That night it took Sam an extraordinarily long time to fall asleep and when he finally did, he woke up again within half an hour, bathed in sweat that stung every scratch he had on his body.

The dream was only half remembered, but fire-red hair and nails like claws had played a big part in it. He pushed himself up on his elbows and struggled to get his breathing back under control. He glanced at Dean, who was still asleep, then carefully pushed himself up while grimacing painfully. Every muscle in his body seemed to be bruised.

As quietly as possible, he got off the bed and limped into the bathroom, pushing the door closed but not shutting it completely. He switched the light on and carefully pulled his t-shirt off, suppressing the need to groan.

The bruise on his chest was generally the worst of them. It made it hard for him to breathe at times. Despite the pain, he carefully ran his fingers over the sore skin, searching for broken ribs underneath. He couldn't feel any, but it still felt like his entire rib cage had been reduced to grinding shards of glass.

The angry purple bruise on his back wasn't any prettier, nor were the scratch marks on his chest and stomach.

"Jesus, Sam."

He froze, then glanced toward the door where Dean was now standing. Equal parts embarrassed and afraid, he dropped his gaze, grabbed the edges of the sink and let his head drop too. "Nothing's broken," he finally managed.

"That's always something," Dean said, his tone tight. "Sit down. Let me take a look at those scratches," he added.

Sam considered opposing him, but decided not to after all. He couldn't take back what Dean had seen now and he did need help.

Without a word, Dean tended to the more unreachable parts and Sam hated that he couldn't stop shivering throughout it. Dean mistook it for something else than it was, though. "You cold?" he asked.

Sam nodded mutely, not up to getting into how miserable he felt. The dream still lingered, half remembered, filling him with dread and disgust.

"Just give me a sec," Dean muttered and put the finishing touches on yet another bandage on Sam's side before he handed him his t-shirt. Then he grabbed Sam's arm and helped him back to his feet.

The less said about this, the better for both of them. Dean said nothing and Sam wasn't ready to talk, so they headed back to bed again and just lay there in the darkness, neither of them sleeping and neither of them talking.

For a long time, Sam listened to Dean, and he could almost feel his brother's rage. He knew that Dean would lose what little restraint he had left right now if Dawn showed up again and that could be disastrous if the deal had not yet been annulled. "Dean?"

Dean grunted, pretending to be asleep.

"I know you're still awake," Sam said quietly. "I need you to make me a promise."

He could almost imagine the look on Dean's face. When Sam asked for a promise, it was usually deep stuff and the last time Sam had forced a promise from him, Dean had been rattled to the core of his being. "What?" he finally asked, his voice a little hoarse.

"Until we know if the deal is off, you don't do anything if she turns up again," Sam said. "Promise me."

"If I kill her if she turns up again and she holds the contract, that should kill it as well," Dean countered gruffly.

"We don't know that," Sam persisted. "Please, Dean. I need you to promise me that you'll leave her alone until we're sure. After that you can do whatever the hell you want. Just ... until we're sure."

He heard his brother shift, could imagine what had to be going through Dean's head right now, and he hated having to force Dean into submission this way. But if it came down to a choice between revenge and keeping Dean alive, Sam would choose Dean any day.

"Promise me," he insisted.

"Alright," Dean growled. "I promise. But the second we know for sure, I am going to pound that bitch into the ground," he added vehemently.

"Fine with me," Sam countered.

They fell silent again and at some point, Sam drifted off. He woke with a start some hours later, but not because of a dream. He had shifted his left leg, bent it too much, and it sent a ripple of pain through him that woke him up. "Shit," he hissed and grabbed his knee, carefully stretching his leg out again. It took a moment for the whole thing to calm down enough for him to fall asleep again.


The following day

It took them another half day to get to Fort Caswell where the ferry to Smith Island left from. Dean eyed the port for a moment before getting out of the car to walk over to the office.

Sam watched him, having already realized that taking the Impala across with them was going to be a no-go, and he could just imagine how Dean would feel about having to leave his precious car on the mainland for the duration.

After ten minutes, Dean came back, got back behind the wheel and just sat there for a moment.

"We can't take the car, can we?" Sam asked.

"No, we can't," Dean agreed. "And the house is about half an hours walk from the key," he added and glanced back at Sam. "And there's no way you're walking that far with that knee," he added.

Sam eyed him for a moment. "So, we're not going?" he asked.

"Looks like it," Dean agreed and sighed. "Damn," he added. "I should have checked that before we drove all the way down here."

With a light shrug that made him flinch when it pulled at some of the taped-down bandages on his side, Sam couldn't really say that he was sorry about the outcome. "Well, we could leave the car. I mean ... I'm sure they must have some means of transportation on the island."

"Yeah," Dean countered with distaste. "Golf carts. There is no way in Hell that you'll catch me riding around in one of those."

Sam almost smiled. "Well, what do you suggest?" he asked.

"We forget about it and go see Bobby instead," Dean countered grumpily. "Or we go see the Grand Canyon," he added, his tone a little more chipper.

The thought of having to explain anything to Bobby right now made Sam feel almost sick to his stomach. Having to ride across the country for the next few days was definitely more appealing. "Then let's go," he said. "Maybe I'll be able to walk properly by the time we arrive," he added.

Dean turned around on his seat and eyed him suspiciously. "Really?" he asked.

"Yeah, really," Sam agreed. "I wanna see the Grand Canyon too," he added. He had seen it, with Jess, but that was beside the point. Dean didn't need to know that right now.

"Well, alright then," Dean said and turned away again, then stopped and glanced at him over one shoulder. "You're sure?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm sure. Let's just go, okay?" Sam countered.


The Grand Canyon
Three days later

The Grand Canyon was everything Dean had always thought it would be and still a bit more awe-inspiring. It had taken them three days to get there and Sam's knee was definitely better, although he still walked with a limp. So there they stood, at the edge of the canyon, leaning on the railing while staring down at this gouge in the Earth that ran for as far as they could see, and there was a sense of serenity about it.

"Well ... it's big, isn't it?" Sam asked after awhile.

Dean glanced at him and smirked. "Yeah," he agreed. Sam had been plagued by nightmares every damned night, but he still was up and running and Dean had to admit to himself that he admired him for it. Then again, Sam had been plagued by nightmares most of his life. His more sensitive nature made this kind of life harder on him.

Of course, after what Sam had been through in an attempt to save Dean, he was entitled to a few nightmares. And Dean had made good on his silent vow to himself that he wouldn't pick on Sam or make fun of him. Their relationship right now had never been more amicable and in essence Dean liked it better this way.

He turned his attention back to the canyon below them and just stared out over the expanse for a moment while recalling dad's only comment when he had once mentioned that he wanted to see the canyon some day. 'Why? It's just another crack in the ground.' That had been all dad had said to that and Dean had dropped the idea right there and then.

"You ever been here before?" Dean asked and glanced at Sam again.

Sam frowned lightly. The bruise on his cheekbone was fading now. He still looked battered and displayed every single sign Dean had ever heard of or read about when it came to abuse, but he was still standing tall, still able to snark when he wanted to, and that made Dean hope that he would make it through this horrible experience without too many scars. "Once," Sam finally replied. "With Jess. But I didn't really take it in."

"You did a lot of stuff together, didn't you?" Dean asked.

Sam shrugged. "That's what you do when you live with someone," he countered, the look in his eyes far away.

Dean straightened up and swept his gaze over the canyon again. "Can't say that I would know," he said. "Not like I've tried that."

Sam eyed him for a moment, then sent a brief glance around the area. They had the place more or less to themselves right now. Nobody was close enough to overhear anything they might say and none of the other distant visitors looked like they were likely to get anywhere near them. "She beat the crap out of me," he said quietly and returned his attention to the canyon too.

He could almost feel Dean's eyes on him. "That's kinda obvious," he said.

"Yeah," Sam agreed. He wasn't so sure he wanted to talk about it, but he knew himself well enough to know that he needed to.

"Was it ..." Dean trailed off, either unsure of how to word what he wanted to say or simply not able to put into words what Sam was sure he had guessed already.

"Painful?" he asked and nodded. "Yeah. Big time," he said and sternly stared at the far wall of the canyon.

Dean shifted, his leatherjacket creaking against the metal of the railing. "She didn't ..." he tried, but again trailed off.

Sam could guess what he meant and he shook his head. "No, she didn't. But it was ... rough," he countered. "A lot of ... chafing," he added and grimaced at the thought. "A lot of ... unwilling participation."

"Jeez," Dean muttered. "It hurts just listening to this, man." He exhaled sharply, then turned his back to the railing and watched the area for a moment. "Did she ... say anything to you? Afterward?"

"No, nothing specific. She didn't mention the contract. Which is why I ... I think that ... maybe ..." Sam trailed off.

"I don't want to say I told you so, Sam, but ..." Dean countered and sighed. "Look, let's just ... forget about this, okay? It was a long shot. Demons lie."

Sam couldn't pin this on Dean. He couldn't blame him for not having told him. "I won't accept that," he said quietly. "I can't accept that, Dean."

"I don't want to either. Believe me. But we don't have a choice, Sam."

They fell silent for a while and just stood there and stared down at the canyon stretching out beneath them. But Sam knew that Dean kept glancing at him and after a moment he sighed.

"Sam ... I hate to bring this up, but ..." He hesitated, sounded a tad unsure, and it worried Sam because he didn't really know what came next.

"But what?" he asked when Dean didn't continue. After a few more seconds he glanced at Dean, who was staring out over the canyon, his expression grim. "What, Dean?" he pressed.

Dean inhaled sharply. "Did you ... use protection?"

Despite all he knew, all he had learned along the way, this one thing hadn't crossed his mind. Now that it was out in the open, it raised a whole array of horrible ideas and the thought that he was feeling better, that he would make it through this without any greater side-effects, crumbled to dust right in front of him. "Oh shit," he whispered. The air went out of him and he leaned against the railing, trying to steady himself.

Dean was by his side instantly, wrapped an arm around his back and grabbed his shoulder. "Easy," he soothed. "Breathe, Sam," he added and only then did Sam realize he wasn't.

He sucked in a lung full of air, then another and closed his eyes against the sudden dizziness that threatened to spill him to his knees.

"Steady, Sam. Take it easy," Dean admonished him. "Hey, relax, dude. You gotta breathe, Sam. Slow and easy."

Sam tried and finally got a handle on what should come naturally and the black spots that had formed in his field of vision vanished again.

"Let go. You have to sit down," Dean said and Sam reluctantly released his hold on the railing and allowed Dean to guide him over to a bench, where he sank down on the edge. Dean sat down next to him and kept one hand on his back all the time while he watched him. "You okay?"

"Okay? How can I be okay? Jesus, Dean. I didn't ... it didn't even cross my mind. I didn't ... I couldn't have ..."

"Relax, Sam. You don't have to justify this to me," Dean said quietly. "This gives us another reason to hunt that bitch down, Sam. Whatever the hell she has in mind, we can't let this ... have consequences."

The idea alone was repulsive. It made him want to gag and he only barely refrained from doing so. "You think that's what she was after all along?" he finally managed.

"I don't know. Who the hell knows what demons think. And I'm not even sure it would work anyway. I can't see them having that much influence over their hosts that they can ... infuse part of themselves in any ... offspring," Dean countered, his expression revealing the conflict this caused in him.

"I screwed up," Sam muttered and raked all ten fingers through his hair in sheer frustration. "I shouldn't have ..."

"Stop beating yourself up about it. It's done. All we can do now is catch up with her and blow her away. And this time, there's no saving the host. If that girl is even alive any more," Dean said sternly and got up. "Let's head back to the motel. We'll leave tomorrow morning."

"And go where?" Sam asked and looked up at him.

"I don't know. Maybe we should head back to Bobby's, get his help on this one," Dean said thoughtfully.

That really wasn't the path Sam wanted to take. "No, let's go back to Jackson. Maybe she's still there," he said and pushed himself to his feet while favoring his left knee.

Dean gave him a look that made him grimace and look away. "I get that this is ... embarrassing, Sam, but ... we need help on this one. Maybe Bobby knows who she is. Maybe ... she's done this before."

Not sure what to think or how to respond, Sam settled for making a face instead. "Okay, fine," he muttered.

"That'a boy," Dean countered. "Come on. Let's get going," he added.


Holiday Inn
Grand Canyon, AZ

Dean threw his jacket onto the bed and took a quick look around the room. Then he glanced at his watch. "If we leave around ten tomorrow, we should be able to make it halfway," he assumed, then chanced a glance at his brother.

Sam was preoccupied and understandably so. He didn't respond, just dropped down into a chair, his expression tense, the look in his eyes far away. For a moment Dean wished he hadn't said anything, but there was no way in Hell that he would let a demon make off with a kid of theirs, and he generally had the feeling that this might have been what Dawn had been after.

"Sam?" he asked.

Sam blinked, then focused on him. "What?"

"Nothing. Do something other than think about that. It's gonna drive you crazy if you let it," Dean countered, hoping to somehow distract Sam. The only effective way Dean could think of right now wouldn't do any good at all. It was more than likely that Sam was in no mood to go out for a drink and some casual conversation with strangers.

"Like what?" Sam asked. "How the hell can I not think about that? Dean ..."

Dean held up a hand. "Stop! Right now! This isn't your fault. But we gotta fix it and that's as far as it goes."

"And your idea of fixing it is hunting her down and blowing her brains out?" Sam asked, suddenly angry.

"Sam ... what do you want to do, huh? She's a frigging demon," Dean said, starting to feel a little exasperated by Sam's attitude.

"That's your answer to everything, isn't it?" Sam countered a little heatedly. "What about the girl this demon is possessing? What if she's still alive in there?"

Dean stared at Sam for a moment, unable to comprehend where he was going with this at first. But then it struck him that Sam was trying to tone down what had happened to him by viewing the possessed girl as a victim too, someone he had to save from this demon. And he obviously felt a connection to the girl now because of what had happened. "Chances are that she's already dead, Sam. Or will die if we drive the demon out of her. If we even can. I think we'd be doing her a favor by ending this possession as soon as possible and preventing it from ever happening again," he said, hoping to somehow reason with his brother.

Sam's anger deflated as quickly as it had flared up and he lapsed back into silence.

Dean knew what John would have done now, but he wasn't his father and he had more compassion for Sam's present situation than his father would have had. So he left Sam to it for the moment and instead began to pack up the stuff he had strewn around the room. The idea had been that they would stay for a few days, enjoy some sightseeing, but things had a tendency to change at the spur of a moment in their world.


The rest of that day passed in relative silence and Sam found it hard to focus on anything other than what Dean's question had unearthed in his mind. If that was what Dawn was after, then he needed to find her and make her stop. It was quite possible that this had been her plan from day one and he couldn't let it happen. Dean was right about that. But Sam couldn't relinquish the idea that the girl this demon was possessing was just as much a victim in this as he was. And the thought of killing her made him shudder inside.

What Dean did for the rest of the day passed him by in a haze. He managed to pay attention a few times, but always lapsed back into a thought pattern that could be considered self-destructive. Not that he intended to do harm to himself, but he was unaware of anything other than what this might mean.

"Sam?" Dean's tone of voice indicated that he had tried to rouse him for a while now.

Sam blinked and focused on his brother. "What?" he asked, then frowned and glanced at the window. When had it gotten dark outside?

How could he allow this to go on? What kind of life would that child have? Raised by demons? He shuddered.

"Sam!" Dean insisted.

He glanced at his brother. "What?" he tried again. "What is it?"

"You have got to snap out of it, Sam," Dean said and dumped a bag of something in front of him. "Did you even notice that I went out?"

"You went out?" Sam echoed, a little confused.

Dean sighed. "Jeez, man. Get it together, for pity's sake," he said, his tone now a little strained. "If you're gonna be like this all the way to Bobby's, I'm gonna start kicking your butt. You need to pay attention to what's going on around you. We'll find Dawn and when we do, she's toast. End of story."

Sam focused on Dean. "What if she's pregnant?"

The look that earned him made him frown. "Sam, that's why we're going after her. You want a kid of yours raised by demons? The thought alone is nauseating. And, as I keep saying, the likelihood that the girl she's using is still alive or will survive if we drive the demon out of her is not very high. You know that."

"Yeah, but ... don't we owe it to her to try?" Sam asked.

Dean sighed again, deeply this time. "Dammit, Sam. Let it go. You can't save this one. Besides, even if you could, what would that mean, huh? It'll be more than likely that she wouldn't want anything to do with either of us. Not after what she's been through."

Sam shrugged lightly and focused on the bags. "What did you get?" he asked.

"The special," Dean countered. "How's your knee?"

"Better," Sam muttered. He wasn't hungry despite the fact that he hadn't eaten since this morning.

"Your bruises are almost gone," Dean observed.

Pensively, Sam scrubbed a hand over his cheekbone and nodded vaguely. "Yeah," he agreed.

"Eat something," Dean said and opened one of the boxes he had brought back with him.

Sam copied him and eyed the contents for a moment, then picked up a single french fry and eyed it before letting it drop back into the box. "I'm not hungry," he muttered.

"Screw that. Eat something," Dean persisted. "You need to eat something, Sam. You need to keep your strength up."

"For what?" Sam knew he wasn't being fair, that Dean was only trying to help, but he couldn't let go of this right now.

Dean eyed him for a moment. "Do you want a salad? I can go out and get you a salad or something," he tried.

Sam focused on him and suddenly realized how rattled Dean was by this whole thing. "She's a succubus," he said. The idea had invaded his thoughts all of a sudden and he was sure he was right, even though he had never actually heard of a succubus that physically attacked the guy she was molesting.

His brother's response was, if not expected then at least understandable. He just stared at him. "What?" he finally asked.

"She has to be. Why else would she do what she does? It's typical succubus behavior." Research had been his lifeline for a long time and it would seem it could do what he needed it to do right now too; namely distract him away from the fact and allow him to dive into the lore surrounding it.

"Uh ..." Dean scratched the back of his head and glanced down at his food, then looked up to meet Sam's eyes. "But ... why?"

"Think about it. The lore around succubi has it that they ... uhm ... you know, attack a guy in his sleep to collect ... you know." Sam found it a bit ironic that he couldn't put it into words because it had happened to him. If it had been anyone else, he would have said what needed to be said and Dean would have teased him mercilessly or been too grossed out to comment on it.

"Yeah, I know," Dean said, grimacing at the idea. "But why? What's the idea?"

"It is generally believed that demons can't reproduce. Succubi collect and the Inccubi impregnate women. Children born from that are considered to be either deform or more susceptible to the supernat ..." Sam trailed off while staring at Dean. "Do you think ..."

"Nah." Dean dismissed the idea instantly. "There's no way, dude. Dad would have known."

"Known what, Dean? I remember he once said he didn't believe in jack shit before mom died, that he thought all this was mumbo-jumbo." Sam eyed his brother for a moment. "And if ... Dawn or whatever the hell her name is, is after the same thing ... I mean, a kid of mine would be twice as sensitive to the supernatural as I am."

"You're reaching, Sam," Dean said, his tone tight.

"Am I? There's tons of lore on this out there. Tons, Dean. This has happened to a lot of people. I really don't think I'm reaching," Sam countered, a little annoyed now. "If you think about it, it makes sense."

"No, it doesn't. Old Yellow Eyes was after you. He's gone. Dead. We blew him away. We took revenge on the thing that killed mom and dad got out of Hell in the same instance. All else is bullshit," Dean countered just as heatedly.

Sam eyed him darkly for a moment. "Now who's reaching?" he asked. "We've been up to our eyeballs in nothing but demons and the crap they pull ever since."

For a moment all Dean did was glare at him. Then he rose, pushing the chair back hard enough to tip it over, grabbed his jacket and left the room, slamming the door hard behind him.

Sam drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then slumped back in his chair. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made, no matter what Dean might think. The puzzle was beginning to form a picture, even though they still didn't have all the pieces. And Dean's reaction was, to a point, understandable. Sam sometimes felt that he didn't have as much invested in his family as Dean did. Dean had always looked up to their father despite the man's flaws, and to Dean their mother was damned near a saint. Sam honestly couldn't give her that status because he didn't remember her and what he knew about her was sketchy to say the least. What Dean remembered about her were more feelings and that one photo he always carried around with him. What dad had told Sam about his mother could fit on the back of a stamp.

There had never really been time to discuss anything about their past and John had always been of the opinion that his sons were on a need-to-know basis, which in essence had meant that they didn't need to know. Sam hadn't found out about the truth behind their lives until he had been six or seven and even then the majority of what John had faced had been a mystery to him until his very first hunt. And he still remembered how horrified he had been afterward. Knowing about it hadn't cushioned the blow of actually seeing what they were up against.

He glanced at his watch, then rose and made his way over to the door. Dean had been gone for ten minutes, but Sam knew that he hadn't gone far. He pulled the door open, stepped out into the corridor and glanced sideways at his brother, who stood leaning against the wall next to the door. "Are you gonna come back in?" he asked.

Dean didn't say anything, but pushed away from the wall and followed Sam back inside. He didn't say much for the rest of the evening and Sam left him to it because he knew his brother had a lot to go through in his mind right now.