ceiling and sighs. "I'll prove it to you. We make the deal, the ghosts leave, everything goes back to normal. If it doesn't—"

Sam refuses to meet his gaze. "You'll deny everything." He sounds wrecked. "I know you, Dean. You want this, but you'll always be too scared to admit it to yourself. You'll put it on someone else, and it'll be their fault, not yours."

"We're brothers," Dean whispers.

"But we've never been normal. We can't leave each other alone. Can't even accept death as the end."

"That doesn't mean—"

"You know what? Forget it." Sam turns away. "Make the damn deal. I don't care anymore."

He's lying. Of course he's lying, but Dean doesn't have time to convince him. They've got to do this now.

Dean stands in the middle of the room, eyes searching the air as he turns. "Come on, guys. We're giving you a free pass. Do what you like."

There's a buzz in the air, ozone crackling. Dean's trying very hard not to acknowledge the rush of anticipation that makes his pulse race and his breath catch.

The lights flicker and sizzle, and Dean drops his eyes. He finds Sam looking back at him, a stern, worried expression on his face. Then Sam turns his head, fixes his gaze on the front of the room.

There, standing either side of the door, are Hayden, looking almost solid, and Alex, glitching like crazy.

"Dean." There's a desperate note to Sam's voice. "We don't have to do this."

Dean looks him right in the eyes. "Yeah, we do." Their eyes are still locked together when Dean's body jerks as Alex takes control.

"He doesn't want this," Sam says.

Alex stretches, lifting Dean's arms over his head, sighing. "You know he does, Sam." Dean's eyes settle on Hayden, waiting by the door, uncertain.

Alex turns back to Sam. "We'll go. Give us this, and we'll leave. You've got a deal."

Hayden's eyes fall on Sam where he sits at the table. There's a question in his eyes, as if he's waiting for permission.

"Please, Sammy," Dean whispers, or would if he had any control. A second later, however, Alex echoes the words in the same inflection Dean would have used. At Sam's sharp glance, Alex holds up his hands in surrender. "I'm just the messenger," he says. "I've never lied to you. Not once. Dean can't say it, but I can. Sam, he wants this, but he can't do it on his own. I think you know it's the truth."

Sam looks back at Hayden. "Do it," he whispers.

Hayden reaches out, seems to flow right into Sam's body, and Sam sucks in a breath. His eyes move around the room, and they stop on Dean.

Hayden and Alex don't break that gaze. Hayden, in Sam's body, gets up from the table, stalks toward Dean. Hayden puts Sam's hands on Dean's shoulders, walks him back toward the bed, pushes him down, then he starts to loosen Dean's collar.

Sam's lips come down on the rough graze that surrounds Dean's throat. Alex's excitement is almost immediate, desperate and hungry, and Dean lets himself go with it. It's so close to Dean's own that it's almost indistinguishable. The only difference is that when Dean tries to reach out, to hold Sam and to touch him, he can't. Alex lies back on the bed, clings to the sheets with his fingers and makes no attempt to do anything but take.

Selfish little bastard.

Alex arches up off the bed as Sam's hands slide up under Dean's shirt, and Alex laughs. "You wanna touch him, Dean? You want to make him feel good?"

Dean tries to fall back, to stuff himself into a part of his mind where Alex can't hear him, can't reach him, but Sam's fingers move over his skin and keep bringing him back. "Please," he says, a whimper inside his own mind that only Alex can hear.

"Alright," Alex says, and pushes against Sam's chest.

Hayden gives him a look, lifts an eyebrow in a way that makes Sam's face seem like it belongs to someone else, but he pulls back and settles onto his knees. Alex follows him up. "Tell me what you want," he whispers.

Sam's hand slides up Dean's throat, his thumb tips Dean's chin up, and then Sam's lips are on his neck. Dean tries to reach out, to touch Sam somewhere, anywhere, and it's jarring when a split second later his arms actually move, when his fingers come into contact with hard muscle through Sam's shirt. He reaches for the buttons of Sam's shirt, and Alex takes the direction, spreads open Sam's shirt to expose bare skin marred with old scars, fresh cuts and new bruises. Alex sucks a quick breath into Dean's lungs, then lowers his head and brushes his lips over Sam's nipple.

Hayden gasps, cups the back of Dean's head with his hand. Alex pulls back, peels Dean's shirt off over his head and tosses it aside. "He wants it all," Alex whispers, eyes focused on Sam's mouth. "Everything, I can't—" He closes his eyes, shudders and moans. Dean's cock is hard, throbbing in his jeans, on the verge of pain and he just wants to get them off. "Yeah," Alex whimpers, moving quickly, jerking at the button and ripping the zipper open. He squirms out of Dean's jeans and kicks them onto the floor. Alex palms Dean's cock, and it's the familiar feeling of his own hand wrapped around his length. Alex squeezes to ease the pressure, a slow stroke, before his focus shifts back to Sam.

"Get them off," Alex says as he reaches for Sam's fly. He tugs at the button of Sam's jeans until it pops open, until the zipper slides down.

Hayden huffs out a heavy breath, then lifts Sam's hips to help. When Alex slides Dean's hand into Sam's jeans, pulls out his cock, Hayden moans and shivers and leans in to mouth at Dean's jawline.

Sam's dick oozes pre-come, slicks Dean's palm, throbs against Dean's skin, and it might just be Hayden who wants so bad, might just be the brothers making them feel this way, but Dean thinks he might die if he can't get closer.

Alex keeps Dean's eyes locked to Sam's as he slips off the bed and onto his knees. Then he drags his gaze down.

Dean has seen Sam's cock before. There's no way you can live in such close quarters for so long and not see each other naked from time to time. Dean's seen it hard before, too, on rare and awkward occasions.

He's never seen it like this. Never seen it quite this hard, twitching, the head an angry, throbbing red, a slow stream of thick liquid spilling from the tip. "Holy shit," he wants to say, as Alex tugs at the open front of Sam's jeans.

Hayden lifts Sam's hips, and Alex draws Sam's jeans and underwear down, drags them off his feet. Alex spreads Sam's thighs, he moves between them, then drags his thumb up the underside of Sam's long, thick cock. "Beautiful," Alex whispers as he catches a dribble of pre-come, then sticks his thumb into his mouth and sucks it off.

The taste of Sam explodes on Dean's tongue, and he'd moan if he could. Sam's hips twitch in an aborted thrust and Dean's mind implodes.

"Please, please, please." The word repeats over and over in Dean's head, the desire for more, the taste of Sam on his tongue, the weight of his cock, the heat. He wants to consume it, to suck Sam down his throat, to make him fall apart instead of the way he's staring down, aroused, but composed. "Please," he begs, one last time, as Alex brings his lips to the tip of Sam's cock, darting his tongue out to catch the fluid beading at the slit.

Alex takes Sam's cock into his mouth, and it's obvious he knows what he's doing. He must have done it many times while he was alive, and Dean can feel that. Even the moan that Alex lets out doesn't have the abandon, the surrender, of the one echoing in Dean's mind.

If Dean could close his eyes, he would. Close them against the look on Sam's face that isn't Sam at all, because Dean knows Sam's eyes should be desperate, wide and hungry right now instead of fond. Sam's fingers in his hair should be pulling, locked tight in the strands instead of softly stroking. Hayden and Alex, they love each other, they want each other, but it's too easy, too comfortable.

It would never be like that with Sam and Dean. They fight. They push against each other. And this, this first time, it would be desperate passion and searing heat.

So Dean shrinks back. He feels, and he tastes, but it's not quite real. It might be their bodies, but it's not them.

Alex hums as he slides Dean's mouth off of Sam's cock. He looks up. "Dean wants his first time with Sam to be a little different," he says, and tips his head to the side. "He wants to do this himself."

Hayden gazes down, a slow smile spreading over his face. "Okay," he says, then something in his face gives way.

Sam slumps forward, gasping. The hand on Dean's head clenches into a fist before he pulls it back, grinds his knuckles down the clenched muscle of his thigh. Sam's eyes are wide, unblinking, and he sucks air into his lungs. "Dean," he says. "Oh my god."

Alex lets go, and Dean's lungs pull so tight he can't breathe. "Sam?" His eyes flick down to where his hand is wrapped around Sam's still twitching cock, and he jerks it away, digs his fingers into the meat of his own bare thigh instead. "Jesus."

"We can stop this." Sam takes quick, shallow breaths. "Forget the deal. We'll find another way."

Dean's eyes, still on Sam's dick, slowly move up. He was right. There's desperation in Sam's eyes, fear and desire warring against each other. "No," he breathes, not even thinking about the deal, about getting these ghosts out of them for good. He wants Sam's fingers tugging at his hair, Sam's cock spilling salt onto the back of his tongue. "We're doing this." He takes a deep breath, lets it out slow, because catch him any other time, like when his brain is in control instead of his dick, maybe they wouldn't be. His fingers itch to touch, to make Sam pant and moan, and his mouth waters with the desire to taste the salt on Sam's skin. "I want to do this."

Dean closes his eyes, moans as he lets the head of Sam's cock slip between his lips. He pushes forward until it hits the back of his throat and he has to stop, or gag.

"Dean," Sam rasps, pushing his fingers through Dean's hair and tugging until it hurts. "Jesus, Dean."

Dean opens his eyes, flicks them up, straining to keep his eyes on Sam's face, to see the hunger. He pulls back slow, pushes down again, this time he gags around the head until his eyes are watering and he has to pull away. He wraps his hand around his own dick, and he grunts around Sam's cock as his lips slide up and down the shaft. Sam's fingers twist into his hair to guide him, and it's the hottest thing Dean's ever felt.

The salty-sweet taste of Sam's cock changes with the tone of Sam's voice. Soft, breathy moans become guttural, and a hint of bitterness spreads the length of Dean's tongue. "Dean," Sam says, urgent. "Dean, stop."

It's a warning, move or get a mouthful, but Dean can't make himself pull away. His eyes, still on Sam's face, widen. His spine fuses, muscles tightening as he works to stave off his own orgasm.

"Dean," Sam cries, his fingers tightening in Dean's hair as he holds his head. Sam's hips jerk, barely controlled as he fucks into Dean's mouth. A flood of heat, thick, salty, viscous, coats Dean's tongue and the back of his throat.

There's something deep and primal about his brother, his baby brother, coming in his mouth, and it triggers Dean's own orgasm. The sound of them both, the moans, the muffled grunts echo in his ears. The taste of salt and sweat and come, the smell of it, worms it's way into Dean's memories and sticks there. He'll never forget this, not if he dies and goes to Hell for a thousand years.

Dean's head falls onto Sam's hip, Sam's cock slipping from his mouth, trailing saliva and come over his chin. He breathes hard, and he fights the moment reality returns and he regrets what he's just done.

It doesn't happen. Sam's hand on his head, slowly stroking as if even his fingers are exhausted, seems to ground him, keep him there somehow, and the gradually slowing beat of Sam's pulse keeps them connected.

Dean lifts his head, and his eyelids are far heavier than they should be. Sam looks stunned, breathless. Dean summons the energy to climb back up onto the bed.

They lie side by side, naked and staring into each other's eyes. "They're still here," Dean says, because Alex is still inside him, looking out, feeling, apparently content to be a spectator.

Sam nods, leans in, licks into Dean's mouth like he's chasing the taste of himself. He lays his hand on the small of Dean's back, pulls him close as he deepens the kiss.

Dean can feel Alex inside him. There are no words, but there's a kind of push to action, a subdued need that tugs at him. Dean's heart starts to pound, and his lungs tighten. "God, Sammy."

Sam's hand slides down, settles on the top of his ass. His breath is quick and shallow, and his teeth press hard into his lower lip. "If we finish this, if we just leave, Jim's going to get away with it. It doesn't feel right."

There's nothing Dean would like more than to see Jim Graeme pay for his crimes, but it's hard to think about right now. Besides, the house is coming down and there'll be nowhere for the boys to haunt once Sam and Dean are free of them. "Not our problem, Sammy," Dean says, and he puts his hand on the side of Sam's face, drags his thumb over Sam's lower lip, squirms closer so he can kiss his brother. "Forget about it." He moves his hips, and there's a kind of pride when his dick twitches and tries to get hard, because he just jizzed all over the motel carpet, and he's not twenty anymore.

Sam lets out a soft groan. "You're trying to distract me."

Dean rocks his hips, grins when he feels Sam stiffening against him. "Is it working?"

Sam huffs out a breath. "Yeah."

"Shut up then," Dean whispers, and then he licks into Sam's mouth, swallows Sam's moan when he does it.


The voice comes from inside his head, and Dean groans and tries to ignore it.

"Dean, I need to feel my brother inside me, one last time."

This time, when Dean groans, it's because his guts are twisting up inside him, and it might be fear, but it's more likely want, need, desire, because his cock jerks and starts to get hard.

Sam responds in kind, rocks his hips, pushes his cock into the hollow of Dean's hip.

Dean lifts his chin, presses a close-mouthed kiss to Sam's lips. He pushes his hips against Sam, shivers at the feeling of Sam's hot, hard dick against his own. "You feel good, Sam," he says, the words muffled against the skin under Sam's jaw. "Holy god, you feel good."

Sam moans and arches his back, pressing his hips closer. The friction has Dean fully hard in seconds, has him rolling his hips in a slow thrust. His dick slides off Sam's, and he reaches between their bodies, wraps his fingers around both of them just to keep them aligned. "God," he whispers, moving against Sam's dick. "God, Sam."

"Please," Alex begs. "We need them inside us."

Dean sucks in quick, shallow breaths, presses his face into the curve of Sam's throat. "Sammy," he whimpers, faltering as he strokes them both. Sam's hand covers his own, regulates Dean's jerky movements. "Sam, please." Dean gasps for air, breathes the scent of Sam's skin into his lungs. "Oh, god, Sammy. You gotta fuck me."

"Dean?" Sam stops what he's doing and stares, eyes wide, lips parted, breath quick and shallow. "Seriously?"

Dean rolls onto his back, pulling Sam with him. His shoulders hit the mattress and his thighs fall apart, an action that is both purposeful and unconscious at the same time. "Seriously," he whispers, desperate and afraid as he drags Sam's hand down the inside of his thigh. "Please, Sammy."

Sam's eyes follow the path of his hand, his chest rising and falling with quick breaths. "You really want me to?"

Dean nods frantically. "Alex. He's talking to me, he said—"

Sam jerks his hand away. "No," he whimpers. "I don't care about the deal. I'm not doing anything you don't want." He starts to pull away.

Dean's hand snaps out, and he grabs Sam by the wrist. "I want it." He stares into Sam's eyes, forces himself to look, to not pull away. "I want you. In me, Sammy."

Sam's brow tenses up, and his eyes search Dean's face. "Dean?"

Dean nods his head. His heart is beating hard enough to burst, there's already sweat breaking out on his temples. He's very exposed, his thighs twitching with the instinctive need to cover himself, but his cock is hard, leaking little puddles and trails across his belly. "Yeah," he whispers, his voice gone rough. "Yeah, Sammy. Please."

Sam's eyes slide down Dean's body, then he reaches for the drawer beside the bed.

Dean lifts an eyebrow when Sam pulls out a bottle of lube, the kind of thing they each keep hidden in the bottom of their gear and pretend doesn't exist. It never goes in the drawers because it's bad manners to jerk off with another dude in the room. "A regular boy scout, aren't you?"

Sam shrugs, an almost smile playing on his lips, but he says nothing. Moments later a fingertip slides over Dean's hole, slick and slippery. There's a question in Sam's eyes when he puts a little pressure behind it, not enough to penetrate, but enough that Dean reflexively tightens up.

Dean takes a deep breath, and lets it out slow. "Yeah," he says. "Easy, Sam."

Sam nods, lips pressed tightly together, eyes glistening. He shifts, leans down over Dean's body, and he kisses him, soft and sweet and slow. Dean moans into Sam's mouth, then gasps when Sam slides one long, thick finger into his body.

The noise Dean makes is embarrassingly high pitched, but Sam swallows it. He deepens the kiss and slowly fucks him with one finger until Dean relaxes, starts to whimper for more. There's a hint of a burn when Sam pushes another finger inside him, and Dean shivers.

"You okay?" Sam murmurs against his lips.

Dean nods, and savors the sharp tingle that spreads, like fire, over his skin. It fades as quickly as it comes. "C'mon, Sammy." He tries to roll his hips up, to force Sam to thrust, but he can't move. "Goddammit, Sam, come on."

"Fuck." Sam, breathing hard, slides his fingers slowly out, and pushes them in deep. Dean writhes and moans, and Sam lets out a sound that's something between a laugh and a whimper. "Jesus, Dean, I can't wait to get inside you."

"Then get on with it." Dean gets a hand on Sam's chest and pushes him up. "Give me another, open me up." His eyes fall on Sam's cock, almost freakishly huge like the rest of him. "Now, Sam. I want your dick in me, so give me another finger so you don't split me in half."

Sam's eyes widen and he slides his fingers out. He fumbles, then pushes three inside. "Fuck, Dean," he rasps, moving his hips, sliding his cock up the back of Dean's thigh. "You're going to feel so good."

Dean clenches and moans, arching as much as he can, using his hands flat on the mattress to lift himself. "Fuck, Sammy. C'mon. Fill me up."

Sam groans, twists his fingers deep into Dean's ass.

Dean reaches down, grabs Sam's arm by the wrist, and pushes away. "Do it, Sam. C'mon, little brother. Fuck me."

Sam sucks in shallow breaths, and he reaches for the lube again. He slicks his dick and strokes it a couple times, then he puts his hand on Dean's knee. "Dean, are you sure?"

Dean wraps a hand around the back of Sam's neck, and he pulls him back down. The head of Sam's dick nudges his hole, and it's hot and hard and twitching. "I want it." Dean tips his head up, finds Sam's lips, breathes him in as anticipation makes his skin burn.

Sam pushes against him.

Dean arches up, one arm wrapped around Sam's neck, the other hand twisting in the sheet as his eyes roll back in his head, and he fights just to stay in the real world. The pressure is insane, almost unbearable, and he can't think. Soft sounds come out of his mouth, a series of strangled, repetitive gasps.

Then his body gives, and the pressure eases. Just a little, just enough that Dean can focus his eyes on Sam's face. He takes short, shallow gasps of air, and he moans at the feeling of Sam's cock inside him. He's already so full, so stretched, he can't possibly take any more.

"You're okay." Sam kisses Dean's forehead, his cheeks, his lips. His hair, damp with sweat, tickles Dean's face. He moves his hips, tiny thrusts that slide him deeper a fraction of an inch at a time. "You're doing so good, Dean."

Dean tries to speak, but all that comes out is a moan as he tosses his head. He's on fire, a buzz of heat spreading over his skin and he doesn't know where it starts or stops. His hand leaves the mattress, comes down on Sam's arm, and he grips tight to the hard muscle. "Sam," he rasps, unable to articulate anything more.

Sam pulls back, pushes in a little more. He continues until his hips meet the flesh of Dean's ass, then pants hard as he catches his breath. His eyes are so focused on Dean that it's hard to bear, and Dean has to shut his own.

He sighs as a wave of relief washes through him, completely at odds with the intense, throbbing ache deep inside his body. Alex is here, humming beneath his skin, and Dean feels Alex's emotions like they're his own.

He's home. As close to his brother as two people can possibly be, he's right where he belongs. Alex is complete. He's finished.

Dean opens his eyes, his own relief blending with Alex's, but his breath catches in his lungs when Sam's face comes into focus. "Sammy," he chokes, tracing Sam's jaw with his fingertips. "Need you, Sam."

This isn't all Alex. This is where Dean belongs, too, and a sob wracks his chest when Sam kisses him. It twists his heart, sets his whole body on fire, and that's not Alex.

"It's okay," Sam says, and his voice is thick, like he's fighting emotion. "I know, Dean. I know."

Dean writhes beneath him, Sam's cock shifting inside. "Sammy," he groans, and his voice is strangled and wrecked. "God, Sammy."

"You feel good, Dean," Sam whispers, strained and shaky. "So good, but I gotta move. I have to—"

"Move," Dean moans, shifting, lifting his hips off the bed. A shiver streaks up his spine and he moans. "Do it."

Sam starts to thrust, slow at first, rocking with the rhythm of his breath, gradually picking up pace. Sweat beads on his skin, and he licks it from his lips. He never breaks eye contact, even when Dean can't keep his eyes open, can't keep them from rolling back. When he focuses on Sam, he's always looking back.

Sam's cock is a deep, heavy ache inside him, with every thrust brushing against something that punches a rough grunt from Dean's throat and brings him closer. Every time Sam slides in it drives Dean higher. His dick leaks against his stomach, pre-come slick between them. The rub of Sam's belly only adds to the stimulation.

There's nothing but Sam. Everything else fades away. Even Alex is buried deep. In this moment, it's just Sam inside him, all around him, the hot, wet slide and the quick beat of their hearts.

There's no time, either. The only urgency that exists is the need to keep Sam close, to keep him inside, and to never, ever stop.

So when Sam pushes himself up off Dean's body, raises himself for more leverage, Dean cries out. He digs his fingers into Sam's flesh, and cranes his neck to find Sam's lips.

"I need—" Sam rasps. "Need to make you come, Dean." He slips a hand between them, around Dean's cock, gives it a stroke. "Got to feel you come."

Dean reaches, too. His hand slides down the inside of his thigh, clumsy as Sam's strokes go deeper, longer. Down to where they're joined, to where his body is stretched wide around Sam's thick cock. "You, too," he breathes, pulling his legs back, spreading them wide. "In me, Sammy."

Sam stiffens, and his head rolls back on his neck, tendons straining, jaw clenched. He grabs Dean's hand, folds it around his dick, then grabs Dean by the hips. Dean jerks his cock as Sam times his thrusts, angles them in just the right way.

Tension builds quickly. Sam's going to come inside him, and Dean will feel this tomorrow, not only the stretch, the burn, but there'll be a part of Sam still there to remind him. He might regret this in the morning, might be horrified, but right now it doesn't matter. All that matters is that Sam is here, and is making him feel good.

"So good," he gasps as his balls tighten and his spine arches up off the bed. "Please, Sammy. Please."

Sam's face twists into something like pain, and he curls up over Dean's body, cock buried deep. Dean starts to come, hot spurts painting his chest as a wave of intense relief floods his body. Sam's dick jerks inside him, pulsing again and again.

There's a sound outside of himself, a long, drawn out cry that matches the heat of Sam's skin. It's the taste of sweat, and the smell of come, and the pain in his heart as it swells too big for his chest.

Then it's just their heavy breaths, perfectly in sync. Sam's face is pushed into the side of Dean's throat and his body is a heavy, sticky weight on Dean's chest.

Sam starts to pull away, but there's nothing more important than keeping him inside. Dean groans as Sam's cock slips out of him, leaves an empty ache and a slick feeling behind. Sam curls into his side, wraps Dean in too-long limbs before he turns his head and breathes against Dean's lips.

"Are you okay?" Sam whispers, his fingers stroking Dean's forehead, wiping sweat into his hair. "Are you—?"

Dean opens his eyes with difficulty, gazes up into Sam's concerned face. "Everything hurts," he rasps, then reaches for his throat. It hurts to talk, like he's been screaming for hours. "But I'm good."

Chapter 9

Morning is coming by the time they leave town, but when they get out of the car outside the house it feels like night again. The sky lightens over the corn, but it could be the moon. Sam and Dean stand at the bottom of the steps up to the porch, and together, they go inside.

Though he's still got control of his own body, Dean can feel Alex pushing him. He figures Hayden's doing the same to Sam when he fetches the knife, the noose, then drops to his knees and lays them out on the floor of the upstairs bedroom like it's some kind of ritual.

"This feels wrong," Sam says, toying with the knife, arranging it just so. He looks up at Dean. "What's going to happen to them?"

Dean drops into a crouch, and he lays his hand on the end of the rope. He shrugs. "Once the house comes down, there'll be nowhere for them to haunt." He lets the rope slide through his fist, watches it fall into coils. "You know, we should probably burn these once—"

"Do you want me to leave, or not?" There's disbelief in Alex's thoughts, and Dean smiles at the quizzical look Sam gives him at the abrupt end to his words. "Okay, kid. We won't burn your stuff. But be good, you hear me? Or we'll be back to finish the job."

Alex falls silent, sinking back into the recesses of Dean's mind. Sam frowns, but his lips curl into a smile as his eyes lose focus. Perhaps there's a conversation going on in his head, as well.

Sam's expression changes as Hayden takes over. He reaches out for Dean, and by the time their lips meet, Alex is in control. Hayden kisses him, slow and deep. It feels like goodbye. "I love you," he whispers. "Now it's time to let them go."

He picks up the knife, and Alex grips the noose in Dean's hand. Dean's heart almost explodes with Alex's emotion, with the love, and grief, and joy.

His sob is suddenly audible. It starts abruptly and stops just as soon, as Dean, shocked at the sound coming from his own mouth, cuts it off and dumps the heavy rope onto the floor. Tears stream down his face.

Sam, likewise, drops the knife like it's burning his hands. "They're gone?"

Dean searches, but he can't find Alex inside him. "Yeah," he says, and wipes the tears off his cheeks. He looks for them, gaze moving around the room, searching for movement, a flicker, anything that would indicate their spirits are still here. "They're really gone."

Sam reaches out, slides his hand onto the back of Dean's neck, pulls him close. "Let's get out of here."

Dean watches Sam's lips move. His own tingle as his breath comes quicker. "Yeah," he says, wondering when the messed up way he wants his brother will start to fade, wondering how long they've got before it happens, or how far they'll have to drive. He wonders how much kissing they can get in before it happens.

A faint roar drifts through the open window, the sound of an engine, a vehicle coming up the road. It gets louder, and tires skid to a stop on gravel before the engine dies.

Sam jumps up off the floor, and he looks out as a car door slams shut. "It's Jim," he says.

Dean joins him at the window. The sky is lighter, just light enough to make Graeme out, to see the handgun he carries, to see him lift a coil of rope from the deck of his truck.

"He's armed," Dean says. "And we got nothing."

"Why is he here?"

"He knows we're onto him. He must have followed us from the motel."

A moment later, Graeme's feet ring out on the stairs. "Come on." Dean grabs the knife from the floor because it might be their only weapon. He takes Sam's hand and drags him toward the door.

They leave the noose behind on the floor, coiled within the taped outline of a body.

Jim's already in the hall when they get downstairs.

Sam and Dean turn tail and run toward the back of the house. Jim's boots thump against the floorboards behind them, moving far too fast. Dean palms the knife, and he's about to turn when Jim's gun goes off.

A bullet whistles past Dean's shoulder, and tears into Sam's shirt. Sam grunts and goes down.

Dean tries to haul him back up, the madman with the gun almost forgotten. But Sam's moving. There's blood on his shirt, but he's still alive and he's moving. Dean turns back to the threat, and finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun.

"Down on your knees," Jim spits.

Dean puts his hands out, palm forward. "What do you want, Jim? We can work this out. How do you think this is going to end?"

Jim steps forward, the gun shaking in his hand, still pointed right between Dean's eyes. "I said, get the hell down."

"Get down, Dean. He's not worth dying for."

Dean's eyes flick to Sam, down to the wound on his side. Blood isn't welling, he won't bleed to death, but it's hurting him. "You okay, Sammy?" His knees hit the floor, and he's got one hand on Sam to make sure that he's still warm, still breathing, but his eyes are on Jim and his gun.

Sam puts his hand over Dean's, gives it a reassuring squeeze. "I'll live."

"Just tell us what you want," Dean growls.

"You, outta my business." Jim swings the gun away from Dean to press the barrel against Sam's head. "You come here, dig things up that've been buried ten years? You should've let things lie."

"You're gonna shoot a couple of feds?" Dean hisses. "That's not going to go away like it did when you killed your sons."

Jim's eyes flick to Dean, and his pupils are tiny points filled with rage. He pulls his arm back, and then jerks it down at Sam's head.

The grip of the gun hits Sam's temple with a sickening thwack and Sam crumples to the floor. Dean reaches for him, calls his name, but something hits him, too, and everything goes black.

Dean comes to with his arms and legs bound, his face pressed against bare wooden floors, and a pounding inside his head that almost eclipses the sounds of heavy machinery outside. There's a glow beyond his eyelids that tells him it's going to hurt when he opens them.

He cracks one open.

They're in the upstairs bedroom. Sam's on the floor, still out, on his back within the taped outline. There's blood trickling from his head, and his arms are arranged at his sides. He's breathing, though, and the only blood on his shirt is the stain on his side where Jim's bullet grazed him.

"Sam," Dean hisses. "Sammy, wake up."

A boot scuffs the floor, and Jim squats beside Dean's head. "He already did," he says. "I had to hit him again."

Dean growls and struggles against his bonds. "I'm gonna kill you, you hear me?"

"I don't think so. See, you're tied up right now and the bulldozer is already outside. They're knocking the place down, and you'll both be dead before then. When they find you, you'll be the last in a long line of idiots who killed each other in this house."

"We don't fit the profile," Dean says. "It's always kids. You'll get caught, Jim. It's not worth it."

Jim rises to his feet. "The sheriff in this town is incredibly stupid. You would have figured that out for yourself if you'd really been FBI." He slides a knife out of his pocket. It's the twin of the one that killed Hayden. "My oldest was a pervert. He was touching his brother. I had to stop it. Alex killed himself, and that's on his own head. If he wasn't such a coward—"

"You killed him all the same."

Jim turns away. He steps over Sam's body, one foot either side of Sam's hips, then he crouches. "You, I'll have to hang myself. First you get to watch me carve up your boyfriend." He looks back over his shoulder. "That's right. I know what you are. It's filth like you that turned my boys to sin. No man wants to see his children committing acts that'll get them sent straight to Hell." He turns back to Sam, lifts his arm. Sunlight glints off the blade.

Dean struggles against the rope binding him. One hand slips free, almost dislocating the thumb as it pulls through. "You're the one going to Hell, Jim," he says, as he gets his other hand free, twists to start on the rope binding his legs together. "Kill your own kids, that's got to be the worst kind of murder."

Jim growls, lifts the knife higher, muscles in his forearm bunching. When it comes down, the knife will punch right through Sam's chest, and there'll be no saving him. Panic clouds Dean's mind, adrenaline floods his body, and as soon as the rope binding his legs loosens, he launches himself across the room with an almighty roar.

Jim looks up a split second before Dean hits him, carrying them both away from Sam and into the wall. Jim's head hits with a sickening thwack, and he slumps to one side.

Dean scrambles back across the floor. "Sammy, you gotta wake up. We gotta get out of here before the house comes down."

There's a groan from the side of the room as Jim starts to rouse. The sound of heavy machinery outside gets louder, there's a grinding crunch, and the whole house shakes. Sam opens his eyes, Dean pulls him to his feet, and they both lurch to the side as the house moves beneath them.

A gust of wind howls in through the window and swirls around the room. Jim is prone, but moving, as flickering forms converge over his body. Hayden and Alex are bruised, covered in blood, like they were when they died. Their ghosts are visible, solid but glitching, and Jim stares up at them in shock as engines rev below the window.

"You won't touch him again," Alex intones, as the knife in his hand comes down. It tears open Jim's shirt, slashes across his chest. Alex strikes again, and blood spurts. A voice drifts up from outside, an indistinct command.

"The car's gone," Sam says, staring out the window. "Where's the car?"

Dean curses, grabs Sam by the hand, pulls him toward the door. Hayden goes the other way, leaves Alex with his dripping knife and drags Jim toward the attic, the noose trailing behind in his free hand.

At the bottom of the stairs, their way is blocked. The front porch has fallen, the front door a pile of rubble and the shifting steel of the dozer. Sam stumbles to his knees, and Dean pulls him back up. "We'll have to go out the back."

He yanks Sam in the other direction, through the kitchen where dust rises into the air and the windows rattle. Dean kicks open the back door and shoves Sam out onto the porch.

The porch roof here was already listing, already in danger of falling in on itself before someone started shaking the house to pieces. "Go," he shouts, gives Sam another push. He watches Sam stumble down the steps and fall to the ground as the roof caves in.

A sheet of iron, a heavy beam attached, comes down across the back of Dean's shoulders. It knocks him to the floor, and the porch starts to cave beneath him, rotting boards giving way as he disappears into the foundations.

Sam screams his name in panic, barely a whisper over the roar of machinery.

"Go," Dean rasps, because it's too late, and Sam will only die with him if he tries to get him out now. "Just go."

Dean tries to lift the section of roof, but his knees buckle beneath him and bits of house keep raining down on top until he can't shift it. The whole porch starts to cave in, until Dean is pressed between layers of rubble, unable to even crawl as he fights for every breath.

A patch of light flickers through the debris. Old iron nails scream as they're torn from wood, and the patch of light gets brighter.

"Dean, I'm coming. Just hold on." Sam peels skirting boards away with his bare hands, until there's a space big enough to admit his head and shoulders. He reaches in, drags broken planks and lumps of concrete out of the hole, until there's a space big enough that he can wriggle inside.

"Get outta here, Sammy." Dean's voice is just a rasp. His lungs are squeezed tight, and he can barely breathe enough to make sound. More of the house rains down from above, and it's just getting worse. "The whole thing's coming down. You gotta leave me here. Save yourself."

Sam digs more of the rubble out, inches closer. The machinery gets louder, and now it's almost deafening. The house shakes and groans above them. "I am not leaving you, Dean."

Dean lifts his head, focuses on the fierce intent in Sam's eyes as he fights his way through the dust and debris. His throat is full of grit, and everything hurts, but he reaches out to push obstacles out of the way, to clear a path.

Sam grabs his hand, squeezes it tight. "You can do this. You can get yourself out. You have to, because I'm not leaving without you."

Dean coughs, and it tastes like dust and mildew and dry rot. He spits into the hard-packed earth, and then he pushes.

He roars as he presses against the ground beneath him, and something shifts above.

"That's it, Dean. Keep going." Hope sparks in Sam's eyes, like he wasn't sure Dean could do it until that moment.

Dean chokes as he wriggles out onto bare dirt and a clear space. Then he collapses to the ground and whimpers as his muscles burn white hot and his bruises flare into pain.

Sam grabs Dean by the shirt, crawls backward as he drags him across the hard-packed earth. The house rumbles above them. Beams fall, punching through what's left of the porch. Dean pulls his legs up as Sam squeezes through the hole, and everything crunches behind him as Sam pulls him out into the light. Dean gets clear as the roof falls, flattening the porch beneath.

Dean has a moment to catch his breath, to feel the morning sun on his face, then Sam is dragging him again, tugging him toward the back of the property and the gap in the fence where they slip through into a corn field.

Finally, they stop, their knees collapsing beneath them as they fall to the ground. "You're so stupid, Sammy," Dean whispers, his throat rough and raw. "We could've both died under there. You were out. You should've stayed out."

Sam pulls Dean against him, hands moving over Dean's body like he's checking for injuries. "I'd rather die with you than walk away, and you know it. Don't try and tell me you wouldn't have done the same thing."

Dean doesn't. He leans back against Sam, safe, but hurting all over, and he looks up at what's left. The attic window is broken, and that part of the building lists badly. Visible through the window, Jim Graeme swings with the movement of the house.

The attic falls. Dust swirls high into the air as the house crumbles.

There's a flicker at the edge of Dean's vision. He jerks his head to follow it, and finds Alex and Hayden standing a few feet away, holding hands.

Dean nudges Sam with his elbow. "Look."

The brothers look like they must have when they were alive, if not completely solid. There's no blood, no bruising. Alex nods at Dean and smiles. They begin to glow, as if there's a spotlight on them, brighter and brighter until it hurts to look.

When the light fades, they're gone.

They find the car off a side road, parked beside Jim's truck. Dean wants to sleep for a week, but they drive, out of town, away from the ghosts, away from that house.

They barely speak. They're exhausted, battered and bruised, and there's too much in Dean's head. Noise, bits and pieces of the last few days flashing through his mind. Too many questions, and not enough energy to figure out what he's supposed to say.

Sam, in the driver's seat because he's the least fucked up right now, is putting out heat. The air is thick with it, the kind of tension that's gotta break eventually, and Dean knows it'll be messy when it does.

Sam pulls the car into a motel just after dark. He turns off the ignition and they both stare straight ahead as the engine ticks.

"We could make it home, you know," Dean says, when the silence gets too much. "If we drive all night."

Sam turns his head, and even in the dim light of the neon sign, he looks like shit. "Sure. If you want us to wrap the car around the next tree we pass."

Dean chews the inside of his cheek, but nods. Sam goes into the office, and comes out a few minutes later with a key.

They grab their gear. A change of clothes, a bottle of Jack, a sewing kit. As bruised and battered as they are, it's like a well-practiced dance, natural and rhythmic as they do what they've done so many times before.

Then Sam opens the door, and Dean chokes at what he sees inside.

Past the kitchenette and the tiny table, past the battered couch and the vintage TV, there's a single queen size bed.

"Ahh, Sammy?"

Sam shoves past, his shoulder pushing Dean in through the narrow doorway, and he dumps his gear on the scuffed linoleum. "Only clean room they had."

"Bullshit." Dean pulls the door shut behind him. "It's over, remember? They're gone."

Sam collapses into a chair. It creaks under his weight. He looks up at Dean, strands of hair in his eyes. "Do you feel any different?"

Dean doesn't. There's the same pull that urges him to reach out, to touch Sam so he knows he's there, alive and safe. More, if he's honest. He wants to bury his nose in Sam's hair, inhale the warmth of him, and feel safe himself.

If he wasn't so beat up, he'd want to taste him, feel Sam's bare skin against his, Sam's muscular thighs between his legs.

Dean's cock gives a twitch, despite his exhaustion. He jerks his eyes away, turns his head so he doesn't have to look Sam in the eye. He says nothing, because there's no point denying it. "I just want to sleep. For like, a week."

"Yeah." Sam starts to unbutton his shirt. He pulls the fabric aside and twists as he examines his side, where Jim Graeme's bullet grazed him. It looks like it hurts, when he moves, and Dean's fingers twitch with the urge to reach out and ease Sam's pain.

They were lucky. Again, it could have been them cut up and hanged. Instead, Jim's lying somewhere in that pile of rubble. "He got what he deserved," Dean says.

"He did."

"Where do you think they went?" Dean asks. "They killed their dad. Where do you go after something like that?"

Sam shrugs. He pulls his shirt closed again, but doesn't button it. "I think we helped them, Dean. To move on. And now they get to be together."

"So they can screw their brains out for all eternity?"

"Yeah." Sam offers Dean a weak smile, then he pulls himself to his feet. "Gonna take a shower."

"You okay?" Dean nods at the bullet wound.

Another smile, this time tight, a little forced, and it's obvious that Sam favors that side when he walks. "I'm good."

Dean sucks air into his lungs. It's warm and laden with the same moisture that clings to the bathroom mirror. He looks down at his cock, tenting the narrow towel wrapped around his waist, because it hasn't gotten the memo that he's a walking bruise and can barely move without screaming. "Fuck you," he says out loud.

There's a tap on the bathroom door. "You okay in there, Dean?"

"Fine," Dean squeaks. "Just, ahh..." He grabs for his clean pair of boxers and tries to pull them on, but as he bends, the muscles in his shoulders burn. "Ow. Fuck."

The door creaks open. "I'm coming in."

Dean's pulse pounds as he has a brief argument with himself. Hide his arousal, or the cuts and scrapes and bruises across his shoulders? Then it's too late, Sam's already in the room. Dean drops his boxers, and, with the towel barely clinging to his hips, leans forward against the bathroom counter.

"Oh my god, Dean." Sam reaches out, but doesn't quite touch. "How are you even moving?"

Dean can feel the warmth of Sam's hands as they hover over his back. "I'm fine, Sammy. It's nothing."

"You're black and blue."

Dean stares at the blurry shape in the fogged up mirror. "You got shot. Don't worry about me."

"It nicked me, that's all," Sam says, and then carefully lays his hands on Dean's shoulders. His touch is so light Dean can barely feel it, but it sears his skin all the same. "You had a house fall on you."

"Just the porch."

"We get home, we're going to take some time off."

Dean wants to argue. He's going to be off his game for a while, but a week or more hanging out in the bunker alone with Sam? The way he feels right now, they'll be boinking like bunnies as soon as Dean can comfortably lie on his back. Maybe sooner, because his knees are fine.

He won't be able to help himself. Won't be able to say no. He doesn't want to.

He shivers thinking about it, a full body shudder that raises goosebumps that have nothing to do with the fact that his skin is still wet from the shower. He drops his chin into his chest when he realizes that Sam will be able to feel it.

Sam takes it as an invitation, of course, lowering his head, pressing his lips to the back of Dean's neck. "Dean," he murmurs. "When that roof came down—"

"No, Sammy."

"I thought I'd lost you." Sam gently turns Dean to face him, puts a hand on the side of Dean's neck, a thumb beneath his jaw. He tips Dean's head up. "That's when I knew this wouldn't just go away. Not for me."

He doesn't want to, but when Sam kisses him, Dean forces himself to turn away. "This isn't right."

Sam drops his forehead to Dean's temple, breathes out, slow and heavy. "I know." He shakes his head, and his breath catches on a sob. "But I don't think we have a choice."

The sound that comes out of Dean's mouth is pure disbelief. "Sammy, we always—"

"No, Dean. We can try to resist, try to pretend it never happened. We'll succeed at that, or we'll fail. I know I'm gonna fail, Dean. I know that right now. So I quit. It'll hurt us more if we lie to ourselves. To each other. This isn't something we'd choose. It'll be hard, and it'll be scary, but it'll happen because—"

"Because we can't not." Dean's lungs tighten, and he can't get enough air. Sucking in quick, shallow breaths, he lifts his head. This time, when Sam kisses him, he doesn't turn away.


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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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Updated: 30 Jan 2023

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