Dean picked himself up from where he had landed and arched his aching back for a second. "Way to go, Sammy!" he then yelled and punched the air above his head with one fist.

Steve strode over to the body, turned the guy over with his boot tip and just stared at him for a moment. Then he looked up to face Sam, who stood rooted to the spot. "Nice shot, Sam," he said.

Dean made his way over to them, limping slightly because he had bumped his knee in the fall, and nodded in agreement. "Couldn't have done it better myself," he said, then met Sam's somewhat unsettled gaze. "Come on, dude. You just rid this town of a scourge. That's worth at least a smile, isn't it?"

Sam just stared at him for a moment, then returned his attention to the down man, and Dean got the distinct impression that Sam was not at all happy about this. Not at all.

"Well, let's get rid of the evidence, guys. And then we're going out. This is cause for celebration," Dean said.

Steve nodded. He didn't seem overtly elated either, but at least he didn't look like it was the end of the world.

Sam blinked. "I think this was too easy," he muttered.

"Too easy? What are you talking about? You were awesome, Sammy. You're the Terminator," Dean countered with a grin and patted Sam's shoulder. "Come on, man. Snap out of it. You did good. We did what we came here for. Sure, it took a little longer than I would have expected, but hey. We stand victorious in the end."

With a sigh, Sam relented a little. "I guess," he said.

"No guess about it, dude," Dean countered. "Steve, give me a hand with the other guy," he added and started toward the exit where the Impala was waiting for them.

Steve followed him while Sam remained behind. They dragged the body inside, then doused them both with rocksalt and gasoline and lit them on fire. "Should we stay until they burn out?" Steve wondered, then glanced at Dean. "Better not, huh? Don't want the police catching us here."

Dean nodded. "Let's get out of here. I need a shower," he said.


They got back to the motel and were inside their room when they heard the first siren going past. "Looks like Larry and Moe are making too much smoke, eh?" Dean asked with a vague smile.

"Dean," Sam said, stopping him before he could head off to the bathroom. "I know you want to go out and party, but ... could we just ... not go anywhere? At least until midnight?"

Dean sighed. "Look, Sam, we just dusted our tenth demon in a row. We're on a roll here. And I'm free of the deal, twice confirmed now. Just take it easy. I know this wasn't the ideal end of this hunt, but that demon was just too smart to have stepped into the key in the first place and you know that. We didn't have any other choice. Besides, after all the time that Steve and I hit him ... he wouldn't have been alive anyway." He eyed his brother for a moment. "Sammy, come on! Be a little upbeat about this, will you? We'll go out, have a few beers, kick back and relax. Maybe we can take some time off now. I mean, hell, we've earned it, don't you think?"

With a grimace, Sam admitted defeat. "I guess," he said. "I just wish ..."

"Aw, come of it, Sammy!" Dean groaned. "Stop bitching. Stop being such a worrywart. Jeez! We did awesomely on this job. We busted the bad guys' asses and that's what we're supposed to do."

"We killed ..." Sam tried, but Dean cut him off again.

"Stop! Right now!" he demanded and pointed a finger at Sam. "You are not going to ruin this night for me. This is a triple whammy. We finished the job without either of us getting hurt, I'm free of that frigging deal and you're alive and breathing. That's all that matters. You, me, the job and having a good time."

Dean knew that look Sam was giving him by heart. It was the look Sam had usually reserved for their father when he went off on a tangent about a job that needed to be done which Sam didn't agree with for some reason or other. He grimaced again, looking as uptight as ever, and Dean sighed heavily.

"You wanna stay here? Fine. I'm going out. I need to wind down," he said, shook his head and pushed past Sam to the bathroom.

Half an hour later, they both headed out for the Outback Bar. Despite Sam's previous insistence, he obviously wasn't going to leave Dean alone. "Dean," Sam said when they were halfway to the bar.

"What?" he asked and kept walking.

"Have you seen any ... dogs around?" Sam sounded hesitant, almost afraid to ask.

Dean stopped and looked back at him. "What?"

"Have you seen any dogs around? Big black ones?" Sam specified and he had that look in his eyes that told Dean he was expecting a positive answer.

Well aware what Sam was hinting at, Dean took a second to think about it before he replied. "Uh ... no. I haven't. Haven't heard any either. No howling, no barking, no claw-clicking. Nada, zip, zero," he finally said.

"Are you sure?" Sam pressed.

Dean sighed. "Yes, Sam, I'm sure. I would have reacted if I had seen ..." He trailed off in mid-sentence and felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Sam glanced in the direction he was looking in and sucked in a breath, which in turn changed Dean's outlook instantly. "You seeing that?" he asked.

"Yeah, I am," Sam agreed while he stared at the big rottweiler trotting unaccompanied down the street on the other side.

"In that case it's only a dog, dude," Dean decided. "Remember? Nobody else could see the dogs but the ones affected." Just then he spotted a guy following the dog at a trot with a leash in his hand.

"You stupid mutt. Stop! Heel! Sit!" he yelled and broke into a run while the rotty continued unaffectedly along the sidewalk without any regard for its upset owner.

The scene made Dean grin. "Besides, I doubt hellhouds have owners that can't make them heel," he added.

Sam rolled his eyes. "That's not funny," he muttered.

"Yeah, it is. It's frigging hilarious, Sam. Stop trying to make me nervous. It's over. The deal is gone. I'm not going anywhere but to the Outback Bar for a few beers and hopefully some inspired company," Dean countered, turned and started walking again. "Keep up, Sammy," he ordered when Sam didn't immediately follow him.


Outback Bar
Two hours later

Dean emptied another bottle of beer and put the pool cue down. "Live and learn, eh?" he said to Steve, who had just lost his third round.

"You're almost as good as your old man at this game," Steve countered with a smirk. "Almost. Nobody could sink the balls like John Winchester, though. I've seen him clean off a table in one go once and he didn't even bat an eyelash in the process."

"Yeah, dad was awesome," Dean agreed with a grin, then glanced over at Sam, who was sitting at the bar, watching Dean almost constantly. "I swear to God, I'm gonna knock him out if he doesn't stop staring at me like that," he growled under his breath. "It's giving the ladies the wrong impression."

"Dean, you can't blame him. He's worried about that damned deal," Steve said and lined up the balls to break a new game.

Dean gave him a look. "Is there anybody out there who doesn't know about this damned deal?" he asked. "Who told you? Bobby?"

"Yeah, he mentioned it in passing. We had a bit of a chat about it. He thought I could help, but ..." Steve shrugged. "I do have a lot of connections, but nothing that can fix something like that. Good thing you found a way out on your own."

Dean frowned lightly. "Yeah, well, I can't leave him alone, can I? He'd hit rock bottom if I disappeared," he said and raised his bottle towards Sam, who made a face, but didn't look away. "Why can't he just be happy it's over?"

"He'll lighten up after midnight," Steve said. "In about ... one hour's time," he added after a glance at his watch.

Dean caught the attentive gaze of a pretty redhead and winked at her. She blushed, pushed away from the bar and sauntered over to him. "Want some company?" she cooed.

With a grin, Dean slipped an arm around her back and pulled her in close. "I sure wouldn't mind it," he countered and jerked when her hand settled on his butt almost instantly. "You don't waste any time, do you, sweetheart?" he asked and smirked.

"Who wants to waste time?" she countered. "Buy me a drink?"

"Sure thing," he agreed and tossed the cue to Steve. "Play by yourself for a bit, huh?"

Steve arched an eyebrow, shook his head and continued the game on his own.

The redhead pulled Dean with her back to the bar where he got her a drink and stocked up himself. Over the next half hour, he totally managed to forget about his brother's worries while Shelly, the redhead, more or less promised him a good time for the rest of the night.

With a couple of whiskeys in him, he was beginning to get pretty plastered by the time she started pulling at him. "Where're we going?" he asked and allowed her to pull him toward the back of the bar.

"Just some alone-time," she whispered and licked her lips in a way he couldn't resist.

She bumped into a door and pushed it open with her butt, pulling him with her out of the crowded bar and into the alley behind it. "Hey, hey, hey," he admonished her. "This isn't the nicest place."

"Who cares," she whispered and pulled him against her.

Her hands were seemingly everywhere and Dean found himself responding to her in all the right places. But he didn't have a thing for alleys. Especially not when they were cluttered with dumpsters and smelled of trash. The light drizzle falling from the sky above, chilling his bare arms, put a bit of a damper on the mood too. "I've got a room at the motel," he said and braced himself against the wall behind her to remain steady. "Back alleys are so dingy."

She started pulling his t-shirt out of his pants and slipped hot hands onto his stomach. "But I'm horney," she whined and started kissing his neck.

"Who can say no to that?" he muttered. "Shelly, Shelly, Shelly. Cool down, baby," he whispered into her ear. "The motel isn't that far away. Come on. It'll be much more comfortable."

She obviously had it bad and he could totally follow her there, but he really found the smell around them to be a bit of a turnoff. "Aw, come on," she moaned.

He shifted them around and dropped back against the wall for a moment, entirely ready to pick her up and carry her to the motel if he had to, when his booze-muddled mind picked up on a sound he at first couldn't make sense of. It didn't fit into the scenario he was in right now. Shelly slumped against him, her fingers clawing into his arms for a moment, then she let go and he suddenly had all the trouble he could handle keeping her on her feet.

"Shelly?" He blinked, uncertain for a moment what the hell was going on with her, until his mind finally made sense of the sound he had heard. Gunshot. With a silencer. Stunned, he released the girl and she slid to the ground. Even in the semi-darkness of the back alley's poor lighting, he could see the spreading spot of dark red on the back of her pale-green dress. A gunshot to the heart. She had probably been dead almost instantly.

Stunned, he looked up to spot the shooter, while he groped for the gun he too late realized he didn't have with him. The rain had started coming down pretty heavy, but the second he spotted the shooter, the booze stopped working and everything snapped into a crisp clarity that was almost painful.

There was Bela Talbot, aiming a gun with a silencer at him and she looked pretty damned crazy. "You've cost me everything," she snarled. "You and your brother. There is no way I'm going to Hell for you, you son of a bitch!"

Somewhere in the distance, a clock started chiming out the hours and Dean counted down silently while he stared at Bela and tried to think of only one thing to say to her that would make her refrain from pulling that trigger.

"I'm not going to Hell. You are," she spat and her finger on the trigger tightened.


It took Sam a split second to realize that Dean was gone and he'd only looked away for a heartbeat because someone had dropped something on the floor behind him. When he returned his attention to where his brother should be, Dean wasn't there anymore. Worry flared up and he leaned in over the bar and grabbed the barkeep's arm. "The guy with the redhead. Where'd he go?" he asked.

The barkeep eyed him for a second, then nodded toward the back. "Alley. Shelly's always in a hurry," he said.

Sam made a face at the implications, got off his chair and strode to the rear of the bar and the door leading out into the alley beyond. For a reason he couldn't readily define – apart from being paranoid, of course – he had brought a gun to the bar, well aware of how dangerous something like that could turn out to be.

The door opened with a whooshing sound and he stepped out into the alley, glancing to the right around the door, well aware that he might be walking in on something he definitely didn't want to see. But it would be worth it just to settle his nerves.

This part of the alley lead out to the street and apart from some very smelly dumpsters, there was no sign of life that way. Then he heard a sound, which actually sounded similar to the door opening, but was way too short.

Rain had started falling heavily and he briefly glanced up at the sky, then turned to the left and froze. The light in the alley left much to be desired, but Sam had pretty decent night-vision and the shadowy figure standing a few paces away from him got all his alarm bells ringing. The stance alone indicated danger.

He pulled his gun and aimed it at the figure, who was clearly female, then shifted his attention to what she was aiming at. The whole scene took a second to sink in and when it did, his heart dropped. Dean stood against the wall on the opposite side of the alley and the girl he had come out with lay in a heap at his feet. And suddenly the sound he'd heard, the shortened door-sound, stood out much more clearly. A gun with a silencer.

"I'm not going to Hell. You are," he heard the woman snarl with an unmistakable accent.

Before he could consciously consider what to do, his trigger-finger curled inward and the shot rang out, overshadowing the softer whoosh of the silenced gun she was holding. The bullet slammed into the back of her head and she dropped like a log. Stumped for a moment, Sam managed to lower the gun before he realized two things at once. His watch beeped. It was midnight. And Dean had a somewhat stunned expression on his face for a moment before he looked down himself.

Sam followed his line of sight and stopped breathing for a second. Dean's light-grey t-shit, which had darkened with the moisture from the falling rain, had a blooming black patch right over his heart. With a shaky hand, Dean reached up to touch the patch while his knees gave out beneath him and he began to slide down the wall.

Everything shifted into slow motion at that second. Sound ceased apart from the suddenly heavy thudding of his own heartbeat in his ears. He had no conscious thought of crossing the alley and grabbing Dean, stopping his slide down the wall.

"Dean," he tried, his voice shaking. He could hear his own voice as if it came through a layer of cotton.

Dean clawed a hand into his t-shirt, but said nothing.

"Hold on, Dean. Don't you die on me," Sam rasped, his voice failing him, while the fear and terror rose in him like a deadly tidal wave.

Dean emitted a halfhearted cough and made a face when blood started seeping out between his lips.

"No," Sam muttered. He couldn't think clearly. "No, Dean. This isn't supposed to happen. Not like this. Not here." He fumbled for his phone, but couldn't find it. His fingers were suddenly icy cold and his mind was simultaneously going into overdrive and coming to a complete standstill. He couldn't function properly.


Steve had seen Dean disappear out the backdoor with a redhead and had smirked to himself. When Sam realized Dean was gone, he instantly looked worried and grabbed the arm of the barkeep to find out where his brother was. And that caused Steve to sigh. Those two were really attached at the hip.

Sam disappeared outside as well and Steve could only imagine the awkwardness this had to cause. He lined up another game, leaned over the pool table to break and stopped short at a sound he heard just below the noise of the bar. He raised his head and stared at the opposite wall for a second, then straightened up, dropped the pool cue on the table and hurried over to the backdoor.

He pushed it open, took a quick look around and settled his gaze on the disaster area the back alley had suddenly turned into. There was a woman lying on the ground not too far away, and then there was Dean and Sam and another woman lying on the ground right in front of them.

"What the hell?" he muttered, then let the door swing shut behind him. With the noise of the bar thus muffled, he could suddenly hear what Sam was saying to Dean and it made his blood run cold.

"Hang on. Don't you dare die on me, Dean. I'm gonna get you some help," Sam kept muttering, his tone almost monotone. He was holding onto Dean with one arm while frantically searching through his pockets with the other.

"Sam? What the hell?" Steve asked and took a step closer. His mind was at present refusing to understand what was going on.

"Call 911," Sam countered without looking back. "NOW!" he barked when Steve didn't respond at once.

Steve yanked his phone out of one pocket and did as ordered and when Sam glanced back at him to make sure he was calling for help, Steve saw John in his eyes. The intensity, the fear, the pain. It was just like seeing their father. "We need an ambulance. Someone's been shot," he said the second the connection was established. He didn't need the details right now. He had heard a gunshot and Sam was trying to make his brother hang on. It was self-explanatory. "Outback Bar, the alley behind it, in Portal. Hurry. It looks bad," he added and hung up while inspecting the scene visually. He caught sight of Sam's gun on the ground next to the kid, stooped over and picked it up. He stuffed it into the back of his jeans and took a quick look around for any other weapons apart from the dark-haired woman's, which was still in her hand. Rule number one in the hunter community was not to give the authorities any reason to believe this had been anything other than a lover's spat with deadly consequences, because that was what Steve intended to tell the cops when they showed up. And there was no doubt they would.

"Don't give up, Dean. You hang in there. You hear me? You're not gonna die on me. I'm not going to let you," Sam continued. "You can't die, you hear me? Not by her hand. That's just not gonna happen."

What worried Steve throughout this monologue was Dean's inability to reply. If the wound hadn't been so bad, he would have been cursing and sputtering and trying to sooth his obviously frantic brother, but Dean said nothing, just clung to Sam, readjusting his grip on his t-shirt at regular intervals.

After an eternity it seemed, the ambulance finally turned up and Steve had to bodily haul Sam away from Dean to give the paramedics access to him. They stabilized him as much as they could, then hurried him back to the ambulance. Sam broke free of Steve's grip and followed them without a word.

"Where are you taking him?" Steve asked, grabbing hold of one of the paramedics.

"Kenmare Community Hospital," the paramedic said.

"Sam, I'll follow you in my car," Steve called.

Sam didn't respond, merely settled down next to Dean and took his hand.


All the way to the hospital, Sam could do nothing more than keep talking to Dean. He had no idea if his words made any difference, if Dean could even hear him right now, but his brother was watching him and his hand was cramped around Sam's. He kept swallowing and he looked so damned pale.

Sam made sure he stayed out of the paramedics' way as they worked on stopping the blood-flow from the hole in Dean's chest, while the driver of the ambulance called ahead and asked for two further ambulances to pick up possible fatalities at the same location.

At the hospital, another team of paramedics were waiting to take over and they rolled the gurney inside at top speed, all of them in a hurry. And all the while Sam never let go of Dean's hand. At least until they reached a set of double doors.

"You can't come in here," one of the nurses said and stepped in Sam's way.

Reluctantly, he released Dean's hand and they disappeared behind the doors, leaving him behind. He just stood there and stared at the doors for a moment, then glanced down at his hand, which he was still holding up. It was covered in blood.

He remained there until someone grabbed his shoulder from behind. "Sam?" Steve halfway turned him away from the doors. "Come on. Sit down for a moment. I'll check with the nurse how he's doing," Steve said.

Sam heard him, but he couldn't really focus on anything other than what had happened. The scene kept playing over and over in his mind. If only he had pulled the damned trigger a split second sooner, Bela wouldn't have been able to shoot his brother. If only.

Steve led him over to some plastic chairs along the wall and pushed him down on one, then turned toward the nurse's station further down the corridor. Sam blinked, then returned his attention to the doors while resting his blood-encrusted hand in his lap. He could still feel Dean's harsh grip on his hand.

For now, his mind was on standby, unable to compute the events in any other way than instant replay in a loop and it left him incapable of acting, of asking questions, of doing anything other than just sit there and stare at those doors.

Steve returned and settled down next to him. "He's in surgery. The nurse said the doc's gonna come out and talk to us when they're done," he said and put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Why don't we go get a cup of coffee in the meantime? And you could use some cleaning up."

Sam kept staring at the double doors. "I'm not going anywhere," he said quietly.

"Sam ..." Steve started, but Sam shrugged his hand off his shoulder and turned his head to stare at him for a second.

"I'm not going anywhere," he repeated, then returned his attention to the doors.

Steve just sat there for a moment, then sighed lightly. "Okay. Well, I need a cup of coffee. Is there anyone I should call?"

For some reason Sam had the feeling that the skin on his face was too tight. "Who would that be?" he asked without looking at Steve. "Dean's all I have left."

"Okay, I'll be back in a bit," Steve said, got up and walked away.

Sam glanced after him and noted that he pulled his phone out of one pocket, but Sam really didn't care who he called as long as he left him alone.


Steve stopped further down the corridor and turned back to eye Sam. At this distance, the kid looked damned lonely, sitting there in his drenched clothes, waiting for the docs to finish working on his brother.

He speed-dialed a number and held the phone up to one ear while never taking his eyes off Sam. "Bobby? Hey, it's Steve," he said.

"Steve. How's it going?" Bobby countered.

"Uhm ... well, we dealt with the demons. They're gone," Steve countered and briefly glanced around to make sure he wasn't overheard. He wasn't looking forward to letting Bobby know what had happened. "But ... we've got a bit of a problem here. Dean's been shot."

"What? What the hell happened?" Bobby shot back, instantly upset.

"Hard to say. I don't have all the details. Two girls got killed and Dean's in surgery. I think it's bad, but ... he's made it this far, so I'm kinda counting on that he'll make it through the surgery," Steve countered. "Sam's pretty shaken, though."

"Where are you?" Bobby asked.

"Kenmare Community Hospital," Steve said, a little taken aback by the idea that Bobby might be on his way to them now.

"I'm leaving now. Tell Sam I'll be there in six hours," Bobby said and hung up.

Steve pulled the phone away from his ear and eyed it for a second, then stuffed it back into his pocket. He had never known how much Bobby cared about these two boys. "Live and learn," he muttered, then walked over to the nurse's station again. "Any update on Kevin Fraiser's status?" he asked, using the alias on the health insurance card the paramedics had pulled from Dean's wallet.

"Not yet, sir. I'll let you know if there's anything to report," the nurse said, gave him a tight little smile and returned to whatever she was doing.

Being ever the optimist despite all he had seen in his life, Steve couldn't see this going wrong. He got himself a cup of coffee from the coffee machine, then returned to Sam's side and settled down. "The docs here are very good, I hear," he said. "Besides, he's a stubborn guy, your brother. He'll pull through."

Sam didn't move, just sat there and stared at the doors.