Bobby's place
Fort Pierre, SD
The following evening

Dean arrived well ahead of ten p.m. and was, as he had predicted, starving. Sam's response to seeing him was subdued, but he did seem to be marginally happy. He greeted him with a hey and about time and that was it, but he managed a smile somewhere in-between. Then he disappeared back into the livingroom.

Dean watched him go with growing concern. "Has he been like that since I left?" he asked and glanced at Bobby before dropping his duffle on the floor.

"He was that way before you left," Bobby countered and eyed Dean closely. "Did you ... do what you needed to do?"

Dean drew in a deep breath, held it for a second and then nodded. "Yeah, I think so. Just had to make sure we didn't leave any tracks someone could follow. There's still that fed breathing down my neck."

"So ... that was all? You didn't go there to make any more deals?" Bobby asked, his tone a bit sarcastic.

Dean glanced at him, a little taken aback by that question. "I think I've made all the deals I can make in a lifetime, don't you?" he countered and made a face.

"Dean, Sam seems to think that this Lucy St. Clair is ... the devil," Bobby said quietly. "He had forgotten that you told him where you were going. When I told him, he nearly stormed out of here to follow you. And then the wind sorta went out of him again, like he'd hit a brick wall or something. What the hell is going on? Who is that woman?"

Dean stared ahead of himself for a moment, recalling Lucy's words, and figured he might as well come clean. "From what I can tell ... she is Lucifer. At least she thinks she is. She's got ... power. But ..." He shrugged. "She's not using it much. Says she doesn't want to attract the demons in the world. I don't really know what to make of what she told me. I kinda have the feeling that if she really is Lucifer, she wouldn't really care about that. Or live in a red brick house with a white picket fence around it while she's trying to hide from the hoards of Hell." He rubbed the back of his neck pensively.

"She told you she was Lucifer?" Bobby asked.

"Not in so many words. But she indicated it," Dean countered. "And what she said kinda made sense too, but ... I don't know if I buy it."

For a long moment they just stood there, neither of them saying anything. Then Bobby finally cleared his throat. "Well, you must be hungry after that trip," he said and motioned toward the kitchen.

Dean followed him and dropped down on a chair at the table. "Truth be told, I'm kinda wasted. Haven't really slept since I left here," he admitted and watched Bobby as he opened the fridge and eyed its contents. "What do you think? You think she could ... potentially ... be Lucifer?"

"I wouldn't know, would I?" Bobby countered without looking back at him. "Did she remove the demon from Sam?"

Dean nodded, realized Bobby still wasn't looking and muttered, "Yeah."

"It kinda makes you wonder why, doesn't it?" Bobby asked and turned back to face him. "If she is Lucifer, why is she helping you? And, by the way, isn't Lucifer supposed to be male?"

"Beats the hell out of me," Dean countered. "I've kinda reached a point where I don't know what's up and down any more."

Bobby eyed him seriously and Dean figured he had a thousand questions he wanted to ask. "What happened, Dean? Why'd you go there? And don't give me that crap about tying up loose ends."

Dean let his head drop and rested his chin on his chest for a second, then glanced up at Bobby again. There was no fooling the guy. He could see right through Dean without even trying. "First and foremost, I've given her my word that we won't tell anyone who she is. Nobody! You can't tell anyone. Not even Ellen. I'm not a hundred percent sure she is who she claims to be, but she does hold what's left of that yellow-eyed son of a bitch and I have no doubt that she'll try and reinsert it into Sam if I break my word. So, please, don't tell anyone about this."

Bobby arched an eyebrow. "Who would believe it anyway?" he asked. "Don't worry. My lips are sealed," he added.

Dean nodded his thanks. "I ... went there to ... break the deal. She offered me a way out and ... I took it. I ... don't know if it worked. I can't tell. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see."

Bobby closed the fridge after grabbing two beers, handed Dean one and then sat down across from him. "You made another deal?" he asked, his tone laced with concern.

"Not in so many words," Dean said. "She transferred the deal to someone else," he added quietly. All of a sudden it was very important to him that Bobby understood and perhaps even agreed with his approach.

"Transferred?" Bobby asked, looking stunned. "What the hell does that mean?"

With a light shrug, Dean wrapped both hands around the bottle and eyed it closely. "It means that someone else is going to take my place in Hell in six months time. Sooner if they get killed before then," he said. For whatever reason, he was as yet reluctant to put a name to the recipient and Bobby didn't really seem inclined to ask. "I'm just not so sure this thing isn't gonna come back and bite me on the ass." To admit this growing fear was to admit that he might have made another stupid move to avoid what was coming.

Bobby eyed him darkly. "I wouldn't worry too much about my ass if I were you," he growled. "Dammit, Dean. You made a bargain with the devil? What are you trying to do? Trade up?"

He couldn't help a tired grin. "At least it can't get any worse, right?" he asked and chanced a brief glance over at Bobby, who wasn't happy at all.

"You boys are gonna be the death of me," Bobby grumbled and took a hefty swig of his beer. "Go check on your brother before he slips into a state of catatonia again," he added and waved toward the door.

Dean nodded and rose. "I'm not trying to make things worse here, Bobby," he tried.

"Yeah, I know that, Dean. But somehow you just keep on doing that, don't you?" Bobby countered. "When I promised your daddy that I would look out for you two if anything happened to him, I had no idea that it would be this difficult," he added and he sounded dead tired all of a sudden.

"Sorry," Dean muttered, turned around and left the kitchen. What else could he say?


The livingroom was dark and Dean stopped briefly, wondering if Sam had gone to bed already, then realized he hadn't. He just hadn't turned on any lights. He switched on a few lamps, then dropped down on the couch next to Sam.

"Why are you sitting in the dark?" he asked and eyed Sam closely.

Sam so far hadn't even noticed his presence and glanced at him with a light frown. "I don't know," he replied and sighed.

To say that Dean was worried about his brother was the understatement of the year. The extraction of the demon essence should have returned him to his good old self, but it seemed to have deprived him of any drive too. He just sat there, quiet and still like a damned corpse, and it sent as shiver through Dean that he couldn't subdue. "What's wrong with you, Sam? This isn't like you."

"I ... don't know," Sam muttered and regarded his hands for a moment. "I ... uhm ... kinda feel like something's off."

Dean eyed him closely. "Like what?"

A light shake of the head was all the answer he got to that question while Sam continued to stare at his hands as if he'd never seen them before.

"Are you still obsessing about that woman you supposedly killed?" Dean asked, grabbing the only reason he could find for Sam's odd behavior. "Because, dude, I keep telling you, that wasn't you. You had no control."

"It's the 'no control' bit I have trouble with, Dean," Sam said quietly. He turned his hands over and stared idly at his palms for a moment, then balled both hands into fists. "It's the fact that I'm so easy to possess that's bothering me. That I can't fight it. That I don't know how. That I keep hurting you when it happens."

"Look, if I blamed you for this, I would have told you so. You know me. I don't put a lid on crap like that. So, since I haven't said anything, it's probably because I'm not blaming you, okay? Besides, I don't think you're any easier to possess than anyone else. That little bit of demon essence you had in you probably made it easier. But it's gone now, so you'll do better the next time."

"There won't be a next time," Sam said quietly.

The tone of his voice combined with the choice of words worried Dean a whole lot more than the silence act. "That sounds vaguely ominous. What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he demanded.

"I've been looking through some of Bobby's books and I found a ... sign that wards off possession," he said, grabbed the book and opened it. He turned it around to show Dean the sign he had found.

Dean briefly skimmed over the page, then took the book and closed it again before returning it to the pile on the table. "Sam, the only way that thing would do you any good is to have it branded into your skin. That's not the way we do things around here."

The corners of Sam's lips twitched. "Why not? An amulet isn't going to protect me. And you're not going to be around for much longer. I need something ..." He trailed off and again looked down at his hands, which he had once again balled into fists. "I can't do this alone."

"I think you could if you had to," Dean disagreed. "But ... you may not have to," he added. He had sort of decided on not telling Sam about the breaking of the deal because he wasn't certain it had really happened, but Sam's present state of mind seemed mostly based on that Dean was going to go to Hell in six months time and that just wouldn't do.

Sam glanced at him. "What?" he asked and for the first time since he had woken up after the extraction, there was a little more life in his eyes.

"Lucy offered me a way out of the deal. And I took it," Dean countered. "It's a long story and I really don't feel like getting into it now. Besides, I'm not really sure she really pulled it off, but ... well, we'll know more in six months time."

Sam just stared at him. "The ... devil got you out of the deal?" he asked, quiet obviously having a hard time believing what he was hearing.

"That's one way of putting it," Dean agreed. "Don't ask me why. I have no frigging clue. She seems to like me. Who knows why," he added and shrugged lightly.

Looking a little mystified, Sam glanced across the room as if the bookcases there would offer any answers, then he resumed his staring match with his hands.

Dean watched him for a moment, waiting for some kind of response that didn't seem to be coming. It irked him like nothing else that Sam said so little. Hell, he would even be happy if Sam started yelling at him, accusing him of being crazy and whatever else he could think of at the moment. This zombie-version of his brother was upsetting in so many ways, he couldn't even begin to define it. "That's it? You have nothing to say?" he asked.

Sam didn't move, just sat there and stared down at his hands. The only way Dean could tell he was still alive was the rise and fall of his chest and the occasional blink.

"Sam?" Dean pressed.

"What could I possibly say? You never listen to me anyway," Sam muttered, then suddenly got up and walked out on him without looking back.

Dean remained seated and watched him go. This was really starting to bug the hell out of him, so to put his mind at ease, he pulled his phone out of one pocket, dialed a number and waited for the other end to pick up, which it did after two rings. "What the hell did you do to my brother?"

"I take it you made it back in one piece?" Lucy countered.

"Obviously. What the hell did you do to my brother?" he repeated heatedly. "He's like a frigging zombie. This is more than survivor's guilt. He's spaced out and I can't haul him back in. What the hell did you do to him?"

"Has it ever occurred to you that your brother might be like this if he didn't have the demon blood driving him on?" Lucy asked. "That said, I warned you. He's alive and he's reacting. That's all I could promise you and that's all you got. You should have let him go."

"Not a chance, Luce. Whatever the hell you did, I want you to fix it or the deal's off. I'm gonna call Ruby first and then I'll tell every damned demon I can find where you are," he countered angrily.

The line was silent for a moment. Then he heard her sigh. "I'll see what I can do," she finally said, her tone a little terse. "I would reconsider using that threat again, though. I hold you in the highest regard, Dean, but I do not respond well to threats."

"Neither do I," Dean countered. "Just fix it and we'll never have to talk about this again."

"Mandrake root. Only one teaspoon of it. Mix it with two drops of your own blood in a glass of boiling water and make your brother drink it all. It will make him sick like hell for a few days, but after that, he should be back to ... normal."

"Mandrake is poisonous to humans," Dean countered. "You think I'm gonna poison him?"

"Then leave him like he is," Lucy countered indifferently. "It's up to you. It's the only fix I can offer you."

Dean drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment. "Are you Lucifer?" he asked.

"That's for me to know and you to find out," she countered. "Good night, Dean." With that, the line went dead.

"Crap," he muttered and flipped the phone shut.

"Who was that?"

Startled, Dean turned a bit on the couch and glanced back at Bobby. "Uh ... Lucy," he said. "She ... well, she gave me a way to fix Sam. If you can call it that."

Bobby just eyed him. "And?" he asked.

"One teaspoon of mandrake root in a glass of boiling water. She said he'd be sick for a few days and then should be back to normal," Dean said and made a face. "I don't know if I wanna take the risk of giving him something that's poisonous, though."

"Mandrake root is said to have many odd abilities. But I've never heard of it being able to restore someone's mind," Bobby said. "Then again, we are talking about the devil here, aren't we? She may not have your best interest at heart, Dean."

"I know. But seeing Sam like that ... it's killing me, Bobby. He's like a zombie. He doesn't seem to respond to anything. What else can I do? I mean, she did this. Only she can undo it." It sounded like a very feeble excuse and felt like it too, but Dean was pretty much at the end of his rope right now.

"Well, he can't get much worse. It might be worth a shot. I've heard of others who have taken mandrake root in small quantities and survived it. And he's not exactly sick or feeble. If you wanna risk it, I've got mandrake here," Bobby said.

Dean sighed and chomped down on his lower lip. The fact that he wasn't a hundred percent certain he could trust Lucy made him hesitate. There was the off chance that this worked, of course, and if it did, it would probably up his incentive to trust her judgement a little more than he did now. He scrubbed a hand over his lips while trying to weigh the pros and cons. "You think one teaspoon is gonna be deadly?" he asked.

"Well ... it's not much," Bobby said and made a face. "I think you can chance it," he added. "Was that all? Mandrake root and boiling water?"

Dean made a face. "And two drops of my blood," he amended.

Bobby sighed. "Dark magic, then," he muttered, shook his head and disappeared back into the kitchen. "Get in here," he called after a moment.

Dean rose and followed him into the kitchen, where Bobby was rooting through a bunch of cans. When Dean did nothing further than stop next to him and watch, Bobby gave him a glance that spoke of annoyance.

"Make yourself useful. Put the kettle on," he ordered.

Dean did as he was told, really not sure he wanted to do this just yet, but then he figured it might be better to just get it over with. Truth be told, he was really too tired to put up much of a fight.

By the time the water boiled, Bobby had found a tin of powdered mandrake. He poured a teaspoon full of it into a tall glass, then grabbed the kettle and glanced at Dean. "Well?" he asked.

Dean made a face, grabbed a sharp knife and pricked a hole in the tip of his index-finger. With a light squeeze, he spilled two drops of blood on top of the powder, then stepped back to let Bobby pour the water over it. Bobby stirred it with the spoon, then handed Dean the glass. For a moment they just looked at each other. Then Dean nodded once, turned around and headed upstairs.

Sam was in bed, but he wasn't sleeping. He was staring at the ceiling, either lost in thought or not thinking at all. Dean eyed him for a moment, then held out the glass. "This'll make you feel better," he said.

Sam focused on him, the propped himself up on his elbows and eyed the glass almost indifferently. "No thanks. I'm not thirsty," he said.

"Drink it, Sam. You look like death warmed over. You need some fluids," Dean said and continued to hold the glass out to Sam.

For a moment he feared that Sam would continue to refuse, but then he sat up, took the glass and took a sip of it. With a grimace, he eyed the murky hot water. "What is it?" he asked.

"Some herb Bobby has. Drink up. It's good for you," Dean countered, hating the lie, hating what it would do to Sam.

Sam sighed, then downed the contents of the glass and handed it back to Dean. Then he dropped back down on the bed, pulled the sheets up and continued his staring match with the ceiling.

It wasn't so much the fact that this would make Sam sick as a dog, if Lucy was to be believed. It was more the fact that mandrake could potentially kill his brother. It was a risk, but in the end it would probably be better to take that risk than to continue onward with a brother who was zoning out on him all the time. This wasn't Sam, no matter how he turned and twisted it. But still the idea that Sam might actually die of this, despite what Bobby had said, despite what Lucy had said, was what got to Dean in a big way.

So despite the fatigue he felt, the overwhelming need to close his eyes and sleep, he knew he wouldn't. He would spend another sleepless night, waiting for whatever outcome this brew had, so maybe he could prevent the worst and stop Sam from actually dying of it.

He switched off the light, kicked off his shoes and dropped down on his bed. Leaning back against the wall, he pulled his feet up on the mattress and wrapped his arms around his knees while he watched Sam in the darkness. It took a bit, but finally Sam's breathing evened out. And all Dean could do was sit and watch him and wait.


The following morning

Having not slept a wink all night, Dean was beginning to feel a little used and a lot lightheaded. Sam had slept peacefully all night and hadn't moved much and by the time the light began to filter through the window, Dean decided to go downstairs to grab a cup of coffee. He figured since Sam hadn't responded to the brew yet, it hadn't worked. Maybe the mandrake had been too old?

When he stepped into the kitchen, he found Bobby sitting at the table with a mug of coffee and a pile of papers in front of him.

"Morning," he muttered and headed straight for the coffee pot.

"How's Sam?" Bobby asked.

"Sleeping like a damned baby. Something's not working here," Dean countered, poured a mug of coffee and returned to the table to sit down. "Are you sure that mandrake powder is still good?"

"Of course I am," Bobby countered a little sharply. "I don't keep stuff like that around if it doesn't work."

Dean pulled back a little. "Sorry. I was just wondering," he countered and realized at that moment that Bobby had probably been up all night as well.

Bobby rubbed a hand over his chin. "I'm a bit tired. Haven't slept much," he muttered.

"Me neither," Dean agreed.

A sudden thud from upstairs made them both glance up at the ceiling. "What the hell was that?" Bobby asked.

"Sam," Dean said, rose and rushed back upstairs. The door to the room was open and Sam's bed was empty. Dean frowned, then flinched when he heard the distinct sounds of retching coming from the bathroom. "Ouch," he muttered. "Here we go." He hurried over to the open door to the bathroom and stopped short at finding his brother on his knees in front of the toilet while he was doing his best to upchuck his insides. And, man, it sounded bad.

Instead of commenting, Dean stepped inside, hunkered down next to Sam and put a hand on his back. Sam either didn't register him or he was just too busy being violently sick for the next ten minutes. When he finally stopped, he was shivering and pale.

"You gonna be okay?" Dean asked.

Sam made no move to reply, just braced himself against the toilet, his eyes closed. After a moment, he finally opened his eyes and then tried to get to his feet on his own.

Dean rose and helped him, but that instantly resulted in another bout of painful-sounding retching. Eventually, he stopped and Dean got him back to his feet again, noting that Sam's right knee was bleeding. He had probably fallen out of bed in his haste to make it to the bathroom.

"Come on, slugger. Let's get you back to bed," Dean said and led him back to the room, where Sam sank down on his bed.

"Here." Dean glanced back at Bobby, who had turned up in the doorway, holding a bucket. "Just in case," he added.

Dean took the bucket and jerked when Sam ripped it out of his hands and started the whole process over again. He had tears in his eyes by the time he stopped this time, making it obvious that this was more than painful. Dean barely managed to grab the bucket before he dropped back down on the bed and draped a shaking arm over his eyes.

Disconcerted, Dean glanced back at Bobby, who was eyeing Sam with nothing short of concern. "If that keeps up, we may have to call a doctor," Bobby said and shifted his attention to Dean, who nodded. There would be no discussing that.

"Let's just wait and see for a bit," he countered and settled down on the edge of Sam's bed.

Bobby withdrew to give them some privacy and for a long while nothing happened. Then Sam suddenly groaned and rolled over on his side. Dean grabbed the bucket and held it out to him, but even though he retched for about ten minutes, he brought nothing up. There probably wasn't anything left in his stomach right now. "It'll pass," Dean muttered. "Soon. It won't last long."

Sam didn't respond, only rolled back onto his back and fell into an uneasy sleep.


Over the next few days, Sam couldn't focus on anything other than sleeping and throwing up, which was basically all he could think of doing when he was awake. Dean was there all the time, hovering over him, ready to help him whenever he needed it, and by the end of another blurry day and the feeling that his abdominal muscles had been torn to shreds, Sam's strained mind reached the conclusion that he would be better of dead. "Just shoot me now. Please," he rasped and curled up on himself. He had been sick before, but never like this.

"I'm not gonna shoot you," Dean countered evenly. "You'll be fine in a few days," he added. "You want anything? Some water?"

"No," Sam groaned and buried his face in the pillow. Even the thought of water made him want to gag. To say he felt miserable was the understatement of the century and at this point he was convinced that he would never get better.

"Talk about purging the badness," Dean muttered and eased down on the edge of the bed. Without prompting, he placed a cool hand on Sam's burning brow and Sam found himself leaning into the touch. "You're hotter than hell," Dean added and started to get up. "I'll get you a cold washcloth."

Sam lashed out and grabbed a hold of his knee, stopping him. "Don't leave me," he rasped. He couldn't face this alone.

Dean sat down again. "Okay," he agreed.

Sam glanced up at him and even the turning of his eyes causing enough vertigo to make him want to throw up again. And it irked him to no end that Dean was smirking. "So not funny, dude," he rasped.

"I wasn't smiling at that," Dean countered and wiped the grin of his face. "It's just ... you're so out of it and still back to normal," he added. "And you haven't thrown up for the past twenty minutes, so I think you're..." he started, but stopped when Sam barely managed to haul himself to the edge of the bed before he threw up once more. "Strike that," Dean muttered and waited for him to finish, then disappeared briefly to empty the bucket before he returned.

"Dean?" Bobby stepped into the room, holding a mug. "How's he doing?"

"I'm sick, not dead," Sam rasped and closed his eyes to still the room's swaying.

"Okay. How are you doing?" Bobby amended his question.

"Never better," Sam muttered into the pillow and somehow managed to give him a thumb's-up.

"Seems to me someone's not in touch with reality here," Bobby said and handed the mug to Dean. "Make him drink this," he said.

Sam squinted up at the mug and couldn't help a groan. "No, I'm not drinking anything," he rasped.

Dean eyed the contents of the mug, glanced up at Bobby and shrugged. "If he wants to die, let him," he said. "You're such a whiny-assed brat, Sam. This'll make you feel better."

"That's what you said about that brew too and now look where I am," Sam complained, feeling he had every right in the world to be a whiny-assed brat right now.

For some reason Dean didn't have a comeback to that one and Sam gathered enough strength to glance up at him again, noting the somewhat tight expression on his brother's face.

A part of Sam figured it served him right, but mostly he felt like the world's greatest ass for blaming how he felt on Dean. "I didn't mean it like that," he tried.

Dean sighed and focused on him. "You should try to drink something. You haven't had any liquids for two days now. That's not exactly good, Sam."

In part because he felt even more like crap for blaming Dean, but also because he knew Dean was right, he carefully pushed himself up on one elbow and took the mug when Dean offered it. It took him a moment to work up the nerve to actually drink some of it and his stomach rebelled immediately when he did, but not to the point where he had to throw up again.

"That'a boy," Dean commented with a smile. "You'll feel better soon. I promise," he added.

Sam made a valiant effort to not inhale any of the vapors rising from the mug; mainly because he was convinced it would smell awful and any strong smell right now might set him off again. Tentatively, he took another sip of the concoction, in essence feeling the almost overwhelming need for the moisture. Then he handed the mug back to Dean and let himself drop back on the bed.

"Sleep some more if you can," Dean suggested.

Sam allowed his lids to close and realized at that moment that whatever was in that mug had already done him a world of good. His stomach was already calming down and after a moment he began to doze.