Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Dean's made his deal and Sam is desperate to save him. Needless to say, trouble is brewing.

One month after D-Day
A motel on route 97
Near the Canadian border
Washington State

"How certain are you
that what you brought back
is 100% pure Sam?"

The chair hit the wall with a resounding crash and was broken into all its components by the force it was thrown with. The wall didn't fare much better, being left with a deep hole and two smaller ones.

Dean stared at the dent in the wall for a second, then slowly turned his attention to his brother, who stood at the other end of the room, every fiber of his being screaming bloody murder right now. He looked like he was about ready to kill someone and that look didn't sit well with Dean. "What the hell was that for?" Dean asked, waving a hand at the destruction.

Sam's lips twitched while his gaze remained locked on the hole in the wall. Then he turned his back on Dean and raked his fingers through his hair before folding them behind his head and letting out a hissing breath.

"Sam?" Dean eyed Sam's back, already becoming accustomed to the fact that he couldn't get Sam to answer him if the kid didn't want to. It was new and not a 'new' Dean approved of. "What the hell did you just do that for?" he demanded, hoping that anger might get Sam to 'fess up.

Sam let his arms drop, drew in a deep breath and finally turned back to face him. The look in his eyes, though, was no more comforting than him throwing the chair in the first place. "Nothing," he finally said, dropped down on the second and last chair at the small table and turned the laptop towards him to continue working.

What the hell was going through Sam's head at the moment was totally beyond Dean. It had been one month since the Yellow-Eyed Demon had bought it and Dean had somehow expected that this would end whatever influence that bastard had wielded over his little brother. But to say that Sam was free of any demonic influence was just about the biggest lie ever told. If for nothing else, Sam's mood had deteriorated to such an extent that Dean felt himself drawing back a little when Sam crashed and burned. And he did that a lot these days.

There was the rather prominent incentive of having died and come back, of course, and Dean felt fairly certain that part of Sam's obvious anger came from that corner. But ... and this was a big but ... it didn't account for the almost freakish strength Sam had gained since returning to the land of the living. Hurling a lightweight chair across a room this small was no big feat, but putting a fist-sized dent into the wall and totally obliterating the chair was.

"Look, man, I'm sorry, okay?" Sam suddenly said and looked up. "I'm just so freaking frustrated."

Dean eyed him for a moment, then settled down on the edge of the closest bed. It was the shifting back and forth between what he considered 'normal' Sam and this new version that he absolutely didn't like. "I get that, Sam. Trust me I do," he said and glanced back at the sad remains of the chair. "But breaking the furniture isn't going to make that any better."

Sam ruffled his hair, then smoothed it back against his skull, the air of frustration hanging heavily around him. "I know that," he muttered.

"It's only been a month. Don't expect it to be easy, dude. Nothing involving demons is ever easy," Dean said and made a face.

Sam, who had been staring at the laptop without really seeing it, looked up at him, his expression saying more than words. "I still can't believe you did that, man," he said with a light shake of the head. "I can't believe you made a deal with that crossroad demon after all the griping you did about dad doing the same for you."

Dean flinched and avoided looking at his brother right now. "Can we not talk about this now?" he asked and got up again. "It's done. There's nothing more to say about it."

The expression on his brother's face told Dean that this was far from over, that he would hear about this until the day his time ran out and if things really went south he would probably hear about it for the rest of eternity. "Could you at least help me out? I mean, dude, you must want this deal broken as much as I do," Sam said after a moment's worth of silence had passed between them.

"I do," Dean said and wiped a hand over his mouth, still not facing Sam. The conditions of this deal were going to send him to his grave prematurely and so far he had neglected to tell Sam about the extent of it. "I just ..."

"... don't know where to begin? Yeah, I heard you the first one hundred times you've said that, Dean. That excuse is getting old. Real old! So why don't you just tell me what the hell is going on? There's more to this deal than you selling your soul to the highest bidder to bring me back, isn't there?"

There was that note of anger again, the uncommon anger that had never been directed at Dean before. Sure, they'd had fights before, but usually Sam had reserved that anger, the righteous kind, for their father.

If past experiences had taught Dean anything, then it was that he couldn't outrun the truth once Sam had caught onto a snippet of it. Sam was like a damned bulldog with a bone when he wanted to know the whole truth. For a moment, Dean considered how long he would be able to get away with not telling Sam about the conditions of the deal, but figured that Sam would find out about it sooner or later. He drew in a deep breath, eased back down on the edge of the bed and glanced at Sam. "Yeah, there's more to this deal," he agreed quietly.

Sam swallowed and glanced off into the distance for a heartbeat. Then he focused on Dean again, his eyes narrowing a little. "What else?" he asked quietly.

The bedspread beneath him had caught Dean's attention and he picked thoughtfully at the fluff on it. "I can't help you break this deal, Sam," he finally said and looked up to meet his brother's penetrating stare. "If I do anything – anything at all – to get out of this deal, you drop dead and the deal's off."

The expression on his brother's face was enough to send a shiver down Dean's spine. He had always been able to read Sam by just looking at him and Sam was thinking what he had hoped he wouldn't; that if all else failed, the way he could save Dean was through that. But Dean didn't want saving if it meant having to face Sam's death again.

"Forget it, Sam," he said tensely. "That's not gonna happen. I'm not going to do anything to jeopardize you."

"But ..." Sam started, but Dean cut him off.

"Not gonna happen, Sam. If I have to spend the next eleven months sitting around with my damned hands in my lap, I will," he said sternly. "There is no way in hell that I'll do anything that'll get you killed again."

Sam's brow furrowed with a frown. "You weren't responsible for the first time, Dean," he tried.

"Yeah, I was," Dean countered flatly. "If I hadn't turned up at the time I did, that kid wouldn't have gotten the drop on you."

"Dean ..." Sam sighed deeply as his attention began to drift and he focused on an unseen point on the floor. "What's the use? You won't listen to reason anyway," he muttered, shook his head and returned his attention to the laptop yet again. "So, fine, I'll find a way to help you. I've already enlisted Bobby and Ellen. You just kick back and relax. I'll uproot hell itself to get you out of this deal," he added, then pursed his lips and lost himself in the search for that magical mushroom that might make or break this deal.

Dean watched him for a moment and he couldn't help a small smile from slipping over his lips. Dire as this situation might be, he had a feeling that Sam would do as he had just said and that his newfound strength might very well help him in that task.


Two days later

"A hunt?" Sam stared at his brother as if he had lost all sense and reason in one foul blow. "Now?"

"When else?" Dean countered and shrugged, taking a healthy swig of the beer bottle he was holding.

"Are you nuts? We don't have time for a hunt. Bobby said he'd get everybody he can think of on it to find those demons. We don't need to get involved. We need to find a way out of this damned deal for you," Sam said and rose. He made a face and shifted a little, which in turn caused Dean to narrow his eyes at him.

"Your back still bothering you?" he asked, eying him cautiously.

"It's sore," Sam admitted. "But screw that. There's no way in hell that we're going on a hunt right now, Dean. We can't spare the time."

"You can't. I've got nothing but time," Dean countered with a joyless smirk. "This little deal smells to high heaven of a demon anyway. There's sulphur, slit throats, the whole nine yards," he added almost casually.

Sam blinked, once again stunned by the carelessness that was Dean in general. "Dude, there's no way I'll let you go after a demon on your own. Are you nuts?"

Dean's joyless smirk turned into a grin. "You said that twice," he pointed out. "And no, I don't think I am. You've got work to do here and I'm bored stiff. So ... I'm going demon hunting and you'll stay here and do what you do best."

"No, Dean, no way, uh-uh, not gonna happen," Sam said decisively. "There is no way I'm letting you do that. It's too dangerous, man."

Dean sighed, took another hefty swig of the beer and grimaced. "Dangerous," he muttered. "Sam, there are about two hundred odd demons out there that we have to find and kick back to where they came from. Granted, we could have used a few more bullets for that freaking colt, but since we don't have that, we'll have to make do with what we know and what we've got. And I for one am not going to leave this world knowing that people in this god-forsaken country of ours are in mortal danger because of these bastards. I'm gonna take as many of them with me as I can."

That Dean's reasoning made sense made it no less devastating to have to listen to it. Sam was intent on making sure that Dean didn't do this hunt on his own and so decided that the research could wait until this hunt was over. "Okay, fine, I'll put the research on hold and we'll do this together," he said.

Dean's expression wasn't easy to read, but then Sam had never been able to read him very well. "I don't want you out there," Dean finally said and met Sam's gaze dead on.

"What?" Sam asked, a little stunned.

"I don't want you out there. I'm not gonna watch you die again, Sam. And that's as far as this goes. I'm going after the demon, you stay here and do the research." The look in his brother's eyes made Sam balk instantly, because it reminded him so much of dad that it was downright painful. That type of look had always been the kick-off point for major discussions that ended in fights.

"Excuse me?" he finally managed, having to make a conscious effort to not get in Dean's face about this. He knew where it came from, knew that Dean was worried about him, but it still didn't sit well with Sam that Dean had decided to keep him out of the game. "What am I? Five?" he added a little heatedly. "You do not get to tell me what I can and can't do, Dean. I'm not a little kid any more."

"No, but you're still my responsibility and I'm saying you're not going. End of discussion," Dean said sternly.

Sam narrowed his eyes a little. "There is no way in heaven or hell that you're doing this alone, Dean. I don't care what you say or do. And if I have to freaking tie you to a chair to make sure you don't do this on your own, I will," he warned.

Dean eyed him for a moment, obviously seeking for the truth and the intent behind his words, then emptied the bottle and dropped it into the waste basket. "We're not talking about this right now," he said dismissively, grabbed his jacket and shrugged into it. "I'm going out to get some dinner. You want anything?"

For a long, breathless moment all Sam could do was stare at him. Then he shook his head in reply to Dean's question and watched his brother leave. Moments after the door had clicked shut, Sam sank back down on the chair and stared ahead of himself for a while. There was no way he would let Dean do this alone, but right now he couldn't talk to him. Dean had developed this annoying habit of going into what Sam secretly called dad-mode where he became unreasonable about anything other than what he wanted. "You got that wrong, brother," he muttered under his breath and returned his attention to the laptop. "We are going to talk about it. Until you go blue in the face. No way am I letting him take on a full-blood demon on his own. What is he? Nuts?"

And then it hit him like a ton of bricks that Dean had just left, alone. His eyes widened and he shot out of the chair. "Shit," he hissed, grabbed his jacket and stormed out the door. The first thing he made sure of was that the Impala was still parked in front of the room, which it was.

Then he glanced around, searched for any sign that his brother might have ditched him in another way. And that was when he saw him entering the diner across the way and instantly felt the tension drain out of him again. "Jeez," he muttered and briefly considered going back inside. But there was still the vague risk that Dean was going to try and ditch him and he wasn't going to have any of that. Instead, he pulled his jacket on, closed the door to the motel room and leaned against the wall outside to wait for Dean to come back.

It took time, but eventually Dean stepped back out of the diner, two bags in one hand, and started across the road. By the time he reached the entrance to the motel parking lot he became aware that he was being watched and focused on Sam. All that earned Sam was a light frown, though. At least until Dean reached the room. "What are you doing out here?"

"Waiting for you," Sam countered. "You're gonna try and ditch me, aren't you? To go after that demon on your own."

Dean eyed him and despite the subtlety of the change in his expression, Sam caught on to it anyway. "No, of course not," he said and even his tone belied his words.

"Do I have stupid written on my forehead?" Sam demanded. "I'm gonna call Bobby if you don't cut this crap out," he warned.

Dean's expression shifted from vaguely cautious to stunned and a bit annoyed. "What's he gonna do? He's like ... a thousand miles away," he countered stubbornly.

"Dude, you can't go after a demon alone. What are you trying to do? Get yourself killed ahead of time? How are you gonna take as many of them with you as you can if you get wasted by the first best demon to come our way? Get it through your head, Dean. I'm not letting you do this alone. We're in this together and that's the end of that," Sam said, spreading his arms in an all-encompassing gesture.

The only sounds reaching them were those of a few cars going by while they just stood there and stared at each other. Then Dean sighed, opened the door and disappeared inside.

Sam just stood there for a moment, then briefly closed his eyes and let out a breath he had been holding back. This was going to be a fight to the finish line, but it was not going to be one he would lose. And he knew by now that he had the physical strength to carry through on the previous threat. Dean would never forgive him for it, but Sam didn't really care right now. They could go after the damned demon if that was what Dean wanted, but he was not going alone.

With an annoyed snort, he followed Dean inside.


Dean knew he was being unreasonable. He knew that Sam wasn't going to let this go and he was fairly convinced that his little brother at present had the physical strength to restrain him if he really wanted to. And judging by the look in Sam's eyes, he wanted to.

With a quiet sigh he put the bags with the food on the table, shrugged out of his jacket and threw it onto his bed before turning back to face Sam. Truth be told, he really didn't want to go up against a full-blood demon alone, but the anguish of losing Sam, of knowing he was mortal and could die, still made his blood run cold and he couldn't help the overwhelming urge to protect his brother. He had done nothing else for the majority of his life and it was hard to let go now.

"Look, Sammy, I get how you feel, okay? But ... hunting demons, man? If Bobby were here it would be a different story, but ..." he tried, hoping somehow that being reasonable and explaining why he felt the way he did might make Sam back off.

"Don't 'Sammy' me," Sam bit back, both looking and sounding angry. "If for nothing else, Dean, I've got a better shot at killing that bastard than you do. If it pushes me hard enough, I'm gonna push it right back."

"Yeah, well, you're not going to," Dean countered just as angrily. It was wearing him thin, this shifting back and forth between anger and concern and it made him snap at Sam and use a tone he recognized only too well. In a sense, he understood his father now more than ever.

Sam's expression tensed and Dean could just imagine what he was thinking. But he didn't say anything. Instead he shrugged out of his own jacket, threw it on his bed and disappeared into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him hard enough to rattle the frame.

"Dammit," Dean muttered under his breath and sank down on the one chair they had left. Then he glanced over at the door and sighed deeply. Despite all his efforts to forget it, he couldn't shake the feeling that there had been some truth to the demon's words about Sam and it made him feel very cold indeed to even consider the option that his brother might not be all there, that something might have tainted his soul. He closed his eyes and scrubbed both hands over his face, then slumped back into the chair. One thing he knew for sure. If it turned out that Sam wasn't entirely Sam any more, then he would call that bitch on it and somehow force her to annul the deal. In his opinion it would be a breach of the contract if Sam wasn't really Sam any more. The only thing that would stop him from taking that step was the thought of Sam dying again. That and that alone stayed his hand and would probably stay it for the rest of his life.


Dean was asleep by the time Sam finally saw fit to come out of the bathroom again. That his behavior might be interpreted as childish was something he didn't care about at this point. That he had felt a simmering urge to throttle his brother was something he considered very serious business. He had been pissed at Dean before, but never to this extent, and it worried him more than he was willing to admit even to himself that his response to Dean's pigheadedness was making him this agitated.

Quietly, he got undressed and slipped under the covers while trying to come to terms with the changes he felt in himself; changes he knew were somehow connected to being brought back from the dead by a demon.

With a sigh, he closed his eyes and tried to force himself to go to sleep, but too much was weighing on his mind and he couldn't stop the thoughts from tumbling through his head at breakneck speed. So many questions had been left unanswered, so many issues had been left standing after the demon had perished. The hope that the demon's influence over him would vanish with its death had turned out to be nothing short of a boldfaced lie and Dean was aware of that. But he wasn't aware to what extent Sam was still influenced by what the demon had done to him and Sam knew it all dated back to that fateful night when their mother had died and they had been forced into this life. Maybe it even dated back further.

Lately he had started to wonder in what capacity his mother had known the demon. Had it tried to get to Dean when he had been six months old? Or had mom actually been of the 'former generation' the demon had spoken about? The problem with all these questions was that they could turn out to be based on nothing but lies, meant to mess with his head. What the demon had shown him wasn't necessarily what had happened.

He rolled over on his back and draped an arm over his face while trying to decide what to believe and what not. His abilities could have been caused by the demon blood in him, he figured, but maybe there was more to it than just that? He couldn't decide and it was ripping him up inside that he had no way of finding out. There was no one to ask, no one to turn to, and it made things much more difficult to deal with when they were without precedence.

"If you're gonna toss and turn all night, we might as well get up."

Sam pulled his arm away from his face and squinted up at Dean, who in the meantime had turned on the light and gotten up. "Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you," he muttered.

"Yeah, well, you did," Dean countered somewhat grumpily and sat down on his bed. "Sam ... I think we should talk about this."

"About what?" Sam asked, well aware what Dean was hinting at. He propped himself up on his elbows and eyed his brother warily. "About how you think it's your right to boss me around?"

Dean made a face, clearly unhappy about the situation, and rubbed the back of his neck pensively. "I'm not trying to boss you around, Sam. I'm trying to keep you safe. You died, for pity's sake. Do you have any freaking clue what that did to me?"

The building anger subsided at those words and the look in Dean's eyes. Sam sat up, raked the fingers of one hand through his hair and sighed lightly. "I'm sorry," he said and meant it. "I should have paid better attention. Hell, maybe I should have clobbered Jake to death when I had the chance. But I ..." He grimaced. "When I shot him ... in that graveyard ... I felt nothing but rage. I was royally pissed off because of what he had done. Not only to me, but to you too. He forced you to make this deal, Dean. I ..." This was a topic they hadn't discussed. Dean had refused to talk about it at first and since Sam hadn't really wanted to. But he felt the need to speak his mind, because he only too clearly remembered the look in Dean's eyes, the borderline fear in Bobby's eyes and Ellen's stunned silence. At first he had thought nothing of it, but since it had come back to haunt him.

"I get that, Sam. Trust me I do," Dean said and eyed him almost sadly. "But ... man ... the look in your eyes when you shot him, Sam." He shook his head lightly, looking vaguely nauseous at the thought. "You looked totally cold, like it didn't bother you one bit."

Sam pulled his legs over the edge of the bed and pulled the sheets around him while staring into space. "It didn't," he confessed and looked up to meet Dean's eyes. "I felt nothing," he added and cleared his throat. "At all."

Dean held his gaze without flinching. "How do you feel about it now?" he asked.

There was that tentative tone in his voice that Sam had heard there a few times since that incident. He hadn't really tried to identify it before, but figured he knew now what it meant. Dean was apprehensive about what he was going to say and Sam feared his brother would look at him differently if he spoke the truth. On the other hand ... the truth such as it was would come out eventually and Sam saw no real reason to withhold it from Dean. "I still feel nothing about killing Jake," he admitted reluctantly. "What gets to me is the way you looked at me afterwards."

If Dean was shocked by his words, he didn't show it. He merely sat there and watched him attentively for a moment. Then he nodded as if understanding. "It's better than nothing. If that hadn't bothered you either, I would have started to worry," he said, a note of sarcasm in his tone now. "Let's get some sleep, Sam. We have a busy day tomorrow," he added and slipped back under the covers.

Sam frowned lightly. "Oh yeah? What are we doing?" he asked.

Dean smirked. "We've got ourselves a demon to bag, remember?" he countered and turned off the light.

Sam just sat there for a moment, then he smiled lightly in the darkness and got back into bed. It would seem that Dean had changed his mind about going after that demon on his own and that was always a good thing.