The following day

They reached Bobby's place at six p.m. and were greeted enthusiastically by a bouncy Golden Retriever puppy that nearly managed to bowl Dean over. He caught the puppy and lifted it up. "Where the hell did you come from?" he asked it.

"A friend dropped him off," Bobby countered while walking down the steps. "He's a bundle of energy. Reminds me a bit of Sam when he was little," he added. His expression throughout remained serious.

Dean put the squirmy, overtly happy puppy back on the ground and watched it race around them for a moment. Then he looked up to meet Bobby's eyes. "Hey Bobby," he said. He knew he was in for one hell of a talking-to, considering the last conversation he'd had with Bobby, but he hoped Bobby would hold off on that until Sam was out of earshot.

"Dean," Bobby countered. "Let's get your brother inside. My couch is probably going to be more comfortable than your car."

"Don't diss her. She's comfy enough," Dean countered and opened the back door.

Sam shifted around and managed to drag himself forward until his feet hit the dusty ground before he looked up at Bobby. Dean noticed how Sam's gaze skirted away instantly. He couldn't look Bobby in the eye.

"Be careful with his left arm," Dean said, when Bobby reached out for it to help Sam up.

Together they got the kid up on his feet and somehow managed to get him into the house without any disasters. And that was despite the fact that Rumsfeld the puppy kept bouncing around them without regard for who he was about to trip.

"Rumsfeld?" Dean asked after Sam was settled on the couch. "Come on, Bobby. You can't call a dog Rumsfeld."

Bobby just gave him a look that undermined anything else Dean might have considered saying on that subject, then turned his attention to Sam. "You look horrible," he stated.

Sam rubbed his brow carefully. "I feel worse," he admitted and lapsed back into silence.

A quick glance at Dean was all Bobby offered before heading toward the front door again. "Dean, come on. Let's get your stuff inside," he called over one shoulder.

Dean hesitated for a second, then followed him outside. The second he had stepped out on the porch, Bobby closed the door behind them and gave him that look he knew so well. "Start talking," he suggested.

"Can't it wait until he's asleep?" Dean countered.

"No," Bobby said sternly. "He looks like he took ten rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson. And Peterson told me some pretty troubling things. Or, rather, he indicated."

Dean swallowed hard, trailed over to the steps and leaned his back against the supporting beam that was part of the banister.

"So, a demon did this to him?" Bobby prompted.

"Yeah," Dean agreed and eyed the floor in front of his feet thoughtfully. "One hell of a bitch," he added. "She calls herself Dawn. She popped up in Jackson, but I think we ran into her in New Castle. At least Sam thinks we did. I don't remember seeing her there." Dean paused while getting the story straight in his head. "She offered a deal to get me out of the deal. Seemed pretty damned harmless at first too. Too good to be true," he added.

"What'd she offer?" Bobby asked.

Dean glanced up at him and grimaced. "One night for my soul. I thought she meant me. But she didn't. She wanted Sam. And I think I know why she went for him, too."

"Because he's not that kinda guy," Bobby confirmed. "That makes sense. And that sounds like a frigging stupid thing to agree to. So, what? She beats the crap out of him and gives him a couple of bad burns?"

Attempting to smile, Dean had the feeling that it was more a grimace he managed to show. "Oh, you don't get the gist of it, Bobby," he said and looked up to meet Bobby's eyes. "She practically raped him," he said.

Saying it out loud didn't take any of the nastiness out of the event and Dean was actually a little surprised that he was able to say it without cringing.

"Yeah, she beat the crap out of him, too. She nearly broke his cheekbone the first time around. He tore a tendon in his left knee and I'm surprised she didn't pulverize his rib cage," he continued. "We thought it was over and I think Sam would actually have been able to move past this one fairly quickly if that had been it. But ..."

"She did it again," Bobby finished for him, his tone tight.

Dean nodded. "Yup, she did it again," he agreed and this time grimaced on purpose. "Only this time ..."

"She burned him," Bobby said. "Peterson told me about that. Said the big burns were bad, but ... he figured the worst injury was done to his pride."

"His pride?" Dean snorted. "No, the worst injury is to his self-worth. That bitch made him feel like nothing, Bobby."

Bobby's gaze narrowed. "And that spilled over on you, didn't it?" he asked. "You feel just as violated because you couldn't stop it."

If there was one thing Dean hated, then it was that others could read him that easily. Granted, Bobby knew him well. It was downright impossible for him to hide anything from Bobby Singer, but it still tore into him like nothing else could that Bobby knew how he felt about this. "This isn't about me," he tried.

"The hell it is," Bobby countered. "This bitch is tapping into everything that you boys fear. Did she release you or is she coming back for more?"

"She gave Sam a contract. It was a bitch to destroy. Whether it was the real deal or not ..." Dean shrugged helplessly. "Only time will tell, I guess," he said.

Bobby just stood there for a moment and stared out over the junkyard. Then he focused on Dean again. "You haven't seen any big black dogs following you around, have you?" he asked.

Dean frowned lightly. "No, not that I've noticed. Why?"

"That's usually a sign. The cutoff date is drawing near. If the contract is still in effect, you should start seeing hell hounds following you around one of these days. From what I know, they begin turning up about a month before," Bobby said. "And, trust me, you would have noticed them."

"So, you're saying if I don't see them, the contract is broken?" Dean asked and eyed Bobby closely.

"I'm not saying anything," Bobby countered. "As for Sam ... give him time to heal. And let's do our best to keep that fury away from him."

"That's kinda what I'm aiming at," Dean agreed, pushed away from the support beam and took a step down.

"I'm not done yet," Bobby said and Dean stopped, the need to squirm rising in him. He knew that tone. "Don't think I forgot what I said on the phone, Dean."

Dean halfway turned and eyed Bobby. "As I told you on the phone, it wasn't a lie. It just wasn't the entire truth either."

"You told me Sam twisted his ankle. Then I find out he was violated by a demon and beaten within an inch of his life. I'd call that a big fat lie," Bobby countered, then sighed. "Look, Dean, I'm not your dad. I can't tell you what to do. But I do consider us friends and friends don't lie to each other. I know you have trust issues, that your daddy taught you the hard way never to trust anyone, but this has got to stop. I can't help you if you don't tell me the truth."

Dean glanced off into the distance, then let his gaze skim over the junkyard until it came to rest on his car. "You know ... sometimes ... I wish you were my dad," he said quietly, then walked down the steps and over to the Impala to get the duffles.

When he turned back toward the house, Bobby was still standing on the porch, watching him with an unreadable expression. Dean slammed the trunk lid shut again and headed back up to the porch, where he stopped again while not looking directly at Bobby. "That's a harsh thing to say," Bobby said.

"Is it?" Dean asked and glanced at him. He felt bad about saying it, felt guiltier than hell, but he felt it needed to be said. "All my life I stood up for the guy, Bobby. All my life I've done whatever he asked of me, whenever he asked it. But even when he sold his damned soul to keep me alive, I still questioned his motives. He didn't do it for me. He did it for Sam."

"You're misjudging him, Dean. John was a major pain in the ass most of the time. I grant you that. And he didn't do right by you boys. That much I'll give you. But he loved you. Both of you. And if it came down to it, if he had to make a choice between you two," Bobby said while eying him darkly, "he would have chosen you."

"Would he?" Dean asked and shifted his attention to the front door. "I don't know."

"But I do," Bobby said. "I've seen what all this did to him. He tried to hide it from you two, to make you both think he was strong and in control. But most of the time I don't think the man knew what the hell he was doing. All he knew was why. And I know he was proud of you, Dean, because he said so on many occasions."

These words should have felt good, should have bolstered him and made him feel better about everything, but they didn't. All he could do for a moment was stand there and stare at the peeling paint of the front door before he turned his head a little and glanced at Bobby from the corners of his eyes. "He never said that to me," he muttered. "Just ... once would have been enough. Just so I knew. But he never said anything. Not until he was on the brink of death and I didn't believe it then. And I don't believe it now." With that, he opened the front door and stepped back inside, leaving Bobby behind on the porch.


Bobby had seen a lot of heartache in his life. His own start as a hunter had been devastating to say the least. But he couldn't readily say that he had ever felt closer to cracking his tough facade than he did right now. His belief that Dean was damaged had just been confirmed ten-fold and he understood now why Dean had sold his soul for his brother, why he had always followed orders blindly, without argument, without talking back to John.

All that boy had ever wanted was a little recognition. And when John had finally realized this, had finally said the words, it had been too little too late. And it put these most recent events in a completely different light. The demon that had done this to Sam, had lashed out at Dean. Dean had always felt that his sole purpose in life was to look out for Sam, to protect Sam, and it was now abundantly clear to Bobby that Dean felt he was failing Sam. The worst outcome of this would be that this demon attacked Sam again and that the contract wasn't broken and Bobby began to see red on account of it.

He took a moment to compose himself. If ever there had been need for a miracle, this was it. But Bobby didn't believe in miracles. He had lost faith in any higher benevolent power a long time ago.

Rumsfeld the puppy bounded up the steps and bumped into his leg, then began yipping excitedly before he bounded onward into the house. Bobby watched the dog go and tried to reconcile himself with Dean's words. Under any other circumstances, he would have been flattered, but all he could feel right now was sorry for the kid. Sorry for his lousy upbringing and the lack of recognition and attention he'd had to live with.

Finally, he stepped inside and shut the door behind him while considering how exactly he was going to handle this situation without making a total mess of it.

His first step was to suggest that Sam hit the sack at once, which Sam wasn't happy with, but Dean convinced him and together they got Sam upstairs to bed and two minutes later, the kid was out like a light.

"Well, at least he's getting some rest," Bobby said quietly and shut the door to the room.

"Until he wakes up with another nightmare, yeah," Dean agreed. They headed back downstairs and Dean dropped down on the couch. "This is killing him."

"Both of you, I'd say," Bobby corrected him. "So, what's the plan? Do you even have one?"

Dean made a face and slumped back into the couch. "Yeah, 'cause our plans always work so well, don't they?" he countered and scrubbed both hands over his face.

"Maybe you should join your brother? I'm on the verge of saying that you look just as bad as he does," Bobby tried.

"Nice try, but no thanks. I'm not that tired," Dean countered and gave Bobby a lopsided grin. All his defenses were back in place, the barricades were up and nothing and nobody would be able to wiggle past unless Dean allowed it.

Bobby nodded. He wasn't going to tell the kid what to do, even though he got the feeling that Dean longed for someone to tell him what to do right now. But it wouldn't help him in the long run and Bobby wanted to help him if he in any way could. "Listen, I need to catch up on a few things. It'll take me about an hour or so. I suppose you can keep yourself entertained for that long?"

"Yeah, sure," Dean agreed. "I could always read a book or something," he added sarcastically. "Since you don't have a tv and all."

"When will you let that go?" Bobby asked, playing along for now. He had the distinct impression that a breakdown was waiting in the near future and things would become serious enough then.

"Maybe I'll let it go when you finally get a set," Dean said with a smirk.

"Yeah, like that will ever happen," Bobby countered. "Do yourself a favor. Read a book," he added and left the room before Dean could come up with a snarky come-back to that one.

He took care of business which included a few phone calls and a bit of fact checking and only realized that it had dragged out when he glanced at his watch and realized he had been at it for two hours and that the house was suspiciously silent.

With a slight frown, he rose from the kitchen table and stepped through to the living room, where he came to a stop at the sight that met him. "Not tired my ass," he muttered.

Dean was still sitting on the couch, both feet on the coffee table, deeply asleep. And lying on his lap was Rumsfeld, also out like a light.

Bobby decided to let them both sleep for the duration and returned to what he had been doing. He might as well finish what he could tonight.


Dean woke up with a start, then groaned at the stiffness of his neck. Falling asleep on a couch wasn't the best idea ever. He shifted his left hand and stopped short. Something very soft and warm was curled up against his leg and his hand was resting on top of it. A little disconcerted, he raised his head and looked down at the pile of golden fur lying next to him. It took him a second to realize what exactly it was and by that time Rumsfeld had stirred awake and, as was common for puppies, was up and all bouncy at once. Before Dean could even think of preventing it, the puppy had basically scaled his chest and was licking his chin enthusiastically.

And for a moment he let him. Then he grabbed the puppy with both hands and pushed him back a little, which didn't seem to diminish the dog's ardor and happiness at all. "If I ever settle down, I'm getting a dog," he muttered and couldn't help a smile at the little guy. Unconditional love was what they called it, what dogs showed their owners. Unconditional, no matter how they were treated. Loyal to a fault. Never questioning. "You and I, we have a lot in common, buddy," he said, put the puppy down and scratched him behind one ear.

Rumsfeld jumped around on the couch for a moment, chasing his own tail, then bounded off the couch and careened through the living room and into the kitchen. "Get away from that, you crazy mutt," Dean heard Bobby scold. Rumsfeld yipped happily.

Dean glanced at his watch and figured twelve p.m. was an okay time for him to turn in. He pushed himself off the couch, arched his back and rubbed his neck for a moment, trying to dislodge some of the stiffness there, then trailed out into the kitchen while trying to subdue a yawn. "Hey Bobby."

Bobby kept trying to push Rumsfeld away from a pile of papers on the floor, then reached down, picked the puppy up and handed him to Dean. "If you're going to bed, take this crazy critter with you. He's driving me nuts," he said.

Dean cradled the squirming puppy in one arm and ruffled his right ear with the other. "He's just a happy little guy, Bobby. Don't diss him for that."

Bobby gave him a dark look. "First I can't diss your car. Now you're telling me I can't diss my dog either? What are you? Moving in?" he growled. "Go to bed, Dean. I still have work to do."

"Right," Dean agreed and took a mock-surprised step back. "I can always move to a motel if I'm in the way," he added sarcastically.

Bobby glared at him. "Don't you try to be funny, boy. Not at this hour. I'm not in the mood," he warned.

"Alright already. Jeez," Dean countered. "I'll just ... head to bed then. See you in the morning."

"Yeah, good night," Bobby said, already submerged in whatever he was reading again.

Dean first released Rumsfeld when he had closed the door to the room behind him. The puppy lumbered around the room in the uncoordinated manner that puppies had about them and inspected everything he could reach while Dean got ready for bed. He sent a few furtive glances toward his sleeping sibling and was pleased to realize that Sam didn't seem to be caught in any nightmares.

Despite the few hours he had slept on the couch downstairs, Dean was still tired enough to drop and when he climbed into bed a moment later, he knew it wouldn't be long before he would drift off again. But an almost pitiful whine from the floor made him send a look down at the puppy sitting there, staring up at him with big wet pleading eyes. He contemplated the dog for a moment, then sighed. "Alright, but you better not pee in my bed," he warned, grabbed the little guy and hauled him up on the bed.

Rumsfeld promptly repaid him with a wet lick on the cheek.

"Hey, enough of that," he said and Rumsfeld immediately obeyed and instead inspected every inch of the bed before he cuddled up against Dean's chest. "You're one needy little guy, you know that?" he said quietly and ran his fingers through the soft fur. The dog obviously didn't care as long as he had company.

Dean settled himself more comfortably, then sent a glance in Sam's direction. His brother hadn't stirred, only continued to sleep deeply, and Dean drifted off to sleep while watching him.


It took him exactly a week more to get back to his feet. The burns healed, the bruises disappeared and his knee benefitted from the long rest enough for him to no longer notice any side-effects. His body healed, but his mind wouldn't budge. He had what he in his head began to call still nightmares, meaning that he had them, but Dean didn't notice. The dreams morphed every night, became more sinister and harder to handle, but he said nothing. Instead he watched his brother bond with something other than himself. The puppy was overtly enthusiastic about everything, but mostly about Dean. And it seemed that Dean felt the same way about the dog.

Bobby had spent this first week of their stay being as normal about everything as possible. He chastised Sam for being too wimpy, which Sam took the way it was meant. Bobby was merely trying to make him feel at ease and nothing more. Dean cracked jokes the way he always had, annoying the hell out of Bobby more times than not, but Sam sensed the underlying darkness in his brother, the anger, the hatred toward Dawn and he feared the explosion that was going to come soon.

Fortunately, Rumsfeld the puppy seemed to have a beneficial effect on Dean's temper. It gave Sam the time he needed to work on his own plan and get well enough to carry it out. He didn't much like the implications of it, but he also knew that he would never find any peace if he didn't exact his own vengeance on Dawn. Aware of the potential for disaster, Sam opted not to let Dean in on his plan until it was over. Dean had spent enough time worrying about him. He didn't need the added tension.

So Sam settled for watching Dean while working on his plan in silence. Time was of the essence now. There was one week left before Dean's time ran out if the contract wasn't broken and Sam had the creeping suspicion that Dawn would be coming back for more. But one way or another, this would end the next time he ran into her. One way or another, he would make her stop. And she was not going to take his brother down with her.

"Hey, dude, you look like your cat just died," Dean said, then made a face. "Sorry. That was inappropriate," he added.

Sam just eyed him. He couldn't find it in him to smile or respond to Dean's cracks and jokes in any way. In general, he avoided talking at all, which seemed to bother Dean beyond compare.

Dean sat down next to him on the couch and eyed him back. "Look, Sam, I know you've been through hell here. I totally get that. But ..."

"But what, Dean?" Sam asked.

"Lighten up, man. You made it through this in one piece. I'm not saying you should be all happy and chipper at once, but ... crack a smile, dude. This silent treatment is driving me nuts," Dean said.

Sam just sat there for a moment, not entirely sure how he should respond. The last thing he wanted to do was smile. "Just give me some time, okay?" he finally said.

Dean picked up Rumsfeld, who wiggled around in his arms in an attempt to get at his face until Dean grabbed the dog's head and turned him to face Sam. "Look at that face. Just look at him. How can you not smile when you look at that face?"

Sam met the dog's eyes for a moment, then looked up to meet Dean's eyes, then looked away. How the hell could he explain to Dean what was going through his head right now without worrying him to death with it? It was impossible. He had to do this on his own, had to finish this alone.

With a sigh, Dean released Rumsfeld, who instantly started bouncing around on his lap, yipping happily. When Dean didn't respond to his invitation to play, the dog jumped off him and bounded into the kitchen to annoy Bobby instead, while Dean just sat there and watched Sam. "What can I do?" he asked.

"About what?" Sam countered.

"About you. What do I need to do to get you back to normal here?" Dean elaborated. "Sam, you're killing me, okay? I can't stand to see you like this. So tell me what I can do to make it better."

Sam blinked rapidly a few times while he considered Dean's words seriously. "Just ... give me time," he finally said.

With a heartfelt sigh, Dean nodded. "Okay, fine. Take all the time you need, Sam. How are your burns?"

"Itchy," Sam admitted and idly scratched his chest. The burns were healing up well. With a bit of luck, there would hardly be a sign of them soon.

"And ... uhm ..." Dean nodded toward his lap.

Sam clenched his teeth together. "It's fine," he muttered.

"You sure?" Dean asked. "I mean ... that's one hell of a sensitive area and all."

"I said it's fine, Dean," Sam repeated and glanced at Dean. Obviously the look he gave him was enough to shut him up about that specific topic.

"Hey, I'm just concerned here, okay?" Dean said and got up. "I'm gonna go teach that mutt a few tricks," he added and headed for the kitchen, where Bobby was cursing Rumsfeld loudly. "Before he tears the whole place apart," Dean added and sent a hopeful look back at Sam, who refrained from responding.


"Dammit, you mutt. Get out of there," Bobby snapped, grabbed Rumsfeld by the scruff of his neck and yanked him out of the trash bin he had just toppled over.

Dean grabbed the puppy. "You know, Bobby, I really don't get why you got a puppy if you find him so annoying," he said while trying to control the squirming bundle of energy.

"I didn't. I already told you. A friend dropped him off," Bobby countered grumpily, then glanced toward the living room. "How's he doing?"

"Physically I think he's fine," Dean countered and sighed heavily. "But he's a mess. I gotta find that bitch and bury her. I can't risk her coming back for more."

"Dean, going up against a demon on your own is not a good idea. And this one has proven to be extra nasty," Bobby said. "If we could find out who she is, we could summon her here, maybe trap her and drive her out of that poor girl, but ..." He shook his head. "I honestly don't think it will help Sam get over this. I think he needs time."

"Yeah, well, with our luck I don't have time," Dean countered and hugged Rumsfeld closely.

Bobby grimaced and idly shifted a few pieces of paper around on the table. His silence spoke volumes to Dean.

"Don't feel bad. I made this choice and I stand by it. If the contract really is broken, that's great. If not ..." He paused and made a face at the thought. "Just promise me one thing, Bobby," he added.

"And what's that?" Bobby asked and glanced up at him.

"If the contract isn't broken ... find that bitch and exorcize her. Send her back to Hell. At least I get a shot at her then," Dean said.

"That is so far from being funny as it can get, Dean," Bobby countered darkly.

"Yeah. And I'm not joking," Dean agreed.

"Dammit, Dean," Bobby growled. "Go outside. Teach that mutt some manners if you can," he added and waved toward the front door.

Dean nodded. "Yes sir," he countered.

Bobby gave him a glare for his trouble. "I told you to cut that out," he warned.

"Alright already," Dean said and backed up a step. "I'll just ... be outside then," he added, turned around and left the house.