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cri de cœur | chapter five

  • Jun. 19th, 2016 at 6:06 PM
kelleigh: (sn [cri de cœur] oak avenue)



Now that the tragic tale of Emma Summerlin has been brought to light, Sam and Dean begin digging up bodies all over the place. Figuratively speaking.

With Bennett’s thorough research providing new insight, Sam scours the internet looking for new information. He hits paydirt almost immediately.

“So, check this out,” he calls to Dean from where he’s sitting on the front porch. The sun is just starting to sink below the western treeline and a cool breeze brings fresh air up onto the piazza. For once, Dean doesn’t mind coming outside; it’s actually pleasant.

“Frederick Calhoun didn’t sell Nine Oaks right away,” Sam reads from the archive site. “After his son was killed, he rented the house to another family. Friends of his, if I’m reading this right.”

“Let me guess,” Dean muses, cold beer in his hand. Sam shook his head when Dean asked if he wanted one, too. “Wife went nuts, killed her family.”

“Close enough,” Sam says, frowning. “Less than a year after moving into the house, the three children were murdered and the wife hung herself in one of the rooms. Her husband came home to find them all dead.”

Dean has a sneaking suspicion as to the room in which she did the deed. He shudders, trying not to picture that hideous yellow wallpaper, because with the image come the emotions, and Dean would happily go the rest of his life without reliving that heartbreaking experience.

An hour later, they’ve made a list of six women who committed suicide between 1918 and 1952 after killing at least one member of their family. The Campbells intervened after that, stemming the bloodshed.

“The last man to own Nine Oaks sold off most of the farmland after his wife died.” Dean is taking his turn at the computer. “That left only the house, which he signed over to Thomas Campbell. It’s been empty for over fifty years. Up until now.”

Sam leans back, crossing his arms over his chest. “So the Campbells knew something was going on, they just didn’t know how to stop it. They did the next best thing. If I had to guess, they probably made a deal with the owner to keep the problems quiet if he just turned over the house and left.”

“How come other hunters didn’t come down and try to stop it from happening?” Dean wonders out loud. The sun is low in the sky, setting the treetops aflame. Sam’s cheekbones catch the light, angled and perfect as he ponders the same question. “Couldn’t they see the pattern?”

“Maybe they did,” Sam whispers. “Maybe they failed.”

Dean sobers at the thought, but it makes sense. Unless hunters were connected to a society like the Men of Letters, or part of a family such as the Campbells, most operated in isolation. Especially back in the days before the internet connected everyone. Hunters passing through a roadhouse here or there might share stories from the road, but even that was rare. There’s no telling how many hunters tried and failed to cleanse the house of Emma’s spirit. Perhaps they never knew how. After all, it took a ghostly intervention for the Winchesters to learn the name of the murderous spirit haunting Nine Oaks.

Dean rubs his chest. Lucky him.

“What I don’t get,” Sam says later that evening in between bites of another scrumptious meal from Loretta’s set out on the kitchen counter, “is how Emma’s spirit is doing it.”

Edmond had given them directions to Loretta’s Back Porch in case they were still craving her fried chicken and fixins. Sam sent Dean out for dinner while he rechecked Jocelyn’s journals for any mention of other hunters investigating the Nine Oaks house. Dean returned with homemade chicken pot pie, an even bigger tub of mashed potatoes, and some kind of ‘Southern Harvest’ salad for Sam that contained crap like cranberries, pecans, and whatever the hell mesclun was.

When Dean also pulled out a smaller container of that baked mac & cheese, the poorly hidden grin on Sam’s face made Dean forget about the way Bennett looked at his brother.

Sam licks the last of the cheesy, golden crust from his fork and sighs. “I mean, why does it take so long for her victims to snap? If all Emma wants is death, why not just do it right away?”

There’s the question Dean has been dreading all day.

For a moment, Dean thinks he’s off the hook for another hour or two, enough time for him to concoct a decent explanation, but Sam reads his face in a heartbeat.

“Do you know something, Dean?”

Ignoring the way Dean is studiously averting his gaze, Sam gets up and crosses the kitchen to sit beside Dean at the table.

“What did you see at the manor yesterday?”

Dean stands and begins pacing the room. Which turns out to be a terrible plan, because Sam knows every move he's got.

“I didn’t see anything, Sam,” he insists.

“Then what? I can see you're freaked out, Dean, so if it wasn't something you saw at the house, then why the hell are you acting so cagey?” Sam's mind takes him straight to the worst case scenario. “Is this about Amara? Are you still—”

Dean rounds on Sam before he can finish the thought. Face to face, Dean’s nose is inches from Sam's chin.

“It was what I felt!” The words explode from his chest, and once they start flowing, Dean can’t turn off the tap. “You don’t understand, Sam, being in that house was like suffocating. Not at first, but once it hit me, it was like being possessed. Only instead of making me do anything, it made me—”

Just like that, Dean’s back in the room with the yellow wallpaper, powerless. Scared of what was being dredged out of him, yet knowing it was all true. Confronting his worst fears while the hole in his soul grew larger and blacker.

“Made you what?”

Dean looks Sam in the eyes. Seeing nothing but comfort there, he shudders and says, “It made me feel everything, Sam. All at once. Everything Amara left behind, along with all the crap I’d buried.”

Sam is unspeakably gentle when he urges Dean to continue, placing his hand on Dean’s shoulder for support.

“I couldn’t stop it. The way it came over me suddenly—everything in my head turned to poison and I wanted…” His breaths are coming faster and faster now. “Sam, I wanted…”

“What, Dean?” Sam uses his touch to pull Dean forward until their chests brush. “You can tell me.”

“I wanted to take my gun out and use it.” Dean can feel Sam stop breathing. “I wanted to use it on myself, on Sayuri. Whatever would make it stop, I was willing to go that far.”

Dean pushes Sam away, unable to swallow the soft empathy in his gaze and desperate to put space between them before he does the unthinkable. Kissing Sam would ruin the hard-won balance they've built in the years since Dean went to Sam at Stanford and pleaded for his help.

But the way Sam is looking at him now, shaded and smoky and kind, makes Dean want to take a sledgehammer to that wall. He'd reduce the damn thing to rubble just to get at his brother.

“Dean—”

“I think that's how Emma does it,” he cuts in without waiting to hear what Sam’s going to say. “She gets in your head, twists everything around. She’s probably done it to all of her victims, driving them crazy and watching them snap.”

“But you were in the house for what? Twenty minutes? You must’ve gotten the full dose.”

“She takes her time with the others,” Dean speculates, keeping his back to Sam. “I was an immediate threat.”

Dean lets out a deep breath when Sam steps further away, grateful for the personal space as he tries not to shatter. He's… delicate. Goddamn this ghost. Seriously. Dean made peace with his fate after Amara, more or less, accepting that he was too damaged to continue.

“Where were you when it hit you?” Sam finally asks. “In the manor, I mean. Which room?”

Dean looks up, one eyebrow raised. “The office. The one with the big balcony doors.”

Sam comes to the same conclusion as Dean. “What do you bet that’s the same room where Emma’s victims eventually killed themselves?”

Dean nods. “There’s got to be something about that room. It just felt wrong.”

After that, there's really only one direction for their plans to take.

“We need to get in that house.”



Watching the house that night yields nothing new.

Sam and Dean sit in the Impala, parking as close as they can without alerting the Benbows. Unlike their last stakeout, there’s nothing to see. Even Irene is a no-show; they catch no trace of her moonlit figure gliding across the grounds.

They each step out and make a circle around the property just in case, but Nine Oaks is quiet for the night.

At 2 a.m., they give up.

Back at the house, Dean shuts himself in the second bedroom. If Sam were to offer to share… no, they have no excuses tonight, and Dean wouldn’t be able to help himself. Sam came too close earlier. Dean nearly confessed to everything because of a single look and a whisper of contact. His reawakened feelings for Sam would have been revealed, along with the agony he’s lived with since his connection to Amara was severed and she was once again a prisoner to the abyss.

Of course he wants Sam back the way he used to have him, familiar with every inch of that beloved body, knowing every thought that ran through his brilliant mind. He had Sam, body and soul, and he’d be crazy not to want that again. If Sam knew the extent of Amara’s revenge, the consequences of her banishment, he might give in and do the noble thing.

Save Dean. Self-sacrifice. It’s the Winchester’s signature move. The idea makes Dean sick to his stomach.

And Sam has handled too much already—helping Dean get back to 100%, recovering from his own injuries courtesy of the Darkness, finding hunts to ease them back into the game—without bearing the burden of Dean’s wants and desires.

Dean is grateful for what he does have. As far as he’s concerned, his wish came true. The one he made almost twenty years ago on a muggy summer night in Charleston under the new moon. He wished for the chance to hunt with Sam for the rest of his life—a Sam who was loyal, confident, and committed to the job. Committed to Dean. He has that. Who is he to ask for anything more?

Dean doesn’t have the right to simply decide he wants to be with Sam. It has to be Sam’s choice, too, and he’s pretty sure that’s not going to happen, even if Sam hasn’t gone looking for a serious relationship since Amelia.

Sure, Sam hooks up. So does Dean. Finding a little action has become a kind of game: seeing who can score when, who can last longer.

The lines have always been vague when it comes to the thing they used to have. Sam watches Dean kiss a girl in a bar; Dean watches from the motel room window as a girl goes down on Sam in the backseat of the Impala.

But there has never been another guy; Dean can’t has never allowed himself to go there, doesn’t want to go there. These days, he knows he’s ruined for anyone but his brother.

With thoughts like that going through his mind, it’s no surprise Dean tosses and turns for what feels like hours, finally succumbing to exhaustion as the night creeps towards dawn.

Turns out Sam had a restless night, too.

Dean finds him sitting on his own bed in the morning with his laptop on his thighs.

“Little early for porn, isn’t it?” Dean grumbles, in dire need of coffee.

“Had to make us a website,” Sam says, ignoring the jibe.

“You did what now?”

“Actually, I altered a page from before,” Sam continues like this is normal. “Charlie set these up ages ago in case we needed to back up our cover stories.”

Come to think of it, Dean remembers Charlie’s exasperation at finding out hunters still employed rigged phone numbers, using it as an excuse to revamp their system. Dean had no idea Sam was using her web templates.

“I needed to make it look like you and I can afford Nine Oaks, or else we’ll never be able to get in and see the place.”

“You want to con that real estate agent into letting us view the house?”

“Already did.” Sam indicates the phone on the bed by his hip. “Turns out the Benbows lease allows viewings for potential buyers when set up by the listing agent.”

He smiles at Dean. “Get dressed. We’re in luck.”



“It’s even better than I imagined,” Sam drawls, fully in character. His eyes make a full sweep of the grand foyer while Georgia Snipes looks on in delight.

“I told you, we kept as much of the original detail as possible,” she points out. “Now, let me direct your attention to the main parlor. Wait until you see the fireplace…”

Dean stops listening to the agent’s spiel, sticking close to Sam and playing the role of supportive partner. This is Sam’s show. Georgia Snipes was only too happy to drive down from the city and show them around. (Dean kept quiet about his previous visit, and the agent never brought it up.)

Anna answered the door when they arrived, graciously offering to take Lourdes out for a walk while they toured the manor. Sayuri was nowhere to be seen. Dean heard the hesitation in the nanny’s voice when he asked about Lourdes’ mother, a tension she couldn’t hide. The slight prickle at the back of Dean’s neck tells him that Sayuri is there. This long in the business, Dean can sense the phantom weight of eyes watching from the shadows.

“I’ve done my homework on this place,” Sam is saying. “This plantation doesn’t have the most peaceful history.”

“Show me a Southern plantation that does,” Georgia counters matter-of-factly. “Unfortunately, we cannot rewrite our history.”

She launches into a brief recap of Nine Oaks, grisly murder-suicides excluded. Her story revolves around the prestigious Calhoun name, how coveted the property is sure to be once it officially goes up for sale. Nothing probative, though. Dean doubts she has any idea about the extent of the evil that has touched this plantation.

Probably wouldn’t step foot on the property if she did.

Inevitably, the tour winds its way upstairs. Sam’s hand remains on Dean’s lower back, calming Dean when he begins to shake, as they make their way towards the room with the yellow wallpaper. He waits, skin tingling, for the wave to overtake him.

“You know,” Sam says, stopping outside Sayuri’s study, “Dean had a lot of questions about the land itself.”

Georgia turns to Dean. “Is that so?”

Sam grins, wide and friendly. “Oh yeah, big outdoorsman, right here.” He pats Dean’s chest. “Do you know much about the landscaping that was done, or what might be possible in the future?”

The distraction pays off. Georgia is more than happy to talk about the meticulous work that had been done outside the manor, and Dean’s humbled by Sam’s willingness to investigate the room on his own.

He nods along as Georgia tells him about the land, the majority of his focus on Sam. Looking past Georgia’s shoulder, he watches Sam step into the study, the midday sun sending a beam of golden light into the hallway. A small part of Dean wants to go with him, to protect Sam from whatever Emma’s spirit might do, but he knows what’s in there, and he knows he can’t face that again.

A minute passes. Two. Four. Dean thinks he might be shaking again. He keeps counting in his head, almost five minutes now. What the hell is Sam doing?

He’s seconds from saying screw it and going in after Sam when his brother reappears. Sam looks pale, slightly out of breath, but not enough for Georgia to notice anything out of the ordinary. Without thinking, Dean steps up to his side and wraps his arm around Sam’s waist.

Open displays of affection help to sell their story.

“It was the balcony, wasn’t it?” Georgia asks, drawing the Winchesters’ attention.

Sam frowns. “The balcony?”

“You were in there for so long, I thought you must’ve fallen in love with that balcony.”

“Oh,” Sam quickly adjusts his expression. “Of course, it’s beautiful. Kind of a unique room, isn’t it? That wallpaper though…”

“Hideous, I know,” Georgia admits, “but an original feature. According to one of the historians I consulted, the wallpaper was likely picked out by Mr. Frederick Calhoun himself. That room would’ve been the original nursery. I suppose it’s not to everyone’s tastes,” she adds, clearly referring to the Benbows’ decision to place Lourdes in another room.

Dean and Sam share a look, Georgia already moving further down the hall.

“Are you—” Dean starts to ask, but Sam cuts him off.

“Later,” he whispers, stepping out of Dean’s hold. He reaches back and squeezes Dean’s hand before following the sound of Georgia’s voice.



“Are you okay?” Dean rushes through the question as soon as they’re alone in the Impala. The dust kicked up by Georgia’s white Mercedes when she pulled out is just beginning to settle.

“Dean—”

“Don’t you dare tell me nothing happened. I saw what you looked like when you walked out of that room.”

Sam relents after a deep breath, settling back against the seat as Dean steers towards the main road. “It wasn’t a picnic or anything, but I’m fine, Dean. I swear. But I don’t think that’s the case with Sayuri.”

“What are you talking about?”

“That room…” Out of the corner of his eye, Dean sees Sam shudder. “It was fucking creepy, man.”

Dean wants to ask. Based on his own experience, he’s afraid of what Sam would tell him.

“Did you notice the floors when you were in there?” Sam is asking. “They were scuffed and worn down, but not all over. Just around the outside of the room, against the walls, as if someone was shuffling around the room on their knees, over and over and over again.”

“Can’t say I was paying attention to the floor,” Dean mutters.

“I tried to get a closer look at the wallpaper, too. Looks like Sayuri is trying to rip the paper off the walls.” Sam’s voice is low and concerned. “It’s torn all along the baseboards. Some spots are really shredded.”

Dean sighs. “She’s getting worse.”

“Or Emma’s getting more powerful,” Sam suggests, rubbing his palms on his pants. “We know whatever’s going on is centered in that room. Maybe there’s something about the wallpaper, if Sayuri’s trying to get behind it.”

“Remember what Georgia said about it being the nursery? If Emma’s baby died in that room, too, it’s no wonder she went crazy in there.”

“But how the hell do we stop her?” Sam ponders out loud. “We don’t even know if there’s a body to salt and burn.”

Dean gazes through the windshield, dappled sunlight filtering down through the oak trees, as a plan forms in his mind.

“I think I know someone we can ask.”



Midnight finds the Winchesters in a familiar position: attempting to disturb human remains.

The small, private cemetery at the far reaches of the original Nine Oaks plantation is quiet, just like the first time Sam and Dean trekked out here. The humid, spring air sticks to their skin, no breeze to speak of. Dean stays close to Sam as they step carefully towards Irene Grantham’s half-dug grave, their bags filled with weapons and plenty of rock salt, just in case.

If Emma’s becoming stronger, her reach could extend this far from the manor. The Winchesters aren’t taking any chances.

They stop beside Irene’s headstone, waiting in the darkness. Sam’s flashlight swings over the nearby graves, barely penetrating the thick shadows of the trees.

“What now?”

Dean drops his bag. Being here does not bring back pleasant memories.

“Guess we start digging again.”

Fortunately for their backs, digging turns out to be unnecessary. As soon as Dean picks up the shovel, Sam nudges his shoulder and points to the gray mists slowly unfolding across the grounds. Looks like Irene isn’t going to stand them up. She steps out of the low fog, mists clinging to her tattered, blood-stained skirts.

As soon as Dean sees her, he knows the situation is worse than they thought. She looks bad—and being that she’s dead, it was already pretty awful—but tonight she appears more transparent, less focused. It’s as if she’s being drained.

“I knew you couldn’t help me.” Her voice is heavy, full of sorrow. “Why did you return?”

Sam answers. “Because we need you to help us, now. We know about Emma—”

An icy gust of wind passes through the cemetery, and it takes Dean a few seconds to realize it’s coming from Irene: the sensation of pure terror.

“Your spirit was already here when she arrived,” Dean says carefully. The last thing he wants to do is spook their ghost. Talk about irony. “You must know more about her.”

“We need anything you can tell us. Anything that could help us stop her.”

Irene turns in Sam’s direction, her gaze distant and empty. “You cannot stop her, she’s become too strong.” Her sigh sends another chill through the cemetery. “I tried, I did. In the beginning, when she learned to manipulate anyone who moved into the manor, I thought I could ease her madness.”

“What really happened to Emma?” Dean asks, stepping into a narrow beam of moonlight. Sam moves with him. “You must know what made her snap.”

Irene’s form wavers and dims. Dean wonders if it’s a sign of Emma getting stronger or her own melancholy.

“I used to watch her from time to time, caring for that man’s children. I missed my own family,” she admits. “But that man mistreated her.” The loathing in Irene’s voice hits Dean like a hail stone.

“You mean Albert Calhoun?”

Irene’s anger snuffs out most of the remaining moonlight like an ominous cloud, only their flashlights left to pierce the darkness.

“He was a monster,” she curses. “He never loved her. He refused to marry her, even after she gave birth to his child. Making matters worse, he wouldn’t acknowledge her son. The Calhouns couldn’t have a scandal like that.”

So Bennett’s instincts were spot-on, Dean reluctantly admits. Emma Summerlin was driven mad by the callous treatment from the men around her.

“When her baby died, that man offered no comfort. I watched, silent and unseen, as she lost herself to grief like I’d never seen. I had no power then,” Irene tells them, her anger beginning to withdraw. “I could not reveal myself. Perhaps I could’ve stopped her…”

Dean doesn’t think anyone, corporeal or otherwise, could have saved Emma Summerlin. Albert Calhoun’s ill-treatment sealed her fate along with his own.

“She lost her humanity that night,” Irene says to her rapt audience of two. “She killed that man when the rage descended upon her… but when she killed his children, there was no returning from that place.”

Dean understands how Emma’s ghost became so strong, so malicious. Albert got what was coming to him, but murdering innocent children condemned her soul. So much darkness from a single act, and it has poisoned Nine Oaks ever since.

“Her pain lingered.” Irene drifts past her own headstone, fingers passing through it. “She wanted others to know her suffering. The women who came to the manor became her victims, trapped by her wrath and living their worst nightmares until they, too, were driven mad. They took their own lives in horror and regret, but there was still no peace for them. Emma drained their strength until they were little more than whispers, held prisoner.”

Irene’s spirit is as transparent as the mists surrounding her, the tale taking its toll.

“I tried to warn the family living in the manor, but Emma was much stronger. When she realized I was there, she banished me from the house when she could not control me.”

From that point on, Irene could only watch from the grounds, unable to do anything more than warn those who moved in. She was no match for Emma’s fury.

Irene is fading quickly, aimless and weary. Sam steps forward, one more crucial question yet to be answered.

“How did Emma die?”

“It was terrible,” Irene replies. “The nursery was covered in blood, and she stood in the middle of it all, unable to escape what she had done.” Her form flickers as she says quietly, “She didn’t end it quickly. She threw herself against the walls, crying and wailing. Harder and harder, her blood and bone mixing with theirs, until she broke her own neck.”

Dean’s stomach turns, a sour taste creeping up the back of his throat. Even Sam is affected, his cheeks and lips turning pale.

To end her life so brutally, Emma must have really wanted to die. After killing Albert’s children, what choice did she have?”

“We’ll end this,” Dean swears. “Emma won’t hurt anyone else.”

Irene lowers her head. “I pray you can,” she says sadly. “I’m afraid I can do no more.

“Once Emma’s gone, you’ll be free,” Sam offers, inadequate comfort for all Irene has been made to witness. “You can be with your family again.”

With a last lingering look at her parents’ graves, Irene finally recedes into the mist, leaving Sam and Dean alone in the dark cemetery with new questions to work through.

“What do you wanna bet old man Calhoun covered up most of the blood and damage in the nursery with that ugly-as-fuck wallpaper?”

Dean walks shoulder to shoulder with Sam, making their way back to the Impala after restoring Irene’s gravesite. It was the least they could do.

“It kept her spirit in the house,” Sam says, “but maybe it also prevented her from doing anything worse.”

Dean scowls. “Worse than promoting murder-suicides?”

“Like possessing someone instead of manipulating them.”

Stopping beside the car, it hits him.

“So if Sayuri is out of control enough to start ripping up the wallpaper—”

Sam nods, moonlight reflecting off the dark paint of the Impala’s hood to catch on his jaw and cheekbones.

“We might have less time than we thought.”



With their new priority being to find a way to remove Emma’s spirit and cleanse the manor before she can claim another victim, Sam and Dean enlist Edmond’s help.

“Stay in the car though, okay?” Sam reminds him, his cell pressed to his ear as he walks back and forth across the bedroom floor. “Don’t try to approach the manor, no matter what. Just watch the place and call me immediately if you see or hear anything strange.”

He hangs up a moment later, tossing the phone on the bed where it lands beside Dean’s knee.

“Edmond said he’s willing to stay there all night if we need him to,” Sam tells him, rubbing the side of his face and blinking slowly. The dark circles beneath his eyes probably match Dean’s, and when Dean yawns, it’s contagious.

This hunt is pushing their limits. So much for working their way back up to the tough stuff. Dean doesn’t mind the exhaustion, though. It sucks, but it feels right. He’s doing the job he’s meant to do, working alongside Sam. It was about time the Winchesters got back to their true purpose.

“We’ll be useless if don’t get some shut-eye.”

Sam sighs. “I know. I’ve been wracking my brain for a good banishing spell, but—”

“But nothing,” Dean cuts in. “We’ll figure it out, Sam.”

Reversing their roles from two nights ago, Dean ushers Sam to the bathroom and throws him a change of clothes. While he washes up, Dean carries a load of books, theirs and Jocelyn’s, along with Sam’s laptop up to the bedroom, laying it all out. If Sam insists on work, he’ll be doing it in bed.

Sam relents as soon as he sees his research piled up.

“You win,” he grumbles, settling in and grabbing his computer, brushing his hair out of his face. He’s regained most of his color since they returned to the house.

He glances up at Dean. “Staying or leaving?”

Worn out, Dean drops onto the empty side of the mattress. There’s a question that’s been plaguing him all day.

“What happened to you in that room?”

Sam’s eyes drop to his lap, avoiding Dean’s gaze. “I told you I was fine.”

“I need to know,” Dean says. “Did Emma get in your head, too?”

“She tried. It hit me when I was checking the balcony doors.”

Dean already regrets what he’s about to ask. It's like he’s obsessed. “What’d you feel?”

Predictably, Sam raises an eyebrow. Talking about feelings is way out of the zone they stick to.

“I know,” Dean mutters. “Just tell me, ‘cause it doesn’t seem like you were affected like I was. Did it even bother you?”

“Of course it did.” Sam keeps his voice soft and level. Setting the laptop aside, he angles his body towards Dean, the clean scent of his soap becoming stronger. “If you really want to know, she made me think about you, Dean, reliving every single time I’ve nearly lost you, and coming up with all the ways I could lose you. To a hunt, to Heaven, or to someone else—”

He stops. Dean’s left hanging, leaning further into Sam’s space than he realized. Pulling back, he watches Sam’s expression tighten, emotions retreating behind his golden-green eyes.

“Emma thought she could torture me by making me think I’d keep losing you, no matter what I did. Which is total crap. I mean, how many ghosts, creatures, demons, and angels have told me the same damn thing?”

The list runs through Dean’s mind on a fast track, everyone and everything that has attempted to force them apart.

“My point is,” Sam continues, “it’s been twelve years since we got back on the road together. We’ve already spent a lifetime apart if you count our stays in Hell.” That earns Sam a wry grin. “And screw it, that was enough. Each time we take on the worst Heaven or Hell can throw at us, we come out the other side. After Amara, I decided it was my turn to determine where my life would go. I’m sick of repeating the same patterns, Dean, and a ghost like Emma isn’t going to ruin that. We’ve been through too damn much.

“So yeah, Emma tried, and it freaked me out because I can’t stand anything telling me I’m going to lose you, but it didn’t bother me because I know it’s not true.”

Sam is too close, and Dean wants to believe the impassioned words coming out of his mouth, wants to imagine there’s a future where they’re no longer pieces on a chessboard: knights treated like pawns. Then he remembers he’s on borrowed time. The emptiness in his soul is…

Huh. That’s different. Dean concentrates on the ache and finds the pain bearable. Maybe it’s nothing, or maybe he’s numb from what this hunt has forced him to endure, or perhaps it’s the result of spending so much time with Sam. Whatever the reason, the void feels more like a bruise than an open wound.

“Dean?”

“Sorry, I was just thinking,” Dean covers. “I’m glad Emma’s lobotomy didn’t work on you. At least one of us will make it out of this thing still sane. As sane as when we came in, anyway.”

Dean bolts for the bedroom door, muttering a nonsense excuse about getting more books, before Sam calls him on his bizarre behavior. If he stays… well, he can’t stay.

If Sam doesn’t want to repeat the past, the least Dean can do is ensure he doesn’t fall prey to temptation. And Sam, sitting up in the bed they shared just two night ago, lips parted and cheeks flushed, is the portrait of carnal sin. Everything Dean wants.

The Rolling Stones had it right when they sang you can’t always get what you want, but as long as Sam sticks with him, Dean has what he needs.


On to chapter six.

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