Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Everything is not black and white. There are a lot of shades of grey in-between and sometimes, these shades lean more toward white than black.

The case was a bust. There was no other way to see it. There were no damned ghosts in this town, one way or another. Dean, tried to the bone from chasing after things that weren't there, and even more tired from fighting his own internal demons all the time, parked the Impala outside the motel and just sat there for a moment and stared in at door 1313. Why the hell did they have to stay in a room with that number? Wasn't it enough that he had spent four months – forty years – in Hell? Did they have to end up in situations where bad luck was bound to hit them over the head with a baseball bat?

"Crap," he muttered, pulled the key from the ignition, swung the door open and climbed out of the car. And damn, didn't it just feel like he was eighty already? Every damn bone in his body ached and his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. No doubt he was coming down with something. All he really wanted was to fall into bed and sleep until the sun was about to set again. Twenty-four hours of nonstop sleep sounded damned appealing right now.

He slammed the door and locked it, then turned to face the motel and made a face. Okay, maybe he could settle for finding a new motel in the morning and then live out this wish once they were away from unlucky numbers and dead-end jobs. Either way, he was too tired to think straight right now. And Sam had to be about ready to turn in as well, considering that he'd been glued to the damned laptop when Dean had left several hours before and – judging by the light seeping through the slit in the curtains – was probably still at it. "Kid's gonna ruin his eyes on that damned contraption," he muttered, raked the fingers of his left hand through his hair and stepped up to the door.

The door knob slipped in his hand because of condensation from the difference in indoor and outdoor temperatures and he grumbled an annoyed curse before finally opening the door and stepping inside. It was one of those motel rooms that had a small divider wall set up right inside the door to give the illusion of a hallway. The closet was behind the door in the nook this created and the room's table and two chairs stood on the other side, making entry into the room a bit complicated if the whole thing hadn't been pushed into the corner.

Sam looked up and squinted at him for a second, then glanced pointedly at his watch.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I said I'd be back earlier. Get a life, Gertrud," Dean growled, closed the door behind him and shrugged out of his jacket.

"What? Did I say anything?" Sam countered, spread out his arms and shrugged lightly. "All I did was glance at my watch. No need to rip my damned head off the second you're in the door."

Dean stopped and gave him a scrutinizing stare. "You sound like a damned wife, Samantha. Cut the crap. I'm not in the mood," he said, cleared the dividing wall and turned toward his bed.

His right hand came to an immediate stop before he could toss his jacket onto the bed. Mainly because the bed wasn't free. If it was actually possible to feel color drain from ones face, then Dean was feeling that right then.

"Oh, by the way," Sam said, his tone bordering on the indifferent, "we've got a temporary roommate. Mrs. Sault's dog."

All Dean could think of doing right then was to stare at the big, slobbering monstrosity of a hellhound lying on his bed, its beady eyes locked on him, its fangs bared in a feral display of aggression. With his breath stuck in his throat while his heart was trying to hammer its way out through his ribcage, it took him a moment to register what Sam had said. "What?" he rasped, his throat suddenly dry as the desert.

For some strange reason, Sam seemed completely oblivious to the nature of the hair-raising monster they were presently sharing breathing space with and Dean realized that his conscious mind just couldn't wrap itself around that fact, which made him completely incapable of moving or acting. Before he could even consider how to break this paralysis, Sam got up and pushed past him to settle down next to the slobbering beast to scratch it affectionately between the ears. "He's cute, isn't he?"

Flabbergasted didn't entirely cover how Dean felt. Being on the edge of panic that was about to stop his damned heart in his chest got closer to the truth. Most of all he wanted to grab Sam and haul him out of the room, but something told him that this beast directly from Hell wasn't going to be stopped by a door. Not with those claws or the brawny muscles moving under the smokey fur. He swallowed hard and finally managed to take a step back. The immediate urge to turn tail and run like hell was overshadowed by his need to protect his brother and right now, Sam was too damned close to this critter.

Finally, Sam looked up at him, an almost happy smile on his lips, which died the second he realized how this was influencing his brother. "Dean?" He let off scratching the monstrosity between the ears and rose, his expression now one of concern. "Are you okay? You don't look so good."

"Don't ..." Dean shifted his gaze rapidly back and forth between hound and brother and tried to kick himself into gear. "You ..." He couldn't form a complete sentence. Something was so utterly wrong with this scene and he couldn't breathe and his chest was seriously beginning to hurt from the continued staccato beat his heart was putting up.

Sam was obviously aware of how serious his condition was right now, because he strode over to him and grabbed him by the upper arms, obstructing the view of the hellhound. "Dean! What's wrong?" he demanded.

"Outside. Now!" Dean countered, pulled out of Sam's grip, but then grabbed his arm and hauled him with him out the door, which he slammed behind him once they were outside. For a few, shuddering seconds, his vision blacked out. He slumped back against the door, doubled over and grabbed his knees to steady himself. "Holy Hell," he finally managed to croak out.

"What is wrong with you?" Sam asked, his tone on the edge between concern and mystification.

Dean sucked in a few lung fulls of air, then slowly straightened up. His heart rate was slowing down, but the fear was constricting his chest and making his guts tighten. "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you? That's ... that ... thing ... it's ..." Again he couldn't have formed a sentence if his life had depended on it.

Sam glanced at the door, a slight frown furrowing his brow, before he shifted his attention back to Dean while finally realizing what had his brother so upset. "It's a dog," he said, the mystification thick in his voice while he waved a hand at the door.

There was something so surreal about this conversation that Dean didn't know what to say at first. A few thoughts – dark and troubling – were trying to push through, but he wouldn't acknowledge them. "A ... dog?" he finally managed. Well, in general he assumed that was true. They were called hounds and they looked a bit like dogs. But that was no ordinary pooch in there. That was the same type of critter that had torn him to ribbons only ten months ago and that was a damned hard thing to let go of. "That's ... no dog."

Sam arched an eyebrow and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. It was a bit nippy outside, even though Dean couldn't really feel that right now. With the adrenaline rush, his core temperature was skyrocketing. "Oh?" Sam asked. "What is it then? Cause from where I'm standing, that looks suspiciously like a dog to me."

Dean swallowed and briefly listened to the room behind the door, but there were no sounds coming from inside. Whatever this thing wanted here, it was waiting for an order. And he had no doubts about who this thing would go for the second the right words were uttered. 'Sic'em, boy!' He could still hear her voice, uttering that command which had ended his life and it made him suck in a lung full of air yet again before he once more doubled over and had to grab onto his knees to keep from keeling over.

"Dean ... are you telling me that you're scared of dogs now?" Sam's tone had changed yet again. He now sounded tentative, concerned and a little bit sorry.

The fact that Sam kept insisting that this monster in there was a dog made Dean wonder what he saw when he looked at it. He straightened up yet again, incensed at the sheer stupidity of this situation. They weren't supposed to have a discussion about whether this was a hellhound or not. They were supposed to get the hell out of Dodge before that little hell pooch in there decided to rib them both to ribbons. "That in there is no frigging dog, Sam. Open your eyes, man!" he demanded.

Sam narrowed his eyes at him, glanced at the door yet again, then focused back on Dean. "Not a dog?" he asked. "What do you think it is then, huh? A rabbit?"

"A rab..." Dean stopped and nearly barked out a laugh. "Are you frigging blind, man? That's a hellhound, dude. A big, frigging hellhound. Like the one that tore me to shreds ten months ago. That kind of hellhound!"

The look in Sam's eyes spoke its own clear language right then. He might as well have said the words out loud. Sam believed that Dean had taken leave of his senses. "A ... hellhound?" He blinked rapidly a few times, then waved a hand at the door in a sort of halfhearted gesture. "That ... animal in there? That's a hellhound? That's what hellhounds look like?"

Something was definitely wrong about this situation. Big time wrong. Dean considered his response to Sam's words for a second, then scrubbed a hand over his lips. "What exactly do you see when you look at it?" he finally asked.

Sam's expression shifted into an almost prudish one when he frowned and pursed his lips. "A ... Springer Spaniel," he finally said a little slowly, as if not entirely sure that was the right answer.

There were a lot of things that thing in there could be compared to, granted, but a Springer Spaniel? He stared hard at his brother for a moment, searching for what he would consider to be an exceptionally cruel joke if that was it, but Sam's expression remained vaguely serious and borderline worried. This wasn't a joke. Sam saw a Springer Spaniel when he looked at that thing in there. "A ... are you kidding me?" was all he could think of saying.

"No, I'm not kidding you," Sam countered and sent the door an almost nervous look. "Seriously, man. That's what I see. That's ... what everybody else sees too."

Dean sent a quick look around and saw nobody else. "Everybody else?" he asked and returned his attention to his brother. Some part of him still thought this might be a joke, that Sam had for some reason decided to start a prank-war. But Dean found it hard to believe that Sam would make a joke out of something like this. "Are you seeing these people right now?"

Sam stared at him for a few seconds, then sent an almost cautious look around. "No," he said and met Dean's eyes dead on. "Are you?"

Now this was a joke. Sam was making fun of him in his own quirky way. "This isn't funny, man!" Dean exploded, torn between anger and bone-deep fear. "Where the hell did you even get that thing?"

Sam blinked. "Dean ... I already told you. Mrs. Sault asked if I could dog-sit and I said yes. I didn't know you have issues with dogs."

"THAT IS NOT A DOG!" Dean yelled, no longer able to control both fear and anger. As if in response to his heightened anxiety – and let's face it, boys and girls, he was damned near jittering with it – the hound started barking like a mad thing on the other side of the door. Dean jerked away from it and rapidly put distance between himself and the door until he bumped into the Impala's front end and very nearly sat down on it.

Sam stared at him in obvious surprise, then turned to the door and the continuously baying monster on the other side. "Hey, it's okay, Neville. Calm down," he said and, for the love of God, he damned well had to open the door as well to sooth the hell beast into silence again.

Dean couldn't help himself. He shrank before the obvious monster and was once again overwhelmed with the unbending urge to just hightail it out of there. Of course, he knew that he wouldn't get far, that this thing would catch up with him and tear him apart, but it still didn't curb the urge to run like hell.

Sam muttered a few more consoling words to the slobbering beast trying to push through the door opening, then managed to shove it back in and close the door before turning back to face Dean. "Obviously, you shouldn't yell while he's around," he suggested, his tone carefully bland.

Dean just stared at him. "Neville?" he asked, glanced at the door, then back at Sam. "You called that ... thing Neville?"

Sam's expression changed into slightly overbearing and just a tad annoyed. "No, Dean, Mrs. Sault calls him Neville. She's a big Harry Potter fan, she said."

Truth be told, the whole thing was beginning to take on an air of the tragic-comical. There was a fair-sized chunk of him right now that felt the need to laugh at this, but the thought of that hell beast hiding behind that door stopped that urge short in its tracks. Suddenly feeling a little weak-kneed, he sank down on the hood of the Impala and just stared at the door for a long moment.

"Dean," Sam started. He had that tone that indicated he was about to say something Dean might not want to hear. "Look, man, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have agreed to look after the dog. I didn't know you had issues." He stopped and pensively scratched the back of his head. "Guess I should have known, huh?"

"I have no issues with dogs, Sam," Dean said quietly. "I have issues with hellhounds and that ... whether you can see it or not ... is a frigging hellhound."

"It's a Springer Spaniel, Dean. He's brown and white. His name's Neville, for pity's sake. He's spent most of the day lying around on your bed. And he ... likes to cuddle," Sam countered while looking a little uncertain about the whole thing.

"No, Sam. Something or someone is messing with your head. All I see when I look at that thing ... is a big, slobbering, smokey-black ... hellhound." He made a weak gesture toward the door. "I don't get why you can't see that."

Sam stared at the ground for a moment, then sighed and scuffed at the pavement with one boot tip. "Dean ... if that was a hellhound," he said and nodded toward the door, "then I wouldn't be able to see it. And ... technically speaking ... you shouldn't be able to see it either. Unless you've made a new deal."

"I haven't made a new deal. And I don't know why you see a fluffy Spaniel when all I can see is ... that thing, but ... Sam ..." He stopped short and just stared at his brother for a second. "You think I've lost it, don't you?"

Sam grimaced without looking at him, confirming his suspicion, and then he shrugged lightly. "Look, Dean, you've been under a lot of stress ... I mean ... ever since ... the whole being raised by an angle deal and you remembering Hell. Don't you think ..."

Dean rose, cutting Sam off in mid-sentence. "No!" he said and stabbed a finger in Sam's direction. "No, you don't get to do that to me, Sam! I am not losing my mind. I know what I'm seeing and I am not frigging insane."

"I wasn't suggesting that you're insane, Dean," Sam shot back, obviously hurt by that accusation. "I just think that you've been under a lot of stress and ... well ... with what you've been through ... nobody would blame you if you got ... a little confused."

Confused? Well, he figured there were a lot of explanations that might make sense to others right now, but he damned well did not need to be called confused when a hellhound was once again nipping at his heels. He folded his arms over his chest and tried desperately to figure out if he had come into contact with anyone suffering from ghost sickness. Now, wouldn't that be a kick in the pants if that was the case? "Confused?" he asked and glared at Sam the best he had learned. "You think I'm confused?" He couldn't keep the anger out of his voice, the disappointment over Sam's reaction. "What's next, huh? You wanna lock me up in a padded cell, Sammy? You wanna shoot me full of drugs because I'm seeing things?" It wasn't fair to take his present anger mixed with a good portion of fear out on Sam, but he couldn't stop wondering if maybe Sam wasn't right and that scared him more than anything else. What if he was nuts? What if that thing in there was just a cuddly Spaniel that had taken a liking to his brother and was trying to defend him?

"No!" Sam threw his hands up in an all-encompassing gesture of defeat. "No, I ..." He grimaced again, shook his head and dropped his shoulders. "Forget I said anything," he finally muttered. "But I have nowhere to put the dog and Mrs. Sault is giving us the stay for free if we look after the dog."

Dean propped his hands on his hips while trying to digest the idea of having to share quarters with what he saw as a hellhound for however long this so-called Mrs. Sault was gone for. "Are you suggesting ..." He stopped, reconsidered what he had been about to say, then gave the door a shaky glance before clearing his throat. "Aw man," he huffed. "You have got to be kidding me."

"It's only until tomorrow morning. She said she'd be back at nine," Sam said, his tone tentative now, the look in his eyes hopeful. That expression always got to Dean big time. The kid looked like he was three again, whittling away at his big brother to get what he wanted despite Dean's reservations.

For a moment longer Dean just stared at the door to the room, unable to convince himself to accept the possibility that this was all in his head, that he was imagining this. Then he huffed out another breath and glanced at Sam without meeting his eyes. "Neville?" he asked and Sam shrugged. "Really?"

"Look, I'll keep him away from you. Just ... give it a chance, okay?" Sam suggested. "Maybe, if you ... calm down a little, you'll see him for what he really is."

"I think I am seeing him for what he really is, Sam," he tried again, no longer so certain that was the case.

"Nobody else does, Dean. A lot of the other tenants saw him when Mrs. Sault brought him over and nobody had any ... adverse reaction to him," Sam persisted. "Look ... if he really was a hellhound out to get you ... don't you think he would have by now? Besides ... it isn't the first time you've responded ... like this to a dog since you got back."

"I was sick, Sam!" Dean snapped. "Besides, that damned Yorkie didn't look like a frigging hellhound to me. It looked like a frigging Yorkie. And I can't believe I actually told you about that!" He scrubbed both hands over his face while letting out a sigh, then dropped his hands and gave Sam a dark look. "If that ... thing makes one wrong move, Sam," he said and held up one finger to make a point. "One! I'm so out of here. I am not spending the night in the same room with a damned hellhound."

"Okay," Sam said and Dean got the distinct impression that his brother was just trying to placate him.

He swallowed, cleared his throat a little nervously and turned to face the door. Then he glanced at Sam. "You go in first. And keep that ... mutt away from me."

"You got it," Sam agreed and stepped up to the door. With one hand on the doorknob, he glanced back at his brother. "Are you ready?"

Dean shoved his hands into his pockets and glared at the door, then nodded. "Not even close," he admitted. "Let's do this."


This had to be the longest night he had ever spent and that was saying something, considering his stint in Hell. But no matter how tired he had been before, he didn't close an eye. The smell of sulphur was overwhelming, the sound of the beast's breathing was terrifying in its own right, and Sam took none of that in. It made him want to bash Sam's head in while begging him to get rid of the damned thing, but in an attempt to appear stoic and in control, he had kept his fears to himself and had settled for glaring at the beast at regular intervals until they'd gone to bed and Sam had switched the light off.

That had nearly tipped him over the edge. The darkness, the relative warmth of the room and the smell and sound of the creature and he was right back in Hell where Castiel had found him. His hands were icy cold. He couldn't feel his fingers any more. And he barely dared to breathe.

Sam's breathing was even and relaxed. The kid was asleep and the hellhound – Spaniel – was lying on the footend of the bed. But it wasn't sleeping. Oh no. He didn't really think hellhounds slept. This damned beast from the nether regions of the pit was lying there on Sam's bed, draped over his brother's shins, and it was staring at him, its red eyes glowing in the dark.

He had tried, on Sam's insistence and harboring the hope that it was all in his head, to see this critter as the cuddly Springer Spaniel Sam claimed to see, but try as he might, all he saw was the black smokey fur, the rippling muscle, the pointy ears, the eternally bared fangs and those eyes.

In part he was convinced that if he didn't get out of this room, he would die of a heart attack. But a previous attempt to get up, to move, had resulted in a low, guttural growl and the tensing of the creature's stance, a clear indicator that it would jump him if moved as much as a muscle. And something told him that Sam wouldn't be able to stop this thing if it attacked. For one, Sam would probably be too stunned that the fluffy puppy he saw was indeed a killer sent to drag his brother back to Hell.

A little queasy from the fear that lay like a heavy boulder in the pit of his stomach, he shifted a little, which incited the hellhound to growl menacingly again. He froze, his breath stuck in his throat. Nothing further happened and he relaxed a little again when the hellhound made no move to leap across the distance to rip him apart.

In truth, he couldn't recall ever having been more scared. It wasn't the same fear as the one that had hit him in New Haven when he had seen Lilith's hellhound or when she had released it into the room. That had been a different type of fear, one coupled with the belief that he had brought this upon himself and that he in some measure deserved what was about to happen to him. This fear was much worse because it was a helpless fear, a bone-deep terror that he would end up in the pit again because his brother either maintained his bleeding heart mentality or had turned a corner down a dark road somewhere and his hallucination from the ghost-sickness induced fever had actually come true and that Sam was only toying with him.

"No," he whispered hoarsely. He couldn't allow himself to believe that. Not now, not ever. Sam wasn't evil, he was just being fooled into believing that this – critter – was a normal dog and not the fear-inducing hound from the deepest darkest pits of Hell.

Sam groaned and shifted, which instantly attracted the hound's attention. It turned its massive head and focused on Sam, then rose slowly. This change in position raised completely different fears in Dean and he sat bolt upright, intent on attracting the creature's attention so it would leave his brother alone. But the hound didn't respond to his change in position at all. It watched Sam intently while his brother shifted again and groaned, obviously caught in the throes of a nightmare.

Before Dean could make a conscious decision about what to do, the hound pawed forward and dropped down heavily alongside Sam, then laid its massive head down on Sam's shoulder. Apparently, it stopped whatever nightmare was hounding Sam and all Dean could do was just to sit there and stare, because this made no sense whatsoever.


When Sam woke up again, the first thought that popped into his head was that his left shoulder felt numb. But it wasn't an alarming sensation because of the heat that radiated off whatever was making his shoulder numb. He rolled his head a little and squinted tiredly at the Spaniel's head lying heavily on his shoulder. It was amazing how heavy a dog's head could be when it was asleep. He smirked lightly, then glanced over at the other bed.

The instant alarm he felt at seeing it not only empty but stripped of its covers woke Neville up. The dog raised its head, instantly alert.

Sam sat bolt upright, now that the pressure on his shoulder was gone, and sent a quick look around the room. There was no sign of Dean or the covers from his bed. "Shit," he hissed, pushed the covers aside and was off the bed in a split second. Neville followed suit by jumping off his bed and onto Dean's bed, where he started sniffing around. "Dean?"

Sam pushed the door to the bathroom open and found it just as empty. At a loss, he turned back to face the beds and just stared at the Spaniel pawing around on Dean's bed for a moment. Then he focused on the one thing he hadn't noticed before. The pillow was missing too and that made him frown.

"Aw, for pity's sake," he muttered while he slowly calmed down again. For reasons he couldn't explain, the absence of Dean's pillow put it all into perspective. He padded over to the door and opened it to send a look outside. The morning was chilly and moist, a promise of rain in the air, but Neville didn't seem to mind that at all. He dashed happily out the door and started inspecting the immediate area, marking his territory as he went.

Sam watched him for a moment and could only shake his head in wonder at the fear Dean obviously harbored toward the dog. Then he shifted his attention toward the Impala and sighed. This had to stop. The anxiety Dean had displayed the night before had been strong enough to nearly give him a heart attack and Sam had no living clue how to reassure his brother that Neville meant no harm. And the dog most definitely didn't look like any hellhound Sam could imagine.

He stuck his bare feet into his sneakers, shrugged into his jacket and strode over to the car. Apparently, his brother had spent the night in the car, a not all-together comfortable alternative to actually sleeping in a bed. Sam glanced at his watch and noted that it was only six-thirty, then quietly opened the passenger side door and eased onto the seat before turning to face his sleeping brother. He had actually considered giving Dean some sort of rude awakening, but he figured the fear his brother felt about Neville was real enough even though the dog wasn't a slobbering monster from Hell.

"Dean." He settled for waking his brother up carefully, but his quiet request for attention yielded no immediate result. So he reached out and touched Dean's arm.

With a startled gasp, Dean reared up, instantly wide awake. He blinked rapidly a few times, then focused on Sam. "Dammit," he rasped and sank back down on the pillow.

"What the hell are you doing out here?" Sam asked, well aware what it was that had driven his brother out of the room in the middle of the night.

"What do you think?" Dean growled under his breath and draped an arm over his face.

"Dean ... this is ridiculous," Sam claimed and glanced out at Neville, who was roaming all over the parking lot, obviously following some sort of scent trail. "The dog has been sleeping in my bed all night."

"And it growled every frigging time I even drew a breath," Dean snapped, pulled his arm away from his face and sat up again. He flinched, then groaned and shifted a little. Obviously the cramped quarters didn't do his back any favors.

"Are you sure you didn't imagine it?" Sam knew he was in for a bad ride if Dean took this the wrong way and – who was he trying to kid? – there was really only one way Dean could take this, after all.

For a long, silent moment Dean just stared at him. Then his features tensed. "Great. This is just frigging amazing, isn't it?" he snarled, pushed the covers away and planted his feet on the floor of the car. He fumbled with his boots for a moment, then pushed the door open on the other side and got out.

Sam followed suit and watched Dean just stand there for a moment. "I don't think you're crazy, Dean. Okay?" he tried.

"Sure as hell sounds that way to me," Dean snapped and turned around to face him over the roof of the car. "I am not seeing things! That thing is a frigging hellhound!" he added, stabbing a finger in the direction of the now very attentively watching dog, who had settled down a few paces away from Sam.

"Did he make any move to attack last night?" Sam asked, hoping to somehow talk Dean out of whatever the hell this was. He hadn't been so lucky with the ghost sickness and figured he would have to try a little harder with this.

Dean grimaced, his attention constantly shifting between Sam and the dog. "No," he finally pressed out.

"And did he spend the entire night just staring at you?" Sam pressed.

Dean sighed angrily. "No, because I left the frigging room," he shot back.

"And did he do anything to stop you from leaving the room?" Sam tried calmly.

Something had to give and it would seem that Dean was the first one to break here. His gaze shifted back to the dog and this time he looked at Neville a little longer. "No," he finally said more calmly.

"And you still think he's here to kill you?" It was hard work to keep the sarcasm at bay, but somehow Sam managed. He had fairly little understanding for the fact that his larger-than-life brother was scared of a pooch like Neville. It just didn't correspond with what Sam knew about Dean, even when he took into consideration that Dean had been in Hell. If the dog had been big and vicious, Sam would have understood Dean's reactions better. If it had been a big, black German Shepard, it would have made more sense. But Neville was barely half the size and friendly like hell.

Dean braced himself against the car and dropped his chin to his chest for a moment. "I don't know," he finally admitted. "I don't know anything any more."

"And that's the understatement of the year, isn't it?"

Sam frowned and glanced over one shoulder at Mrs. Sault, who had seemingly turned up out of nowhere. She stood a few paces away, arms crossed over her ample bosom while she eyed them with an overbearing smile on her lips. "Excuse me?" he asked and turned around to face her.

She shook her head and the smile vanished. "Your demon blood must have a bigger influence than I thought," she said and sent a withering glare toward Neville, who stood very still and watched her like he had never seen her before; a curious response to seeing his owner, Sam thought.

Sam shifted his attention to the dog, which still looked very much like a Springer Spaniel to him, then back to the woman, whose eyes had gone black. Stumped, Sam shifted backward. He had expected a lot, but not that. She had seemed so damned nice the day before.

Before he could decide what to do, though, Neville started growling and the sound that emanated from the dog was nowhere near in proportion to his size. The growl, however, was not aimed at him. It was aimed at Mrs. Sault, who looked a little perplexed. "What the hell are you doing, mutt?" she snarled and pointed at Sam. "That's your prey. Those two!"

But Neville, who it would seem was a hellhound after all despite his innocent-looking exterior, didn't deflect away from growling menacingly at Mrs. Sault. And before any of them could make a move, the dog suddenly launched itself at the woman and pretty much did to her what Lilith's hellhound had done to Dean ten months ago. Sam swallowed convulsively. It brought back some pretty bad memories and he could only imagine what this had to be doing to Dean.

Concerned about his brother, he glanced back at him over the roof of the Impala. Dean stood there, braced against the car with both hands, his complexion almost ashen.

The attack of the dog, which shredded the body the demon had possessed, also destroyed the demon essence inside it if the sparks were anything to go by. It would seem that hellhounds – in the rather disturbing disguise of an ordinary dog – could destroy demons.

And Neville didn't stop either. He took the body apart – a scene which looked utterly surreal to Sam because he was still seeing the Spaniel – and by the time the attack was finally over, the body had vanished. There was blood on the asphalt, but not a shred of the body left.

"Holy hell," he heard Dean mutter.

For a long moment, Neville stood there and still growled, head down, hackles up. Then his disposition suddenly shifted and he turned back to face Sam, wagging his tail enthusiastically. Sam had no idea how to respond to what he had just witnessed but one thing seemed a lot more likely now. His brother wasn't insane. Almost a little tentative, he turned a little to glance back at Dean.

Dean met his eyes, an almost bitter certainty in his. "I told you," he pressed out.

The scene was slowly clicking into place and Sam started analyzing what had just happened. "Yeah, but ... you do realize what he just did, don't you?" he asked and glanced back at Neville, who had settled down next to him and was looking up at him expectantly. Cautiously, Sam reached down and patted him on the head, which seemed to please the dog to no end. Truth be told, despite what he had just seen, he still had a very hard time relating this cuddly-looking animal to the invisible creature that had torn his brother to shreds ten months ago.

For a long moment all Dean did was stare back at him. Then he closed his eyes and let his head drop. "Saved our lives?" he muttered.

"Exactly," Sam agreed. "Now ... if he was here to kill either of us ... don't you think he would have?"

"You're still not seeing it, are you? You still think it's just a dog, don't you?" Dean raised his head, pushed away from the car and took a step back. "Don't you?" he persisted.

A glance sideways down at the dog made him sigh. What was he supposed to say? Was he supposed to lie to make Dean feel better? Would it help? He doubted it. "Yeah," he agreed. "He still looks like a Spaniel to me."

"Son of a bitch," Dean muttered, turned around and started walking. He didn't go very far though. He stopped after a few steps and just stood there with his hands in his pockets and his back turned.

Sam sighed and glanced down at Neville again. The dog wagged his tail again, then rose and trotted around the car and toward Dean. "Shit," Sam muttered and followed. He couldn't imagine that Dean would be too keen on having the dog that close.

Neville stopped right behind Dean and nudged his leg briefly. Dean's response was understandable, considering what he had to see when he looked at the dog, because he jerked sideways away from Neville before looking down at him. And then he froze. "What the hell?" he pressed out.

Sam came to a stop halfway between the car and his brother. "What?" he asked.

Dean turned halfway, facing the dog for a moment, then glanced at Sam. "Now I'm seeing it too," he said, made a face and looked back down at Neville. The dog sat down and wagged his tail enthusiastically. "What the hell?" he repeated.

"Looks like he likes you," Sam suggested and took a step toward the two of them.

"Likes me?" Dean glanced at him, his expression revealing just how confusing this had to be for him. "That's so disturbing I don't even know what to make of it," he confessed a little shakily.

Sam couldn't help a vague smile. "Look, man, there are worse things in the world than having a ... hellhound like you. He just ripped a demon apart to protect us. How's that a bad thing?"

Dean's attention was locked on the dog for a long moment where he made no move at all, then he slowly sank down into a crouch in front of the dog. He looked unsure, still borderline afraid of the animal. Neville just sat there and wagged his tail, obviously well aware that he should not push the boundaries right now. "You did just see him tear apart that ... woman, right?" he asked, his tone a little meek. "I didn't imagine that, did I?"

"No, you didn't. I saw it too," Sam confirmed. "And you were right. He is a hellhound. But he attacked and killed his original owner to protect us."

"You," Dean corrected him and glanced sideways up at him. "He protected you. You were closer and he ... likes you."

Sam waved a hand toward Neville's very friendly disposition toward Dean. "He likes you too," he tried.

For a long moment all Dean did was stare at the dog, which stared back without losing a beat. Then he glanced up at Sam. "Neville," he muttered and rose, then backed up a step. "Okay, so now he's a fluffy Spaniel. Doesn't change the fact of what he is underneath, though."

"He's showing himself from his friendly side right now, Dean. You can see him like everybody else sees him. It must be something he does consciously," Sam said and frowned at the dog. "He can kill demons, Dean. And ... if I'm not entirely mistaken ... hellhounds can't die."

The shift in Dean's expression would have been funny under other circumstances, but Sam knew what lay behind the sudden concern. "What? No, Sam. No way," he said and shook his head. "Not gonna happen."

"Why not?" Sam asked, spreading out his arms. "Think of it. We could use the protection. I'll bet you good money that this pooch can sniff out the bad guys, that he can see demons for what they are. And other evil stuff as well. We could really use the help."

Obviously, Dean could see the sense in it, because what had obviously been instant refusal petered out a little and made his denial come across as tame. "I am not going to ride around the country with a hellhound breathing down my neck, Sam."

Neville rose and took a step forward, giving him that cute dog-face with the raised ears, the open mouth, the wagging tail. "He likes you, Dean. That means he'll defend you. And nobody can shoot this guy. He can take others apart. The only thing that'll hold him back is goofer-dust and how many people actually know about that one?" Sam tried.

Dean opened his mouth, then stopped short. Then he sighed. "A hellhound? In the back of my car?" He was trying out the idea verbally. Then he glanced at Sam. "Really?"

"Let's at least give it a try, man," Sam pushed.

Dean scrubbed a hand over his mouth while once again eying the dog. Then he closed his eyes. "I gotta be nuts," he muttered, then shrugged halfheartedly. "Okay, fine. We'll try it out. But his name is not Neville. Come up with something more appropriate. And he's your responsibility."

All Sam could think of doing was to grin. There was hope for Dean yet.

The End