Nightmares were not usually his brand of dreams, but he had been ravaged by them during the hours he had been out and woke up with a start to find himself in complete darkness. And complete darkness scared him. It had scared him as a child and it scared him now as an adult. The smell of the car alone helped calm him, but he was still swathed in darkness and his hand snapped up to the light switch so fast, he stubbed his fingertips on the ceiling of the car.

Once the light flooded the car, he managed to calm himself down immediately. Then he glanced at his watch and realized he had slept about five hours out here in the middle of nowhere. He sat up, turned the key in the ignition and switched the light off again. With the dashboard lights and the Impala's headlights illuminating the dark forest ahead of him, he had plenty of light to see by. He just didn't like complete darkness, the kind that wrapped itself around him and threatened to smother him, removing any notion of what was up and down, left and right. He hated the loss of control, of being unable to see.

With a sigh, he backed the Impala back up on the road and headed back for the highway. It would take him another seven or eight hours to reach Bobby's place if he took the stretch in one go, but he wasn't so sure he could muster that. Even with five hours of sleep under his belt, he still felt like he hadn't slept in about a year. And if he spotted Sam anywhere close by, he would have to detour again to throw him off his track somehow.

"If that's even possible," he muttered to himself and merged back into the traffic of Highway 80. And still he had the feeling that Sam was close by. His features tightened at the thought of his brother. "If it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna find a way to save you, Sammy," he promised quietly.

About two hours later, he stopped in a small town called Paxton to freshen up a bit, get himself another cup of coffee to go and a plain bagel, which was the only thing he could stomach right now. Most of all he wanted to buy a bottle of Jacks and down that while he was driving, but he figured that wasn't such a hot idea on an empty stomach.

He was off again after twenty minutes and turned onto the 83 twenty minutes after that. And all the while he found himself glancing in the rearview mirror to make sure he wasn't followed. Traffic was light at this hour and any car following him would have stood out. There was, of course, the off chance that Sam had gone to Bobby's already and it made Dean step on the gas and speed up. Even though he didn't think any demon in this world could pull one over on Bobby, the possibility that Sam, or rather the demon possessing him, would be able to manage what Meg had not. And it made his stomach churn uneasily until finally, he pulled over and dug out his phone to call Bobby.

It rang three times before someone picked up. "What?"

Dean flinched. Bobby didn't sound happy, but then again, it was one in the morning. "It's Dean," he said. "Sorry about calling so late, but ..."

"Dean? Where the frigging hell are you? I've tried to call you about a million times after we got cut off," Bobby cut him off.

A little stumped, Dean suddenly remembered his failed attempt to call Bobby. "Uh ... I'm on my way to you. I just wanted to make sure everything's okay," he countered.

"Okay? Do you have any idea how frigging worried I've been? Especially after you asked about that St. Clair woman. Dean, dammit! I've been going up the walls here," Bobby said and sounded every bit as distressed as his words proclaimed. "Tell me you haven't dealt with her."

"Uh ... no deals, no. What is it about her that's so upsetting?" Dean asked and grimaced. He sort of knew what it was, but at the same time realized that he had no frigging clue who or what she was.

"Anybody who's tried to look too closely at her history has ended up dead or worse, Dean. If she's a demon, she's the worst I've ever heard of. She may be worse than the Yellow-Eyed Demon," Bobby countered, sounding a little more in control. "How is Sam? Is he doing better?"

Dean closed his eyes and felt very much inclined to bang his head against the steering wheel a few times for good measure. Bobby didn't know. "Well ... I don't know. It's all messed up, Bobby. Sam's ..." When it came to saying it out loud, he realized he couldn't. Saying it out loud would be the same as accepting it and he couldn't do that. But he needed to fill Bobby in. He needed to warn him, in case Sam turned up on his doorstep before Dean could get there.

"Sam's what?" Bobby asked, a note of suspicion in his voice.

"Sam's not with me. He's ... uhm ... I think he's possessed," Dean finally managed to say. It wasn't the entire truth, but it was getting there.

"Possessed? How in holy hell did that happen?" Bobby asked, sounding frustrated and concerned at the same time.

"Do I really have to say it?" Dean asked back and grimaced almost painfully.

Bobby remained silent for a moment. Then he cleared his throat. "Where are you now?"

"Somewhere between Stapleton and Thedford in Nebraska," Dean countered. "About four-five hours away," he added.

"Get here as fast as you can. I'll prepare for the eventuality that Sam might turn up before you," Bobby said. "And Dean?"


"When you get here, I want the whole story. No lies, no holding back. You got that?" Bobby said, his tone tight.

"Yeah, I got it," Dean agreed. He wasn't happy about it, knew that there were some issues he really didn't want to disclose to Bobby right now, but he figured he had to be straight forward this time.

He shifted in his seat and barely kept a groan under wraps. Every bruise and cut was making itself known right now, reminding him that his brother had thrashed the hell out of him not too long ago.

"I'll see you in a couple of hours," he said to Bobby and cut the connection before Bobby could ask any more awkward questions. He was just too damned tired to get into a discussion right now.

For a moment, he just sat there, eyes closed, his mind churning with thoughts and memories, but when a car passed him, he snapped out of it again and got back on the road. He needed to reach Bobby's place as fast as possible. If for nothing other than the chance of getting some downtime before the proverbial shit hit the fan. And he had no doubts that it would.


Bobby's place
Fort Pierre, SD

Bobby didn't exactly know what he had expected when Dean finally arrived in the early hours of the morning, but what he saw rattled him a little. Dean looked thoroughly beaten, and not just physically. The light had nearly gone out in his eyes. There was no spark left, just the wan hope that maybe he could still salvage something.

"Well, don't you just look like a hanged cat," Bobby said, a half attempt at making a joke that fell flat.

Dean managed the shadow of a smile as he stepped through the doorway and came to a stop in the dusty hallway. "I'm kinda getting the feeling I know how that cat feels," he countered, his tone as tired as he looked.

"How long has it been since you slept any?" Bobby asked.

"Not that long. I just didn't really get any rest," Dean said. He looked bruised right down to his eyes. There were fading bruises on his face and his neck and he moved stiffly.

"Sam hasn't shown up," Bobby said. "Go lie down for a bit. I'll wake you if he turns up," he added.

"I need to fill you in first," Dean said with a light shake of the head. "I just don't know where to begin."

"Yeah, and you're coming apart at the seams. So, would you please just do as I tell you and stop making a fuss? You think you can go up against your possessed brother the way you're looking right now?" Bobby countered and eyed him critically. "I've seen roadkill look better than you do right now. Who did this? Sam?"

"Pretty much," Dean agreed with a wan smile. "Since I know that my brother wouldn't willingly beat the crap out of me with the intent to kill, I can only assume that he's possessed," he added and gingerly rubbed the back of his neck.

The wording of that sentence made Bobby frown. "Assume?" he asked. "You don't know for sure?"

Dean shrugged lightly, raising his left shoulder more than the right. "I have no clue what's going on with him. All I know is he went to see Lucy St. Clair to get some answers, that idiot, and when he came back, he was changed."

That didn't sound good to Bobby. "Care to tell me why the hell you would go anywhere near someone like her?" he asked.

Dean snorted helplessly and scrubbed a hand over his lips while staring into space. "She was my teacher when I was eight. We spent a couple of weeks in Whitefish back then," he countered and glanced up to meet Bobby's eyes for a moment.

"Your teacher?" Bobby asked, totally stumped.

Dean grimaced. "She was a substitute. Best damned teacher I've ever had. The only teacher who actually praised me in front of dad," he said. "I guess I had a crush on her back then and ... well ... until I was away from Whitefish again this time around, I didn't know how messed up that place really was. I don't know if it's her doing or something else, but the fact remains that she ... helped us when we needed it. And she was the one who warned me about Sam."

"Dean, if she's a demon it's quite likely that she did this to Sam," Bobby tried, but Dean shook his head.

"No, I don't think so. She told me to get away from Sam or he would kill me. And she was right. I got as far as Glendive before Sam caught up to me. And he wasn't going to let me live. I barely got away from him," he said, narrowing his eyes a little, an expression that spoke of exhaustion and mental agony. He closed his eyes briefly, swayed a little and opened them again, steadying himself in the process. "If he's not possessed ..." He trailed off and shook his head sadly.

"Go lie down. Get some rest. You need your strength. And I'm sure it's a simple possession, Dean. An exorcism is all he needs and he'll be good as new," Bobby countered.

For a moment, Dean lingered. Then he nodded quietly and disappeared upstairs to do as he was told.

Bobby watched him go and felt the familiar ache settle in when he thought of Dean. The weight of the world was resting on his shoulders, always had been, and nowadays it was getting heavier with every passing day. With that blasted deal hanging over his head like a proverbial Damocles sword, the burden had to be nearly crushing him. Bobby vowed silently that whatever was up with Sam, he would do his part to fix it, because there was no way that Dean would survive it if Sam ended up dead at the end of this.


A familiar bed in familiar surroundings was all he needed to relax enough to sleep, but the dreams wouldn't leave him alone. He lapsed back into the memory of that day when Sam had first shown true defiance and had stomped out of the hotel room, leaving Dean worried sick and scared to death for two hours...

... Dean had searched every crevasse, every nook and cranny along the road until it was time to turn back to meet his father in front of the hotel, and he swore that he would kick Sam's ass when and if he found him.

He returned to the hotel and waited out front for John to turn up, which he did fifteen minutes later, just as empty-handed as Dean. "Does he know his way around?" John asked.

Dean considered that question for a moment, then nodded once. "I think so. We've been out a couple of times while you were gone," he confessed. That was generally a big no-no, but John didn't really respond to it.

"What was the fight about this time?" he asked instead.

Dean considered lying, to spare dad's feelings, to cover for Sam, but the decided against it. Something inside him wanted to hurt dad for leaving them alone all the time. "He was convinced you wouldn't come back for Thanksgiving," he finally said without looking up.

John remained silent for a long moment and finally Dean chanced a glance up at him. He just stood there and stared ahead of himself and there was something in his eyes that Dean remembered having seen there before. He didn't know what it was, didn't know how to name it, but he knew the feeling. "Let's just wait here for a bit. If he's not back soon, we'll take the car and drive around town," he finally said.

Dean nodded solemnly, feeling deeply responsible for letting Sam run off. If he hadn't given in to Sam's bratty behavior and retaliated, Sam wouldn't have run away. "It's my fault," he said after a moment.

John glanced down at him. "What is?" he asked.

"That Sam ran off. I shouldn't have ..." He stopped and made a face. "I should have locked the frigging door," he finished.

"Watch your language, Dean," John said, but his tone was calm, quiet. "And it wasn't your fault. Sam's at an obstinate age right now. He's testing boundaries."

Dean frowned. "I didn't," he said.

"No, you didn't. You I've always been able to count on," John countered and managed a vague smile.

"How'd the hunt go?" Dean asked, desperate for something else to talk about. He didn't like the thick feeling dad's words raised in his throat and wanted to get away from it.

"It went okay. Nothing too dangerous," John countered, then suddenly changed his stance from waiting to tense.

Dean followed his line of sight and caught sight of Sam trudging back toward them, his hands in his pockets, his head down. He hadn't seen them yet, but it was obvious that he had cooled down considerably.

To counteract a shouting match, Dean glanced up at John. "I'll get him," he said and didn't wait for an answer before jogging up to his brother. "Sammy, where the hell were you?" he demanded.

Sam stopped short and raised his head to stare at him. "Just walking," he countered, then his gaze flicked past Dean, settled on John, and he instantly paled. "Is he pissed?" he whispered.

"No, you moron. He's worried because you took off like that. What were you thinking?" Dean demanded. The anger had taken over now, fueled by worry and embarrassment.

Sam hunched his shoulders and scrunched up his face, a sure sign that he was about to start bawling.

"Stop it," Dean demanded. "Stop being such a damned baby. You're the one that ran off, worrying me half to death here."

A hand settled heavily on Dean's shoulder from behind. "Go easy on him," John said quietly, then hunkered down to get level with Sam. "What the hell were you thinking, son? Do you know how many bad things can happen to a ten year old kid running around in a town like this all alone?"

Sam didn't look at him, just stood there with his head hanging and his shoulders slouching.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you, Samuel," John said, his tone taking on an edge.

Sam looked up, tears in his eyes.

"Don't you ever do that again. Do you hear me? You stick close to your brother at all times and you follow his lead," John said, the warning in his words strong enough to make Sam nod. "Okay. Let's get back upstairs and pack up. We're going to Pastor Jim's for Thanksgiving," he added, his hand still on Dean's shoulder...

... Dean woke up with the memory of that trip still fresh in his mind and the feeling of his father's hand on his shoulder still lingering. And it wrestled a small smile from him. It had been one of the best Thanksgivings they'd had. Dad had stayed the entire time and he hadn't been angry at either of them even once. Sam had behaved and Dean had been able to relax for a while there. The peace hadn't lasted, but it was one of these times that stood out because of how close it had come to resembling normal.

He sat up and glanced at his watch. He had slept another five hours and this time, the dream hadn't depleted him. It had strengthened his urge to fight again, had upped his stamina a few notches, and he felt as ready as he could be to face what was coming.


The knock on the front door announced exactly what Dean had predicted, but Bobby was not entirely willing to believe anything until he saw it for himself. The fact that Dean was in doubt about what was wrong with Sam made it impossible for Bobby to condemn Sam up front.

So he opened the door and wasn't surprised to find Sam standing outside. What did surprise him was the worried, harried expression on the boy's face. "Hey, Bobby," Sam said and glanced past him into the hallway. "You haven't heard from Dean, have you?"

Bobby arched an eyebrow. "Uh ..." was all he could think of saying to that one. He didn't like to show his cards before he knew his opponent's next move.

"He took off from Whitefish something like two days ago, stranding me there. I have no clue what's gotten into him," Sam said. "I tried calling him and he kept babbling about me being possessed. But ..."

Sam stumbled through the sentences, looking uncertain and downright afraid, and Bobby's otherwise honed skills at detecting a con with any degree of certainty failed him utterly right then. Sam sounded like Sam and there was none of the usual signs that would give away a spiritual possession. "You'd better come inside," Bobby said. "Tell me all about it. What's going on?"

Sam sighed heavily. "I wish I knew, Bobby. While we were in Whithfish, Dean seemed to totally lose his edge. It was like ... I don't know. Like none of his usual abilities to track evil worked," Sam said and made a face. "Do you have anything to drink? I'm parched," he added.

"Sure. You want a beer?" Bobby asked and Sam nodded. "Come on," he added and led the way into the kitchen. He handed Sam a bottle from the fridge, which Sam took a rather hefty swig from, then wiped the back of one hand over his lips.

"Thanks," he said and sank down on a chair by the kitchen table. "It's messed up, you know? I don't understand what's going on with him. It's like he's afraid of me or something."

"Keep dreaming."

Bobby glanced past where Sam was sitting at Dean, who had turned up in the doorway to the kitchen.

Sam rose again and turned to face his brother. "Dean, what the hell?" he asked, spreading out his arms. "I've been following you through three States, trying to catch up to you. What's going on, man?" he asked, sounding sincerely upset and hurt.

Dean glared at him, angry and scared and sad all mixed into one. "Stop pretending to be my brother, dammit," he snarled.

"I think you've got him pecked wrong this time, Dean," Bobby inserted and nodded at the bottle. "I spiked it with holy water. He didn't even blink."

Dean's gaze shifted from the bottle in Sam's hand to Sam's face and then to Bobby. "Yeah, but then again, that Yellow-Eyed son of a bitch didn't respond to holy water either, did he?" he countered angrily.

Bobby frowned. "What?" That sounded downright outrageous.

"Yeah, seems like the tougher the demon is, the less likely it is that it'll respond to the usual stuff," Dean countered and raised the colt. "He could withstand everything except for this," he added.

Sam lowered his arms and glanced at Bobby, uncertainty in his eyes.

"Alright, take it easy now, Dean," Bobby said and raised both hands. "You don't wanna go shooting your brother just because you're tired."

Dean's expression changed at those words from angry and scared to hurt. "You don't believe me?" he asked tightly. "Where'd you think I got all these bruises from, huh?"

"Dean, just put the gun down and let's talk this over. I have never met a single demon in my life that could resist holy water," Bobby said. He was really beginning to think that Dean had lost it somewhere along the way, that the constant pressure he lived with day in and day out had broken him inside. And heaven knew it would be understandable with all that the boys had lived through lately.

"He's a damned good actor, isn't he?" Dean snarled and refused to put the gun down.

"Dean, come on, man. It's me. Sam," Sam tried, again spreading his arms, palms facing forward.

"That's what you keep saying and that's what I keep not believing," Dean growled. He almost looked like he was in physical pain at this stage.

"Put the gun away, Dean," Bobby repeated, this time using a tone similar to John's commando voice. Dean jerked, his gaze flitting back and forth between them for a moment before he bowed his head and stuffed the colt into the back of his jeans. "That's better," Bobby said. "Now, let's sit down and talk about this rationally. I want to know both sides of this story. Right now." He grabbed two more bottles of beer from the fridge and led the way into the livingroom.

Sam sank down on the couch while Dean took up position across from him between the two armchairs.

"Right, so start talking," Bobby suggested. When neither of them did, he glanced at Dean, then at Sam. "How about you start, Sam?"

Sam scratched the back of his head, then set the bottle on the coffee table and looked down at the floor between his feet for a moment. "I really don't have time for this," he said.

Bobby frowned and Dean took a step back. When Sam raised his head again, his eyes were yellow.


Dean backed up while Bobby just stood there and stared at Sam for a moment. The eye color alone made Dean flinch, but the look that Sam gave him was much more terrifying than the thought that their greatest adversary wasn't dead after all.

"Well, howdy, Dean," Sam said with a smirk. "I'm getting damned tired of chasing after you. Good of you to finally stop running."

"This isn't possible. You're dead," Dean managed and backed up another step.

"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" Sam said and made a face. "But I believe in long-term plans and when Sammy got himself killed ... hell, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was a given that you would go all out to bring him back, after all. Something as worthless as you ... you really can't stand the thought of having to go on alone, can you?"

Bobby said nothing, but he suddenly moved, surprising Dean as well as Sam. He grabbed Dean by the front of his shirt and shoved him backwards. "Stay there. Don't move," he pressed out, then turned back to face Sam, who had just gotten up.

"What have you got planned there, Bobby?" he asked and eyed Bobby intently for a second, then glanced down at the floor. "A protective circle?" he asked and smirked. "How clever of you. But you should know better than put a protective circle on something as volatile as wood. Now that was pretty stupid."

"Not as stupid as you trying to come back from the dead, you son of a bitch," Bobby snapped.

"Bobby, don't," Dean rasped, his voice almost failing him. He couldn't wrap his mind around what was going on. If the colt couldn't kill demons like that, then how the hell were they ever expected to win?

Sam smirked at him. "Oh, the colt can kill demons like me, Dean. I just took out a life insurance in your brother when you made that deal to bring him back. Why else do you think my little lapdog agreed to make the deal in the first place?"

Dean glanced at Bobby, rattled to the core of his being. This wasn't an ordinary possession. This was what the Yellow-Eyed demon had meant when he had asked Dean if he was sure Sam had come back pure. It had known. "You son of a bitch," he whispered. "You ... infected my brother?"

Sam/Azazel grinned openly. "Smart, eh? Nobody knew and you were just too damned stubborn to see the truth. Now all I have to do is get rid of you and my victory is complete."

"Why? You've already taken over. Why are you so scared of me?" Dean countered, gaining momentum.

The grin faded. "I'm not scared of you. You're nothing, you're vermin. You and your whole wretched kind aren't supposed to exist. You're slave-material, fodder for the beast. You have no right to walk the Earth."

"Then why waste all this energy on hunting me down?" Dean snarled. "Why don't you just find some other poor sod to jump into? My brother isn't going to turn evil of his own accord."

That pulled another smirk from Sam. "Oh, my body-hopping days are over," he said and spread out his arms. "This is what I am now. Sam is long gone."

"Bullshit! If he was, you wouldn't be coming after me. You wouldn't bother. I'm going to hell in six months anyway. You're trying to get to me to take away the last resistance in Sam so he'll give up," Dean snapped.

Sam's eyes narrowed a little. "You're smarter than you act, Dean," he said, then raised a hand and stopped a dagger that Bobby had just hurled at him. It clattered uselessly to the floor. "Don't think you can outsmart me, Singer. I'm way tougher than my little girl." With that, he flicked a wrist, which sent Bobby crashing into a book shelf. Sam waved his hand and the bookshelf came crashing down on top of Bobby, knocking him clean out and making it near impossible for him to get up again too.

"Stop it," Dean snarled. "It's me your after. Leave Bobby alone."

"Why should I? When I'm through here, none of you will be left standing," Sam countered. "I had big plans for Sammy, but he just went and got himself killed. And, in the end, this is so much better anyway."

"Screw you!" Dean snarled. With Bobby out and nowhere to go, he was starting to get a little panicky. He had the colt, but he wasn't going to use it. Not as long as there might be even a margin of chance that Sam could still be saved. And it was at that point that he remembered Lucy's parting words. 'You call me and ask.' All he had to do was call her and ask for help. Feverishly, he hauled his phone out of his pocket and flipped it open.

"Who're you calling, Dean? There isn't anybody left out there who can help you," Sam said, narrowed his eyes again and spread out his arms, palms facing forward. He lowered his head and the floor beneath Dean's feet began to groan and tremble.

Dean speed-dialed Lucy's number and the second the connection was established, he had only one thing to say, "I'm asking for help."

One of the floorboards broke under his feet and thereby broke the protective circle and his phone crumbled to dust in his hand. Sam smiled viciously. "Bye bye, Dean," he said and cocked his head to the right.

"Not quite yet," a voice said from behind him.

Sam froze, then turned his head slowly to glance over his shoulder. "What? You called a witch?" he asked, sounding more annoyed than surprised.

Lucy smiled and there was something so utterly disconcerting about that smile that it sent a shiver of fear up Dean's spine. "A witch?" she asked and chuckled. "You're rich, Azazel. You always were a hoot, you double-crossing son of a bitch. I take a leave of absence and this is what I get? You try to stab me in the back and take my place? How dare you?"

Sam slowly turned back to face her, turning his back on Dean, and Dean could only judge what was going on from the look on Lucy's face, which wasn't much to go by. "You," Sam said quietly.

Lucy eyed him for a moment, then waved a hand at him. It threw him up against the nearest wall with enough force to break the plaster. Dean flinched and took a step forward, avoiding the broken floor board in the process.

"You've been a thorn in my side for far too long, Azazel," Lucy said and stepped up to Sam. "And it really won't do that you go blabbing your mouth off to everyone around you about me. So, I'm afraid you leave me no other choice. It's curtains for you," she added quietly and raised a hand, palm facing Sam. And that was when he started screaming.

Dean jerked at the almost primal sound, which definitely sounded more like his brother than the demon inside him, and it tore him up inside. Sammy wasn't supposed to be screaming like that. "Lucy, stop it," he said, his voice feeble. "Please, you're killing him."

"Can't be helped," Lucy countered. Whatever she was doing, it was causing Sam incredible agony.

Anger swept over him then, rising like a tidal wave inside him, and he ripped the colt from the back of his jeans and aimed it at her. "I said stop it!" he insisted. "I don't wanna have to kill you, but I will if you hurt my brother."

Lucy stopped what she was doing but didn't release Sam. Instead, she turned her head and eyed Dean closely for a moment. "That's not your brother any more. I thought you understood that."

"Sam's still in there. All you gotta do is get rid of the demon and leave my brother alone. You're powerful enough to do that, aren't you?" Dean countered. Something deep down told him he was making the biggest mistake of his life by threatening her. Some very basic instinct was beginning to latch onto who she really was and to say that it scared the life out of him was the understatement of the century.

Lucy's eyes narrowed a little, then she sighed, returned her attention to Sam and continued the extraction, which started the screaming up again.

"Dammit, Lucy. Don't make me shoot you!" Dean snarled, caught between mortal fear and righteous anger.

She ignored him and that shifted the balance toward anger rather than fear and he pulled the trigger. The bullet slammed into the side of her head and should, for all intents and purposes, have killed her immediately. It stopped the extraction, but did not release Sam from the wall. And Lucy didn't fall. She stood still for a moment, then lowered her right hand and reached up with her left to prod the hole in her skull. When she removed her fingers again, the hole was gone.

She turned around to face him and eyed him closely. "That took a lot of guts," she said quietly. "Especially since you're beginning to realize who I am."

He cringed, somehow expecting that she was going to rip him to shreds now, but she made no move against him, just stood there and stared at him. He lowered the colt, in part disappointed and in part relieved that it hadn't worked. "If you kill my brother, I'm going to tell every damned demon I can find where you are," he said just as quietly. He didn't know if he would ever get a chance to carry out that threat, but still she did not retaliate in any way.

"I see," she said, her tone even, unaffected. "If I don't extract the demonic essence of Azazel, your brother will cease to exist in any manner or fashion. All that will be left is his body, which will be Azazel's body. Is that what you want? One of the most powerful and most ancient demons in the world to run around in your brother's body, wrecking havoc on the world? Because you can't kill him, Dean. He will never let you pull that trigger on him again."

Dean swallowed, his throat parched. "If you are who I think you are, you have the power to extract that essence without killing Sam. If Sam dies, every damned demon I can find will know where you are." He wasn't entirely clear on why she didn't want the others to know where she was, but he figured she had a reason for wanting to kill Azazel to stop him from talking. The big question right now was why she didn't just kill Dean.

She made a face, glanced at Sam briefly, then nodded once. "I will give it my best shot. But I can't make any promises," she said.

"No deal. You kill him, even by mistake, and you'll soon have lots of company," Dean countered. Something was stopping her from killing him and even though he had no idea what, he still felt the distinct need to abuse it to the maximum.

Her expression tightened and her eyes darkened, turning from blue to deep purple. She was getting annoyed and it began to suck the light out of the room even though it was bright daylight outside. But it lasted only for a few moments. Then the sense of foreboding disappeared and her eyes returned to their normal blue as a smile slipped over her lips. "Alright, I save your brother and you keep your trap shut. Deal?"

Dean nodded. "Deal," he agreed.

"I cannot do this without hurting him, though. Azazel will hold on with everything he has. Sam might have to heal for a while afterward," she said.

"Fine. As long as he's alive and will get better, I don't care. Just free him," Dean countered.

She nodded once, turned back to face Sam and raised her hand again to continue the extraction. It took a long time and it involved a lot of screaming and squirming and bleeding from Sam, but eventually Lucy balled her hand into a fist and Sam fell from the wall, bonelessly hitting the floor.

Dean rushed over to him and rolled him over on his back. He was still breathing, but quite unconscious. "He'll be okay?" he asked and looked up at Lucy.

"Yes," she agreed, pulled a silver flask from one pocket and uncorked it with her teeth, then held her balled fist over it for a moment before opening her hand and re-corking the flask.

Dean watched her for a moment. "Is he dead?"

"No," she countered. "But he will never bother anyone again," she added and slipped the flask back into her pocket. "You cannot escape a soul catcher," she said with a vague smile on her lips.

Dean glanced at her pocket, then rose. "So, you're really ..." To say the name, to speak the unspeakable, was something he felt he couldn't do right now.

She tilted her head briefly to the right, a sort of half-nod. "I'll be keeping an eye on you, Dean. And if anyone gets wind of where I am, I will assume that you haven't kept your end of this bargain. Just keep in mind that I can snuff your brother out like nothing."

"Why not me?" he asked. Even though he feared what the answer might be, he still needed to know. He hated not knowing. "I mean ... why don't you just kill me? Not that I want you to or anything, but ..."

Lucy smiled a little tightly. "Not as sharp as you could be, are you, Dean?" she asked. "You have better sense than that. But ... in the interest of a truce between us ... if I kill you, your soul will go to Hell. And you will have plenty of opportunity to tell everyone there where I am. I can't have that. So ... killing you is not an option. But you are known to keep your word and I'm counting on that."

He nodded, understanding more clearly now what he had only suspected before. "Why?" he asked.

"Because ... I like where I am. I have no interest in returning to Hell any time soon. And I don't want hoards of fanatic psychopaths following me wherever I go," she said and smirked. "Eventually, I will have to go back. But ... for now ..."

"You're taking a vacation?" he asked, a tentative little smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

"So to speak," she agreed. "You'd better tend to your brother and your friend now," she added, turned and then stopped. "Oh, by the way," she said and turned back to face him. "That deal."

A faint flicker of hope rose in him at her words. "What about it?" he asked, careful not to indulge in any fantasies just yet.

"I'm assuming you'd like to get out of it," she said.

Dean nodded once, uncertain of where she might be headed with that.

"Well, there is a way. Even I have to abide by the rules, but there is a way to ... transfer the deal," she said.

"Transfer? You mean ... shove it off at someone else?" he asked. That thought alone made him feel almost sick.

"Yes," she agreed. "The age-old saying a life for a life applies here. You have six months left, Dean. All you have to do is offer me a replacement and you are free of the deal."

"I can't do that," he said with regret. "I can't condemn another human being."

"There is one that deserves it, though," she said.

Dean frowned. "Who?"

"Bela Talbot," she said with a smile on her lips. "Hasn't it ever occurred to you that she's exceedingly too lucky in her endeavors?"

He arched an eyebrow. "She's a great thief," he stated, using Bela's own term.

Lucy smirked. "Too great. Let me tell you a little something about her that I bet you didn't know. Bela is ... cold-hearted. She always has been. But some years ago she made a deal that ensured her success in her career ... by giving up her sense of morality and ... ensuring her luck in all that she reaches for."

"Didn't work out too well, did it? She's been trying to steal this box from us for a bit now. That's why she shot Sam," Dean countered.

"Box?" she asked. "What box?"

Dean stalked over to his duffle, opened it and retrieved the box. "This one. And it's still with us," he said.

Lucy eyed it for a moment without touching it. "That's a different thing. That box belongs to you," she said. "Bela can't steal it, no matter how much supernatural luck she has. It's put her in a bit of a pinch, to be honest. And she is going to keep coming after you for it. If she kills the both of you, then she can take it. So ... I would be careful about her. One way of getting rid of that threat is to ... offer her to me. She has to be here in person when the trade is done, though."

Dean stared at her for a moment, then looked down at the box. When he looked up again, Lucy was gone. "Son of a bitch," he muttered under his breath, returned the box to his duffle and rushed over to Bobby. He got the heavy bookshelf off him, then turned him over on his back and gently patted his face. "Bobby?" he tried.

The older hunter groaned, then opened his eyes. He stared up at Dean for a second, then sat bolt upright and immediately grabbed his head. "Son of a bitch," he growled.

"Take it easy, Bobby. You've got a bit of a bump there," Dean said and helped Bobby to his feet.

"What the hell happened?" Bobby asked and glanced around. Then his gaze settled on Sam and he took a cautious step back, nearly tripping over some of the books littering the floor.

"It's okay. Sam's gonna be fine," Dean said and hunkered down next to Sam. "Sammy?" he tried and carefully patted Sam's cheek. Nothing happened. "Sam?"

"Did you ... exorcize him?" Bobby asked and stepped up behind him to eye Sam.

"Not so much," Dean admitted and wondered how much he should tell Bobby. If he told Bobby about who Lucy really was, he would break the deal and that wasn't going to happen. So he had to come up with a plausible explanation, something that would shut everybody up. "Well ... I guess I did," he amended. "It's starting to be second nature, spouting all that Latin. I didn't really think about what I was doing, you know."

"So, the demon lives?" Bobby asked, sounding somewhat disappointed.

"Yeah. Maybe he's smart enough to stay away from us now. That's twice we've kicked his ass," Dean said. "Sammy, come on. Wake up!" he tried, still with no luck.

"Dean, he's just been through hell. Let's just get him up on the couch. He'll wake up sooner or later," Bobby said and grimaced. "Damn, I need something for this headache," he added.