Endleofan

(c)2008 gekizetsu

__________

Part of the Turn Of The Wheel series.


Endleofan is Old (Olde?) English for eleven, or one left. Old English is worse than current English, fyi. Also, 11 is the atomic number of sodium. That has nothing to do with anything; I just thought it was nifty. OC Keith Ryan, elemental expert extraordinaire, belongs to Maygra – he’s being borrowed for obvious reasons. NC-17 for a more graphic level of wingcest and Dean’s filthy, movie-quoting mouth. Bonus: a little schmoop and a barfight, no extra charge.


-|-


Dean didn’t have any lapse in memory when he awoke the next morning.


There was no big oh shit moment, no regret. He’d been awake several times during the night and had had plenty of chances to think about pretty much everything. He rolled over and looked at the ceiling, unsurprised – and a little relieved – to be alone.


Sam? What the hell are you doing?


Stepping up.


It had taken him a while to remember what the hell Sam was talking about. That was mostly because he was really preoccupied until the water got cold.


You’d step up if you really wanted it.


He’d said that to Sam in Colorado back in June. It had probably been a dumb thing to say. Challenging Sam had never really turned out well for him.


We already dont have enough boundaries. You wanna fuck up the last one we have, go ahead, Sam. But mean it when you do it and dont get all worried about it.


Sam apparently wanted it. Sam apparently meant it.


Dean sat up and braced his hands behind himself on the mattress. Hard not to think about it. Sam was so much already, a million memories and moments of annoyance and affection. It had seemed like there wasn’t any more room to feel anything more or else about Sam, and then suddenly Sam was large, warm hands and nipping teeth and an incredible length of muscle and bone and skin that smelled and tasted of home. He’d only struggled with it until Sam had put it all together in one short phrase, spoken against his skin.


I’ve run out of other ways to show you.


Dean had a hard time saying no to Sam. That? He’d even admit that to himself, because he wasn’t delusional enough to deny it. And it wasn’t like he’d been doing much but teasing Sam anyway.


And, he had a hard time saying no to sex. Any sex. Ever. Really. Sex was good, and even bad sex was still better than none at all. There actually was no such thing as bad sex, that Dean knew of. It was like pizza. Even the crappiest pizza still had the basics, and you could just pick off what you didn’t want. Where sex was concerned, there was stuff he’d rather not do, and hey, no animals. But in the end, getting off was getting off, and more often than not getting there was fun. Really good sex with someone he felt something for was unbelievable, though. He’d never admit it, but an emotional connection looped into a physical one was enough to choke him up.


Still. Sex was not for love.


There was no one walking the world that he loved more than Sam. So he could go on all day every day listing off reasons why he shouldn’t let it get where it was going, and how wrong it was in so many ways that had nothing to do with social mores and taboos (he could really give a shit), but it didn’t matter a hell of a lot when Sam grabbed his wings or did bizarre shit like get in the shower with him.


I thought it was all just about the wings.


He sighed. He really hadn’t been expecting it. And Sam, sneaky little bastard that he often was, had known that.


It was entirely possible that he was a little embarrassed about the whole thing. Maybe.


He was still stuck with defining it all as something that had accidentally come to pass because of what they’d been into. They were way too close, and didn’t give each other many other ways of...


He sighed again. He was wandering into territory that was harder to handle than sprouting wings.


They didn’t have anybody else, and they were in each other’s space constantly. They happened to love each other very much. They were nearly getting killed on a regular basis, their lives were fucking bizarre, and they hadn’t given each other many other ways to express love than to go ahead and surprise each other in the shower.


Sam was not forever the little kid that had constantly needed his help or looked up to him. Sam had split off as a kid and been gone for years, had returned as an adult, and screwed with Dean’s worldview in ways he was still trying to deal with without even realizing he was doing it. Brother didn’t cover it anymore by traditional definition, was too restricting, had become other half in ways that had nothing to do with the way married people used the term.


He’d never seen Sam quite so needy in his whole life. Not as a kid, not after Jessica had died, not after their father had died. Maybe it was all just a phase. This was not a life Sam could possibly want forever, and not one Dean would want for him, really. He didn’t want them to be apart, not completely, but what kind of crazy shit was it, to be this dependent on each other?


How the hell hadn’t he known what the wings did to other people? What the hell had Sam been getting back?


He stretched and started to get out of bed, blinking at the beginnings of daylight coming in through the curtains, then paused and put his head in his hands. Too much sense-memory of something that shouldn’t have been so good assaulted him, Sam as a map of places to touch, a warm weight that had made him feel more alive than anything else ever had.


He shook himself out of it and stood, flipping the covers back up because it was fine to think about it, but not to find evidence of it.


He heard the key-scrape in the lock even over the running water in the shower, and didn’t bother wondering if he needed to reach for his gun, which was sitting on the back of the toilet within easy reach. When he got out a few minutes later, Sam was at the table by the window, nose in a book, looking disheveled and not meeting Dean’s eyes.


Dean kept his eyes on him while he rummaged around in his duffel for clothes, looking for a sign of self-recrimination or some other harbinger of a pending freakout. No flaring nostrils, no wrinkled forehead, no dead giveaway of lips pressed together into a bloodless line of stress. He just looked kind of tired.


Well, he should have.


Sam gestured to the bags in front of him. “Breakfast,” he said without looking up. “Coffee by the TV.”


“What, you think you wore me out or something, you’ve gotta feed me?” Dean said.


He could have whooped when he saw Sam blush. An annoyed quirk of brows was all he got before Sam’s face smoothed into an expression of relief. “Gonna be like that, huh?”


“Yeah, Sam,” Dean said, throwing a balled-up pair of socks right at his head. “It is. There’d better be pancakes in there, or you can get your ass back out and find some.”


“You’re the one who slept in,” Sam said, still not looking at him. “Someone had to find food. Worn out, I guess.” He pitched Dean’s socks back at him without looking and managed to hit him anyway, then tore one white bag lengthwise to get at the styrofoam containers inside. “No new cases cropping up, yet.”


“Not staying here,” Dean said, dropping his towel and fishing a pair of boxer-briefs out of his duffel. “Could head west, wait to see if something shows up. You’re up to something, right?”


Sam finally looked at him, eyebrows raised. He gestured at the book. “What, this? I borrowed it from Bobby. It’s just some old text.”


Dean pulled a t-shirt over his head and snorted. “Sure.” Sam was so goddamn transparent sometimes. He went over and rifled through the food choices and chose a couple of things, then sat on the edge of the bed and stared at Sam.


“Dean – “ Sam began.


“I’ll bet you could actually create a tornado,” Dean said, cutting him off.


Sam looked directly at him, and it held a lot of exasperation and worry and awareness.


“Next time we run into something really gross, you could just spin it apart or chuck it into a lake or something,” Dean said. “Or smash it, like you did to that car at Bobby’s. That was awesome.”


“It wasn’t ‘awesome’, Dean,” Sam said, shifting in his chair. “You’re just...”


“You’re like a junior air elemental,” Dean said. “Don’t really have to worry about them anymore, with you around. Maybe water and earth, if they get pissed about something. Or that’s what you’re worried about.”


“I’m not – “


“Then it’s about whatever got raised in that circle,” Dean said. “Walkin’ around out there undead and trying to figure out what to do with itself.”


“You wanna talk about anything but us, fine,” Sam said, jaw set. “Let’s talk about what’s ‘walking around out there’. Anything you wanna tell me about it?”


“What,” Dean said, poking at his hashbrowns with the black plastic fork they’d come with.


“When Bobby and me found you out back, you said, ‘not the rest of me, you can’t have it’. So who were you talking to?”


Dean froze. He couldn’t even play it off; he was too surprised. He kept his eyes down and spoke around the sudden constriction in his chest and throat. “I don’t remember that.”


The sudden silence was heavy. Neither of them moved.


“If you really thought something was coming, you’d say something,” Sam said finally. “But maybe not if you thought it was just after you and would leave me alone.”


“I don’t remember,” Dean said.


“Liar,” Sam said in such an offhand voice that Dean jumped to his feet with a snarl.


“Don’t you fuckin’ call me – “


“Don’t lie to me, Dean!” Sam shouted, standing the way he always did when he knew his height made a difference, making himself too much of a presence to ignore or take lightly. “This isn’t just yours. It’s your blood that raised it, but we still don’t know what it is or what it’s capable of. If trying to keep the wings in got something’s attention, you goddamn need to tell me before it lands on us.”


Dean glowered at him, and they went on getting in each other’s faces for a long, unblinking moment, each trying to get the other to back down.


“You know I’m right, you stubborn asshole,” Sam said, eyes narrowed and boring right into Dean’s.


“It almost never happens,” Dean said. “You must be so proud of yourself, Sammy.”


Sam didn’t have to reach much to rest a finger against Dean’s sternum. “If you thought it was nothing, you’d have been joking about it. You that scared, to pretend it isn’t there?”


Dean slapped his hand down and kept staring at him. “You’re seriously asking for it,” he said.


“Yeah. I am,” Sam said. “For everything.”


Dean blinked. “Jesus, you’re such a girl.” He dropped his breakfast on the table and smirked. “Kiss like one, too.”


Sam’s shoulders slumped in annoyance.


“I’m not gonna say anything until I can sort it all out,” Dean said, smirk gone. “I don’t even know if any of it was real.”


“I might be able to help you figure that out,” Sam said.


“You keep looking for whatever you think this is all about, and I’ll tell you about it when I have all of it in one place,” Dean said. “For now, it’s just mine, though. So back off.”


Sam shrugged. It was a lot more than he’d expected to get.


-|-


They headed west, keeping their eyes open for anything that needed killing. They stopped often to pick up papers and read between the lines. They talked without actually saying anything.


It wasn’t like they were suddenly going to be a couple, or anything. Not pulling over on the side of the road and doing stuff there was absolutely no room for. That was crazy.


Sam glanced at Dean and thought about how little it would take to convince him otherwise, and embarrassed himself into just tucking it away.


Just outside Mason City, MN, Dean dug around in the tapes for a moment without looking, then picked one and shoved it in the tape player. Sam had no problem believing Dean knew all his tapes by feel.


For some reason it made him squirm a little.


The first song wasn’t bad, but he didn’t recognize it. There was something about the singer’s voice that he recognized, and by the second song he had placed it as the guy from Tool. He felt there was something he should have remembered about it all, something that put a whisper of dread through the middle of him, but he put it down to being pretty damn tired and out of sorts.


The intro to the fourth song turned the whisper into a sharp jab of memory and a shock of reaction.


You’re such an inspiration for the things that I will never ever choose to be...


 He had broken into a sweat and tensed enough to make it hard to move by the time he reached forward, jabbed the eject button, and rolled the window down enough to pitch it out onto the road.


Dude!” Dean said, hitting the breaks enough to slow but not stop, glancing between Sam and the rearview mirror to see what was becoming of his tape. “What the fuck, I liked that album!”


“I’m not gonna hear that song again in this lifetime,” Sam said, suddenly calm.


Dean was still making impatient and interrogative motions behind the wheel, hands held midair, eyebrows raised in a visible version of what the fuck. “So you chuck it out the window? Jesus, Sam, what is – “


He snapped his mouth shut suddenly and put both hands back on the wheel. He kept on driving as if nothing had happened.


Sam leaned back in his seat and let out a long, slow breath.


“Okay,” Dean said softly. “Okay.”


-|-


They spent two weeks killing shamblers.


Dean was very, very tired of shamblers. Even if he really did love using the flamethrower.


None of them sat up after being torched or having their heads lopped off. None of them said anything cryptic about how useful mortals were, or channeled anything but lots of ravenous, crazy-ass failed vampireness.


The fact that they had been regular people didn’t come into it, anymore. Not after they’d grabbed Sam that first time. Dean had already forgotten about the wing-snapping incident because it hadn’t left as much of an impact on him. They were just monsters wearing costumes, jeans and sneakers and the occasional piece of personal jewelry. They were mockups, nothing more. It was Sam who was careful to make sure they were buried properly. Sooner or later, it was going to look like a serial killer was dragging people off and burning them, and neither of them wanted that to start right away. There were no lab tests, no standard procedures to check for the undead. Nothing to say that the bodies had been anything other than human. Except the fangs, of course. Nobody was going to press what was left of the gums in hopes of finding an extra set of teeth. When just the bones were found, the fangs would have long since dropped out of the skull and been mixed in, mistaken for animal teeth. Cross contamination.


Dean didn’t feel or hear anything beyond what five senses would usually allow. Nothing whispered along the edge of his consciousness or trailed him into sleep. He was almost willing to say I imagined it, but Sam kept pressing. He didn’t believe that Dean would come clean about all of it; Dean knew that already. There would be no hey, I’m ready to talk about it now. If Sam wanted to poke around and try and get to the bottom of it, then fine. Dean didn’t really have anything else to offer other than what he’d unwittingly blurted while trying to keep the wings in.


At least he didn’t have to worry about the wings again. He could concentrate on keeping a rein on Sam, at the next Sabbat. Samhain. Still a couple of weeks away.


-|-


Sam was running out of material when he finally figure out what the hell was going on.


If he went through all the known classes for whatever was recognized as being from the elemental realm, if he simply broke it down by lore, there was more than enough to sift through. Dragons, for one, as powerful directional entities rather than just fire breathing lizards. Salamanders, sylphs, gnomes, the whole works. Sylphs were aligned with air, so he began to think of the little yellow insectile things they’d been battling as sylphs. The elements were heavily tied to the directional quarters, he knew that; most Wiccan rituals involved calling the quarters in for protection and as a framework to set the ritual on.


He was only guessing; they only had so much evidence to go on, but the diagrams the family in Iowa had used in the dirt and the way they’d laid things out was like a fist nailing him between the shoulderblades. He remembered Dean standing in the center of the circle, memorizing the markings, drawing them out carefully days later, matching only some of them to the Crowley books. The rest they both already knew. Basic summoning and binding runes, laid out slightly out of context by people who’d had no idea what they were doing. Sam remembered the candles, two too many on the eastern facing point. The traditional direction associated with air.


He struggled to remember whether there was a square hemming the circle in, counterpoint to the triangle, and he couldn’t. If there hadn’t been, then it made even more sense.


He marked his place and slammed the book shut, then sat and rubbed at his eyes. “Fuck.”


-|-


“You want the bad news, or the worst goddamn news?” Sam said.


Dean passed his hands over his face before blinking at Sam from his sprawled position on one of the beds. They were in a motel in Woodward, Oklahoma, and it was earlier than Dean chose to get into anything big. “You’re a ray of sunshine sometimes,” he said. “Just spit it out.”


Sam stood at the bottom of the bed, arms folded. “Based on what it’s been doing, on the way it chose to kill everybody when it rose – I mean, at first I thought it was just elementals reacting to the whole thing, finding you and smashing everybody flat because there was nothing else to do.”


“Sam,” Dean said without looking at him. He could tell Sam was winding up for a complete offload of info, and it was so hard to get him to slow up when that happened. Kid had a mind like a steel trap, a genius level trap, but unfortunately it kept things from getting out or in sometimes, when he was involved. He was just like their dad, but Dean knew better than to start that conversation.


“It wasn’t air elementals, at all,” Sam said, beginning to pace. “They smashed things, yeah, but not to the point where there wasn’t anything recognizable left. They did it to defend themselves or try and get even for the ones we already killed. I would have seen them while I was looking for you. I was that close. And then instead of making itself obvious, this thing’s been hanging around, and based on what happened when you tried to hold the wings in? It’s got a connection to you. It might even be looking for you. It might not be all here because the sacrifice wasn’t really complete. It got a lot of energy, blood energy, but not soul energy, the bigger part of a sacrifice.”


“Sammy, for Christ’s sake.”


“It’s big,” Sam said. “You already knew that, though, right? I mean, it could have been anything on the nonhuman scale but it makes sense that it’s something basic, something that was here first. It wasn’t what they were calling but it was probably hovering just under the surface anyway because of the stuff the elementals have been up to. All that struggling with each other for power. It makes sense that what we’ve seen is just the little guys, just the front wave. Too small and dumb to care about being seen by the mortals, trying to get the mortals to join in, it’s all kind of clumsy while the bigger guys move around out of sight.”


“They’ve never felt all that little,” Dean murmured. “So, what, one of the bigger elementals decided to wander in and take stock? C’mon already.”


“No,” Sam said. “I think it’s a Watchtower. And I’m pretty sure I know what quarter.”


Dean finally looked at him steadily, making sure the surprise stayed off his face. “You have to be kidding. There isn’t really – “


“Yeah, there is,” Sam said. “It’s just the top of the elemental food chain, that’s all. The ones that come with warnings in every damn book on it. If they’re at war, this is how it gets decided on this side – with one of the big ones manifesting and drawing all the others.”


Dean sat up and looked at him for a long moment, taking in his worry. “So assuming you’ve got the right critter, what do we do to get rid of it?”


“Everything I’ve found so far says it takes more blood to put it back,” Sam said. “To excuse it. That’s what it says. Human blood. Okay? There’s no other way.”


“How much, then?” Dean said. “We can probably just – “


“The same amount it took to raise it,” Sam said.


Dean looked at him, realizing why Sam was so upset. “I don’t suppose we can hit a blood bank or something, huh.”


Sam shook his head. “It’s about reversing the same ritual. It’s not just the blood, it’s the sacrifice.”


Dean rubbed at his forehead. “I can think of a couple of really annoying people who would make an awesome sacrifice,” he said.


Sam’s voice was low and rough. “It isn’t funny, Dean.”


Dean shook his head. “Guess not.” He was careful not to look at Sam. “Willing or unwilling?” he said.


“A willing sacrifice is more powerful,” Sam said. “You already know that. But in the end, either one gets it done.”


The idea that hit Dean then might as well have been a light in the room. It had to have been visible on his face, because Sam said, “What.”


Dean finally looked at him. “If I can get the wings to come out, I’ll come back.”


When Sam caught on, there was a moment of stunned amazement on his face. Then he took two strides to get to Dean, grabbing him with both hands and shaking him. “No. No!”


“I helped raise it,” Dean said, not bothering to raise his own hands to defend himself or shake Sam off. “Not a hell of a lot of other options, Sam.”


“You’re willing to do that again,” Sam stated flatly, releasing Dean as quickly as he’d grabbed him. “It’s okay if someone cuts your throat and lets you bleed to death in another circle. Really? Who the hell is gonna do it, Dean? Who?


Dean kept looking at him but wasn’t paying much attention to him. He was already plotting. “We just gotta raise her,” he said. “That’s the easy part. It’s the banishing – “


“Her,” Sam echoed. “Jesus Christ, Dean.” He walked away, raking his hands through his hair.


Her. Dean hadn’t realized it before, but saying it aloud made it sound right. It had given him an idea of gender.


“Nobody knows what a Watchtower really is,” Dean said. “It’s a lot of speculation.”


“So you think it’s some big coincidence that after all the other elemental shit, this thing just happened to wander in under the right circumstances, and has nothing to do with it?” Sam said without looking at him. “Really? ‘Cause that’s more denial than even you’re usually capable of.”


Dean didn’t retort, just watched the muscles of Sam’s back.


Sam turned back to him and came close again, intent on him. “If you’ve got a Watchtower tied to you, this is bad. Really, really fucking bad.”


“Then we’d better do something pretty goddamn severe to get it back wherever the hell it belongs, before something else happens,” Dean said.


“Yeah,” Sam said, tone suddenly twisting down into open mockery. “First off, getting the wings out. You’re done with the cycle, if you hadn’t noticed, and you never had that much control over them anyway. You’re really considering a replay of the same ritual, with the idea of pulling a goddamn Watchtower to us?”


“The elementals said sacrifice,” Dean said. “Remember, when we were tripping, right after the tornado? Like we got set up for all this. Just because we said we wouldn’t play doesn’t mean we aren’t doing it anyway.”


Sam seemed to back down a little without moving, and Dean knew he was running that little detail over and filtering the rest of everything through it.


“They’re not that Machiavellian, “ Sam said. “They’re too basic for that kind of patience. They tried to drown us and bury us – “


“Which would have worked, too,” Dean said. “But in the end, it was a lot better for them when I got grabbed by other humans and put to good use. I’m the one who was walking around wearing a couple of really obvious flags showing what I’d run into. I’m just glad they can’t really see you.”


Sam looked at him for a moment, really looked at him in a way that Dean never liked or got used to. It was a knowing look.


“If she gets anywhere near you,” Sam said, “Chances are she’ll try for the rest of what she didn’t get the first time. You were offered to it, whether that was the whole intent or not. I doubt she’s just laying low. She’s probably in between.”


“So which one is it?” Dean said.


“East,” Sam said. “I’m pretty sure.”


“Then we find out everything we need to know about that quarter and figure out if there’s another way to ask a Watchtower to fuck off,” Dean said.


“Watchtowers are supposed to be stirred,” Sam said. “Asked, quietly and carefully, to look in, or pay attention. No one’s supposed to yank them in. That’s what the problem is, and probably why everybody died the moment it touched down.”


“So if that’s what the elementals wanted in the first place, then this would be checkmate,” Dean said. “You get one of the really big players onto another plane, you win that plane.”


Sam’s voice was low and rough as he leaned in a little further. “You manage to accidentally mix the planes by getting one of the locals to absorb an elemental’s powers, then sacrifice that local to the higher cause, you get everything.”


They stared at each other from a little closer than good sense usually allowed.


Sam turned away and lowered himself onto the edge of the bed, back turned to Dean.


“What the hell would they want with this part of existence anyway?” Dean said softly.


“They’re still arguing over who’s in charge,” Sam said wearily. “Anywhere the elements actually exist has got to be a good place to grab. There’s just...there’s no way they meant this. A fucking Watchtower. The little things can punch their way through and get stuck on one side or the other, but something that big has to be torn through, and it’ll have left a mess somewhere. If it’s stuck between, then sooner or later it’ll be more of a mess. We’re in way, way over our heads.”


“Then we find somebody who knows more about it than we do,” Dean said. “C’mon, Sam. We’ve...shit, dealt with fallen angels.”


“Something above and separate,” Sam said. “Not something the planet’s made of. It can tear this whole place apart if we screw this up.”


Dean sighed and swung his legs over the side to sit on the other side of the bed from Sam. Backs to each other, they sat in silence for a long moment.


“Bobby will know somebody,” Dean said. “He mentioned somebody, awhile ago. We’ll just figure this out, like we always do. Maybe if we just leave it stuck between – “


Sam twisted and grabbed the back of Dean’s shirt, jerking him back on the bed faster than he could counter, laying him flat across it and leaning across his chest. “You’re missing the part about how it’s connected to you,” Sam said to Dean’s startled face with far too much calm for what he’d just done. “Maybe it wiggles loose on its own, maybe it gets help, maybe it finds a way to get to you because you’re the last thing it needs to get free. You think I’m gonna risk that? I’m not sacrificing you, even to save the goddamn world.”


Dean blinked up at him, too surprised for once to respond. Sam’s heart thrummed against his ribcage close to his own, just as intimate as anything else they’d recently been up to.


Sam straightened, cupping the side of Dean’s face in one hand and trailing fingers along his throat as he rolled up and away.


-|-


The room got too small after that. Dean went for a drink. Sam followed.


-|-


It only took Dean about twenty minutes to get a little buzzed and really start something.


Sam wasn’t sure exactly when it started, when things shifted from plain antagonism to blatant aggression, but the difference was enough to see as well as sense.


It didn’t matter what really started it; Dean had been messing with anybody within earshot since coming in the door, and it was nothing new or different. It was what he did. As a result, he was ignored or challenged or flirted with, and in each case it was what he wanted anyway. He was hustling at the pool tables and making a general exhibition of it, grinning, using a tone of voice that was a little too jocular, a half step above mocking. Sam had heard it too many times, watched him go through the same motions and be successful at it to pay attention, usually. For some reason, he felt like watching instead of wandering off to tuck himself into a corner and look for a case or take another stab at reinterpreting what he’d already read on elementals.


Maybe he felt a little possessive. He could keep that to himself, along with the sense that he was entitled to it.


If he was honest with himself, that was fine.


Dean was circling one table, saying something to three guys against the wall that Sam couldn’t hear. He didn’t need to. Dean’s body language said he was spoiling for a fight, and Sam leaned up from a slouch. He knew damn well Dean had been in that kind of mood all day, even before the argument at the motel, and it was Dean’s way of getting rid of the tension. Everyone else stopped what they were doing, darts or other games of pool, and watched the little drama begin to unfold at Dean’s table. Sam stood but stayed where he was, making a show of pulling his jeans up higher but actually checking his gun. He still couldn’t hear what was being said over the ESPN montage that was yelling out of the speakers of three different flat screens. He didn’t have to. Dean had added an extra something to the tilt of his head and the set of his shoulders, something that was echoed in the guys against the wall and two others by the bar. The guy Dean had been playing put his stick down across the table and braced his hands against the side, eyes tracking Dean with an unblinking challenge.


They didn’t realize Dean wasn’t there alone. Sam was fairly sure of that. Still, they were holding off on coming straight after him because for once not everybody was drunk, and there was enough intelligence left among the group to see past Dean’s smirk. Not everybody was quick enough to save themselves the trouble by really looking in Dean’s eyes. Under the smirk and the smart mouth was enough rage to warn off anyone with just enough sense and self preservation to take the hint. Plus, Dean was a pretty fair-sized guy...when not standing next to Sam.


When one of the guys by the bar came toward Dean, headed straight for his back, Sam put two fingers in his mouth and whistled.


Every head in the place looked toward his corner but Dean’s.


Sam jerked a thumb at the guy who had been headed for Dean, adding a jerk of the chin. Back off.


The standoff held for an instant longer, glances shooting around the room, and Sam realized they really weren’t just going to walk out amid threats and posturing; whatever Dean had started at the table was enough to constitute a throw down.


Dean finally glanced at him, and Sam threw him a signal: two fingers against his chest. Two on the wall, carrying. Dean winked at him, the bastard, then turned and hit the guy who’d been about to crowd up behind him.


Sam heard himself curse even over the resulting noise, and ran into the middle of it.


-|-


Dean hadn’t been in a good barfight in a while. A really good barfight could clear the senses. Plus, it gave him a chance to hit something tangible, since he couldn’t get his hands on anything else chasing them at the moment.


He knew he was being an asshole. That wouldn’t have changed whether Sam was there to back him up or not. He hadn’t been able to settle down since the argument with Sam, and he wasn’t accustomed to jittering. The extra energy had to go somewhere, and he didn’t want to hit Sam anytime soon or maybe ever again no matter what came out of that annoying mouth of his. The world was fucked up as it was anyway, he was sleeping with his brother and couldn’t resist, couldn’t protect himself or Sam from the bullshit that was pulling them in, couldn’t find a way of keeping Sam from having to suffer from whatever was grabbing him every Sabbat, and he wanted somebody to knock sense into him for a minute or twenty. He could think again, over the noise in his head, if somebody would just pound it out of him.


Sex had nothing to do with love.


Nobody liked being told that they looked like their father hadn’t been able to find the right hole while fucking their mother. Dean was pretty sure about that. Also, being accused of handling a pool cue as badly as they probably handled their own dick was a way to make friends and influence people. The topper was discovering that two of the guys were brothers. People don’t like it when you insinuate that they’re fucking their brother. Especially not while you’re laughing just a little too hard over it, like maybe you’re an inch from hysteria. Nobody moved on him, though, just kept waiting for him to up the ante, waiting for the last straw, and he hadn’t been able to figure out why. Sometimes people held back because Sam was standing at his shoulder, and who could blame them? Open, gentle face, dimples, floppy college-boy hair with little curls at the ends, for Christ’s sake, but big enough to really put people off all the same.


He heard Sam whistle and didn’t look at him, let the sound do what it was meant to. The place froze. He hadn’t felt the guy behind him approach, hadn’t seen it in the eyes of the guys he was facing. Hadn’t wanted to.


He glanced at Sam and read him loud and clear. He already knew who was carrying in the room, Sam didn’t need to tell him. Sam, off in the corner with a warning on his face that wasn’t meant for anybody but the guy behind, not asking Dean if he really wanted to start something there and then, not throwing him any pleading looks. A good fight was probably what he needed, too.


So Dean grinned and popped the guy behind him with a right hook, nearly laid him out right there.


None of them were that good. Or they just didn’t fight often enough to keep sharp, not nearly as often as Dean did. Somebody tried to hit him with a chair, like it was the goddamn movies or something, but the chair slipped in their hands and the most he got was a glancing blow with one of the legs across his back. Seven guys in all, and Dean waded in because the water was fine. He tossed another guy over one of the pool tables before he took one on the temple, which was harder on the idiot doing the hitting. Sam shoved somebody to his left, doing more shoving and damage control than anything else. Then somebody finally connected, nailing him right in the mouth, and Dean stumbled into the side of one of those stupid golf video games.


When they grabbed Sam, when they ganged up on him with intent and held him down and one of them drew a fist back, Dean saw the kind of red that didn’t let him even pull his gun. Sam had been hit before, right in front of his brother, and Dean had reacted in kind as fast as the laws of physics would allow, but this wasn’t the same. Sam was big and that made him a target, made people think they had to overdo it, and five against one made the inside of Dean’s head feel seven kinds of murderous.


He had killed before, for that very thing.


Something broke through the almost complete loss of higher brain function for a moment, something that felt like he’d been shot in the back, something that crushed the breath out of him and tore through his bones, slammed him to the floor, but he was already up and moving again with a single-minded rage, teeth bared and hands seeking throats.


He barreled into the middle of it, attacking on instinct and using everything that had been ingrained by a lifetime of training. A well-placed elbow here, a foot there, a handful of hair and the peculiar sound it made when two human heads were knocked together with more force than was strictly necessary. Then he was standing over Sam, feet straddling his form on the floor. He didn’t realize that people were scrambling away from him as fast as they could, or that the guy whose fist had been ready to hit Sam a second time wasn’t fighting him as he locked his hands around the guy’s throat.


The guy was screaming, screaming the same way that idiot who’d burst into Bobby’s in the middle of the night had, mortal terror of the unknown. It was reduced to a hoarse rasp, a whistling shriek as Dean’s hands closed his air off. The guy was scrabbling at his hands, eyes bugging, nails digging into Dean’s skin in a panic, down on his knees, no leverage to use to get away.


Dean heard Sam’s voice, finally, shouting at him to stop, reaching up with one hand to lock around a wrist because the other hand was pointing his gun into the space between Dean’s spread legs, at the rest of the room, voice dropping in tone but not volume as he warned somebody to put it down.


The hand on his wrist didn’t do anything but momentarily distract him. The guy in his grip was going purple and had managed to slice right into the skin of Dean’s hands with his nails, blood trailing along his wrists and onto the floor. Sam’s hand slipped off his wrist and Sam scooted back further, back against the wall, and then the entire world tilted on him; warmth and light and sound crowded back in, the taste of air, pleasure crawling up his spine and countering whatever had torn through him moments earlier. The rest of his sanity returned when Sam raised his gun off at an angle and fired into the ceiling.


He startled and dropped the nearly unconscious guy onto the floor.


The silence after the shot was ominous except for the ringing in his ears and the ragged gasps of the guy on the floor. Sam was trying to get to his feet, face pale and damp with sweat, eyes darting from spot to spot behind Dean, gun held out in unspoken threat. A thin thread of blood wound from his nose, complementing a split lower lip. He pushed himself up along the wall, and Dean tried to straighten, back stiff and sore on a level he couldn’t remember feeling before. He couldn’t seem to clear his head, and he knew he should have felt something over what he’d just done, but it didn’t come. People were staring, no one closer than a good fifteen feet away, all looking at Dean.


He held out a hand to help Sam up, tried to turn.


Feathers crowded into his vision.


-|-


The aftermath began in the parking lot as they headed for the car. Fast.


“Jesus fucking Christ, Dean,” Sam said. “Jesus. Fuck.


Dean didn’t say anything. He didn’t get it, didn’t understand how the hell it was possible, how he’d just done what he shouldn’t have been able to.


He tucked the wings down and back, and launched himself into the back seat face down. Sam started the car and peeled out.


“There was a guy on the other side of the pool table that was getting ready to shoot you in the back,” Sam said, voice ridden with anxiety. “I almost...Jesus, I almost shot him just for pointing a gun at you.”


Dean was silent. He had nothing to offer except that, whatever had gotten into him, it had gotten into Sam too. Only it wasn’t windy and they were nowhere near a Sabbat.


“Are you okay?” Sam said. “Dean?”


“I don’t know,” Dean said finally.


“What the hell does that mean?” Sam said.


“Give me a minute, here,” Dean said.


“I had to grab a wing to get your attention,” Sam said. “That’s...what the fuck happened to you?”


“I don’t know how they got out,” Dean said.


“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Sam said. “We’ve been in way too many barfights and you never tried to kill anybody.”


“I liked it better when you were just swearing,” Dean said. The sound of Sam’s voice was driving him nuts, made him want to reach over the seat and put his hands down Sam’s shirt, make him pull over and irretrievably traumatize the locals.


“We gotta get to Bobby’s,” Sam said, breathless. “Get out of sight.”


Dean wasn’t going to argue with that. They had to get somewhere and lay low until they figured out what had happened, or at least figured out how to get the wings to vanish.


“Get back to the motel for now,” Dean said. He hurt everywhere, and it wasn’t from the couple of hits he hadn’t been able to duck.


“And do what, wait for light, so somebody can get another look at you?” Sam said.


“I’m not hiding out back here all night while we try to make it to Bobby’s,” Dean said. “They’ll be gone soon anyway.”


Maybe.


Sam didn’t respond, so Dean used the silence to try and figure out what the hell it meant if the wings were appearing just because he’d gotten ramped up enough to lose his temper. It was bad news if getting emotional was all it took. There had to be more to it - proximity to something, a certain set of circumstances, the moon phase. Some excuse. He was supposed to be done.


He dropped his forehead to the leather of the seat and tried to will them back in. He tried to relax and imagine them just vanishing.


That wasn’t going to work. He was still ready to pound someone or something into a floor somewhere. Worse? He was kind of thinking of finding a high place and diving, just to have a chance to use the wings.


The leather creaked under the strain when he clenched his hands into it.


When the car came to a stop, it was damn lucky it turned out to be parked behind the motel, because Dean didn’t give a shit if it was somebody’s yard or a four way stop or a major intersection in front of a twenty-four hour supermall. He fumbled the back passenger door open and went out headfirst, bracing his hands on the gravel and dragging himself out before Sam could get all the way out of the car.


His boots hit the roof of the car and Sam startled, staring up at him, face cast into shadow by the wings when they blocked out the pathetic excuse for a safety light that was flickering above him. Dean hopped down and barreled into Sam, who was ready for it.


Sam had wiped the blood off his face and his nose had quit bleeding, but he still tasted of blood anyway when Dean got a fistful of the hair on the back of Sam’s head and pressed their mouths together like Sam had the only air he was going to get for days. Sam stepped into it, hands reaching to work at the tattered shirts that were trying to hang on even after being ripped apart by the wings. They were both shaking, and Sam started to murmur something against his mouth about getting inside, breathless and completely lacking any kind of force. Sam, who dressed in so many goddamn layers and wouldn’t so much as show his goddamn forearms in public most days, much less fuck his (winged) brother ten steps from a parking lot, with the possibility of people walking by at any second.


They didn’t make it inside.


This was not accidental. Adrenaline and testosterone and beer were a good mix for greenlighting damn near anything. Throw in wings-that-weren’t and a little sublimated aggression, and it was all on.


Sam tore Dean’s already ruined t-shirt the rest of the way and dropped it on the ground. Dean got his hands under Sam’s shirts and flattened them against Sam’s too-warm ribs, hands clenching into fists and hips jerking forward when Sam went for a double handful of secondary feathers. He meant to do more, but ended up breathing open mouthed against Sam’s throat and hanging on for dear life. It was a relief, like he’d been waiting for nothing more than that, for Sam to touch.


No more talking, no more debating about how smart it was to play grabass in the open air, just Sam unable to let go of his wings and a loss of balance that should have broken them up but only ended up with Dean in Sam’s lap again. Not quite enough friction, maddeningly close, and it was enough just to grab him with both hands and hold on, hold on before he faded into something else or the wind really did whisper him away. Sam was more impermanent than the costume feathers he was holding, blood-sweet and bitter salt, scent of cordite, planes and angles so familiar, his for an instant between his teeth. Sam, whispering something against his temple that was soothing and frantic, something Dean could almost catch the details of except that the gist was all that mattered. Sam’s hands told him everything, and he wanted to ask what the hell Sam got in return but he already knew; Sam was inside. 


He didn’t mind.


They didn’t get any other clothes off. Nothing left but brief moments of rocking against one another and soft panting against skin, wings curled in and pressing for more contact. Orgasm was an afterthought for once, a physical response to something deeper that didn’t taper off, but it damn near blinded him for a moment all the same. He drew his fingers through the sweat on Sam’s neck, raked them through his hair, found his mouth again and wondered how Sam could taste so goddamn good.


It was Sam who got them to their feet again, Sam who was making soft little sounds under his breath, needy and descending to a growl; Sam who wrestled them toward their room without losing contact. It was after midnight, and quiet, and anyone who saw them wasn’t going to believe what they were seeing anyway. Key in the lock, door slamming against the wall behind, way too much noise and only barely aware of it; Sam let go of him long enough to strip layers off and unbutton his jeans, leaving the door open. When he knelt down and unbuttoned Dean’s jeans for him, it startled Dean into holding still, one moment of sanity, giving Sam a chance to back away. The rest of his breath left him when Sam shoved him onto the closest bed and crawled onto it with him, caging him, hands cradling his head and kissing so rough and careful. Wingtips along Sam’s ribcage, the resulting shiver so easily felt. So easy to let Sam just strip him the rest of the way, cool air, the heat of Sam’s mouth just below his navel, long wet stripe along his abs and one long finger suddenly in his ass, shocking him into curling the wings in.


He shouldn’t have been hard again already, recovering way too fast and lightheaded with it. Sam shouldn’t have been able to grab his hips and jerk him further down the bed that easily, or flip him onto his stomach. Straddling his hips, teeth in the back of his neck, hands gripping a wealth of feathers. Dean bucked against the comforter, too turned on to do more or care.


He remembered, for an instant, a brief fantasy involving the girls at that Halloween party, the first time the wings had appeared, fucking one while another held on to his wings, and he wanted to laugh.


He didn’t care if it was the other way around, didn’t care what happened so long as it was Sam.


One hand in his feathers and two spit-slick fingers crooking in his ass, Sam’s dick heavy along his lower back, and he was digging his hands into the blankets and making noises he’d never own up to, vision whiting out at the third finger. Welcome burn and then Sam inside in some lesser way, the physical so temporary but just as real. Weight along his back, both hands deep in feathers and Sam’s mouth panting rough and damp against the spot at one shoulder where soul met skin, whispering, owning. Sam was still fighting someone, somewhere, thrusting deep and fast, losing control and rhythm and coming with a hoarse cry muffled against the skin between Dean’s shoulderblades.


Dean never realized that he’d stopped breathing. It was secondary to the fact that he’d been doing what he only dimly recognized as coming since Sam had put both hands in his feathers and started whispering into them.


He was burning, nothing but a spark of consciousness centering on hands kneading rough into not-feathers, locked in place. Dying, blissed out and whole.


Air, sweet and harsh and making his chest ache when it was dragged back in, the world too bright and out of synch, Sam’s hands on either side of his head, fear in his voice. Chest to chest, wrapped in a blanket of feathers, better than whole.


The wind pulled the door closed.


-|-


“Some of our clothes are in the parking lot,” Dean said.


It was eight the next morning. They had been sleeping like the dead.


Sam went on pretending to be asleep. Dean knew he wasn’t really out because of the pattern of his breathing.

 

“Sam, you whore. Some of our clothes are outside.”


“Just the stuff that’s beyond repair,” Sam said, voice muffled by his pillow.


Dean didn’t give a rat’s ass about the clothes. He was trying to figure out if the wings had come out before or after midnight, and he just wasn’t sure. If it was before, then shouldn’t the wings have vanished at midnight? Or did he have until the next midnight? Maybe it didn’t work that way for once because it wasn’t a Sabbat. He was not going to be stuck with the damn wings for the rest of his life. He wasn’t going to resort to being allowed out only after dark.


Getting Sam to talk to him centered his thoughts, a little, even if it was just sleepy muttering.


“Where the hell did you learn to do that?” Dean said, and by the way Sam’s shoulders tensed, he knew exactly which that Dean was talking about.


When Sam didn’t respond verbally, Dean decided he didn’t actually want to pursue that line of discussion. He was better off not knowing the details. He didn’t even really want to get into how things had come to that between them, either.


He got up and shook the wings out. They seemed heavier, and didn’t sit quite right. Or at least they didn’t balance the way he remembered. It had never hurt, before, when they’d appeared, so that confirmed that they weren’t happy to be there.


Maybe he just needed to get used to the weight, again.


He heard Sam roll up onto one elbow behind him. He let him stare for a moment.


“I’m gonna call Bobby,” Dean said, then headed for the bathroom.


-|-


Midnight came and went again, and the wings stayed.


-|-


Bobby looked at them both across his table and shook his head. It had been enough of a struggle to get Dean into the house at all, at first. Kid was already tired of riding in the back of the car, of letting Sam drive, of having to keep the wings folded. They weren’t meant to be folded. Assuming they were meant to be out at all.


They all agreed that it was time to bring in some extra assistance.


Something else had gone on between the brothers, but Bobby wasn’t sure what it was. They both had marks on their faces, recent blows, and he was fairly sure they hadn’t traded them with each other. They weren’t really looking at each other, for starters. Neither of them were fidgeters, but they were both fussing in place, pulling at loose tablecloth threads and picking at cuticles.


“So who the hell specializes in just one thing?” Dean said. “Elementals.”


“You two pretty much specialize in demons,” Bobby said. “Or they specialize in you, maybe.”


Dean rolled his eyes. “Who is this guy?”


“Keith’s a good guy,” Bobby said. “From Kansas, like you two. Grew up in the tornado belt. His dad was a meteorologist, storm chaser, one of those guys trying to get enough info on tornadoes to improve the amount of warning people get.” He looked pointedly at Sam. “Got really into it, started taking his boy with him. His mother didn’t care for that, so they split when Keith was young. He started riding with his dad full time during the summers when he was a teenager. Was in the truck with him when they got blindsided by what the weather service called a micro-tornado. There was speculation about what it really was, downdraft or twister or just a freak accident, but it flipped the truck and killed his dad.”


“Jesus,” Dean said, slumping in his chair.


“Keith had a concussion, so nobody was inclined to take any of his talk seriously about the tornado being ‘alive’.”


“So this has probably been going on a lot longer than we thought,” Sam said. “All this has just been...the acceleration.”


“And maybe it was just another air elemental buying it in midair that caused the accident,” Dean said. “So this guy does know, about all this.”


Dean was trying to say he’s not just some poser who’s been doing a lot of reading and believes he’s some kind of expert.


“More than that,” Bobby said. “He’s seen ‘em, firsthand, and knows how to get their attention in the right ways. The air elementals, anyway. Knows more than anyone about how to deal with it when they’re around, how to placate them. Get them to move on. Kid’s out of the country a lot, so it’s been hard to get hold of him, but he’s thinking about settling down with Ellen Harvelle’s daughter, and I was able to get a message to him through the roadhouse. He’ll be here as soon as he can. So you two cool your heels in the meantime and get some rest. Stay inside.”


He ignored the glare that Dean shot him.


-|-


Not that hard to spend a day apart, for once. Dean didn’t stay inside, but he also didn’t go anywhere near the road. Bobby watched Sam and Dean touch base with each other every so often, one making a random beeline for the other long enough to stare, make a comment, and wander away again.


Midnight came and went again, and found the boys curled up together in the guest room, blankets kicked aside in favor of feathers.


-|-


Bobby put Rove upstairs to avoid getting the dog riled up by the number of people that would be in the house. When the sun was well up, Dean sat out back on the steps, feeling the need for more room, and heard the car coming way down the road.


He ducked his head around the corner of the house and watched a tall, skinny guy roughly his own age get out of an old mustard-colored Volvo. Strike one; chick car. Long, angular face, spiked brown hair a few shades lighter than Sam’s. He looked too harmless to be more than a geek. Fine. A geek was pretty much what they needed then anyway. He wasn’t even carrying, that Dean could see; strike two, unless of course he felt he didn’t need to go into Bobby’s house armed. What kind of hunter was this guy?


A specialist.


Yeah, whatever.


He circled around the house once their visitor went inside, hopped up onto the front porch behind while the door was still open. The guy paused in greeting Bobby, turning at the sound. The look on his face through the screen door was as priceless as Dean had hoped it would be. What he didn’t expect was the moment of something that looked a lot like regret in deep brown eyes.


Dean watched him swing the screen door back open. They stared each other for a moment, and Dean didn’t take offense at the careful visual examination he got.


“Dean,” Bobby said from inside, “Why don’t you get your ass in the house?”


The visitor stepped back, and Dean tucked his wings down to come inside. He hadn’t realized that he’d had them half raised. The four of them stood looking at each other for a long moment.


“I feel like maybe I should genuflect,” Keith said.


“Hey, feel free,” Dean said. “Try and draw the line at trying for altar boy, though, huh?”


Keith grinned. Sam’s expression immediately switched from a watchful interest to annoyance. Keith held a hand out to first Dean, then Sam. “Keith Ryan. I finally get to meet the famous Winchesters.”


“Famous,” Sam said flatly.


“Nobody gets into the level of stuff you guys do,” Keith said. He gestured at the wings. “Case in point.”


“You look kinda like Ryan Reynolds,” Dean said.


Keith’s eyebrows went up a fraction. “Uh...okay?”


“That tickle that you’re feeling in the back of your throat right now?” Dean said. “That’s atomized colloidal silver. It’s being pumped through the building’s air conditioning system, you cock-juggling thundercunt!


Sam turned and looked at him in horror. Keith left his eyebrows up expectantly.


“Blade Trinity?” Dean said, grin beginning to fade slightly. “Hannibal King? Come on, everybody’s seen that one.”


They kept staring at him. Sam was giving him the standard cannot believe you look. Bobby just shook his head a little.


“How about you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?” Dean quoted cheerfully.


“That’s ten times more disturbing from a guy with your wingspan,” Keith said.


Sam’s expression had slid downhill into going to kill you.


Dean clapped his hands together. “Okay, then. Anyway.”


Keith glanced at Sam. Sam’s face was mildly apologetic.


“So tell me the whole thing,” Keith said.


-|-


Keith Ryan warmed to his subject quicker than anyone else the boys had ever met. It was a hell of a lot more than a job, to him.


“The last time in recorded history that they were noisy enough on a wide enough scale to get human attention was the 1430's,” he said. “The last time things were in the right place to try this. Nobody was ever hit with...well.” He cleared his throat. “I mean, nobody was sprouting wings or anything. I’m pretty sure they would have been worshiped or burned at the stake, and that would have made it into someone’s account.”


“Accede or abjure,” Sam said. “They asked us in the language of that time if we’d take sides. So I was right – it’s because that was the last time they ran into humans.”


“They talked to you?” Keith said. The incredulity in his tone was youthful enough to make Dean smirk. “In words you could understand?”


“They can’t seem to shut up,” Dean said. “Mouthy little bastards.”


They told Keith about the semi-dream after the tornado, about the shambler that had decided to sit up and talk, then about the fire.


“Water’s mostly interested in drowning us,” Dean said. “We don’t hear much from that side. So either water’s interested in keeping the air faction in charge, or it’s just not smart enough to do more than try and drown anybody who’s walking around covered in elemental guts.”


“Water’s smarter than that,” Keith said. “Not the best at communication, but better at it than earth usually is.” He turned to Dean. “If anything manages to really damage the wings, or cut them off, you’re gone. You know that, right?”


Dean hazarded a glance at Sam, who managed to look fearful and smug at the same time. “I, uh...”


“You got hit by an elemental and lived. People don’t do that. Solid, mortal people don’t do that. Trust me. You should have been gone, then and there. You got hit with something that’s basically made from the same stuff everything – including you – is made of, but in a really concentrated and singular form. It can separate its own element from others, meaning it probably took all the oxygen out of your blood, and based on the lore, your soul would have been knocked right out of you. So either it was a really weak elemental to begin with, or you’ve got an anchor. Some people...have anchors.”


Dean had been pacing for the last several minutes, and paused to stare at the guy like he was nuts. “Why the hell would I have an anchor?”


“Like if you’re so bonded to the world or to a particular person that you can’t just be kicked loose easily,” Keith said. “It’s kind of like when spirits hang around after death because of unfinished business, except a lot stronger. Love’s a really good anchor, if the other soul or souls are a good match.”


Dean glanced over Keith’s shoulder to look at Sam. They locked eyes and held. Bobby glanced between them, and finally Keith looked over his own shoulder at Dean.


“They’ve gotta kill you first,” Bobby said to Sam. “You’re the anchor. Once you’re gone, she’ll just swallow him whole. Once she figures that out...you have to be careful.”


Sam dropped his eyes. Dean was staring at him with more understanding than Sam could handle right then.


It was far too silent in the kitchen for several seconds.


“So why didn’t it just kill me?” Sam said. “When I got hit.”


Keith shook his head. “I don’t know. Made of just the right stuff, maybe, or the wrong stuff. Compatible enough to hold onto what you got hit with, or incompatible enough to ward off the worst of the effects. No offense, but what I wouldn’t give to see you do your thing. I mean, you’re as close as I’ll ever really get to an elemental in person.”


“You hang around long enough, you’ll probably see a hell of a lot of them,” Dean said. “We can’t seem to keep the fuckers off us. One run-in will cure you.”


Keith shook his head.


“Tell him about the tornado, Sam,” Dean said.


Sam glared at him.


Keith looked at Sam expectantly.


-|-


“I thought he was gonna hump your leg, for a moment there,” Dean said.


Sam didn’t think it was so funny. He hadn’t enjoyed relaying much of what had gone on, because hearing it out loud made it all far stranger than it already felt. Keith had been looking at him like he was some kind of eighth wonder, and Sam hated that even more.


Keith and Bobby were out in the garage working out what it would take to stave off a possible elemental insurgence. Sam had provided them with the books he’d taken from that house in Iowa, with all the original symbols used.


“At least he didn’t ask to...” Sam trailed off. He hadn’t meant to even begin that sentence. Keith had known what he was looking at the moment he’d laid eyes on Dean, and had been smart enough to resist the urge to touch.


Dean elbowed him.


“I’d have knocked him out,” Sam said. “Jesus, listen to me.”


Dean chuckled under his breath. “They’re gonna come to the same conclusion we did,” he said. “About what it’ll take to put that thing back, and seal us off from the whole mess.”


“Then they’ll be able to come up with something else, too,” Sam said. “Neither of them is going to suggest cutting your throat. There’ll be another way. Keith knows a hell of a lot more about this than we do, even if we’ve been in the middle of these damn things for almost a year.” He paused. “If not, I’ll think of something.”


“So what’s all the attitude for?” Dean said. “All the one-word answers and stuff. You hate him, or what? You’re usually the one who’s all about making best friends with whoever comes near you.”


“It’s just weird,” Sam said. “I hate feeling like a bug under glass. But I’m not the one yelling crazy movie quotes at him, either.”


“You’ve gotta tell him what else has been bugging you,” Dean said softly. “About...how it takes you over. There might be something we can do to make it easier to deal with until your year is up.”


“I can’t even really have that conversation with you,” Sam said. “How the hell do I tell some stranger?”


“Because he’s some stranger,” Dean said. “You’re never gonna see him again. It’s like with a shrink. You just sort of lay it out to somebody and get it over with, maybe they have some idea about it because they’re not so close to it.”


Sam shrugged. “What do you know about shrinks?”


“I watch TV,” Dean said. “Different, huh, to have the wings out when you’re not also in the middle of your whole thing. Just like at the very beginning.”


Sam kept his eyes on the table. “Yeah. I guess.”


Dean watched Sam’s hands, the way they were clasped together hard enough to keep the knuckles bloodless.


He wanted it to be the other way around, wanted to be Sam’s anchor, the thing that kept him grounded.


-|-


“First off,” Keith said at dinner, “It’s probably not a Watchtower.”


Sam had been justified in his worry when he’d first used that word with Keith and had seen him blanch.


“Takes more than the kind of sacrifice Dean went through, even though he’d been hit by an elemental.” He glanced at Dean. “No offense, dude.”


Dean shrugged. Keith’s eyes followed the motion it caused the wings to make as quickly and automatically as Sam’s eyes did. Bobby was carefully not looking.


“You’re still the best sacrifice anybody could hope for,” Keith added.


“I appreciate that,” Dean said.


Sam held his fork for a moment like he was thinking of putting it into someone.


“Watchtowers are, by most accounts, the spiritual guardians of the four cardinal points,” Keith continued. “There are all kinds of mutterings out there about whether they should ever be bothered, should they be called up in ritual, is it dangerous to bug them. Some Wiccans and even hardcore witch covens – not the same as Wiccans, by the way – won’t call them, under any circumstances. They’ve been called spirits of the ancestors, or demigods, just elemental guardians, or even Grigori in Italian witchcraft traditions.”


“Please, please don’t say Grigori,” Dean said wearily, pausing with his face turned down.


Keith looked at him for a moment, then said, “I forgot. I mean, I didn’t forget, because there’s no way I’d forget what you guys did. I just get wrapped up in all this stuff, that’s all. Some people want to classify them as or associate them with Grigori, but the behavior pattern’s not the same. You guys have proven that once and for all. Azazel. Anybody who can wrangle with a true Fallen can handle elementals and get away with it better than most.”


“Handling it real well so far,” Sam said. “If it’s not a Watchtower – and I’m glad to shove that idea aside, trust me – then what is it?”


“Probably a Watchtower guardian,” Keith said. “The Watchtowers themselves don’t function on the same level that linear beings do. They’re the first of everything, the common denominator. There’s no way they’re struggling with each other over this plane or that, trying to figure out who’s going to be the primary force this millennium. The lesser factions would do that. Don’t get me wrong – you’ve gotten the attention of something a lot bigger than you’ve already had to deal with. I’ve never seen or gotten a hint of a guardian, and I’ve been at this all my life. Everything you’ve told me makes me think it’s already angry, and now it’s stuck between planes of existence.” He poked at his plate, keeping his eyes down. “It might take the first opportunity it gets to punch all the way through. Dean, you’re the best way to do that. Those people made one hell of a mess. What they did can make something want what it can’t have, or never imagined.”


No one said anything for a long moment. They heard Rove snuffling at the door. He’d been in and out of the house throughout the day, checking on everyone, giving Dean’s wings a wide berth.


“So, we have to ask it to return to its original station,” Keith said softly.


“Ask,” Dean echoed.


“You don’t tell an elemental to do anything,” Keith said. “Nobody has that right. You have to ask. And you have to make what you’re asking more interesting than the alternative. I’ve got practice in that. Right now, you’re likely all it wants, since the deal it was offered was only partially acted on. Chances are, putting you in a very specific circle with very specific wards may be the only way to call it close enough to make an offer.”


“You wanna use him for bait,” Sam said flatly.


“You like the throat-cutting idea better?” Dean said.


It was obvious that Sam was trying to control his breathing.


“We gotta boot them out of here, Sam,” Dean said. “Make ‘em take their war somewhere else.”


“Before, you were the one who said it didn’t matter, that if they even were at war, it didn’t involve us,” Sam said.


Dean was silent.


“She’s gonna use you to pull herself the rest of the way over,” Sam said. “One way or another. Right? She’s a little closer because you forced the wings out and you were bleeding when you did it.”


Dean raised his eyebrows briefly and tilted his face a little. Sure, whatever.


Sam wasn’t sure who he startled more when he shot out of his chair and grabbed Dean out of his – himself, or everybody else at the table. The wings unfurled to full span in an automatic play for balance, so they were already spread out when Sam slammed Dean against the nearest wall.


“Maybe we should go ahead and drug you, and tie you down again, for the full effect,” Sam snarled between his teeth, ignoring how wide Dean’s eyes were.


“Sam, goddamnit,” Bobby said. He sounded shaken.


The wings curled in reflexively, nearly touching Sam.


“I’m pretty sure I can reproduce the knots they used,” Sam said. “I do have ‘em memorized.”


“We’re already in this,” Dean said. “You wanna deal with what’s left when they’re done, rather than try and head it off? Fine. Maybe they’ll convert you the rest of the way, since you’re half elemental already.”


Sam dropped his hands.


That was it. He hadn’t seen it before. How the hell had he not seen it?


“You don’t get to save me,” Sam said.


Dean centered his gaze over Sam’s shoulder in a show of patronizing annoyance.


“You don’t get to stand in some circle and offer yourself up just to keep me from falling the rest of the way in on the next Sabbat,” Sam said. “You wanna do this, then we do it together. We’ll both be bait.”


“She doesn’t want you,” Dean said.


“Somebody’s gotta take a run at her if it goes wrong,” Sam said. He glanced over his shoulder at Keith. “I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ll do the ritual, and I’ll guard him. Just show me what I need to know.”


Keith looked cowed for a moment.


“That’s gonna take awhile,” he said. “And there’s no point in even trying it until the next Sabbat. Things won’t be lined up correctly or thin enough between planes until then.”


Samhain.


-|-


“You done scaring the straights?” Dean said.


Sam didn’t respond.


He’d been sitting on the back steps since Keith had gone in to bed. He didn’t want to talk about any of it, or even think about it, for awhile. Keith had agreed to put him through a crash course the next day before heading back to Wisconsin, and he could put it all aside until then. Keith wanted badly to be there, when it all went down, and Sam had managed to feel rotten for asking him to step off.


He just wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Nothing between him and Dean was predictable, lately, and Sam was fairly certain that if he was in the throes of some kind of wind-fascination when it all happened, things were going to get weird fast. Faster than usual, anyway. He tended to get grabby where Dean was concerned, on a Sabbat, and it was going to cost him a lot more than just embarrassment if he couldn’t keep a lid on that in front of other people.


Plus, if it went bad, he didn’t want collateral damage.


He could feel Dean standing behind him on the steps, could feel the change in the air where wings were blocking the chill night breeze on either side.


“Gonna be great if I have to live with these things for another two weeks,” Dean said. “Not like we know how to get rid of them after the air-guardian or whatever’s gone, though.”


“It’s your own goddamn soul,” Sam snapped. “You can figure out how to get it to work.”


“Not really,” Dean said evenly, softer. “Not like you can.”


Sam squeezed his eyes shut and resisted the urge to get up and walk away. “Don’t feel like fighting with everybody anymore? ‘Cause you were really racking up points, the last couple of days.”


“See, with fighting, everybody gets it over with,” Dean said. “With getting bitchy, well, that goes on for days, huh Sam?”


“You know what?” Sam said. “Fuck you, Dean.”


“Yeah, I know,” Dean said. “You can cross that off your list. What do you want, a medal?”


Sam stood, careful not to come in contact with the wings as he did it.


Dean had the wings raised like he was either waiting for a blow to fall or intended to get a few in of his own. He was backlit by the lights inside, outline haloed, wings catching all of it and building on it as if the feathers were faceted. Dean had his hands in the hip pockets of his jeans, looking like he was trying not to react to the cold but couldn’t deal with the heat the wings put off anymore.


Sam stepped back, off the stairs and out of the circle of light. “C’mere,” he said.


Dean hesitated, and Sam couldn’t see it, but he could feel Dean’s mild surprise and the smirk that immediately followed it. “Not gonna risk getting any blood on Bobby’s stairs when you break my nose?” he said.


“Quit being an ass and c’mere,” Sam said. “I’m gonna try something.”


Dean hesitated a moment more, then stepped off the stairs, using the wings for balance and leverage. He came within a foot of Sam in the dark, wings a visible and glaring white even without direct light.


“You broke whatever it is that was holding you in,” Sam said softly, leaning in to speak. “Broke it to where you can get the wings to stay in when they’re not supposed to, and haul them out when they’re not ready to come. You got so pissed off, you basically had an out of body experience. What the hell made you so mad?”


Dean shrugged with a whisper of feathers. “Bunch of dumb rednecks.”


“Right,” Sam said. “Not until somebody hit me. You can’t do stuff like that. Not if it means...” he trailed off and gestured at the wings. “Anywhere, anytime.”


“So you want me to stay perfectly calm the rest of my life?” Dean said. “Is that it?”


“You’re freaking out,” Sam said. “You’ve been at a lower level of freaking out since before the last Sabbat, and the fight at the bar was just a...peak. Is it me? Am I...pushing you, or something?”


“No,” Dean said. “Sam...”


“Do you want me to back off? Is it the whole ‘I don’t see you’ thing again? Because you didn’t have wings when I – “


No, Sam,” Dean said sharply. “It’s not you. Okay? Who wouldn’t be freaked out? I mean, if I was, which I’m not.”


They stood and breathed on each other for a long moment. Dean kept his hands in his pockets and Sam laced his fingers behind his own head.


“I’d tell you if I thought maybe you should keep your giant mutant paws to yourself,” Dean said finally.


“Bullshit,” Sam said. “You’ll take it wherever you can get it. Whore.”


You’re the whore,” Dean said. “You...whore.”


“Fine,” Sam said.


“Fine.”


“Turn around,” Sam said.


“Huh?”


“Turn around.”


“We’ve already christened Bobby’s yard once,” Dean said. “Now’s not a good time.”


“Shut up and turn around and blank your thoughts,” Sam said.


Dean stared at what little he could see of Sam’s dark face for a moment. Then he shrugged and complied.


Sam wrapped his arms around Dean from behind, tugging him back against his chest and holding him there. He tucked his chin over Dean’s shoulder. “Eyes closed,” he said. “Just relax. You want the wings out, they’ll stay out. They vanish the same way, probably. They’re yours, so if you want them hidden again, you have to work at it.”


“Sam,” Dean said, tensing, “This is hippie, yogurt-eating mind over matter bullshit.”


“What’re you gonna lose trying it?” Sam said.


“This is cuddling,” Dean said darkly.


“Which is so, so much worse than anything,” Sam said. “Shut the fuck up and concentrate.”


“I already tried this, like, a hundred times in the car,” Dean said.


“By yourself,” Sam said, resting his mouth on the back of Dean’s neck.


Dean huffed a sigh that held a shiver at the edges. But he stood, less tense a degree at a time, leaning back into Sam a little. Sam rested his head alongside Dean’s, waiting until their breathing fell into synch, until the wings relaxed far enough to brush the grass. Sam reached under Dean’s shirt and splayed a hand out over his heart.


Neither of them got cold in the minutes that followed, and Dean seemed perfectly content to tip his head back onto Sam’s shoulder. Sam hummed a little in the deepest register of his voice, trying not to sway so that Dean wouldn’t get distracted and accuse him of dancing.


When Dean’s knees buckled, Sam’s arms tightened automatically until he righted himself again. Then Sam ran his hands across Dean’s shoulderblades and down his back, unimpeded.


Dean shook his head and straightened. “What’d you – “ He twisted around a little and Sam could tell he was trying to lift the wings only to discover that they weren’t there.


“Just let it go, Dean,” Sam said. “Sometimes, you gotta learn to just let it go.” He clapped Dean on one shoulder, then leaned around and kissed him, quick and solid, before walking back toward the house.


-|- -|- -|-