Counting To Ten

(c)2007 gekizetsu

_______________

Part of the Turn Of The Wheel series. R, 14,400 words. Sam and Dean promised Bobby they’d ride out the next Sabbat at his place. Makes little sense unless you’ve been following the rest of the series. R for language and wingcest. In Bobby’s yard. We should have a ‘strange things that happen in Bobby’s yard’ ficathon.


-|-


We’re crashing into the unknown

We’re lost in this, but it feels like home

Feeling alive all over again

As deep as the sky under my skin.

– Lifehouse, First Time


September 19th, 2007 12:37pm


Bobby could tell they were wary by the way they moved. He didn’t even need to see their faces.


He watched them walk across his yard without even kicking up dust. Dean was glancing side to side and already frowning, as if the walk to the house was a home stretch and something might try to stop him. Sam kept back less than a step, looming, checking over his shoulder and nearly plastered to Dean. The fact that Dean wasn’t elbowing him back told Bobby all he needed to know.


He’d been in contact with them, listened to their voices as they’d told him about where they were and what they were doing. As the next point of the cycle had grown closer, the stress of it had become audible in Sam’s voice and in Dean’s silences.


Bobby hadn’t heard about anything unusual popping up. Unusual as in elementals, or the risen dead smashing people flat. Something aside from their normal routine of monsters and demons. Whatever had come of that sacrifice in Iowa was either taking its time making itself known, or had gone on to find a quiet way of continuing its existence. Bobby seriously doubted the latter.


When they made it inside, Dean shook Bobby’s hand with a fleeting look of relief on his face. Sam, though, Sam embraced him with one of those giant bearhugs the boy always seemed waiting to give. Bobby was surprised by it but didn’t comment on it, or glance at Dean to see if he should be more worried. Dean looked relieved to be in the house, safer there than most places. He wasn’t off his guard, but the look on his face was smoother around the edges. Sam looked weary, and Bobby imagined that he was looking forward to not being the only set of eyes on Dean’s back.


Bobby told Dean to go make some coffee and put away the beer they’d brought with, and ordered Sam to go get cleaned up. He didn’t get so much as a raised eyebrow from either of them. He knew they viewed him as a higher authority of some kind – surrogate father, uncle, it didn’t matter – and it made them feel more settled to be told what to do for just a little while. They didn’t need to be told what to do. They were adults. But the orders felt familiar to them, a reassurance, and it was a chance for Dean not to feel in charge of everything for a bit. Bobby understood that about them, and it was probably a subconscious part of why they kept returning to him.


He watched Dean carefully – the tension in his shoulders, the set of his jaw, the way he was handling the coffee pot. He was handling it like a weapon, as if everything might need to be a weapon. Things had been hard for them since the last time they’d been in his house, and it would be a good while longer before the anxiety dissipated. Sam was obviously dealing better than he had been, still jumpy but hugging people and letting his emotions bleed off. Dean was Dean, holding himself to John’s rigid behavior but not quite built for it. Bobby stilled the urge to ruffle Dean’s hair or goad him into a show of temper just to get him to crack in some fashion. Sam would have done enough of that, would have been trying to be an outlet. So he’d feed them and let them be, let them get some rest.


Rove trotted into the kitchen and stared at Dean, head and undocked tail up but ears pinned back. Bobby knew he had to feel the anxiety in the house, and Dean’s body language was aggressive enough to confuse the dog. The Rottweiler glanced at Bobby and wagged his tail.


“Get im’,” Bobby said, pointing at Dean.


Dean turned as Rove lunged at the command, leaning over to give the dog a rough scratching. “Hey, Fifi,” Dean said. “Glad to see you and your inner poodle are still around.”


“Who’s in the bathroom?” Bobby said to the dog. “Rove, who’s in the house?”


The dog began looking room to room.


“No, seriously,” Dean said to Bobby. “Please, this is the vicious junkyard dog you’ve been raising? Bobby. You’re worrying me.”


“Oh, he can take anybody down,” Bobby said. “Don’t you worry. But he’s like a big kid. Gotta give him something to do.” He didn’t add and he’s the only company I have most of the time because that part wasn’t necessary.


Sam’s outraged shout of hey! at least caused Dean to smirk. Above Sam’s laughter there were sounds that were easily identifiable as a shower curtain being ruined, and claws slipping on enamel. A minute or so later, Rove returned to the kitchen soaking wet. Bobby directed him outside. “Good boy.”


Dean leaned with his arms and back braced against the counter as coffee perked behind him. He hadn’t even glanced at the wooden box that was still by the door.


“Find any more shamblers?” Bobby said.


Dean sneered at mention of the creatures, but shook his head. “Fuckers have died off, or we got ‘em all,” he said. “Maybe the vamps have finally caught on and quit trying to make more for awhile. I doubt it, but hey. Even they have to get bored with stuff that obviously isn’t working for them.”


“Elementals might really be gone,” Bobby said. “If they were even the cause in the first place, and I think they were. The unnatural things are going to be making a comeback without them here.”


Dean shrugged, keeping his eyes on the door.


Sam came out with wet hair, wearing clean clothes and looking a little less weary or worried. “Thanks,” he said. “I’m probably not gonna be fixing your curtain rod, though, okay?”


Bobby smiled. “Worth it.”


They didn’t need to catch up with him over coffee – not in the way of information, since they’d been talking to him every other day or so – but they needed to, so he made them sit down and debrief. Shamblers in Utah and Nevada, something in Minnesota that Dean was convinced was the manbearpig from South Park, and a restless spirit shoving people out of their office windows in New Mexico. That last one had turned out to be someone murdered years earlier and sealed into a wall, back when the building had been low rent apartments. The conversion to offices had stirred the wronged entity into wakefulness. They’d done a crummy job of renovating since they hadn’t done more than slap paint on the existing internal walls. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, Sam had said more than once, then refused to tell Dean where the quote was from. Dean had accused him of making it up, then insisted the line was grammatically incorrect anyway and told Sam he was a rotten poet.


“Dunno why people keep sealing bodies into walls,” Dean said. “Dumbasses never learn to dump or burn the right way. Serves ‘em right.”


They didn’t tell him about one of the last shamblers, one that had still had enough intelligence or consciousness or whatever to come straight after Dean after using another shambler as a distraction. They hadn’t even known it was there; Sam had been beheading the first one and Dean had been firing up the flame thrower. He’d never heard the second come up behind. It had grabbed him and held on with such a single minded intensity that Sam had finally had to take its head off while Dean’s was far too close to it. It hadn’t bitten him or tried to dismember him; it simply latched on. Sam had definitely had a problem with needing to saw the head off the thing while Dean tried to cover his own nose and mouth to keep from getting an accidental dose of vampire cooties. It hadn’t done anything for his attempts to give Dean a chance to do things like spend five minutes by himself.


Bobby kicked them both outside to help him with a 1959 Chevy Fleetside he was repairing for someone one county over. Separating them wasn’t an option and Sam seemed happy enough to get involved. He was much handier with electrical systems than his father or brother had ever given him credit for, and he was a good extra pair of hands, especially when it came to some of the lifting. It was a content way to pass the afternoon, at any rate, and the thing was nearly done by dinner time.


“What do you idjits want to eat?” Bobby said, wiping his hands on a rag. He wanted to see what kind of answer he got.


“Dude, I haven’t had lobster in ages,” Dean said. Bobby nailed him in the side of the head with the oily rag.


“Good,” he said. “Your lucky day, then, because we’re having beef stew.”


“Beef, like from cows? Or from ‘possum?”


“I’m gonna slap the bullshit right out of that smart mouth, if you don’t watch it,” Bobby said gruffly. The look Dean gave him was grateful, though.


Dinner was quiet, with the radio on in the other room and set to some talk station. Someone was railing about liberals and how they were ruining the country. Tomorrow there’d be someone insisting someone else was ruining something else. Bobby watched Sam glance at Dean off and on, checking him periodically, and made note of it. It wasn’t far different from the weeks Dean and Sam had spent with Bobby after John’s death, with Dean’s dark silences and Sam’s attempts to make something, anything, right.


He made them do dishes and listened to them murmur to each other without trying to catch any of the conversation. It didn’t sound tense, and that was all he cared about. When they were done, he asked Sam to help him find a book he hadn’t seen in years. It was in one of the piles around the house. He knew where the damn thing was – he knew where everything was. It just seemed like a good idea to keep giving Sam something to do.


-|-


Sam turned in early, but Dean was too restless and ended up taking a couple of Bobby’s old guns apart. He had a Colt 1861 .36 caliber Navy revolver and a Remington 1861 Army revolver, and Dean liked looking at the military inspection marks, liked the feel of age and care. They didn’t need cleaning, but he did it anyway. He and Sam had cleaned their own weapons twice over. He watched Bobby resalt the doors and windows, and watched the dog carefully skirt the box by the door.


He imagined a storage unit piled high with boxed demons. It had to be even worse than Hell, sitting in a box forever. The boredom would wear on even the most determined hellspawn.


“What are you gonna do with that?”Dean said as Bobby passed, using a foot to gesture at the box.


“Seems fine right where it is,” Bobby said.


Dean reflected that Sam would have pushed for an answer. Dean was curious, but not enough to push a line of questioning when the information wasn’t necessary and wasn’t being offered willingly. He could tell that Bobby wasn’t rebuffing him. It was just sort of Bobby’s way of saying that he didn’t know. Nobody was in the habit of keeping demons in storage, after all. At least not that he knew of. They all got back out of Hell, sooner or later, and you never knew when that would be while you were exorcizing the bastards. It would be better to keep them where an eye could stay on them. Maybe they could leave similar boxes as waystations throughout the country for anyone to use –


Of course, there was no way to get demons into the boxes without Sam and his windy ways. They weren’t roach motels.


He knew Sam was lying awake with the lights off in the extra bedroom. He wasn’t sure how long it would be before Sam quit wearing the death-that-wasn’t that Dean had suffered. It wasn’t as if they weren’t accustomed to nearly buying it every other day. Dean had fucked up, by his own estimation, in letting three armchair warriors get the drop on him. After that it was just bad luck that Sam had been a little too late. It had left one hell of a mark that time would have to erode. Dean wasn’t sure what else to do but let Sam stand close enough to touch whenever he needed to. There was no other way to reassure him, and that wasn’t even enough. He knew Sam was worried about another appearance of the wings whether they were hiding or hunting. Something else was going on, something he wasn’t talking about. Sam kept things to himself only when they were big, like hey Dean, I have the Shining big. This was Not Good. Trying to get him to talk was not something Dean was good at and not something Sam would respond well to, so he left it alone and hoped the whole damn thing would be over soon. There was no telling whether Sam had to go through a whole turn of the cycle or whether his particular part of the curse would just wear off over time.


For some reason, it made him think about the last time they’d hung out at Bobby’s during a Sabbat, when they’d ended up in the underground bunker and then in the tunnels they’d accidentally discovered. They hadn’t remembered to ask him about them, at the time. Not after Sam had been hit.


“Bobby,” Dean said.


Bobby came out of the kitchen. “What, kiddo.”


“What’s with the tunnels out there? You dig those?”


To Dean’s surprise, Bobby laughed. “Already here when I came along. I just don’t let ‘em fall in. Might come in handy, one day.” The older man ignored Dean’s forehead-wrinkle of consternation and vanished again.


Dean sighed. They had come in handy, true. And yeah, maybe it would be a good hiding spot in a pinch, since you never knew what might come knocking. Bobby’d had demons in his house more than once, and when shit was just walking in the door, well, time for a backup plan.


He balanced the Remington in one hand and checked the sights. Nice piece in any decade, really, even if he wouldn’t trust his life to it over his current sidearm.


He finally had to admit that he was more worn out than he’d thought. He packed everything away and went in to look at Sam, waiting to see if he could tell whether Sam was still awake. He seemed settled enough. Dean stripped down to boxers and got into the old bed with him, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling. The light from the kitchen threw shadows onto the opposite wall. He stared until the shapes blurred, and a few minutes later was asleep without knowing it.


-|-


September 20th


The weirdness started right away the next morning.


Dean could admit to feeling the stirrings of something off in himself, if he paused to think about it. There was a feeling of anticipation that went beyond just knowing what was going to happen. It was deeper than that, and it always had been. Sam, though, Sam was grouchy and uncommunicative when he woke, and then decided not to eat anything before he wandered off into the yard somewhere among the wrecks. The dog went with him, so at least the dog wasn’t put off by the moping.


Dean let him go without hassling him. It would be impossible for anything to come in the yard without Sam and/or the dog knowing, and Sam was always armed anyway. It wasn’t like Dean was going to worry about his physical safety and his current mental state in Bobby’s damn junkyard. Sam was a big boy and a really good shot, and the worst he’d encounter out there was a rat or two, which he’d probably make best friends with, and then there’d be a whole group of little woodland animals out there following Sam around because he was just such a goddamn bleeding heart sometimes.


“Knock it off,” Bobby said from across the table.


“What?”


“Quit worryin’ about him. Kid’s fine. He’s just building up to the change a little harder each time.”


“Not worrying,” Dean said. “He was...I mean, when he was here, after...I know he was pretty upset, but besides that, he could control it, right?”


Bobby looked at him steadily. “Not really,” he said. “But I didn’t roofie him for just that. If he stays calm, he should be just fine.”


Dean made a noncommital sound in his throat, but didn’t comment. Fine, he’d leave Sam alone for awhile. And it would probably be a good idea if they had a little time apart even if they were still on the same piece of land. Best idea of all to wander off by himself around midnight; he wanted to see if he really could keep the wings in. He wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like from the sidelines, but it felt like hell, and he didn’t want to be a girl in front of anybody if it came to that.


“You get that last part, right,” Bobby said. “Calm. Not stirred up by his brother.”


Dean shrugged. “It’s not my fault if he doesn’t love every little thing I do,” he said. “We can put your roof back on if there’s a disagreement. Time for a new one anyway, don’t you think?”


“It’ll be your job in any case, since you just volunteered,” Bobby said. “Got somebody comin’ for that Fleetside out there by late afternoon. So hurry up and eat, we got work.”


Dean made a show of looking put upon, but he knew it was pointless. Bobby had always seen right through him. He wanted that to bug him, but mostly it just made him feel better.


-|-


Sam reappeared for dinner and was still quiet, but it had more of an edge to it, as if he was just barely keeping himself from openly jittering.


Dean felt like goading someone, anyone, into doing something. Anything. It would have been normal behavior for him if he’d been in police custody or was a moment away from being pounded into mincemeat by something big and ugly, but not in his present company. So he shrugged it off, knowing it for what it was. The sun would be going down and a countdown would begin. He wasn’t dumb enough to harass Bobby, and Sam would sulk and ignore him. The dog would take it well, maybe.


“You feed that dog from the table again, I’ll put you both outside,” Bobby said without looking up.


Sam glanced at Dean.


“Wasn’t me,” Dean said. “Let’s go running.”


Sam turned his full attention to him, but the expression on his face was hard to read. That in itself was just weird. It looked like he wanted to but was afraid to, which made no sense at all to Dean.


“Yeah,” Bobby said. “You two go run off whatever the hell has you both crawling out of your skins.”


“But...dishes,” Sam said.


Bobby shook his head and jerked a thumb at the door. “My turn. C’mon, it’ll do you both good. Just don’t scare my neighbors.”


“Your closest neighbor is about three miles away,” Dean said.


“Then I guess you know how much faith I have in your ability to raise hell,” Bobby said.


Dean shrugged. Fair enough. He rose and kicked Sam’s chair, deciding a little goading might work anyway. “Let’s go, loser. You’re out of shape.”


Sam let his head tip back in exasperation as if his neck had suddenly lost the capability to hold it up. “You can’t get me to – “


Dean reached over and slapped him on the forehead. “Bitch, I’m gonna run you into the ground yet again and show you how much you’re slipping.”


Sam took a slow, deep breath, placing his hands flat on the table. He glanced at Bobby, who nodded a little as a way of saying let him have it.


Sam rose to his full height, broad shoulders and annoyance, using one foot to slide his chair back into place. “The only thing on you that’s good at running anymore is your mouth,” he said softly.


Dean smirked. When he bolted for the door, Sam went around the other side of the table to try and cut him off, but the back of Dean’s shirt just slipped past the tips of his fingers. After that it was a matter of catching the door and sliding through without hardly opening it, and the sound of Rove’s claws trying to get purchase on the floor as he came after them.


The sun was just setting, leaving a dull halflight over everything and tinting it all a low wheat color when Sam cleared the porch at a full run. Dean wasn’t bothering with the yard – he was headed straight into the road without looking. You could hear a car coming for miles out there, and he’d have to be deaf to get caught out in someone’s headlights. He remembered he was wearing boots the moment he hit the asphalt, but so was Sam, so it wasn’t like it would make a difference.


He jumped the ditch on the other side without breaking stride, trying not to laugh, because he could hear Sam behind him and there was something giddy about being chased when what was chasing you didn’t have claws and wasn’t about to shoot you. Still, he really wasn’t sure what Sam was going to do, and that was hilarious.


There was no fence left past the ditch – something had driven all over it, probably some idiot that had fallen asleep at the wheel or a big rig trying to turn around where the road widened out a little. It was rocky dirt for about forty yards after that before the scrub started up, low weeds brown and gone to seed getting taller as he ran. It was a few miles of nothing for awhile, not completely flat but good enough for running, nice and open. The bowl of sky overhead was clear and made everything seem even bigger, and for just an instant Dean wondered what it would be like to run like this with the wings, just go airborne without caring about the height, the world nothing but one big leaping-off place.


The dry sound of dead grasses whipping at the legs of his jeans briefly drowned out the sound of Sam stumbling on a slide of loose stones, of the dog running low to the ground and panting hard. The dog outpaced him a moment later, bounding ahead and then crossing in front of him and rounding back for Sam, barking.


Dean did laugh then, and hazarded a glance over his shoulder. A thrill of surprise hit him to see Sam so close, not more than a few yards behind, running so quiet with a maniacal grin on his face, and –


The only good thing about falling that hard was not knowing it was coming. Dean put his foot right into a hole of some sort and met the ground hard enough immediately after to drive the breath out of him and cause him to slide forward in the strawlike grass for another yard or so. He rolled over and tried to catch his breath with Rove’s nose right in one ear and Sam sliding to his knees above him so that he was straddling his chest.


“Break anything?” Sam said. Barely out of breath, the bastard.


“Fuckin’ gophers,” Dean gasped. “Gonna come out here and shoot every single one tomorrow.”


“Could be hedgehogs,” Sam said. “You still run like a girl, by the way. It’s ‘cause you’re bowlegged.”


“Most girls aren’t bowlegged,” Dean said, and the world kept spinning a little due to the very sudden stop he’d suffered. “Not until I get done with ‘em, anyway.”


Sam snorted, planting his hands on either side of Dean’s shoulders, bowing his head. “That’s so...God, you’re a pig.”


Dean laughed. “Dude, get off me. I think there’s something crawling in my hair.”


“No way. I caught you, I gotta mark the occasion. You still ticklish?”


“Oh, Sam,” Dean said between clenched teeth, “you’ll never be safe again, anywhere, if you do.”


Rove ran past them again at full speed, making some kind of circuit, wound up by the chase.


Sam looked up at him with a grin, then grabbed Dean’s head in both hands and leaned forward to press foreheads before rolling away and lying in the grass beside him, looking up at the sky.


Unbothered by it, Dean said, “What was that for?”


“Because you’re still here,” Sam said.


The stars were well out and the waxing crescent moon had dropped further west before they headed back.


-|-


By eleven thirty they were sitting at the table with coffee, listening to the radio again. Dean had a book of Sumerian symbols lying open on the table, tracing them with his fingers, memorizing by touch. Sam was leaning slightly back in his chair, the front two legs off the floor, balancing there comfortably and listening as Bobby told them about a supposed necromancer in Baton Rouge that was trying to make a name for himself.


They were both calmer, but Sam was still fidgeting, rubbing the thumb and forefinger of his right hand together until a callus began to form. 


“Says he’s an expert in death and dying,” Bobby said. “Damn idiot thinks he’s gonna raise the dead. Fancies himself as some kind of reaper-hunter.”


Dean grinned without humor. “Maybe he’ll meet one, then. Be a real eye-opener for him.”


“Says he can summon them,” Bobby said.


Dean’s grin became a snarl and his hands stilled on the book. “Maybe we should visit this asshole when we get out that way.”


Bobby squinted at him, knowing Dean had met a reaper and didn’t hold anything against it despite what had happened. Reapers were as natural as elementals, and he had a brief moment of imagining Dean beating the hell out of anyone who tried to mess with one. Impede it, sure, but capture one again for their own purposes...no.


He didn’t like wannabes any more than the boys did. They were more hassle than they were worth, and often dangerous by accident rather than design.


Dean stretched as if there was an itch between his shoulderblades, but he did nothing more than twist a little and shrug. Sam was watching him with his head tilted forward a little, watching every motion Dean made with the same kind of longing in his eyes that cats usually held for birds. Bobby could tell that Sam’s skin wasn’t fitting him quite right, and it occurred to him to roofie the kid again for his own good. Just a little. Dean would be a handful, though, and he didn’t relish an angry Winchester in his house – especially not with one hell of a wingspan.


He’d never hurt either of them. Not purposely. But he couldn’t lie and say that two element-ridden boys in the house didn’t rattle him a little in even the calmest circumstances. Sam was losing control over the whole thing, and without something to really focus on, like a hunt, he would likely be more subject to the call of the elements.


Sooner or later, he feared there’d be another tornado. But it would be made by Sam’s own hand.


Dean sighed and closed the book in front of him as if it would sleep the same way a laptop would when closed. “I need some air.”


He was out the back door before Bobby or Sam could say anything.


Sam seemed to wander off in his own world for several minutes, fidgeting, lost in thought. Ticking like a time bomb.


Bobby said, “Hey, kiddo. Can I get you anything?”


Sam glanced up and shook his head. “No, thanks. I’d try and get some sleep, but...you know. Gotta make sure everything goes right, first.”


Bobby nodded. “Yeah, I know. Just take it easy, okay? Everything’s fine.”


One corner of Sam’s mouth quirked.


Bobby laid a brief hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Just keep thinking it. Everything’s fine.”


Sam managed a small smile. Then it dropped. “He didn’t just step right outside the door to get air, did he.”


He went for the door and yanked it open, and Dean was nowhere in sight.


-|-


September 20th, 11:57pm


Dean felt it gathering, and also felt the difference – he had broken something the last time.


He kept walking anyway, over the hill behind the house, breaking into a jog down the opposing slope. He stripped his shirt off as he went, meaning to get as far off as he could before midnight hit.


He felt something gather even further along his back and braced himself, leaning forward and planting his hands against his knees. Some sort of pressure grew steadily, not against his skin or bones but something deeper. He hadn’t really been with it the last time, when he’d been holding his breath and struggling through a haze of drugs. Every other time he’d just let it all go before it had a chance to build on him because it hadn’t occurred to him that it could be stopped.


At first it was just a matter of pushing back, but after a moment he felt something twist, something that made him break out in a cold sweat and bite back a wave of nausea. He remembered the feeling of wrongness that had come from trying to keep the wings in the last time, but he breathed through it and waited.


It was no longer a matter of interrupting the mechanism by which they emerged, it was a matter of force and will which, if he thought about it, was all that was trying to get out of him in the first place. Bobby had probably been right, he was probably wearing his insides on his outside for one day every Sabbat. It made sense to him; it felt right. It explained why, when those girls at the party had touched the feathers, it had felt mildly pleasant but not like much. It explained why getting grabbed by a shambler had felt like a violation.


It explained Sam.


No point worrying about it. If he had his way, his insides would stay inside from then on.


Finding himself collapsing to his knees was still a little unsettling, though.


Behind his tightly closed eyes, the edges of his vision began to sparkle in false patterns of light while his brain tried to cope.


Maybe he wasn’t completely engulfed by it like Sam was, but he was still carrying a fair dose of whatever crazy mojo an air elemental could transfer, enough that he could feel the pull of the change overriding everything else. It was wedged against each and every cell, every minuscule open place between, everything his lungs pulled in and held. It pressed from the outside and felt reasonable in comparison to the denial to let it happen. It was the bigger part of the primal and aggressive urge to do rather than think that always built behind his eyes the day before, shoving at him when the day turned over, translating itself however it could.


He didn’t want it, but there it was, all his resistance insisting that he see how the elemental half lived.


Past a certain point, the body wouldn’t allow breath to be held any longer or the eyes to stay open during a sneeze, and yet it didn’t stop him from trying.


Something began pulling on him in the opposite direction, thin and passing compared to the urge to let the wings out, but its attention was easily felt all the same. Something distant but large in scope and interest prickled against his skin and swirled in the red-yellow bursts of false light behind his eyelids, reeking of blood and abandon. He didn’t recoil; he clamped down harder, hands beginning to feel numb where his fingers dug into the earth, and –


Strong, cold hands grabbed him by the biceps, fingers digging in, holding, pulling at him. He didn’t allow them to pull him up. It all had to stop, sooner or later. Everything did.


Dean, stop


He didn’t let Sam distract him. Not this time. He could hold his breath a long, long time, longer than any natural or unnatural thing could hold him. He decided whether the wings ever came out again, whatever the hell they really were...


Dean


The counterpull began again, not Sam but the interest of whatever had noticed him in the inbetween, an idea of something ruled by impulse and hunger, random but not mindless. He could almost get a feeling of shape and purpose, of attention. Of recognition.


The next thing he registered was being upright, and the change as abrupt and disorienting as his fall in the field earlier. The wind whipped around his shoulders. Large hands held his head, and then there was nothing but the feel-scent-taste of Sam crushing his mouth against his.


Dean startled into the shock of now, and with it came wings.


He struggled to get his hands up and brace them against Sam’s shoulders so he could shove him away, but with the sudden weight and relief of the wings and the all-out combat he’d waged against them ripped out from under him, the most he managed was a huff of surprise as he sagged against his brother.


It was Sam who pulled away first, to look into Dean’s face and shake him a little. Dean got his feet under himself and stepped completely away. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath or use the air the way he was supposed to, or get his eyes to focus completely; his hands were still numb and the world seemed blunted, somehow. Sam stood with his hands still partly raised, staring at Dean with wet, worried eyes. Bobby stood only a step further back, and the look of barely restrained amazement on his face was not hampered by the lack of decent light.


Dean looked at Sam. “What the hell’d you do that for?”


Sam didn’t flinch at the gruffness. “You can’t do that,” he said. “All you’re doing is hurting yourself.”


Dean heard you’re hurting me too, plain and confused in his tone.


Realizing the wings were trailing along the ground on either side, and not knowing what to do with Sam’s pronouncement, Dean snapped the wings up and out to stretch them and distract himself.


Sam’s hands remained half raised, and his eyes followed the motion.


“You wanna tone down the weather machine?” Dean said, mantling the wings along his back carefully. He made a wide gesture, indicating the wind that was steady around them at about 20 mph.


Sam flattened his hands against his own chest and closed his eyes.


Dean didn’t dare glance at Bobby again.


When the wind died, Dean realized he’s been bracing himself against it a little. He sighed with the release of the tension he’d been hanging onto and rested his hands on his hips.


“Can’t buy this kind of entertainment,” he said, then clapped his hands together once loudly, startling Sam into opening his eyes again. “This calls for a beer.”


He headed for the house. It didn’t matter if anyone followed him. He needed to break away from a moment he hadn’t wanted or meant to cause that had been inevitable anyway.


Inevitable. Like every other damn thing, lately.


The sound of his boots on the plank floors didn’t bring the dog running, and the dog sure as hell hadn’t been outside with them. He was hiding, again, and Dean couldn’t blame him.


He grabbed a beer out of the fridge and then kept moving, because otherwise he’d have to process what he might have seen and felt, and then deal with the fact that Sam had planted one on him right in front of Bobby. The latter wasn’t all that big of a deal, really, because it had been solely to shock Dean into letting go of the wings. That had been terror and love, without a damn thing romantic about it. Still, had it been too much to hope that things couldn’t get weirder?


Goddamnit.


He recognized Bobby’s footsteps behind him just before he heard him say “You do realize that was a pretty dumbass thing to do.”


Dean gave him a sour glare, head ducking down and forward in defensive annoyance. “Don’t start. I’ve got every right to – “


“Not the wings, Dean,” Bobby said sharply. “The vanishing. Sam couldn’t find you for a few minutes there. Midnight of a Sabbat? Ring any bells for you?”


Dean’s shoulders slumped, and the wings with them. “Dammit, he’s gotta get over – “


“When you’re ready for him to get over it?” Bobby said.


“It goes with the job,” Dean said in a tone even he recognized as his father’s.


“Six hours in the car with his dead brother in the backseat doesn’t go with the job,” Bobby said.


The wings snapped out and around, enfolding Dean and leaving only a narrow, vertical section of his face visible. What was visible was almost comically surprised.


He hadn’t meant to do it.


Bobby looked for all the world as if he didn’t want to be satisfied, but couldn’t help himself. “Something tells me that was hard to hear.”


Dean parted the wings by a foot or so but left them up, his face and neck flushed with embarrassment. “I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “I wish I did. I wanna say ‘just go on like normal’, but there’s no normal. So we just go on.”


Bobby didn’t say anything, just kept a level gaze on him, waiting.


Dean froze for a moment in indecision, eyes darting around. When Sam’s steps became audible by the back door, he snapped his wings down and nearly ran for it, clearing the porch and heading straight for the garage.


-|-


Bobby counted to ten yet again to keep his patience, to keep from calling Dean back.


He sighed, watching Sam slouch into the house and fix him with wide, sad eyes.


-|-


He felt like a kid who had no idea what the hell he was doing.


He kept the wings down and back and tried to pretend they weren’t there, as if punishing himself for having them.


It was still clear and dry, stars bright enough to almost seem loud. Grasshoppers were complaining in the field across the road, audible in the stark stillness of the place, reveling among the recently shorn stalks. Nothing had come for him or Sam, no elementals or crazy locals, no recently raised demigods.


He sat in the garage without flipping any of the lights on, staring around at the shadows. He wasn’t sure what had reached for him from the darkness he’d hung himself over, and couldn’t tell if it had pinpointed him. He wasn’t sure how to handle Sam when he was so damn emotional. He was afraid to admit that Sam was making him progressively more nervous with the whole out of control wind-zombie thing. The thing with the tornado had never quite left his mind even with everything else that had happened, and Sam seemed so detached when it was all going on...


Six hours in the car with your dead brother in the backseat


He sat on one of the workbenches in the dark, legs tucked up to sit crosslegged, wings folded tightly around himself, head in hands. He had not wanted to know, but he had needed to. He would have been desperate to find a way to save Sam with the tables turned, would have done anything, and failing that, would have been standing on the side of the road with his gun in his mouth.


Sympathy for Sam overrode anything else, finally, and he went back out to look at the house. He didn’t see movement.


When he came back in, Bobby was at the table and Sam was wandering from room to room, looking distant and distracted. Bobby met his gaze and quirked his brows as if to say it’s what it looks like. Dean sighed and waited until Sam saw him, stomach dropping in worry when Sam made an unSamlike beeline for him like Dean was some new thing to investigate. The look on his face was singleminded and just damn creepy from Dean’s view. When he reached for the wings, Dean stopped him, turning slightly and grabbing his wrists. “Sam,” he said. “Go get some sleep. Hey. You listening to me? Go to bed.”


Sam’s eyes cleared for a moment or so, and he looked at Dean like he was nuts, jerking his hands away. “Don’t give me orders, jerk.”


“Don’t ignore me, bitch,” Dean said.


Sam offered him an offended glare and then wandered away again.


Dean looked at Bobby when Sam left the room.


“I barricaded the back door,” Bobby said simply.


Dean took that for what it was. He went into the bedrooms and made sure the windows were locked. Then he watched Sam meander from room to room for a bit, wondering what the hell was going on in his head. If he got outside like that, there was no telling what he’d do or where he’d go. He wasn’t incapacitated, he was just more wrapped up in the call of whatever he was subject to than Dean had ever seen him.


Sam went for the front door a minute or so later.


“Sammy,” Dean said.


Sam looked at him and wiped at his eyes, looking like he was sleepwalking.


“Stay inside,” Dean said. “Okay? Inside, big guy.”


He realized with chagrin that he was automatically reverting to talking to Sam the way he had when Sam had been a toddler.


“What the hell am I doing out here?” Sam said.


“Dunno,” Dean said. “Go back to bed, Sam.”


“Don’t tell me what to do,” Sam said, and wandered out of the room again.


“Gonna be having that damn conversation all night,” Dean said, deciding to finish the beer he’d started earlier. “Used to having it, though.” He paused. “Good thing we’re here.”


Bobby didn’t comment on that, even though it was a fairly large thing for Dean to admit to after having complained about having to hide in the first place.


“I’m sorry,” Dean said. “About before. I didn’t think, okay? I was trying to figure something out.”


“I’m not the one to apologize to,” Bobby said evenly.


Dean waggled his head back and forth a little. “When he’s done sleepwalking.”


Sam came through again and headed for the door with a dreamy look on his face.


Sam!” Dean shouted.


Sam startled. “Jesus Christ, Dean, what is your problem?”


“Go to bed, or I’ll show you what my problem is.”


Sam looked at him as if he’d lost his mind, but then he seemed to falter. When he wavered a little, Dean got up and moved him toward the bedroom again. Sam was looking at Dean’s wings and not his face, and that was fine so long as he let Dean herd him.


Sam looked at the bed for a moment, then basically crashed onto it facedown.


Dean grinned, took Sam’s shoes off and covered him up. He stood and watched him for a moment, relieved when he heard a small snore. The longer Sam slept, the better off he’d be. It probably wouldn’t be so hard on him in the morning; the night hours had always seemed to be the worst.


Why was it getting worse over time? Would it fade off the same way?


If there was a way to reverse it and get Sam out of the whole thing, Dean was all for it.


He left the bedroom door open and let Bobby know with a glance that Sam was in for the night. Then he headed for the door. He didn’t want to leave Bobby to keep watch alone; he just needed to still the urge to try to see things both coming and going. He would be the first line of defense for anything he might have accidentally given himself away to, and the last line of defense if Sam made it outside.


It wasn’t like anybody but Sam had any hope of getting any sleep, anyway.


There was just no way he’d brought anything down on them by trying to keep the wings in. Luck like that was an injustice. He’d either imagined the whole thing, or he’d gotten nothing more than a glimpse of what else hovered just outside his world’s thin skin, courtesy of his temporary elemental-induced state.


So why wasn’t he hashing it out with Bobby, just to be safe?


No. They had other things to worry about. Nothing was going to come calling. If it did, it would get its ass handed to it, just like everything else. No sense worrying about what might happen. He would deal with what was in front of him, like always.


He chose the top of the cab of a junked flatbed about a hundred yards from the house and perched himself up there to watch. It wasn’t that cold out, and the wings put off enough heat to keep him from wanting a shirt anyway. He hummed a little Metallica and let his eyes slowly adjust to the darkness.


He felt a little bit like a roosting pigeon. He kept the wings held in anyway. There was no one out there to impress.


When his phone rang, it startled him.


“You gonna pout out there all night?” Bobby said.


“Dude, I’m guarding the perimeter,” Dean said. 


Bobby cleared his throat a little. “He’s out like a light. I don’t think he’ll be goin’ anywhere.”


“Don’t want anything gettin’ in, either,” Dean said.


“Anything you want me to know?”


Dean hesitated just long enough that he knew he was giving Bobby an answer with it. “You never know who’s seen what, that’s all.”


There was a pause while Bobby seemed to weigh the words. Dean held his breath, unwilling to be questioned.


“I’m gonna tie cans to the front door,” Bobby said. “Just in case I drop off. You stay out of sight. Understood?”


“Yessir,” Dean said.


-|-


An hour later, he still felt like a roosting pigeon, but at least he could think with a clear head out there in the dark.


-|-


His first warning that things were really getting crazy again was the wind.


He hadn’t even realized he’d dropped off a little until then, until the wind made soft rustling sounds in his feathers and whispered in his ears. Dust whipped up and made low pattering sounds against the metal of the cars around him. He had no idea what time it was and didn’t care enough to look.


His second – and last – warning was the feeling of something rising in him to meet it. He knew immediately that it wasn’t just some edge of a weather system moving in, because the wind....


He woke completely when he realized the wind felt of Sam.


He tried to figure that idea out with the five senses he was used to using, and it had nothing to do with them. He stretched the wings out to catch a little more of it and held on to the edge of the truck’s roof to keep from getting swept off.


There was no movement in the yard. The sky was still clear and open above, revealing most of the house and his surroundings even though the waxing crescent moon had already set. The lights were still on in the house; Bobby wouldn’t have let Sam get out. Maybe Sam was having a nightmare.


He used the wings for balance as he slid off the cab of the flatbed. When he hit the ground, it felt wrong to him, so he took his shoes off, socks and everything. Dirt and dust parted soft and cool under his bare toes. There’d be bits of glass and metal out there in it, from years of things being dragged and dropped, but he had the feeling he wouldn’t run into any.


He figured circling the house and making sure everything was still okay was a good idea.


The wind wasn’t strong enough or steady enough to bend the trees or make it tough to keep his balance with the wings. It just felt good on his skin, cool but springlike.


A dust devil paced him past the porch.


Nothing was odd as far as the house was concerned; no open windows or doors, no dog barking, nothing lurking in the shadows of the trees. Nothing waiting to ambush him on the hill behind the house.


Sam, standing on the other side of the hill with his back to him, face tilted to the sky, just visible in the starlight. Naked as the day he was born.


Dean walked toward him but didn’t hurry, unsurprised and realizing he was less concerned than he should have been. Sam had been trying not to do something like this since the night he’d been hit, had settled for just taking his shirt off before. Now there was no reason to do anything but what he wanted to, out there in the middle of the night and the middle of nowhere. Dean wanted to know how he’d gotten out of the house, but it wasn’t that important. Bobby was probably asleep for awhile, and that was best because he realized he wasn’t going to make Sam go straight back into the house.


By then he was probably sleepwalking a little, too, and didn’t mind much.


His bare feet didn’t slip in the soil or the dry grass, but Sam heard him approach anyway. Dean took in the rest of him, eyes in shadow and –


“Whoa. Hello, Mr. Sundial,” Dean said. “Gotta tell you, Sam, won’t be hard to tell time by that.”


Sam didn’t answer or otherwise give any indication that he’d heard, just kept focusing his attention on Dean. It was easily felt even if Dean couldn’t see his eyes.


Feet away, Dean said, “There’s an awesome joke here about how the wind blows, but – “


The rest was lost when Sam came at him much faster than Dean could have dodged, hands reaching around and plunging right into the thickest of the feathers where the wings melded into Dean’s shoulderblades. He pulled Dean flush against him, face tucked in hard against Dean’s throat, mouth open to breathe him in.


Dean didn’t startle or try and pull away, because the part of him that recognized wind as one of the first things that had ever existed also recognized that it was all inevitable. Most of his consciousness had dwindled to the sensation of the right hands gripping and stroking the parts of him that wanted it the most.


There was very little about any of it that was human.


The wind was whispering a little in his ears again, so Dean wrapped his wings around Sam, feathers against bare skin, Sam’s hardness pressing warm against his belly and leaving a faint trail of moisture where his jeans slung lowest. His hands strayed to the small of Sam’s back and stayed, anchoring himself. He could barely feel Sam nip at trapezius and shoulder, breath and teeth nothing compared to the grip Sam had on his feathers. He didn’t care when Sam dropped his hands to get handfuls of the denim at his hips to spin him, chest to back and hands back in feathers and teeth set in the back of his neck. He felt like he should have fallen, like his legs wouldn’t support him anymore, but Sam had one arm around his waist. Sam probably could have lifted him clear of the ground. The wind hadn’t picked up any further but it was close around him, swirling against his skin and feeling more like a caress all the time. Sam was still Sam enough for it all to mean something, but not Sam enough to hesitate.


It wasn’t like Dean wanted to get away, though.


Dean dropped his wings down and back enough to brush against Sam’s bare legs, and Sam jerked against him, grinding, slow and heavy as Dean’s own heartbeat. Dean hooked a leg behind and around one of Sam’s, hands reaching for whatever they could touch. The hand in his feathers clenched rhythmically in time with Sam’s hips, and Dean felt the whole melting warmth of it hollow his bones with longing.


Sam hunched against him and dropped his mouth between Dean’s shoulderblades, arm tightening around his waist, tongue drawn suddenly against the fine pattern of feather-edges where they met skin –


The intensity of it blinded him for a moment, overwhelming him into freezing to the spot. He didn’t even care if his body was really involved in the sensation, or how damn weird the whole thing was, just so long as Sam kept it up. He dug into the soft dirt with his toes, not looking for purchase of any kind since Sam had him nearly clear of the ground, just reacting to something that had its closest companion in what Dean had always understood as orgasm, but involving damn near every nerve ending he had. He was reduced to a brain stem with random impulses only half-firing, shorting out in a convulsion of bliss.


When his eyes were able to focus forward again and something approaching cognitive thought became possible, Sam was chest to chest with him again and moaning a low, stuttering breath into his shoulder as he came, hands clenching in feathers but incapable of hurting them.


Dean leaned into him, one hand slipping up into his hair, purchase and comfort, waiting for the shudders to ease and his own wires to stop crossing, to stop making the night look like it was spinning around him.


An upward glance startled him into tipping his head back to stare.


The night had not been spinning. There was a clear flash of sky above, but the world hemmed in on all sides, partially obscured with dust and dead grass. They were dead center of a narrow spiral of air, cocooned in a dust devil just large enough to hold them both. Eye of the storm.


“Sam,” he whispered, and it was all he could get out before the devil collapsed much the same way the tornado in Nebraska had, spinning and spilling away at their feet, leaving something behind that wound its way between each and every feather to breathe against them. Dean felt his back arch and wrapped the wings around Sam in an effort to hold on, wishing Sam would stop and hoping he wouldn’t.


When he opened his eyes again, he was back on the cab of the flatbed.


He froze, disoriented. There was no wind, not even a breeze, but the wings were nearly humming as if they were catching something out of the still air. Nothing stirred in the yard around him, and even held breath didn’t allow him to tell if there was movement in the house.


It had never happened.


He unfolded his legs while trying to figure out what the hell was going on in his head that he was dreaming shit like that, but when he moved his feet, the cold of the metal that had gone unwarmed by his skin told him his feet were bare.


He leaned over and located his shoes and socks in the dust below.


He glanced around again. All was still.


Without looking down, he passed a flat hand across the skin just above his navel, memory solidifying when he encountered long-dried remnants of Sam’s end of that impossible collision in the field.


He clamped down on the nearly violent reaction his body chose to have to the memory.


Where the hell was Sam? No wind meant he was either asleep...or too far away to affect Dean’s part of the world any longer.


He slid from the cab, hissing at the jarring sensation in his feet and knees when he hit the ground that told him he’d been sitting stationary too long. He was silent in his run across the yard, bare feet barely making a sound on the porch.


There were no cans tied to the door. They sat close by, draped over the demon-box.


He left the door open and angled through the front room with eyes struggling to catch up to the sudden exposure to light.


Finding Sam asleep facedown in bed was a relief. He was still naked, covers kicked off to one side.


Dean shook one of the lighter blankets off the floor and covered him with it. Sam was sleeping so hard that he never even stirred.


Dean didn’t care how the hell he’d gotten Sam back into the house, just that he had.


He checked the rest of the house and turned lights off as he went. He didn’t turn even the bathroom light on when he went in to wash up. No way he was going to risk waking anybody by taking a shower; between the wings and how screwed up the shower rod was, it was guaranteed to become some kind of slapstick comedy in there.


He put his gun and phone on the table, then sat with head in hands and wings loose over his own shoulders.


He didn’t want to even guess at what else he and Sam might have been up to during the chunk of time he was missing. If he’d blacked out, it would explain the missing time, but not why he’d ended up right back where he’d started from. It didn’t really matter since he’d managed to keep Sam reined in. The loss of time didn’t necessarily mean a loss of control, since Sam was back in the house and he’d chosen to go back to keeping watch. Had any of it woken Bobby, Dean would have a memory of that. Bobby would have made sure of it.


If he let his mind drift a little, he could still feel Sam’s hands.


He let it drift a little further, then found himself raising his head from the table, startled awake by some internal alarm. The house was dark and quiet, still, and he could tell that not much time had passed since he’d dropped off.


He stood and stretched, listening for anything inside or out that might tell him why he was awake.


He heard the steady thud of running footsteps in the yard, and turned back toward the front of the house. They were headed straight for the house at a full run, whoever they were. Rove wasn’t awake or he’d have come out barking by then. Dean moved for one of the front windows to the right of the door, and had made it halfway there when the damn door flew open and a single shadowed figure burst into the house.


With the figure came a bit of the illumination from the big mercury light on the pole near the end of Bobby’s property, just enough to backlight the guy and more than enough to make it visible when Dean unfurled his wings to full span in surprise, even before he could get his gun off the table.


It would have all been weird enough if the guy hadn’t fallen down and started screaming. 


Rove was there an instant later, barking in a no-nonsense way within a foot of the guy’s head, and Dean flipped the lights on, gun pointed at the prone form. It was a middle-aged, partially balding guy in camo. He was covering his head with both hands in a near fetal position on the floor, shrieking like the dog had already bitten him.


Jesus Christ!” Dean shouted. “Shut the hell up already, you idiot!”


The guy went from just screaming to screaming something in Latin.


Sam made his presence known with a brush of fingertips at the small of Dean’s back, gun out and leveled at the guy, ducking under a wing and stepping a little in front of Dean. Bobby had a shotgun and had no sooner joined them than he yelled, “Joel, you damn fool, get off the floor. Rove, out!”


Rove stopped barking and backed away a little, but didn’t leave the room. Joel quit screaming but didn’t look up.


Dean glanced over at Bobby, who was wearing a trenchcoat and one of his ubiquitous trucker’s caps. He raised his eyebrows, then glanced at Sam, who was doing the same. Bobby looked at Dean and said, “That’s not helping.”


Dean realized he meant the wings, and he folded them down. He tucked his gun away and Sam lowered his, standing there in his boxers.


“I said get off the damn floor,” Bobby said to Joel. “It’s safe. What the hell are you doing here?”


Joel finally lifted his head and sat up, but his eyes went straight to Dean again. Dean folded his arms and tried to look threatening.


“They found me,” Joel said. “I think they found me. I gotta get outta sight for awhile.”


“So you make a big spectacle of yourself and come running in here without knocking in the middle of the night?” Bobby said. “Good way to get shot.”


“I didn’t know where else to go,” he said, eyes wider as they apparently grew accustomed to the light. “I told you, they’d find me.”


“Then head north where it’s colder than they want to be,” Bobby said. “Don’t bring ‘em here, our hands are already full. Take whatever you need, and then get on out of here.”


Joel pointed at Dean. “He’s – “


“None of your business,” Bobby said. “It’s temporary. Now go on, git.”


The guy scrambled off the floor and backed out the door, eyes still on Dean.


Bobby heaved an annoyed sigh, then turned and went to get dressed.


“I think the trenchcoat was way more disturbing than the wings,” Dean said softly.


“I think he sleeps with the hat on,” Sam said.


Dean smirked, then really looked at Sam. His eyes seemed clearer, more aware. Maybe it was the adrenaline of being awoken by screaming and barking, or maybe it was...whatever had happened earlier.


“How come you were already up?” Sam said, gaze level and maybe a little predatory.


Dean wasn’t sure he liked it. “Don’t need a hall pass.”


“Not enough room?”


Dean cleared his throat. “With these things? Never.”


Sam looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Look...about...”


“You wanna do this here, now?” Dean said, torn between relief and disappointment at the realization that Sam obviously remembered what had happened. “No way. Just leave it alone, Sam.”


Bobby came out in actual clothes and waved a hand at them before either of them could even attempt to say anything. He went out the door. Rove went with. They listened for a moment to see if there would be yelling, but they didn’t hear any.


“What kind of dumbass just runs into Bobby’s house in the middle of the night?” Dean said, passing a hand through his hair.


“I wasn’t exactly myself,” Sam said.


“No shit,” Dean said, turning to fully face him. “I’m not gonna bust you over it, Sam. I don’t want Bobby to see any more than he has, though, okay? This is weird enough. Even when you can help it, you’re not really trying that hard to dial it down and I’m not helping you try. I get it. Talking about it’s not gonna change anything or make it more understandable.”


Sam shrugged and looked uncomfortable.


“Go back to bed, big guy,” Dean said gently, turning away.


He heard Sam move away from him and released an inaudible sigh of relief. There was no way Sam was going back to bed after that; so he wasn’t surprised when he heard Sam checking the rest of the house out of habit. Dean moved to the eastern-facing windows on the sun porch watched the lights come on in the garage but couldn’t see anything else of what was going out there. He tried to remember what would hate cold, and whether Bobby had ever mentioned anyone named Joel. He’d only been asleep for a little while, because dawn was just beginning to color the edge of the world.


He rubbed at his eyes and figured a couple of hours was enough. He wasn’t sure it was okay to leave anybody that desperate and panicked out there with Bobby. Bobby would be happy to kick his ass over even thinking it, but, it was how he was built and he took his asskickings as necessary.


He went out there anyway and kept to the darkness of one side of the garage. He could hear Bobby’s voice, but couldn’t make out any words.


They came out and walked toward him about a minute and a half later, and he finally picked up part of the conversation.


“...and don’t stop. I’m serious. Just get yourself the hell out of this, and don’t come back until you hear from me or Norris. You charge into anything like this again without thinking, nobody’s gonna help you.” Bobby.


“What about...who’s - “


“I said never mind,” Bobby said just as they began to pass Dean. “There were elementals involved, and that’s all you need to know. Don’t be talking about it with anyone, either, assuming anybody wants much to do with you after this.”


As they passed him, Dean snapped the wings out hard enough to make a sound, and both Bobby and Joel startled as they glanced at him.


Joel ran with whatever it was Bobby had given him. He ran on out of the yard without pausing or looking back, probably off to wherever he’d parked his car.


“Dammit, Dean,” Bobby said. “That’s not half as funny as you think it is.”


Dean grinned. Yeah it was. “What was that all about?” Dean said, falling into step with Bobby as he pulled the wings back in. He didn’t mean to brush Bobby with his feathers as he did it, barely even realized he’d done it except for the small tingle of contact until Bobby huffed out a surprised breath and startled back a step.


Dean paused and stared. “What - ?”


“Watch the wings,” Bobby said softly, sounding breathless. Dean couldn’t make out the look on his face, but his voice was so amazed that he had to wonder what the hell had just happened. “And never mind about that lunatic. He ran across a couple of kanaima and thought he could handle them by himself. Some of these guys, they don’t respect what’s out there, and they keep on surviving anyway. It amazes me, sometimes, who lives and who doesn’t.”


He walked back for the house quickly.


Dean let him go ahead, wary of getting too close with the wings, giving him a little room. He knew better than to ask him what had gotten that kind of reaction.


-|-


Dawn broke the rest of the way and found all three of them avoiding each other.


Sam seemed oddly settled despite the kind of night it had been. He left his clothes on, at least, and kept the breeze to a minimum, but he did stand for long periods out in the yard and make an occasional dust devil. Dean kept an eye on him from a distance while he dismantled a transmission from a ‘72 mustang that was so corroded that Bobby had given up on it. He stayed out of the garage, having dragged an old table out in front of it to work on his self-assigned project. The Impala didn’t need anything, and he had to concentrate on something that didn’t include looking Sam too hard in the eye quite yet.


It was still clear, and an autumn sun made it warm and bright enough that he finally shaded himself with the wings.


That was apparently more than Sam could ignore, because he came over and stood on the other side of the table from Dean.


Dean lowered the wings and glanced up but didn’t look directly at him.


After another minute or so, he couldn’t stand the silence or the staring, so he slammed his hands down on the table and then walked away. He got as far as rounding the corner of the garage before Sam stepped in front and blocked him.


“You wanna know what it’s like? I feel less and less like myself,” Sam said. “Like I belong to it and not the other way around. It’s the whole day before and the whole day after, even though I can’t use any of it then. I don’t have control of it like you do, Dean.”


“It’s not like you get a chance to get used to it,” Dean said. “You’ve gotta use it, Sam. Not wait for it to sneak up. There are ways to control it.”


Control it,” Sam snapped, rounding on him. “That’s what that was supposed to be? It made sense while you were tied up, and some idiots were trying to sacrifice you, but now? Knowing how it made you feel? What was the point of that – just to prove how tough you are?”


Dean felt the breeze pick up significantly and held his hands up. “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” he said, but kept the volume down.


“I heard you telling Bobby about how you tried to hold them in the first time,” Sam said, less than a foot away, nostrils flared with anger. “Now it’s all about you fucking around with it until you screw yourself up, just to see if you can. You already don’t think it’s just going to happen on the Sabbats anymore, just admit it!”


“Back off,” Dean said, temper rising more from the collected tension than from just the conversation. “I know what I’m doing.”


“You know even less about it than I do,” Sam snarled. “What is it, you’ve gotta control everything? You’re still trying to be just like dad.”


“Shut your mouth, Sam, or I will,” Dean said with a growl.


Sam snorted. “Yeah? Because you don’t wanna hear it? Not on your best day.”


It was definitely windy, by then.


“I’m warning you,” Dean said.


“With what?” Sam shouted. “You fuck that up, there’s no one who can fix it, Dean. Put up with it the way it is and hope it wears off and your goddamn soul stays on the inside by itself.”


“You don’t know that that’s – “


“I do know,” Sam said. “I know. Why the hell do you think I can’t keep my hands off them?”


Dean’s voice matched the sneer on his face. “So now your kinks have to have real meaning? That makes it easier for you to rationalize coming all over me?”


Sam clapped his hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut just before an old Nova directly behind Dean was flattened with a shriek of metal and a massive thud that Dean felt in his own chest. Glass and parts flew; part of a bumper tumbled just past one of Dean’s feet, and a hubcap buried itself into the siding of Bobby’s garage about three feet from Sam’s head. 


Sam opened his eyes and looked at the wreckage of the car, then down at his own hands.


“Was that...the wind, or you?” Dean said, turning an awed expression from the car to Sam and back.


He was asking Sam whether it had anything to do with the abilities he’d had before the thing with the elementals had started.


“Both, I think,” Sam said.


“Do that again.”


“No, Dean,” Sam said with a sigh, shoulders slumping. The wind died around them.


“That’s how the air elementals were doing it,” Dean said, the note of excitement in his voice setting Sam’s teeth on edge. “Concentrating the air and just – “


“Goddamnit,” Bobby said from Sam’s right, “you two separate right now, or I’ll get the hose.”


“Did you see that?” Dean said, gesturing at the hubcap. “That was awesome.”


The look on his face told them he had seen at least part of it. Bobby was pale, and it took a lot to do that.


Sam and Dean glanced at each other. It wasn’t hard for either to guess that the other was hoping Bobby hadn’t heard much.


“We’re done,” Sam said, ducking his head and tucking his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. Dean shook his wings a little as if trying to get some dust loose. They glanced at each other again, then Sam headed toward the house.


Dean watched Bobby look at the smashed car, then at the hubcap protruding from his garage. The older man shook his head with a sigh and turned to go back to what he’d been doing.


Dean trailed along after him, thinking about what Sam had said.


Bobby had said he’s just building up to the change a little harder each time, and Dean hadn’t been paying attention at the time.


He shook the wings again to center himself, watching Bobby grab an oilstained clipboard and go back to making marks in one margin. Inventory.


“I’ll do it,” Dean said.


“You don’t know where everything is,” Bobby said without looking up. “I got a system.”


Dean hmphed and sat down on a stack of pallets near the back of the lift. “What’d you mean?”


Bobby paused and eyed him. “‘Bout what?”


“When you said Sam was building up to it a little harder each time.”


Bobby came closer and sat next to him, heaving a sigh. “I have eyes,” he said softly. “Either you’re not sure what you’re seeing, or you think it’s just another extension of whatever else it is he can do every other day of the year. He didn’t get hit hard enough to get his shape changed like you did, so maybe he got the dose you were always meant to when you get hit with an elemental’s guts. It’s a little more than anybody’s equipped to handle. The tornado, Dean. That should have been all you needed to see.”


Dean was very still, face studiously indifferent. “So, what exactly do I do?”


“You give him something to anchor to and hope this damn thing runs its course,” Bobby said.


“It was easier when we were out hunting,” Dean said. “Harder, you know, ‘cause it was distracting and we were a little out of step, but it didn’t shake us out of our training or anything. I mean, we had something to focus on, besides ourselves and each other. That was...easier.”


He trailed off at the end.


“And then someone started hunting you,” Bobby said.


Dean nodded. “Yeah, well. We can’t keep hiding. We’re just gonna fuck up your roof for good one of these days. And your garage.”


“Sometimes love and dedication translate themselves in ways that are hard to take, when everything else is messed up,” Bobby said suddenly, as if he needed to get it said before Dean could stop him.


Dean narrowed his eyes at him in confusion, and then just as suddenly flushed again – that was twice in a twenty four hour span that Bobby had managed to do what no one had done in years – and the wings snapped around hard enough to wrap around Dean’s shoulders and hide his face again.


Dean’s voice came out as a muffled growl. “Goddamnit, Bobby. Whatever you’re talking about, I don’t wanna hear it.”


The smile on Bobby’s face was audible in his voice. “Yeah, just like you don’t wanna hear that I got a dose of what you think and feel about me when you got too close with the feathers this morning,” Bobby said. “Didn’t know that, did you.”


Holy...!


Dean stilled an urge to cover his ears, or to get up and walk away. Sam’s voice rang in his ears.


Why the hell do you think I can’t keep my hands off them?


“Well, you’re probably done with it on your end, after today,” Bobby said. “Just the wings, I mean. It’ll be Sam you need to keep occupied. You boys gonna take a real crack at finding what you got sacrificed for?”


Dean shrugged, and it was mostly with the wings. “If it’s not bugging anyone, there’s no reason. Maybe it’ll come to us, for all I know.”


When he could get the wings to part a bit, Bobby was staring at him intently.


“What.”


“What makes you think it’ll come to you, Dean?”


“Oh, shit,” Dean said. “Don’t start. Okay? I don’t really know. If there’s any kind of connection, if it wants something more out of me, it’ll come and get it.”


“You didn’t just pull that out of your ass,” Bobby said.


Dean eyed him for a moment, still feeling the heat in his face.


“There’s something out there that can find me if it wants to,” Dean said finally. “I felt it, when I was...look, it’s not out to get me or Sam, so it doesn’t make any difference. If it decides to find me and I don’t like what I see, I’ll kill it. That’s how it works. If it’s not evil, I don’t want anything to do with it. Those idiots had no idea what the hell they were doing, and I don’t know how they managed to get as far as they did.”


Bobby’s expression told Dean he was surprised to get that much out of him.


Anything to keep Bobby from talking about love and dedication.


“Not like I’ll get another chance to try and keep the wings in after today anyway,” Dean said, folding the wings back one at a time with a soft rustle, rolling his shoulders. “Cycle’s over. Maybe Halloween’ll be the last time, maybe this was. I’m happier if this is it, though. Be happier yet if I thought Sam would be done with it too.”


“Samhain’s the Wiccan new year,” Bobby said. “Beginning and end of a circle. See what happens.”


Dean didn’t feel any faith in waiting and seeing.


-|-


In the morning, Dean awoke to a wingless existence yet again when Rove took a flying leap onto the bed and planted a paw right in his balls.


He found Sam and Bobby at the table, discussing portents and whether they were cyclical.


“Your fuckin’ poodle tried to castrate me,” Dean said.


“It’s how a good watchdog says hello,” Bobby said. “You call him a poodle again, it could be more of a done deal.”


Dean got coffee and then sat and listened to them talk for awhile, letting it strike him that it was good, things were good. He liked the sounds of their voices and being reminded yet again how smart Sam was.


When they walked out of the house an hour later, he didn’t get the feeling that it would be the last time he would see it, and that was good, too.


-|-


Dean circled the Impala, checking it one last time. Sam came over and kicked the right front tire just to get an annoyed hey out of Dean.


Bobby watched carefully.


He figured he was right about his first estimation, that it was all more than just a pair of wings; Dean had been fundamentally changed by the whole thing. Having seen him carry those wings around half-flared with aggression and seeing the way his behavior changed only solidified the idea. He should not have been able to carry them so easily. It was obvious that they were heavy, that there was heft and weight and muscle mass involved, and even though Dean was already well-built, he was still not made to deal easily with the change in balance. The soul was weightless and malleable, but Dean had chosen to carry his around like something that was a combination weapon/burden while it was external.


Bobby didn’t doubt it was the same while internal.


Sam had been hit and then empowered with what elementals were made of; he was genuinely exhibiting it. Dean, however, was not. He had simply been warped into a new shape by it. But that didn’t mean it didn’t still tug at him at the right times.


They left the way they came, but without as much tension. Or at least not quite the same tension. They were closer than any two people probably should have been, he figured, no matter what relation they were to each other. A bond like that never ended well, because when one went, it killed both.


He left the hubcap right where it had struck and stayed.


-|-


It was quiet - comfortably so - in the car for roughly the first ten minutes. Then Sam turned his head to stare at Dean, and kept on staring as if he expected something.


Dean searched his mind for something obvious. He ran the last several minutes over in his head. He hadn’t hit anything, passed anything really interesting, or even made any sounds that he was aware of. So he gave up trying to guess and said, “Now what.”


“We gonna talk about this?” Sam said.


Dean shrugged. There were plenty of things that could qualify as ‘this’.


“Dean.”


It was hard to ignore someone in the same car with him, but he managed it anyway. He had a lot of practice.


“Dean, come on.”


“Which part, exactly? The part where you wandered out of the house, got naked, and tried to be one with the great outdoors in new, exciting ways before I even got there?”


He snuck a glance at Sam to see the desired result: visible embarrassment. Sam stoicly held his gaze anyway, though.


“More like, how many times are we going to ‘accidentally’ have sex,” Sam said.


Dean had the sudden and irrational urge to slam on the brakes, figuratively as well as literally, but he didn’t. “Wings are gone,” he said. “Doesn’t matter anymore.”


Sam didn’t respond, but when Dean looked at him, his jaw was set in such a way that Dean knew it wasn’t over. Things never seemed to be over with Sam; just tucked away for awhile. He’d expected at least some sort of impatient outburst over that last statement, though. It pretty much deserved one. Even he knew he was being a little delusional. He didn’t know if the wings were gone for good, and that wasn’t even the point.


Mainly, he didn’t qualify it as sex and wasn’t about to try and have that discussion with Sam.


They had been having...peculiar physical encounters as a result of an altered state. Sex was something you had with someone you either didn’t know or just liked a hell of a lot. Sam didn’t fall under either of those categories, because while he didn’t maybe always like Sam, he did love him enough to frighten himself a little. But under no circumstances would he apply the phrase making love to anything they had done so far, and Christ on a cracker, never to his own brother. So letting Sam believe that he didn’t think about it at all was ten times easier than having that goddamn discussion, ever.


Sam seemed to think there was something more to it than what went on during a Sabbat. Dean didn’t know how many ways to try to explain to him yet again that there just wasn’t.


There was a soft voice in the back of his head that insinuated yet again that he was delusional. He told it to go find something better to do.


Sam was still looking at him.


When Dean opened his mouth, Sam said, “Don’t make a joke of it. Don’t. You don’t wanna talk about it, fine, but don’t say something else about my fucking kinks, or whether we should pull over and see what happens. Don’t be an asshole about this one thing.”


“It’s gonna get better,” Dean said, and he hadn’t even realized that it was what he was going to say. “It will. It’s just...um...sometimes love and dedication translate themselves in ways that are really weird, when everything else is messed up.”


Sam was staring at him in open shock. “Are you okay?”


“What? Yes. Shut up.”


“It’s not like I think you’re incapable of insight,” Sam said, and that time Dean heard a little amusement in it. “But, wow.”


“Sooner or later, one of us is gonna get killed doing this,” Dean said, ignoring him, keeping his face forward and trying to make sure Sam didn’t even show up in his peripheral vision. “This bullshit with the elementals upped the ante, that’s all, and it won’t be the last thing we run into, you know? You gotta be okay, Sam. You gotta get over whatever happens, and be okay.”


Sam was silent for a long moment. Then he said, “You fucking hypocrite.”


Dean glanced at him. “What?”


“You heard me,” Sam said, voice too even. “And don’t sit there and explain me away. I didn’t grab you out behind Bobby’s just because I’m still reacting to what happened to you. And you damn well know it. The only difference is that I don’t have a hell of a lot of self control on the Sabbats.”


“So what exactly do you want to do, Sam?”


There was no answer.


Dean was really, really glad.


-|-


Two days later, in a motel just outside Hardyville, Missouri, Dean was in the shower trying to get what he hoped was ectoplasm, or any kind of plasm, out of his hair.


Sam laid across one of the beds with the tv off, waiting for his turn.


After a moment, he sat up. He paused for another moment as if hesitating; then he got up and headed for the bathroom, stripping as he went.


Dean was in there with his forehead leaning against the tiles in weariness, just standing under the hot spray when Sam whipped the curtain back and stepped in.


-|- -|- -|-