mizpah1931: Latin Exorcism - don't leave home without it (Default)

Title: Happy Birthday
Season: 3
Category: General, Action, Horror/Ghost
Warnings: Winchester whumpage. Set between the Season 3 episodes The Magnificent Seven and The Kids Are Alright
Tagline: Tension mounts between the brothers – is it just Dean’s deal or is something more sinister at work...
Total Word Count: 52,583
Total Chapters: 9
Chapter 3 word count: 5288
Beta: ziggyuk
Story Banner: Chasidern

Chapter 3

“Hey, you’re up early,” Dave greeted the bleary-eyed hunter with a grin. “And from the looks of you, it must have been some night.”

“Shut up,” Dean muttered good-naturedly. He swallowed a mouthful of coffee from the extra large takeout cup in his hand and leaned one shoulder against the doorway while he surveyed the workshop. The Impala sat gleaming on the hoist five feet in the air, her undercarriage exposed to view. From his vantage point, Dean could clearly see the transmission fluid covering the bell housing. “So – what’s the verdict?”

Dave glanced at the black Chevy. “The Impala? Day or two at least before I can start on her.” He waved a hand at the tiny parking lot in apology. “Got a few ahead of you, man. Sorry.”

Dean shrugged. “So, let me work on my baby, and you can concentrate on the rest. If I can borrow some of your tools…”

“Sure, dude. I wouldn’t let just anyone use ‘em – but you seem to know what you’re doing.”

“Seem to know?” Dean raised a sardonic eyebrow at the grinning mechanic.

“Okay, okay – you know your way around an engine.”

“Could even give you a hand with some of those jobs,” Dean offered quietly, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

Dave straightened up from under the hood of a silver Taurus. He eyed the tall hunter speculatively for a long moment before finally replying. “Really?”

“Really. Like I said, I rebuilt my Impala. And my Dad was a mechanic – him and a buddy of his owned a garage when I was a kid. He taught me everything he knew.”

The mechanic wiped his hands on a rag hanging from his pocket. “Could give you cold hard cash for it.”

Dean thought briefly of their limited cash flow, and grinned. This was perfect. He could earn some real money, pay Dave cash for the parts for the Impala and not have to feel guilty about using one of the fake credit cards. And there was an added bonus – using hard earned cash for his little surprise would make it even more special. Provided he and Sam didn’t kill each other first, he thought exasperatedly. “You got yourself a deal.”

“When can you start?”

“How about right now?”

Dave clapped his new assistant on the back as Dean stripped off his jacket. “Well, the bearing for your Impala won’t arrive till tomorrow, so how about you start with that dark blue Lincoln out there? Needs an oil change.”

“Sure thing, boss.” Grinning like a kid with a new toy, Dean caught the spare pair of overalls Dave tossed to him. He pulled off his button up shirt and tugged the overalls on over his tee shirt and jeans. Pushing up the long sleeves to his elbows, he flexed his fingers and got to work.

*     *     *     *     *

Sam paced agitatedly across the floor, one hand running constantly through his already mussed locks, the other clutching his cell phone so tightly the casing creaked. Finally he came to a halt in the centre of the room, swallowed nervously and hit the button, pressing the phone to his ear.

“What?”

“Dean?” Sam winced at the quaver in his voice.

“Sammy? What’s goin’ on?”

“W-where are you?”

“I’m at the garage, fixing the Impala. Where the hell else would I be?”

Sam sagged onto the nearest bed in relief. It just happened to be Dean’s.

“Sam? What’s wrong with you? You okay?”

“I just – d-didn’t know where – y-you were.”

“Didn’t you get my note?”

“Note?” Sam queried thickly. “What n-note?”

“Ah, Jeez. The one I stuck on the coffee pot. I left you a note telling you that I hid the weapons duffle under my bed just in case the maid ignored the Do Not Disturb sign, and that I was gonna help Dave work on the Impala.”

“Where’s your duffle?”

“My duffle? It’s on the floor beside the bed.” Sam heard his brother’s sharply indrawn breath. “What the hell, Sam? Did you think I just booked on you?”

Leaning forward, Sam flipped up the edge of the blanket trailing untidily onto the floor, revealing Dean’s missing duffle bag. “No.”

“You’re a piece of work, you know that? We are so gonna have a serious talk when I get back.”

Sam’s anger flared. “Oh – I’m a piece of work? You leave a friggin’ note where I can’t see it, just take off without telling me –”

“If you’d hauled your pissy ass out of the bathroom instead of spending the night in there sulking like a two-year old, I might’ve been able to tell you!”

“Oh – so now I’m a two-year old? Last night I was four!”

“Yeah, and the way you’re regressing, you’ll probably reach baby stage by dinner. I’ll pick up some formula for you on the way back.”

“You know what? Screw you!”

“Right back atcha! Call me when you grow up!”

The call cut off and Sam dropped his hand, glaring furiously at the screen. And then his shoulders sagged in defeat – he’d flown off the handle yet again. He hated this. Ever since he and Dean had come to town, all they had done was argue. No, he corrected himself silently, shaking his head. It started way before that. They’d been at odds with each other since they’d pulled out of Lincoln. It just seemed to have gotten worse over the past twenty-four hours.

Sam fisted his hands in his hair and tugged on the long dark locks in frustration. Picking up his cell phone, he dialled Dean’s number, mildly surprised when it was answered on the first ring. “Hey, Dean – I – I didn’t…”

“Yeah, I know. Look, I’ll be here with Dave all day, so I’ll pick us up some dinner on my way back. What do you want?”

“Um – Chinese?”

“Okay. Look – I gotta get back to work, so…”

“Oh – sure. Okay.” It wasn’t much of an apology, but it would have to do for now.

Sam blew out a relieved sigh as he got to his feet, shoving the cell phone into his jeans pocket. He strode over to the coffee pot, plucked the note from its side and read it, his lips twisting into a rueful smile. Dropping the note into the nearby wastepaper basket, he made a fresh pot of coffee while he figured out what to do for the rest of the day.

Dean would be gone for hours, so Sam was on his own. Deciding to have a look around the town, he pulled out a change of clothes, made a mental note to get some laundry done before they hit the road again, and stepped into the shower.

Half an hour later Sam was sitting in the tiny coffee shop down the street from the motel, a cup of coffee by his elbow, picking at the remains of a ham and cheese croissant. He shook his head and smiled politely at the petite middle-aged waitress who offered to top up his cup, and went back to studying the people moving past the windows.

A tall figure in a familiar leather jacket caught his eye, and Sam frowned as he got to his feet, dropping a few bills on the table to pay for his breakfast. He strode through the door and quickly caught up with his sibling. “Hey.”

Dean spun around, his eyes widening in surprise. “Oh. Hey.”

“Thought you were working on the Impala.” Shoving his hands into his pockets, Sam kept his eyes on Dean’s face, his frown deepening at the guilty shift of the elder man’s eyes.

“I am – I mean I was.” Dean shifted his stance and scratched the back of his head before waving a hand vaguely in the direction of the garage. “I’m just – uh – waiting for parts. You know – to fix her.”

“Right.” The younger hunter’s face was a study in disbelief. “So, does that mean you’re free for a while?”

“What? No. No – I – gotta run an errand for Dave.” Dean slid a hand into his jeans pocket, his fingers clutching a small slip of paper. “I gotta get back, so – Chinese, right?”

“Yeah – whatever. Listen, Dean – I found –” Sam raised a hand to grasp Dean’s sleeve, but the elder hunter drew back a step.

“I’ll see you later, okay?” Flashing a disarming grin, Dean turned and weaved his way gracefully through the light crowd.

“What the hell?” Sam mused softly. Briefly he toyed with the idea of shadowing his brother to see what Dean was up to, but he changed his mind when he saw the tall figure look back at him before disappearing around the corner. No, there would be no tailing Dean – not successfully.

Sighing, Sam turned back toward the motel, keeping his hands in his pockets as he ambled along. He had been about to tell his brother about the hunt he’d stumbled across. But Dean had seemed almost uncomfortable – as if Sam had caught him out in some way. Shaking his head in exasperation, Sam decided to head over to the Larsen house instead. He figured he might as well do a little scouting around – get some more information before telling his obviously distracted brother about the hunt. Who knew – maybe he could even pop the ghost and tell Dean when it was all over. He might even regain his ‘adult’ status, he thought snarkily.

With that thought in mind, Sam lengthened his stride, swinging by the motel to grab some equipment before heading down the main drag toward the south side of town.

*     *     *     *     *

Dean sighed in relief as he slipped around the corner after checking to make sure Sam wasn’t following him. His brother was still standing on the sidewalk outside the jeweller’s store, a puzzled frown on his tanned face.

“Man, that was too close,” he breathed, pulling the slip of paper from his pocket. It bore the stamp of the jeweller in the top right hand corner. He grinned, flicking the deposit receipt with an index finger before folding it up and tucking it securely inside his wallet. “Sammy’s gonna freak – but it’s gonna be so worth it.”

Quickening his pace, Dean strode back to the garage, giving Dave the thumbs-up as he swung through the door.

“All done?”

“All done.” Dean patted his pocket and smirked as he quickly swapped his shirt and jacket for the overalls he’d worn earlier. “Okay, what’s next?”

The young mechanic laughed, pointing to an SUV. “See what you can do with that baby. There’s a knocking noise in the driver’s side front wheel.”

“Knocking, huh? Wheel bearing? Tie rod? Bubble in the tyre?”

“That’s for you to find out. Go get it, Tiger.” Dave tossed his new assistant the SUV’s keys from a rack in the office and went back to the Taurus.

*     *     *     *     *

The rusty hinges creaked when Sam pushed on the sagging gate. Grimacing at the noise, the young hunter glanced around, but nothing moved on the deserted street. He looked over his shoulder at the little white house across the way, hoping to see the friendly old man he’d met the night before. But the house was quiet – its occupant out, or maybe even asleep, given his advanced age and state of health. Sam shrugged and stepped onto the weed-choked path.

The grass in the overgrown front yard was almost as high as his waist. Keeping to the broken path, he made his way to the front porch, stepping carefully onto the warped boards. They creaked alarmingly under his weight, but held. His footsteps echoing hollowly, he walked to the front door and tried the handle. It turned stiffly, the latch grating as it slid free. Sam pushed the door open and stepped inside, wrinkling his nose at the almost overpowering stench of mildew, dust and decay.

The living room lay shrouded in shadows, dust dancing lazily in the faint beam of light streaming in through the open front door. Sam stepped into the middle of the room and slowly turned full circle, holding out the EMF he’d grabbed from the weapons bag. The needle didn’t even so much as quiver, and the hunter slipped the device into his jacket pocket.

Glancing around, Sam studied the room. The shredded remains of a couch stood against the far wall, its frame half rotted and chewed by rodents that had made their nest in the stuffing of the seats. Two wing back chairs flanked the couch, the leather long since rotted away, exposing the frame and springs. Clumps of mouldy, moth-eaten carpet still clung to the dusty floorboards. The hunter’s sharp eyes picked out dark rusty stains that he guessed was blood from the murdered young wife – or possibly from the dead husband.

Sam examined the walls, noting more faint marks of long dried blood. He grimaced, his mind putting together the grisly scene that had greeted the deputy and the young Jedediah.

He turned toward the stairs, testing each one before putting his full weight on the dusty boards. They creaked and groaned, making the young hunter wince with each step. Finally he made it to the top and scouted through each room, running the EMF up and down the walls and ceilings.

The top floor was clean – as far as any spirit activity was concerned. Coughing a little at the dust stirred up by his boots, Sam stood near the top of the stairs and scanned the short hallway before descending to the ground floor.

There was a huge stone flagged kitchen to the right of the living room, a woodworm riddled table flanked by six high backed chairs standing in the middle of the floor. Sam reached out, grasping the back of the nearest chair and pushing experimentally against it. The brittle frame disintegrated, the pieces falling to the floor with a hollow clatter. Termites spilled from the broken ends and milled about, frantically trying to get out of the light. Sam stepped back, his face twisting in disgust.

“At least there aren’t any rats,” he murmured. A soft skitter made him spin around, and he grinned wryly when he saw a small furry body dart across the living room floor, disappearing under the remains of the couch. “I spoke too soon. Man, Dean’s gonna love this place – he’ll probably suggest we squat here instead of staying at the motel.”

Chuckling softly at the mental image of his big brother and his pathological fear of rats, Sam made short work of searching the other rooms. Nothing showed up on the EMF meter on the ground floor either, and the frustrated hunter turned his attention to the grounds around the house.

Wishing he had brought a machete, Sam stepped off the cracked and weed-choked path to push through the waist-high grass till he got to the eastern corner of the house. He searched around the foundations, finally coming to the storm cellar along the western wall. The rusted padlock shattered easily after a couple of blows from a broken brick, and Sam heaved the heavy wooden doors open, recoiling a little at the stench that wafted out of the darkness.

Sam held his arm across his nose, using the sleeve of his jacket to filter out the worst of the smell. He pulled a small flashlight from his pocket and clicked it on, aiming the narrow but bright beam onto the warped steps. As he descended, he raised the flashlight and panned it around the small, damp room, noting the usual collection of junk that cluttered up most peoples’ cellars.

Shelves festooned with cobwebs held an assortment of rusted tools and glass jars full of what he guessed were nails and screws. An empty wine rack stood in one corner, two shelves broken and hanging forlornly toward the concrete floor. An old push lawn mower leaned up against the end of one of the shelves, its blades so badly rusted that they were fused to the frame of the reel.

And in the far corner, almost buried under layers of cobwebs and dust, was a small wooden table holding half a dozen half-melted black candles, the rotted remains of a leather bound book, and an assortment of bowls. Sam’s eyes flew wide in shock.

“Black altar. Holy crap. This guy was darker than I thought.”

Every sense on hyper alert, the tall hunter crept across the cellar to the altar. He surveyed the decades old collection of black magic talismans, and his lips curled in disgust. “Man…”

With a surging heave, Sam toppled the table, destroying the altar and breaking whatever black magic spell might be holding on. He dusted his hands on his jeans, nodding in satisfaction before turning toward the stairs.

And jumped as the cellar doors slammed closed with a ringing crash.

“Crap – that can’t be good.” Sam lunged for the steps, making it halfway across the floor before the temperature in the cellar plummeted. His breath puffed out in a curling fog in front of his face and he shivered, training the flashlight’s beam up and down the walls.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

The deep, sepulchral voice had the young hunter spinning on his heel to face the dark shape coalescing out of the gloom. Sam stepped back a pace, plunging a hand into his jacket pocket for the canister of salt he’d brought with him in lieu of a less easily concealed shotgun. Before he could do more than wrap his fingers around the plastic container, a cold hand grasped him by the throat and lifted him off his feet.

“Not – the – neck!” he wheezed in protest, arms and legs flailing futilely. A deep-throated snarl emanated from the dark shape, and then Sam was sent flying across the room. He crashed into the tool shelf on the far side and crumpled to the floor in a heap, the breath driven from his lungs by the impact. Rolling weakly onto his side, he raised a hand, coughing raggedly. A groan was wrenched from his lips as he felt himself being raised again and flung hard against the stairs.

Stars erupted briefly before his eyes, followed by an impenetrable blackness. The young hunter tumbled limply down the steps, coming to rest on the cold stone floor in a tangle of limbs.

The spirit stared malevolently down at the unconscious Winchester, and melted into the shadows.

*     *     *     *    *

Dave wiped his hands on the rag dangling from his overalls pocket, stretched the kinks from his back and grinned at his companion. “Dude – I might have to keep you on permanent.”

Dean shook his head as he grinned back. “No can do. As soon as my baby’s fixed, we gotta hit the road. Sorry, man.”

“Pay’s lousy – but the boss is pretty easy-going,” Dave wheedled. “Conditions are good, man.”

“Thanks, but – tempting as the offer of lousy pay is, I gotta say no.”

“Well, can’t blame a guy for tryin’.” Dave shook his head in admiration. “Man, I’ve been tryin’ to find the cause of that flat spot in that old Dodge for over a week.” He strode over to the cash register in the tiny office; pulled two fifty dollar bills from the drawer and handed them over. “Job well done, man. I’ll give you some more when I get paid for that Taurus, minus the cost of the parts for your Impala.”

Dean slipped the money into his wallet and nodded his thanks. He had just enough to pay for the little surprise he’d put the down payment on that morning. Stripping off the borrowed overalls, he tossed them onto the nearby workbench and scrubbed his hands and arms at the sink. “Thanks, dude. See you tomorrow?”

“Sure thing. Won’t be here till around eight, though.”

Saluting with two fingers against his forehead, Dean checked his watch and pulled his cell phone from his jeans pocket. He pressed the speed dial for Sam’s number and held the phone to his ear.

The phone rang six times, and then diverted to voicemail. Frowning, the hunter ended the call without leaving a message, waited for a few seconds and then tried again. It answered on the fifth ring.

“Hey!”

Dean’s frown deepened at his brother’s breathless tone. “Sam – why didn’t you answer the first time?”

“Uh – didn’t – didn’t hear – it ring. Sorry.”

“What’s going on, Sam?”

“What? Nothin’.”

“Then why are you doing your obscene phone caller imitation?”

“Um – just – went for a – run.”

“A run.”

“Yeah.”

Dean knew every single nuance of his little brother’s voice. That didn’t sound like out-of-breath-because-of-exercise-Sam or even caught-doing-something-I-shouldn’t-Sam; that was definitely injured-Sam.  “And you’re a freakin’ liar. How bad is it?”

“Uh – not bad. Just fell – that’s all.”

“You fell.” Dean rolled his eyes. “Where are you? I’ll come get you.”

“No, no – I’ll – meet – you back – at the – motel. I’m uh – I just...”

“Where. Are. You.”

“Uh….” Dean heard the rustle of clothing and a hitched gasp. He ground his teeth together and shook his head. “Elm Road. South – of town.”

“Stay right there. I’m on my way. You move and I’ll shoot your ass full of rock salt.” Dean flipped the phone closed, vowing silently to kick his little brother’s butt when he got hold of him. He turned around to find Dave standing behind him, a mile wide grin on his oil-streaked face.

“Problem?”

The hunter sighed heavily, grabbing his shirt and jacket from the hook just inside the office door. “Dave – you got a car I can borrow? Sam’s had a fall – sounds like he might have bruised his ribs pretty good. He’s out on Elm Road, wherever that is.”

The smile quickly faded from the mechanic’s lean face. “Elm Road? What the hell’s he doin’ out there? Man, even the locals don’t go there.”

Dean tried to ignore the cold shiver that trickled down his spine. Only Sam, he mused wryly. Trouble was drawn to his little brother like iron filings to a magnet. “And why not?”

Dave cleared his throat, shuffled his feet and looked everywhere but at the tall hunter. “Um – well – promise you won’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing,” Dean replied solemnly.

“Elm Road – it’s – well – haunted.”

“Haunted.”

“Yeah.”

“The whole road.”

“Pretty much.”

“Where is it?”

“Head south along the main road – it’s the last turn before you hit the highway. Right on the southern edge of town. Take my truck.” Dave watched his new found friend sprint to the tow truck and peel out of the parking lot, the tow chains swinging wildly as the vehicle sped down the road.

*     *     *     *     *

Dean spotted the tall figure leaning against a rickety fence the moment he turned the corner. Pulling up at the overgrown kerb, he scowled as his brother made two attempts to straighten up. Sam grimaced, holding a hand to his side, and weaved his unsteady way toward the passenger door. He climbed in, glanced uneasily at his fuming brother and settled against the seat with a soft groan.

“So – you fell.” Dean eyed his dust-smeared sibling up and down. “Where?”

“Um…” Sam waved a hand vaguely toward the rear of the truck. “Down the road.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Yeah. Tripped – not watching where – I was going.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Obviously the street cleaners haven’t been around lately.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

The ride back to the motel was made in near silence – except for a soft gasp from the passenger seat every time the truck hit a bump in the road. Finally Dean pulled up in the motel parking lot, and Sam breathed a sigh of relief as he opened the door and slid from the cabin. The ringing of his cell phone had snapped him back to consciousness, and he’d managed to make his way out of the cellar and down to the gate by the time his brother had arrived. He gingerly slid a hand into his pocket and fished out the room key.

Dean leaned across the seat. “Hey. I gotta take the truck back.”

“Okay.” Sam briefly closed his eyes in a silent prayer of thanks. He made his way to the room, trying not to stagger like a drunk. His head spun, every muscle ached, and he felt as if his ribs were on fire. And he was covered from head to toe in a fine layer of dust. Having Dean away from the room, even for a few minutes, should give him enough time to assess and repair the worst of the damage, and hide the evidence. He hoped.

Dean waited five full minutes, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel while the seconds ticked away on his watch. Sliding from the truck, he carefully closed the door and walked stealthily to their room. He pressed his ear to the door, grinning when he detected no movement from within. Fishing the key from his pocket, he slid it into the lock and turned it carefully. A tiny click sounded, and then the door was swinging open. The green-eyed hunter closed it softly behind him and tiptoed over to the closed bathroom door.

Grasping the handle, Dean took a deep breath and flung the door open without warning, catching his brother completely by surprise. Sam stood at the sink, stripped to the waist, one hand outstretched toward the first aid kit lying open on the vanity unit, a startled deer in the headlights look on his dusty face. Dean would have laughed out loud if he hadn’t been so pissed.

The elder hunter folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the doorjamb. “So – we’ve tried going for a run, and we’ve tried falling down. Anything else you want to run past me before you cut the crap and tell me what really happened?” He ran his gaze pointedly across his brother’s reddened torso.

Oh, crap – I am so screwed. Sam looked everywhere but at his thoroughly annoyed sibling. “Uh…”

“Sit.” Dean moved into the room, forcing Sam to step back.

“What?”

“Sit.”

Sam lowered himself gingerly onto the edge of the bath. He chewed the inside of his cheek while his brother flipped down the toilet lid to use as a seat.

Dean rested his hands on his knees, leaned forward, and stared into his brother’s eyes. The hazel orbs widened, then shifted guiltily away, dropping to stare at the floor. He sighed, slid a little closer and reached out to gently palpate his brother’s ribs. “Can you breathe okay? No sharp pain?”

“No,” Sam answered quietly. “Just hurts when I move.”

“Mm-hmm. Well, they’re just bruised – nothin’s broken.” Dean abruptly stood up and left the room.

Sam stared at his brother’s departing back in confusion. He heard the main door open and the sound of Dean’s footsteps retreating down the hallway. Sam raised his brows, wondering whether he should move or stay put. His question was answered a few minutes later when Dean returned, a bag of ice in his hand.

Dean wrapped the ice in a towel and handed it to his puzzled sibling. “Here.” He retrieved the first aid kit from the vanity unit and sat back down as Sam pressed the ice pack against his bruised side. Dean grasped his brother’s chin and turned Sam’s head to the side, revealing a gash on his temple, almost hidden by his hair. Pulling a swab and the antiseptic from the first aid kit, he proceeded to clean up the semi-dried blood. “You ditching me, Sammy?” he asked conversationally.

Sam stiffened in shock, his hand tightening on the ice pack. “No. Of course not.”

“No? ’Cos it sure seems like it.” Dean tossed the bloody swab into the sink and reached for another one, soaking it in antiseptic before dabbing gently at the cut. “See, Dave told me Elm Road’s haunted. So – ready to tell me the truth now?”

The younger Winchester pressed his lips together in a thin line.

“You went on a hunt, didn’t you? After you told me you were tired and wanted a break from hunting, you just happened to stumble onto the only haunted road in the whole freakin’ state.”

“I –”

“Thought you’d go handle it all by yourself, huh? Since I’m not gonna be around much longer and all.”

“That’s not true, Dean.”

“No?” Dean arched his brows in disbelief. “Then what?”

Sam huffed. “I was gonna tell you –”

“Before or after you got yourself killed?”

The ice pack hit the bottom of the tub with a clinking thud as the hazel-eyed hunter shot to his feet. Sam stormed from the bathroom, and Dean threw the swab into the sink in disgust. Slamming the first aid kit closed, he strode into the main room, tossing the kit onto his bed as he faced his sibling. “We gonna have another tantrum?”

Sam ground his teeth in fury and snatched up his duffle, upending it over his bed. With quick, jerky movements he plucked out a clean tee shirt and button up shirt and donned them, keeping his gaze averted. The burning pain in his bruised side only fuelled his rage.

Dean stepped right into Sam’s personal space. “You gonna answer me?”

“Get the hell out of my face!” Bringing his hands up in a lightning fast move, Sam slammed the heels of his palms into Dean’s chest, staggering the elder hunter back a few paces.

Dean’s eyes flew wide in shock as he rubbed his chest. He’d been taken by surprise, and the blows had hurt. He hadn’t expected Sam to actually hit him. Shock turned to confusion when he saw his brother grab his jacket and head for the door. “Where the hell are you going?”

“None of your friggin’ business!”

His eyes narrowing in anger, Dean grabbed Sam’s sleeve, jerking the young hunter to a halt. “You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on!”

“The hell I’m not!” Snapping his arm down, Sam broke Dean’s hold and glared at his sibling. “I don’t have to follow your orders! You’re not Dad!” He reached for the door handle.

Dean fisted his hands in his hair in frustration. “Oh, yeah – ‘cos you were so freakin’ good at following his orders! Jeez, now I know how he felt!”

“Screw you! I’m gonna go get a drink! Feel free to keep the hell out of my way!”

“What is freakin’ wrong with you! I’ve met demons who were easier to deal with than you!”

Sam slowly turned, muscles tensing, his eyes burning with a strange intensity as he gazed at his sibling. His face was drained of colour except for two hectic spots of red on his cheeks. “Maybe you made the wrong deal.”

Dean stared at his brother as if he’d grown an extra head. “What? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Back in Greenwood.” The younger man’s voice dropped to a savage whisper. “You wanted to make that deal with the crossroads demon – get Dad back instead of saving Evan Hudson. Maybe you should have offered her a swap – me in exchange for Dad. Then you would’ve had ten years with Dad, instead of only one year with me. Everyone goes home happy.”

Shock robbed the elder hunter of speech. He stood stock still in the middle of the floor as the door slammed behind his sibling, Sam’s bitter words reverberating in his head. Slowly, Dean walked over to his bed and sank down on its edge, feeling as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He dropped his head into his hands and groaned aloud.

“This is so screwed.”

*     *     *     *     *


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